Christine’s people lived in a red brick mansion, the gable of which contained a portrait in relief of Admiral de Ruyter, and fronted a shaded street on a canal. Here the American artists were handsomely entertained. They were driven to the picture galleries and the palace or town-hall in the Dam Square, where Louis Napoleon and Hortense once resided. From the tower which terminates in a gilded ship the artists obtained fine views of Northern Holland. Christine pointed out the Exchange and other objects of interest in the city, which abounds in narrow streets and broad canals, the latter lined with fine shade trees. Many of the tall, narrow houses have red tile roofs, quaint fork-chimneys, and they stand with gables to the canals. The docks show a forest of masts.
The environs of the city are covered with gardens; trees adorn the roads, while poplars and willows cross or divide the fields, which are studded with windmills and distant spires, and everywhere are seen fertile corps, black and white cattle, and little boats creeping slowly along the canals.
A Hollander’s wealth is often estimated by his windmills. If asked, “How rich?” The reply comes, “Oh, he is worth ten or twelve windmills.” Holland seems alive with immense windmills. They grind corn, they saw wood, they pulverize rocks, and they are yoked to the inconstant winds and forced to contend with the water, the great enemy of the Dutch. They constantly pump water from the marshes into canals, and so prevent the inundation of the inhabitants. The Hollander furnishes good illustration of the practical value of Emerson’s words, “Borrow the strength of the elements. Hitch your wagon to a star, and see the chores done by the gods themselves.”
To the west are seen the church spires of Haarlem, and its long canal, which like a silver thread ties it to Amsterdam. To the east the towers of Utrecht are visible, and to the north glitter in the morning sun the red roofs of Zaandam and Alkmaar.
Far away stretched the waters of the Zuider Zee, which Holland plans to reclaim by an enbankment from the extreme cape of North Holland, to the Friesland coast, so as to shut out the ocean, and thereby acquire 750,000 square miles of new land; a whole province. At present 3,000 persons and 15,000 vessels are employed in the Zuider Zee fisheries, the revenues of which average $850,000 a year. It is proposed to furnish equivalents to satisfy these fishermen. It is estimated that this wonderful engineering feat will extend over 33 years and cost $131,250,000.
Christine now conducted her artist friends out of the Palace and over to the Rijks Museum to see Rembrandt’s largest and best work, his “Night Watch.” It is on the right as you enter, covering the side of the room. It represents a company of arquebusiers, energetically emerging from their Guild House on the Singel. The light and shade of the Night Watch is so treated as to form a most effective dramatic scene, which, since its creation, in 1642, has been enthusiastically admired by all art connoisseurs.