The legend was naturally popular in a land of large families, and it was certainly credited without any reservation for many years. In England the rabbit-breeding woman of Dorking had her adherents too. What the beggar really wished for the Dutch lady was as many children at one birth as there were days in the year in which the conversation occurred—namely three, for the encounter was on January 3rd. Or so I have somewhere read. But it is more amusing to believe in the greater number, especially as a Dutch author has put it on record that he saw the children with his own eyes. They were of the size of shrimps, and were baptised either singly or collectively by Guy, Bishop of Utrecht. All the boys were named John and all the girls Elizabeth, They died the same day.
Thomas Coryate of the Crudities, who also tells the tale, believed it implicitly. “This strange history,” he says, “will seem incredible (I suppose) to all readers. But it is so absolutely and undoubtedly true as nothing in the world more.”
And here, hand in hand with Veritas, we leave The Hague.
Scheveningen and Katwyk
The Dutch heaven—Huyghens’ road—Sorgh Vliet’s builder—Jacob Cats—Homely wisdom—President Kruger—A monstrous resort—Giant snails—The black-headed mannikins—The etiquette of petticoats—Katwyk—The old Rhine—Noordwyk—Noordwyk-Binnen.
Good Dutchmen when they die go to Scheveningen; but my heaven is elsewhere. To go thither is, however, no calamity, so long as one chooses the old road. It is being there that so lowers the spirits. The Oude Scheveningen Weg is perhaps the pleasantest, and certainly the shadiest, road in Holland: not one avenue but many, straight as a line in Euclid. On either side is a spreading wood, among the trees of which, on the left hand, as one leaves The Hague, is Sorgh Vliet, once the retreat of old Jacob Cats, lately one of the residences of a royal Duke, and now sold to a building company. The road dates from 1666, its projector being Constantin Huyghens, poet and statesman, whose statue may be seen at the half-way halting-place. By the time this is reached the charm of the road is nearly over: thenceforward it is all villas and Scheveningen.