Almost all deaf-mutes have the same character. Most are very sensitive to good treatment and helpful to all who in turn are indulgent and friendly to them. On the contrary, they are capricious against people who make fun of them, torture them or mistreat them, sometimes they show themselves to be mocking or abusive, sometimes they act against them in an indifferent way.
Klomp’s wife, who has a sensitive character, always shows compassion and intimacy to the dumb maid, especially since she is diligent, not wasting her time doing nothing, but constantly working, even if other maids occasionally find an opportunity unnecessarily. waste their time.
In the morning Rika usually goes to her cottage from twelve to one o’clock; the farmer’s wife lets her go, for after she has returned she uses her time so well and diligently that none of all the maids surpasses her. Rika has been working at Klomp for so many years that no one needs to show her what she needs to do. When the milking has taken place, the mutineer by herself always knows which one is newwork she can start, and if sometimes she doesn’t immediately know what to do, and if no errands are to be done, then she just looks at her mistress. This one needs only one gesture to tell where she can find another job. No one but the farmer’s wife orders her, for the others the mutineer pays no attention at all, not even the farmer himself. She obeys the farmer’s wife willingly, because this one is always friendly. Rika feels that her mistress understands her and she understands each other the mistress for whom, if needed, she would risk her life. Mutual intimacy and friendship unite these two women and for this reason the mutineer (not even alluding to it) remains in the same farm, while other maids annually at a fixed time before the month of May must be rehired.
For a few days Klomp’s wife noticed that Rika had sometimes interrupted her work, and that she was looking aimlessly in front of her, while a smile slid down her face. She also noticed that the mutineer went to her cottage faster than usual not only at noon, but also in the evening after the day’s work. Something extraordinary must no doubt be the cause of this, and since women are curious, Rika’s mistress is like that too, and she decides to spy on the maid.
It’s been a week since the girl adopted the baby, and it’s ten o’clock in the morning. The clogs are just tactfully scattering the sand clouds on the path and the double beehive with the white hood makes its way quickly to the village spice-maker, as Rika has to do errands. The mistress follows her with her eyes, until the strange figure has completely disappeared; then following the path of sand, she goes to the cottage, the door of which (as she has seen many times) is always open. How great is her surprise when she now sees the heavy lock that blocks her entrance to the cottage. Mrs. Klomp grabs it, lifts it, and releases the lock, which falls back on the door with a loud noise.
“Something mysterious is hidden beneath it,” thinks Mrs. Klomp, and leaning over the windowpane on the side of the door, she looks inside. She never visited the resident, so she can’t see if anything has changed in the little room; yet she looks inquisitively everywhere, but sees only one table and four chairs, one of which is covered with a cloth. Nothing suspicious catches her eye, yet something must have changed or happened in that room, for otherwise it would not have been necessary to close the door of the house with that lock. The lady goes round the cottage, looks out of all the windows, but notices nothing extraordinary. Her feminine instinct, however, assures her that the mutineer has not for no reason attached such a lock. Thinking for a moment, she leaves.
It is about noon, the sand clouds follow each other quickly on the trail and the mutineer approaches her home. After removing the lock, she enters, places the basket in the hallway, and steps over to the cloth-covered chair. Her shining eyes fixate on the little boy. He laughs like only a child can laugh. The mutineer does not hear it, she sees the laughter and happily looks at little Moses with love and emotion. She stutters a few hoarse cries, which, however, do not frighten the little boy, for he is already accustomed to them, and knows that after these cries the sweet milk will follow. After she had enjoyed the little boy’s laughter long enough, she took him out of the box, cleaned him, put on a clean diaper, and, turning the back of her chair on the door, sucked the child. Suddenly it seemed to her as if a black shadow were hovering over the wall in front of her. Someone else wouldn’t notice that, but deaf-mute people notice almost everything. She turns, but sees nothing. Then the same shadowshrinks, but immediately disappears. The girl turns around again, but no one is standing at the window outside the house.
“Perhaps a cloud has passed,” she thinks, and again she looks at the sucking child.
When he has sucked enough, she puts him back in the box, presses a kiss on the angel’s face and stands in a crooked posture, looking at the little one until her back hurts. Then she turns to go out, for it is a quarter of an hour before the first. But as soon as the clogs clicked four times on the tile floor, she stops in terror, for right in front of her stands the farmer’s wife, who, with a pale face, expressing pity, surprise, and regret, blocks her way out of the room.
A cry of terror comes from between the lips of the mutineer and the mistress and maid look at each other. Neither of them knows what to think or what to do.
The maid is afraid she will lose the child because he has been discovered; the mistress begins to think that the child was born in this cottage and terrible side thoughts accompany that conjecture. She does not, however, condemn the mutineer, whom she must indeed regard as a naive innocent creature.
The mistress first breaks the dead silence that reigns in the room and sighs:
“Oh God, girl, what have you done?”
The mutineer does not hear the words, but she is aware that the mistress is judging unfairly about her behavior. She wants to understand that the child was not born to her, and how he came into her cottage. She points to Moses on the framed picture, takes the ark, sets it on the table, and makes gestures to show that a stranger has brought in the ark; then she taps her index finger a few times on her chest, shakes her head, as if to say:
– He is not mine, I found him on the table in this box, just as those women in the picture find that child in a box on the water.
The farmer’s wife misunderstands her maid’s gestures, she takes the little boy on her arm and admires his handsome little head with the brown, almost black eyes and hair of the same color; then she puts him on her knees and contemplating the strange occasion, she looks ahead.
Rika stands still and thinks:
“Will he be taken away from me?” ‘Then she touches the lady’s arm. This one looks at her. Rika pats her breast again, realizing: “He’s not mine.” then she puts her finger to her mouth, extends an arm in the direction of the farm as if to say that the mistress of the child should not speak to Klomp. The lady, who knows her husband well, decides that she will not talk to him about it for the time being, for he would no longer tolerate the mutineer on the farm when he learns that she has a child, and she shakes her head; then she gets up to leave.
It is now almost one o’clock, and Rika sets the box on the chair by the side of the fireplace, grabs the basket, and follows her mistress outside. There she locks the door and runs along the path to the farmer’s wife, who is directing her steps towards Brej. Stopping her with her arm, she points to the farm again and taps her mouth.
– No! – says the lady, shaking her head, – No! … I won’t talk!
Rika smiles, calms down, and her clogs turn her heels toward the mistress, who goes on to the cottage, while the mutineer hurries to the farm.
Mrs. Klomp meanwhile goes slowly on, thinking that she has therefore rightly guessed that something extraordinary has happened in the locked cottage. She delves into thoughts. “Did Rika give birth to that baby?” But that is impossible; she has never had intercourse with men, and even if she had intercourse, she is honest …. But a shameless man could seduce and deceive her ……, yet that too is unlikely …..; Rika never got sick, came to work every day and was away only during the week off, and in that week the little boy had been born for a long time, because he was at least three months old …. – A hundred such thoughts run through her head, at last she says to himself:
– But we can’t always hide the child, people will finally find out about it ……
Going further she reaches the little house and the church with the low pointed tower. It stands in the middle of the high burial ground between tombstones and tombstones, indicating the names of the dead lying beneath them. Crosses are not seen there, as the inhabitants of Brej belong to the Protestant religion.
Behind the cemetery stands in a beautiful garden the white-painted house of the preacher. A narrow path goes from the cemetery to the garden and the preacher walks there with a book in his hand and a long clay tobacco pipe in his mouth. He is a man of medium stature, still unmarried and always dressed in black. He looks ugly because his lower jaw stands too far forward, but to hide that ugliness, he wears a beard that covers not only the chin to the lip, but also the cheeks. His beard, as well as his skull hair, are all white, for he is already a man of sixty. He is short-sighted, and looking with the gray eyes at the people with whom he speaks, he always frowns, imagining that then he can see more clearly.
For thirty years he had lived in the little house of Brej, and would not have liked to leave it, for he was accustomed to it and to the white house, where he lived with an old housekeeper and a young maid. He knows all the people around him and he baptizes all the young people. Although he is not an eloquent speaker (he is accustomed to reading his sermons) he is much liked for his good manners and for the friendly, almost intimate way in which he behaves with the Brejans. He is everyone’s advisor and is very fond of being approached to ask for his advice.
Seeing a woman enter the cemetery, he frowns, takes the pipe out of his mouth and stares at her. At first he cannot distinguish which one follows the path of shells which surrounds the cemetery and the furrows deepen. Only after the woman has taken a few steps on the path leading to the garden does he believe that she is Mrs. Klomp, and frowning as deeply as he can, he is sure that she is that lady.
“It’s an unusual time to go for a walk,” he thinks, and, frowning, goes to meet her and greets her kindly.
‘Good day, priest! Says Mrs. Klomp, and she goes on down the path to the garden. The priest, to accompany her, must turn; he turns and they walk side by side. Strabe the priest looks at the lady and in spite of his short-sightedness he notices that she is coming to talk about something extraordinary, yet immediately looking ahead, he says:
‘Nice weather today, madam.
‘Very beautiful, priest.
‘Even prettier than yesterday.
‘I have a feeling of rain, though.
– Do you have a premonition of that?
‘Yes, my calluses hurt, and then it will always rain. They walk on.
Once more he stares at her and for a tenth of a second his forehead furrows; then he touches with his pipe a beautiful rose, which they have just passed, and he says further:
“Because of my roses, I hope my calluses will hurt even more, because they need water… The roses, of course.”
The lady does not answer, but coughs two or three times; it seems as if a few words want to come out of her throat, but suddenly meet a fence; the coughs, however, do not remove that fence and she walks on.