Over
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.

“That
little Pietje was trying to take advantage of my credulity,”

I
said to myself. “Or else she’s talking about something that happened long ago,
before everyone had died here.”

At
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.

The
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.

The
town hall in the public square was a pretty building, as delicately decorated
as a reliquary; it had tall statues in the niches, of kings and saints. I
suppose—but who now knows the history of Veere?— I made up my mind that it was
doubtless the carillon to which the strange-eyed child had referred.

Possibly those shadowy eyes

And
I thought almost contemptuously of those old statues, so outmoded on their
daises, looking out always toward the open sea. They had stood there for
centuries, with heads rigidly fixed, waiting for something that never happened.
Possibly those shadowy eyes, carved out of stone, were watching for the return
of fleets that one day long since set sail out of the harbor. Near the square
stood an old church steeple, the key of which has for ages reposed at the
bottom of the sea.

The
irony of it all, I mused with a smile. Everyone had left the town, and was now
along the ramparts that extended all the way out to the dunes. Only a few old
people were left aged folk with dirty, smudgy little shadows under their noses
like the greenish mold that comes after death. And yet the stone images, with
their swords and scepters, seem as though they were actually in command over
the living.

I
went to the tower and kicked three resounding blows at the gate. I did it
mainly as a sort of mockery, knowing well that no one in the solitude of that
ancient House of God would respond. I also wanted to hear what a noise could be
made among the shadows of death.

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