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The Burgomaster's Wife   By: (1837-1898)

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THE BURGOMASTER'S WIFE, Complete

By Georg Ebers

Translated from the German by Mary J. Safford

BARONESS SOPHIE VON BRANDENSTEIN, nee EBERS.

My reason for dedicating a book, and particularly this book, to you, the only sister of my dead father, needs no word of explanation between us. From early childhood you have been a dear and faithful friend to me, and certainly have not forgotten how industriously I labored, while your guest seventeen years ago, in arranging the material which constitutes the foundation of the "Burgomaster's Wife." You then took a friendly interest in many a note of facts, that had seemed to me extraordinary, admirable, or amusing, and when the claims of an arduous profession prevented me from pursuing my favorite occupation of studying the history of Holland, my mother's home, in the old way, never wearied of reminding me of the fallow material, that had previously awakened your sympathy.

At last I have been permitted to give the matter so long laid aside its just dues. A beautiful portion of Holland's glorious history affords the espalier, around which the tendrils of my narrative entwine. You have watched them grow, and therefore will view them kindly and indulgently.

In love and friendship,

Ever the same,

GEORG EBERS

Leipsic, Oct. 30th, 1881.

THE BURGOMASTER'S WIFE.

CHAPTER I.

In the year 1574 A. D. spring made its joyous entry into the Netherlands at an unusually early date.

The sky was blue, gnats sported in the sunshine, white butterflies alighted on the newly opened yellow flowers, and beside one of the numerous ditches intersecting the wide plain stood a stork, snapping at a fine frog; the poor fellow soon writhed in its enemy's red beak. One gulp the merry jumper vanished, and its murderer, flapping its wings, soared high into the air. On flew the bird over gardens filled with blossoming fruit trees, trimly laid out flower beds, and gaily painted arbors, across the frowning circlet of walls and towers that girdled the city, over narrow houses with high, pointed gables, and neat streets bordered with elm, poplar, linden and willow trees, decked with the first green leaves of spring. At last it alighted on a lofty gable roof, on whose ridge was its firmly fastened nest. After generously giving up its prey to the little wife brooding over the eggs, it stood on one leg and gazed thoughtfully down upon the city, whose shining red tiles gleamed spick and span from the green velvet carpet of the meadows. The bird had known beautiful Leyden, the gem of Holland, for many a year, and was familiar with all the branches of the Rhine that divided the stately city into numerous islands, and over which arched as many stone bridges as there are days in five months of the year; but surely many changes had occurred here since the stork's last departure for the south.

Where were the citizens' gay summer houses and orchards, where the wooden frames on which the weavers used to stretch their dark and colored cloths?

Whatever plant or work of human hands had risen, outside the city walls and towers to the height of a man's breast, thus interrupting the uniformity of the plain, had vanished from the earth, and beyond, on the bird's best hunting grounds, brownish spots sown with black circles appeared among the green of the meadows.

Late in October of the preceding year, just after the storks left the country, a Spanish army had encamped here, and a few hours before the return of the winged wanderers in the first opening days of spring, the besiegers retired without having accomplished their purpose.

Barren spots amid the luxuriant growth of vegetation marked the places where they had pitched their tents, the black cinders of the burnt coals their camp fires.

The sorely threatened inhabitants of the rescued city, with thankful hearts, uttered sighs of relief. The industrious, volatile populace had speedily forgotten the sufferings endured, for early spring is so beautiful, and never does a rescued life seem so delicious as when we are surrounded by the joys of spring... Continue reading book >>




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