BLTC Press Titles

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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll

The Characters of Theophrastus


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde

Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross

Hans Brinker, Or, The Silver Skates

by Mary Mapes Dodge




On a bright December morning long ago, two thinly clad children were kneeling upon the bank of a frozen canal in Holland.

The sun had not yet appeared; but the gray sky was parted near the horizon, and its edges shone crimson with the coming day. Most of the good Hollanders were enjoying a placid morning nap; even Mynheer von Stoppelnoze, that worthy old Dutchman, was still slumbering " in beautiful repose."

Now and then some peasant-woman, poising a well-filled basket upon her head, came skimming over the glassy surface of the canal; or a lusty boy, skating to his day's work in the town, cast a good-natured grimace toward the shivering pair as he flew along.

Meanwhile, with many a vigorous puff and pull, the brother and sister, for such they were, seemed to be fastening something upon their feet,—not skates, certainly, but clumsy pieces of wood narrowed and smoothed at their lower edge, and pierced with holes, through which were threaded strings of raw-hide.

These queer-looking affairs had been made by the boy Hans. His mother was a poor peasant-woman, too poor to even think of such a thing as buying skates for her little ones. Rough as these were, they had afforded the children many a happy hour upon the ice; and now, as with cold, red fingers, our young Hollanders tugged at the strings, their solemn faces bending closely over their knees, no vision of impossible iron runners came to dull the satisfaction glowing within.

In a moment the boy arose, and with a pompous swing of the arms, and a careless "Come on, Gretel!" glided easily across the canal.

"Ah, Hans!" called his sister, plaintively, "this foot is not well yet. The strings hurt me on last market-day; and now I cannot bear them tied in the same place."

"Tie them higher up, then," answered Hans, as, without looking at her, he performed a wonderful cat's-cradle step on the ice.

"How can I? The string is too short."

Giving vent to a good-natured Dutch whistle, the English of which was, that girls were troublesome creatures, he steered towards her. "You are foolish to wear such shoes, Gretel, when you have a stout leather pair. Your klompen1 would be better than these."

"Why, Hans! Do you forget? The father threw my beautiful new shoes in the fire. Before I knew what he had done, they were all curled up in the midst of the burning peat. I can skate with these, but not with my wooden ones. Be careful now—"

Hans had taken a string from his pocket. Humming a tune as he knelt beside her, he proceeded to fasten Gretel's skate with all the force of his strong young arm.

"Oh, oh!" she cried, in real pain.

With an impatient jerk, Hans unwound the string. He would have cast it upon the ground in true big-brother style, had he not just then spied a tear trickling down his sister's cheek.

"I'll fix it, never fear," he said, with sudden tenderness; "but we must be quick. The mother will need us soon."

Then he glanced inquiringly about him, first at the ground, next at some bare willow-branches above his head, and finally at the sky, now gorgeous with streaks of blue, crimson, and gold.

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