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On the morning of the following day the spacious shooting-grounds, situated not far from the White Gate, between the Rapenburg and the city-wall, presented a busy scene, for by a decree of the council the citizens and inhabitants, without exception, no matter whether they were poor or rich, of noble or plebeian birth, were to take a solemn oath to be loyal to the Prince and the good cause.
Commissioner Van Bronkhorst, Burgomaster Van der Werff, and two other magistrates, clad in festal attire, stood under a group of beautiful linden-trees to receive the oaths of the men and youths, who flocked to the spot. The solemn ceremonial had not yet commenced. Janus Dousa, in full uniform, a coat of mail over his doublet and a helmet on his head, arm-in-arm with Van Hout, approached Meister Peter and the commissioner, saying: "Here it is again! Not one of the humbler citizens and workmen is absent, but the gentlemen in velvet and fur are but thinly represented."
"They shall come yet!" cried the city clerk menacingly.
"What will formal vows avail?" replied the burgomaster. "Whoever desires liberty, must grant it. Besides, this hour will teach us on whom we can depend."
"Not a single man of the militia is absent," said the commissioner.
"There is comfort in that. What is stirring yonder in the linden?"
The men looked up and perceived Adrian, who was swaying in the top of the tree, as a concealed listener. "The boy must be everywhere," exclaimed Peter. "Come down, saucy lad. You appear at a convenient time."
The boy clung to a limb with his hands, let himself drop to the ground and stood before his father with a penitent face, which he knew how to assume when occasion required. The burgomaster uttered no further words of reproof, but bade him go home and tell his mother, that he saw no possibility of getting Belotti through the Spanish lines in safety, and also that Father Damianus had promised to call on the young lady in the course of the day.
"Hurry, Adrian, and you, constables, keep all unbidden persons away from these trees, for any place where an oath is taken becomes sacred ground--The clergymen have seated themselves yonder near the target. They have the precedence. Have the kindness to summon them, Herr Van Hout. Dominie Verstroot wishes to make an address, and then I would like to utter a few words of admonition to the citizens myself."
Van Hout withdrew, but before he had reached the preachers Junker von Warmond appeared, and reported that a messenger, a handsome young lad, had come as an envoy. He was standing before the White Gate and had a letter.
"I don't know; but the young fellow is a Hollander and his face is familiar to me."
"Conduct him here; but don't interrupt us until the ceremony of taking the oath is over. The messenger can tell Valdez what he has seen and heard here. It will do the Castilian good, to know in advance what we intend."
The Junker withdrew, and when he returned with Nicolas Van Wibisma, who was the messenger, Dominie Verstroot had finished his stirring speech. Van der Werff was still speaking. The sacred fire of enthusiasm sparkled in his eyes, and though the few words he addressed to his fellow-combatants in the deepest chest tones of his powerful voice were plain and unadorned, they found their way to the souls of his auditors.
Nicolas also followed the speech with a throbbing heart; it seemed as if the tall, earnest man under the linden were speaking directly to him and to him alone, when at the close he raised his voice once more and exclaimed enthusiastically:
"And now let what will, come! A brave man from your midst has said to-day: 'We will not yield, so long as an arm is left on our bodies, to raise food to our lips and wield a sword!' If we all think thus, twenty Spanish armies will find their graves before these walls. On Leyden depends the liberty of Holland. If we waver and fall, to escape the misery that only threatens us to-day, but will pitilessly oppress and torture us later, our children will say: 'The men of Leyden were blind cowards; it is their fault, that the name of Hollander is held in no higher esteem, than that of a useless slave.' But if we faithfully hold out and resist the gloomy foreigner to the last man and the last mouthful of bread, they will remember us with tears and joyfully exclaim: 'We owe it to them, that our noble, industrious, happy people is permitted to place itself proudly beside the other nations, and need no longer tolerate the miserable cuckoo in its own nest. Let whoever loves honor, whoever is no degenerate wretch, that betrays his parents' house, whoever would rather be a free man than a slave, ere raising his hand before God to take the oath, exclaim with me: 'Long live our shield, Orange, and a free Holland!'"
"They shall live!" shouted hundreds of powerful voices, five, ten, twenty times. The gunner discharged the cannon planted near the target, drums beat, one flourish of trumpets after another filled the air, the ringing of bells from all the towers of the city echoed over the heads of the enthusiastic crowd, and the cheering continued until the commissioner waved his hand and the swearing fealty began.
The guilds and the armed defenders of the city pressed forward in bands under the linden. Now impetuously, now with dignified calmness, now with devout exaltation, hands were raised to take the oath, and whoever clasped hands did so with fervent warmth. Two hours elapsed before all had sworn loyalty, and many a group that had passed under the linden together, warmly grasped each other's hands on the grounds in pledge of a second silent vow.
Nicolas Van Wibisma sat silently, with his letter in his lap, beside a target opposite the spot where the oath was taken, but sorrowful, bitter emotions were seething in his breast. How gladly he would have wept aloud and torn his father's letter! How gladly, when he saw the venerable Herr Van Montfort come hand in hand with the grey-haired Van der Does to be sworn, he would have rushed to their side to take the oath, and call to the earnest man beneath the linden:
"I am no degenerate wretch, who betrays his parents' house; I desire to be no slave, no Spaniard; I am a Netherlander, like yourself."
But he did not go, did not speak, he remained sitting motionless till the ceremony was over and Junker von Warmond conducted him under the linden. Van Hout and both the Van der Does had joined the magistrates who had administered the oath. Bowing silently, Nicolas delivered his father's letter to the burgomaster.
Van der Werff broke the seal, and after reading it, handed it to the other gentlemen, then turning to Nicolas, said:
"Wait here, Junker. Your father counsels us to yield the city to the Spaniards, and promises a pardon from the King. You cannot doubt the answer, after what you have heard in this place."
"There is but one," cried Van Hout, in the midst of reading the letter. "Tear the thing up and make no reply."
"Ride home, in God's name," added Janus Dousa. "But wait, I'll give you something more for Valdez."
"Then you will vouchsafe no reply to my father's letter?" asked Nicolas.
"No, Junker. We wish to hold no intercourse with Baron Matanesse," replied the commissioner. "As for you, you can return home or wait here; just as you choose."
"Go to your cousin, Junker," said Janus Dousa kindly; "it will probably be an hour before I can find paper, pen and sealing wax. Fraulein Van Hoogstraten will be glad to hear, through you, from her father."
"If agreeable to you, young sir," added the burgomaster; "my house stands open to you."
Nicolas hesitated a moment, then said quickly: "Yes, take me to her."
When the youth had reached the north end of the city with Herr von Warmond, who had undertaken to accompany him, he asked the latter:
"Are you Junker Van Duivenvoorde, Herr von Warmond?"
"And you captured Brill, with the Beggars, from the Spaniards?"
"I had that good fortune."
"And yet, you are of a good old family. And were there not other noblemen with the Beggars also?"
"Certainly. Do you suppose it ill-beseems us, to have a heart for our ancestors' home? My forefathers, as well as yours, were noble before a Spaniard ever entered the land."
But King Philip rules us as the lawful sovereign."
"Unhappily. And therefore we obey his Stadtholder, the Prince, who reigns in his name. The perjured hangman needs a guardian. Ask on; I'll answer willingly."
Nicolas did not heed the request, but walked silently beside his companion until they reached the Achtergracht. There he stood still, seized the captain's arm in great excitement, and said hastily in low, broken sentences:
"It weighs on my heart. I must tell some one. I want to be Dutch. I hate the Castilians. I have learned to know them in Leyderdorp and at the Hague. They don't heed me, because I am young, and they are not aware that I understand their language. So my eyes were opened. When they speak of us, it is with contempt and scorn. I know all that has been done by Alva and Vargas. I have heard from the Spaniards' own lips, that they would like to root us out, exterminate us. If I could only do as I pleased, and were it not for my father, I know what I would do. My head is so confused. The burgomaster's speech is driving me out of my wits. Tell him, junket, I beseech you, tell him I hate the Spaniards and it would be my pride to be a Netherlander."
Both had continued their walk, and as they approached the burgomaster's house, the captain, who had listened to the youth with joyful surprise, said:
"You're cut from good timber, Junker, and on the way to the right goal. Only keep Herr Peter's speech in your mind, and remember what you have learned in history. To whom belong the shining purple pages in the great book of national history? To the tyrants, their slaves and eye-servants, or the men who lived and died for liberty? Hold up your head. This conflict will perhaps outlast both our lives, and you still have a long time to put yourself on the right side. The nobleman must serve his Prince, but he need be no slave of a ruler, least of all a foreigner, an enemy of his nation. Here we are; I'll come for you again in an hour. Give me your hand. I should like to call you by your Christian name in future, my brave Nico."
"Call me so," exclaimed the youth, "and--you'll send no one else? I should like to talk with you again."
The Junker was received in the burgomaster's house by Barbara. Henrica could not see him immediately, Father Damianus was with her, so he was obliged to wait in the dining-room until the priest appeared. Nicolas knew him well, and had even confessed to him once the year before. After greeting the estimable man and answering his inquiry how he had come there, he said frankly and hastily:
"Forgive me, Father, but something weighs upon my heart. You are a holy man, and must know. Is it a crime, if a Hollander fights against the Spaniards, is it a sin, if a Hollander wishes to be and remain what God made him? I can't believe it."
"Nor do I," replied Damianus in his simple manner. "Whoever clings firmly to our holy church, whoever loves his neighbor and strives to do right, may confidently favor the Dutch, and pray and fight for the freedom of his native land."
"Ah!" exclaimed Nicolas, with sparkling eyes.
"For," continued Damianus more eagerly, "for you see, before the Spaniards came into the country, they were good Catholics here and led devout lives, pleasing in the sight of God. Why should it not be so again? The most High has separated men into nations, because He wills, that they should lead their own lives and shape them for their salvation and His honor; but not to give the stronger nation the right to torture and oppress another. Suppose your father went out to walk and a Spanish grandee should jump on his shoulders and make him taste whip and spur, as if he were a horse. It would be bad for the Castilian. Now substitute Holland for Herr Matanesse, and Spain for the grandee, and you will know what I mean. There is nothing left for us to do, except cast off the oppressor. Our holy church will sustain no loss. God appointed it, and it will stand whether King Philip or another rules. Now you know my opinion. Do I err or not, in thinking that the name of Glipper no longer pleases you, dear Junker?"
"No, Father Damianus!--You are right, a thousand times right. It is no sin, to desire a free Holland."
"Who told you it was one?"
"Canon Bermont and our chaplain."
"Then we are of a different opinion concerning this temporal matter. Give to God the things that are God's, and remain where the Lord placed you. When your beard grows, if you wish to fight for the liberty of Holland, do so confidently. That is a sin for which I will gladly grant you absolution."
Henrica was greatly delighted to see the fresh, happy-looking youth again. Nicolas was obliged to tell her about her father and his, and inform her how he had come to Leyden. When she heard that he intended to return in an hour, a bright idea entered her mind, which was wholly engrossed by Belotti's mission. She told Nicolas what she meant to do, and begged him to take the steward through the Spanish army to the Hague. The Junker was not only ready to fulfil her request, but promised that, if the old man wanted to return, he would apprize her of it in some way.
At the end of an hour she bade the boy farewell, and when again walking towards the Achtergracht with Herr von Warmond, he asked joyously:
"How shall I get to the Beggars?"
"You?" asked the captain in astonishment.
"Yes, I!" replied the Junker eagerly. "I shall soon be seventeen, and when I am--Wait, just wait--you'll hear of me yet."
"Right, Nicolas, right," replied the other. "Let us be Holland nobles and noble Hollanders."
Three hours later, Junker Matanesse Van Wibisma rode into the Hague with Belotti, whom he had loved from childhood. He brought his father nothing but a carefully-folded and sealed letter, which Janus Dousa, with a mischievous smile, had given him on behalf of the citizens of Leyden for General Valdez, and which contained, daintily inscribed on a large sheet, the following lines from Dionysius Cato:
"Fistula dulce canit volucrem dum decipit auceps." ["Sweet are the notes of the flute, when the fowler lures the bird to his nest."]
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