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Small Souls   By: (1863-1923)

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Author of "The Footsteps of Fate," etc.







This story is translated from the Dutch of Louis Couperus, the foremost novelist in a country which has lately had the good sense to join the Berne Convention. Friends who have seen my version in manuscript suggest to me that certain details of the action and dialogue strike an exotic note to English ears and may therefore need some interpretation. But I could not bring myself to burden a work of fiction with an array of foot notes nor to believe that it is really necessary to explain to readers of Couperus' fellow countryman, "Maarten Maartens," that Dutch men and women of the upper classes still call their parents "Papa" and "Mamma," as the English did in the sixties, and still drink tea after dinner, as the English did in the forties; that, in Holland, persons of quality are not addressed by their titles in conversation; that it is not quite correct, or that it is at least a departure from the aristocratic tradition, for a lady of family not to wash up her own breakfast china at the table; that the Dutch speak of Java as India and sometimes marry native wives, who, nihilo obstante , are "received" by the "family" at home.

I have done my best, by a complicated and perhaps only partly successful system of italics, hyphens and dots, to render the various eccentricities of speech of Cateau van Lowe, Adolphine van Saetzema and Aunt Ruyvenaer. The few Malay words employed by the last named, by Otto van Naghel's wife and by her native nurse are explained in notes as and when they occur.

Small Souls is the first of a series of four novels describing the fortunes of the Van Lowe family and known in Holland by the generic title of The Books of the Small Souls . The remainder will be translated and published if and as the antecedent volumes find favour with English and American readers. They are called: The Later Life, The Twilight of the Souls and Dr. Adriaan .


CHELSEA, 4 December , 1913.



It was pouring with rain; and Dorine van Lowe was tired out when, by way of a last visit, she dropped in on Karel and Cateau just before dinner. But Dorine was pleased with herself. She had gone out immediately after lunch and had trotted and trammed all over the Hague; she had done much, if not everything; and her tired face looked very glad and her bright black eyes sparkled.

"Have meneer and mevrouw gone in to dinner yet, Sientje?" she asked, nervous and breathless, in a sudden fright lest she should be too late.

"No, miss, but it's just on six," said Sientje, severely.

Dorine van Lowe whisked through the hall and rushed upstairs, forgetting to put her wet umbrella in the stand. She clutched it in one hand, together with her skirt, which she forgot to let fall; in her arm she held a parcel pressed close to her, under her cape; in the other hand she carried her muff and her old black satin reticule; with the same hand, making a superhuman effort, she felt for her pocket handkerchief and managed to blow her nose without dropping anything but four or five tram tickets, which flew around her on every side.

Old Sientje followed her with her glance, severely. Then she went to the kitchen, fetched a cloth, silently wiped up a trail of rain and drops along the hall and staircase and carefully picked the tram tickets off the stair carpet.

Dorine walked into her brother's study. Karel van Lowe was sitting placidly by a good fire, reading; his smooth shaven face shone pink and young. He wore his thick, glossy hair neatly combed and brushed into a fine tuft; he dyed his moustache black; and, like Dorine, he had the black eyes of the Van Lowes. His broad figure looked comfortable and well fed in his spruce clothes; his waistcoat lay in thick creases over his stomach; and his watch chain rose and fell with his regular breathing... Continue reading book >>

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