“You, you have voted with the Baersdorps, you, Peter Van der Werff! You have done this thing, you, the friend of the Prince, the shield and providence of this brave city, you, the man who received the oaths of the citizens, the martyr’s son, the servant of liberty—”
“No more!” he interrupted, trembling with shame and rage. “Do you know what it is to bear the guilt of this most terrible suffering before God and men?”
“Yes, yes, thrice yes; it is laying one’s heart on the rack, to save Holland and liberty. That is what it means! Oh, God, my God! You are lost! You intend to negotiate with Valdez!”
“And suppose I do?” asked the burgomaster, with an angry gesture.
Maria looked him sternly in the eye, and exclaimed in a loud, resolute tone:
“Then it will be my turn to say: Go to Delft; we need different men here.”
The burgomaster turned pale and bent his eyes on the floor, while she fearlessly confronted him with a steady glance.
The light fell full upon her glowing face, and when Peter again raised his eyes, it seemed as if the same Maria stood before him, who as a bride had vowed to share trouble and peril with him, remain steadfast in the struggle for liberty to the end; he felt that his “child” Maria had grown to his own height and above him, recognized for the first time in the proud woman before him his companion in conflict, his high-hearted helper in distress and danger. An overmastering yearning, mightier than any emotion ever experienced before, surged through his soul, impelled him towards her, and found utterance in the words:
“Maria, Maria, my wife, my guardian angel! We have written to Valdez, but there is still time,—nothing binds me yet, and with you, with you I will stand firm to the end.”
Then, in the midst of these days of woe, she threw herself on his breast, crying aloud in the abundance of this new, unexpected, unutterable happiness:
“With you, one with you—forever, unto death, in conflict and in love!”
Peter felt animated with new life. A fresh store of courage and enthusiasm filled his breast, for he constantly received a new supply from the stout-hearted woman by his side.
Under the pressure of the terrible responsibility he endured, and urged by his fellow-magistrates, he had consented, at the meeting of the council, to write to Valdez and ask him to give free passage to embassadors, who were to entreat the estates and the Prince of Orange to release the tortured city from her oath.
Valdez made every effort to induce the burgomaster to enter into farther negotiations, but the latter remained firm, and no petition for release from the sacred duty of resistance left the city. The two Van der Does, Van Hout, Junker von Warmond, and other resolute men, who had already, in the great assembly, denounced any intercourse with the enemy, now valiantly supported him against his fellow-magistrates and the council, that with the exception of seven of its members, persistently and vehemently urged the commencement of negotiations.