Jacqueline of the Carrier Pigeons/Chapter 20
THE GREAT DAY
THE GREAT DAY
FOUR months had passed since the lifting of the great siege of Leyden. No sooner had the Spaniards effected their retreat than the gales shifted, the wind changed to the east, the sea retreated and left the waters to drain from the sodden, half-drowned fields. In due time the work of reconstructing the dykes commenced, and the exhausted city once more lifted up its head, smiling to meet its renewal of life.
No one rejoiced more over the wonderful victory than did the Prince of Orange. And to express his gratitude to the citizens for their enduring heroism during all the long weary months, he determined to present the city with a gift. This gift was one more highly valued by the Dutch than anything else it was in his power to bestow, for it was neither more nor less than a University,
Accordingly, the University of Leyden, destined in after years to be so illustrious, was endowed with a rich sum of money, and provided with professors and instructors, the most learned and distinguished in all the Netherlands. Among these was Dr. Cornellisen whose valuable personal services the Prince was never weary of praising. William of Orange declared that a professorship was all too poor a reward for such devotion, but the doctor would accept of no other, vowing that his ambition was completely satisfied in being connected with such a wonderful institution of learning.
On the fifth of February, 1575, all preparations being completed, the solemn ceremony of consecrating the University was to take place. It was to be a great day, and the whole city was on tip-toe of expectation in consequence. The weather was perfect, and even though so early in the year, the atmosphere had a spring-like flavor. The canals were packed with gay barges, houses flaunted in bunting and floral decorations, and a festive air was prevalent in every quarter of the city. At seven o’clock in the morning there was a solemn ceremony of consecration in the great church of St. Peter. Jacqueline and Gysbert could not but think of another scene in this same church only four months before,—but how different! There was no weeping now! All the new professors filed in and took their places in the chancel, looking very grand and imposing in their flowing robes and decorations.
“Look, look, Vrouw Voorhaas! there is father!” whispered Gysbert, pulling her sleeve. And the faithful woman, now quite recovered from her long illness, nodded and smiled approvingly. The impressive service continued, ending with the singing of the famous hymn,—“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God!” But this time the joyful anthem was interrupted by no sobs of overwrought emotion, as on that memorable Sunday, when Leyden was saved.Then came a gorgeous procession. Up the wide Breede Straat it moved slowly and majestically under great triumphal arches and over pavements strewn with flowers. First there was a grand military escort in which Adrian Van der Werf, the brave and loyal burgomaster rode at the head of his company of burgher guards. This was followed by glittering chariots and wonderfully arrayed figures representing Justice, Peace the four Gospels, and many mythological and allegorical characters. But in the midst of these there was a little break, and then appeared, riding on a milk-white horse a fair young girl. Her beautiful golden hair floated all about her, she was clothed in a long trailing robe of white silk, and on one shoulder sat a glistening pigeon, fastened to her by a small golden chain. She represented Medicine, and carried a garland of healing herbs in one hand. As she passed through the crowds a great cry went up,—“Jacqueline! Jacqueline of the Carrier Pigeons!” for all recognized her as the sweet, unselfish girl who had done and risked so much in the terrible days of the plague and siege, and not a few were also acquainted with the remarkable story of her father’s return.
It was a proud moment in her life, but she bore herself with the ease of entire unconsciousness, for her thoughts were on the honor of the University, and not on herself. Last in the procession came the professors and instructors, and the whole passed through every prominent street of the city till it came to the cloister of Saint Barbara, the place prepared for the new University. Here there was a long address by the Reverend Casper Kolhas, orator of the day, and later on a magnificent banquet. It was nightfall before all was over, and the tired participants returned to their various homes.
In a fine, roomy house on the Marendorf-strasse, the new quarters of the Cornellisen family, Gysbert and Jacqueline waited to bid their father good-night. When his social duties at last permitted him to come to the children, he entered the room and they gathered about him to talk it all over before going to bed.
“I am proud of my children!” said Dr. Cornellisen. Proud of thee, Jacqueline, because thou hast borne thyself with so much grace and dignity during a difficult day. Proud of thee, Gysbert, because thou didst not complain of having no prominent part in the parade, although thy services to the city during the siege were really most praiseworthy. And now I am going to tell thee that the Prince wished me to allow thee to ride on a float all by thyself, dressed as thou wert on the morning of October third, with the pot of hodge-podge at thy side!” Gysbert’s eyes opened wide at this.
“But I would not permit it,” went on his father. “Thou art yet too young to take so prominent a part, and I did not think it best for thee. But to make up for this, I am going to allow thee, in addition to studying in the University, to take a course in art under the very finest master that can be procured. Does that please thee, son?”
“Father, father!” answered the boy, and his voice trembled with the intensity of his feeling, “I know naught in all this world that would please me so much!”
“And as for thee, Jacqueline,” said the doctor turning to her, “since thou hast shown thyself so proficient in the healing art,—and Dr. de Witt tells me thou didst do wonders during the plague,—I shall give thee a special course under my own tuition, in the University. Thou mayst not ever become a titled physician, that not being exactly a woman’s work, but at least thou shalt have all the understanding of one. Daughter, I trust that makes thee happy.” Jacqueline did not answer in words, but she put her arms about his neck, and laid her soft cheek against his own, and her father understood.
“And now let us call in Vrouw Voorhaas and Jan,” cried Gysbert, “and tell them the good news!” Vrouw Voorhaas expressed her approval in her own quiet way, and Jan who now occupied a trusted position in the household shouted hurrah like a boy! In the midst of this rejoicing, Dr. de Witt dropped in on his way home from the burgomaster’s.
“And let me tell you all something else,” he added when he had been informed of the children’s good fortune. “Mynheer Van der Werf has been commissioned by the Prince, in the name of the city, to buy all thy carrier-pigeons, Juffrouw Jacqueline, that were used during the siege, preserve them carefully while they live, and have them stuffed and placed in the Leyden Museum when they die. Likewise he undertakes to buy thy hodge-podge pot, Gysbert, for a good round sum, and place that also in the Museum. So I suppose you will both have to make up your minds to part with these cherished possessions.”
“I’m only too glad to part with mine,” said Gysbert, “for I shall be proud to go and look at that old iron pot in its honored place in the Museum, and think how I found it that horrible night, and how good the Spanish hodge-podge tasted that I got out of it!”
“And I,” said Jacqueline, “will give up my pigeons since the Prince wishes it, but I think I will keep ‘William of Orange’ for myself. He rode with me in the procession to-day, and I love him both for the name he bears, and the part he played in those dreadful days. No, I am sure I cannot part with my faithful ‘William of Orange’!”
But the future was to hold one more great day for the Cornellisen family, at which we must have one glimpse before we leave them.
Five years more had passed, and again it was October third, the anniversary of the great Relief of Leyden. The day was always set apart as one of feasting and general thanksgiving, and a holiday air pervaded the city. But in the Cornellisen home were preparations of quite another character,—for it was the wedding day of Jacqueline. Grown into a fair and noble womanhood was this same Jacqueline of splendid promise, who had so bravely discharged what seemed to her the highest duty, in the days of the memorable siege. She was going to marry loyal, true-hearted Pieter de Witt who had learned to love her in the terrible days when they tended the starving and plague-stricken together. Patiently had he waited and watched her grow to be a sweet, unselfish woman. Then he had courted and won her, and to-night she stood ready to become his wife.
No prettier bride could have possibly been imagined than Jacqueline as she stood robed in her wedding-garments. Vrouw Voorhaas hovered over her lovingly, giving the last tender, anxious touches to the array of her beloved charge. Presently the door opened, and Gysbert laughingly demanded admission,—Gysbert no longer a little lad of fourteen, but a tall fine youth of nineteen. He entered at his sister’s bidding, and surveyed her admiringly from top to toe.
“Thou art perfect, my Jacqueline, but no one knows how I hate to part with thee, even to Pieter whom I do certainly love.”
“But thou art not parting with me, Gysbert. Are we not going to stay right here with thee and father? I shall be with thee as much as ever!”
“Well, I suppose that is true. After all, I am only gaining a brother by this! But dost thou remember, Jacqueline, how we used to talk over our ambitions up there on Hengist Hill? I am in a fair way to gain mine, for what dost thou think!—Karel Van Mander told father that I bid fair to become a great artist if I persevere, and he is the greatest himself, in the Netherlands, at the present time! And then the Prince of Orange admired and purchased my last picture, and has promised to hang it in his salon in the Prinsenhof. But what of thy great ambition, sister
“Ah!” she answered laughingly. “I have studied medicine till I have it at my finger ends. I am the daughter of one physician, and am about to become the wife of another! What more can I ask? I am content, Gysbert!”
“But is it not splendid,” said the boy, “that the Prince is to be present at the wedding! Thou art much honored, Jacqueline, and I am wild to see him again. He is still my hero and ideal!”
“Thou hast not yet seen the present he sent,” added Jacqueline. “It came but a short time ago. Look!” She held out her arm and exhibited a beautiful bracelet set with many pearls. In the center was a small gold plate on which was engraved:
"“To Jacqueline of the Carrier Pigeons
William of Orange-Nassau,
In memory of faithful services in Leyden,
“I prize this more than aught else I received!” she said softly.
Then in came Jan, brave in wedding finery, to have a last intimate view of his Jacqueline. Round and round her he walked, speechless with admiration, and could only smile and chuckle, and rub his hands, and stroke her dainty garments with half-shy, half-reverent touches. Last of all came her father in his scholarly robes of the University, and took her in his arms for a final caress.
“Thou art sweet and fair, my darling!” he whispered. “Be as good a wife to Pieter as thou hast been ever a daughter to me, and Heaven itself could ask no more! But come! the Prince and his suite have arrived, the guests are all assembled, and thy future husband waits to claim thee!”
And so, to the sound of merry wedding music, we say farewell to Jacqueline of the Carrier Pigeons!