Through Dead Eyes

Through Dead Eyes by Chris Priestley Read Free Book Online

Book: Through Dead Eyes by Chris Priestley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Chris Priestley
going?’ asked Alex.
    ‘To the Rijksmuseum,’ she answered.
    ‘The what?’ said Alex.
    ‘Rijksmuseum,’ said Angelien, over the whining of a tram as it rounded a bend.
    ‘And there’s something there to do with my mask?’ he asked. ‘Is that it?’
    ‘Wait and see,’ said Angelien.
    They both looked out of the window as the tram continued on its way crossing bridge after bridge, canal after canal, until Angelien signalled it was time to get off.
    They walked along the Singel canal for a while. The sky was filthy grey and a murky twilight had descended.
    Another glass-roofed tour boat went by, filled with passengers. Alex could hear the voice of the guide on board but couldn’t recognise the language. It started to spit with rain as they reached a large, rather grim-looking building partially obscured by construction hoardings. A steady stream of people were crossing the road ahead of them.
    ‘So is this the place?’ said Alex.
    ‘The Rijksmuseum,’ said Angelien.
    ‘It looks like a building site,’ said Alex. ‘Is it open?’
    ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Well – not all of it. It is an art museum – like your National Gallery in London. It is very well known. It has paintings by Vermeer, Frans Hals and Rembrandt and lots of other famous painters. You’ve never heard of it?’
    Alex shook his head. They crossed the road and followed the painted arrows that led round the side of the building.
    ‘Do you like paintings?’ Angelien asked Alex, as she handed her bag to the security guard.
    ‘Yeah,’ said Alex. ‘Some paintings.’
    Alex passed his bag over as well and they waited for them to emerge from the scanner. Then they checked them into the cloakroom, along with their jackets, and Angelien went to buy their tickets.
    ‘Are you ever going to tell me why we’ve come here?’ asked Alex.
    Angelien smiled.
    ‘Don’t you like surprises?’ she said.
    ‘Depends,’ said Alex. ‘ Some surprises are OK.’
    Angelien turned and put her hand on his shoulder.
    ‘Trust me. I think there is a painting here that you will want to see,’ she said. ‘Come on.’
    They walked into a large room. The walls were high and wide. Above them was a kind of walkway. It was all much more modern inside than Alex had expected.
    There was a massive wooden model of a sailing ship with a huge cannon laid out horizontally. There seemed to be a military theme to the room, with armour and flintlock pistols and a cabinet of swords.
    ‘They look like samurai swords,’ said Alex.
    ‘They are,’ said Angelien. ‘The Dutch were a superpower in those days. Before you had the British Empire we had colonies all over the world. New York was New Amsterdam first you know.’
    ‘Really?’ said Alex.
    ‘Sure,’ said Angelien. ‘Don’t they teach you anything in England? The Dutch were especially big in the Far East – hence all the Indonesian restaurants. Van Kampen – who owned the house that became your hotel – made a lot of his money trading with Japan.’
    And the next few paintings seemed to illustrate this, with scenes of exotic places. Not that anyone looked happy. There was a gloomy portrait where the whole family looked thoroughly miserable at finding themselves in whatever tropical paradise it depicted.
    ‘This way,’ said Angelien, and they climbed a wooden staircase to the upstairs galleries. They walked past still lifes and paintings of tulips. Alex stopped to look at a winter landscape with lots of black-clad figures like beetles on a frozen lake. He spent a long time studying all the little figures and grinned at the bare bottom sticking out of one of the buildings, the comical effect of some kind of primitive toilet.
    They passed a painting of figures outside a church, all in black with wide-brimmed hats. The Dutch seemed to be in love with black in those days; practically everyone in these pictures was wearing it.
    Alex was beginning to feel that his interest in painting was being pushed to the limits. But

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