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frivolous and vexatious questions put to him, with the respect due to his superiors,—the wrath, which had for a long time been gathering heat, at length boiled over in a loud slap of his hand upon the table, and a furious exclamation of « Donder ende blixem! Superiors !» This startling exordium was instantly followed by a torrent of vituperative eloquence, wherein their High Mightinesses were told they were pettifogging hucksters, and paltry pedlars, and cozening costermongers, fitter for the shop-board than the Council-board, and much better qualified to cure red herrings than the diseases of the state : at the conclusion of which harangue, he snapped his fingers at them in scorn, and sat down fuming with indignation.
The Philistines were not more astounded when Samson shook their own temple about their ears, than were these Cæsars of the counting-house at the storm they had brought down upon their heads. To beard them thus, in their own hall, was to deny Diana at Ephesus; the sacrilegious offender was ordered instantly to quit their presence, which he obeyed with an angry dignity, lifting up his ample figure, puffing out his cheeks, surveying them with that sort of look which a lion
be supposed to cast at the barking curs whom he has just felled with a blow of his paw; and ejaculating, as he got to the door, « Hey, Slapperloot ! Superiors !» No sooner had he disappeared than a furious debate ensued as to the punishment to be inflicted for so daring an outrage on the constituted authorities. Not contemplating that their High Mightinesses could ever be pelted with such opprobrious epithets, the law had provided no penalty
for the offence. Under these circumstances they undertook to supply the omissions of the Statute Book, by condemning him to a smart fine and a month's imprisonment, claiming to themselves the praise of egregious magnanimity, for not visiting him with a much heavier judgment.
To the month's imprisonment, although he knew it to be perfectly illegal, and it prevented his superintending the unlading of his darling Vrouw Roosje, he might have submitted with that sort of patience which arises fiom consoling oneself with projects of future revenge; but they touched the apple of his eye when they fingered his cash. Lavish as he was in expenditure, he could not bear to witness the waste of a single stiver; to be robbed of it was ten times worse; and this was a wholesale instance of both, combined with insult, illegality, and oppression. He paid the money, however, still considering them his debtors, and looking forward, with something of a Shylock satisfaction, to the moment when they should give him blood for his gold.
At the time of his examination, his illustrious friend, De Witt, who was no less distinguished as a commander than as a statesman and patriot, had been absent at sea, successfully fighting the battles of his country. He was now returned, and the worthy burgomaster immediately confided to him the wrongs he had suffered, and the plans he meditated for humbling the pride of his oppressors. Both were staunch Republicans; conceiving the war with England unnecessary, as well as impolitic, they had strenuously opposed it
from the beginning; and they were now, more than ever, anxious to terminate it, as they saw that it was throwing all the influence into the hands of the Orange faction, whose designs were well known to be inimical to the liberties of Holland. For the accomplishment of their first object, a peace between the two countries, they employed as their agent a Frenchman named Buat, who had originally been appointed, by the Prince of Orange, a captain of the Horse Guards; and having subsequently married a Dutch woman of fortune, and appearing to be well affected to the States, was by them confirmed in his command. In vivacity, quickness of parts, and a remarkable aptitude for intrigue, this man was admirably adapted to their purpose; but he had one besetting sin, which at times utterly disqualified him for an enterprize that required vigilant secrecy and self-possession. Such was his addiction to wine, that he occasionally suffered its treacherous influence to obtain complete mastery of his reason; and indeed he was often heard to praise the cold and foggy climate of Holland, as the best in the world; since it was constantly necessary to repel its chilling assaults by the generous warmth of the grape-juice; adding, that no one could now accuse him of living to drink, as they had done in France, when, in fact, he was only taking medicine, and drinking to live.
This acute, but slippery and dangerous, man entered into a correspondence with Lord Arlington, the British Secretary of State, sounding him as to the conditions on which peace might be expected, carrying on the correspondence in cyphers, and showing the letters as
he received them to De Witt. During the progress of this secret negotiation, the burgomaster of Rotterdam incautiously communicated with Buat by letter, darkly alluding to what was going on, but indulging in open and not very measured abuse of the parties in power at Amsterdam.
Either from his natural predilection for intrigue, or from an apprehension that De Witt and the Republican party would be dispossessed of all power, the Frenchman despatched his friend Silvius to London, with a second private cypher for carrying on a correspondence with the Orange party in Holland, thus intending to supplant De Witt, by whom he had been originally employed. But this plot upon plot could not be conducted with impunity, by one who suffered wine to get into his head when it should have been kept clear for these ticklish and complicated machinations. Returning home one night in a state of intoxication, singing with much more glee than distinctness of articulation his favourite song
* Quelle couleur est plus vermeille,
Quand on en boit, sa douce flamme
Just as he concluded his chanson à boire, he was encountered by De Witt, who asked him whether he had received any fresh letters from Englrnd. Yes,» res
plied Buat, « I have one in my pocket, and you shall see it immediately if you will lend me your arm, for my eyes are so bad at night that the houses seem to be turning round, and I may tumble into one of the canals ere I reach my own door, which is the last death I should wish to die, having a most pious abhorrence of water.»
At these words he took a letter from his pocket, looked at the superscription, and handed it to De Witt, who, opening it, and seeing at a glance that it was in a different cypher, requested him to walk on a few paces, as he had some orders to give at the guard-house, but would overtake him presently. This promise he performed, but he came accompanied by a file of soldiers, who placed the Frenchman under arrest, and then proceeded to his house, and seized his cabinet, where all his letters and the new cypher were discovered. A court of justice was hastily erected for his trial, and in three days the unfortunate Buat was beheaded.
By a most unlucky chance for the burgomaster, his letters remained in the cabinet at the time of its seizure. The dark allusions to the secret negotiations with England, the abuse of the Dutch Government, the former charge of his harbouring an English spy in his house, the recent punishment he had suffered for his audacious contumely, all seemed to conspire in proving him to be a traitor and an enemy to his country. A thousand exaggerations were instantly circulated through the city, and the popular fury being artfully inflamed by his political and commercial adversaries, a tumultuous and ungovernable rabble hurried towards