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Messrs. VANDERPUT & SNOEK.. PREFACE. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2) 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 6.
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In planning the present story, I was strongly tempted to use the ancient method of exemplification, and to present my readers with the Adventures of a Bill of Exchange, so difficult is it to exhibit by example the process of exchange in any other form than the history of the instrument. If, however, the transactions of Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek should be found to furnish my readers with a pretty clear notion of the nature and operation of the peculiar kind of currency of which this Number treats, I shall readily submit to the decision that the present volume has little merit as a specimen of exemplification. Though the working of principles might be shown in this case, as in any other, it could not, I think, be done naturally in a very small space. If I had had liberty to fill three octavo volumes with the present subject, an interesting tale might have been made up of the effects on private fortunes of the variations in the course of the Exchange, and of the liabilities which attend the use of a partial and peculiar representative of value. As it is, I have judged it best to occupy a large portion of my confined space, in exhibiting a state of society to which such a species of currency is remarkably appropriate, in order that light might be thrown on the nature and operation of bills of exchange by showing what was being done, and what was wanted by those who most extensively adopted this instrument into their transactions.
In case of any reader questioning whether Dutchmen in the seventeenth century could advocate tree trade, I mention that the principle has never been more distinctly recognized than at a remoter date than I have fixed, by countries which, like Holland, had little to export, and depended for their prosperity on freedom of importation. Every restriction imposed by the jealousy of those from whom they derived their imports was an unanswerable argument to them in favour of perfect liberty of exchange. As their herrings and butter were universally acknowledged to be the best herrings and butter in existence, and yet were not enough for the perfect comfort of the Dutch, the Dutch could not resist the conclusion, that the less difficulty there was in furnishing their neighbours with their incomparable herrings and butter, in return for what those neighbours had to offer, the better for both parties. The Dutch of the seventeenth century were therefore naturally enlightened advocates of free trade.—Whether their light has from that time spread among their neighbours equally and perpetually, my next Number will show.
Messrs. VANDERPUT & SNOEK.
During the days when the prosperity of the United Provinces was at its height, that is, during the latter half of the 17th century, it could hardly be perceived that any one district of Amsterdam was busier than another, at any one hour of the day. There was traffic in the markets, traffic on the quays, the pursuit of traffic in the streets, and preparation for traffic in the houses. Even at night, when the casks which had been piled before the doors were all rolled under shelter, and dogs were left to watch the bales of merchandize which could not be stowed away before dark, there was, to the eye of a stranger, little of what he had been accustomed to consider as repose. Lights glanced on the tossing surface of the Amstel, as home-ward-bound vessels made for the harbour, or departing ships took advantage of the tide to get under weigh. The hail of the pilots or the quay-keepers, or of a careful watchman here and there, or the growl and bark of a suspicious dog, came over the water or through the lime avenues with no unpleasing effect upon the wakeful ear, which had been so stunned by the tumult of noon-day as scarcely to distinguish one sound from another amidst the confusion.
One fine noon, however, in the summer of 1696, a certain portion of the busiest district of Amsterdam did appear more thronged than the rest. There was a crowd around the door of a handsome house in the Keiser's Graft, or Emperor's-street. The thickly planted limes were so far in leaf as to afford shade from the hot sun, reflected in gleams from the water in the centre upon the glaring white fronts of the houses; and this shade might tempt some to stop in their course, and lounge: but there, were many who were no loungers flocking to the spot, and making their way into the house, or stationing themselves on the painted bench outside till they should receive a summons from within.
The presence of one person, who stood motionless before the entrance, sufficiently explained the occasion of this meeting. The black gown of this officer, and his low cocked hat, with its long tail of black crape, pointed him out as the Aanspreeker who, having the day before made the circuit of the city to announce a death to all who knew the deceased, was now ready to attend the burial. He stood prepared to answer all questions relative to the illness and departure of the deceased, and the state of health and spirits of the family, and to receive messages for them, to be delivered when they might be supposed better able to bear them than in the early hours of their grief. Seldom were more inquiries addressed to the Aanspreeker than in the present instance, for the deceased, Onno Snoek, had been one of the chief merchants of Amsterdam, and his widow was held in high esteem. The officer had no sooner ended his tale than he had to begin it again;—how the patient's ague had appeared to be nearly overcome; how he had suffered a violent relapse; how the three most skilful French apothecaries had been called in, in addition to the native family physician; how, under their direction, his son Heins had opened the choicest keg of French brandy, the most precious packages of Batavian spices in his warehouse, for the sake of the sick man; how, not withstanding these prime medicaments, the fever had advanced so rapidly as to prevent the patient from being moved even to the window, to see a long expected ship of his firm come to anchor before his own door; how he seemed to have pleasure in catching a glimpse of her sails through the trees as he lay in bed; but how all his endeavours to live till morning that he might hear tidings of the cargo, had failed, and rather hastened his end, insomuch that he breathed his last before dawn.
Among the many interrogators appeared a young man who was evidently in haste to enter the house, but wished first to satisfy himself by one or two questions. He wore the dress of a presbyterian clergyman, and spoke in a strong French accent.
“I am in haste,” he said, “to console my friends, from whom I have been detained too long. I was at Saardam yesterday, and did not hear of the event till this morning. I am in haste to join my friends; but I must first know in what frame the husband,—the father,-—died. Can you tell me what were the last moments which I ought to have attended?”
The officer declared that they were most edifying. The patient's mind was quite collected.
“Thank God!” exclaimed M. Aymond, the divine.
“Quite collected,” continued the officer, “and full of thought for those he left behind, as he showed by the very last thing he said. He had most carefully arranged his affairs, and given all his directions in many forms; but he remembered, just in time, that he had omitted one thing. He called Mr. Heins to his bed-side, and said, ‘my son, there is one debtor of ours from whom you will scarce recover payment, as I never could. Meyerlaut has for many months evaded paying me for the last ebony we sold to him. Let him therefore make my coffin.—Stay!—I have not done yet.—You will, in course of nature, outlive your mother. Let her have a handsome coffin from the same man; and if it should please Heaven to take more of you, as our beloved Willebrod was taken, you will bear the same thing in mind, Heins, I doubt not; for you have always been a dutiful son?’”
“This is the way Heins told you the fact?” asked Aymond. “Well, but were these the last,—the very last words of the dying man?”
Heins had mentioned nothing that was said afterwards; so the divine pursued his way into the house with a sad countenance. Instead of joining the guests in the outer apartment, he used the privilege of his office, and of his intimacy with the family, and passed through to the part of the house where he knew he should find the widow and her young people. Heins met him at the door, saying,
“I knew you would come. I have been persuading my mother to wait, assuring her that you would come. How we have wished for you! How we——”
Aymond, having grasped the hand of Heins, passed him to return the widow's greeting. She first stood to receive the blessing he bestowed in virtue of his office, and then, looking him calmly in the face, asked him if he had heard how God had been pleased to make her house a house of mourning.
“I find dust and ashes where I looked for the face of a friend,” replied the divine. “Can you submit to Heaven's will?”
“We have had grace to do so thus far,” replied the widow. “But whether it will be continued to us when——”
Her eyes filled, and she turned away, as if to complete her preparations for going forth.
“Strength has thus far been given according to thy day,” said Aymond. “I trust that it will be “thus bestowed for ever,” And he gave his next attention to one whom he was never known to neglect; one who loved him as perhaps nobody else loved him,—Heins's young brother, Christian.
Christian had suffered more in the twelve years of his little life than it is to be hoped many endure in the course of an ordinary existence. A complication of diseases had left him in a state of weakness from which there was little or no hope that he would ever recover, and subject to occasional attacks of painful illness which must in time wear him out. He had not grown, nor set a foot to the ground, since he was five years old: he was harassed by a perpetual cough, and in constant dread of the return of a capricious and fearful pain which seldom left him unvisited for three days together, ami sometimes lasted for hours. When in expectation of this pain, the poor boy could think of little else, and found it very difficult to care for any body; but when suffering from nothing worse than his usual helplessness, his great delight was to expect M. Aymond, and to get him seated beside his couch. Aymond thought that he heard few voices more cheerful than that of his little friend, Christian, when it greeted him from the open window, or made itself heard into the passage,—‘Will you come in here, M. Aymond? I am in the Wainscoat parlour to, day, M. Aymond.’
Christian had no words at command this day, He stretched out his arms in silence, and sighed convulsively when released from the embrace of his friend.
“Did I hurt you? Have you any of your pain today?”
“No; not yet. I think it is coming; but never mind that now. Kaatje will stay with me till you come back. You will come back, M. Aymond
When the pastor consented, and the widow approached to bid farewell to her child for an hour, Christian threw his arms once more round Aymond's neck. His brother Luc, a rough strong boy of ten, pulled them down, and rebuked him for being so free with the pastor; and little Roselyn, the spoiled child of the family, was ready with her lecture too, and told how she had been instructed to cross her hands and wait till M. Aymond spoke to her, instead of jumping upon him as she did upon her brother Heins. Christian made no other reply to these rebukes than looking with a smile in the face of the pastor, with whom he had established too good an understanding to suppose that he could offend him by the warmth of an embrace.
“I am sorry you cannot go with us, my poor little Christian,” said Heins, who had a curious method of making his condolences irksome and painful to the object of them. “I am sorry you cannot pay this last duty to our honoured parent. You will not have our Eatis-Fation in looking back upon the discharge of it,”
“Christian is singled out by God for a different duty,” observed the pastor. “He must show cheerful submission to his heavenly parent while you do honour to the remains of an earthly one.”
Christian tried to keep this thought before him while he saw them leaving the room, and heard the coffin carried out, and the long train of mourners, consisting of all the acquaintance of the deceased, filing away from the door.—When the last step had passed the threshold, and it appeared from the unusual quiet that the crowd had followed the mourners, Christian turned from the light, and buried his face in one of the pillows of his couch, so that Katrina, the young woman who, among other offices, attended upon him and his little sister, entered unperceived by him. She attracted his attention by the question which he heard oftener than any other,—‘the pain?’
“No,” answered the boy, languidly turning his head; “I was only thinking of the last time———” Either this recollection, or the sight of Katrina's change of dress overcame him, and stopped what he was going to say. The short black petticoat, measuring ten yards in width, exhibited its newness by its bulk, its plaits not having subsided into the moderation of a worn garment. The blue stockings, the neat yellow slippers had disappeared, and the gold fillagree clasps in the front of the close cap were laid aside till the days of mourning should be ended, While Christian observed all this, contemplating her from head to foot, Katrina took up the discourse where he had let it fall.
“You were thinking of the last time my master had you laid on the bed beside him. It will always be a comfort to you, Christian, that he told you where he was departing.”
“He did not tell me that,” said the boy; “and that is just what I was wondering about. He said he was going, and I should like to know if he could have told where.”
“To be sure he could. He was one of the chosen, and we know where they go. So much as you talk with the pastor, you must know that.”
“I know that it is to heaven that they go, but I want to know where heaven is. Some of them say it is paradise; and some, the New Jerusalem; and some, that it is up in the sky among the angels. But do all the chosen know where they are going?”
Certainly, Katrina believed. The dying believer was blessed in his hope. Christian was not yet satisfied.
“I think I shall know when I am dying,” said he. “At least, I often think I am dying when my pain comes in the night; but I do not know more about where I am going then than at other times.”
Katrina hoped his mind was not tossed and troubled on this account.
“O, no; not at all. If God is good to me, and takes care of me here, he will keep me safe any where else, and perhaps let me go about where I like. And O, Kaatje, there will be no more crying, nor pain! I wish I may see the angels as soon as I die. Perhaps father is with the angels now. I saw the angels once, more than once, I think; but once, I am sure.”
In a dream, Katrina supposed.
“No, in the broad day, when I was wide awake. You know I used to go to the chapel before my cough was so bad; as long ago as I can remember, nearly. There are curious windows in that chapel, quite high in the roof; and I often thought the day of judgment was come; and there was a light through those windows shining down into the pulpit; and there the angels looked in. I thought they were come for me, unless it was for the holy pastor.”
“But would you have liked to go?”
“Yes: and when the prayer came after the sermon, instead of listening to the pastor, I used to pray that God would send the angels to take me away.”
Katrina thought that if Christian had lived in another country, he would have made a. fine martyr.
“I don't know,” said the boy, doubtfully. “I have thought a great deal about that, and I am not so sure as 1 used to be. If they only cut off my head, I think I could bear that. But as for the burning,—I wonder, Kaatje, whether burning is at all like my pain. I am sure it cannot be much worse.”
Katrina could not tell, of course; but she wished he would not talk about burning, or about his pain; for it made him perspire, and brought on his cough so as to exhaust him to a very pernicious degree. He must not talk any more now, but let her talk to him. He had not asked yet what company had come to the funeral.
Christian supposed that there was every body whom his father had known in Amsterdam.
Yes, every body: and as there were so many to drink spirits at the morning burial, her mistress chose to invite very few to the afternoon feast. Indeed her mistress seemed disposed to have her own way altogether about the funeral. Every body knew that Mr. Heins would have liked to have it later in the day, and would not have minded the greater expense for the sake of the greater honour.
“I heard them talk about that,” said Christian. “My mother told Heins that it was a bad way for a merchant to begin with being proud, and giving his father a grand funeral; and that the best honour was in the number of mourners who would be sure to follow an honest man, whether his grave was filled at noon or at sunset. My mother is afraid of Heins making a show of his money, and learning to fancy himself richer than he is.”
Katrina observed that all people had their own notions of what it was to be rich. To a poor servant-maid who had not more than 1000 guilders out at interest———
“But your beautiful gold chain, Kaatje! Your silver buckles! I am sure you must have ten pair, at the least.”
“Well, but, all this is less than many a maid has that has been at service a shorter time than I have. To a poor maid-servant, I say, it seems like being rich to have I don't know how many loaded ships between China and the Texel.”
“They belong as much to Mr. Vanderput as to us, you know. Is Mr. Vanderput here today?”
“To be sure. He is to be at the burial-feast; and Miss Gertrude——.”
“Gertrude! Is Gertrude here?” cried Christian, sitting up with a jerk which alarmed his attendant for the consequences. “O, if she will stay the whole day, it will be as good as the pastor having come back.”
“She crossed from Saardam on purpose. She will tell you about the angels, if any body can; for she lives in heaven as much as the pastor himself, they say.”
“She is an angel herself,” quietly observed Gertrude's little adorer. Katrina went on with her list.
“Then there is Fransje Slyk and her father. He looks as if he knew what a funeral should be, and as grave as if he had been own brother to the departed. I cannot say as much for Fransje.”
“I had rather have Fransje's behaviour than her father's, though I do not much like her,” said Christian. “Mr. Slyk always glances round to see how other people are looking, before he settles his face completely.”
“Well; you will see how he looks to-day.
These are all who will stay till evening, I believe, except Mr. Visscher.”
“Mr. Visscher! What is he to stay for? I suppose Heins wants to talk to him about this new cargo that came too late. O, Kaatje, I never can bear to look through the trees at that ship again. I saw the white sails in the moonlight all that night when I lay watching what was going on, and heard Heins's step in and out, and my mother's voice when she thought nobody heard her; and I could not catch a breath of my father's voice, though I listened till the rustle of my head on the pillow startled me. And then my mother came in, looking so that I thought my father was better; but she came to tell me that I should never hear his voice any more. But O, if she knew how often I have heard it since! how glad I should be to leave off hearing it when I am alone——.”
Poor Christian wept so as not to be comforted till his beloved friend Gertrude came to hear what lie had to say about those whom he believed to be her kindred angels.
Heins was missed from the company soon after the less familiar guests had departed, and left the intimate friends of the family to complete the offices of condolence. Heins was as soon weary of constraint as most people, which made it the more surprising that he imposed on himself so much more of it than was necessary. All knew pretty well what Heins was, though he was perpetually striving to seem something else; and his painful efforts were just so much labour in vain. Every body knew this morning, through all the attempts to feel grief by which he tried to cheat himself and others, that his father's death was quite as much a relief as a sorrow to him; and that, while he wore a face of abstraction, he was longing for some opportunity of getting out upon the quay to learn tidings of the ships and cargoes of which he was now in fact master. The fact was that Heins was as much bent on being rich as his father had been, but he wanted to make greater haste to be so, and to enjoy free scope for a trial of his more liberal commercial notions. For this free scope, he must yet wait; for his partner, Mr. Vanderput, was as steady a man of business, though a less prejudiced one, than the senior Snoek had been; and then there was Mrs. Snoek. She was not permitted, by the customs of the country, to meddle in affairs relating to commerce; but she knew her maternal duty too well not to keep an eye on the disposal of the capital which included the fortunes of her younger children. It was to be apprehended that she would be ready with objections whenever a particularly grand enterprize should demand the union of all the resources of the firm. Some liberty had, however, been gained through the obstinacy of the fever which would not yield to French brandy and Oriental spices; and there were many eyes upon Heins already, to watch how he would set out en his commercial career.
Some of these eyes followed him from his mother's door to the quay, and back again, when he had concluded his inquiries among the captains. It was remarked that there was, during the latter transit, a gloom in his countenance which was no mockery.
On his re-appearance in his mother's parlour, the cause was soon told, first to his partner, next to his mother, and then (as there were none but intimate friends) to all present. The result of the communication was an outcry against the English, as very troublesome neighbours, while the widow's first thought was of thankfulness that her husband had died without hearing news which would have caused him great trouble of mind.: Heins appealed to all who understood the state of Dutch commerce, whether Great Britain had not done mischief enough long ago, by prohibiting the importation of bulky goods by any ships but those which belonged to the exporting or importing country.
“That prohibition was evidently aimed at us Dutch,” observed Vanderput. “We were carriers to half the world, till Great Britain chose that we should no longer carry for her. She might punish herself in that manner, and welcome, if she could do so without punishing us; but it is a serious grievance,—difficult as it now is to find an investment for our capital,—to be obliged to lay by any of our shipping as useless.”
“We did all we could,” said Heins piteously. “Since we could not carry the produce of the East and West into the ports of Great Britain for sale, we brought it here, that the British captains might not have far to go for it. But it seems that Great Britain is jealous of this; for there is a new prohibition (if the report be true) against importing any bulky produce purchased anywhere but in the country where it is produced.”
“I hope this is too bad to be true,” observed Visscher.
“Nothing is too bad to be attempted by a jealous country against one which has been particularly successful in commerce,” observed Snoek. “The tonnage of this country is more than half that of all Europe; and Great Britain thinks it time to lower our superiority. Whether she will gain by doing so, time will show.”
“I think Great Britain is very ill-natured and very mean,” observed Christian, who had generally something to say on every subject that was discussed in his presence. “I think I shall call her Little Britain, from this time. But, Heins, what will you do with all the things you have bought, as you told me, in Asia and America, and in France and Italy? You must send back your cinnamon to Ceylon, and——O, but I forgot that other people may buy them, though the English will not. But I hope you have not bought too much for the present number of your customers. There is another large ship coming from one of the American islands, I heard—”.
He was checked by the remembrance of who it was that told him this. Heins related, with a deep sigh, which might be given to the memory of either the ship or its owner, that the vessel had been wrecked, and was now at the bottom of the sea. This was the other piece of bad news he had to tell. At least two-thirds of his hearers asked after the crew, while the rest inquired for the cargo. The cargo was lost, except a small portion, which had been preserved with difficulty. The crew had been picked up, only one sailor-boy being missing. It was from two of them who had found their way home that Heins had received the tidings of his misfortune.
“One sailor-boy!” repeated Christian. “Do you know how he was lost? Was he blown from the yards, do you think? Or was he washed overboard? or did he go down with the ship?”
Heins did not know any particulars of the sailor-boy. But where? But how? But when did this happen?
It happened where many shipwrecks had happened before, and many would again, and in the same manner. The vessel had struck on the Eddystone rock on a stormy night. This was another nuisance for which the Dutch were indebted to the English. This fatal rock—.
“Did the English make the Eddystone rock?” little Roselyn inquired, in a low voice, of the pastor. “I thought it was God that broke up the fountains of the deeps, and fixed the everlasting hills.” Her wiser brother Christian enlightened her.
“God made this rock; but perhaps he made it so that it might be of use to us, instead of doing us harm, if the English would make the best use of it. Is not that what Heins means, M. Aymond?”
M. Aymond believed that what Mr. Vanderput had just said was true; that the English were about to build a light-house on this dangerous rock, which might thus be made to guide ships into a British harbour, instead of causing them to perish. He trusted that it would appear that Heins was mistaken in saying that many more ships would be lost on that rock; and he hoped that men would learn in time to make all God's works instruments of blessing to their race. Christian carried on the speculation.
“And then, perhaps, man's works may not perish by accident before they are worn out, as this ship did. But yet this was what happened with one of God's works too,—that sailor-boy. He perished before he was worn out. But why do people ever wear out, M. Aymond? Whether a person is drowned at fifteen or dies worn out at eighty, does not much signify, if God could make them live a thousand years. Only think of a person living a thousand years, M. Aymond! He would see cities grow as we see ant-hills rise, while the sea roared against the dykes as it did at the beginning. He would see the stars move so often that he would know them all in their places. He would know almost everything. O! why do not men live a thousand years? and why does God let a young sailor-boy be lost?”
Gertrude whispered, “All the days of Methuselah were nine hundred, sixty and nine years; and he died.”
“Yes,” added the pastor, gravely meeting the kindling eyes of Christian; “death comes sooner or later; and whether it came soon or late would be all in all if we were to live no more. But as man's life is never to end——”
“Ah! I see. If his life is never to end, it does not signify so much when he passes out of one kind of life into another. I was going to ask why there should be any death at all. If I made a world, I would——”
Christian had talked too eagerly, and now was prevented by his cough from speaking any more at present. When he recovered his voice, the pastor turned his attention from the lost sailor-boy to the lost ship, asking whether it had not answered its purpose in making several voyages; whether the skill and toil of the artificers had not been repaid. Christian thought not; and he went on to exhibit as much as he could of the worked up knowledge and labour which had in this instance been engulphed by the waves. He seemed SO much irritated, however, by his imperfection in the knowledge of ship-building, that Gertrude proposed that he should pay her a visit at Saardam, where he might look down from a window upon the dock-yard, and witness nearly the whole process without being moved from his couch. She almost repented the proposal when she saw the poor boy's rapture; but, happily, no one perceived any objection to the plan. The little voyage of seven miles could be made perfectly easy to invalids; and it was quite certain that Christian would be happy with Gertrude, if anywhere. Heins and the pastor contended for the charge of Christian, and old Mr. Slyk, the most punctilious of mourners, allowed that such an indulgence might,—especially with a view to increased knowledge,—be extended to a sufferer like Christian, within the days of strict mourning, provided the mother and the younger children staid at home. Luc clenched his fist on hearing this, and Roselyn pouted; but their jealousy of their brother soon vanished when his dreaded pain came on, and they were put out of the room by their mother, as usual, that they might not become hardened to the expressions of agony which they could not relieve.
They were heartily glad when the day was nearly over;—when there was an end of going from the melancholy burial feast in one room, into the apartment where Gertrude was describing to the now passive Christian spectacles which they were not to see, and pleasures which were held to be incompatible with the mourning of which they already required to be reminded. They were not, however, allowed to retire in this state of forgetfulness of the occasion. The pastor's closing prayer, the solemn looks of the servants, and their mother's silent tears when she laid her hand upon their heads, left them no disposition for complaint as they stole away to their beds.
“One, two, three,—five of you going with me to Saardam!” cried Christian, as he saw Heins and the pastor follow the children and Katrina into the boat: the children who, in Mr. Slyk's absence, had prevailed on their mother's good nature to let them go with their brothers. “And Mr. Visscher is coming before the afternoon. What a party to belong to me!”
It was very natural that Christian should overrate his own importance, passing his life, as he did, in a little circle where every one was eager to give him pleasure: but never was he more mistaken than in supposing that he was any thing more than a convenient pretence to some of his friends for visiting Saardam. There was an attraction there which would have taken two of them thither every day, if as good an excuse had offered as that of which they now took advantage. Heins'felt that at Saardam resided one who would make as perfect a wife for a rich Amsterdam merchant as could be imagined, if she had but a little more gaiety. She was pretty; she was amiable; she was rich; and she and his mother would suit admirably; and the children were fond of her. The pastor's feelings about Gertrude are less easily described; but they tended to the same object as those of Heins.
These two were aware of each other's intentions; but there was as little enmity in their rivalship as there was present satisfaction in their pursuit. Aymond was perfectly convinced that Gertrude could never love Heins; but he was nearly as certain that she did not yet love himself: and Heins found that he made no progress in the lady's good graces, while he trusted that his friendly hints to her brother would prevent her throwing herself away upon a poor refugee minister of religion, whose tender conscience had already led him into adversity, and who could therefore never be trusted to keep out of it in future.
“What a party of you to take care of me!” repeated Christian, in great glee, when he began to enjoy the easy motion of the boat, and to perceive that his deadly enemy, the fog, was clearing away before the bright June sunshine, “Look, pastor, look at Amsterdam! Is there a city in the world like Amsterdam, I wonder? How the spires, and the highest houses stand up out of the mist, like a little city floating in the air, or sailing in a cloud. O, Heins!—Kaatje, do ask Heins which bells those are. I am sure I never heard such sweet bells before.”
They were the bells of St. Nicholas Church, which Christian heard almost every day of his life. Christian would hardly believe they were the same.
“They clatter and jangle so as to make my head ache very often; but these might send one to sleep, if it were not much pleasanter to lie awake and listen to them.—Everything is light coloured hereto what it is at home,—as if silver had been shed over it. The sky is not bright blue, as it is between the limes, but grey; and the water gleams as if the moon was hanging just over it; and it is not muddy under the boat as it is below our bridge; and I dare say there is never any bad smell, and nobody need be afraid of ague. I wish we could stop, that I might fish. There must be plenty of fine fish in such water as this.”
When reminded of Saardam dock-yards, however, he had no further wish for delay. From this moment to the time of landing, Katrina's good-nature was taxed to turn him incessantly, that he might see, now the forest of masts at Amsterdam, and the dark hulls resting upon the grey water, and then the gaily-painted wooden houses of Saardam, with their point ed gables turned some one way and some another, each with its weather-cock; and all looking like baby-houses amidst the vast piles of timber from which the dock-yards were supplied.
Christian's delight was in no wise diminished when he was established on his couch at the promised window, whence he could overlook one of the busiest parts of the dock-yard. He had no attention to spare for the tidings of wonder which Roselyn brought, from one quarter of an hour to another, when she had fairly gained her point of being allowed to find her way about as she pleased. Now she drew near to whisper that she was sure there was to be a very good dinner, as twice the quantity of turf was burning in the kitchen that was ever used at home, and such a number of bright pots upon the fire that it was inconceivable what could be in them She had tried to find out, but they were all close covered, and the servants were so busy and so quiet that she was afraid to ask. Better wait and see, Christian pronounced; so off ran Roselyn in another direction, whence she soon returned with more wonders. The garden,—Christian must see the garden. It was little larger than the room he was sitting in; but it had walks, and grottos, and a rivulet; and the rivulet had a paved bed of pebbles, and the walks were made of cockle-shells, and the borders of red and blue and green glass; and the wall which enclosed the whole, was chequered with blue and white bricks. Moreover, there was a better garden some way off, with tulips as fine as could be seen any where within five leagues of Amsterdam. Fond of tulips and good dinners as Christian was, all this interested him less than what was passing before his eyes. He wanted to be left in peace to make his observations, till his beloved Gertrude could come and answer his questions.
When she appeared, Heins was at her heels. He could never understand that it was disagreeable to her to be followed, which ever way she turned; and attributed her gravity of countenance to the religious bent she had taken, which was a most desirable quality in a wife. Christian wished, with all his heart, that Heins would keep away, that Gertrude and he might be as happy together as they always were when there was no one by to whom she curtsied and spoke with formality.
“Does not this hammering tire you?” she asked.
“You had better let me carry you into the inner room,” said Heins. “It is as quiet there as on the water.”
“O, no, no,” cried Christian. “I have not seen half that I want; and I am very glad that they are at work so nearly under the windovv, because I can watch what they are doing. They were hauling up that great beam when I came, and now look how nicely they have fitted it into its place. But I want to know who some of these people are. You see that short man, smoking, with the rule in his hand, and a great roll of papers peeping out of his breeches pocket.”
“Yes; that is a master-builder. You will see that he is never long out of sight of his men.”
“You might have known him for the master-builder, and these shipwrights for his men,” observed Heins.
“I guessed who he was: but there is another who looks something like a master too, though he is dressed like a sailor. He is a very idle man, I think. He has stood there all this time, with his arms folded, making the men laugh, and the master too, sometimes. Once he took up a mallet that another man had laid down; and a strong blow he gave with it: but he soon left off, and the master did not seem to scold him at all.”
“Nobody scolds Master Peter. Nobody asks him to do more work than he likes; but he does a great deal; and hard work too. He likes joking quite as well as working; and these men are fond of having him among them, for he lightens their labour, and is very good-natured.”
This hint was enough for Luc, who came into the apartment just in time to hear it. He found his way to another window which also looked into the yard, and began to call, at first cautiously, and then more loudly, “Master Peter! Master Peter!”
Master Peter did not hear till the party at the window heard also; and when he turned, Gertrude was leaning out to ascertain which of her household was making overtures of acquaintance. Luc's head had already disappeared; so that Master Peter could not but suppose that it was Gertrude who had greeted him. He laid his hand on his breast, and, with a gesture of courtesy, advanced directly beneath the window. The lady explained that some young visitors had made free with his good-nature; and he immediately asked if they would like to come down and view the dock-yard. At the close of his speech, he turned to the master, as if suddenly recollecting that he ought to ask permission to admit visitors. The master exerted himself to intermit his puffs of smoke, while he desired Master Peter to do as he chose.
“O, let me go! let me go!” cried Christian, in answer to Heins's doubts whether it would not be causing too much trouble to gratify the boy's wish.
Gertrude soon settled the affair by taking hold of one side of Christian's little chair, and making Katrina take the other. She would not relinquish her grasp in favour of Heins, who followed her out, officiously pressing his help; she reserved that favour for Master Peter, who met the party at the gate of the yard, and immediately seeing the state of the case, took the boy in his arms, and promised to show him whatever he wished to see. Those who knew Christian thought this a large promise; and Heins was very instructive as to the degree in which it should be accepted.
The boy himself, as he looked around him, scarcely knew where and how to begin his inquiries. Vessels in every stage of progress, from the bare-ribbed skeleton to the full-rigged merchant ship, ready for launching, met his eye in every direction. The carpenters' yards resounded with the blows of the mallet; the rope-walks looked tempting; and he also wanted to be carried among the stacks of timber which seemed to him too huge to have been piled up by human strength.
“Where can all this wood have come from?” was his natural exclamation.
“Some of it came from my country,” replied Master Peter. “You see that pile of tall pine-trees laid one upon another as high as the Stadt-house. Those are masts for the ships we are building; and they come out of the woods of my country. They came as part of a cargo, and some of them will go back as part of a ship that carries a cargo.”
“And where will it go next?”
“It will come back again with hemp to make such ropes as those, and pitch and tar to smear the timbers with, and canvass for the sails, and many things besides that your people want for use, and your merchants for sale,—tallow, and oils, and hides, and furs.”
“But do not you want the hemp, and pitch, and canvass for your own ships? Or have you enough for both yourselves and us?”
Master Peter was sorry to say that very few ships had yet been built in his country. He hoped there would soon be more. But his countrymen must still manage to have enough of the produce of their woods and wilds for themselves and the Dutch, as they could not do without many things which the Dutch merchants were accustomed to bring them in exchange; silks and jewels, for the ladies; wine, spice, and fruit, for their tables: gold and silver to make money of; and pewter vessels and steel utensils for their kitchens.”
“But you can fetch these things for yourselves when you have ships,” argued Christian.
“We can fetch them, but we must have something ready to give in payment for them.”
Heins disputed whether any other country could compete with the United Provinces in fetching commodities from all parts of the globe.
He treated with solemn ridicule Master Peter's hopes of what might be achieved by fleets which were not yet in existence, and pointed out, with a very insulting air of superiority, the resources of his own country,—To say nothing of the half-finished navy which was before their eyes, there was a forest of masts just within sight, which he defied any port in the world to rival. There were ships of his own and his partner's bringing iron, copper, and the materials of war from Sweden and Norway; grain and flax-seed from the Baltic; books, wines, and timber from Germany; coal from England; spice, fruits, and cottons from the regions of the east; and gold and silver from the west.
All very true, Master Peter allowed; but all this need not prevent his country from fetching and carrying as much as she could, whether it might prove more convenient to furnish herself with all that she wanted from the ports of Holland, or to go round the world to purchase each commodity in its native region. In answer to Heins's boast of the commerce of the United Provinces, Peter begged to remind him that it was now past its greatest glory. It had perceptibly declined for more than twenty years.—Heins insisted that the shipping of the United Provinces nearly equalled that of the whole of the rest of Europe.—True again; but it was pretty certain that Dutch prosperity would not advance much beyond the point it had now reached, while that of other countries might rapidly overtake it. The Dutch had so much wealth that they now found difficulty in making profitable use of it in their own country; and by lending it to foreigners, they helped those foreigners to become rivals to themselves. Such was the result of Master Peter's observation in the course of his travels,—travels which he hoped to extend to England, where he might chance to meet Dutch capital in another form. He understood that the Dutch had not only deposited forty millions of their wealth in the English funds, but had lent large sums to individuals; thus investing money in a rival country for the sake of the higher interest which could be obtained there.
Christian thought this very unpatriotic. If it was true, also, as he had been told by his mother, that Heins and Mr. Vanderput sold no goods abroad, but brought a great many to sell at home, he thought the firm very wrong indeed. If they chose to spend Dutch money in the countries of their rivals and their enemies, they ought at least to take care that their rivals spent as much money among them.
Heins replied that this was the concern of the exporting merchants who had the use of the ships to carry out Dutch produce, which were to return with foreign commodities.
“You should look well to them,” persisted Christian; “for I do not believe they bring in half so much money as you send out. I never see such a thing as a Spanish dollar, or an English guinea, unless a traveller has come to Amsterdam to spend it; and how we have so many ducats, and guilders, and stivers left, after the number you send away, is more than I can tell.”
Heins replied mysteriously that his partner and he seldom sent away any money; which made Christian very angry, certain as he was of what his mother had told him of Heins being an importing merchant.
“How can you tease the boy?” inquired Master Peter. And he asked Christian if he really supposed that everything that was bought, all the world over, was bought with gold and silver? If he would only consider the quantity of coin that would have been collected in the States by this time if all their produce had been thus paid for, he would see how troublesome such a method of commerce would be.
But some of this money would go away again, Christian observed, as long as the States bought as well as sold. However, lie perceived that while there was mutual exchange, it must save much trouble to exchange the goods against one another, as far as they would go, and pay only the balance in money. But this balance, when large, must be a very sad thing for the country that had to pay it.
“Do you think the country would become liable to pay it,” asked Master Peter, “if it had no advantage in return? Do you think your brother would run up heavy bills with the French wine-growers, if he did not hope to make profit of their wines? When my country has as many ships as I wish her to have, I shall encourage my merchants to—I mean, I hope my countrymen will—make very large purchases from foreign countries.”
“But if Heins sends away a ship load of guilders,” remonstrated Christian, “the States will be so much the poorer, however much wine may come in return; because the wine will be drunk in Amsterdam, and paid for with more guilders. And then Heins will send out these guilders again, I suppose, and not care how little money there is left in the country, so long as his own pocket is filled.”
Heins smiled condescendingly, and promised Christian that when he grew older he should know better what he was talking about. How should the boy know better, unless his questions were answered? asked Gertrude, who came with Katrina to relieve Master Peter of his charge. But the good-natured sailor took his seat on a piece of timber, saying that the little man should have his questions properly attended to;—questions the very same as had been asked by many a taller, if not a wiser man. Christian did not like to be called “little man,” but forgave the expression in consideration of his questions being thought manly. Peter told him that many kings having feared for their kingdoms what Christian feared for the States,—that they would be emptied of money,—had passed laws to prohibit money being sent out of the country. They had not remembered, any more than Christian, that other countries must buy also; so that Heins's neighbours would be taking money from abroad, while Heins was sending it out,—supposing that it actually went in the shape of guilders.
“But how do we know that they will buy?” asked Christian. “If they do not choose to buy—what then?”
“They always do choose it, and must choose it, since they cannot get what they want in any-other way. The people in the mine-countries,—in South America,—have more gold and silver than they know what to do with; and no linen, no cloth, no knives and pots and kettles, no one of many articles that they consider necessary to their comfort. Now, would not it be very foolish in their governors to prevent their sending out their spare gold in exchange for what they must otherwise do without?”
Yes: but Christian thought the case of mining countries peculiar. No where else, he supposed, was precious metal superabundant. If it were indeed,—But perhaps the truest sign of there being too much of it was the wish of the people to send it away. What would Master Peter do if he was a ruler?
Master Peter's nation being in great want of gold and silver, he should wish his people to send out as much tallow and timber as they could sell; but if he ruled in Holland, where there was more precious metal than was wanted, he would encourage the Dutch to send out velvets and brandy, for the sake of bringing back, not money, but wealth in some more useful form. In either case, it would be for the sake of what was brought back that he should be anxious to have the produce of the country exported.
Of course, Christian observed, there could be little good in sending property away unless for the sake of what it brought back. He, for his part; should have no particular wish to dispose of his show-box at the next fair, if lie was to have only an apple in exchange; but he should be glad to sell it for the model of a ship which he much desired to have. In the latter case, he should be much pleased; but his pleasure would be, not in parting with his show-box, but in gaining the model.
“Well, my dear boy,” said Heins, “that will do. We are not children who want to have every thing explained by a wise little man like you.”
“Those kings were not children that Master Peter was speaking of,” observed Christian; “and yet they seemed to want to have it explained that they might as well part with their gold as with anything else, since the thing that signified most was whether they got anything better in exchange.”
“You have quite changed your opinion,” said Gertrude. “An hour ago, you thought it a very sad thing to part with gold.”
“Yes; because I thought gold was somehow more valuable than anything else; that it had a value of its own. But, if there is any one country where gold is of little use, it seems as if it was much like other goods;—fit to be changed away when one has too much of it, and got back again when one wants it.”
“Then it is time,” said Gertrude, “that merchants, and those who rule them, should leave off being very glad when money is imported rather than goods, and very sorry when it is exported.”
“They may feel sure,” Heins observed, “that they will soon have an opportunity of getting more money, if they want it. No one thing is bought and sold so often as money; and they may be as confident that some will soon fall in their way as that there would always be blue cloth in the market, if every trader in the world bought and sold blue cloth.”
Christian saw yet another consequence from what Master Peter had told him. If gold Was very cheap in Peru and very dear in Russia, and if furs and hemp were very cheap in Russia and very dear in Peru, it would do as much good to the one country as to the other to exchange them, while it could do nobody any harm. At this grand discovery the boy was so delighted that he ran the risk of bringing on his pain by the start which he made to put his face opposite to Master Peter's. It was very mortifying to hear once more Heins's compassionate laugh, while he asked whether everybody did not know this before. Did not his mother send abroad the butter which it cost very little to make at the farm, and cause her household to eat salt butter of foreign preparation?
“I never could make that out; and Kaatje never could tell me,” exclaimed Christian, “We none of us like the salt butter so well; and it costs more to buy than our own fresh butter to make; and yet we must all eat salt butter.”
“Because my mother can sell every kop of her butter abroad for more than she pays for the best salt butter that is brought in. You know there is no butter to equal the Dutch.”
“Nor anything else, by your own account, Mr. Heins,” replied Master Peter, laughing. “There is nothing to be found abroad equal to what you have at home. A pretty honest boast this for a large importer! What say you to your corn?”
“That our difficulty in producing it has proved the loftiness of Dutch genius, and the abundance of Dutch resources. Nature has placed us in a barren district, where we have not the less multiplied and prospered, through our own talents and virtues, by which we have been supplied from abroad with that which Providence had forbidden to us.”
“If Providence forbade us to have corn,” said Christian aside to Gertrude, “how is it that we have corn? It seems to me that it is very like Providence's having made the Eddystone Rock a dangerous place. Men have been reminded to make it a useful beacon; and our people at home have been obliged to begin a trade in corn; which trade has made them rich; so that they are better off, perhaps, than if they had the most fertile fields in the world.”
Gertrude smiled, and said she believed this was the method by which Providence taught men to help one another, and showed them how. After this, Christian heard no more of the argument going on about the extent to which the Dutch traders had successfully carried their principles of exporting goods that were cheap, and importing those which were dear. He was pondering the uses of adversity,—of the few kinds of adversity which had particularly struck him.—What was there in the storms of the Zee,—what was there in the clay soil of Luc's garden, where no hyacinths would grow,—what was there in the French king's ravaging wars,—what was there in his own horrible pain, to show men how to help one another? In his own case, one side of the question was easily answered. At this moment, while his weary head was resting on Master Peter's breast, wondering at the depth of voice which vibrated from within, he felt that his infirmities allured the wise and the strong to help and comfort him; but how wars stimulated men to aid as well as destroy one another—much more, how he could be of service to any body, were subjects for much deeper meditation. Just when he had an impression that he had arrived near the solution, he unconsciously lost the thread of his argument; and when his companions, some time afterwards, would have asked his opinion of what was last said, they found that he was happily asleep on the bosom of his new friend.
The hunt in which Master Peter had taken up his abode being just at hand, be insisted on laying the boy on his own bed, while the took his frugal workman's meal. Gertrude, who said she could see the dock-yards any day of her life, remained with Christian, while her guests continued their survey of the curiosities of the place.
When they returned to the house to dinner, they found that the other expected guest, Aalbert Visscher, had arrived, and was making himself very agreeable to Christian;—probably more so than to Gertrude; since his discourse was of pleasures whose number and variety could scarcely be approved by such steady and self denying persons as the Vanderputs. Gay were the tales of the snipe-shooting and skaiting of last winter; of the sailing and fishing matches of the spring; and of the wagers of fancy pipes and rare tobacco which yet remained to be decided by the arrival or non-arrival of expected ships by a certain clay. Gertrude rose and offered to show Christian the curious time-piece he had inquired for;—the time-piece whose hours were struck on porcelain cups by a silver hammer. It was almost the first time Gertrude was ever known to break voluntarily the modest silence of a Dutchwoman in company; much more to interrupt the conversation of another; and Christian looked up surprised.
“My poor boy,” exclaimed Aalbert, “I beg your pardon. I only thought of amusing you, and I am afraid I have hurt you.”
“O, because I cannot shoot and skait and swim? It does not hurt me, indeed, or I am sure I should be very unhappy; for I hear of something every day that I shall never be able to do.”
“Christian likes to hear of other” people's pleasures, whether he can join in them or not,” observed Gertrude. “But he can lay wagers, and may be all the more easily tempted to do so from having fewer amusements than you, Mr. Visscher.”
“And you do not approve of laying wagers, my sober lady,” replied Aalbert.
“It is God who appoints the winds, and makes a path in the deep waters for the blessings he brings us,” replied Gertrude; “and I think it scarcely becomes us to sport with the uncertainty with which He is pleased to try our faith, and make matter for gambling of His secret counsels.”
The pastor enforced the impiety. Vanderput thought all gambling vicious; and Heins proved to Christian that in him it would be peculiarly atrocious, since, as he could never hope to earn any money, his speculations must be at the risk of others. Christian ingenuously admitted all this, but was not the less in a hurry to ask for more tales of adventure from the gay bill-broker, as soon as the pastor's long grace was over. Nothing more was said of wagers; nor was it necessary, so ample were Aalbert's other resources of amusement,—or, as the pastor expressed it, of dissipation. Aymond's countenance wore a deeper gravity every moment as he saw the eagerness with which the children listened, the indolent satisfaction with which Vanderput let his guests be thus entertained, and the interest with which even Gertrude appeared to be beguiled. Heins also perceived this interest; and thought it time to be exerting himself to rival it. He took advantage of every long puff with which his adversary regaled himself, to draw attention upon his own gaieties. For every wild-duck, he had a story of a tulip; for every marvellous bagging of snipe, he had an unheard-of draught of herrings. If Aalbert had made a humorous bargain at the last Rotterdam fair, he had made an excessively acute one. If the bill-broker had met with a ducking in Haerlem lake, the importer had been within an ace of running aground in the Zuyder Zee. There was a remarkable parallel between their fortunes if Gertrude would but perceive it. What she was most ready to perceive, however, was that the conversation grew very tiresome after Heins had taken it up; and she was not sorry when the boatmen sent in word that it was time the party were afloat, if they meant to reach Amsterdam before the gates were closed.
The prudent guests were in haste to be gone. It was true that, by paying a stiver each, they might gain admittance any time within an hour from the first closing of the gates; but where was the use of paying a stiver, if it could be as well avoided?
As it was bad for Christian's cough to be on the water in the evening, he was left behind to enjoy one more survey of the dock-yard,—one more chance of intercourse with his dear Master Peter, He sacrificed something, he knew, in not seeing the congregation of dark masts springing from the silver mist, and not feeling the awe of penetrating” the fog where unknown obstacles might be concealed. He remembered something of the night-call of the boatmen, alternating with the splash of their oars, as they approached the crowded harbour; and he would have liked to hear it again. But Gertrude was at hand to hearken to and join in his vesper prayer, and to sing him to sleep with any hymn he chose.
“My pain has not come to-day, nor yesterday, nor the day before,” said he, as he lay down. “I do not think it will come yet. O, Gertrude, suppose it should never come any more 1”
“And if not,” said Gertrude, with a pitying smile, “what then?”
“Why, then I think I should like to live a thousand years, like the man we were, fancying the other day. But, perhaps, I might want next to be able to walk, and then to have no more coughing (for I am very tired of coughing sometimes). So I dare say it is best——”
“It is always best to make ourselves as happy as it pleases God to give us power to be, my dear boy; and I think you do this very well for a little lad.”
As she stooped to kiss his forehead, Christian whispered that she very often helped to make him happy. “But,” said he, “you think my pain will certainly come again?”
Gertrude could not tell. She recommended thinking as little about it as possible. If he thought about God, and what the gospel promises, he would be happy at the time, and best prepared, if his pain should seize him, “Whenever I think of Jesus Christ, Ger trade, it makes me long to have lived when he lived. If he had cured me, as he cured so many, I would never have denied him, or gone away without thanking him. Do you really believe anybody ever did that?”
Gertrude was afraid it was too true; but suggested some palliations; and hinted that there were ways of testifying faithlessness or discipleship to Jesus even now, when he was present only in his gospel.
His spirit pillowed upon this truth, Christian fell asleep, and dreamed that he met Jesus on a shore, which would have been that of the Zuyder Zee, only that there were mountains; and that Jesus bade him walk, and that he not only walked, but flew up to the very top of the highest mountain, where he met Gertrude, and told her what had happened; and that she sang his favourite hymn; and that, though they seemed alone, many voices came to sing it with her from every side.
All circumstances seemed to favour Heins's wish of trying what he could do to surpass his father in the matter of commercial success. His partner—the most irksome check upon his enterprises,—was this year chosen one of the four reigning burgomasters; and it was impossible that Vanderput should gives much attention as usual to his private business, while engaged by his public office. From the presence of his mother, Heins was also to be soon released; a presence which imposed some degree of restraint on his projects, though Mrs. Snoek thought no more than the other women of Amsterdam of interfering in those commercial affairs of which they were supposed incompetent to judge.
This prudent lady found her worldly circumstances so much altered by the death of her husband, that she thought a considerable difference in her way of life desirable; though it was impossible to affirm such a change to be necessary. It was not enough to satisfy her that she and her younger children had an abundant capital, (partly invested in country estates, and partly deposited in the Bank of Amsterdam,) besides that which remained in the hands of the, firm. There was no longer a revenue from the exertions of the head of the family; and it appeared to her that there ought, therefore, to be a corresponding reduction in the family expenditure, and a more careful superintendence than ever of the means of revenue which remained. She decided on going, with her younger children, to reside on an estate which she possessed in a cheap part of the country, to the north, where she might herself manage the dairies, which had proved very productive while in the hands of her boors, and might be made still more profitable under her own management. Heins smiled to himself at this prudence in a rich widow, who could have afforded to gratify any ambition in which she might have been disposed to indulge; but he was too well pleased to be left to his own devices to offer any objection to the removal of the rest of the family to the neighbourhood of Winkel. He described the attractions of the green meadows to Roselyn, and of the shores of the Zee to Luc; and was very obliging in expediting matters for the letting of the house, and the despatch of the necessary furniture by the treckschuit. The house-tax being 2½ per cent. of the value of the house, whether it was tenanted or empty, the leaving it empty was not to be thought of, if such an extremity could by any means be avoided; but the tax on servants was also high; and this expense must go on till the family departed for Winkel, unless, as Heins dreaded, his mother should dismiss a part of her establishment while the eyes of her Amsterdam acquaintance were yet upon her. The object of the mother being to dismiss all her town servants but Kaatje, and her son's, to prevent their acquaintance witnessing this measure of economy, both were eager to let the house, and thereby expedite the final arrangements. It was perfectly satisfactory to all parties that Vanderput felt himself called upon, on the reception of his new dignity, to exhibit a little more outward state than formerly; to quit his humble abode, bring his sister to keep his house at Amsterdam, and make the cottage at Saardam his country abode. He agreed with his partner that the Keiser's Graft was a very proper situation for the residence of a reigning burgomaster; and presently concluded a bargain for Mrs. Snoek's house, to the satisfaction of both parties. Nothing then remained to impede the execution of the family plans; and Hems, after seating his mother in the boat, carefully placing Christian on his cushions by her side, and bidding farewell, with a solemn countenance, to the joyous Luc and Koselyn, betook himself homewards with a full head, a light heart, and a most satisfactory sense of his own importance as the sole representative in Amsterdam of the opulent family of Snoek.
Heins possessed in perfection the happy art of deriving importance to himself from whatever conferred it on his connexions. No one looked more ostentatiously grave than he on the day when his partner was proceeding in state to take the oaths, and examine the treasure at the Bank, in virtue of his high office. Heins pushed his way through the crowd which surrounded the Stadt-house, and exhibited himself by turns at all the seven porticoes which answered to the seven provinces, glancing around him at each, in hopes of meeting the eye of some provincial connexion whom he might either pass over with a slight notice, or from whom he might admit congratulations on the honour with which his firm was now invested for ever. The greetings were as respectful as he could desire. They could not be exceeded, unless by such as he might receive when he should himself be a reigning burgomaster. Smoke roiled away in volumes from around his dignified person, while a dozen pipes at a time were dislodged at his approach; a hum of voices arose wherever he turned, and made itself heard above the bell-music ringing from the upper air. Many who had before insisted on room for their breeches, as the English ladies of the same period for their hoops, now squeezed themselves into small compass to let the junior partner of Vanderput pursue his majestic way. It seemed that Heins was to play the first part on the scene till the rare and thrilling sound of horses' feet should be heard, betokening the approach of the magistrates: but a mortifying circumstance occurred, which disturbed the tranquillity of the little great man.
He felt himself grasped on the shoulder by a heavy hand; and, turning round, was astonished to see that one in a common sailor's dress had thus dared to accost him. He superciliously released his shoulder, and would have passed on; but Master Peter would not let him escape thus easily. He wanted to inquire after his little friend Christian, and to complain of Gertrude for fixing her abode where it was impossible for her gentle face any more to look down upon the spot where Master Peter and his companions worked. He seemed amused instead of offended at Heins's endeavours to shake him off, and, by some inexplicable means, interested the bystanders, so that it might have been unwise to treat him with downright contempt.
“I have come from Saardam this morning,
Mr. Snoek, to assist at this honourable ceremony.”
“One might thereby know you for a foreigner,” replied Heins. “Our workmen of Holland do not leave their occupation to look on shows,—even so important as this. You may not find your master very ready to ask you to work again, if you must thus run away for a frolic.”
Master Peter smiled as if he was not very uneasy on this point, and observed that a true Hollander should be gratified by the interest of foreigners in the display of civic honours. Heins replied that this depended much on the quality of the foreign observers; to which Master Peter agreed, going on to say,
“I cannot see what I wish, after all. Your people are ready enough to show parts of this magnificent building.”
“It appears magnificent to foreigners, no doubt,” replied Heins, with dry complacency; “but we must have something better than this hereafter.”
“Something better than this noble Stadt-house!” exclaimed Master Peter. “Where will you find a better architect than Van Campen? And when will Holland be more prosperous than in Van Campen's time? Holland is not what she was; and she will yet look back with a melancholy pride on the century when the Stadt-house was built at Amsterdam.”
“You think so much of this place because you have seen nothing like it, I suppose. You have seen Moscow, perhaps?”
Peter had happened to be there once; far inland as it was for a common sailor to go.
“Well; you had better get such a building as this erected there, if you can persuade your emperor to undertake so grand an enterprise; and then we will show you what better things we can do.”
“Perhaps our emperor will take you at your word, Mr. Snoek, while he is about building his new city. We have the Kremlin already at Moscow; but our new city would be graced by such an erection as this. Shall I put your idea into the Keiser's head?”
Heins nodded a compassionate assent. Master Peter continued,
“But I must carry my story complete. I must get within those iron doors on the ground floor, which look as if they were meant to shut in a legion of devils. There is not a dyke on all your coast that could not be forced more easily than those doors, if they are as strong as they appear.”
“ They are thus strong. What defence can be too strong for the forty millions of guilders that are stored in the Bank of Amsterdam?”
Master Peter observed to himself that he must have a view of this treasure-chamber before he left Holland; an observation which Heins overheard, and treated with fitting ridicule, informing the stranger that no foot ever crossed the threshold of the treasure-chambers but those of the reigning burgomasters, who were the administrators of the Bank.
“You say there are forty millions of guilders in”those chambers,” observed Master Peter. “I should have thought there had been more, considering how extensively your Bank deals with all merchants who tread your quays.” for, Heins was far from meaning to say that the Bank dealt only to the extent of these forty millions. It was not necessary that precious metal should be kept to meet the presentation of bank receipts which had expired. It was enough that receipts in actual circulation should be convertible; and forty millions of guilders seemed to him a rather striking amount of convertible currency, to be issued by one bank.
“You should remember, Mr. Snoek, that this Bank is not like other banks, where merchants may deal or not, as it pleases them. Your law that every bill drawn upon Amsterdam, or negotiated here, of the value of 600 guilders, must be paid in bank money, obliges all merchants trading in your country to have an account with your Bank; so that the amount of money in these treasure-chambers is a pretty fair guide to the extent of your commerce.”
Heins observed that the law in question was necessary, as, before it was made, the varying quality of the metal currency at Amsterdam rendered the value of bills of exchange so uncertain as materially to injure the operations of commerce. In a place to which money flowed from all parts of the world, there must necessarily be much clipt and worn coin in circulation. While such coin was present, all that was issued, new and good, from the Mint, immediately disappeared; and to whatever extent the issue might proceed, the merchants could scarcely obtain enough good money to pay their bills. Under these circumstances, the institution of bank-money was most serviceable to the credit and commerce of the country; and the law which compelled the payment of all bills of 600 guilders and upwards, in such money, was only a new evidence, in Heins's opinion, of the depth of Dutch wisdom, and the fertility of Dutch genius. How well the experiment had answered was proved by the willingness of all respectable merchants to pay a premium for this bank money. Though the difference between good coin and the light money which was poured into Holland at the time of the establishment of the Bank was no more than nine per cent., the merchants had been willing, from the very beginning, to allow the bank money to bear a more considerable agio.
They might well be thus willing, Master Peter thought, since their bank deposits were safe from robbery, Fire and other accidents; the whole city of Amsterdam being bound for it.
“The city, though not the depositing merchants, was very near losing much of its bank wealth by fire,” replied Heins, pointing to a part of the Stadt-house which appeared newer than the rest. “See how near the treasure-chamber the flames must have approached! Some say that smoked guilders blacked the hands of the receivers, so lately as twenty years back, when the Bank was called upon to make large issues of coin, from the French having reached Utrecht.”
“This proves either extraordinary confidence in the Bank, or that it keeps an ample stock of precious metal,” observed Peter. “Money cannot he much wanted which remains smoked for sixty years after a fire. However, your merchants are wise to let money remain where it is safe.”
“Our bank-credits serve our objects as well as cash,” replied Heins; “and if we called out our funds in the shape of coin, every good ducat would be worth no more than the base money which foreigners set afloat in the market. It answers our purpose better to sell our claim for this money at a premium than to use the actual money; and thus the Bank preserves its resources within itself.”
“And more than preserves them. Your city must derive a fine revenue from this Bank. There are fees on deposit; fees on transfer; fines for neglecting to balance accounts twice a-year; and no little profit by selling foreign coin for more, than is given for it, and by disposing of bank-money at a higher agio than that at which it is received. All this together must amount to much more than the expenses of the establishment.”
Heins began to feel an increase of respect for the foreign sailor, who seemed to know as much of commercial concerns as if he had been a Dutchman. He was also impressed by the tone of confidence with which the stranger spoke of what improvements would be adopted from abroad into his own country. It was strange to hear him now pronouncing upon a national bank as one of the necessary institutions of the Keiser's new city. No commerce, he declared, could proceed on equal terms between a country that had stable banks and one that had not. The advantages of a bank as a medium for the transaction of business, as a rendezvous for the balancing of bills of exchange, and, above all, as a security, by the practice of discounting, against all dangerous inequalities in the distribution of money, were too great to be compared with any other plan of mutual accommodation. The Stadt-house might be rivalled as a building; but unless its noble banking institution was adopted, no imitation could command such respect as the original. The Keiser must establish a bank, or the great city of the Neva would never rival that of the Amstel, to whatever pitch of grandeur its contemplated navy might attain.
Heins was So far propitiated by this speech that he would have allowed the sailor to stand immediately behind him when the procession passed, if it had so pleased Master Peter; but his curiosity was too active to allow him to stand stock still, as he was desired, when the unaccustomed train of horsemen appeared in sight. He laughed very unceremoniously at the portly figures of the burgomasters, who appeared packed into their seats in much fear of falling. The saddles were very safely peaked before and behind, while the swelling garments of the riders formed a cushion of defence on each side; insomuch that the question seemed rather to be how they should contrive to dismount, than whether there was any danger in their present position. When their predecessors in office appeared in one of the porticoes to receive the new potentates, the work of dismounting began, amidst the solemn officious help of a train of inferior personages; and this was the time chosen by Master Peter to cross the open space from which the crowd had been driven back, and make his way straight into the interior of the building. A hundred hands were held out to stop him, and a hundred voices cried out upon his insolence. But these impediments only roused his passion. He appeared in a tremendous fury for a few moments; but, instead of doing any act of violence, he looked around him as if for some who would execute vengeance for him. Meeting no friendly faces, he dismissed his wrath, and made some mysterious brief appeal to a man in authority, who, with no further hesitation, opened a way for the stranger into the court where the ceremony was about to take place; a privilege which none but the officials connected with the Bank had ever before been known to enjoy.
As soon as Heins had recovered a little from his amazement, it occurred to him that that which had been granted to a common sailor would scarcely be refused to the partner of one of the dignitaries; and forthwith he too crossed over; he too attempted to pass through the portico. The observing people seemed at a loss what to do this time. The hundred hands were only half raised; the thousand voices produced only a murmur. The officers, however, knew their duty. At a sign from the magistrate who had admitted Master Peter's appeal, they interposed their batons; and two of them, seizing the mortified merchant by each arm, conducted him back among the crowd, followed by a frown from Vanderput, and welcomed by grave jokes from his less enterprising neighbours. There he was left to murmur out his discontent, while the despised Master Peter was witnessing the remarkable ceremony of the delivery of the charge of the Bank of Amsterdam by one set of magistrates to their successors. It was mortifying to Heins to hear from him afterwards the details of how the four great wax lights were brought in grave procession, and put, together with the Bank books, into the hands of their new guardians; how the massive bolts of the treasure-chambers revolved amidst the silence, and were returned to their staples when the officials had entered; how the time seemed long while the examiners were comparing the treasure with the account of it in the Bank books; how eagerly listened to was their declaration, when they came out, that all was correct; and how solemn the oath then administered to them, that they would faithfully discharge their office, and guard the civic treasure. Of the aspect of the ponderous keys every one could judge for himself, as each of the new magistrates, when he re-appeared, wore a bunch of them at his girdle, and probably felt that they constituted the heaviest penance of the day.
Heins was pacing homewards, not altogether so happy in his self-importance as when he had traversed the same ground a few hours before, when he was crossed in his path by Slyk.
“Ha! I thought you had been fifty miles off,” said Heins. “I was told you had settled to the northward of us.”
“News which may or may not be true,” replied Slyk, mysteriously. “I have more to say to you thereupon. You must visit me;—after 'Change time. After 'Change time, remember. Fransje will entertain us well at table, if you will sup. You will sup with us, friend Snoek.”
Francesca bent forward eagerly to enforce the invitation, which Heins accepted, after having gazed at the sky with knit brows, and then round upon the walls, as if looking there for a record of his engagements.—Slyk believed he was adding another inducement when he hinted that his discourse of the evening might bear some relation to Heins's respected mother.
“How interesting Mr. Snoek is!” was Francesca's observation to her father, as she stole a glance after Heins. “How sad he looked before he saw us just now! He will never get over his father's death.”
“Poor youth! The cares of the world have come early upon him,” observed her father. “We must guide him in the disposal of his affairs, and cheer his spirits, Fransje.”
Francesca needed no prompting to do so gentle a service to the rich young merchant, who might rise to be a reigning burgomaster, if he could rally his spirits up to the point of ambition.—She would not have despaired of this, if she had seen the difference in the countenance of Heins before and after meeting her. He reached his own abode, consoled by the thought that if society at large was yet unaware of his merits, there was one personage of some consideration, with a fair and lively daughter, who thought him worth asking to supper.
WISE MEN AT SUPPER
In such a country as Holland was at the time of our story, the prime subject of interest to persons engaged in commerce was the state of the Exchange. By this, the merchants not only found their own affairs determined, but were furnished with an indication of the general condition of trade at home and abroad. As by the Exchange, the debts of individuals residing at a distance from their creditors are cancelled without the transmission of money, the state of the Exchange marks out clearly in which country there has been the greatest amount of purchase, and in which of sale. It affords no indication of the positive amount of purchase and sale, because when this is nearly balanced between different countries, the exchange nearly preserves its level: or, to use technical language, is nearly at par. But the relative amount is infallibly shown by the exchange of any country being above or below par; and this circumstance serves to guide individuals in the conduct of their transactions.
Instead of discharging debts to foreigners in the manner taken for granted by Christian,—viz., by transmitting money to a foreign land, as they would to the grocer's or the wine-merchant's in the next street, exporters and importers were early obliged, by an absurd enactment against the exportation of money, to devise some expedient for paying each other without using gold and silver. The most obvious way was to set against one another the values of things bought and sold, so that the balance was all that remained to be discharged. When it did not happen that the same firm at home had bought of the same firm abroad to whom it had sold, it was only necessary to find another firm at home which had bought in the same market abroad, and to exchange acknowledgments of debt, up to the amount at which the respective debts balanced one another; and these acknowledgments of debt served as money, in the same way as the promissory notes of bankers. In 1190, (which is the earliest recorded date of the practice of exchanging debts,) if an English merchant sold 100l. worth of cider into Holland, and his Dutch connexion had sold to another London merchant 90l. worth of fat cattle, the readiest way of paying the greater part of the debt was for the Dutchman to refer his cider selling correspondent to his neighbour, the importer of cattle, for 90l.: 10l. would still remain due; and as the Dutchman was prohibited from sending it in gold and silver, he would look about for some neighbour who had 10l. owing to him from England, and would say, “I will pay you 10l., if you will desire your debtor to pay the same sum to my correspondent on the other side the water.” By this simple mutual accommodation, the expense and risk of sending large sums of money are avoided; the postage, and the stamp charged by government upon such transactions, are the only cost incurred; and the whole process of buying and selling is simplified to all parties.
The convenience of this method being found great, it was improved as commerce increased, till a market was established where merchants might meet and make their exchanges without loss of time, instead of having to run after one another in search of what each wanted. The next thing was to institute a class of persons whose express business should be to manage these transactions. These persons, the bill-brokers, can tell how nearly the debts of different countries balance each other; and it is they who first purchase, and then provide merchants with these acknowledgments of debt, which circulate instead of money. These disposable acknowledgments, called bills of exchange, bear a very small proportion to the bargains between any two trading countries; because, where there is considerable intercourse, the sales of one party generally nearly balance those of the other. The nearness of their approach to a balance determines the price of those bills which remain to be sold, or which are desired to be bought. When bills are scarce, and merchants have difficulty in procuring these ready means of discharging their debts, they are anxious to pay a price for them, in order to be spared the inconvenience of transmitting money. A competition ensues, and it becomes generally known that the country where the bills are scarce has bought more than it has sold; that it owes more money than it has to receive; that (to use the technical term) the exchange is unfavourable to that country. The reverse is known to be the case when there is a superabundance of bills in the market; so that the merchants of a great trading country anxiously watch the exchange-market, not only to get their own debts settled, but to learn the general condition of commerce.
In order to the immediate detection of an alteration in the course of exchange, it was desirable to have a certain fixed point of calculation to which all variations might be referred. This fixed point was called the par of the exchange, and denoted, when it was first instituted, a perfect equality of exchange, both of goods and money, between the trading parties. The exchange between Holland and Great Britain was at par when the two countries sent exactly the same amount of wealth to each other. Supposing ten guilders to go to a pound, the exchange would be at par when the Dutch exported to England one thousand guilders' worth of commodities, and imported from England one hundred pounds' worth of commodities. So that, so long as ten guilders go to a pound, and Holland and England exchange the same quantity of goods, the exchange will not vary, really or seemingly, from the fixed point of calculation. It is only the one country exporting more goods than the other which can really make the amount of value due greater from one than the other: but, because ten guilders have not always gone to a pound, more money has sometimes appeared to be due from one than the other, even while the quantity of goods exchanged has been precisely the same, as computed in anything but the altered money. When eleven guilders go to the pound, while the par of exchange is still called ten, more money will appear to be due from Holland to England for the same quantity of goods as before; and consequently, while the actual state of trade will be exactly the same as before, it will be declared on 'Change that the exchange has turned against Holland; i. e., that Holland owes more money to England than she has to receive. However, merchants whose interest it is to watch the course of exchange, easily distinguish the real from tire nominal variation, and learn to make use of the fixed point of calculation with due allowance for the difference caused by the alterations in the value of money. They can ascertain what they want to know of the general state of commerce, in the midst of what would be, to an inexperienced person, a deception; and a merchant who has, by any rare accident, been prevented from going on 'Change, only wants to know the nominal variation from par, and to compare it with his knowledge of the respective currencies of the two countries, to satisfy himself as to which ought to push its exports, and which its imports.
The first question asked by one Dutch merchant of another, in Heins's time, usually related to the exchange. It was that which his old friend Jakob greeted him with this evening, as, punctual to the appointed moment, he entered the apartment where Francesca and supper were waiting to honour and be honoured by him.—Heins saw at a glance that better entertainment was provided for him than his wealthy parents had ever thought fit to indulge him with. It shad been their method to surround themselves with whatever was essential to comfort, and whatever served as a good investment for their money; but, in all articles of mere consumption, they had been frugal in a way which Slyk and his daughter seemed little disposed to imitate. While the Snoeks' cellars were full of choice French wines and brandies, they drank beer only. While preparing the richest butter and cheese which their fat meadows could produce, their servants and children must be content with an inferior kind, imported salt. Not thus was Jakob's table furnished by his fair daughter. On the present occasion, it looked very tempting. Placed between the windows, so that the eaters might enjoy the amusement of observing the passers by, without the table itself being seen from without, one source of entertainment, always acceptable to a Dutchman, was secure. There was no lack of odoriferous foreign fruits, of flasks whose aspect was, not to be mistaken, or of more substantial delicacies from the native pastures and decoys. This array was reflected from each corner of the apartment by mirrors, so placed as to exhibit every object within ken, from the train of passengers on the bridge at the bottom of the street, and the slow-moving barge advancing in an opposite direction, to the beau-pots filled with tulips which stood on the floor in corresponding angles of the apartment. What made the aspect of the place the most dazzling to Heins was, that there were four Francescas, each differing from the other according to the direction in which the gazer looked. Here, the profile of the pretty face and the jewelled arm were most conspicuous; there, the closely fitting jacket, and the knot of hair fastened behind with a silver pin. Now, the bright eyes looked out from between the two ringlets which curled exactly to the same turn on the foreheads of all Dutchwomen; and again, the yellow slipper was seen to rest on the chauife-pied, whose constant use must infallibly spoil the form of the most beautiful foot that ever trod the quays of Amsterdam. At the further end of this radiant apartment leaned old Jakob, prepared with questions about how matters looked on 'Change: in the middle sat Franeesca, deeming it no affront that such affairs were considered of the first importance, even in her presence; and between them stood Heins, commercial con amore one moment, and awkwardly gallant the next, till the familiarity of the evening meal enabled him to make his attentions to the father and the daughter more compatible than it had at first appeared possible to render them.
“They may talk of our commerce having declined,” said Slyk, “but there is no nation like the Dutch after all. Our refugee divines preach to more purpose to us than they did in France, about the wisdom of Solomon in his traffic with Hiram, king of Tyre, and all the riches that he gained thereby. We are a people obedient to the Divine word, Mr. Heins; and it pleases Heaven to prosper our industry, in spite of seeming obstacles. Even Solomon's wisdom was not taxed to procure cedar and shittim wood in the face of king Hiram's prohibitions; but we have done as much in getting the exchange with England turned in our favour, notwithstanding her late jealous enactments.”
Franeesca was of opinion that Holland was now under a special divine blessing for having received and cherished the Huguenots who had been driven from France. Heins thought that this opinion was countenanced by the fact that a considerable part of the prosperity of the States was derived from the industry of these very refugees. On the other hand, England was also open to the Huguenots, and it was against England that the exchange had turned.
This was a difficulty easily answered, Jakob said. England was punished for her jealousy; for her unneighbourly conduct towards the States. Was it not Heins's belief that a vast importation of brandies, velvets, and jewellery from Dutch vessels had been going on in England of late?
“Certainly,” replied Heins. “While we can gain no more than two, or, at most, three per cent, on our capital at home, we must invest it abroad, even at some risk; and this has been done in England to such an extent that the government there must be a little surprised at the present course of the exchange. Visscher has put but a small percentage in his pocket today, I rather think; for there is such an abundance of bills on England in the market, and so few are present to buy, that the business has been very languid.”
“There will soon be an end of that,” replied Slyk. “A flood of this kind of money is presently absorbed. It is not like our hard gold, or our bank money, which rests at the disposal of one nation instead of two.”
Heins suggested that bank money was like a ball sent up by a solitary player, which might return or be lost according to the skill or awkwardness with which it was thrown; whereas exchange money was a shuttlecock played between two nations, which was sure to visit each in turn, as long as both were interested in keeping up the game. This flight of fancy, so much more French than Dutch, enhanced Francesca's admiration of the accomplishments of the young merchant. She was not aware, however, that bills of exchange could be exactly called money. She knew that they might, in one sense, be so considered, as “they discharged debts; but debts might also be discharged by barter, where no money was present.—Heins explained that bills of exchange form an actual currency, temporary in its, nature, like bank paper, but possessing all the requisites of a medium of exchange.
“I have been using one as money this very day,” he continued. “You must know,—(I do not hesitate to speak openly before friends)—I have been trying my fortune, while others did, in a venture to England. I am not in the habit of exporting, as you know; but I shipped a snug package of velvets, which certain great folks are at this moment wearing, perhaps in the king of England's own presence. I was paid in a bill drawn on a timber merchant here, payable at usance;———you know what that means?”
Familiar as the term was, the young lady did not know what it meant. Heins explained that bills are paid either at sight, or at a certain specified time after date, or at the period which is pointed out by the custom or law of the place on which the bill is drawn; which period is called the usance of the place. At Amsterdam this was one month after date. Heins went on,
“I was, at the same time, desirous of purchasing some powder and ball, which I had a fine opportunity of disposing of. I therefore offered this bill,—not to the owner of the powder, (who would leave Amsterdam before the bill became due, and would have charged me whatever it might cost him to have it changed for a different kind of money,)—but to my friend Visscher, the bill-broker, who sold me a bill on Copenhagen, which suited my powder-merchant's convenience, and put a profit into Visscher's pocket, and saved me the necessity of calling any money out of the Bank. So you see this bill was real money in my hands, is so now in Visscher's, and may be again in a hundred other hands before the month is up.”
Slyk thought commerce would slacken grievously if bills did not serve as a circulating medium, as well as being the means of liquidating debts. If people were obliged to depend on their individual stock of money for the prosecution of all their undertakings, they would be stopped short at the outset of many a fine speculation: whereas by having access to the credit-bank (viz. the exchange market), and thus being able to exchange their credit for cash, at a small sacrifice, facilities were afforded, and an equalization of demand was established which was highly favourable to an extensive and beneficial employment of capital. This was the advantage of bills bearing date, instead of being, in all instances, payable at sight. When payable at sight, they were not of course money; and every protraction of date was equivalent to an increase in the quantity of money; as the bill passed through more hands, the longer it had a separate existence from the cash it represented.
“I suppose, then,” said Francesca, “that your new undertaking is to be carried on by the help of this kind of money. But perhaps bills of exchange do not circulate so far inland.”
“I have nothing to do but to exchange them for inland bills, or for cash,” observed her father. “Snoek, you say that foreign bills superabound on 'Change. What say you to some of the spare capital which is afloat being lent to me for a grand and beneficial design which I have in hand some way up the country?”
“I have little or no money to spare just at this time,” replied Heins: “for the present state of the exchange, you see, is just that which makes it desirable for us to import to the utmost. I must invest in British produce as much as I can gather together while bills on Britain are cheap. But there must be many exporters who are slackening their business till the exchange turns. They will be ready enough to let you have money at little or nothing above the common rate of interest. What is your object?”
“I told you that I might give you news of your mother this evening. I saw her yesterday morning, and all the children; and I may see her again once or twice a week, if I am enabled to carry on my design. In that case, I shall settle in her near neighbourhood.”
“And Fransje,”—inquired Hems, looking with an appearance of anxiety towards the lady,—“Fransje, will you leave us too?”
“I shall delight in being so near your mother,” replied Fransje. “And. those dear children, I could sit; by Christian's couch from morning till night. He is so interesting! It is so soothing too, to one's heart, to be able to cheer such a sufferer!”
Heins knew that Fransje's presence did not usually cheer Christian's spirits, but quite the reverse. He remembered also that Fransje never could sit beside the invalid for half an hour together, unless there was some one present to admire her assiduity; while Gertrude, who said nothing about the pleasure, had frequently held the boy in her arms for hours during his agony, and kept her seat through a long summer's day when Christian could not, with all his endeavours, keep his temper with anybody else. Heins smiled vaguely, however, upon Fransje's protestations: and when talk of business was resumed, her fancy wandered on into the days when she might enact the applauded sister-in-law, in return for the desirable establishment she should have obtained as the lady of the rising merchant, Heins Snoek.
“You remember,” said Jakob, “the fine vein of turf that runs from the dyke at Winkel to the lake twenty miles inland. I have often said, as I suppose many others have, that it is a shame that vein is not worked.”
Heins had heard that there were many doubts whether it would be worth while to excavate this turf till labour should be cheaper in the north, and more fuel required for the increasing population. Slyk, however, had an answer to every objection.
If it was merely to dig up a single cargo of turf,” said he, “I grant you it would not be worth while to transport labourers from the South. But mine is a very extensive plan indeed. In the first place, this turf lies only two feet below the surface, and it is seven feet deep. It will be some time before we exhaust such a vein, twenty miles in length. O, I assure you, the breaks are nothing; merely caused by the intersecting dykes. We have only to cross over, and begin again at the distance of a few feet.—Permission! can you suppose we shall be refused permission to improve the land as we proceed, to the great advantage of the owners? Yes; to their great advantage; as you will say when you have heard the whole of my scheme. We shall not make a swamp of the excavation. No, no. We will leave the honour of making inland lakes to our ancestors. I do not wonder that you take fright at the idea of a new lake, twenty miles long. I mean, instead of a lake, to have a fat green meadow, stretching from Winkel to nearly the opposite coast.”
Did not water always rise where turf was cut? Heins asked, Would not the proprietors of the soil object that no share of the fuel procured would compensate to them for having their fields turned into a bog? Slyk assured him that nothing was further from his thoughts than parting with the turf so near home. At Winkel, Heins was reminded, there was a strand, backed by a line of sand-hills, where the accumulated cockleshells of a million of tides were heaped. On these hills a range of kilns was to be erected to convert the cockle-shells into lime to manure the wet soil by filling up the spaces from which the turf was dug. From this strand was the fuel to be shifted, in order to command a sale in every town and village on the Zuyder Zee, and the coasts with which it communicated. The next thing would be to import lean Danish cattle, to fatten on the meadows enriched by the produce of the lime-kilns. From these arose visions, in Heine's fancy, of unfathomable depths of butter, innumerable multitudes of cheeses, of dairy farms rising-on the slope of every dyke, and vessels entering each creek and bay along the shore. Slyk had succeeded in captivating his mercantile imagination far better than Francesca the nobler part of the faculty. While turf was the only object in the picture, Heins doubted and weighed as a Dutchman should; but when above the turf there were meadows, and on the meadows cattle, with dairy farms in the fore-ground, lime-kilns in the distance, and shipping on the horizon, Heins was carried away by a vehement desire to have a share in all this enterprise; to be in part master of this grand new creation. He was little aware on what a shaking bog all this superstructure of hopes was built.
Slyk had many requisites for the conduct of a speculation. He had enterprise; he had experience; and he had not the restraint of a conscience; but he had also no money: at least, he had what in Holland at that time was called no money. He had enough in house, furniture, clothes, and jewels to have sold for what would comfortably maintain himself and his daughter; but this was poverty, in the eyes of the Dutch merchants of 1696. To have no disposable funds, was a degree of poverty at which many a boor would have been alarmed; and it was so extraordinary a case, that Slyk's whole endeavour was to keep his plight a secret, and to get out of it as soon as he could. As he was rather changeable in his employments, it was not very easy to track him; and his manner was of that imposing kind which commonly bespeaks conscious wealth; so that Heins was excusable for concluding, with the rest of the world of Amsterdam, that old Jakob Slyk was rich. So rapidly did his supposition rise, this day, to conviction, that he was presently conscious of lamenting that he had destined so much of his disposable capital to investments in foreign produce; and pondering how much he could extricate, to be applied in Slyk's speculation.
“You mean to conduct the whole yourself,” he said. “You speak of settling on the spot.”
“Certainly, and you must visit your mother frequently, to see how the work proceeds. You will go with us to-morrow, if you really think of taking a share. You will go over the ground with me.”
Heins thought of the business which required his attention at home; of the cargoes to be unloaded; the foreign letters to be looked for in the present condition of the exchange; and the necessary observation of commercial affairs, for which his partner could scarcely find time for some days after his entrance upon his new office. Heins feared he could not go.
Francesca intimated that she was to accompany her father, and spoke of the family party at Winkel. Heins hesitated, but feared he must delay. Slyk let drop that Gertrude was to go in the same boat to pay her promised visit to Mrs. Snoek; and then, after much talk about hesitation and difficulty, Heins found, at last, that he could contrive to get away for a few days. There were certain signs of vexation in her countenance which her father endeavoured to screen from observation by fixing Heins's attention on himself. He expatiated on his own fitness for the undertaking, from the experience he had had in the management of all conceivable affairs that can come within the province of a money-maker. To judge by his own intimations, he must be the richest man in the States. He instanced all the occasions of his gains, and none of his losses.
“Trust me to manage labourers' said he.” I shall scarcely have such trouble with another set as I had with my fourteen boatmen, once upon a time, at the outset of the herring-fishery. Fransje, you remember that stormy 24th of June?”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Fransje. “The sea lashed the dyke as if it had been mid-winter, as the fishermen went to church. Their wives followed trembling, and said it was blasphemy to ask a blessing on the fishery, if their husbands tempted Providence by going out in such a storm. By midnight, most of the men thought so too; and the moment of sailing passed away while they stood on the dyke, each boat's company looking at the rest, to see what they meant to do. I well remember the flashes of lightning disclosing the tossing row of empty boats.”
“Not all empty, however,” observed Slyk.” I led the way, and it was not ten minutes after midnight when the last of my crew stepped on board. I had the advantage of their being Catholics, however. There was only one Calvinist; and he was nearly enough to spoil the whole, till I took him on the side of predestination. Then he was quiet enough; and the Catholics set up one saint against another, so as to leave a balance of probabilities that we should get safe home.”
Heins laughed, though in some constraint, through wonder that the sanctimonious Jakob should thus come out in the new character of a joking adventurer. Did the party get safe home? he asked.
“Safe! yes; and much more than safe. We ran for the Brill; and had the luck to get in first; as was very just, since we were the first to go out,—only five minutes after the legal time, remember, in a midsummer tempest. We brought in a fine cargo, and sold every fish at a ducat. That was equally agreeable to Catholic and Calvinist.”
“And which were you?”
“Oh, we were all of one faith that day;—that the first herrings of the season are special gifts of Providence to the Dutch of all persuasions, You should have seen the scramble there was for our cargo. All the sick people in the place, or their nurses, came out to get a fresh herring as an infallible cure; and those in health were almost equally eager. We were not disposed to doubt the recipe which brought in ducats as fast as if they had been stivers.”
“You make a point of having a fresh herring, the first day of the season,” remarked Francesca, looking doubtfully at her father, whom she had never before heard to question the soundness of the popular belief in the sovereign efficacy of the first-caught herrings.
“And always shall, my dear, while I have a ducat to buy one with. I am only pointing out the advantage that it was to me and my men that they had a leader over them who knew how to manage them. One quarter of an hour, later, and the Brill would have been supplied from another buss. This is not the only time, Heins, that I made a little fortune at sea in one trip. It is some years ago now,—but I remember as if it was yesterday,—a singular little expedition that I made during the war. To be sure, there was sufficient danger in it, and nicety enough required to make me remember it pretty distinctly; but really, I could fancy, (if you had not told me the course of the exchange to-day,) that the French were still before our ports. Poor fellows! a very provoking thing was near happening to two or three of their captains. They would have been obliged to refuse battle with our ships, and make the best of their way home, if it had not been for me. I helped them to some of their laurels.”
“You helped the French to their laurels” exclaimed Heins in astonishment. “How did you do that? and why?”
“I have by nature,—I should say, I owe to Providence a high sense of justice,” replied Slyk, gravely. “I could never bear to see any advantage gained, even by my own country, where there was not fair play; and I can never consider battle conducted on equal terms when one party has plenty of ammunition, and the other little or none. This was the case in the instance I speak of.”
“So you robbed the French ships of ammunition, in order to afford the Dutch fair play. Truly, the gallant French would not have cared much for laurels won from a defenceless enemy.”
“You mistake the matter quite,” replied Slyk. “If the deed you describe would have been patriotic, mine was much more so, and in a very refined way. It was the French who wanted powder and ball. But I did not rob the Dutch. What was obtained from them was by their own free will. I went to meet a vessel on its way from the Baltic with ball, and made rapid sail, so as to fall in with the French just in time to supply them with the means of keeping up the fight.”
“But the powder: the Baltic vessel did not furnish you with powder, I suppose.”
“The powder I was obliged to afford at a less advantage to myself. The Dutch commander was willing enough to furnish me, out of his superfluity, with what I wanted; but he insisted on such a price as left me small profit. I told him it was hardly worth the risk of stealing my way through the smoke to the other side of the enemy, for so small a share of the profits as I pocketed. But, between us, we carried off a pretty lump of French money; enough to console our commander for being beaten, and to compensate to me for the risk and the toil. It was hard and hot work handing up on one side the ship the ammunition which was to be fired into the Dutchman from the other; but both parties might thank me for securing them fair play.”
Heins's veneration for Dutch genius rose higher than ever. He doubted whether any country could produce a parallel to this instance of practical wisdom. But there was more for him to hear:—many a narrative of expeditions up and down the Rhine, when sugar, coffee, and woollen cloths were disposed of to unheard of advantage at every village on the way up, and enormous rafts of timber swept down the stream in return, bearing the exulting Jakob home to the country of which Heins began to think him a conspicuous ornament. Many a region had he also supplied with earthenware, and his exploits in tobacco-pipes were enough of themselves to immortalize his commercial genius. The Winkel adventure now appeared a moderate and purely rational affair, and Heins himself began to see the expediency of enlarging the speculation yet further by adding a tobacco-pipe manufactory to their establishment, if, as was expected, the right kind of earth was found to be plentiful near any spot of the twenty miles of turf soil.
“You will be ready to go with us early tomorrow to see your mother,” said Fransje, quitting the table to make her preparations for departure.
“To view the ground,” added her father.
Heins rose as he replied that, in order to do so, he must hasten away to consult his partner on the whole affair, and make arrangements for diverting some of his capital from other channels in order to engage in this new object. But he would see what could be done in a few hours. Slyk assured him that there was no haste about the advance of capital, as there was abundance in hand; that he had better view the ground before he decided anything, or troubled his illustrious partner at so busy a time with an important affair, of which all the details could not yet be presented. Heins agreed not to trouble his partner further at present than to send him a note of excuse for an absence of a few days on a visit to Winkel.
Slyk told the truth when he said that he had at present abundance of money for the carrying on of his enterprise. It by no means followed that it was his own. Whose it was depended upon circumstances yet future; depended, not only on whether the speculation should terminate favourably or unfavourably, but on the length of time that it-could be carried on.
Slyk's plan was one very common among adventurers. It was to raise money by drawing and re-drawing inland bills of exchange, in combination with two men of a genius of as high an order as his own. The Dutch banks were not all like the great bank of Amsterdam. There were some in every large town in the states which were very like banks in general, and which were subject to imposition from adventurers. From the coffers of two or three of these banks Slyk's friends contrived to extract capital for his purposes, taking the chance of the enterprise turning out well enough to enable them to replace what they now borrowed on false pretences.
Slyk drew a bill upon honest Hugo Cats of Haerlem, payable two months after date. Not that Cats owed Slyk anything; but in consideration of being allowed to draw in his turn for the amount, with interest and commission, he permitted the supposition of a debt. In order to avoid suspicion, the re-drawing was done through a third party, Cats drawing his bill, before the expiration of the two months, on Geysbuk of Rotterdam; who, in his turn, was to draw on Slyk before the expiration of the further two months. The bill returned on Slyk must bear, of course, a great accumulation of interest and commission, but he trusted to his enterprise to pay off all; and his immediate object was answered in the bankers' gold being obtained which was to enable him to make his first payments to his labourers, and to the proprietors of the vein of turf from which he expected so much wealth. Interest was low, at this time: a sure sign that the profits of stock were also low? but Slyk intended that his profits should be unlike those which followed every other investment of capital, and justify, by the issue, his plan of raising money by circulation.
The bankers were rendered unsuspicious, not only by the comparative infrequency of fraudulent speculation at a time and in a country where a needy merchant was a phenomenon almost unheard of, but by the mode in which the bills were indorsed. Several names appeared on the back of each bill; and these and the shortness of the date together gave an appearance of security to the whole affair. It was scarcely likely that all these parties should fail before the expiration of the two months, even if the drawer and acceptor had been considered persons of doubtful credit. But there was no reason for questioning any part of the proceeding. The re-drawing was always done in good time to prevent any attention being fixed upon the previous bill; and the first advance of money seemed to have been gained so easily, that the parties resolved to repeat the experiment, if they failed to obtain, at a less cost, the funds they wanted, from Heins, or from some other rich merchant, young and uncontrolled enough to be made a dupe. Meantime, the speculators amused themselves with contemplating the unconscious security of all whom they had made their tools;—of the bankers from whose coffers they had abstracted their capital, and of such of the indorsers as were no worse than careless, and who therefore little dreamed of the necessity which might arise for their paying for the delinquency of the drawer. If they were disposed to complain of the hardship of each indorser being liable for the amount of a protested bill, (that is, of a bill which the acceptor cannot pay,) they should have been more careful to ascertain the soundness of the credit with which they linked their own.
There was little liability of this kind incurred with respect to foreign bills of exchange; the Dutch merchants of that period being cautious and experienced in their dealings with strangers. But, at home, suspicion was nearly laid asleep in a state of things which afforded rare occasion to a spirit of adventure, and little temptation to fraud. Where money abounded to such a degree as to bring down the rate of interest to the lowest point, and to constitute every trader a man of substance, capital was little in request, and could be had almost for the asking. Slyk had the art to make his own use of the security thus generated, and to obtain capital, at a greater cost certainly than if he had been able to prove himself a trustworthy person, but freed from the necessity of manufacturing this kind of proof. He preferred having to pay heavy interest and commission at last, to allowing attention to be fixed upon his honour and his substance; and the views of his companions were congenial with his own.
The transit from Amsterdam to Winkel was accomplished too soon for the wishes of some of the party, while others found it very wearisome. These last were not rendered impatient by the annoyances which would have fatigued an English traveller,—the slowness of the trekschuit, the frequent interruptions of the bridges over the canal, and the smoking which went on on board the boat. All these were matters of course to a Dutch voyager. Heins's unexpected attendance was much more wearisome to Gertrude than any anticipated circumstances of the voyage; and her ancient attendant was more annoyed by the manifest rivalship of Francesca Slyk than by any infliction, in the form of smoke or garlic, of the other passengers. Heins, on the other hand, enjoyed and made the most of the protracted opportunity thus afforded him of paying his court to Gertrude, well knowing that, once on shore, his privileges would be at an end. While she sat sewing in the roef, or best cabin, he took his place beside her, and importuned her with conversation, in defiance of Francesca's frequent calls to observe the pleasure boats which floated on the canal, or the laden barges which were being towed down, or the trim gardens of the country houses stretching to the brink of the water. If Gertrude engaged herself in any employment in which he was not concerned, he was far too ready with his warnings of some provoking bridge which they might as well pass on foot, or of the approach of dinner-time, when he had ascertained that they might safely go on shore to refresh themselves on the grass, out of the reach of the scents of tobacco on the one hand, and decaying vegetation on the other. Then came the ostentation of the delicate dinner he had caused to be provided, and of the taste with which he had selected the spot where they were to rest. He was never wearied of pointing out how the grass on the sloping dyke where they sat was greener than anywhere else; and what a pleasant shade the willows made; and how precisely he had chosen the point of view for seeing the slow sail gliding between the tufted banks and gay gardens. He busied himself to learn the name of every village whose houses were clustered on the intersecting dykes; and piqued himself on measuring exactly by his eye the extent of the oblong fields formed by the intersections. He pronounced learnedly on the turf-soils and clay soils which alternated under what, to inexperienced eyes, was only bright verdure; and, when there had been enough of this, glided into a fit of sentiment on the unrivalled beauties of a summer noon in Holland. Gertrude had been silently admiring what he now began to praise,—the prospect where the greenest of meadows formed a relief from the gleams of water on every side,—water in the sluggish canal, water standing in the hollows, water rising in the grass, water hanging in the air in the form of a silvery haze, which dissolved the outlines, and melted into harmony the hues of all objects, from the whirling mills on the banks which seemed to possess a life of their own, to the lazy cattle which lay ruminating under the scanty shade of the willows. From the moment that Heins became romantic, however, Gertrude's contemplation was spoiled; and she returned to her spiced baked eels and glass of liqueur with a new relish.
If Heins could but have been made to tow the boat which held his beloved, she would have been happy to admit his services while dining on shore; but to have him at her elbow in the trekschuit, and at her feet on the grass, was rather too much. As soon as she could with any grace leave the company, she wandered with her attendant to some distance from the feasting party, trusting that Francesca would choose this time for detaining Heins by her side.
Without going out of hearing of the bell of the trekschuit, Gertrude found she could change her scene and company. From the ridge of the bank she saw a bleaching-ground below, and hastened down to exchange a few words with the children who were sitting in a circle to guard the linen, and peeling sallows the while. The ground was unapproachable but by a little bridge over the ditch; and on this bridge was stationed an old woman, with petticoats tucked up to an unusual shortness, a hat like an umbrella, and an evident preparation for the endurance of heat and fatigue.
“You are weary, good mother, since you seem to be resting,” said Gertrude. “Truly you would rest better in the shade.”
The old lady replied, that she was only waiting for the boat-call. She took her turn to tow, when the trekschuit passed this place. It was warm work in a summer's noon, and she took her pleasure before and after it.
“And what becomes of the horse?” inquired Gertrude's maid. “We changed horse but lately.”
“My grandson there rides him forward through he fields to a point where the towing-path grows wide enough for him again,” said the old woman; “and the boy lightens my way home, when the boat is on its course again.”
“You talk,” said Gertrude, “of taking your pleasure. Is it pleasure to lean over this bridge at noon time?”
“It is a pleasure, young mistress, to look abroad and see how Providence has blest our land above every other. I venture to say something to our pastor in return for all that he says to us. I tell him that, though he has lost his country for his religion's sake, he has gained a better, besides his heavenly reward. Our pastor came from France during the persecution.”
“And does he like this country better than France?”
No doubt, the old woman supposed. In France, she was credibly informed, more than one cow had died of drought, during the last hot season, when heaven blessed Holland with water enough for the purposes of all Europe, if some of it had not been putrid. In certain parts of France, such a thing as an eel was never seen; and there was a false religion there, which showed that the curse of God was on the country. The very children were quite unlike the Dutch children. They would dance and shout under the chestnut trees, and laugh loud enough to be heard far off, instead of giving their hearts to God, and using their hands in the service of their parents, like the little people who were at work so soberly in yonder bleaching ground.
“You point out to your grand-children,” said Gertrude, “the blessings you are yourself so sensible of?”
“The pastor teaches them to give praise for the pure gospel,” replied the old woman; “and I bring them out to show them the gifts that follow upon grace. I show them the waters that bear corn to us, and breed fish for us; and the pastures that feed our cows. And I tell them about the sand that the rough sea washes up to strengthen our dykes; and I bid them be thankful that we have lime-kilns near, without which the fever might carry us all off any autumn.”
“The fever prevails here then?”
“We have lost two of the children in it; but Providence has been pleased to show us the way out of this danger, through our pastor. You see that mill, with the new thatch upon it. Well; it was our pastor who thought we might have a mill as well as our neighbours; and it carries off the mud, and keeps up a stir in the water, so that we trust God will preserve us from the fever this year.”
“Your house stands on high ground,” observed Gertrude. “It looks as if it must be healthy and convenient.”
“We can see the spires of two great towns from it. I tell the children the sight should make them thankful that they are far from the snares which try the spirit in great cities. It pleases Heaven to prosper my son's traffic at Rotterdam fair, once a year; and he brings home news enough of what he sees there to show us that a country place like this is the true resting place for God's chosen.”
“I should like to rest here a while with you, good mother; and to bring with me a little friend to whom Providence denies repose upon earth.” And Gertrude spoke of Christian, adding that she trusted the good mother was so much more pious than herself as to be reconciled to even such a case of suffering as this. The dame requested, with much respect, that if opportunity should offer, she might be honoured with a call on her hospitality in behalf of the child whom the hand of God had touched, and whose heart would, she trusted, be in due time touched by His grace.
Gertrude really hoped that such an opportunity would occur, whenever Christian should return to Amsterdam. Hospitality was at that time as free in Holland as in any country at any period; and the disciples of the reformed religion, especially, communicated as brethren. Gertrude thought that she and Christian could be very happy for a while in the substantial farm-house which stood on the slope, with a well-ordered family of children about them, a pious pastor at hand, and the happy dame to point out blessing in every thing. Christian should hear all about it; and it was much to be wished that the slanderers of Holland could see what her peasantry really were;—that they were remarkable for other things than being the richest in the world.
Gertrude had no time to improve her acquaintance with the family before the bell rang, and it was necessary to hasten back to the boat. While she again settled down to her work in the cabin, the dame stoutly passed the towing-rope over her shoulders, and paced the narrow foot-path for three miles, drawing the boat after her with great apparent ease. After bidding her farewell, Gertrude had not come to a conclusion as to what blessing the dame could contrive to educe from the infliction of Heins's society, when her attention was called to an important feature in the landscape. Rising above the dykes which crossed the country in every direction, was an eminence planted with trees, and prolonged to the furthest visible points north and south. This was certainly the sea dyke, and they were approaching Winkel; and accordingly, they were presently after landed at the summer-house which overlooked the canal from the extremity,—that is,—the highest part of Mrs. Snoek's garden.
What screams of joy issued from this retreat is the boat glided before the window from which Christian was fishing, and well-known faces looked out from the cabin, and one friend after another stepped on shore! The summer-house had windows all round, that no passing object might escape the notice of those who came there to be amused. Christian occupied nearly the whole water-window, as it was called. His brother and sister contended for the dyke or road-window, from whence Luc speedily descended to make acquaintance with the towing-horse. Mrs. Snoek awaited her guests at the door, and’ Katrina stretched her neck from the back-window which presented no object beyond the familiar cows, and the herd's cottage in the back-ground. With his fishing-rod suspended, and his eyes so intently fixed on Gertrude that he did not even hear the compliments of Francesca, Christian sat patiently waiting his share of the caresses which his active brother and sister were snatching from the common favourite. He was rewarded, as usual, for his patience by his friend's taking a seat where he could keep possession of her hand, and see every turn of her countenance. At the first unobserved moment, she bent over him, whispering an inquiry whether his spirit had been at quiet in the absence of the pastor, and whether he had been strong of heart, as he had promised, for his mother's sake. Christian looked down, as if afraid to answer for himself, and at last said that his pain had been worse than ever, just when Gertrude was not there to nurse him.
“And how did you bear it?”
“Ask mother,” replied the boy, with one of his radiant smiles, which yet had little of the brightness of childhood in it. And he went on to tell how his mother had scarcely ever left him, and how she had time now to nurse him, just as she did before his father was ill; and how he had told her his secret about bearing the pain; and how she thought it a very good method, and was glad to understand why he looked in a particular way when the pain seemed to be coming on, and spoke slowly and gently when he had been lying awake at night longer than usual; and how she really thought he might try to be as patient as Jesus Christ, and become more so, in time, than seemed possible at present. Gertrude was very glad to hear all this, and also that the ranunculus, which had been taken all possible care of for her, was now in beautiful blow, and that they were to go down to the decoy together the first day that there should be no mist, when Christian had two or three kinds of waterfowl to show her which had never settled near them before. But all this was hastily dismissed for Master Peter. Master Peter had inquired, more than once, for Christian; but had said nothing about coming to Winkel. Christian must meet him again at Saardam some day.
And now Gertrude and Christian had both need of patience; Gertrude being first half stifled by Roselyn's boisterous love, and then rescued by Heins, at the expense of many tears from the scolded child; and Christian being not less teased by lectures from Slyk, and fondness from Francesca. He did not lose his good-humour, however; and, with the rest of the party, was too happy to wish to leave the summer-house till the sun sank red behind the west-dyke, and the evening fog began to rise.
NEWS FROM HOME.
Slyk and Heins were equally anxious to lose no time in viewing the scene of their undertaking; the former, because he disliked any delay in getting possession of the young merchant's money, and the latter, because he was anxious to signalize himself by illustrious success. They set forth the next morning for the dwelling of the peasant who had undertaken to lodge the workmen during the time of their being employed in the neighbourhood. The whole family party accompanied them, except Christian and his inseparable friend Gertrude, who remained behind to enjoy pleasures which would be less fatiguing to the invalid. The decoy was to be visited; and the garden, with its rare flowers ranged in their beds as by the rod of a magical mathematician. Christian pointed out to his companion, as he was being carried in at the gate, the motto which he had chosen for an inscription, “Peaceful is my garden.”
“And now, Kaatje, you may go, if you will leave me the silver whistle. You can Work in the summer-house, you know; and we will call you when I want to be moved. Do you like this place, Gertrude?”
Gertrude thought it the pleasantest spot in the whole garden. The shade was welcome, and it was a pretty sight to see the herons wading in the stream so near them; and the boat jutted out behind the summer-house so as to make a good object for a painter. Christian hoped they might use the boat while Heins was with them. It was seldom entered at other times, except for the purpose of being kept in readiness for an escape, in case of a flood. Every house had its boat in that neighbourhood; for the sea was very rough at times, and the river had risen four inches higher last winter than had been known for many years, so that it had been determined to raise the dyke before the danger could recur. Meantime every house had its boat.
“You think of that boat sometimes, I dare say,” observed Gertrude, “when your cough keeps you awake, and you hear the wind roar and the waters splash. Do you feel afraid at such times?
“No; I do not think God would let us perish so. He has suffered the storks to build on the summer-house, though we cannot get them to settle on the house. See; we have put up a frame for them to build on, and they will not come; but there are two nests on the summer-house roof.”
“What do you suppose from that?” inquired Gertrude, who was far from being exempt from the superstition of the ‘country with respect to the stork, there supposed to be a holy bird.
“I think that if a flood came, we must get to the summer-house as fast as we could, and stay there till the storks flew away; and then we must go down into our boat.”
“And what would you do while you were waiting for the waters to subside? If they continued to rise, and nobody came, would you be afraid?”
“Not if M. Aymond was but with us, to pray for us. Or if God would put a rainbow in the cloud, it would be a sign that people had been saved from a much worse flood. Do you know, I call that boat our ark; but there is not room in it for half the creatures we should like to save. Luc's dog might go, and Roselyn's parrot, and perhaps Kaatje's calf might find a corner; but our poor cows must all be drowned. I hope there will never be a flood.”
All further speculation was stopped by the arrival of a special messenger from Amsterdam, with letters from the dignitary Vanderput to his sister and his partner. Gertrude, after she had satisfied herself that nothing was the matter, read her despatch without remark, and then directed the messenger to overtake Mr. Snoek, and deliver his letter without delay.
Mr. Snoek, meanwhile, was in raptures at all that he saw and heard. Not having been made aware that the work was even begun, he was amazed to find a lake where he expected to tread the trembling soil of a moist pasture land. How this came to be water when it should have been the well-limed soil which he had described, Slyk went on explaining from the moment they entered the district, till the party arrived at the door of the boor's dwelling. The truth of the matter was that he was himself surprised and struck with the apprehension that some of his devices had failed, that money was wanted to set the lime-kilns at work, and pay the delvers; and that, as Dutch labourers had little idea of working for anything but ready money, they had gone away. They must be recoverable, however; they must be still in the neighbourhood, at some temporary work, and not unwilling to be recalled, when pay should be again forthcoming.
“They may well be willing to come back,” observed Jan, the boor. “My wife and I made them as comfortable as so many burgomasters. And their wages were such as fully to make up to them for being brought so far from home. But, Mr. Slyk, unless you employ them soon,—unless you engage them before they are discharged from their present work, you will have to alter your terms.”
“No fear!” replied Slyk. “If the knave that should have sent you a remittance a fortnight ago does not make haste, I will make him answerable for spoiling the best work that was ever undertaken in this district.”
“There can be no difficulty in getting money to go on with,” observed Heins. “It is a most absurd reason for stopping the work.”
“Most absurd, indeed,” replied Slyk. “Neither you nor I, my dear sir, shall leave room for such an excuse, I am sure. We would both rather turn our pockets inside out. The fellows shall be recalled this very day, if we can muster our resources. You shall see the vein,—you shall be shown, layout but first, Jan, let us view your establishment. Where do you lodge our men?”
Jan led the way into the house, which was built and laid out after the fashion of the better sort of peasants’ houses of that period. A range of stalls for cattle extended along each side of the long low room of which the dwelling consisted: and a space was boarded off at the upper end of the apartment for the use of the family. Here was the ample hearth on which the turf fire burned; and here the beds, ranged in recesses of the walls, and the cupboards which contained the domestic apparatus of the establishment. In the present instance, the cows had been dismissed to a temporary shelter provided for them at a little distance from the house, and their stalls had been fitted up with beds for the workmen, so that tobacco-smoke had of late issued from the recesses which had been wont to exhale the sweet breath of cows. The clothing which the cows wore in damp weather still hung against the partitions of the stall, denoting their original destination.
“Do you know, papa,” said Francesca, who had been talking with Jan's wife, “it was only for brandy that these people struck, after all. They were not in such a hurry for their money but that they could have waited for a remittance; but for spirits they could not wait.”
“How should they?” inquired Jan, “Working, as they did, up to their knees in water for seven or eight hours a-day, how should they exist without brandy?”
Every body agreed that spirits were the only safeguard against the perils of ditch water, and that eight hours a day was very hard work indeed. Few labourers could be brought to exceed six. But why, Slyk asked rather angrily, was brandy wanting? There was plenty to be had at Winkel, and Jan might have been obliging enough to purchase a supply, for which he knew very well he should have been presently paid. Jan opened a cupboard door, in order to display the evidence of his having no cash at command just now. Some pictures, handsomely framed and carefully covered with canvass, were laid up there, to be sold at the next Rotterdam fair. Jan's wife piqued herself on her taste in paintings, and her husband had before found it answer well to trust to it for the investment of money which must otherwise lie where it could gather neither profit nor interest. He, and other Dutch peasants, had made money by selling again the judicious purchases they were enabled to make from time to time. Those who dared not venture upon pictures had small speculations in gold chains and other expensive ornaments; and a yet humbler class had their little ventures of books and foreign toys. Every thing sold at the Rotterdam fair; and every Dutchman might be trusted to make his speculation answer.
Jan having proved that his capital did not exist in a form that would immediately exchange for brandy, intimated that he had something to say in private, and to show out of doors to the gentlemen. As they went out, Heins declared his intention of furnishing an abundant supply of spirits out of the stock at Amsterdam, which, had been destined for England, but was scarcely likely to be wanted there till the course of exchange had turned. At present, while the exchange was in favour of Holland, the British merchants were, of course, stimulated to export as much as they could, and would receive no produce from Dutch ports, clandestinely or openly, till they had paid their debts by exportation. Slyk made a light mention of this being one convenient method in which Heins's proposed assistance might be advanced; and an immediate supply of brandy, salt butter, and meat was promised.
What Jan had to show was of no little importance. No one knows better than a Dutchman that water is never idle, even when it appears perfectly stagnant. The pools which had spread over the ground whence the turf had been dug, lay so still that the birds might have used them for a looking-glass in which to dress their plumage; but these waters were, nevertheless, at work, as Jan proved by leading his guests to one spot of the inner dyke, where the soil appeared to be slightly giving way. On this stormy coast, as in other parts of Holland, the sea-dyke was not the only protection provided for the pastures which lay beneath its level. It was all-sufficient for common times and seasons, but in the event of a slight irruption, or of any accident to the mills on the neighbouring canals, it was desirable to have a channel provided to carry off an occasional flood. Such a channel was furnished by erecting a land-dyke within the sea-dyke, leaving the space between to serve as a passage for any overflow of water. The whole range of the sea-dyke near Winkel was in admirable order. No dyke in the country was more thickly planted with the reed which assists the gathering and hardening of the sand thrown up by the waves. Its top was broad enough for two carriages to pass with ease; and its internal slope was of a soil so hard that nothing but the matted grass would grow upon it. The inner dyke was yet hardly consolidated: but the process was hastened by the planting of trees to a great extent. The young wood throve, and gave promise of binding the whole soil in a net-work of roots. The only doubtful point was the one now indicated by Jan. The bog water had spread to the foot of this mound; and just there, the roots of a young willow seemed to be starting. This was all: but, to the eye of a Dutchman, it conveyed much.
Slyk gave positive orders for the immediate erection of a mill to aid the drainage; and that no more turf should be dug till an abundance of lime was prepared to fill up the drained field, and till the bank was ascertained to be in a sound condition. He made Heins observe that there was very little water between the dykes, and no probability of more before all should have been rendered secure.—Jan prepared himself to set off in pursuit of the workmen, authorized to bring them back by the granting of even better terms than before, if such should be demanded.
Heins observed that the masters of labourers in some other countries were more happily circumstanced than he and his friend. In England, men asked work of the masters, who were therefore in a situation to exercise a choice, and to exert some authority; but in Holland, the masters had to seek for labourers, and were consequently at their mercy as often as there happened to be no scarcity of work. Even at present, when, through the quantity of wealth in the country, it was difficult to find employment for capital at home, and there was therefore more labour to be disposed of than in the days of comparative poverty, the labouring classes were able to make their own terms, from the abundance which they possessed. One of the difficulties attending” any new undertaking was the management that was necessary to bring the requisitions of the labourer into agreement with the interests of the master.
“Another difficulty,” observed Slyk, “is the poor encouragement that is given to liberal undertakings in this country. Our banks will bring on a general distress, if they do not mend their measures. If they are so timid and so ill-humoured as they are now about discounting bills, and lending money to the spirited individuals who exert themselves to benefit their country, everything will go to ruin. It is a part of their regular duty to assist those who would enrich, those who would beautify the face of the land; but there is more trouble than most enterprises will pay in getting a few bills discounted.”
Before he had finished his complaint, the messenger from Amsterdam had appeared and delivered Vandefput's letter to Heins. There was something in Heins's frowning brow and falling countenance as he read, which induced Jakob to take up his theme again as soon as he could obtain a hearing. He enlarged once more on the avarice and cowardice of the banks, which refused to aid even such an undertaking as the one before their eyes. Heins would scarcely believe it, but the Leyden bank had within a week refused to discount bills drawn by Cats of Haerlem upon Geysbuk of Rotterdam.
Heins could very easily believe it. The refusal of the bank probably arose from the same cause which would now, he feared, prevent him from making the advances he had destined to the undertaking before him. He found that the turn of the exchange had given such a stimulus to importation that he had less money at command, unfortunately, than he could have had at any other conjuncture.—But he had promised, Slyk reminded him. He had promised brandy, butter, and meat immediately, and money to a considerable amount layout
Subject to the consent of his partner, Heins observed; and his partner now wrote him word that their joint capital was already completely invested.
“But you have capital of your own, independent of the partnership,” said Slyk; “you, and your mother also. I beg your pardon for seeming to interfere in your concerns, my dear fellow; but I am not one to stand by quietly, and see a young friend, just left to his own guidance, let slip so splendid an opportunity as this of making thirty per cent, of his spare capital. I have a great regard for your mother too, and would fain see that her worldly concerns do not suffer from her being deprived of her husband, my very good friend. If she were here, with three thousand guilders in her right hand, I would merely say, ‘here is our ground, there is the sea,’ and leave the rest to her own good sense.”
Heins looked about him for some time before he made any reply, and then lamented that this soil was not already fit for pasturage, as some German and Danish cattle were on the point of arriving to be fattened; and it would have been one way of aiding the scheme to deposit them on this spot. Jakob explained that there was a farm at a little distance which belonged, he declared, to, himself. He would say no more than that any advances made by Heins might be repaid in the feed of these cattle, and thus made independent of whatever risk might be thought to attend the grand scheme.
Long did Heins pace to and fro on the dyke, pondering his resources, and reconsidering the letter of his partner, which was as follows:—
“I am sorry that your absence occurs just at this time, however short it may be: for every day may make so important a difference in the course of exchange as may materially affect our commercial concerns. How long the exchange may remain as it is there is no saying, as there is a rumour of the enforcement of tithe on the cultivation of madder in Great Britain; and this will bring the madder of a Presbyterian country like ours, which pays no tithe, into the market, at an advantage which must tempt those merchants to export largely who are now importing. If, besides this, certain relaxations of monopoly which are talked of should take place, to the advantage of Dutch commerce, our exports to Great Britain will be so abundant as presently to turn the course of exchange. It is our part, then, while we can get bills cheap, to urge our business to the fair limits of our capital, that we may have the fewer debts to pay to England when that competition for bills arises which must certainly follow the present abundance. I did business with Visscher this afternoon, as you were not here to do it for me. He is too busy (making his fortune, I suppose, out of the variations of exchange) to have a word to say to his old friends till after ‘Change hours. I fancy that the bills on England which have fallen in value bring a pretty profit into the broker's pocket when transmitted to Paris, where the exchange is greatly in favour of England. Visscher must be making much more by this state of things than he lost a while ago by the variation which took place in consequence of the depreciation of money in Paris. A fine lot of bills in his hands, which would have borne a premium over night, were gladly disposed of at a discount the next day. Visscher has never forgiven the over-issue of paper which caused this; but he is making up for it now. His charge per cent, on these transactions is no trifling gain in these busy days. When the exchange is once more at par, he will spare us a day at Saardam to talk over a little speculation in which it seems to me that we may share with advantage.
“It is rumoured on ‘Change to-day that a certain provincial bank has taken up a suspicion of the means by which a present neighbour of yours is floating a scheme which he boasts of as promising great things. It is said that a confederation of needy men have tried the now unusual trick of drawing on one another in a circle, and thus raising money to carry on their scheme, which they may or may not be eventually able to pay. The bank in question has been gradually getting out of the scrape for some time past, not forcing the parties to a bankruptcy, but making more and more difficulty about discounting their bills. The other banks which have been favoured with the custom of the parties are taking the hint, it is said, and looking close into the character of the transaction. If so, the truth of the matter will soon appear. Meanwhile, should any speculator fall in your way, beware of his representations; particularly if he talks of the distress of the country, and attributes it to the timidity of the banks. The country is prosperous, and the banks know what they are about full as well as he. When I have said ‘beware,’ I have said that which makes me think it worth while to send a special messenger with my letter. Besides this, I have only to say that I shall be glad to see you at home; and that if your mother has any fine pasturage untenanted, our Danish cattle may as well be landed in her neighbourhood, and fattened on her meadows as on those of a stranger. Arrange this as you please. * * *”
In the days when extensive alterations in the currency of trading countries were common, commerce was much indebted to the intervention of such men as Visscher. The bill-brokers held the power of equalizing the exchange, or of preventing its variations from exceeding a certain limit. The variations of the real exchange can, it is true, never exceed the limit fixed by the cost of transmitting metals; for, as soon as the premium which a merchant has to pay on the bill he wishes to purchase is higher than the expense of sending gold and silver, he, and others circumstanced like himself, will pay debts in money, the competition for bills will be lessened, and their price will fall: but the tendency which the exchange has to correct itself is much assisted by the operations of the bill-brokers, who, as they deal in the bills of many countries, can transport this kind of currency from places where it is superabundant to places where it is scarce. Like all other traders, they seek to buy where their article is cheapest, and to sell where it is dearest; and this, of course, lessens the cheapness and the dearness in different places. At the present time, the bills on England were cheap at Amsterdam, and dear in Leghorn; and Visscher, and other bill-brokers, by buying up bills on England, and transmitting them to Leghorn, assisted in equalizing the demands of Holland and England, and also of Leghorn and England, on each other, and thus aided in restoring the exchange to par.
But when the currency of any country is altered, no operations of the bill-brokers, or of any one else, can prevent the exchange from appearing to sustain a great variation, though those who understand the circumstances, and are not apt to be alarmed by the mere sound of words, know that, in such a case, if the exchange be really at par, it cannot be nominally so, and do not therefore trouble themselves about the apparent difference. This nominal variation does not affect trade; because the decrease in the price of goods to be exported answers to the discount which the exporting merchant sustains on his foreign bill: that is, if an English merchant draws a bill on Amsterdam for 1000 guilders in return for 90. worth of goods, the discount at which the Englishman sells his bill exactly answers the saving he has made from the price of the goods exported being lowered through the depreciation of the English currency: while the premium which the bill would bear in Paris answers to the apparent surplus of the 100 guilders. The holders of bills drawn before the alterations in the currency took place are affected by such changes; and such liabilities to profit and loss are among the evils attendant upon fluctuations in currency; but the amount of exportation and importation, and therefore the real exchange, are in no wise affected by alterations in the representative of their value.
If the course of the exchange is watched with anxiety, it should be with regard to the nominal and not the real variation. As a test of the state of the currency of the country its deviations are important, and cannot be too narrowly observed by those in whom the power resides of enlarging and contracting the currency. But the real variation might be safely left to itself, even if there were no intervention of bill-brokers by which equalization is secured. The variation can never pass the amount by which the cost of transmitting payments in metal exceeds that of making payment in bills. This cost can never be great while there is a set of persons, like bill-brokers, to buy bills where they are cheapest, and sell them where they are dearest; and thus, by arbitrating the exchanges of different countries, equalize the whole. As such equalization aids the security of property, commerce is largely indebted to the intervention of this class of dealers.
If any means could be found by which the rise and fall of money could take place at once and equally all over the trading world, there would be an end to nominal variations of exchange, and commerce would be divested of one of its mysteries: but this can never be while production is more abundant in one place than another; and while the cost of the carriage of commodities increases with distance. Mrs. Snoek found it cheaper living at Winkel than at Amsterdam: that is, the great articles of consumption were produced at hand, and had no cost of carriage to bear; and the value of the precious metals was therefore higher at Winkel than in Amsterdam, go much higher as to induce the Amsterdam exporter who made purchases of her butter and cheese to pay her in that commodity which was cheap to him while it was dear to her,—money. In return for the produce of her farm, which was shipped from her neighbourhood, there was a flow of money from Amsterdam to Winkel; a flow which would continue till money, becoming more plentiful at Winkel, fell in value so as to make it better worth the while of both parties that Mrs. Snoek should be paid in commodities. If the respective commodities should balance each other in value, so as to show that there was the same proportion of money in both places, no money would be transmitted; but if money at length abounded at Winkel more than at Amsterdam, it would become worth Mrs. Snoek's while, in her turn, to buy the merchant's commodities with that which was cheap to her while it was dear to him. Such inequalities must exist in different parts of the same country, and, much more, in different countries; and, while they do exist, the coins of countries will change their relative value, and there will be nominal variations of the exchange, wholly independent of the total amount of sales between different countries.
At present, as in all former times, money was dearer at Winkel than at Amsterdam; Mrs. Snoek delivered the produce of her farm to be shipped at the dyke near her own abode, and was paid in money from Amsterdam. As this suited her views of prudence, she designed to remain, with her family, where she was, while Winkel continued to be a cheap place of residence. Slyk was happy to hear this, both as it afforded a prospect of many opportunities of confirming his hold on Heins's speculative enthusiasm and his purse; and because it was likely to bring more of Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek's herds of lean foreign cattle to fatten on the pastures round Winkel. Mrs. Snoek had but little pasturage to let while she kept up a fine dairy of her own; and Jakob's drained fields would be tenanted as fast as they were ready to bear the weight of the herds that hungered for the rich verdure which springs from such a soil as he “could boast of. This matter was settled on the road homewards; Heins. seeing nothing in such an arrangement inconsistent with the caution recommended by his partner; and Mrs. Snoek thinking it well that her son should obtain something from Jakob in exchange for the advances made or to be made. Not that her opinion was asked by Heins, Being a man of business, he cared little for the opinion of any woman; but, nevertheless, he had no objection to her approbation.
Orders were left with Jan to bring back the work-people without delay; and Gertrude was sorry to hear, before Heins's departure in the afternoon, that he hoped to come again shortly to visit his family, and his very good friends the Slyks. She did not choose to acknowledge the look which conveyed that they would not be the only causes of his return. She had the hope, however, that his Danish cattle were included with herself in his unexpressed regards.
A NIGHT'S PROBATION.
“Why must Gertrude go so soon?” asked Christian of his mother, one fine evening, when the little family were seated at their homely supper. “I am sure when she came, she did not mean to go away so soon. Nobody wishes her to go.”
“I wish her to stay,” replied Mrs. Snoek; and Gertrude knows that I do; so that I think she would stay if she could. But you can ask her.”
Gertrude must go the next morning, though she was as fond of the country, and as sorry to leave her friends as Christian could desire. Her servant had orders to prepare for the little voyage, and——
“I will stop her,” cried both the younger children,’ each trying to outstrip the other in getting down from their high stools and flying to the door. Their mother called them back, with a rebuke for leaving their seats before grace was said; and even Christian thought that Gertrude should be allowed to do as she pleased.
“But,” he continued, “the pastor comes with Heins to-morrow or the next day; and you could go home with them, instead of having only your old woman to talk to in the trekschuit.”
“The pastor will talk to you instead of to me,” replied Gertrude, with a smile; “and that will be better for you than parting with three friends at one time.”
“But you have never seen the rush-planting here,” exclaimed Luc. “We all came too late for the spring planting; and now, you are going away before the autumn one. I do not know whether they will let me plant any this year; but last year, they would not allow any children to go nearer than the top of the dyke. Just as if we should pull any up!”
The imputation of pulling up reeds from the dykes was repelled as indignantly by a Dutch-man, woman, or child, in those days, as a charge of sheep-stealing would now be in this country. Such an act was death, according to the old Dutch law, and the entire nation was educated to regard it with disgust and horror.
Christian told how he was laid on the edge of the dyke, and saw gangs of men and women at work on the slope, planting the reeds with which the banks were bristled, in order that the sand which was washed up by the sea should be retained till it hardened into an outer coating of the mound. If Gertrude would stay, perhaps Heins would take the whole party out in a boat, to see from the bay the people at work all along the dyke, while the sea washed their very feet.—Mrs. Snoek thought it a still better reason for Gertrude's remaining that Amsterdam was now in its least healthy state. She would find the canals very offensive, after the air of the open sea, to which she had been accustomed of late. In another month they would be cleared out, and then all would fee safe till the next season's hot weather. Katrina, who was waiting,—that is, sitting at work in the window till she should be wanted,—put in an observation that the waters round Winkel had never been fresher than now. The late high seas had filled the channel between the inner and the sea-dyke, and all the mills had been in full activity for some days. The apothecary was of opinion that there would be less ague at Winkel this autumn than for many seasons past. So saying, Katrina looked out, to see how all the mills within view appeared to be alive, their sails swinging, and their machinery, open towards the water, whirling and twisting, as if by some self-moving power.
She did not draw in her head immediately; and Luc would have hastened to see what it was that attracted her attention, but that grace had not yet been said.
“Kaatje, what is the matter?” asked her mistress, as she saw the work drop from the maid's hands.
“Christ, have pity! the dyke has burst!” exclaimed Katrina. “The flood comes pouring—Mercy! how it sweeps in by the peat-field!”
“The peat-field! Then we are lost,” cried Gertrude, “Where——”
“Mother!” said Christian, “say grace, and let us go.”
Not one word of the long grace was omitted or hurried, or pronounced in a less steady voice than usual. When it was ended, Mrs. Snoek issued her orders.
“To the upper rooms, my children! Christian, we will carry you to the top of the house. Katrina, ring the great bell. It may be heard as far as the village. But first, close all the lower shutters. They may be some little defence. And, Gertrude, we must put out a flag from the roof.”
“The summer-house!” suggested Christian. “The boat is there.”
“True, true. We will get to the summer-house, if there is still time.”
There was time, as the summer-house stood on high ground, and the water had not yet reached the lowest part of the garden. The servants and children ran as for their lives. Mrs. Snoek and Gertrude, who carried Christian's little couch between them, walked more slowly, and stopped at a seat half-way up the gravel walk. There they looked around, and perceived that their abode and its precincts formed a little island in the midst of a flood, which was rapidly advancing on every side, as if to close them in. Tossing waves were chasing each other over the green fields, swallowing up all that came in their way; while the terrified cattle, for the most part, ran towards the farm-buildings on the little dyke below, as if to find safety there; and a few endeavoured to keep their footing in the midst of the tide, lashing with their tails every swell that came lo buffet them. The trim garden, with its gay beds, shone in the evening light with as quiet an air as if its low hedge formed a sufficient security from the deluge, while a sunny haze hung like a canopy over its recesses, and made the tranquillity of the upper air contrast strangely with the watery surface, which seemed troubled by storm. Far off, the village rose upon the loftier dyke which bordered the canal, its grey willows looking as firmly rooted, its houses as spruce as when no one dreamed of its being within the reach of accident. Thither Gertrude's gaze was turned intently.
“Thank God! the whole country round is not under water,” she cried. “It is only the section between the north canal and Winkel. Thank God! there are but few in jeopardy.”
Christian could perceive that people were gathering on the dyke of the north canal; and both they and the Winkel people seemed wholly occupied in watching the section which lay between. Not a face appeared to be turned the other way.
“A horse!” cried Christian. “Do not you see a horse on the ridge? The magistrate is out, and the people will begin to do something for us.”
That the magistrate was on horseback to take the command,—a practice which is reserved for very rare occasions,—was a favourable sign; but Mrs. Snoek silently pointed to one which dashed Christian's confidence. The dyke which had given way,—the same that had been injured by Slyk's bog-water,—appeared now to be crumbling down, ell by ell, with a rapidity which defied all attempts at repair. Its layers of soil oozed away in mud; its wattles were floating on the billows; and the blocks of stiff clay which had lain square, one upon another, showed a rounded surface till they disappeared from their positions. The opening enlarged every moment, and it seemed as if the tide in the outer channel rose in proportion as it found a vent. The first dribblings over the edge of the dyke appeared at wider and wider distances, while the gushing in the centre grew more copious as the waters below rose to meet it.
“Do but hear!” said Christian, in a low voice. “How it splashes and roars!”
His mother perceived that spray was beginning to fly in at the gate at the bottom of the garden, and some of the poor cattle were already afloat, supported for awhile by the clothing which would soon help to sink them. She made a sign to Gertrude to resume her share of their burden, and they proceeded towards the summer-house.—When the servants had been sent back for the provisions they ought to have brought with them, and had returned with all they could fetch away, (the lower apartments being already flooded;) their mistress gave orders for the summer-house door to be closed. Christian begged to be first carried out for a moment. He wished to look up to the roof. A stork was perched there, flapping its wings; and Christian was satisfied. The next thing to be done was to bring the boat immediately under the window, and to fasten it securely to the summer-house, that it might not be carried away out of reach.
“I wish the pastor was here,” said Christian, who, with the rest of the party, had little apprehension of personal danger, as long as the evening was serene, and the extent of the devastation limited. “I wish the pastor was here now, to tell us what we ought to do.”
“We need no voice of man,” replied Gertrude. “Hark, how deep calleth unto deep!”
The boy looked entranced as he fixed his eyes alternately on the line of blue sea, where ships were gliding in the light breeze, and on the muddy surge around, which already bore many wrecks, and assumed a more threatening appearance every moment. His mother's voice in prayer was the first thing that roused him.—Before it ceased, the garden had a multitude of streams running through it, and only a few red and yellow blossoms reared their heads where all had lately been so gay. Next came the first dash against the walls of the building, and spray thrown in at the window, whence Roselyn withdrew in mute terror. Before closing the shutter, her mother gave an anxious look towards the village and the farm-buildings.
“The herd and his wife have a boat, and each a stout arm,” said she, “and we may consider them safe. Kaatje, you can row; and both Gertrude and I can hold an oar. They do not seem to be doing anything for us from the village.”
Katrina, alarmed, like the rest of the party, by her mistress's words and manner, declared that she had never dipped an oar in troubled waters. It was little she could do on a canal. The sun was gone down too, and what were they to attempt in the dark? Surely her mistress would remain where they were till assistance came, even if that should not be till morning.—Certainly, if possible, was her mistress's reply; from which Gertrude inferred that Mrs. Snoek thought the summer-house unsafe. It was raised on piles, like the best part of Amsterdam, and more strongly founded than the dwelling-house; but it even now shook perceptibly; and it seemed too probable that it might fall very soon, if the rush of waters continued.
Twilight faded away, and darkness succeeded, and no hail from a distance was yet heard:—no sound but that of waters, to which the party remained silently listening; Christian, with his eyes fixed on the scarcely discernible boat which danced below, and Gertrude watching for the moon as anxiously as if their safety depended on a gleam of light. It came, at length, quivering on the surface below, and lighting up the tree tops which appeared here and there like little islands where the inner dyke had been.
The flood was found to have risen to the level of the floor; and the servants, almost glad to have something to do, began to lower the provisions into the boat. Presently a loud crack was heard; the mirror, which reflected the broken moonbeams, was perceived to hang awry; and, more ominous still, the stork first fluttered and then sped away.
“Do you see, mother?” said Christian, as he pointed upwards. “We must go.”
“You are not afraid, my dear boy? Katrina and I will go first, and Gertrude will let you down while we keep the boat steady. You are not afraid, Christian?”
“I wish Luc was not so frightened,” replied the boy, who, in truth, seemed more animated than alarmed. “Luc, the Spirit is on the face of these waters too.”
Roselyn, tired out, had fallen asleep on her mother's bosom. It was a rough waking, amidst spray and the chill night air; and she made her cries heard further than perhaps any signal shout that her companions could have raised. Nothing that had yet happened had distressed the party so much as this child's screams, renewed with every pitch of the boat, which, though strong, and so large as to consist of two cabins, was now tossed like the lightest shallop. Christian never could bear Roselyn's lamentations, and they now had their usual effect upon him, of making him cough dreadfully, and upsetting his cheerfulness for the time. When he could find voice, he began to complain of several things which no one could remedy; and struggled the more to express himself, the more violently his cough returned.
“You must be silent,” Gertrude said, gently. “We cannot help one another. God only can help us now; and we must await his will.”
“Thank you for putting me in mind,” cheerfully replied the boy. “O, Gertrude, I wonder what that will is! Do you think we shall sink deep, deep in these cold waters? I think the apostle Peter was very daring to go down out of the boat. There is no Christ now to come over these rough waves, and bid us not be afraid. O, if there were——”
“We can try not to be afraid, as if he were really here,” said Gertrude. “Let us be still, lest we should be tempted to complain.”
Christian did not speak again, and tried to suppress his cruel cough. His mother was aware of the effort, and would have had him carried down, saying that the poor boy was doomed, whether they ever reached land or not. He would never get over the exposure of this night. Christian made no opposition, but Gertrude suggested that the boat itself was in danger from the wrecks which it encountered; and that the only chance of safety, in case of any great shock, was in being on the exposed part. So Christian was left to feed his spirit as he would with the impressions which came upon his awakened senses.
Katrina's oar had been carried away at the first attempt to use it. The other could be employed only in pushing off whatever was brought by the waves to threaten the boat. One object after another was recognized by the party;—a plank, which from its colour was known to belong to the farm buildings; and a chest that had stood in the dwelling-house, which must therefore be down. Whatever security might await her family, Mrs. Snoek saw that the fruits of long toil and much care were already swept away.
A fearful crisis came at last, while the party were watching a dark object at no great distance, which looked like a boat. It might be many things instead of a boat; but it was more like one than any object they had seen this night. While she was looking at it, something came fluttering against Gertrude's face, which made her start. It was the flag which had waved from the gilt ball of the summerhouse. All turned, and dimly saw the whole fabric fall in sideways, and disappear amidst a cloud of dust, which was blown full in their faces. No fixture could be found near, by which the single oar could be made of any avail to keep the boat out of the eddy. That there were fixed points was soon made known, however, by the repeated shocks which the boat underwent; shocks which threatened to drive in its bottom.
“Now God have mercy upon us!” cried the mother. “If we go down, it will be now.”
A cry arose from the children and the servants. From Christian there was no cry, but a groan, which, though low, reached his mother's ear and heart. She saw that his hands were grasping the ribs of the boat.
“My boy, your pain is upon you.”
“Never mind me,” said the boy, in a voice patient through its agony. “Let my Father take me. Save Luc. Save Roselyn.”
The boat had been staved by the last shock, and was now rapidly sinking. Help was, however, at hand. The dark object was really a boat. The cry had directed it to the right spot; it arrived in time to pick up every one of the party, not before they were wet, but before they were actually afloat. Christian was very nearly going down with the wreck, so firmly were his hands clenched to its sides: but his mother exerted her fast failing strength to rescue him, and afterwards to hold him on her knees during the fearful struggle with the enemy from which he would thankfully have been released by drowning.
The villagers who manned the rescuing boat respected the misery of the mother, whom they believed to be watching over her dying child. They spoke only to say that the passage to the village would be long and perilous, and that the earliest assistance would be procured by landing on the nearest point of the sea dyke, where succours could be brought, if there should not happen to be a house at hand.
Before the moon had gone down upon the watery waste, the party were received into the house of a hospitable fisherman, who, with his wife, did all that could be done for their safety and comfort till they could he removed to the abode of an acquaintance in Winkel; or, as Gertrude proposed, to her brother's country house at Saardam. To make the exertion of this removal was, she believed, the best thing for Mrs. Snoek's spirits and for Christian's health, which might possibly be revived by the care which would be bestowed on him by those whom he most loved, in a familiar scene, far distant from the desolation which must meet his eye every time he looked abroad, if he remained at Winkel.
His mother consented with the less difficulty that there was every probability of a fever prevailing in the district which had been laid waste. She had suffered too much from the flood, to think of braving the pestilence which must ensue. When her farm servant and his wife came to condole and relate their share of the perils of the preceding night, they received her directions about saving the wreck of the property, and doing what might be practicable towards restoring the estate.
These people were full of indignation at having been left, with their mistress's family, to try their chance of escape from drowning, while those who deserved such a fate much more had taken good care of their own security. Jan and his household had chanced to sleep on board their boats for two or three nights past, after bustling about with extraordinary vigour during the day. Slyk and his daughter had also, most opportunely, been induced to pass a few days with an acquaintance whose abode was at some distance from the scene of disaster. They came to sympathize with the Snoeks; old Jakob glorifying Providence for having interfered in so marvellous a manner to preserve himself and Fransje; and Fransje full of anxiety to know whether Heins was likely to come to assist in the great work of reclaiming the section which now lay waste.
Heins came as appointed, attended by the pastor:—came to see his Danish cattle floating lifeless in the muddy lake; to try doubtfully to fix the point where his mother's pretty residence had stood; to ponder whether the extent of the damage and of his liabilities could be concealed from his partner; and to wonder how much Gertrude had been told, and what she would think of the issue of this his first grand scheme of enterprise.
Mrs. Snoek greeted the pastor with a hope that she need not look on this calamity as a judgment on her solicitude about worldly interests. The pastor had said much to her, and said it often, about sitting loose from the things of this world; and she trusted she had taken it to heart. Unless she was much mistaken, she had only endeavoured to do what, as a mother, and the widow of an honourable man, it behaved her to improve her children's fortunes, and justify their father's ambition for them. The pastor decided that she would best prove the purity of her views by her cheerful acquiescence in her present losses.
A Dutch lady of a later age would have found it easy to acquiesce in such losses for the sake of the amount of wealth which remained: but in the times of the high prosperity of the Dutch, desire grew with acquisition, and it was not enough to be rich, if it was possible to be richer, or if others were richer, or if the individual had been go at a preceding time. Though she and her children had more wealth than they could consume, the widow found it required all her resignation to bear patiently the loss of what she had no occasion for.
“You always told me,” said Christian to the pastor, “to take care not to love any people or things too much, because I should most likely have to leave them all very soon. But you see they have left me.—O, I do not mean my mother, and Gertrude, and Luc and Roselyn; but I have lost my pretty calf; and my tame heron has flown away; and my tulips,—that beautiful late-blower! There was not such a Bybloemen in all the district as the best of mine. When I bade it farewell for this year, and looked for the last time into its cup, with its white bottom, so beautifully broken with cherry, I did not think it would be rotting under the water so soon. I never saw such a cup as that flowed had. I shall never see such another.”
The pastor shook his head. Christian, taking this for sympathy in his grief, went on,
“And my calf had got to know me, and to let me do what I liked with him. He stood quite still to let me help to put on his jacket yesterday when the evening chill was coming on. I am glad I did not see him die, if he splashed in the water like one poor cow that I saw. I shall never love another calf. O, now I know why you shake your head so. You think that I should soon have left them, if they had not left me. Perhaps I may never get better than I am to-day; and to-day I cannot sit up at all. But, tell me one thing I want to know. Do you think animals live again? It seems very hard that my calf should die so soon, if it is not to live any more: and, if I am to die soon too——”
“You would like to meet whatever you have loved,” said the pastor, finishing his sentence for him. “I think God will give you beings to love wherever you are, Christian; because I think you cannot live without loving; and I am very sure that, wherever you are, there will be some to love you.”
Christian smiled, and said that people loved him now out of kindness, because they were sorry for his pain, and that he could not do what other children did: and he loved them because they were so good as not to mind the trouble he was always giving them. He was sure they would not forget him when he had ceased to be a trouble to any body; and perhaps he could do something for them when there should be an end of all pain, and when he might perhaps be as strong as the angel that stood between heaven and earth, and cried out so that the thunders answered him. This reminded Christian to tell how he now knew what the voices were like that came from under God's throne. Last night, he had learned what was the sound of many waters. Just when his pain came on, he thought these voices were calling for him. He seemed now disappointed that it had not been so. The pastor told him that it should be left to God to call him away in whispers or in thunders. His only care should be to hold himself ready to depart.
NEWS AT HOME.
Heins consented, at the earnest request of his friend Jakob, to remain at Winkel for a few days, to superintend the necessary operations there, instead of returning southwards with his family. Jakob himself set out in search of labourers, and of wherewithal to pay them. His absence was considered necessary, as the suspicion had got abroad that he was somehow the cause of the mischief that had happened. Justice moved slow in Holland at that time; which did not usually signify, as Dutchmen also moved slow; but whether Jakob had become infused with liveliness by his intercourse with the French, or whether he had learned celerity by his enterprises at sea, he acted little like a Dutchman on the present occasion. While the magistrate was yet suffering from the fatigue of having been on horseback, and his advisers were weighing the amount of suspicion against Slyk, Slyk was gone —to return presently, of course; he would certainly return immediately, because he said so, and because his friend Heins said so, and because his daughter remained with her servant in full repose.
Heins believed this, and wrought patiently for a few days, being carefully tended in the intervals of his labours by Francesca, who lavished all her attentions upon him: for her father's sake, as she declared. He was so grieved that Heins should have been involved in any disaster through his means, that the least that could be done to console him was to make Heins as comfortable as possible. Jakob did not, however, return; and when he was fairly on the high seas, Jan had the conscience to let Heins know that the old rogue had set sail from the bay on the night of his departure, and was now on his way to collect some foreign debts, with the proceeds of which he would re-appear when the storm which was ready to burst upon him at home should have blown over. In much wrath, Heins took his passage home without a moment's delay, being accompanied by Francesca and her duenna; no place being now, as Heins admitted, so proper for her as her father's residence at Amsterdam.
On their arrival, her apparent surprise was as great as Heins's real consternation at finding Slyk's house shut up, the furniture gone, and no provision made for his daughter's residence. Francesca was not slow in finding a reason for this, and in conveying her opinion to Heins. Her father had concluded that, as Mr. Snoek's wife, she would not want any residence but his; and it would have been a great piece of extravagance to leave a handsome house and furniture to the care of servants, while the master was taking a foreign journey. Heins could not agree in this interpretation; but it was impossible to leave the lady and her duenna to take care of themselves in the midst of Amsterdam. He took them to the house of his partner, in order to commend them to Gertrude's care. Gertrude was at Saardam; but her brother offered to send for her; which proposal seemed very agreeable to Visscher, who was smoking his pipe with Vanderput at the time of the entrance of the somewhat forlorn party from Winkel.
Heins was not slow in assenting, desiring, if he could be spared from business, to be the messenger to Saardam the very next morning. In his own mind, he thought it but fair that, in return for liis enforced civility to a lady whom he did not care for, he should be favoured with the charge of her whom he was most anxious to please. Visscher, however, resented the idea of any one assuming that which he called his office; and Vanderput supported him, by intimating to his partner that his future brother-in-law was the proper person to fetch his sister home.
Francesca took upon herself to say how fully Mr. Snoek approved, as she also did, of the proposed connexion. It was but the day before that they had been agreeing on the absurdity of the prevalent opinion that M. Aymond would carry off the prize, just because Gertrude had a particularly religious turn. Mr. Snoek had eagerly assented to her opinion that any one who understood Gertrude might long have seen that she was thinking of a very different person from the pastor.
Heins was stung with rage and mortification on hearing this. If his attachment to Gertrude had been real, and worthy of her, any disappointment which he might now have testified would have been regarded with respect. As it was, the best thing he could do was to seize a pipe and surround himself with as dense a smoke as he could raise; a smoke which drove even Franhesca from the apartment.
The sense of this mortification was somewhat blunted by the occurrence of others. Visscher began a story of which Heins could not at first perceive the drift, about his return, once upon a time, from a winter expedition to Rotterdam. He had skaited from Leyden to Rotterdam for the purpose of skaiting back again; and when he returned, he found that the world had not stood still during his absence; but that tidings of loss and gain, and of many kinds of change awaited him.
“Just so,” he went on, “our friend Heins has been afloat himself, and setting the country afloat, and he comes back, taking for granted that all is as he left it.”
“And is it not?” asked Heins. “What has happened?”
“Only such a variation in the exchange with England as will frighten you, if you are no wiser than our Bank Directors. You should see their emissaries peering about on ‘change——”
Vanderput put a stop to this mode of exemplification of the state of commerce. He would allow no disrespectful mention in his presence of the body of which he was a member. It was the business of the reigning burgomasters to ascertain daily the course of exchange: but they could see an inch before their noses, as well as any bill broker on 'change, and left it to women and the superannuated to tremble at the sentence, that the exchange had turned against Holland.
“What becomes of our profits now?” said Heins. “Must we let them be swallowed up by the premium which I suppose bills on England now bear in the market?”
“Only your extraordinary profits. You are not going to be rich so soon as you dreamed you should be: but neither are you going to be impoverished.”
“By the variation in the exchange,” added Vanderput, gravely. “If Mr. Snoek is to be impoverished, it will be by other accidents.”
Before Heins had time to ask the meaning of this, Mr. Visscher went on.
“You should see the bustle of the exporters on our quays. There are Toll and Co., who so lately stood enviously watching the briskness of your doings, you remember, Mr. Snoek; their time is now come. You and your brethren imported at such a rate that you made bills on England scarce in the market. Toll and Co., of course, got such a premium on those which they held, as to be able to ship off many more kinds of goods than they could have ventured upon while they had to part with their bills at a discount. They have been lading ship after ship; and you may now have time to see them clear out; for I conclude you will not go on to import as you have done of late.”
“To be sure not,” said Vanderput. “Our profits en many articles are not such as to afford the premium on bills made necessary by the present scarcity. We must, for the present, confine our business to exporting only those articles which will afford the usual profits, after the premium is paid.”
Heins sighed deeply at the prospect of his grand schemes remaining in abeyance at the very time that he fancied he should be making all Amsterdam stare at the magnificence of his importations. The cool, sagacious Vanderput rebuked the sigh.
“You must have known,” he said, “that things would take this turn. If it answered well to us to import largely while bills were cheap, it must have answered in the same way to others; and the extent to which importation was consequently carried, must turn the balance, rendering it necessary for us to pay our excess of debt either by sending metal money, or by bidding against one another for bills. You must be quite as certain that the balance will turn again when these busy exporters have brought down bills to a discount in our exchange market.”
“Hear, all ye rulers who tremble on your thrones when the balance is not even!” cried Visscher. “All ye rulers, from the Keiser of the Russias to the worshipful burgomasters of Amsterdam!”
“Neither the Keiser you speak of, nor our burgomasters entertain the horror you suppose,” observed Vanderput. “They leave it to the legislators of Great Britain, France, and Spain to dread that either scale of a self-rectifying balance can kick the beam. They leave it to the children of their nation to be particularly happy when the exports of their merchants exceed the imports; —happy because they suppose the money owing to the country to be so much additional wealth; so much pure gain. The Russian Keiser knows too well the toil and outlay by which his subjects prepare their tallow and hides, to suppose that the money they fetch from abroad is more than an adequate exchange. He knows the wants of his people too well not to think that the commodities which are brought them from other countries are not worth more to them than any money that ever was coined. The reason why he is anxious to improve the commerce of his empire is, that its inhabitants may gather more and more wealth from abroad; and he looks on exportation only as a means to importation, as the desirable end.”
Heins was somewhat surprised at the confidence with which his partner spoke of the views of the mighty Keiser of a distant empire. Before he had time to ask whence he derived his information, Vanderput gravely turned to his melancholy partner, and told him that he wished, from his heart, that nothing worse betided Heins's fortunes than the temporary slackening of his trade. It was a pity that he had so trifled with his private funds as to indorse the bills drawn by Slyk, Geysbuk, and Cats on each other. Slyk, as he perceived, was gone; Geysbuk had failed; and as for Cats,—he had been made a mere tool. One or two careless indorsers, besides Heins, had become liable for the amounts of bills; and the banks which had been taken into the circle, had also suffered; but the largest bills had been indorsed first by Heins, who must now suffer severely for his credulity and carelessness.
Vanderput was probably of opinion that evil tidings are most easily borne when they come all at once; for he proceeded to say that as it was impossible for him, one of the head merchants of Amsterdam, to remain in connexion with a man who would be presently known as having been made the dupe of a swindler, through his own spirit of speculation, the firm of Vanderput and Snoek must be dissolved at the earliest practicable term. The want of confidence, he added, of which Heins had been guilty in entering into extensive schemes without the slightest hint to the partner of his father, and the steady friend of his family, would have constituted a sufficient reason for dissolving partnership, if the speculation had issued in complete success.
Heins began by making light of the matter, and proving how rich he should remain, even if all the claims of Slyk's creditors were established against him; but when it appealed that Vander-put was far from disputing his wealth, but only thought that it did not affect the question, he became desperate, and stormed more like an Italian than a Dutchman, as the travelled bill-broker declared. When Heins perceived, however, that his threats fell powerless on the imperturbable Vanderput, he assumed a more imposing mood, and dropped grand hints, as he left the apartment (which he threatened never tore-enter), of the mighty things that he would do when released from the thraldom of a partnership which had never accorded with his commercial principles any more than with his tastes.
CLOSE OF A BRIEF STORY.
Gertrude had long ago told Christian that he must visit Saardam again, some day, and see Master Peter. Christian was as little disposed to forget Gertrude's promises as Gertrude herself; and he repeatedly reminded her of this one. The invitation to Saardam was renewed with all earnestness, but Gertrude would now no longer answer for Master Peter being visible there. She would not say that he was gone; but neither would she engage that Christian should ever see him again: and her reserve on the subject perplexed her little friend. He found he must wait for light upon the matter till he reached Saardam; if that day should ever come.
That day came; and the drooping, worn-out boy found himself, after much toil and many restings by the way, once more placed within view of his favourite prospect, with the beams of the declining sun glistering on the heaving surface of the sound, and the nearer dock-yards chequered with long shadows from the timber-stacks and half-built vessels. It did not diminish the interest of the view that about a furlong of the dyke came within its range, with its trains of passengers hastening to and fro, and all the bustle taking place upon it which Luc and Roselyn thought much better worth attending to than the regular labours of the dock-yard. Christian cast an occasional glance that way while the children were looking out, the afternoon after the arrival of Gertrude and Christian from the north. The rest of the party had been settled some days; but Christian and his nurse had stopped to rest at the abode of the good dame who had offered her hospitality, in case of the invalid passing her way. This old woman had infused a further spirit of thankfulness into the suffering boy; so that, though he felt himself declining daily, he grew more patient as he had more need of patience.
The pastor was now sitting by his side, speaking little, and keeping his eye fixed on the gleaming sea.
“O, look, look!” cried Christian, pointing in the direction of the road. “One, two, four teams of dogs! and the carts piled as high as they can bear. They must be going to the fair.—0, how tired I am “he continued, languidly.” “Here I lie, while that stream of people passes on, on, on,—all busy, all expecting something, and thinking only of being as busy always.”
“You are not the only one, Christian, that feels this,” said the pastor. “Some who are as strong as the strongest of yon traffickers and pleasure-seekers feel, like you, that the hand of God is upon them, to fix them apart while the world passes on. It is not you alone, my boy.”
“I know whom you mean,” said Christian, in a low voice. “Christ stood on the mount and on the shore, and saw all the people going up to the feast.”
“He did,” replied the pastor, speaking in a manner which convinced Christian that he had not met his friend's thought.
“Would you have been busier in France than you are here,” he asked, “if the French king had not sent you away?”
“Perhaps I might; but God appoints his servants their station; and I am content. I am content to be the minister of his grace, and bless him for lightening the hearts of others. He will strengthen me to bear the burden of my own.”
After a moment's thought on the peculiar sadness of the pastor's tone, Christian laid his arm on his friend's shoulder, and whispered,
“I love Gertrude very much too; and I always thought——1 was so surprised when she told me——”
“Say no more about it. my boy. Talk rather of my country, or of my kindred, or of anything else that I have lost”
“I cannot talk at all,” said the boy, whose tears were fast flowing for the pastor, though it was some time since he had shed any for himself. He lay quietly listening to the pastor's consolations, till his mother appeared to say that Master Peter had come to see him. She was evidently wishing to tell something more, if Master Peter had not followed at her heels. The pastor hastened to disengage himself from Christian, that he might rise and make a profound obeisance. Christian, who had never seen his friend offer so low a reverence, especially to a carpenter in his workman's dress, laughed aloud. Mrs. Snoek, much alarmed at this ill-timed mirth, uttered at once what she had been wanting to say;—that Master Peter was a very different Peter from what they had imagined,—no other than the Keiser of all the Russias.
While Christian looked wistfully in Peter's face to learn if this was true, the Emperor lifted him gently from his couch, and held him in his arms as he had done on the first day of their acquaintance, assuring him that, as he would not allow his fellow-workmen to treat him differently now that they knew who he was, he should be very sorry if Christian grew afraid of him. As he spoke, he looked with a smile towards the opposite side of the room, where Luc had backed into a corner, and Roselyn was peeping from behind her mother's ample skirt.
“Luc looks afraid of you,” said Christian;
“and I might be afraid, if I were Luc. But, sir, I am just going where a great Keiser is no more than a pastor; and I dare say not so much. If I see you there very soon, you will not be a Keiser, and I shall be no more afraid of you than when you were only Master Peter.”
“Very soon, Christian? I hope we shall not meet there very soon.”
“O, yes: ask the pastor,” said the boy, eagerly. “He will tell you that I am going very, very soon.”
This the pastor unhesitatingly confirmed; but added that the Keiser had, he trusted, a long work to achieve before he was called into the presence of the King of Kings.
“O, yes,” said Christian, “how busy you are all going to be; and you, Master Peter, the busiest of all. You are learning to build fleets and cities;—at least, I heard them say so about the Keiser;—and you are getting wise men to teach you all that they know; while I am going to a place where there is no device nor knowledge.”
The pastor suggested that this probably applied only to the place where his body would be laid. This hint sufficed to excite the boy to pour out upon the Emperor a torrent of perplexing questions, about what he thought would become of the spirit. The readiest answer was,—(what was true enough,)—that Christian was completely exhausted, and must not talk any more at present. Peter would come in at the end of his day's work, and tell him about the fleet he intended to build, to ride in the harbour of his new city. Meanwhile, he desired Christian not to think he was going to die so very soon. It was not at all likely. He would send for his best physician from Russia, and tell him to restore Christian, so that the boy should visit him in his new capital, some time or other, when the cough should be gone, and the mysterious pain cured, and life a very different thing to Christian from what he had ever felt it yet.
The upright pastor could not silently let pass any observations of this nature. He reminded the Keiser that, though placed by the hand of God in a position of absolute dominion over multitudes of men,—over their lives and worldly lot, —he was no more the Lord of Life, in a higher sense, than the meanest of his serfs. It was not for him to say that the bowl should not be broken, or the silver cord loosed, when neither was given into his hand.
The mischief,—or what the pastor considered mischief,—was however done. After Peter had left the apartment, Christian employed himself in speaking when he could, and musing when he could not speak, on what he should see, and hear, and learn, and do, if he recovered enough to visit the new capital of all the Russias. He gave notice, from time to time, that he did not at all expect that this would ever happen; it was unlikely that his pain should ever go away entirely, and that Peter should remember him when he should be the great Keiser again. Yet, as his strength ebbed away, minute by minute, his convictions that he was not going to die just yet grew more vigorous. Observing him unable to finish something he wished to say, his mother feared that his pain was coming.
“No, I do not think it will come. No! no pain—” Yet his face expressed terror of an approaching paroxysm.
“I wish the Keiser had not come, or had not spoken presumptuously, as the potentates of this world do ever,” said Gertrude, more moved to displeasure than was common to her gentle nature.
“The Keiser wishes it too,” said Peter, who had entered the room softly, and saw at a glance that Christian's short day of life was likely to close nearly as soon as his own day's work, at the end of which he had promised to entertain the boy with stories that could have no charm for a dying ear. “My poor boy, I deceived you. I have tainted your dying hours. Can you forgive me?”
Christian's now rigid countenance relaxed into the radiant smile which betokened his highest mood of faith. The movement, whether of body or spirit, summoned his pain; but its very first touch released him. He left the greatest of this world's potentates treasuring up the forgiveness of a feeble child, and wondering, as at a new thought, that one who had power over millions of lives should have no more interest than others with the supreme Lord of Life.
Summary of Principles illustrated in this Volume.
Nations exchange commodities, as individuals do, for mutual accommodation; each imparting of its superfluity to obtain that in which it is deficient.
The imparting is therefore only a means of obtaining. Exportation is the means of obtaining importation,—the end for which the traffic is instituted.
The importation of money into a country where money is deficient is desirable on the same principle which renders desirable the supply of any deficient commodity.
The importation of money into a country where money is not deficient is no more desirable than it is to create an excess of any other commodity.
That money is the commodity most generally bought and sold is no reason for its being a more desirable article of importation than commodities which are as much wanted in the country which imports it.
That money is the commodity most generally bought and sold is a reason for its being the commodity fixed upon for measuring the relative amounts of other articles of national interchange.
Money bearing different denominations in the different trading countries, a computation of the relative values of these denominations was made in the infancy of commerce, and the result expressed in terms which are retained through all changes in the value of these denominations.
The term by which in each country the original equal proportion was expressed is adopted as the fixed point of measurement called the par of exchange; and any variation in the relative amount of the total money debts of trading nations is called a variation from par.
This variation is of two kinds, nominal and real.
The nominal variation from par is caused! y an alteration in the value of the currency of any country, which, of course, destroys the relative proportion of its denominations to the denominations of the currency of other countries. But it does not affect the amount of commodities exchanged.
The real variation from par takes place when any two countries import respectively more money and less of other commodities, or less money and more of other commodities.
This kind of variation is sure to correct itself, since the country which receives the larger proportion of money will return it for other commodities when it becomes a superfluity; and the country which receives the smaller proportion of money will gladly import more as it becomes deficient.
The real variation from par can never therefore exceed a certain limit.
This limit is determined by the cost of substituting for each other metal money and one of its representatives,—viz., that species of paper currency which is called Bills of Exchange.
When this representative becomes scarce in proportion to commodities, and thereby mounts up to a higher value than the represented metal money, with the cost of transmission added; metal money is transmitted as a substitute for Bills of Exchange, and the course of Exchange is reversed and restored to par.
Even the range of variation above described is much contracted by the operations of dealers in bills of exchange, who equalize their value by transmitting those of all countries from places where they are abundant to places where they are scarce.
A self-balancing power being thus inherent in the entire system of commercial exchange, all apprehensions about the results of its unimpeded operation are absurd.