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Stories from Martyrs' Mirror | 2. Jail

2. Jail

"Prisoners!" the bailiff on the horse shouted in Flemish, and the gates of the Meenen jail swung open. A dozen armed officers pushed two thieves through the door, into the hands of the guards. The man on the horse waved his cap at the jailer, and his long feather with it, and wheeled around.

Behind him, six prisoners of a different sort were being herded into the courtyard, with only two men to guard them. The Dean of Ronse led them on a Spanish mare. He had been drinking and felt somewhat jolly, for on the other side of town, his officers were more successful than he had been.

"Anabaptists, eh?" inquired the bailiff.

The Dean of Ronse nodded.

"Man, how can you feel safe, making arrests with so few men to protect you?" the bailiff asked him.

The Dean smiled. "I have nothing to fear in that respect. For I only go out to catch good people, and there is no danger in arresting that kind."

The bailiff pondered what the Dean said, then answered, "If you arrest the good people and I the bad, who then shall remain free?"

The Dean of Ronse laughed, and the bailiff joined in. The Dean's six prisoners didn't say anything. After they had been placed in a common cell, the judges began questioning them, one by one.

That afternoon when the Dean of Ronse, called the inquisitor, came home, his servant poured him a large cup of red wine from Spain. The inquisitor sank into his leather chair, and began to read over the reports of the prisoners' first questioning.

On the 20th of October, in the presence of the judges of Meenen, there was orally examined Anna Timmermanns, aged over thirty years, born in Rotterdam:

She says that she always lived in Rotterdam, except one year that she lived here in Meenen, but she returned here last year and has remained here ever since. She says she did not ask the names of the people she used to work with. She says that she met George Baumann three months ago when he came to the house of Dirk Willems to buy some shoes. She says that before she was baptized, she had heard that she must live according to the command of Christ. She took a Bible and New Testament, and found that it was as it had been told her. She says that she was baptized according the command of the Lord, but does not know the exact day; but it took place in the house of Dirk Willems, near the woodyard, and that she did not ask the name of the man who baptized her.

Of Hans Segers of Amsterdam, aged 28 or 29 years:

He says he has lived here in the city of Meenen for eight months, in the house of Maria Jansen, near the fishmarket, and last in the house of Dirk Willems, where he was arrested. He says that he does not want to tell where or from whom he heard the gospel. He says he thinks much of the Lord's Supper but nothing of the state church, and that since he embraced this gospel, he has not been to the state church. He says he was baptized since he believed, a certain time ago, and that he does not wish to tell when, where, or by whom it was done. After being severely tortured, he said he was baptized by a man named Lennart, but had never seen him before and does not know where he came from, and that he was baptized in this city, near the woodyard, a year and a half ago.

Of Haddie Byler of Meenen, aged about 26 years:

She says that she has been here in the city about two or three years, and that they stayed near the woodyard, and afterward in a house where lace is made, and which is next to a stable. She says she believes on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. She says she was baptized about five years ago, and not in this city but in Amsterdam. After being tortured, she says that he who baptized her is named Lennart, and that it took place five or six years ago in the house of a man named Gerrit, and that she does not know the last name of Lennart, because they do not have much desire to learn the last names of their fellow members, so as not to bring their brothers into trouble.

Of Elisabeth van Roder, aged 18 years, from Vuren:

She says she came to this city about three years ago, and that she stayed for a while near the woodyard, and wove lace in a house near there. She says she did not go to the state church either last Easter or Christmas. She says that she observes all that God has commanded. She says she was baptized according to the teaching of Christ, a little over three years ago, just outside of Antwerp, by a man called Lennart, who was executed last summer in Antwerp.

Of George Baumann, born in Antwerp, aged about 28 years:

George when tortured said that he was baptized in Antwerp about two years ago, by one Lennart, whose last name he does not know, nor where he is now, and he had never seen him, except when he baptized him. He says that several others, whose names he does not know, were present when he was baptized. He says he does not know the women who were at the house where he was arrested, or where they were going. He does not know the names of those who had taught him the gospel, because they do not often ask for the names of others, and do not want to know them.

Of Dirk Willems, born in Asperen, aged about 30 years:

He says that he has been in Meenen for about two years, near the woodyard. He says the one who baptized him had a strange accent and talked somewhat loud. He says that ten or twelve people were present at his baptism, but he does not want to say who, nor did he know all their names, and that others were baptized with him, but he does not want to give their names. Furthermore, he says that he arrived at the place where he was baptized, in Rotterdam, on an evening, and stayed there the whole night and the following day, until the evening when he was baptized.