Simon Gieke was a man in the prime of his life. His father and mother had died when he was very young: he had never known them. An uncle had taken him in when Simon was just a boy. He hadn’t enjoyed any kind of upbringing. He got food, drink, and clothing. Nothing else. There was no education of any kind. What good would that do? Even his uncle had been unable to read or write. The uncle had been a rough, fearsome fellow who wandered about in the huge commons, trying to make his living by hunting, fishing, and poaching. He would steal whatever he could get. Whoever could, avoided him.

When he had money, he spent it in the tavern with other rowdy characters. Then he was a dangerous man who picked fights and pulled out his knife for the smallest things. In reality, he terrorized the whole village and its surroundings. Whenever something seemed to be missing and people were certain that he had taken it, no one dared to report him. What a relief it was for Scherpenisse when they heard that the uncle had died. No one really knew how he had come to his end. Most assumed that he had suffocated in the water and mud. One January morning, he had gone into the commons. It had been freezing for several days and during the night there had been a heavy snowfall. He must have gone through the ice. No one had heard any more about him until a haymaker had found him in a deep slough the following summer. They had recognized him because of his vaulting pole and musket.

Simon had been eighteen years old at the time and had not shed many tears for the uncle whom he succeeded. And what kind of successor? In churlishness and godlessness, he exceeded even his uncle. He wanted nothing to do with religion but ranted and raved at the parish priest and never performed a single religious duty. He was a total heathen, who cursed and drank even more than his uncle had done. Everyone avoided him as much as they could. Many crossed themselves when they had to pass his house. However, in one thing he differed favourably from his uncle: he never stole. No one had ever complained that he had stolen from them.