Part 1 out of 3
Etext prepared by Dagny, firstname.lastname@example.org
and John Bickers, email@example.com
STORIES BY ENGLISH AUTHORS: GERMANY, ETC.
By Various Authors, Selected by Scribners
STORIES BY ENGLISH AUTHORS
THE BIRD ON ITS JOURNEY, Beatrice Harraden
KOOSJE: A STUDY OF DUTCH LIFE, John Strange Winter
A DOG OF FLANDERS, Ouida
MARKHEIM, R. L. Stevenson
QUEEN TITA'S WAGER, William Black
THE BIRD ON ITS JOURNEY
It was about four in the afternoon when a young girl came into the
salon of the little hotel at C---- in Switzerland, and drew her chair
up to the fire.
"You are soaked through," said an elderly lady, who was herself trying
to get roasted. "You ought to lose no time in changing your clothes."
"I have not anything to change," said the young girl, laughing. "Oh, I
shall soon be dry!"
"Have you lost all your luggage?" asked the lady, sympathetically.
"No," said the young girl; "I had none to lose." And she smiled a
little mischievously, as though she knew by instinct that her
companion's sympathy would at once degenerate into suspicion!
"I don't mean to say that I have not a knapsack," she added,
considerately. "I have walked a long distance--in fact, from Z----."
"And where did you leave your companions?" asked the lady, with a
touch of forgiveness in her voice.
"I am without companions, just as I am without luggage," laughed the
And then she opened the piano, and struck a few notes. There was
something caressing in the way in which she touched the keys; whoever
she was, she knew how to make sweet music; sad music, too, full of
that undefinable longing, like the holding out of one's arms to one's
friends in the hopeless distance.
The lady bending over the fire looked up at the little girl, and
forgot that she had brought neither friends nor luggage with her. She
hesitated for one moment, and then she took the childish face between
her hands and kissed it.
"Thank you, dear, for your music," she said, gently.
"The piano is terribly out of tune," said the little girl, suddenly;
and she ran out of the room, and came back carrying her knapsack.
"What are you going to do?" asked her companion.
"I am going to tune the piano," the little girl said; and she took a
tuning-hammer out of her knapsack, and began her work in real earnest.
She evidently knew what she was about, and pegged away at the notes as
though her whole life depended upon the result.
The lady by the fire was lost in amazement. Who could she be? Without
luggage and without friends, and with a tuning-hammer!
Meanwhile one of the gentlemen had strolled into the salon; but
hearing the sound of tuning, and being in secret possession of nerves,
he fled, saying, "The tuner, by Jove!"
A few minutes afterward Miss Blake, whose nerves were no secret
possession, hastened into the salon, and, in her usual imperious
fashion, demanded instant silence.
"I have just done," said the little girl. "The piano was so terribly
out of tune, I could not resist the temptation."
Miss Blake, who never listened to what any one said, took it for
granted that the little girl was the tuner for whom M. le Proprietaire
had promised to send; and having bestowed on her a condescending nod,
passed out into the garden, where she told some of the visitors that
the piano had been tuned at last, and that the tuner was a young woman
of rather eccentric appearance.
"Really, it is quite abominable how women thrust themselves into every
profession," she remarked, in her masculine voice. "It is so
unfeminine, so unseemly."
There was nothing of the feminine about Miss Blake; her horse-cloth
dress, her waistcoat and high collar, and her billycock hat were of
the masculine genus; even her nerves could not be called feminine,
since we learn from two or three doctors (taken off their guard) that
nerves are neither feminine nor masculine, but common.
"I should like to see this tuner," said one of the tennis-players,
leaning against a tree.
"Here she comes," said Miss Blake, as the little girl was seen
sauntering into the garden.
The men put up their eye-glasses, and saw a little lady with a
childish face and soft brown hair, of strictly feminine appearance and
bearing. The goat came toward her and began nibbling at her frock. She
seemed to understand the manner of goats, and played with him to his
heart's content. One of the tennis players, Oswald Everard by name,
strolled down to the bank where she was having her frolic.
"Good-afternoon," he said, raising his cap. "I hope the goat is not
worrying you. Poor little fellow! this is his last day of play. He is
to be killed to-morrow for /table d'hote/."
"What a shame!" she said. "Fancy to be killed, and then grumbled at!"
"That is precisely what we do here," he said, laughing. "We grumble at
everything we eat. And I own to being one of the grumpiest; though the
lady in the horse-cloth dress yonder follows close upon my heels."
"She was the lady who was annoyed at me because I tuned the piano,"
the little girl said. "Still, it had to be done. It was plainly my
duty. I seemed to have come for that purpose."
"It has been confoundedly annoying having it out of tune," he said.
"I've had to give up singing altogether. But what a strange profession
you have chosen! Very unusual, isn't it?"
"Why, surely not," she answered, amused. "It seems to me that every
other woman has taken to it. The wonder to me is that any one ever
scores a success. Nowadays, however, no one could amass a huge fortune
out of it."
"No one, indeed!" replied Oswald Everard, laughing. "What on earth
made you take to it?"
"It took to me," she said simply. "It wrapped me round with
enthusiasm. I could think of nothing else. I vowed that I would rise
to the top of my profession. I worked day and night. But it means
incessant toil for years if one wants to make any headway."
"Good gracious! I thought it was merely a matter of a few months," he
said, smiling at the little girl.
"A few months!" she repeated, scornfully. "You are speaking the
language of an amateur. No; one has to work faithfully year after
year; to grasp the possibilities, and pass on to greater
possibilities. You imagine what it must feel like to touch the notes,
and know that you are keeping the listeners spellbound; that you are
taking them into a fairy-land of sound, where petty personality is
lost in vague longing and regret."
"I confess I had not thought of it in that way," he said, humbly. "I
have only regarded it as a necessary every-day evil; and to be quite
honest with you, I fail to see now how it can inspire enthusiasm. I
wish I could see," he added, looking up at the engaging little figure
"Never mind," she said, laughing at his distress; "I forgive you. And,
after all, you are not the only person who looks upon it as a
necessary evil. My poor old guardian abominated it. He made many
sacrifices to come and listen to me. He knew I liked to see his kind
old face, and that the presence of a real friend inspired me with
"I should not have thought it was nervous work," he said.
"Try it and see," she answered. "But surely you spoke of singing. Are
you not nervous when you sing?"
"Sometimes," he replied, rather stiffly. "But that is slightly
different." (He was very proud of his singing, and made a great fuss
about it.) "Your profession, as I remarked before, is an unavoidable
nuisance. When I think what I have suffered from the gentlemen of your
profession, I only wonder that I have any brains left. But I am
"No, no," she said; "let me hear about your sufferings."
"Whenever I have specially wanted to be quiet," he said--and then he
glanced at her childish little face, and he hesitated. "It seems so
rude of me," he added. He was the soul of courtesy, although he was an
amateur tenor singer.
"Please tell me," the little girl said, in her winning way.
"Well," he said, gathering himself together, "it is the one subject on
which I can be eloquent. Ever since I can remember, I have been
worried and tortured by those rascals. I have tried in every way to
escape from them, but there is no hope for me. Yes; I believe that all
the tuners in the universe are in league against me, and have marked
me out for their special prey."
"/All the what/?" asked the little girl, with a jerk in her voice.
"All the tuners, of course," he replied, rather snappishly. "I know
that we cannot do without them; but good heavens! they have no tact,
no consideration, no mercy. Whenever I've wanted to write or read
quietly, that fatal knock has come at the door, and I've known by
instinct that all chance of peace was over. Whenever I've been giving
a luncheon party, the tuner has arrived, with his abominable black
bag, and his abominable card which has to be signed at once. On one
occasion I was just proposing to a girl in her father's library when
the tuner struck up in the drawing-room. I left off suddenly, and fled
from the house. But there is no escape from these fiends; I believe
they are swarming about in the air like so many bacteria. And how, in
the name of goodness, you should deliberately choose to be one of
them, and should be so enthusiastic over your work, puzzles me beyond
all words. Don't say that you carry a black bag, and present cards
which have to be filled up at the most inconvenient time; don't--"
He stopped suddenly, for the little girl was convulsed with laughter.
She laughed until the tears rolled down her cheeks, and then she dried
her eyes and laughed again.
"Excuse me," she said; "I can't help myself; it's so funny."
"It may be funny to you," he said, laughing in spite of himself; "but
it is not funny to me."
"Of course it isn't," she replied, making a desperate effort to be
serious. "Well, tell me something more about these tuners."
"Not another word," he said, gallantly. "I am ashamed of myself as it
is. Come to the end of the garden, and let me show you the view down
into the valley."
She had conquered her fit of merriment, but her face wore a settled
look of mischief, and she was evidently the possessor of some secret
joke. She seemed in capital health and spirits, and had so much to say
that was bright and interesting that Oswald Everard found himself
becoming reconciled to the whole race of tuners. He was amazed to
learn that she had walked all the way from Z----, and quite alone,
"Oh, I don't think anything of that," she said; "I had a splendid
time, and I caught four rare butterflies. I would not have missed
those for anything. As for the going about by myself, that is a second
nature. Besides, I do not belong to any one. That has its advantages,
and I suppose its disadvantages; but at present I have only discovered
the advantages. The disadvantages will discover themselves!"
"I believe you are what the novels call an advanced young woman," he
said. "Perhaps you give lectures on woman's suffrage, or something of
"I have very often mounted the platform," she answered. "In fact, I am
never so happy as when addressing an immense audience. A most
unfeminine thing to do, isn't it? What would the lady yonder in the
horse-cloth dress and billycock hat say? Don't you think you ought to
go and help her drive away the goat? She looks so frightened. She
interests me deeply. I wonder whether she has written an essay on the
feminine in woman. I should like to read it; it would do me so much
"You are at least a true woman," he said, laughing, "for I see you can
be spiteful. The tuning has not driven that away."
"Ah, I had forgotten about the tuning," she answered, brightly; "but
now you remind me, I have been seized with a great idea."
"Won't you tell it to me?" he asked.
"No," she answered; "I keep my great ideas for myself, and work them
out in secret. And this one is particularly amusing. What fun I shall
"But why keep the fun to yourself?" he said. "We all want to be amused
here; we all want to be stirred up; a little fun would be a charity."
"Very well, since you wish it, you shall be stirred up," she answered;
"but you must give me time to work out my great idea. I do not hurry
about things, not even about my professional duties; for I have a
strong feeling that it is vulgar to be always amassing riches! As I
have neither a husband nor a brother to support, I have chosen less
wealth, and more leisure to enjoy all the loveliness of life! So you
see I take my time about everything. And to-morrow I shall catch
butterflies at my leisure, and lie among the dear old pines, and work
at my great idea."
"I shall catch butterflies," said her companion; "and I too shall lie
among the dear old pines."
"Just as you please," she said; and at that moment the /table d'hote/
The little girl hastened to the bureau, and spoke rapidly in German to
"/Ach, Fraulein/!" he said. "You are not really serious?"
"Yes, I am," she said. "I don't want them to know my name. It will
only worry me. Say I am the young lady who tuned the piano."
She had scarcely given these directions and mounted to her room when
Oswald Everard, who was much interested in his mysterious companion,
came to the bureau, and asked for the name of the little lady.
"/Es ist das Fraulein welches das Piano gestimmt hat/," answered the
man, returning with unusual quickness to his account-book.
No one spoke to the little girl at /table d'hote/, but for all that
she enjoyed her dinner, and gave her serious attention to all the
courses. Being thus solidly occupied, she had not much leisure to
bestow on the conversation of the other guests. Nor was it specially
original; it treated of the short-comings of the chef, the
tastelessness of the soup, the toughness of the beef, and all the many
failings which go to complete a mountain hotel dinner. But suddenly,
so it seemed to the little girl, this time-honoured talk passed into
another phase; she heard the word "music" mentioned, and she became at
once interested to learn what these people had to say on a subject
which was dearer to her than any other.
"For my own part," said a stern-looking old man, "I have no words to
describe what a gracious comfort music has been to me all my life. It
is the noblest language which man may understand and speak. And I
sometimes think that those who know it, or know something of it, are
able at rare moments to find an answer to life's perplexing problems."
The little girl looked up from her plate. Robert Browning's words rose
to her lips, but she did not give them utterance:
God has a few of us whom He whispers in the ear;
The rest may reason, and welcome; 'tis we musicians know.
"I have lived through a long life," said another elderly man, "and
have therefore had my share of trouble; but the grief of being obliged
to give up music was the grief which held me longest, or which perhaps
has never left me. I still crave for the gracious pleasure of touching
once more the strings of the violoncello, and hearing the dear, tender
voice singing and throbbing, and answering even to such poor skill as
mine. I still yearn to take my part in concerted music, and be one of
those privileged to play Beethoven's string-quartettes. But that will
have to be in another incarnation, I think."
He glanced at his shrunken arm, and then, as though ashamed of this
allusion to his own personal infirmity, he added hastily:
"But when the first pang of such a pain is over, there remains the
comfort of being a listener. At first one does not think it is a
comfort; but as time goes on there is no resisting its magic
influence. And Lowell said rightly that 'one of God's great charities
is music.' "
"I did not know you were musical, Mr. Keith," said an English lady.
"You have never before spoken of music."
"Perhaps not, madam," he answered. "One does not often speak of what
one cares for most of all. But when I am in London I rarely miss
hearing our best players."
At this point others joined in, and the various merits of eminent
pianists were warmly discussed.
"What a wonderful name that little English lady has made for herself!"
said the major, who was considered an authority on all subjects. I
would go anywhere to hear Miss Thyra Flowerdew. We all ought to be
very proud of her. She has taken even the German musical world by
storm, and they say her recitals at Paris have been brilliantly
successful. I myself have heard her at New York, Leipsic, London,
Berlin, and even Chicago."
The little girl stirred uneasily in her chair.
"I don't think Miss Flowerdew has ever been to Chicago," she said.
There was a dead silence. The admirer of Miss Thyra Flowerdew looked
much annoyed, and twiddled his watch-chain. He had meant to say
"Philadelphia," but he did not think it necessary to own to his
"What impertinence!" said one of the ladies to Miss Blake. "What can
she know about it? Is she not the young person who tuned the piano?"
"Perhaps she tunes Miss Thyra Flowerdew's piano!" suggested Miss
Blake, in a loud whisper.
"You are right, madam," said the little girl, quietly. "I have often
tuned Miss Flowerdew's piano."
There was another embarrassing silence; and then a lovely old lady,
whom every one reverenced, came to the rescue.
"I think her playing is simply superb," she said. "Nothing that I ever
hear satisfies me so entirely. She has all the tenderness of an
"Listening to her," said the major, who had now recovered from his
annoyance at being interrupted, "one becomes unconscious of her
presence, for she /is the music itself/. And that is rare. It is but
seldom nowadays that we are allowed to forget the personality of the
player. And yet her personality is an unusual one; having once seen
her, it would not be easy to forget her. I should recognise her
As he spoke, he glanced at the little tuner, and could not help
admiring her dignified composure under circumstances which might have
been distressing to any one; and when she rose with the others he
followed her, and said stiffly:
"I regret that I was the indirect cause of putting you in an awkward
"It is really of no consequence," she said, brightly. "If you think I
was impertinent, I ask your forgiveness. I did not mean to be
officious. The words were spoken before I was aware of them."
She passed into the salon, where she found a quiet corner for herself,
and read some of the newspapers. No one took the slightest notice of
her; not a word was spoken to her; but when she relieved the company
of her presence her impertinence was commented on.
"I am sorry that she heard what I said," remarked Miss Blake; "but she
did not seem to mind. These young women who go out into the world lose
the edge of their sensitiveness and femininity. I have always observed
"How much they are spared then!" answered some one.
Meanwhile the little girl slept soundly. She had merry dreams, and
finally woke up laughing. She hurried over her breakfast, and then
stood ready to go for a butterfly hunt. She looked thoroughly happy,
and evidently had found, and was holding tightly, the key to life's
Oswald Everard was waiting on the balcony, and he reminded her that he
intended to go with her.
"Come along then," she answered; "we must not lose a moment."
They caught butterflies; they picked flowers; they ran; they lingered
by the wayside; they sang; they climbed, and he marvelled at her easy
speed. Nothing seemed to tire her, and everything seemed to delight
her--the flowers, the birds, the clouds, the grasses, and the
fragrance of the pine woods.
"Is it not good to live?" she cried. "Is it not splendid to take in
the scented air? Draw in as many long breaths as you can. Isn't it
good? Don't you feel now as though you were ready to move mountains? I
do. What a dear old nurse Nature is! How she pets us, and gives us the
best of her treasures!"
Her happiness invaded Oswald Everard's soul, and he felt like a
school-boy once more, rejoicing in a fine day and his liberty, with
nothing to spoil the freshness of the air, and nothing to threaten the
freedom of the moment.
"Is it not good to live?" he cried. "Yes, indeed it is, if we know how
They had come upon some haymakers, and the little girl hastened up to
help them, laughing and talking to the women, and helping them to pile
up the hay on the shoulders of a broad-backed man, who then conveyed
his burden to a pear-shaped stack. Oswald Everard watched his
companion for a moment, and then, quite forgetting his dignity as an
amateur tenor singer, he too lent his aid, and did not leave off until
his companion sank exhausted on the ground.
"Oh," she laughed, "what delightful work for a very short time! Come
along; let us go into that brown chatlet yonder and ask for some milk.
I am simply parched with thirst. Thank you, but I prefer to carry my
"What an independent little lady you are!" he said.
"It is quite necessary in our profession, I can assure you," she said,
with a tone of mischief in her voice. "That reminds me that my
profession is evidently not looked upon with any favour by the
visitors at the hotel. I am heartbroken to think that I have not won
the esteem of that lady in the billycock hat. What will she say to you
for coming out with me? And what will she say of me for allowing you
to come? I wonder whether she will say, 'How unfeminine!' I wish I
could hear her!"
"I don't suppose you care," he said. "You seem to be a wild little
"I don't care what a person of that description says," replied his
"What on earth made you contradict the major at dinner last night?" he
asked. "I was not at the table, but some one told me of the incident;
and I felt very sorry about it. What could you know of Miss Thyra
"Well, considering that she is in my profession, of course I know
something about her," said the little girl.
"Confound it all!" he said, rather rudely. "Surely there is some
difference between the bellows-blower and the organist."
"Absolutely none," she answered; "merely a variation of the original
As she spoke she knocked at the door of the chalet, and asked the old
dame to give them some milk. They sat in the /Stube/, and the little
girl looked about, and admired the spinning-wheel and the quaint
chairs and the queer old jugs and the pictures on the walls.
"Ah, but you shall see the other room," the old peasant woman said;
and she led them into a small apartment which was evidently intended
for a study. It bore evidences of unusual taste and care, and one
could see that some loving hand had been trying to make it a real
sanctum of refinement. There was even a small piano. A carved book-
rack was fastened to the wall.
The old dame did not speak at first; she gave her guests time to
recover from the astonishment which she felt they must be
experiencing; then she pointed proudly to the piano.
"I bought that for my daughters," she said, with a strange mixture of
sadness and triumph. "I wanted to keep them at home with me, and I
saved and saved, and got enough money to buy the piano. They had
always wanted to have one, and I thought they would then stay with me.
They liked music and books, and I knew they would be glad to have a
room of their own where they might read and play and study; and so I
gave them this corner."
"Well, mother," asked the little girl, "and where are they this
"Ah," she answered sadly, "they did not care to stay; but it was
natural enough, and I was foolish to grieve. Besides, they come to see
"And then they play to you?" asked the little girl, gently.
"They say the piano is out of tune," the old dame said. "I don't know.
Perhaps you can tell."
The little girl sat down to the piano, and struck a few chords.
"Yes," she said; "it is badly out of tune. Give me the tuning-hammer.
I am sorry," she added, smiling at Oswald Everard, "but I cannot
neglect my duty. Don't wait for me."
"I will wait for you," he said, sullenly; and he went into the balcony
and smoked his pipe, and tried to possess his soul in patience.
When she had faithfully done her work she played a few simple
melodies, such as she knew the old woman would love and understand;
and she turned away when she saw that the listener's eyes were moist.
"Play once again," the old woman whispered. "I am dreaming of
So the little tuner touched the keys again with all the tenderness of
"Tell your daughters," she said, as she rose to say good-bye, "that
the piano is now in good tune. Then they will play to you the next
time they come."
"I shall always remember you, mademoiselle," the old woman said; and,
almost unconsciously, she took the childish face and kissed it.
Oswald Everard was waiting in the hay-field for his companion; and
when she apologised to him for this little professional intermezzo, as
she called it, he recovered from his sulkiness and readjusted his
nerves, which the noise of the tuning had somewhat disturbed.
"It was very good of you to tune the old dame's piano," he said,
looking at her with renewed interest.
"Some one had to do it, of course," she answered, brightly, "and I am
glad the chance fell to me. What a comfort it is to think that the
next time those daughters come to see her they will play to her and
make her very happy! Poor old dear!"
"You puzzle me greatly," he said. "I cannot for the life of me think
what made you choose your calling. You must have many gifts; any one
who talks with you must see that at once. And you play quite nicely,
"I am sorry that my profession sticks in your throat," she answered.
"Do be thankful that I am nothing worse than a tuner. For I might be
something worse--a snob, for instance."
And, so speaking, she dashed after a butterfly, and left him to
recover from her words. He was conscious of having deserved a reproof;
and when at last he overtook her he said as much, and asked for her
"I forgive you," she said, laughing. "You and I are not looking at
things from the same point of view; but we have had a splendid morning
together, and I have enjoyed every minute of it. And to-morrow I go on
"And to-morrow you go," he repeated. "Can it not be the day after
"I am a bird of passage," she said, shaking her head. "You must not
seek to detain me. I have taken my rest, and off I go to other
They had arrived at the hotel, and Oswald Everard saw no more of his
companion until the evening, when she came down rather late for /table
d'hote/. She hurried over her dinner and went into the salon. She
closed the door, and sat down to the piano, and lingered there without
touching the keys; once or twice she raised her hands, and then she
let them rest on the notes, and, half unconsciously, they began to
move and make sweet music; and then they drifted into Schumann's
"Abendlied," and then the little girl played some of his
"Kinderscenen," and some of his "Fantasie Stucke," and some of his
Her touch and feeling were exquisite, and her phrasing betrayed the
true musician. The strains of music reached the dining-room, and, one
by one, the guests came creeping in, moved by the music and anxious to
see the musician.
The little girl did not look up; she was in a Schumann mood that
evening, and only the players of Schumann know what enthralling
possession he takes of their very spirit. All the passion and pathos
and wildness and longing had found an inspired interpreter; and those
who listened to her were held by the magic which was her own secret,
and which had won for her such honour as comes only to the few. She
understood Schumann's music, and was at her best with him.
Had she, perhaps, chosen to play his music this evening because she
wished to be at her best? Or was she merely being impelled by an
overwhelming force within her? Perhaps it was something of both.
Was she wishing to humiliate these people who had received her so
coldly? This little girl was only human; perhaps there was something
of that feeling too. Who can tell? But she played as she had never
played in London, or Paris, or Berlin, or New York, or Philadelphia.
At last she arrived at the "Carnaval," and those who heard her
declared afterward that they had never listened to a more magnificent
rendering. The tenderness was so restrained; the vigour was so
refined. When the last notes of that spirited "Marche des
Davidsbundler contre les Philistins" had died away, she glanced at
Oswald Everard, who was standing near her almost dazed.
"And now my favourite piece of all," she said; and she at once began
the "Second Novelette," the finest of the eight, but seldom played in
What can one say of the wild rush of the leading theme, and the
pathetic longing of the intermezzo?
. . . The murmuring dying notes,
That fall as soft as snow on the sea;
The passionate strain that, deeply going,
Refines the bosom it trembles through.
What can one say of those vague aspirations and finest thoughts which
possess the very dullest among us when such music as that which the
little girl had chosen catches us and keeps us, if only for a passing
moment, but that moment of the rarest worth and loveliness in our
What can one say of the highest music except that, like death, it is
the great leveller: it gathers us all to its tender keeping--and we
The little girl ceased playing. There was not a sound to be heard; the
magic was still holding her listeners. When at last they had freed
themselves with a sigh, they pressed forward to greet her.
"There is only one person who can play like that," cried the major,
with sudden inspiration--"she is Miss Thyra Flowerdew."
The little girl smiled.
"That is my name," she said, simply; and she slipped out of the room.
The next morning, at an early hour, the bird of passage took her
flight onward, but she was not destined to go off unobserved. Oswald
Everard saw the little figure swinging along the road, and she
"You little wild bird!" he said. "And so this was your great idea--to
have your fun out of us all, and then play to us and make us feel I
don't know how, and then to go."
"You said the company wanted stirring up," she answered, "and I rather
fancy I have stirred them up."
"And what do you suppose you have done for me?" he asked.
"I hope I have proved to you that the bellows-blower and the organist
are sometimes identical," she answered.
But he shook his head.
"Little wild bird," he said, "you have given me a great idea, and I
will tell you what it is: /to tame you/. So good-bye for the present."
"Good-bye," she said. "But wild birds are not so easily tamed."
Then she waved her hand over her head, and went on her way singing.
KOOSJE: A STUDY OF DUTCH LIFE
by JOHN STRANGE WINTER
Her name was Koosje van Kampen, and she lived in Utrecht, that most
quaint of quaint cities, the Venice of the North.
All her life had been passed under the shadow of the grand old Dom
Kerk; she had played bo-peep behind the columns and arcades of the
ruined, moss-grown cloisters; had slipped up and fallen down the steps
leading to the /grachts/; had once or twice, in this very early life,
been fished out of those same slimy, stagnant waters; had wandered
under the great lindens in the Baan, and gazed curiously up at the
stork's nest in the tree by the Veterinary School; had pattered about
the hollow-sounding streets in her noisy wooden /klompen/; had danced
and laughed, had quarrelled and wept, and fought and made friends
again, to the tune of the silver chimes high up in the Dom--chimes
that were sometimes old /Nederlandsche/ hymns, sometimes Mendelssohn's
melodies and tender "Lieder ohne Worte."
But that was ever so long ago, and now she had left her romping
childhood behind her, and had become a maid-servant--a very dignified
and aristocratic maid-servant indeed--with no less a sum than eight
pounds ten a year in wages.
She lived in the house of a professor, who dwelt on the Munster
Kerkhoff, one of the most aristocratic parts of that wonderfully
aristocratic city; and once or twice every week you might have seen
her, if you had been there to see, busily engaged in washing the red
tile and blue slate pathway in front of the professor's house. You
would have seen that she was very pleasant to look at, this Koosje,
very comely and clean, whether she happened to be very busy, or
whether it had been Sunday, and, with her very best gown on, she was
out for a promenade in the Baan, after duly going to service as
regularly as the Sabbath dawned in the grand old Gothic choir of the
During the week she wore always the same costume as does every other
servant in the country: a skirt of black stuff, short enough to show a
pair of very neat-set and well-turned ankles, clad in cloth shoes and
knitted stockings that showed no wrinkles; over the skirt a bodice and
a kirtle of lilac, made with a neatly gathered frilling about her
round brown throat; above the frilling five or six rows of unpolished
garnet beads fastened by a massive clasp of gold filigree, and on her
head a spotless white cap tied with a neat bow under her chin--as
neat, let me tell you, as an Englishman's tie at a party.
But it was on Sunday that Koosje shone forth in all the glory of a
black gown and her jewellery--with great ear-rings to match the clasp
of her necklace, and a heavy chain and cross to match that again, and
one or two rings; while on her head she wore an immense cap, much too
big to put a bonnet over, though for walking she was most particular
to have gloves.
Then, indeed, she was a young person to be treated with respect, and
with respect she was undoubtedly treated. As she passed along the
quaint, resounding streets, many a head was turned to look after her;
but Koosje went on her way like the staid maiden she was, duly
impressed with the fact that she was principal servant of Professor
van Dijck, the most celebrated authority on the study of osteology in
Europe. So Koosje never heeded the looks, turned her head neither to
the right nor to the left, but went sedately on her business or
pleasure, whichever it happened to be.
It was not likely that such a treasure could remain long unnoticed and
unsought after. Servants in the Netherlands, I hear, are not so good
but that they might be better; and most people knew what a treasure
Professor van Dijck had in his Koosje. However, as the professor
conscientiously raised her wages from time to time, Koosje never
thought of leaving him.
But there is one bribe no woman can resist--the bribe that is offered
by love. As Professor van Dijck had expected and feared, that bribe
ere long was held out to Koosje, and Koosje was too weak to resist it.
Not that he wished her to do so. If the girl had a chance of settling
well and happily for life, he would be the last to dream of throwing
any obstacle in her way. He had come to be an old man himself; he
lived all alone, save for his servants, in a great, rambling house,
whose huge apartments were all set out with horrible anatomical
preparations and grisly skeletons; and, though the stately passages
were paved with white marble, and led into rooms which would easily
have accommodated crowds of guests, he went into no society save that
of savants as old and fossil-like as himself; in other words, he was
an old bachelor who lived entirely for his profession and the study of
the great masters by the interpretation of a genuine old Stradivari.
Yet the old professor had a memory; he recalled the time when he had
been young who now was old--the time when his heart was a good deal
more tender, his blood a great deal warmer, and his fancy very much
more easily stirred than nowadays. There was a dead-and-gone romance
which had broken his heart, sentimentally speaking--a romance long
since crumbled into dust, which had sent him for comfort into the
study of osteology and the music of the Stradivari; yet the memory
thereof made him considerably more lenient to Koosje's weakness than
Koosje herself had ever expected to find him.
Not that she had intended to tell him at first; she was only three and
twenty, and, though Jan van der Welde was as fine a fellow as could be
seen in Utrecht, and had good wages and something put by, Koosje was
by no means inclined to rush headlong into matrimony with undue hurry.
It was more pleasant to live in the professor's good house, to have
delightful walks arm in arm with Jan under the trees in the Baan or
round the Singels, parting under the stars with many a lingering word
and promise to meet again. It was during one of those very partings
that the professor suddenly became aware, as he walked placidly home,
of the change that had come into Koosje's life.
However, Koosje told him blushingly that she did not wish to leave him
just at present; so he did not trouble himself about the matter. He
was a wise man, this old authority on osteology, and quoted
oftentimes, "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
So the courtship sped smoothly on, seeming for once to contradict the
truth of the old saying, "The course of true love never did run
smooth." The course of their love did, of a truth, run marvellously
smooth indeed. Koosje, if a trifle coy, was pleasant and sweet; Jan as
fine a fellow as ever waited round a corner on a cold winter night. So
brightly the happy days slipped by, when suddenly a change was
effected in the professor's household which made, as a matter of
course, somewhat of a change in Koosje's life. It came about in this
Koosje had been on an errand for the professor,--one that had kept her
out of doors some time,--and it happened that the night was bitterly
cold; the cold, indeed, was fearful. The air had that damp rawness so
noticeable in Dutch climate, a thick mist overhung the city, and a
drizzling rain came down with a steady persistence such as quickly
soaked through the stoutest and thickest garments. The streets were
well-nigh empty. The great thoroughfare, the Oude Gracht, was almost
deserted, and as Koosje hurried along the Meinerbroederstraat--for she
had a second commission there--she drew her great shawl more tightly
round her, muttering crossly, "What weather! yesterday so warm, to-day
so cold. 'Tis enough to give one the fever."
She delivered her message, and ran on through Oude Kerkhoff as fast as
her feet could carry her, when, just as she turned the corner into the
Domplein, a fierce gust of wind, accompanied by a blinding shower of
rain, assailed her; her foot caught against something soft and heavy,
and she fell.
"Bless us!" she ejaculated, blankly. "What fool has left a bundle out
on the path on such a night? Pitch dark, with half the lamps out, and
rain and mist enough to blind one."
She gathered herself up, rubbing elbows and knees vigorously, casting
the while dark glances at the obnoxious bundle which had caused the
disaster. Just then the wind was lulled, the lamp close at hand gave
out a steady light, which shed its rays through the fog upon Koosje
and the bundle, from which, to the girl's horror and dismay, came a
faint moan. Quickly she drew nearer, when she perceived that what she
had believed to be a bundle was indeed a woman, apparently in the last
stage of exhaustion.
Koosje tried to lift her; but the dead-weight was beyond her, young
and strong as she was. Then the rain and the wind came on again in
fiercer gusts than before; the woman's moans grew louder and louder,
and what to do Koosje knew not.
She struggled on for the few steps that lay between her and the
professor's house, and then she rang a peal which resounded through
the echoing passages, bringing Dortje, the other maid, running out;
after the manner of her class, imagining all sorts of terrible
catastrophes had happened. She uttered a cry of relief when she
perceived it was only Koosje, who, without vouchsafing any
explanation, dashed past her and ran straight into the professor's
"O professor!" she gasped out; but, between her efforts to remove the
woman, her struggle with the elements, and her race down the passage,
her breath was utterly gone.
The professor looked up from his book and his tea-tray in surprise.
For a moment he thought that Koosje, his domestic treasure, had
altogether taken leave of her senses; for she was streaming with
water, covered with mud, and head and cap were in a state of disorder,
such as neither he nor any one else had ever seen them in since the
last time she had been fished out of the Nieuwe Gracht.
"What is the matter, Koosje?" he asked, regarding her gravely over his
"There's a woman outside--dying," she panted, "I fell over her."
"You had better try to get her in then," the old gentleman said, in
quite a relieved tone. "You and Dortje must bring her in. Dear, dear,
poor soul! but it is a dreadful night."
The old gentleman shivered as he spoke, and drew a little nearer to
the tall white porcelain stove.
It was, as he had said a minute before, a terrible night. He could
hear the wind beating about the house and rattling about the casements
and moaning down the chimneys; and to think any poor soul should be
out on such a night, /dying/! Heaven preserve others who might be
belated or houseless in any part of the world!
He fell into a fit of abstraction,--a habit not uncommon with learned
men,--wondering why life should be so different with different people;
why he should be in that warm, handsome room, with its soft rich
hangings and carpet, with its beautiful furniture of carved wood, its
pictures, and the rare china scattered here and there among the grim
array of skeletons which were his delight. He wondered why he should
take his tea out of costly and valuable Oriental china, sugar and
cream out of antique silver, while other poor souls had no tea at all,
and nothing to take it out of even if they had. He wondered why he
should have a lamp under his teapot that was a very marvel of art
transparencies; why he should have every luxury, and this poor
creature should be dying in the street amid the wind and the rain. It
was all very unequal.
It was very odd, the professor argued, leaning his back against the
tall, warm stove; it was very odd indeed. He began to feel that, grand
as the study of osteology undoubtedly is, he ought not to permit it to
become so engrossing as to blind him to the study of the greater
philosophies of life. His reverie was, however, broken by the abrupt
reentrance of Koosje, who this time was a trifle less breathless than
she had been before.
"We have got her into the kitchen, professor," she announced. "She is
a child--a mere baby, and so pretty! She has opened her eyes and
"Give her some soup and wine--hot," said the professor, without
"But won't you come?" she asked.
The professor hesitated; he hated attending in cases of illness,
though he was a properly qualified doctor and in an emergency would
lay his prejudice aside.
"Or shall I run across for the good Dr. Smit?" Koosje asked. "He would
come in a minute, only it is /such/ a night!"
At that moment a fiercer gust than before rattled at the casements,
and the professor laid aside his scruples.
He followed his housekeeper down the chilly, marble-flagged passage
into the kitchen, where he never went for months together--a cosey
enough, pleasant place, with a deep valance hanging from the mantel-
shelf, with many great copper pans, bright and shining as new gold,
and furniture all scrubbed to the whiteness of snow.
In an arm-chair before the opened stove sat the rescued girl--a
slight, golden-haired thing, with wistful blue eyes and a frightened
air. Every moment she caught her breath in a half-hysterical sob,
while violent shivers shook her from head to foot.
The professor went and looked at her over his spectacles, as if she
had been some curious specimen of his favourite study; but at the same
time he kept at a respectful distance from her.
"Give her some soup and wine," he said, at length, putting his hands
under the tails of his long dressing-gown of flowered cashmere. "Some
soup and wine--hot; and put her to bed."
"Is she then to remain for the night?" Koosje asked, a little
"Oh, don't send me away!" the golden-haired girl broke out, in a voice
that was positively a wail, and clasping a pair of pretty, slender
hands in piteous supplication.
"Where do you come from?" the old gentleman asked, much as if he
expected she might suddenly jump up and bite him.
"From Beijerland, mynheer," she answered, with a sob.
"So! Koosje, she is remarkably well dressed, is she not?" the
professor said, glancing at the costly lace head-gear, the heavy gold
head-piece, which lay on the table together with the great gold spiral
ornaments and filigree pendants--a dazzling head of richness. He
looked, too, at the girl's white hands, at the rich, crape-laden gown,
at their delicate beauty, and shower of waving golden hair, which,
released from the confinement of the cap and head-piece, floated in a
rich mass of glittering beauty over the pillows which his servant had
placed beneath her head.
The professor was old; the professor was wholly given up to his
profession, which he jokingly called his sweetheart; and, though he
cut half of his acquaintances in the street through inattention and
the shortness of his sight, he had eyes in his head, and upon
occasions could use them. He therefore repeated the question.
"Very well dressed indeed, professor," returned Koosje, promptly.
"And what are you doing in Utrecht--in such a plight as this, too?" he
asked, still keeping at a safe distance.
"O mynheer, I am all alone in the world," she answered, her blue misty
eyes filled with tears. "I had a month ago a dear, good, kind father,
but he has died, and I am indeed desolate. I always believed him rich,
and to these things," with a gesture that included her dress and the
ornaments on the table, "I have ever been accustomed. Thus I ordered
without consideration such clothes as I thought needful. And then I
found there was nothing for me--not a hundred guilders to call my own
when all was paid."
"But what brought you to Utrecht?"
"He sent me here, mynheer. In his last illness, only of three days'
duration, he bade me gather all together and come to this city, where
I was to ask for a Mevrouw Baake, his cousin."
"Mevrouw Baake, of the Sigaren Fabrijk," said Dortje, in an aside, to
the others. "I lived servant with her before I came here."
"I had heard very little about her, only my father had sometimes
mentioned his cousin to me; they had once been betrothed," the
stranger continued. "But when I reached Utrecht I found she was dead--
two years dead; but we had never heard of it."
"Dear, dear, dear!" exclaimed the professor, pityingly. "Well, you had
better let Koosje put you to bed, and we will see what can be done for
you in the morning."
"Am I to make up a bed?" Koosje asked, following him along the
The professor wheeled round and faced her.
"She had better sleep in the guest room," he said, thoughtfully,
regardless of the cold which struck to his slippered feet from the
marble floor. "That is the only room which does not contain specimens
that would probably frighten the poor child. I am very much afraid,
Koosje," he concluded, doubtfully, "that she is a lady; and what we
are to do with a lady I can't think."
With that the old gentleman shuffled off to his cosey room, and Koosje
turned back to her kitchen.
"He'll never think of marrying her," mused Koosje, rather blankly. If
she had spoken the thoughts to the professor himself, she would have
received a very emphatic assurance that, much as the study of
osteology and the Stradivari had blinded him to the affairs of this
workaday world, he was not yet so thoroughly foolish as to join his
fossilised wisdom to the ignorance of a child of sixteen or seventeen.
However, on the morrow matters assumed a somewhat different aspect.
Gertrude van Floote proved to be not exactly a gentlewoman. It is true
that her father had been a well-to-do man for his station in life, and
had very much spoiled and indulged his one motherless child. Yet her
education was so slight that she could do little more than read and
write, besides speaking a little English, which she had picked up from
the yachtsmen frequenting her native town. The professor found she had
been but a distant relative of the Mevrouw Baake, to seek whom she had
come to Utrecht, and that she had no kinsfolk upon whom she could
depend--a fact which accounted for the profusion of her jewellery, all
her golden trinkets having descended to her as heirlooms.
"I can be your servant, mynheer," she suggested. "Indeed, I am a very
useful girl, as you will find if you will but try me."
Now, as a rule, the professor vigorously set his face against
admitting young servants into his house. They broke his china, they
disarranged his bones, they meddled with his papers, and made general
havoc. So, in truth, he was not very willing to have Gertrude van
Floote as a permanent member of his household, and he said so.
But Koosje had taken a fancy to the girl; and having an eye to her own
departure at no very distant date,--for she had been betrothed more
than two years,--she pleaded so hard to keep her, promising to train
her in all the professor's ways, to teach her the value of old china
and osteologic specimens, that eventually, with a good deal of
grumbling, the old gentleman gave way, and, being a wise as well as an
old gentleman, went back to his studies, dismissing Koosje and the
girl alike from his thoughts.
Just at first Truide, poor child, was charmed.
She put away her splendid ornaments, and some lilac frocks and black
skirts were purchased for her. Her box, which she had left at the
station, supplied all that was necessary for Sunday.
It was great fun! For a whole week this young person danced about the
rambling old house, playing at being a servant. Then she began to grow
a little weary of it all. She had been accustomed, of course, to
performing such offices as all Dutch ladies fulfil--the care of china,
of linen, the dusting of rooms, and the like; but she had done them as
a mistress, not as an underling. And that was not the worst; it was
when it came to her pretty feet having to be thrust into klompen, and
her having to take a pail and syringe and mop and clean the windows
and the pathway and the front of the house, that the game of maid-
servant began to assume a very different aspect. When, after having
been as free as air to come and go as she chose, she was only
permitted to attend service on Sundays, and to take an hour's
promenade with Dortje, who was dull and heavy and stupid, she began to
feel positively desperate; and the result of it all was that when Jan
van der Welde came, as he was accustomed to do nearly every evening,
to see Koosje, Miss Truide, from sheer longing for excitement and
change, began to make eyes at him, with what effect I will endeavour
Just at first Koosje noticed nothing. She herself was of so faithful a
nature that an idea, a suspicion, of Jan's faithlessness never entered
her mind. When the girl laughed and blushed and dimpled and smiled,
when she cast her great blue eyes at the big young fellow, Koosje only
thought how pretty she was, and it was must a thousand pities she had
not been born a great lady.
And thus weeks slipped over. Never very demonstrative herself, Koosje
saw nothing, Dortje, for her part, saw a great deal; but Dortje was a
woman of few words, one who quite believed in the saying, "If speech
is silver, silence is gold;" so she held her peace.
Now Truide, rendered fairly frantic by her enforced confinement to the
house, grew to look upon Jan as her only chance of excitement and
distraction; and Jan, poor, thick-headed noodle of six feet high, was
thoroughly wretched. What to do he knew not. A strange, mad, fierce
passion for Truide had taken possession of him, and an utter distaste,
almost dislike, had come in place of the old love for Koosje. Truide
was unlike anything he had ever come in contact with before; she was
so fairy-like, so light, so delicate, so dainty. Against Koosje's
plumper, maturer charms, she appeared to the infatuated young man like
--if he had ever heard of it he would probably have said like a
Dresden china image; but since he had not, he compared her in his own
foolish heart to an angel. Her feet were so tiny, her hands so soft,
her eyes so expressive, her waist so slim, her manner so bewitching!
Somehow Koosje was altogether different; he could not endure the touch
of her heavy hand, the tones of her less refined voice; he grew
impatient at the denser perceptions of her mind. It was very foolish,
very short-sighted; for the hands, though heavy, were clever and
willing; the voice, though a trifle coarser in accent than Truide's
childish tones, would never tell him a lie; the perceptions, though
not brilliant, were the perceptions of good, every-day common sense.
It really was very foolish, for what charmed him most in Truide was
the merest outside polish, a certain ease of manner which doubtless
she had caught from the English aristocrats whom she had known in her
native place. She had not half the sterling good qualities and
steadfastness of Koosje; but Jan was in love, and did not stop to
argue the matter as you or I are able to do. Men in love--very wise
and great men, too--are often like Jan van der Welde. They lay aside
pro tem. the whole amount, be it great or small, of wisdom they
possess. And it must be remembered that Jan van der Welde was neither
a wise nor a great man.
Well, in the end there came what the French call /un denouement/,--
what we in forcible modern English would call a /smash/,--and it
happened thus. It was one evening toward the summer that Koosje's eyes
were suddenly opened, and she became aware of the free-and-easy
familiarity of Truide's manner toward her betrothed lover, Jan. It was
some very slight and trivial thing that led her to notice it, but in
an instant the whole truth flashed across her mind.
"Leave the kitchen!" she said, in a tone of authority.
But it happened that, at the very instant she spoke, Jan was furtively
holding Truide's fingers under the cover of the table-cloth; and when,
on hearing the sharp words, the girl would have snatched them away,
he, with true masculine instinct of opposition, held them fast.
"What do you mean by speaking to her like that?" he demanded, an angry
flush overspreading his dark face.
"What is the maid to you?" Koosje asked, indignantly.
"Maybe more than you are," he retorted; in answer to which Koosje
deliberately marched out of the kitchen, leaving them alone.
To say she was indignant would be but very mildly to express the state
of her feelings; she was /furious/. She knew that the end of her
romance had come. No thoughts of making friends with Jan entered her
mind; only a great storm filled her heart till it was ready to burst
with pain and anguish.
As she went along the passage the professor's bell sounded, and
Koosje, being close to the door, went abruptly in. The professor
looked up in mild astonishment, quickly enough changed to dismay as he
caught sight of his valued Koosje's face, from out of which anger
seemed in a moment to have thrust all the bright, comely beauty.
"How now, my good Koosje?" said the old gentleman. "Is aught amiss?"
"Yes, professor, there is," returned Koosje, all in a blaze of anger,
and moving, as she spoke, the tea-tray, which she set down upon the
oaken buffet with a bang, which made its fair and delicate freight
fairly jingle again.
"But you needn't break my china, Koosje," suggested the old gentleman,
mildly, rising from his chair and getting into his favourite attitude
before the stove.
"You are quite right, professor," returned Koosje, curtly; she was
sensible even in her trouble.
"And what is the trouble?" he asked, gently.
"It's just this, professor," cried Koosje, setting her arms akimbo and
speaking in a high-pitched, shrill voice; "you and I have been warming
a viper in our bosoms, and, viper-like, she has turned round and
"Is it Truide?"
"Truide," she affirmed, disdainfully. "Yes, it is Truide, who but for
me would be dead now of hunger and cold--or /worse/. And she has been
making love to that great fool, Jan van der Welde,--great oaf that he
is,--after all I have done for her; after my dragging her in out of
the cold and rain; after all I have taught her. Ah, professor, but it
is a vile, venomous viper that we have been warming in our bosoms!"
"I must beg, Koosje," said the old gentleman, sedately, "that you will
exonerate me from any such proceeding. If you remember rightly, I was
altogether against your plan for keeping her in the house." He could
not resist giving her that little dig, kind of heart as he was.
"Serves me right for being so soft-hearted!" thundered Koosje. "I'll
be wiser next time I fall over a bundle, and leave it where I find
"No, no, Koosje; don't say that," the old gentleman remonstrated,
gently. "After all, it may be but a blessing in disguise. God sends
all our trials for some good and wise purpose. Our heaviest
afflictions are often, nay, most times, Koosje, means to some great
end which, while the cloud of adversity hangs over us, we are unable
"Ah!" sniffed Koosje, scornfully.
"This oaf--as I must say you justly term him, for you are a good
clever woman, Koosje, as I can testify after the experience of years--
has proved that he can be false; he has shown that he can throw away
substance for shadow (for, of a truth, that poor, pretty child would
make a sad wife for a poor man); yet it is better you should know it
now than at some future date, when--when there might be other ties to
make the knowledge more bitter to you."
"Yes, that is true," said Koosje, passing the back of her hand across
her trembling lips. She could not shed tears over her trouble; her
eyes were dry and burning, as if anger had scorched the blessed drops
up ere they should fall. She went on washing up the cups and saucers,
or at least /the/ cup and saucer, and other articles the professor had
used for his tea; and after a few minutes' silence he spoke again.
"What are you going to do? Punish her, or turn her out, or what?"
"I shall let him--/marry/ her," replied Koosje, with a portentous nod.
The old gentleman couldn't help laughing. "You think he will pay off
your old scores?"
"Before long," answered Koosje, grimly, "she will find him out--as I
Then, having finished washing the tea-things, which the professor had
shuddered to behold in her angry hands, she whirled herself out of the
room and left him alone.
"Oh, these women--these women!" he cried, in confidence, to the
pictures and skeletons. "What a worry they are! An old bachelor has
the best of it in the main, I do believe. But oh, Jan van der Welde,
what a donkey you must be to get yourself mixed up in such a broil!
The fossilised old gentleman broke off with a sigh as he recalled the
memory of a certain dead-and-gone romance which had happened--goodness
only knows how many years before--when he, like Jan van der Welde,
would have thrown the world away for a glance of a certain pair of
blue eyes, at the bidding of a certain English tongue, whose broken
/Nederlandsche taal/ was to him the sweetest music ever heard on earth
--sweeter even than the strains of the Stradivari when from under his
skilful fingers rose the perfect melodies of old masters. Ay, but the
sweet eyes had been closed in death many a long, long, year, the sweet
voice hushed in silence. He had watched the dear life ebb away, the
fire in the blue eyes fade out. He had felt each day that the clasp of
the little greeting fingers was less close; each day he had seen the
outline of the face grow sharper; and at last there had come one when
the poor little English-woman met him with the gaze of one who knew
him not, and babbled, not of green fields, but of horses and dogs, and
of a brother Jack, who, five years before, had gone down with her
Majesty's ship /Alligator/ in mid-Atlantic.
Ay, but that was many and many a year agone. His young, blue-eyed love
stood out alone in life's history, a thing apart. Of the gentler sex,
in a general way, the old professor had not seen that which had raised
it in his estimation to the level of the one woman over whose memory
hung a bright halo of romance.
Fifteen years had passed away; the old professor of osteology had
passed away with them; and in the large house on the Domplein lived a
baron, with half a dozen noisy, happy, healthy children,--young
/fraulas/ and /jonkheers/,--who scampered up and down the marble
passages, and fell headlong down the steep, narrow, unlighted
stairways, to the imminent danger of dislocating their aristocratic
little necks. There was a new race of neat maids, clad in the same
neat livery of lilac and black, who scoured and cleaned, just as
Koosje and Dortje had done in the old professor's day. You might,
indeed, have heard the selfsame names resounding through the echoing
rooms: "Koos-je! Dort-je!"
But the Koosje and Dortje were not the same. What had become of Dortje
I cannot say; but on the left-hand side of the busy, bustling,
picturesque Oude Gracht there was a handsome shop filled with all
manner of cakes, sweeties, confections, and liquors--from absinthe to
Benedictine, or arrack to chartreuse. In that shop was a handsome,
prosperous, middle-aged woman, well dressed and well mannered, no
longer Professor van Dijck's Koosje, but the Jevrouw van Kampen.
Yes; Koosje had come to be a prosperous tradeswoman of good position,
respected by all. But she was Koosje van Kampen still; the romance
which had come to so disastrous and abrupt an end had sufficed for her
life. Many an offer had been made to her, it is true; but she had
always declared that she had had enough of lovers--she had found out
their real value.
I must tell you that at the time of Jan's infidelity, after the first
flush of rage was over, Koosje disdained to show any sign of grief or
regret. She was very proud, this Netherland servant-maid, far too
proud to let those by whom she was surrounded imagine she was wearing
the willow for the faithless Jan; and when Dortje, on the day of the
wedding, remarked that for her part she had always considered Koosje
remarkably cool on the subject of matrimony, Koosje with a careless
out-turning of her hands, palms uppermost, answered that she was
Very soon after their marriage Jan and his young wife left Utrecht for
Arnheim, where Jan had promise of higher wages; and thus they passed,
as Koosje thought, completely out of her life.
"I don't wish to hear anything more about them, if--you--please," she
said, severely and emphatically, to Dortje.
But not so. In time the professor died, leaving Koosje the large
legacy with which she set up the handsome shop in the Oude Gracht; and
several years passed on.
It happened one day that Koosje was sitting in her shop sewing. In the
large inner room a party of ladies and officers were eating cakes and
drinking chocolates and liquors with a good deal of fun and laughter,
when the door opened timidly, thereby letting in a gust of bitter
wind, and a woman crept fearfully in, followed by two small, crying
Could the lady give her something to eat? she asked; they had had
nothing during the day, and the little ones were almost famished.
Koosje, who was very charitable, lifted a tray of large, plain buns,
and was about to give her some, when her eyes fell upon the poor
beggar's faded face, and she exclaimed:
Truide, for it was she, looked up in startled surprise.
"I did not know, or I would not have come in, Koosje," she said,
humbly; "for I treated you very badly."
"Ve-ry bad-ly," returned Koosje, emphatically. "Then where is Jan?"
"Dead!" murmured Truide, sadly.
"Dead! so--ah, well! I suppose I must do something for you. Here
Yanke!" opening the door and calling, "Yanke!"
"/Je, jevrouw/," a voice cried, in reply.
The next moment a maid came running into the shop.
"Take these people into the kitchen and give them something to eat.
Put them by the stove while you prepare it. There is some soup and
that smoked ham we had for /koffy/. Then come here and take my place
for a while."
"/Je, jevrouw/," said Yanke, disappearing again, followed by Truide
and her children.
Then Koosje sat down again, and began to think.
"I said," she mused, presently, "/that/ night that the next time I
fell over a bundle I'd leave it where I found it. Ah, well! I'm not a
barbarian; I couldn't do that. I never thought, though, it would be
"/Hi, jevrouw/," was called from the inner room.
"/Je, mynheer/," jumping up and going to her customers.
She attended to their wants, and presently bowed them out.
"I never thought it would be Truide," she repeated to herself, as she
closed the door behind the last of the gay uniforms and jingling
scabbards. "And Jan is dead--ah, well!"
Then she went into the kitchen, where the miserable children--girls
both of them, and pretty had they been clean and less forlornly clad--
were playing about the stove.
"So Jan is dead," began Koosje, seating herself.
"Yes, Jan is dead," Truide answered.
"And he left you nothing?" Koosje asked.
"We had had nothing for a long time," Truide replied, in her sad,
crushed voice. "We didn't get on very well; he soon got tired of me."
"That was a weakness of his," remarked Koosje, drily.
"We lost five little ones, one after another," Truide continued. "And
Jan was fond of them, and somehow it seemed to sour him. As for me, I
was sorry enough at the time, Heaven knows, but it was as well. But
Jan said it seemed as if a curse had fallen upon us; he began to wish
you back again, and to blame me for having come between you. And then
he took to /genever/, and then to wish for something stronger; so at
last every stiver went for absinthe, and once or twice he beat me, and
then he died."
"Just as well," muttered Koosje, under her breath.
"It is very good of you to have fed and warmed us," Truide went on, in
her faint, complaining tones. "Many a one would have let me starve,
and I should have deserved it. It is very good of you and we are
grateful; but 'tis time we were going, Koosje and Mina;" then added,
with a shake of her head, "but I don't know where."
"Oh, you'd better stay," said Koosje, hurriedly. "I live in this big
house by myself, and I dare say you'll be more useful in the shop than
Yanke--if your tongue is as glib as it used to be, that is. You know
some English, too, don't you?"
"A little," Truide answered, eagerly.
"And after all," Koosje said, philosophically, shrugging her
shoulders, "you saved me from the beatings and the starvings and the
rest. I owe you something for that. Why, if it hadn't been for you I
should have been silly enough to have married him."
And then she went back to her shop, saying to herself:
"The professor said it was a blessing in disguise; God sends all our
trials to work some great purpose. Yes; that was what he said, and he
knew most things. Just think if I were trailing about now with those
two little ones, with nothing to look back to but a schnapps-drinking
husband who beat me! Ah, well, well! things are best as they are. I
don't know that I ought not to be very much obliged to her--and she'll
be very useful in the shop."
A DOG OF FLANDERS
Nello and Patrasche were left all alone in the world.
They were friends in a friendship closer than brotherhood. Nello was a
little Ardennois; Patrasche was a big Fleming. They were both of the
same age by length of years; yet one was still young, and the other
was already old. They had dwelt together almost all their days; both
were orphaned and destitute, and owed their lives to the same hand. It
had been the beginning of the tie between them,--their first bond of
sympathy,--and it had strengthened day by day, and had grown with
their growth, firm and indissoluble, until they loved one another very
Their home was a little hut on the edge of a little village--a Flemish
village a league from Antwerp, set amidst flat breadths of pasture and
corn-lands, with long lines of poplars and of alders bending in the
breeze on the edge of the great canal which ran through it. It had
about a score of houses and homesteads, with shutters of bright green
or sky blue, and roofs rose red or black and white, and walls
whitewashed until they shone in the sun like snow. In the centre of
the village stood a windmill, placed on a little moss-grown slope; it
was a landmark to all the level country round. It had once been
painted scarlet, sails and all; but that had been in its infancy, half
a century or more earlier, when it had ground wheat for the soldiers
of Napoleon; and it was now a ruddy brown, tanned by wind and weather.
It went queerly by fits and starts, as though rheumatic and stiff in
the joints from age; but it served the whole neighborhood, which would
have thought it almost as impious to carry grain elsewhere as to
attend any other religious service than the mass that was performed at
the altar of the little old gray church, with its conical steeple,
which stood opposite to it, and whose single bell rang morning, noon,
and night with that strange, subdued, hollow sadness which every bell
that hangs in the Low Countries seems to gain as an integral part of
Within sound of the little melancholy clock almost from their birth
upward, they had dwelt together, Nello and Patrasche, in the little
hut on the edge of the village, with the cathedral spire of Antwerp
rising in the northeast, beyond the great green plain of seeding grass
and spreading corn that stretched away from them like a tideless,
changeless sea. It was the hut of a very old man, of a very poor man--
of old Jehan Daas, who in his time had been a soldier, and who
remembered the wars that had trampled the country as oxen tread down
the furrows, and who had brought from his service nothing except a
wound, which had made him a cripple.
When old Jehan Daas had reached his full eighty, his daughter had died
in the Ardennes, hard by Stavelot, and had left him in legacy her two-
year-old son. The old man could ill contrive to support himself, but
he took up the additional burden uncomplainingly, and it soon became
welcome and precious to him. Little Nello, which was but a pet
diminutive for Nicolas, throve with him, and the old man and the
little child lived in the poor little hut contentedly.
It was a very humble little mud hut indeed, but it was clean and white
as a sea-shell, and stood in a small plot of garden ground that
yielded beans and herbs and pumpkins. They were very poor, terribly
poor; many a day they had nothing at all to eat. They never by any
chance had enough; to have had enough to eat would have been to have
reached paradise at once. But the old man was very gentle and good to
the boy, and the boy was a beautiful, innocent, truthful, tender-
natured creature; and they were happy on a crust and a few leaves of
cabbage, and asked no more of earth or heaven--save indeed that
Patrasche should be always with them, since without Patrasche where
would they have been?
For Patrasche was their alpha and omega; their treasury and granary;
their store of gold and wand of wealth; their bread-winner and
minister; their only friend and comforter. Patrasche dead or gone from
them, they must have laid themselves down and died likewise. Patrasche
was body, brains, hands, head, and feet to both of them; Patrasche was
their very life, their very soul. For Jehan Daas was old and a
cripple, and Nello was but a child; and Patrasche was their dog.
A dog of Flanders--yellow of hide, large of head and limb, with wolf-
like ears that stood erect, and legs bowed and feet widened in the
muscular development wrought in his breed by many generations of hard
service. Patrasche came of a race which had toiled hard and cruelly
from sire to son in Flanders many a century--slaves of slaves, dogs of
the people, beasts of the shafts and the harness, creatures that lived
straining their sinews in the gall of the cart, and died breaking
their hearts on the flints of the streets.
Patrasche had been born of parents who had labored hard all their days
over the sharp-set stones of the various cities and the long,
shadowless, weary roads of the two Flanders and of Brabant. He had
been born to no other heritage than those of pain and of toil. He had
been fed on curses and baptized with blows. Why not? It was a
Christian country, and Patrasche was but a dog. Before he was fully
grown he had known the bitter gall of the cart and the collar. Before
he had entered his thirteenth month he had become the property of a
hardware dealer, who was accustomed to wander over the land north and
south, from the blue sea to the green mountains. They sold him for a
small price, because he was so young.
This man was a drunkard and a brute. The life of Patrasche was a life
of hell. To deal the tortures of hell on the animal creation is a way
which the Christians have of showing their belief in it. His purchaser
was a sullen, ill-living, brutal Brabantois, who heaped his cart full
with pots and pans and flagons and buckets, and other wares of
crockery and brass and tin, and left Patrasche to draw the load as
best he might, while he himself lounged idly by the side in fat and
sluggish ease, smoking his black pipe and stopping at every wineshop
or cafe on the road.
Happily for Patrasche, or unhappily, he was very strong; he came of an
iron race, long born and bred to such cruel travail; so that he did
not die, but managed to drag on a wretched existence under the brutal
burdens, the scarifying lashes, the hunger, the thirst, the blows, the
curses, and the exhaustion which are the only wages with which the
Flemings repay the most patient and laborious of all their four-footed
victims. One day, after two years of this long and deadly agony,
Patrasche was going on as usual along one of the straight, dusty,
unlovely roads that lead to the city of Rubens. It was full midsummer,
and very warm. His cart was very heavy, piled high with goods in metal
and in earthenware. His owner sauntered on without noticing him
otherwise than by the crack of the whip as it curled round his
quivering loins. The Brabantois had paused to drink beer himself at
every wayside house, but he had forbidden Patrasche to stop a moment
for a draught from the canal. Going along thus, in the full sun, on a
scorching highway, having eaten nothing for twenty-four hours, and,
which was far worse to him, not having tasted water for near twelve,
being blind with dust, sore with blows, and stupefied with the
merciless weight which dragged upon his loins, Patrasche staggered and
foamed a little at the mouth, and fell.
He fell in the middle of the white, dusty road, in the full glare of
the sun; he was sick unto death, and motionless. His master gave him
the only medicine in his pharmacy--kicks and oaths and blows with a
cudgel of oak, which had been often the only food and drink, the only
wage and reward, ever offered to him. But Patrasche was beyond the
reach of any torture or of any curses. Patrasche lay, dead to all
appearances, down in the white powder of the summer dust. After a
while, finding it useless to assail his ribs with punishment and his
ears with maledictions, the Brabantois--deeming life gone in him, or
going, so nearly that his carcass was forever useless, unless, indeed,
some one should strip it of the skin for gloves--cursed him fiercely
in farewell, struck off the leathern bands of the harness, kicked his
body aside into the grass, and, groaning and muttering in savage
wrath, pushed the cart lazily along the road uphill, and left the
dying dog for the ants to sting and for the crows to pick.
It was the last day before kermess away at Louvain, and the Brabantois
was in haste to reach the fair and get a good place for his truck of
brass wares. He was in fierce wrath, because Patrasche had been a
strong and much-enduring animal, and because he himself had now the
hard task of pushing his /charette/ all the way to Louvain. But to
stay to look after Patrasche never entered his thoughts; the beast was
dying and useless, and he would steal, to replace him, the first large
dog that he found wandering alone out of sight of its master.
Patrasche had cost him nothing, or next to nothing, and for two long,
cruel years he had made him toil ceaselessly in his service from
sunrise to sunset, through summer and winter, in fair weather and
He had got a fair use and a good profit out of Patrasche; being human,
he was wise, and left the dog to draw his last breath alone in the
ditch, and have his bloodshot eyes plucked out as they might be by the
birds, whilst he himself went on his way to beg and to steal, to eat
and to drink, to dance and to sing, in the mirth at Louvain. A dying
dog, a dog of the cart--why should he waste hours over its agonies at
peril of losing a handful of copper coins, at peril of a shout of
Patrasche lay there, flung in the grass-green ditch. It was a busy
road that day, and hundreds of people, on foot and on mules, in
waggons or in carts, went by, tramping quickly and joyously on to
Louvain. Some saw him; most did not even look; all passed on. A dead
dog more or less--it was nothing in Brabant; it would be nothing
anywhere in the world.
After a time, among the holiday-makers, there came a little old man
who was bent and lame, and very feeble. He was in no guise for
feasting; he was very poorly and miserably clad, and he dragged his
silent way slowly through the dust among the pleasure-seekers. He
looked at Patrasche, paused, wondered, turned aside, then kneeled down
in the rank grass and weeds of the ditch, and surveyed the dog with
kindly eyes of pity. There was with him a little rosy, fair-haired,
dark-eyed child of a few years old, who pattered in amid the bushes,
that were for him breast-high, and stood gazing with a pretty
seriousness upon the poor, great, quiet beast.
Thus it was that these two first met--the little Nello and the big
The upshot of that day was, that old Jehan Daas, with much laborious
effort, drew the sufferer homeward to his own little hut, which was a
stone's throw off amidst the fields; and there tended him with so much
care that the sickness, which had been a brain seizure brought on by
heat and thirst and exhaustion, with time and shade and rest passed
away, and health and strength returned, and Patrasche staggered up
again upon his four stout, tawny legs.
Now for many weeks he had been useless, powerless, sore, near to
death; but all this time he had heard no rough word, had felt no harsh
touch, but only the pitying murmurs of the child's voice and the
soothing caress of the old man's hand.
In his sickness they two had grown to care for him, this lonely man
and the little happy child. He had a corner of the hut, with a heap of
dry grass for his bed; and they had learned to listen eagerly for his
breathing in the dark night, to tell them that he lived; and when he
first was well enough to essay a loud, hollow, broken bay, they
laughed aloud, and almost wept together for joy at such a sign of his
sure restoration; and little Nello, in delighted glee, hung round his
rugged neck chains of marguerites, and kissed him with fresh and ruddy
So then, when Patrasche arose, himself again, strong, big, gaunt,
powerful, his great wistful eyes had a gentle astonishment in them
that there were no curses to rouse him and no blows to drive him; and
his heart awakened to a mighty love, which never wavered once in its
fidelity while life abode with him.
But Patrasche, being a dog, was grateful. Patrasche lay pondering long
with grave, tender, musing brown eyes, watching the movements of his
Now, the old soldier, Jehan Daas, could do nothing for his living but
limp about a little with a small cart, with which he carried daily the
milk-cans of those happier neighbours who owned cattle away into the
town of Antwerp. The villagers gave him the employment a little out of
charity; more because it suited them well to send their milk into the
town by so honest a carrier, and bide at home themselves to look after
their gardens, their cows, their poultry, or their little fields. But
it was becoming hard work for the old man. He was eighty-three, and
Antwerp was a good league off, or more.
Patrasche watched the milk-cans come and go that one day when he had
got well and was lying in the sun with the wreath of marguerites round
his tawny neck.
The next morning, Patrasche, before the old man had touched the cart,
arose and walked to it and placed himself betwixt its handles, and
testified as plainly as dumb-show could do his desire and his ability
to work in return for the bread of charity that he had eaten. Jehan
Daas resisted long, for the old man was one of those who thought it a
foul shame to bind dogs to labor for which Nature never formed them.
But Patrasche would not be gainsaid; finding they did not harness him,
he tried to draw the cart onward with his teeth.
At length Jehan Daas gave way, vanquished by the persistence and the
gratitude of this creature whom he had succored. He fashioned his cart
so that Patrasche could run in it, and this he did every morning of
his life thenceforward.
When the winter came, Jehan Daas thanked the blessed fortune that had
brought him to the dying dog in the ditch that fair-day of Louvain;
for he was very old, and he grew feebler with each year, and he would
ill have known how to pull his load of milk-cans over the snows and
through the deep ruts in the mud if it had not been for the strength
and the industry of the animal he had befriended. As for Patrasche, it
seemed heaven to him. After the frightful burdens that his old master
had compelled him to strain under, at the call of the whip at every
step, it seemed nothing to him but amusement to step out with this
little light, green cart, with its bright brass cans, by the side of
the gentle old man who always paid him with a tender caress and with a
kindly word. Besides, his work was over by three or four in the day,
and after that time he was free to do as he would--to stretch himself,
to sleep in the sun, to wander in the fields, to romp with the young
child, or to play with his fellow-dogs. Patrasche was very happy.
Fortunately for his peace, his former owner was killed in a drunken
brawl at the kermess of Mechlin, and so sought not after him nor
disturbed him in his new and well-loved home.
A few years later, old Jehan Daas, who had always been a cripple,
became so paralyzed with rheumatism that it was impossible for him to
go out with the cart any more. Then little Nello, being now grown to
his sixth year of age, and knowing the town well from having
accompanied his grandfather so many times, took his place beside the
cart, and sold the milk and received the coins in exchange, and
brought them back to their respective owners with a pretty grace and
seriousness which charmed all who beheld him.
The little Ardennois was a beautiful child, with dark, grave, tender
eyes, and a lovely bloom upon his face, and fair locks that clustered
to his throat; and many an artist sketched the group as it went by him
--the green cart with the brass flagons of Teniers and Mieris and Van
Tal, and the great, tawny-colored, massive dog, with his belled
harness that chimed cheerily as he went, and the small figure that ran
beside him which had little white feet in great wooden shoes, and a
soft, grave, innocent, happy face like the little fair children of
Nello and Patrasche did the work so well and so joyfully together that
Jehan Daas himself, when the summer came and he was better again, had
no need to stir out, but could sit in the doorway in the sun and see
them go forth through the garden wicket, and then doze and dream and
pray a little, and then awake again as the clock tolled three and
watch for their return. And on their return Patrasche would shake
himself free of his harness with a bay of glee, and Nello would
recount with pride the doings of the day; and they would all go in
together to their meal of rye bread and milk or soup, and would see
the shadows lengthen over the great plain, and see the twilight veil
the fair cathedral spire; and then lie down together to sleep
peacefully while the old man said a prayer.
So the days and the years went on, and the lives of Nello and
Patrasche were happy, innocent, and healthful.
In the spring and summer especially were they glad. Flanders is not a
lovely land, and around the burg of Rubens it is perhaps least lovely
of all. Corn and colza, pasture and plough, succeed each other on the
characterless plain in wearying repetition, and, save by some gaunt
gray tower, with its peal of pathetic bells, or some figure coming
athwart the fields, made picturesque by a gleaner's bundle or a
woodman's fagot, there is no change, no variety, no beauty anywhere;
and he who has dwelt upon the mountains or amid the forests feels
oppressed as by imprisonment with the tedium and the endlessness of
that vast and dreary level. But it is green and very fertile, and it
has wide horizons that have a certain charm of their own even in their
dulness and monotony; and among the rushes by the waterside the
flowers grow, and the trees rise tall and fresh where the barges
glide, with their great hulks black against the sun, and their little
green barrels and vari-coloured flags gay against the leaves. Anyway,
there is greenery and breadth of space enough to be as good as beauty
to a child and a dog; and these two asked no better, when their work
was done, than to lie buried in the lush grasses on the side of the
canal, and watch the cumbrous vessels drifting by and bringing the
crisp salt smell of the sea among the blossoming scents of the country
True, in the winter it was harder, and they had to rise in the
darkness and the bitter cold, and they had seldom as much as they
could have eaten any day; and the hut was scarce better than a shed
when the nights were cold, although it looked so pretty in warm
weather, buried in a great kindly clambering vine, that never bore
fruit, indeed, but which covered it with luxuriant green tracery all
through the months of blossom and harvest. In winter the winds found
many holes in the walls of the poor little hut, and the vine was black
and leafless, and the bare lands looked very bleak and drear without,
and sometimes within the floor was flooded and then frozen. In winter
it was hard, and the snow numbed the little white limbs of Nello, and
the icicles cut the brave, untiring feet of Patrasche.
But even then they were never heard to lament, either of them. The
child's wooden shoes and the dog's four legs would trot manfully
together over the frozen fields to the chime of the bells on the
harness; and then sometimes, in the streets of Antwerp, some housewife
would bring them a bowl of soup and a handful of bread, or some kindly
trader would throw some billets of fuel into the little cart as it
went homeward, or some woman in their own village would bid them keep
a share of the milk they carried for their own food; and they would
run over the white lands, through the early darkness, bright and
happy, and burst with a shout of joy into their home.
So, on the whole, it was well with them--very well; and Patrasche,
meeting on the highway or in the public streets the many dogs who
toiled from daybreak into nightfall, paid only with blows and curses,
and loosened from the shafts with a kick to starve and freeze as best
they might--Patrasche in his heart was very grateful to his fate, and
thought it the fairest and the kindliest the world could hold. Though
he was often very hungry indeed when he lay down at night; though he
had to work in the heats of summer noons and the rasping chills of
winter dawns; though his feet were often tender with wounds from the
sharp edges of the jagged pavement; though he had to perform tasks
beyond his strength and against his nature--yet he was grateful and
content; he did his duty with each day, and the eyes that he loved
smiled down on him. It was sufficient for Patrasche.
There was only one thing which caused Patrasche any uneasiness in his
life, and it was this. Antwerp, as all the world knows, is full at
every turn of old piles of stones, dark and ancient and majestic,
standing in crooked courts, jammed against gateways and taverns,
rising by the water's edge, with bells ringing above them in the air,
and ever and again out of their arched doors a swell of music pealing.
There they remain, the grand old sanctuaries of the past, shut in amid
the squalor, the hurry, the crowds, the unloveliness, and the commerce
of the modern world; and all day long the clouds drift and the birds
circle and the winds sigh around them, and beneath the earth at their
feet there sleeps--RUBENS.
And the greatness of the mighty master still rests upon Antwerp, and
wherever we turn in its narrow streets his glory lies therein, so that
all mean things are thereby transfigured; and as we pace slowly
through the winding ways, and by the edge of the stagnant water, and
through the noisome courts, his spirit abides with us, and the heroic
beauty of his visions is about us, and the stones that once felt his
footsteps and bore his shadow seem to arise and speak of him with
living voices. For the city which is the tomb of Rubens still lives to
us through him, and him alone.
It is so quiet there by that great white sepulchre--so quiet, save
only when the organ peals and the choir cries aloud the Salve Regina
or the Kyrie eleison. Sure no artist ever had a greater gravestone
than that pure marble sanctuary gives to him in the heart of his
birthplace in the chancel of St. Jacques.
Without Rubens, what were Antwerp? A dirty, dusky, bustling mart,
which no man would ever care to look upon save the traders who do
business on its wharves. With Rubens, to the whole world of men it is
a sacred name, a sacred soil, a Bethlehem where a god of art saw
light, a Golgotha where a god of art lies dead.
O nations! closely should you treasure your great men; for by them
alone will the future know of you. Flanders in her generations has
been wise. In his life she glorified this greatest of her sons, and in
his death she magnifies his name. But her wisdom is very rare.
Now, the trouble of Patrasche was this. Into these great, sad piles of
stones, that reared their melancholy majesty above the crowded roofs,
the child Nello would many and many a time enter, and disappear
through their dark, arched portals, while Patrasche, left without upon
the pavement, would wearily and vainly ponder on what could be the
charm which thus allured from him his inseparable and beloved
companion. Once or twice he did essay to see for himself, clattering
up the steps with his milk-cart behind him; but thereon he had been
always sent back again summarily by a tall custodian in black clothes
and silver chains of office; and fearful of bringing his little master
into trouble, he desisted, and remained couched patiently before the
churches until such time as the boy reappeared. It was not the fact of
his going into them which disturbed Patrasche; he knew that people
went to church; all the village went to the small, tumble-down, gray
pile opposite the red windmill. What troubled him was that little
Nello always looked strangely when he came out, always very flushed or
very pale; and whenever he returned home after such visitations would
sit silent and dreaming, not caring to play, but gazing out at the
evening skies beyond the line of the canal, very subdued and almost
What was it? wondered Patrasche. He thought it could not be good or
natural for the little lad to be so grave, and in his dumb fashion he
tried all he could to keep Nello by him in the sunny fields or in the
busy market-place. But to the churches Nello would go; most often of
all would he go to the great cathedral; and Patrasche, left without on
the stones by the iron fragments of Quentin Matsys's gate, would
stretch himself and yawn and sigh, and even howl now and then, all in
vain, until the doors closed and the child perforce came forth again,
and winding his arms about the dog's neck would kiss him on his broad,
tawny-colored forehead, and murmur always the same words, "If I could
only see them, Patrasche!--if I could only see them!"
What were they? pondered Patrasche, looking up with large, wistful,
One day, when the custodian was out of the way and the doors left
ajar, he got in for a moment after his little friend and saw. "They"
were two great covered pictures on either side of the choir.
Nello was kneeling, rapt as in an ecstasy, before the altar-picture of
the Assumption, and when he noticed Patrasche, and rose and drew the
dog gently out into the air, his face was wet with tears, and he
looked up at the veiled places as he passed them, and murmured to his
companion, "It is so terrible not to see them, Patrasche, just because
one is poor and cannot pay! He never meant that the poor should not
see them when he painted them, I am sure. He would have had us see
them any day, every day; that I am sure. And they keep them shrouded
there--shrouded! in the dark, the beautiful things! And they never
feel the light, and no eyes look on them, unless rich people come and
pay. If I could only see them, I would be content to die."
But he could not see them, and Patrasche could not help him, for to
gain the silver piece that the church exacts as the price for looking
on the glories of the "Elevation of the Cross" and the "Descent of the
Cross" was a thing as utterly beyond the powers of either of them as
it would have been to scale the heights of the cathedral spire. They
had never so much as a sou to spare; if they cleared enough to get a
little wood for the stove, a little broth for the pot, it was the
utmost they could do. And yet the heart of the child was set in sore
and endless longing upon beholding the greatness of the two veiled
The whole soul of the little Ardennois thrilled and stirred with an
absorbing passion for art. Going on his ways through the old city in
the early days before the sun or the people had risen, Nello, who
looked only a little peasant boy, with a great dog drawing milk to
sell from door to door, was in a heaven of dreams whereof Rubens was
the god. Nello, cold and hungry, with stockingless feet in wooden
shoes, and the winter winds blowing among his curls and lifting his
poor thin garments, was in a rapture of meditation, wherein all that
he saw was the beautiful fair face of the Mary of the Assumption, with
the waves of her golden hair lying upon her shoulders, and the light
of an eternal sun shining down upon her brow. Nello, reared in
poverty, and buffeted by fortune, and untaught in letters, and
unheeded by men, had the compensation or the curse which is called
genius. No one knew it; he as little as any. No one knew it. Only,
indeed, Patrasche, who, being with him always, saw him draw with chalk
upon the stones any and every thing that grew or breathed, heard him
on his little bed of hay murmur all manner of timid, pathetic prayers
to the spirit of the great master; watched his gaze darken and his
face radiate at the evening glow of sunset or the rosy rising of the
dawn; and felt many and many a time the tears of a strange, nameless
pain and joy, mingled together, fall hotly from the bright young eyes
upon his own wrinkled yellow forehead.
"I should go to my grave quite content if I thought, Nello, that when
thou growest a man thou couldst own this hut and the little plot of
ground, and labor for thyself, and be called Baas by thy neighbours,"
said the old man Jehan many an hour from his bed. For to own a bit of
soil, and to be called Baas (master) by the hamlet round, is to have
achieved the highest ideal of a Flemish peasant; and the old soldier,
who had wandered over all the earth in his youth, and had brought
nothing back, deemed in his old age that to live and die on one spot
in contented humility was the fairest fate he could desire for his
darling. But Nello said nothing.
The same leaven was working in him that in other times begat Rubens
and Jordaens and the Van Eycks, and all their wondrous tribe, and in
times more recent begat in the green country of the Ardennes, where
the Meuse washes the old walls of Dijon, the great artist of the
Patroclus, whose genius is too near us for us aright to measure its
Nello dreamed of other things in the future than of tilling the little
rood of earth, and living under the wattle roof, and being called Baas
by neighbours a little poorer or a little less poor than himself. The
cathedral spire, where it rose beyond the fields in the ruddy evening
skies or in the dim, gray, misty mornings, said other things to him
than this. But these he told only to Patrasche, whispering, childlike,
his fancies in the dog's ear when they went together at their work
through the fogs of the daybreak, or lay together at their rest among
the rustling rushes by the water's side.
For such dreams are not easily shaped into speech to awake the slow
sympathies of human auditors; and they would only have sorely
perplexed and troubled the poor old man bedridden in his corner, who,
for his part, whenever he had trodden the streets of Antwerp, had
thought the daub of blue and red that they called a Madonna, on the
walls of the wine-shop where he drank his sou's worth of black beer,
quite as good as any of the famous altarpieces for which the stranger
folk traveled far and wide into Flanders from every land on which the
good sun shone.