Middelburg once more—The Flushing baths—Shrimps and chivalry—A Dutch boy—Charles V. at Souburg—Flushing and the Spanish yoke—Philip and William the Silent—The capture of Brill—A far-reaching drunken impulse—Flushing’s independence—Admiral de Ruyter—England’s Revenge—The Middelburg kermis—The aristocracy of avoirdupois—The end.
It is wiser I think to stay at Middelburg and visit Flushing from there than to stay at Flushing. One may go by train or tram. In hot weather the steam-tram is the better way, for then one can go direct to the baths and bathe in the stillest arm of the sea that I know. Here I bathed on the hottest day of last year, 1904, among merry albeit considerable water nymphs and vivacious men. These I found afterwards should have dwelt in the water for ever, for they emerged, dried and dressed, from the machines, something less than ordinary Batavians. I perhaps carried disillusionment also.
For safe bathing the Flushing baths could not well be excelled, but I never knew shore so sandy. To rid one’s self of sand is almost an impossibility. With each step it over-tops one’s boots.
Returning to Middelburg from Flushing one evening, in the steam-tram, we found ourselves in a compartment filled with happy country people, most of them making for the kermis, then in full swing in the Middelburg market place. A pedlar of shrimps stood by the door retailing little pennyworths, and nothing would do but the countryman opposite me must buy some for his sweetheart. When he had bought them he was for emptying them in her lap, but I tendered the wrapper of my book just in time: an act of civility which brought out all his native friendliness. He offered us shrimps, one by one, first peeling them with kindly fingers of extraordinary blackness, and we ate enough to satisfy him that we meant well: and then just as we reached Middelburg, he gave me a cigar and walked all the way to the Abbey with me, watching me smoke it. It was an ordeal; but I hope, for the honour of England, that I carried it through successfully and convinced him that an Englishman knows what to do with courtesy when he finds it.
In the same tram and on the very next seat to us was the pleasantest little boy that I think I ever saw: a perfect miniature Dutchman, with wide black trousers terminating in a point, pearl buttons, a tight black coat, a black hat, and golden neck links after the Zeeland habit. He was perhaps four, plump and red and merry, and his mother, who nursed his baby sister, was immensely proud of him. Some one pressed a twopenny bit into his hand as he left the car, and I watched him telling the great news to half a dozen of the women who were waiting by the side of the road, while his face shone like the setting sun.
They got off at Souburg, the little village between Flushing and Middelburg where Charles V. was living in 1556, after his abdication, before he sailed for his last home. It is odd to have two such associations with Souburg—the weary emperor putting off the purple, and the little Dutch boer bursting jollily through black velvet.