Mark and Digna

A few days later, Mr. Voorneman had left his room for the first time and was now sitting under the awning, next to his house with his wife and child.

Digna had a guitar in her lap and in her young, fresh voice sang a song by Bredero:

The sun raises its head

And covers the top of the mountains

With his lights.

What faces,

What distances, far and faint,

It dozes between the green and blue.

Albert sat at her feet and listened with dazzling eyes and occasionally hummed along with her. She helped him back in time when he sometimes lost them, and smiled at her husband, who, stretched out in his easy chair, couldn’t take his eyes off her.

On a small table between them were fresh drinks and pastries, as well as medicine for the sick person.

“Father, won’t you even taste it?” asked Albert with a lust [ 68 ]look at the tasty dishes. “Mother made that afternoon cake herself.”

“Is it true, Digna?” her husband asked. “Haven’t you gone to rest, can’t the slaves do it?”

‘It is a pastry my mother made in Holland; it was our greatest delicacy; how could the slave girls prepare it? I like it so much, and I can’t get used to that rest in the afternoon. I think it is enough if I sleep all night. Here’s another biscuit, Albert! Carefully, with that embrace, you crush me to death, little man, out of sheer gratitude. Shall I sing more, Markus, or would you rather I read something to you?”

“No, sing on, dear! It does me so good to hear your voice and your playing!”

Digna started the second verse.

“There’s visitors, phew, how annoying!” exclaimed Albert.

It was the fiscal, one of Voorneman’s subordinates, who came to visit him during his period.

“Shall I go?” asked Digna.

“Don’t be! Though I can no longer hear you, I can see you, and that is already a lot.”

Such words hurt Digna; they betrayed only too well how fervently her husband loved her, and how much the feelings he had for her differed from the calm though warm friendship she had only toward him; she had thought it better, now that a few days had elapsed, not to mention the case with Robert altogether. After all, it would only serve to move him needlessly.

The taxman sat down with the party, and Digna whispered to her son to pick some melati for her. she took[ 69 ]a handiwork in hand, for her busy bands were never empty, and lent but half an ear to the conversation of the two men, until suddenly she lifted her head and listened.

“Yes,” said the taxman, “it is a wonderful case. It must have happened here near your home. There Mr. Donker’s attendant arrived very busily, carrying a European soldier with him, for he is certainly European, in spite of his dark complexion, as he speaks and understands Malay very imperfectly. It must have been stolen from his yard for a long time, now chickens, now fruit, or laundry hanging out to dry. On the night in question they had first left the garden door open, and then one of the servants saw clearly that the soldier crept across the yard to the river which is close by; he remained in the fairly deep bed, they kept watch and about an hour later he was seen returning. The keeper and his fellow slaves seized him; he defended himself like a desperate man, and he had to be taken to the jail with heavy handcuffs. The next morning Mr. Donker came to request that he be questioned at once, but he refuses to give any answer, only he swears on his innocence with the most expensive oaths.”

“If he’s innocent, why did he sneak into that yard like a thief?”

“That’s what I’ve always asked him. I wanted to know where he went and what he did there in the bed of the river, but he said he could not answer.”

“When did it happen?”

“Wednesday evening.”

“And what’s his name?”[ 70 ]

„Walter! He claims to have no other names.”

“Walter, that was also the boy’s name, for whom we had taken out of the water on the evening when we were playing with His Nobility! Has the chief of the case been instructed?”

“His testimony to the lad was not favourable. He is a savage chest, quarrelsome, indulged in game and booze, taken by recruiters for the army of the Company.”

“You say he is very fond of the game?”

“Yes, that night when he had the accident of falling into the water, he had just left a gambling den in Lepelstraat, having won quite a few; his comrade seemed to have introduced him there, and now demanded a share of the profit. This resulted in a twist. He fled, the other followed him, and in the struggle the friend, who was already far away, fell into the water. He jumped after him, Udele knows the rest; the major inflicted a light sentence on him, which he had just endured that day. What is easier to assume than that he should embarrass himself by theft in order to get money for the game again?”

“But if he has been punished by arrest, he will not have visited Mr. Donker’s yard in the days before Wednesday.”

“So it seems to me; if he only wanted to give the reason why he was in this region, but he stubbornly refuses. Tomorrow we shall try whether the rod is better able to open its lips than our questions.”

“Do you care, dear?” Voorneman asked his wife, for he saw her cheeks and lips turn deathly white, ‘these conversations are not for your ears. Go for a little walk while we discuss our business.”[ 71 ]

“It’s nothing, Markus, it only pains me so much when I hear how people try to force poor accused by pain to let go of their secrets. What proof have you, then, that such an extorted confession is not a lie?”

“How else could we do justice, dear woman, but these questions you need not answer; they are beyond your reach.”

Voorneman’s last words sounded stiffer than those he used to address to his wife.

The taxman, meanwhile, stood up.

“I have nothing further to add to this, and wish Udele a speedy recovery.”

“Oh, for that matter, I am already cured, and hope to appear again at the Council House tomorrow.”

“This hope makes me return to the city with a lighter heart than I left it.”

A few moments later, man and woman faced each other alone.

“Markus,” said Digna, leaning on the back of his chair. “I have a serious word to say to you.”

“I hear you!” he replied, closing his eyes and pressing his lips together.

“That soldier is really innocent of the charges against him: he did not come to steal.”

“Since when has my wife been spying on the corridors of a depraved, vile soldier?”

“I pray you, Markus, keep calm!” pleaded Digna, now setting himself right in front of him. ‘I had already told you all that I had to tell you, but your condition made me delay it; that man has been here, in yonder gallery, where he has spoken to me!”[ 72 ]

Mr Voorneman straightened up; it gleamed ominously in his eyes, and he seized her hand, which she left him without will, and asked in a hoarse voice:

“Now tell me everything, was that him?”

“Yes, the man I was once betrothed to. I had already recognized him that evening, but I did not want to know him, so it was unnecessary to concern you with him. On Wednesday, however, he suddenly appeared before me, half an hour before you came home sick.”

“And you heard him? O shame!”

“I have that, and shame does not cling to me. Look at me, dare I not open my eyes to thee? Do you think I would do it, if a word or look had escaped me, unworthy of mine and yours?”

He looked at her, the purity that radiated from her eyes held back the evil word that threatened to escape him.

“But what did you talk to him?”

“I repeated to him that the past was dead, and that the only thing I could bestow on him was my esteem, which he had lost through the life now led by him. I showed him the way to regain that esteem by doing his duty as a faithful soldier in the war to come. My hand has not touched his, and he lacked in nothing the respect he owes your wife;

He still held her delicate wrist in his fingers.

“Do you still love him, Digna?” he asked in a dull voice.

“Love can only be given voluntarily, and how can I give him something that no longer belongs to me?”

“You’re dodging my question? I believe you, you are too virtuous,[ 73 ]too pure than that you should blush at something that has happened in this meeting, but even your thoughts do not belong to you anymore Digna, I have a right to it too. What do you feel for him?”

“Deep, deep compassion.”

“And nothing else, do you swear to me?”

“Don’t torture me, Markus!” exclaimed Digna, rising suddenly and tearing her hand from his, “why have I deserved such mistrust? Why do you want to root in my thoughts, in my feelings, when I myself think it below me to ask? I can love him no more, that is enough for me to do my duty.”

“Always duty, O Digna! Why has that man appeared between us! That evening you had a look, a caress for me, which I received from you neither before nor after that time; that was not an obligation. And now you are carried back into the past, which I thought to be dead, and again speak of duty.”

“But the present, the future, belong to you, Markus, don’t you?”

“If you don’t love him, why did you pale there later when there was talk of scourging that man?”

“Because I’m human, Markus! Will you now be just to him, will you exonerate him?”

“And if I don’t?”

“You won’t, you don’t want to force me to appear before the taxman to testify to his innocence.”

“Would you do that, my wife?”

“If there were no other means of saving him, yes!”

“And darest thou tell me what thou wouldst for that wretch?” [ 74 ]to do? Do you know that you bring shame upon your name and mine?”

“Why? Because I have spoken to a friend of my youth?”

“A loose ball, a soldier!”

“It is up to you to spare me that step, by deciding according to right and truth.”

“Do you expect that of me?”

“Yes, that and nothing else.”

“Then promise me to pluck every memory of him from your heart, to give no more thought to that wretch?”

“I can’t promise you that anymore. For I do it already, I have always done it from the moment I gave you my word.”

“I believe you Digna,” he answered dully, “I believe and trust you. Give me your hand! However much it may cost me, I will do my duty, as you live only for your duty. May the time come when the word duty between us need no longer be invoked.”

The next morning Mr. Voorneman rode to the Town Hall, and when he returned, Digna was waiting for him to eat his midday meal. She asked nothing, greeted him kindly, and continued with her homework.

“He has been released,” said the Judiciary, watching closely every feature of her face, every change in her color, but Digna was not moved.

“So,” was her calm remark, “I’m counting on it.”

“And have you not a word of gratitude for me?”

“Shall I have it for Markus my husband, or for the Noble Lord’s Council of Justice?” asked Digna, smiling. “One must not influence the statements of the other.”[ 75 ]

„I questioned him separately; he looked at me with glowing eyes, twinkling with hatred; doubtless he detested a rival in me. Alas!… To all my questions he did not deign to answer. When I finally asked him straight: “Have you been to Voornelust?” he looked at me bewildered. “Who told you that?” “The one who spoke to you!” Then he bowed his head and said:

“I was not allowed to reveal it, but now that she herself has had the kindness to say it, I have no reason to deny it anymore.Coincidentally, just last night the thief, a poor Ambonnes, was caught in the act; thus nothing was lacking in the triumph of innocence. I hope, however, that the future visits made by this journeyman to Voornelust may be less mysterious. More disputes might arise between Markus, Miss Tak’s husband, and the Noble Lord Council of Justice Voorneman.”

Digna felt deeply hurt by the biting mockery of his words; but a look at his twisted and pale face made her pity again.

“Don’t worry Markus,” she said. “Robert will not set foot in your yard again; he won’t intrude any more, and if he does, and he overtakes me, I won’t say another word to him. What I had to say to him, I told him, and you know it as well as he and I: Our ways are parted for good after this last conversation!”

But Digna didn’t suspect how the slanderers got to work on the mysterious fact.

“Do you know who the thief was in Mr Donker’s yard?” Mrs Dammers asked whoever wanted to hear it, „it is a[ 76 ]strange history. Mr. Voorneman questioned him in person and immediately ordered his release.”

“But the true thief has been caught.”

“Foolishness! Mr Voorneman fell ill that same evening. Who’s to say why! The good man is weak, any emotion can harm him, we all know that. The bird escaped, but was immediately caught again on Zorgvrij; he was innocent of the theft, to be sure, but refused to give any information as to where he might have been. The Council of Justice then dragged itself to the Town Hall; ah, I feel so sorry for the poor man. He secretly questioned the accused, and behold, suddenly the thief was caught, and the prisoner’s innocence clearly proved. Now look for a connection between those facts, but I always say: Don’t trust those pious sisters with their straight faces and smooth tongues for the devil!”

And as if the strong word did not emphasize the speech enough, Mrs. Dammers waved her fan up and down with impetuous force and looked around triumphantly.

“But how is it possible, she is so beautiful and he a soldier!”

“Fortunately that he is a soldier and a campaign at hand. Mark my words! He will leave with that. But she’s not pretty at all, her nose is much too small, and what faint eyes she has, and there’s something to say on her ears too.”

Mrs. Dammers’ prophecy about the coming war literally came true; the fourth the July 1705 left the Ordinary Council of the Indies Herman Savage Batavia.

He had been appointed field commander of the army that was sent out primarily to expel the Emperor Sunan Mas, who was not recognized by the Company, from his realm and to replace him. [ 77 ]if necessary, to establish the Soesoehunan Paku Buwana by force on the throne of his deceased father and brother at Karta-Sura; in his decree he was instructed to adjourn the Adipati Anum—so the unrecognized emperor was still called—to subjection within a period of fourteen days, but at the end of this space of time to attack him immediately and, if possible, to take possession of him. to make.

As soon as Paku Buwana had ascended to the throne bestowed upon him by the support of the Dutch arms, it must be de Wilde’s first work to conclude the new treaty between him and the Company. When all this had come to an end and the Company’s power had thus obtained a formidable reinforcement in the heart of Java, only then could one think of fighting the formidable enemy of the Europeans, the slave prince Soerapati. The Council of the Indies did not yet consider it necessary to make any definite decision on this matter, but de Wilde’s plan was fixed; what he was about to undertake was only a preparation to fulfill the purpose of his life and to avenge on Surapati his lost happiness in life.

The Governor-General had at last, though somewhat reluctantly decided, to refuse the aid secretly offered to him by Soerapati, and to allow the three emissaries of the brigand king no more to return to their country. Thus nothing would appear to Surapati of what had been discussed between the High Government and them.

The Company’s prisons were dark and deep; no one needed to hear from them anymore; Soerapati wanted to resume the negotiations, nothing could prevent him from believing that the previous envoys had perished on the long and perilous road; insist that the dressed-up Chinese[ 78 ]if they were handed over to him, it would be difficult for him, as there was no proof of their mission.

Thus deep secrecy remained to shroud these negotiations, and the Company was still free to act as it pleased. It was De Wilde who had advised this course of action to the Supreme Governor; he even insisted on getting rid of the trio in an even more conclusive way; they wanted to spare their lives, well so many ships set sail for Ceylon, or to the distant Moluccas; who would think it strange if three Chinese were transported there?

The Governor, however, made no decision; he let de Wilde leave at the head of his armed force. This consisted of four ships, 1,833 European and 2016 Native soldiers with the necessary artillery.

On the morning after the departure of the troops, Lord Voorneman came to his wife and said to her:

“The war will soon begin, Digna, the soldiers have left.”

“I know,” she replied quietly. “May God bless their weapons and let justice prevail.”

“Do you hope he comes back?”

“Can one wish someone dead, Markus? And yet I believe that an honorable death on the battlefield is the best I can hope for for many.”

“To honor his memory freely?”

Digna said nothing more; she felt it all too well now that the calm and tranquility had vanished from her life. Markus’ frail health and the tingling of his jealousy made him more and more troublesome to his wife. He watched all her words and looks; her gentleness still wound him[ 79 ]more on, her patience provoked him; nothing was ever too much or too difficult for her, he acknowledged it, and yet he was not satisfied with her. With strength and courage she endeavored to take up her new task and find in it the best distraction for her own thoughts.