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by [?]

Traveling by canal is not rapid transit. So the people of Holland have plenty of precedent for moving at a moderate speed. There are no mountains in Holland, so water never runs; it may move, but the law of gravitation there only acts to keep things quiet. The Dutch never run footraces–neither do they scorch.

In Amsterdam I have seen a man sit still for an hour, and this with a glass of beer before him, gazing off into space, not once winking, not even thinking. You can not do that in America, where trolley-cars whiz and blizzards blow–there is no precedent for it in things animate or inanimate. In the United States everything is on the jump, art included.

Rembrandt Harmens worked in his father’s mill, but never strained his back. He was healthy, needlessly healthy, and was as smart as his brothers and sisters, but no smarter, and no better looking. He was exceedingly self-contained, and would sit and dream at his desk in the grammar-school, looking out straight in front of him–just at nothing.

The master tried flogging, and the next day found a picture of himself on the blackboard, his face portrayed as anything but lovely. Young Rembrandt was sent home to fetch his father. The father came.

“Look at that!” said the irate teacher; “see what your son did; look at that!”

Mynheer Harmen sat down and looked at the picture in his deliberate Dutch way, and after about fifteen minutes said, “Well, it does look like you!”

Then he explained to the schoolmaster that the lad was sent to school because he would not do much around the mill but draw pictures in the dust, and it was hoped that the schoolmaster could teach him something.

The schoolmaster decided that it was a hopeless case, and the miller went home to report to the boy’s mother.

Now, whenever a Dutchman is confronted by a problem too big to solve, or a task too unpleasant for him to undertake, he shows his good sense by turning it over to his wife. “You are his mother, anyway,” said Harmen van Ryn, reproachfully.

The mother simply waived the taunt and asked, “Do you tell me the schoolmaster says he will not do anything but draw pictures?”

“Not a tap will he do but make pictures–he can not multiply two by one.”

“Well,” said the mother, “if he will not do anything but draw pictures, I think we’d better let him draw pictures.”

* * * * *

At that early age I do not think Rembrandt was ambitious to be a painter. Good healthy boys of fourteen are not hampered and harassed by ambition–ambition, like love, camps hot upon our trail later. Ambition is the concomitant of rivalry, and sex is its chief promoter–it is a secondary sex manifestation.

The boy simply had a little intuitive skill in drawing, and the exercise of the talent was a gratification. It pleased him to see the semblance of face or form unfold before him. It was a kind of play, a working off of surplus energy.

Had the lad’s mind at that time been forcibly diverted to books or business, it is very probable that today the catalogs would be without the name of Rembrandt.

But mothers have ambitions, even if boys have not–they wish to see their children do things that other women’s children can not do. Among wild animals the mother kills, when she can, all offspring but her own. Darwin refers to mother-love as, “that instinct in the mind of the female which causes her to exaggerate the importance of her offspring–often protecting them to the death.” Through this instinct of protection is the species preserved. In human beings mother-love is well flavored with pride, prejudice, jealousy and ambition. This is because the mother is a woman. And this is well–God made it all, and did He not look upon His work and pronounce it good?