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Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates by Mary Mapes Dodge

Part 6 out of 6

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He is there! Yes, but so was young Schummel just a second
before. At the last instant Carl, gathering his powers, had
whizzed between them and passed the goal.

"Carl Schummel, one mile!" shouts the crier.

Soon Madame van Gleck rises again. The falling handkerchief
starts the bugle, and the bugle, using its voice as a bowstring,
shoots of twenty girls like so many arrows.

It is a beautiful sight, but one has not long to look; before we
can fairly distinguish them they are far in the distance. This
time they are close upon one another. it is hard to say as they
come speeding back from the flagstaff which will reach the
columns first. There are new faces among the foremost--eager,
glowing faces, unnoticed before. Katrinka is there, and Hilda,
but Gretel and Rychie are in the rear. Gretel is wavering, but
when Rychie passes her, she starts forward afresh. Now they are
nearly beside Katrinka. Hilda is still in advance, she is almost
"home." She has not faltered since that bugle note sent her
flying; like an arrow still she is speeding toward the goal.
Cheer after cheer rises in the air. Peter is silent, but his
eyes shine like stars. "Huzza! Huzza!"

The crier's voice is heard again.

"Hilda van Gleck, one mile!"

A loud murmur of approval runs through the crowd, catching the
music in its course, till all seems one sound, with a glad
rhythmic throbbing in its depths. When the flag waves all is

Once more the bugle blows a terrific blast. It sends off the
boys like chaff before the wind--dark chaff I admit, and in big

It is whisked around at the flagstaff, driven faster yet by the
cheers and shouts along the line. We begin to see what is
coming. There are three boys in advance this time, and all
abreast. Hans, Peter, and Lambert. Carl soon breaks the ranks,
rushing through with a whiff! Fly, Hans; fly, Peter; don't let
Carl beat again. Carl the bitter. Carl the insolent. Van
Mounen is flagging, but you are strong as ever. Hans and Peter,
Peter and Hans; which is foremost? We love them both. We
scarcely care which is the fleeter.

Hilda, Annie, and Gretel, seated upon the long crimson bench, can
remain quiet no longer. They spring to their feet--so different
and yet one in eagerness. Hilda instantly reseats herself. None
shall know how interested she is, none shall know how anxious,
how filled with one hope. Shut your eyes then, Hilda--hide our
face rippling with joy. Peter has beaten.

"Peter van Holp, one mile!" calls the crier.

The same buzz of excitement as before, while the judges take
notes, the same throbbing of music through the din; but something
is different. A little crowd presses close about some object,
near the column. Carl has fallen. He is not hurt, though
somewhat stunned. if he were less sullen he would find more
sympathy in these warm young hearts. As it is they forget him as
soon as he is fairly on his feet again.

The girls are to skate their third mile.

How resolute the little maidens look as they stand in a line!
Some are solemn with a sense of responsibility, some wear a smile
half bashful, half provoked, but one air of determination
pervades them all.

This third mile may decide the race. Still, if neither Gretel
nor Hilda wins, there is yet a chance among the rest for the
silver skates.

Each girl feels sure that this time she will accomplish the
distance in one half of the time. How they stamp to try their
runners! How nervously they examine each strap! How erect they
stand at last, every eye upon Madame van Gleck!

The bugle thrills through them again. With quivering eagerness
they spring forward, bending, but in perfect balance. Each
flashing stroke seems longer than the last.

Now they are skimming off in the distance.

Again the eager straining of eyes, again the shouts and cheering,
again the thrill of excitement as, after a few moments, four or
five, in advance of the rest, come speeding back, nearer, nearer
to the white columns.

Who is first? Not Rychie, Katrinka, Annie, nor Hilda, nor the
girl in yellow, but Gretel--Gretel, the fleetest sprite of a girl
that ever skated. She was but playing in the earlier races, NOW
she is in earnest, or rather, something within her has
determined to win. That lithe little form makes no effort, but
it cannot stop--not until the goal is passed!

In vain the crier lifts his voice. He cannot be heard. He has
no news to tell--it is already ringing through the crowd.

Like a bird she has flown over the ice, like a bird she looks
about her in a timid, startled way. She longs to dart to the
sheltered nook where her father and mother stand. But Hans is
beside her--the girls are crowding round. Hilda's kind, joyous
voice breathes in her ear. From that hour, none will despise
her. Goose girl or not, Gretel stands acknowledged queen of the

With natural pride Hans turns to see if Peter van Holp is
witnessing his sister's triumph. Peter is not looking toward
them at all. He is kneeling, bending his troubled face low, and
working hastily at his skate strap. Hans is beside him at once.

"Are you in trouble, mynheer?"

"Ah, Hans, that you? Yes, my fun is over. I tried to tighten my
strap--to make a new hole--and this botheration of a knife has
cut it nearly in two."

"Mynheer," said Hans, at the same time pulling off a skate, "you
must use my strap!"

"Not I, indeed, Hans Brinker," cried Peter, looking up, "though I
thank you warmly. Go to your post, my friend, the bugle will be
sounding in another minute."

"Mynheer," pleaded Hans in a husky voice, "you have called me
your friend. Take this strap--quick! There is not an instant to
lose. I shall not skate this time. Indeed, I am out of
practice. Mynheer, you MUST take it." And Hans, blind and deaf
to any remonstrance, slipped his strap into Peter's skate and
implored him to put it on.

"Come, Peter!" cried Lambert from the line. "We are waiting for

"For madame's sake," pleaded Hans, "be quick. She is motioning
to you to join the racers. There, the skate is almost on.
Quick, mynheer, fasten it. I could not possibly win. The race
lies between Master Schummel and yourself."

"You are a noble fellow, Hans!" cried Peter, yielding at last.
He sprang to his post just as the white handkerchief fell to the
ground. The bugle sends forth its blast--loud, clear, and

Off go the boys!

"Mine Gott," cries a tough old fellow from Delft. "They beat
everything, these Amsterdam youngsters. See them!"

See them, indeed! They are winged Mercuries, every one of them.
What mad errand are they on? Ah, I know. They are hunting Peter
van Holp. He is some fleet-footed runaway from Olympus. Mercury
and his troop of winged cousins are in full chase. They will
catch him! Now Carl is the runaway. The pursuit grows
furious--Ben is foremost!

The chase turns in a cloud of mist. It is coming this way. Who
is hunted now? Mercury himself. It is Peter, Peter van Holp;
fly, Peter--Hans is watching you. He is sending all his
fleetness, all his strength into your feet. Your mother and
sister are pale with eagerness. Hilda is trembling and dares not
look up. Fly, Peter! The crowd has not gone deranged, it is
only cheering. The pursuers are close upon you! Touch the white
column! It beckons--it is reeling before you--it--

"Huzza! Huzza! Peter has won the silver skates!"

"Peter van Holp!" shouted the crier. But who heard him? "Peter
van Holp!" shouted a hundred voices, for he was the favorite boy
of the place. "Huzza! Huzza!"

"Now the music was resolved to be heard. It struck up a lively
air, then a tremendous march. The spectators, thinking something
new was about to happen, deigned to listen and to look.

The racers formed in single file. Peter, being tallest, stood
first. Gretel, the smallest of all, took her place at the end.
Hans, who had borrowed a strap from the cake boy, was near the

Three gaily twined arches were placed at intervals upon the river
facing the Van Gleck pavilion.

Skating slowly, and in perfect time to the music, the boys and
girls moved forward, led on by Peter.

It was beautiful to see the bright procession glide along like a
living creature. It curved and doubled, and drew its graceful
length in and out among the arches--whichever way Peter, the
head, went, the body was sure to follow. Sometimes it steered
direct for the center arch, then, as if seized with a new
impulse, turned away and curled itself about the first one, then
unwound slowly and, bending low, with quick, snakelike curvings,
crossed the river, passing at length through the furthest arch.

When the music was slow, the procession seemed to crawl like a
thing afraid. It grew livelier, and the creature darted forward
with a spring, gliding rapidly among the arches, in and out,
curling, twisting, turning, never losing form until, at the
shrill call of the bugle rising above the music, it suddenly
resolved itself into boys and girls standing in a double
semicircle before Madam van Gleck's pavilion.

Peter and Gretel stand in the center in advance of the others.
Madame van Gleck rises majestically. Gretel trembles but feels
that she must look at the beautiful lady. She cannot hear what
is said, there is such a buzzing all around her. She is thinking
that she ought to try and make a curtsy, such as her mother makes
to the meester, when suddenly something so dazzling is placed in
her hand that she gives a cry of joy.

Then she ventures to look about her. Peter, too, has something
in his hands. "Oh! Oh! How splendid!" she cries, and "Oh! How
splendid!" is echoed as far as people can see.

Meantime the silver skates flash in the sunshine, throwing dashes
of light upon those two happy faces.

Mevrouw van Gend sends a little messenger with her bouquets. One
for Hilda, one for Carl, and others for Peter and Gretel.

At sight of the flowers the queen of the skaters becomes
uncontrollable. With a bright stare of gratitude, she gathers
skates and bouquets in her apron, hugs them to her bosom, and
darts off to search for her father and mother in the scattering

Joy in the Cottage

Perhaps you were surprised to learn that Raff and his vrouw were
at the skating race. You would have been more so had you been
with them on the evening of that merry twentieth of December. To
see the Brinker cottage standing sulkily alone on the frozen
marsh, with its bulgy, rheumatic-looking walls and its slouched
hat of a roof pulled far over its eyes, one would never suspect
that a lively scene was passing within. Without, nothing was
left of the day but a low line of blaze at the horizon. A few
venturesome clouds had already taken fire, and others, with
their edges burning, were lost in the gathering smoke.

A stray gleam of sunshine slipping down from the willow stump
crept stealthily under the cottage. It seemed to feel that the
inmates would give it welcome if it could only get near them.
The room under which it hid was as clean as clean could be. The
very cracks in the rafters were polished. Delicious odors filled
the air. A huge peat fire upon the hearth sent flashes of
harmless lightning at the somber walls. It played in turn upon
the great leather Bible, upon Gretel's closet-bed, the household
things upon their pegs, and the beautiful silver skates and the
flowers upon the table. Dame Brinker's honest face shone and
twinkled in the changing light. Gretel and Hans, with arms
entwined, were leaning against the fireplace, laughing merrily,
and Raff Brinker was dancing!

I do not mean that he was pirouetting or cutting a pigeon-wing,
either of which would have been entirely too undignified for the
father of a family. I simply affirm that while they were
chatting pleasantly together Raff suddenly sprang from his seat,
snapped his fingers, and performed two or three flourishes very
much like the climax of a highland fling. Next he caught his
vrouw in his arms and fairly lifted her from the ground in his

"Huzza!" he cried. "I have it! I have it! It's Thomas Higgs.
That's the name! It came upon me like a flash. Write it down,
lad, write it down!"

Someone knocked at the door.

"It's the meester," cried the delighted dame. "Goede Gunst!
How things come to pass!"

Mother and children came in merry collision as they rushed to
open the door.

It was not the doctor, after all, but three boys, Peter van Holp,
Lambert, and Ben.

"Good evening, young gentlemen," said Dame Brinker, so happy and
proud that she would scarcely have been surprised at a visit from
the king himself.

"Good evening, jufvrouw," said the trio, making magnificent

Dear me, thought Dame Brinker as she bobbed up and down like a
churn dasher, it's lucky I learned to curtsy at Heidelberg!

Raff was content to return the boys' salutations with a
respectful nod.

"Pray be seated, young masters," said the dame as Gretel
bashfully thrust a stool at them. "There's a lack of chairs as
you see, but this one by the fire is at your service, and if you
don't mind the hardness, that oak chest is as good a seat as the
best. That's right, Hans, pull it out."

By the time the boys were seated to the dame's satisfaction,
Peter, acting as a spokesman, had explained that they were going
to attend a lecture at Amsterdam, and had stopped on the way to
return Hans's strap.

"Oh, mynheer," cried Hans, earnestly, "it is too much trouble.
I am very sorry."

"No trouble at all, Hans. I could have waited for you to come to
your work tomorrow, had I not wished to call. And, Hans, talking
of your work, my father is much pleased with it. A carver by
trade could not have done it better. He would like to have the
south arbor ornamented, also, but I told him you were going to
school again."

"Aye!" put in Raff Brinker, emphatically. "Hans must go to
school at once--and Gretel as well--that is true."

"I am glad to hear you say so," responded Peter, turning toward
the father, "and very glad to know that you are again a well

"Yes, young master, a well man, and able to work as steady as
ever, thank God!"

Here Hans hastily wrote something on the edge of a time-worn
almanac that hung by the chimney-place. "Aye, that's right, lad,
set it down. Figgs! Wiggs! Alack! Alack!" added Raff in great
dismay, "it's gone again!"

"All right, Father," said Hans, "the name's down now in black and
white. Here, look at it, father; mayhap the rest will come to
you. If we had the place as well, it would be complete!" Then
turning to Peter, he said in a low tone, "I have an important
errand in town, mynheer, and if--"

"Wist!" exclaimed the dame, lifting her hands. "Not to Amsterdam
tonight, and you've owned your legs were aching under you. Nay,
nay--it'll be soon enough to go at early daylight."

"Daylight, indeed!" echoed Raff. "That would never do. Nay,
Meitje, he must go this hour."

The vrouw looked for an instant as if Raff's recovery was
becoming rather a doubtful benefit; her word was no longer sole
law in the house. Fortunately the proverb "Humble wife is
husband's boss" had taken deep root in her mind; even as the dame
pondered, it bloomed.

"Very well, Raff," she said smilingly, "it is thy boy as well as
mine. Ah! I've a troublesome house, young masters."

Just then Peter drew a long strap from his pocket.

Handing it to Hans he said in an undertone, "I need not thank you
for lending me this, Hans Brinker. Such boys as you do not ask
for thanks, but I must say you did me a great kindness, and I am
proud to acknowledge it. I did not know," he added laughingly,
"until fairly in the race, how anxious I was to win."

Hans was glad to join in Peter's laugh; it covered his
embarrassment and gave his face a chance to cool off a little.
Honest, generous boys like Hans have such a stupid way of
blushing when you least expect it.

"It was nothing, mynheer," said the dame, hastening to her son's
relief. "The lad's whole soul was in having you win the race, I
know it was!"

This helped matters beautifully.

"Ah, mynheer," Hans hurried to say, "from the first start I felt
stiff and strange on my feet. I was well out of it so long as I
had no chance of winning."

Peter looked rather distressed.

"We may hold different opinions here. That part of the business
troubles me. It is too late to mend it now, but it would be
really a kindness to me if--"

The rest of Peter's speech was uttered so confidentially that I
cannot record it. Enough to say, Hans soon started back in
dismay, and Peter, looking very much ashamed, stammered out
something to the effect that he would keep them, since he won the
race, but it was "all wrong."

Here Van Mounen coughed, as if to remind Peter that lecture hour
was approaching fast. At the same moment Ben laid something upon
the table.

"Ah," exclaimed Peter, "I forgot my other errand. Your sister
ran off so quickly today that Madame van Gleck had no opportunity
to give her the case for her skates."

"S-s-t!" said Dame Brinker, shaking her head reproachfully at
Gretel. "She was a very rude girl, I'm sure." Secretly she was
thinking that very few women had such a fine little daughter."

"No, indeed"--Peter laughed--"she did exactly the right
thing--ran home with her richly won treasures. Who would not?
Don't let us detain you, Hans," he continued, turning around as
he spoke, but Hans, who was eagerly watching his father, seemed
to have forgotten their presence.

Meantime, Raff, lost in thought, was repeating, under his breath,
"Thomas Higgs, Thomas Higgs, aye, that's the name. Alack! if I
could but remember the place as well."

The skate case was elegantly made of crimson morocco, ornamented
with silver. If a fairy had designed its delicate tracery, they
could not have been more daintily beautiful. "For the Fleetest"
was written upon the cover in sparkling letters. It was lined
with velvet, and in one corner was stamped the name and address
of the maker.

Gretel thanked Peter in her own simple way, then, being quite
delighted and confused and not knowing what else to do, she
lifted the case, carefully examining it in every part. "It's
made by Mynheer Birmingham," she said after a while, still
blushing and holding it before her eyes.

"Birmingham!" replied Lambert van Mounen, "that's the name of a
place in England. Let me see it."

"Ha! ha!" He laughed, holding the open case toward the
firelight. "No wonder you thought so, but it's a slight mistake.
The case was made at Birmingham, but the maker's name is in
smaller letters. Humph! They're so small, I can't read them."

"Let me try," said Peter, leaning over his shoulder. "Why, man,
it's perfectly distinct. It's T-H--it's T--"

"Well!" exclaimed Lambert triumphantly, "if you can read it so
easily, let's hear it, T-H, what?"

"T.H.-T.H. Oh! Why, Thomas Higgs, to be sure," replied Peter,
pleased to be able to decipher it at last. Then, feeling that
they had been acting rather unceremoniously, he turned to Hans.

Peter turned pale! What was the matter with the people? Raff
and Hans had started up and were staring at him in glad
amazement. Gretel looked wild. Dame Brinker, with an unlighted
candle in her hand, was rushing about the room, crying, "Hans!
Hans! Where's your hat? Oh, the meester! Oh the meester!"

"Birmingham! Higgs!" exclaimed Hans. "Did you say Higgs? We've
found him! I must be off."

"You see, young masters." The dame was panting, at the same time
snatching Hans's hat from the bed, "you see--we know him. He's
our--no, he isn't. I mean--oh, Hans, you must go to Amsterdam
this minute!"

"Good night, mynheers," panted Hans, radiant with sudden joy.
"Good night. You will excuse me, I must go.
Birmingham--Higgs--Higgs--Birmingham." And seizing his hat from
his mother and his skates from Gretel he rushed from the cottage.

What could the boys think, but that the entire Brinker family had
suddenly gone crazy!

They bade an embarrassed "Good evening," and turned to go. But
Raff stopped them.

"This Thomas Higgs, young masters, is a--a person."

"Ah!" exclaimed Peter, quite sure that Raff was the most crazy of

"Yes, a person. A--ahem--a friend. We thought him dead. I hope
it is the same man. In England, did you say?"

"Yes, Birmingham," answered Peter. "It must be Birmingham in

"I know the man," said Ben, addressing Lambert. "His factory is
not four miles from our place. A queer fellow--still as an
oyster--doesn't seem at all like an Englishman. I've often seen
him--a solemn-looking chap, with magnificent eyes. He made a
beautiful writing case once for me to give Jenny on her birthday.
Makes pocketbooks, telescope cases, and all kinds of

As this was said in English, Van Mounen of course translated it
for the benefit of all concerned, noticing meanwhile that neither
Raff nor his vrouw looked very miserable, though Raff was
trembling and the dame's eyes were swimming with tears.

You may believe that the doctor heard every word of the story,
when later in the evening he came driving back with Hans. "The
three young gentlemen have been gone some time," Dame Brinker
said, "but like enough, by hurrying, it would be easy to find
them coming out from the lecture, wherever that was."

"True," said Raff, nodding his head. "The vrouw always hits
upon the right thing. It would be well to see the young English
gentleman, mynheer, before he forgets all about Thomas Higgs.
It's a slippery name, d'ye see? One can't hold it safe a minute.
It come upon me sudden and strong as a pile driver, and my boy
writ it down. Aye, mynheer, I'd haste to talk with the English
lad. He's seen your son many a time--only to think on't!"

Dame Brinker took up the thread of the discourse.

"You'll pick out the lad quick enough, mynheer, because he's in
company with Peter van Holp, and his hair curls up over his
forehead like foreign folk's, and if you hear him speak, he talks
of big and fast, only it's English, but that wouldn't be any
hindrance to your honor."

The doctor had already lifted his hat to go. With a beaming face
he muttered something about its being just like the young scamp
to give himself a rascally English name, called Hans "my son,"
thereby making that young gentleman as happy as a lord, and left
the cottage with very little ceremony, considering what a great
meester he was.

The grumbling coachman comforted himself by speaking his mind as
he drove back to Amsterdam. Since the doctor was safely stowed
away in the coach and could not hear a word, it was a fine time
to say terrible things of folks who hadn't no manner of feeling
for nobody, and who were always wanting the horses a dozen times
of a night.

Mysterious Disappearance of Thomas Higgs

Higgs's factory was a mine of delight for the gossips of
Birmingham. It was a small building but quite large enough to
hold a mystery. Who the proprietor was, or where he came from
none could tell. He looked like a gentleman, that was certain,
though everybody knew he had risen from an apprenticeship, and he
could handle his pen like a writing master.

Years ago he had suddenly appeared in the place a lad of
eighteen, learned his trade faithfully, and risen in the
confidence of his employer, been taken in as a partner soon after
the time was up. Finally, when old Willett died, had assumed the
business on his own hands. This was all that was known of his

It was a common remark among some of the good people that he
never had a word to say to a Christian soul, while others
declared that though he spoke beautifully when he chose to, there
was something wrong in his accent. A tidy man, too, they called
him, all but for having that scandalous green pond alongside of
his factory, which wasn't deep enough for an eel and was "just a
fever nest, as sure as you live."

His nationality was a great puzzle. The English name spoke plain
enough for ONE side of his house, but of what manner of nation
was his mother? If she'd been an American, he'd certainly have
had high cheekbones and reddish skin; if a German, he would have
known the language, and Squire Smith declared that he didn't; if
French (and his having that frog pond made it seem likely), it
would come out in his speech. No, there was nothing he could be
but Dutch. And, strangest of all, though the man always pricked
up his ears when you talked of Holland, he didn't seem to know
the first thing about the country when you put him to the point.

Anyhow, as no letters ever came to him from his mother's family
in Holland, and as nobody living had ever seen old Higgs, the
family couldn't be anything much. Probably Thomas Higgs himself
was no better than he should be, for all he pretended to carry
himself so straight; and for their parts, the gossips declared,
they were not going to trouble their heads about him.
Consequently Thomas Higgs and his affairs were never-failing
subjects of discussion.

Picture, then, the consternation among all the good people when
it was announced by "somebody who was there and ought to know,"
that the postboy had that very morning handed Higgs a
foreign-looking letter, and the man had "turned as white as the
wall, rushed to his factory, talked a bit with one of the head
workmen, and without bidding a creature good-bye, was off bag and
baggage, before you could wink, ma'am." Mistress Scrubbs, his
landlady, was in deep affliction. The dear soul became quite out
of breath while speaking of him. "To leave lodgin's in that
suddent way, without never so much as a day's warnin', which was
what every woman who didn't wish to be trodden underfoot, which
thank hevving wasn't HER way, had a perfect right to expect;
yes, and a week's warnin' now you mention it, and without even so
much as sayin' 'Many thanks, Mistress Scrubbs, for all past
kindnesses,' which was most numerous, though she said it who
shouldn't say it; leastwise she wasn't never no kind of person to
be lookin' for thanks every minnit. It was really scanderlous,
though to be sure Mister 'iggs paid up everythin' to the last
farthin' and it fairly brought tears to my eyes to see his dear
empty boots lyin' there in the corner of his room, which alone
showed trouble of mind for he always stood 'em up straight as
solgers, though bein' half-soled twice they hadn't, of course,
been worth takin' away."

Whereupon her dearest friend, Miss Scrumpkins, ran home to tell
all about it. And, as everybody knew the Scrumpkinses, a shining
gossamer of news was soon woven from one end of the street to the

An investigating committee met that evening at Mrs.
Snigham's--sitting in secret session over her best china. Though
invited only to a quiet "tea," the amount of judicial business
they transacted on the occasion was prodigious. The biscuits
were actually cold before the committee had a chance to eat
anything. There was so much to talk over, and it was so
important that it should be firmly established that each member
had always been "certain sure that something extraordinary would
be happening to that man yet," that it was nearly eight o'clock
before Mrs. Snigham gave anybody a second cup.

Broad Sunshine

One snowy day in January Laurens Boekman went with his father to
pay his respects to the Brinker family.

Raff was resting after the labors of the day; Gretel, having
filled and lighted his pipe, was brushing every speck of ash from
the hearth; the dame was spinning; and Hans, perched upon a stool
by the window, was diligently studying his lessons. It was a
peaceful, happy household whose main excitement during the past
week had been the looking forward to this possible visit from
Thomas Higgs.

As soon as the grand presentation was over, Dame Brinker insisted
upon giving her guests some hot tea; it was enough to freeze
anyone, she said, to be out in such crazy, blustering weather.
While they were talking with her husband she whispered to Gretel
that the young gentleman's eyes and her boy's were certainly as
much alike as four beans, to say nothing of a way they both had
of looking as if they were stupid and yet knew as much as a
body's grandfather.

Gretel was disappointed. She had looked forward to a tragic
scene, such as Annie Bouman had often described to her, from
storybooks; and here was the gentleman who came so near being a
murderer, who for ten years had been wandering over the face of
the earth, who believed himself deserted and scorned by his
father--the very young gentleman who had fled from his country in
such magnificent trouble, sitting by the fire just as pleasant
and natural as could be!

To be sure, his voice had trembled when he talked with her
parents, and he had met his father's look with a bright kind of
smile that would have suited a dragon-killer bringing the waters
of perpetual youth to his king, but after all, he wasn't at all
like the conquered hero in Annie's book. He did not say, lifting
his arm toward heaven, "I hereby swear to be forever faithful to
my home, my God, and my country!" which would have been only
right and proper under the circumstances.

All things considered, Gretel was disappointed. Raff, however,
was perfectly satisfied. The message was delivered. Dr. Boekman
had his son safe and sound, and the poor lad had done nothing
sinful after all, except in thinking that his father would have
abandoned him for an accident. To be sure, the graceful
stripling had become rather a heavy man. Raff had unconsciously
hoped to clasp that same boyish hand again, but all things were
changed to Raff, for that matter. So he pushed back every
feeling but joy as he saw father and son sitting side by side at
his hearthstone. Meantime, Hans was wholly occupied in the
thought of Thomas Higgs's happiness in being able to be the
meester's assistant again, and Dame Brinker was sighing softly
to herself, wishing that the lad's mother were alive to see
him--such a fine young gentleman as he was--and wondering how Dr.
Boekman could bear to see the silver watch getting so dull. He
had worn it ever since Raff handed it over, that was evident.
What had he done with the gold one he used to wear?

The light was shining full upon Dr. Boekman's face. How
contented he looked; how much younger and brighter than formerly.
The hard lines were quite melting away. He was laughing as he
said to the father, "Am I not a happy man, Raff Brinker? My son
will sell out his factory this month and open a warehouse in
Amsterdam. I shall have all my spectacle cases for nothing."

Hans started from his reverie. "A warehouse, mynheer! And will
Thomas Higgs--I mean, is your son not to be your assistant

A shade passed over the meester's face, but he brightened with
an effort as he replied, "Oh, no, Laurens has had quite enough of
that. He wishes to be a merchant."

Hans appeared so surprised and disappointed that his friend asked
good-naturedly, "Why so silent, boy? Is it any disgrace to be a

"N-not a disgrace, mynheer," stammered Hans, "but--"

"But what?"

"Why, the other calling is so much better," answered Hans, "so
much nobler. I think, mynheer," he added with enthusiasm, "that
to be a surgeon, to cure the sick and crippled, to save human
life, to be able to do what you have done for my father, is the
grandest thing on earth."

The doctor was regarding him sternly. Hans felt rebuked. His
cheeks were flushed; hot tears were gathering under his lashes.

"It is an ugly business, boy, this surgery," said the doctor,
still frowning at Hans. "It requires great patience,
self-denial, and perseverance."

"I am sure that it does," cried Hans. "It calls for wisdom, too,
and a reverence for God's work. Ah, mynheer, it may have its
trials and drawbacks, but you do not mean what you say. It is
great and noble, not ugly! Pardon me, mynheer. It is not for
me to speak so boldly."

Dr. Boekman was evidently displeased. He turned his back on the
boy and conferred aside with Laurens. Meanwhile the dame scowled
a terrible warning at Hans. These great people, she knew well
enough, never like to hear poor folk speak up so pertly.

The meester turned around.

"How old are you, Hans Brinker?"

"Fifteen, mynheer," was the startled reply.

"Would you like to become a physician?"

"Yes, mynheer," answered Hans, quivering with excitement.

"Would you be willing, with your parents' consent, to devote
yourself to study, to go to the university, and, in time, be a
student in my office?"

"Yes, mynheer."

"You would not grow restless, think you, and change your mind
just as I had set my heart upon preparing you to be my

Hans's eyes flashed.

"No, mynheer, I would not change."

"You may believe him there," cried the dame, who could remain
quiet no longer. "Hans is like a rock when once he decides, and
as for study, mynheer, the child has almost grown fast to his
books of late. He can jumble off Latin already, like any

The doctor smiled. "Well, Hans, I see nothing to prevent us from
carrying out this plan, if your father agrees."

"Ahem," said Raff, too proud of his boy to be very meek. "The
fact is, mynheer, I prefer an active, out-of-door life, myself.
But if the lad's inclined to study for a meester, and he'd have
the benefit of your good word to push him on in the world, it's
all one to me. The money's all that's wanting, but it mightn't
be long, with two strong pair of arms to earn it, before we--"

"Tut, tut!" interrupted the doctor. "If I take your right-hand
man away, I must pay the cost, and glad enough will I be to do
it. It will be like having TWO sons, eh, Laurens? One a
merchant and the other a surgeon. I shall be the happiest man in
Holland! Come to me in the morning, Hans, and we will arrange
matters at once."

Hans bowed assent. He dared not trust himself to speak.

"And, Brinker," continued the doctor, "my son Laurens will need a
trusty, ready man like you, when he opens his warehouse in
Amsterdam, someone to oversee matters, and see that the lazy
clowns round about the place do their duty. Someone to--Why
don't you tell him yourself, you rascal!"

This last was addressed to the son and did not sound half as
fierce as it looks in print. The rascal and Raff soon understood
each other perfectly.

"I'm loath to leave the dikes," said the latter, after they had
talked together awhile, "but it is such a good offer, mynheer,
I'd be robbing my family if I let it go past me."

Take a long look at Hans as he sits there staring gratefully at
the meester, for you shall not see him again for many years.

And Gretel--ah, what a vista of puzzling work suddenly opens
before her! Yes, for dear Hans's sake she will study now. If he
really is to be a meester, his sister must not shame his

How faithfully those glancing eyes shall yet seek for the jewels
that lie hidden in rocky schoolbooks! And how they shall yet
brighten and droop at the coming of one whom she knows of now
only as the boy who wore a red cap on that wonderful day when she
found the silver skates in her apron!

But the doctor and Laurens are going. Dame Brinker is making her
best curtsy. Raff stands beside her, looking every inch a man as
he grasps the meester's hand. Through the open cottage door we
can look out upon the level Dutch landscape, all alive with the
falling snow.


Our story is nearly told. Time passes in Holland just as surely
and steadily as here. In that respect no country is odd.

To the Brinker family it has brought great changes. Hans has
spent the years faithfully and profitably, conquering obstacles
as they arose and pursuing one object with all the energy of his
nature. If often the way has been rugged, his resolution has
never failed. Sometimes he echoes, with his good friend, the
words said long ago in that little cottage near Broek: "Surgery
is an ugly business," but always in his heart of hearts lingers
the echo of those truer words: "It is great and noble! It
awakes a reverence for God's work!"

Were you in Amsterdam today, you might see the famous Dr. Brinker
riding in his grand coach to visit his patients, or, it might be,
you would see him skating with his own boys and girls upon the
frozen canal. For Annie Bouman, the beautiful, frank-hearted
peasant girl, you would inquire in vain; but Annie Brinker, the
vrouw of the great physician, is very like her--only, as Hans
says, she is even lovelier, wiser, more like a fairy godmother
than ever.

Peter van Holp, also, is a married man. I could have told you
before that he and Hilda would join hands and glide through life
together, just as years ago they skimmed side by side over the
frozen sunlit river.

At one time, I came near hinting that Katrinka and Carl would
join hands. It is fortunate that the report was not started, for
Katrinka changed her mind and is single to this day. The lady is
not quite so merry as formerly, and, I grieve to say, some of the
tinkling bells are out of tune. But she is the life of her
social circle, still. I wish she would be in earnest, just for a
little while, but no; it is not in her nature. Her cares and
sorrows do nothing more than disturb the tinkling; they never
waken any deeper music.

Rychie's soul has been stirred to its depths during these long
years. Her history would tell how seed carelessly sown is
sometimes reaped in anguish and how a golden harvest may follow a
painful planting. If I mistake not, you may be able to read the
written record before long; that is, if you are familiar with the
Dutch language. In the witty but earnest author whose words are
welcomed to this day in thousands of Holland homes, few could
recognize the haughty, flippant Rychie who scoffed at little

Lambert van Mounen and Ludwig van Holp are good Christian men
and, what is more easily to be seen at a glance, thriving
citizens. Both are dwellers in Amsterdam, but one clings to the
old city of that name and the other is a pilgrim to the new. Van
Mounen's present home is not far from Central Park, and he says
if the New Yorkers do their duty the park will in time equal his
beautiful Bosch, near The Hague. He often thinks of the Katrinka
of his boyhood, but he is glad now that Katrinka, the woman, sent
him away, though it seemed at the time his darkest hour. Ben's
sister Jenny has made him very happy, happier than he could have
been with anyone else in the wide world.

Carl Schummel has had a hard life. His father met with reverses
in business, and as Carl had not many warm friends, and, above
all, was not sustained by noble principles, he has been tossed
about by fortune's battledore until his gayest feathers are
nearly all knocked off. He is a bookkeeper in the thriving
Amsterdam house of Boekman and Schimmelpenninck. Voostenwalbert,
the junior partner, treats him kindly; and he, in turn, is very
respectful to the "monkey with a long name for a tail."

Of all our group of Holland friends, Jacob Poot is the only one
who has passed away. Good-natured, true-hearted, and unselfish
to the last, he is mourned now as heartily as he was loved and
laughed at while on earth. He grew to be very thin before he
died, thinner than Benjamin Dobbs, who is now portliest among the

Raff Brinker and his vrouw have been living comfortably in
Amsterdam for many years--a faithful, happy pair, as simple and
straightforward in their good fortune as they were patient and
trustful in darker days. They have a zomerhuis near the old
cottage and thither they often repair with their children and
grandchildren on the pleasant summer afternoons when the pond
lilies rear their queenly heads above the water.

The story of Hans Brinker would be but half told if we did not
leave him with Gretel standing near. Dear, quick , patient
little Gretel! What is she now? Ask old Dr. Boekman, he will
declare that she is the finest singer, the loveliest woman in
Amsterdam. Ask Hans and Annie, they will assure you that she is
the dearest sister ever known. Ask her husband, he will tell you
that she is the brightest, sweetest little wife in Holland. Ask
Dame Brinker and Raff, their eyes will glisten with joyous tears.
Ask the poor and the air will be filled with blessings.

But, lest you forget a tiny form trembling and sobbing on the
mound before the Brinker cottage, ask the Van Glecks; they will
never weary of telling of the darling little girl who won the
silver skates.

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