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- The Burgomaster's Wife, Volume 1. - 2/12 -
Lowing, remain behind, I have something to say to you."
He slowly turned his back to the boys, who rushed out of doors. In a corner of the yard of St. Peter's church, which was behind the building and entered by few of the passers-by, they stood still, and from amid the wild confusion of exclamations arose a sort of consultation, to which the organ-notes echoing from the church formed a strange accompaniment.
They were trying to decide upon the game to be played in the afternoon.
It was a matter of course, after what Van Hout had said, that there should be a battle; it had not even been proposed by anybody, but the discussion that now arose proceeded from the supposition.
It was soon decided that patriots and Spaniards, not Greeks and Persians, were to appear in the lists against each other; but when the burgomaster's son, Adrian Van der Werff, a lad of fourteen, proposed to form the two parties, and in the imperious way peculiar to him attempted to make Paul Van Swieten and Claus Dirkson Spaniards, he encountered violent opposition, and the troublesome circumstance was discovered that no one was willing to represent a foreign soldier.
Each boy wanted to make somebody else a Castilian, and fight himself under the banner of the Netherlands. But friends and foes are necessary for a war, and Holland's heroic courage required Spaniards to prove it. The youngsters grew excited, the cheeks of the disputants began to flush, here and there clenched fists were raised, and everything indicated that a horrible civil war would precede the battle to be given the foes of the country.
In truth, these lively boys were ill-suited to play the part of King Philip's gloomy, stiff-necked soldiers. Amid the many fair heads, few lads were seen with brown locks, and only one with black hair and dark eyes. This was Adam Baersdorp, whose father, like Van der Werff's, was one of the leaders of the citizens. When he too refused to act a Spaniard, one of the boys exclaimed:
"You won't? Yet my father says your father is half a Glipper,--[The name given in Holland to those who sympathized with Spain]--and a whole Papist to boot."
At these words young Baersdorp threw his books on the ground, and was rushing with upraised fist upon his enemy--but Adrian Van der Werff hastily interposed, crying:
"For shame, Cornelius.--I'll stop the mouth of anybody who utters such an insult again. Catholics are Christians, as well as we. You heard it from Van Hout, and my father says so too. Will you be a Spaniard, Adam, yes or no?"
"No!" cried the latter firmly. "And if anybody else--"
"You can quarrel afterward," said Adrian Van der Werff, interrupting his excited companions, then good-naturedly picking up the books Baersdorp had flung down, and handing them to him, continued resolutely, "I'll be a Spaniard to-day. Who else?"
"I, I, I too, for aught I care," shouted several of the scholars, and the forming of the two parties would have been carried on in the best order to the end, if the boys' attention had not been diverted by a fresh incident.
A young gentleman, followed by a black servant, came up the street directly towards them. He too was a Netherlander, but had little in common with the school-boys except his age, a red and white complexion, fair hair, and clear blue eyes, eyes that looked arrogantly out upon the world. Every step showed that he considered himself an important personage, and the gaily-costumed negro, who carried a few recently purchased articles behind him, imitated this bearing in a most comical way. The negro's head was held still farther back than the young noble's, whose stiff Spanish ruff prevented him from moving his handsome head as freely as other mortals.
"That ape, Wibisma," said one of the school-boys, pointing to the approaching nobleman.
All eyes turned towards him, scornfully scanning his little velvet hat decked with a long plume, the quilted red satin garment padded in the breast and sleeves, the huge puffs of his short brown breeches, and the brilliant scarlet silk stockings that closely fitted his well-formed limbs.
"The ape," repeated Paul Van Swieten. "He wants to be a cardinal, that's why he wears so much red."
"And looks as Spanish as if he came straight from Madrid," cried another lad, while a third added:
"The Wibismas certainly were not to be found here, so long as bread was short with us."
The Wibismas are all Glippers.
"And he struts about on week-days, dressed in velvet and silk," said Adrian. "Just look at the black boy the red-legged stork has brought with him to Leyden."
The scholars burst into a loud laugh, and as soon as the youth had reached them, Paul Van Swieten snarled in a nasal tone:
"How did deserting suit you? How are affairs in Spain, master Glipper?"
The young noble raised his head still higher, the negro did the same, and both walked quietly on, even when Adrian shouted in his ear:
"Little Glipper, tell me, for how many pieces of silver did Judas sell the Saviour?"
Young Matanesse Van Wibisma made an indignant gesture, but controlled himself until Jan Mulder stepped in front of him, holding his little cloth cap, into which he had thrust a hen's feather, under his chin like a beggar, and saying humbly:
"Give me a little shrove-money for our tom-cat, Sir Grandee; he stole a leg of veal from the butcher yesterday."
"Out of my way!" said the youth in a haughty, resolute tone, trying to push Mulder aside with the back of his hand.
"Hands off, Glipper!" cried the school-boys, raising their clenched hands threateningly.
"Then let me alone," replied Wibisma, "I want no quarrel, least of all with you."
"Why not with us?" asked Adrian Van der Werff, irritated by the supercilious, arrogant tone of the last words.
The youth shrugged his shoulders, but Adrian cried: "Because you like your Spanish costume better than our doublets of Leyden cloth."
Here he paused, for Jan Mulder stole behind Wibisma, struck his hat down on his head with a book, and while Nicolas Van Wibisma was trying to free his eyes from the covering that shaded them, exclaimed:
"There, Sir Grandee, now the little hat sits firm! You can keep it on, even before the king."
The negro could not go to his master's assistance, for his arms were filled with parcels, but the young noble did not call him, knowing how cowardly his black servant was, and feeling strong enough to help himself.
A costly clasp, which he had just received as a gift on his seventeenth birthday, confined the plume in his hat; but without a thought he flung it aside, stretched out his arms as if for a wrestling-match, and with florid cheeks, asked in a loud, resolute tone: "Who did that?"
Jan Mulder had hastily retreated among his companions, and instead of coming forward and giving his name, called:
"Look for the hat-fuller, Glipper! We'll play blindman's buff."
The youth, frantic with rage, repeated his question. When, instead of any other answer, the boys entered into Jan Mulder's jest, shouting gaily: "Yes, play blind-man's buff! Look for the hat-fuller. Come, little Glipper, begin." Nicolas could contain himself no longer, but shouted furiously to the laughing throng:
Scarcely had the words been uttered, when Paul Van Swieten raised his grammar, bound in hog-skin, and hurled it at Wibisma's breast.
Other books followed, amid loud outcries, striking him on the legs and shoulders. Bewildered, he shielded his face with his hands and retreated to the church-yard wall, where he stood still and prepared to rush upon his foes.
The stiff, fashionable high Spanish ruff no longer confined his handsome head with its floating golden locks. Freely and boldly he looked his enemies in the face, stretched the young limbs hardened by many a knightly exercise, and with a true Netherland oath sprang upon Adrian Van der Werff, who stood nearest.
After a short struggle, the burgomaster's son, inferior in strength and age to his opponent, lay extended on the ground; but the other lads, who had not ceased shouting, "Glipper, Glipper," seized the young noble, who was kneeling on his vanquished foe.
Nicolas struggled bravely, but his enemies' superior power was too great.
Frantic with fury, wild with rage and shame, he snatched the dagger from his belt.
The boys now raised a frightful yell, and two of them rushed upon Nicolas to wrest the weapon from him. This was quickly accomplished; the dagger flew on the pavement, but Van Swieten sprang back with a low cry, for the sharp blade had struck his arm, and the bright blood streamed on the ground.
For several minutes the shouts of the lads and the piteous cries of the black page drowned the beautiful melody of the organ, pouring from the windows of the church. Suddenly the music ceased; instead of the intricate harmony the slowly-dying note of a single pipe was heard, and a young man rushed out of the door of the sacristy of the House of God. He quickly perceived the cause of the wild uproar that had interrupted his practising, and a smile flitted over the handsome face which, framed by a closely-cut beard, had just looked startled enough, though the reproving words and pushes with which he separated the enraged
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