My sister and her nurse, who had so often cried out against both the noisiness and the dirtiness of poor France, might well be satisfied now. They said they had never seen anything approaching to it in England. It was more like being shut up in a china closet than anything else, and it seemed as if the people were all dumb or dead, as we passed through those silent villages, while the great windmills along the banks kept waving their huge arms in silence, till Annora declared she felt she must presently scream, or ride a tilt with them like Don Quixote.
And all the time, as we came nearer and nearer, our hearts sank more and more, as we wondered in what state we should find our dear brother, and whether we should find him at all.
At last we passed a distant steeple and large castle, which we were told belonged to Ryswyk, the castle of the Prince of Orange; then we went along through long rows of trees, and suddenly emerging from them we beheld a vast plain, a great wood, and a city crowned with towers and windmills.
Sir Andrew had been there before, and after showing our passports, and paying our fare to the boatman, who received it in a leathern bag, he left the servants to manage the landing of the carriage at the wharf, and took us through the streets, which were as scrupulously clean and well-washed, pavement and all, as if they had been the flags of an English kitchen, and as silent, he said, as a Sunday morning in Edinburgh. Even the children looked like little models of Dutchmen and Dutchwomen, and were just as solid, sober, and silent; and when Sir Andrew, who could speak Dutch, asked a little boy our way to the street whence my brother had dated his letter, the child gave his directions with the grave solemnity of a judge.
At last we made out way to the Mynheer Fronk’s house, where we had been told we should find my Lord Walwyn’s lodgings. It was a very tall house, with a cradle for a stork’s nest at the top, and one of the birds standing on a single long thin leg on the ridge of the very high roof. There were open stalls for cheese on either side of the door, and a staircase leading up between. Sir Andrew made it known to a Dutchman, in a broad hat, that we were Lord Walwyn’s sisters come to see him, and he thereupon called a stout maid, in a snowy round cap and kerchief, who in the first place looked at our shoes, then produced a brush and a cloth, and, going down on her knees, proceeded to wipe them and clean them. Sir Andrew submitted, as one quite accustomed to the process, and told us we might think ourselves fortunate that she did not actually insist on carrying us all upstairs, as some Dutch maids would do with visitors, rather than permit the purity of their stairs and passages to be soiled.
He extracted, meantime, from the Dutchman, that the Englishman had been very ill with violent bleedings at the lungs, but was somewhat better; and thus we were in some degree prepared, when we had mounted up many, many stairs, to find our Eustace sitting in his cloak, though it was a warm summer day, with his feet up on a wooden chair in front of him, and looking white, wasted, weak, as I had never seen him.