This is one of my favorite chapters of this book. It reminds me of the landscape and some of the Dutch-American characters of that time. Even in the 1950s and 60s, there were Dutch ancestor farmers where I lived. If the ghosts of their kin of two centuries ago were to appear at their tables, they would not feel to be strangers. Some relatives received wooden shoes, carved in the winter from these old farmers idled by the season. Most of them landed in the fireplace. They were noisy on wooden floors.
DEVIL’S REVENGE, Chapter 4
Bleary with sleep, a dull pain in my head, I opened both eyes carefully. That wine last night, must be the reason my stomach hurts. I am playing with fire if I continue to … Oh Crap! I’m back here again! I sigh with disgust, my legs tangled in the sheets. This bedroom has become my new dungeon and looking out of the east window is the dungeon master. I turn over and glare at him.
“Good Morning”. This time he said it in English instead of Dutch, but didn’t turn from the window.
“Ah, Garrett, how long have you been there?” I yawned, rubbed my eyes and pulled my mobcap off. His commanding me here was becoming a bit routine now. How many times? At least a dozen but time was different in his realm.
“Not long,” he said, continuing to stare out the window. I looked at his figure illuminated by the sharp morning light. He was a pretty (“handsome” I heard him think!) man, broad in the shoulders, his back narrowing down to strong buttocks. Wearing the usual shirt of gentlemen and farmers, a heavy white linen cut bloused at the sleeves, his waistcoat was sleeveless, made of dark plum colored wool, and reached to his hips. The breeches were cut from heavy twill and his boots were brown leather, scuffed about the ankles. He had walked in deep mud somewhere. His boots were covered with muck.
“Get up, I want to do something different today.” Ah, this was a change; he usually wanted to play around in the morning.
“Oh, later for that. More important things first.” He finally turned from the window, hands on his hips, and looked at me with dour expression.
“Van Doren down the road has a litter of pups. Daniel said they’re old enough to take from the bitch. I want the whole litter. I’ll train them as gun dogs and hunt them next fall”.
Oh God, he probably will want to stable them here where it’s warm…
“My guess is you haven’t been paying attention. This house is haunted,” he said softly, his eyes narrowing to slits.
“What do you mean, ‘haunted’?” I shivered though the bed was quite warm.
“Those dogs will be flesh and blood, as you are, but invisible. No one would feed them.”
“So, I could go downstairs to Daniel and Anna and they wouldn’t see me?”
“Hell, I could stick you on the end of my –“
“– and walk you around the house, and they still wouldn’t notice. They may wonder why John Thomas was saluting the wind, but you would be air.”
I had to laugh. He had a way of describing things. Vulgar, but comical.
“What time is it, Garrett?” I yawned and stretched my arms over my head, not wanting to move from the warmth of the bed.
“Time you get your pink butt up and come with me.” He went to the wardrobe and started tossing clothes. Out came some petticoats, woolen stockings and a heavy linen chemise. He rummaged around the hooks and drew out a green woolen dress.
“Can I use the chamber pot first, please?” I slipped to the side of the bed, my feet cold from the draughts on the floor.
“Do you need any help with that?” he asked, half turning around to me.
“I need you to leave the room so I can get dressed.”
“Won’t happen. I happen to like seeing you struggle into your clothes. Arouses me.”
“Everything makes you horny, Devil.”
He grinned, his foul lust a tease and a torment. I did not dally, knowing he would not leave me in peace for long.
The clothes were thrown on the table by the fire. “Come here, be my angel and let me dress you.” He was sitting there with his legs spread.
“Are you a crazy man? I can very well do it myself.” He had some nerve this morning.
“Have it your way.” He snapped his fingers and my nightgown fell to the floor. I was naked, the room cold, and he still a damn devil!
“Garrett! Stop screwing around! I’m freezing.” It was one thing to be naked by candlelight, another to be standing in the sharp eastern glare of early morning. This type of light magnifies all imperfections. I heard him mumble something….
“Love casts a glamour on things.” His words surprised me, for they were tender and almost human.
“Put you leg up on my knee and I’ll pull your stocking up.” I balanced myself on one leg, and put an arm on his shoulder. I could smell the sharp smell of brimstone.
“Very funny. Now, the other one.” He couldn’t resist running his hand up my inner thigh. I slapped his hand and jumped back.
He held out the heavy linen shift, and pulled it over my head and opened two petticoats for me to step into.
He was a foul demon but did get me dressed. He seemed to know his way around the hooking and lacing of tapes, and all were in place. I wondered what shoes to wear.
“Oh…must not forget these.” From behind his back he drew a big pair of Dutch wooden shoes. He placed them at my feet. I stared at them and started to laugh.
“You write about Dutch farms and farmers, yet you don’t know the muck they produce. Guess women writers from your century float over the shit. We’ll probably cross over a couple of pigsties in the going.”
“You’ll enjoy the fresh air. I want those dogs, so let’s get going. It’ll give you something real to write in your book.”
He walked to the door, and I gingerly shuffled after him. He muttered a low curse, and picked me up over his shoulder like a sack of flour. A wooden shoe fell off my foot and tumbled down the stairs, sounding like thunder as it bounced to the hall floor. The other one followed. He dropped me on my feet and led me to the front steps. A black rig and a blacker horse were standing outside. Of course! A black horse, something a devil would ride.
“Would you be quiet? The horse might have feelings on the matter.”
I laughed. He was comical this morning. It might prove to be a good day.
He helped me into the rig, walked to the head of the horse and whispered to him. He sprung into the seat, grabbed up the reins. The horse trotted to the main road, turned left and moved out smartly on the highroad.
I held onto my bonnet, which fell back with each jounce of the rig. The horse seemed to skim over the dirt, getting faster and faster.
“You really want those dogs!” I said, laughing.
The Demon grinned at me as he shook the reins, and the horse fairly flew down the road.
The air was fresh and brisk for it was early winter. The fields were dun-colored but the cloudless sky was a crisp blue. I could see trails of smoke rising from distant houses across the far hills. At least the scenery looked normal with cows huddled under trees and along fences. I thought of a piece of Handel I had heard the night before. Written for harpsichord, last night played on piano. The rhythm of the music mimicked the fast trotting of the black horse. Suddenly I was hearing the music! I looked over at Garrett and saw him smile to himself. The black leather of the rig surrounding us was our stereo and the horse’s speed matched the tempo of the music. Ah! a good piece of magic!
We traveled for a mile when the horse turned to the left. Down a short land was a large, white house. Behind it were red barns. . Garrett stopped the rig and helped me down in the cumbersome shoes. He straddled the rig right over the mud and I looked at him with a grimace. My shoes sank almost to the ankles. He grinned and led us to the back of the house near the barns.
“Van Doren!” Garrett shouted. “I’m here to see those dogs.”
A clang like a bell rang out, but it only was a piece of metal being dropped. It bounced around for a bit, sounding like chimes. A rotund Dutch man came walking out the dark passageway, his eyes blinking in the bright sunlight.
“Ah, young Cortelyou! Goedenmorgen to you!” He wiped his hands on his trousers as he came toward us. “So you here to purchase my pups? Well, others hearing of this fine litter, so it’s goot you come when you do.”
The joy of exchange among countrymen was both in the bargaining,- and the coin. I was raised in the Dutch countryside of New Jersey. I had seen this before. I had heard it before.
Van Doren looked to be in his seventies. He was a hale and hearty man, with a halo of white hair. He had a full, white beard, bright blue eyes and a red nose signaling he liked his ale too much.
“This is my Aunt Sophie from upcountry, Abraham. She’s visiting Catherine for a month.” His Aunt! Do I appear that much older? Well, at least I wasn’t a ghost to van Doren. He gave a slight nod and led us into the barn.
“There are four pups, but one of them is a runt. All livers, with white chests. They’ll be about 2 months out, I believe. You wanting the whole litter?”
“I would, first I see them.” It seemed men talk differently to each other. Sharp, short sentences as if they were fearful of too many words.
“Dam’s my Lilly, and not a finer dog in the township. The sire is Rumble from over Vieght’s way.”
“How did she take to Rumble? He’s a brute of a dog, too tall in the withers for a spaniel.”
“Aye, these are big water spaniels, all except for that runt, which probably won’t live. I should bash her head in. The others will benefit.”
Van Doren fell silent. “So, you thinking of breeding your own pack here?”
“When I see them, Abraham.” Abraham walked to the back of the barn, and in a dark stall, a bitch lay in a corner, her pups in the straw.
“Hush, Lilly, some one to see you.” Lilly was a thin hound, small for a water spaniel. Three of the pups were large. The fourth lay next to her, hopefully asleep.
Abraham van Doren, a farmer and used to all sorts of death, picked up the runt by the back feet and shook it to see if it breathed.. I uttered a cry and rushed toward his hands.
“Give her to me! Don’t shake her like that.” The Dutchman almost dropped the pup in surprise, but handed her over. It was now awake and I held her to my breast, warming her with my cloak. I looked defiantly at Garrett and saw him suppress a smile.
“Abraham…I’ll take all the pups, and if you throw in the runt for my Auntie here, I’ll give you a shilling more.”
They settled on a price for the dogs. Picking up an old basket, Abraham van Doren dropped the pups in. Lilly whined and struggled to her feet.
“Quiet now girl.” His voice was kindly. “You’ll get some bacon with your porridge tonight.”
We left the dim barn, and reentered the sunlight. My eyes blinked and finally adjusted. A few more minutes with Abraham van Doren, and I mounted the step to the rig.
Garrett placed the basket at my feet and taking the reins from the post, turned the black horse homeward.
“So…I hear I’m your ‘Auntie’? Does incest play into this story?” I looked at his profile, and saw him smiling.
“I told you about the glamour. Convenient part of magic, that trick. Can make people see whatever you want.”
“Oh.” I couldn’t resist asking him. “And how did I look to Abraham van Doren?”
“Oh, old enough to throw off any scent of scandal. About Catherine’s age.”
“With all the wrinkles and fallen- in gums?”
“Yep…and bald under your cap and bonnet.” He was laughing now, and turned his wicked eyes on me.
“Thanks a lot, Demon,” I said sharply. “Now you can read my thoughts and alter my appearance? Is there anything you can’t do to me?”
“I told you when I first saw you, in this story I am pulling the strings. You write the book, my good little ‘Auntie’, and I direct the play.”
He gave a short laugh and turned silent for a moment. “I can make you do anything I want… except one thing.”
“And quickly tell me what that is!” I said, laughing.
Looking ahead at the road, he said softly, “I can’t make you love me.”
My heart flipped in my chest, and my eyes misted over.
Ah, Garrett, my sweet Demon. I am glad you aren’t looking. My face would betray me. I would be totally lost.
Copyrighted, 2009, 2010, 2013