Grandfather, with his pipe and spectacles and fur cap, makes quite a picture as he holds baby upon his knee. Perched high upon their canopied platforms, the party can see all that is going on. No wonder the ladies look complacently at the glassy ice; with a stove for a foot stool one might sit cozily beside the North Pole.
There is a gentleman with them who somewhat resembles Saint Nicholas as he appeared to the young Van Glecks on the fifth of December. But the saint had a flowing white beard, and this face is as smooth as a pippin. His saintship was larger around the body, too, and (between ourselves) he had a pair of thimbles in his mouth, which this gentleman certain has not. It cannot be Saint Nicholas after all.
Nearby, in the next pavilion, sit the Van Holps with their son and daughter (the Van Gends) from The Hague. Peter's sister is not one to forget her promises. She has brought bouquets of exquisite hothouse flowers for the winners.
These pavilions, and there are others besides, have all been erected since daylight. That semicircular one, containing Mynheer Korbes's family, is very pretty and proves that the Hollanders are quite skilled at tentmaking, but I like the Van Glecks' best--the center one--striped red and white and hung with evergreens.
The one with the blue flags contains the musicians. Those pagodalike affairs, decked with seashells and streamers of every possible hue, are the judges' stands, and those columns and flagstaffs upon the ice mark the limit of the race course. The two white columns twined with green, connected at the top by that long, floating strip of drapery, form the starting point. Those flagstaffs, half a mile off, stand at each end of the boundary line, which is cut sufficiently deep to be distinct to the skaters, though not deep enough to trip them when they turn to come back to the starting point.
The air is so clear that is seems scarcely possible that the columns and the flagstaffs are so far apart. Of course, the judges' stands are but little nearer together.
Half a mile on the ice, when the atmosphere is like this, is but a short distance after all, especially when fenced with a living chain of spectators.
The music has commenced. How melody seems to enjoy itself in the open air! The fiddles have forgotten their agony, and everything is harmonious. Until you look at the blue tent it seems that the music springs from the sunshine, it is so boundless, so joyous. Only when you see the staid-faced musicians do you realize the truth.