Wax works always make me uncomfortable, and these were no exception; but the good folk of Zutphen found them absorbing. The murderers stood alone, staring with that fixity which only a wax assassin can compass; but for the most part the figures were arranged in groups with dramatic intent. Here was a confessional; there a farewell between lovers; here a wounded Boer meeting his death at the bayonet of an English dastard; there a Queen Eleanor sucking poison from her husband’s arm. A series of illuminated scenes of rapine and disaster might be studied through magnifying glasses. The presence of a wax bust of Zola was due, I imagine, less to his illustrious career than to the untoward circumstances of his death. The usual Sleeping Beauty heaved her breast punctually in the centre of the tent.
In one point only did the exhibition differ from the wax works of the French and Italian fairs—it was undeviatingly decent. There were no jokes, and no physiological models. But the Dutch, I should conjecture, are not morbid. They have their coarse fun, laugh, and get back to business again. Judged by that new short-cut to a nation’s moral tone, the picture postcard, the Dutch are quite sound. There is a shop in the high-spirited Nes Straat at Amsterdam where a certain pictorial ebullience has play, but I saw none other of the countless be-postcarded windows in all Holland that should cause a serious blush on any cheek; while the Nes Straat specimens were fundamentally sound, Rabelaisian rather than Armand-Sylvestrian, not vicious but merely vulgar.
Arnheim to Bergen-op-Zoom
Arnheim the Joyous—A wood walk—Tesselschade Visscher and the Chambers of Rhetoric—Epigrams—Poet friends—The nightingale—An Arnheim adventure—Ten years at one book—Dutch and Latin—Dutch and French—A French story—Dutch and English—The English Schole-Master—Master and scholar—A nervous catechism—Avoiding the birch—A riot of courtesy—A bill of lading—Dutch proverbs—The Rhine and its mouths—Nymwegen—Lady Mary Wortley Montagu again—Painted shutters—The Valkhof—Hertogenbosch—Brothers at Bommel—The hero of Breda—Two beautiful tombs—Bergen-op-Zoom—Messrs. Grimston and Red-head—Tholen—The Dutch feminine countenance.
At Arnheim we come to a totally new Holland. The Maliebaan and the park at Utrecht, with their spacious residences, had prepared us a little for Arnheim’s wooded retirement; but not completely. Rotterdam is given to shipping; The Hague makes laws and fashions; Leyden and Utrecht teach; Amsterdam makes money. It is at Arnheim that the retired merchant and the returned colonist set up their home. It is the richest residential city in the country. Arnheim the Joyous was its old name. Arnheim the Comfortable it might now be styled.
It is the least Dutch of Dutch towns: the Rhine brings a bosky beauty to it, German in character and untamed by Dutch restraining hands. The Dutch Switzerland the country hereabout is called. Arnheim recalls Richmond too, for it has a Richmond Hill—a terrace-road above a shaggy precipice overlooking the river.