in those miniature houses there was a gradual animation, and the reappearance
of life that seemed to have slept for ages behind closed doors, awaiting only
the coming of the pale young man with the accordion. Behind the windows there
was laughter on the faces j of young girls with their white headdresses
decorated with quaint spirals sticking out like antennae.
the pretty girls of Veere were there behind their lace curtains, with mouths
agape like roses in ; a cloud of bees. Seeing them thus emerge out of the deep
shadows and come, with fresh complexions, to their windows, I imagined these 1
homes to be real dolls’ houses brought to life by enchantment—the houses of all
the dolls of Veere, with their lovely bare arms tanned by the salt air, their
great bulged skirts, their little colored heads and eyes tinted like the sea.
the musician went here and there through the streets, his wild airs j changing
to sad and plaintive strains that brought tear
was amazed at the sudden opening of the door and the appearance of a handsome
young man with strange eyes. He wore a short jacket of velvet with the silver
clasps ordinarily worn by the men of Zeeland. He carried an accordion such as
is sold in the harbor shops and played by sailors at sea, when of an evening
they draw silver tones from it, now rippling quickly and now long drawn out.
young man looked as though he had been rudely awakened out of a dream. Was
this, I wondered, the boy who, as Pielje, said, was always “playing his little
walked by me without so much as turning his head, passing along pink-tinted
walls, long straight windows of aged glass, and little gardens planted with
cabbage and onions. He slowly crossed the public square, while once again the
little carillon rang out in crystal tones, singing its sad song of the ultimate
agony of Veere.
wind softly scattered the notes and sent them flying over the roofs of h
there behind the ramparts lies the open sea with its ships, while overhead the
arching sky, heavy with clouds, bears down upon the expanse of the sea. In that
town I felt I was dying myself, that my feeble heart beat so faintly, while my
fingers made some slight sign of life toward the sun.
little Pietje was trying to take advantage of my credulity,”
said to myself. “Or else she’s talking about something that happened long ago,
before everyone had died here.”
that moment the carillon sang out its sweet little song. It re-minded one of a
Sunday afternoon in summer at grandfather’s, as the old man sat watching the
dust filter in from the street under the door, his hands crossed over the head
of his cane.
air it played sounded like that of some old broken music-box. The sounds
trickled lazily down from the belfry and saddened me; it was as if I had
suddenly heard the song that sang the last agonies of old Veere.
Camille Lemonnier (1844-1913)
has, from the very beginning of his career in 1863, re-mained an interpreter of
Belgian life, and particularly of the life of the peasants. His novels are
powerful exhibitions of the brutality of humankind, yet penetrated with a
moving beauty of form and style. Lemonnier wrote several volumes of short
stories, of which many reveal the melancholy aspect of old Flemish towns.
Soul of Veere is highly characteristic of this latter type of story.
originally appeared in a volume entitled It Was in Summer, first published in
1900. The translation by Barrett H. Clark, here printed for the first time, is
included by permission of Albin Michel, publisher, Paris.
The Soul of Veere
Pietje, who belonged to the inn on the public square, asked J me whether I had
ever seen the boy who was always “playing his little tunes?” Now, what did she
mean by that?