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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 1
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The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 1 Post by :Larry Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :3477

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The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 1

CHAPTER ONE

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.

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