Max Havelaar (Wikisource)/18
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Prologue - Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Chapter 7 - Chapter 8 - Chapter 9 - Chapter 10 - Chapter 11 - Chapter 12 - Chapter 13 - Chapter 14 - Chapter 15 - Chapter 16 - Chapter 17 - Chapter 18 - Chapter 19 - Chapter 20 - Chapter 21 - Chapter 22 - Chapter 23 - Chapter 24 - Chapter 25 - Chapter 26 - Chapter 27 - Chapter 28 - Chapter 29 - Chapter 30 - Chapter 31 - Chapter 32 - Chapter 33 - Chapter 34 - Chapter 35 - Chapter 36 - Chapter 37 - Chapter 38 - Chapter 39
So that I want to say, just like Abraham Blankaart, that I regard this chapter to be of primary importance, because, I think, it helps you to know Havelaar better. And after all it appears that he is the main character in this story.
"Tine, what ketimon is this? My dear, you should never use pickles with fruit! Cucumbers with salt, pineapple with salt, grapefruit with salt, everything that comes from the soil with salt. Vinegar with fish and meat – there is something about it in Liebig."
"Dear Max," asked Tine laughing, "how long do you think we've been here? That ketimon is from Mrs Slotering."
And Havelaar found it hard to remember that he had arrived only yesterday, and that Tine, even if she had wanted, had not yet had time to arrange anything in the kitchen or the house. He had already been in Rangkas-Betoeng a long time! He had been working all night, reading the files, and a lot had gone through his soul that was related to Lebak, so how was he to know that he had been here only since yesterday? Tine understood that – she always understood him!
"Why yes, it's true," he said. "But yet you ought to read something by Liebig. Verbrugge, did you read much by Liebig?"
"Who is that?" asked Verbrugge.
"It is someone who wrote a lot about pickling gherkins. He also discovered how to change grass into wool – you understand?"
"No," said Verbrugge and Duclari at the same time.
"Well, it has always been well known. Send a sheep into a pasture and you will see! But he found out what exactly happens. Other wise men say that he knew nothing about it. They're now searching for a technology to skip the sheep in the entire procedure. Oh, those wise men! Molière knew it – I really like Molière. If you fancy, we shall have a teaching course, in the evening, a few times a week. Tine will join too, if Max is in bed."
Duclari and Verbrugge wanted this. Havelaar said that he had very few books, but these included Schiller, Goethe, Heine, Vondel, Lamartine, Thiers, Say, Malthus, Scialoja, Smith, Shakespeare, Byron.
Verbrugge said that he didn't read English.
"Well good heavens, you are over thirty! What have you done in all this time? But it was probably not easy on Padang, where they speak so much English. Did you know miss Mata-api?"
"No, I never heard that name."
"It wasn't her name, but we called her so, in 1843, because her eyes shone. She will be married by now, it's so long ago! You never saw something like that, or yet, in Arles, you must go there! It's the most beautiful thing I found in my travels. There is nothing, I think, that represents beauty so much as the visible image of truth, like a beautiful woman. Believe me, go to."
Duclari, Verbrugge and – I must admit – Tine as well could not help laughing aloud when they thought of suddenly moving from the West corner of Java to Arles or Nîmes in the South of France. Havelaar, who probably imagined himself to be standing on the tower which had been built by the Saracenes around the theatre of Arles, did not immediately understand why they laughed, and he continued:
"Why yes, I mean – if you happen to be in the area. You haven't come across anything like that before. I used to be disappointed whenever I saw something which was praised by others. Behold, for example, the waterfalls about which people speak and write so much, Well, I really felt nothing in Tondano, in Maros, in Schaffhausen, at Niagara. One must look in his book to have the required amount of amazement at hand about "so many feet down" and "so many cubic feet per minute", and if those numbers are high, you are supposed to say "eh?". I don't want to see any more waterfalls, it isn't worth an extra journey. Those things mean nothing to me. Buildings speak a bit louder to me, in particular when they are pages from history. But it is a feeling of a quite different matter! One invokes something that used to exist, lets the phantoms of the past parade. There are abominable ones among them, so, however important it may appear, one doesn't always find in his observations satisfaction for beauty – and never pure. And without recalling history, there is a lot of beauty in some buildings, but it is usually spoiled by guides – on paper, of flesh and bone – it's the same anywhere – guides who steal your first impression away with a monotonous "this chapel was built by the bishop of Munster in 1423, the pillars are 63 feet tall and rest on…" I don't know what and I don't care either. That chatter is boring, it seems that one needs 63 feet of admiration if you don't want to appear to be a Vandal or a business traveller. That's a race contest!"
"No, the others. You can tell me to keep the guide in my pocket, if it is a printed book and to leave it alone, silent, if it is otherwise, except that one often needs information to be able to judge, so, even if you could do without that information, you would still search in a building for something that rewards for longer than a very short moment to our search for beauty, because it doesn't move. I think this is also true for paintings and statues. Nature is movement. Growth, hunger, thinking, feeling, it is movement. Death is motionless! Without movement, no sorrow, no enjoyment, no emotion! Try to sit there without moving and you will see how soon you look like a phantom to anyone else and even to your own imagination. At the fairestone longs to see something else after a while, no matter how wonderful the first impression. Since our yearning for beauty is not satisfied by just glancing at something beautiful, but needs a range of consecutive glances, the movement of the beauty, we suffer some dissatisfaction when we behold that kind of art, and therefore I say that a fair woman – not a stationary portrait – approaches divinity best. How great is the need for movement which I mean, and perhaps you understand the disgust I feel when a dancer stands on her left leg, like Elssler or Taglioni, smiling towards the audience."
"That's not here," said Verbrugge, "for this is absolutely ugly."
"I agree. But she gives it as fair, and as a climax to all previous things, in which there really has been a lot of beauty. She gives it as the pointe of the epigram, as theof the Marseillaise which she sang with her feet, like the rustling of the willows on the tomb of the love which has just been jumped on. Oh, sick! And the spectators, who usually – like all of us, more or less – base their taste on custom and imitation, consider that very moment most impressive, which you can conclude because that's the moment that everyone cheers, which means: everything which came before was great, but now I really cannot help cheering in admiration. You said that the final pose was absolutely ugly and I agree, but why? Because the movement stops, which tells the history of the dancer. Believe me, motionlessness is death!"
"But," interrupted Duclari, "you rejected waterfalls as being no expression of beauty. Waterfalls do move!"
"Yes, but without history. They move, but they remain in the same place. They move like a rocking horse, without the. They produce sounds but do not speak. They cry: hroo – hroo – hroo and nothing else. If you'd call for six thousands years, or more, all the time hroo – hroo – hroo, you will find that few people will find you entertaining."
"I won't try it," said Duclari, "but yet I disagree with you, that the movement you require is absolutely necessary. I give you the waterfalls, but a good painting, I think, can have a lot of expression."
"Of course, but only for a moment. I'll try to clarify my opinion with an example. Today is 8th February..."
"Why no," said Verbrugge, "it's still January."
"No no, today is 8th February 1587, and you are incarcerated in the castle."
"I?" asked Duclari, who thought he had misunderstood.
"Yes, you. You are bored and you seek diversion. There in the wall is a hole, but it is too high to look through, and yet you want to. You put down a table, and on top of it a chair with three legs, one of which is a bit weak. You remember seeing at the fair a tumbler who piled up seven chairs and stood on top with his head downwards. Your ego and your being bored force you to do such a thing. You carefully climb onto the chair, you reach your destination, look through the hole and you shout "Oh God!". And you fall. Can you tell me why you shouted "Oh God!" and why you fell?"
"I think the third leg of the chair broke," presumed Verbrugge.
"Yes, that leg broke, but that did not make you fall. The leg broke because you fell. If you had looked through any other hole, you could have stood there a year, but here you just had to fall, even if the chair had had thirteen legs, yes even if you had stood on the ground."
"I accept it," said Duclari. "I see that you have decided that I just had to fall,. So here I am on the floor, but I really don't know why."
"Well, that is really simple. You saw a woman, dressed in black, who knelt before a block. She bowed her head. Her neck was white as silver by comparison with the black velvet. And there stood a man with a big sword; he held it high, he aimed at that white neck and he estimated the path that the sword would take to be driven there ... there, between the vertebrae, with power. And you fell, Duclari, you fell because you saw all that, and that's why you cried "Oh God!". Certainly not because the chair had only three legs. And long after you were released from Fotheringhay – perhaps because your cousin had defended you, or because people didn't want to feed you all the time, as if you were a bird in a cage – long afterwards, even until today, you have waking dreams of that woman, and while you are asleep you jump up, and fall back on your bed, because you want to grasp the arm of that hangman. Isn't that true?"
"I'm willing to believe it, but I cannot say for sure, since I never looked through a hole in the wall in Fotheringhay."
"Good, neither did I. But now imagine a painting which shows the execution of Mary Stuart. Let's assume that it is a perfect image. There it is, in a gold-painted frame, hanging from a red frame if you like. I know what you want to say, good. No, no, you don't see the frame, you even forget that you left your walking stick at the entrance of the museum. You forget your name, your child, the new police cap, everything, to see not a painting but to behold really Mary Stuart, exactly as in Fotheringhay. The hangman stands there exactly as he stood in reality, yes, I even go so far as to say that you extend your arm to prevent what will happen! You even shout: "Let the woman live, she may change her ways!". You see, I'd give youas regards the display on that painting."
"Yes, but what more? Isn't the impression the same as when I saw the real thing in Fotheringhay?"
"No, not at all. You had not climbed on a chair with three legs. This time you take one with four legs, a comfortable chair, and you sit down, to enjoy for a long time – For we enjoys when we see something horrible – and what is the impression that the painting leaves? What do you think?"
"Well, fright, fear, pity, emotion – just as when I looked through the hole in the wall. You suggested that the painting is perfect, so my impression must be exactly the same as when I see the real thing."
"No! Within two minutes your right arm aches, out of sympathy for the hangman who holds that heavy steel sword up motionless."
"Sympathy for the executioner?"
"Yes. And also for the woman who lies there in an uncomfortable attitude, and probably in an unpleasant mood, on that block. You still have pity for her, but this time not because she will be beheaded, but because she must wait so long before she is beheaded, and if you would decide to say or shout something – assuming that you feel the urge to interfere – it would probably be: Hit her, by Jove, man, the woman is waiting for it!" And when you see the painting afterwards, again and again, your impression will be: Isn't that history finished yet? He is still standing and she is still lying there."
"But what movement is there in the beauty of the women in Arles?" Verbrugge asked.
"Oh, that's a different matter. They play their history with their features. Carthage blossoms and builds ships on her forehead – Hear Hannibal's vow against Rome – they make bowstrings – there the city burns."
"Max, Max, I really think you lost your heart in Arles," Tine teased.
"Yes, for a moment, but I found it again, you'll hear that... Imagine, I do not say that I saw a woman there who was so and so fair, no, all of them were fair, so it was impossible for me to fall in lovewith every woman who replaced the previous one in my admiration, and I really thought of Caligula or Tiberius – of whom is the fable told? – who wished that there could be one head for the human people. That's the wish which I thought of, that the women in Arles..."
"Shared one head?"
"To be beheaded?"
"Why no! To kiss on her forehead, I wanted to say, but it's not that. No, to watch it, to dream of it, and to be good!"
Duclari and Verbrugge probably found this a strange way to finish. But Max did not notice their amazement and continued:
"So noble were their features, that one felt ashamed to be just a man, not a spark, a beam – no, that would be dust – a thought! But then there was suddenly a brother or a father beside those women and – dear God – I even saw one who blew her nose!"
"I knew you'd draw a black line through your picture," Tine said sadly.
"Am I to blame? I had rather see them fall dead. May such a girl desecrate herself?"
"But, Mr Havelaar," asked Verbrugge, "if she happens to have a cold?"
"Well, she should not catch cold with such a nose!"
As if the angry game spoke, Tine suddenly sneezed, and before she thought of it, she had blown her nose!
"Dear Max, please be not angry about that," she pleaded with a suppressed laugh.
He did not reply. And strange as it seems, he was angry! And what's strange too, Tine was glad that he was angry and required more from her than from the Phoenicean women in Arles, although it was not because she had a reason to be proud of her nose.
If Duclari thought that Havelaar was crazy, we cannot blame him if he held this opinion more strongly, after noticing the short disturbance which was, after the nose blowing, visible on Havelaar's face. But he had returned from Carthage and he read – with the speed that was possible if his spirit was not too far away – on the faces of his guests that they were thinking of these thoughts:
- He who does not want his wife to blow her nose, is crazy.
- He who believes that a beautiful nose should not be blown, is terribly mistaken to apply this belief to Mrs. Havelaar, whose nose is a bit .
Havelaar could live with the first, but not with the second!
"Oh!" he shouted, as if he had to answer, although his guests had been so polite as not to voice the two thoughts, that I'll explain, "Tine is..."
"Dear Max!" she begged.
Which meant: Don't tell those men why you believe that I should be exalted over cold!