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The Dutch children amuse themselves for some days before Easter by begging for eggs in this way, which they take to their own homes and dye different colours and then exhibit to their friends. On Easter Day there is more fun, for they all gather in the meadows [31] and roll the eggs on the grass, each trying to hit and break those of his neighbours.

At last the day came when Pieter and Wilhelmina were to see their new cousin for the first time. Their father had gone to Rotterdam to meet the steamship and bring Theodore back with him. The twins hurried from school, and hurried through dinner, and in fact hurried with everything they did. Then they put on their holiday clothes and kept running up the road to see if their father and Theodore were coming, although they knew that it would be hours before they would reach home.

But of course, just when they were not looking for them, in walked the father and said: "Here is your Cousin Theodore, children; make him welcome. Pieter managed to say "How do you do? I am glad you have come," but poor Wilhelmina—every word of her English flew out of her head, and all she could think to say was, " Ik dank u, mijnheer ,"—"Thank you, sir. Then suddenly the children all grew as shy as could be, but after they had eaten of Mevrouw's good supper, they grew sociable and Theodore told them all about his voyage over, and Pieter found that he could understand him better than at first.

Even Wilhelmina got in a few English words, and when Pieter and Theodore went to sleep together, in what Theodore called a "big box," anybody would have thought they had known each other all their lives. The three young cousins were soon the best of friends; and as for Theodore, everything was so new and strange to him that he said it was like a big surprise party all the time. He said, too, that he was going to be a real Dutchman [33] while he was with them, and nothing would do but that he must have a suit of clothes just like Pieter's, and a tall cap.

How they all laughed the first time he tried to walk in the big wooden shoes! But it wasn't long before he could run in them as fast as the twins. Theodore wanted to learn to speak Dutch, and so every morning, after they had eaten their breakfast of coffee, rye bread, and butter, with either herrings or cheese, away he went with the twins across the meadows to the schoolhouse in the centre of the village.

After dinner Theodore and Pieter helped about in the tulip-gardens, while Wilhelmina and Mevrouw polished and dusted and rubbed things, and made butter in the great wooden and china churn.

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On the weekly holiday the three children would take long walks, or perhaps a ride on the steam street-cars, or trams, which puffed through the village; or they would ride their [35] bicycles, for this is a favourite pastime with the Dutch, whose flat straight roads are always so excellently kept. We have a Harlem, too, which is a part of New York City. I suppose it was named after your city. Let's go by all means, and I will take some pictures," said Theodore, slinging his camera over his shoulder, and away they went in high spirits.

The children were soon walking along a shady road by the side of the canal. As far as they could see, in any direction, stretched the bulb-gardens blazing with colour of all kinds. Dotted everywhere about were windmills of all sizes, their sails gleaming [36] white in the sunlight as they went round and round. On either side of the road were neat little villas, with trim gardens before them.

As Pieter told them, these were the summer homes of the well-to-do people who live in the cities. Everybody who can, has one of these villas, where they can come during the hot weather, and they especially like to have one near Haarlem, because the beautiful gardens roundabout make the country seem so gay and bright.

The young people stopped to look at it admiringly.

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For a Dutch home it was very large, because it had two stories. The entire front was painted in half a dozen different colours to [37] represent as many different coloured stones, all arranged in a fanciful pattern.

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The window-blinds were a bright pea-green, and the framework a delicate pink. The door was a dark green with a fine brass knocker in the centre, and a brass railing, shining like gold, ran down on either side of the white steps. The roof was of bright red tiles, which glistened in the sun, and what do you think was on the highest point of the gable?

Our Little Dutch Cousin by Blanche McManus -

A china cat, coloured like life, and standing with its back up, just as though it were ready to spring upon another cat! Over the doorway was painted the motto: "Buiten Zorg," which means "Without a Care. And look, there is another figure near him,—a funny old woman, who keeps turning around, as if she got tired of seeing the gentleman with the turban. Those ducks swimming about on the pond are made to move in the same way.

The summer villa gardens are usually filled with these queer mechanical contrivances. I suppose it amuses the rich old burghers to watch them as they sit smoking their long pipes and taking their ease in their little summer-houses on the hot days. Mynheer Van der Veer was very proud of his collection and took great care of them. When a shower came up he would put an open umbrella over each one, which made them look funnier still, and when it rained very hard, he would pick them up bodily and carry them into the house; then when the sun shone again, out would come the funny little figures too.

There is where Mynheer and Mevrouw sit in the afternoon and have their coffee and 'koejes. The flower-beds were all arranged in regular shapes; the walks were made of several kinds of coloured sands which were arranged to form regular patterns. The trees were not allowed to grow as they pleased.

Dear me, no! They were trimmed in shapes and forms too, and some of the tree-trunks were even painted. But all was very clean and proper, and every leaf looked as though it was frequently dusted and washed. They would certainly disappear in a short time. Sure enough, on the top of the chimney was a mass of straw, and in the midst of it stood two tall storks. This was their nest, and Papa and Mamma Stork were waiting for the young Stork family to come out of their shells.

Papa Stork stood on one leg and cocked his head down to the children as much as to say: "Don't you wish that we were living at your house? The good people of that country build little platforms over their chimneys just so that a stork couple that are looking for a place to begin housekeeping will see it and say to themselves: "Here's a nice flat place on which to build our nest.

I had been thinking that it was a bundle of sticks, and wondering how it got up there. Bless my stars! The land could not be allowed to go to waste like that, and so great walls of mud and stone, called dikes, were built. Canals were run here, there, and everywhere, and the waters which covered the lowlands were pumped into these canals and so drained off. The new land was practically a new area added to the small territory of Holland, and where once was nothing but salt marsh and water-flooded meadows are now cities and towns and houses and lovely gardens.

Some are so broad that there are houses, and even villages, on top of them. The reclaimed lands lying between the dikes are called 'polders,' and thousands of acres of the richest part of Holland have been made in this way. Some day, too, it is planned that the whole of the Zuyder Zee will be planted and built over with gardens and houses. Pieter also told Theodore that many of the great windmills which he saw were used to pump off the surplus water which drained through from the canals.

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So many of these canals are there in Holland that the country is cut up by them like a checker-board. They are of all sizes, from a tiny ditch to others big enough for large ships to sail upon. There are not only these inland dikes, which protect the canals and the lands lying between, but there are great sea-walls of sand and rock to keep the sea itself in place, otherwise it would come rushing over the lowlands and drown half the country.

Our Little Dutch Cousin

Even that is not the end of the matter. Thousands and thousands of men have to watch these dikes day and night, for one little leak might be the means of flooding miles of country, and washing away many homes and lives. When the cry is heard, "The dike is breaking! I wonder if that saying didn't first come from a Dutchman! This talk on Dutch history came to a sudden stop as Pieter called out: "Look out, Theodore, or you will get drenched," and the children had only time to dodge a big bucket of water that a fat Vrouw was tossing up on her windows.

I suppose the idea of cleanliness comes from the fact that the Dutch have so much water handy; they say that when a Dutch Vrouw cannot find anything else to do, she says, "Let's wash something. It was Saturday, the great cleaning day, and the housewives were washing down the doors and blinds and the sides of the houses with big mops, until everything shone brilliantly in the sunlight; the white door-steps, and even the tree-trunks and the red brick walks were not forgotten. They would dip up the water from the canals and dash it over the pavements with a reckless disregard for passers-by. As the children entered the town matters grew worse. Everywhere were happy Dutch folk of all ages, swashing clean water about over everything, until Theodore finally said: "The next time I come out on cleaning-up day I shall wear a waterproof.

I wonder the Dutch people don't grow web-footed, like ducks. All along the road rattled the little carts drawn by dogs, for dogs are used a great deal in both Holland and Belgium in place of horses.

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  5. But there is a vegetable-cart with three fine dogs harnessed to it. Often there are four or five dogs to a cart," said Pieter, "and they can [50] draw big loads, too, I can tell you; and they are as intelligent as human beings. Think of a pony lying down every time he stopped. You may be sure, however, if any stranger attempted to take anything from his cart, he would become very wide awake, and that person would be very sorry for it, for the dogs guard their master's property faithfully. By this time our party was well into town. They saw the "Groote Markt," or big market-place, and the Groote Kerk.

    Every Dutch town has a great market-place, and generally the Groote Kerk, or big church, stands in it, as well as the town hall. It is here, too, that the principal business of the town is transacted. The children walked along the canals, which are the main streets in Dutch towns and cities, and Theodore never grew tired of looking at the queer houses, always with their gable ends to the street. It is really cheaper for them than to keep a fire all the day in their own houses. Peat is generally sold for this purpose instead of coal or wood, for it is not so costly.

    By this time the young cousins were quite ready to take the steam-tram home, and were hungry enough for the good supper which they knew Mevrouw Joost had prepared for them. These fairs are held in many of the Dutch towns and cities.

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    Booths are put up in the Groote Markt and on the streets, where the sale of all kinds of things is carried on. There are games and merrymakings, and dances, and singing, and fancy costumes, and much more [54] to make them novel to even the Dutch themselves. For a time the children talked about nothing but the Kermis, until at last the great day came, and they all found themselves on the train which was taking them to Rotterdam. As they drew near the city it was easy to see that everybody was going to the Kermis, and was thinking of nothing else.

    The roads were crowded with all kinds of queer vehicles and gay costumes. There were the big country wagons, of strange shapes, and painted in bright colours. In them were piled the whole family,—grandparents, mother, father, aunts, uncles, and cousins. There were the dogs, too, drawing their little carts, and trying to keep up with the big wagons, panting bravely along with their tongues hanging out, as much [55] as to say, "We are not going to let the horses get there first, just because we are little.

    There were men and women on bicycles,—the women with their caps and streamers flapping in the wind like white wings, and their half-dozen skirts filling out like a balloon, as they pedalled rapidly along. It was just twelve o'clock as our party left the station, and the bells were ringing gaily, which was the signal for the opening of the Kermis.