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- A Word Only A Word, Volume 5. - 10/13 -
Curses, wails of grief, yells of savage fury, blended with the thunder of the artillery and the ringing of the alarm bells.
A fugitive now dashed from the counterscarp towards the Walloons, shouting:
"They are here, they are here! The blood-hound, Navarrete, is leading them. They will neither eat nor drink, they say, till they dine in Paradise or Antwerp. Hark, hark! there they are!"
And they were there, coming nearer and nearer; foremost of all marched the Eletto, holding the standard in his upraised hand.
Behind him, from a thousand bearded lips, echoed furious, greedy, terrible cries; "Santiago, Espana, a sangre, a carne, a fuego, a saco!" --[St. Jago; Spain, blood, murder, fire, pillage]--but Navarrete was silent, striding onward, erect and haughty, as if he were proof against the bullets, that whistled around him on all sides. Consciousness of power and the fierce joy of battle sparkled in his eyes. Woe betide him, who received a blow from the two-handed sword the Eletto still held over his shoulder, now with his left hand.
Adam stood with upraised hammer beside the front ranks of the Walloons! his eyes rested as if spellbound on his approaching son and the standard in his hand. The face of the guilty woman, who had defrauded him of the happiness of his life, gazed at him from the banner. He knew not whether he was awake, or the sport of some bewildering dream.
Now, now his glance met the Eletto's, and unable to restrain himself longer, he raised his hammer and tried to rush forward, but the Walloons forced him back.
Yes, yes, he hated his own child, and trembling with rage, burning to rush upon him, he saw the Eletto spring on the lowest projection of the wall, to climb up. For a short time he was concealed from his eyes, then he saw the top of the standard, then the banner itself, and now his son stood on the highest part of the rampart, shouting: "Espana, Espana!"
At this moment, with a deafening din, a hundred arquebuses were discharged close beside the smith, a dense cloud of smoke darkened the air, and when the wind dispersed it, Adam no longer beheld the standard. It lay on the ground; beside it the Eletto, with his face turned upward, mute and motionless.
The father groaned aloud and closed his eyes; when he opened them, hundreds of iron-mailed mutineers had scaled the rampart. Beneath their feet lay his bleeding child.
Corpse after corpse sank on the stone wall beside the fallen man, but the iron wedge of the Spaniards pressed farther and farther forward.
"Espana, a sangre, a carne!"
Now they had reached the Walloons, steel clashed against steel, but only for a moment, then the defenders of the city wavered, the furious wedge entered their ranks, they parted, yielded, and with loud shrieks took to flight. The Spanish swords raged among them, and overpowered by the general terror, the officers followed the example of the soldiers, the flying army, like a resistless torrent, carrying everything with it, even the smith.
An unparalleled massacre began. Adam seeing a frantic horde rush into the houses, remembered Ruth, and half mad with terror hastened back to the smithy, where he told those left behind what he had witnessed. Then, arming himself and his journeymen with weapons forged by his own hand, he hurried out with them to renew the fight.
Hours elapsed; the noise, the firing, the ringing of the alarm bells still continued; smoke and the smell of fire penetrated through the doors and windows.
Evening came, and the richest, most flourishing commercial capital in the world was here a heap of ashes, there a ruin, everywhere a plundered treasury.
Once the occupants of the smith's shop heard a band of murderers raging and shouting outside of the smithy; but they passed by, and all day long no others entered the quiet street, which was inhabited only by workers in metal.
Ruth and old Rahel had remained behind, under the protection of the brave foreman. Adam had told them to fly to the cellar, if any uproar arose outside the door. Ruth wore a dagger, determined in the worst extremity to turn it against her own breast. What did she care for life, since Ulrich had perished!
Old Rahel, an aged dame of eighty, paced restlessly, with bowed figure, through the large room, saying compassionately, whenever her eyes met the girl's: "Ulrich, our Ulrich !" then, straightening herself and looking upward. She no longer knew what had happened a few hours before, yet her memory faithfully retained the incidents that occurred many years previous. The maidservant, a native of Antwerp, had rushed home to her parents when the tumult began.
As the day drew towards a close, the panes were less frequently shaken by the thunder of the artillery, the noise in the streets diminished, but the house became more and more filled with suffocating smoke.
Night came, the lamp was lighted, the women started at every new sound, but anxiety for Adam now overpowered every other feeling in Ruth's mind. Just then the door opened, and the smith's deep voice called in the vestibule: "It is I! Don't be frightened, it is I!"
He had gone out with five journeymen: he returned with two. The others lay slain in the streets, and with them Count Oberstein's soldiers, the only ones who had stoutly resisted the Spanish mutineers and their allies to the last man.
Adam had swung his hammer on the Mere and by the Zucker Canal among the citizens, who fought desperately for the property and lives of their families;--but all was vain. Vargas's troopers had stifled even the last breath of resistance.
The streets ran blood, corpses lay in heaps before the doors and on the pavement--among them the bodies of the Margrave of Antwerp, Verreyck, Burgomaster van der Mere, and many senators and nobles. Conflagration after conflagration crimsoned the heavens, the superb city-hall was blazing, and from a thousand windows echoed the screams of the assailed, plundered, bleeding citizens, women and children.
The smith hastily ate a few mouthfuls to restore his strength, then raised his head, saying: "No one has touched our house. The door and shutters of neighbor Ykens' are shattered."
"A miracle!" cried old Rahel, raising her staff. "The generation of vipers scent richer booty than iron at the silversmith's."
Just at that moment the knocker sounded. Adam started up, put on his coat of mail again, motioned to his journeymen and went to the door.
Rahel shrieked loudly: "To the cellar, Ruth. Oh, God, oh, God, have mercy upon us! Quick--where's my shawl?--They are attacking us!--Come, come! Oh, I am caught, I can go no farther!"
Mortal terror had seized the old woman; she did not want to die. To the girl death was welcome, and she did not stir.
Voices were now audible in the vestibule, but they sounded neither noisy nor threatening; yet Rahel shrieked in despair as a lansquenet, fully armed, entered the workshop with the armorer.
Hans Eitelfritz had come to look for Ulrich's father. In his arms lay the dog Lelaps, which, bleeding from the wound made by a bullet, that grazed its neck, nestled trembling against its master.
Bowing courteously to Ruth, the soldier said:
"Take pity on this poor creature, fair maiden, and wash its wound with a little wine. It deserves it. I could tell you such tales of its cleverness! It came from distant India, where a pirate.... But you shall hear the story some other time. Thanks, thanks! As to your son, Meister, it's a thousand pities about him. He was a splendid fellow, and we were like two brothers. He himself gave me the safeguard for you and the artist, Moor. I fastened them on the doors with my own hands, as soon as the fray began. My swordbearer got the paste, and now may the writing stick there as an honorable memento till the end of the world. Navarrete was a faithful fellow, who never forgot his friends! How much good that does Lelaps! See, see! He is licking your hands, that means, 'I thank you.'"
While Ruth had been washing the dog's wound, and the lansquenet talked of Ulrich, her tearful eyes met the father's.
"They say he cut down twenty-one Walloons before he fell," continued Hans.
"No, sir," interrupted Adam. "I saw him. He was shot before he raised his guilty sword."
"Ah, ah!--but it happened on the rampart."
"They rushed over him to the assault."
"And there he still lies; not a soul has cared for the dead and wounded."
The girl started, and laid the dog in the old man's lap, exclaiming: "Suppose Ulrich should be alive! Perhaps he was not mortally wounded, perhaps...."
"Yes, everything is possible," interrupted the lansquenet. "I could tell you things.... for instance, there was a countryman of mine whom, when we were in Africa, a Moorish Pacha struck....no lies now....perhaps! In earnest; it might happen that Ulrich....wait.... at midnight I shall keep guard on the rampart with my company, then I'll look...."
"We, we will seek him!" cried Ruth, seizing the smith's arm.
"I will," replied the smith; "you must stay here."
"No, father, I will go with you."
The lansquenet also shook his head, saying "Jungfer, Jungfer, you don't know what a day this is. Thank Our Heavenly Father that you have hitherto escaped so well. The fierce lion has tasted blood. You are a pretty child, and if they should see you to-day...."
"No matter," interrupted the girl. "I know what I am asking. You will take me with you, father! Do so, if you love me! I will find him, if any one can!
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