The Burgomaster's Wife Complete
The Burgomaster's Wife Complete
Young Adrian hurried down the Werffsteg, which had given his family its name. He heeded neither the lindens on both sides, amid whose tops the first tiny green leaves were forcing their way out of the pointed buds, nor the birds that flew hither and thither among the hospitable boughs of the stately trees, building their nests and twittering to each other, for he had no thought in his mind except to reach home as quickly as possible.
Beyond the bridge spanning the Achtergracht, he paused irresolutely before a large building.
The knocker hung on the central door, but he did not venture to lift it and let it fall on the shining plate beneath, for he could expect no pleasant reception from his family.
His doublet had fared ill during his struggle with his stronger enemy. The torn neck-ruffles had been removed from their proper place and thrust into his pocket, and the new violet stocking on his right leg, luckless thing, had been so frayed by rubbing on the pavement, that a large yawning rent showed far more of Adrian's white knee than was agreeable to him.
The peacock feather in his little velvet cap could easily be replaced, but the doublet was torn, not ripped, and the stocking scarcely capable of being mended. The boy was sincerely sorry, for his father had bade him take good care of the stuff to save money; during these times there were hard shifts in the big house, which with its three doors, triple gables adorned with beautifully-arched volutes, and six windows in the upper and lower stories, fronted the Werffsteg in a very proud, stately guise.
The burgomaster's office did not bring in a large income, and Adrian's grandfather's trade of preparing chamois leather, as well as the business in skins, was falling off; his father had other matters in his head, matters that claimed not only his intellect, strength and time, but also every superfluous farthing.
Adrian had nothing pleasant to expect at home-certainly not from his father, far less from his aunt Barbara. Yet the boy dreaded the anger of these two far less, than a single disapproving glance from the eyes of the young wife, whom he had called "mother" scarcely a twelve month, and who was only six years his senior.
She never said an unkind word to him, but his defiance and wildness melted before her beauty, her quiet, aristocratic manner. He scarcely knew himself whether he loved her or not, but she appeared like the good fairy of whom the fairy tales spoke, and it often seemed as if she were far too delicate, dainty and charming for her simple, unpretending home. To see her smile rendered the boy happy, and when she looked sad-a thing that often happened-it made his heart ache. Merciful Heavens! She certainly could not receive him kindly when she saw his doublet, the ruffles thrust into his pocket, and his unlucky stockings.
There were the bells ringing again!
The dinner hour had long since passed, and his father waited for no one. Whoever came too late must go without, unless Aunt Barbara took compassion on him in the kitchen.
But what was the use of pondering and hesitating? Adrian summoned up all his courage, clenched his teeth, clasped his right hand still closer around the torn ruffles in his pocket, and struck the knocker loudly on the steel plate beneath.
Trautchen, the old maid-servant, opened the door, and in the spacious, dusky entrance-hall, where the bales of leather were packed closely together, did not notice the dilapidation of his outer man.
He hurried swiftly up the stairs.
The dining-room door was open, and-marvellous-the table was still untouched, his father must have remained at the town-hall longer than usual.
Adrian rushed with long leaps to his little attic room, dressed himself neatly, and entered the presence of his family before the master of the house had asked the blessing.
The doublet a