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Chapter II.: AN EXCURSION - 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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“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.