The Cloister and the Hearth, by Charles Reade

Chapter 5

Ghysbrecht Van Swieten was an artful man. He opened on the novice with something quite wide of the mark he was really aiming at. “The town records,” said he, “are crabbedly written, and the ink rusty with age.” He offered Gerard the honour of transcribing them fair.

Gerard inquired what he was to be paid.

Ghysbrecht offered a sum that would have just purchased the pens, ink, and parchment.

“But, burgomaster, my labour? Here is a year’s work.”

“Your labour? Call you marking parchment labour? Little sweat goes to that, I trow.”

“’Tis labour, and skilled labour to boot; and that is better paid in all crafts than rude labour, sweat or no sweat. Besides, there’s my time.”

“Your time? Why, what is time to you, at two-and-twenty?” Then fixing his eyes keenly on Gerard, to mark the effect of his words, he said: “Say, rather, you are idle grown. You are in love. Your body is with these chanting monks, but your heart is with Peter Brandt and his red-haired girl.”

“I know no Peter Brandt.”

This denial confirmed Ghysbrecht’s suspicion that the caster-out of demons was playing a deep game.

“Ye lie!” he shouted. “Did I not find you at her elbow on the road to Rotterdam?”

“Ah!”

“Ah! And you were seen at Sevenbergen but t’other day.”

“Was I?’

“Ah and at Peter’s house.”

“At Sevenbergen?”

“Ay, at Sevenbergen.”

Now, this was what in modern days is called a draw. It was a guess, put boldly forth as fact, to elicit by the young man’s answer whether he had been there lately or not.

The result of the artifice surprised the crafty one. Gerard started up in a strange state of nervous excitement.

“Burgomaster,” said he, with trembling voice, “I have not been at Sevenbergen these three years, and I know not the name of those you saw me with, nor where they dwelt; but, as my time is precious, though you value it not, give you good day.” And he darted out, with his eyes sparkling.

Ghysbrecht started up in huge ire; but he sank into his chair again.

“He fears me not. He knows something, if not all.”

Then he called hastily to his trusty servant, and almost dragged him to a window.

“See you yon man?” he cried. “Haste! follow him! But let him not see you. He is young, but old in craft. Keep him in sight all day. Let me know whither he goes, and what he does.”

It was night when the servant returned.

“Well? well?” cried Van Swieten eagerly.

“Master, the young man went from you to Sevenbergen.”

Ghysbrecht groaned.

“To the house of Peter the Magician.”

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 15:33