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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 134.djvu/699

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PICTURES IN HOLLAND, ON AND OFF CANVAS.

chequered shadows from the avenues of trees thrown on the brick houses and the black-green water, are far more pleasant to look at. The stirring of the boats prevents the stagnant look which in out-of-the-way, little-used corners, appears in a coating of green slime, and seems as if it ought to bring fever, but does not. Here is a very Dutch picture: two women harnessed to a boat by a long rope, pushing against the collar like beasts of burden; a bit of red color on a wherry under the distant bridge then a green hull and a mass of black barge, and the blue of the men's shirts, punting among the trees with their long poles, carrying the color from a bright sky. Nature gets the blue required for her gamut often from above, and the reflections of the trunks and houses in the water, wherever it was still, doubled and inverted the lines with admirable effect.

Next a more open view out of our windows, where the canal (always a necessary foreground here) is backed by the park. The trees, particularly the oaks, grow very straight, showing that there is no stony, gravelly obstacle to their tap roots in the easy soil; peat (of an inferior quality) is reached wherever a foundation is dug or a garden cultivated, even in the best quarters of the town. Endless barrows, with all sorts of produce, are passing by, — grapes, blue, green, and orange faïence, a red box with "Koffee, Thee," on it — the last as national a beverage here as in England; a boy in a blouse and sabots, with two great baskets slung to a yoke, and an enormous cauliflower in each; some women marketing, with queer skull-caps of very thin beaten gold, hiding the hair completely, a costume from Zeeland others with lace lappets, and small curly gold horns projecting four or five inches on the side of the head, heirlooms in a north-Holland family, a white jacket, pink apron, and ‘‘sabots’‘, cold coloring; the peasants looking substantial in every sense; odd, old-fashioned country carts, with a curious horn jutting out in front; two wicked little boys, certainly not twelve years old, smoking; several more in wooden shoes and red stockings, stones to bring down the horse-chestnuts, with an amount of diligence, patience, and skill, which would make them model boys if they do those lessons as earnestly for which they will certainly be too late this morning. No "guardians of order" interfering; apparently order takes care of itself in this well-conducted population. The schools are said to be remarkably good and well attended; the religious education is kept separate from the secular, the hot Protestant and Catholic feuds making any other arrangement impossible, if the children are to be taught together; and there seems to be no difficulty there at least in carrying out the details.

We drove to the "Maison du Bois," through a thick grove of tall trees, remnants of the ancient forest which once girt the whole territory of the Netherlands, another portion of which is still to be found near Haarlem, and which long enabled the savage inhabitants of the quicksands and thickets of Batavia to withstand even the Romans; while the tangled bushes into which the sand was blown on the shore of the North Sea are believed to be the origin of the dunes. The trees grow so close as to spoil each other sadly, but if once the sharp sea winds are admitted the destruction is great. Tall beech trunks, here and there, thrust their heads high into the air, pine and elm, hornbeams and horse-chestnuts, crossed and mingled their branches, with a great variety of foliage. In the midst of the wood we came upon a dark-green, clear pool, looking very weird and strange, and one sees where Ruysdael got the black greens, the sombre, sunless shadows, of his pictures. The deep seclusion of the place is very striking,[1] though within a mile or two of the town; the road wound and twisted through the thick forest, closing in on every side and over our heads, when, without any preparation, we came suddenly on the old red brick palace with a high perron and steps in front, literally planted in the very heart of the mystery. Certainly this is the very place where the belle au bois dormante must have lived, and probably these are the princes her descendants, only the queen, one of the cleverest women in Europe, does not look as if much of the sleep had come down upon her. The house is a show-place, full of Javanese and Japanese curiosities, and Mr. Motley’s portrait figures there, hanging in a room full of the most precious of the monsters. He has certainly merited the rarest place in the kingdom, for his canonization of its heroes and his vivid pictures of the great struggles of its people.

A poetic little garden behind, full of roses, was framed with wreaths of westeria as we looked out of a central hall, the cupola and walls of which are painted by scholars of Rubens in memory of the great deeds of some Prince of Orange, by order

  1. There is a short prosaic way to the straight bare high road on the other side the palace, this may be quite ignored.