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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 4
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The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 4 Post by :Larry Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :3442

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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 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.

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