Max Havelaar (Wikisource)/23

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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


"You know," Havelaar began, "how the Dutch possessions on the West coast of Sumatra are bound to the independent empires in the North corner, of which Atjeh is most important. It is said that a secret article in the 1824 tract gives us the obligation towards the English that we never cross the river Singkel. The General Vandamme, who had some kind of faux-air Napoléon and wanted to extend the area of his government as far as possible, had therefore an inconvenient obstacle on that side. I really must believe that such a secret article exists. Otherwise I would not understand that the Radjahs of Troeman en Analaboe, whose provinces are not unimportant because of the pepper trade, have not yet been invaded by the Dutch sovereignty. You know how easy it is to declare war on such little countries and to conquer them. It is always easier to steal a country than a mill. I believe that General Vandamme would have stolen a mill if he fancied, so I do not understand why he spared those areas in the North, if there had not been better reasons than right and fairness.

However it be, his conquering looks weren't aimed North but East. The areas Mandhéling and Ankola – those were the names of the assistant-residency which had been formed from the Battahlands, which had just been silenced – were not yet devoid of the Atjeh influence – where fanaticism is rooted, extinction is hard – but there were no Atjehers any more. However, this was not sufficient for the Governor. He extended his authority on the East coast, Dutch clerks and Dutch garrisons were sent to Bila and Pertibie, but as you know, Verbrugge, those posts were evacuated again afterwards.

Then a Government commissioner arrived on Sumatra, who found this extension absolutely useless, so he disapproved it, in particular because it was contrary to the desperate thrift which the mother country urgently desired. The General Vandamme replied that this extension would have no bad influence on the budgets, for most garrisons had been formed from troops for which money had already been made available, so that he had brought a big area under Dutch control without requiring financial expenses. Furthermore, as regards the partial discovery of other places, in particular in Mandheling, he expected to count on the faith and devotion of Jang di Pertoean, the main chief in the Battahlands, so he saw no objections.

Reluctantly the Government commissioner gave in, because of the repeated claims of the General that he'd guarantee Jang di Pertoean's faith personally.

Well, the Controller who was my predecessor in the department of Natal, was the son-in-law of the Assistant-Resident in the Battahlands, whose clerk was not on speaking terms with Jang di Pertoean. Later I heard that there had been a lot of complaints about that Assistant-Resident, but care was needed before one believed such accusations, because most of them originated from the mouth of Jang di Pertoean, at the same time that he himself had been accused of much more serious offences, which perhaps forced him to find his defence in the errors of his accuser – that happens frequently. However it be, the Controller of Natal embraced the party of his father-in-law against Jang di Pertoean, and perhaps more ardently because that controller was a close friend of Soetan Salim, a chief in Natal who also hated the chief of Battak. For a long time there had been a feud between the families of these two chiefs. Marriage proposals had been rejected, there was jealousy about influence, pride of Jang di Pertoean who was of high birth and more causes which were sufficient to maintain animosity between Natal and Mandheling.

Suddenly the rumour was spread that a conspiracy had been discovered in Mandheling, in which Jang di Pertoean was involved, with the purpose of hoisting the holy banner of revolt and to kill all Europeans. This was first discovered in Natal, of course, since nearby provinces are always better informed than the place itself. Many people will, fearing an involved chief, remain silent about circumstances they know, but they will overcome that fear as soon as they are in a place where that chief has no authority.

So this explains, Verbrugge, why I am not a stranger in the matters of Lebak, and that I reasonably well knew what's going on here, even before I knew that I would be transferred to this place. In 1846 I was in Krawang, and I wandered a lot in the Preanger where I met people who had fled in 1840 from Lebak. I also know some owners of private countries near Buitenzorg and the region around Batavia, and I know that the lords of those countries rejoice about the bad conditions in this department, because it means more people for theirs.

Thus the conspiracy would have been discovered in Natal. If there really was a conspiracy – I am not sure of it – it would know Jang di Pertoean as a traitor. The Controller of Natal questioned witnesses, and they replied that he had, with his brother Soetan Adam, assembled the chiefs of Battak in a holy forest where they would have sworn not to rest before the authority of the Christian dogs in Mandheling had been destroyed. It is a matter of course that he was inspired by heaven. You know that such an inspiration is never missing on such occasions.

Well, I am not sure whether Jang di Pertoean actually had this intention. I read the reports of the witnesses, but you will soon see why these should not unconditionally be believed. It is a fact that the man, regarding in Islamic fanaticism, was able to do such a thing. He, and the entire people of Battak, had shortly before that time been converted to the true faith by the Padries, and new converts usually show a lot of fanaticism.

The result of this discovery – true or false – was that Jang di Pertoean was imprisoned by the Assistant-Resident of Mandheling for transport to Natal. The Controller temporarily incarcerated him in the fort, and he was sent to Padang at the very first opportunity. Of course the Governor received all documents with the accusing testimonies, to legalise the seriousness of the measures. So our Jang di Pertoean had left Mandheling as a prisoner. In Natal he was a prisoner. On board the ship that carried him, he was also a prisoner, of course. So he expected – guilty or innocent, that makes no difference since he had been legally accused of high treason by an authorised authority – to arrive in Padang as a prisoner. He must have been very surprised, at the moment of disembarkation, to hear that he was not only free, but even that the General, whose vehicle waited for him, regarded it as an honour to receive him at home and to lodge him. No-one who was accused of high treason ever got a more pleasant surprise. Some time afterward the Assistant-Resident of Mandheling was suspended from his office for all kinds of mischief which I shall not judge here. Jang di Pertoean, however, who had lodged for some time in the General's house and was treated with distinction, went via Natal back to Mandheling, not with the feeling of an acquitted suspect, but with the pride of someone who is so exalted that he does not need a declaration of innocence. After all, his case had not been investigated! If we assume that the accusation was false, this had been sufficient reason to require an investigation to punish the false witnesses, and in particular those who had invoked that falsification. It appears that the General had reasons to prevent this investigation. Anyhow, the accusation against Jang di Pertoean was considered to be non avenu, and I am pretty sure that the documents regarding this affair have never been sent to the government in Batavia.

Short after Jang di Pertoean's return I arrived in Natal to govern that department. Of course my predecessor told me what had happened in Mandheling and he gave me information about the political relation between that area and my department. I could not blame him for complaining about the unjust treatment, in his opinion, which his father-in-law got, and about the incomprehensible protection which Jang di Pertoean got from the General. Neither he nor I knew at that time that sending Jang di Pertoean to Batavia would have been a punch in the General's face and that he – who had guaranteed the faith of that chief - had very good reasons, whatever the cost, to protect him from an accusation of high treason. This was even more importantfor the General, because the Government commissioner, whom I mentioned before, had become Governor-General, and would probably have called him back from his government, being angry about an unfounded mistrust of Jang di Pertoean, and about the related stubbornness with which the General had prevented the evacuation of the East coast.

"However," my predecessor said, "whatever the General may move to simply accept the accusations against my father-in-law, without investigating the much more serious accusations against Jang di Pertoean, this case is not finished! If someone has destroyed the testimonies in Padang, which I presume that has happened, I have something else that cannot be destroyed."

And he showed me a sentence of the Rappat council in Natal, of which he was the chairman: the sentencing of a certain Si Pamaga to the punishment of flogging, branding (it was in 1842), and I believe, twenty years of forced labour, because of attempted murder of the toeankoe of Natal.

"Read the record of the trial," my predecessor said, "and judge whether my father-in-law will not be believed in Batavia, if he accused Jang di Pertoean of high treason!"

I read the papers. According to witnesses and "the suspect's confession" Si Pamaga had been bribed to kill the toeankoe, his foster father Soetan Salim and the Controller in Natal. To do this, he had gone to the home of the toeankoe and started a chat with the servants, who were seated on the steps of the outer porch. They talked about a sewah. He did so with the intention of remaining there until he saw the toeankoe, who appeared after some time, accompanied by some kin and servants. Pamaga ran with his sewah to the toeankoe, but for some reason he had been unable to carry ut his murderous intentions. The frightened toeankoe had jumped out of the window and Pamaga fled. He hid in the forest, and was caught by the Natal police some days afterwards.

When the judge asked the accused what were the reasons for this attack and the attempted murder on Soetan Salim and the Controller of Natal, he replied that he had been be bribed by Soetan Adam, in the name of his brother Jang Di Pertoean of Mandheling.

"Is that clear or not?" my predecessor asked. "The sentence has, after the Resident's permission, been executed, as far as the flogging and the branding concerns, and Si Pamaga is on the way to Padang, to be sent from there to Java in irons. At the same time the trial documents of the case will arrive in Batavia, and they will be able to see who the man is, who ordered my father-in-law to be suspended! That sentence cannot de destryed by the General, even if he wanted."

I accepted the government of Natal and my predecessor left. After some time I received a message that the General would go North with a man-of-war, and he'd also visit Natal. With a large train he came to my house, and he immediately wanted to see the original documents of "that poor man who had been mistreated so terribly."

"They had to be flogged and branded themselves!" he added.

I was puzzled. The causes over the case of Jang di Pertoean were still unknown to me, so I didn't think of that. Also it did not appear to me that my predecessor would willingly sentence an innocent man to such a serious punishment, or that the General would protect a criminal against a justified sentence. I got the order to imprison Soetan Salim and the toeankoe. Since the people loved the young toeankoe very much and we had only a small garrison in the fort, I asked the General to let him go free, which he allowed. But for Soetan Salim, a special friend of Jang di Pertoean, he had no mercy. The people were excited. The Natallers suspected that the General lowered himself to be a tool of hatred from Mandheling, and it was in those circumstances that I could sometimes do something which he found "brave", in particular because he offered neither the little power that could be spared in the fort, nor the soldiers he had on board his ship, to me to protect me when I rode to places where people banded together. At that time I found that General Vandamme looked very carefully after his own safety, so I cannot confirm his reputation for courage until I've seen more of it, or something else.

In a great hurry he formed a council, which I'd call ad hoc. Members were: a few aides, other officers, the public prosecutor or fiscal, whom he had taken from Padang, and me. This council would investigate how the trial against Si Pamaga had been under my predecessor. I had to call many witnesses, whose testimonies were needed. The General, who was the chairman of course, asked whether the records were written by the fiscal. However, this man understood very little Malay, and in particular not the dialect that is spoken in the North of Sumatra, it was often necessary to translate the witnesses' answers for him, which was usually done by the General himself. The sessions of this council produced documents which clearly appear to prove that Si Pamaga never intended to kill anyone, however it was. That he had seen or known neither Soelan Adam nor Jang di Pertoean. That he had not run to the toeankoe of Natal. That he had not fled out of the window, et cetera! Furthermore that the sentence against the unhappy Si Pamaga was pronounced under pressure of the chairman – my predecessor – and the council member Soetan Salim, persons who had invented the pretended crime of Si Pamaga to give the suspended Assistant-Resident of Mandheling a weapon for defence, and to express how much they hated Jang di Pertoean.

The way the General questioned people at that time, reminded me of a whist party of the King of Morocco who said to his partner: "Play hearts, or I'll behead you." And the translations which he gave to the fiscal's pen also left a lot to be desired.

Whether Soetan Salim and my predecessor used pressure on the Council of Justice of Natal to declare Si Pamaga guilty, I cannot tell. But I do know that General Vandamme used pressure to obtain testimonies which tried to prove the man's innocence. At that time I did not understand what it all meant, and I opposed that inaccuracy, which went so far that I refused to sign certain reports. And that's the case in which I had opposed the General. You also understand the meaning of the words I used to finish the reply to the remarks on my financial management, the words in which I pleaded to be excused of all benevolent consideration."

"It was really hard for a man of your age," Duclari said.

"I found it natural. But it is certain that General Vandamme wasn't used to it. So I suffered a lot as a consequence. Oh no, Verbrugge, I see what you think, but I've never been sorry. I must even say that I would not have limited myself to simply opposing the way the General questioned the witnesses, nor to refuse my signature, if I had guessed at that time what I learned only afterwards, that it had all been planned in advance to accuse my predecessor. I thought that the General was convinced of Si Pamaga's innocence and attempted everything in the respectable desire to save an innocent victim of a miscarriage of justice, as far as this was still possible after the flogging and the branding. But this opinion did make me condone falseness, but I was not as angry about that as I would have been if I had known that it was not his intention to save an innocent person, but only to destroy the evidence which was an obstacle to the General's politics, at the expense of the honour and the wellbeing of my predecessor."

"And what happened further to your predecessor?" Verbrugge asked.

"Fortunately he had already left for Java before the General returned to Padang. It seems that he had been able to justify himself before the government in Batavia, anyhow, he remained in service. And the Resident of Ayer Bangie who had given permission to execute the sentence..."

"Was suspended?"

"Of course! You see that I was not wrong when I said in the epigram that the Governor reigned us with suspension."

"And what happened to all those suspended clerks?"

"Oh, there were a lot more. One sooner, another later, have been restored to their posts. Some of them reached really high office."

"And Soetan Salim?"

"The General took him in captivity to Padang, and from there he was banished to Java. He is currently in Tjanjor in the regencies of Preanger. When I was there in 1846, I visited him. Do you remember for what reason I came to Tjanjor, Tine?"

"No, Max, I forgot completely."

"You cannot expect anyone to remember everything. I married there, gentlemen!"

"But," Duclari asked, "since you're now telling stories, may I ask whether it is true that you often duelled in Padang?"

"Yes, very often, and there was a reason for it. I already said that the Governor's favour on such a far away post is the rod which many use to measure their benevolence. Most of us before me were very disobliging, which often changed into rudeness. And I was often irritable. An unanswered greeting, a remark about "the folly of someone who thinks he can oppose the General", a remark about my poverty, my hunger, the bad food that seemed to be in moral independence – all this, you understand, made me feel bitter. Many, in particular among the officers, knew that the General was not unpleased if he saw that there was duel, in particular if it was someone who did not have his favour, like me. Perhaps this roused my sensitivity in advance. I also duelled for someone else if I found that injustice had been done. Whatever it be, a duel was almost a daily practice, and it happened more than once that I had two meetings in one morning. Oh, there is something attractive in a duel, in particular if fit is with the sabre, or "on" the sabre as they say, I don't know why. You understand that I would not do such a thing any more, even if there were as much reason for it as then – come Max – no don't catch that thing – come here. Listen, you should never catch butterflies. The poor thing has been a caterpillar for a long time, somewhere on a tree, and that was an unpleasant time. Now it's got little wings and wants to fly around, enjoy, seeking food in the flowers, and it harms no-one. Don't you think it is much nicer to see it flutter?"

That's how the talk changed from duels to butterflies, to the mercy of righteous people for cattle, to teasing animals, to the loi Grammont, to the National Meeting in Paris where that law was accepted, to the republic and other things!

At last Havelaar stood up. He apologised to his guests, for he had work to do. When the Controller found him the next morning in his office, he did not know that after the conversations the new Assistant-Resident had gone to Parang-Koedjang - the district with the far-reaching abuses – and had not returned until that morning.