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     Volume 2 Issue 2 | January 20, 2007 |


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Kaatje's Treasure

In great-grandfather's time, there stood a modest inn, The Little Swan, on the road out of Harlem to the tea-garden at Kraante Lek. The innkeeper and his wife barely earned enough to keep body and soul together; but they were happy nonetheless.

The wife, though, was a dreamer who loved to talk about the wonderful times about to dawn on her husband and herself.

One night she had a dream. Next day she kept thinking about it and was so much quieter than usual that her husband felt something must be wrong. Normally, his kaatje would chatter and sing all day long and did not seem to mind that they were poor. What could the matter be?

Kaatje, he said, "what is wrong with you? Are you unhappy or, perhaps, unwell?"

'Oh no, Willem,' she cried. 'It's just that I keep thinking of a dream I had last night. I can see it now as if it all were real.'

'You and your dreams!' scoffed Willem. "If dreams came true you and I would be King and Queen of Holland now! All the same, you've made me curious: do tell me what you saw.'

'I dreamed I would be rich; rich beyond my dreams. But first I would have to go to Amsterdam and walk three times around the Corn Exchange.

The innkeeper burst out laughing. 'I've been to Amsterdam so often; I must have walked round the Corn Exchange at least ten times,' he said. "But it hasn't made me one cent richer!' And he chuckled and chortled at his wife's daft dreams.

But his wife did not laugh at all. 'Honestly, Willem,' she said. 'I could see it all quite clearly. And I can still hear the voice, telling me how to gain my fortune.'

'All right then,' her husband said. "If you insist on knowing if dreams come true, I'll walk round the Exchange for you -- three times, if you wish. I have to go to Amsterdam next week to see the brewer."

Kaatje would not agree to that. She had to go herself; that's what the voice had told her. And, what is more, it had to be at the stroke of midnight.

So off she went to Amsterdam. She arrived at eleven o'clock and paced up and down the Damplein (which is close by the Corn Exchange). Time seemed to pass so slowly. But at last all the clocks struck midnight.

She was very, very excited.

She walked once around the block. Then twice. And then a third time. It was quite a tiring walk, for the Exchange is a very long building.

Nothing happened.

She even began to think her husband had been right: how could she grow rich by doing this? Really, it was silly. Dreams never came true. She should have stayed at home.

Then all of a sudden, when she had lost all hope, a fine gentleman approached and, thinking she was lost, began to address her. 'Can I help you,' he asked politely.

At once she told him of her strange dream.

He heard her out, then smiled in pity.

'My dear,' he sighed, 'you should not pin your hopes on dreams. I too had a dream once; of a treasure buried somewhere near Harlem, on the road to the tea-garden at Kraante Lek.

Just by an inn -- The Little Swan I seem to recall -- there stood a gooseberry bush; you know, the sort under which babies are said to be found ....

He gave a little laugh at this, poking fun at her. "The treasure lay buried beneath that bush,' he continued. 'And for all I know it lies there still. I don't believe in dreams, you see.' Still laughing, the fine gentleman went on his way.

Well, you can imagine how fast the woman went back to the inn. She had no money left for the canal-boat back, so she just struck out for home on foot, as fast as her legs would carry her.

'There you are,' Willem declared on her return. 'I knew you wouldn't find your fortune. You're tired out, and to what purpose?' He laughed at her until he was fit to burst.

But Kaatje was not put off. 'You may laugh,' she said, 'but dreams do come true. Just you wait and see.'

Taking a spade she went to the bottom of the garden and began to dig beneath the gooseberry bush. Her husband stood, smiling, hands on hips, thinking his poor wife had lost her wits.

At first she dug up only mud and sand, throwing it aside. But then her spade struck something hard: as she cleared the earth away an iron-bound chest came into view. And when she broke off the rusted lock with her spade and opened up the lid, what did she see?

Why, brightly-shining golden coins: piles and piles of them.

Now it was her husband's turn to stare. He rubbed he eyes, unable to believe his gaze. But this was no dream it was a treasure chest of Spanish gold -- no doubt from the time of the Spanish siege of Harlem.

The innkeeper and his wife carried the chest indoors and put it on the bar. Then, putting his arm about his dear wife's waist, he whisked her off in a merry dance around the room, making all the glasses tinkle. How happy the host and hostess were!

And from that day on they both believed sincerely that dreams can come true.

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