Then she called a servant and gave orders that this paper should be nailed upon the front door of the house where every passer-by might read it.
“It is done,” she said. “Cease weeping, Elsa, and lead me to my bed, whence I pray God that I may never rise again.”
Two days went by, and a fugitive rode into the city, a worn and wounded man of Leyden, with horror stamped upon his face.
“What news?” cried the people in the market-place, recognising him.
“Mechlin! Mechlin!” he gasped. “I come from Mechlin.”
“What of Mechlin and its citizens?” asked Pieter van de Werff, stepping forward.
“Don Frederic has taken it; the Spaniards have butchered them; everyone, old and young, men, women, and children, they are all butchered. I escaped, but for two leagues and more I heard the sound of the death-wail of Mechlin. Give me wine.”
They gave him wine, and by slow degrees, in broken sentences, he told the tale of one of the most awful crimes ever committed in the name of Christ by cruel man against God and his own fellows. It was written large in history: we need not repeat it here.
Then, when they knew the truth, up from that multitude of the men of Leyden went a roar of wrath, and a cry to vengeance for their slaughtered kin. They took arms, each what he had, the burgher his sword, the fisherman his fish-spear, the boor his ox-goad or his pick; leaders sprang up to command them, and there arose a shout of “To the gates! To the Gevangenhuis! Free the prisoners!”
They surged round the hateful place, thousands of them. The drawbridge was up, but they bridged the moat. Some shots were fired at them, then the defence ceased. They battered in the massive doors, and, when these fell, rushed to the dens and loosed those who remained alive within them.
But they found no Spaniards, for by now Ramiro and his garrison had vanished away, whither they knew not. A voice cried, “Dirk van Goorl, seek for Dirk van Goorl,” and they came to the chamber overlooking the courtyard, shouting, “Van Goorl, we are here!”
They broke in the door, and there they found him, lying upon his pallet, his hands clasped, his face upturned, smitten suddenly dead, not by man, but by the poison of the plague.
Unfed and untended, the end had overtaken him very swiftly.
BOOK THE THIRD
FATHER AND SON
When Adrian left his mother’s house in the Bree Straat he wandered away at hazard, for so utterly miserable was he that he could form no plans as to what he was to do or whither he should go. Presently he found himself at the foot of that great mound which in Leyden is still known as the Burg, a strange place with a circular wall upon the top of it, said to have been constructed by the Romans. Up this mound he climbed, and throwing himself upon the grass under an oak which grew in one of the little recesses of those ancient walls, he buried his face in his hands and tried to think.