Part 4 out of 7
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
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
"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
"The saints protect us!" the landlord exclaimed. "Here are either
these fellows coming back again, or another set doubtless just as
A minute later the door opened and a party of a dozen soldiers
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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."
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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"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
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
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
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 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
"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
"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
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,
"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
"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
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
"Every one else is remaining, why should not I, Ned?" his aunt
"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
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 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
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