Maarten Maartens.

Joost Avelingh: a Dutch story online

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Introduction 5

Part i. Before.


I. "A Strap under his Heart" 11

II. "Santa Claus" : 15

III. Dramatis Persons . , 21

IV. Joost studies Medicine 35

v. The Ice-Party , . . 42

VI. Weighed in the Balance 55

VII. The Claims of Rank 60

VIII. The Claims of Love . 66

IX. " Found wanting " 71

X. Madame de Montelimart . 79

XI. The Cup flows over _ . ^ .89

Part ii. After.

XII. Charity 97

XIII. Looks back 107

XIV. Money-Making made easy 112

XV. "Are you ill, Avelingh ? " . . , . . .120

XVI. The Jonker's Legacy . . , . . . .131

XVII. Under the Surface . . , . o . . . 138

XVIII. Murder will out . . ^ . . . 144




XIX. " Wanted " . . .157

XX. Give a Dog a Bad Name . . . . . . 168

XXI. Jan Lorentz 174

XXII. The Trial 184

XXIII. The Turning-Point 199

XXIV. Das Ewig Weibliche zieht uns hinan . . . 205

XXV. The Verdict , .21*7

XXVI. After the Verdict 218

XXVII. ^Avelingh vs. Avelingh 223

XXVIII. Liberty lost and regained 233

XXIX. A " Lettre de Faire Part " 238

XXX. Doctor Avelingh's Theory 244

XXXI. Joost's Labors for others bear Fruit for himself . 250

XXXII. Interviewing the Candidate 259

XXXIII. More about the mad Countess 264

XXXIV. Blindfold not Love, if Love be blind . . .272
XXXV. The Election 278


XXXVII." Could we do else ? " 296

XXXVIII. What should it profit a Man ? 298


XL. The Confession 310

XLI. The World's Farewell to Joost Avelingh . .317



It had stopped raining.

Had it not stopped raining? The grumpy old fellow
"who keeps the small grocery store on the Hoester road crept
to his door and looked out. You know the little shop, if
you know the neighborhood at all, the low house with the
lollipop jars in its square-paned window. The old grocer
stood shading his eyes with his hand to see better, as men
will do in excess of darkness strangely enough as well as
in excess of light. He was asking himself for the twentieth
time that evening whether it was worth his while to cross
the shining, slippery road and have his customary chat with
his friend, the innkeeper opposite.

It was not so dark but that he could see the long,
straight highway vaguely stretching away on both sides in a
shimmer of steaming wet beneath the glittering drip, drip
of its lines of trees. In fact, the light was coming through
more and more every minute. High up among the clouds
the wind was busy at his lace- weaving, lifting and spreading
and intertangling puffs of black and white and gray in an
ever thinner veil, for the moon to look through. And she,
as if to bid him continue, was sending forth feeble rays that
crept slowly down upon the little cluster of some half-a-
dozen cottages which lie huddled like a knot in a rope


halfway ;Sa\^ vtte 'long, lonely road between Heist and
Hoest. Decidedly, the clouds must have stopped raining,
even if the trees had not.

The Baas came to the conclusion that crossing might be
worth his while. Whether it was a craving for the inn-
keeper's company, or for his customary steaming " night-
cap," that influenced his decision, it were needless, and per-
haps invidious, to inquire. He toddled through the mud
toward the dim light over the way.

" Innkeeper " is, in fact, although it has been used
already, too imposing a word to apply to old Wurmers.
The cottage opposite, with one narrow window beside the
door, and one square window over it, is the smallest even of
small Dutch public-houses. A broad hoop, painted a bright
green, wdth " Tappery, Slytery " on it in golden letters,
stands out above the entrance, and in the window a solitary
card, the advertisement of a Bavarian Brewery, hangs before
a blue wire-work screen. Within, all is stale smoke and
bitters. A low box of a room, with a bar, a number of
shelves full of bottles, a square deal table and two or three
wicker chairs. The grocer pushed open the door; the
master of the house came shambling forward. He was old,
like the other man, with faded red hair, and he walked

" A bad night," he said, " no customers."

*' So much the better for the Temperance people,"
chuckled the grocer. " There's a meeting down at Heist
to-night. Ha ! Ha ! I know what they say : ' God made
water and fire, and the devil brewed fire-water out of

*' God made all things,'' said the other piously ; he was
a pious publican, a Publican and a Pharisee, a type not Un-
known in Holland nor elsewhere, for the matter of that.

" Even gin ? " asked the grocer, with a queer grin, as he
took the glass Baas Wurmers held out to him.


"Gin more than most things," replied the republican
sententiously. " At the marriage-feast of Cana, a village
where it appears there were not enough wineshops "

But the devil's reasoning on the devil's behalf was sud-
denly cut short. The noise of advancing wheels, to which
both old cronies had been lending a vague attention during
the last few seconds, stopped abruptly outside. A rough
voice was heard calling and swearing. Both men hurried
to the door as fast as their shaky legs could carry them.

A one-horse chaise was drawn up in the middle of the
road, its lamps flashing in broad sweeps over the mud and
dimly revealing under the hood the figures of two men, a
younger one driving, and an older one at his side.

It was the older man who had cried out, and he now re-
peated his demand, in the same loud, blustering voice.

" A borrel," (dram), he shouted, " a borrel, you damned
old stupid ! What else should a man stop for at your hole
of a house on such a damned cold night as this ? "

The younger man sat silent. Behind, in the open dickey,
was a servant, half-asleep.

The gin was brought without a word of greeting. Free
Dutch burghers do not like being sworn at. It was gulped
down amid a multiplicity of oaths, the last at the driver for
tarrying ; and then the carriage dashed off again into the
darkness, its lights playing " catch me and kiss me " with
the few moonbeams that lingered among the trees.

The two men stood watching it out of sight. " Those
are not going to the Temperance meeting," said the tavern-

" Poor young fellow," muttered the grumpy old grocer.
And they wnet in.

The chaise passed swiftly down the road, hoof and wheels
plashing straight through big and little puddles. Conver-
sation there was none between the two occupants, unless an


occasional muttered, oath from the one, or an angry whip-
cut from the other, can claim the dignity of that name. A
good deal of intercourse, doubtless, may be kept up by such
intermittent signs as these.

The younger man sat silent, with a white face and tight-
ly compressed lips, holding the reins firmly, and driving
fast, fast.

The older one, whose wrathful ejaculations had been
gradually dying away in longer intervals, suddenly shook
himself together and burst into a torrent of meaningless
invective. His companion shrank slightly away, against
the farther side of the hood, but answered never a word.

And then, a few minutes later, the angry man foamed
over, as it were, bubbling and spluttering and choking, till
he fell back in a heap, limp, clumsy, huddled up, his voice
lost in a sudden whisper, a gasp then a prolonged gurgle,
broken once or twice by a stronger effort, like a groan.

The younger man sat silent, holding the reins firmly, and
driving fast, fast.

And so they passed on swiftly between the dripping trees.
The lights of Heist were standing out and growing larger
every moment. The figure in the corner stopped its gurg-
ling, gave a faint gasp, then another and was still.

The chaise rolled along the road for some minutes long-
er, then jolted over rough pavingstones, between straggling
oil-lamps. Suddenly the still, motionless figure fell for-
ward ; the young man sat silent, and drove on.

At last, with a clash that dragged the horse down on its
hindlegs and sent fiakes of mud flying up over both men
and right back into the hood, the chaise stopped. Without
heeding his reins, the driver jumped out and ran round to
a house-door. He rang a furious peal that seemed to wake
the servant in the dickey, who pulled himself together and
tumbled out.

The door was thrown open ; there was light in the hall.


streaming out to meet the carriage-lamps. A maid-servant
had come forward, and, immediately after her, a little old
gentleman in black.

" Is the Notary in ? " said the young man in a dead
voice; and the little old gentleman in black immediately
cried back from the hall :

" Why, you see that he is ! "

" There's something wrong, I believe," the other went
on hurriedly, "we were coming to see you. He " he
pointed with his thumb over his shoulder " he is ill, I fea
fancy. He I don't quite know."

The Notary hurried to the chaise. He touched the man
lying in it, lying half otf the seat, with his body falling for-
ward over his knees. He shook him gently at first and
called to him in a voice growing shriller and more shaky
every moment, then turned and impatiently summoned the
young driver, motionless under the hall-lamp, turned again
and addressed the groom, awake now and curious at the
horse's head.

Together lawyer and man-servant dragged the heavy, in-
sensible body down out of the chaise, and laid it, all bespat-
tered with mud as it was, on the marble floor of the bare
little hall. They laid it down against the wall ; where the
maid no sooner saw it, motionless, with purple face and star-
ing eyes, than she pressed her hand against her bosom and
went off into a series of smart little screams, a tribute she
considered she owed to her feelings. The young man stood
as if struck to stone, with his fists clenched at his side. He
did not offer to help the Notary who, rapidly taking the
matter into his own hands, undid a red silk comforter tied
tightly round the sick man's throat and, opening his under-
clothes, laid a more or less steady hand on the heart. While
doing so, he cast one or two quick, cross glances at the
young man under the lamp. " How white he looks ! " he
thought, " and how strangely he presses his teeth together ! I


should not have thought him such a coward. For it can't
be his love for the old man that makes him look like that."

The subject of these considerations watched every move-
ment eagerly. The maid sat down in a heap on the stairs,
and moaned, and rocked herself. The Notary, running
for some brandy, stumbled over her, and abused her in pass-
ing. The groom stood staring sheepishly; no one offered
any assistance. It was the Notary who chafed the numb
hands and forehead and poured a few drops down the throat
and did a number of useless, and even of unwise things,
from which he at last stood up, panting, despairing.

The young man broke the painful silence.

" He is ill," he said with the same toneless voice he had
spoken in before.

"111!" cried the Notary impatiently. "111! He is

The young man fell down on his knees and burst into a
passion of weeping. " God forgive me," he cried, " I would
give the world it were not so ! "




" An"D this," said Agatha, as she tied a bow over one of
many parcels, " is for Joost." *

" Poor Joost ! " cried a chorus of voices. And then they
all laughed.

The ladies of the family were assembled round a table in
the big living-room the home-room, as we say in Holland
portly, self-satisfied Mevrouw van Hessel and her three un-
married daughters, Agatha, Anna, and Elisabeth, or rather,
to designate them in the euphonious accents of their native
tongue, Agapiet, Annemie and Bettekoo.

It was the eve of Santa Claus the 5th of December,
the most important social event of the year. In an hour
or so Mevrouw van Hessel's married daughter would arrive
with her husband the secretary and their three young chil-
dren, and then the gentlemen would come in from the
smoking-room, and there would be great goings-on round
that big table laden with presents.

Joost was coming too. " Oh yes, of course ; ask Joost,"

* Pronounce " Yoost " with a " y " as in yoke, not joke.


had said good-natured Mynheer van Hessel, as he stood with
his hand on the door-knob a day or two ago.

" But Santa Claus is a family festival," expostulated
Mevrouw, " and Joost is not one of the family."

" Conceptus^^'* began Mynheer, very slowly and impress-
ively, '''pro nato liahetur quotiescmique de eius commodo
agitur^ so you see, my dear, Joost has a right to come.
Send him an invitation, Agapiet," and he opened the door
and closed it behind him with wonderful rapidity.

Mynheer von Hessel knew that he seldom got his own
way at home ; he did not mind that as a rule, but he had
also learned long ago by experience that his only chance of
gaining respect occasionally lay in puzzling his far cleverer
and more imperious wife. He remembered very little Latin
out of his college days, but that little not infrequently came
in useful.

" After all," said Madame, " men have far more oppor-
tunities than we." She admired what she considered her
husband's learning, while she somewhat despised his want
of sense. But in reality Burgomaster van Hessel was a sen-
sible man, of very slender intellectual acquirements, with a
turn for what he considered wit, and his friends tomfoolery.
His intellectual acquirements, by-the-by, were the only slen-
der thing about him.

So his daughter wrote her note, and received a favorable
answer. "And this," she said, with her hand on a little
brown paper bundle, " is for Joost."

" What is it ? " cried mother and sisters, in a breath.

Agatha smiled, blushed, looked at her parcel, looked at
them, twirled it in her fingers, and laid it down again.

" It is something new," she said, hesitatingly. " At least,
you never hear of it here. But I thought "

" What is it ? " cried Bettekoo, who was always impa-

" You know, I read about them in That Charming


Curate. It appears that in England they are quite a cus-
tomary present to gentlemen, and so useful."

" But what are they ? " almost screamed- Bettekoo.

" A pair of embroidered braces."

" Embroidered braces," said Annemie, the beauty, slowly
and sneeringly. " Who ever heard of such a thing? "

Agatha was not a beauty ; she was only beautiful. At
least, so all the good people thought.

A fair-haired, fair-cheeked maiden of nineteen summers,
with graceful, gentle features and full blue eyes that seemed
to say : " Love me, for I love others and deserve to be

" Poor Joost," she said, " I thought it would be quite a
new kind of thing to give him, and he wants, as I shall tell
him, a strap under his heart." *

" But braces," cried Bettekoo, " Oh, Agapiet, to a gentle-
man ! "

" We ought not to know they wear them," remarked the
beauty, languidly. " Fancy, supposing they were to begin
giving us stays ! "

" It is not the same thing at all," cried Agatha, hotly.
"In England everybody gives everybody else embroidered
braces. I mean all the gentlemen ; no, all the ladies, I mean.
And the English are a very proper nation."

" I consider it an extremely improper and indelicate se-
lection," said Mevrouw van Hessel. "No Dutch maiden
who respects her feelings would allude to any such article in
the presence of strangers. Nor can I allow any daughter of
mine to give anything of the kind to a a man."

By this time Agatha's cheeks were crimson. She rue-
fully fingered her little parcel ; and the red rosebuds over
which she had spent so many an hour, seemed to burn their
way up through the paper and smart in her very eyes. She

* Dutch idiom.


knew that it was no use trying to reason with her mother,
who habitually found all opinions unreasonable but her own.
" So few people can argue," said Mevrouw van Hessel, mean-
ing that, as a rule, so few people agreed with her.

" But 1 shall have nothing to give Joost ! " cried poor

Her father, entering at the moment, caught the words.
" Nothing for Joost ? " he asked, " How is that ? "

" Agatha should have prepared a more appropriate
gift," answered Mevrouw. " Some articles are not fit
to be mentioned, and some subjects not fit to be dis-

Agatha held out her parcel with a glance of mingled
mirth and misery, and Mynheer van Hessel extracted the
objectionable braces. He looked comically grave.

" They are very pretty," he said, " and No ; give them
to him in a year or two."

" And why in a year or two ? " queried Madame.

" It's a pity," continued Monsieur, " that you did not
rather choose slippers, Agapiet. That would have been
harmless, and an appropriate emblem ! "

" I do not understand you," cut m his spouse, which
was true ; she rarely understood his smallest jokes. ''- There
is no reason why Agatha should give slippers, or anything
else, to Joost. I have got something for him, and so have
the other girls, and Kees. Agatha is growing' too old for
that sort of thing. And besides, it is her own fault, surely,
but girls are so unreasonable."

" In England " began Agatha.

" In England ! We are not in England, thank Heaven,"
snapped Mevrouw, who was a good woman, but did not like
being bothered.

" In England," said Mynheer, " girls talk of ' inexpressi-
bles ' and yet embroider braces. In England the highest
honors are a garter and a bath. Never mind ; tell him that,

"Sa:;ta claus." * 15

next year, you will give him the best present he can get,

" But then I have got nothing for this evening," said


An" hour or two later the big room was lighted up, and
full of movement and conversation. A buzz of excitement
round a table laden with parcels, large and small, some un-
wieldy, some fantastic : flower-pots, cigar-boxes, pails of
water, piles of plates. It is the custom in Holland to send
these Santa Claus presents, done up in so-called " surprises,"
no gift being in reality what it seems at the first moment.
A book is a box. A cigar-case contains six real cigars and
one imitation one with a breast-pin inside it. A plate full
of food has a false bottom ; an oyster hides pearl ear-drops ;
a dead mouse in a trap is caught with its neck in a diamond
ring. Elaborate imitations of the most various articles are
spread out in the shops, costing as much in themselves as
many a handsome present ; but most families prefer to spend
their ingenuity and not their half -pence in the fashion-
ing of their own surprises, often from odds and ends, and
often from household articles "which please return," all
little incidents of the current year, individual peculiarities
and family traditions, being taken into due account. Nor
are ill-natured jokes altogether unknown ; many a learned
professor or pompous official has been unpleasantly reminded
of his idiosyncrasies on the Eve of Santa Claus.

Years have robbed the feast of much of its simplicity.
There is no limit nowadays to the present-sending from



house to house, and the things themselves have grown cost-
lier and costlier, till the whole custom threatens to become
a nuisance. The thrifty Dutchman, who rarely spends a
penny on ornament of any kind all the year round, over-
leaps all bounds at " Sinterklaas "-tide. And feasting
gorging, guzzling plays, alas, the most important role of
all ; sugar enough to nauseate a Polyphemus being un-
fortunately the chief ingredient. Great .blocks and rounds
of sugar (with a little fruit flavoring) ; chocolate letters, half-
a-yard long and a couple of inches thick; almond-paste
letters, still larger; ginger-bread dolls, weighing many
pounds of unwholesome sweetness mountains of every
kind of rich foreign confectionery are spread out and piled
up in lines of shops, a very Paradise Eow for the children.
All Holland turns out into the streets, and comes home
laden with parcels. All Holland is apt to eat itself sick,
and the doctors hold their feast-day on the morrow. If it
may be truly said that to the intelligent foreigner (with the
pictorials as his guide-books) Christmas in England is all
beef and plum-pudding, plus an occasional carol for the
sake of old associations, it is no less certain that Santa
Claus in Holland is all sugar-cake and gingerbread, but
then, it must be added, in common fairness, that the latter
is not, and does not pretend to be, a religious festival from
the first.

The van Hessels were simple, old-fashioned people, but
they had a large circle of friends. So their door-bell kept
ringing ceaslessly on that important evening, and after each
ring a maid-servant would come running in with a parcel, a
stiff cap and a beaming face. Then there were shouts and
cries and questions. For whom is it ? From whom is it ?
the latter question often remaining unanswered, for it is an
essential rule of the proceedings that all presents are from
" Santa Claus." The festival is originally a children's one,


and the good bishop, the great lover of children, rides round
with his African servants at night, passing down all the
chimneys, as you can see for yourself, if you look into the
little boots at daybreak. There is a dreadful tradition that
he asks the parents if he must leave presents or a rod ? It
is often mentioned during the year, but it would appear
that no Dutch father has ever considered his own children
so very, very naughty whatever he might have advised if
consulted about neighbor's " Jacky "or else, judging by
the exemption of some little wretches, St. Nicholas can not
draw the line much under parricide.

But Mevrouw van Hessel's grand-children the little
Verrooy's though they too had been threatened with the
rod at intervals lately, had never really deserved it. The
two youngest still firmly believed in Santa Olaus, the eldest
six, and " no longer a child " was beginning to waver
and confuse him with her father. Her uncle Kees's reiter-
ated assertion that the bishop was coming presently, that
she would really now really, you know see him herself,
was nevertheless beginning to tell upon her. In the mean-
time all three children, with sparkling eyes and burning
cheeks, were skipping from one aunt to the other round the
ever-increasing confusion on the table. There was a great
gingerbread sweetheart for every one, of course, and an in-
digestible almond letter, and parcels innumerable, boxes and
papers, taking up twice as much room again in the delicious
medley of unpacking. Mevrouw van Hessel sat with a great
sack of genuine potatoes before her among which she had
long hunted for the hollow one ; Kees * twenty, and at
college had wanted to uncork all the bottles in his wine-
basket (prevented in time) before he perceived that papa
had stuck a banknote in an envelope behind one of the
labels. And Annemie, the beauty, had, amid much laugh-

* Short for Cornelius."


ter, unpacked a hat on which her younger brother Klaas *
had lavished cheap green and yellow ribbons, fastened to-
gether by a tiny Greenaway brooch. That was a pardonable
hit at Annemie's appreciation of her own good looks.

Joost was there also. He had not so many presents, be-
cause he had not so many friends. He did not sit staring
vacantly at half-a-dozen articles, wondering whoever could
have sent them, and what he was to do with them now they
had come. He was not troubled by the pre-occupation of
the girls van Hessel, lest they should reach a lower number
than their acquaintances, and Bettekoo's repeated : " Oh I
hope we shall pass the hundred this year ! " struck him as
foolish, if it struck him at all. He had unfastened his par-
cels one by one as they were brought to him, and guessed
at the donors. It was not so difficult under these circum-
stances because he scarcely had to look beyond the circle
around him. His first paper had revealed a card-case with
a little embroidered vignette. He had held it in his hand
for a long time, wanting to say : " Agatha," but something
that made his heart go pit-a-pat had forced out " Bettekoo."
He was quite sorry to find he had guessed aright, and then

Online LibraryMaarten MaartensJoost Avelingh: a Dutch story → online text (page 1 of 24)