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DESCRIPTION OF A DUTCH VILLAGE.-D. G. MITCHELL.
A HALF-Hour's sail brought us in sight of the church spire, rising from among the trees; and soon appeared the chimneytops, and finally the houses themselves, of the little town of Broek—all prettily reflected in a clear side-basin of the canal.
A town it hardly is; but a group of houses among rich trecs, where eight hundred neighbors live, and make things so neat, that strangers come a thousand miles for a look at the wondrous nicety. Passing by the basin of smooth water that reflected so prettily the church and the trees, we stopped before a little inn, finely shaded with a beech trained into an arbor all over the front. A very, very pretty blue-eyed Dutch girl of sixteen, received me. We could talk nothing together; but there happened a stupid old Meinheer smoking with his wife at the door, through whom I explained my wants.
I saw by the twinkle in her eye that she comprehended. If I had spoken an hour it could not have been better--my dinner. There were cutlets white as the driven snow, and wine with cobwebs of at least a year's date on the bottle, and the nicest of Dutch cheese, and strawberries, and profusion of delicious cream.
The blue-eyed girl had stolen out to put on another dress, while I was busy with the first cutlet; and she wore one of the prettiest little handkerchiefs imaginable on her shoulders, and she glided about the table so noiselessly, so charmingly, and arranged the dishes so neatly, and put so heaping a plateful of strawberries before me, that~confound me! I should have kept by the dinner-table until night, if the old lady had not put her head in the door, to say—there was a person without who would guide me through the village.
“And who is to be my guide ?” said I, as well as I could
The old lady pointed opposite. I thought she misunderstood me, and asked her again.
She pointed the same way—it was a stout woman with a baby in her arms!
Was there ever such a Cicerone before? I looked incredulously at my hostess; she looked me honestly enough back, and set her arms a-kimbo. I tried to understand her to point to her blue-eyed daughter, who was giggling behind her shoulder -but she was inexorable.
I grew frightened; the woman was well enough, though jogging upon forty. But the baby-what on earth should it be doing; suppose she were to put it in my arms in some retired part of the village? Only fancy me six leagues from Amsterdam, with only ten guilders in my pocket, and a fat Dutch baby squalling in my hands! But the woman—with a ripe, red, laughing cheek, had a charitable eye, and we set off together.
Not a bit, though, could we talk, and it was nichts, nichts, however I put the questions. Nature designed eyes to talk half a language, and the good soul pleaded to me with hers for the beauty of her village—words of the oldest Cicerone could not plead stronger. And as for the village it needed none. It was like dreaming; it was like a fairy land.
Away, over a little bridge we turned off the towpath of the canal, and directly were in the quiet ways of the town. They were all paved with pebbles or bricks, arranged in every quaint variety of pattern; and all so clean, that I could find no place to knock the ashes from my pipe. The grass that grew up everywhere to the edge of the walks was short—not the prim shortness of French shearing, but it had a look of dwarfish neatness, as if custom had habituated it to short growth, and habit become nature. All this in the public highway-not five yards wide, but under so strict municipal surveillance, that no horse or unclean thing was allowed to trample on its neat
Once a little donkey, harnessed to a miniature carriage, passed us, in which was a Dutch Miss, to whom my lady patroness with the baby bowed low. It was evidently, however, a privileged lady, and the donkey's feet had been waxed.
Little yards were before the houses, and these stocked with all sorts of flowers, arranged in all sorts of forms, and so cleanwalks, beds, and flowers—that I am sure, a passing sparrow could not have trimmed his feathers in the plat, without bringing out a toddling Dutch wife with her broom. The fences were absolutely polished with paint; and the hedges were clipped—not with shears, but scissors. Now and then faces would peep out of the windows, but in general the curtains were close drawn. We saw no men, but one or two old gardeners and a half-a-dozen painters. Girls we met, who would pass a word to my entertainer, and a glance to me, and a low courtesy, and would chuckle the baby under the chin, and glance again. But they were not better dressed, nor prettier, than the rest of the world, besides having a great deal shorter
waists and larger ancles. They looked happy, and healthy, and homelike.
Little boys were rolling along home from school--rolling, I mean, as a seaman rolls—with their short legs, and fat bodies, and phlegmatic faces. Two of them were throwing off hook and bait to canal from under the trees; and good fishers, I dare say, they made, for never a word did they speak; and I almost fancied that if I had stepped quietly up, and kicked one of them into the water, the other would have quietly pulled in his line—taken off his bait-put all in his pocket, and toddled off in true Dutch style, home, to tell his Dutch mamma.
Round pretty angles that came unlooked for, and the shady square of the church—not a sound anywhere—we passed along, the woman, the baby, and I. Half a dozen times, I wanted Cameron with me to enjoy a good Scotch laugh at the oddity of the whole thing; for there was something
approaching the ludicrous in the excess of cleanliness—to say nothing about my stout attendant, whose cares and anxieties were most amusingly divided between me and the babe. There was a large garden, a phthisicky old gardener took me over, with puppets in cottages, going by clockwork—an old woman spinning, dog barking, and wooden mermaids playing in artificial water; these all confirmed the idea with which the extravagant neatness can not fail to impress one, that the whole thing is a mockery, and in no sense earnest. From this we wandered
a new quarter, to the tubs, and pans, and presses of the dairy. The woman in waiting gave a suspicious glance at my feet when I entered the cow-stable; and afterward, when she favored me with a look into her home, all beset with high-polished cupboards and china, my steps were each one of them regarded—though my boots had been cleaned two hours before-as if I had been treading in her churn, and not upon a floor of stout Norway plank. The press was adorned with brazen weights, and bands shining like gold. The big mastiff who turned the churn was sleeping under the table, and the maid showed me the women milking over the low ditches in the fields,—for the sun was getting near to the far
away flat grounds in the west. With another stroll through the clean streets of the village, I returned to my little inn, where I sat under the braided limbs of the beech-tree over the door. There was something in the quiet and cleanliness that impressed me like a picture, or a curious book. It did not seem as if healthy flesh and blood, with all its passions and cares, could make a part of such a way of living. I am sure that some of the dirty people along the Rhone, and in the Vallais Canton of Switzerland, if suddenly translated to the grass slopes that sink into the water at Broek, would imagine it some new creation.
So I sat there musing before the inn, looking out over the canal, and the vast plain with its feeding flocks, and over the groups of cottages, and windmills, and far-off delicate spires.
The devotee may falter,
The bigot blindly roam;
At Home! dear home!
Love over it presideth,
With meek and watchful awe,
And shows its perfect law;
If there no shrine be found,
With kneeling crowds around?
Beneath Religion's dome,
At Home! dear home!
I feel a newer life in every gale;
The winds, that fan the flowers,
Tell of serener hours;
The spirit of the gentle south-wind calls
From his blue throne of air,
Beauty is budding there;
The waving verdure rolls along the plain,
And the wide forest weaves,
A canopy of leaves;
A gush of trembling notes.
The tresses of the woods, With the light dallying of the west-wind play;
And the full-brimming floods, As gladly to their goal they run, Hail the returning sun.