Henry Cabot Lodge.

The Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to Prose, Vol. X (of X) - America - II, Index online

. (page 6 of 17)
Online LibraryHenry Cabot LodgeThe Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to Prose, Vol. X (of X) - America - II, Index → online text (page 6 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

metal - they had lost the flagships of the Guipuzcoan and of the Andalusian
squadrons, with a general-admiral, four hundred and fifty officers and men,
and some one hundred thousand ducats of treasure. They had been
outmaneuvered, outsailed, and thoroughly maltreated by their antagonists,
and they had been unable to inflict a single blow in return. Thus the
"small fight" had been a cheerful one for the opponents of the Inquisition,
and the English were proportionally encouraged....

Never, since England was England, had such a sight been seen as now
revealed itself in those narrow straits between Dover and Calais.
Along that long, low, sandy shore, and quite within the range of the
Calais fortifications, one hundred and thirty Spanish ships - the
greater number of them the largest and most heavily armed in the
world - lay face to face, and scarcely out of cannon-shot, with one
hundred and fifty English sloops and frigates, the strongest and
swiftest that the island could furnish, and commanded by men whose
exploits had rung through the world.

Farther along the coast, invisible, but known to be performing a most
perilous and vital service, was a squadron of Dutch vessels of all
sizes, lining both the inner and outer edges of the sandbanks off the
Flemish coasts, and swarming in all the estuaries and inlets of that
intricate and dangerous cruising-ground between Dunkirk and
Walcheren. Those fleets of Holland and Zeeland, numbering some one
hundred and fifty galleons, sloops, and fly-boats, under Warmond,
Nassau, Van der Does, De Moor, and Rosendael, lay patiently blockading
every possible egress from Newport, or Gravelines, or Sluys, or
Flushing, or Dunkirk; and longing to grapple with the Duke of Parma,
so soon as his fleet of gunboats and hoys, packed with his Spanish and
Italian veterans, should venture to set forth upon the sea for their
long-prepared exploit.

It was a pompous spectacle that midsummer night upon those narrow
seas. The moon, which was at the full, was rising calmly upon a scene
of anxious expectation. Would she not be looking, by the morrow's
night, upon a subjugated England, a reenslaved Holland - upon the
downfall of civil and religious liberty? Those ships of Spain, which
lay there with their banners waving in the moonlight, discharging
salvos of anticipated triumph and filling the air with strains of
insolent music - would they not, by daybreak, be moving straight to
their purpose, bearing the conquerors of the world to the scene of
their cherished hopes?

That English fleet, too, which rode there at anchor, so anxiously on
the watch - would that swarm of nimble, lightly handled, but slender
vessels, which had held their own hitherto in hurried and desultory
skirmishes, be able to cope with their great antagonist, now that the
moment had arrived for the death grapple? Would not Howard, Drake,
Frobisher, Seymour, Winter, and Hawkins be swept out of the straits at
last, yielding an open passage to Medina, Oquendo, Recalde, and
Farnese? Would those Hollanders and Zeelanders cruising so vigilantly
among their treacherous shallows dare to maintain their post now that
the terrible "Holoferness," with his invincible legions, was resolved
to come forth?

And the impatience of the soldiers and sailors on board the fleet was
equal to that of their commanders. There was London almost before
their eyes - a huge mass of treasure, richer and more accessible than
those mines beyond the Atlantic which had so often rewarded Spanish
chivalry with fabulous wealth. And there were men in those galleons
who remembered the sack of Antwerp eleven years before; men who could
tell, from personal experience, how helpless was a great commercial
city when once in the clutch of disciplined brigands; men who in that
dread "fury of Antwerp" had enriched themselves in an hour with the
accumulations of a merchant's lifetime, and who had slain fathers and
mothers, sons and daughters, brides and bridegrooms, before each
other's eyes, until the number of inhabitants butchered in the blazing
streets rose to many thousands, and the plunder from palaces and
warehouses was counted by millions, before the sun had set on the
"great fury." Those Spaniards, and Italians, and Walloons were now
thirsting for more gold, for more blood; and as the capital of England
was even more wealthy and far more defenseless than the commercial
metropolis of the Netherlands had been, so it was resolved that the
London "fury" should be more thorough and more productive than the
"fury of Antwerp," at the memory of which the world still shuddered.
And these professional soldiers had been taught to consider the
English as a pacific, delicate, effeminate race; dependent on good
living, without experience of war, quickly fatigued and discouraged,
and even more easily to be plundered and butchered than were the
excellent burghers of Antwerp.

And so these southern conquerors looked down from their great galleons
and galeasses upon the English vessels. More than three-quarters of
them were merchantmen. There was no comparison whatever between the
relative strength of the fleets. In number they were about equal,
being each from one hundred and thirty to one hundred and fifty
strong; but the Spaniards had twice the tonnage of the English, four
times the artillery, and nearly three times the number of men....

As the twilight deepened, the moon became totally obscured, dark cloud
masses spread over the heavens, the sea grew black, distant thunder
rolled, and the sob of an approaching tempest became distinctly
audible. Such indications of a westerly gale were not encouraging to
those cumbrous vessels, with the treacherous quicksands of Flanders
under their lee.

At an hour past midnight it was so dark that it was difficult for the
most practised eye to pierce far into the gloom. But a faint drip of
oars now struck the ears of the Spaniards as they watched from the
decks. A few moments afterward the sea became suddenly luminous; and
six flaming vessels appeared at a slight distance, bearing steadily
down upon them before the wind and tide.

There were men in the Armada who had been at the siege of Antwerp
only three years before. They remembered with horror the devil-ships
of Gianibelli - those floating volcanoes which had seemed to rend earth
and ocean, whose explosion had laid so many thousands of soldiers dead
at a blow, and which had shattered the bridge and floating forts of
Farnese as tho they had been toys of glass. They knew too that the
famous engineer was at that moment in England.

In a moment one of those horrible panics which spread with such
contagious rapidity among large bodies of men, seized upon the
Spaniards. There was a yell throughout the fleet - "The fire-ships of
Antwerp! the fire-ships of Antwerp!" and in an instant every cable was
cut, and frantic attempts were made by each galleon and galeasse to
escape what seemed imminent destruction. The confusion was beyond
description. Four or five of the largest ships became entangled with
each other. Two others were set on fire by the flaming vessels and
were consumed. Medina Sidonia, who had been warned, even before his
departure from Spain, that some such artifice would probably be
attempted, and who had even, early that morning, sent out a party of
sailors in a pinnace to search for indications of the scheme, was not
surprized or dismayed. He gave orders - as well as might be - that every
ship, after the danger should be passed, was to return to its post and
await his further orders. But it was useless in that moment of
unreasonable panic to issue commands. The despised Mantuan, who had
met with so many rebuffs at Philip's court, and who - owing to official
incredulity - had been but partially successful in his magnificent
enterprise at Antwerp, had now, by the mere terror of his name,
inflicted more damage on Philip's Armada than had hitherto been
accomplished by Howard and Drake, Hawkins and Frobisher combined.

So long as night and darkness lasted, the confusion and uproar
continued. When the Monday morning dawned, several of the Spanish
vessels lay disabled, while the rest of the fleet was seen at a
distance of two leagues from Calais, driving toward the Flemish coast.
The threatened gale had not yet begun to blow; but there were fresh
squalls from the W. S. W., which, to such awkward sailors as the
Spanish vessels, were difficult to contend with. On the other hand,
the English fleet were all astir, and ready to pursue the Spaniards,
now rapidly drifting into the North Sea.




Meantime, while the short November day was fast declining, the combat
still raged in the interior of the city (Antwerp). Various currents of
conflict, forcing their separate way through many streets, had at last
mingled in the Grande Place. Around this irregular, not very spacious
square, stood the gorgeous Hotel de Ville, and the tall, many-storied,
fantastically gabled, richly decorated palaces of the guilds. Here a
long struggle took place. It was terminated for a time by the cavalry
of Vargas, who, arriving through the streets of Saint Joris,
accompanied by the traitor Van Ende, charged decisively into the
mêlée. The masses were broken, but multitudes of armed men found
refuge in the buildings, and every house became a fortress. From every
window and balcony a hot fire was poured into the square, as, pent in
a corner, the burghers stood at last at bay. It was difficult to carry
the houses by storm, but they were soon set on fire. A large number of
sutlers and other varlets had accompanied the Spaniards from the
citadel, bringing torches and kindling materials for the express
purpose of firing the town. With great dexterity, these means were now
applied, and in a brief interval the city hall and other edifices on
the square were in flames. The conflagration spread with rapidity,
house after house, street after street, taking fire. Nearly a thousand
buildings, in the most splendid and wealthy quarter of the city, were
soon in a blaze, and multitudes of human beings were burned with them.
In the city hall many were consumed, while others leapt from the
windows to renew the combat below. The many tortuous streets which led
down a slight descent from the rear of the town-house to the quays
were all one vast conflagration. On the other side, the magnificent
cathedral, separated from the Grande Place by a single row of
buildings, was lighted up, but not attacked by the flames. The tall
spire cast its gigantic shadow across the last desperate conflict. In
the street called the Canal au Sucre, immediately behind the
town-house, there was a fierce struggle, a horrible massacre. A crowd
of burghers, grave magistrates, and such of the German soldiers as
remained alive still confronted the ferocious Spaniards. There, amid
the flaming desolation, Goswyn Verreyck, the heroic margrave of the
city, fought with the energy of hatred and despair. The burgomaster
Van der Meere lay dead at his feet; senators, soldiers, citizens fell
fast around him, and he sank at last upon a heap of slain. With him
effectual resistance ended. The remaining combatants were butchered,
or were slowly forced downward to perish in the Scheld. Women,
children, old men were killed in countless numbers, and still, through
all this havoc, directly over the heads of the struggling throng,
suspended in mid-air above the din and smoke of the conflict, there
sounded, every half-quarter of every hour, as if in gentle mockery,
from the belfry of the cathedral, the tender and melodious chimes.

[Footnote 28: From Part IV of Chapter V of "The Rise of the Dutch
Republic." Published by Harper & Brothers. The name "Spanish Fury" was
given to the sack of Antwerp by the Spaniards.]

Never was there a more monstrous massacre, even in the blood-stained
history of the Netherlands. It was estimated that, in the course of
this and the two following days, not less than eight thousand human
beings were murdered. The Spaniards seemed to cast off even the vizard
of humanity. Hell seemed emptied of its fiends. Night fell upon the
scene before the soldiers were masters of the city; but worse horrors
began after the contest was ended. This army of brigands had come
thither with a definite, practical purpose, for it was not
blood-thirst, nor lust, nor revenge, which had impelled them, but it
was avarice, greediness for gold. For gold they had waded through all
this blood and fire. Never had men more simplicity of purpose, more
directness in its execution. They had conquered their India at last;
its golden mines lay all before them, and every sword should open a
shaft. Riot and rape might be deferred; even murder, tho congenial to
their taste, was only subsidiary to their business. They had come to
take possession of the city's wealth, and they set themselves
faithfully to accomplish their task. For gold, infants were dashed out
of existence in their mothers' arms; for gold, parents were tortured
in their children's presence; for gold, brides were scourged to death
before their husbands' eyes. Wherever treasure was suspected, every
expedient which ingenuity, sharpened by greediness, could suggest, was
employed to extort it from its possessors. The fire, spreading more
extensively and more rapidly than had been desired through the
wealthiest quarter of the city, had unfortunately devoured a vast
amount of property. Six millions, at least, had thus been swallowed; a
destruction by which no one had profited. There was, however, much
left. The strong boxes of the merchants, the gold, silver, and
precious jewelry, the velvets, satins, brocades, laces, and similar
well concentrated and portable plunder, were rapidly appropriated. So
far the course was plain and easy, but in private houses it was more
difficult. The cash, plate, and other valuables of individuals were
not so easily discovered.

Torture was, therefore, at once employed to discover the hidden
treasures. After all had been given, if the sum seemed too little, the
proprietors were brutally punished for their poverty or their supposed
dissimulation. A gentlewoman, named Fabry, with her aged mother and
other females of the family, had taken refuge in the cellar of her
mansion. As the day was drawing to a close, a band of plunderers
entered, who, after ransacking the house, descended to the cellarage.
Finding the door barred, they forced it open with gunpowder. The
mother, who was nearest the entrance, fell dead on the threshold.
Stepping across her mangled body, the brigands sprang upon her
daughter, loudly demanding the property which they believed to be
concealed. They likewise insisted on being informed where the master
of the house had taken refuge. Protestations of ignorance as to hidden
treasure, or the whereabouts of her husband, who, for aught she knew,
was lying dead in the streets, were of no avail. To make her more
communicative, they hanged her on a beam in the cellar, and after a
few moments cut her down before life was extinct. Still receiving no
satisfactory reply, where a satisfactory reply was impossible, they
hanged her again. Again, after another brief interval, they gave her a
second release, and a fresh interrogatory. This barbarity they
repeated several times, till they were satisfied that there was
nothing to be gained by it, while, on the other hand, they were losing
much valuable time. Hoping to be more successful elsewhere, they left
her hanging for the last time, and trooped off to fresher fields.
Strange to relate, the person thus horribly tortured survived. A
servant in her family, married to a Spanish soldier, providentially
entered the house in time to rescue her perishing mistress. She was
restored to existence, but never to reason. Her brain was hopelessly
crazed, and she passed the remainder of her life wandering about her
house, or feebly digging in her garden for the buried treasure which
she had been thus fiercely solicited to reveal.

A wedding-feast was rudely interrupted. Two young persons, neighbors
of opulent families, had been long betrothed, and the marriage-day had
been fixt for Sunday, the fatal 4th of November. The guests were
assembled, the ceremony concluded, and the nuptial banquet in
progress, when the horrible outcries in the streets proclaimed that
the Spaniards had broken loose. Hour after hour of trembling
expectation succeeded. At last, a thundering at the gate proclaimed
the arrival of a band of brigands. Preceded by their captain, a large
number of soldiers forced their way into the house, ransacking every
chamber, no opposition being offered by the family and friends, too
few and powerless to cope with this band of well-armed ruffians. Plate
chests, wardrobes, desks, caskets of jewelry were freely offered,
eagerly accepted, but not found sufficient, and to make the luckless
wretches furnish more than they possest, the usual brutalities were
employed. The soldiers began by striking the bridegroom dead. The
bride fell shrieking into her mother's arms, whence she was torn by
the murderers, who immediately put the mother to death, and an
indiscriminate massacre then followed the fruitless attempts to
obtain by threats and torture treasure which did not exist. The bride,
who was of remarkable beauty, was carried off to the citadel. Maddened
by this last outrage, the father, who was the only man of the party
left alive, rushed upon the Spaniards. Wresting a sword from one of
the crew, the old man dealt with it so fiercely that he stretched more
than one enemy dead at his feet, but it is needless to add that he was
soon dispatched.

Meantime, while the party were concluding the plunder of the mansion,
the bride was left in a lonely apartment of the fortress. Without
wasting time in fruitless lamentation, she resolved to quit the life
which a few hours had made so desolate. She had almost succeeded in
hanging herself with a massive gold chain which she wore, when her
captor entered the apartment. Inflamed, not with lust, but with
avarice, excited not by her charms, but by her jewelry, he rescued her
from her perilous position. He then took possession of her chain and
the other trinkets with which her wedding-dress was adorned, and
caused her to be entirely stript of her clothing. She was then
scourged with rods till her beautiful body was bathed in blood, and at
last alone, naked, nearly mad, was sent back into the city. Here the
forlorn creature wandered up and down through the blazing streets,
among the heaps of dead and dying, till she was at last put out of her
misery by a gang of soldiers.

Such are a few isolated instances, accidentally preserved in their
details, of the general horrors inflicted on this occasion. Others
innumerable have sunk into oblivion. On the morning of the 5th of
November Antwerp presented a ghastly sight. The magnificent marble
town-house, celebrated as a "world's wonder," even in that age and
country, in which so much splendor was lavished on municipal palaces,
stood a blackened ruin - all but the walls destroyed, while its
archives, accounts, and other valuable contents had perished. The more
splendid portion of the city had been consumed, at least five hundred
palaces, mostly of marble or hammered stone, being a smoldering mass
of destruction. The dead bodies of those fallen in the massacre were
on every side, in greatest profusion around the Place de Meer, among
the Gothic pillars of the Exchange, and in the streets near the
town-house. The German soldiers lay in their armor, some with their
heads burned from their bodies, some with legs and arms consumed by
the flames through which they had fought. The Margrave Goswyn
Verreyck, the burgomaster Van der Meere, the magistrates Lancelot Van
Urselen, Nicholas Van Boekholt, and other leading citizens lay among
piles of less distinguished slain. They remained unburied until the
overseers of the poor, on whom the living had then more importunate
claims than the dead, were compelled by Roda to bury them out of the
pauper fund. The murderers were too thrifty to be at funeral charges
for their victims. The ceremony was not hastily performed, for the
number of corpses had not been completed. Two days longer the havoc
lasted in the city. Of all the crimes which men can commit, whether
from deliberate calculation or in the frenzy of passion, hardly one
was omitted, for riot, gaming, rape, which had been postponed to the
more stringent claims of robbery and murder, were now rapidly added to
the sum of atrocities. History has recorded the account indelibly on
her brazen tablets; it can be adjusted only at the judgment-seat

Of all the deeds of darkness yet compassed in the Netherlands this was
the worst. It was called The Spanish Fury, by which dread name it has
been known for ages. The city, which had been a world of wealth and
splendor, was changed to a charnel-house, and from that hour its
commercial prosperity was blasted. Other causes had silently girdled
the yet green and flourishing tree, but the Spanish Fury was the fire
which consumed it to ashes. Three thousand dead bodies were discovered
in the streets, as many more were estimated to have perished in the
Scheld, and nearly an equal number were burned or destroyed in other
ways. Eight thousand persons undoubtedly were put to death. Six
millions of property were destroyed by the fire, and at least as much
more was obtained by the Spaniards.


Born in Cambridge, Mass., in 1815; died in 1882; being in
ill health, shipped before the mast in 1834, making a voyage
to the Pacific, described in his book "Two Years Before the
Mast," published in 1840; one of the founders of the Free
Soil party in 1848; edited Wheaton's "Elements of
International Law," published in 1866.


We had been below but a short time before we had the usual
premonitions of a coming gale - seas washing over the whole forward
part of the vessel, and her bows beating against them with a force and
sound like the driving of piles. The watch, too, seemed very busy
trampling about decks and singing out at the ropes. A sailor can tell
by the sound what sail is coming in; and in a short time we heard the
top-gallant-sails come in, one after another, and then the flying jib.
This seemed to ease her a good deal, and we were fast going off to the
land of Nod, when - bang, bang, bang on the scuttle, and "All hands,
reef topsails, ahoy!" started us out of our berths, and it not being
very cold weather, we had nothing extra to put on, and were soon on

[Footnote 29: From "Two Years Before the Mast."]

I shall never forget the fineness of the sight. It was a clear and
rather a chilly night; the stars were twinkling with an intense
brightness, and as far as the eye could reach there was not a cloud
to be seen. The horizon met the sea in a defined line. A painter could
not have painted so clear a sky. There was not a speck upon it. Yet it
was blowing great guns from the northwest. When you can see a cloud to
windward, you feel that there is a place for the wind to come from;
but here it seemed to come from nowhere. No person could have told
from the heavens, by their eyesight alone, that it was not a still
summer's night. One reef after another we took in the topsails, and
before we could get them hoisted up we heard a sound like a short
quick rattling of thunder, and the jib was blown to atoms out of the
bolt-rope. We got the topsails set, and the fragments of the jib
stowed away, and the foretopmast staysail set in its place, when the
great mainsail gaped open, and the sail ripped from head to foot. "Lay
up on that main yard and furl the sail, before it blows to tatters!"
shouted the captain; and in a moment we were up, gathering the remains
of it upon the yard. We got it wrapt round the yard, and passed
gaskets over it as snugly as possible, and were just on deck again,
when with another loud rent, which was heard throughout the ship, the
foretopsail, which had been double-reefed, split in two athwartships,
just below the reef-band, from earing to earing. Here again it
was - down yard, haul out reef-tackles, and lay out upon the yard for
reefing. By hauling the reef-tackles chock-a-block we took the strain
from the other earings, and passing the close-reef earing, and
knotting the points carefully, we succeeded in setting the sail, close

We had but just got the rigging coiled up, and were waiting to hear
"Go below the watch!" when the main royal worked loose from the

1 2 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryHenry Cabot LodgeThe Best of the World's Classics, Restricted to Prose, Vol. X (of X) - America - II, Index → online text (page 6 of 17)