In the first place, when she put the pieces of wicking into the kettle of hot tallow and took them out again, they looked like greasy strings, and nothing else. One after another she dipped them in and drew them out, dipped them in and drew them out, and set them carefully back in their places across the fence.
Patty and Moses looked on with great Interest.
"How slow they are!" said Moses. "I've kept count, and you've dipped more'n a hundred sticks, and you haven't made one candle yet."
"Rome wasn't built in a day," said Mrs. Lyman, going back to the very beginning, and dipping the first row over again.
"I don't know what Rome is," said Patty.
"Well, I wouldn't fuss with those strings," observed Moses; "why, this makes twice, and they're no bigger round yet than slate pencils."
"I'd let 'em alone," said Patty, "and not try."
"Moses, you might as well run off and see if father wants you," said Mrs. Lyman; "and, Patience, I know Dorcas would like some cloves pounded."
In about an hour Patty was back again. The candles had grown, but only a very little. They were no larger yet than lead pencils. And there sat Mrs. Lyman with a steady, sober look on her face, as if she had made up her mind to wait and let them take their time to grow.
"What slow candles!" cried Patty.
"Patience, dear," said Mrs. Lyman, smiling.
"There, mamma, you said Patience, but you didn't mean me; you meant the good kind of patience."
"Yes, I meant the patience that works and waits. Now go and wash some potatoes for to-morrow's breakfast, and then you may come again and look."
"When Patty came the second time, she exclaimed, with delight,
"O, mamma, they're as big round as candy! Wish 'twas candy; wouldn't I eat?"
Mrs. Lyman began again at the first row.
"Why, mamma Lyman, true's you live I can begin to see 'em grow!"
"You are right," said her mother. "People don't work and wait, all for nothing, daughter."
"Yankee Doodle came to town," sang Patty, dancing the time to the tune, as if she did not hear her mother's words. But she did hear them, and was putting them away in her memory, along with a thousand other things which had been said to her, and which she had not seemed to hear at the time.
I wish Mrs. Lyman could have known this, for she sometimes thought it was of no use to talk to Patty. I wish she could have known that years afterwards the dancing child would be comforted in many a trouble by these cheery words, "People don't work and wait for nothing, daughter." For you see it all came back to Patty when she was a woman. She saw a picture of her good mother dipping candles, with a steady, sober look on her face; and that picture always did her good.
I wonder if the little folks, even in these days, don't hear and heed more than they appear to? If so, their mammas ought to believe it, and take courage.
"Mother, why do you pour hot water into that kettle? Won't water put out candles?"
"Perhaps not; perhaps it will make the tallow rise to the top," said Mrs. Lyman, laughing.
"O, so it does. Isn't it such fun to dip candles? They grow as fast as you can wink. Mayn't I dip, please, mamma?"
"Who was it," replied Mrs. Lyman, with a quiet smile, "that said, 'I'd let 'em alone, and not try?'"
"O, but, mamma, that was when they didn't grow, you know."
"Well, dear, I'll let you dip in a rod by and by; I can't stop now."
Patty waited, but the "by and by" did not come. Mrs. Lyman seemed to have forgotten her promise; and about eight o'clock had to leave the candles a few minutes to give Dorcas some advice about the fitting of a dress. Dorcas was to take her mother's place; but just as she started for the kitchen, there was an outcry from Mary, who had cut her finger, and wanted it bound up.
"It's my by-and-by now," thought little Patty.
There was not a soul in the kitchen to attend to those candles. Deary me, and the tallow growing so cold! Wasn't it Patty's duty to help?
Of course it was; and seating her little self with much dignity in the chair from which her mother had just risen, and propping her feet on the round, she took up the business where it was left off. It seemed the easiest thing in the world to flash those round white candles into the kettle and out again; but they were a great deal heavier than she had supposed. After she had dipped two or three rods her arm felt very tired. How could mamma do it so fast, without stopping one bit?
A bright thought seized Patty, as bright as all those dozen-dozen candles burning in a row.
"Guess I'll dip 'em slow; then there'll be more tallow stick on."
Strange mamma hadn't thought of that herself; but mammas can't think of everything, they have so much to do. Patty swayed a rod full of candles from side to side in the kettle, not perceiving that they were melting to their heart's cores. When she took them out they dripped great tears, and as she held them up, wondering why they hadn't grown any, the kitchen door opened, and some one walked in.
Who it was Patty could not see, for her face was turned away; but what if it should be brother James, and he should call out,
"Well, Snippet, up to mischief, hey?"
The very thought of such a speech frightened her so that she set her row of candles across the chairs in great haste, hitting them against another row, where they stuck fast.
"Good evening, miss," said a strange voice.
Patty turned her head, and there, instead of James, stood a handsome young gentleman she had never seen before. She knew at once it must be the new teacher.
The first thing she did was to seize a row of candles, hit or miss, and dashed them into the kettle.
"Beg pardon. I'm afraid I've come to the wrong door," said the stranger, bowing very low, and trying his best not to smile.
"O, no, sir; yes, sir; thank you," replied bewildered Patty, almost plunging head first into the kettle. But instead of that she suddenly straightened up, and popped in another row of candles.
Mr. Starbird was so amused by the little creature's quick and kitten-like motions that he stood still and watched her. He thought he had never seen so funny a sight before.
"He smiles just as cheerfully," mused Miss Patty, with an airy toss of the head. "Guess he thinks I'm smart! Guess he thinks he'll put me in the C'lumby Norter [Columbian Orator] first thing he does! Big girl like this, sitting up so straight, working like a woman!"
With that she rocked forward, and nearly lost her balance; but no harm was done; she only pushed the kettle half way off the board.
The gentleman thought it was about time to interfere, and let some of the family know what the child was doing.
"Will you please point the way to the parlor, little miss?" said he, with a bewitching smile.
Patty slid from her seat, and, in her confusion, was aiming straight for the cellar door, when, alas! alas! one of her feet got caught in the rounds of the chair, and she tumbled out headlong. In trying to save herself, she put forth both hands, and struck against the kettle, which was already tipsy, and of course turned over.
It was a critical moment. Mr. Starbird saw the kettle coming, and had the presence of mind to spring the other way. A flood of hot water and tallow was pouring over the floor, and little Patty screaming lustily.
Mr. Starbird thought she was scalding to death, and instead of taking care of himself, turned about to save her. But before he could reach her, she had darted through the bar-room door and disappeared—without so much as a blotch of tallow on her shoes.
Gallant Mr. Starbird did not get off so well. His foot slipped on the oily floor, and down he fell. Before he could get up the whole household had come to the rescue, Rachel and John bringing tin dippers, and Mrs. Lyman a mop; but Dorcas a roll of linen, for she knew the stranger must be scalded.
He tried to make the best of it, poor man; and while Dorcas was doing up both his blistered hands, he smiled on her almost as "cheerfully" as he had smiled on the little candle-dipper. He found it very pleasant to look at Dorcas. Everybody liked to look at her. She had a rare, sweet face, as delicate as a white snowdrop just touched with pink, and she did know how to do up sore fingers beautifully; she had practised it on every one of the children.
Patty was so sorry and ashamed that she crept to bed in the dark, and cried herself to sleep.
The next morning that unpainted kitchen floor was a sight to behold, and Rachel said she did not think it would ever come clean again.
"See what I found in the kettle," said she.
Two rows of little withered candles, all worn out, and crooked besides.
"Did I do that too?" said Patty.
"I should think you did. What mischief will you be up to next?" said Rachel, sharply.
"But, but, mamma said I might dip."
"Why, yes, so I did," said the much-enduring mother, suddenly remembering her own words. "Well, well, Rachel, we won't be too hard on Patience. I'll warrant she'll never try this caper again."
MR. STARBIRD'S DREAM.
Mr. Starbird began the school with his hands in mittens; but for all that he governed the big boys without the least effort. His blisters were so troublesome that he had to go to Squire Lyman's every day to have them done up, and in that way Patty grew very well acquainted with him. Before spring the whole family felt as if they had always known him, and Mrs. Lyman called him Frank, because she and his mother had been "girls together." Dorcas did not call him Frank, but they were remarkably good friends.
After the winter school was done, Mr. Starbird still staid at Perseverance, studying law with Mr. Chase, and boarding at Squire Lyman's. He was a very funny man, always saying and doing strange things; and that brings me round at last to Patty's dollar.
One evening Patty was so tired with picking up chips that she went and threw herself into her mother's arms, saying, "Why don't the boys stick the axe clear through the wood, mamma; then there wouldn't be chips to bother folks."
For a wonder Mrs. Lyman was sitting down without any work in her hands, and could stop to stroke Patty's hair and kiss her "lips like snips of scarlet," which made the little girl happier than anything else in the world. Mr. Starbird sat in a large armchair, holding a skein of yarn for Dorcas, who sat in a small rocking-chair, winding it.
"Mrs. Lyman," said Mr. Starbird, "do you believe in dreams?"
"Indeed, I do not," replied Mrs. Lyman. "Why do you ask?"
"Well, I don't believe in them myself any more than you do, Mrs. Lyman. But I did have such a very singular dream last night!"
"Do tell us what it was," said Dorcas.
"Certainly, if you like," said Mr. Starbird; "but I—but I don't know about it; is it best to speak of such things before Patty?"
"Yes, you must, Mr. Starbird," cried Patty, springing up eagerly. "I won't tell anybody, long's I live."
Mr. Starbird laughed.
"Well, in the first place, Mrs. Lyman, let me ask you if you lost any money ever so long ago?"
"Yes, I lost a twenty-dollar gold piece last summer."
"Yes; and me, too. I had a silver dollar, 'n' I lost it," cried Patty.
"How strange!" said Mr. Starbird. "So my dream does have some sense in it. Excuse me, Mrs. Lyman; but will you tell me where you kept the money?"
"In my black silk pocket; but the pocket went too."
"And I suppose you have hunted everywhere for it."
"Of course we have," said Dorcas. "I guess you'd think so, Mr. Starbird; why, we've turned this house upside down."
"To be sure. Well, I'd like to ask another question, Mrs. Lyman. Did you ever think that woman that is about here so much—Siller Noonin, I believe they call her—could have taken the money?"
"O, no, indeed, Francis; we consider Priscilla an honest woman."
"That was not what I meant to say, Mrs. Lyman. What I was going to ask was this: Wasn't there a funny old man here at the time you lost the money? and didn't Siller Noonin say that either he stole the money or she did?"
Mrs. Lyman looked surprised.
"Yes; there was a little old man at the house in haying-time, and I believe Priscilla did say she thought—"
"Yes, mother," broke in Dorcas; "and he was sitting out on the fence when she said it, and we were afraid he heard; but how did you know that, Mr. Starbird? It didn't come to you in your dream?"
"Ah, Miss Dorcas, you are beginning to be curious; but when I go on to tell you more, you will open your eyes wider yet. I never saw that little old man, Mrs. Lyman, and never heard you speak of him; but I dreamed I was husking corn in your barn, and a man about as tall as your Mary—"
Just then Mary, and Moses, and George, and Silas, and John, and Rachel came into the room, followed by William Parlin; and Mr. Starbird had to begin at the beginning and tell as far as this all over again.
"A man as tall, perhaps, as Mary, with hair the color of pumpkin and milk, limped up to me—"
"Why, mother, why, Rachel, his hair was all yellow and white," said Moses.
"Well, so I said," pursued Mr. Starbird. "And there were red rings round his eyes, and he had a turn-up nose, and hands all covered with warts."
"Mr. Starbird, you must have seen Israel Crossman," said Mrs. Lyman, who had stopped rocking in her surprise.
"Israel Crossman! That was the very name he spoke as he limped into the barn. I declare, Mrs. Lyman, this is growing more and more mysterious; but I never saw Israel Crossman; I give you my word."
"How very strange!" said Dorcas; "but do make haste and finish, for I am getting all of a tremble."
"Me, too," cried Patty, clinging close to her mother's neck.
"Well, the old man sidled along to me, and said he,—
"'I'm Isr'el Crossman; and look here: me and Squire Lyman's two hired men and (I've forgotten the other name) got in hay into this ere barn last summer. Squire Lyman's folks used me well; but there's one thing that's laid heavy on my mind. Mrs. Lyman lost a gold piece while I was here—'"
"Yes, and me a silver dollar," cried Patty.
"'And it distressed me bad,' said Israel, 'for Siller Noonin up and said that either she stole it, or I did. But it's come to me lately,' said Israel, 'what must have 'come of that money! I never took it; bless you, I never stole a pin! But I see that little Patty to play out in the barn with one of her rag babies.'"
"O, I never," exclaimed Patty.
"Don't interrupt," whispered one of the twins, deeply interested.
"You know I am only telling a silly dream, my dear," said Mr. Starbird. "This little man said he saw Patty playing on the scaffold before the hay was got into the barn, and she had something round her doll's neck that looked like a pocket. He didn't know any more than that; but he 'sort of mistrusted' that she might have left the doll on the scaffold, and the men might have pitched hay right on top of it."
"Sure enough," exclaimed Dorcas, with a nervous laugh; "who knows but she did?"
"Have you lost a doll, Patty?" asked William Parlin.
"No; I never."
"O, she doesn't know when she loses dolls," said Rachel; "she always keeps more than a dozen or so on hand."
"Well, I was going to say," continued Mr. Starbird, "you could easily find out whether there was any meaning to my dream. If there is a doll up there on the scaffold, the hay is getting so low you could scrape round and find it."
"That's so," cried the twins.
"Not that it's really worth while, either," added Mr. Starbird; "for, as I said, it was only—"
"But there isn't the least harm in going out to see," said Mary and the twins, and William Parlin, all in a breath, as they started on a run for the barn. Patty slipped down from her mother's arms and followed.
"Me! Me! Let me go first," she cried. And before any one else could do it, her swift little feet were mounting the ladder, and next minute tripping over the scaffold.
"O, look! O, catch! Here it is! Here is my dolly all up in the corner, and here's a pocket round her neck!"
Dorcas, who was always rather nervous, sat on the barn floor and laughed and cried herself into such a state that Mr. Starbird had to give her his arm to help her back to the house.
There was a great time, you may be sure, when Patty shook the pocket before everybody's eyes, and James rang the twenty-dollar piece on the brick hearth to make sure it was good gold. Dorcas was so excited that pink spots came in both her cheeks, and even James did not know what to think. Betsey Gould started right off to Dr. Potter's, where Siller Noonin happened to be, to tell Siller the story. Dorcas kept having little spasms of laughing and crying, and the whole household had rather a frightened look; for it was the most marvellous dream they ever heard of.
"Well, mother, what do you think now of dreams?" said Moses. "Guess you'll have to give it up."
Mrs. Lyman had been in her bedroom to put the gold piece into her drawer, and she now came back and took up her stocking-basket, as if nothing had happened.
"I will tell you to-morrow what I think of dreams, Moses.—Hush, Patty, I am afraid we shall be sorry you found your dollar, if it makes you so noisy."
Mr. Starbird went up to the table where Mrs. Lyman sat, pretending to be looking for the shears, but really to get a peep at the lady's eyes. At any rate, he did not go away till he had made her look at him, and then they both smiled, and Mrs. Lyman said, in a very low voice,—
"Francis, you have kept up the joke long enough."
Frank nodded and went back to the settle.
"James," said he, "you are the wise one of the family; I wish you would tell me how you account for my dream."
"Can't account for it," said James, shaking his head; "don't pretend to."
"Well, then, if you can't," returned Mr. Starbird, looking very innocent, "perhaps you can tell me what day of the month it is?"
There was a general uproar then.
"Have you been making fools of us, Frank Starbird?" cried James and Rachel, seizing him, one by the hair, the other by the ears.
"April Fools! April Fools!" exclaimed all the children together,—all except Dorcas.
"It's the best fool I ever heard of," said William Parlin; "but how did you do it, sir?"
"Yes, explain yourself," said James and Rachel. "Was mother in the secret?"
"No; but Dorcas was. Let go my hair, James, and I'll speak.—Fact is, I happened to find that rag baby out there on the scaffold this afternoon with that pocket on its neck, and so I dreamed a dream to suit myself."
"Yes," said Dorcas; "and I told him just how Israel Crossman looked, and all about Siller Noonin, and didn't he say it off like a book?"
"Wasn't it a dream, then?" asked little Patty.
"No, dear; it was only nonsense."
"Well, then, I didn't put my dolly out there,—did I?"
"Yes, of course you did," said her mother; "only you have forgotten it."
But Patty looked puzzled. She could not recollect that ever so long ago, the day the beggar girl came to the house, she had cured Polly Dolly Adaline's sore throat with her mother's quilted pocket, and then had carried the sick dolly out to the barn, "so she could get well faster where there wasn't any noise."
No, Patty could not recollect this, and the whole thing was a mystery to her.
"Children," said Mrs. Lyman, looking up from her stockings, as soon as there was a chance to speak, "I have one word to say on this subject: whenever you hear of signs and wonders, don't believe in them till you've sifted them to the bottom. And when you've done that, mark my words, you'll find there's no more substance to them than there is to Francis Starbird's April Fool Dream."
"True," said Rachel and James; and then, as half a dozen of the younger ones had gone out, they had a quiet talk, five or six of them, round the fire, and Patty went to sleep sitting on Mr. Starbird's knee.
So Patty had her dollar back; and now what to do with it was the question. She thought of a great many things to buy, but always grew tired of them before she had fairly made up her mind.
At last she went to her mother, and said, "Mamma, I'm only a little girl, and don't know much; won't you please tell me what to get?"
"Do you really wish me to decide for you, my dear? And will you be satisfied with my choice?"
"Yes, mamma, I truly will be satisfied. But—but—you don't want to give my dollar to the heathens—do you? It's all clear silver, and I s'pect coppers just as good for those heathens, mamma."
"What makes you think copper is just as good, my child?"
"Because that's what people put into the box; and when they put any silver in, it's in little bits of pieces. I don't s'pect the heathens know the difference."
Mrs. Lyman smiled, though at the same time she was sorry to think how selfish people are, and how little they are willing to give away.
"Let me ask you a question, dear. How would you like to have me carry this dollar to Mrs. Chase and Mrs. Potter, and tell them my little girl sent it for them to give to some poor child?"
Patty looked up in surprise.
"If you are going to give it to a poor child, mamma, can't you do it 'thout telling folks?"
"Yes, I could. I didn't know, though, but you'd like to have Mrs. Potter and Mrs. Chase hear of it."
A pink blush crept over Patty's face, and away up to the top of her forehead.
"O, mamma, I don't! I don't!"
"Well, I believe you, my dear. You have seen a little of the folly of trying to show off. And that reminds me—Yes, I have a very good idea; and when your papa goes to Augusta next week, I will send your dollar, and have him buy you something you can always keep."
Patty liked the sound of that, and when her father came home from Augusta with a little round trunk in his hands, she could hardly wait for him to get into the house. He had brought her a little red Bible, with clasp covers. It was the first whole Bible she had ever owned. She was much pleased, and has kept the little book all these years, though its beauty is quite gone by this time. It is very precious to her, because these words are on one of the fly-leaves in her dear mother's own writing: "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven."
Time passed on, and on, and on. Patty's wrists grew so strong that she was trusted to milk a small red cow, though she must still have been quite a little girl, for she could not remember which was the cow's right side, and had to mark her bag with a piece of chalk. Very soon she had two cows to milk, just as Mary and Moses had; and Moses, who was an early bird, used to wake her from a sound sleep by calling out, "Come, come, Patty! Dr. Chase's cows are out! Mary and I have milked! Up, up, Patty! Why don't you start?"
Patty thought it was very hard to be called so early in the morning. What did she care for Dr. Chase's cows? She was tired of hearing Moses talk about them. Poor little creature! She always ran down stairs, rubbing her eyes, and her mother comforted her by saying,—
"Never mind it. After you have milked your cows and turned them out, you may go to bed again, my dear, and have another nap."
Patty always thought she would do it; but after the work was done, she was no longer sleepy, and did not wish to go to bed.
When she was ten years old, she learned to spin cotton. Her mother first carded it into rolls, and then Patty "roped" it, and spun it on a wheel; but the spindle was so high up that she was obliged to have a board to walk back and forth upon. She liked it as well as any other work, for she had a "knack" at spinning; but the older she grew, the less time she had for play. Her mother, though very kind to her children, did not seem to think it made much difference whether they played or not. She never praised Patty; but once the little girl overheard her telling some ladies that her youngest daughter was a "natural worker," and "the smartest child she had." Of course that pleased Patty very much, and afterwards she was brisker than ever.
Her stint was three skeins of cotton a day; and sometimes, when she was spinning it, Linda Chase would come up in the chamber and look on. Linda could not draw a thread without pulling the cotton all to pieces, and it amazed her to see Patty's spindle whirl so fast; for it went at a wonderful rate, especially when any one was looking on.
"I'm spinning warp for my new gown," said Patty; "and Rachel is going to weave it."
"What color will it be?"
"Blue and copperas, in little checks," replied Patty.
Linda knew what copperas color was,—it was a dull yellow.
"'Twill only be for me to go to school in," explained Patty. "I shall have it for my not-very-best. By and by I'm going to learn how to spin linen on that little flax-wheel, and Rachel will weave me some table-cloths, and sheets, and pillow-cases, just as she does for Dorcas. Guess why she weaves them for Dorcas."
"I'm sure I can't guess. Because she wants to, I suppose."
"Look here—it's a secret. Dorcas is going to be married by and by, and that is the reason Mr. Starbird comes here on that white-faced horse. He doesn't come to see the rest of us; he comes to see Dorcas."
Patty stopped her wheel in her eagerness.
"Yes; and you know, when I was a little speck of a girl, I spilled some hot tallow over, and burnt his hand; and he says that is the reason he is going to marry Dorcas."
"What! because you burnt his hand?"
"Yes. I don't see why that made him like Dorcas," said Patty, reflectively; "but that's what he said. And then I shall have eight brothers; won't it be nice?"
"Does Betsey Potter know?"
"Yes. I told her."
"Well, I should have thought you might have told me first," said Linda, pouting. "I don't like it very well to have you tell me last."
"O, I told Betsey first because she came first. I never heard of it myself till this morning," said Patty, innocently.
She was never known to keep a secret twenty-four hours.
The idea of a wedding in the family was perfectly delightful to the little girl, and after this she used to watch for Mr. Starbird every third week, just as regularly as Dorcas did, and was almost as much pleased when she saw him coming on his white-faced horse.
It was so nice to think of having more brothers; for as yet poor Patty had only seven!
THE BRASS KETTLE.
There was a great time that year preparing for Thanksgiving. It seemed as if the tall clock had never ticked so fast before, nor the full moon smiled down from the top of it with such a jolly face.
"It's going to be what you may call a sort of a double Thanksgiving," said Moses.
"Why?" asked Patty. "Because there'll be double turkeys and double puddings?"
"No, Patty Lyman! Don't you remember what's going to happen before dinner?"
"O, you mean the wedding! I knew that ever so long ago."
Patty had heard of it the day before.
"Equal to Fourth of July and training-day put together," remarked Moses, snatching a handful of raisins out of the bowl Mary held in her lap.
"Yes," said Patty, leaving off her spice-pounding long enough to clap her hands; "it's splendid!"
"I don't see how you can say so," said the thoughtful Mary, "when our dear sister Dorcas is going 'way off, and never'll live at home any more!"
"Yes, I know it," responded Patty, looking as serious as she could, for Mary was wiping her eyes on her apron. "It's dreadful! O, how bad I feel!"
The kitchen was so full you could hardly turn around. Everybody was there but Dorcas, and she was finishing off her wedding-dress. Mrs. Lyman was stuffing two large turkeys; Betsey was making brown bread; Moses chopping mince-meat; and those who had nothing else to do were talking. Aunt Hannah was there, helping Rachel make the wedding-cake; but the trouble was with aunt Hannah that she couldn't come without bringing her baby; and there he was, rolling about the floor like a soft bundle of yellow flannel—a nice, fat baby, with a ruffled cap on his head. He was named Job, after his father, who had borne that name through a long life, and been very patient about it.
"Now, Patty," said Rachel, "I see you've stopped pounding cloves, and I wish you'd take care of this baby; he is rolling up towards the molasses jug, and will tip it over next thing he does."
Patty had only stopped pounding for half a minute. It seemed to her that her right hand always had a mortar-pestle in it. She ran now to get some playthings for Job—a string of earthen-ware beads, and a pewter plate to hold them when he should break the string; and a squash-shell, filled with peas,—just as good as a rattle, let me tell you. Then she sat on the floor, making baby-talk with the little creature, who has since that been somebody's grandfather.
Patty always meant well, and now she was really able to help a great deal. At ten years old she was quite a tall girl, though what the country-folks called rather "slim." Her dress was made of thick cotton and woollen goods, all rough with little knobs,—the same Rachel had woven in "blue and copperas checks."
Patty soon tired of amusing Job. She wanted to do something of more importance.
"I should think I might chop mince-meat instead of you, Moses. There, now, you're getting it so fine 'twill be poison."
Aunt Hannah heard that and laughed.
"That child takes everything in earnest," said she. "I told Moses if he got the mince-meat too fine, 'twould be poisonous; but I never saw any mince-meat that was too fine—did you, Rachel?"
"Mary," said Mrs. Lyman, "if you please, you may poke up the coals now. George, you'll have to move round, and let her get to the oven."
"I'll attend to it myself," said George, rising from his chair, at one end of the big fireplace, and stirring the glowing coals in the brick oven with the hard-wood "poking-stick."
"Now, if you'll all keep still," said James, "I'll read you something from the newspaper."
Moses dropped his chopping-knife, Mary looked frightened, and Patty stopped shaking the squash-shell. They knew it would never do to make a noise while James was reading.
"My son, my son," pleaded Mrs. Lyman, turning round from her turkey, and shaking her darning-needle at him, "you wouldn't try to read in all this confusion? Wait till we get a little over our hurry. Go to the end-cupboard, and fetch me a couple of good, stout strings; I want these turkeys all ready to tie on the nails."
She was going to roast them before the fire. That was the way they cooked turkeys in old times.
"And, Betsey," said Mrs. Lyman, "you may as well go to work on the doughnuts. Make half a bushel or more."
"What about the riz bread?" said Betsey.
"I should think a dozen loaves would be enough," replied Mrs. Lyman, who was now beginning to make a suet pudding.
You see they meant to have plenty of food, for beside their own large family, they expected twenty or thirty guests to dinner day after to-morrow.
"O, mother!" exclaimed Mary, "I'm afraid you're not making that pudding thick enough. Siller Noonin says the pudding-stick ought to stand alone."
"Priscilla is thinking of the old Connecticut Blue Laws about mush," replied Mrs. Lyman, smiling; "we don't mind the blue laws up here in Maine. And this isn't mush, either; it's suet pudding.—Solomon, my son, you may go into the shed-chamber, and bring me a bag of hops; we must have some beer starting."
Betsey swung the frying-kettle on the crane, and had just turned away, when the baby crept up, and tipped over sick George's basin of pussy-willow and cider, which was steeping in one corner of the fireplace. There was no harm done, only Job lost his patience, and cried, and for five minutes there was a perfect Bedlam of baby-screams, chopping-knives, and mortar-pestles, and in the midst of it, the sound of the hired men winnowing grain in the barn.
But there could hardly be too much noise for Patty. I presume she was never happier in her life than on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving; but Wednesday came, and it rained in torrents.
"Will they be married if it doesn't clear off?" said she.
"You do ask the funniest questions," replied Rachel. "Just as if Mr. Starbird would stay away from his own wedding on account of the weather!"
It rained all night; but Thursday morning the sun came rushing through the clouds, his face all aglow with smiles, and put an end to such dismal business. Patty looked out of the window, and watched the clouds scampering away to hide, and whispered in her heart to the little birds that were left in the maple trees,—
"How kind God is to give us a good wedding-day!"
About ten o'clock the guests began to come, and among the first was Mr. Starbird. Patty had never seen him look so fine as he did when he stood up with her dear sister Dorcas to be married. He wore a blue coat, and a beautiful ruffled shirt, and his shoe-buckles—so Moses said—were of solid silver. Why he needed gloves in the house, Patty could not imagine; but there they were on his hands,—white kids at that.
Dorcas was quite as fine as the bridegroom. She had no veil, but her high-topped comb sat on her head like a crown, and there was a wonderfully rich stomacher of embroidered lace in the neck of her dress. Such a dress! It shimmered in the sun like a dove's wings, for it was of changeable silk, the costliest affair, Patty thought, that a bride ever wore. It was fastened at the back like a little girl's frock, and the waist was no longer than the waist of a baby's slip.
Patty took great pride in looking at her beautiful sister, from the top of her shell comb to the tips of her white slippers, which were just the size of Patty's own.
The ceremony was as long as a common sermon; and it would have been longer yet, if Elder Lovejoy had been there to perform it. He was sick, and this man, who came in his place, did not speak in a sing-song tone; Patty was not sure it was quite right to do without that. He was young and diffident. Patty knew he trembled, for she could see his coat-flaps shake; and she can see them shake now, every time she thinks of the wedding.
There is something else she can see; and, as I don't believe you ever heard of such a thing, I must tell you.
After the dinner of turkeys, roast beef, mince pies, apple pies, pumpkin pies, plum and suet pudding, doughnuts, cheese, and every other good thing you can think of, the children went into the back room for a frolic. There were aunt Hannah's three oldest girls, and uncle Joshua's four big boys, William Parlin and his sister Love, and a few more.
While they were there, just beginning a game of blindfold, the bride came out in her travelling-dress, with her young husband, to say good by. Mary fell to crying, the twins had tears in their eyes, and it would have been a very sober time, if Rachel had not called out, in her brisk way,—
"All step round to the sides of the room, and let me have the middle!"
People always minded Rachel; so she had the floor at once, though no one could think what she meant to do, when she brought along a big brass kettle, the very one in which Patty had dipped those unfortunate candles, and set it upon a board, in the middle of the floor.
"Now, my friends," said she, courtesying, "you all know I am the oldest daughter, and it isn't fair that my younger sister should be married before I am; do you think it is?"
"No, no; not at all," said uncle Joshua's four boys, laughing.
"And I don't see," added Rachel, with another courtesy,—"I don't see how Mr. Starbird happened to make such a strange mistake as to choose Dorcas instead of me!"
"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Starbird, bowing very low, "I never'll do so again."
"But since the deed is done," said Rachel, "and cannot be undone, I shall be obliged to dance in the brass kettle. That's what ladies do whose younger sisters are married first."
Then, with quite a sober face, she mounted a wooden cricket, stepped into the kettle, and began to dance.
There was not room to take many steps; but she balanced herself very gracefully, and sung, keeping time with her feet.
Rachel was one of the brightest, wittiest young ladies in Perseverance, and this performance of hers amused the bride and bridegroom, and everybody else but little Patty. Patty took it all in earnest. She had never heard before of the funny ceremony of dancing in a brass kettle, and wondered if it had anything to do with those candles of hers.
"Mr. Starbird likes Dorcas better than he does Rachel," thought the little girl, "and that was why he asked her to marry him. I should think Rachel might know that! She says he made a mistake; but he didn't! If Rachel feels so bad, I shouldn't think she would tell of it. Poor Mr. Starbird! He'll be so sorry! and Dorcas will be so sorry! O, I wish Rachel hadn't told—"
"Why, Patty, what makes you look so sober?" asked William Parlin. "You look as if Master Purple had been feruling you."
But Patty was ashamed to let any one know the trouble in her mind; and after the bride and bridegroom had gone, she ran away by herself to cry; and that is all she remembers of the wedding.
* * * * *
"Is it really grandma Parlin you have been writing about?" says Prudy.
"It doesn't seem much like it; for here she sits, with her cap and spectacles on, knitting a stocking. Please take off your cap, grandma, so we can think how you looked when you were a little girl."
Mrs. Parlin took it off, but it didn't make any difference, for her hair was grayer still without the lace.
"That isn't the way, children," said aunt Madge; "you'll have to imagine how she looked; or, as Fly would say, you must make believe. Touch her hair with gold. There, see how it shines! Take off those spectacles; smooth out the wrinkles; make her face as soft as a rose-leaf, as soft as your face, Fly; dwindle her figure down, down, till she looks about ten years old. Now do you see her? Isn't she pretty? How the sparkles come and go in her eyes! Wouldn't you like to have a romp with her in the new-mown hay? For she hasn't any more rheumatism in her back than a butterfly. Her feet are dancing this minute in pink kid slippers with rosettes on them as big as poppies, and she wears a white muslinet gown, with a pink calico petticoat. Wasn't that the way she was dressed at the wedding, father Parlin?"
"How should I know?" replies grandpa. "I don't remember what she had on; but she was the spryest, prettiest little girl in town; and she hasn't a child—no, nor a grandchild either—that begins to be equal to her."
"Except Flyaway," cries Prudy; "you forget that Flyaway is just like her!"
* * * * *
This is not a bad place to leave our friends. I did intend to tell about another member of the circle; but I believe I will not, for I may put him into another story; that is, if you would like to hear about William Parlin,—I wonder if you would?—in a book we will call "LITTLE GRANDFATHER."