Everywhere could be seen tall women and stumpy men, lively-faced girls, and youths whose expression never changed from sunrise to sunset.
There seemed to be at least one specimen from every known town in Holland. There were Utrecht water bearers, Gouda cheesemakers, Delft pottery men, Schiedam distillers, Amsterdam diamond cutters, Rotterdam merchants, dried-up herring packers, and two sleepy-eyes shepherds from Texel. Every man of them had his pipe and tobacco pouch. Some carried what might be called the smoker's complete outfit--a pipe, tobacco, a pricker with which to clean the tube, a silver net for protecting the bowl, and a box of the strongest brimstone matches.
A true Dutchman, you must remember, is rarely without his pipe on any possible occasion. He may for a moment neglect to breathe, but when the pipe is forgotten, he must be dying indeed. There were no such sad cases here. Wreaths of smoke were rising from every possible quarter. The more fantastic the smoke wreath, the more placid and solemn the smoker.
Look at those boys and girls on stilts! That is a good idea. They can see over the heads of the tallest. It is strange to see those little bodies high in the air, carried about on mysterious legs. They have such a resolute look on their round faces, what wonder that nervous old gentlemen with tender feet wince and tremble while the long-legged little monsters stride past them.
You will read in certain books that the Dutch are a quiet people--so they are generally. But listen! Did you ever hear such a din? All made up of human voices--no, the horses are helping somewhat, and the fiddles are squeaking pitifully (how it must pain fiddles to be tuned!), but the mass of the sound comes from the great vox humana that belongs to a crowd.
That queer little dwarf going about with a heavy basket, winding in and out among the people, helps not a little. You can hear his shrill cry above all the other sounds, "Pypen en tabac! Pypen en tabac!"
Another, his big brother, though evidently some years younger, is selling doughnuts and bonbons. He is calling on all pretty children far and near to come quickly or the cakes will be gone.
You know quite a number among the spectators. High up in yonder pavilion, erected upon the border of the ice, are some persons whom you have seen very lately. In the center is Madame van Gleck. It is her birthday, you remember; she has the post of honor. There is Mynheer van Gleck, whose meerschaum has not really grown fast to his lips--it only appears so. There are Grandfather and Grandmother, whom you met at the Saint Nicholas fete. All the children are with them. It is so mild, they have brought even the baby. The poor little creature is swathed very much after the manner of an Egyptian mummy, but it can crow with delight and, when the band is playing, open and shut its animated mittens in perfect time to the music.