Scratch a sea-dog and you find a pirate; De Ruyter, who stands in stone for all time by Flushing harbour, lacking the warranty of war would have been a Paul Jones beyond eulogy. You can see it in his strong brows, his determined mouth, his every line. It is only two hundred and thirty-seven years, only seven generations, since he was in the Thames with his fleet, and London was panic-stricken. No enemy has been there since. The English had their revenge in 1809, when they bombarded Flushing and reduced it to only a semblance of what it had been. Among the beautiful buildings which our cannon balls destroyed was the ancient stadhuis. Hence it is that Flushing’s stadhuis to-day is a mere recent upstart.
Flushing does little to amuse its visitors after the sun has left the sea; and we were very glad of the excuse offered by the Middelburg kermis to return to our inland city each afternoon. The Middelburg kermis is a particularly merry one. The stalls and roundabouts fill the market square before the stadhuis, packed so closely that the revolving horses nearly carry the poffertje restaurants round with them. The Dutch roundabouts, by the way, still, like the English, retain horses: they have not, like the French, as I noticed at three fairs in and about Paris last autumn, taken to pigs and rabbits.
I examined the Middelburg kermis very thoroughly. Few though the exhibits were, they included two fat women. Their booths stood on opposite sides of the square, all the fun of the fair between them. In the west was Mile. Jeanne; in the east the Princess Sexiena. Jeanne was French, Sexiena came from the Fatherland. Both, though rivals, used the same poster: a picture of a lady, enormous, decolletee, highly-coloured, stepping into a fiacre, to the cocher’s intense alarm. Before one inspected the rival giantesses this community of advertisement had seemed to be a mistake; after, its absurdity was only too apparent, for although the Princess was colossal, Mile. Jeanae was more so. Mile. Jeanne should therefore have employed an artist to make an independent allurement.
Both also displayed outside the booths a pair of corsets, but here, I fancy, the advantage was with Mlle. Jeanne, although such were the distractions of the square that it was difficult to keep relative sizes in mind as one crossed it.
We visited the Princess first and found her large enough. She gasped on a dais—it was the hottest week of the year. She was happy, she said, except in such warmth. She was not married: Princes had sighed for her in vain. She rode a bicycle, she assured us, and enjoyment in the incredulity of her hearers was evidently one of her pleasures. Her manager listened impatiently, for our conversation interrupted his routine; he then took his oath that she was not padded, and bade her exhibit her leg. She did so, and it was like the mast of a ship.