By Pike and Dyke: A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic
Part 1 out of 7
By Pike and Dyke: A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic
by G. A. Henty
This etext was produced by Martin Robb (MartinRobb@ieee.org)
MY DEAR LADS,
In all the pages of history there is no record of a struggle so
unequal, so obstinately maintained, and so long contested as that
by which the men of Holland and Zeeland won their right to worship
God in their own way, and also -- although this was but a secondary
consideration with them -- shook off the yoke of Spain and achieved
their independence. The incidents of the contest were of a singularly
dramatic character. Upon one side was the greatest power of the
time, set in motion by a ruthless bigot, who was determined either
to force his religion upon the people of the Netherlands, or
to utterly exterminate them. Upon the other were a scanty people,
fishermen, sailors, and agriculturalists, broken up into communities
with but little bond of sympathy, and no communication, standing
only on the defensive, and relying solely upon the justice of their
cause, their own stout hearts, their noble prince, and their one
ally, the ocean. Cruelty, persecution, and massacre had converted
this race of peace loving workers into heroes capable of the most
sublime self sacrifices. Women and children were imbued with a
spirit equal to that of the men, fought as stoutly on the walls,
and died as uncomplainingly from famine in the beleaguered towns.
The struggle was such a long one that I have found it impossible
to recount all the leading events in the space of a single volume;
and, moreover, before the close, my hero, who began as a lad, would
have grown into middle age, and it is an established canon in books
for boys that the hero must himself be young. I have therefore
terminated the story at the murder of William of Orange, and hope
in another volume to continue the history, and to recount the
progress of the war, when England, after years of hesitation, threw
herself into the fray, and joined Holland in its struggle against
the power that overshadowed all Europe, alike by its ambition and
its bigotry. There has been no need to consult many authorities.
Motley in his great work has exhausted the subject, and for all
the historical facts I have relied solely upon him.
Yours very sincerely, G. A. HENTY
THE "GOOD VENTURE"
Rotherhithe in the year of 1572 differed very widely from the
Rotherhithe of today. It was then a scattered village, inhabited
chiefly by a seafaring population. It was here that the captains
of many of the ships that sailed from the port of London had their
abode. Snug cottages with trim gardens lay thickly along the banks
of the river, where their owners could sit and watch the vessels
passing up and down or moored in the stream, and discourse with
each other over the hedges as to the way in which they were handled,
the smartness of their equipage, whence they had come, or where
they were going. For the trade of London was comparatively small
in those days, and the skippers as they chatted together could form
a shrewd guess from the size and appearance of each ship as to the
country with which she traded, or whether she was a coaster working
the eastern or southern ports.
Most of the vessels, indeed, would be recognized and the captains
known, and hats would be waved and welcomes or adieus shouted as
the vessels passed. There was something that savoured of Holland
in the appearance of Rotherhithe; for it was with the Low Countries
that the chief trade of England was carried on; and the mariners
who spent their lives in journeying to and fro between London and
the ports of Zeeland, Friesland, and Flanders, who for the most part
picked up the language of the country, and sometimes even brought
home wives from across the sea, naturally learned something from
their neighbours. Nowhere, perhaps, in and about London were the
houses so clean and bright, and the gardens so trimly and neatly
kept, as in the village of Rotherhithe, and in all Rotherhithe not
one was brighter and more comfortable than the abode of Captain
It was low and solid in appearance; the wooden framework was
unusually massive, and there was much quaint carving on the beams.
The furniture was heavy and solid, and polished with beeswax until
it shone. The fireplaces were lined with Dutch tiles; the flooring
was of oak, polished as brightly as the furniture. The appointments
from roof to floor were Dutch; and no wonder that this was so, for
every inch of wood in its framework and beams, floor and furniture,
and had been brought across from Friesland by William Martin in
his ship, the Good Venture. It had been the dowry he received with
his pretty young wife, Sophie Plomaert.
Sophie was the daughter of a well-to-do worker in wood near
Amsterdam. She was his only daughter, and although he had nothing
to say against the English sailor who had won her heart, and who
was chief owner of the ship he commanded, he grieved much that
she should leave her native land; and he and her three brothers
determined that she should always bear her former home in her
recollection. They therefore prepared as her wedding gift a facsimile
of the home in which she had been born and bred. The furniture
and framework were similar in every particular, and it needed only
the insertion of the brickwork and plaster when it arrived. Two of
her brothers made the voyage in the Good Venture, and themselves
put the framework, beams, and flooring together, and saw to the
completion of the house on the strip of ground that William Martin
had purchased on the bank of the river.
Even a large summer house that stood at the end of the garden was a
reproduction of that upon the bank of the canal at home; and when
all was completed and William Martin brought over his bride she
could almost fancy that she was still at home near Amsterdam. Ever
since, she had once a year sailed over in her husband's ship, and
spent a few weeks with her kinsfolk. When at home from sea the great
summer house was a general rendezvous of William Martin's friends
in Rotherhithe, all skippers like himself, some still on active
service, others, who had retired on their savings; not all, however,
were fortunate enough to have houses on the river bank; and the
summer house was therefore useful not only as a place of meeting
but as a lookout at passing ships.
It was a solidly built structure, inclosed on the land side but open
towards the river, where, however, there were folding shutters, so
that in cold weather it could be partially closed up, though still
affording a sight of the stream. A great Dutch stove stood in one
corner, and in this in winter a roaring fire was kept up. There
were few men in Rotherhithe so well endowed with this world's goods
as Captain Martin. His father had been a trader in the city, but
William's tastes lay towards the sea rather than the shop, and as
he was the youngest of three brothers he had his way in the matter.
When he reached the age of twenty-three his father died, and with
his portion of the savings William purchased the principal share
of the Good Venture, which ship he had a few months before come to
When he married he had received not only his house but a round sum
of money as Sophie's portion. With this he could had he liked have
purchased the other shares of the Good Venture; but being, though
a sailor, a prudent man, he did not like to put all his eggs into
one basket, and accordingly bought with it a share in another ship.
Three children had been born to William and Sophie Martin -- a boy
and two girls. Edward, who was the eldest, was at the time this
story begins nearly sixteen. He was an active well built young
fellow, and had for five years sailed with his father in the Good
Venture. That vessel was now lying in the stream a quarter of
a mile higher up, having returned from a trip to Holland upon the
previous day. The first evening there had been no callers, for it
was an understood thing at Rotherhithe that a captain on his return
wanted the first evening at home alone with his wife and family; but
on the evening of the second day, when William Martin had finished
his work of seeing to the unloading of his ship, the visitors
began to drop in fast, and the summer house was well nigh as full
as it could hold. Mistress Martin, who was now a comely matron
of six-and-thirty, busied herself in seeing that the maid and her
daughters, Constance and Janet, supplied the visitors with horns
of home brewed beer, or with strong waters brought from Holland
for those who preferred them.
"You have been longer away than usual, Captain Martin," one of the
"Yes," the skipper replied. "Trade is but dull, and though the Good
Venture bears a good repute for speed and safety, and is seldom
kept lying at the wharves for a cargo, we were a week before she
was chartered. I know not what will be the end of it all. I verily
believe that no people have ever been so cruelly treated for their
conscience' sake since the world began; for you know it is not against
the King of Spain but against the Inquisition that the opposition
has been made. The people of the Low Countries know well enough
it would be madness to contend against the power of the greatest
country in Europe, and to this day they have borne, and are bearing,
the cruelty to which they are exposed in quiet despair, and without
a thought of resistance to save their lives. There may have been
tumults in some of the towns, as in Antwerp, where the lowest part
of the mob went into the cathedrals and churches and destroyed the
shrines and images; but as to armed resistance to the Spaniards,
there has been none.
"The first expeditions that the Prince of Orange made into the
country were composed of German mercenaries, with a small body of
exiles. They were scarce joined by any of the country folk. Though,
as you know, they gained one little victory, they were nigh all
killed and cut to pieces. So horrible was the slaughter perpetrated
by the soldiers of the tyrannical Spanish governor Alva, that when
the Prince of Orange again marched into the country not a man joined
him, and he had to fall back without accomplishing anything. The
people seemed stunned by despair. Has not the Inquisition condemned
the whole of the inhabitants of the Netherlands -- save only a few
persons specially named -- to death as heretics? and has not Philip
confirmed the decree, and ordered it to be carried into instant
execution without regard to age or sex? Were three millions of men,
women, and children ever before sentenced to death by one stroke
of the pen, only because they refused to change their religion?
Every day there are hundreds put to death by the orders of Alva's
Blood Council, as it is called, without even the mockery of a
There was a general murmur of rage and horror from the assembled
"Were I her queen's majesty," an old captain said, striking his fist
on the table, "I would declare war with Philip of Spain tomorrow,
and would send every man who could bear arms to the Netherlands to
aid the people to free themselves from their tyrants.
"Ay, and there is not a Protestant in this land but would go
willingly. To think of such cruelty makes the blood run through
my veins as if I were a lad again. Why, in Mary's time there were
two or three score burnt for their religion here in England, and we
thought that a terrible thing. But three millions of people! Why,
it is as many as we have got in all these islands! What think you
of this mates?"
"It is past understanding," another old sailor said. "It is too
awful for us to take in."
"It is said," another put in, "that the King of France has leagued
himself with Philip of Spain, and that the two have bound themselves
to exterminate the Protestants in all their dominions, and as that
includes Spain, France, Italy, the Low Countries, and most of
Germany, it stands to reason as we who are Protestants ought to
help our friends; for you may be sure, neighbours, that if Philip
succeeds in the Low Countries he will never rest until he has tried
to bring England under his rule also, and to plant the Inquisition
with its bonfires and its racks and tortures here."
An angry murmur of assent ran round the circle.
"We would fight them, you may be sure," Captain Martin said, "to
the last; but Spain is a mighty power, and all know that there are
no soldiers in Europe can stand against their pikemen. If the Low
Countries, which number as many souls as we, cannot make a stand
against them with all their advantages of rivers, and swamps, and
dykes, and fortified towns, what chance should we have who have
none of these things? What I say, comrades, is this: we have got
to fight Spain -- you know the grudge Philip bears us -- and it is
far better that we should go over and fight the Spaniards in the
Low Countries, side by side with the people there, and with all the
advantages that their rivers and dykes give, and with the comfort
that our wives and children are safe here at home, than wait till
Spain has crushed down the Netherlands and exterminated the people,
and is then able, with France as her ally, to turn her whole strength
against us. That's what I say."
"And you say right, Captain Martin. If I were the queen's majesty
I would send word to Philip tomorrow to call off his black crew
of monks and inquisitors. The people of the Netherlands have no
thought of resisting the rule of Spain, and would be, as they have
been before, Philip's obedient subjects, if he would but leave
their religion alone. It's the doings of the Inquisition that have
driven them to despair. And when one hears what you are telling us,
that the king has ordered the whole population to be exterminated
-- man, woman, and child -- no wonder they are preparing to fight
to the last; for it's better to die fighting a thousand times, than
it is to be roasted alive with your wife and children!"
"I suppose the queen and her councillors see that if she were to
meddle in this business it might cost her her kingdom, and us our
liberty," another captain said. "The Spaniards could put, they say,
seventy or eighty thousand trained soldiers in the field, while,
except the queen's own bodyguard, there is not a soldier in England;
while their navy is big enough to take the fifteen or twenty ships
the queen has, and to break them up to burn their galley fires."
"That is all true enough," Captain Martin agreed; "but our English
men have fought well on the plains of France before now, and I don't
believe we should fight worse today. We beat the French when they
were ten to one against us over and over, and what our fathers did
we can do. What you say about the navy is true also. They have a
big fleet, and we have no vessels worth speaking about, but we are
as good sailors as the Spaniards any day, and as good fighters;
and though I am not saying we could stop their fleet if it came
sailing up the Thames, I believe when they landed we should show
them that we were as good men as they. They might bring seventy
thousand soldiers, but there would be seven hundred thousand
Englishmen to meet; and if we had but sticks and stones to fight
with, they would not find that they would have an easy victory."
"Yes, that's what you think and I think, neighbour; but, you see,
we have not got the responsibility of it. The queen has to think
for us all. Though I for one would be right glad if she gave the
word for war, she may well hesitate before she takes a step that
might bring ruin, and worse than ruin, upon all her subjects.
We must own, too, that much as we feel for the people of the Low
Countries in their distress, they have not always acted wisely.
That they should take up arms against these cruel tyrants, even
if they had no chance of beating them, is what we all agree would
be right and natural; but when the mob of Antwerp broke into the
cathedral, and destroyed the altars and carvings, and tore up the
vestments, and threw down the Manes and the saints, and then did the
same in the other churches in the town and in the country round,
they behaved worse than children, and showed themselves as intolerant
and bigoted as the Spaniards themselves. They angered Philip beyond
hope of forgiveness, and gave him something like an excuse for his
cruelties towards them."
"Ay, ay, that was a bad business," Captain Martin agreed; "a very
bad business, comrade. And although these things were done by a mere
handful of the scum of the town the respectable citizens raised no
hand to stop it, although they can turn out the town guard readily
enough to put a stop to a quarrel between the members of two of
the guilds. There were plenty of men who have banded themselves
together under the name of 'the beggars,' and swore to fight for
their religion, to have put these fellows down if they had chosen.
They did not choose, and now Philip's vengeance will fall on them
"Well, what think you of this business, Ned?" one of the captains
said, turning to the lad who was standing in a corner, remaining, as
in duty bound, silent in the presence of his elders until addressed.
"Were I a Dutchman, and living under such a tyranny," Ned said
passionately, "I would rise and fight to the death rather than see
my family martyred. If none other would rise with me, I would take
a sword and go out and slay the first Spaniard I met, and again
another, until I was killed."
"Bravo, Ned! Well spoken, lad!" three or four of the captains said;
but his father shook his head.
"Those are the words of hot youth, Ned; and were you living there
you would do as the others -- keep quiet till the executioners
came to drag you away, seeing that did you, as you say you would,
use a knife against a Spaniard, it would give the butchers a pretext
for the slaughtering of hundreds of innocent people."
The lad looked down abashed at the reproof, then he said: "Well,
father, if I could not rise in arms or slay a Spaniard and then
be killed, I would leave my home and join the sea beggars under La
"There is more reason in that," his father replied; "though La
Marck is a ferocious noble, and his followers make not very close
inquiry whether the ships they attack are Spanish or those of other
people. Still it is hard for a man to starve; and when time passes
and they can light upon no Spanish merchantmen, one cannot blame
them too sorely if they take what they require out of some other
passing ship. But there is reason at the bottom of what you say.
Did the men of the sea coast, seeing that their lives and those of
their families are now at the mercy of the Spaniards, take to their
ships with those dear to them and continually harass the Spaniards,
they could work them great harm, and it would need a large fleet to
overpower them, and that with great difficulty, seeing that they
know the coast and all the rivers and channels, and could take
refuge in shallows where the Spaniards could not follow them. At
present it seems to me the people are in such depths of despair,
that they have not heart for any such enterprise. But I believe that
some day or other the impulse will be given -- some more wholesale
butchery than usual will goad them to madness, or the words of some
patriot wake them into action, and then they will rise as one man
and fight until utterly destroyed, for that they can in the end
triumph over Spain is more than any human being can hope."
"Then they must be speedy about it, friend Martin," another said.
"They say that eighty thousand have been put to death one way
or another since Alva came into his government. Another ten years
and there will be scarce an able bodied man remaining in the Low
Country. By the way, you were talking of the beggars of the sea.
Their fleet is lying at present at Dover, and it is said that the
Spanish ambassador is making grave complaints to the queen on the
part of his master against giving shelter to these men, whom he
brands as not only enemies of Spain, but as pirates and robbers of
"I was talking with Master Sheepshanks," another mariner put in,
"whose ships I sailed for thirty years, and who is an alderman and
knows what is going on, and he told me that from what he hears it
is like enough that the queen will yield to the Spanish request. So
long as she chooses to remain friends with Spain openly, whatever
her thoughts and opinions may be, she can scarcely allow her ports
to be used by the enemies of Philip. It must go sorely against
her high spirit; but till she and her council resolve that England
shall brave the whole strength of Spain, she cannot disregard the
remonstrances of Philip. It is a bad business, neighbours, a bad
business; and the sooner it comes to an end the better. No one
doubts that we shall have to fight Spain one of these days, and
I say that it were better to fight while our brethren of the Low
Countries can fight by our side, than to wait till Spain, having
exterminated them, can turn her whole power against us."
There was a general chorus of assent, and then the subject changed
to the rates of freight to the northern ports. The grievous need for
the better marking of shallows and dangers, the rights of seamen,
wages, and other matters, were discussed until the assembly broke
up. Ned's sisters joined him in the garden.
"I hear, Constance," the boy said to the elder, "there has been no
news from our grandfather and uncles since we have been away."
"No word whatever, Ned. Our mother does not say much, but I know
she is greatly troubled and anxious about it."
"That she may well be, Constance, seeing that neither quiet conduct
nor feebleness nor aught else avail to protect any from the rage
of the Spaniards. You who stay at home here only hear general tales
of the cruelties done across the sea, but if you heard the tales
that we do at their ports they would drive you almost to madness.
Not that we hear much, for we have to keep on board our ships, and
may not land or mingle with the people; but we learn enough from
the merchants who come on board to see about the landing of their
goods to make our blood boil. They do right to prevent our landing;
for so fired is the sailors' blood by these tales of massacre, that
were they to go ashore they would, I am sure, be speedily embroiled
with the Spaniards.
"You see how angered these friends of our father are who are
Englishmen, and have no Dutch blood in their veins, and who feel
only because they are touched by these cruelties, and because
the people of the Low Country are Protestants; but with us it is
different, our mother is one of these persecuted people, and we
belong to them as much as to England. We have friends and relations
there who are in sore peril, and who may for aught we know have
already fallen victims to the cruelty of the Spaniards. Had I
my will I would join the beggars of the sea, or I would ship with
Drake or Cavendish and fight the Spaniards in the Indian seas. They
say that there Englishmen are proving themselves better men than
these haughty dons."
"It is very sad," Constance said; "but what can be done?"
"Something must be done soon," Ned replied gloomily. "Things cannot
go on as they are. So terrible is the state of things, so heavy the
taxation, that in many towns all trade is suspended. In Brussels,
I hear, Alva's own capital, the brewers have refused to brew, the
bakers to bake, the tapsters to draw liquors. The city swarms with
multitudes of men thrown out of employment. The Spanish soldiers
themselves have long been without pay, for Alva thinks of nothing
but bloodshed. Consequently they are insolent to their officers, care
little for order, and insult and rob the citizens in the streets.
Assuredly something must come of this ere long; and the people's
despair will become a mad fury. If they rise, Constance, and my
father does not say nay, I will assuredly join them and do my best.
"I do not believe that the queen will forbid her subjects to give
their aid to the people of the Netherlands; for she allowed many to
fight in France for Conde and the Protestants against the Guises,
and she will surely do the same now, since the sufferings of our
brothers in the Netherlands have touched the nation far more keenly
than did those of the Huguenots in France. I am sixteen now, and
my father says that in another year he will rate me as his second
mate, and methinks that there are not many men on board who can pull
more strongly a rope, or work more stoutly at the capstan when we
heave our anchor. Besides, as we all talk Dutch as well as English,
I should be of more use than men who know nought of the language
of the country."
Constance shook her head. "I do not think, Ned, that our father
would give you leave, at any rate not until you have grown up into
a man. He looks to having you with him, and to your succeeding
him some day in the command of the Good Venture, while he remains
quietly at home with our mother."
Ned agreed with a sigh. "I fear that you are right, Constance, and
that I shall have to stick to my trade of sailoring; but if the
people of the Netherlands rise against their tyrants, it would be
hard to be sailing backwards and forwards doing a peaceful trade
between London and Holland whilst our friends and relatives are
battling for their lives."
A fortnight later, the Good Venture filled up her hold with a cargo
for Brill, a port where the united Rhine, Waal, and Maas flow into
the sea. On the day before she sailed a proclamation was issued
by the queen forbidding any of her subjects to supply De la Marck
and his sailors with meat, bread, or beer. The passage down the
river was slow, for the winds were contrary, and it was ten days
afterwards, the 31st of March, when they entered the broad mouth
of the river and dropped anchor off the town of Brill. It was late
in the evening when they arrived. In the morning an officer came
off to demand the usual papers and documents, and it was not until
nearly two o'clock that a boat came out with the necessary permission
for the ship to warp up to the wharves and discharge her cargo.
Just as Captain Martin was giving the order for the capstan bars
to be manned, a fleet of some twenty-four ships suddenly appeared
round the seaward point of the land.
"Wait a moment, lads," the captain said, "half an hour will make no
great difference in our landing. We may as well wait and see what
is the meaning of this fleet. They do not look to me to be Spaniards,
nor seem to be a mere trading fleet. I should not wonder if they
are the beggars of the sea, who have been forced to leave Dover,
starved out from the effect of the queen's proclamation, and have
now come here to pick up any Spaniard they may meet sailing out."
The fleet dropped anchor at about half a mile from the town. Just
as they did so, a ferryman named Koppelstok, who was carrying
passengers across from the town of Maaslandluis, a town on the
opposite bank a mile and a half away, was passing close by the Good
"What think you of yon ships?" the ferryman shouted to Captain
"I believe they must be the beggars of the sea," the captain replied.
"An order had been issued before I left London that they were not
to be supplied with provisions, and they would therefore have had
to put out from Dover. This may well enough be them."
An exclamation of alarm broke from the passengers, for the sea
beggars were almost as much feared by their own countrymen as by the
Spaniards, the latter having spared no pains in spreading tales to
their disadvantage. As soon as the ferryman had landed his passengers
he rowed boldly out towards the fleet, having nothing of which he
could be plundered, and being secretly well disposed towards the
beggars. The first ship he hailed was that commanded by William
de Blois, Lord of Treslong, who was well known at Brill, where his
father had at one time been governor.
His brother had been executed by the Duke of Alva four years before,
and he had himself fought by the side of Count Louis of Nassau,
brother to the Prince of Orange, in the campaign that had terminated
so disastrously, and though covered with wounds had been one of
the few who had escaped from the terrible carnage that followed the
defeat at Jemmingen. After that disaster he had taken to the sea,
and was one of the most famous of the captains of De la Marck, who
had received a commission of admiral from the Prince of Orange.
"We are starving, Koppelstok; can you inform us how we can get some
food? We have picked up two Spanish traders on our way here from
Dover, but our larders were emptied before we sailed, and we found
but scant supply on board our prizes."
"There is plenty in the town of Brill," the ferryman said; "but none
that I know of elsewhere. That English brig lying there at anchor
may have a few loaves on board."
"That will not be much," William de Blois replied, "among five
hundred men, still it will be better than nothing. Will you row
and ask them if they will sell to us?"
"You had best send a strongly armed crew," Koppelstok replied.
"You know the English are well disposed towards us, and the captain
would doubtless give you all the provisions he had to spare; but to
do so would be to ruin him with the Spaniards, who might confiscate
his ship. It were best that you should make a show of force, so
that he could plead that he did but yield to necessity."
Accordingly a boat with ten men rowed to the brig, Koppelstok
accompanying it. The latter climbed on to the deck.
"We mean you no harm, captain," he said; "but the men on board these
ships are well nigh starving. The Sieur de Treslong has given me
a purse to pay for all that you can sell us, but thinking that you
might be blamed for having dealings with him by the authorities of
the town, he sent these armed men with me in order that if questioned
you could reply that they came forcibly on board."
"I will willingly let you have all the provisions I have on board,"
Captain Martin said; "though these will go but a little way among
so many, seeing that I only carry stores sufficient for consumption
on board during my voyages."
A cask of salt beef was hoisted up on deck, with a sack of biscuits,
four cheeses, and a side of bacon. Captain Martin refused any
"No," he said, "my wife comes from these parts, and my heart is with
the patriots. Will you tell Sieur de Treslong that Captain Martin
of the Good Venture is happy to do the best in his power for him
and his brave followers. That, Ned," he observed, turning to his
son as the boat rowed away, "is a stroke of good policy. The value
of the goods is small, but just at this moment they are worth much
to those to whom I have given them. In the first place, you see,
we have given aid to the good cause, in the second we have earned
the gratitude of the beggars of the sea, and I shall be much more
comfortable if I run among them in the future than I should have
done in the past. The freedom to come and go without molestation
by the sea beggars is cheaply purchased at the price of provisions
which do not cost many crowns."
On regaining the Sieur de Treslong's ship some of the provisions
were at once served out among the men, and the rest sent off among
other ships, and William de Blois took Koppelstok with him on board
the admiral's vessel.
"Well, De Blois, what do you counsel in this extremity?" De la
"I advise," the Lord of Treslong replied, "that we at once send a
message to the town demanding its surrender."
"Are you joking or mad, Treslong?" the admiral asked in surprise.
"Why, we can scarce muster four hundred men, and the town is well
walled and fortified."
"There are no Spanish troops here, admiral, and if we put a bold
front on the matter we may frighten the burghers into submission.
This man says he would be willing to carry the summons. He says the
news as to who we are has already reached them by some passengers
he landed before he came out, and he doubts not they are in a rare
"Well, we can try," the admiral said, laughing; "it is clear we
must eat, even if we have to fight for it; and hungry as we all
are, we do not want to wait."
Treslong gave his ring to Koppelstok to show as his authority, and
the fisherman at once rowed ashore. Stating that the beggars of
the sea were determined to take the town, he made his way through
the crowd of inhabitants who had assembled at the landing place,
and then pushed on to the town hall, where the magistrates were
assembled. He informed them that he had been sent by the Admiral of
the Fleet and the Lord of Treslong, who was well known to them, to
demand that two commissioners should be sent out to them on behalf
of the city to confer with him. The only object of those who sent
him was to free the land from the crushing taxes, and to overthrow
the tyranny of Alva and the Spaniards. He was asked by the magistrates
what force De la Marck had at his disposal, and replied carelessly
that he could not say exactly, but that there might be five thousand
This statement completed the dismay that had been caused at the
arrival of the fleet. The magistrates agreed that it would be madness
to resist, and determined to fly at once. With much difficulty two
of them were persuaded to go out to the ship as deputies, and as
soon as they set off most of the leading burghers prepared instantly
for flight. The deputies on arriving on board were assured that no
injury was intended to the citizens or private property, but only
the overthrow of Alva's government, and two hours were given them
to decide upon the surrender of the town.
During this two hours almost all the inhabitants left the town,
taking with them their most valuable property. At the expiration of
the time the beggars landed. A few of those remaining in the city
made a faint attempt at resistance; but Treslong forced an entrance
by the southern gate, and De la Marck made a bonfire against the
northern gate and then battered it down with the end of an old
mast. Thus the patriots achieved the capture of the first town, and
commenced the long war that was to end only with the establishment
of the Free Republic of the Netherlands. No harm was done to such
of the inhabitants of the town as remained. The conquerors established
themselves in the best of the deserted houses; they then set to work
to plunder the churches. The altars and images were all destroyed;
the rich furniture, the sacred vessels, and the gorgeous vestments
were appropriated to private use. Thirteen unfortunates, among
them some priests who had been unable to effect their escape, were
seized and put to death by De la Marck.
He had received the strictest orders from the Prince of Orange to
respect the ships of all neutral nations, and to behave courteously
and kindly to all captives he might take. Neither of these injunctions
were obeyed. De la Marck was a wild and sanguinary noble; he had
taken a vow upon hearing of the death of his relative, the Prince
of Egmont, who had been executed by Alva, that he would neither
cut his hair nor his beard until that murder should be revenged,
and had sworn to wreak upon Alva and upon Popery the deep vengeance
that the nobles and peoples of the Netherlands owed them. This vow
he kept to the letter, and his ferocious conduct to all priests
and Spaniards who fell into his hands deeply sullied the cause for
which he fought.
Upon the day after the capture of the city, the Good Venture went
into the port. The inhabitants, as soon as they learned that the
beggars of the sea respected the life and property of the citizens,
returned in large numbers, and trade was soon re-established.
Having taken the place, and secured the plunder of the churches
and monasteries, De la Marck would have sailed away upon other
excursions had not the Sieur de Treslong pointed out to him the
importance of Brill to the cause, and persuaded him to hold the
place until he heard from the Prince of Orange.
A few days after Brill had been so boldly captured, Count Bossu
advanced from Utrecht against it. The sea beggars, confident as
they were as to their power of meeting the Spaniards on the seas,
knew that on dry land they were no match for the well trained
pikemen; they therefore kept within the walls. A carpenter, however,
belonging to the town, who had long been a secret partisan of the
Prince of Orange, seized an axe, dashed into the water, and swam
to the sluice and burst open the gates with a few sturdy blows.
The sea poured in and speedily covered the land on the north side
of the city.
The Spaniards advanced along the dyke to the southern gate, but
the sea beggars had hastily moved most of the cannon on the wall
to that point, and received the Spaniards with so hot a fire that
they hesitated. In the meantime the Lord of Treslong and another
officer had filled two boats with men and rowed out to the ships
that had brought the enemy, cut some adrift, and set others on fire.
The Spaniards at the southern gate lost heart; they were exposed
to a hot fire, which they were unable to return. On one side they
saw the water rapidly rising above the level of the dyke on which
they stood, on the other they perceived their only means of retreat
threatened. They turned, and in desperate haste retreated along
the causeway now under water. In their haste many slipped off the
road and were drowned, others fell and were smothered in the water,
and the rest succeeded in reaching such of the vessels as were
still untouched, and with all speed returned to Utrecht.
From the highest point of the masts to which they could climb,
Captain Martin, Ned, and the crew watched the struggle. Ned had
begged his father to let him go along the walls to the south gate
to see the conflict, but Captain Martin refused.
"We know not what the upshot of the business may be," he said. "If
the Spaniards, which is likely enough, take the place, they will
slaughter all they meet, and will not trouble themselves with
questioning anyone whether he is a combatant or a spectator. Besides,
when they have once taken the town, they will question all here,
and it would be well that I should be able to say that not only
did we hold ourselves neutral in the affair, but that none of my
equipage had set foot on shore today. Lastly, it is my purpose and
hope if the Spaniards capture the place, to take advantage of the
fact that all will be absorbed in the work of plunder, and to slip
my hawsers and make off. Wind and tide are both favourable, and
doubtless the crews of their ships will, for the most part, land
to take part in the sack as soon as the town is taken."
However, as it turned out, there was no need of these precautions;
the beggars were victorious and the Spaniards in full flight,
and great was the rejoicing in Brill at this check which they had
inflicted upon their oppressors. Bossu, retiring from Brill, took
his way towards Rotterdam. He found its gates closed; the authorities
refused to submit to his demands or to admit a garrison. They
declared they were perfectly loyal, and needed no body of Spanish
troops to keep them in order. Bossu requested permission for his
troops to pass through the city without halting. This was granted
by the magistrates on condition that only a corporal's company should
be admitted at a time. Bossu signed an agreement to this effect.
But throughout the whole trouble the Spaniards never once respected
the conditions they had made and sworn to with the inhabitants,
and no sooner were the gates opened than the whole force rushed in,
and the usual work of slaughter, atrocity, and plunder commenced.
Within a few minutes four hundred citizens were murdered, and
countless outrages and cruelties perpetrated upon the inhabitants.
Captain Martin completed the discharging of his cargo two days after
Bossu made his ineffectual attempt upon the town. A messenger had
arrived that morning from Flushing, with news that as soon as the
capture of Brill had become known in that seaport, the Seigneur de
Herpt had excited the burghers to drive the small Spanish garrison
from the town.
Scarcely had they done so when a large reinforcement of the enemy
arrived before the walls, having been despatched there by Alva, to
complete the fortress that had been commenced to secure the possession
of this important port at the mouth of the Western Scheldt. Herpt
persuaded the burghers that it was too late to draw back now. They
had done enough to draw the vengeance of the Spaniards upon them;
their only hope now was to resist to the last. A half witted man
in the crowd offered, if any one would give him a pot of beer, to
ascend the ramparts and fire two pieces of artillery at the Spanish
The offer was accepted, and the man ran up to the ramparts and
discharged the guns. A sudden panic seized the Spaniards, and the
whole fleet sailed away at once in the direction of Middelburg.
The governor of the island next day arrived at Flushing and was
at once admitted. He called the citizens together to the market
place and there addressed them, beseeching them to return to their
allegiance, assuring them that if they did so the king, who was the
best natured prince in all Christendom, would forget and forgive
their offenses. The effect of the governor's oratory was sadly marred
by the interruptions of De Herpt and his adherents, who reminded
the people of the fate that had befallen other towns that had
revolted, and scoffed at such good nature as the king displayed in
the scores of executions daily taking place throughout the country.
The governor, finding his efforts unavailing, had left the town,
and as soon as he did so the messenger was sent off to Brill, saying
that the inhabitants of Flushing were willing to provide arms and
ammunition if they would send them men experienced in partisan
warfare. Two hundred of the beggars, under the command of Treslong,
accordingly started the next day for Flushing. The Good Venture
threw off her hawsers from the wharf at about the same time that
these were starting, and for some time kept company with them.
"Did one ever see such a wild crew?" Captain Martin said, shaking
his head. "Never, I believe, did such a party set out upon a warlike
The appearance of Treslong's followers was indeed extraordinary.
Every man was attired in the gorgeous vestments of the plundered
churches -- in gold and embroidered cassocks, glittering robes, or
the sombre cowls and garments of Capuchin friars. As they sailed
along their wild sea songs rose in the air, mingled with shouts
for vengeance on the Spaniards and the Papacy.
"One would not think that this ribald crew could fight," Captain
Martin went on; "but there is no doubt they will do so. They must
not be blamed altogether; they are half maddened by the miseries
and cruelties endured by their friends and relations at the hands
of the Spaniards. I knew that when at last the people rose the
combat would be a terrible one, and that they would answer cruelty
by cruelty, blood by blood. The Prince of Orange, as all men know,
is one of the most clement and gentle of rulers. All his ordinances
enjoin gentle treatment of prisoners, and he has promised every
one over and over again complete toleration in the exercise of
religion; but though he may forgive and forget, the people will
"It is the Catholic church that has been their oppressor. In its
name tens of thousands have been murdered, and I fear that the
slaughter of those priests at Brill is but the first of a series
of bloody reprisals that will take place wherever the people get
the upper hand."
A fresh instance of this was shown a few hours after the Good
Venture put into Flushing. A ship arrived in port, bringing with
it Pacheco, the Duke of Alva's chief engineer, an architect of
the highest reputation. He had been despatched by the duke to take
charge of the new works that the soldiers had been sent to execute,
and ignorant of what had taken place he landed at the port. He was
at once seized by the mob. An officer, willing to save his life,
took him from their hands and conducted him to the prison; but the
populace were clamorous for his blood, and Treslong was willing
enough to satisfy them and to avenge upon Alva's favourite officer
the murder of his brother by Alva's orders. The unfortunate officer
was therefore condemned to be hung, and the sentence was carried
into effect the same day.
A few days later an officer named Zeraerts arrived at Flushing with
a commission from the Prince of Orange as Governor of the Island
of Walcheren. He was attended by a small body of French infantry,
and the force under his command speedily increased; for as soon
as it was known in England that Brill and Flushing had thrown off
the authority of the Spaniards, volunteers from England began to
arrive in considerable numbers to aid their fellow Protestants in
the struggle before them.
The Good Venture had stayed only a few hours in Flushing. In
the present condition of affairs there was no chance of obtaining
a cargo there, and Captain Martin therefore thought it better not
to waste time, but to proceed at once to England in order to learn
the intention of the merchants for whom he generally worked as to
what could be done under the changed state of circumstances that
Every day brought news of the extension of the rising. The Spanish
troops lay for the most part in Flanders, and effectually deterred
the citizens of the Flemish towns from revolting; but throughout
Holland, Zeeland, and Friesland the flame of revolt spread rapidly.
The news that Brill and Flushing had thrown off the Spanish yoke
fired every heart. It was the signal for which all had been so long
waiting. They knew how desperately Spain would strive to regain her
grip upon the Netherlands, how terrible would be her vengeance if
she conquered; but all felt that it was better to die sword in hand
than to be murdered piecemeal. And accordingly town after town rose,
expelled the authorities appointed by Spain and the small Spanish
garrisons, and in three months after the rising of Brill the greater
part of the maritime provinces were free. Some towns, however, still
remained faithful to Spain. Prominent among these was Amsterdam, a
great trading city, which feared the ruin that opposition to Alva
might bring upon it, more than the shame of standing aloof when
their fellow countrymen were fighting for freedom and the right to
worship God in their own way.
On the 23rd of May, Louis of Nassau, with a body of troops from
France, captured the important town of Mons by surprise, but was
at once beleaguered there by a Spanish army. In June the States of
Holland assembled at Dort and formally renounced the authority of
the Duke of Alva, and declared the Prince of Orange, the royally
appointed stadtholder, the only legal representative of the Spanish
crown in their country; and in reply to an eloquent address of
Sainte Aldegonde, the prince's representative, voted a considerable
sum of money for the payment of the army the prince was raising
in Germany. On the 19th of June a serious misfortune befell the
patriot cause. A reinforcement of Huguenot troops, on the way to
succour the garrison of Mons, were met and cut to pieces by the
Spaniards, and Count Louis, who had been led by the French King to
expect ample succour and assistance from him, was left to his fate.
On the 7th of July the Prince of Orange crossed the Rhine with
14,000 foot and 7,000 horse. He advanced but a short distance when
the troops mutinied in consequence of their pay being in arrears,
and he was detained four weeks until the cities of Holland guaranteed
their payment for three months. A few cities opened their gates
to him; but they were for the most part unimportant places, and
Mechlin was the only large town that admitted his troops. Still
he pressed on toward Mons, expecting daily to be joined by 12,000
French infantry and 3,000 cavalry under the command of Admiral
The prince, who seldom permitted himself to be sanguine, believed
that the goal of his hopes was reached, and that he should now be
able to drive the Spaniards from the Netherlands. But as he was
marching forward he received tidings that showed him that all his
plans were shattered, and that the prospects were darker than they
had ever before been. While the King of France had throughout been
encouraging the revolted Netherlanders, and had authorized his
minister to march with an army to their assistance, he was preparing
for a deed that would be the blackest in history, were it not
that its horrors are less appalling than those inflicted upon the
captured cities of the Netherlands by Alva. On St. Bartholomew's Eve
there was a general massacre of the Protestants in Paris, followed
by similar massacres throughout France, the number of victims being
variously estimated at from twenty-five to a hundred thousand.
Protestant Europe was filled with horror at this terrible crime.
Philip of Spain was filled with equal delight. Not only was the
danger that seemed to threaten him in the Netherlands at once and
forever, as he believed, at an end, but he saw in this destruction
of the Protestants of France a great step in the direction he had
so much at heart -- the entire extirpation of heretics throughout
Europe. He wrote letters of the warmest congratulation to the King
of France, with whom he had formerly been at enmity; while the
Pope, accompanied by his cardinals, went to the church of St. Mark
to render thanks to God for the grace thus singularly vouchsafed
to the Holy See and to all Christendom. To the Prince of Orange
the news came as a thunderclap. His troops wholly lost heart, and
refused to keep the field. The prince himself almost lost his life
at the hands of the mutineers, and at last, crossing the Rhine, he
disbanded his army and went almost alone to Holland to share the
fate of the provinces that adhered to him. He went there expecting
and prepared to die.
"There I will make my sepulcher," was his expression in the letter
in which he announced his intention to his brother. Count Louis
of Nassau had now nothing left before him but to surrender. His
soldiers, almost entirely French, refused any longer to resist,
now that the king had changed his intentions, and the city was
surrendered, the garrison being allowed to retire with their weapons.
The terms of the capitulation were so far respected; but instead
of the terms respecting the townspeople being adhered to, a council
of blood was set up, and for many months from ten to twenty of the
inhabitants were hanged, burned, or beheaded every day. The news
of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, of the treachery of the King
of France towards the inhabitants of the Netherlands, and of the
horrible cruelties perpetrated upon the inhabitants of Mechlin and
other towns that had opened their gates to the Prince of Orange,
excited the most intense indignation among the people of England.
The queen put on mourning, but was no more inclined than before
to render any really efficient aid to the Netherlands. She allowed
volunteers to pass over, furnished some meagre sums of money, but
held aloof from any open participation in the war; for if before,
when France was supposed to be favourable to the Netherlands and
hostile to Spain, she felt unequal to a war with the latter power,
still less could she hope to cope with Spain when the deed of St.
Bartholomew had reunited the two Catholic monarchs.
Captain Martin, married to a native of the Netherlands, and mixing
constantly with the people in his trade, was naturally ardent, even
beyond the majority of his countrymen, in their cause, and over
and over again declared that were he sailing by when a sea fight
was going on between the Dutch and the Spaniards, he would pull
down his English flag, hoist that of Holland, and join in the fray;
and Ned, as was to be expected, shared to the utmost his father's
feelings on the subject. Early in September the Good Venture started
with a cargo for Amsterdam, a city that almost alone in Holland
adhered to the Spanish cause.
Sophie Martin was pleased when she heard that this was the ship's
destination; for she was very anxious as to the safety of her
father and brothers, from whom she had not heard for a long time.
Postage was dear and mails irregular. Few letters were written or
received by people in England, still more seldom letters sent across
the sea. There would, therefore, under the ordinary circumstances,
have been no cause whatever for uneasiness had years elapsed without
news coming from Amsterdam; and, indeed, during her whole married
life Sophie Martin had only received one or two letters by post from
her former home, although many communications had been brought by
friends of her husband's trading there. But as many weeks seldom
passed without the Good Venture herself going into Amsterdam, for
that town was one of the great trading centres of Holland, there
was small occasion for letters to pass. It happened, however, that
from one cause or another, eighteen months had passed since Captain
Martin's business had taken him to that port, and no letter had
come either by post or hand during that time.
None who had friends in the Netherlands could feel assured that
these must, either from their station or qualities, be safe from
the storm that was sweeping over the country. The poor equally
with the rich, the artisan equally with the noble, was liable to
become a victim of Alva's Council of Blood. The net was drawn so
as to catch all classes and conditions; and although it was upon
the Protestants that his fury chiefly fell, the Catholics suffered
too, for pretexts were always at hand upon which these could also
The Netherlands swarmed with spies and informers, and a single
unguarded expression of opinion was sufficient to send a man to
the block. And, indeed, in a vast number of cases, private animosity
was the cause of the denunciation; for any accusation could be
safely made where there was no trial, and the victims were often
in complete ignorance as to the nature of the supposed crime for
which they were seized and dragged away to execution.
When the vessel sailed Sophie Martin gave her husband a letter
to her father and brothers, begging them to follow the example of
thousands of their countrymen, and to leave the land where life and
property were no longer safe, and to come over to London. They would
have no difficulty in procuring work there, and could establish
themselves in business and do as well as they had been doing at
They had, she knew, money laid by in London; for after the troubles
began her father had sold off the houses and other property he had
purchased with his savings, and had transmitted the result to England
by her husband, who had intrusted it for investment to a leading
citizen with whom he did business. As this represented not only
her father's accumulations but those of her brothers who worked
as partners with him, it amounted to a sum that in those days was
regarded as considerable.
"I feel anxious, Ned," Captain Martin said as he sailed up the Zuider
Zee towards the city, "as to what has befallen your grandfather and
uncles. I have always made the best of the matter to your mother,
but I cannot conceal from myself that harm may have befallen them.
It is strange that no message has come to us through any of our
friends trading with the town, for your uncles know many of my
comrades and can see their names in the shipping lists when they
arrive. They would have known how anxious your mother would be
at the news of the devil's work that is going on here, and, being
always tender and thoughtful for her, would surely have sent her
news of them from time to time as they had a chance. I sorely fear
that something must have happened. Your uncles are prudent men,
going about their work and interfering with none; but they are men,
too, who speak their mind, and would not, like many, make a false
show of affection when they feel none.
"Well, well; we shall soon know. As soon as the ship is moored and
my papers are declared in order, you and I will go over to Vordwyk
and see how they are faring. I think not that they will follow
your mother's advice and sail over with us; for it was but the last
time I saw them that they spoke bitterly against the emigrants,
and said that every man who could bear arms should, however great
his danger, wait and bide the time until there was a chance to strike
for his religion and country. They are sturdy men these Dutchmen,
and not readily turned from an opinion they have taken up; and
although I shall do my best to back up your mother's letter by my
arguments, I have but small hope that I shall prevail with them."
In the evening they were moored alongside the quays of Amsterdam,
at that time one of the busiest cities in Europe. Its trade was
great, the wealth of its citizens immense. It contained a large number
of monasteries, its authorities were all Catholics and devoted to
the cause of Spain, and although there were a great many well wishers
to the cause of freedom within its walls, these were powerless to
take action, and the movement which, after the capture of Brill
and Flushing, had caused almost all the towns of Holland to declare
for the Prince of Orange, found no echo in Amsterdam. The vessel
anchored outside the port, and the next morning after their papers
were examined and found in order she ranged up alongside the crowded
tiers of shipping. Captain Martin went on shore with Ned, visited
the merchants to whom his cargo was consigned, and told them that
he should begin to unload the next day.
He then started with Ned to walk to Vordwyk, which lay two miles
away. On reaching the village they stopped suddenly. The roof of
the house they had so often visited was gone, its walls blackened
by fire. After the first exclamation of surprise and regret they
walked forward until opposite the ruin, and stood gazing at it.
Then Captain Martin stepped up to a villager, who was standing at
the door of his shop, and asked him when did this happen, what had
become of the old man Plomaert?
"You are his son-in-law, are you not?" the man asked in reply. "I
have seen you here at various times." Captain Martin nodded. The
man looked round cautiously to see that none were within sound of
"You have not heard, then?" he said. "It was a terrible business,
though we are growing used to it now. One day, it is some eight
months since, a party of soldiers came from Amsterdam and hauled
away my neighbour Plomaert and his three sons. They were denounced
as having attended the field preaching a year ago, and you know
what that means."
"And the villains murdered them?" Captain Martin asked in horror
The man nodded. "They were hung together next day, together with
Gertrude, the wife of the eldest brother. Johan was, as you know,
unmarried. Elizabeth, the wife of Louis, lay ill at the time, or
doubtless she would have fared the same as the rest. She has gone
with her two daughters to Haarlem, where her family live. All their
property was, of course, seized and confiscated, and the house burnt
down; for, as you know, they all lived together. Now, my friend,
I will leave you. I dare not ask you in for I know not who may be
watching us, and to entertain even the brother-in-law of men who
have been sent to the gallows might well cost a man his life in
Then Captain Martin's grief and passion found vent in words, and
he roundly cursed the Spaniards and their works, regardless of
who might hear him; then he entered the garden, visited the summer
house where he had so often talked with the old man and his sons,
and then sat down and gave full vent to his grief. Ned felt almost
stunned by the news; being so often away at sea he had never given
the fact that so long a time had elapsed since his mother had
received a letter from her family much thought. It had, indeed,
been mentioned before him; but, knowing the disturbed state of the
country, it had seemed to him natural enough that his uncles should
have had much to think of and trouble them, and might well have
no time for writing letters. His father's words the evening before
had for the first time excited a feeling of real uneasiness about
them, and the shock caused by the sight of the ruined house, and
the news that his grandfather, his three uncles, and one of his
aunts, had been murdered by the Spaniards, completely overwhelmed
"Let us be going, Ned," his father said at last; "there is nothing
for us to do here, let us get back to our ship. I am a peaceable
man, Ned, but I feel now as if I could join the beggars of the
sea, and go with them in slaying every Spaniard who fell into their
hands. This will be terrible news for your mother, lad."
"It will indeed," Ned replied. "Oh, father, I wish you would let me
stay here and join the prince's bands and fight for their freedom.
There were English volunteers coming out to Brill and Flushing when
we sailed from the Thames, and if they come to fight for Holland who
have no tie in blood, why should not I who am Dutch by my mother's
side and whose relations have been murdered?"
"We will talk of it later on, Ned," his father said. "You are young
yet for such rough work as this, and this is no common war. There
is no quarter given here, it is a fight to the death. The Spaniards
slaughter the Protestants like wild beasts, and like wild beasts
they will defend themselves. But if this war goes on till you have
gained your full strength and sinew I will not say you nay. As you
say, our people at home are ready to embark in a war for the cause
of liberty and religion, did the queen but give the word; and when
others, fired solely by horror at the Spaniards' cruelty, are ready
to come over here and throw in their lot with them, it seems to
me that it will be but right that you, who are half Dutch and have
had relatives murdered by these fiends, should come over and side
with the oppressed. If there is fighting at sea, it may be that I
myself will take part with them, and place the Good Venture at the
service of the Prince of Orange. But of that we will talk later
on, as also about yourself. When you are eighteen you will still
be full young for such work."
As they talked they were walking fast towards Amsterdam. "We will
go straight on board, Ned; and I will not put my foot ashore again
before we sail. I do not think that I could trust myself to meet
a Spaniard now, but should draw my knife and rush upon him. I have
known that these things happened, we have heard of these daily
butcherings, but it has not come home to me as now, when our own
friends are the victims."
Entering the gate of the town they made their way straight down
to the port, and were soon on board the Good Venture where Captain
Martin retired to his cabin. Ned felt too restless and excited to
go down at present; but he told the crew what had happened, and
the exclamations of anger among the honest sailors were loud and
deep. Most of them had sailed with Captain Martin ever since he had
commanded the Good Venture, and had seen the Plomaerts when they
had come on board whenever the vessel put in at Amsterdam. The fact
that there was nothing to do, and no steps to take to revenge the
murders, angered them all the more.
"I would we had twenty ships like our own, Master Ned," one of
them said. "That would give us four hundred men, and with those we
could go ashore and hang the magistrates and the councillors and
all who had a hand in this foul business, and set their public
buildings in a flame, and then fight our way back again to the
"I am afraid four hundred men would not be able to do it here as
they did at Brill. There was no Spanish garrison there, and here
they have a regiment; and though the Spaniards seem to have the
hearts of devils rather than men, they can fight."
"Well, we would take our chance," the sailor replied. "If there was
four hundred of us, and the captain gave the word, we would show
them what English sailors could do, mates -- wouldn't we?"
"Aye, that would we;" the others growled in a chorus.
The next morning the work of unloading began. The sailors worked
hard; for, as one of them said, "This place seems to smell of blood
-- let's be out of it, mates, as soon as we can." At four in the
afternoon a lad of about Ned's age came on board. He was the son
of the merchant to whom the larger part of the cargo of the Good
Venture was consigned.
"I have a letter that my father charged me to give into your hands,
Captain Martin. He said that the matter was urgent, and begged me
to give it you in your cabin. He also told me to ask when you think
your hold will be empty, as he has goods for you for the return
"We shall be well nigh empty by tomorrow night," Captain Martin
said, as he led the way to his cabin in the poop. "The men have
been working faster than usual, for it generally takes us three
days to unload."
"I do not think my father cared about that," the lad said when he
entered the cabin; "it was but an excuse for my coming down here,
and he gave me the message before all the other clerks. But methinks
that the letter is the real object of my coming."
Captain Martin opened the letter. Thanks to his preparation for
taking his place in his father's business, he had learnt to read
and write; accomplishments by no means general among sea captains
of the time.
"It is important, indeed," he said, as he glanced through the
letter. It ran as follows: "Captain Martin, -- A friend of mine,
who is one of the council here, has just told me that at the meeting
this afternoon a denunciation was laid against you for having
publicly, in the street of Vordwyk, cursed and abused his Majesty
the King of Spain, the Duke of Alva, the Spaniards, and the Catholic
religion. Some were of opinion that you should at once be arrested
on board your ship, but others thought that it were better to wait
and seize you the first time you came on shore, as it might cause
trouble were you taken from under the protection of the British
flag. On shore, they urged, no question could arise, especially
as many English have now, although the two nations are at peace,
openly taken service under the Prince of Orange.
"I have sent to tell you this, though at no small risk to myself
were it discovered that I had done so; but as we have had dealings
for many years together, I think it right to warn you. I may say
that the counsel of those who were for waiting prevailed; but if,
after a day or two, they find that you do not come ashore, I fear
they will not hesitate to arrest you on your own vessel. Please
to destroy this letter at once after you have read it, and act as
seems best to you under the circumstances. I send this to you by
my son's hand, for there are spies everywhere, and in these days
one can trust no one."
"I am much obliged to you, young sir, for bringing me this letter.
Will you thank your father from me, and say that I feel deeply
indebted to him, and will think over how I can best escape from
this strait. Give him the message from me before others, that I
shall be empty and ready to receive goods by noon on the day after
When the lad had left, Captain Martin called in Ned and William
Peters, his first mate, and laid the case before them.
"It is an awkward business, Captain Martin," Peters said. "You
sha'n't be arrested on board the Good Venture, as long as there is
a man on board can wield a cutlass; but I don't know whether that
would help you in the long run.
"Not at all, Peters. We might beat off the first party that came
to take me, but it would not be long before they brought up a force
against which we should stand no chance whatever. No, it is not by
fighting that there is any chance of escape. It is evident by this
that I am safe for tomorrow; they will wait at least a day to see
if I go ashore, which indeed they will make certain I shall do
sooner or later. As far as my own safety is concerned, and that
of Ned here, who, as he was with me, is doubtless included in the
denunciation, it is easy enough. We have only to get into the boat
after dark, to muffle the oars, and to row for Haarlem, which lies
but ten miles away, and has declared for the Prince of Orange. But
I do not like to leave the ship, for if they found us gone they
might seize and declare it confiscated. And although, when we got
back to England, we might lay a complaint before the queen, there
would be no chance of our getting the ship or her value from the
Spaniards. There are so many causes of complaint between the two
nations, that the seizure of a brig would make no difference one
way or another. The question is, could we get her out?"
"It would be no easy matter," Peters said, shaking his head. "That
French ship that came in this afternoon has taken up a berth outside
us, and there would be no getting out until she moved out of the
way. If she were not there it might be tried, though it would be
difficult to do so without attracting attention. As for the Spanish
war vessels, of which there are four in the port, I should not fear
them if we once got our sails up, for the Venture can sail faster
than these lubberly Spaniards; but they would send rowboats after
us, and unless the wind was strong these would speedily overhaul
"Well, I must think it over," Captain Martin said. "I should be
sorry indeed to lose my ship, which would be well nigh ruin to me,
but if there is no other way we must make for Haarlem by boat."
The next day the work of unloading continued. In the afternoon the
captain of the French ship lying outside them came on board. He had
been in the habit of trading with Holland, and addressed Captain
Martin in Dutch.
"Are you likely to be lying here long?" he asked. "I want to get
my vessel alongside the wharf as soon as I can, for it is slow work
unloading into these lighters. There are one or two ships going
out in the morning, but I would rather have got in somewhere about
this point if I could, for the warehouses of Mynheer Strous, to
whom my goods are consigned, lie just opposite."
"Will you come down into my cabin and have a glass of wine with
me," Captain Martin said, "and then we can talk it over?"
Captain Martin discovered, without much trouble, that the French
captain was a Huguenot, and that his sympathies were all with the
people of the Netherlands.
"Now," he said, "I can speak freely to you. I was ashore the day
before yesterday, and learned that my wife's father, her three
brothers, and one of their wives have been murdered by the Spaniards.
Well, you can understand that in my grief and rage I cursed the
Spaniards and their doings. I have learnt that some spy has denounced
me, and that they are only waiting for me to set foot on shore to
arrest me, and you know what will come after that; for at present,
owing to the volunteers that have come over to Brill and Flushing,
the Spaniards are furious against the English. They would rather
take me on shore than on board, but if they find that I do not
land they will certainly come on board for me. They believe that I
shall not be unloaded until noon tomorrow, and doubtlessly expect
that as soon as the cargo is out I shall land to arrange for a
freight to England. Therefore, until tomorrow afternoon I am safe,
but no longer. Now, I am thinking of trying to get out quietly
tonight; but to do so it is necessary that you should shift your
berth a ship's length one way or the other. Will you do this for
"Certainly I will, with pleasure," the captain replied. "I will
give orders at once."
"No, that will never do," Captain Martin said. "They are all the
more easy about me because they know that as long as your ship is
there I cannot get out, but if they saw you shifting your berth it
would strike them at once that I might be intending to slip away.
You must wait until it gets perfectly dark, and then throw off your
warps and slacken out your cable as silently as possible, and let
her drop down so as to leave me an easy passage. As soon as it is
dark I will grease all my blocks, and when everything is quiet try
to get her out. What wind there is is from the southwest, which
will take us well down the Zuider Zee."
"I hope you may succeed," the French captain said. "Once under
sail you would be safe from their warships, for you would be two
or three miles away before they could manage to get up their sails.
The danger lies in their rowboats and galleys."
"Well, well, we must risk it," Captain Martin said. "I shall have
a boat alongside, and if I find the case is desperate we will take
to it and row to the shore, and make our way to Haarlem, where we
should be safe."
Ned, who had been keeping a sharp lookout all day, observed that
two Spanish officials had taken up their station on the wharf, not
far from the ship. They appeared to have nothing to do, and to be
indifferent to what was going on. He told his father that he thought
that they were watching. Presently the merchant himself came down
to the wharf. He did not come on board, but spoke to Captain Martin
as he stood on the deck of the vessel, so that all around could
hear his words.
"How are you getting on, Captain Martin?" he asked in Dutch.
"Fairly well," Captain Martin replied. "I think if we push on we
shall have her empty by noon tomorrow."
"I have a cargo to go back with you, you know," the merchant said,
"and I shall want to see you at the office, if you will step round
tomorrow after you have cleared."
"All right, Mynheer, you may expect me about two o'clock.
"But you won't see me," he added to himself.
The merchant waved his hand and walked away, and a few minutes
later the two officials also strolled off.
"That has thrown dust into their eyes," Captain Martin said, "and
has made it safe for Strous. He will pretend to be as surprised as
any one when he hears I have gone.
A FIGHT WITH THE SPANIARDS
As soon as it became dark, and the wharves were deserted, Captain
Martin sent two sailors aloft with grease pots, with orders that
every block was to be carefully greased to ensure its running
without noise. A boat which rowed six oars was lowered noiselessly
into the water, and flannel was bound round the oars. The men,
who had been aware of the danger that threatened their captain,
sharpened the pikes and axes, and declared to each other that
whether the captain ordered it or not no Spaniards should set foot
on board as long as one of them stood alive on the decks. The cook
filled a great boiler with water and lighted a fire under it, and
the carpenter heated a caldron of pitch without orders.
"What are you doing, Thompson?" the captain asked, noticing the
glow of the fire as he came out of his cabin.
The sailor came aft before he replied, "I am just cooking up a
little hot sauce for the dons, captain. We don't ask them to come,
you know; but if they do, it's only right that we should entertain
"I hope there will be no fighting, lad," the captain said.
"Well, your honour, that ain't exactly the wish of me and my mates.
After what we have been hearing of, we feel as we sha'n't be happy
until we have had a brush with them 'ere Spaniards. And as to
fighting, your honour; from what we have heard, Captain Hawkins and
others out in the Indian seas have been ashowing them that though
they may swagger on land they ain't no match for an Englishman on
the sea. Anyhow, your honour, we ain't going to stand by and see
you and Master Ned carried away by these 'ere butchering Spaniards.
"We have all made up our minds that what happens to you happens to
all of us. We have sailed together in this ship the Good Venture
for the last seventeen or eighteen years, and we means to swim
or sink together. No disrespect to you, captain; but that is the
fixed intention of all of us. It would be a nice thing for us to
sail back to the port of London and say as we stood by and saw our
captain and his son carried off to be hung or burnt or what not
by the Spaniards, and then sailed home to tell the tale. We don't
mean no disrespect, captain, I says again; but in this 'ere business
we take our orders from Mr. Peters, seeing that you being consarned
as it were in the affair ain't to be considered as having, so to
speak, a right judgment upon it."
"Well, well, we shall see if there is a chance of making a
successful fight," Captain Martin said, unable to resist a smile
at the sailor's way of putting it.
The night was dark, and the two or three oil lamps that hung suspended
from some of the houses facing the port threw no ray of light which
extended to the shipping. It was difficult to make out against the
sky the outline of the masts of the French vessel lying some twenty
yards away; but presently Ned's attention was called towards her
by a slight splash of her cable. Then he heard the low rumble as
the ropes ran out through the hawse holes, and saw that the masts
were slowly moving. In two or three minutes they had disappeared
from his sight. He went into the cabin.
"The Frenchman has gone, father; and so noiselessly that I could
hardly hear her. If we can get out as quietly there is little fear
of our being noticed."
"We cannot be as quiet as that, Ned. She has only to slack away
her cables and drift with the tide that turned half an hour ago,
we have got to tow out and set sail. However, the night is dark,
the wind is off shore, and everything is in our favour. Do you see
if there be anyone about on the decks of the ships above and below
Ned went first on to the stern, and then to the bow. He could
hear the voices of men talking and singing in the forecastles, but
could hear no movement on the deck of either ship. He went down
and reported to his father.
"Then, I think, we may as well start at once, Ned. There are
still sounds and noises in the town, and any noise we may make is
therefore less likely to be noticed than if we waited until everything
was perfectly still."
The sailors were all ready. All were barefooted so as to move as
noiselessly as possible. The four small cannon that the Good Venture
carried had been loaded to the muzzle with bullets and pieces of
iron. A search had been made below and several heavy lumps of stone,
a part of the ballast carried on some former occasion, brought
up and placed at intervals along the bulwarks. The pikes had been
fastened by a loose lashing to the mast, and the axes leaned in
readiness against the cannon.
"Now, Peters," Captain Martin said, "let the boat be manned. Do you
send a man ashore to cast off the hawser at the bow. Let him take
a line ashore with him so as to ease the hawser off, and not let
the end fall in the water. The moment he has done that let him
come to the stern and get on board there, and do you and he get
the plank on board as noiselessly as you can. As soon as the bow
hawser is on board I will give the men in the boat the word to
row. Ned will be on board her, and see that they row in the right
direction. The moment you have got the plank in get out your knife
and cut the stern warp half through, and directly her head is out,
and you feel the strain, sever it. The stern is so close to the
wharf that the end will not be able to drop down into the water
and make a splash."
Ned's orders were that as soon as the vessel's head pointed seaward
he was to steer rather to the right, so as to prevent the stream,
which, however, ran but feebly, from carrying her down on the bows
of the French ship. Once beyond the latter he was to go straight
out, steering by the lights on shore. The men were enjoined to drop
their oars as quietly as possible into the water at each stroke,
and to row deeply, as having the vessel in tow they would churn up
the water unless they did so. The boat rowed off a stroke or two,
and then, as the rope tightened, the men sat quiet until Captain
Martin was heard to give the order to row in a low tone; then they
bent to their oars. Peters had chosen the six best rowers on board
the ship for the purpose, and so quietly did they dip their oars
in the water that Captain Martin could scarce hear the sound, and
only knew by looking over the other side, and seeing that the shore
was receding, that the ship was in motion. Two minutes later Peters
"I have cut the warp, Captain Martin, and she is moving out. I have
left Watson at the helm." Scarce a word was spoken for the next
five minutes. It was only by looking at the light ashore that they
could judge the progress they were making. Every one breathed more
freely now the first danger was over. They had got out from their
berth without attracting the slightest notice, either from the
shore or from the ships lying next to them. Their next danger was
from the ships lying at anchor off the port waiting their turn to
come in. Were they to run against one of these, the sound of the
collision, and perhaps the breaking of spars and the shouts of the
crew, would certainly excite attention from the sentries on shore.
So far the boat had been rowing but a short distance in advance of
the end of the bowsprit, but Captain Martin now made his way out
to the end of that spar, and told Ned that he was going to give
him a good deal more rope in order that he might keep well ahead,
and that he was to keep a sharp lookout for craft at anchor. Another
quarter of an hour passed, and Captain Martin thought that they
must now be beyond the line of the outer shipping. They felt the
wind more now that they were getting beyond the shelter of the
town, and its effect upon the hull and spars made the work lighter
for those in the boat ahead.
"Now, Peters, I think that we can safely spread the foresail and
call them in from the boat."
The sail had been already loosed and was now let fall; it bellied
out at once.
"Haul in the sheets, lads," Captain Martin said, and going forward
gave a low whistle. A minute later the boat was alongside. "Let
her drop astern, Peters," the captain said, as Ned and the rowers
clambered on board; "we may want her presently. Hullo! what's that?
It's one of the guard boats, I do believe, and coming this way."
The men heard the sound of coming oars, and silently stole to the
mast and armed themselves with the pikes, put the axes in their
belts, and ranged themselves along by the side of the ship towards
which the boat was approaching. "Will she go ahead of us or astern?"
Captain Martin whispered to the mate.
"I cannot tell yet, sir. By the sound she seems making pretty nearly
straight for us."
"How unfortunate," Captain Martin murmured; "just as it seemed that
we were getting safely away."
In another minute the mate whispered, "She will go astern of us,
sir, but not by much."
"I trust that she will not see us," the captain said. "But now we
are away from the town and the lights, it doesn't seem so dark,
besides their eyes are accustomed to it."
There was dead silence in the ship as the boat approached. She was
just passing the stern at the distance of about a ship's length,
when there was a sudden exclamation, and a voice shouted, "What
ship is that? Where are you going?" Captain Martin replied in Dutch.
"We are taking advantage of the wind to make to sea."
"Down with that sail, sir!" the officer shouted: "this is against
all regulations. No ship is permitted to leave the port between
sunrise and sunset. Pull alongside, lads; there is something strange
"Do not come alongside," Captain Martin said sternly. "We are
peaceable traders who meddle with no one, but if you interfere with
us it will be the worse for you."
"You insolent hound!" the officer exclaimed furiously, "do you
dare to threaten me. Blow your matches, lads, and shoulder your
arquebuses. There is treason and rebellion here."
Those on board saw six tiny sparks appear, two in the bow and four
in the stern. A minute later the boat dashed alongside. As it did
so three great pieces of stone were cast into it, knocking down
two of the rowers.
"Fire!" the officer exclaimed as he sprang up to climb the ship's
side. The six muskets were discharged, and the men rose to follow
their leader, when there was a cry from the rowers "The boat is
sinking! She is staved in!"
At the same moment the officer fell back thrust through with a pike.
Two of the soldiers were cut down with axes, the other sprang back
into the sinking boat, which at once drifted astern.
"Up with her sails, lads!" Captain Martin shouted; "it is a question
of speed now. The alarm is spread on shore already." The sentries
of the various batteries were discharging their muskets and shouting,
and the roll of a drum was heard almost immediately. The crew soon
had every stitch of sail set upon the brig. She was moving steadily
through the water; but the wind was still light, although occasionally
a stronger puff gave ground for hope that it would ere long blow
"They will be some time before they make out what it is all about,
Peters," Captain Martin said. "The galleys will be manned, and will
row to the spot where the firing was heard. Some of the men in the
boat are sure to be able to swim, and will meet them as they come
out and tell them what has happened. The worst of it is, the moon
will be up in a few minutes. I forgot all about that. That accounts
for its being lighter. However, we have got a good start. One or
two guard boats may be out here in a quarter of an hour, but it
will take the galleys twice as long to gather their crews and get
out. It all depends on the wind. It is lucky it is not light yet,
or the batteries might open on us; I don't think now they will get
sight of us until we are fairly out of range."
Now that there was no longer occasion for silence on board the Good
Venture, the crew laughed and joked at the expense of the Spaniards.
They were in high spirits at their success, and their only regret
was that the brush with their pursuers had not been a more serious
one. It was evident from the talk that there was quite as much hope
as fear in the glances that they cast astern, and that they would
have been by no means sorry to see a foe of about their own strength
in hot pursuit of them. A quarter of an hour after the shattered
boat had dropped astern the moon rose on the starboard bow. It was
three-quarters full, and would assuredly reveal the ship to those
on shore. Scarcely indeed did it show above the horizon when there
was the boom of a gun astern, followed a second or two later by a
heavy splash in the water close alongside.
"That was a good shot," Captain Martin said; "but luck rather than
skill I fancy. There is little chance of their hitting us at this
distance. We must be a mile and a half away; don't you think so,
"Quite that, captain; and they must have given their gun a lot of
elevation to carry so far. I almost wonder they wasted their powder."
"Of course they can't tell in the least who they are firing at,"
the captain said. "They cannot have learnt anything yet, and can
have only known that there was firing off the port, and that a
craft is making out. We may be one of the sea beggars' vessels for
anything they know, and may have come in to carry off a prize from
under their very noses."
"That is so," the mate replied; "but the gun may have been fired
as a signal as much as with any hope of hitting us."
"So it may, so it may, Peters; I did not think of that. Certainly
that is likely enough. We know they have several ships cruising in
the Zuider Zee keeping a lookout for the beggars. On a night like
this, and with the wind astern, the sound will be heard miles away.
We may have trouble yet. I was not much afraid of the galleys, for
though the wind is so light we are running along famously. You see
we have nothing in our hold, and that is all in our favour so long
as we are dead before the wind. Besides, if the galleys did come
up it would probably be singly, and we should be able to beat them
off, for high out of water as we are they would find it difficult
to climb the sides; but if we fall in with any of their ships it
is a different matter altogether."
Four or five more shots were fired, but they all fell astern; and
as they were fully two miles and a half away when the last gun was
discharged, and the cannoneers must have known that they were far
out of range, Captain Martin felt sure that the mate's idea was a
correct one, and that the cannon had been discharged rather as a
signal than with any hope of reaching them.
"Ned, run up into the foretop," the captain said, "and keep a
sharp lookout ahead. The moon has given an advantage to those who
are on our track behind, but it gives us an advantage as against
any craft there may be ahead of us. We shall see them long before
they can see us."
Peters had been looking astern when the last gun was fired, and
said that by its flash he believed that he had caught sight of three
craft of some kind or other outside the ships moored off the port.
"Then we have two miles' start if those are their galleys," the
captain said. "We are stealing through the water at about the rate
of four knots, and perhaps they may row six, so it will take them
an hour to come up."
"Rather more than that, I should say, captain, for the wind at times
freshens a little. It is likely to be an hour and a half before
they come up."
"All the better, Peters. They will have learnt from those they
picked up from that boat that we are not a large craft, and that
our crew probably does not exceed twenty men; therefore, as those
galleys carry about twenty soldiers besides the twenty rowers, they
will not think it necessary to keep together, but will each do his
best to overtake us. One of them is sure to be faster than the
others, and if they come up singly I think we shall be able to
beat them off handsomely. It is no use discussing now whether it
is wise to fight or not. By sinking that first boat we have all
put our heads in a noose, and there is no drawing back. We have
repulsed their officers with armed force, and there will be no
mercy for any of us if we fall into their hands."
"We shall fight all the better for knowing that," Peters said
grimly. "The Dutchmen are learning that, as the Spaniards are finding
to their cost. There is nothing like making a man fight than the
knowledge that there is a halter waiting for him if he is beaten."
"You had better get two of the guns astern, Peters, so as to fire
down into them as they come up. You may leave the others, one on
each side, for the present, and run one of them over when we see
which side they are making for. Ah! that's a nice little puff. If
it would but hold like that we should show them our heels altogether."
In two or three minutes the puff died out and the wind fell even
lighter than before.
"I thought that we were going to have more of it," the captain said
discontentedly; "it looked like it when the sun went down."
"I think we shall have more before morning," Peters agreed; "but
I am afraid it won't come in time to help us much."
As the moon rose they were able to make out three craft astern of
them. Two were almost abreast of each other, the third some little
"That is just what I expected, Peters; they are making a race of
it. We shall have two of them on our hands at once; the other will
be too far away by the time they come up to give them any assistance.
They are about a mile astern now, I should say, and unless the wind
freshens up a bit they will be alongside in about twenty minutes.
I will give you three men here, Peters. As soon as we have fired
load again, and then slew the guns round and run them forward to
the edge of the poop, and point them down into the waist. If the
Spaniards get on board and we find them too strong for us, those
of us who can will take to the forecastle, the others will run up
here. Then sweep the Spaniards with your guns, and directly you
have fired charge down among them with pike and axe. We will do
the same, and it is hard if we do not clear the deck of them."
Just at this moment Ned hailed them from the top. "There is a ship
nearly ahead of us, sir; she is lying with her sails brailed up,
"How far is she off, do you think, Ned?"
"I should say she is four miles away," Ned replied.
"Well, we need not trouble about her for the present; there will
be time to think about her when we have finished with these fellows
behind. You can come down now, Ned."
In a few words the captain now explained his intentions to his men.
"I hope, lads, that we shall be able to prevent their getting
a footing on the deck; but if they do, and we find we can't beat
them back, as soon as I give the word you are to take either to
the forecastle or to the poop. Mr. Peters will have the two guns
there ready to sweep them with bullets. The moment he has fired give
a cheer and rush down upon them from both sides. We will clear them
off again, never fear. Ned, you will be in charge in the waist until
I rejoin you. Get ready to run one of the guns over the instant I
tell you on which side they are coming up. Depress them as much as
you can. I shall take one gun and you take the other, and be sure
you don't fire until you see a boat well under the muzzle of your
gun. Mind it's the boat you are to aim at, and not the men."
Captain Martin again ascended to the poop and joined Peters. The
two boats were now but a few hundred yards astern, and they could
hear the officers cheering on the rowers to exert themselves to
the utmost. The third boat was fully a quarter of a mile behind
the leaders. When they approached within a hundred yards a fire of
musketry was opened.
"Lie down under the bulwarks, men," Captain Martin said to the three
sailors. "It is no use risking your lives unnecessarily. I expect
one boat will come one side and one the other, Peters. If they do
we will both take the one coming up on the port side. One of us
may miss, and it is better to make sure of one boat if we can. I
think we can make pretty sure of beating off the other. Yes, there
they are separating. Now work your gun round a bit, so that it
bears on a point about twenty yards astern and a boat's length on
the port side. I will do the same. Have you done that?"
"Yes, I think I have about got it, sir."
"Very well, then. Stoop down now, or we may get hit before it is
time to fire."
The bulwarks round the poop were only about a foot high, but sitting
back from them the captain and the mate were protected from the
bullets that were now singing briskly over the stern of the ship.
"They are coming up, Peters," Captain Martin said. "Now kneel
up and look along your gun; get your match ready, and do not fire
till you see right into the boat, then clap on your match whether
I fire or not."
The boat came racing along until when within some twenty yards of
the stern, the cannons were discharged almost simultaneously. The
sound was succeeded by a chorus of screams and yells; the contents
of both guns had struck the boat fairly midships, and she sank
almost instantly. As soon as they had fired Captain Martin ran
forward and joined the crew in the waist. He had already passed
the word to Ned to get both guns over to the starboard side, and
he at once took charge of one while Ned stood at the other. The
Spaniards had pushed straight on without waiting to pick up their
drowning comrades in the other boat, and in a minute were alongside.
So close did the helmsman bring the boat to the side that the guns
could not be depressed so as to bear upon her, and a moment later
the Spaniards were climbing up the sides of the vessel, the rowers
dropping their oars and seizing axes and joining the soldiers.
"Never mind the gun, Ned; it is useless at present. Now, lads,
drive them back as they come up."
With pike and hatchet the sailors met the Spaniards as they tried
to climb up. The cook had brought his caldron of boiling water to
the bulwarks, and threw pailful after pailful down into the boat,
while the carpenter bailed over boiling pitch with the great ladle.
Terrible yells and screams rose from the boat, and the soldiers in
vain tried to gain a footing upon the ship's deck. As they appeared
above the level of the bulwarks they were met either with thrust
of pike or with a crashing blow from an axe, and it was but three
or four minutes from the moment that the fight began that the boat
cast off and dropped behind, more than half those on board being
killed or disabled. A loud cheer broke from the crew.
"Shall I run the guns back to the stern again," Peters asked from
above, "and give them a parting dose?"
"No, no," Captain Martin said, "let them go, Peters; we are fighting
to defend ourselves, and have done them mischief enough. See what
the third boat is doing, though."
"They have stopped rowing," Peters said, after going to the stern.
"I think they are picking up some swimmers from the boat we sank.
There cannot be many of them, for most of the rowers would have
been killed by our discharges, and the soldiers in their armour
will have sunk at once."
Captain Martin now ascended to the poop. In a short time the boat
joined that which had dropped astern, which was lying helpless in
the water, no attempt having been made to man the oars, as most of
the unwounded men were scalded more or less severely. Their report
was evidently not encouraging, and the third boat made no attempt
to pursue. Some of her oarsmen were shifted to the other boat, and
together they turned and made back for Amsterdam.
"Now then for this vessel ahead," Captain Martin said; "that is a
much more serious business than the boats."
The vessel, which was some two miles ahead of them, had now set
some of her sails, and was heading towards them.
"They can make us out now plainly enough, Peters, and the firing
will of course have told them we are the vessel that they are in
search of. I don't think that there is any getting away from them."
"I don't see that there is," the mate agreed. "Whichever way we
edged off they could cut us off. The worst of it is, no doubt she
has got some big guns on board, and these little things of ours are
of no good except at close quarters. It would be no use trying to
make a running fight with her?"
"Not in the least, Peters. We had better sail straight at her."
"You don't mean to try and carry her by boarding?" Peters asked
doubtfully. "She looks a large ship, and has perhaps a hundred and
fifty men on board; and though the Spaniards are no sailors they
can fight on the decks of their ships."
"That is so, Peters. What I think of doing is to bear straight
down upon her as if I intended to board. We shall have to stand one
broadside as we come up, and then we shall be past her, and with
our light draught we should run right away from her with this wind.
There is more of it than there was, and we are slipping away fast.
Unless she happens to knock away one of our masts we shall get away
When they were within half a mile of the Spanish ship they saw her
bows bear off.
"Lie down, lads," the captain ordered, "she is going to give us a
broadside. When it is over start one of those sea beggar songs you
picked up at Brill; that will startle them, and they will think we
are crowded with men and going to board them."
A minute later eight flashes of fire burst from the Spanish ship,
now lying broadside to them. One shot crashed through the bulwarks,
two others passed through the sails, the rest went wide of their
mark. As soon as it was over the crew leapt to their feet and burst
into one of the wild songs sung by the sea beggars.
"Keep our head straight towards her, Peters," Captain Martin said.
"They will think we mean to run her down, and it will flurry and
Loading was not quick work in those days, and the distance between
the vessels was decreased by half before the guns were again fired.
This time it was not a broadside; the guns went off one by one as
they were loaded, and the aim was hasty and inaccurate, for close
as they were not a shot struck the hull of the Good Venture, though
two or three went through the sails. In the bright moonlight men
could be seen running about and officers waving their arms and giving
orders on board the Spaniard, and then her head began to pay off.
"We have scared them," Captain Martin laughed. "They thought we were
going to run them down. They know the sea beggars would be quite
content to sink themselves if they could sink an enemy. Follow
close in her wake, Peters, and then bear off a little as if you
meant to pass them on their starboard side; then when you get close
give her the helm sharp and sweep across her stern. We will give
her the guns as we pass, then bear off again and pass her on her
port side; the chances are they will not have loaded again there."
The Spanish ship was little more than a hundred yards ahead. When
she got before the wind again Captain Martin saw with satisfaction
that the Good Venture sailed three feet to her two. The poop and
stern galleries of the Spaniard were clustered with soldiers, who
opened a fire with their muskets upon their pursuer. The men were
all lying down now at their guns, which were loaded with musket
balls to their muzzles.
"Elevate them as much as you can. She is much higher out of the
water than we are. Now, Peters, you see to the guns, I will take
"I will keep the helm, sir," the mate replied.
"No, you won't, Peters; my place is the place of danger. But if
you like you can lie under the bulwark there after you have fired,
and be ready to take my place if you see me drop. Now, lads, get
So saying the captain put down the tiller. The Good Venture swept
round under the stern of the Spaniard at a distance of some forty
yards, and as she did so the guns loaded with bullets to the
muzzle were fired one after the other. The effect was terrible,
and the galleries and poop were swept by the leaden shower. Then
the captain straightened the helm again. The crew burst into the
wild yells and cries the beggars raised when going into battle. The
Spaniards, confused by the terrible slaughter worked by the guns
of their enemies, and believing that they were about to be boarded
on the port side by a crowd of desperate foemen, hastily put up
the tiller, and the ship bore away as the Good Venture swept up,
presenting her stern instead of her broadside to them.
To the momentary relief of the Spaniards their assailant instead
of imitating their maneuvers kept straight upon her course before
the wind, and instead of the wild cries of the beggars a hearty
English cheer was raised. As Captain Martin had expected, the guns
on the port side had not been reloaded after the last discharge,
and the Good Venture was two or three hundred yards away before
the Spaniards recovered from their surprise at what seemed the
incomprehensible maneuver of their foes, and awoke to the fact
that they had been tricked, and that instead of a ship crowded with
beggars of the sea their supposed assailant had been an English
trader that was trying to escape from them.
A dozen contradictory orders were shouted as soon as the truth
dawned upon them. The captain had been killed by the discharge of
grape, and the first lieutenant severely wounded. The officer in
command of the troops shouted to his men to load the guns, only to
find when this was accomplished that the second lieutenant of the
ship had turned her head in pursuit of the enemy, and that not a
single gun would bear. There was a sharp altercation between the
two authorities, but the military chief was of the highest rank.
"Don't you see," he said furiously, "that she is going away from
us every foot. She was but a couple of hundred yards away when I
gave the order to load, and now she is fully a quarter of a mile."
"If I put the helm down to bring her broadside on," the seaman
said, "she will be half a mile ahead before we can straighten up
and get in her wake again; and unless you happen to cripple her
she will get away to a certainty."
"She will get away anyhow," the soldier roared, "if we don't cripple
her. Put your helm down instantly."
The order was given and the ship's head swayed round. There was a
flapping of sails and a rattling of blocks, and then a broadside
was fired; but it is no easy matter for angry and excited men to
hit a mast at the distance of nearly half a mile. One of the shots
ploughed up the deck within a yard of the foot of the mainmast,
another splintered a boat, three others added to the holes in the
sails, but no damage of importance was done. By the time the Spaniard
had borne round and was again in chase, the Good Venture was over
half a mile ahead.
"It is all over now, captain," Peters said as he went aft. "Unless
we light upon another of these fellows, which is not likely, we
"Are any of the men hit, Peters?"
"The carpenter was knocked down and stunned by a splinter from the
boat, sir; but I don't think it is serious."
"Thank God for that," the captain said. "Now, will you take the
helm?" There was something in the voice that startled the mate.
"Is anything the matter, sir? Don't say you are hit."
"I am hit, Peters, and I fear rather badly; but that matters little
now that the crew and ship are safe."
Peters caught the captain, for he saw that he could scarce stand,
and called two men to his assistance. The captain was laid down on
"Where are you hit, sir?"
"Halfway between the knee and the hip," Captain Martin replied
faintly. "If it hadn't been for the tiller I should have fallen,
but with the aid of that I made shift to stand on the other leg. It
was just before we fired, at the moment when I put the helm down."
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