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Joost Avelingh: a Dutch story online

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improper. Consider yourself in disgrace."

She turned to the window. Her bright little eyes never
rested for one moment. " Refreshments ! " she said, with
that imperious wave of the hand. The woman got up,
sullenly again, and went toward a cupboard. She extracted
therefrom some empty glasses and decanters, and a biscuit-
tray, and placed them on a little table by the Countess's

" Will you take Port or Madeira ? " asked that lady with
her hand on an empty decanter. " I am sorry I can not offer
you bitters. They only allow them to the men. It is very
unfair, I consider."


The Baron and Joost gravely chose Port wine and took
their empty glasses. She seemed a little put out by Joost's
not selecting a different wine from his uncle.

" I shall take Madeira myself," she said. " The rest of
the company prefer biscuits." There were one or two on
the tray, she broke olf a bit and gave it to Joko, who plumed
himself at this unexpected sign of returning favor and
winked his wicked black eyes.

" The gentlemen and ladies are very well behaved," re-
marked the Baron.

" Are they not ? " she said, with a pleased look. " Oh
yes, I teach them good manners. And I have to clean all
their cages myself. Is that not hard ? Do you not think,"
another cunning look at the attendant, " that, with all the
money I am paying here, they might give me some one to
clean my cages for me ? "

The old Baron stared in embarrassment.

" But I find time for other things," continued the Count-
ess. " Look at this " She took up a piece of fancy-work
lying near. " Look at this, and tell me honestly, sincerely
now mind you tell me the truth don't you think this is
very well done for a madwoman ? " She looked anxiously
into her visitors' faces. The parrot took up the last word
and yelled again and again : " A madwoman ! A mad-
woman ! A madwoman ! "

The Baron rose with an ill-concealed shudder.

" It is very clever," he said, " very ingenious. Yes, quite
so. I fear we must be going, my dear Countess."

"Going? Already?" There was a look of positive
pain on her face. " I so seldom have anybody. Could you
not stay a little longer ? " She caught hold of his arm and
clung to it. The attendant drew nearer.

" Don't go ! " said the Countess, " don't go."

" I must to-day. I shall come and see you again ! "

" Don't go. Dirk," entreated the poor creature, clinging


to him as they went toward the door ; " don't go ! don't go !
I am not happy here." She dropped her voice to a whisper.
" They are not good to me. Look ! " she pointed to several
blue bruises on her naked arms ; those bruises had fasci-
nated Joost from the first " she did that " her voice
dropped to a whisper " She often does it. Never mind.
Hush ! She won't let me have Pears' soap in my tea. The
doctor expressly told me I was to have Pears' soap and no
other. It is matchless for the hands and complexion,"
" A madwoman ! " yelled the parrot. " A madwoman ! The
devil take the nurse."

The attendant showed them out. " I presume she told
you I ill-treated her, sir," she said, in an indifferent voice.
" They all do. It is a symptom." Joost looked into her
smug, villainous face and felt sure the charge was true.

They passed back through the same gloomy passages
alive with half-smothered shrieks and laughs and blows. In
the parlor the director joined them. " I hope you found
the patient looking well," he said. " It is a sad case, an in-
teresting case, very interesting. It must be about forty
years now that she has been with us."

" Yes," said the Baron, " forty-two. I hope she is happy.
I trust I do trust she is happy."

" Oh, she's happy enough ! " said the doctor, coolly.
"- Never fear, my dear sir. I dare say she has been telling
you she is ill-treated. They all do. It is a symptom. Per-
fectly absurd, you know. Impossible. Government insti-
tution. Government inspectors. Assistant doctor looks in
daily. Now really, you know, perfectly absurd."

Joost gave a great sigh of relief when the open door fell
to behind them and he heard the porter fixing the bolts.
He took the reins and drove off.

"Well? "said his uncle, who had been watching him

Joost gave a long shudder. " Why did you bring me


there ? " lie asked. " Have I not had enough to torment me
already to-day ? Great Heaven, what a place ! It is the
very portal of hell."

'"' Then you would not like to live in such surroundings ?
^ot like to come much in contact with anything of the

Joost did not answer the question, which seemed to him
to be devoid of meaning. He was extremely agitated. It
seemed as much as he could do to hold the reins. His was,
as has been said, an impressionable, tender heart, and the
actual vision of that suffering with all its hidden possibilities
had moved it to its foundations. What psychical agony,
what physical torture did that long, gloomy building in-
close ? The inhabitants of the town, passing by, would look
up with a smile and nod to each other : " The madhouse !
Yes ! Fortunately so admirably managed, you know ! "

Joost shuddered again. On any other day he might have
borne the sight better, but, unnerved as he was already by
preceding events, he felt that this was more than he could
bear. And his uncle watched him closely, silently. Not a
word was spoken till they were half-way home.



There was no more talk of agriculture ; the old man
sat muttering to himself and scowling. Presently he asked :
" How old are you, Joost ? Twenty-one, are you not ? "

" Yes, sir," said Joost.

" / was twenty-one," said the Baron ; and that was all.

The cloud had thickened and dropped while they were


paying their visit. It now began to drizzle. " No, no. No
putting up the hood," said the Baron to the groom in the
dickey. " We're not made of sugar, any of us." It was rain-
ing fast by the time they reached the house. The Baron
got out, and stumbled on the steps. He would have fallen,
had not Joost supported him. " It's nothing," he said,
" nonsense. Only a little giddiness. Hang the doctor. He'd
make a man think he was dying, ten years before his time."
He looked at his watch under the hall-lamp. " Ten
minutes to six," he said. " Near dinner time. Hurry up.
I feel quite hungry."

Joost scowled at his own white face in the glass, as he
stood washing his hands. The excitement of the visit to the
madhouse had kept him up. He was now asking himself
what it meant, without being able to find a solution. Did
his uncle mean to get him locked up there, unless he obeyed
him ? Impossible. And yet with influence ! Absurd.
Did he intend to warn him, while there yet was time, think-
ing as no doubt he thought that Joost was on the high
road to madness already. Yes, that must be it. Joost smiled
bitterly at himself, and the glass smiled back. He was nearer
crime, he thought, than insanity.

Now he was home again, the whole misery rushed back
upon him. Was it possible that he could sit so calinly next
to his uncle in the carriage, sit opposite him at table, with
this hate burning down into his heart ? Could such a state
of things continue ? Could he live with the man whose one
object seemed to be to destroy his life and cause him suffer-
ing. No, said Joost to himself, as he blew out his candle
and went downstairs. He resolved very decidedly, though
as yet without any further particularization, that this pres-
ent condition of affairs must end. With or without Agatha,
he must go out into the world and earn his own bread.

The large dining-room was lighted up. There were can-


dies in the sconces, and a bright oil lamp hung over the
square table with its massive silver centerpiece. The Baron
was already seated at the head of the table. Behind him
stood the butler. Joost sat down opposite.

" Is it raining still, Jakob ? " said the Baron.

" Raining fast, sir."

Joost refused the soup. The Baron cast a sharp glance
at him and poured himself out another glass of wine. He
was, as his nephew noticed, still dressed in that Sunday suit
he had put on for his visit to the madhouse. He tucked his
white napkin under his chin, probably to save his clothes.
It made his red face stand out the more.

Joost refused the second course. The Baron cast another
look at him and poured himself out more wine. Neither had
spoken. Joost sat looking straight before him, white, dark,
glum. He also repeatedly filled the glass beside his empty

The Baron took of everything, and ate noisily, gobbling
and choking, and casting more and more frequent glances
at his nephew. The butler moved noiselessly to and fro.

The dessert was put on the table. Joost had eaten nothing.

" Get out," said the Baron, abruptly breaking half-an-
hour's silence. The patient Jakob passed softly out of the
room. He closed the heavy dining-room door on the two
gentlemen and left them to their own cogitations. He was
not sorry to be outside.

" Joost," said the Baron when they were alone. He
poured himself out another glass of wine from the replen-
ished decanter. His hand trembled somewhat " Joost, I
am an ill-used old man. I have been ill-used all my life,
and my experience has not been a happy one. Be sure of
that. Far from it. But we need not speak of the subject.
You don't believe me, do you ? "

" What about?" said Joost. " That you were ill-used?
I don't know."


" And don't care, I suppose that means. It is true, all
the same. And now, see how you behave toward me. Just
because, for your own good, I ask you to forget this foolish
love story after all, it is a child's fancy, nothing more ask
you to forget it on your own behalf. It is on your own
behalf. Don't you believe me ? "

Joost did not answer.

" Don't you believe me? " The old man bent across the

" No," said Joost with a laugh.

His uncle swore a great oath. He stretched out his
hand to his glass, but the hand trembled and struck against
the slender stem, upsetting its balance and sending a crim-
son stream over the white table-cloth. The Baron flung the
offending wine-glass into a corner of the room and, stumb-
ling to the sideboard, came back with a tumbler which he
filled and drained.

"And so," he began again, "you would marry Agatha
van Hessel after all. If I were to die to-night, you would
marry her to-morrow ? "

" Certainly," said Joost.

" And van Hessel, damn him, would give his consent
too," muttered the old man. There was a long silence.

" Look here, Joost Avelingh," said van Trotsem, bend-
ing forward again, his red hands spread out before him.
" You shall not marry this girl. I have told you myself,
kindly, that I am acting for your own welfare. You laugh,
and simply answer that I lie. Had you consented, with a
good grace, to obey my wishes, there would have been an
end of the matter. Now, on the contrary, you force me
to take action. You yourself have indicated the road.
You tell me van Hessel will never take you without my
money. Well, damn you both, he shall never get you with
it. Rather than that, I will leave it to Arthur van As-


" Leave it where you like," said Joost. " I have told you
once for all, sir, I don't want your money."

'' Yes, you do," said the old man, quickly, " for it is your
only chance of Agatha."

A terrible expression came over Joost's face, a look so
dark and threatening that his uncle, half -fuddled as he was
with wine, was startled by it. There was murder in that
passionate glance. The mouth, dogged and square, set itself
firmly, full of dreadful resolve.

" Do not exasperate me," said Joost Avelingh.

" It is you who exasperate me," said the Baron, surlily.
" Have I ever injured you ? What right have you to speak
to me thus? I tell you again, you shall not marry the
girl ! "

" When have you ever injured me ? How dare I speak
to you thus? Say rather: When have you not injured me?
Say rather : How should one speak to his greatest enemy
on earth ? " Joost started up and came half-way round the
table toward his uncle. " When have you had another ob-
ject in life but to make me miserable ? When have you had
another amusement? Nay, I will speak. I have been silent
long enough. You shall hear me to-night, if it be the last
night we spend together under the same roof. Would to
Heaven it were so ! It shall be so, so help me God. You,
who have persecuted your sister till her death, you, who
have insulted and injured my father till he also passed be-
yond your vengeance, if not beyond your hate ; you rejoice
to know that you have me still left. You delight in the
thought how you have tortured me through all these years,
how you still have the power to make me suffer ! You have
succeeded. I admit it. Eejoice in it while you can. But
I defy you. I am no longer a child. Why should I respect
your gray hairs ? They but witness how long I have under-
gone your persecutions. Why should I honor our relation-
ship ? It but tells me how you treated my mother. I leave


this house to-night ! I defy you ! I shall marry the girl I
love in spite of you, in spite of her father, in spite of a
legion of devils encamped against us ! I shall marry her
yet, I warn you ! And I shall rejoice the more in our union
to know it is against your will ! "

He had poured out these mad words in a ceaseless,
breathless stream. The old gentleman lay back in his chair
staring at him, breathless too. When his nephew ceased, he
snatched up a water-bottle and aimed it at the offender's
head. It crashed against a looking-glass and sent a glitter-
ing shower of glass-splinters and water-drops all over that
part of the room. Some of the splinters struck Joost and
the water splashed over his back. " You hell-hound ! " be-
gan the Baron, when at last he found voice but no, his
language need not be written down here. For several min-
utes he stormed on, swearing and raving in a fury of passion,
while Joost stood silent, his arms crossed on his breast, great
beads of perspiration coming out on his white forehead.
After all, his uncle had him in his power, and he knew it.
" For the next two years at any rate," shouted the old man,
" we shall see who is master. I will make a mill hand of you,
you dog ; and you can inherit my millions afterward. You
or van As veld. Ha ! Ha ! You or van As veld." He was
frantic with rage. His face was livid one moment, and vio-
let the next. He foamed and spat, while with trembling
hand he reached out for more wine. And yet, strangely
enough, the ungovernable old man in the bottommost depth
of his heart respected his nephew more and liked him better
for thus standing up and facing him in his wrath.

He tore the napkin from his throat. " I will end it this
very night ! " he cried, as he staggered to his feet. " No, sir,
you shall stay with me this night and many another. You
shall stay with me, because I wish it and the law enforces
my will. If you disobey me, I will call in my servants and
disgrace you before them. And this night, this very night


you yourself shall drive me over to the village. It is you
yourself, mind, who force me to do it. You have defied me.
I could not rest a night with the thought of what my death
would bring you ! The realization of all your wishes, for-
sooth ! You shall not realize them. This night, I promise
you, sir nephew, shall make them unattainable forever."

He fell toward the bell-rope and rang violently. A serv-
ant hurried into the room. And the Baron, still foaming
with passion, could find no other words than " The Chaise 1 "




" But if you add the garden," said the architect, " you
will almost double the expense, Mr. Avelingh."

" And the comfort of the old people," said Joost.

They were sitting in the big library at the Castle ; Joost
Avelingh before his writing table, the architect a little on
one side, in a deferential attitude. A shaded lamp at Joost's
elbow threw a glare of light over a large white roll spread
out before him, a drawing-plan. By the fire sat Agatha,
near a little table and lamp of her own, busy over some
woman's trifle of dainty useless fancy-work.

" Oh, the poor people," said Timmers, the architect,
"yes, certainly, the comfort of the poor people! Only,
really, it appears to me that, with the arrangements you
have made already, Mr. Avelingh, the comfort of the poor
people will be very adequately not to say super-abundantly
provided for."

" What is worth doing at all," said Joost reflectively, his
eyes fixed on the plan before him, " is usually, though not
always, worth doing well. I should say : Yes. Decidedly.
Add the garden."


" Very well, Mynheer," replied the architect, who always
contradicted his -clients Just sufficiently to allow himself a
door of escape if matters went wrong. "And as you so
justly remarked, ' what is worth doing at all is always worth
doing well ! ' And therefore I should advise the garden, as
there is to be one in any case, to go right round the build-
ing with a good-sized bit in front ; it always looks so much
better. And what should you say to a fountain in the cen-
ter, before the grand entrance, just here he pointed with
his pencil a fountain with a symbolical figure of Charity !
Mevrouw a bow in the direction of the fireplace might
kindly consent to sit for the figure ; a most charming
ahem representation we could obtain. I know a friend of
mine "

" No, no," said Joost hastily. " None of that."

" No fountain at all ? " asked the architect.

" The fountain, if you like, but no figure."

Timmers looked disappointed. " AVell," he said, bright-
ening up the next moment, " you could have merely a bronze
spout, if you wish it, or a dragon. It might play on Sun-
days and on the birthday of the Founder."

Joost allowed this last suggestion to fall to the ground
unnoticed. He sat staring straight in front of him, look-
ing at nothing. The architect, finding it impossible to rouse
him, rambled on and, in his dislike of awkward ' silences,
tried to attract Mevrouv/'s attention.

"And the gardens," he said, "could be laid out by
Heesters and Sons, the Amsterdam people. That, of course,
is not in my line. I should recommend them, uncondition-
ally. Their taste is excellent. And no doubt, in this mat-
ter, Mevrouw will give them the benefit of hers." He drew
the drawing a little toward him and got up, addressing
Agatha, " What would you say, Mevrouw, to digging a pond
along in this direction it is just the merest suggestion
but, if you would give your opinion "


Agatha half rose.

" STo," said Joost Avelingh, suddenly waking from his
reverie, " Mevrouw does not care for these matters. Sit
down, Timmers. Leave it to what's their name ? Heesters
and Sons."

The architect sat down abashed. Agatha sank back in
her chair without a word.

" Yes," said Joost Avelingh, " that is all very well,
very well indeed. And I quite agree with what you have
been saying, Timmers, and I am sure it will be quite right.
And now, I think, we have discussed everything fully and,
really, there is nothing more to arrange. So, if you will
take these papers "

The architect held up his hands with such a pitiful,
deprecatory expression, that Joost stopped. "Well," he
said, impatiently.

" My dear Heer, my honored Heer, there are numbers
of things I must still ask about. A great institution is not
put together in an hour like a hen-coop. Good Heavens,
I shall not get through to-night. You will have to let me
come again once more at the very least, before we can even
begin taking the tenders."

Joost settled himself in his armchair with a sigh of
resignation. The architect began hurriedly and yet with
evident enjoyment describing his plans and their various
advantages. His enjoyment was only marred by the too
evident fact that his employer was not listening. Neverthe-
less, he wandered on through figures, and measures, and
technical terms innumerable, till the flow of his eloquence
was suddenly stopped by a knock at the door.

Kees Hessel came in ; a man deep in the twenties now,
stouter than formerly, with honest blue eyes, a bright com-
plexion and a great yellow mustache.

" Busy about the hospital," he said in a brisk, cheery
voice, casting his eyes over the great plan after the first


greetings had been interchanged. " Well, Mr. Timmers, are
you going to immortalize yourself, as well as the founder ? "

" I do my best, Mynheer van Hessel," began the archi-

" If there's anybody you're bound to immortalize, it's the
old creatures themselves," said Kees. " Once get people into
an institution of that kind and they're sure to live forever.
But it's a good work all the same, and that's my opinion."

" We shall give them a hard egg for breakfast every
morning all round," said Joost laughing, a little boisterous-
ly. " We shall put it down in the rules. That will kill
them off, if nothing else will. Won't it, Agatha ? "

" Yes, Joost," said Agatha gently.

" Some doctors are beginning to teach that hard eggs are
the only wholesome ones," interposed Kees.

" Doctors will teach anything," answered Joost, " merely
because they know by experience that every new fallacy
brings in a dozen new patients. Don't tell me ! You for-
get you are speaking to a medical man."

" A medical baby ! " cried Kees, " a medical embryo !
Surely you don't mean to tell us that three years loafing
through the first half of a University career turns out a
medical man ! You aren't a medical man, Joost, no, not
even in the least degree."

Joost smiled. " You might have laughed at the pun,
Agatha," said Kees.

" Yes," said Agatha, " I beg pardon, Kees. I was think-
ing of something else. I shall, I promise you, next time I
come across it. But we were speaking of the building plans,
and Mr. Timmers was saying " she pitied the architect,
suddenly interrupted in his explanations, and left out of the

" Oh yes," said Joost, " Mr. Timmers ! I am much
obliged to you for all the trouble you are taking, Timmers.
We'll talk it over at our ease some other day."

CHARITY.'- ^ ''' = ^' ' 101

" Would to-morrow suit yvOUVM^j^njieer ? *' askied tile tirchi-
tect, gathering up his materials.

" No, not to-morrow. Let me see. To-morrow evening
we dine at your father's, Kees, on Wednesday I have the
Blind Council meeting, Thursday there's the Town Concert,
Board Meeting on Friday. Look here, I'll send you a mes-
sage. Good-night."

" Good-night, Mynheer. Good-night, Mevrouw, Good-
night, Mynheer van Hessel." The architect bowed himself
out, his hat in his hand, his papers in a neat roll under his
arm. " A rich man," he said to himself in the hall, " and
an influential man, but a crotchety."

" What a busy fellow, you are, Joost," said Kees.

" Saturday was free, I think," put in Agatha.

" Yes," replied Joost quickly, " but I like to have a night
to ourselves once in a way. Don't you ? "

Agatha did not answer. He might well know she did.

" I have brought you the draft of yoar scheme," said
Kees, producing his pocket-book. He was clerk to the Dis-
trict Court ; his uncle in the Hague had got him the place
recently in exchange for a vote. " Shall I read it you ? "

Joost nodded assent.

"Avelingh Institute and Establishment," began Kees,
" for the Keception and Ketention, the Maintenance, Sup-
port and Entertainment, and furthermore the General Ad-
vantagement and Protection of the Aged Industrious and
Deserving Poor, Married, Single or otherwise under the
motto ' Virtue Vanquisheth Vicissitudes.' "

No one smiled at this majestic procession of words.
Such titles are more or less the custom in Holland, where
no infant organization is ever ushered into the world with-
out a name as long as a baptismal robe. The motto also is
a national institution, and common sense coming to the
rescue an Establishment like the above-mentioned would
soon be known as the " V. V. V."

102 ''JC^a^T'^VELINGH.

" You -miglit leave <viitf otherwise'" remarked Joost.

" That shows you are not a lawyer," answered Kees,
gravely. " No lawyer would ever have said that."

" I bow to the authority of the Court," replied Joost.
"We can reserve a certain number of rooms for the ' other-

" Article First," continued Kees. " The Avelingh Insti-
tute and Establishment "

" You people are all the same," cut in Joost. " You are
in a conspiracy to vex me. Scratch out ' Avelingh.' I won't

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