Dutch Fairy Tales for Young Folks
William Elliot Griffis
Part 3 out of 3
over their adventures.
"It is wonderful what fools these creatures called men are," said the
first one. "There's old Vrek. He has been hoarding coins for the last
fifty years. Now, he has a pile of gold in guilders and stivers, but
there's hardly anything of his old self left. His soul is as small as a
shrimp. I whispered to him not to let out his money in trade, but to
keep it shut up. His strong box is full to bursting, but what went into
the chest has oozed out of the man. He died, last night, and hardly
anybody considers him worth burying. Some one on the street to-day asked
what Vrek had left behind. The answer was 'Nothing--he took it all with
him, for he had so little to take.'"
"That's jolly," said the older kabouter, who was a wicked looking
fellow. "I'll get some fun out of this. To shrivel up souls will be my
business henceforth. There's nothing like this newfangled business of
getting money, that will do it so surely."
So this ugly old imp went "snooping" around, as the Dutch say, about
people who sneak and dodge in and out of places, to which they ought not
to go, and in houses where they should not be found. This imp's purpose
was to make men crazy on the subject of making money, when they tried,
as many of them did, to get rich quickly in mean ways. Sorry to tell,
the imp found a good many promising specimens to work upon, at his
business of making some wise men foolish. He taught them to take out of
their souls what they hoarded away. To such fellows, when they became
misers, he gave the name of "Schim," which means a shadow. It was
believed by some people that such shrivelled up wretches had no bowels.
Soon after this, a great meeting of kabouters was held, in the dark
realms below ground. Each one told what he had been doing on the earth.
After the little imps had reported, the chief kabouter, when his turn
came, cried out:
"I shall tell of three brothers, and what each one did with the first
silver penny he earned."
"Go on," they all cried.
"I've caught one schim young. He married a wife only last year, but he
won't give her one gulden a year to dress on. He skimps the table, pares
the cheese till the rind is as thin as paper, and makes her live on skim
milk and barley. Besides this, he won't help the poor with a stiver. I
saw him put away a bright and shining silver penny, fresh from the mint.
He hid coin and pocketbook in the bricks of a chimney. So I climbed down
from the roof, seized both and ran away. I smeared the purse with wax
and hid it in the thick rib of a boat, by the wharf. There the penny
will gather mould enough. Ha! Ha! Ha!"
At this, the little imps broke out into a titter that sounded like the
cackle of a hen trying to tell she had laid an egg.
"Good for you! Serves the old schim right," said a good kabouter, who
loved to help human beings. "Now, I'll tell you about his brother, who
has a wife and baby. He feeds and clothes them well, and takes good care
of his old mother.
"Almost every week he helps some poor little boy, or girl, that has no
mother or father. I heard him say he wished he could take care of poor
orphans. So, when he was asleep, at night, I whispered in his ear and
made him dream.
"'Put away your coin where it won't get mouldy and show that a penny
that keeps moving is not like a rolling stone that gathers no moss.
Deliver it to the goldsmiths for interest and leave it in your will to
increase, until it becomes a great sum. Then, long after you are dead,
the money you have saved and left for the poor _weesies_ (orphans)
will build a house for them. It will furnish food and beds and pay for
nurses that will care for them, and good women who will be like mothers.
Other folks, seeing what you have done, will build orphan houses. Then
we shall have a Wees House (orphan asylum) in every town. No child,
without a father or mother, in all Holland, will have to cry for milk or
bread. Don't let your penny mould.'
"The third brother, named Spill-penny, woke up on the same morning, with
a headache. He remembered that he had spent his silver penny at the gin
house, buying drinks for a lot of worthless fellows like himself. He and
his wife, with little to eat, had to wear ragged clothes, and the baby
had not one toy to play with. When his wife gently chided him, he ran
out of the house in bad humor. Going to the tap room, he ordered a drink
of what we call 'Dutch courage,' that is, a glass of gin, and drank it
down. Then what do you think he did?"
"Tell us," cried the imps uproariously.
"He went into a clothing house, bought a suit of clothes, and had it
"That's it. I've known others like him," said an old imp.
"Now it was kermiss day in the village, and all that afternoon and
evening this spendthrift was roystering with his fellow 'zuip zaks'
(boon companions). With them, it was 'always drunk, always dry.' Near
midnight, being too full of gin, he stumbled in the gutter, struck his
head on the curb, and fell down senseless.
"Her husband not coming home that night, the distracted wife went out
early in the morning. She found several men lying asleep on the
sidewalks or in the gutters. She turned each one over, just as she did
buckwheat cakes on the griddle, to see if this man or that was hers. At
last she discovered her worthless husband, but no shaking or pulling
could awake him. He was dead.
"Now there was a covetous undertaker in town, who carted away the
corpse, and then told the widow that she must spend much money on the
funeral, in order to have her husband buried properly; or else, the
tongues of the neighbors would wag. So the poor woman had to sell her
cow, the only thing she had, and was left poorer than ever. That was the
end of Spill-penny."
"A jolly story," cried the kabouters in chorus. "Served him right. Now
tell us about Vrek the miser. Go on."
"Well, the saying 'Much coin, much care,' is hardly true of him, for I
and my trusty helpers ran away with all he had. With his first silver
penny he began to hoard his money. He has been hunting for years for
that penny, but has not found it. It will be rather mouldy, should he
find it, but that he never will."
"Why not?" asked a young imp.
"For a good reason. He would not pay his boatmen their wages. So they
struck, and refused to work. When he tried to sail his own boat, it
toppled over and sunk, and Vrek was drowned. His wife was saved the
expenses of a funeral, for his carcass was never found, and the covetous
undertaker lost a job."
"What of the third one?" they asked.
"Oh, Mynheer Eerlyk, you mean? No harm can come to him. Everybody loves
him and he cares for the orphans. There will be no mouldy penny in his
Then the meeting broke up. The good kabouters were happy. The bad ones,
the imps, were sorry to miss what they hoped would be a jolly story.
When a thousand years passed away and the age of newspapers and copper
pennies had come, there were no descendants of the two brothers
Spill-penny and Schim; but of Mynheer Eerlyk there were as many as the
years that had flown since he made a will. In this document, he ordered
that his money, in guilders of gold and pennies of silver, should remain
at compound interest for four hundred years. In time, the ever
increasing sum passed from the goldsmiths to the bankers, and kept on
growing enormously. At last this large fortune was spent in building
hundreds of homes for orphans.
According to his wish, each girl in the asylum dressed in clothes that
were of the colors on the city arms. In Amsterdam, for example, each
orphan child's frock is half red and half black, with white aprons, and
the linen and lace caps are very neat and becoming to their rosy faces.
In Friesland, where golden hair and apple blossom cheeks are so often
seen with the white lace and linen, some one has called the orphan girls
"Apples of gold in pictures of silver." Among the many glories of the
Netherlands is her care for the aged and the orphans.
One of the thirty generations of the Eerlyks read one day in the
"Last week, while digging a very deep canal, some workman struck his
pickaxe against timbers that were black with age, and nearly as hard as
stone. These, on being brought up, showed that they were the ribs of an
ancient boat. Learned men say that there was once a river here, which
long since dried up. All the pieces of the boat were recovered, and,
under the skilful hands of our ship carpenters, have been put together
and the whole vessel is now set up and on view in our museum."
"We'll go down to-morrow on our way home from school, and see the
curiosity," cried one of the Eerlyk boys, clapping his hands.
"Wait," said his father, "there's more in the story.
"To-day, the janitor of the museum, while examining a wide crack in one
of the ribs, which was covered with wax, picked this substance away. He
poked his finger in the crack, and finding something soft, pulled it
out. It was a rough leather purse, inside of which was a coin, mouldy
with age and dark as the wood. Even after cleaning it with acid, it was
hard to read what was stamped on it; but, strange to say, the face of
the coin had left its impression on the leather, which had been covered
with wax. From this, though the metal of the coin was black, and the
mould thick on the coin, what they saw showed that it was a silver penny
of the age of Charlemagne, or the ninth century."
"Charlemagne is French, father, but we call him Karel de Groot, or
Charles the Great."
"Yes, my son. Don't you hear Karel's Klok (the curfew) sounding? 'Tis
time for little folks to go to bed."
THE GOLDEN HELMET
For centuries, more than can be counted on the fingers of both hands,
the maidens and mothers of Friesland have worn a helmet of gold covering
the crown and back of their heads, and with golden rosettes at each ear.
It marks the Frisian girl or woman. She is thus known by this head-dress
as belonging to a glorious country, that has never been conquered and is
proudly called Free Frisia. It is a relic of the age of gold, when this
precious metal was used in a thousand forms, not seen to-day.
Of how and why the golden helmet is worn, this is the story:
In days gone by, when forests covered the land and bears and wolves were
plentiful, there were no churches in Friesland. The people were pagans
and all worshipped Woden, whom the Frisians called Fos-i-te'. Certain
trees were sacred to him. When a baby was ill, or grown people had a
disease, which medicine could not help, they laid the sick one at the
foot of the holy tree, hoping for health soon to come. But, should the
patient die under the tree, then the sorrowful friends were made glad,
if the leaves of the tree fell upon the corpse. It was death to any
person who touched the sacred tree with an axe, or made kindling wood,
even of its branches.
Now among the wild people of the north, who ate acorns and were clothed
in the skins of animals, there came, from the Christian lands of the
south, a singer with his harp. Invited to the royal court, he sang sweet
songs. To these the king's daughter listened with delight, until the
tears, first of sorrow and then of joy, rolled down her lovely cheeks.
This maiden was the pride of her father, because of her sweet temper and
willing spirit, while all the people boasted of her beauty. Her eyes
were of the color of a sky without clouds. No spring flower could equal
the pink and rose in her cheeks. Her lips were like the red coral, which
the ship men brought from distant shores. Her long tresses rivalled gold
in their glory. And, because her father worshipped Fos-i-te', the god of
justice, and his daughter was always so fair to all her playmates, he,
in his pride of her, gave her the name Fos-te-di'-na, that is, the
darling of Fos-i-te', or the Lady of Justice.
[Illustration: WHICH WAS THE MORE GLORIOUS, HER LONG TRESSES OR THE
SHINING CROWN ABOVE.]
The singer from the south sang a new song, and when he played upon his
harp his music was apt to be soft and low; sometimes sad, even, and
often appealing. It was so much finer, and oh! so different, from what
the glee men and harpers in the king's court usually rendered for the
listening warriors. Instead of being about fighting and battle, or the
hunting of wolves and bears, of stags and the aurochs, it was of healing
the sick and helping the weak. In place of battles and the exploits of
war lords, in fighting and killing Danes, the harper's whole story was
of other things and about gentle people. He sang neither of war, nor of
the chase, nor of fighting gods, nor of the storm maidens, that carry up
to the sky, and into the hall of Woden, the souls of the slain on the
The singer sang of the loving Father in Heaven, who sent his dear Son to
earth to live and die, that men might be saved. He made music with voice
and instrument about love, and hope, and kindness to the sick and poor,
of charity to widows and to orphans, and about the delights of doing
good. He closed by telling the story of the crown of thorns, how wicked
men nailed this good prophet to a cross, and how, when tender-hearted
women wept, the Holy Teacher told them not to weep for him, but for
themselves and their children. This mighty lord of noble thoughts and
words lived what he taught. He showed greatness in the hour of death, by
first remembering his mother, and then by forgiving his enemies.
"What! forgive an enemy? Forgive even the Danes? What horrible doctrine
do we hear!" cried the men of war. "Let us kill this singer from the
south." And they beat their swords on their metal shields, till the
clangor was deafening. The great hall rang with echoes of the din, as if
for battle. The Druids, or pagan priests, even more angry, applauded the
action of the fighting men.
But Fos-te-di-na rushed forward to shield the harper, and her long
golden hair covered him.
"No!" said the king to his warriors. "This man is my guest. I invited
him and he shall be safe here."
Sullen and bitter in their hearts, both priests and war men left the
hall, breathing out revenge and feeling bound to kill the singer. Soon
all were quiet in slumber, for the hour was late.
Why were the pagan followers of the king so angry with the singer?
The answer to this question is a story in itself.
Only three days before, a party of Christian Danes had been taken
prisoners in the forest. They had come, peaceably and without arms, into
the country; for they wanted to tell the Frisians about the new
religion, which they had themselves received. In the cold night air,
they had, unwittingly, cut off some of the dead branches of a tree
sacred to the god Fos-i-te to kindle a fire.
A spy, who had closely watched them, ran and told his chief. Now, the
Christian Danes were prisoners and would be given to the hungry wolves
to be torn to pieces. That was the law concerning sacrilege against the
trees of the gods.
Some of the Frisians had been to Rome, the Eternal City, and had there
learned, from the cruel Romans, how to build great enclosures, not of
stone but of wood. Here, on holidays, they gave their prisoners of war
to the wild beasts, for the amusement of thousands of the people. The
Frisians could get no lions or tigers, for these fierce brutes live in
hot countries; but they sent hundreds of hunters into the woods for many
miles around. These bold fellows drove the deer, bears, wolves, and the
aurochs within an ever narrowing circle towards the pits. Into these,
dug deep in the ground and covered with branches and leaves, the animals
fell down and were hauled out with ropes. The deer were kept for their
meat, but the bears and wolves were shut up, in pens, facing the great
enclosure. When maddened with hunger, these ravenous beasts of prey were
to be let loose on the Christian Danes. Several aurochs, made furious by
being goaded with pointed sticks, or pricked by spears, were to rush out
and trample the poor victims to death.
The heart of the beautiful Fos-te-di-na, who had heard the songs of the
singer of faith in the one God and love for his creatures, was deeply
touched. She resolved to set the captives free. Being a king's daughter,
she was brave as a man. So, at midnight, calling a trusty maid-servant,
she, with a horn lantern, went out secretly to the prison pen. She
unbolted the door, and, in the name of their God and hers, she bade the
prisoners return to their native land.
How the wolves in their pen did roar, when, on the night breeze, they
sniffed the presence of a newcomer! They hoped for food, but got none.
The next morning, when the crowd assembled, but found that they were to
be cheated of their bloody sport, they raged and howled. Coming to the
king, they demanded his daughter's punishment. The pagan priests
declared that the gods had been insulted, and that their anger would
fall on the whole tribe, because of the injury done to their sacred
tree. The hunters swore they would invade the Danes' land and burn all
Fos-te-di-na was summoned before the council of the priests, who were to
decide on the punishment due her. Being a king's daughter, they could
not put her to death by throwing her to the wolves.
Even as the white-bearded high priest spoke, the beautiful girl heard
the fierce creatures howling, until her blood curdled, but she was brave
and would not recant.
In vain they threatened the maiden, and invoked the wrath of the gods
upon her. Bravely she declared that she would suffer, as her Lord did,
rather than deny him.
"So be it," cried the high priest. "Your own words are your sentence.
You shall wear a crown of thorns."
Fos-te-di'-na was dismissed. Then the old men sat long, in brooding over
what should be done. They feared the gods, but were afraid, also, to
provoke their ruler to wrath. They finally decided that the maiden's
life should be spared, but that for a whole day, from sunrise to sunset,
she should stand in the market-place, with a crown of sharp thorns
pressed down hard upon her head. The crowd should be allowed to revile
her for being a Christian and none be punished; but no vile language was
to be allowed, or stones or sticks were to be thrown at her.
Fos-te-di'-na refused to beg for mercy and bravely faced the ordeal. She
dressed herself in white garments, made from the does and fawns--free
creatures of the forest--and unbound her golden tresses. Then she walked
with a firm step to the centre of the market-place.
"Bring the thorn-crown for the blasphemer of Fos-i-te," cried the high
This given to him, the king's daughter kneeled, and the angry old man,
his eyes blazing like fire, pressed the sharp thorns slowly, down and
hard, upon the maiden's brow. Quickly the red blood trickled down over
her golden hair and face. Then in long, narrow lines of red, the drops
fell, until the crimson stains were seen over the back, front, and sides
of her white garments.
But without wincing, the brave girl stood up, and all day long, while
the crowd howled, in honor of their gods, and rough fellows jeered at
her, Fos-te-di-na was silent and patient, like her Great Example.
Inwardly, she prayed the Father of all to pardon and forgive. There were
not a few who pitied the bleeding maiden wearing the cruel crown, that
drew the blood that stained her shining hair and once white clothing.
Years passed by and a great change came over land and people. The very
scars on Fos-te-di-na's forehead softened the hearts of the people.
Thousands of them heard the words of the good missionaries. Churches
arose, on which was seen the shining cross. Idols were abolished and the
trees, once sacred to the old gods, were cut down. Meadows, rich with
cows, smiled where wolves had roamed. The changes, even in ten years,
were like those in a fairy tale. Best of all, a Christian prince from
the south, grandson of Charlemagne, fell in love with Fos-te-di-na, now
queen of the country. He sought her hand, and won her heart, and the
date for the marriage was fixed. It was a great day for Free Frisia. The
wedding was to be in a new church, built on the very spot where
Fos-te-di-na had stood, in pain and sorrow, when the crown of thorns was
pressed upon her brow.
On that morning, a bevy of pretty maidens, all dressed in white, came in
procession to the palace. One of them bore in her hands a golden crown,
with plates coming down over the forehead and temples. It was made in
such a way that, like a helmet, it completely covered and concealed the
scars of the sovereign lady. So Fos-te-di-na was married, with the
golden helmet on her head. "But which," asked some, "was the more
glorious, her long tresses, floating down her back, or the shining crown
above it?" Few could be sure in making answer.
Instead of a choir singing hymns, the harper, who had once played in the
king's hall, now an older man, had been summoned, with his harp, to sing
in solo. In joyous spirits, he rendered into the sweet Frisian tongue,
two tributes in song to the crowned and glorified Lord of all.
One praised the young guest at the wedding at Cana, Friend of man, who
turned water into wine; the other, "The Great Captain of our Salvation,"
who, in full manly strength, suffered, thorn-crowned, for us all.
Then the solemn silence, that followed the song, was broken by the
bride's coming out of the church. Though by herself alone, without
adornment, Fos-te-di-na was a vision of beauty. Her head-covering looked
so pretty, and the golden helmet was so becoming, that other maidens,
also, when betrothed, wished to wear it. It became the fashion-for
Christian brides, on their wedding days, to put on this glorified crown
All the jewelers approved of the new bridal head-dress, and in time this
golden ornament was worn in Friesland every day. Thus it has come to
pass that the Frisian helmet, which is the glorified crown of thorns,
is, in one form or another, worn even in our day. When Fos-te-di-na's
first child, a boy, was born, the happy parents named him William, which
is only another word for Gild Helm. Out from this northern region, and
into all the seventeen provinces of the Netherlands, the custom spread.
In one way or another, one can discern, in the headdresses or costumes
of the Dutch and Flemish women, the relics of ancient history.
When Her Majesty, the Dutch Queen, visits the Frisians, in the old land
of the north, which her fathers held so dear, she, out of compliment to
Free Frisia, wears the ancient costume, surmounted by the golden helm.
Those who know the origin of the name Wilhelmina read in it the true
meaning, which is,
"The Sovereign Lady of the Golden Helm."
WHEN WHEAT WORKED WOE
Many a day has the story-teller wandered along the dykes, which overlook
the Zuyder Zee. Once there were fertile fields, and scores of towns,
where water now covers all. Then fleets of ships sailed on the bosom of
Lake Flevo, and in the river which ran into the sea. Bright and
beautiful cities dotted the shores, and church bells chimed merrily for
the bridal, or tolled in sympathy for the sorrowing. Many were the
festal days, because of the wealth, which the ships brought from lands
near and far.
But to-day the waters roll over the spot and "The Dead Cities of the
Zuyder Zee" are a proverb. Yet all are not dead, in one and the same
sense. Some lie far down under the waves, their very names forgotten,
because of the ocean's flood, which in one night, centuries ago, rushed
in to destroy. Others languished, because wealth came no longer in the
ships, and the seaports dried up. And one, because of a foolish woman,
instead of holding thousands of homes and people, is to-day only a
village nestling behind the dykes. It holds a few hundred people and
only a fragment of land remains of its once great area.
In the distant ages of ice and gravel, when the long and high glaciers
of Norway poked their cold noses into Friesland, Stavoren held the
shrine of Stavo, the storm-god. The people were very poor, but many
pilgrims came to worship at Stavo's altars. After the new religion came
into the land, wealth increased, because the ships traded with the warm
lands in the south. A great city sprang up, to which the counts of
Holland granted a charter, with privileges second to none. It was
written that Stavoren should have "the same freedom which a free city
enjoys from this side of the mountains (the Alps) to the sea."
Then there came an age of gold in Stavoren. People were so rich, that
the bolts and hinges and the keys and locks of their doors were made of
this precious yellow metal. In some of the houses, the parlor floor was
paved with ducats from Spain.
Now in this city lived a married couple, whose wealth came from the
ships. The man, a merchant, was a simple hearted and honest fellow, who
worked hard and was easily pleased.
But his wife was discontented, always peevish and never satisfied with
anything. Even her neighbors grew tired of her whining and complaints.
They declared that on her tombstone should be carved these words:
"_She wanted something else_"
Now on every voyage, made by the many ships he owned, the merchant
charged his captains to bring home something rare and fine, as a present
to his wife. Some pretty carving or picture, a roll of silk for a dress,
a lace collar, a bit of splendid tapestry, a shining jewel; or, it may
be, a singing bird, a strange animal for a pet, a barrel of fruit, or a
box of sweetmeats was sure to be brought. With such gifts, whether large
or small, the husband hoped to please his wife.
But in this good purpose, he could never succeed. So he began to think
that it was his own fault. Being only a man, he could not tell what a
woman wanted. So he resolved to try his own wits and tastes, to see if
he could meet his wife's desires.
One day, when one of his best captains was about to sail on a voyage to
the northeast, to Dantzig, which is almost as far as Russia, he inquired
of his bad-tempered vrouw what he should bring her.
"I want the best thing in the world," said she. "Now this time, do bring
it to me."
The merchant was now very happy. He told the captain to seek out and
bring back what he himself might think was the best thing on earth; but
to make sure, he must buy a cargo of wheat.
The skipper went on board, hoisted anchor and set sail. Using his man's
wits, he also decided that wheat, which makes bread, was the very thing
to be desired. In talking to his mates and sailors, they agreed with
him. Thus, all the men, in this matter, were of one mind, and the
captain dreamed only of jolly times when on shore. On other voyages,
when he had hunted around for curiosities to please the wife of the
boss, he had many and anxious thoughts; but now, he was care-free.
In Dantzig, all the ship's men had a good time, for the captain made
"goed koop" (a fine bargain). Then the vessel, richly loaded with grain,
turned its prow homeward. Arriving at Stavoren, the skipper reported to
the merchant, to tell him of much money made, of a sound cargo obtained,
of safe arrival, and, above all, plenty of what would please his wife;
for what on earth could be more valuable than wheat, which makes bread,
the staff of life?
At lunch time, when the merchant came home, his wife wanted to know what
made him look so joyful. Had he made "goed koop" that day?
Usually, at meal time, this quiet man hardly spoke two words an hour. To
tell the truth, he sometimes irritated his wife because of his silence,
but to-day he was voluble.
The man of wealth answered, "I have a joyful surprise for you. I cannot
tell you now. You must come with me and see."
After lunch, he took his wife on board the ship, giving a wink of his
eye to the skipper, who nodded to the sailors, and then the stout
fellows opened the hatches. There, loaded to the very deck, was the
precious grain. The merchant looked up, expecting to see and hear his
wife clap her hands with joy.
But the greedy woman turned her back on him, and flew into a rage.
"Throw it all overboard, into the water," she screamed. "You wretch, you
have deceived me."
The husband tried to calm her and explain that it was his thought to get
wheat, as the world's best gift, hoping thus to please her.
At that moment, some hungry beggars standing on the wharf, heard the
lady's loud voice, and falling on their knees cried to her:
"Please, madame, give us some of this wheat; we are starving."
"Yes, lady, and there are many poor in Stavoren, in spite of all its
gold," said the captain. "Why not divide this wheat among the needy, if
you are greatly disappointed? You will win praise for yourself. In the
name of God, forgive my boldness, and do as I ask. Then, on the next
voyage, I shall sail as far as China and will get you anything you ask!"
But the angry woman would listen to no one. She stayed on the ship,
urging on the sailors, with their shovels, until every kernel was cast
"Never again will I try to please you," said her husband. "The hungry
will curse you, and you may yet suffer for food, because of this wilful
waste, which will make woful want. Even you will suffer."
She listened at first in silence, and then put her fingers in her ears
to hear no more. Proud of her riches, with her voice in a high key, she
shouted, "I ever want? What folly to say so! I am too rich." Then, to
show her contempt for such words, she slipped off a ring from her finger
and threw it into the waters of the harbor. Her husband almost died of
grief and shame, when he saw that it was her wedding ring, which she had
"Hear you all! When that ring comes back to me, I shall be hungry and
not before," said she, loud enough to be heard on ship, wharf, and
street. Gathering up her skirts, she stepped upon the gangway, tripping
to the shore, and past the poor people, who looked at her in mingled
hate and fear. Then haughtily, she strode to her costly mansion.
Now to celebrate the expected new triumph and to show off her wealth and
luxury, with the numerous curiosities brought her from many lands, the
proud lady had already invited a score of guests. When they were all
seated, the first course of soup was served in silver dishes, which
every one admired. As the fish was about to be brought in, to be eaten
off golden plates, the butler begged the lady's permission to bring in
first, from the chief cook, something rare and wonderful, that he had
found in the mouth of the fish, which was waiting, already garnished, on
the big dish. Not dreaming what it might be, the hostess clapped her
hands in glee, saying to those at the table:
"Perhaps now, at last, I shall get what I have long waited for--the best
thing in the world."
"We shall all hope so," the guests responded in chorus.
But when the chief cook came into the banquet hall, and, bowing low,
held before his mistress a golden salver, with a finger ring on it, the
proud lady turned pale.
It was the very ring which, in her anger, she had tossed overboard the
day before. To add to her shame, she saw from the look of horror on
their faces, that the guests had recognized the fact that it was her
This was only the beginning of troubles. That night, her husband died of
grief and vexation. The next day, the warehouses, stored with valuable
merchandise of all sorts, were burned to the ground.
Before her husband had been decently buried, a great tempest blew down
from the north, and news came that four of his ships had been wrecked.
Their sailors hardly escaped with their lives, and both they and their
families in Stavoren were now clamoring for bread.
Even when she put on her weeds of grief, these did not protect the widow
from her late husband's creditors. She had to sell her house and all
that was in it, to satisfy them and pay her debts. She had even to pawn
her ring to the Lombards, the goldsmiths of the town, to buy money for
Now that she was poor, none of the former rich folks, who had come to
her grand dinners, would look at her. She had even to beg her bread on
the streets; for who wanted to help the woman who wasted wheat? She was
glad to go to the cow stalls, and eat what the cattle left. Before the
year ended, she was found dead in a stable, in rags and starvation. Thus
her miserable life ended. Without a funeral, but borne on a bier, by two
men, she was buried at the expense of the city, in the potter's field.
But even this was not the end of the fruits of her wickedness, for the
evil she did lived after her. It was found that, from some mysterious
cause, a sand bar was forming in the river. This prevented the ships
from coming up to the docks. With its trade stopped, the city grew
poorer every day. What was the matter?
By and by, at low tide, some fishermen saw a green field under the
surface of the harbor. It was not a garden of seaweed, for instead of
leaves whirling with the tide, there were stalks that stood up high. The
wheat had sprouted and taken root. In another month the tops of these
stalks were visible above the water. But in such soil as sand, the wheat
had reverted to its wild state. It was good for nothing, but only did
For, while producing no grain for food, it held together the sand, which
rolled down the river and had come all the way from the Alps to the
ocean. Of old, this went out to sea and kept the harbor scoured clean,
so that the ships came clear up to the wharves. Then, on many a morning,
a wealthy merchant, whose house was close to the docks, looked out of
his window to find the prows, of his richly laden ships, poked almost
into his bedroom, and he liked it. Venturesome boys even climbed from
their cots down the bowsprits, on to the deck of their fathers' vessels.
Of such sons, the fathers were proud, knowing that they would make brave
sailors and navigate spice ships from the Indies. It was because of her
brave mariners, that Stavoren had gained her glory and greatness, being
famed in all the land.
But now, within so short a time, the city's renown and wealth had faded
like a dream. By degrees, the population diminished, commerce became a
memory, and ships a curiosity. The people, that were left, had to eat
rye and barley bread, instead of wheat. Floods ruined the farmers and
washed away large parts of the town, so that dykes had to be built to
save what was left.
More terrible than all, the ocean waves rolled in and wiped out cities,
towns, and farms, sinking churches, convents, monasteries, warehouses,
wharves, and docks, in one common ruin, hidden far down below.
To this day the worthless wheat patch, that spoiled Stavoren, is called
"Vrouwen Zand," or the Lady's Sand. Instead of being the staff of life,
as Nature intended, the wheat, because of a power of evil greater than
that of a thousand wicked fairies, became the menace of death to ruin a
No wonder the Dutch have a proverb, which might be thus translated:
"Peevishness perverts wheat into weeds
But a sweet temper turns a field into gold."
WHY THE STORK LOVES HOLLAND
Above all countries in Europe, this bird, wise in the head and long in
the legs, loves Holland. Flying all the way from Africa, the stork is at
home among dykes and windmills.
Storks are seen by the thousands in Holland and Friesland. Sometimes
they strut in the streets, not in the least frightened or disturbed.
They make their nests among the tiles and chimneys, on the red roofs of
the houses, and they rear their young even on the church towers.
If a man sets an old cart wheel flat on a tree-top, the storks accept
this, as an invitation to come and stay. At once they proceed, first of
all, to arrange their toilet, after their long flight. They do this,
even before they build their nest. You can see them, by the hour,
preening their feathers and combing their plumage, with their long
bills. Then, as solemnly as a boss mason, they set about gathering
sticks and hay for their house. They never seem to be in a hurry.
A stork lays on a bit of wood, and then goes at his toilet again,
looking around to see that other folks are busy. Year after year, a pair
of storks will use the same nest, rebuilding, or repairing it, each
spring time. The stork is a steady citizen and does not like to change.
Once treated well in one place, by the landlord, Mr. and Mrs. Stork keep
the same apartments and watch over the family cradle inside the house,
to see that it is always occupied by a baby. The return of the stork is,
in Holland, a household celebration.
Out in the fields, Mr. Stork is happy indeed, for Holland is the
paradise of frogs; so the gentleman of the red legs finds plenty to eat.
He takes his time for going to dinner, and rarely rushes for quick
lunch. After business hours in the morning, he lays his long beak among
his thick breast feathers, until it is quite hidden. Then, perched up in
the air on one long leg, like a stilt, he takes a nap, often for hours.
With the other leg crossed, he seems to be resting on the figure four
Towards evening he shakes out his wings, flaps them once or twice, and
takes a walk, but he is never in haste. Beginning his hunt, he soon has
enough frogs, mice, grubs, worms or insects to make a good meal. It is
because this bird feels so much at home, in town and country, making
part of the landscape, that we so associate together Holland and the
stork, as we usually do.
The Dutch proverb pictures the scene, which is so common. "In the same
field, the cow eats grass; the grayhound hunts the hare; and the stork
helps himself to the frogs." Indeed, if it were not for the stork,
Holland would, like old Egypt, in the time of Moses, be overrun with
The Dutch call the stork by the sweet name "Ooijevaar," or the
treasure-bringer. Every spring time, the boys and girls, fathers and
mothers, shout welcome to the white bird from Egypt.
"What do you bring me?" is their question or thought.
If the bird deserts its old home on their roof, the family is in grief,
thinking it has lost its luck; but if Daddy Stork, with Mrs. Stork's
approval, chooses a new place for their nest, there is more rejoicing in
that house, than if money had been found. "Where there are nestlings on
the roof, there will be babies in the house," is what the Dutch say; for
both are welcome.
To tell why the stork loves Holland, we must go back to the Africa of a
million years ago. Then, we shall ask the Dutch fairies how they
succeeded in making the new land, in the west, so popular in the stork
world. For what reason did the wise birds emigrate to the cold country a
thousand miles away? They were so regular and punctual, that a great
"Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times."
Ages ago, there were camels and caravans in Africa, but there was no
Holland, for the land was still under the waves. In India, also, the
stork was an old bird, that waded in the pools and kept the frogs from
croaking in terms of the multiplication table. Sometimes the stork
population increased too fast and some went hungry for food; for, the
proverb tells us that a stork "died while waiting for the ocean to dry,
hoping to get a supply of dried fish."
When on the coast of the North Sea, the Land of a Million Islands was
made, the frog emigrants were there first. They poured in so fast, that
it seemed a question as to who should own the country-frogs or men. Some
were very big, as if ambitious to be bulls. They croaked so loud, that
they drowned out the fairy music, and made the night hideous with their
noises. The snakes spoiled the country for the little birds, while the
toads seemed to think that the salt ocean had been kept out, and the
land made, especially for them.
The Dutch fairies were disgusted at the way these reptiles behaved, for
they could not enjoy themselves, as in the old days. If they went to
dance in the meadow, on moonlight nights, they always found a big
bullfrog sitting in their ring, mocking them with its bellowing. So when
they heard about the storks in Africa, and what hearty appetites they
had, for the various wrigglers, crawlers, jumpers and splashers in the
waters, they resolved to invite them, in a body, to Holland.
The Dutch fairies knew nothing of the habits of the bird and scarcely
imagined how such a creature might look, but they heard many pleasant
things about the stork's good character. The wise bird had an excellent
reputation, not only for being kind to its young, but also for attending
to the wants of its parents, when they were old. It was even said that
in some countries the stork was the symbol for filial piety.
So the fairies of all the Netherlands despatched a delegation to Egypt
and a congress of storks was called to consider this invitation to go
west. Messengers were at once sent to all the red-legged birds, among
the bulrushes of the Nile, or that lived on the roofs of the temples, or
that perched on the pyramids, or dwelt on the top of old columns, or
that stood in rows along the eaves of the town houses. The town birds
gained their living by acting as street cleaners, but the river birds
made their meals chiefly on fish, frogs, and mice.
The invitation was discussed in stork meeting, and it was unanimously
accepted; except by some old grannies and grandpops that feared in the
strange land they would not be well fed. On a second motion, it was
agreed that only the strongest birds should attempt the flight. Those
afraid, or too weak to go, must stay behind and attend to the old folks.
Such a rattle of mandibles was never heard in Egypt before, as when this
stork meeting adjourned.
Now when storks travel, they go in flocks. Thousands of them left Egypt
together. High in the air, with their broad wings spread and their long
legs stretched out behind them, they covered Europe in a few hours. Then
they scattered all over the marshy lands of the new country. It was
agreed that each pair was to find its own home. When the cold autumn
should come, they were to assemble again for flight to Egypt.
It was a new sight for the fairies, the frogs and the men, to look over
the landscape and see these snow white strangers. They were so pretty to
look at, while promenading over the meadows, wading in the ponds and
ditches, or standing silently by the river banks. Soon, however, these
foreign birds were very unpopular in bullfrog land, and as for the
snakes, they thought that Holland would be ruined by these hungry
strangers. On the other hand, it was good news, in fairy-land, that all
fairies could dance safely on their meadow rings, for the bullfrogs were
now afraid to venture in the grass, lest they should be gobbled up, for
the frogs could not hide from the storks. The new birds could poke their
big bills so far into the mud-holes, that no frog, or snake, big or
little, was safe. The stork's red legs were so long, and the birds could
wade in such deep water, that hundreds of frogs were soon eaten up, and
there were many widows and orphans in the ponds and puddles.
When the fairies got more acquainted with their new guests, and saw how
they behaved, they nearly died of laughing. They were not surprised at
their diet, or eating habits, but they soon discovered that the storks
were not song birds. Instead of having voices, they seemed to talk to
each other by clattering their long jaws, or snapping their mandibles
together. Their snowy plumage--all being white but their wing
feathers--was admired, was envied, and their long bright colored legs
were a wonder. At first the fairies thought their guests wore red
stockings and they thought how heavy must be the laundry work on wash
days; for in Holland, everything must be clean.
Of all creatures on earth, as the fairies thought, the funniest was seen
when Mr. Stork was in love. To attract and please his lady love, he made
the most grotesque gestures. He would leap up from the ground and move
with a hop, skip, and jump. Then he spread out his wings, as if to hug
his beloved. Then he danced around her, as if he were filled with wine.
All the time he made the best music he knew how, by clattering his
mandibles together. He intended this performance for a sort of love
ditty, or serenade. The whole program was more amusing than anything
that an ape, goat, or donkey could get up. How the fairies did laugh!
Yet the fairies were very grateful to the storks for ridding their
meadows of so much vermin. How these delicate looking, snow white and
graceful creatures could put so many snails, snakes, tadpoles, and toads
into their stomachs and turn them into snow white feathers, wonderful
wings and long legs, as red as a rose, was a mystery to them. It seemed
more wonderful than anything which they could do, but as fairies have no
stomachs and do not eat, this whole matter of digestion was a mystery to
Besides the terror and gloom in the frog world, every reptile winced and
squirmed, when he heard of this new enemy. All crawlers, creepers, and
jumpers had so long imagined that the land was theirs and had been made
solely for their benefit! Nor did they know how to conquer the storks.
The frog daddies could do nothing, and the frog mothers were every
moment afraid to let either the tadpoles or froggies go out of their
sight. They worried lest they should see their babies caught up in a
pair of long, bony jaws, as sharp as scissors, there to wriggle and
crow, until their darlings disappeared within the monster.
One anecdote of the many that were long told in the old Dutch frog ponds
was this: showing into what clangers curiosity may lead youngsters. We
put it in quotation marks to show that it was told as a true story, and
not printed in a book, or made up.
"A tadpole often teased its froggy mother to let it go and see a red
pole, of which it had heard from a traveller. Mrs. Frog would not at
first let her son go, but promised that as soon as the tadpole lost his
tail, and his flippers had turned into fore legs, and his hind quarters
had properly sprouted, so that he could hop out of danger, he might then
venture on his travels. She warned him, however, not to go too near to
that curious red pole, of which he had heard. Nobody as yet found out
just what this red thing, standing in the water, was; but danger was
suspected by old heads, and all little froggies were warned to be
careful and keep away. In reality, the red stick was the leg of a stork,
sound asleep, for it was taking its usual afternoon nap. The frogs on
the bank, and those in the pool that held their noses above water, to
get their breath, had never before seen anything like this red stilt, or
its cross pole; for no bird of this sort had ever before flown into
their neighborhood. They never suspected that it was a stork, with its
legs shaped like the figure four (4). Indeed, they knew nothing of its
long bill, that could open and shut like a trap, catching a frog or
snake, and swallowing it in a moment.
"Unfortunately for this uneducated young frog, that had never travelled
from home, it now went too near the red pole, and, to show how brave it
was, rubbed its nose against the queer thing. Suddenly the horrible
creature, that had only been asleep, woke up and snapped its jaws. In a
moment, a wriggling froggy disappeared from sight into the stomach of a
monster, that had two red legs, instead of one. At the sight of such
gluttony, there was an awful splash, for a whole row of frogs had jumped
from the bank into the pool. After this, it was evident that Holland was
not to belong entirely to the frogs."
As for the human beings, they were so happy over the war with the vermin
and the victory of the storks, that they made this bird their pride and
joy. They heaped honors upon the stork as the savior of their country.
They placed boxes on the roofs of their houses for these birds to nest
in. All the old cart wheels in the land were hunted up. They sawed off
the willow trees a few feet above the ground, and set the wheels in
flat, which the storks used as their parlors and dressing rooms.
As for the knights, they placed the figure of the stork on their
shields, banners, and coats of arms, while citizens made this bird
prominent on their city seals. The capital of the country, The Hague,
was dedicated to this bird, and, for all time, a pond was dug within the
city limits, where storks were fed and cared for at the public expense.
Even to-day, many a good story, illustrating the tender affection of The
Hague storks for their young, is told and enjoyed as an example to Dutch
mothers to be the best in the world.
Out in the country at large, in any of the eleven provinces, whenever
they drained a swamp, or pumped out a pond to make a village, it was not
looked upon as a part of Holland, unless there were storks. Even in the
new wild places they planted stakes on the pumped out dry land, called
polders. On the top of these sticks were laid as invitations for the
stork families to come and live with the people. Along the roads they
stuck posts for storks' nests. It became a custom with farmers, when the
storks came back, to kill the fatted calf, or lamb, and leave the refuse
meat out in the fields for a feast to these bird visitors. A score of
Dutch proverbs exist, all of them complimentary to the bird that loves
babies and cradles.
Last of all, the Dutch children, even in the reign of Queen Wilhelmina,
made letter carriers of their friends the treasure-bringers. Tying tiny
slips of paper to their red legs, they sent messages, in autumn, to the
boys and girls in the old land of the sphinx and pyramids, of Moses, and
the children of Israel. In the spring time, the children's return
messages were received in the country which bids eternal welcome to the
bird named the Bringer of Blessings.
This is why the storks love Holland.
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