Encounter in the Hague

One January morning of biting frost, of wintergloom - no fuel, food or news about the war - she hurried across Nassau Plein to school, when unexpectedly a man moved towards her: eyes furtive under Basque beret, dark mustache weighing down a face so strained, a slender figure so familiar she knew she could not err: ``Oh, Mijnheer Kars!'' she shouted. The stranger slowed down. His cheeks changed color while his eyes begged her: no more. She wanted to tell him how they missed him in his classes, how dull the substitute.

Lightly he shook his head. ``That's not my name,'' he whispered under the new mustache. Suddenly she saw the danger he was in. How could she be so stupid to cry his name out loud when even trees had ears, when German officers stamped boots nearby, across the square? She bit her lip until she tasted blood while Mijnheer Kars strode on, again a stranger, who had already forgiven her with a swift wink.

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