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imposing figure, with a dark visage, and a tranquil but commanding eye. He waved his broad-leafed 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 the 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 the city, and may God give me the 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."
The words of the stout burgomaster inspired a new courage in the hearts of those who heard him, and a shout of applause and defiance arose from the famishing but enthusiastic crowd. They left the place, after exchanging new vows of fidelity with their magistrate, and again ascended tower and battlement to watch for the coming fleet. From the ramparts they hurled renewed defiance at the enemy. “Ye call us rat-eaters and dog-eaters," they cried, " and it is true. So long, then, as ye hear dog bark or cat mew within the walls, ye may know that the city holds out. And when all has perished but ourselves, be sure that we will each devour our left arms, retaining our right to defend our women, our liberty, and our religion, against the foreign tyrant. Should God, in his wrath, doom us to destruction, and deny us all relief, even then will we maintain ourselves for ever against your entrance. When the last hour has come, with our hands we will set fire to the city, and perish, men and women, and children together in the flames, rather than suffer our homes to be polluted, and our liberties to be crushed.”.
Such words of defiance, thundered daily from the battlements, sufficiently informed Valdez as to his chance of conquering the city, either by force or fraud; but at the same time he felt comparatively relieved by the inactivity of Boisot’s fleet, which still lay stranded at North Aa. “As well,” shouted the Spaniards derisively to the citizens, “As well can the Prince of Orange pluck the stars from the sky as bring the ocean to the walls of Leyden for your relief.”
On the 28th of September a dove flew into the city, bringing a letter from Admiral Boisot. In this dispatch, the position of the fleet at North Aa was described in encouraging terms, and the inhabitants were assured that in a very few days at furthest the long-expected relief would enter their gates. The letter was read publicly upon the market-place, and the bells were rung for joy. Nevertheless, on the morrow, the vanes pointed to the east, the waters so far from rising, continued to sink, and Admiral Boisot was almost in despair. He wrote to the prince, that if the spring-tide, now to be expected, should not, together with a strong and favourable wind, come immediately to their relief, it would be in vain to attempt anything further, and that the expedition would, of necessity, be abandoned. The tempest came to their relief. A violent equinoctial gale, on the night of the 1st and 2nd of October, came storming from the north-west, shifting after a few hours full eight points, and then blowing still more violently from the south-west. The waters of the North Sea were piled in vast masses upon the southern coast of Holland, and then dashed furiously landward, the ocean rising above the earth, and sweeping with unrestrained power across the ruined dykes.
In the course of twenty-four hours the fleet at North Aa, instead of nine inches, had more than two feet of water: No time was lost. The Kirk-way, which had been broken through, according to the prince's instructions, was now completely overflowed, and the fleet sailed at midnight, in the midst of the storm and darkness. A few sentinel vessels of the enemy challenged them as they steadily rowed towards Zoeterwoude. The answer was a flash from Boisot's cannon, lighting up the black waste of waters. There was a fierce naval midnight battle; a strange spectacle among the branches of those quiet orchards, and with the chimney stacks of half submerged farmhouses rising around the contending vessels. The neighbouring village of Zoeterwoude shook with the discharges of the Zelanders’ cannon, and the Spaniards assembled in that fortress knew that the rebel admiral was at last afloat and on his course. The enemy's vessels were soon sunk, their crews hurled into the waves. On went the fleet, sweeping over the broad waters which lay between Zoeterwoude and Zwieten.
As they approached some shallows, which led into the great mere, the Zelanders dashed into the sea, and with sheer strength shouldered every vessel through.
Two obstacles lay still in their path—the forts of Zoeterwoude and Lammen, distant from the city five hundred and two hundred and fifty yards respectively. Strong redoubts, both well supplied with troops and artillery, they were likely to give a rough reception to the light flotilla, but the panic which had hitherto driven their foes before the advancing patriots had reached Zoeterwoude. Hardly was the fleet in sight when the Spaniards, in the early morning, poured out from the fortress, and fled precipitately to the left, along a road which led in a westerly direction towards the Hague. Their narrow path was rapidly vanishing in the waves, and hundreds sank beneath the constantly-deepening and treacherous flood.
The wild Zelanders, too, sprang from their vessels upon the crumbling dyke, and drove their retreating foes into the sea. They hurled their harpoons at them, with an accuracy acquired in many a polar chase ; they plunged into the waves in the keen pursuit, attacking them with boat-hook and dagger. The numbers who thus fell beneath these corsairs, who neither gave nor took quarter, were never counted, but probably not less than a thousand perished. The rest effected their escape to the Hague.
The first fortress was thus seized, dismantled, set on fire, and passed, and a few strokes of the oars brought the whole fleet close to Lammen. This last obstacle rose formidable and frowning directly across their path. Swarming as it was with soldiers, and bristling with artillery, it seemed to defy the armada either to carry it by storm or to pass under its guns into the city. It appeared that the enterprise was, after all, to founder within sight of the long expecting and expected haven. Boisot anchored his fleet within a respectful distance, and spent what remained of the day in carefully reconnoitring the fort, which seemed only too strong. In conjunction with Leyderdorp, the head-quarters of Valdez, a mile and a half distant on the right, and within a mile of the city, it seemed so insuperable an impediment that Boisot wrote in despondent tone to the Prince of Orange.
He announced his intention of carrying the fort, if it were possible, on the following morning, but if obliged to retreat, he observed, with something like despair, that there would be nothing for it but to wait for another gale of wind.
If the waters should rise sufficiently to enable them to make a wide detour, it might be possible, if, in the meantime, Leyden did not starve or surrender, to enter its gates from the opposite side.
Meantime, the citizens had grown wild with expectation. A dove had been despatched by Boisot, informing them of his precise condition, and a number of citizens accompanied the burgomaster, at nightfall, towards the tower of Hengist—“Yonder,” cried the magistrate, stretching out his hand towards Lammen; "yonder, behind that fort, are bread, and meat, and brethren in thousands. Shall all this be destroyed by the Spanish guns, or shall we rush to the rescue of our friends ?” 66 We will tear the fortress to fragments with our teeth and nails,” was the reply, “before the relief, so long expected, shall be wrested from us.” It was resolved that a sortie, in conjunction with the operations of Boisot, should be made against Lammen with the earliest dawn. Night descended upon the scene, a pitch dark night, full of anxiety to the Spaniards, to the armada, to Leyden. Strange sights and sounds occurred at different moments to bewilder the anxious sentinels. A long procession of lights issuing from the fort was seen to flit across the black face of the waters in the dead of night, and the whole of the city wall, between the Cowgate and the Tower of Burgundy, fell with a loud crash. The horrorstruck citizens thought that the Spaniards were upon them at last; the Spaniards imagined the noise to indicate a desperate sortie of the citizens. Everything was vague and mysterious.
Day dawned at length after the feverish night, and the admiral prepared for the assault. Within the fortress reigned a death-like stillness, which inspired a sickening suspicion. Had the city, indeed, been carried in the night; had the massacre already commenced; had all this labour and audacity been expended in vain ? Suddenly a man was descried, wading breast-high through the water from Lammen towards the fleet, while at the same time one solitary boy was seen to wave his cap from the summit of the fort. After a moment of doubt, the happy mystery was solved. The Spaniards had fled, panic-struck, during the darkness. Their position would still have enabled them, with firmness, to frustrate the enterprise of the patriots, but the hand of God, which had sent the ocean and the tempest to the deliverance of Leyden, had struck her enemies with terror likewise. The lights which had been seen moving during the night were the lanterns of the retreating Spaniards, and the boy who was now waving his triumphant signal from the battlements had alone witnessed the spectacle. So confident was he in the conclusion to which it led him, that he had volunteered at daybreak to go thither all alone. The magistrates, fearing a trap, hesitated for a moment to believe the truth, which soon, however, became quite evident. Valdez, flying himself from Leyderdorp, had ordered Colonel Borgia to retire with all his troops from Lammen. Thus, the Spaniards had retreated at the very moment that an extraordinary accident had laid bare a whole side of the city for their entrance. The noise of the wall, as it fell, only inspired them with fresh alarm; for they believed that the citizens had sallied forth in the darkness, to aid the advancing flood in the work of destruction. All obstacles being now removed, the fleet of Boisot swept by Lammen, and entered the city on the morning of the 3rd of October. Leyden was relieved.
The quays were lined with the famishing population, as the fleet rowed through the canals, every human being who could stand coming forth to greet the preservers of the city. Bread was thrown from every vessel among the crowd. The poor creatures, who for two months had tasted no wholesome human food, and who had been living literally within the jaws of death, snatched eagerly the blessed gift, at last too liberally bestowed. Many choked themselves to death, in the greediness with which they devoured their bread; others became ill with the effects of plenty thus suddenly succeeding starvation ; but these were isolated cases,
2 a repetition of which was prevented.
The admiral, stepping ashore, was welcomed by the magistracy, and a solemn procession was immediately formed. Magistrates and citizens, wild Zelanders, emaciated burgher guards, sailors, soldiers, women, children-nearly every living person within the walls, all repaired without delay to the great church, stout admiral Boisot leading the way. The starving and heroic city, which had been so firm in its resistance to an earthly king, now bent itself in humble gratitude before the King of Kings. After prayers the whole vast congregation joined in the thanksgiving hymn. Thousands of voices raised the song, but few were able to carry it to its conclusion, for the universal emotion, deepened by the music, became too full for utterance. The hymn was abruptly suspended, while the multitude wept like children. This scene of honest pathos