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 he was to address to grandfather when the old man should join them. His footsteps were now heard upstairs, pacing back and forth. He had already twice called down to inquire how long he was to be kept waiting.

On the stroke of ten, Dirk stepped into the little garden from the street. But his hands were empty and his countenance was woeful.

“Where’s the picture?” gasped Jet, trembling with excitement. “Didn’t he send it to you?”

“Haven’t you got it with you?” asked Mary. “For goodness’ sake, say something! What are you standing there like that for?”

“The old curmudgeon!” growled Dirk, clenching his fist. “He sent it all right, but with the bill to be collected on delivery.”

“Collected on delivery!”

“Yes, and he promised to—I’d like to smash his teeth in for him! As if I wasn’t going to pay him!”

“Then why didn’t you give him the money?” inquired Truns in perfect innocence, though she had already determined not to pay her share until the picture had been delivered. “We’re all good for our shares.”

“What the devil!” snarled Dirk. “Do you run around with that much loose cash in your pocket? Did you expect me to pay it out of the drugstore cash-box?”

“Come, come,” said Frans, trying to smooth matters, “nobody could expect you to do that. After all, didn’t the photographer tell us all we didn’t have to pay if the picture wasn’t right? Cash on delivery, the idea! You can’t ask people to buy a pig in a poke like that!”

“Well, it’ll be a surprise for us all,” said Piet, who was quite unconcerned over the matter of payment.

Mustafa
istanbul@istanbulday.com

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