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Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates(Chapter23)

2006-09-08 21:28

  Chapter 23. Before the Court

  You may believe that the landlord's daughter bestirred herself to prepare a good meal for the boys next morning. Mynheer had a Chinese gong that could make more noise than a dozen breakfast bells. Its hideous reveille, clanging through the house, generally startled the drowsiest lodgers into activity, but the maiden would not allow it to be sounded this morning.

  "Let the brave young gentlemen sleep," she said to the greasy kitchen boy. "They shall be warmly fed when they awaken."

  It was ten o'clock when Captain Peter and his band came straggling down one by one.

  "A pretty hour," said mine host, gruffly. "It is high time we were before the court. Fine business, this, for a respectable inn. You will testify truly, young masters, that you found most excellent fare and lodging at the Red Lion?"

  "Of course we will," answered Carl saucily, "and pleasant company, too, though they visit at rather unseasonable hours."

  A stare and a "humph!" was all the answer mynheer made to this, but the daughter was more communicative. Shaking her earrings at Carl, she said sharply, "Not so very pleasant, either, master traveler, if you could judge by the way YOU ran away from it!"

  "Impertinent creature!" hissed Carl under his breath as he began busily to examine his skate straps. Meantime the kitchen boy, listening outside at the crack of the door, doubled himself with silent laughter.

  After breakfast the boys went to the police court, accompanied by Huygens Kleef and his daughter. Mynheer's testimony was principally to the effect that such a thing as a robber at the Red Lion had been unheard of until last night, and as for the Red Lion, it was a most respectable inn, as respectable as any house in Leyden. Each boy, in turn, told all that he knew of the affair and identified the prisoner in the box as the same man who entered their room in the dead of night. Ludwig was surprised to find that the prisoner in the box was a man of ordinary size——especially after he had described him, under oath, to the court as a tremendous fellow with great, square shoulders and legs of prodigious weight. Jacob swore that he was awakened by the robber kicking and thrashing upon the floor, and immediately afterward, Peter and the rest (feeling sorry that they had not explained the matter to their sleepy comrade) testified that the man had not moved a muscle from the moment the point of the dagger touched his throat, until, bound from head to foot, he was rolled over for inspection. The landlord's daughter made one boy blush, and all the court smile, by declaring, "If it hadn't been for that handsome young gentleman there"——pointing to Peter——"they might have all been murdered in their beds; for the dreadful man had a great, shining knife most as long as Your Honor's arm," and SHE believed, "the handsome young gentleman had struggled hard enough to get it away from him, but he was too modest, bless him! to say so."

  Finally, after a little questioning, and cross-questioning from the public prosecutor, the witnesses were dismissed, and the robber was handed over to the consideration of the criminal court.

  "The scoundrel!" said Carl savagely when the boys reached the street. "He ought to be sent to jail at once. If I had been in your place, Peter, I certainly should have killed him outright!"

  "He was fortunate, then, in falling into gentler hands," was Peter's quiet reply. "It appears he has been arrested before under a charge of housebreaking. He did not succeed in robbing this time, but he broke the door-fastenings, and that I believe constitutes a burglary in the eyes of the law. He was armed with a knife, too, and that makes it worse for him, poor fellow!"

  "Poor fellow!" mimicked Carl. "One would think he was your brother!"

  "So he is my brother, and yours too, Carl Schummel, for that matter," answered Peter, looking into Carl's eye. "We cannot say what we might have become under other circumstances. WE have been bolstered up from evil, since the hour we were born. A happy home and good parents might have made that man a fine fellow instead of what he is. God grant that the law may cure and not crush him!"

  "Amen to that!" said Lambert heartily while Ludwig van Holp looked at his brother in such a bright, proud way that Jacob Poot, who was an only son, wished from his heart that the little form buried in the old church at home had lived to grow up beside him.

  "Humph!" said Carl. "It's all very well to be saintly and forgiving, and all that sort of thing, but I'm naturally hard. All these fine ideas seem to rattle off me like hailstones——and it's nobody's business, either, if they do."

  Peter recognized a touch of good feeling in this clumsy concession. Holding out his hand, he said in a frank, hearty tone, "Come, lad, shake hands, and let us be good friends, even if we don't exactly agree on all questions."

  "We do agree better than you think," sulked Carl as he returned Peter's grasp.

  "All right," responded Peter briskly. "Now, Van Mounen, we await Benjamin's wishes. Where would he like to go?"

  "To the Egyptian Museum?" answered Lambert after holding a brief consultation with Ben.

  "That is on the Breedstraat. To the museum let it be. Come, boys!"

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