Off For Holland
 

It seemed to Polly as if she had only breathed twice, and had not turned over once, when there was Mamsie's voice calling her, and there was Mamsie's face looking into hers over the edge of the berth. "Wake up, Polly, child, you have only about ten minutes to dress in."

"O dear me! what--where?" exclaimed Polly, springing to a sitting position, thereby giving her brown head a smart thump on the ceiling of the berth, "where are we, Mamsie? why, it is the middle of the night, isn't it?" she cried, not stopping to pity her poor head.

"We are almost at the Hook of Holland," said Mrs. Fisher, busily buttoning Phronsie's shoes. Phronsie sat on the lower berth, her sleepy little legs dangling over the edge, and her sleepy little head going nid-nodding, despite all her efforts to keep herself awake.

"O dear me!" cried Polly, remorsefully, when she saw that. "I ought to have dressed Phronsie. Why didn't you wake me up earlier, Mamsie?"

"Because I wanted you to sleep all you could," said Mrs. Fisher, "and now if you'll only dress Polly Pepper as quickly as possible, that's all I ask."

"I will dress Polly Pepper in a twinkling, Mamsie," declared Polly, laughing merrily; "O dear me, where is my other stocking?" She stuck out one black foot ready for its boot. "Is it down there, Mamsie?" All the while she was shaking the bedclothes violently for any chance glimpse of it in the berth.

"Where did you put it last night when you took it off, Polly?" asked Mrs. Fisher, buttoning away for dear life on Phronsie's shoes. "There now, Pet, those are done; hop out now, and fly into your clothes."

"I thought I put 'em both in the corner here," cried poor Polly, twitching everything loose. Thereupon her big hat, hung carefully upon a high hook, slipped off and fell to the floor.

"Take care, Polly," warned her mother, "haste only makes matters worse."

"But I can't go with only one stocking on," said Polly, quite gone in despair now. "Oh, dear Mrs. Henderson, don't you see it on the floor?" For that good woman had dropped to her knees, and was busily prowling around among the accumulation of bags and clothing.

"That's what I'm hoping to do," she answered, "but I don't see it as yet, Polly."

"I'll help Polly to find it," cried Phronsie, now thoroughly awake and dropping her small skirts to get down on the floor by Mrs. Henderson's side. "Don't feel badly, Polly; I'll find your stocking for you."

"No, Phronsie," said her mother, "you must get into your own clothes. And then Mrs. Henderson is nearly all ready, and you can go out with her, and that will leave more room, so that Polly and I can search more carefully. And the stocking has got to come, for it couldn't walk off of itself," she added cheerily as she saw Polly's face. "Why--what?" as she happened to look upward. And then Polly looked, too, and there was her stocking dangling from the very high hook where the big hat had been.

"You tossed it up there, I suppose, when you shook up the bedclothes so quickly," said Mrs. Fisher. "Well, now," as Polly pounced on the stocking, "see how fast you can hop into your clothes, daughter." Then she began to put the things for the bags into their places, and Matilda, coming in, finished the work; and Polly flew around, buttoning and tying and patting herself into shape, and by the time that little Dr. Fisher's voice called at the door, "Well, wife, are you ready?" there they all were, trim and tidy as ever for a start.

"Where is it, Grandpapa?" asked Phronsie, peering around on either side,--Dr. Fisher and Jasper had gone off to attend to the examination of the luggage by the customs inspectors,--and then coming up gently to pull his arm. "I don't see it anywhere."

"What, child?" answered Grandpapa, looking down at her. "See here, wait a minute," to the others who were ahead, "Phronsie has lost something."

"Oh, no, Grandpapa, I haven't," began Phronsie, in gentle protestation, "all my things are in here." She patted her little bag that hung on her arm, a gift of old Mr. King's for her to carry her very own things in, that yielded her immense satisfaction every time she looked at it, which was very often.

"Didn't you say you wanted to find something, dear?" he asked, quite puzzled, while the others surrounded them wonderingly.

"No," said Phronsie, "only where is the hook, Grandpapa? I don't see it." She lifted her little face and gazed up at him confident that he knew everything.

"She has lost her button-hook!" exclaimed Polly, "the cunning little silver one Auntie Whitney gave her Christmas. I'll run back and get it; it must be in the state-room."

"Stay, Polly," commanded Mr. King. And, "Oh, no, I haven't," piped Phronsie, as Polly was flying off. "It's here in my bag," patting Grandpapa's gift hanging on her arm. "I couldn't lose that, Polly," she cried in horror at the thought, as Polly hurried back.

"Well, what is it, then, you've lost?" demanded Polly, breathlessly.

"I haven't lost anything," reiterated Phronsie, pushing back the yellow hair from her face. "Grandpapa, tell them, please, I haven't lost anything," she kept repeating, appealing to him.

"She says she hasn't lost anything, so we won't say that again," echoed old Mr. King. "Now, Phronsie, child, tell me what it is you mean; what hook you want."

"The hook," said Phronsie; "here, Grandpapa," and she looked all around in a troubled way, "they said it was here; I don't see it, Grandpapa."

"She means the Hook of Holland," burst out Polly, "don't you, Phronsie pet?" And she threw her arms around her while Mr. Henderson exclaimed, "Of course, why didn't we think of it, to be sure?"

"Yes, Polly." Phronsie gave a glad little cry, and wriggled in great satisfaction in her arms. "Grandpapa, where is it,--the Hook of Holland?"

"Oh, bless me, child!" exclaimed Mr. King, "that is the name of the place; at least, to be accurate, it is Hoek van Holland. Now, just as soon as we get fairly started on our way to Rotterdam, I'll tell you all about it, or Polly shall, since she was clever enough to find out what you meant."

"Oh, no, Grandpapa," cried Polly, "I'd so much rather you told her --please do, dear Grandfather?"

"And so I will," he promised, very much pleased, for Mr. King dearly loved to be the one to relate the history and anecdotes about the places along which they travelled. And so, when they were steaming off toward Rotterdam, as he sat in the centre of the compartment he had reserved for their use, Phronsie next to him, and Polly and Jasper opposite, he told the whole story. The others tucked themselves in the remaining four seats, and did not lose a word. Matilda and Mr. King's valet, in a second-class compartment, took charge of the luggage.

"I like it very much," declared Phronsie, when the story was all finished, and smoothing down her little brown gown in satisfaction.

"I like it very much, Grandpapa's telling it," said Polly, "but the Hook of Holland isn't anything to what we shall see at Rotterdam, while, as for The Hague and Amsterdam--oh, Grandpapa!"

That "oh, Grandpapa" just won his heart, and Mr. King beamed at her as her glowing face was turned first to one window and then to the other, that she might not lose anything as the train rumbled on.

"Just wait till we get to Marken," broke in Jasper, gaily, "then if you want to see the Dutch beat the Dutch--well, you may!" he ended with a laugh.

"Oh, Jasper, do they really beat each other?" cried Phronsie, quite horrified, and slipping away from Grandpapa to regard him closely.

"Oh, no! I mean--they go ahead of everything that is most Dutch," Jasper hastened to say; "I haven't explained it very well."

"No, I should think not," laughed his father, in high good humour. "Well, Phronsie, I think you will like the folks on the Island of Marken, for they dress in funny quaint costumes, just as their ancestors did, years upon years ago."

"Are there any little children there?" asked Phronsie, slipping back into her place again, and nestling close to his side.

"Hundreds of them, I suppose," replied Mr. King, with his arm around her and drawing her up to him, "and they wear wooden shoes or sabots, or klompen as they call them, and--"

"Wooden shoes!" cried Phronsie; "oh, Grandpapa," clasping her hands, "how do they stay on?"

"Well, that's what I've always wondered myself when I've been in Holland. A good many have left off the sabots, I believe, and wear leather shoes made just like other people's."

"Oh, Grandpapa," cried Phronsie, leaning forward to peer into his face, "don't let them leave off the wooden shoes, please."

"I can't make them wear anything but what they want to," said old Mr. King, with a laugh; "but don't be troubled, child, you'll see all the wooden shoes you desire, in Rotterdam, and The Hague, too, for that matter."

"Shall I?" cried Phronsie, nestling back again quite pleased. "Grandpapa, I wish I could wear wooden shoes," she whispered presently in a burst of confidence, sticking out her toes to look at them.

"Bless me! you couldn't keep them on," said Mr. King.

"Don't the little Dutch children keep them on?" asked Phronsie. "Oh, Grandpapa, I think I could; I really think I could," she added earnestly.

"Yes, they do, because they are born and brought up to it, although, for the life of me, I don't see how they do it; but you couldn't, child, you'd fall the first minute and break your nose, most likely."

Phronsie gave a sigh. "Should I, Grandpapa?"

"Yes, quite likely; but I'll tell you what I will do. I will buy you a pair, and we will take them home. That will be fine, won't it, dear?"

"Yes," said Phronsie, wriggling in delight. Then she sat quite still.

"Grandpapa," she said, reaching up to whisper again, "I'm afraid it will make Araminta feel badly to see me with my beautiful wooden shoes on, when she can't have any. Do you suppose there are little teenty ones, Grandpapa dear, and I might get her a pair?"

"Yes, indeed," cried Grandpapa, nodding his white head in delight, "there are shoals of them, Phronsie, of all sizes."

"What are shoals?" queried Phronsie.

"Oh, numbers and numbers--so many we can't count them," answered Mr. King, recklessly.

Phronsie slid down into her place again, and sat quite still lost in thought. So many wooden shoes she couldn't count them was quite beyond her. But Grandpapa's voice roused her. "And I'll buy a bushel of them, Phronsie, and send them home, so that all your dolls at home can each have a pair. Would that suit you, Pet?"

Phronsie screamed with delight and clapped her hands. Polly and Jasper who had changed places, as Dr. Fisher and Mr. Henderson had made them take theirs by one window, now whirled around. "What is it?" cried Polly of Phronsie. "What is it?"

"I'm going to have wooden shoes," announced Phronsie, in a burst of confidence that included everybody in the compartment, "for my very own self, and Araminta is going to have a pair, and every single one of my children at home, too. Grandpapa said so."

"Whew!" whistled Jasper. "Oh, what fun," sighed Polly.

"And you shall have a pair, too, if you want them, Polly," Grandpapa telegraphed over to her in the corner.

"And Jasper can, too, can't he, Grandpapa? And, oh, thank you so much," cried Polly, all in one breath.

"I guess it's as well I shall be on hand to set the broken bones," said little Dr. Fisher, "with all you children capering around in those wooden abominations."

"Oh, Dr. Fisher, we are not going to fall!" exclaimed Jasper, in disdain, at the very thought. And "No, indeed," came merrily from Polly. And then they all fell to work admiring the numberless windmills past which their train was speeding toward Rotterdam.

"To think it is only six o'clock!" exclaimed Polly, looking at her little travelling watch that Grandpapa had given her. "Now, what a fine long day we are going to have, Jasper, for sightseeing in Rotterdam."

As the train came to a standstill, the guards threw open compartment doors, and all the people poured out calling for porters to see to their luggage, and everything was in confusion at once on the platforms.

"Indeed, you won't, Miss Polly," declared Mr. King, overhearing it, as they waited till all was ready for them to get into the hotel coach, --"we are all going to spend this day at the hotel--first, in getting a good breakfast, and then, dear me, I shall sleep pretty much all of the morning, and I'd advise the rest of you to jump into your beds and get good naps after the experience on that atrocious steamboat last night."

"Oh, Grandpapa, must we really go to bed?" cried Polly, in horror at the mere thought.

"Well, not exactly into your beds," laughed Mr. King, as Jasper, announcing that all was ready, piloted them into the coach, "but you've got to rest like sensible beings. Make up your mind to that. As for Phronsie," and he gallantly lifted her up to the step, "she's half asleep already. She's got to have a splendid nap, and no mistake."

"I'm not sleepy," declared Phronsie, stumbling into the high coach to sit down next to Mother Fisher. "No, Grandpapa dear, not a bit." And before anybody knew it, and as soon as the coach wheels spun round, she rolled over into Mamsie's lap. There she was as fast asleep as could be!