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KNICKERBOCKER

STORIES.

1.- BROEK: OR THE DUTCH PARADISE.

It has long been a matter of discussion and controversy among the pious and the learned, as to the situation of the terrestrial paradise' whence our first parents were exiled. This question has been put to rest by certain of the faithful in Holland, who have decided in favor of the village of BROEK, about six miles from Amsterdam. It may not, they observe, correspond in all respects to the description of the Garden of Eden, handed down from days of yore, but it comes nearer to their ideas of a perfect paradise than any other place on earth.

This eulogium ' induced me to make some inquiries as to this favored spot in the course of a sojourn at the city of Amsterdam, and the information I procured fully justified the enthusiastic praises I had heard. The village of Broek is situated in Waterland,' in the midst of the greenest and richest pastures of Holland, I may say, of Europe. These pastures are the source of its wealth, for it is famous for its dairies, and for those oval cheeses which regale and perfume the whole civilized world. The population consists of about six hundred persons, comprising several families which have inhabited the place since time inimemorial, and have waxed rich on the products of their meadows. They keep all their wealth among themselves, intermarrying, and keeping all strangers at a wary distance. They are a “hard money people, and remarkable for turning the penny the right way.' It is said to have been an old rule, established by one of the primitive financiers and legislators of Broek, that no one should leave the village with more than six guilders' in his pocket, or return with less than ten; a shrewd regulation, well worthy the attention of modern political economists, who are so anxious to fix the balance of trade.3

1 This humorous introduction of the ? good report. subject is not wholly of Irving's own in- 3 Holland used to be a union of seven vention. There was much discussion as to provinces. None of them, however, was the situation of the Garden of Eden, the named Waterland. Irving invents the earthly paradise, in bygone times. When name because the country lies low and is Irving says, however, that some have

inundated here and there; it also has thought it might be Broek, he is only in canals often where other nations have

roads.

fun.

What, however, renders Broek so perfect an elysium,' in the eyes of all true Hollanders, is the matchless height to which the spirit of cleanliness' is carried there. It amounts almost to a religion among the inhabitants, who pass the greater part of their time rubbing and scrubbing, and painting and varnishing : each housewife vies with her neighbor in her devotion to the scrubbing-brush, as zealous Catholics do in their devotion to the cross ;( and it is said a notable housewife of the place in days of yore is held in pious remembrance, and almost canonized as a saint, for having died of pure exhaustion and chagrin in an ineffectual attempt to scour a black man white.

1 The Dutch people are thrifty and eco- money must come to pay the indebtedness. nomical. Irving constantly makes fun of If every one who left Broek came back this trait in very American fashion. Econ- with more money than he had carried omy, however, is really far more creditable

away, it would be as if the balance of trade than the wastefulness which is more com- were always in their favor. mon in America.

4 the name given by the Greeks to Heav2 a coin worth about forty cents.

en. Here used figuratively, like “a per3 When a country sends forth to other fect paradise” (p. 21). countries more products and manufactures 6 Notice how often Irving plays upon the than it buys from them, it is obvious that idea in the following pages; he speaks of it will receive in payment more money than the newly scrubbed pavements, the freshit pays out. Then the “ balance of trade" painted houses, the“ varnished" tree-trunks, is said to be in its favor, for, taking the and of many other such things. See pp. country all together, there is more due it 23, 24, 25. from abroad than it owes abroad, and

These particulars awakened my ardent curiosity to see a place which I pictured to myself the very fountain-head of certain hereditary habits and customs prevalent among the descendants of the original Dutch settlers of my native State. I accordingly lost no time in performing a pilgrimage to Broek.

Before I reached the place I beheld symptoms of the tranquil character of its inhabitants. A little clump-built boat was in full sail along the lazy bosom of a canal, but its sail consisted of the blades of two paddles stood on end, while the navigator sat steering with a third paddle in the stern, crouched down like a toad, with a slouched hat drawn over his eyes.

I

presumed him to be some autical lover on the way to his mistress. After proceeding a little farther I came in sight of the harbor or port of destination of this drowsy navigator. This was the Broeken-Meer, an artificial basin, or sheet of olive-green water, tranquil as a mill-pond. On this the village of Broek is situated, and the borders are laboriously decorated with flower-beds, box-trees clipped into all kinds of ingenious shapes and fancies, and little “lust "houses' or pavilions.

I alighted outside of the village, for no horse nor vehicle is permitted to enter its precincts, lest it should cause defilement of the well-scoured pavements. Shaking the dust off my feet, therefore, I prepared to enter, with due reverence and circumspection, this sanctum sanctorum' of Dutch cleanliness. I entered by a narrow street, paved with yellow bricks, laid edgewise, so clean that one might eat from them. Indeed, they were actually worn deep, not by the tread of feet, but by the friction of the scrubbing-brush.

The houses were built of wood, and all appeared to have been freshly painted, of green, yellow, and other bright colors. They were separated from each other by gardens and orchards, and stood at some little distance from the street, with wide areas or courtyards, paved in mosaic, with variegated stones, polished by frequent rubbing. The areas were divided from the street by curiously-wrought railings, or balustrades, of iron, surmounted with brass and copper balls, scoured into dazzling effulgence. The very trunks of the trees in front of the houses were by the same process made to look as if they had been varnished. The porches, doors, and window-frames of the houses were of exotic woods, curiously carved, and polished like costly furniture. The front doors are never opened, excepting on christenings, marriages, or funerals : on all ordinary occasions, visitors enter by the back door. In former times, persons when admitted had to put on slippers,' but this oriental ceremony is no longer insisted upon. A poor

1 a combination of Dutch and English. Lust is Dutch for "pleasure."

2 holy of holies.

3 This practice, which seemed humorous to Irving, is not uncommon nowadays. We

think it a great advance to change the old cobble pavements of Irving's day for “yellow bricks laid edgewise." The brick pavements of the present are not always so clean as those of Broek.

devil Frenchman who attended upon me as cicerone,' boasted with some degree of exultation, of a triumph of his countrymen over the stern regulations of the place. During the time that Holland was overrun by the armies of the French Republic, a French general, surrounded by his whole état major, who had come from Amsterdam to view the wonders of Broek, applied for admission at one of these taboo'do portals. The reply was, that the owner never received any one who did not come introduced by some friend. “Very well,” said the general, “take my compliments to your master, and tell him I will return here to-morrow with a company of soldiers, pour parler raison avec mon ami Hollandais. Terrified at the

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1 foreign.

6 a French word meaning “staff.” ? Strangers who enter Eastern mosques 6 In the South Sea Islands the tabu is a are provided with slippers, which they prohibition of intercourse. Any one "ta. must put on over their shoes. Hence the boo'd" is avoided by every one else. The word "oriental” in the following line. word was new to English in Irving's day, : guide.

and he used it loosely of this door, mean. 4 In 1795, when, after a short inva- ing that no one was allowed to enter it. sion, Holland and Belgium were united to 7 "To talk common sense with my France, which had just become a republic. Dutch friend."

idea of having a company of soldiers billeted' upon him, the owner threw open his house, entertained the general and his retinue with unwonted hospitality; though it is said it cost the family a month's scrubbing and scouring, to restore all things to exact order, after this military invasion. My vagabond informant seemed to consider this one of the greatest victories of the republic.

I walked about the place in mute wonder and admiration. A dead stillness prevailed around, like that in the deserted streets of Pompeii. No sign of life was to be seen, excepting now and then a hand, and a long pipe, and an occasional puff of smoke, out of the window of some “lust-haus” overhanging a miniature canal; and on approaching a little nearer, the periphery' in profile of some robustious burgher.

Among the grand houses pointed out to me were those of Claes Bakker, and Cornelius Bakker, richly carved and gilded, with flower gardens and clipped shrubberies ; and that of the Great Ditmus, who, my poor devil cicerone informed me, in a whisper, was worth two millions ; all these were mansions shut up from the world, and only kept to be cleaned. After having been conducted from one wonder to another of the village, I was ushered by my guide into the grounds and gardens of Mynheer Broekker, another mighty cheese-manufacturer, worth eighty thousand guilders a year. I had repeatedly been struck with the similarity of all that I had seen in this amphibious little village, to the buildings and landscapes on Chinese platters and tea-pots ; but here I found the similarity complete ; for I was told that these gardens were modelled upon Van Bramm's description of those of Yuen min Yuen, in China. Here were serpentine walks, with trellised

1 In time of war, soldiers staying in a town or village, are often lodged in the various houses, generally without consent or payment. This is called “billeting.”

? an old Roman city, destroyed by an eruption of Vesuvius, A.D. 79.

3 the circumference of a circle: the use of the word here indicates that the old gentleman's outline was almost circular.

4 living on land and water. Cf. “Waterland."

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