Five Little Peppers Abroad by Margaret Sidney
"The Cleanest Place In All Holland"
"Oh, Polly, see the cunning little doll-houses!" exclaimed Phronsie in a little scream, flying about from Grandpapa at the head of his party on their way up from the boat-landing, and then back to the rear of the procession, which happened to be Polly and Jasper.
"Hush, Phronsie, don't talk so loud; they are not doll-houses," said Polly. "People live in them."
"People live in them!" echoed Phronsie, standing quite still on the paved road, that shone as if just freshly scoured.
"Yes, yes; come along, child, the people will hear you," said Polly, seizing her hand.
Phronsie suffered herself to be piloted along, but she stumbled more than once over the cobbles, her eyes were so busy.
"Take care, Phronsie," warned Polly, "you came near falling on your nose that time."
"I'll go on the other side," said Jasper; "there, now, Phronsie, give us your hand. Well, I don't wonder you are surprised. I never saw such a place as this Broek is."
"They've just washed it all up, haven't they, Jasper?" asked Polly, her brown eyes scanning the little walks along each tiny garden they passed. Everything shone alike.
"They're always washing up, I believe," answered Jasper, with a laugh. "I suppose they live in a pail of water, so to speak."
"Oh, Jasper, in a pail of water!" exclaimed Phronsie, between them, poking her head out to look for such a strange and unwarrantable sight provided by the inhabitants of Broek.
"I mean they're always scrubbing, so they can never be separated from their pails of water," said Jasper.
"It seems almost too bad to step on such clean roads," said Polly, getting up on her tiptoes, and stepping gingerly off. When Phronsie saw Polly do that, she got up on her tiptoes too, and tried to get over the ground with her.
"You can't do that long," said Jasper, with a laugh for both, "and it wouldn't do any good, Polly, if you could, for these Broek women will have to come out and scrub up after us all the same."
"I suppose they will," said Polly, with a sigh of relief, coming down on to the rest of her feet, which proceeding, Phronsie was very glad to copy. "And it isn't as nice as it looks to walk on the tips of your toes. Jasper, do see those cunning little windows and those china images inside!"
"It seems as if they were all windows," said Jasper, scanning the tiny panes shining at them from all the cottages. "Dear me, the Broek women have something to do, don't they, to keep everything so shiny and clean?"
"Haven't they!" cried Polly. "Well, I don't wonder it is the cleanest place in all Holland. They must have to sit up all night and wash and scrub."
"It's the cleanest place on the whole earth, I imagine," laughed Jasper.
"But I should love to see some boys playing with mud pies," sighed Polly, running her glance up and down the immaculate road, and compassing all the tiny gardens possible to her range of vision.
"Mud pies!" exclaimed Jasper, in mock surprise. "Polly, how can you mention such a thing as dirt or mud here!"
"Jasper, do you suppose the children can have a good time here?" pursued Polly, anxiously, willing to give up the mud pies, if only reassured on the latter point, which seemed to her a very doubtful one.
"We'll hope so," answered Jasper. "See the klompen outside that door, Polly. Well, here we are at the dairy, Polly."
"And can I see the cows?" cried Phronsie. "Oh, Grandpapa is calling me," and off she ran.
And so he was calling her, as he and the parson had now reached the dairy door, under cover with the dwelling, which seemed much less an object of painstaking care than the house where the cows resided and the cheeses were made.
But everything was as neat as a pin in the house, though, and Polly and Jasper concluded they would explore the two rooms, as everybody seemed to be expected to do, after the main object of the visit was accomplished and the dairy inspected.
"Dear me, do they have to take their shoes off before they go in the house?" cried Polly.
"I suppose so," said Jasper. "Well, it isn't much trouble to get out of those sabots, that's one comfort for them."
"Dear me," Mrs. Fisher was saying, "if they haven't a carpet on the floor for the cows to walk on!" And there, surely, were strips of carpeting all down the walks between the rows of stalls, and something that looked like braided hemp in the bottom of the stalls themselves. And everything was tiled where it could be, with little tiles, and all these and every bit of the woodwork itself shone beautifully--it was so clean and polished.
Mrs. Fisher's black eyes shone, too. "It's beautiful," she said to her husband, "to see everything so clean for once in the world."
"What are those hooks for?" asked Jasper of the stolid Dutchman, who showed them about, and who spoke English fairly well.
"We hook the cows' tails up so they won't shake any dirt on their sides," said the Dutchman.
"O dear me!" exclaimed Polly Pepper, and everybody laughed--but she didn't.
"I think that is cruel," she said. "What do the poor things do to beat off the flies, pray tell?"
"Flies?" said Mother Fisher. "I don't suppose they ever see a fly here, Polly."
"They'd chase one worse than the dirt, I guess," said the little doctor.
"Oh," said Polly, with a sigh of relief.
"Come, Polly, let us go into the cheese room," suggested Jasper, peering in, for everything was connected and under one roof. "There's a man in there, and he is telling something;" so they skipped in, while Phronsie was bewailing that there were no cows there, and where were they?
"Why, Phronsie, they are all out in the fields. You wouldn't have them shut up this hot day," said Grandpapa.
"No," said Phronsie, swallowing the lump in her throat, "I wouldn't, Grandpapa; I'd much rather know they are having a nice time. I don't want them in here, I truly don't."
"That's a nice child," said old Mr. King, approvingly. "Well, now, we'll see how they make these wonderful Edam cheeses, Phronsie."
"I shall call this place the Cheesery," announced Polly, running about between the vats and the big press.
"Oh, Polly, that's a capital name," said Jasper. "So shall I call it the 'Cheesery' in my journal. Look at the rows and rows of them, Polly."
"And how round and yellow they are," said Polly; "just like pumpkins, aren't they? Wouldn't it be fine if we could take some home, to send to Badgertown? Dear Mrs. Beebe is so fond of cheese, Jasper."
"It is a pity; but we couldn't take cheeses very well. Fancy our trunks, Polly!" He wrinkled up his face; at sight of it Polly laughed merrily.
"No, of course not," she said; "but oh, how fine they look!"
"Grandpapa, I'd like to buy one," said Phronsie, overhearing a bit of this, and opening her little bag that hung on her arm, to get her purse.
"What in the world can you do with a Dutch cheese, child?" exclaimed old Mr. King.
"But I would like to buy one," persisted Phronsie. And after much diving Phronsie produced the little silk purse--"Polly wants one, Grandpapa," she got up on her tiptoes to whisper confidentially.
"Oh, is that it?" said Mr. King. "Well, now, Phronsie, I don't really believe Polly wants one. You would better ask her. If she wants one you shall buy it for her."
So Phronsie ran off. "Do you, Polly? Do you?" then she gently pulled Polly's sleeve to make her hear, for Polly and Jasper were hanging on the description that the man in attendance was pouring forth.
"Do I what?" cried Polly, only half understanding, and lost in the thought of how much fun it must be to make little yellow cheeses, and set them up in rows to be taken to market.
"--want one of those dear sweet little cheeses?" finished Phronsie.
"Yes, indeed," answered Polly, bobbing her head, and listening to the man with all her might.
"Yes, she does, Grandpapa," declared Phronsie, flying back, "she told me so her very own self."
"The goodness, she does!" exclaimed old Mr. King, "Well then, she shall have one. But pick out a small one, Phronsie, the very smallest you can find."
This was so much a work of time, Phronsie laying aside one selection after another, each yellow cheese looking so much better on comparison, that at last old Mr. King was almost in despair, and counselled the purchase of the last one that Phronsie set her eyes on. But meantime she had spied one on the upper shelf of all.
"There it is, Grandpapa," she cried, clapping her hands in delight, "the very littlest of all, and isn't it beautiful, Grandpapa, dear?"
"Indeed it is," assented Grandpapa, and he had the man lift it down and do it up; a piece of a Dutch newspaper again doing duty, when Phronsie held out her arms to receive it. "You can't carry it, child; give it to me. What in the world shall we do with the thing?" all this Grandpapa was uttering in one breath.
"Oh, Grandpapa, dear, I do so want to carry Polly's little yellow cheese," said Phronsie, the tears beginning to come in her eyes.
Grandpapa, who had taken the round parcel from her arms, looked from it to her with increasing perplexity. "Have the goodness to put a string around it, will you?" he said to the man who was regarding him stolidly, after satisfying himself that the coin Phronsie had drawn out of her purse and put in his hand was a good one.
"Yah, yah," said the man, and he brought out of one of his pockets a long piece of thick twine. This with much hard breathing accompanying the work, he proceeded to twist and interlace around the paper containing the little yellow cheese in such a way that when it was completed, Phronsie was carrying what looked like a little net basket, for there was a good strong twine handle sticking up, into which she put her small hand in great satisfaction.
When they all gathered in the living room of the house that had open doors into the cow-house and dairy, all being under one roof, they found a huge pile of photographs displayed of various views of the premises indoors and out.
"But they aren't half as nice as ours will be," whispered Jasper; "how many did you take, Polly?"
"Three," said Polly.
"Oh, Polly, didn't you get more than that?" said Jasper, quite disappointed for her, for Polly dearly loved to take photographs. "Oh, you've let Adela Gray take your kodak," he added; "it's a shame I didn't give you mine. Take it now, Polly," he begged, slinging off the leather strap from his shoulder.
"No, no," said Polly, "I don't want to, Jasper, and I wanted Adela to take it, and don't let her hear us, she may come back from the other room;"--for Adela had disappeared with the kodak; "and it's all right, Jasper," she finished up incoherently.
"Aren't these queer beds, Mrs. Fisher?" the parson's wife was saying, peering into the shelves against the side of the wall, boarded up, with doors swung open inviting inspection.
"The idea of sleeping in one of them!" exclaimed Mrs. Fisher, inspecting the interior with a sharp eye. "They're clean enough and as neat as a pink"--with a critical glance along the white lace spread and the immaculate pillow--"but to be shut up in a box like that. I should as soon go to bed in a bureau drawer."
"So should I," laughed the parson's wife; "and look at the artificial flowers hanging up over the head, and that picture pinned, above the foot. Well, well, well, and so that is a Dutch bed!"
"There are a good many kinds and sorts of Dutch beds, I suppose," observed Mrs. Fisher, turning away, "just as there are a good many American ones; but I hope there aren't many of this particular kind."
"Jasper," exclaimed Polly, as they all filed decorously out of the "Model Farm," "how I do wish you and I could race down to the boat-landing!"
Jasper looked longingly down the washed and shining road. "So do I, Polly," he said, "but I suppose it wouldn't do; we should shock these natives."
"I suppose so," assented Polly, ruefully. Just then Phronsie came up holding with both hands her paper-covered, twine-netted little round yellow cheese.
"What in the world has Phronsie got!" exclaimed Polly, catching sight of her. "Come here, Pet," she called.
Phronsie hesitated. On Polly's calling her again she drew near, but more slowly than was her wont.
"What have you got, Phronsie?" asked Polly, wondering and not a little hurt by her manner. "A little basket of string; isn't it funny, and where did you get it?"
"It isn't a basket," corrected Phronsie, "and I cannot tell you now, Polly," said Phronsie, shaking her head.
"Why, Phronsie," began Polly in surprise; and she couldn't help it, her voice quavered in spite of her.
When Phronsie heard that, she was equally distressed, and at once decided to present the gift then instead of carrying it back to the hotel for Polly as she had at first intended. So she cast her burden into Polly's hands and piped out, "It's for you, Polly, a sweet little yellow cheese; you said you wanted it," and stood smiling and triumphant.
"Oh, my goodness me!" exclaimed Polly Pepper, standing quite still. Then she did shock the natives, for she sat right down in the road, with the cheese in her hands.