Many long years ago, in the Dutch city of Haarlem, there lived a very kind little boy named Hans. Hans's father was in charge of tending the dikes, or stone walls, that kept the seawater from rushing into Haarlem and washing it away.
One day, Hans's father left to go on a trip. Since he usually spent his days watching his father care for the dikes, Hans had nothing to do. "Why don't you take this basket of cake and bread to old Mr. Jansen?" Hans's mother asked the boy. Hans happily agreed to do this kind deed.
As Hans walked through the streets of Haarlem on his way to Mr. Jansen's house, he passed the dikes. Hans noticed that the spring rains had filled the dikes to the very top. His father being away, Hans wondered who would take care of the dikes if something went wrong.
Hans pressed on, his head down to fight off the wind that stung his cheeks. The boy hunched his shoulders and pulled his coat tight, trying to keep the chill from slipping through and making him colder.
Hans pulled his hat down snug around his ears to keep his head from getting wet. The boy shivered as the cold, hard rain pelted him, but he kept on walking.
This spring rain had been heavier than usual, pouring down hard each day and night. While the wind turned the windmills, and the rain watered the tulips, the strained and swollen dikes kept filling, worrying Hans as he passed.
Hans reached Mr. Jansen's house with the basket of goodies. Mr. Jansen was an older man whose eyesight was failing and who had no one to care for him. He was one of many sick or poor people whom Hans's mother cared for.
Mr. Jansen was overjoyed that Hans had come to visit him. "Sit down, my lad," the old man said. "Those goodies you have brought me smell delicious! Let's have a little bit to eat."
Hans pulled the bread and cake from the basket and the two enjoyed the fresh delights. "Here you are, Mr. Jansen," the boy said. "I know that my mother's cake is your favorite."
"Yes, it is," said Mr. Jansen with a smile.
Mr. Jansen enjoyed telling the boy stories about how things were long ago and about the history of Haarlem and Holland. And Hans loved to listen.
The old man and the boy talked and talked. They laughed and laughed. They ate all of the bread and cake. Minutes turned into hours and it was soon very late. Hans didn't realize where the time had gone. But he knew that he had to get home to his mother.
Hans said good night to Mr. Jansen and began the long walk home. He was sad to see that during his visit, the rain had not let up. This will make for another very cold and very wet walk, Hans thought to himself as the rain pattered down onto his basket and his coat and hat.
Soon the rain began to fall a bit harder. Hans began to walk faster, the raindrops chilling him. He just wanted to get home to a nice, warm dinner and his nice, cozy bed.
But the rain fell harder and harder still. Hans knew that his mother must be wondering where he was. Cold and tired, he began to run toward home.
Learn what Hans found as he ran home on the next page.