Obrázky na stránke
[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][graphic][ocr errors]



through We are coming-coming!” But his CHAPTER XVI.—THE MARTYR CITY.

voice died away in a cry of anguish; and covering IRK'S desperate attempt proved successful. his face with both hands he moaned aloud, “Oh

No need to relate his adventures. Enough God! oh God !--Am I in a city of the dead ?”

that next morning he was helped over the For the crowd that thronged and pressed him ramparts of Leyden by friendly ropes and yet looked like a host of spectres risen from their more friendly hands; and stood safe and sound graves. Large wild eyes glared on him hungrily, in the street now called the Kaiserstraat. He bloodless faces, yellow with famine or grey with shouted to the crowd that gathered round him, the shadow of death looked into his, gaunt figures “We have taken the Landscheidung, pierced it stretched out bony hands to greet him. No mis


his cap,

taking their welcome ; but it was the welcome of death in life.

“ Take me to the Burgomaster," he cried, as soon as he could speak again, “I have a letter !” Almost borne off his feet by the throng, he was hurried to the Stadt House, where he delivered his precious scrap of paper and his verbal messages to the Burgomaster Adrian van der Werf a name that will live in history as long as the story of thọ siege—and that is as long as men care to remember heroic deeds, and noble self-devotion to a holy cause.

When Dirk came out again the crowd received him with cheers, such cheers, alas ! “sighs of extra strength, with the chill on.” In response, he threw up his cap, the blue cap with the orange ribbon (which, imprudently enough, he had brought concealed about his person), and shouted “ Vivât Oranje! Vivât Leyden !” in a voice not yet thin and weak' with hunger. Then he looked eagerly around for the face he longed to see. Yes, thank God! There stood the doctor in his fur cloak, looking taller, because more spare

and gaunt, than ever.

Dirk pushed towards him, and he towards Dirk, and, the crowd making way for them, they were soon locked in each other's arms.

6 Well done, Dirk Willemzoon !” cried Adrian. “ A braver lad have I never seen.

“ Is Mevrouw well, and the Freule ?” gasped Dirk.

“Well as may be in this stricken city, which God's hand is heavy upon.

Come and see.” He led Dirk to his lodgings on the Apothecaries' Dijk in the house of his friend Floriszoon, to whom he had been recommended by Kreutzon of Rotterdam. The walk was short; but it seemed miles in length to the wondering, sorrow-stricken boy, such sad eyes peered at him from street and casement, such wasted forms glided by like ghosts. Once, a woman ran out of a house, and clasping the doctor's cloak with a gesture of despair, implored him in heartrending tones to come and see her baby. He said to Dirk,

6 Wait for me, I shall not be long," and went in.

As Dirk waited, he saw several women steal over to a heap of refuse which had been thrown upon the

space between the street and the neighbouring canal, and begin, with wasted eager hands, to search the horrible, unsavoury mass.

Two or three had their faces carefully covered up, as if to avoid recognition. He was still wondering what they were seeking, when Adrian came out. “ The babe is dead,” he said to Dirk.

“ Well for him! He is at rest." Then his fell

upon the searchers of the refuse heap. “Good heavens !” he cried, with a start of horror. “ Rose-Rose ! Has it come to this ?" One of the covered faces was lifted


and Rose soon stood by his side, her left hand carefully clasping something-heaven knows whatwhich she thought it possible for human creatures to eat. “ Be not angry, mon ami," she said in French, laying the other hand caressingly on his arm. “I only thought I might find somewhat there-as others do.”

Ma mie, here is Dirk, whom God has sent to comfort us, and to tell us our friends are coming.”

Thin and shadowy was the hand that took Dirk's, but warm was the clasp it gave. How did you come ?” was the first question, for his presence seemed little short of a miracle.

Dirk explained ; and Rose added, “ Roskě will be so glad to see you. It will be better than bread to her.”

They soon reached the house of Floriszoon. Adrian led them into a room of which the comfortable appearance mocked the misery of its occupants, everything being plenty enough in Leyden except food. Presently a little child ran in, followed by a dark-eyed, dark-haired young girl, small in stature but very pretty, a stranger to Dirk. But no one else could turn his eyes for a moment from the tiny form whose little wasted arms were round his neck, clinging as if they could never let him go, while the pale lips, late so rosy, rained kisses on his cheek and brow-unconsciously paying back a hundredfold that one kiss he had given to his enemy, the dying Spaniard. Roskě's eyes had the pathetic look one sees with children who have suffered what they cannot forget, even in play. Yet she had suffered less than others ; since Adrian, Rose, and Adrian's young sister Marie, had all denied themselves to spare the child.

When her raptures had subsided, Dirk set her down upon a chair, “See Freule,” he said, showing

сар “I have got your gift, quite safe“You were mad to bring it with you," Adrian interrupted

“No, Mynheer; it did me good service, when I showed it to the sentinels on the wall. And I had it well hidden."

“ But if you had been caught and searched ?”

" Then--oh then, I should have taken my chance. They would have had more to find than that.”

As he spoke he drew out, from hiding-places beneath his clothes, cake after cake of the hard rye bread used on shipboard. Roskě welcomed each, as he laid it before her, with a cry of joy, and even the eyes of the elders glistened hungrily.

“ There, Freule, that is my gift,” he said at last. “Not at all so pretty as your's.” Roskě, a few months before, would have turned from the coarse fare in disgust--now she hailed it with rapture. But ere her little white teeth closed upon the first morsel, father, mother, and Tant' Marie must each have a cake too. There was one for Dirk himself, and three to keep for the morrow. “I think it is a whole year,” said Roskē, with a child's long sigh, “ since we had any bread to eat.''

“It is more than two months," Adrian explained.

“ For a month after the bread was gone we had malt cake. Now that is gone too, and we eat what God sends or go without. All we get from the city is a morsel of Hesh each day. They are killing day by day, for food, the few cows that were kept that the sick and the infants might have milk."

“ What then do you find to eat ?” Dirk asked.

Adrian shrugged his shoulders. “ Did you wonder what stripped the linden-trees of their leaves so early in the year? There are other things too. Best sometimes not to know too much.”

[ocr errors]



There were some of them in Leyden, continually preaching despair to their fellow citizens, and taunting them with their miseries. The wonder is that they were not massacred, or at least expelled the town, and turned over to the mercies of the enemy they professed to trust.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Yet the cross pressed less heavily on Adrian and his house than on others. His skill as physician made him too useful a person to be willingly let die. He was constantly in attendance on the sick and wounded, and, that he might have strength for his arduous work, the town council cheerfully voted him special rations. He would willingly have sbared them, and in a measure he did so, with the three dependent on him ; but Rose and Marie were well-skilled in loving wiies and deceptions, which he was too unobservant to detect. So Dirk found Rose the most changed for the worse of the three he had known before; of the stranger he could not judge, though he thought that she too looked worn and ill.

Later in the day Adrian brought him into the room he called his study, though he seldom used it for that purpose now. Dirk, my brave boy,” he said to him, “ thou hast come to a doomed city.”

“I trust not, in God's mercy. I come with a message of hope.”

“How much hope?” Adrian asked sorrowfully. “We know more in the city than you know outside. You have won the Landschiedung, but there remain the Greenway and the Kirkway, the inner circles of the mighty barrier raised by this strange, strong people to keep out the sea, when the sea was the worst foe they had to dread. The Spaniards, if they know their business-and they do, about as well as their father the devil knows his—will guard these with the flower of their host. And even suppose them won, there would not be water enough to float the ships."

“There is the fresh-water lake ; the ships will get into that."

“Ay, but how? The only entrance is through a narrow canal, no doubt well guarded by the Spaniards. Worst of all, the wind is dead against us; it is blowing from the east, carrying the waters away."

“God will not let us perish. And with our deliverers in sight! Five little miles away! No-no--impossible!”

“Would it were ! My poor child, God, or Nature, or Fate, whatsoever you will to call Him, goes His own way, unheeding our agonies and prayers. To Him time is nothing—to us time is life or death. You see how we are off for food ?”

“ Yes."

“My wife and sister, with a courage wonderful to me-our women are often braver than our men--continue to spread the table somehow, morn and even, though it be with scraps which heretofore we would not have thrown to our dogs. They do well, for use and wont are the props of life-and reason. And already suffering has goaded some to frenzy, which is worse than death. There are so many things worse than death, that I marvel more are not tempted to take that swift sure road out of all their miseries. Yet, Dirk, you must not dream that I want to surrender the town.”

“Oh, no, Doctor-you, of all men, are no ‘Glipper,' ” Dirk interposed.

The very small number of Dutchmen who took part with the Spaniards were called Glippers.

[blocks in formation]
« PredošláPokračovať »