|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 WENT FISHING
 ONE summer morning, very early, Vrouw Vedder opened the door of
her little Dutch kitchen and stepped out.
She looked across the road which ran by the house, across the
canal on the other side, across the level green fields that lay
beyond, clear to the blue rim of the world, where the sky touches
the earth. The sky was very blue; and the great, round, shining
face of the sun was just peering over the tops of the trees, as
she looked out.
Vrouw Vedder listened. The roosters in the barnyard were crowing,
the ducks in the canal were quacking, and all the little birds in
the fields were singing for joy. Vrouw Vedder hummed a slow
little tune of her own, as she went back into
Kit and Kat were still asleep in their little cupboard bed. She
gave them each a kiss. The Twins opened their eyes and sat up.
 "O Kit and Kat," said Vrouw Vedder, "the sun is up, the birds are
all awake and singing, and Grandfather is going fishing to-day.
If you will hurry, you may go with him! He is coming at six
o'clock; so pop out of bed and get dressed. I will put some lunch
for you in the yellow basket, and you may dig worms for bait in
the garden. Only be sure not to step on the young cabbages that
Kit and Kat bounced out of bed in a minute. Their mother helped
them put on their clothes and new wooden shoes. Then she gave
them each a bowl of bread and milk for their breakfast. They ate
it sitting on the kitchen doorstep.
 This is a picture of Kit and Kat digging worms. You see they did
just as their mother said, and did not step on the young
cabbages. They sat on them, instead. But that was an accident.
Kit dug the worms, and Kat put them into a basket, with some
earth in it to make them feel at home.
When Grandfather came, he brought a large fishing-rod for himself
and two little ones for the Twins. There was a little hook on the
end of each line.
Vrouw Vedder kissed Kit and Kat goodbye.
"Mind Grandfather, and don't fall into the water," she said.
 Grandfather and the Twins started off together down the long road
beside the canal.
The house where the Twins lived was right beside the canal. Their
father was a gardener, and his beautiful rows of cabbages and
beets and onions stretched in long lines across the level fields
by the roadside.
Grandfather lived in a large town, a little way beyond the farm
where the Twins lived. He did not often have a holiday, because
he carried milk to the doors of the people in the town, every
morning early. Sometime I will tell you how he did it; but I must
not tell you now, because if I do, I can't tell you about their
This morning, Grandfather carried his rod and the lunch-basket.
Kit and Kat carried the basket of worms between them, and their
rods over their shoulders, and they were all three very happy.
They walked along ever so far, beside the canal. Then they turned
to the left and
 walked along a path that ran from the canal
across the green fields to what looked like a hill.
But it wasn't a hill at all, really,
because there aren't any
hills in Holland. It was a long, long wall of earth, very
high—oh, as high as a house, or even higher!
And it had sloping
There is such a wall of earth all around the country of Holland,
where the Twins live. There has to be a wall, because the sea is
higher than the land. If there were no walls to shut out the sea,
the whole country would be covered with water; and if that were
so, then there wouldn't be any
Holland, or any Holland Twins, or
any story. So you see it was very lucky for the Twins that the
wall was there. They called it a dyke.
Grandfather and Kit and Kat climbed the dyke. When they reached
the top, they sat down a few minutes to rest and look at the
great blue sea. Grandfather sat in the middle, with Kit on one
side, and Kat on the
 other; and the basket of worms and the
basket of lunch were there, too.
They saw a great ship sail slowly by, making a cloud of smoke.
"Where do the ships go, Grandfather?" asked Kit.
"To America, and England, and China, and all over the world,"
"Why?" asked Kat. Kat almost always said "Why?" and when she
didn't, Kit did.
"To take flax and linen from the mills
 of Holland to make dresses
for little girls in other countries," said Grandfather.
"Is that all?" asked Kit.
"They take cheese and herring, bulbs and butter, and lots of
other things besides, and bring back to us wheat and meat and all
sorts of good things from the lands across the sea."
"I think I'll be a sea captain when I'm big," said Kit.
"So will I," said Kat.
"Girls can't," said Kit.
But Grandfather shook his head and said:
"You can't tell what a girl may be by the time she's four feet
and a half high and is called Katrina. There's no telling what
girls will do anyway. But, children, if we stay here we shall not
catch any fish."
So they went down the other side of the dyke and out onto a
little pier that ran from the sandy beach into the water.
Grandfather showed them how to bait their hooks. Kit baited
Kat's for her, because Kat said it made her all wriggly
in-  side to do it. She did not like it. Neither did the worm!
They all sat down on the end of the pier, Grandfather sat on the
very end and let his wooden shoes hang down over the water; but
he made Kit and Kat sit with their feet stuck straight out in
front of them, so they just reached to the edge,—"So you can't
fall in," said Grandfather.
They dropped their hooks into the water and sat very still,
waiting for a bite. The sun climbed higher and higher in the sky,
and it grew hotter and hotter on the pier. The flies tickled
Kat's nose and made her sneeze.
"Keep still, can't you?" said Kit crossly. "You'll scare the
fish. Girls don't know how to fish, anyway."
Pretty soon Kat felt a queer little jerk on her line. She was
perfectly sure she did.
Kat squealed and jerked her rod. She jerked it so hard that one
foot flew right up in the air, and one of her new wooden shoes
went—splash—right into the water!
But that wasn't the worst of it! Before
 you could say Jack
Robinson, Kat's hook flew around and caught in Kit's clothes and
Kit jumped and said "Ow!" And then—no one could ever tell how it
happened—there was Kit in the water, too, splashing like a young
whale, with Kat's hook still holding fast to his clothes in the
Grandfather jumped then, too, you may be sure. He caught hold of
Kat's rod and
 pulled hard and called out, "Steady there, steady!"
And in one minute there was Kit in the shallow water beside the
pier, puffing and blowing like a grampus!
Grandfather reached down and pulled him up.
 When Kit was safely on the pier, Kat threw her arms around his
neck, though the water was running down in streams from his hair
and eyes and ears.
"O Kit," she said, "I truly thought it was a fish on my line when
"Just like a g-g-girl," said Kit. "They don't know how to f-f-fish."
You see his teeth were chattering, because the water was
"Well, anyway," said Kat, "I caught more than you did. I caught
Then Kat thought of something else.
She shook her finger at Kit.
 "O Kit," she said, "Mother told you not to fall into the water!"
"'T-t-twas all your fault," roared Kit. "Y-y-you began it!
Anyway, where is your new wooden shoe?"
"Where are both of yours?" screamed Kat.
Sure enough, where were they? No one had thought about shoes,
because they were thinking so hard about Kit.
They ran to the end of the pier and looked. There was Kat's shoe
sailing away toward America like a little boat! Kit's were still
bobbing about in the water near the pier.
"Oh! Oh! Oh!" shrieked Kat; but the tide was going out and
carrying her shoe farther away every minute. They could not get
it; but Grandfather reached down with his rod and fished out both
of Kit's shoes Then Kat took off her other one and her stockings,
and they all three went back to the beach.
Grandfather and Kat covered Kit up with
 sand to keep him warm
while his clothes were drying. Then Grandfather stuck the Twins'
fish-poles up in the sand and tied the lines together for a
clothes-line, and hung Kit's clothes up on it, and Kat put their
three wooden shoes in a row beside Kit.
Then they ate their luncheon of bread and butter, cheese, and
milk, with some radishes from Father's garden. It tasted very
good, even if it was sandy. After lunch Grandfather said,
 "It will never do to go home without any fish at all."
So by and by he went back to the pier and caught one while the
Twins played in the sand. He put it in the lunch-basket to carry
Kat brought shells and pebbles to Kit, because he had to stay
covered up in the sand, and Kit built a play dyke all around
himself with them, and Kat dug a canal outside the dyke. Then she
made sand-pies in clam-shells and set them in a row in the sun to
They played until the shadow of the dyke grew very long across
the sandy beach, and then Grandfather said it was time to go
He helped Kit dress, but Kit's clothes were still a little wet in
the thick parts. And Kat had to go barefooted and carry her one
They climbed the dyke and crossed the fields, and walked along
the road by the canal. The road shone, like a strip of
yel-  low ribbon across the green field. They walked quite slowly, for they
were tired and sleepy.
By and by Kit said, "I see our house"; and Kat said, "I see
Mother at the gate."
Grandfather gave the fish he caught to Kit and Kat, and Vrouw
Vedder cooked it for their supper; and though it was not a very
big fish, they all had some.
Grandfather must have told Vrouw Vedder something about what had
happened; for that night, when she put Kit to bed, she felt of
his clothes carefully—but she didn't say a word about their
being damp. And she said to Kat: "To-morrow we will see the
shoemaker and have him make you another shoe."
Then Kit and Kat hugged her and said good-night, and popped off
to sleep before you could wink your eyes.
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