By Pike and Dyke: A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic
Part 5 out of 7
the burghers met the tried soldiers of Spain, and especially at
the valour with which the corps of women battled with the enemy.
In strength and stature most of the women were fully a match for
the Walloon troops, and indeed for the majority of the Spaniards;
and they never feared to engage any body of troops of equal numerical
"Look here, aunt," Ned said to Frau Plomaert upon the day after
the failure of Batenburg's force to relieve the town, "you must see
for yourself now that the chances are that sooner or later the town
will be captured. We may beat off all the assaults of the Spaniards,
but we shall ere long have to fight with an even more formidable
foe within the town. You know that our stock of provisions is small,
and that in the end unless help comes we must yield to famine. The
prince may possibly throw five thousand armed men into the town,
but it is absolutely impossible that he can throw in any great
store of provision, unless he entirely defeats the Spaniards; and
nowhere in Holland can he raise an army sufficient for that.
"I think, aunt, that while there is time we ought to set to work to
construct a hiding place, where you and the girls can remain while
the sack and atrocities that will assuredly follow the surrender
of the town are taking place."
"I shall certainly not hide myself from the Spaniards," Frau Plomaert
"Very well, aunt, if you choose to be killed on your own hearthstone
of course I cannot prevent it; but I do say that you ought to save
the girls from these horrors if you can."
"That I am ready to do," she said. "But how is it to be managed?"
"Well, aunt, there is your wood cellar below. We can surely
construct some place of concealment there. Of course I will do the
work, though the girls might help by bringing up baskets of earth
and scattering them in the streets." Having received a tacit permission
from his aunt, Ned went down into the wood cellar, which was some
five feet wide by eight feet long. Like every place about a Dutch
house it was whitewashed, and was half full of wood. Ned climbed
over the wood to the further end.
"This is where it must be," he said to the girls, who had followed
him. "Now, the first thing to do is to pile the wood so as to
leave a passage by which we can pass along. I will get a pick and
get out the bricks at this corner."
"We need only make a hole a foot wide, and it need not be more than
a foot high," Lucette, the elder, said. "That will be sufficient
for us to squeeze through."
"It would, Lucette; but we shall want more space for working, so
to begin with we will take away the bricks up to the top. We can
close it up as much as we like afterwards. There is plenty of time,
for it will be weeks before the city is starved out. If we work
for an hour a day we can get it done in a week."
Accordingly the work began, the bricks were removed, and with
a pick and shovel Ned dug into the ground beyond, while the girls
carried away the earth and scattered it in the road. In a fortnight
a chamber five feet high, three feet wide, and six feet long had
been excavated. Slats of wood, supported by props along the sides,
held up the roof. A quantity of straw was thrown in for the girls
to lie on. Frau Plomaert came down from time to time to inspect
the progress of the work, and expressed herself well pleased with
"How are you going to close the entrance, Ned?" she asked.
"I propose to brick it up again three feet high, aunt. Then when
the girls and you have gone in -- for I hope that you will change
your mind at the last -- I will brick up the rest of it, but using
mud instead of mortar, so that the bricks can be easily removed
when the time comes, or one or two can be taken out to pass in food,
and then replaced as before. After you are in I will whitewash the
whole cellar, and no one would then guess the wall had ever been
disturbed. I shall leave two bricks out in the bottom row of all
to give air. They will be covered over by the wood. However hard
up we get for fuel we can leave enough to cover the floor at that
end a few inches deep. If I can I will pierce a hole up under the
board in the room above this, so as to give a free passage of air."
"If the Spaniards take away the wood, as they may well do, they
will notice that the two bricks are gone," Mrs. Plomaert objected.
"We can provide for that, aunt, by leaving two bricks inside,
whitewashed like the rest, to push into the holes if you hear
anyone removing the wood. There is only the light that comes in at
the door, and it would never be noticed that the two bricks were
"That will do very well," Mrs. Plomaert said. "I thought at first
that your idea was foolish, but I see that it will save the girls
if the place is taken. I suppose there will be plenty of time to
brick them up after they have taken refuge in it."
"Plenty of time, aunt. We shall know days before if the city surrenders
to hunger. I shall certainly fight much more comfortably now that
I know that whatever comes Lucette and Annie are safe from the
horrors of the sack."
THE FALL OF HAARLEM
After the terrible repulse inflicted upon the storming party,
Don Frederick perceived that the task before him was not to be
accomplished with the ease and rapidity he had anticipated, and that
these hitherto despised Dutch heretics had at last been driven by
despair to fight with desperate determination that was altogether
new to the Spaniards. He therefore abandoned the idea of carrying
the place by assault, and determined to take it by the slower and
surer process of a regular siege. In a week his pioneers would be
able to drive mines beneath the walls; an explosion would then open
a way for his troops. Accordingly the work began, but the besieged
no sooner perceived what was being done than the thousand men who
had devoted themselves to this work at once began to drive counter
Both parties worked with energy, and it was not long before the
galleries met, and a desperate struggle commenced under ground.
Here the drill and discipline of the Spaniards availed them but
little. It was a conflict of man to man in narrow passages, with
such light only as a few torches could give. Here the strength and
fearlessness of death of the sturdy Dutch burghers and fishermen
more than compensated for any superiority of the Spaniards in the
management of their weapons. The air was so heavy and thick with
powder that the torches gave but a feeble light, and the combatants
were well nigh stifled by the fumes of sulphur, yet in the galleries
which met men fought night and day without intermission. The places
of those who retired exhausted, or fell dead, were filled by others
impatiently waiting their turn to take part in the struggle. While
the fighting continued the work went on also. Fresh galleries were
continually being driven on both sides, and occasionally tremendous
explosions took place as one party or the other sprung their mines;
the shock sometimes bringing down the earth in passages far removed
from the explosions, and burying the combatants beneath them;
while yawning pits were formed where the explosions took place,
and fragments of bodies cast high in the air. Many of the galleries
were so narrow and low that no arms save daggers could be used, and
men fought like wild beasts, grappling and rolling on the ground,
while comrades with lanterns or torches stood behind waiting to
spring upon each other as soon as the struggle terminated one way
or the other.
For a fortnight this underground struggle continued, and then Don
Frederick -- finding that no ground was gained, and that the loss
was so great that even his bravest soldiers were beginning to
dread their turn to enter upon a conflict in which their military
training went for nothing, and where so many hundreds of their
comrades had perished -- abandoned all hopes of springing a mine
under the walls, and drew off his troops. A month had already
elapsed since the repulse of the attack on the breach; and while
the fight had been going on underground a steady fire had been
kept up against a work called a ravelin, protecting the gate of the
Cross. During this time letters had from time to time been brought
into the town by carrier pigeons, the prince urging the citizens
to persevere, and holding out hope of relief.
These promises were to some extent fulfilled on the 28th of January,
when 400 veteran soldiers, bringing with them 170 sledges laden with
powder and bread, crossed the frozen lake and succeeded in making
their way into the city. The time was now at hand when the besieged
foresaw that the ravelin of the Cross gate could not much longer be
defended. But they had been making preparations for this contingency.
All through the long nights of January the noncombatants, old men,
women, and children, aided by such of the fighting men as were not
worn out by their work on the walls or underground, laboured to
construct a wall in the form of a half moon on the inside of the
threatened point. None who were able to work were exempt, and none
wished to be exempted, for the heroic spirit burned brightly in
every heart in Haarlem.
Nightly Ned went down with his aunt and cousins and worked side by
side with them. The houses near the new work were all levelled in
order that the materials should be utilized for the construction of
the wall, which was built of solid masonry. The small stones were
carried by the children and younger girls in baskets, the heavier
ones dragged on hand sledges by the men and women. Although
constitutionally adverse to exertion, Frau Plomaert worked sturdily,
and Ned was often surprised at her strength; for she dragged along
without difficulty loaded sledges, which he was unable to move,
throwing her weight on to the ropes that passed over her shoulders,
and toiling backwards and forwards to and from the wall for hours,
slowly but unflinchingly.
It seemed to Ned that under these exertions she visibly decreased
in weight from day to day, and indeed the scanty supply of food
upon which the work had to be done was ill calculated to support the
strength of those engaged upon such fatiguing labour. For from the
commencement of the siege the whole population had been rationed, all
the provisions in the town had been handed over to the authorities
for equal division, and every house, rich and poor, had been
rigorously searched to see that none were holding back supplies for
their private consumption. Many of the cattle and horses had been
killed and salted down, and a daily distribution of food was made
to each household according to the number of mouths it contained.
Furious at the successful manner in which the party had entered the
town on the 28th of January, Don Frederick kept up for the next
few days a terrible cannonade against the gates of the Cross and
of St. John, and the wall connecting them. At the end of that time
the wall was greatly shattered, part of St. John's gate was in
ruins, and an assault was ordered to take place at midnight. So
certain was he of success that Don Frederick ordered the whole of
his forces to be under arms opposite all the gates of the city, to
prevent the population making their escape. A chosen body of troops
were to lead the assault, and at midnight these advanced silently
against the breach. The besieged had no suspicion that an attack
was intended, and there were but some forty men, posted rather as
sentries than guards, at the breach.
These, however, when the Spaniards advanced, gave the alarm, the
watchers in the churches sounded the tocsins, and the sleeping
citizens sprang from their beds, seized their arms, and ran towards
the threatened point. Unawed by the overwhelming force advancing
against them the sentries took their places at the top of the
breach, and defended it with such desperation that they kept their
assailants at bay until assistance arrived, when the struggle
assumed a more equal character. The citizens defended themselves
by the same means that had before proved successful, boiling oil
and pitch, stones, flaming hoops, torches, and missiles of all kinds
were hurled down by them upon the Spaniards, while the garrison
defended the breach with sword and pike.
Until daylight the struggle continued, and Philip then ordered the
whole of his force to advance to the assistance of the storming
party. A tremendous attack was made upon the ravelin in front of
the gate of the Cross. It was successful, and the Spaniards rushed
exulting into the work, believing that the city was now at their
mercy. Then, to their astonishment, they saw that they were confronted
by the new wall, whose existence they had not even suspected.
While they were hesitating a tremendous explosion took place. The
citizens had undermined the ravelin and placed a store of powder
there; and this was now fired, and the work flew into the air, with
all the soldiers who had entered.
The retreat was sounded at once, and the Spaniards fell back to
their camp, and thus a second time the burghers of Haarlem repulsed
an assault by an overwhelming force under the best generals of
Spain. The effect of these failures was so great that Don Frederick
resolved not to risk another defeat, but to abandon his efforts to
capture the city by sap or assault, and to resort to the slow but
sure process of famine. He was well aware that the stock of food in
the city was but small and the inhabitants were already suffering
severely, and he thought that they could not hold out much longer.
But greatly as the inhabitants suffered, the misery of the army
besieging them more than equalled their own. The intense cold
rendered it next to impossible to supply so large a force with
food; and small as were the rations of the inhabitants, they were
at least as large and more regularly delivered than those of the
troops. Moreover, the citizens who were not on duty could retire
to their comfortable houses; while the besiegers had but tents to
shelter them from the severity of the frosts. Cold and insufficient
food brought with them a train of diseases, and great numbers of
the soldiers died.
The cessation of the assaults tried the besieged even more than their
daily conflicts had done, for it is much harder to await death in
a slow and tedious form than to face it fighting. They could not
fully realize the almost hopeless prospect. Ere long the frost
would break up, and with it the chance of obtaining supplies or
reinforcements across the frozen lake would be at an end.
It was here alone that they could expect succour, for they knew
well enough that the prince could raise no army capable of cutting
its way through the great beleaguering force. In vain did they
attempt to provoke or anger the Spaniards into renewing their attacks.
Sorties were constantly made. The citizens gathered on the walls,
and with shouts and taunts of cowardice challenged the Spaniards
to come on; they even went to the length of dressing themselves
in the vestments of the churches, and contemptuously carrying the
sacred vessels in procession, in hopes of infuriating the Spaniards
into an attack. But Don Frederick and his generals were not to be
moved from their purpose.
The soldiers, suffering as much as the besiegers, would gladly have
brought matters to an issue one way or the other by again assaulting
the walls; but their officers restrained them, assuring them that
the city could not hold out long, and that they would have an ample
revenge when the time came. Life in the city was most monotonous
now. There was no stir of life or business; no one bought or sold;
and except the men who went to take their turn as sentries on the
wall, or the women who fetched the daily ration for the family
from the magazines, there was no occasion to go abroad. Fuel was
getting very scarce, and families clubbed together and gathered at
each others houses by turns, so that one fire did for all.
But at the end of February their sufferings from cold came to
an end, for the frost suddenly broke up; in a few days the ice on
the lake disappeared, and spring set in. The remaining cattle were
now driven out into the fields under the walls to gather food for
themselves. Strong guards went with them, and whenever the Spaniards
endeavoured to come down and drive them off, the citizens flocked
out and fought so desperately that the Spaniards ceased to molest
them; for as one of those present wrote, each captured bullock cost
the lives of at least a dozen soldiers.
Don Frederick himself had long since become heartily weary of the
siege, in which there was no honour to be gained, and which had
already cost the lives of so large a number of his best soldiers.
It did not seem to him that the capture of a weak city was worth
the price that had to be paid for it, and he wrote to his father
urging his views, and asking permission to raise the siege. But
the duke thought differently, and despatched an officer to his son
with this message: "Tell Don Frederick that if he be not decided
to continue the siege until the town be taken, I shall no longer
consider him my son. Should he fall in the siege I will myself
take the field to maintain it, and when we have both perished, the
duchess, my wife, shall come from Spain to do the same."
Inflamed by this reply Don Frederick recommenced active operations,
to the great satisfaction of the besieged. The batteries were
reopened, and daily contests took place. One night under cover of
a fog, a party of the besieged marched up to the principal Spanish
battery, and attempted to spike the guns. Every one of them was
killed round the battery, not one turning to fly. "The citizens,"
wrote Don Frederick, "do as much as the best soldiers in the world
As soon as the frost broke up Count Bossu, who had been building a
fleet of small vessels in Amsterdam, cut a breach through the dyke
and entered the lake, thus entirely cutting off communications. The
Prince of Orange on his part was building ships at the other end
of the lake, and was doing all in his power for the relief of the
city. He was anxiously waiting the arrival of troops from Germany
or France, and doing his best with such volunteers as he could
raise. These, however, were not numerous; for the Dutch, although
ready to fight to the death for the defence of their own cities
and families, had not yet acquired a national spirit, and all the
efforts of the prince failed to induce them to combine for any
His principal aim now was to cut the road along the dyke which
connected Amsterdam with the country round it. Could he succeed in
doing this, Amsterdam would be as completely cut off as was Haarlem,
and that city, as well as the Spanish army, would speedily be
starved out. Alva himself was fully aware of this danger, and wrote
to the king: "Since I came into this world I have never been in
such anxiety. If they should succeed in cutting off communication
along the dykes we should have to raise the siege of Haarlem, to
surrender, hands crossed, or to starve."
The prince, unable to gather sufficient men for this attempt,
sent orders to Sonoy, who commanded the small army in the north of
Holland, to attack the dyke between the Diemar Lake and the Y, to
open the sluices, and break through the dyke, by which means much
of the country round Haarlem would be flooded. Sonoy crossed the Y
in boats, seized the dyke, opened the sluices, and began the work
of cutting it through. Leaving his men so engaged, Sonoy went to
Edam to fetch up reinforcements. While he was away a large force
from Amsterdam came up, some marching along the causeway and some
A fierce contest took place, the contending parties fighting partly
in boats, partly on the slippery causeway, that was wide enough but
for two men to stand abreast, partly in the water. But the number
of the assailants was too great, and the Dutch, after fighting
gallantly, lost heart and retired just as Sonoy, whose volunteers
from Edam had refused to follow him, arrived alone in a little boat.
He tried in vain to rally them, but was swept away by the rush of
fugitives, many of whom were, however, able to gain their boats and
make their retreat, thanks to the valour of John Haring of Horn,
who took his station on the dyke, and, armed with sword and shield,
actually kept in check a thousand of the enemy for a time long
enough to have enabled the Dutch to rally had they been disposed
to do so. But it was too late; and they had enough of fighting.
However, he held his post until many had made good their retreat,
and then, plunging into the sea, swam off to the boats and effected
his escape. A braver feat of arms was never accomplished.
Some hundreds of the Dutch were killed or captured. All the prisoners
were taken to the gibbets in the front of Haarlem, and hung, some
by the neck and some by the heels, in view of their countrymen,
while the head of one of their officers was thrown into the city.
As usual this act of ferocity excited the citizens to similar acts.
Two of the old board of magistrates belonging to the Spanish party,
with several other persons, were hung, and the wife and daughter
of one of them hunted into the water and drowned.
In the words of an historian, "Every man within and without Haarlem
seemed inspired by a spirit of special and personal vengeance."
Many, however, of the more gentle spirits were filled with horror
at these barbarities and the perpetual carnage going on. Captain
Curey, for example, one of the bravest officers of the garrison, who
had been driven to take up arms by the sufferings of his countrymen,
although he had naturally a horror of bloodshed, was subject to fits
of melancholy at the contemplation of these horrors. Brave in the
extreme, he led his men in every sortie, in every desperate struggle.
Fighting without defensive armour he was always in the thick of
the battle, and many of the Spaniards fell before his sword. On
his return he invariably took to his bed, and lay ill from remorse
and compunction till a fresh summons for action arrived, when, seized
by a sort of frenzy, he rose and led his men to fresh conflicts.
On the 25th of March a sally was made by a thousand of the besieged.
They drove in all the Spanish outposts, killed eight hundred of
the enemy, burnt three hundred tents, and captured seven cannons,
nine standards, and many wagon loads of provisions, all of which
they succeeded in bringing into the city.
The Duke of Alva, who had gone through nearly sixty years of warfare,
wrote to the king that "never was a place defended with such skill
and bravery as Haarlem," and that "it was a war such as never before
was seen or heard of in any land on earth." Three veteran Spanish
regiments now reinforced the besiegers, having been sent from
Italy to aid in overcoming the obstinate resistance of the city.
But the interest of the inhabitants was now centred rather on the
lake than upon the Spanish camp. It was from this alone that they
could expect succour, and it now swarmed with the Dutch and Spanish
vessels, between whom there were daily contests.
On the 28th of May the two fleets met in desperate fight. Admiral
Bossu had a hundred ships, most of considerable size. Martin Brand,
who commanded the Dutch, had a hundred and fifty, but of much
smaller size. The ships grappled with each other, and for hours a
furious contest raged. Several thousands of men were killed on both
sides, but at length weight prevailed and the victory was decided
in favour of the Spaniards. Twenty-two of the Dutch vessels were
captured and the rest routed. The Spanish fleet now sailed towards
Haarlem, landed their crews, and joined by a force from the army,
captured the forts the Dutch had erected and had hitherto held on
the shore of the lake, and through which their scanty supplies had
hitherto been received.
From the walls of the city the inhabitants watched the conflict,
and a wail of despair rose from them as they saw its issue. They
were now entirely cut off from all hope of succour, and their fate
appeared to be sealed. Nevertheless they managed to send a message
to the prince that they would hold out for three weeks longer in
hopes that he might devise some plan for their relief, and carrier
pigeons brought back word that another effort should be made
to save them. But by this time the magazines were empty. Hitherto
one pound of bread had been served out daily to each man and half
a pound to each woman, and on this alone they had for many weeks
subsisted; but the flour was now exhausted, and henceforth it was
a battle with starvation.
Every living creature that could be used as food was slain and eaten.
Grass and herbage of all kinds were gathered and cooked for food,
and under cover of darkness parties sallied out from the gates to
gather grass in the fields. The sufferings of the besieged were
terrible. So much were they reduced by weakness that they could
scarce drag themselves along the streets, and numbers died from
During the time that the supply of bread was served out Ned had
persuaded his aunt and the girls to put by a morsel of their food
"It will be the only resource when the city surrenders," he said.
"For four or five days at least the girls must remain concealed,
and during that time they must be fed. If they take in with them a
jar of water and a supply of those crusts which they can eat soaked
in the water, they can maintain life."
And so each day, as long as the bread lasted, a small piece was
put aside until a sufficient store was accumulated to last the two
girls for a week. Soon after the daily issue ceased. Frau Plomaert
placed the bag of crusts into Ned's hands.
"Take it away and hide it somewhere," she said; "and do not let
me know where you have put it, or we shall assuredly break into it
and use it before the time comes. I do not think now that, however
great the pressure, we would touch those crusts; but there is no
saying what we may do when we are gnawed by hunger. It is better,
anyhow, to put ourselves out of the way of temptation."
During the long weeks of June Ned found it hard to keep the precious
store untouched. His aunt's figure had shrunk to a shadow of her
former self, and she was scarce able to cross the room. The girls'
cheeks were hollow and bloodless with famine, and although none of
them ever asked him to break in upon the store, their faces pleaded
more powerfully than any words could have done; and yet they were
better off than many, for every night Ned either went out from the
gates or let himself down by a rope from the wall and returned with
a supply of grass and herbage.
It was fortunate for the girls that there was no necessity to go
out of doors, for the sights there would have shaken the strongest.
Men, women, and children fell dead by scores in the streets, and
the survivors had neither strength nor heart to carry them away
and bury them. On the 1st of July the burghers hung out a flag
of truce, and deputies went out to confer with Don Frederick. The
latter, however, would grant no terms whatever, and they returned
to the city. Two days later a tremendous cannonade was opened upon
the town, and the walls broken down in several places, but the
Spaniards did not advance to the assault, knowing that the town
could not hold out many days longer.
Two more parleys were held, but without result, and the black flag
was hoisted upon the cathedral tower as a signal of despair; but
soon afterwards a pigeon flew into the town with a letter from the
prince, begging them to hold out for two days longer, as succour
was approaching. The prince had indeed done all that was possible.
He assembled the citizens of Delft in the marketplace, and said
that if any troops could be gathered he would march in person at
their head to the relief of the city. There were no soldiers to be
obtained; but 4000 armed volunteers from the various Dutch cities
assembled, and 600 mounted troops. The prince placed himself at
their head, but the magistrates and burghers of the towns would
not allow him to hazard a life so indispensable to the existence
of Holland, and the troops themselves refused to march unless
he abandoned his intention. He at last reluctantly consented, and
handed over the command of the expedition to Baron Batenburg.
On the 8th of July at dusk the expedition set out from Sassenheim,
taking with them four hundred wagon loads of provisions and seven
cannon. They halted in the woods, and remained till midnight.
Then they again marched forward, hoping to be able to surprise the
Spaniards and make their way through before these could assemble
in force. The agreement had been made that signal fires should
be lighted, and that the citizens should sally out to assist the
relieving force as it approached. Unfortunately two pigeons with
letters giving the details of the intended expedition had been
shot while passing over the Spanish camp, and the besiegers were
perfectly aware of what was going to be done. Opposite the point
at which the besieged were to sally out the Spaniards collected
a great mass of green branches, pitch, and straw. Five thousand
troops were stationed behind it, while an overwhelming force was
stationed to attack the relieving army.
When night fell the pile of combustibles was lighted, and gave out
so dense a smoke that the signal fires lighted by Batenburg were
hidden from the townspeople. As soon as the column advanced from
the wood they were attacked by an overwhelming force of the enemy.
Batenburg was killed and his troops utterly routed, with the loss,
according to the Dutch accounts, of from five to six hundred, but
of many more according to Spanish statements. The besieged, ranged
under arms, heard the sound of the distant conflict, but as they
had seen no signal fires believed that it was only a device of the
Spaniards to tempt them into making a sally, and it was not until
morning, when Don Frederick sent in a prisoner with his nose and
ears cut off to announce the news, that they knew that the last
effort to save them had failed.
The blow was a terrible one, and there was great commotion in the
town. After consultation the garrison and the able bodied citizens
resolved to issue out in a solid column, and to cut their way
through the enemy or perish. It was thought that if the women, the
helpless, and infirm alone remained in the city they would be treated
with greater mercy after all the fighting men had been slain. But
as soon as this resolution became known the women and children
issued from the houses with loud cries and tears. The burghers were
unable to withstand their entreaties that all should die together,
and it was then resolved that the fighting men should be formed
into a hollow square, in which the women, children, sick, and
aged should be gathered, and so to sally out, and either win a way
through the camp or die together.
But the news of this resolve reached the ears of Don Frederick. He
knew now what the burghers of Haarlem were capable of, and thought
that they would probably fire the city before they left, and thus
leaving nothing but a heap of ashes as a trophy of his victory. He
therefore sent a letter to the magistrates, in the name of Count
Overstein, commander of the German forces in the besieging army,
giving a solemn assurance that if they surrendered at discretion
no punishment should be inflicted except upon those who, in the
judgment of the citizens themselves, had deserved it.
At the moment of sending the letter Don Frederick was in possession
of strict orders from his father not to leave a man alive of the
garrison, with the exception of the Germans, and to execute a large
number of the burghers. On the receipt of this letter the city
formally surrendered on the 10th of July. The great bell was tolled,
and orders were issued that all arms should be brought to the town
hall, that the women should assemble in the cathedral and the men
in the cloister of Zyl. Then Don Frederick with his staff rode
into the city. The scene which met their eyes was a terrible one.
Everywhere were ruins of houses which had been set on fire by the
Spanish artillery, the pavement had been torn up to repair the
gaps in the walls, unburied bodies of men and women were scattered
about the streets, while those still alive were mere shadows scarcely
able to maintain their feet.
No time was lost in commencing the massacre. All the officers were
at once put to death. The garrison had been reduced during the siege
from 4000 to 1800. Of these the Germans -- 600 in number -- were
allowed to depart. The remaining 1200 were immediately butchered,
with at least as many of the citizens. Almost every citizen
distinguished by service, station, or wealth was slaughtered, and
from day to day five executioners were kept constantly at work.
The city was not sacked, the inhabitants agreeing to raise a great
sum of money as a ransom.
As soon as the surrender was determined upon, Ned helped his cousins
into the refuge prepared for them, passed in the bread and water,
walled up the hole and whitewashed it, his aunt being too weak to
render any assistance. Before they entered he opened the bag and
took out a few crusts.
"You must eat something now, aunt," he said. "It may be a day or
two before any food is distributed, and it is no use holding on so
long to die of hunger when food is almost in sight. There is plenty
in the bag to last the girls for a week. You must eat sparingly,
girls, -- not because there is not enough food, but because after
fasting so long it is necessary for you at first to take food in
very small quantities."
The bread taken out was soaked, and it swelled so much in the water
that it made much more than he had expected. He therefore divided
it in half, and a portion made an excellent meal for Ned and his
aunt, the remaining being carefully put by for the following day.
An hour or two after eating the meal Frau Plomaert felt so
much stronger that she was able to obey the order to go up to the
cathedral. Ned went with the able bodied men to the cloisters. The
Spaniards soon came among them, and dragged off numbers of those
whom they thought most likely to have taken a prominent part in
the fighting, to execution. As they did not wish others from whom
money could be wrung to escape from their hands, they presently
issued some food to the remainder. The women, after remaining for
some hours in the cathedral, were suffered to depart to their homes,
for their starving condition excited the compassion even of the
Spaniards; and the atrocities which had taken place at the sacks
of Mechlin, Zutphen and Naarden, were not repeated in Haarlem.
The next day the men were also released; not from any ideas of
mercy, but in order that when they returned to their homes the work
of picking out the better class for execution could be the more
easily carried on. For three days longer the girls remained in
their hiding, and were then allowed to come out, as Ned felt now
that the danger of general massacre was averted.
"Now, Ned," his aunt said, "you must stay here no longer. Every
day we hear proclamations read in the streets that all sheltering
refugees and others not belonging to the town will be punished with
death; and, as you know, every stranger caught has been murdered."
This they had heard from some of the neighbours. Ned himself had
not stirred out since he returned from the cloisters; for his aunt
had implored him not to do so, as it would only be running useless
"I hear," she went on, "that they have searched many houses for
fugitives, and it is probable the hunt may become even more strict;
therefore I think, Ned, that for our sake as well as your own you
had better try to escape."
"I quite agree with you, aunt. Now that the worst is over, and
I know that you and the girls are safe, no good purpose could be
served by my staying; and being both a stranger and one who has
fought here, I should certainly be killed if they laid hands on me.
As to escaping, I do not think there can be any difficulty about
that. I have often let myself down from the walls, and can do
so again; and although there is a strict watch kept at the gates
to prevent any leaving until the Spaniards' thirst for blood is
satisfied, there can be no longer any vigilant watch kept up by
the troops encamped outside, and I ought certainly to be able to
get through them at night. It will be dark in a couple of hours,
and as soon as it is so I will be off."
The girls burst into tears at the thought of Ned's departure.
During the seven long months the siege had lasted he had been as
a brother to them -- keeping up their spirits by his cheerfulness,
looking after their safety, and as far as possible after their
comfort, and acting as the adviser and almost as the head of the
house. His aunt was almost equally affected, for she had come to
lean entirely upon him and to regard him as a son.
"It is best that it should be so, Ned; but we shall all miss you
sorely. It may be that I shall follow your advice and come over to
England on a long visit. Now that I know you so well it will not
seem like going among strangers, as it did before; for although
I met your father and mother whenever they came over to Vordwyk,
I had not got to know them as I know you. I shall talk the matter
over with my father. Of course everything depends upon what is
going to happen in Holland."
Ned did not tell his aunt that her father had been one of the first
dragged out from the cloisters for execution, and that her sister,
who kept house for him, had died three days previous to the surrender.
His going away was grief enough for her for one day, and he turned
the conversation to other matters until night fell, when, after a
sad parting, he made his way to the walls, having wound round his
waist the rope by which he had been accustomed to lower himself.
The executions in Haarlem continued for two days after he had left,
and then the five executioners were so weary of slaying that the
three hundred prisoners who still remained for execution were tied
back to back and thrown into the lake.
NED RECEIVES PROMOTION
It was fortunate for Ned that the watch round the city had relaxed
greatly when he started from it. The soldiers were discontented at
the arrangement that had been made for the city to pay an immense
sum of money to escape a general sack. They were all many months in
arrear of their pay. They had suffered during the siege, and they
now considered themselves to be cheated of their fair reward.
The sum paid by the city would go into the hands of the duke; and
although the soldiers were promised a share of the prize money,
the duke's necessities were so great that it was probable little
of the money would find its way into the hands of the troops.
A sack upon the other hand was looked upon as a glorious lottery.
Every one was sure to gain something. Many would obtain most
valuable prizes of money or jewelry. No sooner, therefore, had
Haarlem surrendered than a mutinous spirit began to show itself
among the troops; they became slack in obeying the orders of their
officers, refused to perform their duties, and either gathered
in bodies to discuss their wrongs or sulked in their tents. Thus
the work of keeping a vigilant watch round the walls by night, to
prevent the escape of the victims selected to satiate the vengeance
of Don Frederick, was greatly relaxed.
After lowering himself from the walls Ned proceeded with great
caution. On reaching the spot where he expected to meet with
a cordon of sentries, he was surprised at finding everything still
and quiet. Unaware of the state of things in the camp, and suspecting
that some device had perhaps been hit upon with the view of inducing
men to try to escape from the city, he redoubled his precautions,
stopping every few paces to listen for the calls of the sentries,
or a heavy tread, or the clash of arms. All was silent, and he
continued his course until close to the camps of some of the German
regiments. Incredible as it seemed to him, it was now evident that
no sentries had been posted. He saw great fires blazing in the
camps, and a large number of men standing near one of them; they
were being addressed by a soldier standing upon a barrel.
Keeping in the shadow of the tents, Ned made his way close up to
the group, and the similarity of the German language to the Dutch
enabled him to gather without difficulty the meaning of the speaker's
words. He was recounting to the soldiers the numberless toils and
hardships through which they had passed in the service of Spain,
and the ingratitude with which they were treated.
"They pretend they have no money!" he exclaimed, "it is not true.
Spain has the wealth of the Indies at her back, and yet she grudges
us our pay for the services we have faithfully rendered her. Why
should we throw away our lives for Spain? What do we care whether
she is mistress of this wretched country or not? Let us resolve,
brethren, to be moved neither by entreaties or threats, but to
remain fast to the oath we and our Spanish comrades have sworn,
that we will neither march a foot nor lift an arm until we have
received our pay; and not only our pay, but our share of the booty
they have stolen from us."
The shouts of approval that greeted the speech showed that the
speaker's audience was thoroughly in accord with him. Ned waited
to hear no further orations, he understood now the withdrawal of
the sentries. It was another of the mutinies that had so frequently
broken out among the Spanish forces in the Netherlands. Making
his way out through the other side of the camp he proceeded on his
journey. The news was important, for if the mutiny continued it
would give the Prince of Orange time to prepare for the forward
march of the enemy. He passed several other camps, but observed
everywhere the same slackness of discipline and the absence of
All night he pushed forward without stopping, and as soon as the
gates of Leyden were opened he entered. Upon inquiring he found
that the prince was at Delft, and hiring a horse he at once rode
there. The prince received him with real pleasure.
"And so you have escaped safe and sound from the siege, Master
Martin? Truly your good fortune is wonderful. I am glad indeed to
see you. Tell me how goes it in Haarlem. Rumours reached me that
there, as at other towns, they have broken their oaths, and are
massacring the whole population."
"It is not so bad as that, sir," Ned replied. "They have put to
death numbers of the principal citizens and all refugees they could
discover in the city, but there has been no regular sack. The women
have not been ill treated, and although five executioners were kept
busily at work there has been nothing like a general massacre."
"Thank God for that," the prince said piously. "That has eased my
mind. I feared that the horrors of Zutphen and Naarden had been
"I have another piece of good news to give you, sir. As I passed
through their camps, I learned that all the troops, German as
well as Spanish, are in open mutiny, and have sworn that they will
neither march nor fight until they receive all arrears of pay."
"That is good news indeed!" the prince exclaimed. "It will give us
breathing time, of which we are sadly in need. Were the Spaniards
to march forward now, they could sweep over Holland, for I could
not put a thousand men in the field to withstand them. And now,
Master Martin, what shall I do for you? You have received as yet
no reward whatever for the great service you rendered us by the
successful carrying out of your mission to Brussels, to say nothing
of the part you have borne in the defence of Haarlem. I know that
you joined us from pure love of our cause and hatred of Spanish
tyranny, still that is no reason why I should not recognize your
services. If you would like it, I would gladly appoint you to the
command of a company of volunteers."
"I thank you greatly, your highness," replied Ned; "but I am far
too young to command men, and pray that you will allow me to remain
near your person, and to perform such service as you may think me
"If that be your wish, it shall be so for the present," the prince
replied; "and it is pleasant to me in these days, when almost
every noble in the Netherlands puts a price on his services, and
when even the cities bargain for every crown piece they advance, to
find one who wants nothing. But now you need rest. When I am more
at leisure you shall furnish me with further details of what took
place inside Haarlem during the siege."
The long defence of Haarlem, the enormous expenditure which it had
cost, both in money and life, for no less than 10,000 soldiers had
fallen in the assault or by disease, induced Alva to make another
attempt to win back the people of Holland, and three days after
Ned's return a proclamation was sent to every town.
He adopted an affectionate tone: "Ye are well aware," began the
address, "that the king has over and over again manifested his
willingness to receive his children, in however forlorn a condition
the prodigals might return. His majesty assures you once more that
your sins, however black they may have been, shall be forgiven and
forgotten in the plentitude of royal kindness, if you will repent
and return in season to his majesty's embrace. Notwithstanding
your manifold crimes, his majesty still seeks, like a hen calling
her chickens, to gather you all under the parental wing."
This portion of the document, which was by the order of the
magistrates affixed to the doors of the town halls, was received
with shouts of laughter by the citizens, and many were the jokes
as to the royal hen and the return of the prodigals. The conclusion
of the document afforded a little further insight into the affectionate
disposition of the royal bird. "If," continued the proclamation,
"ye disregard these offers of mercy, and receive them with closed
ears as heretofore, then we warn you that there is no rigour
or cruelty, however great, which you are not to expect, by laying
waste, starvation, and the sword. In such manner that nowhere shall
remain a relic of that which at present exists, but his majesty
will strip bare and utterly depopulate the land, and cause it to be
inhabited again by strangers, since otherwise his majesty would not
believe that the will of God and of his majesty had been accomplished."
This proclamation produced no effect whatever; for the people of
Holland were well aware that Philip of Spain would never grant that
religious toleration for which they were fighting, and they knew
also that no reliance whatever could be placed in Spanish promises
or oaths. For a month Alva was occupied in persuading the troops
to return to their duty, and at last managed to raise a sufficient
sum of money to pay each man a portion of the arrears due to him,
and a few crowns on account of his share of the ransom paid by Haarlem.
During this breathing time the Prince of Orange was indefatigable
in his endeavours to raise a force capable of undertaking the relief
of such towns as the Spanish might invest.
This, however, he found well nigh impossible. The cities were
all ready to defend themselves, but in spite of the danger that
threatened they were chary in the extreme in contributing money for
the common cause, nor would the people enlist for service in the
field. Nothing had occurred to shake the belief in the invincibility
of the Spanish soldiery in fair fight in the open, and the disasters
which had befallen the bodies of volunteers who had endeavoured to
relieve Haarlem, effectually deterred others from following their
example. The prince's only hope, therefore, of being able to put
a force into the field, rested upon his brother Louis, who was
raising an army of mercenaries in Germany.
He had little assurance, however, that relief would come from this
quarter, as the two armies he had himself raised in Germany had
effected absolutely nothing. His efforts to raise a fleet were
more successful. The hardy mariners of Zeeland were ready to fight
on their own element, and asked nothing better than to meet the
Spaniards at sea. Nevertheless the money had to be raised for the
purchase of vessels, stores, artillery, and ammunition. Ned was
frequently despatched by the prince with letters to magistrates
of the chief towns, to nobles and men of influence, and always
performed his duties greatly to the prince's satisfaction.
As soon as the Duke of Alva had satisfied the troops, preparations
began for a renewal of hostilities, and the prince soon learnt that
it was intended that Don Frederick should invade Northern Holland
with 16,000 men, and that the rest of the army, which had lately
received further reinforcements, should lay siege to Leyden. The
prince felt confident that Leyden could resist for a time, but he
was very anxious as to the position of things in North Holland. In
the courage and ability of Sonoy, the Lieutenant Governor of North
Holland, the prince had entire confidence; but it was evident by
the tone of his letters that he had lost all hope of being able
to defend the province, and altogether despaired of the success
of their cause. He had written in desponding tones at the utterly
insufficient means at his disposal for meeting the storm that was
about to burst upon the province, and had urged that unless the
prince had a good prospect of help, either from France or England,
it was better to give up the struggle, than to bring utter destruction
upon the whole people.
The letter in which the prince answered him has been preserved, and
well illustrates the lofty tones of his communications in this
crisis of the fate of Holland. He reprimanded with gentle but earnest
eloquence the despondency and want of faith of his lieutenant and
other adherents. He had not expected, he said, that they would have
so soon forgotten their manly courage. They seemed to consider the
whole fate of the country attached to the city of Haarlem. He took
God to witness that he had spared no pains, and would willingly
have spared no drop of his blood to save that devoted city.
"But as, notwithstanding our efforts," he continued, "it has pleased
God Almighty to dispose of Haarlem according to His divine will,
shall we, therefore, deny and deride His holy word? Has His church,
therefore, come to nought? You ask if I have entered into a firm
treaty with any great king or potentate, to which I answer that
before I ever took up the cause of the oppressed Christians in
these provinces I had entered into a close alliance with the King
of kings; and I am firmly convinced that all who put their trust
in Him shall be saved by His Almighty hand. The God of armies will
raise up armies for us to do battle with our enemies and His own."
In conclusion he detailed his preparations for attacking the
enemy by sea as well as by land, and encouraged his lieutenant and
the population of the northern province to maintain a bold front
before the advancing foe. That Sonoy would do his best the prince
was sure; but he knew how difficult it is for one who himself
regards resistance as hopeless to inspire enthusiasm in others,
and he determined to send a message to cheer the people of North
Holland, and urge them to resist to the last, and to intrust it to
one who could speak personally as to the efforts that were being
made for their assistance, and who was animated by a real enthusiasm
in the cause.
It was an important mission; but after considering the various
persons of his household, he decided to intrust it to the lad who
had showed such courage and discretion in his dangerous mission
to Brussels. A keen observer of character, the prince felt that he
could trust the young fellow absolutely to do his best at whatever
risk to himself. He had believed when he first joined him that Ned
was some eighteen years of age, and the year that had since elapsed
with its dangers and responsibilities had added two or three years
to his appearance.
It was the fashion in Holland to entirely shave the face, and Ned's
smooth cheeks were therefore no sign of youth. Standing over the
average height of the natives of Holland, with broad shoulders and
well set figure, he might readily pass as a man of three or four
and twenty. The prince accordingly sent for the lad.
"I have another mission for you, Master Martin; and again a dangerous
one. The Spaniards are on the point of marching to lay siege to
Alkmaar, and I wish a message carried to the citizens, assuring them
that they may rely absolutely upon my relieving them by breaking
down the dykes. I wish you on this occasion to be more than a
messenger. In these despatches I have spoken of you as one, Captain
Martin, who possesses my fullest confidence. You would as you say
be young to be a captain of a company of fighting men, but as an
officer attached to my household you can bear that rank as well as
"It will be useful, and will add to your influence and authority,
and I have therefore appointed you to the grade of captain, of
which by your conduct you have proved yourself to be worthy. Your
mission is to encourage the inhabitants to resist to the last, to
rouse them to enthusiasm if you can, to give them my solemn promise
that they shall not be deserted, and to assure them that if I cannot
raise a force sufficient to relieve them I will myself come round
and superintend the operation of cutting the dykes and laying the
whole country under water. I do not know whether you will find the
lieutenant governor in the city, but at any rate he will not remain
there during the siege, as he has work outside. But I shall give
you a letter recommending you to him, and ask him to give you his
The prince then took off the gold chain he wore round his neck, and
placed it upon Ned. "I give you this in the first place, Captain
Martin, in token of my esteem and of my gratitude for the perilous
service you have already rendered; and secondly, as a visible mark
of my confidence in you, and as a sign that I have intrusted you
with authority to speak for me. Going as you now do, it will be
best for you to assume somewhat more courtly garments in order to
do credit to your mission. I have given orders that these shall
be prepared for you, and that you shall be provided with a suit
of armour, such as a young noble would wear. All will be prepared
for you this afternoon. At six o'clock a ship will be in readiness
to sail, and this will land you on the coast at the nearest point
to Alkmaar. Should any further point occur to you before evening,
speak to me freely about it."
Ned retired depressed rather than elated at the confidence the
prince reposed in him, and at the rank and dignity he had bestowed
upon him. He questioned, too, whether he had not done wrong in not
stating at once when the prince had, on his first joining him, set
down his age at over eighteen, that he was two years under that
age, and he hesitated whether he ought not even now to go to him
and state the truth. He would have done so had he not known how
great were the labours of the prince, and how incessantly he was
occupied, and so feared to upset his plans and cause him fresh
"Anyhow," he said to himself at last, "I will do my best; and I could
do no more if I were nineteen instead of seventeen. The prince has
chosen me for this business, not because of my age, but because he
thought I could carry it out; and carry it out I will, if it be in
In the afternoon a clothier arrived with several suits of handsome
material and make, out of sober colours, such as a young man of
good family would wear, and an armourer brought him a morion and
breast and back pieces of steel, handsomely inlaid with gold. When
he was alone he attired himself in the quietest of his new suits,
and looking at himself in the mirror burst into a fit of hearty
"What in the world would my father and mother and the girls say
were they to see me pranked out in such attire as this? They would
scarce know me, and I shall scarce know myself for some time.
However, I think I shall be able to play my part as the prince's
representative better in these than I should have done in the dress
I started in last time, or in that I wore on board the Good Venture."
At five o'clock Ned paid another visit to the prince, and thanked
him heartily for his kindness towards him, and then received a few
last instructions. On his return to his room he found a corporal
and four soldiers at the door. The former saluted.
"We have orders, Captain Martin, to place ourselves under your
command for detached duty. Our kits are already on board the ship;
the men will carry down your mails if they are packed."
"I only take that trunk with me," Ned said, pointing to the one
that contained his new clothes; "and there is besides my armour,
and that brace of pistols."
Followed by the corporal and men, Ned now made his way down to
the port, where the captain of the little vessel received him with
profound respect. As soon as they were on board the sails were
hoisted, and the vessel ran down the channel from Delft through the
Hague to the sea. On the following morning they anchored soon after
daybreak. A boat was lowered, and Ned and the soldiers landed on the
sandy shore. Followed by them he made his way over the high range
of sand hills facing the sea, and then across the low cultivated
country extending to Alkmaar. He saw parties of men and women
hurrying northward along the causeways laden with goods, and leading
in most instances horses or donkeys, staggering under the weights
placed upon them.
"I think we are but just in time, corporal. The population of the
villages are evidently fleeing before the advance of the Spaniards.
Another day and we should have been too late to get into the town."
Alkmaar had been in sight from the time they had crossed the dunes,
and after walking five miles they arrived at its gates.
"Is the lieutenant governor in the town?" Ned asked one of the
"Yes, he is still here," the man said. "You will find him at the
There was much excitement in the streets. Armed burghers were standing
in groups, women were looking anxiously from doors and casements;
but Ned was surprised to see no soldiers about, although he knew
that the eight hundred whom the prince had despatched as a garrison
must have arrived there some days before. On arriving at the town
hall he found the general seated at table. In front of him were a
group of elderly men whom he supposed to be the leading citizens,
and it was evident by the raised voices and angry looks, both of
the old officer and of the citizens, that there was some serious
difference of opinion between them.
"Whom have we here?" Sonoy asked as Ned approached the table.
"I am a messenger, sir, from the prince. I bear these despatches
to yourself, and have also letters and messages from him to the
citizens of Alkmaar."
"You come at a good season," the governor said shortly, taking the
despatches, "and if anything you can say will soften the obstinacy
of these good people here, you will do them and me a service."
There was silence for a few minutes as the governor read the letter
Ned had brought him.
"My good friends," he said at last to the citizens, "this is Captain
Martin, an officer whom the prince tells me stands high in his
confidence. He bore part in the siege of Haarlem, and has otherwise
done great service to the state; the prince commends him most
highly to me and to you. He has sent him here in the first place
to assure you fully of the prince's intentions on your behalf. He
will especially represent the prince during the siege, and from his
knowledge of the methods of defence at Haarlem, of the arrangements
for portioning out the food and other matters, he will be able
to give you valuable advice and assistance. As you are aware, I
ride in an hour to Enkhuizen in order to superintend the general
arrangement for the defence of the province, and especially for
affording you aid, and I am glad to leave behind me an officer who
is so completely in the confidence of the prince. He will first
deliver the messages with which he is charged to you, and then we
will hear what he says as to this matter which is in dispute between
The passage of Ned with his escort through the street had attracted
much attention, and the citizens had followed him into the hall in
considerable numbers to hear the message of which he was no doubt
the bearer. Ned took his place by the side of the old officer,
and facing the crowd began to speak. At other times he would have
been diffident in addressing a crowded audience, but he felt that
he must justify the confidence imposed on him, and knowing the
preparations that were being made by the prince, and his intense
anxiety that Alkmaar should resist to the end, he began without
hesitation, and speedily forgot himself in the importance of the
"Citizens of Alkmaar," he began, "the prince has sent me specially
to tell you what there is in his mind concerning you, and how his
thoughts, night and day, have been turned towards your city. Not
only the prince, but all Holland are turning their eyes towards
you, and none doubt that you will show yourselves as worthy, as
faithful, and as steadfast as have the citizens of Haarlem. You
fight not for glory, but for your liberty, for your religion, for
the honour and the lives of those dear to you; and yet your glory
and your honour will be great indeed if this little city of yours
should prove the bulwark of Holland, and should beat back from its
walls the power of Spain. The prince bids me tell you that he is
doing all he can to collect an army and a fleet.
"In the latter respect he is succeeding well. The hardy seamen of
Holland and Zeeland are gathering round him, have sworn that they
will clear the Zuider Zee of the Spaniards or die in the attempt.
As to the army, it is, as you know, next to impossible to gather
one capable of coping with the host of Spain in the field; but
happily you need not rely solely upon an army to save you in your
need. Here you have an advantage over your brethren of Haarlem.
There it was impossible to flood the land round the city; and the
dykes by which the food supply of the Spaniards could have been
cut off were too strongly guarded to be won, even when your noble
governor himself led his forces against them.
"But it is not so here. The dykes are far away, and the Spaniards
cannot protect them. Grievous as it is to the prince to contemplate
the destruction of the rich country your fathers have won from the
sea, he bids me tell you that he will not hesitate; but that, as
a last resource, he pledges himself that he will lay the country
under water and drown out the Spaniards to save you. They have
sworn, as you know, to turn Holland into a desert -- to leave none
alive in her cities and villages. Well, then; better a thousand
times that we should return it to the ocean from which we won it,
and that then, having cast out the Spaniards, we should renew the
labours of our fathers, and again recover it from the sea."
A shout of applause rang through the hall.
"But this," Ned went on, "is the last resource, and will not be
taken until nought else can be done to save you. It is for you,
first, to show the Spaniards how the men of Holland can fight for
their freedom, their religion, their families, and their homes.
Then, when you have done all that men can do, the prince will prove
to the Spaniards that the men of Holland will lay their country
under water rather than surrender."
"Does this prince solemnly bind himself to do this?" one of the
elder burghers asked.
"He does; and here is his promise in black and white, with his seal
"We will retire, and let you have our answer in half an hour."
Ned glanced at the governor, who shook his head slightly.
"What! is there need of deliberation?" Ned asked in a voice that
was heard all over the hall. "To you, citizens at large, I appeal.
Of what use is it now to deliberate? Have you not already sent a
defiant answer to Alva? Are not his troops within a day's march of
you? Think you that, even if you turn traitors to your country and
to your prince, and throw open the gates, it would save you now?
Did submission save Naarden? How many of you, think you, would
survive the sack? and for those who did so, what would life be worth?
They would live an object of reproach and scoffing among all true
Hollanders, as the men of the city who threatened what they dared
not perform, who were bold while Alva was four days' march away,
but who cowered like children when they saw the standards of Spain
approaching their walls. I appeal to you, is this a time to hesitate
or discuss? I ask you now, in the name of the prince, are you true
men or false? Are you for Orange or Alva? What is your answer?"
A tremendous shout shook the hall.
"We will fight to the death! No surrender! Down with the council!"
and there were loud and threatening shouts against some of the
magistrates. The governor now rose:
"My friends," he said, "I rejoice to hear your decision; and now
there is no time for idle talk. Throw open the gates, and call
in the troops whom the prince has sent to your aid, and whom your
magistrates have hitherto refused to admit. Choose from among
yourselves six men upon whom you can rely to confer with me and
with the officer commanding the troops. Choose good and worshipful
men, zealous in the cause. I will see before I leave today that your
magistracy is strengthened. You need now men of heart and action
at your head. Captain Martin, who has been through the siege of
Haarlem, will deliberate with twelve citizens whom I will select
as to the steps to be taken for gathering the food into magazines
for the public use, for issuing daily rations, for organizing the
women as well as the men for such work as they are fit. There is
much to be done, and but little time to do it, for tomorrow the
Spaniard will be in front of your walls."
In an hour's time the 800 troops marched in from Egmont Castle and
Egmont Abbey, where they had been quartered while the citizens were
wavering between resistance and submission. Four of the citizens,
who had already been told off for the purpose, met them at the
gate and allotted them quarters in the various houses. Governor
Sonoy was already in deliberation with the six men chosen by the
townspeople to represent them. He had at once removed from the
magistracy an equal number of those who had been the chief opponents
of resistance; for here, as in other towns, the magistrates had
been appointed by the Spaniards.
Ned was busy conferring with the committee, and explaining to them
the organization adopted at Haarlem. He pointed out that it was a
first necessity that all the men capable of bearing arms should be
divided into companies of fifty, each of which should select its
own captain and lieutenant; that the names of the women should be
inscribed, with their ages, that the active and able bodied should
be divided into companies for carrying materials to the walls,
and aiding in the defence when a breach was attacked; and that the
old and feeble should be made useful in the hospitals and for such
other work as their powers admitted. All children were to join the
companies to which their mothers belonged, and to help as far as
they could in their work. Having set these matters in train, Ned
rejoined the governor.
"I congratulate you, Captain Martin, upon the service you have
rendered today. Your youth and enthusiasm have succeeded where my
experience failed. You believe in the possibility of success, and
thus your words had a ring and fervour which were wanting in mine,
fearing as I do, that the cause is a lost one. I wondered much when
you first presented yourself that the prince should have given his
confidence to one so young. I wonder no longer. The prince never
makes a mistake in his instruments, and he has chosen well this
"I leave the city tonight, and shall write to the prince from
Enkhuizen telling him how you have brought the citizens round
to a sense of their duty; and that whereas, at the moment of your
arrival I believed the magistrates would throw open the gates
tomorrow, I am now convinced the city will resist till the last.
In military matters the officer in command of the troops will of
course take the direction of things; but in all other matters you,
as the prince's special representative, will act as adviser of the
burghers. I wish I could stay here and share in the perils of the
siege. It would be far more suitable to my disposition than arguing
with pig headed burghers, and trying to excite their enthusiasm
when my own hopes have all but vanished."
The officer commanding the garrison now entered, and the governor
introduced Ned to him.
"You will find in Captain Martin, one who is in the prince's
confidence, and has been sent here as his special representative,
an able coadjutor. He will organize the citizens as they were
organized at Haarlem; and while you are defending the walls he will
see that all goes on in good order in the town, that there is no
undue waste in provisions, that the breaches are repaired as fast
as made, that the sick and wounded are well cared for, and that
the spirits of the townspeople are maintained."
"That will indeed be an assistance," the officer said courteously.
"These details are as necessary as the work of fighting; and it is
impossible for one man to attend to them and to see to his military
"I shall look to you, sir, for your aid and assistance," Ned said
modestly. "The prince is pleased to have a good opinion of me; but
I am young, and shall find the responsibility a very heavy one, and
can only hope to maintain my authority by the aid of your assistance."
"I think not that you will require much aid, Captain Martin," the
governor said. "I marked you when you were speaking, and doubt not
that your spirit will carry you through all difficulties." That
night was a busy one in Alkmaar. Few thought of sleeping, and
before morning the lists were all prepared, the companies mustered,
officers chosen, posts on the walls assigned to them, and every
man, woman, and child in Alkmaar knew the nature of the duties they
would be called upon to perform. Just before midnight the governor
"Farewell, young man," he said to Ned; "I trust that we may meet
again. Now that I have got rid of the black sheep among the magistracy
I feel more hopeful as to the success of the defence."
"But may I ask, sir, why you did not dismiss them before?"
"Ah! you hardly know the burghers of these towns," Sonoy said,
shaking his head. "They stand upon their rights and privileges, and
if you touch their civic officers they are like a swarm of angry
bees. Governor of North Holland as I am, I could not have interfered
with the magistracy even of this little town. It was only because
at the moment the people were roused to enthusiasm, and because they
regarded you as the special representative of the prince, that I
was able to do so. Now that the act is done they are well content
with the change, especially as I have appointed the men they themselves
chose to the vacant places. It was the same thing at Enkhuizen --
I could do nothing; and it was only when Sainte Aldegonde came with
authority from the prince himself that we were able to get rid of
Alva's creatures. Well, I must ride away. The Spaniards are encamped
about six miles away, and you may expect to see them soon after
It was indeed early in the morning that masses of smoke were seen
rising from the village of Egmont, telling the citizens of Alkmaar
that the troopers of Don Frederick had arrived. Alkmaar was but a
small town, and when every man capable of bearing arms was mustered
they numbered only about 1300, besides the 800 soldiers. It was on
the 21st of August that Don Frederick with 16,000 veteran troops
appeared before the walls of the town, and at once proceeded to
invest it, and accomplished this so thoroughly that Alva wrote,
"It is impossible for a sparrow to enter or go out of the city."
There was no doubt what the fate of the inhabitants would be if
the city were captured. The duke was furious that what he considered
his extraordinary clemency in having executed only some 2400
persons at the surrender of Haarlem should not have been met with
the gratitude it deserved.
"If I take Alkmaar," he wrote to the king, "I am resolved not to
leave a single person alive; the knife shall be put to every throat.
Since the example of Haarlem has proved to be of no use, perhaps
an example of cruelty will bring the other cities to their senses."
FRIENDS IN TROUBLE
Within the little town of Alkmaar all went on quietly. While the
Spaniards constructed their lines of investment and mounted their
batteries, the men laboured continually at strengthening their
walls, the women and children carried materials, all the food was
collected in magazines, and rations served out regularly. A carpenter
named Peter Van der Mey managed to make his way out of the city
a fortnight after the investment began with letters to the Prince
and Sonoy, giving the formal consent of all within the walls for
the cutting of the dykes when it should be necessary; for, according
to the laws of Holland, a step that would lead to so enormous a
destruction of property could not be undertaken, even in the most
urgent circumstances, without the consent of the population.
At daybreak on the 18th of September a heavy cannonade was opened
against the walls, and after twelve hours' fire two breaches were
made. Upon the following morning two of the best Spanish regiments
which had just arrived from Italy led the way to the assault, shouting
and cheering as they went, and confident of an easy victory. They
were followed by heavy masses of troops.
Now Ned was again to see what the slow and somewhat apathetic Dutch
burghers could do when fairly roused to action. Every man capable
of bearing a weapon was upon the walls, and not even in Haarlem was
an attack received with more coolness and confidence. As the storming
parties approached they were swept by artillery and musketry, and
as they attempted to climb the breaches, boiling water, pitch and
oil, molten lead and unslaked lime were poured upon them. Hundreds of
tarred and blazing hoops were skilfully thrown on to their necks,
and those who in spite of these terrible missiles mounted the
breach, found themselves confronted by the soldiers and burghers,
armed with axe and pike, and were slain or cast back again.
Three times was the assault renewed, fresh troops being ever
brought up and pressing forward, wild with rage at their repulses
by so small a number of defenders. But each was in turn hurled
back. For four hours the desperate fight continued. The women and
children showed a calmness equal to that of the men, moving backwards
and forwards between the magazines and the ramparts with supplies
of missiles and ammunition to the combatants. At nightfall the
Spaniards desisted from the attack and fell back to their camp,
leaving a thousand dead behind them; while only twenty-four of the
garrison and thirteen of the burghers lost their lives.
A Spanish officer who had mounted the breach for an instant, and,
after being hurled back, almost miraculously escaped with his life,
reported that he had seen neither helmet nor harness as he looked
down into the city -- only some plain looking people, generally
dressed like fishermen. The cannonade was renewed on the following
morning, and after 700 shots had been fired and the breaches enlarged,
a fresh assault was ordered. But the troops absolutely refused to
advance. It seemed to them that the devil, whom they believed the
Protestants worshipped, had protected the city, otherwise how could
a handful of townsmen and fishermen have defeated the invincible
soldiers of Spain, outnumbering them eight fold.
In vain Don Frederick and his generals entreated and stormed.
Several of the soldiers were run through the body, but even this
did not intimidate the rest into submission, and the assault was
in consequence postponed. Already, indeed, there was considerable
uneasiness in the Spanish camp. Governor Sonoy had opened many
of the dykes, and the ground in the neighbourhood of the camp was
already feeling soft and boggy. It needed but that two great dykes
should be pierced to spread inundation over the whole country. The
carpenter who had soon after the commencement of the siege carried
out the despatches had again made his way back. He was the bearer
of the copy of a letter sent from the prince to Sonoy, ordering
him to protect the dykes and sluices with strong guards, lest the
peasants, in order to save their crops, should repair the breaches.
He was directed to flood the whole country at all risks rather
than to allow Alkmaar to fall. The prince directed the citizens to
kindle four great beacon fires as soon as it should prove necessary
to resort to extreme measures, and solemnly promised that as soon
as the signal was given an inundation should be created which would
sweep the whole Spanish army into the sea.
The carpenter was informed of the exact contents of his despatches,
so that in case of losing them in his passage through the Spanish
camp he could repeat them by word of mouth to the citizens. This
was exactly what happened. The despatches were concealed in a hollow
stick, and this stick the carpenter, in carrying out his perilous
undertaking, lost. As it turned out it was fortunate that he did
so. The stick was picked up in the camp and discovered to be hollow.
It was carried to Don Frederick, who read the despatches, and at
once called his officers together.
Alarmed at the prospect before them, and already heartily sick of
the siege in which the honour all fell to their opponents, they
agreed that the safety of any army of the picked troops of Spain
must not be sacrificed merely with the hope of obtaining possession
of an insignificant town. Orders were therefore given for an
immediate retreat, and on the 8th of October the siege was raised
and the troops marched back to Amsterdam.
Thus for the first time the Spaniards had to recoil before their
puny adversaries. The terrible loss of life entailed by the capture
of Haarlem had struck a profound blow at the haughty confidence
of the Spaniards, and had vastly encouraged the people of Holland.
The successful defence of Alkmaar did even more. It showed the
people that resistance did not necessarily lead to calamity, that
the risk was greater in surrender than in defiance, and, above
all, that in their dykes they possessed means of defence that, if
properly used, would fight for them even more effectually than they
could do for themselves.
Ned had taken his full share in the labours and dangers of the
siege. He had been indefatigable in seeing that all the arrangements
worked well and smoothly, had slept on the walls with the men,
encouraged the women, talked and laughed with the children, and
done all in his power to keep up the spirits of the inhabitants.
At the assault on the breaches he had donned his armour and fought
in the front line as a volunteer under the officer in command of
On the day when the Spaniards were seen to be breaking up their
camps and retiring, a meeting held in the town hall, after a solemn
thanksgiving had been offered in the church, and by acclamation
Ned was made a citizen of the town, and was presented with a gold
chain as a token of the gratitude of the people of Alkmaar. There
was nothing more for him to do here, and as soon as the Spaniards
had broken up their camp he mounted a horse and rode to Enkhuizen,
bidding his escort follow him at once on foot.
He had learned from the carpenter who had made his way in, that the
fleet was collected, and that a portion of them from the northern
ports under Admiral Dirkzoon had already set sail, and the whole
were expected to arrive in a few days in the Zuider Zee. As he rode
through the street on his way to the burgomaster's his eye fell
upon a familiar face, and he at once reined in his horse.
"Ah! Peters," he exclaimed, "is it you? Is the Good Venture in
Peters looked up in astonishment. The voice was that of Ned Martin,
but he scarce recognized in the handsomely dressed young officer
the lad he had last seen a year before.
"Why, it is Master Ned, sure enough!" he exclaimed, shaking the
lad's hand warmly. "Though if you had not spoken I should have
assuredly passed you. Why, lad, you are transformed. I took you
for a young noble with your brave attire and your gold chain; and
you look years older than when I last saw you. You have grown into
a man; but though you have added to your height and your breadth
your cheeks have fallen in greatly, and your colour has well nigh
"I have had two long bouts of fasting, Peters, and have but just
finished the second. I am Captain Martin now, by the favour of the
Prince of Orange. How are they at home? and how goes it with my
"He is on board, Master Ned. This is his first voyage, and right
glad we are, as you may guess, to have him back again; and joyful
will he be to see you. He had your letter safely that you wrote
after the fall of Haarlem, and it would have done you good if you
had heard the cheers in the summer house when he read it out to
the captains there. We had scarce thought we should ever hear of
"I will put up my horse at the burgomaster's, Peters, and come on
board with you at once. I must speak to him first for a few minutes.
A messenger was sent off on horseback last night the moment the
road was opened to say that the Spaniards had raised the siege of
Alkmaar; but I must give him a few details."
"So you have been there too? The guns have been firing and the
bells ringing all the day, and the people have been well nigh out
of their minds with joy. They had looked to the Spaniards coming
here after they had finished with Alkmaar, and you may guess how
joyful they were when the news came that the villains were going
A quarter of an hour later Ned leapt from the quay on to the deck
of the Good Venture. His father's delight was great as he entered
the cabin, and he was no less astonished than Peters had been at
the change that a year had made in his appearance.
"Why, Ned," he said, after they had talked for half an hour, "I fear
you are getting much too great a man ever to settle down again to
"Not at all, father," Ned laughed. "I have not the least idea
of remaining permanently here. I love the sea, and I love England
and my home, and nothing would tempt me to give them up. I cannot
leave my present work now. The prince has been so kind to me that
even if I wished it I could not withdraw from his service now. But
I do not wish. In another year, if all the Dutch cities prove as
staunch as Haarlem and Alkmaar have done, the Spaniards will surely
begin to see that their task of subduing such a people is a hopeless
one. At any rate I think that I can then very well withdraw myself
from the work and follow my profession again. I shall be old enough
then to be your second mate, and to relieve you of much of your
"I shall be glad to have you with me," Captain Martin said. "Of
course I still have the supercargo, but that is not like going
ashore and seeing people one's self. However, we can go on as we
are for a bit. You have been striking a blow for freedom, lad, I
mean to do my best to strike one tomorrow or next day."
"How is that, father?"
"Bossu's fleet of thirty vessels are cruising off the town, and
they have already had some skirmishes with Dirkzoon's vessels;
but nothing much has come of it yet. The Spaniards, although their
ships are much larger and heavily armed, and more numerous too than
ours, do not seem to have any fancy for coming to close quarters;
but there is sure to be a fight in a few days. There is a vessel
in port which will go out crowded with the fishermen here to take
part in the fight; and I am going to fly the Dutch flag for once
instead of the English, and am going to strike a blow to pay them
off for the murder of your mother's relations, to say nothing of
this," and he touched his wooden leg. "There are plenty of men here
ready and willing to go, and I have taken down the names of eighty
who will sail with us; so we shall have a strong crew, and shall
be able to give good account of ourselves."
"Can I go with you, father?" Ned asked eagerly.
"If you like, lad. It will be tough work, you know; for the Spaniards
fight well, that cannot be denied. But as you stood against them
when they have been five to one in the breaches of Haarlem and
Alkmaar, to say nothing of our skirmish with them, you will find
it a novelty to meet them when the odds are not altogether against
The next day, the 11th of October, the patriot fleet were seen
bearing down with a strong easterly breeze upon the Spaniards, who
were cruising between Enkuizen and Horn. All was ready on board
the Good Venture and her consort. The bells rang, and a swarm of
hardy fishermen came pouring on board. In five minutes the sails
were hoisted, and the two vessels, flying the Dutch flag, started
amidst the cheers of the burghers on the walls to take their share
in the engagement. They came up with the enemy just as Dirkzoon's
vessels engaged them, and at once joined in the fray.
The patriot fleet now numbered twenty-five vessels against the thirty
Spaniards, most of which were greatly superior in size to their
opponents. The Dutch at once maneuvered to come to close quarters,
and the Spaniards, who had far less confidence in themselves by
sea than on land, very speedily began to draw out of the fight.
The Good Venture and a Dutch craft had laid themselves alongside
a large Spanish ship, and boarded her from both sides. Ned and
Peters, followed by the English sailors, clambered on board near
the stern, while the Dutch fishermen, most of whom were armed with
heavy axes, boarded at the waist.
The Spaniards fought but feebly, and no sooner did the men from
the craft on the other side pour in and board her than they threw
down their arms. Four other ships were taken, and the rest of the
Spanish vessels spread their sails and made for Amsterdam, hotly
pursued by the Dutch fleet. One huge Spanish vessel alone, the
Inquisition, a name that was in itself an insult to the Dutch,
and which was by far the largest and best manned vessel in the two
fleets, disdained to fly. She was the admiral's vessel, and Bossu,
who was himself a native of the Netherlands, although deserted by
his fleet, refused to fly before his puny opponents.
The Spaniards in the ships captured had all been killed or fastened
below, and under charge of small parties of the Dutch sailors the
prizes sailed for Enkhuizen. The ship captured by the Good Venture
had been the last to strike her flag, and when she started under
her prize crew there were three smaller Dutch ships besides the Good
Venture on the scene of the late conflict. With a cheer, answered
from boat to boat, the four vessels sailed towards the Inquisition.
A well directed broadside from the Spaniards cut away the masts
out of one of them, and left her in a sinking condition. The other
three got alongside and grappled with her.
So high did she tower above them that her cannon were of no avail
to her now, and locked closely together the sailors and soldiers
fought as if on land.
It was a life and death contest. Bossu and his men, clad in coats
of mail, stood with sword and shield on the deck of the Inquisition
to repel all attempts to board. The Dutch attacked with their
favourite missiles -- pitched hoops, boiling oil, and molten lead.
Again and again they clambered up the lofty sides of the Inquisition
and gained a momentary footing on her deck, only to be hurled down
again into their ships below. The fight began at three o'clock
in the afternoon and lasted till darkness. But even this did not
terminate it; and all night Spaniards and Dutchmen grappled in
deadly conflict. All this time the vessels were drifting as the
winds and tide took them, and at last grounded on a shoal called
The Neck, near Wydeness. Just as morning was breaking John Haring
of Horn -- the man who had kept a thousand at bay on the Diemar
Dyke, and who now commanded one of the vessels -- gained a footing
on the deck of the Inquisition unnoticed by the Spaniards, and
hauled down her colours; but a moment later he fell dead, shot
through the body. As soon as it was light the country people came
off in boats and joined in the fight, relieving their compatriots
by carrying their killed and wounded on shore. They brought fresh
ammunition as well as men, and at eleven o'clock Admiral Bossu,
seeing that further resistance was useless, and that his ship was
aground on a hostile shore, his fleet dispersed and three-quarters
of his soldiers and crew dead or disabled, struck his flag and
surrendered with 300 prisoners.
He was landed at Horn, and his captors had great difficulty in
preventing him from being torn to pieces by the populace in return
for the treacherous massacre at Rotterdam, of which he had been
During the long fight Ned Martin behaved with great bravery. Again
and again he and Peters had led the boarders, and it was only his
morion and breast piece that had saved him many times from death.
He had been wounded several times, and was so breathless and hurt
by his falls from the deck that at the end he could no longer even
attempt to climb the sides of the Spanish vessel. Captain Martin
was able to take no part in the melee. He had at the beginning of
the fight taken up his post on the taffrail, and, seated there, had
kept up a steady fire with a musket against the Spaniards as they
showed themselves above.
As soon as the fight was over the Good Venture sailed back to
Enkhuizen. Five of her own crew and thirty-eight of the volunteers
on board her had been killed, and there was scarcely a man who was
not more or less severely wounded. The English were received with
tremendous acclamation by the citizens on their arrival in port,
and a vote of thanks was passed to them at a meeting of the burghers
in the town hall.
Ned sailed round in the Good Venture to Delft and again joined the
Prince of Orange there, and was greatly commended for his conduct
at Alkmaar, which had been reported upon in the most favourable
terms by Sonoy. On learning the share that the Good Venture had
taken in the sea fight, the prince went on board and warmly thanked
Captain Martin and the crew, and distributed a handsome present
among the latter. Half an hour after the prince returned to the
palace he sent for Ned.
"Did you not say," he asked, "that the lady who concealed you at
Brussels was the Countess Von Harp?"
"Yes, your highness. You have no bad news of her, I hope?"
"I am sorry to say that I have," the prince replied. "I have
just received a letter brought me by a messenger from a friend at
Maastricht. He tells me among other matters that the countess and
her daughter were arrested there two days since. They were passing
through in disguise, and were, it was supposed, making for Germany,
when it chanced that the countess was recognized by a man in the
service of one of the magistrates. It seems he had been born on
Von Harp's estate, and knew the countess well by sight. He at once
denounced her, and she and her daughter and a woman they had with
them were thrown into prison. I am truly sorry, for the count was
a great friend of mine, and I met his young wife many times in the
happy days before these troubles began."
Ned was greatly grieved when he heard of the danger to which the
lady who had behaved so kindly to him was exposed, and an hour
later he again went into the prince's study.
"I have come in to ask, sir, if you will allow me to be absent for
"Certainly, Captain Martin," the prince replied. "Are you thinking
of paying a visit to England?"
"No, sir. I am going to try if I can do anything to get the Countess
Von Harp out of the hands of those who have captured her."
"But how are you going to do that?" the prince asked in surprise.
"It is one thing to slip out of the hands of Alva's minions as you
did at Brussels, but another thing altogether to get two women out
"That is so," Ned said; "but I rely much, sir, upon the document
which I took a year since from the body of Von Aert's clerk, and
which I have carefully preserved ever since. It bears the seal of
the Blood Council, and is an order to all magistrates to assist
the bearer in all ways that he may require. With the aid of that
document I may succeed in unlocking the door of the prison."
"It is a bold enterprise," the prince said, "and may cost you your
life. Still I do not say it is impossible."
"I have also," Ned said, "some orders for the arrest of prisoners.
These are not sealed, but bear the signature of the president of
the council. I shall go to a scrivener and shall get him to copy
one of them exactly, making only the alteration that the persons of
the Countess Von Harp, her daughter, and servant are to be handed
over to my charge for conveyance to Brussels. Alone, this document
might be suspected; but, fortified as I am by the other with the
seal of the council, it may pass without much notice."
"Yes, but you would be liable to detection by any one who has known
this man Genet."
"There is a certain risk of that," Ned replied; "and if anyone who
knew him well met me I should of course be detected. But that is
unlikely. The man was about my height, although somewhat thinner.
His principal mark was a most evil squint that he had, and that
anyone who had once met him would be sure to remember. I must practice
crossing my eyes in the same manner when I present my papers."
The prince smiled. "Sometimes you seem to me a man, Martin, and then
again you enter upon an undertaking with the light heartedness of
a boy. However, far be it from me to hinder your making the attempt.
It is pleasant, though rare, to see people mindful of benefits
bestowed upon them, and one is glad to see that gratitude is not
altogether a lost virtue. Go, my lad; and may God aid you in your
scheme. I will myself send for a scrivener at once and give him
instructions; it may well be that he would refuse to draw up such
a document as that you require merely on your order.
"Leave the order for arrest with me, and I will bid him get
a facsimile made in all respects. You will require two or three
trusty men with you to act as officials under your charge. I will
give you a letter to my correspondent in Maastricht begging him
to provide some men on whom he can rely for this work. It would be
difficult for you, a stranger in the town, to put your hand upon
The next morning Ned, provided with the forged order of release,
started on his journey. He was disguised as a peasant, and carried a
suit of clothes similar in cut and fashion to those worn by Genet.
He went first to Rotterdam, and bearing west crossed the river
Lek, and then struck the Waal at Gorichen, and there hired a boat
and proceeded up the river to Nymegen. He then walked across to
Grave, and again taking boat proceeded up the Maas, past Venlo and
Roermond to Maastricht. He landed a few miles above the town, and
changed his peasant clothes for the suit he carried with him.
At a farmhouse he succeeded in buying a horse, saddle, and bridle.
The animal was but a poor one, but it was sufficiently good for his
purpose, as he wanted it not for speed, but only to enable him to
enter the city on horseback. Maastricht was a strongly fortified
city, and on entering its gates Ned was requested to show his papers.
He at once produced the document bearing the seal of the Council.
This was amply sufficient, and he soon took up his quarters at an
inn. His first step was to find the person for whom he bore the
letter from the prince. The gentleman, who was a wealthy merchant,
after reading the missive and learning from Ned the manner in which
he could assist him, at once promised to do so.
"You require three men, you say, dressed as officials in the
employment of the Council. The dress is easy enough, for they bear
no special badge or cognizance, although generally they are attired
in dark green doublets and trunks and red hose. There will be no
difficulty as to the men themselves. The majority of the townsmen
are warmly affected to the patriotic cause, and there are many who
are at heart Protestants; though, like myself, obliged to abstain
from making open confession of their faith. At any rate, I have
three men at least upon whom I can absolutely rely. Their duty,
you say, will be simply to accompany you to the prison and to ride
with you with these ladies until beyond the gates. They must, of
course, be mounted, and must each have pillions for the carriage of
the prisoners behind them. Once well away from the town they will
scatter, leave their horses at places I shall appoint, change their
clothes, and return into the city. What do you mean to do with the
ladies when you have got them free?"
"I do not know what their plans will be, or where they will wish
to go," Ned said. "I should propose to have a vehicle with a pair
of horses awaiting them two miles outside the town. I should say
that a country cart would be least likely to excite suspicion.
I would have three peasant's dresses there with it. I do not know
that I can make further provision for their flight, as I cannot
say whether they will make for the coast, or try to continue their
journey across the frontier."
"You can leave these matters to me," the merchant said; "the cart
and disguises shall be at the appointed spot whenever you let me
know the hour at which you will be there. You must give me until
noon tomorrow to make all the arrangements."
"Very well, sir," Ned said. "I am greatly obliged to you, and the
prince, who is a personal friend of the countess, will, I am sure,
be greatly pleased when he hears how warmly you have entered into
the plans for aiding her escape. I will present myself to the
magistrates tomorrow at noon, and obtain from them the order upon
the governor of the prison to hand the ladies over to me. If I
should succeed I will go straight back to my inn. If you will place
someone near the door there to see if I enter, which if I succeed
will be about one o'clock, he can bring you the news. I will have
my horse brought round at two, and at that hour your men can ride
up and join me, and I will proceed with them straight to the prison."
At twelve o'clock on the following day Ned went to the town hall,
and on stating that he was the bearer of an order from the Council,
was at once shown into the chamber in which three of the magistrates
"I am the bearer of an order from the Council for the delivery to
me of the persons of the Countess Von Harp, her daughter, and the
woman arrested in company with them for conveyance to Brussels,
there to answer the charges against them. This is the order of
the Council with their seal, ordering all magistrates to render
assistance to me as one of their servants. This is the special
order for the handing over to me of the prisoners named."
The magistrates took the first order, glanced at it and at the seal,
and perfectly satisfied with this gave a casual glance at that for
the transferring of the prisoners.
"I think you were about a year since with Councillor Von Aert?" one
of the magistrates said. Ned bowed. "By the way, did I not hear
that you were missing, or that some misfortune had befallen you
some months since? I have a vague recollection of doing so."
"Yes. I was sorely maltreated by a band of robber peasants who left
me for dead, but as you see I am now completely recovered."
"I suppose you have some men with you to escort the prisoners?"
one of the magistrates asked.
"Assuredly," Ned replied. "I have with me three men, behind whom
the women will ride."
The magistrates countersigned the order upon the governor of the
prison to hand over the three prisoners, and gave it with the letter
of the Council to Ned. He bowed and retired.
"I should not have remembered him again," the magistrate who had
been the chief speaker said after he had left the room, "had it not
been for that villainous cast in his eyes. I remember noticing it
when he was here last time, and wondered that Von Aert should like
to have a man whose eyes were so crossways about him; otherwise I
do not recall the face at all, which is not surprising seeing that
I only saw him for a minute or two, and noticed nothing but that
abominable squint of his."
Ned walked back to his inn, ordered his horse to be saddled at two
o'clock, and partook of a hearty meal. Then paying his reckoning
he went out and mounted his horse. As he did so three men in green
doublets and red hose rode up and took their places behind him.
On arriving at the prison he dismounted, and handing his horse to
one of his followers entered.
"I have an order from the Council, countersigned by the magistrates
here, for the delivery to me of three prisoners."
The warder showed him into a room.
"The governor is ill," he said, "and confined to his bed; but I
will take the order to him."
Ned was pleased with the news, for he thought it likely that Genet
might have been there before on similar errands, and his person be
known to the governor. In ten minutes the warder returned.
"The prisoners are without," he said, "and ready to depart."
Pulling his bonnet well down over his eyes, Ned went out into the
"You are to accompany me to Brussels, countess," he said gruffly.
"Horses are waiting for you without."
The countess did not even glance at the official who had thus come
to convey her to what was in all probability death, but followed
through the gate into the street. The men backed their horses up
to the block of stone used for mounting. Ned assisted the females
to the pillions, and when they were seated mounted his own horse
and led the way down the street. Many of the people as they passed
along groaned or hooted, for the feeling in Maastricht was strongly
in favour of the patriot side, a feeling for which they were some
years later to be punished by almost total destruction of the city,
and the slaughter of the greater portion of its inhabitants.
Ned paid no attention to these demonstrations, but quickening his
horse into a trot rode along the street and out of the gate of the
city. As the road was a frequented one, he maintained his place
at the head of the party until they had left the city nearly two
miles behind them. On arriving at a small crossroad one of the
men said: "This is the way, sir; it is up this road that the cart
is waiting." Ned now reined back his horse to the side of that on
which the countess was riding.
"Countess," he said, "have you forgotten the English lad you aided
a year ago in Brussels?"
The countess started.
"I recognize you now, sir," she said coldly; "and little did I
think at that time that I should next see you as an officer of the
Council of Blood."
"Your mistake is a natural one, countess; but in point of fact
I am still in the service of the Prince of Orange, and have only
assumed this garb as a means of getting you and your daughter out
of the hands of those murderers. I am happy to say that you are free
to go where you will; these good fellows are like myself disguised,
and are at your service. In a few minutes we shall come to a cart
which will take you wheresoever you like to go, and there are
disguises similar to those with which you once fitted me out in
readiness for you there."
The surprise of the countess for a moment kept her silent; but
Gertrude, who had overheard what was said, burst into exclamations
"Pardon me for having doubted you," the countess exclaimed, much
"No pardon is required, countess. Seeing that the prison authorities
handed you over to me, you could not but have supposed that I was
as I seemed, in the service of the Council."
Just at this moment they came upon a cart drawn up by the roadside.
Ned assisted the countess and her daughter to alight, and while
he was rendering similar assistance to the old servant, mother and
daughter threw themselves into each other's arms, and wept with
delight at this unexpected delivery that had befallen them. It was
some time before they were sufficiently recovered to speak.
"But how do you come here?" the countess asked Ned, "and how have
you effected this miracle?"
Ned briefly related how he had heard of their captivity, and the
manner in which he had been enabled to effect their escape.
"And now, countess," he said, "the day is wearing on, and it is
necessary that you should at once decide upon your plans. Will you
again try to make to the German frontier or to the sea coast, or
remain in hiding here?"
"We cannot make for Germany without again crossing the Maas," the
countess said, "and it is a long way to the sea coast. What say
"I think," the old woman said, "that you had best carry out the
advice I gave before. It is a little more than twelve miles from
here to the village where, as I told you, I have relations living.
We can hire a house there, and there is no chance of your being
recognized. I can send a boy thence to Brussels to fetch the jewels
and money you left in charge of your friend the Count Von Dort
"That will certainly be the best way, Magdalene. We can wait there
until either there is some change in the state of affairs, or until
we can find some safe way of escape. It is fortunate, indeed, that
I left my jewels in Brussels, instead of taking them with me as I
had at first intended.
"It will hardly be necessary, will it," she asked Ned, "to put on
the disguises, for nothing in the world can be simpler than our
dresses at present?"
"You had certainly best put the peasant cloaks and caps on.
Inquiries are sure to be made all through the country when they
find at Maastricht how they have been tricked. Three peasant women
in a cart will attract no attention whatever, even in passing through
villages; but, dressed as you are now, some one might notice you
and recall it if inquiries were made."
The three men who had aided in the scheme had ridden off as soon as
the cart was reached, and Ned, being anxious that the party should
be upon their way, and desirous, too, of avoiding the expressions
of gratitude of the three women, hurried them into the cart. It was
not necessary for them to change their garments, as the peasant's
cloaks completely enveloped them, and the high headdresses quite
changed their appearance.
"Do not forget, countess, I hope some day to see you in England,"
Ned said as they took their seats.
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