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Dutch Life in Town and Country by P. M. Hough

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and eight feet high. The ceiling of the room inside the dwelling is only
four or five feet high, and above this the stores of hay and corn are
kept. A hole in the roof serves as chimney, and in the floor--which is
nothing but hard clay--a hole is dug to serve as fireplace. On the larger
farms in Overyssel the main building is generally divided into two parts.
The back part is for the cattle, which stand in rows on either side, with
a large open space in the centre, called the 'deel,' where the carts are
kept. A large arched double door leads into it, while the thatched roof
comes down low on either side. Leading from the 'deel,' or stable, into
the living-room is a small door, with a window to enable the inhabitants
to see what is going on among their friends of the fields. Against the
wall which forms the partition between the stable and living-room is the
fireplace. You will sometimes find an open fire on the floor, though in
the more modern houses stoves are used. The chimney-piece is in the shape
of a large overhanging hood with a flounce of light print 'Schoorsteenval'
round it, and a row of plates on a shelf above serves for ornament. The
much-prized linen-press, which has already been mentioned, is usually
placed at right-angles to the outer door, so as to form a kind of passage.

In some farmhouses there is no partition at all between the stable and
living-room, but the cattle are kept at the back, and the people live at
the other end, near the window. This is called a 'loshuis,' or open house,
and very picturesque it is to look at. The smell of the cows is considered
to be extremely healthy, and consumptive patients have been completely
cured (so it is popularly believed) by sleeping in the cowsheds. Besides
being healthy, this primitive system is also cheap, for the cows give out
so much warmth that it is almost unnecessary to have fires except for
cooking purposes. Some of these open houses have no chimneys, the smoke
finding its way out between the tiles of the roof or through the door.
There is a hayloft above the part occupied by the cattle, while over the
heads of the family hams, bacon, and sausages of every description hang
from the rafters. Smoke is very useful in curing these stores, and this
may account for the absence of a chimney.

In Brabant, however, where there are chimneys, the farmer hangs his stores
in them, so that when looking up through the wide opening to the sky
beyond numerous tiers of dangling sausages meet one's admiring gaze. The
living-room is a living-room in every sense of the word, for the family
work, eat, and sleep there. Sometimes a larger farm has a wing attached to
it containing bedrooms, but this is not general, and even so most of the
family sleep in the living-room. The beds are placed round the room. They
are, in fact, cupboards, and by day are fixed in the wall. Green curtains
are hung before the beds, and are always drawn at night, completely
concealing the beds from view. Some have doors like ordinary cupboards,
but this is more general in North Holland. In Hindeloopen (Friesland) one
or two beds in the living-room are kept as 'pronk-bedden' (show beds).
They are decked out with the finest linen the farmers' wives possess, the
sheets gorgeous with long laces, and the pillow-slips beautifully
embroidered. These beds are never slept in, and the curtains are kept open
all day long, so that any one who enters the room can at once admire their
beauty. Some of the more wealthy have a 'best bedroom,' which they keep
carefully locked. They dust it every day, and clean it out once a week,
but never use it. In South Holland it is more customary to have a
'pronk-kamer' ('show-room'), which is not a bedroom, but a kind of
parlour. This room is never entered by the inhabitants of the house except
at a birth or a death, and in the latter case they put the corpse there.
In Hindeloopen the dead are put in the church to await burial, and there
they rest on biers specially made for the occasion. A different bier is
used to represent the trade or profession or sex of the dead person. These
biers are always most elaborately painted (as, indeed, are all things in
Hindeloopen), with scenes out of the life of a doctor, a clergyman, a
tradesman, or a peasant.

[Illustration: Type of an Overyssel Farmhouse.]

The costume worn by the peasantry is always quaint, and this is
especially so in Hindeloopen. The waistband of a peasant woman takes
alone an hour and a half to arrange. It consists of a very long, thin,
black band, which is wound round and round the waist till it forms one
broad sash. The dress itself includes a black skirt and a check bodice, a
white apron, and a dark necktie; from the waistband hangs at the
right-hand side a long silver chain, to which are attached a silver
pincushion, a pair of scissors, and a needle-case; then on the left-hand
side hangs a reticule with silver clasps; and a long mantle, falling
loose from the shoulders to the hem of the skirt, is worn over all
out-of-doors. This latter is of some light-coloured material, with a
pattern of red flowers and green leaves. On the head three caps are worn,
one over the other, and for outdoor wear a large, tall bonnet is donned
by way of completing the costume.

[Illustration: A Farmhouse Interior, Showing the Door into the Stable.]

All the Frisian costumes are beautiful. Many ladies of that province still
wear the national dress, and a very becoming one it is.

In Overyssel the women all over the province dress alike and in the same
way their ancestors did. In the house the dress is an ordinary full
petticoat of some cotton stuff, generally blue, and a tight-fitting and
perfectly plain bodice with short sleeves, a red handkerchief folded
across the chest, and a close-fitting white cap, with a little flounce
round the neck. When they go to market with their milk and eggs they are
very smart.[Footnote: Butter used to be one of the wares they took to
market, but now so many butter-factories have arisen, and also so much is
imported from Australia, that it is hardly worth their while to make it.]

They then wear a fine black merino skirt, made very full, and the
inevitable petticoats, which make the skirt stand out like a crinoline. On
Sundays they wear the same costume as on market-days, and in winter they
are to be seen with large Indian shawls worn in a point down the back in
the old-fashioned way. When they go to communion, as they do four times a
year, the shawls are of black silk with long black fringes. The hair is
completely hidden by a close-fitting black cap, and some women cut off
their hair so as to give the head a perfectly round shape. Over the black
cap is worn a white one of real lace, called a 'knipmuts,' the pattern of
which shows to advantage over the black ground. A deep flounce of gauffred
real lace goes round the neck, while round the face there is a ruche or
frill, also very finely gauffred. A broad white brocaded ribbon is laid
twice round the cap, and fastened under the chin. Long gold earrings are
fastened to the cap on either side of the face, and the ears themselves
are hidden. The style of gauffering is still the same as is seen in the
muslin caps of so many Dutch pictures of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, especially in those of Frans Hals. When in mourning, the women
wear a plain linen cap without any lace, and the men a black bow in their
caps. It is quite a work of art to make up a peasant woman's head-dress,
and several cap-makers are kept busy at it all day long.

The clothes the men wear are not so elaborate. They used to be short
knickerbockers with silver clasps, but these have entirely gone out of
fashion, and they have been replaced by ordinary clothes of cloth or
corduroy. Both sexes wear wooden shoes, which the men often make
themselves. In the far-famed little island of Marken, the men are very
clever at this work, and they carve them beautifully. In some lonely
hamlets the unmarried women wear black caps with a thick ruche of ostrich
feathers or black fur round the face. The jewellery consists of garnet
necklaces closed round the neck and fastened by golden clasps. The garnets
are always very large, and this fashion is general ail over the
Netherlands. In Stompwyk, a little village between The Hague and Leyden, a
peasant family possesses garnets as large as a swallow's egg.

If the dress of the boers is solid, quaint, and national, the daily food
of the class is in keeping with their conservative temper and traditional
gastronomic ability. It is of the plainest character, but often consists
of the strangest mixtures. When a pig is killed, and the different parts
for hams, sides of bacon, etc., have been stored, and the sausages
made--especially after they have boiled the black-puddings, or
'Bloedworst,' which is made of the blood of the pigs--a thick fatty
substance remains in the pot. This they thicken with buckwheat meal till
it forms a porridge, and then they eat it with treacle. The name of this
dish is 'Balkenbry.' A portion of this, together with some of the
'slacht,' i.e. the flesh of the pig, is sent as a present to the
clergyman of the village, and it is to be hoped he enjoys it.

Another favourite dish, especially in Overyssel and Gelderland, is
'Kruidmoes.' This is a mixture of buttermilk boiled with buckwheat meal,
vegetables, celery, and sweet herbs, such as thyme, parsley, and chervil,
and, to crown all, a huge piece of smoked bacon, and it is served steaming
hot. The poor there eat a great deal of rice and flour boiled with
buttermilk, which, besides being very nutritious, is 'matchless for the
complexion,' like many of the advertised soaps. The very poor have what is
called a 'Vetpot.' This they keep in the cellar, and in it they put every
particle of fat that remains over from their meals. Small scraps of bacon
are melted down and added to it, for this fat must last them the whole
winter through as an addition to their potatoes. Indeed, the 'Vetpot'
plays as great a part in a poor man's house as the 'stock-pot' does in an
English kitchen.

[Illustration: Farmhouse Interior, the Open Fire on the Floor.]

The meals are cooked in a large iron pot, which hangs from a hook over the
open hearth. The fuel consists of huge logs of wood and heather sods,
which are also used for covering the roofs of the 'Plaggewoning.' Black or
rye bread takes the place of white, and is generally home-made. In Brabant
the women bake what is called 'Boeren mik.' This is a delicious long brown
loaf, and there are always a few raisins mixed with the dough to keep it
from getting stale. Those who have no ovens of their own put the dough in
a large long baking-tin and send it to the baker. One of the children, on
his way back from school, fetches it and carries it home _under his arm_.
You may often see farmers' children walking about in their wooden shoes
with two or more loaves under their arms. Both wooden shoes and loaves are
used in a dispute between comrades, and the loaf-carrier generally gains
the day. The crusts are very hard and difficult to cut, but, inside, the
bread is soft and palatable.

In Brabant the peasants--small of stature, black-haired, brown-eyed, more
of the Flemish than the Dutch type--are as a rule Roman Catholics, and on
Shrove Tuesday evening 'Vastenavond,' 'Fast evening' (the night before
Lent), they bake and eat 'Worstebrood.' On the outside this bread looks
like an ordinary white loaf, but on cutting it open you find it to contain
a spicy sausage-meat mixture. All the people in this part of the country
observe the Carnival, with its accustomed licence.

Times for farming are bad in the Netherlands as elsewhere. The rents are
high and wages low, and the consequence is that many peasants sell their
farms, which have for a long time been in their families, and rent them
again from the purchasers. The relations between landlord and tenants are
in some respects still feudalistic, and hence very old-fashioned. On some
estates the landlord has still the right of exacting personal service from
his tenants, and can call upon them to come and plough his field with
their horses, or help with the harvesting, for which service they are paid
one 'gulden,' or 1s. 8d. a day, which, of course, is not the full value of
their labour. The tenants likewise ask their landlord's consent to their
marriages, and it is refused if the man or woman is not considered
suitable or respectable.

A farmer who keeps two or three cows pays a rent of L8 a year for his
farm, which only yields enough to keep him and his family, not in a high
standard of living either. The rent is generally calculated at the rate of
three per cent. of the value. He pays his farm-labourers 80 cents, or 1s.
4d., for a day's work. In former days, however, money was never given, and
the wages of a farm-servant then were a suit of clothes, a pair of boots,
and some linen, while the women received an apron, some linen, and a few
petticoats once a year. Now they get in addition to this L12 a year. In
Gramsbergen (Overyssel) a whole family, consisting of a mother, her
daughter, and her two grown-up sons, earned no more than four or five
guilders (8s. or 10s.) between them, but then they lived rent free. It is
not wonderful, therefore, that farm-labourers are scarce, and that many a
young man, unable to earn enough to keep body and soul together decently,
seeks work in the factories here or in Belgium,[Footnote: According to a
recent return, 56,506 Netherlands workmen are employed in Belgium.] while
those who do not wish to give up agricultural pursuits migrate to Germany,
where the demand for 'hands' is greater and the wages consequently higher.
In former days strangers came to this country to earn money. Now the
tables are turned, and the fact that Holland is situated between two
countries whose thriving industries demand a greater number of workers
every year will yet bring serious trouble and loss to Dutch agriculture.
[Footnote: Just now great results are expected from the 'allotment
system,' of which a trial has been made in Friesland on the extensive
possessions of Mr. Jansen, of Amsterdam.]

Chapter IX

Rural Customs

The Hollander is a very conservative individual, and therefore some
curious customs still prevail among the peasant and working classes in the
Netherlands, especially in the Eastern provinces, for there the people are
most primitive, and there it is that we find many queer old rhymes,
apparently without any sense in them, but which must have had their origin
in forgotten national or domestic events. A remnant of an old pagan custom
of welcoming the summer is still to be seen in many country places. On the
Saturday before Whitsunday, very early in the morning, a party of children
may be seen setting out towards the woods to gather green boughs. After
dipping these in water they return home in triumph and place them before
the doors of those who were not 'up with the lark' in such a manner that,
when these long sleepers open them, the wet green boughs will come
tumbling down upon their heads. Very often, too, the children pursue the
late risers, and beat them with the branches, jeering at them the while,
and singing about the laziness of the sluggard. These old songs have
undergone very many variations, and nowadays one cannot say which is the
correct and original form. They have, in fact, been hopelessly mixed up
with other songs, and in no two provinces do we find exactly the same
versions. The 'Luilak feest,'[Footnote: This day is called Luilak
(sluggard) in some parts of the country and the feast is called
Luilakfeest.'] of which I have just spoken, goes by the name of
'Dauwtrappen' ('treading the dew') in some parts of the country, but the
observance of it is the same wherever the custom obtains.

[Illustration: Palm Paschen--Begging for Eggs.]

'Eiertikken' at Easter must also not be overlooked. For a whole week
before Easter the peasant children go round from house to house begging
for eggs, and carrying a wreath of green leaves stuck on a long stick.
This stick and wreath they call their 'Palm Paschen,' which really
means Palm-Sunday, and may have been so called because they make the
wreath on that day.

Down the village streets they go, singing all the while and waving the
wreath above their heads:--

Palm, Palm Paschen,
Hei koekerei.
Weldra is het Paschen
Dan hebben wy een ei.
Een ei--twee ei,
Het derde is het Paschei.

Palm, Palm Sunday,
Hei koekerei.
Soon it will be Easter
And we shall have an egg.
One egg--two eggs,
The third egg is the Easter egg.

They knock at every farmhouse, and are very seldom sent away empty-handed.
When they have collected enough eggs to suit their purpose--generally
three or four apiece--they boil them hard and stain them with two
different colours, either brown with coffee or red with beetroot juice,
and then on Easter Day they all repair to the meadows carrying their eggs
with them, and the 'eiertikken' begins. The children sit down on the
grass, and each child knocks one of his eggs against that of another in
such a way that only one of the shells breaks. The child whose egg does
not break wins, and becomes the possessor of the broken egg.

The strangest of all these begging-customs, however, is the one in vogue
between Christmas and Twelfth Night. Then the children go out in couples,
each boy carrying an earthenware pot, over which a bladder is stretched,
with a piece of stick tied in the middle. When this stick is twirled
about, a not very melodious grumbling sound proceeds from the contrivance,
which is known by the name of 'Rommelpot.' By going about in this manner
the children are able to collect some few pence to buy bread--or gin--for
their fathers. When they stop before any one's house, they drawl out,
'Give me a cent, and I will pass on, for I have no money to buy bread.'
The origin both of the custom and song is shrouded in mystery.[Footnote: A
Society of Research into old folklore and folk-song has recently been
founded by some of the leading Dutch literary authorities, who also
propose to publish a little periodical in which all these customs will be
collected and noted.]

Besides the customs in vogue at such festive seasons as Whitsuntide,
Easter, and Christmas, there are yet others of more everyday occurrence
which are well worth the knowing. In Overyssel, for instance, we find a
very sensible one indeed. It is usual there when a family remove to
another part of the village, or when they settle elsewhere, for the people
living in the neighbourhood to bring them presents to help furnish their
new house. Sometimes these presents include poultry or even a pig, which,
though they do not so much furnish the house as the table, prove
nevertheless very acceptable. As soon as all the moving is over and they
are comfortably installed in their new home, the next thing to do is to
invite all the neighbours to a party.

This is a very important social duty and ought on no account to be
omitted, as it entitles host and hostess to the help of all their guests
in the event of illness or adversity taking place in their family. If,
however, they do not conform to this social obligation, their neighbours
and friends stand aloof, and do not so much as move a finger to help them.
Should one of the family fall ill, the four nearest male neighbours are
called in. These men fetch the doctor, and do all the nursing. They will
even watch by the invalid at night, and so long as the illness lasts they
undertake all the farm-work. Sometimes they will go on working the farm
for years, and when a widow is left with young children in straitened
circumstances, these 'Noodburen' ('neighbours in need') will help her in
all possible ways, and take all the business and worry off her hands.

[Illustration: Rommel Pot.]

In case of a marriage, too, the neighbours do the greater part of the
preparations. They invite the relations and friends to come to the
wedding, and make ready the feast. The invitations are always given by
word of mouth, and two young men[Footnote: In Gelderland we find this same
custom and also in Friesland, but in this last-named province the
invitation is given by two young girls.] nearly related to the bride and
bridegroom are appointed to go round from house to house to bid the people
come. They are dressed for this purpose in their best Sunday clothes, and
wear artificial flowers and six peacock's feathers in their caps. The
invitation is made in poetry, in which the assurance is conveyed that
there will be plenty to eat and plenty of gin and beer to drink, and that
whatever they may have omitted to say will be told by the bride and
bridegroom at the feast. This verse in the native patois is very curious--


'Daor stao'k op minen staf
En weet niet wat ik zeggen mag,
Nou hek me weer bedach
En weet ik wat ik zeggen mag
Hier sturt ons Gut yan Vente als brugom
En Mientje Elschot as de brud,
Ende' noget uwder ut
Margen vrog on tien ur
Op en tonne bier tiene twalevenne,
Op en anker win, vif, zesse
En en wanne vol rozimen.
De zult by Venterboer verschinen
Met de husgezeten
En nums vergeten,
Vrog kommen en late bliven
Anders kun wy t nie 't op krigen
Lustig ezongen, vrolik esprongen,
Springen met de beide beene,
En wat ik nog hebbe vergeten
Zult ow de Brogom ende Brud verbeten.
Hej my elk nuw wal verstaan
Dan laot de fles um de taofel gaon


'I rest here on my stick,
I don't know what to say,
Now I have thought of it
And know what I may say:
Here sent us Gart van Vente, the bridegroom,
And Mientje Elschot, the bride,
To invite you
To-morrow morning at ten o'clock
To empty ten or twelve barrels of beer,
Five or six hogsheads of wine,
And a basket full of dried grapes.
You will come to the house of Venterboer
With all your inmates
And forget nobody.
Come early and remain late,
Else we can't swallow it all down.
Then sing cheerfully, leap joyfully,
Leap with both your legs.
And, what I have yet forgotten,
Think of the bridegroom and bride.
If you have understood me well
Let pass the bottle round the table.'

The day before the wedding is to take place the bridegroom and some of
his friends arrive at the bride's house in a cart, drawn by four horses,
to bring away the bride and her belongings. These latter are a motley
collection, for they consist not only of her clothes, bed and
bed-curtains, but her spinning-wheel, linen-press full of linen, and
also a cow. After everything has been loaded upon the cart, and the
young men have refreshed themselves with 'rystebry' (rice boiled with
sweet milk), they drive away in state, singing as they go. The following
day the bride is married from the house of her parents-in-law, and as it
often happens that the young couple live with the bridegroom's people,
it is only natural that they like to have the house in proper order
before the arrival of the wedding-guests, who begin to appear as soon as
eight o'clock in the morning. When all the invited guests are assembled
and have partaken of hot gin mixed with currants, handed round in
two-handled pewter cups, kept especially for these occasions, the whole
party goes, about eleven o'clock, to the 'Stadhuis,' or Town Hall, where
the couple are married before the Burgomaster, and afterwards to the
church, where the blessing is given upon their union. On returning home
the mid-day meal is ready, and, on this festive occasion, consists of
ham, potatoes, and salt fish, and the clergyman is also honoured with
an invitation to the gathering. The rest of the day is spent in
rejoicings, in which eating and drinking take the chief part. The bride
changes her outer apparel about four times during the day, always in
public, standing before her linen-press. The day is wound up with a
dance, for which the village fiddler provides the music, the bride
opening the ball with one of the young men who invited the guests, and
she then presents him with a fine linen handkerchief as a reward for his
invaluable services on the occasion.

In Friesland a curious old custom still exists, called the 'Joen-piezl,'
which furnishes the clue to an odd incident in Mrs. Schreiner's 'Story of
an African Farm.' When a man and girl are about to be married, they must
first sit up for a whole night in the kitchen with a burning candle on the
table between them. By the time the candle is burnt low in its socket they
must have found out whether they really are fond of each other.

The marriage customs in North and South Holland are very different to the
former. As soon as a couple are 'aangeteekend,' i.e. when the banns are
published for the first time (which does not happen in church, but takes
the form of a notice put up at the Town Hall), and have returned from the
'Stadhuis,' they drive about and take a bag of sweets ('bruidsuikers') to
all their friends. On the wedding-day, after the ceremony is over, the
bride and bridegroom again drive out together in a 'chaise'--a high
carriage on very big wheels, with room for but two persons. The horse's
head, the whip, and the reins are all decorated with flowers and coloured
ribbons. The wedding-guests drive in couples behind the bride and
bridegroom's 'chaise,' and the progress is called 'Speuleryden.' Sometimes
they drive for miles across country, stopping at every _cafe_ to drink
brandy and sugar, and when they pass children on the road these call out
to them, 'Bruid, bruid, strooi je suikers uit' ('Bride, bride, strew your
sugars about.') Handfuls of sweets will thereupon be seen flying through
the air and rolling about the ground, while the children tumble over each
other in their eager haste to collect as many of these sweets as they can.
Sometimes as much as twenty-five pounds of sweets are thus scattered upon
the roadside for the village children. Such a wedding is quite an event in
the lives of these little ones, and they will talk for weeks to come about
the amount of sweets they were able to procure.

[Illustration: A Hindeloopen Lady in National Costume.]

[Illustration: Rural Costume--Cap with Ruche of Fur.]

At Ryswyk, a little village near The Hague, and in most villages in
Westland, South Holland, the bride and bridegroom present to the
Burgomaster and Wethouders, and also to the 'Ambtenaar van den
Burgerlyken Stand' who marries them at the 'Stadhuis,' a bag of these
sweets, while one bearing the inscription, 'Compliments of bride and
bridegroom,' is given to the officiating clergyman immediately after the
ceremony in church. On their way home all along the road they strew
'suikers' out of the carriage windows for the gaping crowds. Some of the
less well-to-do farmers, and those who live near large towns, give their
wedding-parties at a _cafe_ or 'uitspanning.' This word means literally a
place where the horse is taken out of the shafts, but it is also a
restaurant with a garden attached to it, in which there are swings and
seesaws, upon which the guests disport themselves during the afternoon,
while in the evening a large hall in the building is arranged for the
ball, for that is the conclusion of every 'Boeren bruiloft.' Very often
the ball lasts till the cock-crowing, and then, if the 'Bruiloft houers'
are Roman Catholics, it is no uncommon practice first to go to church and
'count their beads' before they disperse on their separate ways to begin
the duties of a new day.

A birth is naturally an occasion that calls for very festive celebration.
When the child is about a week old, its parents send round to all their
friends to come and rejoice with them. The men are invited 'op een lange
pyp en een bitterje,' the women for the afternoon 'op suikerdebol.' At
twelve o'clock the men begin to arrive, and are immediately provided with
a long Gouda pipe, a pouch of tobacco, and a cut glass bottle containing
gin mixed with aromatic bitters. While they smoke, they talk in voices
loud enough to make any one who is not acquainted with a farmer's mode of
speech think that a great deal of quarrelling is going on in the house.
This entertainment lasts till seven o'clock, when all the men leave and
the room is cleared, though not ventilated, and the table is rearranged
for the evening's rejoicings.

Dishes of bread and butter, flat buttered rusks liberally spread with
'muisjes' (sugared aniseed--the literal translation is 'mice'), together
with tarts and sweets of all descriptions, are put out in endless
profusion on all the best china the good wife possesses. For each of the
guests two of these round flat rusks are provided, two being the correct
number to take, for more than two would be considered greedy, and to eat
only one would be sure to offend the hostess. Eating and drinking, for
'Advocatenborrel' (brandy and eggs) is also served, go on for the greater
part of the afternoon. The mid-day meal is altogether dispensed with on
such a day, and, judging by appearances, one cannot say that the guests
look as if they had missed it!

It is quite the national custom to eat rusks with 'muisjes' on on these
occasions, and these little sweets are manufactured of two kinds. The
sugar coating is smooth when the child is a girl, and rough and prickly
like a chestnut burr when the child is a boy; and when one goes to buy
'muisjes' at a confectioner's he is always asked whether boys' or girls'
'muisjes' are required. Hundreds-and-thousands, the well-known decoration
on buns and cakes in an English pastry-cook's shop, bear the closest
resemblance to these Dutch 'muisjes.'

When a little child is born into a family of the better classes, the
servants are treated to biscuits and 'mice' on that day; while in the very
old-fashioned Dutch families there is still another custom, that of
offermg 'Kandeel,' a preparation of eggs and Rhine wine or hock, on the
first day the young mother receives visitors, and it is specially made for
these occasions by the 'Baker' nurse.

Funeral processions are a very mournful sight on all occasions, but a
Dutch funeral depresses one for about a month after. The hearse is all
hung with black draperies, while on the box sits the coachman wearing a
large black hat called 'Huilebalk.' From the rim overlapping the face
hangs a piece of black cord. This he holds in his mouth to prevent the hat
from falling off his head. The hearse itself is generally embellished by
the images of grinning skulls, though the carriages following the hearse
have no distinctive mark. If such a funeral procession happens to come
along the road you yourself are going, you may be sure of enjoying its
company the whole way, for the horses are only allowed to walk, never
trot, and it takes hours to get to the cemetery. In former days the horses
were specially shod for this occasion in such a way that they went lame on
one leg. This end was achieved by driving the nail of the shoe into the
animal's foot, for people thought this added to the doleful aspect of the
_coretge_ as it advanced slowly along the road. Happily this cruelty is
now dispensed with, and indeed is entirely forbidden by the Society for
the Prevention of Cruelty to Animais, but the ugly aspect of the hearses
remains the same.

[Illustration: An Overyssel Peasant Woman.]

At a death, the relatives of the deceased have large cards printed,
announcing the family loss. These cards are taken round to every house in
the neighbourhood by a man specially hired for the purpose. This man,
called an 'Aanspreker,' carries a list of the names and addresses of the
people on whom he has to leave the cards; if the people sending out the
cards have friends in any other street of the town, a card is left at
every house in that street.

[Illustration: Zeeland Children in State.]

If the deceased was an officer, the cards, beside being sent round in
the neighbourhood, are left at every officer's house throughout the
town. To whichever profession the deceased belonged, to the people of
that profession the cards are sent. A Minister of State or any other
person occupying a very high position sends cards to every house in the
town and suburbs.

In a village or country place a funeral is rather a popular event, and
the preparations for it somewhat resemble the preparations for a feast.
This, for instance, is the case in Overyssel. When one of a family dies,
the nearest relatives immediately call in the neighbouring women, and
these take upon themselves all the necessary arrangements. They send
round messages announcing the death and day of interment; they buy
coffee, sugar-candy, and a bottle of gin, wherewith to refresh themselves
while making the shroud and dressing the dead body; and the next morning
they take care that the church bells are duly rung, and, in the
afternoon, when the relations and friends come to offer their
condolences, they serve them, as they sit round the bier, with black
bread and coffee. When the plates and cups are empty the visitors leave
again without having spoken a word.

On the day of the funeral, the guests assemble at two o'clock in the
afternoon. They first sit round the tables and eat and drink in silence,
and when the first batch have satisfied their appetites they move away and
make room for others. After this meal all walk round the coffin, and
repeat, one after another, 'Twas een goed mensch,' ('He or she was a good
man or woman,' as the case may be). Then the lid of the coffin is fastened
down with twelve wooden pegs, which the most honoured guest is allowed to
hammer in, and the coffin is forthwith placed on an ordinary farm-cart.
The nearest relations get in, too, and sit on the coffin, and the other
women on the cart facing the coffin. This custom is adhered to,
notwithstanding the prohibition by law to sit on any conveyance carrying a
coffin. The women are in mourning from tip to toe, and closely enveloped
in black merino shawls, which they wear over their heads. The men follow
on foot, and it is a picturesque though melancholy sight to watch these
funeral processions, always at close of day, solemnly wending their way
along the road, the dark figures of the women silhouetted against a sky
all aglow with those glorious sunsets for which Overyssel is famous.

Chapter X

Kermis and St. Nicholas

Of all the festivals and occasions of popular rejoicing and merriment in
Holland none can compare with the Kermis and the Festival of St. Nicholas,
which are in many ways peculiarly characteristic of Dutch life and Dutch
love for primitive usage. The Kermis is particularly popular, because of
the manifold amusements which are associated with it, and because it
unites all classes of the population in the common pursuit of
unsophisticated pleasure. As its name implies, the Kermis ('Kerk-mis') has
a religious origin, being named after the chief part of the Church
service, the mass. Just as the Feast of St. Baro received the name
'Bamisse,' so that of the consecration of the church was called the
'Church-mass,' or 'Kerk-mis.' In ancient times, if a church was
consecrated on the name-day of a certain saint the church was also
dedicated to that saint. Such a festival was a chief festival, or 'Hoof
feest,' for a church, and it was not only celebrated with great pomp and
solemnity, but amusements of all kinds were added to give the celebration
a more festive character. In large towns there were Kermissen at different
times of the year in different parishes, for each church was dedicated to
a different saint, so that there were as many dedicatory feasts in a town
as there were churches in it.

At a very early period in the nation's history the Church-masses began to
wear a more worldly character, for the merchants made them an occasion for
introducing their wares and trading with the people, just as they did at
the ordinary 'year-markets.' These year-markets always fell on the same
day as the Kermissen, but they had a different origin. They were held by
permission of the Sovereign, and were first instituted to encourage trade;
but gradually the Kermis and the year-market went hand-in-hand, for the
people could no longer imagine a year-market without the Kermis
amusements, or a Kermis without booths and stalls, so if there was not
sufficient room for the latter to be built on the streets or squares, the
priest allowed them to be put up in the churchyard or sometimes even in
the church. Moreover, if it was not possible to have the year-market in
the same week as the Kermis, then the Kermis was put off to suit the
year-market, and these latter were of great aid to the religious
festivals, for they attracted a greater number of people, and as
dispensations were given for attending the masses both the churches and
the markets benefited. The mass lasted eight days, and the year-market as
long as the Church festival. The Church protected the year-markets, and
rang them in. With the first stroke of the Kermis clock the year-market
was opened and the first dance commenced, followed by a grand procession,
in which all the principal people of the town took part, and when the last
stroke died away white crosses were nailed upon all the bridges, and on
the gates of the town. These served both as a passport and also as a token
of the 'markt vrede' (market peace), so that any one seeing the cross knew
that he might enter the town and buy and sell _ad libitum_, also that his
peace and safety were guaranteed, and that any one who disturbed the
'markt vrede' would be banished from the place, and not be allowed to come
back another year. In some places this yearly market was named, after the
crosses, 'Cruyce-markt.'

Very festive is the appearance of a town in the Kermis week. On the
opening day, at twelve o'clock, the bells of the cathedral or chief
church are set ringing, and this is the sign for the booths to be opened
and the 'Kermispret' to begin. Everywhere tempting stores are displayed
to view, and although a scent of oil and burning fat pervades the air,
nobody seems to mind that, for it only increases the delight the Kermis
has in store for them. The stalls are generally set out in two rows. The
most primitive of these is the stall of hard-boiled eggs and pickled
gherkins, whose owner is probably a Jew, and pleasant sounds his hoarse
voice while praising his wares high above all others. If he does prevail
upon you to come and try one of his eggs and gherkins it only adds more
relish to your meal when he tells you of the man who only paid one cent
for a large gherkin which really cost two, and although he already had
put it in his mouth he made him put the other part back. Or when you go
to eat 'poffertjes,' which look so tempting, and with the first bite find
a quid of tobacco in the inoffensive-looking little morsel, do not let
this trifling incident disturb your equanimity, but try another booth. It
is quite worth your while to stand in front of a 'poffertjeskraam' and
see how they are made. The batter is simply buckwheat-meal mixed with
water, and some yeast to make it light. Over a bright fire of logs is
placed a large, square, iron baking-sheet with deep impressions for the
reception of the batter. On one side sits a woman on a high stool, with a
bowl of the mixture by her side and a large wooden ladle in her hand.
This she dips into the batter, bringing it out full, then with a quick
sweep of the arm she empties its contents into the hollows of the
baking-sheet. A man standing by turns them dexterously one by one with a
steel fork, and a moment later he pricks them six at a time on to the
fork; this he docs four times to get a plateful, and then he hands it
over to another man inside the booth, who adds a pat of butter and a
liberal sprinkling of sugar. The 'wafelkramen' are not so largely
patronized, as the price of these delicacies is rather too high for the
slender purses of the average 'Kermis houwer,' but 'oliebollen'--round
ball-shaped cakes swimming in oil--are within the reach of all, as they
cost but a cent apiece. Servants and their lovers, after satisfying their
appetites with these 'oliebollen,' go and have a few turns in the
roundabouts by way of a change, and then hurry to the fish stall, where
they eat a raw salted herring to counteract the effects of the earlier
dissipation. The more respectable servant, however, turns up her nose at
the herrings, and goes in for smoked eel. These fish-stalls are very
quaint in appearance, for they are hung with garlands of dried
'scharretje' (a white, thin, leathery-looking fish), which dangle in
front, and form a most original decoration. In the towns a separate day
and evening are set apart for the servant classes to go to the fair, and
there is also a day for the _elite_.

At the commencement of the reign of King William III. the whole Court,
including the King and Queen, used to meet at The Hague Kermis on the
Lange Voorhout on Thursday afternoons, between two and four o'clock, and
walk up and down between the double row of stalls; and in the evening of
that day they all visited either the most renowned circus of the season or
went to see the 'Kermis stuk,' or special play acted in fan-time.

The servants' evening, as it is held in Rotterdam, is the most
characteristic. It is an evening shunned by the more respectable people,
for the 'Kermisgangers are a very rowdy lot. They amuse themselves chiefly
by running along the streets in long rows, arm-in-arm, singing
'Hossen--hossen-hossen!' They also treat each other to 'Nieuw rood met
suiker'--black currants preserved in gin with sugar--until they are all
quite tipsy, and woe to any quiet pedestrian who has the misfortune to
pass their way, for with loud 'Hi-has' they encircle him and make him
'hos' with them. The evening is commonly called the 'Aalbessen
(black-currant) hos.'

[Illustration: Kermis: 'Hossen-Hossen--Hi-Ha!' _(After the Picture of Van

An equally curious but not so bad a custom is the Groninger 'Koek eten.'
All Groningers are fond of cake, and the 'Groninger kauke' is a widespread
and very tasty production; but for this special purpose is used the
'ellekoek,' a very long thin cake, which, as its name implies, is sold by
the yard. It is very tough, and just thin enough to hold in a large mouth,
and when a man chooses a girl to keep Kermis with him they must first see
whether they will suit one another as 'Vryer and Vryster' by eating
'ellekoek.' This is done in the following manner. They stand opposite one
another, and each begins at an end and eats towards the other. They may
not touch the cake with their hands, but must hold it between their teeth
all the while they are eating, and if they are unable to accomplish this
feat and kiss when they get to the middle it is a sure sign that they are
not suited to one another, and so the partnership is not concluded. In
some parts of Friesland and in Voorburg, one of the many villages near The
Hague, there is another cake custom, the 'Koekslaen,' which is a sort of
cake lottery. The cakes are all put out on large blocks, which are higher
at the sides than in the middle, and, for twopence, any one who likes may
try his luck and see if he can break the cake in two by striking it with a
stout stick provided by the stall-keeper for the purpose. It is necessary
to do this in one blow, for a second try involves the payment of another
fee. He who succeeds carries off the broken cake, and receives a second
one as a prize. Some men are very clever at this, and manage to carry off
a good many prizes.

Just as the Kermis is rung in by the bells, so also it is tolled out
again. This, however, is not an official proceeding, but a custom among
the schoolboys of the Gymnasium and Higher Burgher Schools. At The Hague,
on the last day of the fair, all the 'schooljeugd' assembled in the Lange
Voorhout, dressed in black, just as they would dress for a funeral, while
four of them carried a bier, hung with wreaths and black draperies. On
this bier was supposed to rest all that remained of the Kermis. In front
of the bier walked a boy ringing a large bell, and proclaiming, 'De Kermis
is dood, de Kermis wordt begraven' ('The Kermis is dead, and is going to
be buried'). Behind the bier came all the other boys with the most
mournful expression upon their faces they could muster for the occasion,
and thus they carried the 'dead fair' through the principal streets of the
town, and at last buried it in the 'Scheveningsche Boschjes.' But this
custom is now a thing of the past, for the Kermis at The Hague has been
abolished, even as it has been abolished in most of the other towns
throughout the kingdom, for all authorities were agreed that fair-time
promoted vice and drunkenness, and the old-fashioned Kermis is now only to
be found in Rotterdam, Leyden, Delft, and some of the smaller provincial
towns and villages.

The 6th of December is the day dedicated to St. Nicholas, and its vigil is
one of the most characteristic of Dutch festivals. It is an evening for
family reunions, and is filled with old recollections for the elders and
new delights for the younger people and children. Just as English people
give presents at Christmas time, so do the Dutch at St. Nicholas, only in
a different way, for St. Nicholas presents must be hidden and disguised as
much as possible, and be accompanied by rhymes explaining what the gift is
and for whom St. Nicholas intends it. Sometimes a parcel addressed to one
person will finally turn out to be for quite a different member of the
family than the one who first received it, for the address on each wrapper
in the various stages of unpacking makes it necessary for the parcel to
change hands as many times as there are papers to undo. The tiniest
things are sent in immense packing-cases, and sometimes the gifts are
baked in a loaf of bread or hidden in a turf, and the longer it takes
before the present is found the more successful is the 'surprise.'

The greatest delight to the giver of the parcel is to remain unknown as
long as possible, and even if the present is sent from one member of the
family to another living in the same house the door-bell is always rung by
the servant before she brings the parcel in, to make believe that it has
come from some outsider; and if a parcel has to be taken to a friend's
house it is very often entrusted to a passer-by, with the request to leave
it at the door and ring the bell. In houses where there are many children,
some of the elders dress up as the good Bishop St. Nicholas and his black
servant. The children are always very much impressed by the knowledge St.
Nicholas shows of all their shortcomings, for he usually reminds them of
their little failings, and gives them each an appropriate lecture.
Sometimes he makes them repeat a verse to him or asks them about their
lessons, all of which tends to make the moment of his arrival looked
forward to with much excitement and some trembling, for St. Nicholas
generally announces at what time he is to be expected, so that all may be
in readiness for his reception.

On the eventful evening a large white sheet is laid out upon the floor in
the middle of the room, and round it stand all the children with sparkling
eyes and flushed faces, eagerly scrutinizing the hand of the clock. As
soon as it points to five minutes before the expected time of the Saint's
arrivai they begin to sing songs to welcome him to their midst, and ask
him to give as liberally as was his wont, meanwhile praising his goodness
and greatness in the most eloquent terms. The first intimation the
children get of the Saint's arrival is a shower of sweets bursting in
upon them. Then, amid the general scramble which ensues, St, Nicholas
suddenly makes his appearance in full episcopal vestments, laden with
presents, while in the rear stands his black servant with an open sack in
one hand in which to put all the naughty boys and girls, and a rod in the
other which he shakes vigorously from time to time. When the presents have
all been distributed, and St. Nicholas has made his adieus, promising to
come back the following year, and the children are packed to bed to dream
of all the fun they have had, the older people begin to enjoy themselves.
First they sit round the table which stands in the middle of the room
under the lamp, and partake of tea and 'speculaas,' until their own
'surprises' begin to arrive. At ten O'clock the room is cleared, the
dust-sheet which was laid down for the children's scramble is taken up,
and all the papers and shavings, boxes and baskets that contained presents
are removed from the floor; the table is spread with a white table-cloth;
'letterbanket' with hot punch or milk chocolate is provided for the
guests; and, when all have taken their seats, a dish of boiled chestnuts,
steaming hot, is brought in and eaten with butter and salt.

Cigars, the usual resource of Dutchmen when they do not know what to do
with themselves, do not form a feature of this memorable evening
(memorable for this fact also), not so much out of deference to the ladies
who are in their midst as for the reason that they are too fully occupied
with other and even pleasanter employments.

[Illustration: St. Nicholas Going His Rounds on December 5th.]

The personality of St. Nicholas, as now known by Dutch children, is of
mixed origin, for not merely the Bishop of Lycie, but Woden, the Frisian
god of the elements and of the harvest, figures largely in the legends
attached to his name. Woden possessed a magic robe which enabled him
when arrayed in it to go to any place in the world he wished in the
twinkling of an eye. This same power is attached to the 'Beste tabbaard'
of St. Nicholas, as may be seen from the verse addressed to him:--

'Sint Niklaas, goed, heilig man
Trek je beste tabberd an
Ryd er mee naar Amsterdam
Van Amsterdam naar Spanje.'

[St. Nicholas, good, holy man
Put on your best gown
Ride with it to Amsterdam,
From Amsterdam to Spain.]

The horse Sleipnir, on whose back Woden took his autumn ride through the
world, has been converted into the horse of St. Nicholas, on which the
Saint rides about over the roofs of the houses to find out where the good
and where the naughty children live. In pagan days a sheaf of corn was
always left out on the field in harvest time for Woden's horse, and the
children of the present day still carry out the same idea by putting a
wisp of hay in their shoes for the four-footed friend of the good Saint.
The black servant who now always accompanies St. Nicholas is an
importation from America, for the Pilgrim Fathers carried their St.
Nicholas festival with them to the New Country, and some of their
descendants who came to live in Holland brought 'Knecht Ruprecht' with
them, and so added another feature to the St. Nicholas festivity.

What the Dutch originally knew of the life and works of 'Dominus Sanctus
Nicolaus' was told them by the Spaniards at the time of their influence in
Holland, and so it is believed that the Saint was born at Myra, in Lycie,
and lived in the commencement of the fourth century, in the reign of
Constantine the Great. From his earliest youth he showed signs of great
piety and self-denial, refusing, it is said, even when quite a tiny child,
to take food more than once a day on fast days! His whole life was devoted
to doing good, and even after his death he is credited with performing
many miracles. Maidens and children chiefly claim him as their patron
saint, but he also guards sailors, and legend asserts that many a ship on
the point of being wrecked or stranded has been saved by his timely
influence. During his lifetime the circumstance took place for which he
was ever afterwards recognized as the maidens' guardian. A certain man had
lost all his money, and to rid himself from his miserable situation he
determined to sell his three beautiful daughters for a large sum. St.
Nicholas heard of his intention, and went to the man's house in the night,
taking with him some of the money left him by his parents, and dropped it
through a broken window-pane. The following night St. Nicholas again took
a purse of gold to the poor man's house, and managed to drop it through
the chimney, but when he reached the man's door on the third night it was
suddenly opened from the inside, and the poor man rushed out, caught St.
Nicholas by his robe, and, falling down on his knees before him,
exclaimed, 'O Nicholas, servant of the Lord, wherefore dost thou hide thy
good deeds?' and from that time forth every one knew it was St. Nicholas
who brought presents during the night. In pictures one often sees St.
Nicholas represented with the threefold gift in his hand, in the form of
three golden apples, fruits of the tree of life. Another very well known
Dutch picture is St. Nicholas standing by a tub, from which are emerging
three bags. About fifty years ago such a picture was to be seen in
Amsterdam on the corner house between the Dam and the Damrak, with the
inscription, 'Sinterklaes.' The story runs that three boys once lost their
way in a dark wood, and begged a night's lodging with a farmer and his
wife. While the children were asleep the wicked couple murdered them,
hoping to rob them of all they had with them, but they soon discovered
that the lads had no treasure at all, and so, to guard against detection,
they salted the dead bodies, and put them in the tub with the pigs' flesh.
That same afternoon, while the farmer was at the market, St. Nicholas
appeared to him in his episcopal robes, and asked him whether he had any
pork to sell. The man replied in the negative, when St. Nicholas rejoined,
'What of the three young pigs in your tub? 'This so frightened the farmer
that he confessed his wicked deed, and implored forgiveness. St. Nicholas
thereupon accompanied him to his house, and waved his staff over the
meat-tub, and immediately the three boys stepped forth well and hearty,
and thanked St. Nicholas for restoring them to life.

The birch rod, which naughty Dutch children have still to fear, has also a
legendary origin, and is not merely an imaginary addition to the
attributes of the Saint. A certain abbot would not allow the responses of
St. Nicholas to be sung in his church, notwithstanding the repeated
requests of the monks of his order, and he dismissed them at last with the
words, 'I consider this music worldly and profane, and shall never give
permission for it to be used in my church.' These words so enraged St.
Nicholas that he came down from the heavens at night when the abbot was
asleep, and, dragging him out of bed by the hair of his head, beat him
with a birch rod he carried in his hand till he was more dead than alive.
The lesson proved salutary, and from that day forth the responses of St.
Nicholas formed a part of the service.

The St. Nicholas festival has always been kept with the greatest splendour
at Amsterdam. It was there that the festival was first instituted, and the
first church built which was dedicated to his name; for when Gysbrecht
III., Heer van Amstel, had the Amstel dammed, many people came to live
there, and houses arose up on all sides, and naturally, when the want of a
church was felt, and it was built, the good Nicholas was chosen the patron
Saint of the town. On his name-day masses were held in the church, and the
usual Kermis observed, Booths and stalls were set out in two rows all
along the Damrak, where the people of Amsterdam could buy sweets and toys
for their children. Special cakes were baked in the form of a bishop, and
named, after St. Nicholas, 'Klaasjes.' They were looked upon as an
offering dedicated to the Saint according to the old custom of their
forefathers, which can be again traced to the service of Woden.

Not only Amsterdammers, however, but people from all the neighbouring
towns flocked to the St. Nicholas market, and followed the Amsterdammers'
example of filling their children's shoes with cakes and toys, always
telling them the old legend that St. Nicholas himself brought these
presents through the chimney and put them in their shoes. During and after
the Reformation this now popular festival had to bear a great deal of
opposition, for authors and preachers alike agreed that it was a foolish
feast, and led to superstition and idolatry. Hence the decree was issued,
in the year 1622, that no cakes might be baked and no Kermis held, and
even the children were forbidden to put out their shoes as they were
accustomed to do. But for once in a way people were sensible enough to
understand that giving their children a pleasant evening had nothing to do
either with superstition or idolatry, and so the festival lived on with
Protestants as well as Roman Catholics, although one point was gained by
the Reformers, in that St. Nicholas was no longer looked upon as holy and
worshipped, but was only honoured as the patron Saint and guardian of
their children.

The fairs which once belonged to the festival of St. Nicholas are no
longer held in the street, at any rate in the larger towns, but the
exchange of presents is as universal as ever, and the shops look as
festive as shops in England do at Christmas-time. In many other ways,
indeed, St. Nicholas corresponds to Christmas in other countries, and
Protestants and Catholics alike observe it, although there is no religions
significance in the festival. The season, too, has its special cakes and
sweets. There are the flat hard cakes, made in the shapes of birds,
beasts, and fishes--the so-called 'Klaasjes'--for they are no longer baked
only in the form of a bishop, as they used to be. Then there is
'Letterbanket,' made, as the name implies, in the form of letters, so that
any one who likes can order his name in cake, and the 'Marsepein'
(marzipan) is now made in all possible shapes, though formerly only in
heart-shaped sweets, ornamented with little turtle-doves made of pink
sugar, or a flaming heart on a little altar. These sweets, it is said,
were invented by St. Nicholas himself, when he was a bishop, for the
benefit and use of lovers; for St. Nicholas held the office of
'Hylik-maker,' and many a couple were united by him. That is why the
confectioners bake 'Vryers and Vrysters' of cake at St. Nicholas time. If
a young man wanted to find out whether a girl cared for him, he used to
send her a heart of 'Marsepein' and a 'Vryer' of cake. Should she accept
this present he knew he had nothing to fear, but if she declined to accept
it he knew there was no hope for him in that quarter. These large dolls of
cake were usually decorated with strips of gold paper pasted over them,
but this fashion has gone out of use, and has caused the death of another
old custom; for it used to be a great treat for children and young people
to go and help the confectioners (who wrote all their customers an
invitation for that evening) on the 4th of December to prepare their goods
for the 'etalage.' Any cake that broke while in their hands they were
allowed to eat, and no doubt many did break.

It is not likely that this celebration of St. Nicholas will ever be
abolished, and the shopkeepers do their best to perpetuate it by offering
new attractions for the little folk every year. Figures of St. Nicholas,
life-size, are placed before their windows; and some even have a man
dressed like the good Saint, who goes about the streets, mounted on a
white steed, while behind him follows a cart laden with parcels, which
have been ordered and are left in this way at the different houses. Crowds
of children, singing, shouting, and clapping their hands, follow in the
rear, adding to the noise and bustle of the already crowded streets, but
people are too good-natured at St. Nicholas time to expostulate. Smiling
faces, mirth, and jollity abound everywhere, and good feeling unites all
men as brethren on this most popular of all the Dutch festivals.

Chapter XI

National Amusements

Holland, like other countries, is indebted to primitive and classic
times for most of its national amusements and children's games, which
have been handed down from generation to generation. Many of the same
games have been played under many differing Governments and opposing
creeds. Hollander and Spaniard, Protestant and Catholic alike have found
common ground in those games and sports which afford so welcome a break
in daily work.

'Hinkelbaan,' for example, found its way into the Netherlands from far
Phoenicia, whose people invented it. The game of cockal, 'Bikkelen,' still
played by Dutch village children on the blue doorsteps of old-fashioned
houses, together with 'Kaatsen,' was introduced into Holland by Nero
Claudius Druses, and it is stated that he laid out the first 'Kaatsbaan.'
The Frisian peasant is very fond of this game; and also of 'Kolven,' the
older form of golf; and often on a Sunday morning after church he may be
seen dressed in his velvet suit and low-buckled shoes, engaged in these
outdoor sports. About a century ago a game called 'Malien' was universally
played in South Holland and Utrecht. For this it was necessary to have a
large piece of ground, at one end of which poles were erected, joined
together by a porch. The bail was driven by a 'Mahen kolf,' a long stick
with an iron head and a leather grip, and it had to touch both poles and
roll through the porch. The 'Maheveld' at The Hague and the 'Mahebaan' at
Utrecht remind one of the places in which this game was played.

In Friesland the Sunday game for youths is 'Het slingeren met
Dimterkoek'--throwing Deventer cake. Four persons are required to play
this game. The players divide themselves into opposite parties, and play
against each other. First they toss up to see which of the parties and
which of the boys shall begin. He on whom the lot falls is allowed to
give his turn to his opponent, which he often does if, on feeling the
cake, he notices that it is soft and liable to break easily. If, on the
contrary, it is hard, he keeps the first throw for himself. Holding the
cake firmly in his right hand, he takes a little run, bends backward, and
with a sudden swing throws the cake forward (as one throws a stone) so
that it flies away a good distance, breaking off just at the grip. This
piece, called 'hanslik,' or handpiece, he must keep in his hand, for if
he drops it he must let his turn pass by once, and his throw is not
counted. The distance of the throw is now measured and noted down,
whereupon one of the opposing party takes the piece of cake and throws
it, and so it goes on alternately till each has had a turn. The distances
of the throws of every two boys are counted together, and the side which
has the most points wins.

There are also games played only at certain seasons of the year, as the
'Eiergaren' at Easter-time. This was very popular even in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries. On Easter Monday all the village people betake
themselves to the principal street of the 'dorp' to watch the
'eiergaarder.' At about two o'clock in the afternoon the innkeeper who
provides the eggs appears upon the scene with a basket containing
twenty-five. These he places on the road at equal distances of twelve feet
from each other. In the middle of the road is then placed a tub of water,
on which floats a very large apple, the largest he has been able to
procure. Two men are chosen from the ranks of the villagers. The one is
led to the tub, his hands are tied behind his back, and he is told to eat
the floating apple; the other has to take the basket in his hand and pick
up while running all the eggs and arrange them in the basket before the
apple is eaten. He who finishes his task first is the winner, and carries
off the basket of eggs as a prize. It provokes great fun to see the man
trying to get hold of the floating-apple, which escapes so easily from the
grasp of his teeth, but some men are wise enough to push the apple against
the side of the tub, and of course as soon as they have taken one bite the
rest is easily eaten. When the game is over, the greater number of the
villagers go and drink to the good health of the winner at the
public-house, and so the innkeeper makes a good thing out of this custom
also, and for a game like this it is certainly wise to refresh one's self
_after_ the event. Skittles and billiards are very popular with the
peasant and working classes on Sunday afternoons, the only free time a
labourer has for recreation. Games of chance, also, in which skill is at a
minimum, are as numerous in Holland as in any other country.

Children's games naturally occupy a large share in young Netherlands life,
especially outdoor romping games. Of indoor games there are very few, a
fact which may, perhaps, be accounted for by the custom of allowing
children to play in the streets. In former days children of all classes
played together in outdoor sports and games, and developed both their
muscles and their republican character. Even Prince Frederik Hendrik (who
was brother to and succeeded Prince Maurits in 1625), when at school at
Leyden, mixed freely with his more humble companions, and was often
mistaken for an ordinary schoolboy, and an old woman once sharply rebuked
him for daring to use her boat-hook to fish his ball out of the water into
which it had fallen. Nor did she notice to whom she was speaking until a
passer-by called her attention to the fact that it was the Prince,
whereupon the poor old soul became so frightened that she durst not
venture out of her house for weeks from imaginary fear of falling into the
clutches of the law, and ending her days in prison.

Games may be divided into two classes, those played with toys and those
for which no toys are needed; but whatever the games may be they all have
their special seasons. Once a man wrote an almanack on children's games,
and noted down ail the different sports and their seasons, but, as the
poet Huggens truly said,

'De kindren weten tyd van knickeren en kooten,
En zonder almanack en ist hen nooit ontschoten,'

which, freely translated, means that children know which games are in
season by intuition, and do not need an almanack, so he might have saved
himself the trouble. 'The children know the time to play marbles and
"Kooten," and without an almanack have not forgotten.'

In the eighteenth century driving a hoop was as popular an amusement with
children as it is now, only then it was also a sport, and prizes were
given to the most skilful. In fact, hoop-races were held, and boys and
girls alike joined in them. They had to drive their hoops a certain
distance, and the one who first reached the goal received a silver coin
for a prize. This coin was fastened to the hoop as a trophy, and the more
noise a hoop made while rolling over the streets the greater the honour
for the owner of it, for it showed that a great many prizes had been
gained. In Drenthe the popular game for boys is 'Man ik sta op je
blokhuis,' similar to 'I am the King of the Castle,' but there is also the
'Windspel.' For the latter a piece of wood and a ball are necessary. The
wood is placed upon a pole and the ball laid on one side of it, then with
a stick the child strikes as hard as possible the other side of the piece
of wood, at the same time calling 'W-i-n-d,' and the ball flies up into
the air, and may be almost lost to sight.

'Boer lap den Buis,' an exciting game from a boy's point of view, is a
general favourite in Gelderland and Overyssel. For this the boys build a
sort of castle with large stones, and after tossing up to see who is to be
'Boer,' the boy on whom the lot has fallen stands in the stone fortress,
and the others throw stones at it from a distance, to see whether they can
knock bits off it. As soon as one succeeds in doing so he runs to get back
his stone, at the same time calling out 'Boer, lap den buis,' signifying
that the 'Boer' must mend the castle. If the 'Boer' accomplishes this, and
touches the bag before he has picked up his stone, they change places, and
the game begins anew.

Little girls of the labouring classes have not much time for games of any
sort, for they are generally required at home to act as nursemaids and
help in many other duties of the home life, but sometimes on summer
afternoons they bring out their younger brothers and sisters, their
knitting and a skipping-rope, which they take in turns, and so pass a few
pleasant hours free from their share (not an inconsiderable one) of
household cares, or in the evenings, when the younger members of the
family are in bed, they will be quite happy with a bit of rope and their
skipping songs, of which they seem to know many hundreds, and which might
be sung with equal reason to any other game under the sun for all the
words have to do with skipping.

After a long spell of rain the first fall of snow is hailed with
delight, for it is a sign that frost is not far off. Jack Frost, after
several preliminary appearances in December, usually pays his first long
visit in January (sometimes, however, this is but a flying visit of two
or three days), and, as a rule, a Dutchman may reckon on a good hard
winter. As soon, therefore, as he sees the snow he thinks of the good
old saying--'Sneeuw op slik in drie dagen ys dun of dik' ('Snow on mud
in three days' time, thin or thick'). Ice is to be expected, and he gets
out his skates with all speed. This is one of the few occasions when the
people of the Netherlands are enthusiastic. Certainly skating is _the_
national sport. The ditches are always the first to be tried, as the
water in them is very shallow, and naturally freezes sooner than the
very deep and exposed waters of river and canal, over which the wind,
which is always blowing in Holland, has fair play; but when once these
are frozen, then skating begins in real earnest. The tracks are all
marked out by the Hollandsche Ysvereeniging, a society which was founded
in 1889 in South Holland, and which the other provinces have now joined.
Finger-posts to point the way are put up by this society at all
cross-roads and ditches, with notices to mark the dangerous places,
while the newspapers of the day contain reports as to which roads are
the best to take, and which trips can be planned. For people living in
South Holland the first trip is always to the Vink at Leyden, as it can
be reached by narrow streams and ditches, and it is quite a sight to see
the skaters sitting at little tables with plates of steaming hot soup
before them. The Vink has been famous for its pea soup many years, and
has been known as a restaurant from 1768. When the Galgenwater is frozen
(the mouth of the Rhine which flows into the sea at Kat wyk), then the
Vink has a still gayer appearance, for not only skaters, but pedestrians
from Leyden and the villages round about that town, flock to this _cafe_
to watch the skating and enjoy the amusing scenes which the presence of
the ice affords them. Then the broad expanse of water, which in summer
looks so deserted and gloomy as it flows silently and dreamily towards
the sea, is dotted ail over with tents, flags, 'baanvegers,' and, if the
ice is strong, even sleighs.

Among the peasant classes of South Holland it is the custom, as soon as
the ice will bear, to skate to Gouda, men and women together, there to buy
long Gouda pipes for the men and 'Goudsche sprits' for the women, and then
to skate home with these brittle objects without breaking them. As they
come along side by side, the farmer holding his pipe high above his head
and the woman carefully holding her bag of cakes, every passer-by knocks
against them and tries to upset them, but it seldom happens that they
succeed in doing so, as a farmer stands very firmly on his skates, and, as
a rule, he manages to keep his pipe intact after skating many miles. The
longest trip for the people of South Holland, North Holland, and Utrecht,
is through these three provinces, and the way over the ice-clad country is
quite as picturesque as in summer-time, the little mills, quaint old
drawbridges, and rustic farmhouses losing nothing of their charm in winter
garb. All along the banks of the canals and rivers little tents are put
up to keep out the wind; a roughly fashioned rickety table stands on the
ice under the shelter of the matting, and here are sold all manner of
things for the skaters to refresh themselves with--hot milk boiled with
aniseed and served out of very sticky cups, stale biscuits, and sweet
cake. The tent-holders call out their wares in the most poetical language
they can muster--

'Leg ereis an! Leg ereis an!
In het tentje by de man.
Warme melk en zoete koek
En een bevrozen vaatedoek.'

['Put up, put up
At the tent with the man;
Warm milk and sweet cake,
And a frozen dish-cloth.']

and they tell you plainly that you may expect unwashed cups, for the cloth
wherewith to wipe them is frozen, as well as the water to cleanse them.

Under the bridges the ice is not always safe, and even if it has become
safe the men break it up so that they may earn a few cents by people
passing over their roughly constructed gangways, and so boards are laid
down by the 'baanvegers' for the skaters to pass over without risking
their lives. Besides making these wooden bridges, the 'baanvegers' keep
the tracks clean. Every hundred yards or so one is greeted by the
monotonous cry of 'Denk ereis an de baanveger,' so that on long trips
these sweepers are a great nuisance, for having to get out one's purse and
give them cents greatly impedes progress. The Ice Society has, however,
minimized the annoyance by appointing 'baanvegers' who work for it and
are paid out of the common funds, so that the members of the society who
wear their badge can pass a 'baanveger' with a clear conscience, while as
the result of this combination you can skate over miles of good and
well-swept ice without interference for the modest sum of tenpence, this
being the cost of membership of the society for the whole season.

[Illustration: Skating to Church.]

The Kralinger Plassen and the Maas near Rotterdam are greatly frequented
spots for carnivals on the ice, but the grandest place for skating and ice
sports of all kinds is the Zuyder Zee. In a severe winter this large
expanse of ice connects instead of dividing Friesland with North Holland.
Here we see the little ice-boats flying over the glossy surface as fast as
a bird on the wing, and sleighs drawn by horses with waving plumes, while
thousands of people flock from Amsterdam to the little Isle of Marken, and
the variety of costume and colour swaying to and fro on the fettered
billows of the restless inland sea makes it seem for the moment as though
the Netherlander's dream had come true, and Zuyder Zee had really become
once more dry land. In winter every one, from the smallest to the
greatest, gives himself up to ice-sports, and even the poor are not
forgotten. In some villages races are proclaimed, for which the prizes are
turfs, potatoes, rice, coals, and other things so welcome to the poor in
cold weather. A racer is appolnted for every poor family, and where there
are no sons big enough to join in the races, a young man of the better
classes generally offers his services, and, when successful, hands his
prize over to the family he undertook to help.

Skating is second nature with the Dutch, and as soon as a child can walk
it is put upon skates, even though they may often be much too big for it.
Moreover, when the ice is good, winter-time affords recreation for the
working as well as the leisured classes, for the canals and rivers become
roads, and the hard-worked errand-boys, the butchers' and the bakers' boys
manage to secure many hours of delightful enjoyment as they travel for
orders on skates. The milkman also takes his milk-cart round on a sledge,
and the farmers skate to market, saving both time and money, for then
there is no railway fare to be paid, and a really good skater goes almost
as fast as a train in Holland--especially the Frisian farmers, for
Frisians are renowned for their swift skating, and the most famous racer
of the commencement of the nineteenth century, Kornelis Ynzes Reen, skated
four miles in five minutes.

But although the ice affords, and always has afforded, so much pleasure,
there are periods in history when the frost caused great anxiety to the
people of the Netherlands. The cities Naarden and Dordrecht are easily
reached by water, and when that is frozen it would give any one free
access to the town, and so in time of war frost was a much-dreaded thing.
In the year 1672 this fear was realized, for when the ships of the Geuzen
round about Naarden were stuck fast in the ice, and the Zuyder Zee was
frozen, the enemy, armed with canoes and battle-axes, came over the ice
from the Y and across the Zuyder Zee to Naarden. The best skaters among
the Geuzen immediately volunteered to meet the Spaniards on the ice. They
took only their swords with them, and while the ships' cannon had fair
play from the bulwarks of the vessels over the heads of the Geuzen into
the Spanish ranks, the Geuzen could approach them fearlessly and
unmolested for a hand-to-hand fight. The Spaniards, who, besides being
very heavily armed were very bad skaters, were soon defeated, for they
kept tumbling over each other. The Geuzen pursued them to Amsterdam, and
then returned to their ships, where they were greeted with great
enthusiasm, and, as the thaw set in the next day, they were happily saved
from a renewed attack.

Chapter XII

Music and the Theatre

Singing was one of the principal social pastimes of the Dutch nation
during the eighteenth and far into the nineteenth century, and the North
Hollander was especially fond of vocal music. When young girls went to
spend the evening at the house of a friend they always carried with them
their 'Liederboek '--a volume beautifully bound in tortoise-shell covers
or mounted with gold or silver. The songs contained in these books were a
strange mixture of the gay and grave. Jovial drinking-songs or
'Kermisliedjes' would find a place next to a 'Christian's Meditation on
Death.' It was an _olla podrida_, in which everybody's tastes were
considered. Recitations were also a feature of these little gatherings.

Nowadays these national songs are rarely heard. French, Italian, and
German songs have taken their place, and it is but seldom one hears a real
Dutch song at any social gathering. The 'people,' too, seem to have
forgotten their natural gift of poetry, for the only songs now heard about
the streets are badly translated French or English ditties. If England
brings out a comic song of questionable art, six months later that song
will have made its way to Holland, and will have taken a popular place in
a Dutch street musician's _repertoire;_ it will be whistled in many
different keys by butcher and baker boys, and will be heard issuing
painfully from the wonderful mechanism of the superfluous concertina. For
almost every one in Holland possesses some musical instrument on which he
plays, well or otherwise, when his daily work is over, or on Sunday
evenings at home. And here a notable characteristic of the Dutch higher
classes must be mentioned by way of contrast. Musical though they are,
trained as they generally are both to play and sing well, they yet seldom
exercise their gifts in a friendly, social, after-dinner way in their own
homes. They become, in fact, so critical or so self-conscious that they
prefer to pay to hear music rendered by recognized artists, and so a by no
means inconsiderable element of geniality is lost to the social and
domestic circle.

The decay of folk-song is the more regrettable, since Holland is rich in
old ballads, some of which, handed down just as the people used to sing
them centuries ago, are quaint, _naive,_ and exceedingly pretty. The
melodies have all been put to modern harmonies by able composers, and
published for the use of the public.

'Het daghet in het oosten,
Het lichtis overal,'

is a little jewel of poetic feeling, and the melody is very sweet. The
story, like most of the songs of the past troublous centuries, tells of
a battlefield where a young girl goes to seek her lover, but finds him
dead. So, after burying him with her own white hands, with his sword
and his banner by his side, she vows entrance into a convent. The story
is a picture in miniature of the times, and as a piece of literature it
ranks high.

Music of some sort finds a place in the homes of the poorest, and the
concert, theatre, and opera are as much frequented by the humble of the
land as by the wealthy and noble born. The servant class on their 'evening
out' frequently go to the French opera, and there is not a boy on the
street but is able to whistle some tune from the great modern operas, such
as 'Faust,' 'Lohengrin,' and other standard works. And no wonder, for the
choristers in the operas walk behind fruit-carts all day long, and often
call out their wares in the musical tones learnt while following their
more select profession as public singers. Some, of course, cannot read a
note of music, and the melodies they have to sing have to be drummed, or
rather trumpeted, into their ears. To this end they are placed in a row,
and a man with a large trumpet stands before them and plays the tune over
and over again until they know it off. In the summer-time whole parties of
these Jewish youths--for Jewish they chiefly are--go about the woods on
their Sabbath day singing the parts they take in the operas in the winter
season, and crowds of people flock to hear them, for their voices are
really well worth listening to.

Concerts are naturally not so largely patronized by the people as are
operas and theatres. In the larger towns of Holland especially theatricals
take a very prominent place in popular relaxation, and even the smaller
towns and villages, should they lack theatres and be unable to get good
theatrical companies to pay them periodical visits, arrange for dramatic
performances by local talent. The popularity of the opera may be judged
from the fact that at Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Groningen, Arnhem
and Utrecht, operas in Dutch and French are regularly given, and
occasionally works in German and even Italian are produced. Money is
scarce in Holland, the people generally have little to spare, so grand
opera-houses, such as are thought necessary in most European cities of any
pretension to culture, are impossible, and the singers can seldom count on
liberal fees. But most of the best works are heard all the same--which,
after all, is the principal thing--and the enjoyment and edification which
result are not less genuine because of the simplicity of the properties
and the humble character of the entire surroundings.

Yet outdoor music possesses a powerful attraction for the Dutch humbler
classes, as for the same classes in most, if not all, countries; and when
in the summer-time there is music in the Wood at The Hague on Sunday
afternoons or Wednesday evenings, the walks round about the 'Tent' are
alive with servants and their lovers, parading decorously arm-in-arm.
Happy fathers, too, with their wives and children in Sunday best,
perambulate the grounds or rest on the seats amongst the trees and listen
to the 'Bosch-muziek.' People of the better class only are members of the
'Witte Societeit,' and sit inside the green paling to listen to the music
and drink something meanwhile. For it is strange but true, that a Dutchman
never seems thoroughly to enjoy himself unless he has liquid of some sort
at hand, and never feels really comfortable without his cigar. Indeed, if
smoking were abolished from places of public amusement, most Dutchmen
would frequent them no more. In winter concerts are given every other
Wednesday at The Hague--and what is true of The Hague applies to Amsterdam
and all other towns of any size in the country--and the Public Hall is
always packed; but besides these 'Diligentia' concerts there are others
given by various Singing Societies, so that there is variety enough to
choose from.

In the summer-time there is another attraction besides the Wood for the
people of The Hague, for the season at Scheveningen opens on the 1st of
June, and there is music at the Kurhaus twice a day--in the afternoon on
the terrace of that building, and in the evening in the great hall inside.
On Friday night is given what is called a 'Symphony Concert.' To this all
the world flocks, for no one who at all respects himself, or esteems the
opinion of society, would venture to miss it. Whether every one
understands or enjoys the high class music given is another question,
which it would be imprudent to press too urgently, but then it belongs to
'education' to go to concerts, and so all enjoy it in their own way. For
the townspeople and the working-classes, who have no free time during the
week, concerts are given at the large Voorhout on the Sunday evenings in
summer, so that on that day even the busiest and poorest may enjoy
recreation of a better kind than the public-house offers them, and this
effort on their behalf is greatly appreciated by the people, who gladly
make use of the opportunities of hearing good and popular music.

The national love of music is assiduously fostered by the Netherlands
Musical Union, whose branches are to be found all over the country. Every
town has musical and singing societies of some kind--private as well as
public--and these make life quite endurable in winter, even in the
smallest places. Nor do these 'Zangvereenigingen' derive their membership
exclusively from the higher classes, for the humbler folk have
organizations of their own. Even the servant girl and the day-labourer
will often be found to belong to singing clubs of some kind. Music is also
taught at most of the public schools, though it was long before the
Government capitulated upon the point, and gave this subject a place side
by side with drawing as part of the normal curriculum of the children of
the people.

Happily for the musical and dramatic tastes of the nation, both the
concert and the theatre are cheap amusements in Holland. As a rule, the
dearest seats cost only from 3s. to 5s., while the cheapest, even in
first-class houses at Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague, cost as little
as sixpence. The only exceptions are when renowned artists tour the
country, and even then the prices seldom exceed L1 for the best places.
There is one musical event which makes a more serious call upon the purse,
and it is the periodical operatic performance of the Wagner Society in
Amsterdam. As a rule, two representations a year are given, and some of
the best singers of Europe are invited to sing in one or other of Wagner's
operas. The best Dutch orchestra plays, and chosen voices from the
Amsterdam Conservatoire take part in the choruses. The scenery is worthy
of Bayreuth itself, and such expense and care are bestowed upon these
choice performances that, though the house is invariably filled on every
occasion, the fees for admission never pay the costs, so that the musical
enthusiasts of Amsterdam, Haarlem, and The Hague regularly make up the
deficit each year, which sometimes amounts to as much as L1000.

While, however, the Dutch may with truth be classed as a distinctly
musical nation, they would seem to have outlived their fame in the domain
of musical art. For it should not be forgotten that Holland has in this
respect a distinguished history behind it. So long ago as the times of
Pope Adrian I. a Dutch school of music was established under the tuition
of Italian masters, and it compared favourably with the contemporary
schools of other nations. Even in the ninth century Holland produced a
composer famous in the annals of music in the person of the monk Huchbald
of St. Amand, in Flanders. He it was who changed the notation, and
arranged the time by marking the worth of each note, and he is also
remembered for his 'Organum,' the oldest form of music written in
harmonies. It is often lamented that the compositions of to-day lack the
originality which marked the earlier works. The country has none the less
produced some noticeable composers during the past century. Of these J.
Verhuist, W.F.G. Nicolal, Daniel de Lange, Richard Hol, and G. Mann are
best known, though of no modern composer can it be said that he has any
special 'cachet,' for the younger men, fed as they are on the works of
other nations, grow into their style of thinking and writing, and follow
almost slavishly in their footsteps. It is unfortunate that many rising
composers cannot be persuaded to publish their works. The reason is that
the cost of publishing in the Netherlands is almost fabulous, and if they
do publish them at all it is done in Germany. But even then the
circulation is so limited, owing to the smallness of the country, that it
does not repay the cost; and so they prefer to plod on unknown, or to
cultivate celebrity by giving private concerts of their own works.

Chapter XIII

Schools and School Life

If the Dutch peasant is not generally well educated it is not for want of
opportunity, but rather because he has not taken what is offered him. For
many years past a good elementary education has been within the reach of
all. Even the small fees usually asked may be remitted in the case of
those parents who cannot afford to pay anything, without entailing any
civil disability; but attendance at school was only made compulsory by an
Act which passed the Second Chamber in March, 1900, and which, at the time
of writing, has just come into force. It is said that as many as sixty
thousand Dutch children are getting no regular schooling. About one half
of this number live on the canal-boats, and will probably give a good deal
of trouble to those who will administer the new Act; for, as we have
already seen, the families that these boats belong to have no other homes
and are always on the move, so that it must ever be difficult to get hold
of the children, especially as their parents do not see the necessity of
sending them to school. It remains to be seen, therefore, whether any
great improvement will resuit from the new Act, especially as private
tuition may take the place of attendance at a school, and exemption is
granted to those who have no fixed place of abode, and to parents who
object to the tuition given in all the schools within two and a half miles
of their homes. Under these conditions it seems that any one who wishes to
evade the law will have little difficulty in doing so. The canal-boat
people, apparently, are exempt so long as they do not remain for
twenty-eight days consecutively in the same 'gemeente,' or commune.

The education provided by the State is strictly neutral in regard to
religion and politics, but there are many denominational schools all over
the country. Protestants call theirs 'Bible schools,' and Romanists call
theirs 'Catholic schools,' and both these receive subsidies from the State
if they satisfy the inspectors. Private schools also exist, but do not as
a rule receive State aid. They are all, however, under State supervision
and subject to the same conditions as to teachers' qualifications; and a
very good rule is in force, namely, that no one may teach in Holland
without having passed a Government examination.

Instruction in the elementary schools supported by Government is in two
grades, though the dividing line is not always clearly drawn. In
Amsterdam, for example, there are four different grades. In the lower
schools the subjects taught are, besides reading, writing, and
arithmetic, grammar and history, geography, natural history and botany,
drawing, singing and free gymnastics, and the girls also learn
needlework, but a large proportion of the pupils are satisfied with a
more modest course, and know little more than the three R's. The children
attending these schools are between six and twelve years of age, though
in some rural districts few of them are less than eight years old, but
according to the new law they must begin to attend when they are seven
and go on until they are twelve or thirteen according to the standard
attained. In the upper grade schools the same subjects are taught in a
more advanced form, with the addition of universal history, French,
German, and English. These languages, being optional, are taught more or
less after regular school hours.

All the teachers in these schools must hold teachers' or head-teachers'
certificates, to gain which they have to pass an examination in all the
subjects which they are to teach except languages, for each of which a
separate certificate is required. Every commune must have a school, though
hitherto no one has been obliged to attend it, and lately, owing to the
new Education Act, the builders have been busy in many places enlarging
the schools to meet the new requirements. If there are more than forty
children two masters are now necessary, and for more than ninety there
must be at least three. Ten weeks' holidays are allowed in the year, and
these are to be given when the children are most wanted to help at home,
in addition to which leave of absence may be granted in certain cases by
the district inspectors. Holidays, therefore, vary according to the
conditions of a town or village.

All schools are more or less under State control. They are divided into
three classes according to the type of education which they provide. Lower
or elementary education has already been dealt with. Between this and the
higher education of the 'Gymnasia' and Universities comes what is called
'middelbaar onderwijs'--that is, secondary, or rather intermediate,
education. This is represented by technical or industrial schools,
'Burgher night schools,' and 'Higher burgher schools.' The first named
train pupils for various trades and crafts, more especially for those
connected with the principal local industries. The course is three years
or thereabouts, following on that of the elementary schools, and there is
generally an entrance examination, but the conditions vary in different
communes. Sometimes the instruction is free, sometimes fees are charged
amounting to a few shillings a year, the cost being borne by the communes,
and in a few towns there are similar schools for girls who have passed
through the elementary schools. The technical classes for girls cover such
subjects as fancy-work, drawing and painting of a utilitarian character,
and sometimes book keeping and dress-making. Most of them are free, but
for some special subjects a small payment is required. Drawing seems to be
a favourite subject, and in most of these technical schools there are
classes for mechanical drawing as well as for some kind of artistic work
connected with industry. In addition there are numerous art schools, some
of them being devoted to the encouragement of fine art, while in others
the object kept in view is the application of art to industry.

The 'Burgher night schools,' like the technical schools, are supported by
the communes in which they are situated. There are about forty of them in
all, and most of them are very well attended, in some cases the regular
students, who are all working men and women, number several hundreds. The
instruction is similar to that given in the technical schools, that is to
say, it is chiefly practical, and local industries receive special
attention. Formerly there were day schools also for working men, on the
same lines as these, but they were not a success, and the technical
schools have taken their place.

Of a higher class, but still included in the term 'middelbaar onderwijs,'
is the 'modern' education of the 'higher burgher' schools. The majority of
these schools were founded by the communes, the rest by the State, but
internally they are ail alike, and all are inspected by commissioners
appointed by the Government for the purpose. Pupils enter at twelve years
of age, and must pass an entrance examination, which, like nearly every
examination in Holland, is a Government affair. Having passed this, they
attend school for five years, as a rule, but at some of these institutions
the course lasts only three years. In some degree the 'higher burgher'
schools correspond to the modern side of an English school: at least the
subjects are much the same, embracing mathematlcs, natural science, modern
languages and commercial subjects, and no Latin or Greek is taught. The
education is wholly modern and practical, with the object of preparing
pupils for commercial life. There are 'higher burgher' schools for girls
as well as for boys, at which nearly the same education is provided.

A great advantage of these schools is that they are very cheap; at the
most expensive the yearly fees amount to a little more than thirty pounds,
but at the majority they only come to four or five. To teach in such
schools as these one must have a diploma or a University degree. A
separate diploma is necessary for each subject, and the examination is not
easy. Even a foreigner who wishes to teach his own language must pass the
same examination as a Dutchman. No difference is made between the masters
at the boys' schools and the ladies who teach the girls; exactly the same
diplomas are required in both cases.

The 'Gymnasia,' to which allusion has been made, are classical schools,
which prepare boys for the Universities. The age of entry is the same as
at the modern schools, twelve; but the course is longer, as a rule
covering six years instead of five, and at the end of this course comes a
Government examination, the passing of which is a necessary preliminary
to a University degree. The 'Gymnasia' were founded by an Act of
Parliament, but are supported by the communes, which in this case are the
larger towns, but they are assisted, as a rule, by a Government grant. The
fees are very small, only about, L8 a year.

There are a few private and endowed schools, which may send up candidates
for the same examinations as are taken by the pupils of the State schools,
and it is among these that we find the only boarding schools in the
country. Some of these have certain privileges; for instance, the
headmaster may engage assistants who do not hold diplomas, which makes it
easier for him to get native teachers for modern languages; but in the
State schools proper, the selection of undermasters does not rest with the
head, or director, as he is called, at all. Foreign teachers are not very
plentiful, as the diplomas are not easy to get, and a native, who has to
relearn much of his own language from a Dutch point of view, has little or
no advantage over a Dutchman in the examinations.

No sketch of Dutch schools would be complete without some reference to the
way in which modern languages are studied, for this is the most striking
feature in the national education, and is of great importance when we are
considering the national life and character of Holland. Former generations
of Dutchmen won a place among the 'learned nations' by their knowledge of
the classical languages; and their descendants seem to have inherited the
gift of tongues, but make a more practical use of it. French, German,
English, and Dutch, which go by the name of 'de vier Talen,' or 'the four
languages,' have taken the place of Greek and Latin. In the 'Gymnasia'
every pupil learns to speak them as a matter of course, and in the 'higher
burgher' schools the same languages receive special attention, with a view
to commercial correspondence. Even in the upper elementary schools, boys
and girls are taught some or all of them. A boy entering one of the higher
schools at the age of twelve or thirteen generally has some knowledge of,
at least, one foreign language, acquired either at an elementary school,
or at home, and he is never shy of displaying that knowledge. If his
parents are well off, he has probably learned to speak French or English
in the nursery, and it sometimes happens that he even speaks Dutch with a
French or an English accent, having been brought up on the foreign
language and acquired his native longue later. German as a rule is not
begun so soon, the idea being that its resemblance to Dutch makes it
easier, which is no doubt true to a certain extent. The result, however,
is very often that the easiest language of the three is the one least
correctly spoken.

As in all Continental countries, there is nothing in Holland corresponding
to the English public school System. The 'Gymnasia' prepare boys for the
Universities, and the 'higher burgher' schools train them for commercial
life and some professions, somewhat in the same way as English modern
schools, but there the resemblance ends. As a rule, a Dutch boy's school
life is limited to the hours he spends at lessons; the rest of the day
belongs rather to home life. There are a few boarding schools in Holland,
but the life in such schools in the two countries is different in almost
every respect. The size of the schools may have something to do with this,
though by itself it is not enough to account for the difference. A Dutch
head-master once drew my attention to the lack of tradition in his own and
other schools in the country, and expressed a hope that time might work a
change. At present there is little sign of such a change. Tradition has
hardly had time to grow up yet, for few of the existing schools are much
more than twenty years old, and its growth is retarded by the small
numbers, which make any widespread freemasonry among old boys impossible.
But there is another and more serious obstacle. The uniform control which
the Government exercises over ail schools alike, State, endowed, or
private, whatever advantages it may have, certainly hinders the
development of that individuality which makes 'the old school,' to many an
English boy, something more than a place where he had lessons to do and
was prepared for examinations.

A rough sketch of the inside of a Dutch school will doubtless be of
interest. One of the few endowed schools in Holland may be taken as fairly
typical of its class, but not of the State schools, though it competes
with these and combines the classical and modern courses. It lies in the
country, near a small village, and in this respect also differs from the
'Gymnasia' and 'higher burgher' schools, which are ail situated in the
larger towns.

One of the first things which attracts notice is the large number of
masters. It seems at first that there are hardly enough boys to go round.
This is due to the law, which requires that every master must be qualified
to teach his particular subject either by a University degree or by an
equivalent diploma. Few hold more than two diplomas, and consequently much
of the teaching is done by men who visit this and other schools two or
three times a week. In this particular foundation the three resident
masters are foreigners, but such an arrangement is exceptional. Classes
seldom include more than half a dozen boys, and very often pupils are
taken singly, and therefore each boy receives a good deal of individual
attention. Such a school is divided into six forms or classes, but not
for teaching purposes; the day's work is differently arranged for each
boy, and these classes merely record the results of the last examination.
Some of the lessons last for an hour, but the rest are only three quarters
of an hour long; they make up in number, however, what they lack in
length, amounting to about nine and a half hours a day. Owing to the time
being so much broken up, it may be doubted whether the amount of work done
is any greater here than in an average English school where the aggregate
of working hours is considerably less. Amongst our Dutch friends, however,
and there may be others who share their opinion, the general belief is
that English schoolboys learn very little except athletics.

With regard to sports and pastimes, these are the only schools in which
any interest is taken or encouragement given therein. Football is played
here on most half-holidays during the winter, and sometimes on Sunday, and
occasionally its place is taken by hockey. It must be admitted that the
standard of play is not very high in either game, though many of the boys
work hard and, with better opportunities, might develop into high-class
players; but as there are only about thirty boys in the school,
competition for places in the teams is not very keen. Rowing has lately
been introduced, not to the advantage of the football eleven. It may be
remarked, by the way, that only Association football is played in Holland;
the Rugby game is strictly barred by head-masters and parents as too
dangerous. Attempts have been made to introduce cricket, but the game
meets with little encouragement. There is a lawn-tennis court, however,
which is constantly in use during the summer term. Bicycling is very
popular, not only here, but in Holland generally; in fact, most of the
boys seem to prefer this form of exercise to any of the games which have
been mentioned.

Whether at work or play, all the boys are under the constant supervision
of one or other of the resident masters, and the head is not far off. A
few of the seniors are allowed to go outside the grounds when they please,
but the rest may only go out under the charge of a master. In spite of
this apparently strict supervision, however, there is not much real
discipline. Corporal punishment is not allowed; both public opinion and
the law of the land are against it. Other punishments, such as detention
and impositions, are ineffectual, and are generally regarded by the
culprit as unjustly interfering with his liberty. Consequently the masters
have not much hold over the boys, who might, if they chose, perpetrate
endless mischief without fear of painful consequences so long as they did
nothing to warrant expulsion; but the young Hollander does not appear to
have much enterprise in that direction. Perhaps he is sometimes kept out
of mischief by his devotion to the fragrant weed, for he generally learns
to smoke at a tender age, with his parents' consent, and no exception is
taken to his cigar except during lessons; but it is certainly startling to
see the boys smoking while playing their games, as well as on all other
possible occasions.

A large proportion of the boys at the 'Gymnasia,' perhaps the majority of
them, pass on to the Universities, some to qualify for the learned
professions, others because it is the fashion in Holland as in other
countries for young men who have no intention of following any profession
to spend a few years at a University in search of pleasure and experience;
but the experience in this case is peculiar and unique.

Chapter XIV

The Universities

As to the Universities themselves, it is not necessary to consider them
separately, as all four of them, Leyden, Groningen, Utrecht and Amsterdam,
are alike in constitution. They are not residential, there are no
beautiful buildings, there are no rival colleges, no tutors or proctors,
and no 'gate;' nor are they independent corporations like Oxford and
Cambridge and Durham, for, though they retain some outward forms which
recall a former independence, they are now maintained and managed entirely
by the State, which pays the professors and provides the necessary
buildings. The subjects to be taught and the examinations to be held in
the various faculties are laid down by statute. Consequently the
Universities show the same want of individuality as the schools, and, to
an outsider at least, there seems to be nothing of the 'Alma Mater' about
them under the present _regime,_ and no real ground for preferring any one
of them to the others. At the same time, fathers usually send their sons
to the Universities at which they themselves have studied, except when
they and the professors happen to hold very different political opinions,
but such a custom may be due as much to the national love of order and
regularity as to any real attachment to a particular University. As to
the political opinions of professors, their influence on the students
cannot be very great in the majority of cases, being limited to the effect
produced by lectures, for there is no social intercourse between teacher
and taught. The professors, though very learned men, do not enjoy any
great social standing, and the title does not carry with it anything like
the same rank as in some other countries.

The system on which these Universities work may be a sound and logical one
so far as it goes, and more up-to-date than the English residential
system, which its enemies deride as mediaeval and monastic; but it is a
cast iron system, designed with the object of preparing men for
examinations, and one which does nothing to discover promising scholars or
to encourage original work and research among those who have taken their
degrees, or, according to the Dutch phrase, have gained their 'promotion'.
There are no scholarships, nor anything that might serve the same purpose,
though some such institution could hardly find a more favourable soil than
that of Holland. Instruction of a very learned and thorough character is
offered to those who will and can receive it, and that is all. The classes
are open to all who pay the necessary fees, which are trifling, though the
degree of Doctor may only be granted to those who have passed the
'Gymnasium' final or an equivalent examination, and, provided he makes
these payments, a student is free to do as he pleases, so far as his
University is concerned.

Discipline there is none, except in very rare cases, when the law provides
for the expulsion of offenders; only theological candidates are indirectly
restrained from undue levity by having to get a certificate of good
conduct at the end of their course. There is no chapel to keep, for the
student's religion and morals are entirely his own concern; there are no
'collections,' for if a man does not choose to read he injures no one but
himself by his idleness; and there is no Vice-Chancellor's Court, for in
theory students are on the same footing as other people before the law,
though in practice the police seldom interfere with them more than they
can help. It is not surprising that young men not long from school should
sometimes abuse such exceptional freedom, but their ideas of enjoyment are
rather strange in foreign eyes. One of their favourite amusements seems to
be driving about the town and neighbourhood in open carriages. On special
occasions all the members of a club turn out, wearing little round caps of
their club colours, and accompanied as likely as not by a band, and drive
off in a procession to some neighbouring town, where they dine; in the
night or next morning they return, all uproariously drunk, singing and
shouting, waving flags and flinging empty wine-bottles about the road. I
do not wish to imply that all Dutch students behave in this way, but such
exhibitions are unfortunately not uncommon, and show to what lengths
'freedom' is permitted to go.

There is a limit, however, even to the liberty of students, as appears
from the following anecdote. One of these young men gave a wine-party in
his lodgings, and some one proposed, by way of a lark, to wake up a young
woman who lived in the house opposite, and fetch her out of bed, so a
rocket was produced and fired through the open window. The bombardment had
the desired effect, but it also set the house on fire, and the joker's
father was called on to make good the damage. Then the police took the
matter up, and the culprit got several weeks' imprisonment for arson,
after which he returned to the University and resumed his interrupted
studies. There was no question of rustication, as the court simply
inflicted the penalty laid down in the Code, and there was no other
authority that had power to interfere in the matter at all.

As may well be imagined, students are not generally popular with the
townsfolk, who resent the unequal treatment of the two classes, not
because they wish for the same measure of license, but because anything
like rowdiness contrasts strongly with their own habits; and extravagance,
not an uncommon failing among students in Holland or elsewhere, is
absolutely repugnant to the average Dutch citizen. This feeling of
resentment seems to be growing, and has already had some slight effect
upon the civil authorities; if the students find some day that they have
lost their privileged position, they will have only themselves to thank,
and certainly the change will do them no harm.

But though a certain number go to the Universities merely to amuse
themselves or to be in the fashion, most of them work well, even if they
do not attend lectures regularly all through their course. In some
faculties private coaching offers a quicker and easier way to 'promotion'
than the more orthodox one through the class-rooms. No doubt there are
some who are in no hurry to leave the attractions of student life, but not
many cling to them so persistently as a certain Dutch student, to whom a
relative bequeathed a liberal allowance, to be paid him as long as he was
studying for his degree. He became known as 'the eternal student,' to the
great wrath of the heirs who waited for the reversion of his legacy. For
most men the ordinary course is long enough, for it averages perhaps six
or seven years, though there is no fixed time, and candidates may take the
examinations as soon as they please. The nominal course--that is, the time
over which the lectures extend--varies in the different faculties, from
four years in law to seven or eight in medicine, but very few men manage,
or attempt, to take a degree in law in four years. The other faculties are
theology, science, including mathematics, and literature and philosophy.

The degree of Doctor is given in these five faculties, and to obtain it
two examinations must be passed, the candidate's and the doctoral. After
passing the latter a student bears the title _doctorandus_ until he has
written a book or thesis and defended it _viva voce_ before the
examiners. He is then 'promoted' to the degree, a ceremony which
generally entails, indirectly, a certain amount of expense. It appears to
be the correct thing for the newly-made doctor to drive round in state,
adorned with the colours of his club and attended by friends gorgeously
disguised as lacqueys, and leave copies of his book at the houses of the
professors and his club fellows, after which he, of course, celebrates
the occasion in the invariable Dutch fashion, with a dinner. Many
students, however, are not qualified to try for a degree, not having been
through the 'Gymnasia,' and others do not wish to do so. Sometimes the
candidate's examination qualifies one to practise a profession, and is
open to all, in other cases, in the faculty of medicine for example, it
gives no qualification, and is only open to candidates for the degree,
but then there is another, a 'professional' examination, for those who do
not aim at the ornamental title.

The cost of living at the Universities naturally depends very much on the
student's tastes and habits. He pays to the University only 200 florins
(_L16 13s 4d_) a year for four years, after which he may attend lectures
free of charge, so the minimum annual expenditure is small; but it should
be borne in mind that the course is about twice as long as in England. A
good many students live with their families, which is cheaper than living
in lodgings; and as nearly all classes are represented, there is a
considerable difference in their standards of life. Some are certainly
extravagant, as in all Universities, which tends to raise prices, but, on
the other hand, many of them are men whose parents can ill afford the
expense, but are tempted by the value which attaches to a University
career in Holland, and these bring the average down. Between these two
extremes there are plenty who do very well on L150 or so a year, and L200
is probably considered a sufficiently liberal allowance by parents who
could easily afford a larger sum. Even the students' corps need not lead
to any great expense, as it consists of a number of minor clubs, and
nearly every one joins it, so that the pace is not always the same;
students who wish to keep their expenses down naturally join with friends
who are similarly situated, leaving the more extravagant clubs to the
young bloods who have plenty of money to spare.

The corps is the only tie which holds the students together where there
are no colleges, and athletics play but a very small part. Each University
has its corps, to which all the students belong except a few who take no
part in the typical student life, and are known as the 'boeven,' or
'knaves.' A Rector and Senate are elected annually from among the members
of four or five years' standing to manage the affairs of the corps. In
order to become a member, a freshman, or 'green,' as he is called in
Holland, has to go through a rather trying initiation, which lasts for
three or four weeks. Having given in his name to the Senate, he must call
on the members of the corps and ask them to sign their names in a book,
which is inspected by the Senate from time to time, and at each visit he
comes in for a good deal of 'ragging,' for, as he may not go away until
he has obtained his host's signature, he is completely at the mercy of his
tormentors. If he does not obey their orders implicitly and give any
information they may require about his private affairs, he is likely to
have a bad time, but as long as he is duly submissive he is generally let
off with a little harmless fooling. One 'green,' a shy and retiring youth,
who did not at all relish the impertinent inquiries which were made into
his morals and family history, was made to stand at the window and give a
full and particular account of himself to the passers-by, with interesting
details supplied by the company. Sometimes, however, the joking is more
brutal and less amusing. For instance, as a punishment for shirking the
bottle, the victim was compelled to kneel on the floor with a funnel in
his mouth, while his tormentors poured libations down his throat.

When the 'green time' is over the new members of the corps are installed
by the Rector, and drive round the town in procession, finishing up, of
course, with a club dinner. The corps has its head-quarters in the
Students' Club, which corresponds more or less to the 'Union' at an
English University, though differing from the latter in two important
respects: first, there are no debates, and secondly, the members are
exclusively students, for, as I have already noticed, there is no social
intercourse between the professors and their pupils. The reading-rooms at
the club are a favourite lounge of a great many of the students, but it
must be admitted that the literature supplied there is not always of a
very wholesome kind, seeing that it includes 'realism' of the most daring
description, with illustrations to match, and obscene Parisian comic
papers. Every member of the corps also belongs to one of the minor clubs
of which it is made up, and which are apparently nothing more than
messes, very often with only a dozen members, or less.

A few sport clubs exist, also under the control of the corps, but they do
not play a very prominent part, for the taste for athletic exercises is
confined to a small minority. Considering the small number of players, the
proficiency attained in the exotic games of football and hockey is
surprisingly high. The rowing is even better, and attracts a larger
number, being perhaps more suited to the physical characteristics of the
race than those games for which agility is more necessary than weight and
strength. Boat-races are held annually between the several Universities,
in which the form of the crews is generally very good. If I am not
mistaken, some of the Dutch crews that have rowed at Henley represented
University clubs. The typical student, however, though well enough endowed
with bone and muscle, has no ambition whatever to become an athlete, or to
submit to the fatigue and self-denial of training. Probably the way he
lives and his aversion to athletics, more than the length of his course of
study, account for his elderly appearance, for he is not only obviously
older than the average undergraduate, but begins to look positively
middle-aged both in face and figure almost before he has done growing.

Before leaving the subject of the students' corps, mention must be made
of the great carnival which each corps holds every five years to
commemorate the foundation of its University. The 'Lustrum-Maskerade,'
which is the chief item in the week of festivities, is a historical
pageant representing some event in the mediaeval history of Holland. The
chief actors are chosen from among the wealthiest of the students, and
spare no trouble or expense in preparing their get-up, while the minor
parts are allotted to the various clubs within the corps, each club
representing a company of retainers or men-at-arms in the service of one
of the mock princes or knights. For six days the players retain their
gorgeous costumes and act their parts, even when excursions are made in
the neighbourhood in company with the friends and relatives who come to
join in the commemoration, and the mixture of mediaeval and modern
costumes in the streets has a somewhat ludicrous effect. On the first day
the visitors are formally welcomed by the officers of the corps. Former
students of all ages meet their old comrades, and the men of each year,
after dining together, march together to the garden or park where the
reception is held. Anything less like the usual calm and serious
demeanour of these seniors than the way in which they dance and sing
through the town is not to be imagined, for the oldest and most sedate of
them are as wildly and ludicrously enthusiastic as the youngest student;
and their arrival at the reception, with bands of music, skipping about
and roaring student songs like their sons and grandsons, is, to say the
least, comical. But the occasion only comes once in five years, and they
naturally make the most of it.

The next day the Masquerade takes place, beginning with a procession to
the ground, and is repeated two or three times before huge crowds of
spectators, for the townsmen are as excited as the students and the
relatives, at least on the first two days. Great pains are always taken to
ensure historical correctness in every detail, and the leading parts are
often admirably played, and it must be the unromantic dress of the
lookers-on that spoils the effect and makes one think of a circus. If only
the crowd could be brought into harmony with the masqueraders in the
matter of clothes the illusion might be complete; as it is, one can hardly
imagine for a moment that the knights who charge so bravely down the
lists mean to do one another any serious damage. A tournament is very
often the subject of the pageant, or an important part of it, or sometimes
a challenge and single combat are introduced as a sort of _entr'acte_. For
the last four days of the feast there is no fixed order of procedure;
balls, concerts, garden-parties, and so on are arranged as may be most
convenient, while the intervals are spent in visits, dinners, and drives.
Not until the end of the week does any student lay aside his gay costume

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