Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 6

Just then Henk came in. “Well, where is it?” he asked, with the self- importance of one who had thought of the idea in the first place, and had already paid his share.

“We’ll have to whistle for it,” answered Jet. “That nasty photographer won’t deliver it without his pay.”

“Well—?”

“Well, nothing!” snapped Dirk. “I didn’t have the twenty-seven fifty, so the messenger took it back.”

“Good Lord,” said Henk, “I thought you knew the fellow. You made the arrangements.”

“Can I make the fellow deliver it?” said Dirk. “I went to see him, but he wasn’t in; won’t be back till the afternoon. If you’d paid your share, I wouldn’t have looked such a fool.”

“You can’t tell me,” said Henk, “that if you’d tried—”

“Are you so flush yourself?” replied Dirk heatedly. “Now, if we’d only bought the chair, we wouldn’t have had to take something we hadn’t s

Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 5

In order that the old man should not suspect what they were doing, they walked about in their stocking feet; and in order not to wake him they pinned the decorations with hairpins rather than hammer and nails. Jet and Mary had to go home with their hair down, for they had used up all their hairpins.

Two slices of bread

On the morning of the great festivity, the sun shone bright on the tulle curtains, and so gilded the flowers in the windows that it was impossible not to enter into a holiday mood. On this lovely morning the whole room, gay with bunting and spruce, was indeed overwhelmingly grand. At nine grandfather was given a large cup of tea in bed, with two slices of bread and butter. They had to keep him upstairs until the photograph should arrive at ten. The photographer had promised to deliver it to Dirk’s by that time, and of course he would keep his word.

They were all dressed in their finest. Jet’s Jan was rehearsing to himself the poem

Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 4

“Well, I don’t think I can guess,” smiled the old man contentedly. Hoping that the two cents which he invariably received from the old man on Sundays might be increased to three, the youngster let slip a hint. “All of us—father, mother, Mary, Aunt Truns, Uncle Dirk, Uncle Piet, Uncle Henk all dressed up in his uniform, ’n all of us, had to sit still for it over half an hour.”

“So,” nodded grandfather, “and will it go in a frame?”

“I’m not allowed to tell that.”

An hour later Henk came in for a glass of something to drink.

Mary a winter overcoat

“Well, father,” he said, “you’ll be Surprised next Wednesday. There’ll be something you’ve never had the like of before. Jet wanted to give you a new Bible, Dirk preferred an armchair, and Mary a winter overcoat. But I put my foot down; I knew you wouldn’t care for things like that. So I said—but you’ll see. It’s no fun if you know beforehand.

Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 3

They were fourteen in all—one more than the unlucky number. The photographer said that he had seldom had the pleasure of seeing a liner group in his studio. It was not easy, however, for the photographer to pose them: Piet’s Willy kept up a continual howl, he was so afraid of the long-haired fellow who kept poking his head under that black cloth, and when the photographer shook his doll above the camera to attract the attention of the other youngsters, Willy set up such a scream that Truns had to get up from her chair to calm him.

This continued fully a quarter of an hour, and when at last they could all get up, everyone was so on edge that they burst out laughing when anyone sighed or spoke. The first two exposures were unsuccessful: the first time Santje sneezed-—on purpose, it seemed; and just as the photographer had counted three, Henk bawled out. The second time Mary’s Charley stood up too soon, because he thought it was all over, Jet’s Jan having pinched h

Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 2

Mary was the second daughter. She had been separated from her husband (at the expense of the state!), and was now expecting her fourth child, before the decree was finally pronounced. She did not like the idea of the armchair. It was like Dirk to propose a thing of that sort! No one forced grandfather to sit on the springs of the old chair, and besides, was it not grandmother who had worn away its seat by constant use! Grandfather had said so a dozen times. If the whole family were going to give him a present, it should be something useful, and not stupid. Now, a winter coat, a warm muffler, a pair of gloves or some good stout slippers—these would be practical, and not nearly so expensive.

The greatest fuss of all

Piet and Frans, neither of whom had contributed anything to the family exchequer during the past year and had paid many visits to the pawnshop, had had to be helped out by grandfather. They made the greatest fuss of all, and were irrevocably set ag

Grandfather’s Birthday Present part 1

Herman Heijermans (1864-1934)

Herman Heijermans, Jr. made his literary debut in 1892 with a peasant novel, and though he continued to write fiction for many years, he was chiefly engaged in writing plays and, in later life, in managing his own theatre in Amsterdam. His now famous Sketches, first issued under the pseudonym of Samuel Falkland, are known simply as “Falklands.” These are quaint and homely tales of the life of the lower middle classes.

Grandfather’s Birthday Present is one of the most delightful of these “Falklands.” The present version was translated by Dr. A. van C. P. Huizinga, especially for this collection. It is included by permission of the author’s heirs.

Grandfather’s Birthday Present

(From Sketches, by “Samuel Falkland”)

“Door as they all were, not one of the family had ever been able to rise even to a moderate state of prosperity. It was an invariable rule among them to be constantly

The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall part 13

He saw everything as it was; everything asked him, Dost remember. He remembers! he sees broad fields; between the fields, woods and villages. It is night now. At this hour his lantern usually fllummates the darkness of the sea; but now he is m his native village.

His old head has dropped on his breast, and he is dreaming. Pictures are passing before his eyes quickly, and a little disorderly. He does not see the house in which he was born, for war had destroyed it ; he does not see his father and mother, for they died when he was a child, stfll th village is as if he had left it yesterday—the line of cottages with light in the windows, the mound, the mill, the two ponds °PPoslt® other, and thundering all night with a chorus of frogs.

Once he had been on guard in that village all night; now that past stood bef°re b at once in a series of views. He is an Uhlan again and he stands there on guard; at a distance is the public-house; he looks with swimming eyes. Th

The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall part 12

Who shinest in Ostrobrama and preservest The castle town Novgrodek with its trusty people,

As Thou didst give me back to health in childhood,

When by my weeping mother placed beneath Thy care I raised my lifeless eyelids upward,

And straightway walked unto Thy holy threshold,

To thank God for the life restored me,

So by a wonder now restore us to the bosom of our birthplace.”

The swollen wave broke through the restraint of his will. The old threw himself on the ground; his milk-white hair was mingled with the sand of the sea. Forty years had passed since he had seen his country, and God knows how many since he heard his native speech; and now that speech had come to him itself it had sailed to him over the ocean, and found him in solitude on another hemisphere it so loved, so dear so beautiful!

Simply implored forgiveness

In the sobbing which shook him there was no pain only a suddenly aroused immen

The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall part 11

The society had sent him the books with thanks. The books came in the natural way; but at the first moment the old man could not seize those thoughts. Polish books in Aspinwall, on his tower, amid his solitude—that was for him something uncommon, a certain breath from past times, a kind of miracle.

Now it seemed to him, as to those sailors in the night, that something was calling him by name with a voice greatly beloved and nearly forgotten. He sat for a while with closed eyes, and was almost certain that, when he opened them, the dream would be gone.

The package, cut open, lay before him, shone upon clearly by the afternoon sun, and on it was an open book. When the old man stretched his hand toward it again, he heard in the stillness the beating of his own heart. He looked; it was poetry. On the outside stood printed in great letters the title, underneath the name of the author.

Strange to Skavinski

The name was not strange to Skavinski;

The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall part 10

Whole weeks passed in this way, so that no one saw him and he saw no one. The only signs that the old man was living were the disappearance of the provisions left on shore, and the light of the lantern kindled every evening with the same regularity with which the sun rose in the morning from the waters of those regions.

Evidently, the old man had become indifferent to the world. Homesickness was not the cause, but just this—that even homesickness had passed into resignation. The whole world began now and ended for Skavinski on his island. He had grown accustomed to the thought that he would not leave the tower till his death, and he simply forgot that there was anything else besides it.

Ceasing to exist

Moreover, he had become a mystic; his mild blue eyes began to stare like the eyes of a child, and were as if fixed on something at a distance. In presence of a surrounding uncommonly simple and great, the old man was losing the feeling of personal

The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall part 9

Farther on, between Aspinwall and Panama, was a great forest over which every morning and evening hung a reddish haze of exhalations—a real tropical forest with its feet in stagnant water, interlaced with lianas and filled with the sound of one sea of gigantic orchids, palms, milk-trees, iron-trees, gum-trees.

Through his field-glass the old man could see not only trees and the broad leaves of bananas, but even legions of monkeys and great marabous and flocks of parrots, rising at times like a rainbow cloud over the forest. Skavinski knew such forests well, for after being wrecked on the Amazon he had wandered whole weeks among similar arches and thickets. He had seen how many dangers and deaths lie concealed under those wonderful and smiling exteriors.

Torpedo fish and swarming with crocodiles

During the nights which he had spent in them he heard close at hand the sepulchral voices of howling monkeys, and the roaring of the jaguars; he saw gigant

The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall part 8

From early morning a light eastern breeze brought a confused hum of human life, above which predominated the whistle of steamers. In the afternoon six o’clock came; the movements in the harbor began to cease; the mews hid themselves in the rents of the cliffs; the waves grew feeble and became in some sort lazy; and then on the land, on the sea, and on the tower came a time of stillness unbroken by anything.

The yellow sands from which the waves had fallen back glittered like golden stripes on the width of the waters; the body of the tower was outlined definitely in blue. Floods of sunbeams were poured from the sky on the water and the sands and the cliff. At that time a certain lassitude full of sweetness seized the old man. He felt that the rest which he was enjoying was excellent; and when he thought that it would be continuous nothing was lacking to him.

Men built houses for invalids

Skavinski was intoxicated with his own happiness; and since a

The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall part 7

If the infinity of the sea may call out thus, perhaps when a man is growing old, calls come to him, too, from another infinity Still darker and more deeply mysterious; and the more he is wearied by life the dearer are those calls to him. But to hear them quiet is needed.

Beacon tower

Besides old age loves to put itself aside, as if with a foreboding of the grave. The lighthouse had become for Skavinski such a half grave. Nothing is more monotonous than life on a beacon-tower. If young people consent to take up this service they leave it after a time. Lighthouse keepers are generally men not young, gloomy, and confined to themselves.

If by chance one of them leaves his lighthouse and goes among men, he walks in the midst of them like a person roused from deep slumber. On the tower there is a lack of minute impressions which in ordinary life teach men to adapt themselves to everything. All that a lighthouse keeper comes in contact with is gigantic an

The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall part 6

It is true that such modest happiness was his due; but he was so accustomed to disappointments that he thought of rest as people in general think of something which is beyond reach. He did not dare to hope for it. Meanwhile, unexpectedly, in the course of twelve hours he had gained a position which was as if chosen for him out of all the world.

We are not to wonder, then, that when he lighted his lantern in the evening he became as it were dazed—that he asked himself if that was reality, and he did not dare to answer that it was. But at the same time reality convinced him with incontrovertible proofs; hence hours one after another passed while he was on the balcony. He gazed, and convinced himself. It might seem that he was looking at the sea for the first time in his life.

From the darkness

The lens of the lantern cast into the darkness an enormous triangle of light, beyond which the eye of the old man was lost in the black distance completely,

The Lighthouse Keeper of Aspinwall part 5

He believed that some mighty and vengeful hand was pursuing him everywhere, on all lands and waters. He did not like, however, to speak of this; only at times, when someone asked him whose hand that could be, he pointed mysteriously to the Polar Star, and said, “It comes from that place.” In reality his failures were so continuous that they were wonderful, and might easily drive a nail into the head, especially of the man who had experienced them.

Means of salvation

But Skavinski had the patience of an Indian, and that great calm power of resistance which comes from truth of heart. In his time he had received in Hungary a number of bayonet-thrusts because he would not grasp at a stirrup which was shown as means of salvation to him, and cry for quarter. In like manner he did not bend to misfortune. He crept up against the mountain as industriously as an ant. Pushed down a hundred times, he began his journey calmly for the hundred and first time.