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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 6
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The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 6 Post by :Larry Category :Long Stories Author :William H. G. Kingston Date :May 2012 Read :2330

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The Lily Of Leyden - Chapter 6

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 amnesty to all Hollanders, except a few mentioned by name, provided they would return to their allegiance; it promised forgiveness, fortified by a Papal Bull which had been issued by Gregory the Thirteenth to those Netherland sinners who duly repented and sought absolution for their sins, even though they sinned more than seven times seven. Besides this public letter were received epistles despatched by the "Glippers" from the camp to their rebellious acquaintances in the city, exhorting them to submission, and imploring them to take pity upon their poor old fathers, their daughters, and their wives.

"What say you, my friends?" exclaimed the burgomaster, who read these letters aloud. "The Spanish general offers us free pardon for defending our hearths and homes as we have hitherto done, and by God's grace we will continue to do. The same plausible offers Don Frederic made to the citizens of Haarlem. And what happened? The slaughter which overtook old and young alike, their city plundered, their homes ruined, can testify as to the value of such offers. Shall we share their fate, or shall we hold out like men until the relief, which assuredly will come, arrives, although we have only malt cake to live upon, and but little of that, and a few cows, horses, goats, and dogs; and as to the remark of these 'Glippers,' the best pity we can show our poor old fathers, daughters, and wives is to keep them from the clutches of the Spanish soldiery."

"We will fight to the last! We will fight to the last!" was the unanimous response taken up by all the citizens in the streets. It was agreed that no answer should be sent to the Spanish general; indeed some proposed hanging the herald, who was glad to make his escape with a single line in Latin, on a sheet of paper, handed to him--

"When the trapper seeks to lure his bird, he softly plays his pipe."

Good care was taken that the herald should see nothing going on within the walls, or be able to report a word about the haggard countenances of the defenders. From their frowning looks and taunting expressions he was probably glad to escape with his life. Meantime the condition of the inhabitants became worse and worse.

Jaqueline, with other maidens and matrons of rank, had formed themselves into a band to carry such relief as they could obtain for the sufferers. Day after day they nobly prosecuted their self-imposed duties, and many by their means were aided who might otherwise have perished. Returning one evening to her tower to attend her remaining pigeons, which as yet she had not allowed to be killed in the hopes that they might serve some useful purpose, after feeding them as was her wont, she was seated at the window, inhaling the pure air which the lower part of the city had failed to afford, when she observed a white spot in the sky glittering in the rays of the setting sun. Nearer and nearer it came till she perceived that it was a bird. It soon flew in at the window and alighted in her arms. It was one of her own pigeons; beneath its wing she discovered, securely fastened by a silken thread, a small folded paper. Quickly untieing and releasing her bird, which she placed with its companions, she hurried down with the document to her father. It was, as she hoped, from Captain Van der Elst, written by the directions of the Prince. He assured the citizens that he was already preparing the promised aid, and that he hoped all difficulties would soon be overcome. He again reminded the garrison of Leyden that the fate of their country depended on their holding out. The captain did not say, what was really the case, that the Prince himself was lying ill of a fever at Rotterdam, and that unforeseen delays had occurred. As may be supposed he added a few words of his own to be read only by Jaqueline, who would, he trusted, receive the epistle. The burgomaster lost no time in communicating the contents of the letter to the brave commandant. The despatch served to revive the drooping spirits of the garrison; still there was a further delay. Again the Spaniards attacked the walls and were once more repulsed, but the numbers of the garrison were slowly though surely decreasing, yet neither the burgomaster nor John Van der Does entertained a thought of submission. As only one of the pigeons had returned, Jaqueline hoped that another might soon appear bringing more certain news of relief. She paid, as may be supposed, frequent visits to her tower, gazing in the direction when she hoped her winged messenger would appear. Her numerous duties compelled her frequently to be absent, but each time she returned home she hurried there, as often to be disappointed. She had risen one morning rather later than usual from her couch, when going to the tower she perceived that the number of her pigeons was increased, quickly searching out the new arrival she discovered, as she had expected, a letter below its wing, it was longer than the previous one. As the burgomaster, to whom she carried it, read the news it contained his eyes brightened. It was from the Prince himself; it said that the sluices at Rotterdam and Schiedam had been opened, that the dykes were all pierced, that the water was rising upon the Land-Scheiding, the great outer barrier which separated the city from the sea; that he had a fleet of two-hundred vessels in readiness stored with provisions, under the command of Admiral Boisot, and that as soon as there was sufficient depth of water, the fleet would fight its way to the walls of Leyden and bring the citizens relief.

"This is indeed joyous news!" exclaimed the burgomaster. He at once directed Berthold to summon the city musicians to meet him, with their instruments, in the market-place, to which, accompanied by Jaqueline, he immediately repaired. He knew that many of the chief citizens would soon collect there. Taking the letter, he read it publicly, when the bands of music striking up, marched through the streets playing lively melodies and martial airs. The bells rang out merry tunes, and salvos of cannon were fired not at the foe but at brief intervals, to give indubitable signs that the city was rejoicing.

"These scenes will astonish our enemies, who will at first be unable to comprehend their import, but I've an idea they will soon find out, and may deem it wise to decamp," exclaimed Berthold. Albert proposed making a sortie to attack the Spaniards before they had recovered from their astonishment at hearing the joyful sounds from the city, and seeing the waters flowing over the land.

"No! no!" answered the commandant. "Many valuable lives might be sacrificed, and the ocean will ere long fight for us far more effectually than our swords."

The burgomaster, generally accompanied by Jaqueline, paid frequent visits to Hengist Tower.

Already from its summit the waters could be seen covering spaces which had hitherto been dry land, the canals having in many places risen ten inches and were overflowing their banks, though the great dyke five miles off still prevented the flood from reaching the Spanish camp. The had one evening gone there with Berthold and Albert, who were especially eager in watching the rise of the flood. Already in the far distance the rays of the sun glittered on the rising waters, where hitherto only green fields and orchards had been seen, but between that shining expanse and the city lay about five miles off the Land-Scheiding, a strong dyke which had been spoken of, and within it were also several circumvallations thrown up to defend the city from the encroachments of the ocean. These all had to be passed before the fleet could reach the walls. Though there were canals navigable at all times by vessels of small burden, the Land-Scheiding was still a foot and a half above the water, forming an impassable barrier, besides which in the intermediate space were numerous villages held by the king's troops. While the two lads were standing somewhat apart from the burgomaster and Jaqueline they observed a person approaching the tower. "It is that fellow Van Arenberg," whispered Albert. "I wonder he has ventured to remain so long in the city, he might all this time have been with the Spaniards, whom he is so constantly praising and advising the people to confide in. When the fighting is going on he is never to be seen on the ramparts, and though he receives his rations I suspect that it is only a make-believe, and that he has a secret store of provisions in his own house."

"It would not do to say that to the burgomaster," observed Berthold. "He still believes him to be honest, though wanting in spirit, and would, I suspect, even now let Jaqueline marry him if he were to press his suit and she were to consent."

"That is not very likely to happen," said Albert. "She would be more ready to marry Captain Van der Elst."

"I do not know," answered Berthold. "During our journey he never, that I recollect, once spoke to me about her; but here comes the baron, we had better keep out of his way, for if I meet him I shall be inclined to say something he won't like."

The baron, who certainly seemed to have suffered less than most of the inhabitants of Leyden from scanty food and constant watching, now reaching the top of the tower approached the burgomaster and Jaqueline. Having in his usual courteous and polished manner paid his respects to the Lily and her father, he pointed southward.

"You are looking out there, I conclude, for the appearance of admiral Boisot and his Sea Beggars, but I fear that we shall look in vain; his flotilla may reach the Land-Scheiding, but beyond that no mortal power can enable his ships to advance; even should they pierce it, as the Prince expects, it is impossible that they can pass all those other barriers with the victorious troops of Valdez opposing them and garrisoning every village and fort."

"God can make a way if man cannot," answered the burgomaster.

"But He may not think fit to make one for those daring outlaws to reach Leyden," said the baron. "Would that I could hope that relief was likely to come, but I have long despaired, as you know, of obtaining it, and I have sought you, Burgomaster, to entreat you that even should you consider it your duty to remain you will allow me to escort your fair daughter to some place where she may escape the unspeakable miseries which are gathering round the inhabitants of this unhappy city. I can, through some influential friends, obtain a safe pass from Valdez, and can also through their means arrange for her secret departure from the city, so that whatever happens she will at all events be preserved."

"Even should she wish it, my duty to my fellow-citizens will prevent me from permitting her to go," answered the burgomaster. "Her departure would tend to dishearten those who have already sufficient to try them; but you may ask her."

Jaqueline had, while the baron was speaking to her father, withdrawn from his side, and was about to join her cousin and Albert when the young noble approached her. In carefully measured words he spoke of his love and devotion, and offering his hand and heart, entreated her at once to become his wife that he might be able to rescue her from the dangers by which she was surrounded.

"I have your father's permission," he added, "and whatever opinion he may consider it his duty to express publicly I cannot but believe that his mind will be greatly relieved when he knows that you are beyond the reach of harm."

"It may be that you have my father's permission to speak to me," she answered, "but he would never counsel me to play a dastard's part and dishearten my fellow-citizens, whom I am bound to encourage. Understand, Ernst Van Arenberg, sooner would I remain among those who are stricken down every day by famine and pestilence, and share their fate, if God so wills it, than wed one who traitorously counsels submission to the foe."

As she spoke she fixed her clear blue eyes on him with a look the meaning of which he could not misinterpret, for it showed the scorn his proposal had inspired. He might have seen that his cause was hopeless, yet he could not even now abandon her, and was again about to speak when Berthold and Albert came up with an independent air, the former exclaiming--

"Look out there, Jaqueline! Look out, your eyes are keen enough to see the sun shining on some score of white sails far away to the southward; they form, I doubt not, the vanguard of a relieving fleet, and before long the Spaniards, the 'Glippers,' and their friends will be scampering off to escape being overwhelmed by the rising tide."

"It is high time for you, Baron, to go and give the Spaniards warning if you wish to serve them a good turn," said Albert.

The baron frowned at the lad, who looked so unconscious of having said anything disagreeable that he did not venture to reply. At length the burgomaster, addressing Jaqueline, proposed to return home, and desired his nephew and Albert to follow him, but a word from Jaqueline prevented him from inviting the baron, as he might otherwise have done, to his house. Van Arenberg descended the steps close behind them, but receiving no intimation that he might accompany them from Jaqueline or her father, he was compelled to lift his beaver, which he did with a somewhat haughty air, and without taking the slightest notice of the lads, walked away in an opposite direction. The burgomaster, who had overheard some of the boy's remarks, chided them for speaking so rudely to the baron.

"Though the opinion you have formed of him is, I fear, right, it becomes you not thus to address a person so much your senior in age as well as in rank," he said.

Jaqueline, however, interfered, and told her father that she was thankful to them for coming so opportunely to her assistance, and preventing her from uttering expressions which the baron might have deemed far more severe than anything her cousin and Albert could say.

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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
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