O NE morning, when Kit and Kat ran out early to feed their ducklings, the frost nipped their noses and ears.
"It's getting colder every day. Very soon winter will come," Kat said.
They ran down to the canal. The old goose and the gander and the goslings—now half grown—were standing on the bank, looking unhappy: there was a thin sheet of ice all over the canal, and they could not go swimming.
Kit took a stick and broke the ice. Thin sheets of it, like pieces of broken glass, were soon floating about; and the old goose, the gander, and all the goslings went down the bank in a procession into the water.
They swam about among the pieces of ice for a while, but it was so cold that they soon came up on the bank into the sun again and wiggled their tails to shake out the water. Then they all sat down in the sun to get their feet warm.
Kit and Kat ran up and down the road and played tag until their cheeks were red and they were warm as toast. Then they ran into Vrouw Vedder's warm kitchen.
The kettle was singing on the fire, and there was a smell of coffee in the air. Vrouw Vedder gave the Twins some in a large cup. She put in a good deal of milk and gave them each a piece of sugar to sweeten it with.
"Is it Sunday?" asked Kat. On Sundays they sometimes had coffee. On other days they had milk.
"No," said Vrouw Vedder; "but it is cold, and I thought a cup of coffee would warm us all up."
While they were drinking their coffee, Kit and Kat talked about the ice, and what fun they would have with their sleds on the canals when winter came.
"I tell you what it is, Kat," said Kit; "I think we're big enough to have skates. Hans Hite isn't much bigger than I am, and he had skates last winter. I mean to ask Father this very day."
"Yah," said Kat—that is the way Dutch Twins always say yes—"Yah, and let us be very good and help mother all we can. I think maybe they will give skates to good Twins quite soon, even if we aren't very big yet—not big enough to be called Christopher and Katrina."
Vrouw Vedder was heating water and getting out her scrubbing brushes, so Kit and Kat knew that she was going to clean something.
"What are you going to scrub
"I'm going to scrub the stable," said Vrouw Vedder. "It is
getting too cold for the cows to stay all night in the pastures.
Father means to bring Mevrouw Holstein in
"We'll help you," said Kit and Kat very politely.
"Good children!" their mother said. "You may carry the brushes." So they opened a door beside the fireplace, and walked right into the stable.
The stable was really a part of the house. There were two stalls in the stable. Vrouw Vedder took her pails of water and her brushes and began to scrub. She scrubbed the walls, and the sides of the stalls, and the floor. The Twins scrubbed, too, until they were tired; and the stable was so clean, you would have liked to live there yourself.
"Let's play out here," said Kat. "Let's play house."
"All right," said Kit. "I'll be the father, and you be the mother."
"But who will be Twins?" said Kat.
"Let's get the ducklings," said Kit.
"They can be Twins, of course," said Kat. "They are, anyway."
So Kit ran out and brought in the ducklings. They were so tame they always ran to Kit and Kat, when they saw them coming. They were almost ducks now, they had grown so big.
"Let's give the Twins their dinner," said Kat. So she got some grain, and they both sat down on a little box and held the ducks in their laps and fed them from their hands. The ducks ate greedily.
"You have very bad manners," said Kat. "You will get your clothes all dirty." She took two rags and tied them around the ducks' necks for bibs. The ducks did not like bibs. They quacked.
"Now don't say anything like that," said Kat. "You must do just as you are told and not spill your food."
Then Kit got some water and a spoon and gave the Twins a drink, but they did not like the drink either.
"Now we must put them to sleep," said Kat. They rocked the ducks in their arms, but the ducks squawked dreadfully.
"What bad children to cry so!" said Kit. "You can have both the Twins"; and he gave his duck to Kat.
"You fix a bed for them," said Kat. So Kit turned up the box they had been sitting on, and put some hay in it; and they put the ducks in on the hay.
Pretty soon the ducks went to sleep. Kit and Kat ran away to play out of doors and forgot all about them.
They didn't think about them again until Father Vedder came home at night with Mevrouw Holstein. When he put the cow into the stall, he stumbled over the box. It was rather dark in the stable.
"Quack, quack!" said the ducks.
Kit and Kat were helping Father put the cow into the stall and get some hay for her. When the ducks quacked, Father Vedder said,
"What in the world is this?"
"Oh, our Twins! our Twins!" cried Kit and Kat. "Don't let Mevrouw Holstein step on the Twins!"
Father Vedder pulled out the box. Kit and Kat each took a duck and carried it out to the poultry house.
"Twins are a great care," said Kit and Kat.
"Now is the time to ask," whispered Kat to Kit, that night, when Father Vedder had finished his supper and was lighting his pipe. "You must ask very politely,—just the very politest way you can."
They went and stood before their father. They put their feet together. Kit made a bow, and Kat bobbed a curtsy.
"Dear parent," said Kit.
"That's a good start," whispered Kat. "Go on."
"Well, well, what now?" said Father Vedder.
"Dear parent, Kat and I are quite big now. I think we must be nearly four feet and a half high. Don't you think we are big enough to have skates this winter?"
"So that's it!" said Father Vedder. Then he smoked his pipe again.
"There was ice on the canal this morning," said Kat.
"So you think you are big enough to skate, do you?" said Father Vedder, at last. Mother Vedder was clearing away the supper. "What do you think about it, Mother?" said Father Vedder.
"They have been very good children," said the Vrouw. "There are the skates you and I had when we were children. We might try them on and see if they are big enough to wear them. They are in the bag hanging back of the press."
Kit and Kat almost screamed with joy.
"Our feet are quite large. I'm sure we can wear them," they said.
Father Vedder got the bag down and took out two pairs of skates. They had long curling ends on the runners. The Twins sat down on the floor. Father Vedder tried on the skates.
"They are still pretty large; but you will grow," he told the Twins. "You may have them if you will be very careful and not let them get rusty. By and by we will teach you to skate."
The Twins practiced standing in the skates on the kitchen floor; and, when bedtime came, they took the skates to bed with them.
"O Kit," said Kat, "I never supposed we'd get them so soon. Did you?"
"Well," said Kit, "you see, we're pretty big and very good. That makes a difference."
"It's very nice to be good when people notice it, isn't it?" said Kat.
"Yah," said Kit. "I'm going to be good now right along, all the
time; for very soon
"Oh! Oh!" said Kat.
"I'm going to
be good all the time
too. I'm going to
be good until after the feast of