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 to-day, Mother?" asked Kit. "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 to-night, and I want her stable to be nice and clean for her." "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 St. Nicholas will come, and he leaves only a rod in the shoes of bad children. And if you've been bad, you have to tell him about it." "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 St. Nicholas, anyway." 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 St. Nicholas." Kit and Kat ran to him and said, both together, "Dear Father Vedder, will you please teach us to skate before St. Nicholas Day?" "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 St. Nicholas," said Father Vedder. "But it comes very soon." 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't seem 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.
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