A STORY FROM THE SAND-DUNES 715
and hardships that surrounded the humble, but he tasted also of the poor man's joys.
Childhood has sunny heights for all, whose memory gleams through the whole of later life. The boy had many opportunities for pleasure and play. The whole coast, for miles and miles, was full of playthings, for it was a mosaic of pebbles, red as coral, yellow as amber, and others again white and rounded like birds' eggs, and all smoothed and prepared by the sea. Even the bleached fish skeletons, the water plants dried by the wind, seaweed, white, gleaming, and long linen-like bands, waving among the stones, all these 'seemed made to give pleasure and amusement to the eye and the thoughts ; and the boy had an intelligent mind—many and great faculties lay dormant in him. How readily he retained in his mind the stories and songs he heard, and how neat-handed he was ! With stones and mussel shells he could put together pictures and ships with which one could decorate the room ; and he could cut out his thoughts wonderfully on a stick, his foster-mother said, though the boy was still so young and little ! His voice sounded sweetly ; every melody flowed at once from his lips. Many chords were attuned in his heart which might have sounded out into the world, if he had been placed elsewhere than in the fisherman's hut by the North Sea.
One day another ship was stranded there. Among other things, a chest of rare flower bulbs floated ashore. Some were put into the cooking pots, for they were thought to be eatable, and others lay and shrivelled in the sand, but they did not accomplish their purpose or unfold the richness of colour whose germ was within them. Would it be better with Jurgen ? The flower bulbs had soon played their part, but he had still years of apprenticeship before him.
Neither he nor his friends remarked in what a solitary and uniform way one day succeeded another, for there was plenty to do and to see. The sea itself was a great lesson-book, unfolding a new leaf every day, such as calm and breakers, breeze and storm. Shipwrecks were great events. The visits to the church were festal visits. But among the festal visits in the fisherman's house, one was particularly distinguished. It was repeated twice in the year, and was,