He was still a very little boy. He already thought of himself as a bit of a gentleman, ever since he was at the Hoogere Burgerschool, and had on long trousers. He also knew quite a few things, which schoolboys in The Hague soon know, and he also cursed when the others were around, and laughed at all kinds of ugly things, without feeling the meanness.[ 2 ]
But in his heart he had remained a very little Boy .And I say this because I should know. He usually wore a black suit, which suited him best, said Moe; he had only recently worn his long trousers; and that is why his legs were still somewhat difficult and shy in it, as if he did not yet dare to grow well. He wore a round black hat, with silk edging and a silk ribbon. Beneath a white collar, he wore a wide-tied tie, and white cuffs pinned to his sleeves. A white handkerchief peeked out of his vest pocket. Moê took care of all these things. But the collar and cuffs got dirty very quickly, and he bit holes in his handkerchiefs and smeared ink on them. He had a cane with a golden knob, which he showed as much as possible in the street. He was quite a dignified boy, and he really wanted to be. He was growing, and very slender, with a pale face, and he knew this was a little grand. He knew, too, that the girls liked him, and went after a lot of girls at once. He used to come to the big children’s balls in The Hague in black velvet, with shorts, black silk stockings and lacquered shoes with bows, and then he made himself[ 3 ]wise he was a prince or an earl. Full of decorations, gold stars and flowers of the cotillon, he would come home from that, and then he would look at himself in the mirror for a long time, with all that glory on his chest, before he went to bed. A rose and a ribbon from the sweetest maiden—of a wonderful little creature, fairy in tulle and lace—went with him, under his pillow.—But each time he had another dearest girl, and was very unfaithful, though he wanted to be a knight. He carefully kept all kinds of locks of hair and flowers and notes, and could often look at his collection with pride.—
The Boy was a girl madman, they said, and it was true that he ran after girls everywhere, and went wherever he thought they would be. Girls were something very strange and mysterious to him. They were so very different from boys. They had such beautiful hair. They were so sweet. They walked so much smoother. Her frocks were so beautiful, and felt so lovely, so silk and satin and all soft things. Her ever clean hands, her voices so clear and sweet, her movement so happy and airy!—You must fight for her, and always help her everywhere, and punish whoever harms her. They might be[ 4 ]actually angels. What it was, the Boy did not know, but for every girl he had a sacred reverence and at the same time a desire to be very sweet with them, and to say all kinds of soft things to them, and to bring flowers, and to give something for them. do what she wanted. Perhaps it came from reading much in chivalry and in Aimard, but that reverence had always remained in him, even when he grew up and heard so many strange things at school, which he was so curious about, but which he had completely forgotten. with a girl. That’s mainly why I said that Paul had still remained a very little Boy, even though he wore long trousers. And I am the only one who can absolutely know that.—
He lived in The Hague from his earliest childhood. There was no school on Saturday and Wednesday afternoons, and then he usually went to the Zoo. He had been going there regularly for years and was the best friend of all the beasts, from the parrots at the entrance to the elephant, which he had seen coming when she was very small, in a cage with air holes on the ground floor. a car. Under his jacket he always took pieces of bread with him, which he took from the bread bin at home. He was too big for a basketmand[ 5 ]and he had to meet a boy one day he was playing Apache and Comanche with real guns and knives! That is why he hid it in a cloth under his jacket, which sometimes stood up very strangely. When the bread was finished, he plucked grass for the deer, which was forbidden and therefore very pleasant to do.
And so it happened. On a Wednesday in the holiday, July 18th, 1883, about four o’clock. He knew all that exactly, because he wrote it down in a diary that he started to make, and that I read myself.
It was in a quiet spot in the zoo, with a lot of greenery, where the smell of sweet floral scent, roses, and heliotropes was delicious. There was a lot of light. All was very happy and familiar.—A new pen had been made there for a newly arrived roe deer. It was a very shy animal. It did not yet dare to come forward and stood by the door at the back, where it slept at night, lingering shaky, with one front leg held high. Paul had gone there to be friends. He had pushed through the bars first a piece of bread, then a handful of fresh grass, and shouted. But the deer wouldn’t come. It didn’t help him if he was already soft and sweet[ 6 ]called out. And then he got angry. If he loved and moved forward and then if there was something else that acted suspiciously and pulled back, that was a very bad thing for him. He thought it was a bit of a lamb beast, and threw a stone at it. That was also a sign, for example, that he was only a Boy. Then he sat down on a bench nearby to wait if the deer wouldn’t even come out yet. There was no one in the lane at the time.
And then came a very soft sound. Something very soft and sweet, on an air rythmus, footsteps, nothing else. And there it was. Then it arrived.
Suddenly the little boy’s heart was beating sharply, and he was startled, though he had seen nothing yet. It had come all at once. It was for him, for him all alone, it should have come a long time ago, only now did he know how he had always known it had to come. It was white and pink and gold. It was light. The Girl.
I can’t tell it any other way about the Boy, because he only knew much later, and at the moment he couldn’t think. But that’s how he felt; as very softly one tree-top moves, as rustling in the night, and again, and[ 7 ]another, and it swells heavily sonorously, with great waves. Thus it moved in his little soul, which at first was so still.
You couldn’t tell from him. He waited and waited…. He couldn’t do anything, he didn’t know what it was, and couldn’t have told. Whoever tells it does not touch it anymore, because it is too big for words, and too chaste. He waited, and everything happened to him where he sat patiently.
The Girl! Light, soft, wondrous pink, pale pink waving about white and gold… Eyes—o! those eyes!—rays of sky-blue, a delicate face of transparent light,. . . and blowing gold, glittering gold of flowing hair.
He didn’t see it right until later. Then it was only a miracle, a great light glory, a sun. It was an intense Light over his little soul, shining endlessly over distant unconsciousness. Only the Boy, if he had stayed, could tell, but the Boy is gone, and another great man cannot say it, for he knows too much, and the knowledge kills the inhospitable part of that emotion.
It came nearer and nearer… it went right past him.…[ 8 ]
He felt it very close to him, for at first he went dead cold with a shiver, then suddenly a glow burned his head.
The Maiden halted before the deer’s booth. And she cried in a high, glad voice.
It went on very much inside the Boy, and it was as if something opened up everywhere in him; it grew bigger and bigger, it was everywhere again, farther and farther, and that clear voice filled his spreading soul with blissful music.
The Girl cried: “Come then, darling, come to the woman!… Come then, dear animal, I have something for you…” And it came, the Boy saw it happen, the little deer came to that voice up. And look! now the fine, delicate creature is with the Girl, and her head is in two white, white hands. It is given, and it is accepted.
He stood up. Like a flower so unconscious, so very, very softly, his little soul broke open and bent towards the Maiden, to the side whence that wonderful voice had come. And as that flower turns to the light, he went to the Maiden, no longer afraid, and most certainly wanting this without knowing of wanting.[ 9 ]
“What a very sweet girl you are!” he said, of course, as if he had known her for a long time.
She looked at him, gave a start, and laughed.
“You can call so kindly,” he said, looking at her, and blinking his eyelids because it was still too strong for him. “You are so beautiful. What beautiful hair you have! All gold!”
The girl laughed as if she liked it so much, and said in the same sweet voice as before: “What a silly boy you are! And in a minute!”
But he was very happy that she spoke, and he happily asked: ‘Can I please go with you for a little while? Can I be your boyfriend?” It suddenly came from his heart, just like that, because it was natural.
I think the Girl thought it was a little strange and nice too. But I never knew what the Girl thought, and not the Boy at all. So I just believe it that way. She looked at him. She thought he was a nice owner, but a gentleman for such a small lady to be courted by. I don’t think she knew at all what a strange owner she really was, and what was happening for him. It was a funny incident for her, and she couldn’t help it.[ 10 ]
He stood looking at her, anxiously awaiting what she would say, his heart beating. He felt the tears welling up in his eyes.
“Well, then you may come along, if you are very gallant,” said the singing voice; “what’s your name?”
“My name is Paul, and you?”
“My name is Corrie, but they also call me Cor. And how much more?”
“Werens, and you?”
“Van Meeden, van den Boschstraat.”
And he heard her talk as if of great revelations, every word brought him closer to her, in the warmth of her life. He still couldn’t look at her for long, for it was as if he were looking into the sun. It was so very gold and light, and it grew bigger and bigger, it was as if a fire were all around him.—And he stood staring like one who does not understand.—He held his hand to his forehead, where it was right.
“Do you have a headache?” she asked sweetly. “Would you like some cologne?” She wet the handkerchief from a vial, and he took it from her and held it gently to his head. Something very blissfully cool made it upon the surf.
Then he kissed the fine cloth like a little one [ 11 ]knight, and returned it to her with a bow.
“How good of you,” he said, “may I shake your hand?”
She wasn’t shy anymore. She thought he was a nice boy now. And how funny he could bend! She looked at him a little in love and gave him her hand.
As a precious treasure he took the warm, floral white, living in her two together gently closed-handen. He felt it in him to go, something unprecedented zaligs, far from trembling at him inside . It made him dizzy. It was large, as if he were standing by the sea.
And the Girl laughed, and laughed. His sweet girl. The Little Boy Girl.
There was a great deal of light everywhere. Yes, now I see the Boy himself again, and the Girl next to him, in delicate pink next to his dark black. Oh how bright it was, how happy and light! Softly moving greenery all around. Soft-dreaming scents of roses and heliotrope—Gold, gold hair long, flowing hair, gold lighter than light. Her wonderful blue eyes and her sweet, luminous smile!
He very humble and very small. Very surrendered, everything, everything from him, completely given everything.
Everything pure, pure, absolutely pure and complete. [ 12 ]It was done by those two children in the divisive state of simplicity, simple, as the trees stand, far against the sky, with twigs sprouting cleanly; it was natural and great in truth, absolutely without anything bad, like the sea, and the forests, and the mountains.
That’s how it happened then, and that’s how it started, that of the Boy, what I’m about to tell. This was the very simple and pure beginning.
And those who cannot believe that there was such a little boy who could feel it so fiercely, so chosen to feel so young the most holy in the infinite worlds, they have never believed the immortal rules of the ever-blessed Singer of Divine Love, which I dared to write with a hand trembling with reverence for this book of the long-dead Boy.