Without darkness LIGHT has no definition
LIGHT without FIRE
From campfire TALK to MASS SPEECH on the Internet
Writing is the graphic expression of actual SPEECH
The pen is the TONGUE of the mind (Horace)
Long before people TOLD STORIES of being abducted by aliens,
they TOLD STORIES of being visited by angels, or gods, or demons
THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING PORTRAIT
[A Brain Teaser]
Copyrights Olga Pitcairn
PS 363 YEAR 2020
WALLFLOWERS AND BLUE FORGET-ME-NOTS
PS 363---YEAR 2010
Missing portrait of
Cees (Cornelis) Jonkheer
VELP, the Netherlands
Christmas 1910: Cees Jonkheer promised his son Anton (born Christmas 1885) for his 25th birthday a trip to Paris.
PARIS, Hotel MONNIER, May 1911
Anton Jonkheer looked at the train ticket for his return home—Paris/Brussels/Amsterdam—and, smiling, put it in his coat pocket. Concierge Pieter Goudsmit hailed a Hansom cab and bade Mr. Jonkheer “Tot ziens en goede reis” (Farewell and safe travels).
Upon arrival in Amsterdam Anton went straight to the offices of Het Laatste Nieuws on Kerkstraat. At the reception desk he asked to see the editor. The clerk told him his boss was out of town. Anton asked for a job application form.
Eager to see his father, Anton sent a telegram that he would take the train to Arnhem the next day, arriving late afternoon. He spent the day in his hotel; writing an article on French authors he intended to submit with his résumé to the editor.
When Anton entered Centraal Station a porter took his valise, and they headed for the train to Arnhem. The conductor took him to his seat in a compartment. A young man stood up and introduced himself as Leopold Moojer, known as Leo; his family had their roots in Almelo, Overijsel. Anton said his family resided in Velp, Gelderland, but their roots were in Den Bosch, Brabant.
Smiling, they settled in their seats across from each other.
Anton gave Leo the low down that he had just returned from Paris. He wanted to be a journalist working for Het Laatste Nieuws. He had two older brothers and a much younger sister, Cornelia; the family called her Nel. His father was a military man and until his retirement had been stationed in Java, the Indies; that’s where he, Anton, was born.
Leo informed Anton that he worked for a real estate agency in Arnhem; that his father was a police constable, and that he and his sister Dina were the youngest of eight children. He had been visiting his sister, who was married to a book-keeper at an insurance company where he once also worked. Nicodemus, his brother-in-law, had asked to rent them for the summer a cottage in Gelderland.
Formalities settled, the young men had a lively conversation about life in general. They exchanged addresses. Leo promised to visit Anton soon.
The train arrived in Arnhem. On the platform the young men shook hands firmly. Hans, the Jonkheer’s family coachman, took Anton’s valise. Leo waved as the barouche landau left direction Velp.
The carriage stopped at Villa Amourette in the Annastraat across from park Larenstein. Hans took the valise down and informed Anton that Mrs. Jonkheer and Miss Nel had left for Den Haag. Cook had made dinner. His father was in bed with a cold and wished to see him right away.
Worried, Anton dashed upstairs. He called out that he was home and entered the bedroom. Cees was in bed propped up between pillows: a large blue silk scarf around his neck hid his beard and a fluffy white night cap crowned his head. Anton rushed into his father’s outstretched arms. He took the cap, ruffled his father’s white-streaked black hair, and planted a smacking kiss on his pate. He replaced the cap and confessed that he was glad to be home. Cees laughed as he took his son’s hands to squeeze them. Then he bid him to have dinner alone. Anton should tell him about the City of Light after breakfast.
Anton arose early. He went to the walnut wardrobe in his bedroom and opened it. He chose a gray-checked suit. As he combed his black hair, he scrutinized himself in the mirror above the wash-stand. “The spitting image of Father except for the beard,” he whispered, his brown eyes shining. “Maybe I’ll grow a moustache?”
Tall and lanky, Anton looked dapper when he dashed downstairs for breakfast. Cook’s specialty was a waffle-grilled ham and cheese sandwich. He had two. She let the cat out of the bag that Miss Nel had been courted by an unsuitable young man and Mrs. Jonkheer decided to take her to relatives in Den Haag for a change of scenery. Out of sight, out of mind was the motto.
It was a clear day and Anton walked to the bus stop on Hoofdstraat. The privately owned horse-drawn omnibus started at Arnhem and on to Velp/Rheden then to Doesburg/Westervoort and back to Arnhem. Anton got out at Rheden. He took the road to Dieren on foot to Boerenplezier, the family’s farm.
Hans was in the stable. He inquired about Anton’s trip; who replied he had a fantastic time. Then Anton broached the subject he came for—about boarding a poor young artist, a painter born in Zwolle. When he was a child his parents went to Paris. The painter’s name was Phlip Goudsmit. Hans smiled broadly, saying he had a cousin living in Zwolle; perhaps he would know some Goudsmit relatives. Nodding, Hans said Phlip was welcome. He got the carriage ready and drove Anton to Villa Amourette; then took Cook to the market.
Cees sat in his cherry-red velvet Victorian wingchair when Anton entered the sun-filled parlor. Drawn velvet curtains, an attractive shade of salmon, showcased—center stage window—a large gilded bird cage. As soon as it saw Anton, the yellow parrot cackled. Cees held out his arms. After a warm embrace, he pointed to the chair nearby; it fronted a table with a coffee pot, sugar bowl, creamer, and two cups and saucers as well as a plate with stroopwafels.
“Anton,” Cees took a handkerchief from the pocket of his charcoal gray hand-knitted cardigan that enhanced his silvery beard, “tell me about your escapades.”
“Let’s have coffee first.” Anton eyed the home-made cookies. He gave his father a steaming cup.
A twinkle in his brown eyes, Cees sipped as he watched Anton eat with gusto. He put his cup on the small table next to his chair and took a stack of cards. “Thank you, son, for sending me these wonderful memories.” He held up a postcard of the Eiffel Tower. “Paris! The City of Light!” Ceese’s face lit up as well. “I’m eager to hear about all the wonders you encountered.”
Anton reached for the postcard. “The City of Light, indeed,” he gushed. “Those French invented a wonderful new way of living at night. Father, you should see the boulevards and the monuments when lit up! This city is like a huge cabaret with people dining outdoors and dancing in the parks.” Anton waved the Eiffel postcard. “This emblem is their beacon. It was the entrance to the 1889 Paris World Exposition.” He took a deep breath. “But I’ve been told that it commemorated the 1789 centennial of their bloody revolution. This beacon is a marvel when lit like a Christmas tree.” He put the postcard on the coffee table.
“You know that I wanted to visit the home of my favorite author, Stéphane Mallarmé?” Cees nodded. “So I paid homage and went to Rue de Rome. I stood there in awe, thinking of his influence on me; on how to use words; that words have a meaning.”
Anton reached for the postcards his father was holding. He took a card and held it up, laughing. “This is a portrait of Debussy. He set to music Mallarmé’s poem Afternoon of a Faun.”
“Of course you attended the concert?” Cees smiled.
“Of course, Father! It was memorable. And I made up my mind to become a literary journalist.” He went to the bird cage. Holding up a wagging finger, Anton crooned, “Queenie! Queenie! Tell Nel that I have applied for a job at Het Laatste Nieuws in Amsterdam!”
Loud clapping filled the parlor. The parrot cackled.
Anton returned to his chair, clapping softly.
Cees beamed. “Son, congratulations!”
“Well . . . I still have to fill out my job application,” Anton confessed. “I decided to include an essay on French authors, so the editor knows I’m serious.”
“French authors?” Cees leaned forward.
“I thought of Victor Hugo. He wrote Les Miserables. And of course Balzac, who was an expert on human nature. And also Flaubert; Madame Bovary is still a big hit with the ladies.” Anton chuckled. “It was considered pornographic because she wasn’t hiding her adultery.”
“How about Emile Zola. He wrote a letter about that dreadful Dreyfus Affair.” The military man was visibly agitated.
“That letter, J’Accuse, made Zola famous.” Anton nodded. “He was a defender of the down-trodden. I admire Zola. He was a true journalist and a great critic. I hope I can step into his footsteps. Zola . . .” Anton hesitated, “wrote Nana. I don’t think I have talent for writing novels.”
Anton took a postcard and gave it to his father. “This is Hotel Monnier where I was staying. Henri Monnier was a famous caricaturist. Our concierge, Pieter Goudsmit, guess what, Father,” Anton chuckled, “Pieter was born in Zwolle! Well, he got me a theater ticket for the play Joseph Prudhomme.”
“What was it about?” Cees stroked his silvery gray beard.
“Oh . . . about the quintessential “citizen”. Joseph was of course pictured clownish so the audience could laugh without being embarrassed. I’m sure they saw in him their neighbors, and hopefully themselves.” Anton grinned. “Indeed, Monnier was a word painter, colorfully describing the bourgeois period.” He put the stack of cards on the table. “More coffee, Father?”
Cees gave him his cup. As they were sipping, Anton blurted out, “Father, I promised Pieter Goudsmit to ask you if his son Phlip, a young painter, can stay at Boerenplezier. Hans said Phlip is welcome if you agree.”
“How can I refuse?” Cees said with a wink. “What’s Phlip like?’
“I haven’t met him, so I can’t tell you what he’s like. His father said Phlip wants to paint Dutch scenes.”
“Cook told you about,” Cees smiled, “Mother and Nel visiting relatives in Den Haag?” He winked. “Most likely they won’t return until August. The young man must come soon. Send a telegram, son.”
Relief showing in his face, Anton got up and gave him a warm hug. “I’ll go to the post office right away.”
Anton went to the kitchen. He left a note for Cook that he would not be having lunch; he was going to Arnhem. Then he ran upstairs to his room and got Leo’s address.
Whistling, Anton walked to the bus stop. In Arnhem he went to the post office. He sent the telegram to: Goudsmit, c/o Hotel Monnier, Paris. Phlip welcome mid June. Confirm arrival to Leo Moojer, Makelaar Tom Gelder, Arnhem. Signed Anton Jonkheer.
Still whistling softly, Anton entered the office of Makelaar Tom Gelder. Leo jumped up from his chair and smiling broadly welcomed him with a warm embrace. Anton suggested having lunch at restaurant De Schimmel. As they were eating veal croquettes with mustard sauce, their specialty, Anton told him to expect a telegram from Paris regarding the arrival of a young painter by the name of Phlip Goudsmit. The artist would stay at Boerenplezier, the family’s farm near Dieren. Then Anton invited Leo for coming Sunday lunch at Villa Amourette.
When the two parted, they were beaming. Leo quickstepped direction office and Anton, looking at his watch, walked toward Velp. On the way he bought the local newspaper. Arriving at park Larenstein, he sat on a bench. When he finished reading the paper he crossed over to Annastraat.
Anton entered the front yard of Villa Amourette. The apple trees were in full flower. As he strolled up the path, he sniffed the air, enjoying their perfume. He opened the front door and stepped inside.
Cees was in his wingchair reading a newspaper when Anton entered the parlor. “Son,” he put the paper on his lap, “what have you been up to! Cook is curious to know what you had for lunch in Arnhem.”
Grinning, Anton gave his father a smacker on his head. The parrot cackled. Anton went to the chair next to the cage. The bird moved to be near Anton when he sat down. “Queenie,” he whispered, “I had lunch with a handsome young man and we ate delicious croquettes.” The parrot hopped around the cage, cackling its heart out. Anton reached for a jar on the window sill and took out a nut. Queenie flapped her wings and rushed up to get her treat.
Anton went to the chair across from the coffee table and sat down.
Cees wagged a finger when he said, “Croquettes? That spells De Schimmel! How long have you known this handsome young man?”
“We met on the train. He was visiting his married sister in Amsterdam.”
The parrot cackled and screeched, “Fiepjes! Fiepjes!”
Anton got up and gave Queenie one more nut, saying that if she again interrupted— he stuck out his tongue like Nel always did— he would cover her cage with the lace cloth, he pointed, that was neatly folded on the window sill. He returned to his chair.
“His name is Leopold Moojer. The family is from Almelo. Leo works in Arnhem at Makelaar Tom Gelder.”
Waving the paper, Cees rose from his chair. “What a coincidence! The father sold me Villa Amourette when I married Mother! She fell in love with the name. The house needed repairs but the garden was a delight.” He sat down. “We never regretted living here.” Cees slowly folded the paper. “Now, Anton, go ahead and tell me what you were contriving with handsome Leo.”
“I told him about the telegram I sent. And that Phlip will contact him when he would arrive in Arnhem. Hans will then fetch him.”
“Tell Hans to bring him straight to Boerenplezier.” Cees shook his head. “We’ll meet later.”
“Father, I invited Leo over for Sunday lunch. I thought you would like to meet him.”
Cees chuckled and, as sternly as he could, said, “Tell Cook to make her famous chicken dish. And to go easy on the spices as Dutch folks aren’t used eating Javanese cuisine.”
Visibly pleased, Anton jumped up. “At your command, Sir!”
In her native Java she was Kokkie. When Mrs. Jonkheer Senior asked her to come along to her native Holland—she had not been feeling well after the birth of Anton—Kokkie accepted because she adored the baby; the thought of never seeing him grow up made her bones ache. Subsequently, she, a diminutive, brown-skinned woman, now in her early fifties, became Cook.
When Anton entered with a flourish the kitchen Cook was at the stove. With a chuckle in her voice she said, “Easy on the spices?”
“Been listening at closed doors again?” Anton sat down at the large kitchen table.
“Sunday lunch with handsome Leo a potato-eater? My delicious curried potatoes will do the trick.” Cook stirred the pot with a ladle.
Anton smacked his lips. “You know that is Father’s favorite and delicious with your chicken in coconut milk. But be easy on the sambal. Please, rice for me, Kokkie!”
“My famous fried rice for the apple of my eye,” she said with a smile.
Anton joined Cook. He put his arm around her and gave her a peck on her hair. “What will be the dessert?”
Cook cackled, imitating the parrot. She held up the soup ladle and pointed toward the door. “That will be my surprise.”
Cees did not attend the local Dutch Reformed church on Sundays but read his Bible at home. Legs crossed, Anton sat across from him, holding his Bible close to his face. Through the window behind his father’s chair he could keep an eye on the front yard.
Cook entered holding a tray with a small bottle of Genever, three glasses and a plate with fried peanuts that she put on the coffee table. She whispered in Anton’s ear that the table was ready; she returned to her domain.
Anton got up slowly and sneaked up to the cage. He put the Bible on the side table near Nel’s chair and, a finger to his lips, approached Queenie. The yellow parrot cocked its head and softly twittered. Anton pointed to the jar with nuts on the window sill and whispered, “Father. Father.” Queenie flapped her wings and screeched “Father! Father!”
Father, hearing the bird’s screeching. glanced direction cage.
“Father!” the bird cackled excitedly. Anton gave it a nut.
“Yes, Anton?” Cees took off his reading glasses.
“Cook told me the table is ready.” He took a few steps toward the dining room. “Can I open the doors?”
“No, son. You can play host next time.”
The front door bell rang.
“Hans will answer.” Cees put his Bible on the small table near his chair. He rose and joined Anton.
Hans opened the parlor door to let the guest inside.
Leopold Moojer was slender and of medium height. His thick hair was the color of honey. Clean-shaven, he had a square jaw, straight nose, a well-formed mouth and sapphire blue eyes. He entered holding a bouquet of white carnations.
Cees stretched out his left hand to take the flowers. Then he shook Leo’s hand as he said warmly, “Anton thinks highly of you. Welcome, Leo!”
Hans took the bouquet and closed the parlor door.
“Fiepjes! Fiepjes!” Queenie screeched.
Anton dashed to the cage. He fumed “Shut up” as he took the lace cloth, putting it over the cage. He turned to Leo. “Nel taught it dirty words and now Queenie bribes us. She wants her nut.”
Leo laughed and said to Cees, “When I was a child we did the same tricks. We loooved,” he chuckled, “farting in front of guests.”
Smiling, Cees poured Genever. He nodded to Anton, who took two glasses, handing one to Leo. Cees held his glass high. “Let’s drink to childhood memories!”
The trio had a wonderful time reminiscing; trying to outdo each other with stories about their wild, careless boyhood. Choking with laughter, Cees poured more Genever. Hans waved frantically from the door to the kitchen. Cees waved back. He drank bottoms up. “Anton, open the doors!”
Anton took Leo by the elbow and they went to the French double doors leading to the dining room. “You take the left, and I take the right. And when I say SESAME, we fling them open . . . to reveal a feast you will forever remember.”
Cees had sneaked up behind them and shouted, “SESAME!”
Like a pistol shot . . . the doors flung open.
Cees whistled softy. Anton’s face was a picture of surprise. Leo’s eyes were fixed on the crystal vase with white carnations flanked by two smaller ceramic vases with white apple blossoms in the center of the table.
Cees stepped between the two and entered, saying, “Cook has outdone decorating; my mother’s favorite tablecloth, used only for special occasions.” He turned to Leo. “Indeed, this is something to remember forever. Leo, you are special!”
Still eyeing the bouquet, Leo entered. He then looked into Cees’s eyes and said, voice choking, “You make me feel like family. Please, call me Poldie.” His chest heaved. “My nickname since I can remember.”
“Poldie,” Anton took him by the elbow, “I’ll show you a photograph of Father and his soldiers when he was stationed in the East Indies.” Cees was on their heels when they went to the fireplace.
On the wall was a large, framed, black and white picture. Straightening his shoulders, Cees pointed, saying, “This was my 5th infrantry. I was a colonel when I retired. My wife, Anton’s mother, was unwell. We returned to Holland.”
From the kitchen entrance Hans announced, “Mr. Jonkheer, lunch is ready.”
Cees took Poldie by the elbow and took him to the table, pulling out the chair facing two paintings. “Sit down, Poldie.” He nodded at Anton to sit facing the parlor.
“The feast can start, Hans!” Cees sat in his armchair facing Anton.
Cook entered with a platter that she put next to Cees, murmuring “Adhoo”. He laughed and said to Poldie, “Cook’s coconut chicken is everyone’s favorite.”
Hans came with the curried potatoes. Anton waved to put the dish between himself and Poldie. Cook put the bowl of fried rice next to Anton, whispering “Adhoo.”
Hans returned with a jug of beer and put it between Cees and Poldie.
“I’ll take care of the chicken.” Cees took the carving utensils. “And, Poldie, you pour the beer.”
The dishes were passed around.
“Where can I get this spice?” Poldie had dug into the potatoes. “It’s out of this world.” He mashed a potato in the coconut milk. “This is delicious, better than gravy.” He put a heap full into his mouth.
“We have friends in Java. We exchange care packages. They send us the spices making Cook and me happy and in return they get food for thought: books and magazines.” Cees waved toward the paintings. “That picture shows the island Bali and the famous rice paddies. On the right is a coconut tree. The flesh of the coconut fruit is grated and put in airtight containers. Cook also makes a wonderful coconut pudding.”
“I think that will be her surprise dessert, “Anton blurted out. “I hope she’ll serve it with her super rum sauce.”
Soon, the platters were empty.
Cees wiped his mouth, took a sip of beer, and stated, “We have had an invasion of locusts. Cook will be happy.”
Hans cleared the table of dishes and plates. He returned with dessert bowls and a saucer with berry sauce.
Cook entered with the dessert. She went to Poldie and put the dish next to his bowl. “Dutch vanilla custard!” she bragged; then she pointed at the saucer. “And your famous berry sauce.” Before leaving she whispered “Adhoo” in Anton’s ear.
The men returned to the parlor for coffee and a smoke.
They discussed the arrival of Phlip the painter. Poldie told father and son that his brother-in-law was a Sunday painter and would like to meet Phlip. The family farm at Dieren was not too far from Laren, where he had rented a furnished cottage for his sister Dina’s family.
In a jolly good mood, enjoying the company of the two enterprising men, so full of joi de vivre, Cees said, “Anton, tell Hans to get ready. We’ll take Poldie home!”
TEN DAYS LATER
Hans drove the carriage into the paved kitchen garden. He tethered the horses. Then he went to the door to the kitchen and entered.
Cook was at the table shelling peas. She looked up. Hans smiled broadly.
“I just took that painter to Boerenplezier,” Hans hee-hawed, “he wears a beret, French-type.” He sat at the table. “I thought Mr. Jonkheer would like to know what he’s like.”
“We want to know!” Anton stood at the open parlor door. “I’ll tell Father that you are here.”
Cook cupped her hand at her ear and pointed at the closed door. Hans grinned.
When Anton came back he bade Hans to enter; who left his cap on the chair.
Queenie flung herself around the cage, screeching from the top of her little lungs when she saw Hans. Cees held his hands to his ears, shouting at Anton to stop the bird’s antics. With a flourish, he took the cloth and draped it over the cage. He turned to Hans, saying that the bird recognized him as he often walked by the window, tapping the panes. Anton waved at Hans to sit down as he pulled out Nel’s chair.
Then Anton went to the chair next to his father.
“Well . . .” Cees began, “so Phlip arrived. Tell us what he’s like.”
Hans fidgeted in his chair; then put his hands on his knees. “He’s not like his relatives. According to my cousin Jan, those Zwolle folk are plain farmhands. And Phlip is showy. He wears a beret. I guess that’s how a French artist looks like.” He grinned. “Phlip got a brown beard and a moustache. He’s got not much hair left on top. I guess that’s why he keeps his beret on.” [PS 187]
Queenie chirped softly.
“He wears a city suit. Not overalls,” Hans continued. “He had a valise and a backpack with painting stuff.” He heehawed “And he carried his easel as if it’s a bishop’s crook!”
Anton looked at his father—Cees had raised his eyebrows. “Did he say anything about Boerenplezier?” he blurted out. “Phlip should be excited living in such a beautiful farmhouse.”
“Phlip kept looking around.” Hans leaned forward. “He said he would paint Boerenplezier [PS 38] and give the painting to you, Mr. Jonkheer, for inviting him. He likes painting Dutch scenes and wants to go to Dordrecht to paint sailboats. [PS 54-56] I told him to go nearby, to Zuiderzee.” [PS 76]
“What’s your impression about Phlip?” Cees wanted to know.
Hans fidgeted, eyes flitting around the parlor, and then he looked at Anton. “You have met our new milkmaid, Anneke?”
“Yes. She’s young and pretty. Well?” Anton frowned.
“I said if he needed a model,” Hans clasped his hands and looked at his boots, “that I could ask her.” His tongue moved rapidly between his lips. Then he blurted out, “But Phlip wasn’t interested in her!”
Looking at his father whose mouth had opened on hearing this puzzling tidbit, Anton snickered, got out of his chair and went to the cage. He took the cloth to unveil the bird. Queenie screeched “Fiepjes! Fiepjes!”
As if a grenade had exploded under his seat, Hans jumped up and ran out of the parlor—bumping into Cook, who shrieked “Adhoo!”
To Be Continued
Farmhouse in Laren, Gelderland
Johannes Josseaud (1880—1935)
Anneke the Dutch milkmaid
The cab came to a halt in Annastraat and Poldie got out. He walked toward the front yard. Anton came to meet him—saying he was looking forward to this adventure of exploring Dina’s cottage and, as it was a cloudless day, the trip would be enjoyable.
On the way they paid Phlip a visit. He was at his easel putting Boerenplezier on canvas; behind him stood Anneke. Anton scrutinized the milkmaid. Elbowing Poldie, he whispered to look at her. He put his hand on Phlip’s shoulder and, putting his mouth to his ear, whispered that a little birdie had informed him that this painting was a gift for his host, Mr. Jonkheer. Anton straightened, and stated that there was no hurry; he could stay until August. When the two left for Laren Phlip waved his paintbrush and Anneke, blowing Phlip a kiss, went inside the barn.
The cab took the road to Zutphen. Poldie wanted to know why he had to look at the milkmaid. So Anton let out what Hans had observed. Poldie said with a chuckle in his voice that perhaps the milkmaid was not his type? Then he said that, as he was now part of the Jonkheer family, he wanted to get it off his chest that his sister and Nicodemus had a family secret and Anton should know: Dina was pregnant with her fourth child. The oldest was a girl of six, her name was Mieke; then the boys: Nicolay, four, and two-year old Claudius. The boys could not talk properly, they had their own language. And that Nicodemus’s background was somewhat obscure; Dina had told him that her father-in-law’s family had a history of stillborn children. His sister was hoping that this child would be a healthy boy.
Anton said he would appreciate it if, on their way to their cottage, the Uhrbach family would stop at Villa Amourette. He’d serve lemonade in the front yard, beneath the apple trees, so the children could play. Poldie agreed it would be a great idea to introduce them because once in Laren the family would have a busy schedule; they would want to spend a day or two in Almelo where the couple got married in 1903. Dina, christened Leopoldina, was their father’s favorite. He had not seen his granddaughter since his last trip to Amsterdam when Nicolay was born. This autumn the family was moving from an apartment in Amsterdam to a house in Laren, ‘t Gooi.
Poldie told the driver to stop at real estate agent Frans Poos. They entered the office. Poldie inquired about getting transportation for his family; his brother-in-law liked to paint outdoors and they were looking forward to picnics at enchanting sites. The agent told them that a nearby farmer had a horse and buggy for hire. Locals delivered the daily necessities: the butcher came by; the green-grocer; the baker, and the farmer sold milk, butter, cheeses, and eggs. Poldie and Anton left with the key to the cottage.
As the cab was taking the scenic route to Laren, the two chit-chatted about country life; how healthy it was for children to roam the fields. The day that the cottage came on the market Nicodemus told him to rent it sight unseen. Poldie showed Anton a photograph of a picturesque house with dormers and a thatched roof; underneath was written in Dutch Vergeet mij niet [Forget me not]. Anton snickered, saying he was intrigued.
Arriving in Laren, a rural village, the coachman asked for directions to Vergeet mij niet. The country lane weaved between wheat fields and the carriage finally reached the cottage; it was painted a light blue and the shutters a deeper blue. Poldie told the cabby driver to return in about an hour.
Poldie and Anton walked around the upgraded farm house; Anton commenting about the blue, white and pink Forget-me-nots in earthenware pots. In the back was a large wood table and stools for eating outdoors. A small apple orchard bordered a wheat field ablaze with poppies and cornflowers; a path led to the outhouse. Poldie was aglow with praise; Nico would be in his element as painting was his heart’s hobby.
They went to the front of the house. Laughing, Poldie pointed at the Delft blue rocking chair with a blue and white seat cushion next to the door, saying he could picture his sister enjoying the view. He put the key in the lock and flung the door open. Taking Anton by the elbow, he entered, shouting SESAME!
The vestibule was tiled in brown. To the left, the open door showed the kitchen; it also had brown tiles. In the center, surrounded by stools, stood a round table and on it were kerosene lamps. In front of the large chimney facing the vestibule was a pale blue painted bench. A large cupboard held dishes. Near the window, facing the back, was a huge black range with next to it a pile of logs. On the wall, pans hung from hooks. Poldie opened the kitchen door to the yard; the water pump was in easy reach. He made sure the pump was in working order; the water was fresh and pure.
Poldie and Anton returned to the vestibule. Poldie opened the door to the room used for receiving company. The floor had black and white lozenge-shaped tiles. White linen curtains festooned the three windows. On the mantle of the white painted chimney were rows of red ceramic candle sticks. And in a half circle fronting the chimney were three ruby red velvet armchairs and two floral-print upholstered armless chairs. Small, black painted stools served as side tables. Poldie remarked that the decoration was up-to-date, and that the chairs were from a furniture establishment in Arnhem. Anton agreed that it was quality cottage-style.
They returned to the vestibule and walked up the stairs to the bedrooms. The two large ones had each a double bed and the smaller room a single bed; the covers were made of light brown linen. The wood floors had no rugs. White linen curtains covered the windows. Each room had a dresser and on the wall pegs for hanging clothes. Anton commented that it was rather Spartan. Poldie acknowledged it was bare-looking but bedrooms were for sleeping and not for lounging around: especially not on vacation.
Once more they made the rounds of the rental. Anton picked some blue Forget-me-nots and tucked them in his lapel. Elated, Poldie whistled softly as he took notes; especially about finding out who owned cottage Vergeet mij niet.
Cook knocked on the parlor door and said that Hans had information about the family of Mr. Moojer. Anton jumped up from his chair and hurried through the kitchen into the court yard where the carriage was parked. Hans gave him the message that Mr. Moojer’s family would arrive on Monday the following week. In the meantime, could he come to his office? Excited hearing that the day of meeting the Uhrbach family was near, Anton decided to see Poldie right away and Hans took him to Arnhem. They had lunch at restaurant De Schimmel; eating croquettes and exchanging news. Poldie revealed that he was going to set up a meeting with Nico and Phlip at Boerenplezier. The two painters would keep each other company so that he had his hands free. This was the season for selling real estate; he had to work!
It was Monday.
Hans set up a table and garden chairs under the apple trees. Cook draped a bright pink tablecloth embroidered with large, bright-red cherries on the table; mentioning that this was Nel’s favorite and the children would also like looking at it. Hans said it was too pretty, and then, smiling at her, he went to get a tray with glasses embossed, like confetti, with red dots and a red ceramic plate with sugar cookies. Cook got a carafe with lemonade. She looked at the inviting scene and nodded. Anton asked her to open the parlor window because Queenie liked children. Her eyes smiled as she said “Adhoo” and went on her mission; leaving the parlor door to the hall ajar as well.
Anton pulled up a chair with soft cushions for his father. Eyeing the festive table, Cees wanted to know about this impromptu party for a family they had never met. Anton evaded his father’s eyes when he handed him a glass with lemonade and began to explain that he was doing Poldie a favor—the visit would be short; the family was on their way to Laren for the summer; it was a big change from Amsterdam to country life but the children needed fresh air and discover the pleasures of nature.
With much clatter and coachmen shouting, two carriages came to a halt in Annastraat. Anton went to the gate to welcome them. Poldie was holding hands with a dark-haired girl and told him that Dina needed help with the youngest boy. So Anton introduced Mieke to his father. The girl’s hazel-colored eyes were taking in the pretty set-up. She licked her lips, winking her lashes at Cees, who smiled and invited her to take a cookie.
Poldie returned with short, stout, dark-haired Dina, a woman in her early-thirties, holding Claudius in her arms. They were followed by tall, dark-haired Nico holding hands with Nicolay. Anton made the introductions.
Poldie was pouring lemonade when Cees said to Nico, “I heard you are interested in art. I read in the Batavia Post that Theodoor van Erp just finished repairing the Buddhist temple of Borobudur. I have a friend in Amsterdam whose cousin is affiliated with the ministry of culture in Magelang, Central Java. I wonder if you know Hendrick DeBron?”
“Mina, his wife,” exclaimed Dina—she put Claudius down so she could take the glass Poldie was offering—“is my best friend!” She held up her glass as if toasting. “Wilhelmina DeBron manages Gallery Ava Riss.” Dina looked toward the parlor window. “Mieke! What are you up to?”
The girl turned around. “Can I go to the bird?”
Within seconds Anton grabbed the boys by the hand and went to the front door, saying, “Mieke, let’s say hello to Queenie.”
Cees waved at Nico to sit next to him. “Paul, Hendrick’s cousin in Jogjakarta, is a dear old friend of our family. For three generations we have served our country in the military.” He turned to Poldie. “Please, fetch the photo in the dining room so I can show Nico.”
Poldie brought the photograph. Dina and Nico were all ears and eyes when Cees began talking about the past. So he went to the parlor. Queenie was chirping softly, fluttering from perch to perch as the children whispered her name.
“I’ll see if Cook can make us lunch,” Anton said. “You stay here to keep an eye on them. If it gets unruly, Queenie is unpredictable, give her a nut.”
Anton went into the kitchen. The aroma of Javanese spices wafted from the stove where Cook was stirring in a pot. Hans was at the table cutting up cooked chicken. He joined Cook and stroked her hair. ‘You are the greatest. Everyone likes your fried rice.”
“I got jugs of beer from the tavern,” Hans said. “Lemonade is for ladies.”
The door to the parlor opened. “I’m hungry,” Mieke stated, and entered, closing the door behind her.
Cook said, “Mieke, I’ll make you something special. Come. I want to look at your beautiful dress.” The girl held up her pink skirt, showing her pink shoes, and made her entrance dancing toward Cook, who had put the ladle in the pot to free her hands. “Girls look very pretty in pink,” she said as they shook hands.
“I’m hungry.” Mieke made no bones about her kitchen mission.
“Sure. Shall I make Peef Puff Poof for you and your brothers?”
“Claudius,” she sniffed, “stinky-stinky.”
Cook raised her eyebrows. “Do you know how to change nappies?”
“Anton,” Cook said with a straight face, “Mieke will show Uncle Poldie how to change stinky Claudius. There’s a stack of nappies on the dresser in the bathroom upstairs.”
As soon as the two had left, the parlor door opened again and Nicolay entered. He went straight for Hans who was wiping away tears because Anton had made a face at the bowl on the table. The boy stared at him in silence, and then uttered sounds as if he was in distress. “What is it, boy?”
“Peepeekaka!” Nicolay wailed. “Peepeekaka!”
Hans looked perplexed. But when Cook hollered, “Show him the toilet and make sure it’s clean when he’s finished,” he began to chuckle softly, like a hen. He took Nicolay by the hand and they left.
Cook began the preparations for the children’s meal. From the pantry she took six eggs, three bowls, a set of small bottles labeled red, green, yellow and put them on the table. Then she got three small pink ceramic plates and three small spoons. She went to the room next to the pantry, where she slept, and got a highchair for Claudius and four cushions that she put on two chairs.
She had just finished her preparations when Nicolay and Hans returned. He rolled his eyes. “I’m getting sandwiches for the coachmen,” he announced and strode for the exit door, snorting, “Peepeekaka? It’s your turn next!”
Taking Nicolay’s hand, all smiles, she made a fuss over him, and sat him on one of the cushioned chairs. She pointed a finger at her mouth, and looking into his eyes, said, “Hungry-hungry?” The boy nodded. She took his hand, and stroking his fingers, said,“Mieke-Mieke wait.” He nodded.
Nodding at Nicolay, she took a pink plate and a spoon and put them in front of him. The boy took the spoon and, laughing, waved it at her. She waved back. Blowing him a kiss, she returned to her stove to add chicken to her rice dish.
When Poldie, Claudius, Mieke and Anton entered Cook pointed at the highchair next to Nicolay. Poldie put the toddler in his seat. Eagle-eyed Mieke grabbed two plates and two spoons and gave her little brother one set and put hers on the table next to Nicolay. Then, swift as a swallow, she appeared at the stove.
“You promised to make us Peef Puff Poof,” she reminded Cook.
“Yes.” She nodded at the girl; then turned to Anton. “Please tell Father that Hans is getting the coachmen sandwiches, so he can’t help me. I will serve the rice on a platter in the kitchen picnic style. Poldie and you can clear the yard table?”
The men left, laughing, Anton saying that Father would be in his element introducing his guests to Javanese fried rice.
Cook turned her attention to Mieke. “Everything’s on the table. Let’s start.”
And she took a large fork and beat the eggs in one of the bowls until frothy. She then took a teaspoon and said, “Give me the red bottle.” So Cook put some red liquid on the spoon and dropped it in the bowl, whipping until the eggs were red.
Mieke clapped. “Is this Peef?” Cook nodded. Then she beat the eggs in the second bowl. Without being asked, Mieke gave her the green bottle. Cook whipped until the mixture was bright green. “That’s Puff!” Mieke shouted. Cook laughed. Mieke gave her the yellow bottle and Cook whipped up the last batch. “Poof!” the girl yelled.
“Mieke, over there,” Cook pointed to a small table, “is a plate with pink meringue kisses. Be careful! Put it here,” as she made space on the kitchen table.
Licking her lips, Mieke came on tiptoes and put the plate down. Then she snatched two kisses and popped one in Claudius’s mouth and the other she put on Nicolay’s plate. All smiles, the girl looked at Cook who wagged her finger.
“Now we’ll cook Peef Puff Poof on the stove. Watch me.”
Cook took a large omelet pan, lit a burner, and added butter. “See how it melts?” Mieke nodded. “Don’t let it get brown. Now, get me that bowl,” she pointed at the red one. The girl handed it to her.
Cook used a large wooden spoon to put Peef into the pan. “Get me another bowl.”
Mieke rushed to give it to her; and before Cook could ask for the last one she held up the bowl. Big-eyed, she watched Cook shaking the pan. “Oooh!” she exclaimed. “Confetti eggs!”
Cook laughed and, holding up her spoon, repeated, “Confetti eggs!”
Claudius shrieked and Nicolay beat his spoon on the table.
Cook was in her element and told Mieke to sit in her place. The children sat next to each other like parakeets as she doled out the colorful omelet when the adults entered the kitchen with the tray with glasses, carafe, and cookie plate.
“Mooke!” Mieke shouted at her mother. “Look! Peef Puff Poof confetti eggs!”
Dina rushed up to help Claudius who was eating with his fingers. Cook gave her a kitchen towel. Dina asked for the recipe.
“Mooke, I know how to make it. I’ll show you at home.” Mieke nodded vigorously.
Poldie was feeding Nicolay, saying, “This is a magic omelet.”
Anton hugged Cook; telling her that she was everyone’s fairy godmother.
Cees went to the stove and sniffed. “Fried rice!” he exclaimed. “Thank you, Kokkie!”
Cook emptied the pan in a huge, round platter and garnished it with cucumber slices. She put her delicious Javanese fried rice platter on the sideboard; next to a stack of napkins, plates, forks, glasses, and the jug with beer.
She clapped and announced, “Lunch is ready!”
While Cook and Mieke were feeding the boys, the adults were having a feast eating under the apple trees. Cees, in his element, put his arm around Poldie and said not to be formal and call him Father as he considered him part of his family.
Anton and Poldie took the empty plates to the kitchen. They returned with a tray with a coffee pot, sugar bowl, creamer, and cups. Following them was Cook shepherding the boys and Mieke holding the plate with pink meringue kisses.
“Father,” Poldie said, “I’d like to introduce Nico to Phlip at Boerenplezier. Do I have your permission?”
“Dina,” Cees addressed her, “do you think Hendrick DeBron may be interested in evaluating Phlip’s paintings?”
“Mina will,” Dina replied, “after all, she manages Gallery Ava Riss.”
“This gallery,” Nico put his coffee cup on the table, “was once owned by the antique dealer Adolph Riss. And when Antonia, the present owner, got him interested in paintings, they started exhibiting young, Dutch artists. I’m sure Mina,” he nodded at her, “will get Antonia’s ear to get involved with Phlip.”
“Ava,” Cees said, “why Ava Riss and not Antonia Riss?”
“Antonia had a child,” Dina replied, “before she married Adolph. The boy’s name is Anton Terschelling. When Adolph died she decided to rename the shop Gallery Ava Riss. You see,” Dina laughed, “her full name is Antonia, Vera, Amalia and so it became Ava Riss.”
Anton clapped and said, “I’d like to meet Anton.”
“He’s a teenager,” Dina said, smiling.
“Well, Anton,” Poldie interrupted, “how about us going this Saturday to Boerenplezier and introduce them?”
Cees nodded as he said, “You have my approval!”
The children hugging Cook, and Nico promising to visit often, they finally left.
Cees turned to Anton. “Thank you for inviting this wonderful family. I had a great time!”
When the next day a letter arrived from Het Laatse Nieuws Anton rushed to his bedroom. Two minutes later he galloped down the stairs and burst into the parlor.
“Father,” he shouted, waving the letter, “the editor wants to interview me! Here! Read!”
Face aglow, Anton went to the cage. He gave Queenie a big smile, got a nut, and holding it in front of her beak, he whispered, “Sorry, birdie. Soon I’ll be gone and no me to spoil you.”
“Anton! Anton!” the parrot yelled from the top of her little lungs, and then turned to face the street . . .
“Son,” Cees waved the letter, “this is news for celebrating.”
“Yes, Father! How about your rum punch and Cook makes her delicious corn fritters?”
“Good idea. Let’s invite Poldie for dinner.”
“I’ll go to Arnhem and make sure he’ll come helping us celebrate. And you, Father, talk with Kokkie about dinner.”
Anton hurried to catch the omnibus to Arnhem.
Hans drove Poldie to Villa Amourette. When he entered the front yard, illuminated by kerosene lamps, Cees was putting a carafe on the table draped with a red and white linen cloth.
“Good evening, Father.” Poldie put his hand on his shoulder.
“Poldie, I shall miss Anton very much but I hope you’ll keep me company, son.”
“It will be my greatest pleasure, Father,” he replied, waving at Anton who was coming holding a tray with glasses and plates; Cook followed with a platter in each hand.
“Father,” Cook said, “I also made peanut fritters.” She smiled at Poldie. “I know you like peanuts.”
Poldie took a peanut fritter. His face lit up as he was chewing. “Kokkie,” he said as he put his arm around her, “you spoil me.”
Anton laughed. “You’ll never replace me, Poldie. I’m the apple of her eye.”
Cees poured the punch into tall glasses. “Boys, help yourself,” he said, sitting down in his chair, eyeing his glass; this rum punch was his secret recipe.
While the men were enjoying themselves, chit-chatting about their futures, Cook and Hans brought dinner.
Wide-eyed, Anton looked at his father who, together with Cook, had composed the menu.
Poldie got up. “Kokkie, it looks sumptuous.” He took a satée and held it up. “How do I eat this?”
Cook handed Poldie a plate, took the satée, and with a fork pushed the chicken bits on the plate, putting the bamboo stick on the side. She smiled at him. “This peanut sauce,” she took a spoon, “is very tasty,” as she dribbled some on the chicken.
She took a large spoon, saying, “This is coconut rice,” adding it next to the chicken. “This here,” she pointed at a bowl, “is pickled cucumber. And in this bowl,” she pointed, “is a spicy ginger-red currant sauce. Which one you want?”
“Everything you cook is tasty. I want everything!” Poldie blew her a kiss.
Cees laughed. “In that case, whenever you are very hungry, come here and Kokkie will feed you.”
“Poldie, eat your heart out.” Anton snickered. “They say a man’s love goes through his stomach.”
Hans laughed loud. Giving the men a sly smile, Cook returned to the kitchen followed on her heels by Hans, still laughing.
The cheerful celebration was ending when out of the blue Anton said, “I’ve decided to leave on Friday so I can get acquainted with Amsterdam before my interview on Monday.”
Bewildered, Poldie put his fork down. “Can’t you wait until Sunday? After all, Nico is counting on us,” he said accusingly.
“Don’t worry, boys.” Cees looked at Poldie. “I’ll go with you. I’m now curious to meet this Phlip.”
It was Saturday: a sunny day.
Hans drove the landau, with Poldie in the backseat, to Villa Amourette. Cees was standing outside, eager going to Boerenplezier. Hans helped him getting into the carriage. Cook then handed Hans a hamper and bottles with punch and lemonade as well as glass goblets. He gave her a big smile and rubbed his stomach. She chuckled.
Sitting next to each other, the two men talked about Anton playing tourist in Amsterdam; Cees mentioning that Anton would need suitable rooms, and that Poldie should look for an honest real estate agent to help him.
When the carriage entered the lane to the family farm Cees took Poldie’s hand and squeezed his fingers. “I’m excited, son, to meet this painter.”
“Father,” Poldie patted his arm, “I’ve never seen you this excited. What happened?”
“I’ve an idea to surprise Anton.” Cees whispered, “It’s a secret.” His brown eyes twinkled. “But I’ll tell you because you are now brothers. If I like what he paints, I’ll commission a painting for Anton’s 30th birthday.”
“I like that.” Poldie nodded. “It will stay a secret with me.”
The carriage came to a halt in the yard; the horses whinnying.
Nico came to greet them; announcing that Phlip was in the orchard sketching Mieke, and, he smiled brightly, that he had a surprise in store for them.
Greeting Nico, Hans scampered past them carrying the hamper. Anneke followed him with a brown terrycloth blanket and a large, soft pillow for Cees to sit on; Cook had thought of everything.
Poldie wanted to know if he had seen the painting of their farm.
“Phlip told me that he likes to sketch his object first, with a soft pencil, until it’s perfect,” Nico said. “He then takes a brush painting in the colors. I’m sure Boerenplezier will be wonderful when finished because I have looked at two of his paintings with scenes of Paris. He hopes to sell these here.”
Nico took Cees by the elbow; Poldie followed them.
“I want you to meet a painter I met at the post office in Laren,” Nico continued. “Johan Josseaud insisted coming along when I told him that I was on my way to meet Phlip. Mieke also wanted to meet Phlip. Let’s join them.” He laughed.” Our artists are having a competition sketching Mieke.”
Anneke was putting the red and white tablecloth on one of the five picnic tables in the cherry/apple orchard while Hans opened the hamper that stood on a bench.
“Faty!” Mieke waved at her father; she was sitting on a table.
Phlip and Johan looked up from their sketchbooks. When they saw the threesome approaching they stood.
Taking the pillow and blanket, Anneke came over. She put the pillow on the armchair behind Mieke; whispering that the girl should come down and greet Mr. Jonkheer.
Nico introduced Johan. Cees nodded at Anneke who was draping the blanket on the bench to the left of the chair. She curtsied and joined Hans.
Cees settled in his chair. He invited Phlip to sit on his right with Johan. Turning to Mieke, he smiled and said she should sit next to him on the blanket with her father and Uncle Poldie.
“Phlip,” Cees said, “I’d like to have a look at your two paintings of Paris so I have an idea about your artistic abilities.”
Phlip looked at Nico, who nodded, and he left for the farmhouse.
“Look at my sketches!” Mieke showed the ones Phlip and Johan had made.
Chuckling, Cees took them and scrutinizing one, he gave it to her, saying, “I like this one best.”
Gleefully, the girl pointed at Johan. Poldie and Nico laughed.
Phlip returned carrying two canvasses. He sat next to Cees, saying, “This is Place de Clichy,” [PS 5] as he gave him the painting.
“I like it!” Cees nodded as Mieke peered over his shoulder. “Have a look.” He handed the painting to Poldie and Nico. Johan had joined them.
“And this is my favorite.” Phlip gave Cees the other one. “Place Pigalle.” [PS 49]
“It’s as if I’m sitting at a window, looking out at this busy, lively square.” Cees smiled. “I like your art work, Phlip.”
Johan had joined Mieke, looking over Cees’s shoulder. “A photograph can’t do justice to this stimulating scene,” he said. “I haven’t been to Paris but I feel the excitement that we lack in Amsterdam where I was born and have lived all my life.”
“Nico,” Cees said, “Dina should tell Mina to sell them at the gallery. Amsterdammers will acquire them, wishing to visit Paris. If I were younger, I’d certainly plan on going.”
“Art gallery, which art gallery?” Johan looked eagerly at Nico for an answer. “Perhaps I can show some of my work as well?”
“Good idea,” Poldie said and, taking Mieke’s hand, he went to the table where Hans had laid out the snacks, punch and lemonade. Uncle and niece became a duo: Uncle playing host and niece, following his orders, was hostess. In no time, the hamper was empty!
Having fun, the girl put her arms around Cees’s neck, and whispered that she liked him a lot. In his element, Cees said she should call him Father. They were one big family.
Carrying the hamper, Hans scampered past the party towards the yard.
Cees rose and, nodding at Poldie, announced that it was time to go home.
The carriage came to a halt at Villa Amourette. Cees told Poldie that he was in a hurry: he wanted to write the letter regarding the painting for Anton’s 30th birthday. They embraced. Hans drove Poldie home.
Quickstepping into the hall, Cees made a beeline for the secretary in the parlor. He opened it and took the inkstand as well as some sheets of letter paper. He then went into the dining room and put them on the table. Softly whistling, he took from the buffet a wood tablet.
Cees sat in his armchair. He put the tablet in front of him, the inkstand on his right and the letter papers to his left—then took a sheet and put it on the tablet. Smiling, pen in hand, he looked at the paintings on the wall.
Cees Jonkheer was ready to compose his letter to Hendrick DeBron.
To Be Continued
I have the structure worked out
I need only set the lines to it
HOUSE IN VELP, GELDERLAND
OLGA’S FOUNTAIN PEN
July 6, 1911
Your cousin Paul was a dear friend of my family. We, three generations serving our country in the military in Semarang, often visited him in Jogjakarta. Paul took us sightseeing and the reconstruction of the Borobudur truly is his crown jewel.
Hendrick, I have a request.
A few days ago Nicodemus and Leopoldina Uhrbach and their children, on their way to Laren for a two-month vacation, were here for lunch.
As you know, Nico is an ardent Sunday painter. It so happens that I have sponsored a 25-year-old artist presently lodging at my farmhouse in Dieren. Phlip Goudsmit was born in Zwolle but at age 6 his parents moved to Paris. Nico was eager to meet Phlip and I promised a rendezvous at Boerenplezier.
During our conversation Dina told me that your wife Wilhelmina, who manages a prominent art gallery, Ava Riss, in Amsterdam, is her best friend. Needless to say I felt connected, because Poldie, her younger brother, is my son Anton’s best friend. Poldie calls me Father, we are that close. Anton’s mother passed away 17 years ago. I remarried and Jeanne and I have a 15-year-old daughter, Cornelia. They are in Den Haag visiting relatives as Nel is very pretty and had an ardent admirer my wife didn’t think was suitable. Nico mentioned Willem, your son. I hope he is giving you joy, and will follow in your footsteps.
I just returned from our rendezvous at Boerenplezier, and I can tell you that Nico and Phlip are best mates. Nico intends to paint there often under the guidance of Phlip.
At the picnic lunch in my orchard, Dina and the children were at their charming cottage Vergeet mij niet, Nico mentioned two paintings Phlip took along; he wants to sell them. I very much like the Paris scenes. When the family was at Villa Amourette I had asked Dina to ask you to evaluate his work. However, she said Mina will ask the owner of the gallery to appraise the paintings.
The end of May Anton returned from Paris; it was my 25th birthday present. He told me this Paris trip is unforgettable because it inspired him to become a literary journalist. Next week he has an interview with the editor of Het Laatste Nieuws.
Anton’s favorite author is Stéphane Mallarmé whose poem The Afternoon of a Faun was set to music by Debussy.
Hendrick, this is strictly confidential. For obvious reasons Mina and Dina are not to be involved. I want to commission a painting by Phlip of The Afternoon of a Faun [PS 329] for Anton’s 30th birthday. The painting will be purchased by you. I shall contact my bank to contact you directly regarding the financial transaction.
I will be exceedingly grateful if you consent to this request: A surprise for my son Anton.
With sincere and warm greetings,
Cees reread his epistle twice. He addressed the envelope to Mr. Hendrick DeBron, Herengracht 56, Amsterdam. Then he nodded, looking at the two paintings, saying to himself, “Where shall I put up Boerenplezier?”
Cees got up, walked to the hall and entered the lavatory. He ran the tap and, sealing the envelope, spat in the air for good luck. Then he put the letter on the silver tray on the hall table for Hans to mail.
A telegram arrived from Anton on July 9th.
Hans entered the kitchen and waved a letter. Cook said she would give Father the much awaited news. She knocked on the parlor door and entered. Sitting in his armchair, Cees held out his hand. All smiles, Cook gave him the letter while whispering “Adhoo”, and left.
Cees got up, walked to the secretary and took a letter opener. He returned to his chair to read Anton’s letter.
My promised letter will be short. I’m eager to tell you vis-à-vis about my interview with Albert Heyn, the editor.
Albert was going to interview Joshua Schwartz, the novelist son of Cornelia van Vollenhoven. Joshua was born in 1858 in Amsterdam and took the pseudonym Maarten Maartens. He wrote a detective story in English: The Black Box Murder. Imagine, Father, Albert decided to test me! So now I have the privilege to interview him on Tuesday, the 16th.
This Friday I’m taking the late afternoon train.
I’m looking forward being home with you, Father.
Your loving son,
It was Friday
When Anton arrived at the station in Arnhem Poldie was on the platform to welcome him. While driving to Villa Amourette the young men had a serious conversation on how to prepare Father for the imminent transport of Anton’s belongings to Amsterdam. Poldie advised Anton to be discreet when packing, and suggested Cook give him a hand; he should listen to her because she knew how to soothe Father when his feathers were ruffled. He had employed a moving company he had used in the past, and had set the date for Tuesday. He would be on the premises to supervise the transaction.
When the carriage arrived at Annastraat Cees was standing at the gate. He waved and smiled when the two approached him. After a warm welcome, they went inside.
Poldie decided to pay Cook a visit. She was thrilled to see him and right away announced that she’d make fried rice. She winked when she said that this dish always put Father in a good mood. Poldie gave her a hug, and left for the parlor.
Cees sat in his armchair chatting with Anton, who sat across from him in his usual chair, but when Poldie entered he stopped talking and waved at the chair next to him. Poldie rose to the occasion to play favorite son.
“Isn’t it wonderful news?” Cees waved the letter he kept on the side-table. “Anton will have the honor to interview this famous Dutch novelist on the day he starts working at the newspaper.”
Queenie twittered beneath the cloth.
“Lady Luck is with Anton,” Poldie said as he took the letter. “Has this detective story,” he asked as he read, “been translated into Dutch?”
“Good question,” Anton replied. “I’ll ask the novelist. And if it hasn’t been translated yet, I’ll inquire about a super translator.”
Cees clapped. “Bravo! I like your spirit.” He rose. “Let’s toast to that!” He went through the open doors to the buffet in the dining room. “I need help.” Cees smiled when he saw the table set for three.
Poldie winked at Anton and they joined him.
Cees poured the gin. Holding their glasses, the threesome returned to the parlor.
“How about going to the farm tomorrow and say hello to Phlip?” Poldie suggested.
“How about a picnic in the orchard and Cook”, Anton raised his voice, “will prepare her special orchard hamper. Father, we’ll sip your rum punch.”
“I’m game!” Cees held up his glass. “You two come up with great ideas.”
Queenie cackled softly.
Poldie snickered as he went to the cage. He whispered, “Queenie, soon no Anton to ruffle you. Have a last look at him,” and he removed the cloth. The parrot went to her top perch and faced the street. “Okay,” Poldie said, and covered the cage.
Cook announced from the open door, “Fried rice is on the table.”
“More to celebrate!” Cees got up, and holding his glass went straight for the buffet for a refill; glancing at the large platter and a dish with cucumber salad.
As they ate with gusto, Cees suggested that Poldie stay overnight on Saturday.
The carriage came to a halt in Annastraat. Poldie got off with his duffel bag, smiling at Hans, saying he was looking forward to the picnic. When he opened the gate Anton got up and Cees waved. Father and son were having coffee and Poldie sat down, saying he already had two cups at his lodgings. Anton suggested he show him to his room.
As they entered the house, Cook came holding a newspaper, telling them that Hans was on the way to the farm delivering the hamper. With a cackle, she went to bring Cees his gazette.
Cees was hiding behind the paper when Anton and Poldie returned. They sat down and spoke in low tones about the upcoming event. Folding the newspaper, Cees put it on the table, saying it was time to go.
Anton went to the kitchen to tell Hans they were ready. He gave his Kokkie a hug, saying he was excited about becoming a journalist. He would miss her very much. She wiped away a teardrop and nodded.
The threesome, Cees was in a jovial mood and had linked arms with his “sons”, waited for the carriage. When Hans drove up they cheered. The horses were festooned with ribbons and little bells tinkling: announcing the start of a cheerful day at the farm.
Upon arrival, as Anton was giving his father a hand descending the carriage, a teenage girl linking arms with an old woman holding a basket with eggs entered the yard; passing them, the girl smiled and they went toward the orchard.
Hans said with a chuckle, “That’s Anneke’s younger sister and their grandmother. The old woman raises chickens. On holidays she sells capons and makes a small fortune.” As he took the carriage toward the stable, he announced, “Anneke takes care of the food.”
Anton shouted after Hans, “Raising capons is more lucrative than selling eggs?”
Hans shouted back, “I told you, a small fortune!”
Cees shook his head. “Let’s go!” he said, marching toward the orchard.
“What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890)
Phlip was at a table sketching Mieke. Johan, at another table, was looking intently at an apple blossom.
[PS 87] Anneke was posing for Nico under the watchful eyes of Dina at another table.
When Cees saw the group he stopped. “Anton! Poldie! We have company!” He waved at Nico, who had turned his head upon hearing his voice. With a huge smile of surprise, Nico rose from the bench, holding his pencil, and shouted, “Cees!” He rushed up when he saw Anton and Poldie.
Mieke jumped from the table, running toward Cees, shouting, “Father!”
Phlip and Johan also came to greet them.
Anneke went to the table on which stood the hamper. Dina followed her.
“Why didn’t you tell us the family was coming?” Dina said, frowning.
“Missus, I thought the food was for your family,” Anneke replied. “Hans said he wants to learn sketching. That’s why I take care of the hamper.”
Dina turned around and with outstretched arms greeted Cees.
They all went to Nico’s table. And facing each other, sat on the two benches. Cees asked Poldie to get him an armchair from the house.
Anton joined Anneke. They brought the refreshments: lemonade and rum punch.
Poldie came with the chair. Cees held up his punch glass. “Anton is leaving Monday for Amsterdam,” he said. “He is a journalist employed at Het Laatste Nieuws.” He looked at Phlip. “He wanted to say goodbye.”
Poldie clapped. “Let’s drink to Anton’s success as a journalist.” He raised his glass. “And that Phlip becomes a famous artist.”
Mieke went to Phlip and, raising her glass of lemonade, said, “If you are famous, will I also be famous?”
They all laughed.
When Anneke saw her sister and grandmother now carrying cherries in her basket, as well as Hans holding a cage, she rushed to meet them. Hans went to the table near the hamper.
“I want to talk to granny,” Cees said to Poldie.
Poldie escorted Anneke and her family to meet Cees.
“So,” Cees said, “you are the egg provider at my farm.” He nodded at granny. “Excellent eggs.” Then he turned to Anneke. “Your sister. What’s her name?”
“Teuntje, Mr. Jonkheer.”
Cees smiled. “Short for Antonia?”
“Yes, Mr. Jonkheer. Teuntje is fifteen.”
Cees pointed at the table where Hans sat. “Anton, invite them for lemonade.” He put his
arm around Mieke and said with a chuckle, “Yes? You want to tell me something?”
The girl’s eyelashes fluttered like butterflies. “I’m hungry,” she stated, pointing at the hamper.
“Is that so?” Cees raised an eyebrow. “You want to see what’s in the hamper?”
Mieke bobbed her head.
“I’m curious too.” Cees gave her a wink. “Ask Anneke if you can help. And if Cook has made her famous curry eggs, bring me two, right away,” he gave her a push, “because I’m also hungry.”
When Mieke asked Anneke to open the hamper, because Father wanted to eat eggs, Anneke asked Teuntje to help her. She looked toward Cees’s table as she unfastened the lid, softly reciting, “Aba, abe, abi, abo, abu.”
Mieke laughed and clapped. She looked at the containers, wondering aloud, “Where are the curry eggs?” She gave the top box to Anneke who, upon opening it, announced, “Ham sandwiches.” The next boxes contained cheese—and liverwurst sandwiches. At the bottom was a flat box labeled ‘Father’. Elated, Mieke opened it. “Curry eggs and chicken pieces!” She dipped a finger in the brown sauce and made a face.
Teuntje handed Mieke a plate and, on the girl’s order, Anneke put on it two eggs and some chicken with brown sauce. “Wait for Teuntje.” She gave her sister a napkin as well as a fork and knife. “Now bring Father his curry eggs,” she said with a big smile. “And Teuntje, ask the adults to come here and get their sandwich. I don’t know what they prefer.”
When Mieke put his plate on the table Cees exclaimed, “Chicken Bubby! That’s a treat I haven’t had for a long time.”
Mieke made a face. “I don’t like that sauce.”
“Soy sauce. I like it.” Cees took the napkin and utensils from Teuntje.
“Anneke asked me to invite you to the hamper,” Teuntje announced. “And please choose a sandwich.”
Laughing, Nico, Dina, Poldie, Anton, Johan, Mieke and Phlip joined Anneke. After some jostling, they returned with their sandwich.
“Poldie! Are there any left?” Cees nodded at the table where granny, Teuntje, Anneke and Hans were enjoying lemonade.
“The liverwurst sandwiches were not a favorite.” Poldie raised an eyebrow.
Cees clucked his tongue, and with a grin, he said, “Cook once told me that Hans likes liverwurst sandwiches. Go over and invite them to eat.”
The guests waved toward Cees when they went to the hamper.
Poldie took the punch bottle and putting it next to Cees, whispered, “How did Cook know to make four?”
With a short chuckle, Cees replied, “Ask Hans, our oracle of Dieren.”
Anneke came over and held out her hand, saying, “Come with me, Mieke.” The girl jumped up. They went to granny’s table. Teuntje took handful of cherries from the basket and put them in the empty sandwich box. “Can you bring these to Mr. Jonkheer?” All smiles, Mieke bobbed her head. “And please thank him for the delicious treat enjoying a sandwich here.”
Mieke nodded and, holding the box as if it contained a delicacy, went on her mission. “Cherries from granny to say thanks,” she said as she put the box on the table.
“Well . . . thank you, Mieke.” Cees waved in the direction of granny.
Anton rose and blew granny kisses.
Hans came to see Cees. “These cherries are the last from a special tree near our kitchen. Granny likes making cherry wine.” He looked at Anton. “Don’t worry; we have more. I’ll drop off a basket tomorrow.”
Poldie joined Hans. He said in a low tone, “How did Cook know to make four?”
Hans grinned, took off his cap to scratch his head, and rather casually said, “Cook always makes me four. I’ve a big appetite.” He put his cap back and turned to Cees. “Mr. Jonkheer, are you going to watch us getting lessons from Phlip, or shall I take you home?”
Cees looked bewildered at Phlip. Then he turned to Hans and said, “Of course we stay and watch. But first let’s eat the cherries.”
Flanked by Anton and Poldie, Cees settled in his armchair; watching, and listening as Phlip instructed the aspiring artists.
“Do you want to sketch your daughter or Teuntje?” Phlip asked. Dina was busy wiping Mieke’s hands and face, cherries are juicy, so Nico resolutely said, “Teuntje”.
Johan said he wanted to sketch Anneke.
Hans said, “I’m going to draw a chicken.”
“And I’m going to immortalize granny. She’s such a kind soul,” Phlip said as he rose.
That settled, the artists, carrying a sketchbook and pencil, went to their designated tables.
Mieke strolled over to Phlip sketching granny; straight as a rod, looking intently at the artist, she eagerly sat for her portrait. [PS 13]
“Why not sketch me?” Mieke asked. “I thought I’m your favorite.” [PS 65]
Phlip replied, “I’ve done your portrait many times and I want to please granny so she has a souvenir of this happy day.”
Biting her lip, Mieke nodded, and left to pay Johan a visit. Anneke looked very pleased; the artist was drawing her standing. She lifted her skirt to show her shoes.
“Why not sketch me?” Mieke demanded to know.
“I did the other day,” Johan stated, “and it was better than Phlip’s portrait.”
“I also liked it better,” Mieke acknowledged. She went to watch her father sketching Teuntje’s portrait. Her mother stood, talking, behind him. She interrupted the conversation. “Faty, why don’t you sketch Mooke?”
“Phlip said to sketch Teuntje,” Nico pointed at his sketchbook, “because your mother I can sketch any day.”
Mieke took her mother’s hand, and they went to look at Hans drawing his chicken model, standing in the cage. Dina said, “It’s very plump. What kind of chicken is that, Hans?”
“A capon,” Hans said with a grin.
“What’s a capon?” Mieke wanted to know.
“A lazy chicken. Look,” Hans pointed at granny, “how happy she is getting all his attention.”
Dina stared at the chicken, then at granny. Nodding, she took Mieke’s hand and went straight for the table where Cees was having a feast talking to Anton and Poldie.
Cees clapped to get attention. “I want to see your sketches, and Anton wants to say au revoir , and then we go home.”
Mieke made a beeline for Phlip. She told granny that “Father” was leaving and that Phlip should come and wave. She took his sketchbook and went to summon Johan. Meanwhile, Dina ordered Teuntje to get the hamper ready for Hans as they were returning to Villa Amourette.
Cees looked at Johan’s sketch of Anneke. Nodding, he approved; the milkmaid showed more than her shoes.
Nico hesitantly showed his portrait of Teuntje. “It’s not up to your expectation, I know,” he said. “I’m not good at drawing people.”
“I recognize her,” Cees said, “and that’s what counts.”
Mieke gave him Phlip’s sketchbook; the artist stood next to Anton.
“Granny!” Cees was all smiles. “That’s her, all right! Excellent!”
Anton patted the artist on the shoulder.
Hans approached and announced that the carriage was ready. Anton shook hands with Phlip and wished him all the best in the world.
Shouting au revoir, they waved when the landau with Cees, Poldie, and Anton left for Villa Amourette.
Upon arrival, Cees said, walking to the gate, that he was tired, and would meet them in the parlor for a drink, and after dinner, a talk.
Anton and Poldie went to see Cook.
“Thanks for the delicious ham sandwiches,” Poldie said as he winked at Anton. “What are you cooking for dinner?”
Anton put his arm around his Kokkie. “Father liked the chicken in soy sauce. He needs something very special to cheer him up because I’m leaving on Monday.” He gave her a squeeze. “Father mentioned he would talk after dinner. Do you know what that means?”
“He’ll give a speech.” Cook nodded. “He’s a military man. They like routine. I know his habits.” She went to a small crate near the exit door of the kitchen. “In the old country he liked fish in ginger sauce. Hans knows a fisherman, and I asked him to get me a large fish. This one,” she opened the crate, “is from Zuiderzee.” On a lump of ice sprawled, grey eyes wide open, a very large fish.
Shaking with laughter, Anton and Poldie embraced Cook.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered. “He’ll be in a very good mood after dinner.”
When Anton and Poldie entered the parlor Cees was sitting in his chair sipping gin. Two glasses were on the coffee table. He waved at them to take a glass, saying, “Cheers!”
“Cheers, Father!” Anton and Poldie raised their glasses.
“Sons, I’ve a problem. Where do I put up the painting of Boerenplezier?”
“How about”—Poldie pointed at the wall above the secretary that stood between the doors to the hall and the kitchen—“putting the family photograph”—he pointed at the fireplace to the right of Cees—“above the mantel?”
Anton went to the secretary. He removed the framed photograph, took it to the fireplace and put it on top of the mantel. He sat in Mother’s chair and said, “Mother can now see her family close up.”
Cees looked at the wall above the secretary. “Excellent proposal, Poldie,” he said. “You fixed my problem.”
Cook entered and went to Cees. She whispered in his ear; it was a magic word because his face lit up, and he shouted, “Unshoonghee!”
Cackling, Cook left.
“Isn’t that fish in ginger sauce with vermicelli noodles, Father?” Anton rose to help him out of his chair. Linking arms, they went into the dining room; Poldie followed, having fun he cracked his knuckles.
On the table, to the left of Cees’s seat, on a large platter, bedded on a mountain of noodles, were crisply-fried chunks of fish. In front of the stack of plates was a large sauceboat with steaming hot ginger sauce. Anton pulled out the armchair for Cees. Then he sat across from him. Poldie sat in his designated chair.
“This smells awesome.” Poldie inhaled the aroma.
Cees put a chunk of fried fish and a heap of noodles on a plate and handed it to Poldie. “The sauce is spicy, so be careful,” he said, moving the saucer towards him. Then he served Anton. Face aglow, he put the choicest piece of fish on his own plate, adding plenty of noodles, and then drenched it with sauce. “Bon appétit!” he said, tucking into his Unshoonghee.
When Cook came to clear the table she saw fish bones for the cat and a clean sauceboat; as if the cat had licked it. She whispered “Adhoo” in Anton’s ear. He gave her a wink.
“Coconut cookies for dessert,” she announced. “Shall I serve the coffee here, Father?”
“You are spoiling us, Kokkie,” Cees said. “I can’t move. We stay here. Anton, let’s play rummy. The cards are in the bottom drawer of the buffet.”
Anton looked at Poldie—who, mouth open and eyes bulging, stared at Cees.
“We used to play rummy with my brothers when they were still living here,” he said in a low voice, and got the playing cards.
“I’ll deal.” Cees shuffled the cards. “Seven cards each.”
When Cook brought the coffee and cookies Cees was in a great mood: smiling, shouting, dealing the cards. She nodded at Anton, whispering in his ear, “I told you so.” She left all smiles, saying to the ceiling “Adhoo.”
When the hall clock struck eight . . . Cees got up. “I’m going to bed. Anton, Poldie,” he nodded at them, “we’ll talk about money matters tomorrow.”
TO BE CONTINUED
ANTHONY BURGESS, Author
The house was bought by Burgess in 1968
168, triq il-khira—Lija, Malta
Date: June 20, 1969
MALTA: OPEN AIR DINING
Rembrandt, in full Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Rembrandt originally spelled Rembrant, (born July 15, 1606, Leiden, Netherlands—died October 4, 1669, Amsterdam), Dutch Baroque painter and printmaker, one of the greatest storytellers in the history of art, possessing an exceptional ability to render people in their various moods and dramatic guises. Rembrandt is also known as a painter of light and shade and as an artist who favoured an uncompromising realism that would lead some critics to claim that he preferred ugliness to beauty.
It was Sunday
Anton opened his eyes. Bird-chatter floated through the open window. A smiled hugged his lips as he listened to their chirping. Then, with a jolt, he sat up. “Money matters,” he whispered. “Will Father interrogate me?” He put his feet in red velvet slippers, Nel’s birthday present, and went to the window. He drew the curtain aside and leaned out. Inhaling the fresh air, his eyes focused on the small green apples on a nearby branch; two finches looked at him.
“Anton,” Poldie said in a low voice. “Anton.” He stood at the guest-bedroom window.
Startled, Anton smiled. “Oh! Good morning, Poldie. We’ll start packing after breakfast?”
“How about discussing the important issue?” Poldie rubbed his thumb and index finger.
Anton’s face lit up. Then he, too, rubbed his thumb and index finger; and now smiling broadly, he said, “Come on over! Two heads are better than one for planning.” He put on his dressing gown and left his door ajar. Softly whistling, he arranged a stool and chair near the window. When he opened a drawer of his nightstand, to get a tin with biscuits, Poldie entered wearing pajamas and shoes; excusing himself for not having packed a gown. Anton took off his, and invited Poldie to sit in the chair as he took the stool. He held out the tin; in silence they munched biscuits, looking at each other.
The door opened. “Coffee,” Cook whispered. Poldie went to get the tray with two steaming mugs, and blew her a kiss. He closed the door firmly.
“I went to the lavatory,” Poldie explained as he gave Anton a mug, “and saw Cook in the kitchen. So I asked if she could make us coffee.”
Anton held up his mug; heaving a sigh, he said, “Poldie, you always have wonderful ideas. This coffee hits the spot.” He dunked a biscuit and ate.
“Anton, Father will ask about your salary.” Poldie came to the point. “You don’t have to tell me, but he’ll want to know. In case you have to struggle, I’m sure he’ll supplement funds until you can manage.”
Anton leaned on the window sill. “I don’t have a salary,” he said, looking at the finches eaves-dropping. “But I have free lodging.” He turned to face Poldie. “Albert pays me for each article I write.”
Poldie looked at Anton dunking biscuits and relishing them. “Well,” he broke the silence, “in the beginning it will be a struggle. But Albert hired you, so he must have high hopes. You mentioned that he was impressed with your article on French authors?”
Anton nodded. “My first assignment is on the 16th with that Dutch author. Albert told me he wants me to also interview German authors in Germany! He was in awe that I have not only a Dutch literary degree but also a German degree from the University of Utrecht, a top university for languages. Father thought it was a good investment of his money, because I’m qualified to teach at a Gymnasium in Arnhem, Den Haag or Den Bosch.” Anton popped the last biscuit in his mouth, and pointed at a pile of papers on his nightstand. “As a challenge, I have been doing book reviews in bed when I can’t fall asleep. As a matter of fact, that’s what I like doing most.”
“In that case,” Poldie said, his eyes lighting up, “you can also do book reviews and submit them to Albert, or,” he chuckled, “to a rival newspaper.”
“Poldie, my dear brother,” laughing, Anton shook his head, “you always have great ideas.” He looked at the clock on the dresser. “We better get ready to join Father for breakfast.”
Cees was talking to Cook when Anton and Poldie entered the dining room. He rose, put his napkin on the table, and said that he had a busy day ahead. On the way to the hall, he told Poldie to stay until Monday morning, and that they would get together for a talk before dinner in the parlor.
Anton and Poldie stared at each other. Cook broke the silence saying they now had the house to themselves: They could start packing Anton’s belongings. Poldie put an arm around her when tears were dribbling down her cheeks. He wanted to know if she knew what Father meant by a ‘busy day’. Cook wiped her eyes. She pointed to Annastraat where the landau was waiting for Father, mentioning Hans telling her about driving Father to ‘pay visits’. Sniffling, she announced that she’d make them waffle-grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. Cook went into the kitchen.
Anton put a finger to his lips, motioning to the open door. They talked about what Anton would need to take along to Amsterdam. Hans had taken some old valises from the attic to the spare room. The two spent all morning packing. After a lunch of chicken vegetable soup with hard rolls, Anton’s favorite, they sat in the orchard making plans.
Poldie would visit him when Dina’s baby arrived late November in Laren, het Gooi. And of course Anton would celebrate his birthday at Christmas in Velp. Cook came with a carafe, glasses, and a platter with peanut fritters, saying it was too hot for drinking tea, and that Father’s rum punch was perfect for this Sunday afternoon.
Anton got up, put his arms around her, holding her tight, saying he would dearly miss his kokkie-mummy. She kissed him saying that, like the birds in the orchards, he was flying the coop; she wished him happiness, and that he would remember that Villa Amourette was his nest.
When the landau came to a halt in Annastraat Anton and Poldie got up fast and took the carafe, glasses and platter to the kitchen; asking Cook to let Anton know when Father was in the parlor ready for the talk. They rushed upstairs.
Anton leaned out his bedroom window, motioning Poldie to join him. Cees was closing the front gate. As he walked toward the front door, he looked up. All smiles, Anton waved—behind him Poldie laughed. Cees returned the wave, in his hands an envelope; then he disappeared from view. Poldie sat in the chair, hugging himself, laughing. Father, he said in-between laughs, seemed to be in a jolly good mood. Anton frowned, saying Father always had an ace up his sleeve. He, Anton, always had to be on the alert: It was like a ping-pong game between them.
Half an hour later Cook knocked softly on Anton’s door. They looked at each other, nodded, and went downstairs. Anton entered the parlor and stopped in his tracks—Poldie bumped into him. On the coffee table were a bottle of champagne and three fluted goblets. Poldie whispered “Adhoo,” poking Anton in his ribcage, “celebrating leaving the nest?” Then he gave him a shove.
Father,” Anton put his hand on Cees’s shoulder, “celebrating me leaving instead of crying out your eyes like Kokkie?”
“Anton,” Cees pointed at the bottle, “we are here to celebrate success. With a capital S!” He put his hand on Anton’s hand and squeezed it. “Son, from the moment you were born, I knew that you were special. Not only because you were born on your mother’s birthday, but because you were the only baby who gave us a big smile when entering this world. Smile, son! Keep on smiling!” Cees pointed at the bottle. “Poldie, you are the cupbearer.”
Poldie took Anton by the elbow and whispered, “Talk to Queenie while I pop the cork.”
Anton went to the cage. Queenie sat at the bottom perch near her water dish. A smile hugging his lips, he nodded and went to the window. With his back to the street, he faced the cage and began to chirp: first softly, then louder. The parrot jumped to the top perch. Anton put a nut between his lips and offered it to the bird: They were eye to eye. He put his mouth closer—the bird took the peace offering and pecked at it. When the cork popped, she began screeching Happy Birthday To You! Happy Birthday To You! Happy Birthday To You—like a mantra.
Cees laughed his belly laugh, and waved to stop the bird. Anton gave her more nuts, then put the cloth over the cage, and joined the party.
Poldie the cupbearer handed them a glass and toasted, “Happy Birthday. Keep on smiling, Anton!”
Laughter filled the parlor.
“Now, Anton,” Cees leaned back in his chair, “when your mother passed away she asked me to split her inheritance from her parents between her three sons when they would fly the coop. Tomorrow I’ll give you a bankbook with your share and the interests accumulated all these years.”
Anton slowly put his glass on the coffee table: lost for words. Teary-eyed, he looked at his father.
Waving the bottle with enthusiasm, Poldie said, “A toast to Anton’s mother!” And he filled up Anton’s glass, handing it to him.
“Yes!” Cees said with a broad smile. “Anton, your mother would be delighted knowing that you are going to be a successful literary journalist.” He held up his glass. “Here is to Pauline, your mother!”
The threesome toasted several times, blessing inheritances, until Poldie turned the bottle upside down . . .
“Anton’s flying-the-coop meal is ready,” Cook announced from the dining room. “And in honor of his mother, I’ve made her famous coconut pudding with rum sauce.”
Exclaiming “Adhoo”, all smiles, the three went to their chairs.
Cook pointed at the bottle of champagne and the vase with roses in the center of the table. “Father, a toast to Pauline, mother of my Anton!” Whispering “Adhoo”, she went into the kitchen, from where she shouted, “We will celebrate again at Christmas!”
It was Monday
Sunday night Anton had opened his bedroom window and drawn the curtain aside. He had put bread crumbs on the window sill as he used to do when he was a teenager. From his bed, Anton watched the orchard birds chasing each other defending their space. He looked at the clock.
“Fifteen minutes to remember this once more before flying the coop,” he said to the finches. He took a framed photograph from his nightstand. “George Bernard Shaw, you wrote that life isn’t about finding yourself; that life is about creating yourself.” He kissed the photo. “I shall live up to your wisdom.”
Anton watched the birds battling for the crumbs. He nodded, saying to them, “Albert told me that to sell newspapers one must write what the readers want to know. If they do not want the truth then one has to write lies to make them happy.” He sighed. “Illusion, Albert said, is the first of all pleasures.”
He got up and went to the window. The finches perched on the apple tree branches. “Flying the coop . . . what will I be. A peacock? A nightingale? A hawk?” He laughed. “How about a sly cuckoo . . .”
A knock on the door; Cook held out a mug with early morning coffee as in the old student days. He blew her a kiss.
Anton entered the kitchen, put his empty coffee mug on the table, and sat in a chair. Cook filled up the mug, and then sat across from him. She took from her apron pocket an envelope and pushed it toward him, saying, “I want you to buy a beautiful, red velvet chair, just like Father’s chair, so you can relax and think.”
Anton took the well-padded envelope. “My dear, dear, Kokkie,” he said as he counted ten, ten-guilder banknotes, “you spoil me.”
“So you don’t forget me, son,” she blurted out.
Anton got up and went to her. He pulled her up and put his arms around her. “And pretend that, like a little boy . . . I’ll sit on your lap?”
Laughing and clapping, Cees and Poldie stood at the hall door.
“Kokkie,” Poldie said, still clapping, “remembering Father as well as yourself with this gift, I call that hitting two birds with one stone. Bravo!”
Still laughing, Cees pulled up a chair and sat. “Kokkie . . . how about having breakfast here, as in the old days?”
Kokkie’s smile lit up the kitchen. She gave Anton a nudge. “Sit down, Poldie, Anton, and I’ll make a platter with bacon and eggs.” She turned to Cees. “As in the old days, you sliced the bread. Over there,” she pointed, “are the bread box and bread knife. Help yourself.” She winked at him.
Cap in hand, Hans entered the kitchen when the family was drinking their last cup of coffee. Cees told him that Anton’s valise and Poldie’s duffel bag were in the hall. They would be ready for the short drive to the station within fifteen minutes.
Cees nodded at Cook, who went to a cupboard. She took four fluted goblets and put them on the sideboard, then got a bottle of champagne. Cees popped the cork, and poured the nectar. “Let’s go outside so we can toast Anton bon voyage.”
Cees led the procession to the waiting landau, festooned with red ribbons. As they were clinking glasses, Anton and Poldie shouted, “Bottoms up!” Cook took their glasses.
Cees took from his jacket pocket a large envelope and handed it to Anton. “Son, here is your bankbook, and a letter from your mother she wrote specially for you.” Teary-eyed, but smiling, Anton embraced Father. Then he held his Kokkie and kissed her on her head, as in the old days. Poldie took his elbow and they got into the landau.
When the horses started, Hans waved his whip . . . Anton shouted, “See you at Christmas!”
Cees linked his arm with Cook—who bobbed her head while the empty goblets were tinkling their
farewell . . .
Anton and Poldie were standing on the Arnhem station platform when the train to Amsterdam pulled in.
“Anton,” Poldie said as he looked him straight in the eyes, “the letter from your mother is private. But I’m curious about your inheritance. Is it a secret?”
“For you, brother Poldie, I have no secrets.” Anton opened the envelope and took the bankbook, handing it to him. “You look. Keep it a secret. Understood?”
Poldie grinned, opening the bankbook. His lips parted and his eyes became glassy. “Holy cow,” he whispered. “It’s a small fortune.” He returned the book to Anton, who, without saying a word, put it back in the envelope.
“Tomorrow, I’ll contact a real estate agent in Amsterdam,” Poldie said. “He’ll get you swanky lodgings on the Herengracht, and Kokkie’s red chair will get a place of honor.”
Anton laughed. “You have looked into the same crystal ball as me, Poldie. That’s what I have been dreaming up last night: A swanky bachelor’s place of my own.” He put his mouth close to Poldie’s ear. “How much?”
Poldie cupped his hand and breathed, “Five thousand.”
It was Tuesday
Poldie arrived at Villa Amourette to supervise the moving company; making sure all of Anton’s belongings were counted for. When he saw the landau horses tethered in the patio, he entered the kitchen. Hans and Cook were having coffee, chatting; he waved and joined them. Cook informed him that Father was still in his bedroom. The front door bell rang. Hans got up; he returned saying that the movers had arrived. Poldie said to Cook that he would return during his lunch hour to inquire how Father was holding up. As they embraced, she said she’d make veal croquettes.
After Poldie had signed the movers’ bill of lading, he walked to the omnibus stop. He had a client on his list looking for lodgings.
When Poldie returned for his luncheon date Cook said, “Father has left for the day, Poldie. I prepared a picnic hamper for the family at Vergeet mij niet. He wanted to talk to Nico.”
She took a carafe from the sideboard. “Let’s eat in the orchard. You take the croquette platter.” She pointed at the kitchen table.
Two chairs were placed side by side at the table that had a green-and-white checked cloth. On it were two light green ceramic plates, two pale green crystal goblets, two snow-white napkins and knives and forks. In front of each plate Cook had arranged in apple-green ceramic vases red roses.
“Kokkie, you always set the table as if you expect important people!” Poldie exclaimed.
“Father,” she said—as she pulled out her chair, waving at him to sit—“wants to keep family traditions. His mother, Antoinette, had French roots. Anton was named after her.” She held up her glass. “I need a sip of rum punch so my tongue gets loose.”
He chuckled as he poured. “I like hearing confessions. Anton told me that he can’t remember much of the family past.”
She nodded, and then took a sip; she stared into the apple branches. “Anton was four years old when Pauline died. She asked me to look after him as a son.” Wiping away a tear running down her cheek, she looked at Poldie. “The family story?” She nodded. “Antoinette spent her time with needle work. Do you remember your first meal?”
“It’s engraved in my heart,” he replied, taking her hand. “My white carnations were in a beautiful crystal vase.”
“And do you remember what Father said about the tablecloth?”
He took his snow-white napkin, and unfolding it, murmured, “Something about it was his mother’s favorite?”
“It was for special occasions. Antoinette spent three years embroidering that tablecloth.” She put the napkin on her lap. “And that Father said you are special. Remember?”
“Yes!” He clapped, saying gleefully, “Now I remember! Father said,” he smiled,” that this is something to remember ‘forever’.”
“That tablecloth was a sign. Father got the message.” A smile hovered on her lips. “Anton is leaving. You are staying.” She put a croquette on her plate. “He told me that he had a wonderful time talking with you on the train, as if he had known you all his life. Poldie, Anton would never have invited you”—she snapped her fingers—“just like that! He was going to Amsterdam. His brothers are married and live in Den Haag.” She elbowed him. “Eat your croquette!” She cackled as she dug her knife into hers, saying, “Then I’ll do some more confessing.”
Poldie had a feast. While disposing of three croquettes, he mumbled, “The best I’ve ever eaten.” He winked at her. “I’ll remember forever.”
She pointed at the carafe. Grinning, he filled her glass to the top. She elbowed him, took her glass and said, “Let’s toast to cottage Vergeet mij niet; that Father’s talk with Nico will be a success.” She cackled. “Success with a capital S.”
“How’s that?” He took his glass to toast.
“Without Anton here, Father will be bored to death. So, let’s toast to Father writing to Nico about the future of Phlip.”
They clinked; all smiles.
She continued, “Anton got his mother’s way of cheerful thinking. Father adored her. And Pauline got her cheerfulness from her Italian mother. Eugenia Mafficioli del Castagna was born into a fancy family. They were educated engineers.”
Poldie pushed his chair back so he could see her better. “Was Father’s father also a military man?”
“No. Johan was a military physician. My mother was cook for his wife, Antoinette.” She took a sip. ”I was born when Father was four years old. I grew up with him because my mother was allowed to take me with her when she worked at the house.” She sighed as she put her glass on the table. “Poldie, that’s why Father and I are that close. When he married Pauline she asked me to cook for them. I asked my mother, and she gave me her blessings, even after I left her to join the family to Holland.”
“Do you miss your life in Java?” he wanted to know.
She shook her head. “I’ve become a Jonkheer; they are my family.” She took her glass. “Anton showed you his bankbook?” She sipped, looking at him intently.
“A small fortune,” he replied, sipping.
“Make sure he’ll not spend it recklessly.” She kept on sipping.
“Anton wants a swanky lodging. Hans told me that he mailed a letter to Hendrick DeBron at Herengracht 56. Nico and Hendrick are friends.” He winked. “I’ll get Anton a swanky place for your red chair.” He sipped. “A swanky place,” he nodded, “at a good price from a reliable realtor.” He sipped. “Don’t you worry, Kokkie. I’ll watch his wallet.”
“That makes my heart happy to hear.” She got up. “Poldie, son, come any time you feel like. Father and I welcome you with open arms.”
Poldie also got up. He put his arms around her. “Anton and I love you dearly.” He kissed her cheeks. “And . . . as you know,” he chuckled, “your curried potatoes, fried rice and croquettes are a way to a man’s heart and stomach.”
Hans parked the landau in front of cottage Vergeet mij niet. As Cees got out, with the help of Hans, Mieke showed up at the front door. Shouting that Father arrived, she hurried to welcome him; Dina on her heels. Mother and daughter were visibly thrilled to see him.
As Hans was taking down the hamper, Dina informed him that Nico had gone to pay Johan a visit. Cees asked Mieke to show Hans where to take the hamper for their lunch. Then he asked Dina to give him directions to Johan’s place in the village; he would return with Nico and Johan for a family picnic. Mieke wanted to come along but Dina said she was needed at home; looking after her brothers and helping her with unpacking the hamper.
As they were driving toward the village, Cees told Hans to look for a house with a large pond on Main Street. He pulled up at a large house at the edge of Laren that had a sign ‘Rooms for rent’. He blew the horn. A housemaid came to inquire if they needed lodgings. Cees said he wanted to talk with Johan the artist. She replied that he should follow her as Johan and his guest were in the garden pavilion at the pond.
When Cees showed up Nico and Johan welcomed him with cheers. The three chatted, sitting on benches with a spectacular view of the pond dotted with various species of plant-life. Nico pointed at a magnificent golden chain tree in full flower nearby, saying he had asked Phlip to paint this tree for him. [PS 45] Cees said they had to support this talented artist and that he, also, would commission paintings so that Phlip could be self-supporting. Johan was listening attentively; he interrupted their conversation, saying he wanted to sell his painting Farmhouse he had finished two weeks previously. He wanted to know if Cees was interested buying his, though Phlip was presenting him with his painting of Boerenplezier. Nico nudged Johan, saying not to worry, that he would talk to Antonia and she would exhibit his Farmhouse at her gallery.
Cees invited them for lunch at the cottage. During the trip Johan mentioned that soon he and Phlip would be painting wheat-fields; they both liked the color yellow.
When the landau pulled into the entrance to Vergeet mij niet, Mieke waved and jumped, shouting hooray! She ran up, saying she was hungry.
Cook’s picnic hamper treats were spread out on the wood table where Dina and the boys were waiting when the party joined them. Cees, Nico and Johan sat across from Dina. Mieke wanted to sit next to Father; she made faces when Nico ordered her to sit with her mother.
As they were eating, Cees proposed that Nico invite Phlip to stay with the family in Laren het Gooi once they had moved. Mieke clapped; she threw her arms around her Mooke, begging her to agree. She turned to her Faty, saying Phlip could help her watch the boys because, she pointed at her mother’s belly, their baby would arrive on Sinterklaas day.
Johan, who sat across from Mieke, held out his hand for a shake, saying he’d love to stay in contact with Phlip and his Mieke. She burst out laughing. Wagging her index finger at Cees, she reminded him that he preferred Johan’s sketch of her.
Dina spoke up: that she’d be eager having two young artists entertaining her. Nico was often absent, due to his work schedule, selling insurance policies around the country. Nico acknowledged that it would be a good idea.
Cees asked Mieke to come; he whispered in her ear to ask Hans for the bottle of punch underneath his coach seat. Eager to please him, she trotted to the front of the cottage where the landau was parked. Hans winked at her when he handed her the bottle, whispering that this was not for little girls. On her return she opened the bottle, sniffed, and took a sip. She grimaced; making sure to close the bottle securely.
Cees poured the punch in their mugs and toasted: “To Phlip and Johan, our future artists; that their paintings will adorn the walls of our Rijksmuseum!”
“Why not?” Dina said with a big smile, raising her mug.
On the way home to Villa Amourette, Cees told Hans that he wanted to make a quick stop at the farm. Phlip was in the orchard reading a newspaper when Cees joined him. Hans followed with a cushion, a bottle and two mugs. Chuckling, he left, saying his horses also needed a drink.
“Phlip,” Cees said as he poured punch in the mugs, “I’ve come with a request”; and gave him a mug. “I’ve had a talk with Nico and Dina, and they agreed to a proposition I made. In September they are moving to het Gooi, and I suggested that you stay with them and paint. Mieke loves you and can’t wait to see you again. Dina said that you two bonded.”
Phlip smiled. “True,” he said, “we have a special relationship.”
“You like children, I know,” Cees continued. “My daughter Nel has a parrot in a cage.” He took a sip, nodding at Phlip. “I want to surprise my daughter for her birthday in November with a painting of a cow.” [PS 53]
“A cow?” Phlip looked startled.
“Nel liked patting our calves when visiting the farm. We have plenty of cows you can choose from. About your fee . . . how about one hundred guilders?”
Phlip smiled. “I’ll do my best so your daughter will remember patting baby cows.”
“By the way,” Cees said, “Nico told me that you are doing the finishing touches on Boerenplezier. And that he will come with you when you deliver the painting to my house in Velp.” He got up. “Cook will prepare a delicious lunch in my orchard . . . for the three of us.”
TO BE CONTINUED
Water is the Cradle of Life
Breast Milk is the Cradle of Human Life, Cats and Dogs
THE AVIARY PALACE
Click on link to listen:
The Aviary (Bird Sanctuary) in D major
It was a July 30. The night before there had been a storm: lightning, winds, and heavy rainfall. Cook shook her head when she served Cees breakfast in the dining room, saying that the apple trees were drenched: dripping raindrops on the outdoor furniture. Father should worry about his arthritis. She poured him coffee, and as she returned the pot on the trivet she wondered if it would be a good idea to use the family heirloom tablecloth for this important luncheon. Cees smiled at her, took her hand to squeeze it, and whispered, “Adhoo”.
Cook went to the spare room. She took from a drawer Pauline’s special tablecloth and matching napkins. Now humming, she collected Mother’s wedding china: white plates with a gold border and in the center the initials: J.P.S. “Jeanne Picot Lespine,” she whispered; she got four. Then she took four crystal goblets, once belonging to Pauline’s mother Eugenia; and the cut glass vase, Antoinette’s heirloom. She looked at the ceiling, contemplating aloud, “I’ve to make up my mind. Will it be Pauline’s Javanese silverware or Mother’s made in Holland? We must honor the present.” Nodding, she said, “Adhoo. One day, Nel will inherit Pauline’s tablecloth.” She took the Dutch flatware.
Hans entered holding a large basket that he put on the kitchen table. With a chuckle in his voice, he said, “Cook, here’s your love food.”
“Don’t make fun of me, young man,” she replied, wagging a finger. “I know all about it. Men like spicy foods and women have a sweet tooth. This is a male luncheon. I’m going to serve butcher Lukas’s delicious smoked ham. And you can help peeling potatoes. I’m making my famous potato salad.” She pointed at the window sill. “The tomatoes are ripe. I’ll stuff them with spicy, diced cucumbers. Father likes those.”
“How about the sweet tooth?” Hans winked at her.
“Father likes Dutch chocolate pudding. And to make everyone happy, I’ll make my special vanilla sauce. You can be useful and peel those.” Cook pointed at the bowl with potatoes. She went to the stove and casually said, “Of course you’ll stay for a taste and then help me doing the dishes.”
Cees came down dressed in tropical khaki and went to the kitchen. He asked Hans to go to the cellar and get two bottles of white Mosel wine. Then he went to the dining room. He raised his eyebrows when he saw four place settings. As she put Antoinette’s crystal vase with red roses in the center of the table, Cook said, “Poldie is coming.” She gave him a big smile. “Hans told him about this special luncheon. You had told him that he is always welcome to eat here. So he told Hans that he was hungry.”
Looking at the place settings, Cees slowly stroked his silvery beard. Then he pointed at the white plates. “Mother’s,” he stated.
Cook put her hand on his arm and softly said, “One day . . . Nel will marry.”
Cees nodded. “Mother gave me a delightful daughter.” He put his arm around her shoulders. “Thank you for reminding me, Kokkie, . . . not to forget the present.”
She turned to enter the kitchen, saying, “I’m happy for Nel.”
“And I’m happy that Poldie is hungry,” Cees said with a big smile, adding “Adhoo!”
The clouds had lifted and the sun hesitantly shined on Velp when a cab came to a halt at Villa Amourette. Nico got out, followed by Phlip. They spoke to a person inside, who handed them a parcel.
A cab came to a halt behind the parked one and Poldie got out. He paid the coachman, and rushed up to greet Nico and Phlip. He gave a smile of recognition when he saw Johan inside the cab. Nico said that he was going to ask Cees first, but he was hoping that Johan could be included in the presentation of Phlip’s painting of Boerenplezier. Poldie held out his hand to Johan, saying the family was very hospitable, and that Cook was prepared having extra guests. Johan descended from the cab.
The horses’ braying had alerted Hans. When he saw the four men walking to the front gate he dashed into the kitchen, shouting that Johan also came. Then he rushed into the hall to welcome the party but Cees stood at the unopened door. “Hans, he whispered, “another bottle from the cellar.” And with aplomb he opened the door. “Johan,” he said warmly, “how wonderful that you decided to join us on this special day!”
Cees ushered his guests into the parlor.
Phlip, who was holding the large parcel, said, “Can I put this on the coffee table so I can say hello to Queenie?” He smiled at Cees. “Mieke told me about this bird, saying she also wants a parrot.”
Nico took hold of the parcel. He sat on a chair and, starting to unwrap the painting, he said, “Cees, I hope you don’t mind that I had it framed. If you don’t like the frame, the shop owner told me that he’ll gladly exchange.” He stood, and said to Phlip, “It’s your gift. Please present it to your host,” as he handed him Boerenplezier.
Shuffling his feet, looking uncomfortable, Phlip said, “Mr. Jonkheer, I can’t thank you enough for letting me stay at your beautiful farmhouse. And meeting Nico, Mieke, and Johan made my stay even more wonderful. Nico is an ardent pupil. Johan promised to continue giving him lessons.”
“It was my pleasure, Phlip. And I’m glad your father asked Anton.” Cees pointed to the wall above the secretary. “Put up your painting so we can admire your oeuvre.”
Phlip did as was instructed, and then went to the bird cage, whispering, “Queenie”. He turned around. “You have chosen a wonderful place for Boerenplezier.”
Cees clapped as he went to stand next to Phlip. Poldie, Nico and Johan also joined them, clapping.
“Happy Birthday To You! Happy Birthday To You!” Queenie screeched.
Laughter filled the parlor.
Poldie gave Queenie a nut; then put the cloth on the cage. Phlip whispered, “Queenie”.
A sunray entered through the window and lit up the farmhouse painting. “A wonderful memory, Phlip,” Cees said. “Thank you so much.”
The dining room doors flung wide open and Hans announced that lunch was being served.
Cees saw five place settings and his eyes opened wide. And when he saw the two crystal candlesticks with white, lit tapers that Anton had gifted him on his 55th birthday a huge smile spread over his face. “Poldie,” he said, “you are our cupbearer. Please sit on my left. Nico, please, you on my right and across from me,” he waved, “Johan and Phlip.”
When they were seated Hans brought the platter with the large ham, including carving knife and fork; Cees liked playing host. And while Cees was carving the ham, Poldie went around the table filling up the goblets with Mosel wine.
“Tomorrow, Phlip is off to Zwolle. He’ll meet his sister Emmeline,” Nico said. “Johan will keep me company during August.”
Johan said, “The wheat-fields behind your cottage are delightful for a painting session, Nico.” He elbowed Phlip. “You also like doing wheat-fields. There are plenty around Zwolle to paint.” [PS ??]
“Dutch scenes are very different from French landscapes,” Phlip replied. With a nod at Cees, he said, “I’m forever grateful that my father dared to ask Anton.” He smiled toward Nico. “And that Nico asked me to keep Mieke and her brothers company once they have moved.” He took his goblet. “May I give a toast to my two sponsors, Mr. Cornelis Jonkheer and Nicodemus Uhrbach?”
Cees lifted his goblet and toasted, “Cheers to our future Vermeer!”
Cheerfully, the guests raised their goblets.
Hans went around with the platter of ham. Cook put the potato salad and stuffed tomato dishes on the table near Cees to pass around.
As they were eating, Poldie informed them, speaking loudly for Cook’s benefit, that he was going to Amsterdam; to negotiate with a realtor about Anton’s lodgings in September. Johan was adamant that Poldie look him up. Winking at him, he mentioned they’ll visit Mieke, who, no doubt, would jump for joy. Nico laughed, saying that he got the hint, and they all were welcome.
It came as a bombshell when Cees said he was also interested going to Amsterdam and visit Mieke. The men cheered. Like a genie out of a bottle, Hans came from the kitchen and filled up the goblets. Standing behind Poldie, he murmured in a low voice that the order was ready in the parlor.
The chocolate pudding and vanilla sauce got a “standing ovation”—a handshake and thank you for Cook—from the three painters.
Cook went to Cees, saying, “Adhoo,” as she pointed to the parlor. “A gift from your sons.” Swift as a breath of air, she left.
Cees rose. “From my sons?” He laughed. “Come yea all, and let’s see the surprise.”
They followed him into the parlor.
Hans was holding a champagne bottle and Cook a fluted crystal goblet; another five as well as one more bottle were on the tray on the coffee table. Poldie nodded at Hans, who popped the cork.
“Happy Birthday To You!” Queenie screeched.
Poldie dashed to the cage, and giving her a handful of nuts, hissed, “And now quiet!”
Hans had filled up the goblets. With a smile, Poldie handed everyone theirs. He said, “Here is to happiness and success; to a new future for Anton, Phlip, Johan, and . . . Nico. Because he’ll be our future torchbearer. Cheers!”
Cook raised her goblet. “Adhoo”, she said, and drank bottoms up. Hans had a belly laugh. When Cees suggested he also have a “sip”, Hans said he preferred beer; and that after he had taken Phlip to the farm, and Johan and Nico to Laren, he and Cook would again celebrate.
In a jolly good mood after the landau with the painters had left, Cees linked arms with Poldie; thanking him for his contribution to a wonderful July 30th he would remember “forever”.
A WEEK LATER
Sporting a huge smile, Hans entered the kitchen, shouting, “Cook, a letter! Mr. Jonkheer will be in a good mood when he reads that his wife and Nel are returning soon.”
She took the letter, frowned, and weighing it in her hand, declared, “It’s an explanation letter why they are not coming soon.” Looking worried, she said, “Go to butcher Lukas. I’ll write down what kind of pork I need. Father enjoys eating soy-pork with noodles. I haven’t made it for some time. And then, Hans, I will give him the letter.”
When Hans returned from the butcher and gave her the parcel with pork he said, “I hope no one is sick?”
Cook gave a snort. “That’s news for a telegram. And Hans . . . get us beer!”
Nodding, now also looking worried, Hans left.
Murmuring—“I hope he gets the message”—Cook set the table “a la Mother”: a lemon yellow tablecloth, her white china, flatware, and the Bavarian beer mug Mother had gifted Father the previous year. “Flowers? Adhoo,” she said toward his armchair when she left for the kitchen. She took off her apron and went to the patio herb garden. Shaking her head, she crossed the street to the park where she found in a patch of grass what she was looking for: dandelions. She picked out two yellow flowers and, carefully, some puffballs. She returned to her kitchen. She put the bouquet in a yellow ceramic vase that Nel used for wildflowers that she collected when walking with Mother.
When Cees entered Villa Amourette, he often took a stroll in Larenstein Park before lunch, he smelled the aroma of soy sauce and garlic coming from the kitchen—the hall door was ajar. He snickered, saying in a low voice, “Is it food for rejoicing . . . or for soothing me?” He looked at the silver tray. No mail.
He entered the parlor and went to the bird cage. “Queenie,” he whispered, “can you tell me what’s in the air?” She chirped and came to sit in front of him. “Fiepjes! Fiepjes!” she screeched. Laughing, he gave her a nut. Then he went to his wingchair, and waited for Cook to announce that lunch was ready.
As Cees was pulling out his armchair in the dining room, Hans appeared at the kitchen door holding a letter. With a nod, Cees told him to put the letter in the parlor.
When Cook entered with the platter of soy-pork and noodles he said with a wink, “A special occasion, Kokkie?” He pointed at the vase. “It’s Nel . . . this time?”
She put her hand over her heart. “Adhoo-adhoo”, she said.
“Aha!” Cees chuckled as he was helping himself to some noodles. “A matter of the heart?” He looked into her eyes. “Puffball wishes?” She nodded. “I’ll read the letter after eating your delicious soy-pork.”
“I’ll serve your coffee and coconut cookies in the parlor,” Cook said. “We can then discuss Nel’s puffball wishes.”
He gave her a big smile as he poured beer in Mother’s Bavarian mug.
Cees told Cook that he would read the letter in the orchard. He went to the parlor, took a cigar, matches, Mother’s letter and the letter opener, mumbling, “A long explanation.” And he went to sit in his padded armchair in the shade of the apple trees.
Cees was puffing on his cigar, looking at the unopened letter on the table, when Cook came with a tray with his coffee mug, a plate of coconut cookies, and an ashtray.
“Open Mother’s letter, Kokkie,” he said softly, “and read it to me.”
“Adhoo,” she whispered, eagerly opening the letter. She waved three pages. “On both sides! Adhoo!”
“You read Mother’s story,” he said. “And then you tell me what it is all about.” He put his cigar in the ashtray. He reached for the plate. “I want to enjoy eating your cookies and drink coffee.”
Cook’s eyes were glued on Mother’s clear handwriting: portraying their stay. She mumbled Adhoo several times. Breathing deeply, she muttered, “They attend afternoon concerts. In the evenings they are invited to dinners and dances given by several embassies.” Her voice rose and, brimming with excitement, she said, “Nel has made a great impression with the daughter of the German Ambassador! Ursula is the same age as Nel. In the mornings, the girls play tennis.” Her voice sank when she said, “Or they go boating.” She looked up.
He reached for his cigar. “Go on,” he said, winking, “that’s interesting news. I can guess what’s coming next.”
Cook’s eyes, riveted on the pages, became larger and larger and she gulped, “Nel wrote you! Dearest Father . . .” She looked at Father. She handed him the page. “I think you should read it to me.”
He put down the cigar. From his coat pocket he got his reading glasses. He took the page. “Dearest, my dearest, Father. I can’t tell you in words how much I enjoy life in Den Haag. I’m like the bubbles in a champagne glass, full of life, ever since I met Ursula. She is the sister I never had. We are soul mates. We are twins! Oh Father, I am so happy! Father, Ursula suggested that I ask your permission if I can stay here. The boarding school for girls is highly recommended. Mother said that the daughters of our Dutch elite often stay for at least one year before attending a finishing school in Switzerland. Mother will give her blessings. And I hope you will too, my dearest Father. Embraces and kisses from your much loved and devoted daughter, Cornelia.” Cees laughed his belly laugh. “Kokkie, this is the first time she signs Cornelia, letting me know that she was named after me!”
Cook placed Mother’s letter on her heart. “Father,” she said, “Mother made it clear that Nel will soon be sixteen. She is very pretty. We must think of her future.” She waved the letter toward Annastraat. “Mother and I face the truth. Arnhem is not a place for husband hunting.” She winked. “Isn’t that the reason they went to Den Haag? Unsuitable admirers?”
He put the page on the table. With a sigh, he took his cigar—puffing plumes—and then said, “Mother and you must love our Nel so much to let her fly the coop this young.” He waved his cigar in the air. “Let’s look at the pros and the cons. I can’t prevent her from the treachery of men breaking the hearts of their wives when they have love affairs: the eternal triangle is like sweet and sour gherkins.”
She shrieked with laughter. “It’s not only men that like sweet and sour. Your mother-in-law had affairs!”
He raised his eyebrows. With a chuckle in his voice he said, “Don’t remind me, Kokkie! Indeed, Eugenia was famous for her flirting. Everyone adored her. She became the center of colonial life.” He took a puff. “To return to our vivacious Nel . . . I acknowledge that in an environment where culture is cultivated, she’ll learn quickly”—he took another puff—“by watching how adults interact.”
Cook nodded. “Wim and Eugene are in Den Haag and will keep an eye on their sister. And their wives,” she snorted, “will be interested visiting her so they can meet elite daughters.”
Eyes twinkling, he said, “Three children in Den Haag is a good reason for us to visit them often.”
“Adhoo-adhoo.” She took a cookie. “Father . . . I’ve . . . a suggestion.” She popped the sweet in her mouth.
He stopped puffing—and stared at her as she was chewing. Slowly he put his cigar in the ashtray. And slowly he took a cookie, gazing at her. “Kokkie . . . what’s brewing in your mind?” He put the sweet in his mouth and chewed.
She swallowed; then, looking at the front door, said, “I want to see my red chair.”
He put his hand to his neck; eyes bulging, he whispered, “We . . . go to . . . Amsterdam?”
She smiled brightly. “I’ve a family plan,” she said, still looking at the front door.
He swallowed. Clearing his throat, he said, “I’m all ears. Go ahead.”
Cook got up and took his mug. “We need some rum punch,” she said, and left for the kitchen.
“Rum punch,” he muttered. “That’s going to be interesting.” He took his cigar, and looking puzzled, started to puff . . . staring at the front door.
When Cook returned with a carafe of punch, two goblets, and two plates, he put his cigar in the ashtray and folded his hands as if in prayer.
She smiled, and gave him a wink. “Remember when we were children and got angry with each other?” She winked again. “We ate and threw food at each other.” She handed him his punch. “Fortify yourself, handsome boy!” She then sat, and sipped her punch slowly, watching him guzzle his fortifier: bottoms up!
Handsome boy sighed deeply. With a grin on his face he reached for a peanut and threw it at her. “I’m ready, little mouse!”
Holding up his goblet, and looking at the plates, handsome boy said with a chuckle in his voice, “I need more because we have also green olives . . . for making peace.”
Little mouse nodded as she filled up his goblet. “Eugenia introduced olives from her native Calabria to the gin-and-tonic troops. Because most of the time they weren’t sober. She called it the offering of peace.”
“Mousy . . . what’s the family plan?” he popped the question.
Mousy giggled. She took an olive, popped it in her mouth, and chewed. Narrowing his eyes, handsome boy watched her. When little mouse folded her hands and lifted her head toward the sky, he took a sip of punch. Their eyes met—they winked at each other.
He laughed, his belly shaking. “We are plotting again?”
“How about . . . if we are going to be the finger of fate?” she proposed.
“Sounds like fun,” he replied. “Let’s do it! Go ahead, Mousy.”
Mousy said, “I’ve been thinking: Three children in Den Haag, and the fourth in Amsterdam. Instead of celebrating Anton’s birthday here, you and Mother go to Amsterdam so the three can join for a great family happening.”
“You told me you want to see your red chair?” He eyed her intently.
Narrowing her eyes, she whispered, “Handsome boy, who is going to cook the goose?” She threw him a peanut.
Handsome boy’s jaw dropped. Then he took a peanut and threw it at her. “Mousy the plotter!” he shouted. “Our finger of fate!” And he pointed at the sky. “A family reunion in Amsterdam sounds wonderful, knowing that you’ll be cooking the goose.” He took a long sip. “I’ll pay Hendrick a visit. We’ll establish a friendship.” He got up and paced the orchard.
Little mouse gazed at the sky and said, “Laren het Gooi isn’t too far. We can pay the family a visit, admire the new baby.”
Handsome boy stopped in his track and returned to his chair. As he took his goblet, he said, “And we can pay a visit to Ava Riss gallery and meet Antonia and her son.” He smiled brightly. “I’ll ask Poldie to reserve us rooms at a nearby hotel. But you must stay with Anton as you’ll do the cooking.”
“How about if . . . I go ahead by train? Like ten days? So I get used to the neighborhood. You know, where the vendors are: the butcher; the baker?” She giggled.
“Good idea. Anton will be delighted to have you for a while all to himself. You can sit in your red chair and he can sit on your lap again.” He roared with laughter.
Little mouse threw him a peanut.
Handsome boy took two olives and got up. Mousy opened her mouth and received the peace offering. He put his between his lips—watching her chew.
They looked at each other—their eyes shining.
She then watched him eat his olive.
And then it was— “ADHOO!”
TO BE CONTINUED
Child making wishes
“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.
-Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
CENTRAAL STATION AMSTERDAM
December 1911, Amsterdam
The door bell rang. Cook opened the front door.
“Telegram for Mister Jonkheer,” the postman said, giving it to her.
Cook looked at the rain splashing in the canal. She sighed as she kept turning the telegram in her hands. Mumbling “Adhoo,” she closed the door and walked along the hallway to the back of the house. She knocked on a door and entered. “Adhoo,” she said and, waving the telegram, gave it to Anton, who was eating breakfast. “Is someone indisposed?” She went to the windows facing Keizersgracht.
“Nel in hospital. Staircase accident. Sprained ankle. Mother with Eugene. Poldie and I arrive Thursday 21. He will stay with Johan. Father.” Anton’s voice rose when he said, “Hospital! I hope Nel didn’t have a concussion.” He put the telegram on the dining table. “I suppose Father will go to Den Haag after Christmas.”
“Cancel the hotel reservation,” Cook said as she went to Anton. “Father will be in the guest room. I’ll sleep here. There’s a folding cot in the cloakroom. Now . . . about the goose . . .” She took the telegram and sat in a chair. Putting the notification on the table, her hands flattened it as she said, “Mother, Nel, Eugene, Wim, and their wives, make six.” She smiled and gave him a wink. “How about inviting the DeBron family, Antonia Riss and her son? Add Johan and it will make for a lively party.”
“Kokkie, what I’d do without you! Father will be in his element.” Anton blew her a kiss. Then he frowned, looking at her. “Get all the help in the kitchen you need. On my birthday you always sit on my left.”
“Guusje, your charwoman, and Klaas her husband will assist me. I told them they can take the leftovers home. Of course, I offered double wages. They live nearby, on Langestraat.” She giggled. “I took along my sarong and kabaya.”
Anton got up. “All settled then, as usual,” he said, clapping. “Now I’ll do my share, cancel the reservation and invite our guests. Plenty to do, Kokkie!”
It was Thursday afternoon
Anton and Johan were at the station to welcome Cees and Poldie. When they arrived at Herengracht 48, Cook stood at the open door holding two bouquets of carnations.
Klaas took the valises the coachman handed him and went up the stairs to the front door and entered. The party followed him.
“Welcome to Anton’s house,” Cook said, all smiles. Her face lit up when Cees gave her a wink as he took the red bouquet. And when Poldie put his arms around her, thanking her for the white carnations, she looked radiant.
Guusje took their overcoats and hats and put them in the cloakroom, to the left of the hallway beyond the staircase going to the upper floor.
Cook turned to Anton and announced, “Everything is ready in the drawing room. Father will be tired, so I’ll serve dinner in half an hour.”
Anton ushered Father, Poldie, and Johan into the as yet sparsely furnished salon on the right of the small foyer. An emerald-green tufted chair stood in front of the fireplace. The red chair was between the fireplace and a window. Anton took Father by his elbow and all smiles insisted he sit in “their” chair. On the other side of the chimney was a beautifully carved oak table. A bottle of champagne invited them to a cheerful welcome. Poldie popped the cork and served the bubbles. As they stood sipping at the windows admiring the view of the canal, Anton informed Father that Kokkie had insisted he stay under this roof. He had invited for their celebration the DeBron’s and Mina’s sister Francine; also Antonia, her son, and their cousin Nana. When Father showed concern for Kokkie, he said that she had helpers.
The French doors were opened by Klaas and Cook announced that dinner was ready.
Anton took Father by his arm and they entered the spacious dining room. On the right was a fire place and next to it an oak bookcase that stretched to the windows facing Keizersgracht. The room was gas-lit by two porcelain lamps on either end of the mantelpiece. The oak dining table stood vertically in the room so everyone had a view of the canal. An oak buffet, with one more porcelain lamp, stood against the wall between a window and the door to the hallway. A bottle of Father’s favorite Mosel wine was on this buffet, ready to be de-corked by Poldie. As he poured the wine in fancy colored goblets, a house-warming gift from Mother, Kokkie entered with a plate with her famous Javanese meatloaf—that she put next to Father so he could serve everyone. Then she put the plate with Brussels sprouts at one end and the plate with mashed potatoes at the other end of the table. As Father was serving portions of meatloaf she entered with a huge saucer containing her famous JUS—gravy. Father winked at her, saying this was a hearty welcome.
As they were eating, Poldie let on that he had been able to get Anton a seven-year lease for the ground floor and the first upper floor where the bedrooms were located. The third floor was occupied by a woman who had been living there for the past twenty years. She shared the lavatory/water closet and bath located underneath the staircase: between the cloakroom and the kitchen. The basement was huge and served as a larder, storage for foods; it was somewhat damp and couldn’t be used for anything else.
Wearing a large black apron, Klaas entered and cleared the table. Cees thanked him for helping out Cook, and then wondered aloud how twelve persons, he knocked, could fit at this table. Klaas said that he and Cook came to an agreement to rent an extra table and chairs as well as place-settings from a friend who operated a thriving “rental service”; mentioning that city houses were not equipped for large parties. Smiling, stroking his silvery beard, Cees thanked Klaas for helping celebrate his son’s birthday. Also smiling, Klaas nodded as he put the dessert plates, forks, and coffee cups next to Cees; and he left.
Cook entered holding a cake. With aplomb she put the plate next to Father, saying it was her famous rum cake and that he would sleep like a baby if he ate two slices.
Laughter filled the room.
Klaas came with the coffee pot. Cees pointed at the cake and told Klaas that this cake was a sleeping potion for old men like himself. Grinning, Klaas replied that Cook’s recipe would become a party special for merry-making youths, and that Guusje would sell the cake at the rental service.
The men cheered.
Cees, Anton, Poldie and Johan had a wonderful time bantering about thriving businesses.
Anton proposed to take Father to his bedroom upstairs. He held a kerosene lamp and they arrived at the second floor landing. He went along the corridor, followed by Father, and opened a door to the right. This was the dressing room: it had a wash-stand. Father’s valise was on a bench next to the oak armoire. The single window faced Herengracht.
They returned to the corridor and Anton opened the door across. They entered the as yet sparsely furnished guest-bedroom. The fire in the chimney was crackling. The curtains were dark brown velvet and closed. There were a solid oak-framed bed with a sparkling white duvet as well as a beige upholstered chair and a round oak table with a kerosene lamp.
Cook entered through the open door and announced that she was going to unpack Father’s valise and kiss him goodnight. Smiling, Cees blew her a kiss. Anton lit the lamp; and wishing him goodnight, he left. He poked his head through the open dressing room door and whispered that Kokkie should not forget the hot water bottle.
It was Sunday, the day before Christmas
Early in the morning a canal boat moored at Herengracht 48. Three sturdy men jumped out. Klaas stood at the open front door, shouting at them. Anton and Cook were behind him. As they were talking to the men, Cees joined them.
“What’s going on?” Cees wanted to know.
“The rental service people,” Klaas replied. “They are delivering the furniture.” He pointed at the boat.
“Since when do Christians work on a Sunday?” Cees inquired, raising his eyebrows.
Klaas laughed as he said, “They are Moses people.”
“Jews can work on Sundays,” Anton enlightened his father.
The three men started to unload ten beige-upholstered walnut chairs and five round walnut tables for the drawing room. Cook and Guusje supervised the placing of the furniture.
Klaas did the supervising of the unloading of a walnut dining table and eight armless walnut dining chairs. Guusje reminded her husband about the eight kerosene lamps, also rented, and the twelve place settings, flatware, platters, dessert plates, as well as two dozen goblets, a dozen dessert goblets, a dozen coffee cups, and three coffee pots with sugar and milk saucers.
Cook reminded Klaas about the two large, Persian carpets Anton had chosen to enhance the parquet floors.
Anton linked arms with Father after the men left in a jolly good mood, having received a welcome pourboire. They went to inspect the drawing room.
Cees’s face lit up when he counted aloud . . . “Twelve chairs exactly.”
Anton snickered when he said, “On Christmas we will represent the twelve apostles.”
It was Christmas day
Cook knocked on Cees’s bedroom door and entered with his breakfast tray that she put on the nightstand that Klaas had put there on Anton’s request.
As she opened the curtains she said, “Father, please stay in your room until Anton fetches you.”
“Why can’t I go into the drawing room?”
“The Moses people are here to work,” she explained, “getting the house ready for our special celebration. Flowers and house plants will be delivered to cheer up the drawing room. We’ll be very busy and you’ll be in our way.”
Cees sat up in bed. “What’s the menu?” he asked. “Will there be enough goose for all of us?”
Cook poured the coffee in his cup, saying, “Three geese. I promised Guusje and her two helpers that they can take home the leftovers.”
“Noodle soup to start the meal?” Cees asked as he slurped coffee.
“No,” she replied, “too many dishes to clear the table. We have only two men to serve the meal. So I changed the menu. No soup. With the goose I’ll serve my delicious sticky rice balls, two per person, with my famous herb sauce. And shredded stewed red cabbage with apple-cider, Mother’s favorite.”
Cees nodded. “How about my favorite . . . crunchy curried cauliflower?” he asked.
“Of course, Father!” She smiled. “I always serve them together.”
“And what’s for dessert?” Cees took a sip of coffee.
“A friend of Guusje is a professional baker and she made us three fruitcakes; one with dates, one with sultanas, and the third with Spanish citron and oranges from Seville.” She giggled.” I shall add a few drops of rum to the sultana cake.”
Cees laughed and waved his coffee spoon. “You are my girl,” he said with a wink.
“And you know what, Father . . . we’ll have my famous advocaat with the cakes.”
With glee, Cees banged his spoon on the wooden breakfast tray.
“Now . . .” Cook looked sternly at him. Wagging a finger, she said, “Remember, you stay here until Anton arrives to help you going down those treacherous stairs.”
He gave her a big smile.
Before she closed the bedroom door Cook blew him a kiss, saying, “Be a good boy and eat your breakfast!”
Anton was holding Cees by the elbow when they stood at the open door to the drawing room.
“Son,” Cees said, “this room has turned into wonderland.” Face aglow, patting Anton’s arm, he said, “Your fairies have used their magic wands.”
The curtains were drawn, and in front of the windows, giving the impression of a jungle, stood three potted exotic, feathery palms. On the mantel piece, between the two porcelain lamps, was a potted orchid—its pristine white flowers dancing in the air. Between the emerald green chair next to the fire place and the red chair was a table with a velvety, red-flowering gloxinia. The ten beige-upholstered chairs, in a horseshoe arrangement, faced the crackling fire that had a low table in front with a silver bowl with shiny green holly leaves and its red berries.
“Father, Kokkie and her helpmates created this fantasy,” Anton said as he raised his eyebrows. He ushered Father towards the open doors of the dining room.
Cees shook his head as his eyes wandered around the room. “Amazing,” was all he could say. The two tables, forming a vertical line, were draped in green damask. A red ceramic candelabrum with white candles, as yet unlit, stood at each end of the long table. The windows were festooned with chains of holly, their red berries cheering up the view of Keizersgracht. The hallway door and the bookcase were framed with more holly.
Looking straight into Anton’s eyes, Cees said, “This must have cost you a pretty penny.”
Anton laughed. “To please my father,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes. “First impressions, Father. Hendrick and Antonia must be impressed.”
Cees smiled and nodded. “Indeed, son, I agree.”
Anton guided his father to the red chair, saying, “Today, this is your throne.”
It was four in the afternoon
The first to arrive were Antonia, Anton, and Nana. As Poldie ushered them into the drawing room, Hendrick, Mina, son Wim, and Francine were welcomed by Anton.
They all knew each other, and the introduction with Cees was lively. The seven-year-old boy played hide-and-seek between the palms with Nana. Antonia, called Tonya, admired the Persian carpet between the drawing room and the dining room with Johan in attendance; he was more interested in her long black locks. Anton had a chat with young Anton, known as Tony, who had turned sixteen the week prior, and who told him that he, also, wanted to become a literary journalist. Cees was talking with Hendrick, who sat in the green chair. Mina and Francine were admiring the white orchid.
Poldie popped the champagne cork; Klaas, dressed as a waiter, went around with the goblets. A toast was made to Anton’s good health.
Wearing a flowery sarong, the traditional white kabaya, a blouse, and a sleeveless white angora vest knitted by Mother, Cook appeared—announcing that dinner was being served. Tonya clapped, shouting her approval of Cook’s attire. Everyone cheered.
All smiles, Cees rose and escorted Mina, wearing a dark green taffeta dress, to the dining room, followed by Hendrick and Tonya, in burgundy attire, Anton and Nana, in a beige velvet dress, Poldie, Francine, wearing a blue velvet skirt and white blouse, and Johan, Tony, and Wim.
The candles were lit, the goblets filled with Mosel wine, the chairs pulled out so everyone could sit and the merry-making could start.
Cook took the boy by the hand. “You sit next to me so we can talk. What’s your name?”
“Wimpie,” the boy said, holding her hand tight. “And what’s your name?”
“People who like me . . . they call me Kokkie.” She squeezed his hand. She pulled out the chair next to hers, close to the hallway, saying, “We sit here in case I have to go to the kitchen. If you don’t like a dish, let me know, and I get you something else to eat.” She sat next to him. They were facing his parents, Cees, Francine, Tonya, and Poldie. To the left of Cook were Anton and Tony; Nana and Johan sat next to Wimpie.
Cees cleared his throat and said, “Today we are celebrating Anton’s special birthday because he was born on the same day as his mother.” He nodded towards Anton sitting across from him. “Who would have thought that his trip to Paris this spring would bring us here, together celebrating?” He smiled. “Let’s celebrate this very special event with a toast to Gallery Ava Riss!” He took his goblet, raising it. “This gallery’s mission is to promote young artists. Let’s toast for Johan and Phlip, two promising painters!” Everyone toasted; enjoying drinking the excellent Mosel wine.
Two waiters entered with platters of goose meat and started serving. Nana was thrilled, saying she had eaten goose while on holiday in Bavaria, where it was a specialty. Wimpie’s nostrils flared; he made a face. He pulled at Cook’s vest and loudly asked if she had something else for him to eat. His mother looked sternly and mouthed “Wimpie!” Wimpie banged his shoe against the leg of his chair. Cook bent over and whispered in his ear to follow her. She got up. Wimpie grabbed her hand, and they left. Tony chuckled. Tonya looked at him, her hazel eyes like daggers. Poldie put his arm around her shoulder and kissed her on the cheek. Mina laughed.
Then they all laughed!
The waiters came serving the rice balls, herb sauce, and the two vegetables. As they were busy eating, Cook showed up, all smiles, and saying that Wimpie had the time of his life entertaining the kitchen crew. Anton kissed her on the cheek, whispering “Thanks, Kokkie.”
Cook looked at the guests, who were eating with gusto, and smiled.
Mina’s brown eyes glowed with pleasure when she said, “Absolutely wonderful! I never thought of eating goose. But now I will try . . . you give me the recipe, Kokkie?”
Anton elbowed Cook as he said, “Mina, Kokkie makes her famous dishes for my father to remind him of his youth, when they played together in the sandbox.”
“Kokkie, do we eat the dessert here . . . or in the salon?” Cees wanted to know.
“It’s more family-style to eat in your prettily decorated salon,” Tonya declared as she waved her dainty hand at Anton. He blew her a kiss.
“I’ll tell the help to bring the cakes to the drawing room,” Cook said as she rose. “Please make up your mind which cake you would like; date cake, sultana/rum cake, or the Spanish citron and orange cake.” Her face lit up. “I hope you can still walk after you have eaten my famous advocaat.”
Tony laughed loudly, showing off his rabbit teeth, and turned to Cook. “Don’t worry; I’ll offer my mother my arm so she can hang on.”
Cook dashed to the kitchen; laughter following her.
The silver bowl with holly in front of the fire had been demoted to a corner and a rectangular table stood in its place with the sliced cakes. Dessert plates, forks, and napkins were at one end. Coffee cups, sugar bowl, creamers, were on each table between the chairs.
Talking animatedly, the guests entered the salon. They sat down, like cats curling up on their cushions, in their previous chairs.
“Those who want the Spanish cake, hands up!” Anton said, doing the bidding. Francine, Mina, and Nana waved. He served them.
“Those for date cake, hands up!” Anton grinned.
Johan waved. He got up and helped himself.
“So,” Anton said with a chuckle, “that leaves the famous sultana/rum cake for us. Tony, please pass them their slices.”
Tony, softly snickering, brought his mother the cake. “Mother, dear, take it easy. I sneaked to the kitchen and had a dollop of that delicious advocaat.” He licked his lips. “I may need your arm to get home.”
Cees and Hendrick had a belly laugh.
“Elegantiersgracht, where Tonya lives,” Hendrick said to Cees, “is a stone’s throw from here. And our home is also nearby. We’ll manage.” He gave a deep sigh and with pleasure showing in his flushed face, ate the sultana/rum cake.
The waiters went around with the coffee pot.
“Anyone more cake?” Anton inquired.
“Would you like to take home a second helping?” Cook asked, looking at Mina and Francine.
In chorus, the guests shouted, “Yes, please, Kokkie!”
Cook had thought of everything. She left and returned with empty boxes and gave the four ladies each one, saying, “Please . . . take as much as you like. There’s more for us in the larder.”
The table was cleared and the coffee cups also taken to the kitchen when Cook stood at the entrance of the dining room.
“Here it comes,” Cook said, folding her hands as if in prayer, “my famous advocaat!” She stepped aside and the two waiters came, each holding a tray with advocaat goblets and spoons.
They clapped and cheered.
When each had their goblet and spoon, Cook, standing in front of the fire, waved her hands like a magic wand, saying, “We shall remember this evening forever.” She giggled, and looking at Anton, shouted, “Dig in!”
Roaring laughter filled the drawing room.
“Absolutely divine!” Hendrick said, his tongue swirling around his lips. “The angels are kissing me.” He sighed deeply. “Kokkie, please give my beloved Mina your recipe.”
KOKKIE’S FAMOUS ADVOCAAT
10 egg yokes
½ ts salt
1 and 1/3rd cup of very fine sugar
1 and ½ cup brandy or cognac
2 ts vanilla extract
MIX WELL, for ten minutes
Hendrick, discreetly unbuttoning the lower button of his vest, turned to Cees. “So . . . Wendesday you are leaving for Den Haag, Poldie informed me. He’s looking forward to meeting your wife and daughter.”
“Yes,” Cees said with a nod. “I wish I could stay a few more days and enjoy your company, but I’m anxious to embrace my Nel. She had a small accident and hurt her ankle.” He waved at Anton to come.
“Son, you said that Johan told you that he went to see Mieke. And that earlier this month Dina had given birth to one more boy.” His brown eyes twinkling, Cees looked at his son. “Do you think it a good idea to come again next year and pay them our respect?”
“Father, that’s a wonderful idea.” Anton smiled at him. “How about . . . the end of May? Travel will be more agreeable and the baby, by the way his name is Augustus, will be six months old.”
“Yes,” Hendrick said, his face flushed red, and not only from the excitement of meeting Cees: who had written him about Phlip and the Faun painting. “Let’s meet again in May.” His black eyebrows were raised as he nodded at Cees. “That’s settled, then.”
The two seniors looked contentedly at the women putting cake slices in their boxes, when Hendrick said, “Do you have transportation to Den Haag?”
“Klaas,” Cees replied, “made the arrangement. I’ve hired a large coach for the five of us. Kokkie has held Nel in her arms since she was a day old. And Jeanne wouldn’t know what to do without her. Kokkie will look after Nel, who is with Eugene, my older son. I’ve booked two rooms at a center city hotel for Jeanne and me and for Anton and Poldie.” Cees smiled when he said, “Nel’s best friend is Ursula, the daughter of the German ambassador Count George von und zu Steinhof. I want to pay my respects to the parents of Ursula.” He looked at Hendrick. “She may get an invitation for the summer holidays to their estate in Sauerland.”
Hendrick nodded. “We, fathers, have to make plans for our children’s future. Your Nel may meet a handsome aristocratic young man. It’s good for us to steer them in the right direction. By the way, Cees, which hotel are you staying at, so I can contact you if I hear something interesting from Mina regarding Phlip.”
“I chose Hotel des Indes because the food is excellent.” Cees smiled. “You can’t go wrong staying at this excellent establishment.” He winked.
Mina and Tonya joined them, saying it was time to go home. They went to the foyer where Guusje and Klaas were at hand to help with the overcoats and hats.
Cook stood at the open door of the drawing room watching when Wimpie came to her.
“Kokkie . . . can I come again?” He took her hands and squeezed them. “I had a great time!”
The guests stepped outside, also Poldie and Johan who were escorting Tonya and a tipsy Tony. Cees waved and shouted, “Until we meet again in May!”
Cook who was standing behind him whispered, “Adhoo! Visiting little Augustus and Mieke?”
“Hendrick, Tonya, and I will do some plotting,” Cees replied. “We are going to put Laren het Gooi on the painters map.”
Anton put his arms around Father and Kokkie. “Thanks for keeping Father busy,” he whispered in her ear.
LAREN het GOOI, NORTH HOLLAND
VILLA DE ELEGANTIER
Author Rie Cramer (1887—1977) was born in Java
Famous for her children’s books—which she also illustrated—
Rie Cramer lived for 8 years at Villa De Elegantier until her demise
Sunny, windless, outright warm, it was a glorious, late spring day when Hendrick DeBron left Herengracht 56. He walked along the canal to meet Cees and Anton at their house. Father and son were outside, watching the canal traffic. The men shook hands; and then walked to Keizersgracht. They crossed the bridge and entered the neighborhood known as the Jordaan. As they admired the leafy view, Anton mentioned that Amsterdam was the Dutch version of Venice—of course without the picturesque gondoliers.
When they came to Elegantiersgracht, Hendrick said, “Tonya lives at number sixty-nine, and next door, seventy-one, is the gallery. Adolf left her well-padded.” He chuckled as they neared the premises. “Adolf was very fond of Tony, and he left him a legacy. The boy will receive it upon his twenty-first birthday.” He shook his head. “Poor boy never met his father. I wonder if he’s still alive.”
“He’ll be seventeen in December,” Anton said. “So he’ll be independent in nineteen-sixteen. Perhaps Tonya will reveal this mystery. He told me that his last name is Terschelling.”
“What about his cousin Nana?” Cees wanted to know.
“Nana is twenty; she’s the daughter of Tonya’s older sister. Her last name is Belafonte. They were Portuguese Jews who fled the Spanish persecution and settled here.” Hendrick waved his hand towards the neighborhood.
Tony was leaning against the façade of number 71 and waved. He opened the front door so the party could enter. In the center of the front room Tonya and Mina were looking at a painting held by Tonya; Johan was putting up a painting on the wall facing the front door.
Cees joined Johan, saying, “The family is expecting us next week. Have you reserved rooms for overnight?”
“Of course,” Johan replied. “Two double rooms and two singles at Hotel Hamdorff. I’m staying at the inn Het bonte paard.” He smiled as he stroked the painting on the wall. “Mieke can’t wait to see Father. Nico and Phlip are planning his museum future.” He pointed at the painting near the front door. “That’s Phlip’s painting of a Dutch house [PS--].” He laughed. “Tonya thought it was your house in Velp.”
Cees walked up to have a good look. “I think I know the house. It’s near Dieren.” He nodded.
“Will your wife and daughter join you . . . later?” Johan inquired.
“They have been invited for the summer to Sauerland by the German ambassador. His daughter is my Nel’s best friend,” Cees replied.
Hendrick was talking with Tonya and Mina about the painting and Cees joined them.
“Who is it?” Cees asked, looking at the face of an old man.
Johan said, having followed Cees, “When Phlip is in Paris, he paints or sketches his father.” He pointed at the sketch. “I got to know him well while painting together at the apple orchard. I was hoping Poldie could also come. He’s always welcome to stay with me.”
“Summer real estate is … blooming! It was impossible for Poldie to join us. But he’ll stay with you next time,” Cees promised.
Mina laughed. “Francine is infatuated with Poldie. She’d like him to stay with us.”
“Mother,” Tony said, “I like Poldie. Can he stay with us?”
Cees laughed his belly laugh; they joined his laughter.
Anton came down the gallery stairs where two upper rooms were devoted to Dutch landscapes. He joined the group. When he heard that Poldie was in great demand as guest, he said to Hendrick, “Perhaps you can find him employment at a real estate office here?”
Hendrick raised his eyebrows. “I’ll do my best to make my sister-in-law happy,” he said with a chuckle in his voice.
Tonya gave the sketch to Tony and told him to put it in her office. Then she turned to the group, saying they should follow her. On this wonderful day they should discuss their trip to Laren het Gooi outdoors.
They followed Tonya to the back of the house. She opened the French doors and they stepped outside. The walled garden had a red-brick paved patio. There were clay pots with mauve, blue, and pink-flowering freesias. Six white wicker chairs with blue cushions were waiting for this important discussion on the future of young painters, the bread and butter of Tonya’s gallery, to commence.
“Johan,” Cees started to say—they were sitting in a circle—“reserved us rooms at Hotel Hamdorff. He told me that Nico and Phlip are planning his future. So far, Tonya has put up his painting of a Dutch house.” He smiled at Johan. “I noticed that the painting you put up was signed Josseaud. Your views of Amsterdam are superb. Tonya,” he turned to her, “I believe that Phlip should paint more French scenes. We don’t want too much competition between them. Foreigners will go for Johan’s work and the Dutch collectors will decorate their homes with Phlip’s oeuvres.”
Tonya clapped her hands. “Indeed, Johan’s scenes of Amsterdam are wonderful. I’ll let Phlip know, and advise him what the Dutch like so he doesn’t waste his time. Because time is all important for giving a showing: an exhibition of paintings for a single artist.”
“How long do you think it will take you to give him a single showing?” Hendrick wanted to know.
“Years,” Tonya replied. “Mina can testify to that.” She waved at Mina, who nodded.
“In that case,” Anton said, folding his hands, “we better start planning now.”
“How about four years from now?” Mina suggested.
“Excellent,” Cees said. “How about spring nineteen-sixteen?” He looked at Hendrick; after all, they would help financing this project.
“Perfect,” Hendrick said. “And once we have talked with Nico and Phlip, we . . .” He looked at Mina and then Tonya. “I mean, the ladies who will do all the planning and work, can tell us, men, what to expect. I’ve arranged for a small, private omnibus to take us on Wednesday to het Gooi. Klaas was very helpful,” Hendrick said with a nod at Anton. “I’ll give the details to you, Cees, on the way home.” He rose. Mina rose. On cue, Tonya rose, and Cees, Anton, and Johan followed suit.
They left the gallery talking animatedly.
June 12: Wednesday
Klaas had informed Hendrick that he would sit next to the coachman and direct him to drive along the scenic routes; having spent his childhood in het Gooi, he was the perfect guide. He had arranged for a rest-stop, an early lunch, at a friend’s inn at Wijdemeren, north of popular Loosdrecht. They then would take the much travelled road to Bussum that had a flourishing cottage rental industry catering to families from Amsterdam and Utrecht; and on to Blaricum where the Uhrbach family resided. After meeting the family, the coach would take the party to their lodgings at Laren. Johan had made a dinner reservation for eleven people at the hotel’s terrace restaurant. They would fetch Dina, Mieke, their guest, and Nico in time for dinner.
The family omnibus was decorated with chains of papier-mâché red roses and was a sure success with the party of seven. The valises were on the roof and they sat, facing each other, on the two long benches; so everyone could enjoy the vista. As they started their much anticipated trip on this sunny, breezy day, Kokkie said, as she put her hand on her heart, that she was thrilled to hold the children in her arms again. She had a wicker basket with surprise cookies that the children would like; she had decorated these with colorful funny faces.
The luncheon at the inn was beyond everyone’s expectation. Beneath a huge oak tree a table and stools invited the party to sit down and enjoy the view of ponds and canals towards what Klaas pointed out as Loosdrecht, a picturesque village. They were offered “broodje croquette”, herring with fresh onions, smoked eel, home-made cheeses, and rustic bread. Their thirst was quenched with beer served in ceramic mugs.
When the party returned to the coach, Kokkie warbled a tune as she went to her place on the bench. Anton grinned; then crooned along. Tonya entered, vocalizing her version. When everyone was seated, the coachman waved his whip, and the family omnibus left, the party singing in chorus the Dutch ditty: Sinterklaas kapoentje, gooi wat in mijn schoentje.
The innkeeper and his wife smiled broadly as they waved; she nudged him, saying it was a thank you for their cousin Klaas; he nudged her, saying the nicest reward is, indeed, money.
The coach stopped before entering Blaricum. Kokkie, holding her basket, wanted to sit near the exit. Klaas made room for Johan so he could direct the coachman to villa Uhrbach; nestled in a leafy cul-de-sac.
Kokkie waved as Mieke dashed out of the front door, followed by a squealing Nikolay, flapping his arms, and Claudius howling peepeekaka. Anton opened the coach door and as she stepped out a swarm of hands were pulling at her skirt. She bent down to receive their wet kisses. “Mieke, show me where we can sit outside so we can open this basket,” she said and handed it to the girl. All giggles, holding the basket with both hands, Mieke rushed to the rear of the house. Kokkie followed her, holding hands with the spitfire boys.
Nico and Phlip welcomed their visitors with hand-clasps and warm embraces. Mina and Tonya went to the front door where Dina stood, holding baby Augustus in her arms. Johan joined them and suggested they go to the parlor. He would get refreshments.
Mina and Tonya were cooing at the baby, swathed in a cream-colored blanket that Mina had crocheted, when the men entered. Hendrick touched the baby’s nose, saying he wanted to see him opening his eyes. But Augustus gave no reaction. Cees nodded, saying how he envied the baby for sleeping so soundly.
Johan entered with the refreshments: two bottles of champagne. Nico went to the sideboard and got the goblets. Dina and the baby sat down on the sofa; Mina next to her; and Tonya stood behind them. Nico served the ladies first and then the men. Standing, all smiles, Hendrick proposed a toast to Augustus.
The front door flung open and Mieke rushed into the parlor. “Look”—she held up in each hand a funny-face cookie—“what Kokkie made for us!”
“I want one, too,” Johan said and went to the door. “Let’s join Kokkie and her magic basket.”
Mieke gave the cookies to her mother. “These are for Augie.” And then she ran after Johan.
“Good idea. Let’s!” Tonya said; and, goblet in her hand, she went out.
Dina put the baby on the sofa and said to Mina, “Augie’s asleep. Let’s join the children.”
Clutching their goblets, and chuckling, the men followed them.
Kokkie was sitting on a low stool at the head of a rectangular table on which stood the basket. On either side of her were the boys, whining, and snatching at her hands she was holding up. Johan, standing behind them, seized the cookies.
Dead silence followed.
Nikolay turned around. His face distorted, snarling, he attacked Johan. He grabbed one of his trouser legs and bit him; kicking him as well. Before anyone could utter a sound, Claudius ran riot, screaming peepeekaka.
Tonya, fear showing in her face, dropped her goblet. Mina and Dina stood there: like frozen statues. Hendrick, Cees, and Anton dropped their jaws—taking in the scene.
Phlip ran after Claudius; holding him firmly he quickly went toward the house.
Nico got hold of Nikolay. He took the frenzied boy to the house.
Mieke jumped in Kokkie’s lap and burst into tears; sobbing she said the boys had one of their bad days.
Dina and Mina, holding hands, approached the table. Dina whispered in Kokkie’s ear that Mieke didn’t know the boys were unbalanced. Tonya joined them, her face now solemn.
In silence, and eyeing the women, the men wandered around the yard.
Nico and Phlip returned.
Nico stood behind Dina. “I apologize for the boys’ behavior,” he said, choking on his words. “They were overly excited.” He put a hand on Dina’s shoulder. “However, I confess it has taken the load off my mind that their rages are now exposed.” He looked at Mieke when he admitted, “We have consulted a physician. We were told they are simple-minded. They’ll never be able to speak properly. They will always have difficulty with social communication.”
“They have fixations,” Phlip spoke up. “Claudius is attached to his potty. He treats it as if it’s his pet.”
“Nikolay wants to be a bird,” Mieke piped up as she waved a hand at Phlip. “He flaps his arms and thinks he’s flying.” She nodded. “He wants to be a talking bird like Queenie.”
Cees went up to Nico and put an arm around him. “Nico, we feel for you and Dina and not only the burden of raising the boys. Rest assured, you can count on Anton and me in case you may need us in the future.”
Anton, Hendrick, and Johan joined them. It was the beginning of their special brotherhood.
Klaas came to remind them that it was time to leave for their lodgings in Laren.
Hotel Hamdorff was a sprawling complex offering guests and day-tourists a variety of pleasures: dancing in the moonlight and afternoon teas; entertained by a band introducing the latest foreign tunes. It had also a large exhibition center for young and upcoming painters. No doubt, this hotel was a magnet for spending a weekend vacation and a favorite destination for honeymooners.
A large, rectangular table was reserved for the DeBron party. When Nico, Dina, Phlip and Mieke arrived, the owner of the hotel, Jan Hamdorff, guided them to their table.
The head waiter offered the guests the a la carte daily menu with two choices.
Mieke, sitting next to Kokkie, whispered she preferred a sandwich. Kokkie took her hand and rose, saying to Cees they’d go to her room and chat. They left.
The nine adults ordered the roast beef special. Cees, acting host, chose the wine: a red Bordeaux.
They enjoyed eating the vegetable soup. When the plates were cleared, Tonya took her glass and said, “I want to offer a toast to June the twelfth because this is the start of my venture with Phlip, a rising star in the art world.”
They cheered and sipped Bordeaux.
Face aglow, Hendrick raised his glass toward Nico. “Cees and I are grateful that you and Dina offered your hospitality to Phlip.” He raised his glass toward Phlip. “We have great confidence in your very special talent.”
“Phlip,” Anton said, “we all agreed that you deserve a single show at Gallery Ava Riss. And we have settled for spring nineteen-sixteen!” He rose, cheerig, “To a wonderful and exciting future for Phlip!”
Johan jumped up and said “A toast to Tonya and Gallery Ava Riss!”
“A toast to Mina,” Cees said, looking at Hendrick. “Mina is Tonya’s right hand.”
Mina’s brown eyes flooded with tears when she said, “Phlip, Tonya and I will be devoted to promoting you. The show will be five stars. We promise!”
Nico looked at Phlip and nodded. He rose, glass in hand; Phlip followed suit. They faced Cees. “Phlip and I will be honored if you will sit for him,” Nico said. “He wants to paint your portrait.” [PS 166]
“Yes,” Phlip interrupted. “I’ll be honored. This portrait will become the center piece of the nineteen-sixteen exhibition. I promise.”
Tonya rose, glass in hand; they all got up, and cheered. Cees smiled and nodded.
It was Thursday
After a late buffet-style breakfast au plein air, Tonya, Cees, Anton, Mina, Hendrick and Johan decided to play tourist. Kokkie had left on foot to see the children, Klaas had told them.
Along the way, Johan pointed at the many attractive villas; villa De Elegantier could be rented. Tonya laughed, saying sometime in the future she might; it was a lucky address.
Anton pointed at a recently-build grand villa named De Wilde Zwanen; the landscapers were still busy planting flowering bushes. Johan said that a rich American couple by the name of Singer decided to settle here because they had many artist friends who frequented this artist colony. William Singer was a professional painter known for his seascapes. Johan was eager to meet him when he would next visit Mieke.
Hendrick looked at his watch, saying Klaas wanted to leave at eleven o’clock and drive to the Uhrbach family to say farewell. Klaas had another surprise for them. Before entering Amsterdam they would have a late lunch at a friend’s restaurant; a refitted windmill going by the name of Sea Serpent. The owner once was a bargeman. The restaurant was very popular year-round.
Saying goodbye was not a happy occasion. The absence of the boys was explained that they were visiting some friends.
Mieke smiled and waved her handkerchief at Kokkie when the omnibus left. There was the promise of a reunion at Christmas in Amsterdam; she had been invited!
[Flowers from Olga's garden]
Handsome boy will never forget his Mousy
We miss you,
Mother and Nel
Thank you, Kokkie, for everything,
Anton, Eugene, Willem
The boys miss you, Leopoldina
Peef-Puff-Poof Confetti Kisses from Mieke
Wednesday: December 11, 1912
Hans entered the kitchen with his basket containing the family’s breakfast staples milk, butter, eggs, and bread that he put on the kitchen table. He turned up the kerosene lamp near the stove and then hung his coachman’s winter cape and cap on the peg near the door. His eyes widened when he saw the envelope addressed to Father resting against the heirloom vase with three white lilies. He touched the flowers; they were made of fabric. He stared at the door to Kokkie’s room. His hand shook when he took the envelope. His chest heaving, trembling, he sat down at the table. Beads of perspiration started to appear on his upper lip as he took out the letter and, unfolding it, he read:
Father, I’m dying of the same disease my grandmother and mother died of, and I don’t want to suffer as they did. I want you to know that “my family life” has been my road to happiness. You are the older brother I craved.
Handsome boy, I have one wish and hope you will fulfill it. The portrait Phlip wants to paint of you: Please sit in the red chair I gave to Anton for his 25th birthday.
Handsome boy, I have lived a wonderful life being with you and the children. Anton and Nel are the apples of my eyes. I love you dearly, and say, until we meet again, as always your little mouse,
Hans put the letter on the table. Eyes brimming with tears, shoulders shaking, he collapsed, head on the table, sobbing. After a while he sat up. Drying his face, by rubbing against his jacket sleeve, he returned the letter to the envelope.
Hans rose, took the vase and the envelope, and went to Kokkie’s room where he put them on her nightstand. Looking at her peaceful face, he folded his hands, bowed his head, and mouthed a silent prayer.
Then Hans returned to the kitchen. He put the basket on the window sill, put on his cap and cape, and left the house, closing the door firmly. He drove the landau at great speed to Poldie’s place. Tears running down his cheeks, he told him about the letter, apologizing for reading it, but . . .
Poldie put his hands in front of his face and wept. “Hans,” he whispered, “let’s go. I must be there when Father reads her farewell letter.”
“Thank you, Mister Poldie.” Hans put his hands on his chest. “I wouldn’t know what to do if Mister Jonkheer comes apart. He and Kokkie have always been a span.” He wiped his eyes with the handkerchief Poldie gave him. “They whispered in the parlor. I guess they were sharing secrets.”
Poldie said with a deep sigh, “Yes. They . . . were a team. Perhaps Misses Jonkheer felt she had no say in managing her home?”
“Oh no, Mister Poldie.” Hans returned the handkerchief. “Misses Jonkheer was hard to please. Katrien who cleans upstairs cried when they had words. Kokkie would put her arms around the girl.” He swallowed; his Adam’s apple moving rapidly. “Our Kokkie was a saint. Other cooks would have left if they were insulted like Katrien.” He sniffled. “I think we should return before Mister Jonkheer comes down for breakfast.”
Mother sat at the kitchen table holding with both hands the envelope addressed to Father. With a nod of her head she took out the letter. She pulled her candlestick closer. When she read Kokkie’s request about the portrait, she pressed her lips. “God forbid,” she mumbled. She returned the letter. “Not if I can help it. Never!” And taking the envelope, she held it above the candle; the edge crackled—puffs of smoke rising.
In a rush, Poldie threw open the kitchen door, followed by Hans.
“Mother!” Poldie shouted as he dashed to Kokkie’s room.
In the wink of an eye, Mother dropped the smoking envelope on the floor and with her slipper swept it under the table. She drew the collar of her house-robe closer around her neck and said, “Kokkie’s dead.”
“Misses Jonkheer, shall I make coffee?” Hans took the breakfast basket, putting it on the table.
“Where’s the letter?” Poldie asked, returning to the kitchen.
Hans pointed to the kitchen floor behind Mother.
Mother rose. And looking at Hans, she said, “Go to the agency and tell Mister Jansen to send us an experienced cook, starting tomorrow.” She turned, and went to the hall door to leave where she collided with Cees in his house-robe. “Kokkie’s dead”, she said in a matter-fact-voice. His eyes widened and his mouth opened; it was as if she had slapped him in his face. Without saying more, she swept past her husband.
Cees stood, stiff as a rod, at the door. Poldie held up the envelope. Hans was at the stove making coffee.
“She wrote a letter?” Cees said in a choking voice.
“The letter is addressed to Father.” Poldie pulled out a chair for him as he sat down.
Cees joined him, saying, “The edge is burned.”
“I found the letter on her nightstand,” Hans said. “I believe she wanted to burn it but changed her mind.” He brought the coffee pot to the table. “I saw she was departed, and I thought to tell Mister Poldie so he could be here to give you comfort.” He took coffee mugs from the sideboard and poured the coffee; then brought the sugar bowl and milk jug. “I’m now going to Mister Jansen because Misses Jonkheer needs a cook, starting tomorrow, she said.”
“Hans,” Poldie said, “tell Doctor de Wit that Kokkie died. He must come.”
With a wave of his hand and a nod, Hans went out the kitchen door.
Cees rose and went into Kokkie’s room.
Poldie folded his hands and stared at the envelope.
When Cees finally returned, eyes brimming with tears, he sat down. Poldie got a tea towel that he put on the table; Cees nodded. He read the letter aloud for Poldie’s benefit. When he read, handsome boy, I have one wish, he broke down and sobbed. Poldie put his arm around his shoulder and squeezed him, whispering if he should continue. Cees nodded. So Poldie went on reading aloud while Cees wiped his tears with the tea towel. When Poldie read, as always your little mouse, Mousy, Cees cleared his throat and said, “The wishes of our dearly departed must be fulfilled.”
“What disease did her mother die of?” Poldie wanted to know.
“Stomach troubles,” Cees said. “That’s why,”—he broke off to wipe his eyes—“I wondered. I had noticed that lately her sauces were very mild. I asked Mother to ask Kokkie if she needed to see a physician.”
“I knew she was dying. She told me,” Mother said, standing at the hall door. “Cornelis, I want to talk to you in private.”
“About what . . . Jeanne?” He looked at his wife. “Poldie is like a son, a brother of Anton. We can trust him.”
“If . . . you say so, Cornelis.” Jeanne entered, and sat across the table. She poured herself coffee. “I agree that a dearly departed wish must be fulfilled,” she said. “However . . . Cornelis, I want your portrait done here, in the red chair that my aunt Saskia gave us as a wedding present.”
Cornelis closed his eyes. With both hands he tugged at his silvery-streaked beard. His Adam’s apple moved rapidly. He then grabbed his large ears and squeezed them until they turned red. His chest heaving, he opened his eyes, and said in a low voice, “My red line, Jeanne, is . . . over my dead body.” He turned to Poldie. “Come with me to the parlor for instructions.” And he rose, pulling up Poldie by the arm.
Cees sat in the red chair. Queenie shrieked.
Poldie went to the window sill, took the cloth, and covered the birdcage. He sat in Anton’s chair, took his notepad and pencil, and said, “I’m ready, Father.”
“Please send Anton a telegram to come immediately; and messages to Nico, Hendrick, and Tonya that the Christmas party is cancelled; and that a letter will follow to explain everything. Mother will be obstinate and disagreeable for a while, but I’ll sugarcoat my decision with a promise that Nel can go with Ursula to a finishing school in Switzerland.” Cees eyed the notepad. “You know, Poldie, revenge is a dish best eaten cold.”
Poldie laughed. “Strategy is your forte, Father!”
“That’s how I survived, son,” Cees said with a sigh. “I learned this while in the military. I knew a monk from a Buddhist colony south of Semarang, where I was born and served our country, and he told me that I will not be punished for my anger, but I will be punished by my anger.” He nodded when he said, “I made a mental note when he said that . . . as a soldier, I should take into account that the tongue, like a sharp knife, kills without drawing blood.”
Poldie waved his notepad. “Speaking of tongues, my father liked quoting Jeremiah.”
Cees raised his eyebrows, saying, “Jeremiah, the prophet of doom and gloom?”
Poldie snickered. “Jeremiah nine: They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; my father’s take on priests and politicians.”
“Adam and Eve lied to God,” Cees said with a glint in his eyes. “We still pay the price. Write down what Anton told me.”
Poldie grinned and waved his pencil.
“Anton said,”—Cees pointed to the notepad—“that Horace wrote that the pen is the tongue of the mind.”
Poldie burst out laughing. “Is that why Anton likes writing for a newspaper? So everyone reads his thoughts?”
Cees put his hands on his ears. “Now, Poldie, please write the letter explaining what happened here. Do your best, son. And tell Anton to put an obituary in his newspaper immediately. I’ll discuss with him . . .” He took his handkerchief and wiped his face. “We’ll discuss this as soon as Anton arrives.” Cees put his hands in front of his face.
Poldie rose, and with a nod, he went to the kitchen to wait for the doctor. He and Anton would need a death certificate so they could arrange her funeral.
When Anton arrived the next day in Velp he went to see Poldie first. They embraced and wept; reminiscing about Kokkie and her big heart. Then Anton showed him a copy of Het Laatste Nieuws with the obituary. He said, “Hendrick is inquiring about real estate positions for you. Poldie, you don’t want to be connected as yet with our name. So I thought it smarter mentioning your sister and Mieke instead. Also, Phlip is their house guest. Tonya will put copies of the obit on the table in her gallery to catch the eyes of customers, telling them that Father and Hendrick are sponsoring his show in nineteen sixteen.”
“Of course, Anton; I understand. By the way, Mother and Father are grinding an ax about Kokkie’s red chair in your house. I’ll tell you all about it on our way.” Poldie took Anton’s overnight valise. “It’s time to weep with Father.”
Cees sat, eyes and nostrils red from grieving, in front of the fireplace when Anton opened the parlor door softly. He looked at an old man warming his hands. Anton sneaked toward the birdcage to cover it. Queenie screeched! Cees turned around slowly, to look at the door.
“Father,” Anton said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Cees took Anton’s hand, tugging at it, as he whispered, ‘Son, I need you.”
Anton went on his knees next to him. He put an arm around Father’s shoulder, and put his head in his lap. After a while, the sobbing came to an end.
“Son, I feel rootless without Kokkie,” Cees said, blowing his nose. “She was my past,” he wailed. “I have no siblings to remind me. I no longer have a past!” Wheezing, he looked at Anton. “Mother doesn’t understand.” His shoulders shook.
“Poldie told me how it happened, Father. We will take care of everything.” He stroked his head. “Let’s go upstairs to my room and you can relax on my bed.”
Cees rose. “I like that, son. I need peace and quiet.”
The funeral was held on Monday, the 16th at the new Baptist church. The pastor hadn’t known Kokkie, so the sermon was short. Cees’s eyes lit up when several business owners: the butcher; the baker; the grocer supplying the family with exotic sultanas and other delicacies, and even delivery personnel, had gathered at the graveside ceremony. He asked Hans to invite them to the local inn for a beer and sausages. He also thanked Hans for having Poldie come to comfort him.
The family had a meal at restaurant De Schimmel. In the afternoon Cees, Anton and Poldie had a discussion in the parlor about the future. Cees, Mother, and Anton would celebrate Christmas in Den Haag with Nel, Willem, and Eugene. Poldie decided to visit his family in Blaricum.
The scheduled meeting at Gallery Ava Riss was now to take place in February 1913.
Olga’s red chair [PS 2013]
February 15, 1913
It was three in the afternoon.
At Gallery Ava Riss, Tony and Nana were putting up a table and chairs for the gathering discussing the exhibition of Phlip Goudsmit in the spring of 1916. Tony put two low kerosene lamps in the center of the table. Instead of a tablecloth, Nana put Tonya’s favorite cherry-red table mats bordered in black and matching napkins on the table; Tony mentioning that his mother liked exotic settings. Raising his eyebrows, and grinning, he put pink sheets of paper and a pencil on his mother’s placemat at the head of the table. Then he put a card with Phlip’s name on her left; then the card for Anton on his placemat; next Tony; then Mina and Cees. Opposite of his mother was to sit Nico. Tony went on to put Poldie’s card on Nico’s left; then Johan; Nana, and Hendrick on his mother’s right. Nana put a black-and-white cushion on Cees’s chair; saying with a chuckle that old people deserved to be molly-cuddled.
Tonya and the housekeeper entered holding trays with snacks and went into the office. Tonya looked at the jugs of beer and bottles of Cees’s favorite white wine on a shelf. She told the housekeeper to return at four to serve the food and beverages; Tony would assist her.
Then Tonya joined Nana and Tony in the backroom; they were warming their hands in front of the fireplace. She thanked them for helping her; she asked Tony to make sure the French doors to the patio were locked, and to close the curtains.
She took Nana by the elbow and ushered her to the front room, instructing her to be attentive to Johan because she needed him at this exhibition; he was very good at putting up the paintings.
Hendrick and Mina and their guests, Nico and Phlip, arrived first; on their heels Johan and Poldie. Tony and Nana took their coats and hats to the office. Tonya asked them to sit at their designated seats.
Everyone stood when Cees and Anton entered the gallery. Tonya went to greet them; Tony and Nana took their coats and hats. Tonya guided Cees to his chair, and showed Anton his seat.
Then Tonya sat down. She folded her hands and said, as she bowed her head, “Let’s say a silent prayer for Kokkie.” When she said, “Amen,” everyone unfolded their hands.
Wiping his eyes with a handkerchief, Cees said, “Tonya, Kokkie has a wish about the portrait Phlip wants to paint of me . . . and I want to fulfill her wish.”
“Of course, Cees.” Tonya turned to Phlip. “I’m sure you agree?”
Phlip nodded as he said, “Yes.” He turned to Cees. “And Kokkie’s wish is?”
Cees looked at Nico when he said, “Kokkie liked the red chair in our parlor. So she decided to get Anton one for his house here.”
“A handsome chair, indeed,” Mina said as she put her hand on Cees’s arm.
“I remember the red chair in your parlor when I put up my painting of Boerenerf [PS 38]”, Phlip said. “Tonya, you would like the velvet curtains, an attractive shade of salmon.”
“Yes, Phlip.” Cees smiled. “Well . . . Kokkie wants you to paint me sitting in Anton’s red chair.” He put his hand on Nico’s arm and squeezed it.
Poldie clapped his hands, saying, “Great idea!”
“Wonderful!” Tonya nodded at Tony. “Let’s celebrate this portrait.”
On his way to the office, Tony waved at Nana; she got up and joined him.
The party was cheerful: The red chair was toasted; everyone saying thanks to Kokkie for her wish.
The housekeeper cleared the table.
“Let’s start talking about Phlip’s exhibition three years from now,” Tonya said, holding up her pencil ready to take notes. “I need your ideas.” She smiled at Hendrick.
“I suggest,” Hendrick said, “that Nico gives the au courant.” He looked at Phlip. “Johan told me that you and Nico have been planning.”
Poldie clapped his hands; Anton and Tony joined him clapping, and cheering, “Tell us!”
Tonya laughed. “Very well,” she said.
Nico nodded at Tonya sitting across the table and admitted, “We made plans for his greater future.” He looked at Mina. “You and Dina are Tonya’s fairies and will manage everything to do with the exciting exhibition.” He turned to Cees. “We were thinking of Phlip’s paintings getting the attention of internationally known museums.” All smiles, he looked at Phlip.”We have big plans.”
Tonya pointed her pencil at Phlip, saying, “Our present plan is the nineteen-sixteen exhibition. I suggest we settle for your finest forty-five paintings. Do you agree, Nico?”
“Tonya, I endorse your proposal.” Hendrick nodded at Nico.
“And I, also approve,” Cees said, looking at Nico.
“Amen.” Anton waved his hand at Nico.
“In that case, Nico,” Phlip said, smiling at Tonya, “I’ll leave next month for France and start painting more oeuvres.”
Tonya put her pencil on the pink sheets, and with a laugh, said, “Our meeting is adjourned until we hear from Phlip.” She put a hand on his arm. “You’ll write us how you are doing?”
“Tonya, we’ve already been corresponding for some time,” Johan said. “I’ll keep you au courant.”
Nana and Tony went to the office and got the coats and hats.
“I’ve important news.” Cees looked at Hendrick. “Anton will go to Germany and interview Bertha von Suttner. You know that she received the first Nobel Peace Prize eight years ago?”
Hendrick’s face lit up. “If I remember correctly, she wrote a book with the title Die Waffen nieder.”
“Yes.” Anton nodded. “Albert Heyn, my boss at Het Laatste Nieuws, is eager to print my interview with this famous author, who is against wars, sometime late summer.”
It was September 1913
Johan rushed to the gallery; he had received a letter from Phlip detailing the paintings that were ready for his exhibition. Tonya, Hendrick and Mina were chatting in the patio and welcomed him with cheers.
“I have great news!” Johan shouted, waving the letter. “Phlip wants me to come to Paris!” Face aglow, he sat next to Tonya. “He has ten canvases ready with French scenes.” Visibly excited, tapping the letter on his knee, he said, “And he wants me to bring them here!”
Tonya said, “These ten will be the starter for his exhibition.” She nodded. “Cees pledged his Boerenerf and the cow painting. For myself, I reserved the Dutch house; making it thirteen paintings.”
“Dina has promised Zuiderzee and the three with sailboats,” Mina said, looking at Tonya. She turned to her husband. “We’ll submit the Place de Clichy and Place Pigalle; if you agree, Hendrick?”
Hendrick nodded. “So far, nineteen canvases.” He smiled at Tonya. “And the portrait of Cees in Anton’s red chair [PS 166] will make it twenty.”
Johan gave Tonya the letter, saying, “This is for your archives.”
Tonya clutched the letter to her bosom. “We need twenty-five more paintings,” she said with a deep sigh. “Mina, please ask Dina to remind Phlip.”
“I’ll suggest that Mieke writes to Phlip that she misses him terribly,” Mina replied with a chuckle, “that he must come soon.”
Johan applauded. “Tonya,” he said, “do I have your approval to get the paintings?”
“Go next month,” Tonya said. “And, Mina, Mieke’s note should arrive when they are together, so that you, Johan,”—she turned to him—“can fan the fire of affection.”
“Using a little girl as bait?” Hendrick muttered, winking at Mina. He stood, and held out his hand for his wife.
Tonya escorted the couple to the front door; Johan followed like a puppy waiting for a treat.
It was the end of October when Phlip and Johan arrived in Amsterdam with the ten paintings.
At Gallery Ava Riss
It was afternoon.
Tonya, Tony and Nana were in the back room. Tony was busy putting four kerosene lanterns on the mantel-piece of the unlit fireplace. Tonya and Nana were putting nine chairs in a row across from the fireplace. Then the three set up an easel in front of the fireplace for the unveiling of the French paintings; stacked in the corner near the front room.
Standing at the window, they talked about Phlip’s upcoming exhibition. Tonya drew the curtains, muttering she hated rain and was looking forward to sun-filled French scenes. When the doorbell rang, Tonya went to the entrance to invite the guests inside. The housekeeper stood at the coat-stand, in the center of the room, to receive their raincoats and hats. The fireplace was aglow with crackling coal.
Tonya ushered Nico, Anton, Hendrick and Mina as well as Johan and Phlip to the back room. Tony and Nana welcomed the party with smiles and embraces. As they sat down, Nana was saying that she loved everything French and couldn’t wait to celebrate the success of these paintings with a clinking of champagne glasses.
Pointing at the canvases, Tonya asked Phlip to talk about each painting. With a nod, Phlip took one and put it on the easel.
“I was staying at a farm, helping out with chores,” Phlip said. “On my day off I painted this typical Village Street.”
Nana clapped her hands.
Tony went to the easel. “So peaceful,” he said, “people will be soothed, contemplating this scene.” He took the painting down so Phlip could put up his next oeuvre.
“This is Place de la Concorde,” Phlip explained.
Hendrick and Mina applauded.
“Another one of your magnificent conversation pieces,” Anton declared, clapping.
Nico said, “No problem selling this one.”
“Very popular scene,” Tonya acknowledged with a nod.
Tony said, “Next one!”
“Everybody likes sunflowers,” Phlip said; he put the painting on the easel.
Shouting their approval, they all applauded.
With a big grin on his face, Tony removed the painting, saying to Phlip, “Don’t let us down. We want another clapper!”
Phlip returned Tony’s grin, and, eyes brimming with glee, he put a canvas on the easel, announcing, “Bouquet de Fleurs!”
“French flowers!” Nana exclaimed. “I’d love to have this painting for myself. We don’t have these flowers in Holland.”
Phlip nodded at Tony, who obligingly took down the painting, ready for the next one.
“Nana,” Phlip said, as he put the painting up, “how about my Yellow Irises?”
“You are exceptionally good at painting flowers, Phlip. People will like putting them on their walls.” Tonya spoke before Nana could say anything. “Concentrate on painting Dutch flowers for your exhibition.”
“Yes!” Nana exclaimed. And, putting her hand on Nico’s arm, squeezing him, she said, “Tell Mieke to encourage him.”
“Don’t worry, Nana,” Mina said, “I’ll tell Dina. She’s very good at arranging flowers in unusual, ceramic vases.”
Nico laughed. “Yes. Dina’s favorite hobby is growing flowers.”
“Next one!” Tonya nodded at Tony.
“This one I call Paysage,” Phlip said with a nod at Tonya. “Very French scene, do you agree?”
Tonya clapped as she said, “Bravo, Phlip!”
Phlip nodded at Tony. As he put the next painting on the easel, he said, “This one Mieke will like. It’s a Circus Scene. I loved painting it, thinking of her. I made another one.”
Nana and Nico clapped.
Johan went to the easel, saying with a nod, “So cheerful! I wish I’d have had the opportunity to paint circus life.”
“I took my neighbor’s little boy to the circus. He was thrilled. So I decided to paint this scene.” Phlip nodded toward Mina and Hendrick. “Your son will also like it.”
Mina smiled, her chocolate brown eyes gleaming. “We’ll buy this one for his bedroom. You agree . . . Hendrick?”
“Indeed!” Hendrick beamed. “It will cheer Wimpie first thing in the morning.” He turned to Tonya. “We’ll take the painting home and give it to him at Sinterklaas.” He then looked at Phlip, who stood, open-mouthed, with the painting in his hands. “And next year, you’ll do his portrait.” Hendrick took Mina’s hand in his hands. “This will be a present for your special birthday, dearest wife.”
Tony took the circus painting from Phlip and put it aside. Then he went to the corner and got a canvas, putting it on the easel.
“This one is Girl in a barge,” Phlip said. “I thought the girl was floating on the water like in a dream.”
Tony clapped softly. “I go for this one,” he whispered. “I like to dream.” He took the painting and put it near the window.
“This,” Phlip said, as he put the next painting on the easel, “is called Bord de Seine.”
“Lovely scene,” Tonya said. “It will sell well in our country of canals.” She pointed at the last canvas.
Phlip put the painting on the easel and said, with an apologetic smile, “Old Church, Tonya. Just an old church at Ramboullet.”
Anton applauded, saying, “Thank you, Phlip, for showing us your oeuvres. Next year, when you’ll return with more French scenes, we’ll have another show.” He turned to Tonya. “And you and Johan will start getting the exhibition on the map.” He laughed. “I mean . . . on your walls.” He joined Nico and Hendrick talking with Nana, who said, “Let’s have a toast in the front room.” She took Anton by the elbow.
When the party was assembled at the fireplace, Tony and Nana gave them a glass of bubbles and they clinked. Nana said to Nico, “Here’s to your plans for Phlip: That they may be fruitful.” She winked, and putting a hand on his arm, whispered, “Isn’t Phlip your protégé?”
Nico laughed. “Ask Mieke.” He winked. “Dina encourages the relationship.”
Hendrick and Tonya, who had gone into the office, reappeared. With a nod and a big grin, Tony handed Mina the wrapped circus painting.
The couple waved at Phlip, and they left the gallery.
Nico said to Tonya, “The other circus painting is for Mieke. I’ll buy it.” He turned to Nana. “If Mieke hears that Wimpie got from his parents for Sinterklaas a circus painting, she’ll cry her eyes out.” He raised his champagne glass. “So . . . Mieke shall have her circus painting also at Sinterklaas.” He turned to Tony. “Please wrap it up real fancy, with lots of red ribbons. Next month, I’ll collect the parcel in time for the saints’ celebration.”
It was early May 1914
Carrying five wrapped parcel, Philip and Johan entered Gallery Ava Riss. Tonya rushed up to welcome them. Looking very pleased, she asked them to unwrap the paintings in the backroom. She went into the office and told tony to get refreshments from a nearby Cafe'.
Watching Phlip putting a painting on the every-ready easel, Tonya said, “Flowers?”
“You wanted more flowers!” Phlip said with a wide grin. “This one is a Ginger jar with country flowers.”
“Ooh!” Tonya whispered. “Just gorgeous.”
“And this one I like,” Johan said, giving Phlip a painting, “Sunflowers and pansies.”
Phlip took a canvas and put it up. “I painted these from December until February. This is a Still Life of green apples.”
“Everyone likes apples,” Johan said with a chuckle. “Dutch people like fruit paintings for their dining room.”
“My neighbor’s wife had on the kitchen window sill a vase with anemones,” Phlip said as he put a painting on the easel.
“Wonderful!” someone shouted. Poldie entered the back room. They embraced him.
Standing in front of the anemone painting, they admired the velvety flowers.
“These are Dina’s favorite. She never had enough vases,” Poldie snickered.
“Brilliant colors,” Tonya acknowledged. She pointed at the last painting.
Obligingly, Johan put it on the easel.
“My neighbor’s little girl,” Phlip explained.
“You like little girls?” Tonya asked with a glee in her hazel eyes.
Phlip nodded. “I have three sisters.”
Tony entered the gallery, shouting, “I got us hot tea with rum and sugar cookies!”
As they stood drinking the laced tea from large mugs Nico entered; followed by Nana who was wiping her eyes with a handkerchief.
Poldie rushed to his brother-in-law and put an arm around his shoulder. “Our dear little Augustus,” he said in a hushed voice, “has departed for heaven.”
His lips trembling, Phlip joined Nico and Poldie. “I’m so sorry,” he said in a muffled voice. “How’s Mieke doing?”
“She’s sobbing like an overflowing brook,” Nico replied, barely audible. “And Dina is adding her tears.” He reached for Poldie’s mug and drank.
Phlip turned to Johan. “I’ll get my valise and go with Nico to help Dina with the two boys.”
“Thank you, Phlip, for your offer,” Nico said, returning the mug to Poldie, “but it is better we grieve alone as a family. We’ll manage.” He turned to Tonya. “I just wanted to inform you that for the next two weeks I’ll not be at your disposal.” He put up his hand, turned, and left.
Poldie gave his mug to Tony, and with a wave of his hand, followed Nico.
Nana sniffled, saying, “Little children become little angels.”
“Let’s go to the patio,” Tonya said, “and discuss what to do.”
They sat in a circle.
Tonya addressed Phlip: “I suggest that you start painting Wimpie’s portrait. Knowing Mina, she’ll prefer you set up your easel here . . . not in her salon.” In high spirits, she added, “And you can entertain us with narrating about your winter in Paris: about the people you met that may influence your work . . . sooner or later.”
“Mother,” Tony said, “at our Café I met Willem Dooijewaard. He just returned from Sumatra with exotic paintings.”
“Very talented young man,” Tonya said with a nod towards Phlip. “Last year I sold one of his oeuvres.”
Phlip said, “As a matter of fact, I met Co Breman at the studio of Seurat, the celebrated pointillist. And, imagine, I discovered that Co was also born in Zwolle.”
“How exciting,” Nana breathed, twirling her handkerchief. “I met at a Theosophist meeting a painter who also uses dots.”
“That must be Ferdinand Nibbrig,” Tonya said. “I heard via the grapevine that he’s quite ill and went to Laren to die.” She turned to Phlip. “When you visit the family you may look up my dear old friend Ferdinand. We used to argue about styles of painting.”
Johan rose, saying, “Tonya, until Phlip goes to Blaricum, we’ll be very busy. I’ll see to everything, like schedules, with Tony’s help.”
Tonya escorted the duo; closing the front door firmly. Then she returned to the patio where Tony and Nana were in deep conversation. She wanted to know what they were talking about.
Tony sat next to his cousin, put an arm around her, and said, “Nana was telling me about that Theosophist meeting Ferdinand also attended.”
Phlip let Tonya know that he wasn’t happy when he heard that Mina was going to escort Wimpie to his portrait sittings. So Tonya decided that they would be absent; and hunt for paintings by as yet unknown artists at flea markets.
At Gallery Ava Riss
Ten days later
Phlip said to Wimpie, “ Relax, boy. Be yourself. If you do, then you have to come back only once; for the final touches.”
“Wimpie,” Johan said, “can I also get your face on paper?”
Wimpie gave them a huge smile.
Nana and Tony entered the back room and sat on stools. “Can we watch?” she asked.
“If you tell me a story,” Wimpie whispered, not moving his eyes.
“Have you heard,” Nana said, “that Mieke’s little brother went to heaven?”
“He died,” Wimpie breathed.
“Well,” Nana said, “little children go to heaven and become little angels.”
The boy’s eyes were wide open when he said, “Please, tell about little angels.”
“I met a man who told me,” Nana said, “that baby angels have nannies taking care of them in heaven. They teach them how to walk and talk.”
Pointing his brush at Nana, Phlip said, “I’d like meeting that man. When El Greco was in Toledo, he painted scenes with famous people going up in clouds toward heaven.” He looked at Wimpie. “Nana will continue her story after Johan and I have finished for today.” He waved his brush toward the front room.
Nana took Tony by the elbow, saying, “We’ll be back!” And with peals of laughter, they left.
When Nana and Tony returned to the gallery, Johan had just left with Wimpie. They went looking for Phlip; he was in the patio, enjoying some sunshine.
“Tell me about that meeting where you also met Ferdinand Nibbrig,” Phlip said, holding a notepad and pencil. “Tonya wants me to get in touch with Ferdinand next month when I’m in Blaricum. I want to be prepared asking pertinent questions.”
Nana sat across from Phlip, gesturing to Tony to sit next to him. “So . . . as you should know, Phlip,” she said, “my deceased father was a Jew and I was raised in a Jewish community here in the Jordaan.” She nodded at Phlip. “My mother and Tonya are sisters. My mother is very progressive and she often attended Jewish meetings where they discussed the Kabbalah, a kind of esoteric language based on the Jewish alphabet.
“Well, one day, I met at a café a young man from The Hague. He was reading an interesting journal called the Theosophist, and we got talking. The subject was so interesting that when he asked me if I would like to join him to a meeting, I accepted.” She got up. “I’ll get something to drink.”
“Stay, Nana, I’ll get us some Mosel,” Tony said.
Tony returned with a tray with wine glasses; and as they were sipping, he said, “Nana, do you recall his name? I’d like to get in touch with him.”
“Sure! Friso de Jongh.” Nana laughed. “And I was so thrilled to see Ferdinand; I had once met him at the gallery. Tonya liked him.”
Phlip held his pencil in the air to get Nana’s attention. “What does Theosophy mean?”
“Theosophy means divine wisdom,” Nana said with a giggle. “Theosophists preach that there is no religion higher than truth. They embrace the brotherhood of all men.” She added with relish, “And women. They acknowledge that there are special people who can transmit messages from beyond the grave. I liked the idea that they believe in reincarnation.”
Phlip looked up from his notepad. “Do you know when this society was founded, and where, and by whom?”
“The Theosophical Society was founded in New York City in 1875 by a mystery woman called Helena Blavatsky. She was, I believe, Russian, and by an American, Colonel Henry Olcott. Thomas Edison was an early convert. And the Irish poet Yeats was an ardent admirer of Helena.” Giggling, Nana added, “She wrote their manifesto called The Secret Doctrine.”
“Now, about your baby angels,” Phlip said, “do Theosophists preach that angel nannies take care of them in heaven?”
Nana’s eyes sparkled when she gushed, “That’s what other spiritualists preach. Friso told me that not only Theosophists believe in an afterlife, where people continue to live as on earth, but there’s a small community in The Hague who gave him a book about heaven and hell written by a Swedish mystic. And that book tells you what to expect when you enter heaven or hell.” She drank wine and held out her glass; asking Tony for a topper.
“Very interesting stuff,” Phlip said, closing his notepad. “Tony, when you get in contact with Friso, ask him if we can buy a copy of that book on heaven and hell.”
“With pleasure,” Tony replied. He looked at Nana. “We have an appointment with Wimpie! He also wants to know about baby angels.”
Nana rose; full of beans, she took her cousin by the hand, and together they sprinted to the front room. “Success with your interview with Ferdinand!” she shouted.
It was June
Phlip and Johan arrived in Laren where they lodged at Het bonte paard. Johan explained that for this important interview they had to concentrate; and the Uhrbach family situation wasn’t conducive to peace and quiet.
They entered the gallery “Larensche Kunsthandel”. The owner, Jan Hamdorff, welcomed Johan with a hearty slap on his shoulder. When he heard that Phlip wanted to interview Ferdinand Nibbrig about his membership in the Theosophical Society, he informed them that the ailing artist was convalescing at the villa of William Singer, the well-known painter who wasn’t expected to be in Laren until sometime in July. He offered to walk over to De Wilde Zwanen and ask Ferdinand. They should return after lunch to find out if the old artist was willing to talk.
Jan greeted them with a big smile and said, “Ferdinand accepts; and I’ll join to learn about this religion. I’m curious.”
The three walked to the villa where Ferdinand sat in a chaise-longue on the terrace. Jan introduced them. The housekeeper offered beer.
“Fire away!” the old artist said, smiling from ear to ear.
“First, Tonya Riss asked me to give you her most sincere greetings,” Phlip started saying. “She told me that you two had wonderful debates on styles. She was impressed that you adopted Seurat’s pointillism.”
“Variety is the spice of life,” Ferdinand said with a nod towards Jan. “This gallery owner likes experiments and has exhibited my oeuvres.”
Johan clapped his hands.
Phlip said, “Tonya’s niece, Nana, told me that Theosophy embraces or rather includes all religions. That Theosophy is to become ‘One Great World Religion’. However, she couldn’t tell me much about how and why this movement became so popular.”
“I understand,” Ferdinand said, “from my talks with Johan van Manen, who was my tutor and later became very much involved with the society in India, that it was a reaction against Darwin’s theory of evolution.” He slowly sipped beer; so Phlip could write it down.
“It all began in Vermont, America, where Helena Blavatsky and Henry Olcott attended what in those days was called a ‘spook shop.’” Ferdinand chuckled. “Moving chairs; things flying through the room; voices and messages from the dead, you name it. These spiritualist evenings were popular; very entertaining.” He sighed. “So, Helena and Henry set up shop in his apartment in New York City, preaching about ‘divine wisdom’. She wrote a book that became a hit; the title is Isis Unveiled.” He barely could keep from smiling. “She also wrote The Key to Theosophy; about reincarnation that she considered an evolutionary process. But because the media became intrusive, they decided to move to Bombay, India. And two years later, they went to Madras. That’s where they spent most of their time.”
Ferdinand put his hands on his chest, closing his eyes. Then he continued.
“Helena became very sick and left by steamer for London; where she wrote another book, The Secret Doctrine, which was welcomed with fanfare.” He opened his eyes. “She died during the eighteen-ninety-one influenza epidemic.”
“I understand,” Phlip said, looking at his Amsterdam notes, “that in those days Henry Olcott joined Helena. He continued living in India?”
“Yes.” The artist nodded. “He died in Madras some years ago. Well . . . there was a very influential woman named Annie Besant. She took over Helena’s work with the assistance of Charles Leadbeater who had been a London pupil of Helena. The society ousted him because he advocated that, to relieve anxiety, the boys should masturbate.”
Jan and Johan split their sides, laughing.
“Please continue,” Phlip said; his pencil shook.
“Masturbation was considered immoral. However, being an excellent speaker, Charles gathered crowds. He discovered our young, dreamy Messiah . . . known as Krishnamurti.”
“I’ve heard his name mentioned here in Laren by some young Dutch artists,” Jan said.
Ferdinand put his hands over his eyes. “Phlip, write down the basics of this religious society. First: brotherhood of all men. Second: they study other religions for wisdom, also general philosophy, and modern science. They are all inclusive. Third: they are eager to investigate unexplained phenomena, cosmic nature, as well as human nature. In one word,”—he removed his hands—“we are curious. We are open to travel unexplained . . . new territories.”
Jan rose, nodded at Phlip and Johan, saying, “Thank you, Ferdinand, for enlightening our visions.”
Ferdinand nodded, closed his eyes, and waved. . .
Albert Heyn went to Herengracht 48. Moving his lips, visibly agitated, he rang the door bell. Anton answered and let his superior inside.
“Anton,” Albert said as they entered the salon, “Bertha died this Sunday!” He sat in the red chair. “I want you to go to Vienna and attend her funeral. And write a follow-up on the article you wrote about her last year.”
Anton offered Albert a cognac. In a hushed voice, Albert said, “Thanks, Anton.”
The two sipped. Anton watched his superior. Albert’s face was flushed.
Then Albert said, “And while you are in Vienna, write an article on the famous Lipizzaner horses.” He took a deep breath. “And then go to Trieste. And write about Miramar, that fairy-tale castle. In April the German Emperor was guest of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The castle has a curse, I heard. Hopefully, it has a ghost. Create a good story, Anton.” Albert rose, putting the cognac sniffer on the side table.
“Tomorrow I’ll be on my way to Vienna,” Anton said as he escorted his superior to the front door.
HET LAATSTE NIEUWS
Yesterday, Friday, July 24, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie SHOT DEAD in Sarajevo, Serbia! The royal couple, riding in an open carriage, was assassinated by Gavrilo Princip; by Anton Jonkheer from Trieste, Gulf of Venice. Page 2.
HET LAATSTE NIEUWS
Special evening edition
Tuesday, July 28
WAR DECLARED ! Emperor Wilhelm has given Austria-Hungary unconditional support by declaring war on Serbia! Our Anton Jonkheer will report from Berlin about the details. Page 2.
Phlip was having a cup of coffee at Het bonte paard when he read in Het Laatste Nieuws that Germany had declared war on France. He jumped up and in haste walked to villa Uhrbach.
Red-faced, eyes shining, Phlip told Nico and Dina that if he returned to France, he would be recruited in the French army; and his father would worry that he may die. Dina put an arm around him and, looking at her husband, she said he could stay with the family. He was born in Zwolle! He was Dutch! She asked Nico to get in touch with her brother. Poldie had contacts with the Amsterdam gendarme; their father was a police constable!
Poldie and Johan showed up waving newspapers, shouting that their country had opted to be neutral. They were thrilled that Anton would be covering the war for his newspaper. Nico said he would write Cees; making sure the family was not forgotten.
Everyone in Laren was talking about the important Treaty of London: The British Empire and its colonies, the Russian Empire, as well as Italy, Japan and the United States of America had joined forces with France AGAINST Germany and its colonies, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman Empire.
Nico received a letter from his employers; letting him know that due to the war next door the company was closing its doors: They no longer would issue insurances. He stared at the envelope. Dina and Mieke entered the sitting room. The nine-year-old girl rushed to her father, threw her arms around him, and said in his ear, “Faty . . . Moeke will have a baby next year.”
Nico put the letter inside the envelope, gave it to his daughter, and said in a calm voice, “Give this letter to your mother. Moeke, please go outside and read this.” Dina’s eyes widened and she opened her mouth to say something, but Nico put a finger to his lips.
As ordered, Dina went to the backyard and sat on a bench. Her hands shook when she took the letter from the envelope. Her eyes filled with tears and her lips trembled while reading.
Nico approached Dina. He sat opposite her and said, “We’ll make do, Moeke. I have some savings. Our lease ends this year. I’ll ask Poldie to look for an affordable apartment in Amsterdam.”
Hand in hand, Mieke and Phlip strolled up and in silence sat next to Nico.
Dina, heaving, pressed the letter against her bosom and said, “Exciting news, Mieke!” She smiled at Nico. “We are moving to Amsterdam!”
“Yes.” Nico put his arm around the girl. “My employers want me in the office every day.”
Dina interrupted, “Uncle Poldie is getting us an apartment near Johan.”
“Can I play with Wimpie?” Mieke got up and sat next to her mother.
Phlip clapped his hands. “You and Wimpie,” he said, “will make mischief and his parents will blame us.” He turned to Nico. “”I’m sure Johan will put me up until Poldie gets me lodgings.”
“No, Phlip,” Dina said, “we need you. I can’t manage the boys by myself.”
“That’s a done deal,” Nico said with a smile as he put his hand on Phlip’s shoulder.
Poldie, Johan, Phlip, Nico and Dina were in the sitting room of villa Uhrbach.
“I’ve found a furnished apartment belonging to a family stationed in Java,” Poldie said; on his knees were a folder and a notepad. “They decided to stay until the war is over as sea travel is treacherous in these circumstances.” He took from the folder a letter. “They asked me to lease the apartment because they believe this will secure their property from being occupied by refugees.” He tapped his pencil on the letter. “They are most eager that I find a reliable, Dutch family.” Poldie smiled. “”Dina, Nico, this bijou apartment is in the Jordaan, near the gallery.”
Phlip broked into a smile; he put up his thumb at Johan.
Dina had put her hands in front of her face; her shoulders were shaking when she uttered, “Thank heaven.”
“Poldie, I knew we could count on you!” Nico crossed his arms. “What’s the yearly rent?”
Poldie smiled. “I’ll tell them that my sister, her husband and three children would like to move in, and if they can stay rent free.”
Dina jumped up: putting her arms around her brother, kissing his head, she said between tears, “Poldie, love, you have rescued us.”
Nico joined his wife and squeezed Poldie’s shoulder.
Johan appeared with a bottle of champagne, saying, “We must celebrate this move to Amsterdam,” and popped the cork. Phlip helped filling the goblets.
“Here’s to AMSTERDAM!” Johan and Phlip cheered.
Poldie, Nico and Dina joined them, shouting, “AMSTERDAM!”
As Poldie sat down, he said, “Anton wrote and asked for my help. Arnhem is too close to the German border. He thinks it’s wise that Father move to The Hague. He wants me to rent for him a villa near his brothers.” He sipped; then continued: “He wants me to lease Villa Amourette, furnished, to a rich Belgian refugee.” All smiles, he said, “It so happens that a real estate colleague in Brussels contacted me. A certain Belgian aristocrat, a family of two adults and three children, is looking for a villa in the country side.”
Poldie took his folder and removed a sheet of paper. “This is the letter from Brussels stating that the aristocrat is delighted renting Villa Amourette; especially since Boerenerf is included in the lease. His children like animals; and that milk, eggs and produce are available year round. The family’s cook will join them. He’s also pleased that Hans and the carriage are at his disposal.”
Poldie looked up. “Hans can’t do it alone, so I have involved Klaas and Guusje. The house must be presentable. The men will do the logistics. Hans will take Father, Mother and Nel in the landau to The Hague. Guusje will cook for the men until the Belgians arrive. She’ll make sure the pantry has enough food for a week, and welcome them by putting vases with flowers in the rooms.”
“And when will this exchange happen?” Nico wanted to know.
“In April,” Poldie replied, waving the letter.
Buckwheat Field. Laren in Background
by Ferdinand Nibbrig
Miramar castle, Trieste, Gulf of Venice
Peace Palace: Peace through Justice
The Hague, the Netherlands: The International city of peace and justice
The building of the Peace Palace was funded by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation
The Peace Palace is the principal judicial court of the United Nations [UN]
established 1945 in San Francisco with headquarters in NYC
It was April 1915
Tonya gave a party at the gallery for family and friends to celebrate the arrival of the baby girl. Nana and Phlip had taken turns looking after the unruly Uhrbach boys and in gratitude the parents decided to honor them by naming their newborn PHINA—short for Philippa Nanette. Johan popped the corks. Poldie offered a toast to niece “Phientje”; in the arms of her proud sister Mieke with Wimpie at her side.
Anton had a camera, borrowed from the newspaper’s photographer, and took a picture of the threesome. Then Phlip and Nana, now holding the infant, were immortalized. Anton took a photograph of Nico and Dina with their Phina, flanked by Hendrick and Mina. Next, everyone cheering, he took a photo of Johan, Poldie, Tonya and Tony, holding their goblets, standing behind Cees sitting in a chair. Nico asked Anton if he could take a photo of him and his father; Cees in the chair with Anton standing behind him—hands on his shoulders.
Wimpie and Tony were eager to hold the camera; Anton explaining that every newspaper had to print photographs of important events for the sake of history. He told Tony, who wanted to become an art critic, to read extensively and then investigate the background of his chosen subject. Then Anton joined his father. Cees was telling Phlip that he had met at a café in The Hague the painter Isaac Israels, who had told him that Jan Hamdorff’s gallery in Laren was well-known with young painters abroad. Anton reminded Phlip to familiarize himself with inspirational literature and current composers that were on everyone’s tongue. Tonya joined them. They decided that Phlip was to paint Cees’s portrait the end of the month when Klaas and Guusje had returned. The couple would look after Cees as Anton had to return to Berlin.
Phlip entered Gallery Ava Riss. Tonya was in the backroom looking at a painting on the easel. He joined her, saying, “Tonya, I need for my portrait a large canvas and wonder if you can spare me one.”
Laughing, Tonya walked toward the front room. “It so happens,” she said, “that Tony found a large one in our attic.” She opened the door to her office. “He thinks it’s perfect for Cees’s portrait. It’s three-and-a-half feet wide and four-and-a-half feet long; ideal for our formidable sponsor in Anton’s red chair.” Tonya chortled. “Kokkie’s wish fulfilled. Have a look!”
Phlip entered. When he spotted the canvas leaning against the wall, he smiled, turned around, and embraced Tonya. “I thank you and Tony,” he said, “for making it possible that this portrait will be the center of my exhibition.”
“Tony said, or rather he promised, that ”—Tonya nodded—“ he’ll make sure to laude this portrait, so art collectors will want to come.”
Now all smiles, Phlip took the canvas, but Tonya held out her hands as she said, “Klaas will deliver it and the easel to Herengracht forty-eight. Tomorrow, Cees arrives, and Anton will depart for Berlin. We’ll go together to welcome Cees and say adieu to Anton.”
It was May
Standing at the windows of Herengracht 48, with Phlip at his side, Cees eyed the easel on which stood his portrait. “Your idea of painting the background salmon was a stroke of genius,” he noted with a nod. “The red chair, I in black and my silvery-streaked beard are so vibrant that we come alive!”
“I remembered the beautiful salmon-colored curtains in your villa,” Phlip said as he went to the easel. “And your idea of holding your bible, showing off your hands, and focusing your eyes on it, gives this painting serenity.”
A commotion in the hallway interrupted their conversation—they tilted their heads toward the door.
“Father,”—Mieke entered, her mother on her heels—“Phlip said I could come to see your portrait!” Mieke and Dina went to the easel.
“You must look at the portrait from over here,” Phlip said, beckoning.
They stood at the windows. Mieke chortled. “The color of your curtains, Father!”
“Clever girl,” Cees said, putting an arm around her.
Wiggling a finger, Mieke turned to Phlip. “You forgot Queenie!”
Cees and Phlip looked at each other. Then a slow grin spread on Phlip’s face. He went to his palette, took a brush, and in a flash painted on the left top of the canvas a small yellow bird. “Voila!” he said, waving the brush. “Here’s your Queenie!”
Cees clapped his hands, and blew Mieke a kiss. “Great idea,” he said. “What would we do without our talking bird?” He smiled. “She’s with Nel now. Upon my return, I’ll tell Queenie that thanks to you she has been immortalized with me.” He turned to Dina. “Please invite everyone at the gallery for a celebration preview of my portrait.”
It was November
Tonya received a letter from Jan Hamdorff announcing the demise in October of Ferdinand Nibbrig, the Theosophist painter. And that he was coming to Amsterdam for the Sinterklaas event and would pay her his respects.
In anticipation of Jan’s arrival, he was the talk of every young artist for the lavish exhibitions at his gallery in Laren, Tonya put up in the back room several canvases by Phlip.
And so she welcomed Jan with open arms when he entered the gallery the day after Sinterklaas. They sat in chairs in the front room near the fireplace and chatted about exhibitions.
“Jan,” Tonya said, “I’m sponsoring Phlip Goudsmit, a young French painter of Dutch origin, and I want your opinion about some of his oeuvres.”
“I met Phlip and Johan,” Jan said. “We had a talk with Ferdinand at De Wilde Zwanen.” He rose. “Let me look at his oeuvres.”
Tonya led him to the back room. Three kerosene lamps on the fireplace’s mantel piece lit up the wall on which Tonya had put up three flower paintings, a landscape, and two marine paintings. On the easel in front of the fireplace was Wimpie’s portrait.
With a smile on his face, pointing at the easel, Jan said, “Excellent likeness of Wimpie, Mina DeBron’s son.”
“I had no idea you knew the boy!” Tonya said as she linked arms with Jan.
“Johan often came with Mina to my gallery; tutoring her.” Jan squeezed Tonya’s arm. “Once, the boy came along.” With a sigh, Jan said as he smiled, “A mischievous boy. Mina had her hands full.” He looked attentively at the portrait. “Phlip caught him in a pensive mood, but I recognized him instantly. Well done, Tonya.”
“Nana, my niece,” Tonya said, steering him to the left of the easel, “adores, just adores, his flower paintings.”
“Artful arrangements,” Jan acknowledged. “The ceramic vases are unique, and apropos for putting on the walls of informal living quarters.” He frowned. “His style is adapted Vincent with a stroke of Manet. But . . . this genre is unsuitable for townhouse salons.”
Tonya took Jan to the scene oeuvres, saying, “I prefer his seascapes, not on many French painters’ repertoire.”
“Well . . .” Jan said, stroking his chin, “our country has water everywhere.” He laughed, and poked his finger at the sailing boat scene. “We can’t escape water!” He looked Tonya in the eyes. “Has he done an Amsterdam canal scene?”
“That’s Johan’s territory,” Tonya replied. “We don’t want rivalry in this genre. They are best friends.”
Jan nodded. “Now . . . this wheat field . . . where was it painted?”
“He wrote down Overijsel,” Tonya said. “I guess . . . it can be anywhere.”
Jan nodded. “I’m not impressed. Phlip has talent but . . . a few more years . . . and he’ll make it.” He took Tonya by the elbow and they went to the front room.
Tony appeared with two goblets of bubbles, saying, “Here’s to Phlip’s April exhibition!”
“An exhibition!” Jan exclaimed. “Are you serious, Tonya? We are in the midst of a war!”
“It has been in the making since nineteen-thirteen,” Tonya said. “The sponsors are Cornelis Jonkheer and Mina’s husband Hendrick.”
Jan sat in a chair, goblet in hand, and stared at Tonya and Tony. “Do you know that we already have food shortages?” He took a sip from his goblet. ”This winter will be crucial. My suppliers told me that when spring arrives, we may have no bread left. I worry about my restaurant.” He took another sip. “Opening an exhibition without offering canapés is a disaster in the making, Tonya.” Jan looked at her as he shook his head. “Refugees are crossing our borders and they have to eat as well.” Jan sipped; his eyes were on Tony. “How many art connoisseurs have you invited for the opening?”
Tony looked at his mother. Tonya shook her head, saying, “We haven’t finished the list, Jan.”
“I can tell you, offhand,” Jan said, “that nobody from London will come because crossing the Channel is dangerous. And I doubt the Scandinavian countries will; after all, Tonya, we are in the midst of a bloody war! Soldiers and civilians are being slaughtered!” He shook his head. “Right now, Tonya, Dutch art collectors are unwilling to part with their money. And if the art critics mention no canapés, Phlip’s lot is sealed.”
“We have no problem offering champagne,” Tony said. “Our cellar is well-stocked. And Klaas has a friend who owns a barge and gets luxury beverages from Belgium.”
“People want food,” Jan declared, “especially under these circumstances.” His face was serious when he said, “Tonya, I suggest you postpone this exhibition.”
“No way,” Tony said before his mother could open her mouth.
As Jan had predicted, food shortages were on everybody’s mind. Every month, Hans sent by train care packages with flour, potatoes, cabbages, ceramic pots with butter and occasionally, eggs or a chicken, to the Jonkheer family in The Hague and Dina and her children in Amsterdam. He was in contact with Poldie and Johan.
The end of March there were rumors that the British would land in Zeeland to protect the harbor of Antwerp; trade with the African colonies had to be safeguarded. Smuggling was rampant—overnight black-marketeering grew like mushrooms—everyone wanted to make a quick fortune. The rumors of an invasion, meaning being drawn into this war, made everyone edgy; and the exhibition would have been in jeopardy. But Tonya and Tony were determined to open the show in April as planned. A friend of Johan, who worked in the publishing world, had printed the catalogue with photographs of some of the paintings. Anton had secured a front page announcement of the exhibition at Het Laatste Nieuws. Mother and son had made a concession to limit the duration to two weeks; starting Monday, April 10th.
Cees arrived three days before the opening—he wanted to see the Uhrbachs, Phlip and Johan, and embrace his beloved Poldie; they would meet at Herengracht 48. Nana would look after the boys and Phina so that Nico, Dina and Mieke could enjoy his company.
Klaas had been able to get two fat chickens that Guusje served for the late luncheon. Poldie poured the Mosel. The conversation was of course about the exhibition. Mieke, who sat next to Cees, told him, in a loud voice, that a portrait of hers was also in the show, and she hoped that they would be next to each other, so that Queenie could see her. Johan clapped his hands, and said he would ask Tony to grant her this favor. The girl blew him a kiss. Cees chuckled.
In the late afternoon, Hendrick and Mina came to see Cees. Poldie played host. Guusje had baked cookies, served with tea from the East Indies that Cees had stashed away secretly in The Hague. They had a jolly good time. When they parted, Hendrick embraced Cees, telling him that the joint venture of sponsoring Phlip had made them best friends. Poldie whispered amen to that; he had benefitted by securing a great real estate position.
Monday, April 10--April 23
GALLERY AVA RISS
Exhibition: paintings by Phlip Goudsmit
Tonya locked the door of her gallery. Tears flooded her eyes when she went to the easel, in front of the unlit fireplace, on which stood Phlip’s oeuvre, Cees’s portrait; next to it on a smaller easel was Mieke’s portrait. She grimaced, took a handkerchief from her jacket pocket and wiped her eyes dry. Only two art critics from competing newspapers had come. Tony had shown them around, mentioning Phlip’s studio in Paris; and that Phlip had met Picasso who had encouraged him to develop his own style of painting. Tony’s glowing review was already delivered at Het Laatste Nieuws. The critics had a glass of bubbles and then left. All afternoon the door had been open; some folk had stepped inside for a quick look but then left. “No canapés,” she whispered, “Jan was right. I should have postponed the show.”
Tonya went to the back room. She folded her hands as if in prayer.
Cees, Hendrick, Phlip, Johan, Nico, Tony, Mina, Dina, Nana, and Mieke, who had assisted as “enthusiastic” art lovers to the opening, looked at her.
“Johan,” Nico said, “pop the corks! Tony, serve the bubbles so I can laude our Tonya properly.”
They clapped their hands as they smiled.
And when everyone had a goblet, including Mieke, who had insisted giving a toast as well, Nico said, “Here’s to Tonya, who so valiantly, against all odds, managed with Mina,”—he raised his goblet at Mina—“this terrific exhibition. I propose reopening next spring, when the war is over!”
“When there’s plenty to eat again!” Mieke shouted. She turned to Cees, and raising her goblet, said, “And you bring Queenie in her cage and she’ll chirp Happy Birthday!”
“I’ll drink to that!” Phlip said. He went to Tonya. “I can’t thank you enough for insisting showing my art works.” He bent over and kissed her cheek.
“Here’s to next spring!” they all shouted.
IT WAS THE YEAR 1917
IT WAS THE YEAR 1918
THE SPANISH FLU
To Be Continued
THE FATHER OF MICROBIOLOGY
Antonie van Leeuwenhoek
OUR DEARLY DEPARTED
Soldiers from the front on leave brought the flu to Amsterdam. Within a week Tonya and Hendrick succumbed.
At Gallery Ava Riss, Tony, Nana, Mina and Wimpie were grieving when Poldie and Johan joined them.
“We have to make a decision,” Poldie said, “about the future of the forty-five paintings by Phlip that Tonya stored on the top floor.” He looked at Tony. “Has your mother made a testament?”
Tony sniffed and blew his nose with the handkerchief Nana had offered him. “Yes. The gallery is now mine, but,”—he took a deep breath—“Mother wrote in her will that Mina must manage it. And,”—he took Mina’s hand—“I insist that you and Wimpie move in with me.” Tony took another sniff. “Nana, your mother needs you, especially now that her beloved sister is no longer with us.”
“Tony, shall I look after the paintings?” Johan said, nudging Mina.
Poldie rose. He put his hand on Johan’s shoulder, saying, “You stay here. I’ll go and talk with Nico and Phlip about this arrangement.”
When Poldie rang the doorbell of the Uhrbach residence his sister Dina opened the door and with a flourish threw her arms around his neck, shouting, “Poldie, darling, Nico got a position at the Amsterdamsche Bank!”
Smiling from ear to ear, Poldie lifted her, and, feet kicking, carried her into the living room where Nico and Phlip were celebrating. Nico acknowledged that he had obtained this wonderful position at the accounting department because the manager and his assistant had died of the flu. Phlip popped the cork; standing they cheered the family’s good fortune.
Poldie raised his goblet. “Let’s sit,” he said. “I have wonderful news about the gallery and Phlip’s future. Tony has inherited the gallery and . . . Mina will manage it. Cheers!” He drank. “And . . . Tony wants Mina and Wimpie to move in with him.”
“Phlip,” Nico said, “we are indebted to Tony and Mina for keeping the gallery open. You already painted Wimpie, how about a portrait of Tony?”
“Good idea!” Dina said, clapping her hands.
“Nico, may I suggest,” Poldie said, “that Dina and the children move back to Laren where the air isn’t contaminated?” He nodded at his sister. “I know of a suitable rental.” He looked at Nico. “Phlip can help Dina with the boys, and . . . he can start painting again.” Poldie smiled. “You can stay until I hear from the owners in Java.”
November 11, 1918
It was the end of the Great War and also the day that Cees had died in The Hague of the flu. Anton returned for the funeral of his father; attended by Nico and Poldie.
The winter of 1918-1919 was extremely cold as well as the saddest because not only millions of soldiers had died by then, but civilians had now also perished—due to hunger and the flu.
In Laren, Dina, Phlip, Mieke and the boys gathered in the kitchen at the stove that provided warmth. It was too cold for Phlip to paint outdoors so he did interiors: Dina bathing Claudius, and a typical Dutch living room; to keep Mieke from getting bored he sketched her many times. Hans continued sending food parcels; including a note that he had married Anneke.
At Gallery Ava Riss, Mina and Johan were busy selecting paintings for the reopening by the end of May. Tony decided to invite Friso the Jongh of The Hague to stay with him for a week as he wanted to learn more about angels. He consulted Phlip, who would lodge with Johan, and Nana regarding a suitable date.
So Friso arrived on June 19th, the last day of spring.
Nana, Johan, and Phlip had assembled in the parlor of the living quarters next to the gallery to welcome Friso, a slim man in his late twenties, ushered in by Tony. Sipping Mosel, they chatted about summer vacation plans. Then Tony suggested that they meet again for angel talk on the 22nd; Mina would prepare dinner. Nana said she was going to a flea market the next day and asked Friso if he would like to join her. Friso accepted with enthusiasm, saying he collected fans, and that perhaps he could find an unusual one.
Nana and Friso were strolling around Amsterdam, going from market to market, when a tall, dark-haired man approached them. Kasper Piper was also from The Hague and knew Friso from Theosophy meetings. Nana informed him that she was looking for unusual fans; whereupon Kasper told her that he had seen a small, white feather fan in a shop window two canals away. Animated, the party went in search. When Friso saw the fan, he fell head over heels in love with this precious item; he embraced Kasper. They left the shop in great spirits. Nana, having linked arms with Kasper, invited him to join them at the gallery for a sip of Mosel.
When they entered the gallery Tony and Phlip were looking at a marine scene on the easel in front of the fireplace. Mieke rushed out of the office and flung herself at Nana, shouting that Moeke had asked Phlip to paint her on her 16th birthday; it was Moeke’s gift because for girls, 16th birthdays are very special.
All smiles, Nana guided the two men to the patio. Tony was passing the goblets with Mosel when Mieke entered, waving the white feather fan. She went to Nana and asked if she could have it. Friso rose and took the fan, telling her it was his. Nana scolded the girl for opening the parcel without first asking. Mieke’s lower lip trembled; she became teary-eyed, saying she was sorry. Phlip put his arm around her. Mieke looked at Friso and said that she’d like to borrow the fan for her portrait on her 16th birthday. Friso went to Mieke and gave her the fan, saying that indeed for a girl this was a very special day and it was his gift to her: she could keep it.
Mieke looked at Friso . . . she seemed lost for words. Then her face lit up, and saying: Thank you!, she threw her arms around him. She held the fan over her face; giggling, she removed it, saying: Peek-a-boo!
The adults laughed and clapped their hands.
It was Sunday, June 22nd
Afternoon at the gallery
When Phlip, Mieke and Johan entered the gallery Wimpie greeted them, saying that Tony and Nana and the guests from The Hague were in the patio drinking tea. He took Mieke by the hand and whispered that the grown-ups would talk about angel nannies.
Half an hour later, Tony rose and said, “Let’s go inside. Our neighbors have large ears. I don’t want them to eavesdrop.”
Nana put up chairs around the table in the center of the back room and two stools for the children. When everyone was seated, Friso said, “We are fortunate having Kasper here to explain about a mystic religion that his brother Daniel attends.”
Kasper smiled. “My brother became interested because so many soldiers have perished in this war and later the flu. He wanted to know more about heaven where, according to the Bible, we go once we are dead. And this religion explains it; they published a book about heaven and hell, our future life.”
“What exactly is meant by heaven?” Johan wanted to know.
“Heaven is the name for the inhabitants called angels,” Kasper said with a nod. “They, the angels, constitute heaven. And, as according to the Bible, we were created in the image of God, angels also have bodies like him; they are from the human race.”
“Nana,” Wimpie spoke up, “you promised to tell me about angel babies and their nannies.”
“Oooh,” Mieke cooed, “angel babies?”
“Yes.” Kasper smiled. “Babies are human beings and also enter heaven. But because they are helpless, they need assistance. Nana, the word nanny is incorrect: They are called nurses. These babies don’t change into adults so nurses teach them how to talk. Angels talk a lot amongst themselves.”
Nana rose and said, “Mieke, Wimpie, this is a conversation for adults. Go to the patio. I’ll get you dominos to play.”
“Do angels wear clothes?” Phlip asked. “I want to know because I’m planning to paint angels.”
“Angels wear garments,” Kasper said. “But not like those here on earth. Daniel was very excited when he told me that their garments correspond with their mentality, their intelligence. The most intelligent ones’ garments glitter—whatever that means; the less bright ones shine like light.” Kasper swallowed, visibly agitated. “Some are naked but I think only a few.”
“When you die, what happens with you in heaven?” Tony wanted to know.
Kasper sighed. “Difficult question, Tony, because it’s rather esoteric. As far as I know, there are three states that man must pass through after death before he comes into either heaven or . . . hell.” He looked at Friso. “How about sending a copy of the book on heaven and hell that in detail will explain everything?”
Friso clapped his hands. “I’ll go in person to Laan van Meerdervoort two-hundred-and-twenty-nine, their place of worship.” He nodded at Kasper. “How about telling about the conversations the pious visionary had who wrote that he had heard and seen about heavenly things that angels confided to him?”
“Prophet Swedenborg wrote many religious books that were printed in London and Amsterdam in the late eighteenth century. They consider these religious writings as their third Testament,” Kasper said. “This religion hasn’t been around for long. Most people only like reading about heaven because they are interested in their future.”
Nana laughed. “If my mother wants to know what will happen to her tomorrow, she reads her horoscope.”
Johan and Tony smiled from ear to ear. “Predicting the future,” Johan said, “is a big business. Let’s pray that we’ll sell some paintings in the near future.” He nodded at Phlip. “You have a dreamy mind.” Johan smiled. “You are good at painting dreamy scenes and, adding an angel or two, will be much appreciated.”
Wimpie entered, followed by Mieke carrying the box with dominos. “Mother said to go next door. Dinner’s ready.” The children rushed past the party. Mieke dropped the box in Nana’s lap, shouting, “I’m hungry!”
TREATY OF VERSAILLES
June 28, 1919
It was July
Dina had asked Mina if Wimpie would want to spend the summer with Mieke. So Nico, Phlip and Nana took the boy to Laren.
Nikolay and Claudius were over-excited and ran around the yard followed by Mieke and Wimpie trying to catch them. Dina confided to Nico that Nikolay started acting indecent—pulling down his pants to show his “pippi”. She wanted to know what to do about it. She was no longer able to take care of this son. When Nico told Nana, she suggested putting the boy in a private home for “unruly children” in Zandvoort. The woman who managed this institution was an acquaintance of her mother. They discussed with Dina the financial burden this would incur. Nico offered to obtain clients after work at the bank so he could pay for Nikolay’s support. Of course this would mean he couldn’t be home as often. However, Phlip would keep an eye on the household. Dina agreed that would be the solution.
Dina, Phlip, Wimpie and Mieke, holding hands with little Phina, waved goodbye when Nico and Nana left for Amsterdam.
IT WAS THE YEAR 1920
Gallery Ava Riss
When Nana entered the gallery Tony and Johan were entering the patio; Nana joined them. Johan wanted to know how she was feeling because of the dark circles underneath her eyes. Nana nodded, and said that’s why she wanted to talk to Mina. Tony told her that his mother was resting at home. Nana said it was urgent that she talk to her, and left.
The housekeeper opened the door—she frowned looking at Nana. “Mrs. DeBron,” she shouted, “Nana wants to see you”; she closed the door, pointing at the staircase.
Nana went slowly up the stairs. Pinching her lips, Mina stood at her open bedroom. Nana got a handkerchief and wiped away tears running down her cheeks. Mina’s bosom heaved when she pulled her into the bedroom; shutting the door firmly.
“Mina,” Nana whispered, “I’m pregnant.”
“I’m not surprised,” Mina said; she took Nana to the sofa near the window. “Sit,” she ordered; and went to open the curtain. “I’ll get tea and then we’ll discuss your situation.”
Nana rose, went to the window, still wiping her eyes, and whispered, “Mother.” Bleary-eyed, she watched the traffic on the canal.
Mina came with the tea-tray. Nana returned to the sofa. They were sipping tea when Nana said, voice choking, “How do I tell my mother?”; her teacup shook.
“No doubt she already guessed.” Mina put her cup on the side table. “She’s waiting for you to confide in her.” Mina refilled her cup, and said, “We have to be practical. Have you told Nico?”
“He suggested I ask for your advice because you are Dina’s best friend.” Closing her eyes, Nana swallowed the last tea drops. “He’s worried what she will do, but I’m more worried that, if it’s a boy, he’ll be another mental case.” She put the empty cup in her lap and wailed.
Mina rose, took the cup from Nana’s lap, and pulled her up. “Nana,” she said, “trust me. Everything will be all right.” They embraced.
Then Mina took Nana by the elbow and they went to the window. “You are Tony’s only blood relative. Ask your mother to invite him over for Mosel, and the three of you plan for the future.”
“How about Nico?” Nana took Mina’s hand.
“He’s a family man,” Mina said. “The decision is yours. I suggest that Tony finances your future and the future of his second cousin to be born, until, and when, Nico divorces Dina. And make sure, leave this to your mother, his aunt, that he makes a testament so that this gallery will be yours.” Mina squeezed Nana’s hand, saying with a laugh in her voice, “And his will, will protect my future as well. I’m sure you’ll want me to continue managing the gallery.”
Nana squeezed Mina’s hand. “Nico knew you would come up with this brilliant idea,” she said. “Do you have more suggestions?”
Mina put her arm around Nana’s shoulder. “I can see you taking a long vacation in France. Tonya told me they have relations in, I think, Fontainebleau. I’ll tell Dina a story why you left so suddenly that she can believe. Dina is my best friend, I know her very well. She is, let’s say . . . foxy clever. I want to protect her interest and also yours, Nana.”
Nana laughed. “Mina . . . how about your own interest?”
Laughter filled the room as the women embraced.
It was Christmas
Mina wrote Nana that Tony had spilled the beans: Dina knew from Phlip about the pregnancy; he had been told by Johan, confidant of Tony. Charming Nico confessed to his wife that he had been unaware, and had been told that Nana went to France to meet relatives. Clever Dina accepted him back: The girls needed him.
So Nana returned, staying with her mother. Nico visited them on the sly as he had promised Dina not to contact her. The now strained relationships between Tony, Johan, and Phlip was prominent. Mina invited them to the gallery to smooth over the ruffled feathers. She told them that she needed them together to run the shop profitably . . . or she would leave. Tony took the two artists by the hand and insisted that they patch up. They embraced. In great spirits, Tony opened a bottle of Roederer champagne and they celebrated.
IT WAS THE YEAR 1921
Nana Belafonta gave birth on January 31 to a baby girl she named Jeane. Her mother was holding the infant when Tony declared: “Little girl, I call you Gigi.”
The women burst out laughing, Nana saying, “Gigi it will be, Tony, because you are her godfather.”
Mina informed Nico of his daughter’s birth; he was with his family in Laren.
Wimpie had been invited to stay permanently with his uncle Lodewijk DeBron who had a son a year younger. Wimpie had moved to The Hague; his bedroom was available. So Tony offered Nana to stay with Gigi at “Maison Tonya Riss”.
It was March
Dina, Phina and Poldie arrived at Gallery Ava Riss. Mina was surprised to see them but welcomed them with open arms. They sat in the back room where Nana had arranged a cozy sitting area for guests.
“Mina,” Dina said, “I’ve to think about the future of my two daughters. In two weeks, Phina will be six years old. Phlip will do Mieke’s portrait for her sixteenth birthday in September. He wants a large canvas to do her justice because she insists holding the white fan given to her by Friso de Jongh.” She took a deep breath. “I’ve come to discuss with you a proposal about the canvas.”
Mina looked at Poldie. “Please take Phina next door and ask my housekeeper to serve her a snack and keep her busy.” She looked at Dina. “You can collect her after we’ve discussed your proposal.”
Within a minute Poldie returned. He sat down, leaned over to watch his sister’s face, and said, “Dina, dear sister, my sixth sense tells me what you’ll intend to propose.” He wiggled the little finger on his right hand.
“Poldie, let her propose what my intuition tells me,” Mina said, also wiggling her little finger as she laughed.
Dina joined her laughter. “You two know me,” she said. “Mina, I can’t afford a large canvas.” She fixed her eyes at the easel in front of the lit fireplace. “Cees, Hendrick, and Tonya are dead. Tonya had given Phlip the canvas for Cees’s portrait that, I understand, she stored here with all the other paintings after the exhibition.” Dina folded her hands; then looked at Mina as she said, “In a way, the painting belongs to Phlip. He did the portrait to honor him but now that Cees is no longer with us, I thought it would save us money if we use that canvas again for Mieke’s portrait.
Poldie snickered. “Dear sister, your frugal nature has no limits? Have you thought what Anton will think?”
“He doesn’t have to know,” Dina said. “Phlip will tell him that all his paintings were stored during the war in Amsterdam.” She faced Mina. “And you will say that it isn’t at the gallery.”
Poldie and Mina stared at Dina.
Then Poldie said, “I can’t take the canvas to Laren alone. Johan will have to be involved and as you both know, Johan is a busybody.”
“I propose,” Dina said, pointing at the easel, “that Phlip paints the portrait here.”
Poldie and Mina stared at the easel.
“Phlip and Mieke will stay with Nico,” Dina said. “Don’t worry; he’ll do me this favor.”
“But what about Johan?” Poldie rose.“He’ll be very upset that Phlip isn’t staying with him.”
“I thought about that. I’ll ask him for a favor too.” Dina chuckled. “I’ll ask him to sketch Phina in Laren.”
Poldie went to his sister, pulled her up, and embraced her. “You have thought of everything!”
“No,” Mina said as she rose. “What about Mieke? She’ll ask questions!”
“Phlip will tell her that it was Father’s wish; so they’ll be forever painted together,” Dina said. “She’ll like the idea.”
“By the way,” Poldie said with a smirk on his face, “I received a letter from Anton. He’s engaged and will marry in May. The wedding is in Berlin. He asked me to terminate his lease and have his belongings stored.”
“You see,” Dina said as she went to the front door, “everything’s going my way!”
It was Sunday, August 7, when at Gallery Ava Riss, Tony and Mina put up Cees’s portrait on the easel in the back room.
Tony stood back. “Such a rare, beautiful portrait,” he whispered as he wiped away a tear.
“Indeed.” Mina stroked the frame. “But we must be practical. Life continues. And Phlip must continue painting. He’s very fond of Mieke and her portrait will be another one of his finest oeuvres.”
She joined Tony. “Dina told me that a young man from The Hague came several times to see Phlip. He seemed keen on Mieke; Dina hopes that he’ll propose one day.”
“What’s his name?” Tony wanted to know.
“Kasper Piper. Leave it to my dearest friend,” Mina said with a laugh, “she told him about the portrait.”
Tony grinned. “Maybe he’ll buy it?”
“That would be”—Mina put her arm around Tony—“because Dina orchestrated it.”
The door bell rang.
“That will be them,” Tony said as he went to the front door.
Nico, Phlip, and Mieke stood in front of the easel, contemplating the portrait.
Tony came and passed around goblets with Mosel. “Let’s say farewell to Cees.” He raised his goblet. “And cheer Mieke for her sixteenth birthday.”
Everyone raised their goblet.
Mina proposed moving to the patio as it was a cloudless day.
Phlip left the party. He stood at the easel, raising his eyebrows. He stepped up and turned the canvas.
Mieke sneaked up. “Father,” she whispered, “and Queenie look funny.”
“I want to paint you as a young lady holding your fan while lounging on a bench.” Phlip smiled. “Instead of holding the Bible, Father will hold you.” He put his arm around her. “Only we will know this secret. Promise not to tell another soul.”
“I promise,” Mieke said with a giggle.
Phlip took the cloth that was behind the easel and covered the portrait.
It was September
At the gallery
Dina had asked Mina and Tony to show Mieke’s portrait at the front room window so passersby could admire her. Accordingly, on her birthday, celebrated with a chocolate cake with sixteen candles, Mieke admired herself, standing in the street. She waved excitedly at people, pointing at the portrait. They nodded and smiled.
Three weeks later two men stood at the gallery window.
One of the men said: “I know her. One day I hope to marry her.”
The other man went to the front door and entered; followed by the hopeful man.
“Welcome,” Mina said, extending her hand. “I’m Wilhelmina DeBron and manage the gallery.”
“I’m Teddy Rockwell,” the man introduced himself. “I’m from the States.” He shook her hand.
“Kasper!” Mina said all smiles. “Tony and Nana have been talking about you.” She kissed him on the cheek. “They’ll be glad to know you haven’t forgotten us.”
“I’d like to purchase this portrait.” Teddy pointed at the window as he smiled at Kasper.
“But first he wants to meet Mieke,” Kasper said with a wink at Mina.
To Be Continued
IT WAS THE YEAR 1921
It was October
Phlip opened the door to his studio and Dina and Mina entered. Mieke’s portrait stood on the easel near the windows.
“Kasper told me,” Phlip said, pointing at the portrait, “that Teddy told him that she reminds him of his mother.”
“And Tony told me,” Mina said, putting her hand on his arm, “that Friso had been excited that Teddy wants to buy it because he’s an art collector.”
“Phlip,” Dina said, “let’s show Teddy some of the sketches you made of your father.” She laughed. “Maybe he’ll find a resemblance to an uncle or a favorite cousin.”
“Teddy’s from a prominent Pittsburgh family,” Mina said with a nod, “railroad money; stinky rich.”
Dina linked arms with Phlip and said, “I think five thousand dollars for Mieke’s portrait is a bargain.”
Mina rolled her eyes, opened her mouth as if to say something, but then smiled and clapped her hands.
A week later a black Mercedes automobile parked in the driveway of villa Uhrbach. From his studio across, Phlip watched Teddy, Friso and Kasper emerge. Mieke and Phina stood at the open door of the villa with Dina behind them.
Phlip went outside to welcome the trio, motioning at the three to join them. Kasper made the introductions.
The party went inside the studio.
They stood in front of the easel with Mieke’s portrait when Teddy said, “Mieke, Friso told me that he gifted you the fan for your sixteenth birthday. Is there a special reason that you wanted to be painted with this fan?”
Mieke went up to her portrait. She looked at Teddy and said, “Birds are feathery.” She smiled. “And in heaven angels wear white feathery wings. I like that. It makes me feel happy.”
Clapping, Teddy went up to Mieke and embraced her. “When I’ll look at your portrait, Mieke, I’ll see an angel on Earth.”
Phina tugged at Teddy’s coat. “If Phlip paints me,” she said, “will you buy me too?”
Dina went to an easel in the corner where she had put up two sketches of Phlip’s father. “A birdie told me,” she said, with a wave toward Teddy, “that you like collecting portraits. Here are two you’ll like.”
Teddy, Mieke, and Phina joined her.
Phlip put his arms around Kasper and Friso. “My future depends on Teddy. If he buys, Dina said, we’ll be in clover.”
“I’ll do my best,” Kasper said, and went to Teddy. He whispered, “Promise that if she says yes, you’ll give us the portrait as a wedding gift.”
Eyes narrowing, Teddy looked at Kasper. “I’ll think about it,” he said.
Dina’s eyes widened. In a loud voice she said, “Teddy, the sketch you want is awesome.” She went to the windows. “Have another look.”
Kasper and Teddy joined them.
“I’ll buy Mieke’s portrait and this sketch,” Teddy said. “How much do I owe you, Dina?”
Smiling at Dina, Kasper took Mieke’s hand.
“Five thousand for the portrait,” Dina said resolutely. “And one thousand for the sketch; that totals six thousand dollars.”
Phlip swallowed hard when Teddy took his check-book from his coat pocket.
The Mercedes left for The Hague with the threesome and the purchases.
By the end of November Phlip had sold, or rather Dina had, five paintings that had been at the gallery for safe-keeping. Nico and Dina had patched up their marriage. She had suggested that Claudius join his brother in Zandvoort. Family life was harmonious; the girls were contented.
But then the devil invaded the household by way of gossip. When Mieke heard that she had a sister, born in Amsterdam, she broke out in tears. Phina wanted to know why she was crying, so Mieke told her about their baby sister. Phina had a hissy-fit: demanding to see her tiny sister called Gigi. Harmony returned, but at a price, when Nico and Dina had a talk with the girls and it was decided they could see the baby girl when Phina would celebrate her seventh birthday, late March, next year. They should bring her a gift.
IT WAS THE YEAR 1922
Gallery Ava Riss
Friday, March 31st
When Mina put Tony’s portrait by Phlip at the window, Dina insisted that Johan’s sketches of Phina also were on exhibit. They decided that for this cheerful occasion a vase with colorful tulips between the portraits would be apropos.
Nana decorated the back room with red and yellow paper garlands, bouquets of candy-sticks, and on the walls the number 7 was prominent. She arranged on the sofa and chairs heart-shaped pink pillows. And in front of the fireplace now stood a child’s high-chair with in bold golden letters: GIGI. Next to this chair Nana put a tall, round table.
The party was to start after lunch but without Nana. She had excused herself, saying her mother needed her.
Mina, Tony, Poldie, Phlip and Johan were waiting in the front room. When Phina, Mieke and their parents entered, they sang: Happy Birthday Phina.
Johan scooped Phina in his arms, carried her to the back room, and sat her, squealing with delight, on top of the high-chair.
Entering, all smiles, the entourage clapped their hands.
“Phina,” Mina said, “how about eating your cake first and then Uncle Johan will introduce you to Gigi?”
Phina nodded. She pointed at the tall table and said, “Moeke, put my gift there!” She held out her arms for Johan to lift her down.
“Phina, sit with me and Faty.” Mieke made room on the sofa.
Mina went to the office and returned with a large tray. “You wanted a vanilla cake with sultanas and candied fruits,” she said as she put the tray on the coffee table.
“And seven candles. Uncle Poldie will light them.”
They sang Happy Birthday Phina once more; and Phina blew out the candles.
Dina started to cut the cake when Phina said, as she took a plate from the tray, “Moeke, Gigi also wants cake.” Dina nodded and put a small slice on the plate.
Phina put the plate on the high-chair. “I can’t wait to see my little sister!” she shouted; and she quick-stepped around the room.
Mieke helped Dina; passing the plates with the cake.
Then Tony came with a tray with goblets and a carafe. “Lemonade . . . ?”
Phina wiped crumbs from her mouth and clapped her hands.
Everyone agreed that this lemonade was delicious; after all, Tony had made it!
Then Johan rose and said to Phina, “I’ll fetch your Gigi from next door. How about . . . you stand next to her chair?”
Five minutes later the gallery door opened slowly—Johan held 15-months-old Gigi by the hand. The little girl wore a pink-flowered smock over a long-sleeved red velvet dress; on her feet she had shiny black sandals.
As they walked toward the party, Phina rushed up. “Gigi,” she shouted, “I love you!”; taking the girl in her arms, kissing her.
Then Phina turned around. “This is my Gigi!” she said with aplomb.
Johan put the girl in her chair; Phina put a hand on her shoulder.
One by one they came to say hello. Gigi’s brown eyes were large as saucers; her lower lip trembled. Nico smiled at her and put a piece of cake in her mouth. Gigi grabbed his hand but Phina interfered and held Gigi’s hands firmly in hers. “Gigi,” she said, “I’m your big sister. I’ll look after you.” Phina pointed at Mieke. “She is our Moeke!”
Mieke joined her sisters. She stroked the little girl’s head and said, “You look like Nana.”
Nico took the box from the tall table. “And now we’ll sit down,” he said as he gave Phina the box, “and watch you give Gigi your gift.” He took Mieke to the sofa.
Johan helped Phina unwrap the box. Her face aglow, Phina held up a doll. Turning, to show them her gift, she said loud and clear, “My favorite doll!” Then she looked at Gigi and all smiles put the doll in the girl’s arms. Gigi smiled broadly and clutched the doll, offering her lips to be kissed. Too excited for words, Phina smothered Gigi’s face with her kisses.
In silence, everyone watched the two sisters.
“What’s the doll’s name?” Poldie wanted to know.
Phina took the doll and said, “Lottchen!” Then she looked into her sister’s eyes. “Gigi, Lottchen is now your dolly!”
Poldie’s jaw had dropped visibly when he had heard the name. He stared hard at Dina—who frowned and pressed her lips tightly; shaking her head she rose, and went to the front room window.
Poldie joined her. “When you gave Phina that doll, did you name her Lottchen?” he whispered.
“Yes,” she said, barely moving her lips. “You know of Charlotte’s secret?”
Poldie took her hand and squeezed it.
When Tony, moist-eyed, told his cousin about the heart-warming encounter between Phina and Gigi, Nana decided to visit, without fanfare, her relatives in Fontainebleau.
Nana Belafonta left in May; having notified Nico that he was welcome to see his Gigi any time.
Nico consulted Nana’s mother, who advised him to give Phlip the funds to buy a house near Fontainebleau. Phlip should construct a studio next to the house and the two could paint together.
Two months later, Phlip left Laren in search for the perfect place to paint around Fontainebleau. When Dina got a whiff of the large amount of money withdrawn from their account, she wanted to know more about “that painting” deal. Dina made sure that the title of the house was in her daughter Phina’s name. She had mouthed that Gigi wasn’t to be the beneficiary.
One day in August, Kasper Piper paid a visit to villa Uhrbach when Nico was absent. Linking arms, he took Mieke for a stroll.
“How kind of your father that he visits Gigi,” Kasper said, “so the little girl doesn’t forget him.”
Mieke stopped, withdrew her arm, and said, looking into his eyes, “Faty goes to France to paint with Phlip!”
“I’m so sorry, Mieke, I thought you knew about the arrangement.” Kasper took her hand. “Your mother was thinking of you and Phina and had agreed, so your father wouldn’t divorce her.”
“How do you know, Kasper?” Sniffling, Mieke took a handkerchief from her skirt pocket.
“Phlip told me. I went to see him at the house your parents bought.”
Wide-eyed, lips trembling, Mieke said, “Faty and Moeke bought the house?”
Kasper nodded. “The deed is in Phina’s name.”
“What about me?” Mieke took Kasper’s arm.
Kasper squeezed her arm. “Look, Mieke, your parents have to provide for Phina in case of their demise. She’s only seven.” Facing her, Kasper said, “You are seventeen and their main concern for you is that you marry. I’m sure they have put aside a dowry.”
Mieke frowned. “I don’t want to marry,” she said in a hushed voice. “Moeke said that whenever she visits Phlip that I can come along. And when I’m married I’ve to stay with my husband.” She blew her nose.
Kasper put his arm around her shoulder. “Mieke,” he whispered in her ear, “can you imagine being married to me?”
A slow smile spread over Mieke’s face. Her lovely hazel eyes shone when she breathed, “Oh Kasper!” She took his hand. “I’d love the idea but not now.” Quickly, she kissed his cheek.
When Kasper had left, Mieke asked Moeke if she had made plans for her getting married soon. Moeke replied that she had several suitors in mind, but there was no hurry. Embracing her, Moeke told her she had three more years at home before that important day.
ILIAD 9.3 12-13
I hate like the gates of Hades a man who hides one thing in his heart and speaks another
His speech is smooth as butter yet war is in his heart
His words are more smoothing than oil yet they are drawn swords
False face must hide what the false heart doth know
IT WAS THE YEAR 1923
Phlip Goudsmit sailed for America in January; he had been invited by Teddy Rockwell to stay with him in Pittsburgh. He had been eager to paint portraits of Teddy’s friends; some had admired the sketch of his father.
Phlip returned to Holland in October.
ALL PAINTINGS BY EL GRECO
Gallery Ava Riss
Mina went into the patio holding the French jug painted with white daisies Nana had gifted her. She watered the red-and-white dahlias in their pots. Then she returned to the back room, closed the French doors, and pushed back the curtains; she nodded at the dahlias.
“Mina,” Tony called out from the front room, “what time are they coming?”
Mina walked past the easel that showed a canvas with a canal scene by Johan. “Eleven, Tony. The bubbles to celebrate Phlip’s return are here,” she said as she went into the office. She put the jug on a pedestal table and then sat at her desk.
Tony joined her, pulling up a chair. “You have something to tell me, Mina?”
“I’m in a dilemma,” Mina sighed.
“What can I do for you?” Tony leaned back in his chair.
“Kasper and Friso are coming,” Mina said with a nod. “And Friso invited his brother Daniel who insisted coming along as he’s a member of Teddy’s church in The Hague.”
“What can I do for you, Mina?” Tony said with a wide grin.
Mina laughed. “To make it short . . . after our luncheon in the back room, the caterers arrive at twelve, please ask Johan to take the threesome to his studio. And you take Phina and Mieke for ice cream at our café.” She lowered her eyelids and whispered, “I need to talk here, in private, with Dina, Poldie, and Phlip.”
Tony smiled. Mina returned his smile.
Tony looked at the wall clock. He rose, and on his way out of the office he squeezed her shoulder, saying, “No problem, Mina.”
At eleven sharp, Phlip and Johan ushered Kasper, Friso and his brother Daniel into the gallery; followed on their heels by Poldie, Dina, Mieke, and Phina.
Tony and Mina welcomed them with a toast of Mosel, saying in unison: Welcome home, Phlip.
The party settled in the back room.
Daniel de Jongh sat next to Phlip and asked after the religious men, friends of Teddy, he had painted. Phlip responded that, alas, the full length portraits, in the style of El Grcco, had not been appreciated; probably because the late 16th century painter, whose oeuvres could be admired in Toledo, Spain, was unknown to these Americans. Johan, who stood behind the sofa where the two were talking, added the information that El Greco was famous for his religious subjects.
Mieke wanted to know about her portrait. Phlip told her that Teddy had it stored; the old stone farmhouse he had bought was in the process of restoration.
At twelve sharp, the caterers, waiting next door, came with plates, cutlery, and napkins; putting them on the large round table in the center of the front room. Then they came with trays of veal croquettes as a starter. Everyone had to help themselves. Next, they entered holding baskets of sliced white and whole grain brown breads and a huge tureen with Dutch pea soup with pieces of smoked ham.
Tony was busy filling the goblets with Mosel. Mina stood at the front room window eyeing her guests; she smiled and waved at Tony.
When the caterers had packed up Tony squeezed Mina’s arm. He told Johan to take the trio from The Hague to his studio, and show them the art book with works by El Greco. Then he took Phina and Mieke by their arms, and they went to eat ice cream at their café.
Mina made sure the front door was locked. She looked at Dina, Poldie and Phlip standing at the window waving at the girls. “Let’s go to my office where nobody can interrupt us,” she said as she walked toward her office. The trio followed.
When they were seated Mina locked the door, saying, “What we are now going to discuss gives me a headache.” She sat at her desk, putting her face in her hands.
“I’ve never seen you lose your nerve, Mina.” Dina motioned to Poldie, who rose, and went to her. He put his arms around her shoulders and said in a hushed voice, “A shared fear is easier to bear, Mina.”
Mina removed her hands. “I don’t know how to start . . . how to tell you about the threat that’s hanging over this gallery.”
Dina rose, visibly upset, saying, “Teddy wrote you that he’s no longer sponsoring Phlip!”
Mina shook her head, swallowing hard. “Nana’s mother; she’s playing with fire.”
Poldie returned to his seat. “The mother has a name?”
Mina took a deep breath and said, “Vicky. She’s a lioness defending her cub. If I don’t give her an answer by Sinterklaas, she’ll spill the beans and will inform them.”
Dina pulled up her chair next to Mina’s desk. “So . . . Vicky came to see you and had a proposal of some kind that if you disagree, she’ll set our gallery on fire.”
Mina stared at Dina. “It was a proposal but very unpleasant. More like a bribe.” She wiggled in her chair, visibly uncomfortable. “It was about Gigi. Vicky wanted the truth why you, Dina, had three . . . demented sons. Vicky and Nana are worried about Gigi’s future.”
“When I was taking care, together with Nana, of the boys here in Amsterdam, Nico’s aunt Coby came for a visit,” Phlip spoke up. “He told me later that she was fourteen years younger than his father. Their mother had given birth to two stillborn children before Coby was born.”
“Let’s get to the bottom of this,” Poldie said. “We need some Mosel to discuss Vicky’s fascination with madhouse babies.” He went to the corner and took two chilled bottles from the ice box. While the three were whispering, Poldie uncorked a bottle and took a tray with four large goblets to the desk. He poured the wine and proffered Mina a goblet, saying, “Let us uncover this mystery that hangs in the air like poison.”
They drank to resolve the mystery and have an answer for Vicky.
With a nod at Mina, Poldie said, “Vicky’s . . . question . . . was . . . why Dina had, one after another, three boys who are deemed to be demented.” He looked at his sister. “And Vicky wants the truth. You, Dina, are older”—he pointed at himself—“by two years. We have an older, married brother with sane children.”
“So . . .” Phlip said in a low voice, “this mystery has not turned up in the Moojer family.”
Mina took a swig of Mosel, and said, “Bad news for Nico.”
Dina held out her goblet for a refill and said, nodding at Poldie, “Our father told me after Nico and I had married that he discovered that Falentine.” She paused and took a sip.” Well, that Nico’s father was born out of wedlock.”
Mina’s hand shook; wine spilled on her desk; she seemed to choke, but got hold over herself and said, “Vicky must not be told. It’s bad enough that Gigi is illegitimate.”
“Our father,” Dina said, looking straight at Poldie, “said that Falentine’s father had acknowledged him as his son when he married the mother.” She turned to Mina. “So, eventually he became legal. If I remember correctly, he was seven years old.”
“Most likely, those stillborn children were demented,” Mina said. “I’ll tell Vicky it’s an Uhrbach inheritance.” She sighed. “Poldie, get the address of Aunt Coby, so Vicky can confirm my information.”
“Now, Mina,” Poldie said with a twinkle in his eyes, “Vicky said she would spill the beans and will inform them. Mina . . . who are them?”
Mina chuckled. “That church in The Hague. She told me that if they get a whiff of dementia in the Uhrbach family that Teddy might lose interest in promoting Phlip. And I wonder what will happen to Mieke’s portrait.” She rose, and held out her hand to Phlip.
“Thank you so much, Mina,” Phlip said, “for saving our gallery.”
The two went into the front room.
Poldie and Dina stood at Mina’s desk. They looked at each other in silence. Then Poldie offered his arm to his sister. As they stepped into the front room, he said in a hushed voice, “The doll . . .”
False face must hide what the false heart doth know
IT WAS THE YEAR 1924
Phlip was busy traveling back and forth; between America and France. Dina, Mieke and Phina would join him in Fontainebleau; they had wonderful reunions. At times, Nico would come along and stay with Nana and Gigi; Phina was over the moon so happy. Family dynamics went smoothly.
Early autumn, October, Teddy Rockwell arrived in The Hague. Tony and Mina went to pay him a visit. And so it came about that Tony and Mina were invited to attend a church meeting. Kasper, Friso and Daniel got wind of it and decided to join them.
When they arrived at the townhouse on Laan van Meerdervoort several members were already seated and smiled at Daniel. Teddy introduced Tony and Mina to the officiating pastor, Andreas Rose, as the gallery owners where he had met the painter Phlip Goudsmit.
The party sat in the back row.
Teddy addressed the congregation that the goal of all religion is a joining of man with God and not with spirits or angels; although they are necessary as associates and guardians of our souls. He stepped aside, and sat on the bench near the wall.
Pastor Rose took his place and announced that the divine purpose in creation was to provide a heaven from the human race. He intended to give them a tour of heaven and hell. He was going to unlock the secrets of heaven hidden within the Bible. Holding up the book of the Word of God, he announced that the entire biography of the Lord Jesus Christ, including his messages, had been written down by the four evangelists. He opened the book, and quoted from Revelation 22:13—I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; the first and the last. I Jesus send you my angel to testify unto you those things in the churches.
Pastor Rose looked up, and told them that God appeared in a borrowed angelic form known as the Angel of Jehovah. He smiled; then heralded: Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord! He closed the book, and switched places with Teddy.
Teddy stood in silence looking at the members. He folded his hands and said the Lord’s Prayer; joined by the rows of bowed heads. When he said Amen, the members focused again on Teddy; who was smiling. Nodding, he proclaimed from Exodus 3:14: I AM THAT I AM! The members cried out: OUR GOD IS ONE LORD!
Before Tony and Mina returned to Amsterdam, they had collected numerous pamphlets on spirits and angels. Daniel told them that the prophet had not only angels with him all the time but also dozens of different spirits. They bought two copies of the book Heaven and Hell written by Prophet Swedenborg.
IT WAS THE YEAR 1925
It was August when Phlip went to Amsterdam.
Teddy had bought several of his oeuvres. He wanted to invest the money safely: Poldie was in real estate. As always, he stayed with Johan; who was glad to see him again. Phlip invited them for dinner at an expensive French restaurant—telling them that he had an important issue to discuss.
As they sat at a table with view of the Amstel river, Phlip opened the conversation with a bomb-shell announcement that he wanted Poldie to buy Johan’s atelier so Johan had security; after all, he said, taking Johan’s arm, he had been his guest too many times. When Johan protested, Phlip said to Poldie that he was swimming in funds. He wanted to buy for himself a castle near Fontainebleau and Poldie should find him one. The trio had a wonderful time, talking about the future, eating, and drinking Laurent Perrier champagne.
The next day, Phlip went to see Mina at the gallery. He suggested that she lock up so they could have a heart-to-heart talk in her office.
Phlip frowned as he looked at Mina. “I came because I’m worried. Two years ago, you told us of Nana’s mother playing with fire.” He sighed. “Nico, Poldie, Dina, you and I know about Cees’s canvas.”
“And Mieke,” Mina said with a smile and a nod.
“She promised not to tell a soul.” Phlip made the sign of the cross.
“You are worried because of . . . them?” Mina opened a drawer on the right of her desk. “Tony and I went last year to The Hague and we got many religious pamphlets.” She took some sheets from the drawer.
“You wondered about . . . Mieke’s portrait.” Phlip took the sheets she had offered him.
Mina lowered her eyes when she said, “Two delicate issues, Phlip. That’s why I went to The Hague; to meet Teddy, getting to know him.”
“Well . . . Mina . . . that’s why I decided to join Teddy’s church.” Phlip leaned forward and looked into her eyes. “I was baptized last month in Pittsburgh.”
Mina was silent. “A good move for your future, Phlip,” she said.
“Poldie,” Phlip said, “told me this morning, when the two of us had breakfast at a café, that Anton wrote him.”
“I thought that issue had been settled.” Mina took the sheets from Phlip, putting them back in the drawer. “Cees’s portrait was stored here and now it’s missing.”
“Poldie confided in me that the marriage is in trouble and that Anton wants to return to Amsterdam.” Phlip crossed his arms. “He said he refuses to die with a lie on his lips. They are like brothers. So he decided to tell Anton the truth.”
Mina swallowed hard; her face changed color. After a minute of silence, staring at each other, she put her head between her hands. “Dina,” she whispered. “Poldie is her favorite sibling.”
“Poldie told me that he’ll advise her to pay him off.” Phlip rose, and went to the ice box. He returned with two goblets. “Let’s drink to Poldie’s offer.”
“Are you serious, Phlip?” Mina took a sip. “Poldie suggested bribery!?”
“Why not.” Phlip smiled and emptied his goblet. “It will be between Dina and Anton. We are the only ones who know.”
Phlip went to The Hague to introduce himself to pastor Andreas Rose. At the meeting house, he also met again Friso, Daniel, and Kasper. He learned that Kasper and Mieke would announce their engagement on her upcoming birthday.
Posthaste, Phlip hurried to Laren. Dina told him that Mieke and Phina were staying with relatives in Almelo. When he related what he had learned about Mieke’s engagement, Dina told him that on her 21st birthday, in 1926, Nico would officially announce their betrothal.
Phlip told Dina that Teddy was contemplating marriage to a young widow with two small daughters. He smiled when he said that most likely Mieke’s portrait would be put in storage . . . .
Early November, a letter from Phlip arrived, informing Dina that the young widow had declined the marriage proposal. Her eyes like saucers, she read that Teddy had decided to go abroad. His first stop would be The Hague: late November. In January, he would take a steamer for South Africa to visit the church’s many missions.
With the zeal of a crusader, in no time Dina took a cab for the gallery in Amsterdam. Mina, her brown eyes fixed on Dina’s face, listened to her Rasputin-like plan. Then the two crooks with a sweet tongue put their heads together; the atmosphere was charged while they plotted Dina’s future. As a mother-in-law, Dina would gain considerable power . . .
TO BE CONTINUED IN 2022
THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING PORTRAIT