M2: Unit 2: Chapter 3 – Translation 3 (Edwards 1967)

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Translation 3: Edwards 1967

<1> Are you Juffrouw26 Scarfman?’ I asked.
<2> ‘To whom have I the honour of speaking?’ she said, and in a tone that seemed to imply that I could have introduced some honour into my question.
<3> Well, I’m not fond of paying compliments. <4> It’s a different thing with a principal, and I’ve been in business too long not to know my world. <5> But I didn’t see the necessity of mincing matters on a third floor. <6> So I said bluntly that I was Mr Droogstoppel, coffee broker, 37 Lauriergracht, and that I wanted to speak to her husband.
<7> She motioned me to a cane chair, and took on her lap a little girl who had been playing on the floor. <8> The little boy I had heard singing stared fixedly at me, looking me up and down from head to foot. <9> He didn’t seem at all shy, either! <10> He was about six years old, and likewise dressed peculiarly. <11> His baggy trousers came hardly halfway down his thighs, and his legs were bare from there to his ankles. <12> Most indecent, I thought.
<13> ‘Have you come to see Papa?’ he asked abruptly; and I immediately realized that the education of that child had left much to be desired, otherwise he would have spoken in the second person plural, as behoves a little boy addressing his elders and betters, and not used the form reserved for equals and inferiors. <14> But as I felt a bit awkward myself, and was disposed to talk, I answered:
<15> ‘Yes, my little man, I’ve come to see your Papa. <16> Do you think he’ll soon be home?’
<17> ‘I don’t know. <18> He is out, looking for money to buy me a paintbox.’ <19> (Frits writes it as two words, but I don’t, then it’s sooner over.)
<20> ‘Be quiet, child,’ said the woman. <21> ‘Go and play with your pictures, or with your Chinese musical box.’
<22> ‘Well, Juffrouw,’ I asked, ‘do you expect your husband back soon?’
<23> ‘I cannot say for certain,’ she answered.<24> Suddenly the little boy, who had started to play at rowing boats with his little sister, left her and asked me:
<25> ‘Sir, why do you call Mama “Juffrouw”?’
<26> ‘What do you mean, laddie?’ I said. <27> ‘What else should I call her?’
<28> ‘Why … the same as other people do! <29> The woman downstairs is “Juffrouw”, she sells cups and saucers.’
<30> Now I am a coffee broker – Last & Co., 37 Lauriergracht; there are thirteen of us in the office – fourteen if you count Stern, who gets no salary. <31> Very well then … my wife is still ‘Juffrouw’ and yet I was to say ‘Mevrouw’ to this person! <32> Surely that was absurd?<33> Everyone must know their station, and what was more, only yesterday the bailiffs had taken away all the valuables. <34> So I considered my ‘Juffrouw’ quite correct, and stuck to it.

<35> Scarfman had indeed called. <36> He had seen Stern, and had explained to him some words and matters which he didn’t understand. <37> Which Stern didn’t understand, I mean. <38> I must now ask the reader to wade through the following chapters, and then, I promise him, later on he will get something more solid, from me, Batavus Droogstoppel, coffee broker, of Last & Co., 37 Lauriergracht.

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26  (Tr.) See Note 13.
{Note 13: (Tr.) In the Netherlands until very recently all women of the working and lower middle classes were addressed as ‘Juffrouw’ = Miss, whether they were single or married. ‘Mevrouw’ = Mrs was reserved for their married betters!]