Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/129

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by such a captain as Luxemburg was a bold, almost a desperate, enterprise. Yet William was so sensible that the loss of Mons would be an almost irreparable disaster and disgrace that he made up his mind to run the hazard. He was convinced that the event of the siege would determine the policy of the Courts of Stockholm and Copenhagen. Those Courts had lately seemed inclined to join the coalition. If Mons fell, they would certainly remain neutral; they might possibly become hostile. "The risk," he wrote to Heinsius, "is great; yet I am not without hope. I will do what can be done. The issue is in the hands of God." On the very day on which this letter was written Mons fell. The siege had been vigorously pressed. Lewis himself, though suffering from the gout, had set the example of strenuous exertion. His household troops, the finest body of soldiers in Europe, had, under his eye, surpassed themselves. The young nobles of his court had tried to attract his notice by exposing themselves to the hottest fire with the same gay alacrity with which they were wont to exhibit their graceful figures at his balls. His wounded soldiers were charmed by the benignant courtesy with which he walked among their pallets, assisted while wounds were dressed by the hospital surgeons, and breakfasted on a porringer of the hospital broth. While all was obedience and enthusiasm among the besiegers, all was disunion and dismay among the besieged. The duty of the French lines was so well performed that no messenger sent by William was able to cross them. The garrison did not know that relief was close at hand. The burghers were appalled by the prospect of those horrible calamities which befall cities taken by storm. Showers of shells and redhot bullets were falling in the streets. The town was on fire in ten places at once. The peaceful inhabitants derived an unwonted courage from the excess of their fear, and rose on the soldiers. Thenceforth resistance was impossible; and a capitulation was concluded. The armies then retired into quarters. Military operations were suspended during some weeks; Lewis returned in triumph to Versailles; and William paid a short visit to England, where his presence was much needed.[1]

  1. London Gazette from March 26, to April 13, 1691; Monthly Mercuries of March and April; William's Letters to Heinsius of March 18, and 29, April 7, 9; Dangeau's Memoirs; The Siege of Mons, a tragi-comedy, 1691. In this drama the clergy, who are in the interest of France, persuade the burghers to deliver up the town. This treason calls forth an indignant exclamation:

    "Oh priestcraft, shopcraft, how do ye effeminate
    The minds of men!"