The American in Holland/Quaint Hindeloopen
I must visit Hindeloopen, or Hinlopen, of which I had heard much, and which had sentimental associations with Cape Henlopen, in the little State called "The Blue Hen's Chickens." Around the Delaware Bay cluster many names left by Dutch navigators. Cape May is named, not after the flowery month, but in honor of the first European shipbuilder in America, that enterprising Hollander who launched his yacht, the Onrust, or Restless, and explored the whole southern, as Blok had examined and mapped the northern, coast of New Netherland. It was he also, probably, who called Cape Henlopen after this little Frisian town which nestles behind the dikes of the Zuyder Zee.
"Henlopen" is but a contraction of "Hindeloopen," which means the hind loping, or the stag walking, the reference being, as the town arms suggest, to that Scripture, "Thou makest my feet like hind's feet." The bos-loper, that is, the bush or wood ranger, forerunner of the modern commercial traveler, or "drummer," was a colonial character. With the meaning of the word in "interloper" we are all familiar. I was once asked in central New York by a friend fond of pedestrianism, if I wished to "lope," rather than ride, drive, "bike," or go by rail. So in our Southern States, they make a horse "lope," but not "gallop."
Perhaps they who founded the village in Friesland, ages ago, coined the name in devout dependence on God, and in the faith of having as sure a foundation against the flood as is that of a rock for a gazelle. Anciently, the village stood on one of the old "terpen," or mounds, not far away from what was the Rhine current, flowing up through Lake Flevo to its mouth between the Texel and Vlieland. The great inburst of the sea, which formed the Zuyder Zee, pushed the water closer and made the little place even more of a seaport. To-day Hindeloopen stands like a great fortress, with mighty bulwarks all around it, the grassy dikes forming roadway and approaches as well as defenses. One need only visit its rich and neatly arranged museum to see how diverse has been its commerce, and how closely its fortunes were linked with the far-off Orient. Products of the loom, the anvil, and the kiln are here from India, the golden Chersonese, the Middle Kingdom, and Dai Nippon. A decade before there was a permanent English colonist in America, grumbling Britons, jealous of the Dutch and their enriching trade with the far east, wrote of "Indian navigation, which hath been principiated in Holland and muttered of in England." Especially rich are the costumes, - the curious old Frisian hats, bonnets, jewelry, and variegated woman's gear, with the interminable blue and white dress patterns, which remind one of Delft tiles, - for the Dutch are fond of blue, whether in fictile or textile art.
In Hindeloopen's modern poverty, as compared with its ancient prosperity, it is probable that unless local pride hasten to the rescue of the treasures in its museum, they will become spoil to the Hebrew or the American, and be scattered, as other Dutch collections have been.
Without announcing our coming or foretelling the hour, we are met at the station by one whom we recognize at once as the "Old Grimes" of the song we used to sing when, as boys playing soldiers, we camped at Valley Forge; for, here he is, "all buttoned down before." His name is Van Elsilo. We jog along in his "one-hoss shay" to his cosy little hotel, "Stad van Herberg," next door to his bakery. He puts on his famous old coat with its several dozen silver buttons down the front. He lights his pipe, as long as a Korean's, which by its yard of stem separates the smoke from the fire by at least thirty-six inches. Then his vrouw prepares for us what is to be a toothsome dinner, flavored by delicious whiffs of salt sea air. After seeing to sustenance, we two, that is, Old Grimes and I, walk out to see the town which is to-day gay with flags in honor of the visit of an ambassador of state, - the Water State. He is the inspector of the Friesland dikes, and all the bunting in Hinlopen is on the breeze to welcome him.
We call within some of the houses, which are well worth seeing. They are the relics of the days when commerce made the town rich. The walls from floor to ceiling are covered with old Delft tiles. No paper or plaster is necessary here. The shining smooth surface, hard with enamel, catches no dust or dirt except what may be easily wiped off. Bacilli or germs, we imagine, would have trouble in living on this mineral surface. Such tiled walls are common in basements of Dutch houses all over the realm, and are admirably suited to stand the moisture. Here, moreover, are true chambers of imagery. We see depicted Adam and Eve in Eden and their expulsion; the inventive propensities of their descendants; the flood; the Egyptian exile; the epochs and incidents of Syrian border ruffianism; the acts related in the books of Judges, Kings, Chronicles, and the prophets; episodes of the Babylonian exile and the Apocrypha; the New Testament scenes and characters. The whole Biblical story is here told in ultramarine and white. Whether the people "live up to their blue China" or not is a question for poets and æsthetes who write of "proverbs in porcelain." In these days of Hinlopen's lost commerce and lack of business, plain living is the rule, and close economy is a necessity. A half guilder or dubbeltje comes not amiss from the visitor to the visited. Besides the walls of tile, there are still extant a number of the old painted rooms and closet-beds.
Wood carving evidently was once a fine art in this village. Like the human cuticle in old Japan, everything is cut or colored. Here are chairs, tables, mangles, book-racks, school boys' wooden satchels, chests, toilet boxes, tool-handles, clock-cases, and various articles of furniture carved in more or less tasteful figures. Everything of wood on which the knife has not come has had its face covered under pigments. Tables, chairs, clothes-presses, brush handles, boxes, bedroom steps, and closet doers are gorgeously painted, the colors being mostly red and azure, intermingled with other tints. The general effect reminds me of a coarse cloisonné; or the fashion prevalent some years ago in our own country of pasting all sorts of colored pictures on screens, tables, and chairs, and then varnishing them over; or of the later decalcomania. What was a passing fad in "the States" has been for many generations a well-approved fashion here.
In the Mohawk valley region I have often seen bedrooms built into the wall like these, but the American copies lack the gay decoration, carving, and colors of the Friesish originals. Here are wooden closets, into which those going to bed climb by means of a staircase of three or four steps, to swim for a moment in a sea of feathers, and then sink by inches toward the earth's centre. Once inside, the sleepers can either leave the doors open or close them, since the lattice work in the shutters allows for circulation of air. With open fireplaces and chimneys in this diked town, - which on this breezy day reminded me, because of its vista over the blue plain of the sea and over the low land, of Homer's "windy heights of Troy," - there would be ventilation enough. Who does not remember the closet-beds in Josef Israels's paintings so rich in pathos?
Back to the hotel, I took my dinner in a room that was an old curiosity shop of treasures. Over the delicious salad, steak, potatoes, and coffee, I could look upon the sea which Mesdag so loves to paint, and enjoy the breezes. Then followed inspection of the curiosities of Old Grimes, - mangles, cake moulds, and hand sleighs. On these last sit the fat-cheeked beauties of Friesland, while Jan, with his long curved skates, ribbed woolen clothes, warm cap, and hot pipe, pushes the steel runners over the glassy ice, to church, to market, or to those famous contests on skates in which women as well as men are champions.
We visited also the church, within and without, surrounded as it was with fishermen's gear, saw the little town hall, and such funny little things as the funny little village could show, heard plenty of local gossip, and then, as the sun was in the low west, were off with Old Grimes to the station, after a most delightful visit.
It was a sentimental journey which I made to Harlingen. In days of old Rutgers, the man in our class of '69 who, in local college slang, was the most indefatigable "grind" and "dig," who always made the best or next best recitation, eschewed "ponies" in "getting out" his Greek, had a homely and freckled face, but who, of course, married one of the prettiest and best girls in his village, came from Harlingen, in New Jersey. Even though we knew his full name given by parents, which, in two of its three components, was that of the Father of his Country, we called him "Harley."
I rode by rail from Leeuwarden to Harlingen, reaching this haven and seaport early in the afternoon, to find a kermis in full blast. Here was gingerbread for sale by the foot, yard, rod, pole, or porch. There were bushels and tons of Deventer honey cakes, while a line of fires, like a row of Japanese tea-drying pans, or keramic kilns, was sending off, whithersoever the wind blew it, whiffs of the effluvia from hot oil which kept the "poffertjes" from scorching. Hundreds of urban and bucolic folk were busy chatting, dancing, or gaping at the shows. Flocks of children were in a riot of delight.
The townspeople talked good Dutch, but among the rustic groups of roisterers, or those "tripping the light fantastic toe," the talk was mostly in genuine Friesish. Out on the quays, beside the usual "bums" and "tjalks," were fine steamers loading with butter, cheese, and cattle for London and Hull. On the outskirts of the roadside was a gypsy camp, for even Holland cannot get rid of these reputed sons and daughters of the land of Rahab.
I thought 1 knew how to pronounce the name Harlingen. For had I not been in New Jersey, where, forgetful of the old Frisian hard g, they pronounce the name Harlinjen? Using this incorrect sound before an educated gentleman in Leeuwarden, I was reminded of that "Anglo-Saxon g" in "begin, beget, boggy," instead of "gem, giant, gyves," of old grammar lessons of which we boast. So I immediately hardened my guttural. Yet what speaker of English can satisfy a Dutchman in pronouncing a Dutch g?