"Humph! What did you stare at it so long for?"
By this time the boys had reached the "beautiful room with three beds in it." A dumpy little maiden with long earrings met them at the doorway, dropped them a curtsy, and passed out. She carried a long-handled thing that resembled a frying pan with a cover.
"I am glad to see that," said Van Mounen to Ben.
"Why, the warming pan. It's full of hot ashes; she's been heating our beds."
"Oh, a warming pan, eh! Much obliged to her, I'm sure," said Ben, too sleepy to make any further comment.
Meantime, Ludwig still talked of the picture that had made such a strong impression upon him. He had seen it in a shop window during their walk. It was a poorly painted thing, representing two men tied back to back, standing on shipboard, surrounded by a group of seamen who were preparing to cast them together into the sea. This mode of putting prisoners to death was called voetspoelen, or feet washing, and was practiced by the Dutch upon the pirates of Dunkirk in 1605; and again by the Spaniards against the Dutch, in the horrible massacre that followed the siege of Haarlem. Bad as the painting was, the expression upon the pirates' faces was well given. Sullen and despairing as they seemed, they wore such a cruel, malignant aspect that Ludwig had felt a secret satisfaction in contemplating their helpless condition. he might have forgotten the scene by this time but for that ill-looking man by the fire. Now, while he capered about, boylike, and threw himself with an antic into his bed, he inwardly hoped that the voetspoelen would not haunt his dreams.
It was a cold, cheerless room; a fire had been newly kindled in the burnished stove and seemed to shiver even while it was trying to burn. The windows, with their funny little panes, were bare and shiny, and the cold waxed floor looked like a sheet of yellow ice. Three rush-bottomed chairs stood stiffly against the wall, alternating with three narrow wooden bedsteads that made the room look like the deserted ward of a hospital. At any other time the boys would have found it quite impossible to sleep in pairs, especially in such narrow quarters, but tonight they lost all fear of being crowded and longed only to lay their weary bodies upon the feather beds that lay lightly upon each cot. Had the boys been in Germany instead of Holland, they might have been covered, also, by a bed of down or feathers. This peculiar form of luxury was at that time adopted only by wealthy or eccentric Hollanders.
Ludwig, as we have seen, had not quite lost his friskiness, but the other boys, after one or two feeble attempts at pillow firing, composed themselves for the night with the greatest dignity. Nothing like fatigue for making boys behave themselves!