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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/702

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PICTURES IN HOLLAND, ON AND OFF CANVAS.

I know? I have never visited Utrecht." And with a vague notion that it was "something wherein William III figured" we swept on.

As Haarlem came in sight we passed over the fields wherein hyacinths, tulips, etc., blue, pink, yellow, and rainbow-colored, are grown by the million, and make the country look like a garden pirterre in spring. The alluvial soil when the peat is peeled off is found particularly productive for "roots."

"Are there any manufactures at Haarlem?" we ask of our last edition of the "intelligent man" on our road to the great organ. "Yes, madame," replied he, "the manufacture of onions" (bulbs).

The siege of this town preceded that of Leyden by a few months, and quite equalled it in heroism, but the end was far more painful. Indeed, the courage of Leyden must be estimated by the fact that she knew of the dreadful fate of her sister city and yet was not afraid.

The position of the town was a most important one, on a narrow neck of land between the Zuyder Zee and the ocean, scarcely five miles across with its fall the province would have been cut in two, and the difficulty of resistance greatly increased. On the other side lay the Haarlem Lake, covering seventy square miles of surface, very shallow but liable to great storms. The city was one of the largest and most beautiful in the Netherlands, but also one of the weakest; the walls were low, in bad order, and required a large garrison, instead of which they could only muster three thousand men, while thirty thousand Spaniards were encamped around it. It was winter, which at first gave the Hollanders some advantage, by enabling them to fight on their native ice, but after the first "rapid, brilliant, and slippery skirmishes," when, Alva's troops being worsted he declared that "such a thing was never heard of till to-day," he ordered seven thousand pairs of skates, on which his soldiers were immediately made to practise their evolutions, and the balance was restored against the Netherlanders.

Again and again the indefatigable Orange sent in men, provisions, and ammunition, across the ice of the Haarlem Lake on sledges, often impelled by women and even children; every citizen became a soldier, and even the women took arms; and a corps of fighting women, all of respectable character, armed with swords, daggers, and muskets, did very efficient service in many fiercely-contested actions, within and without the walls.

The women in Holland have borne a distinguished part in the history of the country ever since the time when "the Gaul was assisted in a struggle by his blue-eyed wife, gnashing her teeth and brandishing her vast and snowy arms," as a soldier who fought under the emperor Julian describes. But in spite of the desperate resistance of the burghers, "who fought as well as the best soldiers in the world could do," wrote Alva, the iron circle gradually closed in on the devoted city. They repelled three fierce assaults, defeating the enemy with great loss; they sallied forth with brilliant success, bringing in provisions and cannon, and killing almost a man apiece of the Spaniards they built up the walls again as fast as the cannonade destroyed them, or when they were blown up by mines. Horrible barbarities were committed by the Spaniards on the few prisoners taken, but at length Alva introduced a fleet of war-boats on the lake, and all the provisions in the town having been exhausted, the townfolk could do no more. As they could get no quarter they determined on cutting their way through the camp, with the women and children in the midst of a square. "It was a war such as had never been seen or heard of in any land on earth," wrote Alva to Philip II. The general, Don Frederic Alva, would willingly have abandoned the siege, but his father threatened to renounce him if he did so. At last, fearing that the desperate citizens would

set fire to the town, he offered ample forgiveness to the place, having all the time in his pocket a letter from Alva ordering him "not to let a soldier remain alive," and to execute a large number of the citizens. Haarlem yielded, and the people laid down their arms. As soon as they were no longer to be feared, the massacre began, and for many days five executioners and their attendants were kept at work till they were exhausted, when the remaining prisoners were tied back to back, two and two, and drowned in the lake. Two thousand three hundred persons were thus murdered in cold blood, including the Calvinist ministers and most of the principal inhabitants of the place. But the heroic resistance had not been in vain; it exhausted the strength of the besieging army to such a degree that "it was clear the Spanish empire could not sustain many such victories." Twelve thousand men had perished of their choicest troops, and the expenditure of treasure had been enormous, while in four years' time the city was once again lost to the Nether-