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THE BICYCLE RIDE
"Be up bright and early," Mynheer Joost had said the night before, and it was a little after seven when the young people finished breakfast. A Dutch breakfast is a big thing; besides nice coffee, there was rye bread and white bread, rolls and rusks, half a dozen kinds of cheeses, as well as many kinds of cold sausages cut into thin slices.
After seeing Mevrouw and Jan off on the train, the children mounted their wheels, and, in company with Mynheer, went bumping over the big round cobblestones with which Rotterdam is paved.
"Our city streets are not as good as our country roads, but we will soon be out in the open country," said Mynheer, as they turned into the "Boompjes."
"Do you remember, Theodore," he continued, "your steamer landed you just at that dock opposite."
The "Boompjes" is a great quay alongside of which are to be seen all manner of steamships, from those which trade with the ports of Great Britain and Germany, to the little craft which ply up and down the rivers and canals of Holland, and the long barges and canal-boats with their brown sails.
Our bicycle party crossed many bridges over little and big canals. By the side of many of these canals the great tall houses seemed to grow right up out of the water, queer old houses with gables all twists and curves. At last they passed through the" Delftsche Poort," one of the old gateways of Rotterdam, and then out on to the smooth country road, still running by the side of the canal.
"Ah, this is better," said Pieter, as he gave a sigh of relief.
"No wonder cycling is popular in Holland; you have such fine, flat roads," said Theodore. "Just look at this one all paved with tiny bricks; why, it's like riding on a tabletop."
"They are called 'klinkers,' and many of our roads are paved this way; but do you see that town just to the left, Theodore?" said Mynheer Joost, as he pointed to a jumble of houses, windmills, and masts of ships not far away. "That is Delfshaven; you know what happened there once long ago, do you not?"
"Oh, it was from there that the Pilgrim Fathers sailed for America," cried Theodore.
"But I thought they sailed from Plymouth, England," said Pieter.
"They did put into Plymouth, on account of a storm, but their first start was from Dellshaven. Can't we go and see the place where they went on board ship, Cousin Joost?" said Theodore, who nearly tumbled off his wheel in his effort to see the town.
"I am afraid the spot could not be found now," smiled Mynheer. "Delfshaven has grown to be a big town since then; but you can see the church where they worshipped before they set sail."
So they turned on to the road into the town. The old church seemed plain and bare to Theodore, as he stood in it and looked at its simple white walls, and it was hard for him to realize that the history of New England began here.
"I must write Henry all about Delfshaven; he'd give a lot to be in my shoes, now," said Theodore, as they rode away again.
"Who is Henry?" asked Wilhelmina.
ON THE ROAD TO DELFSHAVEN
"He is a chum of mine and lives in Boston. You see his people came over with the Pilgrims, just as mine came over later from Holland, and he is always talking a lot about the Mayflower and all that.
"But just see that woman pulling that big boat, and the two children helping her-think of it!" and Theodore forgot all about the Pilgrims in the strange sight before him.
"Those are barge-people; let us stop and rest awhile, and you can see them better," said Mynheer, who set the example by jumping off his wheel.
It did look like hard work, too, as the woman came slowly along, panting and straining at one end of a long rope. There was a loop in the rope which passed over her chest, and the other end was made fast to the prow of the barge, or "tjalk." Behind her were a little girl and a boy, not more than ten or twelve years old, each of them, like the mother, tugging away at the heavy load.
"Think of those little children helping to move that great heavy boat! I don't see how they do it," said Wilhelmina.
"It must be hard work, but they don't seem to mind it," said her father.
It looked as if the children did not, for they were plump and round, and as they passed, they smiled shyly and said "Good morning," and kept looking back with grins of amusement.
"The father is the one who has the easy time," said Pieter; "see, he sits comfortably beside the big tiller, to which he only gives a slight turn once and again, for the canals are so straight that the 'tjalk' does not require much steering. He is quite content to let the Vrouw and the little ones tow the 'tjalk' while he smokes and dozes on deck."
"Well, it grows 'curiouser and curiouser,' as Alice in Wonderland said. Your roads are of water, and your wagons are boats, and your people do the work of horses. Why don't they use horses?" demanded Theodore.
"Well the 'tjalks' really depend upon the wind to carry them along," said Mynheer. "You see this one has a big sail, and it is only when there is no wind that they have to tow the boats. Once they used dogs for the towing, but now the people who live on board do the work, and if it is slow, why, nobody seems to mind."
The barge was painted red and blue, and in the great rounded bow there were two round openings through which the anchor-chains passed, and which looked like big staring eyes, particularly at night, when a ray of light often shot through them.
"Of course some one is washing things, as usual," said Theodore; "even the barges don't escape a continual 'spring cleaning.' And sure enough, there was another woman splashing pailfuls of water over everything, even over the drowsy Mynheer at the tiller. He was probably used to this, however, for he didn't take the slightest notice.
"Yes, indeed, the 'tjalk' owners take a great pride in the spick and span appearance of their boats," said Mynheer Joost. "You must remember that the ' tjalk ' is their home. They are born on it, and often live and die there, as did their fathers and grandfathers before them, for many of these boats are very old. The little cabin on the poop is all the house they ever have, and they are just as proud of it as if it were a fine villa like that of Mynheer Van der Veer.
"You see," he continued, "they have their little garden, too. There are tulips planted in a box before the door, and a tiny path outlined with shells."
"And a little garden-gate, too," cried Wilhelmina; "isn't it funny?" "Yes," said her father, "they like to think that they have everything that goes with a house on land."
"There is a cage of birds, also," said Wilhelmina again, "and a little china dog sitting by the side of the tulip-bed, who seems to be watching them."
"I suppose if there were room enough in the garden there would be a summer-house, too," said Pieter.
There is no doubt but what the "bargees" enjoy their lives, and nothing would make them so unhappy as to have to live on dry land. There are thousands and thousands of these "tjalks" in Holland, and most of the merchandise of all kinds which is transported about the country is carried by them.
"Time to be on the road," said Mynheer to his young party; and before long they were all riding into the old town of Delft.
"Listen to those bells," cried Theodore, "they are playing one of our popular American marches. Where are they?"
"Those are the chimes you hear ringing in the belfry," said Pieter. "They must be playing the march in your honour, Theodore."
Each town in Holland has its chime of bells, usually hung in the tower of the principal church. The chimes are played by means of a wonderful mechanical keyboard, and the Dutch are very fond of hearing them ring out the popular tunes of the day.
"It was in this place that long ago the famous blue and white Delftware was made, like that the mother has at home," said Mynheer. "There is Delftware made now, but it is not prized like the old kind.
"But we must not linger, children, if we are to reach The Hague for dinner," and he marshalled the young people again upon the road.
Soon they were skimming over the smooth, flat roadway, and came almost at once on to fine boulevards lined with handsome houses, so they knew they were at The Hague itself.
The twins were as interested as their American cousin in the sights of their capital city, and Wilhelmina wanted to know at once if there would be a chance of their seeing the queen. You see she was named after Queen Wilhelmina, so she felt as if she had a right to see her, even more than other little Dutch girls, though indeed they are all fond of their young ruler, who not so very long ago was a young girl like Wilhelmina herself.
Wilhelmina had among her treasures at home a picture of Queen Wilhelmina, taken when she was a little girl, and dressed in the pretty Frisian costume, one of the prettiest of the national costumes of Holland.
"I can't say," smiled her father, in answer to Wilhelmina's question, "but we can go out to the' Huis ten Bosch,' and maybe we shall be fortunate enough to meet her out driving m the park."
After our friends had done justice to a good dinner at one of the famous hotels of The Hague, they left their bicycles at the hotel, and took the steam-tram to the "Huis ten Bosch," which is Dutch for "House in the Wood." It is one of the royal palaces of Holland and is situated in the midst of a beautiful wood. The forests of Holland are very much prized because there are so few of them, and so this "House in the Wood" is one of the favourite royal residences.
Though Wilhelmina did not see her queen, she saw the next best thing, for they went through the state apartments of the palace, and saw the beautiful Chinese Room and the Japanese Room, each of them entirely filled with beautiful things from the Orient.
"Now shall we go to Scheveningen, or are you too tired?" asked Mynheer.
"Tired!" The children laughed at the idea. They were out for a holiday, and were going to see as much as possible; and away they went again on another steam-tram to a fishing-town a few miles from The Hague, called Scheveningen, which is a big mouthful of a word, isn't it? This is where the fisherfolk live who go out in their stubby boats, called "pinken," to fish in the North Sea.
"I don't see the ocean," said Pieter, looking about him as they walked through the town, with its rows and rows of neat little houses of brick where the fishermen live.
"Climb up to the top of those sand-dunes and you will," said his father. "These dunes or banks of sand have been blown up by the wind and sea until they form a high wall or breakwater. There are many such all along the coast of Holland, and to keep the wind from blowing the loose sand back inland, over the fields and gardens, these banks of sand, or dunes, are planted over in many places with grasses and shrubs, which bind the sand together and keep it in place."
"There is a fish auction going on over there: let's go down and see it," called out Pieter.
A boat-load of fish had just been landed on the beach, and a crowd of fishermen and women were standing around it. The women had big basket-shaped hats over their white caps, and the men wore baggy trousers and tall caps.
The fish were being auctioned off' in the Dutch fashion, which is just the reverse of the usual auctioneering methods. A market price is put upon the fish, and the purchaser bidding the nearest thereto takes them.
"What are those things on the sands over there that look like big mushrooms, Cousin Joost?" asked Theodore, pointing to a spot half a mile or so farther on.
"They do look something like mushrooms, Theodore," said his uncle, "and they come and go about as quickly. They are the straw chairs and shelters in which visitors sit when they are taking the fresh air on the sands."
These chairs are closed in on all sides but one, and have a sort of roof over them, so as to protect the occupant from the wind and rain. Scheveningen, besides being one of the largest fishing-towns in Holland, is the great seaside resort of the Dutch people. Here the well-to-do burghers and merchants come with their Vrouws and sit in the big basket-chairs, while the children dig miniature canals and build toy dikes in the sand, modelled after those which surround their homes.
When our tourists got back to The Hague they walked around and looked at the fine houses of the city. They saw, too, the storks in the market-place, around which were many fisherwomen with their wares spread out for sale. The storks are well fed, and are kept here at the expense of the city, for good luck, perhaps.
The children thought they had cycled quite enough for one day, so they put their wheels and themselves in the train for Leyden, and were soon tooting into one of the oldest cities of Holland.
"Are we there already?" asked Theodore, amazed at the shortness of the journey.
"Yes, everything is close together in our little Holland," said Mynheer.
The Dutch are very proud of Leyden for many reasons, but especially for the brave defence the city made against the Spaniards at the time when the sturdy Dutch were fighting to free themselves from the rule of Spain. The city was besieged for nearly a year, but the plucky burghers never gave in. The city was finally saved by cutting the dikes, and letting in the waters, so that the Dutch fleet could sail right up to the city walls and thus drive off the enemy. It is said that to reward the people of Leyden for their bravery and courage, the government afterward offered to either free them forever from all taxes, or to give them a university. They wisely chose the latter, and this same University of Leyden has always ranked among the great institutions of learning throughout the world, and many great men have studied within its walls.
"Your friend Henry would like to see Leyden, also," said Mynheer. "It was here that the Pilgrim Fathers lived for many years before they finally set sail for the New World. The city gave them a safe shelter, when they were persecuted and driven from other lands, and for this reason alone Leyden should always be remembered by our American cousins."
"Don't you feel as if you had been up two whole days?" asked Theodore of Pieter, as he gave a big yawn; but Pieter and Wilhelmina were already fast asleep as the train whirled them on toward Haarlem.
None of the children talked much either while they ate the hot supper Mevrouw Joost had ready for them, and soon they were tucked away in their beds. But the next day you should have heard the three tongues wag, and Mevrouw and Baby Jan had to hear all the adventures over again many times.
Click here to continue to the next section of B. McManus' Our Little Dutch Cousin.