The time was in or about the year 1544, when the Emperor Charles
V. ruled the Netherlands, and our scene the city of Leyden.
Any one who has visited this pleasant town knows that it lies in
the midst of wide, flat meadows, and is intersected by many canals
filled with Rhine water. But now, as it was winter, near to
Christmas indeed, the meadows and the quaint gabled roofs of the
city lay buried beneath a dazzling sheet of snow, while, instead of
boats and barges, skaters glided up and down the frozen surface of
the canals, which were swept for their convenience. Outside the
walls of the town, not far from the Morsch poort, or gate, the
surface of the broad moat which surrounded them presented a sight
as gay as it was charming. Just here one of the branches of the
Rhine ran into this moat, and down it came the pleasure-seekers in
sledges, on skates, or afoot. They were dressed, most of them, in
their best attire, for the day was a holiday set apart for a kind
of skating carnival, with sleighing matches, such games as curling,
and other amusements.
Among these merry folk might have been seen a young lady of two
or three and twenty years of age, dressed in a coat of dark green
cloth trimmed with fur, and close-fitting at the waist. This coat
opened in front, showing a broidered woollen skirt, but over the
bust it was tightly buttoned and surmounted by a stiff ruff of
Brussels lace. Upon her head she wore a high-crowned beaver hat, to
which the nodding ostrich feather was fastened by a jewelled
ornament of sufficient value to show that she was a person of some
means. In fact, this lady was the only child of a sea captain and
shipowner named Carolus van Hout, who, whilst still a middle-aged
man, had died about a year before, leaving her heiress to a very
considerable fortune. This circumstance, with the added advantages
of a very pretty face, in which were set two deep and thoughtful
grey eyes, and a figure more graceful than was common among the
Netherlander women, caused Lysbeth van Hout to be much sought after
and admired, especially by the marriageable bachelors of
On this occasion, however, she was unescorted except by a
serving woman somewhat older than herself, a native of Brussels,
Greta by name, who in appearance was as attractive as in manner she
was suspiciously discreet.
As Lysbeth skated down the canal towards the moat many of the
good burghers of Leyden took off their caps to her, especially the
young burghers, one or two of whom had hopes that she would choose
them to be her cavalier for this day's fete. Some of the elders,
also, asked her if she would care to join their parties, thinking
that, as she was an orphan without near male relations, she might
be glad of their protection in times when it was wise for beautiful
young women to be protected. With this excuse and that, however,
she escaped from them all, for Lysbeth had already made her own
At that date there was living in Leyden a young man of four or
five and twenty, named Dirk van Goorl, a distant cousin of her own.
Dirk was a native of the little town of Alkmaar, and the second son
of one of its leading citizens, a brass founder by trade. As in the
natural course of events the Alkmaar business would descend to his
elder brother, their father appointed him to a Leyden firm, in
which, after eight or nine years of hard work, he had become a
junior partner. While he was still living, Lysbeth's father had
taken a liking to the lad, with the result that he grew intimate at
the house which, from the first, was open to him as a kinsman.
After the death of Carolus van Hout, Dirk had continued to visit
there, especially on Sundays, when he was duly and ceremoniously
received by Lysbeth's aunt, a childless widow named Clara van Ziel,
who acted as her guardian. Thus, by degrees, favoured with such
ample opportunity, a strong affection had sprung up between these
two young people, although as yet they were not affianced, nor
indeed had either of them said a word of open love to the
This abstinence may seem strange, but some explanation of their
self- restraint was to be found in Dirk's character. In mind he was
patient, very deliberate in forming his purposes, and very sure in
carrying them out. He felt impulses like other men, but he did not
give way to them. For two years or more he had loved Lysbeth, but
being somewhat slow at reading the ways of women he was not quite
certain that she loved him, and above everything on earth he
dreaded a rebuff. Moreover he knew her to be an heiress, and as his
own means were still humble, and his expectations from his father
small, he did not feel justified in asking her in marriage until
his position was more assured. Had the Captain Carolus still been
living the case would have been different, for then he could have
gone to him. But he was dead, and Dirk's fine and sensitive nature
recoiled from the thought that it might be said of him that he had
taken advantage of the inexperience of a kinswoman in order to win
her fortune. Also deep down in his mind he had a sincerer and quite
secret reason for reticence, whereof more in its proper place.
Thus matters stood between these two. To-day, however, though
only with diffidence and after some encouragement from the lady, he
had asked leave to be his cousin's cavalier at the ice fete, and
when she consented, readily enough, appointed the moat as their
place of meeting. This was somewhat less than Lysbeth expected, for
she wished his escort through the town. But, when she hinted as
much, Dirk explained that he would not be able to leave the works
before three o'clock, as the metal for a large bell had been run
into the casting, and he must watch it while it cooled.
So, followed only by her maid, Greta, Lysbeth glided lightly as
a bird down the ice path on to the moat, and across it, through the
narrow cut, to the frozen mere beyond, where the sports were to be
held and the races run. There the scene was very beautiful.
Behind her lay the roofs of Leyden, pointed, picturesque, and
covered with sheets of snow, while above them towered the bulk of
the two great churches of St. Peter and St. Pancras, and standing
on a mound known as the Burg, the round tower which is supposed to
have been built by the Romans. In front stretched the flat expanse
of white meadows, broken here and there by windmills with narrow
waists and thin tall sails, and in the distance, by the church
towers of other towns and villages.
Immediately before her, in strange contrast to this lifeless
landscape, lay the peopled mere, fringed around with dead reeds
standing so still in the frosty air that they might have been
painted things. On this mere half the population of Leyden seemed
to be gathered; at least there were thousands of them, shouting,
laughing, and skimming to and fro in their bright garments like
flocks of gay- plumaged birds. Among them, drawn by horses with
bells tied to their harness, glided many sledges of wickerwork and
wood mounted upon iron runners, their fore-ends fashioned to quaint
shapes, such as the heads of dogs or bulls, or Tritons. Then there
were vendors of cakes and sweetmeats, vendors of spirits also, who
did a good trade on this cold day. Beggars too were numerous, and
among them deformities, who, nowadays, would be hidden in
charitable homes, slid about in wooden boxes, which they pushed
along with crutches. Lastly many loafers had gathered there with
stools for fine ladies to sit on while the skates were bound to
their pretty feet, and chapmen with these articles for sale and
straps wherewith to fasten them. To complete the picture the huge
red ball of the sun was sinking to the west, and opposite to it the
pale full moon began already to gather light and life.
The scene seemed so charming and so happy that Lysbeth, who was
young, and now that she had recovered from the shock of her beloved
father's death, light-hearted, ceased her forward movement and
poised herself upon her skates to watch it for a space. While she
stood thus a little apart, a woman came towards her from the
throng, not as though she were seeking her, but aimlessly, much as
a child's toy-boat is driven by light, contrary winds upon the
summer surface of a pond.
She was a remarkable-looking woman of about thirty-five years of
age, tall and bony in make, with deep-set eyes, light grey of
colour, that seemed now to flash fiercely and now to waver, as
though in memory of some great dread. From beneath a coarse woollen
cap a wisp of grizzled hair fell across the forehead, where it lay
like the forelock of a horse. Indeed, the high cheekbones, scarred
as though by burns, wide- spread nostrils and prominent white
teeth, whence the lips had strangely sunk away, gave the whole
countenance a more or less equine look which this falling lock
seemed to heighten. For the rest the woman was poorly and not too
plentifully clad in a gown of black woollen, torn and stained as
though with long use and journeys, while on her feet she wore
wooden clogs, to which were strapped skates that were not fellows,
one being much longer than the other.
Opposite to Lysbeth this strange, gaunt person stopped,
contemplating her with a dreamy eye. Presently she seemed to
recognise her, for she said in a quick, low voice, the voice of one
who lives in terror of being overheard:—
"That's a pretty dress of yours, Van Hout's daughter. Oh, yes, I
know you; your father used to play with me when I was a child, and
once he kissed me on the ice at just such a fete as this. Think of
it! Kissed me, Martha the Mare," and she laughed hoarsely, and went
on: "Yes, well-warmed and well-fed, and, without doubt, waiting for
a gallant to kiss you"; here she turned and waved her hand towards
the people—"all well-warmed and well-fed, and all with lovers and
husbands and children to kiss. But I tell you, Van Hout's daughter,
as I have dared to creep from my hiding hole in the great lake to
tell all of them who will listen, that unless they cast out the
cursed Spaniard, a day shall come when the folk of Leyden must
perish by thousands of hunger behind those walls. Yes, yes, unless
they cast out the cursed Spaniard and his Inquisition. Oh, I know
him, I know him, for did they not make me carry my own husband to
the stake upon my back? And have you heard why, Van Hout's
daughter? Because what I had suffered in their torture-dens had
made my face—yes, mine that once was so beautiful— like the face of
a horse, and they said that 'a horse ought to be ridden.'"
Now, while this poor excited creature, one of a whole class of
such people who in those sad days might be found wandering about
the Netherlands crazy with their griefs and sufferings, and living
only for revenge, poured out these broken sentences, Lysbeth,
terrified, shrank back before her. As she shrank the other
followed, till presently Lysbeth saw her expression of rage and
hate change to one of terror. In another instant, muttering
something about a request for alms which she did not wait to
receive, the woman had wheeled round and fled away as fast as her
skates would carry her—which was very fast indeed.
Turning about to find what had frightened her, Lysbeth saw
standing on the bank of the mere, so close that she must have
overheard every word, but behind the screen of a leafless bush, a
tall, forbidding- looking woman, who held in her hand some
broidered caps which apparently she was offering for sale. These
caps she began to slowly fold up and place one by one in a hide
satchel that was hung about her shoulders. All this while she was
watching Lysbeth with her keen black eyes, except when from time to
time she took them off her to follow the flight of that person who
had called herself the Mare.
"You keep ill company, lady," said the cap-seller in a harsh
"It was none of my seeking," answered Lysbeth, astonished into
making a reply.
"So much the better for you, lady, although she seemed to know
you and to know also that you would listen to her song. Unless my
eyes deceived me, which is not often, that woman is an evil-doer
and a worker of magic like her dead husband Van Muyden; a heretic,
a blasphemer of the Holy Church, a traitor to our Lord the Emperor,
and one," she added with a snarl, "with a price upon her head that
before night will, I hope, be in Black Meg's pocket." Then, walking
with long firm steps towards a fat man who seemed to be waiting for
her, the tall, black-eyed pedlar passed with him into the throng,
where Lysbeth lost sight of them.
Lysbeth watched them go, and shivered. To her knowledge she had
never seen this woman before, but she knew enough of the times they
lived in to be sure that she was a spy of the priests. Already
there were such creatures moving about in every gathering, yes, and
in many a private place, who were paid to obtain evidence against
suspected heretics. Whether they won it by fair means or by foul
mattered not, provided they could find something, and it need be
little indeed, to justify the Inquisition in getting to its
As for the other woman, the Mare, doubtless she was one of those
wicked outcasts, accursed by God and man, who were called heretics;
people who said dreadful things about the Pope and the Church and
God's priests, having been misled and stirred up thereto by a
certain fiend in human form named Luther. Lysbeth shuddered at the
thought and crossed herself, for in those days she was an excellent
Catholic. Yet the wanderer said that she had known her father, so
that she must be as well born as herself—and then that dreadful
story—no, she could not bear to think of it. But of course heretics
deserved all these things; of that there could be no doubt
whatever, for had not her father confessor told her that thus alone
might their souls be saved from the grasp of the Evil One?
The thought was comforting, still Lysbeth felt upset, and not a
little rejoiced when she saw Dirk van Goorl skating towards her
accompanied by another young man, also a cousin of her own on her
mother's side who was destined in days to come to earn himself an
immortal renown— young Pieter van de Werff. The two took off their
bonnets to her, Dirk van Goorl revealing in the act a head of fair
hair beneath which his steady blue eyes shone in a rather
thick-set, self-contained face. Lysbeth's temper, always somewhat
quick, was ruffled, and she showed it in her manner.
"I thought, cousins, that we were to meet at three, and the kirk
clock yonder has just chimed half-past," she said, addressing them
both, but looking—not too sweetly—at Dirk van Goorl.
"That's right, cousin," answered Pieter, a pleasant-faced and
alert young man, "look at him, scold him, for he
is to blame. Ever since a quarter past two have I—I who must drive
a sledge in the great race and am backed to win—been waiting
outside that factory in the snow, but, upon my honour, he did not
appear until seven minutes since. Yes, we have done the whole
distance in seven minutes, and I call that very good skating."
"I thought as much," said Lysbeth. "Dirk can only keep an
appointment with a church bell or a stadhuis chandelier."
"It was not my fault," broke in Dirk in his slow voice; "I have
my business to attend. I promised to wait until the metal had
cooled sufficiently, and hot bronze takes no account of ice-parties
and sledge races."
"So I suppose that you stopped to blow on it, cousin. Well, the
result is that, being quite unescorted, I have been obliged to
listen to things which I did not wish to hear."
"What do you mean?" asked Dirk, taking fire at once.
Then she told them something of what the woman who called
herself the Mare had said to her, adding, "Doubtless the poor
creature is a heretic and deserves all that has happened to her.
But it is dreadfully sad, and I came here to enjoy myself, not to
Between the two young men there passed a glance which was full
of meaning. But it was Dirk who spoke. The other, more cautious,
"Why do you say that, Cousin Lysbeth?" he asked in a new voice,
a voice thick and eager. "Why do you say that she deserves all that
can happen to her? I have heard of this poor creature who is called
Mother Martha, or the Mare, although I have never seen her myself.
She was noble-born, much better born than any of us three, and very
fair—once they called her the Lily of Brussels—when she was the
Vrouw van Muyden, and she has suffered dreadfully, for one reason
only, because she and hers did not worship God as you worship
"As we worship Him," broke in Van de Werff with a cough.
"No," answered Dirk sullenly, "as our Cousin Lysbeth van Hout
worships Him. For that reason only they killed her husband and her
little son, and drove her mad, so that she lives among the reeds of
the Haarlemer Meer like a beast in its den; yes, they, the
Spaniards and their Spanish priests, as I daresay that they will
kill us also."
"Don't you think that it is getting rather cold standing here?"
interrupted Pieter van de Werff before she could answer. "Look, the
sledge races are just beginning. Come, cousin, give me your hand,"
and, taking Lysbeth by the arm, he skated off into the throng,
followed at a distance by Dirk and the serving-maid, Greta.
"Cousin," he whispered as he went, "this is not my place, it is
Dirk's place, but I pray you as you love him—I beg your pardon—as
you esteem a worthy relative—do not enter into a religious argument
with him here in public, where even the ice and sky are two great
ears. It is not safe, little cousin, I swear to you that it is not
In the centre of the mere the great event of the day, the sledge
races, were now in progress. As the competitors were many these
must be run in heats, the winners of each heat standing on one side
to compete in the final contest. Now these victors had a pretty
prerogative not unlike that accorded to certain dancers in the
cotillion of modern days. Each driver of a sledge was bound to
carry a passenger in the little car in front of him, his own place
being on the seat behind, whence he directed the horse by means of
reins supported upon a guide-rod so fashioned that it lifted them
above the head of the traveller in the car. This passenger he could
select from among the number of ladies who were present at the
games; unless, indeed, the gentleman in charge of her chose to deny
him in set form; namely, by stepping forward and saying in the
appointed phrase, "No, for this happy hour she is mine."
Among the winners of these heats was a certain Spanish officer,
the Count Don Juan de Montalvo, who, as it chanced, in the absence
on leave of his captain, was at that date the commander of the
garrison at Leyden. He was a man still young, only about thirty
indeed, reported to be of noble birth, and handsome in the usual
Castilian fashion. That is to say, he was tall, of a graceful
figure, dark-eyed, strong-featured, with a somewhat humorous
expression, and of very good if exaggerated address. As he had but
recently come to Leyden, very little was known about this
attractive cavalier beyond that he was well spoken of by the
priests and, according to report, a favourite with the Emperor.
Also the ladies admired him much.
For the rest everything about him was handsome like his person,
as might be expected in the case of a man reputed to be as rich as
he was noble. Thus his sledge was shaped and coloured to resemble a
great black wolf rearing itself up to charge. The wooden head was
covered in wolf skin and adorned by eyes of yellow glass and great
fangs of ivory. Round the neck also ran a gilded collar hung with a
silver shield, whereon were painted the arms of its owner, a knight
striking the chains from off a captive Christian saint, and the
motto of the Montalvos, "Trust to God and me." His black horse,
too, of the best breed, imported from Spain, glittered in harness
decorated with gilding, and bore a splendid plume of dyed feathers
rising from the head-band.
Lysbeth happened to be standing near to the spot where this
gallant had halted after his first victory. She was in the company
of Dirk van Goorl alone—for as he was the driver of one of the
competing sledges, her other cousin, Pieter van de Werff, had now
been summoned away. Having nothing else to do at the moment, she
approached and not unnaturally admired this brilliant equipage,
although in truth it was the sledge and the horse rather than their
driver which attracted her attention. As for the Count himself she
knew him slightly, having been introduced to and danced a measure
with him at a festival given by a grandee of the town. On that
occasion he was courteous to her in the Spanish fashion, rather too
courteous, she thought, but as this was the manner of Castilian
dons when dealing with burgher maidens she paid no more attention
to the matter.
The Captain Montalvo saw Lysbeth among the throng and recognised
her, for he lifted his plumed hat and bowed to her with just that
touch of condescension which in those days a Spaniard showed when
greeting one whom he considered his inferior. In the sixteenth
century it was understood that all the world were the inferiors to
those whom God had granted to be born in Spain, the English who
rated themselves at a valuation of their own—and were careful to
announce the fact—alone excepted.
An hour or so later, after the last heat had been run, a steward
of the ceremonies called aloud to the remaining competitors to
select their passengers and prepare for the final contest.
Accordingly each Jehu, leaving his horse in charge of an attendant,
stepped up to some young lady who evidently was waiting for him,
and led her by the hand to his sledge. While Lysbeth was watching
this ceremony with amusement —for these selections were always
understood to show a strong preference on behalf of the chooser for
the chosen—she was astonished to hear a well-trained voice
addressing her, and on looking up to see Don Juan de Montalvo
bowing almost to the ice.
"Senora," he said in Castilian, a tongue which Lysbeth
understood well enough, although she only spoke it when obliged,
"unless my ears deceived me, I heard you admiring my horse and
sledge. Now, with the permission of your cavalier," and he bowed
courteously to Dirk, "I name you as my passenger for the great
race, knowing that you will bring me fortune. Have I your leave,
Now if there was a people on earth whom Dirk van Goorl hated,
the Spaniards were that people, and if there lived a cavalier who
he would prefer should not take his cousin Lysbeth for a lonely
drive, that cavalier was the Count Juan de Montalvo. But as a young
man, Dirk was singularly diffident and so easily confused that on
the spur of the moment it was quite possible for a person of
address to make him say what he did not mean. Thus, on the present
occasion, when he saw this courtly Spaniard bowing low to him, a
humble Dutch tradesman, he was overwhelmed, and mumbled in reply,
If a glance could have withered him, without doubt Dirk would
immediately have been shrivelled to nothing. To say that Lysbeth
was angry is too little, for in truth she was absolutely furious.
She did not like this Spaniard, and hated the idea of a long
interview with him alone. Moreover, she knew that among her fellow
townspeople there was a great desire that the Count should not win
this race, which in its own fashion was the event of the year,
whereas, if she appeared as his companion it would be supposed that
she was anxious for his success. Lastly—and this was the chiefest
sore—although in theory the competitors had a right to ask any one
to whom they took a fancy to travel in their sledges, in practise
they only sought the company of young women with whom they were on
the best of terms, and who were already warned of their
In an instant these thoughts flashed through her mind, but all
she did was to murmur something about the Heer van Goorl——
"Has already given his consent, like an unselfish gentleman,"
broke in Captain Juan tendering her his hand.
Now, without absolutely making a scene, which then, as to-day,
ladies considered an ill-bred thing to do, there was no escape,
since half Leyden gathered at these "sledge choosings," and many
eyes were on her and the Count. Therefore, because she must,
Lysbeth took the proferred hand, and was led to the sledge,
catching, as she passed to it through the throng, more than one
sour look from the men and more than one exclamation of surprise,
real or affected, on the lips of the ladies of her acquaintance.
These manifestations, however, put her upon her mettle. So
determining that at least she would not look sullen or ridiculous,
she began to enter into the spirit of the adventure, and smiled
graciously while the Captain Montalvo wrapped a magnificent apron
of wolf skins about her knees.
When all was ready her charioteer took the reins and settled
himself upon the little seat behind the sleigh, which was then led
into line by a soldier servant.
"Where is the course, Senor?" Lysbeth asked, hoping that it
would be a short one.
But in this she was to be disappointed, for he answered:
"Up to the little Quarkel Mere, round the island in the middle
of it, and back to this spot, something over a league in all. Now,
Senora, speak to me no more at present, but hold fast and have no
fear, for at least I drive well, and my horse is sure-footed and
roughed for ice. This is a race that I would give a hundred gold
pieces to win, since your countrymen, who contend against me, have
sworn that I shall lose it, and I tell you at once, Senora, that
grey horse will press me hard."
Following the direction of his glance, Lysbeth's eye lit upon
the next sledge. It was small, fashioned and painted to resemble a
grey badger, that silent, stubborn, and, if molested, savage brute,
which will not loose its grip until the head is hacked from off its
body. The horse, which matched it well in colour, was of Flemish
breed; rather a raw- boned animal, with strong quarters and an ugly
head, but renowned in Leyden for its courage and staying power.
What interested Lysbeth most, however, was to discover that the
charioteer was none other than Pieter van de Werff, though now when
she thought of it, she remembered he had told her that his sledge
was named the Badger. In his choice of passenger she noted, too,
not without a smile, that he showed his cautious character,
disdainful of any immediate glory, so long as the end in view could
be attained. For there in the sleigh sat no fine young lady, decked
out in brave attire, who might be supposed to look at him with
tender eyes, but a little fair-haired mate aged nine, who was in
fact his sister. As he explained afterwards, the rules provided
that a lady passenger must be carried, but said nothing of her age
Now the competitors, eight of them, were in a line, and coming
forward, the master of the course, in a voice that every one might
hear, called out the conditions of the race and the prize for which
it was to be run, a splendid glass goblet engraved with the
cross-keys, the Arms of Leyden. This done, after asking if all were
ready, he dropped a little flag, whereon the horses were loosed and
away they went.
Before a minute had passed, forgetting all her doubts and
annoyances, Lysbeth was lost in the glorious excitement of the
moment. Like birds in the heavens, cleaving the keen, crisp air,
they sped forward over the smooth ice. The gay throng vanished, the
dead reeds and stark bushes seemed to fly away from them. The only
sounds in their ears were the rushing of the wind, the swish of the
iron runners, and the hollow tapping of the hooves of their
galloping horses. Certain sledges drew ahead in the first burst,
but the Wolf and the Badger were not among these. The Count de
Montalvo was holding in his black stallion, and as yet the grey
Flemish gelding looped along with a constrained and awkward stride.
When, passing from the little mere, they entered the straight of
the canal, these two were respectively fourth and fifth. Up the
course they sped, through a deserted snow- clad country, past the
church of the village of Alkemaade. Now, half a mile or more away
appeared the Quarkel Mere, and in the centre of it the island which
they must turn. They reached it, they were round it, and when their
faces were once more set homewards, Lysbeth noted that the Wolf and
the Badger were third and fourth in the race, some one having
dropped behind. Half a mile more and they were second and third;
another half mile and they were first and second with perhaps a
mile to go. Then the fight began.
Yard by yard the speed increased, and yard by yard the black
stallion drew ahead. Now in front of them lay a furlong or more of
bad ice encumbered with lumps of frozen snow that had not been
cleared away, which caused the sleigh to shake and jump as it
struck. Lysbeth looked round.
"The Badger is coming up," she said.
Montalvo heard, and for the first time laid his whip upon the
haunches of his horse, which answered gallantly. But still the
Badger came up. The grey was the stronger beast, and had begun to
put out his strength. Presently his ugly head was behind them, for
Lysbeth felt the breath from his nostrils blowing on her, and saw
their steam. Then it was past, for the steam blew back into her
face; yes, and she could see the eager eyes of the child in the
grey sledge. Now they were neck and neck, and the rough ice was
done with. Six hundred yards away, not more, lay the goal, and all
about them, outside the line of the course, were swift skaters
travelling so fast that their heads were bent forward and down to
within three feet of the ice.
Van de Werff called to his horse, and the grey began to gain.
Montalvo lashed the stallion, and once more they passed him. But
the black was failing, and he saw it, for Lysbeth heard him curse
in Spanish. Then of a sudden, after a cunning glance at his
adversary, the Count pulled upon the right rein, and a shrill voice
rose upon the air, the voice of the little girl in the other
"Take care, brother," it cried, "he will overthrow us."
True enough, in another moment the black would have struck the
grey sideways. Lysbeth saw Van de Werff rise from his seat and
throw his weight backward, dragging the grey on to his haunches. By
an inch—not more—the Wolf sleigh missed the gelding. Indeed, one
runner of it struck his hoof, and the high wood work of the side
brushed and cut his nostril.
"A foul, a foul!" yelled the skaters, and it was over. Once more
they were speeding forward, but now the black had a lead of at
least ten yards, for the grey must find his stride again. They were
in the straight; the course was lined with hundreds of witnesses,
and from the throats of every one of them arose a great cry, or
rather two cries.
"The Spaniard, the Spaniard wins!" said the first cry that was
answered by another and a deeper roar.
"No, Hollander, the Hollander! The Hollander comes up!"
Then in the midst of the fierce excitement—bred of the
excitement perhaps—some curious spell fell upon the mind of
Lysbeth. The race, its details, its objects, its surroundings faded
away; these physical things were gone, and in place of them was
present a dream, a spiritual interpretation such as the omens and
influences of the times she lived in might well inspire. What did
she seem to see?
She saw the Spaniard and the Hollander striving for victory, but
not a victory of horses. She saw the black Spanish Wolf, at first
triumphant, outmatch the Netherland Badger. Still, the Badger, the
dogged Dutch badger, held on.
Who would win? The fierce beast or the patient beast? Who would
be the master in this fight? There was death in it. Look, the whole
snow was red, the roofs of Leyden were red, and red the heavens; in
the deep hues of the sunset they seemed bathed in blood, while
about her the shouts of the backers and factions transformed
themselves into a fierce cry as of battling peoples. All voices
mingled in that cry— voices of hope, of agony, and of despair; but
she could not interpret them. Something told her that the
interpretation and the issue were in the mind of God alone.
Perhaps she swooned, perhaps she slept and dreamed this dream;
perhaps the sharp rushing air overcame her. At the least Lysbeth's
eyes closed and her mind gave way. When they opened and it returned
again their sledge was rushing past the winning post. But in front
of it travelled another sledge, drawn by a gaunt grey horse, which
galloped so hard that its belly seemed to lie upon the ice, a horse
driven by a young man whose face was set like steel and whose lips
were as the lips of a trap.
Could that be the face of her cousin Pieter van de Werff, and,
if so, what passion had stamped that strange seal thereon? She
turned herself in her seat and looked at him who drove her.
Was this a man, or was it a spirit escaped from doom? Blessed
Mother of Christ! what a countenance! The eyeballs starting and
upturned, nothing but the white of them to be seen; the lips
curled, and, between, two lines of shining fangs; the lifted points
of the mustachios touching the high cheekbones. No—no, it was
neither a spirit nor a man, she knew now what it was; it was the
very type and incarnation of the Spanish Wolf.
Once more she seemed to faint, while in her ears there rang the
cry— "The Hollander! Outstayed! Outstayed! Conquered is the
Then Lysbeth knew that it was over, and again the faintness