Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates/Boys and Girls

Boys and Girls


By the time the boys reached the village of Voorhout, which stands near the grand canal, about halfway between The Hague and Haarlem, they were forced to hold a council. The wind, though moderate at first, had grown stronger and stronger, until at last they could hardly skate against it. The weather vanes throughout the country had evidently entered into a conspiracy.

"No use trying to face such a blow as this," said Ludwig. "It cuts its way down a man's throat like a knife."

"Keep your mouth shut, then," grunted the affable Carl, who was as strong-chested as a young ox. "I'm for keeping on."

"In this case," interposed Peter, "we must consul the weakest of the party rather than the strongest."

The captain's principle was all right, but its application was not flattering to Master Ludwig. Shrugging his shoulders, he retorted, "Who's weak? Not I, for one, but the wind's stronger than any of us. I hope you'll condescend to admit that!"

"Ha, ha!" laughed Van Mounen, who could barely keep his feet. "So it is."

Just then the weather vanes telegraphed to each other by a peculiar twitch--and, in an instant, the gust came. It nearly threw the strong-chested Carl; it almost strangled Jacob and quite upset Ludwig.

"This settles the question," shouted Peter. "Off with your skates! We'll go into Voorhout."

At Voorhout they found a little inn with a big yard. The yard was well stocked, and better than all, was provided with a complete set of skittles, so our boys soon turned the detention into a frolic. The wind was troublesome even in that sheltered quarter, but they were on good standing ground and did not mind it.

First a hearty dinner--then the game. With pins as long as their arms and balls as big as their heads, plenty of strength left for rolling, and a clean sweep of sixty yards for the strokes--no wonder they were happy.

That night Captain Peter and his men slept soundly. No prowling robber came to disturb them, and, as they were distributed in separate rooms, they did not even have a bolster battle in the morning.

Such a breakfast as they ate! The landlord looked frightened. When he had asked them where they "belonged," he made up his mind that the Broek people starved their children. It was a shame. "Such fine young gentlemen too!"

Fortunately the wind had tired itself out and fallen asleep in the great sea cradle beyond the dunes. There were signs of snow; otherwise the weather was fine.

It was mere child's play for the well-rested boys to skate to Leyden. Here they halted awhile, for Peter had an errand at the Golden Eagle.

He left the city with a lightened heart; Dr. Boekman had been at the hotel, read the note containing Hans's message, and departed for Broek.

"I cannot say that it was your letter sent him off so soon," explained the landlord. "Some rich lady in Broek was taken bad very sudden, and he was sent for in haste."

Peter turned pale.

"What was the name?" he asked.

"Indeed, it went in one ear and out of the other, for all I hindered it. Plague on people who can't see a traveler in comfortable lodgings, but they must whisk him off before one can breathe."

"A lady in Broek, did you say?"

"Yes." Very gruffly. "Any other business, young master?"

"No, mine host, except that I and my comrades here would like a bite of something and a drink of hot coffee."

"Ah," said the landlord sweetly, "a bite you shall have, and coffee, too, the finest in Leyden. Walk up to the stove, my masters--now I think again--that was a widow lady from Rotterdam, I think they said, visiting at one Van Stoepel's if I mistake not."

"Ah!" said Peter, greatly relieved. "They live in the white house by the Schlossen Mill. Now, mynheer, the coffee, please!"

What a goose I was, thought he, as the party left the Golden Eagle, to feel so sure that it was my mother. But she may be somebody's mother, poor woman, for all that. Who can she be? I wonder.

There were not many upon the canal that day, between Leyden and Haarlem. However, as the boys neared Amsterdam, they found themselves once more in the midst of a moving throng. The big ysbreeker *{Icebreaker. A heavy machine armed with iron spikes for breaking the ice as it is dragged along. Some of the small ones are worked by men, but the large ones are drawn by horses, sixty or seventy of which are sometimes attached to one ysbreeker.} had been at work for the first time that season, but there was any amount of skating ground left yet.

"Three cheers for home!" cried Van Mounen as they came in sight of the great Western Dock (Westelijk Dok). "Hurrah! Hurrah!" shouted one and all. "Hurrah! Hurrah!"

This trick of cheering was an importation among our party. Lambert van Mounen had brought it from England. As they always gave it in English, it was considered quite an exploit and, when circumstances permitted, always enthusiastically performed, to the sore dismay of their quiet-loving countrymen.

Therefore, their arrival at Amsterdam created a great sensation, especially among the small boys on the wharf.

The Y was crossed. They were on the Broek canal.

Lambert's home was reached first.

"Good-bye, boys!" he cried as he left them. "We've had the greatest frolic ever known in Holland."

"So we have. Good-bye, Van Mounen!" answered the boys.


Peter hailed him. "I say, Van Mounen, the classes begin tomorrow!"

"I know it. Our holiday is over. Good-bye, again."


Broek came in sight. Such meetings! Katrinka was upon the canal! Carl was delighted. Hilda was there! Peter felt rested in an instant. Rychie was there! Ludwig and Jacob nearly knocked each other over in their eagerness to shake hands with her.

Dutch girls are modest and generally quiet, but they have very glad eyes. For a few moments it was hard to decide whether Hilda, Rychie, or Katrinka felt the most happy.

Annie Bouman was also on the canal, looking even prettier than the other maidens in her graceful peasant's costume. But she did not mingle with Rychie's party; neither did she look unusually happy.

The one she liked most to see was not among the newcomers. Indeed, he was not upon the canal at all. She had not been near Broek before, since the Eve of Saint Nicholas, for she was staying with her sick grandmother in Amsterdam and had been granted a brief resting spell, as the grandmother called it, because she had been such a faithful little nurse night and day.

Annie had devoted her resting-spell to skating with all her might toward Broek and back again, in the hope of meeting her mother on the canal, or, it might be, Gretel Brinker. Not one of them had she seen, and she must hurry back without even catching a glimpse of her mother's cottage, for the poor helpless grandmother, she knew, was by this time moaning for someone to turn her upon her cot.

Where can Gretel be? thought Annie as she flew over the ice; she can almost always steal a few moments from her work at this time of day. Poor Gretel! What a dreadful thing it must be to have a dull father! I should be woefully afraid of him, I know--so strong, and yet so strange!

Annie had not heard of his illness. Dame Brinker and her affairs received but little notice from the people of the place.

If Gretel had not been known as a goose girl, she might have had more friends among the peasantry of the neighborhood. As it was, Annie Bouman was the only one who did not feel ashamed to avow herself by word and deed the companion of Gretel and Hans.

When the neighbors' children laughed at her for keeping such poor company, she would simply flush when Hans was ridiculed, or laugh in a careless, disdainful way, but to hear little Gretel abused always awakened her wrath.

"Goose girl, indeed!" she would say. "I can tell you that any of you are fitter for the work than she. My father often said last summer that it troubled him to see such a bright-eyed, patient little maiden tending geese. Humph! She would not harm them, as you would, Janzoon Kolp, and she would not tread upon them, as you might, Kate Wouters."

This would be pretty sure to start a laugh at the clumsy, ill-natured Kate's expense, and Annie would walk loftily away from the group of young gossips. Perhaps some memory of Gretel's assailants crossed her mind as she skated rapidly toward Amsterdam, for her eyes sparkled ominously and she more than once gave her pretty head a defiant toss. When that mood passed, such a bright, rosy, affectionate look illuminated her face that more than one weary working man turned to gaze after her and to wish that he had a glad, contented lass like that for a daughter.

There were five joyous households in Broek that night.

The boys were back safe and sound, and they found all well at home. Even the sick lady at neighbor Van Stoepel's was out of danger.

But the next morning! Ah, how stupidly school bells will ding-dong, ding-dong, when one is tired.

Ludwig was sure that he had never listened to anything so odious. Even Peter felt pathetic on the occasion. Carl said it was a shameful thing for a fellow to have to turn out when his bones were splitting. And Jacob soberly bade Ben "Goot-pye!" and walked off with his satchel as if it weighed a hundred pounds.