THE ensuing evening was spent indoors, making plans for future campaigns. Our yachting trip had cost only three gulden ($1.20) apiece, exclusive of luncheon and of the highway robbery to which frequent use of the camera had subjected us. “But then, you know,” Mater remarked, “a true `artist’ must expect to pay his models.”
Meanwhile, Pater was interviewing his unfailing friend, the portier, and learned that we should have to begin our motor trip as early as seven-thirty, next morning.
Whatever a traveler would do without the hotel’s portier is too serious a question to be lightly raised; the plainest inference is that he would do hardly any-thing at all. The portier is the original friend in need, if there ever was one; he is the universal interpreter, bank of exchange, “handy guide and city directory,” arbiter of everyone’s plans, routes and destinationsall embodied in one large gold-bound edition. Had he not been much indebted to this wearer of the gold-edged cap and resplendent uniform, Pater might have added that he is a born “jollier” and foresworn ally of the room clerk in making “third-floor-back” accommodations appear more desirable than those wired for on the “second-floor-front.” I have never ceased to marvel at the lady who could twice address one of these dictators as “portière”and live.
Objections to early rising did not prevent the ladies from appearing promptly next morning, when our handsome F. I. A. T. car drew up at the door. We were politely handed aboard by the chauffeur and solicitously tucked in beneath rugs and dust robes. With a cheery tarantara of the bugle, so different from the wail or croak of the customary auto-horn, we headed for the Haarlem road.
Our chauffeur, unlike the proverbial Dutchman, proved quite loquacious; his English was not the clearest, but close attention on our part and unabashed confidence on his made the conversation fairly intelligible. It was decidedly interesting.
He drew attention to the fact that we were crossing the Haarlemmer Polderthat vast reclaimed area, seventy-two square miles in extent, formerly Haarlem lakeand he spoke of the IJ Polder further north. He told of the sluice gates at Halfweg, passed on our way from Amsterdam; how these formerly kept the IJ’s waters out of the Haarlemmer Polder, and how, if re-opened, they would even now flood the entire country from Amsterdam to Haarlem and, perhaps, as far south as Leiden (Leyden) and Utrecht.
He pointed out the pumping station, continually busy; and the water gauges (stuck in the canals like huge bath thermometers) used to aid pumping station engineers, lock-keepers and gatekeepers in various parts of the country, in maintaining the water at its proper level. No idle precaution, when one considers that vast, complicated system of water-highways and the many towns and farms below its level.
He spoke of plans, long under way, for reclaiming the Zuyder Zeea tremendous undertaking, estimated to cost at least 125 million francs. Originally, the cofferdam was to cross the narrows from Medemblick to Stavoren with provision for allowing the waters of the Yssel and Vecht to escape to sea; recently this plan has been modified, perhaps to avoid these two rivers, and the dam is to go from Enkhuizen to the island of Urk, thence to a spot just below Kampen.
So it appears that the Dutch, feeling that they have at last beaten old Father Ocean to a standstill, have decided to assume the aggressive and wrest from his watery grasp the lands seized seven centuries ago. Why not ? Despite the death and destruction it caused, the Zuyder Zee is hardly over seventeen feet deep within the prescribed area.
Medemblick and Stavoren are both “dead cities.” The latter, once the home of Frisian princes, was very rich and powerful, and they say its inhabitants carried ostentation to the extent of gilding the railings and doors of their houses, as well as many ordinary utensils. The popular legend of Stavoren’s downfall is interesting ; no “Mene, Tekel, Upharsin” appeared upon the walls, yet the mills of God ground so exceeding small that its doom was brought about by the idle whim of an ambitious woman. When one of her husband’s ships was about to sail she instructed the captain to bring back for her, “the most precious thing in the world.” The luckless mariner, interpreting this order according to his wholesome views, returned with a cargo of wheat from Danzig; furious that her visions of fine gold, priceless jewels and who knows what, were blighted, the woman ordered the entire cargo thrown overboard then and there. And, so the story goes, this grain took root and grew, and formed the nucleus of a great sand bar that stopped up the port of Stavoren and ended its prosperity. To this day, the bar is called the Vrouwen-sand.
What a chain of calamitiesmerited and unmerited, according to traditionforms the history of the Zuyder Zee; merited or not, the Dutch nation has suffered a scourge of fire and sword and sack sufficient to expiate any sin. Perhaps we shall live to see the day when the Zuyder Zee has been reclaimed, and its “dead cities”revived and flourishinghave had their haunting ghosts laid forever.
“Landsakes !” said Mater, quite subdued by this flood of information, “to think we are below sea level half the time. Why, it gives me the creeps!”
“Yes, milady,” answered the chauffeur, “there vas once a time ven a liddle insect dat ate de vood of de dikes made us more afraid den all the armees of Spain; ve Hollanders need to work and vatch, for de sea never sleeps.” After this bit of real eloquence, he was silent and thoughtful.
To get accustomed to the sight of boats with sails set, apparently crossing distant meadows, was difficult; but a country originally destined for the bottom of the sea might be expected to furnish nautical paradoxes. Our acquaintance with rounded bridges over canals was renewed in the course of this journey; the road-way went up a slight incline to the bridge level, then down the other sidegiving the impression of a huge American thank-you-ma’am without its uncomfortable jolt.
We enjoyed the occasional bursts of high speed a clear path beside the fields permitted. While we were pausing to view some point of interest a big limousine passed; for a moment all felt mortified, but our chauffeur said, with an air of great contempt : “Oh, dat’s only a `Adler.’ Ve soon catch up to heem.”
“That’s only an Adler,” we echoed, with the air of one to the manner born. And, sure enough, we soon passed the despised Adler and left it far behind.
At first, nervousness about meeting horses bothered us, for we had been “the other fellow” too often not to dread the possibility of causing a runaway ; but the actions of these sedate quadrupeds reassured us. Perhaps one would raise his nose a trifle higher, or another carry his high collar still more proudly and jingle his harness impatiently, as if to say, “you smelly, flyaway things may make a great to-do, but you’ll never equal a real horse like me;” beyond this they took no notice of us. One Young Lady insists they actually smiled at us in a superior sort of way, but I should hardly care to carry my assertion that far.
Before long, ruins of an ancient fort came into sight. Then the towering nave and fine fantastic broachspire of St. Bavo loomed against the sky.
“Here is dear old Haarlem, at last,” cried Mater, with the proprietary interest of one who had long looked forward to visiting a place.
“Huh, anybody would think you’d known it all your life,” remarked the Youth.
“Maybe I haven’t, but perhaps my ancestors did, and yours too, if I may say so.”
For reasons of expediency our chauffeur did not take us through Spaarnewouder Poort, the only remaining city gate, but, after crossing the river Spaarne with its market quays, drove along a shady street where a flower market was in progress. Haarlem is the renowned city of flowers and, since we were too late for the gay fields of tulips, hyacinths, crocuses and so on, we were grateful to be given at least a glimpse of some of the flowers. “This is the home of `Semper Augustus,’ ” remarked Pater, “and `Admiral Lief-kens.’ ”
In the seventeenth century, the Dutch began a tulip-bulb speculation that makes our Wall Street an innocent playground by comparison; one speculator is said to have cleared 68,000 florins in a few months by the sale of bulbs or roots; one town, 10,000,000 florins in a year. Fabulous prices were paid for bulbs of rare varieties; a single Semper Augustus bulb brought 13,000 florins, and one of the Admiral Liefkens 4,500. Eventually the government intervened, and so the bubble burst, carrying many down to ruin.
Following a narrow, winding street and dodging drays and pushcarts, the auto emerged on the square in front of the town halloriginally a palace of the counts of Holland, dating from 1520; it is not comparable with the town halls at Leyden or Middleburg, for even the restoration, in 1620, did not make it very attractive, though the wing on the Zylestraat (added a few years later) is a quite commendable building. Access to the collections is not permitted before ten o’clock, so we set about exploring the town.
The Groote Markt is a good center for this purpose. Opposite the town hall rises St. Bavo (the Groote Kerk) which, while its design may be open to criticism, is certainly an imposing church, with a nave overshadowing the whole market place.
Near the middle of the square is a statue of Lorenz Coster (Laurence the Sexton) whom you will venerateif you are Dutchas the inventor of printing. Otherwise, you may allow the claim of Germany’s Gutenberg to this same distinction; and if you chance to consult your guidebook, Coster’s claim will vanish into thin air in the face of Baedeker’s ponderous, crushing arguments. However, “here’s to mesilf and the both of thim,” as the Irishman said.
Opposite St. Bavo’s is the Vleeschhal, or meat market, said to be the quaintest brick-and-stone building in all Holland. Certainly it is an admirable exponent of Dutch style. This structure owns to the age of three-hundred and six years and, in spite of the profusion and restlessness of ornamentation, is of strong de-sign. Never, in anyone’s wildest guess, would it have been a meat market; nor, indeed, should it have been.
St. Bavo has not yet been stripped of the little shops clustering along its side, like mud swallows’ nestsif you will permit a simile upside downunder the eaves of a farmhouse; these shops, while detracting from its architecture, add charm and carry one back to the Middle Ages far faster than could a monumental environment. A visitor might almost imagine himself entering one of them when, after banging a brass knocker, he slips through a little, green door into the sacristan’s house on the south side of the choir. The bare, white-washed interiorfrequent in Dutch churches and, in a measure, disappointingimparts a grave, austere character, and emphasizes the height of the building; while the great, round columns carrying its vaulting add much to this dignity. Observing some recently uncovered, original color-decorations upon these pillars, one is inclined to think a place of worship as well off, perhaps, without such rich decorative schemes; though to include stained glass in this condemnation would be extreme, as it seems essentially structural and, when well executed, possesses individual solemnity. The fanciful details of the fine choir screen and stalls of St. Bavo’s are very interesting, but the monuments, except one in memory of Conrad, engineer of the Katwyk locks, are not worth noticing. The Youth’s sharp eyes discovered models of ships suspended from some of the archeshung there in 1668 to replace even older models presented by the Dutch-Swedish Trading Companyand, for a country with Holland’s history, they appeared appropriate even in a church. While fully as odd, they seemed prettier and more artistic than the “sacred codfish” of the Boston tate House.
It transpired afterward that, for a fee of thirteen florins, we might have enjoyed a private organ recital. What a pity to have missed it! In that vast edifice it could hardly fail to produce a splendid and lasting impression.
Outside, in the merry sunshine, a valuable ally in provoking everyone to easy-going good humor, a trap was set for the unwary. A rummage sale was in progress along the curb, and most of the sidewalk was covered with old furniture, old china, andirons, brass candlesticks, warming-pans, and other artful accessories of a dealer in antiques. The ladies were en-chanted, and even Scoffy and the Youth gave unmistakable signs of yielding to temptation; all Pater’s hard-earned diplomacy was required to prevent the day’s program from being completely ignored in the face of such tempting bait. This street leads past the Teyler Museum to the Kaas Markt on the banks of the Spaarne. The end house is the indispensable cheese weigh-house, a nice old building, though not unusually quaint. On the Groote Markt opposite the Vleeschhal is an old town hall, said to antedate the meat marketbut it has been quite extensively re-modeled.
We concluded our visit by inspecting the interior of the present town hall which contains a fine collection of paintings, notably those by Frans Hals, who is often considered, next to Rembrandt, the greatest Dutch painter. Frans Hals was of Haarlem parentage and lived and worked in Haarlem, though not born there.
Little exists to remind us of Haarlem’s melancholy part in the Dutch war of independence; old ramparts have been leveled and converted into promenades and only one city gate stands to recall her desperate, heroic, seven-months’ defense against the flower of the Spanish army, and the horrible massacre that followed. Readers of Rider Haggard’s “Lysbeth” will probably recall the story of this siege. Pater was on his good behavior, not once referring to New York’s Harlem in Scoffy’s presence, though his eye twitched spasmodically when the subject of Bloemendaal was broached; we had spoken of going north a few miles to the village of Bloemendaal, purely out of regard for our old village of Bloomingdale in New York City and in memory of the Boulevard, now Broadway, but once Bloomingdale Road. Bloemendaal, oddly enough, maintains a large lunatic asylum as did its New York cousin for many years, but as our guidebook promised nothing better than the ruins of the old Brederode château, we cut it out of our program and headed south toward Leiden (Leyden). Just beyond Haarlem is the Haarlemmer Hout, a piece of fine old forest with many beech and lime-tree avenues.
Holland justly boasts of having some of the most beautiful motor roads in the world; broad, shady avenues with never a rut nor a hole are paved with clinker brick on edge, which eliminate all dust or mud and, while perfectly smooth to ride upon, give a nonskid-ding grip to the tires in any weather. The way is al-most invariably shady, even on the smaller dirt roads which, in lieu of pavement, have a narrow brick strip in the middle for horses to trot upon.
We all admired the trees and woods of this region, for our way was lined with many beautiful private parks. Cool, fragrant groves hid the houses and we longed to pause, cross the still dewy grass, and penetrate those mysterious, leafy bowers ; feeling sure there would be no house at all, only a mischievous faun or two, or -a startled woodland nymph. Indeed, these groves are said to be part of the original forest; looking at the trees’ huge moss-covered boles, one’s mind traveled back easily to days when this smiling country was a huge “Dismal Swamp”a tangled morass with but few spots of solid ground tenable for the wild beasts and wilder men; involuntarily came the thought of pagan rites, and Druid sacrifices, and the horrid blood-offerings of the Baddahuenna Wood on the shores of the vanished Lake Flevo, not many miles east.
Bound for Leyden, the car sped through Bennebroek, Hillegon, Lisse, and other villages. A peculiar phenomenon heralded the approach to every onea veritable “snowstorm” of what seemed to be feathers. As noon arrived, our theory that the Dutch housewives were airing bedding became untenable ; whether the season for beating and remaking feather-beds was at hand or whether live-goose feathers were ripe and being plucked, we could not determine; and our chauffeur’s information or English seemed to fail him in this emergency.
The road now had a trekvaart alongsidea sort of steam tramwaywhich connects these small towns and brings them in touch with Haarlem and Leiden. The trains were cumbrous affairs, two or three cars with a dummy engine, and achieved no greater speed than ten or twelve miles per hour. To the evident disgust of the passengers, our automobile often left them behind, cutting across in front of the train with the nonchalance due to superior equipment. We passed many a train that day, heaping insult upon insult by the mocking call of our bugle and the smiles on our faces as we swept proudly onward. Later in the day the trekvaart took occasion to vent its accumulated spleen upon us in one grand coup de main, as you shall see. We then felt duly humiliated, and “it,” no doubt, correspondingly elated. The tracks of these tramways must be of standard gauge, for the regulation freight carssmall enough, to be sure, to American eyesare run upon them. In several villages, merchants could be seen unloading freight brought from the main railroad to their very doors.
But the mode of traffic that afforded endless amusement was what Scoffy called the “dog express.” You may see these dog wagons all over Hollandlittle three-wheeled vans shaped like a delivery boy’s covered pushcart, usually drawn by two dogs resembling small mastiffs ; the driver always sits on the cart, and as he is bowled along the smooth road behind his spanking trotters, the thought of cruelty to animals never occurs to you. It would seem that dogs do not answer to the rein nor even to the “haw” and “gee” to which oxen may be broken, for each cart is provided with guiding handles like those of a plow. At the first sound of our bugle the “dog man” hopped from his perch with great alacrity and guided his charges to the side of the road; maybe, simply fear of a runaway caused him to act so promptly. A runaway horse is trouble enough, but runaway dogs might seek the fields and be lost altogether; moreover, dogs not afraid of an auto might chase itan equal calamity for the owner of canine steeds.
Tiny, gaily painted houses often lined the way. Where the road followed a small canal, houses lying on its further side had, each, a drawbridge like a feudal castle. Occupants leave their wooden shoes outside tie door, and these rows of papa shoes, big-sister and little-baby shoes, etc., furnished mute announcement that their owners were within :”Obviating the necessity of sending out at-home cards, and all that sort of rot, don’t you know,” said Scoffy.
It was gratifying to meet everywhere the peasant dress; not as distinctive as in Volendam and Marken, to be sure, but picturesque and instructive. The re-served men and neat, comely women, the grave, tow-headed youngsterswho occasionally broke into unexpected bursts of mischiefmade a happy picture of the Hollanders’ home life. Strange traffic on land and water, strange buildings, strange scenes and customs claimed our attention constantly. Without expatiating further, let me say that we were seeing the real Holland as never beforeand as we had never before seen any foreign country.
Presently, another leg of our course was accomplished in the approach to Leyden. Entering from the north and traversing devious highways and bywaystwice crossing the Rhine, which flows through the city in the guise of several canalsthe chauffeur drove into Breede Straat, containing many of the principal points of interest.
There is the Museum Van Oudheden, housing extensive collections of Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiquities. There is the fine Gemeendlandshuis van Rijnland, attributed to the famous architect, Lieven de Key, but recently restored. A little further on comes the stadhuis, perhaps one of the finest examples of Dutch style at the close of the sixteenth century. Though on a narrow street, its stairway forms a rather good approach, and the fantastic gables remind one of England’s Jacobean style without its crudeness and monotony of design. The side entrance, to the north, recalls the terrible siege of 1573-1574 in the following chronogram :
“Nae zWarte hVnger-noot gebraCht had tot de toot bInaest zes-dVlzent MensChen : aL’st god den heer Verdroot gaf hI Vns Weder broot zo VeeL WI CVnsten WensChen.”
This, freely translated, meansa black famine had brought death to most six thousand people, when God the Lord was grieved, and gave us bread again, as much as we could wish. In this writing (W’s counted as two V’s) the capitals record the date, and the number of letters, the number of days the uninterrupted siege lastedone hundred and thirty-one. George Ebers, in “The Burgomaster’s Wife,” draws a rather mild picture. There was comparatively little fighting owing to the town’s known lack of supplies, but on this account famine and pestilence were the more horrible. This siege was as cruel, heartbreaking and decimating as the siege of Haarlem, but had a happier ending; for William the Silent pierced the dikes, flooded the country and brought a fleet to rescue Ley-den’s gallant defendersthus averting the impending sack and massacre.
At the beginning of things, so to speak, the Nether-lands were the home of Celts (dwelling in what is now Belgium) and of various German tribes such as the Batavians and Frisians. Charlemagne, continuing the work of his predecessors, finally conquered them. When his empire was divided among his three grand-sons, nearly all the Netherlands lay in the middle division that fell to Lothar (Lothaire) ; with the death of Lothar and of his sons this portion was divided between Lothar’s brothers : King Ludwig, the German, taking Friesland and Lotharingia (Lorraine), and King Charles the Bald, Burgundy and Provence.
The duke of Lotharingia’s power declined, and thus there arose in his domain various strong counties and duchies such as Flanders, Guelders, Brabant, Holland, Zeeland, Hainault, and the bishopric of Utrecht. As Lotharingia waned Burgundy waxed powerful until, in the fifteenth century, its duke, Charles the Bold, was one of the leading princes of Europe; bit by bitby purchase, by inheritance, and in devious other convenient waysthe bulk of those northern lands was acquired by Burgundy, and when Maximilian of Austria married the heiress of Charles the Bold, the Nether-lands went to the house of Hapsburg. This interesting match forms the basis of Charles Major’s “Yolanda.”
Maximilian of Hapsburg, archduke of Austria, was elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; his son Philip, duke of Burgundy, married the heiress of Ferdinand and Isabella, and their son, Charles I of Spain, was elected to the imperial throne as Charles V. Through the original Lotharingia being part of the empire, through Burgundy as subsequent owner, and finally as elected emperorCharles V certainly united in his person all claims to the Netherlands. Indeed, he was born herein Ghentand always had a strong liking for the people.
Nevertheless Charles V was really the first to plant the Inquisition in the Netherlands, and to re-establish the Council of Mechlin to override civic rights. It irritated him to have so many separate towns, counties, provinces, and the like, each obstinately insisting upon special charters and privileges, each claiming sufficient religious freedom to be dabbling in strange philosophies and beliefs ; to grind down the Netherlands into a homogeneous whole he designed these two terrible weapons against religious and political liberty. Charles was not a fanatic; ruler of unusually great possessions, he was striving to weld together an empire mightier than Charlemagne’s. Though the Church claimed many thousand victims and punishment for any resistance was swift and severe, he was far too busy to give subjection of the Netherlands undivided personal attention so long as her millions of revenue flowed into his coffers with comparative steadiness. Ceding the Netherlands to his son (Philip II of Spain) put a very different face upon the matter. Not only was Philip a fanatic sworn to uphold the Church and the Inquisition, but disappointment in failing to receive the entire empire from his father determined him to exploit the financial resources of the Netherlands to the very limit. His chosen instrument for attaining these ends was the duke of Alva, whom he appointed “captain-general.”
This war of the Inquisition against Dutch independence was a titanic strugglea record of murder, sack, rapine, massacre. The list of innocent, unarmed people deliberately slaughtered stands almost unequaled in the annals of history.
When condemning and killing heretics by hundreds did not further the plans of bloody Alva with the wished-for speed, he decided to waste no more time on individual condemnation proceedings and, through his royal master, laid the matter before the Inquisition. The Holy Office declared all the inhabitants of the Netherlands condemned to death as heretics. That the extermination of this entire people was not accomplished, once seemed to hinge, one might almost say, on the mere fact that the prisons would not hold them all and that the arms of the executioners were subject to the limitations of physical endurance.
On occasions where the Dutch found opportunity to entrench and defend themselves, the struggle made the proverb “When Greek meets Greek” seem pointless. Alva mustered the pick of the Spanish army; hardened veterans, and professional fightersmen who loved fighting for fighting’s sake, who would forego meat, drink and sleep rather than be cheated of a battle; perfectly armed and equipped, they were apparently invincible. Against this the Dutch mustered an unusual natural resource, an indomitable grit, and an irrepressible disinclination to stay beaten no matter what the odds or how great the reverse. They were fighting for their homes, for their wives and children. The womenactive, strong, courageous, and by no means to be despised as adversariesfought side by side with the men; moreover, all were caught like rats in a trap and, foredoomed, faced the plain alternative of a quick death of their own choosing, as against the torture and atrocities of their enemies’ devising. Yet the odds would have been against them but for one fact never suspected by the enemy until he learned it to his cost. The Hollanders came of a race that for untold centuries had been engaged in sustaining a pre-carious existence by endless battle with the sea; their lifelong training in cheerfully subsisting in the face of instant destruction, and the tireless energy and un-failing ingenuity necessary to this unequal struggle, had bred a remarkable resource and a power to surmount all obstacles.
The sea never eats nor drinks nor sleeps nor tires. To them it proved a ruthless enemy yet an unfailing teacher. When you consider that most of Holland was wrested from the grasp of the sea, and that the Dutchsurpassing Canutewas the only nation to call a halt to the “resistless” waters and say, “thus far shalt thou come and no farther,” you get an inkling of the vital strength which enabled them to survive even the full force of the Inquisition.
The Spaniards fought with the usual arms and in most approved fashion. The Dutch fought with tar and pitch, scalding water and boiling oil; fought half-dead with hunger, half-fainting with fatigue; they fought in ships on their lakes and seas, fought under-ground in mines and countermines; they fought in water up to their necks, ‘and on the ice on skates. When none of these resources would avail to drive the Spaniards out they fell back on their last, great resourcethey broke the dikes and loosed the floods of that watery monster which had required centuries to bind. The Spanish soldiery had persisted in the face of all this unusual warfare and unprecedented opposition, but breaking the dikes was the last straw, and when, to cap this climax, a new Spanish leader made a few vital mistakes regarding “no pay” and “short rations,” they relinquished Alva’s great fight and began foraging for themselves along the lines of least resistance. The sea raised Leyden’s siege, and the threat of letting loose the sea raised the siege of Alkmaar, north of Haarlem. These events, following the seizure of Briel by the “water-beggars” and the naval victory over Admiral Bossu, determined the downfall of the Spanish invaders and the independence of the Dutch.
Such are the dark pages in the history of this sunny, smiling country. No wonder the men look serious and preoccupied ; no wonder even little children often seem grave and thoughtful.
It was in memory of the gallant defense of Leyden, some say as a reward therefor, that the university of Leyden was founded. Neither handsome nor picturesque in appearance, those buildings of the old Jacobin nunnery have had a memorable history, for some of the greatest scholars of bygone days either studied or taught there; even now its schools of medicine and natural science are of more than national repute.
Van der Werf Park in the southern part of the town occupies a section devastated, in 1807, by the explosion of a powder-ship, and contains a statue of Burgomaster Van der Werf who led the gallant defenders in that memorable siege of 1574. Almost directly behind the stadhuis is De Burcht (the Castle), a curious old structure of a foundation antedating the tenth century, while the mound upon which it is erected is said to be the work of Hengist.
We did not linger in Leyden. The ride in the fresh air, and our mental and bodily activities had provoked a rousing appetite that urged us to push on to Utrecht, the stop selected for our midday meal.
Eastward out of Leyden the road followed what appeared to be a great canal, which our chauffeur said was nothing else than the Old Rhine. Had he traveled west instead of east, a few miles would have brought us to Katwyk-an-Zee, where the Old Rhine once sought a desultory exit to the North Sea ; beaten back at high tide it was wont to flood the countryside for miles around. In the ninth century a great storm closed the outlet entirely, but Engineer Conrad installed pumps to drain the marshes, confined the river with dikes, and built great locks that keep out the sea at high tide yet allow the river’s waters to escape when the tide is low.
The trip along the Rhine was ideal. Queer craft upon the water drew our eyes on one side, while life ashore as persistently demanded our attention on the other. Some of the towns are beautifully situated, and their fine trees called forth unending admiration. Several villages were gaily decorated with flags and bunting, “in honor of our visit,” Pater declared. We learned that it was for some church festival.
The old town of Woerden on the Rijn (Rhine) was twice cruelly plundered by the French, and twice re-occupied by the Dutch ; at its entrance stand remains of a castle, once the seat of the lords of Woerden and now a warehouse. The fortifications have been leveled.
Near Harmelen two stylish turnouts approached us, drawn by spirited horses that cut a few capers at the sight of our car. Pater wondered whether, by any chance, they hailed from the ancient château Ter Haar, near by, which has recently been rebuilt by some rich baron. In the pleasure of the ride, hunger was forgotten and with surprise we saw the venerable town of Utrecht rise before us.
” `Friends, Romans, countrymen,’ and all others present,” declaimed Pater, ” `lend me your ears.’ Here is what remains of ancient, powerful Utrechtthe Roman Trajectum ad Rhenum ( ford of the Rhine) and great `City of Churches’ of the Middle Ages ; Dagobert, king of the Franks, founded Utrecht’s first church twelve centuries ago, and today this is the last strong-hold of the Dutch Catholics. The archbishops of Utrecht were among the most powerful prelates of the Middle Agespowerful, in a temporal sense, and they had their fingers in many pies they would have to es-chew, nowadays, as of earth entirely too earthly.
“At Utrecht was signed the declaration of independence, so to speak, of the Netherland provinces of Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Guelders, Over-Issel, Friesland and Groningen. It was drafted in the hall of the Academy of Utrecht in the presence of Count John of Nassaubrother of poor William the Silent, that Washington of Dutch independence who might have seen the fruition of his life’s long struggle had not the hand of an assassin laid him low. These northern provinces of the Netherlands form the Holland of today, and the southern provinces (such as Flanders and Brabant) which had not achieved independence, eventually be-came modern Belgium. The states-general assembled at Utrecht until the seat of government was transferred to The Hague; in 1713 was signed the peace which closed the War of the Spanish Succession. Do any of you recall the peace of Utrecht? Children, you should know these things; do none of you learn history nowadays ?”
All felt the implied rebuke.
“Yes, yes,” said Scoffy, the incorrigible. “The name has a familiar sound. I remember” and, having won his audience, he slyly continued, “I remember New Utrecht, out on Long Island beyond the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. Often when a boy, I wandered there past fertile fields and old Dutch farmhouses. Since then, bold speculators have cut up those fair fields into building lots, and enterprising wights have covered them with cheap houses. Mea culpa, mea culpa !” The laughter greeting Pater’s surprise at this sally almost caused the chauffeur to drive into the Stads Buiten gracht, but we crossed the bridge, safely, into Utrecht.
It is interesting to note that although Brooklyn’s name appears on some old English surveys as Brooklandsrather than Breukelen, the Dutch name many would ascribe to itthe settlement was, in many ways, more typically Dutch than either Harlem or Bloomingdale. Anyone who, like the author, was born and brought up in Brooklyn and lived there many years, will testify that here is a city preserving much of the serene, unchanging atmosphere Americans admire so greatly in Holland, though they decry it at homea city where it is possible to live in peace and comfort and even to know one’s neighbors. A recent visit to the place of the author’s birth showed that its environment had remained absolutely unchanged for more than a generation, and one member of the family, having no taste for the noise and dirt and bustle of Manhattan, moved back near the old home and was able to renew the associations and friendships of childhood’s days. Only a few years ago, admirers of Holland might have seen an old Dutch farmhouse standing on Fulton Street opposite Arlington Place, in the very center of Brooklyn; in fact, it is there today, though lost to sight behind a modern store-front.
Our chauffeur had calculated on cutting across the Vredenburgthe site of the castle built by Emperor Charles V when he obtained the temporal power of Utrechtbut the way was barred, so he had to retrace his course and drive completely around the square. A horsefair, or horse market, was in progress, and it was necessary to drive quite gingerly to avoid the crowds of bidders and the many young horses. Finally he gained the upper Oude-gracht which contains two interesting structures : the Huis Oudaennow a home for the ageda fine patrician dwelling of the fourteenth century, and the Rijks Munt, almost opposite, where all the money for Holland and her East Indian colonies is coined. Following the Oude-gracht as far as the stadhuis, the way was again blocked, this time by street repairs ; so our driver was obliged to cross the gracht and make his way to the Hotel Pays-Bas by quite a circuitous route.
“It’s a good thing that our chauffeur knows his way,” said Mater, “else we might waste an hour in driving through these curly streets.”
The hotel is charmingly located on the side of a square called St. Jan’s Kerkhof, in the middle of which stands, embowered in trees, the old Romanesque St. Jan’s Kerk with its late Gothic choir. This was our first example of two greatly contrasting styles of architecture in one building. From the name of the square we judged it might have been the original cemetery. Doubtless many a cherished churchyard, obliged to give way before the press of growing life in these old towns, has thus, though lost to sight in a modern square, continued to live in the memory of the people.
Of the many strange churches we saw, the Dom (cathedral) of St. Martin’s in Utrecht was perhaps the strangest. It has no nave; there is a fine old choir, and a lofty tower, and between them a gapa gap as conspicuous and irritating as one caused by missing front teeth in the mouth of a pretty girl. No temporary gap either, this of St. Martin’s ; for it consists of a square adorned with a statue of Count John of Nassau, and a thriving trolley-line runs between the choir and the tower. Carlisle cathedral in England has no nave, beyond a Norman fragment, but is at least a continuous building.
Going in quest of the sacristan, Pater led us through the old cloisters which form a public thoroughfare. No one visiting Utrecht should miss them, for they are very handsome and as venerable in appearance, if not as extensive, as those of Canterbury cathedral. We could not find the sacristan so, being assured the church was open, we began the inspection of its interior without a guide; stationary pews, in place of chairs, may be a source of comfort to the congregation, but they impede the movements of the sightseer. The choir of St. Martin’s proved this, for one may, here, no longer stroll about at will, nose in the air and eyes busy with roofs, capitals, monuments and windows. Nor was it easy to find in the stone floor, the eagles marking the resting place of the hearts of Emperors Conrad II and Henry V who died in Utrecht. The fourteenth century tomb of Bishop Guy of Hainault was duly inspected, as were several others, but by that time our narrow circuitous paths among the pews were dampening all enthusiasm, and by common consent we made for the exit.
“This was once one of the largest and finest churches in the Netherlands,” said Pater, “and its tower affords a view of nearly all Holland and much of Guelders and North Brabant.” The tower, in course of renovation, was covered with scaffolding and, as this added to the customary difficulties of such an ascent, we decided to rest content with seeing all Holland from our own pro-per sphere rather than from the bird’s point of view. Adjoining the cloisters on the south stands the university ; its aula was originally the chapter-house of the cathedral.
The Archiepiscopal Museum held no special attraction since none of us was in the mood for early religious art. But we did wish to see the Lodge of the Teutonic Order, across the way; which pleasure, for lack of previous written application to the secretary, we were obliged to forego.
Having given the Youth due time for the serious question of selecting souvenir postcards, and finding our car in readiness, there was no reason to delay resumption of the journey. Thanks to unusual dexterity, our chauffeur managed to take us past the old “pope’s house” and thence out on to the Maliebaan.
The Young Ladies were looking for a Germanic sacrificial stone, said to have been thrown by the devil across a newly dug canal in derision of its width. Their informant vouchsafed the further information that the stone is now chained to a housean unwise precaution, since his sulphurous majesty might be tempted to throw it back again, house and all, in derision of the chain. But, though we subjected even the most respectable looking houses to close scrutiny we got no glimpse of a chained stone nor of any other deviltry.
Crossing the Singel Gracht we noted its sharp projecting angles indicative, like the Singels of Amsterdam and Leyden, of former bastions. The ramparts, according to prevailing custom, have been leveled and converted into pleasant promenades.
The Maliebaan, that celebrated triple avenue of lime trees, spared at the express command of Louis XIV when the French troops were devastating Utrecht, was a disappointment. As in the parades of some Grand Army Posts, where boys carry the trappings of their parents, there was too much young growth to render the sight impressive. Louis might have saved himself the trouble. But perhaps he was wise, and sought to avert an unpleasant prospect such as con-fronted French prisoners of 187o, in Berlin, when they were directed to replant the Grunewald cut down by Napoleon I.
After this detour we were soon back upon the road to Amersfoort. The Old Rhine branches at Utrecht, the north branch being known as Vecht. Our road took us northeast, while the Rhine followed a south-flows westward, almost parallel with the Neder Rijn, At Wyk there is another division, the main river (above and to the east of Wyk), being called the Neder Rijn, while below Wyk, to the west, it becomes the Lek which flows into the Maas near Rotterdam. If you follow the Neder Rijn eastward upstream, to the point where it becomes the real “father” Rhine, you find another division, and the branch which flows westward, almost parallel with the Neder Rijn, is the Waal. The Waal has the ill luck, further downstream, to join the Maas, whereupon the joint river immediately becomes the Merwede. But this is by no means final, as the stream divides again and be-comes respectively the Maas and Oude Maas. Indeed, the Maas and the Waal came perilously near joining once before, just east of the town of Bommell. Had that happened, the complicated relationship in the Rhine family could probably be solved only by differential calculus.
Such a fuss and pother to inflict upon a quiet, well-behaved river which has come all the way from Lake Constance and, having done its plain duty in supplying falls and rapids, in turning mill wheels, and carrying pleasure-craft and cargoes, desires nothing better than to get to sea as quickly and quietly as possible. It requires no great stretch of imagination to believe that only an expert can tell the name of a stream in Holland; or, having determined it is a river and not some canal, can affirm it really is that rivernot some other masquerading under a new name.
The way to Amersfoort was enlivened by the sight of many peasants driving home with led horses purchased at the horsefair. These young and skittish creatures, their tails tied up in bright red wrappings, still carried conspicuous numbers upon their glossy backs. Our chauffeur gave them a wide berth, having no wish to receive the imprint of iron-shod hoofs either on his person or on the varnish of his car, but nothing untoward happened and the farmers contemplated his extreme caution with a smile of good-natured irony.
Amersfoort is noted principally for its medieval gates and for its fine old tower of St. Mary’s, which remained intact when, towards the end of the eighteenth century, a powder explosion destroyed the church. We got a very pleasing view of it across a grachtor was it, perhaps, the river Eem; no expert was present to decide the question. We were not sufficiently fortunate to hear the carillon, reputed to be very sweet.
The town gates, especially the water gate (Koppel-Poort), proved interesting enough although, as Pater remarked, there was “too much plain, clean, brick wall” about the latter to permit of its looking picturesque.
Beyond Utrecht the country had appeared bare and uninteresting, but near Amersfoort we could actually see hills in the distance. Hills in Holland ! Think of it! “Huh, I’d rather live here than in the `flats,’ even if I were a Dutchman, and I guess that other people would, too,” remarked the Youth. Nor was he wrong in his conjecture, for both Baarn and Hilversum abound in handsome villas of rich city people; Baarnsche Bosch, near by, is a fine piece of woods and the surrounding drives are attractive.
Nearing a crossroad partially obscured by trees our chauffeur slowed down, took the crossing rather care-fully, and answered the interrogation on our faces by pointing out a monument at the roadside where a man was killed in a motor crash. Pater thought it might have a beneficial effect were this idea followed in the United States, though people slowed down only to ad-mire the monument.
Soestdyke, a palace belonging to the crown, situated near the Baarnsche Bosch, was presented by the Diet of 1816 to the Prince of Orange in appreciation of his gallant conduct at the battle of Waterloo. The flag indicated the presence of royalty, but we did not stop to “leave cards,” as Mater suggested, nor even to go through the park, open to the public. The cross-roads in Baarn again called for praise of the beautiful trees, shading the green like the great old elms of a New England village. Further along, we passed a road labeled “closed to motors”the first of its kind we had met. Presently the car was running along-side a huge dike and, through occasional gaps giving access to the fields beyond, we could see a large polder and catch a glimpse of the Zuyder Zee.
Hilversum has a castle at the end of a wooded ridge, a situation that must afford a clear sweep across the sea and much of the surrounding country ; whether the structure should be classed as ancient or modern was not apparenta lack of certainty sorely trying to the Young Ladies, who jealously saved their admiration for buildings having undeniable claims to antiquity.
Naarden, an old fortified town preserved on ancient lines, is very interesting, for the outer moat, outer defenses, the inner moat and inner line of defenses, the old city gates, and both ramparts remain ; moreover, it is still a military post. These structures as they stand today are not part of the original Naarden, which was practically razed in 1572. The whole history of Spanish oppression holds scarcely a single instance to equal the sack of NaardenI hardly care to call it this, for sack, from long usage in connection with the capture of a town, has grown to suggest some idea of previous resistance. There was no resistance here ; the townspeople invited their prospective murderers to table and served them with their best.
It appears Naarden had received a summons to surrender and had turned back the Spanish emissaries with a proud refusal. Unfortunately, a lunatic discharged a culverin at the departing Spaniards and when these carried back a report of the matter to Don Frederic, son of bloody Alva, he resolved to make an example of Naarden. Knowing the fiendish cruelty exercised in ordinary operations for the subjection of Holland, you may imagine what `making an example” might imply. Meantime, in response to repeated promises of immunity, the town hastened to surrender, hoping by lavish hospitality to placate the enemy and condone the lunatic’s offense; but the Spaniards, with cunning, treachery, and a devilish ferocity that makes our red aborigines appear saints by contrast, proceeded with their program immediately after rising from the sumptuous repast. The chronicle of the torture, out-rage, and butchery that followed, beggars description; suffice it to say, that there was no pause until Naarden and its inhabitants had ceased to exist.
The Youth is an inveterate collector of picture post-cards ; views he has seen, those he expects to see, those he has never seen and never expects to see; all is fish that comes to his net, and he never tires of fishing. Perhaps, stops for postcards, palms itching for unearned gratuities, and Scoffy’s hints that “it must be long past lunch time” comprised the greatest trials of Pater’s “personally conducted” tour.
At all events, the idea of passing through Naarden without stopping for cards appeared, to certain youthful eyes, little short of inhuman; so the motorcar ceased its sport of dodging and winding through narrow streets and paused at the door of a likely-looking shop. These few minutes’ delay contributed to the humiliation in store for us. We had entered through the outer and the inner town gates without incident, had threaded the intricate maze of streets, passed the first gate going out, and were just spinning over the narrow bridge to make our exit through the last gate into the open country when there came a decided setback.
A trekvaart train loomed in front, occupying the whole road and bearing down upon us, Our sensations may be best described in the words of one of the ladies : “I felt as I did one night while learning to ride a wheel, when I glanced up suddenly to find my-self looking into the face of a horse. Why, I just fell right off into the gutter.” This simple expedient was denied us, and for one wild moment it looked as though our chauffeur intended to dispute the passage with the Dutch engine-driver; with one Dutchman pitted against another, total annihilation would have been inevitable. But calmer judgment prevailed; our driver threw on his brake and then backed up grudgingly until a bend in. the road offered a chance to turn out. Meanwhile, engine-driver and fireman, leaning from the cab of the slowly advancing locomotive, joined the guards and the passengers in one grand, howling chorus, until they had exhausted the conversational possibilities of the occasionas regards gibes and jeersto the very dregs.
The trekvaart had “got even with us” at last ! “Got even, good and plenty,” the Youth complained. With chastened spirits we resumed our journey.
Now the country was again perfectly flat. In the fresh green lands of the Naarder Meer Polder, fine roads, straight as a die for miles, presented an opportunity for making time, and it was not many minutes before the exhilarating ride had revived our spirits. The little town of Muiden formed the only break in the journey; it, too, has earthworks and a moat, neither of them comparable with those of Naarden.
Near by, to the east, lies the old château Muider-Slot overlooking the Zuyder Zee.
At a few tiny booths refreshments were on sale for those who travel the highway. The conspicuous placard “Melkbier” taxed our ingenuity for some time, but we eventually decided it must mean draught beer.
The Watergrafsmeer Polder, and others, stretched away for miles on either hand. A canal along the road made its presence felt when our chauffeur had to slow down for bridges as the road crossed from one side to the other. Amsterdam’s sky line showed on the horizon. Dusk was falling. The afterglow of a gorgeous sunset threw purple tones across the meadows and turned the canals and ditches into rib-bons of gold. A slow-moving boat appeared in the foreground, with a woman and two children in harness on the towpath and the skipper at the tiller, contentedly puffing his pipe.
“What a picture!” “Isn’t it perfect?” “Could anything be more beautiful?” Such were the enthusiastic comments.
“Yes, yes,” admitted Scoffy, “it’s fine. There is no use talking, it’s fine ! And,” he added, pointing to the comfortable figure at the helm, “I see, as usual, ‘everybody works but father!’ ”
At the journey’s end our feelings must have approximated those of the traveler of coaching days when he drew near his hostelry at nightfall. The bugle’s cheery notes heralded our approach to the hotel; grooms sprang to the horses’ headsno ! my fancy runs away ! the portier sprang to the door of our car and, at-tended by the usual audience of gamins, grocer-boys and idlers, we descended, vastly pleased and richer by a fine experience; for we had seen the heart of Holland in every sense of the word.