Dutch Twins - Lucy F. Perkins
One Sunday morning in early fall, Kit and Kat woke up and peeped out from their cupboard bed to see what was going on in the world.
The sun was shining through the little panes of the kitchen window, making square patches of light on the floor. The kettle was singing on the fire, and Vrouw Vedder was already putting away the breakfast things.
Father Vedder was lighting his pipe with a coal from the fire. He had on his black Sunday clothes, all ready for church. Father Vedder did not look at Kit and Kat at all. He just puffed away at his pipe and said to himself,
"If there are any Twins anywhere that want to go to church with me, they 'd better get dressed and eat their breakfasts."
Kit and Kat tumbled out of the cupboard at once.
Vrouw Vedder came to help them dress.
I can't tell you how many petticoats she put on Kat, but it was ever so many. And over them all she put a skirt of plaid. There was a waist of a different color, and over that a kerchief with bright red roses on it. And over the skirt she put a new, clean apron.
Kit was dressed very splendidly too. He had full baggy trousers of velveteen that reached to his ankles, and a jacket that buttoned with big silver buttons. His trousers had pockets in them.
Kit and Kat both wore stockings, which Vrouw Vedder had knit, and their best shoes of stout leather.
When they were all dressed, Vrouw Vedder stood them up side by side and had them turn around slowly to be sure they were all right.
"Now see that you behave well in meeting," she said. "Sit up straight. Look at the Dominie, and do not whisper."
"Yes, Mother," said Kit and Kat.
Then she tied a big apron over each of them and gave them each a bowl of bread and milk. While they were eating it, Father Vedder went out and looked at the pigs, and chickens, and ducks, and geese, and smoked his pipe.
When he came in, Kit and Kat were quite ready. Vrouw Vedder had tied on Kat's little white-winged cap, and put Kit's hat on. She kissed them good-bye, and they were off—one on each side of Father Vedder, holding tight to his hands.
Mother Vedder looked after them proudly, from the doorway. She did not go to church that day.
They walked slowly along the roadway in the bright sunshine. Many of their neighbors and friends, all dressed in their best, were walking to church, too.
Father Vedder and Kit and Kat went a little out of their way, in order to pass a large windmill that was swinging its arms around and creaking out a kind of sleepy windmill song. This is the song it seemed to sing:—
Around, and around, and around, I go,
Sometimes fast and sometimes slow.
I pump the water and grind the grain,
The marshy fields of the Lowlands, drain.
I harness the wind to turn my mill,
Around, and around, and around with a will!
Perhaps it was listening to the windmill song that made Kat say,
"Why do we have windmills, father?"
Kit and Kat said "Why?" every few steps on that walk. You see, they did n't often have their father all to themselves, to ask questions of.
"Why, what a little Dutch girl," said Father Vedder, "not to know what windmills are for! They pump the water out of the fields, to be sure! Don't you know how wet the fields are sometimes? If we did n't keep pumping the water out, they would be so wet we could not make gardens at all."
"Does the wind pump the water?" asked Kat.
"Of course it does, goosie girl! and grinds the grain too. The wind blows against the great arms and turns them round and round. That works the pumps; and the pumps suck the water out of the fields, and it is poured out into the canals. If it were n't for the good old windmills working away, who knows but the water would get the best of us some day and cover up all our land!"
"Would n't the dykes keep out the sea?" asked Kit.
"Suppose the dykes should break!" said Father Vedder. "Even one little break can let in lots of water. The dykes have to be watched day and night all the time, and the least bit of a hole stopped up right away, so it can't grow any bigger and let in the sea."
"Oh dear," Kat said, "what a leaky country!"
She ran near the mill and let the wind from the fans blow her hair and the white wings on her cap.
As the great fans swung near the ground, Kit jumped up and caught hold of one. It lifted him right off the ground as it swung around, and in a minute he was dangling high in the air.
"Jump, jump, quick," shouted Father Vedder.
Kit let go and dropped to the ground just in time. In another minute he would have been carried clear over.
As it was, he sat down very hard on the ground, and had to have the dirt brushed off of his Sunday clothes.
"I am surprised at you," Father Vedder said, while he brushed him. "You are too small to swing on windmills, and besides it is the Sabbath day. Don't you ever do it again until you are big enough to be called Christopher!"
Sitting down so hard in the dirt had hurt Kit a little bit, and scared him a good deal, so he said, "No, father."
Then they walked all around the mill. They peeped inside a door which was open, and saw the pumps working away.
"Yes," said Father Vedder, "it is nip and tuck between wind and water in Holland. Let us sit down here on the canal bank, in the sunshine, and I will tell you what hard work has to be done to keep this good land of ours. And it is a good land! We should be thankful for it! Just see the rich green meadows over there, with the cows grazing in them!"—Father Vedder pointed to the beautiful fields across the canal. "The grass is so rich and fresh, that the cows here give more milk than any other cows in the whole world!"
"That's what Mother says," said Kat.
"The Holland butter and cheese are famous everywhere," went on Father Vedder; "and we have all the good milk we want to drink, besides. The Dutch gardens, too, are the finest in the world."
"And ours is one of the best of Dutch gardens, is n't it, Father?" said Kit.
"It's a very good garden," said Father Vedder, proudly. "No one can raise better onions and cabbage and carrots than I can. And the Dutch bulbs! Our tulips and hyacinths make the whole world bloom!"
"Holland is really the greatest country there is; is n't it?" said Kit.
"We—ll, not in point of size, perhaps," Father Vedder admitted; "but in pluck, my boy, it is! Did you know that sometimes people call Holland the Land of Pluck?"
"I don't see why," said Kat. "I 'm Dutch, but I 'm afraid of lots of things! I 'm afraid of spiders and of cross geese, and of falling into the water!"
"You're a girl, if you are Dutch," said Kit. "Boys are always pluckier than girls; are n't they, Father?"
"Really plucky people never boast," said Father Vedder.
Kit looked the other way and dug the toe of his shoe into the dirt. Kat snuggled up to her Father and sniffed at Kit.
"So there, Kit!" was all she said.
"There 's pluck enough to go round," said Father Vedder mildly, "and we all need it—boys and girls, and men and women too. It was pluck that made Holland, and it 's pluck that keeps her from slipping back into the sea."
"How did pluck make Holland?" asked Kit.
"There was n't any Holland in the first place," Father Vedder answered. "There were only some marshes and some lands under water. But people built a wall of earth around these flats; and then they pumped out the water from the space inside the wall, and made canals through the land, and drained it. And after all that work, we have our rich fields."
"How does pluck keep them?" asked Kat.
"The dykes have to be watched and mended all the time," said Father Vedder. "And the windmills have to work and work, to keep the fields drained. No one can be lazy in Holland. Each one has to work well for what he gets. If Holland should grow lazy, she would soon be back again in the Zuyder Zee! So, my children, you see you must learn well and work hard. And that is all my sermon to-day."
"It is a better sermon than the Dominie will preach, I know," said Kat.
"Tut, tut! You must never say such things," said Father Vedder. He got up and held out his hands to the Twins.
"Come! we must walk along, or we shall be late for church," he said. "Here comes the Dominie now."
There indeed was the Dominie! Kit and Kat knew him well. No one else dressed as he did. He wore a high silk hat, and long, black coat and trousers, such as city people wear.
As he came along the road, all the people bowed respectfully; the little boys took off their caps, and the little girls bobbed a courtesy. Kit and Kat bobbed and courtesied too, and the Dominie smiled at them and laid his hand on Kit's head.
"I wish he'd come to see us again," said Kit, after the Dominie had passed by.
Father Vedder was pleased.
"I am glad to see that you love your pastor, my son," he said.
"Well," said Kit, "I don't really like him so very much, because we have to be washed, and recite the catechism, and mind all our manners when he comes. But Mother always has such good things to eat when the Dominie comes—doesn't she, Kat?—cake and preserves—and everything!"
"If it were n't for the catechism and such things, it would be something like St. Nicholas day!" sighed Kat. "But the Dominie never forgets! And last time I could n't tell what saving grace was! The cakes are good, but—"
"Good Dutch boys and girls always learn their catechism well," said Father Vedder; "then they are glad to see the good Dominie as well as the cakes. Now no more chatter! Here is a penny for each of you to put in the bag when it is passed."
He gave them each a penny. Kit put his in his pocket. Kat did n'thave a pocket, so she held hers tight in her hand.
At the church door they met Grandfather and Grandmother.
Grandfather looked very fine indeed, in his black clothes; and Grandmother was all dressed up in her best black dress, with a fresh white cap, and a shawl over her shoulders. She carried a large psalm book with golden clasps in one hand, and a scent bottle in the other. She had some peppermints too. Kit and Kat smelled them.
They all went into the church together, and an old woman led them to their seats. Kit and Kat sat one each side of Grandmother. Grandfather and Father Vedder sat on the other side of the church with all the rest of the men.
"You must sit very still and look straight before you," said Grandmother.
Kit remembered the peppermints and sat up like a soldier. So did Kat.
Pretty soon the schoolmaster came in and went up into the pulpit. He read a chapter from the Bible, and then the Dominie stood up in the pulpit and began to preach. He preached a long time.
Kit and Kat tried very hard to sit still, just as Grandmother had said; but pretty soon their heads began to nod.
Grandmother gave them each a peppermint.
They waked up for a minute. But the Dominie kept right on preaching, until they were both sound asleep with their heads on Grandmother's shoulders,—one on each side; and if they had been awake to see, they might have thought that Grandmother took a nap too.
The sermon was so very long that a great many people went to sleep. So, by and by, the Dominie said,
"We will all sing the Ninety-first Psalm."
Everybody woke up.
Grandmother opened the great golden clasps of her psalm book, and stood up with all the rest of the people. She stood up quickly, so that no one would think she had been asleep. She forgot that the Twins were asleep too, with their heads on her shoulders. That was why, when she got up, Kit and Kat fell against each other and bumped their heads!
They forgot that they were in church. They said "Ow!" both together, and Kat began to cry. But Grandmother said "Sh! sh!" and gave them each a peppermint; and that made them feel much better.
Pretty soon the schoolmaster came along with a little bag on the end of along stick. He passed it to each person. Kit and Kat each put in a penny, though Kit had a hard time to get his out of his pocket. But Grandmother was so upset about the Twins getting bumped, that she forgot and put in a peppermint instead.
When church was over and they were out on the street again, Grandmother said,
"Now you are coming home with me to stay all night."
"Really and truly?" said the Twins. "And may we go with Grandfather to carry the milk in the morning?"
"Yes," said Grandfather, "and Kit may drive the dogs."
Kit jumped right up and down, he was so happy even if it was Sunday.
"May I too?—May I too?" asked Kat.
"You are a girl," said Grandfather. "You may ride in the wagon."
"Oh, I wish to-morrow would come right away," said Kat.
Then Kit and Kat said good-bye to Father Vedder and went home with Grandmother and Grandfather.
They lived on a little street in the town, where the houses stood in a row close together. The houses were built of brick and had wooden shutters at the windows, and they were so clean they shone in the sun.
This is a picture of Grandmother's house and of Grandmother and Kit and Kat going in. The door opened right into the kitchen.
Grandmother put away her shawl and psalm book and scent bottle as soon as she was home. Then she put on a big apron and drew out the round table.
She boiled the kettle and made coffee; and, when it was done, she set the coffee-pot on a pretty little porcelain stove on the table to keep hot. She got out bread and cheese and smoked beef and, best of all, a plate of little cakes.
Then they all four sat down to eat. I will not tell you how many cakes Kit and Kat ate, but it was a good many.
After dinner, Grandmother put away the things, and Kat helped her.
Kit sat beside Grandfather in the doorway while he smoked. Pretty soon Grandfather said,
"Bring me my accordeon, Kit."
Kit ran to the press in the corner. He knew where the accordeon was kept.
Then Grandfather took the accordeon, tipped his head back, shut his eyes and began to play, beating time with one foot. Kat heard the music and came out too.
She and Kit sat down on the doorstep, one on each side of Grandfather, to listen.
Grandfather played six tunes.
Then Grandmother said,
"Why don't we go to the woods to hear the band play?"
"No reason at all," said Grandfather. So very soon they were on their way to a grove on the edge of the town.
In the grove a band was playing; and just as the Twins and Grandfather and Grandmother came up, it began to play the national hymn of Holland. All the people began to sing. There were a great many people in the grove, and they all sang as loud as they could; so there was a great sound. Grandfather and Grandmother and Kit and Kat all sang too; for they all knew every word of the hymn.
This is what they sang:—
Let him in whom old Dutch blood flows,
Untainted, free and strong;
Whose heart for Prince and Country glows,
Now join us in our song;
Let him with us lift up his voice,
And sing in patriot band,
The song at which all hearts rejoice,
For Prince and Fatherland,
For Prince and Fatherland.
We brothers, true unto a man,
Will sing the old song yet;
Away with him who ever can
His Prince or Land forget!
A human heart glowed in him ne'er,
We turn from him our hand,
Who callous hears the song and prayer,
For Prince and Fatherland,
For Prince and Fatherland.
Preserve, O God, the dear old ground
Thou to our fathers gave;
The land where we a cradle found,
And where we 'll find a grave!
We call, O Lord, to Thee on high,
As near death's door we stand,
Oh! Safety, blessing to our cry
For Prince and Fatherland,
For Prince and Fatherland.
Loud ring thro' all rejoicings here,
Our prayer, O Lord, to Thee;
Preserve our Prince, his house so dear
To Holland great and free!
From youth thro' life, be this our song,
Till near to death we stand:
O God, preserve our sov'reign long,
Our Prince and Fatherland,
Our Prince and Fatherland.
Now, while the people were singing with all their might, and the band was playing, and Kit and Kat were having the most beautiful time they had ever had in their whole lives, what do you think happened?
Down the long drive through the trees came a great, splendid carriage, drawn by a pair of beautiful white horses with wavy white tails and manes. There were two soldiers on horseback riding in front of the carriage, and the driver of the carriage was dressed in blue and orange livery.
The carriage was open, and in it sat a beautiful, smiling young lady. Beside her sat her husband; and a nurse, in the other seat, held a baby in her arms.
When the people saw the carriage and the lady, they waved their caps and shouted, "Long live the Queen!"
"Look! Look! Kit and Kat," said Grandfather. "It is your dear Queen Wilhelmina, and Prince Henry and the little Princess! Wave your hands!"
Kit and kat waved with all their might, but they were so short, and the people crowded beside the driveway so, that neither of them could see. Then Grandfather caught Kit and lifted him up high, and Grandmother did the same with Kat.
It was fine to be up so high. Kit and Kat could see everything better than anyone else there. And when the carriage came by, the queen saw Kit and Kat! She smiled at them, and the nurse held the little Princess up high for them to see! Kit and Kat threw kisses to the little Princess; and the Princess waved her baby hand to Kit and Kat; and then they were all gone—like a bright dream.
But the soldiers were better to see even than queens, Kit thought. Kat thought the baby—any baby—was nicer than either.
When the carriage was out of sight, Grandfather and Grandmother set the Twins down on the ground. Everyone began to talk about the Queen, about how sweet she was, and how good; and the band played, and everybody was as happy as they could possibly be.
By and by it was time to go home; for, Grandfather said, "Dutch girls and boys must learn to get up early in the morning, especially Twins that are going out with the milk cart."
So they went back to Grandfather Winkle's house; and Grandmother put them to bed in a little cupboard like their own at home, after they had had some supper. And the last thing Kat said that night was,
"O Kit, just to think that to-day we saw the Queen and the soldiers, and the Queen's baby, and to-morrow we are going to drive in the milk cart! What a beautiful world it is!"
Just as they were dropping off to sleep, they heard a great noise in the street.
"Clap, clap, clap," it sounded, eight times.
"There goes the Klapper-man," said Grandmother Winkle. "Eight o'clock, and time all honest folk were abed."