MoboReader> Literature > Hans Brinker; Or, The Silver Skates

   Chapter 47 BROAD SUNSHINE

Hans Brinker; Or, The Silver Skates By Mary Mapes Dodge Characters: 13337

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04

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-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 any one, 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 story books; 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 had 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 hand 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 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' 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 again?"

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 merchant?"

"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, kindling 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 it does," cried Hans, kindling again. "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 pert.

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 successor?"

Hans' 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 priest!"

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 a 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 himsel

f 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; some one to overlook matters, and see that the lazy clowns round about the place do their duty. Some one 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 dykes," said the latter, after they had talked together a while, "but you have made me 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' sake she will study now. If he really is to be a meester, his sister must not shame his greatness.

How faithfully those glancing eyes shall yet seek for the jewels that lie hidden in rocky school-books! 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 curtsey. 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 old 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 to-day, 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 now 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 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 at this day, in thousands of Holland homes, few could recognize the haughty, flippant Rychie who scoffed at little Gretel.

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 the 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 Jennie has made him very happy, happier than he could have been with any one 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 battle-dore 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 portly.

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 zommerhuis 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 she is the finest singer, the loveliest woman in Amsterdam; ask Hans and Annie, they will assure you she is the dearest sister ever known; ask her husband, he will tell you she is the brightest, sweetest little wife in Holland; ask Dame Brinker and Raff, their eyes will glisten with joyous tears; ask the poor, 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 telling of the darling little girl who won The Silver Skates.


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