Mrs Aanse, my Bernard did it

Our Lord is good and omniscient, Bernard thinks, especially if He also ensures a small paradise near home, which you can climb into just like that, and of which no one is aware, that is if you are at least earlier than that sheep which lives there, and hopefully cannot manage to eat all those delicious things.
One morning Mrs Aanse’s grapes are gone.
Hundreds of precious grapes are spread all over the ground, it looks as if a hurricane has knocked them off the branches, and they have been taken down in such a rough and meaningless way.
It is bad, it is terrible!
And Mrs Aanse doesn’t even know.
Crisje sees Bernard lying on his back sucking at grapes.
She gets a terrible fright, are they not Mrs Aanse’s grapes, Bernard?
He feels nabbed; they have finally caught him.
Crisje does not tolerate any theft.
“What are you eating there, Bernard?
As quick as a flash Bernard tries to hide his grapes, but he is just too late.
“Now, can you not answer me?”
Bernard does not cry, but he quickly takes off.
However, Crisje calls after him:
“Bring back those grapes, Bernard.
Those are Mrs Aanse’s grapes.
I know.”
But that is nothing for Bernard.
Mrs Aanse would skin him alive, that woman, who weighs two hundred and eighty pounds, is not to be taken lightly, he knows that very well and Bernard does not feel like taking them back.
However, it is a pity, now Crisje will have to tell Tall Hendrik and then he will be sorry.
Bernard comes back.
But doesn’t show himself all day.
Soon Tall Hendrik will come home and Bernard is still not there.
It is a scandal.
Mrs Aanse lives two houses away.
What can Crisje do?
Bernard went too far, he thought about it for long enough, but oh well, you saw them growing and becoming bigger under your very nose, and then he yielded to the temptation.
Bernard thought, nothing can happen to me anyway, even though Crisje has caught him.
Bernard is a great boy, but he likes to steal, it is a good sport for him.
The nicest thing to do, but Crisje and her husband will have none of it, they do not want their boys to grow up to be villains.
Crisje now goes to Mrs Aanse, she will tell her herself.
Mrs Aanse is sitting in her corner and doesn’t know yet that the grapes have been stolen from the back of her little house.
Crisje knows that, because otherwise Mrs Aanse would already have created an uproar long ago.
“So, Crisje, did you come to pay me a visit?
We live so close to each other and yet we see so little of one another.
We never have time to talk and of course, you don’t have time with your boys.
How are the boys?
Are the children well?
Have a seat, Crisje.”
Isn’t that something, Crisje thinks, that good person still doesn’t know anything about it.
Just stop it, Mrs Aanse, she thinks, soon you will have something different to say about my boys.
Crisje doesn’t want to first dish up a long story, she tells Mrs Aanse what she has to say.
“Yes, Mrs Aanse, everything is fine, but I do not have good news for you.
Do you not know yet that your grapes have been stolen?”
“What are you saying there, Crisje?
My grapes have been stolen?
And you have to come and tell me that, and I myself know nothing about it?
That has never happened to me before.
My precious grapes stolen?
That is too much for me, Crisje.”
Mrs Aanse now wants to see for herself, but her legs are not so good and she falls back into her chair.
“It is bad, Crisje, my legs won’t work anymore, they are swollen.”
“Wet bandages, Mrs Aanse, that always helps.”
“That is true, Crisje, I should have thought of that myself.
My knees are also swollen.”
Mrs Aanse bends her knees, and looks at the havoc and complains:
“Good gracious, Crisje, but my poor grapes.
But, God Almighty, that is terrible.
If I get hold of that person, I will wring his neck.
I will break his neck.
And do you know who did it, Crisje?”
“Yes, Mrs Aanse, I know, my Bernard did it.
You must just tell me what they cost, then I will pay for them.”
“What are you telling me there? your Bernard stole my grapes?
Then I will go to the constabulary.
He must be put in jail Crisje, he must be sent to a house of correction.
Do you and your Hendrik have nothing more to say then?”
Mrs Aanse now gives Crisje a good scolding, and she accepts everything.
“I can say nothing about it, Crisje.
This must be put to a stop.
Those boys of yours will grow up wild.
Trui said that, but now I can believe it.
My Theet would never do a thing like that.”
“Can it not be put right then, Mrs Aanse?
You have only one child, I have five of them.
But it can still be put right, can’t it?”
“Shall I tell you something, Crisje?
You are too fond of your boys, but you can spoil them as a result.
Don’t you know what your own grapes mean for yourself?
I worry myself day and night to give them what they need and now they are gone.
Those grapes are mine and not your Bernard’s.”
Mrs Aanse walks away.
Crisje can get lost, and her sorrow is terrible.
But where is Bernard?
Jan Kniep will look for him.
“Where were you, Jeus?”
“I was at Hosman’s, mother.”
“Don’t you know where Bernard is?
Did you hear what he did?
He stole the grapes from Mrs Aanse.”
That is dreadful, Jeus thinks, now Bernard will get a hiding.
They have finally caught him.
Tall Hendrik is already home.
“What happened here, Crisje?”
He senses that there is something the matter.
And then Crisje confesses everything honestly.
“Where is Bernard?”
“Hendrik, steady on, you do not beat your child to death because of a few grapes.”
But Hendrik is beside himself.
Crisje thinks, if only this was over.
If Hendrik lashes out, there will not be much left of Bernard.
But where did Bernard get to?
“Hendrik, I’m warning you, do not forget yourself.”
“Where is Bernard, Jan?”
“I don’t know, Hendrik.”
“Johan, have you seen Bernard?”
“You neither, Jeus?”
Has no one seen Bernard?
Tall Hendrik is sitting at the table and is seething with anger, he is thumping with poison.
Suddenly he thinks he knows where Bernard is.
He runs into the hallway, opens the cellar door and calls:
“Bernard are you there?”
Out of the darkness something peeps.
Bernard thought: I will go there for now, I have to go there anyway.
The boy climbs up the stairs.
When he is within reach of his father, he grabs him and now Bernard is hanging in space like a pike which has just been taken out of the water.
Hendrik appears with Bernard like this in front of Crisje.
Crisje is already moaning, but Bernard is now standing between Hendrik’s legs and cannot go anywhere any more.
The whole house is in an uproar.
Jan and the boys are sitting there in a corner, Crisje is standing in front of her husband and is begging: “Do not forget yourself, Hendrik.”
He does not pay any attention to anything.
When Jan tries to say: Hendrik, remember, he is only a child yet, he answers that he has everything to say here, and Jan can hold his tongue.
Jeus is trembling and shaking, Johan is also crying, because now it is going to happen.
“That is now our snatcher, isn’t it’, Tall Hendrik begins.
“He cannot listen.
He resists mother and me.
He doesn’t bother about anything.
Look at me, Bernard?”
Bernard looks his father in the eye and says: “Just beat me to death.”
But Tall Hendrik does not hit yet, but Bernard hears: “If there must be a beating, Bernard, then that will take place in my own time.”
Crisje hopes it will still be all right, but that hope is not fulfilled.
“Have you stolen more already, Bernard?”
“No, father.”
“Are you certain of that, Bernard?”
“Yes, father.”
“Why won’t you listen, Bernard?”
“I won’t do it again, father.”
“If you have the heart to steal again, Bernard, then I will really beat you to death.”
Crisje thinks, he will get off with a good telling-off, but that is not the case yet, after all, Crisje.
Tall Hendrik lays Bernard across his knee and lets rip so much that Crisje collapses from sorrow.
“Hendrik, stop it, you will beat your child to death.”
Hendrik gives him such a beating that there is not much left of Bernard’s bottom.
“So, and now to bed without any dinner.”
Bernard can leave.
The child can hardly walk anymore.
Crisje will not have that.
In front of all of them, she says:
“You should try that again, Hendrik.
If that happens again, I will leave with the children, that is no longer a punishment, that is scandalous.”
But Tall Hendrik says to Crisje that they will talk later again.
Hendrik sees that Crisje is rummaging about with food.
“Cris, I said, to bed without any dinner.”
“That is a double punishment, Hendrik.
You can do what you like, but you will not find me letting children go to sleep without any dinner.”
“I said, to bed without any dinner, Cris.”
Bernard is lying sucking on a nice pear.
Johan sees it.
“You have something to eat, after all, Bernard?”
“Have you got your eyes closed then?”
“Did that hurt, Bernard?”
“I don’t want anything to do with pain.”
Johan gains respect for Bernard.
What a man he is.
He hadn’t thought that.
Bernard is strong!
No, Johan would not have dared to do that, and he does not steal either, he thinks that stealing is just frightening.
Downstairs there is another battle going on.
Tall Hendrik says:
“Do you want to encourage that stealing then, Cris?”
“You know better than that, Hendrik, but this is no punishment.
You didn’t know any more what you were doing.
You were possessed.”
“I am the father and I will decide how my children must be punished, Cris.”
“So, that’s what you thought.
And did you think that I would continue to approve?
And that I would let you do what you liked with the children?
I will tell you something, if that happens again, believe me, Hendrik, I will leave!
That is no punishment, I tell you.
You beat the respect out of them.
The children are becoming afraid of you.”
“So, that’s what you thought, Cris.
Did you see then that he was afraid of me?”
“Have you not understood then, Hendrik?
Do you not understand that Bernard is completely against you?
With a soft approach we will achieve more.”
“I am a father or I am not, Cris.”
“You are the father of the boys, of course, but I am here as well.
And if you want to punish like that again, then we will see, Hendrik.”
There you are, Tall Hendrik, you can take it or leave it.
Crisje is crying, that was too much.
She goes upstairs and looks at Bernard’s bottom.
“My God, he has beaten your bottom away.”
“I don’t feel anything, mother”, Bernard says.
When she comes downstairs, Tall Hendrik says: “Don’t you feel that then, Cris, that the children have now come between us?”
Crisje has a think and then she agrees with her husband.
But, go and see for yourself what you have done.
He believes it.
They still talk for a long time, Crisje has to agree with him, and Hendrik agrees with her.
They can carry on again.
In future, Tall Hendrik will punish in a different way.
And Crisje will keep quiet if father takes the boys to task.
Our Lord said:
‘Well done, Crisje and Hendrik, it is going well like that, understand each other, or the boys will surpass you and that mustn’t happen.
But Tall Hendrik, this was a bit too much.’
Johan sees that Bernard is rummaging under the straw and wants to know all about it.
Jan Kniep is enjoying himself in his little corner, he understands and thinks Bernard is a great lad.
Johan gets to hear from Bernard:
“Just shut your gob, with your screaming, otherwise I will shut it for you.
I have food enough.”
A while later they are eating tasty pears and apples together.
Jeus also thinks Bernard is a wonder, and a while later all those eyes close and the day-consciousness is sleeping in order to forget the everyday things, but tomorrow is another day.
Right after Tall Hendrik has left, Crisje is standing in front of the little beds.
“Let me take a look at your bottom, Bernard.
My God, you have no bottom left now.
Is it sore, Bernard?”
“No, mother, I don’t feel anything.”
“Just you stay in bed today.”
“I don’t feel anything, mother.”
Johan also has to look.
He also thinks that Bernard’s bottom is no longer there.
He goes downstairs.
Bernard is now standing in the front room on a chair in front of the mirror and is looking at himself.
He must admit, that is not a bottom any more, his father has beaten him black and blue.
But what does it matter?
It doesn’t matter at all, no!
Crisje now hears from him that he will go to Mrs Aanse to make it up to her.
“Do you dare to do that, Bernard?”
“Of course, mother.”
“And will you not steal again, Bernard?”
“Of course not, mother.”
“Do you promise me that, Bernard?”
“Yes, mother.”
It is almost unbelievable, how plucky that child is, it is a pity that Bernard steals.
Bernard dares anything and goes consciously to Mrs Aanse.
Now you will have it, Crisje thinks.
She hears horses rolling, and it is the constabulary.
No, they also go past her door.
“Mrs Aanse?”
Bernard is standing in front of the fat woman, and confesses everything to her.
“Mrs Aanse ... I’ve come to confess.
I stole your grapes, but I will never do it again.
I ask your forgiveness.
And my father nearly beat me to death, Mrs Aanse.
Just take a look.”
Bernard pulls down his trousers and shows Mrs Aanse his bottom, beaten black and blue.
Mrs Aanse looks and knows she wouldn’t have given Bernard such a beating.
The child looks her in the eye and waits.
“God Almighty, Bernard, what a good hiding you got.
I have to say, your father can do it.”
“Yes, Mrs Aanse, father has understanding of that.”
“But tie your trousers again.
I have seen it already.”
“Do you not want to give it a beating, Mrs Aanse?”
Mrs Aanse has to laugh about this.
That Bernard.
No, Bernard, you have had enough of a hiding already and I think you are plucky as well.
She now hears nothing else but: “Yes, Mrs Aanse, of course, Mrs Aanse, you are right, Mrs Aanse.
I will not do it again, Mrs Aanse.
I will watch out, Mrs Aanse!
No, Mrs Aanse, your Theet wouldn’t do that, I know that, Mrs Aanse, your Theet is far too good for that.”
And what does Mrs Aanse do?
She thinks Bernard is the best of them all.
Would Bernard not like a glass of lemonade?
Isn’t that something, Bernard?
Look for yourself, Crisje, or you will soon not believe it, Bernard is having a glass of lemonade with Mrs Aanse.
Mrs Aanse will not go to the constabulary, she has forgiven Bernard.
And, Crisje, they have become friends.
How pleased Our Lord will be about that.
When Crisje hears about it, she cannot believe it.
How was that whippersnapper able to influence Mrs Aanse?
Tall Hendrik also admits, Bernard is good at telling stories, but the stealing must stop.
Four weeks later Bernard asks Jeus if he wants to look and see how many pears are on that little tree at Hosman’s.
Jeus is shocked to death, has Bernard gone mad?
No, Bernard is not mad, he knows what he wants.
Now take a good look, he wants to have the big whoppers.
Every year Hosman’s children have teased him.
This year those whoppers are for him.
Those pears are the biggest in the whole neighbourhood.
The sport of getting them is food and drink for Bernard; only when he has them will he stop stealing.
Jeus senses that this is foolhardy.
Hosman’s Hector is a dirty bloodhound.
Bernard already has his plan together: every morning he will fetch the milk and then have a chat with Mieneke and Gerrit, he will want to see Hector for a moment.
The plan is successful.
Hector gets tasty sausage, but Crisje, who sees that the supply above the stove is shrinking, wonders: did I cut off that sausage yesterday?
Now there is only a small chunk left.
It is suspect, but the children eat a lot and they eat well.
Bernard already knows how many pears are hanging on that little tree.
That is worthwhile.
It is sport which you do not experience every day.
Tall Hendrik has to go to Germany soon to sing, it couldn’t be better.
On the evening that Bernard wants to take his chance, it is raining.
He has his things ready.
Hector will enjoy it and he will get whoppers of pears.
You will see them pulling faces there for some time.
Just off the Stokkumseweg, then into the garden, each footstep has been calculated.
“Hector? ... Hector ... here is something for you.”
The dog sniffs at the tasty sausage; the animal senses someone familiar.
He has been getting Hector used to him for weeks beforehand.
Meanwhile Bernard dashes into the little tree and fills his pockets and the little basket.
They may keep the four which are still on the tree.
He hadn’t thought that it would be so easy.
He is back within less than half an hour.
“Have you got them, Bernard?”
“Sshh ... keep quiet.
But I’ve got them.”
Bernard sleeps well, he has nothing to do with it; and those dopes will have no pears of their own this year.
Early in the morning, Bernard and Jeus are already looking through the attic window across the road.
“They are sitting at the window, Bernard, they are thinking that we did that.
Look, there are Anneke and Mieneke.”
And yes, the family is leering: one of those across the road did that.
Crisje knows nothing about it.
Who will fetch the milk?
“I will, mother.”
Bernard leaves.
The whole family, even Hosman, receives him there.
“Do you know, Bernard, who stole our pears last night?”
“Have your pears been stolen, Hosman?
Those big pears?
But my God, Hosman, is that not scandalous?”
The farmer looks him in the eye, but Bernard looks back.
No, a boy cannot lie like that.
However, they still don’t believe Bernard.
He will now have to prove what he can, and give them that assurance.
The whole neighbourhood already knows about it.
Isn’t that scandalous?
The Grintweg is in an uproar.
No, I didn’t do it, Mrs Hosman, I wouldn’t even dream of it.
“Mother, those big pears were stolen last night from Hosman’s.”
“What did you say, Bernard?”
“Yes, mother, they asked me if I had anything to do with it.”
“Good heavens and they were those big pears.”
“Yes, mother, they only have one little tree like that and Hector did not bite their legs.”
“Was that bloodhound asleep then, Bernard?”
“I don’t know, mother.”
Bernard is calm.
Jeus doesn’t say anything.
He has the greatest respect for Bernard.
Those across the road have made them green with envy every year and that has now been put to a stop.
Those skinflints and show-offs of children now know.
Jeus saunters over to Gerrit, he wants to hear what they have to say there.
“Don’t you know anything about it, Jeus?”, asks Gerrit.
“How would I know, Gerrit.
But I think it is scandalous.”
Gerrit also leers, Anneke gives him a good scolding, but he won’t accept that.
“Do you know, Anneke, that you will have to confess that?”
That gives her food for thought.
You cannot suspect a person just like that.
“No”, he utters:
“We have nothing to do with it, Anneke.
No, Hosman, of course not, but was Hector asleep then?”
Tall Hendrik comes home.
Bernard is under the thumbscrews of his father again.
“Look me in the eye, Bernard.”
Tall Hendrik looks, but Bernard looks back.
“Did you really not do it, Bernard?”
“No, father, I have nothing to do with it.
I don’t want to steal any more, father.”
Tall Hendrik discusses the situation with Gerrit Noesthede.
It is a trick which you must have respect for.
Jeus is no longer accepted at Hosman’s, but that only lasts a while, Crisje needs straw two days later.
And that is lying above the pigsty, she pulls at the straw now and again and throws it down for the pigs.
This morning there is more than straw to be seen for Crisje, a pile of fruit flows towards her.
“Good heavens above, what is that?”
Down rolls pears and plums, apples and carrots, all kinds of things.
Bernard is in trouble once more, now he can open his trousers again this evening, and Crisje thinks that it is bad.
But Hosman’s big pears are not there, they are somewhere else.
“Bernard what a grief you cause me”, Crisje moans, she knows what is waiting for him, she cannot keep quiet about this.
Hendrik is right, the child will grow up wild.
Bernard knows and cannot say anything.
Jeus and Jan profoundly sympathise with him.
Tall Hendrik will beat him to death.
That doesn’t look too good now for Bernard.
There is father.
What is it, Cris?
Tall Hendrik hears about the drama.
“What have you to say to me now, Bernard?
“No, father, just beat me to death now, I earned it, father, just lash out.”
But what a boy, Tall Hendrik thinks.
However, Hendrik has learned something from Crisje.
His mind is clearer than it has ever been before.
Is it because he was so successful on stage?
Peter, Gerrit and the boys from Smadel arrive, they step inside and see Tall Hendrik occupied with Bernard.
“What is the matter, Gerrit?
He has stolen a paradise for himself, all in all, that is all.”
Crisje is standing beside her husband and doesn’t say anything, but she looks.
What will Hendrik do?
Will he murder Bernard?
She prays, she thinks, she is crying inside.
Tall Hendrik smiles.
The court which Bernard is standing in front of will decide.
Then Tall Hendrik asks:
“I could beat you to death, Bernard.
Of course, I can do that.
But I want to tell you something completely different.”
And then he says to Crisje:
“Cris, the boys must leave.”
The boys leave the kitchen,
Then Tall Hendrik continues: “Bernard, if you confess everything honestly to me, I will make allowances for it.
But I want to know everything.
And I will also tell you, if I hear again that you have been stealing, I will take you to the constabulary myself!
Mother knows.
We are poor people, Bernard, but we are not thieves!
We are not tramps.
We have to make sure that we can look Our Lord in the eye every day.
Do you believe that, Bernard?”
“Yes, father.”
The adults look, they now know, Crisje also, that Tall Hendrik is really and truly giving it one more try.
Hendrik gets Crisje’s understanding, pure love shines out of her eyes towards him and the realization that this is better; Our Lord is satisfied.
Now the children will gain respect again, Hendrik, they will feel that you are a father, and that you have the sense to act like a father and know how to deal with things.
Certainly, Crisje feels this is an honest chance!
And Bernard confesses to his father.
“Is there anything else, Bernard?”
“Yes, father.”
“Do you know even more, Bernard?
Do not be ashamed.”
And now Tall Hendrik gets to hear that he stole the whoppers of pears from Hosman.
He is shocked.
Gerrit Noesthede feels a tickle inside, Peter and the others understand how aware Bernard is and how infallible he is in stealing.
Is that not some lad, Gerrit thinks.
You must have respect for such a boy.
Tall Hendrik continues.
“So, Bernard, you took those big pears away from there.”
“Yes, father.”
“Why did you do it, Bernard?”
“Because they flaunt them in front of my eyes every year, father.”
“So, and you can’t stand that, can you?”
“No, father.”
“But there is so much, Bernard, which we have to look at, but which we must leave well alone.
Just look at me, Bernard.
What haven’t I done for you?
Let the men just tell you.
What would you say if I was no longer here?”
Bernard senses what Tall Hendrik is trying to say and is ready for it, he tells his father:
“I will not do without you for the world.”
“Do you mean that, Bernard?”
“Of course, father.”
“Look, Bernard.
That is the last time.
If I am faced with you again, then something completely different will happen.
If you wish to promise me that you will keep your hands to yourself, away from another person’s things, I will promise you that I will not give you a hiding and you don’t have to go to the cellar either.
But if you think you can cheat me, then I will do something completely different.”
“I will not cheat you, father.”
“Your hand on it, Bernard?”
“You can count on me, father!”
Tall Hendrik lays his hand in Bernard’s.
Crisje is happy.
“And now to bed.
But first dinner, Bernard.”
“Yes, father!”
“Cris”, Gerrit says to her, “Cris, he will get ten marks from me, for his stealing.
Hendrik, I mean it.”
They laugh.
Everything is being discussed upstairs.
Jeus asks: “Will you stop that stealing now, Bernard?”
“Of course, but I’m going to sleep.”
Tall Hendrik knows, he has not had an adventure like that in his youth.
Bernard got off with it ridiculously well.
Crisje thinks that she must make up for it.
She will confess, she will work for it.
She reaches a human discussion at Mrs Hosman’s home.
Mrs Hosman is not so insensitive that she doesn’t understand this.
Crisje also confesses everything honestly to her.
Mrs Hosman now knows that Bernard did it.
What does Mrs Hosman do?
Since she also has the same Lord.
When Crisje comes home exhausted weeks later, her back is bent double from working on Hosman’s land, Bernard asks why mother is home so late, and why mother is making herself so tired with working, father earns money, after all, and he will do a good job with the newspapers, then Crisje tells him:
“Just come over to me, Bernard.
Now you must listen carefully.
But you know that I have to confess everything?”
“Yes, mother, of course.”
“Now, Bernard, when I confessed that, Our Lord himself said to me, Crisje, you have to make up for that again.
Now Bernard, I have to work for what you stole there.
Father gave me that, Bernard.
I did not want a cent for all that work.”
“Do they know there that it was me who did it, mother?”
“No, Bernard, but I can tell Mrs Hosman.”
“And will you do that, mother?”
“If you never steal again, Bernard, no, then I do not need to discuss it.
What would you say, Bernard, if they shouted at you for a thief for the rest of your life, what would you think of that, Bernard?”
“That is bad, mother.”
“Now you see that yourself, Bernard.”
“I will not steal any more, mother.”
Then Bernard also crumpled, he could not compete with his mother, and he promised her that the stealing was over.
There is peace, quiet and happiness, this is sacred respect!
Crisje feels that because of this there will be a new life, and Tall Hendrik has learned an awful lot!
But Crisje wonders where Bernard’s life will end up.
Can these bubbling feelings ever be tamed?
Just have patience for a while, Crisje, and you will know!