Maarten Maartens.

Joost Avelingh: a Dutch story online

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and once more read them through.

His father, then, was responsible for that one great in-
justice which he had always laid at the Baron van Trotsem's
door. As for the theory exposed in the document he held
in his hand, it was a hobby such as all men have, all medical
men especially, and the son was to be sacrificed to it. He
did not believe one moment in the correctness of his father's
views ; he felt convinced that, come what might, he would
always have felt the same unchangeable aversion to a profes-
sion, the material side of which was so especially distasteful
in his eyes. His father was wrong, undoubtedly; but all
that was done now, and over. The results remained only
as far as his uncle was concerned. Surely the Baron had
been to blame, also, in assigning no reason for his behavior.
His letter certainly explained the motive that had prompted
him, and Joost could not but admit that it was an explain-
able and almost excusable motive in one with his uncle's
character. He knew how the Baron had hated the doctor,
also not without cause. He was obliged to admit that he
Joost had clung to his father's memory and closed his
heart to his uncle. It was the Baron's fault, he told him-
self. The answer came back immediately : " True, but the
Baron did not realize that." And he could understand,
however much he regretted it, the frame of mind which had


made his uncle declare : " He must do it, if his father so
willed it, but he shall not do it for that father's sake, but for
mine." Joost knew his uncle's character well enough to rec-
ognize at once, that it was like the old gentleman's ideas of
duty and paternal authority to respect the dead doctor's
wish, and that it was as much like his silent, vindictive sur-
liness to pretend that that wish was his own.

But after all, then, his father was primarily to blame !
Joost found the discovery influenced his thoughts of that
dead parent more than he had imagined it would do at first.
However he might withstand the charge, he felt the great
onus of cruelty gradually slipping from his uncle's shoulders.
He could be angry with the Baron for not telling him more,
if he chose to be so ; he could no longer be angry with him
for not having left him free in the choice of a profession.
With an impatient exclamation he gathered up all his papers
and went across with them to his wife. It was but too true,
as he had said a few days ago, that for him to hate his uncle
made many things seem easier. It was a comfort to think
he had such good cause to hate him still.


" You are to be ' High and Mighty ' * after all, Joost,"
cried Kees Hessel, panting behind his brother-in-law in the
village street of Heist. " I have been all the way up to your
place to tell you about it, but Agatha said you were down
here. I left her a high state of glee, I can assure you."

* Title officially given to the Dutch States-General.


"How so?" said Joost. "What has happened? Tell
me all about it."

" I'm awfully glad I'm the first man to bring you the
news," replied Kees, recovering his breath and puffing away
at his cigar. "I made sure some one would have talked
about it to you as soon as I heard you had gone to the
village. And I like to have the telling of pleasant tidings
when I can."

" Then tell them," cried Joost, laughing. " What has
happened? Out with it."

" This has happened," said Kees solemnly. " Pernis,
who, as you know, was elected in two districts at the last
election, takes his seat for the Northern division, and so
leaves ours once more vacant."

" Yes, yes, I know that," interrupted Joost impatiently.
"And also that William the Third is King of Holland.
But I am waiting to hear something new."

" Wait then," said Kees, imperturbably, " and let me tell
the story in my own way. Our district being vacant, the
electioneering clubs have been talking about What's-his-
name, and So-and-so, as they always do at first, but in the
mean time some half-a-dozen citizens of the working class
put their heads together, call an independent meeting, and
nominate you."

" When did this meeting take place ? " asked Joost, the
color rising into his dark cheek.

" Yesterday evening, my dear sir. And the crowd took
up your name immediately and screamed themselves hoarse
with it all over the place."

" But that does not elect me," began Joost. " The elec-
tioneering clubs "

" The electioneering clubs would scarcely have chosen
you ; you are not partisan enough. But the promoters of
yesterday's meeting have forced their hand. They daren't
split the vote, you see, now the people have come out so strong


on your behalf. I came across the Secretary of the ' Central '
this morning, and he tells me that they're going to have a
meeting on purpose in two days, and put you up, so as to be
beforehand with the other party. And he hopes you'll accept
their programme."

" I shall do no such thing," said Joost.

" Came across the Secretary " was a euphemistic way of
putting it, for Kees had lingered in the neighborhood of the
Secretary's house for more than an hour that morning, in
the hope of meeting that gentleman and hearing what he had
to say.

" Then will you come out on the other side ? "

" N'o," said Joost. " I shall stick to my own colors at first,
in any case."

" By Jupiter, it's magnificent," cried Kees, in high en-
thusiasm. " A representative of the people, chosen by the
people for the people, without any party intrigue. The
thing's never been done before, Joost ! You're bound to
pass, my boy, and I wish you all success. What a happy
fellow you'll be, and how heartily one can wish you joy of it,
when one remembers all your former troubles. What a
splendid career ! Or, as Agatha puts it, what a vast sphere
of usefulness ! Bless her good little heart ! "

" Yes," said Joost thoughtfully. " It is a vast sphere
of usefulness, and a splendid career. Should I really be the
first independent member, using ' independent,' of course,
in its technical sense of ' belonging to neither party ? ' I
suppose I should."

" You would," said Kees, " and that's why I call it mag-
nificent. It's just the people who've pointed you out, and
said, ' We'll have that man and no other.' And it's never
happened before."

They had reached the entrance of the Clab. It was
thither their steps had been tending. The clock had struck
four, and the building would be filling by this time.


Joost pushed open a double green-baize door, and walked
in. A large room with a comparatively low ceiling, a great
round table in the middle, full of newspapers, and a number
of little tables in all corners, surrounded by quantities of
leathern easy-chairs. All the chairs occupied by men,
smoking, Avith a little glass of orange-colored bitters or white
gin in front of them ; a buzz of talking, a rustle of paper, and
a thick cloud of blue smoke over it all. Through two doors
at the farther end a distant view of men moving round billiard
tables, with the constant shock of balls sounding across, and
on the left side, in the card-room quartettes of white
heads, black heads, and bald heads bending over their whist.
A general confusion of sounds, and the occasional clear clink
of glass, as a waiter moved about between the groups. A
small Club such as every provincial town in Holland can

Joost's entrance was the signal for a general commotion
and flutter of interest. People laid down their papers and
turned half-round in the heavy chairs, or glared furtively at
the new comer over the top of the Town Gazette.

Joost advanced to the table, his stalwart figure looking
all the taller by the side of his shorter, stouter brother-in-
law. Several of the men sitting nearest got up to congratu-
late him and to ask him what his intentions were. Van
Hessel's story was certainly true. Within two minutes Joost
heard it on all sides. He was to be proclaimed candidate
for the States- General in the next meeting of the Central
Club, hurriedly called together for that special purpose. It
was true, as Kees had said, that the people, by their spon-
taneous and altogether unprecedented action, had forced the
hand of the wire-pullers.

It can not be said that the congratulations Joost received
were very hearty or sincere ones. He was certainly not the
candidate the politicians by profession would have chosen.
A man must obey orders in the game of party politics ; and


that would be no army whose every recruit aimed at posing
as a general. Most of the gentlemen of Heist, therefore,
while they were quite willing to forgive Joost for the in-
justice they had done him, and receive him again into soci-
ety, told each other that to send him up to represent the
district in Parliament was quite another matter altogether !
Everybody tried to find out at once what his party politics
would be. That he would have none, no one believed, even
though he repeatedly affirmed it.

" All very well," said Beau Liederlen, running his fingers
through his carefully curled gray hair, " but the man who
goes in for wine-drinking must decide whether he'll have
red wine or white. Et ceux qui ne veulent ni Vun ni V autre
ne reQoivent pas de pots-de-vin du tout, mon cher.^'' Beau
Liederlen was one of those people without occupation, whose
utterances no one takes seriously not even they themselves
or he would hardly have dared to say that. He lounged
back to his card-table, where he was playing whist for half-
penny points.

Arthur van Asveld sat at the large center table, his hat
on his head, his hands in his pockets. He bent lower over
a newspaper, with a dark frown on his face. He was fatter
and redder than ever of late. It can not be denied that he
was beginning to look a little bloated ; his big stupid eyes
had often a glazed stare in them which by no means im-
proved their expression. It was said pretty plainly now,
that the Jonker drank too much. He was clerk in the
Burgomaster's office still : there was not much chance that
he would ever be anything else. The Burgomaster sighed
over him, and would gladly have got him promotion. Myn-
heer van Hessel had emerged from what he called ' that un-
fortunate little injustice in connection with my son-in-law "
in a triumphant, if extenuated, condition. He had soon fat-
tened out to his original size, and he was now as bright,
smiling, pompous, and prosperous as ever. He had also un-


packed again, and repolished, his little store of quotations
and witticisms. He designated the pink Jonker invariably
as " my rosy cross " in allusion to the well-known lines of a

Dutch poet :

" A cross with roses
Is each man's fate."

He was not much liked, somehow, poor man, in the village
of which he was Burgomaster. People were always describ-
ing him as a worthy creature " after all." The Governor of
the Province did not speak of him even in those relatively
complimentary terms.

When J cost came out of prison, van As veld found him-
self placed in a difficult position. Personally he remained
convinced of the liberated man's guilt, and therefore refused
all intercourse with the Baron van Trotsem's murderer.
The refusal had been made the more awkward for him by
Joost's walking up with outstretched hand, as if nothing
had happened, the very first time they met at the Club ; the
Jonker had put his arm down by his side, and there had
been an end of it, though many of Joost's warmest partisans
had been very violent about it, and Joost himself had sup-
pressed a momentary impulse to knock the fat nobleman
down. The magistrature, as has been said, although the
necessary evidence had escaped them, were not altogether
willing to admit Joost's complete innocence, and van Asveld,
who had gone through all three trials, may therefore perhaps
be more readily forgiven for sticking to his original impres-
sion. He cut Joost dead, although Liederlen told him
frankly, it was execrable taste of him to do so, and, con-
stantly as they met, the two had not exchanged a word since
the day when Joost had paid over his forty thousand florins
to van Asveld.

The men in the front room of the Club, then, crowded
round Joost this afternoon and talked of his political pros-
pects. Some of them, even at this early stage, began recom-


mending special, or even individual, interests to his pro-

" When you are Deputy," said one of his colleagues in
the direction of the Local Steam Tram company, " you
won't forget the concession up to Hoest, Avelingh."

" Oh, as for that," cried a little lawyer from the town.
" We can't have you people pushing all your local claims to
the front. The interests of the whole district, and of the
principal part of it, especially, must be considered in the first
place. No, no Avelingh can't take any particular notice of
the half-dozen enterprises he happens to be concerned in

In the mean time van Asveld sat by, with sullen face,
listening unwillingly to the chorus of acclamation around
the man he hated.

" You are a damned lucky fellow. Mynheer Avelingh, to
have that whole trial shindy kicked up round your name,"
remarked a young nobleman, whose ancestors had exhausted
the stock of brains in the family. " A damned lucky fellow,
as things have turned out. Don't you think so, van As-

" I ? " said Arthur, thus unexpectedly addressed, and
thrown off his guard. I think if any one cares for what I
think that some people " he disdained the subterfuge
*' that Mynheer Avelingh has invested his money very well,
and that it is beginning to bear very good interest."

The words were spoken very deliberately and distinctly.
An awkward silence fell on the party of gentlemen grouped
round the table.

" Do you mean to infer, van Asveld," said Kees Hessel
hotly, gnawing at his big blonde moustache, " that my
brother-in-law has bribed people into bringing him for-

" I am not in the habit of inferring," answered Arthur,
lifting his heavy eyes to Joost's face with a look of ineffable


contempt. " Bribery ! Nonsense. No. There is no brib-
ery in Holland. But how do the pious people put it?
* Charity suffereth long and is kind.' Charity proves won-
derfully kind sometimes to the charitable."

" If one elector has received his charity, it is you " be-
gan Kees. Joost stopped him.

" Address yourself to me, sir," he said, returning Ar-
thur's contemptuous stare. " If you accuse me of owing a
large amount of such popularity as I may possess to ill-advised
charity, I can only admit that there is much truth in the
accusation. But I believe that the assertion is still more
correct, that I am largely indebted to the unjust scandal
which has been connected with my name, and for which
I, at any rate, can not be held responsible."

Arthur shrugged his shoulders. The truth of the asser-
tion was very unpalatable to him.

" There are various ways of getting money. Mynheer
Avelingh," he said with much meaning. " And there are
various ways of spending it. Each man has his own way.
If I were in possession of your fortune, I should buy kisses ;
you buy votes. You are the wiser man, and, I presume, the
happier." He had risen while speaking, and now turned on
his heel and left the room.

" Come away," said Kees, taking his brother-in-law's
arm. " You needn't look so white, Joost, for anything that
cad happens to say. You know we have always called him
a cad ever since our college days."

" Yes," answered Joost, as he allowed himself to be
drawn forth from the stifling atmosphere inside into the
warm evening air. " Yes, but I am not sure it was the
right epithet to apply to him. I don't think he is exactly a

Joost found his Napoleon waiting at the inn where he
always put up, and soon he was bowling swiftly along the
highroad behind as fine a pair of spanking grays as ever shied


at one of the numerous steam- tram cars, which ruin the nar-
row Dutch roads for the rich while they make them accessi-
ble to the poor. Joost xivelin^h had interested himself in
these means of locomotion. He could not complain.

He found Agatha, as her brother had foretold, in a
high state of glee. She was only anxious to know how
Joost would take the news. And when she saw that he
uttered no protest, but plainly, if somewhat passively, ac-
cepted the situation, she openly declared her satisfaction.
It was true that Joost did not now, as on the former occa-
sion, declare his unwillingness to accept the projected
honor. He seemed to acquiesce in it, not altogether ill-
pleased at the splendid opportunities of usefulness which it
opened up to him. It would give him, besides, a much de-
sired distraction, rousing all his energies and bringing them
into play.

" I want work," he said, tossing his head like a horse
that sniffs the battle, " hard work, and plenty of it. It is
wonderful how much a man can do in a day, if he gives his
whole mind to it. And I like giving my whole mind to
business. I like being thoroughly and consumedly busy.
It does me good."

Agatha could not help agreeing with him. He had
fallen once or twice. of late into his old moody fits. Ever
since the widow Hellevaer had sent those musty old letters,
he seemed to be less cheerful. He had shown his wife the
letters, and discussed them with her, but it was as if a small
cloud had again come between them, untraceable and inex-
plicable, but no less a cloud on that account.

It was a great joy, then, to Agatha to let her mind dwell
upon this public recognition of Joost's merit, and all the
honor and advantage it would bring him. For herself she
cared little, and yet she delighted to think that she also
would henceforth be associated with his plans and projects,
and that he would allow her to work them out with him. It


compensated her, to a certain extent, for the loneliness of
that great childless house. Agatha had never been able
quite to forgive her friends and relations for their desertion
of Joost in the hour of trouble. They had believed the
charge against him. There lay the sting. Actually be-
lieved it ! Incredible as it seemed to her, she was obliged
to recognize the fact. And it vexed her, and imbittered
her intercourse with those whom she had always loved best.



" Yes, gentlemen," said the Burgomaster with his old
wave of the hand, " yes, I think I can promise you that."

He was standing in the middle of the vestibule of Trot-
sem Castle. Opposite him were drawn up in straggling line
some half dozen old farmers in their tight-fitting black
clothes, black caps and stiff black stocks. The only bit of
color about these old gentlemen was the dark red of their
clean-shaven faces, or an occasional glow of fading yellow
among the grizzly stubble that showed under their caps.
All wore earrings ; all held their hands twisted round by
their sides, and all hung their heads on their breasts, while
their little eyes twinkled up at Mynheer van Hessel. The
Burgomaster beamed down upon them.

" Sit down," he said, " sit down. My son-in-law will be
with you immediately."

The boers all shuffled a little uneasily, but no one availed
himself of the invitation to drop dow-n on the oaken bench
which stood just behind them.

" I quite agree with you," continued Mynheer van Hes-


sel, " that it would be an immense advantage to your village
if the canal passed by it. There is a great deal in what you
say that strikes me as singularly accurate and and well put.
There is no doubt that the ahem the new canal would
confer great benefits upon your village if it passed that

" Juistament,* Heer Burgomaster," said the spokesman,
a fine, hale, cunning-looking old boer of some seventy win-
ters. " It is Just as your Nobleness says."

" Ja ! " echoed two or three others, shuffling to and fro,
" it is just as the Heer Burgomaster says."

" Not that there is not another side to the question,"
continued Mynheer van Hessel, " it seems more natural, and
it is certainly much more simple, to let it take the short cut
by Zielen. The Government will look at it in that light,
you may be sure."

" Zielen is a place of no importance, not like our village,
as the Heer Burgomaster knows," said the old boer. " It
remains to be seen, with the Heer Burgomaster's permission,
what the Government will do."

" It will cost fully seventy thousand florins more to go
round as you wish it," remarked Mynheer van Hessel.

The boers all looked at each other. " "We would never
vote for a candidate who took the canal round, by Zielen,"
said one the youngest, apparently pulling hard at a shin-
ing coat button.

" Juistament^'' muttered all the others.

The Burgomaster knew that. It was what they were
come for. Next spring a canal was to be cut right across
the province, and in the natural course of affairs it would
have nothing to do with the populous village to which these
people belonged. But it might be made to twist past it at
considerable extra expense, and these, the notabilities of the

* Pronounce yoistementt, a corruption of the French justement.


neighborhood, had come up to inquire which way the can-
didate would exert his influence, before they gave their vote.

" The advantages to your part of the province are mani-
fest," said the Burgomaster hastily, " I feel confident you
will find no man more willing than my son-in-law to admit
that. He will be in immediately, and will tell you so him-
self. He is a little chary of his words, and rough in his way
of putting things, but you mustn't mind his manner. Be-
sides, of course, as candidate, one must be careful what one
says. All your words are used against you. And, mind
you, let me tell you this before he comes. You don't expect
him to be such a fool as to say plainly that he'll do what you
want, do you? Eh?"

The boers looked uneasily at one another. No one

" Because, look here," the Burgomaster came quite close,
and tapped the old spokesman on the breast, " if you expect
that, you needn't wait for him. I know Mynheer Avelingh ;
he's no fool, as I say. As deep as some of you boers, whom
no one ever tried to cheat yet without cutting his own nose
off. He doesn't commit himself, not before the election.
He won't have any newspaper reporter finding out and print-
ing that he's promised you the canal. Not he. You know
what the poet says :

* ' If speech be silver, silence must be gold.'

You know that, eh ? "

Half the boers nodded.

" Well, let me tell you one thing. Mark my words," the
Burgomaster impressively shook his finger to and fro iu
front of the old boer's face. " To say one thing and mean
another, that's the money a political candidate has to pay
with." He drew himself up in triumph and surveyed his
audience. " And therefore," he continued, " I know my son-
in-law, and, of course, as his his fatherly counselor 1


largely advise him and give him tlie benefit of my experi-
ence. And I am acquainted with his views of this subject.
You understand me ? "

" Ja^ ja^ Heer Burgomaster," said the boers.

" Of course you do. I wish I always had such fellows as
you to do business with, instead of my burgher people. We
should get on better. Very well ; I may tell you that if the
candidate says ; ' I won't do it,' he won't, and there's an
end of it. But if he says : ' I shall do what's right. I
shall examine the matter and arrange for the best,' or any-
thing of that kind, then he will. And don't expect him to
break his own window-panes by a promise in so many words,
for he won't do it. Nobody would. And if you want that,
you may as well go home at once."

" We should have liked a definite promise," said one

" Then go to the other side," cried the Burgomaster im-
patiently. " I dare say they'll promise anything. It's the
definite promises that nobody keeps. And here you'll get
what's far better, an indirect one. At least from the can-
didate. Pm a free man, and I don't mind going farther
and saying : ' We'll do what we can.' "

" Will the Heer Burgomaster give us that in writing ? "
interposed the youngest boer again.

" I should not mind, but what's the use ? " replied van
Hessel. " It's not like a promise to pay. We'll use oui* influ-
ence. Whether I say that or write it, it comes to the same
thing. You don't expect us to shout out our views on the

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Online LibraryMaarten MaartensJoost Avelingh: a Dutch story → online text (page 19 of 24)