Stories of the Pilgrims - M. B. Pumphrey

From Amsterdam to Leiden

A few miles away from Amsterdam is the beautiful city of Leiden, with its many water-streets, fine schools, and great woolen and linen mills. For many reasons this city seemed to the Pilgrims a better place than Amsterdam to make their homes.

So one spring morning found a little fleet of canal boats tied up in the street where the Pilgrims all lived. It did not take them long to load their goods upon the boats, for they had very little. They were much poorer than they had been in England, but they were not unhappy.

When all was ready, the square, brown sails were raised and the boats moved slowly down the canal between the rows of houses and trees. At every cross street the bridge must be raised to allow them to pass.

From one little canal into another they sailed, until the city was left behind. Then they passed into the great, broad canal which lay across the country from city to city. It looked like a long, bright ribbon stretched across the green meadows.

It was a trip long to be remembered, this ride through fairyland. Behind them were the shining waters of the sea and the spires of the city they were leaving.

On both sides were rich, green meadows and herds of fine black and white cattle. There were many beautiful ponds and lakes, and pretty little summerhouses gaily painted.

Whichever way the Pilgrims looked they could see the great windmills. Sometimes they stood in groups, looking like a family of giants against the sky. Here and there one stood so close to the canal that the Pilgrims could see the flowers in the windows of the first story, where the miller's family lived. They could even speak to the miller's children, who played about the door or helped their father load the bags of meal into his boat.

But these windmills were not all used to grind grain into meal. Some were sawmills; others pumped water out of the low meadows into the canal. The canals flowed between thick stone walls and were high above the fields about them.

Sometimes the Pilgrims passed gardens of gay flowers. These were tulip farms where thousands of these bright flowers were raised.

There is no flower so dear to the hearts of the Hollanders as the tulip. There was once a time when they seemed to think more of these bright blossoms than of anything else. They sold houses and lands, cattle and horses, to buy a few tulip bulbs. They were more precious than jewels. A thousand dollars was not thought too great a price for the finest plants. We read that one man paid five times that sum for a single bulb.

But when the Pilgrims were in Holland the "tulip craze" had not yet begun. I think the Hollanders enjoyed their beds of common tulips more than they did the few costly blossoms they bought later. If a few of them died then there was no great loss.

As the Pilgrims came nearer the city of Leiden, they saw a strange sight. Close beside a large garden of bright flowers was a field which looked as if it were covered with deep snow. They could see it was not a field of white flowers. What could it be?

When the boats reached this place, the Pilgrims saw long pieces of white linen bleaching in the sun. They had been woven in one of the mills at Leiden.

Late in the afternoon the great stone wall about the city came in sight. Above it rose the roofs of buildings, church spires, and the beautiful bell tower of the statehouse.

As the band of Pilgrims sailed through the water-gates into the city, the chimes in the tower began to ring. To the Pilgrims they seemed to say, "Welcome to Leiden! Welcome to Leiden!"