HotFreeBooks.com
Walter Pieterse - A Story of Holland
by Multatuli
1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Walter Pieterse A Story of Holland

By Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker)

Translated by Hubert Evans, Ph. D.



New York Friderici & Gareis 6 East Seventeenth Street



Copyright, 1904, By Friderici & Gareis



PREFACE

Most of us know that The Hague is somewhere in Holland; and we all know that Queen Wilhelmina takes a beautiful picture; but to how many of us has it occurred that the land of Spinoza and Rembrandt is still running a literary shop?

How many of us have ever heard of Eduard Douwes Dekker? Very few, I fear, except professional critics. And yet, the man who, forty years ago, became famous as Multatuli (I have borne much), was not only the greatest figure in the modern literature of the Netherlands, but one of the most powerful and original writers in the literature of the world. An English critic has called him the Heine of Holland; Anatole France calls him the Voltaire of the Netherlands.

Eduard Douwes Dekker was born in 1820, at Amsterdam, his father being the captain of a merchantman trading in the Dutch colonies. At the age of eighteen Dekker sailed on his father's vessel for the East Indies, determined to abandon the business career that had been mapped out for him and enter the colonial service. In 1839 he received a clerkship in the civil service at Batavia. He now remained in the employ of the government for seventeen years, being promoted from one grade to another until he was made Assistant Resident of Lebak in 1856.

In this important position he used his influence to better the condition of the natives; but, to his sorrow, he soon found that he did not have the support of his superiors. What he conceived to be right clashed with the line of conduct he was expected to follow. In a rash moment of "righteous indignation" he handed in his resignation; and it was accepted.

This hasty step put an end to a brilliant political career and entailed upon Dekker years of disappointment and hardship. Seeing that he was pursuing the wrong method to help either the Javanese, or himself, he immediately tried to get reinstated, but without success. In 1857 he returned to Holland and applied to the home government, hoping to be vindicated and restored to his post. Again he was disappointed. The government offered him another desirable position; but, as it was a matter of principle with Dekker, he declined it.

When he saw that it was useless to importune the government further, Dekker made his appeal to the people in "Max Havelaar" (1860). The book was an instant success and made the name of Multatuli famous. Through the perfidy of a supposed friend, however, Dekker failed to get very substantial material rewards from this work. For ten years yet he was struggling with poverty.

The Bohemian life that Dekker was now compelled to live—his family was on the sufferance of friends—estranged him from his wife and strengthened what some might call an unfortunate—or, at least, an untimely—literary friendship that Dekker had formed with a certain Miss Mimi Schepel, of The Hague. The spiritual affinity between the two soon developed a passion that neither could resist. This estimable lady, who afterwards became Dekker's second wife, is still living, and has edited Dekker's letters in nine volumes. Dekker died in February, 1887, at his home in Nieder-Ingelheim, where he had lived for several years.

The "Woutertje Pieterse" story was first published in Dekker's seven volume work entitled "Ideen." Here it is sandwiched in between miscellaneous sketches, essays and treatises, being scattered all the way from Vol. I to Vol. VII. The story falls naturally into two parts, of which the present volume is the first part. The second part, written in a different key, deals with "Walter's Apprenticeship."

A good deal of the flax, or silk, of his Chinaman's pigtail, to use Dekker's form of expression, I have unraveled as being extraneous matter. However, despite these omissions, it is quite possible that some very sensitive person may still find objectionable allusions in the book. If so, I must refer that one to the shade of Multatuli. From his own admission his shoulders were evidently broad; and, no doubt, they will be able to bear the additional strain.

Hubert Evans.

New York City, November, 1904.



CONTENTS

Page

Chapter I

The origin of the story: regarding poetry, incurable love, false hair, and the hero of the story—The dangers of fame and the advantage of the upper shelf—The Chinaman's pigtail, and the collar of humanity 1

Chapter II

An Italian robber on the "Buitensingel" in Amsterdam—The bitter suffering of the virtuous Amalia—Wax candles, the palisades of morality—The cunning of the little Hallemans—The limitations of space 9

Chapter III

The difference between a sugar bowl and a Bible—Leentje's virtues and defects—An unfounded suspicion against Pennewip's honor 18

Chapter IV

The profound silence of Juffrouw Laps—Stoffel's sermon—Walter's fidelity to Glorioso—The last king of Athens—Ruined stomachs and bursted ear-drums 24

Chapter V

How one may become a great man—The cleverness of M'sieu Millaire—Versifying and the art of classifying everything—Hobby-horses 27

Chapter VI

Preparations for a party—The assignment of roles—The conflict between wishing and being—Some tricks of fancy—The two sawmills—Amalia and the ducks 34

Chapter VII

Poetry and wigs—The vexation and despair of the latter 42

Chapter VIII

A tea-evening, and how it began—Some gaps in the author's knowledge—Stoffel's zoological joke—The cause of the last Punic war—And the advantage of smoking 48

Chapter IX

Echoes of the last Punic war—The defeat of Hannibal (Laps) by Scipio (Pennewip) 61

Chapter X

Causes of the tedious peace in Europe, showing the value of a "tea-evening" as a study—Specimens of school-verse concluded—Suitable for society poets and clever children 68

Chapter XI

Report on the condition of the leading characters after the catastrophe—Walter again: a character-study 75

Chapter XII

Leentje as a comforter and questioner—Prince Walter and his dominions 80

Chapter XIII

Convincing proofs of Walter's improvement—His first invitation—A study in love—Paradise and Peri 87

Chapter XIV

Great changes in the Pieterse family—Walter becomes poet-laureate at the court of Juffrouw Laps—The mountains of Asia—The bridge, Glorioso, and love—again 102

Chapter XV

Walter's dream—A swell coachman—Juffrouw Laps's difficulties 117

Chapter XVI

Femke hunts for Walter, and finds him under peculiar circumstances—Her adventures by the way 125

Chapter XVII

The widower's birthday—Klaasje's poem, and how a surprise may involve further surprises 132

Chapter XVIII

Walter's recovery—The doctor's pictures—Amsterdam dramaturgy 138

Chapter XIX

Pastors, sermons, and Juffrouw Laps—Chocolate, timidity, and love—The fire that didn't break out—Some details of religious belief 150

Chapter XX

Our hero calls on the doctor—Some strange happenings—How Walter delivered his present 161

Chapter XXI

Ophelia reaches her destination, and Femke becomes a queen—Walter's first experience "proposing"—Choosing a profession 170

Chapter XXII

Walter enters the real world—The firm Motto, Business & Co.—The technique of the novel—And the snuff of the Romans 180

Chapter XXIII

How one may become a "prodigal" by studying the story of the Prodigal Son 194

Chapter XXIV

Why Walter did not see Femke—The worldliness of a servant of the church—The secret of Father Jansen's deafness in his left ear 201

Chapter XXV

Kings and doughnuts—How the masses soar and fall—Walter's cowardice and remorse of conscience—A good remedy for the blues 211

Chapter XXVI

Our hero retires thinking of Princess Erika, to be aroused by robbers and murderers, who are in collusion with Juffrouw Laps 225

Chapter XXVII

Walter alone with a pious lady, or Juffrouw Laps on the war-path 240

Chapter XXVIII

A midnight kiss—A wonderful statue in the "Juniper Berry"— Republicans and True Dutch hearts—A sailor with—Femke? 245

Chapter XXIX

Sunrise on the "Dam"—An exciting encounter with a water-nymph—A letter from heaven—America, a haven for prodigal sons 260

Chapter XXX

A message from Femke, which Walter fails to understand—Dr. Holsma to the rescue—Femke and family portraits—Femke, and once more Femke 270

Chapter XXXI

Stoffel's view of the matter—Juffrouw Laps's distress, and Juffrouw Pieterse's elation—Elephants and butterflies, and Kaatje's conception of heredity 279

Chapter XXXII

A theatrical performance under difficulties—The contest between Napoleon and King Minos of Crete—A Goddess on Mt. Olympus—Kisses and rosebuds 286

Chapter XXXIII

Conclusion 298



WALTER PIETERSE



CHAPTER I

I don't know the year; but, since the reader will be interested to know the time when this story begins, I will give him a few facts to serve as landmarks.

My mother complained that provisions were dear, and fuel as well. So it must have been before the discovery of Political Economy. Our servant-girl married the barber's assistant, who had only one leg. "Such a saving of shoe-leather," the good little soul argued. But from this fact one might infer that the science of Political Economy had already been discovered.

At all events, it was a long time ago. Amsterdam had no sidewalks, import duties were still levied, in some civilized countries there were still gallows, and people didn't die every day of nervousness. Yes, it was a long time ago.

The Hartenstraat! I have never comprehended why this street should be called thus. Perhaps it is an error, and one ought to write Hertenstraat, or something else. I have never found more "heartiness" there than elsewhere; besides, "harts" were not particularly plentiful, although the place could boast of a poulterer and dealer in venison.

I haven't been there for a long time, and I only remember that the Straat connects two main canal-streets, canals that I would fill up if I had the power to make Amsterdam one of the most beautiful cities of Europe.

My predilection for Amsterdam, our metropolis, does not make me blind to her faults. Among these I would mention first her complete inability to serve as the scene of things romantic. One finds here no masked Dominos on the street, the common people are everywhere open to inspection, no Ghetto, no Templebar, no Chinese quarter, no mysterious courtyard. Whoever commits murder is hanged; and the girls are called "Mietje" and "Jansje"—everything prose.

It requires courage to begin a story in a place ending with "dam." There it is difficult to have "Emeranties" and "Heloises"; but even these would be of little use, since all of these belles have already been profaned.

How do the French authors manage, though, to dress up their "Margots" and "Marions" as ideals and protect their "Henris" and "Ernestes" from the trite and trivial? These last remind one of M'sieu Henri or M'sieu Erneste just about like our castle embankments remind one of filthy water.

Goethe was a courageous man: Gretchen, Klaerchen——

But I, in the Hartenstraat!

However, I am not writing a romance; and even if I should write one, I don't see why I shouldn't publish it as a true story. For it is a true story, the story of one who in his youth was in love with a sawmill and had to endure this torture for a long time.

For love is torture, even if it is only love for a sawmill.

It will be seen that the story is going to be quite simple, in fact too frail to stand alone. So here and there I am going to plait something in with the thread of the narrative, just as the Chinaman does with his pigtail when it is too thin. He has no Eau de Lob or oil from Macassar—but I admit that I have never found at Macassar any berries which yielded the required oil.

To begin, in the Hartenstraat was a book-shop and circulating library. A small boy with a city complexion stood on the step and seemed to be unable to open the door. It was evident that he was trying to do something that was beyond his strength.

He stretched out his hand towards the door knob repeatedly, but every time he interrupted this motion either by stopping to pull unnecessarily at a big square-cut collar that rested on his shoulders like a yoke, or by uselessly lifting his hand to screen an ingenuous cough.

He was apparently lost in the contemplation of the pictures that covered the panes of glass in the door, turning them into a model chart of inconceivable animals, four-cornered trees and impossible soldiers. He was glancing continually to one side, like a criminal who fears that he is going to be caught in the act. It was manifest that he had something in view which must be concealed from passers-by, and from posterity, for that matter. His left hand was thrust under the skirts of his little coat, clutching convulsively at something concealed in his trousers pocket. To look at him one would have thought that Walter contemplated a burglary, or something of the kind.

For his name was Walter.

It is a fortunate thing that it occurred to me to relate his history; and now I consider it my duty to report that he was entirely innocent of any burglarious or murderous intentions.

I only wish I could clear him of other sins as easily as this. The object he was turning and twisting in his left breeches pocket was not a house-key, nor a jimmy, nor a club, nor a tomahawk, nor any infernal machine: It was a small piece of paper containing fourteen stivers, which he had raised on his New Testament with Psalms at the grocer's on the "Ouwebrug"; and the thing that held him fast on the Hartenstraat was nothing more or less than his entrance into the magic world of romance. He was going to read "Glorioso."

Glorioso! Reader, there are many imitations, but only one Glorioso. All the Rinaldos and Fra Diavolos are not to be mentioned in the same breath with Glorioso, this incomparable hero who carried away countesses by the dozen, plundered popes and cardinals as if they were ordinary fallible people, and made a testament-thief of Walter Pieterse.

To be sure, Glorioso was not to blame for this last, certainly not. One ought to be ashamed to be a hero, or a genius, or even a robber, if on this account one is to be held responsible for all the crimes that may be committed years afterwards in the effort to get possession of one's history.

I myself object to any accusation of complicity in those evil deeds that are committed after my death in quenching the thirst for knowledge of my fate. Indeed, I shall never be deterred from a famous career merely by the thought that some one may sell the New Testament to get hold of the "Life and Deeds of Multatuli."

"You rascal, what are you loitering around here for? If you want anything, come in; if you don't, make yourself scarce."

And now Walter had to go in, or else abandon his cherished Glorioso. But the man who bent over the counter and twisted himself like a crane to open the door and snarl these words at our young hero did not have a face that advised anything like turning back. He was angry. At first Walter had not had the courage to go in; now he did not dare to turn back. He felt himself drawn in. It was as if the book-shop swallowed him.

"Glorioso, if you please, M'neer, and here——" He drew that infernal machine from his pocket. "And here is money——"

For he had learned from his schoolmates, who had infected him with this craving for romance, that at the circulating library strangers must deposit a forfeit.

The shopman seemed to regard himself as "sufficiently protected" by the sum produced. He took down a small volume, which was greasy and well worn, and bore both within and without the traces of much unclean enjoyment.

I am certain that the "Sermons of Pastor Splitvesel," which stood undisturbed on the top shelf and looked down contemptuously on the literature of the day, would have been ashamed to bring their spotless binding into contact with so much uncleanliness. But it is not difficult to remain clean in the upper row. I find, therefore, that the "sermons" were unjust; and the same is true of many sermons.

After Walter had given his name to the man in a trembling voice, he stuck the reward of his misdeed under his coat and hurried out the door, like a cat making away with the prey for which it has waited for hours.

Walter ran and ran, and did not know where to go. He couldn't go home; he was watched too closely there,—which was not very difficult, as the space was rather limited.

He selected quiet streets and finally came to a gateway that he remembered to have seen several times. It was a low, smooth arch, where it always smelled like ashes. Here, as a truant, he had taken that leap! He was with Franz Halleman, who had dared him to cut sacred studies and jump from the top of this arch. Walter did it just because little Franz had questioned his courage.

To this escapade he was indebted for his great familiarity with the prophet Habakkuk, whose prophecies he had to copy twelve times as a penalty. Further, the sprain that he got in his big toe on that occasion gave him a good barometer in that organ, which always warned him of approaching rain.

In a certain sense Habakkuk is to be regarded as marking a transition in Walter's life, viz. from nursery rhymes to books which deal with big people. For some time he had felt his admiration for "brave Heinriche" to be growing; and he was disgusted with the paper peaches that are distributed as the reward of diligence in the beautiful stories. Of any other peaches he had no knowledge, as the real article was never seen in the houses he visited.

Nothing was more natural than that he should most ardently long to talk with the older schoolboys about the wonders of the real world, where people ride in coaches, devastate cities, marry princesses, and stay up in the evening till after 10 o'clock—even if it isn't a birthday. And then at the table one helps one's self, and may select just whatever one wants to eat. So think children.

Every boy has his heroic age, and humanity, as a whole, has worn the little coat with the big collar.

But how far can this comparison be carried? Where does the identity stop? Will the human race become mature? and more than mature?—old? Feeble and childish?

How old are we now? Are we boys, youths, men? Or are we already——? No, that would be too unpleasant to think of.

Let us suppose that we are just in the exuberance of youth! We are then no longer children exactly, and still we may hope something of the future.

Yes, of the future,—when this stifling school atmosphere has been blown away. When we shall take pleasure in the short jacket of the boy that comes after us; when people will be at liberty to be born without any legal permit, and will not be reviled for it; when humanity will speak one language; when metaphysics and religion have been forgotten, and knowledge of nature takes the place of noble birth. When we shall have broken away from the nursery stories.

There is some silk for my Chinaman's pigtail. Some will say it is only flax.



CHAPTER II

Walter thought neither of the heroic age nor of Chinese cues. Without any feeling for the beauty of the landscape, he hurried along till he came to a bridge that spanned a marshy ditch. After looking about carefully to assure himself that he was alone, he selected this bridge for his reading-room, and proceeded at once to devour his robber undisturbed.

For a moment I felt tempted to make the reader a participant of Walter's pleasure by giving a sketch of the immortal work that chained the boy's attention. But aside from the fact that I am not very well versed in Glorioso—which fact of itself, though, would not prevent me from speaking about him—I have many other things of a more urgent nature to relate, and am compelled therefore to take the reader directly to the Hartenstraat, hoping that he will be able to find his way just as well as if he had crossed the Ouwebrug—the old bridge.

Suffice it to say that Walter found the book "very nice." The virtuous Amalia, in the glare of flaring torches, at the death-bed of her revered mother, in the dismal cypress valley, swearing that her ardent love for the noble robber—through the horrible trapdoor, the rusty chains, her briny tears—in a word, it was stirring! And there was more morality in it, too, than in all the insipid imitations. All the members of the band were married and wore gloves. In the cave was an altar, with wax tapers; and those chapters in which girls were abducted always ended with a row of most decorous periods, or with mysterious dashes—which Walter vainly held up to the light in his effort to learn more about it.

He read to: "Die, betrayer!" Then it was dark, and he knew that it was time to go home. He was supposed to be taking a walk with the Halleman boys,—who were "such respectable children." With regret he closed the precious volume and hurried away as fast as he could, for he was afraid he was going to get a whipping for staying away so long.

"You will never get permission again"—thus he was always threatened on such occasions. But he understood, of course, that they didn't mean it. He knew too well that people like to get rid of the children for a while when they are a little short of space at home. And then the little Hallemans were "such extraordinarily respectable children; they lived next to a house with a portico, and recently they had taken off their little caps so politely."

Now, I don't believe that the Hallemans were any more respectable than other boys of Walter's acquaintance; and, as I would like to give some reasons for my belief, I am going to relate an incident that had happened some time before this.

Walter never got any pocket-money. His mother considered this unnecessary, because he got at home everything that he needed. It mortified him to have to wait for an invitation to join in a game of ball with his companions, and then be reminded that he had contributed nothing towards buying the ball. In Walter's time that useful instrument of sport cost three doits—just a trifle. Now I suppose they are more expensive—but no, cheaper, of course, on account of Political Economy.

On many occasions he was depressed by reason of this lack of money. We shall see later whether what his mother said was true, or not: that he received at home everything he needed. It is certain that at home he never had the privilege of doing with some little thing as he pleased, which is very nice for children. And for grown-up people, too.

The Hallemans—who were so especially respectable—gave him to understand that they had no desire to bear all the expenses. Franz calculated that Walter's friendship had already cost them nine stivers, which I find high—not for the friendship, but merely as an estimate. Gustave said it was still more; but that is a detail. Gustave, too, had let him have four slate pencils, that he might court "the tall Cecilia," who wouldn't have anything to do with him because he wore a jacket stuck in his trousers—the kind small boys wore then. She accepted the pencils, and then made Gustave a present of them for a kiss.

The reproaches of the little Hallemans, who were so very respectable, almost drove Walter to despair.

"I have told my mother, but she won't give me anything."

The little Hallemans, who were so respectable, said: "What's that you're giving us? You're a parasite."

This was the first time Walter had ever heard the word, but he knew what it meant. Nothing sharpens the wits like bitterness of heart.

"A parasite, a parasite—I'm a parasite," and he ran off screaming, making a detour in order to avoid the street where Cecilia's father had a second-hand store. Oh, if she had seen him running through the street crying like a baby—that would have been worse than the breeches pulled up over his jacket!

A parasite, a parasite!

He met lots of grown-up people who perhaps were parasites, but they were not bawling on this account.

Parasite!

He saw a policeman, and caught his breath when he got by him, surprised that the man hadn't arrested him.

Parasite!

Then came a street-sweeper with his cart, who seemed to rattle that hateful word after him.

Our little sufferer remembered that the Halleman boys had once told him what a fortune could be made by peddling peppermint drops. For twenty-four stivers one could buy a big sack full. By selling so and so many for a doit, the profit would be enormous. If one only had the capital to begin! The Hallemans had calculated everything very exactly; for they were not only very respectable, but also very cunning. Cunningness and respectability usually go hand in hand. They had said, all that was needed was the capital. They would attend to laying in the stock, and would assume all responsibility for the sale of the same. If Walter would chip in just a florin, they could raise the rest and all would go well.

Parasite.... Parasite....

Walter slipped a florin from his mother's box of savings and brought it to the Halleman boys, who were so remarkably respectable.

"Where did you get it?" asked Gustave, but careful not to give Walter time to answer, or to fall into an embarrassing silence.

"Where did you get it?"—without any interrogation point—"fine! Franz and I will each add one like it. That'll make twenty-four, and then we'll buy the peppermints. There's a factory on the Rosengracht—such a sack for four shillings. Franz and I will do everything. We'll have more opportunity at school, you understand. Christian Kloskamp has already ordered twelve; he'll pay after the holidays. We'll take all the trouble; you needn't do anything, Walter—and then an equal divide. You can depend upon it."

Walter went home and dreamed of unheard-of wealth. He would put a dollar in his mother's savings-bank, and buy for Cecilia a lead pencil from the man who had picked holes in the wood-work of his wagon with them. So strong were they! That would be something entirely different from those slate pencils; and if the tall Cecilia still wouldn't have him, then—but Walter did not care to think further. There are abysses along the path of fancy that we do not dare to sound. We see them instinctively, close the eyes and—I only know that on that evening Walter fell asleep feeling good, expecting soon to have a good conscience over his little theft and hoping that Cecilia would give him a happy heart.

Alas, alas! Little Walter had made his calculations without taking into consideration the slyness and respectability of the Hallemans. They lay in wait for him the next day as he came from school. Walter, who had painted to himself how they would be panting under the weight of the great sack; Walter, who was so anxious to know if Christian Kloskamp had taken what he had ordered; Walter, who was burning with curiosity as to the success of the venture—oh, he was bitterly disappointed. Gustave Halleman not only carried no sack of peppermints. What's more, he had a very grave face. And little Franz looked like virtue itself.

"Well, how is everything?" Walter asked, but without saying a word. He was too curious not to ask, and too fearful to express the question otherwise than by opening his mouth and poking out his face.

"Don't you know, Walter, we've been thinking about the matter; and there's a lot to be said against the plan."

Poor Walter! In that moment both his heart and his conscience suffered shipwreck. Away with your dreams of ethical vindication, away with the gaping money-boxes of mothers—away, lead pencil that was to bore a hole in the hard heart of the tall Cecilia—gone, gone, gone, everything lost.

"You see, Walter, the mint-drops might melt."

"Y-e-s," sobbed Walter.

"And Christian Kloskamp, who ordered twelve—don't you know——"

"Y-e-s."

I wonder if Christian was likely to melt too.

"He is leaving school, and will certainly not return after the holidays."

"H-e-e i-i-s?"

"Yes, and for that reason, and also because there are not anything like so many to the pound as we had thought. Mint-drops are heavy. We've calculated everything, Franz and I."

"Yes," added little Franz, with the seriousness of one giving important advice in a time of great danger, "the things are very heavy at present. Feel this one; but you must give it back to me."

Walter weighed the mint-drop on his finger and returned it conscientiously.

He found it heavy. Ah, in this moment he was so depressed that he would have found everything heavy.

Franz stuck the piece of candy into his mouth, and sucking at it continued:

"Yes, really, very heavy. These are the English drops, you know. And then there is something else, too, isn't there, Gustave? The propriety, the respectability! Tell him, Gustave."

"The respectability," cried Gustave, significantly.

"We mean the respectability of it," repeated Franz, as if he were explaining something.

Walter looked first from one to the other, and did not seem to comprehend.

"You tell him, Gustave."

"Yes, Walter, Franz will tell you," said Gustave.

"Walter, our papa is a deacon, and carries a portfolio, and there where we live is a——"

"Yes," cried Gustave, "there on the Gracht, you know, lives M'neer Krulewinkel. He has a villa——"

"With a portico," added Franz.

"It's just on account of our standing—don't you see, Walter? And when a visitor comes our mother brings out the wine."

"Yes, Maderia, Maderia! And our tobacco-box is silver, and——"

"No, Franz, it isn't silver; but, Walter, it looks just like silver."

Our poor little sinner understood all of this, but he failed to see what bearing it might have on his own disappointed hopes. He stuttered: "Yes, Gustave—yes, Franz—but the peppermint——"

"We just wanted to tell you that we are very respectable, don't you see?"

"Yes, Gustave."

"And well-behaved."

"Y-e-e-s, Franz." Poor Walter!

"And then as you said you never got any pocket-money——"

"Yes, Walter—and don't you know? Because our papa is so respectable—when winter comes you can see how he looks after the orphans."

"Yes, and he rings at every door. And—and—we are afraid, that you——"

"That you——"

"The florin——"

"The florin! You understand?"

"That you didn't get it——"

"That you didn't get it honestly. That's it," said Franz, sticking another mint-drop into his mouth, perhaps to brace himself up.

It was out at last. Poor, miserable Walter.

"And on that account, Walter, we would rather not keep the money, but just divide now—equally, as we all agreed."

"Yes," cried Gustave, "divide equally. The work—we—you understand?"

They divided the profits. And the Hallemans were sleek about it. Twenty-four stivers; three into twenty-four goes eight times, therefore——

Walter received eight stivers.

"Don't you see," explained Gustave, "we couldn't do it, because our papa is a deacon."

"Yes—and our tobacco-box, even if it isn't pure silver, it's just like silver."

My lack of faith in the extreme respectability of the Hallemans is based upon the foregoing story; and I am inclined to think that all this "respectability" of which Walter heard so much at home was only an excuse on his mother's part to get him out of the way. For there was a lack of room. If she had wanted to use Walter about the house, it is questionable if she had discovered anything especially respectable about those boys.

Many laws and most customs have their origin in a "lack of room"—in the intellect, in one's character, in the house or flat, in the fields, in the city.

This applies to the preference for the right hand—a result of crowding at the table—to the institution of marriage, and to many things lying between these extremes.



CHAPTER III

We will not try to explain further this fruitful principle of "limitation of space." Walter knew the fruit of it, even if he failed to recognize the origin. He was not worried so much by the mere coming home as by the punishment he expected to receive as soon as that New Testament should be missed. He had returned from his little excursion into the country with Glorioso, and now in Amsterdam again the memory of his recent offense—or shall I say the anticipation of what was coming?—lay heavily on his mind.

If we could think away all the results of crime committed, there would be very little left of what we call conscience.

But Walter consoled himself with the thought that it wasn't a thimble this time. The testament will not be missed at once, he reflected, because Sunday was a long way off, and no one would ask about it during the week.

No, it was not a thimble, or a knitting-needle, or a sugar-bowl, or anything in daily use.

When our hero got home, he stuck his greasy Glorioso under Leentje's sewing-table—the same Leentje who had sewed up his breeches after that wonderful leap, so that his mother never found out about it. She went down to her grave in ignorance of these torn breeches.

But Leentje was employed to patch breeches and such things. She received for this seven stivers a week, and every evening a slice of bread and butter.

Long after the Habakkuk period, Walter often thought of her humble "Good-evening, Juffrouw; good-evening, M'neer and the young Juffrouwen; good-evening, Walter," etc.

Yes, Walter's mother was called Juffrouw, on account of the shoe-business. For Juffrouw is the title of women of the lower middle classes, while plain working women are called simply Vrouw. Mevrouw is the title of women of the better classes. And so it is in the Netherlands till to-day: The social structure is a series of classes, graduated in an ascending scale. Single ladies are also called Juffrouw, so that Juffrouw may mean either a young lady or a young matron—who need not necessarily be so young. The young Juffrouwen were Walter's sisters, who had learned how to dance. His brother had been called M'neer since his appointment as assistant at the "intermediate school," a sort of charity school now no longer in existence. His mother had spliced his jacket that he might command the respect of the boys, and remarked that the name "Stoffel" scarcely suited him now. This explains why Leentje addressed him as M'neer. To Walter she simply said Walter, for he was only a small boy. Walter owed her three stivers, or, to be exact, twenty-six doits, which he never did pay her. For, years afterward, when he wanted to return the money to her, there were no more doits; and, besides, Leentje was dead.

This pained him very much, for he had thought a great deal of her. She was ugly, even dirty, and was stoop-shouldered, too. Stoffel, the schoolmaster, said that she had an evil tongue: She was thought to have started the report that he had once eaten strawberries with sugar in the "Netherlands." This was a small garden-restaurant.

I am willing to admit the truth of all this; but what more could one expect for seven stivers and a slice of bread and butter? I have known duchesses who had larger incomes; and still in social intercourse they were not agreeable.

Leentje was stooped as a result of continuous sewing. Her needle kept the whole family clothed; and she knew how to make two jackets and a cap out of an old coat and still have enough pieces left for the gaiters that Stoffel needed for his final examination. He fell through on account of a mistake in Euclid.

With the exception of Walter nobody was satisfied with Leentje. I believe they were afraid of spoiling her by too much kindness. Walter's sisters were always talking about "class" and "rank," saying that "everyone must stay in his place." This was for Leentje. Her father had been a cobbler who soled shoes, while the father of the young Juffrouwen had had a store in which "shoes from Paris" were sold. A big difference. For it is much grander to sell something that somebody else has made than to make something one's self.

The mother thought that Leentje might be a little cleaner. But I am going to speak of the price again, and of the difficulty of washing when one has no time, no soap, no room, and no water. At that time waterpipes had not been laid, and, if they had been, it's a question if the water had ever got as far as Leentje.

So, everyone but Walter had a spite against Leentje. He liked her, and was more intimate with her than with anyone else in the house, perhaps because the others could not endure him, and there was nothing left for him to do but to seek consolation from her. For every feeling finds expression, and nothing is lost, either in the moral or in the material world. I could say more about this, but I prefer to drop the subject now, for the organ-grinder under my window is driving me crazy.

Walter's mother called him, "That boy." His brothers—there were more beside Stoffel—affirmed that he was treacherous and morose, because he spoke little and didn't care for "marbles." When he did say anything, they attributed to him a relationship with King Solomon's cat. His sisters declared he was a little devil. But Walter stood well with Leentje. She consoled him, and considered it disgraceful that the family didn't make more out of such a boy as Walter. She had seen that he was not a child like ordinary children. And I should scarcely take the trouble to write his story if he had been.

Up to a short time after his trip to Hartenstraat, Ash Gate and the old bridge, Leentje was Walter's sole confidant. To her he read the verses that slender Cecilia had disdained. To her he poured out his grief over the injustice of his teacher Pennewip, who gave him only "Fair," while to that red-headed Keesje he gave "Very good" underscored—Keesje who couldn't work an example by himself and always "stuck" in "Holland Counts."

"Poor boy," said Leentje, "you're right about it." They went over into the Bavarian house. It's a disgrace! And to save a doit on the pound.

She claimed that Keesje's father, who was a butcher, let Pennewip have meat at a reduced price, and that this was what was the matter with all those Holland counts and their several houses.

Later Walter looked upon this as a "white lie," for Pennewip, when examined closely, didn't look like a man who would carry on a crooked business with beefsteak. But in those days he accepted gladly this frivolous suspicion against the man's honor as a plaster for his own, which had been hurt by the favoritism towards Keesje. Whenever our honor is touched, or what we regard as our honor, then we think little of the honor of others.

When his brothers jeered at him and called him "Professor Walter," or when his sisters scolded him for his "idiotic groping among the bed-curtains," or when his mother punished him for eating up the rice that she intended to serve again "to-morrow"—then it was always Leentje who restored the equilibrium of his soul and banished his cares, just as, with her inimitable stitches, she banished the "triangles" from his jacket and breeches.

Ugly, dirty, evil-tongued Leentje, how Walter did like you! What consolation radiated from her thimble, what encouragement even in the sight of her tapeline! And what a lullaby in those gentle words: "There now, you have a needle and thread and scraps. Sew your little sack for your pencils and tell me more of all those counts, who always passed over from one house into another."



CHAPTER IV

I don't know what prophet Walter got as punishment for that pawned Bible. The pastor came to preach a special sermon. The man was simply horrified at such impiousness. Juffrouw Laps, who lived in the lower anteroom, had heard about it too. She was very pious and asserted that such a boy was destined for the gallows.

"One begins with the Bible," she said significantly, "and ends with something else."

No one has ever found out just what that "something else" is which follows a beginning with the Bible. I don't think she knew herself, and that she said it to make people believe that she possessed much wisdom and knew more about the world than she gave utterance to. Now, I admit that I have no respect for wisdom that cannot express itself in intelligible words, and, if it had been my affair, I should have very promptly drawn a tight rein on Juffrouw Laps.

Stoffel delivered an exhortation in which he brought out all that had been forgotten by the preacher. He spoke of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who had erred similarly to Walter and had been sent to an early grave for their sins. He said too, that the honor of the family had been lost at the "Ouwebrug," that it was his duty, "as the eldest son of an irreproachable widow and third assistant at the intermediate school, to take care of the honor of the house——"

"Of Bavaria," said Leentje softly.

That "a marriage, or any other arrangement for the girls, would be frustrated by Walter's offence, for no one would have anything to do with girls who——"

In short, Stoffel accented the fact that it was "a disgrace," and that "he would never be able to look anyone in the face who knew of this crime." He remarked distinctly that the schoolboys must know of it, for Louis Hopper had already stuck out his tongue at him!

And finally, that he "shuddered to cross the new market-place"—in those days criminals were scourged, branded and hanged here—because it reminded him so disagreeably of Juffrouw Laps's horrible allusion to Walter's fate.

Then followed all sorts of things about Korahs, Dathans and Abirams, whereupon the whole family broke out in a wail. For it was so pathetic.

Walter comforted himself with thoughts of Glorioso, and, whenever that "something else" of Juffrouw Laps was spoken of, he just dreamed of his marriage with beautiful Amalia, whose train was carried by six pages. I fancy Juffrouw Laps would have made a pretty face if she had learned of this interpretation of her mysterious climax.

All efforts to compel our hero to tell how he had spent that money were in vain. After all known means had been applied, the attempt to force a confession had to be abandoned. Water and bread, water without bread, bread without water, no water and no bread, the preacher, Stoffel, Habakkuk, Juffrouw Laps, tears, the rod—all in vain. Walter was not the boy to betray Glorioso. This was what he had found so shabby of Scelerajoso, who had to pay the penalty, as we have seen.

As soon as he got the privilege of walking again with the Hallemans, who were so eminently respectable, he hurried away to the old bridge, near Ash Gate, to continue his thrilling book. He read up to that fatal moment when he had to tell his hero good-bye, and on the last page saw Glorioso, as a major-general, peacefully expire in the arms of the virtuous Alvira.

When Walter had returned the book to Hartenstraat his eye was attracted by some almond-cakes at the confectioner's on the corner. He did with Glorioso just as the Athenians did with Kodrus: No one was worthy to be the successor of such a hero, and within a few days the residue of the New Testament had been converted into stomach-destroying pastry.

I ought to add that a part of the "balance" left after that Italian excursion—perhaps the part contributed by the Psalms—was invested in a triple-toned, ear-splitting, soul-searing harmonica, which was finally confiscated by Master Pennewip as being a disturbing element in the schoolroom.



CHAPTER V

I don't feel called upon to pass judgment on the strife between Leentje and Pennewip regarding the latter's partiality towards Keesje, the butcher's son. But that fiery feeling for right and justice which has harrassed me from my earliest youth—ah, for years have I waited in vain for justice—and the foolish passion for hunting after mitigating circumstances, even when the misdeed has been proved—all this compels me to say that Pennewip's lot might be considered a mitigating circumstance for a man convicted of the eight deadly sins.

I have found that many great men began their careers as feeders of hogs (see biographical encyclopedias); and it seems to me that this occupation develops those qualities necessary in ruling or advancing mankind.

If the theologists should happen to criticise this story, and perhaps accuse me of far-reaching ignorance, because I enumerate one cardinal sin more than they knew of, or of the crime of classifying man as a sort of hog, I reply that, still another new canonical sin could be discovered that they have never studied. And that ought to be as pleasing to them as influenza is to the apothecary.

New problems, gentlemen, new problems!

And as for our relationship with pigs, just consider the relation of coal to diamond, and I think everyone will be satisfied—even the theologists.

What a magnificent prospect anyone has who spends his tender youth with those grunting coal-diamonds of the animal world! But I have often wondered that in the "Lives of Famous Men" we so seldom read of a school-teacher, for in the school all the ingredients of greatness are abounding.

The reverse is more often true. Every day we see banished princes teaching lazy boys. Dionysius and Louis Philippe are not the only ones. I myself once tried to teach an American French. It was no go.

If it should ever become customary again to elect kings, I hope the people will elect such persons as have studied men, just as one studies Geography on globes or maps. All virtues, propensities, passions, mistakes, misdeeds, knowledge of which is so indispensable in human society, can be studied much better in the schoolroom. The field is restricted, and can be taken in more readily. The famous statecraft of many a great man, if the truth were known, had its origin in that old tripping trick, which is everything to the three-foot Machiavellis.

The task of a schoolmaster is not an easy one. I have never understood why he is not better paid, or, since this must be so, why there are still men who prefer to teach, when on the same pay they might be corporals in the army, and teach the use of firearms, which offers fewer headaches and more fresh air.

I would even rather be a preacher; for he does work with people who are interested and come to hear him of their own free will. The teacher has to fight continually with indifference, and with the extremely dangerous rivalry of tops, marbles, and paper-dolls—not to speak of candy, scarlatina and weak mothers.

Pennewip was a man of the old school. At least he would seem so to us if we could see him in his gray school jacket and short trousers with buckles, and his brown wig, which he was continually pushing into place. At the first of the week this was always curly, when it was not raining—rain isn't good for curls; and on Sundays "the man with the curling irons" came.

Antiquated? But perhaps this is only imagination. Who knows? perhaps in his day he was quite modern. How soon people will say the same of us! At all events, the man called himself "Master" and his school was a school and not an "Institute." It is no advance to call things by other than their right names. In his school boys and girls sat together indiscriminately, according to the naive custom of those days. They learned, or might learn, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, National History, Psalmody, Sewing, Knitting, and Religion. These were the order of the day, but if anyone distinguished himself by a show of talent, diligence or good behavior, that one received special instruction in versification, an art in which Pennewip took great pleasure.

Thus he taught the boys till they were sufficiently advanced to be confirmed. With the help of his wife he gave the girls a "finishing course." They were graduated with a paternoster done in red on a black background, or perhaps a pierced heart between two flower-pots. Then they were through and ready to become the grandmothers of their own generation.

There was no natural science then. Even to-day there is room for improvement along this line. It is said that some advance has been made recently. It is more useful for a child to know how corn grows than to be able to call the name of it in a foreign language. I don't say that either is incompatible with the other.

The public schools were most deficient at the time when Walter and Keesje were slowly crawling around the arena of honor; but I doubt if one could say much more of the "institutes" of to-day. I would advise everyone to visit such a school as he attended when a boy; and I am convinced that after this test many a father who has the welfare of his children at heart will prefer to keep them at home. One comes to the conclusion, that after all in the school of clever Master Miller, who was so clever that he got himself addressed as M'sieu Millaire, precious little was to be learned.

Failing to make this test we continue to believe in the infallibility of M'sieu of Millaire. We always consider that one a great man whom we have known in childhood and haven't seen since.

When I remarked a moment ago that school-teachers are paid so niggardly, I didn't mean that their remuneration was insufficient, considering the quality and quantity of the goods delivered—knowledge, scholarship, education. I only had in mind the bitterness of their lot, and the poor indemnity given to the man who spends his life in a wasp's nest.

In addition to versifying, Pennewip had still another hobby, which gave him more claim to a throne than did anything else. He was possessed with the mania for classifying, a passion known to few, but still of not infrequent occurrence. I have never quite understood the disease; and I gave up my search for the "first cause" as soon as I saw how difficult it is to get around with a hobby-horse taken from somebody else's stable. So I am going to give only a short sketch of Pennewip's harmless animal.

Everything that he saw, perceived, experienced he divided into families, classes, genera, species and sub-species, and made of the human race a sort of botanical garden, in which he was the Linne. He regarded that as the only possible way to grasp the final purpose of creation and clear up all obscure things, both in and out of school. He even went so far as to say that Walter's New Testament would have turned up again if Juffrouw Pieterse had only been able to tell to what class the man belonged who had bound the volume in black leather. But that was something she didn't know.

As for myself, I shouldn't have said a word about Pennewip's mania for classifying everything, if I hadn't thought it might help me to give the reader a better picture of our hero and his surroundings. I should have preferred to leave the said Pennewip in undisturbed intercourse with the muses; but we shall have occasion later to refer to his poetic art, when we shall quote some poems by his pupils.

After the usual general division into "animate" and "inanimate"—the good man gave the human race only one soul—followed a system that looked like a pyramid. On the top was God with the angels and spirits and other accessories, while the oysters and polyps and mussels were crawling about down near the base, or lying still—just as they pleased. Half way up stood kings, members of school-boards, mayors, legislators, theologians and D.D.'s. Next under these were professors and merchants who do not work themselves. Then came doctors of things profane, i. e., those driving double rigs, also lawyers and untitled preachers, the Colonel of the City Militia, the Rector of the Latin School. Philosophers (only those who have developed a system), doctors with one horse, doctors without any horse and poets were further down. Rather low down, and not far from the mussels, was the seventh sub-division of the third class of the "citizen population." Our hero would come under this sub-section.

Citizen Population, Class III., 7th Sub-Division.

People Living in Rented Flats.

a. Entrance for tenants only. Three-window front. Two stories, with back-rooms. The boys sleep alone, dress, however, with the girls. Fresh straw in case a baby is born. Learning French, poems at Christmas. The girls are sometimes called Lena or Maria, but seldom Louise. Darning. The boys work in offices. One girl kept, sewing-girl, and "person for the rough work." Washing at home. Read sermons by Palm. Pickled pork on Sundays, with table-cloth, liquor after coffee. Religion. Respectability.

b 1. Still three windows. One story. Neighbors live above who ring twice (Vide b. 2). Leentje, Mietje; Louise heard seldom. House-door opened with a cord, which is sleek from long use. Sleep in one room. Straw-heaps in cases of confinement. One maid-servant for everything. Sundays cheese, no liquor, but religion and respectability as above.

b 2. Neighbors who ring twice. About as above. No maid, only a "person for the rough work." Seamstress. White table-cloth. Cheese from time to time, only occasionally. Religion as above.

c. One story higher. Two-window front. Small projecting back-room. The entire family sleeps in two beds. No trace of straw. The boys are called Louw, Piet, or Gerrit, and become watchmakers or type-setters. A few become sailors. Continual wrangle with the neighbors about the waste-water. Religion as above. Associate with "respectable folk." Read "Harlemmer" with III. 7, b. 2. No maid, or person for rough work, but a seamstress on seven stivers and a piece of bread and butter.

That brings us to Juffrouw Pieterse.

The reader will now have a very good idea of Walter's environment, and will readily understand why I said he had a "city complexion." That was when we saw him in the Hartenstraat, on the road to fame, or on the road to that nameless "other thing" of Juffrouw Laps. At all events he was on his way to things that will occupy our attention for some time yet.



CHAPTER VI

It was Wednesday, and the Pieterses were going to give a party. Juffrouw Laps had been invited, also the Juffrouw living over the dairy, whose husband was employed at the "bourse." Further Mrs. Stotter, who had been a midwife for so long and was still merely "very respectable." Then the widow Zipperman, whose daughter had married some fellow in the insurance business, or something of the kind. Also the baker's wife. That was unavoidable: it was impossible to buy all kinds of pastry and cakes without her finding out what was up. Then the Juffrouw living below and to the rear. Of course she wouldn't come, but the Pieterses wanted to show that they had forgotten the late quarrel over the broken window-pane. If she didn't come that was the end of the matter, so far as Juffrouw Pieterse was concerned. She would have nothing more to do with the Juffrouw from below. I may add that the lady from below did not come, and that her name was stricken from the calling-list of those higher up.

The children were to go to bed early, with the promise of a cup of sage-milk for breakfast if they would not make any noise the entire evening. This drink largely took the place of tea then. It was thought that the "noise" made by children would not be appreciated. Walter got permission to go play with the Halleman boys, who were thought to be very respectable. He must be at home by eight o'clock; but this was said in a tone that gave him no cause to fear a reprimand in case he should stay out later. Laurens, who of course was an apprentice to a printer, and usually came home about seven o'clock in the evening, was big enough to be present with the guests, but must promise to sit still and drink only two glasses. The big girls were to be present as a matter of course: They had been confirmed. Stoffel presided. His business was to meet the gentlemen when they came for the ladies about ten o'clock, and entertain the company with stories of Mungo Park.

Leentje was to remain till the people were all there, as it was so inconvenient to have to open the door every time. She could make herself useful in arranging the table and doing other things incident to such occasions. But she "must move about a little brisker," otherwise they would prefer to do everything themselves.

The eldest of the girls, Juffrouw Truitje, must look after the "sage-milk." Pietje had charge of the sandwiches; but Myntje was to see to it that the butter was spread a little thicker, for the last time the bread had been too dry.

Everything was going to turn out so nicely, "if only Juffrouw Laps wouldn't talk so much." That was her failing. And, too, they hoped that the widow Zipperman would "brag a little less about her son-in-law." This was considered a source of weariness. And the Juffrouw who lived over the dairy "might be more modest." She had "never lived in such a fine house"; and as for the shop—that was no disgrace; and on the top floor—but one cannot tell how it will be.

No one understood why the baker's wife used so many French words, which was not becoming in one of her station. "If she does it this evening, Stoffel, say something to me that she can't understand, then she will find out that we are not 'from the street,' that we know what's what."

"It's all the same to me," Juffrouw Pieterse continued, "whether the Juffrouw downstairs comes or not. I don't care a fig about it.—Four, five—Louw can sit there, but he must keep his legs still—and a chair there—yes—so! It's a good thing she's not coming; it would have been too crowded. Leentje, go to work—do blow your nose! No, run over to Juffrouw Laps's and ask the Juffrouw if the Juffrouw could spare a few stools—without backs, you understand; because the chairs there by the chimney—yes, ask the Juffrouw for a few stools, and tell the Juffrouw that they are for me, and that I expect the Juffrouws about seven. Give my compliments to the Juffrouw and wipe your nose."

Juffrouw Pieterse didn't like to use personal pronouns; it was impolite.

On this afternoon Walter went to his bridge early. It was now not so useless as usual, for the rain of the day before had filled the ditch with water, which was even running, so that the straws which Walter thoughtlessly, or full of thought—both are about the same thing—threw into the water were carried down to the pond, where the logs lay that were to be sawed up by the "Eagle" and the "Early Hour." These were the names of the sawmills that for some weeks had been the witnesses of Walter's daydreams.

Glorioso was gone, and could not be replaced; but on those afternoons when he was free Walter returned involuntarily to the spot where he had had his first glimpse of the world of romance. How rough and crude the colors in that first picture! Perhaps it was the very roughness of the colors that attracted him and changed him, till he could not conceive how he had ever found enjoyment in the little cakes on the corner.

A peculiar prospective had opened up before him. He dreamed of things that he could not name; but they made him bitterly dissatisfied with his present condition. He was anxious to do everything prescribed to get to Heaven; but he thought it would be much easier to pray in such a cave with wax candles. And as for honoring his mother, a point upon which she always laid great stress—why didn't she have a train like the countess? Certainly he ought not to have sold the Bible; and he wouldn't do it any more—he had vowed it; but then he ought to have had a box filled with florins, and a feather in his cap, just as it was in the book.

He was disgusted with his brother Stoffel, and his sisters, and Juffrouw Laps, and the preacher and everything. He couldn't understand why the whole family didn't go to Italy and form a respectable robber-band. But Pennewip and Keesje shouldn't go; that was certain.

He wondered what had become of his verses. Every Wednesday such pupils as had been well-behaved, and, for that reason, deemed worthy to contest for the "laurel," handed in a poem written on some subject suggested by the teacher. This time the subject assigned to Walter was "Goodness," which probably had some reference to his former behavior, and was a hint for the improvement of his moral character. But Walter had already put goodness into rhyme so often, and found the subject so dry and tedious and worn-out that he had taken the liberty of "singing" something else. He selected the theme nearest his heart—robbers!

Like all authors he was greatly infatuated with his work. He was convinced that the teacher, too, would see the excellencies of his poem and forgive him for deviating from the path of goodness. The verses would undoubtedly be sent to the mayor, and he would pass them on to the Pope, who would then summon Walter and appoint him "Court-robber."

And thus he dreamed and threw his straws into the stream. They moved away slowly and disappeared between the moss-covered timbers. Involuntarily his fancy had transmuted them into the characters of his world of romance. There went the countess with her long train, which got caught in the moss and held the countess fast. The virtuous Amalia met with no better luck; she got tangled up in the water lentils. And now came Walter himself. He approached Amalia, in her green robes, and was just about to rescue her, when he was swallowed by a duck. This was most unkind of the duck, for it was Walter's last stalk of grass; and now in the rattling and buzzing of the sawmills below he could hear Amalia repeating in a reproachful voice:

"Warre, warre, warre, we; Where is warre, warre, wall— Walter, who will rescue me?"

This annoyed him, and he could not resist the temptation to throw a rock at the duck whose greediness had caused Amalia to doubt his chivalry.

The duck chose the better part, and retired after she had done Walter all the damage she could. But the sawmills paid no attention to these happenings and continued to rattle away.

Walter heard now in the noisy clatter of the mills all kinds of songs and stories, and, listening to these, he soon forgot Amalia and the Pope. That the reader may not get a wrong impression of these mills, I hasten to say that there was really nothing extraordinary about them. They buzzed and rattled just like other sawmills.

It often happens that we think we perceive something which comes from the external world, when in fact it is only a subjective product in ourselves. Similarly, we may think we have just imagined something, when really it came to us from the world of the senses.

This is a kind of ventriloquism that often gives cause for annoyance and enmity.

I wonder which turns the faster?—Walter listened to the mills. Now—I think—no, begin together. Good! No, the Eagle was ahead! Once more—now!

Which will get there first? No, that won't do. Once more together. Look sharp, Morning Hour,—out again! I can't hold my eye on it—what a whirling and buzzing!

You are tired, are you? I believe it.

If I might only sit on such a big wing, wouldn't I hold on tight? And wouldn't the sawyer look?

Why are you called "Morning Hour"? Have you gold in your mouth? And "Eagle"! Can you fly? Take me with you. What a big play-ground up there, and no school!

I wonder how the first school began. Which came first, the school, or the teacher? But the first teacher must have attended a school. And the first school must have had a teacher.

So the first school must have just started itself. But that is impossible. "Eagle," can you turn yourself?—with the wind? Can you turn yourself some other way? Try it. Beat "Morning Hour." Quick, quick—beautiful!

Now, once more alone. Good!

Now, together again! Karre, karre, kra, kra—stretch your arms out and take me with you. Will you? Put your hat on, Eagle; how the ribbons fly.—Who are you? Warre, warre, ware, wan—I can't help it; it was the duck. Tell me what your name is. Fanny, fanny, fanny, fan—— Is your name fan? And you, Morning Hour, what is your name? Ceny, ceny, ceny, ce. What kind of a name is Ce? Now together—sing a song together:

Fanny, fanny, fanny, fan— Ceny, ceny, ceny, ce— Fanny, ceny, fanny, ceny, Fanny, ceny, fan—cy.

Fancy—what do you mean by that? Is that the name of both of you? And what is it? Has it wings?

"Morning Hour" and "Eagle" had fused into something that had wings and was called fancy.

Fancy lifted Walter up and bore him away.

When she brought him back to the bridge again it had already been dark for a long time. He shook himself as if he were wet, rubbed his eyes and started home. We shall see later what awaited him there; but first we must go back a few hours. I hope the reader will not disdain an invitation to Juffrouw Pieterse's. Remember that her husband never made anything, but bought everything ready-made in Paris.

In passing by I should like to make Master Pennewip a short visit.



CHAPTER VII

School was out; and the seats looked as if the pupils had just left the tediousness of it all lying there. The map of Europe looked down peevishly on the heap of writing-pads. There lay the mutilated and well-worn goose-quills, which since time immemorial have opened up the gates of learning. True, the black-board vaunted itself with the heavy results of the last lesson in "fractions"; but the school was no more. The spirit had fled: It was a corpse.

Yes, the "Geist" had gone out with the children; for the reader will see in a moment that they carried about with them a tremendous amount of that article.

We already know that this was the great day when Pennewip was to criticise the poetical effusions of his young geniuses. There he sat, his restless wig sharing all the poetical feelings and emotions—and motions—of its owner. We will just look over his shoulder and read with him those inestimable treasures of poetic art; and perhaps we too shall be moved to emotion.

Wig: In the middle, resting quietly.

Lucas de Bryer: "Our Native Land."

Cake and wine and native land, Out in the moonlight I take my stand; Our native land and cake and wine, And I hope the moon will shine; Five fingers have I on my hand, All to honor our native land.

"Melodious," said the teacher, "very melodious; and very profound. Cake and wine, with our native land as a climax."

Wig: On the right side.

Lizzie Webbelar: "My Father's Vocation."

The cat is sly, I know; My father is a dealer in Po- Tatoes and onions.

"Original, immediate! But I don't like the way she cuts her potatoes in twain."

Wig: On the left side.

Jeanette Rust: "The Weather-cock."

He stands on the chimney since long ago, And shows the wind which way to blow.

"Smooth, but not quite correct, if examined closely—but I'll let it pass as poetic license."

Wig: Down in front.

Leendert Snelleman: "Lent."

In Lent it is always nice, My brother's birth-day is in May, He says his feet need warming, So that Lent we must be praising, And then we're going to celebrate, Easter brings eggs and a holiday.

"It's too bad that he's so careless with his rhymes. His imagination is extraordinary. Very original."

Wig: Down on his neck.

Keesje, the Butcher's Boy: "In Praise of the Teacher."

My father has slaughtered many a steer, But Master Pennewip is still living, I hear; Some are lean, and some are well-fed, He has slipped his wig to the side of his head.

The wig actually went to the side of his head.

"Well, this is curious. I hardly know what to say about it."

The wig slipped to the other side.

"What's the connection between me and steers?"

The wig protested vigorously against any implication of relationship with steers.

"H—mm! Can it be that this is what our new-fangled writers call humour?"

The wig sank down to his eyebrows, which signified doubt.

"I will call up the boy and——"

The wig passed again to the zenith, to express its satisfaction with the teacher's determination to interview the butcher's boy.

Lucas de Wilde: "Religion."

Religion very nice must be, Much it pleases the people we see.

"The fundamental idea is very beautiful," said the teacher, "but it ought to have been developed better."

The wig nodded acquiescence.

Trudie Gier: "Juffrouw Pennewip."

The path of virtue she shows us each day, And we are glad to go that way; And as there's nothing to do more fitting, She teaches us sewing, darning and knitting.

The wig fairly leaped with pleasure, and the curls embraced one another. This out-pouring of Trudie's heart was borne at once to Juffrouw Pennewip, and was later hung by the fireplace in honor of the poetess and the subject of the poem.

Then followed a sublime poem on God by Klaasje van der Gracht, the son of the Catechist. He was thirteen years old, and had not been vaccinated—out of regard for predestination.

"If only his father didn't help him!"

The wig was rigid with astonishment.

Louwtje de Wilde: "Friendship."

Friendship very nice must be, Much it pleases the people we see.

The wig seemed dissatisfied. The "Religion" of Lucas de Wilde was pulled out and compared with Louwtje's "Friendship."

"H—emm. It is possible. Another example of how one thought can originate in two heads at the same time."

Wimpje de Wilde: "Fishing."

Fishing very——

"What's that?"

Yes, really, there it was again:

Fishing very nice must be, Much it pleases the people we see.

The wig was moving continually. It looked as if it were fishing too.

The teacher looked hurriedly through the remaining poems and picked out the offspring of the entire Wilde connection. His worst suspicions were realized. Mietje de Wilde, Kees de Wilde, Piet and Jan de Wilde—all uniformly declared that religion, friendship, fishing, dreaming, cauliflower and deception "very nice must be," and that they were also very pleasing "to the people we see." A regular flood of the nice and pleasing.

Now, what do you suppose the wig did? It did the best thing that could be done under the circumstances. More could not be expected of a wig. As soon as it saw the futility of its efforts to comprehend the difference between fishing, friendship, deception, dreams, religion and cauliflower, it merely ignored the whole matter, readjusted itself and assumed an expression of expectancy for what was yet to come.

Leentje de Haas: "Admiral de Ruyter."

Pulling the rope with emotion, To the top of the mast he came, And then he went to the ocean, And won for himself great fame.

And very much more he perfected, Saleh he vanquished, too; A hero he was then elected, With nothing else to do.

The wig lifted itself, the curls applauding enthusiastically. It was evidently pleased.

Grete Wauzer: "The Caterpillar."

The caterpillar, free from care, Crawls on the tree just over there.

"Descriptive poetry. A daring idea—the caterpillar crawling on the tree free from care."

Wig: Quiet.

Ah, the pleasure of a wig is short-lived! And how soon was this one—but I will not anticipate. Soon, all too soon, the reader will know the worst.

Walter Pieterse: "A Robber Song."

"Aha, what's this? And 'goodness'? But where has he written on goodness?"

The teacher could scarcely believe his eyes. He turned the sheet of paper over and examined the back side, hoping to discover there some lines on goodness.

Then he saw that on Walter's sheet there was not a trace of "goodness."

Oh, wretched wig!

Yes, wretched wig! For after it had suffered as never wig had suffered before, after it had been pulled at and tugged at and martyred in a manner beyond even the imagination of the Wilde family, Master Pennewip snatched it from his head, twisted it convulsively in his hands, stammered a short "Heaven-human-Christian-soul-good-gracious-my-life—how is it possible!" slapped it on his head again, covered it with his venerable cap and burst out the door like one possessed.

He was on his way to Walter's home, where we shall soon see him arrive. As a conscientious historian, however, it will be my duty first to give an account of the happenings there.



CHAPTER VIII

"Goodness, I'm glad to see you! And so early, too! Leetje, place a chair over there and get the footstool, but be in a hurry, or I'd rather do it myself. And how are you? Juffrouw Laps is coming too, you know—Myntje, you'd better be thinking of your dough and stop combing your head. That girl can't keep her hands off of her hair when there's company. But do take a seat—no, not in the corner; there's a draft there."

There was no more draft in this corner than is usual to corners; but Mrs. Stotter was only a Vrouw, and not a "Juffrouw." She had no right to the seat of honour; for on all occasions a Juffrouw takes precedence of a Vrouw, just as a Mevrouw takes precedence of a Juffrouw. Everyone must keep his place, especially those in III, 7, b1; or c., where etiquette is observed more closely than at the court of Madrid. The care and anxiety of the mistress of ceremonies make her work most trying, and, too, not merely for Juffrouw Pieterse.

"Ah, my dear Juffrouw Pieterse, I was so surprised when Louwie came to invite me, for I had just remarked to Wimpje, who makes caps, you know—no, thank you, Pietje, I don't care for any just now—I said to Wimpje, I wonder what Juffrouw Pieterse is doing, for I hadn't heard from you in so long, you know—yes, just throw it aside, it's my old one; I knew you wouldn't mind my wearing my old one—and then Wimpje said——"

What Wimpje really said I don't know. Mrs. Stotter's garment, which she had described as her "old one," was removed and placed on the foot of the bed in the back room. The children, who were piled together there like sardines, were duly admonished not to stretch out their feet, lest in doing so they injure Mrs. Stotter's "old" garment.

"And now, my dear, be seated—yes, that's for us, twice already. Leentje, where are you hiding now? Can't you hear that somebody is ringing?—It's probably Juffrouw Zipperman. Juffrouw Zipperman is coming, too, you know."

Again I am at a loss: I don't know whether it was Juffrouw Zipperman who had rung, or somebody else. But the reader need not scold me for writing a story that I don't know myself. I cannot be sure whether it was Juffrouw Zipperman this time or Juffrouw Mabbel, from the bakery, or Juffrouw Krummel, whose husband is at the bourse, or Juffrouw Laps—but she didn't need to ring, as she lived in the house. Anyway, by half past seven the entire company was assembled, and Stoffel was smoking his pipe as if his life depended upon it. Leentje had gone home without her piece of bread and butter. She "could get it to-morrow"; to-day there was "so much to do," and "one can't do everything at once, you know."

"And then she got another one right away—don't you know? One with a wart on her nose."

"Ah, it's an ordeal one has with girls," said Juffrouw Pieterse. "Take another piece, don't wait to be insisted upon; it's a cake from your own dough."

"Excusez," said the Juffrouw from the bakery, with a mouth like a rabbit, a style of mouth signifying graciousness and good breeding.

"You must eat more, or I shall think you don't like it." She had baked it herself.

"Then I cannot refuse, Juffrouw Pieterse. Oblige and many thanks."

"And you, Juffrouw Laps, what can I pass you?" Juffrouw Laps selected ginger cake.

"Fill the cups, Trudie! Yes, Mrs. Stotter, when you are here you must drink with us. You are welcome to anything we've got. Pietje, wipe off a table—such a girl! And now go and look after the baby, and tell her that I don't want to hear any more noise. Ah, Juffrouw Mabbel, children are a great deal of trouble. And your little Sientje—how is her cough now?"

"We've got a magnetisier, but that isn't enough. We must have the clairvoyange of the sonnebule."

"You don't say so! One can hardly believe it. And when is he coming, the cler—cleek—clar——"

"It's in the nerves, Juffrouw Zipperman. But he has the little nightcap and nightgown, in which she has sweated, you know; and he says that it will come all right now."

"Who would have thought it! What will you do now?"

"That's just it; the sonnebule must tell us what to do."

Juffrouw Laps could not agree to this.

"I wouldn't do it—I wouldn't do it—not for anything in the world! I tell you, what God does is all right. Just mark my words!"

"Yes, Juffrouw Laps; but the Juffrouw at the provision store did it, and her child is lots better."

"That's what you say, Juffrouw Mabbel, but I tell you there is something in her eye that I don't like."

"What then, Juffrouw Laps?"

"She has a look, a look—and it's sin—I tell you it is. It's wrong, it won't do. What God does is all right."

"Come, Stoffel, talk some. You sit there like a stone. Recite a poem, or tell us something about your school. Would you believe it, Juffrouw Mabbel, he knows a whole poem by heart. And he has memorized all the verbs of the feminine gender."

"Mother, what are you talking about?" said Stoffel, displeased. "Don't you see I'm smoking?"

"Yes, dear, I meant when you were through smoking. Then you can repeat the words. You will be surprised, Juffrouw Zipperman, and wonder where he learned it all. How does it go? 'I would have been drunk, he would have been drunk'—of course, you know, he was not drunk, it belongs with the verbs. You will kill yourself laughing when he begins. Fill the cups, Trudie, and blow in the spout; there's a leaf over it."

The reader will not take it amiss, I trust, if I pass over the subsequent history of this leaf, and, too, make some deviations from the text of the conversation during the further course of Juffrouw Pieterse's tea-evening. Stoffel spun off his conjugations and the ladies fairly shrieked when he related how "he had been drunk" and that "he would be drunk." Thereupon followed general and particular criticism of the neighbors. The Juffrouw below received her share, as a matter of course: She was absent.

Religion and faith play an important part. Juffrouw Laps was for organizing a prayer-class. The preachers of to-day, she insisted, take their work too lightly and don't sweep out all the corners.

"I tell you, it's in the Bible that man is only man," she cried; "that's what I want to tell you. Man must not try to know better than God himself. Salvation comes through grace, and grace through faith; but if a man is not chosen, then he has no grace and can have no faith. That's the way he is damned, don't you see? I tell you, it's just as certain as twice two—understand? And for that reason I want to have a prayer-class. Not for the sake of money or profit—God help me, no! At most just a trifle for the fair, or for New Year. What do you think of the plan, Juffrouw Mabbel?"

That lady expressed the opinion that her husband would be opposed to it, for he liked to go out of evenings, and then she must stay in the shop. Besides, it was so difficult to get through with the work. No one could imagine what a laborious occupation baking was.

"What do you say, Juffrouw Zipperman? Don't you think it would be a go? I would serve coffee; and the people could leave something on the saucers. Really, I am not doing it for the money. We would begin with the Old Testament—and then—exercise, you know; practice—understand?"

Juffrouw Zipperman thought it would be very nice; but her son-in-law had said that the preachers are paid to do this, and that any additional "exercise" was merely an unnecessary expense.

"What do you say to it, Juffrouw Krummel? Don't you think that such a class—just a small class——"

Juffrouw Krummel said she practiced with her husband when he came from the bourse.

Juffrouw Laps was now forced to turn to Mrs. Stotter, though she felt that she was letting herself down in appealing to a Vrouw.

"Ah, my dear Juffrouw Laps, if you had been a midwife as long as I have you'd take no interest in a prayer-class. Now there is M'neer Littelman in Prince Street. I've been at his house—always in respectable houses—and he always said—it's a house with high steps, and in the hall there's a big clock about the wind and rain—and he always said: 'Vrouw Stotter,' said he, 'you're a good woman,' said he, 'and a faithful midwife. I always tell the people that,' said he, 'and,' said he, 'all of my connection must send for you,' said he, 'but,' said he, 'when people tell you this you must act as if you didn't hear it'—thank you, Juffrouw Pieterse, my cup is turned over. Just as I said: Everyone must know what he's doing."

"But just a little exercise like that, Mrs. Stotter!"

"It's possible, it's possible. But I've had so much experience in such things. I go my own way; and that's the best way, too. For I've been in the home of M'neer Witte, who has an uncle in congress—for I always go to respectable places—and he always said, because he's so funny: 'Child-woman, child-woman, you're nothing but a child-woman.' I was just going to say that I know what I'm doing, for I've seen a lot in my life. There's M'neer—what's his name? There in Prince Street—no, no, Market Square. Oh, what is his name!"

The reader will have noticed that Mrs. Stotter digressed from the theme. But other folk do the same.

"And Juffrouw Pieterse, what do you think of the idea? Just a little exercise."

"Ah, my dear, I have exercise enough with my children. You don't know what it means to bring up nine. I always worship with the children, for the Bible says—Trudie, go to the baby; I hear her again."

There was something noble in Trudie's gait as she walked into that back room. One could see that she felt flattered by the transmission to her of maternal dignity. Little Kee, the baby, was less flattered.

"What were we talking about? Yes, that is my religious service. The children keep me busy. You don't know anything about it; if I bring them up properly—run, Pietje, and straighten out Simon. He's pinching his sister again; he always does it when there's company."

Simon was straightened out.

"Whenever we have company the children behave so badly. There it goes again. Myntje, go and see what's the matter and tell them to go to sleep."

Myntje went, returning immediately with the report that they had "turned something over."

General indignation. Angry message from the Juffrouw below. It was unpleasant for the Juffrouw below when the children of the Juffrouw above turned over things and flooded the back room. Terrible excitement.

Finally the children were straightened out.

Juffrouw Zipperman again sat in the corner where there was such a "draft." This only goes to show that earthly greatness has its dark side, and that a son-in-law in the insurance business entitles one to rheumatism.

Juffrouw Laps was greatly pleased with the hearty manner in which punishment was meted out to the children. It was exactly according to Scripture, she said; and then she cited a text or two in which the rod was prescribed. It's in the Bible somewhere, I don't know where. The Bible mentions everything, and the "rod" especially.

"Now, Stoffel," said the hostess sweetly, "recite something for us." She wanted to show that her children could do something else besides pinch and turn things over.

"I don't know anything," said Stoffel, but without a trace of Socratic arrogance.

"Just say for us what you said the other day. Come, Stoffel. That's the way he always is, Juffrouw Mabbel. One has to pull him up on his feet before he will do anything. But then he goes all right. Forward, Stoffel! He's tired now. Teaching in such a school is hard work. Yes, Juffrouw, he's as smart as he can be. Would you believe it? All words are either masculine or feminine. Aren't they, Stoffel?"

"No, mother."

"No? But—and the other day you said—it's only to get him started, you know, Juffrouw Zipperman, it takes a little time, because he's worn out with his school work—but you said that all words——"

"No, mother. Masculine, feminine or neuter, I said."

"Yes, and still more," said Juffrouw Pieterse. "You will be astonished when you hear him. What do you suppose you are, Juffrouw Krummel?"

"I? What I am?"

"Yes, yes, what you are—what you really are."

"I am Juffrouw Krummel," she said, but doubtfully; for she read in the triumphant look of Juffrouw Pieterse and the tightly closed lips of Stoffel that she might easily be something entirely different from Juffrouw Krummel.

The tension did not need to be farther increased; so Juffrouw Pieterse passed now from the special to the general. Her glance took in the entire company.

"And you, too, Juffrouw Mabbel; and you, Juffrouw Laps; and you, Juffrouw Zipperman; and you, Mrs. Stotter—what do you all think you are?"

No one knew.

This will not be surprising to anyone who knows how difficult knowledge of the "self" is; but Stoffel had something else in mind. There was a deeper meaning involved.

Juffrouw Laps was the first to answer, and she spoke with proud self-sufficiency:

"I am Juffrouw Laps!"

"Wrong, wrong—entirely wrong!"

"But for Heaven sake, am I not Juffrouw Laps?"

"Y-e-s. Of course you are Juffrouw Laps; but Stoffel didn't ask who you were, but what you were. There's the fine point."

"What I am? I'm Dutch Reform!"

"Y-e-s. That you are, too; but—it isn't that. The question is, What are you? Help her out, Stoffel."

Between puffs of smoke, and with the air of a professor, Stoffel proceeded to "help":

"Juffrouw Laps, I wished to know what you were from a zoological standpoint."

"I won't have anything more to do with it," said Juffrouw Laps in the tone of one who feels that he is going to be insulted.

"I am a midwife," said Mrs. Stotter, "and I'm going to stick to it."

"And I am the baker's wife," cried Juffrouw Mabbel, with a positiveness in her tone which showed her intention to hold to this opinion.

"Certainly, certainly, Juffrouw Mabbel; but I mean from a zoological standpoint."

"If it's going to be indecent, I prefer to go home."

"I, too," added Juffrouwen Krummel and Zipperman. "We came here to be entertained."

"But you're not going to get angry about it! I tell you, it's in the book, Stoffel—you will laugh when you hear it, Juffrouw Mabbel; and the best part of it is, that it's in the book, and one can't say anything against it. Tell her, Stoffel!"

"Juffrouw Laps," said Stoffel with dignity—an important moment in Juffrouw Pieterse's tea-evening had arrived—"Juffrouw Laps, you are a sucking animal."

I admit frankly that I cannot adequately describe the crisis that followed these two words. If Stoffel had only said mammal, perhaps then my task would have been easier.

Juffrouw Laps's face took on all the different colors that are generally supposed to express anger. She had been attacked more openly than the others, it is true; but her attitude toward the prayer-class would go to show that she was naturally polemical.

In French novels people used to turn green; but Juffrouw Laps did not read French, so she stopped at a terrible violet and screamed—no, she didn't. She didn't scream anything; for she was choking for breath. But she did pulverize that piece of ginger cake; and she looked at Stoffel and his mother in a manner that would have been most damaging for her if those two persons had happened to die that night.

Imitating the trick of the cuttle-fish, no doubt unconsciously, Stoffel managed to escape this fatal stare by enveloping himself in a heavy cloud of smoke. Juffrouw Pieterse, however, not being a smoker, was at the mercy of Juffrouw Laps. She stammered humbly: "It's in the book, really it's in the book. Don't be angry, it's in the book."

By this time Juffrouw Laps was getting a little air, so much that there was now no danger of her suffocating. She threw the mutilated remains of the ginger cake on the table and began:

"Juffrouw Pieterse, you are nothing but a low, vile, filthy—you may even be a sucking animal, you and your son too. I want you to understand that I've always been respectable. My father sold grain, and nobody's ever been able to say anything against me! Ask everybody about me—if I've ever run with men-folk, and such things; and if I haven't always paid my debts. He was manager I would have you understand, and we lived over the chapter-house, for he was in the grain business, and you can ask about me there. Thank God, you can ask about me everywhere—do you hear? But never, never, never, has such a thing happened to me. What you put on me! If it wasn't for lowering myself I'd tell you what I think of you—you sucking animal, you and your son and your whole family. My father sold grain, and I'm too respectable for you to——"

"But—it's in the book that way. For God's sake believe me; it's in the book."

"Just hold your lip about your book. Anybody who sells God's holy word on the Ouwebrug needn't talk to me about books."

This accusation was false; for Walter, and not his mother, had sold the Bible; but this was no time for such fine distinctions.

"Stoffel, go get the book and show Juffrouw—my God, what shall I do!"

"Go to the Devil with your book and your sucking animals. You've got nothing to show in your book. I know you—and your lout of a son, and your wenches of daughters, that are growing up like——"

Truitje, Myntje and Pietje, understanding from this that there was something radically wrong with their growth, began to screech too. Other members of the party bawled a word from time to time, as opportunity presented itself. Then came another message from the Juffrouw below. This time she threatened to call in the police. The children, taking advantage of the general excitement to break the ban under which they had been placed, had left the bed and were now listening at the keyhole. Juffrouw Pieterse was calling for the camphor bottle, declaring that she was going to die; Mrs. Stotter was clamoring for her wrap—her "old one"; and Stoffel was playing cuttle-fish as well as he could.

All had got up and were going to leave. They could "put up with a good deal," but that was "too much"! Juffrouw Krummel was going to tell her husband; Juffrouw Zipperman was going to let everybody in the insurance business know about it; Mrs. Stotter was going to relate the whole story to the gentleman in Prince Street; and Juffrouw Mabbel—I forget whom she was going to tell it all to. In short, every one of them was going to see to it that the affair was well aired.

Who knows but what these threats would have been carried out, if the good genius of the Pieterses had not at that moment caused someone to ring the door-bell? It was that worthy gentleman whom we left in such a state of pious despair at the close of the last chapter.



CHAPTER IX

Yes, the door-bell rang. And it rang again: So it was "for us." Juffrouw Pieterse drew a long breath; and I must say, she did a very proper thing. While admitting that it is foolish to say what one would do if one were somebody else, still, in her place I should have drawn a long breath, too. Firstly, because I imagine she hadn't done this for a long time; secondly, because I know how, in adverse circumstances, every change and interruption gives one ground for hope; and, finally, because I think Juffrouw Pieterse was human, just like the rest of us.

"Ah, my dears," she said, "be peaceable. It must be the gentlemen."

The ladies declared it couldn't be the gentlemen, because it was too early for them; and this very doubt and uncertainty as to who it might be gave the crisis a favorable turn.

Mere uncertainty, even when in no way connected with what is occupying us, has a sort of paralyzing effect. Besides, when one is interrupted in one's anger, afterwards it is difficult to find the place where one left off.

This was Juffrouw Laps's experience; she tried it, but it wouldn't work. Her "a sucking animal, a sucking animal!" was smothered by, "What can it mean? He never comes before ten!"

Juffrouw Pieterse quickly availed herself of this diversion to get them all seated again.

Trudie was commissioned to "straighten out" the children, who came off rather badly. The hostess was just about to state a new zoological argument, which should establish peace between the hostile parties, when the door opened and Master Pennewip stood before the agitated assembly.

He, too, was agitated: the reader knows it.

The surprise caused by the arrival of this unexpected visitor had a most favorable effect on the peace negotiations. A truce was tacitly declared, though not without the proviso, at least on Juffrouw Laps's part, that hostilities should be reopened as soon as curiosity as to Pennewip's visit had been sufficiently satisfied. Indeed, she was all the more willing for a truce, as it was evident from the man's appearance that there was something momentous at hand. His wig cried out fire and murder in unmistakable tones. And that was just what the good Juffrouw Laps liked.

"Good-evening, Juffrouw Pieterse; my humblest respects. I see you have company, but——"

"That 'doesn't make a bit of difference,' Master Pennewip. 'Come right in and take a seat.'"

These forms of expression were rigidly observed in the "citizen populace," III, 7. c.

"Won't you drink a cup with us?"

"Juffrouw Pieterse," he said with extreme dignity, "I didn't come here simply to drink a cup of sage-milk."

"But, Master Pennewip, please be seated!"

It wasn't easy; but the ladies made room and he was soon seated.

He cleared up his throat and looked about him with dignity. Then he drew a roll of manuscript from his pocket, disarranged his wig and spoke:

"Juffrouw Pieterse! You are a worthy, respectable woman, and your husband sold shoes——"

Juffrouw Pieterse looked triumphantly at Juffrouw Laps.

"Yes, Master Pennewip, quite so; he did——"

"Don't interrupt me, Juffrouw Pieterse. Your departed husband sold shoes. I have taught your children from little tots up to their confirmation. Haven't I, Juffrouw Pieterse?"

"Yes, Master Pennewip," she replied modestly; for she was afraid of that excessive dignity in Pennewip's manner and voice.

"And I just want to ask you, Juffrouw Pieterse, whether, during all this time that your children were in my school, you ever heard any complaints—reasonable complaints—of the manner in which I, with my wife, instructed your children in reading, writing, arithmetic, national history, psalmody, sewing, knitting, drawing and religion? I put the question to you, Juffrouw Pieterse, and wait for a reply."

1  2  3  4  5     Next Part
Home - Random Browse