Stories of the Pilgrims - M. B. Pumphrey

On the Canal

Next morning, the pretty blue and white dishes washed, the kettles scoured, and fresh white sand sprinkled on the kitchen floor, Patience took baby Love and went out on the doorstep to watch the boats on the canal.

There were many of these boats passing to and fro. Some carried fuel or grain. Some carried fish, and others were loaded with boxes of goods from the mills. Some were passenger boats and carried people from one town to another.

Soon Jonathan came out with a large stone jar, which he set upon the wall of the canal. On the next doorstep sat Mary and Remember Allerton, and they, too, had a large jar. There was one at Mistress Chilton's door, and all up and down the street might be seen these brown jars.

What were they for? Water, to be sure! These children were waiting for the water barge to come along and fill their jars. This seems strange in a land where there is more water than anything else. But the water in the canals is not fit to drink, so the people must buy fresh water every day. This is brought from the river far beyond the city.

While the children waited for the water barge, they saw a large boat coming down the canal. There was no wind, so the sail was down. At first they could not see what made it glide along so easily. As it came nearer they saw that there was a long rope tied to the bow, and the boat was being drawn by a large dog and a boy, who walked along the bank of the canal.

When the boat was in front of Elder Brewster's house, it stopped. The father came ashore and tied his boat to a strong post, and then went back to his breakfast.

This was not served in the neat little cabin with the white curtains at the windows. The breakfast table was spread on the deck of the boat. There was no cloth, but the table was scoured as white as Katrina's strong little arms could make it.

While Katrina and her mother were washing the dishes, the water barge was seen coming slowly down the canal, stopping at each house. The mother saw the little barge, and, calling her son, said something to him which the little Pilgrims could not understand.

But Jan understood. He took up a large, shining can and came over where Jonathan and Patience were.

"Good morning," said Jonathan, "Are you waiting for the water barge, too?" But Jan only smiled and said nothing. He had not understood one word.

When Mevrow Vedder came up in her flat little boat, with its rows of shining brass water cans, Jan talked fast enough. He seemed to know Mevrow Vedder, and Karl and Hans, who had come with their mother to help steer the boat.

[Illustration] from Stories of the Pilgrims by M. B. Pumphrey

"Mevrow Vedder . . . in her flat little boat, with . . .shining
brass water cans"

How fast they all talked, and how strange the language sounded to the English children! The Dutch language was so different from their own. The little pilgrims thought they could never learn to speak or understand this strange tongue.

But they did, and Jan and Katrina were their first teachers. After a few days, when Jan called in Dutch, "Can you come up on the boat to play?" the English children would answer, "Yes," or "No," in his language.

They soon learned the Dutch names for the games they played, for the different parts of the boat, and for many things in their own homes. Little by little they grew to understand what their neighbors said to them. The children learned the language much easier than their parents did.

Jan and Katrina lived on the canal boat winter and summer. They had no other home, and they did not wish for one. They thought a canal boat much better than a house, which must always stay in one place.

Many families lived in their boats all of the year. In winter they had to live in the little cabin, but in summer the kitchen, dining room, and sitting room were all on deck.

All Hollanders are fond of flowers and you are sure to see them somewhere about each home. Of course Katrina had her little flower garden. It was in one corner of the deck, and her mother had a long box of plants in the cabin window.

All fall and winter this canal boat stayed in the same place. While their father worked in the mill, Jan and Katrina went to school. Katrina often knitted as she walked to and from school. Little Dutch girls often knit on the street. They can knit and walk as easily as we can talk and walk.