Not many days after Kit and Kat got their skates, there came a cold, cold wind. It blew over the fields and over the canals all day and all night long; and in the morning, when the Twins looked out, the canal was one shining roadway of ice.
Father Vedder came in from the stable with a great pail full of milk.
"Winter is here now, for good and all," he said, as he set the
pail down. "The canals are frozen over, and soon it will be the
day for the feast of
Kit and Kat ran to him and said, both together,
"Dear Father Vedder, will you please teach us to skate before
"I'll see if the ice is strong enough to bear," said Father Vedder; and he went right down to the canal to see, that very minute. When he came in, he said,
"Yes, the ice is strong; and we will go out as soon as you are ready, and try your skates."
Vrouw Vedder said,
"I should like to go too"; and Father Vedder said to Kit and Kat,
"Your mother used to be the finest skater in the whole village when she was a young girl. You must not let her beat you."
They hurried through with their work—Kit and Kat helped. Then they all put on their heavy shoes and wraps, took their skates over their shoulders, and started for the canal.
"If you learn to skate well enough, we will take you to town
before the feast of
He put on his own skates and Kit's, and the mother put on her own and Kat's.
"I'm sure we can do it almost right away," said Kat.
"Now we'll show you how to skate," said Father Vedder. He stood the Twins up on the ice. They held each other's hands. They were afraid to move. Father Vedder took Mother Vedder's hand.
"See," he said, "like this!" And away they went like two swallows, skimming over the ice. In a minute they were ever so far away.
Kit and Kat felt lonesome, and very queer, when they saw their father and mother flying along in that way. They weren't used to see them do anything but work, and move about slowly.
"It looks easy," said Kit. "Let's try it. We must not be afraid."
He started with his right leg, pushing it out a little in front of him. But it was very strange how his legs acted. They didn'tseem to belong to him at all! His left leg tried to follow his right, just as it ought to; but, instead, it slid out sidewise and knocked against Kat's skates. Then both Kat's feet flew up; and she sat down very hard, on the ice. And Kit came down on top of her.
They tried to get up; but, each time they tried, their feet slid away from them.
"Oh dear," said Kat, "we are all mixed up! Are those your feet or mine? I can't tell which is which!"
"They don't any of them mind," said Kit. "I can't stand up on any of them. I've tried them all! We'll just have to wait until Father and Mother come back and pick us out."
"Ice is quite cold to sit on, isn't it?" said Kat.
Soon Father and Mother Vedder came skimming back again. When they saw Kit and Kat, they laughed and skated to them, picked them up, and set them on their feet.
"Now I'll take Kit, and you take Kat," said Vrouw Vedder to her husband, "and they'll be skating in no time." So Kat's father took her hands, and Kit took hold of his mother's, and they started off.
At first the Twins' feet didn't behave well at all. They seemed to want to do everything they could to bother them. They would sprawl way apart; then they would toe in and run into each other.
Many times Kit and Kat would have fallen if Father and Mother Vedder had not held them up; but before the lesson was over, both Kit and Kat could skate a little bit alone.
"See, this is the way," said Vrouw Vedder; and she skated around in a circle. Then she cut a figure like this 8 in the ice. Then Father Vedder did a figure like this S all on one foot.
"My!" said Kit and Kat.
"I think our parents must skate the best of all the people in the world," said Kat.
"I'm going to some day," said Kit.
"So 'm I," said Kat.
After a while Vrouw Vedder said,
"It's time to go home. Not too much the first time." So they all went back home with their cheeks as red as roses, and their noses too, and such an appetite for dinner!
But the Twins were a little lame next day.
Every day after that, Kit and Kat went out with their skates to
the ditches and tried and tried to skate as
Father and Mother did—they did so
want to skate to town and see the sights before the
"If you will watch at the window, you'll see a great sight on the canal very soon," said Kit to his mother one day.
Of course Vrouw Vedder hadn't the least idea what it would be!
Kit and Kat slipped out through the stable and ran down to the ditch. They put on their skates and skated from the ditch out to the big canal.
Vrouw Vedder was watching at the window. Soon she saw Kit and Kat go flying by, hand in hand, on the canal! They waved their hands to her. Vrouw Vedder was so pleased that she went to call Father Vedder, who was in the hay-loft over the stable.
"Come and see Kit and Kat," she cried.
Father Vedder came down from the loft and looked too. Then Kit cut a figure like this, S, and Kat cut one like this, 6. The round spot is where she sat down hard, just as she was almost around.
When they came into the kitchen Father said,
"I think we could take such a fine pair of skaters as that to the
Vink with us on our way to town! The ice is very hard and thick
for so early in the season, and we will go
"We can see the shops too.
Kit and Kat could hardly wait for
"What do you suppose the Vink is?" said Kat to Kit.
"I think it is something like a church," said Kit.
"You don't know what a Vink is—so there," said Kat. "I think it's something to eat."
Then Kit changed the subject.
"I'll race you
"I'll beat," said Kat.
"We'll see," said Kit.
The next day they started, all four, quite early in the morning. Vrouw Vedder took her basket on her arm.
"I shall want to buy some things," she said.
Father Vedder lighted his pipe—"To keep my nose warm," he said.
Then they all went down to the canal and put on their skates.
"Kat and I are going to race to the first windmill," said Kit.
"I'll tell you when to start," said Father Vedder.
"And I'll get a cake for the one who wins," said the mother.
"One, two, three!" Away they flew like the wind! Father and Mother Vedder came close behind.
Kit was so sure he would beat that he thought he would show off a little. He went zigzag across the canal; once or twice he stopped to skate in curves.
Kat didn't stop for anything. She kept her eyes on the windmill, and she skated as hard as she could.
They were getting quite near the mill now. Kit stopped playing and began to skate as fast as he could. But Kat had got the start of him.
"I'll soon get ahead of her," he thought. "She's a girl, and I'm a boy." He struck out with great long sweeps—as long as such short legs could make—but Kat kept ahead; and in another minute there she was at the windmill, quite out of breath, and pointing her finger at Kit!
"I beat—I beat," she said.
"Well, I could have beaten if I wanted to," said Kit.
"I'll get the cake," said Kat.
"I don't care," said Kit. But Kat knew that he did.
"I'll give you a piece," she said.
Father and Mother Vedder came along then; and when Kit and Kat were rested, they all skated for a long time without saying anything. Then Father Vedder said proudly to his wife,
"They keep up as well as anybody! Were there ever such Twins!" And Mother Vedder said,
By and by other people appeared on the canal—men and women and children, all skating. They were going to the town to see the sights too.
One woman skated by with her baby in her arms. One man was smoking a long pipe, and his wife was carrying a basket of eggs. But the man and woman were good skaters. They flew along, laughing; and no one could get near enough to upset them.
As they came nearer to the town, Kit and Kat saw a tent near the place where one canal opened into another. A man stood near the tent. He put his hands together and shouted through them to the skaters,
"Come in, come in, and get a drink
Of warm sweet milk on your way to the Vink."
"We must be getting quite near the Vink," Kat said. "I do wonder what it looks like! Do you think it's alive?"
They passed another tent. There a man was shouting,
"Come buy a sweet cake; it costs but a cent,
Come buy, come buy, from the man in the tent."
Vrouw Vedder said,
"I promised a cake to the one who beat in the race. We'll go in here and get it."
So they went to the tent.
They bought two cakes, and each ate half of one. Kat broke the cakes and gave them to the others, because she won the race.
When they had eaten the cakes, they skated on. The canals grew more and more crowded. There were a good many tents; flags were flying, and the whole place was very gay.
At last they saw a big building, with crowds of merry skaters about it. Many people were going in and out.
"There's the Vink," said Father Vedder.
"Where?" said Kit and Kat.
He pointed to the building.
"Oh!" said Kit. He never said another word about what they had thought it was like.
Soon they were inside the "Vink." It was a large restaurant. There were many little tables about, crowded with people, eating and drinking. Father Vedder found a table, and they all sat down.
"Bring us some pea soup," he said to the waiter. Soon they were eating the hot soup.
"This is the best thing I ever had," said Kit.
When they had eaten their soup, they went out of the building and walked through the streets of the town. All the shops were filled with pretty things. The bake shops had wonderful cakes with little candies on top, and there were great cakes made like St. Nicholas himself in his long robes.
Kit and Kat flattened their noses against all the shop windows, and looked at the toys and cakes.
"And I want some of those," Kat said, pointing to some cakes made in the shapes of birds and fish.
Vrouw Vedder had gone with her basket on an errand. Father Vedder and Kit and Kat walked slowly along, waiting for her. Soon there was a great noise up the street. There were shouts, and the clatter of wooden shoes.
"Look! Look!" cried Kit.
There, in the midst of the crowd, was a great white horse; and riding on it was the good St. Nicholas himself! He had a long white beard and red cheeks, and long robes, with a mitre on his head; and he smiled at the children, who crowded around him and followed him in a noisy procession down the street.
"Where is he going?" asked Kit and Kat.
"He's carrying presents to houses where there are good girls and boys," Father Vedder said. "For bad children, there is only a rod in the shoe."
"I'm glad we're so good," said Kit.
"When will he come to our house?" asked Kat.
Kit and Kat were in a hurry to get home, for fear the Saint would get there first.
It was growing late, so they all went to a waffle shop for their supper.
In the shop a woman sat before an open fire. On the fire was a big waffle iron. She made the waffles, put sugar and butter on them, and passed a plate of them to each one. Oh, how good they were!
When they had eaten their waffles, Father and Mother Vedder and the Twins went back to the canal and put on their skates. It was late in the afternoon: They took hold of hands and began to skate toward home, four in a row. Father and Mother Vedder were on the outside, and the Twins in the middle.
It was dark when they reached home. Vrouw Vedder lighted the fire, while Father Vedder went to feed the cow and see that the chickens and ducks and geese were all safe for the night.
Kit and Kat ran for their wooden shoes. They each took one and
put some hay in
it. This was for