IF the weather is fine one should certainly go to Alkmaar by canal. The journey by water, on a steamer, is always interesting and intensely invigorating. It is only one remove from the open sea, so flat is the country, so free the air.
Alkmaar’s magnet is its cheese market, which draws little companies of travellers thither every Friday in the season. To see it rightly one must reach Alkmaar on the preceding afternoon, to watch the arrival of the boats from the neighbouring farms, and see them unload their yellow freight on the market quay. The men who catch the cheeses are exceedingly adroitit is the nearest thing to an English game that is played in Holland. Before they are finally placed in position the cheeses are liberally greased, until they glow and glitter like orange fires. All the afternoon the boats come in, with their collections from the various dairies on the water. By road also come cheeses in wagons of light polished wood painted blue within ; and all the while the carillon of the beautiful grave Weigh House is ringing out its little tunesthe wedding march from ” Lohengrin ” among themand the little mechanical horsemen are charging in the tourney to the blast of the little mechanical trumpeter. At one o’clock they run only a single course ; but at noon the glories of Ashby-de-la-Zouche are enacted.
By nine o’clock on the Friday morning the market square is covered with rectangular yellow heaps arranged with Dutch systematic order and symmetry, many of them protected by tarpaulins, and the square is filled also with phlegmatic sellers and buyers, smoking, smoking, unceasingly smoking, and discussing the weather and the cheese, the cheese and the Government.
Not till ten may business begin. Instantly the first stroke of ten sounds the aspect of the place is changed. The Government and the weather recede ; cheese emerges triumphant. Tarpaulins are stripped off; a new expression settles upon the features both of buyers and sellers ; the dealers begin to move swiftly from one heap to another. They feel the cheeses, pat them, listen to them, plunge in their scoops and remove a long pink stick which they roll in their fingers, smell or taste and then neatly replace. Meanwhile, the seller stands by with an air part self-satisfaction, part contempt, part pity, part detachment; as who should say “It matters nothing to me whether this fussy fellow thinks the cheese good or not, buys it or not : but whether he thinks it good or bad, or whether he buys or leaves it, it is still the best cheese in Alkmaar market and some one will give me my price “.
The seller gnaws his cigar, the buyer asks him what he asks., The buyer makes an offer. The seller refuses. The buyer increases it. The seller either refuses or accepts. In accepting, or drawing near acceptance, he extends his hand, which the buyer strikes once, and then pausing, strikes again. Apparently two such movements clench the bargain ; but I must confess to being a bad guide here, for I could find no absolute rule to follow. The whole process of Alkmaar chaffering is exceedingly perplexing and elusive. Otherwise the buyer walks away to other cheeses, the seller by no means unconscious of his movements. A little later he returns, and then as likely as not his terms are accepted, unless another has been beforehand with him and bought the lot.
Not until half-past ten strikes may the weighing begin. At that hour the many porters suddenly spring into activity and hasten to the Weigh House with their loads, which are ticketed off by the master of the scales.
The scene is altogether very Dutch and very interesting ; and one should make a point of crossing the canal to get a general view of the market, with the river craft in the foreground, the bustling dealers behind, and above all the elaborate tower and façade of the Weigh House.
Alkmaar otherwise is not of great interest. It has a large light church, bare and bleak according to custom, with very attractive green curtains against its whitewash, in which, according to the author of Through Noord-Holland, is a tomb containing ” the entrails of Count Florence the Fifth “. Here also is a model of one of De Ruyter’s ships. Alkmaar also possesses a charming Oude Mannen en Oude Vrouwen Huis (or alms house, as we say) with white walls and a very pretty tower ; quiet, pleasant streets ; and on its outskirts a fine wood called the Alkmaarder flout.
In the Museum, which is not too interesting, is a picture of the siege of Alkmaar, an episode of which the town has every right to be proud. It was the point of attack by the Duke of Alva and his son after the conquest of Haarlemthat hollow victory for Spain which was more costly than many defeats. Philip had issued a decree threatening the total depopulation of Holland unless its cities submitted to the charms of his attractive religion. The citizens of Alkmaar were the first to defy this proclamation. Once again Motley comes to our aid with his vivid narrative : ” The Spaniards advanced, burned the village of Egmont to the ground as soon as the patriots had left it, and on the 21st of August Don Frederic, appearing before the walls, proceeded formally to invest Alkmaar. In a few days this had been so thoroughly accomplished, that, in Alva’s language, ` it was impossible for a sparrow to enter or go out of the city’. The odds were somewhat unequal. Sixteen thousand veteran troops constituted the besieging force. Within the city were a garrison of eight hundred soldiers, together with thirteen hundred burghers, capable of bearing arms. The rest of the population consisted of a very few refugees, besides the women and children. Two thousand one hundred able-bodied men, of whom only about one-third were soldiers, to resist six-teen thousand regulars !
“Nor was there any doubt as to the fate which was reserved for them, should they succumb. The Duke was vociferous at the ingratitude with which his clemency had hitherto been requited. He complained bitterly of the ill success which had attended his monitory circulars; reproached himself with incredible vehemence, for his previous mildness, and protested that, after having executed only twenty-three hundred persons at the surrender of Haarlem. besides a few additional burghers since, he had met with no correspondent demonstrations of affection. He promised himself, however, an ample compensation for all this in-gratitude in the wholesale vengeance which he purposed to wreck upon Alkmaar. Already he gloated in anticipation over the havoc which would soon be let loose within those walls. Such ravings, if invented by the pen of fiction, would seem a puerile caricature ; proceeding, authentically, from his own, they still appear almost too exaggerated for belief. ` If I take Alkmaar,’ he wrote to Philip, ‘ I am resolved not to leave a single creature alive ; the knife shall be put to every throat. Since the example of Harlem has proved of no use, perhaps an example of cruelty will bring the other cities to their senses.’ He took occasion also to read a lecture to the party of conciliation in Madrid, whose counsels, as he believed, his sovereign was beginning to heed. Nothing, he maintained, could be more senseless than the idea of pardon and clemency. This had been sufficiently proved by recent events. It was easy for people at a distance to talk about gentleness ; but those upon the spot knew better. Gentleness had produced nothing, so far ; violence alone could succeed in future. ‘ Let your Majesty,’ he said, ` be disabused of the impression, that with kindness anything can be done with these people. Already have matters reached such a point that many of those born in the country, who have hitherto advocated clemency, are now undeceived, and acknowledge their mistake. They are of opinion that not a living soul should be left in Alkmaar, but that every individual should be put to the sword.
“Affairs soon approached a crisis within the beleaguered city. Daily skirmishes, without decisive result, had taken place outside the walls. At last, on the 18th of September, after a steady cannonade of nearly twelve hours, Don Frederic at three in the afternoon, ordered an assault. Notwithstanding his seven months’ experience at Haarlem. he still believed it certain that he should carry Alkmaar by storm. The attack took place at once upon the Frisian gate, and upon the red tower on the opposite side. Two choice regiments, recently arrived from Lombardy, led the onset, rending the air with their shouts, and confident of an easy victory. They were sustained by what seemed an overwhelming force of disciplined troops. Yet never, even in the recent history of Haarlem, had an attack been received by more dauntless breasts. Every living man was on the walls. The storming parties were assailed with cannon, with musketry, with pistols. Boiling water, pitch and oil, molten lead, and unslaked lime, were poured upon them every moment. Hundreds of tarred and burning hoops were skilfully quoited around the necks of the soldiers, who struggled in vain to extricate themselves from these fiery ruffs, while as fast as any of the invaders planted foot upon the breach, they were confronted face to face with sword and dagger by the burghers, who hurled them headlong into the moat below.
” Thrice was the attack renewed with ever-increasing ragethrice repulsed with unflinching fortitude. The storm continued four hours long. During all that period, not one of the defenders left his post, till he dropped from it dead or wounded. The women and children, unscared by the balls flying in every direction, or by the hand-to-hand conflicts on the ramparts, passed steadily to and fro from the arsenals to the fortifications, constantly supplying their fathers, husbands, and brothers with powder and ball. Thus, every human being in the city that could walk had become a soldier. At last darkness fell upon the scene. The trumpet of recall was sounded, and the Spaniards, utterly discomfited, retired from the walls, leaving at least one thousand dead in the trenches, while only thirteen burghers and twenty-four of the garrison lost their lives. Thus was Alkmaar preserved for a little longerthus a large and well-appointed army signally defeated by a handful of men fighting for their firesides and altars. Ensign Solis, who had mounted the breach for an instant, and miraculously escaped with life, after having been hurled from the battlements, reported that he had seen `neither helmet nor harness,’ as he looked down into the city ; only some plain-looking people, generally dressed like fishermen. Yet these plain-looking fishermen had defeated the veterans of Alva.
“The day following the assault, a fresh cannonade was opened upon the city. Seven hundred shots having been discharged, the attack was ordered. It was in vain ; neither threats nor entreaties could induce the Spaniards, hitherto so indomitable, to mount the breach. The place seemed to their imagination protected by more than mortal powers, otherwise how was it possible that a few half-starved fishermen could already have so triumphantly overthrown the time-honoured legions of Spain. It was thought, no doubt, that the Devil, whom they worshipped, would continue to protect his children. Neither the entreaties nor the menaces of Don Frederic were of any avail. Several soldiers allowed themselves to be run through the body by their own officers, rather than advance to the walls, and the assault was accordingly postponed to an indefinite period.”
What seemed at first an unfortunate accident turned the scale. A messenger bearing despatches from the Prince of Orange fell into Spanish hands and Don Frederic learned that the sea was to be let in. Motley continues:
“The resolution taken by Orange, of which Don Frederic was thus unintentionally made aware, to flood the country far and near rather than fail to protect Alkmaar, made a profound impression upon his mind. It was obvious that he was dealing with a determined leader, and with desperate men. His attempt to carry the place by storm had signally failed, and he could not deceive himself as to the temper and disposition of his troops ever since that re-pulse. When it should become known that they were threatened with submersion in the ocean, in addition to all the other horrors of war, he had reason to believe that they would retire ignominiously from that remote and desolate sand hook, where, by remaining, they could only find a watery grave. These views having been discussed in a council of officers, the result was reached that sufficient had been already accomplished for the glory of the Spanish arms. Neither honour nor loyalty, it was thought, required that sixteen thousand soldiers should be sacrificed in a contest, not with man, but with the ocean.
” On the 8th of October, accordingly, the siege, which had lasted seven weeks, was raised, and Don Frederic rejoined his father in Amsterdam. Ready to die in the last ditch, and to overwhelm both themselves and their foes in a common catastrophe, the Hollanders had at last compelled their haughty enemy to fly from a position which he had so insolently assumed.”
Every one is agreed that Hoorn should be approached by water, because it rises from the sea like an enchanted city of the East, with its spires and its Harbour Tower beautifully unreal. And as the ship comes nearer there is the additional interest of wondering how the apparently landlocked harbour is to be entered, a long green bar seeming to stretch unbrokenly from side to side. At the last minute the passage is revealed, and one glides into this romantic port. I put Hoorn next to Middelburg in the matter of charm, but seen from the sea it is of greater fascination. In many ways Hoorn is more remarkable as a town, but more of my heart belongs to Middelburg.
I sat on the coping of the harbour at sundown and watched a merry party dining in the saloon of a white and exceedingly comfortable-looking yacht, some thirty or forty yards away. Two neat maids continually passed from the galley to the saloon, and laughter came over the water. The yacht was from Arnheim, its owner having all the appearance of a retired East Indian official. In the distance was a tiny sailing boat with its sail set to catch what few puffs of wind were moving. Its only occupant was a man in crimson trousers, the reflection from which made little splashes of warm colour in the pearl grey sea. At Hoorn there seems to be a tendency to sail for pleasure, for as we came away a party of chattering girls glided out in the care of an elderly manbound for a cruise in the Zuyder Zee.
It is conjectured that Hoorn took its name from the mole protecting the harbour, which might be considered to have the shape of a horn. The city as she used to be (now dwindled to something less, although the cheese industry makes her prosperous enough and happy enough) was called by the poet Vondel the trumpet and capital of the Zuyder Zee, the blessed Horn. He referred particularly to the days of Tromp, whose ravaging and victorious navy was composed largely of Hoorn ships.
Cape Horn, at the foot of South America, is the name-child of the Dutch port, for the first to discover the passage round that headland and to give it its style was Willem Schouten, a Hoorn sailor. It was another Hoorn sailor, Abel Tasman, who discovered Van Diemen’s Land (now called after him) and also New Zealand ; and a third, Jan Pieters Coen (whose statue may be seen at Hoorn) who founded the Dutch dominions in the East Indies, and thus changed the whole character of his own country, leading to that orientalising to which I have so often referred.
A more picturesque hero was John Haring of Hoorn, who performed a great feat in 1572, when De Sonoy, the Prince of Orange’s general, was fighting De Bossu, the Spanish Admiral, off the Y, just at the beginning of the siege of Haarlem. An unexpected force of Spaniards from Amsterdam overwhelmed the few men whom De Sonoy had mustered for the defence of the Diemerdyk. I quote Motley’s account : ” Sonoy, who was on his way to their rescue, was frustrated in his design by the unexpected faint-heartedness of the volunteers whom he had enlisted at Edam. Braving a thousand perils, he advanced, almost unattended, in his little vessel, but only to witness the overthrow and expulsion of his band. It was too late for him singly to attempt to rally the retreating troops. They had fought well, but had been forced to yield before superior numbers, one individual of the little army having performed prodigies of valour. John Haring, of Hoorn, had planted himself entirely alone upon the dyke, where it was so narrow between the Y on the one side and Diemer Lake on the other, that two men could hardly stand abreast. Here, armed with sword and shield, he had actually opposed and held in check one thousand of the enemy, during a period long enough to enable his own men, if they had been willing, to rally, and effectively to repel the attack. It was too late, the battle was too far lost to be restored ; but still the brave soldier held the post, till, by his devotion, he had enabled all those of his compatriots who still remained in the entrenchments to make good their retreat. He then plunged into the sea, and, untouched by spear or bullet, effected his escape. Had he been a Greek or a Roman, a Horatius or a Chabras, his name would have been famous in historyhis statue erected in the market-place ; for the bold Dutchman on his dyke had manifested as much valour in a sacred cause as the most classic heroes of antiquity.”
Then came the siege of Haarlem, and then the siege of Alkmaar. Hoorn’s turn followed, but Hoorn was gloriously equal to it in the hands of Admiral Dirckzoon, whose sword is in the Alkmaar museum, and whose tomb is at Delft. Motley shall tell the story : ” On the 11th October, however, the whole patriot fleet, favored by a strong easterly breeze, bore down upon the Spanish armada, which, numbering now thirty sail of all denominations, was lying off and on in the neighbourhood of Hoorn and Enkhuyzen. After a short and general engagement, nearly all the Spanish fleet retired with precipitation, closely pursued by most of the patriot Dutch vessels. Five of the King’s ships were eventually taken, the rest effected their escape. Only the Admiral remained, who scorned to yield, although his forces had thus basely deserted him. His ship, the ‘ Inquisition,’ for such was her insolent appellation, was far the largest and best manned of both the fleets. Most of the enemy had gone in pursuit of the fugitives, but four vessels of inferior size had attacked the ‘Inquisition’ at the commencement of the action. Of these, one had soon been silenced, while the other three had grappled themselves inextricably to her sides and prow. The four drifted together, before wind and tide, a severe and savage action going on incessantly, during which the navigation of the ships was entirely abandoned. No scientific gunnery, no military or naval tactics were displayed or required in such a conflict. It was a life-and-death combat, such as always occurred when Spaniard and Netherlander met, whether on land or water. Bossu and his men, armed in bullet-proof coats of mail, stood with shield and sword on the deck of the ` Inquisition,’ ready to repel all attempts to board. The Hollander, as usual, attacked with pitch hoops, boiling oil, and molten lead. Repeatedly they effected their entrance to the Admiral’s ship, and as often they were repulsed and slain in heaps, or hurled into the sea.
” The battle began at three in the afternoon, and continued without intermission through the whole night. The vessels, drifting together, struck on the shoal called the Nek, near Wydeness. In the heat of the action the occurrence was hardly heeded. In the morning twilight, John Haring, of Hoorn, the hero who had kept one thousand soldiers at bay upon the Diemer dyke, clambered on board the ` Inquisition,’ and hauled her colors down. The gallant but premature achievement cost him his life. He was shot through the body and died on the deck of the ship, which was not quite ready to strike her flag. In the course of the forenoon, however, it became obvious to Bossu that further resistance was idle. The ships were aground near a hostile coast, his own fleet was hopelessly dispersed, three-quarters of his crew were dead or disabled, while the vessels with which he was engaged were constantly recruited by boats from the shore, which brought fresh men and ammunition, and removed their killed and wounded. At eleven o’clock Admiral Bossu surrendered, and with three hundred prisoners was carried into Holland. Bossu was himself imprisoned at Hoorn, in which city he was received, on his arrival, with great demonstrations of popular hatred.”
De Bossu remained in prison for three years. Later he fought for the States. His goblet is preserved at Hoorn. His collar is at Monnickendam and his sword at Enkhuisen.
The room in the Protestant orphanage where De Bossu was imprisoned is still to be seen; and you may see also at the corner of the Grooteoost the houses from which the good wives and housekeepers watched the progress of the battle, and on which a bas-relief representation of the battle was afterwards placed in commemoration.
Two more heroes of Hoorn may be seen in effigy on the façade of the State College, opposite the Weigh House, guarding an English shield. The shield is placed there, among the others, on account of a daring feat performed by two negro sailors in De Ruyter’s fleet in the Thames, who ravished from an English ship in distress the shield at her stern and presented it to Hoorn, their adopted town, where it is now supported by bronze figures of its captors.
Hoorn’s streets are long and cheerful, with houses graciously bending forwards, many of them dignified by black paint and yet not made too grave by it. This black paint blending with the many trees on the canal sides has the same curious charm as at Amsterdam, although there the blackness is richer and more absolute. Even the Hoorn warehouses are things of beauty one in particular, by the Harbour Tower, with bright green shutters, is indescribably gay, almost coquettish. Hoorn also has the most satisfying little houses I saw in Hollandstreets of them. And of all the costumes of Holland I remember most vividly the dead black dress and lace cap of a woman who suddenly turned a corner hereas if she had walked straight from a picture by Elias.
The Harbour Tower is perhaps Hoorn’s finest building, its charm being intensified rather than diminished by the hideous barracks close by. St. Jan’s Gasthuis has a façade of beautiful gravity, and the gateway of the home for Ouden Vrouwen is perfect. The museum in the Tribunalshof is the most intimate and human collection of curiosities which I saw in Hollandnot a fossil, not a stuffed bird, in the building. Among the pictures are the usual groups of soldiers and burgomasters, and the usual fine deter-mined De Ruyter by Bol. We were shown Hoorn’s treasures by a pleasant girl who allowed no shade of tedium to cross her smiling courteous face, although the display of these ancient pictures and implements, ornaments and domestic articles must have been her daily work for years. In the top room of all is a curious piece of carved stone on which may be read these inscriptions :
The most illustrious Prince, Henry Lord Darnley, King of Scotland, Father to our Soveraigne Lord King James. He died at the age of 21.
The most excellent Princesse Marie, Queen of Scotland, Mother of our Soveraigne Lord King James. S he died 1586, and entombed at West Minster.
It would be interesting to know more of this memorial.
In another room are two carved doors from a house in Hoorn that had been disfurnished, which give one a very vivid idea of the good taste of this people and the little palaces of grave art in which they lived.
Thursday is Hoorn’s market day, and it is important to be there then if one would see the market carts of North Holland in abundance. We had particularly good fortune since our Thursday was not only market day but the Kermis too. I noticed that the principal attraction of the fair, for boys, was the stalls (unknown at the Kermis both at Middelburg and Leyden) on which a variety of flat cake was chopped with a hatchet. The chopper, who I understand is entitled only to what he can sever with one blow, often fails to get any.
Nieuwediep and The Helder, at the extreme north of Holland, are one, and interesting only to those to whom naval works are interesting. For they are the Portsmouth and Woolwich of the country. My memories of these twin towns are not too agreeable, for when I was there in 1897 the voyage from Amsterdam by the North Holland canal had chilled me through and through, and in 1904 it rained without ceasing. Nieuwediep is all shipping and sailors, cadet schools and hospitals. The Helder is a dull town,. with the least attractive architecture I had seen, cowering beneath a huge dyke but for which, one is assured, it would lie at the bottom of the North Sea. Under rain it is a drearier town than any I know; and ordinarily it is bleak and windy, saved only by its kites, which are flown from the dyke and sail over the sea at immense heights. Every boy has a kiteone more link between Holland and China.
I climbed the lighthouse at The Helder just before the lamp was lit. It was an impressive ceremony. The captain and his men stood all ready, the captain watching the sun as it sunk on the horizon. At the instant it disappeared he gave the word, and at one stride came the light. I chanced at the moment to be standing between the lantern and the sea, and I was asked to move with an earnestness of entreaty in which the safety of a whole navy seemed to be involved. The light may be seen forty-eight miles away. It is fine to think of all the eyes within that extent of sea, invisible to us, caught almost simultaneously by this point of flame.
I did not stay at Nieuwediep but at The Helder. Thirty years ago, however, one could have done nothing so inartistic, for then, according to M. Havard, the Hotel Ten Burg at Nieuwediep had for its landlord a poet, and for its head waiter a baritone, and to stay elsewhere would have been a crime. Here is M. Havard’s description of these virtuosi ” No one ever sees the landlord the first day he arrives at the hotel. M. B. R. de Breuk is not accessible to ordinary mortals. He lives up among the clouds, and when he condescends to come down to earth he shuts himself up in his own room, where he indulges in pleasant intercourse with the Muses.
” I have no objection to confessing that, although I am a brother in the art, and have stayed several times at his hotel, I have never once been allowed to catch a glimpse of his features. The head-waiter, happily, is just the contrary. It is he who manages the hotel, receives travellers, and arranges for their well-being. He is a handsome fellow, with a fresh complexion, heavy moustache, and one lock of hair artificially arranged on his forehead. He is perfectly conscious of his own good looks, and wears rings on both his hands. Nature has endowed him with a sonorous baritone voice, the notes of which, whether sharp or melodious, he is careful in expressing, because he is charmed with his art, and has an idea that it is fearfully egotistical to conceal such treasures. One note especially he never fails to utter distinctly, and that is the lastthe note of payment.
” Sometimes he allows himself to become so absorbed in his art that he forgets the presence in the hotel of tired travellers, and disturbs their slumbers by loud roulades and cadences ; or perhaps he is asked to fetch a bottle of beer, he stops on the way to the cellar to perfect the harmony of a scale, and does not return till the patience of the customer is exhausted. But who would have the heart to complain of such small grievances when the love of song is stronger than any other ? ”
I had no such fortune in Holland. No hotel proprietor rhymed for me, no waiter sang. My chief friends were rather the hotel porters, of whom I recall in particular twothe paternal colossus at the Amstel in Amsterdam, who might have sat for the Creator to an old masterurbane, efficient, a storehouse of good counsel ; and the plump and wide cynic into whose capable and kindly hands one falls at the Oude Doelen at The Hague, that shrewd and humorous reader of men and Americans. I see yet his expression of pity, not wholly (yet perhaps sufficiently) softened to polite interest, when consulted as to the best way in which to visit Alkmaar to see the cheese market. That any one staying at The Hagueand more, at the Oude Doelenshould wish to see traffic in cheese at a provincial town still strikes his wise head as tragic, although it happens every week. I honour him for it and for the exquisite tact with which he retains his opinion and allows you to have yours.
A poet landlord and an operatic head waiter, what are they when all is said beside a friendly hotel porter ? He is the Deus ex machina indeed. The praises of the hotel porter have yet to be sung. O Switzerland ! the poet might begin (not, probably, a landlord poet) O SwitzerlandI give but a bald paraphrase of the spirited original–0 Switzerland, thou land of peaks and cow bells, of wild strawberries and nonconformist conventions, of grasshoppers and climbing dons, thou hast strange limitations ! Thou cant produce no painter, thou possessest no navy ; but thou makest the finest hotel porters in the world. Erect, fair-haired, blue-eyed, tactful and informing, they are the true friends of the homeless !And so on for many strophes.
To Texel I did not cross, although it was hard for any one who has read The Riddle of the Sands to refrain. Alas, poor Childers ! Had we been there in the nesting season I might have wandered in search of the sea birds’ and the plovers’ eggs, just for old sake’s sake, as I have in the island of Coll, but we were too late, and The Helder had depressed us. It was off’ the Island of Texel, on 31st July, 1653, that Admiral Tromp was killed during his engagement with the English under Monk.
Medemblik, situated on the point of a spur of land between The Helder and Enkhuisen, was once the residence of Radbod and the Kings of Frisia. It is now nothing. One good story at any rate may be recalled there. When Radbod, King of the Frisians, was driven out of Western Frisia in 689 by Pepin of Heristal, Duke and Prince of the Franks (father of Charles Martel and great grandfather of Charlemagne, who completed the conquest of Frisia), the defeated king was considered a convert to Christianity, and the preparations for his baptism were made on a grand scale. Never a whole-hearted convert, Radbod, even as one foot was in the water, had a visitation of doubt. Where, he made bold to ask, were the noble kings his ancestors, who had not, like himself, been offered this inestimable privilege of baptismin heaven or in hell ? The officiating Bishop replied that they were doubtless in hell. “Then,” said Radbod, withdrawing his foot, ” I think it would be better did I join them there, rather than go alone to Paradise.”
Enkhuisen, where one embarks for Friesland, is a Dead City of the Zuyder Zee, with more signs of dissolution than most of them. Once she had a population of sixty thousand ; that number must now be divided by ten.
” Above all things,” says M. Havard, the discoverer of Dead Cities, “avoid a promenade in this deserted town with an inhabitant familiar with its history, otherwise you will constantly hear the refrain ; Here was formerly the richest quarter of commerce ; there, where the houses are falling into total ruin, was the quarter of our aristocracy.’ But more painful still, when we have arrived at what appears the very end of the town, the very last house, we see at a distance a gate of the city. A hundred years ago the houses joined this gate. It took us a walk of twenty minutes across the meadows to arrive at this deserted spot.” I did not explore the town, and therefore I cannot speak with any authority of its possessions ; but I saw enough to realise what a past it must have had.
At Enkhuisen was born Paul Potter, who painted the famous picture of the bull in the Mauritshuis at The Hague. The year 1625 saw his birth ; and it was only twenty-nine years later that he died. While admiring Potter’s technical powers, I can imagine few nervous trials more exacting than having to live with his bull intimately in one’s room. This only serves to show how temperamental a matter is art criticism, for on each occasion that I have been to the Mauritshuis the bull has had a ring of mute or throbbing worshippers, while Vermeer’s ” View of Delft ” was without a devotee. I have seen, however, little scenes of cattle by Potter which were attractive as well as masterly.
Sir William Temple, in his Observations upon the United Provinces gives a very human page to this old town : ” Among the many and various hospitals, that are in every man’s curiosity and talk that travels their country, I was affected with none more than that of the aged seamen at Enchuysen, which is contrived, finished, and ordered, as if it were done with a kind intention of some well-natured man, that those, who had passed their whole lives in the hardships and incommodities of the sea, should find a retreat stored with all the eases and conveniences that old age is capable of feeling and enjoying. And here I met with the only rich man that ever I saw in my life : for one of these old seamen entertaining me a good while with the plain stories of his fifty years’ voyages and adventures, while I was viewing their hospital, and the church adjoining, I gave him, at parting, a piece of their coin about the value of a crown : he took it smiling, and offered it me again ; but, when I refused it, he asked me, What he should do with money ? for all, that ever they wanted, was provided for them at their house. I left him to overcome his modesty as he could ; but a servant, coming after me, saw him give it to a little girl that opened the church door, as she passed by him : which made me reflect upon the fantastic calculation of riches and poverty that is current in the world, by which a man, that wants a million, is a Prince ; he, that wants but a groat, is a beggar ; and this a poor man, that wanted nothing at all.”
Hoorn’s Harbour Tower, as I have said, has a charm beyond description ; but Enkhuisen’s known as the Dromedary is unwieldly and plain. It has, however, this advantage over Hoorn’s, its bells are very beautiful One sees the Dromedary for some miles on the voyage to Stavoren and Friesland.