The Day They Drove the Milk Cart
T HE next morning Kit and Kat woke up very early, without any one's calling them. You see, they were afraid they would be too late to go with the milk cart.
But Grandfather Winkle had only just gone out to get the milk ready, and they had plenty of time to dress while Grandmother got breakfast. Grandmother helped with the buttons and the hard parts.
Grandmother Winkle's kitchen was quite like the kitchen at home,
only a little nicer. It had red tiles on the floor; and it had
ever so many blue plates hanging around on the walls, and
standing on edge in a row on the shelves.
There was a
Grandmother Winkle had embroidered those all herself, and she was very proud of them. When she had company, she always drew the curtains back so that her beautiful bed would be seen. She said that Kit and Kat were company, and she always left the curtains open when they came to visit her.
When the Twins were all dressed, Grandmother said,
"Mercy sakes! You have on your best clothes! Now that's just like a man to promise to take you out in your best clothes in a milk wagon! Whatever was Grandfather thinking about!"
Kit and Kat thought she was going to say that they couldn't go, so they dug their knuckles in their eyes and began to cry. But they hadn't got farther than the first whimper when Grandmother said,
"Well, well, we must fix it somehow. Don't cry now, that's a good Kit and Kat." So the Twins took their knuckles out of their eyes and began to smile.
Grandmother went to the press and brought out two aprons. One was a very small apron. It wouldn't reach to Kit's knees. But she put it on him and tied it around his waist.
"This was your Uncle Jan's when he was a little boy," she said. "It's pretty small, but it will help some."
Kit wished that Uncle Jan had taken it with him when he went to America. But he didn't say so.
Then Grandmother took another apron out of the press. It looked as if it had been there a long time.
"Kat, you must wear this," she said. "It was your mother's when she was a little girl."
Now, this apron was all faded, and it had patches on it of different kinds of cloth. Kat looked at her best dress. Then she looked at the apron. Then she thought about the milk cart. She wondered if she wanted to go in the milk cart badly enough to wear that apron over her Sunday dress! She stuck her finger in her mouth and looked sidewise at Grandmother Winkle.
Grandmother didn't say a word. She just looked firm and held up the apron.
Very soon Kat came slowly—very slowly—and Grandmother buttoned the apron up behind, and that was the end of that.
The Twins could hardly eat any breakfast, they were in such a hurry to go. As soon as they had taken the last spoonful, and Grandfather Winkle had finished his coffee, they ran out into the place where the dogs were kept, to help Grandfather harness them.
There were two black and white dogs. Their names were Peter and Paul.
The wagon was small, just the right size for the dogs; and it was painted blue. The bright brass cans full of milk were already in; and there was a little seat for Kat to sit on.
When the last strap was fastened, Grandfather lifted Kat up and set her on the seat. She held on with both hands.
Then Grandfather gave the lines to Kit, and a little stick for a whip, and told him to walk slowly along beside the dogs. He told him to be sure not to let go of the lines.
Grandfather walked behind, carrying some milk cans.
Grandmother stood in the door to see them off; and, as they started away, Kat took one hand off the cart long enough to wave it to her. Then she held on again; for the bricks in the pavement made the cart joggle a good deal.
"We must go first to Vrouw de Vet," Grandfather called out. "She takes one quart of milk. Go slowly."
At first Kit went slowly. But pretty soon there was a great rattling behind him; and Hans Hite, a boy he knew, drove right past him with his dog cart! He drove fast; and, as he passed Kit, he stuck out his tongue and called out,
Kit forgot all about going slowly.
"Get up!" he said to the dogs, and he touched them with his long stick.
Peter and Paul "got up." They jumped forward and began to run!
Kit ran as fast as his legs would go beside the dogs, holding the lines. But the dogs had four legs apiece, and Kit had only two; so you see he couldn't keep up very well.
Kat began to scream the moment that Peter and Paul began to run. The dogs thought that something that made a dreadful noise was after them, and they ran faster than ever. You see, Grandfather Winkle never in the world screamed like that, and Peter and Paul didn't know what to make of it. So they ran and ran and ran.
Kat held on the best she could, but she bounced up ever so far in the air every time the cart struck a bump in the street. So did the milk cans; and when they came down again, the milk splashed out.
Kat didn't always come down in the same spot. All the spots were hard, so it didn't really matter much which one she struck as she came down.
But Kat didn't think about that; she just screamed. And Peter and Paul ran and ran, and Kit ran and ran, until he couldn't run any more; he just sat down hard on the pavement and slid along. But he didn't let go of the lines!
When Kit sat down, it jerked the dogs so hard that they stopped suddenly. But Kat didn't stop; she went right on. She flew out over the front of the cart and landed on the ground, among all of Peter and Paul's legs! Then she stopped going, but she didn't stop screaming.
And, though Kit was a boy, he screamed some too. Then Peter and Paul pointed their noses up in the air and began to howl.
Way back, ever so far, Grandfather was coming along as fast as he could; but that wasn't very fast.
All the doors on the street flew open, and all the good housewives came clattering out to see what was the matter. They picked Kat up and told her not to cry, and wiped her eyes with their aprons, and stood Kit on his feet, and patted the dogs; and pretty soon Peter and Paul stopped barking, and Kit and Kat stopped screaming, and then it was time to find out what had really happened.
Neither of the Twins had any broken bones; the good housewives wiggled all their arms and legs, and felt of their bones to see. But shocking things had happened, nevertheless! Kat had torn a great hole in the front of her best dress; and Kit had worn two round holes in the seat of his Sunday clothes, where he slid along on the pavement; and, besides that, the milk was slopped all over the bottom of the cart!
Just then Grandfather came up. If it hadn't been that his pipe was still in his mouth, I really don't know what he might not have said!
He looked at the cart, and he looked at the Twins. Then he took his pipe out of his mouth and said sternly to Kit,
"Why didn't you do as I told you?"
"I did," said Kit, very much scared. "You told me to be sure to hold tight to the lines, and I did! I never let go once."
"Yes, and look at his clothes," said one of the women. She turned him around and showed Grandfather the holes.
"I told you to go slowly," said Grandfather. "Now look at the cart, and see what you've done by not minding,—spoiled your best clothes and Kat's, and spilled the milk! Go back to Grandmother."
"But I couldn't mind twice at one time," said Kit. "I was minding about not letting go."
"Oh dear," sobbed Kat, "I wish we were four and a half feet high now! If we were, this never would have happened."
Grandfather took the dogs and went on to Vrouw de Vet's, without another word.
The Twins took each other's hands, and walked back to Grandmother's house. Quite a number of little boys and girls in wooden shoes clattered along with them. Grandmother heard all the noise, and ran to the door to see what was the matter.
"Laws a mercy me, I told you so!" she cried, the moment she saw them. "Look at your clothes! See how you've torn them!"
"I can't see the holes in mine," said Kit.
"But I can," said Kat. And then all the children talked at once; and what with wooden shoes and the tongues all going, Grandmother clapped her hands over her ears to shut out the noise. Then she took Kit and Kat into the kitchen and shut the door. She put on her glasses and got down on the floor so she could see better.
Then she turned Kit and Kat all around and looked at the holes. "O! my soul!" she said. She took off the aprons and the torn clothes and put the Twins to bed while she mended.
She got out a pair of Grandfather's oldest velveteen breeches that had been patched a great deal, and found a good piece to patch with. Then she patched the holes in Kit's breeches so neatly that one had to look very carefully indeed to see that there had ever been any holes there at all.
Then she patched Kat's dress; and, when it was all done, she shook it out and said to herself,
"Seems to me those Twins have been quiet for a long time."
She went over to the cupboard bed; and there were Kit and Kat fast asleep; with their cheeks all stained with tears and dirt. Grandmother Winkle kissed them. Kit and Kat woke up, and Grandmother dressed them in their Sunday clothes again, and washed their faces and made them feel as good as new.
By and by Grandfather Winkle came home from going about with the milk. Grandmother Winkle scrubbed the cart and made it all clean again; and by noon you would never have known, unless you had looked very, very closely—much more closely than would be polite—that anything had happened to the Twins or the milk cart, or their clothes or anything.
After they had eaten their dinner, and the dogs were rested and Grandfather had smoked his pipe he said,
"Kit, if you think you can mind, I will take you and Kat both home in the dog cart." Kit and Kat both nodded their heads very hard. "Only, I'll do the driving myself," said Grandfather Winkle. And he did.
He put Kit and Kat both on the seat, and he walked slowly beside the cart. They went out on the road beside the canal toward home. They got there just as the sun was getting low in the west, and Vrouw Vedder was going out to feed her chickens.