Voyages and Travels of Count Funnibos and Baron Stilkin, by William H G Kingston.
This book is definitely intended for the younger ones. Kingston does not really show how humorous he can be in most of his books, but this book is definitely meant to be funny and succeeds.
Two elderly minor nobles agree that they will set out on a voyage to see the world. They set out on it, but their adventures take them no farther than Holland, which is where they already are. They have various mishaps, and even at one point get separated, only coming together again by chance. The whole thing is so absurd that we can relax and laugh at the adventures of the two noblemen. It is curious, the different mindset one has to have when reading the exploits of a couple of plainly idiotic buffoons, compared with that taken on when reading practically any other book.
The book is illustrated profusely, and we feel you will enjoy reading or listening to it.
VOYAGES AND TRAVELS OF COUNT FUNNIBOS AND BARON STILKIN, BY WILLIAM H G KINGSTON.
"What shall we do with ourselves, my dear Stilkin?" exclaimed Count Funnibos, yawning and stretching out his legs and arms, which were of the longest.
"Do! why, travel," answered Baron Stilkin, with a smile on his genial countenance.
"Travel! what for?" asked the Count, yawning again.
"To see the world, to be sure," answered the Baron.
"The world! why, don't we see it by looking out of the window?" asked the Count.
"That's what many people say, and fancy they know the world when they have looked out of their own windows," observed the Baron.
"Ah, yes, perhaps you are right: you always are when I happen to be wrong, and you differ from me—unless you are wrong also," replied the Count. "But where shall we go?"
"Why, round the world if we want to see it;—or as far round as we can get," said the Baron, correcting himself; "and then we shall not have seen it all."
"When shall we start?" asked the Count, brightening up; "next year?"
"Next fiddlesticks! this afternoon, to be sure. Don't put off till to-morrow what can be done to-day, still less till next year. What's to hinder us? We have no ties."
"Yes, there are my neck-ties to come from the laundress," said the Count, who was addicted to taking things literally; "and I must procure some new shoe-ties."
"Never mind, I'll get them for you in good time," said the Baron. "You have plenty of money, so you can pay for both of us, which will simplify accounts."
"Yes, to be sure, I hate complicated accounts," remarked the Count, who thought the Baron the essence of wisdom, and that this was an especially bright idea. "And what luggage shall we require?"
"Let me see: you have two valises—one will do for you and the other for me," said the Baron, putting his fore-finger on his brow in a thoughtful manner. "All, yes; besides the ties you will require a shirt-collar or two, a comb to unravel those hyacinthine locks of yours, a pair of spectacles, and a toothpick. It might be as well also to take an umbrella, in case we should be caught out in the rainy season."
"But shouldn't I take my slippers?" asked the Count.
"What a brilliant idea!" exclaimed the Baron. "And that reminds me that you must of course take your seven-league boots."
"But I have only one pair, and if I put them on I shall be unable to help running away from you, and we could no longer be called travelling companions."
"Ah, yes, I foresaw that difficulty from the first," observed the Baron. "But, my dear Funnibos, I never allow difficulties to stand in my way. I've thought of a plan to overcome that one. You shall wear one boot and I'll wear the other, then hand in hand we'll go along across the country almost as fast as you would alone."
"Much faster—for I should to a certainty lose my way, or stick in a quagmire," observed the Count.
"Then all our arrangements are made," said the Baron. "I'll see about any other trifles we may require. Now let us pack up."
"You have forgotten my ties," observed the Count.
"Ah, yes, so I had," observed the Baron, and he hurried off to the laundress for them. He soon returned, and the valises being filled and strapped up, the Baron tucked one under each arm.
"Stop," said the Count, "I must give directions to my housekeeper about the management of my castle and estates during my absence."
"Tell her to bolt the windows and lock all the doors of the castle, so that no one can get in; and as for the estates, they won't run away," said the Baron.
"Thank you for the bright idea; I'll act upon it," answered the Count. "Still, people do lose their estates in some way or other. How is that?"
"Because they do not look properly after them," answered the Baron.
"But mine are secured to my heirs," said the Count.
"Then they cannot run away unless your heirs run also, therefore pray set your mind at rest on that score; and now come along." The Baron as he spoke took up the two portmanteaus, which were patent Lilliputians, warranted to carry any amount of clothing their owners could put into them, and they set off on their travels.
"In what direction shall we go?" asked the Count.
"That must depend upon circumstances," answered the Baron. "Wherever the wind blows us."
"But suppose it should blow one day in one direction and another in the opposite, how shall we ever get to the end of our voyage?" inquired the Count, stopping, and looking his companion in the face.
"That puzzles me, but let us get on board first, and see how things turn out," observed the Baron. "Ships do go round the world somehow or other, and I suppose if they do not find a fair wind in one place they find it another."
"But how are they to get to that other place?" asked the Count, who was in an inquisitive mood.
"That's what we are going to find out," observed the Baron.
"But must we go by sea?" asked the Count. "Could not we keep on the land, and then we shall be independent of the wind?"
"My dear Count, don't you know that we cannot possibly get round the world unless we go by sea?" exclaimed the Baron. "I thought that you had received a better education than to be ignorant of that fact."
"Ah, yes, to be sure, when I have condescended to look at a map, I have observed that there are two great oceans, dividing the continent of America from Europe on one side, and Asia on the other, but I had forgotten it at the moment. However, is it absolutely necessary to go all the way round the world? Could we not on this excursion just see a part of it, and then, if we like our expedition, we can conclude it on another occasion."
"But how are we to see the world unless we go round it?" exclaimed the Baron, with some asperity in his tone. "That is what I thought we set out to do."
"Ah, yes, my dear Baron, but, to tell you the truth, I do not feel quite comfortable at the thoughts of going so far," said the Count, in a hesitating tone. "Could not we just see one country first, then another, and another, and so on? We shall know far more about them than if we ran round the globe as fast as the lightning flashes, or bullet or arrow flies, or a fish swims; or you may choose any other simile you like to denote speed," observed the Count. "In that case we should only see things on our right hand, and on our left, and I do not think we should know much about the countries towards either of the Poles."
"Your remark exhibits a sagacity for which I always gave you credit," observed the Baron, making a bow to his friend. "But I tell you what, if we stop talking here we shall never make any progress on our journey. Let us go down to the quay and ascertain what vessels are about to sail, and we can accordingly take a passage on board one of them."
"We could not well take a passage on board two," observed the Count.
"Ha, ha, ha!" laughed the Baron; "very good, very good; but come along, my dear fellow; stir your stumps, as the English vulgarly express it; let us be moving; Allons donc, as a Frenchman would say." And arm in arm the two travellers proceeded to the quay. On reaching it they observed an individual of rotund proportions, with a big apron fastened up to his chin, seated on the end of a wall smoking a long clay pipe, and surrounded by chests, bales, casks, and packages of all descriptions. He looked as if he was lord of all he surveyed: indeed there was no other individual in sight except a person coming up some steps from the river and bringing several buckets suspended from a stick over his shoulders, but he was evidently a hewer of wood and a drawer of water, and therefore of no account in the eyes of the burly gentleman.
"Friend," said the Baron, making a bow to the latter individual, "can you inform me where we shall find a vessel about to sail round the world, and when she is likely to proceed on her voyage?"
The latter individual took a sidelong glance at the Baron, and then at the Count, and blew a puff of smoke, but made no answer.
"The poor man is perhaps deaf," suggested the Count. Whereon the Baron in louder tones exclaimed, "Can you tell me, friend,"—the burly individual blew another cloud of smoke—"where shall we find a vessel about to sail round the world, and when she commences her voyage?" continued the Baron.
The burly individual opened his eyes as wide as his fat cheeks would allow him, then blew a fresh cloud of smoke, and with the end of his pipe, evidently not wishing to fatigue himself by speaking, pointed along the quay, where the masts of numerous vessels could be seen crowded together.
"Thank you, friend," said the Count, making a bow, for he always piqued himself on his politeness. The Baron felt angry at not having his question answered more promptly, and only gave a formal nod, of which the burly individual took not the slightest notice.
The two travellers continued on, picking their way among the casks, cases, bales, packages and anchors, and guns stuck upright with their muzzles in the ground, and bits of iron chain and spars, and broken boats, and here and there a capstan or a windlass, tall cranes, and all sorts of other articles such as encumber the wharves of a mercantile seaport. As they went along the Baron asked the same question which he had put to the burly individual of several other persons whom he and his friend encountered; some laughed and did not take the trouble of replying, others said that there were vessels of all sorts about to sail to various lands, but whether they were going round the world was not known to them.
"We must make inquiries for ourselves," said the Baron. "Remember that those who want a thing go for it, those who don't want it stay at home; now, as we do want to know where those ships are about to sail to, we must go."
"But, my dear Baron, a dreadful thought has occurred to me. I quite forgot to speak to Johanna Klack, my estimable and trustworthy housekeeper, to give her directions as to her proceedings during my absence. I really think I must go back, or she will not know what to do."
"No, no, my dear Count, I cannot allow you to do so foolish an act. I know Johanna Klack too well for that," said the Baron, with some bitterness in his tone. "She'll not let you go away again; she'll talk you to death with arguments against your going; she'll lock you up in the blue room, or the brown room, or in the dungeon itself, and I shall have to proceed alone. More than half the pleasure of the voyage will be lost without your society; besides which, I have no money to pay for my passage, for you will remember that you undertook to do that."
"Then, I will leave my portmanteau and my umbrella with you as a security," said the Count, trying to get his arm free from that of his friend.
"Ha, ha, ha! that will be no security at all," observed the Baron. "Why, it would be the cause of my destruction. Just see how I should be situated. Johanna Klack will shut you up, and you will disappear from this sublunary world for a time, at all events. It is already known that we set out on our travels. I shall be discovered with your portmanteau as well as my own, and accused, notwithstanding my protestations of innocence, of having done away with you, and before Johanna Klack allows you to reappear I shall to a certainty be hung up by the neck, or have my head chopped off, or be transported beyond seas. Johanna Klack may be a very estimable and charming individual, but I know her too well to trust her. Let her alone; she and your steward being, as you say, thoroughly honest, will manage your affairs to your satisfaction. When we are once away—two or three hundred miles off— you can write and tell her that you are gone on your travels, and give such directions as you may deem necessary. Come along, my dear fellow, come along; I fear even now that she may have discovered our departure and may consider it her duty to follow us."
"If she does, she had better look out for the consequences," said the Baron to himself.
The Count yielded to his friend's arguments, and they continued their course. As they reached the more frequented parts of the quay, where the larger number of vessels were collected, they observed a party of jovial sailors assembled in front of a wine-shop door; some were seated at their ease on benches, either smoking or holding forth to their companions, who were standing by listening. They looked perfectly happy and contented with themselves. One lolling back with his legs stretched out, who was evidently the orator of the party, and thought no small beer of himself, was spinning an interesting yarn or making some amusing jokes.
"Those are the sort of mariners I should like to sail with," observed the Baron. "They are stout fellows, and probably first-rate seamen. Let us draw near and hear what they are talking about."
The sailors took no notice of the Count and Baron as they approached.
"I tell you I've been to the North Sea and to the South Seas, to the Red Sea and the Black Sea, and the Yellow Sea too, and crossed the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans scores of times; and I've sailed to the North Pole and South Pole, and all the world round, and I have seen stranger sights than have most men, from the day they were born to the day they died. The strangest spectacle I ever beheld was once in the Indian Ocean. We were sailing along with a fair breeze and studding sails set below and aloft, when we saw coming towards us five water-spouts, just like so many twisted columns: dark clouds seemed to come from the sky, and piles of water rose out of the ocean. It was a bad look-out for us, for we expected to have them aboard our ship, when they would have sent her to the bottom in no time. But our skipper was not a man to be daunted by difficulties. As soon as he saw them coming he ordered the guns to be loaded and run out. As the first came near he fired, and down fell the waterspout with a rushing sound into the ocean. 'It is your turn next,' he sang out, pointing a gun at another, which he treated in the same fashion; but three came on together, when he blazed away at them and all were knocked to pieces in a moment; and the ocean was as calm as it had been before we saw them. You may well say that was curious. I have heard of water-spouts doing much damage, but I never saw a ship swamped by one."
The Count and Baron were much interested, and got still nearer, that they might not lose a word.
"I told you, mates, that I had been to the North Pole and South Pole, and I've seen wonderful sights there also. What do you think of an iceberg a mile long, two or three hundred feet high? I have been among such, and surrounded by them too, in a way which seemed as if it was impossible we should ever get free again. When the sun is shining they're beautiful to look at: some with great caverns below, with icicles hanging down from the roof, and the top of the berg covered with what one might fancy to be towers, steeples, and ruined castles and arches, all glittering and shining just as if they were made of alabaster and precious stones; and the sea a deep purple, or sometimes blue, with streaks of yellow and red. You'd think it was cold enough there, but the summer up in the North is one long day, with the sun in the sky all the time; and I have known it pretty hot there—hot enough to set the icebergs melting, and the water rushing down their sides in fountains. Now and then, when the under part is worn away, they get top-heavy, and over they go, just like a porpoise making a somersault. It does not do to be near them on those occasions, for they'd send the stoutest ship to the bottom in a moment; and even at a distance I have known bits of ice come down on the deck big enough to crack a blackamoor's head, though we were many fathoms off it.
"As I said, the summer is short, and that is the only time ships can sail about, and make their way among the ice. Then comes the winter, and terribly long that is; it lasts well-nigh ten months, and for all that time the ship is shut up just as fast as if she was in a dock with the entrance closed by stone. There she lies, housed over, with topgallant-masts struck, and if it was not for the stoves below, which must be kept alight at all hours of the day and night, people would be frozen to death: I have heard, indeed, of a whole ship's company being turned into ice. For many days during the time the sun is below the horizon, and there is one long night; the stars, however, when the sky is clear, shine brightly, and sometimes the Northern lights blaze up and sparkle, and people can see their way over the ice, but it is not pleasant travelling, and one has to wear wonderfully thick clothing, and mits on the hands, and to cover up all but the eyes, nose, and mouth, or a man would get frost—bitten very quickly. Then bears come prowling about, and they are awkward customers to meet alone, for they have powerful jaws and sharp claws, and one hug is enough to squeeze the breath out of a person. They have carried off many a poor fellow who has wandered away from his ship. Besides the bears there are Arctic foxes, with white fur, and though they do not attack a fellow on his feet with a thick stick in his hand, yet I do not know how they would treat him if they found him lying down unable to defend himself.
"Sometimes ships, before they can get into harbour, are caught in the ice, and have to pass the winter out in the sea, if they have time to cut a dock before the ice presses on them. They may thus be tolerably secure, but I have known ships to be crushed to atoms before they have had time to do that, and their crews have had to get on board other ships, or make for the land, and spend the winter there in snow huts; or they have perished. Still, many people have passed two and three winters together in the Arctic regions, and have kept their health and been happy, when they have had sufficient firing and good food. On one of those occasions I learned to read and write, which I did not know how to do before, and much use it has been to me ever since.
"Then we had amusements of all sorts. We rigged a theatre on board, and acted plays and recited, and had a masquerade, and funny sort of dresses we appeared in. But we had work to do also; we had to build a wall of snow round the ship, so that in cold weather we were protected from the wind when we took our exercise, running round and round inside it. The worst part of the business was the long night and the bitter cold, for it was cold, I can tell you; and glad enough we were when we saw the sun rising just above the hillocks of ice far away to the southward, and though for some time it was for a very short period above the horizon, yet day after day at noon it appeared higher and higher, and its rays shed some warmth down upon us.
"Still the winter was not over, and our captain arranged to make some journeys to explore the country. In that part of the world dogs are often used to draw sleighs, but as we had no dogs we were compelled to drag them ourselves, about five men to each sleigh, which is a sort of long carriage without wheels, with iron runners like two skates placed under it, and the goods lashed along on the top. We carried our provisions, tents, and cooking utensils. When the ice was smooth it was pretty easy travelling, but we often had to drag the sleighs up steep places, over hillocks, and rough ground, and then it was heavy work, and we could only make good a few miles a day.
"A man need be pretty strong and hardy to go through that sort of work. At night we slept inside our tents, as close together as we could pack, the only warmth we could obtain being from the spirit lamps we carried, which served also to warm up our cocoa and cook our food. I was not sorry when the journey was over, though we were merry enough during it. At length we got out of harbour, but we had still not a few dangers to encounter. Sometimes we were nearly driven on shore by the floes of ice pressing on us; at others we ran a great risk of being nipped by getting between two floes which approached each other; then there was the chance of the icebergs falling down on us. We several times had to cut our way with saws through the ice to get into open water. We were heartily glad when we were free altogether, and sailing along with a fair wind over the ocean to the southward, leaving the world of ice astern. However, I should be ready to go again, and so would most fellows who were with me, I have a notion."
"That's more than I should, after what I have heard," observed the Count to the Baron. "I object excessively to take a trip to the North Pole, wherever else we may go. I have no fancy, either, to be sent to the bottom by a waterspout."
"Wherever we go we may expect to meet with some danger or other," said the Baron. "It adds zest to the pleasure of travelling."
"I would rather avoid the zest," said the Count. "But shall we ask these brave fellows what ship they belong to. Perhaps she's not going to the North Pole or the Indian Seas on this occasion, and they evidently form a sturdy crew. Will you speak to them or shall I?"
"I'll address them," said the Baron, and stepping up to the seamen, he said—
"Brave sailors, I have heard the account your shipmate has been giving you of his adventures, and as we are desirous of sailing round the world, we should be glad to take a passage on board the ship to which you belong."
"Unless you were to chop yourselves up into a good many portions you'd find that a hard matter, master," answered one of the seamen. "We all happen, do ye see, to belong to different ships, and some don't belong to any ship at all, and when we do sail, the chances are we go to as many parts of the world."
"Then, most gallant sailors, will you have the kindness to inform us what ship is likely next to sail from this port, and whither is she bound?" said the Baron.
"As to that, I heard old Jan Dunck, skipper of the galiot Golden Hog, saying that he was about to sail for Amsterdam with the next tide. It wants but an hour or so to that time, and if you look sharp about it you may get on board and make your arrangements with him before he trips his anchor," answered the sailor.
"Thanks, brave sailors, for the information you have afforded us," said the Baron. "You will confer a further favour if you will show us where the said galiot Golden Hog lies at anchor. Among this vast fleet of shipping we should otherwise have considerable difficulty in discovering her, and my friend Count Funnibos will, I am sure, reward you handsomely."
"Reward is neither here nor there, but I don't mind showing you old Dunck's craft, if you will come along with me."
Thus saying, the sailor, getting up, put his hands in his pockets, and led the way along the quay. On one side it was bordered by high houses, with curious gables; the floors projecting one beyond the other, and little terraces and balconies and excrescences of all sorts, carved and painted in gay colours, and cranes and beams, with blocks and ropes hanging from their ends. On the other side appeared a forest of masts, yards, and rigging, rising out of vessels of all shapes and sizes, in apparently such inextricable confusion that it seemed impossible they should ever get free of each other, and float independently on the ocean. On the opposite side was an old castle with four towers, looking very glum and gloomy; and more vessels and boats below it, leaving the centre of the river tolerably clear for other craft to pass up and down. The sailor rolled along with an independent air, not looking to see whether those he had offered to guide were following him; now and then, when passing an old shipmate it might be, or other nautical acquaintance, he gave a nod of recognition without taking his hands from his pockets or his pipe from his mouth.
"Who have you got in tow there?" asked one or two.
"Don't know: they want to see the skipper, Jan Dunck, and I'm piloting them to where his galiot lies."
"They look remarkably green, but they'll be done considerably brown before old Dunck lands them," he said in an under tone, so that the Count and Baron did not hear him. As they were going along the sailor stopped suddenly, and pointed to a black-whiskered man, wearing a tarpaulin hat on his head, with high boots, and a flushing coat.
"There's the skipper, Jan Dunck, and there's his craft just off the shore. I'll tell him what you want, and wish you a good voyage," said the seaman, who then went up to the skipper.
"If they pay for their passage, and do not complain of the roughness of the sea, or blame me for it, I'll take them," said the skipper, eyeing the Count and the Baron as he spoke.
The arrangement was soon concluded.
"But you promised that I should reward the sailor," observed the Count to his friend.
"I will return him our profuse thanks. Such will be the most simple and economical way of paying the debt," answered the Baron; and turning to the seaman, he said, politely lifting his hat, "Most brave and gallant mariner, Count Funnibos and Baron Stilkin desire to return you their most profuse thanks for the service you have rendered them, in conducting them this far on their journey, and making known to them this, I doubt not, worthy, stout, and sturdy captain, with whom they are about to commence their voyages over the treacherous ocean."
"That's neither here nor there; I was happy to do you a service and you're welcome to it, only in future don't make promises which you cannot pay in better coin than that you have treated me with; and so good day, Count Fuddlepate and Baron Stickum, or whatever you call yourselves," answered the sailor; who, sticking his pipe in his mouth, which he had taken out to make this long speech, and putting his hands in his pocket, rolled back to where he had left his companions, to whom he failed not to recount the liberal treatment he had received in the way of compliment from the two exalted individuals he had introduced to Captain Jan Dunck.
"Well, Mynheers, the sooner we get on board the galiot the better," said Captain Jan Dunck, addressing the Count and Baron. "She's a fine craft—a finer never floated on the Zuyder Zee; she carries a wonderful amount of cargo; her accommodation for passengers is excellent; her cabin is quite a palace, a fit habitation for a king. She's well found with a magnificent crew of sturdy fellows, and as to her captain, I flatter myself—though it is I who say it—that you will not find his equal afloat; yes, Mynheers, I say so without vanity. I've sailed, man and boy, for forty years or more on the stormy ocean, and never yet found my equal. I will convey you and your luggage and all other belongings to Amsterdam with speed and safety, always providing the winds are favourable, and we do not happen to stick on a mud-bank to be left high and dry till the next spring-tide, or that a storm does not arise and send us to the bottom, the fate which has overtaken many a stout craft, but which by my skill and knowledge I hope to avoid. However, I now invite you to come on board the Golden Hog, that we may be ready to weigh anchor directly the tide turns, and proceed on our voyage. There lies the craft on board which you are to have the happiness of sailing;" and Captain Jan Dunck, as he spoke, pointed to a galiot of no over large proportions which lay a short distance from the wharf, with her sails loosed ready for sea.
"Well, we are fortunate in finding so experienced a navigator," observed the Count to the Baron, as they followed Captain Jan Dunck towards the steps at the bottom of which lay his boat. "He'll carry us as safely round the world as would have done the brave Captains Schouten and Le Maire, or Christofero Columbo himself."
"If we take him at his own estimation he is undoubtedly a first-rate navigator; but you must remember, my dear Count, that it is not always safe to judge of men by the report they give of themselves; we shall know more about them at the termination of our voyage than we do at present," observed the Baron. "However, there is the boat, and he is making signs to us to follow him."
The Count and Baron accordingly descended the steps into the galiot's boat, in the stern of which sat the Captain, his weight lifting the bows up considerably out of the water. A sailor in a woollen shirt who had lost one eye, and squinted with the other, and a nose, the ruddy tip of which seemed anxious to be well acquainted with his chin, sat in the bows with a pair of sculls in his hand ready to shove off at his captain's command.
"Give way," said the skipper, and the one-eyed seaman began to paddle slowly and deliberately, for the boat was heavily weighted with the skipper and the Count and Baron in the stern, and as there was no necessity for haste, greater speed would have been superfluous.
"Is this the way boats always move over the water?" asked the Count, as he observed the curious manner in which the bow cocked up.
"Not unless they have great men in the stern, as my boat has at present," answered the skipper.
"Ah, yes, I understand," said the Count, looking very wise.
The boat was soon alongside the galiot, on board which the skipper stepped. As soon as he was out of her the bow of the boat came down with a flop in the water. He then stood ready to receive the Count and Baron. As he helped them up on deck, he congratulated them on having thus successfully performed the first part of their voyage. "And now, Mynheers," he continued, "I must beg you to admire the masts and rigging, the yellow tint of the sails, the bright polish you can see around you."
"You must have expended a large amount of paint and varnish in thus adorning your vessel," observed the Count.
"I have done my best to make her worthy of her Captain," answered the skipper, in a complacent tone, "and worthy, I may add, of conveying such distinguished passengers as yourselves."
The Count bowed, and the Baron bowed, as they prepared to follow the skipper down through a small square hole in the deck with a hatch over it.
"Why, this is not as grand as I had expected," observed the Count. "Not quite a palace, as you described it, Captain."
"But it is as comfortable as a palace, and I find it far more so in a heavy sea," observed the skipper. "For you must understand that if the vessel gives a sudden lurch, it is a great blessing not to be sent fifty feet away to leeward, which you would be if you were in the room of a palace. See what comfort we have got here—everything within reach. A man has only to rise from his chair and tumble into bed, or tumble out of bed, and sit down in his chair to breakfast. Then, when he dresses he has only to stretch out his hand to take hold of the things hanging up against the bulkhead."
While the skipper was pointing out to his passengers the super-excellence of the accommodation his vessel afforded, a female voice was heard exclaiming, in shrill tones—
"I must see him, I must see my master, the Count! He has bolted, decamped, run off without so much as saying why he was going, or where he was going, or leaving me those full and ample directions which I had a right to expect."
"Hark!" exclaimed the Count, turning pale. "That must be Johanna Klack; if she once sees me, she'll take me back, to a certainty. Oh dear me, what shall I do?"
"I know what I will do," cried the Baron, beginning to ascend the companion-ladder. "Captain Jan Dunck, keep the Count down here below; don't let him show himself on any account. I will settle the matter. This female, this termagant, will carry off one of your passengers, and, as an honest man, you are bound to protect him."
"Ja, ja," said the Captain; "slip into one of those bunks and you will be perfectly safe, and if she manages to get down below, my name isn't Jan Dunck." Saying this, the skipper followed the Baron up on deck, and, clapping on the hatch, securely bolted it.
The Baron had grasped a boathook, the skipper seized a broomstick, and in a loud voice shouted to his crew, "Boarders! repel boarders!" In a boat alongside stood a female, her countenance flushed and irate, showing by her actions her intention of climbing up the vessel's side. The crew obeyed their commander's call, and from the fore hatchway appeared the small ship's boy, holding a kettle of boiling water in his hand, while the rest had armed themselves with various weapons.
"Who are you, and what do you want?" asked Captain Jan Dunck, in a loud voice.
"I am that most ill-used person, Johanna Klack, the housekeeper, once honoured, respected, and trusted, of the noble Count Funnibos, who has been inveigled away with treachery and guile by that false friend of his, the Baron Stilkin. I've proof positive of the fact, for as I hurried along searching for the truants I met a brave mariner, who told me that he had not only spoken with them, but had seen them go on board this very vessel, and that, if I did not make haste, I should be too late to catch them. There's the Baron; I know him well, and I am very sure that my master is not far off. I must have him, I will have him back!" and, making a spring, she endeavoured to mount the side of the vessel.
"Will you?" exclaimed the skipper, bestowing a rap on her knuckles which made the poor woman let go her hold of the rigging.
"Give it her," cried the Baron, lunging at her with his boathook, at which the small ship's boy rushed forward with the steaming kettle in his hand.
The unfortunate Johanna Klack, alarmed at what might be the consequences, sprang back to the other side of the boat, and, losing her balance, overboard she went, amid the jeers of the hard-hearted skipper and crew of the galiot Golden Hog. The hapless Vrouw, as she descended into the far from limpid water, screamed loudly for help, the waterman who had brought her off being too much astonished at first to render it.
"Shove off," cried the skipper, "and hook the woman out of the water, but do not bring her alongside this vessel again, if you value your skull."
The man obeyed, and, stretching out his boathook, got hold of the Vrouw's garments and hauled her on board. The moment she had recovered her breath she insisted on being taken back to the galiot; but the old boatman was suddenly seized with a fit of deafness, and wisely pulled away in an opposite direction.
"Take me back! take me back!" cried Johanna Klack.
"I am rowing as hard as I can," answered the boatman.
"Take me back to the vessel, on board which my honoured master is a prisoner," shouted Johanna Klack.
"We shall soon be at the shore; you can then run home and change your wet garments," answered the old boatman.
"I tell you I want to go back to that vessel," cried the housekeeper, getting more and more angry and excited.
"Ja, ja, Vrouw; ja, ja, I will land you presently."
All this time the boatman was observing the threatening gestures of Captain Jan Dunck and Baron Stilkin. At last he disappeared with his fare behind a crowd of vessels.
"Now, Captain," said the Baron, "the sooner we put to sea the better, for I know Johanna Klack well enough to be certain that, if she does not come herself, she will send a posse comitatus, or a party of constables, or some other myrmidons of the law to arrest us under some false accusation or other, and we shall be carried on shore ignominiously as prisoners, and your voyage will be delayed."
"Ja, ja, I understand all about that," answered Captain Jan Dunck. "You boy, with the kettle of boiling water, go and carry it below, and help to get the galiot under weigh. Mate, turn the hands up and make sail."
The crew consisted of the mate, the one-eyed mariner, and the small ship's boy. The mate and the one-eyed mariner were on deck; they had only to turn up the small ship's boy, who quickly made his appearance on being summoned, and they set to work to turn round the windlass, which soon won the anchor from its oozy bed. The sails were set, and as a light breeze had just then sprung up, the galiot began to move slowly down the canal towards the open ocean, which was yet, however, a good way off. As the breeze freshened the galiot moved faster and faster, and soon the town, with its church steeples and old towers and its crowd of shipping, was left behind.
"I think we might venture to let the Count up on deck," observed the Baron. "He must be pretty well stifled by this time down in the hot cabin."
"Ja, ja," answered Captain Dunck; "let him up. No fear of the Vrouw Klack coming after him now; if she does, we shall see her at a distance, and make preparations for her reception."
"But if she comes with a posse comitatus" asked the Baron; "what shall we do then?"
"Send the posse comitatus about their business," answered Captain Dunck, flourishing a handspike. "I am skipper of this vessel, and no one shall step on board without my leave, or if they do I will trundle them overboard without their leave. Oh, oh, oh; let them just come and try it."
On receiving this assurance from Captain Jan Dunck, the Baron, withdrawing the hatch, called to the Count to come on deck, and enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of the scenery. As no answer was returned, the Baron, beginning to feel alarmed, fearing that his friend had been truly suffocated, descended into the cabin. A loud snore assured him that the Count was fast asleep, forgetful of his castle, forgetful of the Vrouw Klack, forgetful where he was, and of all other sublunary matters.
"Count Funnibos, come and see the beautiful scenery," shouted the Baron. Whereon, the Count starting up, hit his head such a blow against the woodwork close above, that he fell back almost stunned. He, however, soon recovered, and in a low voice asked the Baron what had happened.
"The last thing that has happened is that you gave your head a tremendous thwack," said the Baron; "but my object is to invite you on deck to enjoy the beautiful scenery we are passing through, before we put out into the open ocean, when we shall see no more green fields."
Thus summoned, the Count, getting out of the bunk, accompanied the Baron on deck. Then taking out his note-book he wrote: "Green fields, green trees, windmills pretty numerous, cows white and black still more so, sky and sea as usual, with here and there a vessel or other craft on the calm surface of the latter."
"I see nothing more to describe," he said, as he closed the book and returned it to his pocket.
Still the galiot glided on.
"It strikes me that there is some monotony in this kind of scenery," observed the Count to the Baron; "but it's pleasing, charming, and soothing to one's troubled soul."
At last the wind dropped, and the galiot lay becalmed.
"What are we going to do now?" asked the Count, finding that the vessel no longer moved through the water.
"Drop our anchor and wait till the ebb makes again, unless we wish to be driven up by the flood all the way we have come," observed the skipper.
"What, and run the risk of meeting Johanna Klack!" exclaimed the Count, in a voice of alarm. "By all means do come to an anchor, my dear Captain."
"That's what I intend to do," he answered; and he ordered the anchor to be let go.
Other vessels were in the same condition as themselves, so they had no reason to complain. The scenery was not particularly enlivening, though there were a few trees on the shore; but they were generally stunted in their growth, and bent by the winds. Here and there a small boat appeared, the occupants being engaged either in fishing, or in rowing across the river. One or two people were enjoying the luxury of bathing, and a man came down to fill a jar with salt water, probably to bathe the limbs of one of his children.
"How long are we likely to remain here, Captain Jan Dunck?" inquired the Count.
"As I said before, and say it again, till the tide turns or the breeze springs up," answered the skipper. "What a hurry you appear to be in. The mariners in these seas have to learn patience—a valuable quality under all circumstances. If we grumbled every time we had a calm, or a foul wind, or stuck on a mud-bank, we should never cease grumbling."
"Suppose, Captain, as we have nothing else to do, you or one of your crew would be good enough to spin us a yarn," said the Count.
"One-eyed Pieter will spin you a yarn which will last into the middle of next week," said the skipper.
"Then I think that he had better not begin," observed the Count; "for I hope before that time we shall be indulging in fresh milk and eggs on shore."
"You do, do you, noble sir?" said the one-eyed mariner, winking at the mate, or rather intending to do so, for he winked in an opposite direction, as was his custom, though he was unconscious of it. "We're not out of the Scheldt yet, and if we don't get a fair wind, it will be a pretty long time before we reach the Texel and get into the Zuyder Zee."
"Ja, ja; one-eyed Pieter speaks but the truth. You must be prepared, when navigating the changeful ocean, to meet with foul winds as well as fair ones," said the Captain. "Remember that I undertook only to convey you to your destination wind and weather permitting. No skipper ever takes passengers on any other terms."
"I am prepared for whatever Fate wills," said the Count, folding his hands.
"And so am I," said the Baron. "And now I propose, as it is getting late, and I feel sleepiness stealing over my eyelids, that we turn into our bunks and resign ourselves to the keeping of the drowsy god."
"I don't know what you mean by talking of the drowsy god," said the skipper. "As far as I can make out, you intend to take a snooze; that's the best thing you can do."
The Count and the Baron accordingly turned into their berths (not knocking their heads more than half-a-dozen times as they did so), and were very soon snoring away in concert. So ended the first day of their voyages and travels.
"A fair wind, Mynheers! a fair wind!" shouted Captain Jan Dunck down the cabin skylight. "Rouse up, rouse up; come on deck and see how the Golden Hog is walking along."
"Walking along, what does he mean? do ships walk?" asked the Count, as, having turned out of his bunk and rubbed his eyes and yawned and stretched himself, he was beginning to dress.
"I suppose it is a nautical expression describing the rapid way a ship moves through the water," observed the Baron. "But we will inquire of the worthy skipper when we get on deck."
"Yes, and I will enter the expression in my note-book," observed the Count.
The travellers were soon on deck. The galiot was gliding rapidly though smoothly through the somewhat yellow waters of the Scheldt. Land could be seen on both sides, but at a considerable distance, for it was here very broad, with villages, towers, curiously-formed landmarks, and here and there a few trees scattered about, just rising above the surface.
"We shall soon come off Vlissingen on our right, which the English call Flushing. It is the last place where, should you be tired of voyaging, I can land you," said the skipper. "You must make up your mind therefore at once, as I shall not touch at another till we come off Brill, at the mouth of the Maas."
"No, no; the Count and I are determined to continue our voyage," answered the Baron; who, having discovered that Captain Jan Dunck had a store of good things on board, had no intention of leaving the vessel, and therefore did his best to dissuade his friend from setting foot on shore even when the galiot dropped her anchor off one of the quays of Flushing. Not far off was a landing-place, and people were hurrying up and down, and some even came off and endeavoured to persuade the travellers to come on shore and take up their abode at one of the hotels, where they were assured every comfort and luxury could be obtained at the most moderate prices. The Baron, however, declined for himself and his friend, being somewhat suspicious that, should they leave the galiot, Captain Jan Dunck might become oblivious of their existence and sail without them. In a short time the skipper himself returned, bringing off a quarter of mutton, a round of beef, several baskets of vegetables, half-a-dozen round, cannon-ball-like cheeses of ruddy complexion, bread, and other articles capable of supplying the wants of the inner man. The Baron's eyes glistened, and the Count gazed with satisfaction at the supply of food handed up on deck.
"Why, Captain, you seemed anxious just now to induce us to quit your vessel, and now you bring this magnificent supply of good things," said the Baron, patting his back.
"I was anxious to be rid of you," answered the skipper, frankly. "Judging by the appetite you exhibited at breakfast this morning, you would have very soon eaten up all the provisions intended for the voyage; and one of two things I had to do—either to get rid of you and your companion, or to obtain sufficient food for your nourishment. I tried the first without success—go you would not, and I have now therefore been compelled to adopt the other alternative; hence this stock of provisions. Ja, ja, you understand. But here comes the breeze, we must not lose it. Up anchor, Pieter!"
Pieter, the mate, and small ship's boy, went to the windlass, while the skipper stood at the helm. The galiot was soon got under weigh, and off she glided, not very fast at first, with her head towards the North Sea.
In a short time Flushing, with the masts and yards of its shipping, was lost to sight, and the galiot began ploughing the waters of the North Sea. Fortunately, the wind being off the land, it was tolerably smooth, and she glided on without inconveniencing her passengers.
"What is out there?" asked the Count, pointing across the apparently boundless waters towards the west.
"Thereabouts lies that little island I spoke of inhabited by the English people," answered the skipper. "I hope they may keep to their island, and not come bothering us as they used to do in days of yore. All we want now is to be let alone, and to be allowed to carry on our commercial affairs like peaceable and well-disposed people—to build our dykes and to cultivate the soil. Think what we have done! We have won half of our country from the sea, and have converted the other half, once no better than a marsh, into dry land. Look at our magnificent towns, our canals, our green fields, our gardens and orchards, and just think what our industry has accomplished. A Dutchman has a right to be proud of his country, and so we are, and intend to defend it, as we always have done, to the last drop of our blood."
The skipper, who grew enthusiastic, was standing at the helm, and he puffed away at his pipe till from the clouds of smoke that ascended the galiot might have been taken at a distance for a steamer.
"Holland is but a small country, though," observed the Count.
"Yes, granted; but it has a large soul. Every inch of its soil is cultivated, or made to produce something. Think of the countless herds of cattle it feeds, and the mountains of cheeses shipped every year to all parts of the world, its ingenious toys, its gorgeous tulips, and the oceans of schiedam it supplies to thirsty souls, not to speak of its many other manufactures, which you will have the opportunity of inspecting during your travels. Other people inhabit fertile countries which they found ready prepared for them, we Hollanders have formed ours; we have won it after a fierce battle of long years from the greedy ocean, which is always endeavouring to regain the ground it has lost, but we keep the ocean in check with our wonderful dykes, and make it subservient to our requirements. You showed your wisdom, Mynheers, in determining to visit it before proceeding to other parts of the world. In my opinion, you'll not wish to go further; it contains amply sufficient to satisfy the desire of your hearts. Ja, ja."
Captain Jan Dunck emitted a vast column of smoke, and was silent for some minutes. He then had to take a pull at the main-sheet, for the wind was heading the galiot; he took another and another, and his countenance wore a less satisfactory aspect than it had done lately. The galiot began to pitch, for the seas were getting up, while she heeled over as much as galiots ever do, they being sturdy craft, loving upright ways and sailing best before the wind. If the skipper looked dissatisfied, his passengers were evidently much more so; their visages grew longer and longer, their eyes assumed a fleshy hue, their lips curled, and it needed no experienced physiognomist to pronounce them unhappy; conversation ceased, they spoke only in ejaculations such as "Oh! oh! oh! Oh dear! oh dear! oh dear!"
At last the Baron managed to say, "Ca-a-a-p-tain, i-i-i-i-sn't there a harbour into which we can put till this storm is over?"
"Storm, do you call it," laughed the skipper. "It is only a head wind, and we shall have to stand out to the eastward into the North Sea for a few leagues or so, till we can fetch the Texel."
"Oh dear! oh dear! into the North Sea, did you say?" cried the Count. "How dreadful!"
"Horrible!" exclaimed the Baron.
"Detestable!" cried the Count.
"Well, Mynheers, to please you, remember, seeing that the galiot is likely to make as much leeway as she does headway, we will put into Brill, a town just now on our starboard hand, a short distance up the Maas. Hands about ship!"
The mate, the one-eyed mariner, and the small ship's boy started up at their Captain's call. The helm was put down, the jib-sheet let fly, and the galiot, after exhibiting some doubt as to whether she would do as was wished, came slowly round, her head pointing to the eastward.
"Why, what has become of the wind?" asked the Count, his visage brightening.
"The sea is much more quiet than it was, because we have just got under the land. See that bank away to windward, that keeps it off us. We shall soon be running up the Maas."
In a few minutes the water became perfectly smooth, the Count and Baron recovered their spirits, and in a short time they arrived off a seaport town on the right bank of the Maas.
"There's nothing very grand to boast of," observed the Count, as he surveyed it through his binoculars.
"It has a history, notwithstanding," observed the skipper. "It was here the first successful blow was struck for liberty, by those daring fellows 'The Beggars of the Sea,' under their gallant leader De la Marck. It is a town of pilots and fishermen, and as brave sailors as ever explored the ocean. Here, also, were born our gallant admirals Van Tromp and De Witt, and its harbour is as fine a one as any along the coast. Say what you like, Mynheers, Brill has as good a right to be proud of itself as many a place with greater pretensions. Do you feel disposed to go on shore and survey its advantages?"
"Thank you," said the Baron, "taking all things into consideration, we will remain where we are; dinner will soon be ready, I think; our appetites are wonderfully sharpened by the sea air, and, remembering the store of provender you brought on board, it would be a bad compliment to you not to stay and help you consume it."
"Ja, ja," said the skipper, "do as you please, I am happy to have your company."
The Baron, at all events, did ample justice to the skipper's dinner, and all three spent the remainder of the day on deck, puffing away with their long pipes in their mouths, till it was difficult to say whether they or the galley fire forward sent forth the thickest wreaths. Notwithstanding this, the Baron declared that he was perfectly ready for supper at the usual hour, after which the two passengers turned into their berths and went to sleep. They were awakened by finding the vessel once more pitching and tumbling about, and, thinking that something was about to happen, they crawled up on deck.
"What's the matter, Captain," exclaimed the Count, in an agitated voice; "is there any danger?"
"No, but there's no small amount of fear among some of us," answered the skipper in a gruff voice. "We have got a fair wind, and are once more at sea."
"What is that bright spot up there," asked the Count, pointing to a light which streamed forth on the right hand.
"That, why that's the Maas Lighthouse," answered the skipper. "It marks the entrance to the river, and we shall soon round it, and be in the open sea. You'll then have the satisfaction of once more bounding over the heaving wave."
"From previous experience I must own that I would rather escape that satisfaction," observed the Count, making a long face. "Couldn't we manage to make our way through some of the numerous canals which I have heard intersect Holland in all directions?"
"We should have been a week or two, or even a month about it, if we had made the attempt," answered the skipper. "We cannot tack in the canals as we can in the open sea. Now we can stretch away from the land as far as we like and then go about again, till we can head up again for the Helder."
"Oh dear, oh dear, I suppose we must submit to our fate," groaned the Count. "Baron, you have much to answer for, dragging me away from my castle and home comforts and the watchful care of that estimable person Johanna Klack."
"Why, you were in a great hurry to escape from her not long ago," answered the Baron, "and now you find fault with me because the sea happens to be a little rough."
"When I wanted to escape from Johanna Klack we were in smooth water, and I would rather endure the clatter of her tongue than the roaring waves and the howling of the winds."
"It is too late to complain now, Count; regrets are vain things at the best," said the Baron. "Let us be content with the present; see, we're getting close to the lighthouse."
"So we are, I can distinguish it clearly," said the Count. "And, hilloa, look up there at those gnats or moths, or what are they, fluttering about the light?"
"Ha, ha, ha! moths or gnats," laughed the skipper; "why those are birds, sea-birds and land birds of all descriptions, who come there for the charitable purpose of being turned into pies and puddings and stews by the light-keepers. All the keepers have to do is to go out and catch them by their legs as they alight on the rails and wring their necks. Our friends up there need have no fear of starving; when the wind blows from the land they get land birds, and when from the ocean sea-birds, and as they are nowise particular—not objecting to the fishy flavour of the wild fowl—their pots and kettles are sure to be well supplied."
"Under those circumstances I should not object to be a light-keeper," observed the Baron. "The household expenses must be small, as they have no butcher's bills to pay or taxes either."
"It is a somewhat solitary life," said the skipper. "Each man to his taste, I prefer sailing over the free ocean, with my stout galiot under my feet and plenty of sea room."
"Couldn't we stop and get some of the birds?" asked the Baron, who from habit was constantly thinking of the best way to supply his larder. "They would be a welcome addition to our sea-stock of provisions."
"The lighthouse-men would consider that we were poaching on their preserves," said the skipper; "besides which, if we were to go nearer than we now are, we should run the galiot ashore. See, we are already leaving the lighthouse astern, and are now clear of the river."
"So I perceive," groaned the Count, as the vessel had heeled over and began to pitch and tumble.
"Never fear, Count," said the skipper, in an encouraging tone; "we shall soon be going free, and the galiot will then only roll pleasantly from side to side, and assist to rock you to sleep when you turn in your bunk."
"I'd rather not be rocked to sleep in that fashion," said the Count. "Ever since I was a baby I have been able to sleep perfectly well in my bed or arm-chair after dinner without being rocked. Couldn't you manage to keep the galiot quiet, just to please me?"
"I could not keep her quiet to please the King of the Netherlands, or the Burgomaster of Amsterdam or Rotterdam; no, not if you paid ten times the sum you have for your passage-money," answered the skipper, in a gruff tone.
"Then I suppose that I must submit to my hard fate," groaned the Count. "Though I do wish—I cannot help wishing—that I had not come to sea; and I here register the firm resolution I now form, that of my own free will I will never—when once I set foot on shore—venture again on the stormy ocean."
"Then I must observe, my dear Count, that we shall never manage to get round the world, as you led me to suppose, when we started on our travels, it was your desire to do," observed the Baron.
"Yes, but I did not take into consideration that we should have to encounter so rough, ill-mannered, and boisterous a sea, and such howling winds," answered the Count. "I had bargained to find the water as smooth as the Scheldt, and I still should have no hesitation about going round the world, providing you can guarantee that the ocean will keep perfectly quiet till we come back again."
"As to that, I will guarantee that as far as my influence extends it shall remain as calm as a mill-pond," said the Baron, in a confident tone. "Will that satisfy you, Count? If so, notwithstanding your unjust complaints, we will continue our travels."
"Perfectly, perfectly," said the Count. "I always take your word for what it is worth."
"Ho! ho!" laughed the skipper, who overheard the conversation. "Look out there, Pieter. Are you keeping your weather eye open?" he shouted to the one-eyed mariner who was forward.
"Ja, ja, Captain; there's a fleet of fishing boats ahead, we must keep to the eastward of them. Port the helm a little."
Presently the Count and the Baron heard the tinkling of bells, and as they looked over the side of the vessel the Count exclaimed, "What are those Will-o'-the-Wisps dancing away there?"
"Ho! ho! ho!" laughed the skipper. "Those are the lights from fishing boats. We shall see them more clearly presently."
As the galiot sailed on, the Count and Baron observed that the lights proceeded from lanterns hung up in the rigging, and that some vessels had huge beams with black nets attached to them which they had just hoisted up out of the water, and that the crews were turning out the fish caught in the pockets of the nets. Others, under easy sail, were gliding on slowly with stout ropes towing astern.
"They are trawlers catching turbot, brill, plaice, and other flat fish," observed the skipper. "Our country has numberless advantages; we make as much use of the sea as many other nations do of the land, though, as I before said, we are carrying on a constant warfare with it, trying to turn it away from its ancient boundaries, and doing our best to keep it from encroaching on the soil we have once gained. Holland would never have become what she is, unless Dutchmen had been imbued with a large quantity of those valuable qualities, patience and perseverance."
"Ah, you Dutchmen are indeed a wonderful people," exclaimed the Count. "I am very glad that we thought of visiting your country before proceeding to other parts of the world. At the same time, if we had gone by land we should certainly have seen more of it than we are likely to do now."
"Wait till daylight," said the skipper, "and then you shall see what you shall see. I would advise you to go below and obtain some sleep, as at present, I will allow, the landscape is somewhat limited."
"You are right; the chief objects we can distinguish are the tip of your nose and Pieter's one eye, which I see blinking away when the light of the binnacle lamp falls on it," observed the Baron. "We will follow your advice," and he descended the companion-ladder.
The Count also commenced his descent into the cabin, but just before his head disappeared, he said: "You will oblige me greatly, Captain, by keeping the vessel as steady as you can; I find it very inconvenient to be tumbled and tossed about in the way we have been since we left the Maas."
"Ja, ja," answered the skipper, with a broad grin on his countenance, which, being dark, the Count did not observe.
"Come on deck, Mynheers! come on deck!" cried the skipper, calling down the skylight. "The sun will soon rise, you can enjoy a sight of the land."
The Count and the Baron were soon dressed, and made their appearance on deck.
"There's the land, Mynheers, and you will soon see the sun rising from behind it," said the skipper, pointing with no little pride in his countenance to a long unbroken line of shore rising not many feet above the level of the ocean, with here and there a windmill towering above it; its arms just beginning to revolve as the morning breezes filled its sails. "There is Holland; look and admire."
While he was speaking, the sun, throwing a ruddy light on the dancing waves, rose behind the long line of coast and its countless windmills. The wind was fair, and the vessel was still steering northward.
"How soon are we likely to get into the Zuyder Zee?" asked the Count.
"That depends on the continuance of the breeze," answered the skipper. "If it blows fair for a few hours more, we shall be up to the Helder before noon; but if it shifts ahead, or a calm comes on, I shall have the pleasure of your company for some time longer."
"With due respect to you, Captain Jan Dunck, I sincerely hope that the breeze will continue fair," said the Count, making a polite bow, as he had no wish to offend the skipper, but felt constrained to speak the truth. "It is not of you or your galiot that I'm tired, but of this fidgetty sea which rolls and tumbles her about so thoughtlessly, to say the best of it."
"But are you aware, Count," said the skipper, "that the Zuyder Zee can roll and tumble in no gentle fashion? For your sakes it is to be hoped that we shall not have a storm till you land safely in Amsterdam."
"Then I sincerely pray that the winds may be in a gentle mood," said the Count.
"And in the meantime, Captain Jan Dunck, I propose that we go down to breakfast," said the Baron, who had showed signs of impatience for some time past.
The Count and the Baron and the skipper sat down to breakfast. The two latter did ample justice to the good things placed before them; but the Count, after several heroic attempts to swallow a big sausage, had to confess that his appetite had vanished, and that he thought that the fresh air on deck would restore it. He there found the one-eyed mariner steering.
"Oh tell me, brave sailor, when are we likely to get to the Helder?" he asked in a tone which showed that he was but ill at ease.
"If you open your eyes wide enough, you will see it right ahead," answered the one-eyed mariner. "That point of land out there, that's the Helder; we shall sail close to it, if the wind holds fair, and the tide does not sweep us out again. There's water enough there to float a seventy-four. On the other side is the island of Texel, and a very fine island it is for sheep; many thousands live on it; and if you wish to taste something excellent, I would advise you to obtain one of the green cheeses which are made from the milk of the sheep living on the island."
"I will tell the Baron, who thinks more of eating than I do," answered the Count. "But is that actually the Helder I see before me?"
"I told you it was," answered the one-eyed mariner, in a gruff tone, as if he did not like to have his word doubted.
This was indeed joyful news to the Count, who already began to feel his appetite returning; and he could not resist the temptation of shouting through the skylight to the Baron, inviting him to come up and see the place.
"Sit quiet till you have finished your breakfast, there will be time enough then, and to spare," observed the skipper, who knew very well that the tide was running out, and that the galiot could not stem it for some time to come.
In half-an-hour after this the galiot began to move ahead, and arrived off a huge sea wall, two hundred feet from the foundation to the summit, and built of Norwegian granite, a work constructed to protect the land from the encroachments of the ocean. Beyond it could be seen the tops of the houses and the steeples of a large town. Sailing on, the galiot came off the town of Nieuwe Diep, and the tall masts and yards of a number of large ships could be distinguished in the Royal Dockyard inside the bank.
"We Dutchmen are proud of this place," observed the skipper. "Two hundred years ago a fierce naval battle was fought off here between the English and French, and our brave Admirals De Ruyter and Van Tromp, who gained the victory."
After the galiot had passed Nieuwe Diep the wind shifted to the northward, and she ran on rapidly in smooth water till she came off Enkhuisen. Bounding that point she reached Hoorn, off which she brought up.
"The place is worth seeing," observed the skipper; "and you may spend an hour or two on shore while I transact some business. You will remember that it was once the capital of North Holland, but it is now what some people call a dead city, and you will acknowledge that it is very far from being a lively one; however, it has something to boast of. It was here that Captain Schouten was born—he who sailed with Le Maire and discovered the southern end of America, to which he, in consequence, gave the name of his birthplace. You have heard of Cape Horn, I suppose."
"Oh, yes; as to that, the Baron knows all about it," said the Count. "We will follow your advice, Captain, and will be down on the quay again within the time you mention."
"Well, this is a dead city," said the Baron, as he and the Count walked through its ancient streets. "Everything about it seems to indicate that if it ever were alive it must have been a long time ago. What curious old houses, how quaint in form; many of them also are decorated with sculpture of all sorts, and, on my word, excessively well executed too."
"I should be very unwilling to pass many days here," remarked the Count, as passing along street after street they scarcely met a creature, quadruped or biped. The houses seemed untenanted—not a voice, not a sound was heard; yet they were all clean, in good preservation, and well painted, mostly of a yellow colour with red roofs, many of them with gable ends, one story being smaller than the other, so that towards the summit they presented an outline of steps. There were also numerous gateways, some handsomely carved, but they led nowhere, and indeed no one was seen to go in or out at them.
"I cannot stand this," said the Count. "Let us go back to the port." Here a certain amount of trade was going on. Hoorn is engaged largely in the curing of herrings; some vessels also were building, and it was evident from the number of cheeses stacked up ready for exportation that it must carry on a considerable commerce in that article. Floors above floors were piled with round red cannon-balls, emitting an odour powerful if not pleasant.
"After all, Hoorn is not so dead as I supposed," observed the Baron.
Finding the skipper they embarked.
"You intend, I hope, to land us at Amsterdam to-night," said the Count to the skipper.
"Don't think there's the slightest chance of it," was the answer. "The wind has fallen, it will be stark calm in a few minutes; for what I can see it will be a calm all the night through and to-morrow also."
"Then I propose that we go to dinner," said the Baron. "I hope that it will be ready soon."
"Dinner is it you want?" exclaimed the skipper. "What, did you not dine at Hoorn?"
"Certainly not," said the Baron. "We were employed in seeing the town. We fully expected that you would have had dinner ready on our return on board. What has become of all the provisions you shipped, may I ask?"
"I landed them at Hoorn, where I took my own dinner," answered the skipper. "You must manage to rough it on bread and cheese. There's not much bread, but you may eat as much cheese as you like."
"This is abominable treatment, Captain Jan Dunck," exclaimed the Baron. "I insist that you obtain provisions at the first place you can reach, or else that you land us where we can obtain them. I am sure the Count agrees with me."
"Ho, ho, ho!" laughed the skipper. "Who do you think is master of this ship? Did you ever hear the old song?
"Mynheer Jan Dunck, Though he never got drunk, Sipped brandy and water gaily; He quenched his thirst With a quart of the first, And a pint of the latter daily.
"That's just what I have been doing, although I'm as sober as a judge. I am ready for anything. You want to be landed, do you? Suppose I put you on shore on the island of Marken? It is not far off, and my boat will carry you there. What then will you say for yourselves? It is your own doing, remember."
"This treatment is abominable," exclaimed the Baron. "I appeal to your crew for their assistance, and ask them if they will stand by and see your passengers insulted in this fashion."
"Ho, ho, ho!" laughed the skipper. "Hoist the boat out. We will soon see if my crew dare to disobey me. Pieter, there, be smart about it."
The one-eyed mariner started up and eyed the Count and the Baron with his single blinker, making a grimace as much as to say he could not help it. He and the mate and the small ship's boy soon got the boat into the water.
"Step in," cried the skipper. "You said you wanted to be put on shore, and I am going to put you on shore. Pieter, you're to row. If you want your dinners you'll embark, if not you'll go without them."
"And are you going too, Captain Jan Dunck?" asked the Baron.
"Certainly, it is my intention," answered the skipper, and the Count and the Baron, with their valises, got into the boat.
"Look after the vessel," shouted the skipper to the mate and small ship's boy, as he stepped into the boat and seated himself in the stern sheets, with the Count on one side and the Baron on the other and Pieter pulling. As there was not a breath of wind the water was perfectly smooth. The Baron's hunger increased, the Count also had regained his appetite, and they were eager to reach the shore in the hopes of getting a dinner. The skipper said nothing, but looked very glum. At last the island appeared ahead, with a few huts on it and a tiny church in the midst, but it was green and pleasant to look at.
"That does not look like a place where we can get dinner," observed the Baron, eyeing it doubtfully.
"And he does not intend to give you any dinner either," whispered the one-eyed mariner, whose good-will the Count and Baron had evidently won. "Take my advice, tell him to go up and obtain provisions, and say that you will eat them on board."
"What's that your talking about?" exclaimed the skipper. "Silence there, forward!"
The one-eyed mariner rowed slower and slower, and managed to carry on the conversation alternately with the Count and the Baron. Suddenly the skipper, who had been partly dozing, though he had managed to steer the boat, aroused himself. "Pull faster, Pieter," he shouted out: "I have heard what you have been talking about, and will pay you off."
"I was merely giving the gentlemen good advice, Captain," answered Pieter. "And there's one thing I have to say to you; if you can get provisions at Marken, you had better do so in a hurry, for there's a storm brewing, and it will be upon us before long. The mate and the boy won't be able to manage the galiot alone, and she to a certainty will be wrecked."
"A storm brewing, is there?" cried the Captain. "Well, then, the sooner we land at Marken the better. Pull away, Pieter, pull away."
Pieter did pull, and in a short time the beach was reached. An old fisherman, with a pipe in his mouth and a red cap on his head, came down to see what the strangers wanted, as the Count and Baron stepped on shore.
"Friend," exclaimed the Baron, "can you tell us where a good dinner is to be obtained in a hurry, for we are famishing."
"A good dinner can undoubtedly be obtained in Marken," answered the ancient fisherman with the red nightcap on his head; "but we are not accustomed to do things in a hurry in our island. Poultry have to be caught and their necks wrung, and the sheep have to be slaughtered and skinned and cut up, potatoes have to be dug, and the other vegetables gathered, the bread has to be made; but we have cheese, and you can eat as much of that as you like."
"Plenty of cheese on board, we do not come on shore to obtain it!" exclaimed the Baron. "Captain Jan Dunck, you have grossly deceived us; you brought us onshore with the expectation of speedily obtaining a good dinner."
"Ho, ho, ho!" laughed the skipper. "I said nothing of the sort; I undertook to land you, if you no longer wished to remain on board."
"But you led us to suppose that you intended to go yourself and obtain a fresh supply of provisions at Marken," said the Baron with emphasis; "and that is what we expected you to do."
"Then, Baron Stilkin, you are very much mistaken," answered the skipper. "You left my vessel of your own free will, and you have landed on this island of your own free will. I have fulfilled my engagement; if you want a dinner you must go and find it as best you can. I heard what Pieter was saying to you, and I intend to pay him off. Take up your portmanteaus, unless the old fisherman will carry them for you, and go your way; the storm, as Pieter observed, will be down upon us before long, and I must put off and return to the galiot."
"I again say that you are treating us shamefully!" exclaimed the Baron. "Pieter, my brave friend, will you stand by us?"
"Ja, ja, that I will," answered Pieter, who had stepped out of the boat. "If the Captain likes to go off, he may go by himself."
The discussion had been going on for some time when Pieter said this. Not only had the wind risen, but the rain had begun to fall, and the Count and Baron were preparing to put up their umbrellas.
"It is very fortunate we brought them," observed the Count. "Baron, your advice was sound when you suggested that we should do so."
Meantime the skipper had been getting his boat ready; he had stepped the mast, and hoisted the sail.
"Pieter!" he exclaimed, "I want to say something to you."
"What is it, Captain?" asked the one-eyed mariner, cautiously drawing near.
"Why, this!" cried the skipper. "That you are a treacherous old rascal, and that I intend to pay you off."
As he spoke he hove a noose at the end of a rope over Pieter's body, and before the one-eyed mariner was aware of what was going to happen, he was dragged off his feet into the water, while the skipper, hauling aft the main-sheet, sailed away, dragging poor Pieter through the foaming waters astern. In his struggles Pieter had moved the rope up to his neck, and was now in danger of being throttled.
"Stop, stop!" shouted the Count and the Baron in chorus. "Let that man go! What are you about to do with him? You'll throttle him, or drag off his head, or drown him—you'll be guilty of murder. We'll report your conduct to the Burgomaster of Amsterdam, and all the other authorities of Holland. Release him, let him go!"
Captain Jan Dunck, who never looked back towards his victim, disregarding their threats and their cries sailed on, till he and his boat and the hapless Pieter disappeared amid the thick sheets of rain and the driving spray which surrounded them.
"Is there no chance for poor Pieter?" asked the Count, looking in the direction Captain Jan Dunck, his boat, and his unfortunate victim had gone.
"None, unless the skipper relents and drags him on board; and then I don't think it likely that they will be on the best of terms," answered the Baron.
"Do Dutch skippers generally treat their crews in the way Captain Jan Dunck has treated poor Pieter?" asked the Count of the ancient fisherman.
"It depends very much on the amount of schiedam they have taken aboard," answered the ancient fisherman. "We of Marken do not behave in that fashion."
"I am very glad to hear it," said the Count, "as there seems a probability, till the storm is over, of our having to spend some time with you; if you were to do anything of the sort, we should undoubtedly report your conduct to the Burgomaster of Amsterdam, as we intend to report the conduct of Captain Jan Dunck, when we get there. And now, Baron, since it seems to be all up with the one-eyed mariner, and as at present we can do nothing to punish the perpetrator of the cruel deed, what shall we do with ourselves?"
"I propose that we request this ancient fisherman to conduct us to some hostelry, where we can obtain those creature comforts which we so much need, and wait in quiet and security till the storm is over. Worthy friend," he continued, turning to the ancient fisherman, "I beg that you will have the goodness to conduct us to some inn, where we may obtain a dinner and rest after our adventures on the stormy ocean."
"An inn," ejaculated the ancient fisherman. "We have no inns in Marken, as few travellers are in the habit of visiting us. If, however, you will accept such hospitality as I can offer, you shall be welcome to it."
"With all our hearts," answered the Count and the Baron in chorus, and they followed the ancient fisherman, who led the way into the interior of the island. After passing through several narrow and dirty lanes they emerged into a more open space, where they found themselves surrounded by neat cottages, among which a number of people were moving about.
The men were all dressed as sailors—a brown knitted waistcoat and wide knickerbockers tied at the knees, thick black or blue woollen stockings, and wooden sabots or shoes, These sabots, the Count and the Baron observed, were taken off when the men entered a hut, so that it could be known how many people were inside by the number of sabots at the door. The women wore brown or chintz waistcoats, and short dark petticoats; many of them had their hair hanging down on either side of the face in long thick curls; their head-dresses were high white caps rounded at the summit and lined with some coloured material.
"Here is my house," said the ancient fisherman, opening the door of one of the neatest cottages in the place, "and there is my vrouw."
As he spoke an old lady got up and welcomed the travellers. She wore the dress which has been described, especially clean and picturesque, and in addition several gold ornaments. The cottage contained many marks of thrift; two carved oaken wardrobes stood one on either side, there was a clock of elaborate workmanship, and china plates of a curious pattern. A cheerful fire burned on the hearth, and the ancient fisherman's wife soon busied herself with her highly-polished pots and pans in preparing a meal, the very odour of which made the Baron's mouth water. Freshly-caught fish and a stew with potatoes and vegetables were quickly ready, and the Baron did ample justice to each dish placed on the table. The ancient fisherman informed them that the population of the island was about nine hundred; the men are all fishers, and pass the greater portion of their days on the water. On Sunday night, or rather as soon as Monday is commenced, the whole population go down to the port; the men embark in their boats, put to sea, and pass the week in fishing. The women return to their daily avocations till another Saturday afternoon comes round, when the men return home for their day of rest.
"Month after month, and year after year, we live the same style of life; the world wags on around us, but we hear little or nothing of its doings. We are contented and happy in our way, and wouldn't change our island of Marken for any part of the Netherlands, or the whole of Europe to boot," said the ancient fisherman.
"I am much inclined to stop among you," observed the Count. "Only I should not like to have to go out fishing every day, especially in cold and wintry weather; but to sit here, for instance, with one's feet before the fire, is very pleasant."
The ancient fisherman laughed. "You must remember, Mynheer, that in order to obtain these comforts, my father and I have toiled on year after year, each adding a little; this cottage and what it contains, represents the labour, I may say, of centuries. Few things worth having are to be obtained without working. I can enjoy my ease and these comforts with a clear conscience, for I have laboured on for fifty years or more, adding to the store my father left me, and he laboured for more than fifty years, and my grandfather before him."
"What examples you and your family are of patience and perseverance," observed the Count.
"No, Mynheer, nothing wonderful," answered the ancient fisherman, in a modest tone. "All the inhabitants of our part of the town have done much the same, and we bring up our children in the hope that they will follow our example. This, Mynheer, is the secret of our contentment and prosperity."
"Then, when I marry and have children, I must bring them up to follow my example, and the same result will, I hope, follow," said the Count.
"That depends upon the example you set them," answered the ancient fisherman.
"Ah, yes; I must see about it, then," said the Count. "I don't know that as yet I have ever done anything very industrious. Perhaps, like me, they will become great travellers."
"Perhaps, my dear Count, the less you say about it the better, at present," observed the Baron. "We have not proceeded very far on our voyage round the world. In the meantime, I will thank our hostess for another cup of her excellent tea."
As there seemed no probability of the storm abating, the Count and the Baron accepted the invitation given them by the ancient fisherman and his dame, to spend the night in their cottage. They had no beds to offer, but they had comfortable arm-chairs, pipes, tobacco, and a blazing fire.
"We might be worse off," observed the Baron, as he extended his legs and folded his arms to sleep.
It being impossible to reach the mainland without a boat, the Baron suggested, that after their experience, it would be safer to have one of their own than to entrust themselves again to strangers, and the Count agreeing, they settled to buy one. The next morning, therefore, after breakfast, having wished their ancient host and hostess farewell, and the Count having slipped a coin into the hand of the latter as a remembrance, they purchased a boat, which the ancient fisherman recommended, and helped them to launch: they then together set forth to prosecute their travels.
Neither of them were very expert navigators, though the ancient fisherman gave them a shove off to assist them in their progress, which was remarkably slow. Sometimes they rowed one way, and sometimes another, and the boat consequently went round and round.
"You pull too hard," cried the Count.
"You don't pull hard enough," answered the Baron. "That is the reason we don't go as straight as we should."
"Then perhaps if you take the two oars we shall go straighter," said the Count.
To this the Baron objected, as he had no desire to undertake all the labour of the voyage. Somehow or other they managed, notwithstanding, to get to a distance from Marken: perhaps the tide was carrying them along in the direction of the Helder; that this was the case, however, did not occur to them. They saw the land clearly enough stretching out to the westward: there lay Monnickendam, there Edam, and, further to the south, Uitdam. "Experience makes perfect:" after some time they did manage to row in a fashion.
"I think we must be approaching the shore," observed the Count. "It looks nearer than it did."
"So it ought, since we have been rowing with might and main for the last two hours," said the Baron, wiping the perspiration from his brow. "I wish that we had waited at Marken till we should have found a passage on board some vessel, or obtained the assistance of one of the islanders; this is heavy work, especially as we have come away without provisions."
"So we have," cried the Count. "Oh dear! oh dear! If we ever reach the shore, I shall be very much inclined to register a vow never again to tempt the stormy ocean."
"Regrets are useless at present; let us get to the shore," said the Baron.
But they rowed and rowed away in vain. Evening was approaching, and, though they had enjoyed a good breakfast, they were desperately hungry, and there appeared every probability that they would have to spend the night on the water. Fortunately it was calm, or they would have been in a still worse condition. Looking up, they at length saw an island, or a point of land with a tower on it.
"That must be one of the places on the coast," observed the Count; "let us try to reach it."
"But if we sit with our backs to the bows, as we have been hitherto doing, we shall not see it," observed the Baron. "Let us stand up and row forward; then, perhaps, we shall go straighter than we have been doing."
The Count agreed, and they rowed thus for some time.
Suddenly they were startled by a voice which in mournful accents said: "Oh, take me on board; take me on board!"
So great was the Baron's alarm that he nearly sank down to the bottom of the boat, when on looking over his shoulder, what should he see but the countenance of the one-eyed mariner, who was endeavouring to haul himself on board.
"Are you yourself, or are you a ghost?" asked the Baron, in trembling accents.
"Can it be? Can it be our former shipmate?" cried the Count.
"I am indeed, most noble gentlemen, that unfortunate and ill-used individual," answered the one-eyed mariner; for it was he himself, though his countenance was as pale as if he had really been a ghost, and his visage was elongated, the result of the sufferings he had gone through. Satisfied that he was a mortal being like themselves, the Count and the Baron at length assisted him to get into the boat.
"How did you escape?" asked the Baron eagerly.
"By a wonderful circumstance," answered the one-eyed mariner. "I managed to get my hands free, and slipped my neck out of the noose, just as I was on the point of being strangled. I held on to the boat, however, and allowed myself to be dragged along at the stern. I knew that if I had attempted to get in Captain Jan Dunck would very soon have quieted me by a blow on my crown. At length I saw that we were passing yonder island, and, silently letting go the rope, I swam towards it; while he, unconscious of my escape, sailed on. I there landed, but it is a barren spot, where neither food nor fresh water is to be obtained. I thought that I should have perished; for after the strain on my throat I felt dreadfully thirsty, and capable of drinking up the Zuyder Zee itself, if it had been fresh water mixed with a due allowance of schiedam. At length I observed your boat, noble gentlemen, drifting by; I cannot compliment you by saying you were rowing, for you were going round and round in all directions. I guessed that you were land-lubbers—excuse my frankness—and that I might render you assistance in return for the service you would do me by enabling me to reach the shore. Not till you spoke, however, did I recognise you as my late shipmates, and now Mynheers, the best thing you can do is to let me take the oars and row steadily to the land; for, though hungry and thirsty, I have still some strength left in my battered frame."
"By all means, worthy mariner, take the oars," said the Baron, handing his to the sailor, while the Count followed his example. "We are ourselves nearly starving, and will promise you the best supper to be obtained wherever we may land, should we be fortunate enough to reach some hospitable part of the globe."
The one-eyed mariner took the oars, and bending lustily to them, made the boat move along very much faster than she had done since the Count and the Baron had commenced their voyage.
"I was inclined, when we were rowing, to suppose that she was among the slowest that ever floated, or that there was something the matter with the oars," observed the Count.
"People are very apt to find fault with the tools they employ, instead of laying the blame on themselves," remarked the Baron, sententiously.
The one-eyed mariner cocked his one eye, as much as to say, "You are right, gentlemen;" but without speaking he rowed and rowed, now bending forward, now leaning back with all his might, every now and then looking over his shoulder to see that they were going in the right direction. It was getting darker and darker, and no friendly lights beamed forth from cottages or houses to indicate that they were approaching the inhabited part of the country.