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LI E) RARY

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AN OLD MAID'S LOVE,

A DUTCH TALE TOLD IN ENGLISH.



MAARTEN MAARTENS,

AUTHOR OF
"THE SIN OF JOOST AVELINGH."




IN THREE VOLUMES.
VOL. I.

LONDON:

RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,

PuWisfjtts in ©rtjinars to ^n ilHajestg tfjc ©ucen.
1891.

IThe right of translation is reserved.^



N:



«









TO



REGINALD STANLEY FABER



THE AUTHOR OFFERS THE DEDICATION



^* OF THIS BOOK,



AS A RECOGNITION OF KINDNESS IN THE PAST
AND A PLEA FOR FUTURE FRIENDSHIP.



Digitized by tine Internet Archive

in 2010 witin funding from

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign



http://www.archive.org/details/oldmaidslovedutc01maar



So many kindly critics have spoken of my

former book, " The Sin of Joost AveHngh,"

as being a translation from the Dutch, that

1 must here state that it was originally written

in English, and that the present story, now

for the first time published, has also been

written in English only, a language which,

though not my native tongue, has become

to me quite as dear and, I would fain hope,

almost as familiar.

IVI. M.

KoopsTAD, Holland,
January 8, 1891.



CONTENTS OF VOL. I.



I. The Calm before the Storm ... i

II. Aunt and Nephew ... ... ii

III. In his Teens ... ... ... 27

IV. And out of them ... .:. 34
V. Knight-Errant ... ... ... 39

VI. On Hospitable Thoughts intent 50

VII. Parson Jakob ... ... ... 60

VIII. First Appearance of Tante Crcesus 67

IX. Who cooks a Pretty Kettle of Fish 82

X. Punctuality and the Paragon ... 96

XI. Grapes, Sour and Sweet ... ... 113

XII. Dorothy asks a Question and receives

AN Answer ... ... ... 127

XIII. A Storm in an Egg-cup ... 150

XIV. Un Abbe a Marier ... ... 168

XV. The Beauty of Danger ... 194



Vlll CONTENTS.

CHAPTER PAGE

XVI. And the Danger of Beauty ... 213

XVII. Suzanna's Victories ... ... 226

XVIII. The Pursuit of Vice ... ... 236

XIX. Arnout's Portmanteau remains un-
packed ... ... ... 256





AN OLD MAID'S LOVE,



CHAPTER I.



THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM.

It was on a golden summer evening — a long
June sunset, soft and silent — that Mephisto
crept into the quiet old heart of Suzanna
Varelkamp.

She was sitting in the low verandah of her
cottage on the Wyker Road, with her grey
knitting in her hands. She always had that
grey knitting in her hands. If it rested on
her knees for one brief moment, her friends
could tell you that some singularly difficult

VOL. I. I



2 AN OLD MAID S LOVE.

question — probably of abstruse theology, or
else about the linen-basket or the preserves
— was troubling Suzanna's mind. Suzanna
was a woman of industrious repose. She
loved her God and her store-cupboard.
She did not, as a rule, love her neighbour
over much — little unpleasantnesses in con-
nection with the overhanging apples, or
Suzanna's darling cat, were apt to intervene
and stifle the seeds of dutifully nurtured
benevolence. Nor did she love herself to
any excess of unrighteousness, knowing,
with a perfervid knowledge, that she was
altogether abominable and corrupt, and
"even as a beast before Thee," from her
mother's womb upwards — a remote period.

The gentle laburnum at her side was
slowly gilding over in the sinking sunlight,
fragile and drooping and a little lack-a-
daisical, very unlike the natty old woman,
bolt-upright in her basket-chair. Just across



THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM. 3

the road a knot of poplars quivered to the
still air, and in the pale, far heaven, companies
of swallows circled with rapid, aimless
swoops. Nature was slowly — very, very
slowly, tranquilly, dreamingly, deliciously,
settling itself to sleep — silent already but for
a blackbird shrilling excitedly through the
jasmine-bushes by the porch.

Another bird woke up at that moment,
and cried out from Suzanna's bedroom —
through all the quiet little house — that it was
half-past seven. Then he went to sleep
again for exactly half an hour, for, like
all man's imitations of God's works, he is
too hideously logical to be artistic. And
Mejuffrouw Varelkamp began to wonder
why Betje did not bring out the "tea-water,''
for every evening the sun went down at
another moment — Providence, being all-
provident, was able to superintend such
irregularities — but every evening, at half-past



4 AN OLD MAID S LOVE.

seven to the minute, Mejuffrouw Varelkamp
must have her " tea-water," or the Httle
cosmos of her household arrangements could
not survive the shock. '' It is difficult enough
for one woman to superintend one servant ! "
said Suzanna. " It is possible, but it is all-
engrossing, and requires concentration of
power and of will. And, not being Pro-
vidence, I cannot regulate disorder." The
" regulation of disorder," as she called it — the
breaking away from straight lines and simple
addition — was one of Suzanna's bugbears.
And so Betje was efficiently superintended ;
none but she knew how engrossingly. And,
evening after evening, the cuckoo stepped
over his threshold, and Betje out of her
kitchen, so harmoniously, that you might
almost have fancied they walked in step.

Somebody was coming up the quiet road,
a Dutch road, straight and tidy, avenue-
like, between its double border of majestic



THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM. 5

beeches, — somebody whose walk sounded un-
rhythmic through the stillness — two people
evidently, and not walking in step, these two
— one with a light, light-hearted swing, the
other with a melancholy thump, and a little
skip to make it good again. But their
whistling, the sweet, low whistling of an old
Reformed psalm-tune, was in better unison
than their walking, though even here, per-
haps, the softer voice seemed just a shade
too low. Had there been all the falseness
of a German band in that subdued music,
Suzanna would not have detected it ; her
heart — and that far more than her ear —
recognized with tranquil contentment the
drawn-out melody, calm and plaintive, and
her bright eye brightened, for just one little,
unnoticeable moment, at the accents of the
clearer voice. That sudden brightening
would flash every now and then over a face
hard and cold enough by nature ; nobody



6 AN OLD MAID S LOVE.

ever noticed it except Suzanna's sister, the
rich widow Barsselius, not Suzanna herself,
least of all the young scapegrace who was its
only cause.

Dutch psalm-singing leaves plenty of time
for the singers to go to sleep and wake up
again between each succeeding note. The
whistlers came into sight before they had
finished many lines. They stopped suddenly
upon perceiving the old lady under the
verandah, and both took oft" their hats.

*' Domine," said Suzanna, " how can you
countenance whistling the word of God ? "

The young man thus addressed looked up
with a quiet twinkle in his eye. He had
a pale face and a thoughtful smile ; he was
slightly deformed, and it was he that walked
lame.

'' With pipe and with timbrel, Juffrouw,"
he answered gaily. '' Old Baas Vroom has
just been telling me that he won't give up



THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM. 7

smoking, in spite of the doctor, because he
has read in his Bible how the people praised
the Lord with their pipes."

Suzanna never smiled unless she approved
of the joke. She reverenced the minister,
and she patronised the young believer ; it
was difficult sometimes properly to blend the
two feelings. But, at the bottom of her
tough old heart, she thoroughly liked her
nephew's friend. "He will make a capital
pastor," she said to herself (unconsciously),
" when he has unlearned a little of his so-
called morality and taken in good sound
theology instead. Not the milk of the
Word with Professor Wyfel's unfiltered
water, but strong meat with plenty of Old
Testament sap."

" Come in here," she said severely, " I
want to talk to you about that Vrouw Wede.
I told her this morning that she could not
have any more needlework from the Society



8 AN OLD maid's LOVE.

unless she sent her son to the catechising.
She says the boy's father won't have him go,
because it tires his head. And I warned
her I should report her to the Domine."
Mejuffrouw Varelkamp's voice always
dropped into exactly the same tone of here-
ditary reverence over that word. " Come
in, Jakob, and you shall have a ' cat's
tongue,' * even though it isn't Sunday."

Betje had brought out the tea-things mean-
while, triumphantly, under cover of the
minister's presence, the shining copper peat-
stove and the costly little Japanese tea-cups,
not much larger than a thimble, on their
lacquered tray. " Take away the tea-stove,
Betje," said Suzanna. '' The peat smells."
She said so every now and then — once a
week, perhaps — being firmly convinced of
the truth of her assertion, and Betje, who
never believed her, and who never smelled
* A kind of biscuit. -



TPIE CALM BEFORE THE STORM. 9

aiiything under carbolic acid, whisked away
the bright pail and kettle from beside her
mistress's chair and brought them back again
unaltered. ''That is right, Betje," said
Mejuffrouw. " How often must I tell you
that a stove which smells of peat is full proof
in itself of an incompetent servant ? "

''Humph," said Betje. For even the very
best of housekeepers have their little failings,
and fancies, and fads.

" Come in, Jakob," said Suzanna. " Not
you, Arnout. You can go down to the
village and fetch me a skein of my dark grey
wool. The dark grey, mind, at twelve
stivers. You know which."

" You know which ! " The young man
had grown up with the dark grey wool and
the light grey wool and the blue wool for
a border. Ten stivers, twelve stivers, four-
teen stivers. He knew them better than his
catechism, and he knew that very well too.



lO AN OLD MAIDS LOVE.

He touched his hat slightly — he was
always courteous to his aunt, as who would
not have been ? — and he strolled away down
the green highway into the shadows and the
soft, w^arm sunset, taking up, as he went,
the old psalm-tune that had been on his lips
before.

It was the melody of the fifty-first psalm.
Suzanna had good cause to remember it in
after years.

And it was into this calm green paradise
of an old maid's heart, a paradise of straight
gravel-paths and clipped box-trees and neat
dahlia beds, that soft Mephisto crept.




CHAPTER II



AUNT AND NEPHEW.



Arnout — or Arnold — Oostrum was twenty ;
straight-limbed — not, thank God ! with that
gnawing pain in the thigh like his friend
Jakob te Bakel ; broad-chested and strong-
hearted, or, at least, so he thought. A young
fellow with a capital digestion, and a bright
contentment with himself and all the world
about him. Ready to please everybody —
himself included — as much as lay in his power,
and convinced that a good deal did lie in his
power, as what young fellow of twenty is not ?
A good digestion. Oh, mystic charm of the
words to those who have lost their meaning !
Men speak of a proud stomach. They should



12 AX OLD MAIDS LOVE.

speak also of a happy, a contented one. No
wonder he carries his head high who can
rely upon that lower organ. No pestilence
can smite him by day, no poisonous heart-
pang by night. The conscience seldom
awakes till the stomach has gone to sleep.
And our bowels of compassion — ah well,
some sad thoughts are best left unspoken, for
fear of a world that too easily cries " Fie ! "

Is life worth living ? The question has
been debated by many of the wisest through
the ages ; and at last there came a great
unknovvn philosopher, and he quietly laid
the answer at the feet of that sage of sages,
Punch. " It depends," said that great
teacher, *' on the liver."

To Arnout Oostrum life was very much
worth living indeed. He had never felt
another pain than toothache or a thrashing.
Not that his aunt had ever struck him in her
life. No, no ; that would have seemed a



AUNT AND NEPHEW. 1 3

"ruit coelum " to the boy, whose punish-
ments, insignificant enough in themselves,
had been terrible because so rare. His
masters, with whom he had more frequently
come into conflict, had only treated him to
that civilised torture of extra tasks which has
completely replaced corporal chastisement in
Dutch schools ; the blows and buffets, there-
fore, which he had received during his
passage through the world thus far were
such as fall to the lot of each one of us, and
are usually dealt us by our most familiar
friends. Early in life, some of his school-
fellows had licked him, and he had licked
many more. And nature had been very
gracious to him, and had permitted him to
swallow with impunity a larger number of
unripe apples than can be safely stowed away
by most other boys of his size.

His very earliest recollections were of
contentment and enjoyment — play, pleasure,



14 AN OLD MAIDS LOVE.

and sugar-plums ; a placid sea, with occa-
sional storm-flashes ; a kind lady, who was
always kind, and a kind gentleman who could
sometimes be passionate ; and then the kind
lady alone, kinder than ever, but often very
sad ; and then —

Then the first bright flash In the haze,
fixed In a clearness of unchangeable light,
against a dark background. The low room,
looking out into the garden, with the bunches
of red flowers on the carpet, and himself, at
hvQ years old, in a black frock. He had
been playing with the old soldier-doll that had
lost Its head, " Napoleon," and an old lady
came In to see him. An old lady ! a female
Methuselah, thought Arnout, though in
reality Suzanna Varelkamp was then barely
five-and-forty ; but, if anything, It seemed
to him as if she had grown younger since
that dull autumn day when she had first
dawned upon his vision, prim, grey, and neat,



AUNT AND NEPHEW. I 5

in the silence of the house grown desolate.
"Your mother is in heaven, Arnout," she
had said, by no means unkindly, '' and your

father is in Ah, well ! God Almighty

and the devil must settle that between them
— it's no business of yours or mine, thank
the Lord — and you must come away with
me. Don't cry!" — this rather nervously; not
that he was thinking of crying — ''it's babyish
to cry. I shall get you a new doll, and you
mustn't break its head. Good children never
break their toys. I have all my own toys
at home, done up in tissue-paper, that I
played with when I was a little girl ; and
you shall see some of them, perhaps, when
you are very good indeed." A bold promise,
that last one. She made it with some trepi-
dation. She could have given no greater
proof of her anxiety to please her little
nephew.

" That must have been a very long time



1 6 AN OLD maid's LOVE.

ago," said Arnout, with a child's grave stress
upon the word. The antiquity of toys had
never been so clearly borne in upon his
mind. But he hugged Napoleon tightly to
his breast. He had no intention of giving
up Napoleon.

His aunt laughed. She could always
enjoy a joke at her own expense ; and cheap
every-day vanities were not a part of her
nature.

''We shall get on very well, I have no
doubt," she said afterwards to the child as
they sat in the railway carriage. " You are
not accustomed to old ladies, and I am not
accustomed to little boys. But we shall
manage. You must always be literally
obedient, and I shall always be absolutely
just.

" Where do the cows sleep at night ? "
queried little Arnout.

" They lie down on the ground," replied



AUNT AND NEPHEW. I 7

his aunt shortly. She had hoped that her
words would impress him more.

But at this answer Arnout burst out cry-
ing — much to the good Juffrouw's dismay.
She had seen children cry before, un-
doubtedly, but she had never had to bear
the responsibility of their tears, and, worst
of all, had never been required to arrest
them. She tried kind inquiry into the cause
of his sorrow, and then, finding that unavail-
ing, stern injunction to desist. She felt that
she must be gentle, but, above all things,
she must be just. Why not tell her what
had made him unhappy ? The boy shook
his tear-begrimed countenance and choked
down the sobs. It was the first little tiff be-
tween guardian and ward. She feared that
he would not be open with her. And, in the
very first place, he must be open with her.
That was the basis of all intercourse between
pedagogue and pupil. Her system

VOL. 1. 2



1 8 AN OLD maid's LOVE.

Arnout pressed his face against the
window, and gasped, and gurgled, and
clenched his little black-gloved fists. He
could not confess to his aunt that the
servant-girl had said that his mamma was
underground, and that he dreaded that
perhaps a great fat cow would lie down on
her at night, and that she might not like it.
He could not tell her that.

'' And if your mother, who is in heaven,
saw you," said Suzanna Varelkamp softly,
'' she would like you to tell me why you
are unhappy. And she would like you to
respect me, and to — to love me, as a child
should those that are set above him, and
that are wiser than he is, and willing and
able to instruct him."

That was a compromise with her system,
an improvement on her system, and, un-
consciously, she obtained her end. The
child did not know where heaven was, but



AUNT AND NEPHEW. 1 9

it was recognisedly a pleasant place, and
he felt very frightened of cows. There
could be no cows in heaven.

He turned round from the carriage-
window. With one hand he clutched
Napoleon, and with the other he plucked
at his aunt's stiff shawL

" I will love you, Tante Suze," he said.
And he did.

But there are many kinds of love, and it
is not always easy to hit on the right kind
towards a particular person. A good deal
of affection is squandered or misapplied in
that way, and one often thinks we should be
surprised to discover how well we could
supply each other's wants, if only we learned
to understand them better.

Arnout began by being afraid of his aunt,
and anxious to appease her. He seemed
to have an idea that, like most heathen
deities, her duty was to make things un-



20 AN OLD MAID S LOVE.

pleasant for all around her, and that, in all
estimations of her character, this her un-
avoidable vocation must be taken into
account. His mother's object in life had
been to make herself amiable. That, em-
phatically, was not his aunt's. Hers was
rather to make herself, and everybody else,
better than nature had intended them to be.
And, as he grew older, Arnout had sense
enough soon to perceive that Suzanna pre-
ferred what she thought good to what she
thought agreeable. With wide-opened eyes
(of the soul) he discovered that her life was
a struggle. Marvellous discovery ! She
did not do what seemed most pleasant, but
what she considered she ought to do. And
she did not want him to act merely as she
thought fitting, but to do what she believed
to be right, whether he — or she, for that
matter — liked it or no. In spite of slips and
inconsistencies, the idea of duty stood out in



AUNT AND NEPHEW. 21

the woman's dealings with those around her.
It forced itself into Arnout's comprehension
and compelled him to respect his aunt's
sternness, even when he rebelled against it.
If she was stern to him, she was almost
sterner to herself.

Not that he liked the sternness. Arnout
most unmistakably preferred doing what was
pleasant. It was wonderful — it seemed to
him — how often the o^ood and the as^reeable
fall together. Why always strive to separate
them ? The benevolent and beneficent
Power that rules over the affairs of men had
.arranged that they should combine. Aunt
Suzanna was always pulling them apart.
Things were right, with her, because they
were disaorreeable. Women were bad be-
cause they were beautiful. Arnout had a
weakness for a pretty face. During all the
dull tenour of his childhood he had never
known his aunt so angry as when she caught



2 2 AN OLD MAIDS LOVE.

him kissing neighbour's CorneHe behind the
hen-eoop — neighbour's CorneHe, seven rosy
summers to his ten, and lips that could not
stop laughing even while they kissed him.
If Suzanna had ever been near striking
her nephew, it was on that occasion. She
dragged him roughly, almost fiercely, to his
little room over the porch, and she locked
him up with a chapter of Proverbs to learn,
of which he did not understand one word.
And a good thing too.

" You have more reason than most," she
said severely, '' to be afraid of the snares of
the evil one. You have a tendency to give
way to them. Beware of it in the days of
your youth."

As he grew older he questioned her,
half laughingly, half curiously, about his
'' tendency " to which she so often alluded.
Why was he more wicked than most boys ?
Was he ?



AUNT AND NEPHEW. 23

" God forbid ! " Suzanna's uncompromising
justice compelled her to avow.

" Then why ? "

"Silence. You have a tendency. 'Unto
the third and fourth generation.' And none
of us are better than we need be."

** But my mother was an angel," persisted
the boy.

" Yes, your mother was an angel," snapped
Suzanna smartly, "and you are not."

Arnout was not satisfied, and he thought
within himself that, the stronger was our
tendency to unrighteousness, the less could
he be blamed for indulging it just a little
now and then.

There were points, however, in which he
equalled, nay, even distanced, his aunt's fine
distinctions of black and grey. Everything
that was mean, or low, or dishonourable, his
soul revolted from. " My aunt's game is
little foxes," he used to say laughingly to



24 AN OLD MAID S LOVE.

his friend the Domine. '' She has a splendid
nose for smaller sins." And therein he
wronged her, in so far as he should have
added that, if she hunted, it was ever first
on her own estate. But Suzanna herself
had not her nephew's keen scent of what a
gentleman should do or leave undone. Had
there not been that battle-royal between
them, when Arnout refused to bear witness
who had broken the pantry window ? '' It is
your duty," said Suzanna solemnly, '' your
duty towards God and your superiors to
further the ends of justice by all the means
in your power."

"It is my duty," said Arnout stubbornly,
'' to myself and to my brother gentle-
men " — this latter very grandly — " not to
sneak."

'' You are worse than a heathen," cried
Suzanna excitedly. '' Go up to your room
immediately. You shall live on bread and



AUNT AND NEPHEW. 25

water for a week." Which he did, much to
Suzanna's fiercely crushed misgiving ; but no
one ever knew that the culprit was Karel
Donselaar.

But, in spite of battles-royal and differences
of opinion, aunt and nephew got on far better
than any of the village gossips had ventured
to predict. Arnout could not but respect
his grim relative, and as long as a man
respects a woman, their intercourse is all
right. And so he endured her seventies,
because he saw they were never caprices,
and, with his far more easy-going nature, he
accepted her conscientious conclusions, when-
ever they agreed with his instincts or his
tastes. Fortunately, his instincts were
honourable, and his tastes refined. And in
many matters appertaining to his manliness,
his aunt developed a most unexpected and
most unrighteous sympathy. " Don't let a
bigger boy hit you," she said ; " strike him



2^ AN OLD maid's LOVE.

back, and beat him if you can." Arnout was
nothing loth to obey. Perhaps Suzanna
understood the nature of boys better than
she dared to imagine.






>^^^%



^'^^^:



CHAPTER III.

IN HIS TEENS.

And so Arnout Oostrum grew up to be a
jolly young fellow, in love with all the world
around him, even with his ugly old aunt. A
bright young fellow, with a shock of yellow
hair and big good-natured eyes, one of those
faces that older women smile upon because
they look so innocently happy, and that
young girls turn away from because they
seem so dangerously full of life and fun.
Young Arnout Oostrum ! People smiled to
each other when his name was mentioned,
and nodded their heads. ** There's no harm
in Arnout Oostrum," said the old gentlemen.
But to that the old ladies demurred. " There



28 AN OLD maid's LOVE.

is always harm," remarked one of them
enigmatically, " in a man in whom you can
see so much orood." And all the eirls of the
village agreed that he had the " loveliest
eyes." But Arnout at eighteen thought
little of the girls of the village, though,
certainly, if he noticed any of them, they
were the pretty ones. He liked his male
companions, and such time as the grammar
school of the neighbouring town still left at


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