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Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES: Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.” By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes. Vol. I. London: 1826.
The Hellburners of Antwerp, 1585
Evening now closed in. All Antwerp was in commotion; suspense and anxiety were painted on every countenance. Only Cassilda stood as usual, thoughtful and gloomy, at her window, looking out upon the desolate darkness of the night. Suddenly she saw a gleam of light that danced along the surface of the river; then other fires were kindled, and moved onward in regular order.
The lights resembled pillars of fire, reflected on the water, and the radiance was mirrored a thousand-fold in the weltering waves. This effulgence became always brighter and fiercer, till the whole appeared like a sea of flames; and Cassilda scarcely doubted that the fort had already been blown up.
Her imagination presented her father’s mangled frame, with his grey hairs and angry visage, among the ruins. But then her husband entered the room, — clasped his uplifted hands, and exclaimed in a frightful mood of devotion, “Almighty Ruler! Bless and prosper my undertaking of this night! Give to those flames the force of giant’s arms that they may destroy all that falls within their range.
Let them hurl the grave-stones of our murdered citizens on the heads of the tyrannical invader and his troops. Grant new strength to the troubled waters, that they may rise and overwhelm our oppressors. Let not Federico’s doom be sealed at such an hour. Let not his star of hope and prosperity now sink into the darkness!”
Meanwhile, the approach of this extraordinary flotilla had roused all the Spanish army, and every man hastened to his appointed station. The Duke of Parma seemed, by his supernatural exertions and self-possession, to be present every where at one and the same moment. Surrounded by his officers, he dealt out directions for the protection of those points where danger from fire was most to be apprehended.
“Gianibelli, no doubt,” said he, “has been at work here, and has prepared us some diversion to beguile this long winter night.” Accordingly, he laughed aloud as he saw the first flat-bottomed boats (which appeared, for deception’s sake, as ordinary fire-vessels) carried by the force of the stream, aided by a strong breeze, amid the outworks of the bridge, where they were entangled, and their lights rapidly extinguished. Then another division floated on, but these, as Gianibelli expected, were soon dispersed and darkened as the former had been.
At length, the Hope drew near slowly and majestically. This ponderous vessel was like the rest, borne along with the current, and forced against the bridge – but not being, like them, repelled by the outworks, which were insufficient to withstand such as attack. She was driven close up to the railing of ship masts, and halted in her course, just under the spot where the Duke of Parma stood with several of his officers.
They supposed, however, that this intruder might as easily be disposed of as her precursors. The soldiers rushed forward with iron-headed poles to force back the heavy vessel from the bridge. The Duke himself assisted in this task, and by his example, excited them to new courage.
At that moment, Fernando Nunez made his appearance. With a pale anxious visage, he besought the Prince, for Heaven’s sake, to leave the dangerous station which he now occupied. But the latter was unwilling to be disturbed. Fernando at last seized him by the arm – shouted in his ear the name of “Cassilda,” and drew him away almost by violence.
They returned to the Fort of Santa Maria, and, just as they were entering the gates, there took place a tremendous explosion, as if they very earth had been rent asunder!
The Duke and his attendants were, by the concussion of the atmosphere, struck to the ground, but had received no serious injury. He was the first to recover his senses, and rouse himself from stupor, to witness the havoc and utter confusion of his army, with the destruction of that bridge, which had cost him, such labour and anxiety, and to hear the moans and shrieks of the wounded and dying sufferers. Even the river had been agitated to its inmost depths, so that all the works seemed to be under water, and that part of the bridge at which the Hope had exploded, was completely ruined.
“Gianibelli!” cried the Duke, gnashing his teeth with rage, “thou hast here wounded me for the second time. But, though wounded, thou shalt find that I am not yet vanquished.” With that unshakened composure and dignity, which are only to be found in minds of the most heroic mold, he employed himself directly on the necessary measures for extinguishing the fire that spread in various directions.
To prepare for the reception of the Zealand fleet, for he had no doubt that the Admiral would immediately make his appearance, — and take advantage, if possible, of the breach which had been gained.
At last, the morning broke, and the wintry sun showed to their full extent the devastations of the night. Above all, it was horrible to look on the multitude of dead bodies, and on the wounded, to whom it had yet been impracticable to render any assistance. Had there been an earthquake, the tokens of disaster could scarcely have been more formidable.
Yet, the Zealand fleet did not arrive; and the Duke saw, to his great satisfaction, that Antwerp had expended her resources without any important consequences; for the evil worked against him by the Hope had not rendered him hopeless. No sooner had the bridge been thus demolished, than he began to guild it together new. As to the Fortune, she had driven to the opposite shore near Santo Phillippo, where she had struck on a reef, and sunk without effecting any purpose.
When the thunder of the explosion was heard in Antwerp, Federico seized his wife’s hand, pressed it passionately to his heart, and exclaimed in a tone of rapture, “God be praised! There the fort must have shivered – and the bridge annihilated!”
“My father!” Cassilda’s half audible whisper.
“Infamous pander!” growled Gianibelli, and hastened down to the harbour in order to give further directions. At day-break, vessels were sent out to bring intelligence, and great rewards promised to the men, if they would sail past the bridge and announce the event which had so opportunely taken place to the commander at Fort Lillo.
As soon as they had got beyond the bulwark, they were directed to send up fire-balls, in order that the Antwerp citizens might be assured that all had succeeded. The vessels returned, however, and their captains declared that the bridge was still in its former condition, and the passage as impracticable as ever.
“Impossible!” cried Federico. “Heaven is not thus unjust; and my labours cannot have been utterly in vain. The cowards have not ventured near enough to ascertain the truth.” St. Aldegonde, in consequence of these remonstrances, sent other ships, but the men were indeed panic-struck, and turned back without having reached the Spanish station.
The people now began to murmur; and Antwerp was more disquieted than ever; hints were dropped of treachery and connivance; no Catholic durst henceforth appear on the streets without danger of being attacked and insulted. Under these circumstances, Federico levied fifty horsemen and rode out, that he might convince himself what was the real conclusion of this affair. But even here he was disappointed.
The enemy had advanced farther than he was aware, and he had not gone half a mile when a band of Spanish pikemen came to meet him. “Comrades,” cried Federico to his own soldiers. “You are aware that we must have intelligence, let it cost what it may. Let us attack these men, therefore, though they are by number an overmatch, and if we take but one prisoner, our object will be gained.”
The horsemen, by whom he was attended, were well chosen; they rushed courageously on the Spaniards, who received them on their pikes, and stood with surprising firmness, while their musketry from the rear ranks kept up a murderous fire against the Netherlanders. The latter continued to press forward, however, and were successful. The Spaniards were obliged to give way; our hero took ten prisoners, and among these was a captain of the band – Fernando Nunez!
With a dismal frown, as a Flemish dragoon began to plunder his person, he recognized Gianibelli, who bestowed on him a look of recognition equally dark and portentous, at the same time commanding the soldier to desist. “Traitor!” he exclaimed, “that God has given me into thy hands is indeed the severest punishment that might be inflicted for my sins!” Without deigning a reply, Gianibelli rode back to Antwerp, and his troop followed him with their prisoners.
“St Aldegonde,” said he on his arrival, “I deliver into your charge the unworthy father of my beloved Cassilda. You will appoint for him a prison suitable to his rank, and forget not that he is my captive, and that it is of the utmost importance for us to keep him here. But so far as I can understand the confessions extorted from the other Spaniards, the bridge is destroyed. I must have the conviction of my own senses, however.
Give me, therefore, a ship, and I shall set out immediately, for the cowards who were last employed, had not resolution to venture within sight of the Spanish works. I shall pass by them, and, God willing, shall return hither with the Zealand fleet.”
He went, accordingly, followed by Cassilda’s blessing and fervent prayers; she had yet no suspicion of her father’s imprisonment. With his telescope raised, Federico now stood courageously on the deck, while, at a curve of the river, he came within range of a small Spanish battery, by which he was immediately assailed.
But this did not interrupt his progress; he seemed miraculously saved, and the vessel advanced, till he could distinctly see the ruins of the bridge. There, to his great vexation and astonishment, the Spaniards were again in full activity, and the nearer he approached, the more firmly he was convinced, that the Duke, in this short space of time, had in such manner repaired the bulwark, and supplied the breach with iron chains, and that it would be as impossible as ever for ships to make good their passage.
A shower of musket balls now fell around him, and he perceived that his undertaking was quite hopeless. He tacked about, therefore, hearing peals of scornful laughter from the Spaniards, and arrived in Antwerp miserably disappointed.
Night had begun to close, when he disembarked on the quay, and, instead of asking questions, all who met him had already anticipated the truth, and passed by him timidly, and in silence. He hastened to St. Aldegonde, whom he found at the Senate-House, where our hero had now the mortification of laying the disheartening result of his embassy before the assembled council.
When he entered the hall, he found them engaged in a very serious debate, but, without waiting to inquire what subject had thus engaged them, he explained the full extent of their danger, concluding with a request, that they would immediately vote to him the means of making a second attempt, similar to the former, but which, he trusted, might have a more fortunate termination.
“The intelligence you bring to us,” said Aldegonde, “is no doubt gloomy and alarming; but you, at least, may on this occasional feel altogether free from self-reproach, while we, on the other hand, must confess, that we reposed too little confidence in your schemes, and, therefore, the fortunate moment has been lost.
Antwerp is, in truth, much indebted to you, and it is doubly painful for one who, like myself, has always been your friend, to say that, instead of expressing our gratifude as we ought to do, we must now, for the sake of the commonweal, offend and distress you very deeply.”
“Must!” Federico scowled, “how then, and whence arises this necessity?”
“Your wife is now in prison.”
“My Cassilda!” starting as from a dream.
“So it is,” declared the Burgomeister coldly, “we found on the person of the Spanish captain, Fernando Nunez, this billet. Read it yourself, and then judge whether, with such proofs in our possession, we could act otherwise than we have done.”
Federico perused the letter. It was the same which Cassilda had written at Catharina’s house, and placed behind the statue of St. Peter. He laid it on the table without a word. “Besides,” resumed St Aldegonde, “this mysterious billet has very probably been the means of saving the life of the Duke of Parma.
According to accounts which we have received from the captives, Fernando Nunez, just before the explosion, made his appearance, and almost by violence led away the Duke from the bridge. In his gratitude for that interference, the Prince promoted Nunez to the rank of captain, after which it was the will of Providence that, on the first service undertaken by him, he should fall into your power as a prisoner.”
Federico still remained with his arms folded, looking sternly on the ground. “Nay, worthy friend,” said St Aldegonde, “Be not thus overcome. We were forced to act as we have done; we were under the necessity of conducting her to prison, in order that she might be safe from the infuriated populace. Be assured that we shall not forget your feelings as a husband, and that Cassilda shall be treated as leniently as possible.”
“But she has then saved the Duke’s life?”
“If you would wish to see her,” added St Aldegonde, who did not hear these words, “this will not be refused to you.”
“No,” Federico’s thundered; “Not a word more of her, but act as you think proper. Only give me ships and gunpowder, and I shall again prepare for the Duke such a midnight divertissement, as he little reckons on, and at which no warning genius will appear for his rescue. But instant activity is required; the commonweal is at stake, and not a moment should be lost in granting me the supplies which I thus demand of you.” With these words, he left the assembly, and the council soon after dissolved.
On the following morning, St Aldegonde came into Federico’s apartment. “Sir Knight, the truly great mind should soar above all ordinary passions. You seem to misunderstand the character of Cassilda, whose error we must in our hearts excuse, even though as judges we are forced to condemn her. Would you not desire to see her? Ought she not to hear from you, even a few words, to say that you forgive her?”
“No!” Federico scowled, “she now belongs to you; she is wholly in your power, and I shall not interfere with your rights.”
“She wished to speak with her father. Will you permit this?”
“You are burgomeister,” answered our hero, “Fulfill your own duties, and forget that Cassilda in the wife of Federico Gianibelli. As for my prisoner, Fernando Nunez, I grant him freely my permission to meet with his daughter. Chance has again brought them within the same town walls; I would not be the means of causing their second separation; and they may share the fate which hangs over them together.”
“Gianibelli,” St. Aldegonde’s tone was very grave, “who knows how soon our last hour may strike, and how much we ourselves may then have need of compassion? Therefore, I beg once more that you will dismiss from your mind that groundless believe, that she has carried on any secret intercourse with the Duke. Were this possible, she would not have renounced him for your sake, nor fled from his protection in Spain.
Moreover, I would advise that you should set her father at liberty, for whom the Duke has offered a most important ransom. By giving him up, we shall receive back the brave Teligny, and the citizens of Antwerp would bless you for adopting a resolution so noble.”
“As to the ransom adequate for the Spanish captive, Fernando Nunez,” declared Federico, “it is my part to determine what it ought to be. So long as I live, he shall remain in prison; such is my pleasure, and it is a resolution which I shall not forego to gratify the Duke’s humour. Command me to devote my heart’s blood, my life – I am prepared to make any such sacrifice for your sake, and that of your commonweal. But as to the prisoner No! He is mine, and I shall hold him fast!”
“But if the senate command his being set at liberty, if the people insisted that it must be so , would you assert your own will against theirs?”
“Nay, I would do more – in my distain of your unjust conduct, I should leave Antwerp to her fate, you should never behold me again. I thought you had known Gianibelli better than to suppose that aught could be gained from him by threats and defiance!”
For once St Aldegonde, in a mood of gloom and discontent, parted from his friend, whose mind was now torn by conflicting emotions. He, indeed, loved Cassilda as sincerely as ever, and his pride had been more wounded that his affection. When St. Aldegonde had taken his leave, he walked gloomily towards the window, and was stationed there, lost in thought, when Catharina van der Weert rushed breathless and agitated into the room.
“If you have not lost all the feelings of a man,” she exclaimed, “by the love you once bore to Cassilda, and the happiness you enjoyed in her presence. I implore you to have compassion on the poor orphan, whose father died on the scaffold, and whose father died on the scaffold. Whose lover now pines a hopeless prisoner under the power of our enemies.
Grant the Spanish captain his liberty in return for that of Teligny – your faithful and once cherished friend. Sacrifice but this much of your imperious will at the shrine of love, of friendship, and filial affection.”
Federico fixed his eyes gloomily on the ground, but made no answer.
“You are silent. Your heart has become steeled against every emotion, and you will not utter one word of consolation for my distresses?”
“Nay.” Federico interrupted her. “You determined, of your own free will, that you would never again behold Teligny within the walls of Antwerp. By your own sentence, he was driven out in his despair to meet the fate which has overwhelmed him.”
“Aye, too truly have you spoken. I did so, but since my betrothed lover fell into the hands of the Spaniards, I have bitterly atoned for the injustice of which I was then guilty. Even for that very cause I betake myself to you, in humble supplication, that you will grant me Teligny’s ransom. To you alone, I look for the recovery of my soul’s peace – on your answer depends all the hopes that are left to me in this world!”
She threw herself at his feet, but he raised her coldly and formally.
“You have said the truth. My heart is steeled against every emotion such as you labour to excite. He who has possessed and lost Heaven as I have done, thenceforth becomes the denizen, nay, the slave of hell!”
At these wild words, she seized his arm once more, and looked at him imploringly. Suddenly, however, as if struck by some secret recollection, she recoiled. “What could I expect from the man who casts off his affectionate faithful wife — allowing her to pine away in a solitary dungeon? And who cherishes no other passion but that of wild insatiable ambition? Farewell, Gianibelli!
Catharina van der Weert came hither in her humility and affliction, with a poor entreaty, which you have rejected with distain. But know, Signor, that the forsaken orphan will yet find other means of obtaining that justice which you have denied to her prayers!”
“Contemptible woman!” muttered Federico, as she left his apartment. His own dreams absorbed him; but, alas! Of all sufferings to a manly generous spirit, this must be the severest, to feel that he struggles under contending impulses – and that he is acting at variance with his own heart. Gianibelli’s love to Cassilda was unconquerable and fervent! Often her well-known form rose on his Imagination – more beautiful than ever.
But then – the detested visage of his rival – the prosperous high-born Duke came betwixt them, grinning in scornful triumph, and every other emotion yielded to jealousy and hatred. At those moments, too, when his love had gained a transient ascendancy – when he almost determined to beg of the senate that she should be set at liberty, on the plea that she had but acted, for a moment, the part of an affectionate daughter – and that the Duke’s rescue was the result of mere change.
Yet the question forced itself: If Cassilda were freed, would she not also entreat him to take the ransom offered for her father, and could he ever permit the Duke to gain such a triumph?
For several days, he continued under the influence of his conflict, but at last ambition prevailed. He determined to exert himself with more energy than ever, in hopes, by that means, to distract his attention, and allay the pain of self-reproach. But in vain. Meanwhile, Cassilda remained uncomplaining and resigned in her prison, where she had a cell less gloomy and repulsive than that of an ordinary captive, though the doors and windows were secured with iron bars.
One day it happened that St Aldegonde and other senators came and questioned her more minutely than before, regarding the billet which they had discovered. She confessed, without the slightest hesitation or reserve, the circumstances by which she had been induced to write the lines; adding, that she could not possibly repent of having thus fulfilled her duty to her father.
As to the Duke of Parma’s life having been saved, it had been the will of providence to make her the means of that result, but without any intention of her own. St Aldegonde now endeavored to sooth her feelings for the present moment, and her apprehensions for the future.
“I require no consolation. An inward voice has oftentimes warned me that with you – with Antwerp, my fate, whether good or evil, will be united. On this account, I am tranquil, and prepared in mind for all that can ensue. Only I wish that my husband were convinced of my innocence, and that I have never been in though, word or deed unfaithful to him. His displeasure is the sole cause of the pain which I now endure. Tell Federico this, and reserve your consolations for him – to whom I well know that jealousy must prove a cruel torment.”
On the afternoon of the following day, she was sitting, as usual, alone, and lost in thought, when the door opened, and her father, Fernando Nunez, appeared before her. “Is it thus, Cassilda, that we meet again?” His voice was stern and rough.
“My father!” She would have fallen into his arms.
But he repulsed her, though not harshly. “I should despise and curse thee, did I not know that it is for my sake that thou art now doomed to pine in this miserable prison … and that, because thou did’st not hate me, thou has encountered hatred. Oh! Too well do I know all this! During the few days that I have lived here a prisoner, I have heard, from the lips of numberless witnesses, how basely thou hast been deceived.
The traitor who, with one word, could restore thee to liberty, loves thee no longer! The beautiful rose is withered; he has sated himself with its fragrance, and casts it away to be trodden into the dust.”
“No, no, my father! That he still loves me is a truth felt in my inmost heart. Though his affection now seems to sleep under the influence of jealousy and wounded pride, it will awake and beam forth more ardently than ever ere it dies.”
“And when we think of the generous noble-minded Duke,” said Nunez. “He whose love is unchangeable, who would himself have sacrificed all the pride of rank, and have led thee to the alter…”
“Speak not of him, I conjure you!” She cried in anger; yet her dignity intact. “Those words become not a father to utter, which his daughter cannot hear without shame and aversion. Rather be to me a messenger of peace! I have had already my share of grief, and might I not be indulged, for a short space, the happiness of believing, even were it but a dream, that I am in the presence of a parent whom I can love and honour?”
The rough soldier, from whose mind all softer emotions had long been estranged, could not withstand this appeal. He pressed Cassilda tenderly to his heart, and never spoke to her again of the Prince. Thus he was allowed to visit her every day for some weeks afterwards. No word came from Gianibelli. Only the visits with her father afforded some relief from her wearisome confinement.
There is no grief if it is unblended with self-reproach, to which music may offer some comfort. One evening Cassilda, lute on her arm, was stationed at the window by moonlight. The night had closed in with weather stormy and variable; dark clouds came ever and anon, driven across the moon, that still broke out again with effulgence, rendered brighter by contrast.
“An emblem of my life,” she murmured, while the tears shone trembling in her eyes. “It has been spent amid clouds and tempests; only brief intervals of unspeakable happiness broke through them, to illumine my toilsome pilgrimage.” She raised her head, with its beautiful disheveled tresses, and gazed toward the moody skies. Strumming mournful chords on her lute; old remembrances plaintively giving rise to a Spanish ballad – the calm which follows a storm at sea.
A cautious knock. She started, when a man, wearing a mask, rushed in. He signaled her silence, yet urged her to follow him. Cassilda was terrified for he was unknown to her. Yet in his gestures, he expressed the utmost haste and impatience – laying his hand on his lips, in token that he dared not answer when she demanded, “Who art thou?”
At last she allowed him to lead her away. Through long vaulted passages they proceeded, where their footsteps echoed strangely amid the reign of solitude and darkness. Till, on arriving at a low Gothic door, studded with iron, it was opened, and they stepped out into the cold air of that stormy night.
“You are free, my beloved Cassilda,” immediately embraced by one whom, in her confusion, she yet scarcely recognized. “Have you forgotten the voice of your own faithful Catharina? And look, here too, is your father, who is now at liberty. Thank Heaven, my plans for you, as well as for him, have succeeded. But hasten, I conjure you, from this place – fly ere it is possible that you can be missed.”
Catharina seized her by one arm; her father supported her on the other side, and thus she was forced, for a considerable distance, to go with them. Suddenly, she arrested their hurried progress. “Yonder – yonder is my home,” cried she, pointing to the harbour, and to the house of Gianibelli. “Lead me thither, or leave me alone, and fly before the avenging arm of justice overtakes you!”
“And thou wilt forsake me yet another time?” Fernando gnashed his teeth with rage.
“Here – here alone is my happiness,” cried Cassilda. “And you would force me hence to misery and guilt. Here is safety – elsewhere destruction!”
“Ungrateful traitoress!” Exasperated to frenzy, Nunez drew his dagger. “Either shall thou follow me to the Spanish camp, or this hour shall be thy last!”
“Shrink not! Strike boldly! I shall fulfill my vow to Federico: Love even unto death!”
Catharina had almost wrested the dagger from the madman’s grasp. “Away, away! If you would not sacrifice both your own life and mine. Cassilda, I shall remain with you. Go, go – I beseech you. This man will be your convoy.” She pointed to the person who had brought her friend from prison. “Hasten, for if you remain for another hour within sight of Antwerp’s walls, we are lost.”
Still growling out threats and imprecations against his daughter, the detestable Nunez at length retired.
To be continued…
Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES: Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.” By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes. Vol. I. London: 1826.
“That you would not return with him to the Spanish army,” said Catharina to her friend when they were left alone, “I was thoroughly convinced. My Cassilda’s heart is like a flower that will expand its leaves, but to the chaste sunlight of a husband’s love – and I, too. Rejoice with me, I have freed my betrothed lover, Teligny. I have broken his chains, along with those of Fernando Nunez.
As for your captivity, how easy was the task for a sincere friend to find means of opening your prison gates! The blessed religion of our ancestors gives us the courage, the strength, and ingenuity to fulfill every good and beneficent purpose.”
They had, meanwhile, arrived at the house of Gianibelli, when Catharina retired, and Cassilda stood thoughtfully at the well-known threshold of her own home. Still a feeble light was visible from the window of her husband’s apartment, and at intervals she caught some melancholy dying tones of his guitar. She shuddered at these sounds. “Heaven only knows in what state I shall now find him!” With fear and trembling, she passed up stairs, and knocked gently at the door.
Federico was seated beside a lamp, now almost expiring, though the flame rose fitfully at intervals and illumed his pale, grief-worn countenance. The bustle of his daily occupations served, in some measure, to distract his mind from gloomy reflections. In the still hours of night, his thoughts gained double strength; and the mournful notes of his guitar only served to deepen the impression of his utter loneliness.
Watching the lamp’s faint glimmer, he remembered how uncertain is human life, when the sources of joy are decayed by which alone existence is upheld. The thought rose on his mind, and vibrated with a cold shuddering through every nerve; that Cassilda’s long imprisonment might cause her premature death.
But then the door opened slowly, and the one who was ever in his thoughts entered. Pale, trembling and anxious as Cassilda appeared, it was not to be wondered that his apprehensions should at first be strengthened, rather than dispelled. “Merciful Heaven! It is her ghost!”
But in the next moment, her warm heaving bosom pressed against his – her long protracted kiss was imprinted on his lips – that embrace, and that kiss, so truly the same as in former years. This was no phantom, but his own loving and beautiful wife, whom he now clasped in his arms.
“And you refused, then, to go with your father?” said he, when she had briefly narrated the adventures of the night, though without mentioning Catharina. “You did not leave me for the sake of that renowned Prince of Parma, who still loves you. You hastened to the melancholy home of your husband, who had allowed you to remain in prison, and refused to send even one message of encouragement and consolation.
Oh, my Cassilda! You, who are in spirit so far exalted above me. Your affection, like a divine flame, burns unchanged, and equally in joy and in sorrow, — when rewarded or oppressed, — always faithful and ardent. Forgive – if it is possible – forgive me! Nothing shall ever more effect our separation. Love even unto death!”
“And fidelity for ever!” promised Cassilda, warmed by his loving embrace.
Among the Antwerp senators, who learned next morning of the escape of both prisoners, there arose an extraordinary alarm and commotion. The people had been excessively enraged at Gianibelli – looking on him as the sole cause that their favourite Teligny had not returned to Antwerp. The assembled senators considered the flight of Cassilda very important and hazardous.
They were not a little astonished when Gianibelli appeared in the council-chamber, and informed them that his wife had been taken out of prison against her will. She had escaped from her father, and returned to his house, thus affording the surest proof, that she never could have cherished any design against the commonweal of Antwerp, or in favor of the Duke of Parma – but had been led to write that unfortunate billet by a transient impulse of filial duty.
He begged of the senate that they would ratify her liberty, which was agreed to without the slightest opposition. They were even more disposed to this measure, as they now received a dispatch from the Spanish camp, with news that Teligny had been freed. He had been obliged, however, to grant his word of honour, that he would not bear arms for the freedom of Antwerp. The same ambassador who brought the Duke of Parma’s letter to the senate, had also one of Teligny for Catharina.
“You have sworn that you will never meet me again within the walls of our native town. For this reason, though with an almost broken heart, I have entered into conditions not to defend the citizens of Antwerp, by whom Adrian van der Weert was brought to the scaffold. But there are other stations where my sword may yet be wielded for my native land, and to one or other of these I shall now hasten. Farewell.”
The Spanish Prince had now restored his floating bridge, with its railing of masts, into as formidable a condition as before. He had strengthened his outer-works also, in order to ward off any future attacks of Gianibell’s fire-ships. The latter was, meanwhile, restless and indefatigable in his preparations for a new assault.
The senators were also better disposed to listen to his schemes than before. So that, in a short time other ships were sacrificed, in order to be filled with power, and, accompanied by a flotilla of flat-bottomed boats, were sent down the Scheldt. Consequently, the bridge was demolished a second time, or, at least, injured more than on the former occasion.
But adverse winds prevented the Zealand fleet from making its appearance; so this adventure proved ineffectual . A third attack was now made; which last proved altogether abortive, for the Spaniards were too much on their guard. Gianibelli was obliged to inform the senate that he knew not what to recommend, and that they should themselves devise some new mode of defense.
Only beneath his own roof, in the arms of his beloved Cassilda, who had become dearer to him than ever, could he find any solace or mitigation of his distress at these many failures. He was, indeed, driven almost to despair, and exposed himself to every danger. Sometimes with pike in hand, he joined the brave Scotsmen; within the next hour taking his place as a private dragoon with the Netherlanders.
On the slightest intimation of a skirmish, he hasted to the spot, being resolved that whatever the result, his own exertions should not be spared. From all these engagements, he returned home to Cassilda, without even the slightest bodily wound, though with a mind harassed and torn by the most violent emotions.
Her composure, however, was unconquerable. “My beloved Federico, let us enjoy the last drops that the cup of life affords us, with hearts unchanged, cheerful and innocent. The death bell of Antwerp and her liberty will sound, perhaps, ere long, and in the same hour, we shall have finished our allotted task and have done with this world.”
The Spanish Prince, who had been informed by Fernando Nunez of Cassilda’s unabated constancy and resolution, was afraid that this heroic woman would not survive her husband’s death. In order, at all events, to save her life, he sent an embassy to Gianibelli, offering that if in the present state of Antwerp he wished to leave the town, he should be at liberty to do so; that he might go to England, Germany, or whithersoever he most inclined. Adding, moneys should be supplied for his expenses, and that the Prince would guarantee his safety in accepting this proposal.
Our hero answered. “Gianibelli will never turn coward, and fly from his destiny. Either shall he sing a ‘Te Deum’ on the walls of this town, freed from its invaders, or bury himself under its ruins. So also would Alexander of Parma act, if he were in the place of Gianibelli, who thinks himself not less honourable, in the fulfillment of duty, than the Prince who has thought proper to insult him by the message just received.”
While he traced these lines, Cassilda stood by the table, and fixed on him a penetrating gaze. “The high-born and the great are, methinks, both vain and foolish! They believe, forsooth, that they alone are heroes. That, for the sake of rescuing our own transitory lives, we, the humbler denizens of this world, must be content to make any sacrifice.
Mark you, Federico, with every hour that passes, with every cannon shot which is fired to no purpose, I count the moments of my life, and make up gradually my reckoning of fate. Seek not, I pray you, for death, in those paltry engagements, where your existence would be offered up in vain. Save it rather, as long as you can still be of service – and when, at length, the Spaniards shall force their way over the ruined ramparts of this town, let us join hand in hand. I shall go with you to the breach, and we shall die together in its defense.”
The plans of destroying the bridge, and gaining a free passage through the Scheldt, had now been completely abandoned. On the suggestion of Gianibelli, it was resolved to bore through the dam at Covenstein, so that the whole country might be thrown under water; and, after this, to venture a last attack on the Spanish station. Count Hohenlohe, Admiral of the Zealand fleet, approved of this scheme, and promised his assistance.
From the sharp experienced eyes of the Duke of Parma, however, the importance of this point had not been concealed. Even at the commencement of the siege, he had guarded Covenstein, in such manner, with ramparts and batteries, that any attack in this quarter must require both powerful forces, and the most heroic resolution in their commander.
All the smaller dams had been cut through. Already, the Zealand ships advanced on their new sea-room towards the bulwark at Covenstein. On the following morning, the attack was to be made. A frightful silence now reigned through the desolate streets of Antwerp. On that evening, every citizen remained at his own house, surrounded by his family, believing that these might be the last moments which he could enjoy in their society.
It is a strange and fearful emotion which prevails resistlessly in the minds of men, when, in the decisive hour, their long cherished hopes are passing away. If the next hour has only struck, then there is no longer any suspense. No choice between good or evil fortune. Nothing more left to hope or to fear. The die has fallen, and their fates are decided immoveably and changeless for ever!
On this evening, too, Gianibelli sat at home with his wife and, in silence, they gazed together on the setting sun. “When tomorrow that orb again descends – deep, blood red even as now – then the lot of Antwerp and ours, too, will be decided.
“Aye, my dearest Cassilda. Assuredly, the last. If victory be not ours tomorrow, then we may crawl back like reptiles into our narrow cells, but we dare speak no more of conquest, nor of liberty. Yet, a few days or hours perchance, we may contrive to live. But this is all. The proud Duke will advance. Our ramparts will give way. Famine will deprive the miserable inhabitants of spirit – even to fall nobly.
By the morrow’s dawn – at the next blood red sun’s gleam – the strife begins. And, perhaps, by evening’s end, all will be lost.”
The morning had not yet broke. The stars gleamed still when four illumination vessels were dispatched from Fort Lillo towards the dam at Covenstein. The large ships of Zealand fleet were also drawn out in line opposite to the fortifications. Between the bridge, and the rampart of St. George, an ascent was made on the dike. With wonderful alacrity, a breast work prepared , in order to disunite the two hostile batteries.
Under this protection, the pioneers now laboured to cut through the dike, and every soldier, being aware how important was the undertaking, worked with redoubled strength. The Antwerp fleet also began from the other side to attack the Spaniards; and the infantry from town supported the brave Zealanders, who stood nobly by their breast-work, repulsing every attempt made against them.
Intoxicated with their first success, the commanders thought their victory certain. They began even to empty provisions and merchandise from the Zealand ships, and load with them onto their small Antwerp vessels, thus losing and frittering away precious time. The task of the pioneers on the dam was no longer carried on with the same perseverance and rapidity.
The energy of the workmen became, indeed, quite lamed, when Count Hohenlohe and St Aldegonde went into a small merchantman, which they had loaded, and exactly at the decisive moment, put about to Antwerp to celebrate there the triumph which, in their foolish vanity, they believed that they had won.
Amid the ringing of bells, and thunder of cannon, they entered the harbour, where Gianibelli stood with a band of his brave Scotsmen, impatiently waiting for intelligence from the bridge. They told him briefly what had occurred. “There should be no rejoicing. These are passing-bells that receive you. Your cannon shots are no better than the last groans of an expiring Antwerp.
Herr Burgomeister, and my lord admiral, your presence here is useless, and your absence from the scene of action may have consequences the most disastrous! On then, my faithful comrades!” he encouraged those men collected round him. “Away to the scene of conflict – by land or sea – for in this hour our friends have need of us.”
The Duke of Parma stood, meanwhile, with the true composure of a hero on the bridge, and gave the necessary orders to guard against the fire-ships, which were now incessantly sent against him. He had adopted the precaution, that, when these floating mines were pressing on the barrier, it might be opened in several places, so as to let them pass and injure the Zealand fleet, rather than himself.
By dint of almost supernatural exertions, and a thousand times risking his own life, the heroic Prince had the satisfaction at last of perceiving that this attack would be ineffectual against him.
Satisfied his favourite bulwark was out of danger, he hastened with several hundred Spanish pikemen to defend Covenstein, and arrived there when all was nearly lost. The stake bastion having suffered by the incessant fire of the fleet, had almost given way. The brave Gamboa, its defender, lay severely wounded. Most of his soldiers were killed; while the forces of the Netherlanders increased every hour in number.
The Duke then collected about him almost all the troops that he could find in the trenches or elsewhere – placed himself in the van, and advanced in order, by his presence, to restore the sinking hopes of his party.
Under shelter of the temporary breastwork, between the stake bastion and that of St George, now fought the best – the very kernel and marrow of the Flemish troops. Here, on this decisive point, they knew that the liberty of their native land was to be decided – and they were determined in this place to conquer or die.
At length Gianibelli arrived with his little band, and landed at the very same moment when the Duke of Parma had succeeded in reducing the confused Spaniards into order, and was leading them onwards for a new attack. Fate had thus once more brought the two heroes together. They fought closely, man to man, shield clashing on shield.
“Cassilda” was the battle-cry of Gianibelli Shouting her name aloud, he inflicted a frightful blow on the Duke’s helmet. But then the pike of a Spanish soldier struck him to the ground. The Netherlanders and Scotsmen fought nobly round their leader. They covered him with their shields, rescued him; he was carried back on board their ship.
But when Gianibelli fell, the last courage and spirit of his men were effectively crushed. The Italians and Spaniards now contended with each other for the honour of being the first at the breast work. It was mounted and won accordingly. Antwerp’s final hopes died with the few faithful pioneers who were slain in defending it. The day drew near to that fatal and blood-red sunset that Gianibelli had anticipated with such gloomy forebodings.
For days our hero was confined to his couch, languishing under severe wounds. His faithful Cassilda sat by him unwearied, holding his burning hand within hers, remaining tranquil and resolute. One morning St Aldegonde entered, bearing a letter. “Were it possible, my dear friend, to bring you consolation in a time like this, perhaps I might do so now.
The Duke of Parma, who has come close to our gates and commanded our surrender, sends this open letter addressed to you. Herein, he gives you express permission (as you are now wounded and can no longer be of service in defense of Antwept) to depart to some quiet abode, where your health may be fully restored. You may go where you will, along with your wife.
The Duke pledges his word of honour that no measure shall be taken to effect your separation, or in any way to distress you. Besides, he offers to give hostages for your security, and it is, therefore, my counsel that you should accept his proposal; the enemy are close upon us. We are no longer safe from their cannon-shot and grenades. You require rest, and here, least of all, can you obtain a fair chance of recovery. You must directly fall into the power of the conqueror, who now leaves you at perfect liberty to depart.”
The wounded hero was not unmoved by this offer. “Though in courage, I am thine equal. Yet Alexander of Parma, I must allow, thou surpassest me in generosity, as well as in good fortune. Let the Duke know,” he added in a feebler tone, “that I am not ungrateful; but that Gianibelli, and his wife Cassilda Nunez, will survive or perish with the liberty of Antwerp – and if the city fall, will enter gladly through the dark gates of the tomb, to the realms of everlasting liberty and rest.”
Having thus spoke, he sank back exhausted on his couch. “And you, noble lady,” Aldegonde turned to Cassilda, “can you approve of this resolve?”
“I shall share the lot of my husband – whether in joy or in sorrow – sunlight or darkness – I shall live or die with him!”
Generous, noble-minded victims!” said venerable St Aldegonde, “may Heaven yet protect you, and have compassion on our unfortunate city.”
But in a short time famine began to show her direful power over the devoted inhabitants of Antwerp, while the enemy closed the circle always more narrowly around them. Every one, even the bravest, now despaired of rescue; the people murmured at their fate, for hunger was yet more formidable than the swords of their assailants.
Under these circumstances, the assembled senate debated, whether it would not be better to give up the town, after having made some tolerable conditions, than to wait till the worst had befallen them. While they were deliberating on this question, the great doors of the hall were opened, and Federico Gianibelli was brought in on his couch, borne by his faithful Scotsmen.
”Once more,” said he in a faint voice. “I have come hither. The dying man appears before you, that he may warn you for the last time! Often, indeed, you have refused his counsels, as if they had been mere visions; but follow his advice, at least for this once. Do not, I admonish, I conjure – do not open Antwerp’s gates to the Spaniards. Defend your town to the last – from street to street, and from house to house.
Think on Alba, and his pillory formed out of your melted cannon. Think of the scaffold, on which the noblest of your people fell by the hands of the executioner.
King Phillip still lives, and the Duke of Parma is but his slavish implement, as the Duke of Alba proved before. Far better were it to perish as heroes – to bury yourselves in the ruins of your fortress, than to die, like degraded criminals, on the block. Farewell – this is the last appearance I can ever make in your senate-house, which I have so often entered.
When I was yet in the bloom of youth and health – with those hopes fresh and vigorous in my heart – which are now withered for ever.” Here he paused abruptly, and made a sign that his attendants should remove him, which was done; and after his retreat, the councilors sat for a long time in gloomy silence, with their eyes fixed on the ground.
“Aye, truly,” said St Aldegonde at last, “Gianibelli is in the right. We ought to feel in our hearts the courage and resolution to die for our native land. Death is far better than the yoke of Spanish tyrants. Friend – countrymen, if you think as I do, let us join in one last effort.”
Yet the voices of a multitude, who now forced their way into the hall, interrupted his heroic exhortations. They demanded, outrageously, that the town should be surrendered; famine had driven them to utter despair. St. Aldegonde found that he must give way to their violence.
From the silence of the cannonade, and the death-like stillness of the streets, Gianibelli, at his own house, apprehended what had taken place. “The cowards have yielded,” said he to Cassilda, at a late hour of the evening. “Do not weep, dear child,” added he to Catharina von der Weert, who could no longer restrain her tears. “All will soon be over. Ere the next day dawns, the dream of life will have ended.” Cassilda kissed his pale lips, and, with a cheerfulness like that of a sainted martyr, nodded her approval of what he said; while Catharina, who, since Gianibelli was wounded, had not left her friend, now went out in search of intelligence.
Our hero’s suspicion was confirmed. Antwerp had surrendered; and tomorrow’s rising sun would no more shine on the free city, but on miserable slaves. The contest was past; and it was not till after a long refreshing sleep, that Gianibelli awoke on the morning of that fatal day. He heard the drums beating, and the music of a Spanish march.
“They are drawing near. I recognize the well-known sounds that have so often accompanied me to the battle-field. Yet, Alexander of Parma – proud and prosperous as thou art, think not that my presence shall heighten and adorn thy triumph! Gianibelli shall not fall living into the hands of his conqueror.”
With these words, he violently tore the bandage from his wounds. Cassilda was aware of his design, and did not hinder him; but Catharina shuddered with horror, and averted her eyes.
“Love even unto death!” said he. “This vow, my beloved Cassilda, you have faithfully preserved inviolate … fidelity after death and for ever!” These were his last words; a few moments after, he expired.
Fernando Nunez accompanied the Prince of Parma to Gianibelli’s house. “My resolution is fixed,” said the Duke. “I must once more see my brave enemy, much as he has done to offend and injure me. I shall forgive him, and ask his forgiveness – we shall be reconciled together. Nor need Cassilda fear my present. No. If death indeed has already called him hence, she may retire into a convent, and there fulfill her vow of changeless fidelity.”
The house of mourning and death was silent. They opened the door for themselves, and found Cassilda kneeling in prayer over the pale remains of her idolized Federico. “Come not nearer!” she exclaimed. “He has escaped from your triumph. His fortune sank – his hopes were withered – you have now nothing to fear from that hero who alone could have opposed your career of victory. But in death as in life,” she declared, as the Duke advanced towards her, “he comes betwixt us. Love has traveled with me to his grave. Fidelity shall now be my guide to find him in a better world!” She had Gianibelli’s dagger in her girdle. She now plunged it into her heart, and fell silent and motionless on the body of her beloved.
“When my last hour shall arrive,” said the Duke, “would that it might be my lot to appear with such an angelic guide before the judgment-throne of Heaven!” And, without daring to approach the sacred remains of Cassilda and her lover, he left the house. Fernando Nunez now felt, for the first time, that the grief of a bereft parent’s heart is all sufferings the deepest and most overpowering.
Catharina von der Weert was still present to perform the last sad duties for her friend, who was laid with her husband in one coffin, and Catharina strewed them with flowers. “Love even unto death – Fidelity forever!” was the inscription which Alexander of Parma placed over their grave, where he many times shed tears of repentance and retribution. Time has now destroyed their monument of true love; but not long since, a cross was still visible on the spot where Gianibelli received his death wound at Coverstein.
Excerpt, “GERMAN STORIES: Selected From the Works of Hoffmann, De La Motte Fouque’, Pichler, Kruse, and Others.” By R.P. Gillies, Esq. in three Volumes. Vol. I. London: 1826.
THE SIEGE OF ANTWERP
It happened at Antwerp, in the year 1584, one lowering stormy evening, that Cassilda Nunez was seated in her own solitary chamber. Lost in melancholy reflections, she gazed from the window on the broad troubled waters of the Scheldt, — when the door was opened cautiously; a man, dressed like an ordinary peasant, stepped in, looked around him, as if fearful of being observed, presented to her a sealed letter, and, having thus fulfilled his commission, glided away without speaking a word.
Cassilda trembled as she read the superscription. She had just broken the seal, when, with a dark frown over his features, her husband, Federico Gianibelli, made his appearance. She came forward to meet him, and gave him the billet in silence. “From your father, perhaps?” said he in a low growling tone – then read aloud what here follows:
Wretched girl, — thou art a runaway, not only from thy father, but from thine own happiness. His malediction followed thee across the seas, when at the heretic queen’s gates, thou wert forced to seek for protection.
His malediction follows thee here, while thy sinful heart still clings to the traitor, who, faithless to his religion and his country, supports the cause of heretic rebels. Leave him then, ere it is yet too late. On the Fort of Santa Maria waves thy father’s banner, entrusted to him by that generous prince, whose heart still beats affectionately towards the fugitive, who so little deserves his love. Forgiveness yet awaits thee, if thou wilt return to us.
Federico folded up the letter, frowning as before – then, with a steadfast look at Cassilda, inquired – “Whence have you received this treacherous communication?” She described calmly the mysterious manner in which it had been brought to her, and he left the room without another word.
Cassilda Nunez was the daughter of a Spaniard, without patrimony, who had, from early youth, been a soldier, acquiring little by his profession; at length he had come with her to Madrid, in order to obtain a situation under Alexander Duke of Parma, who was then at the capital, where that prince saw the beautiful Cassilda Nunez in the Prado.
By no means indifferent to female charms, but still more susceptible of impressions from that powerful and lively intellect which he could read in every glance of her dark eloquent eyes, the young hero admired her more than any girl he had yet beheld, and, before he was aware, had fallen deeply in love.
The heart of a Farnese never, indeed, takes up any impression lightly; or, if his attachment at the beginning was of an ordinary and commonplace description, such feelings were changed into the most respectful and serious passion. When he was forced to acknowledge the dignity with which the poor girl repulsed his addresses, and became aware that the Prince, with all his wealth and splendour, could never obtain from her that return of affection which might have been won by the untitled hero.
But his love seemed to grow more ardent in proportion to the difficulties thrown in his way. Her father, meanwhile, who expected that, on this state of affairs, he might build up his own fortune, of course connived at, and even sanctioned the Prince’s addresses, who used to come every day to the soldier’s humble quarters, always preserving, however, the most respectful and modest demeanour in his attention to Cassilda.
These visits were made with great caution, but though they were concealed from almost all his friends, the spies of King Philip were on the watch, and did not fail to represent at court how much of the Duke’s time was wasted in the house of Fernando Nunez. The cold-hearted monarch subjected him to a serious lecture on his imprudence, which, however, had no other effect than that of rendering the young Prince more careful, and his visits less frequent than formerly.
Among the Duke’s private acquaintances and friends was numbered a young Italian, named Federico Gianibelli, — a man of extraordinary talents, who, notwithstanding his youth, had distinguished himself highly by his services as an officer in Flanders, and had, therefore, won the utmost confidence and favour from the commander-in-chief.
All that was grand and gigantic in effect, — plans that to meaner souls would have been overpowering – had for him especial charms. As to dangers, instead of being deterred by them, they seemed, in his estimation, to render the duties entrusted to him more desirable and attractive.
Similarity of character, and many times an exact coincidence in their military schemes, had brought him by degrees more and more into the Duke’s society, and at length, he had been appointed to go with his Highness as aid-de-camp to the intended blockade of Antwerp.
From this confidential friend, the Duke could not long hide his attachment to the beautiful Cassilda. Federico, too, had beheld her – he had admired beyond measure the fixed resolution and dignity with which she repulsed the advances of a lover, whose rank was so unsuitable to her own; but ere long he had the unexpected pleasure of discovering, that Cassilda had looked on himself with approving glances, and that she would willingly receive from him those honourable addresses which it was impossible for the high-born Prince to offer.
One evening, before this discovery had been fully made, Federico happened to pay a visit at her father’s house, who was absent; but he had found Cassilda at home in her own apartment, where they were engaged in friendly discourse, when Prince Alexander, without having knocked at the door, suddenly made his appearance.
Federico rose and advanced to meet him with rather an embarrassed countenance; while Cassilda, who had not expected this visit, hastily quitted her chair, and, not reflecting on the conclusions that might be drawn from her conduct, glided away into another room. The Duke’s eyes glared with indignation. “The flower, however humble,” said he, “that Alexander of Parma thinks proper to cherish, stands rather too high for a hand like thine to pluck. Thou mayest retire.”
Federico went without making any answer; but these words had excited him to a degree of rage which only the most ample vengeance could allay. From that moment onwards, he was sensible how deep was the attachment that subsisted betwixt himself and Cassilda, for wounded pride had awoke all the slumbering emotions of his heart.
As to the Duke’s proud warnings and menaces, he looked on them with contempt, and adopted the bold resolution of entering the lists openly as the Prince’s rival. His love, now blended with ambition, became more than ever ardent, so that he could brave all dangers. In the bloom of youth and manly beauty, endowed too with almost unequalled talents, and a glowing romantic imagination, he offered his hand in marriage to Cassilda. He offered her the truest, most energentic devotion of a heart that, till now, had never really loved.
Federico was indeed the only man in whose presence Cassilda could not remain perfectly unconcerned and indifferent; and, of course, it was impossible that this state of affairs could long escape the watchful eyes of her father, who perceived that he now ran the utmost risk of seeing all his favourite hopes and deep-laid schemes defeated. The Duke also discovered the truth, notwithstanding the trouble which the lovers had taken to conceal it.
Federico was but too well acquainted with the unyielding obstinacy of the Prince’s temper; he knew that, by trusting to time and chance, all would, of necessity, be lost, and that it was only by an immediate flight that he could secure the fulfillment of his own purposes. Tormented by her father’s base and mercenary plots; — intimidated also by the Duke’s violence, and the powerful influence attached to his station, which might be exerted in many ways for her ruin, Cassilda, after a feeble resistance, submitted to Federico’s proposals.
She fled with him towards the sea coast; they arrived safely at St. Ander, where they found a ship that brought them over with a favourable wind to England.
The regard which Federico had once felt towards the Duke of Parma; the admiration which he had cherished for his character and talents, were now changed into the most deadly hatred; and, as formerly, he had been spurred on by his ambition to join with the Duke, for the intended attack and plunder of Antwerp, now his feelings of revenge determined him to follow a very different course.
He resolved still to go into Flanders, and to devote his utmost energies in defense of those protestant districts which the Spaniards had destined; to be plundered and enslaved.
By Queen Elizabeth he was welcomed as an accomplished, able soldier. She supplied him with money, and gave him a letter of recommendation to the Prince of Orange, who receive Federico, not as a stranger, but as a young officer with whose character and brave conduct, in the Spanish service, he was already well acquainted.
Here our hero was introduced also to the brave Marinix von St. Aldegonde, burgomeister of Antwerp, in whose society, and accompanied still by his wife, who loved him almost to adoration. He hastened to embark for the Netherlands, determined either to conquer the proud Alexander in war, as he had before done in love, or, if this object were not gained, to die in the ruins of the city which he had sworn to defend.
With a heart full of ardent courage and delightful anticipations, he entered the town, along with his new friend the burgomeister. Looking forward to the powerful assistance which the Prince of Orange had promised him; trusting also to the Zealand fleet, with which the river Scheldt seemed to offer him a secure channel of communication; but, above all, relying on the resources of his own undaunted and creative genius.
He did not, for a moment, allow himself to doubt, that his endeavours would ultimately be triumphant. Yet, on the very same day, when Liefenhock, a fort of considerable importance on the island of Doel, was captured by the Spaniards, and the free navigation of the Scheldt was lost, the brave noble-hearted Prince William of Orange fell by the treacherous attacks of assassins. And with him seemed to perish, at the same moment, all the fairest hopes of those who fought in the cause of liberty.
Federico Gianibelli now felt also, that adversity had begun her attacks on him, and had already clouded the brilliant prospects that were so fondly drawn; but, above all, he was discontented with the conduct of the Antwerp citizens, who, like true merchants, judged of every scheme on their own narrow-minded principles of caution and economy. They were, therefore, never prepared to meet the sacrifices which he demanded of them, and treated his lofty plans for their defense as mere chimeras.
Meanwhile, Prince Alexander, who had been duly informed of Giannibelli’s proceedings, and that Cassilda had accompanied him to Antwerp, felt a new stimulus towards the fulfillment of that grand exploit, which he had long before at heart. Accordingly, he exerted his utmost ingenuity in devising measures for the overthrow of this important bulwark of Flanders and of Brabant.
In his mode of procedure, finding himself opposed by his best and oldest generals, he raised himself, with resistless energy, above all hindrance and prudent counsel. He saw, as well as they did, the dangers that were before him – but, at once excited by love, ambition, and revenge, he prepared by himself, with gigantic energy, for the decisive encounter.
Having observed, that, notwithstanding the capture of Liefenhoek, the fort of Lillo on the Brabant coast, which was held by the brave General Teligny, would still render it impossible for him to have that effectual command, which he had expected, over the Scheldt. He determined, at all risks, to throw a bridge across the river. Betwixt Kallas and Ordon, where the stream forms a curve, he erected two forts, named Santa Maria and Santo Philippo, one on each shore, in order to protect his engineers in constructing the bridge.
The largest ships were deprived of their masts, which he shod with iron, and fixed in the ground as piles, notwithstanding the depth of the water. The bridge was made of the dismantled ships and their boats, the whole being held together so firmly by cables, that it resisted all the violence of the waves and masses of floating ice which were now in the river. But, in order to supply himself with more vessels, he opened dams and sluices, so that the country was flooded, and brought over those which was thrown into his power by the fall and plunder of Ghent.
While these hostile operations were carried on within sight of Antwerp, Federico, for his part, rested neither night nor day. The ramparts were strengthened and extended, so that danger and alarm might, as long as possible, be warded off from the quiet dwellings of the citizens; but it was not by means of such ordinary methods as every brave soldier would have employed, that Antwerp could now possibly be saved.
The passage of the Scheldt must again be opened; the bridge must be destroyed; and although our hero’s contrivances for this purpose could not fairly be judged of except by a mind resembling his own, and, therefore, were ill adapted to the comprehension of Antwerp’s merchants. Yet, St. Aldegonde’s acute intellect, and his influence in the town, proved then of such importance, that means, to a certain extent at least, were supplied for the fulfillment of Federico’s plans.
He had, at his own disposal, two ships, each of one hundred tons burden, and a number of flat-bottomed boars, which he directly began to concert for his own purposes into engines of destruction.
Just at this eventful epoch, when news arrived that the formidable bridge had been completed, and public apprehensions were stretched to the utmost, Cassilda received that letter from her father, who was now employed as commander at the fort of Santa Maria. Federico Gianibelli, since his abode in Antwerp, was, alas! No longer distinguished by that bold, jocund and buoyant spirit, which he had evinced when in Spain and in England.
The failure of many plans that he had formed, and which had been crushed at the outset by the paltry cautions and timidity of the vulgar spirits by whom he was surrounded, had rendered him gloomy, — even capricious in temper – and his affection for Cassilda had lost that enthusiastic and heart-felt ardour, by which she had at first been won. Ambition, blended with the spirit of revenge, may give new energy to a lover’s addresses, but proves, alas! the worst enemy of domestic happiness and peace.
The myrtle wreath which she had bestowed on him, when in her heart he became a successful rival of the Duke, withered now, and was only succeeded in his imagination by the laurel crown of victory, which he thought to gain in the battlefield. His military stratagems, by which he was unceasingly occupied – his restless activity and passionate devotion to one object – were such, that he returned oftentimes his beloved Cassilda’s endearments with coldness, almost with disdain.
Ambition, alone, was the fuel by which his fiery spirit was now attracted, and Cassilda was acutely sensible of this alteration. She was too proud to reproach her husband; neglected love had changed in her heart to silent uncomplaining grief; and it was only to one confidante, Catharina van der Weert, the betrothed bride of Teligny, that she could not help involuntarily betraying the real cause of sadness.
On the arrival of that letter from Cassilda’s father, brought by a disguised messenger who was sought for every where in vain, doubts arose for the first time in Federico’s mind of his wife’s affection, even of her fidelity. For the first time, too, his wayward and now morbid imagination led him into a comparison of himself, the dependent and humble soldier, having no other fortune but his own talents and courage, with the powerful high-born hero, who succeeded in every undertaking, because he possessed all outward advantages.
The latter needed only to conceive a stratagem, in order to find means for its being carried into effect; the former was under the necessity of begging his way, and of submitting to the jurisdiction of mercenary citizens, who ruled over him, because, forsooth, they were styled burgomeisters and senators. Now, he saw too clearly the wide distance at which fate had placed him beneath the station of his princely opponent.
Nay, more, Cassilda’s grief and silent abstraction appeared only proofs of that longing which which had probably taken possession of her heart, to be once more among the fortunate Spaniards. Perhaps her imperial lover, since his recent successes, appeared to her in a light far more interesting and attractive than before; especially now, when even the strong walls of Antwerp seemed to afford no defense against him.
When he forced the broad stormy waters of the Scheldt to obey his control – and yielded only to Cassilda’s charms, offering himself as a willing captive in her chains.
“He then, or I!” So Federico exclaimed in a terrific tone, as he returned home after some hours spent in vain inquiries after the stranger who brought the letter, — and with these words unconsciously grasping the hilt of a dagger, which he always wore. He found his wife mournful and downcast, at a window which looked across to the shores of the Brabant, and the fort of Santa Maria. Catharina van der Weert was with her.
He went up gloomily to Cassilda, fixed on her a penetrating though not unkind gaze, and said, after a long inward conflict, “Wouldst thou go from hence to thy father? Is this, perhaps, the secret wish that now weighs on thy heart? Speak, then, at once the truth! Federico Gianibelli has courage for all that can befall him – he can bear even that from which the spirits of other men would shrink, and bid defiance to take, however, horrible its threatenings!
Only this he cannot endure, to be the victim of cowardly chicane and artifice! By the Holy Virgin, who lends her name to yonder fortress, I swear, if it be thy wish to take refuge in the camp of the enemy, I shall allow thee to go hence in safety, and without any reproachful word!”
Cassilda had risen from her place at the window. “Federico,” said she with dignity, “I, too, had learned to bear that from which the spirits of other women would shrink. I left my father and my native land for love, — for the sake of an attachment which I could not so easily renounce and sacrifice as thou hast done – nor shall I renounce it but with life!”
“Well, then, my noble-hearted wife,” exclaimed Federico, embracing her with ardour. “Be this our watchword: ‘Love even unto death – Fidelity for ever!’”
Cassilda gave him her hand in silence; with her eye uplifted to Heaven, she vowed more intelligibly than words could have expressed. “Love even unto death – Fidelity for ever!”
“So, now,” answered Federico, “I shall return to my task, and fulfill it joyfully. I know that the proud invader, whatever may be his fortune in war, will never obtain thee, even though he rode triumphantly over Gianibelli’s mangled corse, into the ruins of Antwerp.” With these words, he imprinted one fervent kiss on Cassilda’s lips, and vanished.
The two friends (for Catharina had been present through the whole scene) looked silently at each other, then embraced, both weeping passionately. “Poor unhappy Cassilda!” said her confidante, “here thou art fettered by the resistless bands of love, and yet in yonder fortress filial duty claims also thy presence.” “If love indeed,” said Cassilda, “if requited love here detains me in silken chains, then, my good Catharina, I shall never complain nor murmur.
On Federico alone I have relied; to him alone my whole affections are given. When I left my father’s house, I vowed that I should conquer with him or die, and never shall repent my engagement. But to you, indeed, my fortunate friend, how different is the lot assigned – a marriage to be celebrated with your father’s blessing!
Your Teligny, amiable and mild-tempered as he seems, who, in your presence, only thinks of love, while he is at other times so fierce and resolute against the enemy, must ensure your domestic happiness; but Federico’s passion, unequal and outrageous as the lava streams of a volcano, force me into their own vortex, and bear my spirit irresistibly into his own sphere of conflict.
But, Catharina,” added she in a tone of ardour and enthusiasm, “this even – the wild energy which flashes in every glance of his dark eyes, and vibrates in every nerve – this exalted courage which raises him above difficulties that others would deem insurmountable; — his obstinate perseverance, that admits of no middle course between the highest good fortune or annihilation – these are the endowments which attracted my affections to Federico – by these I am still, and shall ever be fettered. Willingly would I encounter my death blow for his sake, or given by his hand.”
“Nay, nay, Cassilda,” said Catharina, “with a lover such as you have now described, I indeed could never be happy. My affections, however warm and constant, must always be placid and calm; nor could I ever, for the sake of any lover, renounce the duty that I owe to a parent who protected me during the helpless years of infancy, and without whose care I should never have lived to enjoy the fortunes that may be in store for me.
It is true that I love Teligny most sincerely, and for his sake would willingly forfeit my own life – but my father – or even the respect and obedience that I owe to such a parent – never! This I should feel to be impossible!”
At that moment, Teligny himself rushed into their apartment. He ran up to Catharina, and clasped her in his arms with great emotion. “Poor unhappy girl,” cried he, “what will become of you?” Federico had followed him and now said, in his usual stern and grave voice, “Mademoiselle, your presence will at this time be more requisite in your own house than in mine. Teligny will conduct you safely thither.”
Catharina, accordingly, went with her lover, trembling in every limb, and Cassilda ventured to ask her husband, what had caused this unusual agitation. The truth of which Federico informed her was that the messenger who brought the Spanish letter had been at last discovered and taken prisoner. On his person were found many letters of the Duke of Parma, proving amply that the Prince carried on a secret intercourse with several eminent citizens of Antwerp.
Selfish wretches, who preferred their own private interest to the welfare of their native country, were indeed numerous, and among them were men in whom much confidence had been reposed; for example, Catharina’s father, Adrian van der Weert, a privy-counsellor. His hatred of St. Aldegonde, and firm adherence to the religious creed of his ancestors, had rendered him a traitor to the state.
The Duke’s letter addressed to this dignitary, only roused suspicion, but when his house was searched, other documents found there afforded certain conclusions as to his guilt. Consequently he was arrested; nor could the entreaties of the brave Teligny and Federico, nor St. Aldegonde’s advice, that he should only be doomed to perpetual imprisonment, satisfy the furious resentment of the people. In a few days his head fell by the hand of the executioner.
The same secret messenger had also confessed on his trial, that he had brought a letter to the wife of Gianibelli; but the latter explained that incident to the senators, produced the letter, which, as they perceived, was from a father to his daughter, without any political tendency whatever.
He appealed also to St. Aldegonde, who proved, that the only use made by Federico of the letter, was to acquaint his friend immediately that a spy was in the town; upon which they had joined in making a search, which at last proved successful. However, the mere necessity that he had been brought under, of urging this representation in his own defense, made a deep and painful impression on our hero.
That he, whose ardent mind so eagerly seized on every possible means of injuring and opposing the Duke of Parma, should be suspected of an intention to join with him, or of having willingly received secret dispatches, was an idea almost insupportable, and the longer that he reflected on the confidence that subsisted betwixt Cassilda and Catharina van der Weert, the deeper did the most tormenting doubts take root in his mind.
Even Teligny, whom he had always before treated as a trustworthy and valued friend, was now received by him with marked coldness and indifference.
But, alas! Teligny had himself become changed in character, for the house of Catharina’s father, in which he had so often been happy, was now become the abode of grief and despair. The ghost of its late miserable owner seemed to glide threatening through its desolate halls. “And can you still wield your sword,” said Catharina, “in the cause of those remorseless murderers who brought my father to the scaffold?”
Her filial sorrow had indeed overpowered all other emotions; she remained shut up in her chamber, and would not look upon the sunlight. At last she would only write to Teligny. “When my father’s ghost,” said she, “that now summons his friends to avenge him, has been appeased and satisfied, then, perchance, but not till then, we shall meet again. But within these gloomy walls of Antwerp, you shall never behold me more.”
Teligny ran from place to place in the frenzy of despair, and to him, therefore, a new proposal, at that time made by the senate, was exceedingly opportune and welcome. The suggested that a man of talents and consequence should endeavor to make his way across to Zealand, and hasten the preparations for sending out the auxiliary fleet, which had been too long delayed.
He offered his services for carrying this plan into execution; was approved of by the magistracy, and set out from Antwerp, without having been allowed even to take leave of Catharina. She adhered firmly to her determination, that here in Antwerp they should never meet again. Thus, the bravest officer (Gianibelli excepted); he who had been long the principal support of the Antwerp commonweal, and who had been ever foremost in the ranks of danger, took his departure.
St. Aldegonde, with a sad heart, gave him the requisite convoy, but, when he bade his friend farewell, it was impossible for him to repress his apprehensions of evil fortune. These were but too well-founded. Teligny was betrayed – fell into the hands of the Spaniards – and his native country had to deplore the absence (perhaps for ever) of her noblest champion.
Brussels also was now taken by the Spaniards, and thus all intercourse over land, by which subsidiary forces could have been hoped for, was cut off; the bridge across the Scheldt was completely finished, and public danger had come to its utmost height. However, this very danger, which had been rolling nearer and nearer like a dark thunder cloud, seemed at length to rouse in the besieged of the united provinces, courage, such as they had never shown before.
Count Justia von Nassau, too, advanced with the Zealand fleet; he bombarded Liefenhock, took possession of the fort and island, and there remained no obstacle to prevent his advancing up the Scheldt towards the bridge.
In Antwerp, meanwhile, Gianibelli became, if possible, more restless and active than ever. Since he had discovered, by the letter of Fernando Nunez, that the Duke still cherished hopes of getting Cassilda into his power, and tearing her from her husband’s arms, this afforded a new spur to his exertions, and, without a moment’s intermission, he racked his invention for new modes of defense.
The two ships which had been voted to him by the senate were by no means so large as he could have wished; however, he had named one of them Hope, the other Fortune, and transformed them into diabolical engines, floating mines, which he trusted would bring destruction to his enemies.
Having cut away the inside partitions, he filled the entire hold with gunpowder, hand-grenades, chain and grape-shot, with all other murderous missiles that could be devised; finally covered the deck with gravestones, with which he chose to supply himself from a churchyard. At last, the day had arrived, on the evening of which his grand exploit was to be performed.
The utmost caution had been used to keep the preparation of these ships a profound secret, and with proud confidence of success, Gianbelli now welcomed the hour of twilight. “Yonder,” cried he to Cassilda, drawing her to a window, and placing a telescope in her hand. “Yonder, where you see a very dark spot, is the bastion of Santa Maria. Look under it on the right, and you can discern a black stripe across the water – that is the bridge. There, before morning, the watchword shall be ‘liberty or death.’ The Santa Maria will this night make her ascension, and … “
“Hush-hush,” said Cassilda, shuddering at these irreverent words, which Federico pronounced unconsciously in the fervour of his own anticipations; but at that moment, the door opened; and dressed in very deep mourning, with a long black veil, Catharina made her appearance. It was the first time since her father’s death, and the unfortunate embassy of Teligny, that she had visited her friend, who received her with every token of kindness and affection.
Gianibelli, however, to whom she made a deep obeisance, looked on her with cold dignity. “Since we met last,: said she, “it has been the will of Heaven that the darkest clouds of misfortune should gather around me. The lightning, too, has struck; I am bereft of all that I held dear in this world, and stand forsaken amid the ruins of my once prosperous fortune.
For the first time today, after long solitude, I have ventured forth, only that I may throw myself before the altar of the high church, and implore from our omnipotent father, patience and courage to support those inevitable trials. Will you, my only friend, spare a little time to go with me? Without your support, I feel that I am unable to fulfil even this duty.”
Gianibelli’s dark brows contracted; the proud hopes that had before beamed in his eyes were changed to wrath and resentment. “You are offended, Signor,” said Catharina, turning to him. “But in this you do me injustice. I shall remember you in my prayers. I shall implore a blessing on your head, for, when my father was deserted by all the rest of the world, you and St. Aldegonde had compassion for his distresses. Be not angry with the poor forsaken orphan. Come, my dear Cassilda, God may yet hear out humble supplications.”
“Go, then, in God’s name,” said Gianibelli, moved by her last words. “Pray that my designs may not be defeated, for on them depends the fate of your country, and all its faithful adherents.” Cassilda and her friend accordingly walked out together to the only church where Catholic worship was still permitted; they were kneeling at the altar of the Blessed Virgin, when a stranger, who had seemed before to watch them on the streets, glided up to Cassilda, slipped a letter into the wide sleeve of her Spanish dress, and immediately vanished.
Her devotion was disturbed; her thoughts were distracted; for she apprehended immediately that the letter came from her father. When vespers were ended, she accompanied Catharina as fast as possible to the house of the latter; here she broke the seal, and read what follows.
Once more, Cassilda, I wish to prove that I can feel for you as a father; once more I must try whether I cannot persuade you to remember your duty, and return to the bosom of the true and only church – for, surrounded as you now are by heretics, there is no doubt that you will ere long become their prey. O! Come to us again!
You shall be received with kindness; the past shall be forgotten; riches, happiness, and honour await you. At this moment, you could appear as a ruler – as an empress – in his presence, before whom you will ere long tremble in captivity, for, after a few days or weeks, Antwerp will be laid in ruins. Choose, then, your lot.
Will you remain with a father’s malediction, in the arms of a despairing traitor, or come hither to receive his blessing, under the protection of a conquering and noble-minded hero? Place your answer behind the statue of the Apostle Peter, at the entrance of the High Church.
“Love even unto death – Fidelity for ever!” exclaimed Cassilda, and with these words she tore the paper, and threw it from her with vehemence.
“Nay,” said Catharina, “this Love which you encourage, and which is followed by a father’s curse, will one day change into a demon, and aim a dagger at my friend’s heart. Only Heaven forbid, that Fernando Nunez should fall a victim at the gates of Antwerp, while his daughter here triumphs within the walls! Truly, a father’s blessing has no power to raise me above the horrors of my own fate – but his malediction must have brought everlasting misery on my head!”
“Merciful Heaven!” exclaimed Cassilda, inexpressibly struck by these last words. She seemed as if suddenly awoke from a dream, snatched up a pen, and on a fragment of paper, that lay on Catharina’s table, traced these lines:
Beware this night of the bridge, and of the fort named Santa Maria. Keep at a distance from both, if your life is as dear to you as it must be to your daughter,
“May Heaven bless you, if you have written like an affectionate daughter!” said Catharina, as her friend hastened away. The latter went back trembling and anxiously to the church, where, according to the directions given, she concealed her answer behind the statue of St. Peter. While she was yet a few steps advanced on her retreat, she observed the same man by whom she had been followed go into the church; she saw him take the letter, and then hasten away as if his life depended on his expedition.
“Thus I have made one sacrifice at the shrine of filial affection,” said she to herself on the road home, “God grant that I may not have sinned against other duties that are yet dearer to my heart!”
To be continued …
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