Then, turning to Ben, the host talked with him in English of the fine old Belgian city. Among other things he told the origin of its name. Ben had been taught that Antwerp was derived from ae'nt werf (on the wharf), but Mynheer van Gend gave him a far more interesting derivation.
It appears that about three thousand years ago, a great giant, named Antigonus, lived on the river Scheld, on the site of the present city of Antwerp. This giant claimed half the merchandise of all navigators who passed his castle. Of course, some were inclined to oppose this simple regulation. In such cases, Antigonus, by way of teaching them to practice better manners next time, cut off and threw into the river the rights hands of the merchants. Thus handwerpen (or hand-throwing), changed to Antwerp, came to be the name of the place. The escutcheon or arms of the city has two hands upon it; what better proof than this could one have of the truth of the story, especially when one wishes to believe it!
When Mynheer van Gend had related in two languages this story of Antwerp, he was tempted to tell other legends--some in English, some in Dutch; and so the moments, borne upon the swift shoulders of gnomes and giants, glided rapidly away toward bedtime.
It was hard to break up so pleasant a party, but the Van Gend household moved with the regularity of clockwork. There was no lingering at the threshold when the cordial "Good night!" was spoken. Even while our boys were mounting the stairs, the invisible household fairies again clustered around them, whispering that system and regularity had been chief builders of the master's prosperity.
Beautiful chambers with three beds in them were not to be found in this mansion. Some of the rooms contained two, but each visitor slept alone. Before morning, the motto of the party evidently was, "Every boy his own chrysalis," and Peter, at least, was not sorry to have it so.
Tired as he was, Ben, after noting a curious bell rope in the corner, began to examine his bedclothes. Each article filled him with astonishment--the exquisitely fine pillow spread trimmed with costly lace and embroidered with a gorgeous crest and initial, the dekbed cover (a great silk bag, large as the bed, stuffed with swan's down), and the pink satin quilts, embroidered with garlands of flowers. He could scarcely sleep for thinking what a queer little bed it was, so comfortable and pretty, too, with all its queerness. In the morning he examined the top coverlet with care, for he wished to send home a description of it in his next letter. It was a beautiful Japanese spread, marvelous in texture as well as in its variety of brilliant coloring, and worth, as Ben afterward learned, not less than three hundred dollars.
The floor was of polished wooden mosaic, nearly covered with a rich carpet bordered with thick black fringe. Another room displayed a margin of satinwood around the carpet. Hung with tapestry, its walls of crimson silk were topped with a gilded cornice which shot down gleams of light far into the polished floor.
Over the doorway of the room in which Jacob and Ben slept was a bronze stork that, with outstretched neck, held a lamp to light the guests into the apartment. Between the two narrow beds of carved whitewood and ebony, stood the household treasure of the Van Gends, a massive oaken chair upon which the Prince of Orange had once sat during a council meeting. Opposite stood a quaintly carved clothespress, waxed and polished to the utmost and filled with precious stores of linen; beside it a table holding a large Bible, whose great golden clasps looked poor compared with its solid, ribbed binding made to outlast six generations.