The Mammoth Book of Prison Breaks

The Mammoth Book of Prison Breaks by Paul Simpson Read Free Book Online

Book: The Mammoth Book of Prison Breaks by Paul Simpson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paul Simpson
his son to carry the chest to their destination, rather than placing it on a sledge, and she demonstrated a similar quickness of mind to her mistress when the son commented that he believed there was something alive within the chest. “Books have life and spirit too,” she said, and the boy said no more.
    The chest was delivered to the house of Jacob Daatzelaar, one of de Groot’s Arminian friends. Elyse immediately told him what – or rather who – was inside, but Daatzelaar refused to have anything to do with the escapee. His wife was made of sterner stuff, and sent her servants away so they wouldn’t see de Groot. She then released the prisoner from his chest, and gave him a rule and trowel so he could disguise himself as a mason. De Groot then was able to accompany her brother, another mason, through the streets to a boat, which began his odyssey to Antwerp and then Paris, where he waited for his wife.
    The governor was understandably angry with Maria’s actions, and she was kept prisoner at Loevenstein for a fortnight until the order was sent for her release. Her ingenuity, tenderness and courage were recognized. The pair were reunited in France, after de Groot agreed not to return to the Netherlands. De Groot died in 1645 after being involved in a shipwreck from which he did not recover.
    De Groot wasn’t the only Dutchman of the period to be assisted in an escape from prison by his wife’s actions. Six months after the flight from Loevenstein, Dominicus Sapma, another Arminian minister, was being held in jail in Amsterdam. His wife had applied to be allowed to visit him, since he wasn’t committed for any “villainous action”, but only because of his religious beliefs. Both she and his sister were given permission.
    On 22 September, Sapma’s wife and sister visited the jail around 4 p.m., following the detailed requests he had given them. His wife had a scarf wrapped around her cheek, as if she had terrible toothache. As the gate-bell rang to mark the end of visiting, Sapma put on her clothes, transferred her wedding ring to his hand, and used the scarf to cover his cheek. He then put on his wife’s veil and walked out, accompanied by his sister. His wife remained behind, expecting any minute to hear the alarm being raised by the keeper’s wife, an old, cunning woman whom her husband regarded as the greatest danger to the plan.
    In fact, it was this woman who let Sapma out of the prison and she even said something comforting to him, when she saw that “she” was crying. Sapma’s sister quickly replied on his behalf that she could not speak because of both grief and toothache. Even though they were through the gate, they weren’t safe – Sapma was too tall for the woman’s dress he was wearing, and had to go through the streets bent over so the height disparity wouldn’t be obvious. However, they arrived at their hiding place without discovery.
    When the deception was uncovered, the magistrates were extremely unhappy, and initially refused to release Sapma’s wife. It probably didn’t help that her first petition said that he had escaped “by the blessing of God” nor that her second claimed that she didn’t think she had “transgressed their Worships’ orders”. The latter was torn to pieces when it was read. A full week later, the court of Burgomasters and Schepens ordered her release.
    The delay in releasing her may have been connected to another escape by one of the Arminians, Vezekius; he had taken advantage of the decision by a court in Haarlem to allow his wife and children to visit him and for them all to wander around the prison, where he found an old rusty key. To his amazement, it fit the lock of the prison gate, and he duly let himself out and took shelter in a family friend’s house. His wife ended up in the workhouse in her husband’s place for five days, and was only released when their maid had a serious accident and was unable to bring the youngest child into the

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