LUCRETIA P. HALE
BOSTON AND NEW YORK
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
The Riverside Press, Cambridge.
By JAMES R. OSGOOD & COMPANY
By TICKNOR & COMPANY
* * * * *
THE PETERKIN PAPERS
(THE DAUGHTER OF THE LADY FROM PHILADELPHIA)
TO WHOM THESE STORIES WERE FIRST TOLD
* * * * *
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION OF THE PETERKIN PAPERS.
The first of these stories was accepted by Mr. Howard M. Ticknor for the "Young Folks." They were afterwards continued in numbers of the "St. Nicholas."
A second edition is now printed, containing a new paper, which has never before been published, "The Peterkins at the Farm."
It may be remembered that the Peterkins originally hesitated about publishing their Family Papers, and were decided by referring the matter to the lady from Philadelphia. A little uncertain whether she might happen to be at Philadelphia, they determined to write and ask her.
Solomon John suggested a postal-card. Everybody reads a postal, and everybody would read it as it came along, and see its importance, and help it on. If the lady from Philadelphia were away, her family and all her servants would read it, and send it after her, for answer.
Elizabeth Eliza thought the postal a bright idea. It would not take so long to write as a letter, and would not be so expensive. But could they get the whole subject on a postal?
Mr. Peterkin believed there could be no difficulty, there was but one question:—
Shall the adventures of the Peterkin family be published?
This was decided upon, and there was room for each of the family to sign, the little boys contenting themselves with rough sketches of their india-rubber boots.
Mr. Peterkin, Agamemnon, and Solomon John took the postal-card to the post-office early one morning, and by the afternoon of that very day, and all the next day, and for many days, came streaming in answers on postals and in letters. Their card had been addressed to the lady from Philadelphia, with the number of her street. But it must have been read by their neighbors in their own town post-office before leaving; it must have been read along its way: for by each mail came piles of postals and letters from town after town, in answer to the question, and all in the same tone: "Yes, yes; publish the adventures of the Peterkin family."
"Publish them, of course."
And in time came the answer of the lady from Philadelphia:—
"Yes, of course; publish them."
This is why they were published.
THE LADY WHO PUT SALT IN HER COFFEE
ABOUT ELIZABETH ELIZA'S PIANO
THE PETERKINS TRY TO BECOME WISE
MRS. PETERKIN WISHES TO GO TO DRIVE
THE PETERKINS AT HOME
WHY THE PETERKINS HAD A LATE DINNER
THE PETERKINS' SUMMER JOURNEY
THE PETERKINS SNOWED-UP
THE PETERKINS DECIDE TO KEEP A COW
THE PETERKINS' CHRISTMAS-TREE
MRS. PETERKIN'S TEA-PARTY
THE PETERKINS TOO LATE FOR THE EXHIBITION
THE PETERKINS CELEBRATE THE "FOURTH"
THE PETERKINS' PICNIC
THE PETERKINS' CHARADES
THE PETERKINS ARE OBLIGED TO MOVE
THE PETERKINS DECIDE TO LEARN THE LANGUAGES
MODERN IMPROVEMENTS AT THE PETERKINS'
THE EDUCATIONAL BREAKFAST
THE PETERKINS AT THE "CARNIVAL OF AUTHORS" IN BOSTON
THE PETERKINS AT THE FARM
THE PETERKIN PAPERS.
THE LADY WHO PUT SALT IN HER COFFEE.
This was Mrs. Peterkin. It was a mistake. She had poured out a delicious cup of coffee, and, just as she was helping herself to cream, she found she had put in salt instead of sugar! It tasted bad. What should she do? Of course she couldn't drink the coffee; so she called in the family, for she was sitting at a late breakfast all alone. The family came in; they all tasted, and looked, and wondered what should be done, and all sat down to think.
At last Agamemnon, who had been to college, said, "Why don't we go over and ask the advice of the chemist?" (For the chemist lived over the way, and was a very wise man.)
Mrs. Peterkin said, "Yes," and Mr. Peterkin said, "Very well," and all the children said they would go too. So the little boys put on their india-rubber boots, and over they went.
Now the chemist was just trying to find out something which should turn everything it touched into gold; and he had a large glass bottle into which he put all kinds of gold and silver, and many other valuable things, and melted them all up over the fire, till he had almost found what he wanted. He could turn things into almost gold. But just now he had used up all the gold that he had round the house, and gold was high. He had used up his wife's gold thimble and his great-grandfather's gold-bowed spectacles; and he had melted up the gold head of his great-great-grandfather's cane; and, just as the Peterkin family came in, he was down on his knees before his wife, asking her to let him have her wedding-ring to melt up with all the rest, because this time he knew he should succeed, and should be able to turn everything into gold; and then she could have a new wedding-ring of diamonds, all set in emeralds and rubies and topazes, and all the furniture could be turned into the finest of gold.
Now his wife was just consenting when the Peterkin family burst in. You can imagine how mad the chemist was! He came near throwing his crucible—that was the name of his melting-pot—at their heads. But he didn't. He listened as calmly as he could to the story of how Mrs. Peterkin had put salt in her coffee.
At first he said he couldn't do anything about it; but when Agamemnon said they would pay in gold if he would only go, he packed up his bottles in a leather case, and went back with them all.
First he looked at the coffee, and then stirred it. Then he put in a little chlorate of potassium, and the family tried it all round; but it tasted no better. Then he stirred in a little bichlorate of magnesia. But Mrs. Peterkin didn't like that. Then he added some tartaric acid and some hypersulphate of lime. But no; it was no better. "I have it!" exclaimed the chemist,—"a little ammonia is just the thing!" No, it wasn't the thing at all.
Then he tried, each in turn, some oxalic, cyanic, acetic, phosphoric, chloric, hyperchloric, sulphuric, boracic, silicic, nitric, formic, nitrous nitric, and carbonic acids. Mrs. Peterkin tasted each, and said the flavor was pleasant, but not precisely that of coffee. So then he tried a little calcium, aluminum, barium, and strontium, a little clear bitumen, and a half of a third of a sixteenth of a grain of arsenic. This gave rather a pretty color; but still Mrs. Peterkin ungratefully said it tasted of anything but coffee. The chemist was not discouraged. He put in a little belladonna and atropine, some granulated hydrogen, some potash, and a very little antimony, finishing off with a little pure carbon. But still Mrs. Peterkin was not satisfied.
The chemist said that all he had done ought to have taken out the salt. The theory remained the same, although the experiment had failed. Perhaps a little starch would have some effect. If not, that was all the time he could give. He should like to be paid, and go. They were all much obliged to him, and willing to give him $1.37-1/2 in gold. Gold was now 2.69-3/4, so Mr. Peterkin found in the newspaper. This gave Agamemnon a pretty little sum. He sat himself down to do it. But there was the coffee! All sat and thought awhile, till Elizabeth Eliza said, "Why don't we go to the herb-woman?" Elizabeth Eliza was the only daughter. She was named after her two aunts,—Elizabeth, from the sister of her father; Eliza, from her mother's sister. Now, the herb-woman was an old woman who came round to sell herbs, and knew a great deal. They all shouted with joy at the idea of asking her, and Solomon John and the younger children agreed to go and find her too. The herb-woman lived down at the very end of the street; so the boys put on their india-rubber boots again, and they set off. It was a long walk through the village, but they came at last to the herb-woman's house, at the foot of a high hill. They went through her little garden. Here she had marigolds and hollyhocks, and old maids and tall sunflowers, and all kinds of sweet-smelling herbs, so that the air was full of tansy-tea and elder-blow. Over the porch grew a hop-vine, and a brandy-cherry tree shaded the door, and a luxuriant cranberry-vine flung its delicious fruit across the window. They went into a small parlor, which smelt very spicy. All around hung little bags full of catnip, and peppermint, and all kinds of herbs; and dried stalks hung from the ceiling; and on the shelves were jars of rhubarb, senna, manna, and the like.
But there was no little old woman. She had gone up into the woods to get some more wild herbs, so they all thought they would follow her,—Elizabeth Eliza, Solomon John, and the little boys. They had to climb up over high rocks, and in among huckleberry-bushes and blackberry-vines. But the little boys had their india-rubber boots. At last they discovered the little old woman. They knew her by her hat. It was steeple-crowned, without any vane. They saw her digging with her trowel round a sassafras bush. They told her their story,—how their mother had put salt in her coffee, and how the chemist had made it worse instead of better, and how their mother couldn't drink it, and wouldn't she come and see what she could do? And she said she would, and took up her little old apron, with pockets all round, all filled with everlasting and pennyroyal, and went back to her house.
There she stopped, and stuffed her huge pockets with some of all the kinds of herbs. She took some tansy and peppermint, and caraway-seed and dill, spearmint and cloves, pennyroyal and sweet marjoram, basil and rosemary, wild thyme and some of the other time,—such as you have in clocks,—sappermint and oppermint, catnip, valerian, and hop; indeed, there isn't a kind of herb you can think of that the little old woman didn't have done up in her little paper bags, that had all been dried in her little Dutch-oven. She packed these all up, and then went back with the children, taking her stick.
Meanwhile Mrs. Peterkin was getting quite impatient for her coffee.
As soon as the little old woman came she had it set over the fire, and began to stir in the different herbs. First she put in a little hop for the bitter. Mrs. Peterkin said it tasted like hop-tea, and not at all like coffee. Then she tried a little flag-root and snakeroot, then some spruce gum, and some caraway and some dill, some rue and rosemary, some sweet marjoram and sour, some oppermint and sappermint, a little spearmint and peppermint, some wild thyme, and some of the other tame time, some tansy and basil, and catnip and valerian, and sassafras, ginger, and pennyroyal. The children tasted after each mixture, but made up dreadful faces. Mrs. Peterkin tasted, and did the same. The more the old woman stirred, and the more she put in, the worse it all seemed to taste.
So the old woman shook her head, and muttered a few words, and said she must go. She believed the coffee was bewitched. She bundled up her packets of herbs, and took her trowel, and her basket, and her stick, and went back to her root of sassafras, that she had left half in the air and half out. And all she would take for pay was five cents in currency.
Then the family were in despair, and all sat and thought a great while. It was growing late in the day, and Mrs. Peterkin hadn't had her cup of coffee. At last Elizabeth Eliza said, "They say that the lady from Philadelphia, who is staying in town, is very wise. Suppose I go and ask her what is best to be done." To this they all agreed, it was a great thought, and off Elizabeth Eliza went.
She told the lady from Philadelphia the whole story,—how her mother had put salt in the coffee; how the chemist had been called in; how he tried everything but could make it no better; and how they went for the little old herb-woman, and how she had tried in vain, for her mother couldn't drink the coffee. The lady from Philadelphia listened very attentively, and then said, "Why doesn't your mother make a fresh cup of coffee?" Elizabeth Eliza started with surprise. Solomon John shouted with joy; so did Agamemnon, who had just finished his sum; so did the little boys, who had followed on. "Why didn't we think of that?" said Elizabeth Eliza; and they all went back to their mother, and she had her cup of coffee.
ABOUT ELIZABETH ELIZA'S PIANO.
Elizabeth Eliza had a present of a piano, and she was to take lessons of the postmaster's daughter.
They decided to have the piano set across the window in the parlor, and the carters brought it in, and went away.
After they had gone the family all came in to look at the piano; but they found the carters had placed it with its back turned towards the middle of the room, standing close against the window.
How could Elizabeth Eliza open it? How could she reach the keys to play upon it?
Solomon John proposed that they should open the window, which Agamemnon could do with his long arms. Then Elizabeth Eliza should go round upon the piazza, and open the piano. Then she could have her music-stool on the piazza, and play upon the piano there.
So they tried this; and they all thought it was a very pretty sight to see Elizabeth Eliza playing on the piano, while she sat on the piazza, with the honeysuckle vines behind her.
It was very pleasant, too, moonlight evenings. Mr. Peterkin liked to take a doze on his sofa in the room; but the rest of the family liked to sit on the piazza. So did Elizabeth Eliza, only she had to have her back to the moon.
All this did very well through the summer; but, when the fall came, Mr. Peterkin thought the air was too cold from the open window, and the family did not want to sit out on the piazza.
Elizabeth Eliza practised in the mornings with her cloak on; but she was obliged to give up her music in the evenings the family shivered so.
One day, when she was talking with the lady from Philadelphia, she spoke of this trouble.
The lady from Philadelphia looked surprised, and then said, "But why don't you turn the piano round?"
One of the little boys pertly said, "It is a square piano."
But Elizabeth Eliza went home directly, and, with the help of Agamemnon and Solomon John, turned the piano round.
"Why did we not think of that before?" said Mrs. Peterkin. "What shall we do when the lady from Philadelphia goes home again?"
THE PETERKINS TRY TO BECOME WISE.
They were sitting round the breakfast-table, and wondering what they should do because the lady from Philadelphia had gone away. "If," said Mrs. Peterkin, "we could only be more wise as a family!" How could they manage it? Agamemnon had been to college, and the children all went to school; but still as a family they were not wise. "It comes from books," said one of the family. "People who have a great many books are very wise." Then they counted up that there were very few books in the house,—a few school-books and Mrs. Peterkin's cook-book were all.
"That's the thing!" said Agamemnon. "We want a library."
"We want a library!" said Solomon John. And all of them exclaimed, "We want a library!"
"Let us think how we shall get one," said Mrs. Peterkin. "I have observed that other people think a great deal of thinking."
So they all sat and thought a great while.
Then said Agamemnon, "I will make a library. There are some boards in the wood-shed, and I have a hammer and some nails, and perhaps we can borrow some hinges, and there we have our library!"
They were all very much pleased at the idea.
"That's the bookcase part," said Elizabeth Eliza; "but where are the books?"
So they sat and thought a little while, when Solomon John exclaimed, "I will make a book!"
They all looked at him in wonder.
"Yes," said Solomon John, "books will make us wise; but first I must make a book."
So they went into the parlor, and sat down to make a book. But there was no ink. What should he do for ink? Elizabeth Eliza said she had heard that nutgalls and vinegar made very good ink. So they decided to make some. The little boys said they could find some nutgalls up in the woods. So they all agreed to set out and pick some. Mrs. Peterkin put on her cape-bonnet, and the little boys got into their india-rubber boots, and off they went.
The nutgalls were hard to find. There was almost everything else in the woods,—chestnuts and walnuts, and small hazel-nuts, and a great many squirrels; and they had to walk a great way before they found any nutgalls. At last they came home with a large basket and two nutgalls in it. Then came the question of the vinegar. Mrs. Peterkin had used her very last on some beets they had the day before. "Suppose we go and ask the minister's wife," said Elizabeth Eliza. So they all went to the minister's wife. She said if they wanted some good vinegar they had better set a barrel of cider down in the cellar, and in a year or two it would make very nice vinegar. But they said they wanted it that very afternoon. When the minister's wife heard this she said she should be very glad to let them have some vinegar, and gave them a cupful to carry home.
So they stirred in the nutgalls, and by the time evening came they had very good ink.
Then Solomon John wanted a pen. Agamemnon had a steel one, but Solomon John said, "Poets always used quills." Elizabeth Eliza suggested that they should go out to the poultry-yard and get a quill. But it was already dark. They had, however, two lanterns, and the little boys borrowed the neighbors'. They set out in procession for the poultry-yard. When they got there the fowls were all at roost, so they could look at them quietly. But there were no geese! There were Shanghais, and Cochin-Chinas, and Guinea hens, and Barbary hens, and speckled hens, and Poland roosters, and bantams, and ducks, and turkeys, but not one goose! "No geese but ourselves," said Mrs. Peterkin, wittily, as they returned to the house. The sight of this procession roused up the village. "A torch-light procession!" cried all the boys of the town; and they gathered round the house, shouting for the flag; and Mr. Peterkin had to invite them in, and give them cider and gingerbread, before he could explain to them that it was only his family visiting his hens.
After the crowd had dispersed Solomon John sat down to think of his writing again. Agamemnon agreed to go over to the bookstore to get a quill. They all went over with him. The book-seller was just shutting up his shop. However, he agreed to go in and get a quill, which he did, and they hurried home.
So Solomon John sat down again, but there was no paper. And now the bookstore was shut up. Mr. Peterkin suggested that the mail was about in, and perhaps he should have a letter, and then they could use the envelope to write upon. So they all went to the post-office, and the little boys had their india-rubber boots on, and they all shouted when they found Mr. Peterkin had a letter. The postmaster inquired what they were shouting about; and when they told him he said he would give Solomon John a whole sheet of paper for his book. And they all went back rejoicing.
So Solomon John sat down, and the family all sat round the table looking at him. He had his pen, his ink, and his paper. He dipped his pen into the ink and held it over the paper, and thought a minute, and then said, "But I haven't got anything to say."
MRS. PETERKIN WISHES TO GO TO DRIVE.
One morning Mrs. Peterkin was feeling very tired, as she had been having a great many things to think of, and she said to Mr. Peterkin, "I believe I shall take a ride this morning!"
And the little boys cried out, "Oh, may we go too?"
Mrs. Peterkin said that Elizabeth Eliza and the little boys might go.
So Mr. Peterkin had the horse put into the carryall, and he and Agamemnon went off to their business, and Solomon John to school; and Mrs. Peterkin began to get ready for her ride.
She had some currants she wanted to carry to old Mrs. Twomly, and some gooseberries for somebody else, and Elizabeth Eliza wanted to pick some flowers to take to the minister's wife; so it took them a long time to prepare.
The little boys went out to pick the currants and the gooseberries, and Elizabeth Eliza went out for her flowers, and Mrs. Peterkin put on her cape-bonnet, and in time they were all ready. The little boys were in their india-rubber boots, and they got into the carriage.
Elizabeth Eliza was to drive; so she sat on the front seat, and took up the reins, and the horse started off merrily, and then suddenly stopped, and would not go any farther.
Elizabeth Eliza shook the reins, and pulled them, and then she clucked to the horse; and Mrs. Peterkin clucked; and the little boys whistled and shouted; but still the horse would not go.
"We shall have to whip him," said Elizabeth Eliza.
Now Mrs. Peterkin never liked to use the whip; but, as the horse would not go, she said she would get out and turn his head the other way, while Elizabeth Eliza whipped the horse, and when he began to go she would hurry and get in.
So they tried this, but the horse would not stir.
"Perhaps we have too heavy a load," said Mrs. Peterkin, as she got in.
So they took out the currants and the gooseberries and the flowers, but still the horse would not go.
One of the neighbors, from the opposite house, looking out just then, called out to them to try the whip. There was a high wind, and they could not hear exactly what she said.
"I have tried the whip," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"She says 'whips,' such as you eat," said one of the little boys.
"We might make those," said Mrs. Peterkin, thoughtfully.
"We have got plenty of cream," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"Yes, let us have some whips," cried the little boys, getting out.
And the opposite neighbor cried out something about whips; and the wind was very high.
So they went into the kitchen, and whipped up the cream, and made some very delicious whips; and the little boys tasted all round, and they all thought they were very nice.
They carried some out to the horse, who swallowed it down very quickly.
"That is just what he wanted," said Mrs. Peterkin; "now he will certainly go!"
So they all got into the carriage again, and put in the currants, and the gooseberries, and the flowers; and Elizabeth Eliza shook the reins, and they all clucked; but still the horse would not go!
"We must either give up our ride," said Mrs. Peterkin, mournfully, "or else send over to the lady from Philadelphia, and see what she will say."
The little boys jumped out as quickly as they could; they were eager to go and ask the lady from Philadelphia. Elizabeth Eliza went with them, while her mother took the reins.
They found that the lady from Philadelphia was very ill that day, and was in her bed. But when she was told what the trouble was she very kindly said they might draw up the curtain from the window at the foot of the bed, and open the blinds, and she would see. Then she asked for her opera-glass, and looked through it, across the way, up the street, to Mrs. Peterkin's door.
After she had looked through the glass she laid it down, leaned her head back against the pillow, for she was very tired, and then said, "Why don't you unchain the horse from the horse-post?"
Elizabeth Eliza and the little boys looked at one another, and then hurried back to the house and told their mother. The horse was untied, and they all went to ride.
THE PETERKINS AT HOME.
Another little incident occurred in the Peterkin family. This was at dinner-time.
They sat down to a dish of boiled ham. Now it was a peculiarity of the children of the family that half of them liked fat, and half liked lean. Mr. Peterkin sat down to cut the ham. But the ham turned out to be a very remarkable one. The fat and the lean came in separate slices,—first one of lean, then one of fat, then two slices of lean, and so on. Mr. Peterkin began as usual by helping the children first, according to their age. Now Agamemnon, who liked lean, got a fat slice; and Elizabeth Eliza, who preferred fat, had a lean slice. Solomon John, who could eat nothing but lean, was helped to fat, and so on. Nobody had what he could eat.
It was a rule of the Peterkin family that no one should eat any of the vegetables without some of the meat; so now, although the children saw upon their plates apple-sauce, and squash and tomato, and sweet potato and sour potato, not one of them could eat a mouthful, because not one was satisfied with the meat. Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin, however, liked both fat and lean, and were making a very good meal, when they looked up and saw the children all sitting eating nothing, and looking dissatisfied into their plates.
"What is the matter now?" said Mr. Peterkin.
But the children were taught not to speak at table. Agamemnon, however, made a sign of disgust at his fat, and Elizabeth Eliza at her lean, and so on; and they presently discovered what was the difficulty.
"What shall be done now?" said Mrs. Peterkin.
They all sat and thought for a little while.
At last said Mrs. Peterkin, rather uncertainly, "Suppose we ask the lady from Philadelphia what is best to be done."
But Mr. Peterkin said he didn't like to go to her for everything; let the children try and eat their dinner as it was.
And they all tried, but they couldn't. "Very well, then," said Mr. Peterkin, "let them go and ask the lady from Philadelphia."
"All of us?" cried one of the little boys, in the excitement of the moment.
"Yes," said, Mrs. Peterkin, "only put on your india-rubber boots." And they hurried out of the house.
The lady from Philadelphia was just going in to her dinner; but she kindly stopped in the entry to hear what the trouble was. Agamemnon and Elizabeth Eliza told her all the difficulty, and the lady from Philadelphia said, "But why don't you give the slices of fat to those who like the fat, and the slices of lean to those who like the lean?"
They looked at one another. Agamemnon looked at Elizabeth Eliza, and Solomon John looked at the little boys. "Why didn't we think of that?" said they, and ran home to tell their mother.
WHY THE PETERKINS HAD A LATE DINNER.
The trouble was in the dumb-waiter. All had seated themselves at the dinner-table, and Amanda had gone to take out the dinner she had sent up from the kitchen on the dumb-waiter. But something was the matter; she could not pull it up. There was the dinner, but she could not reach it. All the family, in turn, went and tried; all pulled together in vain; the dinner could not be stirred.
"No dinner!" exclaimed Agamemnon.
"I am quite hungry," said Solomon John.
At last Mr. Peterkin said, "I am not proud. I am willing to dine in the kitchen."
This room was below the dining-room. All consented to this. Each one went down, taking a napkin.
The cook laid the kitchen table, put on it her best table-cloth, and the family sat down. Amanda went to the dumb-waiter for the dinner, but she could not move it down.
The family were all in dismay. There was the dinner, half-way between the kitchen and dining-room, and there were they all hungry to eat it!
"What is there for dinner?" asked Mr. Peterkin.
"Roast turkey," said Mrs. Peterkin.
Mr. Peterkin lifted his eyes to the ceiling.
"Squash, tomato, potato, and sweet potato," Mrs. Peterkin continued.
"Sweet potato!" exclaimed both the little boys.
"I am very glad now that I did not have cranberry," said Mrs. Peterkin, anxious to find a bright point.
"Let us sit down and think about it," said Mr. Peterkin.
"I have an idea," said Agamemnon, after a while.
"Let us hear it," said Mr. Peterkin. "Let each one speak his mind."
"The turkey," said Agamemnon, "must be just above the kitchen door. If I had a ladder and an axe, I could cut away the plastering and reach it."
"That is a great idea," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"If you think you could do it," said Mr. Peterkin.
"Would it not be better to have a carpenter?" asked Elizabeth Eliza.
"A carpenter might have a ladder and an axe, and I think we have neither," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"A carpenter! A carpenter!" exclaimed the rest.
It was decided that Mr. Peterkin, Solomon John, and the little boys should go in search of a carpenter.
Agamemnon proposed that, meanwhile, he should go and borrow a book, for he had another idea.
"This affair of the turkey," he said, "reminds me of those buried cities that have been dug out,—Herculaneum, for instance."
"Oh, yes," interrupted Elizabeth Eliza, "and Pompeii."
"Yes," said Agamemnon. "They found there pots and kettles. Now, I should like to know how they did it; and I mean to borrow a book and read. I think it was done with a pickaxe."
So the party set out. But when Mr. Peterkin reached the carpenter's shop there was no carpenter to be found there.
"He must be at his house, eating his dinner," suggested Solomon John.
"Happy man," exclaimed Mr. Peterkin, "he has a dinner to eat!"
They went to the carpenter's house, but found he had gone out of town for a day's job. But his wife told them that he always came back at night to ring the nine-o'clock bell.
"We must wait till then," said Mr. Peterkin, with an effort at cheerfulness.
At home he found Agamemnon reading his book, and all sat down to hear of Herculaneum and Pompeii.
Time passed on, and the question arose about tea. Would it do to have tea when they had had no dinner? A part of the family thought it would not do; the rest wanted tea.
"I suppose you remember the wise lady of Philadelphia, who was here not long ago?" said Mr. Peterkin.
"Oh, yes," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"Let us try to think what she would advise us," said Mr. Peterkin.
"I wish she were here," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"I think," said Mr. Peterkin, "she would say, let them that want tea have it; the rest can go without."
So they had tea, and, as it proved, all sat down to it. But not much was eaten, as there had been no dinner.
When the nine-o'clock bell was heard, Agamemnon, Solomon John, and the little boys rushed to the church and found the carpenter.
They asked him to bring a ladder, axe, and pickaxe. As he felt it might be a case of fire he brought also his fire-buckets.
When the matter was explained to him he went into the dining-room, looked into the dumb-waiter, untwisted a cord, and arranged the weight, and pulled up the dinner.
There was a family shout.
"The trouble was in the weight," said the carpenter.
"That is why it is called a dumb-waiter," Solomon John explained to the little boys.
The dinner was put upon the table.
Mrs. Peterkin frugally suggested that they might now keep it for next day, as to-day was almost gone, and they had had tea.
But nobody listened. All sat down to the roast turkey, and Amanda warmed over the vegetables.
"Patient waiters are no losers," said Agamemnon.
THE PETERKINS' SUMMER JOURNEY.
In fact, it was their last summer's journey,—for it had been planned then; but there had been so many difficulties it had been delayed.
The first trouble had been about trunks. The family did not own a trunk suitable for travelling.
Agamemnon had his valise, that he had used when he stayed a week at a time at the academy; and a trunk had been bought for Elizabeth Eliza when she went to the seminary. Solomon John and Mr. Peterkin, each had his patent-leather hand-bag. But all these were too small for the family. And the little boys wanted to carry their kite.
Mrs. Peterkin suggested her grandmother's trunk. This was a hair-trunk, very large and capacious. It would hold everything they would want to carry except what would go in Elizabeth Eliza's trunk, or the valise and bags.
Everybody was delighted at this idea. It was agreed that the next day the things should be brought into Mrs. Peterkin's room for her to see if they could all be packed.
"If we can get along," said Elizabeth Eliza, "without having to ask advice I shall be glad!"
"Yes," said Mr. Peterkin, "it is time now for people to be coming to ask advice of us."
The next morning Mrs. Peterkin began by taking out the things that were already in the trunk. Here were last year's winter things, and not only these, but old clothes that had been put away,—Mrs. Peterkin's wedding-dress; the skirts the little boys used to wear before they put on jackets and trousers.
All day Mrs. Peterkin worked over the trunk, putting away the old things, putting in the new. She packed up all the clothes she could think of, both summer and winter ones, because you never can tell what sort of weather you will have.
Agamemnon fetched his books, and Solomon John his spy-glass. There were her own and Elizabeth Eliza's best bonnets in a bandbox; also Solomon John's hats, for he had an old one and a new one. He bought a new hat for fishing, with a very wide brim and deep crown; all of heavy straw.
Agamemnon brought down a large heavy dictionary, and an atlas still larger. This contained maps of all the countries in the world.
"I have never had a chance to look at them," he said; "but when one travels, then is the time to study geography."
Mr. Peterkin wanted to take his turning-lathe. So Mrs. Peterkin packed his tool-chest. It gave her some trouble, for it came to her just as she had packed her summer dresses. At first she thought it would help to smooth the dresses, and placed it on top; but she was forced to take all out, and set it at the bottom. This was not so much matter, as she had not yet the right dresses to put in. Both Mrs. Peterkin and Elizabeth Eliza would need new dresses for this occasion. The little boys' hoops went in; so did their india-rubber boots, in case it should not rain when they started. They each had a hoe and shovel, and some baskets, that were packed.
Mrs. Peterkin called in all the family on the evening of the second day to see how she had succeeded. Everything was packed, even the little boys' kite lay smoothly on the top.
"I like to see a thing so nicely done," said Mr. Peterkin.
The next thing was to cord up the trunk, and Mr. Peterkin tried to move it. But neither he, nor Agamemnon, nor Solomon John could lift it alone, or all together.
Here was a serious difficulty. Solomon John tried to make light of it.
"Expressmen could lift it. Expressmen were used to such things."
"But we did not plan expressing it," said Mrs. Peterkin, in a discouraged tone.
"We can take a carriage," said Solomon John.
"I am afraid the trunk would not go on the back of a carriage," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"The hackman could not lift it, either," said Mr. Peterkin.
"People do travel with a great deal of baggage," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"And with very large trunks," said Agamemnon.
"Still they are trunks that can be moved," said Mr. Peterkin, giving another try at the trunk in vain. "I am afraid we must give it up," he said; "it would be such a trouble in going from place to place."
"We would not mind if we got it to the place," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"But how to get it there?" Mr. Peterkin asked, with a sigh.
"This is our first obstacle," said Agamemnon; "we must do our best to conquer it."
"What is an obstacle?" asked the little boys.
"It is the trunk," said Solomon John.
"Suppose we look out the word in the dictionary," said Agamemnon, taking the large volume from the trunk. "Ah, here it is"—And he read:—
"OBSTACLE, an impediment."
"That is a worse word than the other," said one of the little boys.
"But listen to this," and Agamemnon continued: "Impediment is something that entangles the feet; obstacle something that stands in the way; obstruction, something that blocks up the passage; hinderance, something that holds back."
"The trunk is all these," said Mr. Peterkin, gloomily.
"It does not entangle the feet," said Solomon John, "for it can't move."
"I wish it could," said the little boys together.
Mrs. Peterkin spent a day or two in taking the things out of the trunk and putting them away.
"At least," she said, "this has given me some experience in packing."
And the little boys felt as if they had quite been a journey.
But the family did not like to give up their plan. It was suggested that they might take the things out of the trunk, and pack it at the station; the little boys could go and come with the things. But Elizabeth Eliza thought the place too public.
Gradually the old contents of the great trunk went back again to it.
At length a friend unexpectedly offered to lend Mr. Peterkin a good-sized family trunk. But it was late in the season, and so the journey was put off from that summer.
But now the trunk was sent round to the house, and a family consultation was held about packing it. Many things would have to be left at home, it was so much smaller than the grandmother's hair-trunk. But Agamemnon had been studying the atlas through the winter, and felt familiar with the more important places, so it would not be necessary to take it. And Mr. Peterkin decided to leave his turning-lathe at home, and his tool-chest.
Again Mrs. Peterkin spent two days in accommodating the things. With great care and discretion, and by borrowing two more leather bags, it could be accomplished. Everything of importance could be packed except the little boys' kite. What should they do about that?
The little boys proposed carrying it in their hands; but Solomon John and Elizabeth Eliza would not consent to this.
"I do think it is one of the cases where we might ask the advice of the lady from Philadelphia," said Mrs. Peterkin, at last.
"She has come on here," said Agamemnon, "and we have not been to see her this summer."
"She may think we have been neglecting her," suggested Mr. Peterkin.
The little boys begged to be allowed to go and ask her opinion about the kite. They came back in high spirits.
"She says we might leave this one at home, and make a new kite when we get there," they cried.
"What a sensible idea!" exclaimed Mr. Peterkin; "and I may have leisure to help you."
"We'll take plenty of newspapers," said Solomon John.
"And twine," said the little boys. And this matter was settled.
The question then was, "When should they go?"
THE PETERKINS SNOWED-UP.
Mrs. Peterkin awoke one morning to find a heavy snow-storm raging. The wind had flung the snow against the windows, had heaped it up around the house, and thrown it into huge white drifts over the fields, covering hedges and fences.
Mrs. Peterkin went from one window to the other to look out; but nothing could be seen but the driving storm and the deep white snow. Even Mr. Bromwick's house, on the opposite side of the street, was hidden by the swift-falling flakes.
"What shall I do about it?" thought Mrs. Peterkin. "No roads cleared out! Of course there'll be no butcher and no milkman!"
The first thing to be done was to wake up all the family early; for there was enough in the house for breakfast, and there was no knowing when they would have anything more to eat.
It was best to secure the breakfast first.
So she went from one room to the other, as soon as it was light, waking the family, and before long all were dressed and downstairs.
And then all went round the house to see what had happened.
All the water-pipes that there were were frozen. The milk was frozen. They could open the door into the wood-house; but the wood-house door into the yard was banked up with snow; and the front door, and the piazza door, and the side door stuck. Nobody could get in or out!
Meanwhile, Amanda, the cook, had succeeded in making the kitchen fire, but had discovered there was no furnace coal.
"The furnace coal was to have come to-day," said Mrs. Peterkin, apologetically.
"Nothing will come to-day," said Mr. Peterkin, shivering.
But a fire could be made in a stove in the dining-room.
All were glad to sit down to breakfast and hot coffee. The little boys were much pleased to have "ice-cream" for breakfast.
"When we get a little warm," said Mr. Peterkin, "we will consider what is to be done."
"I am thankful I ordered the sausages yesterday," said Mrs. Peterkin. "I was to have had a leg of mutton to-day."
"Nothing will come to-day," said Agamemnon, gloomily.
"Are these sausages the last meat in the house?" asked Mr. Peterkin.
"Yes," said Mrs. Peterkin.
The potatoes also were gone, the barrel of apples empty, and she had meant to order more flour that very day.
"Then we are eating our last provisions," said Solomon John, helping himself to another sausage.
"I almost wish we had stayed in bed," said Agamemnon.
"I thought it best to make sure of our breakfast first," repeated Mrs. Peterkin.
"Shall we literally have nothing left to eat?" asked Mr. Peterkin.
"There's the pig!" suggested Solomon John.
Yes, happily, the pigsty was at the end of the wood-house, and could be reached under cover.
But some of the family could not eat fresh pork.
"We should have to 'corn' part of him," said Agamemnon.
"My butcher has always told me," said Mrs. Peterkin, "that if I wanted a ham I must keep a pig. Now we have the pig, but have not the ham!"
"Perhaps we could 'corn' one or two of his legs," suggested one of the little boys.
"We need not settle that now," said Mr. Peterkin. "At least the pig will keep us from starving."
The little boys looked serious; they were fond of their pig.
"If we had only decided to keep a cow," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"Alas! yes," said Mr. Peterkin, "one learns a great many things too late!"
"Then we might have had ice-cream all the time!" exclaimed the little boys.
Indeed, the little boys, in spite of the prospect of starving, were quite pleasantly excited at the idea of being snowed-up, and hurried through their breakfasts that they might go and try to shovel out a path from one of the doors.
"I ought to know more about the water-pipes," said Mr. Peterkin. "Now, I shut off the water last night in the bath-room, or else I forgot to; and I ought to have shut it off in the cellar."
The little boys came back. Such a wind at the front door, they were going to try the side door.
"Another thing I have learned to-day," said Mr. Peterkin, "is not to have all the doors on one side of the house, because the storm blows the snow against all the doors."
Solomon John started up.
"Let us see if we are blocked up on the east side of the house!" he exclaimed.
"Of what use," asked Mr. Peterkin, "since we have no door on the east side?"
"We could cut one," said Solomon John.
"Yes, we could cut a door," exclaimed Agamemnon.
"But how can we tell whether there is any snow there?" asked Elizabeth Eliza,—"for there is no window."
In fact, the east side of the Peterkins' house formed a blank wall. The owner had originally planned a little block of semi-detached houses. He had completed only one, very semi and very detached.
"It is not necessary to see," said Agamemnon, profoundly; "of course, if the storm blows against this side of the house, the house itself must keep the snow from the other side."
"Yes," said Solomon John, "there must be a space clear of snow on the east side of the house, and if we could open a way to that"—
"We could open a way to the butcher," said Mr. Peterkin, promptly.
Agamemnon went for his pickaxe. He had kept one in the house ever since the adventure of the dumb-waiter.
"What part of the wall had we better attack?" asked Mr. Peterkin.
Mrs. Peterkin was alarmed.
"What will Mr. Mudge, the owner of the house, think of it?" she exclaimed. "Have we a right to injure the wall of the house?"
"It is right to preserve ourselves from starving," said Mr. Peterkin. "The drowning man must snatch at a straw!"
"It is better that he should find his house chopped a little when the thaw comes," said Elizabeth Eliza, "than that he should find us lying about the house, dead of hunger, upon the floor."
Mrs. Peterkin was partially convinced.
The little boys came in to warm their hands. They had not succeeded in opening the side door, and were planning trying to open the door from the wood-house to the garden.
"That would be of no use," said Mrs. Peterkin, "the butcher cannot get into the garden."
"But we might shovel off the snow," suggested one of the little boys, "and dig down to some of last year's onions."
Meanwhile, Mr. Peterkin, Agamemnon, and Solomon John had been bringing together their carpenter's tools, and Elizabeth Eliza proposed using a gouge, if they would choose the right spot to begin.
The little boys were delighted with the plan, and hastened to find,—one, a little hatchet, and the other a gimlet. Even Amanda armed herself with a poker.
"It would be better to begin on the ground floor," said Mr. Peterkin.
"Except that we may meet with a stone foundation," said Solomon John.
"If the wall is thinner upstairs," said Agamemnon, "it will do as well to cut a window as a door, and haul up anything the butcher may bring below in his cart."
Everybody began to pound a little on the wall to find a favorable place, and there was a great deal of noise. The little boys actually cut a bit out of the plastering with their hatchet and gimlet. Solomon John confided to Elizabeth Eliza that it reminded him of stories of prisoners who cut themselves free, through stone walls, after days and days of secret labor.
Mrs. Peterkin, even, had come with a pair of tongs in her hand. She was interrupted by a voice behind her.
"Here's your leg of mutton, marm!"
It was the butcher. How had he got in?
"Excuse me, marm, for coming in at the side door, but the back gate is kinder blocked up. You were making such a pounding I could not make anybody hear me knock at the side door."
"But how did you make a path to the door?" asked Mr. Peterkin. "You must have been working at it a long time. It must be near noon now."
"I'm about on regular time," answered the butcher. "The town team has cleared out the high road, and the wind has been down the last half-hour. The storm is over."
True enough! The Peterkins had been so busy inside the house they had not noticed the ceasing of the storm outside.
"And we were all up an hour earlier than usual," said Mr. Peterkin, when the butcher left. He had not explained to the butcher why he had a pickaxe in his hand.
"If we had lain abed till the usual time," said Solomon John, "we should have been all right."
"For here is the milkman!" said Elizabeth Eliza, as a knock was now heard at the side door.
"It is a good thing to learn," said Mr. Peterkin, "not to get up any earlier than is necessary."
THE PETERKINS DECIDE TO KEEP A COW.
Not that they were fond of drinking milk, nor that they drank very much. But for that reason Mr. Peterkin thought it would be well to have a cow, to encourage the family to drink more, as he felt it would be so healthy.
Mrs. Peterkin recalled the troubles of the last cold winter, and how near they came to starving, when they were shut up in a severe snow-storm, and the water-pipes burst, and the milk was frozen. If the cow-shed could open out of the wood-shed such trouble might be prevented.
Tony Larkin was to come over and milk the cow every morning, and Agamemnon and Solomon John agreed to learn how to milk, in case Tony should be "snowed up," or have the whooping-cough in the course of the winter. The little boys thought they knew how already.
But if they were to have three or four pailfuls of milk every day it was important to know where to keep it.
"One way will be," said Mrs. Peterkin, "to use a great deal every day. We will make butter."
"That will be admirable," thought Mr. Peterkin.
"And custards," suggested Solomon John.
"And syllabub," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"And cocoa-nut cakes," exclaimed the little boys.
"We don't need the milk for cocoa-nut cakes," said Mrs. Peterkin.
The little boys thought they might have a cocoa-nut tree instead of a cow. You could have the milk from the cocoa-nuts, and it would be pleasant climbing the tree, and you would not have to feed it.
"Yes," said Mr. Peterkin, "we shall have to feed the cow."
"Where shall we pasture her?" asked Agamemnon.
"Up on the hills, up on the hills," exclaimed the little boys, "where there are a great many bars to take down, and huckleberry-bushes!"
Mr. Peterkin had been thinking of their own little lot behind the house.
"But I don't know," he said, "but the cow might eat off all the grass in one day, and there would not be any left for to-morrow, unless the grass grew fast enough every night."
Agamemnon said it would depend upon the season. In a rainy season the grass would come up very fast, in a drought it might not grow at all.
"I suppose," said Mrs. Peterkin, "that is the worst of having a cow,—there might be a drought."
Mr. Peterkin thought they might make some calculation from the quantity of grass in the lot.
Solomon John suggested that measurements might be made by seeing how much grass the Bromwicks' cow, opposite them, eat up in a day.
The little boys agreed to go over and spend the day on the Bromwicks' fence, and take an observation.
"The trouble would be," said Elizabeth Eliza, "that cows walk about so, and the Bromwicks' yard is very large. Now she would be eating in one place, and then she would walk to another. She would not be eating all the time; a part of the time she would be chewing."
The little boys thought they should like nothing better than to have some sticks, and keep the cow in one corner of the yard till the calculations were made.
But Elizabeth Eliza was afraid the Bromwicks would not like it.
"Of course, it would bring all the boys in the school about the place, and very likely they would make the cow angry."
Agamemnon recalled that Mr. Bromwick once wanted to hire Mr. Peterkin's lot for his cow.
Mr. Peterkin started up.
"That is true; and of course Mr. Bromwick must have known there was feed enough for one cow."
"And the reason you didn't let him have it," said Solomon John, "was that Elizabeth Eliza was afraid of cows."
"I did not like the idea," said Elizabeth Eliza, "of their cow's looking at me over the top of the fence, perhaps, when I should be planting the sweet peas in the garden. I hope our cow would be a quiet one. I should not like her jumping over the fence into the flower-beds."
Mr. Peterkin declared that he should buy a cow of the quietest kind.
"I should think something might be done about covering her horns," said Mrs. Peterkin; "that seems the most dangerous part. Perhaps they might be padded with cotton."
Elizabeth Eliza said cows were built so large and clumsy that if they came at you they could not help knocking you over.
The little boys would prefer having the pasture a great way off. Half the fun of having a cow would be going up on the hills after her.
Agamemnon thought the feed was not so good on the hills.
"The cow would like it ever so much better," the little boys declared, "on account of the variety. If she did not like the rocks and the bushes she could walk round and find the grassy places."
"I am not sure," said Elizabeth Eliza, "but it would be less dangerous to keep the cow in the lot behind the house, because she would not be coming and going, morning and night, in that jerky way the Larkins' cows come home. They don't mind which gate they rush in at. I should hate to have our cow dash into our front yard just as I was coming home of an afternoon."
"That is true," said Mr. Peterkin; "we can have the door of the cow-house open directly into the pasture, and save the coming and going."
The little boys were quite disappointed. The cow would miss the exercise, and they would lose a great pleasure.
Solomon John suggested that they might sit on the fence and watch the cow.
It was decided to keep the cow in their own pasture; and, as they were to put on an end kitchen, it would be perfectly easy to build a dairy.
The cow proved a quiet one. She was a little excited when all the family stood round at the first milking, and watched her slowly walking into the shed.
Elizabeth Eliza had her scarlet sack dyed brown a fortnight before. It was the one she did her gardening in, and it might have infuriated the cow. And she kept out of the garden the first day or two.
Mrs. Peterkin and Elizabeth Eliza bought the best kind of milk-pans, of every size.
But there was a little disappointment about the taste of the milk.
The little boys liked it, and drank large mugs of it. Elizabeth Eliza said she could never learn to love milk warm from the cow, though she would like to do her best to patronize the cow.
Mrs. Peterkin was afraid Amanda did not understand about taking care of the milk; yet she had been down to overlook her, and she was sure the pans and the closet were all clean.
"Suppose we send a pitcher of cream over to the lady from Philadelphia to try," said Elizabeth Eliza; "it will be a pretty attention before she goes."
"It might be awkward if she didn't like it," said Solomon John. "Perhaps something is the matter with the grass."
"I gave the cow an apple to eat yesterday," said one of the little boys, remorsefully.
Elizabeth Eliza went over, and Mrs. Peterkin, too, and explained all to the lady from Philadelphia, asking her to taste the milk.
The lady from Philadelphia tasted, and said the truth was that the milk was sour.
"I was afraid it was so," said Mrs. Peterkin; "but I didn't know what to expect from these new kinds of cows."
The lady from Philadelphia asked where the milk was kept.
"In the new dairy," answered Elizabeth Eliza.
"Is that in a cool place?" asked the lady from Philadelphia.
Elizabeth Eliza explained it was close by the new kitchen.
"Is it near the chimney?" inquired the lady from Philadelphia.
"It is directly back of the chimney and the new kitchen range," replied Elizabeth Eliza. "I suppose it is too hot!"
"Well, well!" said Mrs. Peterkin, "that is it! Last winter the milk froze, and now we have gone to the other extreme! Where shall we put our dairy?"
THE PETERKINS' CHRISTMAS-TREE.
Early in the autumn the Peterkins began to prepare for their Christmas-tree. Everything was done in great privacy, as it was to be a surprise to the neighbors, as well as to the rest of the family. Mr. Peterkin had been up to Mr. Bromwick's wood-lot, and, with his consent, selected the tree. Agamemnon went to look at it occasionally after dark, and Solomon John made frequent visits to it mornings, just after sunrise. Mr. Peterkin drove Elizabeth Eliza and her mother that way, and pointed furtively to it with his whip; but none of them ever spoke of it aloud to each other. It was suspected that the little boys had been to see it Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. But they came home with their pockets full of chestnuts, and said nothing about it.
At length Mr. Peterkin had it cut down and brought secretly into the Larkins' barn. A week or two before Christmas a measurement was made of it with Elizabeth Eliza's yard-measure. To Mr. Peterkin's great dismay it was discovered that it was too high to stand in the back parlor.
This fact was brought out at a secret council of Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin, Elizabeth Eliza, and Agamemnon.
Agamemnon suggested that it might be set up slanting; but Mrs. Peterkin was very sure it would make her dizzy, and the candles would drip.
But a brilliant idea came to Mr. Peterkin. He proposed that the ceiling of the parlor should be raised to make room for the top of the tree.
Elizabeth Eliza thought the space would need to be quite large. It must not be like a small box, or you could not see the tree.
"Yes," said Mr. Peterkin, "I should have the ceiling lifted all across the room; the effect would be finer."
Elizabeth Eliza objected to having the whole ceiling raised, because her room was over the back parlor, and she would have no floor while the alteration was going on, which would be very awkward. Besides, her room was not very high now, and, if the floor were raised, perhaps she could not walk in it upright.
Mr. Peterkin explained that he didn't propose altering the whole ceiling, but to lift up a ridge across the room at the back part where the tree was to stand. This would make a hump, to be sure, in Elizabeth Eliza's room; but it would go across the whole room.
Elizabeth Eliza said she would not mind that. It would be like the cuddy thing that comes up on the deck of a ship, that you sit against, only here you would not have the sea-sickness. She thought she should like it, for a rarity. She might use it for a divan.
Mrs. Peterkin thought it would come in the worn place of the carpet, and might be a convenience in making the carpet over.
Agamemnon was afraid there would be trouble in keeping the matter secret, for it would be a long piece of work for a carpenter; but Mr. Peterkin proposed having the carpenter for a day or two, for a number of other jobs.
One of them was to make all the chairs in the house of the same height, for Mrs. Peterkin had nearly broken her spine by sitting down in a chair that she had supposed was her own rocking-chair, and it had proved to be two inches lower. The little boys were now large enough to sit in any chair; so a medium was fixed upon to satisfy all the family, and the chairs were made uniformly of the same height.
On consulting the carpenter, however, he insisted that the tree could be cut off at the lower end to suit the height of the parlor, and demurred at so great a change as altering the ceiling. But Mr. Peterkin had set his mind upon the improvement, and Elizabeth Eliza had cut her carpet in preparation for it.
So the folding-doors into the back parlor were closed, and for nearly a fortnight before Christmas there was great litter of fallen plastering, and laths, and chips, and shavings; and Elizabeth Eliza's carpet was taken up, and the furniture had to be changed, and one night she had to sleep at the Bromwicks', for there was a long hole in her floor that might be dangerous.
All this delighted the little boys. They could not understand what was going on. Perhaps they suspected a Christmas-tree, but they did not know why a Christmas-tree should have so many chips, and were still more astonished at the hump that appeared in Elizabeth Eliza's room. It must be a Christmas present, or else the tree in a box.
Some aunts and uncles, too, arrived a day or two before Christmas, with some small cousins. These cousins occupied the attention of the little boys, and there was a great deal of whispering and mystery, behind doors, and under the stairs, and in the corners of the entry.
Solomon John was busy, privately making some candles for the tree. He had been collecting some bayberries, as he understood they made very nice candles, so that it would not be necessary to buy any.
The elders of the family never all went into the back parlor together, and all tried not to see what was going on. Mrs. Peterkin would go in with Solomon John, or Mr. Peterkin with Elizabeth Eliza, or Elizabeth Eliza and Agamemnon and Solomon John. The little boys and the small cousins were never allowed even to look inside the room.
Elizabeth Eliza meanwhile went into town a number of times. She wanted to consult Amanda as to how much ice-cream they should need, and whether they could make it at home, as they had cream and ice. She was pretty busy in her own room; the furniture had to be changed, and the carpet altered. The "hump" was higher than she expected. There was danger of bumping her own head whenever she crossed it. She had to nail some padding on the ceiling for fear of accidents.
The afternoon before Christmas, Elizabeth Eliza, Solomon John, and their father collected in the back parlor for a council. The carpenters had done their work, and the tree stood at its full height at the back of the room, the top stretching up into the space arranged for it. All the chips and shavings were cleared away, and it stood on a neat box.
But what were they to put upon the tree?
Solomon John had brought in his supply of candles; but they proved to be very "stringy" and very few of them. It was strange how many bayberries it took to make a few candles! The little boys had helped him, and he had gathered as much as a bushel of bayberries. He had put them in water, and skimmed off the wax, according to the directions; but there was so little wax!
Solomon John had given the little boys some of the bits sawed off from the legs of the chairs. He had suggested that they should cover them with gilt paper, to answer for gilt apples, without telling them what they were for.
These apples, a little blunt at the end, and the candles, were all they had for the tree!
After all her trips into town Elizabeth Eliza had forgotten to bring anything for it.
"I thought of candies and sugar-plums," she said; "but I concluded if we made caramels ourselves we should not need them. But, then, we have not made caramels. The fact is, that day my head was full of my carpet. I had bumped it pretty badly, too."
Mr. Peterkin wished he had taken, instead of a fir-tree, an apple-tree he had seen in October, full of red fruit.
"But the leaves would have fallen off by this time," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"And the apples, too," said Solomon John.
"It is odd I should have forgotten, that day I went in on purpose to get the things," said Elizabeth Eliza, musingly. "But I went from shop to shop, and didn't know exactly what to get. I saw a great many gilt things for Christmas-trees; but I knew the little boys were making the gilt apples; there were plenty of candles in the shops, but I knew Solomon John was making the candles."
Mr. Peterkin thought it was quite natural.
Solomon John wondered if it were too late for them to go into town now.
Elizabeth Eliza could not go in the next morning, for there was to be a grand Christmas dinner, and Mr. Peterkin could not be spared, and Solomon John was sure he and Agamemnon would not know what to buy. Besides, they would want to try the candles to-night.
Mr. Peterkin asked if the presents everybody had been preparing would not answer. But Elizabeth Eliza knew they would be too heavy.
A gloom came over the room. There was only a flickering gleam from one of Solomon John's candles that he had lighted by way of trial.
Solomon John again proposed going into town. He lighted a match to examine the newspaper about the trains. There were plenty of trains coming out at that hour, but none going in except a very late one. That would not leave time to do anything and come back.
"We could go in, Elizabeth Eliza and I," said Solomon John, "but we should not have time to buy anything."
Agamemnon was summoned in. Mrs. Peterkin was entertaining the uncles and aunts in the front parlor. Agamemnon wished there was time to study up something about electric lights. If they could only have a calcium light! Solomon John's candle sputtered and went out.
At this moment there was a loud knocking at the front door. The little boys, and the small cousins, and the uncles and aunts, and Mrs. Peterkin, hastened to see what was the matter.
The uncles and aunts thought somebody's house must be on fire. The door was opened, and there was a man, white with flakes, for it was beginning to snow, and he was pulling in a large box.
Mrs. Peterkin supposed it contained some of Elizabeth Eliza's purchases, so she ordered it to be pushed into the back parlor, and hastily called back her guests and the little boys into the other room. The little boys and the small cousins were sure they had seen Santa Claus himself.
Mr. Peterkin lighted the gas. The box was addressed to Elizabeth Eliza. It was from the lady from Philadelphia! She had gathered a hint from Elizabeth Eliza's letters that there was to be a Christmas-tree, and had filled this box with all that would be needed.
It was opened directly. There was every kind of gilt hanging-thing, from gilt pea-pods to butterflies on springs. There were shining flags and lanterns, and bird-cages, and nests with birds sitting on them, baskets of fruit, gilt apples and bunches of grapes, and, at the bottom of the whole, a large box of candles and a box of Philadelphia bonbons!
Elizabeth Eliza and Solomon John could scarcely keep from screaming. The little boys and the small cousins knocked on the folding-doors to ask what was the matter.
Hastily Mr. Peterkin and the rest took out the things and hung them on the tree, and put on the candles.
When all was done, it looked so well that Mr. Peterkin exclaimed:—
"Let us light the candles now, and send to invite all the neighbors to-night, and have the tree on Christmas Eve!"
And so it was that the Peterkins had their Christmas-tree the day before, and on Christmas night could go and visit their neighbors.
MRS. PETERKIN'S TEA-PARTY.
Twas important to have a tea-party, as they had all been invited by everybody,—the Bromwicks, the Tremletts, and the Gibbonses. It would be such a good chance to pay off some of their old debts, now that the lady from Philadelphia was back again, and her two daughters, who would be sure to make it all go off well.
But as soon as they began to make out the list they saw there were too many to have at once, for there were but twelve cups and saucers in the best set.
"There are seven of us, to begin with," said Mr. Peterkin.
"We need not all drink tea," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"I never do," said Solomon John. The little boys never did.
"And we could have coffee, too," suggested Elizabeth Eliza.
"That would take as many cups," objected Agamemnon.
"We could use the every-day set for the coffee," answered Elizabeth Eliza; "they are the right shape. Besides," she went on, "they would not all come. Mr. and Mrs. Bromwick, for instance; they never go out."
"There are but six cups in the every-day set," said Mrs. Peterkin.
The little boys said there were plenty of saucers; and Mr. Peterkin agreed with Elizabeth Eliza that all would not come. Old Mr. Jeffers never went out.
"There are three of the Tremletts," said Elizabeth Eliza; "they never go out together. One of them, if not two, will be sure to have the headache. Ann Maria Bromwick would come, and the three Gibbons boys, and their sister Juliana; but the other sisters are out West, and there is but one Osborne."
It really did seem safe to ask "everybody." They would be sorry, after it was over, that they had not asked more.
"We have the cow," said Mrs. Peterkin, "so there will be as much cream and milk as we shall need."
"And our own pig," said Agamemnon. "I am glad we had it salted; so we can have plenty of sandwiches."
"I will buy a chest of tea," exclaimed Mr. Peterkin, "I have been thinking of a chest for some time."
Mrs. Peterkin thought a whole chest would not be needed; it was as well to buy the tea and coffee by the pound. But Mr. Peterkin determined on a chest of tea and a bag of coffee.
So they decided to give the invitations to all. It might be a stormy evening, and some would be prevented.
The lady from Philadelphia and her daughters accepted.
And it turned out a fair day, and more came than were expected. Ann Maria Bromwick had a friend staying with her, and brought her over, for the Bromwicks were opposite neighbors. And the Tremletts had a niece, and Mary Osborne an aunt, that they took the liberty to bring.
The little boys were at the door, to show in the guests, and as each set came to the front gate they ran back to tell their mother that more were coming. Mrs. Peterkin had grown dizzy with counting those who had come, and trying to calculate how many were to come, and wondering why there were always more and never less, and whether the cups would go round.
The three Tremletts all came, with their niece. They all had had their headaches the day before, and were having that banged feeling you always have after a headache; so they all sat at the same side of the room on the long sofa.
All the Jefferses came, though they had sent uncertain answers. Old Mr. Jeffers had to be helped in, with his cane, by Mr. Peterkin.
The Gibbons boys came, and would stand just outside the parlor door. And Juliana appeared afterward, with the two other sisters, unexpectedly home from the West.
"Got home this morning!" they said. "And so glad to be in time to see everybody,—a little tired, to be sure, after forty-eight hours in a sleeping-car!"
"Forty-eight!" repeated Mrs. Peterkin; and wondered if there were forty-eight people, and why they were all so glad to come, and whether all could sit down.
Old Mr. and Mrs. Bromwick came. They thought it would not be neighborly to stay away. They insisted on getting into the most uncomfortable seats.
Yet there seemed to be seats enough while the Gibbons boys preferred to stand. But they never could sit round a tea-table. Elizabeth Eliza had thought they all might have room at the table, and Solomon John and the little boys could help in the waiting.
It was a great moment when the lady from Philadelphia arrived with her daughters. Mr. Peterkin was talking to Mr. Bromwick, who was a little deaf. The Gibbons boys retreated a little farther behind the parlor door. Mrs. Peterkin hastened forward to shake hands with the lady from Philadelphia, saying:—
"Four Gibbons girls and Mary Osborne's aunt,—that makes nineteen; and now"—
It made no difference what she said; for there was such a murmuring of talk that any words suited. And the lady from Philadelphia wanted to be introduced to the Bromwicks.
It was delightful for the little boys. They came to Elizabeth Eliza, and asked:—
"Can't we go and ask more? Can't we fetch the Larkins?"
"Oh, dear, no!" answered Elizabeth Eliza. "I can't even count them."
Mrs. Peterkin found time to meet Elizabeth Eliza in the side entry, to ask if there were going to be cups enough.
"I have set Agamemnon in the front entry to count,"' said Elizabeth Eliza, putting her hand to her head.
The little boys came to say that the Maberlys were coming.
"The Maberlys!" exclaimed Elizabeth Eliza. "I never asked them."
"It is your father's doing," cried Mrs. Peterkin. "I do believe he asked everybody he saw!" And she hurried back to her guests.
"What if father really has asked everybody?" Elizabeth Eliza said to herself, pressing her head again with her hand.
There were the cow and the pig. But if they all took tea or coffee, or both, the cups could not go round.
Agamemnon returned in the midst of her agony.
He had not been able to count the guests, they moved about so, they talked so; and it would not look well to appear to count.
"What shall we do?" exclaimed Elizabeth Eliza.
"We are not a family for an emergency," said Agamemnon.
"What do you suppose they did in Philadelphia at the Exhibition, when there were more people than cups and saucers?" asked Elizabeth Eliza. "Could not you go and inquire? I know the lady from Philadelphia is talking about the Exhibition, and telling how she stayed at home to receive friends. And they must have had trouble there! Could not you go in and ask, just as if you wanted to know?"
Agamemnon looked into the room, but there were too many talking with the lady from Philadelphia.
"If we could only look into some book," he said,—"the encyclopaedia or the dictionary; they are such a help sometimes!"
At this moment he thought of his "Great Triumphs of Great Men," that he was reading just now. He had not reached the lives of the Stephensons, or any of the men of modern times. He might skip over to them,—he knew they were men for emergencies.
He ran up to his room, and met Solomon John coming down with chairs.
"That is a good thought," said Agamemnon. "I will bring down more upstairs chairs."
"No," said Solomon John, "here are all that can come down; the rest of the bedroom chairs match bureaus, and they never will do!"
Agamemnon kept on to his own room, to consult his books. If only he could invent something on the spur of the moment,—a set of bedroom furniture, that in an emergency could be turned into parlor chairs! It seemed an idea; and he sat himself down to his table and pencils, when he was interrupted by the little boys, who came to tell him that Elizabeth Eliza wanted him.
The little boys had been busy thinking. They proposed that the tea-table, with all the things on, should be pushed into the front room, where the company were; and those could take cups who could find cups.
But Elizabeth Eliza feared it would not be safe to push so large a table; it might upset, and break what china they had.
Agamemnon came down to find her pouring out tea, in the back room. She called to him:—
"Agamemnon, you must bring Mary Osborne to help, and perhaps one of the Gibbons boys would carry round some of the cups."
And so she began to pour out, and to send round the sandwiches, and the tea, and the coffee. Let things go as far as they would!
The little boys took the sugar and cream.
"As soon as they have done drinking bring back the cups and saucers to be washed," she said to the Gibbons boys and the little boys.
This was an idea of Mary Osborne's.
But what was their surprise that the more they poured out the more cups they seemed to have! Elizabeth Eliza took the coffee, and Mary Osborne the tea. Amanda brought fresh cups from the kitchen.
"I can't understand it," Elizabeth Eliza said to Amanda. "Do they come back to you round through the piazza? Surely there are more cups than there were!"
Her surprise was greater when some of them proved to be coffee-cups that matched the set! And they never had had coffee-cups.
Solomon John came in at this moment, breathless with triumph.
"Solomon John!" Elizabeth Eliza exclaimed; "I cannot understand the cups!"
"It is my doing," said Solomon John, with an elevated air. "I went to the lady from Philadelphia, in the midst of her talk. 'What do you do in Philadelphia, when you haven't enough cups?' 'Borrow of my neighbors,' she answered, as quick as she could."
"She must have guessed," interrupted Elizabeth Eliza.
"That may be," said Solomon John. "But I whispered to Ann Maria Bromwick,—she was standing by,—and she took me straight over into their closet, and old Mr. Bromwick bought this set just where we bought ours. And they had a coffee-set, too"—
"You mean where our father and mother bought them. We were not born," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"It is all the same," said Solomon John. "They match exactly."
So they did, and more and more came in.
Elizabeth Eliza exclaimed:—
"And Agamemnon says we are not a family for emergencies!"
"Ann Maria was very good about it," said Solomon John; "and quick, too. And old Mrs. Bromwick has kept all her set of two dozen coffee and tea cups!"
Elizabeth Eliza was ready to faint with delight and relief. She told the Gibbons boys, by mistake, instead of Agamemnon and the little boys. She almost let fall the cups and saucers she took in her hand.
"No trouble now!"
She thought of the cow, and she thought of the pig, and she poured on.
No trouble, except about the chairs. She looked into the room; all seemed to be sitting down, even her mother. No, her father was standing, talking to Mr. Jeffers. But he was drinking coffee, and the Gibbons boys were handing things around.
The daughters of the lady from Philadelphia were sitting on shawls on the edge of the window that opened upon the piazza. It was a soft, warm evening, and some of the young people were on the piazza. Everybody was talking and laughing, except those who were listening.
Mr. Peterkin broke away, to bring back his cup and another for more coffee.
"It's a great success, Elizabeth Eliza," he whispered. "The coffee is admirable, and plenty of cups. We asked none too many. I should not mind having a tea-party every week."
Elizabeth Eliza sighed with relief as she filled his cup. It was going off well. There were cups enough, but she was not sure she could live over another such hour of anxiety; and what was to be done after tea?
THE PETERKINS TOO LATE FOR THE EXHIBITION.
Dramatis Personae.—Amanda (friend of Elizabeth Eliza), Amanda's mother, girls of the graduating class, Mrs. Peterkin, Elizabeth Eliza.
AMANDA [coming in with a few graduates].
Mother, the exhibition is over, and I have brought the whole class home to the collation.
MOTHER.—The whole class! But I only expected a few.
AMANDA.—The rest are coming. I brought Julie, and Clara, and Sophie with me. [A voice is heard.] Here are the rest.
MOTHER.—Why, no. It is Mrs. Peterkin and Elizabeth Eliza!
AMANDA.—Too late for the exhibition. Such a shame! But in time for the collation.
MOTHER [to herself].—If the ice-cream will go round.
Amanda.—But what made you so late? Did you miss the train? This is Elizabeth Eliza, girls,—you have heard me speak of her. What a pity you were too late!
MRS. PETERKIN.—We tried to come; we did our best.
MOTHER.—Did you miss the train? Didn't you get my postal-card?
MRS. PETERKIN.—We had nothing to do with the train.
AMANDA.—You don't mean you walked?
MRS. PETERKIN.—Oh, no, indeed!
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—We came in a horse and carryall.
JULIA.—I always wondered how anybody could come in a horse!
AMANDA.—You are too foolish, Julie. They came in the carryall part. But didn't you start in time?
MRS. PETERKIN.—It all comes from the carryall being so hard to turn. I told Mr. Peterkin we should get into trouble with one of those carryalls that don't turn easy.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—They turn easy enough in the stable, so you can't tell.
MRS. PETERKIN.—Yes; we started with the little boys and Solomon John on the back seat, and Elizabeth Eliza on the front. She was to drive, and I was to see to the driving. But the horse was not faced toward Boston.
MOTHER.—And you tipped over in turning round! Oh, what an accident!
AMANDA.—And the little boys,—where are they? Are they killed?
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—The little boys are all safe. We left them at the Pringles', with Solomon John.
MOTHER.—But what did happen?
MRS. PETERKIN.—We started the wrong way.
MOTHER.—You lost your way, after all?
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—No; we knew the way well enough.
AMANDA.—It's as plain as a pikestaff!
MRS. PETERKIN.—No; we had the horse faced in the wrong direction,—toward Providence.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—And mother was afraid to have me turn, and we kept on and on till we should reach a wide place.
MRS. PETERKIN.—I thought we should come to a road that would veer off to the right or left, and bring us back to the right direction.
MOTHER.—Could not you all get out and turn the thing round?
MRS. PETERKIN.—Why, no; if it had broken down we should not have been in anything, and could not have gone anywhere.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—Yes, I have always heard it was best to stay in the carriage, whatever happens.
JULIA.—But nothing seemed to happen.
MRS. PETERKIN.—Oh, yes; we met one man after another, and we asked the way to Boston.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—And all they would say was, "Turn right round,—you are on the road to Providence."
MRS. PETERKIN.—As if we could turn right round! That was just what we couldn't.
MOTHER.—You don't mean you kept on all the way to Providence?
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—Oh, dear, no! We kept on and on, till we met a man with a black hand-bag,—black leather, I should say.
JULIA.—He must have been a book-agent.
MRS. PETERKIN.—I dare say he was; his bag seemed heavy. He set it on a stone.
MOTHER.—I dare say it was the same one that came here the other day. He wanted me to buy the "History of the Aborigines, Brought up from Earliest Times to the Present Date," in four volumes. I told him I hadn't time to read so much. He said that was no matter, few did, and it wasn't much worth it; they bought books for the look of the thing.
AMANDA.—Now, that was illiterate; he never could have graduated. I hope, Elizabeth Eliza, you had nothing to do with that man.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—Very likely it was not the same one.
MOTHER.—Did he have a kind of pepper-and-salt suit, with one of the buttons worn?
MRS. PETERKIN.—I noticed one of the buttons was off.
AMANDA.—We're off the subject. Did you buy his book?
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—He never offered us his book.
MRS. PETERKIN.—He told us the same story,—we were going to Providence; if we wanted to go to Boston we must turn directly round.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—I told him I couldn't; but he took the horse's head, and the first thing I knew—
AMANDA.—He had yanked you round!
MRS. PETERKIN.—I screamed; I couldn't help it!
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—I was glad when it was over!
MOTHER.—Well, well; it shows the disadvantage of starting wrong.
MRS. PETERKIN.—Yes, we came straight enough when the horse was headed right; but we lost time.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—I am sorry enough I lost the exhibition, and seeing you take the diploma, Amanda. I never got the diploma myself. I came near it.
MRS. PETERKIN.—Somehow, Elizabeth Eliza never succeeded. I think there was partiality about the promotions.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—I never was good about remembering things. I studied well enough, but when I came to say off my lesson I couldn't think what it was. Yet I could have answered some of the other girls' questions.
JULIA.—It's odd how the other girls always have the easiest questions.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—I never could remember poetry. There was only one thing I could repeat.
AMANDA.—Oh, do let us have it now; and then we'll recite to you some of our exhibition pieces.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—I'll try.
MRS. PETERKIN.—Yes, Elizabeth Eliza, do what you can to help entertain Amanda's friends.
[All stand looking at ELIZABETH ELIZA, who remains silent and thoughtful.]
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—I'm trying to think what it is about. You all know it. You remember, Amanda,—the name is rather long.
AMANDA.—It can't be Nebuchadnezzar, can it?—that is one of the longest names I know.
ELIZABETH ELIZA. Oh, dear, no!
JULIA.—Perhaps it's Cleopatra.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—It does begin with a "C,"—only he was a boy.
AMANDA.—That's a pity, for it might be "We are seven," only that is a girl. Some of them were boys.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—It begins about a boy—if I could only think where he was. I can't remember.
AMANDA.—Perhaps he "stood upon the burning deck"?
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—That's just it; I knew he stood somewhere.
AMANDA.—Casabianca! Now begin—go ahead.
"The boy stood on the burning deck, When—when"—
I can't think who stood there with him.
JULIA.—If the deck was burning, it must have been on fire. I guess the rest ran away, or jumped into boats.
AMANDA.—That's just it:—
"Whence all but him had fled."
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—I think I can say it now.
"The boy stood on the burning deck, Whence all but him had fled"—
[She hesitates.] Then I think he went—
JULIA.—Of course, he fled after the rest.
AMANDA.—Dear, no! That's the point. He didn't.
"The flames rolled on, he would not go Without his father's word."
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—Oh, yes. Now I can say it.
"The boy stood on the burning deck, Whence all but him had fled; The flames rolled on, he would not go Without his father's word."
But it used to rhyme. I don't know what has happened to it.
MRS. PETERKIN.—Elizabeth Eliza is very particular about the rhymes.
ELIZABETH ELIZA.—It must be "without his father's head," or, perhaps, "without his father said" he should.
JULIA.—I think you must have omitted something.
AMANDA.—She has left out ever so much!
MOTHER.—Perhaps it's as well to omit some, for the ice-cream has come, and you must all come down.
AMANDA.—And here are the rest of the girls; and let us all unite in a song!
[Exeunt omnes singing.]
THE PETERKINS CELEBRATE THE FOURTH OF JULY.
The day began early.
A compact had been made with the little boys the evening before.
They were to be allowed to usher in the glorious day by the blowing of horns exactly at sunrise. But they were to blow them for precisely five minutes only, and no sound of the horns should be heard afterward till the family were downstairs.
It was thought that a peace might thus be bought by a short, though crowded, period of noise.
The morning came. Even before the morning, at half-past three o'clock, a terrible blast of the horns aroused the whole family.
Mrs. Peterkin clasped her hands to her head and exclaimed: "I am thankful the lady from Philadelphia is not here!" For she had been invited to stay a week, but had declined to come before the Fourth of July, as she was not well, and her doctor had prescribed quiet.
And the number of the horns was most remarkable! It was as though every cow in the place had arisen and was blowing through both her own horns!
"How many little boys are there? How many have we?" exclaimed Mr. Peterkin, going over their names one by one mechanically, thinking he would do it, as he might count imaginary sheep jumping over a fence, to put himself to sleep. Alas! the counting could not put him to sleep now, in such a din.
And how unexpectedly long the five minutes seemed! Elizabeth Eliza was to take out her watch and give the signal for the end of the five minutes, and the ceasing of the horns. Why did not the signal come? Why did not Elizabeth Eliza stop them?
And certainly it was long before sunrise; there was no dawn to be seen!
"We will not try this plan again," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"If we live to another Fourth," added Mr. Peterkin, hastening to the door to inquire into the state of affairs.
Alas! Amanda, by mistake, had waked up the little boys an hour too early. And by another mistake the little boys had invited three or four of their friends to spend the night with them. Mrs. Peterkin had given them permission to have the boys for the whole day, and they understood the day as beginning when they went to bed the night before. This accounted for the number of horns.
It would have been impossible to hear any explanation; but the five minutes were over, and the horns had ceased, and there remained only the noise of a singular leaping of feet, explained perhaps by a possible pillow-fight, that kept the family below partially awake until the bells and cannon made known the dawning of the glorious day,—the sunrise, or "the rising of the sons," as Mr. Peterkin jocosely called it when they heard the little boys and their friends clattering down the stairs to begin the outside festivities.
They were bound first for the swamp, for Elizabeth Eliza, at the suggestion of the lady from Philadelphia, had advised them to hang some flags around the pillars of the piazza. Now the little boys knew of a place in the swamp where they had been in the habit of digging for "flag-root," and where they might find plenty of flag flowers. They did bring away all they could, but they were a little out of bloom. The boys were in the midst of nailing up all they had on the pillars of the piazza, when the procession of the Antiques and Horribles passed along. As the procession saw the festive arrangements on the piazza, and the crowd of boys, who cheered them loudly, it stopped to salute the house with some especial strains of greeting.
Poor Mrs. Peterkin! They were directly under her windows! In a few moments of quiet, during the boys' absence from the house on their visit to the swamp, she had been trying to find out whether she had a sick-headache, or whether it was all the noise, and she was just deciding it was the sick-headache, but was falling into a light slumber, when the fresh noise outside began.
There were the imitations of the crowing of cocks, and braying of donkeys, and the sound of horns, encored and increased by the cheers of the boys. Then began the torpedoes, and the Antiques and Horribles had Chinese crackers also.
And, in despair of sleep, the family came down to breakfast.
Mrs. Peterkin had always been much afraid of fireworks, and had never allowed the boys to bring gunpowder into the house. She was even afraid of torpedoes; they looked so much like sugar-plums she was sure some of the children would swallow them, and explode before anybody knew it.
She was very timid about other things. She was not sure even about pea-nuts. Everybody exclaimed over this: "Surely there was no danger in pea-nuts!" But Mrs. Peterkin declared she had been very much alarmed at the Centennial Exhibition, and in the crowded corners of the streets in Boston, at the pea-nut stands, where they had machines to roast the pea-nuts. She did not think it was safe. They might go off any time, in the midst of a crowd of people, too!
Mr. Peterkin thought there actually was no danger, and he should be sorry to give up the pea-nut. He thought it an American institution, something really belonging to the Fourth of July. He even confessed to a quiet pleasure in crushing the empty shells with his feet on the sidewalks as he went along the streets.
Agamemnon thought it a simple joy.
In consideration, however, of the fact that they had had no real celebration of the Fourth the last year, Mrs. Peterkin had consented to give over the day, this year, to the amusement of the family as a Centennial celebration. She would prepare herself for a terrible noise,—only she did not want any gunpowder brought into the house.
The little boys had begun by firing some torpedoes a few days beforehand, that their mother might be used to the sound, and had selected their horns some weeks before.
Solomon John had been very busy in inventing some fireworks. As Mrs. Peterkin objected to the use of gunpowder, he found out from the dictionary what the different parts of gunpowder are,—saltpetre, charcoal, and sulphur. Charcoal, he discovered, they had in the wood-house; saltpetre they would find in the cellar, in the beef barrel; and sulphur they could buy at the apothecary's. He explained to his mother that these materials had never yet exploded in the house, and she was quieted.
Agamemnon, meanwhile, remembered a recipe he had read somewhere for making a "fulminating paste" of iron-filings and powder of brimstone. He had written it down on a piece of paper in his pocket-book. But the iron filings must be finely powdered. This they began upon a day or two before, and the very afternoon before laid out some of the paste on the piazza.
Pin-wheels and rockets were contributed by Mr. Peterkin for the evening. According to a programme drawn up by Agamemnon and Solomon John, the reading of the Declaration of Independence was to take place in the morning, on the piazza, under the flags.
The Bromwicks brought over their flag to hang over the door.
"That is what the lady from Philadelphia meant," explained Elizabeth Eliza.
"She said the flags of our country," said the little boys. "We thought she meant 'in the country.'"
Quite a company assembled; but it seemed nobody had a copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Elizabeth Eliza said she could say one line, if they each could add as much. But it proved they all knew the same line that she did, as they began:—
"When, in the course of—when, in the course of—when, in the course of human—when in the course of human events—when, in the course of human events, it becomes—when, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary—when, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people"—
They could not get any farther. Some of the party decided that "one people" was a good place to stop, and the little boys sent off some fresh torpedoes in honor of the people. But Mr. Peterkin was not satisfied. He invited the assembled party to stay until sunset, and meanwhile he would find a copy, and torpedoes were to be saved to be fired off at the close of every sentence.
And now the noon bells rang and the noon bells ceased.
Mrs. Peterkin wanted to ask everybody to dinner. She should have some cold beef. She had let Amanda go, because it was the Fourth, and everybody ought to be free that one day; so she could not have much of a dinner. But when she went to cut her beef she found Solomon had taken it to soak, on account of the saltpetre, for the fireworks!