I
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.

The
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
tunes”?

He
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.

The
wind softly scattered the notes and sent them flying over the roofs of houses
in the direction of the sea. The singular young man placed the accordion
against his shoulder, and with his fingers on the stops, expanded and contracted
the bellows of the instrument. The air he played seemed to have a meaning for
himself alone.

Mystery of the village

Bending
his head down close to his accordion, he smiled the smile of a man who no
longer belongs to this life. I thought I understood deep down in my soul that
some secret cause had affected the boy’s reason, attuning it at the same time
to the mystery of the village of Veere. But I could not have explained it.

Then
something occurred that troubled me. The young man looked up at the tower, saw
the great lords standing in their niches, and then out over the distant sea,
his eyes glistening with a light as of another day. ; The accordion played on
faster and more furiously with a kind of madness, and it seemed as though the
ancient soul of the town were suddenly set to vibrating under the deft fingers
of the player. He made his ; way on and on through the streets, dancing a
quaint step like a sailor’s hornpipe.

He shook the ground under foot with his heels, whirled about holding the accordion high above his head, and quickly brought it down until it almost touched the paved walk; then balanced himself in one spot with an affected grace, eyes closed and face set in an ecstatic and ceremonious smile—always to the accompaniment of that rhythmical and feverish dance music, palpitating with all the abandoned ardor of a murderer or a lover.

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