Whose warblings, sweet and clear, Ravish the listening ear With joy, as upward float The throbbing liquid trills of her enchanted throat;
Whose accents pure and ripe Sound like an organ pipe, That holdeth divers songs, And with one tongue alone sings like a score of tongues.
The rise and fall again In clear and lovely strain Of her sweet voice and shrill, Outclamours with its songs the singing springing rill.
A creature whose great praise Her rarity displays, Seeing she only lives A month in all the year to which her song she gives.
But this thing sets the crown Upon her high renown, That such a little bird as she Can harbour such a strength of clamorous harmony.
Arnheim presents after dinner the usual scene of contented movement. The people throng the principal streets, and every one seems happy and placid. The great concert hall, Musis Sacrum, had not yet begun its season when I was there, and the only spectacle which the town could muster was an exhibition of strength by two oversized boys, which I avoided.
At Arnheim, I should relate, an odd thing happened to my companion. When she was there last, in 1894, she had need to obtain linseed for a poultice, and visited a chemist for the purpose. He was an old man, and she found him sitting in the window studying his English grammar. How long his study had lasted I have no notion, but he knew less of our tongue than she of his, and to get the linseed was no easy matter. Ten years passed and recollection of the Arnheim chemist had clean evaporated; but chancing to look up as we walked through the town, the sight of the old chemist seated in his shop-window poring over a book brought the whole incident back to her. We stepped to the window and stole a glance at the volume: it was an English Grammar. He had been studying it ever since the night of the linseed poultice.
It was, we felt, an object-lesson to us, who during the same interval had taken advantage of every opportunity of neglecting the Dutch tongue.
That tongue, however, is not attractive. Even those who have spoken it to most purpose do not always admire it. I find that Kasper van Baerle wrote: "What then do we Netherlanders speak? Words from a foreign tongue: we are but a collected crowd, of feline origin, driven by a strange fatality to these mouths of the Rhine. Why, since the mighty descendants of Romulus here pitched their tents, choose we not rather the holy language of the Romans!"
We may consider Dutch a harsh tongue, and prefer that all foreigners should learn English; but our dislike of Dutch is as nothing compared with Dutch dislike of French as expressed in some verses by Bilderdyk when the tyranny of Napoleon threatened them:—
Begone, thou bastard-tongue! so base—so broken— By human jackals and hyenas spoken; Formed of a race of infidels, and fit To laugh at truth—and scepticise in wit; What stammering, snivelling sounds, which scarcely dare, Bravely through nasal channel meet the ear— Yet helped by apes' grimaces—and the devil, Have ruled the world, and ruled the world for evil!
But French is now the second language that is taught in Dutch schools. German comes first and English third.
The Dutch language often resembles English very closely; sometimes so closely as to be ridiculous. For example, to an English traveller who has been manoeuvring in vain for some time in the effort to get at the value of an article, it comes as a shock comparable only to being run over by a donkey cart to discover that the Dutch for "What is the price?" is "Wat is de prijs?"
The best old Dutch phrase-book is The English Schole-Master, the copy of which that lies before me was printed at Amsterdam by John Houman in the year 1658. I have already quoted a short passage from it, in Chapter II. This is the full title:—
The English Schole-Master; or Certaine rules and helpes, whereby the natives of the Netherlandes, may bee, in a short time, taught to read, understand, and speake the English tongue. By the helpe whereof the English also may be better instructed in the knowledge of the Dutch tongue, than by any vocabulars, or other Dutch and English books, which hitherto they have had, for that purpose.
There is internal evidence that the book was the work of a Dutchman rather than an Englishman; for the Dutch is better than the English. I quote (omitting the Dutch) part of one of the long dialogues between a master and scholar of which the manual is largely composed. Much of its interest lies in the continual imminence of the rod and the skill of the child in saving the situation:—
M. In the meane time let me aske you one thing more. Have you not in to-day at the holy sermon?
S. I was there.
M. Who are your witnesses?
S. Many of the schoole-fellowes who saw me can witnes it.
M. But some must be produced.
S. I shall produce them when you commaund it.
M. Who did preach?
S. Master N.
M. At what time began he?
S. At seven a clock.
M. Whence did he take his text?
S. Out of the epistle of Paul to the Romanes.
M. In what chapter?
S. In the eighth.
M. Hitherto you have answered well: let us now see what follows. Have you remembred anything?
S. Nothing that I can repeat.
M. Nothing at al? Bethink (your self) a little, and take heed that you bee not disturbed, but bee of good courage.
S. Truly master I can remember nothing.
M. What, not one word?
S. None at all.
M. I am ready to strike you: what profit have you then gotten?
S. I know not, otherwise than that perhaps I have in the mean time abstained from evill.
M. That is some what indeed, if it could but so be that you have kept your self wholy from evill.
S. I have abstained so much as I was able.
M. Graunt that it bee so, yet you have not pleased God, seeing it is written, depart from evill and doe good, but tell mee (I pray thee) for what cause principally did you goe thither?
S. That I might learne something.
M. Why have you not done so?
S. I could not.
M. Could you not, knave? yea you would not, or truly you have not addicted your self to it.
S. I am compelled to confesse it.
M. What compelleth you?
S. My Conscience, which accuseth me before God.
M. You say well: oh that it were from the heart.
S. Truly I speak it from myne heart.
M. It may bee so: but goe to, what was the cause that you have remembred nothing?
S. My negligence: for I attended not diligently.
M. What did you then?
S. Sometimes I slept.
M. So you used to doe: but what did you the rest of the time?
S. I thought on a thousand fooleries, as children are wont to doe.
M. Are you so very a child, that you ought not to be attentive to heare the word of God?
S. If I had bin attentive, I should have profitted something.
M. What have you then meritted?
M. You have truly meritted them, and that very many.
S. I ingenuously confess it.
M. But in word only I think.
S. Yea truly from myne heart.
M. Possibly, but in the meane time prepare to receive stripes.
S. O master forgive it, I beseech you, I confes I have sinned, but not of malice.
M. But such an evill negligence comes very neare wickedness (malice).
S. Truly I strive not against that: but nevertheles I implore your clemencie through Jesus Christ.
M. What will you then doe, if I shall forgive you?
S. I will doe my dutie henceforth, as I hope.
M. You should have added thereto, by God's helpe: but you care little for that.
S. Yea master, by God's help, I will hereafter doe my duty.
M. Goe to, I pardon you the fault for your teares: and I forgive it you on this condition, that you bee myndful of your promise.
S. I thank you most Courteous master.
M. You shall bee in very great favour with mee, if you remember your promise.
S. The most good and great God graunt that I may.
M. That is my desire, that hee would graunt it.
Here is another dialogue. Whether the riot of courtesy displayed in it was typical of either England or Holland at that time I cannot say; but in neither country are we now so solicitous:—
Salutations at meeting and parting.
C. God save you David.
D. And you also Clemens.
C. God save you heartily.
D. And you also, as heartily.
C. How do you?
D. I am well I thank God; at your service: and you Clemens, how is it with you? well?
C. I am also in health: how doth your father and mother?
D. They are in good health praised be God.
C. How goes it with you my good friend?
D. It goeth well with mee, goes it but so well with you.
C. I wish you good health.
D. I wish the same to you also.
C. I salute you.
D. And I you also.
C. Are you well? are you in good health?
D. I am well, indeed I am in good health, I am healthful, and in prosperity.
C. That is good. That is well. That is pleasing to me. That maketh mee glad. I love to hear that. I beseech you to take care of your health. Preserve your health.
D. I can tarry no longer now. I am in haste to be gone. I must go. I have need of my time. I cannot abide standing here. Fare you well God be with you. God keep you still. I wish your health may continue.
C. And you also my loving friend, God protect you. God guide you. God bee with you. May it please you in my behalf, heartily to salute your wife and children.
D. I will do your message. But I pray, commend mee also to your father and mother.
At the end of the book are some forms, in Dutch and English, of mercantile letters, among them a specimen bill of lading of which I quote a portion as an example of the gracious way in which business was done in old and simpler days:—
I, J.P. of Amsterdam, master under God of my ship called the Saint Peter at this present lying ready in the river of Amsterdam to saile with the first goode winde which God shall give toward London, where my right unlading shal be, acknowledge and confes that I have receaved under the hatches of my foresaid ship of you S.J., merchaunt, to wit: four pipes of oile, two chests of linnen, sixteen buts of currents, one bale of canvase, five bals of pepper, thirteen rings of brasse wyer, fiftie bars of iron, al dry and wel conditioned, marked with this marke standing before, all which I promise to deliver (if God give me a prosperous voyage with my said ship) at London aforesaid, to the worshipful Mr. A.J. to his factour or assignes, paying for the freight of the foresaid goods 20 fs. by the tun.
Quaintness and humour are not confined to the ancient phrase-books. An English-Dutch conversational manual from which the languages are still learned has a specimen "dialogue" in a coach, which is opened by the gentleman remarking genially and politely to his fellow-passenger, a lady, "Madame, shall we arrange our legs".
It occurs to me that very little Dutch has found its way into these pages. Let me therefore give the first stanza of the national song, "Voor Vaderland en Vorst":—
Wien Neerlandsch bloed in de aderen vloeit, Van vreemde smetten vrij, Wiens hart voor land en Koning gloeit, Verhef den sang als wij: Hij stel met ons, vereend van zin, Met onbeklemde borst, Het godgevallig feestlied in Voor Vaderland en Vorst.
These are brave words. A very pedestrian translation runs thus:—
Who Ne'erland's blood feel nobly flow, From foreign tainture free, Whose hearts for king and country glow, Come, raise the song as we: With breasts serene, and spirits gay, In holy union sing The soul-inspiring festal lay, For Fatherland and King.
And now a specimen of really mellifluous Dutch. "How would you like," is the timely question of a daily paper this morning, as I finish this chapter, "to be hit by a 'snellpaardelooszoondeerspoorwegpitroolrijtung?' That is what would happen to you if you were run down by a motor-car in Holland. The name comes from 'snell,' rapid; 'paardeloos,' horseless; 'zoondeerspoorweg,' without rails; 'pitroolrijtung,' driven by petroleum. Only a Dutchman can pronounce it."
Let me spice this chapter by selecting from the pages of proverbs in Dutch and English a few which seem to me most excellent. No nation has bad proverbs; the Dutch have some very good ones.
Many cows, much trouble.
Even hares pull a lion by the beard when he is old.
Men can bear all things, except good days.
The best pilots are ashore.
Velvet and silk are strange herbs: they blow the fire out of the kitchen.
It is easy to make a good fire of another's turf.
It is good cutting large girths of another man's leather.
High trees give more shadow than fruit.
An old hunter delighteth to hear of hunting.
It hath soon rained enough in a wet pool.
God giveth the fowls meat, but they must fly for it.
An idle person is the devil's pillow.
No hen so witty but she layeth one egg lost in the nettles.
It happeneth sometimes that a good seaman falls overboard.
He is wise that is always wise.
When every one sweeps before his own house, then are the streets clean.
It is profitable for a man to end his life, before he die.
Before thou trust a friend eat a peck of salt with him.
It's bad catching hares with drums.
The pastor and sexton seldom agree.
No crown cureth headache.
There is nothing that sooner dryeth up than a tear.
Land purchase and good marriage happen not every day.
When old dogs bark it is time to look out.
Of early breakfast and late marriage men get not lightly the headache.
Ride on, but look about.
Nothing in haste, but to catch fleas.
To return to Arnheim: of the Groote Kerk I remember only the very delicate colouring of the ceiling, and the monument of Charles van Egmont, Duke of Guelders. I had grown tired of architecture: it seemed goodlier to watch the shipping on the river, which at Arnheim may be called the Rhine without hesitation. All the traffic to Cologne must pass the town. Hitherto one had had qualms about the use of the word, having seen the Rhine under various aliases in so many places. The Maas at Rotterdam is a mouth of the Rhine; but before it can become the Rhine proper it becomes the Lek, What is called the true mouth of the Rhine is at Katwyk. At Dordrecht again is another of the Rhine's mouths, the Waal, which runs into the old Maas and then into the sea. The Yssel, still another mouth of the Rhine, which I saw at Kampen on its way into the Zuyder Zee, breaks away from the parent river just below Arnheim. As a matter of fact all Holland is on the Rhine, but the word must be used with care.
If one would study Dutch romantic scenery I think Nymwegen on the whole a better town to stay in than Arnheim. It is simpler in itself, richer in historic associations, and the country in the immediate east is very well worth exploring—hill and valley and pine woods, with quaint villages here and there; and, for the comfortable, a favourite hotel at Berg en Daal from which great stretches of the Rhine may be seen.
To see Nymwegen itself to greater advantage, with its massed houses and towers presenting a solid front, one must go over the iron bridge to Lent and then look back across the river. At all times the old town wears from this point of view an interesting and romantic air, but never so much as at evening.
Some versions of "Lohengrin" set the story at Nymwegen; but the Lohengrin monument is at Kleef, a few miles above the confluence of the Rhine and the Waal, the river on which Nymwegen stands.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who was at Nymwegen in 1716, drew an odd comparison between that town and the English town of Nottingham. If Edinburgh is the modern Athens there is no reason why Nottingham should not be the English Nymwegen. Lady Mary writes to her friend Sarah Chiswell: "If you were with me in this town, you would be ready to expect to receive visits from your Nottingham friends. No two places were ever more resembling; one has but to give the Maese the name of the Trent, and there is no distinguishing the prospects—the houses, like those of Nottingham, built one above another, and are intermixed in the same manner with trees and gardens. The tower they call Julius Caesar's has the same situation with Nottingham Castle; and I cannot help fancying I see from it the Trent-field, Adboulton, &c., places so well known to us. 'Tis true, the fortifications make a considerable difference...."
Nymwegen reminded me of nothing but itself. It is in reality two towns: a spacious residential town near the station, with green squares, and statues, and modern houses (one of them so modern as to be employing a vacuum cleaner, which throbbed and panted in the garden as I passed); and the old mediaeval Nymwegen, gathered about one of the most charming market places in all Holland—a scene for comic opera. The Dutch way of chequering the shutters in blue and yellow (as at Middelburg) or in red and black, or red and white, is here practised to perfection. The very beautiful weigh-house has red and black shutters; the gateway which leads to the church has them too.
Never have I seen a church so hemmed in by surrounding buildings. The little houses beset it as the pigmies beset Antaeus. After some difficulty I found my way in, and wandered for a while among its white immensities. It is practically a church within a church, the region of services being isolated in the midst, in the unlovely Dutch way, within hideous wooden walls. It is very well worth while to climb the tower and see the great waterways of this country beneath you. The prospect is mingled wood and polder: to the east and south-east, shaggy hills; to the west, the moors of Brabant; to the north, Arnheim's dark heights.
Nymwegen has many lions, chief of which perhaps is the Valkhof, in the grounds above the river—the remains of a palace of the Carlovingians. It is of immense age, being at once the oldest building in Holland and the richest in historic memories. For here lived Charlemagne and Charles the Bald, Charles the Bold and Maximilian of Austria. The palace might still be standing were it not for the destructiveness of the French at the end of the eighteenth century. A picture by Jan van Goyen in the stadhuis gives an idea of the Valkhof in his day, before vandalism had set in.
As some evidence of the town's pride in her association with these great names the curfew, which is tolled every evening at eight o'clock, but which I did not hear, is called Charlemagne's Prayer. The facade of the stadhuis is further evidence, for it carries the statues of some of the ancient monarchs who made Nymwegen their home.
Within the stadhuis is another of the beautiful justice halls which Holland possesses in such profusion, the most interesting of which we saw at Kampen. Kampen's oak seats are not, however, more beautiful than those of Nymwegen; and Kampen has no such clock as stands here, distilling information, tick by tick, of days, and years, and sun, and moon, and stars. The stadhuis has also treasures of tapestry and Spanish leather, and a museum containing a very fine collection of antiquities, including one of the famous wooden petticoats of Nymwegen—a painted barrel worn as a penance by peccant dames.
From Nymwegen the train took me to Hertzogenbosch, or Bois le Duc, the capital of Brabant. It is from Brabant, we were told by a proverb which I quoted in my first chapter on Friesland, that one should take a sheep. Great flocks of sheep may be seen on the Brabant moors, exactly as in Mauve's pictures. They are kept not for food, for the Dutch dislike mutton, but for wool.
Bois le Duc has the richest example of mediaeval architecture in Holland—the cathedral of St. John, a wonderful fantasy in stone, rich not only without, but, contrary to all Dutch precedent, within too; for we are at last again among a people who for the most part retain the religion of Rome. The glass of the cathedral is poor, but there is a delicate green pattern on the vaulting which is very charming. The koster is proudest of the pulpit, and of a figure of the Virgin "which is carried in procession through the town every evening between July 7th and 16th".
But I was not interested so much in particular things as in the cathedral as a whole. To be in the midst of this grey Gothic environment was what I desired, and after a little difficulty I induced the koster to leave me to wander alone. It was the first church in Holland with the old authentic thrill.
Bois le Duc (as it is more simple to call it) is a gay town with perhaps the most spirited market place in the country. The stalls have each an awning, as in the south of Europe, and the women's heads are garlanded with flowers. I like this method of decoration as little as any, but it carries with it a pleasant sense of festivity.
From Bois le Duc one may go due north to Utrecht and Amsterdam, passing on the way Bommel, with its tall and impressive tower rising from its midst. Or one may keep to the western route and reach Walcheren. That is my present course, and Bommel may be left with a curious story of the Spaniards in 1599. "Two brothers who had never seen, and had always been inquiring for, each other, met at last by chance at the siege, where they served in two different companies. The elder, who was called Hernando Diaz, having heard the other mentioned by the name of Encisso, which was his mother's surname, and which he had taken through affection, a thing common in Spain, put several questions to him concerning a number of family particulars, and knew at last by the exactness of his answers that he was the brother he had been so long seeking after; upon which both proceeding to a close embrace, a cannon ball struck off both their heads, without separating their bodies, which fell clinging together."
Helvoet, on the way to Tilburg, is the scene of an old but honourable story. Ireland tells us that George the Second, being detained by contrary winds on his return from Hanover, reposed at Helvoet until the sea should subside. While there he one day stopped a pretty Dutch girl to ask her what she had in her basket. "Eggs, mynheer." "And what is the price?" "A ducat a piece, mynheer." "Are eggs so scarce then in Holland?" "No. mynheer, but kings are."
At Tilburg I did not tarry, but rode on to Breda (which is pronounced with all the accent on the second syllable) and which is famous for a castle (now a military school) and a tomb. The castle, a very beautiful building, was built by Count Henry of Nassau. On becoming in due course the property of William the Silent, it was confiscated by the Duke of Alva. How it was won back again is a story worth telling.
The great achievement belonged to a simple boatman named Adrian. Whether or not he had read or heard of the Trojan horse is not known, but his scheme was not wholly different. Briefly he recommended Prince Maurice to conceal soldiers in his peat boat, under the peats, to be conveyed as peat into the Spanish garrison. The plan was approved and Captain Heranguiere was placed in charge of it.
The boat was laden and Adrian poled it into the fortress; and all was going well until the coldness of the night set the soldiers coughing. All were affected, but chiefly Lieutenant Hells, who, vainly attempting to be silent, at last implored his comrades to kill him lest he ruin the enterprise. Adrian, however, prevented this grim necessity by pumping very hard and thus covering the sound.
It had been arranged that the Prince should be outside the city at a certain hour. Just before the time Heranguiere and his men sprang out of their hiding, killed the garrison, opened the gates, and the castle was won again, Heranguiere was rewarded by being made governor of Breda; Adrian was pensioned, and the boat was taken from its native elements and exalted into an honoured position in the castle. When, however, the Spanish general Spinola recaptured Breda, one of his first duties was to burn this worthy vessel.
The jewel of Breda, which is a spreading fortified town, is the tomb of Count Engelbert I. of Nassau, in one of the chapels of the great church. The count and his lady, both sculptured in alabaster, lie side by side beneath a canopy of black marble, which is borne by four warriors also of alabaster. On the canopy are the arms and accoutrements of the dead Count. The tomb, which was the work of Vincenz of Bologna in the sixteenth century, is wholly satisfying in its dignity, austerity and grace.
To the font in Breda cathedral William III. attached the privilege of London citizenship. Any child christened there could claim the rights of a Londoner, the origin of the sanction being the presence of English soldiers at Breda and their wish that their children should be English too. Whether or not the Dutch guards who were helping the English at the end of the seventeenth century had a similar privilege in London I do not know.
Late one Saturday evening I watched in a milk shop at Breda a conscientious Dutch woman at work. She had just finished scrubbing the floor and polishing the brass, and was now engaged in laying little paths of paper in case any chance customer should come in over night and soil the boards before Sunday. I thought as I stood there how impossible it would be for an English woman tired with the week to sit up like this to clean a shop against the next day. Sir William Temple has a pleasant story illustrating at once the inherent passion for cleanliness in the Dutch women and also their old masterfulness. It tells how a magistrate, paying an afternoon call, was received at the door by a stout North Holland lass who, lest he should soil the floor, took him bodily in her arms and carried him to a chair; sat him in it; removed his boots; put a pair of slippers on his feet; and then led him to her mistress's presence.
Bergen-op-Zoom has its place in history; but it is a dull town in fact. Nor has it beautiful streets, with the exception of that which leads to the old Gevangenpoort with its little painted towers. I must confess that I did not like Bergen-op-Zoom. It seemed to me curiously inhospitable and critical; which was of course a wrong attitude to take up towards a countryman of Grimston and Redhead; Who are Grimston and Redhead? I seem to hear the reader asking. Grimston and Redhead were two members of the English garrison when the Prince of Parma besieged Bergen-op-Zoom in 1588, and it was their cunning which saved the town. Falling intentionally into the Prince's hands they affected to inform him of the vulnerability of the defences, and outlined a scheme by which his capture of a decisive position was practically certain. Having been entrusted with the conduct of the attack, they led his men, by preconcerted design, into an ambush, with the result that the siege was raised.
All being fair in love and war one should, I suppose, be at the feet of these brave fellows; but I have no enthusiasm for that kind of thing. At the same time there is no doubt that the Dutch ought to, and therefore I am the more distressed by Bergen-op-Zoom's rudeness to our foreign garb.
Bergen had seen battle before the siege, for when it was held by the Spanish, at the beginning of the war, a naval engagement was held off it in the Scheldt, between the Spanish fleet and the Beggars of the Sea, whom we are about to meet. The victory was to the Beggars. Later, in 1747, Bergen was besieged again, this time by the French and much more fiercely than by the Spaniards.
From Bergen-op-Zoom we went to Tholen, passing the whitest of windmills on the way. Tholen is an odd little ancient town gained by a tramway and a ferry. Head-dresses here, as at Bois le Duc, are very much over-decorated with false flowers; but in a little shop in one of the narrow and deserted streets we found some very pretty lace. We found, also on the edge of the town, a very merry windmill; and we had lunch at an inn window which commanded the harnessing of the many market carts, into every one of which climbed a stolid farmer and a wife brimming with gossip.
In the returning steam-tram from Tholen to Bergen-op-Zoom was a Dutch maiden. So typical was she that she might have been a composite portrait of all Dutch girls of eighteen—smooth fair features, a very clear complexion, prim clothes. A friend getting in too, she talked; or rather he talked, and she listened, and agreed or dissented very quietly, and I had the pleasure of watching how admirably adapted is the Dutch feminine countenance for the display of the nuances of emotion, the enregistering of every thought. Expression after expression flitted across her face and mouth like the alternate shadow and sun in the Weald on a breezy April day. A French woman's many vivacious and eloquent expressions seem to come from within; but the Dutch present a placid sensitised surface on which their companions' conversation records the most delicate tracery. This girl's little reluctant smiles were very charming, and we were at Bergen-op-Zoom again before I knew it.
The friendly Zeelanders—A Spanish heritage—Deceptive Dutch towns—The Abbey Hotel—The Abbey of St. Nicholas—Middelburg's art—Sentimental songs—The great Tacius—The siege of Middelburg—A round-faced city—When disfigurement is beauty—Green paint—Long John—Music in the night—Foolish Betsy—The Stadhuis—An Admiral and stuffed birds—The law of the paving-stones—Veere—The prey of the sea—A mammoth church—Maximilian's cup.
With Middelburg I have associated, for charm, Hoorn; but Middelburg stands first. It is serener, happier, more human; while the nature of the Zeelander is to the stranger so much more ingratiating than that of the North Hollander. The Zeelander—and particularly the Walcheren islander—has the eccentricity to view the stranger as a natural object rather than a phenomenon. Flushing being avowedly cosmopolitan does not count, but at Middelburg, the capital of Zeeland, you may, although the only foreigner there, walk about in the oddest clothes and receive no embarrassing attentions.
It is not that the good people of Walcheren are quicker to see where their worldly advantage lies. They are not schemers or financiers. The reason resides in a native politeness, a heritage, some have conjectured, from their Spanish forefathers. One sees hints of Spanish blood also in the exceptional flexibility and good carriage of the Walcheren women. Whatever the cause of Zeeland's friendliness, there it is; and in Middelburg the foreigner wanders at ease, almost as comfortable and self-possessed as if he were in France.
And it is the pleasantest town to wander in, and an astonishingly large one. A surprising expansiveness, when one begins to explore them, is an idiosyncrasy of Dutch towns. From the railway, seeing a church spire and a few roofs, one had expected only a village; and behold street runs into street until one's legs ache. This is peculiarly the case with Gorinchem, which is almost invisible from the line; and it is the case with Middelburg, and Hoorn, and many other towns that I do not recall at this moment.
My advice to travellers in Walcheren is to stay at Middelburg rather than at Flushing (they are very nigh each other) and to stay, moreover, at the Hotel of the Abbey. It is not the best hotel in Holland as regards appointment and cuisine; but it is certainly one of the pleasantest in character, and I found none other in so fascinating a situation. For it occupies one side of the quiet square enclosed by the walls of the Abbey of St. Nicholas (or Abdij, as the Dutch oddly call it), and you look from your windows through a grove of trees to the delicate spires and long low facade of this ancient House of God, which is now given over to the Governor of Zeeland, to the library of the Province, and to the Provincial Council, who meet in fifteenth century chambers and transact their business on nouveau art furniture.
What the Abbey must have been before it was destroyed by fire we can only guess; but one thing we know, and that is that among its treasures were paintings by the great Mabuse (Jan Gossaert), who once roystered through Middelburg's quiet streets. Another artist of Middelburg was Adrian van der Venne, who made the quaint drawings for Jacob Cats' symbols, of which we have seen something in an earlier chapter. But the city has never been a home of the arts. Beyond a little tapestry, some of which may be seen in the stadhuis, and some at the Abbey, it made nothing beautiful. From earliest times the Middelburgers were merchants—wool merchants and wine merchants principally, but always tradespeople and always prosperous and contented.
A tentoonstelling (or exhibition) of copper work was in progress when I was there last summer; but it was not interesting, and I had better have taken the advice of the Music Hall manager, in whose grounds it was held, and have saved my money. His attitude to repousse work was wholly pessimistic, part prejudice against the craft of the metal-worker in itself, but more resentment that florins should be diverted into such a channel away from comic singers and acrobats. Seated at one of the garden tables we discussed Dutch taste in varieties.
The sentimental song, he told me, is a drug in Holland. Anything rather than that. No matter how pretty the girl may be, she must not sing a sentimental song. But if I wished to witness the only way in which a sentimental song would "go down," I must visit his performance that evening—reserved seats one, fifty,—and hear the great Tacius. He drew from his pocket a handbill which was at that moment being scattered broadcast over Middelburg. It bore the name of this marvel, this solver of the sentimental riddle, and beneath it three interrogation marks. The manager winked. "That," he said, "will excite interest."
We went that evening and heard Tacius—a portly gentleman in a ball dress and a yellow wig, who after squeaking five-sixths of a love song in a timid falsetto which might pass for a woman's voice, roared out the balance like a bull. He brought down the house.
Like most other Dutch towns Middelburg had its period of siege. But there was this difference, that Middelburg was held by the Spanish and besieged by the Dutch, whereas the custom was for the besiegers to be Spanish and the besieged Dutch. Middelburg suffered every privation common to invested cities, even to the trite consumption of rats and dogs, cats and mice, Just as destruction seemed inevitable—for the Spanish commander Mondragon swore to fire it and perish with it rather than submit—a compromise was arranged, and he surrendered without dishonour, the terms of the capitulation (which, however, Spain would not allow him to carry out) being another illustration of the wisdom and humanity of William the Silent.
Middelburg has never known a day's suffering since her siege. A local proverb says, "Goed rond, goed Zeeuwsch"—very round, very Zeelandish—and an old writer—so M. Havard tells us—describes Middelburg as a "round faced city". If by round we mean not only circular but also plump and comfortable, we have Middelburg and its sons and daughters very happily hit off. Structurally the town is round: the streets curve, the Abbey curves; seen from a balloon or the summit of the church tower, the plan of the city would reveal itself a circle. And there is a roundness also in the people. They smile roundly, they laugh roundly, they live roundly.
The women and girls of Middelburg are more comely and winsome than any in Holland. Their lace caps are like driven snow, their cheeks shine like apples. But their way with their arms I cannot commend. The sleeve of their bodices ends far above the elbow, and is made so tight that the naked arm below expands on attaining its liberty, and by constant and intentional friction takes the hue of the tomato. What, however, is to our eyes only a suggestion of inflammation, is to the Zeelander a beauty. While our impulse is to recommend cold cream, the young bloods of Middelburg (I must suppose) are holding their beating hearts. These are the differences of nations—beyond anything dreamed of in Babel.
The principal work of these ruddy-armed and wide-hipped damsels seems to be to carry green pails on a blue yoke—and their perfect fitness in Middelburg's cheerful and serene streets is another instance of the Dutch cleverness in the use of green paint. These people paint their houses every year—not in conformity with any written law, but upon a universal feeling that that is what should be done. To this very pretty habit is largely due the air of fresh gaiety that their towns possess. Middelburg is of the gayest. Greenest of all, as I have said, is perhaps Zaandam. Sometimes they paint too freely, even the trunks of trees and good honest statuary coming under the brush. But for the most part they paint well.
It is not alone the cloistral Gothic seclusion in which the Abbey hotel reposes that commends it to the wise: there is the further allurement of Long John. Long John, or De Lange Jan, is the soaring tower of the Abbey church, now the Nieuwe Kerk. So long have his nearly 300 feet dominated Middelburg—he was first built in the thirteenth century, and rebuilt in the sixteenth—that he has become more than a structure of bricks and copper: a thinking entity, a tutelary spirit at once the pride and the protector of the town. His voice is heard more often than any belfry beneath whose shadow I have lain. Holland, as we have seen, is a land of bells and carillons; nowhere in the world are the feet of Time so dogged; but Long John is the most faithful sleuth of all. He is almost ahead of his quarry. He seems to know no law; he set out, I believe, with a commission entitling him to ring his one and forty bells every seven and a half minutes, or eight times in the hour; but long since he must have torn up that warranty, for he is now his own master, breaking out into little sighs of melancholy or wistful music whenever the mood takes him. I have never heard such profoundly plaintive airs as his—very beautiful, very grave, very deliberate. One cannot say more for persistent chimes than this—that at the Abbey hotel it is no misfortune to wake in the night.
Long John has a companion in Foolish Betsy. Foolish Betsy is the stadhuis clock, so called (Gekke Betje) from her refusal to keep time with the giant: another instance of the power which John exerts over the town, even to the wounding of chivalry. The Nieuwe Kerk would be nothing without its tower—it is one of the barest and least interesting churches in a country which has reduced to the finest point the art of denuding religion of mystery—but the stadhuis would still be wonderful even without its Betsy, There is nothing else like it in Holland, nothing anywhere quite so charming in its shameless happy floridity. I cannot describe it: the building is too complicated, too ornate; I can only say that it is wholly captivating and thoroughly out of keeping with the Dutch genius—Spanish influence again apparent. Beneath the eaves are four and twenty statues of the Counts of Holland and Zeeland, and the roof is like a mass-meeting of dormer windows.
In addition to the stadhuis museum, which is dedicated to the history of Middelburg and Zeeland, the town has also a municipal museum, too largely given over to shells and stuffed birds, but containing also such human relics as the wheel on which Admiral de Ruyter as a boy helped his father to make rope, and also the first microscope and the first telescope, both the work of Zacharias Jansen, a Zeeland mathematician. More interesting perhaps are the rooms in the old Zeeland manner, corresponding to the Hindeloopen rooms which we have seen at Leeuwarden, but lacking their cheerful richness of ornamentation. It is certainly a museum that should be visited, albeit the stuffed birds weigh heavily on the brow.
After all, Middelburg's best museum is itself. Its streets and houses are a never-ending pleasure. Something gladdens the eye at every turn—a blue and yellow shutter, a red and black shutter, a turret, a daring gable, a knot of country people, a fat Zeeland baby, a milk-can rivalling the sun, an old woman's lace cap, a young woman's merry mouth. Only in two respects is the town unsatisfactory, and both are connected with its streets. The liberty given to each householder to erect an iron fence across the pavement at each limit of his property makes it necessary to walk in the road, and the pave of the road is so rough as to cause no slight suffering to any one in thin boots. M. Havard has an amusing passage on this topic, in which he says that the ancient fifteenth-century punishment for marital infidelity, a sin forbidden by the municipal laws no less than by Heaven, was the supply by the offending man of a certain number of paving stones. After such an explanation, the genial Frenchman adds, we must not complain:—
Nos peres ont peches, nos peres ne sont plus, Et c'est nous qui portons la peine de leurs crimes.
The island of Walcheren is quickly learned. From Middelburg one can drive in a day to the chief points of interest—Westcapelle and Domburg, Veere and Arnemuiden. Of these Veere is the jewel—Veere, once Middelburg's dreaded rival, and in its possession of a clear sea-way and harbour her superior, but now forlorn. For in the seventeenth century Holland's ancient enemy overflowed its barriers, and the greater part of Veere was blotted out in a night. What remains is a mere symbol of the past; but there is enough to loiter in with perfect content, for Veere is unique. Certainly no little town is so good to approach—with the friendliness of its red roofs before one all the way, the unearthly hugeness of its church and the magic of its stadhuis tower against the blue.
The church, which is visible from all parts of the island, is immense, in itself an indication of what a city Veere must have been. It rises like a mammoth from the flat. Only the east end is now used for services; the vast remainder, white and naked, is given up to bats and the handful of workmen that the slender restoration funds make it possible to employ. For there is some idea of Veere's church being one day again in perfect repair; but that day will not be in our time. The ravages of the sea only emptied it: the sea does not desecrate. It was Napoleon who disgraced the church by converting it into barracks.
Other relics of Veere's past are the tower at the harbour mouth (its fellow-tower is beneath the sea) and the beautifully grave Scotch house on the quay, once the centre of the Scottish wool trade of these parts.
The stadhuis also remains, a dainty distinguished structure which might be the infant daughter of the stadhuis at Middelburg. Its spire has a slender aerial grace; on its facade are statues of the Lords of Veere and their Ladies, Within is a little museum of antiquities, one of whose most interesting possessions is the entry in the Veere register, under the date July 2nd, 1608, of the marriage of Hugo Grotius with Maria Reygersbergh of Veere, whom we have seen at Loevenstein assisting in her husband's escape from prison. The museum is in the charge of a blond custodian, a descendant of sea kings, whose pride in the golden goblet which Maximilian of Burgundy, Veere's first Marquis, gave to the town in 1551, is almost paternal. He displays it as though it were a sacred relic, and narrates the story of Veere's indignation when a millionaire attempted to buy it, so feelingly as to fortify and complete one's suspicions that money after all is but dross and the love of it the root of evil.
Middelburg once more—The Flushing baths—Shrimps and chivalry—A Dutch boy—Charles V. at Souburg—Flushing and the Spanish yoke—Philip and William the Silent—The capture of Brill—A far-reaching drunken impulse—Flushing's independence—Admiral de Ruyter—England's Revenge—The Middelburg kermis—The aristocracy of avoirdupois—The end.
It is wiser I think to stay at Middelburg and visit Flushing from there than to stay at Flushing. One may go by train or tram. In hot weather the steam-tram is the better way, for then one can go direct to the baths and bathe in the stillest arm of the sea that I know. Here I bathed on the hottest day of last year, 1904, among merry albeit considerable water nymphs and vivacious men. These I found afterwards should have dwelt in the water for ever, for they emerged, dried and dressed, from the machines, something less than ordinary Batavians. I perhaps carried disillusionment also.
For safe bathing the Flushing baths could not well be excelled, but I never knew shore so sandy. To rid one's self of sand is almost an impossibility. With each step it over-tops one's boots.
Returning to Middelburg from Flushing one evening, in the steam-tram, we found ourselves in a compartment filled with happy country people, most of them making for the kermis, then in full swing in the Middelburg market place. A pedlar of shrimps stood by the door retailing little pennyworths, and nothing would do but the countryman opposite me must buy some for his sweetheart. When he had bought them he was for emptying them in her lap, but I tendered the wrapper of my book just in time: an act of civility which brought out all his native friendliness. He offered us shrimps, one by one, first peeling them with kindly fingers of extraordinary blackness, and we ate enough to satisfy him that we meant well: and then just as we reached Middelburg, he gave me a cigar and walked all the way to the Abbey with me, watching me smoke it. It was an ordeal; but I hope, for the honour of England, that I carried it through successfully and convinced him that an Englishman knows what to do with courtesy when he finds it.
In the same tram and on the very next seat to us was the pleasantest little boy that I think I ever saw: a perfect miniature Dutchman, with wide black trousers terminating in a point, pearl buttons, a tight black coat, a black hat, and golden neck links after the Zeeland habit. He was perhaps four, plump and red and merry, and his mother, who nursed his baby sister, was immensely proud of him. Some one pressed a twopenny bit into his hand as he left the car, and I watched him telling the great news to half a dozen of the women who were waiting by the side of the road, while his face shone like the setting sun.
They got off at Souburg, the little village between Flushing and Middelburg where Charles V. was living in 1556, after his abdication, before he sailed for his last home. It is odd to have two such associations with Souburg—the weary emperor putting off the purple, and the little Dutch boer bursting jollily through black velvet.
Flushing played a great part in the great war. It was from Flushing that Charles V. sailed in 1556; from Flushing that Philip II. sailed in 1559; neither to return. It was Flushing that heard Philip's farewell to William of Orange, which in the light of after events may be called the declaration of war that was to release the Netherlands from the tyranny of Spain and Rome. "As Philip was proceeding on board the ship which was to bear him for ever from the Netherlands, his eyes lighted upon the Prince. His displeasure could no longer be restrained. With angry face he turned upon him, and bitterly reproached him for having thwarted all his plans by means of his secret intrigues. William replied with humility that everything which had taken place had been done through the regular and natural movements of the states. Upon this the King, boiling with rage, seized the Prince by the wrist, and, shaking it violently, exclaimed in Spanish, 'No los estados, ma vos, vos, vos!'—Not the estates, but you, you, you!—repeating thrice the word 'vos,' which is as disrespectful and uncourteous in Spain as 'toi' in French."
That was 26th August, 1559. Philip's fleet consisted of ninety ships, victualled, among other articles, with fifteen thousand capons, and laden with such spoil as tapestry and silks, much of which had to be thrown overboard in a storm to lighten the labouring vessels. It seemed at one time as if the fleet must founder, but Philip reached Spain in safety, and hastened to celebrate his escape, and emphasise his policy of a universal religion, by an extensive auto da fe.
Flushing did not actually begin the war, in 1572, after the capture of Brill at the mouth of the Maas, by the Water Beggars under De la Marck, but it was the first town to respond to that invitation of revolt against Alva and Spain. The foundations of the Dutch Republic may have been laid at Brill, but it was the moral support of Flushing that established them.
The date of the capture of Brill was April 1st, and Alva, who was then at Brussels, suffered tortures from the Belgian wits. The word Brill, by a happy chance, signifies spectacles, and a couplet was sung to the effect that
On April Fool's Day Duke Alva's spectacles were stolen away;
while, says Motley, a caricature was circulated depicting Alva's spectacles being removed from his nose by De la Marck, while the Duke uttered his habitual comment "'Tis nothing. 'Tis nothing."
What, however, began as little more than the desperate deed of some hungry pirates, to satisfy their immediate needs, was soon turned into a very far-reaching "something," by the action of Flushing, whose burghers, under the Seigneur de Herpt, on hearing the news of the rebellion of Brill, drove the Spanish garrison from the town. A number of Spanish ships chancing to arrive on the same day, bringing reinforcements, were just in time to find the town in arms. Had they landed, the whole revolt might have been quelled, but a drunken loafer of the town, in return for a pot of beer, offered to fire a gun at the fleet from the ramparts. He was allowed to do so, and without a word the fleet fell into a panic and sailed away. The day was won. It might almost be said that that shot—that pot of beer—secured the freedom of the Netherlands. Let this be remembered when John Barleycorn is before his many judges.
A little later Brill sent help, and Flushing's independence was secure. Motley describes this band of assistants in a picturesque passage:—
"The expedition seemed a fierce but whimsical masquerade. Every man in the little fleet was attired in the gorgeous vestments of the plundered churches, in gold-embroidered cassocks, glittering mass-garments, or the more sombre cowls and robes of Capuchin friars. So sped the early standard bearers of that ferocious liberty which had sprung from the fires in which all else for which men cherish their fatherland had been consumed. So swept that resolute but fantastic band along the placid estuaries of Zeeland, waking the stagnant waters with their wild beggar songs and cries of vengeance.
"That vengeance found soon a distinguished object. Pacheco, the chief engineer of Alva, who had accompanied the Duke in his march from Italy, who had since earned a world-wide reputation as the architect of the Antwerp citadel, had been just despatched in haste to Flushing to complete the fortress whose construction had been so long delayed. Too late for his work, too soon for his safety, the ill-fated engineer had arrived almost at the same moment with Treslong and his crew. He had stepped on shore, entirely ignorant of all which had transpired, expecting to be treated with the respect due to the chief commandant of the place, and to an officer high in the confidence of the Governor-general. He found himself surrounded by an indignant and threatening mob. The unfortunate Italian understood not a word of the opprobrious language addressed to him, but he easily comprehended that the authority of the Duke was overthrown.
"Observing De Ryk, a distinguished partisan officer and privateersman of Amsterdam, whose reputation for bravery and generosity was known to him, he approached him, and drawing a seal ring from his finger kissed it, and handed it to the rebel chieftain. By this dumb-show he gave him to understand that he relied upon his honor for the treatment due to a gentleman. De Ryk understood the appeal, and would willingly have assured him, at least, a soldier's death, but he was powerless to do so. He arrested him, that he might be protected from the fury of the rabble; but Treslong, who now commanded in Flushing, was especially incensed against the founder of the Antwerp citadel, and felt a ferocious desire to avenge his brother's murder upon the body of his destroyer's favourite.
"Pacheco was condemned to be hanged upon the very day of his arrival. Having been brought forth from his prison, he begged hard but not abjectly for his life. He offered a heavy ransom, but his enemies were greedy for blood, not for money. It was, however, difficult to find an executioner. The city hangman was absent, and the prejudice of the country and the age against the vile profession had assuredly not been diminished during the five horrible years of Alva's administration. Even a condemned murderer, who lay in the town gaol, refused to accept his life in recompence for performing the office. It should never be said, he observed, that his mother had given birth to a hangman. When told, however, that the intended victim was a Spanish officer, the malefactor consented to the task with alacrity, on condition that he might afterwards kill any man who taunted him with the deed.
"Arrived at the foot of the gallows, Pacheco complained bitterly of the disgraceful death designed for him. He protested loudly that he came of a house as noble as that of Egmont or Hoorn, and was entitled to as honourable an execution as theirs had been. 'The sword! the sword!' he frantically exclaimed, as he struggled with those who guarded him. His language was not understood, but the name of Egmont and Hoorn inflamed still more highly the rage of the rabble, while his cry for the sword was falsely interpreted by a rude fellow who had happened to possess himself of Pacheco's rapier, at his capture, and who now paraded himself with it at the gallows foot. 'Never fear for your sword, Senor,' cried this ruffian; 'your sword is safe enough, and in good hands. Up the ladder with you, Senor; you have no further use for your sword.' Pacheco, thus outraged, submitted to his fate. He mounted the ladder with a steady step, and was hanged between two other Spanish officers.
"So perished miserably a brave soldier, and one of the most distinguished engineers of his time; a man whose character and accomplishments had certainly merited for him a better fate. But while we stigmatize as it deserves the atrocious conduct of a few Netherland partisans, we should remember who first unchained the demon of international hatred in this unhappy land, nor should it ever be forgotten that the great leader of the revolt, by word, proclamation, example, by entreaties, threats, and condign punishment, constantly rebuked and, to a certain extent, restrained the sanguinary spirit by which some of his followers disgraced the noble cause which they had espoused."
Flushing's hero is De Ruyter, whose rope-walk wheel we saw at Middelburg, and whose truculent lineaments have so often frowned at us from the walls of picture gallery and stadhuis throughout the country—almost without exception from the hand of Ferdinand Bol, or a copyist.
Scratch a sea-dog and you find a pirate; De Ruyter, who stands in stone for all time by Flushing harbour, lacking the warranty of war would have been a Paul Jones beyond eulogy. You can see it in his strong brows, his determined mouth, his every line. It is only two hundred and thirty-seven years, only seven generations, since he was in the Thames with his fleet, and London was panic-stricken. No enemy has been there since. The English had their revenge in 1809, when they bombarded Flushing and reduced it to only a semblance of what it had been. Among the beautiful buildings which our cannon balls destroyed was the ancient stadhuis. Hence it is that Flushing's stadhuis to-day is a mere recent upstart.
Flushing does little to amuse its visitors after the sun has left the sea; and we were very glad of the excuse offered by the Middelburg kermis to return to our inland city each afternoon. The Middelburg kermis is a particularly merry one. The stalls and roundabouts fill the market square before the stadhuis, packed so closely that the revolving horses nearly carry the poffertje restaurants round with them. The Dutch roundabouts, by the way, still, like the English, retain horses: they have not, like the French, as I noticed at three fairs in and about Paris last autumn, taken to pigs and rabbits.
I examined the Middelburg kermis very thoroughly. Few though the exhibits were, they included two fat women. Their booths stood on opposite sides of the square, all the fun of the fair between them. In the west was Mile. Jeanne; in the east the Princess Sexiena. Jeanne was French, Sexiena came from the Fatherland. Both, though rivals, used the same poster: a picture of a lady, enormous, decolletee, highly-coloured, stepping into a fiacre, to the cocher's intense alarm. Before one inspected the rival giantesses this community of advertisement had seemed to be a mistake; after, its absurdity was only too apparent, for although the Princess was colossal, Mile. Jeanae was more so. Mile. Jeanne should therefore have employed an artist to make an independent allurement.
Both also displayed outside the booths a pair of corsets, but here, I fancy, the advantage was with Mlle. Jeanne, although such were the distractions of the square that it was difficult to keep relative sizes in mind as one crossed it.
We visited the Princess first and found her large enough. She gasped on a dais—it was the hottest week of the year. She was happy, she said, except in such warmth. She was not married: Princes had sighed for her in vain. She rode a bicycle, she assured us, and enjoyment in the incredulity of her hearers was evidently one of her pleasures. Her manager listened impatiently, for our conversation interrupted his routine; he then took his oath that she was not padded, and bade her exhibit her leg. She did so, and it was like the mast of a ship.
I dropped five cents into her plate and passed on to Mlle. Jeanne. The Princess had been large enough; Mlle. Jeanne was larger. She wore her panoply of flesh less like a flower than did her rival. Her expression was less placid; she panted distressfully as she fanned her bulk. But in conversation she relaxed. She too was happy, except in such heat. She neither rode a bicycle nor walked—save two or three steps. As her name indicated, she too was unmarried, although, her manager interjected, few wives could make a better omelette. But men are cowards, and such fortresses very formidable.
As we talked, the manager, who had entered the booth as blase an entrepreneur as the Continent holds, showed signs of animation. In time he grew almost enthusiastic and patted Mlle.'s arms with pride. He assisted her to exhibit her leg quite as though its glories were also his. The Princess's leg had been like the mast of a ship; this was like the trunk of a Burnham beech.
And here, at Flushing, we leave the country. I should have liked to have steamed down the Scheldt to Antwerp on one of the ships that continually pass, if only to be once more among the friendly francs with their noticeable purchasing power, and to saunter again through the Plantin Museum among the ghosts of old printers, and to stand for a while in the Museum before Van Eyck's delicious drawing of Saint Barbara. But it must not be. This is not a Belgian book, but a Dutch book; and here it ends.
 The whole dress worn by the Prince on this tragical occasion is still to be seen at The Hague in the National Museum.—Motley.
 The house now called the Prinsen Hof (but used as a barrack) still presents nearly the same appearance as it did in 1584.—Motley.
 Mendoza's estimate of the entire population as numbering only fourteen thousand before the siege is evidently erroneous. It was probably nearer fifty thousand.—Motley.
 Since writing the above passage I am reminded by a correspondent that Louis XIV. described the Dutch as a nation of shopkeepers and Napoleon merely borrowed and adapted the phrase.
 "With the Rederijkern," Longfellow adds, "Hood's amusing 'Nocturnal Sketch' would have been a Driedobbelsteert, or a poem with three tails;—
Even is come; and from the dark park, hark, The signal of the setting sun, one gun! And six is sounding from the chime, prime time To go and see the Drury-Lane Dane slain. Anon Night comes, and with her wings brings things Such as with his poetic tongue Young sung."