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Joost Avelingh: a Dutch story online

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" Oh very well," said Kees coolly, " most people wouldn't
think it mattered much. By-the-by, how is the old gentle-

" Wonderfully amiable. He presented me with a check
for a hundred florins * this morning as a tardy Santa Claus
gift. As far as I can remember and I've been thinking
it over all the morning it's the greatest proof of his aifec-
tion I ever received in my life."

" Let us hope he will continue to improve," said Kees.
" The older he gets the more may he give you, till he
cuts up and gives you all."

Joost flushed up.

" He must be very rich," Kees went on, " with all his
hoarding and his capital administration of the estate. All's
well that ends well, Joost. You'll be a great landed pro-
prietor some day. My father says Dr. Kern told him the
old man may last twenty years longer, but there's every
chance he won't last two. He's got something the matter
with his heart and he's apoplectic too. You knew that
didn't you ? Well, don't tell him I told you. He does.
Kern told papa some weeks ago. My opinion is you won't
have a chance of killing many patients. Dr. Joost.

Joost skated on. It has been said that he was a child
of the nineteenth century, the age of gold, but it is due to
him to add that, although he knew the importance of
money, his was anything but a mercenary mind. He had
fully understood that his uncle was rich, and that he was
poor, and that, furthermore, he was dependent on the old
man for support the fact had been stated to him with
sufficient plainness and frequency. But he had never real-

* About 8 5s.


ized that there could be any other connection between him
and his uncle's money. Baron Dirknever spoke of the
subject. And, for Joost's thoughts, it had lain too far out-
side the sphere of " practical politics." The Baron was not
an old man sixty-three, Joost thought ; he might, as Kees
Hessel had said, live twenty years longer, and by that time
the best part of Joost's life would be over. The subject
was too far away for immediate consideration. However it
be, it is certain that Joost had never looked upon himself
in the light of a possible possessor of his uncle's wealth till
the morning of that 13th of December, when Kees Hessel,
probably impressed by what his father had repeated of the
doctor's indiscretions, first stated the desirable eventuality
in such unmistakable terms.

'^And a good thing too," continued Kees, breaking a
long and awkward silence. " And I quite agree with my
father, whatever mamma may say, that you are a very advan-
tageous j9r^i."

" Of course, a bird in the hand and all that's quite true,"
continued the ingenuous youth, " but as matches go nowa-
days you're a good one. And if I said what I thought but
I can't say what I think."

"I wish you would," said Joost. "You are like the
celebrated foreign King France, wasn't it? who never
thought a foolish thing and never said a wise one. At least,
if one is to believe your own account."

" Well, I will say it," cried Kees. " My advice would
be : Don't bother about Agatha's being offended with you,
but ask her to marry you. She likes you ; my father wants
it. You like her, I am sure, for you're always jawing about
her. Taime ; tu aimes ; il aime. Make it : nous aifnons,
and have done with it."

" Thank you," said Joost stiffly, drawing himself up as
well as he could while skating so fast for he had spurted
as if in a race during the last speech " Thank you. You


are very good, and your advice is undoubtedly attractive.
But I shall never propose to any woman till I am in a posi-
tion to maintain her."

" Oh very well. Don't be waxy. I don't consider my-
self a fool, and that's my opinion. Only mind Arthur As-
veld doesn't forestall you. I don't think he will quite wait
for love-making till he is able to support a wife." And
good-natured, self-satisfied Kees buried his chin in the col-
lar of his pea-jacket and tried hard to reanimate his perish-
ing pipe.

They were nearing their destination. They had been
skating on and on along the narrow river which lay as a
gleaming band across the flat, frozen landscape. Barren it
was and hushed, as if in death, beneath its white coverlet,
but not bleak. The wintry sun shone out too cheerily for that
from his pale, silver-blue sky, lighting up every sparkle in
the wide expanse, and sweeping great shadows you could
not tell whence across the ice-band down the middle. The
rare trees along the banks a cluster of poplars, a row of
straggling willows stood out, black and gaunt, against
heaven. Here and there untidy bushes formed a sort of
fringe. From these a bird would start up occasionally and
shoot on ahead over the river. In the full, clear winter still-
ness they could hear his parting rustle ; the notes of bells
came ringing from peaked church-towers in the distance.
Children called out to them, standing among the hens be-
fore red-roofed, snow- bedizened cottages along their road.
And as they passed the full-bellied Dutch barges, motionless
by the frozen river-bank, a head with a pipe would lift itself
slowly from the companion and lazily follow them, and half-
a-dozen chubby, red-comfortered children, pottering about
on their own small skates, would come after them with a
merry hue and cry, trying to keep up with the older riders.

The town, small enough, and huddled together, appeared
against the horizon long before they were near it. It lay,


flat amid the far-stretching flatness, with a steeple here and
there, first gray, then, as they approaclied sufficiently to see
the snow-patches, all red and glistening white. The others
had been gaining on them while they talked, but after
Joost's rejection of his friend's advice, they hurried on in
unbroken silence, Joost skating ever faster, with a grim
frown on his dark face, and Kees keeping up with him as
a point of honor. As they neared the town, however,
Kees slackened his speed, and Joost looked round at him.

" I think we'd better wait for the others," puffed Kees.
"Politer, you know."

" No, sir," said Joost, " You're beat. But all right ; I'll

" Oh very well," laughed van Ilessel. " It's quite true.
We've been going too fast for any sensible man these last
ten minutes, and that's my opinion."

So they made up what quarrel there may have been, and
skated back very leisurely to pick up the others, talking of
University affairs the while. Joost's face did not cloud over
again, till he saw Agatha coming up, still hand in hand
with van Asveld.

The Jonker Arthur van Asveld was a fellow-student of
the other young men, and in their set. When they first
went up to the University he had highly disapproved of the
admission of a medical student into a club of " jurists," and
had loudly expressed his disapproval. Of course some one
had told Joost. He was not himself a very attractive per-
sonage, but in accordance with Kees's candid confession, he
could scarcely be called an unpopular one. He was very
stupid and boasted of his stupidity, he was very impecunious,
and lived on his debts and his losses at play. He was very
corpulent, and thereby proved a claim to good-nature. He
was fairly good-looking and extremely licentious. He had a
good many claims to popularity in the circle in which for-
tune had set him. The Jonker Arthur was a connection of


the Baron's, being the son of that gentleman's cousin. Ie
had come up to Utrecht from an out-of-the-way village
where his widowed mother tried to keep up her rank on
500 a year. The Jonker now spent seven or eight hundred
at the University.

There was quite a merry company of them round the
luncheon table of the hostelry of the "Golden Cow." A
long table in a low, sanded parlor, a white earthenware serv-
ice of coffee- things and a shining black slop basin, plenty
of double rolls " cadets," as they call them, mealy, pasty,
nasty things with thick slices of red beef or Dutch sweet
cheese between them, and a dish of oranges to wind up with.
Good spirits, glowing cheeks, and keen appetites; what
would you have more? The Jonker Arthur asked for a

Mevrouw van Hessel, portly and commanding, sat with
the kettle in the little burnished peat-stove beside her,
overlooking the company. She did not approve of Annemie
the beauty 's tendency to flirt. It was an imported cus-
tom, she thought, and not an improvement en the silent,
still Dutch manner of old. Still less, however, did Mev-
rouw approve of her spouse's inclination to follow his
daughter's example. Bettekoo had brought a friend, a
charming young thing of seventeen, in swansdown and
curls. Mevrouw promised herself to speak to van Hessel
at some more convenient time.

Verrooy, Mevrouw's son-in-law, had come over with
them. There was not much to be said of Verrooy. He was
" Secretary " to the Board of the Village of Hoest, because
his father-in-law was Burgomaster of the village of Heist,
and because the son of the Burgomaster of the former
place wanted to be appointed to the Board of the latter.
It was very simple. Some day he would become Burgo-
master of some other village, when he had money, or influ-


ence enoiigli, to get the place. Verrooy was not eleven
He could skate well, and he had a fine, light-blond mus-
tache. " It had not been a very good match," thought
Madame van Hessel, as she looked across at her son-in-law
eating bread and cheese. " Agatha must do better, but
then Agatha was good-looking, not so fine a girl as Annemie
but far better than Clara, who had something that was al-
most a cast in her eye. Clara's had been a love-affair. She
had surrendered to Verrooy's mustache, and now the
mustache bored her. Oh, those love affairs, they always
turn out badly."

Joost sat between Agatha and Annemie, and, in a fit of
caprice and shyness, flirted with Annemie. It was a mistake
on his part, for Agatha naturally turned to her other neigh-
bor and bestowed not her sweetest smiles, for Agatha was
certainly not a flirt but such second-best sweet smiles as
she had on the Jonker van Asveld. Arthur was delighted,
and grinned, and paid her such compliments as he found in
his repertoire, compliments which had already often de-
lighted the ladies he usually spent his evenings with. They
did very well, he thought, brushed up and burnished, to set
once more before an honest girl.

" Well, Joost,'- cried out Mynheer van Hessel from his
end of the table, his volatile mind suddenly " butterflying "
away from the rosebud next to him. " Kees tells me you
beat him in skating this morning. So much the better ; I
congratulate you." He lifted up his coffee-cup and flour-
ished it gracefully toward Joost " I drink to you gentle-
men of the medical profession. You remember the old
saying : Medicina autem est ars tuendi^ etc. La medecine
est Vart qui tue^ 'He laughed heartily over his own joke.
It was an old friend that had gone through life with him,
and he loved it accordingly. He could not have remem-
bered when first they met.

" Thank you, sir," said Joost. He was beginning to find


the fat Burgomaster rather a nuisance. He turned again to

But Mynheer van Hessel was a born button-holer. He
coulci not bear to let you go, till you tore your coat in es-
caping. " You must excuse me, you know," he went on,
" I have always had a prominent ' os hu?noris,'' a mouth for
humor, as you doctors say, and I like my little joke. I was
remarking only yesterday "

" Did you say anything ? " Joost asked abruptly of

" I should like a little water," the latter answered

Mynheer van Hessel was left, open-mouthed, in the
middle of his recital of yesterday's witticism. Two young
men had swooped with a rush toward a bell-rope in a cor-
ner ; four legs and four arms had got remarkably inter-
mingled ; there was a clutch at the rope, a violent peal, and
then the whole concern came down, and the antagonists
rolled up against the wainscoting together, with outstretched
arms and exclamations. " Damned clumsy," hissed stout
van Asveld in Joost's ear. " It was," Joost whispered back,
" only : balls will roll, you know." A peal of laughter
greeted this misadventure.

" What's the matter ? " said the Burgomaster. " A ring
for Agatha? There Joost has the first right." *

When they got up from table to go and see the quaint
old town and the ruins of the castle, Bettekoo Benjamin,
as her father called her ran up to him. She was full of
excitement and animal spirits that day, what with the cold
and the fun. " We can't all troop along like a flock of

* For the satisfaction of the captious reader who objects that the
Burgomaster spoke Dutch his poor little pun is here given in the
original : " Luiden voor Agaatje. Dat mag Joost bezorgen."


sheep, papa," she cried. " You must let me marshal you
like a school-mistress. Mamma will take Verrooy, papa will
go with Jennie (the young charmer in swansdown), Kees
may have me, Joost will take Agatha "

" But will Agatha take Joost ? " interrupted the Burgo-

There was a moment's awkward pause. The wretched
man availed himself of this to make matters worse by add-
ing : " Pour ceci et cela il faut Men etre deux!'^

" Thank you, no, Bettekoo," said Joost, hastily flushing
and stuttering. " You must really excuse my disobeying,
but I have already arranged with Annemie."

And so Arthur van Asveld went with Agatha. She had
now been tied to him for several hours and was getting very
weary of his inane conversation. Mevrouw van Hessel
looked on, concernedly. The excursion was not one of un-
mixed pleasure to the good lady. She had some serious
objections to Joost, but she disapproved utterly and unmiti-
gatedly of van Asveld.

Agatha's ditBculties, as it happened, were, however, by
no means over. The party ultimately retraced their steps
to the river, and, the girl having lingered to speak to her
mother, it so chanced that, when she came down to the
bank, she found both young men looking out for her, and
casting terrible glances at each other. Both advanced simul-
taneously ; both exactly at the same moment bent down
to fasten her skates.

" Excuse me, van Asveld," said Joost in a voice which
he in vain sought to steady, " it is my er privilege to help
the Freule with her skates."

" By what right but impertinence ? " queried van Asveld.
" If the Freule allows me to assist her, I shall do it."

" Mynheer van Asveld," cried Joost, suddenly dropping
out of the familiar " thou," " you will leave this skate to me."
He seized hold of it as he spoke.


" Mynheer Avelingh," replied Arthur, scornfully accentu-
ating the " Mynheer," " you are probably crazy. "

" It is like you," said Joost quietly, " to quarrel before
ladies. Let the Freule decide for herself."

Agatha looked from one to the other. Their angry
faces warned her to settle the dispute at once. She ad-
dressed Arthur. " Then, Mynheer van Asveld, if you will
be so kind " ; she turned to Joost, " because you know, I
know you longest, Joost."

It was rational and graceful enough, surely, but Joost
walked off in high dudgeon. She eyed him in despair, for,
she felt, that, were it only for appearances' sake, she could
not. again ride all the way home with van Asveld.

Practical Mevrouw van Hessel came to her rescue. She
had come to the river-bank to see them off, and now she
called Joost to her. " Will you start with Agatha, please,"
she said, " while van Asveld attends to Bettekoo." So Ar-
thur, much to his disgust, had to remain behind with " that

Joost and Agatha skated off in silence, side by side.
Joost offered no assistance, but glowered straight in front of
him. His companion was not a very efficient skater, and
after they had gone some distance, she stumbled, and would
have fallen, had he not caught her. They righted them-
selves with some difficulty, Joost stamping himself straight
on his skates again.

" Would you give me a hand ? " asked Agatha, humbly.

He held out both, with no very good grace, and they
skated on again.

They had turned a corner and passed under an old wood-
en drawbridge. The glow and sparkle had gone out of the
landscape. The sun hung low, and half-way veiled, behind
a line of pink clouds. The whole scene was gray and cold
and hazy. There is nothing so ashen and death-like as the
sunset of a fine winter's day.


They had skated on for nearly an hour in silence. They
had distanced all the others, for Joost dragged Agatha for-
ward, and were now apparently quite alone amid that misty
waste of snow.

" And you flirt," burst out Joost, suddenly, " with one,
and the other. A. for my fan; B. for my gloves! And,
later on, I daresay, A. for my hand, B. for my heart ! You
are a bad girl, Agatha ! "

It was very childish. And what did Agatha's flirtations
matter to him ? He had been ruminating the subject all

Provoked by Kees's advice, disgusted with Mynheer van
Hessel's stupid banter, he had only just now made up his
mind to be very circumspect. The Burgomaster's hints,
especially, provoked him. They had led him firmly to re-
solve to make no advances to Agatha van Hessel. " No, he
was not the man to be bullied in matters of that kind. He
would show the Burgomaster that he, Joost Avelingh, was
no fool. He would marry whom he chose, and as he chose,
and, however much he loved her, he would not propose to
Agatha at any man's bidding or prompting not he."

The sudden attack on Agatha was childish under any
circumstances. She was inclined to be very angry, and give
him such answer as he had deserved. But, after all, Joost
was Joost. They had known each other from childhood,
almost as brother and sister ; she could take a good deal
from him that she would not have borne from another. And
she stole a look at his dark face, looking so cross and hand-
some with the black eyebrows knit, and the mouth set
square under the little black mustache. Poor fellow, how
good and silly he was. She pitied him and his foolish anger.

" Joost ! " she said gently, reproachfully, with a world
of tender, laughing, half-vexed consolation in the word

She turned her kindly, clear blue eyes upon him. He


thought he had never seen her look so bewitching as now,
in her tight-fitting sealskin. A little ear lay close to him,
resting on the light fur collar, and her masses of yellow hair
were coiled under a sealskin cap.

" Agatha," he burst out, " I love you. And that's why I
And that's all."

They skated on. He held both her hands, and she could
not well withdraw them without falling. He pressed them
that was unnecessary and she could not well return the
pressure without accepting him.

She returned it.

They skated on. He bent his tall form and kissed her.
There were icicles in the little black mustache and in his
wavy hair. Nineteen and twenty-one, and a winter's even-
ing. A sinking sun and a violet haze ; a pale heaven with
a single star in it, and a gleaming stretch of ice across a
boundless snow plain. She rested her head on his shoulder,
against the shaggy peajacket.

And so they skated on.



When the van Hessels turned the corner from which
they could see their house, the first object that met their
view was Joost Avelingh standing on the " stoop."

" Dear, dear, how tiresome ! " said Mevrouw to Mynheer.
" I suppose he is waiting for an invitation to dinner. It
really appears to me that we have been seeing too much of
that young man lately."

Mynheer van Hessel lay dozing in his corner. He knew


he was in disgrace. Ever since they had set down their last
guest a few minutes ago, he had pretended to be asleep.
Madame had a way of ticking the middle finger of her right
hand against the back of her left when she was displeased.
She was ticking now.

" You will not ask him," said Madame.

" No, no ! " answered the fat Burgomaster, cautiously
opening one eye. " Oh, no ! Quite enough gayety for one

"Quite enough tomfoolery," began Madame, severely.
The Burgomaster shut his eye hastily and buried his red
face in his furs.

The carriage drove up to the house. Joost came for-
ward, astrakhan-cap in hand, with a beaming face.

" It was very good of you to wait," said Madame, as he
helped her to alight. " You should not have done that
merely to say good- by. Good-by " she held out her hand
at the door.

The Burgomaster came tumbling out after his wife.
" Joost," he said, " Oh yes. Capital fun, wasn't it ? Hope
you enjoyed yourself. Good-by ! "

" Mynheer and Mevrouw," said Joost, " I have proposed
to Agatha, and she has accepted me."

Mevrouw van Hessel was a fine woman, a big woman, a
woman of the world, with a handsome face and bearing,
despite her increasing girth. She turned slowly half-way in
the hall-door and looked at Joost. She looked at him. His
eyes fell.

" Bravo," said Mynheer van Hassel. " So far so good."

" So far," said Mevrouw. " Perhaps. But no farther,
at least to-day. These subjects, as you know very well, are^
as a rule, first discussed with the young lady's parents."

" I thought that Mynheer had already sufficiently sig-
nified his consent," stammered Joost.

Mevrouw shifted her ground. " Quite enough has been


done for to-day," she replied, "if not too much. You
can come up to-morrow and speak to Mynheer. Good-
by ! "

She walked into the hall. Mynheer followed after, but,
as he passed through the doorway, he turned round and
winked at Joost. And so that young gentleman went home,
consoled for Mevrouw's "brutal behavior."

" I will not talk on the subject to you to-day, Agatha,"
said Mevrouw, as she stood dressing for dinner. " No, I
positively refuse to give any opinion. You have thought fit
to act and judge for yourself, so, really, you can not be
much concerned to know my impressions. I must speak to
your father first, above all things. I suppose you remember
that he is half-way in his studies, and not at all clever at
them, and that he has not a penny. In my days girls con-
sulted their mothei-s. I consider it very unmaidenly and
immodest to act otherwise. There, there. It all comes of
reading English novels. But I must speak to your father

That father was spoken to in the privacy of the connu-
bial chamber. " It all comes," said. Mevrouw, " of your fool-
ing, van Hessel. I can not imagine what has possessed you
during the last week or two. Since Santa Glaus evening
you have been in this stupid mood. It's not to your credit.
What with Joost, and that little Jennie what's her name;
you have made a fine exhibition of yourself to-day."

" My dear," the Burgomaster ventured to remark, " you
are unreasonably jealous, like all lovely women. As for
Joost, Agatha might do worse."

" It has always been a mystery to me," Mevrouw went
on, to herself in the glass, " how the big world continues to
be governed by Majesties, and the little world by Most
Worshipfuls, whose wives know them, and aj)preciat6 them.
My dear, could you be so obliging as to tell me how long


Joost and Agatha are to be engaged, and what they are ulti-
mately to live on ? "

Mynheer stepped up to Mevrouw, and twice or thrice sol-
emnly shook his finger in her face. He looked so knowing
and so stupid, she laughed in spite of herself, and caught
his fat hand and kissed it.

" Madame," he said, " your husband is not so stupid as
you think. He should say, with all deference to your supe-
rior wisdom, that Joost and Agatha will live on old van
Trotsem's money."

"When old van Trotsem is dead, and has left it to
them," remarked Mevrouw, contemptuously.

" I am in a position to affirm," said the Burgomaster,
falling into the tone he assumed at Board Meetings, " that,
to begin with, the old gentleman's health is not nearly as
good as people usually think. That, however, is neither
here nor there. But I have also every reason to believe
that, dead or alive, van Trotsem looks upon Joost entirely
as a son."

" Indeed ? " said Madame, doubtfully.

" If I confide a secret to you, I lose it," continued her
talkative spouse.

She smiled. She may have had one or two secrets from
him ; he certainly had none from her.

" But it may not be going too far to tell you that about
a month ago I had some business to transact with van Trot-
sem. He made a good job of it."

" I have no doubt," interposed Mevrouw.

" Not to my disadvantage, my dear. There was a third

Online LibraryMaarten MaartensJoost Avelingh: a Dutch story → online text (page 4 of 24)