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party. Well, when it was over I congratulated him, as we
walked away. ' What's the use of the money to me ? ' says
he ; 'I must go and leave it.' ' Not just yet ! ' I said. With
that he mumbled : ' H'm, H'm. There's no one but Joost.
I've only got Joost, and a thousand florins more or less
won't matter much to him ! ' I have never known him so


talkative in these fifty years and more. It must have been
the successful bargain ; and perhaps the consciousness that
' all's not right inside," the Burgomaster tapped his manly

" And that," said Madame, " that, and the doctor's chat-
ter, accounts for your tone these last few weeks."

" It does, my dear, that, and my natural affection for
Joost and Agatha. I love Joost as my own son. And I
flatter myself that I have brought the two dear children
together, and managed the whole business wisely and well."

" What you say about Joost's prospects proves nothing,"
said Mevrouw, " nothing definite at all."

" Definite . No, my dear, but it gives us ground to
work on." The Burgomaster began leisurely settling a
white cotton nightcap, with an imposing tassel, over the
gray fringe round his bald head. " I shall tell Joost to-
morrow that I will speak with his uncle. All will depend
u.pon that. I must have the old gentleman's word of honor
word in writing, that is better littera scripta manet^ you
know, with regard to his plans for Joost both now and
afterward. All will depend upon that ; it is the sine qua

" Certainly," said Madame.

" I don't myself think there will be much difficulty, or I
should not have gone so far with Joost. The old gentleman
told me at the time that he thought young men should
marry early. ' Marry and settle down,' he said, ' it's too
late afterward:' and he looked quite unhappy, poor old

" He is a very disagreeable creature, and very rude," said
Mevrouw. " I suppose he wouldn't specially object to
Agatha ? "

" Why should he ? You remember about my sister ? "

" Of course."

" So he can't disapprove of the family ; and why should


he ? I should say we were quite half-way between him and

" Well," said Mevrouw, " we must wait and see. I can
not say I approve of the whole thing. There is much to be
said against it."

" There is, my dear," remarked Mynheer, lifting himself
up on his pillow to look for the extinguisher. " And there-
fore, if you understood Latin, I should immediately say to
you : ' Audiatur et altera pars ! ' and you would admit
that I was right. Van Trotsem must be a very rich man ; I
should value him at a hundred and fifty thousand a year *
at the least."

And he put out the candle.



Joost Avelin"gh drove back to the Castle, with his
head in a whirl. He drove fast, recklessly fast, as was his
habit when under strong excitement. His agitation will be
forgiven him by all who have ever been in a similar posi-
tion ; and to few men has the great decision come so sud-
denly. But an hour or two ago, he had been firmly resolved
to wait, and do nothing in a hurry. If anything could
have kept him back, it would have been Mynheer van Hes-
sel's manner, but how charming and innocent and thor-
oughly girlish she was when she looked up at him and said
" Joost ! " There was a little mockery in it, perhaps, never
mind ; there was plenty of affection and good-nature. Who

* About 12,000.


could resist her? Not he. And so he was actually en-
gaged !

He did not make much of Mevrouw's objections. Per-
haps it would have been better for him if he had. It is not
always good, as has been often remarked before now, for the
course of true love to run too smoothly at first. And Joost's
was true love. Did he doubt it ? No, no ; if he ever doubt-
ed, it was not on that first evening, when he drove home all
aglow, through the cold.

He went up straight to his room and dreamed all night
of Agatha. What with the day's fatigue and excitement, he
overslept himself. It was half past ten when, he walked into
the dining-room, and saw the remnants of his uncle's meal.
The old man breakfasted punctually at eight, and could not
bear his nephew not to be present. Joost strolled out on to
the terrace, and the first thing he became aware of was a
chaise coming up the avenue. It drew rapidly nearer, and
he soon recognized Arthur van Asveld in the driver.

During the first half of his homeward journey yesterday,
silent and angry at Agatha's side, he had been full of plans
to shoot, smash, horsewhip or otherwise damage the fat body
of the Jonker, but now, standing there, and watching his
rival, he felt quite magnanimous toward him.

" Good-day, van Asveld," he called out. " Coming for
some more shooting ? Can't, while the snow lasts."

" I know that," the Jonker gave answer, in a far less
cheery voice, " I should say, on the whole, that I might
know as much about shooting as you do. Is Cousin Dirk
in ? "

" I suppose so," said Joost.

The Jonker jumped down. "I want to see him," he
said. " Tell some beggar to announce me, please."

It was not by any means the first time the Jonker
called at the Castle. He had made a point of looking up
his distant relative as soon as he came to the University.


He had got on very well with the old Baron. In many
points, in fact, he got on far better than Joost. His tastes
were rough and uncultivated like van Trotsem's ; he enjoyed
a round oath, a coarse joke and a good glass of wine. He
came to dinner once or twice in that lonely house, and kept
the grim old man in a roar with his stories all the time.
Joost sat silent and disgusted. The guest was not afraid to
speak out, and give as good as he got. He abused the wine
roundly once, and the old noble actually sent down for the
best that he had in his cellar. Next time Arthur asked for
" that Eothschild," and got it. He asked for an invitation
to shoot over the place, and got that too. He was a capital
shot and a thorough sportsman. His heart was in it. When
the Baron discovered that, he was truly and unfeignedly de-
lighted. They went out together for hours. (The doctor
had told van Trotsem to give up shooting ; but the old man
obeyed neither this nor any other advice.) When they came
home to dinner, the Baron ordered up a couple of bottles of
champagne, and they discussed the day's adventures enthu-
siastically, until, what with the lateness of the hour and the
excellence of the wine, Arthur had to spend the night at
the Castle. The old man liked him, after a manner. It
may be doubted whether, in his heart, he did not esteem
Joost far higher, but he liked to have the other with him at

" And what brings you here this morning ? " the Baron
said, as his visitor entered the room. " No shooting, with
this weather, at any rate."

Arthur was not at all pleased to see how every one con-
nected his appearance at the Castle with shooting, and with
shooting only. He sank down in an armchair, without wait-
ing to be asked.

" I have not come about shooting. Cousin Dirk," he said,
" I have come to see you."

The old man wheeled round in his chair. " See me ! " he


said, fixing his protuberant eyes full on Arthur. " There's
not much to see in me. Do you mean to say you have come
all this way to look at me ? I never was much to look at, and
I don't improve, I fancy, as years go on."

" There's nothing more to see," said Arthur imperturb-
ably, " than an old Dutchman who looks every inch, what
he is, a gentleman, and the representative of one of the
greatest families in the country. That's all. But I didn't
mean that. I meant I'd come to call on you and talk
with you about some matters chiefly interesting to my-

" Humph ! " said the Baron.

" They concern you too, however. Cousin Dirk, because,
after all, I'm one of the few relations you've got. I've never
asked you for money yet ; have I ? "

" No," said the Baron, '^ because you know you wouldn't
get it. I can't go giving all you young men a dollar to-day
and a gold-piece to-morrow."

" Quite true," remarked Arthur. "You don't mind my
smoking, do you? Pretty well accustomed to smoke, this
room is, isn't it? Quite true. And I haven't come to ask
for a dollar now. Heaven knows I'm beastly poor, but I
don't want any of your money, while things go on as they

" Do you mean to say," asked the Baron, " that you have
come to ask me for it when I am dead ? "

" No, sir," replied Arthur with a certain warmth, " I do
not. Look here. Cousin Dirk. I've been wild enough these
last years. I'm sick of it. I'm no good at the University.
Any fellow would be wild in my damned circumstances.
There's no use in behaving myself. I've got no money. If
I settled down respectable, the regular thing, and all square,
and married I should have to marry : Ijcouldn't do it with-
out Look here. Cousin Dirk, I may as well make a clean
Ij^'oast of it Would you, for the sake of our relationship,


and the name I bear, and all that, pay off my debts, and
give me a fresh start in life."

"How much would do it? "asked the Baron, sitting
bolt upright in his round desk-chair, and twinkling his
eyes under their bushy eyebrows. There was a wicked
gleam in them, but the guileless youth could not see that.

" The debts," said Arthur, " would tot up to about twen-
ty thousand odd." *

" And then there would have to be something like the
same sum to buy you an occupation of some kind."

" I suppose so," said Arthur.

" Damn you ! " suddenly screamed the old man, opening
his eyes wide enough now, till they almost seemed to start
out of his head. He whisked his chair round again ; his
face was purple. " Damn you ; have you anything more to
ask ? Damn your impudence ! What do you mean ? "

Arthur was very much taken aback by this outburst, and
considerably disappointed, but he did not lose his presence
of mind. " I meant what I said," he answered coolly.
" Don't damn me, if you please, sir. There's never been
another gentleman damned since the devil was. And I
won't stand it."

" I shall say what I choose," shouted the old Baron, ex-
asperated. " Leave the room and the house this moment ;
or I'll send for a servant to turn you out." A handbell stood
on his desk. He stretched out his arm to it.

Van Asveld rose from his lazy attitude. " No, sir ! " he
said in a loud voice. " Grentlemen can settle their disputes
without treating menials to cheap amusement." He dropped
his voice and his dignified manner almost immediately.
" Trust me," he continued, rolling a loosened leaf round his
cigar. " Nothing helps the socialists more than our quar-
reling before the servants. If you consider my troubles, and

* 1,655.


the misfortune of my race, food for rage or amusement, so
be it. It is not my fault that I misjudged you. If Joost
Avelingh " he hesitated.

" Wliat about Joost Avelingh ? " asked the old man. " ]S"o
lies ! "

" I do not intend to tell them," replied the other haught-
ily. " Joost Avelingh is not a gentleman, you will admit
that. I am ; and I had hoped that, speaking to one of the
first gentlemen in the kingdom, I should have been under-
stood. I had surely a right to presume that, loving your
own name as you do, you might have some indulgence for
my love of mine."

The old man shifted his gaze uneasily. Arthur saw his
advantage, and followed it up.

" I am an unfortunate gentleman," he said hurriedly,
" doubly unfortunate in being so poor and so well-born.
I have never asked you for a penny. I did not come here
to-day to beg. I came to concert with a gentleman of equal,
of superior rank, my relation, what means could be employed
to save an honorable name a name he bears among his own
quarterings from disgrace. I wish you a good day, Cousin

" Hist," said the old man, " come back ! sit down !
What do you want ? I won't give you money. Whom do
you wish to marry ? Have you got any one ? Marry a rich

" Who will have me ? " said Arthur. " I don't want to
marry a poor one, but I don't want to marry for money. I
was thinking of Agatha van Hessell. They're very well off,
are they not, Cousin Dirk ? "

" I don't believe it," said van Trotsem, " I have my
doubts about van Hessel. He lives in good style and
spends, I should think, more than his income ! We shall
see ! We shall see ! "

" Then I won't have her. And if you care for the hint,


cousin, mind Joost doesn't pick up my leavings. Start me
fairly in life, and I'll propose to Jennie Melasse. I met
her only yesterday ; her father was a sugar-planter ; but
you can't have everything, and I dare say he'll consider the
coronet worth paying well for."

" You'll have money enough if you get ^er," said the
Baron. " It's your business, not mine. I won't give you a
half -penny at this moment ; so it's no use asking. But I
tell you what. I don't mind promising that, for the name's
sake for the name's sake, mind, not for yours, you scoun-
drel I'll remember you handsomely in my will. You can
trade upon that, if you like, with old Melasse, or the Jews.
I don't think I shall last long ; and I've nobody in par-
4iicular to leave my money to."

Arthur looked crestfallen. " Thank you. Cousin Dirk,"
he said, " and that is irrevocably all ? "

" Irrevocably all," replied the Baron, turning to his
papers, " and I shall damn you, if I choose."

Arthur held out his hand with a bow. *' Do so, Cousin
Dirk," he said. " Only mind you don't damn yourself."



The Baron, left alone, found plenty of food for his
thoughts. One idea, however, soon floated uppermost.
"Mind Joost doesn't pick up my leavings." The sugges-
tion seemed to move him strangely. He rang his hand-bell.
" Is Mynheer Joost up now ? " he asked the servant. Myn-
heer Joost was sent for. The man found him pacing up
and down his room with long strides. He had just given


orders for his horse to be saddled. He was going to ride
over to his interview with Mynheer van HesseL

" Sit down," said the old man, when Joost appeared be-
fore him. " Sit down. Did you enjoy yourself yesterday?"
He talked on for some time quite kindly about the ice-party,
so kindly that Joost thawed and gave an account of the pro-
ceedings. He might have enjoyed such a rare talk with his
uncle, had it not been that his thoughts kept flying off to
the coming ordeal, and had it not been, also, for the rooted
dislike which made all intercourse with the old man so irk-
some to him. Since the great wrong the Baron had done
him, three years ago, the cup of Joost's bitterness, daily fed
with fresh aloe, overflowed. Their relations had not im-
proved of late years. All Joost's thoughts of his uncle were
influenced by his dislike of the profession to which that un-
cle's wish had condemned him, and the old man's feeling for
Joost underwent the daily influence of the nephew's tacit
avoidance and dislike. Their paths, once parted to right
and left, now led them farther apart the longer they pur-
sued them.

" And were there any pretty girls ? " asked the Baron.
He was trying to manoeuvre, and he thought himself won-
derfully skillful.

" There was Jenny Melasse," said Joost carelessly. " Some
people think her very good-looking. Mynheer van Hessel
seemed to be of that opinion."

" Well, the Hessel girls are not much to look at, except-
ing Annemie. Now, Agatha I should consider quite a plain
girl." He said this, oh so slily, and stole a cunning look at
his nephew out of his wicked old goggle-eyes.

Joost was silent.

" Should you not, Joost, call Agatha van Hessel quite a
common-looking girl ? "

" N n no," said Joost, " I should not consider her


The old man talked on about the van Hessels, with awk-
ward questions and remarks. Joost sat on thorns. He was
most anxious to put off any discussion of the subject with
his uncle till after he had seen the Burgomaster. He tried
to turn the conversation, but in vain. The Baron reverted
to Agatha, her flirtations, her marriage prospects, till Joost
felt it would be neither honest nor prudent to conceal the
truth any longer. He walked up and down the room once
or twice with rapid strides ; then he came and stood with
his hand on his uncle's chair. After all, this was his only
relation ; the house was the home of his life. His heart felt
very tender at that moment.

" Uncle," he said quite softly. The old man pricked up
his ears at the change of voice. " Uncle, I don't want to
deceive or distrust you. I've a very important subject to
speak to you about, a very dear subject to me. What would
you say, my good uncle would you be very angry with me
if I were to tell you that I love Agatha van Hessel be she
pretty, be she plain and want some day to have her for my

There was no response. The Baron's face was turned
away, but Joost could hear him puffing and snorting. At
last came the words : " I should say, Joost, it can't be."

They were practically as unexpected at that moment as
they were foreseen in theory. Joost had dreaded but little
opposition from the young lady's parents ; he dreaded none
from his Uncle Dirk. But he kept his temper, fortunately.
" Not just yet, of course, uncle," he said, still softly, " I
quite understand that I must be ready, and earning my live-
lihood somehow, as a doctor " he gave a slight shudder
" before I can marry her. But I could be engaged to her,
as is the case so often, and make her my wife as soon as I
am able to do so."

" It can't be, Joost," said the old Baron, still sitting in
the same attitude. " Nor now, nor ever. If it could be


done at all, it might as well be done now. But it never
can be."

" My dear uncle," said Joost, still gently, " I should like
nothing better than to have your approval. And I still hope
you will give it. What can we do otherwise than marry ?
Agatha and I both think this marriage was made in heaven,"

" Agatha and you ? " cried the old man. " How far are
you, pray ? Married already, perchance. Not valid in

" Sir " said Joost, " only yesterday evening I can assure
you, only yesterday evening was the subject first hinted
at between us. How it came, I do not know. Please do
not ask me. All I can tell is, that now we both know we
love each other, and as fbr the rest, God help us through."
His voice faltered. The hand that rested on his uncle's chair
shook slightly.

The Baron pulled himself together ; also with a visible
effort. "It can't be," he said huskily. "You can never
marry Agatha van Hessel."

Joost's knees gave way beneath him. Almost unconcious-
ly, he slid down by the chair and clasped his hands across its
low, round back. " Uncle Dirk," he cried, and there was a
thrill of entreaty in his voice, " tell me, what have I done to
you that you persecute me thus ? Great God, whatever my
father's or my own sin may have been, is a life of suffering
not atonement enough ? I do not deny that I have often
wronged you. Be merciful now. I have endured enough.
You are an old man, near the grave. God be pitiful to you
as you show compassion. Oh, if you only knew how I want
somebody to be kind to me to-day."

He was altogether unstrung, moved in the very depths
of his nature. It was not a moment to weigh his words or
even to fully realize them. He had a vague idea they were
not very dignified. What of that? Agatha's happiness
was worth the sacrifice of a little dignity. His love was all


so young, and sweet, and tender, lie could have cried like a
girl that morning and not been ashamed of his tears.

The old baron winked his eyes, and spoke very gruffl}^
" It is your happiness, after all, which I seek, Joost," he
said. " In my own manner, after my own lights, perhaps.
I deem them best. What you say is hard to hear ; we have
somehow got awry, my boy. I dare say some of it is my fault.
I asked you to trust me about your studying medicine. You
never did so from the first. I can not help that. And now
I must once more ask you to trust me about this matter. It
is for your own happiness. You never can marry Agatha
van Hessel."

Joost sank his head on his hands. He did not speak.

" I swear to you it is for your own good," said the old
Baron solemnly.

Joost made an impatient movement with his bent head.

" Damn you, can't you believe me ? " cried the Baron,
fretfully. " You would make a cart-horse lose patience.
You give up Agatha from this moment, do you hear ? "

Joost again shook his head without lifting it.

" Do you mean to say you ignore my wishes ? "

Joost rose to his feet. His face was very calm and white
with suffering. " Sir," he said, in a firm voice, " I shall ride
over to Mynheer van Hessel to-day, as I was on the point of
doing when you sent for me. I shall tell him what has
passed between us, and I shall ask him to let me marry his
daughter when I am twenty- three."

" Do," said the old man, trembling with passion, " and
tell him from me that, if you marry Agatha van Hessel, you
shall never, living or dead, have another penny of mine."

" I will, sir," said Joost calmly.

" Do," shrieked his uncle, " and come back for dinner,
and give me van Hessel's answer."




When Joost Avelingh was ushered into the Burgo-
master's room, he found Mynheer van Hessel seated at the
writing-table and Mevrouw by the window.

Mevrouw looked stern and uncompromising, Mynheer
well satisfied and comical. The latter motioned Joost to a

" Well, my dear young friend," he began, " and so we
have been love-making on the ice ! ' The heart may glow
in winter's snow,' as the poet says. And now we have got
to discuss consequences."

Poor Joost had his battle to fight all alone. It was so
true, as he had told his uncle, that he was thirsting for some
one to show him kindness, some one to sympathize with him
and talk the whole matter over. He was an impressionable,
warm-hearted young fellow, soft-hearted at bottom ; just the
kind of still, undemonstrative man who has every need of a
woman's affection. He had never known what the term
meant. He had never never felt the touch of a woman's
hand on his forehead; never before yesterday heard a
tender word, other than purely conventional, from a woman's
lips. He thought, with a shudder, of the Swiss nursery-
governess of his early years. He was not by nature reticent
or unemotional ; his character had been forced from its
natural groove by the negative influence of his surroundings.
The sternness of his dark young face ; the sad look in those
great eyes told but a portion of the heart's story. At bot-
tom there was a half -acknowledged yearning for warmth,
brightness, softness, a " wanting to be loved." There was
also, it can not be denied, a " wanting to be admired," but
is there not that in every male yearning for affection ? Only
women love for love's sweet sake. And with Joost the de-


sire was strongly developed. He wanted people to be good
to him and love him for what he was and what he did. The
Dutch have a very graphical expression for the whole senti-
ment, borrowed from horticulture " He wanted to be put
out in the sunshine," they say. Joost Avelingh's heart, a
fair plant enough, and intended by nature to bear sweet-
smelling, soft-colored flowers, had never been put out in the

An hour or two ago he had been happy and confident
enough, in spite of all natural nervousness and impatience.
For the first time he had felt a woman's affection. It had
wrapped itself round his poor numbed heart, and he felt like
an outcast in a blanket. What wonder he did not stop to
analyze the nature of his feelings, nor inquire too closely if
the gratitude, the gentle sympathy, he felt toward this
woman was exactly and accurately that particular feeling
men label " lover's love ! " It was love, a strange, new feel-
ing, love to a woman, reciprocated and revealed in the inter-
change. The man who, from his childhood upward, feels
the warmth upon his heart of his mother's unfathomable
tenderness, his sister's admiring affection, the friendliness of
more distant relations, the liking of his sister's friends, that
man can properly distinguish and select, and say : '^ Nay,
but, distinctly from all other sentiments, this woman I love
for my wife." Joost Avelingh, when he saw the first beam
break through a loophole, cried out : " It is light ! " He had

Online LibraryMaarten MaartensJoost Avelingh: a Dutch story → online text (page 5 of 24)