The market-place was an open square in the middle of the town. It had little booths and stalls all about it. The farmers brought their fresh vegetables and flowers, or whatever they had to sell, into these stalls, and then sat there waiting for customers.
Kit and Kat helped their father to unload the boat. Then they sat down on a box, and Father gave them each some bread and cheese to eat; for they were hungry again. They put the cheese between slices of bread and took bites, while they looked about.
Soon there were a good many people in the square. Most of them were women with market baskets on their arms. They went to the different stalls to see what they would buy for dinner.
A large woman with a big basket on her arm came along to the stall where Kit and Kat were sitting.
"Bless my heart!" she said. "Are you twins?"
"Yes, Ma'am," said Kit and Kat. And Kat said, "We're five years old."
"O my soul!" said the large woman. "So you are! What are your names?"
"Christopher and Katrina, but they call us Kit and Kat for short." It was Kat who said this. And Kit said,
"When we are four feet and a half high, we are going to be called Christopher and Katrina."
"Well, well, well!" said the large woman. "So you are! Now my name is Vrouw Van der Kloot. Are you helping Father?"
"Yes," said the Twins. "We're going to help him sell things."
"Then you may sell me a cabbage and ten onions," said Vrouw Van der Kloot.
Father Vedder's eyes twinkled, and he smoked his pipe. Kit got a cabbage for the Vrouw.
"You can get the ten onions," he said to Kat. You see, really Kit couldn't count ten and be sure of it. So he asked Kat to do it.
Kat wasn't afraid. She took out a little pile of onions in a measure, and said to Vrouw Van der Kloot,
"Is that ten?"
Then Vrouw Van der Kloot counted them with Kat, very carefully. There were eleven, and so she gave back one. Then she gave Kat the money for the onions, and Kit the money for the cabbage.
Father Vedder said,
"Now Kit and Kat, by and by, when you get hungry again, you can go over to Vrouw Van der Kloot's stall and buy something from her. She keeps the sweetie shop."
"Oh! Oh!" cried Kit and Kat. "We're hungry yet! Can't we go now?"
"No, not now," said Father. "We must do some work first."
The Twins helped Father Vedder a long time. They learned to count ten and to do several other things. Then their father gave them the money for the cabbage and the ten onions they had sold to Vrouw Van der Kloot, and said,
"You may walk around the market and look in all the stalls, and buy the thing you like best that costs just two cents. Then come back here to me."
Kit and Kat set forth on their travels, to see the world. They each held the money tightly shut in one hand, and with the other hand they held on to each other.
"The world is very large," said Kit and Kat.
They saw all sorts of strange things in the market. There were tables piled high with flowers. There was a stall full of birds in cages, singing away with all their might. One cage had five little birds in it, sitting in a row.
"O Kit," cried Kat, "let's buy the birds!"
They asked the woman if the birds cost two cents, and she said,
"No, my angels; they cost fifty cents."
You see, now that the Twins could count ten, they knew they couldn't get the birds for two cents when they cost fifty. So they went to the next place.
There, there were chickens and ducks for sale. But the Twins had plenty of those at home. There were stalls and stalls of vegetables just like Father's, and there were booths where meat and fish and wood and peat were sold. But the Twins couldn't find anything they wanted that cost exactly two cents.
At last, what should they see but Vrouw Van der Kloot's fat face smiling at them from a stall just full of cakes and cookies and bread, and chocolate, and honey cakes, and goodies of all kinds.
The Twins held up their money.
There on the counter was a whole row of St. Nicholas dolls with currant eyes, and they knew at once that there was nothing else in all the market they should like so much!
"Do these cost two cents apiece, dear Vrouw Van der Kloot?" asked Kat.
"No," said Vrouw Van der Kloot; "they cost one cent apiece."
The Twins were discouraged.
"I don't believe there's a single thing in this whole market that costs just two cents," said Kat.
"Keep still!" said Kit. "Let me think."
They sat down on the curb. Kat kept still, and Kit took hold of his head with both hands and thought hard. He thought so hard that he scowled all over his forehead!
"I tell you what it is, Kat," he said at last. "If those St. Nicholas dolls cost one cent a piece, I think we could get two of them for two cents."
"O Kit," said Kat, "how splendidly you can think! Does it hurt you much? Let's ask Vrouw Van der Kloot."
They went back to the good Vrouw, who was selling some coffee bread to a woman with a basket.
"O Vrouw Van der Kloot," said Kat, "Kit says that if those St. Nicholas dolls cost one cent a piece, he thinks we could get two for two cents. Do you think so?"
"Of course you can," said Vrouw Van der Kloot; and she winked at the lady with the bread.
"But you've got two cents, and I've got two," said Kat to Kit. "If you should get two Nicholas dolls, why, I should have my two cents left; shouldn't I? Oh! dear, it won't come out right anyway!"
"Let me think some more," said Kit; and when he had thought some more, he said,
"I'll tell you what let's! You get two with your two cents, and I'll get two with mine! And I'll give my other one to Mother and you can give your other one to Father!"
"That's just what we'll do," said Kat.
They went back to Vrouw Van der Kloot.
"We'll take four dolls," said Kat.
"Well, well, well!" said the Vrouw. "So you've figured it all out, have you?" And she counted out the dolls—"One for Kit, and one for Kat, and one for Father, and one for Mother, and an extra one for good measure!"
"O Kit, she's given us one more!" said Kat. "Let's eat it right now! Thank you, dear Vrouw Van der Kloot."
So they ate up the one more then and there, beginning with the feet. Kit bit one off, and Kat bit the other; and they took turns until the St. Nicholas doll was all gone.
Then they took the four others, said good-bye to the good Vrouw, and went back to Father's stall. They found that Father had sold all his things and was ready to go home.
They carried their empty baskets back to the boat, and soon were on their way home. The Twins sat on one seat, holding tight to their dolls, which were growing rather sticky.
The boat was so light that they went home from market much more quickly than they had come, and it did not seem long before they saw their own house. There it was, with its mossy roof half hidden among the trees, and Vrouw Vedder waiting for them at the gate.
Dinner was all ready, and the Twins set the four St. Nicholas dolls in a row, in the middle of the table.
"There's one for Father, and one for Mother, and one for Kat, and one for me," said Kit.
"O Mother," said Kat, "Kit can think! He thought just how many dolls he could buy when they were one for one cent! Isn't it fine that he can do that?"
"You've learned a great deal at the market," said Vrouw Vedder. But Kit didn't say a word. He just looked proud and pleased and put his hands in his pockets.
"By and by, when you are four and a half feet high and are called Christopher, you can go with Father every time," said Vrouw Vedder.
"I can think a little bit, too," said Kat. "Can't I go?"
"No," said Vrouw Vedder. "Girls shouldn't think much. It isn't good for them. Leave thinking to the men. You can stay at home and help me."