The “Queen of the East” awoke from her midday slumber; the sun sank slowly into the waters of the sea, a hazy red veil settled over the islands, strewn about in the bay filled with ships of every size and shape, which stretched her into harbor, and from which the benevolent Queen sent her treasures to all the winds, or where the toll was brought to her from the countries and cities subjected to her power. The glowing sun-scorched houses of the Castle and the houses of the town cooled gently under a fresh breeze which the sea sent inland as night fell.
From the houses the inhabitants gradually came out, the barges that floated in the canals and in the rivers were gradually filled, by those who either wanted to go on a play trip or wished to be transported easily to another end of the city. . Many Chinese, Javanese, Mestizos, slaves and slaves moved under the tall trees, which overshadow the great river on either side, which divides the city in two from the Diestpoort.
To the south, close to the city wall, beautiful houses border [ 2 ]the road inhabited by Europeans to the left and right of the water; three bridges resting on arches connect the two banks, further on are mostly shops of Chinese, small inconsiderable, low houses, overlooking the broad road used for market. In the shops themselves you will find everything that is for sale on Batavia; Japanese merchandise and European clothing, craft shops and weapons, carrier gear, and precious Chinese vases. In the middle of the street there are still rows of stalls under sheds, three cross canals divide the markets in three; the first is the vegetable market; on the second, in the morning at least, fish are sold, great kakaps, savory bands, gigantic shrimps, the hideous squid, and the favored kapit or crabs, lie on wooden trestles, spread out, and fill the air with their peculiar exhalations. More appetizing are the following pairs of compasses, in which the most delicious fruits are displayed, the fragrant pineapples and the blood-red grapefruit in their golden peels, the rich variety of djamboes and djerouks, in all colors and sizes, the hairy rambutans and the dark purple mangosteen with the white downy heart, fragrant flesh, but encompassing a bitter green kernel; baskets full of yellow-colored dukus and loads of katjangs or oil nuts; a wealth of flowers, balsamic-spicing the air, white melatis in buds or fully budded, strands of toothyung, green and yellow kanangas, tufts of katjapiring and tjampaka gracefully tied together;
At this hour of the day there are few Europeans to be seen here, and they still belong to the lowest classes of the population; they are craftsmen, blacksmiths, carpenters, or[ 3 ]masons, shoemakers in the Company’s service, with wives and children, who take a stroll from their hard work in the heat of the day, or soldiers in ragged clothes, who look around with hungry eyes for so many stomach-stimulating articles, for the kitchen and the regiment’s portions are meager and the pay is desperately low. Colored people select bunches of flowers at the flower shops with which they will soon surprise their sweethearts, Javanese housekeepers make her purchases, praising and bidding; some Arabs move calmly and dignified past the shops of the Chinese, who noisily offer their wares for sale. Sometimes they deign to ask the price of something, but usually they shrug their shoulders scornfully and continue their way, past the meat hall,
The Europeans are now found in the more dignified quarters, most on the east side of the city; there along the Tijgergracht with its beautiful double row of tamarind trees, they sit on their sidewalks in front of their gabled, whitewashed houses while enjoying the unforgettable Goudsche pipe or they walk along the water and through the Prinsenstraat over the Kasteelplein and the Leeuwinne or Kaaimansgracht back. Here it is an Eastern city with a European appearance. The entrances are fitted with lower doors, the sidewalks with railings and benches; if one did not see whole families sitting in the street there, one would imagine oneself in a North or South Holland city; the dress is also almost entirely European, the ladies wear straitjackets and skirts of heavy material, the gentlemen are weighed down by the gilding that covers their collars and sleeves and by their heavy wigs.[ 4 ]
Few walkers are seen here walking side by side in these streets; most are followed by a few slaves, one of whom carries the fire-rope, another the sunshade, token of his master’s dignity, a third his snuff-box; the ladies, most of whom are separated from her husbands, walk, followed by a little slave, who holds up her long train, while a slave girl stretches the pajong above her head and a few others complete her retinue. She herself waves some coolness with her fan, until the moment she meets another lady, her superior in rank; Reverently she then withdrew with her procession to make a deep inclination, which the other answered with a gracious nod; soon she imagines that homage indemnified by showing another, even more sensitive way,
Some descend the steps cut into the masonry of the moats and step with their procession of slaves and female slaves into the decorated Chinese prahus; slaves set the oars in motion, others make music with their instruments—Javanese violin, guitar, or zither—and the boats glide gently over the canals until the moon rises and casts its bright white gleam over the fortress.
In the Castle, which, surrounded by tall green bushes, raises its strong walls of white coral stone from the two moats, the Supreme Governor or General, now called Johan Van Hoorn, holds his usual afternoon reception on the steps of his home.
This house is located to the right of the central square in the middle of the fortress; the small octagonal Castle Church connects it to the opposite houses of the ordinary Councils of the Indies.[ 5 ]
Like all other Batavian houses, it is two stories high; a broad and high platform gives something grand to the view, as does the dome above the tiled roof, where a ship of the Queen of the East serves as a weather vane, perhaps a reminder of the town hall with which Jacob van Campen decorated the “Empress of Euroop”.
The reception is as homely as possible; the Noble General sits in the middle, the highest in rank next to him, and so on, accurate to rank, the chairs are arranged in semicircles, each speaks with his neighbor, and smokes his Gouda pipe; general conversations are not held, etiquette forbids anyone from hearing the General speak.
Slaves pass beer around, and the Supreme Commander occasionally drinks the health of the company and their wives, which toasts are immediately answered; the convivial reception lasts until 9 am. The guard of the fortress is held by halberdiers, vigorous young men in yellow doublets and scarlet silk, looped trousers; the rest of the guards are in a sad shabby condition; When the Chief Regent comes by, they must be called up at the call of the sergeant on duty, they are seen appearing in the most miserable garb, usually without stockings or shoes, with torn doublets and bareheads.
Their wretched abodes are arranged in the four points of the fortress, Pearl, Ruby, Diamond and Sapphire. More impressive than the warriors are the cannons, which rest on the flat roofs of the Company’s larders and warehouses against the ramparts, and which threaten the whole periphery with fire and death.
In the middle of the city on the big river is another kind of [ 6 ]guard tower, which also keeps its cannons open in all directions.
Busy and cheerful life prevails especially in the so-called slums, to the N.W. of the city, in the Zandzee, but especially in the Lepelstraat, which consists of inns or pubs door to door.
A merry music lures in there the merry patrons, sailors, who wait for the prahus, which must carry them to their ships, before the clock strikes nine, or rather before the guards of the Castle, warned by the hourglass, ring out nine strokes on the basin, for the Queen of the East is not yet a public clock.
At nine o’clock the great river is separated from the harbor by a heavy iron chain; and after that hour the glory of the Lepelstraat also evaporates.
Now, however, the lights have just been lit, Jan-Maat, with his brown sweetheart on his arm, goes in there, out of the house, or continues to watch a group of Javanese dramatists, called topeng, who show their farces for a few pennies; a Javanese squats with his portable kitchenette to sell his wares to a few Europeans who do not know a word of Malay; but hardly have they tasted a bite, or loudly cursing and raving they throw off the burning mixture to the great mirth of the bystanders, but to the less edification of the merchant, who may have to wait a lifetime for the money.
From one of the inns came two soldiers of the Company; both looked as if they had sacrificed their last dime in there to buy excitement for a moment; their gait was more or less unsteady, their features bright red, marked, though in varying degrees, with laxity and disorderly living.[ 7 ]
The elder, with a bulbous face, on which here and there a ruddy spot indicated the futile efforts which the beard made to get through, looked as if he had a past behind him, whose gallows had to be the most fitting end post. being; his ragged robes were torn or mended in a manner that made a tear appear more preferable; his lank red hair, which no longer reached the skull and forehead, was covered by a battered hat; the shoes attracted attention only by their absence, for one could not give that name to the unsightly slippers which took their place, separating the bare feet from the sand of the unpaved street.
The other looked a little better; were his clothes better worn or were they newer and less worn? Who could say? No one paid enough attention to the pair to pay any attention to this question. So no one noticed that this young man—for he was evidently still young—could easily be counted among the coloreds because of his color, much less that hunger and sorrow looked out of his great black eyes, the freshly consumed drink had those eyes. can mist, but no blush painted on the pale yellow cheeks.
The other held him by his robe:
“Yes, you see,” he said in quite broken, thick-tongued, full-throated Dutch, almost every other word, reinforcing his speech with a German curse, “I’ll say if we didn’t have that! Such a sip of firewater is the best they have in that miserable Holland; what do you think?”
“I wish I had never brought that wretched fare to my lips, and I would rather not need it to quench my hunger and forget my sorrow.”[ 8 ]
„Sappdement Donnerwetter! Are you suffering? Come, such a good young fellow as you! What kind of suffering can you have? Not for a sweetheart, eh! Believe me, don’t get involved with womenfolk, because that costs money, a lot of money, and it deceives you; we have little money and we can’t use it better anywhere than in there, that stuff doesn’t deceive, potztausend! Shall we go in here? Tonne Mie has astonishingly good beer too!”
“No, not tonight. How could we! I do not have anything anymore.”
“And I have credit! all devils! Or guess what, do you know who I am? The Margrave von Schweinshausen, up there on the Rhine, is my first cousin, and I would certainly have taken his place, had I not had that scolding at the Bonn High School with the son of the Knight von Schönfeld, whom I serve in a duel, the mean dog that dared call me a drunkard. After that time I have had nothing but accidents; At first I tried to try my fortune in the service of the great King of France, but that was also wrong, my unhappy patriotism soon caused me to quarrel there with a superior one, and the French are so mercilessly proud. I would have taken a bullet if I hadn’t polished the plate in time, and from there I came, you see, I don’t remember, but I do know that wherever I’ve been, and that’s in a hell of a lot of places, I’ve never gotten lost in such a mess as here; that is no place for people of decency and position, and most of us are, and so are you! What were you there in the great, glorious Europe?”
“I? What I am here! Nothing!”
“But you’re of good descent, aren’t you? They all say that!”[ 9 ]
“Who tells you that? Well no! I have no name, no family, no homeland, nothing! I have only one goal, to find a bullet here.”
“You’re a weird snob, I noticed that right away. Nothing goes well with you, not even drinking, no matter how hard you try to participate. But if you don’t want to go anywhere, what are you doing here any longer? You see, when you have heard wonderful concerts in Germany and France, those scratches on the violin and that squeak of the flute make you sick, and when you think of the plays at the first theaters in the royal residences, you say also: I’ve had enough of that silly fun; but you have certainly never heard or seen anything like it.”
“And I have been in Amsterdam and I have heard on the scene the Lucifer and Gijsbreght van Amstel, the masterpieces of our great Vondel, I have laughed at Warnar van den Muider Drost and the Moortje van Brederoo and shuddered at the bloody plays of Jan Vos! Oh, it was so lovely!”
His dull eyes sparkled, and that last word sounded almost like a cry of sorrow wrenched from the memory of his chest.
“Then you still had something! And I thought you didn’t remember anything!”
“If only it were so! If I had no memory, I might feel at home in this plague den some day, but those memories, oh, those memories! If I could wash them away, I drank from morning to evening!”
“Hey! I wish it was possible and I could be in your company, but you’re getting sensitive, kid! You have a crying drunk. Shake off those memories, take an example from me! What no power I have of memories, I, Freiherr’s first cousin, I mean Duke von Schweinshausen, who[ 10 ]Serve here as a mean soldier, but I’m amused by it and think, wherever you are, you’ll find dice, women and wine again, and even though everything here is of the most miserable caliber, you’ll just have to be content with it. ”
The other sighed deeply; his buddy was right, the drink apparently knocked him down.
“I had to drink nothing more or else a lot,” he said dejectedly, “a single sip makes me sadder still. Then I think again of everything I once owned and that I lost helplessly.”
“Nothing is lost, fellow, while you still have your body; have you lost that, yes, then it looks ugly with you at first, but before then… you know what? Come with me, I know a certain Chinese who lives on the Rhinocerosgracht, a loyal fellow, who likes to grant a brave soldier a game of cards; you play there on your not yet received pay without any pledge. Recently I won two riksdalers, and I know a man who now owns a carriage and fifty slaves, who won a hundred ducats when he was a mean soldier, bought himself free with it, set up a shop, married a rich man black woman, later bought herself an alderman’s place and now belongs to the great Hansen, who smoke a pipe with the Noble General on the facade of his house!”
“I’ll never take it that far!”
“Because you have memories! Abandon it and rather follow me, soon you may not be able to do it anymore, for they say war is in the air. There in Karta-Sura they must be messing around again; it is true that one porpoise is not exactly the same as another. I don’t understand what the Company cares, what bitch plays the beast there, and then further up above Surabaya , they call[ 11 ]in that nest, I believe, there is one such old cuddly rooster who outsmarts them all.”
“Surapati you mean?”
“Could be; my German tongue can’t pronounce all those gibberish names. If only it were Rademacher, Schönhausen, von Schweinsfeldt, as I used to be called, now that fellow is the boss of them all. He must have been a slave in the past, they say, and now he is even more powerful than the king of Java, and now you understand that the Company, which carries its head so high, cannot tolerate that and… and… Would you care who was in charge here? Nothing to me! If that Javanese gentleman gives me a ducat more pay in the year and decent stockings and shoes, I’ll say those Dutch cheese heads Adjé. And you?”
“Become a traitor, a deserter? Never!”
“What, are you still faithful? Ha, ha! Those items have no value on the compass. Are we going to my bah-bah 1 or not?”
“No, I want to rest, I think I could now, it happens so little that I sleep.”
“And I sleep way too much, come, come with me.”
“No, Fathead, not really! Tell me a word, do you think there is really going to be a war?”
“Certainly! I’d rather live a life like here in the Robijn’s barracks than run the risk of swallowing a blue bean.”
It had become quite dark, and the Queen of the East was only dimly illuminated by the art when the moon kept out. They had arrived at the Castle Square, planted with tall trees, which was still full of the carriages of the[ 12 ]guests who had visited the reception, because Mrs. General also received. Just as a noble lady left the country gate of the Castle, the torches of the slaves cast their flickering lights into the diamonds and gold embroidery of her garments; a finely dressed gentleman led her to the waiting carriage, which she mounted with rare grace.
“It is his Excellency’s newly arrived niece,” said a few onlookers.
“Hey, what’s wrong with you? Are you falling off the stick?” the Fathead asked his comrade.
“Oh no, it’s nothing, I thought … oh, it was another memory.”
“The devil takes your memories!” growled the other. “You’ll have fun with that!”