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Of course I know full well that all Northern Europe once rang with shrill gossip over the affair, and as usual the woman was declared the guilty party. Even yet, when topics for scandal in Belgium run short, this old tale is revived and gone over–sides being taken. I’ve gone over it, too, and although I may be in the minority, just as I possibly am as to the “guilt” of Eve, yet I stand firm on the side of the woman. I give the facts just as they appear, having canvassed the whole subject, possibly a little more than was good for me.

Republics may be ungrateful, but the favor of princes is fickle as the East Wind.

We make a fine hullabaloo nowadays because France or Russia occasionally tries and sentences a man without giving him an opportunity of defense; but in the Sixteenth Century the donjon-keeps of hundreds of castles in Europe were filled with prisoners whose offense consisted in being feared or disliked by some whimsical local ruler.

Jan Rubens was sent on an official errand to Dillenburg, and arriving there was seized and thrown into prison, without trial or the privilege of communicating with his friends.

Months of agonizing search on the part of his wife failed to find him, and the Prince only broke the silence long enough to usurp a woman’s privilege by telling a lie, and declaring he did not know where Rubens was, “but I believe he has committed suicide through remorse.”

The distracted wife made her way alone from prison to prison, and finally, by bribing an official, found her husband was in an underground cell in the fortress at Dillenburg. It was a year before she was allowed to communicate with or see him. But Maria Rubens was a true diplomat. You move a man not by going to him direct, but by finding out who it is that has a rope tied to his foot. She secured the help of the discarded wife of the Prince, and these two managed to interest a worthy bishop, who brought his influence to bear on Count John of Nassau. This man had jurisdiction of the district in which the fortress where Rubens was confined was located; and he agreed to release the prisoner on parole on condition that a deposit of six thousand thalers be left with him, and an agreement signed by the prisoner that he would give himself up when requested; and also, further, that he would acknowledge before witnesses that he was guilty of the charges made against him.

The latter clause was to justify the Prince of Orange in his actions toward him.

Rubens refused to plead guilty, even for the sake of sweet liberty, on account of the smirch to the name of the Princess.

But on the earnest request of both his wife and the “co-respondent,” he finally accepted the terms in the same manner that Galileo declared the earth stood still. Rubens got his liberty, was loyal to his parole, but John of Nassau kept the six thousand thalers for “expenses.”

So much for the honor of princes; but in passing it is worthy of recall that Jan Rubens pleaded guilty of disloyalty to his wife, on request of said wife, in order that he might enjoy the society of said wife–and cast a cloud on the good name of another woman on said woman’s request.

So here is a plot for a play: a tale of self-sacrifice and loyalty on the part of two women that puts to shame much small talk we hear from small men concerning the fickleness and selfishness of woman’s love. “Brief as woman’s love!” said Hamlet–but then, Hamlet was crazy.

Jan Rubens died in Cologne, March Eighteenth, Fifteen Hundred Eighty-seven, and lies buried in the Church of Saint Peter. Above the grave is a slab containing this inscription: “Sacred to the Memory of Jan Rubens, of Antwerp, who went into voluntary exile and retired with his family to Cologne, where he abode for nineteen years with his wife Maria, who was the mother of his seven children. With this his only wife Maria he lived happily for twenty-six years without any quarrel. This monument is erected by said Maria Pypelings Rubens to her sweetest and well-deserved husband.”