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Joost Avelingh: a Dutch story online

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he leaves me. A succession of considerations and discov-
eries, of no importance here, have taught me to realize late-
ly, more than ever, that the money is not rightly mine.

" And now, Mynheer the President, I must thank you
and this honorable assembly for having borne with me so
long. You have thereby enabled me to explain, as far as I
am able, the motives which actuate me in withdrawing from
this Chamber. It is not right that a man with such a con-
fession on his heart should sit in your midst. And I wish
to tell those who have contributed to do me this honor, that
not the least part of my punishment is the knowledge that



THE WORLD'S FAREWELL TO JOOST AVELINGH. 317

I have closed to myself a sphere of usefulness in which I
should have been proud to work with all my strength. Yet
it is right that it should be so. God has forgiven me. But
I can not forgive myself."

He ceased -speaking. All those faces were still turned
toward him, still curious, doubtful, smiling. There was a
dead, cold silence ; and in the silence Joost Avelingh
stepped down, with head erect, and face firm-set and sad,
and walked across the floor and out at the great doorway of
the House.

Outside, at a side entrance, in the deserted street, the cab
was waiting with Agatha in it. He got into it, and they
drove away to the station, and reached their modest lodg-
ings as the autumn twilight fell, cold and gray, upon the
dying leaves.

And that evening Agatha made tea for her husband
with the silver tea-things she had brought away with her
from the Castle. They w^ere comfortable and cosy by the
lodging-house fire. Joost read " Faust " to her, as she sat
at work on one of the first articles of what was to be a very
modest home-made layette. And, half-way in the great
Cathedral-scene, he suddenly broke down and bent forward
his face over the book with a burst of happy, though regret-
ful tears.



CHAPTER XLL

THE world's farewell TO JOOST AVELIITGH,

People speak variously of Joost Avelingh, but as a rule
he is treated either with anger or with contempt. In his
own class especially the feeling is very strong against him.



318 JOOST AVELINGH.

One half of society abuses him for not having spoken sooner ;
the other despises him for having spoken at all. The half
which takes his confessions seriously is horrified at the
thought of the countenance it gave to a murderer. It
trembles to think of the wickedness of a man who could do
such a deed of villainy and then quietly enjoy its fruits
during a dozen long guilty years. It understands only too
well that he was forced to break the silence at last, un-
willingly, no doubt, and half-heartedly, but compelled by con-
science to speak at last. It does not believe Joost's descrip-
tion of what it invariably alludes to as " the murder." And
it says that some day the wretched man will complete his
story and confess his whole crime exactly as he committed
it. For conscience, when it once seizes upon a criminal,
will not let him rest till it has avenged society (and saved
the criminal's soul), and this man certainly has a conscience ;
he may be thankful for that. And the proper, orthodox,
respectable people, who are better than their neighbors and
know it, hope that Joost will still some day listen to the
warning voice within him which has already brought him
so far. But in the mean time, while he persists in denying
his guilt, they can hold no intercourse with him.

The other half, the people who lived lightly and would
let others live lightly too, are not so especially angry with
Joost, but they speak of him with good-humored scorn.
" He should have let well alone," they think. Many of them,
also have a lurking suspicion that Jan Lorentz's first evi-
dence unconsciously gave the true account of the story : and
that the only mistake was about Lorentz having seen or not
seen what occurred. " Well then Avelingh was a lucky man,
and had a lucky escape, that is all. He should have known
it and kept a quiet tongue in his head. As for associating
with a man who owns to such an ugly blot on his history,
impossible, not to be thought of, altogether absurd ! " And
even those who gave him the full benefit of the doubt agree



THE WORLD'S FAREWELL TO JOOST AYELINGH. 319

in condemning the extravagant " scene " which he " got up "
in the Chamber. The Legislative Assembly is not a theatre,
they say.

" But Avelingh was always so melodramatic," complains
Burgomaster van Hessel. The Burgomaster laments over
his own misfortunes and bitterly abuses his son-in-law. He
was furious with him at first, and refused to have anything
to say to him ; he even attacked Kees most vehemently for
having abetted him in the past, and for seeking to stand up
for him now. Mevrouw van Hessel was obliged to make use
of all her influence to patch matters up as best she was able.
" He has gone mad," said the Burgomaster at last, with a
sigh of acquiescence. " Yes, send for him, and I can tell
him so. Quem perdere vult Deus^ you know and he cer-
tainly talks very ^lou^ly^prius dement at.''''

Joost lives with his wife and a little son of some six
months or so in tiny lodgings at Heist. Some few people
take his view of his duty and his efforts to do it, and among
them is the village Notary, who has taken him into his employ
as a clerk, and at present he earns eighty pounds a year in
this manner. But better times are coming, for a gentleman
of Amsterdam who took a great interest in the case, and who
appreciates the advantage of having a perfectly trustworthy
man in his office, hopes soon to find work for him there at
a salary of 250 a year. Joost and Agatha are to go up
to the capital next autumn. They will not be sorry to leave
Heist, although they have bravely borne the brunt of pub-
lic condemnation there as long as it seemed unavoidable.
Even in Amsterdam their story will pursue them wherever
they go ; but they will not go to many places outside their
quiet little home, and they will soon slip out of sight as they
hope to do in the crowd of the great city.

Among the multitude, which once lifted his name to the
skies, the report has got current, somehow or other, that
Joost is a murderer. This being so, no one can understand

21



320 JOOST AVELINGH.^

that the police do not arrest him, and a great deal of ill-will
is felt against the authorities in consequence. One or tAvo
radical newspapers not over-scrupulous about the means
they employ persistently hold up his case in the eyes of the
populace as a proof that justice only strikes down the poor
man, and lets the gentleman go unhurt.

And so the world judges the sin of Joost Avelingh. And
he, remembering the Apostolic " if we would but judge our-
selves," cares neither for its present injustice nor for its past
approval ; cares not more, at least, than it is in human flesh
to care. For a warm affectionate human nature as his, can
not see slip away from it love, admiration, honor, so much that
makes life sweet, without regretting them. Yet he knows
that he did not see them slip away, but willingly gave
them up. And he still thinks he did right. He loves
his wife and child the more dearly : he trusts God the
more closely. And his heart is at rest.



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