The Owl's Nest

Author:W. Schippers
Retail Price:$6.95
Grade Level:9-12

From the Back Cover:
The Owl’s Nest is an intriguing, historical novel that takes place in South Holland in the 1800’s. Hans Klinge was recently discharged from military service. He works as a hired hand for Barend Van Gulven, the wealthiest farmer in the village. While a hardworking, honest man, Hans Klinge comes to earn his employer’s hatred when he seeks the hand of Barend Van Gulven’s daughter, Martha, whom her father intends for Gerrit Dubbe, the son of the second wealthiest man in the village.

Starting a family in the Owl’s Nest (the homestead in which he lives) would be hard enough for the poor, young laborer, but his father-in-law’s malicious interference and the hatred of Gerrit Dubbe combine to make life most unbearable for Hans. Between the obstacles placed in his way and his own anger and bitterness, Hans learns that his ways and the ways of God are not the same.

The author, W. Schipper, was a renowned writer in the Netherlands with forty plus books to his credit. At this printing, The Owl’s Nest is the only book translated into the English language. Originally translated (by an unknown translator) around the turn of the twentieth century, it has been edited and reprinted by Early Foundations Publishers.


CAREFREE was the name of a large and beautiful estate, and its owner, Barend Van Gulven, was considered the wealthiest farmer of the village. We do not vouch for the truth of this statement, but we are certain that farmer Van Gulven relished very much this common belief concerning his wealth and the flattering remarks about his possessions, which remarks were often made in his presence. There was no one more capable of doing this than Gerrit Dubbe, a farmer's son of that community, whose father was a close friend of Van Gulven.

Now Van Gulven had a lovely daughter named Martha, and it had long ago been decided by the parents of Martha and Gerrit that the two should at some future date become husband and wife. But pretty Martha only laughed and ridiculed the red-headed Gerrit, and the result was a showing of indifference for Gerrit. Men can plan, but they reckon aimlessly without the guidance of the great Master above, whose will alone is law, and who marks the paths which we poor mortals are to tread.

Van Gulven had at first with leniency and then with angry threats, given his daughter to understand that it was his desire for her to become the wife of Gerrit Dubbe. But neither method of persuasion had the desired result. At first Martha smiled at her father's words; but later her anger arose, and a scene followed in which the girl declared that she would rather marry the poorest laborer than the wealthy Gerrit Dubbe, whom she detested.

Striking the table a deafening blow and purple with rage, Van Gulven burst out that if she did not marry Gerrit Dubbe she would marry no one. But neither did this threat disturb Martha’s calmness, though she haughtily withdrew from the room, leaving her father in a rage and her mother in tears.

Shortly after this scene, farmer Van Gulven found that he was in need of hired help. Since hired men usually accepted new positions during the month of November, and it was now nearly Christmas, he almost despaired of finding any good help at this time. But finally he had the offer of a man, and being pleased with his appearance Van Gulven hastened to take him into his employment.

Hans Klinge was Geldersch by birth, had been a soldier in the South Holland garrison and, after his term of service had expired, had become a farmhand. His sole remaining relative was his brother who sailed the Rhine River. There was nothing that bound him to Gelderland nor was there anything to hinder him from becoming the hired man of farmer Van Gulven.

Farmer Van Gulven was not easy on his men, but he found no cause for complaint in this Gelderschman. There was no farmhand for miles around that could plow such furrows as this man of Carefree. And when Van Gulven had bought an unruly young horse that he himself could not subdue, Hans Klinge asked whether he might not have a try at it. Although things went rather roughly, the Gelderschman succeeded in conquering the wild creature. As a result Van Gulven now owned a horse of which he could well be proud. Matters went along nicely for a year. The boys of the village thought much of the hired man of Carefree. Yet he had enemies; and although Hans was to be cherished as a friend, he was to be feared as an enemy.

Hans had been at Van Gulven’s but a short time when the opportunity arose to show that he did not lack courage, as a couple of farmers’ sons discovered to their sorrow.

Snow had fallen and the roads and sidewalks were covered with a blanket of white. The sun shone from a clear blue sky and the landscape sparkled in its light.

Three farmers’ daughters were walking down the main street of the village, chatting as they went. They intended to follow the street that led past Carefree, for one of the three girls was Martha Van Gulven; the two others were her friends.

They had been to church, for it was a Sunday forenoon. They had tarried in front of the church to talk with some girls who lived in the opposite direction and it had become late. They were now hastening to their homes where a cup of hot coffee awaited them. The village street, which but a short time before was filled with churchgoers, was now completely deserted; for, although the sun was shining brightly, a northeast wind painted noses and cheeks to a bright red and made fingers and ears to tingle.

Yet there were others who did not fear to brave the cold. Behind a large barn, near the road leading to Carefree, stood a small group of young farmers talking and smoking. They stood in the sun, unshielded from the wind, as they were strong lusty young fellows accustomed to life in the open. They talked of sleighing and skating, and the leader of the conversation declared emphatically that there was more snow coming. He even dared to bet ten gulden that such would be the case before the sun had set.

Yes, he was a braggart, the red-haired Gerrit Dubbe. Yet, in spite of an overbearing manner, all were presumed to respect him; for he was the son of one of the wealthiest farmers in the village; and nowhere does one find such regard for wealth as in rural areas.

There was but one man in the village reputed wealthier than Mr. Dubbe (the father of Gerrit) and that man was the owner of Carefree. For this reason Van Gulven would cheerfully have given Martha, his only child and daughter, to Gerrit Dubbe, likewise the only heir of his opulent father. Martha’s unwillingness did not figure into her father’s consideration. His wish was law and he was accustomed to being obeyed.

Naturally, not one of the farmers’ sons of the village dared consider himself a rival of Gerrit Dubbe. Not only were they held in check by his money, but they also feared his prowess and his blind fury.

“I’m going home for a cup of coffee, boys,” said one of the young men behind the barn as he started to go. “Ah!” he added, “here comes Martha Van Gulven. Gerrit, are you not going to ask her to go sleigh-riding tomorrow?”

It was common knowledge in the village that Gerrit Dubbe was favored by the father of Martha but was not wanted by his pretty daughter; nor did she make a secret of her dislike for young Dubbe. The young men knew this and hence they tantalizingly said:

“Go on, Gerrit; let us see her smile when you ask her. You are not afraid, are you?”

The blood rushed to the already ruddy face and contracting his bristling eyebrows Gerrit burst out:

“Who said I’m afraid? I’ll show you whether I dare or not!” then adding with a smile, “Be quiet, boys, I’m going to scare the girls.”

With this he grabbed up a quantity of snow with his big hands and, just as the unsuspecting and chattering girls passed the barn, a large snowball caught Martha in the back of the neck. The boys laughed boisterously while the two friends of Martha, to escape any further missiles, fled down the road to Carefree. Martha, however, did not run. She had seen who threw the ball and from her pretty eyes she cast a disdainful glance at Gerrit. She now proceeded on her way but without hastening her steps. This was not to the liking of the rich farmer’s son who was not used to being disregarded in that manner. Walking up to the girl and placing his bulky figure in the road, he obstructed her further progress.

“Come, come, Martha,” said he, “do not become angry just because I threw a soft snowball. Go sleigh-riding with me tomorrow,” he said as he held out his hand. “Well, what do you say? Shake and then I'll accompany you to Carefree and get permission of your father.”

“Let me pass, rude fellow,” demanded Martha angrily. “Don’t you see that your attentions are not acceptable? Let me pass and do not act like a child.”

But the red-haired boor remained standing in the way and forcing a laugh exclaimed, “No, I will not let you by until I have your consent even if it takes an hour.”

With his hands in his pockets Hans Klinge now approached the group. He had just finished his coffee at Carefree and was now on his way for a little walk down the village street, moving along unconcernedly with a pipe in his mouth. But his interest was awakened as he approached the couple standing in the street.

What did Martha’s angry face and her glaring eyes mean? And why did that farmer insist upon detaining her?

Martha now also observed him as he hastened his steps. “Hans!” she called out in despair, “Hans, clear the path for me. This brute thinks he is champion of the whole village and imagines he can do anything he pleases.”

Hans was quick to take the girl’s part and stepping directly in front of Gerrit he demanded:

“Dubbe, you have no right to obstruct the street. Get out of the way.”

Gerrit Dubbe eyed the courageous speaker in astonishment as if he had not understood him. Instantly his temper flared up; yet before he could utter a word, Hans Klinge with a shove sent him backwards into the snow. Martha with a derisive laugh walked on, but a few steps farther on called back, “Thank you, Hans; that was bravely done.” And walking on swiftly, she soon caught up with her two friends who were waiting for her at the gate of Carefree.

But the affair in which Hans had become involved was not so easily settled, for Gerrit Dubbe, upon regaining his feet, rushed at him with the ferocity of a beast.

“Miserable Gelderschman,” he roared, quaking with wrath, “you shall pay for this.”

He threw himself at his antagonist with all his great weight but the hired man, who as a soldier had been one of the best boxers in his battalion, proved a dangerous opponent. He skillfully parried the powerful blows of the farmer and suddenly shot out his fist directly into Gerrit Dubbe’s face.

Gerrit now lost all self-control and, yelling hoarsely, he swung with mighty effort at his antagonist again and again, but Hans, skillfully avoiding him, landed blow upon blow on his face. The blood streamed from the young man’s mouth and his eyes began puffing out, yet he continued to fight with rising frenzy.

Most of the witnesses to this Sabbath-desecrating scene were inwardly rejoicing at the defeat of Gerrit Dubbe; besides, the entire affair had gone with a rush and no one had as yet been able to interfere. However, there was one in the crowd who was mean enough to sneak around behind Hans Klinge and attack him from the rear.

It was Gijs Lemmer, a tall youth who thus took part against the stranger. He had doubtless imagined that others of the company would join him in the fray and beat the Gelderschman to the ground. With one hand he struck Hans a blow on the head and with the other he grabbed him by the collar. But with the spring of a tiger the Gelderschman loosed himself and turned on his new assailant with drawn knife. The broad bright blade glittered a moment in the sunlight and if God had not intervened, the wretched quarrel might have ended in a tragedy.

Suddenly an old man, dressed in black, appeared from behind the barn. Leaning heavily upon his walking stick he approached the group of fighters as fast as his legs could carry him. His appearance already had a strange influence upon the young men. Even Gerrit Dubbe regained his composure and wiped the blood from his face with his handkerchief while Gijs Lemmer withdrew behind the others. Hans Klinge, however, with knife in hand and murder in his eye, kept his posture. The old man, with sadness in his voice, addressed him:

“Put away your knife, young man. Is it not terrible to dishonor this beautiful Lord’s Day by becoming an instrument of Satan and fighting with each other like wild animals? Come, men, go home and pray the good Lord that He may forgive you.”

With these few and simple words the old man accomplished what ten policemen would have failed to do. He was the pastor of the village and was honored and respected by all and no one would have thought to oppose him.

Ashamed and embarrassed, the young men left the place where such a little thing as throwing a snowball might easily have led to manslaughter. But Gerrit Dubbe did not leave without giving Hans Klinge a look which spoke of revenge at some later day. He then disappeared around the corner behind the barn and a few moments later the street running past farmer Van Gulven was deserted and quiet.