A Wanderer in Holland eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 339 pages of information about A Wanderer in Holland.

“In many a house the watchmen, in their rounds, found a whole family of corpses, father, mother and children, side by side; for a disorder called the plague, naturally engendered of hardship and famine, now came, as if in kindness, to abridge the agony of the people.  The pestilence stalked at noonday through the city, and the doomed inhabitants fell like grass beneath it scythe.  From six thousand to eight thousand human beings sank before this scourge alone, yet the people resolutely held out—­women and men mutually encouraging each other to resist the entrance of their foreign foe—­an evil more horrible than pest or famine. [3]

“The missives from Valdez, who saw more vividly than the besieged could do, the uncertainty of his own position, now poured daily into the city, the enemy becoming more prodigal of his vows, as he felt that the ocean might yet save the victims from his grasp.  The inhabitants, in their ignorance, had gradually abandoned their hopes of relief, but they spurned the summons to surrender.  Leyden was sublime in its despair.  A few murmurs were, however, occasionally heard at the steadfastness of the magistrates, and a dead body was placed at the door of the burgomaster, as a silent witness against his inflexibility.  A party of the more faint-hearted even assailed the heroic Adrian Van der Werf with threats and reproaches as he passed through the streets.

“A crowd had gathered around him, as he reached a triangular place in the centre of the town, into which many of the principal streets emptied themselves, and upon one side of which stood the church of St. Pancras, with its high brick tower surmounted by two pointed turrets, and with two ancient lime trees at its entrance.  There stood the burgomaster, a tall, haggard, imposing figure, with dark visage, and a tranquil but commanding eye.  He waved his broad-leaved felt hat for silence, and then exclaimed, in language which has been almost literally preserved, ’What would ye, my friends?  Why do ye murmur that we do not break our vows and surrender our city to the Spaniards?—­a fate more horrible than the agony which she now endures.  I tell you I have made an oath to hold this city, and may God give me strength to keep my oath!  I can die but once; whether by your hands, the enemy’s, or by the hand of God.  My own fate is indifferent to me, not so that of the city intrusted to my care.  I know that we shall starve if not soon relieved; but starvation is preferable to the dishonoured death which is the only alternative.  Your menaces move me not; my life is at your disposal; here is my sword, plunge it into my breast, and divide my flesh among you.  Take my body to appease your hunger, but expect no surrender, so long as I remain alive.’”

Leyden was at last relieved by William of Orange, who from his sick-bed had arranged for the piercing of the dykes and letting in enough water to swim his ships and rout the Spaniards.

Out of tribulation comes good.  For their constancy and endurance in the siege the Prince offered the people of Leyden one of two benefits—­exemption from taxes or the establishment of a University.  They took the University.

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A Wanderer in Holland from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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