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A strange fight and a strange bath

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.

– Yes.

‘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.

They are now in the middle of the garden; directly in front of them is the open door of the rectory, and the lady approaches it, saying:

‘Pastor, I need your advice.

A quick smile widens the preacher’s beard, for he has already noticed that his myopic eyes have guessed correctly.

‘Oh, if I can give it, madam, I will be at your disposal.

He pipe points to the open door and the lady crosses the threshold. The priest follows her and they both stand in the wide corridor. The anteroom door also stands open, and again the long pipe shows the lady that she is invited to enter.

She enters and the third time the priest uses his pipe …… namely to show a chair. They both sit down.

Mrs. Klomp looks inquisitively around and the priest, in spite of his myopia, realizes what that means. He gets up and closes the door and sitting down again, he says:

‘I am at your disposal, Mrs. Klomp.

– I have something to find out first, priest …. hm! …. hm! ……… Do all born children have to be enrolled?

“That is a very strange question,” thinks the priest, who does not understand clearly, and he answers that strange question with the words:

– Of course I enroll all the children born after I have baptized them.

– Yes, of course, but I am not referring to the church register, but that of the community board .

The priest can’t help but frown very deeply and the lady, noticing the priest’s surprise, says further:

“Do you know how many days new-born children must be enrolled?”

– After twenty-four hours ….. but ….

– Yes, priest, my question is a bit strange, but before explaining it, I would like to know if a breach of that duty is legally punishable.

– Actually, yes.

“Is it severe?”

‘That will depend on the reasons for the breach.

‘Suppose, priest, that a disobedient person does not know that this duty exists.

‘But we cannot suppose that such people are here.

‘But suppose a moment.

– Well, in that case the punishment would not be very severe …, but I did not com …..

‘And you can’t understand why I’m being informed about it. So I must speak more clearly, but first allow me to ask another question: “What do you think of the maidens of our little house?”

‘As far as I know, everyone is honest and good-natured.

“I agree, but an honest woman can be seduced and deceived.”

The priest puts the pipe on the table, but immediately picks it up, and leaning forward so that the pipe touches his shoulder, he whispers ……..

– One of the daughters of these inhabitants ……?

– Occasionally I noticed that one of them has a three- or four-month-old baby … who is not enrolled.

“A three- or four-month-old child! …… When did you notice that?”

‘Half an hour ago.

The priest’s face changed. The wrinkles on his forehead deepened, and his lower jaw protruded even more than usual. The good man delves into thoughts, his pipe piercing the white hair on his head, as if he wants to find on the skull the solution to the riddle that so suddenly occupies his meditations.

“Who can that girl be?” He asks himself. He knows everyone, sees them almost every day, but he has never noticed anything suspicious. Finally he whispers:

“Who is she?”

– The mutineer.

– Rika !? – The searching pipe no longer searches the skull between the priest’s hair, but falls out of the dismayed man’s hand, and four pieces tinkle on the floor between the feet of the two interlocutors.

“I’m sorry!” said the lady, for I terrified you.

– Oh, that doesn’t really matter … it’s just a clay pipe ………….

Mrs. Klomp collects the pieces and places them carefully on the table, then she waits to hear what the priest will say next, but he is silent for a moment, at last he says:

‘However, it is impossible that the child is hers. I see her almost every day.

“I thought so, too, but she has a baby, I saw her half an hour ago,” and the lady tells in detail all that she has experienced in the girl’s cottage.

The priest’s forehead suddenly fades and a smile widens his beard once more; then he says:

‘Well, she may have found the child.

“On the table?”

– Yes, why not? … the door, as you said, was always open until a few days ago, and an unknown person may have entered and left the box with the child … Anyway I will investigate this and talk to the village chief so that the child can be registered . I will try to prevent legal prosecution.

– But how to find evidence, is the baby hers or not? Rika can’t talk.

‘It will be difficult; but I will examine the box, perhaps it will provide me with the thread by which I can get out of this labyrinth.

Mrs. Klomp sighs. She pities the mutineer and would be very happy not only if the priest proved that the child was found, but also if Rika did not encounter any inconveniences.

She gets up, thanks the priest and leaves. The priest accompanies her to the macadam road; then he shakes her hand and after greeting they part; the priest goes to his house to think about this strange thing and the lady goes to the farm.

Meanwhile Rika is working in the dairy. She now stands at a high milk barrel, from which she removes the freshly made butter. With both hands she pulls the swimming butter out of the barrel and puts it in a clay pot. From time to time she interrupts this work and stands with pressed lips and looks aimlessly before her, thinking of the child and of the mistress who has discovered the secret; and she is restless.

Klomp, who almost never engages in butter-making, occasionally walks past the dairy and looks inside. He immediately realizes that everything is not going well, as one of the maids is not working, but is standing at the milk barrel, doing nothing and looking ahead. He stays standing outside and waits to see if she gets to work. The girl starts working, but only for a short time, because she’s not doing anything again. Klomp is glad he came and that just at that time everything is not going well. He enters the dairy, but the mutineer does not pay attention to him; with pressed lips she stands at the barrel doing nothing. Klomp stands with his hands in his pockets and doesn’t pull them out. Staring at the mutineer, he steps towards her with four long heavy steps, and with his elbow touches her. Rika looks at him, but then no longer paying any attention to the farmer, she picks up her previous attitude. Klomp blushes with indignation, waits a minute to see if she will start working, but seeing that the touch has been left without result, he touches her a second time, but harder. The mutineer is surprised because she does not understand what the farmer intends. She turns her back on him, but doesn’t get to work.

Two other maids, also working in the dairy, stopped to see what was going to happen because they know the mutineer and know that she obeys only the mistress.

‘Get to work! Cries Klomp to them. The maids obey, but with difficulty restrain a mocking smile. Rika, however, does not obey and Klomp pushes her elbow for the third time. The mute woman turns to him and looks menacingly at the farmer, whose anger has flared up. He points to the barrel and shouts: “Work!”

Rika, instead of obeying, puts both hands on her hips and mockingly looks the farmer straight in the eyes.

A suppressed laugh erupts after Klomp and the maids turn not to show the mocking, laughing faces.

Klomp is so furious that he can no longer control himself. He takes out one hand and hits the girl on the cheek.

With a hoarse, terrible cry, the beaten man grabs a broom standing beside him and pushes it into the farmer’s face. His cap falls off his head and loud laughter from the maids is heard behind him. He now takes out his second hand to strike the mutineer once more, but she raises the broom high, which at a surprising speed immediately falls back on her attacker’s skull. The farmer screams and curses like a drunken man and is about to throw himself on the mutineer, but she runs after the barrel. Klomp wants to grab her, but once again the broom rises. The farmer bends down to avoid the blow, but stumbles upon the smooth tiles of the dairy; instead of catching the mutineer, he grabs the barrel boards, the barrel staggers, overturns, and rolls over the fallen farmer, on whom all the white contents of the barrel are poured. Like a fish in mud Klomp struggles on the floor. He gets up and the buttermilk flows out of all his clothes. He wants to attack the mutineer again, but she stands in front of him like a wounded tigress and swings the broom with such skill that the farmer is frightened and steps back.

Just then the farmer’s wife enters.

Immediately guessing what had happened, as she knows the characters of the fighters, she goes quietly to Rika, shakes her head as a sign of disapproval, and effortlessly takes the broom she puts on the ground; then she grabs her hand and heads for the kitchen next door.

Rika follows like a lamb. The farmer’s wife takesboth hands of her maid and shaking her head again, she looks half reproachfully, half sadly into the mutineer’s eyes. This one shudders, falls to his knees and hiding his face on his mistress’s apron, cries loudly with excitement and nervousness. Her whole body is shaking. The farmer’s wife caresses her head and raises her face, which is bathed in tears. Gradually Rika calms down, finally gets up and the two go to the dairy, where the two maids clean the tile floor. Their faces are still red with laughter. They know that the mutineer is waiting for orders only from the mistress, but they had not expected her to so bravely repay a single slap from the farmer, all the more so because he is a real giant and ten times stronger than Rika. They were glad to see that the farmer, after his wife had taken Rika away, he left the dairy, not even looking behind him, and so wet from the white bath that he left long streaks of buttermilk behind him from the battlefield to the front door, through which he disappears to put on dry clothes. The maids finally stop the laughter. They know that Klomp, who is actually a coward, will no longer return to find out if everything is going well in the dairy.

Rika resumes her work and the farmer’s wife turns to the maids to find out the cause of the strange baptism her husband has just had and they tell everything in detail from beginning to end.

“I guessed he beat her,” she said, and seeing that Rika was working she went quietly to the family room where she found Klomp. He put on another pair of trousers and stood in front of the mirror to comb his hair, which was still wet from the water with which he had cleaned it. Seeing his wife enter, he is a little ashamed, but as his pride is wounded and he is still in an angry mood, he says in a trembling voice:

‘I’ll drive that damn girl away!

Quietly Mrs. Klomp replies:

‘You must not expel her.

“Am I not allowed to? She will experience that!”

– You can’t, because you hit her.

“Who said that? Did the maids talk to you?”

‘No one needed to talk about it; her cheek was red from the blow.

Klomp is frightened and says:

‘I hardly touched her, though.

‘You didn’t think that a hand as strong as yours always touches too hard.

‘But she didn’t work and didn’t obey when I told her to go to work.

“How did you order?”

– With my elbow.

‘You must not touch her with your elbow; you are wrong.

‘Oh yes, of course I was wrong; only women are always right, even if they are miserable maids.

‘I never touch Rika, but she always obeys me; there is no need to command or touch her with the elbow, a simple glance is enough.

“Therefore I am not allowed to order servants to whom I pay?”

– Of course you have the right to command, but not by pushing and hitting. Be wiser from now on and stop dealing with maids. Without your commands the work goes very well in the dairy.

Klomp puts on a vest, jacket and grabbing his cap, he leaves muttering, but saying nothing more. He is ashamed, he is humiliated, yet he boils with anger, but heis too cowardly to blow it up now. He goes to the fields, maybe there he will meet a worker who, like Rika, does not work and he promises himself that he will freely let out his hitherto restrained anger. His fat feet uncomfortably carry him step by step, while the heavy shoes break the pieces of clay in the field, as if each of these pieces were hiding a deaf-mute maid. He looks around, but … everything is going well, because in the fields the workers work diligently, and finally to look for distraction, he jumps over the ditch on the macadam road, and follows it to the village, where he finds advice in a bar at a few glasses of brandy.

Rika meanwhile works uninterrupted, not because of the farmer who insulted her, but because of his wife’s gentle looks.

Rika feels more than ever before that Klomp is an arrogant stupid devil who hates her, but she is not afraid of his hatred. She also feels that the mistress is an angel who understands, appreciates and likes her, and will help her not only against that devil, but also to protect the baby, and a happy smile is born on her face. The dimples in her cheeks deepen for a moment and no longer thinking about the cheek or the farmer, she thinks and imagines the little boy in her cottage, and she continues her work, happy that the hour is approaching when she will be able to hurry home to suck and nurse him.

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