Netherlands – The Bells Of Middelburg

THEY rang us in and they rang us out, and their echoes will ring in memory until we hear them again in reality — as sometime we mean to.

We heard them chiming faintly afar off as we approached Middelburg by the canal, and we heard them ringing more and more loudly, more and more joyfully, as we put ourselves into the hotel omnibus and jolted away over the heavy pavements of the capital of Zee-land on the island of Walcheren. They never once stopped ringing, as we drove first through a narrow walled passage, then an old-time portal, and found our-selves in a large irregularly rounded court, open to the sky, surrounded by the walls of the ancient Abbey of St. Nicholas, and filled with magnificent trees: lindens, elms, and acacias. As we got out at the Abbey Inn, they were still ringing and filling all that great green court with joyous trinkles, and trills, and trickles, and runs of melody. It was Mendelssohn’s Spring Song that the chimes of Long John, the ancient tower of the New Church, incorporated with the Abbey, were dropping down upon us in a continuous musical shower.

We declared then and there that nothing could induce us to leave this spot for two weeks — and nothing did! Its charm is so great that you lose all care for “antiques,” for Groote Kerks, Town Halls, Market-Places, for history with a big H, — for everything, in fact, but for that lovely old Abbey of St. Nicholas, its court set with great trees, its many towers, its dim cloisters, its grand old gates, its quiet inn — a part of the Abbey and those wonderful chimes that ring at all hours of the day and night; that talk to you at intervals of seven minutes throughout the twenty-four hours; that whisper to you in your sleep, and chat with you in broad daylight! This is not exaggeration, neither is it a figure of speech, — it is the truth of the actual.

I came to have a real affection for de lange Jan; his personality is a pleasing one outwardly, his voice never monotonous — and he has always something to say, although you would not call him garrulous. Nothing I can write would do justice to the loveliness of this musical chat and gossip. It must be heard to be not only appreciated, but believed, and a volume of description would fail to convey a true idea of its variety and charm. We arrived in the midst of the Spring Song; we went to sleep with I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls ringing all its chromatics in our ears; we awoke to the tune of La Fille de Madame Angot gayly urging us to be up and about in the bright June morning.

Lou spoke our minds as we sat at breakfast, and Long John broke into a little gurgle that sounded queerly enough from his wide-throated bells. “I’m thankful such a place as Middelburg and its Abbey exists, and that I’m alive to enjoy it!” she exclaimed.

This was unwonted enthusiasm on Lou’s part, who effervesces seldom, and rarely in the presence of a stranger. I noticed the Captain fairly beamed upon her, and said with great earnestness: “But I told you so!”

Middelburg shows more than any other city or town the influence of the Spanish occupation. It is Dutch to the marrow in sentiment, but it is half Spanish in temperament; by temperament I mean the manners of its people, the fashion of’ its churches and towers, the ornamentation of its homes, the general gayety and delight in the “joy of living” that shows so plainly among its citizens. I can conceive no greater contrast of feature and expression, of costume and gait, than one sees in comparing a Scheveningen fisherman’s wife and a Middelburg farmer’s vrouw, or a Scheveningen fisher him-self and a Zeeland sailor. The one is gravely earnest, with hard lines of toil about a rather stern mouth and eyes; the other round, merry, happy-go-lucky and well-to-do. The one dressed soberly with only a sparse ornament of silver or gold; the other revelling in bodice, gay shawl, fringes, white chemisette, gold beads, silver buckles, silver buttons, silver chains — the last three for both men and women. The one is the Puritan type, the other the Spanish cavalier; the one a toiler for wages for existence merely, the other a good liver with a reserve chest, and cattle to boot. The Scheveningen woman drags her cart or pushes it before her; the Walcheren peasant wife rides in her own gayly painted farm wagon, and is drawn by her own sturdy Zeeland mares.

This atmosphere, social and domestic, makes itself felt with all who remain even a short time on this island, and especially in Middelburg. After poor Tholen and Oud-Vosmeer, it was a relief to see something of this other life, and we entered into it with heartiness and pure enjoyment. There was a new delight for every day. Each went his or her own way, or we went by twos and threes, or all together, but, as a rule, we met at some hour of the day beneath the trees in the Abbey Court, or in the Market-Place in front of the Stadhuis. Middelburg streets are circles in the old parts of the town, and, on account of this peculiar plan—a result of building the streets around the Abbey, which is circular in form, as a nucleus-one can never stray. far without running across an acquaintance.

James bought a camp-stool, and could generally be found in front of the Stadhuis studying its every detail and making sketches. There never was such a Stadhuis anywhere else in the Middle Ages, and I am quite sure there is not another city that can show one like it in modern times. It is really the most exquisite thing in architecture I have ever seen. It is own little cousin to the Hôtel de Ville in Brussels, and, in my eyes, more original in conception and richer in detail; it is full of architectural surprises, but they never detract from the symmetry of proportion. The interior is as beautiful in its way as the exterior, and the rooms contain some wood-carvings worth a Iong journey thither to see. You may see here, if historically inclined and an admirer of William the Silent, his own signature, and near it the Duke of Alva’s book of bloody orders in cipher of his own handwriting and signed by him.

Here, too, you may see one of the oldest documents in the Dutch language — a charter granted to Middelburg by an ancient German king, William of Holland, a con-temporary of Simon of Monfort in England and of The Low Dyke at Domburg, farther down on the island of Walcheren, which dates from 1253 — the date of Middelburg’s rise in the world.

Lou, having developed an “antiquity” fad, could be found very often in that fascinating house-shop, near the old Shutterhof of St. Sebastian, revelling in the treasures collected there from Zeeland, and particularly North Brabant. Very often the Captain was with her, as he is an antiquary himself and the best person to consult before making a purchase. Lou has an ample income of her own and can indulge her tastes in this direction. But oftener he was with Lois, who led him a chase all over the island from Veere to Domburg and West Ka-pelle. At first Lou was always with them, I supposed for chaperone, although neither of them needed one, being gentle-people, as they are; but for custom’s sake, I was glad Lou was on hand. After a week, however, she had some excuse or other to let them go without her, and in consequence I was pressed into service. I can’t say I liked it, for it did seem rather mean to Ben, who was our guest; but he seemed to be enjoying himself thoroughly, was always ready to go with us, or to sail with Oom Kees the length and breadth of the island, to fish with him and smoke with him at all times of day. And the long days were all too short! Lois said she could accomplish twice as much “good times” in Zeeland as in any other place, because of the long, long twilights — and I am sure she made the most of them!

For my own part I never tired of walking out of one of the Abbey Gates, around the circle of the Lange Delft to the ancient Balans and its nowhere-to-bematched houses, and of walking in through another. The delight was always the same to enter the dark shadows of the ancient gateway and emerge into the green-filled court; to sit down beneath my special acacia, and, while listening to the chimes of lange Jan, watch the sunshine — and we had two weeks of it — filter through the light green foliage of the acacias and glance on the white cap of a peasant woman, or glisten on her gold cap-pins, as she passed me with her basket of butter overlaid with white linen.

The Butter-Market of Middelburg is, I am sure, unlike any other buttermarket in the entire civilized world. Nowhere else will you find such a setting.

Come with me out through the Abbey Gate that leads to the Balans, and follow the Lange Burg for two minutes till you come to another gate of the Abbey. Just opposite you will find an open, three-sided, walled court with colonnades, like Vasari’s Loggia in Florence where the ancient Tuscan fish-wives used to sell their wares. An iron fence separates this court from the Lange Burg. Enter through the iron gate, and you find yourself on the pavements of the court from the middle of which an enormous linden rises and spreads abroad its branches like a great green tent that canopies the whole yard. Enter the arcades; they are dim and sweet and cool; the butter-vendors, a hundred or more in their white caps, — not their Sunday best, — are ranged on long low benches against the walls, their baskets of pale yellow butter, unsalted and freshly churned, are on their laps, or at their feet covered with white linen or leaves. Here and there are huge creels of eggs, and all about and around are hundreds of the white-capped good-wives of Middelburg, intent on buying. It is a pretty sight and one not to be found elsewhere. From twelve to one on Butter-Market day Long John plays all the tunes in his full repertory.

James and I found out the fish-market by chance one day late in the afternoon. That, too, was an arcade, and within were the fish-wives and their wares. They auction off much of their fish, and it was curious to hear and see the manner of barter. Contrary to our bidding, the first offer is set at the highest price by the auctioneer, and little by little he lowers it until some one of the in-tending buyers flings a fish-net bag at him, which indicates that the purchaser is willing to pay the price offered! Sometimes, perhaps most frequently, they throw coarse blue and white linen bags, and as the auction proceeds rapidly there is, in consequence, some lively doings, and a constant fusillade of bags and nets.

We shall not soon forget the band concert in the old Shutterhof gardens of St. Sebastian; nor can we forget a dinner in the inn at which were present some twenty worthy burgomasters of Zeeland and Zeeland-Flanders. They were Dutch burgomasters, and might have served as models for Frans Hals, for Ferdinand Bol and Van der Helst! I recall especially the burgomaster of Terneuzen — a fine-looking man of middle age, his hair cut square across his forehead, his features strong and fine, his expression earnest, his carriage dignity itself. It was a Van Scorel type of face, or such as Holbein shows us sometimes when he portrays the worthy dignitary in office. His wife and daughter were with him at another time, and I have never seen such costumes as they wore. They were in gala attire: full stiff petticoats, rich bodice, low neck, short sleeves, and around the line of the neck a peculiar adjustment of material, richly wrought in colors, that stood out from the shoulders like a huge pair of triangular wings; these appendages rose almost as high as their ears. Their necks were loaded with chains set with real jewels; their caps stiff-winged and white; their gold pins heavy and elaborate, the spirals were like small bed-springs and depending from them were the ear-jewels which dangled about their eyes and temples. It was a rich costume as well as a curious one, and was worn with a dignity of ease that showed how many generations had gone to the making and wearing of it.

Turn where you will in Middelburg there is always something to rejoice the eye. The dry dock with a great East Indiaman on the ways, and Long John towering two hundred and eighty feet just behind the masts, is a fine sight at sundown! The old Cow Gate, too, and the green waters of a quiet canal that runs beside it, and mother-duck and ducklings manoeuvring about in them, are small things in themselves, but belong wholly to Middelburg.

There is an indescribable charm about this island city. It lays hold upon you in numberless ways, until you say, and with truth, “there is none such,” and give to it your entire Dutch allegiance and your true American affection. After seeing it, after living a short time in it, the conviction grows upon you that some-how, somewhere you have seen this lovely spot before, especially the precincts of the Abbey — whether in story, in poem, in imagination, in a dream, or in a preexistent state, you may not say; but seen it you have, and made of it an ideal that, at last, you have lived to realize. The chimes force this conviction upon you and foster such belief, for they are. the sweetest bells one can imagine. There are forty-one of them, and, if you ascend to the belfry, you may read on their brazen throats a word or two in Latin, which they make articulate in ringing tones, such as, “I praise Thee, O Lord.”

Often of a summer night, as I lay awake listening to the breeze stirring among the acacias, that almost touched my windows, I could hear two or three little bells ring faintly with an irregular babbling tinkle as if murmuring in some dream. Sometimes there would rouse up a giant deep-throated bell and boom out just one stroke — a sound as if some deep-voiced century in the Middle Ages had called over the abyss of Time to the Present, and itself to remembrance. Now and then a whole set of smaller bells would ripple out and run the scale higher and higher as if chasing each other up the belfry ladders; and again the whole forty-one would break forth into the Spring Song, and fill the night with harmony. Often I have fallen asleep “in marble halls” and waked only to find I was being put through the same musical process, and rarely, and fortunately so, all the bells got woefully mixed and there followed a medley of chaotic cadences with no tune at all distinguishable. I remember one painful hitch in Madame Ingot that held everybody in suspense until it was safely adjusted — evidently to Long John’s entire satisfaction, for, after the suspense was over, he flung the chorus of that opera about on the night air as recklessly as a Japanese juggler throws his glass balls.

I was expatiating to James on the loveliness and chumminess of these bells one day, at the end of our two weeks when we had gone over to Veere to see those marvels of engineering, the great iron sluice-gates that keep the sea from flooding the island. We were waiting for the little steamer from Zierikzee. James was lying on the grass, his arms under his head, and I was sitting beside him, watching a lark soar and circle and sing above the green island-meadows. The tinkle of his song recalled the bells, and I spoke, as I did often, in their praise. I was greeted with a roar of laughter from James, and was amazed to see him roll over face downwards in the grass.

“Why, James Moulton, what are you laughing at so ?” I demanded. It was really trying to have my little flight of sentiment met with such uproarious laughter.

“Oh, my!” he fairly groaned; “if you did but know it, your Long John has been planning a match, and you’re likely to hear them as marriage bells before you’re many weeks older.”

For answer I shook him and made him turn over. “Now tell me what you mean, James, and be rational about it. Do you mean that Ben and Lois are going to make up ?”

“Ben and Lois ? Umph, you don’t know Ben.”

“Well, my dear, you have said that thing enough times for me not to know him; now are you satisfied ? What I want to know is, what you mean by your insinuation about wedding bells.”

“Haven’t you noticed anything ?” he said, sitting up and facing me.

“You mean about the Captain, James ?” He nodded.

“Well, I’d like to know who could help noticing. He has been perfectly devoted to her ever since they met on The Broomstick.”

“Her, who ?”

“Why, Lois, of course; who else? What do you think of it, James ? I really am getting dreadfully worried about the whole thing, especially Ben.”

“You let Ben alone; you needn’t worry about him. Ben can take care of himself,” was the truly masculine response which left me entirely in the dark. “Your nice little plan hasn’t seemed to work,” he added, a little maliciously.

“What plan ?”

“Your match-making between Lois and the Captain.”

“But you haven’t given them time.” Upon this my husband fell to laughing immoderately again, and I undertook to enlighten him on certain points on which the masculine intelligence is apt to prove obtuse.

“Now, James, I have something to tell you that has been weighing on my mind for fourteen days.”

“Go ahead.”

“Do you believe in love at first sight ?”

“Ye-es; but I believe more in it at second sight.”

” James, stop teasing this minute, and tell me if you have noticed anything queer about Lou, lately.”

“Lou ? No, only that she is a fine-looking woman and young for her age.”

“She’s fallen in love, James, and at first sight, too —.” James whistled. “—And of course she’s too old to show it as a young girl would, but I know it’s gone deep — and I feel dreadfully about it; it does seem as if it were all my fault. Do help me.”

“Oh, don’t worry about Lou, Persis; she’s old enough to look out for herself.” Then he began to laugh again, or rather chuckle to himself.

“Now, James, I call that downright hard-hearted! As if Lou hadn’t deep feelings just because she is forty! — And I wish you’d stop laughing and tell me what there is in my speech that excites this risibility on your part.” I confess I was a little tried to find James so unsympathetic; for, even if it had been my fault in the first place in inviting Lou over, there was no need of my husband’s deserting me at the crucial moment.

“Well, I’ll tell you, Persis but — word of honor, now, it goes no farther ?” I laid my hand on my heart, and James always takes that on my part as a mason’s oath. He interrupted himself with another chuckle.

“— The fact is that last evening, after the band concert

in the Schutterhof garden, the Captain took me aside, and, with the manners of an ambassador, asked my permission, as masculine representative and relative of Lou on this side of the water, to pay his addresses to her with intention of speedy marriage! — Now what do you say to Dutch slowness in making up their minds, eh ?”

“Oh, James!” Really it was all I had breath for.

“Yes; and he intimated that if his suit were successful—and he didn’t seem to have much doubt about that part (darn their foreign conceit!) — he would like the marriage to take place before we leave The Hague!”

“Gracious, James!”

“Yes; and he intimated pretty strongly that there would be no need of a dot, as he was well provided with this world’s goods, but if she had an income of her own, it would be agreeable to him in case of issue!”

“For pity’s sake, James, what next ?”

“Yes; and he said it would be necessary to produce her baptismal certificate, and her mother’s marriage certificate, and I don’t know but what he said her grand-mother’s certificate of birth and her own!”

“Oh, James!”

“Yes; and a lot more red tape that I didn’t listen to, for I was so confounded with the suddenness of the whole thing.”

“What did you tell him, James ?” My husband began to laugh again, and immoderately, before he could answer.

“I told him to `go in and win.’ But he looked so puzzled — evidently he didn’t understand the entire significance of that phrase — that I mounted my high horse of etiquette, and told him the honor he had conferred on our family by seeking such a connection was thoroughly appreciated by me, as representative-relative for Lou while she is with us, and that he had my full and free permission to make such advances with a view to matrimony; that all legalities, papers, certificates, etc., would be at once attended to, and that I hoped to have the great honor of shaking his hand in the near future as a cousin.”

“Good for you, James, that was fine!”

“Yes, I thought I rose to the occasion fairly well.” (Oh, the conceit of man!) “But, Persis, I’ve laughed as often since last night as Long John has rung his bells at the humor of the whole thing —I asked permission by anybody to court Lou, and she forty! Oh, but that’s rich!”

“What do you suppose Lois will say?” was my next question.

“I think her pretty nose will be well out of joint, and I’m glad of it,” he added, savagely. “She played fast and loose with Ben, and now she’s met her match in the Captain. An all-round fine man he is too, and I’m glad enough to welcome him to our family, if he is a foreigner — `a man’s a man for a’ that.’

“James!” I broke out suddenly, as is my way

when, as James says, my thoughts get switched off onto another track, “would you mind if I just hinted to Ben how things stand —”

James jumped to his feet, thrust both hands in his pockets, and became suddenly masterful. “Now, Persis, remember you have given your word to me,— and re-member, too, that I’m managing this thing; you’re not in it this time.”

Of course there was nothing to be said after that — but he couldn’t prevent me thinking my thoughts, thank fortune!

The steamer was approaching the great gates, and the men were laboriously at work opening them. The desolate fane of Veere stood out against the bright west like a beautiful etching, and the exquisite Stadhuis tower let fall its tinkling carillon as we boarded the steamer. As it moved from the wall of the lock the lark was still singing above the island meadows, and the tiny steep-pitched roofs beyond the bastions glowed bright red in the sunlight. We left this ancient port and its memories of past glory, and took our straight course again to Middelburg where, upon our arrival, we found all our party at the quay. Lou was looking very handsome and happy with a great bunch of white roses in her hand, and a suspicion of the Netherlands’ colors in her afternoon gown. Seeing which, I nudged James and whispered that the Captain had not let any grass grow upon his “gracious permission.” I wondered if Ben saw any-thing of this.

That evening we changed our plans, and decided to remain another week in the capital of Zeeland. Indeed, it held us; we could not have left had we wished to — and we had no desire to remove ourselves beyond the sound of its sweet bells and its green Abbey Court. As we were discussing plans for seeing the island of Walcheren during the next week, Ben surprised us by saying that, as his time was limited, he had decided to take a trip into North Holland and see some of the cities of which we had spoken with such enthusiasm. Possibly he would meet us again at The Hague, whither we were going for a week to close the house, and bid good-bye to our Tryntje, Anna Engelina, and a few other faithful friends in the capital of the Netherlands.

Upon this announcement, I immediately comprehended the situation. James was party to his going and was “managing things himself.” I decided it was wiser to express my sincere regrets and refrain from urging Ben to stay. But I wondered what Lois would say. As a matter of fact, she said nothing; but, during the rest of the evening, was the gayest of the gay, and acted precisely as if his going were a source of hidden joy to her. I felt like shaking her !

Our last evening all together in Middelburg was a merry one and Long John outdid himself, for, as we sat at the round tables outside the Abbey Inn and ate our late supper of delicious shrimp croquettes, bread and butter, tea and strawberries, he ranged the gamut and gave us all his tunes in quick succession with broken phrases of melody thrown in pell-mell, interrupting our merry chat with his tinkles, and runs, and gurgles, and crash of chords, and quenching us wholly in a deafening booming fusillade at twelve, midnight.

Oh, the bells of Middelburg! Long may their sweet Spring Song fill the green Abbey Court of St. Nicholas with cheerful melody! Long may its echoes resound among the double-groined arches of the dim, beautiful cloisters, and its mid-air harmonies continue to float above the surrounding Towers of Middelburg!

Netherlands – The Bells Of Middelburg

( Originally Published 1906 )

THEY rang us in and they rang us out, and their echoes will ring in memory until we hear them again in reality — as sometime we mean to.

We heard them chiming faintly afar off as we approached Middelburg by the canal, and we heard them ringing more and more loudly, more and more joyfully, as we put ourselves into the hotel omnibus and jolted away over the heavy pavements of the capital of Zee-land on the island of Walcheren. They never once stopped ringing, as we drove first through a narrow walled passage, then an old-time portal, and found our-selves in a large irregularly rounded court, open to the sky, surrounded by the walls of the ancient Abbey of St. Nicholas, and filled with magnificent trees: lindens, elms, and acacias. As we got out at the Abbey Inn, they were still ringing and filling all that great green court with joyous trinkles, and trills, and trickles, and runs of melody. It was Mendelssohn’s Spring Song that the chimes of Long John, the ancient tower of the New Church, incorporated with the Abbey, were dropping down upon us in a continuous musical shower.

We declared then and there that nothing could induce us to leave this spot for two weeks — and nothing did! Its charm is so great that you lose all care for “antiques,” for Groote Kerks, Town Halls, Market-Places, for history with a big H, — for everything, in fact, but for that lovely old Abbey of St. Nicholas, its court set with great trees, its many towers, its dim cloisters, its grand old gates, its quiet inn — a part of the Abbey and those wonderful chimes that ring at all hours of the day and night; that talk to you at intervals of seven minutes throughout the twenty-four hours; that whisper to you in your sleep, and chat with you in broad daylight! This is not exaggeration, neither is it a figure of speech, — it is the truth of the actual.

I came to have a real affection for de lange Jan; his personality is a pleasing one outwardly, his voice never monotonous — and he has always something to say, although you would not call him garrulous. Nothing I can write would do justice to the loveliness of this musical chat and gossip. It must be heard to be not only appreciated, but believed, and a volume of description would fail to convey a true idea of its variety and charm. We arrived in the midst of the Spring Song; we went to sleep with I dreamt that I dwelt in marble halls ringing all its chromatics in our ears; we awoke to the tune of La Fille de Madame Angot gayly urging us to be up and about in the bright June morning.

Lou spoke our minds as we sat at breakfast, and Long John broke into a little gurgle that sounded queerly enough from his wide-throated bells. “I’m thankful such a place as Middelburg and its Abbey exists, and that I’m alive to enjoy it!” she exclaimed.

This was unwonted enthusiasm on Lou’s part, who effervesces seldom, and rarely in the presence of a stranger. I noticed the Captain fairly beamed upon her, and said with great earnestness: “But I told you so!”

Middelburg shows more than any other city or town the influence of the Spanish occupation. It is Dutch to the marrow in sentiment, but it is half Spanish in temperament; by temperament I mean the manners of its people, the fashion of’ its churches and towers, the ornamentation of its homes, the general gayety and delight in the “joy of living” that shows so plainly among its citizens. I can conceive no greater contrast of feature and expression, of costume and gait, than one sees in comparing a Scheveningen fisherman’s wife and a Middelburg farmer’s vrouw, or a Scheveningen fisher him-self and a Zeeland sailor. The one is gravely earnest, with hard lines of toil about a rather stern mouth and eyes; the other round, merry, happy-go-lucky and well-to-do. The one dressed soberly with only a sparse ornament of silver or gold; the other revelling in bodice, gay shawl, fringes, white chemisette, gold beads, silver buckles, silver buttons, silver chains — the last three for both men and women. The one is the Puritan type, the other the Spanish cavalier; the one a toiler for wages for existence merely, the other a good liver with a reserve chest, and cattle to boot. The Scheveningen woman drags her cart or pushes it before her; the Walcheren peasant wife rides in her own gayly painted farm wagon, and is drawn by her own sturdy Zeeland mares.

This atmosphere, social and domestic, makes itself felt with all who remain even a short time on this island, and especially in Middelburg. After poor Tholen and Oud-Vosmeer, it was a relief to see something of this other life, and we entered into it with heartiness and pure enjoyment. There was a new delight for every day. Each went his or her own way, or we went by twos and threes, or all together, but, as a rule, we met at some hour of the day beneath the trees in the Abbey Court, or in the Market-Place in front of the Stadhuis. Middelburg streets are circles in the old parts of the town, and, on account of this peculiar plan—a result of building the streets around the Abbey, which is circular in form, as a nucleus-one can never stray. far without running across an acquaintance.

James bought a camp-stool, and could generally be found in front of the Stadhuis studying its every detail and making sketches. There never was such a Stadhuis anywhere else in the Middle Ages, and I am quite sure there is not another city that can show one like it in modern times. It is really the most exquisite thing in architecture I have ever seen. It is own little cousin to the Hôtel de Ville in Brussels, and, in my eyes, more original in conception and richer in detail; it is full of architectural surprises, but they never detract from the symmetry of proportion. The interior is as beautiful in its way as the exterior, and the rooms contain some wood-carvings worth a Iong journey thither to see. You may see here, if historically inclined and an admirer of William the Silent, his own signature, and near it the Duke of Alva’s book of bloody orders in cipher of his own handwriting and signed by him.

Here, too, you may see one of the oldest documents in the Dutch language — a charter granted to Middelburg by an ancient German king, William of Holland, a con-temporary of Simon of Monfort in England and of The Low Dyke at Domburg, farther down on the island of Walcheren, which dates from 1253 — the date of Middelburg’s rise in the world.

Lou, having developed an “antiquity” fad, could be found very often in that fascinating house-shop, near the old Shutterhof of St. Sebastian, revelling in the treasures collected there from Zeeland, and particularly North Brabant. Very often the Captain was with her, as he is an antiquary himself and the best person to consult before making a purchase. Lou has an ample income of her own and can indulge her tastes in this direction. But oftener he was with Lois, who led him a chase all over the island from Veere to Domburg and West Ka-pelle. At first Lou was always with them, I supposed for chaperone, although neither of them needed one, being gentle-people, as they are; but for custom’s sake, I was glad Lou was on hand. After a week, however, she had some excuse or other to let them go without her, and in consequence I was pressed into service. I can’t say I liked it, for it did seem rather mean to Ben, who was our guest; but he seemed to be enjoying himself thoroughly, was always ready to go with us, or to sail with Oom Kees the length and breadth of the island, to fish with him and smoke with him at all times of day. And the long days were all too short! Lois said she could accomplish twice as much “good times” in Zeeland as in any other place, because of the long, long twilights — and I am sure she made the most of them!

For my own part I never tired of walking out of one of the Abbey Gates, around the circle of the Lange Delft to the ancient Balans and its nowhere-to-bematched houses, and of walking in through another. The delight was always the same to enter the dark shadows of the ancient gateway and emerge into the green-filled court; to sit down beneath my special acacia, and, while listening to the chimes of lange Jan, watch the sunshine — and we had two weeks of it — filter through the light green foliage of the acacias and glance on the white cap of a peasant woman, or glisten on her gold cap-pins, as she passed me with her basket of butter overlaid with white linen.

The Butter-Market of Middelburg is, I am sure, unlike any other buttermarket in the entire civilized world. Nowhere else will you find such a setting.

Come with me out through the Abbey Gate that leads to the Balans, and follow the Lange Burg for two minutes till you come to another gate of the Abbey. Just opposite you will find an open, three-sided, walled court with colonnades, like Vasari’s Loggia in Florence where the ancient Tuscan fish-wives used to sell their wares. An iron fence separates this court from the Lange Burg. Enter through the iron gate, and you find yourself on the pavements of the court from the middle of which an enormous linden rises and spreads abroad its branches like a great green tent that canopies the whole yard. Enter the arcades; they are dim and sweet and cool; the butter-vendors, a hundred or more in their white caps, — not their Sunday best, — are ranged on long low benches against the walls, their baskets of pale yellow butter, unsalted and freshly churned, are on their laps, or at their feet covered with white linen or leaves. Here and there are huge creels of eggs, and all about and around are hundreds of the white-capped good-wives of Middelburg, intent on buying. It is a pretty sight and one not to be found elsewhere. From twelve to one on Butter-Market day Long John plays all the tunes in his full repertory.

James and I found out the fish-market by chance one day late in the afternoon. That, too, was an arcade, and within were the fish-wives and their wares. They auction off much of their fish, and it was curious to hear and see the manner of barter. Contrary to our bidding, the first offer is set at the highest price by the auctioneer, and little by little he lowers it until some one of the in-tending buyers flings a fish-net bag at him, which indicates that the purchaser is willing to pay the price offered! Sometimes, perhaps most frequently, they throw coarse blue and white linen bags, and as the auction proceeds rapidly there is, in consequence, some lively doings, and a constant fusillade of bags and nets.

We shall not soon forget the band concert in the old Shutterhof gardens of St. Sebastian; nor can we forget a dinner in the inn at which were present some twenty worthy burgomasters of Zeeland and Zeeland-Flanders. They were Dutch burgomasters, and might have served as models for Frans Hals, for Ferdinand Bol and Van der Helst! I recall especially the burgomaster of Terneuzen — a fine-looking man of middle age, his hair cut square across his forehead, his features strong and fine, his expression earnest, his carriage dignity itself. It was a Van Scorel type of face, or such as Holbein shows us sometimes when he portrays the worthy dignitary in office. His wife and daughter were with him at another time, and I have never seen such costumes as they wore. They were in gala attire: full stiff petticoats, rich bodice, low neck, short sleeves, and around the line of the neck a peculiar adjustment of material, richly wrought in colors, that stood out from the shoulders like a huge pair of triangular wings; these appendages rose almost as high as their ears. Their necks were loaded with chains set with real jewels; their caps stiff-winged and white; their gold pins heavy and elaborate, the spirals were like small bed-springs and depending from them were the ear-jewels which dangled about their eyes and temples. It was a rich costume as well as a curious one, and was worn with a dignity of ease that showed how many generations had gone to the making and wearing of it.

Turn where you will in Middelburg there is always something to rejoice the eye. The dry dock with a great East Indiaman on the ways, and Long John towering two hundred and eighty feet just behind the masts, is a fine sight at sundown! The old Cow Gate, too, and the green waters of a quiet canal that runs beside it, and mother-duck and ducklings manoeuvring about in them, are small things in themselves, but belong wholly to Middelburg.

There is an indescribable charm about this island city. It lays hold upon you in numberless ways, until you say, and with truth, “there is none such,” and give to it your entire Dutch allegiance and your true American affection. After seeing it, after living a short time in it, the conviction grows upon you that some-how, somewhere you have seen this lovely spot before, especially the precincts of the Abbey — whether in story, in poem, in imagination, in a dream, or in a preexistent state, you may not say; but seen it you have, and made of it an ideal that, at last, you have lived to realize. The chimes force this conviction upon you and foster such belief, for they are. the sweetest bells one can imagine. There are forty-one of them, and, if you ascend to the belfry, you may read on their brazen throats a word or two in Latin, which they make articulate in ringing tones, such as, “I praise Thee, O Lord.”

Often of a summer night, as I lay awake listening to the breeze stirring among the acacias, that almost touched my windows, I could hear two or three little bells ring faintly with an irregular babbling tinkle as if murmuring in some dream. Sometimes there would rouse up a giant deep-throated bell and boom out just one stroke — a sound as if some deep-voiced century in the Middle Ages had called over the abyss of Time to the Present, and itself to remembrance. Now and then a whole set of smaller bells would ripple out and run the scale higher and higher as if chasing each other up the belfry ladders; and again the whole forty-one would break forth into the Spring Song, and fill the night with harmony. Often I have fallen asleep “in marble halls” and waked only to find I was being put through the same musical process, and rarely, and fortunately so, all the bells got woefully mixed and there followed a medley of chaotic cadences with no tune at all distinguishable. I remember one painful hitch in Madame Ingot that held everybody in suspense until it was safely adjusted — evidently to Long John’s entire satisfaction, for, after the suspense was over, he flung the chorus of that opera about on the night air as recklessly as a Japanese juggler throws his glass balls.

I was expatiating to James on the loveliness and chumminess of these bells one day, at the end of our two weeks when we had gone over to Veere to see those marvels of engineering, the great iron sluice-gates that keep the sea from flooding the island. We were waiting for the little steamer from Zierikzee. James was lying on the grass, his arms under his head, and I was sitting beside him, watching a lark soar and circle and sing above the green island-meadows. The tinkle of his song recalled the bells, and I spoke, as I did often, in their praise. I was greeted with a roar of laughter from James, and was amazed to see him roll over face downwards in the grass.

“Why, James Moulton, what are you laughing at so ?” I demanded. It was really trying to have my little flight of sentiment met with such uproarious laughter.

“Oh, my!” he fairly groaned; “if you did but know it, your Long John has been planning a match, and you’re likely to hear them as marriage bells before you’re many weeks older.”

For answer I shook him and made him turn over. “Now tell me what you mean, James, and be rational about it. Do you mean that Ben and Lois are going to make up ?”

“Ben and Lois ? Umph, you don’t know Ben.”

“Well, my dear, you have said that thing enough times for me not to know him; now are you satisfied ? What I want to know is, what you mean by your insinuation about wedding bells.”

“Haven’t you noticed anything ?” he said, sitting up and facing me.

“You mean about the Captain, James ?” He nodded.

“Well, I’d like to know who could help noticing. He has been perfectly devoted to her ever since they met on The Broomstick.”

“Her, who ?”

“Why, Lois, of course; who else? What do you think of it, James ? I really am getting dreadfully worried about the whole thing, especially Ben.”

“You let Ben alone; you needn’t worry about him. Ben can take care of himself,” was the truly masculine response which left me entirely in the dark. “Your nice little plan hasn’t seemed to work,” he added, a little maliciously.

“What plan ?”

“Your match-making between Lois and the Captain.”

“But you haven’t given them time.” Upon this my husband fell to laughing immoderately again, and I undertook to enlighten him on certain points on which the masculine intelligence is apt to prove obtuse.

“Now, James, I have something to tell you that has been weighing on my mind for fourteen days.”

“Go ahead.”

“Do you believe in love at first sight ?”

“Ye-es; but I believe more in it at second sight.”

” James, stop teasing this minute, and tell me if you have noticed anything queer about Lou, lately.”

“Lou ? No, only that she is a fine-looking woman and young for her age.”

“She’s fallen in love, James, and at first sight, too —.” James whistled. “—And of course she’s too old to show it as a young girl would, but I know it’s gone deep — and I feel dreadfully about it; it does seem as if it were all my fault. Do help me.”

“Oh, don’t worry about Lou, Persis; she’s old enough to look out for herself.” Then he began to laugh again, or rather chuckle to himself.

“Now, James, I call that downright hard-hearted! As if Lou hadn’t deep feelings just because she is forty! — And I wish you’d stop laughing and tell me what there is in my speech that excites this risibility on your part.” I confess I was a little tried to find James so unsympathetic; for, even if it had been my fault in the first place in inviting Lou over, there was no need of my husband’s deserting me at the crucial moment.

“Well, I’ll tell you, Persis but — word of honor, now, it goes no farther ?” I laid my hand on my heart, and James always takes that on my part as a mason’s oath. He interrupted himself with another chuckle.

“— The fact is that last evening, after the band concert

in the Schutterhof garden, the Captain took me aside, and, with the manners of an ambassador, asked my permission, as masculine representative and relative of Lou on this side of the water, to pay his addresses to her with intention of speedy marriage! — Now what do you say to Dutch slowness in making up their minds, eh ?”

“Oh, James!” Really it was all I had breath for.

“Yes; and he intimated that if his suit were successful—and he didn’t seem to have much doubt about that part (darn their foreign conceit!) — he would like the marriage to take place before we leave The Hague!”

“Gracious, James!”

“Yes; and he intimated pretty strongly that there would be no need of a dot, as he was well provided with this world’s goods, but if she had an income of her own, it would be agreeable to him in case of issue!”

“For pity’s sake, James, what next ?”

“Yes; and he said it would be necessary to produce her baptismal certificate, and her mother’s marriage certificate, and I don’t know but what he said her grand-mother’s certificate of birth and her own!”

“Oh, James!”

“Yes; and a lot more red tape that I didn’t listen to, for I was so confounded with the suddenness of the whole thing.”

“What did you tell him, James ?” My husband began to laugh again, and immoderately, before he could answer.

“I told him to `go in and win.’ But he looked so puzzled — evidently he didn’t understand the entire significance of that phrase — that I mounted my high horse of etiquette, and told him the honor he had conferred on our family by seeking such a connection was thoroughly appreciated by me, as representative-relative for Lou while she is with us, and that he had my full and free permission to make such advances with a view to matrimony; that all legalities, papers, certificates, etc., would be at once attended to, and that I hoped to have the great honor of shaking his hand in the near future as a cousin.”

“Good for you, James, that was fine!”

“Yes, I thought I rose to the occasion fairly well.” (Oh, the conceit of man!) “But, Persis, I’ve laughed as often since last night as Long John has rung his bells at the humor of the whole thing —I asked permission by anybody to court Lou, and she forty! Oh, but that’s rich!”

“What do you suppose Lois will say?” was my next question.

“I think her pretty nose will be well out of joint, and I’m glad of it,” he added, savagely. “She played fast and loose with Ben, and now she’s met her match in the Captain. An all-round fine man he is too, and I’m glad enough to welcome him to our family, if he is a foreigner — `a man’s a man for a’ that.’

“James!” I broke out suddenly, as is my way

when, as James says, my thoughts get switched off onto another track, “would you mind if I just hinted to Ben how things stand —”

James jumped to his feet, thrust both hands in his pockets, and became suddenly masterful. “Now, Persis, remember you have given your word to me,— and re-member, too, that I’m managing this thing; you’re not in it this time.”

Of course there was nothing to be said after that — but he couldn’t prevent me thinking my thoughts, thank fortune!

The steamer was approaching the great gates, and the men were laboriously at work opening them. The desolate fane of Veere stood out against the bright west like a beautiful etching, and the exquisite Stadhuis tower let fall its tinkling carillon as we boarded the steamer. As it moved from the wall of the lock the lark was still singing above the island meadows, and the tiny steep-pitched roofs beyond the bastions glowed bright red in the sunlight. We left this ancient port and its memories of past glory, and took our straight course again to Middelburg where, upon our arrival, we found all our party at the quay. Lou was looking very handsome and happy with a great bunch of white roses in her hand, and a suspicion of the Netherlands’ colors in her afternoon gown. Seeing which, I nudged James and whispered that the Captain had not let any grass grow upon his “gracious permission.” I wondered if Ben saw any-thing of this.

That evening we changed our plans, and decided to remain another week in the capital of Zeeland. Indeed, it held us; we could not have left had we wished to — and we had no desire to remove ourselves beyond the sound of its sweet bells and its green Abbey Court. As we were discussing plans for seeing the island of Walcheren during the next week, Ben surprised us by saying that, as his time was limited, he had decided to take a trip into North Holland and see some of the cities of which we had spoken with such enthusiasm. Possibly he would meet us again at The Hague, whither we were going for a week to close the house, and bid good-bye to our Tryntje, Anna Engelina, and a few other faithful friends in the capital of the Netherlands.

Upon this announcement, I immediately comprehended the situation. James was party to his going and was “managing things himself.” I decided it was wiser to express my sincere regrets and refrain from urging Ben to stay. But I wondered what Lois would say. As a matter of fact, she said nothing; but, during the rest of the evening, was the gayest of the gay, and acted precisely as if his going were a source of hidden joy to her. I felt like shaking her !

Our last evening all together in Middelburg was a merry one and Long John outdid himself, for, as we sat at the round tables outside the Abbey Inn and ate our late supper of delicious shrimp croquettes, bread and butter, tea and strawberries, he ranged the gamut and gave us all his tunes in quick succession with broken phrases of melody thrown in pell-mell, interrupting our merry chat with his tinkles, and runs, and gurgles, and crash of chords, and quenching us wholly in a deafening booming fusillade at twelve, midnight.

Oh, the bells of Middelburg! Long may their sweet Spring Song fill the green Abbey Court of St. Nicholas with cheerful melody! Long may its echoes resound among the double-groined arches of the dim, beautiful cloisters, and its mid-air harmonies continue to float above the surrounding Towers of Middelburg!