The Peterkin Papers
by Lucretia P Hale
Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse

Then came up another question,—of Elizabeth Eliza's trunk. If she stayed a few days she would need to carry something. It might be hot, and it might be cold. Just as soon as she carried her thin things she would need her heaviest wraps. You never could depend upon the weather. Even "Probabilities" got you no farther than to-day.

In an inspired moment Elizabeth Eliza bethought herself of the expressman. She would send her trunk by the express, and she left the table directly to go and pack it. Mrs. Peterkin busied herself with Amanda over the remains of the breakfast. Mr. Peterkin and Agamemnon went to order the horse and the expressman, and Solomon John and the little boys prepared themselves for a pedestrian excursion.

Elizabeth Eliza found it difficult to pack in a hurry; there were so many things she might want, and then again she might not. She must put up her music, because her grandfather had a piano; and then she bethought herself of Agamemnon's flute, and decided to pick out a volume or two of the Encyclopaedia. But it was hard to decide, all by herself, whether to take G for griddle-cakes, or M for maple-syrup, or T for tree. She would take as many as she could make room for. She put up her work-box and two extra work-baskets, and she must take some French books she had never yet found time to read. This involved taking her French dictionary, as she doubted if her grandfather had one. She ought to put in a "Botany," if they were to study trees; but she could not tell which, so she would take all there were. She might as well take all her dresses, and it was no harm if one had too many wraps. When she had her trunk packed she found it over-full; it was difficult to shut it. She had heard Solomon John set out from the front door with his father and the little boys, and Agamemnon was busy holding the horse at the side door, so there was no use in calling for help. She got upon the trunk; she jumped upon it; she sat down upon it, and, leaning over, found she could lock it! Yes, it was really locked.

But, on getting down from the trunk, she found her dress had been caught in the lid; she could not move away from it! What was worse, she was so fastened to the trunk that she could not lean forward far enough to turn the key back, to unlock the trunk and release herself! The lock had slipped easily, but she could not now get hold of the key in the right way to turn it back.

She tried to pull her dress away. No, it was caught too firmly. She called for help to her mother or Amanda, to come and open the trunk. But her door was shut. Nobody near enough to hear! She tried to pull the trunk toward the door, to open it and make herself heard; but it was so heavy that, in her constrained position, she could not stir it. In her agony she would have been willing to have torn her dress; but it was her travelling dress, and too stout to tear. She might cut it carefully. Alas, she had packed her scissors, and her knife she had lent to the little boys the day before! She called again. What silence there was in the house! Her voice seemed to echo through the room. At length, as she listened, she heard the sound of wheels.

Was it the carriage, rolling away from the side door? Did she hear the front door shut? She remembered then that Amanda was to "have the day." But she, Elizabeth Eliza, was to have spoken to Amanda, to explain to her to wait for the expressman. She was to have told her as she went downstairs. But she had not been able to go downstairs! And Amanda must have supposed that all the family had left, and she, too, must have gone, knowing nothing of the expressman. Yes, she heard the wheels! She heard the front door shut!

But could they have gone without her? Then she recalled that she had proposed walking on a little way with Solomon John and her father, to be picked up by Mrs. Peterkin, if she should have finished her packing in time. Her mother must have supposed that she had done so,—that she had spoken to Amanda, and started with the rest. Well, she would soon discover her mistake. She would overtake the walking party, and, not finding Elizabeth Eliza, would return for her. Patience only was needed. She had looked around for something to read; but she had packed up all her books. She had packed her knitting. How quiet and still it was! She tried to imagine where her mother would meet the rest of the family. They were good walkers, and they might have reached the two-mile bridge. But suppose they should stop for water beneath the arch of the bridge, as they often did, and the carryall pass over it without seeing them, her mother would not know but she was with them? And suppose her mother should decide to leave the horse at the place proposed for stopping and waiting for the first pedestrian party, and herself walk on, no one would be left to tell the rest when they should come up to the carryall. They might go on so, through the whole journey, without meeting, and she might not be missed till they should reach her grandfather's!

Horrible thought! She would be left here alone all day. The expressman would come, but the expressman would go, for he would not be able to get into the house!

She thought of the terrible story of Ginevra, of the bride who was shut up in her trunk, and forever! She was shut up on hers, and knew not when she should be released! She had acted once in the ballad of the "Mistletoe Bough." She had been one of the "guests," who had sung "Oh, the Mistletoe Bough!" and had looked up at it, and she had seen at the side-scenes how the bride had laughingly stepped into the trunk. But the trunk then was only a make-believe of some boards in front of a sofa, and this was a stern reality.

It would be late now before her family would reach her grandfather's. Perhaps they would decide to spend the night. Perhaps they would fancy she was coming by express. She gave another tremendous effort to move the trunk toward the door. In vain. All was still.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Peterkin sat some time at the door, wondering why Elizabeth Eliza did not come down. Mr. Peterkin had started on, with Solomon John and all the little boys. Agamemnon had packed the things into the carriage,—a basket of lunch, a change of shoes for Mr. Peterkin, some extra wraps,—everything that Mrs. Peterkin could think of for the family comfort. Still Elizabeth Eliza did not come. "I think she must have walked on with your father," she said, at last; "you had better get in." Agamemnon now got in. "I should think she would have mentioned it," she continued; "but we may as well start on, and pick her up!" They started off. "I hope Elizabeth Eliza thought to speak to Amanda, but we must ask her when we come up with her."

But they did not come up with Elizabeth Eliza. At the turn beyond the village they found an envelope stuck up in an inviting manner against a tree. In this way they had agreed to leave missives for each other as they passed on. This note informed them that the walking party was going to take the short cut across the meadows, and would still be in front of them. They saw the party at last, just beyond the short cut; but Mr. Peterkin was explaining the character of the oak-tree to his children as they stood around a large specimen.

"I suppose he is telling them that it is some kind of a 'Quercus,'" said Agamemnon, thoughtfully.

Mrs. Peterkin thought Mr. Peterkin would scarcely use such an expression; but she could see nothing of Elizabeth Eliza. Some of the party, however, were behind the tree, some were in front, and Elizabeth Eliza might be behind the tree. They were too far off to be shouted at. Mrs. Peterkin was calmed, and went on to the stopping-place agreed upon, which they reached before long. This had been appointed near Farmer Gordon's barn, that there might be somebody at hand whom they knew, in case there should be any difficulty in untying the horse. The plan had been that Mrs. Peterkin should always sit in the carriage, while the others should take turns for walking; and Agamemnon tied the horse to a fence, and left her comfortably arranged with her knitting. Indeed, she had risen so early to prepare for the alphabetical breakfast, and had since been so tired with preparations, that she was quite sleepy, and would not object to a nap in the shade, by the soothing sound of the buzzing of the flies. But she called Agamemnon back, as he started off for his solitary walk, with a perplexing question:—

"Suppose the rest all should arrive, how could they now be accommodated in the carryall? It would be too much for the horse! Why had Elizabeth Eliza gone with the rest without counting up? Of course, they must have expected that she—Mrs. Peterkin—would walk on to the next stopping-place!"

She decided there was no way but for her to walk on. When the rest passed her they might make a change. So she put up her knitting cheerfully. It was a little joggly in the carriage, she had already found, for the horse was restless from the flies, and she did not like being left alone.

She walked on then with Agamemnon. It was very pleasant at first, but the sun became hot, and it was not long before she was fatigued. When they reached a hay-field she proposed going in to rest upon one of the hay-cocks. The largest and most shady was at the other end of the field, and they were seated there when the carryall passed them in the road. Mrs. Peterkin waved parasol and hat, and the party in the carryall returned their greetings; but they were too far apart to hear each other.

Mrs. Peterkin and Agamemnon slowly resumed their walk.

"Well, we shall find Elizabeth Eliza in the carryall," she said, "and that will explain all."

But it took them an hour or two to reach the carryall, with frequent stoppings for rest, and when they reached it no one was in it. A note was pinned up in the vehicle to say they had all walked on; it was "prime fun."

In this way the parties continued to dodge each other, for Mrs. Peterkin felt that she must walk on from the next station, and the carryall missed her again while she and Agamemnon stopped in a house to rest, and for a glass of water. She reached the carryall to find again that no one was in it. The party had passed on for the last station, where it had been decided all should meet at the foot of grandfather's hill, that they might all arrive at the house together. Mrs. Peterkin and Agamemnon looked out eagerly for the party all the way, as Elizabeth Eliza must be tired by this time; but Mrs. Peterkin's last walk had been so slow that the other party were far in advance and reached the stopping-place before them. The little boys were all rowed out on the stone fence, awaiting them, full of delight at having reached grandfather's. Mr. Peterkin came forward to meet them, and, at the same moment with Mrs. Peterkin, exclaimed: "Where is Elizabeth Eliza?" Each party looked eagerly at the other; no Elizabeth Eliza was to be seen. Where was she? What was to be done? Was she left behind? Mrs. Peterkin was convinced she must have somehow got to grandfather's. They hurried up the hill. Grandfather and all the family came out to greet them, for they had been seen approaching. There was great questioning, but no Elizabeth Eliza!

It was sunset; the view was wide and fine. Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin stood and looked out from the north to the south. Was it too late to send back for Elizabeth Eliza? Where was she?

Meanwhile the little boys had been informing the family of the object of their visit, and while Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin were looking up and down the road, and Agamemnon and Solomon John were explaining to each other the details of their journeys, they had discovered some facts.

"We shall have to go back," they exclaimed. "We are too late! The maple-syrup was all made last spring."

"We are too early; we shall have to stay two or three months,—the cider is not made till October."

The expedition was a failure! They could study the making of neither maple-syrup nor cider, and Elizabeth Eliza was lost, perhaps forever! The sun went down, and Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin still stood to look up and down the road.

* * * * *

Elizabeth Eliza, meanwhile, had sat upon her trunk as it seemed, for ages. She recalled all the terrible stories of prisoners,—how they had watched the growth of flowers through cracks in the pavement. She wondered how long she could live without eating. How thankful she was for her abundant breakfast!

At length she heard the door-bell. But who could go to the door to answer it? In vain did she make another effort to escape; it was impossible!

How singular!—there were footsteps. Some one was going to the door; some one had opened it. "They must be burglars." Well, perhaps that was a better fate—to be gagged by burglars, and the neighbors informed—than to be forever locked on her trunk. The steps approached the door. It opened, and Amanda ushered in the expressman.

Amanda had not gone. She had gathered, while waiting at the breakfast-table, that there was to be an expressman whom she must receive.

Elizabeth Eliza explained the situation. The expressman turned the key of her trunk, and she was released!

What should she do next? So long a time had elapsed she had given up all hope of her family returning for her. But how could she reach them?

She hastily prevailed upon the expressman to take her along until she should come up with some of the family. At least she would fall in with either the walking party or the carryall, or she would meet them if they were on their return.

She mounted the seat with the expressman, and slowly they took their way, stopping for occasional parcels as they left the village.

But, much to Elizabeth Eliza's dismay, they turned off from the main road on leaving the village. She remonstrated, but the driver insisted he must go round by Millikin's to leave a bedstead. They went round by Millikin's, and then had further turns to make. Elizabeth Eliza explained that in this way it would be impossible for her to find her parents and family, and at last he proposed to take her all the way with her trunk. She remembered with a shudder that when she had first asked about her trunk he had promised it should certainly be delivered the next morning. Suppose they should have to be out all night? Where did express-carts spend the night? She thought of herself in a lone wood, in an express-wagon! She could scarcely bring herself to ask, before assenting, when he should arrive.

"He guessed he could bring up before night."

And so it happened that as Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin in the late sunset were looking down the hill, wondering what they should do about the lost Elizabeth Eliza, they saw an express wagon approaching. A female form sat upon the front seat.

"She has decided to come by express," said Mrs. Peterkin. "It is—it is—Elizabeth Eliza!"


The Peterkins were in quite a muddle (for them) about the carnival of authors, to be given in Boston. As soon as it was announced, their interests were excited, and they determined that all the family should go.

But they conceived a wrong idea of the entertainment, as they supposed that every one must go in costume. Elizabeth Eliza thought their lessons in the foreign languages would help them much in conversing in character.

As the carnival was announced early Solomon John thought there would be time to read up everything written by all the authors, in order to be acquainted with the characters they introduced. Mrs. Peterkin did not wish to begin too early upon the reading, for she was sure she should forget all that the different authors had written before the day came.

But Elizabeth Eliza declared that she should hardly have time enough, as it was, to be acquainted with all the authors. She had given up her French lessons, after taking six, for want of time, and had, indeed, concluded she had learned in them all she should need to know of that language. She could repeat one or two pages of phrases, and she was astonished to find how much she could understand already of what the French teacher said to her; and he assured her that when she went to Paris she could at least ask the price of gloves, or of some other things she would need, and he taught her, too, how to pronounce "garcon," in calling for more.

Agamemnon thought that different members of the family might make themselves familiar with different authors; the little boys were already acquainted with "Mother Goose." Mr. Peterkin had read the "Pickwick Papers," and Solomon John had actually seen Mr. Longfellow getting into a horse-car.

Elizabeth Eliza suggested that they might ask the Turk to give lectures upon the "Arabian Nights." Everybody else was planning something of the sort, to "raise funds" for some purpose, and she was sure they ought not to be behindhand. Mrs. Peterkin approved of this. It would be excellent if they could raise funds enough to pay for their own tickets to the carnival; then they could go every night.

Elizabeth Eliza was uncertain. She thought it was usual to use the funds for some object. Mr. Peterkin said that if they gained funds enough they might arrange a booth of their own, and sit in it, and take the carnival comfortably. But Agamemnon reminded him that none of the family were authors, and only authors had booths. Solomon John, indeed, had once started upon writing a book, but he was not able to think of anything to put in it, and nothing had occurred to him yet.

Mr. Peterkin urged him to make one more effort. If his book could come out before the carnival he could go as an author, and might have a booth of his own, and take his family.

But Agamemnon declared it would take years to become an author. You might indeed publish something, but you had to make sure that it would be read. Mrs. Peterkin, on the other hand, was certain that libraries were filled with books that never were read, yet authors had written them. For herself, she had not read half the books in their own library. And she was glad there was to be a Carnival of Authors, that she might know, who they were.

Mr. Peterkin did not understand why they called them a "Carnival"; but he supposed they should find out when they went to it.

Mrs. Peterkin still felt uncertain about costumes. She proposed looking over the old trunks in the garret. They would find some suitable dresses there, and these would suggest what characters they should take. Elizabeth Eliza was pleased with this thought. She remembered an old turban of white mull muslin, in an old bandbox, and why should not her mother wear it?

Mrs. Peterkin supposed that she should then go as her own grandmother.

Agamemnon did not approve of this. Turbans are now worn in the East, and Mrs. Peterkin could go in some Eastern character. Solomon John thought she might be Cleopatra, and this was determined on. Among the treasures found were some old bonnets, of large size, with waving plumes. Elizabeth Eliza decided upon the largest of these.

She was tempted to appear as Mrs. Columbus, as Solomon John was to take the character of Christopher Columbus; but he was planning to enter upon the stage in a boat, and Elizabeth Eliza was a little afraid of sea-sickness, as he had arranged to be a great while finding the shore.

Solomon John had been led to take this character by discovering a coal-hod that would answer for a helmet; then, as Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, he could use the phrases in Italian he had lately learned of his teacher.

As the day approached the family had their costumes prepared.

Mr. Peterkin decided to be Peter the Great. It seemed to him a happy thought, for the few words of Russian he had learned would come in play, and he was quite sure that his own family name made him kin to that of the great Czar. He studied up the life in the Encyclopaedia, and decided to take the costume of a ship-builder. He visited the navy-yard and some of the docks; but none of them gave him the true idea of dress for ship-building in Holland or St. Petersburg. But he found a picture of Peter the Great, representing him in a broad-brimmed hat. So he assumed one that he found at a costumer's, and with Elizabeth Eliza's black water-proof was satisfied with his own appearance.

Elizabeth Eliza wondered if she could not go with her father in some Russian character. She would have to lay aside her large bonnet, but she had seen pictures of Russian ladies, with fur muffs on their heads, and she might wear her own muff.

Mrs. Peterkin, as Cleopatra, wore the turban, with a little row of false curls in front, and a white embroidered muslin shawl crossed over her black silk dress. The little boys thought she looked much like the picture of their great-grandmother. But doubtless Cleopatra resembled this picture, as it was all so long ago, so the rest of the family decided.

Agamemnon determined to go as Noah. The costume, as represented in one of the little boys' arks, was simple. His father's red-lined dressing gown, turned inside out, permitted it easily.

Elizabeth Eliza was now anxious to be Mrs. Shem, and make a long dress of yellow flannel, and appear with Agamemnon find the little boys. For the little boys were to represent two doves and a raven. There were feather-dusters enough in the family for their costumes, which would be then complete with their india-rubber boots.

Solomon John carried out in detail his idea of Christopher Columbus. He had a number of eggs boiled hard to take in his pocket, proposing to repeat, through the evening, the scene of setting the egg on its end. He gave up the plan of a boat, as it must be difficult to carry one into town; so he contented himself by practising the motion of landing by stepping up on a chair.

But what scene could Elizabeth Eliza carry out? If they had an ark, as Mrs. Shem she might crawl in and out of the roof constantly, if it were not too high. But Mr. Peterkin thought it as difficult to take an ark into town as Solomon John's boat.

The evening came. But with all their preparations they got to the hall late. The entrance was filled with a crowd of people, and, as they stopped at the cloak-room, to leave their wraps, they found themselves entangled with a number of people in costume coming out from a dressing-room below. Mr. Peterkin was much encouraged. They were thus joining the performers. The band was playing the "Wedding March" as they went upstairs to a door of the hall which opened upon one side of the stage. Here a procession was marching up the steps of the stage, all in costume, and entering behind the scenes.

"We are just in the right time," whispered Mr. Peterkin to his family; "they are going upon the stage; we must fall into line."

The little boys had their feather-dusters ready.

Some words from one of the managers made Mr. Peterkin understand the situation.

"We are going to be introduced to Mr. Dickens," he said.

"I thought he was dead!" exclaimed Mrs. Peterkin, trembling.

"Authors live forever!" said Agamemnon in her ear.

At this moment they were ushered upon the stage.

The stage manager glared at them, as he awaited their names for introduction, while they came up all unannounced,—a part of the programme not expected. But he uttered the words upon his lips, "Great Expectations;" and the Peterkin family swept across the stage with the rest: Mr. Peterkin costumed as Peter the Great, Mrs. Peterkin as Cleopatra, Agamemnon as Noah, Solomon John as Christopher Columbus, Elizabeth Eliza in yellow flannel as Mrs. Shem, with a large, old-fashioned bonnet on her head as Mrs. Columbus, and the little boys behind as two doves and a raven.

Across the stage, in face of all the assembled people, then following the rest down the stairs on the other side, in among the audience, they went; but into an audience not dressed in costume!

There were Ann Maria Bromwick and the Osbornes,—all the neighbors,—all as natural as though they were walking the streets at home, though Ann Maria did wear white gloves.

"I had no idea you were to appear in character," said Ann Maria to Elizabeth Eliza; "to what booth do you belong?"

"We are no particular author," said Mr. Peterkin.

"Ah, I see, a sort of varieties' booth," said Mr. Osborne.

"What is your character?" asked Ann Maria of Elizabeth Eliza.

"I have not quite decided," said Elizabeth Eliza. "I thought I should find out after I came here. The marshal called us? 'Great Expectations.'"

Mrs. Peterkin was at the summit of bliss. "I have shaken hands with Dickens!" she exclaimed.

But she looked round to ask the little boys if they, too, had shaken hands with the great man, but not a little boy could she find.

They had been swept off in Mother Goose's train, which had lingered on the steps to see the Dickens reception, with which the procession of characters in costume had closed. At this moment they were dancing round the barberry bush, in a corner of the balcony in Mother Goose's quarters, their feather-dusters gayly waving in the air.

But Mrs. Peterkin, far below, could not see this, and consoled herself with the thought, they should all meet on the stage in the grand closing tableau. She was bewildered by the crowds which swept her hither and thither. At last she found herself in the Whittier Booth, and sat a long time calmly there. As Cleopatra she seemed out of place, but as her own grandmother she answered well with its New England scenery.

Solomon John wandered about, landing in America whenever he found a chance to enter a booth. Once before an admiring audience he set up his egg in the centre of the Goethe Booth, which had been deserted by its committee for the larger stage.

Agamemnon frequently stood in the background of scenes in the Arabian Nights.

It was with difficulty that the family could be repressed from going on the stage whenever the bugle sounded for the different groups represented there.

Elizabeth Eliza came near appearing in the "Dream of Fair Women," at its most culminating point.

Mr. Peterkin found himself with the "Cricket on the Hearth," in the Dickens Booth. He explained that he was Peter the Great, but always in the Russian language, which was never understood.

Elizabeth Eliza found herself, in turn, in all the booths. Every manager was puzzled by her appearance, and would send her to some other, and she passed along, always trying to explain that she had not yet decided upon her character.

Mr. Peterkin came and took Cleopatra from the Whittier Booth.

"I cannot understand," he said, "why none of our friends are dressed in costume, and why we are."

"I rather like it," said Elizabeth Eliza, "though I should be better pleased if I could form a group with some one."

The strains of the minuet began. Mrs. Peterkin was anxious to join the performers. It was the dance of her youth.

But she was delayed by one of the managers on the steps that led to the stage.

"I cannot understand this company," he said, distractedly.

"They cannot find their booth," said another.

"That is the case," said Mr. Peterkin, relieved to have it stated.

"Perhaps you had better pass into the corridor," said a polite marshal.

They did this, and, walking across, found themselves in the refreshment-room. "This is the booth for us," said Mr. Peterkin.

"Indeed it is," said Mrs. Peterkin, sinking into a chair, exhausted.

At this moment two doves and a raven appeared,—the little boys, who had been dancing eagerly in Mother Goose's establishment, and now came down for ice-cream.

"I hardly know how to sit down," said Elizabeth Eliza, "for I am sure Mrs. Shem never could. Still, as I do not know if I am Mrs. Shem, I will venture it."

Happily, seats were to be found for all, and they were soon arranged in a row, calmly eating ice-cream.

"I think the truth is," said Mr. Peterkin, "that we represent historical people, and we ought to have been fictitious characters in books. That is, I observe, what the others are. We shall know better another time."

"If we only ever get home," said Mrs. Peterkin, "I shall not wish to come again. It seems like being on the stage, sitting in a booth, and it is so bewildering, Elizabeth Eliza not knowing who she is, and going round and round in this way."

"I am afraid we shall never reach home," said Agamemnon, who had been silent for some time; "we may have to spend the night here. I find I have lost our checks for our clothes in the cloak-room!"

"Spend the night in a booth, in Cleopatra's turban!" exclaimed Mrs. Peterkin.

"We should like to come every night," cried the little boys.

"But to spend the night," repeated Mrs. Peterkin.

"I conclude the Carnival keeps up all night," said Mr. Peterkin.

"But never to recover our cloaks," said Mrs. Peterkin; "could not the little boys look round for the checks on the floors?"

She began to enumerate the many valuable things that they might never see again. She had worn her large fur cape of stone-marten,—her grandmother's,—that Elizabeth Eliza had been urging her to have made into a foot-rug. Now how she wished she had! And there were Mr. Peterkin's new overshoes, and Agamemnon had brought an umbrella, and the little boys had their mittens. Their india-rubber boots, fortunately, they had on, in the character of birds. But Solomon John had worn a fur cap, and Elizabeth Eliza a muff. Should they lose all these valuables entirely, and go home in the cold without them? No, it would be better to wait till everybody had gone, and then look carefully over the floors for the checks; if only the little boys could know where Agamemnon had been, they were willing to look. Mr. Peterkin was not sure as they would have time to reach the train. Still, they would need something to wear, and he could not tell the time. He had not brought his watch. It was a Waltham watch, and he thought it would not be in character for Peter the Great to wear it.

At this moment the strains of "Home, Sweet Home" were heard from the band, and people were seen preparing to go.

"All can go home, but we must stay," said Mrs. Peterkin, gloomily, as the well-known strains floated in from the larger hall.

A number of marshals came to the refreshment-room, looked at them, whispered to each other, as the Peterkins sat in a row.

"Can we do anything for you?" asked one at last. "Would you not like to go?" He seemed eager they should leave the room.

Mr. Peterkin explained that they could not go, as they had lost the checks for their wraps, and hoped to find their checks on the floor when everybody was gone. The marshal asked if they could not describe what they had worn, in which case the loss of the checks was not so important, as the crowds had now almost left, and it would not be difficult to identify their wraps. Mrs. Peterkin eagerly declared she could describe every article.

It was astonishing how the marshals hurried them through the quickly deserted corridors, how gladly they recovered their garments! Mrs. Peterkin, indeed, was disturbed by the eagerness of the marshals; she feared they had some pretext for getting the family out of the hall. Mrs. Peterkin was one of those who never consent to be forced to anything. She would not be compelled to go home, even with strains of music. She whispered her suspicions to Mr. Peterkin; but Agamemnon came hastily up to announce the time, which he had learned from the clock in the large hall. They must leave directly if they wished to catch the latest train, as there was barely time to reach it.

Then, indeed, was Mrs. Peterkin ready to leave. If they should miss the train! If she should have to pass the night in the streets in her turban! She was the first to lead the way, and, panting, the family followed her, just in time to take the train as it was leaving the station.

The excitement was not yet over. They found in the train many of their friends and neighbors, returning also from the Carnival; so they had many questions put to them which they were unable to answer. Still Mrs. Peterkin's turban was much admired, and indeed the whole appearance of the family; so that they felt themselves much repaid for their exertions.

But more adventures awaited them. They left the train with their friends; but as Mrs. Peterkin and Elizabeth Eliza were very tired, they walked very slowly, and Solomon John and the little boys were sent on with the pass-key to open the door. They soon returned with the startling intelligence that it was not the right key, and they could not get in. It was Mr. Peterkin's office-key; he had taken it by mistake, or he might have dropped the house-key in the cloak-room of the Carnival.

"Must we go back?" sighed Mrs. Peterkin, in an exhausted voice. More than ever did Elizabeth Eliza regret that Agamemnon's invention in keys had failed to secure a patent!

It was impossible to get into the house, for Amanda had been allowed to go and spend the night with a friend, so there was no use in ringing, though the little boys had tried it.

"We can return to the station," said Mr. Peterkin; "the rooms will be warm, on account of the midnight train. We can, at least, think what we shall do next."

At the station was one of their neighbors, proposing to take the New York midnight train, for it was now after eleven, and the train went through at half-past.

"I saw lights at the locksmith's over the way, as I passed," he said; "why do not you send over to the young man there? He can get your door open for you. I never would spend the night here."

Solomon John went over to "the young man," who agreed to go up to the house as soon as he had closed the shop, fit a key, and open the door, and come back to them on his way home. Solomon John came back to the station, for it was now cold and windy in the deserted streets. The family made themselves as comfortable as possible by the stove, sending Solomon John out occasionally to look for the young man. But somehow Solomon John missed him; the lights were out in the locksmith's shop, so he followed along to the house, hoping to find him there. But he was not there! He came back to report. Perhaps the young man had opened the door and gone on home. Solomon John and Agamemnon went back together, but they could not get in. Where was the young man? He had lately come to town, and nobody knew where he lived, for on the return of Solomon John and Agamemnon it had been proposed to go to the house of the young man. The night was wearing on. The midnight train had come and gone. The passengers who came and went looked with wonder at Mrs. Peterkin, nodding in her turban, as she sat by the stove, on a corner of a long bench. At last the station-master had to leave, for a short rest. He felt obliged to lock up the station, but he promised to return at an early hour to release them.

"Of what use," said Elizabeth Eliza, "if we cannot even then get into our own house?"

Mr. Peterkin thought the matter appeared bad, if the locksmith had left town. He feared the young man might have gone in, and helped himself to spoons, and left. Only they should have seen him if he had taken the midnight train. Solomon John thought he appeared honest. Mr. Peterkin only ventured to whisper his suspicions, as he did not wish to arouse Mrs. Peterkin, who still was nodding in the corner of the long bench.

Morning did come at last. The family decided to go to their home; perhaps by some effort in the early daylight they might make an entrance.

On the way they met with the night-policeman, returning from his beat. He stopped when he saw the family.

"Ah! that accounts," he said; "you were all out last night, and the burglars took occasion to make a raid on your house. I caught a lively young man in the very act; box of tools in his hand! If I had been a minute late he would have made his way in"—

The family then tried to interrupt—to explain—

"Where is he?" exclaimed Mr. Peterkin.

"Safe in the lock-up," answered the policeman.

"But he is the locksmith!" interrupted Solomon John.

"We have no key!" said Elizabeth Eliza; "if you have locked up the locksmith we can never get in."

The policeman looked from one to the other, smiling slightly when he understood the case.

"The locksmith!" he exclaimed; "he is a new fellow, and I did not recognize him, and arrested him! Very well, I will go and let him out, that he may let you in!" and he hurried away, surprising the Peterkin family with what seemed like insulting screams of laughter.

"It seems to me a more serious case than it appears to him," said Mr. Peterkin.

Mrs. Peterkin did not understand it at all. Had burglars entered the house? Did the policeman say they had taken spoons? And why did he appear so pleased? She was sure the old silver teapot was locked up in the closet of their room. Slowly the family walked towards the house, and, almost as soon as they, the policeman appeared with the released locksmith, and a few boys from the street, who happened to be out early.

The locksmith was not in very good humor, and took ill the jokes of the policeman. Mr. Peterkin, fearing he might not consent to open the door, pressed into his hand a large sum of money. The door flew open; the family could go in. Amanda arrived at the same moment. There was hope of breakfast. Mrs. Peterkin staggered towards the stairs. "I shall never go to another Carnival!" she exclaimed.


Yes, at last they had reached the seaside, after much talking and deliberation, and summer after summer the journey had been constantly postponed.

But here they were at last, at the "Old Farm," so called, where seaside attractions had been praised in all the advertisements. And here they were to meet the Sylvesters, who knew all about the place, cousins of Ann Maria Bromwick. Elizabeth Eliza was astonished not to find them there, though she had not expected Ann Maria to join them till the very next day.

Their preparations had been so elaborate that at one time the whole thing had seemed hopeless; yet here they all were. Their trunks, to be sure, had not arrived; but the wagon was to be sent back for them, and, wonderful to tell, they had all their hand-baggage safe.

Agamemnon had brought his Portable Electrical Machine and Apparatus, and the volumes of the Encyclopaedia that might tell him how to manage it, and Solomon John had his photograph camera. The little boys had used their india-rubber boots as portmanteaux, filling them to the brim, and carrying one in each hand,—a very convenient way for travelling they considered it; but they found on arriving (when they wanted to put their boots directly on, for exploration round the house), that it was somewhat inconvenient to have to begin to unpack directly, and scarcely room enough could be found for all the contents in the small chamber allotted to them.

There was no room in the house for the electrical machine and camera. Elizabeth Eliza thought the other boarders were afraid of the machine going off; so an out-house was found for them, where Agamemnon and Solomon John could arrange them.

Mrs. Peterkin was much pleased with the old-fashioned porch and low-studded rooms, though the sleeping-rooms seemed a little stuffy at first.

Mr. Peterkin was delighted with the admirable order in which the farm was evidently kept. From the first moment he arrived he gave himself to examining the well-stocked stables and barns, and the fields and vegetable gardens, which were shown to him by a highly intelligent person, a Mr. Atwood, who devoted himself to explaining to Mr. Peterkin all the details of methods in the farming.

The rest of the family were disturbed at being so far from the sea, when they found it would take nearly all the afternoon to reach the beach. The advertisements had surely stated that the "Old Farm" was directly on the shore, and that sea-bathing would be exceedingly convenient; which was hardly the case if it took you an hour and a half to walk to it.

Mr. Peterkin declared there were always such discrepancies between the advertisements of seaside places and the actual facts; but he was more than satisfied with the farm part, and was glad to remain and admire it, while the rest of the family went to find the beach, starting off in a wagon large enough to accommodate them, Agamemnon driving the one horse.

Solomon John had depended upon taking the photographs of the family in a row on the beach; but he decided not to take his camera out the first afternoon.

This was well, as the sun was already setting when they reached the beach.

"If this wagon were not so shaky," said Mrs. Peterkin, "we might drive over every morning for our bath. The road is very straight, and I suppose Agamemnon can turn on the beach."

"We should have to spend the whole day about it," said Solomon John, in a discouraged tone, "unless we can have a quicker horse."

"Perhaps we should prefer that," said Elizabeth Eliza, a little gloomily, "to staying at the house."

She had been a little disturbed to find there were not more elegant and fashionable-looking boarders at the farm, and she was disappointed that the Sylvesters had not arrived, who would understand the ways of the place. Yet, again, she was somewhat relieved, for if their trunks did not come till the next day, as was feared, she should have nothing but her travelling dress to wear, which would certainly answer for to-night.

She had been busy all the early summer in preparing her dresses for this very watering-place, and, as far as appeared, she would hardly need them, and was disappointed to have no chance to display them. But of course, when the Sylvesters and Ann Maria came, all would be different; but they would surely be wasted on the two old ladies she had seen, and on the old men who had lounged about the porch; there surely was not a gentleman among them.

Agamemnon assured her she could not tell at the seaside, as gentlemen wore their exercise dress, and took a pride in going around in shocking hats and flannel suits. Doubtless they would be dressed for dinner on their return.

On their arrival they had been shown to a room to have their meals by themselves, and could not decide whether they were eating dinner or lunch. There was a variety of meat, vegetables, and pie, that might come under either name; but Mr. and Mrs Peterkin were well pleased.

"I had no idea we should have really farm-fare," Mrs. Peterkin said. "I have not drunk such a tumbler of milk since I was young."

Elizabeth Eliza concluded they ought not to judge from a first meal, as evidently their arrival had not been fully prepared for, in spite of the numerous letters that had been exchanged.

The little boys were, however, perfectly satisfied from the moment of their arrival, and one of them had stayed at the farm, declining to go to the beach, as he wished to admire the pigs, cows, and horses; and all the way over to the beach the other little boys were hopping in and out of the wagon, which never went too fast, to pick long mullein-stalks, for whips to urge on the reluctant horse with, or to gather huckleberries, with which they were rejoiced to find the fields were filled, although, as yet, the berries were very green.

They wanted to stay longer on the beach, when they finally reached it; but Mrs. Peterkin and Elizabeth Eliza insisted upon turning directly back, as it was not fair to be late to dinner the very first night.

On the whole the party came back cheerful, yet hungry. They found the same old men, in the same costume, standing against the porch.

"A little seedy, I should say," said Solomon John.

"Smoking pipes," said Agamemnon; "I believe that is the latest style."

"The smell of their tobacco is not very agreeable," Mrs. Peterkin was forced to say.

There seemed the same uncertainty on their arrival as to where they were to be put, and as to their meals.

Elizabeth Eliza tried to get into conversation with the old ladies, who were wandering in and out of a small sitting-room. But one of them was very deaf, and the other seemed to be a foreigner. She discovered from a moderately tidy maid, by the name of Martha, who seemed a sort of factotum, that there were other ladies in their rooms, too much of invalids to appear.

"Regular bed-ridden," Martha had described them, which Elizabeth Eliza did not consider respectful.

Mr. Peterkin appeared coming down the slope of the hill behind the house, very cheerful. He had made the tour of the farm, and found it in admirable order.

Elizabeth Eliza felt it time to ask Martha about the next meal, and ventured to call it supper, as a sort of compromise between dinner and tea. If dinner were expected she might offend by taking it for granted that it was to be "tea," and if they were unused to a late dinner they might be disturbed if they had only provided a "tea."

So she asked what was the usual hour for supper, and was surprised when Martha replied, "The lady must say," nodding to Mrs. Peterkin. "She can have it just when she wants, and just what she wants!"

This was an unexpected courtesy.

Elizabeth Eliza asked when the others had their supper.

"Oh, they took it a long time ago," Martha answered. "If the lady will go out into the kitchen she can tell what she wants."

"Bring us in what you have," said Mr. Peterkin, himself quite hungry. "If you could cook us a fresh slice of beefsteak that would be well."

"Perhaps some eggs," murmured Mrs. Peterkin.

"Scrambled," cried one of the little boys.

"Fried potatoes would not be bad," suggested Agamemnon.

"Couldn't we have some onions?" asked the little boy who had stayed at home, and had noticed the odor of onions when the others had their supper.

"A pie would come in well," said Solomon John.

"And some stewed cherries," said the other little boy.

Martha fell to laying the table, and the family was much pleased, when, in the course of time, all the dishes they had recommended appeared. Their appetites were admirable, and they pronounced the food the same.

"This is true Arab hospitality," said Mr. Peterkin, as he cut his juicy beefsteak.

"I know it," said Elizabeth Eliza, whose spirits began to rise. "We have not even seen the host and hostess."

She would, indeed, have been glad to find some one to tell her when the Sylvesters were expected, and why they had not arrived. Her room was in the wing, far from that of Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin, and near the aged deaf and foreign ladies, and she was kept awake for some time by perplexed thoughts.

She was sure the lady from Philadelphia, under such circumstances, would have written to somebody. But ought she to write to Ann Maria or the Sylvesters? And, if she did write, which had she better write to? She fully determined to write, the first thing in the morning, to both parties. But how should she address her letters? Would there be any use in sending to the Sylvesters' usual address, which she knew well by this time, merely to say they had not come? Of course the Sylvesters would know they had not come. It would be the same with Ann Maria. She might, indeed, inclose her letters to their several postmasters. Postmasters were always so obliging, and always knew where people were going to, and where to send their letters. She might, at least, write two letters, to say that they—the Peterkins—had arrived, and were disappointed not to find the Sylvesters. And she could add that their trunks had not arrived, and perhaps their friends might look out for them on their way. It really seemed a good plan to write. Yet another question came up, as to how she would get her letters to the post-office, as she had already learned it was at quite a distance, and in a different direction from the station, where they were to send the next day for their trunks.

She went over and over these same questions, kept awake by the coughing and talking of her neighbors, the other side of the thin partition.

She was scarcely sorry to be aroused from her uncomfortable sleep by the morning sounds of guinea-hens, peacocks, and every other kind of fowl.

Mrs. Peterkin expressed her satisfaction at the early breakfast, and declared she was delighted with such genuine farm sounds.

They passed the day much as the afternoon before, reaching the beach only in time to turn round to come back for their dinner, which was appointed at noon. Mrs. Peterkin was quite satisfied. "Such a straight road, and the beach such a safe place to turn round upon!"

Elizabeth Eliza was not so well pleased. A wagon had been sent to the station for their trunks, which could not be found; they were probably left at the Boston station, or, Mr. Atwood suggested, might have been switched off upon one of the White Mountain trains. There was no use to write any letters, as there was no way to send them. Elizabeth Eliza now almost hoped the Sylvesters would not come, for what should she do if the trunks did not come and all her new dresses? On her way over to the beach she had been thinking what she should do with her new foulard and cream-colored surah if the Sylvesters did not come, and if their time was spent in only driving to the beach and back. But now, she would prefer that the Sylvesters would not come till the dresses and the trunks did. All she could find out, from inquiry, on returning, was, "that another lot was expected on Saturday." The next day she suggested:—

"Suppose we take our dinner with us to the beach, and spend the day." The Sylvesters and Ann Maria then would find them on the beach, where her travelling-dress would be quite appropriate. "I am a little tired," she added, "of going back and forward over the same road; but when the rest come we can vary it."

The plan was agreed to, but Mr. Peterkin and the little boys remained to go over the farm again.

They had an excellent picnic on the beach, under the shadow of a ledge of sand. They were just putting up their things when they saw a party of people approaching from the other end of the beach.

"I am glad to see some pleasant-looking people at last," said Elizabeth Eliza, and they all turned to walk toward them.

As the other party drew near she recognized Ann Maria Bromwick! And with her were the Sylvesters,—so they proved to be, for she had never seen them before.

"What! you have come in our absence!" exclaimed Elizabeth Eliza.

"And we have been wondering what had become of you!" cried Ann Maria.

"I thought you would be at the farm before us," said Elizabeth Eliza to Mr. Sylvester, to whom she was introduced.

"We have been looking for you at the farm," he was saying to her.

"But we are at the farm," said Elizabeth Eliza.

"And so are we!" said Ann Maria.

"We have been there two days," said Mrs. Peterkin.

"And so have we, at the 'Old Farm,' just at the end of the beach," said Ann Maria.

"Our farm is old enough," said Solomon John.

"Whereabouts are you?" asked Mr. Sylvester.

Elizabeth Eliza pointed to the road they had come.

A smile came over Mr. Sylvester's face; he knew the country well.

"You mean the farm-house behind the hill, at the end of the road?" he asked.

The Peterkins all nodded affirmatively.

Ann Maria could not restrain herself, as broad smiles came over the faces of all the party.

"Why, that is the Poor-house!" she exclaimed.

"The town farm," Mr. Sylvester explained, deprecatingly.

The Peterkins were silent for a while. The Sylvesters tried not to laugh.

"There certainly were some disagreeable old men and women there!" said Elizabeth Eliza, at last.

"But we have surely been made very comfortable," Mrs. Peterkin declared.

"A very simple mistake," said Mr. Sylvester, continuing his amusement. "Your trunks arrived all right at the 'Old Farm,' two days ago."

"Let us go back directly," said Elizabeth Eliza.

"As directly as our horse will allow," said Agamemnon.

Mr. Sylvester helped them into the wagon. "Your rooms are awaiting you," he said. "Why not come with us?"

"We want to find Mr. Peterkin before we do anything else," said Mrs. Peterkin.

They rode back in silence, till Elizabeth Eliza said, "Do you suppose they took us for paupers?"

"We have not seen any 'they,'" said Solomon John, "except Mr. Atwood."

At the entrance of the farm-yard Mr. Peterkin met them.

"I have been looking for you," he said. "I have just made a discovery."

"We have made it, too," said Elizabeth Eliza; "we are in the poor-house."

"How did you find it out?" Mrs. Peterkin asked of Mr. Peterkin.

"Mr. Atwood came to me, puzzled with a telegram that had been brought to him from the station, which he ought to have got two days ago. It came from a Mr. Peters, whom they were expecting here this week, with his wife and boys, to take charge of the establishment. He telegraphed to say he cannot come till Friday. Now, Mr. Atwood had supposed we were the Peterses, whom he had sent for the day we arrived, not having received this telegram."

"Oh, I see, I see!" said Mrs. Peterkin; "and we did get into a muddle at the station!"

Mr. Atwood met them at the porch. "I beg pardon," he said. "I hope you have found it comfortable here, and shall be glad to have you stay till Mr. Peters' family comes."

At this moment wheels were heard. Mr. Sylvester had arrived, with an open wagon, to take the Peterkins to the "Old Farm."

Martha was waiting within the door, and said to Elizabeth Eliza, "Beg pardon, miss, for thinking you was one of the inmates, and putting you in that room. We thought it so kind of Mrs. Peters to take you off every day with the other gentlemen, that looked so wandering."

Elizabeth Eliza did not know whether to laugh or to cry.

Mr. Peterkin and the little boys decided to stay at the farm till Friday. But Agamemnon and Solomon John preferred to leave with Mr. Sylvester, and to take their electrical machine and camera when they came for Mr. Peterkin.

Mrs. Peterkin was tempted to stay another night, to be wakened once more by the guinea-hens. But Elizabeth Eliza bore her off. There was not much packing to be done. She shouted good-by into the ears of the deaf old lady, and waved her hand to the foreign one, and glad to bid farewell to the old men with their pipes, leaning against the porch.

"This time," she said, "it is not our trunks that were lost"—

"But we, as a family," said Mrs. Peterkin.

* * * * *


Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse