Nos peres ont peches, nos
peres ne sont plus,
Et c’est nous qui portons la peine de leurs crimes.
The island of Walcheren is quickly learned. From Middelburg one can drive in a day to the chief points of interest—Westcapelle and Domburg, Veere and Arnemuiden. Of these Veere is the jewel—Veere, once Middelburg’s dreaded rival, and in its possession of a clear sea-way and harbour her superior, but now forlorn. For in the seventeenth century Holland’s ancient enemy overflowed its barriers, and the greater part of Veere was blotted out in a night. What remains is a mere symbol of the past; but there is enough to loiter in with perfect content, for Veere is unique. Certainly no little town is so good to approach—with the friendliness of its red roofs before one all the way, the unearthly hugeness of its church and the magic of its stadhuis tower against the blue.
The church, which is visible from all parts of the island, is immense, in itself an indication of what a city Veere must have been. It rises like a mammoth from the flat. Only the east end is now used for services; the vast remainder, white and naked, is given up to bats and the handful of workmen that the slender restoration funds make it possible to employ. For there is some idea of Veere’s church being one day again in perfect repair; but that day will not be in our time. The ravages of the sea only emptied it: the sea does not desecrate. It was Napoleon who disgraced the church by converting it into barracks.
Other relics of Veere’s past are the tower at the harbour mouth (its fellow-tower is beneath the sea) and the beautifully grave Scotch house on the quay, once the centre of the Scottish wool trade of these parts.
The stadhuis also remains, a dainty distinguished structure which might be the infant daughter of the stadhuis at Middelburg. Its spire has a slender aerial grace; on its facade are statues of the Lords of Veere and their Ladies, Within is a little museum of antiquities, one of whose most interesting possessions is the entry in the Veere register, under the date July 2nd, 1608, of the marriage of Hugo Grotius with Maria Reygersbergh of Veere, whom we have seen at Loevenstein assisting in her husband’s escape from prison. The museum is in the charge of a blond custodian, a descendant of sea kings, whose pride in the golden goblet which Maximilian of Burgundy, Veere’s first Marquis, gave to the town in 1551, is almost paternal. He displays it as though it were a sacred relic, and narrates the story of Veere’s indignation when a millionaire attempted to buy it, so feelingly as to fortify and complete one’s suspicions that money after all is but dross and the love of it the root of evil.