Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

purple. Really, it was like fairyland - all now and then he came close up to my end color. Marken at the back, we on a great to watch me better, and then I had to clear field of open ice, land looming out make great appearances of revelling in only at one point on the horizon. For that the viands, for he was so interested and point we made, and without any stoppages kindly I had no heart to show him that I of any sort we laid ourselves out for a thought the bulk of his food was of about steady run.

the sort to put in the swill-tub, and it was I had for some time been feeling rather only by grasping my nose tight, and holduncomfortable in the instep of my right ing it so, that I could swallow certain of foot, and now I found the left also was his mixtures. One evening he came up chafed and sore, all because I had been to me and mysteriously put before me a foolhardy enough to do so much walking great paper form, which I discovered be on my skates, in all between two and three wanted me to fill up. I thought at first it miles. Walking on skates I found, then, was for some local charity — a subscripdoes not pay; the time you may save in tion list — and I demurred. “No, no," not having to take off and put on is more I said, " take it away;" but he would not than lost, later on, by the strained condi. have it so. I grasped from him that the tion your feet get into; further, though my police would carry me off if I didn't sign blades did not suffer as much as I was it, and I at last mastered that it was a forewarded they would, still they were customary declaration that all inns have to certainly not improved. It was getting make from time to time of those staying dark by this time; the sun had gone down; at their houses. I filled it in as best I still we kept on, I the last of the four, and could, but fear I put the answers into all feeling awfully done, every stroke giving sorts of wrong places; for I had to put me a really nasty twinge ; but it was no my age — so he said — and how long I had good saying a word, the punishment I felt been there, and why I was there, and I had earned. I had two bad falls, owing where I came from, and what was my to not seeing cracks, and was heartily glad trade, etc., and I dabbed these bits of when twinkling gas-lamps showed we were information down simply anywhere wherDearing Amsterdam. Needless to add, ever there seemed to be room ; so it is after a long day, having done between quite possible that it read I had been twenty-five and thirty miles, one sleeps there thirty-five years, and that my age like a top; ihe trouble was to keep awake. was ten days, and that my country was an Oh, those terrible, tedious table d'hôte artist, and that I had come there to be in dinners! How they dragged along, course England, and similar nonsense; but, any. after course - so many dishes that one how, I heard no more of it, although I didn't want, and so few of the sort one did notice that the police looked at me did! After a few days I decided that I rather suspiciously. Breakfast was the would start for Alkmar, and, as my friends most satisfactory meal; a neat little table, could not well leave Amsterdam, I went linen spotlessly clean; a tray with a alone. Arrived at Alkmar, I found I had quaint little metal box, which I found held my work cut out for me; for the hotel I the requisite dose of tea for my own con. was directed to was of a primitive sort, sumption; a great brass pail full of lighted the landlord did not speak English, no charcoal, with a snug copper kettle hissing waiters glib of tongue, not a soul about away most sociably, was placed on the floor the house who could translate for me, and alongside my chair. Then there was some it took me quite half an hour to explain I sort of fish, boned and rolled, and a dish was dying of hunger and must have soup. of bits of meat floating about in syrup and I found I was the only person staying in plums. Fortified thus, I felt ready for the house. Whether this was usual or anything, and had some grand skating. not I don't know, and it certainly was All about the ice here, just as round the rather a dismal lookout after the cheerful larger towns of Rotterdam and Amstersociety I had left behind me that morning. dam, were sweepers at regular intervals, Then it was I discovered, as I have al- cap in hand, ready for the little copper ready told, what a fraud I was as a com-coin (five for a penny), and never failing to panion. Not a book in the place, not a give you back the regulation dankvmij. paper! However, I soon got acclimatized, heer.' It is really owing to this prevalent and learnt to relish the stillness and the custom throughout the country that maksolitary meals — not quite solitary, for the ing such trips as I am describing is possi. landlord was his own waiter, and he paced ble, and it is a duty incumbent on every up and down the end of the room, keeping visitor to always have a pocketful of these an eye on me to see I ate enough. Every little coins ready. The toll is a small one,

a

and, though not decreed by law, should be |
as honored as if it were; for it is only where
sweepers are properly encouraged that
pleasant skating can be had. Whenever I
found I was running short, I always pulled
up at some wayside booth and got change.
At these booths you get hot milk or cocoa,
and little cakes which look like ginger-
bread, but which have no taste at all be-
yond a faint suspicion of having rubbed
against a spice box when they were young
(all the samples I came across were an-
tiques, and somewhat soft and flabby).
Sitting on benches, you usually found
some two or three old men keeping the
fur-capped proprietor company, for they
pitch their tents in most lonely spots -
sometimes not a house within sight-and
yet there will be the little canvas shelter,
with a small flag floating above it, and you
may be certain of finding a red-hot stove
and boiling kettle. The whole company
look at one curiously, and start by asking
you some question in double Dutch. You
shake your head. Then they continue
their staring and look at your skates, and
one or another is sure to say "Engleesh,'
,"
at which they all nod and shrug their
shoulders, and give you a pitying smile.
Sometimes they flavor the hot milk with
aniseed, sometimes with other unknown
ingredients, which give it a peculiar, abid-
ing taste; but, anyhow, it is always hot,
and I enjoyed it, as one only can enjoy
things when out in the keen open air and
after hard exercise.

looking down through the ice at all this food with longing eyes, and two or three times I disturbed hard-working birds who were trying to pick and hack through the ice with their bills. As it was certainly a foot thick, I fear they never succeeded in gaining their prize; but I was astounded at the big holes they did make.

As is so often the case in skating, you do not notice that there is any wind at all when you are going in one direction; but turn back, and you find to your astonishment that you are facing quite a smart breeze. So it was on this occasion, and when I restarted I felt I had my work to do to get home. My way through the desolate bit of country I have described was very exposed, and I felt the full force of the wind most uncomfortably. No one who has not experienced it would believe the difference it makes (a bicyclist knows it well) whether the wind is with you or against you.

[ocr errors]

The wind, too, seemed to be bringing the water along with it, and I soon was fairly ploughing through the water. My feet felt quite dry, however, and I was congratulating myself I was making way better than I could have expected, when suddenly it dawned on me I was not on the same run I had come; and, sure enough, I had somehow or other gone wrong- where, I never could find out. To avoid the wind I had been skating very low, with my head down to the ice, and I can only suppose that, without noI made a run to Hoorn from Alkmar; ticing it, I took a wrong turning, or kept but there was a decided thaw on that day, straight on when I ought to have turned and, before I had gone far, the water was off. To make all worse, it now began to perceptibly on the ice; but I went on and get very misty and foggy, and down came reached my destination fairly easily. The the rain. I was about to retrace my steps last part of the track was through a dreary when I saw a man approaching me, gesflat-not a bush, nothing in shape of ticulating, arms in the air; and when he building or even windmill. Here, for got up to me I managed to grasp that he some two or three miles, I skated over the wished to tell me the water was coming. dead bodies of fish, who lay stomach up- (I presume, as I saw windmills at work, wards, killed from lack of air. Nearly that the authorities had settled the frost everywhere there are houses from time to was at an end, and that now they were time by the waterside, and holes are made, pumping the water on the ice to break it which are the fishes' salvation. They down, and so hasten the thaw and reopen crowd there for the life-giving air. The the waterways, which had been so disaspeople do not make these holes in the ice trously long frozen up.) "Vater, vater!" for the benefit of the fish, but for their he kept on repeating, and urged me to own use; for from them they get their turn back. Then I asked him if that way water for all domestic purposes; but they led to Alkmar. "Yes." "Then that's are so well known as being haunted by my way, water or no." He fairly caught the fish that often you will see a patient hold of my arm to stop me; but it was Dutchman sitting angling, and catching, getting so late and dark that I saw I must too, good baskets of fish. As there were make a push for it; so I left him standing no houses, however, here, there were no aghast and started off. Very soon the holes, and thousands of fish must have" swish, swish" of water came right over been killed. Here I saw hungry crows the toecap of my boot; then higher; then

I felt my boots were full.

could see by | own. This is owing, no doubt, to both countries having so great a seaboard. But let me give an account of another day's skate where there was not a single thorn of any sort.

the ripples that the tide was coming down against me, and I felt very done; not a house in sight, not a soul to be seen. On I went, taking as long, slow strokes as I could. Sometimes I got my blade into a We determined rather late one day to crack, which, being covered by the water, skate from Amsterdam to the Hague. I could not see to avoid, and it struck me, What settled us was finding that there if I should have a spill, I should be liter- was a good wind rising, which would be ally wet to the skin. Comfortable, this! at our back nearly all the way, and, walkAt last I saw a man on the bank ahead of ing past the central station westwards, we me, and hope came. "Alkmar?" "Ja!" soon were on the canal that, practically Good, hope returned; then a few cottages; without a single stoppage, runs straight and it was just here that happened the last into Haarlem. On this stretch the wind straw that clinched the conviction in my was only three-quarters behind us, yet we mind that the low-class Dutchman is very went along at a great pace (it was on this low; for some three or four loutish men, same run that, some years before, when seeing me, shouted Dutch Billingsgate, I was one of a party with the late Mr. and, not satisfied with that, threw some Neville Goodman and Mr. Tebbutt, that great lumps of ice straight at me. I was phenomenal time was made entirely by reapowerless to do anything, as, if I had at- son of the wind being dead behind us), and tempted running up the bank to give them we did the ten or eleven miles without the what they deserved, I, having my skates least feeling that we had been for more on, should have ludicrously failed; so, than a mere stroll. But it was really disswallowing my rage, I went on. About a tressing to meet skaters in long strings, mile further I was done, and I had to give one behind another, toiling along, with it up. Feeling certain I could not now be heads bent down, fairly fighting every inch far from home, I determined to walk the of the way, whilst we were rushing by rest of the way; so I got to the bank, took them with such comparative ease. They, off my skates, and, with the water squeez- too, felt the cold more than we did going ing out of my boots at every step, set off with the wind, and men and women were at a sharp trot, and soon in the distance I piteously holding their ears with their could see lights here and there a town, gloved hands to shelter them from the anyhow, I thought — and it turned out to biting cold. The ice was good right into be my goal. I met, coming out of the the town, and we skated under the bridge town, the very funniest little couple in a on which stands a magnificent old redcart, about the size of an ordinary child's brick gateway with drawbridge. It was mail-cart. It was drawn by two dogs, and so peculiarly picturesque that we longed came along at a great pace. Both occu- to sketch it. Crowds of picturesquely pants, a man and a woman, were wrapped dressed men and women were passing in in macintoshes, and the shining wet on and out; women, with white caps and red them as they sat with their knees crowded faces, with big baskets on arms or heads; up to their noses made them look like dogs harnessed to little carts were pullsome quaint marine creatures. I could ing their burdens along bravely; men in not have been more wet had I fallen; for, blouses, leaning over the bridge, made when I reached the inn, I found I had not merry at our expense as we just stopped a dry rag on me. Fortunately, I had a long enough to note it all and then on complete change with me- and I would again. We were soon outside the town, strongly insist on the importance of every and rather glad as, whenever your road one who takes skating trips abroad always runs through a town, you always have the having an entire change, for you never ice broken and cracked, and, worse, covknow what will happen—and presently, ered with grit and dirt, which clings to when I had got into comfortable slippers your skate and trips you up in a way which, and sat down to my well-earned meal, quite when once experienced, makes you ever forgot the little troubles, and only revelled after dread that kind of fall almost more in the solid comforts of my cosy quarters. than any. Our course now was This was a sample of what one must ex-southerly, and we had the wind, which had pect in a skating trip. Thaws happen just grown almost to a gale, dead at our backs. as frequently in Holland as in England; What a pace we went at from this stage! indeed, on each of my four trips I have We literally tore along, far too quickly been struck with the many points of sim- to see anything properly. We hardly met ilarity that Dutch weather has with our a single person right into Leyden; so

more

utterly futile would skating against such a never should have such another. A good wind have been, that all forebore. Occa- steak, coffee, and then a pipe, and once sionally some Dutchman would rattle by again we put on skates for our last bit of us as we slowed up a bit simply to get our the journey to the Hague. About a mile breath ; but, for the most part, we had the outside we were ill-advised enough to folwhole twelve miles or more all to our-low the guidance of a man who pointed selves. The wind carried with it fine us a short cut, and we went along thinkpowdered snow, which enveloped us in a ing it was a lovely short cut; but, from sort of thick cloud. Still the wind in being a small canal at first, it gradually creased in force, till we found we went became smaller and smaller, and worse, along even faster than we wanted, without the snow was not swept. Still we kept taking a stroke at all. About this point on. It went right through some great the whole canal was, I found, swept clean, estate, and on the fields at the side we and we had not to keep to the regulation frequently saw hares and partridges; then path. Small bits of reeds or broken bits it ran straight through a picturesque wood, of ice frozen on had to be avoided as best and frightened pheasants flew noiselessly we could. As we were travelling so fast, over our heads; then into open country there was not much time to put down the again, where we saw nothing but an occahelm. At one stage I tried to stop myself, sional grey crow, Here we encountered and really could not. The canal was not little bridges at every three or four hun. wide enough to take a big tack, and so dred yards, and we had to get off the ice. come up in the wind, and we were going as they were too low to skate under; and so awfully fast that, had I attempted to at last our waterway ran slap into a sort of turn sharp, I should have been blown farmyard, and we had to get off once for head over heels on to the bank. Fortu. all. We were, however, now within comnately, there were miles of clear ice in fortable walking distance of the Hague, front; so away we tore, and gradually the which seemed to stand on higher ground worst fury of the storm abated. Now we than most of the towns, and bustling came in sight of Leyden, and the canal through the town, we were soon at the opened into a large lagoon; and here we railway station. had the grandest climax of all, for we In conclusion, no one must go to Holfairly sported with the wind. We sailed land and expect to find Arctic weather into it, we tacked, we ran this way and whilst we are having a mild winter; but if, tbat, never giving a stroke, our legs rigidly by chance, we get a real good bout of frost, together. The wind took us here, there, you may safely go and be certain of getand everywhere in the most glorious fash. iing a thousand-fold more skating there ion. I had two or three spills, because than you could here. I should personally I would rashly experiment in steering, advise for outfit plenty of flannel underand tried running over and between all clothing, ordinary knickerbocker suit, a sorts of rough places. One spill I had pair of “Standard” running skates, Cadknocked me rather silly for a time, and man's "Go-ahead," and a complete change when I got up I had lost sight of my com- packed away in a medium sized bag that panions; so I suppose I must have lain is not too heavy for you to carry yourself. for a minute or more. When I got up I (The Great Eastern Railway grant skaters' found I had cut my hand and my knee; so, tickets at reduced prices to bona fide rather sobered, I gave up sailing and skaters; and to prove this it is necessary pegged away in the direction of the town, to show some tangible proof — receipt of and caught up my friends, who had kindly membership of the Skating Association, drawn rein a bit. Together we started into for instance.) Thus equipped, with a pleas. Leyden, took off our skates, and all agreed ant companion, I can promise that a most without a dissentient that never had we enjoyable holiday will reward all who take had such a magnificent run, and, come a skating trip in Holland. what might in the future, we probably

C. W.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

For EIGHT DOLLARS, remitted directly to the Publishers, the LIVING AGE will be punctually forwarded for a year, free of postage.

Remittances should be made by bank draft or check, or by post-office money-order, if possible. If neither of these can be procured, the money should be sent in a registered letter. All postmasters are obliged to register letters when requested to do so. Drafts, checks, and money-orders should be made payable to the order of LITTELL & Co.

Single Numbers of THE LIVING AGE, 18 cents.

« ElőzőTovább »