Part 2 out of 3
MOTHER. I dare say it was the same one that came here the other
day. He wanted me to buy the "History of the Aborigines, Brought
up from Earliest Times to the Present Date," in four volumes. I
told him I hadn't time to read so much. He said that was no matter,
few did, and it wasn't much worth itthey bought books for the
look of the thing.
AMANDA. Now, that was illiterate; he never could have
graduated. I hope, Elizabeth Eliza, you had nothing to do with that
ELIZABETH ELIZA. Very likely it was not the same one.
MOTHER. Did he have a kind of pepper-and-salt suit, with one of
the buttons worn?
MRS. PETERKIN. I noticed one of the buttons was off.
AMANDA. We're off the subject. Did you buy his book?
ELIZABETH ELIZA. He never offered us his book.
MRS. PETERKIN. He told us the same story,we were going to
Providence; if we wanted to go to Boston, we must turn directly
ELIZABETH ELIZA. I told him I couldn't; but he took the horse's
head, and the first thing I knew AMANDA. He had yanked you
MRS. PETERKIN. I screamed; I couldn't help it!
ELIZABETH ELIZA. I was glad when it was over!
MOTHER. Well, well; it shows the disadvantage of starting
MRS. PETERKIN. Yes, we came straight enough when the horse
was headed right; but we lost time.
ELIZABETH ELIZA. I am sorry enough I lost the exhibition, and
seeing you take the diploma, Amanda. I never got the diploma
myself. I came near it.
MRS. PETERKIN. Somehow, Elizabeth Eliza never succeeded. I
think there was partiality about the promotions.
ELIZABETH ELIZA. I never was good about remembering
things. I studied well enough, but, when I came to say off my
lesson, I couldn't think what it was. Yet I could have answered
some of the other girls' questions.
JULIA. It's odd how the other girls always have the easiest
ELIZABETH ELIZA. I never could remember poetry There was
only one thing I could repeat.
AMANDA. Oh, do let us have it now; and then we'll recite to you
some of our exhibition pieces.
ELIZABETH ELIZA. I'll try.
MRS. PETERKIN. Yes, Elizabeth Eliza, do what you can to help
entertain Amanda's friends.
[All stand looking at ELIZABETH ELIZA, who remains silent and
thoughtful. ] ELIZABETH ELIZA. I'm trying to think what it is
about. You all know it. You remember, Amanda,the name is
AMANDA. It can't be Nebuchadnezzar, can it?that is one of the
longest names I know.
ELIZABETH ELIZA. O dear, no!
JULIA. Perhaps it's Cleopatra.
ELIZABETH ELIZA. It does begin with a "C"only he was a boy.
AMANDA. That's a pity, for it might be " We are seven," only
that is a girl.
Some of them were boys.
ELIZABETH ELIZA. It begins about a boyif I could only think
where he was. I can't remember.
AMANDA. Perhaps he "stood upon the burning deck?"
ELIZABETH ELIZA. That's just it; I knew he stood somewhere.
AMANDA. Casabianca! Now begingo ahead.
ELIZABETH ELIZA. "The boy stood on the burning deck,
I can't think who stood there with him JULIA. If the deck was
burning, it must have been on fire. I guess the rest ran away, or
jumped into boats.
AMANDA. That's just it: "Whence all but him had fled."
ELIZABETH ELIZA. I think I can say it now.
"The boy stood on the burning deck, Whence all but him had
[She hesitates. ] Then I think he went JULIA. Of course, he fled
after the rest.
AMANDA. Dear, no! That's the point. He didn't.
"The flames rolled on, he would not go Without his father's
ELIZABETH ELIZA. O yes. Now I can say it.
"The boy stood on the burning deck, Whence all but him had
fled; The flames rolled on, he would not go Without his
But it used to rhyme. I don't know what has happened to it.
MRS. PETERKIN. Elizabeth Eliza is very particular about the
ELIZABETH ELIZA. It must be "without his father's head," or,
perhaps, "without his father said" he should.
JULIA. I think you must have omitted something.
AMANDA. She has left out ever so much!
MOTHER. Perhaps it's as well to omit some, for the ice-cream
has come, and you must all come down.
AMANDA. And here are the rest of the girls; and let us all unite
in a song!
[Exeunt omnes, singing. ]
THE PETERKINS CELEBRATE THE FOURTH OF JULY. THE
day began early.
A compact had been made with the little boys the evening before.
They were to be allowed to usher in the glorious day by the
blowing of horns exactly at sunrise. But they were to blow them
for precisely five minutes only, and no sound of the horns should
be heard afterward till the family were downstairs.
It was thought that a peace might thus be bought by a short, though
crowded, period of noise.
The morning came. Even before the morning, at half-past three
o'clock, a terrible blast of the horns aroused the whole family.
Mrs. Peterkin clasped her hands to her head and exclaimed: "I am
thankful the lady from Philadelphia is not here!" For she had been
invited to stay a week, but had declined to come before the Fourth
of July, as she was not well, and her doctor had prescribed quiet.
And the number of the horns was most remarkable! It was as
though every cow in the place had arisen and was blowing
through both her own horns!
"How many little boys are there? How many have we?" exclaimed
Mr. Peterkin, going over their names one by one mechanically,
thinking he would do it, as he might count imaginary sheep
jumping over a fence, to put himself to sleep. Alas!
the counting could not put him to sleep now, in such a din.
And how unexpectedly long the five minutes seemed! Elizabeth
Eliza was to take out her watch and give the signal for the end of
the five minutes, and the ceasing of the horns. Why did not the
signal come? Why did not Elizabeth Eliza stop them?
And certainly it was long before sunrise; there was no dawn to be
"We will not try this plan again," said Mrs. Peterkin.
"If we live to another Fourth," added Mr. Peterkin, hastening to the
door to inquire into the state of affairs.
Alas! Amanda, by mistake, had waked up the little boys an hour
too early. And by another mistake the little boys had invited three
or four of their friends to spend the night with them. Mrs. Peterkin
had given them permission to have the boys for the whole day,
and they understood the day as beginning when they went to bed
the night before. This accounted for the number of horns.
It would have been impossible to hear any explanation; but the
five minutes were over, and the horns had ceased, and there
remained only the noise of a singular leaping of feet, explained
perhaps by a possible pillow-fight, that kept the family below
partially awake until the bells and cannon made known the
dawning of the glorious day,the sunrise, or "the rising of the
sons," as Mr.
Peterkin jocosely called it when they heard the little boys and their
friends clattering down the stairs to begin the outside festivities.
They were bound first for the swamp, for Elizabeth Eliza, at the
suggestion of the lady from Philadelphia, had advised them to
hang some flags around the pillars of the piazza. Now the little
boys knew of a place in the swamp where they had been in the
habit of digging for "flag-root," and where they might find plenty
of flag flowers. They did bring away all they could, but they were a
little out of bloom. The boys were in the midst of nailing up all
they had on the pillars of the piazza when the procession of the
Antiques and Horribles passed along. As the procession saw the
festive arrangements on the piazza, and the crowd of boys, who
cheered them loudly, it stopped to salute the house with some
especial strains of greeting.
Poor Mrs. Peterkin! They were directly under her windows! In a
few moments of quiet, during the boys' absence from the house on
their visit to the swamp, she had been trying to find out whether
she had a sick-headache, or whether it was all the noise, and she
was just deciding it was the sick headache, but was falling into a
light slumber, when the fresh noise outside began.
There were the imitations of the crowing of cocks, and braying of
donkeys, and the sound of horns, encored and increased by the
cheers of the boys. Then began the torpedoes, and the Antiques
and Horribles had Chinese crackers also.
And, in despair of sleep, the family came down to breakfast.
Mrs. Peterkin had always been much afraid of fire-works, and had
never allowed the boys to bring gunpowder into the house. She
was even afraid of torpedoes; they looked so much like
sugar-plums she was sure some the children would swallow them,
and explode before anybody knew it.
She was very timid about other things. She was not sure even
Everybody exclaimed over this: "Surely there was no danger in
pea-nuts!" But Mrs. Peterkin declared she had been very much
alarmed at the Centennial Exhibition, and in the crowded corners
of the streets in Boston, at the pea-nut stands, where they had
machines to roast the pea-nuts. She did not think it was safe. They
might go off any time, in the midst of a crowd of people, too!
Mr. Peterkin thought there actually was no danger, and he should
be sorry to give up the pea-nut. He thought it an American
institution, something really belonging to the Fourth of July. He
even confessed to a quiet pleasure in crushing the empty shells
with his feet on the sidewalks as he went along the streets.
Agamemnon thought it a simple joy.
In consideration, however, of the fact that they had had no real
celebration of the Fourth the last year, Mrs. Peterkin had
consented to give over the day, this year, to the amusement of the
family as a Centennial celebration. She would prepare herself for
a terrible noise,only she did not want any gunpowder brought into
The little boys had begun by firing some torpedoes a few days
beforehand, that their mother might be used to the sound, and had
selected their horns some weeks before.
Solomon John had been very busy in inventing some fireworks. As
Mrs. Peterkin objected to the use of gunpowder, he found out
from the dictionary what the different parts of gunpowder
are,saltpetre, charcoal, and sulphur. Charcoal, he discovered, they
had in the wood-house; saltpetre they would find in the cellar, in
the beef barrel; and sulphur they could buy at the apothecary's. He
explained to his mother that these materials had never yet
exploded in the house, and she was quieted.
Agamemnon, meanwhile, remembered a recipe he had read
somewhere for making a "fulminating paste" of iron-filings and
powder of brimstone. He had written it down on a piece of paper
in his pocket-book. But the iron filings must be finely powdered.
This they began upon a day or two before, and the very afternoon
before laid out some of the paste on the piazza.
Pin-wheels and rockets were contributed by Mr. Peterkin for the
According to a programme drawn up by Agamemnon and
Solomon John, the reading of the Declaration of Independence
was to take place in the morning, on the piazza, under the flags.
The Bromwicks brought over their flag to hang over the door.
"That is what the lady from Philadelphia meant," explained
"She said the flags of our country," said the little boys. "We
thought she meant 'in the country.'"
Quite a company assembled; but it seemed nobody had a copy of
the Declaration of Independence.
Elizabeth Eliza said she could say one line, if they each could add
as much. But it proved they all knew the same line that she did, as
they began: "When, in the course ofwhen, in the course ofwhen,
in the course of humanwhen in the course of human eventswhen,
in the course of human events, it becomeswhen, in the course of
human events, it becomes necessarywhen, in the course of human
events it becomes necessary for one people" They could not get
any farther. Some of the party decided that "one people" was a
good place to stop, and the little boys sent off some fresh
torpedoes in honor of the people. But Mr. Peterkin was not
satisfied. He invited the assembled party to stay until sunset, and
meanwhile he would find a copy, and torpedoes were to be saved
to be fired off at the close of every sentence.
And now the noon bells rang and the noon bells ceased.
Mrs. Peterkin wanted to ask everybody to dinner. She should have
some cold beef. She had let Amanda go, because it was the
Fourth, and everybody ought to be free that one day; so she could
not have much of a dinner. But when she went to cut her beef she
found Solomon had taken it to soak, on account of the saltpetre,
for the fireworks!
Well, they had a pig; so she took a ham, and the boys had bought
tamarinds and buns and a cocoa-nut. So the company stayed on,
and when the Antiques and Horribles passed again they were
treated to pea-nuts and lemonade.
They sung patriotic songs, they told stories, they fired torpedoes,
they frightened the cats with them. It was a warm afternoon; the
red poppies were out wide, and the hot sun poured down on the
alley-ways in the garden. There was a seething sound of a hot day
in the buzzing of insects, in the steaming heat that came up from
the ground. Some neighboring boys were firing a toy cannon.
Every time it went off Mrs. Peterkin started, and looked to see if
one of the little boys was gone. Mr. Peterkin had set out to find a
copy of the "Declaration." Agamemnon had disappeared. She had
not a moment to decide about her headache.
She asked Ann Maria if she were not anxious about the fireworks,
and if rockets were not dangerous. They went up, but you were
never sure where they came down.
And then came a fresh tumult! All the fire-engines in town rushed
toward them, clanging with bells, men and boys yelling! They
were out for a practice and for a Fourth-of-July show.
Mrs. Peterkin thought the house was on fire, and so did some of
There was great rushing hither and thither. Some thought they
would better go home; some thought they would better stay. Mrs.
Peterkin hastened into the house to save herself, or see what she
could save. Elizabeth Eliza followed her, first proceeding to
collect all the pokers and tongs she could find, because they could
be thrown out of the window without breaking. She had read of
people who had flung looking-glasses out of the window by
mistake, in the excitement of the house being on fire, and had
carried the pokers and tongs carefully into the garden. There was
nothing like being prepared. She had always determined to do the
reverse. So with calmness she told Solomon John to take down the
looking-glasses. But she met with a difficulty,there were no
pokers and tongs, as they did not use them. They had no open
fires; Mrs. Peterkin had been afraid of them. So Elizabeth Eliza
took all the pots and kettles up to the upper windows, ready to be
But where was Mrs. Peterkin? Solomon John found she had fled to
the attic in terror. He persuaded her to come down, assuring her it
was the most unsafe place; but she insisted upon stopping to
collect some bags of old pieces, that nobody would think of
saving from the general wreck, she said, unless she did. Alas! this
was the result of fireworks on Fourth of July! As they came
downstairs they heard the voices of all the company declaring
there was no fire; the danger was past. It was long before Mrs.
Peterkin could believe it. They told her the fire company was only
out for show, and to celebrate the Fourth of July. She thought it
already too much celebrated.
Elizabeth Eliza's kettles and pans had come down through the
windows with a crash, that had only added to the festivities, the
little boys thought.
Mr. Peterkin had been roaming about all this time in search of a
copy of the Declaration of Independence. The public library was
shut, and he had to go from house to house; but now, as the sunset
bells and cannon began, he returned with a copy, and read it, to
the pealing of the bells and sounding of the cannon.
Torpedoes and crackers were fired at every pause. Some
sweet-marjoram pots, tin cans filled with crackers which were
lighted, went off with great explosions.
At the most exciting moment, near the close of the reading,
Agamemnon, with an expression of terror, pulled Solomon John
"I have suddenly remembered where I read about the 'fulminating
paste' we made.
It was in the preface to 'Woodstock,' and I have been round to
borrow the book to read the directions over again, because I was
afraid about the 'paste' going off. READ THIS QUICKLY! and tell
me, Where is the fulminating paste? "
Solomon John was busy winding some covers of paper over a little
parcel. It contained chlorate of potash and sulphur mixed. A
friend had told him of the composition. The more thicknesses of
paper you put round it the louder it would go off. You must pound
it with a hammer. Solomon John felt it must be perfectly safe, as
his mother had taken potash for a medicine.
He still held the parcel as he read from Agamemnon's book: "This
paste, when it has lain together about twenty-six hours, will of
itself take fire, and burn all the sulphur away with a blue flame
and a bad smell."
"Where is the paste?" repeated Solomon John, in terror.
"We made it just twenty-six hours ago," said Agamemnon.
"We put it on the piazza," exclaimed Solomon John, rapidly
recalling the facts, "and it is in front of our mother's feet!"
He hastened to snatch the paste away before it should take fire,
flinging aside the packet in his hurry. Agamemnon, jumping upon
the piazza at the same moment, trod upon the paper parcel, which
exploded at once with the shock, and he fell to the ground, while
at the same moment the paste "fulminated" into a blue flame
directly in front of Mrs. Peterkin!
It was a moment of great confusion. There were cries and screams.
The bells were still ringing, the cannon firing, and Mr. Peterkin
had just reached the closing words: "Our lives, our fortunes, and
our sacred honor."
"We are all blown up, as I feared we should be," Mrs. Peterkin at
length ventured to say, finding herself in a lilac-bush by the side
of the piazza. She scarcely dared to open her eyes to see the
scattered limbs about her.
It was so with all. Even Ann Maria Bromwick clutched a pillar of
the piazza, with closed eyes.
At length Mr. Peterkin said, calmly, "Is anybody killed?"
There was no reply. Nobody could tell whether it was because
everybody was killed, or because they were too wounded to
answer. It was a great while before Mrs. Peterkin ventured to
But the little boys soon shouted with joy, and cheered the success
of Solomon John's fireworks, and hoped he had some more. One
of them had his face blackened by an unexpected cracker, and
Elizabeth Eliza's muslin dress was burned here and there. But no
one was hurt; no one had lost any limbs, though Mrs. Peterkin was
sure she had seen some flying in the air. Nobody could understand
how, as she had kept her eyes firmly shut.
No greater accident had occurred than the singeing of the tip of
Solomon John's nose. But there was an unpleasant and terrible
odor from the "fulminating paste."
Mrs. Peterkin was extricated from the lilac-bush. No one knew
how she got there.
Indeed, the thundering noise had stunned everybody. It had roused
the neighborhood even more than before. Answering explosions
came on every side, and, though the sunset light had not faded
away, the little boys hastened to send off rockets under cover of
the confusion. Solomon John's other fireworks would not go. But
all felt he had done enough.
Mrs. Peterkin retreated into the parlor, deciding she really did have
a headache. At times she had to come out when a rocket went off,
to see if it was one of the little boys. She was exhausted by the
adventures of the day, and almost thought it could not have been
worse if the boys had been allowed gunpowder. The distracted
lady was thankful there was likely to be but one Centennial Fourth
in her lifetime, and declared she should never more keep anything
in the house as dangerous as saltpetred beef, and she should never
venture to take another spoonful of potash.
THE PETERKINS' PICNIC. THERE was some doubt about the
weather. Solomon John looked at the "Probabilities;" there were
to be "areas" of rain in the New England States.
Agamemnon thought if they could only know where the areas of
rain were to be they might go to the others. Mr. Peterkin proposed
walking round the house in a procession, to examine the sky. As
they returned they met Ann Maria Bromwick, who was to go,
much surprised not to find them ready.
Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin were to go in the carryall, and take up the
lady from Philadelphia, and Ann Maria, with the rest, was to
follow in a wagon, and to stop for the daughters of the lady from
Philadelphia. The wagon arrived, and so Mr. Peterkin had the
horse put into the carryall.
A basket had been kept on the back piazza for some days, where
anybody could put anything that would be needed for the picnic as
soon as it was thought of.
Agamemnon had already decided to take a thermometer;
somebody was always complaining of being too hot or too cold at
a picnic, and it would be a great convenience to see if she really
were so. He thought now he might take a barometer, as
"Probabilities" was so uncertain. Then, if it went down in a
threatening way, they could all come back.
The little boys had tied their kites to the basket. They had never
tried them at home; it might be a good chance on the hills.
Solomon John had put in some fishing-poles; Elizabeth Eliza, a
book of poetry. Mr. Peterkin did not like sitting on the ground,
and proposed taking two chairs, one for himself and one for
anybody else. The little boys were perfectly happy; they jumped in
and out of the wagon a dozen times, with new india-rubber boots,
bought for the occasion.
Before they started, Mrs. Peterkin began to think she had already
had enough of the picnic, what with going and coming, and trying
to remember things. So many mistakes were made. The things that
were to go in the wagon were put in the carryall, and the things in
the carryall had to be taken out for the wagon!
Elizabeth Eliza forgot her water-proof, and had to go back for her
veil, and Mr.
Peterkin came near forgetting his umbrella.
Mrs. Peterkin sat on the piazza and tried to think. She felt as if she
must have forgotten something; she knew she must. Why could
not she think of it now, before it was too late? It seems hard any
day to think what to have for dinner, but how much easier now it
would be to stay at home quietly and order the dinner,and there
was the butcher's cart! But now they must think of everything.
At last she was put into the carryall, and Mr. Peterkin in front to
Twice they started, and twice they found something was left
behind,the loaf of fresh brown bread on the back piazza, and a
basket of sandwiches on the front porch. And just as the wagon
was leaving, the little boys shrieked, "The basket of things was
Everybody got out of the wagon. Agamemnon went back into the
house, to see if anything else were left. He looked into the closets;
he shut the front door, and was so busy that he forgot to get into
the wagon himself. It started off and went down the street without
He was wondering what he should do if he were left behind (why
had they not thought to arrange a telegraph wire to the back wheel
of the wagon, so that he might have sent a message in such a
case!), when the Bromwicks drove out of their yard in their buggy,
and took him in.
They joined the rest of the party at Tatham Corners, where they
were all to meet and consult where they were to go. Mrs. Peterkin
called to Agamemnon, as soon as he appeared. She had been
holding the barometer and the thermometer, and they waggled so
that it troubled her. It was hard keeping the thermometer out of
the sun, which would make it so warm. It really took away her
pleasure, holding the things. Agamemnon decided to get into the
carryall, on the seat with his father, and take the barometer and
The consultation went on. Should they go to Cherry Swamp, or
Lonetown Hill? You had the view if you went to Lonetown Hill,
but maybe the drive to Cherry Swamp was prettier.
Somebody suggested asking the lady from Philadelphia, as the
picnic was got up for her.
But where was she?
"I declare," said Mr. Peterkin, "I forgot to stop for her!" The whole
picnic there, and no lady from Philadelphia!
It seemed the horse had twitched his head in a threatening manner
as they passed the house, and Mr. Peterkin had forgotten to stop,
and Mrs. Peterkin had been so busy managing the thermometers
that she had not noticed, and the wagon had followed on behind.
Mrs. Peterkin was in despair. She knew they had forgotten
something! She did not like to have Mr. Peterkin make a short
turn, and it was getting late, and what would the lady from
Philadelphia think of it, and had they not better give it all up?
But everybody said "No!" and Mr. Peterkin said he could make a
wide turn round the Lovejoy barn. So they made the turn, and took
up the lady from Philadelphia, and the wagon followed behind
and took up their daughters, for there was a driver in the wagon
besides Solomon John.
Ann Maria Bromwick said it was so late by this time, they might
as well stop and have the picnic on the Common! But the question
was put again, Where should they go?
The lady from Philadelphia decided for Strawberry Nookit
There were no strawberries, and there was no nook, it was said,
but there was a good place to tie the horses.
Mrs. Peterkin was feeling a little nervous, for she did not know
what the lady from Philadelphia would think of their having
forgotten her, and the more she tried to explain it, the worse it
seemed to make it. She supposed they never did such things in
Philadelphia; she knew they had invited all the world to a party,
but she was sure she would never want to invite anybody again.
There was no fun about it till it was all over. Such a mistaketo
have a party for a person, and then go without her; but she knew
they would forget something! She wished they had not called it
There was another bother! Mr. Peterkin stopped. "Was anything
broke?" exclaimed Mrs. Peterkin. "Was something forgotten?"
asked the lady from Philadelphia.
No! But Mr. Peterkin didn't know the way; and here he was
leading all the party, and a long row of carriages following.
They stopped, and it seemed nobody knew the way to Strawberry
Nook, unless it was the Gibbons boys, who were far behind. They
were made to drive up, and said that Strawberry Nook was in
quite a different direction, but they could bring the party round to
it through the meadows.
The lady from Philadelphia thought they might stop anywhere,
such a pleasant day, but Mr. Peterkin said they were started for
Strawberry Nook, and had better keep on, So they kept on. It
proved to be an excellent place, where they could tie the horses to
a fence. Mrs. Peterkin did not like their all heading different ways;
it seemed as if any of them might come at her, and tear up the
fence, especially as the little boys had their kites flapping round.
The Tremletts insisted upon the whole party going up the hill; it
was too damp below. So the Gibbons boys, and the little boys and
Agamemnon, and Solomon John, and all the party had to carry
everything up to the rocks. The large basket of "things" was very
It had been difficult to lift it into the wagon, and it was harder to
take it out. But with the help of the driver, and Mr. Peterkin, and
old Mr. Bromwick, it was got up the hill.
And at last all was arranged. Mr. Peterkin was seated in his chair.
The other was offered to the lady from Philadelphia, but she
preferred the carriage cushions; so did old Mr. Bromwick. And
the table-cloth was spread,for they did bring a table-cloth,and
the baskets were opened, and the picnic really began.
The pickles had tumbled into the butter, and the spoons had been
forgotten, and the Tremletts' basket had been left on their front
door-step. But nobody seemed to mind. Everybody was hungry,
and everything they ate seemed of the best. The little boys were
perfectly happy, and ate of all the kinds of cake. Two of the
Tremletts would stand while they were eating, because they were
afraid of the ants and the spiders that seemed to be crawling
round. And Elizabeth Eliza had to keep poking with a fern leaf to
drive the insects out of the plates. The lady from Philadelphia was
made comfortable with the cushions and shawls, leaning against a
rock. Mrs. Peterkin wondered if she forgot she had been forgotten.
John Osborne said it was time for conundrums, and asked: "Why is
a pastoral musical play better than the music we have here?
Because one is a grasshopper, and the other is a grass-opera!"
Elizabeth Eliza said she knew a conundrum, a very funny one, one
of her friends in Boston had told her. It was, "Why is" It began,
"Why is something like"
no, "Why are they different?" It was something about an old
woman, or else it was something about a young one. It was very
funny, if she could only think what it was about, or whether it was
alike or different.
The lady from Philadelphia was proposing they should guess
Elizabeth Eliza's conundrum, first the question, and then the
answer, when one of the Tremletts came running down the hill,
and declared she had just discovered a very threatening cloud, and
she was sure it was going to rain down directly.
Everybody started up, though no cloud was to be seen.
There was a great looking for umbrellas and water-proofs. Then it
appeared that Elizabeth Eliza had left hers, after all, though she
had gone back for it twice.
Mr. Peterkin knew he had not forgotten his umbrella, because he
had put the whole umbrella-stand into the wagon, and it had been
brought up the hill, but it proved to hold only the family canes!
There was a great cry for the "emergency basket," that had not
been opened yet.
Mrs. Peterkin explained how for days the family had been putting
into it what might be needed, as soon as anything was thought of.
Everybody stopped to see its contents. It was carefully covered
with newspapers. First came out a backgammon-board. "That
would be useful," said Ann Maria, "if we have to spend the
afternoon in anybody's barn." Next, a pair of andirons. "What were
they for?" "In case of needing a fire in the woods," explained
Solomon John. Then came a volume of the Encyclopædia. But it
was the first volume, Agamemnon now regretted, and contained
only A and a part of B, and nothing about rain or showers. Next, a
bag of pea-nuts, put in by the little boys, and Elizabeth Eliza's
book of poetry, and a change of boots for Mr. Peterkin; a small
foot-rug in case the ground should be damp; some paint-boxes of
the little boys'; a box of fish-hooks for Solomon John; an
ink-bottle, carefully done up in a great deal of newspaper, which
was fortunate, as the ink was oozing out; some old magazines, and
a blacking-bottle; and at the bottom, a sun-dial. It was all very
entertaining, and there seemed to be something for every occasion
but the present. Old Mr. Bromwick did not wonder the basket was
so heavy. It was all so interesting that nobody but the Tremletts
went down to the carriages.
The sun was shining brighter than ever, and Ann Maria insisted on
setting up the sun-dial. Certainly there was no danger of a shower,
and they might as well go on with the picnic. But when Solomon
John and Ann Maria had arranged the sun-dial, they asked
everybody to look at their watches, so that they might see if it was
right. And then came a great exclamation at the hour: "It was time
they were all going home!"
The lady from Philadelphia had been wrapping her shawl about
her, as she felt the sun was low. But nobody had any idea it was so
late! Well, they had left late, and went back a great many times,
had stopped sometimes to consult, and had been long on the road,
and it had taken a long time to fetch up the things, so it was no
wonder it was time to go away. But it had been a delightful picnic,
THE PETERKINS' CHARADES. EVER since the picnic the
Peterkins had been wanting to have "something" at their house in
the way of entertainment. The little boys wanted to get up a "great
Exposition," to show to the people of the place. But Mr. Peterkin
thought it too great an effort to send to foreign countries for
"exhibits," and it was given up.
There was, however, a new water-trough needed on the town
common, and the ladies of the place thought it ought to be
something handsome,something more than a common
trough,and they ought to work for it.
Elizabeth Eliza had heard at Philadelphia how much women had
done, and she felt they ought to contribute to such a cause. She
had an idea, but she would not speak of it at first, not until after
she had written to the lady from Philadelphia. She had often
thought, in many cases, if they had asked her advice first, they
might have saved trouble.
Still, how could they ask advice before they themselves knew
what they wanted?
It was very easy to ask advice, but you must first know what to ask
about. And again: Elizabeth Eliza felt you might have ideas, but
you could not always put them together. There was this idea of the
water-trough, and then this idea of getting some money for it. So
she began with writing to the lady from Philadelphia. The little
boys believed she spent enough for it in postage-stamps before it
all came out.
But it did come out at last that the Peterkins were to have some
charades at their own house for the benefit of the needed
water-trough,tickets sold only to especial friends. Ann Maria
Bromwick was to help act, because she could bring some old
bonnets and gowns that had been worn by an aged aunt years ago,
and which they had always kept. Elizabeth Eliza said that
Solomon John would have to be a Turk, and they must borrow all
the red things and cashmere scarfs in the place. She knew people
would be willing to lend things.
Agamemnon thought you ought to get in something about the
Hindoos, they were such an odd people. Elizabeth Eliza said you
must not have it too odd, or people would not understand it, and
she did not want anything to frighten her mother.
She had one word suggested by the lady from Philadelphia in her
letters,the one that had "Turk" in it,but they ought to have two
words "Oh, yes," Ann Maria said, "you must have two words; if
the people paid for their tickets they would want to get their
Solomon John thought you might have "Hindoos"; the little boys
could color their faces brown, to look like Hindoos. You could
have the first scene an Irishman catching a hen, and then paying
the water-taxes for "dues," and then have the little boys for
A great many other words were talked of, but nothing seemed to
suit. There was a curtain, too, to be thought of, because the
folding-doors stuck when you tried to open and shut them.
Agamemnon said that the Pan-Elocutionists had a curtain they
would probably lend John Osborne, and so it was decided to ask
John Osborne to help.
If they had a curtain they ought to have a stage. Solomon John said
he was sure he had boards and nails enough, and it would be easy
to make a stage if John Osborne would help put it up.
All this talk was the day before the charades. In the midst of it Ann
Maria went over for her old bonnets and dresses and umbrellas,
and they spent the evening in trying on the various things,such
odd caps and remarkable bonnets ! Solomon John said they ought
to have plenty of bandboxes; if you only had bandboxes enough a
charade was sure to go off well; he had seen charades in Boston.
Peterkin said there were plenty in their attic, and the little boys
brought down piles of them, and the back parlor was filled with
Ann Maria said she could bring over more things if she only knew
what they were going to act. Elizabeth Eliza told her to bring
anything she had,it would all come of use.
The morning came, and the boards were collected for the stage.
Agamemnon and Solomon John gave themselves to the work, and
John Osborne helped zealously. He said the Pan-Elocutionists
would lend a scene also. There was a great clatter of bandboxes,
and piles of shawls in corners, and such a piece of work in getting
up the curtain! In the midst of it came in the little boys, shouting,
"All the tickets are sold, at ten cents each !"
"Seventy tickets sold!" exclaimed Agamemnon.
"Seven dollars for the water-trough!" said Elizabeth Eliza.
"And we do not know yet what we are going to act!" exclaimed
But everybody's attention had to be given to the scene that was
going up in the background, borrowed from the Pan-Elocutionists.
It was magnificent, and represented a forest.
"Where are we going to put seventy people?" exclaimed Mrs.
Peterkin, venturing, dismayed, into the heaps of shavings, and
boards, and litter.
The little boys exclaimed that a large part of the audience
consisted of boys, who would not take up much room. But how
much clearing and sweeping and moving of chairs was necessary
before all could be made ready! It was late, and some of the
people had already come to secure good seats, even before the
actors had assembled.
"What are we going to act?" asked Ann Maria.
"I have been so torn with one thing and another," said Elizabeth
Eliza, "I haven't had time to think!"
"Haven't you the word yet?" asked John Osborne, for the audience
was flocking in, and the seats were filling up rapidly.
"I have got one word in my pocket," said Elizabeth Eliza, "in the
letter from the lady from Philadelphia. She sent me the parts of
the word. Solomon John is to be a Turk, but I don't yet understand
the whole of the word."
"You don't know the word, and the people are all here!" said John
"Elizabeth Eliza !" exclaimed Ann Maria, "Solomon John says I'm
to be a Turkish slave, and I'll have to wear a veil. Do you know
where the veils are? You know I brought them over last night."
"Elizabeth Eliza! Solomon John wants you to send him the large
cashmere scarf !"
exclaimed one of the little boys, coming in.
"Elizabeth Eliza! you must tell us what kind of faces to make up!"
cried another of the boys.
And the audience were heard meanwhile taking the seats on the
other side of the thin curtain.
"You sit in front, Mrs. Bromwick; you are a little hard of hearing;
sit where you can hear."
"And let Julia Fitch come where she can see," said another voice.
"And we have not any words for them to hear or see!" exclaimed
John Osborne, behind the curtain.
"Oh, I wish we'd never determined to have charades! exclaimed
"Can't we return the money?"
"They are all here; we must give them something!" said John
"And Solomon John is almost dressed," reported Ann Maria,
winding a veil around her head.
"Why don't we take Solomon John's word 'Hindoos' for the first?"
John Osborne agreed to go in the first, hunting the "hin," or
anything, and one of the little boys took the part of the hen, with
the help of a feather duster.
The bell rang, and the first scene began.
It was a great success. John Osborne's Irish was perfect. Nobody
guessed the word, for the hen crowed by mistake; but it received
Mr. Peterkin came on in the second scene to receive the
water-rates, and made a long speech on taxation. He was
interrupted by Ann Maria as an old woman in a huge bonnet. She
persisted in turning her back to the audience, speaking so low
nobody heard her; and Elizabeth Eliza, who appeared in a more
remarkable bonnet, was so alarmed she went directly back, saying
she had forgotten something But this was supposed to be the
effect intended, and it was loudly cheered.
Then came a long delay, for the little boys brought out a number of
their friends to be browned for Hindoos. Ann Maria played on the
piano till the scene was ready. The curtain rose upon five brown
boys done up in blankets and turbans.
"I am thankful that is over," said Elizabeth Eliza, "for now we can
act my word.
Only I don't myself know the whole."
"Never mind, let us act it," said John Osborne, "and the audience
can guess the whole."
"The first syllable must be the letter P," said Elizabeth Eliza, "and
we must have a school."
Agamemnon was master, and the little boys and their friends went
on as scholars.
All the boys talked and shouted at once, acting their idea of a
school by flinging pea-nuts about, and scoffing at the master.
"They'll guess that to be 'row,'" said John Osborne in despair;
"they'll never guess 'P'!"
The next scene was gorgeous. Solomon John, as a Turk, reclined
on John Osborne's army-blanket. He had on a turban, and a long
beard, and all the family shawls. Ann Maria and Elizabeth Eliza
were brought in to him, veiled, by the little boys in their Hindoo
This was considered the great scene of the evening, though
Elizabeth Eliza was sure she did not know what to do,whether to
kneel or sit down; she did not know whether Turkish women did
sit down, and she could not help laughing whenever she looked at
Solomon John. He, however, kept his solemnity. "I suppose I need
not say much," he had said, "for I shall be the 'Turk who was
dreaming of the hour.'" But he did order the little boys to bring
sherbet, and when they brought it without ice insisted they must
have their heads cut off, and Ann Maria fainted, and the scene
"What are we to do now?" asked John Osborne, warming up to the
"We must have an 'inn' scene," said Elizabeth Eliza, consulting her
letter; "two inns, if we can."
"We will have some travellers disgusted with one inn, and going
said John Osborne.
"Now is the time for the bandboxes," said Solomon John, who,
since his Turk scene was over, could give his attention to the rest
of the charade.
Elizabeth Eliza and Ann Maria went on as rival hostesses, trying to
draw Solomon John, Agamemnon, and John Osborne into their
several inns. The little boys carried valises, hand-bags, umbrellas,
and bandboxes. Bandbox after bandbox appeared, and when
Agamemnon sat down upon his the applause was immense. At last
the curtain fell.
"Now for the whole," said John Osborne, as he made his way off
the stage over a heap of umbrellas.
"I can't think why the lady from Philadelphia did not send me the
whole," said Elizabeth Eliza, musing over the letter.
"Listen, they are guessing," said John Osborne. "'D-ice-box.' I don't
wonder they get it wrong."
"But we know it can't be that!" exclaimed Elizabeth Eliza, in
agony. "How can we act the whole if we don't know it ourselves?"
"Oh, I see it!" said Ann Maria, clapping her hands. "Get your
whole family in for the last scene."
Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin were summoned to the stage, and formed
the background, standing on stools; in front were Agamemnon
and Solomon John, leaving room for Elizabeth Eliza between; a
little in advance, and in front of all, half kneeling, were the little
boys, in their india-rubber boots.
The audience rose to an exclamation of delight, "The Peterkins !"
It was not until this moment that Elizabeth Eliza guessed the
"What a tableau!" exclaimed Mr. Bromwick; "the Peterkin family
guessing their own charade."
THE PETERKINS ARE OBLIGED TO MOVE. AGAMEMNON
had long felt it an impropriety to live in a house that was called a
"semi-detached" house, when there was no other "semi" to it. It
had always remained wholly detached, as the owner had never
built the other half. Mrs.
Peterkin felt this was not a sufficient reason for undertaking the
terrible process of a move to another house, when they were fully
satisfied with the one they were in.
But a more powerful reason forced them to go. The track of a new
railroad had to be carried directly through the place, and a station
was to be built on that very spot.
Mrs. Peterkin so much dreaded moving that she questioned
whether they could not continue to live in the upper part of the
house and give up the lower part to the station. They could then
dine at the restaurant, and it would be very convenient about
travelling, as there would be no danger of missing the train, if one
were sure of the direction.
But when the track was actually laid by the side of the house, and
the steam-engine of the construction train puffed and screamed
under the dining-room windows, and the engineer calmly looked
in to see what the family had for dinner, she felt, indeed, that they
But where should they go? It was difficult to find a house that
satisfied the whole family. One was too far off, and looked into a
tan-pit; another was too much in the middle of the town, next door
to a machine-shop. Elizabeth Eliza wanted a porch covered with
vines, that should face the sunset; while Mr.
Peterkin thought it would not be convenient to sit there looking
towards the west in the late afternoon (which was his only leisure
time), for the sun would shine in his face. The little boys wanted a
house with a great many doors, so that they could go in and out
often. But Mr. Peterkin did not like so much slamming, and felt
there was more danger of burglars with so many doors.
Agamemnon wanted an observatory, and Solomon John a shed for
a workshop. If he could have carpenters' tools and a workbench he
could build an observatory, if it were wanted.
But it was necessary to decide upon something, for they must
leave their house directly. So they were obliged to take Mr.
Finch's, at the Corners. It satisfied none of the family. The porch
was a piazza, and was opposite a barn. There were three other
doors,too many to please Mr. Peterkin, and not enough for the
little boys. There was no observatory, and nothing to observe if
there were one, as the house was too low and some high trees shut
out any view. Elizabeth Eliza had hoped for a view; but Mr.
Peterkin con soled her by deciding it was more healthy to have to
walk for a view, and Mrs. Peterkin agreed that they might get tired
of the same every day.
And everybody was glad a selection was made, and the little boys
carried their india-rubber boots the very first afternoon.
Elizabeth Eliza wanted to have some system in the moving, and
spent the evening in drawing up a plan. It would be easy to
arrange everything beforehand, so that there should not be the
confusion that her mother dreaded, and the discomfort they had in
their last move. Mrs. Peterkin shook her head; she did not think it
possible to move with any comfort. Agamemnon said a great deal
could be done with a list and a programme.
Elizabeth Eliza declared if all were well arranged a programme
would make it perfectly easy. They were to have new parlor
carpets, which could be put down in the new house the first thing.
Then the parlor furniture could be moved in, and there would be
two comfortable rooms, in which Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin could sit
while the rest of the move went on. Then the old parlor carpets
could be taken up for the new dining-room and the downstairs
bedroom, and the family could meanwhile dine at the old house.
Mr. Peterkin did not object to this, though the distance was
considerable, as he felt exercise would be good for them all.
Elizabeth Eliza's programme then arranged that the dining-room
furniture should be moved the third day, by which time one of the
old parlor carpets would be down in the new dining-room, and
they could still sleep in the old house. Thus there would always be
a quiet, comfortable place in one house or the other. Each night,
when Mr. Peterkin came home, he would find some place for quiet
thought and rest, and each day there should be moved only the
furniture needed for a certain room. Great confusion would be
avoided and nothing misplaced. Elizabeth Eliza wrote these last
words at the head of her programme," Misplace nothing."
And Agamemnon made a copy of the programme for each member
of the family.
THE PETERKINS ARE MOVED.Page 126. The first thing to be
done was to buy the parlor carpets. Elizabeth Eliza had already
looked at some in Boston, and the next morning she went, by an
early train, with her father, Agamemnon, and Solomon John, to
decide upon them.
They got home about eleven o'clock, and when they reached the
house were dismayed to find two furniture wagons in front of the
gate, already partly filled ! Mrs. Peterkin was walking in and out
of the open door, a large book in one hand, and a duster in the
other, and she came to meet them in an agony of anxiety. What
should they do? The furniture carts had appeared soon after the
rest had left for Boston, and the men had insisted upon beginning
to move the things. In vain had she shown Elizabeth Eliza's
programme; in vain had she insisted they must take only the
parlor furniture. They had declared they must put the heavy pieces
in the bottom of the cart, and the lighter furniture on top. So she
had seen them go into every room in the house, and select one
piece of furniture after another, without even looking at Elizabeth
Eliza's programme; she doubted if they could have read it if they
had looked at it.
Mr. Peterkin had ordered the carters to come; but he had no idea
they would come so early, and supposed it would take them a long
time to fill the carts.
But they had taken the dining-room sideboard first,a heavy piece
of furniture,and all its contents were now on the dining-room
tables. Then, indeed, they selected the parlor book-case, but had
set every book on the floor The men had told Mrs. Peterkin they
would put the books in the bottom of the cart, very much in the
order they were taken from the shelves. But by this time Mrs.
Peterkin was considering the carters as natural enemies, and dared
not trust them; besides, the books ought all to be dusted. So she
was now holding one of the volumes of Agamemnon's
Encyclopædia, with difficulty, in one hand, while she was dusting
it with the other. Elizabeth Eliza was in dismay. At this moment
four men were bringing down a large chest of drawers from her
father's room, and they called to her to stand out of the way. The
parlors were a scene of confusion. In dusting the books Mrs.
Peterkin neglected to restore them to the careful rows in which
they were left by the men, and they lay in hopeless masses in
different parts of the room. Elizabeth Eliza sunk in despair upon
the end of a sofa.
"It would have been better to buy the red and blue carpet," said
"Is not the carpet bought?" exclaimed Mrs. Peterkin. And then they
were obliged to confess they had been unable to decide upon one,
and had come back to consult Mrs. Peterkin.
"What shall we do?" asked Mrs. Peterkin.
Elizabeth Eliza rose from the sofa and went to the door, saying, "I
shall be back in a moment."
Agamemnon slowly passed round the room, collecting the
scattered volumes of his Encyclopædia. Mr. Peterkin offered a
helping hand to a man lifting a wardrobe.
Elizabeth Eliza soon returned. "I did not like to go and ask her. But
I felt that I must in such an emergency. I explained to her the
whole matter, and she thinks we should take the carpet at
"Makillan's" was a store in the village, and the carpet was the only
one all the family had liked without any doubt; but they had
supposed they might prefer one from Boston.
The moment was a critical one. Solomon John was sent directly to
Makillan's to order the carpet to be put down that very day. But
where should they dine? where should they have their supper? and
where was Mr. Peterkin's "quiet hour" ?
Elizabeth Eliza was frantic; the dining-room floor and table were
covered with things.
It was decided that Mr. and Mrs. Peterkin should dine at the
Bromwicks, who had been most neighborly in their offers, and the
rest should get something to eat at the baker's.
Agamemnon and Elizabeth Eliza hastened away to be ready to
receive the carts at the other house, and direct the furniture as they
could. After all there was something exhilarating in this opening
of the new house, and in deciding where things should go. Gayly
Elizabeth Eliza stepped down the front garden of the new home,
and across the piazza, and to the door. But it was locked, and she
had no keys!
"Agamemnon, did you bring the keys?" she exclaimed.
No, he had not seen them since the morning,whenah!yes, the
little boys were allowed to go to the house for their india-rubber
boots, as there was a threatening of rain. Perhaps they had left
some door unfastenedperhaps they had put the keys under the
door-mat. No, each door, each window, was solidly closed, and
there was no mat!
"I shall have to go to the school to see if they took the keys with
them," said Agamemnon; "or else go home to see if they left them
there." The school was in a different direction from the house, and
far at the other end of the town; for Mr. Peterkin had not yet
changed the boys' school, as he proposed to do after their move.
"That will be the only way," said Elizabeth Eliza; for it had been
arranged that the little boys should take their lunch to school, and
not come home at noon.
She sat down on the steps to wait, but only for a moment, for the
carts soon appeared, turning the corner. What should be done with
the furniture? Of course the carters must wait for the keys, as she
should need them to set the furniture up in the right places. But
they could not stop for this. They put it down upon the piazza, on
the steps, in the garden, and Elizabeth Eliza saw how incongruous
it was! There was something from every room in the house! Even
the large family chest, which had proved too heavy for them to
travel with had come down from the attic, and stood against the
And Solomon John appeared with the carpet woman, and a boy
with a wheelbarrow, bringing the new carpet. And all stood and
waited. Some opposite neighbors appeared to offer advice and
look on, and Elizabeth Eliza groaned inwardly that only the
shabbiest of their furniture appeared to be standing full in view.
It seemed ages before Agamemnon returned, and no wonder; for
he had been to the house, then to the school, then back to the
house, for one of the little boys had left the keys at home, in the
pocket of his clothes. Meanwhile the carpet-woman had waited,
and the boy with the wheelbarrow had waited, and when they got
in they found the parlor must be swept and cleaned. So the
carpet-woman went off in dudgeon, for she was sure there would
not be time enough to do anything.
And one of the carts came again, and in their hurry the men set the
furniture down anywhere. Elizabeth Eliza was hoping to make a
little place in the dining-room, where they might have their
supper, and go home to sleep. But she looked out, and there were
the carters bringing the bedsteads, and proceeding to carry them
In despair Elizabeth Eliza went back to the old house. If she had
been there she might have prevented this. She found Mrs. Peterkin
in an agony about the entry oil-cloth. It had been made in the
house, and how could it be taken out of the house? Agamemnon
made measurements; it certainly could not go out of the front
door! He suggested it might be left till the house was pulled down,
when it could easily be moved out of one side. But Elizabeth Eliza
reminded him that the whole house was to be moved without
being taken apart. Perhaps it could be cut in strips narrow enough
to go out. One of the men loading the remaining cart disposed of
the question by coming in and rolling up the oil-cloth and carrying
it on on top of his wagon.
Elizabeth Eliza felt she must hurry back to the new house. But
what should they do?no beds here, no carpets there! The
dining-room table and sideboard were at the other house, the
plates, and forks, and spoons here. In vain she looked at her
programme. It was all reversed; everything was misplaced. Mr.
Peterkin would suppose they were to eat here and sleep here, and
what had become of the little boys?
Meanwhile the man with the first cart had returned. They fell to
packing the dining-room china.
They were up in the attic, they were down in the cellar. Even one
suggested to take the tacks out of the parlor carpets, as they
should want to take them next.
Mrs. Peterkin sunk upon a kitchen chair.
"Oh, I wish we had decided to stay and be moved in the house !"
Solomon John urged his mother to go to the new house, for Mr.
Peterkin would be there for his "quiet hour." And when the carters
at last appeared, carrying the parlor carpets on their shoulders, she
sighed and said, "There is nothing left,"
and meekly consented to be led away.
They reached the new house to find Mr. Peterkin sitting calmly in
a rocking-chair on the piazza, watching the oxen coming into the
opposite barn. He was waiting for the keys, which Solomon John
had taken back with him. The little boys were in a horse-chestnut
tree, at the side of the house.
Agamemnon opened the door. The passages were crowded with
furniture, the floors were strewn with books; the bureau was
upstairs that was to stand in a lower bedroom; there was not a
place to lay a table,there was nothing to lay upon it; for the
knives and plates and spoons had not come, and although the
tables were there they were covered with chairs and boxes.
At this moment came a covered basket from the lady from
Philadelphia. It contained a choice supper, and forks and spoons,
and at the same moment appeared a pot of hot tea from an
opposite neighbor. They placed all this on the back of a bookcase
lying upset, and sat around it. Solomon John came rushing in from
"The last load is coming! We are all moved!" he exclaimed; and
the little boys joined in a chorus, "We are moved! we are moved!"
Mrs. Peterkin looked sadly round; the kitchen utensils were lying
on the parlor lounge, and an old family gun on Elizabeth Eliza's
hat-box. The parlor clock stood on a barrel; some coal-scuttles
had been placed on the parlor table, a bust of Washington stood in
the door-way, and the looking-glasses leaned against the pillars of
the piazza. But they were moved! Mrs. Peterkin felt, indeed, that
they were very much moved.
THE PETERKINS DECIDE TO LEARN THE LANGUAGES.
CERTAINLY now was the time to study the languages. The
Peterkins had moved into a new house, far more convenient than
their old one, where they would have a place for everything and
everything in its place. Of course they would then have more time.
Elizabeth Eliza recalled the troubles of the old house, how for a
long time she was obliged to sit outside of the window upon the
piazza, when she wanted to play on her piano.
Mrs. Peterkin reminded them of the difficulty about the
table-cloths. The upper table-cloth was kept in a trunk that had to
stand in front of the door to the closet under the stairs. But the
under table-cloth was kept in a drawer in the closet. So, whenever
the cloths were changed, the trunk had to be pushed away under
some projecting shelves to make room for opening the closet-door
(as the under table-cloth must be taken out first), then the trunk
was pushed back to make room for it to be opened for the upper
table-cloth, and, after all, it was necessary to push the trunk away
again to open the closet-door for the knife-tray. This always
consumed a great deal of time.
Now that the china-closet was large enough, everything could find
a place in it.
Agamemnon especially enjoyed the new library. In the old house
there was no separate room for books. The dictionaries were kept
upstairs, which was very inconvenient, and the volumes of the
Encyclopædia could not be together. There was not room for all in
one place. So from A to P were to be found downstairs, and from
Q to Z were scattered in different rooms upstairs. And the worst of
it was, you could never remember whether from A to P included
P. "I always went upstairs after P," said Agamemnon, "and then
always found it downstairs, or else it was the other way."
Of course now there were more conveniences for study. With the
books all in one room, there would be no time wasted in looking
Mr. Peterkin suggested they should each take a separate language.
If they went abroad, this would prove a great convenience.
Elizabeth Eliza could talk French with the Parisians; Agamemnon,
German with the Germans; Solomon John, Italian with the
Italians; Mrs. Peterkin, Spanish in Spain; and perhaps he could
himself master all the Eastern Languages and Russian.
Mrs. Peterkin was uncertain about undertaking the Spanish, but all
the family felt very sure they should not go to Spain (as Elizabeth
Eliza dreaded the Inquisition), and Mrs. Peterkin felt more
Still she had quite an objection to going abroad. She had always
said she would not go till a bridge was made across the Atlantic,
and she was sure it did not look like it now.
Agamemnon said there was no knowing. There was something
new every day, and a bridge was surely not harder to invent than a
telephone, for they had bridges in the very earliest days.
Then came up the question of the teachers. Probably these could
be found in Boston. If they could all come the same day, three
could be brought out in the carryall. Agamemnon could go in for
them, and could learn a little on the way out and in.
Mr. Peterkin made some inquiries about the Oriental languages.
He was told that Sanscrit was at the root of all. So he proposed
they should all begin with Sanscrit. They would thus require but
one teacher, and could branch out into the other languages
But the family preferred learning the separate languages. Elizabeth
Eliza already knew something of the French. She had tried to talk
it, without much success, at the Centennial Exhibition, at one of
the side-stands. But she found she had been talking with a
Moorish gentleman who did not understand French. Mr.
Peterkin feared they might need more libraries, if all the teachers
came at the same hour; but Agamemnon reminded him that they
would be using different dictionaries. And Mr. Peterkin thought
something might be learned by having them all at once. Each one
might pick up something beside the language he was studying,
and it was a great thing to learn to talk a foreign language while
others were talking about you. Mrs. Peterkin was afraid it would
be like the Tower of Babel, and hoped it was all right.
Agamemnon brought forward another difficulty. Of course they
ought to have foreign teachers, who spoke only their native
languages. But, in this case, how could they engage them to come,
or explain to them about the carryall, or arrange the proposed
hours? He did not understand how anybody ever began with a
foreigner, because he could not even tell him what he wanted.
Elizabeth Eliza thought a great deal might be done by signs and
Solomon John and the little boys began to show how it might be
done. Elizabeth Eliza explained how "langues " meant both
"languages" and "tongues," and they could point to their tongues.
For practice, the little boys represented the foreign teachers
talking in their different languages, and Agamemnon and Solomon
John went to invite them to come out, and teach the family by a
series of signs.
Mr. Peterkin thought their success was admirable, and that they
might almost go abroad without any study of the languages, and
trust to explaining themselves by signs. Still, as the bridge was not
yet made, it might be as well to wait and cultivate the languages.
Mrs. Peterkin was afraid the foreign teachers might imagine they
were invited out to lunch. Solomon John had constantly pointed to
his mouth as he opened it and shut it, putting out his tongue; and
it looked a great deal more as if he were inviting them to eat, than
asking them to teach. Agamemnon suggested that they might carry
the separate dictionaries when they went to see the teachers, and
that would show that they meant lessons, and not lunch.
Mrs. Peterkin was not sure but she ought to prepare a lunch for
them, if they had come all that way; but she certainly did not
know what they were accustomed to eat.
Mr. Peterkin thought this would be a good thing to learn of the
foreigners. It would be a good preparation for going abroad, and
they might get used to the dishes before starting. The little boys
were delighted at the idea of having new things cooked.
Agamemnon had heard that beer-soup was a favorite dish with the
Germans, and he would inquire how it was made in the first
lesson. Solomon John had heard they were all very fond of garlic,
and thought it would be a pretty attention to have some in the
house the first day, that they might be cheered by the odor.
Elizabeth Eliza wanted to surprise the lady from Philadelphia by
her knowledge of French, and hoped to begin on her lessons
before the Philadelphia family arrived for their annual visit.
There were still some delays. Mr. Peterkin was very anxious to
obtain teachers who had been but a short time in this country. He
did not want to be tempted to talk any English with them. He
wanted the latest and freshest languages, and at last came home
one day with a list of "brand-new foreigners."
They decided to borrow the Bromwicks' carryall to use, beside
their own, for the first day, and Mr. Peterkin and Agamemnon
drove into town to bring all the teachers out. One was a Russian
gentleman, travelling, who came with no idea of giving lessons,
but perhaps he would consent to do so. He could not yet speak
Mr. Peterkin had his card-case, and the cards of the several
gentlemen who had recommended the different teachers, and he
went with Agamemnon from hotel to hotel collecting them. He
found them all very polite, and ready to come, after the
explanation by signs agreed upon. The dictionaries had been
forgotten, but Agamemnon had a directory, which looked the
same, and seemed to satisfy the foreigners.
Mr. Peterkin was obliged to content himself with the Russian
instead of one who could teach Sanscrit, as there was no new
teacher of that language lately arrived.
But there was an unexpected difficulty in getting the Russian
gentleman into the same carriage with the teacher of Arabic, for
he was a Turk, sitting with a fez on his head, on the back seat!
They glared at each other, and began to assail each other in every
language they knew, none of which Mr. Peterkin could
understand. It might be Russian, it might be Arabic. It was easy to
understand that they would never consent to sit in the same
carriage. Mr. Peterkin was in despair; he had forgotten about the
Russian war! What a mistake to have invited the Turk!
Quite a crowd collected on the sidewalk in front of the hotel. But
the French gentleman politely, but stiffly, invited the Russian to
go with him in the first carryall. Here was another difficulty. For
the German professor was quietly ensconced on the back seat! As
soon as the French gentleman put his foot on the step and saw
him, he addressed him in such forcible language that the German
professor got out of the door the other side, and came round on the
sidewalk, and took him by the collar. Certainly the German and
French gentlemen could not be put together, and more crowd
Agamemnon, however, had happily studied up the German word
"Herr," and he applied it to the German, inviting him by signs to
take a seat in the other carryall. The German consented to sit by
the Turk, as they neither of them could understand the other; and
at last they started, Mr. Peterkin with the Italian by his side, and
the French and Russian teachers behind, vociferating to each other
in languages unknown to Mr. Peterkin, while he feared they were
not perfectly in harmony, so he drove home as fast as possible.
Agamemnon had a silent party. The Spaniard by his side was a
little moody, while the Turk and the German behind did not utter
At last they reached the house, and were greeted by Mrs. Peterkin
and Elizabeth Eliza, Mrs. Peterkin with her llama lace shawl over
her shoulders, as a tribute to the Spanish teacher. Mr. Peterkin
was careful to take his party in first, and deposit them in a distant
part of the library, far from the Turk or the German, even putting
the Frenchman and Russian apart.
Solomon John found the Italian dictionary, and seated himself by
his Italian; Agamemnon, with the German dictionary, by the
German. The little boys took their copy of the "Arabian Nights" to
the Turk. Mr. Peterkin attempted to explain to the Russian that he
had no Russian dictionary, as he had hoped to learn Sanscrit of
him, while Mrs. Peterkin was trying to inform her teacher that she
had no books in Spanish. She got over all fears of the Inquisition,
he looked so sad, and she tried to talk a little, using English
words, but very slowly, and altering the accent as far as she knew
how. The Spaniard bowed, looked gravely interested, and was
Elizabeth Eliza, meanwhile, was trying her grammar phrases with
She found it easier to talk French than to understand him. But he
understood perfectly her sentences. She repeated one of her
vocabularies, and went on with"J'ai le livre." "As-tu le pain? "
"L'enfant a une poire." He listened with great attention, and
replied slowly. Suddenly she started after making out one of his
sentences, and went to her mother to whisper, "They have made
the mistake you feared. They think they are invited to lunch! He
has just been thanking me for our politeness in inviting them to
déjeûner,that means breakfast!"
"They have not had their breakfast!" exclaimed Mrs. Peterkin,
looking at her Spaniard; "he does look hungry! What shall we
Elizabeth Eliza was consulting her father. What should they do?
How should they make them understand that they invited them to
teach, not lunch. Elizabeth Eliza begged Agamemnon to look out
"apprendre " in the dictionary. It must mean to teach. Alas, they
found it means both to teach and to learn! What should they do?
The foreigners were now sitting silent in their different corners.
The Spaniard grew more and more sallow. What if he should
faint? The Frenchman was rolling up each of his mustaches to a
point as he gazed at the German. What if the Russian should fight
the Turk? What if the German should be exasperated by the airs of
"We must give them something to eat," said Mr. Peterkin, in a low
tone. "It would calm them."
"If I only knew what they were used to eating," said Mrs. Peterkin.
Solomon John suggested that none of them knew what the others
were used to eating, and they might bring in anything.
Mrs. Peterkin hastened out with hospitable intents. Amanda could
make good coffee. Mr. Peterkin had suggested some American
dish. Solomon John sent a little boy for some olives.
It was not long before the coffee came in, and a dish of baked
beans. Next, some olives and a loaf of bread, and some boiled
eggs, and some bottles of beer. The effect was astonishing. Every
man spoke his own tongue, and fluently. Mrs.
Peterkin poured out coffee for the Spaniard, while he bowed to
her. They all liked beer, they all liked olives. The Frenchman was
fluent about "les moeurs Américaines." Elizabeth Eliza supposed
he alluded to their not having set any table. The Turk smiled, the
Russian was voluble. In the midst of the clang of the different
languages, just as Mr. Peterkin was again repeating, under cover
of the noise of many tongues, "How shall we make them
understand that we want them to teach?"at this very moment the
door was flung open, and there came in the lady from
Philadelphia, that day arrived, her first call of the season!
She started back in terror at the tumult of so many different
languages! The family, with joy, rushed to meet her. All together
they called upon her to explain for them. Could she help them?
Could she tell the foreigners they wanted to take lessons?
Lessons? They had no sooner uttered the word than their guests all
started up with faces beaming with joy. It was the one English
word they all knew! They had come to Boston to give lessons!
The Russian traveller had hoped to learn English in this way. The
thought pleased them more than the déjeûner.
Yes, gladly would they give lessons. The Turk smiled at the idea.
The first step was taken. The teachers knew they were expected to
MODERN IMPROVEMENTS AT THE PETERKINS'.
AGAMEMNON felt that it became necessary for him to choose a
profession. It was important on account of the little boys. If he
should make a trial of several different professions he could find
out which would be the most likely to be successful, and it would
then be easy to bring up the little boys in the right direction.
Elizabeth Eliza agreed with this. She thought the family
occasionally made mistakes, and had come near disgracing
themselves. Now was their chance to avoid this in future by giving
the little boys a proper education.
Solomon John was almost determined to become a doctor. From
earliest childhood he had practiced writing recipes on little slips
of paper. Mrs. Peterkin, to be sure, was afraid of infection. She
could not bear the idea of his bringing one disease after the other
into the family circle. Solomon John, too, did not like sick people.
He thought he might manage it if he should not have to see his
patients while they were sick. If he could only visit them when
they were recovering, and when the danger of infection was over,
he would really enjoy making calls.
He should have a comfortable doctor's chaise, and take one of the
little boys to hold his horse while he went in, and he thought he
could get through the conversational part very well, and feeling
the pulse, perhaps looking at the tongue. He should take and read
all the newspapers, and so be thoroughly acquainted with the
news of the day to talk of. But he should not like to be waked up
at night to visit. Mr. Peterkin thought that would not be necessary.
He had seen signs on doors of "Night Doctor," and certainly it
would be as convenient to have a sign of "Not a Night Doctor."
Solomon John thought he might write his advice to those of his
patients who were dangerously ill, from whom there was danger
of infection. And then Elizabeth Eliza agreed that his
prescriptions would probably be so satisfactory that they would
keep his patients well,not too well to do without a doctor, but
needing his recipes.
Agamemnon was delayed, however, in his choice of a profession,
by a desire he had to become a famous inventor. If he could only
invent something important, and get out a patent, he would make
himself known all over the country. If he could get out a patent he
would be set up for life, or at least as long as the patent lasted, and
it would be well to be sure to arrange it to last through his natural
Indeed, he had gone so far as to make his invention. It had been
suggested by their trouble with a key, in their late moving to their
new house. He had studied the matter over a great deal. He looked
it up in the Encyclopædia, and had spent a day or two in the Public
Library, in reading about Chubb's Lock and other patent locks.
But his plan was more simple. It was this: that all keys should be
made alike !
He wondered it had not been thought of before; but so it was,
Solomon John said, with all inventions, with Christopher
Columbus, and everybody. Nobody knew the invention till it was
invented, and then it looked very simple. With Agamemnon's plan
you need have but one key, that should fit everything! It should be
a medium-sized key, not too large to carry. It ought to answer for
a house door, but you might open a portmanteau with it. How
much less danger there would be of losing one's keys if there were
only one to lose!
Mrs. Peterkin thought it would be inconvenient if their father were
out, and she wanted to open the jam-closet for the little boys. But
Agamemnon explained that he did not mean there should be but
one key in the family, or in a town,you might have as many as
you pleased, only they should all be alike.
Elizabeth Eliza felt it would be a great convenience,they could
keep the front door always locked, yet she could open it with the
key of her upper drawer; that she was sure to have with her. And
Mrs. Peterkin felt it might be a convenience if they had one on
each story, so that they need not go up and down for it.
Mr. Peterkin studied all the papers and advertisements, to decide
about the lawyer whom they should consult, and at last, one
morning, they went into town to visit a patent-agent.
Elizabeth Eliza took the occasion to make a call upon the lady
from Philadelphia, but she came back hurriedly to her mother.
"I have had a delightful call," she said; "butperhaps I was wrongI
could not help, in conversation, speaking of Agamemnon's
proposed patent. I ought not to have mentioned it, as such things
are kept profound secrets; they say women always do tell things; I
suppose that is the reason."
"But where is the harm? " asked Mrs. Peterkin. " I'm sure you can
trust the lady from Philadelphia."
Elizabeth Eliza then explained that the lady from Philadelphia had
questioned the plan a little when it was told her, and had
suggested that " if everybody had the same key there would be no
particular use in a lock."
"Did you explain to her," said Mrs. Peterkin, "that we were not all
to have the same keys? "
"I couldn't quite understand her," said Elizabeth Eliza, "but she
seemed to think that burglars and other people might come in if
the keys were the same."
"Agamemnon would not sell his patent to burglars!" said Mrs.
"But about other people," said Elizabeth Eliza; "there is my upper
drawer; the little boys might open it at Christmas-time,and their
presents in it!"
"And I am not sure that I could trust Amanda," said Mrs. Peterkin,
Both she and Elizabeth Eliza felt that Mr. Peterkin ought to know
what the lady from Philadelphia had suggested. Elizabeth Eliza
then proposed going into town, but it would take so long she
might not reach them in time. A telegram would be better, and she
ventured to suggest using the Telegraph Alarm.
For, on moving into their new house, they had discovered it was
provided with all the modern improvements. This had been a
disappointment to Mrs. Peterkin, for she was afraid of them, since
their experience the last winter, when their water-pipes were
frozen up. She had been originally attracted to the house by an old
pump at the side, which had led her to believe there were no
modern improvements. It had pleased the little boys, too. They
liked to pump the handle up and down, and agreed to pump all the
water needed, and bring it into the house.
There was an old well, with a picturesque well-sweep, in a corner
by the barn.
Mrs. Peterkin was frightened by this at first. She was afraid the
little boys would be falling in every day. And they showed great
fondness for pulling the bucket up and down. It proved, however,
that the well was dry. There was no water in it; so she had some
moss thrown down, and an old feather-bed, for safety, and the old
well was a favorite place of amusement.
The house, it had proved, was well furnished with bath-rooms, and
everywhere. Water-pipes and gas-pipes all over the house; and a
hack-, telegraph-, and fire-alarm, with a little knob for each.
Mrs. Peterkin was very anxious. She feared the little boys would
be summoning somebody all the time, and it was decided to
conceal from them the use of the knobs, and the card of directions
at the side was destroyed. Agamemnon had made one of his first
inventions to help this. He had arranged a number of similar
knobs to be put in rows in different parts of the house, to appear as
if they were intended for ornament, and had added some to the
original knobs. Mrs.
Peterkin felt more secure, and Agamemnon thought of taking out a
patent for this invention.
It was, therefore, with some doubt that Elizabeth Eliza proposed
sending a telegram to her father. Mrs. Peterkin, however, was
pleased with the idea.
Solomon John was out, and the little boys were at school, and she
herself would touch the knob, while Elizabeth Eliza should write
"I think it is the fourth knob from the beginning," she said, looking
at one of the rows of knobs.
Elizabeth Eliza was sure of this. Agamemnon, she believed, had
put three extra knobs at each end.
"But which is the end, and which is the beginning, the top or the
Peterkin asked hopelessly.
Still she bravely selected a knob, and Elizabeth Eliza hastened
with her to look out for the messenger. How soon should they see
the telegraph boy?
They seemed to have scarcely reached the window, when a terrible
noise was heard, and down the shady street the white horses of the
fire-brigade were seen rushing at a fatal speed!
It was a terrific moment!
"I have touched the fire-alarm," Mrs. Peterkin exclaimed.
Both rushed to open the front door in agony. By this time the
fire-engines were approaching.
"Do not be alarmed," said the chief engineer; "the furniture shall
be carefully covered, and we will move all that is necessary."
"Move again!" exclaimed Mrs. Peterkin, in agony.
Elizabeth Eliza strove to explain that she was only sending a
telegram to her father, who was in Boston.
"It is not important," said the head engineer; "the fire will all be
out before it could reach him."
And he ran upstairs, for the engines were beginning to play upon
Mrs. Peterkin rushed to the knobs again hurriedly; there was more
necessity for summoning Mr. Peterkin home.
"Write a telegram to your father," she said to Elizabeth Eliza, "to
'come home directly.'"
"That will take but three words," said Elizabeth Eliza, with
presence of mind, "and we need ten. I was just trying to make
"What has come now?" exclaimed Mrs. Peterkin, and they hurried
again to the window, to see a row of carriages coming down the
"I must have touched the carriage-knob," cried Mrs. Peterkin, "and
I pushed it half-a-dozen times I felt so anxious!"
Six hacks stood before the door. All the village boys were
assembling. Even their own little boys had returned from school,
and were showing the firemen the way to the well.
Again Mrs. Peterkin rushed to the knobs, and a fearful sound
arose. She had touched the burglar-alarm !
The former owner of the house, who had a great fear of burglars,
had invented a machine of his own, which he had connected with
a knob. A wire attached to the knob moved a spring that could put
in motion a number of watchmen's rattles, hidden under the eaves
of the piazza.
All these were now set a-going, and their terrible din roused those
of the neighborhood who had not before assembled around the
house. At this moment Elizabeth Eliza met the chief engineer.
"You need not send for more help," he said; "we have all the
engines in town here, and have stirred up all the towns in the
neighborhood; there's no use in springing any more alarms. I can't
find the fire yet, but we have water pouring all over the house."
Elizabeth Eliza waved her telegram in the air.
"We are only trying to send a telegram to my father and brother,
who are in town," she endeavored to explain.
"If it is necessary," said the chief engineer, "you might send it
down in one of the hackney carriages. I see a number standing
before the door. We'd better begin to move the heavier furniture,
and some of you women might fill the carriages with smaller
Mrs. Peterkin was ready to fall into hysterics. She controlled
herself with a supreme power, and hastened to touch another
Elizabeth Eliza corrected her telegram, and decided to take the
advice of the chief engineer and went to the door to give her
message to one of the hackmen, when she saw a telegraph boy
appear. Her mother had touched the right knob. It was the fourth
from the beginning; but the beginning was at the other end!
She went out to meet the boy, when, to her joy, she saw behind
him her father and Agamemnon. She clutched her telegram, and
hurried toward them.
Mr. Peterkin was bewildered. Was the house on fire? If so, where
were the flames?
He saw the row of carriages. Was there a funeral, or a wedding?
Who was dead?
Who was to be married?
He seized the telegram that Elizabeth Eliza reached to him, and
read it aloud.
"Come to us directlythe house is NOT on fire!"
The chief engineer was standing on the steps.
"The house not on fire!" he exclaimed. "What are we all
"It is a mistake," cried Elizabeth Eliza, wringing her hands. "We
touched the wrong knob; we wanted the telegraph boy! "
"We touched all the wrong knobs," exclaimed Mrs. Peterkin, from
The chief engineer turned directly to give counter-directions, with
a few exclamations of disgust, as the bells of distant fire-engines
were heard approaching.
Solomon John appeared at this moment, and proposed taking one
of the carriages, and going for a doctor for his mother, for she was
now nearly ready to fall into hysterics, and Agamemnon thought
to send a telegram down by the boy, for the evening papers, to
announce that the Peterkins' house had not been on fire.
The crisis of the commotion had reached its height. The beds of
flowers, bordered with dark-colored leaves, were trodden down by
the feet of the crowd that had assembled.
The chief engineer grew more and more indignant, as he sent his
men to order back the fire-engines from the neighboring towns.
The collection of boys followed the procession as it went away.
The fire-brigade hastily removed covers from some of the
furniture, restored the rest to their places, and took away their
ladders. Many neighbors remained, but Mr. Peterkin hastened into
the house to attend to Mrs. Peterkin.
Elizabeth Eliza took an opportunity to question her father, before
he went in, as to the success of their visit to town.
"We saw all the patent-agents," answered Mr. Peterkin, in a hollow
whisper. "Not one of them will touch the patent, or have anything
to do with it."
Elizabeth Eliza looked at Agamemnon, as he walked silently into
the house. She would not now speak to him of the patent; but she
recalled some words of Solomon John. When they were
discussing the patent he had said that many an inventor had grown
gray before his discovery was acknowledged by the public. Others
might reap the harvest, but it came, perhaps, only when he was
going to his grave.
Elizabeth Eliza looked at Agamemnon reverently, and followed
him silently into the house.
AGAMEMNON'S CAREER. THERE had apparently been some
mistake in Agamemnon's education. He had been to a number of
colleges, indeed, but he had never completed his course in any
He had continually fallen into some difficulty with the authorities.
It was singular, for he was of an inquiring mind, and had always
tried to find out what would be expected of him, but had never hit
upon the right thing.
Solomon John thought the trouble might be in what they called the
elective system, where you were to choose what study you might
take. This had always bewildered Agamemnon a good deal.
"And how was a feller to tell," Solomon John had asked, "whether
he wanted to study a thing before he tried it? It might turn out
Agamemnon had always been fond of reading, from his childhood
up. He was at his book all day long. Mrs Peterkin had imagined he
would come out a great scholar, because she could never get him
away from his books.
And so it was in his colleges; he was always to be found in the
library, reading and reading. But they were always the wrong
For instance: the class were required to prepare themselves on the
This turned Agamemnon's attention to the Fenians, and to study
the subject he read up on "Charles O'Malley," and "Harry
Lorrequer," and some later novels of that sort, which did not help
him on the subject required, yet took up all his time, so that he
found himself unfitted for anything else when the examinations
came. In consequence he was requested to leave.
Agamemnon always missed in his recitations, for the same reason
that Elizabeth Eliza did not get on in school, because he was
always asked the questions he did not know. It seemed provoking;
if the professors had only asked something else!
But they always hit upon the very things he had not studied up.
Mrs. Peterkin felt this was encouraging, for Agamemnon knew the
things they did not know in colleges. In colleges they were willing
to take for students only those who already knew certain things.
She thought Agamemnon might be a professor in a college for
those students who didn't know those things.
"I suppose these professors could not have known a great deal,"
she added, "or they would not have asked you so many questions;
they would have told you something."
Agamemnon had left another college on account of a mistake he
had made with some of his classmates. They had taken a great
deal of trouble to bring some wood from a distant wood-pile to
make a bonfire with, under one of the professors' windows.
Agamemnon had felt it would be a compliment to the professor.