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The Assassin Balthasar Discusses His Motives with William the Silent

Some days after his execution Balthasar Gerard found himself alone on the Goodwin Sands a small unseaworthy boat having left him there some hours earlier

As he looked out to sea he saw the boat and its meagre crew disappear into the sea far short of the imagined horizon

The assassin touched his chest and found his heart intact. He bore no reminders of the torture he had experienced which surprised him greatly

He suddenly became aware that he was no longer alone as a man was seated on a chair on the edge of the sands

The man wore fine clothes but was plain in presentation

The assassin’s clothes shamed him

The man in the chair gestured Balthasar towards him

As he shortened his distance the assassin saw that the man was wearing a wide-leaved loosely shaped felt hat with a cord made from silk around the crown

His loose coat was made from a grey frieze cloth and worn over a tawny leather doublet and hung over the side of the chair hiding his breeches

The man was watching Balthasar

We both live do we not?

It appears so but I delivered a pistol whose violence scarred the wall behind you

Oh yes it went through me with ease

Then why do you live?

That is a mystery

Why are we here?

This must be the afterlife

On a sand bank which I suppose will be covered in good time

Then it will not fault our occupation

Balthasar moved forward and placed his hand on the man’s shoulder and as he did so the man began to fade

The assassin was alone again

He was assessing his station when he noted a movement in the low waves

There were mermaids nearby confident in their exhibition. He shouted to them but received no reply

Soon the fish began to sing and their songs began to drown out the bold breeze

If this was his damnation then it was meek in association with his actual life

The assassin let this sentence repeat itself in his head and he walked across the sandbank

The waves were getting nearer and soon the sea had covered the sands was up to his chest

He did not fear the sea for as a dead man could not drown but as the sea overwhelmed him he began to swim

As he did so a mermaid indicated that he should swim with her

He recognised her face as being that of the prince’s sister who had held her dying brother in her arms

You bear me no malice?

The mermaid did not answer as she was condidering her reply

I am returning to Delft assassin; swim for another three hours in this direction and you will deliver yourself to an English coastal town. In time you will become a merchant in your adopted country but you will return to the country of your birth. No-one will recognise you as a considerable number of years will have passed. You will visit me in my chamber and we will prepare maps of the universe

But why the universe is this world not enough?

The mermaid gestured that the assassin swim away and as he did so he saw her vanish beneath the waves

Ten years passed and as the mermaid had predicted he had become a rich merchant but had not moved from the town for fear of reprisal

He was after all an assassin

Balthasar often looked the long beach of the town as he sat by the window of his office. He could see the town-folk come and go and on clear days the mermaids in the sea

One day a fellow Dutchman visited his office

Balthasar immediately knew he was the same man that he had met on the sandbank

It was the prince he had assassinated

The clothes that he wore were same but had aged somewhat although they exhibited no signs of his destruction

We meet again assassin

Am I dead? I feel that I am alive but suspect the afterlife

The man did not immediately answer and looked at the window

What can I do for you prince?

I ask you to return to your homeland. You will not be harmed as you have been forgiven

If that is your pleasure

I have no pleasure but ask that you visit my sister in Delft and describe the universe to her

I know nothing of the universe

Then aid my sister with your meagre knowledge

Why did you forgive me?

Because I guessed your motive and as I faded I received the greatest gift of all

What was that gift?

A vision of Our Lord in all his splendour

That was a great gift

I knew that you had been commanded by others to do your task but this was of no issue for you gave me the witness that many men seek

Will you share refreshment with me so we can talk further? I am intrigued by your story

It is no story assassin

The man smiled and looked towards the long beach again. He began to fade and soon Balthasar was alone again

Later as he finished his port Balthasar noticed a small orb floating above the furthest window. It floated towards the heavy wooden door and then remained still

The assassin knew that he must leave his adopted country and visit the sister of the prince

Two days later after a passive crossing he found himself travelling towards Delft

He had placed the orb in the pocket of his heavy coat

No-one recognised the assassin and he was able to move freely and on the third day after his departure found himself in the Dutch town

He enquired of the residence of the prince’s sister and soon found himself at the door of her house

The door was opened by the maid and Balthasar followed her up two flights of stair before he found himself in a light airy room that commanded a great view of the sky

Numerous maps were on the floor and the heavy wooden table

They were all maps of the universe

The prince’s sister dry from the sea entered through the furthest door

I have been expecting you assassin

Your brother commanded that I come

Yes, I require your help assassin. In the next week put your English affairs in order

They are in order

That is good as I will require you to stay with me for six years and six days. In that time we will map the universe together

I know little of the universe

You know everything of the universe

Then I will help you madam

In your coat pocket I know that you retain an orb. Please hand it to me and we will start our task within the hour

Balthasar handed the orb to the prince’s sister

See brother I know many of the secrets of the universe but your assassin will help me further

The orb began to glow firstly green then a blood red

When we have finished the task I will return this orb to his keeping and he will travel to his adopted country where he will prosper further. He will leave me with many fine maps detailing all the secrets of the universe

The orb turned blue and then became transparent again

Later that day Balthasar and the prince’s sister began their work and started to map the universe

Occasionally Balthasar would look up into a high mirror and would see the prince smiling in the half light

He was watching them

Six years and six days later the assassin laid down his pen

His task was complete

Madam you now know all the secrets of the universe

Thank you assassin my brother will be pleased. Tomorrow you will travel with me to the sea. Rest tonight as the journey will be long

On the afternoon of the following day Balthasar found himself on the beach with the sister of the prince

Like her brother she had dressed simply

I see no boat madam

The woman began to walk into the sea

You will drown madam for the sea is wild

The woman did not reply and Balthasar began to run towards the sea

But it was too late as the waves had covered the woman

The assassin began to swim in the wild water and soon her felt himself being swept out to sea

Go now merchant; you are no longer an assassin, your debt is well paid. Swim to your adopted country as you will not return to the country of your birth again

The merchant saw that the mermaid was swimming beside him once more

Will you accompany me on my journey?

No, I will swim with you for a while and then I will return to Delft as there is much to do

These are exciting times

I have sown my brother’s orb into the pocket of your coat. Do take care of my brother

I will take care of your brother as I took his life it is my reward

We will not speak again merchant

The mermaid stopped swimming smiled lightly and dived beneath the waves

Balthasar continued his journey and some days later found himself looking out of his office window at the long beach as he had done many times before

On his desk was the prince’s orb which in certain lights and on certain days glowed brightly before fading into transparency