Then
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.

All
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.

So
the musician went here and there through the streets, his wild airs j changing
to sad and plaintive strains that brought tears to the eyes. These were like
the melancholy tunes played at sea during the night, by some little cabin boy.
It was the soul of Veere, silently weeping over her lost love, sighing
regretfully over all the lovely girls who now lay asleep with crosses over
them, for the handsome young men who went to sea and never returned. Finally
the sounds of the accordion died away far off among the dunes.

When
I returned to the inn I said to Pietje:

“You
were right. There is a boy in this town who plays his little tunes. Doubtless
he is a soul in torment. Do they know what evil befell him?” The little
cat-eyed creature laughed and pointed to a man seated over by the window:

“Ask
him,” she said. “He can tell you better than I could.”

Well,
the story was quite commonplace, after all. It seems that one day the lad had
fallen in love with one of those doll-like creatures who come to the windows.
One evening he had come to her house to dance and play the accordion. Other
boys were also in the habit of coming to the same house, and they too paid
their court to the girl.

Caught sight of her in the arms

When
the lad wept, she would say to him, “What do you expect? I love you, but I love
him, too—the boy over by the door, and I love the boy who’s coming here after
you leave…. I love them all!” Once from behind the hedge he had caught sight
of her in the arms of the youth who had come before him. He quickly drew his
knife, and killed both the girl and the boy.

And
from that day to this,” continued the man who was telling the story, “he
wanders through the streets, playing his little tunes. He’s quite inoffensive:
children throw stones at him and the girls laugh. He doesn’t understand.”

But
I could not quite believe that this was the true version. Things are true only
in appearance: behind even the most obvious facts there lurks a secret meaning:
this must be sought for, for it is the more beautiful of the two. I therefore
said to myself that this boy was the soul of Veere.

I
now understand why he came out of the church door. You, little town of Veere,
and that poor half-witted musician are both tainted with the same quiet madness.
It is as if the winds of the sea had turned your heads. Something has gone
never to return, something that is lamented by your carillon, that sobs in the
notes of that accordian.

At
Veere there is always a strange young man who walks off in the direction of the
dunes and looks out over the broad expanse of the sea.

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