FROM ROTTERDAM TO AMSTERDAM
I "did" some of the lions—not all, for lionizing is terribly hard work; and seeing that the average traveller, myself for instance, may have lived in London half his life and not have been compelled by public opinion to know one-tenth of the sights of his own capital, is it fair to expect him to lay himself out for the inspection of all the orthodox objects of interest in a foreign capital, in the space of a few days?
On the morning after our arrival a large number of the citizens of Rotterdam, who seemed to think that so small a vessel had no right to cross the North Sea, came down to the quay-side to look at us. Among others was Mr. De Haas, the agent of the R.T.Y.C., who, recognizing the burgee of the club at my masthead, introduced himself. I need not tell yachtsmen who know Rotterdam that this gentleman looked well after me during my stay. He supplied me with a store of Curaçoa, cigars, and Schiedam, whose excellent qualities made me many friends in the ports I visited. A good cellar is a capital passport by water as well as by land, and the hardness of even German officialism melts before this highest proof of respectability.
I, of course, took train to The Hague, that quaint, painfully clean, and perhaps rather dull capital, which seems so peaceful with its lakes, quiet canals, and many green trees. A soothing influence is about the place which seems even to affect the rushing tourist; here he flits from sight to sight with less hurry than is his wont. I actually saw one nodding in a seat in the Plein, while that awful red book, which is the badge of all his tribe, and which, like a malignant spirit, is ever with him, allowing him no rest, but driving on the weary wretch from lion to lion, lay idle on his lap.
In the way of sights I contented myself with a stroll through the picture-galleries of the Mauritshuis; after which I slummed the town, looking at the shops, the people, the cafes, the barges on the canals; for, being a Philistine, I take some interest in the live people of a country and their ways.
While exploring the Mauritshuis I remembered that the collection included Paul Potter's famous Bull; so I referred to my Bacdeker (I, too, carry with me the scarlet familiar, and very useful, nay necessary, he is if kept in his place and not allowed to become a tyrant master), and found that the number of the picture was 111. I discovered the room in which the masterpiece is kept; there I saw before me a gigantic gold frame, at the foot of which was a tablet with the number 111 inscribed on it — there could be no mistake about that — but within the frame I could distinguish nothing but inky blackness. I came nearer; there, indeed, was the frame and the black back of it, but the celebrated bull had gone. So I left the gallery in disappointment, and was walking through the courtyard which surrounds the Mauritshuis when I perceived a considerable crowd assembled. Concluding that I had fallen on a street row, and curious to see what a Dutch row was like, I approached, and lo! there was the lost bull after all. The picture had been brought out into the open air so that a photographer could take the noble animal's likeness; it seemed rather a casual way of treating so priceless a gem.
I remained three days at Rotterdam, and could have stayed much longer without being bored. As a traveller is expected to describe some features of the towns he visits, and as I have declined to allude to Rotterdam's lions, I will make a few remarks on the facilities for eating in this city — a subject of interest to most male readers: The chief cafés are splendid palaces, and the restaurants are as good as any I know. Dutch dishes have weird names, and are often compounded of what the English consider to be incompatible elements; but those I tried — and I went in for an experimental course — seemed to me to be excellent. Here is one, for example: I had entered a cafe for a snack at lunchtime, and on looking down the bill of fare read the item "Wienerschnitzel." "That sounds as if it ought to be good," I said to myself, so pronouncing it after the light of nature, I called for one. When my Wienerschnitzel was put in front of me, I, first of all, noticed that its odour was delicious; then I placed a morsel in my mouth: its taste came up to its odour. Then I proceeded to analyse its contents, and as far as I could make out, the lowest layer of a Wienerschnitzel consists of juicy veal steaks and slices of lemon-peel; the next layer is composed of sardines; then come sliced gherkins, capers, and divers mysteries; a delicate sauce flavours the whole, and the result is a gastronomic dream.
During this cruise I was in the habit of living on board my vessel to a greater extent than most yachtsmen do, and I generally contented myself with Wright's plain but wholesome cooking. But, hungry after knowledge, I made a rule of indulging in one big dinner at a first-class restaurant in each new country I visited. I made a confidant of a friend of mine resident in Rotterdam, who knew his way about that city and understood what dining meant. So he piloted me to the right place, and we dined together at the Café Riche, which commands a pleasant view over the river. This establishment is not frequented by British tourists but by native gentlemen; so it has not yet been spoilt, as nearly all the famous Paris restaurants have been. The proprietors here still find it to their interest to please their habitual customers. I trust that the excursionists will not have found this place out before I next visit Rotterdam, for I intend to dine there again.
Mr. Tourist, when you next find yourself in Rotterdam, I should advise you — that is, if Madame Tourist will not object — to visit the Tivoli Spielgarden, which is a sort of Cremorne, a few miles outside the city, and you will certainly be surprised and amused at the quaint, rough, good-natured, frankly, and almost innocently immodest way in which the Hollanders take their pleasure. After this you will better understand those famous old paintings of carousing boors which you have been gazing at in the galleries.
Hither the lover of the lower middle class brings his beamy and, to English eyes, not altogether lovely sweetheart. This is a place of boisterous merriment; there are swings, rifle-shooting, and boating on an extensive lake, and, in short, all the fun of the fair. I noticed that Dutch maidens are much given to slapping the faces of their swains in public, not in wrath, but to restrain their boorish ardour; and the slaps were delivered with all the sturdy lasses' strength. The lovers seem to take it all in very good part, even when they were felled to the ground, which occasionally happened. The courtship of Dutch boors is evidently as rough an amusement as football with us. The dancing was grotesque and after Jan Steen.
The Dutch are our cousins. I entertained no doubt of this, and I almost fancied myself at home again when I saw these Dutch servant-girls and other plebeian damsels from the town here dressed in their Sunday best. All the outrageously bad taste and gaudy draggletailedness of English girls of the same degree were exactly reproduced. But the drunken ruffianism that would have attended such a gathering in England was altogether absent; so I felt no longer at home, and realized that I was a stranger in an alien land.
To one who has never visited this country before, the road to Hillegersberg, the village in which the Spielgarden is situated, is also interesting, for it is a very typical Dutch highway. It is paved with brick and bordered on either side by a broad ditch and an avenue of trees—the latter, of course, all of one size and shape, to satisfy the Dutch love of symmetry. On the way I passed many villas, each surrounded with a brimming moat, and having a draw-bridge across the ditch to afford communication with the road. Each orderly garden displayed an almost tropical gorgeousness of bright blossoms, and the name of each villa is conspicuously painted on the door or designed on the lawn in large letters of flowering plants, all quaint names suggestive of steady Dutch contentment, such as "Rest after labour," "Competence and leisure." Occasionally, too, on the side of the road were extensive ponds, or rather lakes, bordered with sedge, reminding me of Norfolk Broads. There were pleasant pastures also, where, among the rich deep grass of Holland, the sleek kine grazed. This combination of blue sky, tender green vegetation, rippling water, and comfortable homesteads, the keen pure air and the song of many singing birds made me in love with cheerful Holland. The Dutch genius was apparent everywhere. These people have set themselves to make beautiful landscapes out of reclaimed mud, and they have succeeded.
And now, having done Rotterdam, I had to decide whither to go next. The object of this cruise was to explore the Baltic and not the Dutch canals; I should not have touched at Holland at all were it not that her inland waters enabled me to cheat the North Sea. So I wished to cross the country as quickly as possible, and consulted my charts in order to discover which was my nearest route to the Dollart, where the region of canals terminates and the open ocean has to be braved once more. I decided to go by river and canal to Amsterdam, thence cross the Zuider Zee to Zwartsluis, from which I could reach Delfzyl by way of Meppel, Assen, and Groningen. The total distance from Hellevoetsluis to Delfzyl, by the route I followed, is 234 miles.
The people of Rotterdam, on hearing that I intended to take my boat to the farthest extremity of their country, informed me that it was absolutely necessary that I should engage a pilot, and what was more, one of the English-speaking pilots, of whom there is no lack here. Many of these men called on me, each laden with glowing certificates from English yachtsmen. These testimonials satisfied me that a Dutch river-pilot must be little short of an angel. But in spite of this I would not be persuaded; I could not for the life of me see wherein lay the necessity of shipping a pilot on so small a vessel as the Falcon. Each fellow shook his head when I told him this, recited a formidable catalogue of the dangers I was about to court, and prophesied that terrible disasters would result from my pig-headed obstinacy.
However, we contrived to cross Holland without a pilot and without understanding a word of the language, and also without meeting with the slightest accident. It is true that once or twice we completely lost ourselves amid the intricate network of canals which is found in every large Dutch town, when we would sail and punt disconsolately up and down mysterious drains and wild slums, whose inhabitants could not or would not understand our questions; but these were but amusing incidents, and we always contrived to emerge somewhere at last.
A portion of the great bridge which spans the Maas at Rotterdam is swung at certain times so as to allow vessels to pass through. I was informed that it was thus opened every morning at five o'clock, so we turned out at an early hour on Sunday the 12th of June, pushed our way out of the crowded Veerhaven, and, setting all sail to woo a very light south-west breeze, drifted up to the bridge. We passed through just before it was closed, and, in the company of a number of schuyts — all of which, to our gratification, we easily outstripped — we sailed up the broad muddy river. The flood soon overtook us, and though there was but little wind, the current carried us along at a good pace.
Our immediate destination was the town of Gouda, which is about eighteen miles from Rotterdam by water, situated on the river Ijsel, a branch of the Maas. At Gouda, so my map informed me, we should have to leave the tidal river and work our way by one of the canals—there seemed to be several to choose from—to Amsterdam. The Ijsel joins the Maas about four or five miles above Rotterdam, so, not having the faintest idea as to how large it would prove to be, I kept a sharp lookout for any stream that might appear on the port hand.
At last, after running some way up the Maas, we opened out what looked like a rather narrow creek. I hesitated, doubtful as to whether this could be my river. I noticed that though many small traders were ascending and descending the Maas, no craft of any description were to be seen on this tributary. A schuyt happened to be sailing close to me. "Is that the Ijsel?" I cried, pointing to the opening.
The skipper spoke not a word but shook his head, evidently not understanding me. Doubtless my pronunciation of the name Ijsel was incorrect, and little wonder seeing how it is spelt.
"Is that the way to Gouda?" I cried again, mumbling the first words of the sentence, but bringing out "Gouda" very loudly and distinctly.
A gleam of intelligence lit up the worthy Hollander's stolid features. "Yah, yah, Gouda," he shouted as he sailed by.
So I turned the yacht into the unpronounceable river, and the wind now freshening we made good progress, running, reaching, and tacking in turns; for the Ijsel is very winding. We had the whole river to ourselves, not another vessel was upon it. We were thankful for this, as the channel was often a very narrow one. Sunday is the best day for yacht-sailing on a Dutch canal or river, for nine out of ten Dutch skippers will not sail on a Sunday, so there is plenty of room and no crowd. Strict Sabbatarians will say that I might have followed the example of these good men with advantage; but I shall soon have to describe the Dutch skipper's manner of passing his Sunday.
It was a dull day with drizzling rain at intervals. The scenery we passed was not interesting and there was little life on the banks. There were the usual half-flooded pastures, clumps of trees, and numberless windmills that compose a Dutch landscape. We sailed by the scarlet-roofed villages of Ouderkerk, Berkenwoude, and Gouderak; one of these was en fête, covered with bunting and crowded with holidaymakers who cheered us as we ran by.
At about eleven o'clock a more considerable settlement opened out before us. That, we thought, must be Gouda at last. When we came nearer we perceived the lock gates of the canals communicating with the river, and we saw masts rising among the houses in every direction, showing that a great number of canal boats were resting here for the Sunday.
We lowered our sails and came alongside the quay. A crowd of men soon gathered round, who did not speak, but looked at us with evident wonder. "Is this Gouda?" I asked of a fat little man, who might have been a mate of a ship from his appearance, and who had caught and made fast our warp when we threw it on shore.
"Yes, this is Gouda; and what are you?" he replied in English. He spoke politely, and the seemingly rude abruptness of the speech was evidently due to his limited acquaintance with our language.
I explained that we were bound for Amsterdam.
Then by a curious mixture of Dutch, broken English, and signs he gradually, and not without much difficulty, led me to understand that it was not worth our while attempting to go farther that day, as the wind was contrary and the canal too narrow to allow of tacking, and that if we waited till the following morning he would tow us to Amsterdam.
As his statement seemed to be hardly a disinterested one, I had a look at the canal myself, and had to confess that he was right; for it was very narrow to begin with, and the vessels were packed so densely on either side of it that there was scarcely left a free channel of twelve feet in breadth.
"Head wind morrow, too, captain," said my friend, scanning the heavens.
"What are you going to tow us with?" I asked.
"Come," he said, and he beckoned me to follow him.
So, leaving Wright in charge of the yacht, I accompanied the Dutchman through many clean, well-paved streets, by the side of many canals crowded with craft, and over many swing bridges, till we came to a small steam-tug that lay along the bank of one of the principal canals.
"Mine," he said proudly, pointing to the vessel and then to his breast. "Mine. Me captain, owner, all one."
I followed him on board the steamer and into the cabin, a wonderfully comfortable and smart one for a mere puffing-billy. Here we found the mate, who was also engineer, cook, and general factotum, dressed in his Sunday clothes, drinking gin in solitude. This mate, a tall, lean, and comical-looking chap, who had evidently knocked about the world a good deal, spoke English much better than his skipper, having served long in English ships, so he now acted as our interpreter.
The tug was to start for Amsterdam at three o'clock the next morning with a string of schuyts in tow. "The captain says he will tow you there for half an English pound," explained the mate, "and out of that he will pay all the canal and bridge dues."
As Amsterdam is at least forty miles from Gouda by water, this seemed anything but an extortionate charge, and knowing that we might occupy several days in working the yacht up ourselves, should the head wind continue, I closed with him at once.
The captain seemed to be rather proud of our acquaintance, and had evidently made up his mind to take us entirely under his charge during our stay at Gouda. In the first place, so that we should not escape him, he woke up the lock-keeper, who, as business was dull, was taking his Sunday afternoon nap, made him open the gates for us and we passed out of the river into the canal. Then he boarded the Falcon and piloted us through the intricate network of canals to the centre of the town where his tug lay and lashed us firmly alongside of her. This, we said to ourselves, was far better than lying by the quayside, as we should not be worried by the usual crowd of inquisitive spectators — but we did not know what was before us.
So far all was well, and we were very much obliged to the captain for his kindness; but he soon showed the cloven hoof, and turned out to be the most horrible bore we were destined to encounter during the whole of this cruise. However, the poor fellow was evidently well-meaning, and I found myself in the unpleasant predicament of being unable to shake him off without displaying the grossest ingratitude.
Having, as I said, secured us alongside his vessel, he and his mate came into our cabin and made themselves quite at home. Dutchman of the lower class possess little of the instinct of politeness, do not know when they are intruding, and never take a hint. These two men calmly helped themselves to cigars, gin, and any other stores they found about our cabin; not that they had the slightest intention of sponging upon us, for they brought us eggs, a large Gouda cheese, a quantity of beer, and some vegetables out of the steamer, informing us that later on we should all dine together on board the Falcon, the mate cooking some dishes, Wright the others, so that it should be a regular Anglo-Dutch repast, and combine all the respective merits of the two cuisines. We could do nothing with the fellows, they forced us to receive from them quite as much as they took from us. "We are well at home on your boat," said the mate, "you make yourself at home just same way on board us, as if we were all brothers; take what you want from us, we have plenty good stores."
These two worthies had no doubt passed the morning in steady beer soaking, and now, I discovered to my dismay, they were gradually becoming, not exactly drunk, but imbecile. Their conversation was limited to suggestions of more drinks and praise of each other. The following little bit of dialogue was repeated a hundred times at least in the course of the day: "This captain very good man," the mate would say, "best captain I ever sailed with." "And dis man," would return the captain, "de best cook, de best mate, de best engineer in de Nederlands." "And we are two very good friends," the mate would go on. "We work hard and make plenty money all week and get drunk together all Sunday."
So as to get rid of them, I suggested that I was going to take a stroll round the town. "Dat's so," exclaimed the mate. "Captain go with you and show you round; I go with your man show him round. Two captains go together, two cooks go together. Dat is de good way; and after enough walk we will all come back dine together."
This was not exactly what we wanted, but what were we to do? I considered the question, and remembering that we were under obligations to these men — that our vessel was made fast to theirs (the only decent berth left in the crowded canal), that we were to be towed by them at three on the following morning, and that, as far as we knew, they were the only people in the town who understood English — I felt that we were clearly at their mercy, and that our best policy was to resign ourselves with good grace to our fate.
I therefore gave my consent to the proposal. First of all, the little fat skipper and myself sallied forth; and shortly afterwards Wright went off with the tall, lean mate. I may mention that my own build is rather like that of the Dutch mate, and that Wright is as short and beamy as was the Dutch skipper, so the contrast between the two parties must have been somewhat amusing, and indeed jeering remarks were made upon us by some rude little boys as we passed.
My friend the skipper's idea of showing a stranger round his native town was to take me into all the public-houses where he was known, and their name was legion, and treat all his open-mouthed acquaintances to beer and to what sounded like a very flattering history of my life. I noticed that in every instance this history ended with the same words uttered in a proud and defiant manner. After puzzling my brain awhile I came to the conclusion that their meaning was: "And he is under my charge." I was so with a vengeance.
I was becoming very weary of this state of bondage when at last we entered a café, which the captain told me was his favourite one, as it belonged to his brother-in-law. Here, luckily, he tarried so long that beer and the heat of the day overcame him, so that he fell asleep over the table at which we were sitting. Now was my opportunity for escape. I succeeded in stealing out of the cafe on tip-toe without awaking my jailor, then I fled down the street. I was free at last!
There are several lions to be visited in Gouda, and among others, so Baedeker informed me, is the Groote Kerk, a grand old church, built in the fifteenth century, which contains forty-two very beautiful stained-glass windows. I found my way thither, entered, and after recovering from my first surprise at finding that it is the custom for Dutchmen to keep their hats on in church, I passed some time in admiring the windows, which appeared to me to be by far the finest specimens of stained glass I had ever seen.
Gouda is a town of about 1,800 inhabitants, and I think it is more cut up by canals than any town I saw in Holland. As every canal in it looks exactly like another, and as all the avenues of trees and the houses that border the canals are after one pattern, it is the easiest place to lose oneself in that I know of. I lost myself several times before I discovered the Falcon again, and, as it was, I only came upon her by accident, for I had no idea what canal or street to inquire for, even if the people could have understood me.
I crossed the deck of the tug, jumped on to the yacht, and then found, to my disgust, that I was locked out of my cabin. Wright had taken the key with him when he had gone off for his walk with the mate, and neither of them had returned. So in a state of great indignation I sat on the deck in the sun, smoking and glaring sulkily at the crowd of citizens who were staring at the yacht from the opposite bank of the canal.
At about seven o'clock in the evening Wright returned alone and disarmed my anger by explaining the cause of his delay. He, too, was highly indignant at the way he had been treated by his companion the lean mate. It seems that this thirsty Dutchman had behaved in very much the same manner as his skipper. He had taken Wright from café to café, and had become idiotically tipsy, so that my man, finding that he could do nothing with the fellow, and seeing that dinner-time was near, deserted him, even as I had deserted the fat captain. But the café in which Wright had left the recumbent mate must have been in some remote portion of the town, for he told me that he had been wandering about from canal to canal in search of the yacht for quite an hour, that he had not met a soul who could understand English, and was beginning to despair of finding the Falcon at all before nightfall, when he suddenly recognized the red-and-black funnel of the tug and made for it.
I need not say that the international dinner did not come off that night; we did not wait for the two Hollanders, but dined alone. As we had to be up at daybreak we turned in early. At about ten we heard the skipper return to his vessel, bringing with him some half-dozen elated friends, and for the rest of the night there was a hideous noise of Dutch carousing on the tug. The skipper did not at all approve of our absence from the merry party. He came on board of us several times and shouted to us through the cabin hatch: "Come have beer and Hollands with us. Plenty fun on board us."
The last time he thus visited us — it was about 2 a.m. — I lost my temper and flew out of my bunk at him, with language loud and expressive. But he did not seem to understand the strongest hint that I wished to be left alone. Some of his friends, however, must have been more sober than himself, for they dragged him back to his own vessel, and, I believe, prevented him from boarding us again.
Shortly before 3 a.m., I was awakened by the whistle of the steam-tug sounding shrilly in my ear. I came on deck and beheld standing on the bridge the sturdy Dutch captain, now quite sober, with all his wits about him, giving his orders like a man; his mate, who seemed to have been suddenly transformed from a drunken scoundrel into a respectable and intelligent officer, stood by his side. I was amazed, I rubbed my eyes. Was it possible that after carousing for a day and a night two men could turn out and look so fit at three in the morning? But so it was, and the captain, who might have been a teetotaller for years from his appearance, took four schuyts and the Falcon in tow and started for Amsterdam. He stood at his wheel and steered eight hours right off without being relieved, and very skilfully he steered too, through the crowded and narrow canals. There could be no doubt about his being a very tough double Dutchman indeed; he accordingly rose again in my estimation.
We were towed by the steamer from 3 a.m. to 2 p.m. Our speed was not great, and the numerous locks caused constant delays. It was, however, an interesting journey, more so, I think, than any other we undertook on the Dutch canals.
It was a hot, cloudless day, and the scenery looked its best. We traversed a rich agricultural district. Extensive pastures, on which browsed great herds of cattle, bordered the dykes. Comfortable farm-houses nestling in clumps of trees dotted the landscapes, and occasionally we passed some picturesque little village, always having an air of cheerful prosperity about it. Of these a place called Boskoop especially struck me for its quaint prettiness. This village was surrounded with fruit-trees and intersected by avenues of fine chestnuts in full bloom; its houses were of bright red brick and glazed tiles, its quays and bridges of beautifully polished dark oak. There was here such a wealth of rich colouring, so harmonious in tone, glowing under the blue sky, that, beholding, one understood how it was that the old Dutch landscape painters never went far from home for inspiration.
Monday is the busiest day of the week on the Dutch waterways, and our canal, crowded with craft steaming, towing with horses, and sailing, presented a very animated appearance. Sturdy peasants in blouses and wooden shoes came off from every farm in clumsy boats to sell cheeses, vegetables, and buckets of sour milk to the crews of the passing vessels. The canal was one long floating market. We bought a quantity of sour milk for threepence. This mixed with sugar is a cool and pleasant summer drink that I can recommend to the teetotallers as a far more wholesome and palatable beverage than any their ingenuity has yet discovered.
Though I had as yet seen so little of the country, I found that I was already becoming conscious of an uncomfortable restraint in the presence of all the scrupulous cleanliness of Holland. This Dutch love of cleanliness is a fidgety mania. I soon felt as one does when one is staying in the home of some prim old maid, who snarls and looks daggers if a book is not replaced in exactly the same spot on the table whence it was lifted, or a newspaper not neatly refolded after being read. I soon began to long for the comfortable ease of dirt again. I could never make myself really at home in a land where, I believe, the very pigs deny themselves the luxury of a mud-bath in their horror of a soiled coat.
At last we came out of the canal into the Oude Rijn, the main channel of the Rhine, by which that river, with volume much diminished by the numerous pilfering canals that cross it, finds its way to the German Ocean. Instead of following the shortest route to Amsterdam, our captain now towed us down the river for several miles in the direction of Leyden, and, leaving the Rhine opposite the town of Alfen, steamed up a canal that passes through the Haarlemmer Meer. I was afterwards told that his object in selecting this circuitous course was to avoid the higher tolls which have to be paid on the direct canal. I was glad that his economy carried us in this unexpected direction, for it enabled me to see an interesting and very characteristic portion of Holland.
The aspect of the country changed as we left the Rhine to the southward. The land became less fertile, large patches of black morass were to be seen here and there amid the pastures. Then we steamed across an extensive lake, which, I believe, is called the Brasemeer, a splendid sheet of water for small boat sailing; no Norfolk Broad could compare with it. Shortly after leaving the lake we entered the Haarlemmer Meer, which is one of the best specimens of a Polder, or reclaimed morass, in Holland. This, I learnt from Baedeker, was once a lake eighteen miles in length, nine in breadth, which was formed in the fifteenth century by the overflow of the Rhine, and afterwards increased so considerably as to imperil the towns of Amsterdam, Haarlem, Leyden, and Utrecht. The operations for draining it were commenced in 1840, and completed in 1853. It now supports a population of upwards of 10,000.
I went up to my mast-head so as to look over the canal dykes, and command a good view of the vast Polder. I beheld stretching to the horizon a plain of amazing fertility cut into regular squares by canals, dykes, and rows of trees. Each square had its snug farm-house. The huge chimneys of the engines that had pumped the water from the lake, and hundreds of windmills, were scattered over this rather monotonous landscape. I seemed to be looking at a gigantic chessboard, even such a one as Alice played upon with the eccentric White Queen in Wonderland, and the chimneys and windmills might have been the pieces. This plain was far below the level of the canal.
At last we saw the domes and steeples of Amsterdam rising in the distance, and at 2 p.m. the tug reached her destination, which, we were not very pleased to discover, was not the port of Amsterdam, but some suburb (I believe it is called Overtoum) quite five miles from the centre of the city. We slipped our tow-line, and brought up alongside the quay.
"We go no farther," said the captain, when he came on board of us to claim his six guilders.
"But how is this? We are not in Amsterdam," I expostulated.
"No, but it is only one half hour down there," he said, pointing to a very narrow canal which was so crowded with dredgers, lighters, and other craft of that description that it was difficult to see how we were to work our way through.
Refusing the assistance of a man who wished to pilot us, and who forthwith began to curse us, we now started on what proved to be rather an extraordinary journey. For four hours and more we punted, shoved along with boat-hooks, occasionally sailed under our main-sail, and in short, progressed in some manner or other, through a labyrinth of narrow canals, some of them mere ditches, very malodorous and bordered by slums of rickety houses inhabited by what I should imagine was the lowest population of suburban Amsterdam. I was lamenting just now over the lack of dirt in Holland, but I found more than I wanted in these districts. I have no idea how many draw-bridges and swing-bridges we passed through, and how many times we became completely bewildered and lost ourselves amid the network of ditches. On one occasion we came to a cul-de-sac, or rather the canal passed through a subterranean channel, a pitch-dark hole under the slums, into which we shrank from venturing.
Most of the men we saw on the banks were rough hang-dog-looking fellows, who were loafing about with their hands in their pockets, as if they had no work to do. I think the criminal classes and Socialists of Amsterdam must hail from this quarter of the town. The Dutch people are generally well-disposed and polite to strangers, but here they either scowled at us in silence or jeered at us and encouraged the little boys to throw stones at us. I inquired the way to Amsterdam of several people; they either stared or laughed at me, but none replied. I suppose that as I was already in Amsterdam — though not the part I wanted — the question sounded ridiculous to them, even as if someone on the Pimlico canal should ask his way to London.
Even the bridge guardians seemed to object to strange vessels. They overcharged us, and kept us waiting an unconscionable time before they would open to us. It was, in short, a most disagreeable journey, and I was not sorry when we at last reached a more respectable quarter of the town, where the canals were bordered by broad boulevards and fine shops. We were again amongst civilized beings who understood our queries, and replied to them politely.
We ultimately emerged from the canals into what is called the Timber Dock, passed through a last lock, and were once more on broad water, the Y, which forms the harbour of Amsterdam. We sailed down the front of the city before a fresh breeze, and seeing at last what looked like a good berth, made the yacht fast alongside a jetty on the Ruyter Kade, in front of a cheerful café much frequented in the evening, known as the café Czar Peter.