By England's Aid
G. A. Henty
Part 6 out of 7
reigning. The commandant was hurriedly assigning to the various
companies composing the garrison their places upon the walls. Many of
the soldiers were exclaiming that they had been betrayed, and that it
were best to make terms with the Spaniards at once. The difference
between the air of quiet resolution that marked the conduct of the
people and troops at Sluys and the excitement manifested here struck
Lionel unpleasantly. The citizens all remained in their houses, afraid
lest the exultation they felt at the prospect of deliverance would be
so marked as to enrage the soldiery. Lionel's own company was standing
quietly and in good order in the market-place, and as soon as he
received orders as to the point that he should occupy on the walls
Lionel marched them away.
In half an hour the Spanish batteries, which had been erected during
the night, opened fire upon several points of the walls. The town was
ill provided with artillery, and the answer was feeble, and before
evening several breaches had been effected, two of the gates blown in,
and the Spaniards advanced to the assault. Lionel and his company, with
one composed of Huguenot gentlemen and their retainers and another of
Germans, defended the gate at which they were posted with great
bravery, and succeeded in repulsing the attacks of the Spaniards time
after time. The latter pressed forward in heavy column, only to recoil
broken and shattered from the archway, which was filled high with their
dead. The defenders had just succeeded in repulsing the last of these
attacks, when some soldiers ran by shouting "All is lost, the Spaniards
have entered the town at three points!"
The German company at once disbanded and scattered. The Huguenot noble
said to Lionel: "I fear that the news is true; listen to the shouts and
cries in the town behind us. I will march with my men and see if there
is any chance of beating back the Spaniards; if not it were best to lay
down our arms and ask for quarter. Will you try to hold this gate until
"I will do so," Lionel said; "but I have only about thirty men left,
and if the Spaniards come on again we cannot hope to repulse them."
"If I am not back in ten minutes it will be because all is lost," the
Huguenot said; "and you had then best save yourself as you can."
But long before the ten minutes passed crowds of fugitives ran past,
and Lionel learned that great numbers of the enemy had entered, and
that they were refusing quarter and slaying all they met.
"It is useless to stay here longer to be massacred," he said to his
men. "I should advise you to take refuge in the churches, leaving your
arms behind you as you enter. It is evident that further resistance is
useless, and would only cost us our lives. The Spaniards are twenty to
one, and it is evident that all hope of resistance is at an end." The
men were only too glad to accept the advice, and, throwing down their
arms, hurried away. Lionel sheathed his sword, and with the greatest
difficulty made his way through the scene of wild confusion to the
house where he had lodged. The doors of most of the houses were fast
closed, and the inhabitants wore hurling down missiles of all kinds
from the upper windows upon their late masters. The triumphant shouts
of the Spaniards rose loud in the air, mingled with despairing cries
and the crack of firearms. Lionel had several narrow escapes from the
missiles thrown from the windows and roofs, but reached the house of
the merchant safely. The door was half opened.
"Thanks be to heaven that you have come. I had well-nigh given you up,
and in another minute should have closed the door. The women are all
below, but I waited until the last minute for you."
Barring the door Lionel's host led the way downstairs into a great
cellar, which served as a warehouse, and extended under the whole
house. He made his way through the boxes and bales to the darkest
corner of the great cellar. Here he pulled up a flag and showed another
narrow stair, at the bottom of which a torch was burning. Bidding
Lionel descend he followed him, lowered the flag behind him, and then
led the way along a narrow passage, at the end of which was a door.
Opening it Lionel found himself in an arched chamber. Two torches were
burning, and the merchant's wife and daughters and the two female
domestics were assembled. There was a general exclamation of gladness
as Lionel entered.
"We have been greatly alarmed," the mercer's wife said, "lest you
should not be able to gain the house, Master Vickars; for we heard that
the Spaniards are broken in at several points."
"It was fortunately at the other end of the town to that at which I was
stationed," Lionel said; "and I was just in time. You have a grand
hiding-place here. It looks like the crypt of a church."
"That is just what it is," the mercer said. "It was the church of a
monastery that stood here a hundred years ago. The monks then moved
into a grander place in Paris, and the monastery and church which
adjoined our house were pulled down and houses erected upon the site.
My grandfather, knowing of the existence of the crypt, thought that it
might afford a rare hiding-place in case of danger, and had the passage
driven from his cellar into it. Its existence could never be suspected;
for as our cellar extends over the whole of our house, as can easily be
seen, none would suspect that there was a hiding-place without our
walls. There are three or four chambers as large as this. One of them
is stored with all my choicest silks and velvets, another will serve as
a chamber for you and me. I have enough provisions for a couple of
months, and even should they burn the house down we are safe enough
Three days passed, and then a slight noise was heard as of the trap-
door being raised. Lionel drew his sword.
"It is my servant, no doubt," the merchant said, "he promised to come
and tell me how things went as soon as he could get an opportunity to
come down unobserved. We should hear more noise if it were the
Spaniards." Taking a light he went along the passage, and returned
immediately afterwards followed by his man; the latter had his head
bound up, and carried his arm in a sling. An exclamation of pity broke
from the ladies.
"You are badly hurt, Jacques. What has happened?"
"It is well it is no worse, mistress," he replied. "The Spaniards are
fiends, and behaved as if they were sacking a city of Dutch Huguenots
instead of entering a town inhabited by friends. For an hour or two
they cut and slashed, pillaged and robbed. They came rushing into the
shop, and before I could say a word one run me through the shoulder and
another laid my head open. It was an hour or two before I came to my
senses. I found the house turned topsy-turvy; everything worth taking
had gone, and what was not taken was damaged. I tied up my head and arm
as best I could, and then sat quiet in a corner till the din outside
began to subside. The officers did their best, I hear, and at last got
the men into order. Numbers of the townsfolk have been killed, and
every one of the garrison was butchered. I tell you, mistress, it is
better to have ten Huguenot armies in possession one after another than
one Spanish force, though the latter come as friends and co-
religionists. Well, as soon as things quieted down the soldiers were
divided among the houses of the townsfolk, and we have a sergeant and
ten men quartered above; but half an hour ago they were called away on
some duty, and I took the opportunity to steal down here."
"Have you told them that we were away, Jacques?"
"No, monsieur; no one has asked me about it. They saw by the pictures
and shrines that you were good Catholics, and after the first outburst
they have left things alone. But if it is not too dreary for the ladies
here, I should advise you to wait for a time and see how things go
before you show yourselves."
"That is my opinion too, Jacques. We can wait here for another two
months if need be. Doubtless, unless the Huguenots show signs of an
intention to attack the town, only a small garrison will be left here,
and it may be that those in our house will be withdrawn."
"Do you think it will be possible for me to make my escape, Jacques?"
"I should think so, sir. Ever since the Spaniards entered the town
boats with provisions for Paris have been coming along in great
numbers. From what I hear the soldiers say there is no chance of a
battle at present, for the Huguenot army have drawn off to a distance,
seeing that Paris is revictualled and that there is no chance of taking
it. They say that numbers of the French lords with the Huguenot army
have drawn off and are making for their homes. At any rate there is no
fear of an attack here, and the gates stand open all day. Numbers of
the townsfolk have been to Paris to see friends there, and I should say
that if you had a disguise you could pass out easily enough."
The question was discussed for some time. Lionel was very anxious to
rejoin the army, and it was finally settled that Jacques should the
next night bring him down a suit of his own clothes, and the first time
the soldiers were all away should fetch him out, accompany him through
the gates of the town, and act as his guide as far as he could.
The next night Lionel received the clothes. Two days later Jacques came
down early in the morning to say that the soldiers above had just gone
out on duty. Lionel at once assumed his disguise, and with the
heartiest thanks for the great service they had rendered him took his
leave of the kind merchant and his family. Jacques was charged to
accompany him as far as possible, and to set him well on his way
towards the Huguenot army, for Lionel's small knowledge of French would
be detected by the first person who accosted him. On going out into the
street Lionel found that there were many peasants who had come in to
sell fowls, eggs, and vegetables in the town, and he and Jacques passed
without a question through the gates.
Jacques had, the evening before, ascertained from the soldiers the
position of Parma's army. A long detour had to be made, and it was two
days before they came in sight of the tents of Henry's camp. They had
observed the greatest precautions on their way, and had only once
fallen in with a troop of Parma's cavalry. These had asked no
questions, supposing that Jacques and his companion were making their
way from Paris to visit their friends after the siege, there being
nothing in their attire to attract attention, still less suspicion. The
peasants they met on their way eagerly demanded news from Paris, but
Jacques easily satisfied them by saying that they had had a terrible
time, and that many had died of hunger, but that now that the river was
open again better times had come. When within a couple of miles of the
army Jacques said goodbye to Lionel, who would have rewarded him
handsomely for his guidance, but Jacques would not accept money.
"You are the master's guest," he said, "and you saved his house from
plunder when your people were in possession. He and my mistress would
never forgive me if I took money from you. I am well content in having
been able to assist so kind a young gentleman."
When Lionel arrived at the camp he soon found his way to Sir Ralph
Pimpernel's tent, where he was received as one from the dead. There was
no difficulty in providing himself again with armour and arms, for of
these there were abundance--the spoils of Ivry--in the camp. When he
was reclothed and rearmed Sir Ralph took him to the king's tent, and
from him Henry learned for the first time the circumstances that had
attended the capture of Lagny.
"And so they put the whole garrison to the sword," the king said with
indignation. "I will make any Spaniards that fall in my hands pay
dearly for it!"
Henry had indeed been completely out-generalled by his opponent. While
he had been waiting with his army for a pitched battle Parma had
invested Lagny, and there were no means of relieving it except by
crossing the river in the face of the whole army of the enemy, an
enterprise impossible of execution. As soon as Lagny had fallen
provisions and ammunition were at once poured into Paris, two thousand
boat-loads arriving in a single day.
King Henry's army immediately fell to pieces. The cavalry having
neither food nor forage rode off by hundreds every day, and in a week
but two thousand out of his six thousand horse remained with him. The
infantry also, seeing now no hope of receiving their arrears of pay,
disbanded in large numbers, and after an unsuccessful attempt to carry
Paris by a night attack, the king fell back with the remnant of his
force. Corbeil was assaulted and captured by Parma, and the two great
rivers of Paris were now open.
If Parma could have remained with his army in France, the cause of
Henry of Navarre would have been lost. But sickness was making ravages
among his troops. Dissensions broke out between the Spaniards,
Italians, and Netherlanders of his army and their French allies, who
hated the foreigners, though they had come to their assistance. Lastly,
his presence was urgently required in the Netherlands, where his work
was as far from being done as ever. Therefore to the dismay of the
Leaguers he started early in November on his march back.
No sooner did he retire than the king took the field again, recaptured
Lagny and Corbeil, and recommenced the siege of Paris, while his
cavalry hung upon the rear and flanks of Parma's army and harassed them
continually, until they crossed the frontier, where the duke found that
affairs had not improved during his absence.
Lionel had obtained permission to accompany the force which captured
Lagny, and as soon as they entered the town hurried to the mercer's
house. He found Jacques in possession, and learned that the family had
weeks before left the crypt and reoccupied the house, but had again
taken refuge there when the Huguenots attacked the town. Lionel at once
went below, and was received with delight. He was now able to repay to
some extent the obligations he had received from them, by protecting
them from all interference by the new captors of the town, from whom
the majority of the citizens received harsh treatment for the part they
had taken in attacking the garrison when the Spaniards first entered.
Prince Maurice's visit to the camp of Henry had been but a short one;
and as soon as Parma had effected the relief of Paris, and there was no
longer a chance of a great battle being fought, he returned to Holland,
followed after the recapture of Lagny by Sir Ralph Pimpernel and the
few survivors of his party, who were all heartily weary of the long
period of inaction that had followed the victory at Ivry.
They found that during their absence there had been little doing in the
Netherlands, save that Sir Francis Vere, with a small body of English
infantry and cavalry, had stormed some formidable works the Spaniards
had thrown up to prevent relief being given to Recklinghausen, which
they were besieging. He effected the relief of the town and drove off
the besiegers. He then attacked and captured a fort on the bank of the
Rhine, opposite the town of Wesel.
At the end of the year 1590 there were, including the garrisons, some
eight thousand English infantry and cavalry in Holland, and the year
that followed was to see a great change in the nature of the war. The
efforts of Prince Maurice to improve his army were to bear effect, and
with the assistance of his English allies he was to commence an active
offensive war, to astonish his foes by the rapidity with which he
manoeuvred the new fighting machine he had created, and to commence a
new departure in the tactics of war.
In May he took the field, requesting Vere to co-operate with him in the
siege of Zutphen. But Sir Francis determined in the first place to
capture on his own account the Zutphen forts on the opposite side of
the river, since these had been lost by the treachery of Roland Yorke.
He dressed up a score of soldiers, some as peasants, others as
countrywomen, and provided them with baskets of eggs and other
provisions. At daybreak these went down by twos and threes to the
Zutphen ferry, as if waiting to be taken across to the town; and while
waiting for the boat to come across for them, they sat down near the
gate of the fort.
[Illustration: CROSSING THE BRIDGE OF BOATS OVER THE HAVEN.]
A few minutes later a party of English cavalry were seen riding rapidly
towards the fort. The pretended country people sprang to their feet,
and with cries of alarm ran towards it for shelter. The gates were
thrown open to allow them to enter. As they ran in they drew out the
arms concealed under their clothes and overpowered the guard. The
cavalry dashed up and entered the gate before the garrison could
assemble, and the fort was captured.
Vere at once began to throw up his batteries for the attack upon the
town across the river, and the prince invested the city on the other
side. So diligently did the besiegers work that before a week had
passed after the surprise of the fort the batteries were completed,
thirty-two guns placed in position, and the garrison, seeing there was
no hope of relief, surrendered.
On the very day of taking possession of the town, the allies, leaving a
garrison there, marched against Deventer, seven miles down the river,
and within five days had invested the place, and opened their batteries
upon the weakest part of the town. A breach was effected, and a storm
was ordered. A dispute arose between the English, Scotch, and Dutch
troops as to who should have the honour of leading the assault. Prince
Maurice decided in favour of the English, in order that they might have
an opportunity of wiping out the stigma on the national honour caused
by the betrayal of Deventer by the traitor Sir William Stanley.
To reach the breach it was necessary to cross a piece of water called
the Haven. Sir Francis Vere led the English across the bridge of boats
which had been thrown over the water; but the bridge was too short.
Some of the troops sprang over and pushed boldly for the breach, others
were pushed over and drowned. Many of those behind stripped off their
armour and swam across the Haven, supported by some Dutch troops who
had been told off to follow the assaulting party. But at the breach
they were met by Van der Berg, the governor, with seven companies of
soldiers, and these fought so courageously that the assailants were
unable to win their way up the breach, and fell back at last with a
loss of two hundred and twenty-five men killed and wounded.
While the assault was going on, the artillery of the besiegers
continued to play upon other parts of the town, and effected great
damage. On the following night the garrison endeavoured to capture the
bridge across the Haven, but were repulsed with loss, and in the
morning the place surrendered. The success of the patriots was due in
no slight degree to the fact that Parma with the greatest part of his
army was again absent in France, and the besieged towns had therefore
no hope of assistance from without. The States now determined to seize
the opportunity of capturing the towns held by the Spaniards in
The three principal towns in the possession of the Spaniards were
Groningen, Steenwyk, and Coevorden. After capturing several less
important places and forts Prince Maurice advanced against Steenwyk.
But just as he was about to commence the siege he received pressing
letters from the States to hurry south, as Parma was marching with his
whole army to capture the fort of Knodsenburg, which had been raised in
the previous autumn as a preparation for the siege of the important
city of Nymegen.
The Duke of Parma considered that he had ample time to reduce
Knodsenburg before Prince Maurice could return to its assistance. Two
great rivers barred the prince's return, and he would have to traverse
the dangerous district called the Foul Meadow, and the great quagmire
known as the Rouvenian Morass. But Prince Maurice had now an
opportunity of showing the excellence of the army he had raised and
He received the news of Parma's advance on the 15th of July; two days
later he was on the march south, and in five days had thrown bridges of
boats across the two rivers, had crossed morass and swamp, and appeared
in front of the Spanish army.
One assault had already been delivered by the Spaniards against
Knodsenburg, but this had been repulsed with heavy loss. As soon as the
patriot army approached the neighbourhood, Parma's cavalry went out to
drive in its skirmishers. Vere at once proposed to Prince Maurice to
inflict a sharp blow upon the enemy, and with the approval of the
prince marched with 1200 foot and 500 horse along the dyke which ran
across the low country. Marching to a spot where a bridge crossed a
narrow river he placed half his infantry in ambush there; the other
half a quarter of a mile further back.
Two hundred light cavalry were sent forward to beat up the enemy's
outposts, and then retreat; the rest of the cavalry were posted in the
rear of the infantry. Another dyke ran nearly parallel with the first,
falling into it at some distance in the rear of Vere's position, and
here Prince Maurice stationed himself with a body of horse and foot to
cover Vere's retreat should he be obliged to fall back. About noon the
light cavalry skirmished with the enemy and fell back, but were not
followed. About half an hour later the scouts brought word that the
Spaniards were at hand.
Suddenly and without orders 800 of Maurice's cavalry galloped off to
meet the enemy; but they soon came back again at full speed, with a
strong force of Spanish cavalry in pursuit. Vere's infantry at once
sallied out from their ambush among the trees, poured their fire into
the enemy, and charged them with their pikes. The Spaniards turned to
fly, when Vere's cavalry charged them furiously and drove them back in
headlong rout to their own camp, taking a great number of prisoners,
among them many officers of rank, and 500 horses. Parma finding himself
thus suddenly in face of a superior army, with a rapid river in his
rear, fell back across the Waal, and then proceeded to Spa to recruit
his shattered health, leaving Verdugo, an experienced officer, in
Instead of proceeding to besiege Nymegen, Maurice marched away as
suddenly and quickly as before, and captured Hulst, on the borders of
Zeeland and Brabant, a dozen miles only from Antwerp, and then turning
again was, in three days, back at Nymegen, and had placed sixty-eight
pieces of artillery in position. He opened fire on the 20th of October,
and the next day the important city of Nymegen surrendered. This series
of brilliant successes greatly raised the spirits of the Netherlanders,
and proportionately depressed those of the Spaniards and their
Parma himself was ill from annoyance and disappointment. The army with
which he might have completed the conquest of the Netherlands had, in
opposition to his entreaties and prayers, been frittered away by
Philip's orders in useless expeditions in France, while the young and
active generals of the Dutch and English armies were snatching town
after town from his grasp, and consolidating the Netherlands, so
recently broken up by Spanish strongholds, into a compact body, whose
increasing wealth and importance rendered it every day a more
formidable opponent. It is true that Parma had saved first Paris and
afterwards Rouen for the League, but it was at the cost of loosening
Philip's hold over the most important outpost of the Spanish dominions.
In the following spring Parma was again forced to march into France
with 20,000 men, and Maurice, as soon as the force started, prepared to
take advantage of its absence. With 6000 foot and 2000 horse he again
appeared at the end of May before Steenwyk. This town was the key to
the province of Drenthe, and one of the safeguards of Friesland; it was
considered one of the strongest fortresses of the time. Its garrison
consisted of sixteen companies of foot and some cavalry, and 1200
Walloon infantry, commanded by Lewis, the youngest of the Counts de
Berg, a brave lad of eighteen years of age.
In this siege, for the first time, the spade was used by soldiers in
the field. Hitherto the work had been considered derogatory to troops,
and peasants and miners had been engaged for the work; but Prince
Maurice had taught his soldiers that their duty was to work as well as
fight, and they now proved the value of his teaching.
The besieged made several successful sorties, and Sir Francis Vere had
been severely wounded in the leg. The cannonade effected but little
damage on the strong walls; but the soldiers, working night and day,
drove mines under two of the principal bastions, and constructed two
great chambers there; these were charged, one with five thousand pounds
of powder, the other with half that quantity. On the 3d of July the
mines were sprung. The bastion of the east gate was blown to pieces and
the other bastion greatly injured, but many of the Dutch troops
standing ready for the assault were also killed by the explosion.
The storming parties, however, rushed forward, and the two bastions
were captured. This left the town at the mercy of the besiegers. The
next day the garrison surrendered, and were permitted to march away.
Three hundred and fifty had been killed, among them young Count Lewis
Van der Berg, and two hundred had been left behind, severely wounded,
in the town. Between five and six hundred of the besiegers were killed
during the course of the siege. The very day after the surrender of
Steenwyk Maurice marched away and laid siege to Coevorden. This city,
which was most strongly fortified, lay between two great swamps,
between which there was a passage of about half a mile in width.
Another of the Van der Bergs, Count Frederick, commanded the garrison
of a thousand veterans. Verdugo sent to Parma and Mondragon for aid,
but none could be sent to him, and the prince worked at his
fortifications undisturbed. His force was weakened by the withdrawal of
Sir Francis Vere with three of the English regiments, Elizabeth having
sent peremptory orders that this force should follow those already
withdrawn to aid Henry of Navarre in Brittany. Very unwillingly Vere
obeyed, and marched to Doesburg on the Yssel. But a fortnight after he
arrived there, while he was waiting for ships to transport him to
Brittany the news came to him that Verdugo, having gathered a large
force together, was about to attack Prince Maurice in his camp, and
Vere at once started to the prince's aid.
On the night of the 6th of September, Verdugo, with 4000 foot and 1800
cavalry, wearing their shirts outside their armour to enable them to
distinguish each other in the dark, fell upon Maurice's camp.
Fortunately the prince was prepared, having intercepted a letter from
Verdugo to the governor of the town. A desperate battle took place, but
at break of day, while its issue was still uncertain, Vere, who had
marched all night, came up and threw himself into the battle. His
arrival was decisive. Verdugo drew off with a loss of 300 killed, and
five days later Coevorden surrendered, and Prince Maurice's army went
into winter quarters.
A few weeks later Parma died, killed by the burden Philip threw upon
him, broken down by the constant disappointment of his hopes of
carrying his work to a successful end, by the incessant interference of
Philip with his plans, and by the anxiety caused by the mutinies
arising from his inability to pay his troops, although he had borrowed
to the utmost on his own possessions, and pawned even his jewels to
keep them from starvation. He was undoubtedly the greatest commander of
his age, and had he been left to carry out his own plans would have
crushed out the last ember of resistance in the Netherlands and
consolidated the power of Spain there.
He was succeeded in his post by the Archduke Albert, but for a time
Ernest Mansfeldt continued to command the army, and to manage the
affairs in the Netherlands. In March, 1593, Prince Maurice appeared
with his army in front of Gertruydenberg. The city itself was an
important one, and its position on the Maas rendered it of the greatest
use to the Spaniards, as through it they were at any moment enabled to
penetrate into the heart of Holland. Gertruydenberg and Groningen, the
capital of Friesland, were now, indeed, the only important places in
the republic that remained in possession of the Spaniards. Hohenlohe
with a portion of the army established himself to the east of the city,
Maurice with its main body to the west.
Two bridges constructed across the river Douge afforded a means of
communication between two armies, and plank roads were laid across the
swamps for the passage of baggage waggons. Three thousand soldiers
laboured incessantly at the works, which were intended not only to
isolate the city, but to defend the besiegers from any attack that
might be made upon them by a relieving army. The better to protect
themselves, miles of country were laid under water, and palisade work
erected to render the country impregnable by cavalry.
Ernest Mansfeldt did his best to relieve the town. His son, Count
Charles, with five thousand troops, had been sent into France, but by
sweeping up all the garrisons, he moved with a considerable army
towards Gertruydenberg and challenged Maurice to issue out from his
lines to fight him. But the prince had no idea of risking a certain
success upon the issue of a battle.
A hundred pieces of artillery on the batteries played incessantly on
the town, while a blockading squadron of Zeeland ships assisted in the
bombardment, and so terrible was the fire, that when the town was
finally taken only four houses were found to have escaped injury.
Two commandants of the place were killed one after the other, and the
garrison of a thousand veterans, besides the burgher militia, was
greatly reduced in strength. At last, after ninety days' siege, the
town suddenly fell. Upon the 24th of June three Dutch captains were
relieving guard in the trenches near the great north bastion of the
town, when it occurred to them to scale the wall of the fort and see
what was going on inside. They threw some planks across the ditch, and
taking half a company of soldiers, climbed cautiously up. They obtained
a foothold before the alarm was given. There was a fierce hand-to-hand
struggle, and sixteen of the party fell, and nine of the garrison. The
rest fled into the city. The Governor Gysant, rushing to the rescue
without staying to put on his armour, was killed.
Count Solms came from the besieging camp to investigate the sudden
uproar, and to his profound astonishment was met by a deputation from
the city asking for terms of surrender. Prince Maurice soon afterwards
came up, and the terms of capitulation were agreed upon. The garrison
were allowed to retire with side-arms and baggage, and fifty waggons
were lent to them to carry off their wounded.
In the following spring Coevorden, which had been invested by Verdugo,
was relieved, and Groningen, the last great city of the Netherlands in
the hands of the Spaniards, was besieged. Mines were driven under its
principal bastion, and when these were sprung, after sixty-five days'
siege, the city was forced to surrender. Thus for the first time, after
years of warfare, Holland, Zeeland, and Friesland became truly united,
and free from the grasp of the hated invader.
Throughout the last three years of warfare Sir Francis Vere had proved
an able assistant to the prince, and the English troops had fought
bravely side by side with the Dutch; but their contingent had been but
a small one, for the majority of Vere's force had, like that of the
Spaniards, been withdrawn for service in France. The struggle in that
country was nearly at an end. The conversion of Henry of Navarre for
the second time to the Catholic religion had ranged many Catholics, who
had hitherto been opposed to him, under his banner, while many had
fallen away from the ranks of the League in disgust, when Philip of
Spain at last threw off the mask of disinterestedness, and proposed his
nephew the Archduke Ernest as king of France.
In July, 1595, a serious misfortune befell the allied army. They had
laid siege to Crolle, and had made considerable progress with the
siege, when the Spanish army, under command of Mondragon, the aged
governor of Antwerp, marched to its relief. As the army of Maurice was
inferior in numbers, the States would not consent to a general action.
The siege was consequently raised; and Mondragon having attained his
object, fell back to a position on the Rhine at Orsoy, above Rheinberg,
whence he could watch the movements of the allied army encamped on the
opposite bank at Bislich, a few miles below Wesel.
The Spanish army occupied both sides of the river, the wing on the
right bank being protected from attack by the river Lippe, which falls
into the Rhine at Wesel, and by a range of moorland hills called the
Testerburg. The Dutch cavalry saw that the slopes of this hill were
occupied by the Spaniards, but believed that their force consisted only
of a few troops of horse.
Young Count Philip of Nassau proposed that a body of cavalry should
swim the Lippe, and attack and cut them off. Prince Maurice and Sir
Francis Vere gave a very reluctant consent to the enterprise, but
finally allowed him to take a force of five hundred men.
With him were his brothers Ernest and Louis, his nephew Ernest de
Solms, and many other nobles of Holland. Sir Marcellus Bacx was in
command of them. The English contingent was commanded by Sir Nicholas
Parker and Robert Vere. On August 22d they swam the Lippe and galloped
in the direction where they expected to find two or three troops of
Spanish horse; but Mondragon had received news of their intentions, and
they suddenly saw before them half the Spanish army. Without hesitation
the five hundred English and Dutch horsemen charged desperately into
the enemy's ranks, and fought with extraordinary valour, until,
altogether overpowered by numbers, Philip of Nassau and his nephew
Ernest were both mortally wounded and taken prisoners.
Robert Vere was slain by a lance-thrust in the face, and many other
nobles and gentlemen fell. Thus died one of the three brave brothers,
for the youngest, Horace, had also joined the army in 1590. The
survivors of the band under Sir Nicholas Parker and Marcellus Bacx
managed to effect their retreat, covered by a reserve Prince Maurice
had posted on the opposite side of the river.
In March, 1596, Sir Francis Vere returned to Holland. He had during his
absence in England been largely taken into the counsels of Queen
Elizabeth, and it had been decided that the war should be carried into
the enemy's country, and a heavy blow struck at the power of Spain.
Vere had been appointed to an important command in the proposed
expedition, and had now come out charged with the mission of persuading
the States-general to co-operate heartily with England, and to
contribute both money and men. There was much discussion in the States;
but they finally agreed to comply with the queen's wishes, considering
that there was no surer way of bringing the war to a termination than
to transport it nearer to the heart of the enemy.
As soon as the matter was arranged, Sir Francis Vere left the Hague and
went to Middleburg, where the preparations for the Dutch portion of the
expedition were carried out. It consisted of twenty-two Dutch ships,
under Count William of Nassau, and a thousand of the English troops in
the pay of the States. The company commanded by Lionel Vickars was one
of those chosen to accompany the expedition; and on the 22d of April it
started from Flushing and joined the British fleet assembled at Dover.
This was under the command of Lord Howard as lord-admiral, the Earl of
Essex as general, Lord Thomas Howard as vice-admiral, and Sir Walter
Raleigh as rear-admiral.
Sir Francis Vere was lieutenant-general and lord-marshal. He was to be
the chief adviser of the Earl of Essex, and to have the command of
operations on shore. The ships of war consisted of the _Ark-
Royal_, the _Repulse, Mere-Honour, War-Sprite, Rainbow, Mary,
Rose, Dreadnought, Vanguard, Nonpareil, Lion, Swiftsure, Quittance_,
and _Tremontaine_. There were also twelve ships belonging to
London, and the twenty-two Dutch vessels. The fleet, which was largely
fitted out at the private expense of Lord Howard and the Earl of Essex,
sailed from Dover to Plymouth. Sir Francis Vere went by land, and set
to work at the organization of the army.
A month was thus spent, and on the 1st of June the fleet set sail. It
carried 6360 soldiers and 1000 volunteers, and was manned by nearly
7000 sailors. There had been some dispute as to the relative ranks of
Sir Francis Vere and Sir Walter Raleigh, and it was settled that Sir
Francis should have precedence on shore, and Sir Walter Raleigh at sea.
All on board the fleet were full of enthusiasm at the enterprise upon
which they were embarked. It was eight years since the Spanish Armada
had sailed to invade England; now an English fleet was sailing to
attack Spain on her own ground. Things had changed indeed in that time.
Spain, which had been deemed invincible, had suffered many reverses;
while England had made great strides in power, and was now mistress of
the seas, on which Spain had formerly considered herself to be supreme.
A favourable wind from the north-east carried the fleet rapidly across
the Bay of Biscay, and it proceeded on its way, keeping well out of
sight of the coast of Portugal. The three fastest sailers of the fleet
were sent on ahead as soon as they rounded Cape St. Vincent, with
orders to capture all small vessels which might carry to Cadiz the
tidings of the approach of the fleet.
Early on the morning of the 20th June the fleet anchored off the spit
of San Sebastian on the southern side of the city.
Cadiz was defended by the fort of San Sebastian on one side and that of
San Felipe on the other; while the fort of Pun tales, on the long spit
of sand connecting the city with the mainland, defended the channel
leading up to Puerto Real, and covered by its guns the Spanish galleys
and ships of war anchored there. Lying off the town when the English
fleet came in sight were forty richly-laden merchant ships about to
sail for Mexico, under the convoy of four great men-of-war, two Lisbon
galleons, two argosies, and three frigates.
As soon as the English were seen, the merchant ships were ordered up
the channel to Puerto Real, and the men-of-war and the fleet of
seventeen war galleys were ranged under the guns of Fort Puntales to
prevent the English passing up. It had first been decided to attempt a
landing in the harbour of Galeta, on the south side of the city; but a
heavy sea was setting in, and although the troops had been got into the
boats they were re-embarked, and the fleet sailed round and anchored at
the mouth of the channel leading up the bay. A council of war was held
that night, and it was decided that the fleet should move up the bay
with the tide next morning, and attack the Spanish fleet.
The next morning at daybreak the ships got up their anchors and sailed
up the channel, each commander vieing with the rest in his eagerness to
be first in the fray. They were soon hotly engaged with the enemy; the
fort, men-of-war, and galleys opening a heavy fire upon them, to which,
anchoring as close as they could get to the foe, the English ships
hotly responded. The galleys were driven closer in under the shelter of
the fire of the fort, and the fire was kept up without intermission
from six o'clock in the morning until four in the afternoon.
By that time the Spaniards had had enough of it. The galleys slipped
their cables and made sail for a narrow channel across the spit,
covered by the guns of the fort. Three of them were captured by Sir
John Wingfield in the _Vanguard_, but the rest got through the
channel and escaped. The men-of-war endeavoured to run ashore, but
boarding parties in boats from the _Ark-Royal_ and _Repulse_
captured two of them. The Spaniards set fire to the other two. The
argosies and galleons were also captured. Sir Francis Vere at once took
the command of the land operations. The boats were all lowered, and the
regiments of Essex, Vere, Blount, Gerard, and Clifford told off as a
landing party. They were formed in line. The Earl of Essex and Sir
Francis Vere took their places in a boat in advance of the line, and
were followed by smaller boats crowded with gentlemen volunteers.
They landed between the fort of Puntales and the town. The regiments of
Blount, Gerard, and Clifford were sent to the narrowest part of the
spit to prevent reinforcements being thrown into the place; while those
of Essex and Vere and the gentlemen volunteers turned towards Cadiz.
Each of these parties consisted of about a thousand men.
The walls of Cadiz were so strong that it had been intended to land
guns from the fleet, raise batteries, and make a breach in the walls.
Vere, however, perceiving some Spanish cavalry and infantry drawn up
outside the walls, suggested to Essex that an attempt should be made to
take the place by surprise. The earl at once agreed to the plan.
Vere marched the force across to the west side of the spit, his
movements being concealed by the sand-hills from the Spanish. Sir John
Wingfield with two hundred men was ordered to march rapidly on against
the enemy, driving in their skirmishers, and then to retreat hastily
when the main body advanced against him. Three hundred men under Sir
Matthew Morgan were posted as supports to Wingfield, and as soon as the
latter's flying force joined them the whole were to fall upon the
Spaniards and in turn chase them back to the walls, against which the
main body under Essex and Vere were to advance.
The orders were ably carried out. The Spaniards in hot chase of
Wingfield found themselves suddenly confronted by Morgan's force, who
fell upon them so furiously that they fled back to the town closely
followed by the English. Some of the fugitives made their way in at the
gates, which were hurriedly closed, while others climbed up at the
bastions, which sloped sufficiently to afford foothold. Vere's troops
from the Netherlands, led by Essex, also scaled the bastions and then
an inner wall behind it. As soon as they had captured this they rushed
through the streets, shooting and cutting down any who opposed them.
Sir Francis Vere, who had also scaled the ramparts, knew that cities
captured by assaults had often been lost again by the soldiers
scattering. He therefore directed the rest of the troops to burst open
the gate. This was with some difficulty effected, and he then marched
them in good order to the market-place, where the Spaniards had rallied
and were hotly engaged with Essex. The opposition was soon beaten down,
and those defending the town-hall were forced to surrender. The troops
were then marched through the town, and the garrison driven either into
the convent of San Francisco or into the castle of Felipe. The convent
surrendered on the same evening and the castle on the following day.
The loss upon the part of the assailants was very small, but Sir John
Wingfield was mortally wounded.
The English behaved with the greatest courtesy to their captives, their
conduct presenting an extraordinary contrast to that of the Spaniards
under similar circumstance in the Netherlands. The women were treated
with the greatest courtesy, and five thousand inhabitants, including
women and priests, were allowed to leave the town with their clothes.
The terms were that the city should pay a ransom of 520,000 ducats, and
that some of the chief citizens should remain as hostages for payment.
As soon as the fighting ceased, Lionel Vickars accompanied Sir Francis
Vere through the streets to set guards, and see that no insult was
offered to any of the inhabitants. As they passed along, the door of
one of the mansions was thrown open. A gentleman hurried out; he paused
for a moment, exclaiming, "Sir Francis Vere!" and then looking at
Lionel rushed forward towards him with a cry of delight. Sir Francis
Vere and Lionel stared in astonishment as the former's name was called;
but at the sound of his own name Lionel fell back a step as if
stupefied, and then with a cry of "Geoffrey!" fell into his brother's
"It is indeed Geoffrey Vickars!" Sir Francis Vere exclaimed. "Why,
Geoffrey, what miracle is this? We have thought you dead these six
years, and now we find you transmuted into a Spanish don."
"I may look like one, Sir Francis," Geoffrey said as he shook his old
commander's hand, "but I am English to the backbone still. But my story
is too long to tell now. You will be doubtless too busy to-night to
spare time to listen to it, but I pray you to breakfast with me in the
morning, when I will briefly relate to you the outline of my
adventures. Can you spare my brother for to-night, Sir Francis?"
"I would do so were there ten times the work to be got through," Sir
Francis replied. "Assuredly I would not keep asunder for a minute two
brothers who have so long been separated. I will breakfast with you in
the morning and hear this strange story of yours; for strange it must
assuredly be, since it has changed my young page of the Netherlands
into a Spanish hidalgo."
"I am no hidalgo, Sir Francis, but a trader of Cadiz, and I own that
although I have been in some way a prisoner, seeing that I could not
effect my escape, I have not fared badly. Now, Lionel, come in. I have
another surprise for you."
Lionel, still confused and wonder-stricken at this apparent
resurrection of his brother from the dead, followed him upstairs.
Geoffrey led the way into a handsomely furnished apartment, where a
young lady was sitting with a boy two years old in her lap.
"Dolores, this is my brother Lionel, of whom you have so often heard me
speak. Lionel, this is my wife and my eldest boy, who is named after
It was some time before Lionel could completely realize the position,
and it was not until Dolores in somewhat broken English bade him
welcome that he found his tongue.
"But I cannot understand it all!" he exclaimed, after responding to the
words of Dolores. "I saw my brother in the middle of the battle with
the Armada. We came into collision with a great galleon, we lost one of
our masts, and I never saw Geoffrey afterwards; and we all thought that
he had either been shot by the musketeers on the galleon, or had been
knocked overboard and killed by the falling mast."
"I had hoped that long before this you would have heard of my safety,
Lionel, for a sailor friend of mine promised if he reached England to
go down at once to Hedingham to tell them there. He left the ship he
was in out in the West Indies, and I hoped had reached home safely."
"We have heard nothing, Geoffrey. The man has never come with your
message. But now tell me how you were saved."
"I was knocked over by the mast, Lionel, but as you see I was not
killed. I climbed up into a passing Spanish ship, and concealed myself
in the chains until she was sunk, when I was, with many of the crew,
picked up by the boats of other ships. I pretended to have lost my
senses and my speech, and none suspected that I was English. The ship I
was on board of was one of those which succeeded after terrible
hardships in returning to Spain. An Irish gentleman on board her, to
whom I confided my secret, took me as a servant. After many adventures
I sailed with him for Italy, where we hoped to get a ship for England.
On the way we were attacked by Barbary pirates. We beat them off, but I
was taken prisoner. I remained a captive among them for nearly two
years, and then with a fellow-prisoner escaped, together with Dolores
and her father, who had also been captured by the pirates We reached
Spain in safety, and I have since passed as one of the many exiles from
England and Ireland who have taken refuge here; and Senor Mendez, my
wife's father, was good enough to bestow her hand upon me, partly in
gratitude for the services I had rendered him in his escape, partly
because he saw she would break her heart if he refused."
"You know that is not true, Geoffrey," Dolores interrupted.
"Never mind, Dolores, it is near enough. And with his daughter," he
continued, "he gave me a share in his business. I have been a fortunate
man indeed, Lionel; but I have always longed for a chance to return
home; until now none has ever offered itself, and I have grieved
continually at the thought that my father and mother and you were
mourning for me as dead. Now you have the outline of my story; tell me
about all at home."
"Our father and mother are both well, Geoffrey, though your supposed
loss was a great blow for them. But is it still home for you, Geoffrey?
Do you really mean to return with us."
"Of course I do, Lionel. At the time I married I arranged with Senor
Mendez that whenever an opportunity occurred I was to return home,
taking, of course, Dolores with me. She has been learning English ever
since, and although naturally she would rather that we remained here
she is quite prepared to make her home in England. We have two boys,
this youngster, and a baby three months old; so, you see, you have all
at once acquired nephews as well as a brother and sister. Here is Senor
Mendez. This is my brother, senor, the Lionel after whom I named my
boy, though I never dreamed that our next meeting would take place
within the walls of Cadiz."
"You have astounded us, senor," the merchant said courteously. "We
thought that Cadiz was safe from an attack; and though we were aware
you had defeated our fleet we were astonished indeed when two hours
since we heard by the din and firing in the streets that you had
captured the city. Truly you English do not suffer the grass to grow
under your feet. When we woke this morning no one dreamed of danger,
and now in the course of one day you have destroyed our fleet, captured
our town, and have our lives and properties at your disposal."
"Your lives are in no danger, senor, and all who choose are free to
depart without harm or hindrance. But as to your property--I don't mean
yours, of course, because as Geoffrey's father-in-law I am sure that
Sir Francis Vere will inflict no fine upon you--but the city generally
will have to pay, I hear, some half million ducats as ransom."
"That is as nothing," the Spaniard said, "to the loss the city will
suffer in the loss of the forty merchant ships which you will doubtless
capture or burn. Right glad am I that no cargo of mine is on board any
of them, for I do not trade with Mexico; but I am sure the value of the
ships with their cargoes cannot be less than twenty millions of ducats.
This will fall upon the traders of this town and of Seville. Still, I
own that the ransom of half-a-million for a city like Cadiz seems to me
to be very moderate, and the tranquillity that already prevails in the
town is beyond all praise. Would that such had been the behaviour of my
countrymen in the Netherlands!"
Don Mendez spoke in a tone of deep depression. Geoffrey made a sign to
his brother to come out on to the balcony, while the merchant took a
seat beside his daughter.
"'Tis best to leave them alone," he said as they looked down into the
street, where the English and their Dutch allies, many of whom had now
landed, were wandering about examining the public buildings and
churches, while the inhabitants looked with timid curiosity from their
windows and balconies at the men who had, as if by magic, suddenly
become their masters. "I can see that the old gentleman is terribly cut
up. Of course, nothing has been said between us yet, for it was not
until we heard the sound of firing in the streets that anyone thought
there was the smallest risk of your capturing the city. Nevertheless,
he must be sure that I shall take this opportunity of returning home.
"It has always been understood between us that I should do so as soon
as any safe method of making a passage could be discovered; but after
being here with him more than three years he had doubtless come to
believe that such a chance would never come during his lifetime, and
the thought of an early separation from his daughter, and the break up
of our household here, must be painful to him in the extreme. It has
been settled that I should still remain partner in the firm, and should
manage our affairs in England and Holland; but this will, of course, be
a comparatively small business until peace is restored, and ships are
free to come and go on both sides as they please. But I think it is
likely he will himself come to live with us in England, and that we
shall make that the headquarters of the firm, employing our ships in
traffic with Holland, France, and the Mediterranean until peace is
restored with Spain, and having only an agent here to conduct such
business as we may be able to carry on under the present stringent
"In point of fact, even if we wound up our affairs and disposed of our
ships, it would matter little to us, for Mendez is a very rich man, and
as Dolores is his only child he has no great motive beyond the
occupation it gives him for continuing in business. So you are a
captain now, Lionel! Have you had a great deal of fighting?"
"Not a great deal. The Spaniards have been too much occupied with their
affairs in France to give us much work to do. In Holland I took part in
the adventure that led to the capture of Breda, did some fighting in
France with the army of Henry of Navarre, and have been concerned in a
good many sieges and skirmishes. I do not know whether you heard of the
death of Robert Vere. He came out just after the business of the
Armada, and fell in the fight the other day near Wesel--a mad business
of Count Philip of Nassau. Horace is serving with his troop. We have
recovered all the cities in the three provinces, and Holland is now
virtually rid of the Spaniards.
"Things have greatly changed since the days of Sluys and Bergen-op-
Zoom. Holland has increased marvellously in strength and wealth. We
have now a splendidly-organized army, and should not fear meeting the
Spaniards in the open field if they would but give the chance to do so
in anything like equal numbers. Sir Francis is marshal of our army
here, and is now considered the ablest of our generals; and he and
Prince Maurice have never yet met with a serious disaster. But how have
you escaped the Inquisition here, Geoffrey? I thought they laid hands
on every heretic?"
"So they do," Geoffrey replied; "but you see they have never dreamed
that I was a heretic. The English, Irish, and Scotchmen here, either
serving in the army or living quietly as exiles, are, of course, all
Catholics, and as they suppose me to be one of them, it does not seem
to have entered their minds that I was a Protestant. Since I have been
here I have gone with my wife and father-in-law to church, and have
said my prayers in my own way while they have said theirs. I cannot say
I have liked it, but as there was no church of my own it did not go
against my conscience to kneel in theirs. I can tell you that, after
being for nearly a couple of years a slave among the Moors, one thinks
less of these distinctions than one used to do. Had the Inquisition
laid hands on me and questioned me, I should at once have declared
myself a Protestant; but as long as I was not questioned I thought it
no harm to go quietly and pay my devotions in a church, even though
there were many things in that church with which I wholly disagreed.
"Dolores and I have talked the matter over often, and have arrived at
the conclusion long since that there is no such great difference
between us as would lead us to hate each other."
"I suppose we generally see matters as we want to, Geoffrey; but it
will be rather a shock to our good father and mother when you bring
them home a Catholic daughter."
"I daresay when she has once settled in England among us, Lionel, she
will turn round to our views on the subject; not that I should ever try
to convert her, but it will likely enough come of itself. Of course,
she has been brought up with the belief that heretics are very terrible
people. She has naturally grown out of that belief now, and is ready to
admit that there may be good heretics as well as good Catholics, which
is a long step for a Spanish woman to take. I have no fear but that the
rest will come in time. At present I have most carefully abstained from
talking with her on the subject. When she is once in England I shall be
able to talk to her freely without endangering her life by doing so."
Upon the following morning Sir Francis Vere breakfasted with Geoffrey,
and then he and Lionel heard the full account of his adventures, and
the manner in which it came about that he was found established as a
merchant in Cadiz.
They then talked over the situation. Sir Francis was much vexed that
the lord-admiral had not complied with the earnest request the Earl of
Essex had sent him, as soon as he landed, to take prompt measures for
the pursuit and capture of the merchant ships. Instead of doing this,
the admiral, considering the force that had landed to be dangerously
weak, had sent large reinforcements on shore as soon as the boats came
off, and the consequence was that at dawn that morning masses of smoke
rising from the Puerto Real showed that the Duke of Medina-Sidonia had
set the merchant ships on fire rather than that they should fall into
the hands of the English.
For a fortnight the captors of Cadiz remained in possession. Senor
Mendez had, upon the day after their entry, discussed the future with
Geoffrey. To the latter's great satisfaction he took it for granted
that his son-in-law would sail with Dolores and the children in the
English fleet, and he at once entered into arrangements with him for
his undertaking the management of the business of the firm in England
"Had I wound up my affairs I should accompany you at once, for Dolores
is everything to me, and you, Geoffrey, have also a large share of my
affection; but this is impossible. We have at present all our fifteen
ships at sea, and these on their return to port would be confiscated at
once were I to leave. Besides, there are large transactions open with
the merchants at Seville and elsewhere. Therefore I must, for the
present at any rate, remain here. I shall incur no odium by your
departure. It will be supposed that you have reconciled yourself with
your government, and your going home will therefore seem only natural;
and it will be seen that I could not, however much I were inclined,
interfere to prevent the departure of Dolores and the children with
"I propose to send on board your ships the greater portion of my goods
here suitable for your market. This, again, will not excite bad
feelings, as I shall say that you as my partner insisted upon your
right to take your share of our merchandise back to England with you,
leaving me as my portion our fleet of vessels. Therefore all will go on
here as before. I shall gradually reduce my business and dispose of the
ships, transmitting my fortune to a banker in Brussels, who will be
able to send it to England through merchants in Antwerp, and you can
purchase vessels to replace those I sell.
"I calculate that it will take me a year to complete all my
arrangements. After that I shall again sail for Italy, and shall come
to England either by sea or by travelling through Germany, as
circumstances may dictate. On arriving in London I shall know where to
find you, for by that time you will be well known there; and at any
rate the bankers to whom my money is sent will be able to inform me of
These arrangements were carried out, and at the departure of the fleet,
Geoffrey, with Dolores and the children, sailed in Sir Francis Vere's
ship the _Rainbow_, Sir Francis having insisted on giving up his
own cabin for the use of Dolores. On leaving Cadiz the town was fired,
and the cathedral, the church of the Jesuits, the nunneries of Santa
Maria and Candelaria, two hundred and ninety houses, and, greatest loss
of all, the library of the Jesuits, containing invaluable manuscripts
respecting the Incas of Peru, were destroyed.
The destruction of the Spanish fleet, and the enormous loss caused by
the burning of Cadiz and the loss of the rich merchant fleet, struck a
terrible blow at the power and resources of Spain. Her trade never
recovered from its effects, and her prestige suffered very greatly in
the eyes of Europe. Philip never rallied from the blow to his pride
inflicted by this humiliation.
Lionel had at first been almost shocked to find that Geoffrey had
married a Spanish woman and a Catholic; but the charming manner of
Dolores, her evident desire to please, and the deep affection with
which she regarded her husband, soon won his heart. He, Sir Francis
Vere, and the other officers and volunteers on board, vied with each
other in attention to her during the voyage; and Dolores, who had
hitherto been convinced that Geoffrey was a strange exception to the
rule that all Englishmen were rough and savage animals, and who looked
forward with much secret dread to taking up her residence among them,
was quite delighted, and assured Geoffrey she was at last convinced
that all she had heard to the disadvantage of his countrymen was wholly
The fleet touched at Plymouth, where the news of the immense success
they had gained was received with great rejoicings; and after taking in
fresh water and stores, they proceeded along the coast and anchored in
the mouth of the Thames. Here the greater part of the fleet was
disbanded, the _Rainbow_ and a few other vessels sailing up to
Greenwich, where the captains and officers were received with great
honour by the queen, and were feasted and made much of by the city.
The brothers, the day after the ship cast anchor, proceeded to town,
and there hired horses for their journey down into Essex. This was
accomplished in two days, Geoffrey riding with Dolores on a pillion
behind him with her baby in her lap, while young Lionel was on the
saddle before his uncle.
When they approached Hedingham Lionel said, "I had best ride forward
Geoffrey to break the news to them of your coming. Although our mother
has always declared that she would not give up hope that you would some
day be restored to us, they have now really mourned you as dead."
"Very well, Lionel. It is but a mile or so; I will dismount and put the
boy up in the saddle and walk beside him, and we shall be in a quarter
of an hour after you."
The delight of Mr. and Mrs. Vickars on hearing Geoffrey was alive and
close at hand was so great that the fact he brought home a Spanish
wife, which would under other circumstances have been a great shock to
them, was now scarcely felt, and when the rapturous greeting with which
he was received on his arrival was over, they welcomed his pretty young
wife with a degree of warmth which fully satisfied him. Her welcome
was, of course, in the first place as Geoffrey's wife, but in a very
short time his father and mother both came to love her for herself, and
Dolores very quickly found herself far happier at Hedingham Rectory
than she had thought she could be away from her native Spain.
The announcement Geoffrey made shortly after his arrival, that he had
altogether abandoned the trade of soldiering, and should in future make
his home in London, trading in conjunction with his father-in-law,
assisted to reconcile them to his marriage. After a fortnight's stay at
Hedingham Geoffrey went up to London, and there took a house in the
city, purchased several vessels, and entered upon business, being
enabled to take at once a good position among the merchants of London,
thanks to the ample funds with which he was provided.
Two months later he went down to Essex and brought up Dolores and the
children, and established them in his new abode.
The apprenticeship he had served in trade at Cadiz enabled Geoffrey to
start with confidence in his business. He at once notified all the
correspondents of the firm in the different ports of Europe, that in
future the business carried on by Signor Juan Mendez at Cadiz would
have its headquarters in London, and that the firm would trade with all
ports with the exception of those of Spain. The result was that before
many months had elapsed there were few houses in London doing a larger
trade with the Continent than that of Mendez and Vickars, under which
title they had traded from the time of Geoffrey's marriage with
THE BATTLE OF NIEUPORT.
The year after the capture of Cadiz, Lionel Vickars sailed under Sir
Francis Vere with the expedition designed to attack the fleet which
Philip of Spain had gathered in Ferrol, with the intention, it was
believed, of invading Ireland in retaliation for the disaster at Cadiz.
The expedition met with terrible weather in the Bay of Biscay, and put
back scattered and disabled to Plymouth and Falmouth. In August they
again sailed, but were so battered by another storm that the expedition
against Ferrol was abandoned, and they sailed to the Azores. There,
after a skirmish with the Spaniards, they scattered among the islands,
but missed the great Spanish fleet laden with silver from the west, and
finally returned to England without having accomplished anything, while
they suffered from another tempest on their way home, and reached
Plymouth with difficulty.
Fortunately the same storm scattered and destroyed the great Spanish
fleet at Ferrol, and the weather thus for the second time saved England
from invasion. Late in the autumn, after his return from the
expedition, Sir Francis Vere went over to Holland, and by his advice
Prince Maurice prepared in December to attack a force of 4000 Spanish
infantry and 600 cavalry, which, under the command of the Count of
Varras, had gathered at the village of Turnhout, twenty miles from
A force of 5000 foot and 800 horse were secretly assembled at
Gertruydenberg. Sir Francis Vere brought an English regiment, and
personally commanded one of the two troops into which the English
cavalry was divided. Sir Robert Sidney came with 300 of the English
garrison at Flushing, and Sir Alexander Murray with a Scotch regiment.
The expedition started on the 23d of January, 1598, and after marching
twenty-four miles reached the village of Rivels, three miles from
Turnhout, two hours after dark.
The night was bitter cold, and after cooking supper the men wrapt
themselves up in their cloaks, and lay down on the frozen ground until
daybreak The delay, although necessary, enabled the enemy to make their
escape. The news that the allies had arrived close at hand reached
Count Varras at midnight, and a retreat was at once ordered. Baggage
waggons were packed and despatched, escorted by the cavalry, and before
dawn the whole force was well on its road. Prince Maurice had set off
an hour before daybreak, and on reaching Turnhout found that the rear-
guard of the enemy had just left the village. They had broken down the
wooden bridge across the River Aa, only one plank being left standing,
and had stationed a party to defend it.
Maurice held a hasty council of war. All, with the exception of Sir
Francis Vere and Sir Marcellus Bacx, were against pursuit, but Maurice
took the advice of the minority. Vere with two hundred Dutch musketeers
advanced against the bridge; his musketry fire drove off the guard, and
with a few mounted officers and the two hundred musketeers he set out
in pursuit. He saw that the enemy's infantry were marching but slowly,
and guessed that they were delayed by the baggage waggons in front.
The country was wooded, and he threw the musketeers among the trees
with orders to keep up a dropping fire, while he himself with sixteen
horsemen followed closely upon the enemy along the road. Their rear-
guard kept up a skirmishing fire, slightly wounding Vere in the leg;
but all this caused delay, and it was three hours before they emerged
on an open heath, three miles from the bridge. Vere placed his
musketeers among some woods and inclosed fields on the left of the
heath, and ordered them to keep up a brisk fire and to show themselves
as if advancing to the attack. He himself, reinforced by some more
horsemen who had come up, continued to follow in the open.
The heath was three miles across, and Vere, constantly skirmishing with
the Spanish infantry, who were formed in four solid squares, kept
watching for the appearance of Maurice and the cavalry. At length these
came in sight. Vere galloped up to the prince, and urged that a charge
should be made at once. The prince assented. Vere, with the English
cavalry, charged down upon the rear of the squares, while Hohenlohe
swept down with the Dutch cavalry upon their flanks. The Spanish
musketeers fired and at once fled, and the cavalry dashed in among the
squares of pikemen and broke them.
Several of the companies of horse galloped on in pursuit of the enemy's
horse and baggage. Vere saw that these would be repulsed, and formed up
the English cavalry to cover their retreat. In a short time the
disordered horse came back at full gallop, pursued by the Spanish
cavalry, but these, seeing Vere's troops ready to receive them,
retreated at once. Count Varras was slain, together with three hundred
of the Spanish infantry. Six hundred prisoners were taken, and thirty-
eight colours fell into the victor's hands.
The success was gained entirely by the eight hundred allied horse, the
infantry never arriving upon the field. The brilliant little victory,
which was one of the first gained by the allies in the open field, was
the cause of great rejoicings. Not only were the Spaniards no longer
invincible, but they had been routed by a force but one-sixth of their
own number, and the battle showed how greatly the individual prowess of
the two peoples had changed during the progress of the war.
The Archduke Ernest had died in 1595, and had been succeeded by the
Archduke Albert in the government of the Netherlands. He had with him
no generals comparable with Parma, or even with Alva. His troops had
lost their faith in themselves and their contempt for their foes.
Holland was grown rich and prosperous, while the enormous expenses of
carrying on the war both in the Netherlands and in France, together
with the loss of the Armada, the destruction of the great fleet at
Ferrol, and the capture of Cadiz and the ships there, had exhausted the
resources of Spain, and Philip was driven to make advances for peace to
France and England. Henry IV., knowing that peace with Spain meant an
end of the civil war that had so long exhausted France, at once
accepted the terms of Philip, and made a separate peace, in spite of
the remonstrances of the ambassadors of England and Holland, to both of
which countries he owed it in no small degree that he had been enabled
to support himself against the faction of the Guises backed by the
power of Spain.
A fresh treaty was made between England and the Netherlands, Sir
Francis Vere being sent out as special ambassador to negotiate. England
was anxious for peace, but would not desert the Netherlands if they on
their part would relieve her to some extent of the heavy expenses
caused by the war. This the States consented to do, and the treaty was
duly signed on both sides. A few days before its conclusion Lord
Burleigh, who had been Queen Elizabeth's chief adviser for forty years,
died, and within a month of its signature Philip of Spain, whose
schemes he had so long opposed, followed him to the grave.
On the 6th of the previous May Philip had formally ceded the
Netherlands to his daughter Isabella, between whom and the Archduke
Albert a marriage had been arranged. This took place on the 18th of
April following, shortly after his death. It was celebrated at
Valencia, and at the same time King Philip III. was united to Margaret
In the course of 1599 there was severe fighting on the swampy island
between the rivers Waal and Maas, known as the Bommel-Waat, and a fresh
attempt at invasion by the Spaniards was repulsed with heavy loss, Sir
Francis Vere and the English troops taking a leading part in the
The success thus gained decided the States-general to undertake an
offensive campaign in the following year. The plan they decided upon
was opposed both by Prince Maurice and Sir Francis Vere as being
altogether too hazardous; but the States, who upon most occasions were
averse to anything like bold action, upon the present occasion stood
firm to their decision. Their plan was to land an army near Ostend,
which was held by the English, and to besiege the town of Nieuport,
west of Ostend, and after that to attack Dunkirk. In the opinion of the
two generals an offensive operation direct from Holland would have been
far preferable, as in case of disaster the army could fall back upon
one of their fortified towns, whereas, if beaten upon the coast, they
might be cut off from Ostend and entirely destroyed. However, their
opinions were overruled, and the expedition prepared.
It consisted of 12,000 infantry, 1600 cavalry, and 10 guns. It was
formed into three divisions. The van, 4500 strong, including 1600
English veterans, was commanded by Sir Francis Vere; the second
division by Count Everard Solms; the rear division by Count Ernest of
Nassau; while Count Louis Gunther of Nassau was in command of the
cavalry. The army embarked at Flushing, and landed at Philippine, a
town at the head of the Braakeman inlet.
There was at the time only a small body of Spaniards in the
neighbourhood, but as soon as the news reached the Archduke Albert at
Brussels he concentrated his army round Ghent.
The troops had for some time been in a mutinous state, but, as was
always the case with them, they returned to their habits of military
obedience the moment danger threatened.
The Dutch army advanced by rapid marches to the neighbourhood of
Ostend, and captured the fort and redoubts which the Spaniards had
raised to prevent its garrison from undertaking offensive operations.
Two thousand men were left to garrison these important positions, which
lay on the line of march which the Spaniards must take coming from
Bruges to Nieuport. The rest of the army then made their way across the
country, intersected with ditches, and upon the following day arrived
before Nieuport and prepared to besiege it. The Dutch fleet had arrived
off the town, and co-operated with the army in building a bridge across
the little river, and preparing for the siege.
Towards the evening, however, the news arrived from Ostend, nine miles
away, that a large force of the enemy had appeared before one of the
forts just captured. Most of the officers were of opinion that the
Spanish force was not a large one, and that it was a mere feint to
induce the Dutch to abandon the siege of Nieuport and return to Ostend.
Sir Francis Vere maintained that it was the main body of the archduke's
army, and advised Maurice to march back at once with his whole force to
attack the enemy before they had time to take the forts.
Later on in the evening, however, two of the messengers arrived with
the news that the forts had surrendered. Prince Maurice then, in
opposition to Vere's advice, sent off 2500 infantry, 500 horse, and 2
guns, under the command of Ernest of Nassau, to prevent the enemy from
crossing the low ground between Ostend and the sand-hills, Vere
insisting that the whole army ought to move. It fell out exactly as he
predicted; the detachment met the whole Spanish army, and broke and
fled at the first fire, and thus 2500 men were lost in addition to the
2000 who had been left to garrison the forts.
At break of day the army marched down to the creek, and as soon as the
water had ebbed sufficiently waded across and took up their position
among the sand-hills on the sea-shore. The enemy's army was already in
sight, marching along on the narrow strip of land between the foot of
the dunes and the sea. A few hundred yards towards Ostend the sand-
hills narrowed, and here Sir Francis Vere took up his position with his
division. He placed a thousand picked men, consisting of 250 English,
250 of Prince Maurice's guard, and 500 musketeers, partly upon two
sand-hills called the East and West Hill, and partly in the bottom
between them, where they were covered by a low ridge connecting the two
The five hundred musketeers were placed so that their fire swept the
ground on the south, by which alone the enemy's cavalry could pass on
that side. On the other ridge, facing the sea, were seven hundred
English pikemen and musketeers; two hundred and fifty English and fifty
of the guard held the position of East Hill, which was most exposed to
the attack. The rest of the division, which consisted of six hundred
and fifty English and two thousand Dutch, were placed in readiness to
reinforce the advanced party. Half the cavalry, under Count Louis, were
on the right of the dunes, and the other half, under Marcellus Bacx, on
the left by the sea.
The divisions of Count Solms and Count Ernest of Nassau were also on
the sea-shore in the rear of West Hill. A council of war was held to
decide whether the army should advance to the attack or await it. Vere
advised the latter course, and his advice was adopted.
The archduke's army consisted of ten thousand infantry, sixteen hundred
horse, and six guns. Marshal Zapena was in command, while the cavalry
were led by the Admiral of Arragon. They rested for two hours before
advancing--waiting until the rise of the tide should render the sands
unserviceable for cavalry, their main reliance being upon their
infantry. Their cavalry led the advance, but the two guns Vere had
placed on West Hill plied them so hotly with shot that they fell back
It was now high tide, and there were but thirty yards between the sea
and the sand-hills. The Spaniards therefore marched their infantry into
the dunes, while the cavalry prepared to advance between the sand-hills
and the cultivated fields inland. The second and third divisions of
Maurice's army also moved away from the shore inland. They now numbered
but three thousand men, as the four thousand five hundred who had been
lost belonged entirely to these divisions, Sir Francis Vere's division
having been left intact. It was upon the first division that the whole
brunt of the battle fell, they receiving some assistance from the
thousand men remaining under Count Solms that were posted next to them;
while the rear division was never engaged at all.
At half-past two o'clock on the afternoon of the 2d of June, 1600, the
battle began. Vere's plan was to hold his advanced position as long as
possible, bring the reserves up as required until he had worn out the
Spaniards, then to send for the other two divisions and to fall upon
them. The company of Lionel Vickars formed part of the three hundred
men stationed on the East Hill, where Vere also had taken up his
position. After an exchange of fire for some time five hundred picked
Spanish infantry rushed across the hollow between the two armies, and
charged the hill. For half-an-hour a desperate struggle took place; the
Spaniards were then obliged to fall back behind some low ridges at its
In the meantime the enemy's cavalry had advanced along the grass-grown
tract, a hundred and fifty yards wide, between the foot of the dunes
and the cultivated country inland. They were received, however, by so
hot a fire by the five hundred musketeers posted by Vere in the sand-
hills on their flank, and by the two cannon on West Hill, that they
fell back upon their infantry just as the Dutch horse, under Count
Louis, advanced to charge them.
Vere sent orders to a hundred Englishmen to move round from the ridge
and to attack the Spaniards who had fallen back from the attack of East
Hill, on their flank, while sixty men charged down the hill and engaged
them in front. The Spaniards broke and fled back to their main body.
Then, being largely reinforced, they advanced and seized a sandy knoll
near West Hill. Here they were attacked by the English, and after a
long and obstinate fight forced to retire. The whole of the Spanish
force now advanced, and tried to drive the English back from their
position on the low ridge across the bottom connecting the two hills.
The seven hundred men were drawn from the north ridge, and as the fight
grew hotter the whole of the sixteen hundred English were brought up.
Vere sent for reinforcements, but none came up, and for hours the
sixteen hundred Englishmen alone checked the advance of the whole of
the Spanish army. Sir Francis Vere was fighting like a private soldier
in the midst of his troops. He received two balls in the leg, but still
kept his seat and encouraged his men. At last the little band,
receiving no aid or reinforcements from the Dutch, were forced to fall
back. As they did so, Vere's horse fell dead under him and partly upon
him, and it was with great difficulty that those around him extricated
him. On reaching the battery on the sands Vere found the thousand Dutch
of his division, who asserted that they had received no orders to
advance. There were also three hundred foot under Sir Horace Vere and
some cavalry under Captain Ball. These and Horace's infantry at once
charged the Spaniards, who were pouring out from the sand-hills near to
the beach, and drove them back.
[Illustration: Vere's horse shot under him at the fight before Ostend.]
The Spaniards had now captured East Hill, and two thousand of their
infantry advanced into the valley beyond, and drove back the musketeers
from the south ridge, and a large force advanced along the green way;
but their movements were slow, for they were worn out by their long
struggle, and the English officers had time to rally their men again.
Horace Vere returned from his charge on the beach, and other companies
rallied and joined him, and charged furiously down upon the two
thousand Spaniards. The whole of the Dutch and English cavalry also
advanced. Solms's thousand men came up and took part in the action, and
the batteries plied the Spaniards with their shot. The latter had done
all they could, and were confounded by this fresh attack when they had
considered the victory as won. In spite of the efforts of their
officers they broke and fled in all directions. The archduke headed
their flight, and never drew rein until he reached Brussels.
Zapena and the Admiral of Arragon were both taken prisoners, and about
a third of the Spanish army killed and wounded. Of the sixteen hundred
English half were killed or wounded; while the rest of the Dutch army
suffered scarcely any loss--a fact that shows clearly to whom the
honour of the victory belongs. Prince Maurice, in his letter to the
queen, attributed his success entirely to the good order and directions
of Sir Francis Vere. Thus, in a pitched battle the English troops met
and defeated an army of six times their strength of the veterans of
Spain, and showed conclusively that the English fighting man had in no
way deteriorated since the days of Agincourt, the last great battle
they had fought upon the Continent.
The battle at Nieuport may be considered to have set the final seal
upon the independence of Holland. The lesson first taught at Turnhout
had now been impressed with crushing force. The Spaniards were no
longer invincible; they had been twice signally defeated in an open
field by greatly inferior forces. Their prestige was annihilated; and
although a war continued, there was no longer the slightest chance that
the result of the long and bloody struggle would be reversed, or that
Spain would ever again recover her grip of the lost provinces.
Sir Francis Vere was laid up for some months with his wounds. Among the
officers who fought under him at Nieuport were several whose names were
to become famous for the part they afterwards bore in the civil
struggle in England. Among others were Fairfax, Ogle, Lambart, and
Parker. Among those who received the honour of knighthood for their
behaviour at the battle was Lionel Vickars. He had been severely
wounded in the fight at East Hill, and was sent home to be cured there.
It was some months before he again took the field, which he did upon
the receipt of a letter from Sir Francis Vere, telling him that the
Spaniards were closing in in great force round Ostend, and that his
company was one of those that had been sent off to aid in the defence
of that town.
During his stay in England he had spent some time with Geoffrey in
London. Juan Mendez had now arrived there, and the business carried on
by him and Geoffrey was flourishing greatly. Dolores had much missed
the outdoor life to which she was accustomed, and her father had bought
a large house with a fine garden in Chelsea; and she and Geoffrey were
now installed there with him, Geoffrey going to and fro from the city
by boat. They had now replaced the Spanish trading vessels by an equal
number of English craft; and at the suggestion of Juan Mendez himself
his name now stood second to that of Geoffrey, for the prejudice
against foreigners was still strong in England.
The succession of blows that had been given to the power and commerce
of Spain had immensely benefited the trade of England and Holland.
France, devastated by civil war, had been in no position to take
advantage of the falling off in Spanish commerce, and had indeed
herself suffered enormously by the emigration of tens of thousands of
the most intelligent of her population owing to her persecution of the
Protestants. Her traders and manufacturers largely belonged to the new
religion, and these had carried their industry and knowledge to England
and Holland. Thus the religious bigotry of the kings of Spain and
France had resulted in enormous loss to the trade and commerce of those
countries, and in corresponding advantage to their Protestant rivals.
Geoffrey Vickars and his partner reaped the full benefit of the change,
and the extensive acquaintance of the Spanish trader with merchants in
all the Mediterranean ports enabled him to turn a large share of the
new current of trade into the hands of Geoffrey and himself. The
capital which he transferred from Spain to England was very much larger
than that employed by the majority of English merchants, whose wealth
had been small indeed in comparison to that of the merchant princes of
the great centres of trade such as Antwerp, Amsterdam, Genoa, and
Cadiz, and Geoffrey Vickars soon came to be looked upon as one of the
leading merchants in the city of London.
"There can be no doubt, Geoffrey," his brother said as he lay on a
couch in the garden in the early days of his convalescence, and looked
at the river dotted with boats that flowed past it, "the falling of
that mast was a fortunate thing for you. One never can tell how things
will turn out. It would have seemed as if, were you not drowned at
once, your lot would have been either a life's work in the Spanish
galleys, or death in the dungeons of the Inquisition. Instead of this,
here you are a wealthy merchant in the city, with a charming wife, and
a father-in-law who is, although a Spaniard, one of the kindest and
best men I ever met. All this time I, who was not knocked over by that
mast, have been drilling recruits, making long marches, and
occasionally fighting battles, and am no richer now than the day when
we started together as Francis Vere's pages. It is true I have received
the honour of knighthood, and that of course I prize much; but I have
only my captain's pay to support my dignity, and as I hardly think
Spain will continue this useless struggle much longer, in which case
our army in Holland will be speedily disbanded, the prospect before me
is not altogether an advantageous one."
"You must marry an heiress, Lionel," Geoffrey laughed. "Surely Sir
Lionel Vickars, one of the heroes of Nieuport, and many another field,
should be able to win the heart of some fair English damsel, with broad
acres as her dower. But seriously, Lionel," he went on, changing his
tone, "if peace come, and with it lack of employment, the best thing
for you will be to join me. Mendez is getting on in years; and although
he is working hard at present, in order, as he says, to set everything
going smoothly and well here, he is looking forward to taking matters
more easily, and to spending his time in tranquil pleasure with Dolores
and her children. Therefore, whensoever it pleases you, there is a
place for you here. We always contemplated our lines running in the
same groove, and I should be glad that they should do so still. When
the time comes we can discuss what share you shall have of the
business; but at any rate I can promise you that it shall be sufficient
to make you a rich man."
"Thank you, with all my heart, Geoffrey. It may be that some day I will
accept your offer, though I fear you will find me but a sorry
assistant. It seems to me that after twelve years of campaigning I am
little fitted for life as a city merchant."
"I went through plenty of adventure for six years, Lionel, but my
father-in-law has from the first been well satisfied with my capacity
for business. You are not seven-and-twenty yet. You have had enough
rough campaigning to satisfy anyone, and should be glad now of an
easier and more sober method of life. Well, there is no occasion to
settle anything at present, and I can well understand that you should
prefer remaining in the army until the war comes to an end. When it
does so, we can talk the matter over again; only be well assured that
the offer will be always open to you, and that I shall be glad indeed
to have you with me."
A few days after Lionel left him Geoffrey was passing along Chepe, when
he stopped suddenly, stared hard at a gentleman who was approaching
him, and then rushed towards him with outstretched hand.
"My dear Gerald!" he exclaimed, "I am glad to see you."
The gentleman started back with an expression of the profoundest
"Is it possible?" he cried. "Is it really Geoffrey Vickars?"
"Myself, and no other, Gerald."
"The saints be praised! Why, I have been thinking of you all these
years as either dead or labouring at an oar in the Moorish galleys. By
what good fortune did you escape? and how is it I find you here,
looking for all the world like a merchant of the city?"
"It is too long a story to tell now, Gerald. Where are you staying?"
"I have lodgings at Westminster, being at present a suitor at court."
"Is your wife with you?"
"She is. I have left my four children at home in Ireland."
"Then bring her to sup with me this evening. I have a wife to introduce
to yours, and as she is also a Spaniard it will doubtless be a pleasure
to them both."
"You astound me, Geoffrey. However, you shall tell me all about it this
evening, for be assured that we shall come. Inez has so often talked
about you, and lamented the ill-fortune that befell you owing to your
"At six o'clock, then," Geoffrey said. "I generally dwell with my
father-in-law at Chelsea, but am just at present at home. My house is
in St. Mary Axe; anyone there will tell you which it is."
That evening the two friends had a long talk together Geoffrey learnt
that Gerald Burke reached Italy without further adventure, and thence
took ship to Bristol, and so crossed over to Ireland. On his petition,
and solemn promise of good behaviour in future, he was pardoned and a
small portion of his estate restored to him. He was now in London
endeavouring to obtain a remission of the forfeiture of the rest.
"I may be able to help you in that," Geoffrey said. "Sir Francis Vere
is high in favour at court, and he will, at my prayer, I feel sure, use
his influence in your favour when I tell him how you acted my friend on
my landing in Spain from the Armada."
Geoffrey then gave an account of his various adventures from the time
when he was struck down from the deck of the Barbary corsair until the
"How was it," he asked when he concluded, "that you did not write to my
parents, Gerald, on your return home? You knew where they lived."
"I talked the matter over with Inez," Gerald replied, "and we agreed
that it was kinder to them to be silent. Of course they had mourned you
as killed in the fight with the Armada. A year had passed, and the
wound must have somewhat healed. Had I told them that you had escaped
death at that time, had been months with me in Spain, and had, on your
way home, been either killed by the Moors or were a prisoner in their
galleys, it would have opened the wound afresh, and caused them renewed
pain and sorrow."
"No doubt you were right, Gerald, and that it was, as you say, the
kindest thing to leave them in ignorance of my fate."
Upon the next visit Sir Francis Vere paid to England, Geoffrey spoke to
him with regard to Gerald Burke's affairs. Sir Francis took the matter
up warmly, and his influence sufficed in a very short time to obtain an
order for the restoration to Gerald of all his estates. Inez and
Dolores became as fast friends as were their husbands; and when the
Burkes came to England Geoffrey's house was their home.
The meeting with Gerald was followed by a still greater surprise, for
not many days after, when Geoffrey was sitting with his wife and Don
Mendez under the shade of a broad cypress in the garden of the
merchant's house at Chelsea, they saw a servant coming across towards
them, followed by a man in seafaring attire. "Here is a person who
would speak to you, Master Vickars," the servant said. "I told him it
was not your custom to see any here, and that if he had aught to say he
should call at your house in St. Mary Axe; but he said that he had but
just arrived from Hedingham, and that your honour would excuse his
intrusion when you saw him."
"Bring him up; he may be the bearer of a message from my father,"
Geoffrey said; and the servant went back to the man, whom he had left a
short distance off.
"Master Vickars will speak with you."
The sailor approached the party. He stood for a minute before Geoffrey
without speaking. Geoffrey looked at him with some surprise, and saw
that the muscles of his face were twitching, and that he was much
agitated. As he looked at him remembrance suddenly flashed upon him,
and he sprang to his feet. "Stephen Boldero!" he exclaimed.
"Ay, ay, Geoffrey, it is me."
For a time the men stood with their right hands clasped and the left on
each other's shoulders. Tears fell down the sailor's weather-beaten
cheeks, and Geoffrey himself was too moved to speak. For two years they
had lived as brothers, had shared each other's toils and dangers, had
talked over their plans and hopes together; and it was to Stephen that
Geoffrey owed it that he was not now a galley-slave in Barbary.
"Old friend, where have you been all this time?" he said at last. "I
had thought you dead, and have grieved sorely for you."
"I have had some narrow escapes," Stephen said; "but you know I am
tough. I am worth a good many dead men yet."
"Inez, Senor Mendez, you both remember Stephen Boldero?" Geoffrey said,
turning to them.
"We have never forgotten you," the Spaniard said, shaking hands with
the sailor, "nor how much we owe to you. I sent out instructions by
every ship that sailed to the Indies that inquiries should be made for
you; and moreover had letters sent by influential friends to the
governors of most of the islands saying that you had done great service
to me and mine, and praying that if you were in any need or trouble you
might be sent back to Cadiz, and that any moneys you required might be
given to you at my charge. But we have heard nought of you from the day
when the news came that you had left the ship in which you went out."
"I have had a rough time of it these five years," Stephen said. "But I
care not now that I am home again and have found my friend Geoffrey. I
arrived in Bristol but last week, and started for London on the day I
landed, mindful of my promise to let his people know that he was safe
and well, and with some faint hope that the capture of Cadiz had set
him at liberty. I got to Hedingham last night, and if I had been a
prince Mr. Vickars and his dame and Sir Lionel could not have made more
of me. They were fain that I should stop with them a day or two; but
when I heard that you were in London and had married Senora Dolores,
and that Senor Mendez was with you--all of which in no way surprised
me, for methought I saw it coming before I left Cadiz--I could not
rest, but was up at daylight this morning. Your brother offered to
procure me a horse, but I should have made bad weather on the craft,
and after walking from Bristol the tramp up to London was nothing. I
got to your house in the city at four; and, finding that you were here,
took a boat at once, for I could not rest until I saw my friend again."
Geoffrey at once took him into the house and set him down to a meal;
and when the party were gathered later on in the sitting-room, and the
candles were lighted, Stephen told his story.
"As you will have heard, we made a good voyage to the Indies. We
discharged our cargo, and took in another. I learned that there were
two English ships cruising near San Domingo, and the Dons were in great
fear of them. I thought that my chance lay in joining them, so when we
were at our nearest port to that island I one night borrowed one of the
ship's boats without asking leave, and made off. I knew the direction
in which San Domingo lay, but no more. My hope was that I should either
fall in with our ships at sea, or, when I made the island, should be
able to gather such information as might guide me to them. When I made
the land, after being four days out, I cruised about till the
provisions and water I had put on board were exhausted, and I could
hold out no longer. Then I made for the island and landed.
"You may be sure I did not make for a port, where I should be
questioned, but ran ashore in a wooded bay that looked as if no one had
ever set foot there before. I dragged the boat up beyond, as I thought,
the reach of the sea, and started to hunt for food and water. I found
enough berries and things to keep me alive, but not enough to stock my
boat for another cruise. A week after I landed there was a tornado, and
when it cleared off and I had recovered from my fright--for the trees
were blown down like rushes, and I thought my last day was come--I
found that the boat was washed away. I was mightily disheartened at
this, and after much thinking made up my mind that there was nought
for it but to keep along the shore until I arrived at a port, and then to
give out that I was a shipwrecked sailor, and either try to get hold of
another boat, or take passage back to Spain and make a fresh start.
However, the next morning, just as I was starting, a number of natives
ran out of the bush and seized me, and carried me away up into the hills.
"It was not pleasant at first, for they lit a big fire and were going
to set me on the top of it, taking me for a Spaniard. Seeing their
intentions, I took to arguing with them, and told them in Spanish that
I was no Spaniard, but an Englishman, and that I had been a slave to
the Spaniards and had escaped. Most of them understood some Spanish,
having themselves been made to work as slaves in their plantations, and
being all runaways from the tyranny of their masters. They knew, of
course, that we were the enemies of the Spaniards, and had heard of
places being sacked and ships taken by us. But they doubted my story
for a long time, till at last one of them brought a crucifix that had
somehow fallen into their hands, and held it up before me. When I
struck it down, as a good Protestant should do, they saw that I was not
of the Spanish religion, and so loosed my bonds and made much of me.
"They could tell me nothing of the whereabouts of our ships, for though
they had seen vessels at times sail by, the poor creatures knew nothing
of the difference of rig between an English craft and a Spaniard. I
abode with them for two years, and aided them in their fights whenever
the Spaniards sent out parties, which they did many times, to capture
them. They were poor, timorous creatures, their spirits being
altogether broken by the tyranny of the Dons; but when they saw that I
feared them not, and was ready at any time to match myself against two
or, if need be, three of the Spaniards, they plucked up heart, and in
time came to fight so stoutly that the Spaniards thought it best to
leave them alone, seeing that we had the advantage of knowing every
foot of the woods, and were able to pounce down upon them when they
were in straitened places and forced to fight at great disadvantage.
"I was regarded as a great chief by the natives, and could have gone on
living with them comfortably enough had not my thoughts been always
turning homeward, and a great desire to be among my own people, from
whom I had been so long separated, devoured me. At last a Spanish ship
was driven ashore in a gale; she went to pieces, and every soul was
drowned. When the gale abated the natives went down to collect the
stores driven ashore, and I found on the beach one of her boats washed
up almost uninjured, so nothing would do but I must sail away in her.
The natives tried their hardest to persuade me to stay with them, but
finding that my mind was fixed beyond recall they gave way and did
their best to aid me. The boat was well stored with provisions; we made
a sail for her out of one belonging to the ship, and I set off,
promising them that if I could not alight upon an English ship I would
return to them.
"I had intended to keep my promise, but things turned out otherwise. I
had not been two days at sea when there was another storm, for at one
time of the year they have tornadoes very frequently. I had nothing to
do but to run for it, casting much of my provisions overboard to
lighten the boat, and baling without ceasing to keep out the water she
took in. After running for many hours I was, somewhere about midnight,
cast on shore. I made a shift to save myself, and in the morning found
that I was on a low key. Here I lived for three weeks. Fortunately
there was water in some of the hollows of the rocks, and as turtles
came ashore to lay their eggs I managed pretty well for a time; but the
water dried up, and for the last week I had nought to drink but the
blood of the turtles. One morning I saw a ship passing not far off, and
making a signal with the mast of the boat that had been washed ashore
with me I attracted their attention. I saw that she was a Spaniard, but
I could not help that, for I had no choice but to hail her. They took me
to Porto Rico and there reported me as a shipwrecked sailor they had
picked up. The governor questioned me closely as to what vessel I
had been lost from, and although I made up a good story he had his
doubts. Fortunately it did not enter his mind that I was not a Spaniard;
but he said he believed I was some bad character who had been
marooned by my comrades for murder or some other crime, and so
put me in prison until he could learn something that would verify my story.
"After three months I was taken out of prison, but was set to work on
the fortifications, and there for another two years I had to stop. Then
I managed to slip away one day, and, hiding till nightfall, made my way
down through the town to the quays and swam out to a vessel at anchor.
I climbed on board without notice, and hid myself below, where I lay
for two days until she got up sail. When I judged she was well away
from the land I went on deck and told my story, that I was a
shipwrecked sailor who had been forced by the governor to work at the
fortifications. They did not believe me, saying that I must be some
criminal who had escaped from justice, and the captain said he should
give me up at the next port the ship touched. Fortunately four days
afterwards a sail hove in sight and gave chase, and before it was dark
was near enough to fire a gun and make us heave to, and a quarter of an
hour later a boat came alongside, and I again heard English spoken for
the first time since I had left you at Cadiz.
"It was an English bucaneer, who, being short of water and fresh
vegetables, had chased us, though seeing we were but a petty trader and
not likely to have aught else worth taking on board. They wondered much
when I discovered myself to them and told them who I was and how I had
come there; and when, on their rowing me on board their ship, I told
the captain my story he told me that he thought I was the greatest liar
he had ever met. To be a galley-slave among the Spaniards, a galley-
slave among the Moors, a consorter with Indians for two years, and
again a prisoner with the Spaniards for as much more, was more than
fell to the lot of any one man, and he, like the Spanish governor,
believed that I was some rascal who had been marooned, only he thought
that it was from an English ship. However, he said that as I was a
stout fellow he would give me another chance; and when, a fortnight
later, we fell in with a great Spanish galleon and captured her with a
great store of prize-money after a hard fight for six hours, the last
of which was passed on the deck of the Spaniard cutting and slashing--
for, being laden with silver, she had a company of troops on board in
addition to her crew--the captain said, that though an astonishing liar
there was no better fellow on board a ship, and, putting it to the
crew, they agreed I had well earned my share of the prize-money. When
we had got the silver on board, which was a heavy job I can tell you,
though not an unpleasant one, we put what Spaniards remained alive into
the boats, fired the galleon, and set sail for England, where we
arrived without adventure. The silver was divided on the day before
we cast anchor, the owner's share being first set aside, every man his
share, and the officers theirs in proportion. Mine came to over a thousand
pounds, and it needed two strong men to carry the chest up to the
office of the owners, who gave me a receipt for it, which, as soon as
I got, I started for London; and here, as you see, I am."
"And now, what do you propose to do with yourself. Stephen?" Geoffrey
"I shall first travel down again to Devonshire and see what friends I
have remaining there. I do not expect to find many alive, for fifteen
years make many changes. My father and mother were both dead before I
started, and my uncle, with whom I lived for a time, is scarce like to
be alive now. Still I may find some cousins and friends I knew as a
"I should think you have had enough of the sea, Stephen, and you have
now ample to live ashore in comfort for the rest of your life."
"Yes, I shall go no more to sea," Stephen said. "Except for this last
stroke of luck fortune has always been against me. What I should like,
Master Geoffrey, most of all, would be to come up and work under you. I
could be of advantage in seeing to the loading and unloading vessels
and the storage of cargo. As for pay, I should not want it, having, as
you say, enough to live comfortably upon. Still I should like to be
"And I should like to have you with me, Stephen. Nothing would give me
greater pleasure. If you are still of that mind when you return from
Devonshire we can again talk the matter over, and as our wishes are
both the same way we can have no difficulty in coming to an agreement."
Stephen Boldero remained for a week in London and then journeyed down
to Devonshire. His idea of entering Geoffrey's service was never
carried out, for after he had been gone two months Geoffrey received a
letter from him saying that one of his cousins, who had been but a
little girl when he went away, had laid her orders upon him to buy a
small estate and settle down there, and that as she was willing to
marry him on no other terms he had nothing to do but to assent.
Once a year, however, regularly to the end of his life Stephen Boldero
came up to London to stay for a fortnight with Geoffrey, always coming
by road, for he declared that he was convinced if he set foot on board
a ship again she would infallibly be wrecked on her voyage to London.
The Siege of Ostend.
On the 5th of July, 1601, the Archduke Albert began the siege of Ostend
with 20,000 men and 50 siege-guns. Ostend had been completely rebuilt
and fortified eighteen years previously, and was defended by ramparts,
counterscarps, and two broad ditches. The sand-hills between it and the
sea were cut through, and the water filled the ditches and surrounded
the town. To the south the country was intersected by a network of
canals. The river Yper-Leet came in at the back of the town, and after
mingling with the salt water in the ditches found its way to the sea
through the channels known as the Old Haven and the Geule, the first on
the west, the second on the east of the town.
On either side of these channels the land rose slightly, enabling the
besiegers to plant their batteries in very advantageous positions. The
garrison at first consisted of but 2000 men under Governor Vander Nood.
The States-general considered the defence of Ostend to be of extreme
importance to the cause, and appointed Sir Francis Vere general of the
army in and about Ostend, and sent with him 600 Dutch troops and eight
companies of English under the command of his brother, Sir Horace. This
raised the garrison to the strength of 3600 men. Sir Francis landed
with these reinforcements on the sands opposite the old town, which
stood near the sea-shore between the Old Haven and the Geule, and was
separated from the new town by a broad channel. He was forced to land
here, as the Spanish guns on the sand-hills commanded the entrances of
the two channels.
[Illustration: OSTEND 1601.]
Sixteen thousand of the Spanish troops under the order of the archduke
were encamped to the west of the town, and had 30 of their siege-guns
in position there, while 4000 men were stationed on the east of the
town under Count Bucquoy. Ten guns were in position on that side.
Ostend had no natural advantages for defence beyond the facility of
letting the sea into the numerous channels and ditches which
intersected the city, and protected it from any operations on the south
side. On the east the Geule was broad and deep, and an assault from
this side was very difficult. The Old Haven, on the west side, was fast
filling up, and was fordable for four hours every tide.
This, therefore, was the weak side of the town. The portion especially
exposed to attack was the low sandy flat on which the old town stood,
to the north of Ostend. It was against this point, separated only from
the enemy's position by the shallow Old Haven, that the Spaniards
concentrated their efforts. The defence here consisted of a work called
the Porc-Espic, and a bastion in its rear called the Helmond. These
works lay to the north of the ditch dividing the old from the new town,
while on the opposite side of this ditch was a fort called the Sand-
hill, from which along the sea face of the town ran strong palisades
The three principal bastions were named the Schottenburg, Moses' Table,
and the Flamenburg, the last-named defending the entrance to the Geule
on the eastern side. There was a strong wall with three bastions, the
North Bulwark, the East Bulwark or Pekell, and the Spanish Bulwark at
the south-east angle, with an outwork called the Spanish Half-moon on
the other side of the Geule. The south side was similarly defended by a
wall with four strong bastions, while beyond these at the south-west
corner lay a field called the Polder, extending to the point where the
Yper-Leet ran into the ditches.
Sir Francis Vere's first step after his arrival was to throw up three
redoubts to strengthen the wall round this field, as had the enemy
taken possession of it they might have set the windmills upon it to
work and have drained out many of the ditches. Having secured this
point he cut a passage to the sea between the North-west Bulwark and
the Flamenburg Fort, so that shipping might enter the port without
having to ascend the Geule, exposed to the fire of the Spanish guns. To
annoy the enemy and draw them away from the vital point near the sea,
he then stationed 200 men on some rising ground surrounded by swamps
and ditches at some distance to the south of the city, and from here
they were able to open fire on the enemy's boats coming with supplies
The operation was successful. The Spaniards, finding their line of
communication threatened, advanced in force from their position by the
sea, and their forts opened a heavy fire on the little work thrown up.
Other similar attempts would have been made to harass the Spaniards and
divert them from their main work, had not Sir Francis Vere been
severely wounded in the head on the 4th of August by a shot from the
Spanish batteries, which continued to keep up a tremendous fire upon
the town. So serious was the wound that the surgeons were of opinion
that the only chance of saving his life was to send him away from the
din and turmoil of the siege; and on the 10th he was taken to
Middelburg, where he remained for a month, returning to Ostend long
before his wound was properly healed.
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