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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 5
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The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 5 Post by :Larry Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :3289

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The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 5

CHAPTER FIVE

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.

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CHAPTER SIX The inhabitants of Leyden were already fearfully hard pressed for food. Their bread was entirely consumed; they had but a small supply of malt cake, with a few cows--kept as long as possible for their milk--besides these an equal number of horses and sheep; but every day these provisions were becoming more and more scanty, and unless they could speedily be relieved, starvation threatened them. The burgomaster and Council were assembled when a letter which had been sent in from Valdez, with a flag of truce, was received. The burgomaster read it aloud. It offered an
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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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