|The Dutch Twins|
|by Lucy Fitch Perkins|
|Through the eyes of Kit and Kat, 5 year-old twins, we catch a glimpse of life in Holland a century ago. We follow them as they go fishing with grandfather, join their father on market day, help their mother around the house, drive the milk cart, and get new skates. The story draws to a close on St. Nicholas Day when St. Nicholas himself pays them a visit. Ages 6-8 |
THE DAY THEY DROVE THE MILK CART
 THE next morning Kit and Kat woke up very early, without any
one's calling them. You see, they were afraid they would be too
late to go with the milk cart.
But Grandfather Winkle had only just gone out to get the milk
ready, and they had plenty of time to dress while Grandmother got
breakfast. Grandmother helped with the buttons and the hard
Grandmother Winkle's kitchen was quite like the kitchen at home,
only a little nicer. It had red tiles on the floor; and it had
ever so many blue plates hanging around on the walls, and
standing on edge in a row on the shelves. There was a warming-pan
with a bright brass cover, hanging on the wall; and I wish you
could have seen the pillows and the coverlet on the best bed!
 Grandmother Winkle had embroidered those all herself, and she was
very proud of them. When she had company, she always drew the
curtains back so that her beautiful bed would be seen. She said
that Kit and Kat were company, and she always left the curtains
open when they came to visit her.
When the Twins were all dressed, Grandmother said,
"Mercy sakes! You have on your best clothes! Now that's just like
a man to promise to take you out in your best clothes in a milk
wagon! Whatever was Grandfather thinking about!"
Kit and Kat thought she was going to say that they couldn't go,
so they dug their knuckles in their eyes and began to cry. But
they hadn't got farther than the first whimper when Grandmother
"Well, well, we must fix it somehow. Don't cry now, that's a good
Kit and Kat." So the Twins took their knuckles out of their eyes
and began to smile.
 Grandmother went to the press and brought out two aprons. One was
a very small apron. It wouldn't reach to Kit's knees. But she put
it on him and tied it around his waist.
"This was your Uncle Jan's when he was a little boy," she said.
"It's pretty small, but it will help some."
Kit wished that Uncle Jan had taken it with him when he went to
America. But he didn't say so.
 Then Grandmother took another apron out of the press. It looked
as if it had been there a long time.
"Kat, you must wear this," she said. "It was your mother's when
she was a little girl."
Now, this apron was all faded, and it had patches on it of
different kinds of cloth. Kat looked at her best dress. Then she
looked at the apron. Then she thought about the milk cart. She
wondered if she
 wanted to go in the milk cart badly enough to
wear that apron over her Sunday dress! She stuck her finger in
her mouth and looked sidewise at Grandmother Winkle.
Grandmother didn't say a word. She just looked firm and held up
Very soon Kat came slowly—very slowly—and Grandmother buttoned
the apron up behind, and that was the end of that.
The Twins could hardly eat any breakfast, they were in such a
hurry to go. As soon as they had taken the last spoonful, and
Grandfather Winkle had finished his coffee, they ran out into the
place where the dogs were kept, to help Grandfather harness them.
There were two black and white dogs. Their names were Peter and
The wagon was small, just the right size for the dogs; and it was
painted blue. The bright brass cans full of milk were already in;
and there was a little seat for Kat to sit on.
 When the last strap was fastened, Grandfather lifted Kat up and
set her on the seat. She held on with both hands.
Then Grandfather gave the lines to Kit, and a little stick for a
whip, and told him to walk slowly along beside the dogs. He told
him to be sure not to let go of the lines.
 Grandfather walked behind, carrying some milk cans.
Grandmother stood in the door to see them off; and, as they
started away, Kat took one hand off the cart long enough to wave
it to her. Then she held on again; for the bricks in the pavement
made the cart joggle a good deal.
"We must go first to Vrouw de Vet," Grandfather called out. "She
takes one quart of milk. Go slowly."
At first Kit went slowly. But pretty soon there was a great
rattling behind him; and Hans Hite, a boy he knew, drove right
past him with his dog cart! He drove fast; and, as he passed Kit,
he stuck out his tongue and called out,
"Milk for sale! Milk for sale!
A milk cart drawn by a pair of snails!"
Kit forgot all about going slowly.
"Get up!" he said to the dogs, and he touched them with his long
Peter and Paul "got up." They jumped forward and began to run!
 Kit ran as fast as his legs would go beside the dogs, holding the
lines. But the dogs had four legs apiece, and Kit had only two;
so you see he couldn't keep up very well.
Kat began to scream the moment that Peter and Paul began to run.
The dogs thought that something that made a dreadful noise was
after them, and they ran faster
 than ever. You see, Grandfather
Winkle never in the world screamed like that, and Peter and Paul
didn't know what to make of it. So they ran and ran and ran.
Kat held on the best she could, but she bounced up ever so far in
the air every time the cart struck a bump in the street. So did
the milk cans; and when they came down again, the milk splashed
Kat didn't always come down in the same spot. All the spots were
hard, so it didn't really matter much which one she struck as she
But Kat didn't think about that; she just screamed. And Peter and
Paul ran and ran, and Kit ran and ran, until he couldn't run any
more; he just sat down hard on the pavement and slid along. But
he didn't let go of the lines!
When Kit sat down, it jerked the dogs so hard that they stopped
suddenly. But Kat didn't stop; she went right on. She flew out
over the front of the cart and landed on the ground, among all of
 and Paul's legs! Then she stopped going,
but she didn't stop screaming.
And, though Kit was a boy, he screamed some too. Then Peter and
Paul pointed their noses up in the air and began to howl.
Way back, ever so far, Grandfather was coming along as fast as he
could; but that wasn't very fast.
All the doors on the street flew open, and all the good
housewives came clattering out to see what was the matter. They
picked Kat up and told her not to cry, and wiped her eyes with
their aprons, and stood Kit on his feet, and patted the dogs; and
pretty soon Peter and Paul stopped barking, and Kit and Kat
stopped screaming, and then it was time to find out what had
Neither of the Twins had any broken bones; the good housewives
wiggled all their arms and legs, and felt of their bones to see.
But shocking things had happened, nevertheless! Kat had torn a
great hole in the front of her best dress; and Kit had
 worn two
round holes in the seat of his Sunday clothes, where he slid
along on the pavement; and, besides that, the milk was slopped
all over the bottom of the cart!
Just then Grandfather came up. If it hadn't been that his pipe
was still in his mouth, I really don't know what he might not
have said! He looked at the cart, and he looked at the Twins.
Then he took his pipe out of his mouth and said sternly to Kit,
 "Why didn't you do as I told you?"
"I did," said Kit, very much scared. "You told me to be sure to
hold tight to the lines, and I did! I never let go once."
"Yes, and look at his clothes," said one of the women. She turned
him around and showed Grandfather the holes.
 "I told you to go slowly," said Grandfather. "Now look at the
cart, and see what you've done by not minding,—spoiled your best
clothes and Kat's, and spilled the milk! Go back to Grandmother."
"But I couldn't mind twice at one time," said Kit. "I was minding
about not letting go."
"Oh dear," sobbed Kat, "I wish we were four and a half feet high
now! If we were, this never would have happened."
Grandfather took the dogs and went on to Vrouw de Vets, without
The Twins took each other's hands, and walked back to
Grandmother's house. Quite a number of little boys and girls in
wooden shoes clattered along with them.
Grand-  mother heard all the
noise, and ran to the door to see what was the matter.
"Laws a mercy me, I told you so!" she cried, the moment she saw
them. "Look at your clothes! See how you've torn them!"
"I can't see the holes in mine," said Kit.
"But I can," said Kat. And then all the children talked at once;
and what with wooden shoes and the tongues all going, Grandmother
clapped her hands over her ears to shut out the noise. Then she
took Kit and Kat into the kitchen and shut the door. She put on
her glasses and got down on the floor so she could see better.
Then she turned Kit and Kat all around and looked at the holes.
"O! my soul!" she said. She took off the aprons and the torn
clothes and put the Twins to bed while she mended.
She got out a pair of Grandfather's oldest velveteen breeches
that had been patched a great deal, and found a good piece to
patch with. Then she patched the holes in
 Kit's breeches so
neatly that one had to look very carefully indeed to see that
there had ever been any holes there at all.
Then she patched Kat's dress; and, when it was all done, she
shook it out and said to herself,
"Seems to me those Twins have been quiet for a long time."
She went over to the cupboard bed; and there were Kit and Kat
fast asleep; with their cheeks all stained with tears and dirt.
Grand-  mother Grandmother Winkle kissed them. Kit and Kat woke up, and
Grandmother dressed them in their Sunday clothes again, and
washed their faces and made them feel as good as new.
By and by Grandfather Winkle came home from going about with the
milk. Grandmother Winkle scrubbed the cart and made it all clean
again; and by noon you would never have known, unless you had
looked very, very closely—much more closely than would be
polite—that anything had happened to the Twins or the milk cart, or
their clothes or anything.
After they had eaten their dinner, and the dogs were rested and
Grandfather had smoked his pipe he said,
"Kit, if you think you can mind, I will take you and Kat both
home in the dog cart." Kit and Kat both nodded their heads very
hard. "Only, I'll do the driving myself," said Grandfather
Winkle. And he did.
He put Kit and Kat both on the seat, and
 he walked slowly beside
the cart. They went out on the road beside the canal toward home.
They got there just as the sun was getting low in the west, and
Vrouw Vedder was going out to feed her chickens.
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