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Title: An Irishman's Difficulties with the Dutch Language
Author: Cuey-na-Gael, N.A.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An Irishman's Difficulties with the Dutch Language" ***

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  Full of humour, pathos, imagination and poetry.

  Wij hebben telkens gelachen om geestige uitvallen, typische
  anecdoten, droog-komisch, zonder gewildheid, maar wij zijn
  ook geroerd door het mooie in het karakter der Ieren, hun
  vaderlandsliefde en melancholie.

  A most interesting study.... graceful.... bright and
  readable.                                 (_Brit. Weekly._)

  Geestig en pathetisch.                (_N. Gron. Courant._)

  Vol humor en geest--weemoed en melancholie.
                                            (_Dor. Courant._)

  Ingenaaid =90= ct.          Gebonden f =1.25=



  Ingenaaid =90= ct.          Gebonden f =1.25=

  Thans kregen we de avonturen van O'Neill te hooren op een
  auto-tochtje, waarbij hij te gast gaat bij een vriendelijke
  boerenfamilie. O'Neill heeft razenden honger, maar tot zijn
  onuitsprekelijke verbazing krijgt hij niets te eten, ofschoon hij
  toch op elk vriendelijk aanbod even vriendelijk antwoordt: "dank u
  wel", hierbij een getrouwe vertaling gevend van 't Engelsche: "thank
  you", zonder echter 't verschil in beteekenis van beide uitdrukkingen
  te kennen.

  _Zijn belet vragen, zijn verwarring met biljet, en belet krijgen en
  geven, zijn avonturen met den Dagtrein, die altijd 's nachts gaat
  omdat het een D-trein is, een trein, die geen belet heeft en waarvoor
  geen belet gevraagd behoeft te worden_,--het was alles niet om na te
  vertellen maar om het uit te gieren.

  An Irishman's Difficulties
  with the Dutch Language









                                         HAARLEM, March 1908.

_Dear Cuey-na-Gael_,

Thank you ever so much for the pleasure you gave me by sending me the
account of your friend O'Neill's experiences in our country.

It is excellent fun and the whole thing is full of quiet humour.

It cannot but be highly appreciated by all Dutch people who are trying
to master the difficulties of English, and often despair of finding the
right word for the right place. To all such it will be quite a treat to
see how their vernacular puzzled your fellow-countryman.

The booklet fully deserves a place in the libraries of our H. B.
Schools and Gymnasiums, and is sure to find one there.

Wishing you all possible success with your publication,

                              I remain
                                      Yours very truly,
                                                   C. HEYMAN.

                          _For permission to give recitations
                            or readings from this book
                            application should be made
                            to the Publisher._


  INTRODUCTION.                     v

          CHAPTER I.
  O'NEILL'S GREAT PLANS             1

          CHAPTER II.

          CHAPTER III.

          CHAPTER IV.

          CHAPTER V.
  LOCAL COLOUR                     31

          CHAPTER VI.
  A WASH-LIST IN DUTCH             37

          CHAPTER VII.

          CHAPTER VIII.
  OUT FOR A WALK                   52

          CHAPTER IX.

          CHAPTER X.
  THE PARCEL POST                  77

          CHAPTER XI.

          CHAPTER XII.




We were seated one November evening in O'Neill's rooms in Trinity
College Dublin when the conversation turned on modern languages.

Each had his own story to tell, but we waited in vain for our host to
unbosom himself on the subject of Dutch. Yet he was understood to have
had thrilling experiences in the Hague in August.

By a few gentle hints we endeavoured to elicit from him some talk about
his linguistic adventures, and, not succeeding very well, I at last
asked him point-blank if he didn't find Dutch hard.

"Yes", said O'Neill promptly, in answer to my question. "Yes:
it certainly _is_ hard!" he repeated, as he balanced the poker,
preparatory to smashing the biggest piece of coal on the fire. "Why
the whole thing's next to impossible!"

There was something in his tone that sounded promising. He had a
grievance evidently against the language; and there was a sufficient
amount of suppressed irritation in his voice to indicate that there
might be entertaining disclosures at hand.

Jack O'Neill had worked too closely at his mathematics the winter
before, and had taken a long holiday in summer. A month of this he had
spent in Holland to master the Dutch language, he said, and get a good
general acquaintance with Dutch Literature. These had been great plans,
and we were naturally eager to learn how they had succeeded. We had
seen, however, very little of Jack since his return, as he had been
most of the time at his aunt's place in Connemara. Now that he was back
at Trinity safe and sound, we naturally expected to get the news sooner
or later. The conditions were so favourable that evening for a talker
to spin his yarn, that we were all impatience for Jack to begin. We
settled ourselves comfortably to listen; but he did not seem in a hurry
to unfold this particular tale.

We had already heard from him a great deal about William the Silent,
and more than a great deal about Dutch art, but not a word about the
Dutch language.

Our next-door neighbours, the "Professor" and the "Philosopher"--two
students from the Cape who were working for their degree--were as
interested as I was, in O'Neill's Dutch, and they used to drop in to
hear what was going on.

It was the third evening they had called; and as it was clear that Jack
was somewhat reticent about his "linguistics", we had to guide him
gently to the subject.

"Nonsense!" I said again. "_You_ had no difficulty. You made yourself
understood from the first. You wrote me that."

"Well," said Jack, sitting bolt upright, "I know better now; and I
stopped talking Dutch when I began to understand myself. You have to
hunt in the dark," he explained, "to catch the exact word or the proper
idiom--and a man likes to know what he is talking about, himself. The
language isn't child's play, that's the truth. But it's a fine country.
You should see the light when--"

"Oh," said the Philosopher, "we don't want to hear any more about the
country. Please not. We know all about those azure heavens and the
infinite horizons and the scrumbled distances and the Rembrandt cattle,
and all that. Why, man, I'll undertake to draw from your own rhapsodies
about those pictures an absolutely correct copy of (say) Paul Potter's
'Night Watch', or van der Helst's 'Anatomy Lesson', or Mesdag's
'Lost-Chord', and the canals and the clouds and the chiaro-oscuro. You
needn't go over them again".

"But I thought", piped the First year's man, who always came in with
the Professor and never quite comprehended what was going on, "I
thought that the 'Night Watch' was not by Paul Potter. Surely the
'Night Watch' and the 'Anatomy Lesson' are two well-known pictures
by Remb--" "Never mind what you thought!" interrupted the Professor.
"Don't think, it's bad for your constitution. And above all things
don't try to be accurate, or you'll get yourself into trouble."

"The Philosopher's right," I urged. "Our minds are a chaos after
O'Neill's descriptions. We'll only pardon you, Jack, all that golden
haze and the Rembrandts, if you condescend to plain facts. Tell us now
about your Dutch. Do. We're absolutely thirsting for an account of
your adventures. Or were you too timid to embark on the open sea of the
_taal_, sticking cravenly to English all the time? Why I thought you
had more _go_."

"Mr. O'Neill promised to master the language in the first fortnight",
chimed in the First Year's man in his high boyish voice, "and to finish
the principal Dutch classics in the second fortnight. Those were his
very words."




"Well", said O'Neill with a kind of sickly smile, "I didn't get so very
much time, you see, either for the Literature or for the Language. Of
course there was much sight-seeing, and--I spent a good deal of time
over the pictures, which----"

The Philosopher shut his eyes, heaved an audible sigh, but said nothing.

"And", continued Jack hastily without seeming to notice the
interruption, "my efforts to speak Dutch were not always appreciated".

"Really?" said the First Year's man, with sudden interest.

"Go on", said the Professor, "now you're started".

"You soon left your hotel for lodgings?" I added enquiringly.

"Well, you see," he resumed, "I was afraid I'd never pick up the
language. There is no chance of practice unless you get away from
everybody that speaks English. That was not too easy, I tell you.
But Enderby helped me, and we searched about the Hague for two whole
days. At last we found perfectly charming rooms opposite a canal; the
landlady didn't know a word of English. She knew Dutch, though, all
right. Fluent, did you say? I should think she was. A perfect marvel.
No need of the dictionary, you know.--Verbs all in their proper
places--and plenty of them!

Enderby told her all I required, and then went away. It was like being
thrown into the sea, as you may guess; but I imagined I should soon
learn to swim. There's nothing like being cast completely on your
own resources, they say. Still it was a bit awkward at coffee-time,
when the landlady came up and talked. She poured forth a rapid and
resistless stream of friendly Dutch upon me, while I nodded in the
intervals and tried to think. It was a very one-sided business. I was
very hungry, too, and wanted luncheon. Now there was abundance of this
unequal kind of conversation, but no lunch in sight, so I--(remember I
knew only ja and neen, and was not very sure of them, either)--I just
pointed gracefully to my lips to indicate that I needed food. That
produced an immediate effect--a torrent of eloquence forcibly delivered
and ending with some enquiry about _biting_!

I shook my head and said "Neen, neen! You put it too

"O ja," she replied, "best. Eten--eten om vijf uur--vijf." And she held
out one hand with the fingers spread. It seemed to me she was swearing
there was enough food in the house to satisfy a hungry Irishman.

"Good--so far," I returned. "Ja, ja!"

"En mynheer wil niet ontbijten?" she rejoined. This was the _biting_
again, so I said decidedly, "Neen; niet bijte". She seemed surprised
and a little hurt, but she said nothing and went away. And of course I
had to fast until five o'clock.

This would never do, I felt; and that evening I bought the first
grammar and dictionary I could lay my hands on at a second-hand
bookstall in the Binnenhof.

They were antique looking volumes, most of them there; and my books
had a remarkably ancient aspect. But I was glad to find that I had
completed the purchase of them without using one word of English. How?
Oh, the method's very simple. You pick out some big book you don't
want, and hold it up interrogatively.

You _can_ hold up a book interrogatively, you know, with a little
practice. Well, you lift some rubbishy, bulky volume that you wouldn't
be paid to put in your library, and you give it a sort of enquiring
wave in front of the vendor of these second-hand goods, and the vendor
immediately understands your picturesque query to be "How much?" He
answers promptly, and you as promptly drop the rubbishy fat volume, as
if it was a scorpion: you sigh resignedly, raise your eyebrows and walk
away disgusted.

That is the first step. That is to give him respect for your
intelligence and to indicate your willingness to negociate on
reasonable terms.

The next step is different. You linger with an air of disdain at the
tail-end of the bookstall; and, as an after-thought--just as you
are moving off--you halt a moment and flick the particular work you
do happen to want, with a careless forefinger or the point of your
walking-stick. At once the man talks, and you say "Nee".

He talks more. You say, "Neen, neen" and shake your head sadly. He
talks still more, and gesticulates excitedly with the book in his hand.
You wait till he stops for breath, then suddenly interject, "Ja; best,"
taking care to put down a large silver coin,--and the article is yours!
The negotiation is over; and all you have to do is to gather up your
purchase and a quantity of small silver and copper coins that you get
as change. Then with a little patience at home and some arithmetic you
can count out--approximately--how much the things have cost you. That's
the way you buy second-hand books."

"I had no idea, Jack, you had such a genius for diplomacy," I murmured,
as O'Neill evidently expected us to say something.

"Or for finance," added the First Year's Man.

"Did your medieval purchases do all for you that you expected?"
enquired the Philosopher.

"Well, hardly," said Jack.

"After my first success I somewhat underestimated the difficulties of
the idiom. But I worked hard at the grammar."

"Ah! a Grammar?" interrupted the Professor. "Did you say you acquired
a Grammar? I am interested. Could you manage to describe those volumes
now, if it's not too great a strain?"

"Oh, the books!" resumed O'Neill. "Well--there was a little fat
Dictionary, closely printed, with Dutch into English and English into
Dutch; and there was a handsome new Phrase-book in brilliant colours,
containing conversations on the most unlikely topics. But I admit the
Grammar Exercise-book was the gem of the collection. It was printed on
a kind of dusky paper, something like blot-sheet, and it bore the date
1807. It had six hundred and thirty-one exercises, double ones, Dutch
into English and English into Dutch--and contained many idioms, hints,
exceptions, and explanations. In warnings, foot-notes, and asterisks
it was particularly rich. Not a few pages were ornamented with _Nota
Bene's_ of various brands, with hands, large and small, drawing
attention to them. The English of this manual was very odd, and by and
by I got the impression that the Dutch was rather shaky too. Not that I
guessed this at first, you may be sure; but it gradually dawned upon me.

I took a certain pride in my treasures, and set about studying them
with zeal. No doubt it was disappointing just at the beginning to read:
_Nota Bene--No one but a Dutchman can emit this sound_; or this: "N. B.
*.*.*. _This sound must be heard._ It is _something like U_ but cannot
be otherwise described. It cannot be represented by any known letters.
Foreigners need not try it."

But I skipped over these obstacles, mastered the verbs 'to be' and 'to
have', in their elements, got an idea of the way to construct plurals
and diminutives, and went to sleep content.

Next morning after breakfast--which by the bye came up all right,
without any special effort on my part--, remembering that I needed pens
and ink I determined to go out and buy them myself.

  { _Have you pens?_
  { _Give me pens, please._
  { _Thank you._

That is all I seemed to require.

_Have you?_ Well; that is not so simple as it looks. I consulted the
Grammar and was appalled to see the amazing variety of choice afforded
to any one in Holland who contemplated asking this innocent question.

  { hebt gij  { hebt U          Hebt gij(lieden)
  { hebt ge   { heeft U
  { heb je    { heeft UEdele
  { heb jij   { heeft Ue
              { heeft Uès

I looked carefully at this curious form. Yes, wherever it occurred,
there were marks of parenthesis tied round the (lieden). How was I to
pronounce those brackets? The vowels and the usual consonants I had
learnt already were very trying. But what about those marks? Did they
denote a cough, or a sneeze or gentlemanly tap of your foot on the
ground? On the whole I thought I should best represent them by two
graceful waves of the hand--one for each bracket.

  { hebt gij(lieden) with brackets carefully fenced
  {                  round the(lieden)
  { hebt jullie
  { heb jelui

I counted them over. There are twelve ways of saying _Have you_ in
Dutch. That was distinctly suggestive, it seemed to me at the first
brush, of the twelve months of the year. You could begin in January
with Hebt gij, in February you would have Hebt ge, and so you could
work on through the months, keeping your grammar and your chronology
going, side by side, through the seasons till you would emerge safely
near Christmas with Heb jelui. This theory was not without its
attractions. But what would happen in passing, say, from June to July,
if you forgot what day of the month it was? If it was July the first
and you imagined it was June the thirtieth, you would be talking bad
grammar! No: that would never do. My brilliant conjecture had soon to
be abandoned as fanciful, and I was very sorry.

But the facts of the case were dead against the obvious chronological
arrangement, though they were by no means easily grasped. There were
asterisks and foot-notes to all these zodiacal forms; and a great
deal of solid reading had to be gone through before you got at the
relative force of any particular term. The erudition was distracting,
and the warnings were positively alarming, but after much painstaking
investigation I seemed to perceive three grand principles emerging."

"Yes?" we all said together, as O'Neill paused for breath. "And these

"In the first place," resumed Jack deliberately, checking off the
principles upon his fingers.

I. "Never say je or jij to a man unless you mean to insult him."

II. In the second place, je and jij may be freely used on all
occasions, if you only know how.

"But", said the First Year's Man, "you just said that..."

"And," continued O'Neill firmly, not heeding the interruption, "and you
may use the Third Person of the verb for the Second and the Second for
the Third; and you may use a Plural for a Singular and a Singular for
a Plural; and you may use U for UE, and UE for UEdele; you use jij for
je, and je for ge, and ge for gij, and you use jullie for gy(lieden)
with brackets round the lieden; but no one now ever does say gy(lieden)
with brackets round the lieden, except in poetry; and nobody in any
circumstances ever uses UEdele except when dining with members of the
Royal Family. Then you are allowed to utter this vocable once, and must
maintain a discreet silence during the rest of the repast."

"Where do you get all that rubbish?" I asked in disgust.

"Boyton and Brandnetel", he answered glibly, "page 52."

"At least", he added, "it was something like that. That gives you a
good general idea of the thing."

"When you are quite done with Boyton," said the Professor slowly, "when
your education's finished, you know, I'll make you a reasonably high
offer for that book. Boyton would relieve the tedium of my philological
studies, I can see."

"Perhaps," interposed the First Year Incorrigible, "perhaps Mr.
O'Neill's accuracy was all used up in his Artistic Studies. That would
leave none for the grammar."

"That's a nice way to put it," said the Philosopher. "Please curb your
imagination, O'Neill; stick as near to probability as you can--without
too great pain to yourself--and we'll not be hard upon you. Wasn't
there a third clear principle that emerged in the course of your

"Oh, yes", said O'Neill with some show of caution. "As nearly as I can
remember, it was this:

III. Never say jou; and avoid UE except in correspondence. You are
warned against any approach to familiarity in the use of pronouns. The
courteous form is UEdele. Gij more respectful than jij. Je is a term of

"But," objected the First Year's Man, "it doesn't seem to hang
together, for you said just now--"

"No debating allowed," growled the Philosopher.

"Hurry up, O'Neill, with those general principles."

"Oh, that's all of them," said Jack, "all at present." "Well, to resume
my story, I picked out the most harmless of the _have you's_, and was
proceeding to work out the formula for 'Have you pens,' when to my
consternation my eye fell on a dreadful warning, a kind of threat.

_N.B. Important!--The foreigner is distinctly given to understand
that he must commit to memory some polite phrases before engaging in
conversation (see page 201) and study the chief sentences of a good
phrase book. All pronouns savouring of familiarity are to be carefully




You may be sure that made me rather diffident till I had mastered
some of these 'polite phrases'. Polite they were, and no mistake--why
French was nothing to it!--and I got the very nicest of them well
into my head. I went round to Enderby's, and he put me on the way of
pronouncing the words. Then I took a whole morning in Het Bosch and
recited them to myself aloud. When no one was in sight I allowed myself
some freedom of utterance; and once I thought I must have startled with
my _ore rotundo_ an artist who was plying his harmless calling unseen
behind a clump of trees. At least some one retired very hastily after I
had delivered, "Doe zooveel moeite niet", three times with a vigorous
rising inflection and four times with the falling inflection, followed
in each case by the rhetorical pause. From the deserted easel I judged
it must have been an artist. He withdrew at a good pace, and never once
looked back.

These and similar polite idioms I repeated over some hundreds of times,
till I knew them backwards and forwards and every way, and could
have rattled them off in my sleep. Then there was some difficulty in
avoiding the policemen in the wood. They kept prowling about after
I had incautiously experimented on the first one with, "Mynheer! ik
wensch U goeden morgen; ik hoop dat ik U niet stoor. Vaarwel." He had
looked amazed at this; so, as a parting shot--a sort of courteous Good
Bye--I added gaily, "Ik bid U maak geen complimenten." It was this
that made the trouble, as he looked distinctly displeased, not to say
suspicious. When he heard the words first, he had stood speechless,
transfixed. Then he followed me home and hung about the street--I could
see him from my window--for over half an hour. I feared my pronouns
had been too familiar, though I couldn't see how to change them, for
there they were in the book. On the whole I concluded I had been a
trifle abrupt, and with renewed vigour I set to and committed a host
of apologetic phrases such as: "Ik bid U verschoon mij. Duizendmaal
vergiffenis. Het heeft niets te beduiden." A pretty little triplet
caught my ear and I took rather a fancy to it: "Het geeft niets--het
hindert niet--het komt er niet op aan."

It was a little puzzling to disentangle some of the courteous
introductions from the sentences in which they stood; and occasionally
I committed to memory somewhat more than I needed. This was the case
with a sentence that greatly took my fancy. It was an apology to an
imaginary gentleman in a tram-car for having trodden on his foot.
It seemed odd to provide yourself so soon for such contingency; but
of course the book knew best. Well, from constantly seeing the two
parts of this sentence together I got into the way mechanically of
associating the one phrase with the other. Thus when repeating that
engaging expression "Duizendmaal vergiffenis", I was accustomed to
follow it up by, "dat ik op Uw teen heb getrapt," either in my own
mind or audibly, for the sake of practice. From the first this polite
sentence was a great favourite of mine, and I was soon able to repeat
it with the utmost fluency and ease. So well did I know it, indeed,
after two day's practice that I was tempted to seek occasion for its
use, and in getting into the tram-car. I was half disposed to brush,
accidentally, against any object in the way for the sake of working
off my courteous apology. But that sort of thing has unexpected
consequences; and I came to the conclusion that it is more philosophic
to learn too little than to learn too much. Ne quid nimis, you know."

"Oh, leave metaphysics to me," said the Philosopher, "and go on with
your story. You wanted to buy pens? Did you get them?"

"Not at first," answered O' Neill shamefacedly, "but I'll tell you
about it".




"And what", said I, "might be the particular difficulty of saying
_pens_ in Dutch? You had a dictionary?"

"Dictionary indeed!" retorted O'Neill with some heat. "Commend me to a
dictionary for leading you astray."

There was a penholder in the room, so what I needed was only nibs.
Having already with much pain made my selection among the _have you's_,
I now looked up _nib_ in the dictionary. Nib was represented by five
words, three of which seemed likely enough to be right, i. e. _neb_,
_punt_, and _snavel_. Accordingly I wrote these down and worked out
their plurals and diminutives. The doubtful ones I kept in reserve. Why
did I fancy diminutives? Oh, the grammar put me on the way of finding
them, and I got quite partial to their use. It is such a comfort, you
know, they are all neuter. You can put _het_ in front of one, and
then it's safe for nominative or accusative, wherever it drops in the

Thus armed for the fray, and confiding in my grammar and dictionary, I
sallied forth to buy those nibs.

There was no use in going to a large shop, for experience had taught me
I should at once be accosted there in English; so I wandered about till
I discovered a kind of small general warehouse in an obscure street.
Making sure, by a careful inspection from without, that pens were
among the commodities sold in this place, I muttered a polite phrase
or two below my breath, cleared my throat, and entered boldly. There
was a big good-natured man reading behind the counter. No one else was
in the shop. The circumstances simply couldn't be more propitious for
beginning the difficult art of Dutch conversation.

"Mynheer!" said the big man, putting down the newspaper and looking at
me amiably over his spectacles.

"Mynheer!" I replied, "Ik wensch U goeden morgen."

In the momentary pause that I was obliged to make, to get my polite
phrase properly by the end, he rose up and said in an encouraging,
friendly manner, "Wat wou Mynheer?"

"Mynheer", I returned, confident in the correctness of phrase number
two, "Mag ik U beleefd verzoeken mij mede te deelen, verkoopt jullie
nebben--of nebs?"

He eyed me steadily for half a minute and then exclaimed:


I said "Blief" too.

But I had to go over it again. He shook his head: "Nebs--Nebs? Wat
bedoelt Mynheer?"

"Heeft UE nebs,--of nebben?" I said--"of nebbetjes?"

The last variations were of my own invention, thrown out as suggestions
merely in order to make sure of catching the correct plural. The
Grammar--Boyton, you know--had been strong on diminutives; hence I
thought "nebbetjes" might make things clear. Apparently it did, for a
deep voice at my elbow said, "Voor paling", and I turned round to see
a red-faced sailor with rings in his ears, nodding and smiling. "Ja,
ja, ik weet het wel," he said to the shopman; "Mynheer gaat visschen,"
adding confidentially for my benefit, "Engelsman always feesh."

Before I had made out what this friendly mariner wanted to be at, the
shopman had produced a tiny fishing-rod and tackle, which he planted
down before me with an air of triumph, "Als 't U blieft, Mynheer!"

"Neen--Ik bid U"--I explained, grasping for my manuscript. A glance
at the document told me that the next word for nib was _punt_, plural
probably "_punten_", pronunciation doubtful.

"Mynheer", I said, "zou U zoo goed willen wezen my te zeggen....
verkoopt UE poenten?"

"Wat zegt U, Mynheer?"

I explained "Zou U zoo goed willen zijn mij beleefd te zeggen en te
verwittigen, verkoopt UEdele poenten of poentekens?"

I put in the "UEdele" once, you see, to propitiate the shopman, who was
growing flurried, as the shop was beginning now to fill with customers.
He didn't seem, however, more than half pleased at being called
"UEdele"; so I determined to give him another pronoun next time--there
was plenty of choice without touching on the despised "jy."

"Ik bid U verschoon my!.... Mag ik beleefd verzoeken, verkoopt gy
(lieden) spitsen?" When I came to the brackets of the (lieden) I
expressed them vaguely by a graceful sweep of both hands.

No; he shrugged his shoulders in good-natured perplexity; he didn't
understand; and indeed my rendering of the (lieden) may have confused

Then in dumb show I wrote with an imaginary pen on an imaginary piece
of paper, saying very distinctly, "poent!" "spits!" "poent!" A light
seemed suddenly to dawn upon him; he went to a drawer and brought out
crayons and pencils, and reached me a stumper,--one of those soft
pointed things for rubbing in mountains and clouds, on a pencil sketch.
It was such a surprise after the fishing rod that I involuntarily
exclaimed, "Hallo! a stumper!" Well, as that harmless English term
seemed to ruffle him somewhat, I hurried to my next word. This word by
the way I had written twice, having misspelled it the first time. Now
as I stooped down to make it out, my nautical friend, whose interest in
me had never flagged, read it before me: "Swavel! mynheer wou swavel."

"Hoeveel?" said the shopman impatiently.

"Voor dit," I replied, putting down a five-penny piece.

He mumbled something about swavel to a message-boy, who forthwith
left the shop; and I sat down to wait. It was a vast relief to cease
speaking Dutch for a few minutes; and yet I felt uneasily conscious
that there was a mistake somewhere. The shop was filled with pens, so
that if I was really buying pens now--as I hoped I was--there was no
need for the message-boy to go elsewhere.

On calmly examining my notes I detected the error. The sailor had read
the word in the first rough draft instead of the corrected copy. I
started up hurriedly and went to the counter through the crowd.

"Duizendmaal vergiffenis!" I said. "Verschoon my. Ik veroorzaak U veel

"Ja mynheer," he replied patiently.

"Niet zwavel hier," I said, pointing to my paper. 'I have drawn my
pencil through it,' I wanted to say, but of course couldn't. Then a
happy thought struck me. Say I have a line through it--streepje is the
grammar word for a little line.

"Mijnheer," I explained, "niet zwavel hier; zwavel niet. Ik heb een
streepje door het." Well, would you believe me, that was the most
successful remark I had made as yet? I expected that he would be
irritated by my mistake and apology. No such thing. He received my
statement with unbounded delight. "Ja, ja," he said, "dat geloof ik
ook; dat geloof ik ook."

"Wel zeker," I continued pleasantly, glad to see him take it in such
good part. "Een streepje door."

With that they all turned to one another and smiled and nodded to me
quite merrily, as if I had said something clever. It shows what a
literary people the Dutch are, that they are pleased beyond measure
when a foreigner in conversation refers to any small technicality out
of the grammar. Indeed so encouraged was I by all this enthusiasm that
I boldly made use of my remaining words.

"Mynheer! wilt u mij toestaan U te vragen..... verkoopt gy snavels?"

"Snavels," I repeated as he stared,--"of snaveltjes".

He gasped a moment, as if taken utterly by surprise; then ran behind
the counter into a little dark room, where I could hear him make a
succession of curious muffled sounds. The noise subsided, and he
seemed to tell the story to somebody. A white face peered out from
behind the lace curtains--and the chuckling was renewed. Now this was
all very puzzling--but it was quite clear that 'snavel' was not the
usual term for 'pen'.

Here the little errand-boy entered with a package which he thrust into
my hand.


"Heelemaal neen," I said.

I was vainly endeavouring to get him to take it back, when the shopman
reappeared from his dark den as grave as a judge, and I turned to him.

There was one word left. It might be right, though I had doubted it
from the first; but I would try. It was a long word, too, and from
the root of the first part, it promised to have something to do with
fowls. Thus I conjectured that its meaning might be 'quill pen'; but my
confidence in the dictionary was by this time much shaken.

"Wilt gij my toestaan", I said, "U te vragen?" "Ja, mijnheer!" he
replied expectantly.

Then I got a little confused, and no wonder. "Durf ik zoo beleefd te
kunnen zijn!... om mij mede te deelen en... mij te verwittigen?" I
lost myself again. It's easy to begin a Dutch conversation but hard
to get out of it with honour. Like a drowning man clutching at a
straw I grasped at something: "Verkoopt jullie hoenderhokken ... of

He said nothing--did not even look at me--but moved his hands
helplessly, as if subduing some strong emotion. I did not press this
word on him, as I scarcely ever use quill pens; and it was as likely as
not that the dictionary had failed me again.

I set him at his ease by a courteous phrase or two. "Het geeft
niets--het hindert niet--het komt er niet op aan." Then refraining from
further speech, I pointed out some nibs with my umbrella, and, having
secured a box of excellent J pens, made good my retreat under cover of
a friendly phrase or two: "Mijnheer! het spijt mij zeer; maar ik moet
afscheid nemen. Vaarwel."

It had been rather a strain, and I was glad to get out again into the
open air. On the way home I could think it all over calmly, and at
leisure I deduced that most useful principle _never to use more than
one word out of the dictionary for one word of English_.




After these efforts I judged it wise to take a day or two's rest from
the actual practice of Dutch conversation till my nerves had recovered
their tone, and until I had mastered more of the grammar and the idiom.
I was the more concerned to do so as Enderby, to whom I had related my
purchase of the pens, told me that my language on that occasion had
been much too stiff and formal. For the purpose then of acquiring an
everyday vocabulary I listened attentively to the talk in the streets
and tram-cars. Most of it was unintelligible to me, but I caught up
some vigorous and happy phrases here and there. These I soon learned to
pronounce in a kind of way, but it was difficult to get at their exact
meaning, for many popular idioms did not appear in my dictionary at all.

There was a vocable that occasioned me some perplexity--indeed a haze
envelopes it still. It sounded like _Eris_, but had nothing to do
with the Goddess of Strife. It doesn't seem to have any particular
signification, and you can introduce it anywhere to give a finish to
your style. Some people were fond of _evetjes_, a word of the same
class, on which none of my books shed the least light. Though my
authorities were likewise silent about _Toe! toe dan_, I perceived that
this was the proper expression for courteous appeal, and as such I have
always used it, with confidence and success.

Two curious imperative moods, which were popular at the street corners,
I did find in my grammar. They belong to that provoking category of
words that, as you touch them carelessly, break up into smaller verbs
and prepositions. I used to compare them mentally to those lizards
that drop their tails when you handle them roughly. Only instead of
tails these _werkwoorden_ drop their _voorzetsels_, which turn up again
unexpectedly in distant parts of the sentence. One of these "lizards"
was _schei uit_, which means indifferently, 'stop talking now',
'analyse it' and 'go away'. It was pleasant to hear so scientific a
term as schei er uit or schiet nouw op (shoot up now, aim high) used so
often. I soon became quite dexterous in employing them myself. On the
whole I got little help from my dictionary in tracing out the idioms of
everyday live. Two interrogative particles, for example, without which
the lower classes, when excited, could hardly ask a question, were
quite ignored both by Boyton and the Woordenboek. The were _Zaliku_ and
_Woujeme_. I was left to conjecture the force of these particles--that
they were forcible I could see--might remotely resemble that of the
familiar num or nonne of Latin.

Occasionally animated interlocutors became suddenly oracular: their
flow of language stopped and they uttered some one solitary syllable
such as _Gunst!_ or _heus!_ or _mis!_ or _raak!_ These single shots
were often most effective, but I never could imitate them successfully.
_Ach!_ was safe mostly for "I'm sorry"; _Och!_ for "I don't care"; and
I discovered a treasure in _Hé!_ That is a contraction for "Do you
really mean it?" On the other hand _Hè!_ I found was "Shocking!" "How
very dreadful!" When I used these little words I seemed never quite to
hit the bull's eye, however. Invariably I said either more or less
than I intended. But I made very good play with pretty triplets like
_'t zal wel_, and _schei er uit_, and with expressions of approval:
_da's leuk_, _aardig hoor_, _och kom_. It gives a vivid local colour
to your conversation if you drop in now and again a homely fresh idiom
caught from the lips of the people. That prevents one's vocabulary
becoming too bookish. You can give quite a realistic flavour to your
remarks by interjecting occasionally _waarempeltjes_ or _Wel van
mijn leven!_ Among the encouraging ejaculations of every day I soon
concluded that none was more likely to prove useful than "_Zanik nou
niet_", a popular favourite which one may render roughly by "Pray,
don't mention it", "Don't trouble about it". This idiom has been simply

Anomalies of pronunciation were not numerous, but they existed. _Nouw_,
a common word, must be spelt _nu_; and the advice _duwen_, which
was printed up on the inner door of the Post-Office, was pronounced
_douwe_. Most enigmatical perhaps was the contrast between the barber's
notice on the window of his establishment, and what he said to you when
you entered. Outside it was _haarsnijden_ and never anything else.
That is the printed form; inside, however, you must pronounce it

Still these are trifles compared with the real puzzles. I witnessed
a street dispute one evening. It was about herring, I think, but I
really couldn't follow the one thousandth part of the vigorous debate.
Picturesque idioms were bandied to and fro; happily no harm was done.
One could not help noticing that the Grammar-book was right. Jij and
jou were freely employed, and the disputants did not once address each
other as U or UEdele. On that occasion there was another epithet or
pronoun or interjection, which none of my previous studies had at all
prepared me for. Turning it up in the dictionary as well as I could, I
learnt that it might be translated by 'lightning', and that it was an
ordinary noun. Next day I enquired of Enderby if the word for lightning
could ever be employed as an interrogative particle or a pronoun. He
was horrified and said "Please don't be vulgar".

"All right," I replied, "I don't intend to be, but what about that
personal pronoun?"

"Hush!" he said. "Stop; it's not a pronoun."

"Well whatever it is," I told him, "noun or pronoun, if you had heard
it used as I did, you would admit that it was very _personal_."

"Don't be frivolous," he retorted solemnly, "and let me give you a
piece of advice. As long as you are in Holland never let anyone hear
you utter that word. Say _onweer_ or _weerlicht_. The other word is not
decent, it is almost wicked."

"There now; don't be surly", I reasoned, "the thing is in the

"Never mind. That's for science or for poetry. Then it's all right. But
_you_ had better have nothing to do with it. Try and forget it."

I did try. But I didn't succeed.

For the more trouble you take to forget a thing, the better you
remember it. At least that's my experience, and if I strain every nerve
to get a word out of my head, it simply never goes! So if there be a
Dutch noun that I recall accurately and without effort, it is just the
scientific and poetical term for 'lightning'.




It was a day or two after the purchase of the pens and I was beginning
to feel my zeal for Dutch returning, when the landlady entered
the sitting-room and fired my enthusiasm. She had a collar and a
pocket-handkerchief in her hand; she waved them in the air and said
"Voor de waschvrouw."

I caught the idea at once, banished the landlady, and sat down to make
out a wash-list with the help of the dictionary and by the light of

In bold characters I headed my document 'Lijst voor de Waschvrouw'; and
turned up the word 'collar'. The usual thing, of course, met my gaze--a
bewildering supply of equivalents--boordje, rollade, kraag, halsband,
halssieraad. Now for the crucial question--on what principle am I to
make my selection? For I was quite determined to stick by the principle
I had learnt in the pen-shop, and use only one Dutch word for one word
in English. But which one? The dictionary had a second part to it,
Dutch into English. So I felt sure in my innocence that I could hunt
down anything and get its exact signification.

I tried 'boordje'.

It was a bad omen that 'boordje' didn't figure in the Dutch-English
part at all. Naturally a man reasons that if boordje really means
a common thing like collar--an article of attire in daily use--it
would surely be given a place in a Dutch-English lexicon. It wasn't
there; and to confirm me in my determination to reject 'boordje', my
eye caught 'boord'. 'Boord' was of fairly catholic application; for
it included things as dissimilar as border, rim, shelf, seam, bank
and hem. To make a diminutive of this,--'little border', 'little
rim', 'little bank',--wouldn't bring one measurably nearer 'collar'.
_Boordje_ therefore was rejected absolutely. So far good.

_Rollade_ was more promising. It suggested somehow a turn-down collar,
and sounded courtly. But there was against it the strong objection
that it didn't appear in the Dutch-English lexicon. _Rollade_ therefore
was set aside provisionally.

_Kraag_ again offered well, but on inspection proved far too vague, for
it included the ideas of cape, neck, nape and hood. That wouldn't do.
It was far too uncertain. Therefore 'Kraag' was marked as 'doubtful.'

Diligence however is its own reward, and I found a prize in the next
word. _Halsband_ answered every reasonable expectation. It stood every
test I could apply to it.

The Dutch-English lexicon said it was 'collar', and nothing more.

Etymology confirmed the dictionary: _hals_, the neck; _band_, a band--a
band for the neck--what could be clearer? If that wasn't collar,
nothing was.

So I wrote down with much confidence, as my first item, _6 halsbanden_.
I felt that this was an excellent beginning and that Dutch was not such
a difficult language after all. _Gunst!_ I said to myself; for I felt
so elated at my success, that in a way I was almost thinking in Dutch.
Gunst, uitstekend! now for the next article.

That was _cuff_. Cuff said the dictionary was slag, manchet, oorveeg
and handboei. Which would I take? I examined _slag_, and learnt it was
the proper term for battle, fight, or opportunity.

This gave me much food for thought. I turned the matter over in every
possible way, yet to no purpose. It was impossible to detect any
necessary connection between a 'battle' or an 'opportunity', and 'a
pair of cuffs'; so I dropped 'slag' without regret.

'_Oorveeg_' at first looked more attractive.

Its derivation, however, showed that it was something that 'skimmed
along' the ear, or 'touched it lightly'!

Now it was conceivable that the sleeves or cuffs of ancient times had
proved inconvenient; but that they had ever been so large as to flap
about one's ears, I positively refused to believe.

It was quite a comfort to discover, as I did somewhat by accident, that
'oorveeg' meant a 'box on the ear.' Thus I could reject it without
scruple--which I did.

_Manchet_ was so obviously French that I never looked at it twice. My
grammar was most stringent in banishing all foreign words. Especially
avoid French terms, it insisted. That was an easy rule. Geen Fransch
woordje bij! So I avoided manchet.

I had now only one word left, which of course must be right. Handboei,
moreover, defined its own functions with welcome precision. It
obviously meant something to _fit_ closely round the _hand_; and with a
sense of having achieved an intellectual victory, I set down on my list
below the 'halsbanden', '_4 paar handboeien_'.

After this discipline in the art of 'rejections and exclusions' it
seemed child's play to fix on the proper rendering for _sock_.

Sok--blyspel--vilten binnenzool--ploegschaar,--that was what the
front part of the dictionary gave me to work upon. 'Blyspel' and
'ploegschaar' I dropped overboard without qualm, for I found they meant
'comedy' and 'ploughshare'; and when it came to choosing between sok
and vilten binnenzool, I gave the first the preference, as my book shed
no light whatever on vilten binnenzool.

I regretted this rather, as there was a fine air of dignity about the

But I put down '4 paar sokken,' with a note of interrogation, and added
'vilten binnenzolen' in brackets--to make all clear.

There were seven 'handkerchiefs' to be translated into Dutch; and
for 'handkerchief' the little fat Dictionary became more than usually

Opposite the English word it had two Dutch words without a comma
between, so that I felt morally certain it was a case of vilten
binnenzool again--a sort of euphonious compound which you must take in
its entirety or not at all.

This compound word was 'Zie beneden'.

I soon detected that the primitive meaning of this curious name was
'look below'. At first indeed it struck me that it might refer to a
footnote; but there was no footnote in the Dictionary, good or bad,
from cover to cover, except B* on page 91, so I soon abandoned this
idea as fanciful.

It was certainly hard to trace any connection between the advice
(imperative mood, if you please) 'see below!' and what we usually
understand by a 'handkerchief'.

The mystery seemed to clear a little when I remembered that a
'handkerchief' was a 'kerchief' for the hand; and that in the Tudor
age 'kerchiefs' used to be worn round the neck. In fine old historical
portraits that I had seen of Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary, their
Majesties were always represented with elaborate cambric things about
their shoulders. It was quite a feature of the period. Thus 'zie
beneden' was no doubt the original word corresponding to 'kerchief';
and it would take its name from the fact that when the wearer in
ancient times glanced down, he could easily see it on his chest. He
would call it a 'look below' quite naturally. Then the name would
remain unaltered, while the article would become first a kerchief for
the hand, then finally a pocket-handkerchief.

As there were plenty of analogies in English for that sort of word
formation, I became quite sure of my ground, and at the end of my list
wrote with the pride of a philologist, '_7 ziebenedens_'.

A few other words I got with comparative ease, and jotted down in their

The more I looked at my finished document, the better I liked it.

This is how it ran:--

  Lyst voor de Waschvrouw:

    6 halsbanden,
    4 paar handboeien.
    3 nachtgewaden.
    4 paar sokken? (Vilten binnenzolen).
    7 Zie benedens.

  Totaal = 32 Voorwerpen.

  Ik bid de waschvrouw gauw de voorwerpen terug te zenden.

  Aug. 5.                                    J. O'Neill.

I was quite unprepared for the effect which my manuscript had on the
landlady. When she came up presently for the wash-list, I said to her
carelessly, as if I was in the habit of writing Dutch every day, "Voor
de waschvrouw,--klaar".

She took the document in her hand and glanced at it; then suddenly sat
down in my best arm-chair!

Now you must know that she is very respectful, always stands
deferentially in my presence, and never dreams of taking liberties. Her
conduct now was unaccountable. There she sat in the chair, rocking to
and fro, her face hidden with both hands. Her agitation increased till
finally she gave a kind of snort, for which she immediately apologised:
"Neem me niet kwalijk, mijnheer! neem me niet kwalijk!"

Having regained a momentary composure, she dried her eyes with the
corner of her apron and allowed her gaze to wander round the room. It
fell upon my paper, and off she went again in a sort of suppressed

"O mijnheer! mijnheer!" she stammered convulsively. "Het is--voor--voor
een hond!"

She ended with a hysterical sob as if she feared her emotions would
choke her utterance.

All this naturally raised my suspicions as to the purity of my Dutch,
though it seemed incredible that there could be much amiss with it.
"Voor een hond" sounded like an expression of contempt, just as we dub
ill-composed Latin, 'Dog-Latin', or pronounce poor food to be 'not fit
for a dog.'

She surely couldn't imply that my Dutch would make a dog laugh?

It was clear now that she was highly amused at something I had written.
At this I was just a little indignant, having spent all the morning
hunting up equivalents in the dictionary and debating with myself about

To discourage her levity I answered quite coldly: "Wat is voor een
hond? ik zie geen hond. Waar is hij?"

"O mijnheer", was the spasmotic reply, delivered in jerks,
"halsband,--hals--band--is altijd voor--voor een hond! Ik lach me dood!"

I could not argue the point with her or convince her by reasoning that
my choice must be correct.

So I just said "Hé!" and waited for her to recover. Presently she
dried her eyes again, rose from the arm-chair, and tried to get away;
but once more her eye fell on the fatal manuscript--this time on
Handboeien--and again she dropped back with a smothered yell.

Then she apologized, then cried, then laughed, then finally gathered
breath to say, "Voor een gevangene! Moet mijnheer naar de gevangenis?"

"Ik weet het niet," I protested in perplexity; "ik weet er niets van.
Wat is gevangenis?"

She rose, and silently picking up my little dictionary, with an
unsteady hand turned over to 'gevangenis.' She pointed to the English
and I read 'prison'. Thus the 'handboeien' were 'handcuffs'!

I couldn't say she was mistaken. So I merely drew my pen through this
item and said "Hè!" letting the matter rest.

Now she laughed at everything, at nachtgewaden, at voorwerpen, at my
message to the washerwoman, even at sokken, though since I have never
been able to discover why, except that it was the only proper word on
the list.

But nothing could make her understand what I meant by Zie-benedens.

I couldn't explain to her all about Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary
and the parallel historical development of cognate languages; I hadn't
Dutch enough for it.

Pulling a handkerchief out of my pocket, and showing it to her, I said,
"Dit--dit is een zie beneden!"

But at that she only laughed the more.

Then she chuckled and tittered and coughed and said "Oh! Oh!" and held
her sides and stumbled all the way down those steep stairs to the
imminent danger of her life. Half way down she had stopped for breath;
distinctly I could hear her panting and muttering: "Oh mens! mens!
Ik kan nie meer. Ik stik!" For the rest of the day bursts of jovial
laughter kept rising from the kitchen, and an air of hilarity hung
about the lower storey for a whole week.

Sir, said O' Neill, that is the deplorable result of bringing reason to
bear on the material the dictionary gives. For here is another general
principle I have discovered about languages: _The more arguments you
find in favour of any given word the more certain it is that that word
is totally wrong._




Next evening Jack O'Neill resumed his narrative to myself alone, on the
understanding that our friends would drop in if they could.

"Where was I?" he said. "Ah, yes, I had just told you about the

"Well; I learnt many things in the next few days, said he,--especially
grammar. Rules and exceptions I committed to memory and could rattle
you off werkwoorden and voortzetsels, bijvoegelijke naamwoorden,
verleden deelwoorden and onbepaalde wijzen with vigour and promptitude.

In walking about the town and neighbourhood, too, I caught up more and
more of those native idioms that give colour and fragrance to one's
speech. Of course I was at a loss now and again to explain what I
heard and saw.

The notice boards, for example, of some inn such as "De Nieuwe Aanleg"
remained somewhat mysterious; and on enquiry a satisfactory translation
was never forthcoming. "The New Genius" was very wide of the mark,
evidently. "The New Tendency" was equally obscure.

Two common English verbs I found very difficult to render exactly.
These were 'drive' and 'put'.

'Put' you have to use so often that it is certainly provoking to hunt
for a new verb almost every time you have a fresh order to give. 'Put
it down', 'put it in the cupboard,' 'put it in the hall'--well, I
managed these somehow. But when it came to having letters posted, I was
a long time at sea.

I wrote a good deal; and 'put that letter in the box' was a common
order I had to give. Now 'box' was easy enough, for the receptacle
in the street was duly called 'Brievenbus'. But when I said, 'Plaats
dien brief in de brievenbus,' the maidservant stared at me as if I was
hardly human.

'Zet' and 'werp' were not much clearer, apparently. 'Gooi', I must
admit, always made her perform the task with alacrity, but with an air
that plainly said the matter was not very serious.

By a happy accident I became aware that all you need say for 'put' is
'_doe_'; but alas! it will only help you for a few of the simplest

Two functionaries called about orphans one day, and I said "Put me
down for five guilders". "Doe mij beneden voor vijf gulden". It wasn't
idiomatic, but they caught the idea when they saw the coins.

Of course the long and the short _a_ are notorious, and they perplexed
me nearly every time I worked with them. You can't be always sure that
you have hit the right one.

An important letter had to go off one evening, and I impressed on the
domestic that she must be careful.

'Voorzichtig hoor!--voorzichtig!' I repeated, 'want dit is een
gewichtige zak'.

I might have spared myself the trouble, for she tossed it in one hand
and said, "Een zak, mijnheer, ha!" and departed with a gaiety of manner
that augured ill for the safety of my missive. All the while I imagined
I had said _zaak_,--but my _a_ was too short.

One night when the landlady's son--a promising youth of
thirteen--brought up the supper, he appeared playful and excited. He
urged me, as I understood it, to come downstairs and admire a man that
was in the street. Surely it must be a fine specimen of manly grace
that could elicit this interest! Yes, the man there was 'erg mooi', he
assured me.

'U moet es eve kome kijke, mijnheer.'

The request was odd, and I refused at first. As he persisted, however,
I accompanied him downstairs, wondering whether there was an acrobat
performing in the market-place or if a statue had been erected whilst I
was at dinner.

When we came outside, there was nothing remarkable to be seen in the
street. My guide, however, didn't mind that, but pointing triumphantly
to the sky where the full moon was shining, he exclaimed with delight:
"Daar, mijnheer, kijk nou is, nietwaar?"

It looked like boyish chaff, getting the foreigner to leave his room to
gaze at the 'man in the moon', and I was dumb with indignation at his
audacity. Gradually, however, the facts of the case emerged. The youth
was only considerately anxious that I should not miss seeing the big
Dutch moon itself, which was indeed that evening particularly fine. It
was a 'mooi maan' not "man".

Yes; the long and the short _a_ are not to be trifled with, and you'll
get into no end of trouble if you ever mix them.




Starting one morning for a long ramble in the country I took the
first stage by tram. It was very early, and as there were no other
passengers, the conductor was disposed to be communicative. He was
absolutely eager to talk, and he came up to me at once.

Now I have noticed that at one time it is much easier to express
oneself in a foreign language than at another.

Sometimes the grammar you have mastered becomes positively oppressive,
and your tongue refuses to lend itself to the task.

I cannot tell whether it may be due to barometric pressure or to
some electrical condition, but on certain days I cannot--to put it
mildly--come up to my normal standard, either of perspicuity or ease.

This was one of my bad days, and I was little inclined to respond to
the conductor's advances. Fate was against me, however, for I didn't
know the name of the place I was bound for. Enderby had several times
taken me to a pretty village some few miles from the Hague. It was the
terminus of the tram-line, and I purposed to tram there first and then
to start out on my country walk.

I had never troubled much about the geography of the district, and
consequently was quite in the dark now as to what the village was
called. This was awkward, for the talkative conductor was already at
hand trying to open conversation.

He made a first essay by producing his bunch of tickets and asking me,
"Hoe ver, mijnheer?"

I waved my hand and said, "Den geheelen weg." Seeing he was not
satisfied with this, I amplified the remark by adding "Naar het einde."

As he was still slightly bewildered, I glanced up to the tram-car
itself to ascertain, if possible, its destination. The designation of
the village would surely be printed somewhere on the vehicle. Happily
I could just make out at the end of a long series of hard words the
name 'Simplex'. Pointing to this with a careless flourish of my stick I
said "Ja; ik ga even naar Simplex."

"Net, mijnheer," he laughed, "ha! ha!, overal reclame!"

Before he had recovered from my unconscious wit, I perceived the error
into which I had fallen. Simplex was merely a cycle-advertisement.

Then I laughed as heartily as he, saying "Gunst ja; overal"--which
emboldened him to be still more familiar.

He fancied that I was a perfect master of Dutch, and could even joke
in it. He talked most volubly; and,--my reputation as a linguist being
now at stake,--whenever he made a slight pause I was obliged to say
something to show I understood.

I didn't understand. But I started him off always when he was inclined
to stop, and I kept him going by a careful use of 'ja' and 'neen'. If
he appeared to expect agreement, I threw in a hearty 'natuurlijk', 'ja
zeker', or 'wel van mijn leven.' At other points, and for variety's
sake, I interjected indignant negatives: 'Wel nee!' 'schei er uit!'
'Hoe heb ik het met je?'--and now and then even 'och kom!' with the
peculiar shake of the head that accompanies this phrase.

The plan was brilliantly successful. True, he stopped sometimes and
took a long queer look at me; but he was one of those garrulous people
that require little encouragement, and the flood of his reminiscences
always poured forth again as freely as ever.

We got along famously together--though I didn't know one word he
said--till we came opposite a tall church. Nodding patronisingly
towards this building he said, "Pracht van een Kerk", adding something
about a 'hooge toren'.

Here I felt on solid ground,--I understood him thoroughly. My natural
wish to take an intelligent part in the conversation would be gratified
if only I could say something about that edifice; and, one of the fresh
idioms that I had recently acquired occurring to me, I promptly gave it
to him by way of reply: "Ja, prachtig; het is kolossaal mooi."

This choice idiom I had got just the day before from a policeman.
We had been standing in front of a florist's window--the policeman
and I--admiring the tiny vases of lilies of the valley that were
displayed there, when I heard him murmur half to himself and half to me
"kolossaal mooi!" The combination so captivated my fancy that I added
it without delay to my working stock.

The tram-conductor emphatically agreed with my criticism. "Kolossaal!"
he repeated.

Thus encouraged I attempted to contribute something further to the
conversation, and catching sight of a lofty lightning-conductor, on
the church-steeple, I tried to draw his attention to it by an easy
grammatical remark.

The word 'lightning-conductor' did not seem to present difficulties.

'Lightning' of course I remembered, though I ought to have forgotten it
long ago. No doubt it was to be approached with caution; but as this
was a matter of pure science I felt tolerably safe. As for 'conductor',
there could be little doubt as as to the way to render that, for
'conducteur' was stamped on the tram-man's buttons, and had been
staring me in the face for the last half-hour. Those buttons were as
good as a dictionary.

Putting together then the component parts of 'lightning-conductor,' I
hazarded a bold guess, and waving my hand towards the steeple I said
cordially, "Ja, de toren is mooi--kolossaal mooi. Gunst; ja.--Zoo is
ook die bliksem-conducteur! Vind U niet?"

Well, he stopped as if I had struck him; his face got fiery red, and he
walked away without a word!

What had I done? There was no denying something had gone wrong.
Evidently the man was choking with rage, and he didn't as much as
glance at me for the rest of the journey.

That same afternoon I reported the affair to Enderby, who grew quite
gruff and crusty before I had finished the narration.

"Didn't I warn you", he grumbled, "against those horrid expressions
that you seem so fond of? You must really take care, O'Neill,--or I
won't speak to you as long as you stay in Holland."

It was useless to assure him that I had referred to the
'lightning-conductor' merely in its permissible and scientific sense.
He would listen to no explanations. "You simply can't imagine how
shocking all that talk of yours sounds, or you wouldn't attempt to
justify your vulgarity."

"Begging your lordship's pardon", I retorted ironically, "for all my
unseemly conduct, may I enquire humbly what the dignified term is?
_Onweersconducteur_, perhaps? Or _weerlichtsconducteur_?"

"Nonsense!" he almost shouted. "The thing's quite

"Aha," I could not help retorting, "you see after all you are in the
wrong. You warned me against _lightning_--quite needlessly, you now
admit--but you never said a syllable about that really dangerous word

But to return to my trip that lovely morning. The tram duly reached
'Simplex', and the conductor was unfeignedly relieved to see me alight.

It was perfect weather, and my annoyances were soon forgotten. There
was such a shimmer and haze and play of light over the wide landscape
as I have seen only in Holland.

I was delighted. Such a scene is an inspiration. It makes one wish
to be a painter or a poet or something. Subtle and delicate shades
varied the long stretches of green meadow; clumps of trees, church
towers, tiny red-roofed villages dotted the landscape; while here and
there as far as the eye could reach, wide canals--the very pictures of
tranquillity--reflected the great white clouds sailing overhead.

"Splendid, splendid!" I exclaimed to myself. And charming indeed did my
ramble prove to be.

But the day was hot, and I was glad at last about eleven o'clock to
come to a good-sized tea-garden over the entrance to which stood in
conspicuous letters, "_Uitspanning_." Here was cool shade under broad
trees; and here were innumerable little tables at which a number of
people were seated, laughing and chattering and lunching pleasantly,
while little children, some of them not more than three years old, kept
running about and playing games. And all these tiny tots, too, were
talking Dutch, happily and unconcerned, tossing about in childish glee
and with incredible ease, onbepaalde wijzen, verleden deelwoorden and
voorzetsels, not to speak of het and hen and hun and je.

On entering this popular resort and looking round I was addressed by a
breathless waiter laden with plates. "Waar wou mynheer zitten?"

The shade was deepest under a noble elm, where at this instant I
spied an unoccupied seat close to the wooden paling that skirted the
enclosure. I didn't know what 'paling' was, but I chanced it, as there
was no time for the dictionary. "Naast de paling," I said, "als 't U

The impatient waiter nearly dropped his tray, but recovering himself
he vanished, and I took the seat myself. Another kellner appeared,--a
slow grave man in whose district was situated the attractive nook I
had been fortunate enough to secure. The day was broiling hot, as I
told you, and I thought I couldn't do better than begin with a little

I could have wished to study up my part a little; but as the slow
dignitary was already waiting, I asked for a "limoen en een glas
water." Having greeted my remark twice with "blief?" he drew himself up
and enquired if I wanted 'liemonade.'

"Geen kwestie van," I said, hauling out of my pocket the little fat
dictionary, that faithful companion of my wanderings. "Wacht even!" I
hurriedly turned up "squash"; for on the analogy of meloen I assumed
that 'lemoen' was all right for lemon. The verb squash was _moezen_;
the noun _moes_. This latter I chose, preferring the beverage
ready-made, if possible.

"Ja, kellner"--I said, "nu weet ik het al. Breng mij limoenmoes."

He raised his eyebrows and said: "Bedoelt mijnheer soms appelmoes?"

Apple squash? That seemed rather a good idea. It sounded like cider or

"Ja, best," I said; "breng mij een glas appelmoes, maar niet te sterk."

When he was gone to draw some of this mysterious beverage, who should
turn up but Enderby? He had been motoring; and was coming back from
Amsterdam when some pinion had given way, and he had to stop at the
Uitspanning for repairs. He came up to me and sat down saying: "Well,
O'Neill, you're a long way from home; how did you get here? What are
you taking this hot weather?"

"Indeed," said I, "I don't exactly know. It's apple-squash, or rather a
sort of apple lemonade,--cider, I believe."

"Ah," said he with surprise, "you talked English, I suppose?"

"Not at all,--not a word. I never speak English now. It was all Dutch."

"Then I tell you, you _have_ made progress with the language! For here
have I been in Holland for fifteen years, and I never even heard of
apple lemonade yet. To tell you the truth, I should not know how to ask
for it. My boy, I congratulate you on your linguistic enterprise!"

The waiter reappeared just then, and Enderby interposed, "Mynheer heeft
iets besteld, nietwaar? Wat is dat voor een drankje? Geen limonade?"

"Nee, menheer", said the waiter in a complaining tone, "volstrekt
niet, mynheer is wat vreemd, ziet u; want," and here his voice sank to
a horrified whisper, "menheer eet meloen met appelmoes!"

Enderby looked at me in speechless astonishment; while the waiter
murmured, perhaps as a further suggestion of guilt on my part: "We
hebbe geen paling!"

Matters had got so involved that I could not explain anything to him;
except to say that I had started with the intention of cooling my
thirst with lemon squash.

He was inclined to be huffy once more. "There you are at it again! Look
here now; do take some care about what you say. I'll get that drink for
you this time; and, for any sake if you want 'kwast' again, don't say
appelmoes. Indeed I strongly advise you to stick to English, or you
will get into worse trouble yet."

Enderby went off in high dudgeon, and I took a long ramble under the
trees. It was not long till I shook off the effects of my grammatical
skirmishes and began to enjoy the day to the full.

In point of fact I made several sketches, and returning in a couple of
hours had luncheon successfully. That was comparatively easy. I had
merely to say, "Koffie!--Kaas!"--and the meal was ready.

Being by this time a trifle tired, I conceived the idea of driving
back to the Hague, for it seemed too far to walk. In this design I was
encouraged by the presence of a considerable number of vehicles with
horses, standing about.

On examining my dictionary to get the Dutch idiom for 'drive home' I
discovered three curious translations for drive: 'rijden', 'drijven'
(used, I was informed, of ice) and 'jagen.'

Now seeing that 'rijden', meant 'to ride', and 'jagen,' to 'hunt,' and
the other word was restricted to icebergs, there really appeared to be
a lack of the precise term I needed.

Obliged thus to circumscribe my meaning, I rapped on my green table and
enquired, "Kellner, kan ik een paard hebben?"

The waiter mumbled inarticulately, coughed apologetically, and vanished
like a shadow.

Presently he came back with a red-faced man who seemed to be the
proprietor of the Uitspanning. What I wanted to say was, "Have you a
horse disengaged to drive me to the Hague!" but owing to the defective
character of the Dutch vocabulary this could not be said directly, and
I was obliged to go round the point.

I went round it thus: "Mag ik beleefd vragen, Mynheer, heeft U paarden
beschikbaar om my te dragen?"

This sounded diplomatic and neat, and was certainly clear; but the
apoplectic proprietor looked askance.

He paused and endeavoured to transfix me with his beady eyes and read
my inmost consciousness. This being impossible, he condescended to the
gruff question: "Wou meneer een peerd koope?"

"Koopen?" I replied in astonishment, "oh niet koopen! Gunst!
ashjeblieft niet."

"Raie dan?" was his brusque reply.

"Rijen, graag," I agreed; "gaarne rijden; maar--ik ben niet in staat
het paard terug te zenden. En ... en ik heb geen ruimte in mijn kamers
voor een paard."

"Wat dan?" said he rudely, with a kind of a dull glare in his black

I was getting into deep water--there was no use blinking the fact--and
here was this dreadful man growing more enraged and suspicious every
moment. Perhaps after all I could make something of those three
doubtful dictionary words. "Kan u niet," I asked with some asperity,
"kan oe niet, mijnheer, mij laten jagen naar den Haag?"

"O, hé!" exclaimed my interlocutor with a sudden access of interest and
a kind of wrinkle distantly resembling a smile. "Gaat mijnheer op de

Dear me, this is _too_ bad, I thought, for I saw people watching me
with a curious air of disapproval, and a good many more approaching.
Really I regretted I had not walked to the Hague.

But I was in for it now, and with all the sternness I could command I
explained sententiously, "Ik wensch een paard!--Om mij te trekken--in
een rijtuig--naar den Haag, Ferdinand Bolstraat 66a."

My horsey friend took a step nearer, his face ominously darkening and
the fierce eyes flashing fire. "Wat wou menheer eigenlijk? rijtuig
huren? of pérd koope!--of raie naar de stad?--of op de jacht gaan?--of
onzin praote?"

I was at my wit's end and deemed it wise to retire as soon as possible
from the conversation. This I tried to do by means of that agreeable
little triplet that had hitherto proved so useful to me.

"Och kom!" I said with a pleasant smile, "'t Geeft niets; het hindert
niet; het komt er niet op aan."

He was unappeased, however. So by way of friendly deprecation I added:
"Laa maar! Schei er uit.--Hè! zanik nou niet!"

This did not appreciably mend matters, I assure you.--At every sentence
I uttered his face grew more purple--and I was intensely relieved when
at that moment one of the interested bye-standers ran up hurriedly,
whip in hand, and touching his cap exclaimed: "Drive you to the Hague,
Sir?"--It was a cabdriver who spoke English!

Oh! I could have embraced that man!

"Yes," said I with effusion, "Yes, at once, please!--as quick as ever
you can!"

I jumped up on his vehicle and, as the vendor of peerden was still
hovering unpleasantly near, I ventured on one of those despised
French verbs--it was the only thing I could think of--to construct an
effective phrase for my exit.

"Mynheer Uitspanning!" I said waving him adieu, "ik zal U niet verder

Good-bye at last! There was a faint cheer from the score or two of
spectators, but no response from my late tormentor.

What a relief to get away from the intricacies of that dreadful

I was flurried and worn, and did not quite recover my equanimity or
feel properly cooled down till I was safely ensconced in my rooms in
Ferdinand Bolstraat 66a.




On settling down in my rooms, I was reminded of my social duties by
seeing a card from young Van der Leeuwen whom I had known at Trinity,
where he had studied a year.

Van der Leeuwen had called upon me more than once and had invited me to
his home. Up to this time I had not seen him since I came to the Hague.

To-day he had scribbled on a visiting card 'Leaving town soon for
Arnhem.' This showed me that his friendly visit should be returned as
soon as possible: so early next afternoon I journeyed across the city
to see him.

I found however that the house was shut up. The blinds were down and
the whole place hermetically sealed, so to speak.

On the door there was a singular notice, freshly pasted, which at once
arrested my attention and which I copied into my notebook.


  _Brieven en boodschappen
              te bezorgen bij
                  Mijnheer Hiernaast._"

Unhappily I had left my faithful companion, the dictionary, at home. I
was thus obliged to fall back upon my stock of Dutch learning and guess
what I did not know.

'Boodschappen' and 'bezorgen' were new words to me, but I seemed to
gather the general sense of the placard. If anybody wanted to see my
friend van der Leeuwen, or communicate with him, he appeared to be
invited to do so through the medium of a gentleman called "Hiernaast."
The curious thing was--no address was given to indicate whereabouts Mr.
Hiernaast lived.

Now this was very puzzling; for just that morning I had been shown how
particular you must be in Holland about addresses. As I had not given
word to the authorities when I moved from the hotel to my lodgings, I
had been summoned to the "Bevolkingsregisterbureau," and had to display
my "Geboorteacte."

Innumerable details had been asked of me about my name and initials
and about my parents' names and initials,--some of which I could not
satisfactorily write out.

The functionaries at the office, too, had appeared unnecessarily
amused when I told them that I lodged in Ferdinand Bolstraat above
a tinsmith's. On thinking it over afterwards I admit that perhaps I
had mixed the word tinsmith with lightning conductor. I was naturally
anxious to avoid the latter scientific term as much as possible; and my
over anxiety probably defeated itself.

At all events I was told at the Bureau that it was quite a serious
offence--a sort of mild treason--to move from my hotel to lodgings
without giving full information about the whole matter to the civic

Now, as everybody was so particular about addresses, I knew that van
der Leeuwen had more respect for the laws of his country than to be
guilty of intentional carelessness; and I was sure he would not try
to defy the state by pasting upon his door anything of the nature of
mockery. The notice _did_ look like this: "Out of town. If you want to
see me, go to Jericho;" but my friend would hardly have meant _that_.

I concluded therefore that Mr. Hiernaast's address was known to
everybody that read the notice, and that Mr. Hiernaast was some
prominent person like the Burgomaster or the Town-clerk.

Perhaps he would be an official who kindly looked after people's
letters when they were out of town. If so, a policeman would know all
about him. There was one passing at the moment, so I determined to
accost him and get what information I could.

Now Enderby and others had instructed me about policemen. You must
never say "Mijnheer" to a policeman; he doesn't like it, for he thinks
you are making game of him. That's where I had made the mistake before,
in the Hague wood. I learnt that his proper title is '_politieagent_'
or '_agent_'; the newspapers call him '_openbare macht_'. If he comes
from Amsterdam he will answer readily to _klabak_ or _smeeris_, though
he may prefer a more dignified title. He is known to the mob as a
'_diender_', but this is rather vulgar.

Naturally I wished to avoid the vulgar word and use a respectful term;
so stopping him I said, "Openbare Macht, verschoon mij,--zult gij mij
toestaan om U beleefd te verzoeken,--waar woont mijnheer Hiernaast?"

I guessed what he would do, and he did it. He stared at me for about
half a minute and then said, "Wah blief!"

"Oh," I responded, "duizendmaal vergiffenis, dat ik op...." And then I
stopped _just in time_, for it was on my tongue to finish the polite
sentence as I had repeated it so often from the conversation book--"dat
ik op Uwen teen getrapt heb."

It was well I didn't, for it didn't fit in at all accurately with the
situation. So I said, "Kijk nou is!"

"Mag ik zoo vrij zijn, Klabak?" I murmured courteously, showing him my
copy of the placard on the door, "Mijnheer Hiernaast--ziet u--_waar_
woont _hij_?"

Well, he couldn't have been more astonished if had reached him a
lighted bombshell.

Instead of meeting me with that ready sympathy I had been reckoning
upon, he was quite stiff. I however persisted courteously with my
question, "Ja, Openbare! wat zegt U, Smeeris? Woont mijnheer Hiernaast
in deze straat?"

Well, he wasn't a bit polite; or if he was, he must have been
singularly deficient in charm of manner, for he stared quite insolently
at me and grumbled, "Woujeme voor de gek houe?"

Woujeme, gekhoue? Didn't I know some of those words?

On considering this utterance of his I seemed to recognise "_woujeme_"
as an old friend. Wasn't that the introductory particle that was not in
the dictionary and which resembled the Latin 'nonne'? Then 'gek' was
remarkably like 'hek', which I knew to be 'gate'.

The landlady had always been talking about the 'hek' being open,--a
state of affairs which she strongly objected to, because dogs were in
the habit of strolling in and looking rudely at her through the kitchen

Now I knew that it would be the easiest thing in life for 'gek' to be
mistaken for 'hek'.

London policemen often drop h's in one place and put them in at
another. Why shouldn't a Hague policeman do something similar? You
could hardly expect a policeman to speak the language with absolute

So 'gek houwe' would probably be a common provincialism for 'hek
houden'. And I could easily guess, on the analogy of 'stalhouwer', what
hekhouwer' would mean. It would be, no doubt, a 'man that made and sold
gates'. '_Vóór den gekhouwe(r)_' would then be, as nearly as possible,
the idiom for 'in front of the gate factory.'

There was no gate factory in sight, so I continued pleasantly
making further enquiries of the policeman: "Voor den gekhouwer?--ja
zeker! asjeblieft! Maar--zoudt gy zoo goed willen zijn--mij mede te
deelen,--waar _woont_ die gekhouder? Woont hij _in deze straat_? De
gekkefabriek--waar is dat?"

I really pitied him, he looked so overwhelmed. Then he did something
wonderful that stayed all further parley. He turned his head away,
spread out both white-gloved hands, raised his shoulders slowly till
they were well up over his ears, then slowly let them down again to
their normal and natural position,--and all this without glancing at me.

It was an awe-inspiring spectacle,--apparently some kind of military
drill to repel idle questions. I could only utter "'t Geeft niets--'t
hindert niet--het komt er niet op aan! Doe geen moeite, Smeeris!" But
he turned upon his heel and walked away without even saying 'Vaarwel'!

Alas, I had failed again! I had displeased the Openbare Macht and had
not got a hint as to the address of the official receiver of letters.

All this was more than usually mysterious, so I tried to extract some
information from the landlady that evening.

"Waar woont Mijnheer Hiernaast?" I said to her casually after dinner.

"Hiernáást, mijnheer," she replied with strong emphasis on the _naast_.

"Oh I don't mind putting the accent on the final," I murmured to
myself. "Goed. Best.--Dan, waar _woont_ Mijnheer Hiernáást?"

"Hiernáást," she repeated, pointing through the wall!

Had the good woman lost her senses? Or was she trying to make fun of
me? In either case I did not quite care to prolong the conversation.
"Lamaar", I interjected, "het heeft niets te beduiden--schei er
uit,--zanik nou niet". And I must say that effectually stopped her.

The mystery was solved that same evening by Enderby, who dropped in
about half past ten.

We talked over a number of things and, as Enderby was quite himself
again after our little tiff at the 'Uitspanning', I just said, "Do you
happen to know of the _Hiernaasts_ in the Hague?"

"People called Hiernaast", I explained, as he seemed not to catch
my meaning. "They appear to be rather well-known. The father I think
is a Government Official--a member of the Tweede-Kamer, I imagine,
or something of that sort. I'm told he lives opposite a large
gate-factory. The queer thing about the family is that, if you ask
about them, everybody gives you a silly answer.

"Is he not in society, or what? Is his name like the word for
lightning? May I not refer to him?"

"O'Neill", exclaimed Enderby, rising suddenly off his seat, "you are
surely not quite well!"

"What is it?" he said, "were you out long in the sun? That _appelmoes_
must have gone to your head! Tell me all that happened to you."

I told him the whole day's adventures; and then I learnt that Mijnheer
Hiernaast is--not necessarily an Official of the Government or a member
of the Tweede Kamer; indeed that he is no particular person at all;
but--_just the gentleman who lives next door to you, wherever you
happen to be_.

Well; that's easy enough, when you know it. But when you don't, what
are you to do?




You will remember that the day I was at Simplex I took some sketches.
Well, I bundled these up along with some really exquisite water-colours
that I purchased at an art-shop, and I sent them to Ireland.

Yes, I bought these pictures without pain. The vendor of these objects
of art spoke perfect English; it was a delight to hear him. So pleased
was I with my purchases, that I hastened home, there and then, and
adding my own artistic treasures, made a little square package of it
all for my aunt Rebecca in Connemara, Killery Bay,--a place renowned
for its beautiful sunsets and splendid salmon.

My aunt is artistic--she herself used to draw when she was young--and
I knew that nothing would please her better, as a present from Holland,
than a number of carefully chosen water-colours.

Glowing with affectionate enthusiasm at the prospect of giving my aunt
so agreeable a surprise, I made my way to the post-office and tried to
send off my package.

An obliging official addressed me in English.

"Oh, then", he said glancing at the address and weighing my bundle
in his hand, "this will cost you about six guilders if it goes as a
letter, but, if it is a book it will cost you two guilders and a half.
But as it appears to be neither a book nor a letter, I should advise
you to send it by 'pakketpost'; the cost will be under a guilder.
Please fill in these papers." And he reached me a dark red paper and
a flimsy white one both of which were dotted all over with Dutch and
French hard words with spaces after them to be filled in.

I retired to a little desk and did my best,--stating that I, Jack
O'Neill, aged so and so, sent one brown package of expensive
water-colour pictures, some pencil-sketches and one pen-and-ink
drawing, value unknown, to Miss Rebecca Fitzgerald O'Neill, (zonder
beroep), Warlin Castle Killery Bay, Ireland, on the 21st of Aug.,
19--. I added some other things here and there in the columns and gave
this report to the official. "Not in order," he said politely, "you
must put stamps on the package, with wax."

"Stamps," he added, touching it all round, "sealed with sealing wax."

"Oh, indeed!" I said. "Sorry to give you so much trouble. Many thanks!"
And I carried my bundle to a neighbouring stationer's.

The stationer was not at home, and his temporary assistant was a youth
that did not know English; but I borrowed an Engelsch-Hollandsch
WoordenBoek from him and instituted a search for _wax_. After some
little trouble occasioned by the words 'was' and 'honigraat', I settled
down comfortably on the word 'lak'; and then the stationer's boy and
I got on quite nicely together. He helped me most willingly, and made
all sorts of suggestions. We secured a candle and constructed two great
seals, of red wax, as if was for the Lord Chancellor; and I returned to
the Post-Office triumphant.

There was a new 'ambtenaar' on duty, the English-speaking one having
apparently gone to luncheon.

"Mag ik beleefd verzoeken?" I said; "Zeker in orde?"

"Nee mijnheer", he replied "volstrekt niet in orde! Er moeten vijf
zegels op zijn--vijf."

The bundle seemed safe enough to go half round the world! But he knew
the rules; and I submitted accordingly, went back to the stationer and
put five more seals on the packet, thus making the number seven in all.

On presenting my carefully prepared 'pakje' in the post-office I felt
confident enough that it was right. "Nu, mijnheer, het is zeker klaar?"

The functionary was also disposed to think that all was as it ought to
be and seemed at first to be satisfied.

He nodded approval; and gave me a friendly official smile; but
suddenly--as he was laying the curious object aside--his eye caught the
seal I had used, and his face fell. The seal was a very simple affair,
having been impressed from the back of a guilder--a beautiful new
specimen that I was reserving for show when I should return to Trinity.

"Nee, mijnheer", he said sharply. "Heelemaal niet goed! Het moet een
werkelijk zegel zijn--met letters--Uw naam!" And he drew imaginary
initials on the blotting-paper with his thumb.

"Neen maar!--Mijnheer!" I exclaimed.

Words failed to come to my relief. I could think of nothing to say
but "_Gunst!_" and in the circumstances this sounded too like a curse
to venture upon. Presently however I recalled something under cover
of which I could retire: "Het spijt mij erg--ik ben verbaasd--dank u

I went away sincerely regretting that I had begun this business at all.
Fortunately when I hunted up the stationer once more, the man himself
was at home; and after infinite rummaging in remote drawers he got me a
seal with the letters N. J.,--which was a trifle like Jack O'Neill, if
you read it backwards.

As that was the nearest approach I could get to my initials, and as no
time was to be lost, we melted down another stick of red sealing-wax,
and stamped the package over with seven gigantic seals, N. J.

I put on _seven_, though the official only demanded five, for I had an
undefined fear that something would be wrong again. Meantime the 'get
up' of the parcel was growing more impressive and unusual. The effect
of the big letters of the seal was specially fine, the red bundle now
looking as if it were bound for New Jersey.

Then in fear and trembling I made for the post-office again.

My tormentor appeared to be appeased. Ah yes, at last the letters were
all right.

"Uitstekend, mijnheer," he said. And he quite beamed upon me.

"Nu de formulieren, asjeblieft."

Oh, the papers, of course! I had quite forgotten about them by this
time. Fortunately I hadn't lost them; so I handed him both documents.
He took them up, smiling benignly on the foreigner who had managed
to surmount so many obstacles; but alas! his satisfaction--and mine
too--were of short duration. He frowned impatiently at the brown paper.
"Nee, mijnheer," he growled; "niet goed!" And he pushed papers and
package and all to me, as if he was mortally offended.

"Hé, mijnheer!" I ejaculated--"Hoe is dat? Kom toch! Wat is niet goed?"

"Geen zegel! geen zegel!" he thundered magisterially, with a
contemptuous toss of the brown _formulier_ in my direction. Like a
shot he turned to a schoolboy of fourteen at my elbow, (who had
meantime been studying my writings and reading them audibly to his
companions)--"En U?" he enquired.

I felt dismissed, if not disgraced! And no investigation of my
belongings could throw any light on my blunder. The brown manuscript
was at fault I knew; so, as the best thing possible I entered a solemn
declaration, opposite the hiernevens, "_een pakje met 7 zegels_",
and booked the same remark on a convenient spot on the white paper.
This done, I returned to the charge promptly, but with much inward
apprehension. The cue of people pushing forward to buy stamps and send
things away and generally to transact business, had grown to a long
line nearly to the door. Humbly I took my place at the end of the file,
about twenty minutes off the ambtenaar. It wasn't quite twenty minutes,
but it felt longer; for every now and then the ambtenaar glanced up,
when he had served a customer, and his eye invariably fell on me.
It was a long-drawn-out agony, that approach to the _loket_, under
official inspection, so to speak; and I had plenty of time to register
a silent bet with myself that the authorities were not done with me.
They'd be sure to give me another journey to the stationer's.

And so they did! Without deigning to look at my official guarantee
about the 7 _zegels_ the Postal Radamanthus began with vitriolic
self-restraint: "Ik--heb--U--gezegd. Er--moet--een zegel--op."

"Oh mynheer!" I burst out in hot indignation, "Hoe _kunt_ U dat zeggen?
Kijk! Het is allemaal zegels!" And indeed the parcel was almost
completely coated with wax.

A spasm passed over his face, and he controlled himself by a severe
effort. "Ik--heb--U--al--meer maal--gezegd"--His voice rose higher and
higher, and he bit off the words as if they were poison. "Hier moet de
afdruk van het zegel komen.--Hierr!" And he waved a white hand over the
coloured _formulier_ and finally dropped his thumb, like a pancake,
over a lozenge-shaped diagram filled with Dutch and French words.

Ah yes! Just so. Now I saw what was wanted, and I departed speechlessly
to the sealing-wax-shop again.

By this time I was quite domesticated there: so I took a good rest and
then put on a formidable seal on the lozenge. In half an hour I was
back again on the premises of Rhadamanthus, at the end of another
cue, wondering if I could reach the _loket_ before it would be closed
for the day. You see all that marching to and fro, and arguing with
officials, and cooking sealing-wax, and waiting your turn in a crowd,
swallows up an immensity of time.

At last I was before the little window and handed in the documents.
"Ja, ja. De zegel is in orde!"

"_In orde_, mijnheer!" he added with a cherubic smile. "Best."
"Maar--maar wat hebben we hier?" he muttered as he perused my
other remarks on the papers. He appeared somewhat nonplussed by my
_opmerkingen_ as to the contents of package, and ran his pen through
all my art criticisms; then suddenly said roughly. "Heet U Rebecca

This was so unexpected a query that it threw me off my guard and I
answered in English.

"Do I hate her? Oh no. On the contrary, I am sincerely attached to her.
But why do you ask?"

He said "Exkuseer" and called another ambtenaar--one who talked
English. This new functionary opened fire at once, "Sir, is your name
Rebecca O'Neill?"

"Bless my heart", I said; "Not at all. That's my aunt."

"In that case, sir, you have sent the package to yourself, and filled
in the declarations all wrongly".

"Is there _no_ way," I said in despair, "to send this thing off? I have
been all morning labouring at it, and I can't get rid of it. Would you
mind accepting it as a gift--just a little friendly gift, you know, as
a token of my appreciation of the post-office arrangements? Or would
there be any objection to my leaving it here lying on your desk? It's
quite harmless; perhaps even elegant--that depends on taste--but I
don't care for it any more! It's no further use to me. Will you have

"Oh hé! you mean it is of no value?"

"No value--not the least", I said, glad to see a chance of disposing of

"Then you can send it off as, well--what we call--_Monster zonder
waarde_--monster--monster--I remember not your English word?"

"Oh," said I, "it is all right as it is. You don't need it translated.
'Monster' is quite good English--and very expressive."

"Then," said he; "that is it--_Worthless Monster_. _That_ must you
write--on the package. Then will it cost you a dubbeltje; and it will
go off at once. No wax will be needed, and no papers. No trouble of any

"I am delighted with your kindness," said I to him. "You have relieved
my mind."

"Will you put the name on it now?" he enquired courteously, reaching
me his own pen from behind his ear. "Please write legibly the English
declaration. I shall do the Dutch for you. It must be plain."

"If you don't mind," I said, "as you are so kind, might I ask you just
to write both English and Dutch?"

A glance had shown me that these curious words would have to come
uncomfortably near my aunt's name; and as my aunt is rather a
particular old lady with very definite notions about her own dignity,
I judged it prudent that this title of distinction with which she was
going to be invested should be drawn up in other handwriting than her
nephew's. She had a hawk's eye and could detect every scratch I made
with the pen.

"If it's not too much trouble, please put the whole declaration on it
yourself. You'll find a place here", I said, turning over the unsightly
object. "There's a little room left here, I think--just beside the

He looked it all over. It was quite true. The parcel was all a mass of
red wax and "N. J.'s" except round about the address, where we had
kept the wax well off it for fear of infringing some other regulation.

"English first!" he said, making use of the vacant space.

And in Roman letters just after my aunt's name he boldly penned the
mystic words, first in English, and then, in brackets, in Dutch. This
is how it ran:


      =Worthless Monster (zonder waarde),=


                    KILLERY BAY

    IRELAND            CONNEMARA.

After that I wouldn't touch the parcel.

I declined all further responsibility in connection with it; and,
leaving it with him, retired, as from a good day's work.

As I knew my aunt, I felt sure she would appreciate the delicate
compliment implied by the proximity of the postal notice to her name.

This indeed proved the case, when I visited her later in the autumn. I
draw a veil over our interview; but happily my aunt is fond of a joke,
and when I told her my adventures of that morning, she laughed as she
had not done for years, until I flattered myself she had forgotten the
queer declaration on her package.

At the end, however, she suddenly drew herself up and, raising a
reproving finger, said, "Well, it wasn't _your_ writing! or I shouldn't
let you off so easily, Jack. But what kind of a functionary was that,
now, who would dare, in your presence, to insult your aunt?"

"In my young days a lad of spirit would have _called out_ a villain
like that,--yes, or a fellow that ventured on the twentieth part of
such an atrocity!"

"Jack, Jack, where's your chivalry?"

"Calm yourself, my dear aunt," I retorted. "Its only that you don't
catch the niceties of a translation. But you'll pick that up soon
enough if you go over with me to the Hague next year."

"_Never_", said my aunt firmly.




"You must not suppose," said O'Neill, after I had expressed my
commiseration, "that I was always unsuccessful in my conversations
and business transactions. On the contrary I have sometimes surprised
myself and everybody else by the (shall I say?) aptness and readiness
of my utterance--not to speak of its delicacy and point.

You smile? But listen.

This was certainly the case one day when I had an interview with an
elegant young man who came to me from the Bevolkings Register Bureau.

That is the place where the authorities give themselves so much
needless trouble about your address and initials, and where I had
broken the law of the land by mixing up the tinsmith with the

Well a representative of this Departement of State called upon me two
days running, when I was out. The last time he came he left word that
he would return next morning at 10.30 sharp; and would I please give
him an interview?

I thought it wise to do so.

That unhappy blunder of mine might get me into trouble. Perhaps the
officials of the Bevolkings office were going to prosecute me for
conspiring to deceive the government. At all events I would be at home
at 10.30; and, more than that, I would be ready for my visitor when he

I rose about six, and prepared for the proposed conversation as a
barrister prepares his brief.

As the man who talks most has generally the situation in his own hand,
I determined to keep the greater part of the conversation to myself.
All the likely sentences that could possibly be of avail I copied out
of the phrase-book on a sheet of foolscap. Some new expressions and
idioms were added, and committed as thoroughly as possible to memory.

And, by the way, I made use of a fresh discovery--a number of
_algemeene opmerkingen_ from the end of the grammar.

These were on the same lines as the material in the phrase-book, but
much more learned. They were for advanced students (I was rather
advanced now, so to speak,) and they had a distinct literary and
scientific flavour. I went over all these, aloud--my old and favourite
plan--so as to gain fluency and facility in uttering them.

Furthermore, not being able to trust my memory absolutely--there was a
lot of new stuff to be mastered, you see,--I hit upon a plan to lead
the conversation and keep it upon topics of my own choosing.

My strategem was of uncommon simplicity, but admirably effective for
all that.

On my table I erected a kind of informal reading-desk composed of books
and magazines; then in a hollow of this edifice, out of sight, I placed
my manuscript notes where they could easily catch my eye. Two chairs I
set carefully in position--one for myself beside my fortress, the other
for my visitor in the middle of the room in a good clear light.

Then I awaited results.

At half past ten o'clock sharp there came a ring to the hall-door;
and, ushered by the obsequious landlady, in walked a young fellow
fashionably dressed, with languid manners and a general air being bored
with life. He carried a portfolio gracefully under his arm.

Without waiting for him to begin, I went up to him the moment he
entered, and shook him cordially by the hand, I relieved him of his
umbrella--he had one though the weather was fine; and as his other hand
was thus partially released, I shook it with no less heartiness.

"Blijdschap, mijnheer!" I began, "Blijdschap en vreugde! Het verblijdt
mij zeer--U te ontmoeten! Mag ik U verzoeken Uw jas af te zetten. Wat?

As the day was burning hot and he wore no overcoat, I didn't insist
upon this.

"Zij het zoo, myn waarde!--Neem een stoel," I continued. "Ga zitten, ik
bid U. Het is aangenaam weer.--Volstrekt niet koud--neen--niet koud."

This was well within the mark, for it was 89° in the shade.

My Dutch seemed to surprise him for he said feebly "Dag--Sir--Yes--I
mean--O ja."

I saw he was just the kind of young man that I could have a pleasant
talk with. But it was now time I got back to my notes. Before sitting
down however, I asked to take charge of his hat.

"Handig mij Uw hoed over!" I said, reaching for it. When he hesitated,
I put him at his ease with an "alstjeblieft; toe dan! toe!"

Though there was an interval of a second or two whilst I was getting
behind my barricade he was too astonished to utter a sound, either in
Dutch or in English. I perceived my advantage and intended to keep it.

"Mag ik u iets aanbieden?" I said with a wave of the hand, throwing in
some nonsense out the grammar.

"Wat gebruikt U?--ah--hm--Een--_voorzetsel_, bijvoorbeeld?--of--de
gebiedende wijs--of--een bijvoeglijk naamwoord? Wat--niets?"

As he still said nothing, I pointed him to my cupboards, by happy
inspiration remembering the refrain of the vendor of eatables at one of
the stations, "Bierr, limonade, spuitwater?" adding--"Bitterkoekjes en
ijskoud bier; of--een amandel broodje?"

It was well he didn't accept, for I had none of these dainties in the
house; but it sounded friendly to offer them.

"Of," I put in, sinking my voice to a confidential whisper, "Spreekt U
liever over de Nieuwe Electrische Tramweg? Wel, dan.--Het publiek wordt
gewaarschuwd het personeel niet in gesprek te houden."

Very faintly came the reply, as he moved restlessly on the edge of his
chair, "Mynheer, ik kwam niet om de Tramweg."

"Neen?" I said. "Goed. Best. Ik neem het ook niet kwalijk, mijnheer!
ik bid U welkom!--Het doet mij genoegen, na al het ongunstige weer van
verleden week, U zoo goed en wel te zien."

The weather had been quite hot; but this was one of the good phrases of
the book, and I stuck to it.

All this appeared to increase his panic, and he glanced at the door
more than once as if he would like to make a bolt for safety.

Now I was quite in my element, and from my palissade of books I could
hurl all sorts of irrelevant politenesses at him.

"Ik verwelkom U oprechtelijk, mijnheer. U bezoek is mij oorzaak van
ongeveinsde blijdschap."

Holding the portfolio clenched in both hands he stared at me as if he
was incapable of speech.

This seemed a favourable opportunity for putting in an _algemeene
opmerking_, which I must say had all the effect of a round shot after
infantry fire.

"Deugden en belooning gaan zelden te zamen," I murmured pleasantly,
with a friendly gesture of deprecation. Then in a second or two
afterwards I added,--leaving him to find out the connection as best he
might,--"Water bevriest op twee-en-dertig graden."

The more outrageous the nonsense which I repeated from my notes, the
paler he got.

He seemed to measure the distance between his seat and the door; but I
rose and walked about the room, repeating softly to myself such phrases
as I knew well, no matter what meaning they might have--"Lamaar! pas
op! niet pluis, hoor!--'t komt er niet op aan!"

Some midges were buzzing about the room. I pointed to them saying
"akelige beesten, nie waar?" And making a sudden spring towards one
that was approaching his head I impaled it, or rather smashed it, in
the approved fashion between my hands. The fragments of the insect I
displayed to him on my palm adding triumphantly; "Dood als een pier."
He was ready to go.

Laying at last a fatherly hand upon his shoulder I genially enquired,
"Vergun my te vragen, jongeling,--hoe is het--met uwe--achtenswaardige

"O ja, mijnheer", he said in a breathless whisper. "Ja zeker, mijnheer.
Dank U zeer--Ik moet weg, sir. Ik heb belet--thuis--Ik moet weg--Ik zal
het U zenden."--

And he was gone! gone, too, without his hat!

I was left master of the field.

Ringing the bell, I rushed to the landing and called after him,
"Duizendmaal vergiffenis, Bevolkings Mijnheer!--Uw hoed!"

But that hurried him only the more swiftly down those steep stairs;
and I was sincerely glad to observe that the landlady, like a good
goal-keeper, had stopped him at the door, where they entered into
earnest colloquy.

I had won this conversational contest; and half my ammunition was not
yet expended!

Eight polite sentences and about a dozen 'algemeene opmerkingen'
remained unused, besides two general topics--'boomkweekerij' and

But what did he mean by 'Ik zal het U zenden?' What was it that he
meant to send? I devoutly hoped there would be no further difficulty
about my address, and was just trusting I had escaped, when the
landlady entered with the words, "Hij moet zijn hoed hebbe." Then, as
she took it in her hand, she added "Mijnheer zegt, dat het niet veilig
in huis is--niet veilig, zegt mijnheer!"

"Hij vraagt ook wat de groote letter is vóór O'Neill? Of het een J of
een I of een T of een F of een Y is, niemand op het kantoor kan het
uitmaken, Uw handschrift is zoo onduidelijk, zegt mijnheer."

Relieved to see there was nothing worse, I went to some old copies of
the 'Nieuws van den Dag,' which were lying carefully folded up on the
side-table, and with a pair of scissors cut out a J from the word Juli,
pasted it hastily on a sheet of notepaper and wrote underneath it, 'Met
veel complimenten--en de groeten.'

Yes; the interview was decidedly successful.

Yet it pales before the fame I once got by a single sentence, just
outside de Beurs-station, in Rotterdam.

I was pounced upon by an army of porters; they had seized me and my
bag, and were quarrelling loudly. I said "Hush" to the worst of them,
but one brawny rascal was inclined to be insolent, and I was put upon
my mettle.

"Ik bid U--houd Uwen bek," I said--"anders,"--and here I glanced round
for a policeman, "anders--roep ik--de Openbare Macht."

The man ran like a hare.

I pride myself that there was dignity and firmness, courtesy and local
colour all in that one sentence.

And I find that it is still much admired.




The gentleman from the Bevolkings Register Bureau had left his umbrella
behind him in his hurried departure that Thursday morning, so I sent
it back to him with a polite note. It would have been easy to write
the polite note in English, but that would never do. After my success
in carrying on a long conversation in Dutch I felt that a lapse into
English would be a confession of weakness.

My reputation as a linguist could only be maintained by a real Dutch
letter. Now the phrase book gave but little light on the vast subject
of correspondence. Except a brief note acknowledging the arrival of a
ton of coals, and a still briefer note accepting, in the third person,
a formal invitation to dinner, there was nothing about letter-writing
in the volume.

It was not easy to find any phrases out of these epistles suitable for
working in to my note about the umbrella.

They were valuable as examples, merely for the general rhythm and
style, as it were, and then only to a slight extent. As my missive was
of a _genre_ quite distinct from these models, I felt justified in
composing it in my own way.

I wrote the letter first in English; then set about translating it, as
elegantly as I could, into Dutch.

Here is the English--quite friendly, you see.

        _Dear Sir_,

  _As you left your umbrella behind on Thursday morning when you did me
  the honour to call, I beg to send it to you by bearer, in the hope
  that it may reach you safely without delay._

  _Trusting that its absence may have occasioned you no inconvenience,
  I remain, dear sir,_

            _Very truly yours
                      Jack O'Neill._

As a beginning, the phrase-book gave Hooggeachte Heer and
Hoogedelgestrenge Heer, and many more very official-looking titles. It
gave 'mijnheer' for 'sir'; but for 'dear sir' nothing at all.

Seeing, however, that _dear_ was _lief_ or _dierbaar_, I could easily
make out a form of friendly address:--'Dierbare mijnheer' or briefly

It was a toss up, indeed whether to take the stiff title Hooggeachte
Heer (for Hoogedelgestrenge Heer seemed too much of a good thing for a
note about an umbrella) or this more affectionate but somewhat doubtful

I finally decided on a combination, one at the beginning and one at the

I sailed along quite comfortably until I arrived at his '_doing me
the honour to call_'. This required hammering out; and when I had
tortured myself a long time over it, here is what I got: 'wanneer
gij mij vereerdet door het bij mij eene visite afleggen'. Dreadfully
round-about, you perceive! So I just fell back upon brevity, and
trusted to luck to carry me safely through. 'Op mij te roepen', sounded
terse and likely; and I chose it to avoid worse pitfalls with _door_
and the infinitive.

As '_I beg_' had a brusque ring, I made it a trifle mellower and more
courteous by the helpful and familiar 'verschoon mij'. 'Verschoon mij,
dat ik bedel,' I could not improve on _that_.

But the proper division of 'overhandigen' into its component parts was
not easy.

To get the right 'hang' of this sentence, I forcibly detached the
'over', and dragged this harmless voorzetsel well forward so as not
to impede the action of its own particular verb, when you got so far.
This much improved the rhythm; and I gave myself some freedom in the
phrasing to keep up the style.

Indeed, after all, two or three bits of phrases could be worked in.
'Goedige aanblikken' caught my eye somewhere. I was delighted to have
a kind of equivalent for _kind regards_; and eschewing the temptation
to deviate into 'zuiverlijk' for _sincerely_, or 'vertrouwelijk' for
_faithfully_, I finished with simple directness using 'waarachtig' for
_truly_. This I afterwards thought of changing to waarempeltjes as
being less formal.

Finally, to give a neat turn to the whole, I dropped in a sentence from
the conversation-manual, so as to refer with a light but artistic touch
to the broiling weather.

Thus the finished product assumed the following form:

      Hooggeachte Heer!

Aangezien dat gij in mijn zaal laatsten Donderdag morgen Uwen
regenscherm vergegeten hebt, op den datum dat gij mij de eer deedt om
op mij te roepen, en visite af te leggen, verschoon mij dat ik bedel
het geabandoneerde voorwerp beleefd over aan UEdele te handigen door
den drager dezes briefs.

Ik bemerkt niet eerstelijk dat de regenscherm de Uwe was; dus ik
vertrouw dat gij wilt pardoneeren al het verdriet dat zijne afwezigheid
veroorzaakt hebben moge.

Hoe heerlijk dat het gunstige weer van gisteren en onlangs gestadig
blijft! Ik hoop van harte dat U ervan heerlijk geniet.

Koesterende den hoop dat de regenscherm zonder oponthoud U goed en wel
zal bereiken,

                                        Ik blijf,
                                      met goedige aanblikken,
                                      waarachtig de Uwe,
                                            JACK O'NEILL.


Op hoogst geestige wijze vertelde de Heer BROWN van des heeren
O'Neill onverstoorbaren ijver om Hollandsch te willen spreken, en
de honderden bokken, die de Brit schoot, deden de toehoorders soms
onbedaarlijk lachen, vooral zijn kennismaking met den heer van het
bevolkingsregisterbureau, zijn onderhoud met de waschvrouw bij het
opmaken der waschlijst, zijn uitstapje naar den Haag, de wijze waarop
hij "Have jou pens" vertaalde, en de manier waarop hij zich in
verschillende winkels trachtte duidelijk te maken waren hoogst amusant.
Maar vooral de teekening van hetgeen daarbij voorviel en was op te
merken, gaf ons humor te hooren, zooals we die slechts vinden bij

                        _Het Nieuws van Zeist en Driebergen._

In de kleine zaal van het concertgebouw heeft de Heer J. IRWIN BROWN,
die reeds den vorigen winter met groot succes hier ter stede een paar
lezingen hield, een volle zaal vaak tot schier onbedaarlijk lachen
gedwongen, door zijn lezing. En de velen die hem hoorden en zich af
en toe tranen lachten, hebben den redenaar door warme toejuichingen
beloond voor het genot hun verschaft,

                                          _Alg. Handelsblad._

De typische manier, waarop de Heer BROWN het Hollandsch uitsprak,
alsmede zijn kalm maar hoogst humoristische wijze van voordragen "deed
't hem." De talrijke aanwezigen gierden het telkens uit van 't lachen,
sommige gevallen waren bepaald ook uiterst amusant.

Hun die nog niet het genoegen hadden de Heer BROWN te hooren, kunnen
wij zeer aanbevelen zulks te gaan doen.


Behalve zijn liefde voor de Engelsche literatuur, bezit de Heer BROWN
ook den kostelijken humor die zoo speciaal Britsch is, dien humor
zonder eenige pretentie, maar daarom juist zoo onweerstaanbaar.

Verslag te geven van deze voordracht is ondoenlijk. Men moet die zelf
hooren om mee te schateren van 't lachen.

                                   _Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad._

Dms. BROWN heeft ook ditmaal weder veel succes gehad en wij zouden
niet weten wat meer te prijzen: zijn schoone "dictie" van verzen, of
de geestige manier, waarop hij "a Briton's Difficulties in mastering
Dutch" behandelde. Het laatste bracht de lachspieren heftig in beweging
en bij elken "blunder" van den Brit schaterde het publiek het uit.

Van harte hopen wij, dat het Haarlemsche publiek het volgend jaar nog
eens in de gelegenheid zal worden gesteld dezen begaafden spreker te

                                       _Haarlemsche Courant._

"... Aan velen in den lande zijn de stukjes, hier in een bundel
verzameld, reeds bekend, want de Heer BROWN heeft ze op verschillende
plaatsen voorgedragen. In een aantal recensies van die voordrachten
wordt gewag gemaakt van het onbedaarlijk gelach, dat de voordrager er
mee verwekte. Het is ons bij de lezing niet anders vergaan. We konden
ons telkens niet houden van het lachen. Het boekje is inderdaad vol
onweerstaanbare vis comica."

                                   _Nieuwe Rotterd. Courant._

... Van af de eerste tot de laatste bladzijde spreekt er uit het boekje
een schat van gezonden, ongezochten humor, afgewisseld door tal van
rake opmerkingen, over misbruiken in onze spreektaal binnengeslopen en
zoo geacclimatiseerd, dat we ze nauwelijks meer bemerkten. Zelfs NURKS
zaliger nagedachtenis zou het bezit van lachspieren gemerkt hebben,
wanneer hem ooit de conversatie tusschen O'NEILL en den heer van 't
bevolkingsregister ware medegedeeld.

Als 't waar is, dat lachen een genezenden invloed op zieken uitoefent,
wagen we "An Irishman's difficulties with the Dutch language" als
universeel-geneesmiddel aan te bevelen, op gevaar af, ons schuldig te
maken aan onbevoegd uitoefenen der geneeskunde....

                                              _De Telegraaf._

... Het is een boekje vooral geschikt voor kniesooren en
droefgeestigen. Ze zullen er van opknappen.

                                            _De Nederlander._

... Laten ze lachen om het prachtige Hollandsche waschlijstje, om
den bliksemafleider en om de "kwast" in het cafétje, allen tot
mistificaties worden, lachen om zooveel andere dingen, als de
moeilijkheden met den postambtenaar, bij het verzenden van een
postpakketje of het gesprek met den man van het bevolkingsregister,
lachen om het kostelijke briefje waarmee het boekje besluit....

                                       _"De Nieuwe Courant"._

Opmerkingen van de bewerker

Cursieve tekst is aangegeven met _underscores_, en vet met =tekens=.

De kopteksten van het oorspronkelijke boek zijn gebruikt als

Duidelijke fouten met leestekens zijn stilzwijgend verbeterd. De
nummering van hoofdstuk 11 en 12 (oorspronkelijk 12 en 13) is
gecorrigeerd. Bovendien zijn de volgende veranderingen aangebracht,
op bladzij

    7 "change" in "chance" (There is no chance of practice unless you
      get away)

   16 "Incorrigble" in "Incorrigible" (interposed the First Year

   17 "des" in "yes" ("Oh, yes", said O'Neill with some show of

   29 "pakage" in "package" (errand-boy entered with a package which he)

   33 "dont" in "don't" (I don't care)


   41 "if" in "of" (which of course must be right)

   43 "word" in "words" (A few other words I got with comparative ease)

   49 "own" in "now" (at a loss now and again)

   51 "exclained" in "exclaimed" (he exclaimed with delight)

   52 "inte" in "into" (and you'll get into no end of trouble)

   55 "brillantly" in "brilliantly" (The plan was brilliantly

   57 "seen" in "seem" (those horrid expressions that you seem so fond

   61 "myterious" in "mysterious" (draw some of this mysterious

   66 "metters" in "matters" (This did not appreciably mend matters)

   76 "exclained" in "exclaimed" (exclaimed Enderby, rising suddenly off
      his seat)

   81 "exlaimed" in "exclaimed" ("Neen maar!--Mijnheer!" I exclaimed.)


   90 "unsuccesful" in "unsuccessful" (that I was always unsuccessful in
      my conversations)

   93 "delarations" in "declarations" (and filled in the declarations
      all wrongly".)

   97 "Layng" in "Laying" (Laying at last a fatherly hand upon his

   97 "amunition" in "ammunition" (and half my ammunition was not yet

  100 "Registers" in "Register" (The gentleman from the Bevolkings
      Register Bureau)

  112 "onderhond" in "onderhoud" (zijn onderhoud met de waschvrouw).

Andere eigenaardigheden en inconsequenties in spelling en grammatica
zijn niet gewijzigd, zoals bijvoorbeeld het afwisselend gebruik van "y"
en "ij", en het gebruik van afbrekingsstreepjes en aanhalingstekens.

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