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.
Once again such a free week came, and after cleaning her cottage, she went to Uskvert, to a brother who lives there with his family. She left there without locking the door of her cottage at all, for that door is safe; nothing has ever been stolen from the cottage, and she has no idea that a thief will come in to remove the furniture in her absence.
Two days later, in the morning, she leaves her brother again to return to her cottage. Automatically as always she follows the macadam road from Uskvert to Warfum. In Warfum she buys wool from a shopkeeper, where she usually also buys other necessities for knitting and sewing, and half an hour later she stands on the stone alley in front of the door of her cottage. She opens it, lifts the bolt, enters, walks down the hallway to the room door, and suddenly stops. That door is closed, and she didn’t close it when she left the room two days ago.
She thinks about it in her own way, not in words, but in imagination. Thoughtfully she sees someone coming in and out of the cottage, but who went in and out? … Why did they go in and out? … She grabs the ring hanging on the door and hesitates whether she will go in or not. Thoughtfully she sees a person in the room and she releases the ring with which she is about to lift the bolt, thinks for a moment and goes out the hallway outside to look out the window to see if there really is anyone in the room. She leans over to look across the glass that covers the bottom of the window. No one is in, but there is a brown box on the table. Broadly Rika opens her eyes and a strange sound comes out of her mouth. She’s not afraid, because a box can’t do any harm, but it’s an enigma to her how the box came there … and what’s inside? … She looks around to see, maybe a person is standing somewhere who brought in the box, but the sandy path is as deserted as the countryside. Thoughtfully she sees the farmer’s wife, who has brought in the box to surprise her maid, and showing for a moment her white teeth, the mutineer leaves the window and enters the cottage. She turns the ring of the room door, the bolt rises and with two long steps that click on the tile floor, she stands in front of the strange surprise. The cover is neither nailed nor cord-closed, but stands so that she can see part of the contents, namely white linen. Rika starts to think about her bed and imagines seeing new blankets, and carefully she pulls off the box cover. Suddenly she pushes it so hard that it falls to the floor. She does not hear the noise she has made, but looks into the box with her eyes wide open. She does not believe her eyes and stands for a moment looking at the “surprise”, not knowing what to think or do. She pales and the unexpected surprise touches her so much that she has to lean against the table, as her legs tremble and that same strange sound that only a mute person can hear comes out of her throat again, but soon she controls herself. The falling blanket woke the little boy, who was now looking at the girl with big brown eyes. A smile plays on the child’s mouth, which lies there like an angel.
Strange thoughts and imaginations pile up in Rika’s head.
“How did that child get there? Why was it put there on the table? Is it a gift? Will they come to pick it up?”
The child laughs and looks at the girl without fear. She takes off the linen, puts it on the side of the casket and here the baby is like little Moses in the casket on the water of the Nile. In front of Moses stand beautiful maidens, beautiful princesses with fans in their hands, and they are about to take Moses out of the ark, swimming on the water between the tall reeds. In front of this brown box on the table stands the mutineer, who is willingly or unwillingly looking at the picture on the wall, and she, too, is about to take out her Moses.
“How long has he been lying in it?” She thinks about it, but suddenly another thought strikes her.
“Is the child thirsty or hungry? Maybe not because he is not crying, but laughing.”
“Is it clean and dry?”
Rika knows from experience that many children sometimes do not cry when they are wet, although it is necessary for them to be clean and to lie in dry diapers.
She takes the baby on her arm and laughs at it;the baby opens his mouth and moves his lips. Rika knows it makes sounds, but she doesn’t hear them. She is glad, however, that the little one is laughing, and she presses it to her heart, while tears roll down her cheeks with emotion … She thinks in memory of her siblings when they were as small as this baby … She puts the little one back in the box, prepares warm water and removes the diaper. She has done the same thing more than a thousand times when the siblings were suckling children, and she is adept at that job. The child (she now sees) is a handsome little boy. She cleans him up and starts thinking about diapers, a milk bottle and other necessities and what she will have to do with the little boy who is so cute and sweet. Image she sees poor parents with many children, so many that they can’t feed everyone well enough. Image she sees further,
“Does she have to look after him?”
When she looked at the little boy again, he laughed again and Rika leaned over him, kissed him and thought:
‘I will look after him, take care of him and love him.
But here’s another thought:
“Will the little one be taken away from her?”
She is uneasy; the little boy was given to her voluntarily, she wants to keep him a secret so that no one can take him away. She gets up to look for a place where she can best place the casket so that no one from outside could see it. On the side of the fireplace hood is enough space to set up a chair, and on that chair she could place the box she would use as his cot. Setting up the chair with the box there, she goes out and looks out the windows to see if anyone in there can see.notice her little one. She immediately returns home, turns her back on the chair to the fireplace, hangs a towel on the backrest, and goes out again to look inquisitively. She is content because she sees only the towel. Entering the second time, she is caught by the thought that the little boy can be stolen during her absence and immediately she decides to get a lock to always lock the door when she has to leave the child alone. But she wants to own that lock as soon as possible. She puts the box on the bed, closes the door and goes out to buy the lock immediately, because after a few days she will have to be out of the house regularly to work at Klomp’s … She goes out.
Automatically, but faster than before, the clogs scatter the sand clouds and, curiously, the few people she meets on the way look back at the mutineer and marvel at the speed with which she goes towards the village against her habit.
When she gets there, she goes to a blacksmith and points to a lock with a key and two iron brackets. She buys them immediately by paying. Leaving the blacksmith, who marvels at the immediate payment, as Klomp pays only once a year what he needed during that time, the mutineer enters a shop to buy a bottle for a suckling baby and other necessities for the little one. The shopkeeper at first does not understand what she wants, but on looking, she shows with her finger what she wants to buy, and the man is astonished, for the farmer’s wife has no children; but Rika ignores his astonishment and after a nod she leaves the shop.
When she returns to her house, she inserts one clamp into the door frame and the other into the door with her clog so that the curves almost touch each other to get through the lock. Investigating later that the brackets are sitting tightly, she goes in and takes the box from the bed and places it on the chair at the fireplace. The little boy is sleeping soundly. Rika goes out, locks the door, and automatically, but quickly the two clogs scatter the sand clouds on the trail, until she disappears into the farm to get some milk. That milk she takes in the dairy and in her pocket the full bottle that no one can see, because the lowest beehive is so wide that she could effortlessly and unnoticed hide ten bottles under it.
When she returns home, she takes a match from a matchbox and puts it on the hood, because she wants to pay for the milk afterwards, and not being able to read or write to write down the bottles. .
She is now boiling some milk to give to the little boy when he wakes up.
Quietly she sits at the casket, uninterruptedly looking at the little angel whom fate has so suddenly and mysteriously placed in her way.
Her cheeks are redder than usual, her eyes shine brighter than ever before. Widely she admires the beautiful being whose mother she wants to be and for whom she wants to work until he becomes a beautiful adult young man. Oh, how many thoughts and imaginations attack the mutineer! Among them there is only one that worries her: The father might come back to reclaim the little boy, but if he comes back, she wants to ask him to give him up to her, because she can work for him and take care of him, and that’s what she wants.
Minutes pass …, hours pass and it’s already dusk, but the mutineer sits quietly with clasped hands and waits patiently to suck her adoptee for the first time.