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A Dutch Treat

from Boys And Girls Bookshelf - STORIES _for_ LITTLE GIRLS





BY AMY B. JOHNSON

"I've been crying again, father."

"Have you, sweetheart? I'm sorry."

"Father."

"Yes, darling."

"I don't like Holland at all. I wish we had stayed in New York. And I
would much rather stay in Amsterdam with you to-day than to go and see
those horrid little Dutch children. I'm sure I shall hate them all."

"But how about Marie? You want to see her, don't you?"

"No. I'm very much annoyed with Marie. I don't see why she could not
have been contented in New York. After taking care of me ever since I
was a baby, she must like me better than those nieces and nephews she
never saw till yesterday."

"I am sure Marie loves you very dearly, Katharine, but you are getting
to be such a big girl now that you no longer need a nurse, and Marie was
homesick. She wished to come back to Holland years ago, but I persuaded
her to stay till you were old enough to do without her, and until Aunt
Katharine was ready to come to New York and live with us, promising her
that when that time came you and I would come over with her, just as we
have done, on our way to Paris. We must not be selfish and grudge Marie
to her sisters, who have not seen her for twelve years."

"I am homesick now, too, father. I was so happy in New York with my
dolls--and you--and Marie--and--"

"So you shall be again, darling; in a few months we will go back, taking
dear Aunt Katharine with us from Paris, and you will soon love her
better than you do Marie."

Katharine and her father, Colonel Easton, were floating along a canal
just out of Amsterdam, in a trekschuit, or small passenger-boat, on
their way to the home of one of Marie's sisters, two of whom were
married and settled near one of the dikes of Holland. Katharine was to
spend the day there with her nurse, and make the acquaintance of all the
nieces and nephews about whom Marie had told her so much, while her
father was to return to Amsterdam, where he had business to transact
with a friend. They had arrived in Holland only the day before, when
Marie had immediately left them, being anxious to get home as soon as
possible, after exacting a promise from the colonel that Katharine
should visit her the next day.

Katharine felt very sure she would never like Holland as she gazed
rather scornfully at the curious objects they passed: the queer
gay-colored boats, the windmills which met the eye at every turn, with
their great arms waving in the air, the busy-looking people, men and
women, some of the latter knitting as they walked, carrying heavy
baskets on their backs, and all looking so contented and placid.

"Try and think of the nice day you are going to have with Marie and the
children," said the colonel; "then this evening I will come for you, and
we will go together to Paris, and when you see Aunt Katharine you will
be perfectly happy. See, we are nearly at the landing, and look at that
row of little girls and boys. I do believe they are looking for you."

"Yes; they must be Marie's sister's children, I know them from the
description Marie has read me from her letters. Aren't they horrid
little things, father? Just look at their great clumps of shoes--"

"Yes--klompen; that is what they are called, Katharine."

"And their baggy clothes and short waists! One of them knitting, too!
Well, I would never make such a fright of myself, even if I did live in
Holland, which I'm glad I don't."

By this time they had made the landing. Then Katharine and Marie fell
into each other's arms and cried, gazed at in half-frightened curiosity
by seven small, shy Hollanders, and in pitying patience by a very large
colonel.

"Au revoir. I will call for Katharine this afternoon," called Colonel
Easton, when the time came for him to go on board again.

Katharine waved her handkerchief to her father as long as his boat was
in sight.

"See, Miss Katharine," said Marie--in Dutch now, for Katharine
understood that language very well, Marie having spoken it to her from
her infancy--"here is Gretel, and this is her little sister Katrine and
her brother Jan. The others are their cousins. Come here, Lotten; don't
be shy. Ludolf, Mayken, Freitje, shake hands with my little American
girl; they were all eager to come and meet you, dear, so I had to bring
them."

Katharine shook hands very soberly with the little group, and then
walked off beside Marie, hearing nothing but the clatter-clatter of
fourteen wooden shoes behind her.

Soon they arrived at the cottage, and in a moment seven pairs of klompen
were ranged in a neat row outside a small cottage, while their owners
all talked at once to two sweet-faced women standing in the doorway.
These were Marie's sisters, whose husbands were out on the sea fishing,
and who lived close beside each other in two tiny cottages exactly
alike.

"Oh," exclaimed Katharine, as, panting and breathless, she joined the
group, "do you always take off your shoes before you go into the
house?"

"Why, of course," said the children.

"How funny!" said Katharine.

Then Marie, who had been left far behind, came up and introduced the
little stranger to Juffrouw Van Dyne and Juffrouw Boekman, who took her
into the house, followed by the three children who belonged there and
the four cousins who belonged next door. They took off her coat and hat
and gave her an arm-chair to sit in as she nibbled a tiny piece of
gingerbread, while large pieces from the same loaf disappeared as if by
magic among the other children. Then Gretel showed to her her doll; Jan
shyly put into her hand a very pretty small model of the boat she had
come in on that morning; Lotten offered her a piece of Edam cheese,
which she took, while politely declining Mayken's offer to teach her to
knit, little Katrine deposited a beautiful white kitten on her lap;
Ludolf showed her a fine pair of klompen on which his father was
teaching him to carve some very pretty figures; Freitje brought all his
new fishing-tackle and invited her to go fishing with him at the back of
the house. It was not long before Katharine forgot that she was
homesick, and grew really interested in her surroundings; and later the
dinner, consisting chiefly of fish and rye bread, tasted very good to
the now hungry Katharine.

It was after dinner that the tragedy happened. The children had all
started out for a walk. Before they had gone more than a mile from the
house the fog settled all around them--so dense, so thick, blotting out
everything, that they could not see more than a step ahead. They were
not frightened, however, as all they had to do was to turn round and go
straight ahead toward home. The children took one another's hands at
Gretel's direction, stretching themselves across the road, Katharine,
who held Gretel's hand, being at one end of the line. They walked on
slowly along the dike for a short time, talking busily, though not able
to see where they were going, when suddenly Katharine felt her feet
slipping. In trying to steady herself she let go of Gretel, gave a wild
clutch at the air, and then rolled, rolled, right down a steep bank,
and, splash! into a pool of water at the bottom. For a moment she lay
half stunned, not knowing what had happened to her; then, as her sense
came, "Oh," thought she, "I must be killed, or drowned, or something!"
She tried to call "Gretel," but her voice sounded weak and far off, and
she could see nothing. Slowly she crawled out of the pool, only to
plunge, splash! into another. She felt, oh, so cold, wet, and bruised!
"I must have rolled right down the dike," she thought. "If I could find
it, I might climb up again." She got up and tried to walk, but sank to
her ankles in water at every step.

She was a little lame from her fall, and soaked from head to foot. Her
clothes hung around her most uncomfortably when she tried to walk. But,
if she had to crawl on hands and knees, she must find the house; so,
plunging, tumbling, rising again, she crawled in and out of ditches,
every minute getting more cold and miserable.

But on she went, shivering and sore, every moment wandering farther from
her friends, who were out searching all along the bottom of the dike.

After what seemed to her a long time, she came bump up against something
hard. She did not know what it was, but she could have jumped for joy,
if her clothes had not been so heavy to hear a voice suddenly call out
in Dutch "What's that? Who has hit against my door? Ach! where in the
world have you come from?" Then in a considerably milder tone: "Ach! the
little one! and she is English. How did you get here, dear heart?"

"I--I--fell down the dike. I have--lost--everybody. Oh, how shall I ever
get back to father?" answered Katharine in her very poor Dutch.

"But tell me, little one, where you came from--ach! so cold and wet!"

"I was spending the day with Marie and Gretel--and--Jan--and we were
walking on the dike when the fog came on; then I fell, and could not
find my way--"

"Gretel and Jan--could they be Juffrouw Van Dyne's children?"

"Yes, yes," eagerly; "that is where I was. Oh, can you take me back,
dear, dear juffrouw?"

"Yes, when the fog clears away, my child. I could not find the house
now; it is more than two miles from here. Besides, you must put off
these wet clothes; you will get your death of cold--poor lambkin."

At this Katharine's sobs broke forth afresh. It must be late in the
evening now, she thought; her father would come to Marie's and would not
be able to find her--

"No, dear child, it is only four o'clock in the afternoon. The fog may
clear away very soon, and then I will take you back."

Quickly the wet garments were taken off and hung about the stove.
Katharine presently found herself wrapped up in blankets in a great
arm-chair in front of the fire, a cushion at her back and another under
her feet, drinking some nice hot broth, and feeling so warm and
comfortable that she fell fast asleep, and awoke two hours later to find
the room quite light, the fog almost gone, the juffrouw sitting beside
her knitting, and a comfortable-looking cat purring noisily at her
feet.



"I think I have been asleep," she said.

"I think you have," said Dame Donk.

Just then a loud knock was heard at the door, a head was poked in, then
another, and still another. The cottage was fast filling up. There
stood, first of all, poor, pale, frightened Marie, holding a large
bundle in her arms, Jan with another smaller one, Gretel carrying a pair
of shoes, and one of the sisters, completely filling up the doorway with
her ample proportions, last of all.

It appears that as soon as the fog had begun to clear, the good Dame
Donk had despatched a boy from a neighboring cottage to let them know
where Katharine was, and that her wardrobe would need replenishing.

The excitement on finding the child safe and sound may be better
imagined than described. How she was kissed, cried, and laughed over,
what questions were asked and not answered, as she was taken into an
adjoining room and arrayed in a complete suit of Gretel's clothes, even
to the klompen, for, alas! her French shoes were now in no condition to
be worn, the pretty blue frock torn and stained and hopelessly wet, the
hat with its dainty plume crushed and useless; indeed, every article she
had worn looked only fit for the rag-bag.

Gretel was so much smaller than Katharine that the clothes were a very
tight fit, the skirt which hung round Gretel's ankles reaching just
below Katharine's knees, and it was a funny little figure that stepped
back into the room--no longer a fashionably dressed New York maiden, but
a golden-haired child of Holland, even to the blue eyes, sparkling now
with fun and merriment.

"But didn't you bring a cap for me, Marie?" she asked in a grieved tone.

"Ah, no, deary; I never thought of a cap."

"Well, you must put one on me the minute we get back."

"Oh, what will father say?" she cried delightedly, as she surveyed
herself in the little mirror.

This sobered Marie at once. What would "father" say, indeed? Would he
not have a right to be very angry with her, that she had allowed the
child to get into such danger?

* * *

"Where is Katharine?" asked the colonel, as he stood, tall and
commanding, on the threshold, later that evening, surveying eight small
Hollanders, looking so much alike, except for the difference in their
sizes, that they might have passed for eight Dutch dolls propped up in a
row against the wall.

A sudden shriek of laughter, and one of the dolls was in his arms,
smothering him with kisses. Then every one began to talk at once, as
usual, and it was not until late the next evening, when he and Katharine
were steaming out of Amsterdam, that the colonel was told the whole
story and for the first time fully understood all that had happened to
his little girl on that eventful day.

Meanwhile the new light in his daughter's eyes and the laughter on her
lips kept him from any desire to inquire too deeply into the reason for
a certain embarrassed frightened look on the faces of the women.

Before leaving Amsterdam the colonel was obliged to purchase a complete
suit of Dutch garments for Katharine as a memento of this visit, and
"because they are so pretty, father," she said, and "oh, father, I just
love Holland! As for those Dutch children, I think they are simply the
dearest, sweetest things I ever saw, and I have promised to write to
Gretel as soon as ever I get to Paris."





Next: The Jingle Of The Little Jap

Previous: The Lost Money



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