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