|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 |
 "YESTERDAY was a very long day," said Vrouw Vedder on the morning
after Market Day. "You were gone such a long time."
Kat gave her mother a great hug.
"We'll stay with you all day today, Mother," she said. "Won't we,
"Yes," said Kit; and he hugged her too.
"And we'll help you just as much as we helped Father yesterday.
Won't we, Kit?"
"More," said Kit.
"I shouldn't wonder!" said Father.
"I shall be glad of help," said Vrouw Vedder, "because Grandma is
coming, and I want everything to be very clean and tidy
 when she
comes. I'm going first to the pasture to milk the cow. You can go
with me and keep the flies away. That will be a great help."
Vrouw Vedder put a yoke across her shoulders, with hooks hanging
from each end of it. Then she hung a large pail on one of the
hooks, and a brass milk can on the other. She gave Kat a little
pail to carry, and Kit took some switches from the willow tree in
the yard, with which to drive away the flies. Then they all three
started down the road to the pasture.
Pretty soon they came to a little bridge over the canal, which
they had to cross.
"Oh, dear," said Kat, looking down at the water, "I'm scared!"
You see, there was no railing at all to take hold of, and the
bridge was quite narrow.
"Ho! 'Fraidy cat!" said Kit. "I'll go first and show you how."
"And I'll walk behind you," said Vrouw Vedder.
Kat walked very slowly and held on hard
 to her pail, and so she
got over the bridge safely.
"When I'm four feet and a half high, I'm going to jump over the
canal on a jumping pole," said Kit.
"O how brave you are!" said Kat. "I should be scared. And besides
I'm afraid I should drop my shoes in the water."
 "Well, of course," said Kit, "boys can do a great many things
that girls can't do."
When they reached the pasture, there was Mevrouw Holstein waiting
for them. Mevrouw Holstein was the cow's name. Kit and Kat named
Vrouw Vedder tucked up her skirts—and that was quite a task, for
she wore a great many of them—and sat down on a little stool.
Kit and Kat stood beside her and waved their willow wands and
said "Shoo!" to the flies; and Vrouw Vedder began to milk.
Mevrouw Holstein had eaten so much of the green meadow grass that
Vrouw Vedder filled both the big pail and the brass can, and the
little pail too, with rich milk.
"I shall have milk enough to make butter and cheese," said Vrouw
Vedder. "There are no cows like our Dutch cows in all the world,
"O Mother, are you going to churn today?" asked Kat.
 "Yes," said the Vrouw, "I have cream enough at home to make a
good roll of butter, and you may help me if you will be very
careful and work steadily."
"I will be very steady," said Kat. "I'm big enough now to learn."
"All Dutch girls must know how to make good butter and cheese,"
said Vrouw Vedder.
"And boys can drink the buttermilk," said Kit.
"I'll drink some too," said Kat.
"There'll be plenty for both," said their mother.
When she had finished milking, Vrouw Vedder shook out her skirts,
put the yoke across her shoulders again and lifted the large pail
of milk. She hung it on one of the hooks and the brass milk can on
the other. Kat took the small pail, and they started back home.
The milk was quite heavy, so they walked slowly.
They had crossed the bridge and were just turning down the road,
when what should
 they see but their old goose and gander walking
along the road, followed by six little goslings!
"O Mother, Mother," screamed Kat; "there is the old goose that we
haven't seen for so long! She has stolen her nest and hatched out
six little geese all her own! They are taking them to the canal
"Quick, Kit, quick!" said Vrouw Vedder. "Don't let them go into
the canal! We must drive them home."
Kit ran boldly forward in front of them, and Kat ran too. She
spilled some of the milk; but she was in such a hurry that she
never knew it, until afterwards, when she found some in her
 "K-s-s-s!" said the old goose; and she ran straight for the Twins
with her mouth open and her wings spread! The old gander ran at
them too. I can't begin to tell you how scared Kat was then! She
stood right still and screamed.
 Kit was scared too; but he stood by Kat, like a brave boy, and
shook his willow switches at the geese, and shouted "Shoo! Shoo!"
just as he did at the flies.
Vrouw Vedder set her pails down in the road and came up behind,
flapping her apron. Then the old goose and the gander and all the
little goslings started slowly along the road for home, saying
cross words in Goose talk all the way!
Father Vedder was working in the garden, when the procession came
down the road. First came the geese, looking very
 indignant, and
the goslings. Then came Kit with the leaves all whipped off his
willow switches. Then came Kat with her pail; and, last of all,
Vrouw Vedder and the milk!
When the new family of geese had been taken care of, and the
fresh milk had been put away to cool, Vrouw Vedder got out her
churn and scalded it well. Then she put in her cream, and put the
cover down over the handle of the dasher.
"Now, Kit and Kat, you may take turns," she said, "and see which
one of you can bring the butter, but be sure you work the dasher
very evenly or the butter will not be good."
"Me first!" said Kat, and she began. Kit sat on a little stool
and watched for the butter.
Kat worked the dasher up and down, up and down. The cream
splashed and splashed inside the churn, and a little white ring
of spatters came up around the dasher.
Kat worked until her arms
 "Now it's my turn," said Kit. Then he took the dasher, and the
cream splashed and splashed for quite a long time; but still the
butter did not come.
"Ho!" said Kat. "You're nothing but a boy. Of course you don't
know how to churn. Let me try." And she took her turn.
Dash! Splash! Splash, dash! She worked away; and very soon,
 dasher, there was a ring of little specks of butter.
"Come, butter, come! Come, butter, come!
Some for a honey cake, and some for a bun,"
she sang in time to the dasher; and truly, when Vrouw Vedder
opened the churn, there was a large cake of yellow butter!
Vrouw Vedder took out the butter and worked it into a nice roll.
Then she gave each of the Twins a cup of buttermilk to drink.
While the Twins drank the buttermilk, their mother washed the
churn and put it away. When she was all through, it was still
quite early in the morning, because they had gotten up with the
"Now we must clean the house," she said.
So she got out her scrubbing-brushes, and mops, and pails, and
dusters, and began.
First she shook out the pillows of the best bed, that nobody ever
slept in, and pushed back the curtains so that the
em-  broidered coverlet could be seen. Then she put the other beds in order and
drew the curtains in front of them.
She dusted the linen press and left it open just a little, so
that her beautiful rolls of white linen, tied with ribbons, would
show. Kat dusted the chairs, and Kit
car-  ried carried the big brass jugs
outside the kitchen door to be polished.
Then they all three rubbed and scoured and polished them until
they shone like the sun.
"Now it is time to cook the dinner," said Vrouw Vedder. "We will
have pork and potatoes and some cabbage. Kit, run to the garden
and bring a cabbage; and Kat, you may get the fire ready to cook
it, when Kit brings it in."
 Kat went to the stove—but it was such a funny stove!
It wasn't a
stove at all, really.
 There was a sort of table built up against the chimney. It was
all covered with pretty blue tiles, with pictures of boats on
them. Over this table, there was a shelf, like a mantel shelf.
There were plates on it, and from the bottom of the shelf hung
some chains with hooks on them. The coals were right out on the
Kat took the bellows and—puff, puff, puff!—made the coals burn
brighter. She peeped in the kettle to see that there was water in
it. Then she put some more charcoal on the fire.
Kit brought in the cabbage, and Vrouw Vedder cut it up and put it
into the pot of water hanging over the fire. She put the pork and
potatoes in too.
In a little while the pot was bubbling away merrily; and Father
Vedder, who was in the garden, sniffed the air and said,
"I know what we are going to have for dinner."
While the pot boiled, Vrouw Vedder scrubbed the floor and wiped
 Then she took her brooms and scrubbing-brush outside.
She scrubbed the door and the outside of the house. She scrubbed
the little pig with soap. The little pig squealed, because she
got some soap in its eyes. She scrubbed the steps—and even the
trunk of the poplar tree in the yard! She scrubbed everything in
sight, except Father Vedder and the Twins! By and by she came to
the door and called,
"Come to dinner! Only be sure to leave your wooden shoes outside,
when you come into my clean kitchen."
Here are the shoes, just as they left them, all in a row. And as
it was Saturday, the shoes were scrubbed too, that night.
When the dinner was cleared away, Vrouw Vedder said to the Twins,
 "It is almost time for Grandmother to come. Let's walk out to
They walked clear to the edge of the town before they saw her
coming. They walked on top of the dyke, so they could look right
down into the street, and see all the houses in a row.
Grandmother was coming up the street with a basket on her arm.
 "What do you think is in that basket?" Vrouw Vedder asked the
"Honey cake!" said Kit; and Kat said, "Candy!"
And Kit and Kat were both right. There was a large honey cake and
anise candies, and some currant buns besides!
Grandmother let them peep in and see. They were very polite and
did not ask for any—Vrouw Vedder was proud of the Twins' good
manners. Grandmother said,
 "This afternoon, when we have tea, you shall have some."
"I'm glad I ate such a lot of dinner," said Kit to Kat, as they
walked along; "or else I'd just have to have a bun this minute!"
"Yes," said Kat, "it's much easier to be
polite when you aren't hungry."
When they got home, Kit and Kat took their Grandmother to see the
new goslings, and to see the ducklings too. And Vrouw Vedder
showed her the butter that Kit and Kat had helped to churn; and
"My, my! What helpers they are getting to be!" Then she said,
"How clean the house is!" and then, "How the brasses shine!"
"Yes," said Vrouw Vedder; "the Twins helped me make everything
clean and tidy to show to you."
"I guess it's time for honey cake," said Grandmother.
Then Vrouw Vedder stirred up the fire again and boiled the kettle
and made tea. She took down her best china cups and put them out
on the round table.
 Then Grandmother opened her basket and took out the honey cake
and buns and the candy; and Vrouw Vedder brought out her fresh
"I can't stay polite much longer," said Kit to Kat.
Grandmother gave them each a thin slice of honey cake and a bun;
and Vrouw Vedder spread some of the butter on the buns—and oh,
how good they were!
"Some for a honey cake,
And some for a bun,"
sang Kat. It didn't take the Twins long to finish them.
When they had drunk their tea, Grandmother brought out her
knitting, and Mother Vedder began to spin.
"How many rolls of linen have you ready for Kat when she
marries?" Grandmother asked.
"I try to make at least one roll each year; so she has four now
and I am working on the fifth one," said Vrouw Vedder. "She shall
be as well-to-do as any farmer's daughter near here, when she
marries. See, this is the last one," and Vrouw Vedder took from
the press a roll of beautiful white linen tied with blue ribbons.
"Is that for me, Mother?" asked Kat.
"Yes," said Vrouw Vedder. "When you marry, we shall have a fine
press full of linen for you."
"Isn't Kit going to have some too?" asked Kat.
 Grandmother laughed.
"The mother of the little girl who will some day marry Kit, is
working now on her linen, no doubt; so Kit won't need any of
The Twins looked very solemn and went out into the yard. They sat
down on the bench by the kitchen door together. Then Kat said,
"Kit, do you s'pose we've got to be married?"
 "It looks like it," said Kit.
Things seemed very dark indeed to the Twins.
"Well," said Kat, "I just tell you I'm not going to do it. I'mgoing to stay at home with Mother and Father, and you and the
ducks and everything!"
"What will they do with the linen then?" said Kit. "I guess
you'll have to be married."
Kat began to cry.
"I'll just go and ask Mother," she said.
"I'll go with you," said Kit. "I don't want to any more than you
So the Twins got down from the bench and went into the kitchen
where Grandmother and Vrouw Vedder were.
Their mother was spinning flax to make linen thread.
"Mother," said the Twins, "will you please excuse us from being
"O my soul!" said Vrouw Vedder. She seemed surprised.
"We don't want to at all," said Kat.
 "We'd rather stay with you."
"You shan't be married until after you are four feet and a half
high and are called Christopher and Katrina anyway," said Vrouw
Vedder. "I promise you that."
The Twins were much relieved. They went out and fed their
ducklings. They felt so much better that they gave them an extra
 handful of grain, and they carried a bun to Father Vedder, who
was hoeing in the farthest corner of the garden. He ate it,
leaning on his hoe.
When they went back to the house, it was late in the afternoon.
Grandmother was rolling up her knitting.
"I must go home to Grandfather," she said. "He'll be wanting his
The Twins walked down the road as far as the first bridge with
Grandmother. There she kissed them good-bye and sent them home.
When their mother put them to bed that night, Kat said,
 "Has this been a short day, Mother?"
"Oh, very short!" said Vrouw Vedder, "because you helped me so
Then she kissed them good-night and went out to feed the pigs,
and shut up the chickens for the night.
When she was gone, Kit said,
"I don't see how they got along before we came. We help so much!"
"No," said Kat; "I don't think—" But what
she didn't think, no
one will ever know, because just then she popped off to sleep.
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