Dear reader, dress yourself in imaginative seven-mile boots, and follow me to the little village of Brej, which we left five years ago. The little house is still there as it was then, as villages like Brej almost never change. The people there do not change their place of residence, because whoever owns or has rented a home in such a village almost always stays there until death calls him to the common dwelling, from which no one has yet returned.
Brej has not changed at all. The straight long ditches, half full of pure, though still water, where nothing worries the fat frogs, still carry on their slopes the same greenery as before, for a reaper has never mowed away the long grass, nor the weeds growing there in full abundance. On the road between these long ditches still lies the same gray macadam, on which farm-to-farm vehicles used to travel, heavy due to the rich harvest, which is the source of the prosperity that characterizes all the villages and hamlets in the northern part of the province. Groningen.
The pointed turret still stands above the trees surrounding the silent cemetery, and its rooster, turning a thousand times a day from north to northwest, from northwest to north, and so on, still tries to make the Brejanes hear its monotonous squeak, which only the bird hears. , which occasionally became brave enough to sit on its head, back, or tail. The rectory as well as the church wear the same gray color that the few passers-by have seen on them for many years. The same nests that the birds built under the protruding roof tiles many spring ago are still in the same places, as no one has ruined them. The workers’ cottages sown everywhere by chance as if by a giant hand across the long ditches and on the edge of the sandy roads leading to many farms, are almost the same,
It is in autumn and the eighth hour in the evening. The weather is beautiful, though a little cold as many times in the north of the province of Groningen, after the summer is over.
The moon, standing plaintively in the sky, brightly illuminates beneath it the whole village and its environs. Only from time to time a solitary hovering cloud for a moment casts a vast forward-speeding shadow over the beautiful little house, but at once the silver light of the moon spills over the whole landscape. Everything is quiet and silent. The birds have been asleep for a long time, and only a few owls, sitting on the trees of the cemetery or on the roof of the church, interrupt it with their thunderous u-cries. Almost all the residents are asleep, because they will have to get up early the next morning to start working for the farmers. Only the windows of the rectory are lit, for the priest has not yet lain down.
We follow the sandy path to the mutineer’s cottage. From a distance we see it contouring against the lighted sky. Also in that cottage the inhabitants do not sleep yet, for there too a lamp burns in the single room and throws its yellow stripes through the windows on the alley leading from the door to the path.
We enter. Rika is sitting at the table. The dimples of her cheeks and the gleam of her eyes further beautify her face. Her hands are quick to hear a low ticking of three knitting needles as Rika knits stockings for her Moses.
Moses sits between the window and the hearth, where a merry fire burns, and in front of his outstretched legs he holds a beautiful cello on which he plays. Rika hears nothing of the beautiful tones he trills through the room; yet she is aware that the one on the strings moving bow can enchant those who are able to feel with the ears.
From time to time the mutineer glances at the door, on the threshold of which stands Kovács. He holds his hands on his back and Rika notices that Moses’ playing satisfies him, because that’s what she reads on his features, that’s what she sees in the nods he makes to beautiful melodies of the music.
Moses is playing his beloved Kol-Nidrej by Max Bruch, the same piece of music that lured him from the attic bed when he first heard Kovács’ cello as a boy. He plays it to the end and Kovács says:
– Brave, Moseo, brave! you hit the right tone, no one can improve your gameplay, it’s perfect.
Moses, who is now eighteen years old, the most beautiful young man in the whole neighborhood, modestly rests his bow and says:
– I will be afraid to play it for the public, though.
‘Of course; at first everyone is a little scared, but soon they get used to it, eventually even the player no longer pays attention to the audience, because then he plays only as if for himself, forgetting that in front of him sits an audience.
Moses does not answer; touching a few strings with his fingers, he plays a preview of another work and again the old artist listens, and Rika, examining his face, reads on his features that he likes the play.
– Great! He says when the young cellist has finished; – Great! … I couldn’t play that nicer and fairer.
The young man, who is an indefatigable player, continues his studies and the teacher turns his back on him; he slowly goes out to listen outside. He does this often, especially when the weather is nice. For some time he remains standing in the alley, gazing at the bright moon and the picturesque landscape all around. He thinks of the fate which so strangely placed him to this quiet region; he thinks of the years he spent here teaching the young finder of whom he made a true artist, though the young “Puppy of Orpheus” is not yet aware of it. The young artist’s talents had proved above all expectations, and the results he (Kovács) obtained after his five-year teaching were such that in his opinion no one in the contemporary music world would surpass his student. Moses became an artist in the true sense of the word.Kovács has already corresponded with the conductor of “Harmony” in Groningen, under whose leadership the young man would soon begin his public music career. Kovács, who is sure that Moses will be the most skilful of all the members of the orchestra, has already enjoyed the pleasure of the young man shining like a star among all the artists, and that Moses will finally be the same celebrity when he appears as a soloist, what he was like before that terrible disease struck him. Dreaming of all this, he forgets his unhappiness, for he is satisfied with the thought that his last years have not passed fruitlessly; the goal for which he has survived his last years is hit, he himself will no longer be able to enchant the world with his music, but will be replaced by his pupil. During his dream he was so far away from the cottage that he could no longer hear the young man playing.
Usually he never walks alone, because neither Rika nor Moses tolerates that. They know that this terrible disease can attack him again and again every minute and every minute, and in such circumstances they want to be right next to him to avoid any misfortunes that continue to threaten a stroke. They believe, however, that he is still near the door, listening to the play, and is not at all worried, all the more so as the attacks of the disease have returned only very seldom in recent years.
Moses plays on, Rika knits on and Kovács quietly walks on, dreaming and continuing on his way to the little house lying there in front of him in the silver light of the moon.
Here above appears a soaring cloud again; its great shadow, like a black ink-spot, slips on the ground, disappearing successively for a brief moment into trees, cottages, and part of the road. Quickly it approaches, goes over the dreaming artist and then it is far away …., but where is Kovács? … It seems as if that big black spot has swept him off the road, and as if it had taken him away with him. with one quick catch. The sandy road lies there just like a second ago, but the artist is gone.
Meanwhile Moses continues to play and fantasize, and the mute woman knits until her fingers get tired; then removing the half-knitted stocking, she is suddenly seized by the thought that “the gentleman” has not returned, and that it has been a long time since he left. Quickly she gets up and lets out an exclamation to attract the young man’s attention. He interrupts his play and looks at the woman, who is making gestures with her hands and mouth. Moses immediately understands, puts the cello aside and leaves the room.
Kovács does not stand in the corridor, nor in the alley, nor is he visible on the sandy road beyond the long ditch, and the young man returns home to communicate that the uncle (he has long called Kovácson his uncle) is gone; but he does not need to communicate it, for the mutineer is already in the alley. Moses, fearing that misfortune befell the artist, looks everywhere, what is usually done when one seeks; but nowhere does he see his uncle. He pales, and his heart beats …..; the uncle never walks alone, Moses always accompanies him, and now this evening he went for a walk without the young man. Moses runs on the sandy road, examines, but the uncle stays away. Moses runs in the direction of Klomp’s farm, but soon returns. The girl ran in the direction of Brej, but she also returned after a while and met the young man next to her cottage,and they understand each other by gestures that the search was in vain. Rika makes loud cries, but Moses silently walks along the right long ditch, for he is afraid that his uncle has fallen in there after a sudden attack of this terrible disease.
Rika explores, following the left long moat, and her eyes try to penetrate the water, which stretches out motionless, partly completely black from the shadow of the long moat slope and partly brightly bright from the moonlight. They do not find the artist, neither in the long pits to Brej, nor in those to the farm. Kovács did not usually choose other routes for his walks; despite this, the duo continue their search in all directions, but in vain. Kovács is gone. After more than two hours they go together to Brej to find out if the missing person may be with the priest.
It is now eleven o’clock; the priest is sitting in his study when Moses and Rika are standing in front of the door of his house. In the evening silence he immediately hears their footsteps and gets up to go to meet the late visitors. Rika just opens the door as the priest steps into the hallway. He is dressed in his long room jacket, he holds the clay pipe from his mouth to his hand, and he blows thick clouds of smoke. The lamp in his study brightly illuminates the back of the corridor where he stands, and clearly outlines his entire figure. Smoking he moves up and down the protruding lower jaw, and deep wrinkles sit on his forehead as he tries to pierce with myopic eyes the dark part of the corridor at the end of which stand the two visitors on the threshold of the door. He cannot distinguish who they are,
“Priest,” said Moses, “is there an uncle with you?”
The young man spoke nervously, and the kind-hearted priest at once guessed that something was wrong.
“Uncle! No, Moses, he is not with me, and he was not.”
Rika, who has piercing eyes, reads the answer on the priest’s mouth. She understands, makes a hoarse exclamation as if to speak; then she makes movements with her arms that say uncle is gone and is gone.
“For a long time?” Asks the priest.
– He started walking around eight o’clock; I was playing, but I thought he was standing outside to listen, as he sometimes does. He stayed away, however, and we were worried; so we went out together to look for him. We searched everywhere, along all the roads and in all the ditches, but nowhere to find him. We are afraid that misfortune befell him.
– When was the last time you were home?
‘About two hours ago.
‘Perhaps he returned home in those two hours.
“I don’t think so, priest,” answered Moses, and his voice trembled.
The priest thinks … What can he do! Finally he says:
‘I will go with you to your house; it may be that he has already returned home.
Moses lets out a deep groan of despair; he senses something terrible, finally he says:
– Yes, let’s go home, it may be that an uncle has returned there and that he is upset about us.
The priest, dressed in the long room jacket and wearing his velvet cap, follows Moses and Rika, and the three of them, the priest in the middle, go down the sandy path to the mutineer’s abode. Without a word they enter … pacing softly for the mysterious fear that presses everyone’s heart. Dead silence reigns everywhere … Kovács is not in the cottage.