"What does this mean, Mother? We must feed him at once. Here, Gretel, give me the porridge."
"Nay!" cried his mother, distractedly, yet without raising her voice. "It may kill him. Our poor fare is too heavy for him. Oh, Hans, he will die--the father will DIE, if we use him this way. He must have meat and sweet wine and a dekbed. Oh, what shall I do, what shall I do?" she sobbed, wringing her hands. "There is not a stiver in the house."
Gretel pouted. It was the only way she could express sympathy just then. Her tears fell one by one into the dough.
"Did the meester say he MUST have these things, Mother?" asked Hans.
"Well, Mother, don't cry, HE SHALL HAVE THEM. I shall bring meat and wine before night. Take the cover from my bed. I can sleep in the straw."
"Yes, Hans, but it is heavy, scant as it is. The meester said he must have something light and warm. He will perish. Our peat is giving out, Hans. The father has wasted it sorely, throwing it on when I was not looking, dear man."
"Never mind, Mother," whispered Hans cheerfully. "We can cut down the willow tree and burn it, if need be, but I'll bring home something tonight. There MUST be work in Amsterdam, though there's none in Broek. Never fear, Mother, the worst trouble of all is past. We can brave anything now that the father is himself again."
"Aye!" sobbed Dame Brinker, hastily drying her eyes. "That is true indeed."