Max Havelaar (Wikisource)/22
|←Max Havelaar (Wikisource)/21||Max Havelaar or the Coffee auctions of the Dutch trade company
|Max Havelaar (Wikisource)/23→|
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
Havelaar was about to start the story that was expected by his guests, that would clarify why he had thwarted the generaal Vandamme in Natal, when Mrs Slotering appeared in the porch of her house and beckoned to the police-guardian, who sat on a bench beside Havelaar's house. He went to her, and called out something to a man who had just entered the premises, apparently with the intention of going to the kitchen, which was behind the house. Our company would probably not have paid attention to this, if Tine had not said that afternoon that Mrs Slotering was so shy and appeared to exercise some supervision on everyone who entered the premises. The man who had been called by the guardian went to her and it appeared that she questioned him, and that this was not to his advantage. Anyhow, he turned around and went back.
"I'm sorry," Tine said. "Perhaps it was someone who sells chickens, of vegetables. I still have nothing."
"Well, send someone to him," replied Havelaar. "You know that native ladies like to have authority. She used to be the first lady here, and although an Assistant-Resident is only a minor clerk, he is a small King in his own department. She isn't used yet to being dethroned. Just pretend you didn't notice."
This was easy for Tine, she did not like to have authority.
Some explanation is needed now, and sometimes I like to explain about explanations. It is often hard for an author to sail between the cliffs of too little and too much, and this becomes harder if one describes circumstances which leave the reader in an unknown place. There is a close relationship between places and events, too close, so that one could seriously miss a description of those places, and avoiding the two cliffs is even harder for an author who chose the Indies as the stage of his stories. When an author describes European circumstances, he can assume that many facts are known, but when his story is set in the Indies, he must always wonder whether the non-native reader will understand the circumstances well. If the European reader imagines Mrs Slotering as someone who stayed with the Havelaars, as would be the situation in Europe, he will not understand why she wasn't present in the company that was drinking coffee on the porch. I have already said that she lived in a separate home, but for a good understanding of this and also of later events, it is really needed that I let the reader know the house and the premises of the Havelaars a bit better.
The accusation which is often told of the great master who wrote the Waverley is that he often abused the reader's patience by devoting too many pages to a description of a place. It appears unjust to me, and I believe that one, in order to judge the accusation, should always wonder whether the description was needed to understand the impression the author wanted to impart. If so, one should not blame him that for expecting you to read what he wrote. Otherwise, throw the book away. For an author whose head is so empty that he gives an unneeded topography to explain ideas will seldom be worth reading, even from the point where his description is finished. But do not forget that the reader often judges incorrectly whether a deviation is justified or not, because he cannot know, before he reads about the disaster, what will be required for a gradual development of the circumstances. And when he takes the book again after the disaster – I do not speak about books which are read only once – and still thinks that this or that deviation could have been omitted without doing damage to the impression of the entire book, I can always wonder whether he would have had the same impression if the author had not in a strange way persuaded him to it, precisely because of those deviations wihich appear redundant when the book is read at a glance..
Do you think that Amy Robsart's would have moved you if you had been a stranger in the halls of Kenilworth? And do you believe that there is no relationship - relationship because of contradiction – between the rich clothing of the unworthy Lester and the blackness of his soul? Don't you feel that Leicester – everyone knows this who knows the man from other sources than only the novel – that he was much meaner than was described in Kenilworth? But the great novelist, who preferred to be entertaining through an artful ordering of colours rather than by rude colours, found it unworthy to dip his brush in the mud and all the blood that stuck to Elizabeth's unworthy favourite. He only wanted to show one spot in the pool of dirtiness, but succeeded in making those spots obvious because of the hues he added to it in his immortal writings. He who thinks that all additional things are redundant and should be thrown away, forgets that one, if one wants to be effective, should go back to the school which blossomed since 1830 in France, although I must say in favour of this country that the authors who, in this aspect, sinned most against good taste were most popular abroad, not in France. That school – I hope and believe that it blossoms no more – found it easy to grasp with the full hand in puddles of blood, thus throwing big blots on the painting which one would see from far away! Painting them costs therefore less effort, those rough stripes of red and black, than brushing the fine features which are found in the cup of a lily. That's why the school usually chose kings to be heroes of its stories, preferably from a time when people were still incapable of self-government. Behold, the King's sadness is on paper translated into wailing people, his wraith gives the author an opportunity to kill thousands in a battle, his errors give space to picture famine and plagues, all this done with rough brushes! If you were not moved by the stupid nastiness of a body that is lying there, there is still space in my story for a victim who is still convulsing and yelling! Didn't you weep for that mother who searched in vain for her child? Well, I show the another mother who sees her child being quartered! Weren't you unmoved when that man was tortured to death? I multiply your feelings a hundred times by torturing 99 other men beside him! Are you so hardened that you don't shiver when you see a soldier who devours his left arm out of hunger...
Epicurean! I suggest commanding: "Right and left! Form a circle. Everyone eat the left arm of his right-hand neighbour! March!"
Yes, that's how the nastiness of art changed into folly – which is what I intended to prove in passing.
And yet it would happen too soon that one condemned an author, while he attempted to prepare you gradually for a disaster without using garish colours.
On the other hand, there is a greater danger. You despise the attempts of rough literature which attacks your feelings with rude weapons, but if the author does the opposite, if he sins by deviating too much from the main topic, by too much brush-mannerism, your anger will even be stronger, and that is deserved. For he bored you and there is no forgiving for that.
If we walk together and you always go away from the road, calling me into the bushes, with the sole purpose of making the walk longer, I'd find that unpleasant, and I'd intend to go on my own next time. But if you go there to show me a plant which I had not seen before, or which has some features which always escaped my attention – if you show me from time to time a flower, which I like to pick and to carry in my button hole, I'll gladly forgive you deviating from the road; I'll even be thankful for it.
And even without flower or plant, if you call me aside to show a path between the trees, that we shall soon reach, but that's now still far away in the valley, which is a hardly noticeable strip in the field, down there, I will not blame you for the deviation. For if we have reached that place eventually, I'll know how our path has gone through the mountains, which explains why the sun, which was over there a moment ago, is now to our left, why that hill is behind us, while we used to see its summit in front of us. Behold; your deviation made it easier to understand my walk, and understanding is pleasure.
I, reader, have often left you on the main road, although I found it hard not to pull you into the bushes. I was afraid that you would find the walk boring, because I did not know whether you would find pleasure in the flowers and plants which I wanted to show. But I think you will enjoy having seen the path where we will soon walk; I feel the urge to tell you something of Havelaar's house.
It would be wrong to imagine a house in the Indies with a European understanding, which would be a pile of bricks containing piled rooms and closets, with a street on one side, to the right and left neighbours whose house gods lean to yours, and a garden with three little trees behind. With very few exceptions the houses in the Indies have no upper storey. This may appear strange to a European reader, because it is a peculiarity of civilisation – or what is assumed to be civilisation – to find everything strange what is natural. The houses in the Indies are completely different from ours, but they are not strange. No, our houses are strange. The first person who could afford not to share a bedroom with his cows, built the second room of his house not on top of, but beside the first room. After all, it is easier to build on one level and it is also more convenient for the inhabitants. Our tall houses were built for lack of room; we search up high for what cannot be found on the ground, so each servant girl who at dusk closes the window of the attic where she sleeps is a clear protest against overpopulation – although she may think it something else, which I will believe.
Therefore, in countries where civilisation and overpopulation have not yet led to a crush downstairs, pressing man to build upwards, the houses have no upper storeys, and Havelaar's house was not one of the few exceptions to this. When one entered … no, I'll prove that I will not attempt to be picturesque. Given: an oblong square that you will divide into 21 cells, three by seven. Those cells are numbered, starting in the upper left corner, to the right, so that 4 comes under 1, 5 under 2, etcetera.
The first three numbers are the front porch, which is open on three sides. The roof is supported by columns. From here one enters through two double doors into the inner gallery which is represented by the next three numbers. The cells 7, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 18 are rooms, most of them connected through doors with the next room. The three last numbers are the open back porch, and what I skipped is a kind of unclosed inner gallery, passage or landing. I am really proud of this description.
It is hard to say what Dutch expression should be used for the word "premises". This is neither a garden, nor a park, nor a field, nor a forest, but a bit of each, or everything together, or nothing of all. It is the area which belongs to the house, as far as the house doesn't cover it, so that the expression "Garden and premises" would be a pleonasm in the Indies. There are only a very few houses with such premises. Some of them contain a forest, a garden or a pasture and remind one of a park. Others are gardens with flowers. Or the entire area is one big lawn. And there even some which have been, although very simply, converted to a macadamised square, which may be less pleasant to see, but it makes the houses cleaner since so many insects are attracted by grass and trees.
Havelaar's premises were very large. Strange as it seems, on one of the sides it could be considered infinite, since it was bounded by a valley which went all the way to the shores of the Tjioedjoeng, the river which goes, in one of its numerous meanders, around Rangkas-Betoeng. It was hard to see where the premises of the Assistant-Resident's house ended and where communal ground started, because the water of the Tjioedjoeng was sometimes far away, while it sometimes filled the valley until it approached Havelaar's house.
That valley had always been a thorn in the flesh of Mrs Slotering, which is quite understandable. Growth of plants is very fast, anywhere in the Indies, but in that place it was particular abundant because of the silt that remained all the time. Even if the water waxed and waned so fast that that the bushes were torn away, only a little time was needed to restore all that growth which made it so hard to keep the premises clean, even in the neighbourhood of the house. And this was the cause of a lot of trouble, even to someone who was not a house mother. For apart from the many insects, which flew in the evening around the lamp in such great numbers that reading and writing became impossible – a problem in many places in the Indies – there were lots of snakes and other animals in those bushes, and they did not stay in the valley but were also found in the garden beside and behind the house, or on the lawn in front.
This lawn was straight ahead if one stood on the front porch, with the back towards the house. To the left was the building with the offices, the treasury and the meeting hall where Havelaar had spoken that morning to the chiefs. Beyond that was the valley, which could be seen as far as the Tjioedjoeng. Just past the offices was the house of the former Assistant-Resident, which was now temporarily inhabited by Mrs Slotering. The access from the main road to the premises was over two lanes on either side of the lawn. It is now obvious that anyone who entered the premises to go to the kitchen or stables, behind the main building, had to pass either the offices or Mrs Slotering's house. To the side and behind the main building was the rather big garden which had made Tine so happy because there were so many flowers, and in particular because little Max could play there so often.
Havelaar sent his apologies to Mrs Slotering, since he had not yet visited her. He intended to go there the next day, but Tine had been there already to be introduced. We already know that this lady was a so-called "native child", speaking only the Malay language. She had indicated that she wanted to have her own household, and Tine was eager to allow her that. This was not only inhospitability, but in particular because she was afraid, having just arrived in Lebak and having a lot to arrange, that she was unable to receive Mrs Slotering as well as she desired in the particular circumstances of this lady. Since she did not understand Dutch, she would not be harmed by Max's stories, as Tine called it, but she understood that more was needed to save the Sloterings from harm, and the lean kitchen with the intended thrift really made her think that Mrs Slotering's intentions were very sensible. Besides, if the circumstances had been different, socialising with a person who speaks only one language, in which nothing has been printed to civilise the spirit, would probably not have led to mutual pleasure. Tine could keep her company as well as she could and talk a lot about kitchen matters, aboutand pickling ketimon – without Liebig, oh gods! – but this is always a sacrifice, so it was considered good that Mrs Slotering's voluntary solitude had been arranged in a way which gave full freedom to both parties. However, it was strange that the lady had not only refused to take part in the common meals, but that she had even refused to have her food prepared in the kitchen of Havelaar's house.
This modesty, said Tine, was a bit exaggerated, since there was sufficient space in the kitchen.