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A Wanderer in Holland eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 269 pages of information about A Wanderer in Holland.
him to ring his one and forty bells every seven and a half minutes, or eight times in the hour; but long since he must have torn up that warranty, for he is now his own master, breaking out into little sighs of melancholy or wistful music whenever the mood takes him.  I have never heard such profoundly plaintive airs as his—­very beautiful, very grave, very deliberate.  One cannot say more for persistent chimes than this—­that at the Abbey hotel it is no misfortune to wake in the night.

Long John has a companion in Foolish Betsy.  Foolish Betsy is the stadhuis clock, so called (Gekke Betje) from her refusal to keep time with the giant:  another instance of the power which John exerts over the town, even to the wounding of chivalry.  The Nieuwe Kerk would be nothing without its tower—­it is one of the barest and least interesting churches in a country which has reduced to the finest point the art of denuding religion of mystery—­but the stadhuis would still be wonderful even without its Betsy, There is nothing else like it in Holland, nothing anywhere quite so charming in its shameless happy floridity.  I cannot describe it:  the building is too complicated, too ornate; I can only say that it is wholly captivating and thoroughly out of keeping with the Dutch genius—­Spanish influence again apparent.  Beneath the eaves are four and twenty statues of the Counts of Holland and Zeeland, and the roof is like a mass-meeting of dormer windows.

In addition to the stadhuis museum, which is dedicated to the history of Middelburg and Zeeland, the town has also a municipal museum, too largely given over to shells and stuffed birds, but containing also such human relics as the wheel on which Admiral de Ruyter as a boy helped his father to make rope, and also the first microscope and the first telescope, both the work of Zacharias Jansen, a Zeeland mathematician.  More interesting perhaps are the rooms in the old Zeeland manner, corresponding to the Hindeloopen rooms which we have seen at Leeuwarden, but lacking their cheerful richness of ornamentation.  It is certainly a museum that should be visited, albeit the stuffed birds weigh heavily on the brow.

After all, Middelburg’s best museum is itself.  Its streets and houses are a never-ending pleasure.  Something gladdens the eye at every turn—­a blue and yellow shutter, a red and black shutter, a turret, a daring gable, a knot of country people, a fat Zeeland baby, a milk-can rivalling the sun, an old woman’s lace cap, a young woman’s merry mouth.  Only in two respects is the town unsatisfactory, and both are connected with its streets.  The liberty given to each householder to erect an iron fence across the pavement at each limit of his property makes it necessary to walk in the road, and the pave of the road is so rough as to cause no slight suffering to any one in thin boots.  M. Havard has an amusing passage on this topic, in which he says that the ancient fifteenth-century punishment for marital infidelity, a sin forbidden by the municipal laws no less than by Heaven, was the supply by the offending man of a certain number of paving stones.  After such an explanation, the genial Frenchman adds, we must not complain:—­

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