The junior councillor seemed to have been spot-on, for further developments complied to his very words. The following Saturday scouts found the remnants of a newly-eaten sheep. A fixed spot was chosen, not far from the pond, where henceforth the victim would be tethered firmly to a pole. This marked the beginning of new circumstances to which they accustomed themselves rather quickly and in which they acquiesced. The more so as there was no sign of the monster for the rest of the week, as had been predicted. So, everything seemed much the same as before and everyone carried on his usual activities. Each time the sheep's value was made good on its owner from the common means.
Whether they had entered upon an era of greater happiness, for the present, there was no sign of this. What did happen, however, was a faint anxiety and awe entering their minds, and above all, curiosity. Although nobody, after that first encounter, had ever seen it again, the mysterious pond-dweller still took part of people's thoughts. Its appearance was greatly embellished. The trail from the pond to the sacrificial spot, standing out ever starker, inspired them with a certain respect that kept them from crossing it. Everyone was giving a wide berth to the offering place.
Whereas nobody could muster the courage to spy on its feasting, yet a desire just to see the monster was ever gaining in strength, especially amongst youngsters. For as the day of the first fright was receding into the past, so doubts were mounting about the particulars of its appearance. Voices were heard saying that the beast probably would underwhelm expectations, that its description had been a product rather of shock and imagination than of observation - some even hinting at mass suggestion and mass hysteria - and that this beast to which the whole community was rendering honours all but divine, after all might be anything but a plain and simple crocodile. For the first time in the history of this society graffiti showed on its walls as the bearers of what still was deemed unfit for uttering openly.
The former sentries, those who at the time had manned the guarding posts, the eye-witnesses and reporters, together with their constituencies felt deeply disgraced by these slurs and defended themselves vigorously.
"As you are so much bolder than we are, go and look for yourself," they retorted.
But nobody dared.
English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2009
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983