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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 3
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The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 3 Post by :Larry Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :1837

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The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 3

CHAPTER THREE

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.

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The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 4
CHAPTER FOUR 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
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The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 2 The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 2

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CHAPTER TWO 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,
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