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Title: Hans Brinker - or The Silver Skates
Author: Dodge, Mary Mapes, 1830-1905
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Hans Brinker - or The Silver Skates" ***

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HANS BRINKER

Or, The Silver Skates


_To
my father,
JAMES J. MAPES,
this book
is dedicated in gratitude
and love_



HANS BRINKER

OR THE SILVER SKATES

BY MARY MAPES DODGE

[Illustration]

ILLUSTRATED BY

EDNA COOKE

PHILADELPHIA
GEORGE W. JACOBS & COMPANY
PUBLISHERS

[Illustration]



PREFACE


This little work aims to combine the instructive features of a book of
travels with the interest of a domestic tale. Throughout its pages the
descriptions of Dutch localities, customs, and general characteristics,
have been given with scrupulous care. Many of its incidents are drawn
from life, and the story of Raff Brinker is founded strictly upon fact.

While acknowledging my obligations to many well-known writers on Dutch
history, literature, and art, I turn with especial gratitude to those
kind Holland friends, who, with generous zeal, have taken many a
backward glance at their country for my sake, seeing it as it looked
twenty years ago, when the Brinker home stood unnoticed in sunlight and
shadow.

Should this simple narrative serve to give my young readers a just idea
of Holland and its resources, or present true pictures of its
inhabitants and their every-day life, or free them from certain current
prejudices concerning that noble and enterprising people, the leading
desire in writing it will have been satisfied.

Should it cause even one heart to feel a deeper trust in God's goodness
and love, or aid any in weaving a life, wherein, through knots and
entanglements, the golden thread shall never be tarnished or broken, the
prayer with which it was begun and ended will have been answered.

M. M. D.



A LETTER FROM HOLLAND


AMSTERDAM, July 30, 1873.

_Dear Boys and Girls at Home:_

As Messrs. Scribner, Armstrong and Company, of New York, are printing
for you the story of "The Silver Skates," perhaps you would like to have
a letter from this land of the Brinkers.

If you all could be here with me to-day, what fine times we might have
walking through this beautiful Dutch city! How we should stare at the
crooked houses, standing with their gable ends to the street; at the
little slanting mirrors fastened outside of the windows; at the wooden
shoes and dog-carts near by; the windmills in the distance; at the great
warehouses; at the canals, doing the double duty of streets and rivers,
and at the singular mingling of trees and masts to be seen in every
direction. Ah, it would be pleasant, indeed! But here I sit in a great
hotel looking out upon all these things, knowing quite well that not
even the spirit of the Dutch, which seems able to accomplish anything,
can bring you at this moment across the ocean. There is one comfort,
however, in going through these wonderful Holland towns without you--it
would be dreadful to have any of the party tumble into the canals; and
then these lumbering Dutch wagons, with their heavy wheels, so very far
apart: what should I do if a few dozen of you were to fall under _them_?
and, perhaps, one of the wildest of my boys might harm a stork, and then
all Holland would be against us! No. It is better as it is. You will be
coming, one by one, as the years go on, to see the whole thing for
yourselves.

Holland is as wonderful to-day as it was when, more than twenty years
ago, Hans and Gretel skated on the frozen Y. In fact, more wonderful,
for every day increases the marvel of its not being washed away by the
sea. Its cities have grown, and some of its peculiarities have been
brushed away by contact with other nations; but it is Holland still, and
always will be--full of oddity, courage and industry--the pluckiest
little country on earth. I shall not tell you in this letter of its
customs, its cities, its palaces, churches, picture-galleries, and
museums--for these are described in the story--except to say that they
are here still, just the same, in this good year 1873, for I have seen
them nearly all within a week.

To-day an American boy and I seeing some children enter an old house in
the business part of Amsterdam, followed them in--and what do you think
we found? An old woman, here in the middle of summer, selling hot water
and fire! She makes her living by it. All day long she sits tending her
great fires of peat and keeping the shining copper-tanks above them
filled with water. The children who come and go, carry away in a curious
stone pail their kettle of boiling water and their blocks of burning
peat. For these they give her a Dutch cent, which is worth less than
half of one of ours. In this way persons who cannot afford to keep a
fire burning in hot weather, may yet have their cup of tea or coffee and
their bit of boiled fish and potato.

After leaving the old fire-woman, who nodded a pleasant good-bye to us,
and willingly put our stivers in her great outside pocket, we drove
through the streets enjoying the singular sights of a public washing
day. Yes, in certain quarters of the city, away from the canals, the
streets were lively with washerwomen hard at work. Hundreds of them in
clumsy wooden shoes, with their tucked-up skirts, bare arms and
close-fitting caps, were bending over tall wooden tubs that reached as
high as their waists--gossiping and rubbing, rubbing and gossiping--with
perfect unconcern, in the public thoroughfare, and all washing with cold
water instead of using hot, as we do. What a grand thing it would be for
our old fire-woman if boiling water were suddenly to become the fashion
on these public washing days!

But I forget. If this letter ever reaches you, it must do so by being
put in the place where prefaces belong, a small place, you know, that
holds very little, and where, to tell the truth, readers generally wish
to find still less.

So, good-bye. O! I must tell you one more thing. We found to-day in an
Amsterdam bookstore this story of Hans Brinker told in Dutch. It is a
queer looking volume, beautifully printed, and with colored pictures,
but filled with such astonishing words that it really made me feel sorry
for the little Hollanders who are to read them.

Good-bye, again, in the touching words of our Dutch translator with whom
I'm sure you'll heartily agree: Toch ben ik er mijn landgenooten dank
baar voor, die mijn arbeid steeds zoo welwillend outvangen en wier
genegenheid ik voortdurend hoop te verdienen.

Yours affectionately,

THE AUTHOR.



CONTENTS


I. HANS AND GRETEL                                        13

II. HOLLAND                                               18

III. THE SILVER SKATES                                    28

IV. HANS AND GRETEL FIND A FRIEND                         34

V. SHADOWS IN THE HOME                                    42

VI. SUNBEAMS                                              50

VII. HANS HAS HIS WAY                                     55

VIII. INTRODUCING JACOB POOT AND HIS COUSIN               59

IX. THE FESTIVAL OF SAINT NICHOLAS                        66

X. WHAT THE BOYS SAW AND DID IN AMSTERDAM                 76

XI. BIG MANIAS AND LITTLE ODDITIES                        86

XII. ON THE WAY TO HAARLEM                                94

XIII. A CATASTROPHE                                       98

XIV. HANS                                                102

XV. HOMES                                                108

XVI. HAARLEM, THE BOYS HEAR VOICES                       116

XVII. THE MAN WITH FOUR HEADS                            123

XVIII. FRIENDS IN NEED                                   129

XIX. ON THE CANAL                                        137

XX. JACOB POOT CHANGES THE PLAN                          144

XXI. MYNHEER KLEEF AND HIS BILL OF FARE                  152

XXII. THE RED LION BECOMES DANGEROUS                     156

XXIII. BEFORE THE COURT                                  169

XXIV. THE BELEAGUERED CITIES                             173

XXV. LEYDEN                                              180

XXVI. THE PALACE AND THE WOOD                            187

XXVII. THE MERCHANT PRINCE, AND THE SISTER-PRINCESS      190

XXVIII. THROUGH THE HAUGE                                204

XXIX. A DAY OF REST                                      212

XXX. HOMEWARD BOUND                                      216

XXXI. BOYS AND GIRLS                                     220

XXXII. THE CRISIS                                        227

XXXIII. GRETEL AND HILDA                                 234

XXXIV. THE AWAKENING                                     241

XXXV. BONES AND TONGUES                                  245

XXXVI. A NEW ALARM                                       249

XXXVII. THE FATHER'S RETURN                              254

XXXVIII. THE THOUSAND GUILDERS                           259

XXXIX. GLIMPSES                                          265

XL. LOOKING FOR WORK                                     269

XLI. THE FAIRY GODMOTHER                                 275

XLII. THE MYSTERIOUS WATCH                               281

XLIII. A DISCOVERY                                       290

XLIV. THE RACE                                           299

XLV. JOY IN THE COTTAGE                                  316

XLVI. MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF THOMAS HIGGS           325

XLVII. BROAD SUNSHINE                                    328

XLVIII. CONCLUSION                                       334



ILLUSTRATIONS


Gretel on her stilts                             _Frontispiece_

Hans was clever at carving in wood             _Facing p._    30

The door slowly opened                                  "     70

The ice seemed fairly alive                             "    136

There was a movement upon the bed                       "    242

"Good-night," they cried                                "    280

Skating slowly the boys and girls moved forward         "    314


[Illustration: _Gretel on her stilts_

(_See page 29_)]



HANS BRINKER

Or, The Silver Skates



I

HANS AND GRETEL


On a bright December morning long ago, two thinly clad children were
kneeling upon the bank of a frozen canal in Holland.

The sun had not yet appeared, but the gray sky was parted near the
horizon, and its edges shone crimson with the coming day. Most of the
good Hollanders were enjoying a placid morning nap; even Mynheer von
Stoppelnoze, that worthy old Dutchman, was still slumbering "in
beautiful repose."

Now and then some peasant woman, poising a well filled basket upon her
head, came skimming over the glassy surface of the canal; or a lusty
boy, skating to his day's work in the town, cast a good-natured grimace
toward the shivering pair as he flew along.

Meanwhile, with many a vigorous puff and pull, the brother and sister,
for such they were, seemed to be fastening something upon their
feet--not skates, certainly, but clumsy pieces of wood narrowed and
smoothed at their lower edge, and pierced with holes, through which were
threaded strings of rawhide.

These queer looking affairs had been made by the boy Hans. His mother
was a poor peasant-woman, too poor to even think of such a thing as
buying skates for her little ones. Rough as these were, they had
afforded the children many a happy hour upon the ice; and now as with
cold, red fingers our young Hollanders tugged at the strings--their
solemn faces bending closely over their knees--no vision of impossible
iron runners came to dull the satisfaction glowing within.

In a moment the boy arose, and with a pompous swing of the arms, and a
careless "come on, Gretel," glided easily across the canal.

"Ah, Hans," called his sister plaintively, "this foot is not well yet.
The strings hurt me on last Market day; and now I cannot bear them tied
in the same place."

"Tie them higher up, then," answered Hans, as without looking at her he
performed a wonderful cat's-cradle step on the ice.

"How can I? The string is too short."

Giving vent to a good-natured Dutch whistle, the English of which was
that girls were troublesome creatures, he steered toward her.

"You are foolish to wear such shoes, Gretel, when you have a stout
leather pair. Your klompen[1] would be better than these."

[Footnote 1: Wooden Shoes.]

"Why, Hans! Do you forget? The father threw my beautiful new shoes in
the fire. Before I knew what he had done they were all curled up in the
midst of the burning peat. I can skate with these, but not with my
wooden ones.--Be careful now----"

Hans had taken a string from his pocket. Humming a tune as he knelt
beside her, he proceeded to fasten Gretel's skate with all the force of
his strong young arm.

"Oh! oh!" she cried, in real pain.

With an impatient jerk Hans unwound the string. He would have cast it
upon the ground in true big-brother style, had he not just then spied a
tear trickling down his sister's cheek.

"I'll fix it--never fear," he said, with sudden tenderness, "but we must
be quick; the mother will need us soon."

Then he glanced inquiringly about him, first at the ground, next at some
bare willow branches above his head, and finally at the sky now gorgeous
with streaks of blue, crimson and gold.

Finding nothing in any of these localities to meet his need, his eye
suddenly brightened as, with the air of a fellow who knew what he was
about, he took off his cap and removing the tattered lining, adjusted it
in a smooth pad over the top of Gretel's worn-out shoe.

"Now," he cried triumphantly, at the same time arranging the strings as
briskly as his benumbed fingers would allow, "can you bear some
pulling?"

Gretel drew up her lips as if to say "hurt away," but made no further
response.

In another moment they were laughing together, as hand in hand they flew
along the canal, never thinking whether the ice would bear or not, for
in Holland, ice is generally an all-Winter affair. It settles itself
upon the water in a determined kind of way, and so far from growing thin
and uncertain every time the sun is a little severe upon it, it gathers
its forces day by day and flashes defiance to every beam.

Presently, squeak! squeak! sounded something beneath Hans' feet. Next
his strokes grew shorter, ending ofttimes with a jerk, and finally, he
lay sprawling upon the ice, kicking against the air with many a
fantastic flourish.

"Ha! Ha!" laughed Gretel, "that was a fine tumble!" But a tender heart
was beating under her coarse blue jacket and, even as she laughed, she
came, with a graceful sweep, close to her prostrate brother.

"Are you hurt, Hans? oh, you are laughing! catch me now"--and she darted
away shivering no longer, but with cheeks all aglow, and eyes sparkling
with fun.

Hans sprang to his feet and started in brisk pursuit, but it was no easy
thing to catch Gretel. Before she had traveled very far, her skates,
too, began to squeak.

Believing that discretion was the better part of valor she turned
suddenly and skated into her pursuer's arms.

"Ha! ha! I've caught you!" cried Hans.

"Ha! ha! I caught _you_," she retorted, struggling to free herself.

Just then a clear, quick voice was heard calling "Hans! Gretel!"

"It's the mother," said Hans, looking solemn in an instant.

By this time the canal was gilded with sunlight. The pure morning air
was very delightful, and skaters were gradually increasing in numbers.
It was hard to obey the summons. But Gretel and Hans were good children;
without a thought of yielding to the temptation to linger, they pulled
off their skates, leaving half the knots still tied. Hans, with his
great square shoulders, and bushy yellow hair, towered high above his
blue-eyed little sister as they trudged homeward. He was fifteen years
old and Gretel was only twelve. He was a solid, hearty-looking boy, with
honest eyes and a brow that seemed to bear a sign "goodness within" just
as the little Dutch zomerhuis[2] wears a motto over its portal. Gretel
was lithe and quick; her eyes had a dancing light in them, and while you
looked at her cheek the color paled and deepened just as it does upon a
bed of pink and white blossoms when the wind is blowing.

[Footnote 2: Summer-house.]

As soon as the children turned from the canal they could see their
parents' cottage. Their mother's tall form, arrayed in jacket and
petticoat and close-fitting cap, stood, like a picture, in the crooked
frame of the doorway. Had the cottage been a mile away, it would still
have seemed near. In that flat country every object stands out plainly
in the distance; the chickens show as distinctly as the windmills.
Indeed, were it not for the dykes and the high banks of the canals, one
could stand almost anywhere in middle Holland without seeing a mound or
a ridge between the eye and the "jumping-off place."

None had better cause to know the nature of these same dykes than Dame
Brinker and the panting youngsters now running at her call. But before
stating why, let me ask you to take a rocking-chair trip with me to that
far country where you may see, perhaps for the first time, some curious
things that Hans and Gretel saw every day.



II

HOLLAND


Holland is one of the queerest countries under the sun. It should be
called Odd-land or Contrary-land, for in nearly everything it is
different from other parts of the world. In the first place, a large
portion of the country is lower than the level of the sea. Great dykes
or bulwarks have been erected at a heavy cost of money and labor, to
keep the ocean where it belongs. On certain parts of the coast it
sometimes leans with all its weight against the land, and it is as much
as the poor country can do to stand the pressure. Sometimes the dykes
give way, or spring a leak, and the most disastrous results ensue. They
are high and wide, and the tops of some of them are covered with
buildings and trees. They have even fine public roads upon them, from
which horses may look down upon wayside cottages. Often the keels of
floating ships are higher than the roofs of the dwellings. The stork
clattering to her young on the house-peak may feel that her nest is
lifted far out of danger, but the croaking frog in neighboring bulrushes
is nearer the stars than she. Water-bugs dart backward and forward above
the heads of the chimney swallows; and willow trees seem drooping with
shame, because they cannot reach as high as the reeds near by.

Ditches, canals, ponds, rivers and lakes are everywhere to be seen.
High, but not dry, they shine in the sunlight, catching nearly all the
bustle and the business, quite scorning the tame fields stretching
damply beside them. One is tempted to ask, "Which is Holland--the shores
or the water?" The very verdure that should be confined to the land has
made a mistake and settled upon the fish-ponds. In fact the entire
country is a kind of saturated sponge or, as the English poet, Butler,
called it,

     "A land that rides at anchor, and is moor'd,
     In which they do not live, but go aboard."

Persons are born, live and die, and even have their gardens on
canal-boats. Farmhouses, with roofs like great slouched hats pulled over
their eyes, stand on wooden legs with a tucked-up sort of air, as if to
say "we intend to keep dry if we can." Even the horses wear a wide stool
on each hoof to lift them out of the mire. In short, the landscape
everywhere suggests a paradise for ducks. It is a glorious country in
summer for barefooted girls and boys. Such wadings! such mimic ship
sailing! Such rowing, fishing and swimming! Only think of a chain of
puddles where one can launch chip boats all day long, and never make a
return trip! But enough. A full recital would set all young America
rushing in a body toward the Zuider Zee.

Dutch cities seem at first sight to be a bewildering jungle of houses,
bridges, churches and ships, sprouting into masts, steeples and trees.
In some cities vessels are hitched like horses to their owners'
door-posts and receive their freight from the upper windows. Mothers
scream to Lodewyk and Kassy not to swing on the garden gate for fear
they may be drowned! Water-roads are more frequent there than
common-roads and rail-ways; water-fences in the form of lazy green
ditches, enclose pleasure-ground, polder and garden.

Sometimes fine green hedges are seen; but wooden fences such as we have
in America are rarely met with in Holland. As for stone fences, a
Dutchman would lift his hands with astonishment at the very idea. There
is no stone there, excepting those great masses of rock, that have been
brought from other lands to strengthen and protect the coast. All the
small stones or pebbles, if there ever were any, seem to be imprisoned
in pavements or quite melted away. Boys with strong, quick arms may grow
from pinafores to full beards without ever finding one to start the
water-rings or set the rabbits flying. The water-roads are nothing less
than canals intersecting the country in every direction. These are of
all sizes, from the great North Holland Ship Canal, which is the wonder
of the world, to those which a boy can leap. Water-omnibuses, called
_trekschuiten_,[3] constantly ply up and down these roads for the
conveyance of passengers; and water drays, called _pakschuyten_,[3] are
used for carrying fuel, and merchandise. Instead of green country lanes,
green canals stretch from field to barn and from barn to garden; and the
farms or _polders_, as they are termed, are merely great lakes pumped
dry. Some of the busiest streets are water, while many of the country
roads are paved with brick. The city boats with their rounded sterns,
gilded prows and gaily painted sides, are unlike any others under the
sun; and a Dutch wagon with its funny little crooked pole, is a perfect
mystery of mysteries.

[Footnote 3: Canal-boats. Some of the first named are over thirty feet
long. They look like green houses lodged on barges, and are drawn by
horses walking along the bank of the canal. The trekschuiten are divided
into two compartments, first and second class, and when not too crowded
the passengers make themselves quite at home in them; the men smoke, the
women knit or sew, while children play upon the small outer deck. Many
of the canal-boats have white, yellow, or chocolate-colored sails. This
last color is caused by a preparation of tan which is put on to preserve
them.]

"One thing is clear," cries Master Brightside, "the inhabitants need
never be thirsty." But no, Odd-land is true to itself still.
Notwithstanding the sea pushing to get in, and the lakes struggling to
get out, and the overflowing canals, rivers and ditches, in many
districts there is no water fit to swallow; our poor Hollanders must go
dry, or drink wine and beer, or send far into the inland to Utrecht, and
other favored localities, for that precious fluid older than Adam yet
young as the morning dew. Sometimes, indeed, the inhabitants can swallow
a shower when they are provided with any means of catching it; but
generally they are like the Albatross-haunted sailors in Coleridge's
famous poem of "The Ancient Mariner"--they see

     "Water, water everywhere,
     Nor any drop to drink!"

Great flapping windmills all over the country make it look as if flocks
of huge sea-birds were just settling upon it. Everywhere one sees the
funniest trees, bobbed into fantastical shapes, with their trunks
painted a dazzling white, yellow or red. Horses are often yoked three
abreast. Men, women and children go clattering about in wooden shoes
with loose heels; peasant girls who cannot get beaux for love, hire them
for money to escort them to the Kermis;[4] and husbands and wives
lovingly _harness_ themselves side by side on the bank of the canal and
drag their pakschuyts to market.

[Footnote 4: Fair.]

Another peculiar feature of Holland is the _dune_ or sand-hill. These
are numerous along certain portions of the coast. Before they were sown
with coarse reed-grass and other plants, to hold them down, they used to
send great storms of sand over the inland. So, to add to the oddities,
farmers sometimes dig down under the surface to find their soil, and on
windy days _dry_ showers (of sand) often fall upon fields that have
grown wet under a week of sunshine.

In short, almost the only familiar thing we Yankees can meet with in
Holland is a harvest-song which is quite popular there, though no
linguist could translate it. Even then we must shut our eyes and listen
only to the tune which I leave you to guess.

     "Yanker didee dudel down
       Didee dudel lawnter;
     Yankee viver, voover, vown,
       Botermelk und Tawnter!"

On the other hand, many of the oddities of Holland serve only to prove
the thrift and perseverance of the people. There is not a richer, or
more carefully tilled garden-spot in the whole world than this leaky,
springy little country. There is not a braver, more heroic race than its
quiet, passive-looking inhabitants. Few nations have equaled it in
important discoveries and inventions; none has excelled it in commerce,
navigation, learning and science,--or set as noble examples in the
promotion of education, and public charities; and none in proportion to
its extent has expended more money and labor upon public works.

Holland has its shining annals of noble and illustrious men and women;
its grand, historic records of patience, resistance and victory; its
religious freedom, its enlightened enterprise, its art, its music and
its literature. It has truly been called, "the battle-field of Europe,"
as truly may we consider it the Asylum of the world, for the oppressed
of every nation have there found shelter and encouragement. If we
Americans, who after all, are homeopathic preparations of Holland stock,
can laugh at the Dutch, and call them human beavers, and hint that their
country may float off any day at high tide, we can also feel proud, and
say they have proved themselves heroes, and that their country will
_not_ float off while there is a Dutchman left to grapple it.

There are said to be at least ninety-nine hundred large windmills in
Holland, with sails ranging from eighty to one hundred and twenty feet
long. They are employed in sawing timber, beating hemp, grinding, and
many other kinds of work; but their principal use is for pumping water
from the lowlands into the canals, and for guarding against the inland
freshets that so often deluge the country. Their yearly cost is said to
be nearly ten millions of dollars. The large ones are of great power.
Their huge, circular tower, rising sometimes from the midst of factory
buildings, is surmounted with a smaller one tapering into a cap-like
roof. This upper tower is encircled at its base with a balcony, high
above which juts the axis turned by its four prodigious, ladder-backed
sails.

Many of the windmills are primitive affairs, seeming sadly in need of
Yankee "improvements"; but some of the new ones are admirable. They are
so constructed that, by some ingenious contrivance, they present their
fans, or wings, to the wind in precisely the right direction to work
with the requisite power. In other words, the miller may take a nap and
feel quite sure that his mill will study the wind, and make the most of
it, until he wakens. Should there be but a slight current of air, every
sail will spread itself to catch the faintest breath; but if a heavy
"blow" should come, they will shrink at its touch, like great mimosa
leaves, and only give it half a chance to move them.

One of the old prisons of Amsterdam, called the Rasphouse, because the
thieves and vagrants who were confined there were employed in rasping
log-wood, had a cell for the punishment of lazy prisoners. In one corner
of this cell was a pump and, in another, an opening through which a
steady stream of water was admitted. The prisoner could take his choice,
either to stand still and be drowned, or to work for dear life at the
pump and keep the flood down until his jailer chose to relieve him. Now
it seems to me that, throughout Holland, Nature has introduced this
little diversion on a grand scale. The Dutch have always been forced to
pump for their very existence and probably must continue to do so to the
end of time.

Every year millions of dollars are spent in repairing dykes, and
regulating water levels. If these important duties were neglected the
country would be uninhabitable. Already dreadful consequences, as I have
said, have followed the bursting of these dykes. Hundreds of villages
and towns have from time to time been buried beneath the rush of waters,
and nearly a million of persons have been destroyed. One of the most
fearful inundations ever known occurred in the autumn of the year 1570.
Twenty-eight terrible floods had before that time overwhelmed portions
of Holland, but this was the most terrible of all. The unhappy country
had long been suffering under Spanish tyranny; now, it seemed, the
crowning point was given to its troubles. When we read Motley's history
of the Rise of the Dutch Republic we learn to revere the brave people
who have endured, suffered and dared so much.

Mr. Motley in his thrilling account of the great inundation tells us how
a long continued and violent gale had been sweeping the Atlantic waters
into the North Sea, piling them against the coasts of the Dutch
provinces; how the dykes, tasked beyond their strength, burst in all
directions; how even the Hand-bos, a bulwark formed of oaken piles,
braced with iron, moored with heavy anchors and secured by gravel and
granite, was snapped to pieces like packthread; how fishing boats and
bulky vessels floating up into the country became entangled among the
trees, or beat in the roofs and walls of dwellings, and how at last all
Friesland was converted into an angry sea. "Multitudes of men, women,
children, of horses, oxen, sheep, and every domestic animal, were
struggling in the waves in every direction. Every boat and every article
which could serve as a boat, were eagerly seized upon. Every house was
inundated, even the graveyards gave up their dead. The living infant in
his cradle, and the long-buried corpse in his coffin, floated side by
side. The ancient flood seemed about to be renewed. Everywhere, upon the
tops of trees, upon the steeples of churches, human beings were
clustered, praying to God for mercy, and to their fellowmen for
assistance. As the storm at last was subsiding, boats began to ply in
every direction, saving those who were struggling in the water, picking
fugitives from roofs and tree tops, and collecting the bodies of those
already drowned." No less than one hundred thousand human beings had
perished in a few hours. Thousands upon thousands of dumb creatures lay
dead upon the waters; and the damage done to property of every
description was beyond calculation.

Robles, the Spanish Governor, was foremost in noble efforts to save life
and lessen the horrors of the catastrophe. He had formerly been hated by
the Dutch because of his Spanish or Portuguese blood, but by his
goodness and activity in their hour of disaster, he won all hearts to
gratitude. He soon introduced an improved method of constructing the
dykes, and passed a law that they should in future be kept up by the
owners of the soil. There were fewer heavy floods from this time, though
within less than three hundred years six fearful inundations swept over
the land.

In the Spring there is always great danger of inland freshets,
especially in times of thaw, because the rivers, choked with blocks of
ice, overflow before they can discharge their rapidly rising waters into
the ocean. Added to this, the sea chafing and pressing against the
dykes, it is no wonder that Holland is often in a state of alarm. The
greatest care is taken to prevent accidents. Engineers and workmen are
stationed all along in threatened places and a close watch is kept up
night and day. When a general signal of danger is given, the inhabitants
all rush to the rescue, eager to combine against their common foe. As,
everywhere else, straw is supposed to be of all things the most helpless
in the water, of course in Holland it must be rendered the mainstay
against a rushing tide. Huge straw mats are pressed against the
embankments, fortified with clay and heavy stone, and once adjusted, the
ocean dashes against them in vain.

Raff Brinker, the father of Gretel and Hans, had for years been employed
upon the dykes. It was at the time of a threatened inundation, when in
the midst of a terrible storm, in darkness and sleet, the men were
laboring at a weak spot near the Veermyk sluice, that he fell from the
scaffolding, and was taken home insensible. From that hour he never
worked again; though he lived on, mind and memory were gone.

Gretel could not remember him otherwise than as the strange, silent man,
whose eyes followed her vacantly whichever way she turned; but Hans had
recollections of a hearty, cheerful-voiced father who was never tired of
bearing him upon his shoulder, and whose careless song still seemed
echoing near when he lay awake at night and listened.



III

THE SILVER SKATES


Dame Brinker earned a scanty support for her family by raising
vegetables, spinning and knitting. Once she had worked on board the
barges plying up and down the canal, and had occasionally been harnessed
with other women to the towing rope of a pakschuyt plying between Broek
and Amsterdam. But when Hans had grown strong and large, he had insisted
upon doing all such drudgery in her place. Besides, her husband had
become so very helpless of late, that he required her constant care.
Although not having as much intelligence as a little child, he was yet
strong of arm and very hearty, and Dame Brinker had sometimes great
trouble in controlling him.

"Ah! children, he was so good and steady," she would sometimes say, "and
as wise as a lawyer. Even the Burgomaster would stop to ask him a
question, and now alack! he don't know his wife and little ones. You
remember the father, Hans, when he was himself--a great brave man--don't
you?"

"Yes, indeed, mother, he knew everything, and could do anything under
the sun--and how he would sing! why, you used to laugh and say it was
enough to set the windmills dancing."

"So I did. Bless me! how the boy remembers! Gretel, child, take that
knitting needle from your father, quick; he'll get it in his eyes may
be; and put the shoe on him. His poor feet are like ice half the time,
but I can't keep 'em covered all I can do----" and then half wailing,
half humming, Dame Brinker would sit down, and fill the low cottage with
the whirr of her spinning wheel.

Nearly all the outdoor work, as well as the household labor, was
performed by Hans and Gretel. At certain seasons of the year the
children went out day after day to gather peat, which they would stow
away in square, brick-like pieces, for fuel. At other times, when
home-work permitted, Hans rode the towing-horses on the canals, earning
a few stivers[5] a day; and Gretel tended geese for the neighboring
farmers.

[Footnote 5: A stiver is worth about two cents of our money.]

Hans was clever at carving in wood, and both he and Gretel were good
gardeners. Gretel could sing and sew and run on great, high, home-made
stilts better than any girl for miles around. She could learn a ballad
in five minutes, and find, in its season, any weed or flower you could
name; but she dreaded books, and often the very sight of the
figuring-board in the old schoolhouse would set her eyes swimming. Hans,
on the contrary, was slow and steady. The harder the task, whether in
study or daily labor, the better he liked it. Boys who sneered at him
out of school, on account of his patched clothes and scant leather
breeches, were forced to yield him the post of honor in nearly every
class. It was not long before he was the only youngster in the school
who had not stood at least _once_ in the corner of horrors, where hung a
dreaded whip, and over it this motto:

     "Leer, leer! jou luigaart, of dit endje touw zal je le
     ren!"[6]

[Footnote 6: (Learn! learn! you idler, or this rope's end shall teach
you.)]

It was only in winter that Gretel and Hans could be spared to attend
school; and for the past month they had been kept at home because their
mother needed their services. Raff Brinker required constant attention,
and there was black bread to be made, and the house to be kept clean,
and stockings and other things to be knitted and sold in the
market-place.

While they were busily assisting their mother on this cold December
morning, a merry troop of girls and boys came skimming down the canal.
There were fine skaters among them, and as the bright medley of costumes
flitted by, it looked from a distance as though the ice had suddenly
thawed, and some gay tulip-bed were floating along on the current.

There was the rich burgomaster's daughter Hilda van Gleck, with her
costly furs and loose-fitting velvet sack; and, near by, a pretty
peasant girl, Annie Bouman, jauntily attired in a coarse scarlet jacket
and a blue skirt just short enough to display the gray homespun hose to
advantage. Then there was the proud Rychie Korbes, whose father, Mynheer
van Korbes, was one of the leading men of Amsterdam; and, flocking
closely around her, Carl Schummel, Peter and Ludwig[7] van Holp, Jacob
Poot, and a very small boy rejoicing in the tremendous name of
Voostenwalbert Schimmelpenninck. There were nearly twenty other boys and
girls in the party, and one and all seemed full of excitement and
frolic.

[Footnote 7: Ludwig, Gretel, and Carl were named after German friends.
The Dutch form would be Lodewyk, Grietje and Karel.]

[Illustration: _Hans was clever at carving in wood_]

Up and down the canal, within the space of a half mile they skated,
exerting their racing powers to the utmost. Often the swiftest among
them was seen to dodge from under the very nose of some pompous
law-giver or doctor, who with folded arms was skating leisurely toward
the town; or a chain of girls would suddenly break at the approach of a
fat old burgomaster who, with gold-headed cane poised in air, was
puffing his way to Amsterdam. Equipped in skates wonderful to behold,
from their superb strappings, and dazzling runners curving over the
instep and topped with gilt balls, he would open his fat eyes a little
if one of the maidens chanced to drop him a courtesy, but would not dare
to bow in return for fear of losing his balance.

Not only pleasure-seekers and stately men of note were upon the canal.
There were work-people, with weary eyes, hastening to their shops and
factories; market-women with loads upon their heads; peddlers bending
with their packs; barge-men with shaggy hair and bleared faces, jostling
roughly on their way; kind-eyed clergymen speeding perhaps to the
bedsides of the dying; and, after a while, groups of children, with
satchels slung over their shoulders, whizzing past, toward the distant
school. One and all wore skates excepting, indeed, a muffled-up farmer
whose queer cart bumped along on the margin of the canal.

Before long our merry boys and girls were almost lost in the confusion
of bright colors, the ceaseless motion, and the gleaming of skates
flashing back the sunlight. We might have known no more of them had not
the whole party suddenly come to a standstill and, grouping themselves
out of the way of the passers-by, all talked at once to a pretty little
maiden, whom they had drawn from the tide of people flowing toward the
town.

"Oh Katrinka!" they cried, in a breath, "have you heard of it? The
race--We want you to join!"

"What race?" asked Katrinka, laughing--"Don't all talk at once, please,
I can't understand."

Every one panted and looked at Rychie Korbes, who was their acknowledged
spokeswoman.

"Why," said Rychie, "we are to have a grand skating match on the
twentieth, on Meurouw[8] van Gleck's birthday. It's all Hilda's work.
They are going to give a splendid prize to the best skater."

[Footnote 8: Mrs. or Madame (pronounced Meffrow).]

"Yes," chimed in half a dozen voices, "a beautiful pair of silver
skates--perfectly magnificent! with, oh! such straps and silver bells
and buckles!"

"_Who_ said they had bells?" put in the small voice of the boy with the
big name.

"_I_ say so, Master Voost," replied Rychie.

"So they have,"--"No, I'm sure they haven't,"--"_Oh_, how can you say
so?"--"It's an arrow"--"And Mynheer van Korbes told _my_ mother they had
bells,"--came from sundry of the excited group; but Mynheer
Voostenwalbert Schimmelpenninck essayed to settle the matter with a
decisive--

"Well, you don't any of you know a single thing about it; they haven't a
sign of a bell on them, they----"

"Oh! oh!" and the chorus of conflicting opinion broke forth again.

"The girls' pair are to have bells," interposed Hilda, quietly, "but
there is to be another pair for the boys with an arrow engraved upon the
sides."

"_There!_ I told you so!" cried nearly all the youngsters in a breath.

Katrinka looked at them with bewildered eyes.

"Who is to try?" she asked.

"All of us," answered Rychie. "It will be such fun! And you must, too,
Katrinka. But it's school time now, we will talk it all over at noon.
Oh! you will join of course."

Katrinka, without replying, made a graceful pirouette, and laughing out
a coquettish--"Don't you hear the last bell? Catch me!"--darted off
toward the schoolhouse, standing half a mile away, on the canal.

All started, pell-mell, at this challenge, but they tried in vain to
catch the bright-eyed, laughing creature who, with golden hair streaming
in the sunlight, cast back many a sparkling glance of triumph as she
floated onward.

Beautiful Katrinka! Flushed with youth and health, all life and mirth
and motion, what wonder thine image, ever floating in advance, sped
through one boy's dreams that night! What wonder that it seemed his
darkest hour when, years afterward, thy presence floated away from him
forever.



IV

HANS AND GRETEL FIND A FRIEND


At noon our young friends poured forth from the schoolhouse intent upon
having an hour's practicing upon the canal.

They had skated but a few moments when Carl Schummel said mockingly to
Hilda:

"There's a pretty pair just coming upon the ice! The little rag-pickers!
Their skates must have been a present from the king direct."

"They are patient creatures," said Hilda, gently. "It must have been
hard to learn to skate upon such queer affairs. They are very poor
peasants, you see. The boy has probably made the skates himself."

Carl was somewhat abashed.

"Patient they may be, but as for skating, they start off pretty well
only to finish with a jerk. They could move well to your new _staccato_
piece I think."

Hilda laughed pleasantly and left him. After joining a small detachment
of the racers, and sailing past every one of them, she halted beside
Gretel who, with eager eyes, had been watching the sport.

"What is your name, little girl?"

"Gretel, my lady," answered the child, somewhat awed by Hilda's rank,
though they were nearly of the same age, "and my brother is called
Hans."

"Hans is a stout fellow," said Hilda, cheerily, "and seems to have a
warm stove somewhere within him, but _you_ look cold. You should wear
more clothing, little one."

Gretel, who had nothing else to wear, tried to laugh as she answered:

"I am not so very little. I am past twelve years old."

"Oh, I beg your pardon. You see I am nearly fourteen, and so large of my
age that other girls seem small to me, but that is nothing. Perhaps you
will shoot up far above me yet; not unless you dress more warmly,
though--shivering girls never grow."

Hans flushed as he saw tears rising in Gretel's eyes.

"My sister has not complained of the cold; but this is bitter weather
they say----" and he looked sadly upon Gretel.

"It is nothing," said Gretel. "I am often warm--too warm when I am
skating. You are good, jufvrouw,[9] to think of it."

[Footnote 9: Miss--Young lady (pronounced yuffrow). In studied or polite
address it would be jongvrowe (pronounced youngfrow).]

"No, no," answered Hilda, quite angry at herself. "I am careless, cruel;
but I meant no harm. I wanted to ask you--I mean--if----" and here
Hilda, coming to the point of her errand, faltered before the poorly
clad but noble-looking children she wished to serve.

"What is it, young lady?" exclaimed Hans eagerly. "If there is any
service I can do? any----"

"Oh! no, no," laughed Hilda, shaking off her embarrassment, "I only
wished to speak to you about the grand race. Why do you not join it? You
both can skate well, and the ranks are free. Any one may enter for the
prize."

Gretel looked wistfully at Hans, who tugging at his cap, answered
respectfully.

"Ah, jufvrouw, even if we could enter, we could skate only a few
strokes with the rest. Our skates are hard wood you see," (holding up
the sole of his foot), "but they soon become damp, and then they stick
and trip us."

Gretel's eyes twinkled with fun as she thought of Hans' mishap in the
morning, but she blushed as she faltered out timidly:

"Oh no, we can't join; but may we be there, my lady, on the great day to
look on?"

"Certainly," answered Hilda, looking kindly into the two earnest faces,
and wishing from her heart that she had not spent so much of her monthly
allowance for lace and finery. She had but eight kwartjes[10] left, and
they would buy but one pair of skates, at the furthest.

[Footnote 10: A kwartje is a small silver coin worth one quarter of a
guilder, or 10 cents in American currency.]

Looking down with a sigh at the two pairs of feet so very different in
size, she asked:

"Which of you is the better skater?"

"Gretel," replied Hans, promptly.

"Hans," answered Gretel, in the same breath.

Hilda smiled.

"I cannot buy you each a pair of skates, or even one good pair; but here
are eight kwartjes. Decide between you which stands the best chance of
winning the race, and buy the skates accordingly. I wish I had enough to
buy better ones--good-bye!" and, with a nod and a smile, Hilda, after
handing the money to the electrified Hans, glided swiftly away to rejoin
her companions.

"Jufvrouw! jufvrouw von Gleck!" called Hans in a loud tone, stumbling
after her as well as he could, for one of his skate-strings was untied.

Hilda turned, and with one hand raised to shield her eyes from the sun,
seemed to him to be floating through the air, nearer and nearer.

"We cannot take this money," panted Hans, "though we know your goodness
in giving it."

"Why not indeed?" asked Hilda flushing.

"Because," replied Hans, bowing like a clown, but looking with the eye
of a prince at the queenly girl, "we have not earned it."

Hilda was quick-witted. She had noticed a pretty wooden chain upon
Gretel's neck.

"Carve me a chain, Hans, like the one your sister wears."

"That I will, lady, with all my heart; we have white wood in the house,
fine as ivory; you shall have one to-morrow," and Hans hastily tried to
return the money.

"No, no," said Hilda decidedly. "That sum will be but a poor price for
the chain," and off she darted, out-stripping the fleetest among the
skaters.

Hans sent a long, bewildered gaze after her; it was useless he felt to
make any further resistance.

"It is right," he muttered, half to himself, half to his faithful
shadow, Gretel, "I must work hard every minute, and sit up half the
night if the mother will let me burn a candle; but the chain shall be
finished. We may keep the money, Gretel."

"What a good little lady!" cried Gretel clapping her hands with delight,
"oh! Hans, was it for nothing the stork settled on our roof last summer?
Do you remember how the mother said it would bring us luck and how she
cried when Janzoon Kolp shot him? And she said it would bring him
trouble. But the luck has come to us at last! Now, Hans, if mother sends
us to town to-morrow you can buy the skates in the market-place."

Hans shook his head. "The young lady would have given us the money to
buy skates, but if I _earn_ it, Gretel, it shall be spent for wool. You
must have a warm jacket."

"Oh!" cried Gretel, in real dismay, "not buy the skates! Why, I am not
often cold! Mother says the blood runs up and down in poor children's
veins humming 'I must keep 'em warm! I must keep 'em warm.'

"Oh, Hans," she continued with something like a sob, "don't say you
won't buy the skates, it makes me feel just like crying--besides, I want
to be cold--I mean I'm real, awful warm--so now!"

Hans looked up hurriedly. He had a true Dutch horror of tears, or
emotion of any kind, and, most of all, he dreaded to see his sister's
blue eyes overflowing.

"Now mind," cried Gretel, seeing her advantage, "I'll feel awful if you
give up the skates. _I_ don't want them. I'm not such a stingy as that;
but I want _you_ to have them, and then when I get bigger they'll do for
me--oh-h--count the pieces, Hans. Did ever you see so many!"

Hans turned the money thoughtfully in his palm. Never in all his life
had he longed so intensely for a pair of skates, for he had known of the
race and had, boy-like, fairly ached for a chance to test his powers
with the other children. He felt confident that with a good pair of
steel runners, he could readily distance most of the boys on the canal.
Then, too, Gretel's argument was so plausible. On the other hand, he
knew that she, with her strong but lithe little frame, needed but a
week's practice on good runners, to make her a better skater than
Rychie Korbes or even Katrinka Flack. As soon as this last thought
flashed upon him his resolve was made. If Gretel would not have the
jacket, she should have the skates.

"No, Gretel," he answered at last, "I can wait. Some day I may have
money enough saved to buy a fine pair. You shall have these."

Gretel's eyes sparkled; but in another instant she insisted, rather
faintly:

"The young lady gave the money to _you_, Hans. I'd be real bad to take
it."

Hans shook his head, resolutely, as he trudged on, causing his sister to
half skip and half walk in her effort to keep beside him; by this time
they had taken off their wooden "rockers," and were hastening home to
tell their mother the good news.

"Oh! _I_ know!" cried Gretel, in a sprightly tone. "You can do this. You
can get a pair a little too small for you, and too big for me, and we
can take turns and use them. Won't that be fine?" and Gretel clapped her
hands again.

Poor Hans! This was a strong temptation, but he pushed it away from him,
brave-hearted fellow that he was.

"Nonsense, Gretel. You could never get on with a big pair. You stumbled
about with these, like a blind chicken, before I curved off the ends.
No, you must have a pair to fit exactly, and you must practice every
chance you can get, until the Twentieth comes. My little Gretel shall
win the silver skates."

Gretel could not help laughing with delight at the very idea.

"Hans! Gretel!" called out a familiar voice.

"Coming, mother!" and they hastened toward the cottage, Hans still
shaking the pieces of silver in his hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the following day, there was not a prouder nor a happier boy in all
Holland than Hans Brinker, as he watched his sister, with many a
dexterous sweep, flying in and out among the skaters who at sundown
thronged the canal. A warm jacket had been given her by the kind-hearted
Hilda, and the burst-out shoes had been cobbled into decency by Dame
Brinker. As the little creature darted backward and forward, flushed
with enjoyment, and quite unconscious of the many wondering glances bent
upon her, she felt that the shining runners beneath her feet had
suddenly turned earth into Fairy-land, while "Hans, dear, good Hans!"
echoed itself over and over again in her grateful heart.

"By den donder!" exclaimed Peter van Holp to Carl Schummel, "but that
little one in the red jacket and patched petticoat skates well. Gunst!
she has toes on her heels, and eyes in the back of her head! See her. It
will be a joke if she gets in the race and beats Katrinka Flack, after
all."

"Hush! not so loud!" returned Carl, rather sneeringly. "That little lady
in rags is the special pet of Hilda van Gleck. Those shining skates are
her gift, if I make no mistake."

"So! so!" exclaimed Peter, with a radiant smile, for Hilda was his best
friend. "She has been at her good work there, too!" And Mynheer van
Holp, after cutting a double 8 on the ice, to say nothing of a huge P,
then a jump, and an H, glided onward until he found himself beside
Hilda.

Hand in hand, they skated together, laughingly at first, then staidly
talking in a low tone.

Strange to say, Peter van Holp soon arrived at a sudden conviction that
his little sister needed a wooden chain just like Hilda's.

Two days afterward, on St. Nicholas' Eve, Hans, having burned three
candle-ends, and cut his thumb into the bargain, stood in the
market-place at Amsterdam, buying another pair of skates.



V

SHADOWS IN THE HOME


Good Dame Brinker! As soon as the scanty dinner had been cleared away
that noon, she had arrayed herself in her holiday attire, in honor of
Saint Nicholas. "It will brighten the children," she thought to herself,
and she was not mistaken. This festival dress had been worn very seldom
during the past ten years; before that time it had done good service,
and had flourished at many a dance and Kermis, when she was known, far
and wide, as the pretty Meitje Klenck. The children had sometimes been
granted rare glimpses of it as it lay in state in the old oaken chest.
Faded and threadbare as it was, it was gorgeous in their eyes, with its
white linen tucker, now gathered to her plump throat, and vanishing
beneath the trim bodice of blue homespun, and its reddish brown skirt
bordered with black. The knitted woolen mitts, and the dainty cap
showing her hair, which generally was hidden, made her seem almost like
a princess to Gretel, while master Hans grew staid and well-behaved as
he gazed.

Soon the little maid, while braiding her own golden tresses, fairly
danced around her mother in an ecstasy of admiration.

"Oh, mother, mother, mother, how pretty you are! Look, Hans! isn't it
just like a picture?"

"Just like a picture," assented Hans, cheerfully, "_just_ like a
picture--only I don't like those stocking things on the hands."

"Not like the mitts, brother Hans! why, they're very
important--see--they cover up all the red. Oh, mother, how white your
arm is where the mitt leaves off, whiter than mine, oh, ever so much
whiter. I declare, mother, the bodice is tight for you. You're growing!
You're surely growing!"

Dame Brinker laughed.

"This was made long ago, lovey, when I wasn't much thicker about the
waist than a churn-dasher. And how do you like the cap?" turning her
head from side to side.

"Oh, _ever_ so much, mother. It's b-e-a-u-tiful! see! The father is
looking!"

Was the father looking? Alas, only with a dull stare. His vrouw turned
toward him with a start, something like a blush rising to her cheeks, a
questioning sparkle in her eye.--The bright look died away in an
instant.

"No, no," she sighed, "he sees nothing. Come, Hans" (and the smile crept
faintly back again), "don't stand gaping at me all day, and the new
skates waiting for you at Amsterdam."

"Ah, mother," he answered, "you need many things. Why should I buy
skates?"

"Nonsense, child. The money was given to you on purpose, or the work
was--it's all the same thing--Go while the sun is high."

"Yes, and hurry back, Hans!" laughed Gretel; "we'll race on the canal
to-night, if the mother lets us."

At the very threshold he turned to say--"Your spinning wheel wants a new
treadle, mother."

"You can make it, Hans."

"So I can. That will take no money. But you need feathers, and wool and
meal, and----"

"There, there! That will do. Your silver cannot buy everything. Ah!
Hans, if our stolen money would but come back on this bright Saint
Nicholas' Eve, how glad we would be! Only last night I prayed to the
good Saint----"

"Mother!" interrupted Hans in dismay.

"Why not, Hans! Shame on you to reproach me for that! I'm as true a
protestant, in sooth, as any fine lady that walks into church, but it's
no wrong to turn sometimes to the good Saint Nicholas. Tut! It's a
likely story if one can't do that, without one's children flaring up at
it--and he the boys' and girls' own saint--Hoot! mayhap the colt is a
steadier horse than the mare?"

Hans knew his mother too well to offer a word in opposition, when her
voice quickened and sharpened as it did now (it was often sharp and
quick when she spoke of the missing money) so he said, gently:

"And what did you ask of good Saint Nicholas, mother?"

"Why, to never give the thieves a wink of sleep till they brought it
back, to be sure, if he's power to do such things, or else to brighten
our wits that we might find it ourselves. Not a sight have I had of it
since the day before the dear father was hurt--as you well know, Hans."

"That I do, mother," he answered sadly, "though you have almost pulled
down the cottage in searching."

"Aye; but it was of no use," moaned the dame, "_'hiders_ make best
finders.'"

Hans started. "Do you think the father could tell aught?" he asked
mysteriously.

"Aye, indeed," said Dame Brinker, nodding her head, "I think so, but
that is no sign. I never hold the same belief in the matter two days.
Mayhap the father paid it off for the great silver watch we have been
guarding since that day. But, no--I'll never believe it."

"The watch was not worth a quarter of the money, mother."

"No, indeed; and your father was a shrewd man up to the last moment. He
was too steady and thrifty for silly doings."

"Where _did_ the watch come from, I wonder," muttered Hans, half to
himself.

Dame Brinker shook her head, and looked sadly toward her husband, who
sat staring blankly at the floor. Gretel stood near him, knitting.

"That we shall never know, Hans. I have shown it to the father many a
time, but he does not know it from a potato. When he came in that
dreadful night to supper he handed the watch to me and told me to take
good care of it until he asked for it again. Just as he opened his lips
to say more, Broom Klatterboost came flying in with word that the dyke
was in danger. Ah! the waters were terrible that holy Pinxter-week! My
man, alack, caught up his tools and ran out. That was the last I ever
saw of him in his right mind. He was brought in again by midnight,
nearly dead, with his poor head all bruised and cut. The fever passed
off in time but never the dullness--_that_ grew worse every day. We
shall never know."

Hans had heard all this before. More than once he had seen his mother,
in hours of sore need, take the watch from its hiding-place,
half-resolved to sell it, but she had always conquered the temptation.

"No, Hans," she would say, "we must be nearer starving than this before
we turn faithless to the father!"

A memory of some such scene crossed her son's mind now; for, after
giving a heavy sigh, and filliping a crumb of wax at Gretel across the
table, he said:

"Aye, mother, you have done bravely to keep it--many a one would have
tossed it off for gold long ago."

"And more shame for them!" exclaimed the dame, indignantly. "_I_ would
not do it. Besides, the gentry are so hard on us poor folks that if they
saw such a thing in our hands, even if we told all, they might suspect
the father of----"

Hans flushed angrily.

"They would not _dare_ to say such a thing, mother! If they
did--I'd----"

He clenched his fist, and seemed to think that the rest of his sentence
was too terrible to utter in her presence.

Dame Brinker smiled proudly through her tears at this interruption.

"Ah, Hans, thou'rt a true, brave lad. We will never part company with
the watch. In his dying hour the dear father might wake and ask for it."

"Might _wake_, mother!" echoed Hans, "wake--and know us?"

"Aye, child," almost whispered his mother, "such things have been."

By this time Hans had nearly forgotten his proposed errand to Amsterdam.
His mother had seldom spoken so familiarly with him. He felt himself now
to be not only her son, but her friend, her adviser.

"You are right, mother. We must never give up the watch. For the
father's sake, we will guard it always. The money, though, may come to
light when we least expect it."

"Never!" cried Dame Brinker, taking the last stitch from her needle with
a jerk, and laying the unfinished knitting heavily upon her lap. "There
is no chance! One thousand guilders! and all gone in a day! One thousand
guilders--Oh! what ever _did_ become of them? If they went in an evil
way, the thief would have confessed by this on his dying bed--he would
not dare to die with such guilt on his soul!"

"He may not be dead yet," said Hans, soothingly; "any day we may hear of
him."

"Ah, child," she said in a changed tone, "what thief would ever have
come _here_? It was always neat and clean, thank God! but not fine; for
the father and I saved and saved that we might have something laid by.
'Little and often soon fills the pouch.' We found it so, in truth;
besides, the father had a goodly sum, already, for service done to the
Heernocht lands, at the time of the great inundation. Every week we had
a guilder left over, sometimes more; for the father worked extra hours,
and could get high pay for his labor. Every Saturday night we put
something by, except the time when you had the fever, Hans, and when
Gretel came. At last the pouch grew so full that I mended an old
stocking and commenced again. Now that I look back, it seems that the
money was up to the heel in a few sunny weeks. There was great pay in
those days if a man was quick at engineer work. The stocking went on
filling with copper and silver--aye, and gold. You may well open your
eyes, Gretel. I used to laugh and tell the father it was not for poverty
I wore my old gown;--and the stocking went on filling--so full that
sometimes when I woke at night, I'd get up, soft and quiet, and go feel
it in the moonlight. Then, on my knees, I would thank our Lord that my
little ones could in time get good learning, and that the father might
rest from labor in his old age. Sometimes, at supper, the father and I
would talk about a new chimney and a good winter-room for the cow; but
my man forsooth had finer plans even than that. 'A big sail,' says he,
'catches the wind--we can do what we will soon,' and then we would sing
together as I washed my dishes. Ah, 'a smooth sea makes an easy
rudder,'--not a thing vexed me from morning till night. Every week the
father would take out the stocking, and drop in the money and laugh and
kiss me as we tied it up together.--Up with you, Hans! there you sit
gaping, and the day a-wasting!" added Dame Brinker tartly, blushing to
find that she had been speaking too freely to her boy; "it's high time
you were on your way."

Hans had seated himself and was looking earnestly into her face. He
arose, and, in almost a whisper, asked:

"Have you ever _tried_, mother?"

She understood him.

"Yes, child, often. But the father only laughs, or he stares at me so
strange I am glad to ask no more. When you and Gretel had the fever last
Winter, and our bread was nearly gone, and I could earn nothing, for
fear you would die while my face was turned, oh! I tried then! I
smoothed his hair, and whispered to him soft as a kitten, about the
money--where it was--who had it? Alack! he would pick at my sleeve, and
whisper gibberish till my blood ran cold. At last, while Gretel lay
whiter than snow, and you were raving on the bed, I SCREAMED to him--it
seemed as if he _must_ hear me--'Raff, where is our money? Do you know
aught of the money, Raff?--the money in the pouch and the stocking, in
the big chest?'--but I might as well have talked to a stone--I might
as----"

The mother's voice sounded so strangely, and her eye was so bright, that
Hans, with a new anxiety, laid his hand upon her shoulder.

"Come, mother," he said, "let us try to forget this money. I am big and
strong--Gretel, too, is very quick and willing. Soon all will be
prosperous with us again. Why, mother, Gretel and I would rather see
thee bright and happy, than to have all the silver in the
world--wouldn't we, Gretel?"

"The mother knows it," said Gretel, sobbing.



VI

SUNBEAMS


Dame Brinker was startled at her children's emotion, glad, too, for it
proved how loving and true they were.

Beautiful ladies, in princely homes, often smile suddenly and sweetly,
gladdening the very air around them; but I doubt if their smile be more
welcome in God's sight than that which sprang forth to cheer the roughly
clad boy and girl in the humble cottage. Dame Brinker felt that she had
been selfish. Blushing and brightening, she hastily wiped her eyes, and
looked upon them as only a mother can.

"Hoity! Toity! pretty talk we're having, and Saint Nicholas' Eve almost
here! What wonder the yarn pricks my fingers! Come, Gretel, take this
cent,[11] and while Hans is trading for the skates you can buy a waffle
in the market-place."

[Footnote 11: The Dutch cent is worth less than half of an American
cent.]

"Let me stay home with you, mother," said Gretel, looking up with eyes
that sparkled through their tears. "Hans will buy me the cake."

"As you will, child, and Hans--wait a moment. Three turns of the needle
will finish this toe, and then you may have as good a pair of hose as
ever were knitted (owning the yarn is a grain too sharp,) to sell to the
hosier on the Heireen Gracht.[12] That will give us three
quarter-guilders if you make good trade; and as it's right hungry
weather, you may buy four waffles. We'll keep the Feast of Saint
Nicholas after all."

[Footnote 12: A street in Amsterdam.]

Gretel clapped her hands. "That will be fine! Annie Bouman told me what
grand times they will have in the big houses to-night. But we will be
merry too. Hans will have beautiful new skates,--and then there'll be
the waffles! Oh-h! Don't break them, brother Hans. Wrap them well, and
button them under your jacket very carefully."

"Certainly," replied Hans quite gruff with pleasure and importance.

"Oh! mother!" cried Gretel in high glee, "soon you will be busied with
the father, and now you are only knitting. Do tell us all about Saint
Nicholas!"

Dame Brinker laughed to see Hans hang up his hat and prepare to listen.
"Nonsense, children," she said, "I have told it to you often."

"Tell us again! oh, _do_ tell us again!" cried Gretel, throwing herself
upon the wonderful wooden bench that her brother had made on the
mother's last birthday. Hans, not wishing to appear childish, and yet
quite willing to hear the story, stood carelessly swinging his skates
against the fireplace.

"Well, children, you shall hear it, but we must never waste the daylight
again in this way. Pick up your ball, Gretel, and let your sock grow as
I talk. Opening your ears needn't shut your fingers. Saint Nicholas, you
must know, is a wonderful saint. He keeps his eye open for the good of
sailors, but he cares most of all for boys and girls. Well, once upon a
time, when he was living on the earth, a merchant of Asia sent his three
sons to a great city, called Athens, to get learning."

"Is Athens in Holland, mother?" asked Gretel.

"I don't know, child. Probably it is."

"Oh, no, mother," said Hans, respectfully. "I had that in my geography
lessons long ago. Athens is in Greece."

"Well," resumed the mother, "what matter? Greece may belong to the King,
for aught we know. Anyhow, this rich merchant sent his sons to Athens.
While they were on their way, they stopped one night at a shabby inn,
meaning to take up their journey in the morning. Well, they had very
fine clothes,--velvet and silk, it may be, such as rich folks' children,
all over the world, think nothing of wearing--and their belts, likewise,
were full of money. What did the wicked landlord do, but contrive a plan
to kill the children, and take their money and all their beautiful
clothes himself. So that night, when all the world was asleep he got up
and killed the three young gentlemen."

Gretel clasped her hands and shuddered, but Hans tried to look as if
killing and murder were every-day matters to him.

"That was not the worst of it," continued Dame Brinker, knitting slowly,
and trying to keep count of her stitches as she talked, "that was not
near the worst of it. The dreadful landlord went and cut up the young
gentlemen's bodies into little pieces, and threw them into a great tub
of brine, intending to sell them for pickled pork!"

"Oh!" cried Gretel, horror-stricken, though she had often heard the
story before. Hans still continued unmoved, and seemed to think that
pickling was the best that could be done under the circumstances.

"Yes, he pickled them, and one might think that would have been the last
of the young gentlemen. But no. That night Saint Nicholas had a
wonderful vision, and in it he saw the landlord cutting up the
merchant's children. There was no need of his hurrying, you know, for
he was a saint; but in the morning he went to the inn and charged the
landlord with the murder. Then the wicked landlord confessed it from
beginning to end, and fell down on his knees, begging forgiveness. He
felt so sorry for what he had done that he asked the saint to bring the
young masters to life."

"And did the saint do it?" asked Gretel, delighted, well knowing what
the answer would be.

"Of course he did. The pickled pieces flew together in an instant, and
out jumped the young gentlemen from the brine-tub. They cast themselves
at the feet of Saint Nicholas and he gave them his blessing, and--oh!
mercy on us, Hans, it will be dark before you get back if you don't
start this minute!"

By this time Dame Brinker was almost out of breath and quite out of
commas. She could not remember when she had seen the children idle away
an hour of daylight in this manner, and the thought of such luxury quite
appalled her. By way of compensation she now flew about the room in
extreme haste. Tossing a block of peat upon the fire, blowing invisible
dust from the table, and handing the finished hose to Hans, all in an
instant--

"Come, Hans," she said, as her boy lingered by the door, "what keeps
thee?"

Hans kissed his mother's plump cheek, rosy and fresh yet, in spite of
all her troubles.

"My mother is the best in the world, and I would be right glad to have a
pair of skates, but"--and, as he buttoned his jacket, he looked, in a
troubled way, toward a strange figure crouching by the hearth-stone--"If
my money would bring a meester[13] from Amsterdam to see the father,
something might yet be done."

[Footnote 13: Doctor (dokter in Dutch) called meester by the lower
class.]

"A meester would not come, Hans, for twice that money, and it would do
no good if he did. Ah! how many guilders I once spent for that; but the
dear, good father would not waken. It is God's will. Go, Hans, and buy
the skates."

Hans started with a heavy heart, but since the heart was young, and in a
boy's bosom, it set him whistling in less than five minutes. His mother
had said "thee" to him, and that was quite enough to make even a dark
day sunny. Hollanders do not address each other, in affectionate
intercourse, as the French and Germans do. But Dame Brinker had
embroidered for a Heidelberg family in her girlhood, and she had carried
its "thee" and "thou" into her rude home, to be used in moments of
extreme love and tenderness.

Therefore, "what keeps thee, Hans?" sang an echo song beneath the boy's
whistling, and made him feel that his errand was blest.



VII

HANS HAS HIS WAY


Broek, with its quiet, spotless streets, its frozen rivulets, its yellow
brick pavements, and bright wooden houses, was near by. It was a village
where neatness and show were in full blossom; but the inhabitants seemed
to be either asleep or dead.

Not a footprint marred the sanded paths, where pebbles and sea-shells
lay in fanciful designs. Every window-shutter was closed as tightly as
though air and sunshine were poison; and the massive front doors were
never opened except on the occasion of a wedding, christening, or a
funeral.

Serene clouds of tobacco-smoke were floating through hidden apartments,
and children, who otherwise might have awakened the place, were studying
in out-of-the-way corners, or skating upon the neighboring canal. A few
peacocks and wolves stood in the gardens, but they had never enjoyed the
luxury of flesh and blood. They were cut out in growing box, and seemed
guarding the grounds with a sort of green ferocity. Certain lively
automata, ducks, women and sportsmen, were stowed away in summer-houses,
waiting for the spring-time, when they could be wound up, and rival
their owners in animation; and the shining, tiled roofs, mosaic
courtyards and polished house-trimmings flashed up a silent homage to
the sky, where never a speck of dust could dwell.

Hans glanced toward the village, as he shook his silver kwartjes, and
wondered whether it were really true, as he had often heard, that some
of the people of Broek were so rich that they used kitchen utensils of
solid gold.

He had seen Mevrouw van Stoop's sweet-cheeses in market, and he knew
that the lofty dame earned many a bright, silver guilder in selling
them. But did she set the cream to rise in golden pans? Did she use a
golden skimmer? When her cows were in winter quarters, were their tails
really tied up with ribbons?

These thoughts ran through his mind as he turned his face toward
Amsterdam, not five miles away, on the other side of the frozen Y.[14]
The ice upon the canal was perfect; but his wooden runners, so soon to
be cast aside, squeaked a dismal farewell, as he scraped and skimmed
along.

[Footnote 14: Pronounced Eye, an arm of the Zuider Zee.]

When crossing the Y, whom should he see skating toward him but the great
Dr. Boekman, the most famous physician and surgeon in Holland. Hans had
never met him before, but he had seen his engraved likeness in many of
the shop-windows of Amsterdam. It was a face that one could never
forget. Thin and lank, though a born Dutchman, with stern, blue eyes,
and queer, compressed lips, that seemed to say "no smiling permitted,"
he certainly was not a very jolly or sociable looking personage, nor one
that a well-trained boy would care to accost unbidden.

But Hans _was_ bidden, and that, too, by a voice he seldom
disregarded--his own conscience.

"Here comes the greatest doctor in the world," whispered the voice. "God
has sent him; you have no right to buy skates when you might, with the
same money, purchase such aid for your father!"

The wooden runners gave an exultant squeak. Hundreds of beautiful skates
were gleaming and vanishing in the air above him. He felt the money
tingle in his fingers. The old doctor looked fearfully grim and
forbidding. Hans' heart was in his throat, but he found voice enough to
cry out, just as he was passing:

"Mynheer Boekman!"

The great man halted, and sticking out his thin under lip, looked
scowlingly about him.

Hans was in for it now.

"Mynheer," he panted, drawing close to the fierce-looking doctor, "I
knew you could be none other than the famous Boekman. I have to ask a
great favor----"

"Humph!" muttered the doctor, preparing to skate past the
intruder,--"Get out of the way--I've no money--never give to beggars."

"I am no beggar, Mynheer," retorted Hans proudly, at the same time
producing his mite of silver with a grand air. "I wish to consult with
you about my father. He is a living man, but sits like one dead. He
cannot think. His words mean nothing--but he is not sick. He fell on the
dykes."

"Hey? what?" cried the doctor beginning to listen.

Hans told the whole story in an incoherent way, dashing off a tear once
or twice as he talked, and finally ending with an earnest,

"Oh, do see him, Mynheer. His body is well--it is only his mind--I know
this money is not enough; but take it, Mynheer, I will earn more--I know
I will--Oh! I will toil for you all my life, if you will but cure my
father!"

What was the matter with the old doctor? A brightness like sunlight
beamed from his face. His eyes were kind and moist; the hand that had
lately clutched his cane, as if preparing to strike, was laid gently
upon Hans' shoulder.

"Put up your money, boy, I do not want it--we will see your father. It
is a hopeless case, I fear. How long did you say?"

"Ten years, Mynheer," sobbed Hans, radiant with sudden hope.

"Ah! a bad case; but I shall see him. Let me think. To-day I start for
Leyden, to return in a week, then you may expect me. Where is it?"

"A mile south of Broek, Mynheer, near the canal. It is only a poor,
broken-down hut. Any of the children thereabout can point it out to your
honor," added Hans, with a heavy sigh; "they are all half afraid of the
place; they call it the idiot's cottage."

"That will do," said the doctor, hurrying on, with a bright backward nod
at Hans, "I shall be there. A hopeless case," he muttered to himself,
"but the boy pleases me. His eye is like my poor Laurens. Confound it,
shall I never forget that young scoundrel!" and, scowling more darkly
than ever, the doctor pursued his silent way.

Again Hans was skating toward Amsterdam on the squeaking wooden runners;
again his fingers tingled against the money in his pocket; again the
boyish whistle rose unconsciously to his lips.

"Shall I hurry home," he was thinking, "to tell the good news, or shall
I get the waffles and the new skates first? Whew! I think I'll go on!"

And so Hans bought the skates.



VIII

INTRODUCING JACOB POOT AND HIS COUSIN


Hans and Gretel had a fine frolic early on that Saint Nicholas' Eve.
There was a bright moon; and their mother, though she believed herself
to be without any hope of her husband's improvement, had been made so
happy at the prospect of the meester's visit, that she had yielded to
the children's entreaties for an hour's skating before bedtime.

Hans was delighted with his new skates, and in his eagerness to show
Gretel how perfectly they "worked" did many things upon the ice, that
caused the little maid to clasp her hands in solemn admiration. They
were not alone, though they seemed quite unheeded by the various groups
assembled upon the canal.

The two Van Holps, and Carl Schummel were there, testing their fleetness
to the utmost. Out of four trials Peter van Holp had beaten three times.
Consequently Carl, never very amiable, was in anything but a good humor.
He had relieved himself by taunting young Schimmelpenninck who, being
smaller than the others, kept meekly near them, without feeling exactly
like one of the party; but now a new thought seized Carl, or rather he
seized the new thought and made an onset upon his friends.

"I say, boys, let's put a stop to those young rag-pickers from the
idiot's cottage joining the race. Hilda must be crazy to think of it.
Katrinka Flack and Rychie Korbes are furious at the very idea of racing
with the girl; and for my part, I don't blame them. As for the boy, if
we've a spark of manhood in us we will scorn the very idea of----"

"Certainly we will!" interposed Peter van Holp, purposely mistaking
Carl's meaning, "who doubts it? No fellow with a spark of manhood in him
would refuse to let in two good skaters just because they were poor!"

Carl wheeled about savagely:

"Not so fast, master! and I'd thank you not to put words in other
people's mouths. You'd best not try it again."

"Ha! ha!" laughed little Voostenwalbert Schimmelpenninck, delighted at
the prospect of a fight, and sure that, if it should come to blows, his
favorite Peter could beat a dozen excitable fellows like Carl.

Something in Peter's eye made Carl glad to turn to a weaker offender. He
wheeled furiously upon Voost.

"What are you shrieking about, you little weasel! You skinny herring
you, you little monkey with a long name for a tail!"

Half a dozen bystanders and by-skaters set up an applauding shout at
this brave witticism; and Carl, feeling that he had fairly vanquished
his foes, was restored to partial good humor. He, however, prudently
resolved to defer plotting against Hans and Gretel until some time when
Peter should not be present.

Just then, his friend, Jacob Poot, was seen approaching. They could not
distinguish his features at first; but as he was the stoutest boy in the
neighborhood there could be no mistaking his form.

"Hola! here comes Fatty!" exclaimed Carl, "and there's some one with
him, a slender fellow, a stranger."

"Ha! ha! that's like good bacon," cried Ludwig; "a streak of lean and a
streak of fat."

"That's Jacob's English cousin," put in Master Voost, delighted at being
able to give the information, "that's his English cousin, and, oh! he's
got such a funny little name,--BEN DOBBS. He's going to stay with him
until after the grand race."

All this time the boys had been spinning, turning, "rolling" and doing
other feats upon their skates, in a quiet way, as they talked; but now
they stood still, bracing themselves against the frosty air as Jacob
Poot and his friend drew near.

"This is my cousin, boys," said Jacob, rather out of breath--"Benjamin
Dobbs. He's a John Bull and he's going to be in the race."

All crowded, boy-fashion, about the newcomers. Benjamin soon made up his
mind that the Hollanders, notwithstanding their queer gibberish, were a
fine set of fellows.

If the truth must be told, Jacob had announced his cousin as "Penchamin
Dopps," and called him a "Shon Pull," but as I translate every word of
the conversation of our young friends, it is no more than fair to mend
their little attempts at English. Master Dobbs felt at first decidedly
awkward among his cousin's friends. Though most of them had studied
English and French, they were shy about attempting to speak either, and
he made very funny blunders when he tried to converse in Dutch. He had
learned that _vrouw_ means wife, and _ja_, yes; and _spoorweg_, railway;
_kanaals_, canals; _stoomboot_, steamboat; _ophaalbruggen_, drawbridges;
_buiten plasten_, country seats; _mynheer_, "mister;" _tweegevegt_, duel
or _two-fights_; _koper_, copper; _zadel_, saddle; but he could not
make a sentence out of these, nor use the long list of phrases he had
learned in his "Dutch dialogues." The topics of the latter were fine,
but were never alluded to by the boys. Like the poor fellow who had
learned in Ollendorf to ask in faultless German "have you seen my
grandmother's red cow?" and when he reached Germany discovered that he
had no occasion to inquire after that interesting animal, Ben found that
his book-Dutch did not avail him as much as he had hoped. He acquired a
hearty contempt for Jan van Gorp, a Hollander who wrote a book in Latin
to prove that Adam and Eve spoke Dutch; and he smiled a knowing smile
when his uncle Poot assured him that Dutch "had great likeness mit
Zinglish but it vash much petter languish, much petter."

However, the fun of skating glides over all barriers of speech. Through
this, Ben soon felt that he knew the boys well; and when Jacob (with a
sprinkling of French and English for Ben's benefit) told of a grand
project they had planned, his cousin could now and then put in a "ja,"
or a nod, in quite a familiar way.

The project _was_ a grand one, and there was to be a fine opportunity
for carrying it out; for, besides the allotted holiday of the Festival
of Saint Nicholas, four extra days were to be allowed for a general
cleaning of the schoolhouse.

Jacob and Ben had obtained permission to go on a long skating
journey--no less a one than from Broek to the Hague, the capital of
Holland, a distance of nearly fifty miles![15]

[Footnote 15: Throughout this narrative distances are given according to
our standard, the English statute mile of 5280 ft. The Dutch mile is
more than four times as long as ours.]

"And now, boys," added Jacob, when he had told the plan, "who will go
with us?"

"I will! I will!" cried the boys eagerly.

"And so will I!" ventured little Voostenwalbert.

"Ha! ha!" laughed Jacob, holding his fat sides, and shaking his puffy
cheeks, "_you_ go? Such a little fellow as you? Why, youngster, you
haven't left off your pads yet!"

Now in Holland very young children wear a thin, padded cushion around
their heads, surmounted with a framework of whalebone and ribbon, to
protect them in case of a fall; and it is the dividing line between
babyhood and childhood when they leave it off. Voost had arrived at this
dignity several years before; consequently Jacob's insult was rather too
great for endurance.

"Look out what you say!" he squeaked. "Lucky for you when you can leave
off _your_ pads--you're padded all over!"

"Ha! ha!" roared all the boys except Master Dobbs, who could not
understand. "Ha! ha!"--and the good-natured Jacob laughed more than any.

"It ish my fat--yaw--he say I bees pad mit fat!" he explained to Ben.

So a vote was passed unanimously in favor of allowing the now popular
Voost to join the party, if his parents would consent.

"Good-night!" sang out the happy youngster, skating homeward with all
his might.

"Good-night!"

"We can stop at Haarlem, Jacob, and show your cousin the big organ,"
said Peter van Holp, eagerly, "and at Leyden, too, where there's no end
to the sights; and spend a day and night at the Hague, for my married
sister, who lives there, will be delighted to see us; and the next
morning we can start for home."

"All right!" responded Jacob, who was not much of a talker.

Ludwig had been regarding his brother with enthusiastic admiration.

"Hurrah for you, Pete! It takes you to make plans! Mother'll be as full
of it as we are when we tell her we can take her love direct to sister
Van Gend. My! but it's cold," he added, "cold enough to take a fellow's
head off his shoulders. We'd better go home."

"What if it is cold, old Tender-skin?" cried Carl, who was busily
practicing a step which he called the "double edge." "Great skating we
should have by this time, if it was as warm as it was last December.
Don't you know if it wasn't an extra cold winter, and an early one into
the bargain, we couldn't go?"

"I know it's an extra cold night anyhow," said Ludwig. "Whew! I'm going
home!"

Peter van Holp took out a bulgy gold watch, and holding it toward the
moonlight as well as his benumbed fingers would permit, called out:

"Hollo! it's nearly eight o'clock! Saint Nicholas is about by this time,
and I, for one, want to see the little ones stare. Good-night!"

"Good-night!" cried one and all,--and off they started, shouting,
singing, and laughing as they flew along.

Where were Gretel and Hans?

Ah! how suddenly joy sometimes comes to an end!

They had skated about an hour, keeping aloof from the others--quite
contented with each other, and Gretel had exclaimed, "Ah, Hans, how
beautiful! how fine! to think that we both have skates! I tell you the
stork brought us good luck!"--when they heard something!

It was a scream--a very faint scream! No one else upon the canal
observed it, but Hans knew its meaning too well. Gretel saw him turn
white in the moonlight as he hastily tore off his skates.

"The father!" he cried, "he has frightened our mother!" and Gretel ran
after him toward the house as rapidly as she could.



IX

THE FESTIVAL OF SAINT NICHOLAS


We all know how, before the Christmas tree began to flourish in the
home-life of our country, a certain "right jolly old elf," with "eight
tiny reindeer," used to drive his sleigh-load of toys up to our
housetops, and then bound down the chimney to fill the stockings so
hopefully hung by the fireplace. His friends called him Santa Claus, and
those who were most intimate ventured to say "Old Nick." It was said
that he originally came from Holland. Doubtless he did; but, if so, he
certainly like many other foreigners changed his ways very much after
landing upon our shores. In Holland, Saint Nicholas is a veritable
saint, and often appears in full costume, with his embroidered robes,
glittering with gems and gold, his mitre, his crozier and his jeweled
gloves. _Here_ Santa Claus comes rollicking along, on the twenty-fifth
of December, our holy Christmas morn. But in Holland, Saint Nicholas
visits earth on the fifth, a time especially appropriated to him. Early
on the morning of the sixth, he distributes his candies, toys and
treasures, then vanishes for a year.

Christmas day is devoted by the Hollanders to church rites and pleasant
family visiting. It is on Saint Nicholas' Eve that their young people
become half wild with joy and expectation. To some of them it is a sorry
time, for the saint is very candid, and if any of them have been bad
during the past year, he is quite sure to tell them so. Sometimes he
carries a birch rod under his arm and advises the parents to give them
scoldings in place of confections, and floggings instead of toys.

It was well that the boys hastened to their abodes on that bright winter
evening, for in less than an hour afterward, the saint made his
appearance in half the homes of Holland. He visited the king's palace
and in the selfsame moment appeared in Annie Bouman's comfortable home.
Probably one of our silver half dollars would have purchased all that
his saintship left at the peasant Bouman's; but a half-dollar's worth
will sometimes do for the poor what hundreds of dollars may fail to do
for the rich; it makes them happy and grateful, fills them with new
peace and love.

Hilda van Gleck's little brothers and sisters were in a high state of
excitement that night. They had been admitted into the grand parlor;
they were dressed in their best, and had been given two cakes apiece at
supper. Hilda was as joyous as any. Why not? Saint Nicholas would never
cross a girl of fourteen from his list, just because she was tall and
looked almost like a woman. On the contrary, he would probably exert
himself to do honor to such an august looking damsel. Who could tell? So
she sported and laughed and danced as gaily as the youngest, and was the
soul of all their merry games. Father, mother and grandmother looked on
approvingly; so did grandfather, before he spread his large red
handkerchief over his face, leaving only the top of his skullcap
visible. This kerchief was his ensign of sleep.

Earlier in the evening all had joined in the fun. In the general
hilarity, there had seemed to be a difference only in bulk between
grandfather and the baby. Indeed a shade of solemn expectation now and
then flitting across the faces of the younger members, had made them
seem rather more thoughtful than their elders.

Now the spirit of fun reigned supreme. The very flames danced and
capered in the polished grate. A pair of prim candles that had been
staring at the Astral lamp began to wink at other candles far away in
the mirrors. There was a long bell-rope suspended from the ceiling in
the corner, made of glass beads netted over a cord nearly as thick as
your wrist. It generally hung in the shadow and made no sign; but
to-night it twinkled from end to end. Its handle of crimson glass sent
reckless dashes of red at the papered wall turning its dainty blue
stripes into purple. Passers-by halted to catch the merry laughter
floating, through curtain and sash, into the street, then skipped on
their way with a startled consciousness that the village was wide awake.
At last matters grew so uproarious that the grandsire's red kerchief
came down from his face with a jerk. What decent old gentleman could
sleep in such a racket! Mynheer Van Gleck regarded his children with
astonishment. The baby even showed symptoms of hysterics. It was high
time to attend to business. Madame suggested that if they wished to see
the good Saint Nicholas, they should sing the same loving invitation
that had brought him the year before.

The baby stared and thrust his fist into his mouth as Mynheer put him
down upon the floor. Soon he sat erect, and looked with a sweet scowl at
the company. With his lace and embroideries, and his crown of blue
ribbon and whalebone (for he was not quite past the tumbling age) he
looked like the king of the babies.

The other children, each holding a pretty willow basket, formed at once
in a ring, and moved slowly around the little fellow, lifting their
eyes, meanwhile, for the saint to whom they were about to address
themselves was yet in mysterious quarters.

Madame commenced playing softly upon the piano; soon the voices
rose--gentle youthful voices--rendered all the sweeter for their tremor:

     "Welcome, friend! Saint Nicholas, welcome!
       Bring no rod for us, to-night!
     While our voices bid thee, welcome,
       Every heart with joy is light!

                 Tell us every fault and failing,
                 We will bear thy keenest railing,
                 So we sing--so we sing--
                 Thou shalt tell us everything!

     Welcome, friend! Saint Nicholas, welcome!
       Welcome to this merry band!
     Happy children greet thee, welcome!
       Thou art glad'ning all the land!

                 Fill each empty hand and basket,
                 'Tis thy little ones who ask it,
                 So we sing--so we sing--
                 Thou wilt bring us everything!"

During the chorus, sundry glances, half in eagerness, half in dread, had
been cast toward the polished folding doors. Now a loud knocking was
heard. The circle was broken in an instant. Some of the little ones,
with a strange mixture of fear and delight, pressed against their
mother's knee. Grandfather bent forward, with his chin resting upon his
hand; grandmother lifted her spectacles; Mynheer van Gleck, seated by
the fireplace, slowly drew his meerschaum from his mouth, while Hilda
and the other children settled themselves beside him in an expectant
group.

The knocking was heard again.

"Come in," said Madame, softly.

The door slowly opened, and Saint Nicholas, in full array, stood before
them. You could have heard a pin drop!

Soon he spoke. What a mysterious majesty in his voice! what kindliness
in his tones!

"Karel van Gleck, I am pleased to greet thee, and thy honored vrouw
Kathrine, and thy son and his good vrouw Annie!

"Children, I greet ye all! Hendrick, Hilda, Broom, Katy, Huygens, and
Lucretia! And thy cousins, Wolfert, Diedrich, Mayken, Voost, and
Katrina! Good children ye have been, in the main, since I last accosted
ye. Diedrich was rude at the Haarlem fair last Fall, but he has tried to
atone for it since. Mayken has failed of late in her lessons, and too
many sweets and trifles have gone to her lips, and too few stivers to
her charity-box. Diedrich, I trust, will be a polite, manly boy for the
future, and Mayken will endeavor to shine as a student. Let her
remember, too, that economy and thrift are needed in the foundation of a
worthy and generous life. Little Katy has been cruel to the cat more
than once. Saint Nicholas can hear the cat cry when its tail is pulled.
I will forgive her if she will remember from this hour that the smallest
dumb creatures have feeling and must not be abused."

As Katy burst into a frightened cry, the saint graciously remained
silent until she was soothed.

"Master Broom," he resumed, "I warn thee that boys who are in the habit
of putting snuff upon the foot-stove of the school mistress may one day
be discovered and receive a flogging----"

[Illustration: _The door slowly opened_]

[Master Broom colored and stared in great astonishment.]

"But thou art such an excellent scholar, I shall make thee no further
reproof.

"Thou, Hendrick, didst distinguish thyself in the archery match last
Spring, and hit the Doel[16], though the bird was swung before it to
unsteady thine eye. I give thee credit for excelling in manly sport and
exercise--though I must not unduly countenance thy boat-racing since it
leaves thee too little time for thy proper studies.

[Footnote 16: Bull's-Eye.]

"Lucretia and Hilda shall have a blessed sleep to-night. The
consciousness of kindness to the poor, devotion in their souls, and
cheerful, hearty obedience to household rule will render them happy.

"With one and all I avow myself well content. Goodness, industry,
benevolence and thrift have prevailed in your midst. Therefore, my
blessing upon you--and may the New Year find all treading the paths of
obedience, wisdom and love. To-morrow you shall find more substantial
proofs that I have been in your midst. Farewell!"

With these words came a great shower of sugar-plums, upon a linen sheet
spread out in front of the doors. A general scramble followed. The
children fairly tumbled over each other in their eagerness to fill their
baskets. Madame cautiously held the baby down in their midst, till the
chubby little fists were filled. Then the bravest of the youngsters
sprang up and burst open the closed doors--in vain they peered into the
mysterious apartment--Saint Nicholas was nowhere to be seen.

Soon there was a general rush to another room, where stood a table,
covered with the finest and whitest of linen damask. Each child, in a
flutter of excitement, laid a shoe upon it. The door was then carefully
locked, and its key hidden in the mother's bedroom. Next followed
good-night kisses, a grand family-procession to the upper floor, merry
farewells at bedroom doors--and silence, at last, reigned in the Van
Gleck mansion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Early the next morning, the door was solemnly unlocked and opened in the
presence of the assembled household, when lo! a sight appeared proving
Saint Nicholas to be a saint of his word!

Every shoe was filled to overflowing, and beside each stood many a
colored pile. The table was heavy with its load of presents--candies,
toys, trinkets, books and other articles. Every one had gifts, from
grandfather down to the baby.

Little Katy clapped her hands with glee, and vowed, inwardly, that the
cat should never know another moment's grief.

Hendrick capered about the room, flourishing a superb bow and arrows
over his head. Hilda laughed with delight as she opened a crimson box
and drew forth its glittering contents. The rest chuckled and said "Oh!"
and "Ah!" over their treasures, very much as we did here in America on
last Christmas day.

With her glittering necklace in her hands, and a pile of books in her
arms, Hilda stole toward her parents and held up her beaming face for a
kiss. There was such an earnest, tender look in her bright eyes that her
mother breathed a blessing as she leaned over her.

"I am delighted with this book, thank you, father," she said, touching
the top one with her chin. "I shall read it all day long."

"Aye, sweetheart," said Mynheer, "you cannot do better. There is no one
like Father Cats. If my daughter learns his 'MORAL EMBLEMS' by heart,
the mother and I may keep silent. The work you have there is the
Emblems--his best work. You will find it enriched with rare engravings
from Van de Venne."

[Considering that the back of the book was turned away, Mynheer
certainly showed a surprising familiarity with an unopened volume,
presented by Saint Nicholas. It was strange, too, that the saint should
have found certain things made by the elder children, and had actually
placed them upon the table, labeled with parents' and grandparents'
names. But all were too much absorbed in happiness to notice slight
inconsistencies. Hilda saw, on her father's face, the rapt expression he
always wore when he spoke of Jacob Cats, so she put her armful of books
upon the table and resigned herself to listen.]

"Old Father Cats, my child, was a great poet, not a writer of plays like
the Englishman, Shakespeare, who lived in his time. I have read them in
the German and very good they are--very, very good--but not like Father
Cats. Cats sees no daggers in the air; he has no white women falling in
love with dusky Moors; no young fools sighing to be a lady's glove; no
crazy princes mistaking respectable old gentlemen for rats. No, no. He
writes only sense. It is great wisdom in little bundles, a bundle for
every day of your life. You can guide a state with Cats' poems, and you
can put a little baby to sleep with his pretty songs. He was one of the
greatest men of Holland. When I take you to the Hague I will show you
the Kloosterkerk where he lies buried. _There_ was a man for you to
study, my sons! he was good through and through. What did he say?

     "'Oh, Lord, let me obtain this from Thee
     To live with patience, and to die with pleasure!'[17]

[Footnote 17:

     O Heere! laat my dat van uwen hand verwerven,
     Te leven met gedult, en met vermaak te sterven.]

"Did patience mean folding his hands? No, he was a lawyer, statesman,
ambassador, farmer, philosopher, historian, and poet. He was keeper of
the Great Seal of Holland! He was a--Bah! there is too much noise here,
I cannot talk"--and Mynheer, looking with astonishment into the bowl of
his meerschaum--for it had "gone out"--nodded to his vrouw and left the
apartment in great haste.

The fact is, his discourse had been accompanied throughout with a
subdued chorus of barking dogs, squeaking cats and bleating lambs, to
say nothing of a noisy ivory cricket, that the baby was whirling with
infinite delight. At the last, little Huygens taking advantage of the
increasing loudness of Mynheer's tones, had ventured a blast on his new
trumpet, and Wolfert had hastily attempted an accompaniment on the drum.
This had brought matters to a crisis, and well for the little creatures
that it had. The saint had left no ticket for them to attend a lecture
on Jacob Cats. It was not an appointed part of the ceremonies. Therefore
when the youngsters saw that the mother looked neither frightened nor
offended, they gathered new courage. The grand chorus rose triumphant,
and frolic and joy reigned supreme.

Good Saint Nicholas! For the sake of the young Hollanders, I, for one,
am willing to acknowledge him, and defend his reality against all
unbelievers.

Carl Schummel was quite busy during that day, assuring little children,
confidentially, that not Saint Nicholas, but their own fathers and
mothers had produced the oracle and loaded the tables. But _we_ know
better than that.

And yet if this were a saint, why did he not visit the Brinker cottage
that night? Why was that one home, so dark and sorrowful, passed by?



X

WHAT THE BOYS SAW AND DID IN AMSTERDAM


"Are we all here?" cried Peter, in high glee, as the party assembled
upon the canal early the next morning, equipped for their skating
journey. "Let me see. As Jacob has made me captain, I must call the
roll. Carl Schummel----You here?"

"Ya!"

"Jacob Poot!"

"Ya!"

"Benjamin Dobbs!"

"Ya-a!"

"Lambert van Mounen!"

"Ya!"

"[That's lucky! Couldn't get on without _you_, as you're the only one
who can speak English.] Ludwig van Holp!"

"Ya!"

"Voostenwalbert Schimmelpenninck!"

No answer.

"Ah! the little rogue has been kept at home. Now, boys, it's just eight
o'clock--glorious weather, and the Y is as firm as a rock--we'll be at
Amsterdam in thirty minutes. One, Two, Three, START!"

True enough, in less than half an hour they had crossed a dyke of solid
masonry, and were in the very heart of the great metropolis of the
Netherlands--a walled city of ninety-five islands and nearly two hundred
bridges. Although Ben had been there twice since his arrival in Holland,
he saw much to excite wonder; but his Dutch comrades, having lived near
by all their lives, considered it the most matter-of-course place in the
world. Everything interested Ben; the tall houses with their forked
chimneys and gable ends facing the street; the merchants' warerooms,
perched high up under the roofs of their dwellings, with long, arm-like
cranes hoisting and lowering goods past the household windows; the grand
public buildings erected upon wooden piles driven deep into the marshy
ground; the narrow streets; the canals everywhere crossing the city; the
bridges; the locks; the various costumes, and, strangest of all, shops
and dwellings crouching close to the fronts of the churches, sending
their long, disproportionate chimneys far upward along the sacred walls.

If he looked up, he saw tall, leaning houses, seeming to pierce the sky
with their shining roofs; if he looked down, there was the queer street,
without crossing or curb--nothing to separate the cobblestone pavement
from the foot-path of brick--and if he rested his eyes half-way, he saw
complicated little mirrors [_spionnen_] fastened upon the outside of
nearly every window, so arranged that the inmates of the houses could
observe all that was going on in the street, or inspect whoever might be
knocking at the door, without being seen themselves.

Sometimes a dog-cart, heaped with wooden ware, passed him; then a donkey
bearing a pair of panniers filled with crockery or glass; then a sled
driven over the bare cobblestones (the runners kept greased with a
dripping oil rag so that it might run easily); and then, perhaps, a
showy, but clumsy family-carriage, drawn by the brownest of Flanders
horses, swinging the whitest of snowy tails.

The city was in full festival array. Every shop was gorgeous in honor of
Saint Nicholas. Captain Peter was forced, more than once, to order his
men away from the tempting show-windows, where everything that is, has
been, or can be thought of in the way of toys was displayed. Holland is
famous for this branch of manufacture. Every possible thing is copied in
miniature for the benefit of the little ones; the intricate mechanical
toys that a Dutch youngster tumbles about in stolid unconcern would
create a stir in our Patent Office. Ben laughed outright at some of the
mimic fishing boats. They were so heavy and stumpy, so like the queer
craft that he had seen about Rotterdam. The tiny trekschuiten, however,
only a foot or two long, and fitted out, complete, made his heart
ache--he so longed to buy one at once for his little brother in England.
He had no money to spare, for with true Dutch prudence, the party had
agreed to take with them merely the sum required for each boy's
expenses, and to consign the purse to Peter for safekeeping.
Consequently Master Ben concluded to devote all his energies to
sightseeing, and to think as seldom as possible of little Robby.

He made a hasty call at the Marine school and envied the sailor students
their full-rigged brig and their sleeping-berths swung over their trunks
or lockers; he peeped into the Jews' Quarter of the city, where the rich
diamond cutters and squalid old-clothes men dwell, and wisely resolved
to keep away from it; he also enjoyed hasty glimpses of the four
principal avenues of Amsterdam--the Prinsen gracht, Keizers gracht,
Heeren gracht and Singel. These are semicircular in form, and the first
three average more than two miles in length. A canal runs through the
centre of each, with a well-paved road on either side, lined with
stately buildings. Rows of naked elms, bordering the canal, cast a
network of shadows over its frozen surface; and everything was so clean
and bright that Ben told Lambert it seemed to him like petrified
neatness.

Fortunately the weather was cold enough to put a stop to the usual
street-flooding, and window-washing, or our young excursionists might
have been drenched more than once. Sweeping, mopping and scrubbing form
a passion with Dutch housewives, and to soil their spotless mansions is
considered scarcely less than a crime. Everywhere a hearty contempt is
felt for those who neglect to rub the soles of their shoes to a polish
before crossing the door-sill; and, in certain places, visitors are
expected to remove their heavy shoes before entering.

Sir William Temple, in his Memoirs of "What passed in Christendom from
1672 to 1679," tells a story of a pompous magistrate going to visit a
lady of Amsterdam. A stout Holland lass opened the door, and told him in
a breath that the lady was at home and that his shoes were not very
clean. Without another word, she took the astonished man up by both
arms, threw him across her back, carried him through two rooms, set him
down at the bottom of the stairs, seized a pair of slippers that stood
there and put them upon his feet. Then, and not until then, she spoke,
telling him that her mistress was on the floor above, and that he might
go up.

While Ben was skating, with his friends, upon the crowded canals of the
city, he found it difficult to believe that the sleepy Dutchmen he saw
around him, smoking their pipes so leisurely, and looking as though
their hats might be knocked off their heads without their making any
resistance, were capable of those outbreaks that had taken place in
Holland--that they were really fellow-countrymen of the brave, devoted
heroes of whom he had read in Dutch history.

As his party skimmed lightly along he told Van Mounen of a burial-riot
which in 1696 had occurred in that very city, where the women and
children turned out, as well as the men, and formed mock funeral
processions through the town, to show the burgomasters that certain new
regulations, with regard to burying the dead, would not be acceded
to--how at last they grew so unmanageable, and threatened so much damage
to the city that the burgomasters were glad to recall the offensive law.

"There's the corner," said Jacob, pointing to some large buildings,
"where, about fifteen years ago, the great corn-houses sank down in the
mud. They were strong affairs, and set up on good piles, but they had
over seventy thousand hundred-weight of corn in them; and that was too
much."

It was a long story for Jacob to tell and he stopped to rest.

"How do you know there were seventy thousand hundred-weight in them?"
asked Carl sharply--"you were in your swaddling clothes then."

"My father knows all about it," was Jacob's suggestive reply. Rousing
himself with an effort, he continued--"Ben likes pictures. Show him
some."

"All right," said the captain.

"If we had time, Benjamin," said Lambert van Mounen in English, "I
should like to take you to the City Hall or _Stadhuis_. There are
building-piles for you! It is built on nearly fourteen thousand of
them, driven seventy feet into the ground. But what I wish you to see
there is the big picture of Van Speyk blowing up his ship--great
picture."

"Van _who_?" asked Ben.

"Van Speyk. Don't you remember? He was in the height of an engagement
with the Belgians, and when he found that they had the better of him and
would capture his ship, he blew it up, and himself too, rather than
yield to the enemy."

"Wasn't that Van Tromp?"

"Oh, no. Van Tromp was another brave fellow. They've a monument to him
down at Delft Haven--the place where the Pilgrims took ship for
America."

"Well, what about Van Tromp? He was a great Dutch Admiral; wasn't he?"

"Yes, he was in more than thirty sea-fights. He beat the Spanish fleet
and an English one, and then fastened a broom to his masthead to show
that he had swept the English from the sea. Takes the Dutch to beat, my
boy!"

"Hold up!" cried Ben, "broom or no broom, the English conquered him at
last. I remember all about it now. He was killed somewhere on the Dutch
coast, in an engagement in which the British fleet was victorious. Too
bad," he added maliciously, "wasn't it?"

"Ahem! where are we?" exclaimed Lambert changing the subject. "Hollo!
the others are way ahead of us--all but Jacob. Whew! how fat he is!
He'll break down before we're half-way."

Ben of course enjoyed skating beside Lambert, who though a staunch
Hollander, had been educated near London, and could speak English as
fluently as Dutch; but he was not sorry when Captain van Holp called
out:

"Skates off! There's the Museum!"

It was open, and there was no charge on that day for admission. In they
went, shuffling, as boys will, when they have a chance, just to hear the
sound of their shoes on the polished floor.

This Museum is in fact a picture gallery where some of the finest works
of the Dutch masters are to be seen, beside nearly two hundred
portfolios of rare engravings.

Ben noticed, at once, that some of the pictures were hung on panels
fastened to the wall with hinges. These could be swung forward like a
window-shutter, thus enabling the subject to be seen in the best light.
The plan served them well in viewing a small group by Gerard Douw,
called the "Evening School," enabling them to observe its exquisite
finish and the wonderful way in which the picture seemed to be lit
through its own windows. Peter pointed out the beauties of another
picture by Douw, called "The Hermit," and he also told them some
interesting anecdotes of the artist, who was born at Leyden in 1613.

"Three days painting a broom handle!" echoed Carl in astonishment, while
the captain was giving some instances of Douw's extreme slowness of
execution.

"Yes, sir; three days. And it is said that he spent five in finishing
one hand in a lady's portrait. You see how very bright and minute
everything is in this picture. His unfinished works were kept carefully
covered, and his painting materials were put away in airtight boxes as
soon as he had finished using them for the day. According to all
accounts, the studio itself must have been as close as a band-box. The
artist always entered it on tiptoe, besides sitting still, before he
commenced work, until the slight dust caused by his entrance had
settled. I have read somewhere that his paintings are improved by being
viewed through a magnifying glass. He strained his eyes so badly with
this extra finishing, that he was forced to wear spectacles before he
was thirty. At forty he could scarcely see to paint, and he couldn't
find a pair of glasses anywhere that would help his sight. At last, a
poor old German woman asked him to try hers. They suited him exactly,
and enabled him to go on painting as well as ever."

"Humph!" exclaimed Ludwig, indignantly, "that was high! What did _she_
do without them, I wonder?"

"Oh," said Peter, laughing, "likely she had another pair. At any rate
she insisted upon his taking them. He was so grateful that he painted a
picture of the spectacles for her, case and all, and she sold it to a
burgomaster for a yearly allowance that made her comfortable for the
rest of her days."

"Boys!" called Lambert, in a loud whisper, "come look at this Bear
Hunt."

It was a fine painting by Paul Potter, a Dutch artist of the seventeenth
century, who produced excellent works before he was sixteen years old.
The boys admired it because the subject pleased them. They passed
carelessly by the masterpieces of Rembrandt and Van der Helst, and went
into raptures over an ugly picture by Van der Venne, representing a
sea-fight between the Dutch and English. They also stood spellbound
before a painting of two little urchins, one of whom was taking soup and
the other eating an egg. The principal merit in this work was that the
young egg-eater had kindly slobbered his face with the yolk for their
entertainment.

An excellent representation of the "Feast of Saint Nicholas" next had
the honor of attracting them.

"Look, Van Mounen," said Ben to Lambert, "could anything be better than
this youngster's face? He looks as if he _knows_ he deserves a whipping
but hopes Saint Nicholas may not have found him out. That's the kind of
painting _I_ like; something that tells a story."

"Come, boys!" cried the captain, "ten o'clock, time we were off!"

They hastened to the canal.

"Skates on! Are you ready? ONE, TWO--hollo! where's Poot?"

Sure enough where _was_ Poot?

A square opening had just been cut in the ice not ten yards off. Peter
observed it, and without a word skated rapidly toward it.

All the others followed, of course.

Peter looked in. They all looked in; then stared anxiously at each
other.

"Poot!" screamed Peter, peering into the hole again. All was still. The
black water gave no sign; it was already glazing on top.

Van Mounen turned mysteriously to Ben.

"_Didn't he have a fit once?_"

"My goodness! yes!" answered Ben, in a great fright.

"Then, depend upon it, he's been taken with one in the Museum!"

The boys caught his meaning. Every skate was off in a twinkling. Peter
had the presence of mind to scoop up a cap-full of water from the hole,
and off they scampered to the rescue.

Alas! They did indeed find poor Jacob in a fit--but it was a fit of
sleepiness. There he lay in a recess of the gallery, snoring like a
trooper! The chorus of laughter that followed this discovery brought an
angry official to the spot.

"What now! None of this racket! Here, you beer-barrel, wake up!" and
Master Jacob received a very unceremonious shaking.

As soon as Peter saw that Jacob's condition was not serious, he hastened
to the street to empty his unfortunate cap. While he was stuffing his
handkerchief to prevent the already frozen crown from touching his head,
the rest of the boys came down, dragging the bewildered and indignant
Jacob in their midst.

The order to start was again given. Master Poot was wide awake at last.
The ice was a little rough and broken just there, but every boy was in
high spirits.

"Shall we go on by the canal or the river?" asked Peter.

"Oh, the river, by all means," said Carl. "It will be such fun; they say
it is perfect skating all the way, but it's much farther."

Jacob Poot instantly became interested.

"_I_ vote for the canal!" he cried.

"Well, the canal it shall be," responded the captain, "if all are
agreed."

"Agreed!" they echoed, in rather a disappointed tone--and Captain Peter
led the way.

"All right--come on--we can reach Haarlem in an hour!"



XI

BIG MANIAS AND LITTLE ODDITIES


While skating along at full speed, they heard the cars from Amsterdam
coming close behind them.

"Hollo!" cried Ludwig, glancing toward the rail-track--"who can't beat a
locomotive? Let's give it a race!"

The whistle screamed at the very idea--so did the boys--and at it they
went.

For an instant the boys were ahead, hurrahing with all their might--only
for an instant, but even _that_ was something.

This excitement over, they began to travel more leisurely, and indulge
in conversation and frolic. Sometimes they stopped to exchange a word
with the guards who were stationed at certain distances along the canal.
These men, in Winter, attend to keeping the surface free from
obstruction and garbage. After a snow-storm they are expected to sweep
the feathery covering away before it hardens into a marble pretty to
look at but very unwelcome to skaters. Now and then the boys so far
forgot their dignity as to clamber among the ice-bound canal-boats
crowded together in a widened harbor off the canal, but the watchful
guards would soon spy them out and order them down with a growl.

Nothing could be straighter than the canal upon which our party were
skating, and nothing straighter than the long rows of willow trees that
stood, bare and wispy, along the bank. On the opposite side, lifted high
above the surrounding country, lay the carriage road on top of the
great dyke built to keep the Haarlem Lake within bounds; stretching out
far in the distance until it became lost in a point, was the glassy
canal with its many skaters, its brown-winged ice-boats, its push-chairs
and its queer little sleds, light as cork, flying over the ice by means
of iron-pronged sticks in the hands of the riders. Ben was in ecstasy
with the scene.

Ludwig van Holp had been thinking how strange it was that the English
boy should know so much of Holland. According to Lambert's account he
knew more about it than the Dutch did. This did not quite please our
young Hollander. Suddenly he thought of something that he believed would
make the "Shon Pull" open his eyes; he drew near Lambert with a
triumphant:

"Tell him about the tulips!"

Ben caught the word "_tulpen_."

"Oh! yes," said he eagerly, in English, "the Tulip Mania--are you
speaking of that? I have often heard it mentioned, but know very little
about it. It reached its height in Amsterdam, didn't it?"

Ludwig moaned; the words were hard to understand, but there was no
mistaking the enlightened expression on Ben's face; Lambert, happily,
was quite unconscious of his young countryman's distress as he replied:

"Yes, here and in Haarlem, principally; but the excitement ran high all
over Holland, and in England too for that matter."

"Hardly in England,[18] I think," said Ben, "but I am not sure, as I was
not there at the time."

[Footnote 18: Although the Tulip Mania did not prevail in England as in
Holland, the flower soon became an object of speculation and brought
very large prices. In 1636, Tulips were publicly sold on the Exchange of
London. Even as late as 1800, a common price was fifteen guineas for one
bulb. Ben did not know that in his own day a single Tulip plant, called
the "Fanny Kemble" had been sold in London for more than 70 guineas.

Mr. Mackay in his "Memoirs of Popular Delusions" tells a funny story of
an English botanist who happened to see a tulip bulb lying in the
conservatory of a wealthy Dutchman. Ignorant of its value, he took out
his penknife and, cutting the bulb in two, became very much interested
in his investigations. Suddenly the owner appeared, and pouncing
furiously upon him, asked him if he knew what he was doing. "Peeling a
most extraordinary onion," replied the philosopher. "Hundert tousant
tuyvel!" shouted the Dutchman, "it's an Admiral Vander Eyk!" "Thank
you," replied the traveler, immediately writing the name in his note
book; "pray are these very common in your country?" "Death and the
tuyvel!" screamed the Dutchman, "come before the Syndic and you shall
see!" In spite of his struggles the poor investigator, followed by an
indignant mob, was taken through the streets to a magistrate. Soon he
learned to his dismay that he had destroyed a bulb worth 4,000 florins
($1,600). He was lodged in prison until securities could be procured for
the payment of the sum.]

"Ha! ha! that's true, unless you are over two hundred years old. Well, I
tell you, sir, there was never anything like it before nor since. Why,
persons were so crazy after tulip bulbs in those days, that they paid
their weight in gold for them."

"What, the weight of a man?" cried Ben, showing such astonishment in his
eyes, that Ludwig fairly capered.

"No, no, the weight of a _bulb_. The first tulip was sent here from
Constantinople about the year 1560. It was so much admired that the rich
people of Amsterdam sent to Turkey for more. From that time they grew to
be the rage, and it lasted for years. Single roots brought from one to
four thousand florins; and one bulb, the Semper Augustus, brought
fifty-five hundred."

"That's more than four hundred guineas of our money," interposed Ben.

"Yes, and I know I'm right, for I read it in a translation from
Beckman, only day before yesterday. Well, sir, it was great. Every one
speculated in Tulips, even the barge-men and rag-women, and
chimney-sweeps. The richest merchants were not ashamed to share the
excitement. People bought bulbs and sold them again at a tremendous
profit without ever seeing them. It grew into a kind of gambling. Some
became rich by it in a few days, and some lost everything they had.
Land, houses, cattle and even clothing went for Tulips when people had
no ready money. Ladies sold their jewels and finery to enable them to
join in the fun. Nothing else was thought of. At last the States-general
interfered. People began to see what geese they were making of
themselves, and down went the price of Tulips. Old tulip debts couldn't
be collected. Creditors went to law, and the law turned its back upon
them; debts made in gambling were not binding, it said. Then, there was
a time! Thousands of rich speculators reduced to beggary in an hour. As
old Beckman says, 'the bubble was burst at last.'"

"Yes, and a big bubble it was," said Ben, who had listened with great
interest. "By the way, did you know that the name Tulip came from a
Turkish word, signifying turban?"

"I had forgotten that," answered Lambert, "but it's a capital idea. Just
fancy a party of Turks in full head-gear, squatted upon a lawn--perfect
tulip bed! Ha! ha! capital idea!"

["There," groaned Ludwig to himself, "he's been telling Lambert
something wonderful about Tulips--I knew it!"]

"The fact is," continued Lambert, "you can conjure up quite a human
picture out of a tulip bed in bloom, especially when it is nodding and
bobbing in the wind. Did you ever notice it?"

"Not I. It strikes me, Van Mounen, that you Hollanders are prodigiously
fond of the flower to this day."

"Certainly. You can't have a garden without them, prettiest flower that
grows, _I_ think. My uncle has a magnificent bed of the finest varieties
at his summer-house on the other side of Amsterdam."

"I thought your uncle lived in the city?"

"So he does; but his summer-house, or pavilion, is a few miles off. He
has another one built out over the river. We passed near it when we
entered the city. Everybody in Amsterdam has a pavilion somewhere, if he
can."

"Do they ever live there?" asked Ben.

"Bless you, no! They are small affairs, suitable only to spend a few
hours in on Summer afternoons. There are some beautiful ones on the
southern end of the Haarlem Lake--now that they've commenced to drain it
into polders, it will spoil _that_ fun. By the way, we've passed some
red-roofed ones since we left home. You noticed them I suppose with
their little bridges, and ponds and gardens, and their mottoes over the
door-way."

Ben nodded.

"They make but little show, now," continued Lambert, "but in warm
weather they are delightful. After the willows sprout, uncle goes to his
summer-house every afternoon. He dozes and smokes; aunt knits, with her
feet perched upon a foot-stove, never mind how hot the day; my cousin
Rika and the other girls fish in the lake from the windows, or chat with
their friends rowing by; and the youngsters tumble about, or hang upon
the little bridges over the ditch. Then they have coffee and cakes;
besides a great bunch of water-lilies on the table--it's very fine, I
can tell you; only (between ourselves) though I was born here, I shall
never fancy the odor of stagnant water that hangs about most of the
summer-houses. Nearly every one you see is built over a ditch. Probably
I feel it more, from having lived so long in England."

"Perhaps I shall notice it, too," said Ben, "if a thaw comes. This early
winter has covered up the fragrant waters for my benefit--much obliged
to it. Holland without this glorious skating wouldn't be the same thing
to me at all."

"How very different you are from the Poots!" exclaimed Lambert, who had
been listening in a sort of brown study, "and yet you are cousins--I
cannot understand it."

"We _are_ cousins, or rather we have always considered ourselves such,
but the relationship is not very close. Our grandmothers were
half-sisters. _My_ side of the family is entirely English, while his is
entirely Dutch. Old Great-grandfather Poot married twice, you see, and I
am a descendant of his English wife. I like Jacob, though, better than
half of my English cousins put together. He is the truest-hearted,
best-natured boy I ever knew. Strange as you may think it, my father
became accidentally acquainted with Jacob's father while on a business
visit to Rotterdam. They soon talked over their relationship--in French,
by the way--and they have corresponded in that language ever since.
Queer things come about in this world. My sister Jenny would open her
eyes at some of Aunt Poot's ways. Aunt is a thorough lady, but so
different from mother--and the house, too, and furniture, and way of
living, everything is different."

"Of course," assented Lambert, complacently, as if to say, "you could
scarcely expect such general perfection anywhere else than in Holland,"
"but you will have all the more to tell Jenny when you go back."

"Yes, indeed. I can say one thing--if cleanliness is, as they claim,
next to godliness, Broek is safe. It is the cleanest place I ever saw in
my life. Why, my Aunt Poot, rich as she is, scrubs half the time, and
her house looks as if it were varnished all over. I wrote to mother
yesterday that I could see my double always with me, feet to feet, in
the polished floor of the dining-room."

"Your _double_! that word puzzles me; what do you mean?"

"Oh, my reflection, my apparition. Ben Dobbs number two."

"Ah, I see," exclaimed Van Mounen. "Have you ever been in your Aunt
Poot's grand parlor?"

Ben laughed. "Only once, and that was on the day of my arrival. Jacob
says I shall have no chance of entering it again until the time of his
sister Kenau's wedding, the week after Christmas. Father has consented
that I shall remain to witness the great event. Every Saturday Aunt
Poot, and her fat Kate, go into that parlor and sweep, and polish, and
scrub; then it is darkened and closed until Saturday comes again; not a
soul enters it in the meantime; but the _schoonmaken_, as she calls it,
must be done, just the same."

"That is nothing. Every parlor in Broek meets with the same treatment,"
said Lambert. "What do you think of these moving figures in her
neighbor's garden?"

"Oh, they're well enough; the swans must seem really alive gliding about
the pond in summer; but that nodding Mandarin in the corner, under the
chestnut trees, is ridiculous, only fit for children to laugh at. And
then the stiff garden patches, and the trees all trimmed and painted.
Excuse me, Van Mounen, but I shall never learn to admire Dutch taste."

"It will take time," answered Lambert, condescendingly, "but you are
sure to agree with it at last. I saw much to admire in England, and I
hope I shall be sent back with you, to study at Oxford; but take
everything together, I like Holland best."

"Of course you do," said Ben, in a tone of hearty approval, "you
wouldn't be a good Hollander if you didn't. Nothing like loving one's
country. It is strange, though, to have such a warm feeling for such a
cold place. If we were not exercising all the time we should freeze
outright."

Lambert laughed.

"That's your English blood, Benjamin. _I'm_ not cold. And look at the
skaters here on the canal--they're red as roses, and happy as lords.
Hallo! good Captain van Holp," called out Lambert in Dutch, "what say
you to stopping at yonder farmhouse and warming our toes?"

"Who is cold?" asked Peter, turning around.

"Benjamin Dobbs."

"Benjamin Dobbs shall be warmed," and the party was brought to a halt.



XII

ON THE WAY TO HAARLEM


On approaching the door of the farmhouse the boys suddenly found
themselves in the midst of a lively domestic scene. A burly Dutchman
came rushing out, closely followed by his dear _vrouw_, and she was
beating him smartly with a long-handled warming-pan. The expression on
her face gave our boys so little promise of a kind reception that they
prudently resolved to carry their toes elsewhere to be warmed.

The next cottage proved to be more inviting. Its low roof of bright red
tiles, extended over the cow-stable, that, clean as could be, nestled
close to the main building. A neat, peaceful-looking old woman sat at
one window, knitting. At the other could be discerned part of the
profile of a fat figure that, pipe in mouth, sat behind the shining
little panes and snowy curtain. In answer to Peter's subdued knock, a
fair-haired, rosy-cheeked lass in holiday attire opened the upper half
of the green door (which was divided across the middle) and inquired
their errand.

"May we enter and warm ourselves, jufvrouw?" asked the captain
respectfully.

"Yes, and welcome," was the reply, as the lower half of the door swung
softly toward its mate. Every boy before entering rubbed long and
faithfully upon the rough mat, and each made his best bow to the old
lady and gentleman at the windows. Ben was half inclined to think that
these personages were automata like the moving figures in the garden at
Broek; for they both nodded their heads slowly, in precisely the same
way, and both went on with their employment as steadily and stiffly as
though they worked by machinery. The old man puffed! puffed! and his
vrouw clicked her knitting-needles, as if regulated by internal
cog-wheels. Even the real smoke issuing from the motionless pipe, gave
no convincing proof that they were human.

But the rosy-cheeked maiden. Ah! how she bustled about. How she gave the
boys polished high-backed chairs to sit upon, how she made the fire
blaze up as if it were inspired, how she made Jacob Poot almost weep for
joy by bringing forth a great square of gingerbread, and a stone jug of
sour wine! How she laughed and nodded as the boys ate like wild animals
on good behavior, and how blank she looked when Ben politely but firmly
refused to take any black bread and sour-krout! How she pulled off
Jacob's mitten, which was torn at the thumb, and mended it before his
eyes, biting off the thread with her white teeth, and saying, "now it
will be warmer," as she bit; and finally, how she shook hands with every
boy in turn and (throwing a deprecating glance at the female automaton)
insisted upon filling their pockets with gingerbread!

All this time the knitting-needles clicked on, and the pipe never missed
a puff.

When the boys were fairly on their way again, they came in sight of
Zwanenburg Castle with its massive stone front, and its gateway towers,
each surmounted with a sculptured swan.

"Halfweg,[19] boys," said Peter, "off with your skates."

[Footnote 19: Half-way.]

"You see," explained Lambert to his companion, "the Y and the Haarlem
Lake meeting here make it rather troublesome. The river is five feet
higher than the land--so we must have everything strong in the way of
dykes and sluice-gates, or there would be wet work at once. The sluice
arrangements here are supposed to be something extra--we will walk over
them and you shall see enough to make you open your eyes. The spring
water of the lake, they say, has the most wonderful bleaching powers of
any in the world; all the great Haarlem bleacheries use it. I can't say
much upon that subject--but I can tell you _one_ thing from personal
experience."

"What is that?"

"Why, the lake is full of the biggest eels you ever saw--I've caught
them here, often--perfectly prodigious! I tell you they're sometimes a
match for a fellow; they'd almost wriggle your arm from the socket if
you were not on your guard. But you're not interested in eels, I
perceive. The castle's a big affair. Isn't it?"

"Yes. What do those swans mean? Anything?" asked Ben, looking up at the
stone gate-towers.

"The swan is held almost in reverence by us Hollanders. These give the
building its name, Zwanenburg--swan-castle. That is all I know. This is
a very important spot; for it is here that the wise ones hold council
with regard to dyke matters. The castle was once the residence of the
celebrated Christiaan Brunings."

"What about _him_?" asked Ben.

"Peter could answer you better than I," said Lambert, "if you could only
understand each other, or were not such cowards about leaving your
mother-tongues. But I have often heard my grandfather speak of Brunings.
He is never tired of telling us of the great engineer--how good he was,
and how learned, and how when he died the whole country seemed to mourn
as for a friend. He belonged to a great many learned societies, and was
at the head of the State department intrusted with the care of the
dykes, and other defences against the sea. There's no counting the
improvements he made in dykes and sluices and water-mills, and all that
kind of thing. We Hollanders, you know, consider our great engineers as
the highest of public benefactors. Brunings died years ago; they've a
monument to his memory in the cathedral of Haarlem. I have seen his
portrait, and I tell you, Ben, he was right noble-looking. No wonder the
castle looks so stiff and proud. It is something to have given shelter
to such a man!"

"Yes, indeed," said Ben. "I wonder, Van Mounen, whether you or I will
ever give any old building a right to feel proud--Heigho! there's a
great deal to be done yet in this world and some of us who are boys now,
will have to do it. Look to your shoe latchet, Van, it's unfastened."



XIII

A CATASTROPHE


It was nearly one o'clock when Captain van Holp and his command entered
the grand old city of Haarlem. They had skated nearly seventeen miles
since morning, and were still as fresh as young eagles. From the
youngest (Ludwig van Holp, who was just fourteen) to the eldest, no less
a personage than the captain himself, a veteran of seventeen, there was
but one opinion--that this was the greatest frolic of their lives. To be
sure, Jacob Poot had become rather short of breath, during the last mile
or two, and perhaps he felt ready for another nap; but there was enough
jollity in him yet for a dozen. Even Carl Schummel, who had become very
intimate with Ludwig during the excursion, forgot to be ill-natured. As
for Peter, he was the happiest of the happy, and had sung and whistled
so joyously while skating that the staidest passers-by had smiled as
they listened.

"Come, boys! it's nearly tiffin[20] hour," he said, as they neared a
coffee-house on the main street. "We must have something more solid than
the pretty maiden's gingerbread"--and the captain plunged his hands into
his pockets as if to say, "There's money enough here to feed an army!"

[Footnote 20: Lunch.]

"Hollo!" cried Lambert, "what ails the man?"

Peter, pale and staring, was clapping his hands upon his breast and
sides--he looked like one suddenly becoming deranged.

"He's sick!" cried Ben.

"No, he's lost something," said Carl.

Peter could only gasp--"the pocketbook! with all our money in it--it's
gone!"

For an instant all were too much startled to speak.

Carl at last came out with a gruff,

"No sense in letting one fellow have all the money. I said so from the
first. Look in your other pocket."

"I did--it isn't there."

"Open your under jacket----"

Peter obeyed mechanically. He even took off his hat and looked into
it--then thrust his hand desperately into every pocket.

"It's gone, boys," he said at last, in a hopeless tone. "No tiffin for
us, nor dinner neither. What is to be done? We can't get on without
money. If we were in Amsterdam I could get as much as we want, but there
is not a man in Haarlem from whom I can borrow a stiver. Don't one of
you know any one here who would lend us a few guilders?"

Each boy looked into five blank faces. Then something like a smile
passed around the circle, but it got sadly knotted up when it reached
Carl.

"That wouldn't do," he said crossly. "I know some people here, rich
ones, too, but father would flog me soundly, if I borrowed a cent from
any one. He has 'AN HONEST MAN NEED NOT BORROW,' written over the
gateway of his summer-house."

"Humph!" responded Peter, not particularly admiring the sentiment just
at that moment.

The boys grew desperately hungry at once.

"It wash my fault," said Jacob, in a penitent tone, to Ben. "I say
first, petter all de boys put zair pursh into Van Holp's monish."

"Nonsense, Jacob; you did it all for the best."

Ben said this in such a sprightly tone that the two Van Holps and Carl
felt sure he had proposed a plan that would relieve the party at once.

"What? what? Tell us, Van Mounen," they cried.

"He says it is not Jacob's fault that the money is lost--that he did it
for the best, when he proposed that Van Holp should put all of our money
into his purse."

"Is that all?" said Ludwig dismally; "he need not have made such a fuss
in just saying _that_. How much money have we lost?"

"Don't you remember?" said Peter. "We each put in exactly ten guilders.
The purse had sixty guilders in it. I am the stupidest fellow in the
world; little Schimmelpenninck would have made you a better captain. I
could pommel myself for bringing such a disappointment upon you."

"Do it then," growled Carl. "Pooh," he added, "we all know it was an
accident, but that doesn't help matters. We must have money, Van
Holp--even if you have to sell your wonderful watch."

"Sell my mother's birthday present! Never! I will sell my coat, my hat,
anything but my watch."

"Come, come," said Jacob pleasantly, "we are making too much of this
affair. We can go home and start again in a day or two."

"_You_ may be able to get another ten-guilder piece," said Carl, "but
the rest of us will not find it so easy. If we go home, we stay home,
you may depend."

Our captain, whose good-nature had not yet forsaken him for a moment,
grew indignant.

"Do you think I will let you suffer for my carelessness," he exclaimed.
"I have three times sixty guilders in my strong box at home!"

"Oh, I beg your pardon," said Carl, hastily, adding in a surlier tone,
"well, I see no better way than to go back hungry."

"I see a better plan than that," said the captain.

"What is it?" cried all the boys.

"Why, to make the best of a bad business and go back pleasantly, and
like men," said Peter, looking so gallant and handsome as he turned his
frank face and clear blue eyes upon them--that they caught his spirit.

"Ho! for the captain," they shouted.

"Now, boys, we may as well make up our minds there's no place like
Broek, after all--and that we mean to be there in two hours--is that
agreed to?"

"Agreed!" cried all, as they ran to the canal.

"On with your skates! Are you ready? Here, Jacob, let me help you."

"Now. One, two, three, start!"

And the boyish faces that left Haarlem at that signal were nearly as
bright as those that had entered it with Captain Peter half an hour
before.



XIV

HANS


"Donder and Blixin!" cried Carl angrily, before the party had skated
twenty yards from the city gates, "if here isn't that wooden-skate
ragamuffin in the patched leather breeches. That fellow is everywhere,
confound him! We'll be lucky," he added, in as sneering a tone as he
dared to assume, "if our captain doesn't order us to halt and shake
hands with him."

"Your captain is a terrible fellow," said Peter, pleasantly, "but this
is a false alarm, Carl--I cannot spy your bugbear anywhere among the
skaters--ah! there he is! why, what is the matter with the lad?"

Poor Hans! His face was pale, his lips compressed. He skated like one
under the effects of a fearful dream. Just as he was passing, Peter
hailed him:

"Good day, Hans Brinker!"

Hans' countenance brightened at once.--"Ah! Mynheer, is that you? It is
well we meet!"

"Just like his impertinence," hissed Carl Schummel, darting scornfully
past his companions, who seemed inclined to linger with their captain.

"I am glad to see you, Hans," responded Peter, cheerily, "but you look
troubled. Can I serve you?"

"I have a trouble, mynheer," answered Hans, casting down his eyes. Then
lifting them again with almost a happy expression, he added, "but it is
Hans who can help Mynheer van Holp _this_ time."

"How?" asked Peter, making, in his blunt Dutch way, no attempt to
conceal his surprise.

"By giving you _this_, mynheer"--and Hans held forth the missing purse.

"Hurrah!" shouted the boys taking their cold hands from their pockets to
wave them joyfully in the air. But Peter said "Thank you, Hans Brinker,"
in a tone that made Hans feel as if the king had knelt to him.

The shout of the delighted boys reached the muffled ears of the fine
young gentleman who, under a full pressure of pent-up wrath, was skating
toward Amsterdam. A Yankee boy would have wheeled about at once and
hastened to satisfy his curiosity. But Carl only halted, and with his
back toward his party wondered what on earth had happened. There he
stood, immovable, until, feeling sure that nothing but the prospect of
something to eat could have made them hurrah so heartily, he turned and
skated slowly toward his excited comrades.

Meantime Peter had drawn Hans aside from the rest.

"How did you know it was my purse?" he asked.

"You paid me three guilders yesterday, mynheer, for making the
white-wood chain, telling me that I must buy skates."

"Yes, I remember."

"I saw your purse then; it was of yellow leather."

"And where did you find it to-day?"

"I left my home this morning, mynheer, in great trouble, and as I
skated, I took no heed until I stumbled against some lumber, and while I
was rubbing my knee I saw your purse nearly hidden under a log."

"That place! Ah, I remember, now; just as we were passing it I pulled my
tippet from my pocket, and probably flirted out the purse at the same
time. It would have been gone but for you, Hans. Here"--pouring out the
contents--"you must give us the pleasure of dividing the money with
you----"

"No, mynheer," answered Hans. He spoke quietly, without pretence, or any
grace of manner, but Peter, somehow, felt rebuked, and put the silver
back without a word.

"I like that boy, rich or poor," he thought to himself, then added
aloud, "May I ask about this trouble of yours, Hans?"

"Ah, mynheer, it is a sad case--but I have waited here too long. I am
going to Leyden to see the great Dr. Boekman----"

"Dr. Boekman!" exclaimed Peter in astonishment.

"Yes, mynheer, and I have not a moment to lose. Good day!"

"Stay, I am going that way. Come, my lads! Shall we return to Haarlem?"

"Yes," cried the boys, eagerly--and off they started.

"Now," said Peter, drawing near Hans, both skimming the ice so easily
and lightly as they skated on together that they seemed scarce conscious
of moving, "we are going to stop at Leyden, and if you are going there
only with a message to Dr. Boekman cannot I do the errand for you? The
boys may be too tired to skate so far to-day, but I will promise to see
him early to-morrow if he is to be found in the city."

"Ah, mynheer, that would be serving me indeed; it is not the distance I
dread, but leaving my mother so long."

"Is she ill?"

"No, mynheer. It is the father. You may have heard it; how he has been
without wit for many a year--ever since the great Schlossen mill was
built; but his body has been well and strong. Last night, the mother
knelt upon the hearth to blow the peat (it is his only delight to sit
and watch the live embers; and she will blow them into a blaze every
hour of the day to please him). Before she could stir, he sprang upon
her like a giant and held her close to the fire, all the time laughing
and shaking his head. I was on the canal; but I heard the mother scream
and ran to her. The father had never loosened his hold, and her gown was
smoking. I tried to deaden the fire, but with one hand he pushed me off.
There was no water in the cottage or I could have done better--and all
that time he laughed--such a terrible laugh, mynheer; hardly a sound,
but all in his face--I tried to pull her away, but that only made it
worse--then--it was dreadful, but could I see the mother burn? I beat
him--beat him with a stool. He tossed me away. The gown was on fire! I
_would_ put it out. I can't remember well after that; I found myself
upon the floor and the mother was praying--It seemed to me that she was
in a blaze, and all the while I could hear that laugh. My sister Gretel
screamed out that he was holding the mother close to the very coals. _I_
could not tell! Gretel flew to the closet and filled a porringer with
the food he liked, and put it upon the floor. Then, mynheer, he left the
mother and crawled to it like a little child. She was not burnt, only a
part of her clothing--ah, how kind she was to him all night, watching
and tending him--He slept in a high fever, with his hand pressed to his
head. The mother says he has done that so much of late, as though he
felt pain there--Ah, mynheer, I did not mean to tell you. If the father
was himself, he would not harm even a kitten----"

For a moment the two boys moved on in silence--

"It is terrible," said Peter at last--"How is he to-day?"

"Very sick, mynheer----"

"Why go for Dr. Boekman, Hans? There are others in Amsterdam who could
help him, perhaps;--Boekman is a famous man, sought only by the
wealthiest and they often wait upon him in vain."

"He _promised_, mynheer, he promised me yesterday to come to the father
in a week--but now that the change has come, we cannot wait--we think
the poor father is dying--Oh! mynheer, you can plead with him to come
quick--he will not wait a whole week and our father dying--the good
meester is so kind----"

"_So kind!_" echoed Peter, in astonishment. "Why, he is known as the
crossest man in Holland!"

"He looks so because he has no fat, and his head is busy but his heart
is kind, I know--Tell the meester what I have told you, mynheer, and he
will come."

"I hope so, Hans, with all my heart. You are in haste to turn homeward,
I see. Promise me that should you need a friend, you will go to my
mother, at Broek. Tell her I bade you see her; and, Hans Brinker--not as
a reward--but as a gift--take a few of these guilders."

Hans shook his head resolutely.

"No, no, mynheer--I cannot take it. If I could find work in Broek or at
the South Mill I would be glad, but it is the same story
everywhere--'wait till Spring.'"

"It is well you speak of it," said Peter eagerly, "for my father needs
help at once--Your pretty chain pleased him much--he said 'that boy has
a clean cut, he would be good at carving'--There is to be a carved
portal to our new summer-house, and father will pay well for the job."

"God is good!" cried Hans in sudden delight--"Oh! mynheer, that would be
too much joy--I have never tried big work--but I can do it--I know I
can."

"Well, tell my father you are the Hans Brinker of whom I spoke. He will
be glad to serve you."

Hans stared in honest surprise.

"Thank you, mynheer."

"Now, captain," shouted Carl, anxious to appear as good-humored as
possible, by way of atonement, "here we are in the midst of Haarlem, and
no word from you yet--we await your orders, and we're as hungry as
wolves."

Peter made a cheerful answer, and turned hurriedly to Hans.

"Come get something to eat, and I will detain you no longer."

What a quick, wistful look Hans threw upon him! Peter wondered that he
had not noticed before that the poor boy was hungry.

"Ah, mynheer, even now the mother may need me, the father may be
worse--I must not wait--May God care for you"--and, nodding hastily,
Hans turned his face homeward and was gone.

"Come, boys," sighed Peter, "now for our tiffin!"



XV

HOMES


It must not be supposed that our young Dutchmen had already forgotten
the great skating-race which was to take place on the Twentieth. On the
contrary, they had thought and spoken of it very often during the day.
Even Ben, though he had felt more like a traveler than the rest, had
never once, through all the sightseeing, lost a certain vision of silver
skates which, for a week past, had haunted him night and day.

Like a true "John Bull," as Jacob had called him, he never doubted that
his English fleetness, English strength, English everything, could at
any time enable him, on the ice, to put all Holland to shame, and the
rest of the world, too, for that matter. Ben certainly was a superb
skater. He had enjoyed not half the opportunities for practicing that
had fallen to his new comrades; but he had improved his share to the
utmost; and was, besides, so strong of frame, so supple of limb--in
short such a tight, trim, quick, graceful fellow in every way, that he
had taken to skating as naturally as a chamois to leaping, or an eagle
to soaring.

Only to the heavy heart of poor Hans had the vision of the Silver Skates
failed to appear during that starry winter night and the brighter sunlit
day.

Even Gretel had seen them flitting before her as she sat beside her
mother through those hours of weary watching--not as prizes to be won,
but as treasures passing hopelessly beyond her reach.

Rychie, Hilda and Katrinka--why they had scarcely known any other
thought than "the race! the race! It will come off on the Twentieth!"

These three girls were friends. Though of nearly the same age, talent
and station, they were as different as girls could be.

Hilda van Gleck you already know, a warm-hearted, noble girl of
fourteen. Rychie Korbes was beautiful to look upon, far more sparkling
and pretty than Hilda, but not half so bright and sunny within. Clouds
of pride, of discontent and envy had already gathered in her heart, and
were growing bigger and darker every day. Of course these often relieved
themselves very much after the manner of other clouds--But who saw the
storms and the weeping? Only her maid, or her father, mother and little
brother--those who loved her better than all. Like other clouds, too,
hers often took queer shapes, and what was really but mist and vapory
fancy, assumed the appearance of monster wrongs, and mountains of
difficulty. To her mind, the poor peasant-girl Gretel was not a human
being, a God-created creature like herself--she was only something that
meant poverty, rags and dirt. Such as Gretel had no right to feel, to
hope; above all, they should never cross the paths of their
betters--that is, not in a disagreeable way. They could toil and labor
for them at a respectful distance, even admire them, if they would do it
humbly, but nothing more. If they rebel, put them down--If they suffer,
don't trouble me about it, was Rychie's secret motto. And yet how witty
she was, how tastefully she dressed, how charmingly she sang; how much
feeling she displayed (for pet kittens and rabbits), and how completely
she could bewitch sensible, honest-minded lads like Lambert van Mounen
and Ludwig van Holp!

Carl was too much like her, within, to be an earnest admirer, and
perhaps he suspected the clouds. He, being deep and surly, and always
uncomfortably in earnest, of course preferred the lively Katrinka, whose
nature was made of a hundred tinkling bells. She was a coquette in her
infancy, a coquette in her childhood, and now a coquette in her
school-days. Without a thought of harm, she coquetted with her studies,
her duties, even her little troubles. They shouldn't know when they
bothered her, not they. She coquetted with her mother, her pet lamb, her
baby brother, even with her own golden curls--tossing them back as if
she despised them. Every one liked her, but who could love her? She was
never in earnest. A pleasant face, a pleasant heart, a pleasant
manner--these only satisfy for an hour. Poor, happy Katrinka! such as
she, tinkle, tinkle so merrily through their early days; but Life is so
apt to coquette with them in turn, to put all their sweet bells out of
tune, or to silence them one by one!

How different were the homes of these three girls from the tumbling old
cottage where Gretel dwelt. Rychie lived in a beautiful house near
Amsterdam, where the carved sideboards were laden with services of
silver and gold, and where silken tapestries hung in folds from ceiling
to floor.

Hilda's father owned the largest mansion in Broek. Its glittering roof
of polished tiles, and its boarded front, painted in half a dozen
various colors, were the admiration of the neighborhood.

Katrinka's home, not a mile distant, was the finest of Dutch
country-seats. The garden was so stiffly laid out in little paths and
patches that the birds might have mistaken it for a great Chinese puzzle
with all the pieces spread out ready for use. But in summer it was
beautiful; the flowers made the best of their stiff quarters, and, when
the gardener was not watching, glowed and bent and twined about each
other in the prettiest way imaginable. Such a tulip bed! Why, the Queen
of the Fairies would never care for a grander city in which to hold her
court! but Katrinka preferred the bed of pink and white hyacinths. She
loved their freshness and fragrance, and the light-hearted way in which
their bell-shaped blossoms swung in the breeze.

Carl was both right and wrong when he said that Katrinka and Rychie were
furious at the very idea of the peasant Gretel joining in the race. He
had heard Rychie declare it was "disgraceful, shameful, TOO BAD!" which
in Dutch, as in English, is generally the strongest expression an
indignant girl can use; and he had seen Katrinka nod her pretty head,
and heard her sweetly echo "shameful, too bad!" as nearly like Rychie as
tinkling bells can be like the voice of real anger. That had satisfied
him. He never suspected that had Hilda, not Rychie, first talked with
Katrinka upon the subject, the bells would have jingled as willing an
echo. She would have said, "Certainly, let her join us," and would have
skipped off thinking no more about it. But now Katrinka with sweet
emphasis pronounced it a shame that a goose-girl, a forlorn little
creature like Gretel should be allowed to spoil the race.

Rychie being rich and powerful (in a schoolgirl way) had other
followers, besides Katrinka, who were induced to share her opinions
because they were either too careless or too cowardly to think for
themselves.

Poor little Gretel! Her home was sad and dark enough now. Raff Brinker
lay moaning upon his rough bed, and his vrouw, forgetting and forgiving
everything, bathed his forehead, his lips, weeping and praying that he
might not die. Hans, as we know, had started in desperation for Leyden
to search for Dr. Boekman, and induce him, if possible, to come to their
father at once. Gretel, filled with a strange dread, had done the work
as well as she could, wiped the rough brick floor, brought peat to build
up the slow fire, and melted ice for her mother's use. This
accomplished, she seated herself upon a low stool near the bed, and
begged her mother to try and sleep a while.

"You are so tired," she whispered, "not once have you closed your eyes
since that dreadful hour last night. See, I have straightened the willow
bed in the corner, and spread everything soft upon it I could find, so
that the mother might lie in comfort. Here is your jacket. Take off that
pretty dress, I'll fold it away very careful, and put it in the big
chest before you go to sleep."

Dame Brinker shook her head without turning her eyes from her husband's
face.

"I can watch, mother," urged Gretel, "and I'll wake you every time the
father stirs. You are so pale, and your eyes are so red--oh, mother,
_do_!"

The child pleaded in vain. Dame Brinker would not leave her post.

Gretel looked at her in troubled silence, wondering whether it were very
wicked to care more for one parent than for the other--and sure, yes,
quite sure, that she dreaded her father, while she clung to her mother
with a love that was almost idolatry.

"Hans loves the father so well," she thought, "why cannot I? Yet I could
not help crying when I saw his hand bleed that day, last month, when he
snatched the knife--and now, when he moans, how I ache, ache all over.
Perhaps I love him, after all, and God will see I am not such a bad,
wicked girl as I thought. Yes, I love the poor father--almost as Hans
does--not quite, for Hans is stronger and does not fear him. Oh, will
that moaning go on forever and ever! Poor mother, how patient she is;
_she_ never pouts, as I do, about the money that went away so strange.
If he only could, just for one instant, open his eyes and look at us, as
Hans does, and tell us where mother's guilders went, I would not care
for the rest--yes, I would care--I don't want the poor father to die, to
be all blue and cold like Annie Bouman's little sister--I _know_ I
don't--dear God, I don't want father to die."

Her thoughts merged into a prayer. When it ended, the poor child
scarcely knew. Soon she found herself watching a little pulse of light
at the side of the fire, beating faintly but steadily, showing that
somewhere in the dark pile there was warmth and light that would
overspread it at last. A large earthen cup filled with burning peat
stood near the bedside; Gretel had placed it there to "stop the father's
shivering" she said. She watched it as it sent a glow around the
mother's form, tipping her faded skirt with light, and shedding a sort
of newness over the threadbare bodice. It was a relief to Gretel to see
the lines in that weary face soften as the firelight flickered gently
across it.

Next she counted the window-panes, broken and patched as they were; and
finally, after tracing every crack and seam in the walls, fixed her gaze
upon a carved shelf made by Hans. The shelf hung as high as Gretel
could reach. It held a large leather-covered Bible, with brass clasps, a
wedding present to Dame Brinker from the family at Heidelberg.

"Ah, how handy Hans is! If he were here he could turn the father some
way so the moans would stop--dear! dear! if this sickness lasts, we
shall never skate any more. I must send my new skates back to the
beautiful lady. Hans and I will not see the race," and Gretel's eyes,
that had been dry before, grew full of tears.

"Never cry, child," said her mother soothingly. "This sickness may not
be as bad as we think. The father has lain this way before."

Gretel sobbed now.

"Oh, mother, it is not that alone--you do not know all--I am very, very
bad and wicked!"

"_You_, Gretel! you so patient and good!" and a bright, puzzled look
beamed for an instant upon the child. "Hush, lovey, you'll wake him."

Gretel hid her face in her mother's lap, and tried not to cry.

Her little hand, so thin and brown, lay in the coarse palm of her
mother, creased with many a hard day's work. Rychie would have shuddered
to touch either, yet they pressed warmly upon each other. Soon Gretel
looked up with that dull, homely look which, they say, poor children in
shanties are apt to have, and said in a trembling voice:

"The father tried to burn you--he did--I saw him, and he was
_laughing_!"

"Hush, child!"

The mother's words came so suddenly and sharply, that Raff Brinker,
dead as he was to all that was passing round him, twitched slightly upon
the bed.

Gretel said no more, but plucked drearily at the jagged edge of a hole
in her mother's holiday gown. It had been burned there--well for Dame
Brinker that the gown was woolen.



XVI

HAARLEM.--THE BOYS HEAR VOICES


Refreshed and rested, our boys came forth from the coffee-house just as
the big clock in the Square, after the manner of certain Holland
timekeepers, was striking TWO with its half-hour bell, for half-past
TWO.

The captain was absorbed in thought, at first, for Hans Brinker's sad
story still echoed in his ears. Not until Ludwig rebuked him with a
laughing "Wake up, Grandfather!" did he reassume his position as gallant
boy-leader of his band.

"Ahem! this way, young gentlemen!"

They were walking through the streets of the city, not on a curbed
_sidewalk_, for such a thing is rarely to be found in Holland, but on
the brick pavement that lay on the borders of the cobblestone
carriage-way without breaking its level expanse.

Haarlem, like Amsterdam, was gayer than usual, in honor of St. Nicholas.

A strange figure was approaching them. It was a small man dressed in
black, with a short cloak; he wore a wig and a cocked hat from which a
long crape streamer was flying.

"Who comes here?" cried Ben; "what a queer-looking object."

"That's the aanspreeker," said Lambert; "some one is dead."

"Is that the way men dress in mourning in this country?"

"Oh no. The aanspreeker attends funerals, and it is his business, when
any one dies, to notify all the friends and relatives."

"What a strange custom."

"Well," said Lambert "we needn't feel very badly about this particular
death, for I see another man has lately been born to the world to fill
up the vacant place."

Ben stared. "How do you know that?"

"Don't you see that pretty red pincushion hanging on yonder door?" asked
Lambert in return.

"Yes."

"Well, that's a boy."

"A boy! what do you mean?"

"I mean that here in Haarlem whenever a boy is born, the parents have a
red pincushion put out at the door. If our young friend had been a girl
instead of a boy the cushion would have been white. In some places they
have much more fanciful affairs, all trimmed with lace, and even among
the very poorest houses you will see a bit of ribbon or even a string
tied on the door-latch----"

"Look!" almost screamed Ben, "there _is_ a white cushion, at the door of
that double-jointed house with the funny roof."

"I don't see any house with a funny roof."

"Oh, of course not," said Ben. "I forget you're a native; but all the
roofs are queer to me, for that matter. I mean the house next to that
green building."

"True enough--there's a girl! I tell you what, captain," called out
Lambert, slipping easily into Dutch, "we must get out of this street as
soon as possible. It's full of babies! They'll set up a squall in a
moment."

The captain laughed. "I shall take you to hear better music than that,"
he said; "we are just in time to hear the organ of St. Bavon. The church
is open to-day."

"What, the great Haarlem organ?" asked Ben. "That will be a treat
indeed. I have often read of it, with its tremendous pipes, and its _vox
humana_[21] that sounds like a giant singing."

[Footnote 21: An organ stop which produces an effect resembling the
human voice.]

"The same," answered Lambert van Mounen.

Peter was right. The church was open, though not for religious services.
Some one was playing upon the organ. As the boys entered, a swell of
sound rushed forth to meet them. It seemed to bear them, one by one,
into the shadows of the building.

Louder and louder it grew until it became like the din and roar of some
mighty tempest, or like the ocean surging upon the shore. In the midst
of the tumult a tinkling bell was heard; another answered, then another,
and the storm paused as if to listen. The bells grew bolder; they rang
out loud and clear. Other deep toned bells joined in; they were tolling
in solemn concert--ding, dong! ding, dong! The storm broke forth again
with redoubled fury--gathering its distant thunder. The boys looked at
each other, but did not speak. It was growing serious. What was that?
_Who_ screamed? _What_ screamed--that terrible, musical scream? Was it
man or demon? Or was it some monster shut up behind that carved brass
frame--behind those great silver columns--some despairing monster
begging, screaming for freedom? It was the Vox Humana!

At last an answer came,--soft, tender, loving, like a mother's song. The
storm grew silent; hidden birds sprang forth filling the air with glad,
ecstatic music, rising higher and higher until the last faint note was
lost in the distance.

The Vox Humana was stilled; but in the glorious hymn of thanksgiving
that now arose, one could almost hear the throbbing of a human heart.
What did it mean? That man's imploring cry should in time be met with a
deep content? That gratitude would give us freedom? To Peter and Ben it
seemed that the angels were singing. Their eyes grew dim, and their
souls dizzy with a strange joy. At last, as if borne upward by invisible
hands, they were floating away on the music, all fatigue forgotten, and
with no wish but to hear forever those beautiful sounds--when suddenly
Van Holp's sleeve was pulled impatiently and a gruff voice beside him
asked:

"How long are you going to stay here, captain--blinking at the ceiling
like a sick rabbit? It's high time we started."

"Hush!" whispered Peter, only half aroused.

"Come, man! Let's go," said Carl, giving the sleeve a second pull.

Peter turned reluctantly; he would not detain the boys against their
will. All but Ben were casting rather reproachful glances upon him.

"Well, boys," he whispered, "we will go. Softly now."

"That's the greatest thing I've seen or heard since I've been in
Holland!" cried Ben, enthusiastically, as soon as they reached the open
air. "It's glorious!"

Ludwig and Carl laughed slyly at the English boy's _wartaal_, or
gibberish; Jacob yawned; Peter gave Ben a look that made him instantly
feel that he and Peter were not so very different after all, though one
hailed from Holland and the other from England; and Lambert, the
interpreter, responded with a brisk--

"You may well say so. I believe there are one or two organs nowadays
that are said to be as fine; but for years and years this organ of St.
Bavon was the grandest in the world."

"Do you know how large it is?" asked Ben. "I noticed that the church
itself was prodigiously high and that the organ filled the end of the
great aisle almost from floor to roof."

"That's true," said Lambert, "and how superb the pipes looked--just like
grand columns of silver. They're only for show, you know; the _real_
pipes are behind them, some big enough for a man to crawl through, and
some smaller than a baby's whistle. Well, sir, for size, the church is
higher than Westminster Abbey, to begin with, and, as you say, the organ
makes a tremendous show even then. Father told me last night that it is
one hundred and eight feet high, fifty feet broad, and has over five
thousand pipes; it has sixty-four _stops_, if you know what they are,
_I_ don't, and three keyboards."

"Good for you!" said Ben. "You have a fine memory. _My_ head is a
perfect colander for figures; they slip through as fast as they're
poured in. But other facts and historical events stay behind--that's
some consolation."

"There we differ," returned Van Mounen. "I'm great on names and figures,
but history, take it altogether, seems to me to be the most hopeless
kind of a jumble."

Meantime Carl and Ludwig were having a discussion concerning some square
wooden monuments they had observed in the interior of the church; Ludwig
declared that each bore the name of the person buried beneath, and Carl
insisted that they had no names, but only the heraldic arms of the
deceased painted on a black ground, with the date of the death in gilt
letters.

"I ought to know," said Carl, "for I walked across to the east side, to
look for the cannon-ball which mother told me was embedded there. It was
fired into the church, in the year fifteen hundred and something, by
those rascally Spaniards, while the services were going on. There it was
in the wall, sure enough, and while I was walking back, I noticed the
monuments--I tell you they haven't a sign of a name upon them."

"Ask Peter," said Ludwig, only half convinced.

"Carl is right," replied Peter, who though conversing with Jacob, had
overheard their dispute. "Well, Jacob, as I was saying, Handel the great
composer chanced to visit Haarlem and of course he at once hunted up
this famous organ. He gained admittance, and was playing upon it with
all his might, when the regular organist chanced to enter the building.
The man stood awe-struck; he was a good player himself, but he had never
heard such music before. 'Who is there?' he cried. 'If it is not an
angel or the devil, it must be Handel!' When he discovered that it _was_
the great musician, he was still more mystified! 'But how is this?' said
he; 'you have done impossible things--no ten fingers on earth can play
the passages you have given; human hands couldn't control all the keys
and stops!' 'I know it,' said Handel, coolly, 'and for that reason, I
was forced to strike some notes with the end of my nose.' Donder! just
think how the old organist must have stared!"

"Hey! What?" exclaimed Jacob, startled when Peter's animated voice
suddenly became silent.

"Haven't you heard me, you rascal?" was the indignant rejoinder.

"Oh, yes--no--the fact is--I heard you at first--I'm awake now, but I do
believe I've been walking beside you half asleep," stammered Jacob, with
such a doleful, bewildered look on his face, that Peter could not help
laughing.



XVII

THE MAN WITH FOUR HEADS


After leaving the church, the boys stopped near by in the open
market-place, to look at the bronze statue of Laurens Janzoon Coster,
who is believed by the Dutch to have been the inventor of printing. This
is disputed by those who award the same honor to Johannes Gutenberg of
Mayence; while many maintain that Faustus, a servant of Coster, stole
his master's wooden types on a Christmas eve, when the latter was at
church, and fled with his booty, and his secret, to Mayence. Coster was
a native of Haarlem, and the Hollanders are naturally anxious to secure
the credit of the invention for their illustrious townsman. Certain it
is, that the first book he printed, is kept, by the city, in a silver
case wrapped in silk, and is shown with great caution as a most precious
relic. It is said, he first conceived the idea of printing from cutting
his name upon the bark of a tree, and afterward pressing a piece of
paper upon the characters.

Of course Lambert and his English friend fully discussed this subject.
They also had rather a warm argument concerning another invention.
Lambert declared that the honor of giving both the telescope and
microscope to the world lay between Metius and Jansen, both Hollanders;
while Ben as stoutly insisted that Roger Bacon, an English monk of the
thirteenth century, "wrote out the whole thing, sir, perfect
descriptions of microscopes and telescopes, too, long before either of
those other fellows were born."

On one subject, however, they both agreed: that the art of curing and
pickling herrings was discovered by William Beukles of Holland, and that
the country did perfectly right in honoring him as a national
benefactor, for its wealth and importance had been in a great measure
due to its herring trade.

"It is astonishing," said Ben, "in what prodigious quantities those fish
are found. I don't know how it is here, but on the coast of England, off
Yarmouth, the herring shoals have been known to be six and seven feet
deep with fish."

"That is prodigious, indeed," said Lambert, "but you know your word
herring is derived from the German _heer_, an army, on account of a way
the fish have of coming in large numbers."

Soon afterward, while passing a cobbler's shop, Ben exclaimed:

"Hollo! Lambert, here is the name of one of your greatest men over a
cobbler's stall! Boerhaave--if it were only Herman Boerhaave instead of
Hendrick, it would be complete."

Lambert knit his brows reflectively, as he replied:

"Boerhaave--Boerhaave--the name is perfectly familiar; I remember, too,
he was born in 1668, but the rest is all gone, as usual. There have been
so many famous Hollanders, you see, it is impossible for a fellow to
know them all. What was he? Did he have two heads? or was he one of your
great, natural swimmers like Marco Polo?"

"He had _four_ heads," answered Ben, laughing, "for he was a great
physician, naturalist, botanist and chemist. I am full of him just now,
for I read his life a few weeks ago."

"Pour out a little then," said Lambert; "only walk faster, we shall lose
sight of the other boys."

"Well," resumed Ben, quickening his pace, and looking with great
interest at everything going on in the crowded street. "This Dr.
Boerhaave was a great anspewker."

"A great _what_?" roared Lambert.

"Oh, I beg pardon--I was thinking of that man over there, with the
cocked hat. He's an anspewker, isn't he?"

"Yes. He's an aanspreeker--if that is what you mean to say. But what
about your friend with the four heads?"

"Well, as I was going to say, the doctor was left a penniless orphan at
sixteen without education or friends."

"Jolly beginning!" interposed Lambert.

"Now don't interrupt. He was a poor friendless orphan at sixteen, but he
was so persevering and industrious, so determined to gain knowledge,
that he made his way, and in time became one of the most learned men of
Europe. All the----What is that?"

"Where? What do you mean?"

"Why, that paper on the door opposite. Don't you see? Two or three
persons are reading it; I have noticed several of these papers since
I've been here."

"Oh, that's only a health-bulletin. Somebody in the house is ill, and to
prevent a steady knocking at the door, the family write an account of
the patient's condition on a placard, and hang it outside the door, for
the benefit of inquiring friends--a very sensible custom, I'm sure.
Nothing strange about it that I can see--go on, please--you said 'all
the'--and there you left me hanging."

"I was going to say," resumed Ben, "that all the--all the--how comically
persons do dress here, to be sure! Just look at those men and women with
their sugar-loaf hats--and see this woman ahead of us with a
straw-bonnet like a scoop-shovel tapering to a point in the back. Did
ever you see anything so funny? And those tremendous wooden shoes,
too--I declare she's a beauty!"

"Oh, they are only back-country folk," said Lambert, rather
impatiently--"You might as well let old Boerhaave drop, or else shut
your eyes----"

"Ha! ha! Well, I was _going_ to say--all the big men of his day sought
out this great professor. Even Peter the Great when he came over to
Holland from Russia to learn ship-building, attended his lectures
regularly. By that time Boerhaave was professor of Medicine and
Chemistry and Botany in the University of Leyden. He had grown to be
very wealthy as a practicing physician; but he used to say that the poor
were his best patients because God would be their pay-master. All Europe
learned to love and honor him. In short, he became so famous that a
certain mandarin of China addressed a letter to 'The illustrious
Boerhaave, physician in Europe,' and the letter found its way to him
without any difficulty."

"My goodness! That is what I call being a public character. The boys
have stopped. How now, Captain van Holp, what next?"

"We propose to move on," said Van Holp; "there is nothing to see at this
season in the Bosch--the Bosch is a noble wood, Benjamin, a grand Park
where they have most magnificent trees, protected by law--Do you
understand?"

"Ya!" nodded Ben, as the captain proceeded:

"Unless you all desire to visit the Museum of Natural History, we may go
on the grand canal again. If we had more time it would be pleasant to
take Benjamin up the Blue Stairs."

"What are the Blue Stairs, Lambert?" asked Ben.

"They are the highest point of the Dunes. You have a grand view of the
ocean from there, besides a fine chance to see how wonderful these Dunes
are. One can hardly believe that the wind could ever heap up sand in so
remarkable a way. But we have to go through Bloemendal to get there--not
a very pretty village, and some distance from here. What do you say?"

"Oh, I am ready for anything. For my part, I would rather steer direct
for Leyden, but we'll do as the captain says--hey, Jacob?"

"Ya, dat ish goot," said Jacob, who felt decidedly more like taking
another nap, than ascending the Blue Stairs.

The captain was in favor of going to Leyden.

"It's four long miles from here. (Full sixteen of your English miles,
Benjamin.) We have no time to lose if you wish to reach there before
midnight. Decide quickly, boys--Blue Stairs or Leyden?"

"Leyden," they answered--and were out of Haarlem in a twinkling,
admiring the lofty, tower-like windmills and pretty country-seats as
they left the city behind them.

"If you really wish to see Haarlem," said Lambert to Ben, after they had
skated a while in silence, "you should visit it in summer. It is the
greatest place in the world for beautiful flowers. The walks around the
city are superb; and the 'Wood' with its miles of noble elms, all in
full feather, is something to remember. You need not smile, old fellow,
at my saying 'full feather'--I was thinking of waving plumes, and got my
words mixed up a little. But a Dutch elm beats everything; it is the
noblest tree on earth, Ben--if you except the English oak----"

"Aye," said Ben, solemnly, "_if_ you except the English oak"--and for
some moments he could scarcely see the canal because Robby and Jenny
kept bobbing in the air before his eyes.



XVIII

FRIENDS IN NEED


Meantime, the other boys were listening to Peter's account of an
incident which had long ago occurred[22] in a part of the city where
stood an ancient castle, whose lord had tyrannized over the burghers of
the town to such an extent, that they surrounded his castle, and laid
siege to it. Just at the last extremity, when the haughty lord felt that
he could hold out no longer, and was preparing to sell his life as
dearly as possible, his lady appeared on the ramparts, and offered to
surrender everything, provided she was permitted to bring out, and
retain, as much of her most precious household goods as she could carry
upon her back. The promise was given--and forth came the lady from the
gateway bearing her husband upon her shoulders. The burghers' pledge
preserved him from the fury of the troops, but left them free to wreak
their vengeance upon the castle.

[Footnote 22: Sir Thomas Carr's Tour through Holland.]

"Do you _believe_ that story, Captain Peter?" asked Carl, in an
incredulous tone.

"Of course, I do; it is historical. Why should I doubt it?"

"Simply because no woman could do it--and, if she could, she wouldn't.
That is _my_ opinion."

"And _I_ believe there are many who _would_.--That is, to save any one
they really cared for," said Ludwig.

Jacob, who in spite of his fat and sleepiness, was of rather a
sentimental turn, had listened with deep interest.

"That is right, little fellow," he said, nodding his head approvingly.
"I believe every word of it. I shall never marry a woman who would not
be glad to do as much for _me_."

"Heaven help her!" cried Carl, turning to gaze at the speaker; "why,
Poot, three _men_ couldn't do it!"

"Perhaps not," said Jacob quietly--feeling that he had asked rather too
much of the future Mrs. Poot. "But she must be _willing_, that is all."

"Aye," responded Peter's cheery voice, "willing heart makes nimble
foot--and who knows, but it may make strong arms also."

"Pete," asked Ludwig, changing the subject, "did you tell me last night
that the painter Wouvermans was born in Haarlem?"

"Yes, and Jacob Ruysdael and Berghem too. I like Berghem because he was
always good-natured--they say he always sang while he painted, and
though he died nearly two hundred years ago, there are traditions still
afloat concerning his pleasant laugh. He was a great painter, and he had
a wife as cross as Xantippe."

"They balanced each other finely," said Ludwig; "he was kind and she was
cross. But, Peter, before I forget it, wasn't that picture of St. Hubert
and the Horse painted by Wouvermans? You remember father showed us an
engraving from it last night."

"Yes, indeed; there is a story connected with that picture."

"Tell us!" cried two or three, drawing closer to Peter as they skated
on.

"Wouvermans," began the captain, oratorically, "was born in 1620, just
four years before Berghem. He was a master of his art, and especially
excelled in painting horses. Strange as it may seem, people were so long
finding out his merits, that, even after he had arrived at the height of
his excellence, he was obliged to sell his pictures for very paltry
prices. The poor artist became completely discouraged, and, worse than
all, was over head and ears in debt. One day he was talking over his
troubles with his father-confessor, who was one of the few who
recognized his genius. The priest determined to assist him, and
accordingly lent him six hundred guilders, advising him at the same time
to demand a better price for his pictures. Wouvermans did so, and in the
meantime paid his debts. Matters brightened with him at once. Everybody
appreciated the great artist who painted such costly pictures. He grew
rich. The six hundred guilders were returned, and in gratitude,
Wouvermans sent also a work which he had painted, representing his
benefactor as St. Hubert kneeling before his horse--the very picture,
Ludwig, of which we were speaking last night."

"So! so!" exclaimed Ludwig, with deep interest. "I must take another
look at the engraving as soon as we get home."

       *       *       *       *       *

At that same hour, while Ben was skating with his companions beside the
Holland dyke, Robby and Jenny stood in their pretty English schoolhouse,
ready to join in the duties of their reading class.

"Commence! Master Robert Dobbs," said the teacher, "page 242; now, sir,
mind every stop."

And Robby, in a quick childish voice, roared forth at schoolroom pitch:


"LESSON 62.--THE HERO OF HAARLEM.

"Many years ago, there lived in Haarlem, one of the principal cities of
Holland, a sunny-haired boy, of gentle disposition. His father was a
_sluicer_, that is, a man whose business it was to open and close the
sluices, or large oaken gates, that are placed at regular distances
across the entrances of the canals, to regulate the amount of water that
shall flow into them.

"The sluicer raises the gates more or less according to the quantity of
water required, and closes them carefully at night, in order to avoid
all possible danger of an over supply running into the canal, or the
water would soon overflow it and inundate the surrounding country. As a
great portion of Holland is lower than the level of the sea, the waters
are kept from flooding the land, only by means of strong dykes, or
barriers, and by means of these sluices, which are often strained to the
utmost by the pressure of the rising tides. Even the little children in
Holland know that constant watchfulness is required to keep the rivers
and ocean from overwhelming the country, and that a moment's neglect of
the sluicer's duty may bring ruin and death to all."

["Very good," said the teacher; "now, Susan."]

"One lovely autumn afternoon, when the boy was about eight years old, he
obtained his parents' consent to carry some cakes to a blind man who
lived out in the country, on the other side of the dyke. The little
fellow started on his errand with a light heart, and having spent an
hour with his grateful old friend, he bade him farewell and started on
his homeward walk.

"Trudging stoutly along by the canal, he noticed how the autumn rains
had swollen the waters. Even while humming his careless, childish song,
he thought of his father's brave old gates and felt glad of their
strength, for thought he, 'if _they_ gave way, where would father and
mother be? These pretty fields would be all covered with the angry
waters--father always calls them the _angry_ waters; I suppose he thinks
they are mad at him for keeping them out so long.' And with these
thoughts just flitting across his brain, the little fellow stooped to
pick the pretty blue flowers that grew along his way. Sometimes he
stopped to throw some feathery seed-ball in the air, and watch it as it
floated away; sometimes he listened to the stealthy rustling of a
rabbit, speeding through the grass, but oftener he smiled as he recalled
the happy light he had seen arise on the weary, listening face of his
blind old friend."

["Now, Henry," said the teacher, nodding to the next little reader.]

"Suddenly the boy looked around him in dismay. He had not noticed that
the sun was setting: now he saw that his long shadow on the grass had
vanished. It was growing dark, he was still some distance from home, and
in a lonely ravine, where even the blue flowers had turned to gray. He
quickened his foot-steps; and with a beating heart recalled many a
nursery tale of children belated in dreary forests. Just as he was
bracing himself for a run, he was startled by the sound of trickling
water. Whence did it come? He looked up and saw a small hole in the dyke
through which a tiny stream was flowing. Any child in Holland will
shudder at the thought of a _leak in the dyke_! The boy understood the
danger at a glance. That little hole, if the water were allowed to
trickle through, would soon be a large one, and a terrible inundation
would be the result.

"Quick as a flash, he saw his duty. Throwing away his flowers, the boy
clambered up the heights, until he reached the hole. His chubby little
finger was thrust in, almost before he knew it. The flowing was stopped!
'Ah!' he thought, with a chuckle of boyish delight, 'the angry waters
must stay back now! Haarlem shall not be drowned while _I_ am here!'

"This was all very well at first, but the night was falling rapidly;
chill vapors filled the air. Our little hero began to tremble with cold
and dread. He shouted loudly; he screamed 'Come here! come here!' but no
one came. The cold grew more intense, a numbness, commencing in the
tired little finger, crept over his hand and arm, and soon his whole
body was filled with pain. He shouted again, 'Will no one come? Mother!
mother!' Alas, his mother, good, practical soul, had already locked the
doors, and had fully resolved to scold him on the morrow, for spending
the night with blind Jansen without her permission. He tried to whistle;
perhaps some straggling boy might heed the signal; but his teeth
chattered so, it was impossible. Then he called on God for help; and the
answer came, through a holy resolution--'I will stay here till
morning.'"

["Now, Jenny Dobbs," said the teacher. Jenny's eyes were glistening, but
she took a long breath and commenced:]

"The midnight moon looked down upon that small solitary form, sitting
upon a stone, half-way up the dyke. His head was bent but he was not
asleep, for every now and then one restless hand rubbed feebly the
out-stretched arm that seemed fastened to the dyke--and often the pale,
tearful face turned quickly at some real or fancied sounds.

"How can we know the sufferings of that long and fearful watch--what
falterings of purpose, what childish terrors came over the boy as he
thought of the warm little bed at home, of his parents, his brothers and
sisters, then looked into the cold, dreary night!

"If he drew away that tiny finger, the angry waters, grown angrier
still, would rush forth, and never stop until they had swept over the
town. No, he would hold it there till daylight--if he lived! He was not
very sure of living. What did this strange buzzing mean? and then the
knives that seemed pricking and piercing him from head to foot? He was
not certain now that he could draw his finger away, even if he wished
to.

"At daybreak a clergyman, returning from the bed-side of a sick
parishioner, thought he heard groans as he walked along on the top of
the dyke. Bending, he saw, far down on the side, a child apparently
writhing with pain.

"'In the name of wonder, boy,' he exclaimed, 'what are you doing there?'

"'I am keeping the water from running out,' was the simple answer of the
little hero. 'Tell them to come quick.'

"It is needless to add that they did come quickly and that----"

["Jenny Dobbs," said the teacher, rather impatiently, "if you cannot
control your feelings so as to read distinctly, we will wait until you
recover yourself."

"Yes, sir!" said Jenny, quite startled.]

It was strange; but at that very moment, Ben, far over the sea, was
saying to Lambert:

"The noble little fellow! I have frequently met with an account of the
incident, but I never knew, till now, that it was really true."

"True! Of course it is," said Lambert, kindling. "I have given you the
story just as mother told it to me, years ago. Why, there is not a child
in Holland who does not know it. And, Ben, you may not think so, but
that little boy represents the spirit of the whole country. Not a leak
can show itself anywhere either in its politics, honor, or public
safety, that a million fingers are not ready to stop it, at any cost."

"Whew!" cried Master Ben, "big talking that!"

"It's _true_ talk anyway," rejoined Lambert, so very quietly that Ben
wisely resolved to make no further comment.

[Illustration: _The ice seemed fairly alive_]



XIX

ON THE CANAL


The skating season had commenced unusually early; our boys were by no
means alone upon the ice. The afternoon was so fine, that men, women,
and children, bent upon enjoying the holiday, had flocked to the grand
canal from far and near. Saint Nicholas had evidently remembered the
favorite pastime; shining new skates were everywhere to be seen. Whole
families were skimming their way to Haarlem or Leyden or the neighboring
villages. The ice seemed fairly alive. Ben noticed the erect, easy
carriage of the women, and their picturesque variety of costume. There
were the latest fashions, fresh from Paris, floating past dingy,
moth-eaten garments that had seen service through two generations;
coal-scuttle bonnets perched over freckled faces bright with holiday
smiles; stiff muslin caps, with wings at the sides, flapping beside
cheeks rosy with health and contentment; furs, too, encircling the
whitest of throats; and scanty garments fluttering below faces ruddy
with exercise--In short every quaint and comical mixture of dry-goods
and flesh that Holland could furnish, seemed sent to enliven the scene.

There were belles from Leyden, and fishwives from the border villages;
cheese women from Gouda, and prim matrons from beautiful country-seats
on the Haarlemmer Meer. Gray-headed skaters were constantly to be seen;
wrinkled old women, with baskets upon their heads; and plump little
toddlers on skates clutching at their mother's gowns. Some women
carried their babies upon their backs, firmly secured with a bright
shawl. The effect was pretty and graceful as they darted by, or sailed
slowly past, now nodding to an acquaintance, now chirruping, and
throwing soft baby-talk, to the muffled little ones they carried.

Boys and girls were chasing each other, and hiding behind the one-horse
sleds, that, loaded high with peat or timber, pursued their cautious way
along the track marked out as "safe." Beautiful, queenly women were
there, enjoyment sparkling in their quiet eyes. Sometimes a long file of
young men, each grasping the coat of the one before him, flew by with
electric speed; and sometimes the ice squeaked under the chair of some
gorgeous old dowager, or rich burgomaster's lady--who, very red in the
nose, and sharp in the eyes, looked like a scare-thaw invented by old
father Winter for the protection of his skating grounds. The chair would
be heavy with footstoves and cushions, to say nothing of the old lady.
Mounted upon shining runners it slid along, pushed by the sleepiest of
servants, who, looking neither to the right nor the left, bent himself
to his task while she cast direful glances upon the screaming little
rowdies who invariably acted as body-guard.

As for the men, they were pictures of placid enjoyment. Some were
attired in ordinary citizen's dress; but many looked odd enough with
their short woolen coats, wide breeches, and big silver buckles. These
seemed to Ben like little boys who had, by a miracle, sprung suddenly
into manhood, and were forced to wear garments that their astonished
mothers had altered in a hurry. He noticed, too, that nearly all the men
had pipes, as they passed him whizzing and smoking like so many
locomotives. There was every variety of pipes from those of common clay
to the most expensive meerschaums mounted in silver and gold. Some were
carved into extraordinary and fantastic shapes, representing birds,
flowers, heads, bugs, and dozens of other things; some resembled the
"Dutchman's pipe" that grows in our American woods; some were red, and
many were of a pure snowy white; but the most respectable were those
which were ripening into a shaded brown--The deeper and richer the
brown, of course the more honored the pipe, for it was a proof that the
owner, if honestly shading it, was deliberately devoting his manhood to
the effort--What pipe would not be proud to be the object of such a
sacrifice!

For a while, Ben skated on in silence. There was so much to engage his
attention that he almost forgot his companions. Part of the time he had
been watching the ice-boats as they flew over the great Haarlemmer Meer
(or Lake), the frozen surface of which was now plainly visible from the
canal. These boats had very large sails, much larger, in proportion,
than those of ordinary vessels, and were set upon a triangular frame
furnished with an iron "runner" at each corner,--the widest part of the
triangle crossing the bow, and its point stretching beyond the stern.
They had rudders for guiding, and brakes for arresting their progress;
and were of all sizes and kinds, from small, rough affairs managed by a
boy, to large and beautiful ones filled with gay pleasure parties, and
manned by competent sailors, who smoking their stumpy pipes, reefed and
tacked and steered with great solemnity and precision.

Some of the boats were painted and gilded in gaudy style and flaunted
gay pennons from their mastheads; others white as snow, with every
spotless sail rounded by the wind, looked like swans borne onward by a
resistless current. It seemed to Ben as, following his fancy, he watched
one of these in the distance, that he could almost hear its helpless,
terrified cry, but he soon found that the sound arose from a nearer and
less romantic cause--from an ice-boat not fifty yards from him, using
its brakes to avoid a collision with a peat-sled.

It was a rare thing for these boats to be upon the canal and their
appearance generally caused no little excitement among skaters,
especially among the timid; but to-day every ice-boat in the country
seemed afloat or rather aslide, and the canal had its full share.

Ben, though delighted at the sight, was often startled at the swift
approach of the resistless, high-winged things threatening to dart in
any and every possible direction. It required all his energies to keep
out of the way of the passers-by, and to prevent those screaming little
urchins from upsetting him with their sleds. Once he halted to watch
some boys who were making a hole in the ice preparatory to using their
fishing spears. Just as he concluded to start again, he found himself
suddenly bumped into an old lady's lap. Her push chair had come upon him
from the rear. The old lady screamed, the servant who was propelling her
gave a warning hiss--In another instant Ben found himself apologizing to
empty air; the indignant old lady was far ahead.

This was a slight mishap compared with one that now threatened him. A
huge ice-boat, under full sail, came tearing down the canal, almost
paralyzing Ben with the thought of instant destruction. It was close
upon him! He saw its gilded prow, heard the schipper shout, felt the
great boom fairly whizz over his head, was blind, deaf and dumb all in
an instant, then opened his eyes, to find himself spinning some yards
behind its great, skate-like rudder. It had passed within an inch of his
shoulder, but he was safe! safe to see England again, safe to kiss the
dear faces that for an instant had flashed before him one by
one--father, mother, Robby and Jenny--that great boom had dashed their
images into his very soul. He knew now how much he loved them. Perhaps
this knowledge made him face complacently the scowls of those on the
canal who seemed to feel that a boy in danger was necessarily a _bad_
boy needing instant reprimand.

Lambert chided him roundly.

"I thought it was all over with you, you careless fellow! Why don't you
look where you are going? Not content with sitting on all the old
ladies' laps, you must make a Juggernaut of every ice-boat that comes
along. We shall have to hand you over to the aanspreekers yet, if you
don't look out!"

"Please don't," said Ben, with mock humility--then seeing how pale
Lambert's lips were, added in a low tone:

"I do believe I _thought_ more in that one moment, Van Mounen, than in
all the rest of my past life."

There was no reply, and, for a while, the two boys skated on in silence.

Soon a faint sound of distant bells reached their ears.

"Hark!" said Ben, "what is that?"

"The carillons," replied Lambert. "They are trying the bells in the
chapel of yonder village. Ah! Ben, you should hear the chimes of the
'New Church' at Delft; they are superb--nearly five hundred sweet-toned
bells, and one of the best carilloneurs of Holland to play upon them.
Hard work, though; they say the fellow often has to go to bed from
positive exhaustion, after his performances. You see, the bells are
attached to a kind of keyboard, something like they have on
piano-fortes; there are also a set of pedals for the feet; when a brisk
tune is going on, the player looks like a kicking frog fastened to his
seat with a skewer."

"For shame," said Ben, indignantly.

Peter had, for the present, exhausted his stock of Haarlem anecdotes,
and now, having nothing to do but to skate, he and his three companions
were hastening to "catch up" with Lambert and Ben.

"That English lad is fleet enough," said Peter; "if he were a born
Hollander he could do no better. Generally these John Bulls make but a
sorry figure on skates--Hollo! Here you are, Van Mounen; why, we hardly
hoped for the honor of meeting you again. Who were you flying from in
such haste?"

"Snails," retorted Lambert. "What kept you?"

"We have been talking--and, beside, we halted once to give Poot a chance
to rest."

"He begins to look rather worn out," said Lambert in a low voice.

Just then a beautiful ice-boat with reefed sail, and flying streamers,
swept leisurely by. Its deck was filled with children muffled up to
their chins. Looking at them from the ice you could see only smiling
little faces imbedded in bright-colored, woolen wrappings. They were
singing a chorus in honor of Saint Nicholas. The music, starting in the
discord of a hundred childish voices, floated, as it rose, into
exquisite harmony:

     Friend of sailors, and of children!
       Double claim have we,
     As in youthful joy we're sailing,
       O'er a frozen sea!
                     Nicholas! Saint Nicholas!
                         Let us sing to thee.

     While through Wintry air we're rushing,
       As our voices blend,
     Are you near us? Do you hear us,
       Nicholas, our friend?
                     Nicholas! Saint Nicholas!
                         Love can never end.

     Sunny sparkles, bright before us,
       Chase away the cold!
     Hearts where sunny thoughts are welcome
       Never can grow old--
                     Nicholas! Saint Nicholas!--
                         Never can grow old!

     Pretty gift and loving lesson,
       Festival and glee,
     Bid us thank thee as we're sailing
       O'er the frozen sea--
                     Nicholas! Saint Nicholas!
                         So we sing to thee!



XX

JACOB POOT CHANGES THE PLAN


The last note died away in the distance. Our boys, who in their vain
efforts to keep up with the boat, had felt that they were skating
backward, turned to look at one another.

"How beautiful that was!" exclaimed Van Mounen.

"Just like a dream!" said Ludwig.

Jacob drew close to Ben, giving his usual approving nod, as he spoke:

"Dat ish goot. Dat ish te pest vay--I shay petter to take to Leyden mit
a poat!"

"Take a boat!" exclaimed Ben, in dismay--"why, man, our plan was to
_skate_, not to be carried like little children----"

"Tuyfels!" retorted Jacob, "dat ish no little--no papies--to go for
poat!"

The boys laughed, but exchanged uneasy glances. It would be great fun to
jump on an ice-boat, if they had a chance; but to abandon so shamefully
their grand undertaking--Who could think of such a thing?

An animated discussion arose at once.

Captain Peter brought his party to a halt.

"Boys," said he, "it strikes me that we should consult Jacob's wishes in
this matter. He started the excursion, you know."

"Pooh!" sneered Carl, throwing a contemptuous glance at Jacob, "who's
tired? We can rest all night at Leyden."

Ludwig and Lambert looked anxious and disappointed. It was no slight
thing to lose the credit of having skated all the way from Broek to the
Hague, and back again; but both agreed that Jacob should decide the
question.

Good-natured, tired Jacob! He read the popular sentiment at a glance.

"Oh! no," he said, in Dutch. "I was joking. We will skate, of course."

The boys gave a delighted shout, and started on again with renewed
vigor--

All but Jacob. He tried his best not to seem fatigued, and, by not
saying a word, saved his breath and energy for the great business of
skating. But in vain. Before long, the stout body grew heavier and
heavier--the tottering limbs weaker and weaker. Worse than all, the
blood, anxious to get far as possible from the ice, mounted to the
puffy, good-natured cheeks, and made the roots of his thin, yellow hair
glow into a fiery red.

This kind of work is apt to summon Vertigo, of whom good Hans Andersen
writes--the same who hurls daring young hunters from the mountains, or
spins them from the sharpest heights of the glaciers, or catches them as
they tread the stepping-stones of the mountain torrent.

Vertigo came, unseen, to Jacob. After tormenting him a while, with one
touch sending a chill from head to foot, with the next, scorching every
vein with fever, she made the canal rock and tremble beneath him, the
white sails bow and spin as they passed, then cast him heavily upon the
ice.

"Hallo!" cried Van Mounen. "There goes Poot!"

Ben sprang hastily forward.

"Jacob! Jacob, are you hurt?"

Peter and Carl were lifting him. The face was white enough now. It
seemed like a dead face--even the good-natured look was gone.

A crowd collected. Peter unbuttoned the poor boy's jacket, loosened his
red tippet, and blew between the parted lips.

"Stand off, good people!" he cried, "give him air!"

"Lay him down," called out a woman from the crowd.

"Stand him upon his feet," shouted another.

"Give him wine," growled a stout fellow who was driving a loaded sled.

"Yes! yes, give him wine!" echoed everybody.

Ludwig and Lambert shouted in concert:

"Wine! wine! Who has wine!"

A sleepy-eyed Dutchman began to fumble mysteriously under the heaviest
of blue jackets, saying as he did so:

"Not so much noise, young masters, not so much noise! The boy was a fool
to faint off like a girl."

"Wine, quick!" cried Peter who, with Ben's help, was rubbing Jacob from
head to foot.

Ludwig stretched forth his hand imploringly toward the Dutchman, who
with an air of great importance was still fumbling beneath the jacket.

"_Do_ hurry! He will die! Has any one else any wine?"

"He _is_ dead!" said an awful voice from among the bystanders.

This startled the Dutchman.

"Have a care!" he said, reluctantly drawing forth a small blue flask,
"this is schnaps. A little is enough."

A little _was_ enough. The paleness gave way to a faint flush. Jacob
opened his eyes, and--half bewildered, half ashamed,--feebly tried to
free himself from those who were supporting him.

       *       *       *       *       *

There was no alternative, now, for our party but to have their exhausted
comrade carried, in some way, to Leyden. As for expecting him to skate
any more that day, the thing was impossible. In truth, by this time each
boy began to entertain secret yearnings toward ice-boats, and to avow a
Spartan resolve not to desert Jacob. Fortunately a gentle, steady breeze
was setting southward. If some accommodating schipper[23] would but come
along, matters would not be quite so bad after all.

[Footnote 23: Skipper. Master of a small trading vessel,--a
pleasure-boat or ice-boat.]

Peter hailed the first sail that appeared; the men in the stern would
not even look at him. Three drays on runners came along, but they were
already loaded to the utmost. Then an ice-boat, a beautiful, tempting
little one, whizzed past like an arrow. The boys had just time to stare
eagerly at it when it was gone. In despair, they resolved to prop up
Jacob with their strong arms, as well as they could, and take him to the
nearest village.

At that moment a very shabby ice-boat came in sight. With but little
hope of success, Peter hailed it, at the same time taking off his hat
and flourishing it in the air.

The sail was lowered, then came the scraping sound of the brake, and a
pleasant voice called out from the deck:

"What now?"

"Will you take us on?" cried Peter hurrying with his companions as fast
as he could, for the boat was "bringing to" some distance ahead, "will
you take us on?"

"We'll pay for the ride!" shouted Carl.

The man on board scarcely noticed him except to mutter something about
its not being a trekschuit. Still looking toward Peter he asked:

"How many?"

"Six."

"Well, it's Nicholas' day--up with you! Young gentleman sick?" (nodding
toward Jacob).

"Yes--broken down--skated all the way from Broek," answered Peter--"Do
you go to Leyden?"

"That's as the wind says--It's blowing that way now--Scramble up!"

Poor Jacob! if that willing Mrs. Poot had only appeared just then, her
services would have been invaluable. It was as much as the boys could do
to hoist him into the boat. All were in at last. The schipper, puffing
away at his pipe, let out the sail, lifted the brake, and sat in the
stern with folded arms.

"Whew! How fast we go!" cried Ben. "This is something like! Feel better,
Jacob?"

"Much petter, I tanks you."

"Oh, you'll be as good as new in ten minutes. This makes a fellow feel
like a bird."

Jacob nodded, and blinked his eyes.

"Don't go to sleep, Jacob; it's too cold. You might never wake up, you
know. Persons often freeze to death in that way."

"I no sleep," said Jacob confidently--and in two minutes he was snoring.

Carl and Ludwig laughed.

"We must wake him!" cried Ben; "it is dangerous, I tell you,--Jacob!
Ja-a-c----"

Captain Peter interfered, for three of the boys were helping Ben for the
fun of the thing.

"Nonsense! don't shake him! Let him alone, boys. One never snores like
that when one's freezing. Cover him up with something. Here, this cloak
will do; hey, schipper?" and he looked toward the stern for permission
to use it.

The man nodded.

"There," said Peter, tenderly adjusting the garment, "let him sleep. He
will be frisky as a lamb when he wakes. How far are we from Leyden,
schipper?"

"Not more'n a couple of pipes," replied a voice, rising from smoke like
the genii in fairy tales (puff! puff!), "likely not more'n one an' a
half (puff! puff!) if this wind holds!" (puff! puff! puff!).

"What is the man saying, Lambert?" asked Ben, who was holding his
mittened hands against his cheeks to ward off the cutting air.

"He says we're about two pipes from Leyden. Half the boors here on the
canal measure distances by the time it takes them to finish a pipe."

"How ridiculous."

"See here, Benjamin Dobbs," retorted Lambert, growing unaccountably
indignant at Ben's quiet smile; "see here, you've a way of calling every
other thing you see on _this_ side of the German ocean, 'ridiculous.' It
may suit _you_, this word, but it don't suit _me_. When you want
anything ridiculous just remember your English custom of making the Lord
Mayor of London, at his installation, count the nails in a horseshoe to
prove _his learning_."

"Who told you we had any such custom as that?" cried Ben, looking grave
in an instant.

"Why, I _know_ it, no use of any one telling me. It's in all the
books--and it's true. It strikes me," continued Lambert, laughing in
spite of himself, "that you have been kept in happy ignorance of a good
many ridiculous things on _your_ side of the map."

"Humph!" exclaimed Ben, trying not to smile. "I'll inquire into that
Lord Mayor business when I get home. There must be some mistake.
B-r-r-roooo! How fast we're going. This is glorious!"

It was a grand sail, or ride, I scarce know which to call it; perhaps
"fly" would be the best word; for the boys felt very much as Sinbad did
when, tied to the roc's leg, he darted through the clouds; or as
Bellerophon felt when he shot through the air on the back of his winged
horse Pegasus.

Sailing, riding, or flying, whichever it was, everything was rushing
past, backward--and, before they had time to draw a long breath, Leyden
itself, with its high peaked-roofs, flew half-way to meet them.

When the city came in sight it was high time to waken the sleeper. That
feat accomplished, Peter's prophecy came to pass. Master Jacob was quite
restored and in excellent spirits.

The schipper made a feeble remonstrance when Peter, with hearty thanks,
endeavored to slip some silver pieces into his tough, brown palm.

"Ye see, young master," said he, drawing away his hand, "the regular
line o' trade's _one_ thing, and a favor's another."

"I know it," said Peter, "but those boys and girls of yours will want
sweets when you get home. Buy them some in the name of Saint Nicholas."

The man grinned. "Aye, true enough, I've young 'uns in plenty, a clean
boat-load of them. You are a sharp young master at guessing."

This time, the knotty hand hitched forward again, quite carelessly, it
seemed, but its palm was upward. Peter hastily dropped in the money and
moved away.

The sail soon came tumbling down. Scrape, scrape went the brake,
scattering an ice shower round the boat.

"Good-bye, schipper!" shouted the boys, seizing their skates and leaping
from the deck one by one, "many thanks to you!"

"Good-bye! good-b----Hold! here! stop! I want my coat."

Ben was carefully assisting his cousin over the side of the boat.

"What is the man shouting about? Oh, I know, you have his wrapper round
your shoulders!"

"Dat ish true," answered Jacob, half jumping, half tumbling down upon
the framework, "dat ish vot make him sho heavy."

"Made _you_ so heavy, you mean, Poot?"

"Ya, made you sho heavy--dat ish true," said Jacob innocently, as he
worked himself free from the big wrapper; "dere, now you hands it mit
him straits way and tells him I voz much tanks for dat."

"Ho! for an inn!" cried Peter, as they stepped into the city. "Be brisk,
my fine fellows!"



XXI

MYNHEER KLEEF AND HIS BILL OF FARE


The boys soon found an unpretending establishment near the Breedstraat
(Broad Street) with a funnily painted lion over the door. This was the
ROODE LEEUW or Red Lion, kept by one Huygens Kleef, a stout Dutchman
with short legs and a very long pipe.

By this time they were in a ravenous condition. The tiffin, taken at
Haarlem, had served only to give them an appetite, and this had been
heightened by their exercise, and swift sail upon the canal.

"Come, mine host! give us what you can!" cried Peter rather pompously.

"I can give you anything--everything," answered Mynheer Kleef,
performing a difficult bow.

"Well, give us sausage and pudding."

"Ah, mynheer, the sausage is all gone. There is no pudding."

"Salmagundi, then, and plenty of it."

"That is out also, young master."

"Eggs, and be quick."

"Winter eggs are _very_ poor eating," answered the innkeeper, puckering
his lips, and lifting his eyebrows.

"No eggs? well--Caviare."

The Dutchman raised his fat hands:

"Caviare! That is made of gold! Who has caviare to sell?"

Peter had sometimes eaten it at home; he knew that it was made of the
roes of the sturgeon, and certain other large fish, but he had no idea
of its cost.

"Well, mine host, what have you?"

"What have I? Everything. I have rye-bread, sour-krout, potato-salad and
the fattest herring in Leyden."

"What do you say, boys?" asked the captain; "will that do?"

"Yes," cried the famished youths, "if he'll only be quick."

Mynheer moved off like one walking in his sleep, but soon opened his
eyes wide at the miraculous manner in which his herring were made to
disappear. Next came, or rather went, potato-salad, rye-bread and
coffee--then Utrecht water flavored with orange, and, finally, slices of
dry gingerbread. This last delicacy was not on the regular bill of fare;
but Mynheer Kleef, driven to extremes, solemnly produced it from his own
private stores, and gave only a placid blink when his voracious young
travelers started up, declaring they had eaten enough.

"I should think so!" he exclaimed internally, but his smooth face gave
no sign.

Softly rubbing his hands, he asked:

"Will your worships have beds?"

"Will your worships have beds?" mocked Carl--"what do you mean? Do we
look sleepy?"

"Not at all, master; but I would cause them to be warmed and aired. None
sleep under damp sheets at the Red Lion."

"Ah, I understand. Shall we come back here to sleep, captain?"

Peter was accustomed to finer lodgings; but this was a frolic.

"Why not?" he replied; "we can fare excellently here."

"Your worship speaks only the truth," said mynheer with great deference.

"How fine to be called 'your worship,'" laughed Ludwig aside to Lambert,
while Peter replied:

"Well, mine host, you may get the rooms ready by nine."

"I have one beautiful chamber, with three beds, that will hold all of
your worships," said Mynheer Kleef coaxingly.

"That will do."

"Whew!" whistled Carl when they reached the street.

Ludwig started. "What now?"

"Nothing--only Mynheer Kleef of the Red Lion little thinks how we shall
make things spin in that same room to-night--We'll set the bolsters
flying!"

"Order!" cried the captain. "Now, boys, I must seek this great Dr.
Boekman before I sleep. If he is in Leyden it will be no great task to
find him, for he always puts up at the Golden Eagle when he comes here.
I wonder that you did not all go to bed at once--Still, as you are
awake, what say you to walking with Ben up by the Museum or the
Stadhuis?"

"Agreed," said Ludwig and Lambert; but Jacob preferred to go with Peter.
In vain Ben tried to persuade him to remain at the Inn and rest. He
declared that he never felt "petter," and wished of all things to take a
look at the city, for it was his first "stop mit Leyden."

"Oh, it will not harm him," said Lambert. "How long the day has
been--and what glorious sport we have had. It hardly seems possible that
we left Broek only this morning."

Jacob yawned.

"I have enjoyed it well," he said, "but it seems to me at least a week
since we started."

Carl laughed, and muttered something about "twenty naps----"

"Here we are at the corner; remember, we all meet at the Red Lion at
eight," said the captain, as he and Jacob walked away.



XXII

THE RED LION BECOMES DANGEROUS


The boys were glad to find a blazing fire awaiting them upon their
return to the "Red Lion." Carl and his party were there first. Soon
afterward Peter and Jacob came in. They had inquired in vain concerning
Dr. Boekman. All they could ascertain was that he had been seen in
Haarlem that morning.

"As for his being in Leyden," the landlord of the Golden Eagle had said
to Peter, "the thing is impossible. He always lodges here when in town.
By this time there would be a crowd at my door waiting to consult
him--Bah! people make such fools of themselves!"

"He is called a great surgeon," said Peter.

"Yes, the greatest in Holland. But what of that? What of being the
greatest pill-choker and knife-slasher in the world? The man is a bear.
Only last month on this very spot, he called me _a pig_, before three
customers!"

"No!" exclaimed Peter, trying to look surprised and indignant.

"Yes, master--A PIG," repeated the landlord, puffing at his pipe with an
injured air. "Bah! if he did not pay fine prices and bring customers to
my house I would sooner see him in the Vliet canal than give him
lodgment."

Perhaps mine host felt that he was speaking too openly to a stranger, or
it may be he saw a smile lurking in Peter's face, for he added sharply:

"Come, now, what more do you wish? Supper? Beds?"

"No, mynheer, I am but searching for Dr. Boekman."

"Go find him. He is not in Leyden."

Peter was not to be put off so easily. After receiving a few more rough
words, he succeeded in obtaining permission to leave a note for the
famous surgeon, or rather, he _bought_ from his amiable landlord the
privilege of writing it there, and a promise that it should be promptly
delivered when Dr. Boekman arrived. This accomplished, Peter and Jacob
returned to the "Red Lion."

This inn had once been a fine house, the home of a rich burgher; but,
having grown old and shabby, it had passed through many hands, until
finally it had fallen into the possession of Mynheer Kleef. He was fond
of saying as he looked up at its dingy, broken walls--"mend it, and
paint it, and there's not a prettier house in Leyden." It stood six
stories high from the street. The first three were of equal breadth but
of various heights, the last three were in the great, high roof, and
grew smaller and smaller like a set of double steps until the top one
was lost in a point. The roof was built of short, shining tiles, and the
windows, with their little panes, seemed to be scattered irregularly
over the face of the building, without the slightest attention to
outward effect. But the public room on the ground floor was the
landlord's joy and pride. He never said "mend it, and paint it," there,
for everything was in the highest condition of Dutch neatness and order.
If you will but open your mind's eye you may look into the apartment.

Imagine a large, bare room, with a floor that seemed to be made of
squares cut out of glazed earthen pie-dishes, first a yellow piece, then
a red, until the whole looked like a vast checker-board. Fancy a dozen
high-backed wooden chairs standing around; then a great hollow
chimney-place all aglow with its blazing fire, reflected a hundred times
in the polished steel fire-dogs; a tiled hearth, tiled sides, tiled top,
with a Dutch sentence upon it; and over all, high above one's head, a
narrow mantel-shelf, filled with shining brass candle-sticks,
pipe-lighters and tinder-boxes. Then see in one end of the room, three
pine tables; in the other, a closet and a deal dresser. The latter is
filled with mugs, dishes, pipes, tankards, earthen and glass bottles,
and is guarded at one end by a brass-hooped keg standing upon long legs.
Everything dim with tobacco smoke, but otherwise clean as soap and sand
can make it. Next picture two sleepy, shabby-looking men, in wooden
shoes, seated near the glowing fireplace, hugging their knees and
smoking short, stumpy pipes; Mynheer Kleef walking softly and heavily
about, clad in leather knee breeches, felt shoes and a green jacket
wider than it is long:--then throw a heap of skates in the corner, and
put six tired, well-dressed boys, in various attitudes, upon the wooden
chairs, and you will see the coffee-room of the "Red Lion" just as it
appeared at nine o'clock on the evening of December 6th, 184--. For
supper, gingerbread again; slices of Dutch sausage, rye-bread sprinkled
with annis-seed; pickles; a bottle of Utrecht water, and a pot of very
mysterious coffee. The boys were ravenous enough to take all they could
get, and pronounce it excellent. Ben made wry faces, but Jacob declared
he had never eaten a better meal. After they had laughed and talked a
while, and counted their money by way of settling a discussion that
arose concerning their expenses, the captain marched his company off to
bed, led on by a greasy pioneer-boy who carried skates and a candlestick
instead of an axe.

One of the ill-favored men by the fire had shuffled toward the dresser,
and was ordering a mug of beer, just as Ludwig, who brought up the rear,
was stepping from the apartment.

"I don't like that fellow's eye," he whispered to Carl; "he looks like a
pirate, or something of that kind."

"Looks like a granny!" answered Carl in sleepy disdain.

Ludwig laughed uneasily.

"Granny or no granny," he whispered, "I tell you he looks just like one
of those men in the 'voetspoelen.'"

"Pooh!" sneered Carl, "I knew it. That picture was too much for you.
Look sharp now, and see if yon fellow with the candle doesn't look like
the other villain."

"No, indeed, his face is as honest as a Gouda cheese. But, I say, Carl,
that really was a horrid picture."

"Humph! What did you stare at it so long for?"

"I couldn't help it."

By this time the boys had reached the "beautiful room with three beds in
it." A dumpy little maiden with long earrings met them at the doorway,
dropped them a courtesy, and passed out. She carried a long-handled
thing that resembled a frying-pan with a cover.

"I am glad to see that," said Van Mounen to Ben.

"What?"

"Why, the warming-pan. It's full of hot ashes; she's been heating our
beds."

"Oh! a warming-pan, eh! Much obliged to her, I'm sure," said Ben, too
sleepy to make any further comment.

Meantime, Ludwig still talked of the picture that had made such a strong
impression upon him. He had seen it in a shop window during their walk.
It was a poorly-painted thing, representing two men tied back to back,
standing on shipboard, surrounded by a group of seamen who were
preparing to cast them together into the sea. This mode of putting
prisoners to death was called _voetspoelen_, or feet-washing, and was
practised by the Dutch upon the pirates of Dunkirk in 1605; and, again,
by the Spaniards upon the Dutch, in the horrible massacre that followed
the siege of Haarlem. Bad as the painting was, the expression upon the
pirates' faces was well given. Sullen and despairing as they seemed,
they wore such a cruel, malignant aspect, that Ludwig had felt a secret
satisfaction in contemplating their helpless condition. He might have
forgotten the scene by this time but for that ill-looking man by the
fire. Now, while he capered about, boy-like, and threw himself with an
antic into his bed, he inwardly hoped that the "voetspoelen" would not
haunt his dreams.

It was a cold, cheerless room; a fire had been newly kindled in the
burnished stove, and seemed to shiver even while it was trying to burn.
The windows, with their funny little panes, were bare and shiny, and the
cold, waxed floor looked like a sheet of yellow ice. Three rush-bottomed
chairs stood stiffly against the wall, alternating with three narrow
wooden bedsteads that made the room look like the deserted ward of a
hospital. At any other time the boys would have found it quite
impossible to sleep in pairs, especially in such narrow quarters; but
to-night they lost all fear of being crowded, and longed only to lay
their weary bodies upon the feather beds that lay lightly upon each cot.
Had the boys been in Germany instead of Holland they might have been
covered, also, by a bed of down or feathers. This peculiar form of
luxury was at that time adopted only by wealthy or eccentric Hollanders.

Ludwig, as we have seen, had not quite lost his friskiness; but the
other boys, after one or two feeble attempts at pillow-firing, composed
themselves for the night with the greatest dignity. Nothing like fatigue
for making boys behave themselves.

"Good-night, boys!" said Peter's voice from under the covers.

"Good-night," called back everybody but Jacob, who already lay snoring
beside the captain.

"I say," shouted Carl, after a moment, "don't sneeze, anybody. Ludwig's
in a fright!"

"No such thing," retorted Ludwig in a smothered voice. Then there was a
little whispered dispute, which was ended by Carl saying:

"For _my_ part, I don't know what fear is. But you really are a timid
fellow, Ludwig."

Ludwig grunted sleepily, but made no further reply.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the middle of the night. The fire had shivered itself to death,
and, in place of its gleams, little squares of moonlight lay upon the
floor, slowly, slowly shifting their way across the room. Something else
was moving also, but they did not see it. Sleeping boys keep but a poor
lookout. During the early hours of the night, Jacob Poot had been
gradually but surely winding himself with all the bed covers. He now lay
like a monster chrysalis beside the half-frozen Peter, who,
accordingly, was skating with all his might over the coldest, bleakest
of dreamland icebergs.

Something else, I say, besides the moonlight, was moving across the
bare, polished floor--moving not quite so slowly, but quite as
stealthily.

Wake up, Ludwig! The voetspoelen pirate is growing real!

No. Ludwig does not waken, but he moans in his sleep.

Does not Carl hear it--Carl the brave, the fearless?

No. Carl is dreaming of the race.

And Jacob? Van Mounen? Ben?

Not they. They, too, are dreaming of the race; and Katrinka is singing
through their dreams--laughing, flitting past them; now and then a wave
from the great organ surges through their midst.

Still the thing moves, slowly, slowly.

Peter! Captain Peter, there is danger!

       *       *       *       *       *

Peter heard no call; but, in his dream, he slid a few thousand feet from
one iceberg to another, and the shock awoke him.

Whew! How cold he was! He gave a hopeless, desperate tug at the
chrysalis. In vain; sheet, blanket and spread were firmly wound about
Jacob's inanimate form. Peter looked drowsily toward the window.

"Clear moonlight," he thought; "we shall have pleasant weather
to-morrow. Hallo! what's that?"

He saw the moving thing, or rather something black crouching upon the
floor, for it had halted as Peter stirred.

He watched in silence.

Soon it moved again, nearer and nearer. It was a man crawling upon hands
and feet!

The captain's first impulse was to call out; but he took an instant to
consider matters.

The creeper had a shining knife in one hand. This was ugly; but Peter
was naturally self-possessed. When the head turned, Peter's eyes were
closed as if in sleep; but at other times nothing could be keener,
sharper than the captain's gaze.

Closer, closer crept the robber. His back was very near Peter now. The
knife was laid softly upon the floor; one careful arm reached forth
stealthily to drag the clothes from the chair by the captain's bed--the
robbery was commenced.

Now was Peter's time! Holding his breath, he sprang up and leaped with
all his strength upon the robber's back, stunning the rascal with the
force of the blow. To seize the knife was but a second's work. The
robber began to struggle, but Peter sat like a giant astride the
prostrate form.

"If you stir," said the brave boy in as terrible a voice as he could
command, "stir but one inch, I will plunge this knife into your neck.
Boys! Boys! wake up!" he shouted, still pressing down the black head,
and holding the knife at pricking distance, "give us a hand! I've got
him! I've got him!"

The chrysalis rolled over, but made no other sign.

"Up, boys!" cried Peter, never budging. "Ludwig! Lambert! Thunder! Are
you all dead?"

Dead! not they. Van Mounen and Ben were on their feet in an instant.

"Hey? What now?" they shouted.

"I've got a robber here," said Peter, coolly. "(Lie still, you
scoundrel, or I'll slice your head off!) Now, boys, cut out your bed
cord--plenty of time--he's a dead man if he stirs."

Peter felt that he weighed a thousand pounds. So he did, with that knife
in his hand.

The man growled and swore, but dared not move.

Ludwig was up, by this time. He had a great jack-knife, the pride of his
heart, in his breeches pocket. It could do good service now. They bared
the bedstead in a moment. It was laced backward and forward with a rope.

"I'll cut it," cried Ludwig, sawing away at the knot; "hold him tight,
Pete!"

"Never fear!" answered the captain, giving the robber a warning prick.

The boys were soon pulling at the rope like good fellows. It was out at
last--a long, stout piece.

"Now, boys," commanded the captain, "lift up his rascally arms! Cross
his hands over his back! That's right--excuse me for being in the
way--tie them tight!"

"Yes, and his feet too, the villain!" cried the boys in great
excitement, tying knot after knot with Herculean jerks.

The prisoner changed his tone.

"Oh--oh!" he moaned, "spare a poor sick man--I was but walking in my
sleep."

"Ugh!" grunted Lambert, still tugging away at the rope, "asleep, were
you? well, we'll wake you up."

The man muttered fierce oaths between his teeth--then cried in a piteous
voice, "Unbind me, good young masters! I have five little children at
home. By Saint Bavon I swear to give you each a ten-guilder piece if
you will but free me!"

"Ha! ha!" laughed Peter.

"Ha! ha!" laughed the other boys.

Then came threats--threats that made Ludwig fairly shudder, though he
continued to bind and tie with re-doubled energy.

"Hold up! mynheer house-breaker," said Van Mounen in a warning voice.
"That knife is very near your throat. If you make the captain nervous,
there is no telling what may happen."

The robber took the hint, and fell into a sullen silence.

Just at this moment the chrysalis upon the bed stirred and sat erect.

"What's the matter?" he asked, without opening his eyes.

"Matter!" echoed Ludwig, half trembling, half laughing, "get up, Jacob.
Here's work for you. Come sit on this fellow's back while we get into
our clothes; we're half perished."

"What fellow? Donder!"

"Hurrah for Poot!" cried all the boys, as Jacob sliding quickly to the
floor, bedclothes and all, took in the state of affairs at a glance, and
sat heavily beside Peter on the robber's back.

Oh, didn't the fellow groan, then!

"No use in holding him down any longer, boys," said Peter, rising, but
bending as he did so to draw a pistol from his man's belt. "You see,
I've been keeping guard over this pretty little weapon for the last ten
minutes. It's cocked and the least wriggle might have set it off. No
danger now. I must dress myself. You and I, Lambert, will go for the
police. I'd no idea it was so cold."

"Where is Carl?" asked one of the boys.

They looked at one another. Carl certainly was not among them.

"Oh!" cried Ludwig, frightened at last, "where is he? Perhaps he's had a
fight with the robber, and got killed."

"Not a bit of it," said Peter quietly, as he buttoned his stout jacket.
"Look under the beds."

They did so. Carl was not there.

Just then they heard a commotion on the stairway. Ben hastened to open
the door. The landlord almost tumbled in; he was armed with a big
blunderbuss. Two or three lodgers followed; then the daughter, with an
upraised frying-pan in one hand, and a candle in the other; and, behind
her, looking pale and frightened, the gallant Carl!

"There's your man, mine host," said Peter, nodding toward the prisoner.

Mine host raised his blunderbuss, the girl screamed, and Jacob, more
nimble than usual, rolled quickly from the robber's back.

"Don't fire," cried Peter; "he is tied, hand and foot. Let's roll him
over, and see what he looks like."

Carl stepped briskly forward, with a blustering "Yes. _We'll_ turn him
over, in a way he won't like. Lucky we've caught him!"

"Ha! ha!" laughed Ludwig, "where were you, Master Carl?"

"Where was I?" retorted Carl, angrily; "why, I went to give the alarm,
to be sure!"

All the boys exchanged glances; but they were too happy and elated to
say anything ill-natured. Carl certainly was bold enough now. He took
the lead while three others aided him in turning the helpless man.

While the robber lay, face up, scowling and muttering, Ludwig took the
candlestick from the girl's hand.

"I must have a good look at the beauty," he said, drawing closer, but
the words were no sooner spoken than he turned pale and started so
violently that he almost dropped the candle.

"THE VOETSPOELEN!" he cried; "why, boys, it's the man who sat by the
fire!"

"Of course it is," answered Peter; "we counted our money before him like
simpletons. But what have we to do with voetspoelen, brother Ludwig? A
month in jail is punishment enough."

The landlord's daughter had left the room. She now ran in, holding up a
pair of huge wooden shoes. "See, father," she cried, "here are his great
ugly boats. It's the man that we put in the next room after the young
masters went to bed. Ah! it was wrong to send the poor young gentlemen
up here so far out of sight and sound."

"The scoundrel!" hissed the landlord, "he has disgraced my house. I go
for the police at once!"

In less than fifteen minutes two drowsy looking officers were in the
room. After telling Mynheer Kleef that he must appear early in the
morning with the boys and make his complaint before a magistrate, they
marched off with their prisoner.

One would think the captain and his band could have slept no more that
night; but the mooring has not yet been found that can prevent youth and
an easy conscience from drifting down the river of dreams. The boys
were too much fatigued to let so slight a thing as capturing a robber
bind them to wakefulness. They were soon in bed again, floating away to
strange scenes made of familiar things. Ludwig and Carl had spread their
bedding upon the floor. One had already forgotten the voetspoelen, the
race--everything; but Carl was wide awake. He heard the carrilons
ringing out their solemn nightly music, and the watchman's noisy clapper
putting in discord at the quarter-hours; he saw the moonshine glide away
from the window, and the red morning light come pouring in, and all the
while he kept thinking:

"Pooh! what a goose I have made of myself!"

Carl Schummel, alone, with none to look or to listen, was not quite so
grand a fellow as Carl Schummel strutting about in his boots.



XXIII

BEFORE THE COURT


You may believe the landlord's daughter bestirred herself to prepare a
good meal for the boys next morning. Mynheer had a Chinese gong that
could make more noise than a dozen of breakfast bells. Its hideous
reveille, clanging through the house, generally startled the drowsiest
lodgers into activity, but the maiden would not allow it to be sounded
this morning:

"Let the brave young gentlemen sleep," she said, to the greasy kitchen
boy; "they shall be warmly fed when they waken."

It was ten o'clock when Captain Peter and his band came straggling down
one by one.

"A pretty hour," said mine host, gruffly. "It is high time we were
before the court. Fine business this for a respectable inn. You will
testify truly, young masters, that you found most excellent fare and
lodgment at the Red Lion?"

"Of course we will," answered Carl, saucily, "and pleasant company, too,
though they visit at rather unseasonable hours."

A stare and a "humph!" was all the answer Mynheer made to this, but the
daughter was more communicative. Shaking her earrings at Carl she said
sharply:

"Not so very pleasant either, master traveler, if one could judge by the
way _you_ ran away from it!"

"Impertinent creature!" hissed Carl under his breath, as he began busily
to examine his skate-straps. Meantime the kitchen-boy, listening outside
at the crack of the door, doubled himself with silent laughter.

After breakfast the boys went to the Police Court, accompanied by
Huygens Kleef and his daughter. Mynheer's testimony was principally to
the effect that such a thing as a robber at the "Red Lion" had been
unheard of until last night; and as for the "Red Lion," it was a most
respectable inn, as respectable as any house in Leyden. Each boy, in
turn, told all he knew of the affair, and identified the prisoner in the
box as the same man who entered their room in the dead of night. Ludwig
was surprised to find that the robber was a man of ordinary
size--especially after he had described him, under oath, to the Court as
a tremendous fellow, with great square shoulders, and legs of prodigious
weight. Jacob swore that he was awakened by the robber kicking and
thrashing upon the floor; and, immediately afterward, Peter and the rest
(feeling sorry that they had not explained the matter to their sleepy
comrade) testified that the man had not moved a muscle from the moment
the point of the dagger touched his throat, until, bound from head to
foot, he was rolled over for inspection. The landlord's daughter made
one boy blush, and all the court smile, by declaring that, "if it hadn't
been for that handsome young gentleman there" (pointing to Peter) they
"might have all been murdered in their beds; for the dreadful man had a
great, shining knife most as long as your honor's arm," and _she_
believed "the handsome young gentleman had struggled hard enough to get
it away from him, but he was too modest, bless him! to say so."

Finally, after a little questioning, and cross-questioning from the
public Prosecutor the witnesses were dismissed, and the robber was
handed over to the consideration of the Criminal Court.

"The scoundrel!" said Carl, savagely, when the boys reached the street.
"He ought to be sent to jail at once. If I had been in your place,
Peter, I certainly should have killed him outright!"

"He was fortunate, then, in falling into gentler hands," was Peter's
quiet reply; "it appears he has been arrested before under a charge of
house-breaking. He did not succeed in robbing this time, but he broke
the door-fastenings, and that I believe makes a burglary in the eye of
the law. He was armed with a knife, too, and that makes it worse for
him, poor fellow!"

"Poor fellow!" mimicked Carl; "one would think he was your brother!"

"So he is my brother, and yours, too, Carl Schummel, for that matter,"
answered Peter, looking into Carl's eye. "We cannot say what we might
have become under other circumstances. _We_ have been bolstered up from
evil, since the hour we were born. A happy home and good parents might
have made that man a fine fellow instead of what he is. God grant that
the law may cure and not crush him!"

"Amen to that!" said Lambert, heartily, while Ludwig van Holp looked at
his brother in such a bright, proud way that Jacob Poot, who was an only
son, wished from his heart that the little form buried in the old church
at home had lived to grow up beside him.

"Humph!" said Carl, "it's very well to be saintly and forgiving, and all
that sort of thing, but I'm naturally hard. All these fine ideas seem to
rattle off of me like hailstones--and it's nobody's business, either, if
they do."

Peter recognized a touch of good feeling in this clumsy concession;
holding out his hand, he said in a frank, hearty tone:

"Come, lad, shake hands, and let us be good friends even if we don't
exactly agree on all questions."

"We do agree better than you think," sulked Carl, as he returned Peter's
grasp.

"All right," responded Peter briskly. "Now Van Mounen, we await
Benjamin's wishes. Where would he like to go?"

"To the Egyptian Museum," answered Lambert, after holding a brief
consultation with Ben.

"That is on the Breede Straat. To the Museum let it be. Come, boys!"



XXIV

THE BELEAGUERED CITIES


"This open square before us," said Lambert, as he and Ben walked on
together, "is pretty in summer, with its shady trees. They call it the
Ruine. Years ago it was covered with houses, and the Rapenburg canal,
here, ran through the street. Well, one day a barge loaded with forty
thousand pounds of gunpowder, bound for Delft, was lying alongside, and
the bargemen took a notion to cook their dinner on the deck; and before
any one knew it, sir, the whole thing blew up, killing lots of persons
and scattering about three hundred houses to the winds."

"What!" exclaimed Ben, "did the explosion destroy three hundred houses!"

"Yes, sir, my father was in Leyden at the time. He says it was terrible.
The explosion occurred just at noon, and was like a volcano. All this
part of the town was on fire in an instant, buildings tumbling down, and
men, women and children groaning under the ruins--The King himself came
to the city and acted nobly, father says, staying out in the streets all
night, encouraging the survivors in their efforts to arrest the fire,
and rescue as many as possible from under the heaps of stone and
rubbish. Through his means a collection for the benefit of the sufferers
was raised throughout the kingdom, besides a hundred thousand guilders
paid out of the treasury. Father was only nineteen years old then; it
was in 1807, I believe, but he remembers it perfectly. A friend of his,
Professor Luzac, was among the killed. They have a tablet erected to his
memory, in Saint Peter's Church, further on--the queerest thing you ever
saw--with an image of the professor carved upon it representing him just
as he looked when he was found after the explosion."

"What a strange idea! Isn't Boerhaave's monument in Saint Peter's also?"

"I cannot remember. Perhaps Peter knows."

The captain delighted Ben by saying that the monument was there and that
he thought they might be able to see it during the day.

"Lambert," continued Peter, "ask Ben if he saw Van der Werf's portrait
at the Town Hall last night?"

"No," said Lambert, "I can answer for him. It was too late to go in. I
say, boys, it is really wonderful how much Ben knows. Why, he has told
me a volume of Dutch history already. I'll wager he has the siege of
Leyden at his tongue's end."

"His tongue must burn then," interposed Ludwig, "for if Bilderdyk's
account is true it was a pretty hot affair."

Ben was looking at them with an inquiring smile.

"We are speaking of the siege of Leyden," explained Lambert.

"Oh, yes," said Ben, eagerly, "I had forgotten all about it. This was
the very place--Let's give old Van der Werf three cheers--Hur----"

Van Mounen uttered a hasty "hush!" and explained that, patriotic as the
Dutch were, the police would soon have something to say if a party of
boys cheered in the street at midday.

"What! not cheer Van der Werf?" cried Ben, indignantly. "One of the
greatest chaps in history? Only think! Didn't he hold out against those
murderous Spaniards for months and months! There was the town,
surrounded on all sides by the enemy; great black forts sending fire and
death into the very heart of the city--but no surrender! Every man a
hero--women, and children, too, brave and fierce as lions--provisions
giving out, the very grass from between the paving-stones gone--till
people were glad to eat horses and cats and dogs and rats. Then came the
Plague--hundreds dying in the streets--but no surrender! Then when they
could bear no more--when the people, brave as they were, crowded about
Van der Werf in the public square begging him to give up; what did the
noble old burgomaster say:--'I have sworn to defend this city, and with
God's help, _I mean to do it_! If my body can satisfy your hunger, take
it, and divide it among you--but expect no surrender so long as I am
alive'--Hurrah! hur----"

Ben was getting uproarious; Lambert playfully clapped his hand over his
friend's mouth. The result was one of those quick india-rubber scuffles
fearful to behold, but delightful to human nature in its polliwog state.

"Vat wash te matter, Pen?" asked Jacob, hurrying forward.

"Oh! nothing at all," panted Ben, "except that Van Mounen was afraid of
starting an English riot in this orderly town. He stopped my cheering
for old Van der----"

"Ya! ya--it ish no goot to sheer--to make te noise for dat--You vill
shee old Van der Does' likeness mit te Stadhuis."

"See old Van der Does? I thought it was Van der Werf's picture they had
there----"

"Ya," responded Jacob, "Van der Werf--vell, vot of it! both ish just ash
goot----"

"Yes, Van der Does was a noble old Dutchman, but he was not Van der
Werf. I know he defended the city like a brick, and----"

"Now vot for you shay dat, Penchamin? He no defend te citty mit breek,
he fight like goot soltyer mit his guns. You like make te fun mit
effrysinks Tutch."

"No! no! no! I said he defended the city like a brick. That is very high
praise, I would have you understand. We English call even the Duke of
Wellington a brick."

Jacob looked puzzled; but his indignation was already on the ebb.

"Vell, it ish no matter. I no tink, before, soltyer mean breek, but it
ish no matter."

Ben laughed good-naturedly, and seeing that his cousin was tired of
talking in English, he turned to his friend of the two languages:

"Van Mounen! they say the very carrier-pigeons that brought news of
relief to the besieged city are somewhere here in Leyden. I really
should like to see them. Just think of it! At the very height of the
trouble if the wind didn't turn, and blow in the waters, and drown
hundreds of the Spaniards, and enable the Dutch boats to sail in right
over the land with men and provisions to the very gates of the city. The
pigeons, you know, did great service, in bearing letters to and fro. I
have read somewhere that they were reverently cared for from that day,
and, when they died, they were stuffed, and placed for safe keeping in
the Town Hall. We must be sure to have a look at them."

Van Mounen laughed. "On that principle, Ben, I suppose when you go to
Rome you'll expect to see the identical goose who saved the Capitol. But
it will be easy enough to see the pigeons. They are in the same building
with Van der Werf's portrait. Which was the greatest defence, Ben, the
siege of Leyden or the siege of Haarlem?"

"Well," replied Ben, thoughtfully, "Van der Werf is one of my heroes; we
all have our historical pets, you know, but I really think the siege of
Haarlem brought out a braver, more heroic resistance even, than the
Leyden one; besides they set the Leyden sufferers an example of courage
and fortitude, for their turn came first."

"I don't know much about the Haarlem siege," said Lambert, "except that
it was in 1573. Who beat?"

"The Spaniards," said Ben. "The Dutch had stood out for months. Not a
man would yield nor a woman either for that matter. They shouldered arms
and fought gallantly beside their husbands and fathers. Three hundred of
them did duty under Kanau Hesselaer, a great woman, and brave as Joan of
Arc. All this time the city was surrounded by the Spaniards under
Frederic of Toledo, son of that beauty, the Duke of Alva. Cut off from
all possible help from without, there seemed to be no hope for the
inhabitants, but they shouted defiance over the city walls. They even
threw bread into the enemy's camps to show that they were not afraid of
starvation. Up to the last they held out bravely, waiting for the help
that never could come--growing bolder and bolder until their provisions
were exhausted. Then it was terrible. In time hundreds of famished
creatures fell dead in the streets, and the living had scarcely strength
to bury them. At last, they made the desperate resolution, that rather
than perish by lingering torture, the strongest would form in a square,
placing the weakest in the centre, and rush in a body to their death,
with the faint chance of being able to fight their way through the
enemy. The Spaniards received a hint of this, and believing there was
nothing the Dutch would not dare to do, they concluded to offer terms."

"High time, I should think."

"Yes, with falsehood and treachery they soon obtained an entrance into
the city, promising protection and forgiveness to all except those whom
the citizens themselves would acknowledge as deserving of death."

"You don't say so!" said Lambert, quite interested; "that ended the
business, I suppose."

"Not a bit of it," returned Ben, "for the Duke of Alva had already given
his son orders to show mercy to none."

"Ah! there was where the great Haarlem massacre came in. I remember now.
You can't wonder that the Hollanders dislike Spain when you read of the
way they were butchered by Alva and his hosts, though I admit that our
side sometimes retaliated terribly. But as I have told you before, I
have a very indistinct idea of historical matters. Everything is utter
confusion--from the Flood to the battle of Waterloo. One thing is plain,
however, the Duke of Alva was about the worst specimen of a man that
ever lived."

"That gives only a faint idea of him," said Ben, "but I hate to think of
such a wretch. What if he _had_ brains, and military skill, and all
that sort of thing! Give me such men as Van der Werf, and--what now?"

"Why," said Van Mounen, who was looking up and down the street, in a
bewildered way. "We've walked right past the Museum, and I don't see the
boys. Let us go back."



XXV

LEYDEN


The boys met at the Museum, and were soon engaged in examining its
extensive collection of curiosities, receiving a new insight into
Egyptian life ancient and modern. Ben and Lambert had often visited the
British Museum, but that did not prevent them from being surprised at
the richness of the Leyden collection. There were household utensils,
wearing apparel, weapons, musical instruments, sarcophagi, and mummies
of men, women, and cats, ibexes and other creatures. They saw a massive
gold armlet that had been worn by an Egyptian King at a time when some
of these same mummies, perhaps, were nimbly treading the streets of
Thebes; and jewels and trinkets such as Pharaoh's daughter wore, and the
children of Israel borrowed when they departed out of Egypt.

There were other interesting relics, from Rome and Greece, and some
curious Roman pottery which had been discovered in digging near the
Hague--relics of the days when the countrymen of Julius Cæsar had
settled there. Where have they not settled? I for one would hardly be
astonished if relics of the ancient Romans should some day be found deep
under the grass growing round the Bunker-hill monument.

When the boys left this Museum, they went to another and saw a wonderful
collection of fossil animals, skeletons, birds, minerals, precious
stones and other natural specimens, but as they were not learned men,
they could only walk about and stare, enjoy the little knowledge of
natural history they possessed, and wish with all their hearts they had
acquired more. Even the skeleton of the mouse puzzled Jacob. What
wonder? He was not used to seeing the cat-fearing little creatures
running about in their bones--and how could he ever have imagined their
necks to be so queer?

Besides the Museum of Natural History, there was Saint Peter's Church to
be visited, containing Professor Luzac's Memorial, and Boerhaave's
Monument of white and black marble, with its urn and carved symbols of
the four ages of life, and its medallion of Boerhaave, adorned with his
favorite motto "Simplex sigillum veri." They also obtained admittance to
a tea-garden, which in summer was a favorite resort of the citizens, and
passing naked oaks and fruit-trees, ascended a high mound which stood in
the centre. This was the site of a round tower now in ruins, said by
some to have been built by Hengist the Anglo Saxon king, and by others
to have been the castle of one of the ancient counts of Holland.

As the boys walked about on the top of its stone wall, they could get
but a poor view of the surrounding city. The tower stood higher when,
more than two centuries ago, the inhabitants of beleaguered Leyden
shouted to the watcher on its top their wild, despairing cries--"Is
there any help? Are the waters rising? What do you see?"

And for months he could only answer--"No help. I see around us nothing
but the enemy."

Ben pushed these thoughts away; and resolutely looking down into the
bare tea-garden, filled it in imagination with gay summer groups. He
tried to forget old battle-clouds, and picture only curling wreaths of
tobacco-smoke, rising from among men, women and children enjoying their
tea and coffee in the open air. But a tragedy came in spite of him.

Poot was bending over the edge of the high wall. It would be just like
him to grow dizzy and tumble off. Ben turned impatiently away. If the
fellow with his weak head knew no better than to be venturesome, why,
let him tumble. Horror! what meant that heavy, crashing sound?

Ben could not stir. He could only gasp:

"Jacob!"

"Jacob!" cried another startled voice and another. Ready to faint, Ben
managed to turn his head. He saw a crowd of boys on the edge of the wall
opposite--but Jacob was not there!

"Good Heaven!" he cried, springing forward, "where is my cousin?"

The crowd parted. It was only four boys, after all. There sat Jacob in
their midst, holding his sides and laughing heartily.

"Did I frighten you all?" he said in his native Dutch. "Well, I will
tell you how it was. There was a big stone lying on the wall and I put
my--my foot out just to push it a little, you see--and the first thing I
knew, down went the stone all the way to the bottom, and left me sitting
here on top with both my feet in the air. If I had not thrown myself
back at that moment, I certainly should have rolled over after the
stone. Well, it is no matter. Help me up, boys."

"You are hurt, Jacob!" said Ben, seeing a shade of seriousness pass over
his cousin's face as they lifted him to his feet.

Jacob tried to laugh again. "Oh, no--I feels little hurt ven I stant up,
but it ish no matter."

       *       *       *       *       *

The monument to Van der Werf in the Hooglandsche Kerk was not accessible
that day; but the boys spent a few pleasant moments in the Stadhuis or
Town Hall, a long irregular structure somewhat in the Gothic style,
uncouth in architecture, but picturesque from age. Its little steeple,
tuneful with bells, seemed to have been borrowed from some other
building and hastily clapped on as a finishing touch.

Ascending the grand staircase the boys soon found themselves in rather a
gloomy apartment, containing the masterpiece of Lucas van Leyden, or
Hugens, a Dutch artist, born three hundred and seventy years ago, who
painted well when he was ten years of age, and became distinguished in
art when only fifteen. This picture, called the Last Judgment,
considering the remote age in which it was painted, is truly a
remarkable production. The boys, however, were less interested in
tracing out the merits of the work, than they were in the fact of its
being a triptych--that is, painted on three divisions, the two outer
ones swung on hinges so as to close, when required, over the main
portion.

The historical pictures by Harel de Moor and other famous Dutch artists
interested them for a while, and Ben had to be almost pulled away from
the dingy old portrait of Van der Werf.

The Town Hall, as well as the Egyptian Museum, is on the Breede Straat,
the longest and finest street in Leyden. It has no canal running through
it, and the houses, painted in every variety of color, have a
picturesque effect as they stand with their gable ends to the street;
some are very tall, with half of their height in their step-like roofs;
others crouch before the public edifices and churches. Being clean,
spacious, well-shaded and adorned with many elegant mansions, it
compares favorably with the finer portions of Amsterdam. It is kept
scrupulously neat; many of the gutters are covered with boards that open
like trap-doors; and it is supplied with pumps surmounted with shining
brass ornaments kept scoured and bright at the public cost. The city is
intersected by numerous water-roads formed by the river Rhine, there
grown sluggish, fatigued by its long travel; but more than one hundred
and fifty stone bridges reunite the dissevered streets. The same
world-renowned river, degraded from the beautiful, free-flowing Rhine,
serves as a moat around the rampart that surrounds Leyden, and is
crossed by draw-bridges at the imposing gateways that give access to the
city. Fine broad promenades, shaded by noble trees, border the canals,
and add to the retired appearance of the houses behind, heightening the
effect of scholastic seclusion that seems to pervade the place.

Ben as he scanned the buildings on the Rapenburg canal, was somewhat
disappointed in the appearance of the great University of Leyden. But
when he recalled its history--how, attended with all the pomp of a grand
civic display, it had been founded by the Prince of Orange as a tribute
to the citizens for the bravery displayed during the siege; when he
remembered the great men in religion, learning and science who had once
studied there, and thought of the hundreds of students now sharing the
benefits of its classes and its valuable scientific museums--he was
quite willing to forego architectural beauty, though, he could not help
feeling that no amount of it could have been misplaced on such an
institution.

Peter and Jacob regarded the building with even a deeper, more practical
interest, for they were to enter it as students, in the course of a few
months.

"Poor Don Quixote would have run a hopeless tilt in this part of the
world," said Ben, after Lambert had been pointing out some of the
oddities and beauties of the suburbs--"it is all windmills. You remember
his terrific contest with one, I suppose."

"No," said Lambert, bluntly.

"Well, I don't either, that is, not definitely. But there was something
of that kind in his adventures, and if there wasn't, there should have
been--Look at them, how frantically they whirl their great arms--just
the thing to excite the crazy knight to mortal combat. It bewilders one
to look at them; help me to count all those we can see, Van Mounen. I
want a big item for my note-book"--and after a careful reckoning,
superintended by all the party, Master Ben wrote in pencil, "Saw,
Dec.,--184-- ninety-eight windmills within full view of Leyden."

He would have been glad to visit the old brick mill in which the painter
Rembrandt was born; but he abandoned the project upon learning that it
would take them out of their way. Few boys as hungry as Ben was by this
time, would hesitate long between Rembrandt's home a mile off, and
tiffin close by. Ben chose the latter.

After tiffin, they rested a while, and then--took another, which, for
form sake, they called dinner. After dinner the boys sat warming
themselves, at the inn; all but Peter, who occupied the time in another
fruitless search for Dr. Boekman.

This over, the party once more prepared for skating. They were thirteen
miles from the Hague and not as fresh as when they had left Broek early
on the previous day; but they were in good spirits and the ice was
excellent.



XXVI

THE PALACE AND THE WOOD


As the boys skated onward, they saw a number of fine country seats, all
decorated and surrounded according to the Dutchest of Dutch taste, but
impressive to look upon, with their great, formal houses, elaborate
gardens, square hedges, and wide ditches--some crossed by a bridge,
having a gate in the middle to be carefully locked at night. These
ditches, everywhere traversing the landscape, had long ago lost their
summer film, and now shone under the sunlight, like trailing ribbons of
glass.

The boys traveled bravely, all the while performing the surprising feat
of producing gingerbread from their pockets and causing it to vanish
instantly.

Twelve miles were passed. A few more long strokes would take them to the
Hague, when Van Mounen proposed that they should vary their course, by
walking into the city through The Bosch.

"Agreed!" cried one and all--and their skates were off in a twinkling.

The Bosch is a grand park or wood, nearly two miles long, containing the
celebrated House in the Wood--_Huis in't Bosch_--sometimes used as a
royal residence.

This building, though plain outside for a palace, is elegantly furnished
within, and finely frescoed--that is, the walls and ceiling are covered
with groups and designs painted directly upon them while the plaster was
fresh. Some of the rooms are tapestried with Chinese silk, beautifully
embroidered. One contains a number of family portraits, among them a
group of royal children who in time were orphaned by a certain axe which
figures very frequently in European history. These children were painted
many times by the Dutch artist Van Dyck, who was court-painter to their
father, Charles the First of England. Beautiful children they were--what
a deal of trouble the English nation would have been spared, had they
been as perfect in heart and soul, as they were in form!

The park surrounding the palace is charming, especially in summer, for
flowers and birds make it bright as fairyland. Long rows of magnificent
oaks rear their proud heads, conscious that no profaning hand will ever
bring them low. In fact the Wood has for ages been held as an almost
sacred spot. Children are never allowed to meddle with its smallest
twig; the axe of the Woodman has never resounded there. Even war and
riot have passed it reverently, pausing for a moment in their
devastating way. Philip of Spain, while he ordered Dutchmen to be mowed
down by hundreds, issued a mandate that not a bough of the beautiful
Wood should be touched--and once when in a time of great necessity the
State was about to sacrifice it to assist in filling a nearly exhausted
treasury, the people rushed to the rescue, and nobly contributed the
required amount rather than that the Bosch should fall.

What wonder then that the oaks have a grand, fearless air? Birds from
all Holland have told them how, elsewhere, trees are cropped and bobbed
into shape--but _they_ are untouched. Year after year, they expand in
unclipped luxuriance and beauty; their wide-spreading foliage, alive
with song, casts a cool shade over lawn and pathway, or bows to its
image in the sunny ponds.

Meanwhile, as if to reward the citizens for allowing her to have her way
for once, Nature departs from the invariable level, wearing gracefully
the ornaments that have been reverently bestowed upon her--So the lawn
slopes in a velvety green; the paths wind in and out; flower-beds glow
and send forth perfume; and ponds and sky look at each other in mutual
admiration.

Even on that winter day the Bosch was beautiful. Its trees were bare,
but beneath them still lay the ponds, every ripple smoothed into glass.
The blue sky was bright overhead, and as it looked down through the
thicket of boughs, it saw another blue sky, not nearly so bright,
looking up from the dim thicket under the ice.

Never had the sunset appeared more beautiful to Peter than when he saw
it exchanging farewell glances with the windows and shining roofs of the
city before him. Never had the Hague itself seemed more inviting. He was
no longer Peter van Holp, going to visit a great city, nor a fine young
gentleman bent on sightseeing; he was a knight, an adventurer,
travel-soiled and weary, a Hop-o'-my-Thumb grown large, a Fortunatus
approaching the enchanted castle where luxury and ease awaited him--for
his own sister's house was not half a mile away.

"At last, boys," he cried, in high glee, "we may hope for a royal
resting-place--good beds, warm rooms and something fit to eat. I never
realized before what a luxury such things are. Our lodgings at the Red
Lion have made us appreciate our own homes."



XXVII

THE MERCHANT PRINCE, AND THE SISTER-PRINCESS


Well might Peter feel that his sister's house was like an enchanted
castle. Large and elegant as it was, a spell of quiet hung over it. The
very lion crouching at its gate seemed to have been turned into stone
through magic. Within, it was guarded by genii, in the shape of
red-faced servants, who sprang silently forth at the summons of bell or
knocker. There was a cat, also, who appeared as knowing as any
Puss-in-Boots; and a brass gnome in the hall whose business it was to
stand with outstretched arms ready to receive sticks and umbrellas. Safe
within the walls bloomed a Garden of Delight, where the flowers firmly
believed it was summer, and a sparkling fountain was laughing merrily to
itself because Jack Frost could not find it. There was a Sleeping
Beauty, too, just at the time of the boys' arrival; but when Peter, like
a true prince, flew lightly up the stairs, and kissed her eyelids, the
enchantment was broken. The princess became his own good sister, and the
fairy castle just one of the finest, most comfortable houses of the
Hague.

As may well be believed, the boys received the heartiest of welcomes.
After they had conversed a while with their lively hostess, one of the
genii summoned them to a grand repast in a red-curtained room, where
floor and ceiling shone like polished ivory, and the mirrors suddenly
blossomed into rosy-cheeked boys as far as the eye could reach.

They had caviare now, and salmagundi, and sausage and cheese, besides
salad and fruit and biscuit and cake. How the boys could partake of such
a medley was a mystery to Ben; for the salad was sour, and the cake was
sweet; the fruit was dainty, and the salmagundi heavy with onions and
fish. But, while he was wondering, he made a hearty meal, and was soon
absorbed in deciding which he really preferred, the coffee or the
anisette cordial. It was delightful, too--this taking one's food from
dishes of frosted silver and liqueur glasses from which Titania herself
might have sipped. The young gentleman afterward wrote to his mother
that pretty and choice as things were at home, he had never known what
cut-glass, china and silver services were until he visited the Hague.

Of course Peter's sister soon heard of all the boys' adventures. How
they had skated over forty miles and seen rare sights on the way; how
they had lost their purse and found it again. How one of the party had
fallen and given them an excuse for a grand sail in an ice-boat; how
above all, they had caught a robber, and so for a second time saved
their slippery purse.

"And now, Peter," said the lady, when the story was finished, "you must
write at once to tell the good people of Broek that your adventures have
reached their height, that you and your fellow-travelers have all been
taken prisoners."

The boys looked startled.

"Indeed, I shall do no such thing," laughed Peter; "we must leave
to-morrow at noon."

But the sister had already decided differently, and a Holland lady is
not to be easily turned from her purpose. In short, she held forth such
strong temptations, and was so bright and cheerful, and said so many
coaxing and unanswerable things, both in English and Dutch, that the
boys were all delighted when it was settled that they should remain at
the Hague for at least two days.

Next the grand skating-race was talked over; Mevrouw van Gend gladly
promised to be present on the occasion--"I shall witness your triumph,
Peter," she said, "for you are the fastest skater I ever knew."

Peter blushed and gave a slight cough, as Carl answered for him.

"Ah, mevrouw, he is swift, but all the Broek boys are fine skaters--even
the rag-pickers"--and he thought bitterly of poor Hans.

The lady laughed. "That will make the race all the more exciting," she
said--"but I shall wish each of you to be the winner."

At this moment her husband Mynheer van Gend came in, and the enchantment
falling upon the boys was complete.

The invisible fairies of the household at once clustered about them
whispering that Jasper van Gend had a heart as young and fresh as their
own, and if he loved anything in this world more than industry, it was
sunshine and frolic. They hinted also something about his having a heart
full of love and a head full of wisdom, and finally gave the boys to
understand that when Mynheer said a thing he meant it.

Therefore his frank "Well now, this is pleasant," as he shook hands with
them all, made the boys feel quite at home and as happy as squirrels.

There were fine paintings in the drawing-room and exquisite statuary,
and portfolios filled with rare Dutch engravings; besides many
beautiful and curious things from China and Japan. The boys felt that it
would require a month to examine all the treasures of the apartment.

Ben noticed with pleasure English books lying upon the table. He saw
also over the carved, upright piano, life-sized portraits of William of
Orange and his English queen, a sight that, for a time, brought England
and Holland side by side in his heart. William and Mary have left a halo
round the English throne to this day, he the truest patriot that ever
served an adopted country, she the noblest wife that ever sat upon a
British throne, up to the time of Victoria and Albert the Good. As Ben
looked at the pictures, he remembered accounts he had read of King
William's visit to the Hague in the winter of 1691. He who sang the
Battle of Ivry had not yet told the glowing story of that day, but Ben
knew enough of it, to fancy that he could almost hear the shouts of the
delighted populace as he looked from the portraits to the street, which
at this moment was aglow with a bonfire, kindled in a neighboring
square.

That royal visit was one never to be forgotten. For two years William of
Orange had been monarch of a foreign land, his head working faithfully
for England, but his whole heart yearning for Holland. Now when he
sought its shores once more, the entire nation bade him welcome.
Multitudes flocked to the Hague to meet him--"many thousands came
sliding or skating along the frozen canals from Amsterdam, Rotterdam,
Leyden, Haarlem, Delft."[24] All day long the festivities of the capital
were kept up, the streets were gorgeous with banners, evergreen arches,
trophies, and mottoes of welcome and emblems of industry. William saw
the deeds of his ancestors and scenes of his own past life depicted on
banners and tapestries along the streets. At night, superb fireworks
were displayed upon the ice. Its glassy surface was like a mirror.
Sparkling fountains of light sprang up from below to meet the glittering
cascades leaping upon it. Then a feathery fire of crimson and green
shook millions of rubies and emeralds, into the ruddy depths of the
ice--and all this time the people were shouting--God bless William of
Orange--long live the King! They were half mad with joy and enthusiasm.
William their own prince, their stadtholder, had become the ruler of
three kingdoms; he had been victorious in council and in war, and now in
his hour of greatest triumph, had come as a simple guest to visit them.
The king heard their shouts with a beating heart. It is a great thing to
be beloved by one's country. His English courtiers complimented him upon
his reception. "Yes," said he, "but the shouting is nothing to what it
would have been if Mary had been with me!"

[Footnote 24: Macaulay's History of England.]

While Ben was looking at the portraits, Mynheer van Gend was giving the
boys an account of a recent visit to Antwerp. As it was the birthplace
of Quentin Matsys the blacksmith who for love of an artist's daughter,
studied until he became a great painter, the boys asked their host if he
had seen any of Matsys' works.

"Yes, indeed," he replied, "and excellent they are. His famous triptych
in a chapel of the Antwerp cathedral, with the Descent from the Cross on
the centre panel, is especially fine; but I confess I was more
interested in his well."

"What well, mynheer?" asked Ludwig.

"One in the heart of the city, near this same Cathedral, whose lofty
steeple is of such delicate workmanship, that the French Emperor said it
reminded him of Mechlin lace. The well is covered with a Gothic canopy
surmounted by the figure of a knight in full armor. It is all of metal,
and proves that Matsys was an artist at the forge as well as at the
easel; indeed his great fame is mainly derived from his miraculous skill
as an artificer in iron."

Next, mynheer showed the boys some exquisite Berlin castings, which he
had purchased in Antwerp. They were _iron jewelry_, and very
delicate--beautiful medallions designed from rare paintings, bordered
with fine tracery and open work--worthy he said of being worn by the
fairest lady of the land. Consequently the necklace was handed with a
bow and a smile to the blushing Mevrouw van Gend.

Something in the lady's aspect, as she bent her bright young face over
the gift, caused mynheer to add earnestly:

"I can read your thoughts, sweetheart."

She looked up in playful defiance.

"Ah! now I am sure of them. You were thinking of those noble-hearted
women, but for whom Prussia might have fallen. I know it by that proud
light in your eye."

"The proud light in my eye plays me false, then," she answered. "I had
no such grand matter in my mind. To confess the simple truth, I was only
thinking how lovely this necklace would be with my blue brocade."

"So! so!" exclaimed the rather crestfallen spouse.

"But I _can_ think of the other, Jasper, and it will add a deeper value
to your gift. You remember the incident, do you not, Peter? How when
the French were invading Prussia and for lack of means, the country was
unable to defend itself against the enemy, the women turned the scale by
pouring their plate and jewels into the public treasury----"

"Aha!" thought mynheer, as he met his vrouw's kindling glance. "The
proud light is there, now, in earnest."

Peter remarked maliciously that the women had still proved true to their
vanity on that occasion, for jewelry they would have. If gold or silver
were wanted by the kingdom, they would relinquish it and use iron, but
they could not do without their ornaments.

"What of that?" said the vrouw, kindling again. "It is no sin to love
beautiful things, if you adapt your material to circumstances. All _I_
have to say is, the women saved their country and, indirectly,
introduced a very important branch of manufacture. Is not that so,
Jasper?"

"Of course it is, sweetheart," said mynheer, "but Peter needs no word of
mine to convince him that all the world over, women have never been
found wanting in their country's hour of trial, though (bowing to
Mevrouw) his own countrywomen stand foremost in the records of female
patriotism and devotion."

Then turning to Ben, the host talked with him in English of the fine old
Belgian city. Among other things, he told the origin of its name. Ben
had been taught that Antwerp was derived from _ae'nt werf_ (on the
wharf), but Mynheer van Gend gave him a far more interesting derivation.

It appears that about three thousand years ago, a great giant, named
Antigonus, lived on the river Scheld, on the site of the present city
of Antwerp. This giant claimed half the merchandise of all navigators
who passed his castle. Of course some were inclined to oppose this
simple regulation. In such cases, Antigonus, by way of teaching them to
practice better manners next time, cut off and threw into the river the
right hands of the merchants. Thus hand-werpen (or hand-throwing),
changed to Antwerp, came to be the name of the place. The escutcheon or
arms of the city has two hands upon it; what better proof than this
could one have of the truth of the story, especially when one wishes to
believe it!

The giant was finally conquered and thrown into the Scheld by a hero
called Brabo, who in turn gave a name to the district known as Brabant.
Since then the Dutch merchants have traveled the river in peace; but I
for one thank old Antigonus for giving the city so romantic an origin.

When Mynheer van Gend had related in two languages this story of
Antwerp, he was tempted to tell other legends--some in English, some in
Dutch; and so the moments, borne upon the swift shoulders of gnomes and
giants, glided rapidly away toward bedtime.

It was hard to break up so pleasant a party, but the Van Gend household
moved with the regularity of clockwork. There was no lingering at the
threshold when the cordial "good-night!" was spoken. Even while our boys
were mounting the stairs, the invisible household fairies again
clustered around them, whispering that system and regularity had been
chief builders of the master's prosperity.

Beautiful chambers with three beds in them, were not to be found in
this mansion. Some of the rooms contained two, but each visitor slept
alone. Before morning, the motto of the party evidently was, "every boy
his own chrysalis"--and Peter, at least, was not sorry to have it so.

Tired as he was, Ben after noting a curious bell-rope in the corner,
began to examine his bedclothes. Each article filled him with
astonishment--the exquisitely fine pillow-spread trimmed with costly
lace and embroidered with a gorgeous crest and initial, the _dekbed_
cover (a great silk bag, large as the bed, stuffed with swan's-down) and
the pink satin quilts, embroidered with garlands of flowers. He could
scarcely sleep for thinking what a queer little bed it was, so
comfortable and pretty, too, with all its queerness. In the morning he
examined the top coverlet with care, for he wished to send home a
description of it in his next letter. It was a Japanese spread,
marvelous in texture as well as in its variety of brilliant coloring,
and worth, as Ben afterward learned, not less than three hundred
dollars.

The floor was of polished wooden mosaic, nearly covered with a rich
carpet bordered with thick, black fringe. Another room displayed a
margin of satin-wood around the carpet. Hung with tapestry, its walls of
crimson silk were topped with a gilded cornice which shot down gleams of
light far into the polished floor.

Over the doorway of the room in which Jacob and Ben slept was a bronze
stork who, with outstretched neck, held a lamp to light the guests into
the apartment. Between the two narrow beds, of carved white-wood and
ebony, stood the household treasure of the Van Gends, a massive oaken
chair upon which the Prince of Orange had once sat, during a council
meeting. Opposite, stood a quaintly carved clothes-press, waxed and
polished to the utmost, and filled with precious stores of linen; beside
it a table holding a large Bible, whose great golden clasps looked poor
compared with its solid, ribbed binding made to outlast six generations.

There was a ship model on the mantel-shelf, and over it hung an old
portrait of Peter the Great, who, you know, once gave the dockyard cats
of Holland a fine chance to look at a king, which is one of the special
prerogatives of cats. Peter, though czar of Russia, was not too proud to
work as a common shipwright in the dockyards of Saardam and Amsterdam,
that he might be able to introduce among his countrymen Dutch
improvements in ship-building. It was this willingness to be thorough in
even the smallest beginnings that earned for him the title of Peter the
Great.

Peter the little (comparatively speaking) was up first, the next
morning; knowing the punctual habits of his brother-in-law, he took good
care that none of the boys should oversleep themselves. A hard task he
found it to wake Jacob Poot; but after pulling that young gentleman out
of bed, and, with Ben's help, dragging him about the room for a while,
he succeeded in arousing him.

While Jacob was dressing, and moaning within him, because the felt
slippers, provided him as a guest, were too tight for his swollen feet,
Peter wrote to inform their friends at Broek of the safe arrival of his
party at the Hague. He also begged his mother to send word to Hans
Brinker that Dr. Boekman had not yet reached Leyden, but that a letter
containing Hans' message had been left at the hotel, where the doctor
always lodged during his visits to the city. "Tell him, also," wrote
Peter, "that I shall call there again, as I pass through Leyden. The
poor boy seemed to feel sure that 'the meester' would hasten to save his
father, but we, who know the gruff old gentleman better, may be
confident he will do no such thing. It would be a kindness to send a
visiting physician from Amsterdam to the cottage at once, if
Jufvrouw[25] Brinker will consent to receive any but the great king of
the meesters, as Dr. Boekman certainly is.

[Footnote 25: In Holland, women of the lower grades of society do not
take the title of Mrs. (or Mevrouw) when they marry, as with us. They
assume their husband's name, but are still called Miss (Jufvrouw,
pronounced Yuffrow).]

"You know, mother," added Peter, "that I have always considered sister
Van Gend's house as rather quiet and lonely; but I assure you, it is not
so now. Sister says our presence has warmed it for the whole winter.
Brother van Gend is very kind to us all. He says we make him wish that
he had a houseful of boys of his own. He has promised to let us ride on
his noble black horses. They are gentle as kittens, he says, if one have
but a firm touch at the rein. Ben, according to Jacob's account, is a
glorious rider, and your son Peter is not a very bad hand at the
business; so we two are to go out together this morning mounted like
knights of old. After we return, brother van Gend says he will lend
Jacob his English pony and obtain three extra horses; and all of the
party are to trot about the city, in a grand cavalcade, led on by him.
He will ride the black horse which father sent him from Friesland. My
sister's pretty roan with the long white tail is lame and she will ride
none other; else she would accompany us. I could scarce close my eyes
last night after sister told me of the plan. Only the thought of poor
Hans Brinker and his sick father checked me--but for that I could have
sung for joy. Ludwig has given us a name already--the Broek Cavalry. We
flatter ourselves that we shall make an imposing appearance, especially
in single file...."

The Broek Cavalry were not disappointed. Mynheer van Gend readily
procured good horses; and all the boys could ride, though none were as
perfect horsemen (or horseboys) as Peter and Ben. They saw the Hague to
their hearts' content; and the Hague saw them--expressing its
approbation, loudly, through the mouths of small boys and cart-dogs;
silently, through bright eyes that, not looking very deeply into things,
shone as they looked at the handsome Carl, and twinkled with fun as a
certain portly youth with shaking cheeks rode past "bumpetty, bumpetty,
bump!"

On their return, the boys pronounced the great porcelain stove in the
family sitting-room a decidedly useful piece of furniture, for they
could gather round it and get warm without burning their noses or
bringing on chilblains. It was so very large that, though hot no-where,
it seemed to send out warmth by the houseful--Its pure white sides and
polished brass rings made it a pretty object to look upon,
notwithstanding the fact that our ungrateful Ben, while growing
thoroughly warm and comfortable beside it, concocted a satirical
sentence for his next letter, to the effect that a stove in Holland must
of course resemble a great tower of snow or it wouldn't be in keeping
with the oddity of the country.

To describe all the boys saw and did on that day and the next, would
render this little book a formidable volume indeed. They visited the
brass cannon foundry, saw the liquid fire poured into moulds and
watched the smiths who, half naked, stood in the shadow, like demons
playing with flame. They admired the grand public buildings and massive
private houses, the elegant streets, and noble Bosch--pride of all
beauty-loving Hollanders. The palace with its brilliant mosaic floors,
its frescoed ceilings and gorgeous ornament, filled Ben with delight; he
was surprised that some of the churches were so very plain--elaborate
sometimes in external architecture, but bare and bleak within with their
blank, whitewashed walls.

If there were no printed record, the churches of Holland would almost
tell her story. I will not enter into the subject here, except to say
that Ben--who had read of her struggles and wrongs, and of the terrible
retribution she from time to time dealt forth--could scarcely tread a
Holland town without mentally leaping horror-stricken over the bloody
stepping-stones of its history. He could not forget Philip of Spain nor
the Duke of Alva even while rejoicing in the prosperity that followed
the Liberation. He looked in the meekest of Dutch eyes, for something of
the fire that once lit the haggard faces of those desperate, lawless
men, who wearing with pride the title of "beggars" which their
oppressors had mockingly cast upon them, became the terror of land and
sea. In Haarlem, he had wondered that the air did not still resound with
the cries of Alva's three thousand victims. In Leyden, his heart had
swelled in sympathy as he thought of the long procession of scarred and
famished creatures who after the siege, with Adrian van der Werf at
their head, tottered to the great church to sing a glorious anthem
because Leyden was free! He remembered that this was even before they
had tasted the bread brought by the Dutch ships. They would praise God
first, then eat. Thousands of trembling voices were raised in glad
thanksgiving. For a moment, it swelled higher and higher--then suddenly
changed to sobbing--not one of all the multitude could sing another
note. But who shall say that the anthem, even to its very end, was not
heard in Heaven!

Here, in the Hague, other thoughts came to Ben--Of how Holland in later
years unwillingly put her head under the French yoke, and how, galled
and lashed past endurance, she had resolutely jerked it out again. He
liked her for that. What nation of any spirit, thought he, could be
expected to stand such work, paying all her wealth into a foreign
treasury and yielding up the flower of her youth under foreign
conscription. It was not so very long ago, either, since English guns
had been heard booming close by in the German Ocean; well--all the
fighting was over at last. Holland was a snug little monarchy now in her
own right, and Ben, for one, was glad of it. Arrived at this charitable
conclusion, he was prepared to enjoy to the utmost all the wonders of
her capital; he quite delighted Mynheer van Gend with his hearty and
intelligent interest--so, in fact, did all the boys, for a merrier, more
observant party never went sightseeing.



XXVIII

THROUGH THE HAGUE


The picture gallery, in the Maurits Huis,[26] one of the finest in the
world, seemed only to have flashed by the boys during a two hours'
visit, so much was there to admire and examine. As for the Royal Cabinet
of curiosities, in the same building, they felt that they had but
glanced at it though they were there nearly half a day. It seemed to
them that Japan had poured all her treasures within its walls. For a
long period, Holland, always foremost in commerce, was the only nation
allowed to have any intercourse with Japan. One can well forego a
journey to that country if he can but visit the Museum at the Hague.

[Footnote 26: A building erected by Prince Maurice of Nassau.]

Room after room is filled with collections from the Hermit
Empire--Costumes peculiar to various ranks and pursuits, articles of
ornament, household utensils, weapons, armor and surgical instruments.
There is also an ingenious Japanese model of the Island of Desina, the
Dutch factory in Japan. It appears almost as the Island itself would if
seen through a reversed opera-glass, and makes one feel like a Gulliver
coming unexpectedly upon a Japanese Lilliput. There you see hundreds of
people in native costumes, standing, kneeling, stooping, reaching--all
at work, or pretending to be--and their dwellings, even their very
furniture, spread out before you, plain as day. In another room a huge
tortoise shell baby-house fitted up in Dutch style and inhabited by
dignified Dutch dolls, stands ready to tell you at a glance how people
live in Holland.

Gretel, Hilda, Katrinka, even the proud Rychie Korbes, would have been
delighted with this; but Peter and his gallant band passed it by without
a glance. The war implements had the honor of detaining them for an
hour; such clubs, such murderous krits, or daggers, such firearms, and,
above all, such wonderful Japanese swords, quite capable of performing
the accredited Japanese feat, of cutting a man in two at a single
stroke!

There were Chinese and other oriental curiosities in the collection.
Native historical relics, too, upon which our young Dutchmen gazed very
soberly, though they were secretly proud to show them to Ben.

There was a model of the cabin at Saardam in which Peter the Great lived
during his short career as a ship-builder. Also, wallets and bowls--once
carried by the "Beggar" Confederates who, uniting under the Prince of
Orange, had freed Holland from the tyranny of Spain; the sword of
Admiral Van Speyk who about ten years before had perished in voluntarily
blowing up his own ship; and Van Tromp's armor with the marks of bullets
upon it. Jacob looked around, hoping to see the broom which the plucky
admiral fastened to his mast-head--but it was not there. The waistcoat
which William Third[27] of England wore during the last days of his
life, possessed great interest for Ben; and one and all gazed with a
mixture of reverence and horror-worship at the identical clothing worn
by William the Silent[27] when he was murdered at Delft by Balthazar
Geraerts. A tawny leather doublet and plain surcoat of gray cloth, a
soft felt hat, and a high neck-ruff from which hung one of the
"Beggars'" medals--these were not in themselves very princely objects,
though the doublet had a tragic interest from its dark stains, and
bullet holes. Ben could readily believe, as he looked upon the garments,
that the Silent Prince, true to his greatness of character, had been
exceedingly simple in his attire. His aristocratic prejudices were,
however, decidedly shocked when Lambert told him of the way in which
William's bride first entered the Hague.

[Footnote 27: William, Prince of Orange, who became King of England, was
a great grandson of William the Silent, Prince of Orange, who was
murdered by Geraerts (or Gerard) July 10th, 1584.]

"The beautiful Louisa de Coligny, whose father and former husband both
had fallen at the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, was coming to be fourth
wife to the Prince, and of course," said Lambert, "we Hollanders were
too gallant to allow the lady to enter the town on foot. No, sir, we
sent (or rather my ancestors did) a clean, open post-wagon to meet her,
with a plank across it for her to sit upon!"

"Very gallant indeed!" exclaimed Ben with almost a sneer in his polite
laugh--"and she the daughter of an Admiral of France."

"Was she? Upon my word I had nearly forgotten that. But, you see Holland
had very plain ways in the good old time, in fact we are a very simple,
frugal people to this day. The Van Gend establishment is a decided
exception, you know."

"A very agreeable exception, I think," said Ben.

"Certainly, certainly. But, between you and me, Mynheer van Gend, though
he has wrought his own fortunes, can afford to be magnificent, and yet
be frugal."

"Exactly so," said Ben profoundly; at the same time stroking his upper
lip and chin, which latterly he believed had been showing delightful
and unmistakable signs of coming dignities.

While tramping on foot through the city, Ben often longed for a good
English sidewalk. Here, as in the other towns, there was no curb, no
raised pavement for foot travelers--but the streets were clean and even,
and all vehicles were kept scrupulously within a certain tract. Strange
to say, there were nearly as many sleds as wagons to be seen, though
there was not a particle of snow. The sleds went scraping over the
bricks or cobblestones; some provided with an apparatus in front for
sprinkling water, to diminish the friction, and some rendered less
musical by means of a dripping oil rag, which the driver occasionally
applied to the runners.

Ben was surprised at the noiseless way in which Dutch laborers do their
work. Even around the warehouses and docks there was no bustle, no
shouting from one to another. A certain twitch of the pipe, or turn of
the head or, at most, a raising of the hand, seemed to be all the signal
necessary. Entire loads of cheeses or herrings are pitched from cart or
canal-boat into the warehouses without a word; but the passer-by must
take his chance of being pelted, for a Dutchman seldom looks before or
behind him while engaged at work.

Poor Jacob Poot, who seemed destined to bear all the mishaps of the
journey, was knocked nearly breathless by a great cheese, which a fat
Dutchman was throwing to a fellow-laborer; but he recovered himself, and
passed on without evincing the least indignation.

Ben professed great sympathy on the occasion, but Jacob insisted that it
was "notting."

"Then why did you screw your face so when it hit you?"

"What for screw mine face?" repeated Jacob soberly; "vy, it vash
de--de----"

"The what?" insisted Ben, maliciously.

"Vy, de--de--vat you call dis, vat you taste mit de nose?"

Ben laughed.

"Oh, you mean the smell."

"Yesh. Dat ish it," said Jacob eagerly--"it wash de shmell. I draw mine
face for dat!"

"Ha! ha!" roared Ben, "that's a good one. A Dutch boy smell a cheese.
You can never make me believe _that_!"

"Vell, it ish no matter," replied Jacob, trudging on beside Ben in
perfect good humor--"vait till you hit mit cheese--dat ish all."

Soon he added pathetically--"Penchamin, I no likes be call Tutch--dat
ish no goot. I bees a Hollander."

Just as Ben was apologizing, Lambert hailed him.

"Hold up! Ben. Here is the Fish Market. There is not much to be seen at
this season. But we can take a look at the storks if you wish."

Ben knew that storks were held in peculiar reverence in Holland, and
that the bird figured upon the arms of the Capital. He had noticed
cart-wheels placed upon the roofs of Dutch cottages to entice storks to
settle upon them; he had seen their huge nests, too, on many a thatched
gable roof from Broek to the Hague. But it was winter now. The nests
were empty. No greedy birdlings opened their mouths--or rather their
heads--at the approach of a great white winged thing, with outstretched
neck and legs, bearing a dangling something for their breakfast. The
long-bills were far away, picking up food on African shores; and before
they would return in the Spring, Ben's visit to the land of dykes would
be over.

Therefore he pressed eagerly forward, as Van Mounen led the way through
the fish market, anxious to see if storks in Holland were anything like
the melancholy specimens he had seen in the Zoölogical Gardens of
London.

It was the same old story. A tamed bird is a sad bird, say what you
will. These storks lived in a sort of kennel, chained by the feet like
felons, though supposed to be honored by being kept at the public
expense. In summer they were allowed to walk about the market, where the
fish-stalls were like so many free dining-saloons to them. Untasted
delicacies in the form of raw fish and butcher's offals, lay about their
kennels now, but the city-guests preferred to stand upon one leg,
curving back their long neck and leaning their head sidewise, in a
blinking reverie. How gladly they would have changed their petted state,
for the busy life of some hard-working stork mother, or father, bringing
up a troublesome family on the roof of a rickety old building, where
flapping windmills frightened them half to death every time they
ventured forth on a frolic.

Ben soon made up his mind, and rightly, too, that the Hague with its
fine streets and public parks shaded with elms, was a magnificent city.
The prevailing costume was like that of London or Paris, and his British
ears were many a time cheered by the music of British words. The shops
were different in many respects from those on Oxford Street and the
Strand, but they often were illumined by a printed announcement that
English was "spoken within." Others proclaimed themselves to have
London Stout for sale--and one actually promised to regale its customers
with ENGLISH ROAST BEEF.

Over every possible shop-door was the never-failing placard, "Tabak te
Koop" (tobacco to be sold). Instead of colored glass globes in the
windows, or high jars of leeches, the drug-stores had a gaping Turk's
head at the entrance--or, if the establishment were particularly fine, a
wooden mandarin entire, indulging in a full yawn.

Some of these queer faces amused Ben exceedingly; they seemed to have
just swallowed a dose of physic; but Van Mounen declared he could not
see anything funny about them. A druggist showed his sense by putting a
_Gaper_ before his door, so that his place could be known at once as an
"apotheek" and that was all there was about it.

Another thing attracted Ben--the milkmen's carts. These were small
affairs, filled with shiny brass kettles, or stone jars, and drawn by
dogs. The milkman walked meekly beside his cart, keeping his dog in
order, and delivering the milk to customers. Certain fish dealers had
dog-carts, also, and when a herring-dog chanced to meet a milk-dog, he
invariably put on airs and growled as he passed him. Sometimes a
milk-dog would recognize an acquaintance before another milk-cart across
the street, and then how the kettles would rattle, especially if they
were empty! Each dog would give a bound and, never caring for his
master's whistle, insist upon meeting the other half-way. Sometimes they
contented themselves with an inquisitive sniff, but generally the
smaller dog made an affectionate snap at the larger one's ear, or a
friendly tussle was engaged in by way of exercise. Then wo! to the milk
kettles, and wo! to the dogs!

The whipping over, each dog, expressing his feelings as best he could,
would trot leisurely back to his work.

If some of these animals were eccentric in their ways, others were
remarkably well-behaved. In fact, there was a school for dogs in the
city, established expressly for training them; Ben probably saw some of
its graduates. Many a time he noticed a span of barkers trotting along
the street with all the dignity of horses, obeying the slightest hint of
the man walking briskly beside them. Sometimes, when their load was
delivered, the dealer would jump in the cart, and have a fine drive to
his home beyond the gates of the city; and sometimes, I regret to say, a
patient vrouw would trudge beside the cart, with fish-basket upon her
head, and a child in her arms--while her lord enjoyed his drive,
carrying no heavier burden than a stumpy clay pipe, the smoke of which
mounted lovingly into her face.



XXIX

A DAY OF REST


The sightseeing came to an end at last, and so did our boys' visit to
the Hague. They had spent three happy days and nights with the Van
Gends, and, strange to say, had not once, in all that time, put on
skates. The third day had indeed been one of rest. The noise and bustle
of the city was hushed; sweet Sunday bells sent blessed, tranquil
thoughts into their hearts. Ben felt, as he listened to their familiar
music, that the Christian world is one, after all, however divided by
sects and differences it may be. As the clock speaks every one's native
language in whatever land it may strike the hour, so church-bells are
never foreign if our hearts but listen.

Led on by those clear voices, our party, with Mevrouw van Gend and her
husband, trod the quiet but crowded streets, until they came to a fine
old church in the southern part of the city.

The interior was large and, notwithstanding its great stained windows,
seemed dimly lighted, though the walls were white, and dashes of red and
purple sunshine lay brightly upon pillar and pew.

Ben saw a few old women moving softly through the aisles, each bearing a
high pile of foot-stoves which she distributed among the congregation by
skillfully slipping out the under one, until none were left. It puzzled
him that mynheer should settle himself with the boys in a comfortable
side-pew, after seating his vrouw in the body of the church, which was
filled with chairs exclusively appropriated to the women. But Ben was
learning only a common custom of the country.

The pews of the nobility and the dignitaries of the city were circular
in form, each surrounding a column. Elaborately carved, they formed a
massive base to their great pillars standing out in bold relief against
the blank, white walls beyond. These columns, lofty and
well-proportioned, were nicked and defaced from violence done to them
long ago; yet it seemed quite fitting that, before they were lost in the
deep arches overhead, their softened outlines should leaf out as they
did into richness and beauty.

Soon, Ben lowered his gaze to the marble floor. It was a pavement of
gravestones. Nearly all the large slabs, of which it was composed,
marked the resting-places of the dead. An armorial design engraved upon
each stone, with inscription and date, told whose form was sleeping
beneath, and sometimes three of a family were lying one above the other
in the same sepulchre.

He could not but think of the solemn funeral procession winding by
torch-light through those lofty aisles, and bearing its silent burden
toward a dark opening whence a slab had been lifted, in readiness for
its coming. It was something to feel that his sister Mabel, who died in
her flower, was lying in a sunny church-yard, where a brook rippled and
sparkled in the daylight, and waving trees whispered together all night
long; where flowers might nestle close to the headstone and moon and
stars shed their peace upon it, and morning birds sing sweetly overhead.

Then he looked up from the pavement and rested his eyes upon the carved,
oaken pulpit, exquisitely beautiful in design and workmanship. He could
not see the minister--though, not long before, he had watched him slowly
ascending its winding stair--a mild-faced man wearing a ruff about his
neck, and a short cloak reaching nearly to the knee.

Meantime the great church had been silently filling. Its pews were
sombre with men and its centre radiant with women in their fresh Sunday
attire. Suddenly a soft rustling spread through the building. All eyes
were turned toward the minister now appearing above the pulpit.

Although the sermon was spoken slowly, Ben could understand little of
what was said; but when the hymn came, he joined in with all his heart.
A thousand voices lifted in love and praise, offered a grander language
that he could readily comprehend.

Once he was startled, during a pause in the service, by seeing a little
bag suddenly shaken before him. It had a tinkling bell at its side, and
was attached to a long stick carried by one of the deacons of the
church. Not relying solely upon the mute appeal of the poor-boxes
fastened to the columns near the entrance, this more direct method was
resorted to, of awaking the sympathies of the charitable.

Fortunately Ben had provided himself with a few stivers, or the musical
bag must have tinkled before him in vain.

More than once, a dark look rose on our English boy's face that morning.
He longed to stand up and harangue the people concerning a peculiarity
that filled him with pain. Some of the men wore their hats during the
service, or took them off whenever the humor prompted, and many put
theirs on in the church as soon as they arose to leave. No wonder Ben's
sense of propriety was wounded; and yet a higher sense would have been
exercised had he tried to feel willing that Hollanders should follow the
customs of their country. But his English heart said over and over again
"it is outrageous! it is sinful!"

There is an Angel called Charity who often would save our hearts a great
deal of trouble if we would but let her in.



XXX

HOMEWARD BOUND


On Monday morning, bright and early, our boys bade farewell to their
kind entertainers and started on their homeward journey.

Peter lingered a while at the lion-guarded door, for he and his sister
had many parting words to say.

As Ben saw them bidding each other "good-bye," he could not help feeling
that kisses as well as clocks were wonderfully alike everywhere. The
English kiss that his sister Jennie gave when he left home had said the
same thing to him that the Vrouw van Gend's Dutch kiss said to Peter.
Ludwig had taken his share of the farewell in the most matter-of-fact
manner possible, and though he loved his sister well, had winced a
little at her making such a child of him as to put an extra kiss "for
mother" upon his forehead.

He was already upon the canal with Carl and Jacob. Were they thinking
about sisters or kisses? Not a bit of it. They were so happy to be on
skates once more, so impatient to dart at once into the very heart of
Broek, that they spun and wheeled about like crazy fellows, relieving
themselves, meantime, by muttering something about "Peter and donder"
not worth translating.

Even Lambert and Ben who had been waiting at the street-corner began to
grow impatient.

The captain joined them at last; they were soon on the canal with the
rest.

"Hurry up, Peter," growled Ludwig--"we're freezing by inches--there! I
knew you'd be the last after all to get on your skates!"

"Did you?" said his brother looking up with an air of deep
interest--"clever boy!"

Ludwig laughed, but tried to look cross, as he said--"I'm in earnest,
anyhow. We must get home some time this year."

"Now, boys," cried Peter springing up, as he fastened the last buckle.
"There's a clear way before us! We will imagine it's the grand race.
Ready! One--two--three--START!"

I assure you very little was said for the first half hour. They were six
Mercuries skimming the ice. In plain English they went like
lightning--no, that is imaginary too. The fact is, one cannot decide
what to say when half a dozen boys are whizzing past at such a rate. I
can only tell you that each did his best, flying, with bent body, and
eager eyes, in and out among the placid skaters on the canal, until the
very guard shouted to them to "hold up!" This only served to send them
onward with a two-boy power that startled all beholders.

But the laws of inertia are stronger even than canal guards.

After a while Jacob slackened his speed--then Ludwig--then Lambert--then
Carl.

They soon halted to take a long breath, and finally found themselves
standing in a group gazing after Peter and Ben who were still racing in
the distance as if their lives were at stake.

"It is very evident," said Lambert, as he and his three companions
started on again, "that neither of them will give up until he can't help
it."

"What foolishness!" growled Carl, "to tire themselves at the beginning
of the journey--but they're racing in earnest--that's certain. Hallo!
Peter's flagging!"

"Not so!" cried Ludwig--"catch him being beaten!"

"Ha! ha!" sneered Carl. "I tell you, boy, Benjamin is ahead."

Now if Ludwig disliked anything in this world, it was to be called a
boy--probably because he was nothing else. He grew indignant at once.

"Humph, what are _you_, I wonder. There, sir! _now_ look and see if
Peter isn't ahead!"

"_I_ think he _is_," interposed Lambert, "but I can't quite tell at this
distance."

"_I_ think he isn't!" retorted Carl.

Jacob was growing anxious--he always abhorred an argument--so he said in
a coaxing tone--"Don't quarrel--don't quarrel!"

"Don't quarrel!" mocked Carl, looking back at Jacob as he skated. "Who's
quarreling? Poot, you're a goose!"

"I can't help that," was Jacob's meek reply. "See! they are nearing the
turn of the canal."

"_Now_ we can see!" cried Ludwig in great excitement.

"Peter will make it first, I know."

"He can't--for Ben is ahead!" insisted Carl. "Gunst! That ice-boat will
run over him. No! he is clear! They're a couple of geese anyhow. Hurrah!
they're at the turn. Who's ahead?"

"PETER!" cried Ludwig, joyfully.

"Good for the captain!" shouted Lambert and Jacob.

And Carl condescended to mutter:

"It _is_ Peter after all. I thought, all the time, that head fellow was
Ben."

This turn in the canal had evidently been their goal, for the two racers
came to a sudden halt after passing it.

Carl said something about being "glad that they had sense enough to stop
and rest,"--and the four boys skated on in silence to overtake their
companions.

All the while, Carl was secretly wishing that he had kept on with Peter
and Ben, as he felt sure he could easily have come out winner. He was a
very rapid, though by no means a graceful skater.

Ben was looking at Peter with mingled vexation, admiration and surprise,
as the boys drew near.

They heard him saying in English:

"You're a perfect bird on the ice, Peter van Holp. The first fellow that
ever beat me in a fair race, I can tell you!"

Peter, who understood the language better than he could speak it,
returned a laughing bow at Ben's compliment, but made no further reply.
Possibly he was scant of breath at the time.

"Now, Penchamin, vat you do mit yourself? get so hot as a
fire-brick--dat ish no goot," was Jacob's plaintive comment.

"Nonsense!" answered Ben. "This frosty air will cool me soon enough. I
am not tired."

"You are beaten, though, my boy," said Lambert in English, "and fairly,
too. How will it be, I wonder, on the day of the grand race?"

Ben flushed, and gave a proud, defiant laugh, as if to say:

"This was mere pastime. I'm _determined_ to beat then, come what will!"



XXXI

BOYS AND GIRLS


By the time the boys reached the village of Voorhout which stands near
the grand canal, about half-way between the Hague and Haarlem, they were
forced to hold a council. The wind, though moderate at first, had grown
stronger and stronger, until at last they could hardly skate against it.
The weather-vanes throughout the country had evidently entered into a
conspiracy.

"No use trying to face such a blow as this," said Ludwig. "It cuts its
way down a man's throat like a knife."

"Keep your mouth shut, then," grunted the affable Carl, who was
strong-chested as a young ox. "I'm for keeping on."

"In this case," interposed Peter, "we must consult the weakest of the
party rather than the strongest."

The captain's principle was all right, but its application was not
flattering to Master Ludwig; shrugging his shoulders, he retorted:

"Who's weak? Not I, for one--but the wind's stronger than any of us. I
hope you'll condescend to admit that!"

"Ha! ha!" laughed Van Mounen, who could barely keep his feet, "so it
is."

Just then the weather-vanes telegraphed to each other by a peculiar
twitch--and, in an instant, the gust came. It nearly threw the
strong-chested Carl; it almost strangled Jacob; and quite upset Ludwig.

"This settles the question," shouted Peter; "off with your skates! We'll
go into Voorhout."

At Voorhout they found a little inn with a big yard. The yard was well
bricked, and better than all, was provided with a complete set of
skittles, so our boys soon turned the detention into a frolic. The wind
was troublesome even in that sheltered quarter, but they were on good
standing-ground--and did not mind it.

First a hearty dinner--then the game. With pins as long as their arms,
and balls as big as their heads, plenty of strength left for rolling,
and a clean sweep of sixty yards for the strokes--no wonder they were
happy.

That night Captain Peter and his men slept soundly. No prowling robber
came to disturb them; and, as they were distributed in separate rooms,
they did not even have a bolster-battle in the morning.

Such a breakfast as they ate! The landlord looked frightened. When he
had asked them where they "belonged," he made up his mind that the Broek
people starved their children. It was a shame, "such fine young
gentlemen, too!"

Fortunately the wind had tired itself out, and fallen asleep in the
great sea-cradle beyond the Dunes. There were signs of snow; otherwise,
the weather was fine.

It was mere child's-play for the well-rested boys to skate to Leyden.
Here they halted a while, for Peter had an errand at the "Golden Eagle."
He left the city with a lightened heart; Dr. Boekman had been at the
hotel, read the note containing Hans' message, and departed for Broek.

"I cannot say it was your letter sent him off so soon," explained the
landlord; "some rich lady in Broek was taken bad very sudden, and he
was sent for in haste."

Peter turned pale.

"What was the name?" he asked.

"Indeed, it went in one ear, and out of the other--for all I hindered
it. Plague to people who can't see a traveler in comfortable lodgings,
but they must whisk him off, before one can breathe."

"A lady in Broek, did you say?"

"Yes," very gruffly; "and other business, young master?"

"No, mine host--except that I and my comrades here would like a bite of
something, and a drink of hot coffee."

"Ah," said the landlord, sweetly, "a bite you shall have, and coffee
too, the finest in Leyden. Walk up to the stove, my masters--now I think
again--that was a widow lady--from Rotterdam, I think they
said--visiting at one Van Stoepel's if I mistake not."

"Ah!" said Peter, greatly relieved. "They live in the white house by the
Schlossen Mill--now, mynheer, the coffee, please!"

"What a goose I was," thought he, as the party left the Golden Eagle,
"to feel so sure it was my mother--but she may be somebody's mother,
poor woman, for all that. Who can she be, I wonder?"

There were not many upon the canal that day, between Leyden and Haarlem.
However, as the boys neared Amsterdam, they found themselves once more
in the midst of a moving throng. The big _Ysbreeker_[28]

[Footnote 28: Ice-breaker--A heavy machine armed with iron spikes for
breaking the ice as it is dragged along. Some of the small ones are
worked by men--but the large ones are drawn by horses--sixty or seventy
of which are sometimes attached to one Ysbreeker.] had been at work for
the first time that season, but there was any amount of skating ground
left yet.

"Three cheers for home!" cried Van Mounen, as they came in sight of the
great Western dock (Westelijk Dok). "Hurrah! Hurrah!" shouted one and
all. "Hurrah! Hurrah!"

This trick of cheering was an importation among our party. Lambert van
Mounen had brought it from England. As they always gave it in English,
it was considered quite an exploit and, when circumstances permitted,
always enthusiastically performed, to the sore dismay of their
quiet-loving countrymen.

Therefore, their arrival at Amsterdam created a great sensation,
especially among the small boys on the wharfs.

The Y was crossed. They were on the Broek canal.

Lambert's home was reached first.

"Good-bye, boys!" he cried, as he left them. "We've had the greatest
frolic ever known in Holland."

"So we have. Good-bye, Van Mounen!" answered the boys.

"Good-bye!"

Peter hailed him. "I say, Van Mounen, the classes begin to-morrow!"

"I know it. Our holiday is over. Good-bye, again."

"Good-bye!"

Broek came in sight. Such meetings! Katrinka was on the canal! Carl was
delighted. Hilda was there! Peter felt rested in an instant. Rychie was
there! Ludwig and Jacob nearly knocked each other over in their
eagerness to shake hands with her.

Dutch girls are modest and generally quiet; but they have very glad
eyes. For a few moments, it was hard to decide whether Hilda, Rychie or
Katrinka felt the most happy.

Annie Bouman was also on the canal, looking even prettier than the other
maidens, in her graceful, peasant's costume. But she did not mingle with
Rychie's party; neither did she look unusually happy.

The one she liked most to see was not among the newcomers. Indeed he was
not upon the canal at all. She had not been near Broek before, since the
Eve of St. Nicholas, for she was staying with her sick grandmother in
Amsterdam, and had been granted a brief resting-spell, as the
grandmother called it, because she had been such a faithful little nurse
night and day.

Annie had devoted her resting-spell to skating with all her might toward
Broek, and back again, in the hope of meeting her mother or some of her
family on the canal, or, it might be, Gretel Brinker--Not one of them
had she seen--and she must hurry back, without ever catching a glimpse
of her mother's cottage--for the poor helpless grandmother, she knew,
was by this time moaning for some one to turn her upon her cot.

Where can Gretel be? thought Annie, as she flew over the ice; she can
almost always steal a few moments from her work at this time of
day--poor Gretel--what a dreadful thing it must be to have a dull
father--I should be wofully afraid of him, I know--So strong, and yet so
strange!

Annie had not heard of his illness. Dame Brinker and her affairs
received but little notice from the people of the place.

If Gretel had not been known as a goose-girl she might have had more
friends among the peasantry of the neighborhood. As it was, Annie Bouman
was the only one who did not feel ashamed to avow herself by word and
deed the companion of Gretel and Hans.

When the neighbors' children laughed at her for keeping such poor
company, she would simply flush when Hans was ridiculed, or laugh in a
careless, disdainful way; but to hear little Gretel abused always
awakened her wrath.

"Goose-girl, indeed!" she would say. "I can tell you any of you are
fitter for the work than she. My father often said last summer that it
troubled him to see such a bright-eyed, patient little maiden tending
geese. Humph! She would not harm them, as you would, Janzoon Kolp; and
she would not tread upon them, as you might, Kate Wouters."

This would be pretty sure to start a laugh at the clumsy, ill-natured
Kate's expense; and Annie would walk loftily away from the group of
young gossips. Perhaps some memory of Gretel's assailants crossed her
mind as she skated rapidly toward Amsterdam, for her eyes sparkled
ominously and she more than once gave her pretty head a defiant toss.
When that mood passed, such a bright, rosy, affectionate look illumined
her face, that more than one weary working man turned to gaze after her,
and to wish that he had a glad contented lass like that for a daughter.

       *       *       *       *       *

There were five joyous households in Broek that night.

The boys were back safe and sound; and they found all well at home. Even
the sick lady at neighbor Van Stoepel's was out of danger.

But the next morning! Ah, how stupidly school-bells will ding-dong!
ding-dong, when one is tired.

Ludwig was sure he had never listened to anything so odious. Even Peter
felt pathetic on the occasion. Carl said it was a shame for a fellow to
have to turn out when his bones were splitting--and Jacob soberly bade
Ben "Goot-Pye!" and walked off with his satchel as if it weighed a
hundred pounds.



XXXII

THE CRISIS


While the boys are nursing their fatigue, we will take a peep into the
Brinker cottage.

Can it be that Gretel and her mother have not stirred since we saw them
last? That the sick man upon the bed has not even turned over? It was
four days ago and there is the sad group just as it was before. No, not
precisely the same, for Raff Brinker is paler; his fever is gone, though
he knows nothing of what is passing. Then, they were alone in the bare,
clean room. Now there is another group in an opposite corner.

Dr. Boekman is there, talking in a low tone with a stout young man who
listens intently. The stout young man is his student and assistant. Hans
is there also. He stands near the window respectfully waiting until he
shall be accosted.

"You see, Vollenhoven," said Dr. Boekman, "it is a clear case of"--and
here the doctor went off into a queer jumble of Latin and Dutch that I
cannot conveniently translate.

After a while, as Vollenhoven looked at him rather blankly, the learned
man condescended to speak to him in simpler phrase.

"It is probably like Rip Donderdunck's case," he explained, in a low,
mumbling tone. "He fell from the top of Voppelploot's windmill. After
the accident the man was stupid, and finally became idiotic. In time he
lay helpless like yon fellow on the bed, moaned, too, like him, and
kept constantly lifting his hand to his head. My learned friend Von
Choppem performed an operation upon this Donderdunck, and discovered
under the skull a small dark sac, which pressed upon the brain. This had
been the cause of the trouble. My friend Von Choppem removed it--a
splendid operation! You see according to Celsus"--and here the doctor
again went off into Latin.

"Did the man live?" asked the assistant, respectfully.

Dr. Boekman scowled. "That is of no consequence. I believe he died, but
why not fix your mind on the grand features of the case. Consider a
moment how"--and he plunged into Latin mysteries more deeply than ever.

"But, mynheer," gently persisted the student, who knew that the doctor
would not rise to the surface for hours unless pulled at once from his
favorite depths. "Mynheer, you have other engagements to-day, three legs
in Amsterdam, you remember, and an eye in Broek, and that tumor up the
canal."

"The tumor can wait," said the doctor reflectively. "That is another
beautiful case--a beautiful case! The woman has not lifted her head from
her shoulder for two months--magnificent tumor, sir!"

The doctor by this time was speaking aloud. He had quite forgotten where
he was.

Vollenhoven made another attempt.

"This poor fellow on the bed, mynheer. Do you think you can save him?"

"Ah, indeed, certainly," stammered the doctor, suddenly perceiving that
he had been talking rather off the point--"certainly, that is--I hope
so----"

"If any one in Holland can, mynheer," murmured the assistant with honest
bluntness--"it is yourself."

The doctor looked displeased--growled out a tender request for the
student to talk less, and beckoned Hans to draw near.

This strange man had a great horror of speaking to women, especially on
surgical matters. "One can never tell," he said, "what moment the
creatures will scream or faint." Therefore he explained Raff Brinker's
case to Hans and told him what he believed should be done to save the
patient.

Hans listened attentively, growing red and pale by turns, and throwing
quick, anxious glances toward the bed.

"It may _kill_ the father--did you say, mynheer?" he exclaimed at last,
in a trembling whisper.

"It may, my boy. But I have a strong belief that it will cure and not
kill. Ah! if boys were not such dunces, I could lay the whole matter
before you, but it would be of no use."

Hans looked blank at this compliment.

"It would be of no use," repeated Dr. Boekman indignantly; "a great
operation is proposed--but one might as well do it with a hatchet. The
only question asked is--'will it kill?'"

"The question is _everything_ to us, mynheer," said Hans, with tearful
dignity.

Dr. Boekman looked at him in sudden dismay.

"Ah! exactly so. You are right, boy, I am a fool. Good boy. One does not
wish one's father killed--of course not. I am a fool."

"Will he die, mynheer, if this sickness goes on?"

"Humph! this is no new illness. The same thing growing worse every
instant--pressure on the brain--will take him off soon like _that_,"
said the doctor, snapping his fingers.

"And the operation _may_ save him," pursued Hans. "How soon, mynheer,
can we know?"

Dr. Boekman grew impatient.

"In a day, perhaps, an hour. Talk with your mother, boy, and let her
decide. My time is short."

Hans approached his mother; at first, when she looked up at him, he
could not utter a syllable; then turning his eyes away he said in a firm
voice:

"I must speak with the mother alone."

Quick little Gretel, who could not quite understand what was passing,
threw rather an indignant look at Hans, and walked away.

"Come back, Gretel, and sit down," said Hans sorrowfully.

She obeyed.

Dame Brinker and her boy stood by the window while the doctor and his
assistant, bending over the bed-side, conversed together in a low tone.
There was no danger of disturbing the patient. He appeared like one
blind and deaf. Only his faint, piteous moans showed him to be a living
man. Hans was talking earnestly, and in a low voice, for he did not wish
his sister to hear.

With dry, parted lips, Dame Brinker leaned toward him searching his
face, as if suspecting a meaning beyond his words. Once she gave a
quick, frightened sob that made Gretel start, but, after that, listened
calmly.

When Hans ceased to speak, his mother turned, gave one long, agonized
look at her husband, lying there so pale and unconscious, and threw
herself on her knees, beside the bed.

Poor little Gretel! what did all this mean? She looked with questioning
eyes at Hans; he was standing, but his head was bent as if in
prayer;--at the doctor; he was gently feeling her father's head, and
looked like one examining some curious stone;--at the assistant; the man
coughed and turned away;--at her mother; Ah! little Gretel, that was the
best you could do--to kneel beside her and twine your warm, young arms
about her neck--to weep and implore God to listen.

When the mother arose, Dr. Boekman, with a show of trouble in his eyes,
asked gruffly, "Well, jufvrouw, shall it be done?"

"Will it pain him, mynheer?" she asked in a trembling voice.

"I cannot say. Probably not. Shall it be done?"

"It may _cure_ him, you said, and--mynheer, did you tell my boy
that--perhaps--perhaps"--she could not finish.

"Yes, jufvrouw, I said the patient might sink under the operation--but
we will hope it may prove otherwise." (He looked at his watch. The
assistant moved impatiently toward the window.) "Come, jufvrouw, time
presses. Yes, or no?"

Hans wound his arm about his mother. It was not his usual way. He even
leaned his head against her shoulder.

"The meester awaits an answer," he whispered.

Dame Brinker had long been the head of her house in every sense--Many a
time she had been very stern with Hans, ruling him with a strong hand,
and rejoicing in her motherly discipline--_now_ she felt so weak, so
helpless. It was something to feel that firm embrace. There was strength
even in the touch of that yellow hair.

She turned to her boy imploringly.

"Oh, Hans! What shall I say?"

"Say what God tells thee, mother," answered Hans, bowing his head.

One quick, questioning prayer to Heaven rose from the mother's heart.

The answer came.

She turned toward Dr. Boekman.

"It is right, mynheer. I consent."

"Humph!" grunted the doctor, as if to say you've been long enough about
it. Then he conferred a moment with his assistant, who listened with
great outward deference but was inwardly rejoicing at the grand joke he
would have to tell his fellow students. He had actually seen a tear in
"old Boekman's" eye.

Meanwhile Gretel looked on in trembling silence--but when she saw the
doctor open a leathern case, and take out one sharp, gleaming instrument
after another, she sprang forward.

"Oh mother--the poor father meant no wrong. Are they going to _murder_
him?"

"I do not know, child," screamed Dame Brinker looking fiercely at
Gretel. "I DO NOT KNOW."

"This will not do, jufvrouw," said Dr. Boekman sternly, and at the same
time he cast a quick, penetrating look at Hans--"you and the girl must
leave the room. The boy may stay."

Dame Brinker drew herself up in an instant. Her eyes flashed. Her whole
countenance was changed. She looked like one who had never wept, never
felt a moment's weakness. Her voice was low but decided. "I stay with my
husband, mynheer."

Dr. Boekman looked astonished. His orders were seldom disregarded in
this style. For an instant his eye met hers.

"You may remain, jufvrouw," he said in an altered voice.

Gretel had already disappeared.

In one corner of the cottage was a small closet where her rough,
box-like bed was fastened against the wall: none would think of the
trembling little creature crouching there in the dark.

Dr. Boekman took off his heavy coat; he filled an earthen basin with
water and placed it near the bed. Then turning to Hans he asked:

"Can I depend upon you, boy?"

"You can, mynheer."

"I believe you. Stand at the head, here--your mother may sit at your
right--so," and he placed a chair near the cot.

"Remember, jufvrouw, there must be no cries, no fainting."

Dame Brinker answered him with a look.

He was satisfied.

"Now, Vollenhoven."

Oh! that case with the terrible instruments. The assistant lifted them.
Gretel who had been peering, with brimming eyes, through the crack of
the closet door, could remain silent no longer.

She rushed frantically across the apartment, seized her hood, and ran
from the cottage.



XXXIII

GRETEL AND HILDA


It was recess-hour. At the first stroke of the school-house bell, the
canal seemed to give a tremendous shout, and grow suddenly alive with
boys and girls. The sly thing, shining so quietly under the noonday sun,
was a kaleidoscope at heart, and only needed a shake from that great
clapper to start it into dazzling changes.

Dozens of gaily clad children were skating in and out among each other,
and all their pent-up merriment of the morning was relieving itself in
song and shout and laughter. There was nothing to check the flow of
frolic. Not a thought of school-books came out with them into the
sunshine. Latin, Arithmetic, Grammar, all were locked up for an hour in
the dingy schoolroom. The teacher might be a noun if he wished, and a
proper one at that, but _they_ meant to enjoy themselves. As long as the
skating was as perfect as this, it made no difference whether Holland
were on the North Pole or the Equator; and, as for Philosophy, how could
they bother themselves about inertia and gravitation and such things,
when it was as much as they could do to keep from getting knocked over
in the commotion.

In the height of the fun, one of the children called out:

"What is that?"

"What? Where?" cried a dozen voices.

"Why--don't you see? That dark thing over there by the idiot's
cottage."

"I don't see anything," said one.

"I do," shouted another, "it's a dog!"

"Where's any dog?" put in a squeaky voice that we have heard
before--"It's no such thing--it's a heap of rags."

"Pooh! Voost," retorted another gruffly, "that's about as near the fact
as you ever get; it's the goose-girl, Gretel, looking for rats."

"Well, what of it?" squeaked Voost; "isn't _she_ a bundle of rags, I'd
like to know?"

"Ha! ha! Pretty good for you, Voost! You'll get a medal for wit yet, if
you keep on."

"You'd get something else, if her brother Hans were here. I'll warrant
you would!" said a muffled up little fellow, with a cold in his head.

As Hans was _not_ there, Voost could afford to scout the insinuation.

"Who cares for _him_, little sneezer? I'd fight a dozen like him any
day, and you in the bargain."

"You would! would you? I'd like to catch you at it," and, by way of
proving his words, the sneezer skated off at the top of his speed.

Just then a general chase after three of the biggest boys of the school
was proposed,--and friend and foe, frolicsome as ever, were soon united
in a common cause.

Only one of all that happy throng remembered the dark little form by the
idiot's cottage. Poor, frightened Gretel! She was not thinking of them,
though their merry laughter floated lightly toward her, making her feel
like one in a dream.

How loud the moans were behind the darkened window--What if those
strange men were really killing her father!

The thought made her spring to her feet with a cry of horror!

"Ah! no," she sobbed, sinking upon the frozen mound of earth where she
had been sitting, "mother is there, and Hans. They will care for him.
But how pale they were. And even Hans was crying!

"Why did the cross old meester keep _him_, and send me away," she
thought. "I could have clung to the mother and kissed her. That always
makes her stroke my hair and speak gentle, even after she has scolded
me. How quiet it is now! Oh, if the father should die, and Hans, and the
mother, what _would_ I do?" and Gretel, shivering with cold, buried her
face in her arms, and cried as if her heart would break.

The poor child had been tasked beyond her strength during the past four
days. Through all, she had been her mother's willing little handmaiden,
soothing, helping and cheering the half-widowed woman by day, and
watching and praying beside her all the long night. She knew that
something terrible and mysterious was taking place at this moment,
something that had been too terrible and mysterious for even kind, good
Hans to tell.

Then new thoughts came. Why had not Hans told her? It was a shame. It
was _her_ father as well as his. She was no baby. She had once taken a
sharp knife from the father's hand. She had even drawn him away from the
mother on that awful night when Hans, big as he was, could not help her.
Why then must she be treated like one who could do nothing? Oh, how very
still it was--how bitter, bitter cold! If Annie Bouman had only stayed
home instead of going to Amsterdam it wouldn't be so lonely. How cold
her feet were growing--was it the moaning that made her feel as if she
were floating in the air!

This would not do--the mother might need her help at any moment!

Rousing herself with an effort, Gretel sat upright, rubbing her eyes and
wondering--wondering that the sky was so bright and blue--wondering at
the stillness in the cottage--more than all, at the laughter rising and
falling in the distance.

Soon she sank down again, the strange medley of thought growing more and
more confused in her bewildered brain.

What a strange lip the meester had! How the stork's nest upon the roof
seemed to rustle and whisper down to her! How bright those knives were,
in the leathern case--brighter perhaps than the silver skates. If she
had but worn her new jacket she would not shiver so. The new jacket was
pretty--the only pretty thing she had ever worn. God had taken care of
her father so long, He would do it still, if those two men would but go
away. Ah, now the meesters were on the roof, they were clambering to the
top--no--it was her mother and Hans,--or the storks--it was so dark who
could tell? and the mound rocking, swinging in that strange way. How
sweetly the birds were singing. They must be winter birds, for the air
was thick with icicles--not one bird--but twenty. Oh! hear them,
mother--wake me, mother, for the race--I am so tired with crying, and
crying----

A firm hand was laid upon her shoulder.

"Get up, little girl!" cried a kind voice. "This will not do, for you to
lie here and freeze."

Gretel slowly raised her head. She was so sleepy that it seemed nothing
strange to her that Hilda van Gleck should be leaning over her, looking
with kind, beautiful eyes into her face. She had often dreamed it
before.

But she had never dreamed that Hilda was shaking her roughly, almost
dragging her by main force--never dreamed that she heard her saying,
"Gretel! Gretel Brinker! you _must_ wake!"

This was real. Gretel looked up. Still the lovely delicate young lady
was shaking, rubbing, fairly pounding her. It must be a dream. No, there
was the cottage--and the stork's nest, and the meester's coach by the
canal. She could see them now quite plainly. Her hands were tingling,
her feet throbbing--Hilda was forcing her to walk.

At last Gretel began to feel like herself again.

"I have been asleep," she faltered, rubbing her eyes with both hands and
looking very much ashamed.

"Yes, indeed, entirely too much asleep," laughed Hilda, whose lips were
very pale, "but you are well enough now--lean upon me, Gretel; there,
keep moving--you will soon be warm enough to go by the fire--now let me
take you into the cottage."

"Oh, no! no! no! jufvrouw, not in there! the meester is there. He sent
me away!"

Hilda was puzzled, but she wisely forbore to ask at present for an
explanation. "Very well, Gretel--try to walk faster--I saw you upon the
mound some time ago; but I thought you were playing--that is right--keep
moving."

All this time the kind-hearted girl had been forcing Gretel to walk up
and down, supporting her with one arm, and, with the other, striving as
well as she could to take off her own warm sacque.

Suddenly Gretel suspected her intention.

"Oh, jufvrouw! jufvrouw!" she cried imploringly. "_Please_ never think
of such a thing as _that_--oh! please keep it on, I am burning all over,
jufvrouw! I really am burning--not burning exactly--but pins and needles
pricking all over me--oh! jufvrouw, don't."

The poor child's dismay was so genuine that Hilda hastened to reassure
her.

"Very well, Gretel, move your arms then--so. Why, your cheeks are as
pink as roses, already. I think the meester would let you in now--he
certainly would--is your father so very ill?"

"Ah, jufvrouw," cried Gretel, weeping afresh, "he is dying, I think.
There are two meesters in with him at this moment, and the mother has
scarce spoken to-day. Can you hear him moan, jufvrouw?" she added, with
sudden terror; "the air buzzes so I cannot hear. He may be dead! oh, I
do wish I could hear him!"

Hilda listened. The cottage was very near, but not a sound could be
heard.

Something told her that Gretel was right. She ran to the window.

"You cannot see there, my lady," sobbed Gretel eagerly; "the mother has
oiled paper hanging inside. But at the other one, in the south end of
the cottage, you can look in where the paper is torn."

Hilda in her anxiety ran round, past the corner where the low roof was
fringed with its loosened thatch.

A sudden thought checked her.

"It is not right for me to peep into another's house in this way," she
said to herself--then softly calling to Gretel, she added, in a whisper,
"You may look--perhaps he is only sleeping."

Gretel tried to walk briskly toward the spot, but her limbs were
trembling. Hilda hastened to her support.

"You are sick, yourself, I fear," she said kindly.

"No, not sick, jufvrouw--but my heart cries all the time now, even when
my eyes are as dry as yours--why! Jufvrouw, your eyes are not dry! Are
you crying for _us_! Oh, jufvrouw--if God sees you! Oh! I know father
will get better now----" and the little creature, even while reaching to
look through the tiny window, kissed Hilda's hand again and again.

The sash was sadly patched and broken, a torn piece of paper hung
half-way down across it. Gretel's face was pressed to the window.

"Can you see anything?" whispered Hilda at last.

"Yes--the father lies very still, his head is bandaged and all their
eyes are fastened upon him. Oh, jufvrouw!" almost screamed Gretel, as
she started back, and by a quick, dexterous movement shook off her heavy
wooden shoes, "I _must_ go in to my mother! Will you come with me?"

"Not now; the bell is ringing. I shall come again soon. Good-bye!"

Gretel scarce heard the words. She remembered for many a day afterward
the bright, pitying smile on Hilda's face, as she turned away.



XXXIV

THE AWAKENING


An angel could not have entered the cottage more noiselessly. Gretel,
not daring to look at any one, slid softly to her mother's side.

The room was very still. She could hear the old doctor breathe. She
could almost hear the sparks as they fell into the ashes on the hearth.
The mother's hand was very cold but a burning spot glowed on her cheek;
and her eyes were like a deer's--so bright, so sad, so eager.

At last there was a movement upon the bed, very slight, but enough to
cause them all to start; Dr. Boekman leaned eagerly forward.

Another movement. The large hand, so white and soft for a poor man's
hand, twitched--then raised itself steadily toward the forehead.

It felt the bandage, not in a restless, crazy way, but with a
questioning movement, that caused even Dr. Boekman to hold his breath.
Then the eyes opened slowly.

"Steady! steady!" said a voice that sounded very strangely to Gretel.
"Shift that mat higher, boys! now throw on the clay. The waters are
rising fast--no time to----"

Dame Brinker sprang forward like a young panther.

She seized his hands, and leaning over him, cried, "Raff! Raff, boy,
speak to me!"

"Is it you, Meitje?" he asked faintly--"I have been asleep, hurt, I
think--where is little Hans?"

"Here I am, father!" shouted Hans half mad with joy. But the doctor held
him back.

"He knows us!" screamed Dame Brinker. "Great God! he knows us! Gretel!
Gretel! come, see your father!"

In vain Dr. Boekman commanded "silence!" and tried to force them from
the bedside. He could not keep them off.

Hans and his mother laughed and cried together, as they hung over the
newly-awakened man. Gretel made no sound, but gazed at them all with
glad, startled eyes. Her father was speaking in a faint voice.

"Is the baby asleep, Meitje?"

"The baby!" echoed Dame Brinker. "Oh, Gretel! that is _you_! And he
calls Hans, 'little Hans.' Ten years asleep! Oh, mynheer, you have saved
us all. He has known nothing for ten years! Children, why don't you
thank the meester?"

The good woman was beside herself with joy. Dr. Boekman said nothing;
but as his eye met hers, he pointed upward. She understood. So did Hans
and Gretel.

With one accord they knelt by the cot, side by side. Dame Brinker felt
for her husband's hand even while she was praying. Dr. Boekman's head
was bowed; the assistant stood by the hearth with his back toward them.

"Why do you pray?" murmured the father, looking feebly from the bed, as
they rose. "Is it God's day?"

It was not Sunday; but his vrouw bowed her head--she could not speak.

[Illustration: _There was a movement upon the bed_]

"Then we should have a chapter," said Raff Brinker, speaking slowly, and
with difficulty. "I do not know how it is. I am very, very weak. Mayhap
the minister will read to us."

Gretel lifted the big Dutch Bible from its carved shelf. Dr. Boekman,
rather dismayed at being called a minister, coughed and handed the
volume to his assistant.

"Read," he muttered; "these people must be kept quiet or the man will
die yet."

When the chapter was finished, Dame Brinker motioned mysteriously to the
rest by way of telling them that her husband was asleep.

"Now, jufvrouw," said the doctor in a subdued tone, as he drew on his
thick woolen mittens, "there must be perfect quiet. You understand. This
is truly a most remarkable case. I shall come again to-morrow. Give the
patient no food to-day," and, bowing hastily, he left the cottage,
followed by his assistant.

His grand coach was not far away; the driver had kept the horses moving
slowly up and down by the canal, nearly all the time the doctor had been
in the cottage.

Hans went out also.

"May God bless you, mynheer!" he said, blushing and trembling. "I can
never repay you, but if----"

"Yes, you can," interrupted the doctor, crossly. "You can use your wits
when the patient wakes again. This clacking and snivelling is enough to
kill a well man, let alone one lying on the edge of his grave. If you
want your father to get well, keep 'em quiet."

So saying, Dr. Boekman, without another word, stalked off, to meet his
coach, leaving Hans standing there with eyes and mouth wide open.

Hilda was reprimanded severely that day for returning late to school
after recess, and for imperfect recitations.

She had remained near the cottage until she heard Dame Brinker laugh,
until she had heard Hans say, "Here I am, father!" and then she had gone
back to her lessons. What wonder that she missed them! How could she get
a long string of Latin verbs by heart, when her heart did not care a fig
for them, but would keep saying to itself, "Oh, I am so glad! I am so
glad!"



XXXV

BONES AND TONGUES


Bones are strange things. One would suppose that they knew nothing at
all about school affairs, but they do. Even Jacob Poot's bones, buried
as they were in flesh, were sharp in the matter of study hours.

Early on the morning of his return they ached through and through,
giving Jacob a twinge at every stroke of the school-bell--as if to say
"stop that clapper! There's trouble in it." After school, on the
contrary, they were quiet and comfortable; in fact, seemed to be taking
a nap among their cushions.

The other boys' bones behaved in a similar manner--but that is not so
remarkable. Being nearer the daylight than Jacob's, they might be
expected to be more learned in the ways of the world. Master Ludwig's,
especially, were like beauty, only skin deep; they were the most knowing
bones you ever heard of. Just put before him ever so quietly, a
Grammar-book with a long lesson marked in it, and immediately the sly
bone over his eyes would set up such an aching! Request him to go to the
garret for your foot-stove--instantly the bones would remind him that he
was "too tired." Ask him to go to the confectioner's, a mile away, and
_presto!_ not a bone would remember that it ever had been used before.

Bearing all this in mind you will not wonder when I tell you that our
five boys were among the happiest of the happy throng pouring forth from
the schoolhouse that day.

Peter was in excellent spirits. He had heard through Hilda of Dame
Brinker's laugh and of Hans' joyous words, and he needed no further
proof that Raff Brinker was a cured man. In fact the news had gone forth
in every direction, for miles around. Persons who had never before cared
for the Brinkers, or even mentioned them, except with a contemptuous
sneer or a shrug of pretended pity, now became singularly familiar with
every point of their history. There was no end to the number of
ridiculous stories that were flying about.

Hilda, in the excitement of the moment, had stopped to exchange a word
with the doctor's coachman, as he stood by the horses, pommelling his
chest and clapping his hands. Her kind heart was overflowing. She could
not help pausing to tell the cold, tired-looking man that she thought
the doctor would be out soon; she even hinted to him that she
suspected--only suspected--that a wonderful cure had been performed--an
idiot brought to his senses. Nay, she was _sure_ of it--for she had
heard his widow laugh--no, not his widow, of course, but his wife--for
the man was as much alive as anybody, and, for all she knew, sitting up
and talking like a lawyer.

All this was very indiscreet. Hilda in an impenitent sort of way felt it
to be so.

But it is always so delightful to impart pleasant or surprising news!

She went tripping along by the canal, quite resolved to repeat the sin,
_ad infinitum_, and tell nearly every girl and boy in the school.

Meantime, Janzoon Kolp came skating by. Of course, in two seconds, he
was striking slippery attitudes, and shouting saucy things to the
coachman, who stared at him in indolent disdain.

This, to Janzoon, was equivalent to an invitation to draw nearer. The
coachman was now upon his box gathering up the reins and grumbling at
his horses.

Janzoon accosted him.

"I say. What's going on at the idiot's cottage? Is your boss in there?"

Coachman nodded mysteriously.

"Whew!" whistled Janzoon, drawing closer. "Old Brinker dead?"

The driver grew big with importance, and silent in proportion.

"See here, old pincushion, I'd run home yonder and get you a chunk of
gingerbread if I thought you could open your mouth."

Old pincushion was human--long hours of waiting had made him ravenously
hungry. At Janzoon's hint, his countenance showed signs of a collapse.

"That's right, old fellow," pursued his tempter, "hurry up--what
news--old Brinker dead?"

"No--CURED! got his wits," said the coachman, shooting forth his words,
one at a time, like so many bullets.

Like bullets (figuratively speaking) they hit Janzoon Kolp. He jumped as
if he had been shot.

"Goede Gunst! you don't say so!"

The man pressed his lips together, and looked significantly toward
Master Kolp's shabby residence.

Just then Janzoon saw a group of boys in the distance. Hailing them in a
rowdy style, common to boys of his stamp all over the world, whether in
Africa, Japan, Amsterdam or Paris--he scampered toward them, forgetting
coachman, gingerbread, everything but the wonderful news.

Therefore by sundown it was well known throughout the neighboring
country that Dr. Boekman chancing to stop at the cottage had given the
idiot Brinker a tremendous dose of medicine, as brown as gingerbread. It
had taken six men to hold him while it was poured down. The idiot had
immediately sprung to his feet, in full possession of all his
faculties--knocked over the doctor, or thrashed him (there was admitted
to be a slight uncertainty as to which of these penalties was
inflicted), then sat down and addressed him for all the world like a
lawyer. After that he had turned and spoken beautifully to his wife and
children. Dame Brinker had laughed herself into violent hysterics. Hans
had said, "Here I am, father! your own dear son," and Gretel had said,
"Here I am, father, your own dear Gretel!" and the doctor had afterward
been seen leaning back in his carriage looking just as white as a
corpse.



XXXVI

A NEW ALARM


When Dr. Boekman called the next day at the Brinker cottage, he could
not help noticing the cheerful, comfortable aspect of the place. An
atmosphere of happiness breathed upon him as he opened the door. Dame
Brinker sat complacently knitting beside the bed, her husband was
enjoying a tranquil slumber, and Gretel was noiselessly kneading rye
bread on the table in the corner.

The doctor did not remain long. He asked a few simple questions,
appeared satisfied with the answers, and after feeling his patient's
pulse, said--"Ah, very weak yet, jufvrouw; very weak, indeed. He must
have nourishment. You may begin to feed the patient, ahem! not too much,
but what you do give him let it be strong and of the best."

"Black bread we have, mynheer, and porridge," replied Dame Brinker,
cheerily; "they have always agreed with him well."

"Tut! tut!" said the doctor frowning, "nothing of the kind. He must have
the juice of fresh meat, white bread, dried and toasted, good Malaga
wine, and--ahem! The man looks cold--give him more covering, something
light and warm. Where is the boy?"

"Hans, mynheer, has gone into Broek to look for work. He will be back
soon. Will the meester please be seated?"

Whether the hard polished stool offered by Dame Brinker did not look
particularly tempting, or whether the dame herself frightened him,
partly because she was a woman, and partly because an anxious,
distressed look had suddenly appeared in her face, I cannot say. Certain
it is that our eccentric doctor looked hurriedly about him, muttered
something about "extraordinary case," bowed, and disappeared, before
Dame Brinker had time to say another word.

Strange that the visit of their good benefactor should have left a
cloud, yet so it was. Gretel frowned, an anxious childish frown, and
kneaded the bread-dough violently, without looking up. Dame Brinker
hurried to her husband's bedside, leaned over him, and fell into silent
but passionate weeping.

In a moment Hans entered.

"Why, mother," he whispered in alarm, "what ails thee? Is the father
worse?"

She turned her quivering face toward him, making no attempt to conceal
her distress.

"Yes. He is starving--perishing. The meester said it."

Hans turned pale.

"What does this mean, mother? We must feed him at once. Here, Gretel,
give me the porridge."

"Nay!" cried his mother, distractedly, yet without raising her voice,
"it may kill him. Our poor fare is too heavy for him. Oh, Hans, he will
die--the father will _die_ if we use him this way. He must have meat,
and sweet wine, and a dek-bed. Oh, what shall I do? what shall I do?"
she sobbed, wringing her hands. "There is not a stiver in the house."

Gretel pouted; it was the only way she could express sympathy just then;
her tears fell one by one into the dough.

"Did the meester say he _must_ have these things, mother?" asked Hans.

"Yes, he did."

"Well, mother, don't cry, _he shall have them_; I shall bring meat and
wine before night. Take the cover from my bed. I can sleep in the
straw."

"Yes, Hans; but it is heavy, scant as it is. The meester said he must
have something light and warm. He will perish. Our peat is giving out,
Hans. The father has wasted it sorely, throwing it on when I was not
looking, dear man."

"Never mind, mother," whispered Hans, cheerfully. "We can cut down the
willow tree and burn it, if need be; but I'll bring home something
to-night. There _must_ be work in Amsterdam, though there's none in
Broek. Never fear, mother; the worst trouble of all is past. We can
brave anything now that the father is himself again."

"Aye!" sobbed Dame Brinker, hastily drying her eyes, "that is true
indeed."

"Of course it is. Look at him, mother, how softly he sleeps. Do you
think God would let him starve, just after giving him back to us. Why,
mother, I'm as _sure_ of getting all the father needs, as if my pocket
was bursting with gold. There, now, don't fret." And hurriedly kissing
her, Hans caught up his skates and slipped from the cottage.

Poor Hans! Disappointed in his morning's errand, half sickened with this
new trouble, he wore a brave look, and tried to whistle as he tramped
resolutely off with the firm intention of mending matters.

Want had never before pressed as sorely upon the Brinker family. Their
stock of peat was nearly exhausted, and all the flour in the cottage
was in Gretel's dough. They had scarcely cared to eat during the past
few days--scarcely realized their condition. Dame Brinker had felt so
sure that she and the children could earn money before the worst came,
that she had given herself up to the joy of her husband's recovery. She
had not even told Hans that the few pieces of silver in the old mitten
were quite gone.

Hans reproached himself, now, that he had not hailed the doctor when he
saw him enter his coach and drive rapidly away in the direction of
Amsterdam.

"Perhaps there is some mistake," he thought. "The meester surely would
have known that meat and sweet wine were not at our command; and yet the
father looks very weak--he certainly does. I _must_ get work. If Mynheer
van Holp were back from Rotterdam I could get plenty to do. But Master
Peter told me to let him know if he could do aught to serve us. I shall
go to him at once. Oh, if it were but summer!"

All this time Hans was hastening toward the canal. Soon his skates were
on, and he was skimming rapidly toward the residence of Mynheer van
Holp.

"The father must have meat and wine at once," he muttered, "but how can
I earn the money in time to buy them to-day? There is no other way but
to go, as I _promised_, to Master Peter. What would a gift of meat and
wine be to him? When the father is once fed, I can rush down to
Amsterdam and earn the morrow's supply."

Then came other thoughts--thoughts that made his heart thump heavily and
his cheeks burn with a new shame--"It is _begging_, to say the least.
Not one of the Brinkers has ever been a beggar. Shall I be the first?
Shall my poor father just coming back into life learn that his family
have asked for charity--he, always so wise and thrifty? No," cried Hans
aloud, "better a thousand times to part with the watch.

"I can at least borrow money on it, in Amsterdam!" he thought, turning
around. "That will be no disgrace. I can find work at once, and get it
back again. Nay, perhaps I can even _speak to the father about it_!"

This last thought almost made the lad dance for joy. Why not, indeed,
speak to the father? He was a rational being now. "He may wake," thought
Hans, "quite bright and rested--may tell us the watch is of no
consequence, to sell it of course! Hoezza!" and Hans almost flew over
the ice.

A few moments more and the skates were again swinging from his arm. He
was running toward the cottage.

His mother met him at the door.

"Oh, Hans!" she cried, her face radiant with joy, "the young lady has
been here with her maid. She brought everything--meat, jelly, wine and
bread--a whole basketful! Then the meester sent a man from town with
more wine, and a fine bed and blankets for the father. Oh! he will get
well now. God bless them!"

"God bless them!" echoed Hans, and for the first time that day, his eyes
filled with tears.



XXXVII

THE FATHER'S RETURN


That evening Raff Brinker felt so much better that he insisted upon
sitting up a while on the rough, high-backed chair by the fire. For a
few moments there was quite a commotion in the little cottage. Hans was
all-important on the occasion, for his father was a heavy man, and
needed something firm to lean upon. The dame, though none of your
fragile ladies, was in such a state of alarm and excitement at the bold
step they were taking in lifting him without the meester's orders, that
she came near pulling her husband over, even while she believed herself
to be his main prop and support.

"Steady, vrouw, steady," panted Raff; "have I grown old and feeble, or
is it the fever makes me thus helpless?"

"Hear the man!" laughed Dame Brinker, "talking like any other Christian.
Why, you're only weak from the fever, Raff. Here's the chair, all fixed
snug and warm; now, sit thee down--hi-di-didy--there we are!"

With these words, Dame Brinker let her half of the burden settle slowly
into the chair. Hans prudently did the same.

Meanwhile Gretel flew about generally, bringing every possible thing to
her mother to tuck behind the father's back and spread over his knees.
Then she twitched the carved bench under his feet, and Hans kicked the
fire to make it brighter.

The father was "sitting up" at last. What wonder that he looked about
him like one bewildered. "Little Hans" had just been almost carrying
him. "The baby" was over four feet long, and was demurely brushing up
the hearth with a bundle of willow wisps. Meitje, the vrouw, winsome and
fair as ever, had gained at least fifty pounds in what seemed to him a
few hours. She also had some new lines in her face that puzzled him. The
only familiar things in the room were the pine table that he had made
before he was married, the Bible upon the shelf, and the cupboard in the
corner.

Ah! Raff Brinker, it was only natural that your eyes should fill with
hot tears even while looking at the joyful faces of your loved ones. Ten
years dropped from a man's life are no small loss; ten years of manhood,
of household happiness and care; ten years of honest labor, of conscious
enjoyment of sunshine and outdoor beauty, ten years of grateful
life--One day looking forward to all this; the next, waking to find them
passed, and a blank. What wonder the scalding tears dropped one by one
upon your cheek!

Tender little Gretel! The prayer of her life was answered through those
tears. She _loved_ her father from that moment. Hans and his mother
glanced silently at each other when they saw her spring toward him and
throw her arms about his neck.

"Father, _dear_ father," she whispered, pressing her cheek close to his,
"don't cry. We are all here."

"God bless thee," sobbed Raff, kissing her again and again. "I had
forgotten that!"

Soon he looked up again, and spoke in a cheerful voice: "I should know
her, vrouw," he said, holding the sweet young face between his hands,
and gazing at it as though he were watching it grow. "I should know
her. The same blue eyes, and the lips, and, ah! me, the little song she
could sing almost before she could stand. But that was long ago," he
added, with a sigh, still looking at her dreamily, "long ago; it's all
gone now."

"Not so, indeed," cried Dame Brinker, eagerly. "Do you think I would let
her forget it? Gretel, child, sing the old song thou hast known so
long!"

Raff Brinker's hands fell wearily and his eyes closed, but it was
something to see the smile playing about his mouth, as Gretel's voice
floated about him like an incense.

It was a simple air; she had never known the words.

With loving instinct she softened every note, until Raff almost fancied
that his two-year-old baby was once more beside him.

       *       *       *       *       *

As soon as the song was finished, Hans mounted a wooden stool and began
to rummage in the cupboard.

"Have a care, Hans," said Dame Brinker, who through all her poverty was
ever a tidy housewife. "Have a care, the wine is there at your right,
and the white bread beyond it."

"Never fear, mother," answered Hans, reaching far back on an upper
shelf, "I shall do no mischief."

Jumping down, he walked toward his father, and placed an oblong block of
pine-wood in his hands. One of its ends was rounded off, and some deep
cuts had been made on the top.

"Do you know what it is, father?" asked Hans.

Raff Brinker's face brightened. "Indeed I do, boy; it is the boat I was
making you yest--alack, not yesterday, but years ago."

"I have kept it ever since, father; it can be finished when your hand
grows strong again."

"Yes, but not for you, my lad. I must wait for the grandchildren. Why,
you are nearly a man. Have you helped your mother, boy, through all
these years?"

"Aye, and bravely," put in Dame Brinker.

"Let me see," muttered the father, looking in a puzzled way at them all,
"how long is it since the night when the waters were coming in? 'Tis the
last I remember."

"We have told thee true, Raff. It was ten years last Pinxter-week."

"Ten years--and I fell then, you say. Has the fever been on me ever
since?"

Dame Brinker scarce knew how to reply. Should she tell him all? Tell him
that he had been an idiot, almost a lunatic? The doctor had charged her
on no account to worry or excite his patient.

Hans and Gretel looked astonished when the answer came.

"Like enough, Raff," she said, nodding her head, and raising her
eyebrows, "when a heavy man like thee falls on his head, it's hard to
say what will come--but thou'rt well _now_, Raff. Thank the good Lord!"

The newly-awakened man bowed his head.

"Aye, well enough, mine vrouw," he said, after a moment's silence, "but
my brain turns somehow like a spinning-wheel. It will not be right till
I get on the dykes again. When shall I be at work, think you?"

"Hear the man!" cried Dame Brinker delighted, yet frightened, too, for
that matter; "we must get him on the bed, Hans. Work, indeed!"

They tried to raise him from the chair--but he was not ready yet.

"Be off with ye!" he said, with something like his old smile (Gretel had
never seen it before); "does a man want to be lifted about like a log? I
tell you before three suns I shall be on the dykes again. Ah! there'll
be some stout fellows to greet me. Jan Kamphuisen and young Hoogsvliet.
They have been good friends to thee, Hans, I'll warrant."

Hans looked at his mother. Young Hoogsvliet had been dead five years.
Jan Kamphuisen was in the jail at Amsterdam.

"Aye, they'd have done their share no doubt," said Dame Brinker,
parrying the inquiry, "had we asked them. But what with working and
studying, Hans has been busy enough without seeking comrades."

"Working and studying," echoed Raff, in a musing tone; "can the
youngsters read and cipher, Meitje?"

"You should hear them!" she answered proudly. "They can run through a
book while I mop the floor. Hans there is as happy over a page of big
words as a rabbit in a cabbage patch--as for ciphering----"

"Here, lad, help a bit," interrupted Raff Brinker. "I must get me on the
bed again."



XXXVIII

THE THOUSAND GUILDERS


None seeing the humble supper eaten in the Brinker cottage that night
would have dreamed of the dainty fare hidden away near by. Hans and
Gretel looked rather wistfully toward the cupboard as they drank their
cupful of water and ate their scanty share of black bread; but even in
thought they did not rob their father.

"He relished his supper well," said Dame Brinker nodding sidewise toward
the bed, "and fell asleep the next moment--Ah, the dear man will be
feeble for many a day. He wanted sore to sit up again, but while I made
show of humoring him, and getting ready, he dropped off. Remember that,
my girl, when you have a man of your own (and many a day may it be
before that comes to pass), remember you can never rule by differing;
'humble wife is husband's boss----' Tut! tut! never swallow such a
mouthful as that again, child; why, I could make a meal off of two such
pieces. What's in thee, Hans? One would think there were cob-webs on the
wall."

"Oh, no, mother, I was only thinking----"

"Thinking, about what? Ah, no use asking," she added in a changed tone.
"I was thinking of the same a while ago--well, well--It's no blame if we
_did_ look to hear something by this time about the thousand guilders;
but, not a word--no--it's plain enough he knows naught about them."

Hans looked up anxiously, dreading lest his mother should grow
agitated, as usual, when speaking of the lost money; but she was
silently nibbling her bread and looking with a doleful stare toward the
window.

"Thousand guilders," echoed a faint voice from the bed. "Ah, I am sure
they have been of good use to you, vrouw, through the long years while
your man was idle."

The poor woman started up. These words quite destroyed the hope that of
late had been glowing within her.

"Are you awake, Raff?" she faltered.

"Yes, Meitje, and I feel much better. Our money was well saved, vrouw, I
was saying. Did it last through all these ten years?"

"I--I--have not got it, Raff, I----" She was going to tell him the whole
truth, when Hans lifted his finger warningly and whispered:

"Remember what the meester told us; the father must not be worried."

"Speak to him, child," she answered, trembling.

Hans hurried to the bedside.

"I am glad you are feeling better," he said, leaning over his father;
"another day will see you quite strong again."

"Aye, like enough. How long did the money last, Hans? I could not hear
your mother. What did she say?"

"I said, Raff," stammered Dame Brinker in great distress, "that it was
all gone."

"Well, well, wife, do not fret at that; one thousand guilders is not so
very much for ten years, and with children to bring up; but it has
helped to make you all comfortable. Have you had much sickness to
bear?"

"N-no," sobbed Dame Brinker lifting her apron to her eyes.

"Tut--tut, woman, why do you cry?" said Raff, kindly; "we will soon fill
another pouch, when I am on my feet again. Lucky I told you all about it
before I fell."

"Told me what, man?"

"Why, that I buried the money. In my dream just now, it seemed I had
never said aught about it."

Dame Brinker started forward. Hans caught her arm.

"Hist! mother," he whispered, hastily leading her away, "we must be very
careful." Then while she stood with clasped hands waiting in breathless
anxiety, he once more approached the cot. Trembling with eagerness he
said:

"That was a troublesome dream. Do you remember _when_ you buried the
money, father?"

"Yes, my boy. It was before daylight on the same day I was hurt. Jan
Kamphuisen said something, the sundown before, that made me distrust his
honesty. He was the only one living besides mother who knew we had saved
a thousand guilders--so I rose up that night and buried the
money--blockhead that I was ever to suspect an old friend!"

"I'll be bound, father," pursued Hans in a laughing voice, motioning to
his mother and Gretel to remain quiet--"that you've forgotten where you
buried it."

"Ha! ha! not I, indeed--but good-night, my son, I can sleep again."

Hans would have walked away, but his mother's gestures were not to be
disobeyed--so he said gently:

"Good-night, father. Where did you say you buried the money? I was only
a little one then."

"Close by the willow sapling behind the cottage," said Raff Brinker
drowsily.

"Ah, yes. North side of the tree, wasn't it, father?"

"No, the south side. Ah, you know the spot well enough, you rogue--like
enough you were there when your mother lifted it. Now, son--easy--shift
this pillow--so. Good-night."

"Good-night, father!" said Hans, ready to dance for joy.

       *       *       *       *       *

The moon rose very late that night, shining in, full and clear, at the
little window; but its beams did not disturb Raff Brinker. He slept
soundly, so did Gretel. As for Hans and his mother, they had something
else to do.

After making a few hurried preparations, they stole forth with bright
expectant faces, bearing a broken spade and a rusty implement that had
done many a day's service when Raff was a hale worker on the dykes.

It was so light out of doors they could see the willow tree distinctly.
The frozen ground was hard as stone, but Hans and his mother were
resolute. Their only dread was that they might disturb the sleepers in
the cottage.

"This ysbrekker is just the thing, mother," said Hans striking many a
vigorous blow--"but the ground has set so firm it'll be a fair match for
it."

"Never fear, Hans," she answered, watching him eagerly; "here, let me
try a while."

They soon succeeded in making an impression; one opening, and the rest
was not so difficult.

Still they worked on, taking turns and whispering cheerily to one
another. Now and then Dame Brinker stepped noiselessly over the
threshold and listened, to be certain that her husband slept.

"What grand news it will be for him," she said, laughing, "when he is
strong enough to bear it. How I should like to put the pouch and the
stocking, just as we find them, all full of money, near him this blessed
night, for the dear man to see when he wakens."

"We must get them, first, mother," panted Hans, still tugging away at
his work.

"There's no doubt of that. They can't slip away from us now," she
answered, shivering with cold and excitement, as she crouched beside the
opening. "Like enough we'll find them stowed in the old earthen pot I
lost long ago."

By this time Hans, too, began to tremble, but not with cold. He had
penetrated a foot deep for quite a space on the south side of the tree.
At any moment they might come upon the treasure.

Meantime the stars winked and blinked at each other as if to say, "Queer
country, this Holland! How much we do see to be sure!"

"Strange that the dear father should have put it down so woeful deep,"
said Dame Brinker, in rather a provoked tone. "Ah, the ground was soft
enough then, I warrant. How wise of him to mistrust Jan Kamphuisen, and
Jan in full credit at the time. Little I thought that handsome fellow
with his gay ways would ever go to jail! Now, Hans, let me take a
turn--it's lighter work, d'ye see? the deeper we go. I'd be loath to
kill the tree, Hans--will we harm it, think you?"

"I cannot say," he answered, gravely.

Hour after hour, mother and son worked on. The hole grew larger and
deeper. Clouds began to gather in the sky, throwing elfish shadows as
they passed. Not until moon and stars faded away and streaks of daylight
began to appear, did Meitje Brinker and Hans look hopelessly into each
other's face.

They had searched thoroughly, desperately, all round the tree; south,
north, east, west. _The hidden money was not there!_



XXXIX

GLIMPSES


Annie Bouman had a healthy distaste for Janzoon Kolp. Janzoon Kolp, in
his own rough way, adored Annie. Annie declared she could not "to save
her life" say one civil word to that odious boy. Janzoon believed her to
be the sweetest, sauciest creature in the world. Annie laughed among her
playmates at the comical flapping of Janzoon's tattered and dingy
jacket; he sighed in solitude over the floating grace of her jaunty blue
petticoat. She thanked her stars that her brothers were not like the
Kolps; and he growled at his sister because she was not like the
Boumans. They seemed to exchange natures whenever they met. His presence
made her harsh and unfeeling; and the very sight of _her_ made him
gentle as a lamb. Of course they were thrown together very often. It is
thus that in some mysterious way we are convinced of error and cured of
prejudice. In this case, however, the scheme failed. Annie detested
Janzoon more and more at each encounter; and Janzoon liked her better
and better every day.

"He killed a stork, the wicked old wretch!" she would say to herself.

"She knows I am strong and fearless," thought Janzoon.

"How red and freckled and ugly he is!" was Annie's secret comment when
she looked at him.

"How she stares, and stares!" thought Janzoon. "Well, I am a fine,
weather-beaten fellow, anyway."

"Janzoon Kolp, you impudent boy, go right away from me!" Annie often
said. "I don't want any of your company."

"Ha! ha!" laughed Janzoon to himself, "girls never say what they mean.
I'll skate with her every chance I can get."

And so it came to pass that the pretty maid would not look up that
morning when, skating homeward from Amsterdam, she became convinced that
a great burly boy was coming down the canal, toward her.

"Humph! if I look at him," thought Annie, "I'll----"

"Good-morrow, Annie Bouman," said a pleasant voice.

[How a smile brightens a girl's face!]

"Good-morrow, Master Hans, I am right glad to meet you."

[How a smile brightens a boy's face!]

"Good-morrow again, Annie. There has been a great change at our house
since you left."

"How so?" she exclaimed, opening her eyes very wide.

Hans, who had been in a great hurry, and rather moody, grew talkative
and quite at leisure in Annie's sunshine.

Turning about, and skating slowly with her toward Broek, he told the
good news of his father. Annie was so true a friend that he told her
even of their present distress, of how money was needed, and how
everything depended upon his obtaining work, and he could find nothing
to do in the neighborhood.

All this was not said as a complaint, but just because she was looking
at him, and really wished to know. He could not speak of last night's
bitter disappointment, for that secret was not wholly his own.

"Good-bye, Annie!" he said at last. "The morning is going fast, and I
must haste to Amsterdam and sell these skates. Mother must have money at
once. Before nightfall I shall certainly find a job somewhere."

"Sell your new skates, Hans!" cried Annie; "you, the best skater around
Broek! Why, the race is coming off in five days!"

"I know it," he answered resolutely. "Good-bye! I shall skate home again
on the old wooden ones."

Such a bright glance! So different from Janzoon's ugly grin--and Hans
was off like an arrow.

"Hans! come back," she called.

Her voice changed the arrow into a top. Spinning around, he darted, in
one long, leaning sweep, toward her.

"Then you really are going to sell your new skates if you can find a
customer."

"Of course I am," he replied looking up with a surprised smile.

"Well, Hans, if you _are_ going to sell your skates," said Annie,
somewhat confused, "I mean if you----Well, I know somebody who would
like to buy them--that's all."

"Not Janzoon Kolp?" asked Hans, flushing.

"Oh, no," she pouted, "he is not one of my friends."

"But you _know_ him," persisted Hans.

Annie laughed. "Yes, I know him, and it's all the worse for him that I
do. Now please, Hans, don't ever talk any more to me about Janzoon. I
hate him!"

"Hate him! _you_ hate any one, Annie?"

She shook her head saucily. "Yes; and I'll hate you too, if you persist
in calling him one of my friends. You boys may like him because he
caught the greased goose at the Kermis last summer, and climbed the pole
with his great, ugly body tied up in a sack, but I don't care for such
things. I've disliked him ever since I saw him try to push his little
sister out of the merry-go-round at Amsterdam; and it's no secret up
_our_ way who killed the stork on your mother's roof. But we mustn't
talk about such a bad, wicked fellow. Really, Hans, I know somebody who
would be glad to buy your skates. You won't get half a price for them in
Amsterdam. _Please_ give them to me. I'll take you the money this very
afternoon."

If Annie was charming even when she said "hate," there was no
withstanding her when she said "please"; at least Hans found it to be
so.

"Annie," he said, taking off the skates, and rubbing them carefully with
a snarl of twine before handing them to her, "I am sorry to be so
particular; but if your friend should not want them, will you bring them
back to me to-day? I must buy peat and meal for the mother early
to-morrow morning."

"My friend _will_ want them," laughed Annie, nodding gaily, and skating
off at the top of her speed.

As Hans drew forth the wooden "runners" from his capacious pockets and
fastened them on as best he could, he did not hear Annie murmur, "I wish
I had not been so rude; poor, brave Hans; what a noble boy he is!" And
as Annie skated homeward filled with pleasant thoughts, she did not hear
Hans say, "I grumbled like a bear--but bless her! some girls are like
angels!"

Perhaps it was all for the best. One cannot be expected to know
everything that is going on in the world.



XL

LOOKING FOR WORK


Luxuries unfit us for returning to hardships easily endured before. The
wooden runners squeaked more than ever. It was as much as Hans could do
to get on with the clumsy old things; still he did not regret that he
had parted with his beautiful skates--but resolutely pushed back the
boyish trouble that he had not been able to keep them just a little
longer, at least until after the race.

"Mother surely will not be angry with me," he thought, "for selling them
without her leave. She has had care enough already. It will be full time
to speak of it when I take home the money."

Hans went up and down the streets of Amsterdam that day, looking for
work. He succeeded in earning a few stivers by assisting a man who was
driving a train of loaded mules into the city, but he could not secure
steady employment anywhere. He would have been glad to obtain a
situation as porter or errand-boy, but though he passed, on his way,
many a loitering, shuffling urchin, laden with bundles, there was no
place for him. Some shopkeepers had just supplied themselves; others
needed a trimmer, more lightly-built fellow (they meant better dressed,
but did not choose to say so); others told him to call again in a month
or two, when the canals would probably be broken up; and many shook
their heads at him without saying a word.

At the factories he met with no better luck. It seemed to him that in
those great buildings, turning out respectively such tremendous
quantities of woolen, cotton and linen stuffs, such world-renowned dyes
and paints, such precious diamonds cut from the rough, such supplies of
meal, of bricks, of glass and china--that in at least one of these, a
strong-armed boy, able and eager to work, could find something to do.
But no--nearly the same answer met him everywhere, "no need of more
hands just now. If he had called before Nicholas' day they might have
given him a job, as they were hurried then; but at present they had more
boys than they needed." Hans wished they could see, just for a moment,
his mother and Gretel. He did not know how the anxiety of both looked
out from his eyes, and how more than once, the gruffest denials were
uttered with an uncomfortable consciousness that the lad ought not to be
turned away. Certain fathers, when they went home that night, spoke more
kindly than usual to their own youngsters, from memory of a frank, young
face saddened at their words; and before morning one man actually
resolved that if the Broek boy came in again he would instruct his head
man Blankert to set him at something.

But Hans knew nothing of all this. Toward sundown he started on his
return to Broek, uncertain whether the strange, choking sensation in his
throat arose from discouragement or resolution. There was certainly one
more chance. Mynheer van Holp might have returned by this time. Master
Peter it was reported had gone to Haarlem the night before, to attend to
something connected with the great Skating Race. Still Hans would go and
try.

Fortunately, Peter had returned early that morning. He was at home when
Hans reached there, and was just about starting for the Brinker cottage.

"Ah, Hans!" he cried as the weary boy approached the door. "You are the
very one I wished to see. Come in and warm yourself."

After tugging at his well-worn hat, which always _would_ stick to his
head when he was embarrassed, Hans knelt down--not by way of making a
new style of oriental salute--nor to worship the goddess of cleanliness
who presided there--but because his heavy shoes would have filled the
soul of a Broek housewife with horror. When their owner stepped softly
into the house, they were left outside to act as sentinels until his
return.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hans left the Van Holp mansion with a lightened heart. Peter had brought
word from Haarlem that young Brinker was to commence working upon the
summer-house doors immediately. There was a comfortable workshop on the
place and it was to be at his service until the carving was done.

Peter did not tell Hans that he had skated all the way to Haarlem for
the purpose of arranging this plan with Mynheer van Holp. It was enough
for him to see the glad, eager look rise on young Brinker's face.

"I _think_ I can do it," said Hans, "though I have never learned the
trade."

"I am _sure_ you can," responded Peter, heartily. "You will find every
tool you require in the workshop. It is nearly hidden yonder by that
wall of twigs. In summer when the hedge is green, one cannot see the
shop from here at all. How is your father to-day?"

"Better, mynheer--he improves every hour."

"It is the most astonishing thing I ever heard of. That gruff old doctor
is a great fellow after all."

"Ah! mynheer," said Hans, warmly, "he is more than great. He is good.
But for the meester's kind heart and great skill my poor father would
yet be in the dark. I think, mynheer," he added, with kindling eyes,
"surgery is the very noblest science in the world!"

Peter shrugged his shoulders. "Very noble it may be, but not quite to my
taste. This Dr. Boekman certainly has skill. As for his heart--defend me
from such hearts as his!"

"Why do you say so, mynheer?" asked Hans.

Just then a lady slowly entered from an adjoining apartment. It was
Mevrouw van Holp arrayed in the grandest of caps, and the longest of
satin aprons ruffled with lace. She nodded placidly as Hans stepped back
from the fire bowing as well as he knew how.

Peter at once drew a high-backed oaken chair toward the fire, and the
lady seated herself. There was a block of cork on each side of the
chimney-place. One of these he placed under his mother's feet.

Hans turned to go.

"Wait a moment, if you please, young man," said the lady. "I
accidentally overheard you and my son speaking I think of my friend Dr.
Boekman. You are right, young man. Dr. Boekman has a very kind heart.
You perceive, Peter, we may be quite mistaken in judging of a person
solely by their manners, though a courteous deportment is by no means to
be despised."

"I intended no disrespect, mother," said Peter, "but surely one has no
right to go growling and snarling through the world, as they say he
does."

"They say. Ah, Peter, 'they' means everybody or nobody. Surgeon Boekman
has had a great sorrow. Many years ago he lost his only child, under
very painful circumstances, a fine lad, except that he was a thought too
hasty and high spirited. Before then Gerard Boekman was one of the most
agreeable gentlemen I ever knew."

So saying, Mevrouw van Holp, looking kindly upon the two boys, arose and
left the room with the same dignity with which she had entered.

Peter, only half convinced, muttered something about "the sin of
allowing sorrow to turn all one's honey into gall," as he conducted his
visitor to the narrow side-door. Before they parted, he advised Hans to
keep himself in good skating order, "for," he added, "now that your
father is all right, you will be in fine spirits for the race. That will
be the prettiest skating show ever seen in this part of the world.
Everybody is talking of it; you are to try for the prize, remember."

"I shall not be in the race, mynheer," said Hans, looking down.

"Not be in the race! Why not indeed?" and immediately Peter's thoughts
swept on a full tide of suspicion toward Carl Schummel.

"Because I cannot, mynheer," answered Hans, as he bent to slip his feet
into his big shoes.

Something in the boy's manner warned Peter that it would be no kindness
to press the matter further. He bade Hans "good-bye," and stood
thoughtfully watching him as he walked away.

In a minute Peter called out:

"Hans Brinker!"

"Yes, mynheer."

"I'll take back all I said about Dr. Boekman."

"Yes, mynheer."

Both were laughing. But Peter's smile changed to a look of puzzled
surprise when he saw Hans kneel down by the canal and put on the wooden
skates.

"Very queer," muttered Peter shaking his head as he turned to go into
the house; "why in the world don't the boy wear his new ones?"



XLI

THE FAIRY GODMOTHER


The sun had gone down quite out of sight when our hero--with a happy
heart but with something like a sneer on his countenance, as he jerked
off the wooden "runners"--trudged hopefully toward the tiny hut-like
building, known of old as the Idiot's cottage.

Duller eyes than his would have discerned two slight figures moving near
the doorway.

That gray, well-patched jacket and the dull blue skirt covered with an
apron of still duller blue, that faded, close-fitting cap, and those
quick little feet in their great boat-like shoes, they were Gretel's of
course. He would have known them anywhere.

That bright coquettish red jacket, with its pretty skirt, bordered with
black, that graceful cap bobbing over the gold earrings, that dainty
apron, and those snug leather shoes that seemed to have grown with the
feet--Why if the Pope of Rome had sent them to him by express, Hans
could have sworn they were Annie's.

The two girls were slowly pacing up and down in front of the cottage.
Their arms were entwined, of course, and their heads were nodding and
shaking as emphatically as if all the affairs of the kingdom were under
discussion.

With a joyous shout, Hans hastened toward them.

"Huzza, girls, I've found work!"

This brought his mother to the cottage door.

She, too, had pleasant tidings. The father was still improving. He had
been sitting up nearly all day, and was now sleeping as Dame Brinker
declared, "just as quiet as a lamb."

"It is my turn now, Hans," said Annie, drawing him aside after he had
told his mother the good word from Mynheer van Holp. "Your skates are
sold and here's the money."

"Seven guilders!" cried Hans counting the pieces in astonishment; "why,
that is three times as much as I paid for them."

"I cannot help that," said Annie. "If the buyer knew no better, it is
not our fault."

Hans looked up quickly.

"Oh, Annie!"

"Oh, Hans!" she mimicked, pursing her lips, and trying to look
desperately wicked and unprincipled.

"Now, Annie, I know you would never mean that! You must return some of
this money."

"But I'll not do any such thing," insisted Annie; "they're sold, and
that's an end of it," then seeing that he looked really pained she added
in a lower tone:

"Will you believe me, Hans, when I say that there has been no
mistake--that the person who bought your skates _insisted_ upon paying
seven guilders for them?"

"I will," he answered--and the light from his clear blue eyes seemed to
settle and sparkle under Annie's lashes.

Dame Brinker was delighted at the sight of so much silver, but when she
learned that Hans had parted with his treasures to obtain it, she
sighed, as she exclaimed:

"Bless thee, child! That will be a sore loss for thee!"

"Here, mother," said the boy, plunging his hands far into his pockets,
"here is more--we shall be rich if we keep on!"

"Aye, indeed," she answered, eagerly reaching forth her hand. Then,
lowering her voice, added, "we _would_ be rich but for that Jan
Kamphuisen. He was at the willow tree years ago, Hans--depend upon it!"

"Indeed, it seems likely," sighed Hans. "Well, mother, we must give up
the money bravely. It is certainly gone; the father has told us all he
knows. Let us think no more about it."

"That's easy saying, Hans. I shall try, but it's hard, and my poor man
wanting so many comforts. Bless me! How girls fly about. They were here
but this instant. Where did they run to?"

"They slipped behind the cottage," said Hans, "like enough to hide from
us. Hist! I'll catch them for you! They both can move quicker and softer
than yonder rabbit, but I'll give them a good start first."

"Why, there _is_ a rabbit, sure enough. Hold, Hans, the poor thing must
have been in sore need to venture from its burrow this bitter weather.
I'll get a few crumbs for it within."

So saying, the good woman bustled into the cottage. She soon came out
again, but Hans had forgotten to wait, and the rabbit after taking a
cool survey of the premises had scampered off to unknown quarters.
Turning the corner of the cottage, Dame Brinker came upon the children.
Hans and Gretel were standing before Annie who was seated carelessly
upon a stump.

"That is as good as a picture!" cried Dame Brinker halting in admiration
of the group. "Many a painting have I seen at the grand house at
Heidelberg not a whit prettier. My two are rough chubs, Annie, but
_you_ look like a fairy."

"Do I?" laughed Annie, sparkling with animation. "Well then, Gretel and
Hans, imagine I'm your godmother just paying you a visit. Now I'll grant
you each a wish. What will you have, Master Hans?"

A shade of earnestness passed over Annie's face as she looked up at
him--perhaps it was because she wished from the depths of her heart that
for once she could have a fairy's power.

Something whispered to Hans that, for the moment, she was more than
mortal.

"I wish," said he, solemnly, "I could find something I was searching for
last night."

Gretel laughed merrily. Dame Brinker moaned, "Shame on you, Hans!" and
passed wearily into the cottage.

The fairy godmother sprang up and stamped her foot three times.

"Thou shalt have thy wish," said she, "let them say what they will."
Then with playful solemnity, she put her hand in her apron pocket and
drew forth a large glass bead. "Bury this," said she, giving it to Hans,
"where I have stamped, and ere moonrise thy wish shall be granted."

Gretel laughed more merrily than ever.

The godmother pretended great displeasure.

"Naughty child," said she, scowling terribly. "In punishment for
laughing at a fairy, _thy_ wish shall not be granted."

"Ha!" cried Gretel in high glee, "better wait till you're asked,
godmother. I haven't made any wish!"

Annie acted her part well. Never smiling, through all their merry
laughter, she stalked away, the embodiment of offended dignity.

"Good-night, fairy!" they cried again and again.

"Good-night, mortals!" she called out at last as she sprang over a
frozen ditch, and ran quickly homeward.

"Oh, isn't she--just like flowers--so sweet and lovely!" cried Gretel,
looking after her in great admiration, "and to think how many days she
stays in that dark room with her grandmother--Why, brother Hans! What is
the matter? What are you going to do?"

"Wait and see!" answered Hans as he plunged into the cottage and came
out again, all in an instant, bearing the spade and ysbrekker in his
hands--"I'm going to bury my magic bead!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Raff Brinker still slept soundly; his wife took a small block of peat
from her nearly exhausted store, and put it upon the embers. Then
opening the door, she called gently:

"Come in, children."

"Mother! mother! See here!" shouted Hans.

"Holy St. Bavon!" exclaimed the dame, springing over the door-step.
"What ails the boy!"

"Come quick, mother," he cried, in great excitement, working with all
his might, and driving in the ysbrekker at each word. "Don't you see?
_This_ is the spot--right here on the south side of the stump.
Why didn't we think of it last night? _The stump_ is the old
willow-tree--the one you cut down last spring because it shaded the
potatoes. That little tree wasn't here when father--Huzzah!"

Dame Brinker could not speak. She dropped on her knees beside Hans just
in time to see him drag forth--_the old stone pot_!

He thrust in his hand and took out--a piece of brick--then another--then
another--then, the stocking and the pouch, black and mouldy, but filled
with the long lost treasure!

Such a time! Such laughing! Such crying! Such counting, after they went
into the cottage! It was a wonder that Raff did not waken. His dreams
were pleasant, however, for he smiled in his sleep.

Dame Brinker and her children had a fine supper, I can assure you. No
need of saving the delicacies now.

"We'll get father some nice fresh things, to-morrow," said the dame, as
she brought forth cold meat, wine, bread and jelly, and placed them on
the clean pine table. "Sit by, children, sit by."

       *       *       *       *       *

That night, Annie fell asleep wondering whether it was a knife Hans had
lost, and thinking how funny it would be if he should find it, after
all.

Hans had scarce closed his eyes, before he found himself trudging
through a thicket; pots of gold were lying all around, and watches, and
skates, and glittering beads were swinging from every branch.

Strange to say, each tree, as he approached it, changed into a stump,
and on the stump sat the prettiest fairy imaginable, clad in a scarlet
jacket, and blue petticoat.

[Illustration: _"Good-night," they cried_]



XLII

THE MYSTERIOUS WATCH


Something else than the missing guilders was brought to light on the day
of the fairy godmother's visit. This was the story of the watch that for
ten long years had been so jealously guarded by Raff's faithful vrouw.
Through many an hour of sore temptation she had dreaded almost to look
upon it, lest she might be tempted to disobey her husband's request. It
had been hard to see her children hungry and to know that the watch, if
sold, would enable the roses to bloom in their cheeks again--"but nay,"
she would exclaim, "Meitje Brinker is not one to forget her man's last
bidding, come what may."

"Take good care of this, mine vrouw," he had said, as he handed it to
her--that was all. No explanation followed, for the words were scarcely
spoken, when one of his fellow workmen rushed into the cottage, crying,
"Come, man! the waters are rising! you're wanted on the dykes."

Raff had started at once, and that, as Dame Brinker has already told
you, was the last she saw of him in his right mind.

On the day when Hans was in Amsterdam looking for work, and Gretel,
after performing her household labors, was wandering about in search of
chips, twigs--anything that could be burned, Dame Brinker with
suppressed excitement had laid the watch in her husband's hand.

"It wasn't in reason," as she afterward said to Hans, "to wait any
longer, when a word from the father would settle all; no woman living
but would want to know how he came by that watch." Raff Brinker turned
the bright, polished thing over and over in his hand--then he examined
the bit of smoothly ironed black ribbon fastened to it; he seemed hardly
to recognize it. At last he said, "Ah, I remember this! Why, you've been
rubbing it, vrouw, till it shines like a new guilder."

"Aye," said Dame Brinker nodding her head complacently.

Raff looked at it again. "Poor boy!" he murmured, then fell into a brown
study.

This was too much for the dame. "Poor boy!" she echoed, somewhat tartly.
"What do you think I'm standing here for, Raff Brinker, and my spinning
a-waiting, if not to hear more than that?"

"I told ye all, long since," said Raff, positively, as he looked up in
surprise.

"Indeed, and you never did!" retorted the vrouw.

"Well, if not--since it's no affair of ours--we'll say no more about
it," said Raff, shaking his head sadly; "like enough while I've been
dead on the earth, all this time, the poor boy's died and been in
Heaven. He looked near enough to it, poor lad!"

"Raff Brinker! If you're going to treat me this way, and I nursing you
and bearing with you since I was twenty-two years old, it's a shame!
aye, and a disgrace," cried the vrouw growing quite red, and scant of
breath.

Raff's voice was feeble yet. "Treat you _what_ way, Meitje?"

"What way," said Dame Brinker, mimicking his voice and manner, "what
way? why just as every woman in the world is treated after she's stood
by a man through the worst, like a----"

"Meitje!"

Raff was leaning forward, with outstretched arms. His eyes were full of
tears.

In an instant Dame Brinker was at his feet, clasping his hands in hers.

"Oh! what have I done! Made my good man cry, and he not back with me
four days! Look up, Raff! nay, Raff, my own boy, I'm sorry I hurt thee.
It's hard not to be told about the watch after waiting ten years to
know--but I'll ask thee no more, Raff. Here, we'll put the thing away
that's made the first trouble between us, after God just giving thee
back to me."

"I was a fool to cry, Meitje," he said, kissing her, "and it's no more
than right ye should know the truth. But it seemed like it might be
telling the secrets of the dead to talk about the matter."

"Is the man--the lad--thou wert talking of dead, think thee?" asked the
vrouw, hiding the watch in her hand, but seating herself expectantly on
the end of his long foot-bench.

"It's hard telling," he answered.

"Was he so sick, Raff?"

"No, not sick, I may say; but troubled, vrouw, very troubled."

"Had he done any wrong, think ye?" she asked lowering her voice.

Raff nodded.

"_Murder?_" whispered the wife, not daring to look up.

"He said it was like to that, indeed."

"Oh! Raff, you frighten me--tell me more--you speak so strange--and you
tremble. I must know all."

"If I tremble, mine vrouw, it must be from the fever. There is no guilt
on my soul, thank God!"

"Take a sip of this wine, Raff. There, now you are better. It was like
to a crime you were saying."

"Aye, Meitje, like to murder; _that_ he told me himself. But I'll never
believe it. A likely lad, fresh and honest looking as our own youngster,
but with something not so bold and straight about him."

"Aye, I know," said the dame, gently, fearing to interrupt the story.

"He came upon me quite sudden," continued Raff. "I had never seen his
face before, the palest, frightenedest face that ever was. He caught me
by the arm. 'You look like an honest man,' says he."

"Aye, he was right in that," interrupted the dame, emphatically.

Raff looked somewhat bewildered.

"Where was I, mine vrouw?"

"The lad took hold of your arm, Raff," she said, gazing at him
anxiously.

"Aye, so. The words come awkward to me, and everything is half like a
dream, ye see."

"S-stut! What wonder, poor man," sighed the dame, stroking his hand. "If
ye had not head enough for a dozen, the wit would never have come to ye
again. Well, the lad caught ye by the arm, and said ye looked honest
(well he might!). What then? Was it noon-time?"

"Nay; before daylight--long before early chimes."

"It was the same day you were hurt," said the dame. "I know it seemed
you went to your work in the middle of the night. You left off, where
he caught your arm, Raff."

"Yes," resumed her husband--"and I can see his face this minute--so
white and wild looking. 'Take me down the river a way,' says he. I was
working then, you'll remember, far down on the line, across from
Amsterdam. I told him I was no boatman. 'It's an affair of life and
death,' says he; 'take me on a few miles--yonder skiff is not locked,
but it may be a poor man's boat and I'd be loath to rob him!' (The words
might differ some, vrouw, for it's all like a dream.) Well, I took him
down; it might be six or eight miles, and then he said he could run the
rest of the way on shore. I was in haste to get the boat back. Before he
jumped out, he says, sobbing-like, 'I can trust you. I've done a
thing--God knows I never intended it--but the man is dead. I must fly
from Holland.'"

"What was it, did he say, Raff? Had he been shooting at a comrade, like
they do down at the University at Gottingen?"

"I can't recall that. Mayhap he told me; but it's all like a dream. I
said it wasn't for me, a good Hollander, to cheat the laws of my country
by helping him off that way; but he kept saying, 'God knows I am
innocent!' and looked at me in the starlight as fair, now, and
clear-eyed as our little Hans might--and I just pulled away faster."

"It must have been Jan Kamphuisen's boat," remarked Dame Brinker, dryly;
"none other would have left his oars out that careless."

"Aye--it was Jan's boat sure enough. The man will be coming in to see me
Sunday, likely, if he's heard; and young Hoogsvliet too. Where was I?"

[It was lucky the dame restrained herself. To have spoken at all of Jan
after the last night's cruel disappointment would have been to have let
out more sorrow and suspicion than Raff could bear.]

"Where were you? Why not very far, forsooth--the lad hadn't yet given ye
the watch--alack I misgive whether he came by it honestly!"

"Why, vrouw," exclaimed Raff in an injured tone, "he was dressed soft
and fine as the prince himself. The watch was his own, clear enough."

"How came he to give it up?" asked the dame, looking uneasily at the
fire, for it needed another block of peat.

"I told ye just now," he answered with a puzzled air.

"Tell me again," said Dame Brinker, wisely warding off another
digression.

"Well, just before jumping from the boat, he says, handing me the watch,
'I'm flying from my country as I never thought I could. I'll trust you
because you look honest. Will you take this to my father--not to-day but
in a week, and tell him his unhappy boy sent it; and tell him if ever
the time comes that he wants me to come back to him, I'll brave
everything and come. Tell him to send a letter to--to'--there, the rest
is all gone from me. I _can't_ remember where the letter was to go. Poor
lad! poor lad," resumed Raff, sorrowfully taking the watch from his
vrouw's lap, as he spoke--"and it's never been sent to his father to
this day."

"I'll take it, Raff, never fear--the moment Gretel gets back. She will
be in soon. What was the father's name did you say? Where were you to
find him?"

"Alack!" answered Raff, speaking very slowly, "it's all slipped me. I
can see the lad's face, and his great eyes, just as plain--and I
remember his opening the watch, and snatching something from it and
kissing it--but no more. All the rest whirls past me; there's a kind of
sound like rushing waters comes over me when I try to think."

"Aye. That's plain to see, Raff; but I've had the same feeling after a
fever. You're tired now--I must get ye straight on the bed again. Where
_is_ the child, I wonder?"

Dame Brinker opened the door, and called, "Gretel! Gretel!"

"Stand aside, vrouw," said Raff, feebly, as he leaned forward, and
endeavored to look out upon the bare landscape; "I've half a mind to
stand beyond the door just once."

"Nay, nay," she laughed, "I'll tell the meester how ye tease, and fidget
and bother, to be let out in the air; and, if he says it, I'll bundle ye
warm to-morrow, and give ye a turn on your feet. But I'm freezing you
with this door open. I declare if there isn't Gretel with her apron
full, skating on the canal, like wild. Why, man," she continued almost
in a scream, as she slammed the door, "thou'rt walking to the bed
without my touching thee! Thou'lt fall!"

The dame's "thee" proved her mingled fear and delight, even more than
the rush which she made toward her husband. Soon he was comfortably
settled under the new cover, declaring as his vrouw tucked him in snug
and warm, that it was the last daylight that should see him abed.

"Aye! I can hope it myself," laughed Dame Brinker, "now you have been
frisking about at that rate." As Raff closed his eyes, the dame hastened
to revive her fire, or rather to dull it, for Dutch peat is like a
Dutchman, slow to kindle, but very good at a blaze when once started.
Then putting her neglected spinning-wheel away, she drew forth her
knitting from some invisible pocket and seated herself by the bedside.

"If you could remember that man's name, Raff," she began cautiously, "I
might take the watch to him, while you're sleeping; Gretel can't but be
in soon."

Raff tried to think; but in vain.

"Could it be Boomphoffen," suggested the dame. "I've heard how they've
had two sons turn out bad--Gerard and Lambert?"

"It might be," said Raff. "Look if there's letters on the watch; that'll
guide us some."

"Bless thee, man," cried the happy dame, eagerly lifting the watch, "why
thou'rt sharper than ever! Sure enough. Here's letters! L. J. B. That's
Lambert Boomphoffen you may depend; what the J is for I can't say; but
they used to be grand kind o' people, high feathered as fancy fowl. Just
the kind to give their children all double names, which isn't scripture
anyway."

"I don't know about that, vrouw. Seems to me there's long mixed names in
the Holy Book, hard enough to make out. But you've got the right guess
at a jump. It was your way always," said Raff, closing his eyes; "take
the watch to Boompkinks and try."

"Not Boompkinks; I know no such name; it's Boomphoffen."

"Aye, take it there."

"Take it there, man! why the whole brood of 'em's been gone to America
these four years. But go to sleep, Raff; you look pale and out of
strength. It'll all come to you, what's best to do, in the morning.

"So, Mistress Gretel! Here you are at last!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Before Raff awoke that evening, the fairy godmother, as we know, had
been at the cottage, the guilders were once more safely locked in the
big chest, and Dame Brinker and the children were faring sumptuously on
meat and white bread and wine.

So the mother, in the joy of her heart, told them the story of the watch
as far as she deemed it prudent to divulge it. It was no more than fair,
she thought, that the poor things should know, after keeping the secret
so safe, ever since they had been old enough to know anything.



XLIII

A DISCOVERY


The next sun brought a busy day to the Brinkers.

In the first place the news of the thousand guilders had of course to be
told to the father. Such tidings as that surely could not harm him. Then
while Gretel was diligently obeying her mother's injunction to "clean
the place fresh as a new brewing," Hans and the dame sallied forth to
revel in the purchasing of peat and provisions.

Hans was careless and contented; the dame was filled with delightful
anxieties caused by the unreasonable demands of ten thousand guilders'
worth of new wants that had sprung up like mushrooms in a single night.
The happy woman talked so largely to Hans on their way to Amsterdam, and
brought back such little bundles after all, that he scratched his
bewildered head as he leaned against the chimneypiece, wondering
whether, "bigger the pouch, tighter the string" was in Jacob Cats, and
therefore true, or whether he had dreamed it when he lay in a fever.

"What thinking on, Big-eyes?" chirruped his mother, half reading his
thoughts as she bustled about, preparing the dinner. "What thinking on?
Why, Raff, would ye believe it, the child thought to carry half
Amsterdam back on his head. Bless us! he would have bought as much
coffee as would have filled this fire-pot; 'no--no--my lad,' says I, 'no
time for leaks when the ship is rich laden'--and then how he
stared--aye--just as he stares this minute. Hoot lad! fly around a
mite. Ye'll grow to the chimney-place with your staring and wondering.
Now, Raff, here's your chair at the head of the table, where it should
be, for there's A MAN to the house now--I'd say it to the king's face.
Aye, that's the way--lean on Hans; there's a strong staff for you!
growing like a weed too, and it seems only yesterday since he was
toddling. Sit by, my man, sit by."

"Can you call to mind, vrouw," said Raff, settling himself cautiously in
the big chair, "the wonderful music-box that cheered your working in the
big house at Heidelberg?"

"Aye, that I can," answered the dame, "three turns of a brass key, and
the witchy thing would send the music fairly running up and down one's
back--I remember it well--but, Raff," (growing solemn in an instant)
"you would never throw our guilders away for a thing like that?"

"No, no, not I, vrouw--for the good Lord has already given me a
music-box without pay."

All three cast quick, frightened glances at one another and at
Raff--were his wits on the wing again?

"Aye, and a music-box that fifty pouch-full would not buy from me,"
insisted Raff; "and it's set going by the turn of a mop handle, and it
slips and glides around the room, everywhere in a flash, carrying the
music about till you'd swear the birds were back again."

"Holy St. Bavon!" screeched the dame, "what's in the man?"

"Comfort and joy, vrouw, that's what's in him! Ask Gretel, ask my little
music-box Gretel, if your man has lacked comfort and joy this day."

"Not he, mother," laughed Gretel. "He's been _my_ music-box, too. We
sang together half the time you were gone."

"Aye, so," said the dame, greatly relieved. "Now, Hans, you'll never get
through with a piece like that; but never mind, chick, thou'st had a
long fasting; here, Gretel, take another slice of the sausage; it'll put
blood in your cheeks."

"Oh! Oh! mother," laughed Gretel, eagerly holding forth her platter,
"blood don't grow in girls' cheeks--you mean roses--isn't it roses,
Hans?"

While Hans was hastily swallowing a mammoth mouthful in order to give a
suitable reply to this poetic appeal, Dame Brinker settled the matter
with a quick:

"Well, roses or blood it's all one to me, so the red finds its way on
your sunny face. It's enough for mother to get pale and weary-looking,
without----"

"Hoot, vrouw," spoke up Raff hastily, "thou'rt fresher and rosier this
minute than both our chicks put together."

This remark though not bearing very strong testimony to the clearness of
Raff's newly awakened intellect, nevertheless afforded the dame intense
satisfaction; the meal accordingly passed off in the most delightful
manner.

After dinner, the affair of the watch was talked over and the mysterious
initials duly discussed.

Hans had just pushed back his stool, intending to start at once for
Mynheer van Holp's, and his mother had risen to put the watch away in
its old hiding place, when they heard the sound of wheels upon the
frozen ground.

Some one knocked at the door, opening it at the same time.

"Come in," stammered Dame Brinker hastily trying to hide the watch in
her bosom. "Oh! is it you, mynheer! Good day; the father is nearly well,
as you see. It's a poor place to greet you in, mynheer, and the dinner
not cleared away."

Dr. Boekman scarcely noticed the dame's apology. He was evidently in
haste.

"Ahem!" he exclaimed, "not needed here, I perceive. The patient is
mending fast."

"Well he may, mynheer," cried the dame, "for only last night we found a
thousand guilders that's been lost to us these ten years."

Dr. Boekman opened his eyes.

"Yes, mynheer," said Raff. "I bid the vrouw tell you, though it's to be
held a secret among us, for I see you can keep your lips closed as well
as any man."

The doctor scowled. He never liked personal remarks.

"Now, mynheer," continued Raff, "you can take your rightful pay. God
knows you have earned it, if bringing such a poor tool back to the
world, and his family, can be called a service. Tell the vrouw what's to
pay, mynheer; she will hand out the sum right willingly."

"Tut! tut!" said the doctor kindly, "say nothing about money. I can find
plenty of such pay any time, but gratitude comes seldom. That boy's
'thank you,'" he added, nodding sidewise toward Hans, "was pay enough
for me."

"Like enough ye have a boy of your own," said Dame Brinker, quite
delighted to see the great man becoming so sociable.

Dr. Boekman's good-nature vanished at once. He gave a growl (at least,
it seemed so to Gretel) but made no actual reply.

"Do not think the vrouw meddlesome, mynheer," said Raff; "she has been
sore touched of late about a lad whose folks have gone away, none know
where; and I had a message for them from the young gentleman."

"The name was Boomphoffen," said the dame eagerly. "Do you know aught of
the family, mynheer?"

The doctor's reply was brief and gruff.

"Yes. A troublesome set. They went long since to America."

"It might be, Raff," persisted Dame Brinker, timidly, "that the meester
knows somebody in that country, though I'm told they are mostly savages
over there. If he could get the watch to the Boomphoffens with the poor
lad's message, it would be a most blessed thing."

"Tut! vrouw, why pester the good meester and dying men and women wanting
him everywhere. How do ye know ye have the true name?"

"I'm sure of it," she replied. "They had a son Lambert, and there's an L
for Lambert and a B for Boomphoffen, on the back; though to be sure
there's an odd J too, but the meester can look for himself."

So saying, she drew forth the watch.

"L. J. B.!" cried Dr. Boekman springing toward her.

Why attempt to describe the scene that followed! I need only say that
the lad's message was delivered to his father at last--delivered while
the great surgeon was sobbing like a little child.

"Laurens! my Laurens?" he cried, gazing with yearning eyes at the watch
as he held it tenderly in his palm. "Ah, if I had but known sooner!
Laurens a homeless wanderer--Great Heaven! he may be suffering, dying at
this moment! Think, man, where is he? Where did my boy say the letter
must be sent?"

Raff shook his head sadly.

"Think!" implored the doctor. Surely the memory so lately awakened
through his aid could not refuse to serve him in a moment like this.

"It is all gone, mynheer," sighed Raff.

Hans, forgetting distinctions of rank and station, forgetting everything
but that his good friend was in trouble, threw his arms round the
doctor's neck.

"I can find your son, mynheer. If alive, he is _somewhere_. The earth is
not so very large. I will devote every day of my life to the search.
Mother can spare me, now. You are rich, mynheer; send me where you
will."

Gretel began to cry. It was right for Hans to go but how could they ever
live without him?

Dr. Boekman made no reply, neither did he push Hans away. His eyes were
fixed anxiously upon Raff Brinker. Suddenly he lifted the watch, and
with trembling eagerness attempted to open it. Its stiffened spring
yielded at last; the case flew open, disclosing a watch-paper in the
back bearing a group of blue forget-me-nots. Raff, seeing a shade of
intense disappointment pass over the doctor's face, hastened to say:

"There was something else in it, mynheer, but the young gentleman tore
it out before he handed it to me. I saw him kiss it as he put it away."

"It was his mother's picture," moaned the doctor; "she died when he was
ten years old. Thank God! the boy had not forgotten. Both dead? It is
impossible!" he cried, starting up. "My boy is alive. You shall hear his
story. Laurens acted as my assistant. By mistake he portioned out the
wrong medicine for one of my patients--a deadly poison--but it was never
administered, for I discovered the error in time. The man died that day.
I was detained with other bad cases until the next evening. When I
reached home, my boy was gone. Poor Laurens!" sobbed the doctor,
breaking down completely, "never to hear from me through all these
years. His message disregarded. Oh, what must he have suffered!"

Dame Brinker ventured to speak. Anything was better than to see the
meester cry.

"It is a mercy to know the young gentleman was innocent. Ah! how he
fretted! Telling you, Raff, that his crime was like unto murder. It was
sending the wrong physic he meant. Crime indeed! why our own Gretel
might have done that! Like enough the poor young gentleman heard that
the man was dead--that's why he ran, mynheer. He said, you know, Raff,
that he never could come back to Holland again, unless"--she
hesitated--"ah, your honor, ten years is a dreary time to be waiting to
hear from----"

"Hist, vrouw!" said Raff sharply.

"Waiting to hear," groaned the doctor, "and I, like a fool, sitting
stubbornly at home, thinking he had abandoned me. I never dreamed,
Brinker, that the boy had discovered the mistake. I believed it was
youthful folly--ingratitude--love of adventure, that sent him away. My
poor, poor Laurens!"

"But you know all, now, mynheer," whispered Hans. "You know he was
innocent of wrong, that he loved you and his dead mother. We will find
him. You shall see him again, dear meester."

"God bless you!" said Dr. Boekman, seizing the boy's hand, "it may be as
you say. I shall try--I shall try--and, Brinker, if ever the faintest
gleam of recollection concerning him should come to you, you will send
me word at once?"

"Indeed we will!" cried all but Hans, whose silent promise would have
satisfied the doctor even had the others not spoken.

"Your boy's eyes," he said, turning to Dame Brinker, "are strangely like
my son's. The first time I met him it seemed that Laurens himself was
looking at me."

"Aye, mynheer," replied the mother proudly. "I have marked that you were
much drawn to the child."

For a few moments the meester seemed lost in thought; then, arousing
himself, he spoke in a new voice:

"Forgive me, Raff Brinker, for this tumult. Do not feel distressed on my
account. I leave your house to-day a happier man than I have been for
many a long year. Shall I take the watch?"

"Certain you must, mynheer. It was your son's wish."

"Even so," responded the doctor--regarding his treasure with a queer
frown, for his face could not throw off its bad habits in an hour--"even
so. And, now, I must be gone. No medicine is needed by my patient; only
peace and cheerfulness, and both are here in plenty. Heaven bless you,
my good friends! I shall ever be grateful to you."

"May Heaven bless you, too, mynheer, and may you soon find the dear
young gentleman," said Dame Brinker earnestly, after hurriedly wiping
her eyes upon the corner of her apron.

Raff uttered a hearty "Amen!" and Gretel threw such a wistful, eager
glance at the doctor, that he patted her head as he turned to leave the
cottage.

Hans went out also.

"When I can serve you, mynheer, I am ready."

"Very well, boy," replied Dr. Boekman with peculiar mildness. "Tell
them, within, to say nothing of what has just passed. Meantime, Hans,
when you are with your father, watch his mood. You have tact. At any
moment he may suddenly be able to tell us more."

"Trust me for that, mynheer."

"Good day, my boy!" cried the doctor, as he sprang into his stately
coach.

"Aha!" thought Hans, as it rolled away, "the meester has more life in
him than I thought."



XLIV

THE RACE


The Twentieth of December came at last, bringing with it the perfection
of winter weather. All over the level landscape lay the warm sunlight.
It tried its power on lake, canal and river; but the ice flashed
defiance and showed no sign of melting. The very weather-cocks stood
still to enjoy the sight. This gave the windmills a holiday. Nearly all
the past week they had been whirling briskly; now, being rather out of
breath, they rocked lazily in the clear, still air. Catch a windmill
working when the weather-cocks have nothing to do!

There was an end to grinding, crushing and sawing for that day. It was a
good thing for the millers near Broek. Long before noon they concluded
to take in their sails, and go to the race. Everybody would be
there--already the north side of the frozen Y was bordered with eager
spectators; the news of the great skating match had traveled far and
wide. Men, women, and children in holiday attire were flocking toward
the spot. Some wore furs, and wintry cloaks or shawls; but many,
consulting their feelings rather than the almanac, were dressed as for
an October day.

The site selected for the race was a faultless plain of ice near
Amsterdam, on that great _arm_ of the Zuider Zee which Dutchmen of
course must call--the Eye. The townspeople turned out in large numbers.
Strangers in the city deemed it a fine chance to see what was to be
seen. Many a peasant from the northward had wisely chosen the Twentieth
as the day for the next city-trading. It seemed that everybody, young
and old, who had wheels, skates or feet at command, had hastened to the
scene.

There were the gentry in their coaches, dressed like Parisians, fresh
from the Boulevards; Amsterdam children in charity uniforms; girls from
the Roman Catholic Orphan House, in sable gowns and white head-bands;
boys from the Burgher Asylum, with their black tights and short-skirted,
harlequin coats.[29] There were old-fashioned gentlemen in cocked hats
and velvet knee-breeches; old-fashioned ladies, too, in stiff, quilted
skirts and bodies of dazzling brocade. These were accompanied by
servants bearing foot-stoves and cloaks. There were the peasant folk
arrayed in every possible Dutch costume--Shy young rustics in brazen
buckles; simple village maidens concealing their flaxen hair under
fillets of gold; women whose long, narrow aprons were stiff with
embroidery; women with short, corkscrew curls hanging over their
foreheads; women with shaved heads and close-fitting caps, and women in
striped skirts and windmill bonnets. Men in leather, in homespun, in
velvet and broadcloth; burghers in model European attire, and burghers
in short jackets, wide trousers and steeple-crowned hats.

[Footnote 29: This is not said in derision. Both the girls and boys of
this Institution wear garments quartered in red and black, alternately.
By making the dress thus conspicuous, the children are, in a measure,
deterred from wrong-doing while going about the city. The Burgher Orphan
Asylum affords a comfortable home to several hundred boys and girls.
Holland is famous for its charitable institutions.]

There were beautiful Friesland girls in wooden shoes and coarse
petticoats, with solid gold crescents encircling their heads, finished
at each temple with a golden rosette, and hung with lace a century old.
Some wore necklaces, pendants and earrings of the purest gold. Many
were content with gilt or even with brass, but it is not an uncommon
thing for a Friesland woman to have all the family treasure in her
head-gear. More than one rustic lass displayed the value of two thousand
guilders upon her head that day.

Scattered throughout the crowd were peasants from the Island of Marken,
with sabots, black stockings, and the widest of breeches; also women
from Marken with short blue petticoats, and black jackets, gaily figured
in front. They wore red sleeves, white aprons, and a cap like a bishop's
mitre over their golden hair.

The children often were as quaint and odd-looking as their elders. In
short, one-third of the crowd seemed to have stepped bodily from a
collection of Dutch paintings.

Everywhere could be seen tall women, and stumpy men, lively faced girls,
and youths whose expression never changed from sunrise to sunset.

There seemed to be at least one specimen from every known town in
Holland. There were Utrecht water bearers, Gouda cheese makers, Delft
pottery-men, Schiedam distillers, Amsterdam diamond-cutters, Rotterdam
merchants, dried up herring-packers, and two sleepy-eyed shepherds from
Texel. Every man of them had his pipe and tobacco-pouch. Some carried
what might be called the smoker's complete outfit--a pipe, tobacco, a
pricker with which to clean the tube, a silver net for protecting the
bowl, and a box of the strongest of brimstone matches.

A true Dutchman, you must remember, is rarely without his pipe on any
possible occasion. He may for a moment neglect to breathe, but when the
pipe is forgotten, he must be dying indeed. There were no such sad
cases here. Wreaths of smoke were rising from every possible quarter.
The more fantastic the smoke wreath, the more placid and solemn the
smoker.

Look at those boys and girls on stilts! That is a good idea. They can
see over the heads of the tallest. It is strange to see those little
bodies high in the air, carried about on mysterious legs. They have such
a resolute look on their round faces, what wonder that nervous old
gentlemen, with tender feet, wince and tremble while the long-legged
little monsters stride past them.

You will read in certain books that the Dutch are a quiet people--so
they are generally--but listen: did ever you hear such a din? All made
up of human voices--no, the horses are helping somewhat, and the fiddles
are squeaking pitifully (how it must pain fiddles to be tuned!) but the
mass of the sound comes from the great _vox humana_ that belongs to a
crowd.

That queer little dwarf going about with a heavy basket, winding in and
out among the people, helps not a little. You can hear his shrill cry
above all the other sounds, "Pypen en tabac! Pypen en tabac!"

Another, his big brother though evidently some years younger, is selling
doughnuts and bonbons. He is calling on all pretty children far and near
to come quickly or the cakes will be gone.

You know quite a number among the spectators. High up in yonder
pavilion, erected upon the border of the ice, are some persons whom you
have seen very lately. In the centre is Madame van Gleck. It is her
birthday, you remember; she has the post of honor. There is Mynheer van
Gleck whose meerschaum has not really grown fast to his lips--it only
appears so. There are grandfather and grandmother whom you met at the
St. Nicholas fête. All the children are with them. It is so mild they
have brought even the baby. The poor little creature is swaddled very
much after the manner of an Egyptian mummy, but it can crow with
delight, and when the band is playing, open and shut its animated
mittens in perfect time to the music.

Grandfather with his pipe and spectacles and fur cap, makes quite a
picture as he holds baby upon his knee. Perched high upon their canopied
platforms, the party can see all that is going on. No wonder the ladies
look complacently at the glassy ice; with a stove for a footstool one
might sit cozily beside the North Pole.

There is a gentleman with them who somewhat resembles St. Nicholas as he
appeared to the young Van Glecks on the fifth of December. But the saint
had a flowing white beard; and this face is as smooth as a pippin. His
saintship was larger around the body, too, and (between ourselves) he
had a pair of thimbles in his mouth, which this gentleman certainly has
not. It cannot be Saint Nicholas after all.

Near by, in the next pavilion sit the Van Holps with their son and
daughter (the Van Gends) from the Hague. Peter's sister is not one to
forget her promises. She has brought bouquets of exquisite hothouse
flowers for the winners.

These pavilions, and there are others beside, have all been erected
since daylight. That semicircular one, containing Mynheer Korbes'
family, is very pretty, and proves that the Hollanders are quite skilled
at tent-making, but I like the Van Glecks' best--the centre one--striped
red and white, and hung with evergreens.

The one with the blue flags contains the musicians. Those pagoda-like
affairs, decked with sea-shells and streamers of every possible hue, are
the judges' stands, and those columns and flagstaffs upon the ice mark
the limit of the race-course. The two white columns twined with green,
connected at the top by that long, floating strip of drapery, form the
starting-point. Those flagstaffs, half a mile off, stand at each end of
the boundary line, cut sufficiently deep to be distinct to the skaters,
though not enough so to trip them when they turn to come back to the
starting-point.

The air is so clear it seems scarcely possible that the columns and
flagstaffs are so far apart. Of course the judges' stands are but little
nearer together.

Half a mile on the ice, when the atmosphere is like this, is but a short
distance after all, especially when fenced with a living chain of
spectators.

The music has commenced. How melody seems to enjoy itself in the open
air! The fiddles have forgotten their agony, and everything is
harmonious. Until you look at the blue tent it seems that the music
springs from the sunshine, it is so boundless, so joyous. Only when you
see the staid-faced musicians you realize the truth.

Where are the racers? All assembled together near the white columns. It
is a beautiful sight. Forty boys and girls in picturesque attire darting
with electric swiftness in and out among each other, or sailing in pairs
and triplets, beckoning, chatting, whispering in the fullness of
youthful glee.

A few careful ones are soberly tightening their straps; others halting
on one leg, with flushed, eager faces suddenly cross the suspected skate
over their knee, give it an examining shake, and dart off again. One
and all are possessed with the spirit of motion. They cannot stand
still. Their skates are a part of them and every runner seems bewitched.

Holland is the place for skaters after all. Where else can nearly every
boy and girl perform feats on the ice that would attract a crowd if seen
on Central Park? Look at Ben! I did not see him before. He is really
astonishing the natives; no easy thing to do in the Netherlands. Save
your strength, Ben, you will need it soon. Now other boys are trying!
Ben is surpassed already. Such jumping, such poising, such spinning,
such india-rubber exploits generally! That boy with a red cap is the
lion now; his back is a watch-spring, his body is cork--no it is iron,
or it would snap at that! He is a bird, a top, a rabbit, a corkscrew, a
sprite, a flesh-ball all in an instant. When you think he's erect he is
down; and when you think he is down he is up. He drops his glove on the
ice and turns a somersault as he picks it up. Without stopping, he
snatches the cap from Jacob Poot's astonished head and claps it back
again "hind side before." Lookers-on hurrah and laugh. Foolish boy! It
is Arctic weather under your feet, but more than temperate overhead. Big
drops already are rolling down your forehead. Superb skater as you are,
you may lose the race.

A French traveler, standing with a note-book in his hand, sees our
English friend, Ben, buy a doughnut of the dwarf's brother, and eat it.
Thereupon he writes in his note-book, that the Dutch take enormous
mouthfuls, and universally are fond of potatoes boiled in molasses.

There are some familiar faces near the white columns. Lambert, Ludwig,
Peter and Carl are all there, cool and in good skating order. Hans is
not far off. Evidently he is going to join in the race, for his skates
are on--the very pair that he sold for seven guilders! He had soon
suspected that his fairy godmother was the mysterious "friend" who
bought them. This settled, he had boldly charged her with the deed, and
she knowing well that all her little savings had been spent in the
purchase, had not had the face to deny it. Through the fairy godmother,
too, he had been rendered amply able to buy them back again. Therefore
Hans is to be in the race. Carl is more indignant than ever about it,
but as three other peasant boys have entered, Hans is not alone.

Twenty boys and twenty girls. The latter by this time are standing in
front, braced for the start, for they are to have the first "run."
Hilda, Rychie and Katrinka are among them--two or three bend hastily to
give a last pull at their skate-straps. It is pretty to see them stamp,
to be sure that all is firm. Hilda is speaking pleasantly to a graceful
little creature in a red jacket and a new brown petticoat. Why, it is
Gretel! What a difference those pretty shoes make, and the skirt, and
the new cap. Annie Bouman is there too. Even Janzoon Kolp's sister has
been admitted--but Janzoon himself has been voted out by the directors,
because he killed the stork, and only last summer was caught in the act
of robbing a bird's nest, a legal offence in Holland.

This Janzoon Kolp, you see, was----There, I cannot tell the story just
now. The race is about to commence.

Twenty girls are formed in a line. The music has ceased.

A man, whom we shall call The Crier, stands between the columns and the
first judges' stand. He reads the rules in a loud voice:

"THE GIRLS AND BOYS ARE TO RACE IN TURN, UNTIL ONE GIRL AND ONE BOY HAS
BEATEN TWICE. THEY ARE TO START IN A LINE FROM THE UNITED COLUMNS--SKATE
TO THE FLAGSTAFF LINE, TURN, AND THEN COME BACK TO THE STARTING-POINT;
THUS MAKING A MILE AT EACH RUN."

A flag is waved from the judges' stand. Madame van Gleck rises in her
pavilion. She leans forward with a white handkerchief in her hand. When
she drops it, a bugler is to give the signal for them to start.

The handkerchief is fluttering to the ground. Hark!

They are off!

No. Back again. Their line was not true in passing the judges' stand.

The signal is repeated.

Off again. No mistake this time. Whew! how fast they go!

The multitude is quiet for an instant, absorbed in eager, breathless
watching.

Cheers spring up along the line of spectators. Huzza! five girls are
ahead. Who comes flying back from the boundary mark? We cannot tell.
Something red, that is all. There is a blue spot flitting near it, and a
dash of yellow nearer still. Spectators at this end of the line strain
their eyes and wish they had taken their post nearer the flagstaff.

The wave of cheers is coming back again. Now we can see! Katrinka is
ahead!

She passes the Van Holp pavilion. The next is Madame van Gleck's. That
leaning figure gazing from it is a magnet. Hilda shoots past Katrinka,
waving her hand to her mother as she passes. Two others are close now,
whizzing on like arrows. What is that flash of red and gray? Hurrah, it
is Gretel! She, too, weaves her hand, but toward no gay pavilion. The
crowd is cheering, but she hears only her father's voice, "Well done,
little Gretel!" Soon Katrinka, with a quick merry laugh, shoots past
Hilda. The girl in yellow is gaining now. She passes them all, all
except Gretel. The judges lean forward without seeming to lift their
eyes from their watches. Cheer after cheer fills the air; the very
columns seem rocking. Gretel has passed them. She has won.

"GRETEL BRINKER--ONE MILE!"--shouts the crier.

The judges nod. They write something upon a tablet which each holds in
his hand.

While the girls are resting--some crowding eagerly around our frightened
little Gretel, some standing aside in high disdain--the boys form in a
line.

Mynheer van Gleck drops the handkerchief this time. The buglers give a
vigorous blast!

The boys have started.

Half-way already! Did ever you see the like!

Three hundred legs flashing by in an instant. But there are only twenty
boys. No matter, there were hundreds of legs I am sure! Where are they
now? There is such a noise one gets bewildered. What are the people
laughing at? Oh, at that fat boy in the rear. See him go! See him! He'll
be down in an instant, no, he won't. I wonder if he knows he is all
alone; the other boys are nearly at the boundary line. Yes, he knows it.
He stops! He wipes his hot face. He takes off his cap and looks about
him. Better to give up with a good grace. He has made a hundred friends
by that hearty, astonished laugh. Good Jacob Poot!

The fine fellow is already among the spectators gazing as eagerly as the
rest.

A cloud of feathery ice flies from the heels of the skaters as they
"bring to" and turn at the flagstaffs.

Something black is coming now, one of the boys--it is all we know. He
has touched the _vox humana_ stop of the crowd; it fairly roars. Now
they come nearer--we can see the red cap. There's Ben--there's
Peter--there's Hans!

Hans is ahead! Young Madame van Gend almost crushes the flowers in her
hand; she had been quite sure that Peter would be first. Carl Schummel
is next, then Ben, and the youth with the red cap. The others are
pressing close. A tall figure darts from among them. He passes the red
cap, he passes Ben, then Carl. Now it is an even race between him and
Hans. Madame van Gend catches her breath.

It is Peter! He is ahead! Hans shoots past him. Hilda's eyes fill with
tears. Peter _must_ beat. Annie's eyes flash proudly. Gretel gazes with
clasped hands--four strokes more will take her brother to the columns.

He is there! Yes, but so was young Schummel just a second before. At the
last instant, Carl, gathering his powers, had whizzed between them and
passed the goal.

"CARL SCHUMMEL! ONE MILE!" shouts the crier.

Soon Madame van Gleck rises again. The falling handkerchief starts the
bugle; and the bugle, using its voice as a bowstring, shoots off twenty
girls like so many arrows.

It is a beautiful sight, but one has not long to look; before we can
fairly distinguish them they are far in the distance. This time they
are close upon one another; it is hard to say as they come speeding back
from the flagstaff which will reach the columns first. There are new
faces among the foremost--eager, glowing faces, unnoticed before.
Katrinka is there, and Hilda, but Gretel and Rychie are in the rear.
Gretel is wavering, but when Rychie passes her, she starts forward
afresh. Now they are nearly beside Katrinka. Hilda is still in advance;
she is almost "home." She has not faltered since that bugle note sent
her flying; like an arrow still she is speeding toward the goal. Cheer
after cheer rises in the air. Peter is silent but his eyes shine like
stars. "Huzza! Huzza!"

The crier's voice is heard again.

"HILDA VAN GLECK, ONE MILE!"

A loud murmur of approval runs through the crowd, catching the music in
its course, till all seems one sound, with a glad rhythmic throbbing in
its depths. When the flag waves all is still.

Once more the bugle blows a terrific blast. It sends off the boys like
chaff before the wind--dark chaff I admit, and in big pieces.

It is whisked around at the flagstaff, driven faster yet by the cheers
and shouts along the line. We begin to see what is coming. There are
three boys in advance this time, and all abreast. Hans, Peter and
Lambert. Carl soon breaks the ranks, rushing through with a whiff! Fly,
Hans, fly, Peter, don't let Carl beat again. Carl the bitter, Carl the
insolent. Van Mounen is flagging, but you are strong as ever. Hans and
Peter, Peter and Hans; which is foremost? We love them both. We scarcely
care which is the fleeter.

Hilda, Annie and Gretel seated upon the long crimson bench, can remain
quiet no longer. They spring to their feet--so different, and yet one in
eagerness. Hilda instantly reseats herself; none shall know how
interested she is, none shall know how anxious, how filled with one
hope. Shut your eyes then, Hilda--hide your face rippling with joy.
Peter has beaten.

"PETER VAN HOLP, ONE MILE!" calls the crier.

The same buzz of excitement as before, while the judges take notes, the
same throbbing of music through the din--but something is different. A
little crowd presses close about some object, near the column. Carl has
fallen. He is not hurt, though somewhat stunned. If he were less sullen
he would find more sympathy in these warm young hearts. As it is they
forget him as soon as he is fairly on his feet again.

The girls are to skate their third mile.

How resolute the little maidens look as they stand in a line! Some are
solemn with a sense of responsibility, some wear a smile half bashful,
half provoked, but one air of determination pervades them all.

This third mile may decide the race. Still if neither Gretel nor Hilda
win, there is yet a chance among the rest for the Silver Skates.

Each girl feels sure that this time she will accomplish the distance in
one-half the time. How they stamp to try their runners, how nervously
they examine each strap--how erect they stand at last, every eye upon
Madame van Gleck!

The bugle thrills through them again. With quivering eagerness they
spring forward, bending, but in perfect balance. Each flashing stroke
seems longer than the last.

Now they are skimming off in the distance.

Again the eager straining of eyes--again the shouts and cheering, again
the thrill of excitement as, after a few moments, four or five, in
advance of the rest, come speeding back, nearer, nearer to the white
columns.

Who is first? Not Rychie, Katrinka, Annie, nor Hilda, nor the girl in
yellow--but Gretel--Gretel, the fleetest sprite of a girl that ever
skated. She was but playing in the earlier race, _now_ she is in
earnest, or rather something within her has determined to win. That
lithe little form makes no effort; but it cannot stop--not until the
goal is passed!

In vain the crier lifts his voice--he cannot be heard. He has no news to
tell--it is already ringing through the crowd. _Gretel has won the
Silver Skates!_

Like a bird she has flown over the ice, like a bird she looks about her
in a timid, startled way. She longs to dart to the sheltered nook where
her father and mother stand. But Hans is beside her--the girls are
crowding round. Hilda's kind, joyous voice breathes in her ear. From
that hour, none will despise her. Goose-girl or not, Gretel stands
acknowledged Queen of the Skaters!

With natural pride Hans turns to see if Peter van Holp is witnessing his
sister's triumph. Peter is not looking toward them at all. He is
kneeling, bending his troubled face low, and working hastily at his
skate-strap. Hans is beside him at once.

"Are you in trouble, mynheer?"

"Ah, Hans! that you? Yes, my fun is over. I tried to tighten my
strap--to make a new hole--and this botheration of a knife has cut it
nearly in two."

"Mynheer," said Hans, at the same time pulling off a skate--"you must
use my strap!"

"Not I, indeed, Hans Brinker," cried Peter, looking up, "though I thank
you warmly. Go to your post, my friend, the bugle will sound in a
minute."

"Mynheer," pleaded Hans in a husky voice, "you have called me your
friend. Take this strap--quick! There is not an instant to lose. I shall
not skate this time--indeed I am out of practice. Mynheer, you _must_
take it"--and Hans blind and deaf to any remonstrance, slipped his strap
into Peter's skate and implored him to put it on.

"Come, Peter!" cried Lambert, from the line, "we are waiting for you."

"For madame's sake," pleaded Hans, "be quick. She is motioning to you to
join the racers. There the skate is almost on; quick, mynheer, fasten
it. I could not possibly win. The race lies between Master Schummel and
yourself."

"You are a noble fellow, Hans!" cried Peter yielding at last. He sprang
to his post just as the white handkerchief fell to the ground. The bugle
sends forth its blast, loud, clear and ringing.

Off go the boys!

"Mine gott," cries a tough old fellow from Delft. "They beat everything,
these Amsterdam youngsters. See them!"

See them, indeed! They are winged Mercuries every one of them. What mad
errand are they on? Ah, I know; they are hunting Peter van Holp. He is
some fleet-footed runaway from Olympus. Mercury and his troop of winged
cousins are in full chase. They will catch him! Now Carl is the
runaway--the pursuit grows furious--Ben is foremost!

The chase turns in a cloud of mist. It is coming this way. Who is hunted
now? Mercury himself. It is Peter, Peter van Holp; fly, Peter--Hans is
watching you. He is sending all his fleetness, all his strength into
your feet. Your mother and sister are pale with eagerness. Hilda is
trembling and dare not look up. Fly, Peter! the crowd has not gone
deranged, it is only cheering. The pursuers are close upon you! Touch
the white column! It beckons--it is reeling before you--it----

Huzza! Huzza! Peter has won the Silver Skates!

"PETER VAN HOLP!" shouted the crier. But who heard him? "Peter van
Holp!" shouted a hundred voices, for he was the favorite boy of the
place. Huzza! Huzza!

Now the music was resolved to be heard. It struck up a lively air, then
a tremendous march. The spectators thinking something new was about to
happen, deigned to listen and to look.

The racers formed in single file. Peter, being tallest, stood first.
Gretel, the smallest of all, took her place at the end. Hans, who had
borrowed a strap from the cake-boy, was near the head.

Three gaily twined arches were placed at intervals upon the river facing
the Van Gleck pavilion.

Skating slowly, and in perfect time to the music, the boys and girls
moved forward, led on by Peter.

It was beautiful to see the bright procession glide along like a living
creature. It curved and doubled, and drew its graceful length in and out
among the arches--whichever way Peter, the head, went, the body was sure
to follow. Sometimes it steered direct for the centre arch, then, as if
seized with a new impulse, turned away and curled itself about the first
one; then unwound slowly and bending low, with quick, snake-like
curvings, crossed the river, passing at length through the furthest
arch.

[Illustration: _Skating slowly the boys and girls moved forward_]

When the music was slow, the procession seemed to crawl like a thing
afraid; it grew livelier, and the creature darted forward with a spring,
gliding rapidly among the arches, in and out, curling, twisting,
turning, never losing form until, at the shrill call of the bugle rising
above the music, it suddenly resolved itself into boys and girls
standing in double semicircle before Madame van Gleck's pavilion.

Peter and Gretel stand in the centre in advance of the others. Madame
van Gleck rises majestically. Gretel trembles, but feels that she must
look at the beautiful lady. She cannot hear what is said, there is such
a buzzing all around her. She is thinking that she ought to try and make
a curtsey, such as her mother makes to the meester, when suddenly
something so dazzling is placed in her hand that she gives a cry of joy.

Then she ventures to look about her. Peter, too, has something in his
hands--"Oh! oh! how splendid!" she cries, and "oh! how splendid!" is
echoed as far as people can see.

Meantime the silver skates flash in the sunshine, throwing dashes of
light upon those two happy faces.

Mevrouw van Gend sends a little messenger with her bouquets. One for
Hilda, one for Carl, and others for Peter and Gretel.

At sight of the flowers the Queen of the Skaters becomes uncontrollable.
With a bright stare of gratitude she gathers skates and bouquet in her
apron--hugs them to her bosom, and darts off to search for her father
and mother in the scattering crowd.



XLV

JOY IN THE COTTAGE


Perhaps you were surprised to learn that Raff and his vrouw were at the
skating-race; you would have been more so had you been with them on the
evening of that merry 20th of December. To see the Brinker cottage
standing sulkily alone on the frozen marsh, with its bulgy,
rheumatic-looking walls, and its slouched hat of a roof pulled far over
its eyes, one would never suspect that a lively scene was passing
within. Without, nothing was left of the day but a low line of blaze at
the horizon. A few venturesome clouds had already taken fire, and
others, with their edges burning, were lost in the gathering smoke.

A stray gleam of sunshine slipping down from the willow stump crept
stealthily under the cottage. It seemed to feel that the inmates would
give it welcome if it could only get near them. The room under which it
hid was as clean as clean could be. The very cracks in the rafters were
polished. Delicious odors filled the air. A huge peat fire upon the
hearth sent flashes of harmless lightning at the sombre walls. It played
in turn upon the great leathern Bible, upon Gretel's closet-bed, the
household things on their pegs, and the beautiful Silver Skates and the
flowers upon the table. Dame Brinker's honest face shone and twinkled in
the changing light. Gretel and Hans, with arms entwined, were leaning
against the fireplace, laughing merrily, and Raff Brinker was dancing!

I do not mean that he was pirouetting or cutting a pigeon-wing, either
of which would have been entirely too undignified for the father of a
family; I simply affirm that while they were chatting pleasantly
together Raff suddenly sprang from his seat, snapped his fingers and
performed two or three flourishes very much like the climax of a
Highland Fling. Next he caught his vrouw in his arms and fairly lifted
her from the ground in his delight.

"Huzza!" he cried, "I have it! I have it! It's THOMAS HIGGS. That's the
name! It came upon me like a flash; write it down, lad, write it down!"

Some one knocked at the door.

"It's the meester," cried the delighted dame. "Goede Gunst! how things
come to pass!"

Mother and children came in merry collision as they rushed to open the
door.

It was not the doctor, after all, but three boys, Peter van Holp,
Lambert and Ben.

"Good-evening, young gentlemen," said Dame Brinker, so happy and proud
that she would scarce have been surprised at a visit from the King
himself.

"Good-evening, jufvrouw," said the trio, making magnificent bows.

"Dear me!" thought Dame Brinker as she bobbed up and down like a churn
dasher, "it's lucky I learned to curtsey at Heidelberg!"

Raff was content to return the boys' salutations with a respectful nod.

"Pray be seated, young masters," said the dame, as Gretel bashfully
thrust a stool toward them. "There's a lack of chairs as you see, but
this one by the fire is at your service, and if you don't mind the
hardness, that oak-chest is as good a seat as the best. That's right,
Hans, pull it out."

By the time the boys were seated to the dame's satisfaction, Peter,
acting as spokesman, had explained that they were going to attend a
lecture at Amsterdam, and had stopped on the way to return Hans' strap.

"Oh, mynheer," cried Hans earnestly, "it is too much trouble. I am very
sorry."

"No trouble at all, Hans. I could have waited for you to come to your
work to-morrow, had I not wished to call. And, Hans, talking of your
work, my father is much pleased with it; a carver by trade could not
have done it better. He would like to have the south arbor ornamented
also, but I told him you were going to school again."

"Aye!" put in Raff Brinker, emphatically, "Hans must go to school at
once--and Gretel as well--that is true."

"I am glad to hear you say so," responded Peter, turning toward the
father, "and very glad to know that you are again a well man."

"Yes, young master, a well man, and able to work as steady as
ever--thank God!"

[Here Hans hastily wrote something on the edge of a time-worn almanac
that hung by the chimney-place.] "Aye, that's right, lad, set it down.
Figgs! Wiggs! Alack! Alack!" added Raff in great dismay, "it's gone
again!"

"All right, father," said Hans, "the name's down now in black and white.
Here, look at it, father; mayhap the rest will come to you. If we had
the place as well, it would be complete;" then turning to Peter, he
said in a low tone, "I have an important errand in town, mynheer, and
if----"

"Wist!" exclaimed the dame, lifting her hands, "not to Amsterdam
to-night, and you've owned your legs were aching under you. Nay,
nay--it'll be soon enough to go at early daylight."

"Daylight indeed!" echoed Raff, "that would never do. Nay, Meitje, he
must go this hour."

The vrouw looked for an instant as if Raff's recovery was becoming
rather a doubtful benefit; her word was no longer sole law in the house.
Fortunately, the proverb, "Humble wife is husband's boss," had taken
deep root in her mind; even as the dame pondered, it bloomed.

"Very well, Raff," she said smilingly, "it is thy boy as well as mine.
Ah! I've a troublesome house, young masters."

Just then Peter drew a long strap from his pocket.

Handing it to Hans he said in an undertone, "I need not thank you for
lending me this, Hans Brinker. Such boys as you do not ask for
thanks--but I must say you did me a great kindness, and I am proud to
acknowledge it. I did not know," he added, laughingly, "until fairly in
the race, how anxious I was to win."

Hans was glad to join in Peter's laugh--it covered his embarrassment and
gave his face a chance to cool off a little. Honest, generous boys like
Hans have such a stupid way of blushing when you least expect it.

"It was nothing, mynheer," said the dame, hastening to her son's relief;
"the lad's whole soul was in having you win the race, I know it was!"

This helped matters beautifully.

"Ah, mynheer," Hans hurried to say, "from the first start I felt stiff
and strange on my feet; I was well out of it so long as I had no chance
of winning."

Peter looked rather distressed.

"We may hold different opinions there. That part of the business
troubles me. It is too late to mend it now, but it would be really a
kindness to me if----"

The rest of Peter's speech was uttered so confidentially that I cannot
record it. Enough to say, Hans soon started back in dismay, and Peter,
looking very much ashamed, stammered out something to the effect that he
would keep them, since he won the race, but it was "all wrong."

Here Van Mounen coughed, as if to remind Peter that lecture-hour was
approaching fast. At the same moment Ben laid something upon the table.

"Ah," exclaimed Peter, "I forgot my other errand. Your sister ran off so
quickly to-day, that Madame van Gleck had no opportunity to give her the
case for her skates."

"S-s-t!" said Dame Brinker, shaking her head reproachfully at Gretel,
"she was a very rude girl I'm sure." [Secretly, she was thinking that
very few women had such a fine little daughter.]

"No, indeed," laughed Peter, "she did exactly the right thing--ran home
with her richly won treasures--who would not? Don't let us detain you,
Hans," he continued turning around as he spoke; but Hans, who was
eagerly watching the father, seemed to have forgotten their presence.

Meantime, Raff, lost in thought was repeating under his breath, "Thomas
Higgs--Thomas Higgs, aye, that's the name. Alack! if I could but tell
the place as well."

The skate-case was elegantly made of crimson morocco, ornamented with
silver. If a fairy had breathed upon its tiny key, or Jack Frost himself
designed its delicate tracery, they could not have been more daintily
beautiful. FOR THE FLEETEST was written upon the cover in sparkling
letters. It was lined with velvet, and in one corner was stamped the
name and address of the maker.

Gretel thanked Peter in her own simple way; then, being quite delighted
and confused, and not knowing what else to do, lifted the case,
carefully examining it in every part. "It's made by Mynheer Birmingham,"
she said after a while, still blushing and holding it before her eyes.

"Birmingham!" replied Lambert van Mounen, "that's the name of a place in
England. Let me see it.

"Ha! ha!" he laughed, holding the open case toward the firelight, "no
wonder you thought so; but it's a slight mistake. The case was made at
Birmingham, but the maker's name is in smaller letters. Humph! they're
so small, I can't read them."

"Let me try," said Peter, leaning over his shoulder. "Why, man, it's
perfectly distinct. It's T--H--it's T----"

"Well!" exclaimed Lambert, triumphantly, "if you can read it so easily,
let's hear it, T--H, what?"

"T. H--T. H. Oh! why, Thomas Higgs, to be sure," replied Peter, pleased
to be able to decipher it at last. Then, feeling they had been behaving
rather unceremoniously, he turned toward Hans--

Peter turned pale! What was the matter with the people? Raff and Hans
had started up, and were staring at him, in glad amazement. Gretel
looked wild. Dame Brinker, with an unlighted candle in her hand, was
rushing about the room, crying, "Hans! Hans! where's your hat? oh, the
meester! Oh, the meester!"

"Birmingham! Higgs!" exclaimed Hans. "Did you say Higgs? we've found
him! I must be off."

"You see, young masters," panted the dame, at the same time snatching
Hans' hat from the bed, "you see--we know him--he's our--no, he isn't--I
mean--oh, Hans, you must go to Amsterdam this minute!"

"Good-night, mynheers," panted Hans, radiant with sudden joy,
"good-night--you will excuse me, I must go.
Birmingham--Higgs--Higgs--Birmingham," and seizing his hat from his
mother, and his skates from Gretel, he rushed from the cottage.

What could the boys think, but that the entire Brinker family had
suddenly gone crazy!

They bade an embarrassed "good-evening," and turned to go. But Raff
stopped them.

"This Thomas Higgs, young masters, is a--a person."

"Ah!" exclaimed Peter, quite sure that Raff was the most crazy of all.

"Yes--a person--a--ahem!--a friend. We thought him dead. I hope it is
the same man. In England, did you say?"

"Yes, Birmingham," answered Peter; "it must be Birmingham in England."

"I know the man," said Ben, addressing Lambert. "His factory is not four
miles from our place--a queer fellow--still as an oyster--don't seem at
all like an Englishman. I've often seen him--a solemn-looking chap, with
magnificent eyes. He made a beautiful writing-case once for me to give
Jenny on her birthday--makes pocketbooks, telescope-cases, and all
kinds of leather work."

As this was said in English, Van Mounen of course translated it for the
benefit of all concerned, noticing meanwhile that neither Raff nor his
vrouw looked very miserable though Raff was trembling, and the dame's
eyes were swimming with tears.

You may believe the doctor heard every word of the story, when later in
the evening he came driving back with Hans. "The three young gentlemen
had been gone sometime," Dame Brinker said, "but like enough, by
hurrying, it would be easy to find them coming out from the Lecture,
wherever that was."

"True," said Raff, nodding his head, "the vrouw always hits upon the
right thing. It would be well to see the young English gentleman,
mynheer, before he forgets all about Thomas Higgs--it's a slippery name,
d'ye see?--one can't hold it safe a minute. It come upon me sudden and
strong as a pile-driver, and my boy writ it down. Aye, mynheer, I'd
haste to talk with the English lad; he's seen your son many a time--only
to think on't!"

Dame Brinker took up the thread of the discourse.

"You'll pick out the lad quick enough, mynheer, because he's in company
with Master Peter van Holp; and his hair curls all up over his forehead
like foreign folk's, and, if you hear him speak, he talks kind of big
and fast, only it's English; but that wouldn't be any hindrance to your
honor."

The doctor had already lifted his hat to go. With a beaming face, he
muttered something about its being just like the young scamp to give
himself a rascally English name; called Hans "my son"--thereby making
that young gentleman happy as a lord--and left the cottage with very
little ceremony, considering what a great meester he was.

       *       *       *       *       *

The grumbling coachman comforted himself by speaking his mind, as he
drove back to Amsterdam. Since the doctor was safely stowed away in the
coach, and could not hear a word, it was a fine time to say terrible
things of folks who hadn't no manner of feeling for nobody, and who were
always wanting the horses a dozen times of a night.



XLVI

MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF THOMAS HIGGS


Higgs' factory was a mine of delight for the gossips of Birmingham. It
was a small building, but quite large enough to hold a mystery. Who the
proprietor was, or where he came from, none could tell. He looked like a
gentleman--that was certain--though everybody knew he had risen from an
apprenticeship; and he could handle his pen like a writing-master.

Years ago he had suddenly appeared in the place a lad of
eighteen--learned his trade faithfully, and risen in the confidence of
his employer--been taken in as a partner soon after his time was
up--and, finally, when old Willett died, had assumed the business on his
own hands. This was all that was known of his affairs.

It was a common remark among some of the good people that he never had a
word to say to a Christian soul; while others declared that though he
spoke beautiful, when he chose to, there was something wrong in his
accent. A tidy man, too, they called him, all but for having that
scandalous green pond alongside of his factory, which wasn't deep enough
for an eel, and was "just a fever-nest, as sure as you live."

His nationality was a great puzzle. The English name spoke plain enough
for _one_ side of his house, but of what manner of nation was his
mother? If she'd been an American, he'd certain have had high
cheek-bones and reddish skin; if a German, he would have known the
language, and Squire Smith declared he didn't; if French (and his
having that frog-pond made it seem likely) it would come out in his
speech. No--there was nothing he could be but Dutch. And strangest of
all, though the man always pricked up his ears when you talked of
Holland, he didn't seem to know the first thing about the country when
you put him to the point.

Anyhow, as no letters ever came to him from his mother's family in
Holland, and as nobody living had ever seen old Higgs, the family
couldn't be anything much. Probably Thomas Higgs himself was no better
than he should be, for all he pretended to carry himself so straight;
and for their parts, the gossips declared, they were not going to
trouble their heads about him. Consequently Thomas Higgs and his affairs
were never-failing subjects of discussion.

Picture, then, the consternation, among all the good people when it was
announced by "somebody who was there and ought to know," that the
post-boy had that very morning handed Higgs a foreign-looking letter,
and the man had "turned as white as the wall; rushed to his factory,
talked a bit with one of the head work-men, and without bidding a
creature good-bye, was off bag and baggage before you could wink,
ma'am." Mistress Scrubbs, his landlady, was in deep affliction. The dear
soul became quite out of breath while speaking of him--"to leave
lodgin's in that suddent way, without never so much as a day's warnin'
which was what every woman who didn't wish to be trodden underfoot,
which thank Hevving wasn't _her_ way, had a perfect right to expect;
yes, and a week's warnin' now you mention it, and without even so much
as sayin' many thanks to you, Mistress Scrubbs, for all past kindnesses
which was most numerous though she said it who shouldn't say it;
leastwise she wasn't never no kind of a person to be lookin' for thanks
every minnit--it was really scanderlous, though to be sure Mister 'iggs
paid up everythin' to the last farthin' and it fairly brought tears to
her eyes to see his dear empty boots lyin' there in the corner of his
room, which alone showed trouble of mind for he always stood 'em up
straight as solgers though bein' half-soled twice they hadn't of course
been worth takin' away."

Whereupon her dearest friend, Miss Scrumpkins, ran home to tell all
about it. And, as everybody knew the Scrumpkinses, a shining gossamer of
news was soon woven from one end of the street to the other.

An investigating committee met, that evening, at Mrs.
Snigham's--sitting, in secret session, over her best china. Though
invited only to a quiet "tea," the amount of judicial business they
transacted on the occasion was prodigious. The biscuits were actually
cold before the committee had a chance to eat anything. There was so
much to talk over--and it was so important that it should be firmly
established that each member had always been "certain sure that
something extraordinary would be happening to that man yet," that it was
near eight o'clock before Mrs. Snigham gave anybody a second cup.



XLVII

BROAD SUNSHINE


One snowy day in January, Laurens Boekman went with his father to pay
his respects to the Brinker family.

Raff was resting after the labors of the day; Gretel, having filled and
lighted his pipe, was brushing every speck of ash from the hearth; the
dame was spinning; and Hans, perched upon a stool by the window, was
diligently studying his lessons--A peaceful, happy household whose main
excitement during the past week had been the looking forward to this
possible visit from Thomas Higgs.

As soon as the grand presentation was over, Dame Brinker insisted upon
giving her guests some hot tea; it was enough to freeze any one, she
said, to be out in such crazy, blustering weather. While they were
talking with her husband she whispered to Gretel that the young
gentleman's eyes and her boy's were certainly as much alike as four
beans, to say nothing of a way they both had of looking as if they were
stupid and yet knew as much as a body's grandfather.

Gretel was disappointed. She had looked forward to a tragic scene, such
as Annie Bouman had often described to her, from story books; and here
was the gentleman who came so near being a murderer, who for ten years
had been wandering over the face of the earth, who had believed himself
deserted and scorned by his father--the very young gentleman who had
fled from his country in such magnificent trouble, sitting by the fire
just as pleasant and natural as could be!

To be sure his voice had trembled when he talked with her parents, and
he had met his father's look with a bright kind of smile that would have
suited a dragon-killer bringing the waters of perpetual youth to his
king--but after all he wasn't at all like the conquered hero in Annie's
book. He did not say, lifting his hand toward Heaven, "I hereby swear to
be forever faithful to my home, my God and my country!" which would have
been only right and proper under the circumstances.

All things considered, Gretel was disappointed. Raff, however, was
perfectly satisfied. The message was delivered; Dr. Boekman had his son
safe and sound; and the poor lad had done nothing sinful after all,
except in thinking his father would have abandoned him for an accident.
To be sure, the graceful stripling had become rather a heavy man--Raff
had unconsciously hoped to clasp that same boyish hand again--but all
things were changed to Raff, for that matter. So he pushed back every
feeling but joy, as he saw father and son sitting side by side at his
hearthstone. Meantime, Hans was wholly occupied in the thought of Thomas
Higgs' happiness in being able to be the meester's assistant again; and
Dame Brinker was sighing softly to herself, wishing that the lad's
mother were alive to see him--such a fine young gentleman as he was; and
wondering how Dr. Boekman could bear to see the silver watch getting so
dull. He had worn it ever since Raff handed it over, that was evident.
What had he done with the gold one he used to wear?

The light was shining full upon Dr. Boekman's face. How contented he
looked; how much younger and brighter than formerly. The hard lines were
quite melting away. He was laughing, as he said to the father:

"Am I not a happy man, Raff Brinker? My son will sell out his factory
this month, and open a warehouse in Amsterdam. I shall have all my
spectacle-cases for nothing."

Hans started from his reverie. "A warehouse, mynheer! and will Thomas
Higgs--I mean--is your son not to be your assistant again?"

A shade passed over the meester's face, but he brightened with an
effort, as he replied:

"Oh no, Laurens has had quite enough of that. He wishes to be a
merchant."

Hans appeared so surprised and disappointed that his friend asked
good-naturedly:

"Why so silent, boy? Is it any disgrace to be a merchant?"

"N--not a disgrace, mynheer," stammered Hans--"but----"

"But what?"

"Why, the other calling is so much better," answered Hans, "so much
nobler. I think, mynheer," he added, kindling with enthusiasm, "that to
be a surgeon,--to cure the sick and crippled, to save human life, to be
able to do what you have done for my father--is the grandest thing on
earth."

The doctor was regarding him sternly. Hans felt rebuked. His cheeks were
flushed; hot tears were gathering under his lashes.

"It is an ugly business, boy, this surgery," said the doctor, still
frowning at Hans; "it requires great patience, self-denial and
perseverance."

"I am sure it does," cried Hans, kindling again. "It calls for wisdom
too, and a reverence for God's work. Ah, mynheer, it may have its trials
and drawbacks--but you do not mean what you say--it is great and noble,
not ugly! Pardon me, mynheer. It is not for me to speak so boldly."

Dr. Boekman was evidently displeased. He turned his back on the boy, and
conferred aside with Laurens. Meanwhile the dame scowled a terrible
warning at Hans. These great people, she knew well enough, never like to
hear poor folk speak up so pert.

The meester turned around.

"How old are you, Hans Brinker?"

"Fifteen, mynheer," was the startled reply.

"Would you like to become a physician?"

"Yes, mynheer," answered Hans, quivering with excitement.

"Would you be willing, with your parents' consent, to devote yourself to
study, to go to the University--and, in time, be a student in my
office?"

"YES, mynheer."

"You would not grow restless, think you, and change your mind just as I
had set my heart upon preparing you to be my successor?"

Hans' eyes flashed.

"No, mynheer, I would not change."

"You may believe him, there," cried the dame, who could remain quiet no
longer. "Hans is like a rock, when once he decides; and as for study,
mynheer, the child has almost grown fast to his books of late. He can
jumble off Latin already, like any priest!"

The doctor smiled. "Well, Hans, I see nothing to prevent us from
carrying out this plan, if your father agrees."

"Ahem," said Raff, too proud of his boy to be very meek, "the fact is,
mynheer, I prefer an active, out-of-door life, myself. But if the lad's
inclined to study for a meester, and he'd have the benefit of your good
word to push him on in the world, it's all one to me. The money's all
that's a wanting, but it mightn't be long, with two strong pair of arms
to earn it, before we----"

"Tut! tut!" interrupted the doctor, "if I take your right hand man away,
I must pay the cost, and glad enough will I be to do it. It will be like
having _two_ sons--eh, Laurens? One a merchant and the other a
surgeon--I shall be the happiest man in Holland! Come to me in the
morning, Hans, and we will arrange matters at once."

Hans bowed assent. He dared not trust himself to speak.

"And, Brinker," continued the doctor, "my son Laurens will need a
trusty, ready man like you, when he opens his warehouse in Amsterdam;
some one to overlook matters, and see that the lazy clowns round about
the place do their duty. Some one to----Why don't you tell him yourself,
you rascal!"

This last was addressed to the son, and did not sound half as fierce as
it looks in print. The rascal and Raff soon understood each other
perfectly.

"I'm loath to leave the dykes," said the latter, after they had talked
together a while, "but you have made me such a good offer, mynheer, I'd
be robbing my family if I let it go past me."

       *       *       *       *       *

Take a long look at Hans as he sits there staring gratefully at the
meester, for you shall not see him again for many years.

And Gretel--Ah, what a vista of puzzling work suddenly opens before her!
Yes, for dear Hans' sake she will study now. If he really is to be a
meester, his sister must not shame his greatness.

How faithfully those glancing eyes shall yet seek for the jewels that
lie hidden in rocky school-books! And how they shall yet brighten and
droop at the coming of one whom she knows of now, only as the boy who
wore a red cap on that wonderful day when she found the Silver Skates in
her apron!

But the doctor and Laurens are going. Dame Brinker is making her best
curtsey. Raff stands beside her, looking every inch a man as he grasps
the meester's hand. Through the open cottage door we can look out upon
the level Dutch landscape all alive with the falling snow.



CONCLUSION


Our story is nearly told. Time passes in Holland just as surely and
steadily as here; in that respect no country is odd.

To the Brinker family it has brought great changes. Hans has spent the
years faithfully and profitably, conquering obstacles as they arose, and
pursuing one object with all the energy of his nature. If often the way
has been rugged, his resolution has never failed. Sometimes he echoes,
with his good old friend, the words said long ago in that little cottage
near Broek: "Surgery is an ugly business;" but always in his heart of
hearts lingers the echo of those truer words, "It is great and noble! it
awakes a reverence for God's work!"

Were you in Amsterdam to-day, you might see the famous Dr. Brinker
riding in his grand coach to visit his patients; or, it might be, you
would see him skating with his own boys and girls upon the frozen canal.
For Annie Bouman, the beautiful, frank-hearted peasant girl, you would
inquire in vain; but Annie Brinker, the vrouw of the great physician, is
very like her--only, as Hans says, she is even lovelier, wiser, more
like a fairy godmother than ever.

Peter van Holp, also, is a married man. I could have told you before,
that he and Hilda would join hands and glide through life together, just
as years ago, they skimmed side by side over the frozen, sunlit river.

At one time, I came near hinting that Katrinka and Carl would join
hands. It is fortunate now that the report was not started, for Katrinka
changed her mind, and is single to this day. The lady is not quite so
merry as formerly, and, I grieve to say, some of the tinkling bells are
out of tune. But she is the life of her social circle, still. I wish she
would be in earnest, just for a little while, but no; it is not her
nature. Her cares and sorrows do nothing more than disturb the tinkling;
they never waken any deeper music.

Rychie's soul has been stirred to its depths during these long years.
Her history would tell how seed carelessly sown is sometimes reaped in
anguish, and how a golden harvest may follow a painful planting. If I
mistake not, you may be able to read the written record before long;
that is, if you are familiar with the Dutch language. In the witty, but
earnest author whose words are welcomed at this day, in thousands of
Holland homes, few could recognize the haughty, flippant Rychie who
scoffed at little Gretel.

Lambert van Mounen, and Ludwig van Holp, are good Christian men, and,
what is more easily to be seen at a glance, thriving citizens. Both are
dwellers in Amsterdam, but one clings to the old city of that name, and
the other is a pilgrim to the new. Van Mounen's present home is not far
from the Central Park, and he says if the New Yorkers do their duty, the
Park will, in time, equal his beautiful Bosch, near the Hague. He often
thinks of the Katrinka of his boyhood, but he is glad now that Katrinka,
the woman, sent him away; though it seemed at the time his darkest hour.
Ben's sister Jennie has made him very happy, happier than he could have
been with any one else in the wide world.

Carl Schummel has had a hard life. His father met with reverses in
business; and as Carl had not many warm friends, and above all, was not
sustained by noble principles, he has been tossed about by Fortune's
battle-dore until his gayest feathers are nearly all knocked off. He is
a bookkeeper, in the thriving Amsterdam house of Boekman and
Schimmelpenninck. Voostenwalbert, the junior partner, treats him kindly;
and he, in turn, is very respectful to the "monkey with a long name for
a tail."

Of all our group of Holland friends, Jacob Poot is the only one who has
passed away. Good-natured, true-hearted and unselfish to the last, he is
mourned now, as heartily as he was loved and laughed at while on earth.
He grew to be very thin before he died; thinner than Benjamin Dobbs, who
is now portliest among the portly.

Raff Brinker and his vrouw have been living comfortably in Amsterdam for
many years--a faithful, happy pair; as simple and straightforward in
their good fortune as they were patient and trustful in darker days.
They have a zommerhuis near the old cottage and thither they often
repair with their children and grandchildren on the pleasant summer
afternoons when the pond-lilies rear their queenly heads above the
water.

The story of Hans Brinker would be but half told, if we did not leave
him with Gretel standing near. Dear, quick, patient little Gretel! What
is she now? Ask old Dr. Boekman, he will declare she is the finest
singer, the loveliest woman in Amsterdam; ask Hans and Annie, they will
assure you she is the dearest sister ever known; ask her husband, he
will tell you she is the brightest, sweetest little wife in Holland; ask
Dame Brinker and Raff, their eyes will glisten with joyous tears; ask
the poor, the air will be filled with blessings.

But, lest you forget a tiny form trembling and sobbing on the mound
before the Brinker cottage, ask the Van Glecks; they will never weary
telling of the darling little girl who won The Silver Skates.


THE END





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