Pieces People Ask For/How the Ransom was Paid

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HOW THE RANSOM WAS PAID.

1598.

On the helpless Flemish village
Cruel Alva swooped and fell;
And the peace of trade and tillage
Turned to martial clank and yell.
In the town-house, tall and handsome,
Stood the great duke looking down
On the burghers proffering ransom
For the safety of the town.

O'er his brow gray locks were twining,
For his casque was laid aside,
And his good sword carved and shining
From the sword-belt was untied.
Prince he seemed of born commanders;
Pride and power each gesture told;
As he cried, "Ye men of Flanders,
Bring me twenty casks of gold!"

Then upon them fell a sadness,
And a shadow like a pall,
While they murmured, "'Tis rank madness
Such a sum from us to call!"
And the spokesman of the village
Murmured feebly, "Sure you jest."
Answered Alva, "Gold or pillage,
Choose whiche'er may suit you best!"

Faint and stunned they turned despairing,
When arose a laugh of joy,
And before their startled staring
In there pranced a little boy;
On his curls the duke's helm rested,
As with noisy glee he roared,
And his good steed mailed and crested
Was great Alva's mighty sword!

Round about the room he gambolled,
Peeping through the helmet bars;
Now he leaped, and now he ambled,
Like a Cupid mocking Mars.
Then he stayed his merry prancing,
And of Alva's knees caught hold,
Where a ray of sunlight glancing
Turned his sunny curls to gold.

Swift the mother, sorely frightened,
Strove to take the cherub wild;
But the duke's stern features lightened
As he kept her from the child;
And he drank the pretty prattle—
For the baby knew no fear—
Till his eye, so fierce in battle,
Softened with a pearly tear.

For a babe arose before him
In fair Spain, ere war's alarms,—
Thus his father's sword upbore him.
Alva caught the boy in arms,
And, the pretty forehead baring,
Cried, "A kiss!" The child obeyed;
Then unto those men despairing
Alva said, "Your ransom's paid."

W. R. Rose, in Texas Siftings.