The How and Why Library/Geography/Section III

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III. Little Wooden Two Shoes[edit]

Let us follow the Mayflower as it sails back home. All the white children who came to America had to cross the Atlantic ocean. We won't stop when the ship comes to England. We will go farther over the sea.

Why, what is this? Trees growing on the edge of the ocean, and no land at all! Yes, here it is. The land lies behind the trees and lower than the water. Wouldn't you think the sea would roll in and drown the pretty red and yellow tulips in their beds? It would if the people had not built high banks of earth. These banks were called dykes. There were wide roads, bordered by trees, on top of the dykes. Crossing the low country were other wide, high dykes. Long troughs were scooped out of the tops of them, and sea water let in to make canals. Isn't it funny to see ships sailing on these canals, away above the church steeples? The towns and farms lay in deep, green bowls of land.

On the banks of the canals were windmills. The wind whirled the long, ladder-like arms. This turned big wheels in the wooden towers. Windmills ground flour and sawed wood and pumped water. The Dutch people built them in Holland where they lived. They made the wind do their hardest work. Weren't the Dutch clever people?

The people worked hard, too. Very early in the morning the men opened the shutters of the shop windows. The women scrubbed the door steps and swept the streets. Then they scrubbed the rosy faces of the children, put clean clothes on them and sent them to school. Their children, their houses, their neat brick towns, and even their farms, were so clean and bright that all Holland looked as if it was washed and ironed every day.

Clump, clump, clatter! Here comes blue-eyed Gretel in her wooden shoes, with little tow-headed brother Hans after her. Wooden shoes were good for many things. Hans sailed his on the canal, like boats. Gretel used hers for dolly cradles. At Christmas Santa Claus filled their shoes with sugar plums. Every Saturday Dutch children scrubbed their shoes with soap and water, until they were as white as little mother's kitchen table.

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Hans wore wide knickerbockers, a tight jacket and a little round cap. Gretel wore six bright wool petticoats, all at once. Her close, gold-braided cap had big rosettes over the ears. They skated on the canals in winter. They went to a big city called Am-ster-dam, in an ice-boat, with a sail. The wind sent the boat flying over the ice.

Hans and Gretel came to America with other Dutch children. They lived on a long, narrow island in the mouth of the Hudson River. The island poked its blunt nose into the ocean, so ships could come up to it. It was higher than the water, so the Dutch did not have to build dykes. But they built a wall of stakes across the island to keep the Indians out. They built a windmill too. If there had not been lots of water the Dutch children would have been as lonesome in America as ducks in a meadow. The Dutch men were merchants. They bought furs of the Indians and sent them to Holland to be sold. When the ships came for furs they brought loads of bricks to build houses. A street of neat brick houses was built like the letter U around the blunt nose of the island. The fronts faced a green park; the gardens all ran down to the water. The Dutch called this town New Am-ster-dam. After many years English people came to live with the Dutch, and they named the town New York. Today nearly four million people live in New York. It is one of the biggest cities in the world.

The great-grand-children of Hans and Gretel had two homes. One was a brown stone house in the city. The other was far up on the high, rocky bank of the Hudson River. It had a porch with white pillars, and forests and meadows were around it. They had a gay coach and fast horses to drive into the city, and they had a sail boat on the river. They spoke English instead of Dutch, and they wore leather shoes with buckles. They were Americans. They never dreamed of such a thing as going back to Holland. See NEW YORK, page 1334.