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Chapter I.: MOURNING - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 6 (Messrs. Vanderput and Snoek, The Loom and the Lugger Parts 1 & 2) 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 6.
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During the days when the prosperity of the United Provinces was at its height, that is, during the latter half of the 17th century, it could hardly be perceived that any one district of Amsterdam was busier than another, at any one hour of the day. There was traffic in the markets, traffic on the quays, the pursuit of traffic in the streets, and preparation for traffic in the houses. Even at night, when the casks which had been piled before the doors were all rolled under shelter, and dogs were left to watch the bales of merchandize which could not be stowed away before dark, there was, to the eye of a stranger, little of what he had been accustomed to consider as repose. Lights glanced on the tossing surface of the Amstel, as home-ward-bound vessels made for the harbour, or departing ships took advantage of the tide to get under weigh. The hail of the pilots or the quay-keepers, or of a careful watchman here and there, or the growl and bark of a suspicious dog, came over the water or through the lime avenues with no unpleasing effect upon the wakeful ear, which had been so stunned by the tumult of noon-day as scarcely to distinguish one sound from another amidst the confusion.
One fine noon, however, in the summer of 1696, a certain portion of the busiest district of Amsterdam did appear more thronged than the rest. There was a crowd around the door of a handsome house in the Keiser's Graft, or Emperor's-street. The thickly planted limes were so far in leaf as to afford shade from the hot sun, reflected in gleams from the water in the centre upon the glaring white fronts of the houses; and this shade might tempt some to stop in their course, and lounge: but there, were many who were no loungers flocking to the spot, and making their way into the house, or stationing themselves on the painted bench outside till they should receive a summons from within.
The presence of one person, who stood motionless before the entrance, sufficiently explained the occasion of this meeting. The black gown of this officer, and his low cocked hat, with its long tail of black crape, pointed him out as the Aanspreeker who, having the day before made the circuit of the city to announce a death to all who knew the deceased, was now ready to attend the burial. He stood prepared to answer all questions relative to the illness and departure of the deceased, and the state of health and spirits of the family, and to receive messages for them, to be delivered when they might be supposed better able to bear them than in the early hours of their grief. Seldom were more inquiries addressed to the Aanspreeker than in the present instance, for the deceased, Onno Snoek, had been one of the chief merchants of Amsterdam, and his widow was held in high esteem. The officer had no sooner ended his tale than he had to begin it again;—how the patient's ague had appeared to be nearly overcome; how he had suffered a violent relapse; how the three most skilful French apothecaries had been called in, in addition to the native family physician; how, under their direction, his son Heins had opened the choicest keg of French brandy, the most precious packages of Batavian spices in his warehouse, for the sake of the sick man; how, not withstanding these prime medicaments, the fever had advanced so rapidly as to prevent the patient from being moved even to the window, to see a long expected ship of his firm come to anchor before his own door; how he seemed to have pleasure in catching a glimpse of her sails through the trees as he lay in bed; but how all his endeavours to live till morning that he might hear tidings of the cargo, had failed, and rather hastened his end, insomuch that he breathed his last before dawn.
Among the many interrogators appeared a young man who was evidently in haste to enter the house, but wished first to satisfy himself by one or two questions. He wore the dress of a presbyterian clergyman, and spoke in a strong French accent.
“I am in haste,” he said, “to console my friends, from whom I have been detained too long. I was at Saardam yesterday, and did not hear of the event till this morning. I am in haste to join my friends; but I must first know in what frame the husband,—the father,-—died. Can you tell me what were the last moments which I ought to have attended?”
The officer declared that they were most edifying. The patient's mind was quite collected.
“Thank God!” exclaimed M. Aymond, the divine.
“Quite collected,” continued the officer, “and full of thought for those he left behind, as he showed by the very last thing he said. He had most carefully arranged his affairs, and given all his directions in many forms; but he remembered, just in time, that he had omitted one thing. He called Mr. Heins to his bed-side, and said, ‘my son, there is one debtor of ours from whom you will scarce recover payment, as I never could. Meyerlaut has for many months evaded paying me for the last ebony we sold to him. Let him therefore make my coffin.—Stay!—I have not done yet.—You will, in course of nature, outlive your mother. Let her have a handsome coffin from the same man; and if it should please Heaven to take more of you, as our beloved Willebrod was taken, you will bear the same thing in mind, Heins, I doubt not; for you have always been a dutiful son?’”
“This is the way Heins told you the fact?” asked Aymond. “Well, but were these the last,—the very last words of the dying man?”
Heins had mentioned nothing that was said afterwards; so the divine pursued his way into the house with a sad countenance. Instead of joining the guests in the outer apartment, he used the privilege of his office, and of his intimacy with the family, and passed through to the part of the house where he knew he should find the widow and her young people. Heins met him at the door, saying,
“I knew you would come. I have been persuading my mother to wait, assuring her that you would come. How we have wished for you! How we——”
Aymond, having grasped the hand of Heins, passed him to return the widow's greeting. She first stood to receive the blessing he bestowed in virtue of his office, and then, looking him calmly in the face, asked him if he had heard how God had been pleased to make her house a house of mourning.
“I find dust and ashes where I looked for the face of a friend,” replied the divine. “Can you submit to Heaven's will?”
“We have had grace to do so thus far,” replied the widow. “But whether it will be continued to us when——”
Her eyes filled, and she turned away, as if to complete her preparations for going forth.
“Strength has thus far been given according to thy day,” said Aymond. “I trust that it will be “thus bestowed for ever,” And he gave his next attention to one whom he was never known to neglect; one who loved him as perhaps nobody else loved him,—Heins's young brother, Christian.
Christian had suffered more in the twelve years of his little life than it is to be hoped many endure in the course of an ordinary existence. A complication of diseases had left him in a state of weakness from which there was little or no hope that he would ever recover, and subject to occasional attacks of painful illness which must in time wear him out. He had not grown, nor set a foot to the ground, since he was five years old: he was harassed by a perpetual cough, and in constant dread of the return of a capricious and fearful pain which seldom left him unvisited for three days together, ami sometimes lasted for hours. When in expectation of this pain, the poor boy could think of little else, and found it very difficult to care for any body; but when suffering from nothing worse than his usual helplessness, his great delight was to expect M. Aymond, and to get him seated beside his couch. Aymond thought that he heard few voices more cheerful than that of his little friend, Christian, when it greeted him from the open window, or made itself heard into the passage,—‘Will you come in here, M. Aymond? I am in the Wainscoat parlour to, day, M. Aymond.’
Christian had no words at command this day, He stretched out his arms in silence, and sighed convulsively when released from the embrace of his friend.
“Did I hurt you? Have you any of your pain today?”
“No; not yet. I think it is coming; but never mind that now. Kaatje will stay with me till you come back. You will come back, M. Aymond
When the pastor consented, and the widow approached to bid farewell to her child for an hour, Christian threw his arms once more round Aymond's neck. His brother Luc, a rough strong boy of ten, pulled them down, and rebuked him for being so free with the pastor; and little Roselyn, the spoiled child of the family, was ready with her lecture too, and told how she had been instructed to cross her hands and wait till M. Aymond spoke to her, instead of jumping upon him as she did upon her brother Heins. Christian made no other reply to these rebukes than looking with a smile in the face of the pastor, with whom he had established too good an understanding to suppose that he could offend him by the warmth of an embrace.
“I am sorry you cannot go with us, my poor little Christian,” said Heins, who had a curious method of making his condolences irksome and painful to the object of them. “I am sorry you cannot pay this last duty to our honoured parent. You will not have our Eatis-Fation in looking back upon the discharge of it,”
“Christian is singled out by God for a different duty,” observed the pastor. “He must show cheerful submission to his heavenly parent while you do honour to the remains of an earthly one.”
Christian tried to keep this thought before him while he saw them leaving the room, and heard the coffin carried out, and the long train of mourners, consisting of all the acquaintance of the deceased, filing away from the door.—When the last step had passed the threshold, and it appeared from the unusual quiet that the crowd had followed the mourners, Christian turned from the light, and buried his face in one of the pillows of his couch, so that Katrina, the young woman who, among other offices, attended upon him and his little sister, entered unperceived by him. She attracted his attention by the question which he heard oftener than any other,—‘the pain?’
“No,” answered the boy, languidly turning his head; “I was only thinking of the last time———” Either this recollection, or the sight of Katrina's change of dress overcame him, and stopped what he was going to say. The short black petticoat, measuring ten yards in width, exhibited its newness by its bulk, its plaits not having subsided into the moderation of a worn garment. The blue stockings, the neat yellow slippers had disappeared, and the gold fillagree clasps in the front of the close cap were laid aside till the days of mourning should be ended, While Christian observed all this, contemplating her from head to foot, Katrina took up the discourse where he had let it fall.
“You were thinking of the last time my master had you laid on the bed beside him. It will always be a comfort to you, Christian, that he told you where he was departing.”
“He did not tell me that,” said the boy; “and that is just what I was wondering about. He said he was going, and I should like to know if he could have told where.”
“To be sure he could. He was one of the chosen, and we know where they go. So much as you talk with the pastor, you must know that.”
“I know that it is to heaven that they go, but I want to know where heaven is. Some of them say it is paradise; and some, the New Jerusalem; and some, that it is up in the sky among the angels. But do all the chosen know where they are going?”
Certainly, Katrina believed. The dying believer was blessed in his hope. Christian was not yet satisfied.
“I think I shall know when I am dying,” said he. “At least, I often think I am dying when my pain comes in the night; but I do not know more about where I am going then than at other times.”
Katrina hoped his mind was not tossed and troubled on this account.
“O, no; not at all. If God is good to me, and takes care of me here, he will keep me safe any where else, and perhaps let me go about where I like. And O, Kaatje, there will be no more crying, nor pain! I wish I may see the angels as soon as I die. Perhaps father is with the angels now. I saw the angels once, more than once, I think; but once, I am sure.”
In a dream, Katrina supposed.
“No, in the broad day, when I was wide awake. You know I used to go to the chapel before my cough was so bad; as long ago as I can remember, nearly. There are curious windows in that chapel, quite high in the roof; and I often thought the day of judgment was come; and there was a light through those windows shining down into the pulpit; and there the angels looked in. I thought they were come for me, unless it was for the holy pastor.”
“But would you have liked to go?”
“Yes: and when the prayer came after the sermon, instead of listening to the pastor, I used to pray that God would send the angels to take me away.”
Katrina thought that if Christian had lived in another country, he would have made a. fine martyr.
“I don't know,” said the boy, doubtfully. “I have thought a great deal about that, and I am not so sure as 1 used to be. If they only cut off my head, I think I could bear that. But as for the burning,—I wonder, Kaatje, whether burning is at all like my pain. I am sure it cannot be much worse.”
Katrina could not tell, of course; but she wished he would not talk about burning, or about his pain; for it made him perspire, and brought on his cough so as to exhaust him to a very pernicious degree. He must not talk any more now, but let her talk to him. He had not asked yet what company had come to the funeral.
Christian supposed that there was every body whom his father had known in Amsterdam.
Yes, every body: and as there were so many to drink spirits at the morning burial, her mistress chose to invite very few to the afternoon feast. Indeed her mistress seemed disposed to have her own way altogether about the funeral. Every body knew that Mr. Heins would have liked to have it later in the day, and would not have minded the greater expense for the sake of the greater honour.
“I heard them talk about that,” said Christian. “My mother told Heins that it was a bad way for a merchant to begin with being proud, and giving his father a grand funeral; and that the best honour was in the number of mourners who would be sure to follow an honest man, whether his grave was filled at noon or at sunset. My mother is afraid of Heins making a show of his money, and learning to fancy himself richer than he is.”
Katrina observed that all people had their own notions of what it was to be rich. To a poor servant-maid who had not more than 1000 guilders out at interest———
“But your beautiful gold chain, Kaatje! Your silver buckles! I am sure you must have ten pair, at the least.”
“Well, but, all this is less than many a maid has that has been at service a shorter time than I have. To a poor maid-servant, I say, it seems like being rich to have I don't know how many loaded ships between China and the Texel.”
“They belong as much to Mr. Vanderput as to us, you know. Is Mr. Vanderput here today?”
“To be sure. He is to be at the burial-feast; and Miss Gertrude——.”
“Gertrude! Is Gertrude here?” cried Christian, sitting up with a jerk which alarmed his attendant for the consequences. “O, if she will stay the whole day, it will be as good as the pastor having come back.”
“She crossed from Saardam on purpose. She will tell you about the angels, if any body can; for she lives in heaven as much as the pastor himself, they say.”
“She is an angel herself,” quietly observed Gertrude's little adorer. Katrina went on with her list.
“Then there is Fransje Slyk and her father. He looks as if he knew what a funeral should be, and as grave as if he had been own brother to the departed. I cannot say as much for Fransje.”
“I had rather have Fransje's behaviour than her father's, though I do not much like her,” said Christian. “Mr. Slyk always glances round to see how other people are looking, before he settles his face completely.”
“Well; you will see how he looks to-day.
These are all who will stay till evening, I believe, except Mr. Visscher.”
“Mr. Visscher! What is he to stay for? I suppose Heins wants to talk to him about this new cargo that came too late. O, Kaatje, I never can bear to look through the trees at that ship again. I saw the white sails in the moonlight all that night when I lay watching what was going on, and heard Heins's step in and out, and my mother's voice when she thought nobody heard her; and I could not catch a breath of my father's voice, though I listened till the rustle of my head on the pillow startled me. And then my mother came in, looking so that I thought my father was better; but she came to tell me that I should never hear his voice any more. But O, if she knew how often I have heard it since! how glad I should be to leave off hearing it when I am alone——.”
Poor Christian wept so as not to be comforted till his beloved friend Gertrude came to hear what lie had to say about those whom he believed to be her kindred angels.
Heins was missed from the company soon after the less familiar guests had departed, and left the intimate friends of the family to complete the offices of condolence. Heins was as soon weary of constraint as most people, which made it the more surprising that he imposed on himself so much more of it than was necessary. All knew pretty well what Heins was, though he was perpetually striving to seem something else; and his painful efforts were just so much labour in vain. Every body knew this morning, through all the attempts to feel grief by which he tried to cheat himself and others, that his father's death was quite as much a relief as a sorrow to him; and that, while he wore a face of abstraction, he was longing for some opportunity of getting out upon the quay to learn tidings of the ships and cargoes of which he was now in fact master. The fact was that Heins was as much bent on being rich as his father had been, but he wanted to make greater haste to be so, and to enjoy free scope for a trial of his more liberal commercial notions. For this free scope, he must yet wait; for his partner, Mr. Vanderput, was as steady a man of business, though a less prejudiced one, than the senior Snoek had been; and then there was Mrs. Snoek. She was not permitted, by the customs of the country, to meddle in affairs relating to commerce; but she knew her maternal duty too well not to keep an eye on the disposal of the capital which included the fortunes of her younger children. It was to be apprehended that she would be ready with objections whenever a particularly grand enterprize should demand the union of all the resources of the firm. Some liberty had, however, been gained through the obstinacy of the fever which would not yield to French brandy and Oriental spices; and there were many eyes upon Heins already, to watch how he would set out en his commercial career.
Some of these eyes followed him from his mother's door to the quay, and back again, when he had concluded his inquiries among the captains. It was remarked that there was, during the latter transit, a gloom in his countenance which was no mockery.
On his re-appearance in his mother's parlour, the cause was soon told, first to his partner, next to his mother, and then (as there were none but intimate friends) to all present. The result of the communication was an outcry against the English, as very troublesome neighbours, while the widow's first thought was of thankfulness that her husband had died without hearing news which would have caused him great trouble of mind.: Heins appealed to all who understood the state of Dutch commerce, whether Great Britain had not done mischief enough long ago, by prohibiting the importation of bulky goods by any ships but those which belonged to the exporting or importing country.
“That prohibition was evidently aimed at us Dutch,” observed Vanderput. “We were carriers to half the world, till Great Britain chose that we should no longer carry for her. She might punish herself in that manner, and welcome, if she could do so without punishing us; but it is a serious grievance,—difficult as it now is to find an investment for our capital,—to be obliged to lay by any of our shipping as useless.”
“We did all we could,” said Heins piteously. “Since we could not carry the produce of the East and West into the ports of Great Britain for sale, we brought it here, that the British captains might not have far to go for it. But it seems that Great Britain is jealous of this; for there is a new prohibition (if the report be true) against importing any bulky produce purchased anywhere but in the country where it is produced.”
“I hope this is too bad to be true,” observed Visscher.
“Nothing is too bad to be attempted by a jealous country against one which has been particularly successful in commerce,” observed Snoek. “The tonnage of this country is more than half that of all Europe; and Great Britain thinks it time to lower our superiority. Whether she will gain by doing so, time will show.”
“I think Great Britain is very ill-natured and very mean,” observed Christian, who had generally something to say on every subject that was discussed in his presence. “I think I shall call her Little Britain, from this time. But, Heins, what will you do with all the things you have bought, as you told me, in Asia and America, and in France and Italy? You must send back your cinnamon to Ceylon, and——O, but I forgot that other people may buy them, though the English will not. But I hope you have not bought too much for the present number of your customers. There is another large ship coming from one of the American islands, I heard—”.
He was checked by the remembrance of who it was that told him this. Heins related, with a deep sigh, which might be given to the memory of either the ship or its owner, that the vessel had been wrecked, and was now at the bottom of the sea. This was the other piece of bad news he had to tell. At least two-thirds of his hearers asked after the crew, while the rest inquired for the cargo. The cargo was lost, except a small portion, which had been preserved with difficulty. The crew had been picked up, only one sailor-boy being missing. It was from two of them who had found their way home that Heins had received the tidings of his misfortune.
“One sailor-boy!” repeated Christian. “Do you know how he was lost? Was he blown from the yards, do you think? Or was he washed overboard? or did he go down with the ship?”
Heins did not know any particulars of the sailor-boy. But where? But how? But when did this happen?
It happened where many shipwrecks had happened before, and many would again, and in the same manner. The vessel had struck on the Eddystone rock on a stormy night. This was another nuisance for which the Dutch were indebted to the English. This fatal rock—.
“Did the English make the Eddystone rock?” little Roselyn inquired, in a low voice, of the pastor. “I thought it was God that broke up the fountains of the deeps, and fixed the everlasting hills.” Her wiser brother Christian enlightened her.
“God made this rock; but perhaps he made it so that it might be of use to us, instead of doing us harm, if the English would make the best use of it. Is not that what Heins means, M. Aymond?”
M. Aymond believed that what Mr. Vanderput had just said was true; that the English were about to build a light-house on this dangerous rock, which might thus be made to guide ships into a British harbour, instead of causing them to perish. He trusted that it would appear that Heins was mistaken in saying that many more ships would be lost on that rock; and he hoped that men would learn in time to make all God's works instruments of blessing to their race. Christian carried on the speculation.
“And then, perhaps, man's works may not perish by accident before they are worn out, as this ship did. But yet this was what happened with one of God's works too,—that sailor-boy. He perished before he was worn out. But why do people ever wear out, M. Aymond? Whether a person is drowned at fifteen or dies worn out at eighty, does not much signify, if God could make them live a thousand years. Only think of a person living a thousand years, M. Aymond! He would see cities grow as we see ant-hills rise, while the sea roared against the dykes as it did at the beginning. He would see the stars move so often that he would know them all in their places. He would know almost everything. O! why do not men live a thousand years? and why does God let a young sailor-boy be lost?”
Gertrude whispered, “All the days of Methuselah were nine hundred, sixty and nine years; and he died.”
“Yes,” added the pastor, gravely meeting the kindling eyes of Christian; “death comes sooner or later; and whether it came soon or late would be all in all if we were to live no more. But as man's life is never to end——”
“Ah! I see. If his life is never to end, it does not signify so much when he passes out of one kind of life into another. I was going to ask why there should be any death at all. If I made a world, I would——”
Christian had talked too eagerly, and now was prevented by his cough from speaking any more at present. When he recovered his voice, the pastor turned his attention from the lost sailor-boy to the lost ship, asking whether it had not answered its purpose in making several voyages; whether the skill and toil of the artificers had not been repaid. Christian thought not; and he went on to exhibit as much as he could of the worked up knowledge and labour which had in this instance been engulphed by the waves. He seemed SO much irritated, however, by his imperfection in the knowledge of ship-building, that Gertrude proposed that he should pay her a visit at Saardam, where he might look down from a window upon the dock-yard, and witness nearly the whole process without being moved from his couch. She almost repented the proposal when she saw the poor boy's rapture; but, happily, no one perceived any objection to the plan. The little voyage of seven miles could be made perfectly easy to invalids; and it was quite certain that Christian would be happy with Gertrude, if anywhere. Heins and the pastor contended for the charge of Christian, and old Mr. Slyk, the most punctilious of mourners, allowed that such an indulgence might,—especially with a view to increased knowledge,—be extended to a sufferer like Christian, within the days of strict mourning, provided the mother and the younger children staid at home. Luc clenched his fist on hearing this, and Roselyn pouted; but their jealousy of their brother soon vanished when his dreaded pain came on, and they were put out of the room by their mother, as usual, that they might not become hardened to the expressions of agony which they could not relieve.
They were heartily glad when the day was nearly over;—when there was an end of going from the melancholy burial feast in one room, into the apartment where Gertrude was describing to the now passive Christian spectacles which they were not to see, and pleasures which were held to be incompatible with the mourning of which they already required to be reminded. They were not, however, allowed to retire in this state of forgetfulness of the occasion. The pastor's closing prayer, the solemn looks of the servants, and their mother's silent tears when she laid her hand upon their heads, left them no disposition for complaint as they stole away to their beds.