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Joost Avelingh: a Dutch story online

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" I won't touch it," cried the Burgomaster.

" Then shall I take it to your office ? It's the official
one, you see."

"No," cried the Burgomaster still more loudly, "you
shall not. You shall not disgrace yourself for some absurd



116 JOOST AVELINGH.

whim or other ! I tell you, you will make yourself generally
despicable ! "

" Yes," said Joost.

" Is that what you want to do ? "

" Never mind what I want to do, sir. I do not want to
give my money ; let that suffice."

" The man is mad," said the Burgomaster, casting up his
eyes in despair. *' But you are my son-in-law, sir, and
Agatha's husband, and you owe her something. I can not
allow Agatha's husband to cover his name with contumely."

" Agatha," said Joost calmly, " will bear her share of my
burdens. She is quite willing to do so."

"Reason the more," replied the Burgomaster quickly,
" for you to desire to spare her."

Joost winced. He took up his letter again and marched
to the door.

" Do you mean to say," cried Mynheer van Hessel, in
despair, " that you are going to send in that letter to me as
Burgomaster ? "

" Yes," said Joost, laying his hand on the door-knob.
The Burgomaster sprang up and came running forward with
wonderful agility, considering his stoutness. His face was
very much discomposed. " Look here, Joost," he said in an
agitated voice, " it can't be done. For Agatha's sake ; for
all our sakes; well for for mine. Listen. Sit down.
There that's better. What was I saying ? It's gone too far
now. I I of course I couldn't know you would draw
back like this, and really it isn't gentlemanly of you, Joost,
not decent. I mean, I promised Timmers something you
see. I of course, as Burgomaster, as it was to be in my
parish, I could use my influence. And I used it, Joost."

" I do not see what that matters," began his son-in-law.
" If you are unable to keep your promises "

"Not exactly promises, Joost. Guarantees; call them
guarantees. In fact, I naturally enough undertook to



MONEY-MAKING MADE EASY. 117

sell him the parish ground you fixed on and well I've
sold it. And I thought I might promise him the contract,
from what you had said, Joost."

Joost sat silent, a slight flush coming and going on his
dark cheek. At last he spoke.

" What was to be your share of the plunder ? " he said.

" Sir ! " cried his father-in-law. " How dare you use
such language ? What am I to under "

Joost cut him short with an imperious gesture. " Let
us be as brief as possible," he said. " What sum is to be
paid over by me to you, without any questions on either side,
to do away with this difficulty forever ? "

"I refuse to be hectored in this manner," began the
Burgomaster anew.

"Will thirty thousand florins do it?"

" Oh Joost, Joost," wailed the Burgomaster, suddenly
collapsing. " Are you so much in earnest ? Money won't
do it, Joost. I'm sorry to say there's another difficulty.
You you are to be trusted, I suppose ? " He leered across
at his son-in-law, " And you are absolutely resolved ? "

" Absolutely," said Joost.

" Well there's been a little unpleasantness about the ad-
ministration. It's a great shame of the Governor, and he
my wife's cousin too ; and, really if I were to sum up all his
deficiencies : But it's always like that ; we minor grandees
pay the reckoning. You understand ? "

" Partly," said Joost.

"I can assure you need I assure you? that I am per-
fectly innocent. Accidents will happen, and no one can be
always accurate. He behaved shockingly; all personal spite !
But he might have made things very disagreeable for me.
And and "

"Well? "said Joost.

" I was obliged to propose this plan of yours, Joost ^put
it a little, you know, as if it was my idea. You don't ob-



118 JOOST AVELINGH.

ject to that, eh ? I must say I have often thought a similar
institution would be very beneficial. And and it put the
Governor in a good temper, you see."

" I see," said Joost. " And what was the Governor's
share of the plunder ? "

" Ha, ha," laughed his father-in-law. " Very good, you
always were very satirical, Joost."

"And this," said Joost, "this little unpleasantness is
what the Governor is coming about, I suppose. And I am
to pay off the score ? "

The words had scarcely left his lips, when the door
opened and Mevrouw van Hessel came in.

" I fancy I must have left my key-basket here, Henrik,"
she said, " I think it is under the " She stopped suddenly
as she caught sight of the two faces before her. " What is
wrong ? " she asked with a woman's intuition. She went
back to the door and shut it carefully. " What is wrong ? "
she repeated.

Neither answered.

" Some money question of course," she went on, " I can
see that. So much the better, when it is only money, and
not a fright like Agatha's illness the other day, Joost. But
what is it ? "

Still neither man spoke.

" I ivill know," she went on vehemently. " I have seen
for a long time, Henrik, that something was amiss. I have
waited for you to tell me, because I knew you never kept a
secret from me long. If you keep this, it must be a very
bad one. But, what Joost knows, surely, I may know ; and
so you will tell me."

" Yes, yes," said the Burgomaster, " presently. Eeally,
my dear, it is nothing."

" Has he been borrowing money of you, Joost ? " asked
Mevrouw. " I am afraid there is not so much money as
there used to be. But we must not borrow from you."



MONEY-MAKING MADE EASY. 119

" No, no, mamma," muttered Joost. " You don't owe
me a stiver." He addressed his mother-in-law as mamma
according to the invariable Dutch rule. He called the
Burgomaster papa too, as in duty bound when he called him
anything at all.

" If there is less money, Henrik," Mevrouw went on,
" we must live differently. There is nothing to worry about
in that. What does the loss of money matter as long as
there is no disgrace ? "

" True," said Joost, as if to himself. " What does the
loss of money matter as long as there is no disgrace ? "

" No, no. There is money enough," said Mynheer, peev-
ishly. " I will tell you all about it presently. Only Joost
was advising me to give up my place as Burgomaster, and
there would not be money enough then. No, certainly,
Joost, there would not be money enough then ; and what
would become of us all ? "

" Give up your place as Burgomaster ! " repeated Mev-
rouw, looking in amazement from one to the other.
"Why?"

" It was all a misunderstanding," continued the Burgo-
master. " But it is settled now. Is it not ? "

" Yes," said Joost. " Yes, yes, there really need be
nothing to trouble you, mamma."

" Of course," said the Burgomaster brightening up, " I
will tell you all about it presently, Marian. Joost, throw
that envelope into the fire ; I hate to have loose papers lying
about. That's right. And now, really, you good people
must leave me to my speech. Hisque feliciter per act is.
What says the poet ?

" ' And all agreed it would be best
To let the little matter rest.'

Good-by, Joost."

" Good-by, mamma," said Joost. " I assure you there



120 JOOST AVELINGH.

need be nothing to trouble you. Papa owes me nothing.
And I am sure there will be money enough."

" A swindler for a father," he said to himself as he got
into his sledge. "And for a husband a ah well, poor
Agatha!"



CHAPTER XV.

" ARE YOU ILL, AVELINGH ? "

That same evening there was a large dinner-party at
the van Hessel's in honor of the Governor of the Province,
come over on a visit of inspection. The Burgomaster,
beaming over his vast shirt-front, genial, smiling, full of
little quips and quibbles, sat at the foot of a great table cov-
ered with plate and crystal, round which some twenty- four
guests were grouped. Opposite him, half-hidden behind
fruit and flowers, sat Mevrouw, with the Governor at her
right hand, a little ferrety man with pepper and salt mus-
taches and keen eyes a connection, you know ; at least, he
had married Mevrouw's second cousin. They remembered
the relationship, now he was Governor.

Joost, gazing across at his mother-in-law, said to himself
that she had recently grown much older in appearance.
There was an anxious, careworn look about her eyes which
^did not match at all with her stately bearing. And now,
when she ticked her finger against the back of her hand,
there was quite as much nervousness as impatience in the
movement.

" Yes," she was saying to the Governor, " I remember
Leenebet* perfectly well as a child. We used to go picking

* Helena Elizabeth.



"ARE YOU ILL, AVELINGH." 121

apples in my father's orchard, and Leenebet always brought
me the biggest. She was such a dear, unselfish child."

" I dare say the small ones were riper," said the Gov-
ernor. "Not such a fool after all, that w^fe of mine."
He was tasting the wine on the tip of his tongue and
telling himself that the Burgomaster, whatever else he
might mismanage, must certainly be a careful judge of
wine.

" Bad for children," he continued after a pause, reflect-
ively. " Raw apples ! Give them pain in their insides."

Mevrouw smiled acquiescence without hearing what he
said. Her eyes were wandering anxiously over the servants.
She could trust her butler, and she could trust the waiter
from the village who had come up on these occasions for the
last fifteen years. But she could not be certain that the
young footman would not drop some dish or other for had
he not spilt the soup last year ? and, on the other hand, she
could be certain for her olfactory nerves had supplied her
with proof positive that the coachman had again tried the
quality of his master's claret. She smiled, therefore, sweetly
to the Governor and wondered whether Toon had already
had too much and, if not, whether he would last out the bill
of fare. There was a buzz of conversation, and a mingled
odor of flowers, perfumes, and hot gravy. The guests were
thinking of themselves or of the Governor. The Governor
was thinking of the wine.

" Yes," Dr. Kern was saying. Dr. Kern was the village
doctor, present in his quality as influential member of the
Board " Yes, I very nearly missed the beginning of your
speech. Burgomaster, and I should have been very sorry for
that. - But we doctors are never masters of our time, you
know."

" Practically slavery," said a lazy-looking gentleman, op-
posite.
" It would be slavery, sir," replied the doctor severely,



122 JOOST AVELINGH.

" if it wore not work for so divine a mistress. Kow, it is
honorable service."

" Oh yes, of course," said the lazy gentleman, who really
did not care what kind of work it was as long as he had not
to do it.

" Now only this morning," continued the doctor, " just
as my wife was fastening the bow of my white tie, Jan
Smee's son came running in to say his father had had another
of those attacks. So I had to rush down to the smithy with
him. I couldn't very well let the old smith die, even for
your speech, could I, Burgomaster ? "

" Would it have mattered very much," drawled van As-
veld to his neighbor, " if there had been one Smith less in
the world ? They are surely a sufficiently numerous family.^'
His neighbor was a kind-hearted girl, and did not see the
joke.

Van Asveld was there in virtue of his position as clerk
in the Burgomaster's office. Having painfully toiled througli-
the University curriculum and taken his degree, he had re-
cently obtained this post, through the influence of friends.
The duties were extremely light; the post was a genteel
one ; the salary ten pounds a year almost paid the Jon-
ker's cigar bill in that land of cheap cigars. Our friend had
grown still fatter, redder, already a little bald. He looked
like one who has lived, not wisely, but too well. He was
still unmarried, the fair sugar-planter's daughter having re-
fused the honors of the van Asveld coronet. He subsisted,
as he himself said, " on the interest of his debts," and no
one could see that he was obliged to deny himself anything.
There was a suspicion just a suspicion that he drank now
and then.

" You see one has to be careful with these cases," the
doctor went on, prosing a little about his patients as he was
apt to do. " It is impossible to foresee what turn they will
take. I have told Smee's people a dozen times : he may live



"ARE YOU ILL, AVELINGH." 123

till eighty, and he may die to-night. Apoplectic, you know ;
complications about the heart. Kush of blood to the head.
Fit. Oii the man goes. Or he gets better, you know."

" And which is most liable to happen when the doctor
comes ? " asked the lazy gentleman. He asked it in all good
faith, thinking he must say something, and not knowing
what it was all about. His thoughts were merely talking in
their sleep.

His question was answered in all seriousness none the
less. "It is most important that a physician should be
there," said the doctor, " but it is not absolutely necessary.
Any one with a grain of common sense knows what to do.
Of course, you unloosen everything, give the patient repose
and breathing-room and all that sort of thing, and bring
him too in the regular way. I needn't enter into particulars.
Every student of medicine can tell you more than is neces-
sary. As I say, common sense helps us a good deal in these
matters."

" I thought," said the Burgomaster, " that the man who
followed the promptings of his unaided intellect always did
just the wrong thing in medicine."

" Oh well," replied the doctor, " I don't belong to the
younger school. And as for that, the right kind of apoplexy
kills you, doctor or no doctor. Then comes the fit, and then
the coup de sang^ as we call it. It's in cases of the latter
sort, that so much depends on common sense. I believe
many and many a man has died of strangulation, so to speak,
just because of want of some helping finger to loosen his
cravat."

" Oh come, doctor," said the lazy gentleman, suddenly
waking up, " loosen his cravat ! Come, come ; you're jok-
ing."

" Nothing is farther from my thoughts, my dear sir,"
cried Doctor Kern. " Now, only this morning I found Baas
Smee, gurgling and choking, with purple face, although I've



124 JOOST AVELINGH.

told his wife half-a-dozen times before exactly what she was
to do. If I had come half an hour later the man would
probably have been dead. Now, he may, as I said, live an-
other twenty years or more. He'll die of a regular fit some
day, if he doesn't die sooner of one of these rushes of blood
to the head. Of course, if the man were to live reasonably
but there, there ! Your uncle, by-the-by, had just such
a constitution, Avelingh " he looked across at Joost, sit-
ting opposite, a little higher up, and playing moodily with
his knife.

" Oh ah what did you say, doctor ? " asked Joost with-
out looking up.

" Your uncle van Trotsem was just such a kind of pa-
tient as this good Baas. He might have lived another
twenty years for aught I knew to the contrary. Not that I
thought he would. But 1 should certainly have given him
one or two more. And I thought it strange But, there ;
it's an old story, and no one can care much about it."

" On the contrary," said van Asveld, bending forward,
for Joost did not speak, " we are very much interested. You
know old van Trotsem was a connection of mine too, doctor."

" Well, I was only going to say, I thought it strange at
the time that with his constitution he didn't pull through
that attack, whatever it may have been. As for living rea-
sonably, of course forgive me, Avelingh but he lived like
a madman. Talk of an unsound heart ! as I said to my
wife at the time, ' An unsound brain into the bargain ! '
Well, he's dead, poor man, but when they sent for me, and
I found him lying there, I said to myself : ' This oughtn't
to have been, van Trotsem. Himself to blame, of course.
None the less sad on that account.' "

" Are you ill, Avelingh ? " asked van Asveld suddenly.
The question was prompted by sincere surprise and involun-
tary sympathy. His eyes had wandered to Avelingh's face,
as the doctor ceased speaking.



"ARE YOU ILL, AVELINGH." 125

Joost and Arthur sat opposite each other. Their eyes
met. " No, thank you," said Joost controlling himself with
a mighty effort and forcing the blood back into his cheeks.
He drew himself up and threw forward his chest. " Why
do you ask ? "

" Because you looked it," answered van Asveld angrily.
" Looked as if you'd seen a ghost. Hang it, I don't care."
He turned to his fair neighbor : " Are you afraid of ghosts,
freule ? " he said.

" Yes," replied that lady unconditionally.

"They move in the best families," Arthur went on.
" And really almost the only occupation left for a gentleman
nowadays is to starve and turn ghost. I wish I knew of a
vacancy. It might be worth while to apply. The people in
authority seem to forget " he raised his voice and turned
in the direction of the Governor " that the greatness of
Holland, from the time of Brederode upward, has always
depended on the young men of its old houses."

The Governor heard him. He smiled a complacent lit-
tle smile. " I fear we must admit, my dear van Asveld," he
said, beaming at the Jonker with a benevolent wave of the
hand, " that the young men of the old families so often fail
us, that we have to make a shift for it, as best we can, with
the old men of the young families nowadays."

" Every one seems singing their own praises," said Bette-
koo to her neighbor, frankly and ungrammatically. The
Governor was a parvenu^ raised to his exalted position it
was whispered because he had surprised an ugly secret
about a government tender. Such things happen in all
countries. Perhaps the whisper was not true.

" I will sing yours all day, if you will allow me," was the
immediate answer, for Bettekoo's neighbor was in love with
her and he, she and Mevrouw van Hessel were looking out
for a good opportunity for him to tell her so.

But at this moment the Burgomaster struck his dessert-



126 JOOST AVELINGH.

knife against his wine-glass and rose up in all liis portly im-
portance. He looked round on the assembled guests ; con-
versations died away with a sudden hush or a nervous little
laugh, and a deep silence fell upon all.

" Highly Noble Austerity," said the Burgomaster's so-
norous voice, " Ladies and Gentlemen, you will forgive me,
if, seeing you all thus gathered together here this evening, I
take the opportunity of saying a few words in connection
with an auspicious event which has recently surprised and
and delighted this whole parish. Need I say that I al-
lude to the magnificent offer of an institution for the aged
and deserving poor, recently made by my dear son-in-law,
Joost Avelingh. That offer has been submitted this morn-
ing to you, Highly Noble Austerity, as the representative of
our most gracious sovereign ; it has met with your full ap-
proval, and I do not doubt that it will be gratefully accepted
by the Parochial Board at their next meeting. The plans
have been already drawn up ; the rules made out ; and, with-
out going too far, I can safely say that the donation is a re-
gal one, the proposed building a palace, the man who con-
ceived such charity as this a king among benefactors." The
Burgomaster warmed to his task. " Ladies and Gentlemen,"
he continued, " it is a proud moment for me when I can look
the king's representative in the face and say, ' The commune
in which these things are done is that of which I have the
honor to be mayor, and the man who does them is my son-
in-law ! ' And therefore, when the question first came to
me : ' Father, shall I do this thing ? ' my heart leaped up
in answer, and with all the strength of my influence as a
parent, all the energy of my will and my desire, I answered
and continued to answer : ' Do it ! ' till lo, the thing is done.
Far be it from me to assume any undeserved merit non
mihi tanhis lionos^ eh, doctor ? but we all know what the
poet says : ' A wise word wisely spoken in the wisest hour."
Ah well, no more of that. Joost Avelingh, it is a wonder-



"ARE YOU ILL, AVELINGH." 127

ful, a beautiful thing to be possessed of influence. The lord-
ship of great wealth bestows the lordship of this world ; the
use of it for the benefit of our brethren achieves a title-deed
to the next ! I am proud, sir, that, for my dearly loved
daughter's sake, you call me by the name of father. Ladies
and Gentlemen, I invite you to drink to the success of the
Avelingh Institute for the Aged Poor, and I couple with that
invitation the name of the Institute's illustrious founder, my
son-in-law, Joost Avelingh."

The Burgomaster waved his wine-glass gracefully in the
direction of the man whose eulogy he had pronounced. All
other glasses were lifted round the table ; there was a mur-
mur of benevolence and admiration, a general flow of inter-
est and sympathy toward the hero of the moment. " Excel-
lent," said the Governor, tapping one finger against his plate,
" excellent, excellent ; oh yes, very well indeed." He was
not a little hurt to find that the Burgomaster had passed
him over, and that the toast of the evening, if there was to
be any toasting at all, should not be addressed to him, the
king's representative. Mynheer van Hessel had purposely
acted thus ; it was his little revenge for the uncomfortable
quarter of an hour he had spent, before all was smoothed
over, with the husband of his wife's cousin. The impor-
tance of the charitable grant seemed to provide sufficient ex-
cuse.

Conversation resumed its flow ; the endless dessert which
Dutch dinner-givers still affect slowly crept on through its
successive stages ; yet the fruits preserved in brandy which
invariably conclude the proceedings were already going round
before Joost rose to reply. He tossed back his black hair in
rising ; his face showed pale beneath the dark skin ; he
looked stalwart and strong and resolved.

" Highly Noble Austerity, he began, in a clear, calm
voice, with just the faintest, incipient possibility of a sneer
over the ludicrous titles, " Right Nobly Respectable Sir Bur-



138 JOOST AVELINGH.

gomaster, Ladies and Gentlemen, if I rise to thank you for
your good wishes, as in duty bound, it must be clearly under-
stood that I do not, by such recognition of them, in any way
take unto myself as my rightful property the praises which
the Burgomaster has lavished upon me. What I have done,
I have done from no especially noble motive. I have done
it for reasons of my own. If it conduce in however small a
degree to the happiness of any human being " his eyes in-
voluntarily strayed to Mevrouw van Hessel " I shall be
grateful to God. I do not say as is customary I shall feel
amply rewarded. I do not look for reward. And none of
us, surely, neither you nor I, nor any fellow-sinner, overlook-
ing our past life, with its bad actions and its so-called good
ones, making up the sum total of our existence, would dare
to bring the balance sheet before the throne of God and
standing there "

Suddenly the goblet which he held up in one hand broke
right across the slender stem. The upper half slipped down
with a crash of breaking glass and splashing wine. In
another second dark drops of blood fell heavily on the shin-
ing tablecloth. The speaker stopped, irresolute, evidently
annoyed. He opened his palm, full of blood and broken
crystal. The speech was at an end. The whole company
sat staring at him in amazement. Once again during that
memorable dinner he found himself the meeting-point of all
looks and all thoughts. Agatha came running round to her
husband with her wretched little bit of embroidered cam-
bric to wash out the wound. The party broke up, leaving
them alone together. " It is nothing, really nothing," fal-
tered Joost.

" He must have held that glass in a vice like the devil's,"
eaid van As veld to Kees, as they filed out after the ladies,
" why the stem was actually crushed into pieces."

" Yes ; very extraordinary," said Kees.

Dutch gentlemen after coffee has been served do not



'ARE YOU ILL, AVELINGIL" 129

linger over their wine in the old-fashioned English man-
ner, but they go into the room of the master of the house
and sit for half-an-hour or so over cigars and liquors. When
Joost joined the others presently with his hand tied up, he
was full of jokes at his own great clumsiness, good-humor-
edly patient under floods of chaff, and ready to laugh his
loudest at any pleasantry whatsoever. The doctor cast
cearching glances at him once or twice from his kindly gray
eyes. He had known Joost from earliest childhood.

" If the man were not sincerity itself," he thought, " as
any one can see he is, one would feel inclined to think he



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