No Zoo, however well managed, can keep an ourang-outang long, and therefore one should always study that uncomfortably human creature whenever the opportunity occurs. I had great fortune at Rotterdam, for I chanced to be in the ourang-outang’s house when his keeper came in. Entering the enclosure, he romped with him in a score of diverting ways. They embraced each other, fed each other, teased each other. The humanness of the creature was frightful. Perhaps our likeness to ourang-outangs (except for our ridiculously short arms, inadequate lower jaws and lack of hair) made him similarly uneasy.
Rotterdam, I have read somewhere, was famous at the end of the eighteenth century for a miser, the richest man in the city. He always did his own marketing, and once changed his butcher because he weighed the paper with the meat He bought his milk in farthingsworths, half of which had to be delivered at his front door and half at the back, “to gain the little advantage of extra measure”. Different travellers note different things, and William Chambers, the publisher, in his Tour in Holland in 1839, selected for special notice another type of Rotterdam resident: “One of the most remarkable men of this [the merchant] class is Mr. Van Hoboken of Rhoon and Pendrecht, who lives on one of the havens. This individual began life as a merchant’s porter, and has in process of time attained the highest rank among the Dutch mercantile aristocracy. He is at present the principal owner of twenty large ships in the East India trade, each, I was informed, worth about fourteen thousand pounds, besides a large landed estate, and much floating wealth of different descriptions. His establishment is of vast extent, and contains departments for the building of ships and manufacture of all their necessary equipments. This gentleman, until lately, was in the habit of giving a splendid fete once a year to his family and friends, at which was exhibited with modest pride the porter’s truck which he drew at the outset of his career. One seldom hears of British merchants thus keeping alive the remembrance of early meanness of circumstances.”
At one of Rotterdam’s stations I saw the Queen-Mother, a smiling, maternal lady in a lavender silk dress, carrying a large bouquet, and saying pretty things to a deputation drawn up on the platform. Rotterdam had put out its best bunting, and laid six inches of sand on its roads, to do honour to this kindly royalty. The band played the tender national anthem, which is always so unlike what one expects it to be, as her train steamed away, and then all the grave bearded gentlemen in uniforms and frock coats who had attended her drove in their open carriages back to the town. Not even the presence of the mounted guard made it more formal than a family party. Everybody seemed on the best of friendly terms of equality with everybody else.
Tom Hood, who had it in him to be so good a poet, but living in a country where art and literature do not count, was permitted to coarsen his delicate genius in the hunt for bread, wrote one of his comic poems on Rotterdam. In it are many happy touches of description:—