List Of Contents | Contents of Saunterings, by Charles Dudley Warner
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with beer-houses, shabby theaters, and places of the most childish
amusements.  There is an odd liking for the simple among these
people.  In front of the booths, drums were beaten and instruments
played in bewildering discord.  Actors in paint and tights stood
without to attract the crowd within.  On one low balcony, a
copper-colored man, with a huge feather cap and the traditional dress
of the American savage, was beating two drums; a burnt-cork black man
stood beside him; while on the steps was a woman, in hat and shawl,
making an earnest speech to the crowd.  In another place, where a
crazy band made furious music, was an enormous "go-round" of wooden
ponies, like those in the Paris gardens, only here, instead of
children, grown men and women rode the hobby-horses, and seemed
delighted with the sport.  In the general Babel, everybody was
good-natured and jolly.  Little things suffice to amuse the lower
classes, who do not have to bother their heads with elections and
mass meetings.

In front of the cathedral is the well, and the fine canopy of
iron-work, by Quentin Matsys, the blacksmith of Antwerp, some of
whose pictures we saw in the Museum, where one sees, also some of the
finest pictures of the Dutch school,--the "Crucifixion" of Rubens,
the "Christ on the Cross" of Vandyke; paintings also by Teniers, Otto
Vennius, Albert Cuyp, and others, and Rembrandt's portrait of his
wife,--a picture whose sweet strength and wealth of color draws one
to it with almost a passion of admiration.  We had already seen "The
Descent from the Cross" and "The Raising of the Cross" by Rubens, in
the cathedral.  With all his power and rioting luxuriance of color, I
cannot come to love him as I do Rembrandt.  Doubtless he painted what
he saw; and we still find the types of his female figures in the
broad-hipped, ruddy-colored women of Antwerp.  We walked down to his
house, which remains much as it was two hundred and twenty-five years
ago.  From the interior court, an entrance in the Italian style leads
into a pleasant little garden full of old trees and flowers, with a
summer-house embellished with plaster casts, and having the very
stone table upon which Rubens painted.  It is a quiet place, and fit
for an artist; but Rubens had other houses in the city, and lived the
life of a man who took a strong hold of the world.


The rail from Antwerp north was through a land flat and sterile.
After a little, it becomes a little richer; but a forlorner land to
live in I never saw.  One wonders at the perseverance of the Flemings
and Dutchmen to keep all this vast tract above water when there is so
much good solid earth elsewhere unoccupied.  At Moerdjik we changed
from the cars to a little steamer on the Maas, which flows between
high banks.  The water is higher than the adjoining land, and from
the deck we look down upon houses and farms.  At Dort, the Rhine
comes in with little promise of the noble stream it is in the
highlands.  Everywhere canals and ditches dividing the small fields
instead of fences; trees planted in straight lines, and occasionally
trained on a trellis in front of the houses, with the trunk painted
white or green; so that every likeness of nature shall be taken away.
>From Rotterdam, by cars, it is still the same.  The Dutchman spends
half his life, apparently, in fighting the water.  He has to watch
the huge dikes which keep the ocean from overwhelming him, and the
river-banks, which may break, and let the floods of the Rhine swallow
him up.  The danger from within is not less than from without.  Yet
so fond is he of his one enemy, that, when he can afford it, he
builds him a fantastic summer-house over a stagnant pool or a slimy
canal, in one corner of his garden, and there sits to enjoy the
aquatic beauties of nature; that is, nature as he has made it.  The
river-banks are woven with osiers to keep them from washing; and at
intervals on the banks are piles of the long withes to be used in
emergencies when the swollen streams threaten to break through.

And so we come to Amsterdam, the oddest city of all,--a city wholly
built on piles, with as many canals as streets, and an architecture
so quaint as to even impress one who has come from Belgium.  The
whole town has a wharf-y look; and it is difficult to say why the
tall brick houses, their gables running by steps to a peak, and each
one leaning forward or backward or sideways, and none perpendicular,
and no two on a line, are so interesting.  But certainly it is a most
entertaining place to the stranger, whether he explores the crowded
Jews' quarter, with its swarms of dirty people, its narrow streets,
and high houses hung with clothes, as if every day were washing-day;
or strolls through the equally narrow streets of rich shops; or
lounges upon the bridges, and looks at the queer boats with clumsy
rounded bows, great helms' painted in gay colors, with flowers in the
cabin windows,--boats where families live; or walks down the
Plantage, with the zoological gardens on the one hand and rows of
beer-gardens on the other; or round the great docks; or saunters at
sunset by the banks of the Y, and looks upon flat North Holland and
the Zuyder Zee.

The palace on the Dam (square) is a square, stately edifice, and the
only building that the stranger will care to see.  Its interior is
richer and more fit to live in than any palace we have seen.  There
is nothing usually so dreary as your fine Palace.  There are some
good frescoes, rooms richly decorated in marble, and a magnificent
hall, or ball-room, one hundred feet in height, without pillars.
Back of it is, of course, a canal, which does not smell fragrantly in
the summer; and I do not wonder that William III. and his queen
prefer to stop away.  From the top is a splendid view of Amsterdam
and all the flat region.  I speak of it with entire impartiality, for
I did not go up to see it.  But better than palaces are the
picture-galleries, three of which are open to the sightseer.  Here
the ancient and modern Dutch painters are seen at their best, and I
know of no richer feast of this sort.  Here Rembrandt is to be seen
in his glory; here Van der Helst, Jan Steen, Gerard Douw, Teniers the
younger, Hondekoeter, Weenix, Ostade, Cuyp, and other names as
familiar.  These men also painted what they saw, the people, the
landscapes, with which they were familiar.  It was a strange pleasure
to meet again and again in the streets of the town the faces, or
types of them, that we had just seen on canvas so old.

In the Low Countries, the porters have the grand title of
commissionaires.  They carry trunks and bundles, black boots, and act
as valets de place.  As guides, they are quite as intolerable in
Amsterdam as their brethren in other cities.  Many of them are Jews;
and they have a keen eye for a stranger.  The moment he sallies from
his hotel, there is a guide.  Let him hesitate for an instant in his
walk, either to look at something or to consult his map, or let him
ask the way, and he will have a half dozen of the persistent guild
upon him; and they cannot easily be shaken off.  The afternoon we
arrived, we had barely got into our rooms at Brack's Oude Doelan,
when a gray-headed commissionaire knocked at our door, and offered
his services to show us the city.  We deferred the pleasure of his
valuable society.  Shortly, when we came down to the street, a
smartly dressed Israelite took off his hat to us, and offered to show
us the city.  We declined with impressive politeness, and walked on.
The Jew accompanied us, and attempted conversation, in which we did
not join.  He would show us everything for a guilder an hour,--for
half a guilder.  Having plainly told the Jew that we did not desire
his attendance, he crossed to the other side of the street, and kept
us in sight, biding his opportunity.  At the end of the street, we
hesitated a moment whether to cross the bridge or turn up by the
broad canal.  The Jew was at our side in a moment, having divined
that we were on the way to the Dam and the palace.  He obligingly
pointed the way, and began to walk with us, entering into
conversation.  We told him pointedly, that we did not desire his
services, and requested him to leave us.  He still walked in our
direction, with the air of one much injured, but forgiving, and was
more than once beside us with a piece of information.  When we
finally turned upon him with great fierceness, and told him to
begone, he regarded us with a mournful and pitying expression; and as
the last act of one who returned good for evil, before he turned
away, pointed out to us the next turn we were to make.  I saw him
several times afterward; and I once had occasion to say to him, that
I had already told him I would not employ him; and he always lifted
his hat, and looked at me with a forgiving smile.  I felt that I had
deeply wronged him.  As we stood by the statue, looking up at the
eastern pediment of the palace, another of the tribe (they all speak
a little English) asked me if I wished to see the palace.  I told him
I was looking at it, and could see it quite distinctly.  Half a dozen
more crowded round, and proffered their aid.  Would I like to go into
the palace ?  They knew, and I knew, that they could do nothing more
than go to the open door, through which they would not be admitted,
and that I could walk across the open square to that, and enter
alone.  I asked the first speaker if he wished to go into the palace.
Oh, yes!  he would like to go.  I told him he had better go at once,-
-they had all better go in together and see the palace,--it was an
excellent opportunity.  They seemed to see the point, and slunk away
to the other side to wait for another stranger.

I find that this plan works very well with guides: when I see one
approaching, I at once offer to guide him.  It is an idea from which
he does not rally in time to annoy us.  The other day I offered to
show a persistent fellow through an old ruin for fifty kreuzers: as
his price for showing me was forty-eight, we did not come to terms.
One of the most remarkable guides, by the way, we encountered at

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