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´╗┐Title: By Pike and Dyke: a Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
Language: English
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By Pike and Dyke:

A Tale of the Rise of the Dutch Republic


by G. A. Henty



PREFACE.

MY DEAR LADS,

In all the pages of history there is no record of a struggle so
unequal, so obstinately maintained, and so long contested as that
by which the men of Holland and Zeeland won their right to worship
God in their own way, and also--although this was but a secondary
consideration with them--shook off the yoke of Spain and achieved
their independence. The incidents of the contest were of a singularly
dramatic character. Upon one side was the greatest power of the
time, set in motion by a ruthless bigot, who was determined either
to force his religion upon the people of the Netherlands, or
to utterly exterminate them. Upon the other were a scanty people,
fishermen, sailors, and agriculturalists, broken up into communities
with but little bond of sympathy, and no communication, standing
only on the defensive, and relying solely upon the justice of their
cause, their own stout hearts, their noble prince, and their one
ally, the ocean. Cruelty, persecution, and massacre had converted
this race of peace loving workers into heroes capable of the most
sublime self sacrifices. Women and children were imbued with a
spirit equal to that of the men, fought as stoutly on the walls,
and died as uncomplainingly from famine in the beleaguered towns.
The struggle was such a long one that I have found it impossible
to recount all the leading events in the space of a single volume;
and, moreover, before the close, my hero, who began as a lad, would
have grown into middle age, and it is an established canon in books
for boys that the hero must himself be young. I have therefore
terminated the story at the murder of William of Orange, and hope
in another volume to continue the history, and to recount the
progress of the war, when England, after years of hesitation, threw
herself into the fray, and joined Holland in its struggle against
the power that overshadowed all Europe, alike by its ambition and
its bigotry. There has been no need to consult many authorities.
Motley in his great work has exhausted the subject, and for all
the historical facts I have relied solely upon him.

Yours very sincerely, G. A. HENTY



CHAPTER I

THE "GOOD VENTURE"


Rotherhithe in the year of 1572 differed very widely from the
Rotherhithe of today. It was then a scattered village, inhabited
chiefly by a seafaring population. It was here that the captains
of many of the ships that sailed from the port of London had their
abode. Snug cottages with trim gardens lay thickly along the banks
of the river, where their owners could sit and watch the vessels
passing up and down or moored in the stream, and discourse with
each other over the hedges as to the way in which they were handled,
the smartness of their equipage, whence they had come, or where
they were going. For the trade of London was comparatively small
in those days, and the skippers as they chatted together could form
a shrewd guess from the size and appearance of each ship as to the
country with which she traded, or whether she was a coaster working
the eastern or southern ports.

Most of the vessels, indeed, would be recognized and the captains
known, and hats would be waved and welcomes or adieus shouted as
the vessels passed. There was something that savoured of Holland
in the appearance of Rotherhithe; for it was with the Low Countries
that the chief trade of England was carried on; and the mariners
who spent their lives in journeying to and fro between London and
the ports of Zeeland, Friesland, and Flanders, who for the most part
picked up the language of the country, and sometimes even brought
home wives from across the sea, naturally learned something from
their neighbours. Nowhere, perhaps, in and about London were the
houses so clean and bright, and the gardens so trimly and neatly
kept, as in the village of Rotherhithe, and in all Rotherhithe not
one was brighter and more comfortable than the abode of Captain
William Martin.

It was low and solid in appearance; the wooden framework was
unusually massive, and there was much quaint carving on the beams.
The furniture was heavy and solid, and polished with beeswax until
it shone. The fireplaces were lined with Dutch tiles; the flooring
was of oak, polished as brightly as the furniture. The appointments
from roof to floor were Dutch; and no wonder that this was so, for
every inch of wood in its framework and beams, floor and furniture,
and had been brought across from Friesland by William Martin in
his ship, the Good Venture. It had been the dowry he received with
his pretty young wife, Sophie Plomaert.

Sophie was the daughter of a well-to-do worker in wood near
Amsterdam. She was his only daughter, and although he had nothing
to say against the English sailor who had won her heart, and who
was chief owner of the ship he commanded, he grieved much that
she should leave her native land; and he and her three brothers
determined that she should always bear her former home in her
recollection. They therefore prepared as her wedding gift a facsimile
of the home in which she had been born and bred. The furniture
and framework were similar in every particular, and it needed only
the insertion of the brickwork and plaster when it arrived. Two of
her brothers made the voyage in the Good Venture, and themselves
put the framework, beams, and flooring together, and saw to the
completion of the house on the strip of ground that William Martin
had purchased on the bank of the river.

Even a large summer house that stood at the end of the garden was a
reproduction of that upon the bank of the canal at home; and when
all was completed and William Martin brought over his bride she
could almost fancy that she was still at home near Amsterdam. Ever
since, she had once a year sailed over in her husband's ship, and
spent a few weeks with her kinsfolk. When at home from sea the great
summer house was a general rendezvous of William Martin's friends
in Rotherhithe, all skippers like himself, some still on active
service, others, who had retired on their savings; not all, however,
were fortunate enough to have houses on the river bank; and the
summer house was therefore useful not only as a place of meeting
but as a lookout at passing ships.

It was a solidly built structure, inclosed on the land side but open
towards the river, where, however, there were folding shutters, so
that in cold weather it could be partially closed up, though still
affording a sight of the stream. A great Dutch stove stood in one
corner, and in this in winter a roaring fire was kept up. There
were few men in Rotherhithe so well endowed with this world's goods
as Captain Martin. His father had been a trader in the city, but
William's tastes lay towards the sea rather than the shop, and as
he was the youngest of three brothers he had his way in the matter.
When he reached the age of twenty-three his father died, and with
his portion of the savings William purchased the principal share
of the Good Venture, which ship he had a few months before come to
command.

When he married he had received not only his house but a round sum
of money as Sophie's portion. With this he could had he liked have
purchased the other shares of the Good Venture; but being, though
a sailor, a prudent man, he did not like to put all his eggs into
one basket, and accordingly bought with it a share in another ship.
Three children had been born to William and Sophie Martin--a boy
and two girls. Edward, who was the eldest, was at the time this
story begins nearly sixteen. He was an active well built young
fellow, and had for five years sailed with his father in the Good
Venture. That vessel was now lying in the stream a quarter of
a mile higher up, having returned from a trip to Holland upon the
previous day. The first evening there had been no callers, for it
was an understood thing at Rotherhithe that a captain on his return
wanted the first evening at home alone with his wife and family; but
on the evening of the second day, when William Martin had finished
his work of seeing to the unloading of his ship, the visitors
began to drop in fast, and the summer house was well nigh as full
as it could hold. Mistress Martin, who was now a comely matron
of six-and-thirty, busied herself in seeing that the maid and her
daughters, Constance and Janet, supplied the visitors with horns
of home brewed beer, or with strong waters brought from Holland
for those who preferred them.

"You have been longer away than usual, Captain Martin," one of the
visitors remarked.

"Yes," the skipper replied. "Trade is but dull, and though the Good
Venture bears a good repute for speed and safety, and is seldom
kept lying at the wharves for a cargo, we were a week before she
was chartered. I know not what will be the end of it all. I verily
believe that no people have ever been so cruelly treated for their
conscience' sake since the world began; for you know it is not against
the King of Spain but against the Inquisition that the opposition
has been made. The people of the Low Countries know well enough
it would be madness to contend against the power of the greatest
country in Europe, and to this day they have borne, and are bearing,
the cruelty to which they are exposed in quiet despair, and without
a thought of resistance to save their lives. There may have been
tumults in some of the towns, as in Antwerp, where the lowest part
of the mob went into the cathedrals and churches and destroyed the
shrines and images; but as to armed resistance to the Spaniards,
there has been none.

"The first expeditions that the Prince of Orange made into the
country were composed of German mercenaries, with a small body of
exiles. They were scarce joined by any of the country folk. Though,
as you know, they gained one little victory, they were nigh all
killed and cut to pieces. So horrible was the slaughter perpetrated
by the soldiers of the tyrannical Spanish governor Alva, that when
the Prince of Orange again marched into the country not a man joined
him, and he had to fall back without accomplishing anything. The
people seemed stunned by despair. Has not the Inquisition condemned
the whole of the inhabitants of the Netherlands--save only a few
persons specially named--to death as heretics? and has not Philip
confirmed the decree, and ordered it to be carried into instant
execution without regard to age or sex? Were three millions of men,
women, and children ever before sentenced to death by one stroke
of the pen, only because they refused to change their religion?
Every day there are hundreds put to death by the orders of Alva's
Blood Council, as it is called, without even the mockery of a
trial."

There was a general murmur of rage and horror from the assembled
party.

"Were I her queen's majesty," an old captain said, striking his fist
on the table, "I would declare war with Philip of Spain tomorrow,
and would send every man who could bear arms to the Netherlands to
aid the people to free themselves from their tyrants.

"Ay, and there is not a Protestant in this land but would go
willingly. To think of such cruelty makes the blood run through
my veins as if I were a lad again. Why, in Mary's time there were
two or three score burnt for their religion here in England, and we
thought that a terrible thing. But three millions of people! Why,
it is as many as we have got in all these islands! What think you
of this mates?"

"It is past understanding," another old sailor said. "It is too
awful for us to take in."

"It is said," another put in, "that the King of France has leagued
himself with Philip of Spain, and that the two have bound themselves
to exterminate the Protestants in all their dominions, and as that
includes Spain, France, Italy, the Low Countries, and most of
Germany, it stands to reason as we who are Protestants ought to
help our friends; for you may be sure, neighbours, that if Philip
succeeds in the Low Countries he will never rest until he has tried
to bring England under his rule also, and to plant the Inquisition
with its bonfires and its racks and tortures here."

An angry murmur of assent ran round the circle.

"We would fight them, you may be sure," Captain Martin said, "to
the last; but Spain is a mighty power, and all know that there are
no soldiers in Europe can stand against their pikemen. If the Low
Countries, which number as many souls as we, cannot make a stand
against them with all their advantages of rivers, and swamps, and
dykes, and fortified towns, what chance should we have who have
none of these things? What I say, comrades, is this: we have got
to fight Spain--you know the grudge Philip bears us--and it is
far better that we should go over and fight the Spaniards in the
Low Countries, side by side with the people there, and with all the
advantages that their rivers and dykes give, and with the comfort
that our wives and children are safe here at home, than wait till
Spain has crushed down the Netherlands and exterminated the people,
and is then able, with France as her ally, to turn her whole strength
against us. That's what I say."

"And you say right, Captain Martin. If I were the queen's majesty
I would send word to Philip tomorrow to call off his black crew
of monks and inquisitors. The people of the Netherlands have no
thought of resisting the rule of Spain, and would be, as they have
been before, Philip's obedient subjects, if he would but leave
their religion alone. It's the doings of the Inquisition that have
driven them to despair. And when one hears what you are telling us,
that the king has ordered the whole population to be exterminated--man,
woman, and child--no wonder they are preparing to fight
to the last; for it's better to die fighting a thousand times, than
it is to be roasted alive with your wife and children!"

"I suppose the queen and her councillors see that if she were to
meddle in this business it might cost her her kingdom, and us our
liberty," another captain said. "The Spaniards could put, they say,
seventy or eighty thousand trained soldiers in the field, while,
except the queen's own bodyguard, there is not a soldier in England;
while their navy is big enough to take the fifteen or twenty ships
the queen has, and to break them up to burn their galley fires."

"That is all true enough," Captain Martin agreed; "but our English
men have fought well on the plains of France before now, and I don't
believe we should fight worse today. We beat the French when they
were ten to one against us over and over, and what our fathers did
we can do. What you say about the navy is true also. They have a
big fleet, and we have no vessels worth speaking about, but we are
as good sailors as the Spaniards any day, and as good fighters;
and though I am not saying we could stop their fleet if it came
sailing up the Thames, I believe when they landed we should show
them that we were as good men as they. They might bring seventy
thousand soldiers, but there would be seven hundred thousand
Englishmen to meet; and if we had but sticks and stones to fight
with, they would not find that they would have an easy victory."

"Yes, that's what you think and I think, neighbour; but, you see,
we have not got the responsibility of it. The queen has to think
for us all. Though I for one would be right glad if she gave the
word for war, she may well hesitate before she takes a step that
might bring ruin, and worse than ruin, upon all her subjects.
We must own, too, that much as we feel for the people of the Low
Countries in their distress, they have not always acted wisely.
That they should take up arms against these cruel tyrants, even
if they had no chance of beating them, is what we all agree would
be right and natural; but when the mob of Antwerp broke into the
cathedral, and destroyed the altars and carvings, and tore up the
vestments, and threw down the Manes and the saints, and then did the
same in the other churches in the town and in the country round,
they behaved worse than children, and showed themselves as intolerant
and bigoted as the Spaniards themselves. They angered Philip beyond
hope of forgiveness, and gave him something like an excuse for his
cruelties towards them."

"Ay, ay, that was a bad business," Captain Martin agreed; "a very
bad business, comrade. And although these things were done by a mere
handful of the scum of the town the respectable citizens raised no
hand to stop it, although they can turn out the town guard readily
enough to put a stop to a quarrel between the members of two of
the guilds. There were plenty of men who have banded themselves
together under the name of 'the beggars,' and swore to fight for
their religion, to have put these fellows down if they had chosen.
They did not choose, and now Philip's vengeance will fall on them
all alike."

"Well, what think you of this business, Ned?" one of the captains
said, turning to the lad who was standing in a corner, remaining, as
in duty bound, silent in the presence of his elders until addressed.

"Were I a Dutchman, and living under such a tyranny," Ned said
passionately, "I would rise and fight to the death rather than see
my family martyred. If none other would rise with me, I would take
a sword and go out and slay the first Spaniard I met, and again
another, until I was killed."

"Bravo, Ned! Well spoken, lad!" three or four of the captains said;
but his father shook his head.

"Those are the words of hot youth, Ned; and were you living there
you would do as the others--keep quiet till the executioners
came to drag you away, seeing that did you, as you say you would,
use a knife against a Spaniard, it would give the butchers a pretext
for the slaughtering of hundreds of innocent people."

The lad looked down abashed at the reproof, then he said: "Well,
father, if I could not rise in arms or slay a Spaniard and then
be killed, I would leave my home and join the sea beggars under La
Marck."

"There is more reason in that," his father replied; "though La
Marck is a ferocious noble, and his followers make not very close
inquiry whether the ships they attack are Spanish or those of other
people. Still it is hard for a man to starve; and when time passes
and they can light upon no Spanish merchantmen, one cannot blame
them too sorely if they take what they require out of some other
passing ship. But there is reason at the bottom of what you say.
Did the men of the sea coast, seeing that their lives and those of
their families are now at the mercy of the Spaniards, take to their
ships with those dear to them and continually harass the Spaniards,
they could work them great harm, and it would need a large fleet to
overpower them, and that with great difficulty, seeing that they
know the coast and all the rivers and channels, and could take
refuge in shallows where the Spaniards could not follow them. At
present it seems to me the people are in such depths of despair,
that they have not heart for any such enterprise. But I believe that
some day or other the impulse will be given--some more wholesale
butchery than usual will goad them to madness, or the words of some
patriot wake them into action, and then they will rise as one man
and fight until utterly destroyed, for that they can in the end
triumph over Spain is more than any human being can hope."

"Then they must be speedy about it, friend Martin," another said.
"They say that eighty thousand have been put to death one way
or another since Alva came into his government. Another ten years
and there will be scarce an able bodied man remaining in the Low
Country. By the way, you were talking of the beggars of the sea.
Their fleet is lying at present at Dover, and it is said that the
Spanish ambassador is making grave complaints to the queen on the
part of his master against giving shelter to these men, whom he
brands as not only enemies of Spain, but as pirates and robbers of
the sea."

"I was talking with Master Sheepshanks," another mariner put in,
"whose ships I sailed for thirty years, and who is an alderman and
knows what is going on, and he told me that from what he hears it
is like enough that the queen will yield to the Spanish request. So
long as she chooses to remain friends with Spain openly, whatever
her thoughts and opinions may be, she can scarcely allow her ports
to be used by the enemies of Philip. It must go sorely against
her high spirit; but till she and her council resolve that England
shall brave the whole strength of Spain, she cannot disregard the
remonstrances of Philip. It is a bad business, neighbours, a bad
business; and the sooner it comes to an end the better. No one
doubts that we shall have to fight Spain one of these days, and
I say that it were better to fight while our brethren of the Low
Countries can fight by our side, than to wait till Spain, having
exterminated them, can turn her whole power against us."

There was a general chorus of assent, and then the subject changed
to the rates of freight to the northern ports. The grievous need for
the better marking of shallows and dangers, the rights of seamen,
wages, and other matters, were discussed until the assembly broke
up. Ned's sisters joined him in the garden.

"I hear, Constance," the boy said to the elder, "there has been no
news from our grandfather and uncles since we have been away."

"No word whatever, Ned. Our mother does not say much, but I know
she is greatly troubled and anxious about it."

"That she may well be, Constance, seeing that neither quiet conduct
nor feebleness nor aught else avail to protect any from the rage
of the Spaniards. You who stay at home here only hear general tales
of the cruelties done across the sea, but if you heard the tales
that we do at their ports they would drive you almost to madness.
Not that we hear much, for we have to keep on board our ships, and
may not land or mingle with the people; but we learn enough from
the merchants who come on board to see about the landing of their
goods to make our blood boil. They do right to prevent our landing;
for so fired is the sailors' blood by these tales of massacre, that
were they to go ashore they would, I am sure, be speedily embroiled
with the Spaniards.

"You see how angered these friends of our father are who are
Englishmen, and have no Dutch blood in their veins, and who feel
only because they are touched by these cruelties, and because
the people of the Low Country are Protestants; but with us it is
different, our mother is one of these persecuted people, and we
belong to them as much as to England. We have friends and relations
there who are in sore peril, and who may for aught we know have
already fallen victims to the cruelty of the Spaniards. Had I
my will I would join the beggars of the sea, or I would ship with
Drake or Cavendish and fight the Spaniards in the Indian seas. They
say that there Englishmen are proving themselves better men than
these haughty dons."

"It is very sad," Constance said; "but what can be done?"

"Something must be done soon," Ned replied gloomily. "Things cannot
go on as they are. So terrible is the state of things, so heavy the
taxation, that in many towns all trade is suspended. In Brussels,
I hear, Alva's own capital, the brewers have refused to brew, the
bakers to bake, the tapsters to draw liquors. The city swarms with
multitudes of men thrown out of employment. The Spanish soldiers
themselves have long been without pay, for Alva thinks of nothing
but bloodshed. Consequently they are insolent to their officers, care
little for order, and insult and rob the citizens in the streets.
Assuredly something must come of this ere long; and the people's
despair will become a mad fury. If they rise, Constance, and my
father does not say nay, I will assuredly join them and do my best.

"I do not believe that the queen will forbid her subjects to give
their aid to the people of the Netherlands; for she allowed many to
fight in France for Conde and the Protestants against the Guises,
and she will surely do the same now, since the sufferings of our
brothers in the Netherlands have touched the nation far more keenly
than did those of the Huguenots in France. I am sixteen now, and
my father says that in another year he will rate me as his second
mate, and methinks that there are not many men on board who can pull
more strongly a rope, or work more stoutly at the capstan when we
heave our anchor. Besides, as we all talk Dutch as well as English,
I should be of more use than men who know nought of the language
of the country."

Constance shook her head. "I do not think, Ned, that our father
would give you leave, at any rate not until you have grown up into
a man. He looks to having you with him, and to your succeeding
him some day in the command of the Good Venture, while he remains
quietly at home with our mother."

Ned agreed with a sigh. "I fear that you are right, Constance, and
that I shall have to stick to my trade of sailoring; but if the
people of the Netherlands rise against their tyrants, it would be
hard to be sailing backwards and forwards doing a peaceful trade
between London and Holland whilst our friends and relatives are
battling for their lives."

A fortnight later, the Good Venture filled up her hold with a cargo
for Brill, a port where the united Rhine, Waal, and Maas flow into
the sea. On the day before she sailed a proclamation was issued
by the queen forbidding any of her subjects to supply De la Marck
and his sailors with meat, bread, or beer. The passage down the
river was slow, for the winds were contrary, and it was ten days
afterwards, the 31st of March, when they entered the broad mouth
of the river and dropped anchor off the town of Brill. It was late
in the evening when they arrived. In the morning an officer came
off to demand the usual papers and documents, and it was not until
nearly two o'clock that a boat came out with the necessary permission
for the ship to warp up to the wharves and discharge her cargo.

Just as Captain Martin was giving the order for the capstan bars
to be manned, a fleet of some twenty-four ships suddenly appeared
round the seaward point of the land.

"Wait a moment, lads," the captain said, "half an hour will make no
great difference in our landing. We may as well wait and see what
is the meaning of this fleet. They do not look to me to be Spaniards,
nor seem to be a mere trading fleet. I should not wonder if they
are the beggars of the sea, who have been forced to leave Dover,
starved out from the effect of the queen's proclamation, and have
now come here to pick up any Spaniard they may meet sailing out."

The fleet dropped anchor at about half a mile from the town. Just
as they did so, a ferryman named Koppelstok, who was carrying
passengers across from the town of Maaslandluis, a town on the
opposite bank a mile and a half away, was passing close by the Good
Venture.

"What think you of yon ships?" the ferryman shouted to Captain
Martin.

"I believe they must be the beggars of the sea," the captain replied.
"An order had been issued before I left London that they were not
to be supplied with provisions, and they would therefore have had
to put out from Dover. This may well enough be them."

An exclamation of alarm broke from the passengers, for the sea
beggars were almost as much feared by their own countrymen as by the
Spaniards, the latter having spared no pains in spreading tales to
their disadvantage. As soon as the ferryman had landed his passengers
he rowed boldly out towards the fleet, having nothing of which he
could be plundered, and being secretly well disposed towards the
beggars. The first ship he hailed was that commanded by William
de Blois, Lord of Treslong, who was well known at Brill, where his
father had at one time been governor.

His brother had been executed by the Duke of Alva four years before,
and he had himself fought by the side of Count Louis of Nassau,
brother to the Prince of Orange, in the campaign that had terminated
so disastrously, and though covered with wounds had been one of
the few who had escaped from the terrible carnage that followed the
defeat at Jemmingen. After that disaster he had taken to the sea,
and was one of the most famous of the captains of De la Marck, who
had received a commission of admiral from the Prince of Orange.

"We are starving, Koppelstok; can you inform us how we can get some
food? We have picked up two Spanish traders on our way here from
Dover, but our larders were emptied before we sailed, and we found
but scant supply on board our prizes."

"There is plenty in the town of Brill," the ferryman said; "but none
that I know of elsewhere. That English brig lying there at anchor
may have a few loaves on board."

"That will not be much," William de Blois replied, "among five
hundred men, still it will be better than nothing. Will you row
and ask them if they will sell to us?"

"You had best send a strongly armed crew," Koppelstok replied.
"You know the English are well disposed towards us, and the captain
would doubtless give you all the provisions he had to spare; but to
do so would be to ruin him with the Spaniards, who might confiscate
his ship. It were best that you should make a show of force, so
that he could plead that he did but yield to necessity."

Accordingly a boat with ten men rowed to the brig, Koppelstok
accompanying it. The latter climbed on to the deck.

"We mean you no harm, captain," he said; "but the men on board these
ships are well nigh starving. The Sieur de Treslong has given me
a purse to pay for all that you can sell us, but thinking that you
might be blamed for having dealings with him by the authorities of
the town, he sent these armed men with me in order that if questioned
you could reply that they came forcibly on board."

"I will willingly let you have all the provisions I have on board,"
Captain Martin said; "though these will go but a little way among
so many, seeing that I only carry stores sufficient for consumption
on board during my voyages."

A cask of salt beef was hoisted up on deck, with a sack of biscuits,
four cheeses, and a side of bacon. Captain Martin refused any
payment.

"No," he said, "my wife comes from these parts, and my heart is with
the patriots. Will you tell Sieur de Treslong that Captain Martin
of the Good Venture is happy to do the best in his power for him
and his brave followers. That, Ned," he observed, turning to his
son as the boat rowed away, "is a stroke of good policy. The value
of the goods is small, but just at this moment they are worth much
to those to whom I have given them. In the first place, you see,
we have given aid to the good cause, in the second we have earned
the gratitude of the beggars of the sea, and I shall be much more
comfortable if I run among them in the future than I should have
done in the past. The freedom to come and go without molestation
by the sea beggars is cheaply purchased at the price of provisions
which do not cost many crowns."

On regaining the Sieur de Treslong's ship some of the provisions
were at once served out among the men, and the rest sent off among
other ships, and William de Blois took Koppelstok with him on board
the admiral's vessel.

"Well, De Blois, what do you counsel in this extremity?" De la
Marck asked.

"I advise," the Lord of Treslong replied, "that we at once send a
message to the town demanding its surrender."

"Are you joking or mad, Treslong?" the admiral asked in surprise.
"Why, we can scarce muster four hundred men, and the town is well
walled and fortified."

"There are no Spanish troops here, admiral, and if we put a bold
front on the matter we may frighten the burghers into submission.
This man says he would be willing to carry the summons. He says the
news as to who we are has already reached them by some passengers
he landed before he came out, and he doubts not they are in a rare
panic."

"Well, we can try," the admiral said, laughing; "it is clear we
must eat, even if we have to fight for it; and hungry as we all
are, we do not want to wait."

Treslong gave his ring to Koppelstok to show as his authority, and
the fisherman at once rowed ashore. Stating that the beggars of
the sea were determined to take the town, he made his way through
the crowd of inhabitants who had assembled at the landing place,
and then pushed on to the town hall, where the magistrates were
assembled. He informed them that he had been sent by the Admiral of
the Fleet and the Lord of Treslong, who was well known to them, to
demand that two commissioners should be sent out to them on behalf
of the city to confer with him. The only object of those who sent
him was to free the land from the crushing taxes, and to overthrow
the tyranny of Alva and the Spaniards. He was asked by the magistrates
what force De la Marck had at his disposal, and replied carelessly
that he could not say exactly, but that there might be five thousand
in all.

This statement completed the dismay that had been caused at the
arrival of the fleet. The magistrates agreed that it would be madness
to resist, and determined to fly at once. With much difficulty two
of them were persuaded to go out to the ship as deputies, and as
soon as they set off most of the leading burghers prepared instantly
for flight. The deputies on arriving on board were assured that no
injury was intended to the citizens or private property, but only
the overthrow of Alva's government, and two hours were given them
to decide upon the surrender of the town.

During this two hours almost all the inhabitants left the town,
taking with them their most valuable property. At the expiration of
the time the beggars landed. A few of those remaining in the city
made a faint attempt at resistance; but Treslong forced an entrance
by the southern gate, and De la Marck made a bonfire against the
northern gate and then battered it down with the end of an old
mast. Thus the patriots achieved the capture of the first town, and
commenced the long war that was to end only with the establishment
of the Free Republic of the Netherlands. No harm was done to such
of the inhabitants of the town as remained. The conquerors established
themselves in the best of the deserted houses; they then set to work
to plunder the churches. The altars and images were all destroyed;
the rich furniture, the sacred vessels, and the gorgeous vestments
were appropriated to private use. Thirteen unfortunates, among
them some priests who had been unable to effect their escape, were
seized and put to death by De la Marck.

He had received the strictest orders from the Prince of Orange to
respect the ships of all neutral nations, and to behave courteously
and kindly to all captives he might take. Neither of these injunctions
were obeyed. De la Marck was a wild and sanguinary noble; he had
taken a vow upon hearing of the death of his relative, the Prince
of Egmont, who had been executed by Alva, that he would neither
cut his hair nor his beard until that murder should be revenged,
and had sworn to wreak upon Alva and upon Popery the deep vengeance
that the nobles and peoples of the Netherlands owed them. This vow
he kept to the letter, and his ferocious conduct to all priests
and Spaniards who fell into his hands deeply sullied the cause for
which he fought.

Upon the day after the capture of the city, the Good Venture went
into the port. The inhabitants, as soon as they learned that the
beggars of the sea respected the life and property of the citizens,
returned in large numbers, and trade was soon re-established.
Having taken the place, and secured the plunder of the churches
and monasteries, De la Marck would have sailed away upon other
excursions had not the Sieur de Treslong pointed out to him the
importance of Brill to the cause, and persuaded him to hold the
place until he heard from the Prince of Orange.



CHAPTER II

TERRIBLE NEWS


A few days after Brill had been so boldly captured, Count Bossu
advanced from Utrecht against it. The sea beggars, confident as
they were as to their power of meeting the Spaniards on the seas,
knew that on dry land they were no match for the well trained
pikemen; they therefore kept within the walls. A carpenter, however,
belonging to the town, who had long been a secret partisan of the
Prince of Orange, seized an axe, dashed into the water, and swam
to the sluice and burst open the gates with a few sturdy blows.
The sea poured in and speedily covered the land on the north side
of the city.

The Spaniards advanced along the dyke to the southern gate, but
the sea beggars had hastily moved most of the cannon on the wall
to that point, and received the Spaniards with so hot a fire that
they hesitated. In the meantime the Lord of Treslong and another
officer had filled two boats with men and rowed out to the ships
that had brought the enemy, cut some adrift, and set others on fire.
The Spaniards at the southern gate lost heart; they were exposed
to a hot fire, which they were unable to return. On one side they
saw the water rapidly rising above the level of the dyke on which
they stood, on the other they perceived their only means of retreat
threatened. They turned, and in desperate haste retreated along
the causeway now under water. In their haste many slipped off the
road and were drowned, others fell and were smothered in the water,
and the rest succeeded in reaching such of the vessels as were
still untouched, and with all speed returned to Utrecht.

From the highest point of the masts to which they could climb,
Captain Martin, Ned, and the crew watched the struggle. Ned had
begged his father to let him go along the walls to the south gate
to see the conflict, but Captain Martin refused.

"We know not what the upshot of the business may be," he said. "If
the Spaniards, which is likely enough, take the place, they will
slaughter all they meet, and will not trouble themselves with
questioning anyone whether he is a combatant or a spectator. Besides,
when they have once taken the town, they will question all here,
and it would be well that I should be able to say that not only
did we hold ourselves neutral in the affair, but that none of my
equipage had set foot on shore today. Lastly, it is my purpose and
hope if the Spaniards capture the place, to take advantage of the
fact that all will be absorbed in the work of plunder, and to slip
my hawsers and make off. Wind and tide are both favourable, and
doubtless the crews of their ships will, for the most part, land
to take part in the sack as soon as the town is taken."

However, as it turned out, there was no need of these precautions;
the beggars were victorious and the Spaniards in full flight,
and great was the rejoicing in Brill at this check which they had
inflicted upon their oppressors. Bossu, retiring from Brill, took
his way towards Rotterdam. He found its gates closed; the authorities
refused to submit to his demands or to admit a garrison. They
declared they were perfectly loyal, and needed no body of Spanish
troops to keep them in order. Bossu requested permission for his
troops to pass through the city without halting. This was granted
by the magistrates on condition that only a corporal's company should
be admitted at a time. Bossu signed an agreement to this effect.
But throughout the whole trouble the Spaniards never once respected
the conditions they had made and sworn to with the inhabitants,
and no sooner were the gates opened than the whole force rushed in,
and the usual work of slaughter, atrocity, and plunder commenced.
Within a few minutes four hundred citizens were murdered, and
countless outrages and cruelties perpetrated upon the inhabitants.

Captain Martin completed the discharging of his cargo two days after
Bossu made his ineffectual attempt upon the town. A messenger had
arrived that morning from Flushing, with news that as soon as the
capture of Brill had become known in that seaport, the Seigneur de
Herpt had excited the burghers to drive the small Spanish garrison
from the town.

Scarcely had they done so when a large reinforcement of the enemy
arrived before the walls, having been despatched there by Alva, to
complete the fortress that had been commenced to secure the possession
of this important port at the mouth of the Western Scheldt. Herpt
persuaded the burghers that it was too late to draw back now. They
had done enough to draw the vengeance of the Spaniards upon them;
their only hope now was to resist to the last. A half witted man
in the crowd offered, if any one would give him a pot of beer, to
ascend the ramparts and fire two pieces of artillery at the Spanish
ships.

The offer was accepted, and the man ran up to the ramparts and
discharged the guns. A sudden panic seized the Spaniards, and the
whole fleet sailed away at once in the direction of Middelburg.

The governor of the island next day arrived at Flushing and was
at once admitted. He called the citizens together to the market
place and there addressed them, beseeching them to return to their
allegiance, assuring them that if they did so the king, who was the
best natured prince in all Christendom, would forget and forgive
their offenses. The effect of the governor's oratory was sadly marred
by the interruptions of De Herpt and his adherents, who reminded
the people of the fate that had befallen other towns that had
revolted, and scoffed at such good nature as the king displayed in
the scores of executions daily taking place throughout the country.

The governor, finding his efforts unavailing, had left the town,
and as soon as he did so the messenger was sent off to Brill, saying
that the inhabitants of Flushing were willing to provide arms and
ammunition if they would send them men experienced in partisan
warfare. Two hundred of the beggars, under the command of Treslong,
accordingly started the next day for Flushing. The Good Venture
threw off her hawsers from the wharf at about the same time that
these were starting, and for some time kept company with them.

"Did one ever see such a wild crew?" Captain Martin said, shaking
his head. "Never, I believe, did such a party set out upon a warlike
adventure."

The appearance of Treslong's followers was indeed extraordinary.
Every man was attired in the gorgeous vestments of the plundered
churches--in gold and embroidered cassocks, glittering robes, or
the sombre cowls and garments of Capuchin friars. As they sailed
along their wild sea songs rose in the air, mingled with shouts
for vengeance on the Spaniards and the Papacy.

"One would not think that this ribald crew could fight," Captain
Martin went on; "but there is no doubt they will do so. They must
not be blamed altogether; they are half maddened by the miseries
and cruelties endured by their friends and relations at the hands
of the Spaniards. I knew that when at last the people rose the
combat would be a terrible one, and that they would answer cruelty
by cruelty, blood by blood. The Prince of Orange, as all men know,
is one of the most clement and gentle of rulers. All his ordinances
enjoin gentle treatment of prisoners, and he has promised every
one over and over again complete toleration in the exercise of
religion; but though he may forgive and forget, the people will
not.

"It is the Catholic church that has been their oppressor. In its
name tens of thousands have been murdered, and I fear that the
slaughter of those priests at Brill is but the first of a series
of bloody reprisals that will take place wherever the people get
the upper hand."

A fresh instance of this was shown a few hours after the Good
Venture put into Flushing. A ship arrived in port, bringing with
it Pacheco, the Duke of Alva's chief engineer, an architect of
the highest reputation. He had been despatched by the duke to take
charge of the new works that the soldiers had been sent to execute,
and ignorant of what had taken place he landed at the port. He was
at once seized by the mob. An officer, willing to save his life,
took him from their hands and conducted him to the prison; but the
populace were clamorous for his blood, and Treslong was willing
enough to satisfy them and to avenge upon Alva's favourite officer
the murder of his brother by Alva's orders. The unfortunate officer
was therefore condemned to be hung, and the sentence was carried
into effect the same day.

A few days later an officer named Zeraerts arrived at Flushing with
a commission from the Prince of Orange as Governor of the Island
of Walcheren. He was attended by a small body of French infantry,
and the force under his command speedily increased; for as soon
as it was known in England that Brill and Flushing had thrown off
the authority of the Spaniards, volunteers from England began to
arrive in considerable numbers to aid their fellow Protestants in
the struggle before them.

The Good Venture had stayed only a few hours in Flushing. In
the present condition of affairs there was no chance of obtaining
a cargo there, and Captain Martin therefore thought it better not
to waste time, but to proceed at once to England in order to learn
the intention of the merchants for whom he generally worked as to
what could be done under the changed state of circumstances that
had arisen.

Every day brought news of the extension of the rising. The Spanish
troops lay for the most part in Flanders, and effectually deterred
the citizens of the Flemish towns from revolting; but throughout
Holland, Zeeland, and Friesland the flame of revolt spread rapidly.
The news that Brill and Flushing had thrown off the Spanish yoke
fired every heart. It was the signal for which all had been so long
waiting. They knew how desperately Spain would strive to regain her
grip upon the Netherlands, how terrible would be her vengeance if
she conquered; but all felt that it was better to die sword in hand
than to be murdered piecemeal. And accordingly town after town rose,
expelled the authorities appointed by Spain and the small Spanish
garrisons, and in three months after the rising of Brill the greater
part of the maritime provinces were free. Some towns, however, still
remained faithful to Spain. Prominent among these was Amsterdam, a
great trading city, which feared the ruin that opposition to Alva
might bring upon it, more than the shame of standing aloof when
their fellow countrymen were fighting for freedom and the right to
worship God in their own way.

On the 23rd of May, Louis of Nassau, with a body of troops from
France, captured the important town of Mons by surprise, but was
at once beleaguered there by a Spanish army. In June the States of
Holland assembled at Dort and formally renounced the authority of
the Duke of Alva, and declared the Prince of Orange, the royally
appointed stadtholder, the only legal representative of the Spanish
crown in their country; and in reply to an eloquent address of
Sainte Aldegonde, the prince's representative, voted a considerable
sum of money for the payment of the army the prince was raising
in Germany. On the 19th of June a serious misfortune befell the
patriot cause. A reinforcement of Huguenot troops, on the way to
succour the garrison of Mons, were met and cut to pieces by the
Spaniards, and Count Louis, who had been led by the French King to
expect ample succour and assistance from him, was left to his fate.

On the 7th of July the Prince of Orange crossed the Rhine with
14,000 foot and 7,000 horse. He advanced but a short distance when
the troops mutinied in consequence of their pay being in arrears,
and he was detained four weeks until the cities of Holland guaranteed
their payment for three months. A few cities opened their gates
to him; but they were for the most part unimportant places, and
Mechlin was the only large town that admitted his troops. Still
he pressed on toward Mons, expecting daily to be joined by 12,000
French infantry and 3,000 cavalry under the command of Admiral
Coligny.

The prince, who seldom permitted himself to be sanguine, believed
that the goal of his hopes was reached, and that he should now be
able to drive the Spaniards from the Netherlands. But as he was
marching forward he received tidings that showed him that all his
plans were shattered, and that the prospects were darker than they
had ever before been. While the King of France had throughout been
encouraging the revolted Netherlanders, and had authorized his
minister to march with an army to their assistance, he was preparing
for a deed that would be the blackest in history, were it not
that its horrors are less appalling than those inflicted upon the
captured cities of the Netherlands by Alva. On St. Bartholomew's Eve
there was a general massacre of the Protestants in Paris, followed
by similar massacres throughout France, the number of victims being
variously estimated at from twenty-five to a hundred thousand.

Protestant Europe was filled with horror at this terrible crime.
Philip of Spain was filled with equal delight. Not only was the
danger that seemed to threaten him in the Netherlands at once and
forever, as he believed, at an end, but he saw in this destruction
of the Protestants of France a great step in the direction he had
so much at heart--the entire extirpation of heretics throughout
Europe. He wrote letters of the warmest congratulation to the King
of France, with whom he had formerly been at enmity; while the
Pope, accompanied by his cardinals, went to the church of St. Mark
to render thanks to God for the grace thus singularly vouchsafed
to the Holy See and to all Christendom. To the Prince of Orange
the news came as a thunderclap. His troops wholly lost heart, and
refused to keep the field. The prince himself almost lost his life
at the hands of the mutineers, and at last, crossing the Rhine, he
disbanded his army and went almost alone to Holland to share the
fate of the provinces that adhered to him. He went there expecting
and prepared to die.

"There I will make my sepulcher," was his expression in the letter
in which he announced his intention to his brother. Count Louis
of Nassau had now nothing left before him but to surrender. His
soldiers, almost entirely French, refused any longer to resist,
now that the king had changed his intentions, and the city was
surrendered, the garrison being allowed to retire with their weapons.

The terms of the capitulation were so far respected; but instead
of the terms respecting the townspeople being adhered to, a council
of blood was set up, and for many months from ten to twenty of the
inhabitants were hanged, burned, or beheaded every day. The news
of the massacre of St. Bartholomew, of the treachery of the King
of France towards the inhabitants of the Netherlands, and of the
horrible cruelties perpetrated upon the inhabitants of Mechlin and
other towns that had opened their gates to the Prince of Orange,
excited the most intense indignation among the people of England.

The queen put on mourning, but was no more inclined than before
to render any really efficient aid to the Netherlands. She allowed
volunteers to pass over, furnished some meagre sums of money, but
held aloof from any open participation in the war; for if before,
when France was supposed to be favourable to the Netherlands and
hostile to Spain, she felt unequal to a war with the latter power,
still less could she hope to cope with Spain when the deed of St.
Bartholomew had reunited the two Catholic monarchs.

Captain Martin, married to a native of the Netherlands, and mixing
constantly with the people in his trade, was naturally ardent, even
beyond the majority of his countrymen, in their cause, and over
and over again declared that were he sailing by when a sea fight
was going on between the Dutch and the Spaniards, he would pull
down his English flag, hoist that of Holland, and join in the fray;
and Ned, as was to be expected, shared to the utmost his father's
feelings on the subject. Early in September the Good Venture started
with a cargo for Amsterdam, a city that almost alone in Holland
adhered to the Spanish cause.

Sophie Martin was pleased when she heard that this was the ship's
destination; for she was very anxious as to the safety of her
father and brothers, from whom she had not heard for a long time.
Postage was dear and mails irregular. Few letters were written or
received by people in England, still more seldom letters sent across
the sea. There would, therefore, under the ordinary circumstances,
have been no cause whatever for uneasiness had years elapsed without
news coming from Amsterdam; and, indeed, during her whole married
life Sophie Martin had only received one or two letters by post from
her former home, although many communications had been brought by
friends of her husband's trading there. But as many weeks seldom
passed without the Good Venture herself going into Amsterdam, for
that town was one of the great trading centres of Holland, there
was small occasion for letters to pass. It happened, however, that
from one cause or another, eighteen months had passed since Captain
Martin's business had taken him to that port, and no letter had
come either by post or hand during that time.

None who had friends in the Netherlands could feel assured that
these must, either from their station or qualities, be safe from
the storm that was sweeping over the country. The poor equally
with the rich, the artisan equally with the noble, was liable to
become a victim of Alva's Council of Blood. The net was drawn so
as to catch all classes and conditions; and although it was upon
the Protestants that his fury chiefly fell, the Catholics suffered
too, for pretexts were always at hand upon which these could also
be condemned.

The Netherlands swarmed with spies and informers, and a single
unguarded expression of opinion was sufficient to send a man to
the block. And, indeed, in a vast number of cases, private animosity
was the cause of the denunciation; for any accusation could be
safely made where there was no trial, and the victims were often
in complete ignorance as to the nature of the supposed crime for
which they were seized and dragged away to execution.

When the vessel sailed Sophie Martin gave her husband a letter
to her father and brothers, begging them to follow the example of
thousands of their countrymen, and to leave the land where life and
property were no longer safe, and to come over to London. They would
have no difficulty in procuring work there, and could establish
themselves in business and do as well as they had been doing at
home.

They had, she knew, money laid by in London; for after the troubles
began her father had sold off the houses and other property he had
purchased with his savings, and had transmitted the result to England
by her husband, who had intrusted it for investment to a leading
citizen with whom he did business. As this represented not only
her father's accumulations but those of her brothers who worked
as partners with him, it amounted to a sum that in those days was
regarded as considerable.

"I feel anxious, Ned," Captain Martin said as he sailed up the Zuider
Zee towards the city, "as to what has befallen your grandfather and
uncles. I have always made the best of the matter to your mother,
but I cannot conceal from myself that harm may have befallen them.
It is strange that no message has come to us through any of our
friends trading with the town, for your uncles know many of my
comrades and can see their names in the shipping lists when they
arrive. They would have known how anxious your mother would be
at the news of the devil's work that is going on here, and, being
always tender and thoughtful for her, would surely have sent her
news of them from time to time as they had a chance. I sorely fear
that something must have happened. Your uncles are prudent men,
going about their work and interfering with none; but they are men,
too, who speak their mind, and would not, like many, make a false
show of affection when they feel none.

"Well, well; we shall soon know. As soon as the ship is moored and
my papers are declared in order, you and I will go over to Vordwyk
and see how they are faring. I think not that they will follow
your mother's advice and sail over with us; for it was but the last
time I saw them that they spoke bitterly against the emigrants,
and said that every man who could bear arms should, however great
his danger, wait and bide the time until there was a chance to strike
for his religion and country. They are sturdy men these Dutchmen,
and not readily turned from an opinion they have taken up; and
although I shall do my best to back up your mother's letter by my
arguments, I have but small hope that I shall prevail with them."

In the evening they were moored alongside the quays of Amsterdam,
at that time one of the busiest cities in Europe. Its trade was
great, the wealth of its citizens immense. It contained a large number
of monasteries, its authorities were all Catholics and devoted to
the cause of Spain, and although there were a great many well wishers
to the cause of freedom within its walls, these were powerless to
take action, and the movement which, after the capture of Brill
and Flushing, had caused almost all the towns of Holland to declare
for the Prince of Orange, found no echo in Amsterdam. The vessel
anchored outside the port, and the next morning after their papers
were examined and found in order she ranged up alongside the crowded
tiers of shipping. Captain Martin went on shore with Ned, visited
the merchants to whom his cargo was consigned, and told them that
he should begin to unload the next day.

He then started with Ned to walk to Vordwyk, which lay two miles
away. On reaching the village they stopped suddenly. The roof of
the house they had so often visited was gone, its walls blackened
by fire. After the first exclamation of surprise and regret they
walked forward until opposite the ruin, and stood gazing at it.
Then Captain Martin stepped up to a villager, who was standing at
the door of his shop, and asked him when did this happen, what had
become of the old man Plomaert?

"You are his son-in-law, are you not?" the man asked in reply. "I
have seen you here at various times." Captain Martin nodded. The
man looked round cautiously to see that none were within sound of
his voice.

"You have not heard, then?" he said. "It was a terrible business,
though we are growing used to it now. One day, it is some eight
months since, a party of soldiers came from Amsterdam and hauled
away my neighbour Plomaert and his three sons. They were denounced
as having attended the field preaching a year ago, and you know
what that means."

"And the villains murdered them?" Captain Martin asked in horror
stricken tones.

The man nodded. "They were hung together next day, together with
Gertrude, the wife of the eldest brother. Johan was, as you know,
unmarried. Elizabeth, the wife of Louis, lay ill at the time, or
doubtless she would have fared the same as the rest. She has gone
with her two daughters to Haarlem, where her family live. All their
property was, of course, seized and confiscated, and the house burnt
down; for, as you know, they all lived together. Now, my friend,
I will leave you. I dare not ask you in for I know not who may be
watching us, and to entertain even the brother-in-law of men who
have been sent to the gallows might well cost a man his life in
our days."

Then Captain Martin's grief and passion found vent in words, and
he roundly cursed the Spaniards and their works, regardless of
who might hear him; then he entered the garden, visited the summer
house where he had so often talked with the old man and his sons,
and then sat down and gave full vent to his grief. Ned felt almost
stunned by the news; being so often away at sea he had never given
the fact that so long a time had elapsed since his mother had
received a letter from her family much thought. It had, indeed,
been mentioned before him; but, knowing the disturbed state of the
country, it had seemed to him natural enough that his uncles should
have had much to think of and trouble them, and might well have
no time for writing letters. His father's words the evening before
had for the first time excited a feeling of real uneasiness about
them, and the shock caused by the sight of the ruined house, and
the news that his grandfather, his three uncles, and one of his
aunts, had been murdered by the Spaniards, completely overwhelmed
him.

"Let us be going, Ned," his father said at last; "there is nothing
for us to do here, let us get back to our ship. I am a peaceable
man, Ned, but I feel now as if I could join the beggars of the
sea, and go with them in slaying every Spaniard who fell into their
hands. This will be terrible news for your mother, lad."

"It will indeed," Ned replied. "Oh, father, I wish you would let me
stay here and join the prince's bands and fight for their freedom.
There were English volunteers coming out to Brill and Flushing when
we sailed from the Thames, and if they come to fight for Holland who
have no tie in blood, why should not I who am Dutch by my mother's
side and whose relations have been murdered?"

"We will talk of it later on, Ned," his father said. "You are young
yet for such rough work as this, and this is no common war. There
is no quarter given here, it is a fight to the death. The Spaniards
slaughter the Protestants like wild beasts, and like wild beasts
they will defend themselves. But if this war goes on till you have
gained your full strength and sinew I will not say you nay. As you
say, our people at home are ready to embark in a war for the cause
of liberty and religion, did the queen but give the word; and when
others, fired solely by horror at the Spaniards' cruelty, are ready
to come over here and throw in their lot with them, it seems to
me that it will be but right that you, who are half Dutch and have
had relatives murdered by these fiends, should come over and side
with the oppressed. If there is fighting at sea, it may be that I
myself will take part with them, and place the Good Venture at the
service of the Prince of Orange. But of that we will talk later
on, as also about yourself. When you are eighteen you will still
be full young for such work."

As they talked they were walking fast towards Amsterdam. "We will
go straight on board, Ned; and I will not put my foot ashore again
before we sail. I do not think that I could trust myself to meet
a Spaniard now, but should draw my knife and rush upon him. I have
known that these things happened, we have heard of these daily
butcherings, but it has not come home to me as now, when our own
friends are the victims."

Entering the gate of the town they made their way straight down
to the port, and were soon on board the Good Venture where Captain
Martin retired to his cabin. Ned felt too restless and excited to
go down at present; but he told the crew what had happened, and
the exclamations of anger among the honest sailors were loud and
deep. Most of them had sailed with Captain Martin ever since he had
commanded the Good Venture, and had seen the Plomaerts when they
had come on board whenever the vessel put in at Amsterdam. The fact
that there was nothing to do, and no steps to take to revenge the
murders, angered them all the more.

"I would we had twenty ships like our own, Master Ned," one of
them said. "That would give us four hundred men, and with those we
could go ashore and hang the magistrates and the councillors and
all who had a hand in this foul business, and set their public
buildings in a flame, and then fight our way back again to the
port."

"I am afraid four hundred men would not be able to do it here as
they did at Brill. There was no Spanish garrison there, and here
they have a regiment; and though the Spaniards seem to have the
hearts of devils rather than men, they can fight."

"Well, we would take our chance," the sailor replied. "If there was
four hundred of us, and the captain gave the word, we would show
them what English sailors could do, mates--wouldn't we?"

"Aye, that would we;" the others growled in a chorus.

The next morning the work of unloading began. The sailors worked
hard; for, as one of them said, "This place seems to smell of
blood--let's be out of it, mates, as soon as we can." At four in the
afternoon a lad of about Ned's age came on board. He was the son
of the merchant to whom the larger part of the cargo of the Good
Venture was consigned.

"I have a letter that my father charged me to give into your hands,
Captain Martin. He said that the matter was urgent, and begged me
to give it you in your cabin. He also told me to ask when you think
your hold will be empty, as he has goods for you for the return
voyage."

"We shall be well nigh empty by tomorrow night," Captain Martin
said, as he led the way to his cabin in the poop. "The men have
been working faster than usual, for it generally takes us three
days to unload."

"I do not think my father cared about that," the lad said when he
entered the cabin; "it was but an excuse for my coming down here,
and he gave me the message before all the other clerks. But methinks
that the letter is the real object of my coming."

Captain Martin opened the letter. Thanks to his preparation for
taking his place in his father's business, he had learnt to read
and write; accomplishments by no means general among sea captains
of the time.

"It is important, indeed," he said, as he glanced through the
letter. It ran as follows: "Captain Martin,--A friend of mine,
who is one of the council here, has just told me that at the meeting
this afternoon a denunciation was laid against you for having
publicly, in the street of Vordwyk, cursed and abused his Majesty
the King of Spain, the Duke of Alva, the Spaniards, and the Catholic
religion. Some were of opinion that you should at once be arrested
on board your ship, but others thought that it were better to wait
and seize you the first time you came on shore, as it might cause
trouble were you taken from under the protection of the British
flag. On shore, they urged, no question could arise, especially
as many English have now, although the two nations are at peace,
openly taken service under the Prince of Orange.

"I have sent to tell you this, though at no small risk to myself
were it discovered that I had done so; but as we have had dealings
for many years together, I think it right to warn you. I may say
that the counsel of those who were for waiting prevailed; but if,
after a day or two, they find that you do not come ashore, I fear
they will not hesitate to arrest you on your own vessel. Please
to destroy this letter at once after you have read it, and act as
seems best to you under the circumstances. I send this to you by
my son's hand, for there are spies everywhere, and in these days
one can trust no one."

"I am much obliged to you, young sir, for bringing me this letter.
Will you thank your father from me, and say that I feel deeply
indebted to him, and will think over how I can best escape from
this strait. Give him the message from me before others, that I
shall be empty and ready to receive goods by noon on the day after
tomorrow."

When the lad had left, Captain Martin called in Ned and William
Peters, his first mate, and laid the case before them.

"It is an awkward business, Captain Martin," Peters said. "You
sha'n't be arrested on board the Good Venture, as long as there is
a man on board can wield a cutlass; but I don't know whether that
would help you in the long run.

"Not at all, Peters. We might beat off the first party that came
to take me, but it would not be long before they brought up a force
against which we should stand no chance whatever. No, it is not by
fighting that there is any chance of escape. It is evident by this
that I am safe for tomorrow; they will wait at least a day to see
if I go ashore, which indeed they will make certain I shall do
sooner or later. As far as my own safety is concerned, and that
of Ned here, who, as he was with me, is doubtless included in the
denunciation, it is easy enough. We have only to get into the boat
after dark, to muffle the oars, and to row for Haarlem, which lies
but ten miles away, and has declared for the Prince of Orange. But
I do not like to leave the ship, for if they found us gone they
might seize and declare it confiscated. And although, when we got
back to England, we might lay a complaint before the queen, there
would be no chance of our getting the ship or her value from the
Spaniards. There are so many causes of complaint between the two
nations, that the seizure of a brig would make no difference one
way or another. The question is, could we get her out?"

"It would be no easy matter," Peters said, shaking his head. "That
French ship that came in this afternoon has taken up a berth outside
us, and there would be no getting out until she moved out of the
way. If she were not there it might be tried, though it would be
difficult to do so without attracting attention. As for the Spanish
war vessels, of which there are four in the port, I should not fear
them if we once got our sails up, for the Venture can sail faster
than these lubberly Spaniards; but they would send rowboats after
us, and unless the wind was strong these would speedily overhaul
us."

"Well, I must think it over," Captain Martin said. "I should be
sorry indeed to lose my ship, which would be well nigh ruin to me,
but if there is no other way we must make for Haarlem by boat."

The next day the work of unloading continued. In the afternoon the
captain of the French ship lying outside them came on board. He had
been in the habit of trading with Holland, and addressed Captain
Martin in Dutch.

"Are you likely to be lying here long?" he asked. "I want to get
my vessel alongside the wharf as soon as I can, for it is slow work
unloading into these lighters. There are one or two ships going
out in the morning, but I would rather have got in somewhere about
this point if I could, for the warehouses of Mynheer Strous, to
whom my goods are consigned, lie just opposite."

"Will you come down into my cabin and have a glass of wine with
me," Captain Martin said, "and then we can talk it over?"

Captain Martin discovered, without much trouble, that the French
captain was a Huguenot, and that his sympathies were all with the
people of the Netherlands.

"Now," he said, "I can speak freely to you. I was ashore the day
before yesterday, and learned that my wife's father, her three
brothers, and one of their wives have been murdered by the Spaniards.
Well, you can understand that in my grief and rage I cursed the
Spaniards and their doings. I have learnt that some spy has denounced
me, and that they are only waiting for me to set foot on shore to
arrest me, and you know what will come after that; for at present,
owing to the volunteers that have come over to Brill and Flushing,
the Spaniards are furious against the English. They would rather
take me on shore than on board, but if they find that I do not
land they will certainly come on board for me. They believe that I
shall not be unloaded until noon tomorrow, and doubtlessly expect
that as soon as the cargo is out I shall land to arrange for a
freight to England. Therefore, until tomorrow afternoon I am safe,
but no longer. Now, I am thinking of trying to get out quietly
tonight; but to do so it is necessary that you should shift your
berth a ship's length one way or the other. Will you do this for
me?"

"Certainly I will, with pleasure," the captain replied. "I will
give orders at once."

"No, that will never do," Captain Martin said. "They are all the
more easy about me because they know that as long as your ship is
there I cannot get out, but if they saw you shifting your berth it
would strike them at once that I might be intending to slip away.
You must wait until it gets perfectly dark, and then throw off your
warps and slacken out your cable as silently as possible, and let
her drop down so as to leave me an easy passage. As soon as it is
dark I will grease all my blocks, and when everything is quiet try
to get her out. What wind there is is from the southwest, which
will take us well down the Zuider Zee."

"I hope you may succeed," the French captain said. "Once under
sail you would be safe from their warships, for you would be two
or three miles away before they could manage to get up their sails.
The danger lies in their rowboats and galleys."

"Well, well, we must risk it," Captain Martin said. "I shall have
a boat alongside, and if I find the case is desperate we will take
to it and row to the shore, and make our way to Haarlem, where we
should be safe."

Ned, who had been keeping a sharp lookout all day, observed that
two Spanish officials had taken up their station on the wharf, not
far from the ship. They appeared to have nothing to do, and to be
indifferent to what was going on. He told his father that he thought
that they were watching. Presently the merchant himself came down
to the wharf. He did not come on board, but spoke to Captain Martin
as he stood on the deck of the vessel, so that all around could
hear his words.

"How are you getting on, Captain Martin?" he asked in Dutch.

"Fairly well," Captain Martin replied. "I think if we push on we
shall have her empty by noon tomorrow."

"I have a cargo to go back with you, you know," the merchant said,
"and I shall want to see you at the office, if you will step round
tomorrow after you have cleared."

"All right, Mynheer, you may expect me about two o'clock.

"But you won't see me," he added to himself.

The merchant waved his hand and walked away, and a few minutes
later the two officials also strolled off.

"That has thrown dust into their eyes," Captain Martin said, "and
has made it safe for Strous. He will pretend to be as surprised as
any one when he hears I have gone."



CHAPTER III

A FIGHT WITH THE SPANIARDS


As soon as it became dark, and the wharves were deserted, Captain
Martin sent two sailors aloft with grease pots, with orders that
every block was to be carefully greased to ensure its running
without noise. A boat which rowed six oars was lowered noiselessly
into the water, and flannel was bound round the oars. The men,
who had been aware of the danger that threatened their captain,
sharpened the pikes and axes, and declared to each other that
whether the captain ordered it or not no Spaniards should set foot
on board as long as one of them stood alive on the decks. The cook
filled a great boiler with water and lighted a fire under it, and
the carpenter heated a caldron of pitch without orders.

"What are you doing, Thompson?" the captain asked, noticing the
glow of the fire as he came out of his cabin.

The sailor came aft before he replied, "I am just cooking up a
little hot sauce for the dons, captain. We don't ask them to come,
you know; but if they do, it's only right that we should entertain
them."

"I hope there will be no fighting, lad," the captain said.

"Well, your honour, that ain't exactly the wish of me and my mates.
After what we have been hearing of, we feel as we sha'n't be happy
until we have had a brush with them 'ere Spaniards. And as to
fighting, your honour; from what we have heard, Captain Hawkins and
others out in the Indian seas have been ashowing them that though
they may swagger on land they ain't no match for an Englishman on
the sea. Anyhow, your honour, we ain't going to stand by and see
you and Master Ned carried away by these 'ere butchering Spaniards.

"We have all made up our minds that what happens to you happens to
all of us. We have sailed together in this ship the Good Venture
for the last seventeen or eighteen years, and we means to swim
or sink together. No disrespect to you, captain; but that is the
fixed intention of all of us. It would be a nice thing for us to
sail back to the port of London and say as we stood by and saw our
captain and his son carried off to be hung or burnt or what not
by the Spaniards, and then sailed home to tell the tale. We don't
mean no disrespect, captain, I says again; but in this 'ere business
we take our orders from Mr. Peters, seeing that you being consarned
as it were in the affair ain't to be considered as having, so to
speak, a right judgment upon it."

"Well, well, we shall see if there is a chance of making a
successful fight," Captain Martin said, unable to resist a smile
at the sailor's way of putting it.

The night was dark, and the two or three oil lamps that hung suspended
from some of the houses facing the port threw no ray of light which
extended to the shipping. It was difficult to make out against the
sky the outline of the masts of the French vessel lying some twenty
yards away; but presently Ned's attention was called towards her
by a slight splash of her cable. Then he heard the low rumble as
the ropes ran out through the hawse holes, and saw that the masts
were slowly moving. In two or three minutes they had disappeared
from his sight. He went into the cabin.

"The Frenchman has gone, father; and so noiselessly that I could
hardly hear her. If we can get out as quietly there is little fear
of our being noticed."

"We cannot be as quiet as that, Ned. She has only to slack away
her cables and drift with the tide that turned half an hour ago,
we have got to tow out and set sail. However, the night is dark,
the wind is off shore, and everything is in our favour. Do you see
if there be anyone about on the decks of the ships above and below
us."

Ned went first on to the stern, and then to the bow. He could
hear the voices of men talking and singing in the forecastles, but
could hear no movement on the deck of either ship. He went down
and reported to his father.

"Then, I think, we may as well start at once, Ned. There are
still sounds and noises in the town, and any noise we may make is
therefore less likely to be noticed than if we waited until everything
was perfectly still."

The sailors were all ready. All were barefooted so as to move as
noiselessly as possible. The four small cannon that the Good Venture
carried had been loaded to the muzzle with bullets and pieces of
iron. A search had been made below and several heavy lumps of stone,
a part of the ballast carried on some former occasion, brought
up and placed at intervals along the bulwarks. The pikes had been
fastened by a loose lashing to the mast, and the axes leaned in
readiness against the cannon.

"Now, Peters," Captain Martin said, "let the boat be manned. Do you
send a man ashore to cast off the hawser at the bow. Let him take
a line ashore with him so as to ease the hawser off, and not let
the end fall in the water. The moment he has done that let him
come to the stern and get on board there, and do you and he get
the plank on board as noiselessly as you can. As soon as the bow
hawser is on board I will give the men in the boat the word to
row. Ned will be on board her, and see that they row in the right
direction. The moment you have got the plank in get out your knife
and cut the stern warp half through, and directly her head is out,
and you feel the strain, sever it. The stern is so close to the
wharf that the end will not be able to drop down into the water
and make a splash."

Ned's orders were that as soon as the vessel's head pointed seaward
he was to steer rather to the right, so as to prevent the stream,
which, however, ran but feebly, from carrying her down on the bows
of the French ship. Once beyond the latter he was to go straight
out, steering by the lights on shore. The men were enjoined to drop
their oars as quietly as possible into the water at each stroke,
and to row deeply, as having the vessel in tow they would churn up
the water unless they did so. The boat rowed off a stroke or two,
and then, as the rope tightened, the men sat quiet until Captain
Martin was heard to give the order to row in a low tone; then they
bent to their oars. Peters had chosen the six best rowers on board
the ship for the purpose, and so quietly did they dip their oars
in the water that Captain Martin could scarce hear the sound, and
only knew by looking over the other side, and seeing that the shore
was receding, that the ship was in motion. Two minutes later Peters
came forward.

"I have cut the warp, Captain Martin, and she is moving out. I have
left Watson at the helm." Scarce a word was spoken for the next
five minutes. It was only by looking at the light ashore that they
could judge the progress they were making. Every one breathed more
freely now the first danger was over. They had got out from their
berth without attracting the slightest notice, either from the
shore or from the ships lying next to them. Their next danger was
from the ships lying at anchor off the port waiting their turn to
come in. Were they to run against one of these, the sound of the
collision, and perhaps the breaking of spars and the shouts of the
crew, would certainly excite attention from the sentries on shore.

So far the boat had been rowing but a short distance in advance of
the end of the bowsprit, but Captain Martin now made his way out
to the end of that spar, and told Ned that he was going to give
him a good deal more rope in order that he might keep well ahead,
and that he was to keep a sharp lookout for craft at anchor. Another
quarter of an hour passed, and Captain Martin thought that they
must now be beyond the line of the outer shipping. They felt the
wind more now that they were getting beyond the shelter of the
town, and its effect upon the hull and spars made the work lighter
for those in the boat ahead.

"Now, Peters, I think that we can safely spread the foresail and
call them in from the boat."

The sail had been already loosed and was now let fall; it bellied
out at once.

"Haul in the sheets, lads," Captain Martin said, and going forward
gave a low whistle. A minute later the boat was alongside. "Let
her drop astern, Peters," the captain said, as Ned and the rowers
clambered on board; "we may want her presently. Hullo! what's that?
It's one of the guard boats, I do believe, and coming this way."
The men heard the sound of coming oars, and silently stole to the
mast and armed themselves with the pikes, put the axes in their
belts, and ranged themselves along by the side of the ship towards
which the boat was approaching. "Will she go ahead of us or astern?"
Captain Martin whispered to the mate.

"I cannot tell yet, sir. By the sound she seems making pretty nearly
straight for us."

"How unfortunate," Captain Martin murmured; "just as it seemed that
we were getting safely away."

In another minute the mate whispered, "She will go astern of us,
sir, but not by much."

"I trust that she will not see us," the captain said. "But now we
are away from the town and the lights, it doesn't seem so dark,
besides their eyes are accustomed to it."

There was dead silence in the ship as the boat approached. She was
just passing the stern at the distance of about a ship's length,
when there was a sudden exclamation, and a voice shouted, "What
ship is that? Where are you going?" Captain Martin replied in Dutch.
"We are taking advantage of the wind to make to sea."

"Down with that sail, sir!" the officer shouted: "this is against
all regulations. No ship is permitted to leave the port between
sunrise and sunset. Pull alongside, lads; there is something strange
about this!"

"Do not come alongside," Captain Martin said sternly. "We are
peaceable traders who meddle with no one, but if you interfere with
us it will be the worse for you."

"You insolent hound!" the officer exclaimed furiously, "do you
dare to threaten me. Blow your matches, lads, and shoulder your
arquebuses. There is treason and rebellion here."

Those on board saw six tiny sparks appear, two in the bow and four
in the stern. A minute later the boat dashed alongside. As it did
so three great pieces of stone were cast into it, knocking down
two of the rowers.

"Fire!" the officer exclaimed as he sprang up to climb the ship's
side. The six muskets were discharged, and the men rose to follow
their leader, when there was a cry from the rowers "The boat is
sinking! She is staved in!"

At the same moment the officer fell back thrust through with a pike.
Two of the soldiers were cut down with axes, the other sprang back
into the sinking boat, which at once drifted astern.

"Up with her sails, lads!" Captain Martin shouted; "it is a question
of speed now. The alarm is spread on shore already." The sentries
of the various batteries were discharging their muskets and shouting,
and the roll of a drum was heard almost immediately. The crew soon
had every stitch of sail set upon the brig. She was moving steadily
through the water; but the wind was still light, although occasionally
a stronger puff gave ground for hope that it would ere long blow
harder.

"They will be some time before they make out what it is all about,
Peters," Captain Martin said. "The galleys will be manned, and will
row to the spot where the firing was heard. Some of the men in the
boat are sure to be able to swim, and will meet them as they come
out and tell them what has happened. The worst of it is, the moon
will be up in a few minutes. I forgot all about that. That accounts
for its being lighter. However, we have got a good start. One or
two guard boats may be out here in a quarter of an hour, but it
will take the galleys twice as long to gather their crews and get
out. It all depends on the wind. It is lucky it is not light yet,
or the batteries might open on us; I don't think now they will get
sight of us until we are fairly out of range."

Now that there was no longer occasion for silence on board the Good
Venture, the crew laughed and joked at the expense of the Spaniards.
They were in high spirits at their success, and their only regret
was that the brush with their pursuers had not been a more serious
one. It was evident from the talk that there was quite as much hope
as fear in the glances that they cast astern, and that they would
have been by no means sorry to see a foe of about their own strength
in hot pursuit of them. A quarter of an hour after the shattered
boat had dropped astern the moon rose on the starboard bow. It was
three-quarters full, and would assuredly reveal the ship to those
on shore. Scarcely indeed did it show above the horizon when there
was the boom of a gun astern, followed a second or two later by a
heavy splash in the water close alongside.

"That was a good shot," Captain Martin said; "but luck rather than
skill I fancy. There is little chance of their hitting us at this
distance. We must be a mile and a half away; don't you think so,
Peters?"

"Quite that, captain; and they must have given their gun a lot of
elevation to carry so far. I almost wonder they wasted their powder."

"Of course they can't tell in the least who they are firing at,"
the captain said. "They cannot have learnt anything yet, and can
have only known that there was firing off the port, and that a
craft is making out. We may be one of the sea beggars' vessels for
anything they know, and may have come in to carry off a prize from
under their very noses."

"That is so," the mate replied; "but the gun may have been fired
as a signal as much as with any hope of hitting us."

"So it may, so it may, Peters; I did not think of that. Certainly
that is likely enough. We know they have several ships cruising in
the Zuider Zee keeping a lookout for the beggars. On a night like
this, and with the wind astern, the sound will be heard miles away.
We may have trouble yet. I was not much afraid of the galleys, for
though the wind is so light we are running along famously. You see
we have nothing in our hold, and that is all in our favour so long
as we are dead before the wind. Besides, if the galleys did come
up it would probably be singly, and we should be able to beat them
off, for high out of water as we are they would find it difficult
to climb the sides; but if we fall in with any of their ships it
is a different matter altogether."

Four or five more shots were fired, but they all fell astern; and
as they were fully two miles and a half away when the last gun was
discharged, and the cannoneers must have known that they were far
out of range, Captain Martin felt sure that the mate's idea was a
correct one, and that the cannon had been discharged rather as a
signal than with any hope of reaching them.

"Ned, run up into the foretop," the captain said, "and keep a
sharp lookout ahead. The moon has given an advantage to those who
are on our track behind, but it gives us an advantage as against
any craft there may be ahead of us. We shall see them long before
they can see us."

Peters had been looking astern when the last gun was fired, and
said that by its flash he believed that he had caught sight of three
craft of some kind or other outside the ships moored off the port.

"Then we have two miles' start if those are their galleys," the
captain said. "We are stealing through the water at about the rate
of four knots, and perhaps they may row six, so it will take them
an hour to come up."

"Rather more than that, I should say, captain, for the wind at times
freshens a little. It is likely to be an hour and a half before
they come up."

"All the better, Peters. They will have learnt from those they
picked up from that boat that we are not a large craft, and that
our crew probably does not exceed twenty men; therefore, as those
galleys carry about twenty soldiers besides the twenty rowers, they
will not think it necessary to keep together, but will each do his
best to overtake us. One of them is sure to be faster than the
others, and if they come up singly I think we shall be able to
beat them off handsomely. It is no use discussing now whether it
is wise to fight or not. By sinking that first boat we have all
put our heads in a noose, and there is no drawing back. We have
repulsed their officers with armed force, and there will be no
mercy for any of us if we fall into their hands."

"We shall fight all the better for knowing that," Peters said
grimly. "The Dutchmen are learning that, as the Spaniards are finding
to their cost. There is nothing like making a man fight than the
knowledge that there is a halter waiting for him if he is beaten."

"You had better get two of the guns astern, Peters, so as to fire
down into them as they come up. You may leave the others, one on
each side, for the present, and run one of them over when we see
which side they are making for. Ah! that's a nice little puff. If
it would but hold like that we should show them our heels altogether."

In two or three minutes the puff died out and the wind fell even
lighter than before.

"I thought that we were going to have more of it," the captain said
discontentedly; "it looked like it when the sun went down."

"I think we shall have more before morning," Peters agreed; "but
I am afraid it won't come in time to help us much."

As the moon rose they were able to make out three craft astern of
them. Two were almost abreast of each other, the third some little
distance behind.

"That is just what I expected, Peters; they are making a race of
it. We shall have two of them on our hands at once; the other will
be too far away by the time they come up to give them any assistance.
They are about a mile astern now, I should say, and unless the wind
freshens up a bit they will be alongside in about twenty minutes.
I will give you three men here, Peters. As soon as we have fired
load again, and then slew the guns round and run them forward to
the edge of the poop, and point them down into the waist. If the
Spaniards get on board and we find them too strong for us, those
of us who can will take to the forecastle, the others will run up
here. Then sweep the Spaniards with your guns, and directly you
have fired charge down among them with pike and axe. We will do
the same, and it is hard if we do not clear the deck of them."

Just at this moment Ned hailed them from the top. "There is a ship
nearly ahead of us, sir; she is lying with her sails brailed up,
evidently waiting."

"How far is she off, do you think, Ned?"

"I should say she is four miles away," Ned replied.

"Well, we need not trouble about her for the present; there will
be time to think about her when we have finished with these fellows
behind. You can come down now, Ned."

In a few words the captain now explained his intentions to his men.

"I hope, lads, that we shall be able to prevent their getting
a footing on the deck; but if they do, and we find we can't beat
them back, as soon as I give the word you are to take either to
the forecastle or to the poop. Mr. Peters will have the two guns
there ready to sweep them with bullets. The moment he has fired give
a cheer and rush down upon them from both sides. We will clear them
off again, never fear. Ned, you will be in charge in the waist until
I rejoin you. Get ready to run one of the guns over the instant I
tell you on which side they are coming up. Depress them as much as
you can. I shall take one gun and you take the other, and be sure
you don't fire until you see a boat well under the muzzle of your
gun. Mind it's the boat you are to aim at, and not the men."

Captain Martin again ascended to the poop and joined Peters. The
two boats were now but a few hundred yards astern, and they could
hear the officers cheering on the rowers to exert themselves to
the utmost. The third boat was fully a quarter of a mile behind
the leaders. When they approached within a hundred yards a fire of
musketry was opened.

"Lie down under the bulwarks, men," Captain Martin said to the three
sailors. "It is no use risking your lives unnecessarily. I expect
one boat will come one side and one the other, Peters. If they do
we will both take the one coming up on the port side. One of us
may miss, and it is better to make sure of one boat if we can. I
think we can make pretty sure of beating off the other. Yes, there
they are separating. Now work your gun round a bit, so that it
bears on a point about twenty yards astern and a boat's length on
the port side. I will do the same. Have you done that?"

"Yes, I think I have about got it, sir."

"Very well, then. Stoop down now, or we may get hit before it is
time to fire."

The bulwarks round the poop were only about a foot high, but sitting
back from them the captain and the mate were protected from the
bullets that were now singing briskly over the stern of the ship.

"They are coming up, Peters," Captain Martin said. "Now kneel
up and look along your gun; get your match ready, and do not fire
till you see right into the boat, then clap on your match whether
I fire or not."

The boat came racing along until when within some twenty yards of
the stern, the cannons were discharged almost simultaneously. The
sound was succeeded by a chorus of screams and yells; the contents
of both guns had struck the boat fairly midships, and she sank
almost instantly. As soon as they had fired Captain Martin ran
forward and joined the crew in the waist. He had already passed
the word to Ned to get both guns over to the starboard side, and
he at once took charge of one while Ned stood at the other. The
Spaniards had pushed straight on without waiting to pick up their
drowning comrades in the other boat, and in a minute were alongside.
So close did the helmsman bring the boat to the side that the guns
could not be depressed so as to bear upon her, and a moment later
the Spaniards were climbing up the sides of the vessel, the rowers
dropping their oars and seizing axes and joining the soldiers.

"Never mind the gun, Ned; it is useless at present. Now, lads,
drive them back as they come up."

With pike and hatchet the sailors met the Spaniards as they tried
to climb up. The cook had brought his caldron of boiling water to
the bulwarks, and threw pailful after pailful down into the boat,
while the carpenter bailed over boiling pitch with the great ladle.
Terrible yells and screams rose from the boat, and the soldiers in
vain tried to gain a footing upon the ship's deck. As they appeared
above the level of the bulwarks they were met either with thrust
of pike or with a crashing blow from an axe, and it was but three
or four minutes from the moment that the fight began that the boat
cast off and dropped behind, more than half those on board being
killed or disabled. A loud cheer broke from the crew.

"Shall I run the guns back to the stern again," Peters asked from
above, "and give them a parting dose?"

"No, no," Captain Martin said, "let them go, Peters; we are fighting
to defend ourselves, and have done them mischief enough. See what
the third boat is doing, though."

"They have stopped rowing," Peters said, after going to the stern.
"I think they are picking up some swimmers from the boat we sank.
There cannot be many of them, for most of the rowers would have
been killed by our discharges, and the soldiers in their armour
will have sunk at once."

Captain Martin now ascended to the poop. In a short time the boat
joined that which had dropped astern, which was lying helpless in
the water, no attempt having been made to man the oars, as most of
the unwounded men were scalded more or less severely. Their report
was evidently not encouraging, and the third boat made no attempt
to pursue. Some of her oarsmen were shifted to the other boat, and
together they turned and made back for Amsterdam.

"Now then for this vessel ahead," Captain Martin said; "that is a
much more serious business than the boats."

The vessel, which was some two miles ahead of them, had now set
some of her sails, and was heading towards them.

"They can make us out now plainly enough, Peters, and the firing
will of course have told them we are the vessel that they are in
search of. I don't think that there is any getting away from them."

"I don't see that there is," the mate agreed. "Whichever way we
edged off they could cut us off. The worst of it is, no doubt she
has got some big guns on board, and these little things of ours are
of no good except at close quarters. It would be no use trying to
make a running fight with her?"

"Not in the least, Peters. We had better sail straight at her."

"You don't mean to try and carry her by boarding?" Peters asked
doubtfully. "She looks a large ship, and has perhaps a hundred and
fifty men on board; and though the Spaniards are no sailors they
can fight on the decks of their ships."

"That is so, Peters. What I think of doing is to bear straight
down upon her as if I intended to board. We shall have to stand one
broadside as we come up, and then we shall be past her, and with
our light draught we should run right away from her with this wind.
There is more of it than there was, and we are slipping away fast.
Unless she happens to knock away one of our masts we shall get away
from her."

When they were within half a mile of the Spanish ship they saw her
bows bear off.

"Lie down, lads," the captain ordered, "she is going to give us a
broadside. When it is over start one of those sea beggar songs you
picked up at Brill; that will startle them, and they will think we
are crowded with men and going to board them."

A minute later eight flashes of fire burst from the Spanish ship,
now lying broadside to them. One shot crashed through the bulwarks,
two others passed through the sails, the rest went wide of their
mark. As soon as it was over the crew leapt to their feet and burst
into one of the wild songs sung by the sea beggars.

"Keep our head straight towards her, Peters," Captain Martin said.
"They will think we mean to run her down, and it will flurry and
confuse them."

Loading was not quick work in those days, and the distance between
the vessels was decreased by half before the guns were again fired.
This time it was not a broadside; the guns went off one by one as
they were loaded, and the aim was hasty and inaccurate, for close
as they were not a shot struck the hull of the Good Venture, though
two or three went through the sails. In the bright moonlight men
could be seen running about and officers waving their arms and giving
orders on board the Spaniard, and then her head began to pay off.

"We have scared them," Captain Martin laughed. "They thought we were
going to run them down. They know the sea beggars would be quite
content to sink themselves if they could sink an enemy. Follow
close in her wake, Peters, and then bear off a little as if you
meant to pass them on their starboard side; then when you get close
give her the helm sharp and sweep across her stern. We will give
her the guns as we pass, then bear off again and pass her on her
port side; the chances are they will not have loaded again there."

The Spanish ship was little more than a hundred yards ahead. When
she got before the wind again Captain Martin saw with satisfaction
that the Good Venture sailed three feet to her two. The poop and
stern galleries of the Spaniard were clustered with soldiers, who
opened a fire with their muskets upon their pursuer. The men were
all lying down now at their guns, which were loaded with musket
balls to their muzzles.

"Elevate them as much as you can. She is much higher out of the
water than we are. Now, Peters, you see to the guns, I will take
the helm."

"I will keep the helm, sir," the mate replied.

"No, you won't, Peters; my place is the place of danger. But if
you like you can lie under the bulwark there after you have fired,
and be ready to take my place if you see me drop. Now, lads, get
ready."

So saying the captain put down the tiller. The Good Venture swept
round under the stern of the Spaniard at a distance of some forty
yards, and as she did so the guns loaded with bullets to the
muzzle were fired one after the other. The effect was terrible,
and the galleries and poop were swept by the leaden shower. Then
the captain straightened the helm again. The crew burst into the
wild yells and cries the beggars raised when going into battle. The
Spaniards, confused by the terrible slaughter worked by the guns
of their enemies, and believing that they were about to be boarded
on the port side by a crowd of desperate foemen, hastily put up
the tiller, and the ship bore away as the Good Venture swept up,
presenting her stern instead of her broadside to them.

To the momentary relief of the Spaniards their assailant instead
of imitating their maneuvers kept straight upon her course before
the wind, and instead of the wild cries of the beggars a hearty
English cheer was raised. As Captain Martin had expected, the guns
on the port side had not been reloaded after the last discharge,
and the Good Venture was two or three hundred yards away before
the Spaniards recovered from their surprise at what seemed the
incomprehensible maneuver of their foes, and awoke to the fact
that they had been tricked, and that instead of a ship crowded with
beggars of the sea their supposed assailant had been an English
trader that was trying to escape from them.

A dozen contradictory orders were shouted as soon as the truth
dawned upon them. The captain had been killed by the discharge of
grape, and the first lieutenant severely wounded. The officer in
command of the troops shouted to his men to load the guns, only to
find when this was accomplished that the second lieutenant of the
ship had turned her head in pursuit of the enemy, and that not a
single gun would bear. There was a sharp altercation between the
two authorities, but the military chief was of the highest rank.

"Don't you see," he said furiously, "that she is going away from
us every foot. She was but a couple of hundred yards away when I
gave the order to load, and now she is fully a quarter of a mile."

"If I put the helm down to bring her broadside on," the seaman
said, "she will be half a mile ahead before we can straighten up
and get in her wake again; and unless you happen to cripple her
she will get away to a certainty."

"She will get away anyhow," the soldier roared, "if we don't cripple
her. Put your helm down instantly."

The order was given and the ship's head swayed round. There was a
flapping of sails and a rattling of blocks, and then a broadside
was fired; but it is no easy matter for angry and excited men to
hit a mast at the distance of nearly half a mile. One of the shots
ploughed up the deck within a yard of the foot of the mainmast,
another splintered a boat, three others added to the holes in the
sails, but no damage of importance was done. By the time the Spaniard
had borne round and was again in chase, the Good Venture was over
half a mile ahead.

"It is all over now, captain," Peters said as he went aft. "Unless
we light upon another of these fellows, which is not likely, we
are safe."

"Are any of the men hit, Peters?"

"The carpenter was knocked down and stunned by a splinter from the
boat, sir; but I don't think it is serious."

"Thank God for that," the captain said. "Now, will you take the
helm?" There was something in the voice that startled the mate.

"Is anything the matter, sir? Don't say you are hit."

"I am hit, Peters, and I fear rather badly; but that matters little
now that the crew and ship are safe."

Peters caught the captain, for he saw that he could scarce stand,
and called two men to his assistance. The captain was laid down on
the deck.

"Where are you hit, sir?"

"Halfway between the knee and the hip," Captain Martin replied
faintly. "If it hadn't been for the tiller I should have fallen,
but with the aid of that I made shift to stand on the other leg. It
was just before we fired, at the moment when I put the helm down."

"Why didn't you call me?" Peters said reproachfully.

"It was of no good getting two of us hit, Peters; and as long as
I could stand to steer I was better there than you."

Ned came running aft as the news was passed along that the captain
was wounded, and threw himself on his knees by his father's side.

"Bear up, Ned; bear up like a man," his father said. "I am hit
hard, but I don't know that it is to death. But even if it is, it
is ten thousand times better to die in battle with the Spaniards
than to be hung like a dog, which would have befallen me and perhaps
all of us if they had taken us."

By Peters' directions a mattress was now brought up, and the captain
carried down to his cabin. There was no thought on board now of the
pursuers astern, or of possible danger lying ahead. The news that
Captain Martin was badly wounded damped all the feelings of triumph
and enthusiasm which the crew had before been feeling at the success
with which they had eluded the Spaniard while heavily punishing
her. As soon as the captain was laid on a sofa Peters examined the
wound. It was right in front of the leg, some four inches above
the knee.

"There is nothing to be done for it," Captain Martin said. "It has
smashed the bone, I am sure."

"I am afraid it has, captain," Peters said ruefully; "and it is no
use my saying that it has not. I think, sir, we had best put in at
Enkhuizen. We are not above four or five miles from it now, and we
shall find surgeons there who will do all they can for you."

"I think that will be the best plan, Peters."

The orders were given at once, and the ship's course altered, and
half an hour later the lights of Enkhuizen were seen ahead.



CHAPTER IV

WOUNDED


They dropped anchor a short distance off the port, and then lit
some torches and waved them.

"The firing is sure to have been heard," Peters said, "and they
will be sending off to know what is going on, otherwise there would
have been small chance of getting in tonight."

As the mate anticipated, the sound of oars was soon heard, and a
large boat rowed out towards them. It stopped at a distance of a
hundred yards, and there was a shout of "What ship is that?"

"The English brig Good Venture. We pray you to allow us to bring our
captain, who has been sorely wounded by the Spaniards, on shore."

"What has been the firing we have heard? We could see the flashes
across the water."

"We have been twice engaged," Peters shouted; "first with two
Spanish galleys, and then with a large ship of war, which we beat
off with heavy loss."

"Well done, Englishmen!" the voice exclaimed, and the boat at once
rowed out to the brig. "You cannot come in tonight," the Dutch
official said, "for the chain is up across the harbour, and the
rule is imperative and without exception; but I will gladly take
your captain on shore, and he shall have, I promise you, the best
surgical aid the town can give him. Is he the only one hurt?"

"One of the men has been injured with a splinter, but he needs but
bandaging and laying up for a few days. We have had a shot or two
through our bulwarks, and the sails are riddled. The captain's son
is below with him; he acts as second mate, and will tell you all
about this affair into which we were forced."

"Very well; we will take him ashore with us then. There is quite
an excitement there. The news that a sea fight was going on brought
all the citizens to the walls."

The mattress upon which Captain Martin was lying was brought out
and lowered carefully into the stern of the boat. Ned took his
seat beside it, and the boat pushed off. Having passed the forts
they entered the port and rowed to the landing place. A number of
citizens, many of them carrying torches, were assembled here.

"What is the news?" a voice asked as the boat approached.

"It is an English ship, burgomaster. She has been hotly engaged;
first with Spanish galleys, and then with a warship, which was
doubtless the one seen beating up this afternoon. She sank one of
the galleys and beat off the ship." A loud cheer broke from the
crowd. When it subsided the official went on: "I have the English
captain and his son on board. The captain is sorely wounded, and
I have promised him the best medical aid the town can give him."

"That he shall have," the burgomaster said. "Let him be carried to
my house at once. Hans Leipart, do you hurry on and tell my wife
to get a chamber prepared instantly. You have heard who it is, and
why he is coming, and I warrant me she will do her best to make the
brave Englishman comfortable. Do two others of you run to Doctors
Zobel and Harreng, and pray them to hasten to my house. Let a
stretcher be fetched instantly from the town hall."

As soon as the stretcher was brought the mattress was placed on it,
and six of the sailors carried it on shore. The crowd had by this
time greatly increased, for the news had rapidly spread. Every
head was bared in token of sympathy and respect as the litter was
brought up. The crowd fell back and formed a lane, and, led by the
burgomaster, the sailors carried the wounded man into the town. He
was taken upstairs to the room prepared for him, and the surgeons
were speedily in attendance. Medicine in those days was but a
primitive science, but the surgery, though rough and rude, was far
ahead of the sister art. Wars were of such constant occurrence that
surgeons had ample opportunity for practice; and simple operations
such as the amputation of limbs, were matters of very common
occurrence. It needed but a very short examination by the two surgeons
to enable them to declare that the leg must at once be amputated.

"The bone appears to be completely smashed," one of them said.
"Doubtless the ball was fired at a very short distance." A groan
burst from Ned when he heard the decision.

"I knew that it would be so, Ned," his father said. "I never doubted
it for a moment. It is well that I have been able to obtain aid so
speedily. Better a limb than life, my boy. I did not wince when I
was hit, and with God's help I can stand the pain now. Do you go
away and tell the burgomaster how it all came about, and leave me
with these gentlemen."

As soon as Ned had left the room, sobbing in spite of his efforts
to appear manly, the captain said: "Now, gentlemen, since this must
be done, I pray you to do it without loss of time. I will bear it
as best I can, I promise you; and as three or four and twenty years
at sea makes a man pretty hard and accustomed to rough usage, I
expect I shall stand it as well as another."

The surgeons agreed that there was no advantage in delay, and
indeed that it was far better to amputate it before fever set in.
They therefore returned home at once for their instruments, the
knives and saws, the irons that were to be heated white hot to stop
the bleeding, and the other appliances in use at the time. Had Ned
been aware that the operation would have taken place so soon, he
would have been unable to satisfy the curiosity of the burgomaster
and citizens to know how it had happened that an English trader had
come to blows with the Spaniards; but he had no idea that it would
take place that night, and thought that probably some days would
elapse before the surgeons finally decided that it was necessary
to amputate it.

One of the surgeons had, at the captain's request, called the
burgomaster aside as he left the house, and begged him to keep the
lad engaged in conversation until he heard from him that all was
over. This the burgomaster willingly promised to do; and as many
of the leading citizens were assembled in the parlour to hear the
news, there was no chance of Ned's slipping away.

"Before you begin to tell us your story, young sir, we should be
glad to know how it is that you speak our language so well; for
indeed we could not tell by your accent that you are not a native
of these parts, which is of course impossible, seeing that your
father is an Englishman and captain of the ship lying off there."

"My mother comes from near here," Ned said. "She is the daughter of
Mynheer Plomaert, who lived at Vordwyk, two miles from Amsterdam.
She went over to England when she married my father, but when he
was away on his voyages she always spoke her own language to us
children, so that we grew to speak it naturally as we did English."

Ned then related the news that met them on their arrival at his
grandfather's home, and the exclamation of fury on the part of his
father.

"It is a common enough story with us here," the burgomaster said,
"for few of us but have lost friends or relatives at the hands
of these murderous tyrants of ours. But to you, living in a free
land, truly it must have been a dreadful shock; and I wonder not
that your father's indignation betrayed him into words which, if
overheard, might well cost a man his life in this country."

"They were overheard and reported," Ned said; and then proceeded to
relate the warning they had received, the measures they had taken
to get off unperceived, the accidental meeting with the guard boat
and the way in which it had been sunk, the pursuit by the galleys
and the fight with them, and then the encounter with the Spanish
ship of war.

"And you say your father never relaxed his hold of the tiller when
struck!" the burgomaster said in surprise. "I should have thought
he must needs have fallen headlong to the ground."

"He told me," Ned replied, "that at the moment he was hit he was
pushing over the tiller, and had his weight partly on that and
partly on his other leg. Had it been otherwise he would of course
have gone down, for he said that for a moment he thought his leg
had been shot off."

When Ned finished his narrative the burgomaster and magistrates
were loud in their exclamations of admiration at the manner in
which the little trader had both fought and deceived her powerful
opponent.

"It was gallantly done indeed," the burgomaster said. "Truly it
seems marvellous that a little ship with but twenty hands should
have fought and got safely away from the Don Pedro, for that was
the ship we saw pass this afternoon. We know her well, for she has
often been in port here before we declared for the Prince of Orange
a month ago. The beggars of the sea themselves could not have done
better,--could they, my friends? though we Dutchmen and Zeelanders
believe that there are no sailors that can match our own."

The story had taken nearly an hour to tell, and Ned now said:

"With your permission, sir, I will now go up to my father again."

"You had best not go for the present," the burgomaster said. "The
doctor asked me to keep you with me for awhile, for that he wished
his patient to be entirely undisturbed. He is by his bedside now,
and will let me know at once if your father wishes to have you with
him."

A quarter of an hour later a servant called the burgomaster out.
The surgeon was waiting outside.

"It is finished," he said, "and he has borne it well. Scarce a
groan escaped him, even when we applied the hot irons; but he is
utterly exhausted now, and we have given him an opiate, and hope
that he will soon drop off to sleep. My colleague will remain with
him for four hours, and then I will return and take his place. You
had best say nothing to the lad about it. He would naturally want
to see his father; we would much rather that he should not. Therefore
tell him, please, that his father is dropping off to sleep, and
must not on any account be disturbed; and that we are sitting up
with him by turns, and will let him know at once should there be
any occasion for his presence."

Ned was glad to hear that his father was likely to get off to
sleep; and although he would gladly have sat up with him, he knew
that it was much better that he should have the surgeon beside him.
The burgomaster's wife, a kind and motherly woman, took him aside
into a little parlour, where a table was laid with a cold capon,
some manchets of bread, and a flask of the burgomaster's best wine.
As Ned had eaten nothing since the afternoon, and it was now past
midnight, he was by no means sorry to partake of some refreshment.
When he had finished he was conducted to a comfortable little chamber
that had been prepared for him, and in spite of his anxiety about
his father it was not long before he fell asleep.

The sun was high before he awoke. He dressed himself quickly and
went downstairs, for he feared to go straight to his father's room
lest he might be sleeping.

"You have slept well," the burgomaster's wife said with a smile;
"and no wonder, after your fatigues. The surgeon has just gone,
and I was about to send up to wake you, for he told me to tell you
that your father had passed a good night, and that you can now see
him."

Ned ran upstairs, and turning the handle of the door very quietly
entered his father's room. Captain Martin was looking very pale,
but Ned thought that his face had not the drawn look that had marked
it the evening before.

"How are you, my dear father?"

"I am going on well, Ned; at least so the doctors say. I feel I
shall be but a battered old hulk when I get about again; but your
mother will not mind that, I know."

"And do the doctors still think that they must take the leg off?"
Ned asked hesitatingly.

"That was their opinion last night, Ned, and it was my opinion too;
and so the matter was done off hand, and there is an end of it."

"Done offhand?" Ned repeated. "Do you mean"--and he hesitated.

"Do I mean that they have taken it off? Certainly I do, Ned. They
took it off last night while you were downstairs in the burgomaster's
parlour; but I thought it would be much better for you not to know
anything about it until this morning. Yes, my boy, thank God, it
is all over! I don't say that it wasn't pretty hard to bear; but
it had to be done, you know, and the sooner it was over the better.
There is nothing worse than lying thinking about a thing."

Ned was too affected to speak; but with tears streaming down his
cheeks, leant over and kissed his father. The news had come as a
shock to him, but it seemed to have lifted a weight from his mind.
The worst was over now; and although it was terrible to think that
his father had lost his leg, still this seemed a minor evil after
the fear that perhaps his life might be sacrificed. Knowing that his
father should not be excited, or even talk more than was absolutely
necessary, Ned stayed but a few minutes with him, and then hurried
off to the ship, where, however, he found that the news that the
captain's leg had been amputated, and that the doctors hoped that
he would go on well, had been known some hours before; as Peters
had come on shore with the first dawn of daylight for news, and
heard from the burgomaster's servant that the amputation had taken
place the evening before, and an hour later had learned from the
lips of the doctor who had been watching by the captain's bedside,
that he had passed a fairly good night, and might so far be considered
to be doing well.

"What do you think we had better do, Master Ned? Of course it will
be for the captain to decide; but in these matters it is always
best to take counsel beforehand. For although it is, of course,
what he thinks in the matter will be done, still it may be that
we might direct his thoughts; and the less thinking he does in his
present state the better."

"What do you mean as to what is to be done, Peters?"

"Well, your father is like to be here many weeks; indeed, if I said
many months I don't suppose it would be far from the truth. Things
never go on quite smooth. There are sure to be inflammations,
and fever keeps on coming and going; and if the doctor says three
months, like enough it is six."

"Of course I shall stay here and nurse him, Peters."

"Well, Master Ned, that will be one of the points for the captain
to settle. I do not suppose he will want the Good Venture to be
lying idle all the time he is laid up; and though I can sail the
ship, the trading business is altogether out of my line. You know
all the merchants he does business with, going ashore, as you most
always do with him; I doubt not that you could fill his place and
deal with them just the same as if he was here."

"But I cannot leave him at present."

"No, no, Master Ned; no one would think of it. Now, what I have
been turning over in my mind is, that the best thing for the captain
and for you and your good mother is that I should set sail in the
Venture without the loss of a day and fetch her over. If the wind
is reasonable, and we have good luck, we may be back in ten days
or so. By that time the captain may be well enough to think where
we had better go for a cargo, and what course had best be taken
about things in general."

"I think that would certainly be the best plan, Peters; and I will
suggest it to my father at once. He is much more likely to go on
well if my mother is with him, and she would be worrying sadly at
home were she not by his side. Besides, it will be well for her
to have something to occupy her, for the news of what has befallen
her father and brothers will be a terrible blow to her. If I put
it in that way to him I doubt not that he will agree to the plan;
otherwise, he might fear to bring her out here in such troubled
times, for there is no saying when the Spaniards will gather their
army to recover the revolted cities, or against which they will
first make their attempts. I will go back at once, and if he be
awake I will tell him that you and I agree that it will be best
for you to sail without loss of an hour to fetch my mother over,
and that we can then put off talking about other matters until the
ship returns."

Ned at once went back to his father's bedroom. He found the captain
had just awoke from a short sleep.

"Father, I do not want to trouble you to think at present, but will
tell you what Master Peters and I, who have been laying our heads
together, concluded is best to be done. You are likely to be laid
up here for some time, and it will be far the best plan for the
Good Venture to sail over and fetch mother to nurse you."

"I shall get on well enough, Ned. They are kindly people here; and
regarding our fight with the Spaniards as a sign of our friendship
and goodwill towards them, they will do all in their power for me."

"Yes, father, I hope, indeed, that you will go on well; and I am
sure that the good people here will do their best in all ways for
you, and of course I will nurse you to the best of my power, though,
indeed, this is new work for me; but it was not so much you as
mother that we were thinking of. It will be terrible for her when
the news comes that her father and brothers are all killed, and that
you are lying here sorely wounded. It will be well nigh enough to
drive her distraught. But if she were to come over here at once
she would, while busying about you, have less time to brood over
her griefs; and, indeed, I see not why she should be told what has
happened at Vordwyk until she is here with you, and you can break
it to her. It will come better from your lips, and for your sake
she will restrain her grief."

"There is a great deal in what you say, Ned, and, indeed, I long
greatly to have her with me; but Holland is no place at present
to bring a woman to, and I suppose also that she would bring the
girls, for she could not well leave them in a house alone. There
are plenty of friends there who would be glad to take them in; but
that she could decide upon herself. However, as she is a native
here she will probably consider she may well run the same risks as
the rest of her countrywomen. They remain with their fathers and
husbands and endure what perils there may be, and she will see no
reason why she should not do the same."

"What we propose is that the Venture should set sail at once and
fetch my mother over, and the girls, if she sees fit to bring them.
I shall of course stay here with you until the brig returns, and
by that time you will, I hope, be strong enough to talk over what
had best be done regarding the ship and business generally."

"Well, have your way, Ned. At present I cannot think over things
and see what is best; so I will leave the matter in your hands, and
truly I should be glad indeed to have your mother here with me."

Well content to have obtained the permission Ned hurried from the
room.

"Has the burgomaster returned?" he asked when he reached the lower
storey.

"He has just come in, and I was coming up to tell you that dinner
is served."

"Is it eleven o'clock already?" Ned exclaimed. "I had no idea it
was so late." He entered the room and bowed to the burgomaster and
his wife.

"Worshipful sir," he said, "I have just obtained leave from my
father to send our ship off to London to fetch hither my mother to
come to nurse him. I trust that by the time she arrives he will be
able to be moved, and then they will take lodgings elsewhere, so
as not to trespass longer upon your great kindness and hospitality."

"I think that it is well that your mother should come over," the
burgomaster said; "for a man who has had the greater part of his
leg taken off cannot be expected to get round quickly. Besides,
after what you told us last night about the misfortune that has
befallen her family, it were best that she should be busied about
her husband, and so have little time to brood over the matter. As
to hospitality, it would be strange indeed if we should not do all
that we could for a brave man who has been injured in fighting our
common enemy. Send word to your mother that she will be as welcome
as he is, and that we shall be ready in all respects to arrange
whatever she may think most convenient and comfortable. And now
you had best sit down and have your meal with us. As soon as it is
over I will go down with you to the wharf, and will do what I can
to hasten the sailing of your ship. I don't think," he went on, when
they had taken their seats at table, "that there is much chance
of her meeting another Spaniard on her way out to sea, for we have
news this morning that some ships of the beggars have been seen
cruising off the entrance, and the Spaniards will be getting under
shelter of their batteries at Amsterdam. I hear they are expecting
a fleet from Spain to arrive soon to aid in their operations against
our ports. However, I have little fear that they will do much by
sea against us. I would we could hold our own as well on the land
as we can on the water."

Ned found the meal extremely long and tedious, for he was fretting
to be off to hasten the preparations on board the Good Venture,
and he was delighted when at last the burgomaster said:

"Now, my young friend, we will go down to the wharf together."

But although somewhat deliberate, the burgomaster proved a valuable
assistant. When he had told Ned that he would do what he could to
expedite the sailing of the ship, the lad had regarded it as a mere
form of words, for he did not see how he could in any way expedite
her sailing. As soon, however, as they had gone on board, and
Ned had told Peters that the captain had given his consent to his
sailing at once, the burgomaster said: "You can scarce set sail
before the tide turns, Master Peters, for the wind is so light that
you would make but little progress if you did. From what Master
Martin tells me you came off so hurriedly from Amsterdam that you
had no time to get ballast on board. It would be very venturesome
to start for a voyage to England unless with something in your
hold. I will give orders that you shall be furnished at once with
sandbags, otherwise you would have to wait your turn with the other
vessels lying here; for ballast is, as you know, a rare commodity
in Holland, and we do not like parting even with our sand hills.
In the meantime, as you have well nigh six hours before you get
under way, I will go round among my friends and see if I cannot
procure you a little cargo that may pay some of the expenses of
your voyage."

Accordingly the burgomaster proceeded at once to visit several of
the principal merchants, and, representing that it was the clear
duty of the townsfolk to do what they could for the men who had
fought so bravely against the Spaniards, he succeeded in obtaining
from them a considerable quantity of freight upon good terms; and
so zealously did he push the business that in a very short time
drays began to arrive alongside the Good Venture, and a number of
men were speedily at work in transferring the contents to her hold,
and before evening she had taken on board a goodly amount of cargo.

Ned wrote a letter to his mother telling her what had taken place,
and saying that his father would be glad for her to come over to
be with him, but that he left it to her to decide whether to bring
the girls over or not. He said no word of the events at Vordwyk;
but merely mentioned they had learned that a spy had denounced his
father to the Spaniards as having used expressions hostile to the
king and the religious persecutions, and that on this account he
would have been arrested had he not at once put to sea. Peters was
charged to say nothing as to what he had heard about the Plomaerts
unless she pressed him with questions. He was to report briefly
that they were so busy with the unloading of the ship at Amsterdam
that Captain Martin had only once been ashore, and leave it to be
inferred that he only landed to see the merchants to whom the cargo
was consigned.

"Of course, Peters, if my mother presses you as to whether any
news has been received from Vordwyk, you must tell the truth; but
if it can be concealed from her it will be much the best. She will
have anxiety enough concerning my father."

"I will see," Peters said, "what can be done. Doubtless at first
she will be so filled with the thought of your father's danger
that she will not think much of anything else; but on the voyage
she will have time to turn her thoughts in other directions, and she
is well nigh sure to ask about her father and brothers. I shall be
guided in my answers by her condition. Mistress Martin is a sensible
woman, and not a girl who will fly into hysterics and rave like a
madwoman.

"It may be too, she will feel the one blow less for being so taken
up with the other; however, I will do the best I can in the matter,
Master Ned. Truly your friend the burgomaster is doing us right
good service. I had looked to lose this voyage to England, and that
the ten days I should be away would be fairly lost time; but now,
although we shall not have a full hold, the freight will be ample
to pay all expenses and to leave a good profit beside."

As soon as the tide turned the hatches were put on, the vessel was
warped out from her berth, and a few minutes later was under sail.

Ned had been busy helping to stow away the cargo as fast as it
came on board, twice running up to see how his father was getting
on. Each time he was told by the woman whom the burgomaster had
now engaged to act as nurse, that he was sleeping quietly. When he
returned after seeing the Good Venture fairly under way, he found
on peeping quietly into the room that Captain Martin had just woke.

"I have had a nice sleep, Ned," he said, as the lad went up to his
bedside. "I see it is already getting dark. Has the brig sailed?"

"She has just gone out of port, father. The wind is light and it
was no use starting until tide turned; although, indeed, the tides
are of no great account in these inland waters. Still, we had to
take some ballast on board as our hold was empty, and they might
meet with storms on their way home; so they had to wait for that.
But, indeed, after all, they took in but little ballast, for the
burgomaster bestirred himself so warmly in our favour that the
merchants sent down goods as fast as we could get them on board,
and short as the time was, the main hold was well nigh half full
before we put on the hatches; so that her voyage home will not be
without a good profit after all."

"That is good news, Ned; for although as far as I am concerned the
money is of no great consequence one way or the other, I am but
part owner, and the others might well complain at my sending the
ship home empty to fetch my wife instead of attending to their
interests."

"I am sure they would not have done that, father, seeing how well
you do for them, and what good money the Venture earns. Why, I
have heard you say she returns her value every two years. So that
they might well have gone without a fortnight's earnings without
murmuring."

"I don't suppose they would have murmured, Ned, for they are all
good friends of mine, and always seem well pleased with what I do
for them. Still, in matters of business it is always well to be
strict and regular; and I should have deemed it my duty to have
calculated the usual earnings of the ship for the time she was
away, and to have paid my partners their share as if she had been
trading as usual. It is not because the ship is half mine and that
I and my partners make good profit out of her, that I have a right
to divert her from her trade for my own purposes. As you say, my
partners might be well content to let me do so; but that is not
the question, I should not be content myself.

"We should always in business work with a good conscience, being
more particular about the interests of those who trust us than of
our own. Indeed, on the bare ground of expediency it is best to do
so; for then, if misfortune happens, trade goes bad, or your vessel
is cast away, they will make good allowance for you, knowing that
you are a loser as well as they, and that at all times you have
thought as much of them as of yourself. Lay this always to heart,
lad. It is unlikely that I shall go to sea much more, and ere long
you will be in command of the Good Venture. Always think more of
the interests of those who trust you than of your own.

"They have put their money into the ship, relying upon their
partner's skill and honesty and courage. Even at a loss to yourself
you should show them always that this confidence is not misplaced.
Do your duty and a little more, lad. Most men do their duty. It is
the little more that makes the difference between one man and the
other. I have tried always to do a little more, and I have found
my benefit from it in the confidence and trust of my partners in
the ship, and of the merchants with whom I do business. However, I
am right glad that the ship is not going back empty. I shall reckon
how much we should have received for the freight that was promised
me at Amsterdam, then you will give me an account of what is to be
paid by the merchants here. The difference I shall make up, as is
only right, seeing that it is entirely from my own imprudence in
expressing my opinion upon affairs particular to myself, and in
no way connected with the ship, that I was forced to leave without
taking in that cargo."

Ned listened in silence to his father's words, and resolved to
lay to heart the lessons they conveyed. He was proud of the high
standing and estimation in which his father was held by all who
knew him, and he now recognized fully for the first time how he
had won that estimation. It was not only that he was a good sailor,
but that in all things men were assured that his honour could
be implicitly relied upon, and that he placed the interest of his
employers beyond his own.

After the first day or two Ned could see but little change in his
father's condition; he was very weak and low, and spoke but seldom.
Doubtless his bodily condition was aggravated now by the thought
that must be ever present to him--that his active career was
terminated. He might, indeed, be able when once completely cured
to go to sea again, but he would no longer be the active sailor he
had been; able to set an example of energy to his men when the winds
blew high and the ship was in danger. And unless fully conscious
that he was equal to discharging all the duties of his position,
Captain Martin was not the man to continue to hold it.

Ned longed anxiously for the return of the Good Venture. He knew
that his mother's presence would do much for his father, and that
whatever her own sorrows might be she would cheer him. Captain
Martin never expressed any impatience for her coming; but when
each morning he asked Ned, the first thing, which way the wind was
blowing, his son knew well enough what he was thinking of. In the
meantime Ned had been making inquiries, and he arranged for the
hire of a comfortable house, whose inhabitants being Catholics,
had, when Enkhuizen declared for the Prince of Orange, removed
to Amsterdam. For although the Prince insisted most earnestly and
vigorously that religious toleration should be extended to the
Catholics, and that no one should suffer for their religion, all were
not so tolerant; and when the news arrived of wholesale massacres
of Protestants by Alva's troops, the lower class were apt to rise
in riot, and to retaliate by the destruction of the property of
the Catholics in their towns.

Ned had therefore no difficulty in obtaining the use of the house,
on extremely moderate terms, from the agent in whose hands its
owner had placed his affairs in Enkhuizen. The burgomaster's wife
had at his request engaged two female servants, and the nurse
would of course accompany her patient. The burgomaster and his wife
had both protested against any move being made; but Ned, although
thanking them earnestly for their hospitable offer, pointed out that
it might be a long time before his father could be about, that it
was good for his mother to have the occupation of seeing to the
affairs of the house to divert her thoughts from the sick bed, and,
as it was by no means improbable that she would bring his sisters
with her, it would be better in all respects that they should have
a house of their own. The doctors having been consulted, agreed
that it would be better for the wounded man to be among his own
people, and that no harm would come of removing him carefully to
another house.

"A change, even a slight one, is often a benefit," they agreed;
"and more than counterbalances any slight risk that there may be
in a patient's removal from one place to another, providing that
it be gently and carefully managed."

Therefore it was arranged that as soon as the Good Venture was seen
approaching, Captain Martin should be carried to his new abode, where
everything was kept prepared for him, and that his wife should go
direct to him there.



CHAPTER V

NED'S RESOLVE


On the ninth morning after the departure of the brig Ned was up
as soon as daylight appeared, and made his way to the walls. The
watchman there, with whom he had had several talks during the last
two days, said:

"There is a brig, hull down, seaward, and I should say that she is
about the size of the one you are looking for. She looks, too, as
if she were heading for this port."

"I think that is she," Ned said, gazing intently at the distant
vessel. "It seems to me that I can make out that her jib is lighter
in colour than the rest of her canvas. If that is so I have no
doubt about its being the Good Venture, for we blew our jib away
in a storm off Ostend, and had a new one about four months ago."

"That is her then, young master," the watchman said, shading his
eyes and looking intently at the brig. "Her jib is surely of lighter
colour than the rest of her canvas."

With this confirmation Ned at once ran round to the house he had
taken, and told the servants to have fires lighted, and everything
in readiness for the reception of the party.

"My father," he said, "will be brought here in the course of an
hour or so. My mother will arrive a little later."

Ned then went round to the doctor, who had promised that he would
personally superintend the removing of his patient, and would bring
four careful men and a litter for his conveyance. He said that
he would be round at the burgomaster's in half an hour. Ned then
went back to his father. Captain Martin looked round eagerly as he
entered.

"Yes, father," Ned said, answering the look; "there is a brig in
sight, which is, I am pretty sure, the Good Venture. She will be
in port in the course of a couple of hours. I have just been round
to Doctor Harreng, and he will be here in half an hour with the
litter to take you over to the new house."

Captain Martin gave an exclamation of deep thankfulness, and then
lay for some time with his eyes closed, and spoke but little until
the arrival of the doctor and the men with the litter.

"You must first of all drink this broth that has just been sent up
for you," the surgeon said, "and then take a spoonful of cordial.
It will be a fatigue, you know, however well we manage it; and you
must be looking as bright and well as you can by the time your good
wife arrives, else she will have a very bad opinion of the doctors
of Enkhuizen."

Captain Martin did as he was ordered. The men then carefully raised
the mattress with him upon it, and placed it upon the litter.

"I think we will cover you up altogether," the doctor said, "as we
go along through the streets. The morning air is a good deal keener
than the atmosphere of this room, and you won't want to look about."

The litter was therefore completely covered with a blanket, and
was then lifted and taken carefully down the broad staircase and
through the streets. The burgomaster's wife had herself gone on
before to see that everything was comfortably prepared, and when
the bed was laid down on the bedstead and the blanket turned back
Captain Martin saw a bright room with a fire burning on the hearth,
and the burgomaster's wife and nurse beside him, while Ned and the
doctor were at the foot of the bed.

"You have not suffered, I hope, in the moving, Captain Martin?"
the burgomaster's wife asked.

"Not at all," he said. "I felt somewhat faint at first, but the
movement has been so easy that it soon passed off. I was glad my
head was covered, for I do not think that I could have stood the
sight of the passing objects."

"Now you must drink another spoonful of cordial," the doctor said,
"and then lie quiet. I shall not let you see your wife when she
arrives if your pulse is beating too rapidly. So far you have been
going on fairly, and we must not have you thrown back."

"I shall not be excited," Captain Martin replied. "Now that I
know the vessel is in sight I am contented enough; but I have been
fearing lest the brig might fall in with a Spaniard as she came
through the islands, and there would be small mercy for any on board
had she been detected and captured. Now that I know she is coming
to port safely, I can wait quietly enough. Now, Ned, you can be
off down to the port."

The doctor went out with Ned and charged him strictly to impress
upon his mother the necessity for self restraint and quiet when
she saw her husband.

"I am not over satisfied with his state," he said, "and much will
depend on this meeting. If it passes off well and he is none the
worse for it tomorrow, I shall look to see him mend rapidly; but
if, on the other hand, he is agitated and excited, fever may set
in at once, and in that case, weak as he is, his state will be very
serious."

"I understand, sir, and will impress it upon my mother; but I do
not think you need fear for her. Whatever she feels she will, I am
sure, carry out your instructions."

Ned went down to the port. He found that the brig was but a quarter
of a mile away. He could make out female figures on board, and knew
that, as he had rather expected would be the case, his mother had
brought his sisters with her. Jumping into a boat he was rowed off
to the vessel, and climbing the side was at once in his mother's
arms. Already he had answered the question that Peters had shouted
before he was halfway from the shore, and had replied that his father
was going on as well as could be expected. Thus when Ned leapt on
board his mother and the girls were in tears at the relief to the
anxiety that had oppressed them during the voyage lest they should
at its end find they had arrived too late.

"And he is really better?" were Mrs. Martin's first words as she
released Ned from her embrace.

"I don't know that he is better, mother, but he is no worse. He
is terribly weak; but the doctor tells me that if no harm comes to
him from his agitation in meeting you, he expects to see him mend
rapidly. He has been rather fretting about your safety, and I think
that the knowledge that you are at hand has already done him good.
His voice was stronger when he spoke just before I started than
it has been for some days. Only, above all things, the doctor says
you must restrain your feelings and be calm and quiet when you first
meet him. And now, girls, how are you both?" he asked turning to
them. "Not very well, I suppose; for I know you have always shown
yourselves bad sailors when you have come over with mother."

"The sea has not been very rough," Janet said; "and except when we
first got out to sea we have not been ill."

"What are you going to do about the girls?" Mrs. Martin asked. "Of
course I must go where your father is, but I cannot presume upon
the kindness of strangers so far as to quarter the girls upon them."

"That is all arranged, mother. Father agreed with me that it would
not be pleasant for any of you being with strangers, and I have
therefore taken a house; and he has just been moved there, so you
will have him all to yourself."

"That is indeed good news," Mrs. Martin said. "However kind people
are, one is never so comfortable as at home. One is afraid of
giving trouble, and altogether it is different. I have heard all
the news, my boy. Master Peters tried his best to conceal it from
me, but I was sure by his manner that there was something wrong.
It was better that I should know at once," she went on, wiping her
eyes. "Terrible as it all is, I have scarce time to think about
it now when my mind is taken up with your father's danger. And it
hardly came upon me even as a surprise, for I have long felt that
some evil must have befallen them or they would have assuredly
managed to send me word of themselves before now."

By this time the Good Venture had entered the port, and had drawn
up close beside one of the wharves. As soon as the sails were lowered
and the warps made fast, Peters directed three of the seamen to
bring up the boxes from the cabin, and to follow him. Ned then led
the way to the new house.

"I will go up first, mother, and tell them that you have come."

Mrs. Martin quietly removed her hat and cloak, followed Ned upstairs,
and entered her husband's room with a calm and composed face.

"Well, my dear husband," she said almost cheerfully, "I have come
to nurse you. You see when you get into trouble it is us women that
you men fall back upon after all."

The doctor, who had retired into the next room when he heard that
Mrs. Martin had arrived, nodded his head with a satisfied air. "She
will do," he said. "I have not much fear for my patient now."

Ned, knowing that he would not be wanted upstairs for some time,
went out with Peters after the baggage had been set down in the
lower room.

"So you had a fine voyage of it, Peters?"

"We should have been better for a little more wind, both coming and
going," the mate said; "but there was nothing much to complain of."

"You could not have been long in the river then, Peters?"

"We were six and thirty hours in port. We got in at the top of tide
on Monday morning, and went down with the ebb on Tuesday evening.
First, as in duty bound, I went to see our good dame and give her
your letter, and answer her questions. It was a hard business that,
and I would as lief have gone before the queen herself to give
her an account of things as to have gone to your mother. Of course
I hoisted the flag as we passed up the river. I knew that some of
them were sure to be on watch at Rotherhithe, and that they would
run in and tell her that the Good Venture was in port again. I had
rather hoped that our coming back so soon might lead her to think
that something was wrong, for she would have known that we could
scarce have gone to Amsterdam and discharged, loaded up again, and
then back here, especially as the wind had been light ever since
she sailed. And sure enough the thought had struck her; for when
I caught sight of the garden gate one of your sisters was there on
the lookout, and directly she saw me she ran away in. I hurried on
as fast as I could go then, for I knew that Mistress Martin would
be sorely frightened when she heard that it was neither your father
nor you. As I got there your mother was standing at the door. She
was just as white as death. 'Cheer up, mistress,' I said as cheery
as I could speak. 'I have bad news for you, but it might have been
a deal worse. The captain's got a hurt, and Master Ned is stopping
to nurse him.'

"She looked at me as if she would read me through. 'That's the
truth as I am a Christian man, mistress,' I said. 'It has been a
bad business, but it might have been a deal worse. The doctor said
that he was doing well.' Then your mother gave a deep sigh, and
I thought for a moment she was going to faint, and ran forward to
catch her; but she seemed to make an effort and straighten herself
up, just as I have seen the brig do when a heavy sea has flooded
her decks and swept all before it.

"'Thanks be to the good God that he is not taken from me,' she
said. 'Now I can bear anything. Now, Peters, tell me all about it.'

"'I ain't good at telling a story, Mistress Martin,' I said; 'but
here is Master Ned's letter. When you have read that maybe I can
answer questions as to matters of which he may not have written. I
will stand off and on in the garden, ma'am, and then you can read
it comfortable like indoors, and hail me when you have got to the
bottom of it.' It was not many minutes before one of your sisters
called me in. They had all been crying, and I felt more uncomfortable
than I did when those Spanish rascals gave us a broadside as I went
in, for I was afraid she would so rake me with questions that she
would get out of me that other sad business; and it could hardly
be expected that even the stoutest ship should weather two such
storms, one after the other.

"'I don't understand it all, Master Peters,' she said, 'for my son
gives no good reason why the Spaniards should thus have attacked an
English ship; but we can talk of that afterwards. All that matters
at present is, that my husband has been wounded and has lost his
leg, and lies in some danger; for although Ned clearly makes the
best of it, no man can suffer a hurt like that without great risk
of life. He wishes me to go over at once. As to the girls, he says
I can take them with me or leave them with a friend here. But they
wish, as is natural, greatly to go; and it were better for all
reasons that they did so. Were they left here they would be in
anxiety about their father's state, and as it may be long before he
can be moved I should not like to leave them in other charge than
my own. When will you be ready to sail again?"

"'I shall be ready by tomorrow evening's tide, Mistress Martin,' I
said. 'I have cargo on board that I must discharge, and must have
carpenters and sailmakers on board to repair some of the damages
we suffered in this action. I do not think I can possibly be ready
to drop down the river before high water tomorrow, which will be
about six o'clock. I will send a boat to the stairs here at half
past five to take you and your trunks on board.'

"'We shall be ready,' she said. 'As Ned says that my husband is well
cared for in the house of the burgomaster, and has every comfort
and attention, there is nothing I need take over for him.' I said
that I was sure he had all he could require, and that she need take
no trouble on that score; and then said that with her permission
I would go straight back on board again, seeing there was much to
do, and that it all came on my shoulders just at present.

"I had left the bosun in charge, and told him to get the hatches
off and begin to get up the cargo as soon as he had stowed the
sails and made all tidy; for I had not waited for that, but had
rowed ashore as soon as the anchor was dropped. So without going
back to the brig I crossed the river and landed by the steps at
the bridge, and took the letters to the merchants for whom I had
goods, and prayed them to send off boats immediately, as it was
urgent for me to discharge as soon as possible; then I went to the
merchants whose names you had given me, and who ship goods with
us regularly, to tell them that the Venture was in port but would
sail again tomorrow evening, and would take what cargo they could
get on board for Enkhuizen or any of the seaward ports, but not
for Amsterdam or other places still in the hands of the Spaniards.

"Then I went to the lord mayor and swore an information before
him to lay before the queen and the council that the Spaniards had
wantonly, and without offence given, attacked the Good Venture and
inflicted much damage upon her, and badly wounded her captain; and
would have sunk her had we not stoutly defended ourselves and beat
them off. I was glad when all that was over, Master Ned; for, as
you know, I know nought about writing. My business is to sail the
ship under your father's orders; but as to talking with merchants
who press you with questions, and seem to think that you have nought
to do but to stand and gossip, this is not in my way, and I wished
sorely that you had been with me, and could have taken all this
business into your hands.

"Then I went down to the wharves, and soon got some carpenters at
work to mend the bulwarks and put some fresh planks on the deck
where the shot had ploughed it up. Luckily enough I heard of a man
who had some sails that he had bought from the owners of a ship
which was cast away down near the mouth of the river. They were a
little large for the Venture; but I made a bargain with him in your
father's name, and got them on board and set half a dozen sailmakers
to work upon them, and they were ready by the next afternoon. The
others will do again when they have got some new cloths in, and a
few patches; but if we had gone out with a dozen holes in them the
first Spaniard who saw us, and who had heard of our fight with the
Don Pedro, would have known us at once.

"I was thankful, I can tell you, when I got on board again. Just
as I did so some lighters came out, and we were hard at work till
dusk getting out the cargo. The next morning at daylight fresh
cargo began to come out to us, and things went on well, and would
have gone better had not people come on board pestering me with
questions about our fight with the Spaniards. And just at noon two
of the queen's officers came down and must needs have the whole
story from beginning to end; and they had brought a clerk with
them to write it down from my lips. They said we had done right
gallantly, and that no doubt I should be wanted the next day at
the royal council to answer other questions touching the affair.
You may be sure I said no word about the fact that in six hours we
should be dropping down the river; for like enough if I had they
would have ordered me not to go, and as I should have gone whether
they had or not--seeing that Captain Martin was looking for his
wife, and that the mistress was anxious to be off--it might have
led to trouble when I got back again.

"By the afternoon we had got some thirty tons of goods on board,
and although that is but a third of what she would carry, I was well
content that we had done so much. After the new sails had come on
board I had put a gang to work to bend them, and had all ready and
the anchor up just as the tide turned. We had not dropped down many
hundred yards when the boat with Mistress Martin and your sisters
came alongside; and thankful I was when it came on dark and we
were slipping down the river with a light southwesterly wind, for
I had been on thorns all the afternoon lest some messenger might
arrive from the council with orders for me to attend there. I did
not speak much to your mother that evening, for it needs all a
man's attention to work down the river at night.

"The next morning I had my breakfast brought up on deck instead
of going down, for, as you may guess, I did not want to have your
mother questioning me; but presently your sister came up with a
message to me that Mistress Martin would be glad to have a quarter
of an hour's conversation with me as soon as duty would permit me
to leave deck. So after awhile I braced myself up and went below,
but I tell you that I would rather have gone into action again with
the Don Pedro. She began at once, without parley or courtesies, by
firing a broadside right into me.

"'I don't think, Master Peters, that you have told me yet all there
is to be told.'

"That took me between wind and water, you see. However, I made a
shift to bear up.

"'Well, Mistress Martin,' says I, 'I don't say as I have given you
all particulars. I don't know as I mentioned to you as Joe Wiggins
was struck down by a splinter from the longboat and was dazed for
full two hours, but he came round again all right, and was fit for
duty next day.'

"Mrs. Martin heard me quietly, and then she said:

"'That will not do, John Peters; you know well what I mean. You
need not fear to tell me the news; I have long been fearing it.
My husband is not one to talk loosely in the streets and to bring
upon himself the anger of the Spaniards. He must have had good
cause before he said words that spoken there would place his life
in peril. What has happened at Vordwyk?"

"Well, Master Ned, I stood there as one struck stupid. What was there
to say? I am a truthful man, but I would have told a lie if I had
thought it would have been any good. But there she was, looking
quietly at me, and I knew as she would see in a moment whether
I was speaking truth or not. She waited quiet ever so long and at
last I said:

"'The matter is in this wise, Mistress Martin. My orders was I was
to hold my tongue about all business not touching the captain or
the affairs of this ship. When you sees the captain it's for you
to ask him questions, and for him to answer if he sees right and
good to do so.'

"She put her hand over her face and sat quiet for some time, and
when she looked up again her eyes were full of tears and her cheeks
wet; then she said in a low tone:

"'All, Peters,--are they all gone?'

"Well, Master Ned, I was swabbing my own eyes; for it ain't in a
man's nature to see a woman suffering like that, and so quiet and
brave, without feeling somehow as if all the manliness had gone out
of him. I could not say nothing. What could I say, knowing what the
truth was? Then she burst out a-crying and a-sobbing, and I steals
off without a word, and goes on deck and sets the men a-hauling at
the sheets and trimming the sails, till I know there was not one
of them but cussed me in his heart and wished that the captain was
back again.

"Mistress Martin did not say no word about it afterwards. She came
up on deck a few times, and asked me more about the captain, and
how he looked, and what he was doing when he got his wound. And
of course I told her all about it, full and particular, and how he
had made every one else lie down, and stood there at the tiller as
we went under the stern of the Spaniard, and that none of us knew
he was hit until it was all over; and how we had peppered them with
our four carronades, and all about it. But mostly she stopped down
below till we hauled our wind and headed up the Zuider Zee towards
Enkhuizen."

"Well, now it is all over, Peters," Ned said, "there is no doubt
that it is better she should have heard the news from you instead
of my father having to tell her."

"I don't deny that that may be so, Master Ned, now that it is all
over and done; but never again will John Peters undertake a job
where he is got to keep his mouth shut when a woman wants to get
something out of him. Lor' bless you, lad, they just see right
through you; and you feel that, twist and turn as you will, they
will get it out of you sooner or later. There, I started with
my mind quite made up that orders was to be obeyed, and that your
mother was to be kept in the dark about it till she got here; and
I had considered with myself that in such a case as this it would
be no great weight upon my conscience if I had to make up some kind
of a yarn that would satisfy her; and yet in three minutes after
she got me into that cabin she was at the bottom of it all."

"You see, she has been already very uneasy at not hearing for so
long from her father and brothers, Peters; and that and the fact
that my father had spoken openly against the Spanish authorities
set her upon the track, and enabled her to put the questions
straightforwardly to you."

"I suppose that was it, sir. And now, has the captain said anything
about what is going to be done with the ship till he gets well?"

"Nothing whatever, Peters. He has spoken very little upon any
subject. I know he has been extremely anxious for my mother to
arrive, though he has said but little about it. I fancy that for
the last few days he has not thought that he should recover. But the
doctor told me I must not be uneasy upon that ground, for that he
was now extremely weak, and men, even the bravest and most resolute
when in health, are apt to take a gloomy view when utterly weak and
prostrate. His opinion was that my mother's coming would probably
cheer him up and enable him to rally.

"I think, too, that he has been dreading having to tell her the
terrible news about her father and brothers; and now he knows that
she is aware of that it will be a load off his mind. Besides, I
know that for his sake she will be cheerful and bright, and with
her and the girls with him, he will feel as if at home. The doctor
told me that the mind has a great influence over the body, and
that a man with cheerful surroundings had five chances to one as
against one amongst strangers, and with no one to brighten him up.
I have no doubt that as soon as he gets a little stronger he will
arrange what is to be done with the brig, but I am sure it will be
a long time before he can take the command again himself."

"Ay, I fear it will be," Peters agreed. "It is a pity you are not
four or five years older, Master Ned. I do not say that I couldn't
bring the ship into any port in Holland; for, having been sailing
backwards and forwards here, man and boy, for over thirty years, I
could do so pretty nigh blindfold. But what is the good of bringing
a ship to a port if you have not got the head to see about getting
a cargo for her, and cannot read the bills of lading, or as much
as sign your name to a customs list.

"No, Master Ned, I am not fit for a captain, that is quite certain.
But though I would not mind serving under another till your father
is fit to take charge again, I could not work on board the Venture
under another for good. I have got a little money saved up, and
would rather buy a share in a small coaster and be my own master
there. After serving under your father for nigh twenty years, I
know I should not get on with another skipper nohow."

"Well, Peters, it is no use talking it over now, because I have
no idea what my father's decision will be. I hope above all things
that he will be able to take command again, but I have great doubts
in my own mind whether he will ever do so. If he had lost the leg
below the knee it would not so much have mattered; but as it is,
with the whole leg stiff, he would have great difficulty in getting
about, especially if the ship was rolling in a heavy sea."

John Peters shook his head gravely, for this was the very thing
he had turned in his mind over and over again during the voyage to
and from England.

"Your cargo is not all for this place, I suppose, Peters?"

"No, sir. Only two or three tons which are down in the forehold
together are for Enkhuizen, the rest are for Leyden and the Hague.
I told the merchants that if they put their goods on board I must
sail past the ports and make straight on to Enkhuizen; for that
first of all I must bring Mistress Martin to the captain, but that
I would go round and discharge their goods as soon as I had brought
her here. It was only on these terms I agreed to take the cargo."

"That will do very well, Peters. I will go on board with you at
once, and see to whom your goods are consigned here, and warn them
to receive them at once. You will get them on shore by tonight,
and then tomorrow I will sail with you to Leyden and the Hague,
and aid you in getting your cargo into the right hands there. Now
that my mother and the girls are here my father will be able to
spare me. We can be back here again in four or five days, and by
that time I hope he will be so far recovered as to be able to think
matters over, and come to some decision as to the future management
of the brig. Of course if he wishes me to stay on board her I shall
obey his orders, whether you or another are the captain."

"Why, of course, you will remain on board, Master Ned. What else
should you do?"

"Well, Peters, my own mind is set upon joining the Prince of
Orange, and fighting against the Spaniards. Before I sailed from
home I told my sisters that was what I was longing to do, for I
could scarce sleep for thinking of all the cruelties and massacres
that they carried out upon the people of the Netherlands, who are,
by my mother's side, my kinsfolk. Since then I have scarce thought
of aught else. They have murdered my grandfather and uncles and one
of my aunts; they have shot away my father's leg, and would have
taken his life had he not escaped out of their hands; so that what
was before a longing is now a fixed idea, and if my father will
but give me permission, assuredly I will carry it out.

"There are many English volunteers who have already crossed the
sea to fight against these murderers, although unconnected by ties
of blood as I am, and who have been brought here to fight solely
from pity and horror, and because, as all know, Spain is the enemy
of England as well as of the Netherlands, and would put down our
freedom and abolish our religion as she has done here. I know that
my wishes, in this as in all other matters, must give way to those
of my father. Still I hope he may be moved to consent to them."

Ned thought it better to allow his father and mother to remain
quietly together for some time, and did not therefore return to
the house until twelve o'clock, when he knew that dinner would be
prepared; for his mother was so methodical in her ways that everything
would go on just as at home directly she took charge of the affairs
of the house. He went up for a few minutes before dinner, and was
struck with the change in the expression of his father's face.
There was a peaceful and contented look in his eyes, and it almost
seemed to Ned that his face was less hollow and drawn than before.
Ned told him that it would be necessary for the brig to go round to
Leyden and the Hague, and that Peters had proposed that he should
go with him to see the merchants, and arrange the business parts
of the affair.

"That will do very well," Captain Martin said. "You are young,
Ned, to begin having dealings with the Dutch merchants, but when
you tell them how it comes that I am not able to call upon them
myself, they will doubtless excuse your youth."

"Do you wish us to take any cargo there, father, if we can get
any?"

Captain Martin did not answer for some little time, then he said:

"No, Ned, I think you had best return here in the ship. By that time
I shall, I hope, be capable of thinking matters over, and deciding
upon my arrangements for the future. When is Peters thinking of
sailing?"

"By tomorrow morning's tide, sir. He said that he could be ready
perhaps by this evening; but that unless you wished it otherwise
he would not start till tomorrow's tide, as he will thereby avoid
going out between the islands at night."

"That will be the best way, Ned. If the winds are fair he will be
at the Hague before nightfall."

The day after his return Ned took an opportunity of speaking to his
mother as to his wish to take service with the Prince of Orange,
and to aid in the efforts that the people of the Netherlands were
making to free themselves from their persecutors. His mother, as
he feared would be the case, expressed a strong opposition to his
plan.

"You are altogether too young, Ned, even if it were a matter that
concerned you."

"It does concern me, mother. Are you not Dutch? And though I was
born in England and a subject of the queen, it is natural I should
feel warmly in the matter; besides we know that many English are
already coming over here to help. Have not the Spanish killed my
relations, and unless they are driven back they will altogether
exterminate the Protestants of the Netherlands? Have they not
already been doomed to death regardless of age and sex by Philip's
proclamation? and do not the Spaniards whenever they capture a town
slay well nigh all within it?"

"That is all true enough," his mother agreed; "but proves in no
way that you are a fit age to meddle in the affair."

"I am sixteen, mother; and a boy of sixteen who has been years at
sea is as strong as one of eighteen brought up on land. You have
told me yourself that I look two or three years older than I am,
and methinks I have strength to handle pike and axe."

"That may be perfectly true," said Mrs. Martin, "but even supposing
all other things were fitting, how could we spare you now when
your father will be months before he can follow his trade on the
sea again, even if he is ever able to do so?"

"That is the thing, mother, that weighs with me. I know not what my
father's wishes may be in that respect, and of course if he holds
that I can be of use to him I must give up my plan; but I want you
at any rate to mention it to him. And I pray you not to add your
objections, but to let him decide on the matter according to his
will."

"There will be no occasion for me to add objections, Ned. I do not
think your father will listen to such a mad scheme for a moment."

It was not until three or four days later that Mrs. Martin, seeing
that her husband was stronger and better, and was taking an interest
in what passed in the house, fulfilled her promise to Ned by telling
his father of his wishes.

"You must not be angry with him," she said when she had finished;
"for he spoke beautifully, and expressed himself as perfectly willing
to yield his wishes to yours in the matter. I told him, of course,
that it was a mad brained scheme, and not to be thought of. Still,
as he was urgent I should lay it before you, I promised to do so."

Captain Martin did not, as his wife expected, instantly declare
that such a plan was not to be thought of even for a moment, but
lay for some time apparently turning it over in his mind.

"I know not quite what to say," he said at length.

"Not know what to say?" his wife repeated in surprise. "Why, husband,
you surely cannot for a moment think of allowing Ned to embark in
so wild a business."

"There are many English volunteers coming over; some of them not
much older, and not so fit in bodily strength for the work as Ned.
He has, too, the advantage of speaking the language, and can pass
anywhere as a native. You are surprised, Sophie, at my thinking of
this for a moment."

"But what would you do without him?" she exclaimed in astonishment.

"That is what I have been thinking as I lay here. I have been
troubled what to do with Ned. He is too young yet to entrust with
all the business of the ship, and the merchants here and at home
would hesitate in doing business with a lad. Moreover, he is too
young to be first mate on board the brig. Peters is a worthy man and
a good sailor, but he can neither read nor write and knows nought
of business; and, therefore, until I am able, if I ever shall be,
to return to the Good Venture, I must have a good seaman as first
mate, and a supercargo to manage the business affairs of the
ship. Were Ned four years older he could be at once first mate and
supercargo. There, you see your objection that I need him falls to
the ground. As to other reasons I will think them over, and speak
to you another time."



CHAPTER VI

THE PRINCE OF ORANGE


Mistress Martin was much troubled in her mind by what seemed to
her the unaccountable favour with which her husband had received
Ned's proposal. She did not, however, allow any trace of this
feeling to escape her, nor did she mention to Ned that she had as
yet spoken as to his wishes to his father. The next day Captain
Martin himself renewed the subject.

"I told you yesterday, Sophie, why in my opinion Ned would at
present be of little aid to me in the matter of the brig, and may
even go further in that respect and say that I think for a time it
will be just as well that he were not on board. Having no established
position there would be no special duties for him to perform. Now,
I have made a point of telling him all about the consignments and
the rates of freight, and have encouraged him always to express
his opinion freely on these matters in order that his intelligence
might thereby be quickened; but if he so expressed himself to the
supercargo the latter might well take offence and difficulties
arise, therefore before you spoke to me I had quite resolved that it
would be best he should sail no more in the Good Venture until old
enough to come in and take the place of second mate and supercargo,
but that I would place him with some captain of my acquaintance,
under whom he would continue to learn his duty for the next three
or four years."

"That is a good reason, doubtless, husband, why Ned should not sail
in the Venture, but surely no reason at all why he should carry
out this mad fancy of his."

"No reason, I grant you, wife; but it simply shows that it happens
at this moment we can well spare him. As to the main question, it
is a weighty one. Other young Englishmen have come out to fight for
the Netherlands with far less cause than he has to mix themselves
up in its affairs. Moreover, and this principally, it is borne
strongly upon my mind that it may be that this boy of ours is called
upon to do good service to Holland. It seems to me wife," he went
on, in answer to the look of astonishment upon his wife's face,
"that the hand of Providence is in this matter.

"I have always felt with you a hatred of the Spaniards and a deep
horror at the cruelties they are perpetrating upon this unhappy
people, and have thought that did the queen give the order for war
against them I would gladly adventure my life and ship in such an
enterprise; further than that I have not gone. But upon that day
when I heard the news of your father and brothers' murder I took
a solemn oath to heaven of vengeance against their slayers, and
resolved that on my return to England I would buy out my partners
in the Good Venture, and with her join the beggars of the sea and
wage war to the death against the Spaniards. It has been willed
otherwise, wife. Within twenty-four hours of my taking that oath
I was struck down and my fighting powers were gone forever.

"My oath was not accepted. I was not to be an instrument of
God's vengeance upon these murderers. Now, our son, without word
or consultation with me, feels called upon to take up the work I
cannot perform. It happens strangely that he can for the next two
or three years be well spared from his life at sea. That the boy
will do great feats I do not suppose; but he is cool and courageous,
for I marked his demeanour under fire the other day. And it may
be that though he may do no great things in fighting he may be
the means in saving some woman, some child, from the fury of the
Spaniards. If he saved but one, the next three years of his life
will not have been misspent."

"But he may fall--he may be killed by the Spaniards!" Mistress
Martin said in great agitation.

"If it be the will of God, wife, not otherwise. He is exposed to
danger every time he goes to sea. More than once since he first
came on board, the Venture has been in dire peril; who can say that
her next voyage may not be her last. However, I decide nothing now;
tomorrow I will speak to the boy myself and gather from his words
whether this is a mere passing fancy, natural enough to his age and
to the times, or a deep longing to venture his life in the cause
of a persecuted people whose blood runs in his veins, and who have
a faith which is his own and ours."

Mrs. Martin said no more; her husband's will had, since she married,
been in all matters of importance law to her, and was more so than
ever now that he lay weak and helpless. His words and manner too
had much impressed her. Her whole sympathies were passionately with
her countrymen, and the heavy losses she had so recently sustained
had added vastly to her hatred of the Spaniards. The suggestion,
too, of her husband that though Ned might do no great deeds as a
soldier he might be the means of saving some woman or child's life,
appealed to her womanly feelings.

She had girls of her own, and the thought that one of like age
might possibly be saved from the horrors of the sack of a city by
Ned's assistance appealed to her with great force. She went about
the house for the rest of the day subdued and quiet. Ned was puzzled
at her demeanour, and had he not seen for himself that his father
was progressing satisfactorily he would have thought that some
relapse had taken place, some unfavourable symptom appeared. But
this was clearly not the reason, and he could only fancy that now
his mother's anxiety as to his father's state was in some degree
abating, she was beginning to feel the loss of her father and
brothers all the more.

That the request she had promised to make in his name to his father
had anything to do with the matter did not enter his mind. Indeed,
he had begun to regret that he had made it. Not that his intense
longing to take service against the Spaniards was in any way abated,
but he felt it was selfish, now that he might for the first time
be of real use to his parents, for him thus to propose to embark
in adventures on his own account. He had asked his mother to put
the matter before his father, but he had scarce even a hope the
latter would for a moment listen to the proposal. The next morning
after breakfast, as he was about to start for a stroll to the wharf
to have a talk with Peters, his mother said to him quietly: "Put
aside your cap, Ned, your father wishes to speak to you."

She spoke so gravely that Ned ascended the stairs in some perturbation
of spirit. Doubtless she had spoken to his father, and the latter
was about to rate him severely for his folly in proposing to
desert his duty, and to embark in so wild an adventure as that he
had proposed. He was in no way reassured by the grave tone in which
his father said:

"Place that chair by my bedside, Ned, and sit down; my voice is
not strong and it fatigues me to speak loud. And now," he went on,
when Ned with a shamefaced expression had seated himself by the
bedside, "this desire that your mother tells me of to fight against
the Spaniards for a time in the service of the Prince of Orange,
how did it first come to you?"

"Ever since I heard the terrible story of the persecutions here,"
Ned replied. "I said to myself then that when I came to be a man I
would take revenge for these horrible murders. Since then the more
I have heard of the persecutions that the people here have suffered
in the cause of their religion, the more I have longed to be able
to give them such aid as I could. I have spoken of it over and over
again to my sisters; but I do not think that I should ever have
ventured to put my desire into words, had it not been for the
terrible news we learnt at Vordwyk. Now, however, that they have
killed my grandfather and uncles and have wounded you, I long more
than ever to join the patriots here; and of course the knowledge
that many young Englishmen were coming out to Brill and Flushing
as volunteers added to my desire. I said to myself if they who are
English are ready to give their lives in the cause of the Hollanders,
why should not I, who speak their language and am of their blood?"

"You have no desire to do great deeds or to distinguish yourself?"
Captain Martin asked.

"No, father; I have never so much as thought of that. I could not
imagine that I, as a boy, could be of any great service. I thought
I might, perhaps, being so young, be able to be of use in passing
among the Spaniards and carrying messages where a man could not
get through. I thought sometimes I might perhaps carry a warning
in time to enable women to escape with their children from a town
that was about to be beleaguered, and I hoped that if I did stand
in the ranks to face the Spaniards I should not disgrace my nation
and blood. I know, father, that it was presumptuous for me to think
that I could be of any real use; and if you are against it I will,
of course, as I told my mother, submit myself cheerfully to your
wishes."

"I am glad to see, Ned, that in this matter you are actuated by
right motives, and not moved by any boyish idea of adventure or of
doing feats of valour. This is no ordinary war, my boy. There is
none of the chivalry of past times in the struggle here. It is one
of life and death--grim, earnest, and determined. On one side
is Philip with the hosts of Spain, the greatest power in Europe,
determined to crush out the life of these poor provinces, to stamp
out the religion of the country, to leave not one man, woman, or
child alive who refuses to attend mass and to bow the knee before
the Papist images; on the other side you have a poor people tenanting
a land snatched from the sea, and held by constant and enduring
labour, equally determined that they will not abjure their religion,
that they will not permit the Inquisition to be established among
them, and ready to give lives and homes and all in the cause
of religious liberty. They have no thought of throwing off their
allegiance to Spain, if Spain will but be tolerant. The Prince
of Orange issues his orders and proclamations as the stadtholder
and lieutenant of the king, and declares that he is warring for
Philip, and designs only to repel those who, by their persecution
and cruelty, are dishonouring the royal cause.

"This cannot go on forever, and in time the Netherlands will be
driven to entreat some other foreign monarch to take them under his
protection. In this war there is no talk of glory. Men are fighting
for their religion, their homes, their wives and families. They
know that the Spaniards show neither quarter nor mercy, and that
it is scarce more than a question between death by the sword and
death by torture and hanging. There is no mercy for prisoners. The
town that yields on good conditions is sacked and destroyed as is
one taken by storm, for in no case have the Spaniards observed the
conditions they have made, deeming oaths taken to heretics to be
in no way binding on their consciences.

"Thus, Ned, those who embark upon this war engage in a struggle in
which there is no honour nor glory, nor fame nor reward to be won,
but one in which almost certain death stares them in the face, and
which, so far as I can see, can end only in the annihilation of
the people of this country, or in the expulsion of the Spaniards.
I do not say that there is no glory to be gained; but it is not
personal glory. In itself, no cause was ever more glorious than
that of men who struggle, not to conquer territory, not to gather
spoil, not to gratify ambition, but for freedom, for religion, for
hearth and home, and to revenge the countless atrocities inflicted
upon them by their oppressors. After what I have said, do you still
wish to embark upon this struggle?"

"I do wish it, father," Ned said firmly. "I desire it above all
things, if you and my mother can spare me."

Captain Martin then repeated to Ned the reasons that he had given
his wife for consenting to his carrying out his wishes: the fact
that there was no place for him at present on board the Good Venture,
the oath of vengeance upon the Spaniards that he had taken, and
his impression that although he himself could not carry out that
oath, its weight had been transferred to his son, whose desire to
take up the work he had intended to carry out, just at this moment,
seemed to him to be a special design of Providence.

"Now Ned," he concluded, "you understand the reasons that sway
me in giving my consent to your desire to do what you can for the
cause of religion and liberty. I do not propose that you should
at present actually take up arms that I question if you are strong
enough to wield. I will pray the burgomaster to give you letters
of introduction to the Prince, saying you are a young Englishman
ready and desirous of doing all that lies in your power for the
cause; that you speak the language as a native, and will be ready
to carry his messages wheresoever he may require them to be sent;
that you can be relied upon to be absolutely faithful, and have
entered the cause in no light spirit or desire for personal credit
or honour, but as one who has suffered great wrong in the loss of
near relatives at the hands of the Spaniards, and is wishful only
of giving such services as he can to the cause.

"It may be that coming with such recommendation the Prince will
see some way in which he can turn your services to account. And now
leave me, my boy. I am wearied with all this talking; and although
I deem that it is not my duty to withstand your wishes, it is no
slight trial to see my only son embark in so terrible and perilous
an adventure as this. But the cause I regard as a sacred one, and
it seems to me that I have no right to keep you from entering upon
it, as your mind lies that way."

Ned left the room greatly impressed with his father's words. He was
glad indeed that the permission he had asked for had been granted,
and that he was free to devote himself to the cause so dear to
most Englishmen, and doubly so to him from his relations with the
country. Sailing backwards and forwards to the various ports in
the Netherlands, and able to hold intercourse with all he met, he
had for years been listening to tales of atrocity and horror, until
he had come to regard the Spaniards as human monsters, and to long
with all his heart and strength to be able to join the oppressed
people against their tyrants.

Now he had got permission to do so. But he felt more than he had
done before the serious nature of the step which he was taking; and
although he did not for a moment regret the choice he had made, he
was conscious of its importance and of the solemn nature of the
duties he took upon himself in thus engaging in the struggle between
the Netherlands and Spain. He passed the room where his mother was
sitting, went over and kissed her, and then taking his cap passed
out into the street and mounted the ramparts, where he could think
undisturbed. His father's words had not shaken his determination,
although they had depressed his enthusiasm; but as he paced up and
down, with the fresh air from the sea blowing upon his cheek, the
feeling of youth and strength soon sent the blood dancing through
his veins again. His cheeks flushed, and his eyes brightened.

"There is honour and glory in the struggle," he said. "Did not the
people, old and young, pour out to the Crusades to wrest Jerusalem
from the hands of the infidels? This is a more glorious task. It is
to save God's followers from destruction; to succour the oppressed;
to fight for women and children as well as for men. It is a holier
and nobler object than that for which the Crusaders fought. They
died in hundreds of thousands by heat, by famine, thirst, and the
swords of the enemy. Few of those who fought ever returned home
to reap glory for their deeds; but there was honour for those who
fell. And in the same spirit in which even women and children left
their homes, and went in crowds to die for the Holy Sepulchre, so
will I venture my life for religion and freedom here."

An hour later he returned home; he could see that his mother had
been crying.

"Mother," he said, "I trust you will not grieve over this. I have
been thinking how the women of the early days sent their husbands
and sons and lovers to fight for the Holy Sepulchre. I think that
this cause is an even greater and more noble one; and feel sure
that though you may be anxious, you will not grudge me to do my
best for our religion and country people."

"Truly I think it is a holy cause, my boy; and after what your
father has said, I would not if I could say nay. I can only pray
that heaven will bless and keep you, and one day restore you to
me. But you will not be always fighting, Ned. There is no saying
how long the struggle may last; and if I let you go, it is with
the promise that at one-and-twenty at the latest you will return
to us, and take your place again as your father's right hand and
mine."

"I promise you, mother, that then, or if at any time before that
you write and say to me come home, I will come."

"I am content with that," his mother said.

That afternoon Ned told Peters what had been decided, and the
following morning the latter had a long talk with Captain Martin,
who directed him to apply to the other owners of the ship to appoint
him an able first mate, and also to choose one of their clerks in
whom they had confidence to sail in the vessel as supercargo.

"The doctors tell me, Peters, that in two or three months I may be
able to return home and to get about on crutches; but they advise
me that it will be at least another four months before I can strap
on a wooden leg and trust my weight to it. When I can do that, I
shall see how I can get about. You heard from Ned last night that
he is going to enter as a sort of volunteer under the Prince of
Orange?"

"Yes, he told me, Captain Martin. He is a lad of spirit; and if I
were fifteen years younger I would go with him."

"He is young for such work yet," Captain Martin said doubtfully.

"He is a strong youth, Captain Martin, and can do a man's work. His
training at sea has made him steady and cool; and I warrant me, if
he gets into danger, he will get out again if there is a chance.
I only hope, Captain Martin, that the brush we have had with the
Spaniards will not be our last, and that we too may be in the way
of striking a blow at the Spaniards."

"I hope that we may, Peters," Captain Martin said earnestly. "My
mind is as much bent upon it as is Ned's; and I will tell you what
must at present be known only to yourself, that I have made up my
mind that if I recover, and can take command of the Good Venture
again, I will buy up the other shares, so that I can do what I like
with her without accounting to any man. I need not do so much on
board as I used to do, but will get you a good second mate, and will
myself only direct. Then we will, as at present, trade between London
and the Netherlands; but if, as is likely enough, the Spaniards
and Hollanders come to blows at sea, or the prince needs ships to
carry troops to beleaguered towns, then for a time we will quit
trading and will join with the Good Venture, and strike a blow at
sea."

"That is good hearing, Captain Martin," Peters said, rubbing his
hands. "I warrant me you will not find one of the crew backward
at that work, and for my part I should like nothing better than to
tackle a Spaniard who does not carry more than two or three times
our own strength. The last fellow was a good deal too big for us,
but I believe if we had stuck to him we should have beaten him in
the end, big as he was."

"Perhaps we might, Peters; but the ship was not mine to risk then,
and we had cargo on board. If, in the future, we meet a Spaniard
when the ship is mine to venture, and our hold is clear, the Good
Venture shall not show him her stern I warrant you, unless he be
big enough to eat us."

On the following day the Good Venture set sail for England, and the
burgomaster having received a message from Captain Martin, praying
him to call upon him, paid him a visit. Captain Martin unfolded his
son's plans to him, and prayed him to furnish him with a letter to
the prince recommending him as one who might be trusted, and who
was willing to risk his life upon any enterprise with which he
might intrust him. This the burgomaster at once consented to do.

"Younger lads than he," he said, "have fought stoutly on the walls
of some of our towns against the Spaniards; and since such is his
wish, I doubt not he will be able to do good service. All Holland
has heard how your ship beat off the Don Pedro; and the fact that
the lad is your son, and took part in the fight, will at once
commend him to the prince. All Englishmen are gladly received; not
only because they come to fight as volunteers on our side, but as
a pledge that the heart of England is with us, and that sooner or
later she will join us in our struggle against Spain. And doubtless,
as you say, the fact that the lad is by his mother's side one of
us, and that he can converse in both our language and yours with
equal ease, is greatly in his favour. Tomorrow I will furnish him
with letters to the prince, and also to two or three gentlemen of
my acquaintances, who are in the prince's councils."

When the burgomaster had left, Captain Martin called Ned in.

"Now, you are going as a volunteer, Ned, and for a time, at any
rate, there must be no question of pay; you are giving your services
and not selling them. In the first place you must procure proper
attire, in which to present yourself to the prince; you must also
purchase a helmet, breast and back pieces, with sword and pistols.
As for money, I shall give you a purse with sufficient for your
present needs, and a letter which you can present to any of the
merchants in the seaports with whom we have trade, authorizing you
to draw upon me, and praying them to honour your drafts. Do not
stint yourself of money, and do not be extravagant. Your needs
will be small, and when serving in a garrison or in the field you
will, of course, draw rations like others. I need not give you a
list of the merchants in the various towns, since you already know
them, and have been with me at many of their places of business.

"In regard to your actions, I say to you do not court danger, but
do not avoid it. The cause is a good one, and you are risking your
life for it; but remember also that you are an only son, and there
are none to fill your place if you fall. Therefore be not rash;
keep always cool in danger, and if there is a prospect of escape
seize it promptly. Remember that your death can in no way benefit
Holland, while your life may do so; therefore do not from any
mistaken sense of heroism throw away your life in vain defence, when
all hope of success is over, but rather seek some means of escape
by which, when all is lost, you can manage to avoid the vengeance
of the Spaniards. I fear that there will be many defeats before
success can be obtained, for there is no union among the various
states or cities.

"Holland and Zeeland alone seem in earnest in the cause, though
Friesland and Guelderland will perhaps join heartily; but these
provinces alone are really Protestant, in the other the Catholics
predominate, and I fear they will never join heartily in resistance
to Spain. How this narrow strip of land by the sea is to resist
all the power of Spain I cannot see; but I believe in the people
and in their spirit, and am convinced that sooner than fall again
into the grasp of the Inquisition they will open the sluices and
let the sea in over the country they have so hardly won from it,
and will embark on board ship and seek in some other country that
liberty to worship God in their own way that is denied them here."

It was not necessary to purchase many articles of clothing, for
the dress of the people of Holland differed little from that of the
English. Ned bought a thick buff jerkin to wear under his armour,
and had little difficulty in buying steel cap, breast and back piece,
sword and pistols; for the people of Holland had not as yet begun
to arm generally, and many of the walls were defended by burghers
in their citizen dress, against the mail clad pikemen of Spain.

Three days later Ned took a tearful farewell of his family, and
set sail in a small vessel bound for Rotterdam, where the Prince
of Orange at present was. The voyage was made without adventure,
and upon landing Ned at once made his way to the house occupied by
the prince. There were no guards at the gate, or any sign of martial
pomp. The door stood open, and when Ned entered a page accosted
him and asked his business.

"I have letters for the prince," he said, "which I pray you to hand
to him when he is at leisure."

"In that case you would have to wait long," the page replied,
"for the prince is at work from early morning until late at night.
However, he is always open of access to those who desire to see
him, therefore if you will give me the name of the writer of the
letter you bear I will inform him, and you can then deliver it
yourself." A minute later Ned was shown into the presence of the
man who was undoubtedly the foremost of his age.

Born of a distinguished family, William of Orange had been brought
up by a pious mother, and at the age of twelve had become a page in
the family of the Emperor Charles. So great was the boy's ability,
that at fifteen he had become the intimate and almost confidential
friend of the emperor, who was a keen judge of merit.

Before he reached the age of twenty-one he was named commander in
chief of the army on the French frontier. When the Emperor Charles
resigned, the prince was appointed by Philip to negotiate a treaty
with France, and had conducted these negotiations with extreme ability.
The prince and the Duke of Alva remained in France as hostages for
the execution of the treaty. Alva was secretly engaged in arranging
an agreement between Philip and Henry for the extirpation of
Protestantism, and the general destruction of all those who held
that faith. The French king, believing that the Prince of Orange
was also in the secret, spoke to him one day when out hunting freely
on the subject, and gave him all the details of the understanding
that had been entered into for a general massacre of the Protestants
throughout the dominions of France and Spain.

The Prince of Orange neither by word or look indicated that all
this was new to him, and the king remained in ignorance of how
completely he had betrayed the plans of himself and Philip. It
was his presence of mind and reticence, while listening to this
astounding relation, that gained for the Prince of Orange the title
of William the Silent. Horror struck at the plot he had discovered,
the prince from that moment threw himself into the cause of the
Protestants of the Netherlands, and speedily became the head of the
movement, devoting his whole property and his life to the object.
So far it had brought him only trials and troubles.

His estate and that of his brothers had been spent in the service;
he had incurred enormous debts; the armies of German mercenaries
he had raised had met with defeat and ruin; the people of the
Netherlands, crushed down with the apathy of despair, had not lifted
a finger to assist the forces that had marched to their aid. It
was only when, almost by an accident, Brill had been captured by
the sea beggars, that the spark he had for so many years been trying
to fan, burst into flame in the provinces of Holland and Zeeland.

The prince had been sustained through his long and hitherto fruitless
struggle by a deep sense of religion. He believed that God was with
him, and would eventually save the people of the Netherlands from
the fate to which Philip had doomed them. And yet though an ardent
Protestant, and in an age when Protestants were well nigh as bigoted
as Catholics, and when the idea of religious freedom had scarce
entered into the minds of men, the prince was perfectly tolerant,
and from the first insisted that in all the provinces over which
he exercised authority, the same perfect freedom of worship should
be granted to the Catholics that he claimed for the Protestants in
the Catholic states of the Netherlands.

He had not always been a Protestant. When appointed by Philip
stadtholder of Holland, Friesland, and Utrecht he had been a moderate
Catholic. But his thoughts were but little turned to religious
subjects, and it was as a patriot and a man of humane nature that
he had been shocked at the discovery that he had made, of the
determination of the kings of France and Spain to extirpate the
Protestants. He used this knowledge first to secretly urge the
people of the Netherlands to agitate for the removal of the Spanish
troops from the country; and although he had secret instructions
from Philip to enforce the edicts against all heretics with vigour,
he avoided doing so as much as was in his power, and sent private
warnings to many whom he knew to be in danger of arrest.

As Governor of the Netherlands at the age of twenty-six, he was
rich, powerful, and of sovereign rank. He exercised a splendid
hospitality, and was universally beloved by the whole community for
the charm of his manner and his courtesy to people of all ranks.
Even at this period the property which he had inherited from
his father, and that he had received with his first wife, Anne of
Egmont, the richest heiress of the Netherlands, had been seriously
affected by his open handed hospitality and lavish expenditure.
His intellect was acknowledged to be of the highest class. He had
extraordinary adroitness and capacity for conducting state affairs.
His knowledge of human nature was profound. He had studied deeply,
and spoke and wrote with facility Latin, French, German, Flemish,
and Spanish.

The epithet Silent was in no way applicable to his general character.
He could be silent when speech was dangerous, but at other times
he was a most cheerful and charming companion, and in public the
most eloquent orator and the most brilliant controversialist of his
age. Thirteen years had passed since then, thirteen years spent
in incessant troubles and struggles. The brilliant governor of
Philip in the Netherlands had for years been an exile; the careless
Catholic had become an earnest and sincere Protestant; the wealthy
noble had been harassed with the pecuniary burdens he had undertaken
in order to raise troops for the rescue of his countrymen.

He had seen his armies defeated, his plans overthrown, his countrymen
massacred by tens of thousands, his co-religionists burnt, hung,
and tortured, and it was only now that the spirit of resistance
was awakening among his countrymen. But misfortune and trial had
not soured his temper; his faith that sooner or later the cause
would triumph had never wavered. His patience was inexhaustible,
his temper beyond proof. The incapacity of many in whom he had
trusted, the jealousies and religious differences which prevented
anything like union between the various states, the narrowness
and jealousy even of those most faithful to the cause, would have
driven most men to despair.

Upon his shoulders alone rested the whole weight of the struggle.
It was for him to plan and carry out, to negotiate with princes,
to organize troops, to raise money, to compose jealousies, to rouse
the lukewarm and appeal to the waverers. Every detail, great and
small, had to be elaborated by him. So far it was not the Netherlands,
it was William of Orange alone who opposed himself to the might of
the greatest power in Europe.

Such was the prince to whom Ned Martin was now introduced, and it was
with a sense of the deepest reverence that he entered the chamber.
He saw before him a man looking ten years older than he really
was; whose hair was grizzled and thin from thought and care, whose
narrow face was deeply marked by the lines of anxiety and trouble,
but whose smile was as kindly, whose manner as kind and gracious
as that which had distinguished it when William was the brilliant
young stadtholder of the Emperor Philip.



CHAPTER VII

A DANGEROUS MISSION


"I hear you have a letter for me from my good friend the burgomaster
of Enkhuizen," the Prince of Orange said, as Ned with a deep
reverence approached the table at which he was sitting. "He sends
me no ill news, I hope?"

"No, your excellency," Ned said. "It is on a matter personal to
myself that he has been good enough to write to you, and I crave
your pardon beforehand for occupying your time for a moment with
so unimportant a subject."

The prince glanced at him keenly as he was speaking, and saw that
the young fellow before him was using no mere form of words, but
that he really felt embarrassed at the thought that he was intruding
upon his labours. He opened the letter and glanced down it.

"Ah! you are English," he said in surprise. "I thought you a
countryman of mine."

"My mother is from Holland, sir," Ned replied; "and has brought me
up to speak her language as well as my father's, and to feel that
Holland is my country as much as England."

"And you are the son of the English captain who, lately, as I heard,
being stopped in his passage down the Zuider Zee by the Spanish ship
Don Pedro, defended himself so stoutly that he inflicted great loss
and damage upon the Spaniard, and brought his ship into Enkhuizen
without further damage than a grievous wound to himself. The
burgomaster tells me that you are anxious to enter my service as a
volunteer, and that you have the permission of your parents to do
so.

"Many of your brave compatriots are already coming over; and I am
glad indeed of their aid, which I regard as an omen that England
will some day bestir herself on our behalf. But you look young for
such rough work, young sir. I should not take you for more than
eighteen."

"I am not yet eighteen, sir," Ned said, although he did not think
it necessary to mention that he still wanted two years to that age.
"But even children and women have aided in the defence of their
towns."

"It is somewhat strange," the prince said, "that your parents
should have countenanced your thus embarking in this matter at so
young an age."

"The Spaniards have murdered my grandfather, three of my uncles, and
an aunt; and my father would, had it not been that he is disabled
by the wound he received, and which has cost him the loss of a leg,
have himself volunteered," Ned replied. "But, sir, if you think
me too young as yet to fight in the ranks, my father thought that
you might perhaps make use of me in other ways. I have sailed
up every river in the Netherlands, having been for the last five
years in my father's ship trading with these ports, and know their
navigation and the depth of water. If you have letters that you
want carried to your friends in Flanders, and would intrust them
to me, I would deliver them faithfully for you whatever the risk;
and being but a boy, could pass perhaps where a man would be
suspected. I only ask, sir, to be put to such use as you can make
of me, whatever it may be, deeming my life but of slight account
in so great and good a cause."

"No man can offer more," the prince said kindly. "I like your face,
young sir, and can see at once that you can be trusted, and that
you have entered upon this matter in a serious spirit. Your father
has proved himself to be a brave fighter and a skilful sailor, and
I doubt not that you are worthy of him. Your youth is no drawback
in my eyes, seeing that I myself, long before I reached your age,
was mixed up in state affairs, and that the Emperor Charles, my
master, did not disdain to listen to my opinions. I accept your
offer of service in the name of the Netherlands; and deeming that,
as you say, you may be of more service in the way of which you
have spoken than were I to attach you to one of the regiments I am
raising, I will for the present appoint you as a volunteer attached
to my own household, and, trust me, I will not keep you long in
idleness."

He touched a bell and the page entered. "Take this gentleman," he
said, "to Count Nieuwenar, and tell him that he is to have rank as
a gentleman volunteer, and will at present remain as a member of
my household, and be treated as such."

With a kindly nod he dismissed Ned, who was so affected by the
kindness of manner of the prince that he could only murmur a word
or two of thanks and assurance of devotion. One of the burgomaster's
letters, of which Ned was the bearer, was to Count Nieuwenar, the
prince's chamberlain, and when the page introduced him to that
officer with the message the prince had given him, Ned handed to
him the burgomaster's letter. The count ran his eye down it.

"My friend the burgomaster speaks highly in your praise, young
sir," he said; "and although it needed not that since the prince
himself has been pleased to appoint you to his household, yet I am
glad to receive so good a report of you. All Holland and Zeeland
have been talking of the gallant fight that your father's ship made
against the Spaniard; and though I hear that the Queen of England
has made remonstrances to the Spanish Ambassador as to this attack
upon an English ship, methinks that it is the Spaniards who suffered
most in the affair."

"Would you kindly instruct me, sir, in the duties that I have to
perform."

"There are no duties whatever," the count said with a smile. "There
is no state or ceremony here. The prince lives like a private
citizen, and all that you have to do is to behave discreetly, to
present yourself at the hours of meals, and to be in readiness to
perform any service with which the prince may intrust you; although
for what service he destines you, I own that I am in ignorance.
But," he said more gravely, "the prince is not a man to cumber
himself with persons who are useless to him, nor to keep about his
person any save those upon whose fidelity he is convinced that he
can rely. Therefore I doubt not that he will find work for you to
do, for indeed there is but little ease and quiet for those who
serve him. This afternoon I will find for you an apartment, and I
may tell you that although you will have at present no duties to
perform, and need not therefore keep in close attendance, it were
better that you should never be very long absent; for when the
prince wants a thing done he wants it done speedily, and values
most those upon whom he can rely at all times of the night and day.
Return here at noon, and I will then present you to the gentlemen
and officers with whom you will associate."

On leaving the chamberlain Ned walked for some time through the
streets of Rotterdam. He scarcely noticed where he went, so full
were his thoughts of the reception that he had met with, and the
more than realization of his hopes. The charm of manner, as well
as the real kindness of the prince, had completely captivated him,
as indeed they did all who came in contact with him, and he felt
that no dangers he could run, no efforts he could make would be too
great if he could but win the approbation of so kind a master. He
presented himself to the chamberlain at the hour named, and the
latter took him to a large hall in which many officers and gentlemen
were about to sit down to dinner, and introduced Ned to them as
the son of the English captain who had so bravely beaten off the
Don Pedro, and whom the Prince of Orange had received into his
household in the quality of a gentleman volunteer.

Ned was well received, both on his own account and from the goodwill
that was entertained towards England. Although personally the Prince
of Orange kept up no state and lived most simply and quietly, he
still maintained an extensive household, and extended a generous
hospitality more suited to his past wealth than to his present
necessities. He had the habits of a great noble; and although
pressed on all sides for money, and sometimes driven to make what
he considered great economies in his establishment, his house was
always open to his friends and adherents.

Certainly in the meal to which he sat down Ned saw little signs of
economy. There was but little silver plate on the table, for the
prince's jewels and plate had been pledged years before for the
payment of the German mercenaries; but there was an abundance of
food of all kinds, generous wine in profusion, and the guests were
served by numerous pages and attendants.

On the following day the prince rode to Haarlem accompanied by his
household and a hundred horsemen, for at Haarlem he had summoned
a meeting of the representatives of the states that still remained
faithful to him. As soon as they were settled in the quarters
assigned to them Ned sallied out to make inquiries concerning the
relatives with whom his aunt and cousins had taken refuge. As he
knew her maiden name he had no great difficulty in learning the
part of the town in which her father dwelt, and knowing that the
prince would at any rate for the rest of the day be wholly absorbed
in important business, made his way thither, introducing himself
to the burgher.

"Ah!" the latter said, "I have often heard my daughter speak of
her sister-in-law who had married and settled in England. So you
are her son? Well, you will find her house in the street that runs
along by the city wall, near the Watergate. It was well that she
happened to be laid up with illness at the time Alva's ruffians
seized and murdered her husband and his family. She was well nigh
distraught for a time, and well she might be; though, indeed, her
lot is but that of tens of thousands of others in this unhappy
country. I would gladly have welcomed her here, but I have another
married daughter who lives with me and keeps my house for me, and
as she has half a dozen children the house is well nigh full. And
Elizabeth longed for quiet in her sorrow, so I established her in
the little house I tell you of. I have been going to write to your
father, but have put it off from time to time, for one has so much
to think of in these days that one has no time for private matters.
She tells me that her husband and his brothers had, foreseeing the
evil times coming, sent money to England to his care, and that it
has been invested in houses in London."

"I believe that is so," Ned replied; "and my father, who is at
present lying sorely wounded at Enkhuizen, will, I am sure, now
that he knows where my aunt is, communicate with her by letter on
the subject. I will give you his address at Enkhuizen, and as it
is but a short journey from here you might perhaps find time to go
over and see him, when he will be able to talk freely with you on
the subject. Now, with your permission I will go and see my aunt."

Ned had no difficulty in finding the house indicated. He knocked
at the door, and it was opened by his aunt herself. She looked up
for a moment inquiringly, and then exclaimed:

"Why, it is my nephew, Edward Martin! It is nearly two years since
I saw you last, and so much has happened since;" and she burst into
tears.

Ned followed her into the house, where he was warmly welcomed by
his two cousins--girls of fourteen and fifteen years old. He had
first to explain how it was that he had come to Haarlem, and they
were grieved indeed to hear what had happened to Captain Martin,
who was a great favourite with them.

"And so you have entered the service of the Prince of Orange?"
his aunt said when he had finished his story. "Truly I wonder that
your father and mother have allowed you to embark in so hopeless
an enterprise."

"Not hopeless," Ned said. "Things look dark at present, but either
England or France may come to our help. At any rate, aunt, if the
Spanish army again sweeps over Holland and Zeeland surely you,
with two girls, will not await its approach. You have friends in
England. My father and mother will be only too glad to have you
with them till you can make yourself a home close by. And there
are the moneys sent over that will enable you to live in comfort.
It will not be like going among strangers. There is quite a colony
of emigrants from the Netherlands already in London. You will find
plenty who can speak your language."

"All my family are here," she replied; "my father, and brothers,
and sisters. I could never be happy elsewhere."

"Yes, aunt, I can understand that. But if the Spaniards come, how
many of your family may be alive here a week afterwards?"

The woman threw up her hands in a gesture of despair.

"Well, we must hope for the best, aunt; but I would urge you most
strongly if you hear that a Spanish army is approaching to fly to
England if there be an opportunity open to you, or if not to leave
the city and go to some town or village as far from here as possible."

"Haarlem is strong, and can stand a stout siege," the woman said
confidently.

"I have no doubt it can, aunt. But the Spaniards are good engineers,
and unless the Prince of Orange is strong enough to march to its
succour, sooner or later it must fall; and you know what happens
then."

"Why should they come here more than elsewhere? There are many
other towns that lie nearer to them."

"That is so, aunt. But from the walls you can see the towers and
spires of Amsterdam, and that city serves them as a gathering place
in the heart of the country whence they may strike blows all round;
and, therefore, as you lie so close, one of the first blows may
be struck here. Besides, if they take Haarlem, they cut the long
strip of land that almost alone remains faithful to the prince
asunder. Well, aunt, please think it over. If you doubt my words
write to my mother at Enkhuizen. I warrant she will tell you how
gladly she will receive you in England, and how well you may make
yourself a home there. I do not know how long I am to be staying
here, and I have to be in close attendance on the prince in case he
may suddenly have occasion for my services, but I will come down
every day for a talk with you; and I do hope that for the sake
of my cousins, if not for your own, you will decide to leave this
troubled land for a time, and to take refuge in England, where none
will interfere with your religion, and where you can live free from
the Spaniard's cruel bigotry."

Ned remained for a fortnight without any particular duties. When
the prince was closeted with persons of importance, and he knew
that there was no chance of his being required, he spent much of
his time at his aunt's. He was beginning to feel weary of hanging
about the prince's antechamber doing nothing, when one day a page
came up to him and told him that the prince required his presence.
He followed the boy to the prince's cabinet, full of hope that he
was to have an opportunity of proving that he was in earnest in
his offers of service to the cause of Holland.

"I daresay you began to think that I had forgotten you," the prince
began when the page had retired and the curtain had fallen behind
him, "but it is not so. Until today I have had no occasion for your
services, but have now a mission to intrust to you. I have letters
that I wish carried to Brussels and delivered to some of my friends
there. You had best start at once in the disguise of a peasant boy.
You must sew up your despatches in your jerkin, and remember that
if they are found upon you a cruel death will surely be your fate.
If you safely carry out your mission in Brussels return with the
answers you will receive by such route as may seem best to you;
for this must depend upon the movements of the Spaniards. The
chamberlain will furnish you with what money you may require."

"Thanks, your excellency, I am provided with sufficient means for
such a journey."

"I need not tell you, my lad, to be careful and prudent. Remember,
not only is your own life at stake, but that the interest of the
country will suffer, and the lives of many will be forfeited should
you fail in your mission. You will see that there are no names upon
these letters; only a small private mark, differing in each case,
by which you can distinguish them. Here is a paper which is a key
to those marks. You must, before you start, learn by heart the
names of those for whom the various letters are intended. In this
way, should the letters fall into the hands of the Spaniards, they
will have no clue as to the names of those to whom they are addressed.

"This paper, on which is written 'To the Blue Cap in the South
Corner of the Market Square of Brussels,' is intended to inclose
all the other letters, and when you have learned the marks Count
Nieuwenar will fasten them up in it and seal it with my seal.
The object of doing this is, that should you be captured, you can
state that your instructions from me are to deliver the packet to
a man with a blue cap, who will meet you at the south corner of
the Market Square at Brussels, and, touching you on the shoulder,
ask 'How blows the wind in Holland?' These are the instructions I
now give you. If such a man comes to you you will deliver the packet
to him, if not you will open it and deliver the letters. But this
last does not form part of your instructions.

"This device will not save your life if you are taken, but it
may save you from torture and others from death. For were these
unaddressed letters found upon you, you would be put to such cruel
tortures that flesh and blood could not withstand them, and the
names of those for whom these letters are intended would be wrung
from you; but inclosed as they are to Master Blue Cap, it may be
believed that you are merely a messenger whose instructions extend
no further than the handing over the parcel to a friend of mine
in Brussels. Now, you have no time to lose. You have your disguise
to get, and these signs and the names they represent to commit
to heart. A horse will be ready in two hours time to take you to
Rotterdam, whence you will proceed in a coasting vessel to Sluys
or Axel."

At the time named Ned was in readiness. He was dressed now as a young
Flemish peasant. He had left the chest with his clothes, together
with his armour and weapons, in the care of his aunt's father, for
he hoped that before his return she would have left the town. He
could not, however, obtain any promise that she would do so. Her
argument was, if other women could stay in Haarlem why should she
not do the same. Her friends and family were there; and although,
if the Spaniards were to besiege the town, she might decide to quit
it, she could not bring herself to go into exile, unless indeed
all Holland was conquered and all hope gone.

Ned carried a stout stick; which was a more formidable weapon than
it looked, for the knob was loaded with lead. He hesitated about
taking pistols; for if at any time he were searched and such weapons
found upon him the discovery might prove fatal, for a peasant boy
certainly would not be carrying weapons that were at that time
costly and comparatively rare. His despatches were sewn up in the
lining of his coat, and his money, beyond that required for the
present use, hidden in his big boots. A country horse with rough
trappings, such as a small farmer might ride, was in readiness, and
mounting this he rode to Rotterdam, some thirty-five miles distant,
and there put it up at a small inn, where he had been charged to
leave it.

He then walked down to the river and inquired about boats sailing
for the ports of Sluys or Axel. He was not long in discovering
one that would start the next day for the latter place, and after
bargaining with the master for a passage returned to the inn. The
next morning he set sail soon after daybreak. There were but three
or four other passengers, and Ned was not long before he established
himself on friendly terms with the master and the four men that
constituted the crew.

"I wonder," he said presently to the master, "that trade still goes
on between the towns of Holland and those in the provinces that
hold to Alva."

"The citizens of those towns are greatly divided in their opinions,"
the captain said. "Many would gladly rise if they had the chance,
but they lie too close to the Spanish power to venture to do so.
Still they are friendly enough to us; and as they have need of our
goods and we of theirs, no one hinders traffic or interferes with
those who come and go. Most of these towns have but small Spanish
garrisons, and these concern themselves not with anything that
goes on beyond maintaining the place for Spain. It is the Catholic
magistrates appointed by Alva who manage the affairs of the towns,
and as these are themselves mostly merchants and traders their
interests lie in keeping the ports open and encouraging trade,
so we come and go unquestioned. The Spaniards have enough on their
hands already without causing discontent by restricting trade.
Besides, the duke affects to consider the rising in Holland
and Zeeland as a trifling rebellion which he can suppress without
difficulty, and it would be giving too much importance to the
movement were he to close all the ports and forbid communication."

"Will you go outside or inside Walcheren?"

"Outside," the captain replied. "It is the longest way, but the
safest. The Spaniards hold Middleburg and Tergoes, and have lately
defeated the force from Flushing that endeavoured to capture
Tergoes. There are many of our craft and some of the Spaniards in
the passages, and fighting often takes place. It is better to avoid
risks of trouble, although it may be a few leagues further round
by Walcheren. I am ready to take my share of the fighting when it
is needful, and aid in carrying the troops across from Flushing
and back, but when I have goods in my hold I like to keep as well
away from it as may be."

They cast anchor off Flushing, for the wind was now foul, but when
tide turned they again got under way and beat up the channel to
Axel. No questions were asked as they drew up alongside the wharves.
Ned at once stepped ashore and made his way to a small inn, chiefly
frequented by sailors, near the jetty. The shades of night were
just falling as they arrived, and he thought it were better not
to attempt to proceed further until the following morning. He had
been several times at Axel in the Good Venture, and was familiar
with the town. The population was a mixed one, for although situated
in Brabant, Axel had so much communication with the opposite shores
of Holland that a considerable portion of the population had imbibed
something of the spirit that animated their neighbours, and would,
if opportunity offered, have gladly thrown off the authority of
the officials appointed by the Spaniards.

Ned knew that as a stranger he should be viewed with great suspicion
by the frequenters of the little inn, for the spy system was carried
to such an extent that people were afraid to utter their sentiments
even in the bosom of their own families. He therefore walked about
until it was time to retire to rest, and in that way escaped alike
the suspicions and questionings he might otherwise have encountered.
He could easily have satisfied them as to the past--he had just
arrived in the coasting smack the Hopeful from Rotterdam, and the
master of the craft could, if questioned, corroborate his
statement--but it would not be so easy to satisfy questioners as to
the object of his coming. Why should a lad from Holland want to come
to Brabant? Every one knew that work was far more plentiful in
the place he had come from than in the states under the Spaniards,
where the cultivators scarce dare sow crops sufficient for their
own consumption, so extensive was the pillaging carried on by the
Spanish troops.

These, always greatly in arrears of pay, did not hesitate to take
all they required from the unfortunate inhabitants; and the latter
knew that resistance or complaint was alike useless, for the
soldiers were always on the verge of mutiny. Their officers had
little control over them; and Alva himself was always short of
money, and being unable to pay his troops was obliged to allow them
to maintain themselves upon the country.

As soon as the gates were open in the morning Ned made his way
to that through which the road to Brussels ran. The four or five
Spanish soldiers at the gate asked no questions, and Ned passed
on with a brisk step. He had gone about three miles when he heard
sounds of horses' hoofs behind him, and presently two men came
along. One was, by his appearance, a person of some importance,
the other he took to be his clerk. Ned doffed his hat as the horse
went past.

"Where are you going lad?" the elder of the two men asked.

"I am going, worshipful sir, to see some friends who live at the
village of Deligen, near Brussels."

"These are evil times for travelling. Your tongue shows that you
come not from Brabant."

"No, sir, my relations lived at Vordwyk, hard by Amsterdam."

"Amsterdam is a faithful city; although there, as elsewhere, there
are men who are traitors to their king and false to their faith.
You are not one of them, I hope?"

"I do not know," Ned said, "that I am bound to answer questions of
any that ride by the highway, unless I know that they have right
and authority to question me."

"I have right and authority," the man said angrily. "My name is
Philip Von Aert, and I am one of the council charged by the viceroy
to investigate into these matters."

Ned again doffed his hat. "I know your name, worshipful sir, as
that of one who is foremost in searching out heretics. There are
few in the land, even ignorant country boys like myself, who have
not heard it."

The councillor looked gratified. "Ah! you have heard me well spoken
of?" he said.

"I have heard you spoken of, sir, well or ill, according to the
sentiments of those who spoke."

"And why have you left Amsterdam to journey so far from home? This
is a time when all men must be looked upon with suspicion until
they prove themselves to be good Catholics and faithful subjects of
the king, and even a boy like you may be engaged upon treasonable
business. I ask you again, why are you leaving your family at
Amsterdam?"

"Misfortunes have fallen upon them," Ned replied, "and they can no
longer maintain me."

"Misfortunes, ah! and of what kind?"

"Their business no longer brings them in profit," Ned replied.
"They lived, as I told your worship, not in the town itself, but in
a village near it, and in these troubled times trade is well nigh
at a standstill, and there is want at many a man's door."

"I shall stop for the night at Antwerp, where I have business to
do; see when you arrive there that you call upon me. I must have
further talk with you, for your answers do not satisfy me."

Ned bowed low.

"Very well, see that you fail not, or it will be the worse for you."
So saying Von Aert put spurs to his horse, which had been walking
alongside Ned as he conversed, and rode forward at a gallop.



CHAPTER VIII

IN THE HANDS OF THE BLOOD COUNCIL


"You are an evil looking pair of scoundrels," Ned said to himself
as he looked after the retreating figures of the two men. "The
master I truly know by name as one of the worst instruments of the
tyrant; as to the man, knave is written on his face. He is as thin
as a scarecrow--he has a villainous squint and an evil smile
on his face. If I had been bent on any other errand I would have
given very different answers, and taken my chance of holding my own
with this good stick of mine. At any rate I told them no absolute
lies. The councillor will not have a chance of asking me any more
questions this evening, and I only hope that he will be too busy
to think any more about it. I will take the road through Ghent; it
matters little which way I go, for the two roads seem to me to be
of nearly equal distance."

He therefore at once left the road he was following, and struck
across the fields northward until he came upon the road to Ghent,
at which town he arrived soon after noon, having walked two or
three and twenty miles. Fearing to be questioned he passed through
the town without stopping, crossed the Scheldt and continued his way
for another five miles, when he stopped at the village of Gontere.
He entered a small inn.

"I wish to stop here for the night," he said, "if you have room?"

"Room enough and to spare," the host replied. "There is no scarcity
of rooms, though there is of good fare; a party of soldiers from
Ghent paid a visit to us yesterday, and have scarce left a thing
to eat in the village. However, I suppose we ought to feel thankful
that they did not take our lives also."

"Peter," a shrill voice cried from inside the house, "how often have
I told you not to be gossiping on public affairs with strangers?
Your tongue will cost you your head presently, as I have told you
a score of times."

"Near a hundred I should say, wife," the innkeeper replied. "I am
speaking no treason, but am only explaining why our larder is empty,
save some black bread, and some pig's flesh we bought an hour ago;
besides, this youth is scarce likely to be one of the duke's spies."

"There you are again," the woman cried angrily. "You want to leave
me a widow, and your children fatherless, Peter Grantz. Was a woman
ever tormented with such a man?"

"I am not so sure that it is not the other way," the man grumbled
in an undertone. "Why, wife," he went on, raising his voice, "who
is there to say anything against us. Don't I go regularly to mass,
and send our good priest a fine fish or the best cut off the joint
two or three times a week? What can I do more? Anyone would think
to hear you talk that I was a heretic."

"I think you are more fool than heretic," his wife said angrily;
"and that is the best hope for us. But come in, boy, and sit down;
my husband will keep you gossiping at the door for the next hour
if you would listen to him."

"I shall not be sorry to sit down, mistress," Ned said entering
the low roofed room. "I have walked from Axel since morning."

"That is a good long walk truly;" the woman said. "Are you going
on to Brussels? If so, your nearest way would have been by Antwerp."

"I took the wrong road," Ned said; "and as they told me that there
was but a mile or two difference between them, I thought I might
as well keep on the one I had first taken."

"You are from Holland, are you not, by your speech?" the woman
asked.

"Yes; I have come from Holland," Ned replied.

"And is it true what they say, that the people there have thrown
off the authority of the duke, and are going to venture themselves
against all the strength of Spain?"

"Some have risen and some have not," Ned replied. "None can say
what will come of it."

"You had best not say much about your coming from Holland," the
woman said; "for they say that well nigh all from that province are
heretics, and to be even suspected of being a heretic in Brabant
is enough to cost anyone his life."

"I am not one to talk," Ned replied; "but I thank you for your
caution, mistress. I have been questioned already by Philip Von
Aert, and he said he would see me again; but in truth I have no
intention of further intruding on him."

"He is one of the Council of Blood," the woman said, dropping her
voice and looking round anxiously; "and one of the most cruel of
them. Beware, my lad, how you fall into his hands, for be assured
he will show you no mercy, if he has reason to suspect, but in
the slightest, that you are not a good Catholic and loyal to the
Spaniards. Rich or poor, gentle or simple, woman or child, it is
nought to him. There is no mercy for heretics, whomsoever they may
be; and unless you can satisfy him thoroughly your best plan is to
go back at once to Axel, and to cross to Holland. You do not know
what they are. There are spies in every town and village, and were
it known what I have said to you now, little though that be, it
would go hard with me. Women have been burned or strangled for far
less."

"I will be careful," Ned said. "I have business which takes me to
Brussels, but when that is discharged I shall betake me back to
Holland as soon as I can."

By this time the woman, who had been standing over the fire while
she was talking, had roasted two or three slices of pork, and these,
with a piece of black bread and a jug of ale, she placed before
Ned.

Her husband, who had been standing at the door, now came in.

"You are no wiser than I am, wife, with all your scolding. I have
been listening to your talk; you have scolded me whenever I open
my lips, and there you yourself say things ten times as dangerous."

"I say them inside the house, Peter Grantz," she retorted, "and
don't stand talking at the door so that all the village may hear
me. The lad is honest, as I can see by his face, and if I could do
aught for him I would do so."

"I should be glad if you could tell me of some little place where
I could put up in Brussels; some place where I could stay while
looking out for work, without anyone troubling themselves as
to whence I came or where I am going, or what are my views as to
religion or politics."

"That were a difficult matter," the woman replied. "It is not that
the landlords care what party those who visit their house belong
to, but that for aught they know there may be spies in their own
household; and in these days it is dangerous even to give shelter
to one of the new religion. Therefore, although landlords may care
nothing who frequent their houses, they are in a way forced to
do so lest they themselves should be denounced as harbourers of
heretics. Brussels has a strong party opposed to the duke; for you
know that it is not those of the new religion only who would gladly
see the last of the Spaniards. There are but few heretics in Brabant
now, the Inquisition and the Council of Blood have made an end of
most, others have fled either to France, or England, or Holland,
some have outwardly conformed to the rites of the Church, and
there are few indeed who remain openly separated from her, though
in their hearts they may remain heretics as before.

"Still there are great numbers who long to see the old Constitution
restored--to see persecution abolished, the German and Spanish
troops sent packing, and to be ruled by our own laws under the
viceroy of the King of Spain. Therefore in Brussels you are not
likely to be very closely questioned. There are great numbers of
officials, a small garrison, and a good many spies; all of these
are for the duke, the rest of the population would rise tomorrow
did they see a chance of success. I should say that you are more
likely, being a stranger, of being suspected of being a spy than
of being a heretic--that is if you are one, which I do not ask
and do not want to know. The people of Brussels are not given to
tumults as are those of Antwerp and Ghent, but are a quiet people
going their own way. Being the capital there are more strangers
resort there than to other places, and therefore people come and go
without inquiry; still were I you I would, if you have any good
reason for avoiding notice, prefer to lodge outside the city,
entering the gates of a morning, doing what business you may have
during the day, and leaving again before sunset. That way you would
altogether avoid questionings, and will attract no more attention
than other country people going in to sell their goods."

"Thank you, I will follow your advice," Ned said. "I have no wish
to get into trouble, and being a stranger there I should have
difficulty in proving that my story is a true one were I questioned."

The next morning Ned set out at daybreak, and arrived at Brussels
early in the afternoon. He had determined to adopt the advice given
him the evening before; and also that he would not endeavour to
get a lodging in any of the villages.

"It will not take me more than a day, or at most two days, to
deliver my letters," he thought to himself, "and there will be no
hardship in sleeping in the fields or under a tree for a couple of
nights. In that way I shall escape all notice, for people talk in
villages even more than they do in towns." He had decided that he
would not that day endeavour to deliver any of the letters, but
would content himself with walking about the town and learning
the names of the streets, so that he could set about delivering
the letters without the necessity for asking many questions. When
within half a mile of the town he left the road, and cutting open
the lining of his jerkin took out the letters. Then he cut up a
square piece of turf with his knife, scooped out a little earth,
inserted the packet of letters, and then stamped down the sod
above it. In another hole close to it he buried the money hidden in
his boot, and then returning to the road walked on into Brussels,
feeling much more comfortable now that he had for a time got rid of
documents that would cost him his life, were they found upon him.

Passing through the gates, he wandered about for some hours through
the streets, interested in the stir and bustle that prevailed.
Mingled with the grave citizens were Spanish and German soldiers,
nobles with their trains of pages and followers, deputies from other
towns of Brabant and Artois, monks and priests, country people who
had brought in their produce, councillors and statesmen, Spanish
nobles and whining mendicants. He learnt the names of many of the
streets, and marked the houses of those for whom he had letters.
Some of these were nobles, others citizens of Brussels. He bought
some bread and cheese in the marketplace, and ate them sitting
on a doorstep; and having tied some food in a bundle to serve for
supper, he left the town well satisfied with his discoveries.

He slept under the shelter of a haystack, and in the morning dug up
the packet, sewed it up in its hiding place again, and re-entered
the city as soon as the gates were opened, going in with a number
of market people who had congregated there awaiting the opening of
the gates. In a very short time the shops were all opened; for if
the people went to bed early, they were also astir early in those
days. He went first towards the house of one of the burghers, and
watched until he saw the man himself appear at the doorway of his
shop; then he walked across the street.

"The weather is clear," he said, "but the sun is nigh hidden with
clouds."

The burgher gave a slight start; then Ned went on:

"I have brought you tidings from the farm."

"Come in," the burgher said in loud tones, so that he could be
heard by his two assistants in the shop. "My wife will be glad to
hear tidings of her old nurse, who was ill when she last heard from
her. You can reassure her in that respect, I hope?"

"Yes, she is mending fast," Ned replied, as he followed the burgher
through the shop.

The man led the way upstairs, and then into a small sitting room.
He closed the door behind him.

"Now," he asked, "what message do you bring from Holland?"

"I bring a letter," Ned replied; and taking out his knife again
he cut the threads of the lining and produced the packet. The silk
that bound it, and which was fastened by the prince's seal, was
so arranged that it could be slipped off, and so enable the packet
to be opened without breaking the seal. Ned took out the letters;
and after examining the marks on the corners, handed one to the
burgher. The latter opened and read the contents.

"I am told," he said when he had finished, "not to give you an
answer in writing, but to deliver it by word of mouth. Tell the
prince that I have sounded many of my guild, and that certainly
the greater part of the weavers will rise and join in expelling
the Spaniards whenever a general rising has been determined upon;
and it is certain that all the other chief towns will join in the
movement. Unless it is general, I fear that nothing can be done.
So great is the consternation that has been caused by the sack of
Mechlin, the slaughter of thousands of the citizens, and the horrible
atrocities upon the women, that no city alone will dare to provoke
the vengeance of Alva. All must rise or none will do so. I am convinced
that Brussels will do her part, if others do theirs; although, as
the capital, it is upon her the first brunt of the Spanish attack
will fall. In regard to money, tell him that at present none can
be collected. In the first place, we are all well nigh ruined by
the exactions of the Spanish; and in the next, however well disposed
we may be, there are few who would commit themselves by subscribing
for the cause until the revolt is general and successful. Then, I
doubt not, that the councillors would vote as large a subsidy as
the city could afford to pay. Four at least of the members of the
council of our guild can be thoroughly relied upon, and the prince
can safely communicate with them. These are Gunther, Barneveldt,
Hasselaer, and Buys."

"Please, repeat them again," Ned said, "in order that I may be sure
to remember them rightly."

"As to general toleration," the burgher went on, after repeating the
names, "in matters of religion, although there are many differences
of opinion, I think that the prince's commands on this head will
be complied with, and that it would be agreed that Lutherans,
Calvinists, and other sects will be allowed to assemble for worship
without hindrance; but the Catholic feeling is very strong, especially
among the nobles, and the numbers of those secretly inclined to the
new religion has decreased greatly in the past few years, just as
they have increased in Holland and Zeeland, where, as I hear, the
people are now well nigh all Protestants. Please assure the prince
of my devotion to him personally, and that I shall do my best to
further his plans, and can promise him that the Guild of Weavers
will be among the first to rise against the tyranny of the Spaniards."

Ned, as he left the house, decided that the man he had visited was
not one of those who would be of any great use in an emergency. He
was evidently well enough disposed to the cause, but was not one
to take any great risks, or to join openly in the movement unless
convinced that success was assured for it. He was walking along,
thinking the matter over, when he was suddenly and roughly accosted.
Looking up he saw the Councillor Von Aert and his clerk; the former
with an angry look on his face, the latter, who was close beside
his master, and who had evidently drawn his attention to him, with
a malicious grin of satisfaction.

"Hullo, sirrah," the councillor said angrily, "did I not tell you
to call upon me at Antwerp?"

Ned took off his hat, and said humbly, "I should of course have
obeyed your worship's order had I passed through Antwerp; but I
afterwards remembered that I had cause to pass through Ghent, and
therefore took that road, knowing well that one so insignificant as
myself could have nothing to tell your worship that should occupy
your valuable time."

"That we will see about," the councillor said grimly. "Genet, lay
your hand upon this young fellow's collar. We will lodge him in
safe keeping, and inquire into the matter when we have leisure. I
doubt not that you were right when you told me that you suspected
he was other than he seemed."

Ned glanced round; a group of Spanish soldiers were standing close
by, and he saw that an attempt at escape would be hopeless. He
therefore walked quietly along by the side of the clerk's horse,
determining to wrest himself from the man's hold and run for it
the instant he saw an opportunity. Unfortunately, however, he was
unaware that they were at the moment within fifty yards of the
prison. Several bystanders who had heard the conversation followed
to see the result; and other passersby, seeing Ned led by the collar
behind the dreaded councillor, speedily gathered around with looks
expressing no goodwill to Von Aert.

The Spanish soldiers, however, accustomed to frays with the
townspeople, at once drew their weapons and closed round the clerk
and his captive, and two minutes later they arrived at the door of
the prison, and Ned, completely taken by surprise, found himself
thrust in and the door closed behind him before he had time to
decide upon his best course.

"You will place this prisoner in a secure place," the councillor
said. "It is a case of grave suspicion; and I will myself question
him later on. Keep an eye upon him until I come again."

Ned was handed over to two warders, who conducted him to a chamber
in the third storey. Here, to his dismay, one of his jailers took
up his post, while the other retired, locking the door behind him.
Thus the intention Ned had formed as he ascended the stairs of
destroying the documents as soon as he was alone, was frustrated.
The warder took his place at the window, which looked into an
inner court of the prison, and putting his head out entered into
conversation with some of his comrades in the yard below.

Ned regretted now that he had, before leaving the burgher, again
sewn up the letters in his doublet. Had he carried them loosely
about him, he could have chewed them up one by one and swallowed
them; but he dared not attempt to get at them now, as his warder
might at any moment look round. The latter was relieved twice during
the course of the day. None of the men paid any attention to the
prisoner. The succession of victims who entered the walls of the
prison only to quit them for the gallows was so rapid that they
had no time to concern themselves with their affairs.

Probably the boy was a heretic; but whether or not, if he had
incurred the enmity of Councillor Von Aert, his doom was sealed.

It was late in the evening before a warder appeared at the door,
and said that the councillor was below, and that the prisoner was
to be brought before him. Ned was led by the two men to a chamber
on the ground floor. Here Von Aert, with two of his colleagues,
was seated at a table, the former's clerk standing behind him.

"This is a prisoner I myself made this morning," Von Aert said to
his companions. "I overtook him two miles this side of Axel, and
questioned him. He admitted that he came from Holland; and his
answers were so unsatisfactory that I ordered him strictly to call
upon me at Antwerp, not having time at that moment to question him
further. Instead of obeying, he struck off from the road and took
that through Ghent; and I should have heard no more of him, had I
not by chance encountered him this morning in the street here. Has
he been searched?" he asked the warder.

"No, your excellency. You gave no orders that he should be examined."

"Fools!" the councillor said angrily; "this is the way you do your
duty. Had he been the bearer of important correspondence he might
have destroyed it by now."

"We have not left him, your excellency. He has never been alone for
a moment, and had no opportunity whatever for destroying anything."

"Well, search that bundle first," the councillor said.

The bundle was found to contain nothing suspicious.

"Now, take off his doublet and boots and examine them carefully.
Let not a seam or corner escape you."

Accustomed to the work, one of the warders had scarcely taken the
doublet in his hand when he proclaimed that there was a parcel sewn
up in the lining.

"I thought so!" Von Aert exclaimed, beaming with satisfaction at
his own perspicacity. "I thought there was something suspicious
about the fellow. I believe I can almost smell out a heretic or a
traitor."

The councillor's colleagues murmured their admiration at his
acuteness.

"What have we here?" Von Aert went on, as he examined the packet.
"A sealed parcel addressed 'To the Blue Cap in the South Corner of
the Market Square of Brussels.' What think you of that, my friends,
for mystery and treason? Now, let us see the contents. Ah, ten
letters without addresses! But I see there are marks different from
each other on the corners. Ah!" he went on with growing excitement,
as he tore one open and glanced at the contents, "from the arch
traitor himself to conspirators here in Brussels. This is an important
capture indeed. Now, sirrah, what have you to say to this? For whom
are these letters intended?"

"I know nothing of the contents of the letters, worshipful sir,"
Ned said, falling on his knees and assuming an appearance of abject
terror. "They were delivered to me at Haarlem, and I was told that
I should have five nobles if I carried them to Brussels and delivered
them safely to a man who would meet me in the south corner of the
Market Square of Brussels. I was to hold the packet in my hand and
sling my bundle upon my stick, so that he might know me. He was to
have a blue cap on, and was to touch me on the shoulder and ask me
'How blows the wind in Holland?' and that, worshipful sir, is all
I know about it. I could not tell that there was any treason in the
business, else not for fifty nobles would I have undertaken it."

"You lie, you young villain!" the councillor shouted. "Do you
try to persuade me that the Prince of Orange would have intrusted
documents of such importance to the first boy he met in the street?
In the first place you must be a heretic."

"I don't know about heretics," Ned said, rising to his feet and
speaking stubbornly. "I am of the religion my father taught me,
and I would not pretend that I was a Catholic, not to save my life."

"There you are, you see," the councillor said triumphantly to his
colleagues. "Look at the obstinacy and insolence of these Hollanders.
Even this brat of a boy dares to tell us that he is not a Catholic.
Take him away," he said to the warder, "and see that he is securely
kept. We may want to question him again; but in any case he will
go to the gallows tomorrow or next day."

Ned was at once led away.

"What think you?" Von Aert asked his colleagues as the door closed
behind the prisoner. "Is it worth while to apply the torture to him
at once to obtain from him the names of those for whom these letters
were intended? It is most important for us to know. Look at this
letter; it is from the prince himself, and refers to preparations
making for a general rising."

"I should hardly think the boy would have been intrusted with so
important a secret," one of the other councillors said; "for it
would be well known he would be forced by torture to reveal it if
these letters were to be found upon him. I think that the story he
tells us is a true one, and that it is more likely they would be
given him to deliver to some person who would possess the key to
these marks on the letters."

"Well, at any rate no harm can be done by applying the screws," the
councillor said. "If he knows they will make him speak, I warrant
you."

The other two agreed.

"If you will allow me to suggest, your excellency," Genet said
humbly, "that it might be the better way to try first if any such
as this Blue Cap exists. The boy might be promised his life if he
could prove that the story was true. Doubtless there is some fixed
hour at which he was to meet this Blue Cap. We might let him go to
meet him, keeping of course a strict watch over him. Then if any
such man appears and speaks to him we could pounce upon him at once
and wring from him the key to these marks. If no such man appears
we should then know that the story was but a device to deceive,
and could then obtain by some means the truth from him."

The suggestion met with approval.

"That is a very good plan, and shall be carried out. Send for the
prisoner again."

Ned was brought down again.

"We see that you are young," Von Aert said, "and you have doubtless
been misled in this matter, and knew not that you were carrying
treasonable correspondence. We therefore are disposed to treat
you leniently. At what time were you to meet this Blue Cap in the
market?"

"Within an hour of sunset," Ned replied. "I am to be there at sunset
and to wait for an hour; and was told that he would not fail to
come in that time, but that if he did I was to come again the next
day."

"It is to be hoped that he will not fail you," Von Aert said grimly,
"for we shall not be disposed to wait his pleasure. Tomorrow evening
you will go with a packet and deliver it to the man when he comes
to you. Beware that you do not try to trick us, for you will be
closely watched, and it will be the worse for you if you attempt
treachery. If the man comes those who are there will know how to
deal with him."

"And shall I be at liberty to depart?" Ned asked doubtfully.

"Of course you will," Von Aert replied; "we should then have no
further occasion for you, and you would have proved to us that your
story was a true one, and that you were really in ignorance that
there was any harm in carrying the packet hither."

Ned was perfectly well aware that the councillor was lying, and that
even had he met the man in the blue cap he would be dragged back
to prison and put to death, and that the promise meant absolutely
nothing--the Spaniards having no hesitation in breaking the
most solemn oaths made to heretics. He had, indeed, only asked the
question because he thought that to assent too willingly to the
proposal might arouse suspicion. It was the very thing he had been
hoping for, and which offered the sole prospect of escape from a
death by torture, for it would at least give him the chance of a
dash for freedom.

He had named an hour after sunset partly because it was the hour
which would have been probably chosen by those who wished that the
meeting should take place unobserved, but still more because his
chances of escape would be vastly greater were the attempt made
after dark. The three councillors sat for some time talking over
the matter after Ned had been removed. The letters had all been
read. They had been carefully written, so as to give no information
if they should fall into the wrong hands, and none of them contained
any allusion whatever to past letters or previous negotiations.

"It is clear," Von Aert said, "that this is a conspiracy, and that
those to whom these letters are sent are deeply concerned in it,
and yet these letters do not prove it. Suppose that we either seize
this Blue Cap or get from the boy the names of those for whom the
letters are intended, they could swear on the other hand that they
knew nothing whatever about them, and had been falsely accused. No
doubt many of these people are nobles and citizens of good position,
and if it is merely their word against the word of a boy, and that
wrung from him by torture, our case would not be a strong one."

"Our case is not always strong," one of the other councillors said;
"but that does not often make much difference."

"It makes none with the lower class of the people," Von Aert agreed;
"but when we have to deal with people who have influential friends
it is always best to be able to prove a case completely. I think
that if we get the names of those for whom the letters are meant we
can utilize the boy again. We will send him to deliver the letters
in person, as I believe he was intended to do. He may receive
answers to take back to Holland; but even if he does not the fact
that these people should have received such letters without at once
denouncing the bearer and communicating the contents to us, will
be quite sufficient proof of their guilt."

"In that case," one of the others remarked, "the boy must not be
crippled with the torture."

"There will be no occasion for that," Von Aert said contemptuously.
"A couple of turns with the thumbscrew will suffice to get out of
a boy of that age everything he knows. Well, my friends, we will
meet here tomorrow evening. I shall go round to the Market Square
with Genet to see the result of this affair, in which I own I
am deeply interested; not only because it is most important, but
because it is due to the fact that I myself entertained a suspicion
of the boy that the discovery of the plot has been made. I will
take charge of these letters, which are for the time useless to
us, but which are likely to bring ten men's heads to the block."

As Ned sat alone in his cell during the long hours of the following
day he longed for the time to come when his fate was to be settled.
He was determined that if it lay with him he would not be captured
alive. He would mount to the top story of a house and throw himself
out of a window, or snatch a dagger from one of his guards and
stab himself, if he saw no mode of escape. A thousand times better
to die so than to expire on a gibbet after suffering atrocious
tortures, which would, he knew, wring from him the names of those
for whom the letters were intended.

He could bear pain as well as another; but flesh and blood could not
resist the terrible agonies inflicted by the torture, and sooner
or later the truth would be wrung from the most reluctant lips.
Still he thought that he had a fair chance of escape. It was clear
that he could not be closely surrounded by a guard, for in that
case Blue Cap would not venture near him. He must, therefore, be
allowed a considerable amount of liberty; and, however many men
might be on watch a short distance off, he ought to be able by a
sudden rush to make his way through them. There would at that hour
be numbers of people in the street, and this would add to his chance
of evading his pursuers.

He ate heartily of a meal that was brought him at midday, and when
just at sunset the warder entered the cell and told him to follow
him, he felt equal to any exertion. When he came down into the
courtyard, a dozen men were gathered there, together with Von Aert
and his clerk.

"Now," the councillor said sternly, "you see these men. They will
be round you on all sides, and I warn you that if you attempt to
escape or to give any warning sign to this Blue Cap, or to try any
tricks with us of any sort, you shall be put to death with such
tortures as you never dreamt of. Upon the other hand, if you carry
out my orders faithfully, and hand over this packet to the man
who meets you, you will be at liberty to go straight away, and to
return home without molestation."

"I understand," Ned replied; "and as I cannot help myself, will do
your bidding. Where are my stick and bundle? He will not know me
unless I have them. I am to carry them on my shoulder."

"Ah! I forgot," the councillor said, and giving the order to one
of the warders Ned's bundle and stick were brought him.

"You will stroll leisurely along," Von Aert said, "and appear natural
and unconcerned. We shall be close to you, and you will be seized
in an instant if we observe anything suspicious in your movements."
Von Aert then took a packet from his doublet and handed it to
Ned, who placed it in his belt. The prison door was opened; three
or four of the men went out, and Ned followed. It was a curious
feeling to him as he walked down the street. Round him were numbers
of people laughing and chatting as they went, while he, though
apparently as free as they, was a prisoner with a dozen pair of
eyes watching him, and his life in deadly peril.



CHAPTER IX

IN HIDING


After five minutes' walking Ned arrived at the market square and
passed steadily down towards the south corner. The market was long
since over, and the market folk had returned to their farms and
villages, but there were a large number of people walking about. It
was already growing dusk, and in another half hour would be dark.
Ned turned when he got near the corner, strolled a short distance
back and then turned again. He carefully abstained from seeming
to stare about. The councillor and his clerk kept within a short
distance of him, the former wrapped up in a cloak with a high collar
that almost concealed his face.

As to the others watching him, Ned could only guess at them. Four
men he noticed, who turned whenever he did; the others he guessed
were keeping somewhat further off, or were perhaps stationed at
the streets leading out of the square so as to cut him off should
he escape from those close to him. A few oil lamps were suspended
from posts at various points in the square, and at the ends of the
streets leading from it. These were lighted soon after he arrived
in the square. He decided that it would not do to make for the
street leading out of the south corner, as this was the one that he
would be suspected of aiming for; and, moreover, men would surely
be placed there to cut off Blue Cap on his entry. He, therefore,
determined to make for a somewhat narrow street, about halfway
between the south and west corners.

He had followed this on the day he entered Brussels, as one of the
persons to whom the letters were addressed lived in it. He knew
that there were many lanes running into it, and that at the lower
end several streets, branching off in various directions, met in
the small square in which it terminated. Half an hour passed. It
was now quite dark, and he felt that he had better delay no longer.
He walked half along his beat towards the south corner, then with
a sudden spring darted off. The two men walking on that side of him
were some ten paces distant, and he ran straight at them. Taken by
surprise, before they had time to throw back their cloaks and draw
their rapiers, he was upon them.

With a blow from his leaded stick, delivered with all his strength,
he struck one man to the ground, and then turning to the other
struck him on the wrist as he was in the act of drawing his sword.
The man uttered a loud cry of pain and rage, and Ned ran at the
top of his speed towards the street. He knew that he need fear
no pursuit from the two men he had encountered, that those on the
other side of him were some distance behind, and that as so many
people intervened his pursuers would probably soon lose sight of
him. Threading his way between the groups of people, who had arrested
their walk at the sound of loud and sudden shouting, he approached
the end of the street.

By the light of the lamp there he saw two men standing with drawn
swords. Breaking suddenly into a walk he made for the house next to
the street, and then turned so that he came upon the men sideways
instead of from the front, at which they were expecting him. There
was a sudden exclamation from the man nearest to him; but Ned was
within two yards of him before he perceived him, and before he was
on guard the loaded stick fell with the full sweep of Ned's arm
upon his ankle, and in an instant he was prostrate, and Ned darted
at full speed down the street with the other man in pursuit a few
paces behind him.

Before he had run far Ned found that he could gain but little upon
his pursuer, and that he must rid himself of him if he were to have
a chance of escaping. He slackened his speed a little, and allowed
the man to gain slightly upon him. Thinking that the fugitive was
within his grasp the warder exerted himself to his utmost. Suddenly
Ned sprang into a doorway; the man, unable to check himself, rushed
past. In a moment Ned was out again, and before the fellow could
arrest his steps and turn, gave him a violent shove behind, which
hurled him on his face with a tremendous crash, and Ned continued
his way. There was a great shouting, but it was full fifty yards
away, and he felt his hopes rise. His pursuers were now all behind
him, and he felt sure that in the darkness and the narrow streets
he should be able to evade them.

He took the first turning he came to, turned again and again, and
presently slackened his pace to a walk, convinced that for a time
his pursuers must be at fault. He was now among narrow streets
inhabited by the poorer classes. There were no lamps burning here,
and he began to wonder which way he had better take, and where he
should pass the night. It was absolutely necessary to obtain some
other disguise, for he was sure that the gates would be so carefully
watched in the morning there would be no chance whatever of his
getting safely out in his present attire. Presently, through a
casement on the ground floor, he heard the sound of low singing in
a woman's voice. He stopped at once and listened. It was the air
of a Lutheran hymn he had frequently heard in Holland. Without
hesitation he knocked at the door, and lifting the latch entered.
A woman and girl were sitting at work inside; they looked up in
surprise at seeing a stranger.

"Pardon me," he said, "but I am a Protestant, and am hunted by Alva's
bloodhounds. I have evaded them and I am safe for the present; but
I know not where to go, or where to obtain a disguise. As I passed
the window I heard the air of a Lutheran hymn, and knew that there
were within those who would, if they could, aid me."

The woman looked reprovingly at the girl.

"How imprudent of you, Gertrude!" she said. "Not that it is your
fault more than mine. I ought to have stopped you, but I did not
think your voice would be heard through that thick curtain. Who are
you, sir, and where do you come from?" she asked, turning to Ned.

"I come from Holland," he said, "and was the bearer of important
letters from the Prince of Orange."

The woman hesitated. "I would not doubt you," she said; "but in
these days one has to be suspicious of one's shadow. However, as
after what you have heard our lives are in your hands, I would fain
trust you; though it seems to me strange that an important mission
should be intrusted to one of your age and station."

"My age was all in my favour," Ned replied. "As to my station, it
is not quite what it seems; for I am a gentleman volunteer in the
household of the prince, and he accepted my services thinking that
I might succeed when a man would be suspected."

"I will give you shelter," the woman said quietly; "though I know
that I risk my life and my daughter's in doing so. But the Lord holds
us in His hands, and unless it be His will we shall not perish."
So saying, she got up and barred the door.

"Now, tell me more as to how you came to fall into this peril,"
she said.

Ned related his adventure, and the manner in which he had effected
his escape from the hands of his captors.

"You have, indeed, had an escape," the woman said. "There are few
upon whom Councillor Von Aert lays his hand who ever escape from
it. You have indeed shown both skill and courage in thus freeing
yourself."

"There is no great courage in running away when you know that if
you stay torture and death are before you," Ned replied.

"And now, what are your plans?" the woman asked.

"My only plan is to obtain a disguise in which to escape from the
city. My mission is unfortunately ended by the loss of my papers,
and I shall have but a sorry story to tell to the prince if I
succeed in making my way back to Holland, of the utter failure I
have made of the mission with which he was good enough to intrust
me."

He took from his belt the packet that Von Aert had given him, and
was about to throw it in the fire when his eye fell upon it. He
opened it hastily, and exclaimed with delight, "Why, here are the
letters! That scoundrel must have had them in his doublet, as well
as the packet made up for me to carry, and he has inadvertently given
me the wrong parcel. See, madam, these are the letters I told you
of, and these are the marks in the corners whose meaning Von Aert
was so anxious to discover. Now, if I can but obtain a good disguise
I will deliver these letters before I start on my way back."

The girl, who was about fourteen years of age, spoke a few words
in a low voice to her mother. The latter glanced at Ned.

"My daughter suggests that you should disguise yourself as a woman,"
she said. "And indeed in point of height you might pass well, seeing
that you are but little taller than myself. But I fear that you
are far too widely built across the shoulders to wear my clothes."

"Yes, indeed," Ned agreed, smiling; "but you are tall and slight.
I could pass well enough for one of these Flemish peasant girls,
for they are sometimes near as broad as they are long. Yes, indeed,
if I could get a dress such as these girls wear I could pass easily
enough. I am well provided with money, but unfortunately it is
hidden in the ground a mile outside the gates. I only carry with
me a small sum for daily use, and that of course was taken from me
by my jailers."

"Be not uneasy about money," the woman said. "Like yourself, we
are not exactly what we look. I am the Countess Von Harp."

Ned made a movement of surprise. The name was perfectly known to
him, being that of a noble in Friesland who had been executed at
Brussels a few months before by the orders of the Council of Blood.

"When my husband was murdered," the Countess Von Harp went on,
"I received a warning from a friend that I and my daughter, being
known to be members of the Reformed Church, would be seized. For
myself I cared little; but for my daughter's sake I resolved to
endeavour to escape. I knew that I should be nowhere safe in the
Netherlands, and that there was little chance of a woman and girl
being able to escape from the country, when upon every road we
should meet with disorderly soldiery, and every town we should pass
through swarmed with Alva's agents. I resolved, therefore, to stay
here. An old servant took this house for me, and here I have lived
ever since in the disguise you see. My servant still lives with
us, and goes abroad and makes our purchases. Our neighbours are all
artisans and attend to their own business. It is supposed among
them that I am one who has been ruined in the troubles, and now
support myself by embroidery; but in fact I am well supplied with
money. When I came here I brought all my jewels with me; besides,
I have several good friends who know my secret, and through whom,
from time to time, money has been transmitted to me from my steward
in Friesland. Our estates in Brabant have of course been confiscated,
and for a time those in Friesland were also seized. But when the
people rose four months ago they turned out the man who had seized
them, and as he was a member of the Council of Blood he was lucky
in escaping with his life. So that, you see, the cost of a peasant
woman's dress is a matter that need give you no concern."

There was now a knock at the door. It was repeated.

"It is my servant," the countess said. Ned at once unbarred and
opened the door. The old woman gave an exclamation of astonishment
at seeing a stranger.

"Come in, Magdalene," the countess said; "it is a friend. You are
later than I expected."

"It is not my fault, madam," the old servant said. "I have been
stopped four or five times, and questioned and made game of, by
German soldiers posted at the ends of the streets; the quarter is
full of them. I was going through the market place when a sudden
tumult arose, and they say a prisoner of great importance has made
his escape. Councillor Von Aert was there, shouting like a madman.
But he had better have held his tongue; for as soon as he was
recognized the crowd hustled and beat him, and went nigh killing
him, when some men with drawn swords rescued him from their hands,
and with great difficulty escorted him to the town hall. He is hated
in Brussels, and it was rash of him to venture out after dark."

"This is the escaped prisoner, Magdalene." The old woman looked
with surprise at Ned.

"You are pleased to joke with me, madam. This is but a boy."

"That is true, Magdalene; but he is, nevertheless, the prisoner
whose escaped angered the councillor so terribly, and for whom the
guard you speak of are now in search."

The old servant shook her head. "Ah, madam, are you not running risks
enough of detection here without adding to them that of concealing
a fugitive?"

"You are right," Ned said; "and it was selfish and wrong of me to
intrude myself here."

"God willed it so," the countess said. "My daughter's voice was
the instrument that directed your steps here. It is strange that
she should have sung that hymn just as you were passing, and that
I should have heard her without checking her. The hand of God
is in all these things; therefore, do not make yourself uneasy on
our account. Magdalene, we have settled that he shall assume the
disguise of a young peasant girl, and tomorrow you shall purchase
the necessary garments."

"Yes, he might pass as a girl," the old servant agreed. "But, I pray
you, let him not stay an instant in this garb. I do not think they
will search the houses, for the artisans of Brussels are tenacious
of their rights, and an attempt would bring them out like a swarm
of bees. Still it is better that he should not remain as he is for
an hour. Come with me, young sir; I will furnish you with clothes
at once. I am not so tall as I was, but there were few taller women
in Friesland than I was when I was the countess' nurse."

Ned could well imagine that; for Magdalene, although now some sixty
years old, was a tall, large framed woman. He followed her to a
chamber upstairs, and was furnished by her with all the necessary
articles of dress; and in these, as soon as, having placed an oil
lamp on the table, she retired, he proceeded to array himself, and
presently descended the stairs, feeling very strange and awkward
in this new attire. Gertrude Von Harp burst into a fit of merry
laughter, and even the countess smiled.

"That will do very well, indeed," she said, "when you have got on
the Flemish headdress, which conceals the hair."

"I have it here, madam," Magdalene said; "but it was useless to
leave it up there for him, for he would have no idea how to fold
it rightly. Now sit down on that stool, sir, and I will put it on
for you."

When this was done the metamorphosis was complete, and Ned could
have passed anywhere without exciting suspicion that he was other
than he seemed.

"That will do all very well for the present," Magdalene said; "but
the first thing tomorrow I will go out and get him a gown at the
clothes mart. His face is far too young for that dress. Moreover
the headgear is not suited to the attire; he needs, too, a long
plait of hair to hang down behind. That I can also buy for him,
and a necklace or two of bright coloured beads. However, he could
pass now as my niece should any one chance to come in. Now I will
go upstairs and fetch down his clothes and burn them. If a search
should be made they will assuredly excite suspicion if found in a
house occupied only by women."

"You had best not do that, Magdalene. Hide them in a bed or up
one of the chimneys. When he leaves this and gets into the country
he will want them again. In these times a young woman unprotected
could not walk the road by herself, and dressed as a woman it would
be strange for him to be purchasing male attire."

"That is true enough, madam; as you say, it will be better to hide
them until he can leave, which I hope will be very shortly."

"I wish we could leave too," the countess sighed. "I am weary of
this long confinement here, and it is bad for Gertrude never going
out except for a short walk with you after dark."

"It would not do to attempt it," the old woman said. "The Spanish
soldiers are plundering all round Ghent; the Germans are no better
at Antwerp. You know what stories are reported of their doings."

"No, we could not go in that direction," the countess agreed; "but
I have thought often, Magdalene, that we may possibly make our way
down to Ostend. Things are much quieter on that line."

"I should be glad to give you what escort I could, madam," Ned said.
"But, indeed, the times are bad for travelling and as you are safe
here as it seems for the present, I would not say a word to induce
you to leave and to encounter such dangers as you might meet by the
way. In a short time, I believe, the greater part of the Spaniards
and Germans will march against Holland, and Brabant will then be
free from the knaves for awhile, and the journey might be undertaken
with greater safety."

"You are right," the countess said. "It was but a passing thought,
and now we have waited here so long we may well wait a little longer.
Now, tell us more about yourself. You speak Dutch perfectly, and
yet it seems to me at times that there is some slight accent in
your tones."

"I am only half Dutch," Ned replied; "my father is English." He
then related the whole history of his parentage, and of the events
which led him to take service with the Prince of Orange. When he
had concluded the countess said:

"Your story accounts for matters which surprised me somewhat in
what you first told me. The men of our Low Countries are patient
and somewhat slow of action, as is shown by the way in which they
so long submitted to the cruel tyranny of the Spaniards. Now they
have once taken up their arms, they will, I doubt not, defend
themselves, and will fight to the death, however hopeless the
chances may seem against them; but they are not prompt and quick
to action. Therefore the manner of your escape from the hands of
those who were watching you appeared to me wonderful; but now I know
that you are English, and a sailor too, I can the better understand
it, for I have heard that your countrymen are quick in their
decisions and prompt in action.

"They say that many of them are coming over to fight in Holland;
being content to serve without pay, and venturing their lives in
our cause, solely because our religion is the same and they have
hatred of oppression, having long been free from exactions on the
part of their sovereigns. Many of our people have taken refuge there,
and I have more than once thought that if the Spaniards continued
to lord it in the Netherlands I would pass across the seas with
Gertrude. My jewels would sell for enough to enable us to live
quietly there."

"If you should go to England, madam," Ned said earnestly, "I pray
you in the first place to inquire for Mistress Martin at Rotherhithe,
which is close by the city. I can warrant you she will do all in
her power to assist you, and that her house will be at your disposal
until you can find a more suitable lodgment. She will know from
me, if I should escape from these dangers, from how great a peril
you have saved me, and if it should be that I do not return home,
she will welcome you equally when she learns from your lips that
you took me in here when I was pursued by the minions of the Council
of Blood, and that you furnished me with a disguise to enable me
to escape from them."

"Should I go to England," the countess replied, "I will assuredly
visit your mother, were it only to learn whether you escaped from
all the dangers of your journey; but, indeed, I would gladly do
so on my own account, for it is no slight comfort on arriving as
strangers in an unknown country to meet with one of one's own nation
to give us advice and assistance."

For another two hours they sat and talked of England, the countess
being glad, for once, to think of another subject than the sad
condition of her country. Then when the clock sounded nine they
retired, Magdalene insisting upon Ned occupying her chamber, while
she lay down upon a settle in the room in which they were sitting.
Ned slept long and heavily; he had had but little rest during the
two previous nights, and the sun was high when he awoke. As soon
as he began to move about there was a knock at his door, and the
old servant entered.

"I need not ask if you have slept well," she remarked "for the clocks
have sounded nine, and I have been back an hour from market. Here
are all your things, and I warrant me that when you are dressed in
them you will pass anywhere as a buxom peasant girl."

Indeed, when Ned came downstairs in the short petticoats, trimmed
bodice, and bright kerchief pinned across the bosom, and two rows
of large blue beads round his neck, his disguise was perfect, save
as to his head. This Magdalene again arranged for him. "Yes, you
will do very well now," she said, surveying him critically. "I have
bought a basket, too, full of eggs; and with that on your arm you
can go boldly out and fear no detection, and can walk straight
through the city gates."

"I hope I don't look as awkward as I feel?" Ned asked, smiling.

"No, you do not look awkward at all. You had best join a party as
you go out, and separate from them when once you are well beyond
the walls."

"He must return here this evening, Magdalene," the countess said.
"He has a mission to perform, and cannot leave until he does."

"I will set about it at once, countess, and shall get it finished
before the gates are closed. I will not on any account bring upon
you the risk of another night's stay here."

"I think there will be no risk in it," the countess said firmly;
"and for today at least there is sure to be a vigilant watch kept
at the gates. It were best, too, that you left before noon, for by
that time most of the people from the villages round are returning.
If you are not recognized in the streets there is no risk whatever
while you are in here; besides, we shall be anxious to know how
you have got through the day. And another reason why you had better
stay the night is that by starting in the morning you will have
the day before you to get well away, whereas if you go at night
you may well miss your road, especially if there is no moon, and
you do not know the country. Therefore I pray you urgently to come
back here for tonight. It is a pleasure to us to have a visitor
here, and does us good to have a fresh subject for our thoughts.
Gertrude has been doing nothing but talk about England ever since
she woke."

Although Ned saw that the old servant was very reluctant that he
should, as she considered, imperil her charges' safety by a longer
stay, he could not refuse the invitation so warmly given. Breakfast
was now placed on the table. As soon as the meal was over he prepared
to start, receiving many directions from Magdalene to be sure and
not take long strides, or to swing his arms too much, or to stare
about, but to carry himself discreetly, as was becoming a young
woman in a town full of rough foreign men.

"How do you mean to see the people to whom you have letters?" the
countess asked. "Some of them, you tell me, are nobles, and it will
not be easy for a peasant girl to come into their presence."

"I am told to send up the message that a person from the village of
Beerholt is desirous of speaking to them, countess," Ned replied.
"I believe there is no such village, but it is a sort of password;
and I have another with which to address them when they see me."

"I will start with you," the servant said, "and walk with you
until you are past the guards. There are many soldiers about in
the quarter this morning, and I hear they are questioning every
one whether they have seen aught of a country lad."

"I thank you," Ned replied, "but I would rather go alone. If I am
detected harm would only come to myself, but if you were with me
you would assuredly all be involved in my misfortune. I would far
rather go alone. I do not feel that there is any danger of my being
suspected; and if I am alone I can bandy jokes with the soldiers if
they speak to me. There is no fear that either Spanish or Germans
will notice that I speak Dutch rather than Flemish. What is the
price at which I ought to offer my eggs?"

Magdalene told him the price she generally paid to the market women.
"Of course you must ask a little more than that, and let people
beat you down to that figure."

"Now I am off, then," he said, taking up the basket.

"May God keep you in His hands!" the countess said solemnly. "It
is not only your own life that is at stake, but the interests of
our country."

"Turn round and let me take a last look at you," Magdalene said,
"and be sure that everything is right. Yes, you will pass; but
remember what I told you about your walk."

Ned walked briskly along until he came within sight of two soldiers
standing at a point where the street branched. He now walked more
slowly, stopping here and there and offering his eggs to women
standing at their doors or going in and out. As he thought it better
to effect a sale he asked rather lower prices than those Magdalene
had given him, and disposed of three or four dozen before he
reached the soldiers. They made no remark as he passed. He felt
more confident now, and began to enter into the spirit of his part;
and when one of a group of soldiers in front of a wine shop made
some laughing remark to him he answered him pertly, and turned the
laugh of the man's comrades against him.

On nearing the centre of the town he began his task of delivering
the letters, choosing first those who resided in comparatively quiet
streets, so as to get rid of as many of them as possible before he
entered the more crowded thoroughfares, where his risk of detection
would be greater. The only persons he was really afraid of meeting
were Von Aert and his clerk. The first might not detect him, but
he felt sure that if the eyes of the latter fell upon him he would
recognize him. With the various burghers he had little trouble.
If they were in their shops he walked boldly in, and said to them,
"I am the young woman from the village of Beerholt, whom you were
expecting to see;" and in each case the burgher said at once,
"It is my wife who has business with you," and led the way into
the interior of the house. Ned's next question: "How is the wind
blowing in Holland?" was answered by his being taken into a quiet
room. The letter was then produced, and in each case an answer more
or less satisfactory was given.

Ned found that there were a large number of men in Brussels ripe for
a revolt, but that there was no great chance of the rising taking
place until the Prince of Orange had gained some marked success,
such as would encourage hopes that the struggle might in the end
be successful. In three or four cases there were favourable answers
to the appeals for funds, one burgher saying that he and his friends
had subscribed between them a hundred thousand gulden, which they
would forward by the first opportunity to a banker at Leyden. One
said that he found that the prince's proclamations of absolute
toleration of all religions produced a bad effect upon many of his
friends, for that in Brabant they were as attached as ever to the
Catholic religion, and would be loath to see Lutheran and Calvinist
churches opened.

"I know that the prince is desirous of wounding no one's conscience,"
Ned said. "But how can it be expected the Protestants of Holland
and Zeeland will allow the Catholics to have churches, with priests
and processions, in their midst, if their fellow religionists are
not suffered to worship in their way in Brabant? The prince has
already proclaimed that every province may, as at present, make
its own rules. And doubtless in the provinces where the Catholic
religion is dominant it will still remain so. Only he claims that
no man shall be persecuted for his religion."

"It is a pity that we cannot all be of one mind," the man said
doubtfully. "Were there no religious questions between the provinces
they would be as one."

"That may be," Ned replied. "But in religion as in all other things,
men will differ just as they do about the meats they eat and the
wines they drink."

"Well, I shall do my best," the burgher said. "But I fear these
religious differences will forever stand in the way of any united
action on the part of the provinces."

"I fear that it will," Ned agreed, "so long as people think it more
important to enforce their neighbours' consciences than to obtain
freedom for themselves."

The two last letters that Ned had to deliver were to nobles, whose
mansions were situated in the Grand Square. It was not easy to
obtain access here. The lackeys would probably laugh in his face
did he ask them to take his message to their master. And indeed
the disguise he now wore, although excellent as protection from
danger, was the worst possible as regarded his chance of obtaining
an interview. By this time he had sold the greater part of his eggs,
and he sat down, as if fatigued, on a doorstep at a short distance
from one of the mansions, and waited in the hope that he might
presently see the noble with whom he had to do issue out.

In half an hour two mounted lackeys rode up to the door, one of
them leading a horse. A short time afterwards a gentleman came out
and mounted. He heard a bystander say to another, "There is the
Count of Sluys." Ned got up, took his basket, and as the count
came along crossed the road hurriedly just in front of his horse.
As he did so he stumbled and fell, and a number of his eggs rolled
out on the ground. There was a laugh among the bystanders, and the
count reigned in his horse.

"What possessed you to run like that under my horse's feet, my poor
girl?" he asked, as Ned rose and began to cry loudly. Ned looked
up in his face and rapidly said: "I am the person you expect from
Beerholt."

The count gave a low exclamation of surprise, and Ned went on, "How
does the wind blow in Holland?" The count deliberately felt in his
pouch and drew out a coin, which he handed to Ned.

"Be at my back door in an hour's time. Say to the servant who opens
it, 'I am the person expected.' He will lead you to me."

Then he rode forward, Ned pouring out voluble thanks for the coin
bestowed upon him.

"You are a clever wench," a soldier standing by said to Ned laughing.
"That was very artfully done, and I warrant me it is not the first
time you have tried it."

"I wasn't going to carry my eggs all the way back," Ned replied in
an undertone. "I suppose there are tricks in your trade as in mine."

The soldier laughed again, and Ned passing quickly on mingled in
the crowd, and soon moved away a considerable distance from the
house. An hour later he went up a side street, in which was the
door used by the servants and tradespeople of the count. A lackey
was standing there. "I am the person expected," Ned said quietly
to him. He at once led the way into the house up some back stairs
and passages, along a large corridor, then opening a door, he
motioned to Ned to enter.



CHAPTER X

A DANGEROUS ENCOUNTER


The Count of Sluys was sitting at a table covered with papers.

"You have chosen a strange disguise," he said with a smile.

"It is none of my choosing," Ned replied. "I came into the city
in the dress of a peasant boy, but was arrested by Councillor Von
Aert, and had I not made my escape should probably have by this
time been hung."

"Are you the lad for whom such a search has been made?" the count
asked in surprise. "Von Aert is so furious he can talk about nothing
else, and all the world is laughing at his having been tricked by
a boy. Had I known that it was the prince's messenger I should not
have felt inclined to laugh; thinking that papers, that would have
boded me evil if discovered, might have been found upon him."

"They were found upon me," Ned replied; "but happily I recovered
them. As they were not addressed, no one was any the wiser. This
is the one intended for you, sir."

The count opened and read the document, and then gave Ned a long
message to deliver to the prince. It contained particulars of his
interviews with several other nobles, with details as to the number
of men they could put in the field, and the funds they could dispose
of in aid of the rising. Ned took notes of all the figures on a
slip of paper, as he had done in several other instances. The count
then asked him as to his arrest and manner of escape, and laughed
heartily when he found that Von Aert had himself by mistake returned
the letters found upon Ned.

"I have delivered all but one," Ned said. "And that I know not how
to dispose of, for it would be dangerous to play the same trick
again. And, indeed, I want if possible to be out of town tomorrow;
not so much for my own sake, but because were I detected it might
bring destruction upon those who are sheltering me."

"Who is this letter for?" the count asked. Ned hesitated; the
noble to whom the letter was addressed was, like many others of the
prince's secret adherents, openly a strong supporter of the Duke
of Alva. And, indeed, many were at that time playing a double game,
so as to make profit whichever side was successful in the long run.

"Perhaps it is better not to tell me," the count said, seeing Ned's
hesitation, "and I am glad to see that you are so discreet. But it
can be managed in this way: Take a pen and go to that other table
and write the address on the letter. I will call in my servant and
tell him to take it from you and to deliver it at once, and ask
for a reply to the person from Beerholt. That is, if that is the
password to him also. He shall deliver the reply to you, and I will
give you my promise that I will never ask him afterwards to whom
he took the letter."

Ned felt that this would be the best course he could adopt, and
addressed the letter at once. The count touched a bell and the
lackey again entered.

"Take that letter at once," the count said, motioning to the letter
Ned held in his hand. "You will deliver it yourself, and ask that
an answer may be given to you for the person from Beerholt. Wait
for that answer and bring it back here."

After the servant had gone the count chatted with Ned as to the
state of affairs in Holland, and asked him many questions about
himself. It was an hour and a half before the servant returned. He
was advancing with the letter to the count, when the latter motioned
to him to hand it to Ned.

"Is there nothing else that I can do for you?" he asked. "How do
you intend to travel back through the country? Surely not in that
dress?"

"No, sir; I was thinking of procuring another."

"It might be difficult for you to get one," the count said. "I will
manage that for you;" and he again touched the bell. "Philip," he
said to the lackey, "I need a suit of your clothes; a quiet plain
suit, such as you would use if you rode on an errand for me. Bring
them here at once, and order a new suit for yourself.

"He is but little taller than you are," he went on when the man
had retired, "and his clothes will, I doubt not, fit you. You have
not got a horse, I suppose?"

"No, sir."

"Which way are you going back?"

"I shall take the Antwerp road."

"There is a clump of trees about three miles along that road," the
count said. "Philip shall be there with a horse for you at any hour
that you like to name."

"I thank you greatly, count. I will be there at nine in the morning.
I shall sally out in my present dress, leave the road a mile or
so from the town, and find some quiet place where I can put on the
suit you have furnished me with, and then walk on to the wood."

"Very well; you shall find the horse there at that hour without
fail. You are a brave lad, and have carried out your task with
great discretion. I hope some day to see you again by the side of
the Prince of Orange."

A minute later the lackey returned with a bundle containing the
suit of clothes. Ned placed it in his basket.

"Goodbye, and a good journey," the count said. Ned followed the
lackey, whom the count had told him had been born on his estate,
and could be implicitly trusted, down the stairs, and then made
his way without interruption to his lodging.

"Welcome back," the countess exclaimed, as he entered. "We have
prayed for you much today, but I began to fear that harm had befallen
you; for it is already growing dark, and I thought you would have
been here two or three hours since. How have you sped?"

"Excellently well, madam. I have delivered all the letters, and
have obtained answers, in all cases but one, by word of mouth. That
one is in writing; but I shall commit it to heart, and destroy it
at once. Then, if I am again searched, I shall not be in so perilous
a position as before."

He opened the letter and read it. As he had expected, it was
written with extreme caution, and in evidently a feigned hand; no
names either of places or persons were mentioned. The writer simply
assured "his good cousin" of his goodwill, and said that owing to
the losses he had had in business from the troubled times, he could
not say at present how much he could venture to aid him in the new
business on which he had embarked.

After reading it through, Ned threw the paper into the fire.

"He did not feel sure as to whom he was writing," he said, "and
feared treachery. However, as I have obtained nine answers, I need
not mind if this be but a poor one. Now, madam, I am ready to start
at half past seven in the morning. I have been furnished with another
disguise, to put on when I get beyond the walls; and a horse is to
be in waiting for me at a point three miles away; so that I hope
I shall be able to make my way back without much difficulty."

Accordingly in the morning, after many thanks to the Countess Von
Harp for her kindness, and the expression of his sincerest hope that
they might meet again, either in England or Holland, Ned started
on his way. On reaching one of the streets leading to the gate he
fell in behind a group of country people, who, having early disposed
of the produce they had brought to market, were making their way
home. Among them was a lad of about his own age; and on reaching the
gate two soldiers at once stepped forward and seized him, to the
surprise and consternation of himself and his friends. The soldiers
paid no heed to the outcry, but shouted to someone in the guard
house, and immediately a man whom Ned recognized as one of the
warders who had attended him in prison came out.

"That is not the fellow," he said, after a brief look at the captive.
"He is about the same age, but he is much fairer than our fellow,
and in no way like him in face."

Ned did not wait to hear the result of the examination, but at once
passed on out of the gate with the country people unconnected with
the captive. A minute or two later the latter with his friends
issued forth. Ned kept about halfway between the two parties until
he reached a lane branching off from the road in the direction in
which he wished to go. Following this for a mile he came into the
Ghent road, and had no difficulty in finding the place where he had
hidden his money. Going behind a stack of corn, a short distance
away, he changed his clothes; and pushing the female garments well
into the stack, went on his way again, well pleased to be once more
in male attire.

The clothes fitted him well, and were of a sober colour, such as
a trusty retainer of a noble house would wear upon a journey. He
retraced his steps until again on the road to Antwerp, and followed
this until he came to the clump of trees. Here the count's servant
was awaiting him with two horses. He smiled as Ned came up.

"If it had not been my own clothes you are wearing, I should not
have known you again," he said. "The count bade me ask you if you
had need of money? If so, I was to hand you this purse."

"Give my thanks to the count," Ned replied, "and say that I am well
furnished."

"Not in all respects, I think," the man said.

Ned thought for a minute.

"No," he said. "I have no arms."

The man took a brace of pistols from the holsters of his own horse
and placed them in those on Ned's saddle, and then unbuckled his
sword belt and handed it to Ned.

"It is ill travelling unarmed in the Netherlands at present," he
said. "What with the Spaniards and the Germans, and the peasants who
have been driven to take to a robber's life, no man should travel
without weapons. The count bade me give you these, and say he was
sure you would use them well if there should be need."

Ned leaped into the saddle, and with sincere thanks to the man
galloped off towards Antwerp. Unless ill fortune should again throw
him in the way of Von Aert he now felt safe; and he had no fear
that this would be the case, for they would be devoting their whole
energy to the search for him in Brussels. He burst into a fit of
hearty laughter as he rode along, at the thought of the fury the
councillor must have been thrown into when, upon his return home,
he discovered that he had given away the wrong packet of letters.
He would have been angry enough before at the escape of the captive
he was himself watching, and the loss thereby of the means upon
which he had reckoned to discover the ownership of the letters,
and so to swell the list of victims. Still he doubtless consoled
himself at the thought that he was sure before many hours to have
his prisoner again in his power, and that, after all, annoying as
it was, the delay would be a short one indeed. But when he took
the packet from his pocket, and discovered that he had given up the
all important documents, and had retained a packet of blank paper,
he must have seen at once that he was foiled. He might recapture
the prisoner, torture him, and put him to death; but his first
step would of course have been to destroy the precious letters,
and there would be no evidence forthcoming against those for whom
they were intended, and who were doubtless men of considerable
standing and position, and not to be assailed upon the mere avowal
extracted by torture from a boy and unsupported by any written
proofs.

"That evil looking clerk of his will come in for a share of his
displeasure," Ned thought to himself. "I believe that he is worse
than his master, and will take it sorely to heart at having been
tricked by a boy. I should have scant mercy to expect should I ever
fall into their hands again."

Ned rode through the city of Mechlin without drawing rein. It was
but a month since that it had been the scene of the most horrible
butchery, simply because it had opened its gates to the Prince of
Orange on his forward march to attempt the relief of Mons. A few of
the prince's German mercenaries had been left there as a garrison.
These fired a few shots when the Spanish army approached, and
then fled in the night, leaving the town to the vengeance of the
Spaniards. In the morning a procession of priests and citizens went
out to beg for pardon, but the Spaniards rushed into the town and
began a sack and a slaughter that continued for three days.

The churches, monasteries, and religious houses of every kind,
as well as those of the private citizens, were sacked; and the
desecration of the churches by the fanatics of Antwerp, for which
hundreds of heretics had been burnt to death, was now repeated a
thousand fold by the Roman Catholic soldiers of Philip. The ornaments
of the altars, the chalices, curtains, carpets, gold embroidered
robes of the priests, the repositories of the Host, the precious
vessels used in extreme unction, the rich clothing and jewelry
of the effigies of the Virgin and saints were all plundered. The
property of the Catholic citizens was taken as freely as that of
the Protestants; of whom, indeed, there were few in the city. Men,
women, and children were murdered wholesale in the streets.

Even the ultra Catholic Jean Richardot, member of the Grand Council,
in reporting upon the events, ended his narration by saying "He
could say no more, for his hair stood on end, not only at recounting,
but even at remembering the scene." The survivors of the sack were
moving listlessly about the streets of the ruined city as Ned rode
through. Great numbers had died of hunger after the conclusion of
the pillage; for no food was to be obtained, and none dare leave
their houses until the Spanish and German troops had departed. Zutphen
had suffered a vengeance even more terrible than that of Mechlin.
Alva had ordered his son Frederick, who commanded the army that
marched against it, to leave not a single man alive in the city,
and to burn every house to the ground; and the orders were literally
obeyed. The garrison were first put to the sword, and then the
citizens were attacked and slaughtered wholesale. Some were stripped
naked and turned out to freeze to death in the fields. Five hundred
were tied back to back and drowned in the river. Some were hung
up by their feet, and suffered for many hours until death came to
their relief.

Ned put up at Antwerp for the night. The news of the destruction
of Zutphen, and of the horrors perpetrated there, had arrived
but a few hours before, and a feeling of the most intense horror
and indignation filled the inhabitants; but none dared to express
what every one felt. The fate of Mechlin and Zutphen was as Alva
had meant it to be, a lesson so terrible, that throughout the
Netherlands, save in Holland and Zeeland alone, the inhabitants
were palsied by terror. Had one great city set the example and risen
against the Spaniards, the rest would have followed; but none dared
be the first to provoke so terrible a vengeance. Men who would have
risked their own lives shrank from exposing their wives and children
to atrocities and death. It seemed that conflict was useless. Van
der Berg, a brother-in-law of the Prince of Orange, who had been
placed by the prince as Governor of Guelderland and Overyssel,
fled by night, and all the cities which had raised the standard of
Orange deserted the cause at once. Friesland, too, again submitted
to the Spanish yoke.

Ned, after putting up his horse at a hotel at Antwerp, sauntered
out into the streets. Antwerp at that time was one of the finest and
wealthiest towns in Europe. Its public buildings were magnificent,
the town hall a marvel of architectural beauty. He stood in the
great square admiring its beauties and those of the cathedral when
he was conscious of some one staring fixedly at him, and he could
scarce repress a start when he saw the malicious face of Genet,
the clerk of Councillor Von Aert. His first impulse was to fly,
but the square was full of burghers, with many groups of Spanish
soldiers sauntering about; he could not hope to escape.

He saw by the expression on Genet's face that as yet he was not
sure of his identity. He had before seen him only as a country boy,
and in his present attire his appearance was naturally a good deal
changed. Still the fixed stare of the man showed that his suspicions
were strongly aroused, and Ned felt sure that it would not be
long before he completely recognized him. Nothing could be more
unfortunate than that this man whom he had believed to be diligently
searching for him in Brussels should thus meet him in the streets
of Antwerp. Turning the matter over rapidly in his mind he saw but
one hope of escape. He sauntered quietly up to a group of soldiers.

"My friends," he said, "do you want to earn a few crowns?"

"That would we right gladly," one of them replied, "seeing that
His Gracious Majesty has forgotten to pay us for well nigh a year."

"There is a hang dog villain with a squint, in a russet cloak and
doublet, just behind me." Ned said. "I have had dealings with him,
and know him and his master to be villains. He claims that I am
in debt to his master, and it may be that it is true; but I have
particular reasons for objecting to be laid by the heels for it
just now."

"That is natural enough," the soldier said. "I have experienced
the same unpleasantness, and can feel for you."

"See here, then," Ned said. "Here are ten crowns, which is two
apiece for you. Now, I want you to hustle against that fellow, pick
a quarrel with him and charge him with assaulting you, and drag him
away to the guard house. Give him a slap on the mouth if he cries
out, and throw him into a cell, and let him cool his heels there
till morning. That will give me time to finish my business and be
off again into the country."

"That can be managed easily enough," the soldier said with a laugh.
"He is an ill favoured looking varlet; and is, I doubt not, a
pestilent heretic. It would be a pleasure to cuff him even without
your honor's crowns."

"Here is the money, then," Ned said; "but, above all, as I have
said, do not let him talk or cry out or make a tumult. Nip him
tightly by the neck."

"We know our business," the soldier said. "You can rely on us to
manage your affair."

Ned sauntered quietly on. In a minute or two he heard a loud and
sudden altercation, then there was the sound of blows, and looking
round he saw two of the soldiers shaking Genet violently. The man
endeavoured to shout to the crowd; but one of the soldiers smote
him heavily on the mouth, and then surrounding him they dragged
him away. "That is very satisfactorily done," Ned said to himself,
"and it is by no means likely that Master Genet will get a hearing
before tomorrow morning. He will be pushed into a cell in the
guard room on the charge of brawling and insolence, and it is not
probable that anyone will go near him till the morning. I certainly
should like to peep in and have a look at him. His rage would be
good to see; and he has been instrumental in sending such hundreds
of men to prison that one would like to see how he feels now that
it is his turn. Still I must not count too surely upon having time.
He may possibly find some officers who will listen to his tale,
although I do not think he is likely to do that; but still it would
be foolish to risk it, and I will mount my horse and ride on at
once."

The ostler was somewhat surprised when Ned told him that he had
changed his mind, and that, instead of remaining for the night at
Antwerp, he should ride forward at once. As Ned paid him handsomely
for the feed the horse had had he made no remark, and Ned mounted
and rode out through the town by the gate through which he had
entered. Then he made a wide detour round the town, and rode on along
the bank of the river until he came to a ferry. Here he crossed,
and then rode on until he reached a village, where he resolved to
stop the night, being now off the main roads, and therefore fairly
safe from pursuit, even should Genet be able to satisfy his captors
that a mistake had been made, and that those who captured him had
in fact been aiding a fugitive to escape from justice.

The host of the little inn apologized for the poor fare that was
set before him, on the ground of the exactions of the soldiers.
"One can scarcely call one's life one's own," he grumbled. "A body
of them rode into the village yesterday and stripped it clear of
everything, maltreating all who ventured even to remonstrate. They
came from Antwerp, I believe; but there is no saying, and even if
we knew them it would be useless to make complaints."

Ned assured his host that he was very indifferent in the matter of
food.

"In these days," he said, "if one can get a piece of bread one may
think one's self lucky. But you have, I hope, sufficient forage
for my horse."

"Yes," the landlord replied; "their horses ate as much as they
could, but they could not carry off my supply of corn. Indeed the
horses were pretty well laden as it was with ducks and geese. I
let them have as much wine as they could drink, and of the best, so
they did not trouble to go down into the cellar. If they had they
would likely enough have broached all the casks and let the wine
run. There is nothing that these fellows are not capable of; they
seem to do mischief out of pure devilment."

Ned had scarcely finished his meal when a tramping of horses was
heard outside.

"The saints protect us!" the landlord exclaimed. "Here are either
these fellows coming back again, or another set doubtless just as
bad."

A minute later the door opened and a party of a dozen soldiers
entered.

"Wine, landlord! and your best!" a sergeant said. "Some comrades
who called here yesterday told us that your tap was good, so we
have ridden over to give you a turn."

The landlord groaned.

"Gracious, sirs," he said, "I am but a poor man, and your comrades
on parting forgot to settle for their wine. Another two or three
visits, and I am ruined."

A volley of impatient oaths at once broke out, and without further
hesitation the terrified landlord hurried away, and returned loaded
with flasks of wine, upon which the soldiers were speedily engaged.

"And who may you be, young sir?" one of them asked Ned, who was
sitting at a small table apart from the rest.

"I am simply a traveller," Ned replied, "engaged upon my master's
business."

"You are a likely looking young fellow too," the soldier said, "and
would have made a good soldier if you had had the chance, instead
of jogging about doing your lord's bidding; but I warrant me you
are no better than the rest of your countrymen, and do not know
one end of a sword from the other."

"I am not skilled in arms," Ned replied, "though my experience
goes a little further than you say; but as you gentlemen protect
the Netherlands, and we have no army of our own, I have not had
the opportunity, even had I wished it, to become a soldier."

"Move over here," the soldier said, "and join us in a cup to the
honour of Philip and confusion to the Prince of Orange and all
traitors."

"I will join you in drinking to Philip, for in truth he is a great
monarch and a powerful, and I will also drink to the confusion of
all traitors whomsoever they may be."

"You are all traitors at heart," one of the Spaniards who had not
before spoken, put in. "There is not a native of the Netherlands
but would rise against us tomorrow."

"I think that is true speaking," said Ned quietly. "There are many
traitors in the Netherlands I grant you, but there are others to
whom your words can hardly apply."

"They are all the same," the soldier said angrily. "Knaves every
one of them. However, before we have done with them we will reduce
their number."

Ned did not reply; but having drank the glass of wine, returned
to his seat, and shortly afterwards, when the soldiers began to
quarrel among themselves, slipped from the room. The landlord was
outside, pacing anxiously up and down.

"Are there any more of them in the village?" Ned asked.

"Not that I know of," he answered; "and to me it makes no difference.
They will stay here swilling my wine all night, and in the morning
like enough will set fire to my house before they ride away. I
have just sent off my wife and daughters to be out of their reach.
As for myself, I am half minded to mix poison with their wine and
finish with them."

"That would only bring down vengeance upon yourself," Ned said.
"Some would probably escape and tell the tale. At any rate, as there
are so large a number there would be sure to be inquiry when they
were found to be missing, and no doubt they mentioned to some of
their friends before they started where they were coming to, and
inquiry would be made. You could never get rid of all their bodies.
Besides, doubtless others in the village heard them ride up, and
know that they have been here; so you could not escape detection.
It is better to put up with them."

"Yes, if there were only these fellows; but you will see that
another party will come, and another, until I am entirely ruined."

"If you think that, I would in the morning shut up my house and
depart, and not return until these troubles are over."

"And then come back and find my house burned down," the innkeeper
groaned.

"Better that than to see yourself gradually ruined, and perhaps
lose your life," Ned said.

"There is nowhere to go to," the innkeeper said with a shake of
his head.

"You might do as many others have done," Ned replied, "and go to
Holland, where at least you would be safe."

"But not for long," the man said. "The army will soon be on the
march in that direction, and my fate there would be worse than
here. Here I am only an innkeeper to be fleeced; there I should be
regarded as a heretic to be burnt. Listen to them. They are fighting
now. Do you hear my mugs crashing? I only hope that they will kill
each other to the last man. I should advise you, sir, to be off at
once. They may take it into their heads that you are some one it
behooves them to slay, it matters not whom; and you would certainly
get no sleep here tonight if you stay."

"That is true enough," Ned agreed; "and perhaps it would be the
best way for me to get on horseback again, but I know not the road,
and might likely enough miss it altogether, and drown myself in
one of your ditches."

"I will send my boy with you to put you on to the road," the landlord
said. "I sent him out to sleep in the stables, so as to be out of
the way of these desperadoes. He will walk beside your horse until
you get into the main road."

Ned willingly accepted the proposal, for indeed he felt that
there might be danger in remaining in the house with these drunken
soldiers. He accordingly paid his reckoning, and was soon on
horseback again, with the landlord's son, a boy of some ten years
old, walking beside him. In half an hour they came upon a broad
road.

"This," the lad said, "will take you to St. Nicholas."

Ned gave the boy a crown for his trouble, and rode slowly along.
He had no idea of entering St. Nicholas, for it was now nigh eleven
o'clock at night, and the arrival of a traveller at such an hour
would be sure to attract attention. The night, too, was dark, and
he could scarce see the road he was following. After thinking it
over for some time he dismounted, led his horse a distance from
the road, fastened the reins to a bush, and threw himself down on
the ground to wait for daylight. The night was cold, and a fine
rain was falling. Ned got up from time to time and walked about
to keep himself warm, and was heartily glad when he saw the first
rays of daylight in the east.

After waiting for half an hour he mounted, and after riding a few
miles entered a large village. Thinking that it would be safer
than at St. Nicholas, he halted here. It was still raining, and the
drenched state of his clothes therefore excited no comment beyond
the host's remark, "You must have started early to have got so
wet?"

"Yes," he said, "I was up before daylight. I have a change of clothes
in my saddlebag, and shall be glad to put them on. Will you order
your man to give my horse a good rub down, and let him have a hot
mash. How far am I from Ghent now?"

"If you have come from Antwerp, sir, you have come just halfway."

Ned changed his clothes and had some breakfast, and then as he sat
by the fire the feeling of warmth and comfort after his long and
cold night overpowered him, and he went fast to sleep.



CHAPTER XI

SAVING A VICTIM


Ned slept for some hours. When he woke he heard the landlord talking
in loud tones in the passage outside. "I tell you, wife it is a
burning shame. Mynheer Von Bost has never done a soul harm in his
life. He has always been ready to open his purse strings in case
of distress; he is a man that does not meddle in any way with
politics. It is true that he does not go to mass, but that hurts
no one; and there is many a ne'er-do-well in the village who never
darkens the church door. If he prefers to pray in his own house
and in his own way, what matter is it to any one? His cloth mill
gives employment to half the village. What we shall do if it is shut
up I am sure I don't know. But what do they care for the village?
Mynheer Von Bost is a Protestant and a rich man--that is quite
enough for the Blood Council; so he and his pretty young wife are
to be dragged off and executed."

"What is that?" Ned asked, opening the door. "Can't the Blood
Council even leave your quiet village alone?"

"They can leave nothing alone," the landlord said bitterly. "An
hour ago four of their officials rode up, under one of the agents
of the Council--a squint eyed villain. They stopped at the door
and asked for the house of Mynheer Von Bost, and then rode off,
and half an hour afterwards one of the servants ran down into the
village with the news that her master and mistress had been arrested,
and that they were to be taken to Antwerp to be executed; for that,
as it seems, they had already been tried without their knowing
anything about it."

Ned started when he heard the landlord describe the leader of the
party. This, then, accounted for Genet's presence at Antwerp; he had
been sent from Brussels to arrest this cloth manufacturer. He had
evidently succeeded in establishing his identity late in the evening
or at early morning, and guessing that Ned would have ridden on
without loss of time after setting the soldiers on to assault him,
had proceeded to carry out the mission with which he was charged.

"The villagers would tear the villain limb from limb if they dared,"
the landlord went on.

"Why don't they dare?" Ned asked.

"Why? Why, because we should be having a troop of soldiers down
here in twenty-four hours, and the village would be burnt, and every
man in it, and woman too, put to death. No, no, sir; the people
here would do a good deal for Mynheer Von Bost and his wife, but
they won't risk everything."

"Would they risk anything, do you think?" Ned asked. "Are there
half a dozen men in the village, do you think, who would strike a
blow for their master, if they could do it without running the risk
you speak of?"

The landlord looked at him sharply. "This is not the time, young
sir, for men to speak before strangers about matters which may put
their neck in danger."

"You are right," Ned said; "and I do not blame you for being
discreet. I know this cross eyed man you speak of, and know that
he is the secretary of one of the most cruel and bloody of the
Council; and it was but yesterday that I escaped from his hands
almost by a miracle. And I would now, if I could, baffle the villain
again. I suppose they are still at his house?"

"They are. They have ordered breakfast to be prepared for them,
and it may be another hour before they set out."

"My plan is this, then," Ned said. "If I could get half a dozen
determined men to join me, we would go back along the road towards
Antwerp three miles or so, and lie in wait until they came along,
and then rescue their prisoners from them. If we could get a horse
for the man to ride with his wife behind him, all the better. We
could pretend to be robbers; there are plenty of starving peasants
that have been driven to that, and if we attack them three miles
away they would have no suspicion that the people of the village
had any hand in it."

"I will see about it," the landlord said warmly. "When my son-in-law's
little house was burnt down last winter, Mynheer Von Bost advanced
him money to rebuild it, and charged no interest. He lives but a
quarter of a mile out of the village, and I think he will be your
man, and would be able to lay his hands on the others. I will run
over to him and be back in a quarter of an hour."

In the meantime Ned ordered his horse to be saddled, and when the
landlord returned he was ready to start.

"My son-in-law will join you," he said. "He has two brothers whom
he will bring with him. They both work in Von Bost's factory.
He bids me tell you to go on for two miles, and to stop where the
first road comes in on the right hand side. They will join you
there, and will then go on with you as far as you may think fit.
They have got guns, so you can lie in ambush. He will bring a horse
with him with a pillion. He could have got more men, but he thinks
the fewer to know the secret the better, as there may be inquiries
here; and in these days none can trust his own neighbour. And now
farewell, young sir. I know not who you are, but you must have
a good heart to venture your life in a quarrel for people of whom
you know nothing."

"I am a Protestant myself, landlord, and I have had uncles and
other relations murdered by the Blood Council. Moreover I have a
special feud with the chief of these villains."

So saying Ned shook the landlord's hand and rode off. He halted
when he came to the point indicated. In less than half an hour he
saw three men coming from the other direction. As one of them was
leading a horse he at once rode on to meet them.

"We have made a detour through the fields," the young man leading
the horse said. "It would not have done for anyone in the village
to have seen us journeying this way."

"Quite right," Ned agreed. "There are babblers everywhere, and the
fewer who know aught of a matter like this the better. Now, where
had we best ambuscade?"

"There is a little wood by the roadside half a mile on, and we had
best move there at once, for they may be along at any time now."

Two of the men were armed with muskets, and all three carried
flails. They moved briskly forward until they got to the woods.

"You had best fasten up the horse among the trees," Ned said, "and
then take your station close to the road. I will ride out from the
trees as I come up and engage them in talk, so that you and your
brother can take a steady aim. Don't fire until you are sure of
each bringing down a man, then rush out and engage them with your
flails. I will answer for their leader myself."

"We won't miss them, never fear, young sir. We have too much practice
at the ducks in the winter to miss such a mark as that."

After seeing the horse tied up, and the men take their stations
behind trees, Ned went a few yards further and then waited the
coming of the party with the prisoners. He had not a shadow of
compunction at the fate that was about to befall these officials.
They had hauled away hundreds to the gallows, and the animosity
that prevailed between the two parties was so intense that neither
thought of sparing the other if they fell into their hands. As
for Genet, Ned felt that his own life would not be safe as long as
this man lived. He might for aught he knew have other missions of
the same nature as that he had just fulfilled, and he felt sure
that whatever disguise he might adopt this man would detect him
did they meet, and in that case not only his own life but that of
many others might be sacrificed.

In about ten minutes the sound of horses' hoofs was heard. Ned
waited till they came within a few paces, and then suddenly rode
out from the wood. Genet, who was riding ahead of the others, reined
in his horse suddenly.

"What are you doing, fellow?" he began angrily, "riding out thus
suddenly upon us?" Then his voice changed as he recognized Ned.
"What, is it you again?" he exclaimed. "This time at least you
shall not escape me."

He drew a pistol and fired. Ned was equally quick, and the two
shots rang out together. Ned's cap flew from his head, the bullet
just grazing his skin, while Genet fell forward on his saddle
and rolled to the ground, shot through the heart. Almost at the
same instant two guns were discharged from the wood, and two of
the officials fell. The other two, behind whom the prisoners were
strapped, set spurs to their horses; but Ned rode in front of them,
and the men dashing from the trees seized the reins.

"Surrender!" Ned shouted, "or you are dead men."

The two officers shouted lustily that they surrendered, but Ned
had the greatest difficulty from preventing their assailants from
knocking out their brains with their flails.

"There is no plunder to be obtained from them, comrades," he said
loudly. "They are only poor knaves riding behind the master. Get
them off their horses, and strap their hands with their own belts,
and toss them in among the trees; but you can search their pockets
before you do so. I will see what their leader has got upon him."

As soon as the two prisoners were dragged away Ned addressed Mynheer
Von Bost, who with his wife was standing almost bewildered by the
sudden event that had freed them.

"This is no robbery, Mynheer, but a rescue. We have a horse and
pillion here in the wood in readiness for you, and I should advise
you to ride at once with your wife for Sluys or some other seaport,
and thence take ship either into Holland or to England. Your lives
will assuredly be forfeited if you remain here."

"But who are you, sir, who has done us this great service?"

"I am serving under the Prince of Orange," Ned replied; "and have
been doing business for him at Brussels. I have twice narrowly
escaped with my life from the hands of the leader of that party,
and was in the village when they arrived and seized you. Finding
how deep was the regret that so kind a master should be thus led
away to execution, I determined if possible to save you, and with
the aid of these three men, two of whom are workmen of yours, and
the other a farmer you befriended last year when his house was
burnt down, we have succeeded in doing so."

The three men now came out of the wood.

"My brave fellows," the manufacturer said, "I and my wife owe our
lives to you and to this gentleman."

"You are heartily welcome, sir," the young farmer said. "You have
saved me from ruin, and one good turn deserves another. I and my
brothers were only too glad to join when we heard that this gentleman
was determined to try to release you. If it had not been for him
it would never have entered our heads till it was too late."

"May I ask your name, sir?" Von Bost said to Ned. "My wife and
I would like to know to whom we owe a lifelong debt of gratitude.
I will take your advice and ride at once for Sluys. I have many
friends there who will conceal us and get us on board a ship.
My arrangements have long been made for departure, and my capital
transferred to England; but I thought I should have had sufficient
notice of danger to take flight. Where can I hear of you, sir?"

"My name is Edward Martin. My father is an English captain,
who lives at Rotherhithe, close by London. At present, as I said,
I am in the service of the Prince of Orange; but my home is still
in England. And now, sir, I think you had best be riding at once.
I presume that there are byroads by which you can avoid passing
through any towns on your way to Sluys. It is better not to delay
a minute, for at any moment some party or other of soldiers may
come along."

The men had by this time brought out the horse. Von Bost mounted,
and his wife was assisted on to the pillion behind him.

"Goodbye, good friends," he said. "God grant that no harm come to
you for this kind deed."

The moment he had ridden off Ned and his companions lifted the
bodies of the three men who had fallen and carried them into the
wood.

"We had best turn their pockets inside out," Ned said, "and take
away everything of value upon them."

"This fellow has a well lined purse," the young farmer said as he
examined the pocket of Genet; "and here are a bundle of papers in
his doublet."

"Give me the papers," Ned said, "they may be useful to me, and
doubtless they contain lists of other victims whom I may be able
to send warning to in time for them to escape."

"What shall we do about the horses?"

"I would take off the saddles, bridles, and accouterments, throw
them into a ditch together with the men's arms and pile a few bushes
over them, then drive the horses across the fields till they reach
some grazing ground near the river; the farmers there will doubtless
appropriate them in time. Now, as to these two prisoners, they are
the only trouble."

"You need not trouble about them," the farmer said, "we have made
them safe. We are not going to risk our lives and those of our wives
and families, as we should have done if we had left those fellows
alive to identify us. There is sure to be a search sooner or later,
and those two men would have led the party to every house within
miles round, and would have been sure to recognize one or other of
us. We are ready to risk our lives to save Mynheer Von Bost, but
we are not willing to throw them away needlessly."

Ned could hardly blame the men, who had indeed stabbed their captives
the instant they dragged them among the trees, for doubtless the
risk they would have run of detection would have been great had they
permitted them to live. They had now only to regain their village
without observation and to keep their own secret, to be free from
all risk whatever. Putting Genet's papers in his doublet Ned again
mounted his horse and rode off.

Two hours later he reached St. Nicholas. He could now have ridden
straight on to Bergen op Zoom, the port at which he hoped to be able
to find a boat, but he thought that Genet's papers might contain
matters upon which it might be necessary for him to act at once.
He had now no fear of detection, for with the death of Genet all
search for himself would be at an end. Putting up his horse at an
inn he ordered a meal to be prepared at once, and calling for a
flask of wine in the meantime, sat down at a table in the corner
of the great parlour and examined the papers.

First there was a list of twelve names, among whom was that of Von
Bost. One of these, as well as that of the manufacturer, had been
crossed out. With them were official documents ordering the arrest
of the persons named, together in most cases with that of their
wives and one or more members of their family. Besides these was
a document with the seal of the Council, ordering all magistrates
and others to render every assistance required by the bearer in
carrying out the duties with which he was charged.

Then there was a long list of persons resident in St. Nicholas,
Sluys, and Axel, against whom denunciations of heresy or of suspected
disloyalty to Philip had been laid. There was a note at the bottom
of this list: "Inquire into the condition of life and probable
means of each of these suspected persons."

"It is somewhat lucky for all these people," Ned said to himself,
"that I happened to fall in with Mynheer Genet. The question now
is how to warn them. I see there are three orders of arrest against
people here, and ten names on the suspected list. At any rate I
can warn them myself."

As soon as he had finished his meal Ned inquired the addresses of
the three persons ordered to be arrested. They were all, as he had
expected, leading men in the place; for it was the confiscation of
the goods of the victims, quite as much as any question of religion
or loyalty, that was at the bottom of a large proportion of the
arrests and executions. The first Ned called upon was, like Von
Bost, a cloth manufacturer. He was rather a pompous man, and when
Ned was shown in said:

"Now, young man, my time is valuable, so let us have no useless
talking. What is it you want?"

"Your time perhaps is more valuable than you think," Ned said
quietly, "seeing that you have not got much of it left."

"What do you mean, sir?" the manufacturer said angrily.

"I mean simply this," Ned replied. "That I am the bearer of an
order of the Council for your arrest, and that of your wife, your
son Ernest, and your daughter Mary, upon the charge of having been
present and taken part in a meeting of the people of this town at
which words of treasonable character were uttered. Moreover, there
is a note at the bottom of this order saying that these charges
have been proved to the satisfaction of the Council, and that you
are accordingly to be executed upon your arrival at Antwerp, the
necessary orders having been transmitted to the governor of the
prison there."

The manufacturer sank down in a chair the picture of terror.

"I have done no harm," he stammered. "I knew not when I went to
the meeting what was going to be said there."

"What matters that?" Ned asked. "You have been tried and condemned,
and one or other of the Council has doubtless obtained the grant
of your property. Well, sir, I will not frighten you longer. This
is the document in question, but fortunately I am not the person
charged with this execution. I met him on the way and there was
a disagreement between us, and the result is that he will execute
no more orders, and his papers fell into my hands. It may be some
days before he is missed, and then doubtless someone else will be
charged to carry out the orders of which he was the bearer. This
will give you time to make preparations for flight, and I should
advise you before eight-and-forty hours are over to be on your way
towards the frontier of Germany, or on board a ship at one of the
ports. I will hand you this document in order that you may convince
your wife and family of the danger that you are all running, and
of the urgent need of haste."

Ned left at once, before the man, who was almost stupefied by the
misfortune that had befallen him, had time to utter his thanks.
He then called on the other two men against whom he bore orders of
arrest. As both received him with greater courtesy than that shown
by the first he had visited, he broke the news more gently to them,
and discussed with them the manner in which they had best make
their escape. One he found had friends and business connections
in Sluys, and doubted not that he could obtain a passage there
to Holland or England, while the other had similar connections in
Axel.

Ned handed over to them the orders for the arrest of burghers of
those towns, and these they gave him their promise to deliver, and
also either to see or to send letters warning all the persons who
were mentioned in the list of suspected. As he was anxious to get
on as soon as possible he also gave them the list of the suspected
at St. Nicholas, and these they promised also to warn; both were
profuse in their gratitude to him for having saved them from certain
death. Having thus concluded his business, Ned again mounted his
horse and rode for Bergen op Zoom, the port at which he intended,
if possible, to embark for Zeeland.

Bergen op Zoom, an important town, lay half a mile distant from the
Scheldt, and was connected with the river by a channel guarded by
two forts. There had been a strong Spanish garrison here, but it
had lately been weakened by the withdrawal of a large detachment to
take part in the successful enterprise undertaken for the relief of
Tergoes in the Island of Beveland, which was besieged by a force
from Flushing. Ned had frequently been at Bergen op Zoom in the
Good Venture, and knew that while the magistrates and wealthier
citizens were devoted to the Spanish cause the greater portion of
the inhabitants, especially the seafaring class, were patriots to
a man.

He therefore went to a small inn by the waterside, where he had
several times taken meals with his father when the ship was lying
off from the river. Seeing his horse put up in the stable he entered
the tap room. The sailors drinking there looked somewhat surprised
at the entrance of one differing much in appearance from the ordinary
customers of the place. The landlord, who was leaning against his
counter, did not advance to meet him; for strangers were by no
means popular, and a suspicion that the newcomer was a spy would
speedily empty his house. As Ned approached him he suddenly started,
and was about to speak when the lad quickly placed his finger on
his lip. He feared that the landlord was about to utter his name,
and there might, for aught he knew, be someone there who would
report it.

"How are you, landlord?" he said. "It is some time since I was here
last, and I think you had almost forgotten me." The landlord took
the hint.

"Yes, indeed," he said. "And how is your father? I have not seen
him lately, and heard that he was not well."

"No; he has been laid up for some time, but he is mending. You see
I have taken service."

"Ah, I see," the landlord said. "Well, my good wife will be glad
to see you and hear about your family." So saying he led the way
into a private room.

"Why, what means this, Master Martin?" he asked. "We heard here of
the brave fight your father's ship made some two months since with
a Spaniard in the Zuider Zee, and that he was sorely wounded. But
what means this masquerading? Surely you have not given up the
sea?"

"Only for the present," Ned replied. "You know I am Dutch on my
mother's side. All her family have been murdered by the Spaniards,
and what with that and my father being attacked and wounded, I made
up my mind to give up the sea for a time, and to help the good cause
as much as I could. I have been carrying a message to Brussels and
want now to get back to Rotterdam or some other sea port town. How
had I best do it?"

"It is not easy," the landlord replied. "Our trade is stopped here
now. The rivers swarm with craft, manned, some by the beggars of
the sea, and others by fishermen; and the Spanish ships cannot come
up save in great force. We have two or three of their warships here
which go out and skirmish with our men, and do not always get the
best of it.

"Our people did badly the other night when they let the Spaniards
wade across to Tergoes. That was a bad business. But about your
getting away. Let me see how it can be managed."

"I have got a horse here."

"That is bad," the landlord said. "You could put on sailor's clothes,
and in the morning when I send in my guest list to the magistrate,
I could put down that you had gone, but the horse would betray me.
Is it a good beast?"

"Yes, it is a very good horse. It was a present to me, and I don't
like parting with it. But of course I cannot take it away."

"I will send round word to a man I know who deals in horses. He is
one who will hold his tongue, especially when he sees an advantage
in it. I will tell him it belonged to a man who has been here and
gone away suddenly, and ask him what he will give for it, and take
it quietly away after it gets dark to his own stables, and ask no
questions about it. He will guess it belonged to somebody who has
left secretly. Of course he won't give more than half the value of
the animal; but I suppose you will not be particular about terms.
Anyhow, I will do the best I can for you. When he is once out of
the stables they may come and question as much as they like, but
they will get nothing out of me beyond the fact that a young man
came here, put up his horse, stayed the night, and left in the
morning. I suppose they have no special interest in you so as to
lead them to make a close inquiry?"

"None at all," Ned replied.

"That is settled then," the landlord said. "Now, as to yourself.
Two of my sons are at sea, you know, and I can rig you up with some
of their clothes so that you can stroll about on the wharves, and
no one will suspect you of being anything but a fisherman. Then I
will try and arrange with some of the sailors to take you down in
a boat at night, and either put you on board the first of our craft
they come upon, or land you at Flushing. Now I will take you in to
my wife, and she will see about getting you a meal and making you
comfortable."

Later on the landlord came in and said that he had made a bargain
for the horse.

"The beast is worth thirty crowns," he said, "but he will not give
more than fifteen, and it required a good deal of bargaining to
raise him to that. Of course he suspected that there was something
out of the way about the affair, and took advantage of it."

"That will do very well indeed," Ned said. "I did not expect to
get anything for it."

"I have been having a talk too with some sailors belonging to a
small craft lying at the wharf. They are most anxious to be off,
for they are idle. The order that no boats were to leave was issued
just after they came in. They have been six days doing nothing,
and may, for aught they see, be kept here for another six months.
They have been afraid to try to get away; for there are sentries
all along the wall to see that none try to put out, and some guard
boats from the Spanish ships rowing backwards and forwards outside
the port, both to see that no ships leave, and that none come up to
harm the shipping. Still they say they have been making up their
minds that they may as well stand the risk of being shot by the
Spaniards as the certainty of being starved here; besides they are
patriots, and know that their boats may be wanted at any time for
the conveyance of troops. So when I told them that I doubted not
that you would pay them well for landing you at Flushing, they
agreed to make the attempt, and will try tonight. As soon as you
have had your breakfast you had better join them in the tap room,
go out with them through the watergate, and get on board their
craft and lie snug there till night."

"How many men are there?" Ned asked.

"There are six altogether, but only two will be up here presently.
Here are the fifteen crowns for your horse. That will do well to
pay your passage to Flushing."

As soon as he had eaten his breakfast, Ned, now dressed as a young
fisherman, went into the taproom with the landlord. Two sailors
were sitting there.

"This is the young fellow that I was speaking to you about," the
landlord said. "He is one of us, and heart and soul in the cause,
and young though he looks has done good service. He is ready to
pay you fifteen crowns when you land him at Flushing."

"That is a bargain," one of the men said, "and will pay us for the
week we have lost here. I should take you for a sailor, young sir."

"I am a sailor," Ned said, "and can lend a hand on board if need
be."

"Can you swim? Because if we are overhauled by the Spaniards we
shall all take to the water rather than fall into their hands."

"Yes, I can swim," Ned said; "and agree with you that I would rather
swim than be captured. But if it is only a boatload that overhauls
us I would try to beat them off before giving up a craft in which
I had a share."

The sailors looked rather doubtfully at the lad, and their expression
showed that they thought he was talking boastfully.

"He means what he says," the landlord put in. "He is the son of
the English captain who beat off the great Spanish ship Don Pedro
in the Zuider Zee a few weeks ago."

The men's faces changed, and both got up and shook hands cordially
with Ned. "That was a brave affair, young sir; and there is not a
town in Holland where your father's name is not spoken of in honour.
We know the ship well, and have helped load her before now; and
now we know who you are, recognize your face. No wonder you want
to get out of Bergen op Zoom. Why, if I had known it had been you
we would have been glad enough to take you to Flushing without
charging you a penny, and will do so now--will we not, comrades--if
it presses you in any way to pay us?"

"Not at all," Ned said. "I am well supplied with money; and since
you are risking your boat, as well as your lives, it is only fair
that I should pay my share. I can afford the fifteen crowns well
enough, and indeed it is but the price of a horse that was given
me."

"Well, if it will not hurt you we will not say any more about
it," the sailor replied; "seeing that we have had a bad time of it
lately, and have scarce money enough left between us to victual us
until we get home. But had it been otherwise, we would have starved
for a week rather than had it said that we made hard terms with the
son of the brave Captain Martin when he was trying to escape from
the hands of the Spaniards."

"Now, lads, you had better be off at once," the landlord interrupted.
"It is time I sent in my report to the town hall; and like enough
men will be down here asking questions soon after, so it were best
that Master Martin were on board your craft at once. Goodbye, young
sir. Tell your worthy father that I am glad indeed to have been
able to be of some slight service to his son, and I trust that it
will not be very long before we see the last of the Spaniards, and
that we shall then have his ship alongside the wharves again."

Ned shook hands heartily with the landlord, who had refused to
accept any payment whatever from him, and then started with the
two sailors. They made their way down to the inner haven, and then
went on board the boat, a craft of about ten tons burden which was
lying alongside. The wharves had a strange and deserted appearance.
When Ned had last been there some fifty or sixty vessels of
different sizes had been lying alongside discharging or taking in
cargo, while many others lay more out in the stream. Now there were
only a dozen boats of about the same size as that on which they
embarked, all, like it, arrested by the sudden order that no vessels
should leave the port.

There were no large merchantmen among them, for trade had altogether
ceased, save when a strong convoy of French, Spanish, or German
ships arrived. For with Flushing in the hands of the patriots, and
the sea swarming with the craft of the beggars, foreign vessels
bound for ports in the hands of the Spaniards did not dare singly
to approach the mouth of the Scheldt. Ned received a hearty welcome
from the other sailors when they learned from their skipper and his
companion who he was, and before he had been ten minutes on board
they asked him to give them the full details of the fight off
Enkhuizen, and how it was that the Spaniards thus interfered with
an English ship.

Ned told them the story, and the sailors when he had finished
had each some tale to tell of oppression and cruelty to friends
or relatives on the part of the Spaniards. When they had finished
their midday meal, which was the heartiest the sailors had enjoyed
for some days, for the landlord when making the bargain had paid them
five crowns in advance, and the empty larder had been accordingly
replenished, the skipper said to Ned, "I think that it will be just
as well you did something, in case the magistrates should take it
into their heads to send down to search the craft along the wharves.
The landlord said that they might make inquiries as to what had
become of the man who stayed last night at his inn. You may be sure
he did not put down in his guest list a description which would
help them much in their search for you, should they make one, still
they keep a pretty sharp lookout over us, and if they search at
all are likely to come to try here to begin with."

"I am quite ready to do anything you may set me to," Ned said.

"Then we will get the boat out, and row off and bait our hooks and
try for fish; we have caught a few every day since we have been
here. And, indeed, if it were not for the fish the men in most of
the boats here would be starving."

"That will do capitally," Ned said. "Anyhow it will be an amusement
to me."

The boat was pulled up alongside, Ned and four of the men got into
it and rowed down the port into the Old Haven, and out between the
two forts guarding the entrance into the Scheldt, then dropping
their grapnel, baited some lines and began to fish. As boats from
all the other craft lying by the shore were engaged in the same
work, either with line or net, this was natural enough, and they
did not return until evening was falling, by which time they had
captured a considerable number of fish.

"We have had more luck than we have had all the week," one of the
men said as they rowed back. "Sometimes we have only got just enough
for ourselves, today when we don't want them we have caught enough
to sell for two or three guilders; for fish are scarce now in the
town and fetch good prices. However, they will come in handy for
our voyage."

When they came alongside the skipper told them that three hours
before two of the city constables had come along, and had inquired
of him whether he had seen aught of a tall man of some thirty years
of age, dressed in sober clothes, and with the appearance of a
retainer in some good family. He had assured them he had seen none
at all answering that description, and, indeed, that no one beside
himself and his crew had been on the wharf that day. They had
nevertheless come on board and searched the cabin, but finding
nothing suspicious, and hearing that the rest of the crew, four
men and a boy, were engaged in fishing, they had gone off without
further question.

"Where do the guard boats ply?" Ned asked presently.

"A mile or two above the forts, and as much below; for, you see,
vessels can come up either passage from the sea. It is the longest
round by Walcheren, but far easier and freer from sandbanks. Vessels
from the west generally take the Walcheren passage; but those from
the east, and coasters who know every foot of the river, come by
the eastern Scheldt."

"Which way do you think of going?"

"That by Flushing, if we have the choice. We pass several towns in
the possession of the Spaniards, and were the beggars to come up
they would probably take the other channel. And I have noticed that
there are always two rowboats in the river to the east, and only
one to the west. Our greatest difficulty will be in passing the
two warships anchored at the mouth of the port, under the guns of
the forts. Once fairly out into the Scheldt we may think ourselves
safe, for the river is so wide that unless by grievous ill chance
we are not likely to be seen on a dark night, such as this will
be, by the rowboats. Our real danger is in getting through the two
forts, and the ships at the mouth of this port.

"There is a vigilant watch kept at the forts; but there are not
likely to be any sentries placed on the walls at the entrance of
this inner haven, or on that running along by Old Haven down to
the forts. We will start as soon as the tide turns, and drift down
with it. We will get out a pole or two to keep our course down the
centre till we get near the forts, and must then let her drift as
she will, for a splash in the water or the slightest sound would
call the attention of the sentries there, and if the alarm were given
the boats of the two ships outside would have us to a certainty.
I think the night is going to be most favourable. The clouds are
low, and I have felt a speck or two of mist; it will come on faster
presently, and it will want keen eyes to see five yards away when
the night falls. Luckily there is not a breath of wind at present;
and I hope there will not be until we are fairly out, otherwise we
should be sure to drift ashore on one side or the other as we go
down the channel."



CHAPTER XII

BACK WITH THE PRINCE


Before throwing off the warps from the shore the captain gave each
man his orders. Two were to stand with fenders, in case the boat
drifted either against another craft or against the wall. Two were
to take the long poles used for punting. An old sail had been torn
up into strips and wrapped round these, with a pad of old rope at
the end, so that they could push off from the wall without noise.
Not a word was to be spoken in case of their being hailed, nor was
there to be the slightest movement on board unless the use of the
fenders or poles were required. Lastly, all took off their boots.

It was half an hour after the turn of the tide when the warps were
thrown off. The tide in the inner port was so sluggish that it was
absolutely necessary to pole the boat along until she got out into
what was known as the Old Haven, which was the cut leading down
from the town to the river.

The work was noiselessly done; and Ned, standing at the bow beside
the skipper, scarce heard the slightest sound. The night was
fortunately very dark, and looking intently he could hardly make
out the outline of the shore on either side. In a quarter of an
hour they emerged from the inner port. On their left hand the wall
of the fortifications connecting the town with the north fort at
the mouth of the haven rose high above them, but its outline could
be seen against the sky. The captain had told the men poling to
take her sharp round the corner, and keep her along as close as
possible to the foot of the wall, as she was far less likely to
be observed by any sentry who might be there than she would be if
kept out in the centre of the cut.

Very slowly the boat drifted along her course, assisted occasionally
by the men pushing with their poles against the foot of the wall
that rose a few feet from them, while those with the fender stood
in readiness to place them in position should the ship approach so
close to the wall as to render contact probable. The captain was
now at the tiller, the way given her by the poles being sufficient
to enable him to keep her on her course close to the wall. Another
quarter of an hour and they were at the end of the wall, for the
forts at the entrance were detached. They were now approaching the
most dangerous portion of the passage; they were no longer sheltered
in the shadow, but must go along openly. It was, however, improbable
that there would be sentries on the face of the fort looking towards
the town, and Ned, accustomed as he was to keep watch on deck at
night, could scarce make out the low shore a few yards away, and
felt pretty confident that the eyes of the sleepy sentries would
not be able to pierce the gloom.

The men had ceased poling now, only giving an occasional push to
keep her head straight and prevent her from swinging round. Presently
a sailor standing next to Ned touched his arm and pointed to the
right, and straining his eyes he could dimly make out a dark mass
looming in that direction.

Unlike the wall they had left, the forts stood at a little distance
back from the water, and Ned was sure that as he could scarce make
out the outline of the one nearest to them, no one upon its wall
could distinguish the tracery of the masts and rigging of the
boat. The mist had thickened since they had started, and coming on
heavier just at this point the fort was presently entirely obscured.

Another twenty minutes passed. They must be now, Ned knew, in the
course of the river; and he began to think that the danger was
over, when a dark object suddenly appeared from the mist, close at
hand. In another moment there was a shock, and then a long grinding
motion as the boat swept along by the side of a large ship. Following
the shock came a sharp challenge from the darkness above, followed
by other shouts. Obedient to orders they had received, no sound
was heard from the smack. Each man stooped low under the bulwarks.
Two or three shots rang out from the ship, and there was a hail in
Dutch--"Stop, or we will sink you."

Ned knew that this was an idle threat. The vessel was lying head to
the tide, and only a small gun or two in the stern could be brought
to bear, and already the ship was lost to sight in the mist. There
was much shouting and noise heard astern, and then the creaking of
blocks. Ned made his way aft.

"The game is up," the skipper said. "They will be alongside in a
few minutes. Dark as it is they cannot miss us. They will know that
we must have drifted straight down. We must take to the boats and
row for it."

"I should say, captain," Ned said, "we had best take to the boat
and row off for a short distance, and then wait. As likely as not
they may think when they board her that she has simply drifted out
from the town, having been carelessly moored. In that case they
may let drop her anchor and return to their ship."

"That is a happy thought," the captain said; and running forward
he told the crew to take the boat at once.

"I have another idea, captain," Ned said, just as they were about
to push off. "As we saw when we were passing the ship we are drifting
stern foremost. If we can fasten a long line to her stern we can
hang on to it. They will not be able to see us if we are twenty
fathoms astern. Then, if they anchor, and, as is likely enough,
leave two or three men on board, we can haul ourselves noiselessly
up with the rope and board her."

"Capital!" the captain replied. "I was wondering how we should find
her again in the dark. That would be the very thing."

He sprang on board again, fastened a light line to the rudder, and
dropped down into the boat again.

"Now, back her astern, lads, very gently. I can hear their oars."

In a minute the captain gave orders to cease rowing, for the line
had tightened. The Spanish ship was showing a bright light in her
stern. This acted as a guide to the boats, and in two or three
minutes after the crew had left the smack two large boats full of
soldiers came alongside. Those in the little boat, lying but fifty
or sixty yards away, could hear every word that was spoken. First
came a volley of angry exclamations of disappointment as the
Spaniards found that they had been called from their beds only to
capture an empty little coaster. As Ned had expected, they speedily
came to the conclusion that having been carelessly fastened up
alongside the wharves, without any one being left in charge, she
had drifted out with the tide.

"It would serve them right if we were to set her alight," one of
the officers said.

"We had best not to do that," another replied. "It might cause an
alarm in the town; and, besides, boats are wanted. We had better
drop her anchor, and leave four men on board to take care of her.
In the morning the knaves to whom she belongs will come out to
claim her; and I warrant you the captain will punish them sharply
for the trouble they have given us."

This opinion prevailed. A minute latter a splash was heard in the
water, and in a very short time the line connecting the boat with the
smack tightened, and those on board knew that she had been brought
up by her anchor. There was a good deal of noise and trampling
of feet as the Spaniards took their place in the boats again, and
then the heavy splashing of many oars as they started to row back
against the tide to their own vessel.

The captain wrung Ned's hand.

"You have saved the boat for us, young sir, for we should never
have found her again; and if we had, those on board would have heard
us rowing up to them, and would have given the alarm. Now we have
only to wait for a bit, and then haul ourselves up and overpower
the Spaniards."

"I doubt if we could do that without noise," Ned replied. "At any
rate it would be very dangerous while their ship is lying so close.
I should say the best plan will be to wait, as you say, till the
Spaniards have settled themselves comfortably, then to haul up to
her and push the boat along by her side, fending her off carefully
so as to make no noise until we reach the bow, then we can cut
the cable and let her drift. The tide is running strong now, and
in half an hour she will be over a mile down the river, and there
will be no fear of a shout being heard on board the ship, and we
can then board her and tackle the Spaniards."

"That will certainly be the best way," the captain agreed. "Nothing
could be better. Well, we will give them half an hour to settle
themselves in the cabin. They will not stay on deck many minutes
in the wet."

The sound of voices on board the smack soon ceased. After waiting
half an hour to give the Spaniards time if not to go to sleep to
become drowsy, the captain and one of his men began to pull upon
the line. Presently the dark mass could be seen ahead, and they
were soon up to her.

Very carefully they passed the boat alongside, taking pains to
prevent her touching. When they reached the bow the captain grasped
the cable, and with two or three cuts with the knife severed it.
Then the boat was pushed off from the ship and gently paddled away
to the full length of the line. Another half hour and they again
drew alongside, and noiselessly climbed on to the deck. The men
armed themselves with belaying pins, and Ned took his pistols from
the belt beneath his jacket. Then they quietly approached the door.
There was a light burning within.

The cabin was astern, and built upon the deck, and was used by the
skipper himself and by any passengers he might be carrying, the
crew living in the forecastle. The doors, which opened outwards,
were noiselessly closed, for two of the Spaniards were sitting up
playing cards, and there was no chance of taking the party so much
by surprise as to capture them without noise. The instant the doors
were closed a heavy coil of rope was thrown against them. There
was a loud exclamation in the cabin, and a moment later a rush to
the door. This, however, did not yield. Then a window in the side
was thrown open and a head was thrust out, and there was a loud
shout of "Treachery! Help!"

A moment later a heavy belaying pin fell on the head, and it
disappeared. Then there was a loud explosion as an arquebus was
fired, the bullet crashing through the door.

"It is a good thing we are well on our way," the skipper said.
"We must be two miles from the Spanish ship now; and even if they
hear the report they will not think it has anything to do with us.
Besides, if they did, they could never find us."

Some more ropes had now been piled against the door, and there was
no fear of its being burst open. Two men were posted at the windows
on each side of the cabin with swords, for weapons had now been
fetched from the forecastle.

"Now," the captain said, "let us get up the sails. There is but
little wind, but I think there is enough to give us steerage way
and prevent us from drifting on to the sandbanks."

"I suppose we are well beyond the guard boats now, captain?" Ned
asked.

"Oh, yes; they are not more than half a mile below the forts.
Besides, I should think they have not been out; for they would know
that when the tide once turned no craft could come up from below.
Yes, we are quite safe as far as they are concerned."

Sail was soon made; and though there was scarce wind enough to
belly out the canvas, the boat began to move slowly through the
water, as was shown by her answering her helm. The discharge of
the arquebus in the cabin was continued from time to time.

"You may as well cease that noise," the captain shouted to them.
"Your ship is miles away; and unless you want your throats cut you
had better keep yourselves quiet. You know the beggars are not to
be trifled with."

The soldiers ceased firing. They had, indeed, already concluded,
from the fact that the boats did not come to their rescue, that
the vessel must somehow have got far from their ship. The name of
the terrible beggars filled them with alarm, for they knew that
they showed no mercy. They had not the least idea as to the number
of their captors, and gave themselves up for lost. An hour later
the captain dropped the second anchor, and brought up in the stream.

"We must wait till morning," he said. "It is no use getting away
from the Spaniards to be cast ashore; and there is no saying in what
part of the river we may be at present, though we must certainly
be six or seven miles below Bergen."

Towards morning the mist cleared off, and the wind began to freshen.

"I think it will blow hard before long," the captain said; "and as
it is from the southwest it will soon carry us out of the river.
Now, what had we better do with those fellows in the cabin?"

"I should say the best plan, captain, would be to bring the boat
alongside, and tell them that if they will leave their arms behind
them, and come out one by one, they may take to it and row ashore.
That if they refuse, we shall open the door and give them no
quarter."

"That would be the best plan," the captain agreed, and going to
one of the windows offered these terms to the Spaniards. The men
had prepared for the worst, and had determined to sell their lives
as dearly as possible. So convinced were they that the beggars
would show no quarter that they were at first incredulous.

"It is a trick to get us to give up our arms," one said.

"It is not," the captain replied. "I swear to you on the word of
a sailor that we will respect the terms and allow you to depart
unarmed. We don't want to throw away three or four lives merely
for the pleasure of cutting your throats."

After a consultation between themselves the soldiers accepted the
terms. Ned placed himself at one of the windows to see that the
arms were laid aside before the men issued out. Then the coils of
rope were removed, and the door opened, the sailors taking their
place there in case the Spaniards at the last moment should catch
up their arms. This, however, they had no idea of doing, and were
indeed far more afraid of treachery than were their captors. One
by one they issued out, passed between the line of the sailors to
the bulwark, and got into the boat. It was still dark, and they
could not tell that the group of men at the cabin door were all
those on board. As soon as the last was in, the rope was thrown
off and the boat dropped astern.

"It will be light enough to see the shore in half an hour," the
captain said as they drifted away, "and then you can land where
you like."

"It would be awkward if they happen to light upon some town," Ned
said, "and so bring out boats to cut us off."

"There is no fear of that," the captain replied. "Tergoes is the
only place down here in which they have a garrison, and that lies
some miles away yet. Besides, we shall get under way as soon as we
can make out the shore. They have only two oars on board, and are
not likely to know very much about rowing; besides, we shall make
out the shore from deck before they will from the boat."

"Of course you will not go round by Flushing now? It will be shorter
for you to go straight out to sea through the islands."

"Yes, and less dangerous. There may be ships at Tergoes and on the
east side of Walcheren, as they still hold Middleburg."

"The sooner we are out to sea the better, and it will of course suit
you also," Ned replied. "I only wanted to put ashore at Flushing
in order to take another boat there for Rotterdam, so that I shall
save one day, if not two, if you sail direct."

In another half hour it was light enough to make out the shore.
The anchor was again weighed in and the boat got under way. They
were now off the end of the Island of St. Anna, and leaving South
Beveland behind them turned up the channel called the Kype, between
the Islands of North Beveland and Duveland. Here they passed many
fishing smacks and coasting vessels, for they were now in the
heart of Zeeland, and far beyond reach of the Spaniards. They were
frequently hailed, and were greeted with shouts of applause when
they told how they had given the Spaniards the slip and made their
escape from Bergen. Two hours later they were out at sea, and before
sunset entered the port of Rotterdam. Finding, when he landed, that
the Prince of Orange had that day returned from a trip to Haarlem
and some other towns, where he had been engaged in raising the
spirits of the citizens, inciting them to resistance, and urging
them that it was necessary to make a common effort against the enemy,
and not to allow the town to be taken piecemeal, Ned at once made
his way to the house he occupied. As he entered one of the pages
hurried up to him.

"What do you want?" he asked. "The prince is ready to give audience
to all who have important business, but it is too much that he
should be intruded upon by sailor lads."

"You do not remember me!" Ned laughed. "Your memory is a short one,
Master Hans."

"I did not, indeed!" the page exclaimed. "Who would have thought of
seeing you dressed as a sailor boy? The prince will be glad to see
you; for the first question he asked when he crossed the threshold
this afternoon was whether you had returned."

He hurried away, and returned a minute later with word that the
prince would see Ned at once.

"Well, my brave lad, so you have returned," the prince said as Ned
entered. "I have blamed myself many times for letting you go upon
so dangerous a mission, and I am glad indeed to see that you have
safely returned, even if you have failed altogether touching the
matter on which you went."

"I thought more of the honour than of the danger of the mission
you intrusted to me, your excellency," Ned replied, "and am happy
to say that I have fulfilled it successfully, and have brought you
back messages by word of mouth from all, save one, of those to whom
your letters were addressed."

"Say you so!" the prince exclaimed in tones of satisfaction. "Then
you have indeed done well. And how fared it with you on your journey?
Did you deliver the letters and return here without suspicion
falling upon you?"

"No, sir. I have run some slight risk and danger owing to an
unfortunate meeting with Councillor Von Aert, who was of a more
suspicious nature than his countrymen in general; but I will not
occupy your excellency's time by talking about myself, but will
deliver the various messages with which I am charged."

He then went through the particulars of his interviews with each
of the nine persons he had visited, and gave the contents of the
letter, word for word, he had received from the tenth, excusing
himself for not having brought the message by word of mouth, owing
to the difficulty of obtaining a private audience with him. He also
produced the paper upon which he had jotted down all the particulars
of the men and money that had been confided to him.

"Your news might be better, and worse," the prince said when he had
concluded. "Some of these men doubtless are, as they say, zealous
in the cause, others are not to be largely trusted in extremities.
The money they promise is less than I had hoped. Promises are
cheaper than gold, and even here in Holland, where all is at stake,
the burghers are loath to put their hands in their pockets, and
haggle over their contributions as if they were to be spent for my
pleasure instead of their own safety. It is pitiful to see men so
fond of their moneybags. The numbers of men who can be relied upon
to rise are satisfactory, and more even than I had hoped for; for
in matters like this a man must proceed cautiously, and only sound
those upon whom he feels sure beforehand he can rely. The worst of
it is, they are all waiting for each other. One will move if another
will move, but none will be first. They will move if I get a victory.
But how can I win a victory when I have no army nor money to raise
one, and when each city will fight only in its own defence, and
will not put a man under arms for the common cause?"

As the prince was evidently speaking to himself rather than to him,
Ned remained silent. "Please to write all the particulars down that
you have given me," the prince went on, "that I may think it over
at my leisure. And so you could not see the Count of Coeverden?
Was he more difficult of access than he of Sluys?"

"I do not know that he was, sir," Ned replied; "but my attire was
not such as to gain me an entrance into antechambers."

"No, I did not think of that," the prince said. "You should have
taken with you a suit of higher quality. I forgot when I agreed
that you should, for safety, travel as a country lad, that in such
dress you could hardly gain an entrance into the palaces of nobles;
and of course it would have excited surprise for one so attired to
try to purchase such clothes as would have enabled you to boldly
enter."

"I might possibly have managed as a peasant lad," Ned replied
with a smile; "but having been detected in that attire, and being
eagerly sought for by Von Aert's agents, I was at the time dressed
as a peasant woman, and could think of no possible excuse upon
which I might obtain an audience with the count."

"No, indeed," the prince said smiling. "I must hear your story with
all its details; but as it is doubtless somewhat long, I must put
it off until later. After the evening meal you shall tell us your
adventures before I betake myself to my work."

Ned retired to his own room and resumed the attire he usually wore.
After supper he was sent for by the prince, with whom he found the
chamberlain and three or four of his principal officers.

"Now, young sir, tell us your story," the prince said. "Do not
fear of its being long. It is a rest to have one's mind taken off
the affairs of state. I have already told these gentlemen what
valuable services you have rendered to the cause we all have at
heart, and they, like myself, wish to know how you fared, and how
you escaped the danger you referred to at the hands of Von Aert."

Thus requested, Ned gave a full account of his journey, and of the
adventures he had met with in Brussels and on his way back.

"What think you, sirs," the prince asked when Ned had concluded his
story. "It seems to me that this lad has shown a courage, a presence
of mind, and a quickness of decision that would be an honour to
older men. The manner in which he escaped from the hands of Von
Aert, one of the craftiest as well as of the most cruel of the
Council of Blood, was excellent; and had he then, after obtaining
his disguise, escaped at once from the city, I for one should
assuredly not have blamed him, and I consider he showed a rare
devotion in continuing to risk his life to deliver my letters.
Then, again, the quickness with which he contrives to carry out
his scheme for saying a word to the Count of Sluys was excellent;
and though he takes no credit to himself, I doubt not that the
escape of the boat, after falling foul of the Spanish ship, was
greatly due to him. I think, sirs, you will agree with me that he
has the makings of a very able man in him, and that henceforth we
can safely intrust him with the most delicate as well as the most
perilous missions."

There was a general cordial agreement.

"I am free to aver that you are right and that I am wrong, prince,"
the chamberlain said. "I know that you seldom fail in your judgment
of character, and yet it seemed to me, if you will not mind my
saying so, that it was not only rash but wrong to risk the lives
of our friends in Brussels upon the chances of the discretion of
the lad. I now see you were right, for there are few indeed who,
placed as he was, would have carried out his mission as skilfully
and well as he has done."

"By the way," the prince said, "I would beg you to seek out the
captain of the boat in which you came here, and bid him come to
me this time tomorrow evening. I would fain hear from him somewhat
further details as to how you escaped from the Spaniards, for I
observed that in this matter you were a little reticent as to your
share in it. He may be able to tell me, too, more about the strength
of the Spanish garrisons in Bergen and its neighbourhood than you
can do."

For the next fortnight Ned was employed carrying messages from the
prince to various towns and ports. Alva was at Amsterdam, and the
army under his son, Don Frederick, was marching in that direction
on their way from Zutphen. They came down upon the little town of
Naarden on the coast of the Zuider Zee. A troop of a hundred men
was sent forward to demand its surrender. The burghers answered
that they held the town for the king and the Prince of Orange, and
a shot was fired at the troopers. Having thus committed themselves,
the burghers sent for reinforcements and aid to the Dutch towns,
but none were sent them, and when the Spaniards approached on the
1st of December they sent out envoys to make terms. The army marched
forward and encamped a mile and a half from the town.

A large deputation was sent out and was met by General Romero, who
informed them that he was commissioned on the part of Don Frederick
to treat with them. He demanded the keys, and gave them a solemn
pledge that the lives and properties of all the inhabitants should
be respected. The gates were thrown open, and Romero with five
hundred soldiers entered. A sumptuous feast was prepared for them
by the inhabitants. After this was over the citizens were summoned by
the great bell to assemble in the church that was used as a town
hall. As soon as they assembled the soldiers attacked them and
killed them all. The town was then set on fire, and almost every
man, woman, and child killed. Don Frederick forbade that the dead
should be buried, and issued orders forbidding anyone, on pain of
death, to give shelter to the few fugitives who had got away. The
few houses which had escaped the flames were levelled to the ground,
and Naarden ceased to exist.

Great as the horrors perpetrated at Zutphen had been, they were
surpassed by the atrocities committed at Naarden. The news of the
horrible massacre, so far from frightening the Hollanders into
submission, nerved them to even more strenuous resistance. Better
death in whatsoever form it came than to live under the rule of
these foul murderers. With the fall of Naarden there remained only
the long strip of land facing the sea, and connected at but a few
points with the mainland, that remained faithful to the cause of
freedom. The rest of the Netherlands lay cowed beneath the heel of
the Spaniards. Holland alone and a few of the islands of Zeeland
remained to be conquered.

The inhabitants of Holland felt the terrible danger; and Bossu,
Alva's stadtholder, formally announced that the system pursued
at Mechlin, Zutphen, and Naarden was the deliberate policy of the
government, and that man, woman, and child would be exterminated
in every city which opposed the Spanish authority. The day after
the news arrived of the fall of Naarden Ned received a letter from
his father, saying that the Good Venture was again at Enkhuizen,
and that she would in two days start for Haarlem with a fleet of
Dutch vessels; that he himself had made great progress in the last
six weeks, and should return to England in her; and that if Ned
found that he could get away for a day or two he should be glad to
see him.

The prince at once gave Ned permission to leave, and as he had
an excellent horse at his service he started the next morning at
daybreak and arrived at Enkhuizen before nightfall. He was received
with great joy by his family, and was delighted to find his father
looking quite himself again.

"Yes, thanks to good nursing and good food, my boy, I feel almost
strong and well enough to take my post at the helm of the Good
Venture again. The doctor tells me that in another couple of months
I shall be able to have a wooden leg strapped on, and to stump
about again. That was a rare adventure you had at Brussels, Ned;
and you must give us a full account of it presently. In the morning
you must come on board the vessel, Peters and the crew will be all
glad to see you again."

Ned stayed two days with his family. On the evening of the second
day he said to his father: "I should like to make the trip to
Haarlem and back, father, in the Good Venture. It may be that the
Spaniards will sally out from Amsterdam and attack it. Last time
we had to run away, you know; but if there is a sea fight I should
like to take my part in it."

"Very well, Ned, I have no objection; but I hardly think that there
will be a fight. The Spaniards are too strong, and the fleet will
start so as to pass through the strait by night."

"Well, at any rate I should like to be on board the Good Venture
again if only for the sail down and back again," Ned said. "They
are to sail at three o'clock tomorrow, so that if the wind is fair
they will pass the strait at night and anchor under the walls of
Haarlem in the morning. I suppose they will be two days discharging
their cargo of food and grain, and one reason why I want to go is
that I may if possible persuade my aunt and the two girls to return
with me and to sail for England with you. All think that Haarlem
will be the next place besieged, and after what has taken place in
the other towns it would be madness for my aunt to stop there."

"I quite agree with you, Ned. The duke is sure to attack Haarlem
next. If he captures it he will cut Holland in two and strike a
terrible blow at the cause. Your mother shall write a letter tonight
to her sister-in-law urging her to come with us, and take up her
abode in England till these troubles are over. She can either dwell
with us, or, if she would rather, we can find her a cottage hard
by. She will be well provided with money, for I have at home a copy
of your grandfather's will signed by him leaving all his property
to such of his relatives as may survive him.

"His three sons are dead; your mother and Elizabeth are therefore
his heirs, and the money he transmitted to England is in itself
sufficient to keep two families in comfort. What proportion of it
was his and what belonged to his sons now matters not, seeing that
your mother and aunt are the sole survivors of the family. As you
say, it is madness for her to remain in Holland with her two girls.
Were I a burgher of that town I would send my family away to Leyden
or Dort and stay myself to defend the walls to the last, but I do
not believe that many will do so. Your countrymen are obstinate
people, Sophie, and I fear that few will send their families away."

Upon the following afternoon Ned started with the little fleet. The
wind was fair and light, and they reached the mouth of the strait
leading from the Zuider Zee to Haarlem. Then suddenly the wind
dropped and the vessels cast anchor. For the two or three days
previous the weather had been exceedingly cold, and with the fall
of the wind the frost seemed to increase in severity, and Ned, who
had been pacing the deck with Peters chatting over what had happened
since they last met, was glad to go into the cabin, where the new
first mate and supercargo had retired as soon as the anchor was
let go. They sat talking for a couple of hours until a sailor came
in, and said that they were hailed by the nearest ship. They all
went on deck. Ned shouted to know what was the matter.

"Do you not see the water is freezing? By morning we shall be all
frozen up hard and fast."

This was startling news indeed, for they were now in full sight of
Amsterdam, and would, if detained thus, be open to an attack across
the ice.



CHAPTER XIII

THE SIEGE OF HAARLEM


There was much shouting in the little fleet as the news spread that
the sea was freezing. Boats were lowered and rowed from the ship
to ship, for the ice was as yet no thicker than window glass. Ned
went from the Good Venture to the craft round which most of the
boats were assembling to hear what was decided. He returned in a
few minutes.

"They are all of opinion that it is hopeless for us to get out of
this. We could tow the vessels a short distance, but every hour
the ice will thicken. They concluded that anchors shall be got up,
and that the ships all lie together as close as they can pack."

"What will be the use of that?" Peters asked. "If we are to be frozen
up it makes no difference that I can see, whether we are together
or scattered as at present."

"The idea is," Ned said, "if we are packed together we can defend
ourselves better than if scattered about, and what is more important
still, we can cut through the ice and keep a channel of open water
round us."

"So we could," Peters agreed. "Let us to work then. Which ship are
we to gather round?"

"The one I have just left, Peters; she is lying nearly in the
center."

For the next two hours there was much bustle and hard work. Thin
as the ice was it yet greatly hindered the operation of moving
the ships. At last they were all packed closely together; much
more closely indeed than would be possible in these days, for the
bowsprits, instead of running out nearly parallel with the waterline
stood up at a sharp angle, and the vessels could therefore be laid
with the bow of one touching the stern of that in advance. As there
was now no motive for concealment, lamps were shown and torches
burned. There were thirty craft in all, and they were arranged in
five lines closely touching each other. When all was done the crews
retired to rest. There was no occasion to keep watch, for the ice
had thickened so fast that boats could not now force their way
through it, while it would not before morning be strong enough to
bear the weight of armed men walking across it.

"This is a curious position," Ned said, as he went on deck next
morning. "How long do you think we are likely to be kept here,
Peters?"

"Maybe twenty-four hours, maybe three weeks, lad. These frosts when
they set in like this seldom last less than a fortnight or three
weeks. What do you think of our chances of being attacked?"

"I should say they are sure to attack us. The whole Spanish army
is lying over there in Amsterdam, and as soon as the ice is strong
enough to bear them you will see them coming out. How strong a
force can we muster?"

"There are thirty craft," Peters replied; "and I should think they
average fully fifteen men each--perhaps twenty. They carry strong
crews at all times, and stronger than usual now."

"That would give from five to six hundred men. I suppose all carry
arms?"

"Oh, yes. I do not suppose that there is a man here who has not
weapons of some kind, and most of them have arquebuses. It will
take a strong force to carry this wooden fort."

It was still freezing intensely, and the ice was strong enough
to bear men scattered here and there, although it would not have
sustained them gathered together. Towards the afternoon the captain
judged that it had thickened sufficiently to begin work, and fifty
or sixty men provided with hatchets got upon the ice and proceeded
to break it away round the vessels. After a couple of hours a fresh
party took their places, and by nightfall the ships were surrounded
by a belt of open water, some fifteen yards wide.

A meeting of the captains had been held during the day, and the
most experienced had been chosen as leader, with five lieutenants
under him. Each lieutenant was to command the crews of six ships.
When it became dark five boats were lowered. These were to row
round and round the ships all night so as to keep the water from
freezing again. The crews were to be relieved once an hour, so that
each ship would furnish a set of rowers once in six hours. Numerous
anchors had been lowered when the ships were first packed together,
so as to prevent the mass from drifting when the tide flowed or
ebbed, as this would have brought them in contact with one side
or the other of the ice around them. The next morning the ice was
found to be five inches thick, and the captains were of opinion
that the Spaniards might now attempt an attack upon them.

"Their first attack will certainly fail," Ned said, as they sat
at breakfast. "They will be baffled by this water belt round us.
However, they will come next time with rafts ready to push across
it, and then we shall have fighting in earnest."

The lieutenant under whom the crew of the Good Venture were placed,
came down while they were at breakfast to inquire how many arquebuses
there were on board.

"We have ten," the captain said.

"As I suppose you have no men who skate on board, I should be glad
if you will hand them over to me."

"What does he say?" the first mate asked in surprise upon this
being translated to him. "What does he mean by asking if we have
any men who skate, and why should we give up our guns if we can
use them ourselves?" Ned put the question to the lieutenant.

"We are going to attack them on the ice as they come out," he
replied. "Of course all our vessels have skates on board; in winter
we always carry them, as we may be frozen up at any time. And we
shall send out as many men as can be armed with arquebuses; those
who remain on board will fight the guns."

"That is a capital plan," Ned said; "and the Spanish, who are
unaccustomed to ice, will be completely puzzled. It is lucky there
was not a breath of wind when it froze, and the surface is as smooth
as glass. Well, there will be nine arquebuses for you, sir; for I
have been out here two winters and have learnt to skate, so I will
accompany the party, the other nine arquebuses with ammunition we
will hand over to you."

A lookout at one of the mastheads now shouted that he could make out
a black mass on the ice near Amsterdam, and believed that it was
a large body of troops. Every preparation had already been made on
board the ships for the fight. The Good Venture lay on the outside
tier facing Amsterdam, having been placed there because she carried
more guns than any of the other vessels, which were for the most
part small, and few carried more than four guns, while the armament
of the Good Venture had, after her fight with the Don Pedro, been
increased to ten guns. The guns from the vessels in the inner tiers
had all been shifted on to those lying outside, and the wooden fort
literally bristled with cannon.

A quarter of an hour after the news that the Spaniards were on
their way had been given, three hundred men with arquebuses were
ferried across the channel, and were disembarked on to the ice.
They were divided into five companies of sixty men each, under the
lieutenants; the captain remained to superintend the defence of
the ships. The Dutch sailors were as much at home on their skates
as upon dry land, and in high spirits started to meet the enemy.
It was a singular sight to see the five bodies of men gliding
away across the ice. There was no attempt at formation or order;
all understood their business, for in winter it was one of their
favourite sports to fire at a mark while skating at a rapid pace.

It was two miles from the spot where the ships lay frozen up to
Amsterdam. The Spaniards, a thousand strong, had traversed about
a third of the distance when the skaters approached them. Keeping
their feet with the utmost difficulty upon the slippery ice, they
were astonished at the rapid approach of the Dutchmen. Breaking
up as they approached, their assailants came dashing along at a
rapid pace, discharged their arquebuses into the close mass of the
Spaniards, and then wheeled away at the top of their speed, reloaded
and again swept down to fire.

Against these tactics the Spaniards could do little. Unsteady as they
were on their feet the recoil of their heavy arquebuses frequently
threw them over, and it was impossible to take anything like an
accurate aim at the flying figures that passed them at the speed
of a galloping horse. Nevertheless they doggedly kept on their way,
leaving the ice behind them dotted with killed and wounded. Not a
gun was discharged from on board the ships until the head of the
Spanish column reached the edge of the water, and discovered the
impassable obstacle that lay between them and the vessels. Then the
order was give to fire, and the head of the column was literally
swept away by the discharge.

The commander of the Spaniards now gave the order for a retreat.
As they fell back the guns of the ships swept their ranks, the
musketeers harassed them on each flank, the ice, cracked and broken
by the artillery fire, gave way under their feet, and many fell
through and were drowned, and of the thousand men who left Amsterdam
less than half regained that city. The Spaniards were astonished at
this novel mode of fighting, and the despatches of their officers gave
elaborate descriptions of the strange appendages that had enabled
the Hollanders to glide so rapidly over the ice. The Spaniards
were, however, always ready to learn from a foe. Alva immediately
ordered eight thousand pairs of skates, and the soldiers were kept
hard at work practicing until they were able to make their way with
fair rapidity over the ice. The evening after the fight a strong
wind suddenly sprang up from the southwest, and the rain descended
in torrents. By morning the ice was already broken up, the guns
were hastily shifted to the vessels to which they belonged, the
ships on the outside tiers cast off from the others, and before
noon the whole were on their way back towards Enkhuizen, which
they reached without pursuit by the Spanish vessels; for at nine
in the morning the wind changed suddenly again, the frost set in
as severely as before, and the Spaniards in the port of Amsterdam
were unable to get out. This event caused great rejoicing in Holland,
and was regarded as a happy omen for the coming contest.

After remaining another day with his family, Ned mounted his horse
and rode to Haarlem. The city lay at the narrowest point of the
narrow strip of land facing the German Ocean, and upon the shore of
the shallow lake of the same name. Upon the opposite side of this
lake, ten miles distant, stood the town of Amsterdam. The Lake of
Haarlem was separated from the long inlet of the Zuider Zee called
the Y by a narrow strip of land, along which ran the causeway
connecting the two cities. Halfway along this neck of land there
was a cut, with sluice works, by which the surrounding country could
be inundated. The port of Haarlem on the Y was at the village of
Sparendam, where there was a fort for the protection of the shipping.

Haarlem was one of the largest cities of the Netherlands; but
it was also one of the weakest. The walls were old, and had never
been formidable. The extent of the defences made a large garrison
necessary; but the force available for the defence was small indeed.
Upon his way towards Haarlem Ned learnt that on the night before,
the 10th of December, Sparendam had been captured by the Spaniards.
A secret passage across the flooded and frozen meadows had been
shown to them by a peasant, and they had stormed the fort, killed
three hundred men, and taken possession of the works and village.
Thus Haarlem was at once cut off from all aid coming from the Zuider
Zee.

Much disquieted by the news, Ned rode on rapidly and entered the
town by the gate upon the southern side; for, as he approached,
he learned that the Spaniards had already appeared in great force
before the city. He rode at once to his aunt's house, hoping to
find that she had already left the town with the girls. Leaping
from his horse he entered the door hurriedly, and was dismayed to
find his aunt seated before the fire knitting.

"My dear aunt!" he exclaimed, "do you know that the Spaniards are
in front of the town? Surely to remain here with the two girls is
madness!"

"Every one else is remaining, why should not I, Ned?" his aunt
asked calmly.

"Other people have their houses and their businesses, aunt, but
you have nothing to keep you here. You know what has happened at
Zutphen and Naarden. How can you expose the girls, even if you are
so obstinate yourself, to such horrors?"

"The burghers are determined to hold out until relief comes, nephew."

"Ay, if they can," Ned replied. "But who knows whether they can.
This is madness, aunt. I beseech you come with me to your father,
and let us talk over the matter with him; and in the morning, if
you will not go, I will get two horses and mount the girls on them,
and ride with them to Leyden--that is, if by the morning it is
not already too late. It would be best to proceed at once."

Dame Plomaert reluctantly yielded to the energy of her nephew,
and accompanied him to the house of her father; but the weaver was
absent on the walls, and did not return until late in the evening.
Upon Ned's putting the case to him, he at once agreed that it would
be best both for her and the girls to leave.

"I have told her so twenty times already," he said; "but Elizabeth
was always as obstinate as a mule. Over and over again she has
said she would go; and having said that, has done nothing. She can
do no good by stopping here; and there are only three more mouths
to feed. By all means, lad, get them away the first thing in the
morning. If it be possible I would say start tonight, dark as it
is; but the Spanish horse may be all round the city, and you might
ride into their arms without seeing them."

Ned at once sallied out, and without much difficulty succeeded in
bargaining for three horses; for few of the inhabitants had left, and
horses would not only be of no use during the siege, but it would
be impossible to feed them. Therefore their owners were glad to
part with them for far less than their real value. When he reached
the house he found that his aunt had made up three bundles with
clothes and what jewelry she had, and that she was ready to start
with the girls in the morning.

Before daybreak Ned went out to the walls on the south side, but
as the light broadened out discovered that it was too late. During
the night heavy reinforcements had arrived to Don Frederick from
Amsterdam, and a large force was already facing the west side of
the city.

With a heavy heart he returned to his aunt's with the news that it
was too late, for that all means of exit was closed. Dame Plomaert
took the news philosophically. She was a woman of phlegmatic
disposition, and objected to sudden movement and changes, and to
her it seemed far less terrible to await quietly the fortunes of
the siege than to undergo the fatigues of a journey on horseback
and the uncertainty of an unknown future.

"Well, nephew," she said placidly, "if we cannot get away, we cannot;
and it really saves a world of trouble. But what are you going to
do yourself? for I suppose if we cannot get away, you cannot."

"The way is open across the lake," Ned replied, "and I shall travel
along the ice to the upper end and then over to Leyden, and obtain
permission from the prince to return here by the same way; or
if not, to accompany the force he is raising there, for this will
doubtless march at once to the relief of the town. Even now, aunt,
you might make your escape across the ice."

"I have not skated since I was fifteen years old," the good woman
said placidly; "and at my age and weight I am certainly not going
to try now, Ned. Just imagine me upon skates!"

Ned could not help smiling, vexed as he was. His aunt was stout
and portly, and he certainly could not imagine her exerting herself
sufficiently to undertake a journey on skates.

"But the girls can skate," he urged.

"The girls are girls," she said decidedly; "and I am not going to
let them run about the world by themselves. You say yourself that
reinforcements will soon start. You do not know our people, nephew.
They will beat off the Spaniards. Whatever they do, the city will
never be taken. My father says so, and every one says so. Surely
they must know better than a lad like you!"

Ned shrugged his shoulders in despair, and went out to see what were
the preparations for defence. The garrison consisted only of some
fifteen hundred German mercenaries and the burgher force. Ripperda,
the commandant of the garrison, was an able and energetic officer.
The townspeople were animated by a determination to resist to the
end. A portion of the magistracy had, in the first place, been
anxious to treat, and had entered into secret negotiations with Alva,
sending three of their number to treat with the duke at Amsterdam.
One had remained there; the other two on their return were seized,
tried, and executed, and Sainte Aldegonde, one of the prince's
ministers, had been dispatched by him to make a complete change in
the magistracy.

The total force available for the defence of the town was not,
at the commencement of the siege, more than 3000 men, while over
30,000 Spaniards were gathering round its walls, a number equal to
the entire population of the city.

The Germans, under Count Overstein, finally took up their encampment
in the extensive grove of trees that spread between the southern
walls and the shore of the lake.

The Spaniards, under Don Frederick, faced the north walls, while
the Walloons and other regiments closed it in on the east and west.
But these arrangements occupied some days; and the mists which
favoured their movements were not without advantage to the besieged.
Under cover of the fog supplies of provisions and ammunition were
brought by men and women and even children, on their heads or in
sledges down the frozen lake, and in spite of the efforts of the
besiegers introduced into the city. Ned was away only two days.
The prince approved of his desire to take part in the siege, and
furnished him with letters to the magistrates promising reinforcements,
and to Ripperda recommending Ned as a young gentleman volunteer
of great courage and quickness, who had already performed valuable
service for the cause. His cousins were delighted to see him back.
Naturally they did not share in their mother's confidence as to
the result of the siege, and felt in Ned's presence a certain sense
of security and comfort. The garrison, increased by arrivals from
without and by the enrollment of every man capable of bearing arms,
now numbered a thousand pioneers, three thousand fighting men, and
three hundred fighting women.

The last were not the least efficient portion of the garrison. All
were armed with sword, musket, and dagger, and were led by Kanau
Hasselaer, a widow of distinguished family, who at the head of her
female band took part in many of the fiercest fights of the siege,
both upon and without the walls.

The siege commenced badly. In the middle of December the force of
some 3500 men assembled at Leyden set out under the command of De
la Marck, the former admiral of the sea beggars. The troops were
attacked on their march by the Spaniards, and a thousand were
killed, a number taken prisoners, and the rest routed.

Among the captains was a brave officer named Van Trier, for whom De
la Marck offered two thousand crowns and nineteen Spanish prisoners.
The offer was refused. Van Trier was hanged by one leg until he
was dead, upon one of the numerous gibbets erected in sight of the
town; in return for which De la Marck at once executed the nineteen
Spaniards. On the 18th of December Don Frederick's batteries opened
fire upon the northern side, and the fire was kept up without
intermission for three days. As soon as the first shot was fired,
a crier going round the town summoned all to assist in repairing
the damages as fast as they were made.

The whole population responded to the summons. Men, women, and
children brought baskets of stones and earth, bags of sand and
beams of wood, and these they threw into the gaps as fast as they
were made. The churches were stripped of all their stone statues,
and these too were piled in the breaches. The besiegers were greatly
horrified at what they declared to be profanation; a complaint that
came well from men who had been occupied in the wholesale murder
of men, women, and children, and in the sacking of the churches
of their own religion. Don Frederick anticipated a quick and easy
success. He deemed that this weakly fortified town might well be
captured in a week by an army of 30,000 men, and that after spending
a few days slaughtering its inhabitants, and pillaging and burning
the houses, the army would march on against the next town, until
ere long the rebellion would be stamped out, and Holland transformed
into a desert.

At the end of three days' cannonade the breach, in spite of the
efforts of the besieged, was practicable, and a strong storming
party led by General Romero advanced against it. As the column was
seen approaching the church bells rang out the alarm, the citizens
caught up their arms, and men and women hurried to the threatened
point. As they approached the Spaniards were received with a heavy
fire of musketry; but with their usual gallantry the veterans of
Spain pressed forward and began to mount the breach. Now they were
exposed not only to the fire of the garrison, but to the missiles
thrown by the burghers and women. Heavy stones, boiling oil, and
live coals were hurled down upon them; small hoops smeared with
pitch and set on fire were dexterously thrown over their heads,
and after a vain struggle, in which many officers were killed and
wounded, Romero, who had himself lost an eye in the fight, called
off his troops and fell back from the breach, leaving from three
to four hundred dead behind him, while but a half dozen of the
townsmen lost their lives.

Upon the retreat of the Spaniards the delight in the city was
immense; they had met the pikemen of Spain and hurled them back
discomfited, and they felt that they could now trust themselves to
meet further assaults without flinching.

To Ned's surprise his aunt, when the alarm bells rung, had sallied
out from her house accompanied by the two girls. She carried with
her half a dozen balls of flax, each the size of her head. These
had been soaked in oil and turpentine, and to each a stout cord
about two feet long was attached. The girls had taken part in the
work of the preceding day, but when she reached the breach she
told them to remain in shelter while she herself joined the crowd
on the walls flanking the breach, while Ned took part in the front
row of its defenders. Frau Plomaert was slow, but she was strong
when she chose to exert herself, and when the conflict was at its
thickest she lighted the balls at the fires over which caldrons of
oil were seething, and whirling them round her head sent them one
by one into the midst of the Spanish column.

"Three of them hit men fairly in the face," she said to one of her
neighbours, "so I think I have done: my share of today's work."

She then calmly descended the wall, joined her daughters and returned
home, paying no attention to the din of the conflict at the breach,
and contended that she had done all that could be expected of her.
On reaching home she bade the girls take to their knitting as usual,
while she set herself to work to prepare the midday meal.

A few days later the Prince of Orange sent from Sassenheim, a place
on the southern extremity of the lake, where he had now taken up
his headquarters, a force of 2000 men, with seven guns and a convoy
of wagons with ammunition and food towards the town, under General
Batenburgh. This officer had replaced De la Marck, whose brutal and
ferocious conduct had long disgraced the Dutch cause, and whom the
prince, finding that he was deaf alike to his orders and to the
dictates of humanity, had now deprived of his commission. Batenburgh's
expedition was no more fortunate than that of De la Marck had been.

On his approach to the city by night a thick mist set in, and the
column completely lost its way. The citizens had received news of
its coming, and the church bells were rung and cannon fired to guide
it as to its direction; but the column was so helplessly lost, that
it at last wandered in among the Spaniards, who fell upon them,
slew many and scattered the rest--a very few only succeeding in
entering the town. Batenburgh brought off, under cover of the mist,
a remnant of his troops, but all the provisions and ammunition were
lost.

The second in command, De Koning, was among those captured. The
Spaniards cut off his head and threw it over the wall into the
city, with a paper fastened on it bearing the words: "This is the
head of Captain De Koning, who is on his way with reinforcements
for the good city of Haarlem." But the people of Haarlem were
now strung up, both by their own peril and the knowledge of the
atrocities committed by the Spaniards in other cities, to a point
of hatred and fury equal to that of the foes, and they retorted by
chopping off the heads of eleven prisoners and throwing them into
the Spanish camp. There was a label on the barrel with these words,
"Deliver these heads to Duke Alva in payment of his ten penny tax,
with one additional head for interest."

The besieged were not content to remain shut up in the walls, but
frequently sallied out and engaged in skirmishes with the enemy.
Prisoners were therefore often captured by one side or the other, and
the gibbets on the walls and in the camp were constantly occupied.

Ned as a volunteer was not attached to any special body of troops,
Ripperda telling him to act for himself and join in whatever was
going on as he chose. Consequently he took part in many of the
skirmishes outside the walls, and was surprised to find how fearlessly
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
strength.

"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
said stoutly.

"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
it.

"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
loose."

"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."



CHAPTER XIV

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
mines.

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
could do."

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
general object.

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
in boats.

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
famine.

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
each day.

"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
risk.

"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.



CHAPTER XV

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
military precaution.

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
re-enacted."

"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
capable of."

"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
another.

"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
warmest support."

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
trouble.

"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
my power."

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
laughter.

"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
citizens.

"Yes, he is still here," the man said. "You will find him at the
town hall."

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
us."

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
subject.

"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
attached."

"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
time.

"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
work."

"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
left.

"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
daybreak."

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."



CHAPTER XVI

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
the garrison.

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
port?"

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
faded away."

"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
father?"

"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
you again."

"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
off beaten."

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
work here."

"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
work."

"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
us."

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
the author.

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
a time?"

"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
of prison."

"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
them."

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."



CHAPTER XVII

A RESCUE


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
were sitting.

"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
courtyard.

"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."

Ned smiled.

"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
of delight.

"Pardon me for having doubted you," the countess exclaimed, much
affected.

"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
you, Magdalene?"

"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
there."

"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.

"I will not forget," the countess said; "and only wish that at
present I was on my way thither."

After a warm farewell, and seeing the cart fairly on its way,
Ned mounted his horse and rode northwest. He slept that night at
Heerenthals, and on the following night at Bois le Duc. Here he
sold his horse for a few crowns, and taking boat proceeded down
the Dommel into the Maas, and then on to Rotterdam. On his arrival
at Delft he was heartily welcomed by the prince; who was greatly
pleased to hear that he had, without any accident or hitch, carried
out successfully the plan he had proposed to himself. Three weeks
later the prince heard from his correspondent at Maastricht. The
letter was cautiously worded, as were all those interchanged, lest
it should fall into the hands of the Spanish.

"There has been some excitement here. A week since a messenger
arrived from Brussels with orders that three female prisoners
confined here should be sent at once to Brussels; but curiously
enough it was found that the three prisoners in question had been
handed over upon the receipt of a previous order. This is now
pronounced to be a forgery, and it is evident that the authorities
have been tricked. There has been much search and inquiry, but no
clue whatever has been obtained as to the direction taken by the
fugitives, or concerning those engaged in this impudent adventure."

Alva's reign of terror and cruelty was now drawing to an end. His
successor was on his way out, and the last days of his administration
were embittered by his failure of his plans, the retreat of his
army from before Alkmaar, and the naval defeat from the Zuider Zee.
But he continued his cruelties to the end. Massacres on a grand
scale were soon carried on, and a nobleman named Uitenhoove, who
had been taken prisoner, was condemned to be roasted to death before
a slow fire, and was accordingly fastened by a chain to a stake,
around which a huge fire was kindled; he suffered in slow torture
a long time until despatched by the executioner with a spear, a
piece of humanity that greatly angered the duke.

Alva had contracted an enormous amount of debt, both public and
private, in Amsterdam, and now caused a proclamation to be issued
that all persons having demands upon him were to present their
claims on a certain day. On the previous night he and his train
noiselessly took their departure. The heavy debts remained unpaid,
and many opulent families were reduced to beggary. Such was the
result of the confidence of the people of Amsterdam in the honour
of their tyrant.

On the 17th of November Don Louis de Requesens, Grand Commander of
St. Jago, Alva's successor, arrived in Brussels; and on the 18th
of December the Duke of Alva left. He is said to have boasted, on
his way home, that he had caused 18,000 inhabitants of the provinces
to be executed during the period of his government. This was,
however, a mere nothing to the number who had perished in battle,
siege, starvation, and massacre. After the departure of their tyrant
the people of the Netherlands breathed more freely, for they hoped
that under their new governor, there would be a remission in the
terrible agony they had suffered; and for a time his proclamations
were of a conciliatory nature. But it was soon seen that there was
no change in policy. Peace was to be given only on the condition
of all Protestants recanting or leaving their country.

The first military effort of the new governor was to endeavour
to relieve the city of Middleburg, the capital of the Island of
Walcheren, which had long been besieged by the Protestants. Mondragon
the governor was sorely pressed by famine, and could hold out but
little longer, unless rescue came. The importance of the city was
felt by both parties. Requesens himself went to Bergen op Zoom, where
seventy-five ships were collected under the command, nominally, of
Admiral de Glines, but really under that of Julian Romero, while
another fleet of thirty ships was assembled at Antwerp, under D'Avila,
and moved down towards Flushing, there to await the arrival of
that of Romero. Upon the other hand, the Prince of Orange collected
a powerful fleet under the command of Admiral Boisot, and himself
paid a visit to the ships, and assembling the officers roused them
to enthusiasm by a stirring address.

On the 20th of January the Good Venture again entered the port of
Delft; and hearing that a battle was expected in a few days, Captain
Martin determined to take part in it. As soon as he had unloaded
his cargo he called the crew together and informed them of his
determination, but said that as this was no quarrel of theirs, any
who chose could remain on shore until his return.

But Englishmen felt that the cause of Holland was their own, and
not a single man on board availed himself of this permission. Ned
informed the Prince of Orange of his father's intention, and asked
leave to accompany him.

"Assuredly you may go if you please," the prince said; "but I fear
that, sooner or later, the fortune of war will deprive me of you,
and I should miss you much. Moreover, almost every sailor in port
is already in one or other of Boisot's ships; and I fear that,
with your weak crew, you would have little chance if engaged with
one of these Spanish ships full of men."

"We have enough to work our cannon, sir," Ned said; "besides,
I think we may be able to beat up some volunteers. There are many
English ships in port waiting for cargoes, which come in but slowly,
and I doubt not that some of them will gladly strike a blow against
the Spaniards."

Ned and Peters accordingly went round among the English vessels,
and in the course of two hours had collected a hundred volunteers.
In those days every Englishman regarded a Spaniard as a natural
enemy. Drake and Hawkins, and other valiant captains, were warring
fiercely against them in the Indian seas, and officers and men
in the ships in Delft were alike eager to join in the forthcoming
struggle against them.

The Good Venture had, flying the Dutch flag, joined Boisot's fleet
at Romerswael, a few miles below Bergen, on the 27th of January; and
when the Hollanders became aware of the nationality of the vessel
which had just joined them, they welcomed them with tremendous
cheers. Two days later the fleet of Romero were seen coming down
the river in three divisions. When the first of the Spanish ships
came near they delivered a broadside, which did considerable execution
among the Dutch fleet. There was no time for further cannonading.
A few minutes later the fleets met in the narrow channel, and the
ships grappling with each other, a hand to hand struggle began.

The fighting was of the most desperate character; no quarter was
asked or given on either side, and men fought with fury hand to
hand upon decks slippery with blood. But the combat did not last
long. The Spaniards had little confidence in themselves on board
ship. Their discipline was now of little advantage to them, and the
savage fury with which the Zeelanders fought shook their courage.
Fifteen ships were speedily captured and 1200 Spaniards slain, and
the remainder of the fleet, which, on account of the narrowness
of the passage had not been able to come into action, retreated to
Bergen.

Romero himself, whose ship had grounded, sprang out of a porthole
and swam ashore, and landed at the very feet of the Grand Commander, who
had been standing all day upon the dyke in the midst of a pouring
rain, only to be a witness of the total defeat of his fleet. Mondragon
now capitulated, receiving honourable conditions. The troops were
allowed to leave the place with their arms, ammunition, and personal
property, and Mondragon engaged himself to procure the release of
Sainte Aldegonde and four other prisoners of rank, or to return
and give himself up as a prisoner of war.

Requesens, however, neither granted the release of the prisoners,
nor permitted Mondragon to return. It was well for these prisoners,
that Bossu was in the hands of the prince. Had it not been for this
they would have all been put to death.

With the fall of Middleburg the Dutch and Zeelanders remained
masters of the entire line of sea coast, but on land the situation
was still perilous. Leyden was closely invested, and all communications
by land between the various cities suspended. The sole hope that
remained was in the army raised by Count Louis.

He had raised 3000 cavalry and 6000 infantry, and, accompanied by
the prince's other two brothers, crossed the Rhine in a snowstorm
and marched towards Maastricht. The Prince of Orange had on his
part with the greatest difficulty raised 6000 infantry, and wrote
to Count Louis to move to join him in the Isle of Bommel after he
had reduced Maastricht. But the expedition, like those before it,
was destined to failure. A thousand men deserted, seven hundred
more were killed in a night surprise, and the rest were mutinous
for their pay. Finally, Count Louis found himself confronted by a
force somewhat inferior in numbers to his own.

But the Spanish infantry were well disciplined and obedient, those
of Louis were mercenaries and discontented; and although at first
his cavalry gained an advantage, it was a short one, and after a
fierce action his army was entirely defeated. Count Louis, finding
that the day was lost, gathered a little band of troopers, and
with his brother, Count Henry, and Christopher, son of the Elector
Palatine, charged into the midst of the enemy. They were never
heard of more. The battle terminated in a horrible butchery. At
least 4000 men were either killed in the field, suffocated in the
marshes, drowned in the river, or burned in the farmhouses in which
they had taken refuge. Count Louis, and his brother and friend,
probably fell on the field, but stripped of their clothing,
disfigured by wounds and the trampling of horses, their bodies were
never recognized.

The defeat of the army and the death of his two brave brothers was
a terrible blow to the Prince of Orange. He was indeed paying dear
for his devotion to his country. His splendid fortune had been
entirely spent, his life had been one of incessant toil and anxiety,
his life had been several times threatened with assassination, he
had seen his every plan thwarted. Save on the sandy slip of coast
by the ocean, the whole of the Netherlands was still prostrate
beneath the foot of the Spaniard; and now he had lost two of his
brothers. England and France had alternately encouraged and stood
aloof from him, and after all these efforts and sacrifices the
prospects of ultimate success were gloomy in the extreme.

Fortunately the Spaniards were not able to take full advantage of
their victory over the army of Count Louis. They differed from the
German mercenaries inasmuch that while the latter mutinied before
they fought, the Spaniards fought first and mutinied afterwards.
Having won a great battle, they now proceeded to defy their generals.
Three years' pay were due to them, and they took the steps that
they always adopted upon these occasions. A commander called the
"Eletto" was chosen by acclamation, a board of councillors was
appointed to assist and control him, while the councillors were
narrowly watched by the soldiers. They crossed the Maas and marched
to Antwerp.

The Grand Commander hastened there to meet them, and when
they arrived in perfect military order he appeared before them on
horseback and made them an oration, promising that their demands
should be satisfied. The soldiers simply replied, "We want money,
not words." Requesens consulted the City Council and demanded 400,000
crowns to satisfy the troops. The citizens hesitated at providing
so enormous an amount, knowing by past experience that it would
never be repaid. The soldiers, however, employed their usual
methods. They quartered themselves upon the houses of the citizens,
and insisted upon being supplied with rich food, wine, and luxuries
of all kinds; and in a week or two the burghers saw that they must
either pay or be ruined.

An offer was accordingly made of ten months' arrears in cash, five
months in silks and woolen cloths, and the rest in promises to be
fulfilled within a few days. The Eletto declared that he considered
the terms satisfactory, whereupon the troops at once deposed him
and elected another. Carousing and merry making went on at the
expense of the citizens, and after suffering for some weeks from
the extortions and annoyance of the soldiers, the 400,000 crowns
demanded by Requesens were paid over, and the soldiers received all
their pay due either in money or goods. A great banquet was held
by the whole mass of soldiery, and there was a scene of furious
revelry. The soldiers arrayed themselves in costumes cut from the
materials they had just received. Broadcloths, silks, satins, and
gold embroidered brocades were hung in fantastic drapery over their
ragged garments, and when the banquet was finished gambling began.

But when they were in the midst of their revelry the sound of cannon
was heard. Boisot had sailed up the Scheldt to attack the fleet
of D'Avila, which had hastened up to Antwerp for refuge after the
defeat of Romero. There was a short and sharp action, and fourteen
of the Spanish ships were burnt or sunk. The soldiers swarmed down
to the dyke and opened a fire of musketry upon the Dutch. They
were, however, too far off to effect any damage, and Boisot, with
a few parting broadsides, sailed triumphantly down the river, having
again struck a heavy blow at the naval power of Spain.

The siege of Leyden had been raised when Count Louis crossed the
Rhine, the troops being called in from all parts to oppose his
progress. The Prince of Orange urged upon the citizens to lose
no time in preparing themselves for a second siege, to strengthen
their walls, and, above all, to lay in stores of provisions. But,
as ever, the Dutch burghers, although ready to fight and to suffer
when the pinch came, were slow and apathetic unless in the face of
necessity; and in spite of the orders and entreaties of the prince,
nothing whatever was done, and the Spaniards when they returned
before the city on the 26th of May, after two months' absence,
found the town as unprepared for resistance as it had been at their
first coming, and that the citizens had not even taken the trouble
to destroy the forts that they had raised round it.

Leyden stood in the midst of broad and fruitful pastures reclaimed
from the sea; around were numerous villages, with blooming gardens
and rich orchards. Innumerable canals cut up the country, and entering
the city formed its streets. These canals were shaded with trees,
crossed by a hundred and forty-five bridges. Upon an artificial
elevation in the centre of the city rose a ruined tower of great
antiquity, assigned either to the Saxons before they crossed to
England or with greater probability to the Romans.

The force which now appeared before the town consisted of
8000 Walloons and Germans, commanded by Valdez. They lost no time
in taking possession of the Hague, and all the villages and forts
round Leyden. Five hundred English volunteers under command of
Colonel Chester abandoned the fort of Valkenberg which had been
intrusted to them and fled towards Leyden. Not as yet had the
English soldiers learnt to stand before the Spaniards, but the time
was ere long to come when, having acquired confidence in themselves,
they were to prove themselves more than a match for the veterans
of Spain. The people of Leyden refused to open their gates to
the fugitives, and they surrendered to Valdez. As at that moment
a mission was on the point of starting from Requesens to Queen
Elizabeth, the lives of the prisoners were spared, and they were
sent back to England.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE SIEGE OF LEYDEN


The Spaniards had no sooner appeared before Leyden than they set
to work to surround it with a cordon of redoubts. No less than
sixty-two, including those left standing since the last siege, were
erected and garrisoned, and the town was therefore cut off from
all communication from without. Its defenders were few in number,
there being no troops in the town save a small corps composed
of exiles from other cities, and five companies of burgher guard.
The walls, however, were strong, and it was famine rather than the
foe that the citizens feared. They trusted to the courage of the
burghers to hold the walls, and to the energy of the Prince of
Orange to relieve them.

The prince, although justly irritated by their folly in neglecting
to carry out his orders, sent a message by a pigeon to them,
encouraging them to hold out, and reminding them that the fate of
their country depended upon the issue of this siege. He implored
them to hold out for at least three months, assuring them that
he would within that time devise means for their deliverance. The
citizens replied, assuring the prince of their firm confidence in
their own fortitude and his exertions. On the 6th of June the Grand
Commander issued what was called a pardon, signed and sealed by
the king. In it he invited all his erring and repentant subjects
to return to his arms, and accept a full forgiveness for their past
offense upon the sole condition that they should once more enter
the Catholic Church. A few individuals mentioned by name were alone
excluded from this amnesty. But all Holland was now Protestant, and
its inhabitants were resolved that they must not only be conquered
but annihilated before the Roman Church should be re-established on
their soil. In the whole province but two men came forward to take
advantage of the amnesty. Many Netherlanders belonging to the king's
party sent letters from the camp to their acquaintances in the
city exhorting them to submission, and imploring them "to take pity
upon their poor old fathers, their daughters, and their wives;"
but the citizens of Leyden thought the best they could do for these
relatives was to keep them out of the clutches of the Spaniards.

At the commencement of the siege the citizens gathered all their
food into the magazines, and at the end of June the daily allowance
to each full grown man was half a pound of meat and half a pound
of bread, women and children receiving less.

The prince had his headquarters at Delft and Rotterdam, and an
important fortress called the Polderwaert between these two cities
secured him the control of the district watered by the rivers Yssel
and Maas. On the 29th of June the Spaniards attacked this fort, but
were beaten off with a loss of 700 men. The prince was now occupied
in endeavouring to persuade the Dutch authorities to permit the
great sluices at Rotterdam, Schiedam, and Delft Haven to be opened.
The damage to the country would be enormous; but there was no other
course to rescue Leyden, and with it the whole of Holland, from
destruction.

It was not until the middle of July that his eloquent appeals
and arguments prevailed, and the estates consented to his plan.
Subscriptions were opened in all the Dutch towns for maintaining
the inhabitants of the district that was to be submerged until
it could be again restored, and a large sum was raised, the women
contributing their plate and jewellery to the furtherance of the
scheme. On the 3rd of August all was ready, and the prince himself
superintended the breaking down of the dykes in sixteen places,
while at the same time the sluices at Schiedam and Rotterdam were
opened and the water began to pour over the land.

While waiting for the water to rise, stores of provisions were
collected in all the principal towns, and 200 vessels of small
draught of water gathered in readiness. Unfortunately no sooner
had the work been done than the prince was attacked by a violent
fever, brought on by anxiety and exertion.

On the 21st of August a letter was received from the town saying
that they had now fulfilled their original promise, for they had
held out two months with food and another month without food. Their
bread had long been gone, and their last food, some malt cake, would
last but four days. After that was gone there was nothing left but
starvation.

Upon the same day they received a letter from the prince, assuring
them that the dykes were all pierced and the water rising upon the
great dyke that separated the city from the sea. The letter was
read publicly in the marketplace, and excited the liveliest joy
among the inhabitants. Bands of music played in the streets, and
salvos of cannon were fired. The Spaniards became uneasy at seeing
the country beyond them gradually becoming covered with water,
and consulted the country people and the royalists in their camp,
all of whom assured them that the enterprise of the prince was an
impossibility, and that the water would never reach the walls.

The hopes of the besieged fell again, however, as day after day
passed without change; and it was not until the 1st of September,
when the prince began to recover from his fever, and was personally
able to superintend the operations, that these began in earnest.
The distance from Leyden to the outer dyke was fifteen miles; ten
of these were already flooded, and the flotilla, which consisted of
more than 200 vessels, manned in all with 2500 veterans, including
800 of the wild sea beggars of Zeeland, renowned as much for their
ferocity as for nautical skill, started on their way, and reached
without difficulty the great dyke called the Land Scheiding. Between
this town and Leyden were several other dykes, all of which would
have to be taken. All these, besides the 62 forts, were defended
by the Spanish troops, four times the number of the relieving force.

Ned had been in close attendance upon the prince during his
illness, and when the fleet was ready to start requested that he
might be allowed to accompany it. This the prince at once granted,
and introduced him to Admiral Boisot.

"I shall be glad if you will take Captain Martin in your own ship,"
he said. "Young as he is he has seen much service, and is full of
resource and invention. You will, I am sure, find him of use; and
he can act as messenger to convey your orders from ship to ship."

The prince had given orders that the Land Scheiding, whose top was
still a foot and a half above water, should be taken possession of
at all hazard, and this was accomplished by surprise on the night
of the 10th. The Spaniards stationed there were either killed or
driven off, and the Dutch fortified themselves upon it. At daybreak
the Spaniards stationed in two large villages close by advanced to
recover the important position, but the Dutch, fighting desperately,
drove them back with the loss of some hundreds of men. The dyke
was at once cut through and the fleet sailed through the gap.

The admiral had believed that the Land Scheiding once cut, the
water would flood the country as far as Leyden, but another dyke,
the Greenway, rose a foot above water three-quarters of a mile
inside the Land Scheiding. As soon as the water had risen over the
land sufficiently to float the ships, the fleet advanced, seized the
Greenway, and cut it. But as the water extended in all directions,
it grew also shallower, and the admiral found that the only way by
which he could advance was by a deep canal leading to a large mere
called the Fresh Water Lake.

This canal was crossed by a bridge, and its sides were occupied
by 3000 Spanish soldiers. Boisot endeavoured to force the way but
found it impossible to do so, and was obliged to withdraw. He was
now almost despairing. He had accomplished but two miles, the water
was sinking rather than rising owing to a long continued east wind,
and many of his ships were already aground. On the 18th, however,
the wind shifted to the northwest, and for three days blew a gale.
The water rose rapidly, and at the end of the second day the ships
were all afloat again.

Hearing from a peasant of a comparatively low dyke between two
villages Boisot at once sailed in that direction. There was a strong
Spanish force stationed here; but these were seized with a panic
and fled, their courage unhinged by the constantly rising waters,
the appearance of the numerous fleet, and their knowledge of the
reckless daring of the wild sailors. The dyke was cut, the two
villages with their fortifications burned, and the fleet moved on
to North Aa. The enemy abandoned this position also, and fled to
Zoetermeer, a strongly fortified village a mile and a quarter from
the city walls. Gradually the Spanish army had been concentrated
round the city as the water drove them back, and they were principally
stationed at this village and the two strong forts of Lammen and
Leyderdorp, each within a few hundred yards of the town.

At the last named post Valdez had his headquarters, and Colonel
Borgia commanded at Lammen. The fleet was delayed at North Aa by
another dyke, called the Kirkway. The waters, too, spreading again
over a wider space, and diminished from the east wind again setting
in, sank rapidly, and very soon the whole fleet was aground; for
there were but nine inches of water, and they required twenty to
float them. Day after day they lay motionless. The Prince of Orange,
who had again been laid up with the fever, rose from his sickbed
and visited the fleet. He encouraged the dispirited sailors, rebuked
their impatience, and after reconnoitering the ground issued orders
for immediate destruction of the Kirkway, and then returned to
Delft.

All this time Leyden was suffering horribly. The burghers were
aware that the fleet had set forth to their relief, but they knew
better than those on board the obstacles that opposed its progress.
The flames of the burning villages and the sound of artillery told
them of its progress until it reached North Aa, then there was a
long silence, and hope almost deserted them. They knew well that
so long as the east wind continued to blow there could be no rise
in the level of the water, and anxiously they looked from the
walls and the old tower for signs of a change. They were literally
starving, and their misery far exceeded even that of the citizens
of Haarlem.

A small number of cows only remained, and of these few were killed
every day, and tiny morsels of meat distributed, the hides and
bones being chopped up and boiled. The green leaves were stripped
from the trees, and every herb gathered and eaten. The mortality
was frightful, and whole families died together in their houses
from famine and plague; for pestilence had now broken out, and from
six to eight thousand people died from this alone. Leyden abandoned
all hope, and yet they spurned the repeated summonses of Valdez
to surrender. They were fully resolved to die rather than to yield
to the Spaniards. From time to time, however, murmurs arose among
the suffering people, and the heroic burgomaster, Adrian Van der
Werf, was once surrounded by a crowd and assailed by reproaches.

He took off his hat and calmly replied to them: "I tell you I have
made an oath to hold the city, and may God give me strength to
keep it. I can die but once--either by your hands, the enemy's,
or by the hand of God. My own fate is indifferent to me; not so that
of the city intrusted to my care. I know that we shall all starve
if not soon relieved; but starvation is preferable to the dishonoured
death which is the only alternative. Your menaces move me not.
My life is at your disposal. Here is my sword; plunge it into by
breast and divide my flesh among you. Take my body to appease your
hunger; but expect no surrender so long as I remain alive."

Still the east wind continued, until stout admiral Boisot himself
almost despaired. But on the night of the 1st of October a violent
gale burst from the northwest, and then shifting, blew more strongly
from the southwest. The water was piled up high upon the southern
coast of Holland, and sweeping furiously inland poured through the
ruined dykes, and in twenty-four hours the fleet was afloat again.
At midnight they advanced in the midst of the storm and darkness.
Some Spanish vessels that had been brought up to aid the defenders
were swept aside and sunk.

The fleet, sweeping on past half submerged stacks and farm houses,
made its way to the fresh water mere. Some shallows checked it for
a time, but the crews sprang overboard into the water, and by main
strength hoisted their vessels across them. Two obstacles alone
stood between them and the city--the forts of Zoeterwoude and
Lammen, the one five hundred, and the other but two hundred and
fifty yards from the city. Both were strong and well supplied with
troops and artillery, but the panic which had seized the Spaniards
extended to Zoeterwoude. Hardly was the fleet in sight in the
gray light of the morning when the Spaniards poured out from the
fortress, and spread along a road on the dyke leading in a westerly
direction towards the Hague.

The waves, driven by the wind, were beating on the dyke, and it
was crumbling rapidly away, and hundreds sank beneath the flood.
The Zeelanders drove their vessels up alongside, and pierced them
with their harpoons, or, plunging into the waves, attacked them
with sword and dagger. The numbers killed amounted to not less than
a thousand; the rest effected their escape to the Hague. Zoeterwoude
was captured and set on fire, but Lammen still barred their path.
Bristling with guns, it seemed to defy them either to capture or
pass it on their way to the city.

Leyderdorp, where Valdez with his main force lay, was a mile and a
half distant on the right, and within a mile of the city, and the
guns of the two forts seemed to render it next to impossible for
the fleet to pass on. Boisot, after reconnoitering the position,
wrote despondently to the prince that he intended if possible on
the following morning to carry the fort, but if unable to do so,
he said, there would be nothing for it but to wait for another gale
of wind to still further raise the water, and enable him to make
a wide circuit and enter Leyden on the opposite side. A pigeon had
been despatched by Boisot in the morning informing the citizens of
his exact position, and at nightfall the burgomaster and a number
of citizens gathered at the watchtower.

"Yonder," cried the magistrate, pointing to Lammen, "behind that
fort, are bread and meat and brethren in thousands. Shall all this
be destroyed by Spanish guns, or shall we rush to the aid of our
friends?"

"We will tear the fortress first to fragments with our teeth and
nails," was the reply; and it was resolved that a sortie should
be made against Lammen at daybreak, when Boisot attacked it on the
other side. A pitch dark night set in, a night full of anxiety to
the Spaniards, to the fleet, and to Leyden. The sentries on the walls
saw lights flitting across the waters, and in the dead of night the
whole of the city wall between two of the gates fell with a loud
crash. The citizens armed themselves and rushed to the breach,
believing that the Spaniards were on them at last; but no foe made
his appearance.

In the morning the fleet prepared for the assault. All was still
and quiet in the fortress, and the dreadful suspicion that the city
had been carried at night, and that all their labour was in vain,
seized those on board. Suddenly a man was seen wading out from the
fort, while at the same time a boy waved his cap wildly from its
summit. The mystery was solved. The Spaniards had fled panic stricken
in the darkness. Had they remained they could have frustrated the
enterprise, and Leyden must have fallen; but the events of the
two preceding days had shaken their courage. Valdez retired from
Leyderdorp and ordered Colonel Borgia to evacuate Lammen.

Thus they had retreated at the very moment that the fall of the wall
sapped by the flood laid bare a whole side of the city for their
entrance. They heard the crash in the darkness, and it but added
to their fears, for they thought that the citizens were sallying
out to take some measures which would further add to the height
of the flood. Their retreat was discovered by the boy, who, having
noticed the procession of lights in the darkness, became convinced
that the Spaniards had retired, and persuaded the magistrates to
allow him to make his way out to the fort to reconnoitre. As soon
as the truth was known the fleet advanced, passed the fort, and
drew up alongside the quays.

These were lined by the famishing people, every man, woman,
and child having strength to stand having come out to greet their
deliverers. Bread was thrown from all the vessels among the crowd
as they came up, and many died from too eagerly devouring the food
after their long fast. Then the admiral stepped ashore, followed
by the whole of those on board the ships. Magistrates and citizens,
sailors and soldiers, women and children, all repaired to the great
church and returned thanks to God for the deliverance of the city.
The work of distributing food and relieving the sick was then
undertaken. The next day the prince, in defiance of the urgent
entreaties of his friends, who were afraid of the effects of the
pestilential air of the city upon his constitution enfeebled by
sickness, repaired to the town.

Shortly afterwards, with the advice of the States, he granted the
city as a reward for its suffering a ten days' annual fair, without
tolls or taxes, and it was further resolved that a university should,
as a manifestation of the gratitude of the people of Holland, be
established within its walls. The fiction of the authority of Philip
was still maintained, and the charter granted to the university
was, under the circumstances, a wonderful production. It was drawn
up in the name of the king, and he was gravely made to establish
the university as a reward to Leyden for rebellion against himself.

"Considering," it said, "that during these present wearisome wars
within our provinces of Holland and Zeeland, all good instruction
of youth in the sciences and literary arts is likely to come into
entire oblivion; considering the difference of religion; considering
that we are inclined to gratify our city of Leyden, with its
burghers, on account of the heavy burden sustained by them during
this war with such faithfulness, we have resolved--after ripely
deliberating with our dear cousin William Prince of Orange,
stadtholder--to erect a free public school, and university," &c. So ran
the document establishing this famous university, all needful regulations
for its government being intrusted by Philip to his above mentioned
dear cousin of Orange.

Ned Martin was not one of those who entered Leyden with Boisot's
relieving fleet. His long watching and anxiety by the bedside of
the prince had told upon him, and he felt strangely unlike himself
when he started with the fleet. So long as it was fighting its way
forward the excitement kept him up; but the long delay near the
village of Aa, and the deep despondency caused by the probable
failure of their hopes of rescuing the starving city, again brought
on an attack of the fever that had already seized him before starting,
and when the Prince of Orange paid his visit to the fleet Boisot
told him the young officer he had recommended to him was down with
fever, which was, he believed, similar to that from which the prince
himself was but just recovering.

The prince at once ordered him to be carried on board his own
galley, and took him with him back to Delft. Here he lay for a
month completely prostrated. The prince several times visited him
personally, and, as soon as he became in some degree convalescent,
said to him:

"I think we have taxed you too severely, and have worked you in
proportion to your zeal rather than to your strength. The surgeon
says that you must have rest for awhile, and that it will be well
for you to get away from our marshes for a time. For two years you
have done good and faithful service, and even had it not been for
this fever you would have a right to rest, and I think that your
native air is best for you at present. With the letters that came
to me from Flushing this morning is one from your good father,
asking for news of you. His ship arrived there yesterday, and he has
heard from one of those who were with Boisot that you have fallen
ill; therefore, if it be to your liking, I will send you in one of
my galleys to Flushing."

"I thank your excellency much," Ned said. "Indeed for the last
few days I have been thinking much of home and longing to be back.
I fear that I shall be a long time before I shall be fit for hard
work again here."

"You will feel a different man when you have
been a few hours at sea," the prince said kindly. "I hope to see
you with me again some day. There are many of your countrymen, who,
like yourself, have volunteered in our ranks and served us well
without pay or reward, but none of them have rendered better service
than you have done. And now farewell. I will order a galley to be
got in readiness at once. I leave myself for Leyden in half an hour.
Take this, my young friend, in remembrance of the Prince of Orange;
and I trust that you may live to hand it down to your descendants
as a proof that I appreciated your good services on behalf of a
people struggling to be free.

So saying he took off his watch and laid it on the table by Ned's
bedside, pressed the lad's hand, and retired. He felt it really a
sacrifice to allow this young Englishman to depart. He had for years
been a lonely man, with few confidants and no domestic pleasures.
He lived in an atmosphere of trouble, doubt, and suspicion. He
had struggled alone against the might of Philip, the apathy of the
western provinces, the coldness and often treachery of the nobles,
the jealousies and niggardliness of the Estates, representing cities
each of which thought rather of itself and its privileges than of
the general good; and the company of this young Englishman, with
his frank utterances, his readiness to work at all times, and his
freedom from all ambitions or self interested designs, had been
a pleasure and relief to him, and he frequently talked to him far
more freely than even to his most trusted counsellors.

Ever since the relief of Alkmaar Ned had been constantly with him,
save when despatched on missions to various towns, or to see that
the naval preparations were being pushed on with all speed; and his
illness had made a real blank in his little circle. However, the
doctors had spoken strongly as to the necessity for Ned's getting
away from the damp atmosphere of the half submerged land, and he at
once decided to send him back to England, and seized the opportunity
directly the receipt of Captain Martin's letter informed him that
the ship was at Flushing.

An hour later four men entered with a litter; the servants had
already packed Ned's mails, and he was carried down and placed on
board one of the prince's vessels. They rowed down into the Maas,
and then hoisting sail proceeded down the river, kept outside
the island to Walcheren, and then up the estuary of the Scheldt
to Flushing. It was early morning when they arrived in port. Ned
was carried upon deck, and soon made out the Good Venture lying a
quarter of a mile away. He was at once placed in the boat and rowed
alongside. An exclamation from Peters, as he looked over the side
and saw Ned lying in the stern of the boat, called Captain Martin
out from his cabin.

"Why, Ned, my dear boy!" he exclaimed, as he looked over the side;
"you seem in grievous state indeed."

"There is not much the matter with me, father. I have had fever,
but am getting over it, and it will need but a day or two at sea
to put me on my feet again. I have done with the war at present,
and the prince has been good enough to send me in one of his own
galleys to you."

"We will soon get you round again, never fear, Master Ned," Peters
said as he jumped down into the boat to aid in hoisting him on
board. "No wonder the damp airs of this country have got into your
bones at last. I never can keep myself warm when we are once in
these canals. If it wasn't for their schiedam I don't believe the
Dutchmen could stand it themselves."

Ned was soon lifted on board, and carried into the cabin aft. The
Good Venture had already discharged her cargo, and, as there was
no chance of filling up again at Flushing, sail was made an hour
after he was on board, and the vessel put out to sea. It was now
early in November, but although the air was cold the day was fine
and bright, and as soon as the vessel was under weigh Ned was
wrapped up in cloaks and laid on a mattress on deck, with his head
well propped up with pillows.

"One seems to breathe in fresh life here, father," he said. "It is
pleasant to feel the motion and the shock of the waves after being
so long on land. I feel stronger already, while so long as I was
at Delft I did not seem to gain from one day to the other. I hope
we sha'n't make too rapid a voyage; I don't want to come home as
an invalid."

"We shall not make a fast run of it unless the wind changes, Ned.
It blows steadily from the west at present, and we shall be lucky
if we cast anchor under a week in the Pool."

"All the better, father. In a week I shall be on my legs again
unless I am greatly mistaken."

Ned's convalescence was indeed, rapid, and by the time they entered
the mouth of the Thames he was able to walk from side to side of
the vessel, and as the wind still held from the west it was another
four days before they dropped anchor near London Bridge. Ned would
have gone ashore in his old attire; but upon putting it on the
first day he was able to get about, he found he had so completely
outgrown it that he was obliged to return to the garments he had
worn in Holland.

He was now more than eighteen years of age, and nearly six feet in
height. He had broadened out greatly, and the position he had for
the last year held as an officer charged with authority by the
prince had given him a manner of decision and authority altogether
beyond his years. As he could not wear his sailor dress he chose
one of the handsomest of those he possessed. It consisted of maroon
doublet and trunks, slashed with white, with a short mantle of dark
green, and hose of the same colour; his cap was maroon in colour,
with small white and orange plumes, and he wore a ruff round his
neck. Captain Martin saluted him with a bow of reverence as he came
on deck.

"Why, Ned, they will think that I am bringing a court gallant with
me. Your mother and the girls will be quite abashed at all this
finery."

"I felt strange in it myself at first," Ned laughed; "but of
course I am accustomed to it now. The prince is not one who cares
for state himself, but as one of his officers I was obliged to be
well dressed; and, indeed, this dress and the others I wear were
made by his orders and presented to me. Indeed I think I am very
moderate in not decking myself out with the two gold chains I
have--the one a present from his highness, the other from the city
of Alkmaar--to say nothing of the watch set with jewels that the
prince gave me on leaving."

Ned's mother and the girls were on the lookout, for the Good Venture
had been noticed as she passed. Ned had at his father's suggestion
kept below in order that he might give them a surprise on his
arrival.

"I verily believe they won't know you," he said as they approached
the gate. "You have grown four inches since they saw you last, and
your cheeks are thin and pale instead of being round and sunburnt.
This, with your attire, has made such a difference that I am sure
anyone would pass you in the street without knowing you."

Ned hung a little behind while his mother and the girls met his
father at the gate. As soon as the embraces were over Captain Martin
turned to Ned and said to his wife:

"My dear, I have to introduce an officer of the prince who has come
over for his health to stay awhile with us. This is Captain Martin."

Dame Martin gave a start of astonishment, looked incredulously for
a moment at Ned, and then with a cry of delight threw herself into
his arms.

"It really seems impossible that this can be Ned," she said, as,
after kissing his sisters, he turned to her. "Why, husband, it is
a man!"

"And a very fine one too, wife. He tops me by two inches; and as to
his attire, I feel that we must all smarten up to be fit companions
to such a splendid bird. Why, the girls look quite awed by him!"

"But you look terribly pale, Ned, and thin," his mother said; "and
you were so healthy and strong."

"I shall soon be healthy and strong again, mother. When I have got
out of these fine clothes, which I only put on because I could not
get into my old ones, and you have fed me up for a week on good
English beef, you will see that there is no such great change in
me after all."

"And now let us go inside," Captain Martin said; "there is a
surprise for you there." Ned entered, and was indeed surprised at
seeing his Aunt Elizabeth sitting by the fire, while his cousins
were engaged upon their needlework at the window. They, too, looked
for a moment doubtful as he entered; for the fifteen months since
they had last seen him, when he left them at the surrender of
Haarlem, had changed him much, and his dress at that time had been
very different to that he now wore. It was not until he exclaimed
"Well, aunt, this is indeed a surprise!" that they were sure of his
identity, and they welcomed him with a warmth scarcely less than
his mother and sisters had shown.

Elizabeth Plomaert was not of a demonstrative nature; but although
she had said little at the time, she had felt deeply the care and
devotion which Ned had exhibited to her and her daughters during
the siege, and knew that had it not been for the supplies of food,
scanty as they were, that he nightly brought in, she herself, and
probably the girls, would have succumbed to hunger.

"When did you arrive, aunt?" Ned asked, when the greetings were
over.

"Four months ago, Ned. Life was intolerable in Haarlem owing to the
brutal conduct of the Spanish soldiers. I was a long time bringing
myself to move. Had it not been for the girls I should never have
done so. But things became intolerable; and when most of the troops
were removed at the time Count Louis advanced, we managed to leave
the town and make our way north. It was a terrible journey to
Enkhuizen; but we accomplished it, and after being there a fortnight
took passage in a ship for England, and, as you see, here we are."



CHAPTER XIX

THE QUEEN'S SERVICE


A few days after Ned's return home his aunt and cousins moved into
a house close by, which they had taken a short time before; Dame
Plomaert's half of the property, purchased with the money that
had been transmitted by her father-in-law and his sons to England,
being ample to keep them in considerable comfort. Just as Ned was
leaving Delft some despatches had been placed in his hands for
delivery upon his arrival in London to Lord Walsingham. The great
minister was in attendance upon the queen at Greenwich, and thither
Ned proceeded by boat on the morning after his arrival. On stating
that he was the bearer of despatches from the Prince of Orange
Ned at once obtained an audience, and bowing deeply presented his
letters to the queen's counsellor. The latter opened the letter
addressed to himself, and after reading a few words said:

"Be seated, Captain Martin. The prince tells me that he sends it
by your hand, but that as you are prostrate by fever you will be
unable to deliver it personally. I am glad to see that you are so
far recovered."

Ned seated himself, while Lord Walsingham continued the perusal of
his despatches.

"The prince is pleased to speak in very high terms of you, Captain
Martin," he said, "and tells me that as you are entirely in his
confidence you will be able to give me much information besides
that that he is able to write." He then proceeded to question Ned
at length as to the state of feeling in Holland, its resources and
means of resistance, upon all of which points Ned replied fully.
The interview lasted near two hours, at the end of which time Lord
Walsingham said:

"When I hand the letter inclosed within my own to the queen I shall
report to her majesty very favourably as to your intelligence, and
it may possibly be that she may desire to speak to you herself, for
she is deeply interested in this matter; and although circumstances
have prevented her showing that warmth for the welfare of Holland
that she feels, she has no less the interest of that country at
heart, and will be well pleased to find that one of her subjects
has been rendering such assistance as the prince is pleased to
acknowledge in his letter to me. Please, therefore, to leave your
address with my secretary in the next room, in order that I may
communicate with you if necessary."

Two days later one of the royal servants brought a message that
Captain Martin was to present himself on the following day at
Greenwich, as her majesty would be pleased to grant him an audience.
Knowing that the queen loved that those around her should be
bravely attired, Ned dressed himself in the suit that he had only
worn once or twice when he had attended the prince to meetings of
the Estates.

It was of a puce coloured satin, slashed with green, with a short
mantle of the same material, with the cape embroidered in silver.
The bonnet was to match, with a small white feather. He placed the
chain the prince had given him round his neck, and with an ample
ruff and manchets of Flemish lace, and his rapier by his side, he
took his place in the boat, and was rowed to Greenwich. He felt
some trepidation as he was ushered in. A page conducted him to the
end of the chamber, where the queen was standing with Lord Walsingham
at her side. Ned bowed profoundly, the queen held out her hand,
and bending on one knee Ned reverently placed it to his lips.

"I am gratified, Captain Martin," she said, "at the manner in which
my good cousin, the Prince of Orange, has been pleased to speak
of your services to him. You are young indeed, sir, to have passed
through such perilous adventures; and I would fain hear from your
lips the account of the deliverance of Leyden, and of such other
matters as you have taken part in."

The queen then seated herself, and Ned related modestly the events
at Leyden, Haarlem, Alkmaar, and the two sea fights in which he
had taken part. The queen several times questioned him closely as
to the various details.

"We are much interested," she said, "in these fights, in which the
burghers of Holland have supported themselves against the soldiers
of Spain, seeing that we may ourselves some day have to maintain
ourselves against that power. How comes it, young sir, that you
came to mix yourself up in these matters? We know that many of our
subjects have crossed the water to fight against the Spaniards;
but these are for the most part restless spirits, who are attracted
as much, perhaps, by a love of adventure as by their sympathy with
the people of the Netherlands."

Ned then related the massacre of his Dutch relations by the Spaniards,
and how his father had lost a leg while sailing out of Antwerp.

"I remember me now," the queen said. "The matter was laid before
our council, and we remonstrated with the Spanish ambassador, and
he in turn accused our seamen of having first sunk a Spanish galley
without cause or reason. And when not employed in these dangerous
enterprises of which you have been speaking, do you say that you
have been in attendance upon the prince himself? He speaks in his
letter to my Lord Walsingham of his great confidence in you. How
came you first, a stranger and a foreigner, to gain the confidence
of so wise and prudent a prince?"

"He intrusted a mission to me of some slight peril, your majesty,
and I was fortunate enough to carry it out to his satisfaction."

"Tell me more of it," the queen said. "It may be that we ourselves
shall find some employment for you, and I wish to know upon what
grounds we should place confidence in you. Tell me fully the affair.
I am not pressed for time, and love to listen to tales of adventure."

Ned thus commanded related in full the story of his mission to
Brussels.

"Truly the prince's confidence was well reposed in you," she said,
when Ned had finished. "You shall hear from us anon, Captain Martin.
Since you know Holland so well, and are high in the confidence of
the prince, we shall doubtless be able to find means of utilizing
your services for the benefit of the realm."

So saying she again extended her hand to Ned, who, after kissing
it, retired from the audience chamber delighted with the kindness
and condescension of Elizabeth. When he had left, the queen said
to Lord Walsingham.

"A very proper young officer, Lord Walsingham; and one of parts
and intelligence as well as of bravery. Methinks we may find him
useful in our communications with the Prince of Orange; and from
his knowledge of the people we may get surer intelligence from him
of the state of feeling there with regard to the alliance they are
proposing with us, and to their offers to come under our protection,
than we can from our own envoy. It is advisable, too, at times to
have two mouthpieces; the one to speak in the public ear, the other
to deliver our private sentiments and plans."

"He is young for so great a responsibility," Lord Walsingham said
hesitatingly.

"If the Prince of Orange did not find him too young to act in
matters in which the slightest indiscretion might bring a score
of heads to the block, I think that we can trust him, my lord. In
some respects his youth will be a distinct advantage. Did we send
a personage of age and rank to Holland it might be suspected that
he had a special mission from us, and our envoy might complain that
we were treating behind his back; but a young officer like this
could come and go without attracting observation, and without even
Philip's spies suspecting that he was dabbling in affairs of state."

At this time, indeed, the queen was, as she had long been, playing
a double game with the Netherlands. Holland and Zeeland were begging
the prince to assume absolute power. The Prince of Orange, who had
no ambition whatever for himself, was endeavouring to negotiate
with either England or France to take the Estates under their
protection. Elizabeth, while jealous of France, was unwilling to
incur the expenditure in men and still more money that would be
necessary were she to assume protection of Holland as its sovereign
under the title offered to her of Countess of Holland; and yet,
though unwilling to do this herself, she was still more unwilling
to see France step in and occupy the position offered to her, while,
above all, she shrank from engaging at present in a life and death
struggle with Spain.

Thus, while ever assuring the Prince of Orange of her good-will,
she abstained from rendering any absolute assistance, although
continuing to hold out hopes that she would later on accept the
sovereignty offered.

For the next three weeks Ned remained quietly at home. The gatherings
in the summer house were more largely attended than ever, and the
old sailors were never tired of hearing from Ned stories of the
sieges in Holland.

It was a continual source of wonder to them how Will Martin's son,
who had seemed to them a boy like other boys, should have gone
through such perilous adventures, should have had the honour of
being in the Prince of Orange's confidence, and the still greater
honour of being received by the queen and allowed to kiss her
hand. It was little more than two years back that Ned had been a
boy among them, never venturing to give his opinion unless first
addressed, and now he was a young man, with a quiet and assured
manner, and bearing himself rather as a young noble of the court
than the son of a sea captain like themselves.

It was all very wonderful, and scarce seemed to them natural,
especially as Ned was as quiet and unaffected as he had been as
a boy, and gave himself no airs whatever on the strength of the
good fortune that had befallen him. Much of his time was spent in
assisting his aunt to get her new house in order, and in aiding her
to move into it. This had just been accomplished when he received
an order to go down to Greenwich and call upon Lord Walsingham.
He received from him despatches to be delivered to the Prince
of Orange, together with many verbal directions for the prince's
private ear. He was charged to ascertain as far as possible the
prince's inclinations towards a French alliance, and what ground
he had for encouragement from the French king.

"Upon your return, Captain Martin, you will render me an account of
all expenses you have borne, and they will, of course, be defrayed."

"My expenses will be but small, my lord," Ned replied; "for it
chances that my father's ship sails tomorrow for Rotterdam, and I
shall take passage in her. While there I am sure that the prince,
whose hospitality is boundless, will insist upon my staying with
him as his guest; and, indeed, it seems to me that this would be
best so, for having so long been a member of his household it will
seem to all that I have but returned to resume my former position."

The public service in the days of Queen Elizabeth was not sought for
by men for the sake of gain. It was considered the highest honour
to serve the queen; and those employed on embassies, missions, and
even in military commands spent large sums, and sometimes almost
beggared themselves in order to keep up a dignity worthy of their
position, considering themselves amply repaid for any sacrifices by
receiving an expression of the royal approval. Ned Martin therefore
returned home greatly elated at the honourable mission that had
been intrusted to him. His father, however, although also gratified
at Ned's reception at court and employment in the queen's service
looked at it from the matter of fact point of view.

"It is all very well, Ned," he said, as they were talking the matter
over in family conclave in the evening; "and I do not deny that I
share in the satisfaction that all these women are expressing. It
is a high honour that you should be employed on a mission for her
majesty, and there are scores of young nobles who would be delighted
to be employed in such service; but you see, Ned, you are not
a young noble, and although honour is a fine thing, it will buy
neither bread nor cheese. If you were the heir to great estates you
would naturally rejoice in rendering services which might bring you
into favour at court, and win for you honour and public standing;
but you see you are the son of a master mariner, happily the owner
of his own ship and of other properties which are sufficient to
keep him in comfort, but which will naturally at the death of your
mother and myself go to the girls, while you will have the Good
Venture and my share in other vessels. But these are businesses
that want looking after, and the income would go but a little way
to support you in a position at court. You have now been two years
away from the sea. That matters little; but if you were to continue
in the royal service for a time you would surely become unfitted
to return to the rough life of a master mariner. Fair words butter
no parsnip, Ned. Honour and royal service empty the purse instead
of filling it. It behooves you to think these matters over."

"I am surprised at you, Will," Dame Martin said. "I should have
thought that you would have been proud of the credit and honour
that Ned is winning. Why, all our neighbours are talking of nothing
else!"

"All our neighbours will not be called upon, wife, to pay for Master
Ned's support, to provide him with courtly garments, and enable him
to maintain a position which will do credit to his royal mistress.
I am proud of Ned, as proud as anyone can be, but that is no reason
why I should be willing to see him spend his life as a needy hanger
on of the court rather than as a British sailor, bearing a good
name in the city, and earning a fair living by honest trade. Ned
knows that I am speaking only for his own good. Court favour is
but an empty thing, and our good queen is fickle in her likings,
and has never any hesitation in disavowing the proceedings of her
envoys. When a man has broad lands to fall back upon he can risk
the loss of court favour, and can go into retirement assured that
sooner or later he will again have his turn. But such is not Ned's
position. I say not that I wish him at once to draw back from
this course; but I would have him soberly think it over and judge
whether it is one that in the long run is likely to prove successful."

Mrs. Martin, her sister-in-law, and the four girls looked anxiously
at Ned. They had all, since the day that he was first sent for to
Greenwich, been in a high state of delight at the honour that had
befallen him, and his father's words had fallen like a douche of
cold water upon their aspirations.

"I fully recognize the truth of what you say, father," he said,
after a pause, "and will think it deeply over, which I shall have
time to do before my return from Holland. Assuredly it is not a
matter to be lightly decided. It may mean that this royal service
may lead to some position of profit as well as honour; although
now, as you have put it to me, I own that the prospect seems to me
to be a slight one, and that where so many are ready to serve for
honour alone, the chance of employment for one requiring money
as well as honour is but small. However, there can be no need for
instant decision. I am so fond of the sea that I am sure that,
even if away from it for two or three years, I should be ready and
willing to return to it. I am as yet but little over eighteen, and
even if I remained in the royal service until twenty-one I should
still have lost but little of my life, and should not be too old
to take to the sea again.

"In time I shall see more plainly what the views of Lord Walsingham
are concerning me, and whether there is a prospect of advancement
in the service. He will know that I cannot afford to give my life
to the queen's service without pay, not being, as you say, a noble
or a great landowner."

"That is very well spoken, Ned," his father said. "There is no
need in any way for you to come to any resolution on the subject
at present; I shall be well content to wait until you come of age.
As you say, by that time you will see whether this is but a brief
wind of royal favour, or whether my Lord Walsingham designs to
continue you in the royal service and to advance your fortunes.
I find that I am able to get on on board a ship better than I
had expected, and have no wish to retire from the sea at present;
therefore there will be plenty of time for you to decide when you
get to the age of one and twenty. Nevertheless this talk will not
have been without advantage, for it will be far better for you not
to have set your mind altogether upon court service; and you will
then, if you finally decide to return to the sea, not have to
suffer such disappointment as you would do had you regarded it as
a fixed thing that some great fortune was coming to you. So let
it be an understood thing, that this matter remains entirely open
until you come to the age of twenty-one."

Ned accordingly went backwards and forwards to Holland for the next
two years, bearing letters and messages between the queen and the
Prince of Orange.

There was some pause in military operations after the relief of
Leyden. Negotiations had for a long time gone on between the King
of Spain, acting by Royal Commissioners, on the one side, and the
prince and the Estates on the other. The Royal Commissioners were
willing in his name to make considerable concessions, to withdraw
the Spanish troops from the country, and to permit the Estates
General to assemble; but as they persisted that all heretics should
either recant or leave the provinces, no possible agreement could
be arrived at, as the question of religion was at the bottom of
the whole movement.

During the year 1575 the only military operation of importance was
the recovery by the Spaniards of the Island of Schouwen, which, with
its chief town Zierickzee, was recovered by a most daring feat of
arms--the Spaniards wading for miles through water up to the neck
on a wild and stormy night, and making their way across in spite
of the efforts of the Zeelanders in their ships. Zierickzee indeed
resisted for many months, and finally surrendered only to hunger;
the garrison obtaining good terms from the Spaniards, who were so
anxious for its possession that to obtain it they were even willing
for once to forego their vengeance for the long resistance it had
offered.

In March, 1576, while the siege was still going on, Requesens died
suddenly of a violent fever, brought on partly by anxiety caused by
another mutiny of the troops. This mutiny more than counterbalanced
the advantage gained by the capture of the Island of Schouwen, for
after taking possession of it the soldiers engaged in the service
at once joined the mutiny and marched away into Brabant.

The position of Holland had gone from bad to worse, the utmost
efforts of the population were needed to repair the broken dykes
and again recover the submerged lands. So bare was the country of
animals of all kinds, that it had become necessary to pass a law
forbidding for a considerable period the slaughter of oxen, cows,
calves, sheep, or poultry. Holland and Zeeland had now united in
a confederacy, of which the prince was at the head, and by an Act
of Union in June, 1575, the two little republics became virtually
one. Among the powers and duties granted to the prince he was to
maintain the practice of the reformed evangelical religion, and
to cause to cease the exercise of all other religions contrary to
the Gospel. He was, however, not to permit that inquisition should
be made into any man's belief or conscience, or that any man by
cause thereof should suffer trouble, injury, or hindrance.

Upon one point only the prince had been peremptory, he would have
no persecution. In the original terms he had been requested to
suppress "the Catholic religion," but had altered the words into
"religion at variance with the Gospel." Almost alone, at a time when
every one was intolerant, the Prince of Orange was firmly resolved
that all men should have liberty of conscience.

Holland suffered a great loss when Admiral Boisot fell in endeavouring
to relieve Zierickzee. The harbour had been surrounded by Spaniards
by a submerged dyke of piles of rubbish. Against this Boisot drove
his ship, which was the largest of his fleet. He did not succeed in
breaking through. The tide ebbed and left his ship aground, while
the other vessels were beaten back. Rather than fall into the
hands of the enemy, he and 300 of his companions sprang overboard
and endeavoured to effect their escape by swimming, but darkness
came on before he could be picked up, and he perished by drowning.

The mutiny among the Spanish regiments spread rapidly, and the
greater part of the German troops of Spain took part in it. The
mutineers held the various citadels throughout the country, and
ravaged the towns, villages, and open country. The condition of
the people of Brabant was worse than ever. Despair led them to turn
again to the provinces which had so long resisted the authority
of Spain, and the fifteen other states, at the invitation of the
prince, sent deputies to Ghent to a general congress, to arrange for
a close union between the whole of the provinces of the Netherlands.

Risings took place in all parts of the country, but they were always
repressed by the Spaniards; who, though in open mutiny against
their king and officers, had no idea of permitting the people of
the Netherlands to recover the liberty that had at the cost of so
much blood been wrung from them. Maastricht drove out its garrison;
but the Spaniards advanced against the town, seized a vast number
of women, and placing these before them advanced to the assault.
The citizens dared not fire, as many of their own wives or sisters
were among the women; the town was therefore taken, and a hideous
massacre followed.

Ned Martin had now been two years engaged upon various missions to
Holland, and Lord Walsingham himself acknowledged to his mistress
that her choice of the young officer had been a singularly good
one. He had conducted himself with great discretion, his reports
were full and minute, and he had several times had audiences with
the queen, and had personally related to her matters of importance
concerning the state of Holland, and the views of the prince
and the Estates General. The congress at Ghent, and the agitation
throughout the whole of the Netherlands, had created a lively interest
in England, and Ned received orders to visit Ghent and Antwerp,
and to ascertain more surely the probability of an organization of
the provinces into a general confederation.

When he reached Ghent he found that the attention of the citizens
was for the time chiefly occupied with the siege of the citadel,
which was held by a Spanish garrison, and he therefore proceeded
to Antwerp. This was at the time probably the wealthiest city
in Europe. It carried on the largest commerce in the world, its
warehouses were full of the treasures of all countries, its merchants
vied with princes in splendour. The proud city was dominated,
however, by its citadel, which had been erected not for the purpose
of external defence but to overawe the town.

The governor of the garrison, D'Avila, had been all along recognized
as one of the leaders of the mutiny. The town itself was garrisoned
by Germans who still held aloof from the mutiny, but who had been
tampered with by him. The governor of the city, Champagny, although
a sincere Catholic, hated the Spaniards, and had entered into
negotiations with the prince. The citizens thought at present but
little of the common cause, their thoughts being absorbed by fears
of their own safety, threatened by the mutinous Spanish troops who
had already captured and sacked Alost, and were now assembling with
the evident intention of gathering for themselves the rich booty
contained within the walls of Antwerp.

As they approached the town, a force of 5000 Walloon infantry and
1200 cavalry were despatched from Brussels to the aid of its sister
city. No sooner, however, did this force enter the town than it
broke into a mutiny, which was only repressed with the greatest
difficulty by Champagny. It was at this moment that Ned entered the
city. He at once communicated with the governor, and delivered to
him some messages with which he had been charged by the Prince of
Orange, whom he had visited on his way.

"Had you arrived three days since I could have discussed these
matters with you," the governor said; "but as it is we are hourly
expecting attack, and can think of nothing but preparations for
defence. I shall be glad if you can assist me in that direction.
Half the German garrison are traitors, the Walloons who have just
entered are in no way to be relied upon, and it is the burghers
themselves upon whom the defence of the town must really fall. They
are now engaged in raising a rampart facing the citadel. I am at
once proceeding thither to superintend the work."

Ned accompanied the governor to the spot and found twelve thousand
men and women labouring earnestly to erect a rampart, constructed
of bales of goods, casks of earth, upturned wagons, and other bulky
objects. The guns of the fortress opened upon the workers, and so
impeded them that night fell before the fortifications were nearly
completed. Unfortunately it was bright moonlight, and the artillerymen
continued their fire with such accuracy that the work was at last
abandoned, and the citizens retired to their homes. Champagny did
all that was possible. Aided by some burghers and his own servants,
he planted what few cannon there were at the weakest points; but
his general directions were all neglected, and not even scouts were
posted.

In the morning a heavy mist hung over the city, and concealed the
arrival of the Spanish troops from all the towns and fortresses in
the neighbourhood. As soon as it was fairly daylight the defenders
mustered. The Marquis of Havre claimed for the Walloons the post
of honour in defence of the lines facing the citadel; and 6000
men were disposed here, while the bulk of the German garrison were
stationed in the principal squares.

At ten o'clock the mutineers from Alost marched into the citadel,
raising the force there to 5000 veteran infantry and 600 cavalry.

Ned had been all night at work assisting the governor. He had now
laid aside his ordinary attire, and was clad in complete armour.
He was not there to fight; but there was clearly nothing else to
do, unless indeed he made his escape at once to the fleet of the
Prince of Orange, which was lying in the river. This he did not
like doing until it was clear that all was lost. He had seen the
Dutch burghers beat back the most desperate assaults of the Spanish
troops, and assuredly the Walloons and Germans, who, without counting
the burghers, considerably exceeded the force of the enemy, ought
to be able to do the same.

Just before daybreak he made his way down to the quays, ascertained
the exact position of the fleet, and determined how he had best
get on board. He chose a small boat from among those lying at the
quay, and removed it to the foot of some stairs by a bridge. He
fastened the head rope to a ring and pushed the boat off, so that
it lay under the bridge, concealed from the sight of any who might
pass along the wharves. Having thus prepared for his own safety,
he was making his way to rejoin the governor when a woman came out
from a house in a quiet street. As she met him he started.

"Why, Magdalene!" he exclaimed, "is it you? What are you doing in
Antwerp? Is the countess here?"

The woman looked at him in surprise.

"Don't you remember me, Magdalene? the boy you dressed up as a girl
at Brussels, and whom you last saw at Maastricht?"

"Bless me!" the old servant exclaimed, "is it you, sir? I should
never have known you again."

"Three years make a great deal of difference," Ned laughed; "and
it is more than that now since we last met."

"Please to come in, sir; the countess will be right glad to see
you, and so will Miss Gertrude. They have talked of you hundreds
of times, and wondered what had become of you." She opened the door
again with the great key, and led the way into the house.

"Mistress," she said, showing the way into the parlour, "here is
a visitor for you." The countess and her daughter had, like every
one else in Antwerp, been up all night, and rose from her seat by
the fire as the young officer entered. He took off his helmet and
bowed deeply.

"What is your business with me?" the countess asked, seeing that
he did not speak.

"I have not come exactly upon business, countess," he replied, "but
to thank you for past kindnesses."

"Mother, it is the English boy!" exclaimed the young lady sitting
upon the side of the fire, rising from her seat. "Surely, sir, you
are Master Edward Martin?"

"Your eyes are not in fault, Fraulein. I am Edward Martin."

"I am glad, indeed, to see you, sir," the countess said. "How often
my daughter and I have longed for the time when we might again
meet you to tell how grateful we are for the service you did us. I
wonder now that I did not recognize you; but you have changed from
a lad into a man. You must remember it is more than four years since
we were together at Brussels. As for the meeting near Maastricht,
it was such a short one; and I was so full of joy at the thought
that Gertrude and I had escaped the fearful danger hanging over us
that I scarce noticed your appearance, nor had we any time to talk
then. We received the letter you wrote after leaving us at Brussels,
from the Hague, telling us that you had arrived there safely. But
since you did us that service at Maastricht we have never heard of
you."

"I had not your address," Ned replied. "And even had I known where
you were I should not have dared to write; for there was no saying
into whose hands the letter might not fall. But, countess, excuse
me if I turn to other matters, for the time presses sorely. You
know that the city will be attacked today."

"So every one says," the countess replied. "But surely you do not
think that there is any danger. The Walloons and Germans should
be able alone to hold the barricades, and behind them are all the
citizens."

"I put little faith in the Walloons," Ned said shortly; "and some
of the Germans we know have been bribed. I would rather that all
were out of the way, and that it were left to the burghers alone
to defend the barricades. I have seen how the citizens of the
Netherlands can fight at Haarlem and Alkmaar. As for these Walloons, I
have no faith in them. I fear, countess, that the danger is great;
and if the Spaniards succeed in winning their way into the town,
there is no mercy to be expected for man, woman, or child. I consider
that it would be madness for you to stay here."

"But what are we to do, sir?" the countess asked.

"The only way, madam, is to make your way on board the prince's
fleet. I am known to many of the officers, and can place you on
board at once. If you wait until the Spaniards enter it will be
too late. There will be a wild rush to the river, and the boats
will be swamped. If the attack fails, and the Spaniards retire from
before the city, you can if you choose return to shore, though I
should say that even then it will be better by far to go to Rotterdam
or Delft; unless you decide to do as you once talked about, to find
a refuge for a time in England."

"I will accept your offer gladly, sir," the countess said. "I have
long been looking for some way to leave the city. But none can go
on board the ships without a pass, and I have not dared to ask for
one. Not for worlds would I expose my daughter to the horrors of
a sack. Can we go at once?"

"Yes, madam, I have everything in readiness, and would advise no
delay."

"I have nothing that I need mind leaving behind. I am, as you see,
more comfortable here than I was at Brussels; but I am still forced
to keep my concealment. In five minutes we shall be ready."



CHAPTER XX

THE "SPANISH FURY"


In a very short time the countess and her daughter returned to the
room where Ned was awaiting them. Each carried a handbag.

"We are ready now," the countess said. "I have my jewels and purse.
As for the things we leave behind, they are scarce worth the taking
by the Spaniards."

Locking the door of the house behind them the three women accompanied
Ned down to the riverside. He took the first boat that came to
hand and rowed them down to the fleet, which was moored a quarter
of a mile below the town. He passed the first ship or two, and then
rowed to one with whose captain he was acquainted.

"Captain Enkin," he said, "I have brought on board two ladies who
have long been in hiding, waiting an opportunity of being taken to
Holland--the Countess Von Harp and her daughter. I fear greatly
that Antwerp will fall today, and wish, therefore, to place them
in safety before the fight begins. Before sunset, unless I am
mistaken, you will have a crowd of fugitives on board."

"I am very pleased, madam," the captain said, bowing to the countess,
"to receive you, and beg to hand over my cabin for your use. The
name you bear is known to all Dutchmen; and even were it not so,
anyone introduced to me by my good friend Captain Martin would be
heartily welcome.

"Are you going to return on shore?" he asked Ned.

"Yes, I must do so," Ned replied. "I promised the governor to
stand by him to the last; and as he has scarce a soul on whom he
can rely, it is clearly my duty to do so. It is not for me to shirk
doing my duty as long as I can, because I fear that the day will
go against us."

"You will have difficulty in getting off again if the Spaniards
once enter the city," the captain said. "There will be such a rush
to the boats that they will be swamped before they leave shore."

"I have a boat hidden away in which I hope to bring off the governor
with me," Ned replied. "As to myself, I can swim like a fish."

"Mind and get rid of your armour before you try it. All the swimming
in the world could not save you if you jumped in with all that
steel mail on you."

"I will bear it in mind," Ned said. "Goodbye, countess. Good-bye,
Fraulein Gertrude. I trust to see you at nightfall, if not before."

"That is a very gallant young officer," Captain Enkin said as the
two ladies sat watching Ned as he rowed to the shore.

"You addressed him as Captain Martin?" the countess said.

"Yes, he has been a captain in the prince's service fully three
years," the sailor said; "and fought nobly at Alkmaar, at the
naval battle on the Zuider Zee, and in the sea fight when we drove
Romero's fleet back in Bergen. He stands very high in the confidence
of the prince, but I do not think he is in our service now. He
is often with the prince, but I believe he comes and goes between
England and Holland, and is, men say, the messenger by whom private
communications between the queen of England and the prince are
chiefly carried."

"He is young to have such confidence reposed in him," the countess
said.

"Yes, he is young," Captain Enkin replied. "Not, I suppose, beyond
seven or eight and twenty. He was a captain and high in the prince's
confidence when I first knew him three years ago, so he must surely
have been four or five and twenty then; and yet, indeed, now you
speak of it, methinks he is greatly bigger now than he was then.
I do not think he was much taller than I am, and now he tops me
by nigh a head. But I must surely be mistaken as to that, for the
prince would scarcely place his confidence in a mere lad."

The countess made no reply, though she exchanged a quiet smile
with her daughter. They knew that Ned could not be much more than
twenty. He was, he had said, about three years older than Gertrude,
and she had passed seventeen but by a few months.

Ned, on returning to shore, tied up the boat, and then proceeded
to the palace of the governor. A servant was holding a horse at
the door.

"The governor ordered this horse to be ready and saddled for you,
sir, when you arrived, and begged you to join him at once in the
marketplace, where he is telling off the troops to their various
stations."

Leaping on the horse, Ned rode to the marketplace, and at once
placed himself under orders of the governor.

"There is nothing much for you to do at present," Champagny said.
"The troops are all in their places, and we are ready when they
deliver the assault."

It was not until eleven o'clock that the Spaniards advanced to the
attack--3000 of them, under their Eletto, by the street of St.
Michael; the remainder with the Germans, commanded by Romero, by
that of St. George. No sooner did the compact masses approach the
barricades than the Walloons, who had been so loud in their boasts
of valour, and had insisted upon having the post of danger, broke
and fled, their commander, Havre, at their head; and the Spaniards,
springing over the ramparts, poured into the streets.

"Fetch up the Germans from the exchange!" Champagny shouted to
Ned; and leaping his horse over a garden wall, he himself rode to
another station and brought up the troops there, and led them in
person to bar the road to the enemy, trying in vain to rally the
flying Walloons he met on the way. For a few minutes the two parties
of Germans made a brave stand; but they were unable to resist the
weight and number of the Spaniards, who bore them down by sheer
force. Champagny had fought gallantly in the melee, and Ned, keeping
closely beside him, had well seconded his efforts; but when the
Germans were borne down they rode off, dashing through the streets
and shouting to the burghers everywhere to rise in defence of their
homes.

They answered to the appeal. The bodies already collected at the
exchange and cattle market moved forward, and from every house the
men poured out. The Spanish columns had already divided, and were
pouring down the streets with savage cries. The German cavalry
of Havre under Van Eude at once deserted, and joining the Spanish
cavalry fell upon the townsmen. In vain the burghers and such of
the German infantry as remained faithful strove to resist their
assailants. Although they had been beaten off in their assaults
upon breaches, the Spaniards had ever proved themselves invincible
on level ground; and now, inspired alike by the fury for slaughter
and the lust for gold, there was no withstanding them.

Round the exchange some of the bravest defenders made a rally, and
burghers and Germans, mingled together, fought stoutly until they
were all slain.

There was another long struggle round the town hall, one of the
most magnificent buildings in Europe; and for a time the resistance
was effective, until the Spanish cavalry and the Germans under the
traitor Van Eude charged down upon the defenders. Then they took
refuge in the buildings, and every house became a fortress, and from
window and balcony a hot fire was poured into the square. But now
a large number of camp followers who had accompanied the Spaniards
came up with torches, which had been specially prepared for firing
the town, and in a short time the city hall and other edifices in
the square were in flames.

The fire spread rapidly from house to house and from street to
street, until nearly a thousand buildings in the most splendid and
wealthy portion of the city were in a blaze.

In the street behind the town hall a last stand was made. Here the
margrave of the city, the burgomasters, senators, soldiers, and
citizens fought to the last, until not one remained to wield a sword.
When resistance had ceased the massacre began. Women, children,
and old men were killed in vast numbers, or driven into the river
to drown there.

Then the soldiers scattered on the work of plunder. The flames had
already snatched treasures estimated at six millions from their
grasp, but there was still abundance for all. The most horrible
tortures were inflicted upon men, women, and children to force
them to reveal the hiding places, where they were supposed to have
concealed their wealth, and for three days a pandemonium reigned
in the city. Two thousand five hundred had been slain, double that
number burned and drowned. These are the lowest estimates, many
placing the killed at very much higher figures.

Champagny had fought very valiantly, joining any party of soldiers
or citizens he saw making a defence. At last, when the town hall
was in flames and all hope over, he said to Ned, who had kept
throughout the day at his side: "It is no use throwing away our
lives. Let us cut our way out of the city."

"I have a boat lying in readiness at the bridge," Ned said. "If we
can once reach the stairs we can make our way off to the fleet."

As they approached the river they saw a Spanish column crossing the
street ahead of them. Putting spurs to their horses they galloped
on at full speed, and bursting into it hewed their way through and
continued their course, followed, however, by a number of Spanish
infantry.

"These are the steps!" Ned exclaimed, leaping from his horse.

Champagny followed his example. The Spaniards were but twenty yards
behind.

"If you pull on that rope attached to the ring a boat lying under
the bridge will come to you," Ned said. "I will keep them back till
you are ready."

Ned turned and faced the Spaniards, and for two or three minutes
kept them at bay. His armour was good, and though many blows struck
him he was uninjured, while several of the Spaniards fell under
his sweeping blows. They fell back for a moment, surprised at his
strength; and at this instant the governor called out that all was
ready.

Ned turned and rushed down the steps. The governor was already
in the boat. Ned leaped on board, and with a stroke of his sword
severed the head rope. Before the leading Spaniards reached the
bottom of the steps the boat was a length away. Ned seated himself,
and seizing the oars rowed down the river. Several shots were fired
at them from the bridge and wharves as they went, but they passed
on uninjured. Ned rowed to the admiral's ship and left the governor
there, and then rowed to that of Captain Enkin.

"Welcome back," the captain said heartily. "I had begun to fear
that ill had befallen you. A few fugitives came off at noon with
the news that the Spaniards had entered the city and all was lost.
Since then the roar of musketry, mingled with shouts and yells, has
been unceasing, and that tremendous fire in the heart of the city
told its own tale. For the last three hours the river has been full
of floating corpses; and the countess and her daughter, who until
then remained on deck, retired to pray in their cabin. The number
of fugitives who have reached the ships is very small. Doubtless
they crowded into such boats as there were and sank them. At any
rate, but few have made their way out, and those chiefly at the
beginning of the fight. Now we had best let the ladies know you
are here, for they have been in the greatest anxiety about you."

Ned went to the cabin door and knocked. "I have returned, countess."

In a moment the door opened. "Welcome back, indeed, Captain Martin,"
she said. "We had begun to fear that we should never see you again.
Thankful indeed am I that you have escaped through this terrible
day. Are you unhurt?" she asked, looking at his bruised and dented
armour and at his clothes, which were splashed with blood.

"I have a few trifling cuts," he replied, "but nothing worth speaking
of. I am truly thankful, countess, that you and your daughter put
off with me this morning."

"Yes, indeed," the countess said. "I shudder when I think what
would have happened had we been there in the city. What a terrible
sight it is!"

"It is, indeed," Ned replied. The shades of night had now fallen,
and over a vast space the flames were mounting high, and a pall of
red smoke, interspersed with myriads of sparks and flakes of fire,
hung over the captured city. Occasional discharges of guns were
still heard, and the shrieks of women and the shouts of men rose
in confused din. It was an immense relief to all on board when
an hour later the admiral, fearing that the Spaniards might bring
artillery to bear upon the fleet, ordered the anchors to be weighed,
and the fleet to drop a few miles below the town.

After taking off his armour, washing the blood from his wounds and
having them bound up, and attiring himself in a suit lent him by
the captain until he should get to Delft, where he had left his
valise, Ned partook of a good meal, for he had taken nothing but
a manchet of bread and a cup of wine since the previous night.
He then went into the cabin and spent the evening in conversation
with the countess and her daughter, the latter of whom had changed
since they had last met to the full as much as he had himself done.
She had been a girl of fourteen--slim and somewhat tall for her
age, and looking pale and delicate from the life of confinement and
anxiety they had led at Brussels, and their still greater anxiety
at Maastricht. She was now budding into womanhood. Her figure was
lissome and graceful, her face was thoughtful and intelligent,
and gave promise of rare beauty in another year or two. He learned
that they had remained for a time in the village to which they had
first gone, and had then moved to another a few miles away, and
had there lived quietly in a small house placed at their disposal
by one of their friends. Here they had remained unmolested until two
months before, when the excesses committed throughout the country
by the mutinous soldiery rendered it unsafe for anyone to live
outside the walls of the town. They then removed to Antwerp, where
there was far more religious toleration than at Brussels; and the
countess had resumed her own name, though still living in complete
retirement in the house in which Ned had so fortunately found her.

"The times have altered me for the better," the countess said. "The
Spaniards have retired from that part of Friesland where some of
my estates are situated, and those to whom Alva granted them have
had to fly. I have a faithful steward there, and since they have
left he has collected the rents and has remitted to me such portions
as I required, sending over the rest to England to the charge of
a banker there. As it may be that the Spaniards will again sweep
over Friesland, where they still hold some of the principal towns,
I thought it best, instead of having my money placed in Holland,
where no one can foresee the future, to send it to England, where
at least one can find a refuge and a right to exercise our religion."

"I would that you would go there at once, countess; for surely at
present Holland is no place for two unprotected ladies. Nothing
would give my mother greater pleasure than to receive you until you
can find a suitable home for yourselves. My sisters are but little
older than your daughter, and would do all in their power to make
her at home. They too speak your language, and there are thousands
of your compatriots in London."

"What do you say, Gertrude?" the countess asked. "But I know that
your mind has been so long made up that it is needless to question
you."

"Yes, indeed, mother, I would gladly go away anywhere from here,
where for the last six years there has been nothing but war and
bloodshed. If we could go back and live in Friesland among our
own people in safety and peace I should be delighted to do so, but
this country is as strange to us as England would be. Our friends
stand aloof from us, and we are ever in fear either of persecution
or murder by the Spanish soldiers. I should be so glad to be away
from it all; and, as Captain Martin says, there are so many of our
own people in London, that it would scarce feel a strange land to
us."

"You have said over and over again that you would gladly go if you
could get away, and now that we can do so, surely it will be better
and happier for us than to go on as we have done. Of course it
would be better in Holland than it has been here for the last four
years, because we should be amongst Protestants; but we should be
still exposed to the dangers of invasion and the horrors of sieges."

"It is as my daughter says, Captain Martin; our thoughts have long
been turning to England as a refuge. In the early days of the
troubles I had thought of France, where so many of our people went,
but since St. Bartholomew it has been but too evident that there is
neither peace nor safety for those of the religion there, and that
in England alone can we hope to be permitted to worship unmolested.
Therefore, now that the chance is open to us, we will not refuse
it. I do not say that we will cross at once. We have many friends
at Rotterdam and Delft, and the prince held my husband in high
esteem in the happy days before the troubles; therefore I shall
tarry there for a while, but it will be for a time only. It will
not be long before the Spanish again resume their war of conquest;
besides, we are sick of the tales of horror that come to us daily,
and long for calm and tranquillity, which we cannot hope to obtain
in Holland. Had I a husband or brothers I would share their fate
whatever it was, but being alone and unable to aid the cause in
any way it would be folly to continue here and endure trials and
risks. You say that you come backwards and forwards often, well
then in two months we shall be ready to put ourselves under your
protection and to sail with you for England."

The next morning the admiral despatched a ship to Rotterdam with
the news of the fate of Antwerp, and Ned obtained a passage in her
for himself, the ladies, and servant, and on arriving at Rotterdam
saw them bestowed in comfortable lodgings. He then, after an
interview with the prince, went on board a ship just leaving for
England, and upon his arrival reported to the minister, and afterwards
to the queen herself, the terrible massacre of which he had been
a witness in Antwerp.

The Spanish fury, as the sack of Antwerp was termed, vastly enriched
the soldiers, but did small benefit to the cause of Spain. The
attack was wanton and unprovoked. Antwerp had not risen in rebellion
against Philip, but had been attacked solely for the sake of plunder;
and all Europe was shocked at the atrocities that had taken place,
and at the slaughter, which was even greater than the massacre
in Paris on the eve of St. Bartholomew. The queen remonstrated in
indignant terms, the feeling among the Protestants in Germany was
equally strong, and even in France public feeling condemned the
act.

In the Netherlands the feeling of horror and indignation was
universal. The fate that had befallen Antwerp might be that of
any other sister city. Everywhere petitions were signed in favour
of the unity of all the Netherlands under the Prince of Orange.
Philip's new governor, Don John, had reached the Netherlands on
the very day of the sack of Antwerp, and endeavoured to allay the
storm of indignation it had excited by various concessions; but
the feeling of unity, and with it of strength, had grown so rapidly
that the demands of the commissioners advanced in due proportion,
and they insisted upon nothing less than the restoration of their
ancient constitution, the right to manage their internal affairs,
and the departure of all the Spanish troops from the country.

Don John parleyed and parried the demands, and months were spent
in unprofitable discussions, while all the time he was working
secretly among the nobles of Brabant and Flanders, who were little
disposed to see with complacency the triumph of the democracy
of the towns and the establishment of religious toleration. Upon
all other points Don John and his master were ready to yield. The
Spanish troops were sent away to Italy, the Germans only being
retained. The constitutional rights would all have been conceded,
but on the question of religious tolerance Philip stood firm.
At last, seeing that no agreement would ever be arrived at, both
parties prepared again for war.

The Queen of England had lent 100,000 pounds on the security of the
cities, and the pause in hostilities during the negotiations had
not been altogether wasted in Holland. There had been a municipal
insurrection in Amsterdam; the magistrates devoted to Philip had
been driven out, and to the great delight of Holland, Amsterdam,
its capital, that had long been a stronghold of the enemy, a
gate through which he could at will pour his forces, was restored
to it. In Antwerp, and several other of the cities of Brabant and
Flanders, the citizens razed the citadels by which they had been
overawed; men, women, and children uniting in the work, tearing
down and carrying away the stones of the fortress, that had worked
them such evil.

Antwerp had at the departure of the Spanish troops been again
garrisoned by Germans, who had remained inactive during this
exhibition of the popular will. The Prince of Orange himself had
paid a visit to the city, and had, at the invitation of Brussels,
proceeded there, and had received an enthusiastic reception, and
for a time it seemed that the plans for which so many years he had
struggled were at last to be crowned with success. But his hopes
were frustrated by the treachery of the nobles and the cowardice
of the army the patriots had engaged in their service.

Many of the Spanish troops had been secretly brought back again,
and Don John was preparing for a renewal of war.

Unknown to the Prince of Orange, numbers of the nobles had invited
the Archduke Mathias, brother of the Emperor Rudolph of Germany,
to assume the government. Mathias, without consultation with his
brother, accepted the invitation and journeyed privately to the
Netherlands. Had the Prince of Orange declared against him he must
at once have returned to Vienna, but this would have aroused the
anger of the emperor and the whole of Germany. Had the prince upon
the other hand abandoned the field and retired into Holland, he
would have played into the hands of his adversaries. Accordingly
he received Mathias at Antwerp with great state, and the archduke
was well satisfied to place himself in the hands of the most powerful
man in the country.

The prince's position was greatly strengthened by the queen
instructing her ministers to inform the envoy of the Netherlands
that she would feel compelled to withdraw all succour of the states
if the Prince of Orange was deprived of his leadership, as it was
upon him alone that she relied for success. The prince was thereupon
appointed Ruward of Brabant, a position almost analogous to that
of dictator. Ghent, which was second only in importance to Antwerp,
rose almost immediately, turned out the Catholic authorities, and
declared in favour of the prince. A new act of union was signed
at Brussels, and the Estates General passed a resolution declaring
Don John to be no longer governor or stadtholder of the Netherlands.
The Prince of Orange was appointed lieutenant general for Mathias,
and the actual power of the latter was reduced to a nullity, but
he was installed at Brussels with the greatest pomp and ceremony.

Don John, who had by this time collected an army of 20,000 veterans
at Namur, and had been joined by the Prince of Parma, a general
of great vigour and ability, now marched against the army of the
Estates, of which the command had been given to the nobles of the
country in the hope of binding them firmly to the national cause.

The patriot army fell back before that of the Spaniards, but were
soon engaged by a small body of cavalry. Alexander of Parma came
up with some 1200 horse, dashed boldly across a dangerous swamp,
and fell upon their flank. The Estates cavalry at once turned and
fled, and Parma then fell upon the infantry, and in the course of
an hour not only defeated but almost exterminated them, from 7000
to 8000 being killed, and 600 taken prisoners, the latter being
executed without mercy by Don John. The loss of the Spaniards was
only about ten men. This extraordinary disproportion of numbers,
and the fact that 1200 men so easily defeated a force ten times
more numerous, completely dashed to the ground the hopes of the
Netherlands, and showed how utterly incapable were its soldiers of
contending in the field with the veterans of Spain.

The battle was followed by the rapid reduction of a large number of
towns, most of which surrendered without resistance as soon as the
Spanish troops approached. In the meantime the Estates had assembled
another army, which was joined by one composed of 12,000 Germans
under Duke Casimir. Both armies were rendered inactive by want of
funds, and the situation was complicated by the entry of the Duke
of Alencon, the brother of the King of France, into the Netherlands.
Don John, the hero of the battle of Lepanto, who had shown himself
on many battlefields to be at once a great commander and a valiant
soldier, was prostrate by disease, brought on by vexation, partly
at the difficulties he had met with since his arrival in the
Netherlands, partly at the neglect of Spain to furnish him with
money with which he could set his army, now numbering 30,000, in
motion, and sweep aside all resistance. At this critical moment
his malady increased, and after a week's illness he expired, just
two years after his arrival in the Netherlands.

He was succeeded at first temporarily and afterwards permanently
by Alexander of Parma, also a great commander, and possessing far
greater resolution than his unfortunate predecessor.

The two years had been spent by Edward Martin in almost incessant
journeyings between London and the Netherlands. He now held, however,
a position much superior to that which he had formerly occupied.
The queen, after hearing from him his account of the sack of Antwerp
and his share in the struggle, had said to the Secretary, "I think
that it is only just that we should bestow upon Captain Martin
some signal mark of our approbation at the manner in which he has
for two years devoted himself to our service, and that without pay
or reward, but solely from his loyalty to our person, and from his
goodwill towards the state. Kneel, Captain Martin."

The queen took the sword that Walsingham handed to her, and said,
"Rise, Sir Edward Martin. You will draw out, Mr. Secretary, our new
knight's appointment as our special envoy to the Prince of Orange;
and see that he has proper appointments for such a post. His duties
will, as before, be particular to myself and the prince, and will
not clash in any way with those of our envoy at the Hague."

The delight of Ned's mother and sisters when he returned home and
informed them of the honour that the queen had been pleased to
bestow upon him was great indeed. His father said:

"Well, Ned, I must congratulate you with the others; though I had
hoped to make a sailor of you. However, circumstances have been too
much for me. I own that you have been thrust into this work rather
by fortune than design; and as it is so I am heartily glad that
you have succeeded. It seems strange to me that my boy should have
become Sir Edward Martin, an officer in the service of her majesty,
and I say frankly that just at present I would rather that it had
been otherwise. But I suppose I shall get accustomed to it in time,
and assuredly none but myself will doubt for a moment that you have
gained greatly by all this honour and dignity."

Queen Elizabeth, although in some respects parsimonious in the
extreme, was liberal to her favourites, and the new made knight
stood high in her liking. She loved to have good looking men about
her; and without being actually handsome, Ned Martin, with his
height and breadth of shoulder, his easy and upright carriage, his
frank, open face and sunny smile, was pleasant to look upon. He had
served her excellently for two years, had asked for no rewards or
favours, but had borne himself modestly, and been content to wait.
Therefore the queen was pleased to order her treasurer to issue
a commission to Sir Edward Martin, as her majesty's special envoy
to the Prince of Orange, with such appointments as would enable
him handsomely to support his new dignity and his position as her
representative.

Even Captain Martin was now bound to confess that Ned had gained
profit as well as honour. He did indeed warn his son not to place
too much confidence in princes; but Ned replied, "I do not think the
queen is fickle in her likes and dislikes, father. But I rely not
upon this, but on doing my duty to the state for further employment.
I have had extraordinary good fortune, too; and have, without any
merit save that of always doing my best, mounted step by step from
the deck of the Good Venture to knighthood and employment by the
state. The war appears to me to be as far from coming to an end
as it did six years ago; and if I continue to acquit myself to the
satisfaction of the lord treasurer and council, I hope that at its
conclusion I may be employed upon such further work as I am fitted
for."

"You speak rightly, Ned; and I am wrong to feel anxiety about your
future when you have already done so well. And now, Ned, you had
best go into the city and order from some tailor who supplies the
court such suits as are fitting to your new rank. The queen loves
brave dresses and bright colours, and you must cut as good a figure
as the rest. You have been somewhat of an expense to me these last two
years; but that is over now, and I can well afford the additional
outlay to start you worthily. What was good enough for Captain
Martin is not good enough for Sir Edward Martin; therefore stint
not expense in any way. I should not like that you should not hold
your own with the young fops of the court."

It was well that Ned had provided himself with a new outfit, for
he was not sent abroad again for more than a month, and during
that time he was almost daily at court, receiving from the royal
chamberlain a notification that the queen expected to see him at
all entertainments. At the first of these Lord Walsingham introduced
him to many of the young nobles of the court, speaking very highly
of the services he had rendered; and as the queen was pleased to
speak often to him and to show him marked favour, he was exceedingly
well received, and soon found himself at ease.

He was, nevertheless, glad when the order came for him to proceed
again to Holland with messages to the Prince of Orange. Upon his
arrival there he was warmly congratulated by the prince.

"You have well earned your rank," the prince said. "I take some pride
to myself in having so soon discovered that you had good stuff in
you. There are some friends of yours here who will be glad to hear
of the honour that has befallen you. The Countess Von Harp and her
daughter have been here for the last six weeks. I have seen them
several times, and upon each occasion they spoke to me of their
gratitude for the services you have rendered them. One of my pages
will show you where they are lodging. They are about to proceed to
England, and I think their decision is a wise one, for this country
is at present no place for unprotected women."

The countess and her daughter were alike surprised and pleased
when Ned was announced as Sir Edward Martin. And when a fortnight
later Ned sailed for England, they took passage in the same ship.
Ned had sent word to his mother by a vessel that sailed a week
previously that they would arrive with him, and the best room in
the house had been got in readiness for them, and they received
a hearty welcome from Ned's parents and sisters. They stayed a
fortnight there and then established themselves in a pretty little
house in the village of Dulwich. One of Ned's sisters accompanied
them to stay for a time as Gertrude's friend and companion.

Whenever Ned returned home he was a frequent visitor at Dulwich,
and at the end of two years his sisters were delighted but not
surprised when he returned one day and told them that Gertrude
Von Harp had accepted him. The marriage was not to take place for
a time; for Ned was still young, and the countess thought it had
best be delayed. She was now receiving a regular income from her
estates; for it had been a time of comparative peace in Holland,
and that country was increasing fast in wealth and prosperity.

Alexander of Parma had by means of his agents corrupted the greater
part of the nobility of Flanders and Brabant, had laid siege to
Maastricht, and, after a defence even more gallant and desperate
than that of Haarlem, and several terrible repulses of his soldiers,
had captured the city and put the greater part of its inhabitants--men
and women--to the sword. After vain entreaties to Elizabeth
to assume the sovereignty of the Netherlands, this had been offered
to the Duke of Anjou, brother of the King of France.

The choice appeared to be a politic one, for Anjou was at the time
the all but accepted suitor of Queen Elizabeth, and it was thought
that the choice would unite both powers in defence of Holland. The
duke, however, speedily proved his incapacity. Irritated at the
smallness of the authority granted him, and the independent attitude
of the great towns, he attempted to capture them by force. He was
successful in several places; but at Antwerp, where the French
thought to repeat the Spanish success and to sack the city, the
burghers gathered so strongly and fiercely that the French troops
employed were for the most part killed, those who survived being
ignominiously taken prisoners.

Anjou retired with his army, losing a large number of men on his
retreat by the bursting of a dyke and the flooding of the country.
By this time the Prince of Orange had accepted the sovereignty of
Holland and Zeeland, which was now completely separated from the
rest of the Netherlands. After the flight of Anjou he received many
invitations from the other provinces to accept their sovereignty;
but he steadily refused, having no personal ambition, and knowing
well that no reliance whatever could be placed upon the nobles of
Brabant and Flanders.



CHAPTER XXI

THE SIEGE OF ANTWERP


On the 10th of July, 1584, a deep gloom was cast over all Holland
and England, by the assassination of the Prince of Orange. Many
attempts had been made upon his life by paid agents of the King
of Spain. One had been nearly successful, and the prince had lain
for weeks almost at the point of death. At last the hatred of Philip
and Parma gained its end, and the prince fell a victim to the bullet
of an assassin, who came before him disguised as a petitioner. His
murderer was captured, and put to death with horrible tortures,
boasting of his crime to the last. It was proved beyond all
question that he, as well as the authors of the previous attempts,
was acting at the instigation of the Spanish authorities, and had
been promised vast sums in the event of his success.

Thus died the greatest statesman of his age; a pure patriot, a
disinterested politician, a great orator, a man possessing at once
immense talent, unbounded perseverance, a fortitude under misfortunes
beyond proof, and an unshakeable faith in God. But terrible as was
the blow to the Netherlands, it failed to have the effect which
its instigators had hoped from it. On the very day of the murder
the Estates of Holland, then sitting at Delft, passed a resolution
"to maintain the good cause, with God's help, to the uttermost,
without sparing gold or blood." The prince's eldest son had been
kidnapped from school in Leyden by Philip's orders, and had been
a captive in Spain for seventeen years under the tutorship of
the Jesuits. Maurice, the next son, now seventeen years old, was
appointed head of the States Council.

But the position of the Netherlands was still well nigh desperate.
Flanders and Brabant lay at the feet of the Spaniards. A rising
which had lately taken place had been crushed. Bruges had surrendered
without a blow. The Duke of Parma, with 18,000 troops, besides his
garrisons, was threatening Ghent, Mechlin, Brussels, and Antwerp, and
was freely using promises and bribery to induce them to surrender.
Dendermonde and Vilvoorde both opened their gates, the capitulation
of the latter town cutting the communication between Brussels and
Antwerp. Ghent followed the example and surrendered without striking
a blow, and at the moment of the assassination of the Prince of
Orange Parma's army was closing round Antwerp.

Sir Edward Martin was at Antwerp, where he had gone by the queen's
order, when he received the news of the murder of the prince, whom
he had seen a few days before. He was filled with grief and horror
at the loss of one who had been for six years his friend, and whom
he regarded with enthusiastic admiration. It seemed to him at first
that with the death of the prince the cause of the Netherlands was
lost, and had the former attempts of Philip's emissaries upon the
prince's life been successful such a result would no doubt have
followed; but the successful defence of their cities, and the
knowledge they had gained that the sea could be made to fight for
them, had given the people of Holland strength and hope. Their
material resources, too, were larger than before, for great numbers
of the Protestants from the other provinces had emigrated there,
and had added alike to their strength and wealth. At first, however,
the news caused something like despair in Antwerp. Men went about
depressed and sorrowful, as if they had lost their dearest friend;
but Sainte Aldegonde, who had been appointed by the prince to take
charge of the defence of Antwerp, encouraged the citizens, and their
determination to resist returned. Unfortunately there had already
been terrible blundering. William de Blois, Lord of Treslong and
Admiral of the fleet of Holland and Zeeland, had been ordered to
carry up to the city provisions and munitions of war sufficient to
last for a year, the money having been freely voted by the States
General of these provinces.

But Treslong disobeyed the orders, and remained week after week at
Ostend drinking heavily and doing nothing else. At last the States,
enraged at his disobedience, ordered him to be arrested and thrown
into prison; but this was too late to enable the needed stores to
be taken up to Antwerp. The citizens were under no uneasiness. They
believed that it was absolutely impossible to block the river, and
that, therefore, they could at all times receive supplies from the
coast. On both sides of the river below the town the land was low
and could at any time be laid under water, and Sainte Aldegonde
brought the Prince of Orange's instructions that the great dyke,
called Blauwgaren, was to be pierced. This would have laid the
country under water for miles, and even the blocking of the river
would not have prevented the arrival of ships with provisions and
supplies.

Unfortunately Sainte Aldegonde's power was limited. The Butchers'
Guild rose against the proposal, and their leaders appeared before
the magistrates and protested against the step being carried out.
Twelve thousand cattle grazed upon the pastures which would be
submerged, and the destruction of farms, homesteads, and orchards
would be terrible. As to the blocking up of the river, the idea was
absurd, and the operation far beyond the power of man. The butchers
were supported by the officers of the militia, who declared that
were the authorities to attempt the destruction of the dyke the
municipal soldiery would oppose it by force.

Such was the state of things when the only man whom the democracy
would listen to and obey fell by the assassin's knife, and his
death and the obstinate stupidity of the burghers of Antwerp sealed
the fate of the city. Sainte Aldegonde had hailed the arrival of
Elizabeth's envoy, and consulted with him as to the steps to be
taken for the defence of the city. He himself did not believe in
the possibility of the river being stopped. It was nearly half a
mile in width and sixty feet in depth, with a tidal rise and fall
of eleven feet. Ned agreed with the governor or burgomaster--for
this was Saint Aldegonde's title--that the work of blocking this
river seemed impossible, but his reliance upon the opinion of the
prince was so great that he did what he could towards persuading
the populace to permit the plans to be carried out. But Elizabeth
had so often disappointed the people of the Netherlands that her
envoy possessed no authority, and the magistrates, with whom were
the ward masters, the deans of all the guilds, the presidents
of chambers and heads of colleges, squabbled and quarrelled among
themselves, and nothing was done.

The garrison consisted only of a regiment of English under Colonel
Morgan and a Scotch regiment under Colonel Balfour, but these were
in a state of indiscipline, and a mutiny had shortly before broken
out among them. Many of the troops had deserted to Parma and some
had returned home, and it was not until Morgan had beheaded Captain
Lee and Captain Powell that order was restored among them. Beside
these were the burgher militia, who were brave and well trained,
but insubordinate, and ready on every occasion to refuse obedience
to authority.

The first result of the general confusion which prevailed in Antwerp
was that Herenthals was allowed to fall without assistance. Had
this small but important city been succoured it would have enabled
Antwerp to protract its own defence for some time.

The veteran Mondragon as he took possession remarked, "Now it is easy
to see that the Prince of Orange is dead;" and indeed it was only
under his wise supervision and authority that anything like concerted
action between the cities, which were really small republics, was
possible.

Quietly but steadily the Duke of Parma established fortified posts
at various points on both banks of the Lower Scheldt, thereby
rendering its navigation more difficult, and covering in some
degree the spot where he intended to close the river. Nine miles
below the city were two forts--Lillo and Liefkenshoek--one on
either side of the stream. The fortifications of Lillo was complete,
but those of Liefkenshoek were not finished when Parma ordered
the Marquis of Richebourg to carry it by assault. It was taken by
surprise, and the eight hundred men who composed its garrison were
all killed or drowned. This first blow took place on the very day
the Prince of Orange was killed.

Lillo was garrisoned by Antwerp volunteers, called the Young Bachelors,
together with a company of French under Captain Gascoigne, and 400
Scotch and Englishmen under Colonel Morgan. Mondragon was ordered
to take the place at any cost. He took up his position with 5000
men at the country house and farm of Lillo a short distance from the
fort, planted his batteries and opened fire. The fort responded
briskly, and finding that the walls were little injured by
his artillery fire Mondragon tried to take it by mining. Teligny,
however, ran counter mines, and for three weeks the siege continued,
the Spaniards gaining no advantage and losing a considerable number
of men. At last Teligny made a sortie, and a determined action took
place without advantage on either side. The defenders were then
recalled to the fort, the sluice gates were opened, and the waters
of the Scheldt, swollen by a high tide, poured over the country.
Swept by the fire of the guns of the fort and surrounded by water,
the Spaniards were forced to make a rapid retreat, struggling breast
high in the waves.

Seeing the uselessness of the siege, the attempt to capture Lillo
was abandoned, having cost the Spaniards no less than two thousand
lives. Parma's own camp was on the opposite side of the river, at
the villages of Beveren, Kalloo, and Borght, and he was thus nearly
opposite to Antwerp, as the river swept round with a sharp curve.
He had with him half his army, while the rest were at Stabroek on
the opposite side of the river, nearly ten miles below Antwerp.
Kallo stood upon rising ground, and was speedily transformed
into a bustling town. From this point an army of men dug a canal
to Steeken, a place on the river above Antwerp twelve miles from
Kalloo, and as soon as Ghent and Dendermonde had fallen, great
rafts of timber, fleets of boats laden with provisions, munitions,
building materials, and every other requisite for the great
undertaking Parma had in view were brought to Kalloo.

To this place was brought also by Parma's orders the shipwrights,
masons, ropemakers, sailors, boatmen, bakers, brewers, and butchers
of Flanders and Brabant, and work went on unceasingly. But while
the autumn wore on the river was still open; and in spite of
the Spanish batteries on the banks the daring sailors of Zeeland
brought up their ships laden with corn to Antwerp, where the price
was already high. Had this traffic been continued Antwerp would
soon have been provisioned for a year's siege; but the folly and
stupidity of the municipal authorities put a stop to it, for they
enacted that, instead of the high prices current for grain, which
had tempted the Zeelanders to run the gauntlet of the Spanish
batteries, a price but little above that obtainable in other places
should be given. The natural result was, the supply of provisions
ceased at once.

"Did you ever see anything like the obstinacy and folly of these
burghers?" Sainte Aldegonde said in despair to Ned, when, in spite
of his entreaties, this suicidal edict had been issued. "What possible
avail is it to endeavour to defend a city which seems bent on its
own destruction?"

"The best thing to do," Ned replied in great anger, "would be
to surround the town hall with the companies of Morgan's regiment
remaining here, and to hang every one of these thick headed and
insolent tradesmen."

"It would be the best way," Sainte Aldegonde agreed, "if we had
also a sufficient force to keep down the city. These knaves think
vastly more of their own privileges than of the good of the State,
or even of the safety of the town. Here, as in Ghent, the people
are divided into sections and parties, who, when there is no one
else to quarrel with, are ever ready to fly at each other's throats.
Each of these leaders of guilds and presidents of chambers considers
himself a little god, and it is quite enough if anyone else expresses
an opinion for the majority to take up at once the opposite view."

"I looked in at the town hall yesterday," Ned said, "and such an
uproar was going on that no one could be heard to speak. Twenty
men were on their feet at once, shouting and haranguing, and paying
not the slightest attention to each other; while the rest joined
in from time to time with deafening cries and yells. Never did I
see such a scene. And it is upon such men as these that it rests
to decide upon the measures to be taken for the safety of the city!"

"Ah, if we had but the prince here among us again for a few hours
there would be some hope," Sainte Aldegonde said; "for he would be
able to persuade the people that in times like these there is no
safety in many counsellors, but that they must be content for the
time to obey one man."

On the Flemish side of the river the sluices had been opened at
Saftingen. The whole country there, with the exception of the ground
on which Kalloo and the other villages stood, was under water.
Still the Blauwgaren dyke, and an inner dyke called the Kowenstyn,
barred back the water, which, had it free course, would have turned
the country into a sea and given passage to the fleets of Zeeland.
Now that it was too late, those who had so fiercely opposed the plan
at first were eager that these should be cut. But it was now out
of their power to do so. The Lord of Kowenstyn, who had a castle
on the dyke which bore his name, had repeatedly urged upon the
Antwerp magistracy the extreme importance of cutting through this
dyke, even if they deferred the destruction of the outer one. Enraged
at their obstinacy and folly, and having the Spanish armies all
round him, he made terms with Parma, and the Spaniards established
themselves firmly along the bank, built strong redoubts upon it,
and stationed five thousand men there.

As the prince had foreseen, the opening of the Saftingen sluice had
assisted Parma instead of adding to his difficulties; for he was
now no longer confined to the canal, but was able to bring a fleet
of large vessels, laden with cannon and ammunition, from Ghent down
the Scheldt, and in through a breach through the dyke of Borght
to Kalloo. Sainte Aldegonde, in order to bar the Borght passage,
built a work called Fort Teligny upon the dyke, opposite that
thrown up by the Spaniards, and in the narrow passage between them
constant fighting went on between the Spaniards and patriots. Still
the people of Antwerp felt confident, for the Scheldt was still
open, and when food became short the Zeeland fleet could at any
time sail up to their assistance. But before winter closed in Parma
commenced the work for which he had made such mighty preparations.

Between Kalloo and Oordam, on the opposite side, a sand bar had
been discovered, which somewhat diminished the depth of the stream
and rendered pile driving comparatively easy. A strong fort was
erected on each bank and the work of driving in the piles began.
From each side a framework of heavy timber, supported on these
massive piles, was carried out so far that the width of open water
was reduced from twenty-four to thirteen hundred feet, and strong
blockhouses were erected upon each pier to protect them from assault.
Had a concerted attack been made by the Antwerp ships from above,
and the Zeeland fleet from below, the works could at this time
have been easily destroyed. But the fleet had been paralyzed by the
insubordination of Treslong, and there was no plan or concert; so
that although constant skirmishing went on, no serious attack was
made.

The brave Teligny, one night going down in a rowboat to communicate
with the Zeelanders and arrange for joint action, was captured by
the Spanish boats, and remained for six years in prison. His loss
was a very serious blow to Antwerp and to the cause. On the 13th
of November Parma sent in a letter to Antwerp, begging the citizens
to take compassion on their wives and children and make terms.
Parma had none of the natural bloodthirstiness of Alva, and would
have been really glad to have arranged matters without further
fighting; especially as he was almost without funds, and the
attitude of the King of France was so doubtful that he knew that
at any moment his plans might be overthrown.

The States in January attempted to make a diversion in favour of
Antwerp by attacking Bois le Duc, a town from which the Spaniards
drew a large portion of their supplies. Parma, although feeling the
extreme importance of this town, had been able to spare no men for
its defence; and although it was strong, and its burghers notably
brave and warlike, it seemed that it might be readily captured by
surprise. Count Hohenlohe was entrusted with the enterprise, and
with 4000 infantry and 200 cavalry advanced towards the place.
Fifty men, under an officer who knew the town, hid at night near
the gate, and when in the morning the portcullis was lifted, rushed
in, overpowered the guard, and threw open the gate, and Hohenlohe,
with his 200 troopers and 500 pikemen, entered.

These at once, instead of securing the town, scattered to plunder.
It happened that forty Spanish lancers and thirty foot soldiers had
come into the town the night before to form an escort for a convoy
of provisions. They were about starting when the tumult broke out.
As Hohenlohe's troops thought of nothing but pillage, time was
given to the burghers to seize their arms; and they, with the little
body of troops, fell upon the plunderers, who, at the sight of the
Spanish uniforms, were seized with a panic. Hohenlohe galloped to
the gate to bring in the rest of the troops; but while he was away
one of its guards, although desperately wounded at its capture,
crawled to the ropes which held up the portcullis and cut them with
his knife. Thus those within were cut off from their friends. Many
of them were killed, others threw themselves from the walls into
the moat, and very few of those who had entered made their escape.

When Hohenlohe returned with 2000 fresh troops and found the gates
shut in his face, he had nothing to do but to ride away, the enterprise
having failed entirely through his own folly and recklessness; for
it was he himself who had encouraged his followers to plunder. Had
he kept them together until the main force entered, no resistance
could have been offered to him, or had he when he rode out to fetch
reinforcements left a guard at the gate to prevent its being shut,
the town could again have been taken. Parma himself wrote to Philip
acknowledging that "Had the rebels succeeded in their enterprise,
I should have been compelled to have abandoned the siege of Antwerp."

But now the winter, upon which the people in Antwerp had chiefly
depended for preventing the blocking of the stream, was upon the
besiegers. The great river, lashed by storms into fury, and rolling
huge masses of ice up and down with the tide, beat against the piers,
and constantly threatened to carry them away. But the structure
was enormously strong. The piles had been driven fifty feet into
the river bed, and withstood the force of the stream, and on the
25th of February the Scheldt was closed.

Parma had from the first seen that it was absolutely impossible
to drive piles across the deep water between the piers, and had
prepared to connect them with a bridge of boats. For this purpose
he had constructed thirty-two great barges, each sixty-two feet
in length, and twelve in breadth. These were moored in pairs with
massive chains and anchors, the distance between each pair being
twenty-two feet. All were bound together with chains and timbers
and a roadway protected by a parapet of massive beams was formed
across it. Each boat was turned into a fortress by the erection
of solid wooden redoubts at each end, mounting heavy guns, and was
manned by thirty-two soldiers and four sailors. The forts at the
end of the bridge each mounted ten great guns, and twenty armed
vessels with heavy pieces of artillery were moored in front of each
fort. Thus the structure was defended by 170 great guns.

As an additional protection to the bridge, two heavy rafts, each
1250 feet long, composed of empty barrels, heavy timbers, ships'
masts, and woodwork bound solidly together, were moored at some
little distance above and below the bridge of boats. These rafts
were protected by projecting beams of wood tipped with iron, to
catch any vessels floating down upon them. The erection of this
structure was one of the most remarkable military enterprises ever
carried out.

Now that it was too late the people of Antwerp bitterly bewailed
their past folly, which had permitted an enterprise that could
at any moment have been interrupted to be carried to a successful
issue.

But if something like despair seized the citizens at the sight of
the obstacle that cut them off from all hope of succour, the feelings
of the great general whose enterprise and ability had carried out
the work were almost as depressed. His troops had dwindled to the
mere shadow of an army, the cavalry had nearly disappeared, the
garrisons in the various cities were starving, and the burghers
had no food either for the soldiers or themselves.

The troops were two years behindhand in their pay. Parma had long
exhausted every means of credit, and his appeals to his sovereign
for money met with no response. But while in his letters to Philip
he showed the feelings of despair which possessed him, he kept
a smiling countenance to all else. A spy having been captured, he
ordered him to be conducted over every part of the encampment. The
forts and bridge were shown to him, and he was requested to count
the pieces of artillery, and was then sent back to the town to
inform the citizens of what he had seen.

At this moment Brussels, which had long been besieged, was starved
into surrender, and Parma was reinforced by the troops who had
been engaged in the siege of that city. A misfortune now befell him
similar to that which the patriots had suffered at Bois le Duc. He
had experienced great inconvenience from not possessing a port on
the sea coast of Flanders, and consented to a proposal of La Motte,
one of the most experienced of the Walloon generals, to surprise
Ostend. On the night of the 29th of March, La Motte, with 2000 foot
and 1200 cavalry, surprised and carried the old port of the town.
Leaving an officer in charge of the position, he went back to bring
up the rest of his force. In his absence the soldiers scattered to
plunder. The citizens roused themselves, killed many of them, and
put the rest to flight, and by the time La Motte returned with the
fresh troops the panic had become so general that the enterprise
had to be abandoned.

The people of Antwerp now felt that unless some decisive steps were
taken their fate was sealed. A number of armed vessels sailed up
from Zeeland, and, assisted by a detachment from Fort Lillo, suddenly
attacked and carried Fort Liefkenshoek, which had been taken from
them at the commencement of the siege, and also Fort St. Anthony
lower down the river. In advancing towards the latter fort they
disobeyed Sainte Aldegonde's express orders, which were that they
should, after capturing Liefkenshoek, at once follow the dyke up
the river to the point where it was broken near the fort at the
end of the bridge, and should there instantly throw up strong works.

Had they followed out these orders they could from this point have
battered the bridge, and destroyed this barrier over the river. But
the delay caused by the attack on the Fort St. Anthony was fatal,
for at night Parma sent a strong body of soldiers and sappers in
boats from Kalloo to the broken end of the dyke, and these before
morning threw up works upon the very spot where Sainte Aldegonde had
intended the battery for the destruction of the bridge to be erected.
Nevertheless the success was a considerable one. The possession of
Lillo and Liefkenshoek restored to the patriots the command of the
river to within three miles of the bridge, and enabled the Zeeland
fleet to be brought up at that point.

Another blow was now meditated. There was in Antwerp an Italian
named Gianobelli, a man of great science and inventive power. He
had first gone to Spain to offer his inventions to Philip, but had
met with such insolent neglect there that he had betaken himself
in a rage to Flanders, swearing that the Spaniards should repent
their treatment of him. He had laid his plans before the Council
of Antwerp, and had asked from them three ships of a hundred and
fifty, three hundred and fifty, and five hundred tons respectively,
besides these he wanted sixty flat bottomed scows. Had this request
been complied with it is certain that Parma's bridge would have
been utterly destroyed; but the leading men were building a great
ship or floating castle of their own design, from which they
expected such great things that they christened it the End of the
War. Gianobelli had warned them that this ship would certainly turn
out a failure. However, they persisted, and instead of granting
him the ships he wanted, only gave him two small vessels of seventy
and eighty tons.

Although disgusted with their parsimony on so momentous an occasion,
Gianobelli set to work with the aid of two skilful artisans of
Antwerp to fit them up.

In the hold of each vessel a solid flooring of brick and mortar a
foot thick was first laid down. Upon this was built a chamber of
masonry forty feet long, three and a half feet wide, and as many
high, and with side walls five feet thick. This chamber was covered
with a roof six feet thick of tombstones placed edgeways, and was
filled with a powder of Gianobelli's own invention. Above was piled
a pyramid of millstones, cannonballs, chain shot, iron hooks, and
heavy missiles of all kinds, and again over these were laid heavy
marble slabs. The rest of the hold was filled with paving stones.

One ship was christened the Fortune, and on this the mine was to
be exploded by a slow match, cut so as to explode at a calculated
moment. The mine on board the Hope was to be started by a piece
of clockwork, which at the appointed time was to strike fire from
a flint. Planks and woodwork were piled on the decks to give to the
two vessels the appearance of simple fireships. Thirty-two small
craft, saturated with tar and turpentine and filled with inflammable
materials, were to be sent down the river in detachments of eight
every half hour, to clear away if possible the raft above the bridge
and to occupy the attention of the Spaniards.

The 5th of April, the day after the capture of the Liefkenshoek,
was chosen for the attempt. It began badly. Admiral Jacobzoon, who
was in command, instead of sending down the fireboats in batches
as arranged, sent them all off one after another, and started the
two mine ships immediately afterwards. As soon as their approach
was discovered, the Spaniards, who had heard vague rumours that an
attack by water was meditated, at once got under arms and mustered
upon the bridge and forts. Parma himself, with all his principal
officers, superintended the arrangements. As the fleet of small
ships approached they burst into flames. The Spaniards silently
watched the approaching danger, but soon began to take heart
again. Many of the boats grounded on the banks of the river before
reaching their destination, others burned out and sank, while the
rest drifted against the raft, but were kept from touching it by the
long projecting timbers, and burned out without doing any damage.

Then came the two ships. The pilots as they neared the bridge
escaped in boats, and the current carried them down, one on each
side of the raft, towards the solid ends of the bridge. The Fortune
came first, but grounded near the shore without touching the bridge.
Just as it did so the slow match upon deck burnt out. There was a
faint explosion, but no result; and Sir Ronald Yorke, the man who
had handed over Zutphen, sprang on board with a party of volunteers,
extinguished the fire smoldering on deck, and thrusting their
spears down into the hold, endeavoured to ascertain the nature of
its contents. Finding it impossible to do so they returned to the
bridge.

The Spaniards were now shouting with laughter at the impotent
attempt of the Antwerpers to destroy the bridge, and were watching
the Hope, which was now following her consort. She passed just
clear of the end of the raft, and struck the bridge close to the
blockhouse at the commencement of the floating portion. A fire
was smoldering on her deck, and a party of soldiers at once sprang
on board to extinguish this, as their comrades had done the fire
on board the Fortune. The Marquis of Richebourg, standing on the
bridge, directed the operations. The Prince of Parma was standing
close by, when an officer named Vega, moved by a sudden impulse,
fell on his knees and implored him to leave the place, and not to
risk a life so precious to Spain. Moved by the officer's entreaties
Parma turned and walked along the bridge. He had just reached the
entrance to the fort when a terrific explosion took place.

The clockwork of the Hope had succeeded better than the slow match
in the Fortune. In an instant she disappeared, and with her the
blockhouse against which she had struck, with all of its garrison,
a large portion of the bridge, and all the troops stationed upon
it. The ground was shaken as if by an earthquake, houses fell miles
away, and the air was filled with a rain of mighty blocks of stone,
some of which were afterwards found a league away. A thousand
soldiers were killed in an instant, the rest were dashed to the
ground, stunned and bewildered. The Marquis of Richebourg and most
of Parma's best officers were killed. Parma himself lay for a long
time as if dead, but presently recovered and set to work to do what
he could to repair the disaster.

The Zeeland fleet were lying below, only waiting for the signal
to move up to destroy the rest of the bridge and carry succour to
the city; but the incompetent and cowardly Jacobzoon rowed hastily
away after the explosion, and the rocket that should have summoned
the Zeelanders was never sent up. Parma moved about among his
troops, restoring order and confidence, and as the night went on
and no assault took place he set his men to work to collect drifting
timbers and spars, and make a hasty and temporary restoration, in
appearance at least, of the ruined portion of the bridge.

It was not until three days afterwards that the truth that the
bridge had been partially destroyed, and that the way was open, was
known at Antwerp. But by this time it was too late. The Zeelanders
had retired; the Spaniards had recovered their confidence, and
were hard at work restoring the bridge. From time to time fresh
fireships were sent down; but Parma had now established a patrol
of boats, which went out to meet them and towed them to shore far
above the bridge. In the weeks that followed Parma's army dwindled
away from sickness brought on by starvation, anxiety, and overwork;
while the people of Antwerp were preparing for an attack upon the
dyke of Kowenstyn. If that could be captured and broken, Parma's
bridge would be rendered useless, as the Zeeland fleet could pass
up over the submerged country with aid.

Parma was well aware of the supreme importance of this dyke. He
had fringed both its margins with breastworks of stakes, and had
strengthened the whole body of the dyke with timber work and piles.
Where it touched the great Scheldt dyke a strong fortress called
the Holy Cross had been constructed under the command of Mondragon,
and at the further end, in the neighbourhood of Mansfeldt's
headquarters, was another fort called the Stabroek, which commanded
and raked the whole dyke.

On the body of the dyke itself were three strong forts a mile
apart, called St. James, St. George, and the Fort of the Palisades.
Several attacks had been made from time to time, both upon the
bridge and dyke, and at daybreak on the 7th of May a fleet from
Lillo, under Hohenlohe, landed five hundred Zeelanders upon it
between St. George's and Fort Palisade. But the fleet that was to
have come out from Antwerp to his assistance never arrived; and
the Zeelanders were overpowered by the fire from the two forts and
the attacks of the Spaniards, and retreated, leaving four of their
ships behind them, and more than a fourth of their force.

Upon the 26th of the same month the grand attack, from which the
people of Antwerp hoped so much, took place. Two hundred vessels
were ready. A portion of these were to come up from Zeeland, under
Hohenlohe; the rest to advance from Antwerp, under Sainte Aldegonde.
At two o'clock in the morning the Spanish sentinels saw four
fireships approaching the dyke. They mustered reluctantly, fearing
a repetition of the previous explosion, and retired to the fort.
When the fireships reached the stakes protecting the dyke, they
burned and exploded, but without effecting much damage. But in the
meantime a swarm of vessels of various sizes were seen approaching.
It was the fleet of Hohenlohe, which had been sailing and rowing
from ten o'clock on the previous night.

Guided by the light of the fireships they approached the dyke, and
the Zeelanders sprang ashore and climbed up. They were met by several
hundred Spanish troops, who, as soon as they saw the fireships burn
out harmlessly, sallied out from their forts. The Zeelanders were
beginning to give way when the Antwerp fleet came up on the other
side, headed by Sainte Aldegonde. The new arrivals sprang from
their boats and climbed the dyke. The Spaniards were driven off,
and three thousand men occupied all the space between Fort George
and the Palisade Fort.

With Sainte Aldegonde came all the English and Scotch troops in Antwerp
under Balfour and Morgan, and many volunteers, among whom was Ned
Martin. With Hohenlohe came Prince Maurice, William the Silent's
son, a lad of eighteen. With wool sacks, sandbags, planks, and
other materials the patriots now rapidly entrenched the position
they had gained, while a large body of sappers and miners set
to work with picks, mattocks, and shovels, tearing down the dyke.
The Spaniards poured out from the forts; but Antwerpers, Dutchmen,
Zeelanders, Scotchmen, and Englishmen met them bravely, and a
tremendous conflict went on at each end of the narrow causeway.

Both parties fought with the greatest obstinacy, and for an hour
there was no advantage on either side. At last the patriots were
victorious, drove the Spaniards back into their two forts, and
following up their success attacked the Palisade Fort. Its outworks
were in their hands when a tremendous cheer was heard. The sappers
and miners had done their work. Salt water poured through the
broken dyke, and a Zeeland barge, freighted with provisions, floated
triumphantly into the water beyond, now no longer an inland sea.
Then when the triumph seemed achieved another fatal mistake was made
by the patriots. Sainte Aldegonde and Hohenlohe, the two commanders
of the enterprise, both leapt on board, anxious to be the first
to carry the news of the victory to Antwerp, where they arrived in
triumph, and set all the bells ringing and bonfires blazing.

For three hours the party on the dyke remained unmolested. Parma
was at his camp four leagues away, and in ignorance of what had been
done, and Mansfeldt could send no word across to him. The latter
held a council of war, but it seemed that nothing could be done.
Three thousand men were entrenched on the narrow dyke, covered by
the guns of a hundred and sixty Zeeland ships. Some of the officers
were in favour of waiting until nightfall; but at last the advice
of a gallant officer, Camillo Capizucca, colonel of the Italian
Legion, carried the day in favour of an immediate assault, and the
Italians and Spaniards marched together from Fort Stabroek to the
Palisade Fort, which was now in extremity.

They came in time, drove back the assailants, and were preparing
to advance against them when a distant shout from the other end of
the dyke told that Parma had arrived there. Mondragon moved from
the Holy Cross to Fort George; and from that fort and from the
Palisade the Spaniards advanced to the attack of the patriots'
position. During the whole war no more desperate encounter took
place than that upon the dyke, which was but six paces wide. The
fight was long and furious. Three times the Spaniards were repulsed
with tremendous loss; and while the patriot soldiers fought, their
pioneers still carried on the destruction of the dyke.

A fourth assault was likewise repulsed, but the fifth was more
successful. The Spaniards believed that they were led by a dead
commander who had fallen some months before, and this superstitious
belief inspired them with fresh courage. The entrenchment was
carried, but its defenders fought as obstinately as before on the
dyke behind it. Just at this moment the vessels of the Zeelanders
began to draw off. Many had been sunk or disabled by the fire that
the forts had maintained on them; and the rest found the water
sinking fast, for the tide was now ebbing.

The patriots, believing that they were deserted by the fleet, were
seized with a sudden panic; and, leaving the dyke, tried to wade or
swim off to the ships. The Spaniards with shouts of victory pursued
them. The English and Scotch were the last to abandon the position
they had held for seven hours, and most of them were put to the
sword. Two thousand in all were slain or drowned, the remainder
succeeded in reaching the ships on one side or other of the dyke.

Ned Martin had fought to the last. He was standing side by side
with Justinius of Nassau, and the two sprang together into a clump
of high rushes, tore off their heavy armour and swam out to one of
the Zeeland ships, which at once dropped down the river and reached
the sea. Ned's mission was now at an end, and he at once returned
to England.

The failure of the attempt upon the Kowenstyn dyke sealed the fate
of Antwerp. It resisted until the middle of June; when finding
hunger staring the city in the face, and having no hope whatever
of relief, Sainte Aldegonde yielded to the clamour of the mob and
opened negotiations.

These were continued for nearly two months. Parma was unaware that
the town was reduced to such an extremity, and consented to give
honourable terms. The treaty was signed on the 17th of August. There
was to be a complete amnesty for the past. Royalist absentees were
to be reinstated in their positions. Monasteries and churches to be
restored to their former possessors. The inhabitants of the city
were to practice the Catholic religion only, while those who refused
to conform were allowed two years for the purpose of winding up
their affairs. All prisoners, with the exception of Teligny, were
to be released. Four hundred thousand florins were to be paid by
the city as a fine, and the garrison were to leave the town with
arms and baggage, and all honours of war.

The fall of Antwerp brought about with it the entire submission of
Brabant and Flanders, and henceforth the war was continued solely
by Zeeland, Holland, and Friesland.

The death of the Prince of Orange, and the fall of Antwerp, marked
the conclusion of what may be called the first period of the struggle
of the Netherlands for freedom. It was henceforth to enter upon
another phase. England, which had long assisted Holland privately
with money, and openly by the raising of volunteers for her service,
was now about to enter the arena boldly and to play an important
part in the struggle, which, after a long period of obstinate
strife, was to end in the complete emancipation of the Netherlands
from the yoke of Spain.

Sir Edward Martin married Gertrude Von Harp soon after his return
to England. He retained the favour of Elizabeth to the day of her
death, and there were few whose counsels had more influence with
her. He long continued in the public service, although no longer
compelled to do so as a means of livelihood; for as Holland and Zeeland
freed themselves from the yoke of Spain, and made extraordinary
strides in wealth and prosperity, the estates of the countess
once more produced a splendid revenue, and this at her death came
entirely to her daughter. A considerable portion of Sir Edward
Martin's life, when not actually engaged upon public affairs, was
spent upon the broad estates which had come to him from his wife.





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