At Naarden we have seen how terrible was the destroying power of the Spaniards. It was at Zutphen that they had first given rein to their lust for blood. When Zutphen was taken by Don Frederic in 1572, at the beginning of the war, Motley tells us that “Alva sent orders to his son to leave not a single man alive in the city, and to burn every house to the ground. The Duke’s command was almost literally obeyed. Don Frederic entered Zutphen, and without a moment’s warning put the whole garrison to the sword. The citizens next fell a defenceless prey; some being stabbed in the streets, some hanged on the trees which decorated the city, some stripped stark naked, and turned out into the fields to freeze to death in the wintry night. As the work of death became too fatiguing for the butchers, five hundred innocent burghers were tied two and two, back to back, and drowned like dogs in the river Yssel. A few stragglers who had contrived to elude pursuit at first, were afterwards taken from their hiding-places, and hung upon the gallows by the feet, some of which victims suffered four days and nights of agony before death came to their relief.”
On the day that I was in Zutphen it was the quietest town I had found in all Holland—not excepting Monnickendam between the arrival of the steam-trams. The clean bright streets were empty and still: another massacre almost might just have occurred. I had Zutphen to myself. I could not even find the koster to show me the church; and it was in trying door after door as I walked round it that I came upon the only sign of life in the place. For one handle at last yielding I found myself instantly in a small chapel filled with many young women engaged in a scripture class. The sudden irruption of an embarrassed and I imagine somewhat grotesque foreigner seems to have been exactly what every member of this little congregation was most desiring, and I never heard a merrier or more spontaneous burst of laughter. I stood not upon the order of my going.
The church is vast and very quiet and restful, with a large plain window of green glass that increases its cool freshness; while the young leaves of a chestnut close to another window add to this effect. The koster coming at last, I was shown the ancient chained library in the chapter house, and he enlarged upon the beauties of a metal font. Wandering out again into this city of silence I found in the square by the church an exhibition of wax works which was to be opened at four o’clock. Making a note to return to it at that hour, I sought the river, where the timber is floated down from the German forests, and lost myself among peat barges and other craft, and walked some miles in and about Zutphen, and a little way down a trickling stream whence the view of the city is very beautiful; and by-and-by found myself by the church and the wax works again, in a town that since my absence had quite filled with bustling people—four o’clock having struck and the Princess of the Day Dream having (I suppose) been kissed. The change was astonishing.