Chapters 11 and 12

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?

11

“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.”

WINTER IN HOLLAND

WHEN the days grew shorter and cooler there were no baby storks in their homes on the chimney tops. Those that were little birdlings when the Pilgrims went to Holland had grown large and strong. For weeks their parents had taken them on long flights into the country, that their wings might grow strong for a longer journey.

Still the days grew shorter. The cold north wind blew off the sea. Even the nest on the chimney was no longer comfortable.

The storks knew it was time to fly to their winter home in the far south. So they spread their wings and away they flew in long lines across the sky, hundreds and thousands of them.

Then came a still, cold night, and a day just as cold. There were no little girls knitting on the street that day. Their fingers were hidden in warm red mittens, and they hurried home as fast as their wooden shoes would carry them.

Boys swung their arms to keep warm, and talked of the fun there would be on the ice if it stayed cold until to-morrow. There would be no school, and the stores and mills would be closed, for the first day of skating is a holiday in Holland.

The next morning the Pilgrims were awakened at daybreak by merry shouts on the canal. Bartholomew Allerton ran to the window, but the frost on the panes was so thick he could not see out. He breathed upon the glass and scraped away some of the frost. Down the canal came eight boys in a row, each holding to the jacket of the boy in front of him. They flew past the house like a flash of light.

12

Bartholomew could hardly wait to eat his breakfast, he was so eager to go out upon the canal. Suppose we put on our skates and go with him.

What a merry place the canal is this morning! Everybody is on skates to-day. Here come three market women from the country. Each has on her shoulders a wooden yoke from which hang baskets of vegetables. There is a man with a yoke, too. He must have milk in those bright cans. I am afraid it will freeze if he has far to go.

Just see Mevrow Vetter! What is she carrying on her back? Oh, it is her baby in a snug little nest made of his mother’s shawl. He puts his arms around her neck and she holds his little hands. He is warm and happy, and he coos and chatters, trying to tell her about the people he sees on the canal. He thinks skating is great fun.

There goes Doctor Fuller, skating to see a sick man at the other end of town. At the rate he goes he will soon be there. And who is this pushing a sled before him as he skates? Bartholomew knows him. That is Peter Houten with his lame sister. She cannot skate, so Peter has fixed her chair on a sled and covered it with warm fur. On the sled is a little foot stove filled with hot coals, so she will not get cold. Her pale cheeks have grown rosy and her eyes shine with pleasure.

Now we have come to the great canal beyond the city. It is much wider than the others. Here are beautiful sleighs drawn by horses, their bells making merry music on the canal.

There is a group of boys on skates, playing the game boys play all the world over. They hit a ball with their clubs and away it flies over the smooth ice. Look out, boys! See these white sails flying down the canal. Whoever saw a sleepy canal boat go so fast! Has it too put on skates?

Whiz! Whir-r-r! It is past. What was it? Lookout! Here comes another! Whir-r! whiz! whir-r-r!

They are ice boats and have runners like a sled. The wind fills their sails and they go faster than a ship on the water, faster than the swiftest horse. They are too dangerous to run on the crowded canals in the city. They must stay on the lakes, or river, or on the great canals outside of the town. Even here they must stay on their own side of the canal and we must stay on ours, or some one will be hurt.

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