Youth of the Great Elector - George Upton

In Holland

The progress of our narrative brings us to the neighborhood of Arnheim in Holland. On a canal, a few miles from that city, we meet a boat being towed along. It resembles a barge, is about sixteen to twenty feet in length and ten feet in width, and is divided into two sections. The forward section is intended for freight and second-class passengers; and the rear one, a handsomely painted cabin, for first-class. It contains a table and cushioned seats under the windows. The boat is drawn by a number of horses attached to a long line fastened to the top of the mast. A boy rides one of the horses at an easy trot along the towpath.

In the rear section we see a lad of strong figure, fresh face, and beaming eyes. He is sitting near the sternpost the better to see the landscape, and perhaps also to talk with the helmsman. His dress shows him of high rank. There are two persons in the cabin. One of them, a large man of noble appearance, sits near the door and often watches the lad, as he converses with the little old man sitting near him. These two persons are the Electoral Prince of Brandenburg, Frederick William, and Baron Leuchtmar.

Before the narrative proceeds further we must once more look back a little. Five years have elapsed since the funeral ceremony at Wolgast. From that place his parents took the Prince to Stettin, where they left him with the old Duke Bogislav the Fourteenth. He remained two years among the brave, true-hearted Pomeranians, studying the people, their form of government, the agricultural and maritime affairs. During this time he made great progress in the art of fencing and in many departments of scientific education. In his fifteenth year he spoke and wrote Latin, French, and Polish besides his mother tongue, and at last the Elector decided to send him to the world-famous University of Leyden in Holland. Schwarzenberg made objections. There was not sufficient money in the Elector's coffers to pay the expenses of such a journey. All the more determined was the so-called Swedish party that he should go; and at last the Electoress overcame Schwarzenberg's objections by providing thirty thousand thalers from her own savings. It did not seem any burden to the mother so long as it secured the safety and the highest possible education of her son.

For three years the Prince has been in Holland. He has temporarily left Leyden, where a pestilence is raging. For several days he has been journeying about, for he is anxious not alone to acquire an education, but also to study the people with whom he is living.

The boat stops at a village and the passengers go ashore. The village is a model of Dutch cleanliness. The neatly built houses, mostly one story in height, are handsomely painted, and the paint is always kept fresh. The mirror-like windows are closely hung with snow-white curtains. There is a little garden in front of every house. The pavements consist of small red and blue tiles so laid that they resemble the pattern of a Turkish carpet. No filth is permitted to remain upon the streets. They are thoroughly washed and sprinkled with white sand and sometimes with flowers. No cow or horse is allowed to stray about. They are all kept in stalls in the rear of the houses. Not only the wooden implements in the houses, but the gates, the trellises, and posts in the fields against which the cattle rub themselves are painted, and some of the latter have carved work at the top. Every house has two doors, one at the rear for ordinary outgoing and incoming, the other being used as the principal entrance, and opened only upon the occasion of christenings, marriages, and funerals. This door, the pride of the owner, is covered with carving and here and there gilded. Flowers grow luxuriously in the gardens. The tops of the trees are cut off and the trunks smeared with white paint. This description will give the reader a picture of a Dutch village of that time as well as of the well-to-do condition of the people.

After our travellers had drunk some good beer and eaten a lobster, they hired horses and were soon on their way to Arnheim, a servant who was to bring the horses back following them. The nearer they came to the city the more delightful was the country, which began to look like a large garden. Although there were no rocky heights, the high dikes which rose along the way, the multitude of country seats, mansions, and towers, the beautiful groups of trees in the fields and meadows and upon the edges of the streams, varied the landscape continually and presented pictures worthy of the brush of the greatest painter. Cities, villages, castles with their luxurious surroundings, country houses of every style of architecture with handsome gardens, boundless grassy meadows with herds of cattle, lakes which had been made by peat-cutters, countless islands upon which long reeds were cultivated as thatch for the houses, serving also as homes for great flocks of waterfowl,—such was the panorama which met the eyes of the Prince.

The life of the Prince in this richly blest country was permanently influenced by it. His love of art and science was developed and he gained greatly in knowledge of State affairs and the ways of the world from his intercourse with Dutch statesmen, burghers, and peasants. It was of the highest significance also in relation to the future that he studied the plans and schemes of the great Prince of Orange. The army of this man was still a nursery of field-marshals and naval officers.

The Prince and Leuchtmar at last reached Arnheim. The Prince occupied a beautiful country house in the suburbs. Let us go with the Prince to the house while Leuchtmar is otherwise engaged. The entrance is paved with white marble, covered with a carpet and bordered with veined marble to the height of four feet. The Prince enters a lofty apartment on the right. The fireplace is of black marble with a broad mirror above it. Upon the wall surrounded by chaplets are half-length portraits of the Elector George William and his wife. Weapons of various kinds are also suspended among the pictures. A dark polished table, with chairs placed by it, and a bookcase are the only furniture in the room. As soon as the Prince has changed his dress he takes his diary and notes down his recollections of the trip. Ever since Leuchtmar's talks the Prince had devoted himself assiduously to this diary. All the more unfortunate is it that it has been lost.