Stories of the Pilgrims - M. B. Pumphrey

A Little Milk Peddler

In a cottage near the Pilgrims lived Mevrow van Ness and her three children. Karl was twelve years old and did not like being called a child. Had he not been "mother's right-hand man" all these long weeks while his father was away in his fishing boat? And did he not peddle milk every day to earn money for the family?

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

"The dogs knew where to take the milk almost
as well as Karl"

Karl had two trusty dogs, and every morning he harnessed them to a little cart. Into the cart he put three shining kettles filled with milk and a long-handled dipper to measure it. Sometimes there were round, yellow cheeses or butter-like balls of gold to put into the cart, for people were always glad to buy Mevrow's butter and cheese.

The little Pilgrim boys liked to go with Karl when he peddled milk. They liked to help him harness the dogs, and when the cart was ready, away they would all go over the rough stone street. It was hard to tell which made the most noise, Karl's wooden shoes, the heavy wheels of the cart, or the clanging of the milk kettles as they bumped together.

The dogs knew where to take the milk almost as well as Karl did. They stood very still while he went to the door. Often as Karl raised his hand to rap, the door opened, for the good housewife had seen him in her looking-glass. Many of the Dutch women had two looking-glasses just outside their windows. In them they could see far up and down the street without leaving their chairs.

There was at least one pair of wooden shoes on nearly every doorstep, for the children of Holland are taught to take off their shoes before they go into the house.

One morning there was a pretty blue pincushion on the door of a house where Karl and Jonathan Brewster left milk. It was made of silk and trimmed with ribbon and lace.

"What a queer place for a pincushion!" exclaimed Jonathan.

"Don't you know what that means? The storks have brought a baby girl to this house," answered Karl.

"The storks!" exclaimed Jonathan, in surprise.

"The storks, of course," answered Karl. "If you are kind to the storks, and never hurt them or say cross things about them, they will bring you all sorts of good luck. Perhaps they will like you well enough to build a nest on your chimney. If you nail a cartwheel across the largest chimney, it will make a better place for a nest."

"There goes a stork now, with a frog in his mouth. As he flies he looks like a great goose, except for those long legs stretched out behind him," said Jonathan.

"Oh, he is much larger than a goose, and his bill is three times as long."

"Are storks as good to eat as geese?" asked Jonathan.

"To eat! Eat a stork!" cried Karl, in horror. "We would not kill a stork for anything. Did I not tell you storks bring good luck?"

"It would be good luck to get such a big bird if it tasted as good as Christmas goose," replied Jonathan.

"Greedy! it would be the last good luck you would ever have," answered the little Hollander.

"Pooh!" said Jonathan, "My father says there is no such thing as luck."

"Just let me tell you what happened to Jacob Pelton," said Karl. "For two hours he had sat on the dike with his rod and line and had caught only three little fish, so Jacob was very cross.

"Just as he came up to his house with his basket on his arm, down flew one of the storks which lived on his chimney. I suppose the stork had not had good luck with his fishing, either, and his babies and their mother were hungry.

"When the stork saw Jacob's basket of fish he put in his long bill and helped himself to the largest one there. Oh, how angry Jacob was! Before the stork had time to spread his wings, Jacob struck him with his staff. I am sure he did not mean to kill the bird, but there he lay dead.

"And now listen," said Karl, in a low voice. "That very week the cows got in and ate up all of his garden. Then little Peter fell off the dike and broke his arm. Not long after that Jacob lost his place in the mill. He has had bad luck ever since he killed that stork."

"I do not believe the storks had a thing to do with it," said Jonathan, when the story was ended.

"You just ask anybody in Amsterdam whether storks bring luck," answered Karl.

"You have a nest of storks on your chimney. What good luck did they ever bring you?" asked Jonathan.

"Oh, we are always lucky," answered Karl. "Every season father catches a great boat load of fish. We can always sell our milk and vegetables, butter and cheese. We are almost always well, and all last year I stood at the head of my class at school. Yes, the storks have brought us much good luck."

"I do not believe in storks, anyway," insisted the little Englishman.

"Hush!" whispered Karl. "You would better not let the storks hear you say that."