Part 1 out of 3
Prepared by David Reed email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Peterkin Papers
By Lucretia P. Hale
Mrs. Peterkin Puts Salt into Her Coffee.
To Meggie (The Daughter of The Lady From Philadelphia)
To Whom These Stories Were First Told
The Peterkin Papers
By Lucretia P. Hale
Preface to The Second Edition of The Peterkin Papers
THE first of these stories was accepted by Mr. Howard M. Ticknor
for the "Young Folks." They were afterwards continued in
numbers of the "St. Nicholas."
A second edition is now printed, containing a new paper, which
has never before been published, "The Peterkins at the Farm."
It may be remembered that the Peterkins originally hesitated about
publishing their Family Papers, and were decided by referring the
matter to the lady from Philadelphia. A little uncertain of whether
she might happen to be at Philadelphia, they determined to write
and ask her.
Solomon John suggested a postal-card. Everybody reads a postal,
and everybody would read it as it came along, and see its
importance, and help it on. If the lady from Philadelphia were
away, her family and all her servants would read it, and send it
after her, for answer.
Elizabeth Eliza thought the postal a bright idea. It would not take
so long to write as a letter, and would not be so expensive. But
could they get the whole subject on a postal?
Mr. Peterkin believed there could be no difficulty, there was but
Shall the adventures of the Peterkin family be published?
This was decided upon, and there was room for each of the family
to sign, the little boys contenting themselves with rough sketches
of their india-rubber boots.
Mr. Peterkin, Agamemnon, and Solomon John took the postal-card
to the post-office early one morning, and by the afternoon of that
very day, and all the next day, and for many days, came streaming
in answers on postals and on letters. Their card had been
addressed to the lady from Philadelphia, with the number of her
street. But it must have been read by their neighbors in their own
town post-office before leaving; it must have been read along its
way: for by each mail came piles of postals and letters from town
after town, in answer to the question, and all in the same tone:
"Yes, yes; publish the adventures of the Peterkin family."
"Publish them, of course."
And in time came the answer of the lady from Philadelphia:
"Yes, of course; publish them."
This is why they were published.
CONTENTS. THE LADY WHO PUT SALT IN HER COFFEE
13 ABOUT ELIZABETH ELIZA'S PIANO 21 THE
PETERKINS TRY TO BECOME WISE 24 MRS. PETERKIN
WISHES TO GO TO DRIVE 29 THE PETERKINS AT HOME
33 WHY THE PETERKINS HAD A LATE DINNER 36
THE PETERKINS' SUMMER JOURNEY 41 THE
PETERKINS SNOWED-UP 48 THE PETERKINS DECIDE
TO KEEP A COW 56 THE PETERKINS' CHRISTMAS-TREE
63 MRS. PETERKINS TEA-PARTY 72 THE PETERKINS
TOO LATE FOR THE EXHIBITION 82 THE PETERKINS
CELEBRATE THE "FOURTH" 90 THE PETERKINS' PICNIC
104 THE PETERKINS' CHARADES 114 THE PETERKINS
ARE OBLIGED TO MOVE 124 THE PETERKINS DECIDE
TO LEARN THE LANGUAGES 136 MODERN
IMPROVEMENTS AT THE PETERKINS' 148
AGAMEMNON'S CAREER 160 THE EDUCATIONAL
BREAKFAST 172 THE PETERKINS AT THE "CARNIVAL
OF AUTHORS" IN BOSTON 188 THE PETERKINS AT THE
THE LADY WHO PUT SALT IN HER COFFEE. THIS was Mrs.
Peterkin. It was a mistake. She had poured out a delicious cup of
coffee, and, just as she was helping herself to cream, she found she
had put in salt instead of sugar! It tasted bad. What should she do?
Of course she couldn't drink the coffee; so she called in the
family, for she was sitting at a late breakfast all alone. The family
came in; they all tasted, and looked, and wondered what should be
done, and all sat down to think.
At last Agamemnon, who had been to college, said, " Why don't
we go over and ask the advice of the chemist? " (For the chemist
lived over the way, and was a very wise man.) Mrs. Peterkin
said, "Yes," and Mr. Peterkin said, "Very well," and all the
children said they would go too. So the little boys put on their
india-rubber boots, and over they went.
Now the chemist was just trying to find out something which
should turn everything it touched into gold; and he had a large
glass bottle into which he put all kinds of gold and silver, and
many other valuable things, and melted them all up over the fire,
till he had almost found what he wanted. He could turn things
into almost gold. But just now he had used up all the gold that he
had round the house, and gold was high. He had used up his wife's
gold thimble and his great-grandfather's gold-bowed spectacles;
and he had melted up the gold head of his
great-great-grandfather's cane; and, just as the Peterkin family
came in, he was down on his knees before his wife, asking her to
let him have her wedding-ring to melt up with an the rest, because
this time he knew he should succeed, and should be able to turn
everything into gold; and then she could have a new wedding-ring
of diamonds, all set in emeralds and rubies and topazes, and all
the furniture could be turned into the finest of gold.
Now his wife was just consenting when the Peterkin family burst
in. You can imagine how mad the chemist was! He came near
throwing his cruciblethat was the name of his melting-potat their
heads. But he didn't. He listened as calmly as he could to the story
of how Mrs. Peterkin had put salt in her coffee.
At first he said he couldn't do anything about it; but when
Agamemnon said they would pay in gold if he would only go, he
packed up his bottles in a leather case, and went back with them
First he looked at the coffee, and then stirred it. Then he put in a
little chlorate of potassium, and the family tried it all round; but it
tasted no better. Then he stirred in a little bichlorate of magnesia.
But Mrs. Peterkin didn't like that. Then he added some tartaric
acid and some hypersulphate of lime. But no; it was no better. "I
have it!" exclaimed the chemist,"a little ammonia is just the
thing!" No, it wasn't the thing at all.
Then he tried, each in turn, some oxalic, cyanic, acetic,
phosphoric, chloric, hyperchloric, sulphuric, boracic, silicic,
nitric, formic, nitrous nitric, and carbonic acids. Mrs. Peterkin
tasted each, and said the flavor was pleasant, but not precisely that
of coffee. So then he tried a little calcium, aluminum, barium, and
strontium, a little clear bitumen, and a half of a third of a
sixteenth of a grain of arsenic. This gave rather a pretty color; but
Peterkin ungratefully said it tasted of anything but coffee. The
chemist was not discouraged. He put in a little belladonna and
atropine, some granulated hydrogen, some potash, and a very little
antimony, finishing off with a little pure carbon. But still Mrs.
Peterkin was not satisfied.
The chemist said that all he had done ought to have taken out the
salt. The theory remained the same, although the experiment had
failed. Perhaps a little starch would have some effect. If not, that
was all the time he could give. He should like to be paid, and go.
They were all much obliged to him, and willing to give him $1.37
1/2 in gold. Gold was now 2.69 3/4, so Mr. Peterkin found in the
newspaper. This gave Agamemnon a pretty little sum. He sat
himself down to do it. But there was the coffee! All sat and
thought awhile, till Elizabeth Eliza said, "Why don't we go to the
herb-woman?" Elizabeth Eliza was the only daughter. She was
named after her two aunts,Elizabeth, from the sister of her father;
Eliza, from her mother's sister. Now, the herb-woman was an old
woman who came round to sell herbs, and knew a great deal.
They all shouted with joy at the idea of asking her, and Solomon
John and the younger children agreed to go and find her too. The
herb-woman lived down at the very end of the street; so the boys
put on their india-rubber boots again, and they set off. It was a
long walk through the village, but they came at last to the
herb-woman's house, at the foot of a high hill. They went through
her little garden. Here she had marigolds and hollyhocks, and old
maids and tall sunflowers, and all kinds of sweet-smelling herbs,
so that the air was full of tansy-tea and elder-blow. Over the porch
grew a hop-vine, and a brandy-cherry tree shaded the door, and a
luxuriant cranberry-vine flung its delicious fruit across the
window. They went into a small parlor, which smelt very spicy.
All around hung little bags full of catnip, and peppermint, and all
kinds of herbs; and dried stalks hung from the ceiling; and on the
shelves were jars of rhubarb, senna, manna, and the like.
But there was no little old woman. She had gone up into the
woods to get some more wild herbs, so they all thought they
would follow her,Elizabeth Eliza, Solomon John, and the little
boys. They had to climb up over high rocks, and in among
huckleberry-bushes and black berry-vines. But the little boys had
their india-rubber boots. At last they discovered the little old
woman. They knew her by her hat. It was steeple-crowned,
without any vane. They saw her digging with her trowel round a
sassafras bush. They told her their story,how their mother had put
salt in her coffee, and how the chemist had made it worse instead
of better, and how their mother couldn't drink it, and wouldn't she
come and see what she could do? And she said she would, and
took up her little old apron, with pockets all round, all filled with
everlasting and pennyroyal, and went back to her house.
There she stopped, and stuffed her huge pockets with some of all
the kinds of herbs. She took some tansy and peppermint, and
caraway-seed and dill, spearmint and cloves, pennyroyal and
sweet marjoram, basil and rosemary, wild thyme and some of the
other time,such as you have in clocks,sappermint and oppermint,
catnip, valerian, and hop; indeed, there isn't a kind of herb you can
think of that the little old woman didn't have done up in her little
paper bags, that had all been dried in her little Dutch-oven. She
packed these all up, and then went back with the children, taking
Meanwhile Mrs. Peterkin was getting quite impatient for her
As soon as the little old woman came she had it set over the fire,
and began to stir in the different herbs. First she put in a little hop
for the bitter. Mrs.
Peterkin said it tasted like hop-tea, and not at all like coffee. Then
she tried a little flagroot and snakeroot, then some spruce gum,
and some caraway and some dill, some rue and rosemary, some
sweet marjoram and sour, some oppermint and sappermint, a little
spearmint and peppermint, some wild thyme, and some of the
other tame time, some tansy and basil, and catnip and valerian, and
sassafras, ginger, and pennyroyal. The children tasted after each
mixture, but made up dreadful faces. Mrs. Peterkin tasted, and did
the same. The more the old woman stirred, and the more she put
in, the worse it all seemed to taste.
So the old woman shook her head, and muttered a few words, and
said she must go. She believed the coffee was bewitched. She
bundled up her packets of herbs, and took her trowel, and her
basket, and her stick, and went back to her root of sassafras, that
she had left half in the air and half out. And all she would take for
pay was five cents in currency.
Then the family were in despair, and all sat and thought a great
while. It was growing late in the day, and Mrs. Peterkin hadn't had
her cup of coffee. At last Elizabeth Eliza said, "They say that the
lady from Philadelphia, who is staying in town, is very wise.
Suppose I go and ask her what is best to be done." To this they all
agreed, it was a great thought, and off Elizabeth Eliza went.
She told the lady from Philadelphia the whole story,how her
mother had put salt in the coffee; how the chemist had been called
in; how he tried everything but could make it no better; and how
they went for the little old herb-woman, and how she had tried in
vain, for her mother couldn't drink the coffee. The lady from
Philadelphia listened very attentively, and then said, "Why doesn't
your mother make a fresh cup of coffee?" Elizabeth Eliza started
Solomon John shouted with joy; so did Agamemnon, who had just
finished his sum; so did the little boys, who had followed on.
"Why didn't we think of that?" said Elizabeth Eliza; and they all
went back to their mother, and she had her cup of coffee.
ABOUT ELIZABETH ELIZA'S PIANO. ELIZABETH ELIZA
had a present of a piano, and she was to take lessons of the
They decided to have the piano set across the window in the
parlor, and the carters brought it in, and went away.
After they had gone the family all came in to look at the piano; but
they found the carters had placed it with its back turned towards
the middle of the room, standing close against the window.
How could Elizabeth Eliza open it? How could she reach the keys
to play upon it?
Solomon John proposed that they should open the window, which
Agamemnon could do with his long arms. Then Elizabeth Eliza
should go round upon the piazza, and open the piano. Then she
could have her music-stool on the piazza, and play upon the piano
So they tried this; and they all thought it was a very pretty sight to
see Elizabeth Eliza playing on the piano, while she sat on the
piazza, with the honeysuckle vines behind her.
It was very pleasant, too, moonlight evenings. Mr. Peterkin liked
to take a doze on his sofa in the room; but the rest of the family
liked to sit on the piazza.
So did Elizabeth Eliza, only she had to have her back to the moon.
All this did very well through the summer; but, when the fall
came, Mr. Peterkin thought the air was too cold from the open
window, and the family did not want to sit out on the piazza.
Elizabeth Eliza practiced in the mornings with her cloak on; but
she was obliged to give up her music in the evenings the family
One day, when she was talking with the lady from Philadelphia,
she spoke of this trouble.
The lady from Philadelphia looked surprised, and then said, "But
why don't you turn the piano round?"
One of the little boys pertly said, "It is a square piano."
But Elizabeth Eliza went home directly, and, with the help of
Agamemnon and Solomon John, turned the piano round.
"Why did we not think of that before?" said Mrs. Peterkin. "What
shall we do when the lady from Philadelphia goes home again?"
THE PETERKINS TRY TO BECOME WISE. THEY were
sitting round the breakfast-table, and wondering what they should
do because the lady from Philadelphia had gone away. "If," said
Mrs. Peterkin, "we could only be more wise as a family!" How
could they manage it? Agamemnon had been to college, and the
children all went to school; but still as a family they were not
wise. "It comes from books," said one of the family. "People who
have a great many books are very wise." Then they counted up
that there were very few books in the house,a few school-books
and Mrs. Peterkin's cook-book were all.
"That's the thing!" said Agamemnon. "We want a library."
"We want a library!" said Solomon John. And all of them
exclaimed, "We want a library!"
"Let us think how we shall get one," said Mrs. Peterkin. "I have
observed that other people think a great deal of thinking."
So they all sat and thought a great while.
Then said Agamemnon, "I will make a library. There are some
boards in the wood-shed, and I have a hammer and some nails ,
and perhaps we can borrow some hinges, and there we have our
They were all very much pleased at the idea.
"That's the book-case part," said Elizabeth Eliza; "but where are
So they sat and thought a little while, when Solomon John
exclaimed, "I will make a book!"
They all looked at him in wonder.
"Yes," said Solomon John, "books will make us wise, but first I
must make a book."
So they went into the parlor, and sat down to make a book. But
there was no ink.
What should he do for ink? Elizabeth Eliza said she had heard that
nutgalls and vinegar made very good ink. So they decided to make
some. The little boys said they could find some nutgalls up in the
woods. So they all agreed to set out and pick some. Mrs. Peterkins
put on her cape-bonnet, and the little boys got into their
india-rubber boots, and off they went.
The nutgalls were hard to find. There was almost everything else
in the woods,chestnuts, and walnuts, and small hazel-nuts, and a
great many squirrels; and they had to walk a great way before they
found any nutgalls. At last they came home with a large basket
and two nutgalls in it. Then came the question of the vinegar. Mrs.
Peterkin had used her very last on some beets they had the day
before. "Suppose we go and ask the minister's wife," said Elizabeth
Eliza. So they all went to the minister's wife. She said if they
wanted some good vinegar they had better set a barrel of cider
down in the cellar, and in a year or two it would make very nice
vinegar. But they said they wanted it that very afternoon. When
the minister's wife heard this, she said she should be very glad to
let them have some vinegar, and gave them a cupful to carry home.
So they stirred in the nutgalls, and by the time evening came they
had very good ink.
Then Solomon John wanted a pen. Agamemnon had a steel one,
but Solomon John said, "Poets always used quills." Elizabeth
Eliza suggested that they should go out to the poultry-yard and get
a quill. But it was already dark. They had, however, two lanterns,
and the little boys borrowed the neighbors'. They set out in
procession for the poultry-yard. When they got there, the fowls
were all at roost, so they could look at them quietly.
SOLOMON JOHN'S BOOK. But there were no geese! There were
Shanghais and Cochin-Chinas, and Guinea hens, and Barbary
hens, and speckled hens, and Poland roosters, and bantams, and
ducks, and turkeys, but not one goose! "No geese but ourselves,"
Peterkin, wittily, as they returned to the house. The sight of this
procession roused up the village. "A torchlight procession!" cried
all the boys of the town; and they gathered round the house,
shouting for the flag; and Mr. Peterkin had to invite them in, and
give them cider and gingerbread, before he could explain to them
that it was only his family visiting his hens.
After the crowd had dispersed, Solomon John sat down to think of
his writing again. Agamemnon agreed to go over to the bookstore
to get a quill. They all went over with him. The bookseller was
just shutting up his shop. However, he agreed to go in and get a
quill, which he did, and they hurried home.
So Solomon John sat down again, but there was no paper. And
now the bookstore was shut up. Mr. Peterkin suggested that the
mail was about in, and perhaps he should have a letter, and then
they could use the envelope to write upon. So they all went to the
post-office, and the little boys had their india-rubber boots on, and
they all shouted when they found Mr. Peterkin had a letter. The
postmaster inquired what they were shouting about; and when they
told him, he said he would give Solomon John a whole sheet of
paper for his book. And they all went back rejoicing.
So Solomon John sat down, and the family all sat round the table
looking at him. He had his pen, his ink, and his paper. He dipped
his pen into the ink and held it over the paper, and thought a
minute, and then said, "But I haven't got anything to say."
MRS. PETERKIN WISHES TO GO TO DRIVE. ONE morning
Mrs. Peterkin was feeling very tired, as she had been having a
great many things to think of, and she said to Mr. Peterkin, "I
believe I shall take a ride this morning!"
And the little boys cried out, "Oh, may we go too?"
Mrs. Peterkin said that Elizabeth Eliza and the little boys might go.
So Mr. Peterkin had the horse put into the carryall, and he and
Agamemnon went off to their business, and Solomon John to
school; and Mrs. Peterkin began to get ready for her ride.
She had some currants she wanted to carry to old Mrs. Twomly,
and some gooseberries for somebody else, and Elizabeth Eliza
wanted to pick some flowers to take to the minister's wife, so it
took them a long time to prepare.
The little boys went out to pick the currants and the gooseberries,
and Elizabeth Eliza went out for her flowers, and Mrs. Peterkin
put on her cape-bonnet, and in time they were all ready. The little
boys were in their india-rubber boots, and they got into the
Elizabeth Eliza was to drive; so she sat on the front seat, and took
up the reins, and the horse started off merrily, and then suddenly
stopped, and would not go any farther.
Elizabeth Eliza shook the reins, and pulled them, and then she
clucked to the horse; and Mrs. Peterkin clucked; and the little
boys whistled and shouted; but still the horse would not go.
"We shall have to whip him," said Elizabeth Eliza.
Now Mrs. Peterkin never liked to use the whip; but, as the horse
would not go, she said she would get out and turn her head the
other way, while Elizabeth Eliza whipped the horse, and when he
began to go she would hurry and get in.
So they tried this, but the horse would not stir.
"Perhaps we have too heavy a load," said Mrs. Peterkin, as she got
So they took out the currants and the gooseberries and the flowers,
but still the horse would not go.
One of the neighbors, from the opposite house, looking out just
then, called out to them to try the whip. There was a high wind,
and they could not hear exactly what she said.
"I have tried the whip," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"She says 'whips,' such as you eat," said one of the little boys.
"We might make those," said Mrs. Peterkin, thoughtfully.
"We have got plenty of cream," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"Yes, let us have some whips," cried the little boys, getting out.
And the opposite neighbor cried out something about whips; and
the wind was very high.
So they went into the kitchen, and whipped up the cream, and
made some very delicious whips; and the little boys tasted all
round, and they all thought they were very nice.
They carried some out to the horse, who swallowed it down very
"That is just what he wanted," said Mrs. Peterkin; "now he will
So they all got into the carriage again, and put in the currants and
the gooseberries and the flowers; and Elizabeth Eliza shook the
reins, and they all clucked; but still the horse would not go!
"We must either give up our ride," said Mrs. Peterkin, mournfully,
"or else send over to the lady from Philadelphia, and see what she
The little boys jumped out as quickly as they could; they were
eager to go and ask the lady from Philadelphia. Elizabeth Eliza
went with them, while her mother took the reins.
They found that the lady from Philadelphia was very ill that day,
and was in her bed. But when she was told what the trouble was,
she very kindly said they might draw up the curtain from the
window at the foot of the bed, and open the blinds, and she would
see. Then she asked for her opera-glass, and looked through it,
across the way, up the street, to Mrs. Peterkin's door.
After she had looked through the glass, she laid it down, leaned
her head back against the pillow, for she was very tired, and then
said, "Why don't you unchain the horse from the horse-post?"
Elizabeth Eliza and the little boys looked at one another, and then
hurried back to the house and told their mother. The horse was
untied, and they all went to ride.
THE PETERKINS AT HOME. AT DINNER. ANOTHER little
incident occurred in the Peterkin family. This was at dinner-time.
They sat down to a dish of boiled ham. Now it was a peculiarity of
the children of the family, that half of them liked fat, and half
liked lean. Mr. Peterkin sat down to cut the ham. But the ham
turned out to be a very remarkable one. The fat and the lean came
in separate slices,first one of lean, than one of fat, then two slices
of lean, and so on. Mr. Peterkin began as usual by helping the
children first, according to their age. Now Agamemnon, who liked
lean, got a fat slice; and Elizabeth Eliza, who preferred fat, had a
lean slice. Solomon John, who could eat nothing but lean, was
helped to fat, and so on. Nobody had what he could eat.
It was a rule of the Peterkin family, that no one should eat any of
the vegetables without some of the meat; so now, although the
children saw upon their plates apple-sauce and squash and tomato
and sweet potato and sour potato, not one of them could eat a
mouthful, because not one was satisfied with the meat. Mr. and
Mrs. Peterkin, however, liked both fat and lean, and were making
a very good meal, when they looked up and saw the children all
sitting eating nothing, and looking dissatisfied into their plates.
"What is the matter now?" said Mr. Peterkin.
But the children were taught not to speak at table. Agamemnon,
however, made a sign of disgust at his fat, and Elizabeth Eliza at
her lean, and so on, and they presently discovered what was the
"What shall be done now?" said Mrs. Peterkin.
They all sat and thought for a little while.
At last said Mrs. Peterkin, rather uncertainly, "Suppose we ask the
lady from Philadelphia what is best to be done."
But Mr. Peterkin said he didn't like to go to her for everything; let
the children try and eat their dinner as it was.
And they all tried, but they couldn't. "Very well, then." said Mr.
Peterkin, "let them go and ask the lady from Philadelphia."
"All of us?" cried one of the little boys, in the excitement of the
"Yes," said Mrs. Peterkin, "only put on your india-rubber boots."
And they hurried out of the house.
The lady from Philadelphia was just going in to her dinner; but she
kindly stopped in the entry to hear what the trouble was.
Agamemnon and Elizabeth Eliza told her all the difficulty, and the
lady from Philadelphia said, "But why don't you give the slices of
fat to those who like the fat, and the slices of lean to those who
like the lean?"
They looked at one another. Agamemnon looked at Elizabeth
Eliza, and Solomon John looked at the little boys. "Why didn't we
think of that?" said they, and ran home to tell their mother.
WHY THE PETERKINS HAD A LATE DINNER. THE trouble
was in the dumb-waiter. All had seated themselves at the
dinner-table, and Amanda had gone to take out the dinner she had
sent up from the kitchen on the dumb-waiter. But something was
the matter; she could not pull it up. There was the dinner, but she
could not reach it. All the family, in turn, went and tried; all
pulled together, in vain;the dinner could not be stirred.
"No dinner!" exclaimed Agamemnon.
"I am quite hungry," said Solomon John.
At last Mr. Peterkin said, "I am not proud. I am willing to dine in
This room was below the dining-room. All consented to this. Each
one went down, taking a napkin.
The cook laid the kitchen table, put on it her best table-cloth, and
the family sat down. Amanda went to the dumb-waiter for the
dinner, but she could not move it down.
The family were all in dismay. There was the dinner, half-way
between the kitchen and dining-room, and there were they all
hungry to eat it!
"What is there for dinner?" asked Mr. Peterkin.
"Roast turkey," said Mrs. Peterkin.
Mr. Peterkin lifted his eyes to the ceiling.
"Squash, tomato, potato, and sweet potato," Mrs. Peterkin
"Sweet potato!" exclaimed both the little boys.
"I am very glad now that I did not have cranberry," said Mrs.
Peterkin, anxious to find a bright point.
"Let us sit down and think about it," said Mr. Peterkin.
"I have an idea," said Agamemnon, after a while.
"Let us hear it," said Mr. Peterkin. "Let each one speak his mind."
"The turkey," said Agamemnon, "must be just above the kitchen
door. If I had a ladder and an axe, I could cut away the plastering
and reach it."
"That is a great idea," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"If you think you could do it," said Mr. Peterkin.
"Would it not be better to have a carpenter?" asked Elizabeth
"A carpenter might have a ladder and an axe, and I think we have
neither," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"A carpenter! A carpenter!" exclaimed the rest.
It was decided that Mr. Peterkin, Solomon John, and the little boys
should go in search of a carpenter.
Agamemnon proposed that, meanwhile, he should go and borrow a
book; for he had another idea.
"This affair of the turkey," he said, "reminds me of those buried
cities that have been dug out,Herculaneum, for instance."
"Oh, yes," interrupted Elizabeth Eliza, "and Pompeii."
"Yes," said Agamemnon, "they found there pots and kettles. Now,
I should like to know how they did it; and I mean to borrow a
book and read. I think it was done with a pickaxe."
So the party set out. But when Mr. Peterkin reached the carpenter's
shop, there was no carpenter to be found there.
"He must be at his house, eating his dinner," suggested Solomon
"Happy man," exclaimed Mr. Peterkin, "he has a dinner to eat!"
They went to the carpenter's house, but found he had gone out of
town for a day's job. But his wife told them that he always came
back at night to ring the nine-o'clock bell.
"We must wait till then," said Mr. Peterkin, with an effort at
At home he found Agamemnon reading his book, and all sat down
to hear of Herculaneum and Pompeii.
Time passed on, and the question arose about tea. Would it do to
have tea when they had had no dinner? A part of the family
thought it would not do; the rest wanted tea.
"I suppose you remember the wise lady of Philadelphia, who was
here not long ago," said Mr. Peterkin.
"Oh, yes," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"Let us try to think what she would advise us," said Mr. Peterkin.
"I wish she were here," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"I think," said Mr. Peterkin, "she would say, let them that want tea
have it; the rest can go without."
So they had tea, and, as it proved, all sat down to it. But not much
was eaten, as there had been no dinner.
When the nine-o'clock bell was heard, Agamemnon, Solomon
John, and the little boys rushed to the church, and found the
They asked him to bring a ladder, axes and pickaxe. As he felt it
might be a case of fire, he brought also his fire-buckets.
When the matter was explained to him, he went into the
dining-room, looked into the dumb-waiter, untwisted a cord, and
arranged the weight, and pulled up the dinner.
There was a family shout.
"The trouble was in the weight," said the carpenter.
"That is why it is called a dumb-waiter," Solomon John explained
to the little boys.
The dinner was put upon the table.
Mrs. Peterkin frugally suggested that they might now keep it for
the next day, as to-day was almost gone, and they had had tea.
But nobody listened. All sat down to the roast turkey; and Amanda
warmed over the vegetables.
"Patient waiters are no losers," said Agamemnon.
THE PETERKINS' SUMMER JOURNEY. IN fact, it was their
last summer's journeyfor it had been planned then; but there had
been so many difficulties, it had been delayed.
The first trouble had been about trunks. The family did not own a
trunk suitable for travelling.
Agamemnon had his valise, that he had used when he stayed a
week at a time at the academy; and a trunk had been bought for
Elizabeth Eliza when she went to the seminary. Solomon John and
Mr. Peterkin, each had his patent-leather hand-bag. But all these
were too small for the family. And the little boys wanted to carry
Mrs. Peterkin suggested her grandmother's trunk. This was a
hair-trunk, very large and capacious. It would hold everything they
would want to carry, except what would go in Elizabeth Eliza's
trunk, or the valise and bags.
Everybody was delighted at this idea. It was agreed that the next
day the things should be brought into Mrs. Peterkin's room, for her
to see if they could all be packed.
"If we can get along," said Elizabeth Eliza, "without having to ask
advice, I shall be glad!"
"Yes," said Mr. Peterkin, "It is time now for people to be coming
to ask advice of us."
The next morning Mrs. Peterkin began by taking out the things
that were already in the trunk. Here were last year's winter things,
and not only these, but old clothes that had been put away,Mrs.
Peterkin's wedding-dress; the skirts the little boys used to wear
before they put on jackets and trousers.
All day Mrs. Peterkin worked over the trunk, putting away the old
things, putting in the new. She packed up all the clothes she could
think of, both summer and winter ones, because you never can tell
what sort of weather you will have.
Agamemnon fetched his books, and Solomon John his spy-glass.
There were her own and Elizabeth Eliza's best bonnets in a
bandbox; also Solomon John's hats, for he had an old one and a
new one. He bought a new hat for fishing, with a very wide brim
and deep crown; all of heavy straw.
Agamemnon brought down a large heavy dictionary, and an atlas
still larger. This contained maps of all the countries in the world.
"I have never had a chance to look at them," he said; "but when
one travels, then is the time to study geography."
Mr. Peterkin wanted to take his turning-lathe. So Mrs. Peterkin
packed his tool-chest. It gave her some trouble, for it came to her
just as she had packed her summer dresses. At first she thought it
would help to smooth the dresses, and placed it on top; but she
was forced to take all out, and set it at the bottom. This was not so
much matter, as she had not yet the right dresses to put in. Both
Mrs. Peterkin and Elizabeth Eliza would need new dresses for this
occasion. The little boys' hoops went in; so did their india-rubber
boots, in case it should not rain when they started. They each had
a hoe and shovel, and some baskets, that were packed.
Mrs. Peterkin called in all the family on the evening of the second
day to see how she had succeeded. Everything was packed, even
the little boys' kite lay smoothly on the top.
"I like to see a thing so nicely done," said Mr. Peterkin.
The next thing was to cord up the trunk, and Mr. Peterkin tried to
move it. But neither he, nor Agamemnon, nor Solomon John
could lift it alone, or all together.
Here was a serious difficulty. Solomon John tried to make light of
"Expressmen could lift it. Expressmen were used to such things."
"But we did not plan expressing it," said Mrs. Peterkin, in a
"We can take a carriage," said Solomon John.
"I am afraid the trunk would not go on the back of a carriage,"
"The hackman could not lift it, either," said Mr. Peterkin.
"People do travel with a great deal of baggage," said Elizabeth
"And with very large trunks," said Agamemnon.
"Still they are trunks that can be moved," said Mr. Peterkin, giving
another try at the trunk in vain. "I am afraid we must give it up,"
he said; "it would be such a trouble in going from place to place."
"We would not mind if we got it to the place," said Elizabeth
"But how to get it there?" Mr. Peterkin asked, with a sigh.
"This is our first obstacle," said Agamemnon; "we must do our
best to conquer it."
"What is an obstacle?" asked the little boys.
"It is the trunk," said Solomon John.
"Suppose we look out the word in the dictionary," said
Agamemnon, taking the large volume from the trunk. "Ah, here it
is" And he read: "OBSTACLE, an impediment."
"That is a worse word than the other," said one of the little boys.
"But listen to this," and Agamemnon continued: "Impediment is
something that entangles the feet; obstacle, something that stands
in the way; obstruction, something that blocks up the passage;
hinderance, something that holds back."
"The trunk is all these," said Mr. Peterkin, gloomily.
"It does not entangle the feet," said Solomon John, "for it can't
"I wish it could," said the little boys together.
Mrs. Peterkin spent a day or two in taking the things out of the
trunk and putting them away.
"At least," she said, "this has given me some experience in
And the little boys felt as if they had quite been a journey.
But the family did not like to give up their plan. It was suggested
that they might take the things out of the trunk, and pack it at the
station; the little boys could go and come with the things. But
Elizabeth Eliza thought the place too public.
Gradually the old contents of the great trunk went back again to it.
At length a friend unexpectedly offered to lend Mr. Peterkin a
good-sized family trunk. But it was late in the season, and so the
journey was put off from that summer.
But now the trunk was sent round to the house, and a family
consultation was held about packing it. Many things would have
to be left at home, it was so much smaller than the grandmother's
hair-trunk. But Agamemnon had been studying the atlas through
the winter, and felt familiar with the more important places, so it
would not be necessary to take it. And Mr. Peterkin decided to
leave his turning-lathe at home, and his tool-chest.
Again Mrs. Peterkin spent two days in accommodating the things.
With great care and discretion, and by borrowing two more
leather bags, it could be accomplished. Everything of importance
could be packed, except the little boys' kite. What should they do
The little boys proposed carrying it in their hands; but Solomon
John and Elizabeth Eliza would not consent to this.
"I do think it is one of the cases where we might ask the advice of
the lady from Philadelphia," said Mrs. Peterkin, at last.
"She has come on here," said Agamemnon, "and we have not been
to see her this summer."
"She may think we have been neglecting her," suggested Mr.
The little boys begged to be allowed to go and ask her opinion
about the kite.
They came back in high spirits.
"She says we might leave this one at home, and make a new kite
when we get there," they cried.
"What a sensible idea!" exclaimed Mr. Peterkin; "and I may have
leisure to help you."
"We'll take plenty of newspapers," said Solomon John.
"And twine," said the little boys. And this matter was settled.
The question then was, "When should they go?"
THE PETERKINS SNOWED-UP. MRS. PETERKIN awoke one
morning to find a heavy snow-storm raging. The wind had flung
the snow against the windows, had heaped it up around the house,
and thrown it into huge white drifts over the fields, covering
hedges and fences.
Mrs. Peterkin went from one window to the other to look out; but
nothing could be seen but the driving storm and the deep white
snow. Even Mr. Bromwick's house, on the opposite side of the
street, was hidden by the swift-falling flakes.
"What shall I do about it?" thought Mrs. Peterkin. "No roads
cleared out! Of course there'll be no butcher and no milkman !"
The first thing to be done was to wake up all the family early; for
there was enough in the house for breakfast, and there was no
knowing when they would have anything more to eat.
It was best to secure the breakfast first.
So she went from one room to the other, as soon as it was light,
waking the family, and before long all were dressed and
And then all went round the house to see what had happened.
All the water-pipes that there were were frozen. The milk was
frozen. They could open the door into the wood-house; but the
wood-house door into the yard was banked up with snow; and the
front door, and the piazza door, and the side door stuck. Nobody
could get in or out!
Meanwhile, Amanda, the cook, had succeeded in making the
kitchen fire, but had discovered there was no furnace coal.
"The furnace coal was to have come to-day," said Mrs. Peterkin,
"Nothing will come to-day," said Mr. Peterkin, shivering.
But a fire could be made in a stove in the dining-room.
All were glad to sit down to breakfast and hot coffee. The little
boys were much pleased to have "ice-cream" for breakfast.
"When we get a little warm," said Mr. Peterkin, "we will consider
what is to be done."
"I am thankful I ordered the sausages yesterday," said Mrs.
Peterkin. "I was to have had a leg of mutton to-day."
"Nothing will come to-day," said Agamemnon, gloomily.
"Are these sausages the last meat in the house?" asked Mr.
"Yes," said Mrs. Peterkin.
The potatoes also were gone, the barrel of apples empty, and she
had meant to order more flour that very day.
"Then we are eating our last provisions," said Solomon John,
helping himself to another sausage.
"I almost wish we had stayed in bed," said Agamemnon.
"I thought it best to make sure of our breakfast first," repeated Mrs.
"Shall we literally have nothing left to eat?" asked Mr. Peterkin.
"There's the pig!" suggested Solomon John.
Yes, happily, the pigsty was at the end of the wood-house, and
could be reached under cover.
But some of the family could not eat fresh pork.
"We should have to 'corn' part of him," said Agamemnon.
"My butcher has always told me," said Mrs. Peterkin, "that if I
wanted a ham I must keep a pig. Now we have the pig, but have
not the ham!"
"Perhaps we could 'corn' one or two of his legs," suggested one of
the little boys.
"We need not settle that now," said Mr. Peterkin. "At least the pig
will keep us from starving."
The little boys looked serious; they were fond of their pig.
"If we had only decided to keep a cow," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"Alas! yes," said Mr. Peterkin, "one learns a great many things too
"Then we might have had ice-cream all the time!" exclaimed the
Indeed, the little boys, in spite of the prospect of starving, were
quite pleasantly excited at the idea of being snowed-up, and
hurried through their breakfasts that they might go and try to
shovel out a path from one of the doors.
"I ought to know more about the water-pipes," said Mr. Peterkin.
"Now, I shut off the water last night in the bath-room, or else I
forgot to; and I ought to have shut it off in the cellar."
The little boys came back. Such a wind at the front door, they were
going to try the side door.
"Another thing I have learned to-day," said Mr. Peterkin, "is not to
have all the doors on one side of the house, because the storm
blows the snow against all the doors."
Solomon John started up.
"Let us see if we are blocked up on the east side of the house!" he
"Of what use," asked Mr. Peterkin, "since we have no door on the
"We could cut one," said Solomon John.
"Yes, we could cut a door," exclaimed Agamemnon.
"But how can we tell whether there is any snow there?" asked
Elizabeth Eliza,"for there is no window."
In fact, the east side of the Peterkins' house formed a blank wall.
The owner had originally planned a little block of semi-detached
houses. He had completed only one, very semi and very detached.
"It is not necessary to see," said Agamemnon, profoundly; "of
course, if the storm blows against this side of the house, the house
itself must keep the snow from the other side."
"Yes," said Solomon John, "there must be a space clear of snow
on the east side of the house, and if we could open a way to that "
"We could open a way to the butcher," said Mr. Peterkin,
Agamemnon went for his pick-axe. He had kept one in the house
ever since the adventure of the dumb-waiter.
"What part of the wall had we better attack?" asked Mr. Peterkin.
Mrs. Peterkin was alarmed.
"What will Mr. Mudge, the owner of the house, think of it?" she
exclaimed. "Have we a right to injure the wall of the house?"
"It is right to preserve ourselves from starving," said Mr. Peterkin.
"The drowning man must snatch at a straw!"
"It is better that he should find his house chopped a little when the
thaw comes," said Elizabeth Eliza, "than that he should find us
lying about the house, dead of hunger, upon the floor."
Mrs. Peterkin was partially convinced.
The little boys came in to warm their hands. They had not
succeeded in opening the side door, and were planning trying to
open the door from the wood-house to the garden.
"That would be of no use," said Mrs. Peterkin, "the butcher cannot
get into the garden."
"But we might shovel off the snow," suggested one of the little
boys, "and dig down to some of last year's onions."
Meanwhile, Mr. Peterkin, Agamemnon, and Solomon John had
been bringing together their carpenter's tools, and Elizabeth Eliza
proposed using a gouge, if they would choose the right spot to
The little boys were delighted with the plan, and hastened to
find,one, a little hatchet, and the other a gimlet. Even Amanda
armed herself with a poker.
"It would be better to begin on the ground floor," said Mr.
"Except that we may meet with a stone foundation," said Solomon
"If the wall is thinner upstairs," said Agamemnon, "it will do as
well to cut a window as a door, and haul up anything the butcher
may bring below in his cart."
Everybody began to pound a little on the wall to find a favorable
place, and there was a great deal of noise. The little boys actually
cut a bit out of the plastering with their hatchet and gimlet.
Solomon John confided to Elizabeth Eliza that it reminded him of
stories of prisoners who cut themselves free, through stone walls,
after days and days of secret labor.
Mrs. Peterkin, even, had come with a pair of tongs in her hand.
She was interrupted by a voice behind her.
"Here's your leg of mutton, marm!"
It was the butcher. How had he got in?
"Excuse me, marm, for coming in at the side door, but the back
gate is kinder blocked up. You were making such a pounding I
could not make anybody hear me knock at the side door."
"But how did you make a path to the door?" asked Mr. Peterkin.
"You must have been working at it a long time. It must be near
"I'm about on regular time," answered the butcher. "The town
team has cleared out the high road, and the wind has been down
the last half-hour. The storm is over."
True enough! The Peterkins had been so busy inside the house they
had not noticed the ceasing of the storm outside.
"And we were all up an hour earlier than usual," said Mr. Peterkin,
when the butcher left. He had not explained to the butcher why he
had a pickaxe in his hand.
"If we had lain abed till the usual time," said Solomon John, "we
should have been all right."
"For here is the milkman!" said Elizabeth Eliza, as a knock was
now heard at the side door.
"It is a good thing to learn," said Mr. Peterkin, "not to get up any
earlier than is necessary."
THE PETERKINS DECIDE TO KEEP A COW. NOT that they
were fond of drinking milk, nor that they drank very much. But
for that reason Mr. Peterkin thought it would be well to have a
cow, to encourage the family to drink more, as he felt it would be
Mrs. Peterkin recalled the troubles of the last cold winter, and how
near they came to starving, when they were shut up in a severe
snow-storm, and the water-pipes burst, and the milk was frozen. If
the cow-shed could open out of the wood-shed, such trouble might
Tony Larkin was to come over and milk the cow every morning,
and Agamemnon and Solomon John agreed to learn how to milk,
in case Tony should be "snowed up," or have the whooping-cough
in the course of the winter. The little boys thought they knew how
But if they were to have three or four pailfuls of milk every day, it
was important to know where to keep it.
"One way will be," said Mrs. Peterkin, "to use a great deal every
day. We will make butter."
"That will be admirable," thought Mr. Peterkin.
"And custards," suggested Solomon John.
"And syllabub," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"And cocoa-nut cakes," exclaimed the little boys.
"We don't need the milk for cocoa-nut cakes," said Mrs. Peterkin.
The little boys thought they might have a cocoa-nut tree instead of
a cow. You could have the milk from the cocoa-nuts, and it would
be pleasant climbing the tree, and you would not have to feed it.
"Yes," said Mr. Peterkin, "we shall have to feed the cow."
"Where shall we pasture her?" asked Agamemnon.
"Up on the hills, up on the hills," exclaimed the little boys, "where
there are a great many bars to take down, and huckleberry-bushes!
Mr. Peterkin had been thinking of their own little lot behind the
"But I don't know," he said, "but the cow might eat off all the grass
in one day, and there would not be any left for to-morrow, unless
the grass grew fast enough every night."
Agamemnon said it would depend upon the season. In a rainy
season the grass would come up very fast, in a drought it might
not grow at all.
"I suppose," said Mrs. Peterkin, "that is the worst of having a
cow,there might be a drought."
Mr. Peterkin thought they might make some calculation from the
quantity of grass in the lot.
Solomon John suggested that measurements might be made by
seeing how much grass the Bromwicks' cow, opposite them, eat
up in a day.
The little boys agreed to go over and spend the day on the
Bromwicks' fence, and take an observation.
"The trouble would be," said Elizabeth Eliza, "that cows walk
about so, and the Bromwicks' yard is very large. Now she would
be eating in one place, and then she would walk to another. She
would not be eating all the time, a part of the time she would be
The little boys thought they should like nothing better than to have
some sticks, and keep the cow in one corner of the yard till the
calculations were made.
But Elizabeth Eliza was afraid the Bromwicks would not like it.
"Of course, it would bring all the boys in the school about the
place, and very likely they would make the cow angry."
Agamemnon recalled that Mr. Bromwick once wanted to hire Mr.
Peterkin's lot for his cow.
Mr. Peterkin started up.
"That is true; and of course Mr. Bromwick must have known there
was feed enough for one cow."
"And the reason you didn't let him have it," said Solomon John,
"was that Elizabeth Eliza was afraid of cows."
"I did not like the idea," said Elizabeth Eliza, "of their cow's
looking at me over the top of the fence, perhaps, when I should be
planting the sweet peas in the garden. I hope our cow would be a
quiet one. I should not like her jumping over the fence into the
Mr. Peterkin declared that he should buy a cow of the quietest
"I should think something might be done about covering her
horns," said Mrs.
Peterkin; "that seems the most dangerous part. Perhaps they might
be padded with cotton."
Elizabeth Eliza said cows were built so large and clumsy, that if
they came at you they could not help knocking you over.
The little boys would prefer having the pasture a great way off.
Half the fun of having a cow would be going up on the hills after
Agamemnon thought the feed was not so good on the hills.
"The cow would like it ever so much better," the little boys
declared, "on account of the variety. If she did not like the rocks
and the bushes, she could walk round and find the grassy places."
"I am not sure," said Elizabeth Eliza, "but it would be less
dangerous to keep the cow in the lot behind the house, because
she would not be coming and going, morning and night, in that
jerky way the Larkins' cows come home. They don't mind which
gate they rush in at. I should hate to have our cow dash into our
front yard just as I was coming home of an afternoon."
"That is true," said Mr. Peterkin; "we can have the door of the
cow-house open directly into the pasture, and save the coming and
The little boys were quite disappointed. The cow would miss the
exercise, and they would lose a great pleasure.
Solomon John suggested that they might sit on the fence and watch
It was decided to keep the cow in their own pasture; and as they
were to put on an end kitchen, it would be perfectly easy to build
The cow proved a quiet one. She was a little excited when all the
family stood round at the first milking, and watched her slowly
walking into the shed.
Elizabeth Eliza had her scarlet sack dyed brown a fortnight before.
It was the one she did her gardening in, and it might have
infuriated the cow. And she kept out of the garden the first day or
Mrs. Peterkin and Elizabeth Eliza bought the best kind of
milk-pans, of every size.
But there was a little disappointment about the taste of the milk.
The little boys liked it, and drank large mugs of it. Elizabeth Eliza
said she could never learn to love milk warm from the cow,
though she would like to do her best to patronize the cow.
Mrs. Peterkin was afraid Amanda did not under stand about taking
care of the milk; yet she had been down to overlook her, and she
was sure the pans and the closet were all clean.
"Suppose we send a pitcher of cream over to the lady from
Philadelphia to try,"
said Elizabeth Eliza; "it will be a pretty attention before she goes."
"It might be awkward if she didn't like it," said Solomon John.
"Perhaps something is the matter with the grass."
"I gave the cow an apple to eat yesterday," said one of the little
Elizabeth Eliza went over, and Mrs. Peterkin too, and explained all
to the lady from Philadelphia, asking her to taste the milk.
The lady from Philadelphia tasted, and said the truth was that the
milk was sour !
"I was afraid it was so," said Mrs. Peterkin; "but I didn't know what
to expect from these new kinds of cows."
The lady from Philadelphia asked where the milk was kept.
"In the new dairy," answered Elizabeth Eliza.
"Is that in a cool place?" asked the lady from Philadelphia.
Elizabeth Eliza explained it was close by the new kitchen.
"Is it near the chimney ?" inquired the lady from Philadelphia.
"It is directly back of the chimney and the new kitchen-range,"
replied Elizabeth Eliza. "I suppose it is too hot! "
"Well, well!" said Mrs. Peterkin, "that is it! Last winter the milk
froze, and now we have gone to the other extreme! Where shall
we put our dairy?"
THE PETERKINS' CHRISTMAS-TREE. EARLY in the autumn
the Peterkins began to prepare for their Christmas-tree.
Everything was done in great privacy, as it was to be a surprise to
the neighbors, as well as to the rest of the family. Mr. Peterkin
had been up to Mr.
Bromwick's wood-lot, and, with his consent, selected the tree.
Agamemnon went to look at it occasionally after dark, and
Solomon John made frequent visits to it mornings, just after
sunrise. Mr. Peterkin drove Elizabeth Eliza and her mother that
way, and pointed furtively to it with his whip; but none of them
ever spoke of it aloud to each other. It was suspected that the little
boys had been to see it Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. But
they came home with their pockets full of chestnuts, and said
nothing about it.
At length Mr. Peterkin had it cut down and brought secretly into
the Larkin's barn. A week or two before Christmas a measurement
was made of it with Elizabeth Eliza's yard-measure. To Mr.
Peterkin's great dismay it was discovered that it was too high to
stand in the back parlor.
This fact was brought out at a secret council of Mr. and Mrs.
Peterkin, Elizabeth Eliza, and Agamemnon.
Agamemnon suggested that it might be set up slanting; but Mrs.
Peterkin was very sure it would make her dizzy, and the candles
But a brilliant idea came to Mr. Peterkin. He proposed that the
ceiling of the parlor should be raised to make room for the top of
Elizabeth Eliza thought the space would need to be quite large. It
must not be like a small box, or you could not see the tree.
"Yes," said Mr. Peterkin, "I should have the ceiling lifted all across
the room; the effect would be finer."
Elizabeth Eliza objected to having the whole ceiling raised,
because her room was over the back parlor, and she would have
no floor while the alteration was going on, which would be very
awkward. Besides, her room was not very high now, and, if the
floor were raised, perhaps she could not walk in it upright.
Mr. Peterkin explained that he didn't propose altering the whole
ceiling, but to life up a ridge across the room at the back part
where the tree was to stand.
This would make a hump, to be sure, in Elizabeth Eliza's room; but
it would go across the whole room.
Elizabeth Eliza said she would not mind that. It would be like the
cuddy thing that comes up on the deck of a ship, that you sit
against, only here you would not have the sea-sickness. She
thought she should like it, for a rarity. She might use it for a
Mrs. Peterkin thought it would come in the worn place of the
carpet, and might be a convenience in making the carpet over.
Agamemnon was afraid there would be trouble in keeping the
matter secret, for it would be a long piece of work for a carpenter;
but Mr. Peterkin proposed having the carpenter for a day or two,
for a number of other jobs.
One of them was to make all the chairs in the house of the same
height, for Mrs. Peterkin had nearly broken her spine by sitting
down in a chair that she had supposed was her own rocking-chair,
and it had proved to be two inches lower. The little boys were
now large enough to sit in any chair; so a medium was fixed upon
to satisfy all the family, and the chairs were made uniformly of
the same height.
On consulting the carpenter, however, he insisted that the tree
could be cut off at the lower end to suit the height of the parlor,
and demurred at so great a change as altering the ceiling. But Mr.
Peterkin had set his mind upon the improvement, and Elizabeth
Eliza had cut her carpet in preparation for it.
So the folding-doors into the back parlor were closed, and for
nearly a fortnight before Christmas there was great litter of fallen
plastering, and laths, and chips, and shavings; and Elizabeth
Eliza's carpet was taken up, and the furniture had to be changed,
and one night she had to sleep at the Bromwicks', for there was a
long hole in her floor that might be dangerous.
All this delighted the little boys. They could not understand what
was going on.
Perhaps they suspected a Christmas-tree, but they did not know
why a Christmas-tree should have so many chips, and were still
more astonished at the hump that appeared in Elizabeth Eliza's
room. It must be a Christmas present, or else the tree in a box.
Some aunts and uncles, too, arrived a day or two before Christmas,
with some small cousins. These cousins occupied the attention of
the little boys, and there was a great deal of whispering and
mystery, behind doors, and under the stairs, and in the corners of
Solomon John was busy, privately making some candles for the
tree. He had been collecting some bayberries, as he understood
they made very nice candles, so that it would not be necessary to
The elders of the family never all went into the back parlor
together, and all tried not to see what was going on. Mrs. Peterkin
would go in with Solomon John, or Mr. Peterkin with Elizabeth
Eliza, or Elizabeth Eliza and Agamemnon and Solomon John. The
little boys and the small cousins were never allowed even to look
inside the room.
Elizabeth Eliza meanwhile went into town a number of times. She
wanted to consult Amanda as to how much ice-cream they should
need, and whether they could make it at home, as they had cream
and ice. She was pretty busy in her own room; the furniture had to
be changed, and the carpet altered. The "hump" was higher than
she expected. There was danger of bumping her own head
whenever she crossed it. She had to nail some padding on the
ceiling for fear of accidents.
The afternoon before Christmas, Elizabeth Eliza, Solomon John,
and their father collected in the back parlor for a council. The
carpenters had done their work, and the tree stood at its full height
at the back of the room, the top stretching up into the space
arranged for it. All the chips and shavings were cleared away, and
it stood on a neat box.
But what were they to put upon the tree?
Solomon John had brought in his supply of candles; but they
proved to be very "stringy" and very few of them. It was strange
how many bayberries it took to make a few candles! The little
boys had helped him, and he had gathered as much as a bushel of
bayberries. He had put them in water, and skimmed off the wax,
according to the directions; but there was so little wax!
Solomon John had given the little boys some of the bits sawed off
from the legs of the chairs. He had suggested that they should
cover them with gilt paper, to answer for gilt apples, without
telling them what they were for.
These apples, a little blunt at the end, and the candles were all they
had for the tree!
After all her trips into town Elizabeth Eliza had forgotten to bring
anything for it.
"I thought of candies and sugar-plums," she said; "but I concluded
if we made caramels ourselves we should not need them. But,
then, we have not made caramels. The fact is, that day my head
was full of my carpet. I had bumped it pretty badly, too."
Mr. Peterkin wished he had taken, instead of a fir-tree, an
apple-tree he had seen in October, full of red fruit.
"But the leaves would have fallen off by this time," said Elizabeth
"And the apples, too," said Solomon John.
"It is odd I should have forgotten, that day I went in on purpose to
get the things," said Elizabeth Eliza, musingly. "But I went from
shop to shop, and didn't know exactly what to get. I saw a great
many gilt things for Christmas-trees; but I knew the little boys
were making the gilt apples; there were plenty of candles in the
shops, but I knew Solomon John was making the candles."
Mr. Peterkin thought it was quite natural.
Solomon John wondered if it were too late for them to go into
Elizabeth Eliza could not go in the next morning, for there was to
be a grand Christmas dinner, and Mr. Peterkin could not be
spared, and Solomon John was sure he and Agamemnon would
not know what to buy. Besides, they would want to try the candles
Mr. Peterkin asked if the presents everybody had been preparing
would not answer. But Elizabeth Eliza knew they would be too
A gloom came over the room. There was only a flickering gleam
from one of Solomon John's candles that he had lighted by way of
Solomon John again proposed going into town. He lighted a match
to examine the newspaper about the trains. There were plenty of
trains coming out at that hour, but none going in except a very late
one. That would not leave time to do anything and come back.
"We could go in, Elizabeth Eliza and I," said Solomon John, "but
we should not have time to buy anything."
Agamemnon was summoned in. Mrs. Peterkin was entertaining the
uncles and aunts in the front parlor. Agamemnon wished there
was time to study up something about electric lights. If they could
only have a calcium light! Solomon John's candle sputtered and
At this moment there was a loud knocking at the front door. The
little boys, and the small cousins, and the uncles and aunts, and
Mrs. Peterkin, hastened to see what was the matter.
The uncles and aunts thought somebody's house must be on fire.
The door was opened, and there was a man, white with flakes, for
it was beginning to snow, and he was pulling in a large box.
Mrs. Peterkin supposed it contained some of Elizabeth Eliza's
purchases, so she ordered it to be pushed into the back parlor, and
hastily called back her guests and the little boys into the other
room. The little boys and the small cousins were sure they had
seen Santa Claus himself.
Mr. Peterkin lighted the gas. The box was addressed to Elizabeth
Eliza. It was from the lady from Philadelphia! She had gathered a
hint from Elizabeth Eliza's letters that there was to be a
Christmas-tree, and had filled this box with all that would be
It was opened directly. There was every kind of gilt hanging-thing,
from gilt pea-pods to butterflies on springs. There were shining
flags and lanterns, and birdcages, and nests with birds sitting on
them, baskets of fruit, gilt apples and bunches of grapes, and, at
the bottom of the whole, a large box of candles and a box of
Elizabeth Eliza and Solomon John could scarcely keep from
screaming. The little boys and the small cousins knocked on the
folding-doors to ask what was the matter.
Hastily Mr. Peterkin and the rest took out the things and hung
them on the tree, and put on the candles.
When all was done, it looked so well that Mr. Peterkin exclaimed:
"Let us light the candles now, and send to invite all the neighbors
to-night, and have the tree on Christmas Eve!"
And so it was that the Peterkins had their Christmas-tree the day
before, and on Christmas night could go and visit their neighbors.
MRS. PETERKIN'S TEA-PARTY. TWAS important to have a
tea-party, as they had all been invited by everybody,the
Bromwicks, the Tremletts, and the Gibbonses. It would be such a
good chance to pay off some of their old debts, now that the lady
from Philadelphia was back again, and her two daughters, who
would be sure to make it all go off well.
But as soon as they began to make out the list, they saw there were
too many to have at once, for there were but twelve cups and
saucers in the best set.
"There are seven of us, to begin with," said Mr. Peterkin.
"We need not all drink tea," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"I never do," said Solomon John. The little boys never did.
"And we could have coffee, too," suggested Elizabeth Eliza.
"That would take as many cups," objected Agamemnon.
"We could use the every-day set for the coffee," answered
Elizabeth Eliza; "they are the right shape. Besides," she went on,
"they would not all come. Mr. and Mrs. Bromwick, for instance;
they never go out."
"There are but six cups in the every-day set," said Mrs. Peterkin.
The little boys said there were plenty of saucers; and Mr. Peterkin
agreed with Elizabeth Eliza that all would not come. Old Mr.
Jeffers never went out.
"There are three of the Tremletts," said Elizabeth Eliza; "they
never go out together. One of them, if not two, will be sure to
have the headache. Ann Maria Bromwick would come, and the
three Gibbons boys, and their sister Juliana; but the other sisters
are out West, and there is but one Osborne."
It really did seem safe to ask "everybody." They would be sorry,
after it was over, that they had not asked more.
"We have the cow," said Mrs. Peterkin, "so there will be as much
cream and milk as we shall need."
"And our own pig," said Agamemnon. "I am glad we had it salted;
so we can have plenty of sandwiches."
"I will buy a chest of tea," exclaimed Mr. Peterkin. "I have been
thinking of a chest for some time."
Mrs. Peterkin thought a whole chest would not be needed: it was
as well to buy the tea and coffee by the pound. But Mr. Peterkin
determined on a chest of tea and a bag of coffee.
So they decided to give the invitations to all. It might be a stormy
evening and some would be prevented.
The lady from Philadelphia and her daughters accepted.
And it turned out a fair day, and more came than were expected.
Ann Maria Bromwick had a friend staying with her, and brought
her over, for the Bromwicks were opposite neighbors. And the
Tremletts had a niece, and Mary Osborne an aunt, that they took
the liberty to bring.
The little boys were at the door, to show in the guests, and as each
set came to the front gate, they ran back to tell their mother that
more were coming.
Mrs. Peterkin had grown dizzy with counting those who had come,
and trying to calculate how many were to come, and wondering
why there were always more and never less, and whether the cups
would go round.
The three Tremletts all came, with their niece. They all had had
their headaches the day before, and were having that banged
feeling you always have after a headache; so they all sat at the
same side of the room on the long sofa.
All the Jefferses came, though they had sent uncertain answers.
Old Mr. Jeffers had to be helped in, with his cane, by Mr.
The Gibbons boys came, and would stand just outside the parlor
door. And Juliana appeared afterward, with the two other sisters,
unexpectedly home from the West.
"Got home this morning!" they said. "And so glad to be in time to
see everybody,a little tired, to be sure, after forty-eight hours in a
"Forty-eight!" repeated Mrs. Peterkin; and wondered if there were
forty-eight people, and why they were all so glad to come, and
whether all could sit down.
Old Mr. and Mrs. Bromwick came. They thought it would not be
neighborly to stay away. They insisted on getting into the most
Yet there seemed to be seats enough while the Gibbons boys
preferred to stand.
But they never could sit round a tea-table. Elizabeth Eliza had
thought they all might have room at the table, and Solomon John
and the little boys could help in the waiting.
It was a great moment when the lady from Philadelphia arrived
with her daughters. Mr. Peterkin was talking to Mr. Bromwick,
who was a little deaf. The Gibbons boys retreated a little farther
behind the parlor door. Mrs. Peterkin hastened forward to shake
hands with the lady from Philadelphia, saying: "Four Gibbons
girls and Mary Osborne's aunt,that makes nineteen; and now" It
made no difference what she said; for there was such a murmuring
of talk that any words suited. And the lady from Philadelphia
wanted to be introduced to the Bromwicks.
It was delightful for the little boys. They came to Elizabeth Eliza,
"Can't we go and ask more ? Can't we fetch the Larkins?"
"Oh, dear, no!" answered Elizabeth Eliza. "I can't even count
Mrs. Peterkin found time to meet Elizabeth Eliza in the side entry,
to ask if there were going to be cups enough.
"I have set Agamemnon in the front entry to count," said Elizabeth
Eliza, putting her hand to her head.
The little boys came to say that the Maberlys were coming.
"The Maberlys!" exclaimed Elizabeth Eliza. "I never asked them."
"It is your father's doing," cried Mrs. Peterkin. "I do believe he
asked everybody he saw!" And she hurried back to her guests.
"What if father really has asked everybody?" Elizabeth Eliza said
to herself, pressing her head again with her hand.
There were the cow and the pig. But if they all took tea or coffee,
or both, the cups could not go round.
Agamemnon returned in the midst of her agony.
MRS. PETERKIN'S TEA-PARTY. He had not been able to count
the guests, they moved about so, they talked so; and it would not
look well to appear to count.
"What shall we do?" exclaimed Elizabeth Eliza.
"We are not a family for an emergency," said Agamemnon.
"What do you suppose they did in Philadelphia at the Exhibition,
when there were more people than cups and saucers?" asked
Elizabeth Eliza. "Could not you go and inquire? I know the lady
from Philadelphia is talking about the Exhibition, and telling how
she stayed at home to receive friends. And they must have had
trouble there! Could not you go in and ask, just as if you wanted to
Agamemnon looked into the room, but there were too many
talking with the lady from Philadelphia.
"If we could only look into some book," he said,"the
encyclopaedia or the dictionary, they are such a help sometimes!"
At this moment he thought of his "Great Triumphs of Great Men,"
that he was reading just now. He had not reached the lives of the
Stephensons, or any of the men of modern times. He might skip
over to them,he knew they were men for emergencies.
He ran up to his room, and met Solomon John coming down with
"That is a good thought," said Agamemnon. "I will bring down
more upstairs chairs."
"No," said Solomon John; "here are all that can come down; the
rest of the bedroom chairs match bureaus, and they never will
Agamemnon kept on to his own room, to consult his books. If only
he could invent something on the spur of the moment,a set of
bedroom furniture, that in an emergency could be turned into
parlor chairs! It seemed an idea; and he sat himself down to his
table and pencils, when he was interrupted by the little boys, who
came to tell him that Elizabeth Eliza wanted him.
The little boys had been busy thinking. They proposed that the
tea-table, with all the things on, should be pushed into the front
room, where the company were; and those could take cups who
could find cups.
But Elizabeth Eliza feared it would not be safe to push so large a
table; it might upset, and break what china they had.
Agamemnon came down to find her pouring out tea, in the back
room. She called to him: "Agamemnon, you must bring Mary
Osborne to help, and perhaps one of the Gibbons boys would carry
round some of the cups."
And so she began to pour out and to send round the sandwiches,
and the tea, and the coffee. Let things go as far as they would!
The little boys took the sugar and cream.
"As soon as they have done drinking bring back the cups and
saucers to be washed," she said to the Gibbons boys and the little
This was an idea of Mary Osborne's.
But what was their surprise, that the more they poured out, the
more cups they seemed to have! Elizabeth Eliza took the coffee,
and Mary Osborne the tea.
Amanda brought fresh cups from the kitchen.
"I can't understand it," Elizabeth Eliza said to Amanda. "Do they
come back to you, round through the piazza? Surely there are
more cups than there were!"
Her surprise was greater when some of them proved to be
coffee-cups that matched the set! And they never had had
Solomon John came in at this moment, breathless with triumph.
"Solomon John!" Elizabeth Eliza exclaimed; "I cannot understand
"It is my doing," said Solomon John, with an elevated air. "I went
to the lady from Philadelphia, in the midst of her talk. 'What do
you do in Philadelphia, when you haven't enough cups?' 'Borrow
of my neighbors,' she answered, as quick as she could."
"She must have guessed," interrupted Elizabeth Eliza.
"That may be," said Solomon John. "But I whispered to Ann Maria
Bromwick,she was standing by,and she took me straight over
into their closet, and old Mr.
Bromwick bought this set just where we bought ours. And they had
a coffee-set, too" "You mean where our father and mother
bought them. We were not born," said Elizabeth Eliza.
"It is all the same," said Solomon John. "They match exactly."
So they did, and more and more came in.
Elizabeth Eliza exclaimed:
"And Agamemnon says we are not a family for emergencies!"
"Ann Maria was very good about it," said Solomon John; "and
quick, too. And old Mrs. Bromwick has kept all her set of two
dozen coffee and tea cups!"
Elizabeth Eliza was ready to faint with delight and relief. She told
the Gibbons boys, by mistake, instead of Agamemnon, and the
little boys. She almost let fall the cups and saucers she took in her
"No trouble now!"
She thought of the cow, and she thought of the pig, and she poured
No trouble, except about the chairs. She looked into the room; all
seemed to be sitting down, even her mother. No, her father was
standing, talking to Mr.
Jeffers. But he was drinking coffee, and the Gibbons boys were
handing things around.
The daughters of the lady from Philadelphia were sitting on shawls
on the edge of the window that opened upon the piazza. It was a
soft, warm evening, and some of the young people were on the
piazza. Everybody was talking and laughing, except those who
Mr. Peterkin broke away, to bring back his cup and another for
"It's a great success, Elizabeth Eliza," he whispered. "The coffee is
admirable, and plenty of cups. We asked none too many. I should
not mind having a tea-party every week."
Elizabeth Eliza sighed with relief as she filled his cup. It was going
There were cups enough, but she was not sure she could live over
another such hour of anxiety; and what was to be done after tea?
THE PETERKINS TOO LATE FOR THE EXHIBITION.
Dramatis Personæ. Amanda (friend of Elizabeth Eliza), Amanda's
mother, girls of the graduating class, Mrs. Peterkin, Elizabeth
Eliza. AMANDA [coming in with a few graduates ].
MOTHER, the exhibition is over, and I have brought the whole
class home to the collation.
MOTHER. The whole class! I But I only expected a few.
AMANDA. The rest are coming. I brought Julie, and Clara, and
Sophie with me. [A voice is heard. ] Here are the rest.
MOTHER. Why, no. It is Mrs. Peterkin and Elizabeth Eliza!
AMANDA. Too late for the exhibition. Such a shame! But in time
for the collation.
MOTHER [to herself ]. If the ice-cream will go round.
AMANDA. But what made you so late? Did you miss the train?
This is Elizabeth Eliza, girlsyou have heard me speak of her.
What a pity you were too late!
MRS. PETERKIN. We tried to come; we did our best.
MOTHER. Did you miss the train? Didn't you get my postal-card?
MRS. PETERKIN. We had nothing to do with the train.
AMANDA. You don't mean you walked?
MRS. PETERKIN. O no, indeed!
ELIZABETH ELIZA. We came in a horse and carryall.
JULIA. I always wondered how anybody could come in a horse!
AMANDA. You are too foolish, Julia. They came in the carryall
part. But didn't you start in time?
MRS. PETERKIN. It all comes from the carryall being so hard to
turn. I told Mr.
Peterkin we should get into trouble with one of those carryalls that
don't turn easy.
ELIZABETH ELIZA. They turn easy enough in the stable, so you
MRS. PETERKIN. Yes; we started with the little boys and
Solomon John on the back seat, and Elizabeth Eliza on the front.
She was to drive, and I was to see to the driving. But the horse
was not faced toward Boston.
MOTHER. And you tipped over in turning round! Oh, what an
AMANDA. And the little boyswhere are they? Are they killed?
ELIZABETH ELIZA. The little boys are all safe. We left them at
the Pringles', with Solomon John.
MOTHER. But what did happen?
MRS. PETERKIN. We started the wrong way.
MOTHER. You lost your way, after all?
ELIZABETH ELIZA. No; we knew the way well enough.
AMANDA. It's as plain as a pikestaff!
MRS. PETERKIN. No; we had the horse faced in the wrong
ELIZABETH ELIZA. And mother was afraid to have me turn, and
we kept on and on till we should reach a wide place.
MRS. PETERKIN. I thought we should come to a road that would
veer off to the right or left, and bring us back to the right
MOTHER. Could not you all get out and turn the thing round?
MRS. PETERKIN. Why, no; if it had broken down we should not
have been in anything, and could not have gone anywhere.
ELIZABETH ELIZA. Yes, I have always heard it was best to stay
in the carriage, whatever happens.
JULIA. But nothing seemed to happen.
MRS. PETERKIN. O yes; we met one man after another, and we
asked the way to Boston.
ELIZABETH ELIZA. And all they would say was, "Turn right
roundyou are on the road to Providence."
MRS. PETERKIN. As if we could turn right round! That was just
what we couldn't.
MOTHER. You don't mean you kept on all the way to
ELIZABETH ELIZA. O dear, no! We kept on and on, till we met
a man with a black hand-bagblack leather I should say.
JULIA. He must have been a book-agent.
MRS. PETERKIN. I dare say he was; his bag seemed heavy. He
set it on a stone.