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 Massacre of the Innocents part 8

Round
the churchyard a multitude gathered in front of a long low green farmhouse. The
proprietor wept bitterly as he stood in his door-way. He was a fat,
jolly-looking man, and happened to arouse the compassion of a few soldiers who
sat near the wall in the sunlight, patting a dog. The soldier who was taking
off his child made gestures as if to convey the meaning, “What can I do? I’m
not to blame!”

One
peasant who was being pursued leaped into a boat near the stone bridge, and,
with his wife and children, rowed quickly across that part of the pond that was
not frozen. The Spaniards, who dared not follow, walked angrily among the reeds
by the shore. They climbed into the willows along the bankside, trying to reach
the boat with their lances. Unable to do so, they continued to threaten the
fugitives, who drifted out over the dark water.

The
orchard was still thronged with people: it was there, in the pres-ence of the
white-bearded commanding officer, that mos

The Massacre of the Innocents part 7

One
family, who had concealed themselves in the cellar of a large house, stood at
the gratings and wildly lamented, while the father desperately brandished his
pitchfork through the grating. Outside, an old bald-headed fellow sat on a
manure-heap, sobbing to himself. In the square a woman dressed in yellow had
fainted away, her weeping husband holding her up by the arms against a
pear-tree.

Another
woman, in red, clutched her little girl, whose hands had been cut off, and
lifted the child’s arms to see whether she could move. Still another woman was
escaping toward the open country, the soldiers running after her among the
haystacks, which stood out in sharp relief against the snow-covered fields.

Before
the Four Sons of Aymon confusion reigned. The peasants had made a barricade
while the soldiers encircled the inn, unable to effect an entrance. They were
trying to climb up to the sign-board by means of the vines, when they caught
sight of a ladder behind the

The Massacre of the Innocents part 6

There
had been a kermesse in this house: relatives had come to feast on waffles,
hams, and custards. At the sound of the smashing of windows they crouched
together behind the table, still laden with jugs and dishes.

The
soldiers went to the kitchen and after a savage fight in which many were
wounded, they seized all the small boys and girls, and a little servant who had
bitten the thumb of one soldier, left the house and closed the door behind them
to prevent their being followed.

Those
who had no children cautiously came forth from their houses and followed the
soldiers at a distance. They could see them throw down their victims on the
ground before the old man, and cold-bloodedly massacre them with lances or
swords.

Meanwhile
men and women crowded the windows of the blue farmhouse and the barn, cursing
and raising their arms to heaven as they contemplated the pink, red, and white
clothes of their motionless children on the ground among the trees. Th

The Massacre of the Innocents part 5

The
parishioners inquired of him in undertones, “What does he say? What is he going
to do?” Others, seeing the curt: in the orchard, emerged cautiously from their
huts, and women hastily came near and whispered in small groups among
themselves, while the soldiers who had been besieging the inn, came out again
when they saw the crowd assembling in the square.

Then
he who held the innkeeper’s child by one leg, cut off its head with a stroke of
the sword. The peasants saw the head fall, and the body bleeding on the ground.
The mother gathered it to her arms, forgetting the head, and ran toward her
house. On the way she stumbled against a tree, fell flat on the snow and lay in
a faint, while the father struggled with two soldiers.

Horror to the accompaniment

Some
of the younger peasants threw stones and wood at the Spaniards, but the horsemen
rallied and lowered their lances, the women scattered in all directions, while
the curd wi

The Massacre of the Innocents part 4

They
made their way toward the Golden Sun and knocked at the door. It was opened
with some hesitancy, and the Spaniards entered, warmed themselves before the
fire, and demanded ale. They then left the inn, taking with them pots,
pitchers, and bread for their companions, and the old man with the white beard
who stood waiting among his soldiers.

 As the street was still deserted, the
commanding officer sent off some horsemen behind the houses to guard the
village on the side facing the open country, and ordered the footmen to bring
to him all children two years old or under, as he intended to massacre them, in
accordance with what is written in the Gospel of St. Matthew.

The
men went first to the small inn of the Green Cabbage and the barber’s hut,
which stood close to each other in the central part of the street. One of them
opened the pigsty and a whole litter of pigs escaped and roamed about through
the village. The innkeeper and the barber came out of th

The Massacre of the Innocents part 3

The
sisters of the dead woman and various other relatives got into the cart, and
the curt: as well, for he was old and very fat and could walk only with the
greatest difficulty. They drove off into the wood, and in silence reached the
wide open fields, where they saw the dead soldiers, stripped naked, and the
horses lying on their backs on the shining ice among the trees.

They
went on toward the farm, which was still burning in the midst of the open
fields.

When
they reached the orchard of the burning house, they stopped short before the
garden gate and looked upon the terrible tragedy. Korneliz’ wife hung, naked,
from the branches of a huge chestnut. He himself climbed up a ladder into the
branches of the tree, below which his nine little girls awaited their mother on
the lawn. Korneliz made his way through the arching boughs overhead when all at
once, outlined against the bright snow, he caught sight of the crowd beneath,
looking up at him.