BLTC Press Titles

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The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour

Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)

Letters on the Aesthetical Education of Man

Friedrich Schiller

Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

Hans Brinker

by Mary Mapes Dodge


"A land that rides at anchor, and is moored;
In which they do not live, but go aboard."

Persons are born, live, and die, and even have their gardens, on canal-boats. Farmhouses, with roofs like great slouched hats pulled over their eyes, stand on wooden legs with a tucked-up sort of air, as if to say, "We intend to keep dry if we can." Even the horses wear a wide stool on each hoof to lift them out of the mire. In short, the landscape everywhere suggests a paradise for ducks. It is a glorious country in summer for barefooted girls and boys. Such wadings! such mimic ship-sailing! such rowing, fishing and swimming! Only think of a chain of puddles, where one can launch chip boats all day long, and never make a return trip! But enough. A full recital would set all young America rushing in a body toward the ZuyderZee.

Dutch cities seem at first sight to be a bewildering jungle of houses, bridges, churches and ships, sprouting into masts, steeples and trees. In some cities, vessels are hitched, like horses, to their owners' door-posts, and receive their freight from the upper windows. Mothers scream to Lodewyk and Kassy not to swing on the garden-gate, for fear they may be drowned. Water-roads are more frequent there than common roads and railways. Water-fences, in the form of lazy green ditches, enclose pleasure-ground, polder and garden.

Sometimes fine green hedges are seen; but wooden fences, such as we have in America, are rarely met with in Holland. As for stone fences, a Dutchman would lift his hands with astonishment at the very idea. There is no stone there, excepting those great masses of rock that have been brought from other lands to strengthen and protect the coast. All the small stones or pebbles, if there ever were any, seem to be imprisoned in pavements, or quite melted away. Boys with strong, quick arms may grow from pinafores to full beards, without ever finding one to start the water-rings, or set the rabbits flying. The water-roads are nothing less than canals intersecting the country in every direction. These are of all sizes, from the great North Holland Ship Canal, which is the wonder of the world, to those which a boy can leap. Water-omnibuses, called trekschuiten,1 constantly ply up and down these roads for the conveyance of passengers; and water-drays, called pakschuyten,1 are used for carrying fuel and merchandise. Instead of green country lanes, green canals stretch from field to barn, and from barn to garden; and the farms, or polders, as they are termed, are merely great lakes pumped dry. Some of the busiest streets are water; while many of the country roads are paved with brick. The city boats, with their rounded sterns, gilded prows and gayly painted sides, are unlike any others under the sun; and a Dutch wagon, with its funny little crooked pole, is a perfect mystery of mysteries.

"One thing is clear," cries Master Brightside, "the inhabitants need never be thirsty." But, no, Odd-land is true to itself still. Notwithstanding the sea pushing to get in, and the lakes struggling to get out, and the overflowing canals, rivers and ditches, in many districts there is no water fit to swallow: our poor Hollanders must go dry, or drink wine and beer, or send far into the inland, to Utrecht and other favored localities, for that precious fluid older than Adam, yet young as the morning dew. Sometimes, indeed, the inhabitants can swallow a shower, when they are provided with any means of catching it; but generally they are like the albatross-haunted sailors in Coleridge's famous poem of "The Ancient Mariner": they see

1 Canal-boats. Some of the first-named are over thirty feet long. They look like greenhouses lodged on barges, and are drawn by horses walking along the bank of the canal. The trekschuiten are divided into two compartments, first and second class; and, when not too crowded, the passengers make themselves quite at home in them: the men smoke, the women knit or sew, while children play upon the small outer deck. Many of the canal-boats have white, yellow or chocolate-colored sails. This last color is caused by a preparation of tan, which is put on to preserve them.

"Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink!"

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