|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 |
 ONE Sunday morning in early fall, Kit and Kat woke up and peeped
out from their cupboard bed to see what was going on in the
The sun was shining through the little panes of the kitchen
window, making square patches of light on the floor. The kettle
was singing on the fire, and Vrouw Vedder was already putting
away the breakfast things.
Father Vedder was lighting his pipe with a coal from the fire. He
had on his black Sunday clothes, all ready for church. Father
Vedder did not look at Kit and Kat at all. He just puffed away at
his pipe and said to himself,
"If there are any Twins anywhere that want to go to church with
me, they'd better get dressed and eat their breakfasts."
Kit and Kat tumbled out of the cupboard at once.
 Vrouw Vedder came to help them dress.
I can't tell you how many petticoats she put on Kat, but it was
ever so many. And over them all she put a skirt of plaid. There
was a waist of a different color, and over that a kerchief with
bright red roses on it. And over the skirt she put a new, clean
Kit was dressed very splendidly too. He had full baggy trousers
of velveteen that reached to his ankles, and a jacket that
buttoned with big silver buttons. His trousers had pockets in
Kit and Kat both wore stockings, which Vrouw Vedder had knit, and
their best shoes of stout leather.
When they were all dressed, Vrouw Vedder stood them up side by
side and had them turn around slowly to be sure they were all
"Now see that you behave well in meeting," she said. "Sit up
straight. Look at the Dominie, and do not whisper."
"Yes, Mother," said Kit and Kat.
 Then she tied a big apron over each of them and gave them each a
bowl of bread and milk. While they were eating it, Father Vedder
went out and looked at the pigs, and chickens, and ducks, and
geese, and smoked his pipe.
When he came in, Kit and Kat were quite ready. Vrouw Vedder had
tied on Kat's little white-winged cap, and put
Kit's hat on. She
kissed them good-bye, and they were off—one on each side of
Father Vedder, holding tight to his hands.
 Mother Vedder looked after them proudly, from the doorway. She
did not go to church that day.
They walked slowly along the roadway in the bright sunshine. Many
of their neighbors and friends, all dressed in their best, were
walking to church, too.
Father Vedder and Kit and Kat went a little out of their way, in
order to pass a large windmill that was swinging its arms around
and creaking out a kind of sleepy windmill song. This is the song
it seemed to sing:—
Around, and around, and around, I go,
Sometimes fast and sometimes slow.
I pump the water and grind the grain,
The marshy fields of the Lowlands, drain.
I harness the wind to turn my mill,
Around, and around, and around with a will!
Perhaps it was listening to the windmill song that made Kat say,
"Why do we have windmills, father?"
Kit and Kat said "Why?" every few steps on that walk. You see,
they didn't often have their father all to themselves, to ask
 "Why, what a little Dutch girl," said Father Vedder, "not to know
what windmills are for! They pump the water out of the fields, to
be sure! Don't you know how wet the fields are sometimes? If we
didn't keep pumping the water out, they would be so wet we could
not make gardens at all."
"Does the wind pump the water?" asked Kat.
"Of course it does, goosie girl! and grinds the grain too. The
wind blows against the great arms and turns them round and round.
That works the pumps; and the pumps suck the water out of the
fields, and it is poured out into the canals.
If it weren't for
the good old windmills working away, who knows but the water
would get the best of us some day and cover up all our land!"
"Wouldn't the dykes keep out the sea?" asked Kit.
"Suppose the dykes should break!" said Father Vedder. "Even one
little break can let in lots of water. The dykes have to be
 watched day and night all the time, and the least bit of a hole
stopped up right away, so it can't grow any bigger and let in the
"Oh dear," Kat said, "what a leaky country!"
She ran near the mill and let the wind from the fans blow her
hair and the white wings on her cap.
As the great fans swung near the ground, Kit jumped up and caught
hold of one. It lifted him right off the ground as it swung
around, and in a minute he was dangling high in the air.
"Jump, jump, quick," shouted Father Vedder.
Kit let go and dropped to the ground just in time. In another
minute he would have been carried clear over.
As it was, he sat down very hard on the ground, and had to have
the dirt brushed off of his Sunday clothes.
"I am surprised at you," Father Vedder said, while he brushed
him. "You are too
 small to swing on windmills, and besides it is
the Sabbath day. Don't you ever do it again until you are big
enough to be called Christopher!"
Sitting down so hard in the dirt had hurt Kit a little bit, and
scared him a good deal, so he said, "No, father."
Then they walked all around the mill. They peeped inside a door
which was open, and saw the pumps working away.
"Yes," said Father Vedder, "it is nip and tuck between wind and
water in Holland. Let us sit down here on the canal bank, in the
sunshine, and I will tell you what hard work has to be done to
keep this good land of ours. And it is a good land! We should be
thankful for it! Just see the rich green meadows over there, with
the cows grazing in them!"—Father Vedder pointed to the
beautiful fields across the canal. "The grass is so rich and
fresh, that the cows here give more milk than any other cows in
the whole world!"
"That's what Mother says," said Kat.
 "The Holland butter and cheese are famous everywhere," went on
Father Vedder; "and we have all the good milk we want to drink,
besides. The Dutch gardens, too, are the finest in the world."
"And ours is one of the best of Dutch gardens, isn't it, Father?"
 "It's a very good garden," said Father Vedder, proudly. "No one
can raise better onions and cabbage and carrots than I can. And
the Dutch bulbs! Our tulips and hyacinths make the whole world
"Holland is really the greatest country there is; isn't it?" said
"We—ll, not in point of size, perhaps," Father Vedder admitted;
"but in pluck, my boy, it is! Did you know that sometimes people
call Holland the Land of Pluck?"
"I don't see why," said Kat. "I'm Dutch, but I'm afraid of lots
of things! I'm afraid of spiders and of cross geese, and of
falling into the water!"
"You're a girl, if you are Dutch," said Kit. "Boys are always
pluckier than girls; aren't they, Father?"
"Really plucky people never boast," said Father Vedder.
Kit looked the other way and dug the toe of his shoe into the
dirt. Kat snuggled up to her Father and sniffed at Kit.
"So there, Kit!" was all she said.
 "There's pluck enough to go round," said Father Vedder mildly,
"and we all need it—boys and girls, and men and women too. It
was pluck that made Holland, and it's pluck that keeps her from
slipping back into the sea."
"How did pluck make Holland?" asked Kit.
"There wasn't any Holland in the first place," Father Vedder
answered. "There were only some marshes and some lands under
water. But people built a wall of earth around these flats; and
then they pumped out the water from the space inside the wall,
and made canals through the land, and drained it. And after all
that work, we have our rich fields."
"How does pluck keep them?" asked Kat.
"The dykes have to be watched and mended all the time," said
Father Vedder. "And the windmills have to work and work, to keep
the fields drained. No one can be lazy in Holland. Each one has
to work well for what he gets. If Holland should grow
 lazy, she
would soon be back again in the Zuyder Zee! So, my children, you
see you must learn well and work hard. And that is all my sermon
"It is a better sermon than the Dominie will preach, I know,"
"Tut, tut! You must never say such things," said Father Vedder.
He got up and held out his hands to the Twins.
"Come! we must walk along, or we shall be late for church," he
said. "Here comes the Dominie now."
There indeed was the Dominie! Kit and Kat knew him well. No one
else dressed as he did. He wore a high silk hat, and long, black
coat and trousers, such as city people wear.
As he came along the road, all the people bowed respectfully; the
little boys took off their caps, and the little girls bobbed a
courtesy. Kit and Kat bobbed and courtesied too, and the Dominie
smiled at them and laid his hand on Kit's head.
"I wish he'd come to see us again," said Kit, after the Dominie
had passed by.
 Father Vedder was pleased.
"I am glad to see that you love your pastor, my son," he said.
"Well," said Kit, "I don't really like him so very much, because
we have to be washed, and recite the catechism, and mind all our
manners when he comes. But Mother always has such good things to
eat when the Dominie comes—doesn't she, Kat?—cake
and preserves—and everything!"
"If it weren't for the catechism and such
 things, it would be
something like St. Nicholas day!" sighed Kat. "But the Dominie
never forgets! And last time I couldn't tell what saving grace
was! The cakes are good, but—"
"Good Dutch boys and girls always learn their catechism well,"
said Father Vedder; "then they are glad to see the good Dominie
as well as the cakes. Now no more chatter! Here is a penny for
each of you to put in the bag when it is passed."
He gave them each a penny. Kit put his in his pocket. Kat didn'thave a pocket, so she held hers tight in her hand.
At the church door they met Grandfather and Grandmother.
Grandfather looked very fine indeed, in his black clothes; and
Grandmother was all dressed up in her best black dress, with a
fresh white cap, and a shawl over her shoulders. She carried a
large psalm book with golden clasps in one hand, and a scent
bottle in the other. She had some peppermints too. Kit and Kat
 They all went into the church together, and an old woman led them
to their seats. Kit and Kat sat one each side of Grandmother.
Grandfather and Father Vedder sat on the other side of the church
with all the rest of the men.
 "You must sit very still and look straight before you," said
Kit remembered the peppermints and sat up like a soldier. So did
Pretty soon the schoolmaster came in and went up into the pulpit.
He read a chapter from the Bible, and then the Dominie stood up
in the pulpit and began to preach. He preached a long time.
Kit and Kat tried very hard to sit still, just as Grandmother had
said; but pretty soon their heads began to nod.
Grandmother gave them each a peppermint.
They waked up for a minute. But the Dominie kept right on
preaching, until they were both sound asleep with their heads on
Grandmother's shoulders,—one on each side; and if they had been
awake to see, they might have thought that Grandmother took a nap
The sermon was so very long that a great many people went to
sleep. So, by and by, the Dominie said,
 "We will all sing the Ninety-first Psalm."
Everybody woke up.
Grandmother opened the great golden clasps of her psalm book, and
stood up with all the rest of the people. She stood up quickly,
so that no one would think she had been asleep. She forgot that
the Twins were asleep too, with their heads on her shoulders.
That was why, when she got up, Kit and Kat fell against each
other and bumped their heads!
 They forgot that they were in church. They said "Ow!" both
together, and Kat began to cry. But Grandmother said "Sh! sh!"
and gave them each a peppermint; and that made them feel much
Pretty soon the schoolmaster came along with a little bag on the
end of along stick. He passed it to each person. Kit and Kat each
put in a penny, though Kit had a hard time to get his out of his
pocket. But Grandmother was so upset about the Twins getting
bumped, that she forgot and put in a peppermint instead.
When church was over and they were out on the street again,
"Now you are coming home with me to stay all night."
"Really and truly?" said the Twins. "And may we go with
Grandfather to carry the milk in the morning?"
"Yes," said Grandfather, "and Kit may drive the dogs."
Kit jumped right up and down, he was so happy even if it was
"May I too?—May I too?" asked Kat.
"You are a girl," said Grandfather. "You may ride in the wagon."
"Oh, I wish to-morrow would come right away," said Kat.
Then Kit and Kat said good-bye to Father Vedder and went home
with Grandmother and Grandfather.
They lived on a little street in the town, where the houses stood
in a row close together. The houses were built of brick and had
wooden shutters at the windows, and they were so clean they shone
in the sun.
 This is a picture of Grandmother's house and of Grandmother and
Kit and Kat going in. The door opened right into the kitchen.
Grandmother put away her shawl and psalm book and scent bottle as
soon as she was home. Then she put on a big apron and drew out
the round table.
She boiled the kettle and made coffee;
 and, when it was done, she
set the coffee-pot on a pretty little porcelain stove on the
table to keep hot. She got out bread and cheese and smoked beef
and, best of all, a plate of little cakes.
Then they all four sat down to eat. I will not tell you how many
cakes Kit and Kat ate, but it was a good many.
After dinner, Grandmother put away the things, and Kat helped
Kit sat beside Grandfather in the doorway while he smoked. Pretty
soon Grandfather said,
"Bring me my accordeon, Kit."
Kit ran to the press in the corner. He knew where the accordeon
Then Grandfather took the accordeon, tipped his head back, shut
his eyes and began to play, beating time with one foot. Kat heard
the music and came out too.
She and Kit sat down on the doorstep, one on each side of
Grandfather, to listen.
Grandfather played six tunes.
Then Grandmother said,
 "Why don't we go to the woods to hear the band play?"
"No reason at all," said Grandfather. So very soon they were on
their way to a grove on the edge of the town.
In the grove a band was playing; and just as the Twins and
Grandfather and Grandmother came up, it began to play the national
hymn of Holland. All the people
 began to sing. There were a great
many people in the grove, and they all sang as loud as they
could; so there was a great sound. Grandfather and Grandmother
and Kit and Kat all sang too; for they all knew every word of the
This is what they sang:—
Let him in whom old Dutch blood flows,
Untainted, free and strong;
Whose heart for Prince and Country glows,
Now join us in our song;
Let him with us lift up his voice,
And sing in patriot band,
The song at which all hearts rejoice,
For Prince and Fatherland,
For Prince and Fatherland.
We brothers, true unto a man,
Will sing the old song yet;
Away with him who ever can
His Prince or Land forget!
A human heart glowed in him ne'er,
We turn from him our hand,
Who callous hears the song and prayer,
For Prince and Fatherland,
For Prince and Fatherland.
Preserve, O God, the dear old ground
Thou to our fathers gave;
The land where we a cradle found,
And where we'll find a grave!
We call, O Lord, to Thee on high,
As near death's door we stand,
Oh! Safety, blessing to our cry
For Prince and Fatherland,
For Prince and Fatherland.
Loud ring thro' all rejoicings here,
Our prayer, O Lord, to Thee;
Preserve our Prince, his house so dear
To Holland great and free!
From youth thro' life, be this our song,
Till near to death we stand:
O God, preserve our sov'reign long,
Our Prince and Fatherland,
Our Prince and Fatherland.
Now, while the people were singing with all their might, and the
band was playing, and Kit and Kat were having the most beautiful
time they had ever had in their whole lives, what do you think
Down the long drive through the trees came a great, splendid
carriage, drawn by
 a pair of beautiful white horses with wavy
white tails and manes. There were two soldiers on horseback
riding in front of the carriage, and the driver of the carriage
was dressed in blue and orange livery.
The carriage was open, and in it sat a beautiful, smiling young
lady. Beside her sat her husband; and a nurse, in the other seat,
held a baby in her arms.
 When the people saw the carriage and the lady, they waved their
caps and shouted, "Long live the Queen!"
"Look! Look! Kit and Kat," said Grandfather. "It is your dear
Queen Wilhelmina, and Prince Henry and the little Princess! Wave
Kit and kat waved with all their might, but they were so short,
and the people
 crowded beside the driveway so, that neither of
them could see. Then Grandfather caught Kit and lifted him up
high, and Grandmother did the same with Kat.
It was fine to be up so high. Kit and Kat could see everything
better than anyone else there. And when the carriage came by, the
queen saw Kit and Kat! She smiled at them, and the nurse held the
little Princess up high for them to see! Kit and Kat threw kisses
to the little Princess; and the Princess waved her baby hand to
Kit and Kat; and then they were all gone—like a bright dream.
But the soldiers were better to see even than queens, Kit
thought. Kat thought the baby—any baby—was nicer than either.
When the carriage was out of sight, Grandfather and Grandmother
set the Twins down on the ground. Everyone began to talk about
the Queen, about how sweet she was, and how good; and the band
played, and everybody was as happy as they could possibly be.
 By and by it was time to go home; for, Grandfather said, "Dutch
girls and boys must learn to get up early in the morning,
especially Twins that are going out with the milk cart."
So they went back to Grandfather Winkle's house; and Grandmother
put them to bed in a little cupboard like their own at home,
after they had had some supper. And the last thing Kat said that
"O Kit, just to think that to-day we saw the Queen and the
soldiers, and the Queen's baby, and to-morrow we are going to
drive in the milk cart! What a beautiful world it is!"
Just as they were dropping off to sleep, they heard a great noise
in the street.
"Clap, clap, clap," it sounded, eight times.
"There goes the Klapper-man," said Grandmother Winkle. "Eight
o'clock, and time all honest folk were abed."
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