Stories of the Pilgrims - M. B. Pumphrey

Winter in Holland

When the days grew shorter and cooler there were no baby storks in their homes on the chimney tops. Those that were little birdlings when the Pilgrims went to Holland had grown large and strong. For weeks their parents had taken them on long flights into the country, that their wings might grow strong for a longer journey.

Still the days grew shorter. The cold north wind blew off the sea. Even the nest on the chimney was no longer comfortable.

The storks knew it was time to fly to their winter home in the far south. So they spread their wings and away they flew in long lines across the sky, hundreds and thousands of them.

Then came a still, cold night, and a day just as cold. There were no little girls knitting on the street that day. Their fingers were hidden in warm red mittens, and they hurried home as fast as their wooden shoes would carry them.

Boys swung their arms to keep warm, and talked of the fun there would be on the ice if it stayed cold until to-morrow. There would be no school, and the stores and mills would be closed, for the first day of skating is a holiday in Holland.

The next morning the Pilgrims were awakened at daybreak by merry shouts on the canal. Bartholomew Allerton ran to the window, but the frost on the panes was so thick he could not see out. He breathed upon the glass and scraped away some of the frost. Down the canal came eight boys in a row, each holding to the jacket of the boy in front of him. They flew past the house like a flash of light.

[Illustration] from Stories of the Pilgrims by M. B. Pumphrey

"Everybody is on skates today"

Bartholomew could hardly wait to eat his breakfast, he was so eager to go out upon the canal. Suppose we put on our skates and go with him.

What a merry place the canal is this morning! Everybody is on skates to-day. Here come three market women from the country. Each has on her shoulders a wooden yoke from which hang baskets of vegetables. There is a man with a yoke, too. He must have milk in those bright cans. I am afraid it will freeze if he has far to go.

Just see Mevrow Vetter! What is she carrying on her back? Oh, it is her baby in a snug little nest made of his mother's shawl. He puts his arms around her neck and she holds his little hands. He is warm and happy, and he coos and chatters, trying to tell her about the people he sees on the canal. He thinks skating is great fun.

There goes Doctor Fuller, skating to see a sick man at the other end of town. At the rate he goes he will soon be there. And who is this pushing a sled before him as he skates? Bartholomew knows him. That is Peter Houten with his lame sister. She cannot skate, so Peter has fixed her chair on a sled and covered it with warm fur. On the sled is a little foot stove filled with hot coals, so she will not get cold. Her pale cheeks have grown rosy and her eyes shine with pleasure.

Now we have come to the great canal beyond the city. It is much wider than the others. Here are beautiful sleighs drawn by horses, their bells making merry music on the canal.

There is a group of boys on skates, playing the game boys play all the world over. They hit a ball with their clubs and away it flies over the smooth ice. Look out, boys! See these white sails flying down the canal. Whoever saw a sleepy canal boat go so fast! Has it too put on skates?

Whiz! Whir-r-r! It is past. What was it? Lookout! Here comes another! Whir-r! whiz! whir-r-r!

They are ice boats and have runners like a sled. The wind fills their sails and they go faster than a ship on the water, faster than the swiftest horse. They are too dangerous to run on the crowded canals in the city. They must stay on the lakes, or river, or on the great canals outside of the town. Even here they must stay on their own side of the canal and we must stay on ours, or some one will be hurt.