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Joost Avelingh: a Dutch story online

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liked Kees Hessel and one or two other boy friends ; he had
liked the van Hessel girls ; he had liked some of the servants
about the estate ; he had loved tenderly, truly, the dogs and
the horses, and some rabbits he had had years ago, and a
lame squirrel and a couple of birds ; he had revered the
memory of his dead father as something beyond, on the
border, somewhere where heaven and earth must meet. He
was twenty-one ; he had never loved human soul before.

And now he sat there facing Mynheer van Hessel, with



"FOUND WANTING." 73

Mevrouw a little in the background to his right. And the
weight of his uncle's rejection lay heavy upon him. In-
stinctively he felt that the fat Burgomaster's kindly manner
must not be considered to count for much.

" And so," said the Burgomaster, " we have got to con-
sider consequences."

" I imagined, sir," answered Joost, " that from what you
let drop at intervals I had a right to assume you would
not look with disfavor on a possible suit of mine for your
daughter's hand." He had prepared this speech on his way
to the house, and it came out with a rush and a hitch in the
middle, as such sentences are apt to do.

The Burgomaster crossed his plump hands over his ca-
pacious waistcoat, and twirled his thumbs. From Mevrouw's
corner came a quick, subdued little cough. The Burgo-
master looked in the direction of the sound. This subject,
broached at the very beginning, was the one on which he
had been specially warned not to commit himself.

" My dear boy," he said, " we will not discuss that. Yes,
undoubtedly, young people make love, and it is very pleas-
ant. There is no reason why they should not. They do
not always marry the person they first make love to. I my-
self " another and a sharper cough from Mevrouw's corner
" Oh, well, sometimes they do. So much the better for
them, when they can ! When they can ! And as the old
Latin maxim says "

" And if we were to give you our daughter. Mynheer,
how would you expect to support her ? " The words came
from Mevrouw's corner. Joost turned quickly in that di-
rection. Mevrouw sat looking out of the window with im-
movable face, tapping one finger on the back of her hand.

" Yes," said Mynheer hastily, " yes, I was coming to
that. If we were to give you our daughter. Mynheer, how
would you expect to support her ? "

Joost turned back again. " Mevrouw," he said, Myn-



74 JOOST AVELINGH.

heer, I beg your pardon, Mevrouw, I should work for
her."

" Yes," said Mynheer, " very true and very good. Most
estimable. But you would have to work a good deal."

" I should do that," said Joost.

" And a long time. Look here, my boy, let us come to
business, and be practical. Ask your uncle when he can
find it convenient to receive me. Then, I will drive across
and talk the whole matter over with him, and, when we
have settled it all, as no doubt we shall, then Agatha and
you may be as happy as the day is long. We old people,
whose hearts have done flaring up and settled down into a
steady glow, we old people must look after the bread and
butter, while you young ones go gathering honey. Even St.
John couldn't live on honey alone. It's very provoking and
prosy, but it has to be seen to. So I'll learn what your uncle
says first.'"

Joost had been shifting about on his chair trying in vain
to check the Burgomaster's eloquence. " I can spare you
the trouble," he burst out at the first opportunity, " I have
spoken to my uncle already."

"Already! Dear heaven, how impatient these young
people are ! With all the world before them ! And what,"
said the Burgomaster smiling, " what does your uncle say?"

" That if I marry Agatha van Hessel, I shall never, liv-
ing or dead, have another penny of his."

" What ! " cried the Burgomaster, dropping his hands
from his lap and starting forward. Mevrouw turned her
head from the window.

Neither spoke for a moment ; then both spoke at once.

" Why won't he have you marry ? " said the father.

" How dare he not approve of my daughter ! " said the
mother.

Joost looked backward and forward. " He refuses his
consent to my marriage," he said, " because he resists an}^-



"FOUND WANTING." Y5

thing and everything that could bring me a spark of happi-
ness. He refuses it, because it is the one interest and
amusement of his life to make me wretched. He hated my
father for the life-long wrong he fancied my father had done
him, and the one object of his hate has been to wreak that
wrong on me in a life-long misery. It is my right, and
my duty, to tell you this."

He paused. His auditors sat silent. " But I will baffle
him," he continued more brightly, " and you will help me,
will you not ? Mynheer and Mevrouw, we do not want his
consent. I am twenty-one. Before I have finished my
studies I shall be twenty-three. Before I am able to sup-
port Agatha I shall " he smiled a pitiful little smile " be
a good deal more, I fear."

" The idea," said Mevrouw, " of his not thinking our
daughter good enough for his nephew ! "

" It is not that, I can assure you," cried Joost. " The
better the match, the worse he would like it. Did he not
force me to study medicine because he saw I was bent on a
legal career ? He would consent to my marrying a scullery-
maid. He thinks Agatha too good for me; indeed it is
that, Mevrouw ! And he is right there," added poor Joost
in a low voice.

" That does not matter much," said Mynheer with an
impatient wave of the hand. " As matters now stand, it is
evident "

" I will work for her ! " cried Joost. " What do we want
the old man for? I don't ask you Heaven knows to let
me marry Agatha before I can support her. I only ask you
to let me work and wait. Hundreds do, surely ! I've not
got on as well as I might till now, it's true. But this is dif-
ferent. I shall work differently if I work for Agatha ! "

The Burgomaster looked down at his embroidered slip-
pers. Their intricate pattern interested him. The usually
loquacious man was unpleasantly silent.



76 JOOST AVELINGH.

" Hundreds do it ! " repeated Joost. " Only let us be en-
gaged, and have this object in view. It will help me with
my studies ! It will show my uncle you do not want his
support ! "

Again there was a short silence. Mevrouw broke it.
" Perhaps," she said kindly, " your uncle's opinion may
change. Perhaps you have vexed him about something.
The best thing will be for Mynheer van Hessel to see him
about the matter before we decide upon anything."

Joost shook his head sadly. " When my uncle says a
thing like that he means it," he replied. " You will not get
him to change. He bade me give you his message."

"Then," said Mynheer briskly, suddenly finding his
tongue, " there must be an end of this. Fooling is all ver}^
well and wholesome, but not too much of it. There are
comedy-marriages and marriages in real life. In the latter
kind the couples have something to live on. And if it is
true, Joost Avelingh, that you are a penniless young man
with no reasonable chance of ever being anything else well,
I'm very sorry for you, but you know the old proverb :

' Enough breeds more : but all confess
That nothing's child is nothingness.' "

"Am I to understand," asked Joost when he could
speak, " that you refuse me incontinently and irl-emedia-
bly refuse me your daughter's hand, unless my own holds
my uncle's money-bags ? " There was a slight touch of con-
tempt in his tone.

" You put it very melodramatically," said the Burgo-
master. " Yes."

" But I love her ! " cried Joost, " I love her ! We don't
want more money than will do to keep us. We shall earn
that in time."

" You are silly, Avelingh," said the Burgomaster, " posi-
tively silly. ' Perette sur sa tete port ait un pot de lait.''



"FOUND WANTING." 77

Make the best of it. We don't, as I remarked just now, all
marry our first love."

" Mynheer ! Mevrouw ! I told you it was my uncle's
one object in life to make me suffer. He has been success-
ful enough till now, heaven knows. And are you going to
help him to be successful to the end ? "

" You are melodramatic, I tell you," began the Burgo-
master angrily.

" Mevrouw, you have been kind to me for many years.
You and yours have been pretty much the only people who
ever showed me kindness. And are you going to turn
against me now ? "

Mevrouw did not answer.

" I tell you I love her and will work for her ! " cried
Joost, starting up. " And Agatha ! " he veered round
suddenly and came toward her. " Agatha ! She loves me
too ! She has told me so ! What will you answer your
daughter?"

The Burgomaster had seized upon the opportunity Joost
gave him, and had risen also. " Come, come, Avelingh, be
a man," he said. " This must end. His autem rebus
peractis domum prof edits est.''''

Avelingh came toward him. " What will you answer
your daughter ? " he said.

" My daughter will ask no questions," replied the Burgo-
master coolly, opening the door as he spoke, " nor will she
make any ayrangements for herself until she is thirty. Re-
member that. ' C. C* article so much,' as we used to say
at college."

" I will never give her up," said Joost, as he passed out.

Mynheer came back to Mevrouw. '' Unpleasant," he said,
" tiresome. Very absurd. And really rather insolent, au
fond:'

* Civil Code.



78 JOOST AVELINGH.

Mevrouw did not answer.

Mynheer threw himself back in an armchair. " // y
avail un pHit amoureux^^ he hummed, ^' pHit amour eux,
pHit amour eux.^''

" It is largely your fault," said Mevrouw suddenly and
sharply.

" My dear ! "

" Yes, your fault. It is quite true, as he said, that you
egged him on. You have flung the girl at his head this
many and many a time. We play a sorry part in the bus-
iness, Henrik."

It was Mynheer's turn to sit silent.

" What wonder," she went, warming as she spoke, " that
the poor thing thought she had a right to love him. Who
knows in how fai you first started the whole wretched idea
in her brain? You have forced the subject upon them!
You have taught them to love each other ! "

" But, my dear creature ! "

Mevrouw sailed toward him. " He loves her now," she
cried. " It was pure, honest love that spoke from his heart
and from his eyes. Is it little, perhaps, that he is giving up
for her sake ? All this money, to which we attach so much
importance, and which you say is such a great inheritance.
He never even mentioned it. He counts it as nothing be-
fore his love and her happiness."

She stood before her husband. There was that look in
her eyes^the mother's look which makes all women kin.

" And she loves him," she went on softly. " If the
blame be yours, ours, so must the responsibility be."

" Nonsense ! Wha.t do you mean ? "

" If they love each other truly, sincerely, as deeply as
this, they must marry, Henrik."

" Eidiculous ! " cried the Burgomaster. " All you wo-
men are the same. Give the hearts a romance, and the best
heads go."



MADAME DE MONTELIMART. 79

" Who knows how much of the romance is of your mak-
ing?"

" Pooh, I shall unmake it then. I at least love the child
too much to sacrifice her life to a moment's folly. AVhat-
ever sentimental ideas you may have, I know too well what
ruin means," the sentence ended in something like a groan.
Such a sound from the jovial Burgomaster startled his wife.

" What ? " she said. " How so ? Euin ? "

"Nothing," he replied -with a forced laugh. "Only,
' love may sleep on straw, marriage wants a downy pillow.'
I won't have my daughter marry a beggar ; simply because
I can't afford it."

" He can wait, as he said. He can work. After all, we
are well off and can help them."

" You do not expect him^ I should hope, to earn much
as a doctor ? "

" Heaven knows I was sufficiently opposed to the whole
thing. But if she loves him, Henrik ? "

" Good gracious, Marian, are you a staid Dutch house-
wife ? Are you fifty- two ? Are you "

"I am a woman," she interrupted with vehemence.
" And I have a heart, even though I am Dutch ! If they
love each other they must marry, Henrik."



CHAPTER X.

MADAME DE MON^TELIMAET.

JoosT, riding home at a tearing pace, saw his uncle
standing on the steps, watching him as he dashed up the
avenue.

"Well?" said the Baron, with an ugly leer, "Well?"



80 JOOST AVELINGH.

He had bent forward, not without anxiety ; one look at
the young man's face seemed to reassure him. Joost stood
still on the terrace. He flicked his riding-boot with his
whip.

" And what does Mynheer van Hessel say to your suit ? "
queried his uncle. There was a mocking tone in the de-
mand, as if he were triumphing over somebody or some-
thing, perhaps over his own anxiety of a few minutes ago.
Joost applied it to himself.

" Mynheer van Hessel," he said, " takes the worthy view,
the practical, common-sense, respectable view. He is quite
willing I should have his daughter ; nay, he is most anx-
ious. He offered her for sale himself. But you must buy
her for me ! "

" And I'm damned if I do," said Baron Dirk.

" So I told him, sir. And so he refuses, uncondition-
ally, to allow us to be happy in our own way. And so we
are not happy ; we are miserable. So far, sir, I suppose you
are desirous of information. The rest must be indifferent
to you. Would you allow me to pass ? "

" Listen," said the old man, striking his stick against
the moss-grown stones. " Don't sneer at me. I won't
stand it. I suppose you are very much cut up about this
matter?"

" I shall spare you the pain, sir, of further investigation
of my sorrow."

" Have you ever seen a madman, Joost ? "

The young man was startled by the abrupt question. At
the first moment a doubt flashed across his mind whether
perhaps his uncle felt his own brain giving way. And act-
ually, in the mood he was in that day, the conception
brought him relief. It would be better, happier ay, even
calmer to know the man was mad, than to think such
thoughts of him as were now surging through Joost's brain.
The flash of uncertainty lasted but a few seconds; then



MADAME DE MONT^LIMART. 81

came the revulsion of feeling as he thought he caught his
uncle's meaning.

" You need not be afraid, sir," he said scornfully. " It
is not madness. It is only just that existence of a heart
which some men call disease."

The uncle winced. But he still evidently subdued him-
self by a mighty effort. Joost wondered in a sick, dreamy
way, that there should be so little swearing to-day.

Van Trotsem pulled out his watch. He was a dirty,
snuffy old man, and as he stood there, unshaven, without a
collar nothing but a black silk stock round his red neck
in much stained black waistcoat and trousers, brown coat
and green Berlin wool slippers ; as he stood there, his pro-
tuberant eyes staring at the great gold repeater which hung
by a brown hair-chain from his neck, he certainly was any-
thing but an attractive personage. Joost eyed him with un-
concealed hatred and disgust. The soft feeling of that morn-
ing was fast fading away and making place for the old heart-
hardening hate.

" It is still early," said the Baron, " your business with
the van Hessels was settled more quickly than even I gave
them credit for. Go and have some lunch, Joost, and at three
be ready to drive out with me. At three exactly, if you please."

" Lunch ! " the very idea filled Joost with rage and scorn.
He lounged into the dining-room, for want of something
better to do, and eyed the things on the table with very un-
merited, individual contempt. The old butler crept in and
placed a dish before him his favorite dish, as he noticed
lady readers may care to be informed that Joost Avelingh's
favorite dish was an omelette soufflee with rasped ham. He
looked up, annoyed that the servants should pity him and
yet grateful for all kindness, and said " Thank you." '^ His
master had ordered it," said the man. Joost did not touch
the omelette, but he cut himself a quantity of meat for all
that, and drank several glasses of wine.



82 JOOST AVELINGH.

He went out on to the terrace again. The weather had
completely changed since yesterday. In the night the wind
had veered round to the southwest ; it was thawing as fast
as it could and nowhere, perhaps, can it thaw as fast as in
damp, changeable Holland the air felt quite warm after
the long cold ; clouds were coming up, and there was a cease-
less drip of melting snow from the house, from the parapet,
from the trees of the avenue.

The stable-clock struck three, and at the same moment
an open chaise with a dickey turned the corner of the house
and drew up at the steps.

The old Baron came out with a red comforter on. He
stood a moment looking at the landscape. "It's a good
deal to give up, Joost," he said, encompassing with a sweep
of his arm all his broad acres and stately forests.

*' Sir?" replied Joost nothing else.

The old man chuckled. " Nonsense," he said, as he got
into the chaise, " we are not going to give that up, nor any-
thing else, except just a boy's fancy. Drive on, Joost. To
the town."

They did not speak much on the way. The Baron talked
agriculture, but without eliciting much response from his
companion. They met the village doctor in his gig. He
shook his head reproachfully, and he took off his hat.

" Damn him," said the Baron.

When they reached the town, the Baron Dirk began giv-
ing instructions, directing his wondering nephew till they
drew up at the great entrance of a gloomy, many- windowed
building. There were bars before all the windows. Joost
glanced up nervously.

" You know where we are ? " said the Baron.

" Yes," said Joost.

" Very well. Never mind. I'ollow me."

They got out. A porter, with a grim, stony face un-
bolted and opened one half of the massive door. He seemed



MADAME DE MONT^LIMART. 83

to recognize the Baron and led them into a waiting-room.
Joost looked round him in silent amazement. Had his
uncle brought him here to leave him ? Nonsense ; the idea
was too absurd. It was like the old scoundrel to think of
such a thing, but, after all, he, Joost, was not a child, and
the laws of the land were there to protect him. The old
man took off his coat and comforter. Joost noticed with
fresh surprise, that he had made himself spruce, with a clean
shirt and collar and his old-fashioned best suit of black
clothes. The adventurous instinct which sleeps in us all
awoke in Joost's breast. He began to feel interested.

A bland gentleman came in and greeted the Baron.
" It's a long time," he said, " since you have been to see us.
You will find us quite well and happy. We are all com-
fortable here in spite of circumstances. Taking us all in
all, I should say we are the happiest community of fourteen
hundred souls in the kingdom." He chattered on till a
smug-faced female in a dark cloth gown appeared at the
door. Then he confided the Baron to this person's keeping,
and bowed the two gentlemen out.

Joost found himself passing through long, dreary stone
passages, with a number of doors on both sides. Strange
noises came constantly from various quarters ; dull thumps,
grating laughs, and occasionally something like a muffled
shriek. Vague as the noises were, there was an unnatural-
ness about them which made them strangely impressive.
They caused Joost to shudder, while he laughed at himself
for the feeling. On the stairs the little party met two men
with utterly foolish, vacuous faces, dressed in a sort of gray
prison garb. One of them gave a feeble laugh. The smug-
faced female brushed past these and, unlocking what must
have been the fourth or fifth door since they started, led her
visitors into a little square entry. Then she threw back a
green baize screen and announced in a loud, harsh voice :
" Mevrouw the Countess receives ! "



84 JOOST AVELINGH.

Following his uncle, Joost found himself in a good sized,
bright-looking room, against the windows of which wide-
spreading branches gaunt and dripping at this moment
somewhat obscured the view. It was an uncomfortable item
to notice that the windows were heavily barred. Otherwise
the room was cheerful enough, not to say gaudy ; furnished
in many colored chintzes and bright ribbons, littered with
all manner of knickknacks, and full of bird-cages of various
shapes and sizes. In the middle of the apartment stood a
little old lady with a stiff yellow curl on each side of her
face, attired in a low-necked red satin dress. She was court-
esying profoundly. Joost noticed that, while the two curls
were golden, the hair under the head-dress of hlack lace and
poppies shone forth a silvery white.

" I am glad to see you. Baron," she said smiling sweetly.
" It is very long since you have done me the honor of a call.
I was beginning to feel quite angry with you."

The Baron's eyes seemed to goggle more than ever. His
face was once more purple; his heavy eyebrows twitched
nervously.

" It is very good of Mevrouw de Montelimart to remem-
ber," he said.

The little lady waved her hand. " Excuse me," she said,
" the Countess de Montelimart. I bear my title. I find it
is necessary to do so here- and to insist upon it.* ' Excuse
me. Pray be seated. Baron."

There must have been two or three dozen birds in the
room, large and small. A green parrot sat on a perch near his
mistress. Two canaries settled down on her shoulder-knot.
The twittering and whistling was deafening. " Hist," said
the Countess, with another wave of her hand, as she sat down.
Complete silence immediately fell on the whole company.

* Titles of nobility are never given in Dutch conversation, except
by inferiors.



MADAME DE MONTEILIMART. 85

" They are not all my children," said the Countess apol-
ogetically. " Joko is " with a wave at the parrot. " And
so are Elvire and Elmire '' the same movement toward the
canaries "but the others are people of position in the
neighborhood where I now live. You may have met some
of them in society, before. They always come to my recep-
tions. It is very fortunate, Baron, that you should just have
come on my reception-day. Or did you know? "

" Oh ah oh yes," said the Baron.

" Of course," said the little old lady, " I always send out
my cards. My maid," another wave of the hand at the at-
tendant, who sat sullenly looking out of the window " my
maid sees to that. Elvire show the Baron van Trotsem how
you are progressing with your music. Elvire, sing ! "

One of the canaries burst into a warble on his mistress's
shoulder. She sat listening intently and nodding her head
approvingly, but, half-way in the performance, the melody
evidently got too irresistible for little Elmire's feelings, and
he too lifted up his voice and sang. A flame of fury flashed
into the Countess's eyes ; in an instant she struck the little
beast a blow which sent him rolling off his perch. " Obedi-
ence," she said, apologetically, bending over to the Baron,
"is the mother of indiscretions."

The Baron nodded approval.

" You have forgotten," she said very severely, when she
had stopped the canary's singing, " to introduce your son to
me. I can not allow that."

" Good gracious, no," cried the Baron, " I beg your par-
don, my dear countess. I most humbly beg your pardon.
This is my nephew, Joost Avelingh."

" I knew he was your son at once by the likeness," said
the Countess de Montelimart, smiling sweetly on Joost.
" Besides, I had heard of your marrying again. I had a son
of my own once, young gentleman," she continued turning
to Joost, " such a fine, handsome creature. In the full



86 JOOST AVELINGH.

bloom of health and beauty. And such a voice. His name
was Dirk. Oh, how I loved him ! " A tear trickled down
the poor Countess's cheek.

" And he is dead, madame ? " said Joost sympathetically.

" He is," sighed the Countess. " He died of the pip, but
the doctor promised me he would have him buried in the
garden. No wonder your father is proud of you," said the
Countess. " It is a fine thing to have a son."

She began to cry so copiously and continuously that the
attendant interfered. " There's Joko," she said in a rough,
coarse voice. " Isn't Joko your son ? "

The Countess broke into sudden smiles. "Joko," she
said. " Show the gentlemen what you can do."

" Scratch my head," said the parrot.

" How dare you ! " cried his mistress, once more in a vio-
lent passion. " Every parrot can say that, and no gentleman
would say it. Something else. Quick ! "

" Long live King William ! " croaked Joko. " Long live
King William! Long live King William, and the devil
take the nurse ! "

" Hush ! hush ! " said the Countess, with a frightened,
cunning look toward the attendant. " I can't imagine who
taught him to say that. It's very wrong, Joko, and very



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