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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

The deliverance of Leyden was announced from the pulpit

a bloody fight in the mouth

of the Scheldt, and Middleburg had to surrender. Leyden had two months' respite owing to a mutiny among the Spanish soldiers, but the citizens neglected the opportunity thus given them to revictual their town. It was again invested (May 26th), and hardly pressed. Louis of Nassau, leading an army to its assistance, was totally routed at Mookerheide, and he and his younger brother Henry were among the slain. The fate of Leyden seemed to be sealed, when William suggested to the Estates of Holland to cut the dykes and let in the sea. The plan was adopted. But the dykes took long to cut, and when they were opened and the water began to flow in slowly, violent winds swept it back to the sea. Within Leyden the supply of food was melting away; and the famished and anxious burghers, looking over the plain from the steeples of the town, saw help coming so slowly that it seemed as if it could arrive only when it was too late. The Spaniards knew also of the coming danger, and, calculating on the extremities of the townsfolk, urged on them to surrender, with promises of an honourable capitulation. "We have two arms," one of the defenders on the walls shouted back, "and when hunger forces us we will eat the one and fight you with the other." Four weary months passed amidst indescribable sufferings, when at last the sea reached the walls. With it came the patriotic fleet, sailing over buried corn fields and gardens, piloted through orchards and villages. The Spaniards fled in terror, for the
_Sea-Beggars_ were upon them, shouting their battle-cry, "Sooner Turks than Papists." Townsmen and sailors went to the great church to offer thanksgiving for the deliverance which had been brought them from the sea. When the vast audience was singing a psalm of deliverance, the voices suddenly ceased, and nothing was heard but low sobbing; the people, broken by long watching and famine, overcome by unexpected deliverance, could only weep.

The good news was brought to Delft by Hans Brugge, who found William in church at the afternoon service. When the sermon was ended, the deliverance of Leyden was announced from the pulpit. William, weak with illness as he was, rode off to Leyden at once to congratulate the citizens on their heroic defence and miraculous deliverance. There he proposed the foundation of what became the famous University of Leyden, which became for Holland what Wittenberg had been to Germany, Geneva to Switzerland, and Saumur to France.

The siege of Leyden was the turning-point in the war for independence. The Spanish Regent saw that a new Protestant State was slowly and almost imperceptibly forming. His troops were almost uniformly victorious in the field, but the victories did not seem to be of much value. He decided once more to attempt negotiation. The conferences came to nothing. The utmost that Philip II. would concede was that the Protestants should have time to sell their possessions and leave the country. The war was again renewed, when death came to relieve Requesens of his difficulties (March 1575). His last months were disgraced by the recommendation he made to his master to offer a reward for the assassination of the Prince of Orange.

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