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He
was the second founder of the republic, the most illustrious victim of
the long struggle between the patrician burghers and the Stadtholders,
between the republican and monarchical principles, which so terribly
afflicted Holland. The scaffold was erected in front of the building
where sat the States General. Opposite was the tower from which, they
say, Maurice of Orange, unseen, assisted at the execution of his
enemy. In the prison between the two squares was tortured Cornelius de
Witt, who was unjustly accused of plotting against the life of the
Prince of Orange. The furious populace dragged Cornelius and John de
Witt, the Grand Pensionary, into the Plaats all wounded and bleeding,
and there they were spit upon, kicked, and slaughtered with pike and
pistol, and afterward their corpses were mutilated and defiled. In the
same square Adelaide de Poelgeest, the mistress of Albert, Count of
Holland, was stabbed on the 22d of September in the year 1392, and the
stone on which she expired is still shown.

These sad memories and those heavy low doors, that irregular group of
dark buildings, which at night, when the moon lights up the stagnant
pool, have the appearance of an enormous inaccessible castle standing
in the midst of the joyous and cultured city,--arouse a feeling of
awful sadness. At night the courtyard is lighted only by an occasional
lamp; the few people who pass through it quicken their pace as if
they are afraid. There is no sound of steps to be heard, no lighted
windows to be seen; one enters it with a vague restlessness, and
leaves it almost with pleasure.

With the exception of the Binnenhof, the Hague has no important
monuments ancient or modern. There are several mediocre statues of the
Princes of Orange, a vast, naked cathedral, and a royal palace of
modest proportions. On many of the public buildings storks are carved,
the stork being the heraldic animal of the city. Many of these birds
walk about freely in the fish-market--they are kept at the expense of
the municipality, like the bears of Berne and the eagles of Geneva.

The greatest ornament of the Hague is its forest, which is one of the
wonders of Holland and one of the most magnificent parks in the world.

It is composed of alders, oaks, and the largest beech trees to be
found in Europe. It is more than a French league in circumference, and
is situated to the east of the city, only a few steps from the last
houses. It is a really delightful oasis in the midst of the depressing
Dutch plains. When one has entered the wood and passed beyond the
fringe of pavilions, little Swiss cottages, and summer houses dotted
about among the first trees, one seems to have lost one's self in a
lonely interminable forest. The trees are as thick as a canebrake, the
avenues are lost in the dusk; there are lakes and canals almost
hidden by the verdure of the banks; rustic bridges, the crossways of
unfrequented bridle-paths, shady recesses; and over all a cool,
refreshing shade in which one seems to breathe the air of virginal
nature and to be far removed from the turmoil of the world.

They say that this wood, like that of the town of Haarlem, is the
remnant of an immense forest which in olden times covered almost the
whole of the coast of Holland, and the Dutch respect it as a monument
of their national history. Indeed, in the history of Holland there are
many references to it, proving that at all times it was preserved with
a most jealous care. Even the Spanish generals respected this national
worship and shielded the sacred wood from the hands of the soldiers.
On more than one occasion of serious financial distress, when the
government was disposed to decree the destruction of the forest for
the purpose of selling the wood, the citizens exorcised the danger by
a voluntary offering. This beloved forest is connected with a thousand
memories--records of terrible hurricanes, of the amours of princes, of
celebrated fêtes, of romantic adventures. Some of the trees bear the
names of kings and emperors, others of German electors; one beech tree
is said to have been planted by the grand pensionary and poet Jacob
Catz, three others by the Countess of Holland, Jacqueline of Bavaria,
and they still point out the place where she used to rest after her
walks. Voltaire also left a record of some sort of gallant
adventure which he had with the daughter of a hair-dresser.

[Illustration: The Binnenhof, The Hague.]

In the centre of the forest, where the underbrush seems determined to
conquer everything and springs up, piling itself into heaps, climbing the
trees, creeping across the paths, extending over the water, restraining
one's steps and hiding the view on every side, as if it wished to conceal
the shrine of some forgotten sylvan divinity,--at this spot is hidden a
small royal palace, called the House-in-the-Wood, a sort of _Casa del
Labrador_ of the Villa Aranjuez. It was erected in 1647 by Princess Amalia
of Solms, in honor of her husband, Frederick Henry, the Stadtholder.

When I went to visit this palace, while my eyes were busy searching
for the visitors' door, I saw a lady with a noble and benevolent face
come out and get into her carriage. I took her for some English
traveller who had brought her visit to a close. As the carriage passed
near me, I raised my hat; the lady bowed her head and disappeared.

A moment later one of the ladies in waiting at the palace told me that
this "traveller" was no one less than Her Majesty the Queen of
Holland.

I felt my blood flow faster. The word _queen_, independently of the
person to whom it referred, has always had this effect on me, although
I cannot explain the reason of it. Perhaps because it reminds me of
certain bright, confused visions of my youth. The romantic imagination
of a boy of fifteen is sometimes content to tread the ground, and
sometimes it climbs with eager audacity to a giddy height. It dreams
of supernatural beauty, of intoxicating perfumes, of consuming love,
and imagines that all these are comprised in the mysterious and
inaccessible creatures that fortune has placed at the summit of the
social scale. And among the thousand strange, foolish, and impossible
fancies that enter his mind he dreams of scaling towering walls in the
dark with youthful agility, of passing formidable gates and deep
ditches, of opening mysterious doors, threading interminable corridors
amidst people overcome with sleep, of stepping silently through
immense saloons, of ascending aërial staircases, mounting the stones
of a tower at the risk of his life, reaching an immense height over
the tall trees of moonlit gardens, and at last of arriving, fainting
and bleeding, beneath a balcony, and hearing a superhuman voice speak
in accents of deep pity, of answering with equal tenderness, of
bursting into tears and invoking God, of leaning his forehead on the
marble and covering with desperate kisses a foot flashing with gems,
of abandoning his face in the perfumed silks, and of feeling his
reason flee and life desert him in an embrace more than human.

In this palace, called the House-in-the-Wood, besides other remarkable
things, is an octagonal room, the walls of which from floor to ceiling
are covered with paintings by the most celebrated artists of the
school of Rubens, among which is a huge allegorical painting by
Jordaens which represents the apotheosis of Frederick Henry. There is
a room filled with valuable presents from the Emperor of Japan, the
Viceroy of Egypt, and the East India Company; and an elegant little
room decorated with designs in chiaroscuro, which even when closely
examined are taken for bas-reliefs. These are the work of Jacob de
Wit, a painter who at the beginning of the last century won great fame
in this art of delusion. The other rooms are small, and handsome
without display; they are full of the treasures of a refined taste, as
becomes the great and modest house of Orange.

The custom of allowing strangers to enter the palace the moment after
the queen came out seemed strange to me, but it did not surprise me
when I learned of other customs and other popular traits, and in a
word the character of the royal family of Holland.

In Holland the sovereign is considered as a stadtholder rather than as
a king. He has in him, as a certain Spanish republican said of the
Duke of Aosta, the least quantity possible in a king. The sentiment of
the Dutch nation toward their royal family is not so much a feeling of
devotion to the family of the monarch as affection for the house of
Orange, which has shared its triumphs and taken part in its
misfortunes--which has lived its life for three centuries. At bottom,
the country is republican, and its monarchy is a sort of crowned
presidency void of regal pomp. The king makes speeches at the banquets
and at the public festivals as the ministers do with us, and he enjoys
the fame of an orator because his speeches are extemporary: his voice
is very powerful, and his eloquence has a martial ring, which arouses
great enthusiasm among the people. The crown prince, William of
Orange, studied at the University of Leyden, passed the public
examinations, and took his degree as a lawyer; Prince Alexander, the
second son, is now studying at the same university. He is a member of
the Students' Club, and invites his professors and fellow-students to
dinner. At the Hague, Prince William enters the cafés, converses with
his neighbors, and walks about the streets with his young gentlemen
friends. In the wood the queen will seat herself on a bench beside any
poor old woman, nor can one say she does this, like other princes, to
acquire popularity; for that the house of Orange can neither gain nor
lose, since there is not in the nation (although it is republican by
nature and tradition) the least sign of a faction that desires a
republic or even pronounces its name. On the other hand, the people,
who love and venerate their king, who at the festivals celebrated in
his honor will remove the horses and themselves draw his carriage, who
insist on every one wearing an orange-colored cockade in homage to the
name of Orange,--in ordinary times do not occupy themselves at all
about his affairs and family.



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