Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice

Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
The Quest

By Frederik van Eeden

(The most widely read of modern Dutch novels, this story of the life of “Little Johannes” is perhaps the most successful of the many attempts that have been made to portray the coming of Jesus into the modern world. Johannes is a boy of good family, who meets a strange, homeless workingman, to whom he becomes devoted, and whom he calls his “Brother.” In the present selection Jesus has been held for examination as to his sanity)
“DOES he often have those whims, Johannes,” asked Dr. Cijfer, “when he will not speak?”  1
  “He has no whims,” said Johannes, stoutly.  2
  “Why, then, will he not reply?”  3
  “I think you would not answer me,” returned Johannes, “if I were to ask you if you were mad.”  4
  The two learned men exchanged smiles.  5
  “That is a somewhat different situation,” said Bommeldoos, haughtily.  6
  “He was not questioned in such a blunt manner as that,” explained Doctor Cijfer. “I asked about his extraction, his age, the health of his father and mother, about his own youth, and so forth—the usual memory promptings. Will you not give us some further information concerning him? Remember, it is of real importance to your brother.”  7
  “Mijnheer,” said Johannes, “I know as little as yourself about all that.…”  8
  There was a knock at the door. The nurse came and said, “Here is the patient.” Then he let Markus in.…  9
  Markus had on a dark-blue linen blouse, such as all the patients of the working-class wear. He stood tall and erect, and Johannes observed that his face was less pale and sad than usual. The blue became his dark curling hair, and Johannes felt happy and confident as he looked at him—standing there so proud and calm and handsome.  10
  “Take a seat,” said Dr. Cijfer.  11
  But Markus seemed not to have heard, and remained standing, while he nodded kindly and reassuringly to Johannes.  12
  “Observe his pride,” said Professor Bommeldoos, in Latin to Dr. Cijfer.  13
  “The proud find pride, and the gloomy, gloom; but the glad find gladness, and the lowly, humility,” said Markus.  14
  Dr. Cijfer stood up, and took his measuring instrument from the table. Then, in a quiet, courteous tone, he said:  15
  “Will you not permit us, Mijnheer, to take your head measure? It is for a scientific purpose?”  16
  “It gives no pain,” added Bommeldoos.  17
  “Not to the body,” said Markus.  18
  Said Dr. Cijfer, “There is nothing in it to offend one. I have had it done to myself many a time.”  19
  “There is a kind of opinionativeness and denseness that offend.”  20
  Bommeldoos flushed. “Opinionativeness and denseness! Mine, perchance? Am I such an ignoramus? Opinionated and stupid!”  21
  “Colleague!” exclaimed Dr. Cijfer, in gentle expostulation. And then, as he enclosed Markus’s head with the shining craniometer, he gave the measurement figures. A considerable time passed, nothing being heard save the low voice of the doctor dictating the figures. Then, as if proceeding with his present occupation, taking advantage of what he considered a compliant mood of the patient, the crafty doctor fancied he saw his opportunity, and said:  22
  “Your parents certainly dwelt in another country—one more southerly and more mountainous.”  23
  But Markus removed the doctor’s hand, with the instrument, from his head, and looked at him piercingly.  24
  “Why are you not sincere?” he then asked, with gentle stress. “How can truth be found through untruth?”  25
  Dr. Cijfer hesitated, and then did exactly what Father Canisius had done—something which, later, he was of the opinion he ought not to have done: he argued with him.  26
  “But if you will not give me a direct reply I am obliged to get the truth circuitously.”  27
  Said Markus, “A curved sword will not go far into a straight scabbard.”  28
  Professor Bommeldoos grew impatient, and snapped at the doctor aside, in a smothered voice: “Do not argue, Colleague, do not argue! Megalomaniacs are smarter, and sometimes have subtler dialectic faculties than you have. Just let me conduct the examination.”  29
  And then, after a loud “h’m! h’m!” he said to Markus:  30
  “…Now just tell me, frankly, my friend, are you a prophet? An apostle? Are you perhaps the King? Or are you God himself?”  31
  Markus was silent.  32
  “Why do you not answer now?”  33
  “Because I am not being questioned.”  34
  “Not being questioned! What, then, am I now doing?”  35
  “Raving,” said Markus.  36
  Bommeldoos flushed, and lost his composure.  37
  “Be careful, my friend. You must not be impertinent. Remember that we may decide your fate here.”  38
  Markus lifted his head, with a questioning air, so earnest that the professor held his peace.  39
  “With whom rests the decision of our fate?” asked Markus. Then, pointing with his finger: “Do you consider yourself the one to decide?”  40
  After that he uttered not a word. Dr. Cijfer questioned with gentle stress, Professor Bommeldoos with vehement energy; but Markus was silent, and seemed not to notice that there were others in the room.  41
  “I adhere to my diagnosis, Colleague,” said Bommeldoos.  42
  Dr. Cijfer rang, and ordered the nurse to come.  43
  “Take the patient to his ward again. He will remain, for the present, under observation.”  44
  Markus went, after making a short but kindly inclination of the head to Johannes.  45
  “Will you not tell us now, Johannes, what you know of this person?” asked Dr. Cijfer.  46
  “Mijnheer,” replied Johannes, “I know but little more of him than you do yourself. I met him two years ago, and he is my dearest friend; but I have seen him rarely, and have never inquired about his life nor his origin.”  47
  “Remarkable!” exclaimed Dr. Cijfer.  48
  “Once again, Colleague, I stand by my diagnosis,” said Bommeldoos. “Initial paranoia, with megalomaniacal symptoms, on the basis of hereditary inferiority, with vicarious genius.”  49

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