DOING A MAN'S WORK
When Jan and Marie awoke, their mother's bed was empty. "She's
gone to milk the cow," cried Marie. "Come, Jan, we will surprise
her! When she comes back from the pasture, we will have breakfast
"You can," said Jan, as he struggled into his clothes, and
twisted himself nearly in two trying to do up the buttons in the
back; "you can, but I must do a man's work! I will go out and
feed the pig and catch old Pier and hitch him to the cart," he
said importantly. "I must finish the wheat harvest to-day."
"Ho!" said Marie. "You will spill the pig-feed all over yourself!
You are such a messy boy!"
"I guess I can do it just as well as you can make coffee," said
Jan with spirit. "You've never made coffee in your life!"
"I've watched Mother do it lots of times," said Marie. "I'm sure
I can do it just the same way."
"All right, let's see you do it, then," said Jan. And he strode
out of the room with his hands in his pockets, taking as long
steps as his short legs would permit.
When she was dressed and washed, Marie ran to the pump and filled
the kettle. Then she stirred the embers of the fire in the
kitchen and put on fresh coal. She set the kettle on to boil and
only slopped a little water on her apron in doing so. Then she
put the dishes on the table.
Meanwhile she heard no sound from Jan. She went to the kitchen
door and looked out. Jan had already let out the fowls, and was
just in the act of feeding the pig. He had climbed up on the
fence around the pig-pen, and by dint of great effort had
succeeded in lifting the heavy pail of feed to the top of it. He
was now trying to let it down on the other side and pour the
contents into the trough, but the pig was greedy, and the moment
the pail came within reach, she stuck her nose and her fore feet
into it. This added weight was too much for poor Jan; down went
the pail with a crash into the trough, and Jan himself tumbled
suddenly forward, his feet flew out behind, and he was left
hanging head down, like a jack knife, over the fence!
It was just at this moment that Marie came to the door, and when
she saw Jan balancing on the fence and kicking out wildly with
his feet, she screamed with laughter.
Jan was screaming, too, but with pain and indignation. "Come here
and pick me off this fence!" he roared. "it's cutting me in two!
Oh, Mother! Mother!"
Marie ran to the pigpen as fast as, she could go. She snatched an
old box by the stable as she ran, and, placing it against the
fence, seized one of Jan's feet, which were still waving wildly
in the air, and planted it firmly on the box.
"Oh! Oh!" laughed Marie, as Jan reached the ground once more. "If
you could only have seen yourself, Jan! You would have laughed,
too! Instead of pouring the pig-feed on to yourself, you poured
yourself on to the pig-feed!"
"I don't see anything to laugh at," said Jan with dignity; "it
might have happened to any man."
"Anyway, you'll have to get the pail again," said Marie, wiping
her eyes. "That greedy pig will bang it all to pieces, if you
leave it in the pen."
"I can't reach it," said Jan.
"Yes, you can," said Marie. "I'll hold your legs so you won't
fall in, and you can fish for it with a stick." She ran for a
stick to poke with, while Jan bravely mounted the box again, and,
firmly anchored by Marie's grasp upon his legs, he soon succeeded
in rescuing the pail.
"Anyway, I guess I've fed the pig just as well as you have made
the coffee," he said, as he handed it over to Marie.
"Oh, my sakes!" cried Marie; "I forgot all about the coffee!" And
she ran back to the kitchen, to find that the kettle had boiled
over and put the fire out.
Jan stuck hid head in the door, just as she got the bellows to
start the fire again. "What did I tell you!" he shouted, running
out his tongue derisively.
"Scat!" said Marie, shaking the bellows at him, and Jan sauntered
away toward the pasture with Pier's halter over his arm.
Pier had been eating grass for two nights and a day without doing
any work, and it took Jan some time to catch him and put the
halter over his head. When at last he returned from the pasture,
red and tired, but triumphant, leading Pier, Marie and her mother
had already finished their breakfast.
"Look what a man we have!" cried Mother Van Hove as Jan appeared.
"He has caught Pier all by himself."
"He lifted me clear off my feet when I put his halter on," said
Jan proudly, "but I hung on and he had to come!"
"Marie," cried her mother, "our Jan has earned a good breakfast!
Cook an egg for him, while I hitch Pier to the cart. Then, while
he and I work in the field, you can put the house in order. There
is only one more load to bring in, and we can do that by
By noon the last of the wheat had been garnered, and this time
Jan drove Pier home, while his mother sat on the load. In the
afternoon the three unloaded the wagon and stowed the grain away
in the barn to be threshed; and when the long day's work was
over, and they had eaten their simple supper of bread and milk,
Mother Van Hove and the children went together down the village
street to see their neighbors and hear the news, if there should
There were no daily papers in Meer, and now there were no young
men to go to the city and bring back the gossip of the day, as
there had used to be. The women, with their babies on their arms,
stood about in the street, talking quietly and sadly among
themselves. On the doorsteps a few old men lingered together over
their pipes. Already the bigger boys were playing soldier, with
paper caps on their heads, and sticks for guns. The smaller
children were shouting and chasing each other through the little
street of the village. Jan and Marie joined in a game of
blindman's buff, while Mother Van Hove stopped with the group of
"If we only knew what to expect!" sighed the Burgomeister's wife,
as she shifted her baby from one arm to the other. "It seems as
if we should know better what to do. In a day or two I shall send
my big boy Leon to the city for a paper. It is hard to wait
quietly and know nothing."
"Our good King and Queen doubtless know everything," said the
wife of Boer Maes. "They will do better for us than we could do
for ourselves, even if we knew all that they do."
"And there are our own brave men, besides," added Mother Van
Hove. "We must not forget them! We are not yet at war. I pray God
we may not be, and that we shall soon see them come marching home
again to tell us that the trouble, whatever it is, is over, and
that we may go on living in peace as we did before."
"It seems a year since yesterday," said the Burgomeister's wife.
"Work makes the time pass quickly," said Mother Van Hove
cheerfully. "Jan and I got in the last of our wheat to-day. He
helped me like a man."
"Who will thresh it for you?" asked the wife of Boer Maes.
"I will thresh it myself, if need be," said Mother Van Hove with
spirit. "My good man shall not come home and find the farm- work
behind if I can help it." And with these brave words she said
good-night to the other women, called Jan and Marie, and turned
once more down the street toward the little house on the edge of
the village. Far across the peaceful twilight fields came the
sound of distant bells. "Hark!" said Mother Van Hove to the
Twins—"the cathedral bells of Malines! And they are playing 'The Lion
sang the bells, and, standing upon the threshold of her little
home, with head held proudly erect, Mother Van Hove lifted her
voice and joined the words to the melody. "They will never
conquer him, the old Lion of Flanders, so long as he has claws!"
she sang, and the Twins, looking up into her brave and inspired
face, sang too.