Littell's Living Age/Volume 175/Issue 2264/A Visit in a Dutch Country House - Part II

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One morning the Baron and Baroness P— came up from the Hague, to spend the day at Lindenroede. Hugo took us for a long drive after déjeuner through the thick woods and bright villas round Bloemendaal village; and by handsome, finely wooded demesnes with long grassy drives cut through the trees, stretching straight from the highroad to the house-fronts, seen in narrowing perspective. We passed our cousin W. C—'s large place, with its deer-park and noble old beech avenues than which I know few finer. And lastly we visited the famous old ruined castle belonging to the Counts of Brederode, and so often besieged. It is of mellowed red brick, as stone could only be had imported in this low country, and is still surrounded by a broad moat. After seeing Chepstow lately, Brederode was small to my eyes, but on climbing to the tower's flat roof, its especial charm was manifest. How one could recall the past! Beyond the dark moat washing the old walls, unbroken green pastures dotted with cattle stretched away for some miles around to Haarlem and its cathedral. Nearer, on the seaside, rose steep and sharp, if low, the white sand-hills, topped with turf, in all sorts of jagged, fantastic outline like miniature Alps. Exactly the same these meadows must have looked "long time ago," when the hunt rode out in the morning from the courtyard; or a jousting-match was held down below on the sward in the afternoon. After dinner here, the dames and squires came out "to play" in the meadow, as told in old romances, whilst the heavy old lords snored or caroused, and many a countess trailing her skirts along these castle walls must have wearied of her life and of the low, rich, but monotonous pastures lying there below her eyes.

Another morning Jacqueline and I went to the Hague, which looked especially bright and cheery that sunny day. In the afternoon we took an open carriage and drove down to Scheveningen, through the wood, by the charming road that is always a flicker of light and shade. On the beach the wide sands were terribly windy; the great hotels closing for the winter; the many summer visitors fled. Still, we liked seeing the fishwives with their great flapping hats, the sea strangely streaked green and grey; and one picturesque little sight I remembered of a red wagon piled heavily with brown nets, and drawn by three longtailed brisk horses abreast, clattering and straining sideways over the sloping paved causeway laid down on the shifting sands. This was a most pleasurable day. And on others equally delightful, we went to Amsterdam. Once with Hugo and the Princess, when we saw everything I remembered of old, and more — the wide canals full of craft, and the still broader and more busy Amstel; the dark-red houses painted almost chocolate, with white corniced wreaths round the windows giving them a comical funereal air, in spite of the noise and bustle generally below them; the Jews' quarter, where quick eyes will see the bit of hollow wood nailed to every doorpost containing the law written on a tiny scrap of parchment; the delightful Kalverstraat where we bought old silver and stared at far more, regardless of a tremendous shower. Then the Treppenhuis pictures; Vandyck's burghers, more kingly than kings; and the Weenixes, when I could hardly believe that I cared to stand and gaze, and then again come back and stare at dead hares — but I did! And beyond all, the Rembrandts, and dearest of these the noble old lady — a work of love — with the down of age on her chin, but such eternal beauty of soul shining through her wrinkled face that one knows she must have loved and suffered, laughed and wept, and lived as a true and good woman till she was painted there at eighty. Then to the Broeker-huis, a mediæl little house transported piecemeal from Broek, ("cleanest village in the world," vide Murray), and set up here by the good Amsterdam corporation, all fitted with old furniture, and shown by a costumed young vrouw, to show this generation exactly how the "old people" lived; a most interesting sight. Later — to be brief — what a good table d'hôte we enjoyed at the Amstel Hotel; and how my friends detected one guest to be English, because "he came to dinner in knickerbockers and rough clothes although ladies were present," while a pair of my countrymen, better dressed, were highly approved. Another morning we ladies started off so early that all the housemaids in Haarlem, wearing their regulation lilac prints, clear muslin caps with a thick frill all round (some with a Friesland silver skull-cap, shining under lace), were busy syringing the windows with the brass household pumps for that purpose I have never seen with us; more's the pity! We went off for a "good day's shopping," and hiring a "monkey," a small open carriage, with a coachman wearing a glazed white hat and black cockade, we drove around to our heart's content. N.B. — The shops have a horribly close, damp smell; but the memory of a good lunch at the Café Riche abides with me yet.

One morning I was awakened by the sound of many voices singing outside. "It was the soldiers passing. The regiment in garrison marching out towards Leyden," explained Hugo later. "They always sing most of the way." We went to Haarlem that day, as on many others, when I saw all its sights and ways. The great Frans Hals pictures, the museums of antiquities, the dogs harnessed under the handcarts piled with washing or vegetables (a law forbids their pulling in front); the weekly market where all manner of things from old clothes to kettles are laid round the cathedral walls; and the zuurkraams (sour booths). These latter are the cleanest of little green booths, where hard-boiled eggs piled in a net, or five onions in vinegar are laid ready on tiny white plates, or gherkins and such pickled "sourness" can be bought for a penny apiece by workmen or market folk. There is also a little parlor end of the booth, screened by snowy blinds, where these delicacies may be more largely indulged in. I saw no gin palaces nor publics of our lower, common kind; but cafés, of course, with seats out of doors and inside; furthermore, some knockered, sanctimoniously white-blinded houses as if a corpse lay indoors; these are the best wine or spirit shops. Again, there was the cathedral, much restored and improved lately, and the famous organ. I was curious to try if my memories thereof were exaggerated; but no! such an ocean of sweet sounds, so grand, so deep, such music worthy of heaven, in my poor judgment I had not heard since. Coming home about four o'clock — that day the soldiers had passed Lindenroede — we met them returning in a tired, dusty crowd, still trying hoarsely to sing, and two in the rear supporting each other. (I wonder that tipsy men are not constantly drowned in the deep, open ditches by the roadsides here, but "there is a Providence "— as Jacqueline quotes.) This infantry uniform, blue, with yellow worsted facings and tassels, hairy knapsacks, and pointed caps, like those of our convicts, is very ugly. Other men in Holland never struck me as being small, but these ill-grown soldiers in badly fitting garments did not raise my enthusiasm. The hussars, however, looked smart. Their song, said Hugo, was probably the following one, which is doggrel nonsense, but a favorite: —

     Fight, brothers, for the last time,
     For we go to the camp at Zeist;
     No more money in our pockets,
     No more buttons on our breeches,
     So it won't be for very long.

     The corporation's members
     Are not so much to blame;
     For now regarding doggies
     They've gone and taxed the same.
     Oh, miss, take care of your doggie,
     Take care of your little dog!

I interested myself to know the songs of the people, and was told that each year at the first great kermis (or fair) some ditty with a catching air becomes popular, and is immediately the song of the season, sung at every other kermis by peasants, soldiers, and townsfolk. A merry little one is, —

     John, buy me a fairing!
     Maiden, no money have I!
     The gold has run out of my pockets,
     Why should I then a fairing buy?

I was disappointed in finding no better volks-lieder, while in cultured poetry they have odes and epics in plenty, I was told, but few songs that are sung.[1]

Hugo and his daughter are director and directrice of a small almshouse (Hofje) for servants of the C— family, which they showed me with interested pride. It stands picturesquely in the Haarlem Wood, and was built in 1636 by William van Heythusen, a Haarlem benefactor, passing by marriage to the C—'s. His portrait by Frans Hals hung till lately in the little "regent-room" of the almshouse, but was sold, after a family council, to the Brussels museum for eight thousand forms, and the proceeds support another old woman here in comfort. The pleasure of the crones in seeing their beloved director and directrice was delightful. Each had the most exquisitely tidy of carpeted rooms, with a curtained box bed, in which hung a pretty rope and handle, to "pull themselves up by." Each also receives every week a florin and some beef, butter, and turf. I could enlarge on the exquisite tidiness and the prettiness of other homes of the poor I saw in Holland, but space fails. On the whole, in this small and prosperous land, everybody seems comfortable. The equal division of property between sons and daughters brings about, doubtless, the many often very early marriages. The eldest son keeps the family home, and if impoverished by giving an equivalent to his brothers and sisters, "Why, then he marries a rich wife!" The many here must not suffer for the eldest; and though the result is, that there are few great fortunes as with us, neither is there such excessive poverty. The land is full of smiling villas; there is no "keeping-up of appearances." And Dutch ladies are encouraged to spend more on their dress by fathers and husbands than their English sisters, while pleasant trips seem matters of course. Certainly, servants wages and house-rent are much cheaper than with us.

I had been promised that my wish to see a dairy farm should be gratified. Accordingly we started early next morning to visit one some miles off, taking its friendly owner, Baron van H—, by surprise. Off we sallied, walking to Heemstede village, past the Thirsty-Hole public-house, with its closed door and muslin-curtained windows looking as respectable as its neighbors, even more decorous, though within are strange bottles labelled with such names dear to the peasantry as Parfait Amour, and others too coarse for ears polite. We sat down at the Heemstede turnpike to await the steam-train which runs along the country roads from Haarlem to Leyden. Our yellow painted bench was perfectly clean, but out ran an anxious girl with sponge and duster, apologizing to mynheer. Taking our seats in one of the two comfortable large carriages, away puffed an engine, brushing so closely past hedges that the branches often whipped the windows; through hamlets all green-shuttered, muslin-curtained, white-blinded, passing so near the doors it was a marvel none of the many small children shuffling about in their sabots were not run over. (Decidedly, these universal snowy muslin curtains and the scollop-edged blinds drawn jealously down, with the curved blue wire screens before all windows alike, in town or village, will always remain in my memories of Holland.) We had glimpses of old country houses, white-painted, green-shuttered, standing among trees with only a lawn and some sluggish brown water between them and the road. Through thick coppices, woods, out again into true Dutch pastures stretching away level to the (drained) Lake of Haarlem, dimly indicated by lines of poplars; next come market-gardens that supply Haarlem and Amsterdam with vegetables, and the peasants with the winter flowers the poorest cherish in their houses. Their fancy changes — this year it was all for small pink spireas, I believe, and hundreds of these were being grown, to be sold for two or three pence each. Then came peat-fields stocked with turf, and under the lee of some wood where lay a brown canal, or at a village bridge, great boats were piled with the fuel. (I love seeing a big brown sail gliding through the meadows at a distance, where no water seems to be!) There were sandy fields full of gladioli, almost past their bloom, and of "red-hot-pokers"(readers will kindly excuse the familiar name, considering that most of us know the plant by no better). We stopped at larger villages with slated-spired churches, and clipped trees all a-row before the houses, while a trekschuit was often waiting, too, for passengers on the canal close by. This kind of barge contains a big cabin, and inside this, or on the roof, the peasants journey comfortably, if slowly, with their baskets, for long distances where roads or conveyances do not suit.

The steam-tram stopped after an hour and a half opposite an entrance gate with pillars, on which, as is usual in Holland, was the name of the demesne — 'T Huis Terlyden. We walked up the sandy drive curving through thick trees, and just at the house met Baron van H— himself. Eager greetings followed. He led us into the study and called his wife with vivacious cheerfulness. "Of course he would show me the farm, and his onion (bulb) fields and everything." The children were brought in to be admired by their neighbors and relations; and naturally all but the youngest infant could speak French, and would soon learn English. One four-year-old lovely cherub, Schelto, was coaxed on his father's knee to recite some baby poetry learnt as a greeting for his grandmother's birthday. This, beginning in a murmur, listened to with deep interest, ended in a triumphant shout amid loud applause. Children seem to me to be more "brought forward" than in England, and certainly the grown up ones recall their own petting with much glee, and declare the system endears family relationships.

"There is a Scotch name just the same as that of my boy, Schelto, I have been told?" said the baron inquiringly. But as "Sch"is pronounced in Dutch something between a rasping choke and a cough — first, Sh, and then a horrible sound as if a fishbone had stuck in one's throat (Oh, the torture of trying to pronounce Scheveningen rightly!), I was puzzled a little before suggesting Sholto. "That is it — all right! It is a Friesland name, and Friese and Scotch have many words all the same." "Why, of course. I will tell you a common rhyme we have," put in Hugo —

          Bread, butter, and cheese,
     Is good English, and good Friese.

"And your Dutch Kom binnen (Come in), always reminds me of the 'Come ben' of a Scotch peasant wife," I added, in contribution to our philological efforts, further discerning that the house stood by the beek of Leyden, answering to our beck, save that it is a sluggish stream indeed; while the Friesland terms binnen and buiten for inside and outside the house, might be the "but and ben" of Scottish inner and outer rooms.

But there was no time to lose, unless we wished to lose the returning train. The baron hurried us outside to the courtyard and began to act guide and interpreter with most infectious gaiety but explicitness. Here was an ivied building, with dormer windows, and cooing pigeons on the thatched roof, which roof covered the cow-house, dairy, and dwelling-house of the dairyman and his wife. A row of sabots stood significantly outside the good wife's door. We entered a fresh-scoured passage, with a neat carpet-strip down it, and found the dairywoman herself in a cool paved kitchen where the principal object was a big pump. She wore a lace cap with lappets, as usual, pinned up, and spirally twisted gold pins, while her spouse, coming down a ladder from the garret, was clad in wide blue serge trousers and white shirt, and was in his stockinged feet — as a man should be in such a spick-and-span home. They showed us their nicely carpeted parlor; it was also a bedroom, though all signs thereof were neatly hidden behind the wooden doors, like cupboards sunk in the wall. Up three steps to a beautifully kept Sunday parlor then, with red carpet-strips, muslin curtains, and a fine box bed "for guests" (who never come!). Down below the kitchen by a step-ladder we dived into a large twilight dairy, smelling deliciously fresh, and furnished with long tables of fresh cheeses, butter, and pans of milk. "This man and his wife make four cheeses a day; two in the morning, two in the evening," commented our host. Now to the cow-house just across the kitchen passage, "So that the man and wife can hear any disturbance among the animals." A long room met our view, with a red-tiled glistening passage down the middle, where well scoured boards on trestles were see laden with cheeses. "I will count these," exclaimed the Princess eagerly. On either side were piled snowy cheese-presses, with brass cheese-scoops, snuffers, candlesticks, and in fact all the brass bravery of the house laid out so to look pretty, as an every-day matter. To right and left in winter, the horned heads of fifty-eight black and white cows would be seen. "Now we must come by the walls and see how the cows stand," said Hugo. "Yes, yes," cried the baron, "you all would naturally walk along the middle here, and see the cows' heads only. But in winter the peasants come in often to admire the cows, and as from the after part of these animals — (eh, what, Hugo, isn't that what they call it in English? Why do you laugh?) the behind is the best way to view — I find them standing here with their mouths open, saying, "Hé! heel rnooë! (how fine), what a beautiful cow that one is I" The cows have slightly-raised platforms of stone, only half covered with wood to ease their hind feet. Under the fore feet is sand, most carefully marked now, it being summer season, in ornamental patterns, although there was no one to see it, as we might say, not recognizing easily a love of artistic effect for its own sake in a simple peasant dairy-farmer and his wife. (The dairy farm is no show one, and Baron van H. does not concern himself therewith, having let it to these good souls.) A cord was stretched along the cow-house above the "after part" of the cows, to which all the fifty-eight tails are tied up in winter, lest they should dirty their owners. "And are the cows washed?" I ask, with vague memories of Murray. "If they are very dirty, certainly; and when they come in for winter and go out in spring." My attention was specially drawn to the deep runnels, whence the cows' manure is removed several times a day, "for we consider that most valuable, especially for the bulbs!" I was impressively told. The great kitchen pump is brought into play, too, and lukewarm water from the boiler constantly sluiced down the cow-house. "One hundred and thirty-six cheeses," announced Princess Cornelie, returning at this juncture. But as she had forgotten to count all those in the dairy her statistics were unkindly declared wanting.

Across the brick-paved courtyard next to the "summer dairy where they sit," said the baron; but whether cheeses or farmer's folk I doubted, however concluded both, seeing tables and chairs, and a low wooden platform usual here over cold tiled floors. Here were the presses and vats for cheese-making. But knowing more about butter, I went into the next room to study the churn and dipper, finding they use the whole milk here, not the cream in Devonshire fashion. A cheap butter is made from the particles left on the surface of the whey-vats after the cheese is made. The remainder is given to the pigs. These were in a house near, but having no open yard smelt too horribly for some of us to dare to inspect them, in spite of being taken by our laughing host for cockneys.

At the end of the farmyard lay, conveniently, the brown slow water of the Leyden picturesquely shadowed by trees. Flat big boats were moored under their branches; on the level bank a woman was washing at a landing-step. Across the stream, and away in dim distances of green shading to hazy blues lay the low quiet meadows that seem ideal pasture-grounds — as such alone! Fat and green diversified by wood, and still waters that know no babbling hurry, but brood where the cattle feed; with no hills to mount and see what lies beyond suggesting change; hardly a sight to cause the mind to stray, save distant spires pointing heavenwards. A still, sleepy landscape, where rest and comfort creep over one's mind, and one could forget the world's whirl gladly — for a while.

A bridge was laid over the stream near the farmyard. Here was a little round arbor, where the old baron, our host's grandfather, used to sit at tea on summer evenings and watch with pride his lowing kine being driven in from the far meadows and milked just across the stream, where he had them in full view. It would make a quaint little sketch, the old-fashioned gentleman taking his ease with a dignified Dutch lady of that time presiding over the peat-bucket and kettle, and carefully handling the blue china teacups. Around them shadowing trees with the brown Leyden's flow beneath; across the water a herd of cattle in the foreground of the plain, bathed in the golden radiance of such sunsets as Cuyp knew.

After seeing the pleasure-ground and admiring a pair of noble goats lying in the grass that are driven by the eldest boy and girl, (the goat-carriages full of small children being a pretty sight here), we paid a rapid visit to the bulb-house. Monsieur van H— takes the greatest interest in bulb-growing, which he does in his sandy fields to the same extent as many other gentlemen at home try farming on a small scale. The bulb-house was full of tiers of wooden trays, rising in a framework to the ceiling, and spread with bulbs. More, of all kinds, filled hampers standing ready to be carried to the fields, where, by good luck, work was now going on. But first, even with the warning calls of Hugo in our ears, who was leader and brains-carrier of the party — the baron hurried me in to see his pleasant dining-room. "Here! here is something quite characteristic you must see!" It was a handsome massive walnut armoire, which when unlocked displayed piles of fine damask, laid on shelves edged with lace stamped paper. "That is the correct old fashion," he explained, then we both hastened outside to appease our best of time-keepers. "It must be a lovely sight when all your flowers are in blow," I said, as we went through sandy walks under the trees and out into a meadow. "Yes, but unhappily, it is often such cold weather. The rain comes, and so! — they look wretched; it is a pity."

The bulb-grounds were surrounded and intersected into square plots by hedges of saplings. The soil was almost pure sand, which, when plentifully manured, produces such fine hyacinths and tulips as can be grown nowhere else. "The men are precisely planting hyacinths. : now you shall see just how they do it," said our host. A long bed was hollowed in the sand about two inches deep, and on either side knelt a man drawing lines care fully with a forefinger and thickly laying in small bulbs. This is by no means at haphazard, for so many go to a row, and bags of differently sorted sizes lay at hand. Seven bulbs in a row signify these are salable. When eight little plants raise their green noses above ground it means that line must be undisturbed for the year. None are sold till after three years' growth. As this bed was being planted the next was hollowed out, so that its layer of sand re-covered this one; so on with the most methodical preciseness. "It is beautiful for me to see these flowers," said Monsieur van H—; "first crocuses, then hyacinths, tulips, anemones, lilies — always a succession! And I hope to make money by them, too." "But do you not send the cut flowers to the London market, or elsewhere? Surely they would sell well," I suggested. "Too well," he said, laughing. "We used to send them, and they arrived quite fresh in Covent Garden. Then we found when the English could buy flowers, they would not buy bulbs — which last pay us much better. It was the same thing with our peasants. So now we say, 'No; buy our bulbs if you want flowers.'" (I had heard the same account before.) He took up a bulb to show me the system of dividing them. "See here! I cut this in three parts almost — only leave them hanging together — then you get twenty-five young ones. But there is another way." He scooped out the flower-core of another bulb neatly with his pocket-knife, leaving a cup-shaped hollow. "There! That (the cup) will make fifty little ones, and this flower-heart still another, but that will be weak."

Having now seen all, and time flying, we regained the highroad that skirted the fields. Here, while the steam-tram came in sight and farewells with friendly gossip were interchanged between my companions and their neighbor, he bade me a hearty good-bye, saying, "Now, I have tried to show you all I could, only do not write down my atrocious English and laugh at it." Which I hope I have not done; the said "atrocious" English being, however, infinitely better than most, alas, of our insular French of "Stratford-atte-Bowe," his courteous politeness that which belongs to no nation, but all his own.

Going home I noticed more women than usual wearing the curious square silver frontlets on their foreheads they affect here. It will be a great pity should the costumes die out. Nevertheless, it is very comical to see the effect of a straw bonnet with brown ribbons and tawdry flowers, perched on the top of a gold skull-cap and lace lappets; or adorned by the thin forehead band and the tufts of horsehair or wool on each side of the cheeks that mimic the real hair, either tucked away invisibly or cropped. Yet this is a most usual sight.

When my last Sunday came, the boding news that a preacher was expected who only drew breath and drank his usual glass of water after an hour and a half of sermon, led me to prefer my English prayer-book and pleasant room for the morning. What glorious weather! Quite warm again; and a true St. Martin's summer. It was now nearly October, and the trees were as green and leafy still as in July. Hearing a murmur of laughing voices outside my window, I looked out, and saw the coachman in his white linen stable-jacket gathering beech-nuts busily with his children under the fine old trees. They were opening them and preparing the kernels carefully for their dessert. Rich and poor eat beech mast with relish here; at home I have only seen country children take the trouble to pick this. The other day the coachman's young stepdaughter, of about thirteen, made an unconscious illustration of the ways of her country and sex. She was sitting on a chair near the coachhouse door mending a heavy serge petticoat, with a most demure air, her sleek, fair hair divided in two plaits shining in the autumn cool sunlight, a string of coral beads round her neck (as is very usual), and her feet raised on an empty little wooden "stove," to keep them off the damp, sandy soil.

In the afternoon we had quite a gathering of visitors on the terrace. And as all were bound for "the wood" like ourselves, we walked there together, a large party. The Haarlem Wood is one of the chief charms of the bright, quaint, old-world town, which at moments reminds me of a quiet cathedral city with us. There are pretty open peeps here and there down its sandy, often solitary paths. Some of the trees are very fine, notably the dark avenue called the Spaniards' Lane, where the latter camped during the memorable siege, and hanged their prisoners on these trees, whose creaking branches in the winter winds are still said to bear the groaning ghosts of the dead burghers. Deeper in the wood with the trunks like slim pillars round us, a carpet of russet leaves thick under foot, and green leaves more thick overhead, we came on a pretty group of neighbors' infants, and of course there was a stoppage to play with and caress them.

Then on to the open space where the band was playing; and the club-lawn crowded. Further on, outside the humbler cafés, shop-keeping and peasant groups seemed enjoying themselves equally round their tables. Their drinking-glasses contained mostly custards, milk, or a stronger liquid of gin in which black currants had been steeped. We passed by. the carriages of country neighbors, and went to drink four-o'clock tea with some friends close by. Sitting in the verandah afterwards, as the band ceased we watched the crowd of townspeople stream quietly homeward for a five-o'clock meal. They take their pleasure heartily but decorously as if used to it. We discussed the Sunday's amusement question, and all were for the opening of museums and picture-galleries to the people in England and shuddered at the memories of Sundays in London. Still, even with the pleasantly animated little scene before us and the dispersing throng, we were not unanimous as to having music — because "the bandsmen were not resting." I met several evangelistic-minded people here, who take much interest in the religious movements in England. Some inquired about the Salvation Army — but with no wish for a nearer knowledge thereof.

Much as I liked driving through the storm-tossed sea of little sandhills of the downs, or the thick woods and gay villas of Bloemendaal, our last drive was on the opposite side of Haarlem. "We must take you along the Spaarndam, for that is now something truly Dutch," said Hugo. "Yes; certainly! No strangers go there, and even few people from Haarlem, but it is so pretty," echoed Jacqueline. And afterwards I thoroughly agreed in their choice, though experience had already ingrained my conviction that no other two people in the world had happier notions of their guests' likings, or pleasanter ways of fulfilling them. We started in the landau next afternoon therefore, passing through the Haarlem outskirts, on what was once the famous moated rampart, now a shady drive with water on either side. Next we came out by the Spaarn, and drove for a mile or two along the water's edge. The Spaarn is really a river. Flat though its banks be, itself is broad, dark, blue, and that day all ruffled with the breeze, in which seamews were fluttering and bobbing joyously up and down, "Why are they so far inland? there will be a storm!" cried the Princess. At which I inwardly quaked, thinking of my return by Flushing; but for once our weather prophetess was wrong. There were men fishing along the edge, almost hidden by the tall, waving grass with its heavy flower-spikes. And two little pictures stand out again in my memory, as seen on the opposite bank. One, a windmill all freshly painted in black, with white stripes length-wise down it, and a broad red band on the base, while the saw-yard thereto attached had its little buildings made of brown varnished planks and tiled roofs, the whole, with the broad sails turning against the cloudless background of the sky, being as bright a combination of color as one would wish. And next a brown farmhouse, thatched and shaded, with its comfortable stacks and out-houses crowding round it like chickens round their mother, all picturesquely seeming almost sliding into the broad river which washed their walls. We crossed by a bridge at Spaarndam village, where the little Telescope inn was familiarly recognized. In properly frosty winters when all the Haarlem world turns out on the ice, my companions had skated up here on the Spaarn since their childhood; and stopped here, as is the custom, to rest before returning, and drink aniseed, or boeren-jongens (boer-boys), i.e., raisin brandy, presumably made as is cherry brandy.

Near Spaarndam, new forts are being busily built. Great mud-boats were being poled along, and their sandy contents, after dredging the river's bed, went to defend its banks. The navvies at work stopped to stare at the carriage. "They are the wildest men in the country!" remarked Jacqueline. Their looks certainly bore out this impeachment, but the vivid coloring of their crimson cotton shirts and blue trousers excused their evil ways in my eyes much. Then, too, they had built themselves some delightful huts — to look at! These were sloping wigwams, thatched to the ground with sheaves of the tall river grass, that waved its plumes around the cabins. Funny little chimneys poked themselves up, while small windows were set in anyhow. Our road went along a raised dyke, which overlooked part of the drained Y on one hand, and fat fen-farms on the other. This was characteristic, but uninteresting, till we soon again came in view of the one landmark one seldom fails to see — the cathedral, rising like a large lumpish mass over the roof of its charge, the town. We entered Haarlem again by the Amsterdam gate, the only one of the old gates remaining. More's the pity! as with its mellowed red-brick square tower and port-cullised archway, its round side turrets pointing upwards with a still-defiant air, it is one of the Haarlem sights I like best. We drove back through old narrow streets, whose gabled brick houses are all "corbie-stepped" in white stone to the "crow-stone" atop. Here again flows the Spaarn, with its clipped trees on either side, the sunlit water — now thick and brown — having caught beautifully red reflections from the tiled roofs. River craft, often painted green and red striped, were being laden and unladen in a busy scene, giving a quaint air of being a port to this inland town. This confusion of ideas is the charm to me of Holland's water-ways, apart from their usefulness and picturesque effect.

We had a merry party at dinner that night. We always had; but with the bride elect and bridegroom, and the bustle of seeing the many presents that had arrived, and the Princess's jokes being particularly salt, we were merrier. After all adjourning for coffee and liqueurs, some of the warm-blooded ones, who always cried, "J'étouffe!" when shivering wretches began only to feel a gentle glow, must needs fly out to the terrace for air. "It is really warm! Why, there is the mist, as in summer. Come out and see." So I was whirled out to behold; and lo! over the Lindenroede meads a ghostly white pall was spread low and thick, above which rose the trees, darkly defiant, while overhead the stars were merry and the young moon bright. The summer warmth generally draws out this night fog, which brings the well-known fever and ague of the Low Countries, the same our troops suffered from so severely in bygone wars. Having had both on a previous visit, this is one of the things in Holland I do not like. Back we were called to the cheerful lamplight of the antique room where the tea-tray, the peat-bucket, and hissing kettle had quickly succeeded coffee.

And now some fun began in discussing the approaching wedding, and the pros and cons as to a Sgeesé party (chaise party). This is verily a thorough old Dutch custom, though somewhat in disuse. There had not been one among the clan of neighbors and cousins since Jacqueline's wedding four years ago; but that had been a great success, the time of year and the guests all suiting. (The latter a prime necessity, as will be seen.) During the betrothal fortnight of wedding festivities, some sprightly neighbor gives the party, and assembles an equal number of young men and maidens early at her house. Ten or twelve little gigs are in waiting on the gravel; some like the peasants' ones, but others — kept as heirlooms in families — of the right old-fashioned kind, the body carved, gilded, and painted with curious scenes, the wheels very high, seat very narrow. The hostess pairs off her party, and woe to the luckless couple who do not like the arrangements; for each driver forthwith seats himself on the left side of his gig, passing his right arm round his fair companion 's waist. This is the old rule, and there is no gainsaying it. The hostess packs all the older neighbors into a kind of char-à-banc made for such occasions, called a Jan-plaisir; it is big enough to hold an army of chaperons, and is covered at top, with open sides, and blinds to roll up or down. These follow the gay procession of little chaises which last file off, with fast-trotting horses, at a spanking pace. All the people in the villages rush out to see them pass, and catch showers of sugar-plums thrown to them in largesse. And at every bridge — which in Holland are many — and at sight of a black sheep, each Jehu is " permitted" to kiss his companion. "Well; but do they?" inquired the practical English mind, ruthlessly bent on extracting exactest details, and allowing no slurring. "Ach, yes! Of course — we think nothing of that! It does not happen so much during the first part of the day, for then every one is more quiet. And often a cavalier is shy — then it is very stupid. Or else the girl may not like him, and some won't allow it at all." "And where do they drive to?" "Oh, they go to some place about an hour and a half away, where they can have breakfast. At my wedding," said Jacqueline "the chaise party went to Z—, where we had one-o'clock breakfast at the hotel, and there was a wood where we lost ourselves till dinner at five. Then we all started back, many of us with different companions, just as we liked — and that was wild, but, oh! so wild! Everybody was so gay after dinner, and they drove so furiously, though it was dark quite at a gallop. The chaises were swinging round the corners as if we would all have been pitched out. I drove with him" — nodding at her husband. "And nobody was shy at the bridges, I can tell you," burst in the Irrepressible, "for though I was far down the line, I could hear them all the way. And I remember who you were with, and you, and you!', But in spite of his chaff, his victims still enjoyed the memory of their last chaise party as a huge joke. "Now the English would be very shocked at that, I suppose," said Jacqueline. "Ach! it is merely that customs are a little different — we think far worse of a lady allowing a gentleman to have her photograph. That is quite indiscreet; but in London the shop-windows are full of ladies' likenesses."

"The first of October! The finch season has begun to-day. We will take you over to Uncle van L—'s shootings on the downs, and you shall see the finchery," said Jacqueline. Finch-catching during October and November is a favorite amusement all day long of Dutch sportsmen who have 'finch-houses.'" Jacqueline drove us, therefore, early, through green tree-tunnels, whence sandy copse paths diverged, into the heart of the downs, where the air was fresh and stillness great. Putting up the coureuse at one of the picturesque little farms scattered here and there — mostly of bright painted brick, with a broad black stripe along the base and then a white one — we walked through sandy potato clearings and coppice till we came to a level lawn before a wooden hut. A dozen green hutches on stands contained the cages of as many finches, singing trillingly — all the better it was supposed that these poor little prisoners were blinded! There was a turfed bank behind the cages, hiding a grass alley beyond, with nets laid on either side, while down the middle hopped decoy finches, tied by the leg to bent wires. We now inspected the hut close by, most hospitably welcomed by its owners, who had come to see all was prepared for the season's sport. The hut was cunningly constructed half open for air, yet screened by a breastwork. Midmost was the fowler's chair, before glazed peep-holes in the wall facing the grass alley, and with net-ropes attached on either hand. As the great migratory flocks of finches land on these dunes in October and rest in the copses, they are lured by the singing decoys in to the alley where their kind are hopping. They settle down to chat — hush! quick! the nets are drawn over them and their necks promptly wrung. On the walls, a score was painted of many years' sport. Last season, 1883, 4,425 finches were caught in this finchery alone — there are several others near. We admired the cosy hut, and Monsieur van L— brought out champagne to drink to my safe journey home — and the season's sport. With all thanks for their kindness, I could not echo the last wish.

That evening I left Lindenroede, all accompanying me to Haarlem station with warmest good-byes and mutual plans for meeting again. A glorious sunset over the wide meadows changed soon to a strange, twilight, fog effect. The land appeared all flooded with whitish misty waters, through which the cattle herds loomed like unknown animals, and trees and windmills rose dark; while the moon, reflected now and again in wide canals, shone softly on the scene that seemed neither land nor water. My happy visit had come to an end.


Notes[edit]

  1. I give two more little songs that are old favorites of the people. The first begins as if mimicking a drum's tattoo.

              "Robbé-de-be dop!
              And my gold is gone!
              I lost it at the Swan [inn].
              The man's name was Jan,
              And his wife's Suzanne,
              And the daughter, little Adrianne."

          "Lot is dead! Lot is dead!
         Eliza's dying fast.
         That is rightl that is right!
         Then I'm their heir at last.

          "I'm not dead yet, I'm not dead yet!
         Called out the old, old witch,
         She looked around, she looked around,
         And raised the bottle to her lips."