Anyone who has never visited the village of Brej, geographically belonging to the village of Warfum in the northern part of the Dutch province of Groningen, cannot imagine how beautifully beautiful this little house is.
It lies on the macadam road, leading from the village of Baflo to Warfum, and consists of only twenty cottages, one school, and a beautiful little church with a pointed turret.
Along this path, which goes through the little house, there are narrow long ditches, over which are thrown boards, which serve as footbridges. Going from the road across the boards, you reach the cottages that stand separated from each other, and each cottage is surrounded by a vegetable garden with pear trees.
In these cottages live peasants working for the wealthy farmers, whose farms lie very far from the road, so far away that they are not seen because of the tall trees that completely surround them.
Sandy sidewalks, also bordered by narrow long ditches, lead to these farms, and only here and there stands a secluded cottage, as if thrown there by chance by a capricious giant who thus wished to interrupt the monotony of the rich fields where oats, rye, etc. grow. barley, peas, potatoes and other crops that can thrive only in fertile fertile land, as seen in the north of Groningen.
In one of these few secluded cottages, near a beautiful and rich farm, lives Rika, the “mutineer.”
She is usually called by her last name, because in the neighboring villages, where she sometimes goes to do errands or to visit her siblings, there are many girls and young women named Rika, but none of them are deaf like her.
The villagers often asked each other why the “mutineer” had not gone to town in her youth to attend the school for the deaf and dumb, and the answer was always the same: Rika’s parents were too poor and needed her because of the young siblings. ; besides, the village board, consisting of an obedient yielding village chief and farmers, thought this to be entirely superfluous. A simple maid, they thought, did not need to learn the art of writing if it cost so much money; without that art she does earn enough to live on, and the village coffers need too much to repair macadam roads, to pay the salaries of the teachers, the police, the gravedigger, and so on. Rika therefore did not visit the Institute for the Deaf-Mute and stayed at home with her parents and siblings.
Rika is a thirty-year-old girl. Her parents, who no longer live, had many children and worked in the countryside from morning till evening, and as she was the eldest of the children, she had to look after and care for her siblings. She does this with pleasure, because she is kind and loves children very much. First the mother died, and when a few years later she lost her father, the siblings were already serving as servants and maids at farmers in Brej, Warfum, and Uskvert, and the mutineer was left alone in the secluded cottage; the siblings left her all the father’s inheritance, consisting of that cottage and some furniture.
The cottage is simple, low and old. It is completely surrounded by ivy covering the four walls so that only the five windows and the single door can be seen. It stands in a field next to a sandy path, leading from the macadam road to the farm, where she serves as a milkmaid and cook for the housekeepers.
Entering through the only door in front of which lies an alley of square flat stones, one comes into a corridor, lit by only one window. In this corridor, which is the fifth part of the building, there is a removable staircase by which you can go up to the attic, which is used in winter to keep peat. Opposite the corridor window is a gate through which one can enter the single room. When you open it, you see directly in front of you an old-fashioned fireplace hood and a fireplace, from which hangs on a long chain a copper cauldron, at the side of which stands a gleaming fire. On the side of the chimney hood, but a little lower, are two windows. On the right indoor wall partition are four gates; behind the two middle ones there is the bed, behind the other two there are two cupboards, one for clothes, another for cutlery and other household necessities. In front of each closet door stands one chair. On the left wall, in front of the two windows, are two more chairs, and between the windows hangs a little higher a mirror so old that one can hardly see oneself in it, and an ancient colored picture depicting the daughters of Pharaoh, finding on the Nile the young Moses in a swimming ark.
In the middle of the tile floor stands a square table covered with a red cloth.
It is summer and the fifth hour in the morning.
The mutineer had just got up, washed herself, and got dressed to go out, for the sixth she had to be at Farmer’s Klomp to milk the cows.
Klomp is a farmer in every sense of the word. In the province of Groningen, “farmer” means not only a “farmer” but also an “arrogant, proud, almost always foolish man”, who thinks he is very witty.
Wherever he is, whether on his farm, in the village, or in the city, everywhere he acts and behaves as if he were at home, and as if he were a leader and a dignitary who has the right to command and command. Strangers, however, have nothing with him to command and command, and do not even enter his daily room. They stay in the anteroom, in the kitchen or in the barn if they wish to speak to the farmer, as the family room is a sanctuary into which only another farmer or eminent persons enter, such as the notary, the preacher and the doctor of the village.
Klomp is like almost all farmers in the province of Groningen; perhaps he is richer than many of them, but no less arrogant and proud. Klomp thinks he belongs to a “noble” class, the “peasant class”, the most eminent of all classes. From the farmers (so he thinks) comes all that is useful and necessary, and therefore all non-farmers must be grateful that the farming class exists, because without farmers there would indeed be no grain produced, no potatoes, no barley and so on. What (in Klomp’s opinion) would the villagers and the townspeople do without these products? The baker could not bake bread, the brewer could not make beer, the butcher could not butcher and the blacksmith would earn too little if there were no farmers; therefore: the farming class is without contradiction the chief of all classes, and at Klomp, a member of that class, works Rika the mutineer, whose cottage we have just entered.
Although Rika doesn’t have a watch, she never came too late to the farm. She herself is like a clock, doing everything automatically. Automatically she wakes up always the same hour in the morning and automatically she always arrives at her work, exactly the sixth hour. Ten minutes before six, she always comes out of her cottage, the only door of which she closes only with a bolt, for thieves have never taken anything away. She usually locks only one of the cupboards in which she keeps some money, earned during the years after her father died, and since she worked on the farm.
As she walks down the sandy path to the farm, her body looks like two blue-painted beehives, one on top of the other. Under the bottom the feet, which are always covered with heavy clogs, move automatically; for she wears clogs in winter and summer. On the top “beehive” is a white hood. Automatically that strange figure of the mutineer goes forward. Rika does not look to the right, nor to the left, nor to the back, but always forward, as if only directly in front of her was the goal she should never lose sight of.
When she meets her on the road acquaintance, she automatically nods once, but very quickly to pick up the previous posture as soon as possible.
Rika smiles only rarely, but when she smiles, she shows two rows of teeth, whiter than pearls.
Her face is browned by the sun.
In the villages she is said to be a pretty young lady, and looking her in the face one cannot fail to notice the blue eyes, which always shine, and the full cheeks with dimples. Her chin is beautiful, and because she has a beautiful nose, no one can say she is not pretty. Her hair, however, makes a strange contrast with her face; in fact they are blond, but because she cleans them too often with water, they have gradually lost their natural color.
Rika never thinks about whether she is beautiful or beautiful, because that is completely indifferent to her. Quietly she has been going her usual way for years, and quietly she will go on as long as she is the same industrious mutineer as all the villagers know her.
After the milking and other work has taken place, Rika sometimes has to go to Warfum to buy necessities for the farmer’s wife.
Also this day after the milking she goes there for the same reason. As usual she goes with a basket hanging on her arm, and we want to follow her. Automatically the two “beehives” with the white hood move forward and move up and down as the clogs step forward. The few passers-by greet her politely, and with her usual quick nod she answers the greetings. After half an hour of this sudden but rapid movement of the lace-up shoes on the macadam road, the mutineer reaches the village and at once goes to the spice-maker Pentman. He stands behind the shop table and greets as she enters. As usual she shows her white teeth for a second; the dimples in her cheeks deepen during that same second, and after the quick nod she puts the basket on the table. The spice-maker takes out a piece of paper and reads,
More than a thousand times the mutineer came into this shop, and always the spice-maker took out such a piece of paper and, after reading it, put in sugar, soap, oil, and so on. The mutineer instinctively realizes that such a piece of paper seems to be speaking and that the man understands the drawings standing on it, but she is no longer surprised by it. Instinctively she is also aware that all people (just not herself) by movementsfrom the mouth she can understand each other, and she is no longer surprised about that either, but there is something else that gives birth to her astonishment many times, namely that people move their lips and thereby talk to other people who are in another room. Eventually, however, she became aware that such communication took place through an organ located inside the ears, as all dogs, cats, and horses began to move their ears when people spoke to them. Sometimes she regretted that she lacked that organ, but for a long time she had resigned herself and was satisfied with the thought that she could understand many movements of the mouth.
The basket is now full and Rika leaves the shop to return to Klomp’s farm and then the clogs touch the village street, then the macadam road and finally the sand of the side road leading to the farm.
Farmer Klomp occasionally sees the dumb maid approaching, who leaves her mark at every step, a cloud of sand, which her clog throws aside.
Klomp, who regards the servants as a necessary evil, and tolerates them in his house and in his fields just to work, now stands in the middle of the sandy path, with his hands in his pockets.
The mutineer passes him with a quick nod, but not showing his white teeth, for she does not love the farmer, feeling that he in turn does not appreciate her at all and does not even like her. Klomp bounces back with an almost invisible gesture, puts his hand in his pocket again, and takes a few steps along the path. Then he goes across a board that lies from the path to one of the fields, and goes there further with long awkward steps to find out if everything is in order, namely: whether the “necessary evil” is working diligently in the countryside. In the meantime he calculates how much he will earn that summer with his fruits, no longer thinking at all about the mutineer who enters his farm to work until the evening. –
The free hours left to Rika she used to sew her clothes and knit her stockings; so it went for her year after year. This is how this summer passes and a new season is approaching with new months until the month of May comes again.
In that month all the servants enjoy a free week and usually do nothing but have fun in the village bars or in the town where they go to spend so much money that after the seventh day they have almost nothing left.
Rika never took part in it because she is deaf and dumb; she spends those free days in her cottage, cleaning it from the attic to the tile floor, and if there are a few days left, she visits her brothers and sisters, who live in the adjoining villages.