Page images

self of the vehicle belonging to one hotel to convey him to a rival establishment, of course to the great chagrin of the coachproprietor. For our humble selves, we have set up our rest with Doctor, or Dokter, — a name which doubtless had a charm for my hypochondriac uncle, quite independent of the recommendation of the German with whom he had played at dominoes, and who was probably agenteel “touter” in disguise. However, the house is clean, quiet, and comfortable, with a small garden in the rear, and a painted wooden figure of a Dutchman at the end of the main walk; to which figure, by the way, I caught my uncle bowing, hat in hand, mistaking it, no doubt, for our Doctor himself. This wooden statuary is, timberly speaking, quite a branch of the Dutch fine arts, and surely art must be in its second childhood, when it returns to playing with dolls. On which theme, my dear Gerard, I could write an essay, but my paper being filled up, as well as my leisure, I must conclude with kind regards to yourself, and love to Emily.— Yours, &c., FRANK SOMERVILLE.



I take shame to myself for not writing you before, as you could only come to one conclusion. But you have been long prepared for such an event, and consequently the less shock to your feelings; still, an old friend is an old friend, and I heartily beg your pardon for the sorrow I am sure you would display at my loss. As for black clothes, being professional wear, you would be at no cost, I trust, on that score, but I do hope you have not added to trouble by acting on my last will. But you were never hasty in law matters. No doubt it was my bounden duty to let you hear from Rotterdam, and my mind misgives there was some sort of promise to that effect, provided I lived over the voyage. At all events, I owe you an apology, and it is a melancholy excuse to make; but from day to day, I expected there would be news to break by another hand, that would fully account for my silence. I had two very smart warnings, one in a storm on board ship, and the other ashore, but both so nigh fatal, that the next must be the finish. Though I am not sensibly weaker or worse, reason dictates that I am sapping in my vital parts; and at last, even my constitution seems to have given in. If I only felt any bodily pain, I should be a deal easier, but I am more comfortable than I have been for years, which I take to be about the worst symptom I could enjoy. Mayhap a mortification has set in, and my inward feelings are dead and gone beforehand, and in that case I shall go off in a moment, like a hair-trigger. So much for the good to be done my health by the river Rhine ! The present is writ at Nimeguen, and it will take two days more to get to Cologne, so that I am as sure of the port and sherry that Truby bet me, as if it was in my own cellar. Well, God's will be done! Nimeguen is as nigh to heaven as Beckenham in Kent; and a thousand miles north or south, east or west, make no odds in our journey to a world that has neither latitude nor longitude. Now I am here, I am not sorry to have had a peep at such a country as Holland; but being described by so many better hands, in books of travels, besides pictures, I need not enlarge. If you only fancy the very worst country for hunting in the whole world, except for otter-dogs, you will have it exactly. Every highway is a canal; and as for lanes and bridle-roads, they are nothing but ditches. By consequence, the lives of the natives are spent between keeping out water and letting in liquor, such as schiedam, anise-seed, curaçoa, and the like ; for, except for the damming, they would be drowned like so many rats, and without the dramming, they would be martyrs to ague and rheumatics, and the marsh-fever. Frank says the Hollanders are such a cold-blooded people, that nothing but their ardent spirits keeps them from breeding back again into fishes; be that as it may, I have certainly seen a Dutch youngster, no bigger than your own little Peter, junior, toss off his glass of schnapps, as they call it, as if it was to save him from turning into a sprat. It is only fair to mention, that Dutch water seems meant by Providence for scouring, or scrubbing, or washing, or sailing upon, or any other use in nature, except to drink neat. It costs poor Martha a score of wry faces only to hear it named, for she took one dose of it for want of warning, and it gave her a rattling fit of what she calls the Colliery Morbus.

As regards foreign parts, I was most taken with Rotterdam. It is a fine outlandish business-like city, with a real Dutch medley of quays, and canals, and bridges, and steeples, and chimneys, and masts of ships, all in one point of view. The same forming, altogether, a picture that, to my mind, might be studied with advantage by certain folks at home. Not to name party spirit, which poisons every public measure in England, there is far too much of separating matters that ought never to be considered apart. By way of example, we hear of the landed interest, and the funded interest, and the shipping interest, and so forth, talked of night after night in Parliament, as if they were all private interests, instead of public ones; or, what is worse, in opposition instead of being partners in one great national firm, - namely, Agriculture, Commerce, Manufactures, and Company. As such, it is neither just nor wise for one branch to be protected or encouraged at the expense of the rest; and besides, I have made up my mind that the welfare of any member, in the long-run, must be looked for in the prosperity of the whole. If we wish, then, to thrive as a nation, instead of splitting our bundle of sticks, we must bind them all up together, and consider our commerce, and agriculture, and manufactures, in one cluster, like the chimneys, the fine elm-trees, and the ships' masts on the Boomjes, as it is called, at Rotterdam. Those are my sentiments, though it is not speaking, mayhap, like a landowner with well-nigh a thousand acres in his own hands. But I am not going to favor you with a batch of politics, and besides I am called to meals, where I have promised myself the pleasure of drinking your health, old friend, in a bumper of Madeira, that has made a voyage to Java, in the East Indies.

DEAR PETER, Since the above, you will be concerned to hear I have had another very serious attack. It took place in Dokter's garden, having gone into the same after dinner to enjoy a little fresh air, when all at once I went off quite insensible, and nobody being by, except a painted wooden image of a Dutchman, it is unknown how long I remained in that state, and

certainly should never have recovered, but for a providential cold shower of rain that brought me to by its shock to the system. My nephew will have it, that indulging in a glass of wine beyond the common, I only went to sleep in the bower; but relations are always sanguine, and particularly the youthful, and his affection, poor fellow, makes him hope the best. In my own mind, I am quite convinced it was suspended animation, and especially by being so terrible cold in my extremities. Truby makes light of these runaway knocks, as he calls them, but my own sense tells me, Peter, they are warnings that Death intends to soon call upon me in earnest. As such, you may suppose I am not best pleased to be pestered with matters, disagreeable at any time to free-born principles, but particularly to a man under my serious circumstances. I allude to the passport system, whereby an Englishman abroad is treated like so much liquor, or wine, or soap, at home, that can't be moved without a permit. Here was a fellow just now wanting me to show myself up at the policeoffice to be vizeed, and so forth ; but for an individual going to another world to be passported out of Holland into Prussia seemed such an idle piece of business, not to say presumption, that I declined stirring in it. Master Frank, however, thought otherwise, and not being in my solemn frame of mind, was so obstinate on the subject that we almost came to words. So the end is, I have been vizeed, and identified behind my back, and made passable in Germany, forsooth, for six months to come !

Sister Kate rubs on in her usual way, in tolerable health, but taking on about poor George. She has got already into two or three travelling troubles, and by way of companion has encumbered herself with a bale of Dutch linen as big as a baby. And now, God bless you, and likewise all of the name. Something tells me it is a last farewell from, Dear Peter, your sincere and dying friend.


P. S.— I had the pleasure of forwarding a few gallons of real Dutch Hollands, which by this time should be on their road to Canterbury. It is called Schiedam, and makes a capital mixture, provided you don't brew it like a Mounseur in the house here, who makes his spirits and water without the spirits. That reminds me of your old joke against Bob Rugby, the classical schoolmaster, about mixing the Utile and Dulce. “Utile and Dulce be hanged l’” says you, “the French drink it, and it’s nothing but sugar and water.”



You will be glad to hear that we have escaped undrowned from that water-logged country called Holland, - a country which, between its carillons and its canals, might be described by a punster as ringing wet.

We left Nimeguen with something of the ill-will with which we are apt, unjustly, to remember a place where we have suffered pain or experienced disappointment. And truly, to be cheated of great nature's second course, to be balked unnaturally of one of the most important non-naturals, is enough to upset one's moral as well as local affections. My uncle says little, considering himself continually as on the brink of a sleep eternal; but my aunt complains that she has never had a regular night's rest since she left London; whilst her maid declares, with a yawn, that foreign travelling is very racketty work, and has more than once hinted to her mistress that going abroad formed no part of her engagement. As for myself, I join with Dr. Watts's sluggard in wishing, tautologically, for “a little more sleep, and a little more slumber,” — but seem far more like a door off the hinges than on them, according to the serious poet's absurd simile. And all this gaping, and eye-watering, and drowsihed and discontent to be the work of a ridiculous Cockney, whom our evil fortune, personified in a Dutch touter, had conducted to the same hotel. He had been a unit of our sum total of passengers from Rotterdam, but had escaped any particular observation by his insignificance. Boxcoated, bandana'd, and shawled, a compound of the coachman, the coxcomb, and the clerk, there was no difficulty in classifying the animal at a glance,—still, in spite of a slang air, a knowing look, and the use of certain significant phrases, that are most current in London, there was

« PreviousContinue »