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Of course, no one knew then that one of the seven–the youngest son of Jan and Maria–was to win deathless fame, or that might have been carved on the slab, too, even if something else had to be omitted.

But Maria need not have added that last clause, stating who it was that placed the tablet: as it stands we should all have known that it was she who dictated the inscription. Epitaphs are proverbially untruthful; hence arose the saying, “He lies like an epitaph.” The woman who can not evolve a good lie in defense of the man she loves is unworthy of the name of wife.

The lie is the weapon of defense that kind Providence provides for the protection of the oppressed. “Women are great liars,” said Mahomet; “Allah in his wisdom made them so.”

Hail, Maria Rubens! turned to dust these three hundred years, what star do you now inhabit? or does your avatar live somewhere here in this world? At the thought of your unselfish loyalty and precious fibbing, an army of valiant, ghostly knights will arise from their graves, and rusty swords leap from their scabbards if aught but good be said against thee.

“Ho, ho! and wasn’t your husband really guilty, and didn’t you know it all the time?” I’ll fling my glove full in the face of any man who dare ask you such a question.

Beloved and loving wife for six-and-twenty years, and mother of seven, looking the world squarely in the eye and telling a large and beautiful untruth, carving it in marble to protect your husband’s name, I kiss my hand to you!

* * * * *

In the doorpost of a queer little stone house in Cologne is carved an inscription to the effect that Peter Paul Rubens was born there on June Twenty-ninth, Fifteen Hundred Seventy-seven. It is probably true that the parents of Rubens lived there, but Peter Paul was born at Siegen, under the shadow of a prison from which his father was paroled.

After a few years the discipline relaxed, for there were new prisoners coming along, and Maria and Jan were given permission to move to Cologne.

Peter Paul was ten years of age when his father died. The next year the widow moved with her little brood back to Antwerp, back to the city from which her husband had been exiled just twenty years before. Five years previous the Prince of Orange, who had exiled her husband, was himself sent on a journey, via the dagger of an assassin. As the chief enemy of Jan Rubens was dead, it was the hope of the widow to recover their property that had been confiscated.

Maria Rubens was a good Catholic; and she succeeded in making the authorities believe that her husband had been, too, for the home that Royalty had confiscated was returned to her.

The mother of Peter Paul loved the dim twilight mysteries of the Church, and accepted every dogma and edict as the literal word of God. It is easier and certainly safer to leave such matters to the specialists.

She was a born diplomat. She recognized the power of the Church and knew that to win one must go with the current, not against it. To have doubts, when the Church is willing to bear the whole burden, she thought very foolish. Had she been a man she would have been a leader among the Jesuits. The folly of opposition had been shown her most vividly in her husband’s career. What could he not have been had he been wise and patient and ta’en the tide at its flood! And this was the spirit that she inculcated in the minds of her children.

Little Peter Paul was a handsome lad–handsome as his father–with big, dark brown eyes and clustering curls. He was bright, intelligent, and blessed with a cheerful, obliging disposition. He came into the world a welcome child, carrying the beauty of the morning in his face, and form, and spirit.