The Lily of Leyden, by W.H.G. Kingston.
THE LILY OF LEYDEN, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
The warm sun of a bright spring day, in the year of grace 1574, shone down on the beautiful city of Leyden, on its spacious squares and streets and its elegant mansions, its imposing churches, and on the smooth canals which meandered among them, fed by the waters of the sluggish Rhine. The busy citizens were engaged in their various occupations, active and industrious as ever; barges and boats lay at the quays loading or unloading, some having come from Rotterdam, Delft, Amsterdam, and other places on the Zuyder Zee, with which her watery roads gave her easy communication. The streets were thronged with citizens of all ranks, some in gay, most in sombre attire, moving hurriedly along, bent rather on business than on pleasure, while scattered here and there were a few soldiers—freebooters as they were called, though steady and reliable—and men of the Burgher Guard, forming part of the garrison of the town. Conspicuous among them might have been seen their dignified and brave burgomaster, Adrian Van der Werf, as he walked with stately pace, his daughter Jaqueline, appropriately called the Lily of Leyden, leaning on his arm. She was fair and graceful as the flower from which she derived her name, her features chiselled in the most delicate mould, her countenance intelligent and animated, though at present graver than usual. After leaving their house in the Broedestrat, the principal street of Leyden, they proceeded towards an elevation in the centre of the city, on the summit of which rose the ancient tower of Hengist, generally so called from the belief that the Anglo-Saxon conquerors of Britain crossed over from Holland. Mynheer Van der Werf and Jaqueline reaching the foot of the mound, slowly ascended by a flight of winding steps, till they gained the battlements on the top of the ancient tower, the highest spot for many miles around. Here they stood for some minutes gazing over the level country, of which they commanded a perfect panoramic view. Below them lay the city, surrounded by a moat of considerable width and stout walls, which had already been proved capable of resisting the attack of foes eager to gain an entrance. Here and there bridges led over the moat, protected by forts of no mean strength. In all directions were silvery threads glittering in the sun, marking the course of the canals which led to Haarlem and Amsterdam on the north, and Delft, Rotterdam, Gouda, and many other towns on the banks of the Yessel and the Meuse on the south, while occasionally wide shining expanses showed the existence of meers or lakes of more or less extent, while westward the blue ocean could be seen, and to the south-west Gravenhague, or The Hague, as the place is more generally called. On every side were smiling villages, blooming gardens, corn-fields, and orchards, betokening the industry and consequent prosperity of the inhabitants. The city at this time bore but few traces of the protracted siege it had endured for a whole year, and which had been raised only three months before, when the Spanish force under Valdez, a lieutenant of the ferocious Alva, had been summoned to the frontier, in consequence of the rumoured approach of a patriot army under Prince Louis of Nassau.
At the period when our story commences, the heroic Prince William of Orange, loyally aided by his brothers, Louis, Henry, and John, and by other noble patriots, had struggled for seven long years to emancipate Holland from the cruel yoke imposed upon her by the bigot Philip of Spain and the sanguinary Duke of Alva. Their success had been varied; though frequently defeated, they had again rallied to carry on the desperate struggle. Several of their most flourishing cities had been besieged by the hated foe, some had fallen, and the inhabitants had been mercilessly slaughtered; others had successfully resisted, and the Spaniards had been compelled to retire from their walls. Count Louis had been defeated in a campaign in Friesland, but had escaped into Germany, where he had lost no time in endeavouring to raise another army. The Prince of Orange himself was then in possession of Rotterdam, Delft, and the intermediate country. Between those two cities was the important fortress of Polderwaert, which secured him in the control of the quadrangle watered on two sides by the Yessel and Maas or Meuse. The Spaniards meantime occupied the coast from the Hague to Vlaardingen, on the bank of the Maas. It should be understood that the country extending northward from the rivers which have been mentioned towards Leyden was generally level, and considerably lower than the ocean, which was kept out by enormous banks or dykes, and that it had been, by the industry of the inhabitants, brought under a perfect state of cultivation. There were certain spots, however, raised slightly above the surrounding flat, on all of which villages had been built. Enormous sluices existed at Rotterdam, Schiedam, and other places, by which the supply of water in the canals could be regulated; over these, as well as the dykes along the banks of the river, the Prince of Orange held perfect control. Besides the small force which enabled him to hold Rotterdam and Delft, he possessed a fleet of broad, flat-bottomed vessels, well suited for the navigation of the shallow waters of Zealand, where, under the brave and able Admiral Boisot, they were able to bid defiance to the ships sent against them by the Spaniards. Their crews consisted of those hardy sons of the ocean who, under the name of "The Beggars of the Sea," had already rendered such good service in the cause of Freedom by the capture of Brill, the first place in Holland where the Prince of Orange was proclaimed Stadtholder, and in many other enterprises, when, according to their rule, no quarter was given to their hated foe. Besides Rotterdam, Delft, and Leyden, many other towns in various parts of Holland were garrisoned by the partisans of the Prince of Orange, and had either, with some exceptions, not been attacked by the Spaniards, or had successfully resisted the forces sent against them. Two, unhappily, had fallen; the fearful cruelties to which their inhabitants had been subjected by their conquerors showed the others what they must expect should they be unable to hold out. Of these, in Naarden, a small city on the coast of the Zuyder Zee, scarcely a man had been left alive, the whole population having been given over to indiscriminate slaughter. Haarlem, after an heroic defence of seven months, had been compelled to capitulate, when, notwithstanding the promises of Don Frederic, Alva's son, a large number of the principal citizens, as well as others of all ranks, and every man who had borne arms, were cruelly put to death, the survivors being treated with the greatest cruelty. The mind shrinks from contemplating such horrors, and the Hollanders might well desire to emancipate themselves from the rule of a sovereign capable of allowing them.
The burgomaster and his daughter had stood for some minutes without speaking, their eyes gazing down on the smiling landscape which has been described, yet the minds of neither of them had been engaged in admiring its beauties.
"Would that I had been more determined in endeavouring to induce our citizens to level those forts and redoubts left by the Spaniards, and had also taken steps to re-victual the city and to strengthen our garrison. I have just received a letter from our noble Stadtholder, urging me to see to these matters, and I must do so without delay." The burgomaster, as he spoke, pointed to several redoubts and forts which in different directions had been thrown up by the Spaniards during their former investment of the place. To the south-east and east were two of especial strength—Zoeterwoude and Lammen, the first about 500 yards from the walls, the latter not more than half that distance. From these forts a bank or causeway ran westward towards the Hague.
"I ought to have exerted all the influence I possessed to get the task accomplished," continued the burgomaster. "By God's merciful providence we were before preserved, but He helps those who, trusting to Him, labour as He would have them. The Spaniards may not return, but it is our duty to be prepared for them, though I trust that we shall soon hear of a glorious victory gained over them by the noble Count Louis."
"Heaven defend him and his brave troops," murmured Jaqueline; and she thought of one who had accompanied the Count to the field and who had from his earliest days engaged in the desperate struggle both at sea and on shore. Again the burgomaster was silent, and Jaqueline's thoughts wandered far away to the army of Count Louis. The chief magistrate had come up, as was his wont, to consider the measures which it might be necessary to take for the benefit of the city over which he presided. Here, under ordinary circumstances, he was not likely to be interrupted by visitors. Jaqueline's thoughts were recalled to the present moment by hearing a light footstep ascending the stairs of the tower. A young boy appeared, whose dress showed that he belonged to the upper orders, his countenance animated and intelligent. "Why, Albert Van der Does, what has brought you here in so great a hurry?" asked Jaqueline, as she cast a glance at the boy's handsome face glowing with the exertion he had made.
"I had gone to your house, and finding that you had come up here, I thought you would give me leave to follow you," he answered.
"You have taken the leave, at all events," she said, smiling; "but what object had you in coming here this morning?"
"A very important one; I want you to accept the remainder of my pigeons; those I before gave you have become so tame and look so happy that I am unwilling to deprive the others of the privilege of belonging to you."
"Is it only affection for your feathered friends that induces you to make me the offer?" she asked, archly.
"I confess that I have another reason," he answered. "I shall no longer have time to attend to my pets; I heard my father say that we shall soon be engaged in more stirring work than we have had since the Spaniards marched to the eastward. As soon as Count Louis forms a junction with the Prince, every person capable of bearing arms should be prepared to engage in the struggle, and I want, therefore, to practice the use of weapons and to learn to be a soldier."
"You will make a brave one, I am sure," said Jaqueline.
"And will you accept my birds?" asked Albert.
"I cannot refuse what you so freely offer, though, if you repent, you shall have them again," said Jaqueline.
"Then may I bring them to you this evening?" asked Albert.
"Thank you, Albert; we are always glad to see you; and if you bring your pigeons, I promise to train and pet them as I have those you before gave me," she answered.
"Then I will come this very evening, with your cousin Berthold, whom I left at his books in my father's study. Fond as he is of his books, he says that he must lay them aside to learn the use of arms with me; for as soon as Count Louis appears, we intend to go out and join him. We have but a short time to prepare, as, before many days are over, the Count and his army will have fought their way to Delft, and we must commence the work of driving the Spaniards out of our country or into the rivers and meers, where they have sent so many of our brave Hollanders."
Jaqueline smiled approvingly, admiring, as she did, the enthusiasm of the gallant boy, so consonant with her own feelings.
"I am much obliged to you for your readiness to accept my birds, and now I must deliver a message I have brought from my father to the burgomaster. My father desires to see him about the fortifications, and as he bade me say that the matter is of importance, I ought to have given it first."
The burgomaster had been so pre-occupied with his own thoughts that he had not observed young Albert Van der Does, and now started as the boy addressed him with that deference due to his age and rank.
"Tell your father that I will at once visit him. Although a man of letters and devoted to study, I know that he possesses, among his other talents, a military genius, which makes me value his opinion; say also that it is the very subject which has been occupying my thoughts."
"My father is more out of spirits than I have ever seen him," said Albert. "It is owing to a letter he lately received from a friend at Utrecht, detailing an extraordinary circumstance which occurred in that city some time ago. It is said that five soldiers of the Burgher Guard were on their midnight watch, when, the rest of the sky being as dark as pitch, they observed, directly over their heads, a clear space, equal in extent to the length of the city, and of several yards in width. Suddenly two armies, in battle array were seen advancing upon each other; one moved rapidly up from the north-west, with banners waving, spears flashing, trumpets sounding, accompanied by heavy artillery and squadrons of cavalry; the other came slowly from the south-east. They at length met and joined in a desperate conflict for a few moments; the shouts of the combatants, the heavy discharge of cannon, the rattle of musketry, the tramp of foot soldiers, the rush of cavalry, were distinctly heard. The very firmament trembled with the shock of the contending hosts, and was lurid with the fire of their artillery. Then the north-western army was beaten back in disorder, but, rallying again, formed into solid column, and once more advanced towards the south-eastern army, which was formed into a closely-serried square, with spears and muskets. Once more the fight raged, and the sounds were heard as distinctly as before; the struggle was but short, the lances of the south-eastern army snapped like hemp-sticks, and their firm columns went down together in mass beneath the onset of their foes. The overthrow was complete. Scarcely had the victors and vanquished vanished, than the clear blue space where they had stood appeared suddenly streaked with broad crimson streams flowing athwart the sky. The five soldiers reported the next day what they had witnessed to the magistrates of Utrecht, who examined them separately, and each swore to what he had seen. My father said that he should not have been inclined to believe the account had not the evidence been so strong in favour of its truth."
"This is strange," observed the burgomaster. "Your father will assuredly show me the letter, and I shall then the better be able to judge how far I can give the account credence. We know that strange portents have appeared in the sky before great events, at the same time these men of the Burgher Guard may have allowed their imaginations to run riot. They knew that a battle was likely ere long to take place should the Spaniards attempt to impede the march of Count Louis, and some passing clouds may have appeared to them to represent the scene they have described. Grant that they beheld something extraordinary, yet they may have been mistaken, and the south-eastern army—for from that direction the Count must be advancing—may prove victorious."
"My father would fain hope as you do, Mynheer Van der Werf, but his friend, one of the magistrates of Utrecht, fully believes in the apparition, and has imbued him with his own desponding spirit."
"Bear to him my regards, and beg him to cheer up," said the burgomaster. "He must not allow his brave spirit to be agitated by a tale which may after all have originated in the heated imaginations of a few ignorant men. Had the whole city witnessed the spectacle it might have been different."
While the burgomaster and Jaqueline were looking out from the summit of Hengist's tower, two gentlemen approached it from opposite directions; the one was of good figure, handsomely dressed in silken doublet and cloak, with a feather in his cap, and a rapier, apparently more for ornament than use, by his side. He walked with no laggard step, looking up ever and anon towards the top of the tower. The other came on at still greater speed, his appearance contrasting greatly with that of the first; a heavy sword hung by his side, and over his shoulders was an orange sash, which partly covered a breastplate showing many a deep dent, while his dress was travel-stained and bespattered with dark red marks, while his frank and open countenance wore an expression of grief and anxiety. The two as they met exchanged salutes, the manner of the latter being hurried, as if he desired not to be stopped.
"Why, what has happened, Captain Van der Elst?" exclaimed the young gallant who has just been introduced.
"I am in search of the burgomaster, and have been told that he was seen going to the Tower of Hengist," said the other, without answering the question.
"I am also bound there, and will gladly accompany you," was the reply.
"Pardon me, Van Arenberg, but the business I am on is of too great importance to brook delay." And Karl Van der Elst sprang on up the ascent at a rate which Baron Van Arenberg, without lowering his dignity, could not venture to imitate. A blush rose for a moment on the Lily's fair cheek as she saw him coming; her countenance, however, the next moment assumed an expression of alarm when she remarked his appearance. He bowed as he approached, gazing at her with a look of sorrow in his dark eyes which did not tend to reassure her, and without offering any other greeting, much as he might have desired it, he addressed himself to the burgomaster, who inquired in an anxious tone, "What news do you bring, Captain Van der Elst? Has Count Louis defeated the Spaniards? Has he yet formed a junction with the Prince?"
The young officer, his feelings almost mastering him, could with difficulty reply, "Count Louis with his brother, Count Henry, the brave Duke Christopher, and the whole army have been annihilated. We met the foe near the village of Mookie, where we were hemmed in; in vain we tried to cut our way through the ranks of the Spaniards. Count Louis, his brother, and Duke Christopher, with four thousand gallant men, fell in the attempt. I had just before been despatched to make a circuit in order to get upon the enemy's flank, which I was ordered to attack. Before I could reach it the day was lost; the victorious cavalry of the Spaniards charged over the field, butchering all they met. Many of our men were suffocated in the marshes or in the river, and others were burnt in the farmhouses where they had taken refuge. Finding that success was hopeless, and that I could do nothing to retrieve the day, I drew off my shattered troop, and I have deemed it my duty to hasten on to warn the inhabitants of Leyden that the enemy are rapidly advancing again to lay siege to their walls." At first the burgomaster seemed inclined to discredit the intelligence.
"Surely all could not have been destroyed, some of the soldiers may have cut their way through, and escaped as you have done?" Karl shook his head.
"I obtained too distinct a view of the fatal field to allow me to indulge in such a hope," he answered. "I would gladly have sought for an honourable death myself among my friends had I not reflected that the safety of my brave band depended on me, and that we might yet render service to our country."
While he was speaking, Baron Van Arenberg joined the party, and, after saluting Jaqueline in a self-confident manner, stood listening with a supercilious air to the young soldier.
"That you have escaped from the field, Captain Van der Elst, is evident; but I fain would doubt that so many brave men would have yielded to the Spaniards," he observed.
"They yielded not to the Spaniards, but to death," answered Captain Van der Elst. "I myself visited the field of slaughter at night, when the Spaniards had withdrawn, in search of my beloved leader. His body, if it was there, lay among the heaps of slain, most of whom had been stripped by rapacious plunderers, and disfigured by the hoofs of the enemy's horses."
"I believe your report, captain," said the burgomaster, stretching out his hand and pressing that of Van der Elst. "Our duty is clear, not a moment is to be lost in preparing for the defence of our city, and the burghers of Leyden must resist to the last. You will remain and aid us with your advice?"
"Would that I could," answered Karl, glancing for a moment at Jaqueline; "but I must hasten to the Prince of Orange, to give him a full account of the events which have taken place, and to receive his orders. Bereaved as he is of his brothers, it is the duty of every true-hearted man to rally round him."
"You are right," said the burgomaster; "but I must beg you to bear a message from me to the Prince, requesting that he will allow you to return, and, if possible, to bring some men-at-arms with you. Lay before him the weak state of our garrison; say that we have but five companies of the Burgher Guard and a small corps of freebooters; but that our walls are strong, the hearts of our citizens staunch, and that they will, I feel assured, fly to arms the instant they receive the summons. Assure him that we will endeavour to imitate the example of the brave citizens of Alkmaar, and hold out till he can send us succour."
"I will faithfully deliver your message, mynheer, and you may rest assured that if it depends on my freedom of action I will gladly return to render you such assistance as I can give," answered Captain Van der Elst, his countenance brightening as he spoke, his eyes once more turning towards Jaqueline, who, with Baron Van der Arenberg and Albert, stood a little distance apart.
"The citizens of Leyden can well dispense with the service of one who, by his own showing, seems to have fled from the scene of battle," whispered Van Arenberg to Jaqueline in too low a tone for Captain Van der Elst to hear him. On hearing this, without replying, she turned away, and moved closer to her father.
"He is as brave a soldier as ever lived," exclaimed Albert, who had overheard the remark, his countenance flushing as he spoke. "My father knows and admires him, and was only the other day speaking of the many gallant deeds he has performed. He was with De la Marck on board the fleet of the 'Beggars of the Sea,' when they captured Brill, he was at Flushing when the standard of liberty was raised there, he assisted in the defence of Alkmaar, and I scarcely know how many sea battles he has been engaged in, while he served with Prince Louis during his campaign in Friesland; and I am very sure that it was his good fortune, or rather his courage and discretion, enabled him to escape from the Battle of Mookerheyde."
The Lily's bright eyes sparkled, and she gave Albert an approving look as he was speaking.
"You would make out this young captain a very Amadis," said Van Arenberg, in a sarcastic tone. "Your father must have obtained the report of his heroic deeds from himself I suspect, for I never heard him spoken of in the same laudatory manner."
"Why, Baron, one would suppose, from the way you speak, that you were jealous of him," said Albert, with the boldness of a brave boy who felt that he was defending a maligned friend. "You insinuate that he ran away from Mookerheyde, and I am very sure that he did nothing of the sort. He went back to the field to look for the dead bodies of the Count and his brother, and he could not have done that without running a great risk of being killed or taken prisoner, and it was not till he had assured himself of the sad fact that Count Louis and the rest were dead that he led off his men, and came here to give us warning that we might prepare for the enemy."
The baron, whose features were flushed with annoyance, for Jaqueline overheard all that was said, was about to make an angry reply, when the burgomaster called Albert. "Hasten to your father, my good Albert, break the sad news you have heard, and say that I shall esteem it a favour if he will come forthwith to meet me at the council hall, as I would desire to have some time to speak with him on these matters before the rest of the councillors arrive. I will, on my way, send round to summon them, as we must lose no time in preparing to defend our city."
Albert, with the activity of youth, leaped down the steps, while the burgomaster prepared to descend with greater caution. "Baron Van Arenberg," he said, "I must request you to escort my daughter to her home, while Captain Van der Elst accompanies me to the Stadhuis, as we have matters of importance to discuss on our way. I hope that you will afterwards join us there, and will offer your services to aid in the defence of the place."
Baron Van Arenberg expressed the honour and pleasure he felt at the charge committed to him, although Jaqueline, while bowing her head in acquiescence, showed by her manner that the arrangement afforded her no especial satisfaction. The Lily, as may be conjectured, had many admirers, for not only was she fair and graceful, with a sweet disposition, but it was supposed that she would inherit the wealth of the burgomaster; hitherto, however, as far as was known, her heart was untouched, and she had favoured no one.
On reaching the foot of the mound the burgomaster and Captain Van der Elst proceeded to the Stadhuis, while Baron Van Arenberg accompanied Jaqueline in the direction of her own house. She walked on, though with graceful step, far more rapidly than her companion wished, looking directly before her without turning her head, unless it was absolutely necessary to do so.
"I am still not altogether satisfied as to the entire truth of the report brought by this young captain regarding the destruction of Count Louis and his army. The Spanish troops are undoubtedly brave and disciplined, but it seems incredible to me that they should have cut to pieces in so short a time the large number of levies the Count is reported to have had with him. If they allowed themselves to be so easily defeated all I can say is, that they deserved their fate. In my opinion it is a pity that we Hollanders should so persistently hold out against the troops of our lawful sovereign; far better by yielding with a good grace to bring the fighting to an end."
"And share the fate of the unhappy inhabitants of Haarlem," answered Jaqueline, for the first time turning her head and glancing at him with a look which betokened as much contempt as her features were capable of exhibiting. "Think of the thousands of our countrymen who have been cruelly butchered because they were determined to hold fast to our Protestant faith rather than confess that of our foreign tyrants. I should say, let every man and woman perish bravely, fighting to the last rather than basely give up their birthrights."
"I will not venture to argue with you on that point, fair Jaqueline," answered Van Arenberg. "I wish as much as any Hollander can do to preserve our birthrights, as well as my castle and broad estates, but I assure you that you underrate the power of the Spaniards. Our cause, the patriot cause, is desperate; it is on account of the deep admiration I feel for you, if I may use no warmer term, that I would save you from the horrors to which others have been exposed."
"I speak the sentiments held by my father and every right-minded man in our city—ay! and woman too," answered Jaqueline, in a firm tone. "We would imitate our sisters in Haarlem and Alkmaar and join the citizens in defending our walls."
"But should the city be again besieged—and it assuredly will be should the report of the total defeat of Count Louis prove correct—how can Leyden hope to hold out against the disciplined and experienced troops of the king? The Prince of Orange has no force sufficient to relieve the city, and be assured that the fate which overtook Haarlem will be that of Leyden, though the inhabitants are not likely to be treated with that measure of forbearance which those of Haarlem received."
"If you speak of the measure of forbearance awarded to Haarlem, that was small indeed," said Jaqueline. "You seem to forget that every citizen of wealth was massacred, that every Hollander who had borne arms in the siege was put to death, while many hundreds of other citizens were afterwards murdered by the savage Spaniards who desired to strike terror into the hearts of the survivors. I should say, rather than submit to so terrible a fate, let us struggle to the last, and then perish amid the ruins of the town."
"You are indeed, lovely Jaqueline, worthy of being a heroine of romance, and already you inspire me with some of the enthusiasm which you feel, though I cannot pretend to believe that the efforts which the citizens of Leyden may make will be crowned with success; yet believe me that I was prompted entirely by my earnest desire to preserve one I prize so highly and her family from impending destruction to give the advice I venture to offer."
"I am well aware of the admiration in which you hold me, Baron Van Arenberg," answered Jaqueline, "but whatever are your motives, even were I certain that our cause is desperate, and I do not believe that it is (for I feel assured that God will prosper the right in the end), I would not by word or act counsel my father and the citizens of Leyden to yield while a single man remains alive to strike a blow for freedom."
Gentle as Jaqueline looked while she spoke, her voice and manner were firm and determined, while she showed that she was anxious to bring the discussion to an end. It might have afforded more encouragement to the baron had she endeavoured to win him over to the opinions she held, but beyond expressing them she made no attempt to do so. The baron, however, fancied that he was too well acquainted with the female heart to despair of success; he was young, good-looking, and wealthy, and as far as was known his moral character was irreproachable. The burgomaster, deceived by his plausible manners, trusted him fully, and considering from his rank and wealth that he would be a suitable husband for his fair daughter, invited him frequently to the house, and had always received him in a cordial manner. The baron had therefore good reason to believe that his suit would be successful.
On reaching her father's house, Jaqueline politely, though somewhat stiffly, thanked him for the service he had rendered in escorting her home, and the door opening, she entered without expressing the slightest wish that he would remain. He lingered, expecting that she would at last remember what he looked upon as her neglect, but she ascended the steps without further notice of him. He stamped impatiently as he walked away, muttering, "It is clear that I have a rival, or the fair Lily would not treat my advances so coldly, supported, as she knows I am, by her father. Instead of feeling honoured, as she ought, at being sought in marriage by a noble, she seems utterly regardless of my rank and personal qualifications. I am very sure that I can make myself as agreeable to women as can most men, and from her beauty alone, independent of her fortune, she is well worth winning, so I must not despair. Still it will never do to have her cooped up in this hapless town should it be again invested by the Spaniards; I have no fancy indeed to stay in it myself, and I must bend all my efforts towards finding the means of carrying her away before the siege commences. There is not a day, however, to be lost. She appears to have no fear herself, but I may work upon the feelings of her father, and induce him, for the sake of preserving her from the horrors of the siege, to entrust her to my care. I must venture upon some warmer expressions of love and devotion than I have hitherto exhibited, and by describing the horrible fate which may be hers should she remain, and the happiness which awaits her if she will consent to accompany me, as my wife, out of the country, I may induce her to yield more willingly than she at present seems inclined to do." Such were the thoughts which occupied the mind of the baron as he proceeded with leisurely step towards the Stadhuis, where he had no great desire to make his appearance, although having been expressly invited by the burgomaster he could not avoid going. He found the chief magistrates, most influential citizens, assembled. The burgomaster had informed them of the sad intelligence he had just received, and Captain Van der Elst, at his desire, had described the battle and its disastrous termination. One circumstance alone afforded satisfaction, it was that Count John, now the Prince's only surviving brother, who had already done so much for the cause, although expecting to participate in the battle, had, at the urgent request of the other leaders, left the army two days before the action, in order to obtain at Cologne money to pay the troops. The young captain had just finished his account. The first point to be settled was the selection of a military chief whom all would be ready to obey.
The burgomaster rose. After expressing his readiness to devote his fortune, his life, and everything he possessed to the cause, he acknowledged that he had no military experience or talents, and urged upon his fellow-citizens the importance of selecting a man who possessed the talents in which he was wanting. "There is one," he said. "John Van der Does, Seigneur of Nordwyck, a gentleman of distinguished family, but still more distinguished for his learning, his poetical genius, his valour and military accomplishments; if we select him, the Prince I am sure will sanction our appointment."
Without a dissentient voice the Seigneur of Nordwyck was elected military commandant. The burgomaster did not conceal from them the dangers and the sufferings which perchance they would have to undergo, but he added, "Remember Naarden, my friends, we cannot too often reflect on the fate of Naarden; although the inhabitants offered no resistance, they were indiscriminately slaughtered, and such may be our lot even if we go humbly forth to sue for pardon from the conquerors of Mookerheyde. Remember Haarlem, which, although defended with the heroism which ought to have inspired respect and consideration in the hearts of the conquerors, was treated with cruelties from the bare contemplation of which the mind shrinks back with horror; then let us think of Alkmaar which so bravely and successfully resisted, and imitate the example of its citizens with the hope and confidence that we shall be equally successful in driving back the hated foe."
Other patriotic magistrates spoke in the same strain, and all were unanimous in their resolution to defend their city to the last, while it was agreed that steps should instantly be taken for that object. Unhappily much precious time had already been lost; the forts and redoubts thrown up by the Spaniards still remained, and at present the defenders of the city had too much to do within the walls to attempt levelling them. The new commandant urged them to strengthen the fortifications, and in the meantime to obtain such stores of provisions from the immediate neighbourhood as could be collected. There were a few, however, who, although they did not vote in opposition to the opinions of the majority, yet spoke of the hopelessness of the undertaking in which they were about to engage. Among these was Baron Van Arenberg, although he expressed himself carefully he did his best to persuade the citizens that their wisest course would be to yield before proceeding to extremities.
"I say not that such is what I advise," he observed. "But conciliatory measures might prove successful; if they fail let us by all means endeavour to keep out the enemy as long as we can."
"The Spaniards have already shown us the uselessness of conciliatory measures as well as the utter worthlessness of their guarantees for the safety of those who submit," said the burgomaster. "It would be suicidal madness to trust them; let us put faith in God, who defends the right, in our own resolute courage and power of endurance, in our strong walls, and in the assistance which the Prince of Orange will afford us at our need."
The baron was silent; he was especially anxious not to say anything which might offend the burgomaster by openly differing from him; but his remarks encouraged others connected with certain persons, their relations or friends, recreant Hollanders, who had sided with the Spaniards and professed to have returned to the Faith of Rome. These men were familiarly called Glippers; their object was to induce their countrymen to follow their example. A few holding their opinions remained in the city, either kept there by business or with the intention of creating dissension among the patriots. Although Baron Van Arenberg openly professed to be a patriot, yet from the expressions he let fall many already began to suspect his designs. When those who followed him spoke, their opinions were received with loud expressions of disapprobation. He saw that in the present state of the public mind it would be prudent for the future more carefully to conceal his sentiments than he had hitherto done. "I must bide my time," he said to himself.
Numerous matters of importance were discussed, and the persons supposed best suited for certain duties were selected to superintend the various tasks which had to be performed to prepare the city for the expected siege. One undertook to procure cattle, another fodder, a third corn; others to collect arms and ammunition. The strengthening of the fortifications was allotted to several who had some experience in such matters. The guns and their carriages had to be looked to, such buildings as were suited for storehouses were to be prepared, and hospitals fitted up to receive the sick or wounded; indeed, no point was neglected. All these arrangements having been made, the brave John Van der Does, the newly-elected commandant, rose.
"We have not concealed from ourselves the difficulties and dangers of the task we have undertaken," he said. "But, my friends and fellow-citizens, on God, on your stout arms, and on the energy of our Prince we will rely to defend our city against all the foes who may appear before our walls," he exclaimed, as he drew his sword; and raising it above his head, he added, "Never will I again sheathe this weapon till the hated Spaniard has been driven from our country, and we may henceforth repose in peace."
Not a moment was lost after the Council broke up in commencing the all-important tasks which each member had undertaken. The burgomaster, however, did not forget the duties of hospitality; taking the arm of Captain Van der Elst, he said—
"Come with me, my friend, and partake of some refreshment, which you must sadly need. You have ridden hard all this morning, and have still a long journey to perform before you can reach Rotterdam, with the risk of encountering marauding parties of Spaniards, who may have ventured forth from Gravenhague. I will give orders in the meantime that you may be provided with the best horse the city affords, for your own steed has scarcely had sufficient time to rest to carry you as rapidly as you desire on your journey."
Karl acknowledged that his horse was wellnigh knocked up, and thankfully accepted the burgomaster's invitation, though he was anxious not to delay a moment longer than was necessary before proceeding on his journey. Directly the burgomaster, accompanied by Van der Elst, arrived at his house, the repast, which had long been ready, was placed on the table, and Jaqueline appeared to preside at it. She received the young captain with less frankness than she might generally have bestowed on her father's friends. There was a slight timidity in her manner, which, in spite of herself, she could not help exhibiting, and a blush rose for a moment to her cheek as she replied to his greeting.
"And are you able to remain and assist us in preparing for the defence of our town?" she asked.
"Would that I were able to remain," he answered. "But I must hurry on as fast as my steed can go to see the Prince and to receive his directions for my future guidance; but I will not fail to suggest to him that I may be of service in assisting in the defence of Leyden, and unless he should require me for important work elsewhere, I hope that he will allow me to return."
"I trust so," murmured Jaqueline, raising her eyes and casting a momentary glance at him.
The meal was soon concluded, for Captain Van der Elst was unwilling to spend a moment longer than was necessary at the table, though he would fain probably have enjoyed a longer conversation with Jaqueline. He had to wait a short time for the arrival of his horse, which enabled him to exchange a few more words with Jaqueline. While they were speaking Berthold and Albert arrived, each laden with a cage containing some beautiful white pigeons, which might easily, from the gracefulness of their form, have been mistaken for doves.
"You see, Vrouw Jaqueline, that I have not forgotten my promise, and I am sure that you will take better care of them than I could do," said Albert. "They each have got their names, and will come when you summon them, besides which, if they are carried to any distance, however great, they will always fly back as fast as their wings can bear them. I have trained them carefully to perform this duty; see here is one I call the Lily, because it is the fairest and most beautiful of all. See how smooth and glossy are its feathers, every one of the most snowy white."
Jaqueline thanked Albert for the birds, and promised to tend them carefully.
"They will be content, however, at present to remain in their cage, so you need not trouble yourself about them," he observed.
Captain Van der Elst did not fail to admire the pigeons. "Should the city be beleaguered they may be of the greatest possible use some day, if you can send them to the head-quarters of the Prince, as beneath their wings they can carry the messages far more securely and rapidly than the fastest runner," he remarked. "At present the country is open, and I shall have to ride hard. I will not ask your permission to carry any of the birds with me, but perhaps in a few days before the Spaniards gather round the city you will allow four of them to be taken to Delft or Rotterdam that they may return with such messages as the Prince may desire to send."
"It did not occur to me when I undertook to tend the pretty birds that they might prove of the service you suggest," said Jaqueline. "You are indeed most welcome to take as many as you can employ. I shall prize them more than ever when they have thus assisted our glorious cause."
Suddenly Berthold, on hearing that Captain Van der Elst was about to set out for Rotterdam, started up. "If my uncle will give me leave may I accompany you?" he exclaimed. "I know all the crossways and cross cuts better probably than you do, or indeed than anybody you can find, and I might be useful in guiding you."
"Will you have my nephew as your companion?" asked the burgomaster.
"I would gladly have his society, but I am unwilling to expose him to the risks I may incur," answered Captain Van der Elst. "The Spaniards are likely to be more vigilant than ever, and their light horse will probably be scouring the country either to forage or to interrupt the communication between the cities."
"That is the very reason why I wish to go with you," said Berthold. "I know the roads thoroughly, for as soon as the Spaniards had retired, feeling like a bird set free I scoured over the whole country, and amused myself in making a plan of them."
"As Berthold knows the country so well, surely it will lessen the risk you would have to run alone if you will take him with you," observed Jaqueline. "I am sure that he will feel it an honour to accompany you, and he can return speedily with any message the Prince may have to send."
Captain Van der Elst's scruples being overcome by these arguments, he no longer hesitated to accept the offer made by Berthold, who hurried out as soon as he had snatched some food to see that his horse was got ready.
"I quite envy you," said Albert to him. "I should like to go also, but I know that my father will require my services, and I must even now hurry back to him."
In a short time, the two steeds being brought to the door, Captain Van der Elst and his young companion, having bid farewell to the burgomaster and Jaqueline, proceeded towards the Cowgate, the southern entrance to the town, leading towards Rotterdam. Jaqueline watched them eagerly as they rode off, undoubtedly a prayer ascended from her heart for their safe arrival. The country was green with the bright grass of early spring, the fruit trees in numerous orchards were covered with bloom, giving fragrance to the air. For the first part of the distance there was but little risk of their encountering enemies, and by the time they had got further on the sun would already be setting, and they would have the advantage of being concealed by the shades of evening. The village of Zoeterwoude, standing on a slight elevation above the surrounding plain, was soon passed, and that of Zuidbrunt, close to a large and shallow meer, was next reached, but they neither of them entered lest a party of Spaniards might have ventured thus far from their head-quarters. They had already passed three enormous dykes running across their road, one beyond the other, built for the purpose of protecting the city from the inroads of the sea. Roads, of course, ran along the top of these, some towards the Hague, others towards Delft, Gouda, and numerous towns and villages to the right and left. Although hitherto not a Spanish soldier had been seen, at any moment some might be encountered. There were no heights or even tall trees from the top of which a view could be obtained of the surrounding country, so that they might know how to avoid their foes. Their anxiety was much relieved when they saw the sun sinking into the not distant ocean. The Prince frequently visited Delft, but Captain Van der Elst believed that he was now to be found at Rotterdam, and although the former city was but slightly out of their course, he proposed avoiding it and riding directly for Rotterdam. More than half the distance had been performed. A short way to the left lay the village of Zoetermeer, raised, like others, slightly above the plain, and they already perceived the green trees and red roofs of the houses peeping up among them, lighted up by the last rays of the setting sun.
"Too much haste the less speed," observed the captain. "It is a true saying, and we must therefore bait our horses and give them a short breathing time, or they may break down before we reach our journey's end."
"Might we not push on without stopping, and trust to the animals to keep up their strength to the last?" asked Berthold. "They are both good nags and sound in wind, and can manage a pretty broad ditch when pressed at it."
"We may have to try their mettle even yet," said the captain. "And they will the better do their work after a feed of corn; besides, we may have to ride back, and we shall probably find no horses to exchange for them in Rotterdam."
"As you think best," said Berthold. And they rode along a causeway which seemed to lead directly for the village. On reaching it they pulled up at the door of a small inn, the only one the place afforded. The landlady hurried out to meet them, and desired to know whether they intended to stop there the night.
"No, friend, we wish only to bait our horses, and must be in the saddle again as soon as they are rested. It may be more prudent than remaining, for we cannot tell at what moment we might receive a visit from those savage hounds the Spaniards."
"Reports have been brought in of several foraging parties being out, who take what they can find without paying a styver in return, besides which they ill-treat the people on all occasions," observed the landlord. "It would be a satisfaction if some of our young fellows were to break their heads, but if they were to make the attempt our village would to a certainty be burnt down, so we must humbly submit to save our skins."
"I cannot advise you for the present to do otherwise," answered Captain Van der Elst. "But the time may shortly arrive when we shall drive our hated foes into the sea."
"Would that it may come soon before they have, like a flock of locusts, eaten up every green thing in the land," exclaimed the landlord.
"The information you give shows me the importance of our being on the road again without delay," said Captain Van der Elst, as he and Berthold accompanied the landlord to the stable, where room was at once made for their horses by turning out a couple of others. The landlord then pressed them to come in and take some refreshment, but they both declined.
"Not even a glass of Rhenish wine? I have some of the best," said mine host. But they refused, considering that their time would be better occupied in rubbing down their steeds, and moistening their lips from a bucket of water, after they had finished their corn.
"You can still render us a service, friend, by sending out to learn if any Spaniards are yet in the neighbourhood," said the captain, "Surely that I will do," answered the landlord, and he summoned a couple of active-looking lads and directed them to run out as far as their legs could carry them in ten minutes, and to try and discover if any cavalry were near at hand. "Foot soldiers are not likely to venture thus far, so we need have no fear of them," he observed.
The lads clearly understood what was required of them, and started together in opposite directions. They had not been gone the allotted time when one of them came hurrying back, covering the ground with long, rapid strides.
"If the mynheers do not wish to be made prisoners, they had better be out of the village as soon as they can saddle up," he said. "I caught sight of a party of horsemen just passing the border of the Meer where the willows grow; there must have been a dozen of them or more; but I only stopped to count thus far and then took to my heels, expecting every moment to have a shot whistle by my ears."
"You have done well, Hans," said the landlord.
"And here is a reward for your service," added Berthold, giving the youth a coin.
"I did it of my own free will," answered Hans. "It is not the first time I have been set to watch the Spaniards, or that they have tried to catch me, and found that they had a Will-o'-the-Wisp to deal with; but this was an easy task, and nothing to boast of." Hans was saying this while he was assisting Berthold to replace the bit in the horse's mouth, and to tighten the girth of his saddle, the landlord rendering the same service to Captain Van der Elst. The next moment they were in the saddle and pushing full speed through the village to the southward. Should they be discovered, they would not only run the risk of being shot at, but would expose the landlord to punishment for having entertained them. Looking back, they could see no one following, and hoped, therefore, that they had escaped observation, while their horses, refreshed, made up for the short delay by getting on at full speed. They soon passed the village of Bleiswijk, between which and the next place ran a broad causeway forming the high road to Rotterdam. Though the gloom of evening was increasing, there was still sufficient light to enable them to see objects at some distance. Berthold, who knew the road best, was leading, when suddenly he reined in his horse, and made a sign with his right hand for his companion to do the same.
"See, just coming from the right, are a score of horsemen; they may be Hollanders, or Free Lances, though from the height of their helmets they look more like Spaniards," he exclaimed. "We had better avoid them."
"How is that to be done?" asked Captain Van der Elst.
"We passed just now on the left a narrow dyke, which runs, I know, in a south-westerly direction; at the farther end is a bridge which leads across the Rotte. If we are pursued, we must leave the road and ride across the country. We can without difficulty swim the river, when the Spaniards, with the heavy trappings of their horses, would not be able to follow."
Scarcely had Berthold said this when they could see against the sky the figures of a large number of horsemen moving along a road to the right.
"We might even now, by dismounting, lead our horses down into the plain, and perhaps escape observation," said Berthold.
"No, no, as we can see them they must have discovered us," said the captain. "Lead the way across the dyke you spoke of; I will follow closely at your heels."
As there was no time for further deliberation, Berthold, turning his horse's head and passing the captain, galloped along the way they had come for a few minutes and then turned off along the top of the dyke he had described. The moment they turned they heard shouts, evidently coming from the horsemen they wished to avoid.
"Those are Spanish voices," said the captain. "I know them well. Push on, Berthold!" But the road along the top of the dyke was much rougher than the one they had left, and it made it necessary for them to keep a careful hand on their reins to prevent their horses from falling. From the way the dyke ran it formed an angle with the high road, and they were soon again brought within sight of the Spanish horsemen, who shouting out to them to stop, fired several shots in rapid succession.
"The fellows are not bad marksmen," said Berthold, "for I heard two or more bullets whistle close to my ears."
Captain Van der Elst continued shouting out, "Ride on! ride on!" more to show that he himself was unhurt than that there was any necessity to urge on Berthold. The Spaniards were evidently unwilling to trust themselves to the low ground for fear of finding that it was a morass, into which their steeds might plunge with little hope of extricating themselves. On seeing that the fugitives had a good chance of escaping, although some of the Spaniards galloped after them along the road, the others continued firing their carbines, though fortunately they missed their aim. The two fugitives were soon beyond the range of the Spanish musketeers, but Captain Van der Elst still cried out to his companion, "Go on! go on!" for, glancing behind him, he saw indistinctly through the gloom the heads of several horsemen following them.
"We shall soon be at the bridge," cried Berthold. "I do not think the Spaniards will attempt to cross it." Just as he had announced that they were close upon it they saw a body of horse who had evidently galloped round to take possession of the post. This discovery was made, however, in time to enable Berthold to ride his horse down the side of the dyke, the captain following his example. "Come along," he cried out, "the ground is somewhat soft, but these horses are accustomed to it, and we may get over it much faster than our pursuers." Having proceeded some distance, they had good reason to hope that they had not been seen.
"We must now make for the river, and a few minutes will carry us safe across it," said Berthold.
The horses as they reached the bank, without hesitation plunged in, and bravely breasted the smooth water. They had got more than halfway across when again they heard the shouts of a number of Spaniards ordering them to return.
"You may shout yourselves hoarse, my men," cried Berthold. "We have no intention of obeying you." Finding that their shouts produced no effect, they fired several bullets from their fire-arms, and the bullets came spattering into the water like a shower of hail, but the gallant steeds bore their riders to the opposite bank unhurt, and soon scrambling up, the captain and Berthold continued their course over the fields.
"Will not the Spaniards cross the bridge and attempt to overtake us?" asked the captain. "We must be prepared for the contingency."
"I think not," answered Berthold. "They might encounter some of the Prince's cavalry, and are not likely to venture further south."
They at length gained another dyke, on the summit of which the road ran directly for Rotterdam. They now galloped forward with less apprehension of meeting an enemy, and at length, about two hours after dark, entered Rotterdam. They immediately inquired the way to the house where the Prince was residing. From the remarks they heard made, they discovered that the news of the disaster at Mookerheyde had already reached the city, for which the captain was thankful, as it would save him from the painful necessity of announcing it to the Prince. They found guards before the door, and several grooms and other servants, to one of whom they committed their horses. Captain Van der Elst at once delivered to a gentleman-in-waiting his name and the object of his visit, and they had no time even to shake off the water which still clung to the lower part of their garments, when they were informed that the Prince desired to see them. They followed their guide into an apartment plainly furnished, with several writing-tables; at one of these sat a tall, dignified man with brown hair, moustachios and beard, a forehead broad and lofty, and eyes bright and full of expression. The captain advancing, bowed, and introduced his young companion as the nephew of the Burgomaster of Leyden. The Prince, who had risen, received them gravely, but at the same time in a cordial manner.
"You bring further intelligence, Captain Van der Elst, from the field of Mookerheyde?" he said. "Of the main particulars I have already been informed by some few who escaped and made their way here."
Captain Van der Elst briefly explained how he himself had escaped, and being well assured that Leyden would again be attacked that he had considered it his duty to ride round to that city in order to prepare the inhabitants for what was likely to occur. He then gave an account of the meeting of the Council, stating that John Van der Does had been elected military commandant, subject to his approval.
"They could not have made a better choice," remarked the Prince. "It shall be confirmed." In a few brief sentences he questioned the captain regarding the battle of Mookerheyde. A tone of melancholy pervaded all he said, but he in no other way showed the deep grief which weighed him down. The Prince sat silently listening, his countenance unmoved, while the captain made his report, and Berthold began to fear that his friend might be blamed for his conduct. He was, therefore, greatly relieved when the Prince remarked, "You have exhibited courage and discretion, Captain Van der Elst, qualities we greatly need in the present emergency. I must send you back with a message to the citizens of Leyden to urge them to maintain the town against the foes of our country to the last gasp. They ought to have destroyed the forts the Spaniards left, to have amply provisioned the city, and to have secured an efficient garrison; but I will not now speak of what is passed. Remind them from me that they are about to contend not for themselves alone, but that the fate of our country of unborn generations may, in all human probability, depend on the issue about to be tried. Eternal glory will be their reward if they manifest the courage worthy of their race, and of the sacred cause of religion and liberty. Say that I implore them to hold out at least three months, and I pledge my word that I will within that time devise the means of delivering them. Advise them immediately to take an account of their provisions of all kinds, including the live stock, and let the strictest economy be employed in their consumption. Stay, I will sign the commission appointing the Seigneur of Nordwyck as Commandant, and write what I deem necessary to confirm the message I verbally send by you. When can you again set out?"
The captain acknowledged that he and his young companion had had no refreshment or rest since they left Leyden, but that he himself was willing to start immediately could a fresh horse be found for him. He, however, considered that he ought to mention having encountered several parties of Spaniards, and that there would be some risk of being captured on the return journey. When he also explained the energetic measures the burgomaster and commandant were already taking, the Prince replied, "Wait, then, till to-morrow, when you may get over the most hazardous part of the distance during the night."
The Prince having spoken a few words of encouragement to Berthold, which he was never likely to forget, signified to them that they might retire, and gave orders to one of the officers to attend to their wants.
The brave commandant, attended by young Albert, set an example of enduring energy to his fellow-citizens. From morning till night he was to be seen going round and round the fortifications, showing were points might be strengthened with advantage, and to encourage the labourers, often himself taking a spade or pick in hand. Where fresh batteries had to be thrown up, the work was one which greatly taxed the strength of the citizens, but they all knew that their lives depended on their repairing and strengthening their defences before their foes should again attack them. Not only the citizens of all ranks, but their wives and children assisted, many who had never before engaged in manual labour offering their services to carry baskets of earth to the ramparts, and otherwise aiding in the work going forward. In this task the commandant was ably supported by the burgomaster and other magistrates. Jaqueline often accompanied the burgomaster, and set an example to the citizens' wives and daughters by carrying baskets of earth, nor did her father, tenderly cherished though she had always been, attempt to prevent her from performing the task which she considered right. He felt the importance of the example she set to others, for when they saw the fair Lily, the admired of all, engaged in manual labour for the common good, no one, not even the most delicate, could venture to hold back. It would have been well for the citizens if they could have obtained provisions as easily as they could repair their walls, but the country had already been drained by the Spaniards, mounted parties of whom were even now ranging as near as they could venture, to prevent supplies from being sent into Leyden. Barges laden with corn, and carts, however, were constantly arriving at the city, and occasionally a few oxen, while horsemen rode out in various directions to induce the peasantry to send in all the provisions they could spare, reminding them that they would before long fall into the hands of their foes, who would take them without payment. Still the amount of food collected fell far short of what was required. The citizens did not labour with the dull apathy of despair, but with warm enthusiasm, they all being resolved to rival their countrymen at Alkmaar. The men sang at their work, and the girls chatted as if they were engaged in some holiday task. The only person who appeared not in any way to partake of the general enthusiasm was the Baron Von Arenberg, who excused himself on the plea that he was out of health, and that any exertion would be exceedingly injurious to him, though he had no objection to standing still and watching others at work, which he declared ought to afford the labourers ample encouragement. He did not, however, make his appearance in public as often as he had been accustomed to do. He was greatly put out from the circumstance that when calling at the house of the burgomaster he had seldom found him at home, and that Jaqueline had invariably excused herself from seeing him during the absence of her father. He had therefore not known how she was employed. Curiosity had, however, prompted him one bright morning to take a walk round the ramparts, and he arrived at a spot where a new battery was being thrown up. On a high mound stood the burgomaster, and near him a number of men were engaged in the more severe labour of the undertaking, while troops of women, some with full baskets, were bringing up earth from the trench which was being dug, while others were returning with the empty ones. The baron started with astonishment, for at the head of one of the parties appeared the Lily of Leyden carrying with a companion a basket of earth; her dress, though not ungraceful, was suited to her occupation. Me gazed as if at first unable to believe his senses, a flush mantled on his brow.
"Can her father thus allow her to degrade herself?" he exclaimed to one of the eldest and chief citizens who was standing by, whose daughters and grand-daughters were similarly employed, though the baron was not aware of the fact. "The task too is utterly useless; should the Spaniards again lay siege to the town, they will, before two weeks are over, have gained an entrance, and they have already shown the penalties they intend to exact from those who resist their authority."
"Baron Van Arenberg, such I am bound to believe is your honest opinion, but understand that we trust in God, in the true courage which animates the breasts of patriots, and in that aid which our noble Prince will most assuredly send us," answered the old man, in a stern tone. "The task in which the fair Jaqueline is engaged raises her higher than her beauty, her position, or her wealth can do in the eyes of her countrymen. Look at my daughters and grand-children, they feel proud of imitating her; when you communicate with your friends, the 'Glippers,' tell them how the matrons and maidens of Leyden are employed, and let them warn the Spaniards of the death which awaits them should they assail our ramparts."
The baron again started, but with a different feeling than before, and declared that he was no "Glipper," though he was not inspired, he confessed, with the same enthusiasm which at present animated the citizens of Leyden.
"It may be that you are not a 'Glipper,' but your remarks savour much of the principles which animate them," observed the old citizen, in a dry tone. "Speak them not aloud to others, or you may chance to be looked upon as a traitor and be treated as such."
By a strong effort the baron quelled his rising anger; he could gain no credit by a dispute with the aged and highly esteemed citizen who had thus spoken to him, and turning aside he directed his steps homeward. He fancied that it would be derogatory to his rank to engage in manual labour, and yet he could not stand by and see the fair Jaqueline and other young ladies of position thus employed without offering to assist them, unless he was prepared to be regarded as destitute alike of all chivalric and patriotic feelings. On reaching the handsome mansion he inhabited, after pacing several times across the room, he threw himself into a chair to consider what course he should pursue. The old citizen's remarks had warned him of the danger he would incur should he be supposed to advocate a surrender to the Spaniards, and he would be in still greater danger should it be discovered that he was carrying on a secret correspondence with Valdez through his "Glipper" friends; he was also mortified and annoyed at seeing Jaqueline so degrading herself, as he considered, by labouring like any peasant girl at the fortifications. "How can her father, who dotes on her as the apple of his eye, allow her thus to demean herself?" he exclaimed, "to exhaust her health and strength, to soil her fair hands with the moist and black earth; the very thought is unbearable!" He again rose and paced across the room, half inclined to order his servants to prepare for an instant journey. "If I remain I shall have to share the sufferings these obstinate citizens are preparing to bring down on themselves, or indeed I may lose my life. I would rather sacrifice my property than do that. I may by joining General Valdez at once gain better terms for them, little as they deserve it at my hands, at all events I shall secure my own possessions." He rang a bell to summon an attendant, but no one answered to the call. At length he inquired of the old one-legged porter who had admitted him, when, to his disgust, he found that the whole of his establishment had gone out to labour at the fortifications. "They will soon get tired of the work and return," he said to himself, but the delay gave him further time for reflection. "If I go I must abandon all hope of winning the Lily of Leyden, unless the city is speedily captured and I am able to save her from the terrible danger she would incur during the assault. For her sake I must not allow her to run that risk; no, the only safe course, as far as she is concerned, for me to follow is to remain either to gain her father's consent to our immediate union, or to persuade her to fly with me, while there is yet time, to a place of safety. She might be unwilling to go to the Hague, but I might take her to Delft or Rotterdam, where she would be equally safe; and although she might at first regret having left her father and other friends in this city, a very few weeks will show her what a merciful escape she has had. It may yet be some days before Valdez and his army can reach the neighbourhood, I will remain and employ the time in endeavouring to persuade her to take the only step which can secure her safety. I cannot bear the thought that one so lovely should be doomed to the fearful fate in which she will be involved when the Spaniards capture the city."
Fortunately there were few in Leyden who entertained the baron's opinions. While he remained at home, his mind agitated by conflicting doubts and fears, the rest of the inhabitants were engaged as has been described. The commandant, accompanied by his son Albert, remained chiefly on the ramparts; he had to inspect the firearms as they were repaired or manufactured by the armourers, ceaselessly working day and night, and he had likewise to examine the few recruits who could be collected from the country round to assist in the defence, and especial attention had to be given to the exercising of the men at the great guns placed in the various forts. The burgomaster, among his many other duties, daily visited the storehouses to see the progress made in collecting food, both for man and beast, and he also inspected the pens and sheds in which the cattle were placed as they were driven in, while he made preparation for all the various contingencies which might occur. And, although he desired his daughter to set the example to the women and girls of Leyden, remembering that she was utterly unused to manual work, he, after a time, summoned her home to take the rest and refreshment she required.
"Go, my sweet Jaqueline," said Vrouw Margaret de Munto, the wife of one of the chief magistrates. "You have shown us how the most delicate can work, and we will not be idle during your absence."
Jaqueline, whose arms and shoulders were aching with the unwonted labour, was, it must be confessed, thankful to obey her father's summons to return home. She was rewarded with the consciousness that she had performed her duty, and she hoped to have strength to continue it, but she was more out of spirits than was usual with her. Some days had passed since her young cousin Berthold had accompanied Captain Van der Elst to Rotterdam and they had not again made their appearance. The burgomaster could not account for the delay, but felt sure that the Prince would immediately send them back with despatches confirming John Van der Does in his appointment as Commandant, and stating what plans he proposed for their relief. The Lily cast many a glance over the plain in the hopes of seeing the two horsemen approaching; but though occasionally trains of carts and baggage-horses laden with sacks of corn, and small herds of cattle were seen on the roads, the two absent ones whose safe return would have relieved her anxiety failed to appear. As the foragers brought in word that parties of Spaniards who had come from the direction of the Hague had been met with, some fears were entertained that Captain Van der Elst and Berthold might have fallen into their hands.
"Berthold is too well acquainted with the country to allow himself and his companion easily to be caught," observed the burgomaster. "Perhaps the Prince is waiting to decide on the plan he proposes to adopt for our relief. We shall see them in a day or two; though it is but natural that you should feel as anxious about your cousin Berthold as I do. They will arrive, I feel sure, before the Spaniards approach our walls, as the Prince, who keeps himself well acquainted with the enemy's movements, will not detain them too long, so as to prevent them getting in with safety."
The Lily sighed, for she feared there might be some miscalculation as day after day notice had been brought of the rapid approach of the hated foe, and at any hour it seemed that their advanced guard might appear before the walls. The burgomaster had thrown himself into an armchair the first rest he had sought that day since early dawn, having especially desired his daughter to retire. Scarcely, however, had he taken his pen in hand to sign certain documents which had been brought to him, than the bells of the nearest church struck a peculiar note, which was taken up by the others in different parts of the city in rapid succession. It was the tocsin peal, announcing the approach of an enemy, and summoning the citizens to the ramparts. The burgomaster immediately rose, and sending word to Jaqueline on no account to leave the house, set forth to the Stadhuis, where he knew that the principal magistrates would quickly assemble. As he was leaving the door of his house he was met by young Albert Van der Does.
"The commandant has sent me, Burgomaster, to request your presence on the north-western rampart, where he, with several officers, is waiting your arrival. A body of troops has been seen approaching along the causeway from the direction of the Castle of Valkenburg."
The burgomaster, notwithstanding his fatigue, accompanied young Albert at a rapid pace. From every direction people of all ranks were hastening through the streets, some girding on their swords as they left their doors, while their wives or daughters handed to them their firearms. Many an eye was turned in the direction of the approaching troops.
"They march more quickly than the Spaniards are wont to do," observed the commandant to the burgomaster.
"Can they be troops sent by the Prince to assist in the defence of the city?" asked the latter.
"They would not be coming from that direction," said the commandant. "By their pennons, and the sombre appearance which pervades their ranks, I suspect that they are English."
The foreign troops drew nearer, and no doubt longer remained that they were English, and as far as could be calculated numbered between five and six hundred men.
"They will be a welcome addition to our garrison," observed one of the magistrates. "For those islanders are brave fellows and fight well on all occasions."
"Notwithstanding, unless they bring a written order to me from the Prince to admit them, I will dispense with their services wherever they come from," said the commandant. "The English are trustworthy enough, and fight well if they are well fed and are satisfied with their quarters, but I would not trust them should a famine get within our walls; and should they begin to feel the pinchings of hunger, they would then cry out that we must surrender, and would induce others to follow their evil example. They well know that it is the policy of the Spaniards just now to behave courteously to the English, and these mercenaries would hope that their lives would be spared, though every other man in the place were put to death. No, no; even though our numbers be few let us rather trust to the stubborn hearts of our Hollanders than to such men as those probably are."
The burgomaster and the other magistrates, after a short consideration, fully agreed with the sentiments expressed by the commandant. In a short time the English commander, galloping ahead of his men, rode up to the walls and in the name of William, Prince of Orange, demanded instant admittance.
"Whence do you come, Colonel Chester?" inquired the commandant, who recognised the officer as the commander of a body of English troops in the service of the Prince.
"From Valkenburg," was the answer. "I have been obliged to abandon that fortress, from being assured that it would be hopeless to attempt holding out against the Spaniards, who I hear are advancing with an overwhelming force, and I had neither provisions nor sufficient ammunition to stand a lengthened siege, I therefore judged it prudent to march here to assist you in the defence of your city."
"I regret that I cannot admit you or your men, Colonel Chester," said the commandant. "Our garrison is already of sufficient strength, and we have as many mouths to feed as we can find provisions for."
"But my men and I shall be cut to pieces by the Spaniards, who, if they overtake us in the open country, and we cannot hope to reach any other fortress in which we can defend ourselves, have threatened vengeance against all who side with the Prince of Orange."
"There was one fortress you might have defended, and that you thought fit to abandon, regardless of the interests of the noble prince whom you engaged to serve," answered the commandant, sternly.
In vain the English colonel pleaded that the lives of his whole band would be sacrificed if they were not admitted within, the city. The commandant was firm in his resolution and declined their services, and they at length finding that they pleaded in vain, forming themselves into compact order moved on till they reached the causeway leading to the Hague. At length they were lost to sight in the distance; some few regretted that the commandant had refused the assistance of so many sturdy men-at-arms, but the act inspired the citizens with fresh courage, each man now feeling that on his own bravery and resolution the safety of the city depended.
Active and intelligent scouts had been sent out to watch the movements of the enemy, and to bring back due notice of their approach to Leyden. The citizens meantime were labouring as before at their fortifications; they well knew that there was no time to spare to complete their work. Van Arenberg, who had still managed to retain the confidence of the burgomaster, was a constant visitor at his house during the short time in the evening that he was at home. The baron, however, was convinced that there was no longer a hope of persuading the stout-hearted magistrate to submit, and yet anxious as he was to get outside and avoid the miseries he saw impending, he could not bring himself to abandon the prospects of winning the fair Lily. He still, therefore, endeavoured to work on her feminine nature by pointing out to her the horrors and sufferings in which she must share with the other inhabitants of the place should she remain.
"You have often spoken to me on this subject, Baron Van Arenberg," she answered, regarding him calmly; "but know that I would rather trust to the pikes and swords of the citizens of Leyden to defend our poor women and children from the clutches of the Spanish soldiery than I would to the tender mercies of their general. It is useless again to speak to me on the subject; but since you fancy that you see so clearly the dreadful doom prepared for those who remain, I advise you to quit the city while there is time."
The baron could say no more, but he muttered as he walked homeward that evening, "I must take other means of carrying out my object."
The next morning Jaqueline had repaired with her father to the ramparts on the south side of the town. They were soon joined by Albert.
"I met Arenberg just now," he said to Jaqueline, "looking as sulky as a bear. He asked where you were gone, as he had not found you at home. I could not tell him, as I did not know, and would not have told him if I had known; but I saw him start off to the north side of the town, so there is no fear of your being troubled by his presence."
"But how do you know his presence troubled me?" asked Jaqueline.
"Because I am very sure you cannot like a man who is a 'Glipper' at heart, whatever he may seem to be to people openly; and I have observed the way you always speak to him, and very glad I have been to see it."
Jaqueline was inclined to smile, and she could not chide Albert for his frankness.
"Hulloa! look up there!" he exclaimed, pointing along the road. "I see two men on horseback and another on foot. What if they should prove to be the captain and Berthold with a guide? Perhaps they will bring us good news."
"They do not come on as fast as I should have expected," said Jaqueline, watching them intently. "Yet they seem to be cavaliers, not common horse soldiers. Perhaps they have to wait for their guide."
The two horsemen and their attendant on foot drew near.
"It is Captain Van der Elst and my cousin Berthold!" exclaimed Jaqueline, in a more joyous tone than she had spoken for many a day. "The message they bring from the Prince will, I trust, encourage our citizens."
"Encouragement they will certainly bring if they come from William the Silent, who is very sure to inspire all whom he addresses with the spirit which animates his own dauntless mind. We will go down to the gate to meet them," said the burgomaster.
The captain and Berthold, with their companion, having answered the challenge of the sentries, were forthwith admitted. Perceiving the burgomaster and Jaqueline, they leaped from their steeds, and giving the reins to their companion, advanced towards them.
"We have been a much longer time in reaching the city than the Prince or we ourselves expected," said the captain, after the usual greetings. "We were pursued by a party of Spaniards, and had to take refuge in the fortress of Polderwaert, from which for several days we were unable to make our escape; but the message we bring will, I trust, encourage the citizens and garrison of Leyden to defend the city until the Spaniards are compelled to retire."
"There is little doubt about that," said Berthold. "He has not told you how, after we had taken refuge in the fortress, through his vigilance and courage, the Spaniards, who attempted to surprise it, were driven off, and had he not been charged with the message from the Prince, he would have been detained to assist in its defence should it again be attacked."
"And who is that lanky fellow you brought with you, who is leading on the horses after us?" asked Albert of his friend, as they followed the burgomaster with Jaqueline and the captain.
"A first rate fellow, Hans Bosch, he has done us good service twice already, besides piloting us along last night by paths which I could not have found by myself, though I know the country pretty well; he volunteered to come in order to carry messages from the city, and very useful we are likely to find him."
As it was important at once to communicate the message brought by Captain Van der Elst, the burgomaster summoned the chief inhabitants forthwith to the Stadhuis. The captain having delivered his written despatches, spoke as he had been directed, employing the very words the Prince himself had used, and advancing the most powerful arguments to induce the citizens not to yield to their foes. "He implores you," he continued, "to hold out for at least three months, and he pledges his word that he will within that time devise the means of delivering you from the Spaniards."
"For six months, if necessary, even if we have to eat the grass in our squares, the shoes on our feet, the rats and dogs to be found in the streets," was the reply.
"I will announce your resolution to the Prince, and it will, I am sure, encourage him to continue the efforts he is making for your relief," answered the captain. "Had Prince Louis lived and joined him he would have had an army at his disposal, but the forces he can at present muster are only sufficient for the protection of Rotterdam and Delft."
The address of the Prince was printed and circulated throughout the city. After the meeting broke up, the burgomaster invited the young captain to accompany Berthold to his house.
"And who's your attendant, he appears to be a strange being?"
"There are not many like Hans Bosch," remarked Berthold. "He has twice saved us from falling into the hands of the Spaniards, and, if I mistake not, will still render us good service, he can run like a deer and leap like a young calf. There are few who can dodge the Spaniards as he can, and if we get shut up in the city, he will manage to get out again and slip through their ranks so as to let the Prince know what we are about."
"Berthold does not over-praise Hans Bosch," observed the captain. "I commend him to your care, Burgomaster, while he remains in the city, and he will be ready to make himself useful when his services are required." It was the first evening since preparations for the defence were commenced, that any of the inhabitants were able to take rest. Though labourers were still employed on the works, they were nearly completed, and Jaqueline felt that she might, without neglecting her self-imposed duty, return home and resume her ordinary attire, so that she could preside at her father's table. There were no guests besides Captain Van der Elst and Albert—Berthold always resided with his uncle.
"Can you now remain with us?" asked the burgomaster of Captain Van der Elst.
"Would that I could," answered Karl, his eyes turning for a moment towards Jaqueline. "But our Prince requires my services and directed me to return without delay, he has, as you know, but few officers. His great object is forthwith to raise a force of sufficient strength to drive the Spaniards from your gates; he did not inform me how it was to be done, but it will be no easy task, for he has to garrison Rotterdam and Delft, and to guard the immediate country. Were he to leave those places unprotected, all might be lost."
"We will trust to his sleepless energy and determination, both to devise and carry out a project for our relief," observed the burgomaster.
"An idea has occurred to me, Captain Van der Elst!" exclaimed Albert. "I lately gave four beautiful carrier pigeons to the Vrouw Jaqueline, and if she will consent to make them over to you, you can carry them with you, and by their means inform us what progress the Prince is making in his plans for our relief. Do you consent to give up your pets, Vrouw Jaqueline?"
"Most willingly," she answered, "if Captain Van der Elst will undertake the charge of the birds."
"I will tend them carefully, and trust that they may become the messengers of happy news," he said, a smile for a moment lighting up his countenance.
Albert proposed that they should at once visit the pigeons with Captain Van der Elst, and instruct him how they were to be fed and treated, as it was possible that he might have to depart at an early hour the next morning. As Jaqueline expressed her readiness to do as Albert proposed, the whole party, with the exception of the burgomaster, accompanied her to the tower of the house in which they were kept. In the same tower was situated her boudoir, and hence she could enjoy a wider view over the country than from any other part of the house.
"We must put them into two small cages, so that they may be carried easily on horseback, or by a man on foot, if necessary," said Albert. "Come, Berthold, if your cousin will allow us, we will go and procure such cages. I know where they are to be found, and we will be back in a few minutes." As Jaqueline did not forbid them, they set off.
It was the first time that Jaqueline and Karl Van der Elst had been together. They had never spoken of love, and the present moment seemed most inappropriate. Karl did not conceal from himself the dangers to which he must be exposed in carrying out the projects of the Prince, nor could he shut his eyes to the fearful risk all the inhabitants of Leyden must run, even though relief might soon be brought to them. He, almost against his intentions, spoke a few words to Jaqueline, the meaning of which she could not fail to understand.
"It may be weeks—months—before we meet again, but my feelings, when I have learned once to esteem, are not given to change," she said. The young captain had reason to be content with the look which accompanied her words, even more than with the words themselves. The two lads soon returned with the cages, which were so small that two pigeons could only be pressed into each.
"They will be hurt, poor things," cried Jaqueline.
"Oh, no, no," said Albert, "they will support each other, and travel far more comfortably than if they had more space, and were allowed to tumble about."
As the captain had to start the following morning, Arthur and Berthold undertook to carry the birds to his lodgings that evening.
Captain Van der Elst, accompanied by Hans Bosch, for whom a horse had been provided, and who carried the two cages, set off at an early hour the following morning. Secretly as his departure had been arranged, it was discovered by Baron Van Arenberg, who had that morning risen at an earlier hour than usual and gone out to the ramparts. The baron recognised him, and muttered, as he observed him leaving the gate, "It will be many a long day before he is again within the walls of Leyden, for ere long the Spaniards, if I mistake not, will be in possession of them."
In the evening the burgomaster, accompanied by his daughter and nephew and Albert, had ascended to the top of the Tower of Hengist, when Albert, whose eyes were of the sharpest, exclaimed, pointing over the city to the eastward, "See, see, there come a large body of men; they must be either the troops the Prince has promised to send to our assistance, or the Spaniards."
The rest of the party gazed in the same direction. "They form the advance guard of our foes," said the burgomaster. "Albert and Berthold, hasten and give the information to the commandant; he will take good care that the walls are forthwith manned, though the Spaniards, after a day's march, will be in no mood to make an attack when they know full well that we shall give them as warm a reception as did our friends at Alkmaar."
In a few minutes the bells of all the churches were ringing forth the well-known call to arms, and the citizens, with their weapons in hand, were seen hurrying to man the forts and ramparts. The burgomaster, with Jaqueline, remained some time longer on the top of the tower that he might judge what positions the Spanish general was likely to take. The head of the leading column advanced till it reached a spot just beyond range of the guns in the batteries, then it halted to wait for the arrival of other troops; these quickly followed, the whole force numbering not less than eight thousand men, Walloons and Germans. Some immediately took possession of Leyderdorp, and of the other forts which ought to have been destroyed, while others, armed with pickaxes and spades, without a moment's loss of time began throwing up fresh lines and forts, a third party being employed in pitching the tents and forming a camp just beyond them. All night long a vigilant watch was kept, as it was very possible that the Spaniards might attempt to surprise the city in the hopes of capturing it at once, and saving themselves from the annoyance and sufferings of a protracted siege. Young Albert and Berthold together went the rounds to see that the sentries were at their posts and wide awake, and that no post was left without a sufficient guard. No experienced officers could have been more on the alert. More than once they met the commandant, who, entrusting nothing of importance to others, was himself going the rounds.
He gave the lads some words of approval. "While the young ones show such zeal I feel confident that we shall keep the foe in check till they are compelled ignominiously to retreat," he observed.
For several days the citizens beheld the foreign troops gathering round them, bringing their batteries closer to the walls, till Leyden was invested by no less than sixty-two redoubts, while fresh troops were seen coming in to swell the ranks of the besiegers. The city was now placed on a strict allowance of food, all the provisions having been purchased by the authorities, with an allowance of half a pound of meat, half a pound of bread allotted to each full-grown man, and to the rest in due proportion. At length the soldiers, and even some of the burghers began to murmur at their own inactivity; to give them confidence the commandant allowed a sortie to be made, promising a reward to each man who brought in the head of a Spaniard. The men of Leyden waited till nightfall, having previously carefully surveyed the point it was proposed to attack. All was still in the city, the Spaniards might have supposed that the besieged were sleeping, when suddenly the gate at which the sortie was to be made was thrown open, three hundred men eager for the fray noiselessly rushed out, not a word was spoken, not a shout raised till they were upon their foe. The Spaniards, the work of the day over, had piled their arms, and had scarcely time to fall into their ranks before their enemies were upon them; though a score or more fell yet they were too well disciplined to remain long in a state of confusion, and the officer leading the sortie deemed it prudent to call back his men. They returned without the loss of one of their number, bringing back at least a dozen Spanish heads, such was the savage commencement of the struggle. Night after night similar enterprises were undertaken, not always with the same result, though the Hollanders were invariably successful, so silently and well executed were all their sorties, but several brave men fell, and the commandant, from fear of losing too many of his troops, deemed it necessary to prohibit any from leaving the gates without his express order.