Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Siska van Roosemael
By Hendrik Conscience (1812–1883)
From ‘Fashion; or, Siska Van Roosemael’

NOT many years ago, you might have seen in one of the streets behind the green churchyard of Antwerp, a famous old grocer’s shop, which through many generations had descended from father to son, and had always been conspicuous for good wares and low prices. The last proprietor of the shop was James van Roosemael, son of Frank, son of Charles, son of Gaspard van Roosemael, and had married Siska Pot, a descendant of the famous Peter Pot, whose name is still to be met in the two Peter-Pot Streets.  1
  This wedded pair, trained from early youth to a life of industry, and now unremittingly busied with their small trade, had never found time to take part in the progress of modern civilization,—or in other words, to Frenchify themselves. Their dress, made of stout cloth, was plain, and hardly ever changed its cut; they merely distinguished working dress, Sunday dress, and Easter dress. The latter was never taken from the cupboard but on great holidays, and when the Van Roosemaels took the Holy Communion, or were invited by friends as godparents or marriage guests. It was easily to be seen that the simple people of the old Flemish world, in their quaint though valuable dress, looked rather strangely if compared with many a fine beau, who for a few francs had decked himself out in a fine showy dress, and would, in passing, regard the Van Roosemaels with disdain. But they did not mind it, and thought, “Every man has his own point to gain—you the shadow, we the substance.” They were sufficiently uneducated not to know that gentlefolks do not dine at noon, and they therefore were vulgar enough to sit down to dinner when the clock struck twelve; yea, more, they never forgot to say grace both before and after dinner. But there were other imperfections with which they ought to be charged: for instance, they did not understand a word of French, and had never felt the want of this accomplishment; they were religious, humble, industrious, and above all peaceable. But the height of their stupidity was, that they in their Flemish simplicity considered it better every day to lay by an honest stiver, than by lies and fraud to amass such riches in a few years, that all the world should exclaim in astonishment, “In what hole did the rat find it?” In a word, they were Flemish burghers of the old school.  2

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.