The Pink Tulip
P EERING over the edge of the boat rail, Love strained her weary, blue eyes for a glimpse of land. The sun, a ball of soft, gold light, showed now through the haze, and suddenly, like a fairy place the city appeared. There were tall, shining towers, gold church spires, pointed roofs with wide, red chimneys where the storks stood in one-legged fashion, and great windmills with their long arms stretched out to catch the four winds. Amsterdam, in Holland, it was, the haven of this little boat load of Pilgrims.
Love Bradford, ten years old, flaxen haired, and as winsome as an English rose in June, wrapped her long, gray cloak more closely about her and turned to one of the women.
"Do you think that my father may have taken another boat that sailed faster than this and is waiting for me on the shore, Mistress Brewster? The last words that he said to me when he left me on the ship were 'Bide patiently until I come, Love; I will not be long.' That was many days ago."
Mistress Brewster turned away that the little girl might not see the tears that filled her eyes. Love's father, just before the ship that bore the Pilgrims from England had sailed, had been cast into prison by the King, because of his faith. Love was all alone, but Mistress Brewster did not want her to know of her father's fate.
"Perhaps your father will meet you some day soon in Holland. Surely, if he said that he would not be long, he will keep his word. See, Love, see the little boy of your own age down there in the fishing boat."
Love looked in the direction in which the woman pointed. A plump, rosy little boy with eyes as blue as Love's own and dressed in full brown trousers and clumsy wooden shoes sat on a big net in one end of the boat. He looked up as the sails of the little fishing craft brought it alongside the boat that bore the wanderers from England. At first he dropped his eyes in shyness at sight of the little girl. Then he lifted them again and, as his eyes met hers, the two children smiled at each other. It was like a flash of sunshine piercing the gray haze that hung over the sea.
There were friends waiting on the shore for all save Love. Older brothers these were, fathers and other relatives who had made the pilgrimage from England a few months before and had homes ready for them all. They climbed a long hill, very flat on the top, and reached by a flight of steps. Then they were as high as the trees that lined the beach and could look over the narrow streets, the tidy cottages with their red roofs, and the pretty gardens. There were many little canals, like blue ribbons, cutting the green fields.
"Welcome to Amsterdam!" said a Dutch housewife, in wide white cap and apron, who met them. She put her hand on Love's yellow hair. "And in which house are you going to live, little English blossom?" she asked kindly.
Love looked up wonderingly into her face and there was a whispered consultation between Mistress Brewster and the Amsterdam woman. "Poor little blossom! She shall come home with me. There is always room for one more in the stork's nest," the Dutch woman said kindly. She took Love's hand and led her away from the others, and along the canal.
The house where they stopped was very odd indeed. It was made of red and yellow bricks and it stood on great posts sunk deep into the ground. Opening the white door that fairly shone, it was so clean, they were in the kitchen. Such a kitchen it was, so cosy and so quaint! The floor was made of white tiles and there was a queer little fireplace. It looked like a big brass pan filled with coals, and there was a shining copper kettle hung over it by a chain from the ceiling. The kettle bubbled and sang a cheerful welcome to Love. There were stiff white curtains at the windows and, on the sill of one, was a row of blossoming plants. Blue and white dishes and a pair of tall candlesticks stood on a shelf. Love could see a bright sitting room beyond and another room where there was a strange bed built in the wall, and stretching almost from the floor to the ceiling.
"Jan, Jan," the woman called. "Come in from the garden and offer your new little English sister a seed cake. You may have one yourself, too. You have long wished for a playmate and here is one come to live in the house with you."
The door opened slowly and in came Jan. He did not look up at first. Then his eyes caught Love's. It was the little boy of the fishing boat. His dear mother it was who had offered to take care of lonely little Love.
"You may help me drive the dogs that draw the milk wagon," Jan said to Love the next morning after they had become very well acquainted over their breakfast of milk and oatmeal cakes.
"And so I can help to earn money for your kind mother," Love said with shining eyes.
Jan had two dogs and a little two-wheeled cart to which
he harnessed them every morning. Into the cart his
mother put two shining pails of milk and a long handled
dipper for measuring.
"It is a rare one indeed. I give it to you that you may plant it and tend it all winter. When the spring comes, you will have a finer one than any child in all Amsterdam."
Love thanked the woman but she puzzled over the hard, dry bulb as she and Jan walked home beside the empty cart. "It looks like nothing but an onion. What good is it, Jan?"
Jan's eyes twinkled. "I know, but I won't tell," he said. "I want you to be surprised next spring. Come, Love, we will plant it in the corner of the garden that the sun shines on first in the spring. Then we will wait."
As Jan dug a hole and Love planted the bulb, his words repeated themselves in the little girl's lonely heart. She remembered, too, what her dear father had said last to her, "Wait patiently until I come, Love." Would her patience bring the hard bulb to life or her father back, Love wondered sorrowfully.
The days passed, with blue skies and the bright sun shining down upon the canal, and then grew shorter. The storks flew south, and Love was very happy. Her days with Jan were busy, merry ones. She, too, had wooden shoes now; and Jan's mother had made her a warm red skirt and a velvet girdle and a little, green, quilted coat. Love looked like a real little Dutch girl as she skated to school, with her knitting in her school bag to busy her fingers with when it was recess time.
There was never any place in England, Love thought, so merry and gay as the frozen canal in front of her new home in Holland. Everybody was on skates; the market women with wooden yokes over their shoulders, from which hung baskets of vegetables; and even a mother skating and holding her baby in a snug nest made of a shawl on her back. The old doctor skated, with his pill bag on one arm, to see a sick patient at the other end of the town; and long rows of happy children glided by, holding each other's coats and twisting and twining about like a gay ribbon.
"Are you not glad, Love, that you came here to Holland to be my sister?" Jan asked as, holding her hand in his, he skated with Love to school.
"I am glad, Jan," Love laughed back. "I feel as if it were a story book that I am living in, and you and your dear mother and our house and the canal were the pictures in it. But, oh, Jan, I wish very much that I could see my father—so tall and brave and strong!" Then she stopped. "We must be hastening, Jan," she said, "or we shall be late for school." But to herself, Love was saying, "Be patient."
Spring came early that year in Amsterdam. The ice melted and the canals were once more blue ribbons of water. The sails of the windmills whirred, and the housewives scrubbed their sidewalks until the stones were clean enough to eat from. The storks built again in the red chimneys and, everywhere, the tulips burst into bloom. Love had never seen such beautiful flowers in all her life. There was no garden in all Amsterdam so small or so poor as not to have a bed of bright red and yellow tulips.
With the first sunshine, Love went out to the garden where she and Jan had planted the ugly, hard bulb. How wonderful; her patience had been rewarded! There were two tall straight green leaves and between them, like a wonderful cup upon its green stem, a great beautiful tulip. It was larger than any of the others. It was not red or yellow like the others, but pink, like a rose, or a sunrise cloud, or a baby's cheek.
"Come, Jan; come, mother," cried Love, and then the three stood about the pink tulip in admiration.
"It is the most beautiful tulip in all Amsterdam," said Jan.
"It is worth money," said his mother. "Some one would pay a good price for the bulb."
Love remembered what Jan's mother had said. As the days passed and the pink tulip opened wider and showed a deeper tint each day, a plan began to form in the little girl's mind. She knew that there was not very much money in Jan's home to which she had been so kindly welcomed. She knew, too, that nothing was so dear to the people of Holland as their tulips. Strange tales were told; how they sold houses, cattle, land, everything to buy tulip bulbs.
One Saturday when Jan was away doing an errand for his mother, Love dug up her precious pink tulip and planted it carefully in a large flower pot. With the pot hugged close to her heart, she went swiftly away from the house, down the long steps, and as far as the road that led along the coast of the sea below the dike. Here, where great merchant ships from all over the world anchored almost every day, Love felt sure that some one would see her tulip and want to buy it.
There was such a crowd,—folk of many nations busy unloading cargoes,—that at first no one saw the little girl with the flower in her arms. Up and down the shore she walked, a little frightened but brave. She held the flower high, and called in her sweet voice,
"A rare pink tulip. Who will buy my pink tulip?"
Intent on holding the flower carefully, she came suddenly in front of a man who had been walking in lonely fashion up and down the shore. She heard him call her name eagerly.
"Love! Love! Oh, my little Love!"
Looking up, Love almost dropped the tulip in her joy. Then she set it down and rushed into his arms.
"Father, dear father! Oh, where have you been so long?" she cried.
It was a story told between laughter and tears. Goodman Bradford, only a short time since released from prison, had come straight to Amsterdam, but he had been able to find no trace of Love. Mistress Brewster had gone on with the Pilgrims to America, and there was no one to tell Goodman Bradford where his little daughter was. Now, he could make a home for her and reward Jan's mother.
"I was patient," Love said, "as you bade me be, and see," she cried as, hand in hand, they reached the quaint little cottage where Jan and his mother stood at the door to greet them, "in good time they both came to me—the pink tulip, and my father."