The Foresight: Visions of the Veluwe
When he had, after work, stabled the horse and taken care of it, he went on his way to visit uncle Eibert for a short while to talk to him about the wood sale, which they would be going to the next day. He had already passed the lake, and the great road from Uddel to Garderen with its steep heights lay before him. At the sides of the road the barren, gloomy heath stretched out into infinity. On the left, the buildings of the camp at Milligen were barely distinguishable in the twilight, and ahead of him the tower and mill of Garderen stood painted against a pale green spot in the heavily clouded sky.
Now only the steeple was visible and of the mill he could only see one rising wing, like a small post standing on top of the hill. His feet were cold and at times the wind chased the sparks from his pipe straight into his face. ‘It might easily snow tonight,’ he thought. ‘There’s a North-Westerly wind blowing and the skies are so heavy. If it’ll snow hard during the sale tomorrow the lots will go cheaply.’
His thoughts were so involved with the chances for the following day, that he hadn’t noticed how steeply the road was rising. Before he knew it, he had already reached the sheep pen on top of the hill. From the homestead near the Low Sol a weak light shone between the trees and up high the wind whistled between the treetops.
A few moments later he was standing in front of uncle Eibert’s door, lifted the handle, carefully opened the door and with an ‘evening, all’ he slowly stepped inside, as one does in the Veluwe.
Uncle Eibert had gone out for a minute, but would soon be back, aunt Heintje, who had, standing at the table with her back to him, looked up for a second when he came in, declared, and she now took another cup from the tray and poured out coffee for him.
It wasn’t long before uncle Eibert came home and he was soon sitting with his nephew near the fire, busily talking about the weather, the auction and family affairs.
When the clock, with a penetrating noise, struck nine, they wished each other good night.
Coming outside, he first had to adjust to the darkness. All the houses in Garderen had long since been at rest and were completely dark. Only in the barroom of the Roskam1 a weak glow from a dying oil lamp could be discerned. The skies had been blown clean. There was no moon but the stars were twinkling by the thousands, as if they were now and then blown out by the wind. And high, high up in the dome of heaven the Milky Way could be seen like a gigantic faraway gate.
‘It’ll freeze tonight,’ he thought, ‘the stars are so wonderfully bright. Unimaginable, that a little earlier the air was heavy with snow.’ He stood for a while at the side of the road to look up at the stars. There were so miraculously many of them, all worlds in themselves, some much bigger than the Earth. There, one was shooting by. If you saw a shooting star, you could make a wish...
‘If I could see the heavens open,’ he thought, ‘as happened to Hendrik van Marten, during a bright starry night like this, when he had seen his father and mother sitting next to Jesus in a white light, brighter even than the brightest sunshine, and they had all three nodded at him. It must be wonderful to see your parents like that just once more.’
Would his father and mother be with Jesus too? Mother certainly, she came near to being an angel even while she was still alive, and father...during his life he’d been fond of a drink, but that should be alright. Even when drunk he wouldn’t have hurt an animal. And if he wasn’t allowed to be with mother he would come to no good anyway. He really must be with her in heaven like Hendrik’s parents. Oh, if he could only, just for a little while, see how they were... But the great far gate of heaven remained shut.
Somewhat disappointed he walked on over the Sol’s road. He had hardly left the village when he saw a crowd of people gathered on the road ahead of him. What were they doing there so late? Had there been an accident?
When he approached, he saw, apart from a crowd of people, a troop of soldiers, foot soldiers and cavalry, and there were many ‘greats’ in beautiful costumes. ‘Where do they all come from,’ he thought, ‘there’s no camp at Milligen now and there aren’t any manoeuvres during winter either2.’ He asked one of the bystanders, what it was about; but he didn’t receive an answer. Suddenly, he was standing among the soldiers and he asked again; but it was as if they couldn’t hear him at all and he repeated his question more loudly, and yet didn’t receive a reply.
Suddenly he saw it very clearly. There on the right side of the road someone was being buried. He almost cried out and walked back to Garderen as fast as he could. ‘Uncle Eibert! Aunt Heintje! Come along, there...on the road it’s full of soldiers and one is being buried.’ Uncle Eibert got into his clogs and hurriedly followed him outside.
When they arrived there, nothing could be seen except the silent abandoned road and the fields merging with the darkness. The two men looked around; no soldier, not a living being. Only the wind chasing over the barren fields.
Uncle Eibert became angry and said, that he was too old to be made a fool of like that. ‘You can believe it or not, but I saw it just now, as clearly as I see you standing next to me at this moment.’ Uncle Eibert left him standing in the road and grumpily returned home.
A couple of year later a new cemetery was built at that same place, and the first to be buried there was a major from the military camp at Milligen, who died after a fall from his horse. He was buried with full military honours and there were many officers, all dressed up, and foot soldiers and horsemen. A headstone still shows where he was buried.
From Legends of the Veluwe/Veluwsche Sagen by Gust van de Wall Perné, published in 1910-1912 by Scheltens & Giltay and translated by Eva Weggelaar
1. Literally, currycomb.
2. There has been an air traffic control centre at New-Milligen since 1913.