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

A Domestic Animal part 5

“Thither she escaped, hither she ran!”

The confusion itself was very extraordinary.

“Surely, Pup is killed,” Ko chan said, trembling.

At last, she has escaped. A man with a big oak club in his hand, shook his head to his companion. “No use, no use,” the policeman said and laughed when he went out the gate. With disappointed looks the two men drew away the empty carriage.

Comfortably lying on the moist earth

Anyway she had escaped with her life. And, by and by, her bosom became larger. Her eyes began to be shaded with the restless color. Now she must guard not only herself, but also her children within her womb. Thus the pleasant shade of Mokusei was no more the place for security. Even when she was comfortably lying on the moist earth, breathing out her agony for a while, she stood up as soon as she saw the shadow of a man. She could not be negligent even for a moment. To her eyes, there was nothing as merciless and cr

A Domestic Animal part 4

Meanwhile, the spring has come. And at the time when the frost began to melt she seemed to be quite grown up. All the dogs, from Kin san’s Pochi to Kuro of the bathing house, Aka of the timber-dealer’s, and the fearful big dog which was kept at the neighboring planter’s, gathered around her. Wherever she goes, she is followed by two or three dogs. So a comfortable place like that shade of Mokusei was overflowing with deep groans of dogs that sounded as if they wished to whisper or to flatter.

An aunt who came to the well-side with a hand-pail in her hand, saw this sight.

“My! ’’she said. “Pup was a female dog! I never noticed that!”

And the aunt of the new rent house, who happened to be there, also said:

“Neither did I!”

And the two aunts laughed, greatly amused.

According to the point of view

She ought to be banished. Such was the argument which was raised in the estate of Kin san. Among th

A Domestic Animal part 3

It was not only once or twice that she met such hard experiences. But she was not a dog to be crushed down by this kind of hardship. She would hunt around for food with calm composure, with the appearance of saying: “This is my own territory.” Boldly she stepped into the new kitchen of the rent house, or went up to the veranda with her dirty feet.

Washed things of the aunts

She bit off the laces from the garden slippers, and played with the washed things of the aunts, smearing them with mud and dust. She had no regard for the human children. This family had a girl named Ko chan, who liked to come out to play in the yard, in big wooden clogs trailing on the ground. She chased this girl for fun. Sometimes, Ko chan would bring out a piece of tasty-looking cake and show it to her.

“Look here! Look here, Pup!”

Instantly she jumped at Ko chan.

“Oh, Pup is wicked, mamma!”

This was always Ko chan’s cry for help. T

A Domestic Animal part 1

Shimazaki Toson (1871-1943)

Shimazaki Toson began writing as a poet of the new era, but after the Russo-Japanese war, he turned to naturalistic fiction. He wrote novels derived more or less directly from Europe, but in his short stories he remained more genuinely Japanese. “Intimacy with nature,” says the translator, “and intimacy with life,” are felt throughout his little stories.

This story, translated by Torao Taketomo, is reprinted from the volume, Paulownia, copyright, 1918, by Duffield & Go., New York, by permission of the publisher.

A Domestic Animal

Her first misfortune was at her birth; she came into the world with short gray hair, overhanging ears, and fox-like eyes. Every animal which is called by favor domestic has a certain quality which attracts to itself the friendly feeling of man. But she did not have it. Nothing in her countenance seemed to be favored by man. She was entirely lacking in the usual qualification

Forebodings Two Sketches part 5

This condition of lonely self-torment lasted a long while, and increased his exasperation.

And then, one day, he noticed that his healthy foot was growing stiff and the ankle swelling. When the head-surgeon came on his daily rounds, the patient confided his fear to him. The doctor examined the emaciated limb, unobserved lanced the abscess, perceived that the probe reached to the bone, rubbed his hands together and looked into the peasant’s face with a sad, doubtful look.

Better off than in your cottage

“This is a bad job, my good fellow. It may mean the other foot; was that what you were thinking of? And you are a bad subject. But we will do it for you here; you will be better off than in your cottage, we will give you plenty to eat.” And he passed on, accompanied by his assistant. At the door he turned back, bent over the sick man, and furtively, so that no one should see, passed his hand kindly over his head.

The peasant’s mind tj