The Purple Tulip 6 - Betrayed By All

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Could you trust anyone? The country was about to to be attacked by its mightiest foe, and betrayed by its allies. On a more personal scale I was about to experience the year of calamity. Business relations are your friends because they are in it for the money, so you are aware they might betray if they see that as judicious. But you expect more from more personal friends and family. The very nadir of experience is when even your body betrays you. The year was 1672.

I spent a long time recovering from the events in France. I wasn't wounded by anyone. It was the cold and the hardship of riding through the forest and hills of the Ardennes at the weather deteriorated and the cold of the little Ice Age.
I caught a cold, and it evolved into a bronchitis. It was difficult to gain a berth on one of the barges that would bring me first to Luik (Liege), then on. By the time I got to Deventer I was delirious with fever, as it was acute pneumonia. I thought I was treated by Greta. What was Greta doing there?. She looked very thick, almost like a balloon. Suddenly she was transformed into Anna, who treated me at the hospital in Harlingen. She was running many clinics and hospitals now. Massive use of antibiotics saved my life.
Recovery took months. The war had been declared as I finally managed to get home, and found out that Paul had not forwarded the messages, as I otherwise had expected. I found all the stuff sent from Paris nicely stacked by the ever duty-conscious Els, but Paul hadn't been home. All the intelligence gathered at the cost of lives was wasted.
I wrote a letter to the Grand Pensioner (Prime minister) J de Witt warning him about the size of the French forces, and adding Germans provided by two Prince-bishops, it would be in the order of a quarter million men.

There will be war, and the old saying "In Pace para Bellum". Which was actually the title of an article I wrote to the local news-paper, where I pointed out that France in particular wanted war, but that England, with its de facto catholic monarch, a protestant only in name, would probably join in.
I quoted an expert on matters that was not yet born: The conqueror is always a lover of peace; he would prefer to take over our country unopposed. That is one of the maxims of von Clausewitz.

I purchased letters of marks for my ships. It would turn out the captains were well prepared as only one of the twenty merchantmen was taken by the English, and they took 6 or 7 prizes themselves, but then they knew the advantage of sailing in a convoy when threatened.

I did write many articles over the last years. I criticized slavery in general, and in Dutch colonies in particular. How on earth could we claim to be morally superior to anyone, when we accept slavery?
I criticised the one-sided emphasis on Navy, and I said the union had to train soldiers to work together, not just fight for the protection of their own town or province. I had a reputation as a critics of the current government.
Could it be this criticism be the reason for me getting no contract with the right people in the war ministry? Why wouldn't my normal contact in the Navy get me an interview with de Ruyters or Tromp or someone with enough clout?
I knew the town-militia would be mobilized, and they could maybe even try to conscript the despised Remonstrants, there were two categories that were not yet considered for mobilization and that was women, and foreigners. The Anabaptists from Elsas and Switzerland would refuse to fight. I had planned for that, so quite a few were employed in my munitions work, and keeping the agricultural production up as farmers were conscripted. Paul was off to hire mercenaries. As you see from the numbers; we did not have enough weapons for everyone. Most of these were employees that worked in our brewery, our chemical factories, stills and mills. This war came too early, but at least I had also bought 50 ton of lead, and 40 ton of pewter and 10 ton of copper a year ago. Quite a lot had been bought in England, and had helped deplete the supply of the raw material for the English war-effort.

Usually I stayed in my rented room. during the evening. I spent most of the time working on various thing, and trying not to think about the hopelessness of my situation. I could not understand why my contact in the ministry of Navy could just purchase that batch of black powder. I much preferred to be in my house in Amsterdam, than here in the Hague. I had lots of thing on my mind. As I travelled from Amsterdam to the Hague I was ambushed by some thugs with knifes. I was unarmed, but it was drizzling and my coat was made out of sample of carbon-fibre textiles. The rain could be the reason they didn't use firearms. My cape may look simple, but it was twenty-first century material, carbonfibre with nanofibre-coating. A simple rapier could not cut those fibres. Other travellers arrived on the scene and the highwaymen ran away.
I was in a credit-squeeze, as I used most of my income and savings over the last years on manufacturing weapons and stocking food and ammunition. I was not very conscious of it, but someone later estimated I was the richest woman in the Netherlands of this day and time, and yet I hardly had any cash any-more as most was spent on buying food, metal, weapons for the war that was declared. Money was sunk in warships and cannons. War is an expensive business. Paul was off to get the mercenaries he had tried to organize, mostly from Protestant countries, so he had about half the war-chest we had saved up. Selling a ton of black-powder would settle most bills.
Greta was reporting a difficulty to get credit for the purchases, and the payments for our other produce were delayed. Although she was busy arranging things in her father’s estate, she managed to continue act as my right hand in most matters, so I could still function here in Holland.
I told her to get out of Zwolle as the town was going to fall to enemy forces. She then answered she had ten rifles and a ton of cordite available. I continued to search for Paul’s contact in the admiralty. He had to be somewhere. A quick revision showed me that 1000 guilders had been handed over during the last year to keep that guy happy. That was excessive for a facilitation that didn't gain any deals.

The spring was dry and the farmers were worried that their crops would suffer. I hated the heat, as I had to wear clothes that were hiding my shapes, and gave the appearance of broad shoulders and strong arms. I had a wrap around my chest to flatten it, and on the warmer days it was very hot. At least here, near the coast, the fog came in, and made the otherwise unbearable heat, bearable. The high pressure system lasted for weeks, and large rivers like the Rhine had less water than usual, which was going to allow the attackers to wade across.

The landlord came up, and asked told me there was a messenger to see me. The messenger had a message written by Johannes whereby he told me that he was in the Hague, and could we meet? I stopped doing whatever I was doing. I put on my coat, though it was actually for colder days.

Here in the Hague I was nobody. In Amsterdam I had received a lot of attention. As a scientist with glory acquired recently in Paris, I was invited to circles I hitherto had no access. In Delft they talked about providing me with a tenure as professor in natural philosophy. Amsterdam may be a worldly city, but science was not the in-thing. There was one interesting “Salon”. A bit pompous as they chose a Latin name “Nil Volentibus Arduum”, but this one was almost entirely dedicated to poetry in various forms.
I had to tell about my trip to Paris, and they were eager to hear about my success, but not the science. They asked about my trip to Versailles. They were curious about why there was a warrant for my arrest in France.
“How did you escape?”
“I cannot tell. It would endanger the lives of those that helped me!”
I then told them I had seen a fantastic play. They were awed, but obviously better informed than me. They told there was a new play by the the famous Molière..
“... what is the name again?” someone asked.
“It is called Les femmes savantes”, a well informed person said, and he didn't have to translate into “The learned Ladies” as all present understood French, or at least did not dare show they didn't. He told a bit about the plot.
I suddenly regretted having made a promise to Mme del Sablière. I was not ready to come out. It was too early. At the same time I knew my time was up. It was increasingly difficult to keep up pretense. Occasional menstruation had by now regular events.
I had no illusions. They invited me mainly to have sponsors for the theatre. Mecenats will always give life to the arts, though often not the real avant-garde forms. This group claimed that there should be no political nor religious agitation on stage. I quarrelled with them, as all is political.
"Don't you see that most plays have an agenda. Prince Hamlet dies and the two kingdoms are united under one ruler - and yet it is not expressly said that those kingdoms could have been Scotland and England.
Many plays by Moliere, or Racine, are simply hagiography of the centralized power – they are political in that the royal power is described as a remedy to all evil.
Just make a play about Troy attacked by the Greeks, and it will be the political situation we are in now", I said.
I got carried away. I was too much like Socrates: irritating, and that resulted in me not getting invited again. Oh it was was maybe one of the reasons. The other was “the scandal”.

So I knew the members of the Nil Volentibus Arduum were interested in me mostly because of money, but Johannes was there. I was introduced to Johannes, and I didn’t hear his full name. [Johannes Antonides van der Goes]. He was just slightly older than me. We had hair about the same length, and quite similar coats. He smiled at that, and it was a wonderful smile, and he had heard much about me. I had seen him. He had been an apprentice of an apothecary, and wanted to become a doctor in medicine. He was interested in my knowledge of chemistry.
Of course I wanted to come again, after meeting this guy, and I have to admit I had trouble sleeping . I event went to the Theatre, called the Schowburg of van Campen. Not many people came to the play. The threat of the war affected strongly a theatre that did not want to handle issues that interested people. Jillis Nozeman the owner was despairing. Since the death of his wife- the celebrated Ariana, the attendance had varied. I advised him to take a tour with fellow actors, and spread Dutch culture in friendlier environment.
It must have been the third soiré I attended. He stood up and recited parts of a poem he had made. It was about a small river, a small brook in the vicinity, yet it was a praise of Amsterdam, and his words flowed so natural, in spite of being written in a very strict metric. He was … like the god Apollo with is Lyra. Like David soothing the mood of Saul. De Guirec had been attractive, but this man was beautiful. I had thought I never would say that about any man. The mood in the the room was electric. The pulse of the poem was like the tidal bore that surprises and left me in chaos. I didn’t know what to say.
“Do you remember me?” I asked him
“Excuse me Sir, you are famous, but we have not been in the same circles”
“On the contrary. You used to work as an apprentice apothecary. Didn't you?”
“I was once a client of your master. I had a very long list of things to buy for my brother's wife”
“... Yes I remember that list, but sorry – we didn't speak did we?”
“No” I admitted “We could - What about coming for dinner at my residence in Prinsengracht?”

When he came, I told that I loved him.
Johannes didn’t understand. He managed to exclaim an alexandrina “I am not [a] kind of man, to fornicate [with] another”, and he rushed out of the house, dinner untouched, he left without me able to explain.
O f***, he was certainly going to tell.
Well … he didn't, but I suppose I was not welcome any more. I had to put get closer to the political centre.

So here I was in the Hague, feeling very sorry for myself, betrayed by hormones and circumstances. It was strange that the prime-minister didn't invite me to discuss the treaty of Dover, and the treaty of Madame. Particularly as the war was declared. I wrote to the 'Raadpensionaris' again, reminding him of my previous letters that Paul should have forwarded.

A person I hadn't met before contacted me, said he had a message and my guide was going to bring me to Johannes. “All is forgiven - meet me at corner of Hooikade and Spekstraat.” I didn’t know where it was. So this mister Hendrik Verhoef guided me to a dirty pub, next to two butchers. A woman was serving. The skin of her face was full of small scars. Undoubtedly the result of pox. She looked scared and fearful of the men. There was about six men there.
“What do drink?” the pockmarked woman asked. She had bruises on her body, that she tried to cover, but the swollen eye, and split lip was difficult to hide.
“A pint of beer - Where is Johannes?” The first said to the woman, the rest said in the direction of Hendrik.
“He’ll be here any moment”, one of the men said. The woman looked nervous.
Something was wrong.
Wait one moment - the note I had received was too short, too simple and it didn’t rhyme.
The ugly pockmarked woman whispered : “It's a trap. They plan to kill you”
I notice the eyes of the woman moving towards...
My hand went inside my coat, and in it I found my gun. My experience in France had made the gun under the armpit as natural to wear as the coat itself. Since the attack a week ago, I never left home without it. I saw the man aiming at me with a pistol. A few seconds head-start saved my life. I shot the man who claimed to carry a message from Johannes. I only wounded him. I pulled the trigger again as some other tried to hit me, then I ran out on the street. Outside I managed to shoot four more of the attackers. The street was already slippery from all the blood, but that was mostly animal blood. Then I was out of luck as the weapon jammed. Two men remained, but they hesitated, probably stunned as a multi-shot pistol was extremely rare. Again I was saved by my cape, but it seemed they were prepared this time. The reliable gun that saved me while I was on the run north, betrayed me, and chose this moment to jam. My attackers noticed I was no longer able to kill them. I knew that I stood no chance to win a fight against two strong men, and then they went for me.

The War had prompted more active patrolling by the city-watch. I was saved by their presence, but it was a mixed blessing. They were hyper-nervous as the French army by-passed the fortress of Maastricht, and crossed the Rhine, exploiting the exceptionally low water level , and conquered a new Dutch city almost every day.
Put yourself in the place of a city's night-watch and find someone from outside the city – a non-citizen - practically a foreigner - surrounded by the bodies of citizens you know, maybe vaguely, maybe of the unsavoury kind. You better arrest him, and leave it to your superior at the prison called Gevangenpoort to sort out the mess. It may be that the person you arrest is innocent, but that is not your problem, although you are weary of the fact he killed four, and has wounded seriously two. He is groggy, hit in the head by one of the clubs. He was in possession of a fire-arm of a hitherto unknown type. Probably manufactured in Germany, or in France. Most likely he was an agent of the French.
I was dressed as a person of some means at the time of my arrest. The yellow breaches were not usual, and had to belong to some outlandish person. They confiscated 30 Guilders, probably intended to bribe someone into committing treason. They also found a strange scooped object in my pocket, but could not figure out what it was, but probably another weapon, just as that pistol. The charge of treason made them put me up in this relatively clean cell, and at least without another detainee, which could have turned nasty for me. A bucket is the only way to properly handle the waste, and even a half-wit would ponder the fact that I had to squat each and every time. There was no strip-search of me, and my chest was safely squeezed by the wide cloth. They knew I had been in France some months ago. They promised to find out by any means whether I was a spy or not.

The knock on my head had nearly cracked my skull, so I was quite sick for a while. Strangely enough I discovered memories I thought I lost. I had loads of time to ponder, and try to make sense of them.
The justice system is sometimes slow, sometimes swift. In my case I was locked up, and it felt like they forgot me. I could hear the gaolers happy shouting that the Prince was now Stadhouder (President), I was told the assizes had to convene, and that would take time in view of the terror that reigned in den Hague. I finally managed to beg for a stylus, and paper, so I could send word to the caretaker of my house in Amsterdam to provide me with my chest. that had 50 guilders. Of course my money in my belt had been impounded, but I had six daalder, and a guilder hidden in my boots, more than enough to bribe the son of warden into taking the letter to the caretaker. In the letter I had a "half-lie" as I wrote that my brother got the same letter, but he would need some days to arrive. I received a letter from Anna stating again the Paul was in Saxony, trying to be allowed to raise an army within the frontiers of Brandenburg, so the only thing she could help provide in the short time was legal counsel. So I got a lawyer, but he was there only a short while, and I forgot to ask for ... or rather I could not tell him that I needed ... I had a premonition what was going on. I was in trouble. I could not even express what I needed. To make time pass I tried to re-construct the basis for calculating the Gaussian distribution. I had no more paper, but I had the wall, and I had the stylus. I had loads of time, loads of time I had been a fool to dream that Johannes would want to see me again. I was also aware the time was not on my side.

In the evening my back started to ache, and I could feel I got all wet -- down there. I spent a sleepless night. My female body betrayed me. I tried collect the flow that was particularly strong now. The next morning, at first light, I could see what I had felt coming, and there was no hiding it. My light breeches, were by now all covered in blood. I was wet, and it was icky and it was clear to the guard that something was out of the ordinary.
Several time the heavy doors of the cell squeaked, to let in two persons, the warden with a barber-surgeon. I had to lift my shirt, my thorax was unbound, so it was to display the bust. I had used the wrap as a pad to collect the blood, but the problem was persistent.
This was a scoop for any newspaper.
Man arrested - turns out to be a woman.
It was juicy news, as it was obviously not common to have a woman which had killed six grown men ( it was only four, the two others were just seriously wounded, but a story has to grow in size). Here was a monster that killed a dozen decent citizens. There was going to be fun hanging her.. Garotte was maybe better. The crows on every gallows in Holland were already smelling blood. This was greater news than the enemy at the gate. This was more important than the news that so many cities to the south were taken one by one by the French, and that King Ludowig (Louis XIV) had crossed the lower Rhine. Then my identity was established.
New headline: “Celebrated scavant is a woman

"Yes! I am a woman dressed as a man!" , I said in a resigned tone.
Even my trip to France, in order to unveil the pact against the republic was turned against me.
New headline “Recent contacts with French Minister

The Warden came again with two doctors in medicine in tow, and then several others. The gaoler were considering taking entrance money for visitors. They accepted gawkers! It went on for some days and I had nowhere to hide.. My soiled pants were itching. Finally in the next day came a serious visitor. His lean face, with nice thin nose radiated confidence. I had seen him somewhere...
"Are you the one that wrote Tractatus Mathematica", he asked.
"Yes Sir!"
"What did you do to end up in this hell?"
"Defending myself, Sir! The five thugs attacked me, obviously to rob me"
"Yes I have read the indictment, and it doesn't take a genius to see that the witness report have been tampered with! Follow me!"
"But sir!" The warden was aghast!
"I take care of her - or do you question my authority?" ( Kind of difficult as the guy was escorted by five armed guards. )
"N No - Of course not Raadpensionaris" , but I notice a small irritation behind his grovelling. So I was helped out of prison by the great Johan de Witt himself.. He moved fast and resolute. We were about to get outside when he thought about something, and gave some orders. I was provided with a cape that covered my soiled trousers, and an large hat. The coach was brought forward, and the crowd outside the gaol was pushed aside.

It was a narrow house on the corner of two canals. Two servants opened the door, and a lovely lady in fine, but austere clothes , as befits Calvinist tradition, came towards us.
"Ah my dear this is Miss Zevenhuis, the talk of the town even when we have the enemy at our gates. This is my wife Wendela Bicker.
... and up there you see my children ... Agnes ... Maria -- and little Johan."
"He does not look that small - he is a big boy" - I said -to flatter the little 10 year old Johan.
"Yes.. Agnes will you help your mother to find some decent clothes for miss Zevenhuis? I suppose we can delay dinner enough to satisfy the needs of our guest!"
"Oh dear - yes follow me - My oldest daughter, Anna, is with my brother Pieter. She is about your size, and she has some clothes left here."

It was wonderful to get out of the bloody clothes, and I cleaned myself with a wet towel, I stood there stark naked, as Wendela came in with some clothes. My hair was long, and I had still curls in it as was fashionable for men, so they reached past my shoulders, but if I pulled them straight they would reach my breasts.
"I have to admit my husband wanted me to check you are indeed a woman"
"I have all the functionality of a woman, but in my head I am not"
She was puzzled, and I had to explain a bit better, while she helped me put on a shift, something I had not worn now since the day I was in a bog... .
"I have breasts, I menstruate as you can see. I can probably bear children, but I care nought for fineries like sumptuous dresses."
"It would be considered commendable in many circles", Wendela said.
"Except this wearing of men's clothes, which would not be necessary if I'd be considered adult and independent in a dress! Excuse me; do you mind showing me what you do to contain this flow of blood"

She showed how to hold the rag in place. She helped me with the shift and the corset and a chambermaid came to help me put on the rest, dress, and stomacher while her Ladyship went prepare herself. Even though her daughter Anna be tall, there was still a gap between the hemline and the floor. At least it made it easier to walk.
I dreaded the corset, but discovered that my sister-in-law was right when she said it wasn't that constricting. The corset wasn't made for tight-lacing, as the eyelet of steel wasn't invented yet, and besides, I wasn't overweight. So the corset did move my breasts a bit up, and gave support there, and helped me have the correct posture. I had this fleeting recollection of a discussion with Anna: I had wondered about how she could lace up every day.
She answered “All girls want to look their best”, and she had reminded me of items called hold-in and push-up. I had heard the terms, but did know.

It was quite a relief to no longer squeeze the breasts flat. Too much rich food probably the last year, which allowed my boobs to grow. The shift covered my skin, but I could look down in the cleft. I noticed I was beautiful. I had no jewellery, and I suddenly felt like missing it. Shoes was a problem. I had to wear my boots, but they were comfortable, and I still had some of my coins in them. The hemline was quite a bit above ground, so I was taller than Anna de Witt.
"Please follow me to the drawing room, where his Lordship is waiting" , the maid said. She was wearing the white cap, and white apron, ubiquitous to most female in the Lower countries at this time.
Moving down the stairs was a bit tricky. Felt very much like Cinderella, and it was tempting to bolt, but I would be caught. I was going to learn that it was even more difficult to go up the stairs without lifting the skirts. I felt a bit like a drag queen the first time out, on the other hand it felt all so right.

"So Mistress van Zevenhuis- what is your real name"
I sighed, trying to find time. So Wendela Bicker continued to quiz me.
"You can't have been baptised Michael - Does Mike stand for some other name?"
"It may seem strange, but I had a loss of memory. So I can not remember my tender youth, but I think my name was Maria."
“An how did you get the idea to cross-dress?”
“I had this premonition that this country would be attacked, and I couldn't make a difference if I was not thought of as a man. A woman is not allowed to run a substantial business. A woman warning about the war would be treated like Cassandra of Troy – nobody believed her warning. A woman should stay at home, marry and produce children. As a man I could build factories that make powder and guns and save this country from doom.”
"At least you have good and noble intentions", Wendela said.
"Thank you well" I answered.
She then explained that Johan thought he owed me or rather Anna a favour. Back in 1668 when I tried to help Anna to be accepted as a licensed doctor, and had travelled with her to Delft, stopped one night in the Hague, and we had been asked to treat a woman which was dying of an infection. I hadn't been too much involved as Anna was competent enough. At the time the name “Bickers” had not rung a bell, and I had no idea one of my first batches of antibiotics had helped save her life. Anna had remembered, and sent her a letter, requesting her help. I was ashamed to have to admit that I thought Anna had been one of those that betrayed me.

The food was a treat after the broth that was staple fare at the city's expense. I even remembered that the lord and master of this house was first to say grace and thank the Lord. So I bade my time, and did not speak of neither mathematics, physics, politics nor the war for the duration of the whole meal. Children should not have to endure the worry of war anyway. It was Wendela who approached the subject when the kids were off.
"How did you manage to kill six adult men in a dangerous neighbourhood? And what did you do there anyway"
"As far as I know I only killed four. As to the last question first. I was stupid, believing I was to meet someone I knew."
"… and how do you think you will make a difference where many thousand men are trying and dying?" , Johan asked.
"When I was arrested I had a pistol in my hand. It is not magic. It is however a pistol with ten shots. When I was attacked I shot the guys that was surrounding me. Six shot, four dead, and two wounded. I could have killed the watchmen coming too. Give me a hundred men, I could get a thousand French soldiers killed in a few seconds." I explained without going into the details of the difference between a repeating rifle and a pistol.
"And where is that pistol now?"
"Probably retained as incriminating evidence, but get hold of it, and I will show you how it works. Just promise me one thing: Don't go to the prison again in person, and if you do, bring a strong bodyguard, composed of your own soldiers, men who are devoted to you"
"You do sound like Cassandra of Troy"
"You have more enemies than you can count, Sir! Nobody heeded Cassandra's warning, most probably because she was a woman, although Homer claimed it was a curse- which I why I have to act as a man! Had Hector pronounced the same, then everybody would heeded"
"But Hector could know he would meet his own demise facing the near un-killable Achilles"
"There is a difference between knowing and taking a risk. Trust me and take the risk Small investment - potentially a huge reward"
"But I thought you were a supporter of the Prince? You certainly was quite critical of my rule a year or two ago! "
"I want to help the Republic. I am your supporter, AND I support the prince if it is good for the country. Division is bad in peacetime, death when we are at war. Remember there is no second prize when fighting a war."
"Well the die is already rolling: Wilhelm was elected Stadhouder of Zeeland while you were in prison. "
"I heard so. I also heard it was not enough for admiral de Ruyter to give the English fleet a lesson. What you need, Sir, is a stunning victory, to offset the series of bad news. You must also have persons in your administration that are not trustworthy, as my letter to you in April seems to have disappeared. "

It was weird to wake up, and have to put on a dress, with some regret, but I liked it too. In the somewhat stuffy heat of the summer, it was a relief to have lose hanging garments. After breakfast I was told to present myself to the Raadpensionaris and he said.
"Miss Zevenhuis, I am trying to build a certiorari to help your case. You are obviously a most useful citizen for the provinces, and I want help you out of this mess, but I must require a few things.... First I must ask you to swear an oath that you will never disguise yourself as a man again. That includes wearing trousers"
I was about to answer but he continued:
"As you understand, your way of clothing is extremely disturbing for men. I saw you at some event about a year ago, and I started to question if I was afflicted by the Italian curse - me being attracted to man. You must understand that God has made a man a man, and a woman a woman. There is no middle way."

Again I was tempted to answer him, but one does not interrupt the equivalent of a prime-minister, who got his job when he was 28, and he was now 46 years old.
"Miss Zevenhuis, you are reported to show a support for the Remonstrants, and that may be the reason for you being a target. You are proponent of full liberty of conscience, even for Catholics. You are agitating for political influence even to the illiterate rabble. You protest against the way the VOC treat indigenous populations. You have written so many political pamphlets that you have enemies everywhere. There are merchants that hate your protest against the trade of African slaves. There are persons that have grievances for your accusations of corruption in the VOC. You may have been the target of normal thugs, or for some other political motives. They could not kill you, so they got you arrested. You are a troublemaker. However, I will help you - but only if you behave"
"But... "
"Now! It is time you learn: A Lady does not interrupt a Man. You must have some male relative, someone to be responsible for you."
"I have a brother, but he is absent, currently on a trip to recruit mercenaries. And this is precisely the reason I go as a man. I am responsible for my own action. Was I not fully able to defend myself even late at night? I was not a target because of my gender. And remember I am a poorter of Amsterdam."
"I don't know if that is legal as you were hiding the fact that you were a girl. Enough on that subject. You defended yourself with a firearm!"
"Yes! And I am alive. -
I warned you in those articles in the newspapers that the Triple Alliance against France was not worth much. I warned you about the possibility of a Secret treaty against the . You have to find out why my personal correspondence addressed to you seem to have disappeared !"
“Paul is raising more troops in Saxony”
"Well, I have yet to see that army. I have to see to my duties. Dismissed!"

I was not just a little miffed, but he had such a strong personality. His wife was to be my warden for the next days, and she took the work seriously. I was not allowed out of the house. Such a shame in the radiant nice weather that was so beneficial for the attackers, who could sleep in the open without getting wet, and be about as comfortable as the defenders. It was imperative that the dikes keeping the land dry between here and Utrecht be torn down as soon as possible, to flood the land. The farmers were angry for their loss of land. I wanted to send a message to Johan and the prince of Orange that I offered many guilders to alleviate the loss of those farmers. Half of it would be given through the office of the Raadpensionaris, the same sum for the Princely office. Whoever managed to use it to the best of the poor people!
Surprise: There was outstanding, and unpaid amounts signed by P Zevenhuis on behalf of the Zevenhuis brothers. They had even started a process, and with the fact that I was a woman, it was unclear if I was entitled to access my own accounts.
Sh**! I was not of legal age, and some people was using that as an argument that my estate should be put under guardianship.
It was a terrible blow to my ego - when I discovered later that Paul had managed to empty my coffers at home, and had forged my signature with my regular bankers. The same bankers also found out they could no longer grant loan to an unmarried woman, so I could not stand by my offer there and then. Non payment of any debt, will almost immediately lead to bankruptcy proceedings. It didn't matter if I was rich, if I wasn't able to back it up with cash.
I was under house-arrest; all was very awkward, but one day a messenger came with a box. A radio, which I had to put together, but that was easy.
I managed to send a message through to Greta, who was stuck in Zwolle, surrounded by German and French troupes. Her answer was as sent by God. She sent a message back she could probably help me. But how could she?

It was nice to stay with a normal family, even if it felt like a gilded cage. I helped the young boy with his homework. He did not have his fathers sharp brain, but was quite intelligent still. The daughters were not taught maths. I was disappointed.
"We'd better prepare you a wardrobe. You can't go around in the same clothes all the time, and even if they have to hang you, you better look good!" said Mrs de Witt, as if to cheer me up.
"First we have to do something about your hair. It is nice, and long, but far too manly in the way you treat it."
She enrolled Agnes and Maria into doing something with it- pleating it, and rolling it up, so the otherwise quite straight hair would have ringlets. Actually a bit more elaborate than what I had done outside Versailles. Yes I have a good hair growth, which was handy to act as a wig, but by curling a bit further the hair, the visual difference was stunning. They didn't let me look, I had to put first on one at the other remaining dresses I had the option of borrowing from the absent daughter Anna. Anna was quite tall, taking it a bit from her father but I was an inch taller. So they had to fudge a solution to make the dress right length. Even then they did not let me look in the mirror, as there were someone coming...
The tailors had been called to the house, and they recommended the new fashionable colours, although they were twice as expensive. Someone was making more money than me on those dyes!
It was fun to chat about trivialities with them. They got curious as I told them I had many dresses at home. I explained that while in Paris I had tailors make sumptuous garments, and sent them home with documents hidden in the boxes. I had to describe those creations, and particularly the girls were listening with awe, while their mother was more discrete.
They left, and I had a private moment, when I could change the pad which was soaked. On my way downstairs I passed the only full sized mirror of the house, and it took me at least 3 seconds to realize it was me. I sat there in my room and could suddenly feel my heart beating faster. I started to cry, and Mrs de Witt found me there sobbing. I probably had something similar to a Stendhal moment, except I was not impressed by art, but by my own femininity. O f*** I was turning into a narcissist.

It was late. Johan did not come. We were past the normal dinner-time. Wendela Bicker was not too worried. "He is probably just caught up by work again. I suppose the French have sent an envoy to put forward more preposterous demands- I suppose we eat- Johan - as the only man around here- could you say grace"
Yet another reminder that even a 10 year old boy is in many ways more worth that any girl.
We were interrupted before we had eaten our fill, A messenger had arrived.
I heard Wendela Bikker gasp, and starting to cry... Her husband had been stabbed.

His wounds were deep, and the doctors made several attempts to kill him with their remedies before I was allowed by Wendela, to treat him. The infection was bad, and if it had not been that I got a consignment of antibiotics from Anna he would have died.
I was getting mad. I was stuck here in South Holland while the country was dying.

"Will you promise never to wear men's clothes again?"
Johan was a lot better now after Antibiotics worked in conjunction with loving care of his wife.
"Will you clear my name in the court case against me? Will I get access to my assets? "
He smiled - Yes -
I had thought a lot about this - would I manage to fulfil my plan in either case. If I was stuck here then destiny would prevail, and the war would go on for years, and Johan de Witt would die in the most ignominious fashion.
I would not be respected in the way I had been, and it would be impossible to ride in a dress. But I had a plan to let me ride a horse in a normal saddle.
"When the case is dismissed, will you also provide a small army to crush the French, with officers ready to accept my lead?"
"Yes, ", he said while wincing for pain, "but you have have to take the oath"

"Then I accept your terms. I promise I will never be seen in breeches, but wear clothes considered fitting for my gender - Is that acceptable for you?"
He nodded.
He signalled his wife to come closer, and whispered something; Wendela smiled sadly, and said:
"The case against you was dropped when they questioned the witnesses. The first guy you wounded, a small time crook, Hendrik Verhoeff admitted to having a racket trapping out-of-town people, and relieving them of their goods. In your case he was even paid by a German guy. Your life was worth 200 guilders. He made the mistake assuming you were unarmed, and it was not the first time he had an encounter with justice. My husband sent me a message on the subject the same day, but I was asked to wait to tell you. It was just to calm me, because I was worried having a rogue woman in my house. He even sent the handgun to you - here "
"And the help to raise an army?"
"Out of his hands! Johan resigned the office - Gaspar Fagel is now the Grand Pensioner of Holland, but here is an affadavit he signed some days ago, but was only processed by the notary this morning, whereby he considered you emancipated, and free of any guardianship.".

Shit - he had tricked me into swearing a thing I did not want to promise, and could not help me with my part of the bargain. Well- done is done, and cannot be undone, and I did promise Mme de la Sablière that I would prove to the world that even women can awe the world with their research. So I would have outed myself any time soon anyway. While feeling tricked, I also felt a relief for not to fear being exposed as an imposter any more. I was the way I was. The paper recognizing me as emancipated from any guardianship was worth a lot, though it probably would be challenged if the enemies of Johan de Witt were the same as mine.
"Keep the handgun- you are going to need it. Beware- Wilhelm still holds a grudge against your husband. Here you see how to load it. Is it possible to avoid death sentence for this Hendrik Verhoef? He is the only person that may one day identify the one that commissioned the attack."
Johan had done me another favour, and asked why the black-powder I was trying to sell to the navy wasn't accepted. Suddenly the money-issue was resolved.
Greta informed me that I could access an account in the Wisselbank in Amsterdam where 50 thousand guilders was deposited by her in a coded account. All the technical-administrative work done some years ago made her recognized by the bank as a bona-fide person. It was her money, her savings from the alcohol sales, but she claimed she owed me so much. She also pointed out that I had large stocks of food, and fodder which could now be sold with huge profits as prices had risen. She also pointed out that it was certainly not a problem for me to pay what I had promised, even with the cash gone, and furthermore a fair amount was available in my name at Hamburg Bank, the new competitor to Wisselbank of Amsterdam. It would take some time to untangle the mess that Paul had made, but at least I could see a way out.

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