Siege of Antwerp
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 …