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- The Burgomaster's Wife, Volume 1. - 6/12 -
"Do you remember the fate of Haarlem?"
"I remember her citizens' resistance, and the rescued Alkmaar."
"Man, man!" cried the baron. "By all that sacred, I implore you to be circumspect."
"Enough, baron, I must go to the town-hall."
"No, only this one more word, this one word. I know you upbraid us as 'Glippers,' deserters, but as truly as I hope for God's mercy, you misjudge us. No, Herr Peter, no, I am no traitor! I love this country and this brave, industrious people with the same love as yourself, for its blood flows in my veins also. I signed the compromise. Here I stand, sir. Look at me. Do I look like a Judas? Do I look like a Spaniard? Can you blame me for faithfully keeping the oath I gave the king? When did we of the Netherlands ever trifle with vows? You, the friend of Orange, have just declared that you did not grudge any man the faith to which he clung, and I will not doubt it. Well, I hold firmly to the old church, I am a Catholic and shall remain one. But in this hour I frankly confess, that I hate the inquisition and Alva's bloody deeds as much as you do. They have as little connection with our religion as iconoclasm had with yours Like you, I love the freedom of our home. To win it back is my endeavor, as well as yours. But how can a little handful like us ever succeed in finally resisting the most powerful kingdom in the world? Though we conquer once, twice, thrice, two stronger armies will follow each defeated one. We shall accomplish nothing by force, but may do much by wise concession and prudent deeds. Philip's coffers are empty; he needs his armies too in other countries. Well then, let us profit by his difficulties, and force him to ratify some lost liberty for every revolted city that returns to him. Let us buy from his hands, with what remains of our old wealth, the rights he has wrested from us while fighting against the rebels. You will find open hands with me and those who share my opinions. Your voice weighs heavily in the council of this city. You are the friend of Orange, and if you could induce him--"
"To do what, noble sir?"
"To enter into an alliance with us. We know that those in Madrid understand how to estimate his importance and fear him. Let us stipulate, as the first condition, a full pardon for him and his faithful followers. King Philip, I know, will receive him into favor again--"
"In his arms to strangle him," replied the burgomaster resolutely. "Have you forgotten the false promises of pardon made in former times, the fate of Egmont and Horn, the noble Montigney and other lords? They ventured it and entered the tiger's den. What we buy to-day will surely be taken from us tomorrow, for what oath would be sacred to Philip? I am no statesman, but I know this--if he would restore all our liberties, he will never grant the one thing, without which life is valueless."
"What is that, Herr Peter?"
"The privilege of believing according to the dictates of our hearts. You mean fairly, noble sir;--but you trust the Spaniard, we do not; if we did, we should be deceived children. You have nothing to fear for your religion, we everything; you believe that the number of troops and power of gold will turn the scales in our conflict, we comfort ourselves with the hope, that God will give victory to the good cause of a brave people, ready to suffer a thousand deaths for liberty. This is my opinion, and I shall defend it in the town-hall."
"No, Meister Peter, no! You cannot, ought not."
"What I can do is little, what I ought to do is written within, and I shall act accordingly."
"And thus obey the sorrowing heart rather than the prudent head, and be able to give naught save evil counsel. Consider, man, Orange's last army was destroyed on Mock Heath."
"True, my lord, and for that very reason we will not use the moments for words, but deeds."
"I'll take the hint myself, Herr Van der Werf, for many friends of the king still dwell in Leyden, who must be taught not to follow you blindly to the shambles."
At these words Van der Werff retreated from the nobleman, clenched his moustache firmly in his right hand, and raising his deep voice to a louder tone, said coldly and imperiously:
"Then, as guardian of the safety of this city, I command you to quit Leyden instantly. If you are found within these walls after noon to- morrow, I will have you taken across the frontiers by the city-guard."
The baron withdrew without any form of leave-taking.
As soon as the door had closed behind him, Van der Werff, threw himself into his arm-chair and covered his face with his hands. When he again sat erect, two large tear-drops sparkled on the paper which had lain under his fingers. Smiling bitterly, he wiped them from the page with the back of his hand.
"Dead, dead," he murmured, and the image of the gallant youth, the clever mediator, the favorite of William of Orange, rose before his mind--he asked himself how this fresh stroke of fate would affect the Prince, whom he revered as the providence of the country, admired and loved as the wisest, most unselfish of men.
William's affliction grieved him as sorely as if it had fallen upon himself, and the blow that had struck the cause of freedom was a heavy one, perhaps never to be overcome.
Yet he only granted himself a short time to indulge in grief, for the point in question now was to summon all the nation's strength to repair what was lost, avert by vigorous acts the serious consequences which threatened to follow Louis's defeat, and devise fresh means to carry on the war.
He paced up and down the room with frowning brow, inventing measures and pondering over plans. His wife had opened the door, and now remained standing on the threshold, but he did not notice her until she called his name and advanced towards him.
In her hand she held part of the flowers the boy had brought, another portion adorned her bosom.
"Take it," she said, offering him the bouquet. "Adrian, dear boy, gathered them, and you surely know what they mean."
He willingly took the messengers of spring, raised them to his face, drew Maria to his breast, pressed a long kiss upon her brow, and then said gloomily:
"So this is the celebration of the first anniversary of our wedding-day. Poor wife! The Glipper was not so far wrong; perhaps it would have been wiser and better for me not to bind your fate to mine."
"How can such thoughts enter your mind, Peter!" she exclaimed reproachfully.
"Louis of Nassau has fallen," he murmured in a hollow tone, "his army is scattered."
"Oh-oh!" cried Maria, clasping her hands in horror, but he continued:
"It was our last body of troops. The coffers are empty, and where we are to obtain new means, and what will happen now--this, this--Leave me, Maria, I beg you. If we don't profit by the time now, if we don't find the right paths now, we shall not, cannot prosper."
With these words he threw the bouquet on the table, hastily seized a paper, looked into it, and, without glancing at her, waved his right hand.
The young wife's heart had been full, wide open, when she entered the room. She had expected so much that was beautiful from this hour, and now stood alone in the apartment he still shared with her. Her arms had fallen by her side; helpless, mortified, wounded, she gazed at him in silence.
Maria had grown up amid the battle for freedom, and knew how to estimate the grave importance of the tidings her husband had received. During his wooing he had told her that, by his side, she must expect a life full of anxiety and peril, yet she had joyously gone to the altar with the brave champion of the good cause, which had been her father's, for she had hoped to become the sharer of his cares and struggles. And now? What was she permitted to be to him? What did he receive from her? What had he consented to share with her, who could not feel herself a feeble woman, on this, the anniversary of their wedding-day.
There she stood, her open heart slowly closing and struggling against her longing to cry out to him, and say that she would as gladly bear his cares with him and share every danger, as happiness and honor.
The burgomaster, having now found what he sought, seized his hat and again looked at his wife.
How pale and disappointed she was!
His heart ached; he would so gladly have given expression in words to the great, warm love he felt for her, offered her joyous congratulations; but in this hour, amid his grief, with such anxieties burdening his breast, he could not do it, so he only held out both hands, saying tenderly:
"You surely know what you are to me, Maria, if you do not, I will tell you this evening. I must meet the members of the council at the town- hall, or a whole day will be lost, and at this time we must be avaricious even of the moments. Well, Maria?"
The young wife was gazing at the floor. She would gladly have flown to his breast, but offended pride would not suffer her to do so, and some mysterious power bound her hands and did not permit her to lay them in his.
"Farewell," she said in a hollow tone.
"Maria!" he exclaimed reproachfully. "To-day is no well-chosen time for pouting. Come and be my sensible wife."
She did not move instantly; but he heard the bell ring for the fourth hour, the time when the session of the council ended, and left the room without looking back at her.
The little bouquet still lay on the writing-table; the young wife saw it, and with difficulty restrained her tears.
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