SWORD OF PEACE

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Chapter 5

Amsterdam November 1531

He who doubts is like the wave of the sea that is …tossed by the wind… James 1:6

Anna’s head drooped, and she shook her head trying clear the fog in her mind. She must stay awake or she would drop the baby. Perhaps she should put her back in the basket, beside young Jorg who now slept peacefully, his tummy satisfied, and with no cares in the world. Anna wondered with a start whether he was baptized. Somehow, she didn’t think so.

She gazed at the infant in her arms with awe and pleasure. How could anyone be so small? Everything was there, but it was all in miniature. The tiny fingers, curled into fists on either side of her delicate face, the perfectly formed nose, the innocent pink mouth out of which no evil word had yet been spoken, were all a miracle.

It crossed her mind to wonder how the devil could enter an innocent child like this. Was it even possible that he dwelled in a newborn baby? It did make more sense that baptism was for believers of Christ who desired to follow Him. She crossed herself; she should not think such unfaithful thoughts. She was thinking like a heretic.

She found some furs for the children to sleep on; they were too tired to sit up any longer. Like puppies, they cuddled together haphazardly, drawing comfort from each other’s bodies. Anna laid down too, finally giving in to fatigue, and was asleep on the hard floor within seconds.

Anna wasn’t sure how long she had slept when she was startled awake by someone walking around in the room. She stiffened but pretended to be still asleep. By the way the man made himself at home, Anna realized this must be Claes, Elizabeth’s husband. He paused a moment by the fireside, looking amazed at the assorted bodies lying in front of his fire. Anna held her breath as he stepped around her. He must be wondering why a strange woman was sleeping on his floor. Should she let him know she was awake? But she was so cozy and sleepy, and too tired to deal with introductions this time of night. Claes added some small pieces of driftwood to the dying fire. He lit a candle and sat by the table to read a letter that he pulled out of his coat pocket. He unfolded the fragile pages carefully; they must have been folded and unfolded many times.

Elizabeth returned just then, closing the door quietly behind her. Tiptoeing across the room, so as not to awaken the sleeping ones, she joined him and bowed her head as well. Claes said, in a voice just above a whisper. “Hans Bauer sent these precious words from the Tyrol. There is much suffering there as well, and he has now exchanged his earthly body for a heavenly one. He wrote this letter the day before he departed this world. Let me read it to you.

“Dearly beloved Brethren and Sisters, to you be peace and love from above. I, your brother in the Lord, do now beseech you with my heart and pray to God, that you build your foundation on the Lord, where no storms may destroy or fire devour, for no one shall enter Heaven except His chosen ones who love Him and obey Him in every thing. Be not distressed on my behalf, though flesh must suffer and the soul be tempted for I have put my faith in God, and He will reward me with a crown when I bid this life farewell. Pray for me and repent of your sins that we may meet again on the golden shore...”

For a long time, Elizabeth and Claes sat by the table. With tears in his eyes, Claes bowed his head in repentance, and prayed to be free of sin. He asked God for strength to serve Him for as long as his life should last, to spread the truth wherever a willing heart might be found. Anna was astounded and strangely moved. With every word, her heart beat faster. Elizabeth and Claes Anabaptists? Why was she surprised? But of course. It all made sense. Elizabeth’s willingness to take Maeyken’s baby, and to see to Maeyken’s burial, and Claes being out late in the evening. And she had unwittingly taken refuge with Anabaptists!

She thought of Father Hendricks and his pompous incantations, and it seemed like sacrilege to even think of him in this holy moment. She wouldn’t be surprised if she could reach into the darkness and touch God Himself, so near did He seem.

Elizabeth broke the spell when she murmured in a low tone, “Maeyken died of the fever. Daniel and Arents are taking her away to be buried in Friesland.” She motioned to the bodies on the floor. “These are Maeyken’s children and Adriaen is in prison.” Claes looked up, startled.

“And the woman?”

“Anna, Maeyken’s Catholic neighbor who works for Simon den Kramer. I’m not sure how much she is involved or whether we can trust her, yet I believe we can. She dared go to the prison to see Adriaen. It’s a miracle of God that she got out of there safely, and I can’t imagine how she did it.”

Anna eventually went back to sleep while the couple was still talking softly, to be awakened some time later by a sound, she knew not what. It took her a few heartbeats to remember where she was, then she lay there stiff as a board, listening. Singing? Why was she hearing singing from upstairs? She sat up, her eyes staring wildly into the darkness. A faint light shone from up there and she scuttled closer to the children when she heard someone creeping down the steps. Where were Elizabeth and Claes, and why was someone on their stairs? Their bed was downstairs and nobody else lived in the house.

“Wh..who goes there?” Anna failed to achieve the authoritative tone she hoped for.

“Anna? It’s only me.”

“Elizabeth! I thought you were a thief!” Anna released a huge sigh of relief. But what was Elizabeth doing upstairs in the middle of the night? Anna had been frightened half out of her wits, as if she’d seen a ghost.

Elizabeth glided over to the fireplace and peered into the baby’s basket.

“No thief,” Elizabeth smiled, “Just me, coming to check on my schatjes.” She lifted her son and commenced feeding him. “Did you have a good sleep?”

“Yes, but what’s going on upstairs?”

“Why don’t you go and see?”

“Me? Are you sure it’s safe? I heard singing…” Unless she had dreamed it, which was quite possible in her unsettled state. Elizabeth said nothing. And then she heard it again; a slow, solemn tune, reverently sung. What could it mean? People singing in the middle of the night, upstairs? She must be dreaming. “Elizabeth…?” And then finally it dawned on her. She was sheltering in a house where a secret meeting was being held. Her mind spun in dizzy circles as she tried to make all the pieces fit.

“Elizabeth…” Really, it was too much. No matter where one went, there were the Anabaptists. Were they taking over the whole town? Did they have constant meetings all day and night, and when did these people sleep? And the most nagging question of all; what was it that made instant converts of so many people? People who knew their days were numbered once they joined the forbidden sect.

How did they manage with Charles V’s officers hot on their scent? The spies…they were everywhere, following unwary travellers to their secret destinations, their empty money bags gaping, begging to be filled with the rewards doled out by officials determined to purge their territory of the insurrectionists. Wheedling their way into clandestine meetings with ingratiating smiles, pretending to have a desire to learn about the Scriptures and learning their secret greetings; they were the thugs who would do anything for money. The Anabaptists might have the wrong idea, but Anna had no sympathy at all for these scoundrels.

Was it worth the risk to stay here, or should she gather up the children and take her chances out in the night and go back to Maeyken’s house? No, the children had enough excitement for one day. They would be terrified if she forced them to travel home in the dark.

But what if the authorities were lurking about tonight and discovered this forbidden meeting going on upstairs? Would she be spared then? Who would believe she wasn’t one of them since she was practically sleeping on their doorstep? She was rapidly being caught up in their spell, whatever magic or witchcraft they were using to mislead her. The only way she could prove herself loyal without a doubt, and without further tainting her reputation, was to get out of here and report these people. Yes, that was exactly what she must do.

She steeled herself to venture out into the night by herself, determined to do her duty to law and order. It was high time she made a clean cut, and left these people behind while she still could. On to a different place, where no Anabaptists lived to disturb her peace of mind. Maybe she could go to France, or Italy. She reached for her cloak which hung from a peg in the wall.

Elizabeth’s face was a white moon in the flickering candlelight, but she didn’t say a word. Anna turned towards the doorway, and made the mistake of looking to the fireplace, where the children slept cuddled together on the furs. She stopped short. What was she thinking? Abandon Maeyken’s children? After she had promised Adriaen to care for them? Impossible. Time passed as she stood staring at the children, while the low hum of muted voices wafted down the stairs. Somebody would take the children if she left, and at this age, they would soon forget their parents, and herself even sooner. With the resilience of children, they would only mourn for a brief time, then adjust to whatever life they were taken to. But would Anna survive this? She pondered on this for a moment, and finally concluded that wherever she went, trouble would follow. She could never outrun it. With a sigh, she removed her cloak and hung it back up on the peg.

Elizabeth silently exchanged babies and began to feed Anneken. Anna watched her, wracked in indecision. Since she was in the house, and would be implicated if the officers came, would it be so much worse to investigate this meeting upstairs? Surely her Catholic faith was strong enough that she could preserve it, in case she did hear things she somewhat agreed with. Crossing herself, and breathing a brief prayer to Mary, she made up her mind.

This was a chance too good to pass up. She would go and satisfy her curiosity, despite the danger. The risk was not as great as it could be; the bailiff was probably asleep over his cups and this house was small and located in an out of the way street where it was not very noticeable. She simply would not think about spies.

On soundless feet, she crept up the stairs, the children being too worn out to notice her leaving. Upstairs, she followed the yellow glow of candlelight to the doorway of a small room. From the hallway, she peeked into the room, which was packed with people, perhaps two dozen. She was embarrassed that they had seen her when they arrived, sleeping like a lazy dog in front of the fire. Of course, they were used to quietly sneaking about, so it wasn’t surprising she stayed asleep.

A tall, bearded man was reading from a book—the Bible, she supposed. Everyone listened hungrily in rapt attention to every word. She looked around the room at the assembled persons, surprised by who she saw.

There was the cobbler with his worn coat, who talked little, but bent his large head to his work from morn till night whenever she saw him in his shop. A couple of weavers, combing their fingers through their wiry beards. Two young men who could be fisherman, judging by their patched coats. The burly village blacksmith towered a head above the others. Half a dozen women, with their hair swept neatly out of sight under their large white headdresses. And in the far corner, a small man scholarly in appearance, his hair and beard neatly clipped, his hands clean and smooth.

Here were the common tradesmen who took it upon themselves to read the Bible, then spread their interpretation of the Gospel, in such a way that people flocked to them from far and near to hear their message. Anna had seen it all in Germany, and what had happened to her family? How could these people sit there, so peaceful and content, their eyes glowing with some strong emotion? Anna stood outside the door, unobserved, yet unable to tear herself away, while the words read by the tall man lodged themselves in her mind.

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you….” This was preposterous. Enemies needed to be destroyed, not loved. And why would you do good to someone who hated you? These people must have a different Bible than the Pope’s.

In the middle of the room, a rough board table held the remains of a loaf of bread, and an empty wine jug lay on its side. Anna’s eyes widened. They must have held their own communion, with no priest present. She drew in a sharp breath. What sacrilege. Of course, strangely, they didn’t believe the bread and wine was changed into Christ’s body and His blood. This much she had gathered from conversations around the dinner table at home. Anna shuddered to think of the judgment God would send upon these sinners. How had He judged her family? She dashed the thought from her mind.

After the sermon, they cleared a space in the middle of the room, and the two young fishermen knelt. Anna stared in amazement as the preacher took a pitcher of water; chanted a few words; poured a bit of water on their heads, then gave them his hand as they rose, and kissed the kiss of peace. A simple ceremony to be sure, and even mystical. She guessed that she had just witnessed an adult baptism.

She slipped downstairs before anyone noticed her and met Elizabeth on the way up.

“I just fed them both,” Elizabeth said. “You’re not staying upstairs?”

“Uh…no, I’ll stay with the children.”

Feeling suffocated, Anna stepped outside into the crisp night. The stars winked at her as if they too were keeping the same secret she was. How long were these people staying? She had lost track of the time, but it must be well after midnight. The houses pressed their tall dark shadows against the moonlit sky. Across the flat land, a wolf’s howl echoed in a hollow song, answered by the barking of a dog somewhere in the town.

What was that? She jumped a foot into the air. Something or someone rustled from behind her, and she nearly lost her skin. Spies! She rushed inside and barred the door. Blankets covered the windows in the room upstairs; had someone still seen cracks of light? She stood trembling against the door, not daring to move. Holding her breath, she expected an intruder to break in at any moment.

If the bailiff had been alerted, she would be held as guilty as anyone, even though she was a Catholic. Nobody was allowed to help the Anabaptists in any way, not by giving them food or shelter or anything else, much less open up one’s house for a meeting. It was an effective way to get the house demolished. If Anna was found consorting with Anabaptists a second time, she could expect a harsher punishment to be imposed, if not death.

She leaned against the door, trying to slow down her panicked breathing. Just then, the meeting began to break up. In twos and threes or individually, the furtive guests tiptoed down the stairs and gathered around the table. Elizabeth had set out bread, cheese and wine. After a quiet prayer, the men and women ate in silence, while Anna stood in the shadows close to the door. Should she warn them about the sounds she had heard outside, or had that rustle been harmless? It could have been an animal, after all. Remembering that she was unlikely to escape trial if these secret worshippers were caught, she finally ventured closer to the group. She touched the tall preacher’s elbow. He looked at her and she cleared her throat. “Sir, I was outside just a moment ago, and I heard a rustling near the house. Someone could be spying on you.”

“How kind of you to warn us,” the tall man said. “We shall be extra careful as we leave, only one or two at a time, and we will scatter in different directions. Apart from that, nobody can harm us unless God allows it.” He smiled, glanced at her curiously, then put on his black hat and stepped outside. He would be the one treated the worst if they were betrayed. Preachers were valuable prizes because they were the ones who led everyone astray. Anna was wise enough not to ask anyone’s name this time. She couldn’t tell what she didn’t know.

When the last person had left, Anna barred the door for the night. There it was again! That rustling! She motioned for Claes to come listen, and he pressed his ear to the wood. Anna and Elizabeth held onto each other, tense and hardly daring to breathe. Was there a spy out there? What if even now, someone was racing to the sheriff with names of all the Anabaptists who had been here, and the location of this house?

Claes turned around, a grin on his face. “It’s only one of the town’s pigs. I heard it snort.” The two women released their breaths and chuckled. “That’s a relief!” Elizabeth said.

Ja, that it is.” Anna sighed. “Now, I’m tired. I think I will go back to my nest until morning.” The last thing she needed was Claes and Elizabeth questioning her about what she had witnessed that night. She was much too confused to explain how she felt about the secret meeting.

Anna snuggled down near the children on the warm bearskin. But she could not sleep, even after praying all the prayers she knew. So many thoughts circled through her mind, over and over, like churning butter.

Where had they taken Maeyken? She hadn’t heard the death bells tolling, so that meant they had stolen away her remains, to some hidden place. She was grateful to Elizabeth for seeing to Maeyken, and for taking on the little baby girl, Anneken. At least she might be able to save Adriaen’s children for him if he ever got out alive.

Would Adriaen survive to visit his wife’s grave, or must he soon follow her there? The memory of her muscular neighbor reduced to a broken heap on the floor would haunt her for a long time, adding to the image in her mind of Maeyken dying, as well as the horrendous fire which had taken her family. How Adriaen would hate her when he found out she betrayed his brother, and slept while his wife died. Where was Joachim now? Had he found a safe hiding place somewhere? She grimaced, picturing him being chased like a rabbit. She didn’t want him to end up broken and bleeding like Adriaen.

How could she send aid to Simon, and get him out of the dungeon, along with Adriaen? The kindly old man needed a comfortable place to sleep, not a cold prison floor with only a thin layer of filthy straw. She hoped to persuade Claes to smuggle the two men out of there; it was no job for a woman. If the jailkeeper could be bribed once, he could be bribed again. Adriaen had told her where he hid his money, and she hoped it would be enough.

In the morning, Claes assured her that he would do what he could to rescue Adriaen and Simon. She was not to worry about the money, that’s what the Brethren stood for, to help each other out. Anna sighed with relief and thanked him from her heart. They all avoided talking about the subject uppermost in their minds; the night meeting. Anna kept herself busy in the kitchen and avoided meeting Elizabeth’s eyes. She needed to sort things out in her mind before she was ready to discuss it. Elizabeth didn’t push it, either. Did she sense Anna’s reluctance? After the children were awake and fed, Anna decided it was time to take them back home. When the sun’s pink rays flooded the horizon, Anna was on her way, the children and Janneken stumbling along beside her, and the youngest on her hip.

The house stood empty, cold, and silent as they approached it, and Anna squared her shoulders. This was home for the children, and she would do her best to make it warm and welcoming for them, and for Adriaen, if the rescue attempt succeeded. She found a few live coals left and got the fire going, setting the maid to baking bread. The children played listlessly in the yard, and Anna’s heart ached for them.

By mid-afternoon, she had the house all straightened up and clean, with fresh bread to eat and the fire glowing with a simmering pot of pea soup above it. She stepped outside for an armful of firewood, admiring the beautiful autumn morning…and heard the dreaded clattering of hooves on cobblestones, headed her way. She turned her head left and right. Where to hide? She threw the wood on the ground and ran to collect the children. They raced for the cover of the woods beyond the house, but it was too late. They had been seen.

The same rough pair who had come the other day had returned. The officer waved some papers. “You have one hour to leave this house. It now belongs to the state and has been confiscated because of heresy. Leave everything here, including the money. Adriaen told us exactly how much there is, so don’t take one farthing. I will be back.” Anna didn’t want to think about the methods they had used to pry that information out of Adriaen.

The two men rode away, leaving Anna standing, open-mouthed with shock, in front of the house. She hadn’t thought of this possibility. In a frenzy, she gathered the bread the maid had baked and some other food. They would move to Simon’s house.

Except they had confiscated his house as well. Anna stood on the doorstep with the children, reading the notice, shaking with fury. This was too cruel.

“Can you hold Dirk for a minute?” She handed the little boy to the maid. The state had no right to her personal belongings. In a daze, she gathered her things, which didn’t amount to much, and her small stash of money, which was hardly worth mentioning.

Putting on a brave smile, she said to the children, “How about we go for a picnic? It’s a beautiful day, and perhaps we can find some hickory nuts.”

The little faces brightened, and they headed for the forest, though the trees of November were bare of leaves. Anna knew of the perfect spot, not far from the house, with a little stream they could sit beside and watch the water. It would help to lift everyone’s spirits. While the sun was sinking to the horizon, they ate some of the bread and drank water from a clear spring. While the children napped beneath a large willow tree, Anna searched her mind for a solution.

They could probably go back to Elizabeth for the night, but they could not stay there for long. It was not safe enough. If the authorities were bent on ridding the town of the unwanted sect, it would only be a matter of time before they were discovered. The last resort would be the orphanage, but Anna vowed to try everything else before she left them there. Amsterdam, like every other town, supported an abbey and a beguinage, and she could go to them for temporary shelter and food. The beguinage in the middle of town was probably the best place to go for sanctuary, and the nuns would care for the children. Still, Anna was reluctant to take her little brood to one of these establishments, and she told herself it was out of respect for Maeyken and Adriaen’s new beliefs. But if she were honest, the idea did not appeal to her, and she wondered why. If only Adriaen were free to take care of his family. Reluctantly, Anna decided there was nothing for it but to go back to Elizabeth’s house, at least for the night.

Elizabeth welcomed them back upon their return, a worried little frown creasing her forehead. “Make yourselves comfortable in front of the fire.” She arranged the skins on the floor and the children rolled happily into them. Elizabeth took Anna aside.

“Claes has gone with a few others to try and get Adriaen and Simon out. We’re hoping the same guard is still there and can be bribed.”

“I’m so thankful to leave that job for the men,” Anna said. “I would have done all within my power to get them out, but somehow, men seem to be more successful at rescues. But what will the court do when they find out Adriaen’s gone? Won’t they search for him?”

“We must leave that in God’s hands,” Elizabeth said. “But yes, they may come here searching for Adriaen when the Court finds out he is missing. Ideally, the jailer won’t report it right away, so we have a chance to hide him. It wouldn’t be the first time one of the Brethren has mysteriously escaped from prison.”

“I don’t trust that jailer one bit. He treated me like I was nothing more than a stray dog.”

“Yes.” Elizabeth sighed. “That’s how much some men value a woman, and especially an Anabaptist woman. They think we are only good for bearing children and serving men. In times like this, I try to give my burdens over to the Lord. We need never be alone in our troubles.”

Anna stared at Elizabeth, not comprehending her words. “You make it sound like you can just ask God, like he’s in the room with you.”

“God is everywhere, Anna. In this room and wherever you go, always listening to those who call on Him.”

“God wasn’t listening when I asked Him to spare Maeyken. I prayed to the saints, and also to God the way Anabaptists do, without calling on the saints, and she still died.”

“Just because He did not answer your prayers doesn’t mean He isn’t real, or that He doesn’t love you. God knows the bigger picture, and He works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. As to the saints, they have no power to speak to God on your behalf. Nor do the priests have the power to forgive sins. Only Christ, through dying on the cross, can take away our sin.”

Anna turned away, uncomfortable with this peculiar view and with the disregard for the holy saints. Many people went on long pilgrimages to Rome and to other shrines to worship the relics of the saints, and thus to rid themselves of their sins.

She picked up Anneken, and cuddled her close. There were so many conflicting ideas churning around. How could she know what was right in the eyes of God?

She concentrated on the infant in her arms, who was looking more like Adriaen every day. Her face was beginning to fill out, and the dark eyes were open more often. Adriaen had seen her only once, Anna realized. Once right after she was born, and then he had left for the secret meeting and never returned home. He would not recognize his little daughter if he got to see her again.

For this moment, she would pretend this was her baby and that Adriaen was coming home from prison to her. She shook her head in disgust and shame. Where had that sinful thought come from? Her dearest friend’s body was being carried to a distant unhallowed grave, and already she was fantasizing about her widowed husband. She must cease these thoughts and never allow them to surface again. It was a terrible sin and she didn’t doubt God would send some severe punishment down on her. She crossed herself but found little comfort in the familiar gesture.

That night, sleep was impossible. It seemed like an eternity before she heard Elizabeth’s outside door creaking open. She held her breath. Were they back? Had they been successful? In the dim shadows, two wide-shouldered men came inside, carrying a litter between them. Adriaen! Anna sprang to her feet to see for herself. They laid him carefully on a bed prepared in the corner, and Elizabeth came tiptoeing down the stairs. A third man entered, carrying a large bag. The doctor, Anna thought. So, the Anabaptists did have a doctor among them.

The three men worked over the man on the bed; he groaned feebly, and Anna’s insides roiled. She hovered in the background, too tense to lie down again, yet not daring to get in the men’s way. Elizabeth prepared hot cider for everyone, and the men worked silently, trying not to disturb the sleeping children. It seemed like an eternity before the moaning and groaning stopped and the men stepped back from the bed.

“We’ve bled him and reset his bones, so all he needs now is time to heal,” the doctor said in a low tone. “I’ll visit him tomorrow.” He and the other man slipped through the door into the dark night. Their patient lay motionless on his bed, with Claes keeping watch beside him.

“I can take a turn in two hours,” Elizabeth whispered. Anna wanted to offer but the words wouldn’t come. She wanted to be near Adriaen more than anything in the world, but that was a secret she kept to herself. She had absolutely no right to think of him as anything more than a friendly neighbor. If they asked her to help, she would not refuse, and she would do whatever she could to help him recover, the same as she would help anyone else who was in need. That was all.

The next morning, Adriaen was awake, and he motioned Anna over to the bed. Slowly she approached him, afraid her eyes would betray their desire to do that very thing. His brown eyes were dull, and his dark hair was tangled, but he was alive. Anna’s hands itched to smooth the dark hair away from the wide forehead, and she wondered if it would be appropriate for her to wash his grimy face. It would only be nursing a sick man, and nobody need read anything more into her actions. And neither would she. He needed to be washed and she would do it, with no more emotion than if she were washing one of his children. She couldn’t stop herself. A basin of tepid water sat on a small stand beside the bed, with a clean cloth beside it. Elizabeth must have intended to wash him, but something or other prevented her from doing it. Anna dipped the cloth in the water and wrung it out.

“Mind if I clean your face a little?”

“Go ahead. I’m sure I look a fright.” Anna shook her head and gently wiped his wide forehead, smoothing the straight-cut hair out of the way. With careful strokes, she removed the dirt around his gold-tinted brown eyes, noting the short straight lashes. Around and over the bridge of his straight nose she swished the cloth, rinsed it and rubbed at his stubbly cheeks and firm chin, being careful not to get too close to the bruised lips. The rest of him looked no better than his face had, but she laid down the cloth. At least his face was clean.

“Anna, I need to tell you some sad news. Simon passed away in prison. He stayed true till death, singing as long as he had the strength.” Anna stared at him, shocked, not only because her employer was dead, but because in her concern for Adriaen, she had practically forgotten about Simon. “He left the house to you.”

“To me? How can he leave the house to me?” Anna’s eyes grew round in surprise. “Women can’t inherit property, can they?”

“Fortunately, here in the Netherlands women can indeed inherit property. This is the only place in the Empire where it’s allowed, and the house is now yours. Claes can help you with the legal procedures.”

“But why me? This is too generous of Simon, yet so like him to do this.”

“He thought the world of you, and he had no family left. It was his wish to provide for you, his faithful housekeeper.” Anna had never dreamed of such a possibility. Her heart leaped with joy. God did indeed provide. How else could one explain the house falling into her lap at the very time she so desperately needed a place to go?

“But I thought the government confiscated it.”

“Yes, but now that Simon has died so shortly afterwards, they are honoring his will, because it is passing into Catholic hands.”

This was the perfect reason to stay Catholic, Anna thought. She had never dreamed of owning a house, and the idea gave her immense pleasure. She would be independent, almost equal to the men! Uttering a whispered prayer of thankfulness, she vowed to be more faithful. The first thing she must do when things settled down, was to go to the cathedral, and give proper thanks to all the saints for helping her. She would attend mass twice a week from now on; she had been very lax lately.

Adriaen smiled, and his gentle brown eyes melted her heart. “I’m glad you have a place to live. And maybe some day you will decide to join us.”

“Oh…I…I can’t do that.” It was one thing to help keep them out of the claws of their persecutors, quite another to join this perplexing group.

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