A Wanderer in Holland eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 339 pages of information about A Wanderer in Holland.
the year and the day of the month mentioned, which is not yet 200 years ago; and the story is this:  That the Countess walking about her door after dinner, there came a Begger-woman with two Children upon her back to beg alms, the Countess asking whether those children were her own, she answer’d, she had them both at one birth, and by one Father, who was her husband.  The Countess would not only not give her any alms, but reviled her bitterly, saying, it was impossible for one man to get two children at once.  The Begger-woman being thus provok’d with ill words, and without alms, fell to imprecations, that it should please God to show His judgment upon her, and that she might bear at one birth as many children as there be days in the year, which she did before the same year’s end, having never born child before.”

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.

Chapter VI

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.

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A Wanderer in Holland from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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