In a deep pit, just past Lochem, near the Koerbelt, three white wives once lived, who were sisters in ugliness, with their fleshed arms and long, gray, thin hair. Their eyes were deep and their teeth protruded like a skeleton. The eldest was the mistress of all white women from the area, up to the Veluwe. However, she had no name. During the day they lay in the sand, they were one with the sand. Only in the evening did they usually rise high into the sky. Sometimes they stayed on the earth and then ran across the plain, their sharp nails menacingly forward, their mouths wide open. Sometimes there was also a cry, screaming through the air, wilder than the storm wind.
Herbert and his sister Aleid were not afraid of the white girls. As children, they often went past the pit in the evenings to do another errand for their mother, and then when they passed the Koerbelt, and saw the mists rising and falling in the distance, their little fingers pointed at it without fear.
Because no matter how much the white wives loved to rob young men, they knew that none of them wanted to harm them. Sometimes they even descended into the hole and picked flowers. Then several times the eldest of the white wives glided past them spying, claws outstretched like a cat being attacked, but when the children laughed, the white wief flew on again. They saw her mist disappear in the blink of an eye, and as they went home, the white weaver screeched along the horizon, faster than a horse. That is why Herbert and his sister Aleid were not afraid of the white women, even though their neighbor Johanna, the daughter of Scholte Lodink, warned them about their courage.
"Don't go into the pit, Herbert," she said, "because nothing good ever came from the white girls." He laughed. "Who knows ... maybe they will throw gold in my hand."
"No, no Herbert, never go back in the hole. They're bad, the white bitches."
From then on he followed her line. When he passed the hole in the evening, he walked straight home.
He was not yet familiar with love. Still, his parents and hers - they confessed to each other with a smile - thought that Herbert and Johanna would be a couple.
Scholte Lodink, a former soldier, joked, as he banged his fist on the table: "If that were true - that they became husband and wife - then not two would be found in Barchem with more wealth." And his wife Christine gave a white smile.
"But," once exclaimed Scholte Lodink, "they should not be forced. Even though my daughter Johanna wants to marry a small farmer, my saying is: you cannot separate two youngsters."
Then Miss Christine stopped smiling. She thought to herself: It is good that Herbert and Johanna are together, because my daughter will not marry a poor boy, I will take care of that. She did not speak her mind. She was watching sparingly, her mouth closed.
"Love, I say, for everything," continued rich Scholte, "if there is no love, you cannot do anything with money. Herbert and Johanna will become a couple, even if he had no money. "
A few years later, he was able to live up to his words, because Herbert's parents won a lawsuit, but they lost their savings with it. Then Mother Christine's thoughts were full of concern for her daughter's future. Wasn't she the wife of Scholte Lodink and did Johanna then have to marry such a pauper who could only earn a living with his hands? She sat in front of the fireplace and reflected. The flames rose high and glowed past the cauldron. Sparks flew from the dry wood that kept turning itself. Mother Christine held out her hands so that all the warmth brushed over the fingertips. She always said that this is how she could think the best.
What came to her was not happy for Herbert and Johanna. For as she bent down to make a larger passage for a piece of wood than it had hitherto, she discovered that she knew another suitor for Johanna than Herbert: Albrecht! Albrecht had everything you'd expect from a suitor, she thought; he was a well-built man and he was richer than anyone else in the Achterhoek. How could she pair them without Johanna noticing the cunning scheme?
No better matchmaker than coincidence!
Mother once met Christine Albrecht, when she was actually the least suspicious of it. She stopped him and immediately started a conversation. "Well Albrecht," she said, "how little I see you these days."
"We keep missing each other, Miss Christine," laughed the young man.
"It seems so. You had to come to us one evening, then you can talk about politics with Scholte."
Anyone can easily understand that her daughter would be at home when politics were discussed. And see! Mother Christine played her best cards: for that night Johanna was at her most ruddy and beautiful, and as if the wind was playing, her curls were so frisky across the white forehead. All the secrets of her childhood, otherwise so hidden behind the mist of her eyes, you now read freely on her happy face, as if she were a child and not a girl who knew love.
Mother Christine could not have imagined that she had seen Herbert that day and that she looked past Albrecht as if he were just a lifeless thing. Mother Christine, smart as she was, didn't know there was any reason Johanna had stood on the doorstep with her hands above her eyes. It wasn't about the rays of the evening sun, it was to get a better view of Herbert. Mothers who want to pair up are smart and dumb at the same time.
She couldn't help it that there was little talk about politics that night. Because something strange had happened to Herbert, and Scholte Lodink knew how to tell. Herbert's name was mentioned more than Scholte's wife would like, and her daughter sat and listened to hear angel music. It had only become known now, although it had happened a few months earlier.
One summer evening Herbert came on horseback from the farrier. He passed a whirlpool on the narrow road. Suddenly, a water bird flew up with loud screams. The horse started and ran straight to the white weaver's pit. "No, no," Johanna wanted to call out, but at the same moment she thought she had seen Herbert healthy and well this evening, and smiled at herself. De Scholte had stopped his story for a moment. Then he went on, speaking his voice thoughtfully, speaking very slowly, looking at Albrecht.
"Surely Herbert would have fallen into the pit if an old friend had not come to his aid, the eldest of the white women. She jumped up, her claws grabbed the animal in the mane and her knees thrust it in the side. For a moment the horse trembled. Herbert patted it on the neck, stroked it, and quietly turned it around. Walking pace drove home. "
The old Scholte thought all this was fortunate for the young man. But it was not for nothing that he had been a soldier: he admired Herbert for his courage. Johanna moved a little closer to hear better. Albrecht's mouth was wide open in surprise. Mother Christine shifted restlessly in her chair. Yeah, what had the grumpy boy done?
Lodink's voice softened: "The moment he was in danger of being crushed, Herbert could have looked into the pit and seen what the white wives were doing. They were sitting in front of a fire, and above it was a green tree branch. from which hung a bird, neatly plucked as if it had been done by human hands. They roasted the meat, the white wives. had come home and told his sister Aleid, with whom he had so often fallen into the pit, in private, and asked her if she would bake a three-kings cake for the white wives, brown with crust and sweet on the inside. , and he wanted to bring it before sunset.
Aleid had smiled. Was that all? She wanted to do even more for him. And when he asked her if she wanted to prepare everything neatly for him, she looked at him and said, "Of course I want to do that, but under one condition."
"May I go to the whitewife's pit."
"Aleid," he shouted anxiously, "not that."
"Would the white girls hurt you?" she had asked. "Then I want to share the danger with you. We used to pick flowers there, Herbert, until Johanna asked you not to go anymore. Did you think I was scared now?"They had known days of self-sacrificing struggle. Aleid had won. She baked the fragrant Epiphany cake and put it in an earthen dish. She covered the cake with ivy, which covered the earthen dish, so that it seemed as if she was offering her gift in a wreath of green leaves. She wanted to carry the cake to the quarry: Herbert brought it down. Well, her heart was beating with fear when she saw that near from under a bush, a large head was pushing forward, and a green eye stared, but she held herself bravely; and quietly, after Herbert had come up again, she strode home beside him. The next day Herbert had gone to the pit. He had seen the earthen dish below. The ivy leaves were next to it. "
Then Scholte Lodink was silent. He gave his daughter a nod, then turned to Albrecht. Did he want to say something to the young man? He had raised his eyebrows high, there were wrinkles in the forehead, and deep furrows around the mouth. After his story, the conversation between mother Christine, Johanna and Albrecht was only slow. There was one word in their brains - but how different in sound - that stunted their desire to talk: Herbert. Mother Christine thought it with anger. Her husband - de Scholte - had heard the story before, but he had been waiting for a good opportunity to share it. He had truly shown again that he was an old soldier who uses his weapons at the right time, neither too soon nor too late. She had to admit to herself that he had been the strongest. She would have a look later, she decided quietly. The game was not yet won for him.
Johanna felt the sound of the word "Herbert" as sweet consolation. She had just seen him. He went vigorously on the road. He had greeted her with a confident smile. Who could stand him? There were no dangers to him. Even in the Witte Wieven pit he had fallen, and why? To show his gratitude. He was very good and courageous. What girl didn't want to be protected by him? Albrecht was sitting next to her, and the word "Herbert" was like a curse in his consciousness as he looked at the beautiful young girl. He hated the bravery. It seemed to him as if Scholte Lodink despised him, as he praised Herbert. Was he actually less than Herbert? He could buy whatever he wanted with his money - and what was Herbert? Deep within him burned the lust for revenge and the certainty that he could get Herbert as his hired servant, and that he could make him slaves. Herbert was a servant, and he the master! He wanted to make that clear to Johanna. He clenched his hands into fists. If he wanted, he could ask Johanna to wife, and he could let Herbert toil for him and her. And if Herbert were to marry Johanna - Albrecht would have made a good move. Then he would let the man work for him, and he would make his life miserable.
His plans were set when he said goodbye. But he didn't show anything. Even Scholte Lodink did not know what he was up to. The poor Scholte Lodink! That evening he had more to put up with from Miss Christine than before during his entire marriage. He had never heard such a sermon. There was no rest in the woman's tongue — she kept chattering, and he couldn't get a word out. As an old soldier he was otherwise not made for a little rumor - he had fought against many kinds of enemies, but such hellish fire had never been poured on him. Whether he imagined that she, Christine, would consent to Herbert's marriage to her daughter? Did he not know what Albrecht owned and what he would inherit? What mattered if someone descended into the Wittewievenkuil - Albrecht dared to. If therefore it was feasible - if there wasn't a whole lot else to look at in life! She rattled on like this for two hours, from one to the other, from the other to the one, and it seemed to Scholte Lodink that he himself was out of breath. He finally managed to stop her. Was Albrecht as brave as Herbert! He had to prove that ... Man's courage stood above the money. A man who was not brave would not have his daughter. All kinds of dangers lurk for the girl who is not sheltered. A strong mind and a strong arm would benefit her better than all the gold in the world. If Albrecht dared, as Herbert dared, he could get Johanna. He, as an old soldier, did not want it any other way ... and sabers and bullets! he would see who in this matter would cross him.
"Do you think that Albrecht does not dare to go to the whitewife pit?" his wife asked him. "No, he doesn't dare." - "I don't know what the dare was." She pursed her lips together until her mouth resembled the narrow slit of a piggy bank: there was still room in it, but nothing came out. Her words had given Scholte Lodink an idea. The next day, when he went across the field with Johanna, he asked her frankly, "Who do you like better, Herbert or Albrecht?" She flushed at the sudden question. How could her father be so stupid. She took hold of her apron by the tips, prepared for all events. In any case - in sorrow and in joy - there were tears to hide here. She knew her father well enough to know that he was not referring to her harm; but she had also heard that the conversation between her father and mother had lasted a long time, the previous evening, and that her father's grumbling voice had given up against her mother's flute voice. What would happen? Her apron was ready. Scholte Lodink's question sounded again, and she had to give an answer now. "Who do you like better, Herbert or Albrecht?" She said anxiously, "Herbert, father." - "I thought so," he said happily.
That was good news! A few pithy curses went over Albrecht's character. At that moment Johanna lifted her apron and wiped her tears for joy. She knew now how strong her father was for Herbert and against Albrecht. She dropped her apron again - she didn't take the time to smooth out the creases - she laid her cheek, wet and well, against Scholte's hairy face, and begged, "Father! Help me." - "I will, my child." How simple were her words, in which she told him how she loved Herbert. Like a bird in May - (his song is simple - deep the love with which he sings) - she loved. It was all surrender and expectation. For the very first thing about love is that it expects more than it desires. Then old Scholte put his arms around her, and they both felt, father and daughter, as if they were children. Was life different from a light game? Money had no power, the world was like a meadow on which one only had to weave wreaths. Whoever was bad was not allowed to play. Suddenly they both understood that it was just a dream. Life was cruel, and Mother Christine had something to say too!
Scholte Lodink came up with his plan. Mother Christine had said that Albrecht was as brave as Herbert. He should prove that. He would therefore demand this from both lovers: at midnight the two of them would drive to the Wittenwievenkuil - Herbert van de Westkant, Albrecht van de Zuid. When they approached the quarry, they both had to throw a hair spit into the pit, and who then - of course, each followed by a white wive - would arrive first at Scholte's farm, became Johanna's husband. Now mother Christine could show that Albrecht was as troubled as Herbert. Both Herbert and Albrecht heard his decision calmly. They understood that Scholte was right, they said. Because in those days there was a lot of evil scum on the road, and it would be good if Johanna did not have the first of the best for husband.
Albrecht thought to himself that it would be easier than he had imagined. He did not have to descend into the hole. For his money he could buy a noble horse and Herbert only had an old blaze. Only once in his life did he have to force himself into a big act, and after all, it didn't mean much. He bought the very best horse from a merchant. He decided quietly and cunningly within himself, to swing the hairpin from afar - then he wanted to see whether the white wife would catch him, and whether he would not first arrive at Scholte's farm.
Herbert didn't think so far. He only had an old turnip and he understood well that he had to drive with all his might, so as not to fall under the power of the white woman. Still, he wanted to accomplish everything for Johanna, and drove quietly from the west side to the pit on that particular evening. In the distance he heard hoofbeats. So Albrecht's horse was approaching too? He drove the blaze with a short word until he was right in front of the quarry. Albrecht had not yet arrived. He threw the spit down with audacious force, and shouted in a loud voice: "White, white, white. Here comes an iron spit."
Desperately, Bles ran down the mountain. From the den rose the white woman, her claws spread, her mouth wide open, and immediately she was behind the rider. The storm wind picked up and knocked down the grain; the branches of the trees cracked. The white wife was so close to Herbert that he felt her breath. O! when her sharp claws took hold of him. He made the horse more passionate. "Ha ha ha," screamed the white woman, "Herbert, you cannot escape me. My claws will have you in front of Scholte's house. I will avenge myself, as I have never avenged myself on a human soul. Stand still with your horse. That is too old for such a race. Albrecht, who bought a fiery steed, did not even dare to compete with me. Halfway he is turned around. "
If the white wife believed she would stop him with these words, she was mistaken. No, on the contrary ... the fact that Herbert heard how Albrecht had failed already gave him the power of the victor. Was his horse old? Courage was in the master, fear in the animal. Come on ... For a moment he felt her claws along his neck - scraping - as he drove into the yard of Lodink's farm. A loud object whizzed after him. The white wive ran back to the hole. "Hurray!" Scholte shouted. Mother Christine said nothing, her forehead was only wrinkles. Johanna hugged the brave rider. "And it will be a wedding in a few days," shouted the happy father, "and I will dance a hornpipe like only a soldier can."
"Didn't she hit you?" Johanna asked concerned.
"A slight scratch, and then she threw me some more."
"Retired?" asked Scholte.
"Let's see." They went to the yard.
Herbert laughed. "The white wife doesn't want to keep anything either ... It's a piece of the earthen dish we gave her."
"Strange that it hasn't fallen to pieces," mused Scholte and he picked up the shard and held it in his hand. "How heavy it is."
Johanna pulled his sleeve. "Come on, father, let's go back home. It's cold outside."
The lamp was on. Scholte had the shard in his hand. Suddenly he started to laugh. "That earthen dish ... that earthen dish ... is made of gold. That is the wedding present of the white wife. She wanted to scare you, but that was her revenge. Boy, Herbert ... you are richer than Scholte. Lodink ... and richer than Albrecht. "
This is what the old man said and he looked at his wife slyly. Then Miss Christine also smiled and spread her arms. But Johanna - yes, Johanna - was already resting against the shoulder of another, of a young man. And she no longer needed her mother's arms.
Source: Folktales Almanac¬¬¬