It is Sunday, the 27th of November in the year 1555. In spite of the cold many Amsterdammers have gone to the market place at Dam Square today to see the spectacle. It'll start soon, when the bells of the New Church will ring for the none, the fourth hour in the afternoon.
In front of city hall the sheriff's men have raised a scaffold made up of wooden beams stacked in a square with the inner space filled with sand and rubble. On top of that they've laid a plank floor with a wooden stake in the middle. Around the stake lie several bundles of firewood.
The Amsterdammers are excited. Finally some entertainment to break the boredom of their tough, hard-working lives. It had been a long time since the last witch burning. The square is filling up quickly now. Small children are being lifted unto their parents'shoulders. A group of lanky teenagers is trying to pry their way to the front but they all get a quick slap around the ears and are pushed back by their elders. Meanwhile the cleaning ladies of the New Church are renting out their footstoves for the people to stand on. They are doing a fine trade today, as are the wine pedlars and the sausage sellers.
One person does not seem to share in all this excitement. To the side of the square, at the back of the crowd she stands, right on the corner of Dam Square and Cattle street. She's alone, a large green shawl around her shoulders against the cold. Her white porcelain face is covered with tiny, bright orange freckles. Her hair is a flaming red mass of curls, flowing down her back all the way to her small, narrow hips. Her name is Akke and she is a servant of evil.
The Amsterdammers don't seem to notice her. They only have eyes for what is about to happen on the scaffold. Then a cheer goes up from the crowd. The doors of city hall have swung open and a small group of people exits the building and ascends the scaffold. They are the mayor and his four magistrates, a priest carrying a crucifix, the sheriff, and two of his soldiers escorting a woman in a ragged shirt.
Akke knew the woman they were about to burn. She had known her for more than twenty years: Meyns Corneliusdaughter of Purmerent, maid-servant in Amsterdam, 35 years old by now. There is nothing left of the young, beautiful girl that Meyns once was. Her head shaven and only dressed in a thin white shirt she shivers in the cold November wind. Standing there on the rough wooden planks of the scaffold is painful, as her interrogation had been long and cruel. The soles of her feet are burnt and her ankles are covered in blisters. Her hands are wrapped in yellowed, bloodied bandages. She has only one fingernail left, dangling on a piece of skin on her right little finger. One of her shoulder joints is sticking out out at a weird angle. No doubt it was dislocated when they put her on the rack. All in all it had taken a long time before Meyns had given the Amsterdam magistrates the type of confession they were looking for in a witch.
Akke didn't want to come here today but somehow she thought she owed it to Meyns. A nagging sensation in her chest, of emotions she hadn't felt for a long time. Feelings of true regret and pity for the broken woman on the scaffold. Will she step forward to plead for Meyns her innocence? Shall she shout at the magistrates that it's all her fault? Of her and her sisters in evil? That Meyns is a good Christian woman, only naive and weak of mind? No, she won't. She doesn't have the courage to betray him. Furthermore, the sheriff will arrest her and the magistrates will torture her and break her, just like they did to Meyns. And then they will burn her to ashes.
Suddenly her eyes light up. Yes, he is here! In the crowd, in the shape of a handsome young gentleman, as he usually does. Akke recognizes his black doublet and the dark red Spanish beret with the green feather he's wearing, and the silver rapier on his belt. Why is he here? Meyns did not want to marry him. Why did he come anyway? Was it to gloat over her suffering for turning him down? Was he there in the room when they tortured her? Did he look from the shadows and make faces at Meyns when they stretched her on the rack, all the while making sure she was the only one who could see him?
To read the next part of this story, check out Meyns, the Witch part two