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Sarah Orne Jewett
It might have been better to have said in the first story that Nelly wished her house to have a name, and that it took a whole evening to make choice of one. Finally, Aunt Bessie happened to think that the housekeeper was very fond of marigolds, and that Mrs. Ashford had told the gardener to plant some under the windows and in the borders near by; so she said: "Suppose we call it Marigold House?" and this name suited everybody.
There was only one thing that Nelly wished might be added to the outside or inside of her play-house, and this was a door-plate, with "Miss Nelly Ashford" on it in printing letters. The grown people laughed when she mildly suggested this; but the door-plate was ordered, nevertheless, and her considerate aunty even asked if she would also like a number on the door.
Nelly thought there was no need of that, and also refused the offer of lightning-rods, kindly made by grandmamma.
All through the vacation Nelly and Alice Dennis, who was her best friend, spent most of their time at Marigold House. All the children from the houses near came often to play with them, and there were several tea-parties, which were capital fun. The guests could not help envying Nelly, for nobody had ever seen half so nice a play-house before, and at tea-time the low table, the new blue and gold tea-set, and the little napkins were perfectly delightful.
There was a great deal of sewing to be done, for the dolls' clothes had to be made ready for summer as fast as possible, as the children insisted that nearly all the last summer's clothes had been outgrown and must be altered, so making themselves a great deal of work; and the kitchen was almost neglected for several days at a time.
Aunt Bessie did not go home to Boston with grandma, for she liked so much being in the country; and she used often to come out to the play-house with her painting, and tell stories, and sometimes sing, while the children sewed and took care of the dolls.
But our friends' fondness for dress-making did not last long, and the kitchen proved much more interesting. Miss Bessie gave them one day a little cook-book, with recipes for making cake and one or two puddings, and oat-cakes, which pleased them very much. She printed it herself with pen and ink, and instead of cupfuls and pounds of sugar or flour, she had reduced the measures to spoonfuls, and had tried these "doll recipes" herself, to be sure they were right. The first attempts were not very successful; but after a week or so they had learned to cook several things very well, and there was such continual feasting that Mrs. Ashford and Mrs. Dennis had to make a rule that they must never cook but one thing each day, or carry out provisions from the big house without special permission, and that they could have only two parties a week. The children were required to keep everything tidy about the kitchen, and they soon learned to be orderly; but at first they had a fashion of putting away sticky dishes and forgetting to wash them.
Once, Nelly was away for a few days, and when she came back there was blue-mold on some unsuccessful cake she had carefully stored away in the kitchen-closet, and this gave such a shock to her feelings that she was much more careful afterward. The little cooks became most expert in making plum-puddings, which even Mrs. Ashford, who was very dainty, said were delicious. These puddings were made of pounded crackers, with sugar and spice, and an egg and some milk, with a great many raisins and currants, besides some bits of citron. Nora taught them to make sauce for it; and they achieved great renown among their friends, great and small, beside learning much about housekeeping and cooking which they will not forget.
I think I must tell you about the day of the grand dinner-party. It was when Nelly had been housekeeping several weeks. Mr. and Mrs. Ashford were away, and Aunt Bessie had gone to spend the day with a friend, and on the way asked Edith and Mary Talbot, two dear girls to go down to Marigold House to lunch. Alice Dennis was already there, of course; and after they had all been talking a few minutes, making various plans for the work and enjoyment of the day, Alice said: "I mean to have a dinner-party instead of lunch; mamma said we might have what we pleased."
Nelly's guests were usually entertained in the kitchen on such an occasion as this, and, indeed, would have felt defrauded if they had not been allowed to help with the cooking.
Nelly looked in the closet to see what was needed, and then ran into the great house to get supplies from the cook. Nora was particularly good-natured, and gave her potatoes to bake, some cold roast chicken and bread, filled her grocery-boxes and the big milk-pitcher, and then gave her some strawberries that had been left from breakfast; so my friend the housekeeper and one of the others had to make two voyages to carry everything out. It was a very busy morning. They made a plum-pudding of extra size and superior sweetness and fruitiness, and stoned all the raisins for it, which they commonly omitted to do. Then they undertook to make some soup. Alice had watched the cook at home several times, and was sure she knew how. So she and Edith went over to the vegetable garden, and came back with carrots, onions, beets, and radishes, though she wasn't quite sure the last-named two belonged with the rest. There must be some potatoes and meat, and a little rice. The cook had used beef-bones, she thought, but it was likely any meat would do as well; so our friends took some of the roast chicken and put it on to boil. Then each took a knife to slice the vegetables. Nobody wished to cut up the onions, for they make one's eyes smart so dreadfully; so they chopped them a little on the outside with a knife, and dropped them in whole. The other things were cut as fine as possible, and as fast as they were ready Alice stirred them in. There was a great deal of tasting done, but for some time there was no flavor, when they remembered it ought to have pepper and salt, and it is not surprising that they got in altogether too much, so that it was worse than when it had no taste at all.
Poor Mary Talbot had the bad luck to swallow a large lump of dry pepper which had not been stirred in, and so it seemed to her more highly seasoned than it did to the rest, and she said, as soon as she could speak, "Can't we put more water in?"
This seemed to be a sensible idea, but the little kettle was already full, so they dipped half the soup out in the other kettle, and filled both up with water. The potatoes and the pudding were baking well, and they went into the parlor and enjoyed the society of the dolls for a season, then began to set the table and get ready for dinner.
"Now we must have some names," said Nelly. "I am going to be Queen Victoria, and you are great ladies come to dine with me."
It was finally decided that Alice should be the Princess of Wales; Edith, Mary Queen of Scots; and Mary, the Empress Eugenie. And then, with great state and majesty, Queen Victoria went out to the kitchen to take up the soup.
She was very sorry that she had no dinner-set, for the tea-set was in some respects inconvenient, though she could manage well enough except in the matter of a soup-tureen; but one could easily pretend that the bright tin pan she was obliged to use was silver, and the only trouble about the saucers was that they were small and shallow; but, as it was a state banquet, there was no hurry at all, so they could be filled often.
The company were seated, and just ready to begin, when there was a loud ring at the door.
"Your Majesties will please excuse my leaving the table," said Queen Victoria, "but my servants are all busy. I hope it is nobody coming to call; but I shall ask them into the kitchen, unless it is somebody very nice."
On the door-step stood an odd-looking little old woman, with a big black bonnet, and a wide white cap-frill underneath, and a pair of huge green spectacles.
"How do ye do, miss?" said she, with a sudden courtesy, which nearly made Nelly laugh; but she managed to say, -
"I'm very well, thank you."
"Wouldn't ye take pity on a poor ould ooman as has to travel all the way to Bostin by her lone self, an' had nothin' to ate since 'arly this mor-nin', an' her heart failin' her intirely wid hunger? I can see it's a fine, kind little shild ye are, by yer two blue little eyes; and sure, I'll tell ye a fine story while I rist mesilf."
"Won't you please wait a minute?" said Nelly; and she ran in to ask the others what she had better do. "She's a clean old woman," said our friend, "and she says she will tell us a story. We have ever so much more dinner than we can eat," adding, virtuously, "Mamma never wishes beggars to go away hungry, and she tells me to be always very kind and polite to poor people. I shouldn't like to be hungry and tired if I were a poor old woman."
Their Majesties thought it would be great fun, and her Royal Highness of Great Britain and Ireland turned to go out and ask the guest to come in, but first had the thoughtfulness to say that perhaps they had better not tell her whom they were, as she might be frightened.
"We have cooked most of the dinner ourselves," said Nelly, "but we hope it is good, and, at any rate, there is chicken and bread and butter."
"My heart! my heart!" said the old woman, as she came in at the door; "and ain't this the swate little house! Wouldn't I like the mate to it to be restin' me ould bones in! and I wanderin' about the highways, that might be grandmother to all of yez. Och! but I had the tidy little house in Ould Ireland, with my bit of a pig in a nate sty forninst the door. Indade, miss, and the likes of me would niver make bould to sit down at the same table with yez. Give me a bit of bread in me hand."
"Oh, no!" said Nelly, hospitably; "you can sit right here. I'll move the dolls closer together. I'm glad you happened to come to-day, for I have a better dinner than usual, - there are five courses!" at which information the old woman looked rather blank.
So the hostess explained that there was first, soup, and then chicken and potatoes, and next, plum-pudding, then strawberries, and lastly, "little-biscuit" and milk.
"May the saints presarve ye!" said the guest. "My heart! and ain't it the weary long day since I had a dinner like that!" and without any more urging she sat down at the table.
Nelly thought she was so hungry that she would like more soup at once than the saucers held, so she went to the kitchen and found a nice white pint bowl, which the cook had lent her. She filled this with hot soup, and, remembering that Nora was fond of onions, she generously dipped out the two big ones that had been put in for flavoring, and carried it in triumphantly with both hands, the onions floating conspicuously on top.
The beets, which had unfortunately been boiling longest, had given it a most uninviting color, and there were bits of carrots and radish and turnip, not to speak of potatoes and chicken-bones.
"Here is some nice hot soup for you, and I gave you all the onions," said my friend the housekeeper, while the other guests looked on admiringly.
The Irishwoman hesitated a minute, then tasted the undesirable-looking stew, but was instantly seized with a severe fit of coughing, and buried her face in her calico apron, while the children sat in great suspense, fearing she might choke.
"Wirra, wirra!" said she after a while; "but the pepper in it was near the death of me, and what would I do and no praste near? Bless your pretty hearts, it's a fine soup; but I had a cough this tin years back, and the docther said mesilf could ate no bit of pepper at all, at all; and - well, I'm 'shamed to be turning away from yer kindness, but I'd best ate no more."
"It is strong of pepper," said Alice, looking quite crestfallen, "and it's very strong of those horrid onions! I wish we hadn't put them in; but never mind, I shall know how exactly, next time."
The cold chicken was eaten by all the company with great satisfaction; the potatoes were baked just right, and the pudding was a grand success, for the old woman asked if she might make so bold as to ask for another piece, which compliment was graciously received.
By the time the strawberries were served she was chattering in the most amusing way, and seemed to have quite forgotten her weariness; in fact, the children thought her one of the most charming persons they had ever seen. Sometimes they could hardly sit in their chairs, they laughed so hard. She praised everything extravagantly, and told them proudly that she once cooked for a gintleman's family, and if anybody knew a good dinner when she saw it, it was Biddy Sullivan. And then she went on to tell a long story about her husband, one Larry Sullivan, who had been dead ("Hiven rist his soul!") thirteen years come Christmas.
The children were very sympathizing, and, after some further particulars of her life in the old country, she gave them their choice of two stories: "The Little Cakeen" or "The Bad Son and the Good Son."
"Oh, I don't want to hear the Cakeen story!" said Nelly. "I'm so tired of that. I used to like it, and now Aunt Bessie tells it to tease me. I've heard the other one too, but I like that ever so much."
"Whist, thin!" said Mrs. Biddy Sullivan. "I likes the other best mesilf, an' it having such a fine ind to it."
Then she drew a long breath, afterward putting her tongue out at the corner of her mouth in a meditative way, and began.
She had left the dinner-table, and was sitting with her back to the light, which she said hurt her eyes. She still wore her big green spectacles, and had refused to take off her big reddish cotton gloves. I believe I have not told you that she said she was going to Boston to have her eyes doctored, and had requested them to give her money.
"An' it was once, long ago, in the ould counthry," said Mrs. Biddy, "there was livin' a fine, clane, honest, poor widdy woman, an' she havin' two sons, an' she fetched the both of 'em up fine and careful, but one of them turned out bad intirely. An' one day says she to him, says she: -
"'I've given you your livin' as long as iver I can, and it's you must go out into the wide worruld to sake your fortune.'
"'Mother, I will,' says he.
"'An' will ye take a big cake wid me curse, or a little cake an' me blessing?' says she.
"'The big cake, shure,' says he.
"So she baked a big cake and cursed him, and he wint away laughin'. By and by he came forninst a spring in the woods, and sat down to ate his dinner off the cake, and a small, little bird sat on the edge of the spring.
"'Give me a bit of that cake for me little ones in the nest,' says she; and he caught up a stone to throw at her.
"'I've scarce enough for meself,' says he; and she, bein' a fairy, put her bake in the spring and toorned it black as ink, and wint away up in the trees. And whiles he looked for her to kill her, a fox wint away wid his cake.
"So he wint away from that place very mad, an' nixt day he stopped, very hungry, at a farmer's house, and hired out for to tind the cows.
"'Be wise,' says the farmer's wife, 'for the next field is belongin' to a giant, and if the cows gets in in his clover he will kill you dead as a stone.'
"But the bad son laughed and wint away out to watch the cows; and before the noon-time he wint to slape up in a tree, and the cows all wint in in the clover, an' out comes the giant and shook him down out of the tree an' killed him dead, and that was the ind of the bad son.
"And by the next year the poor widdy woman, says she to the good son: -
"'Ye must go out into the wide worruld and sake your fortune, for I can kape you no longer,' says she.
"'Mother, I will,' says he.
"'An' will ye take a big cake wid me curse, or a little cake wid me blessing?'
"'The little cake,' says he.
"So she baked it for him and gave him her blessin', and he wint away, an' she a-weepin' afther him foine and loud. An' by and by he came to the same spring in the woods where the bad son was before him, and the small, little bird sat again on the side of it.
"'Give me a bit of yer cakeen for me little ones in the nest,' says she.
"'I will,' says he, an' he broke her off a foine piece, and she dipped her bake in the spring and toorned it into sweet wine; and when he bit his cake, shure an' she had toorned it into a fine plum-cake intirely; an' he ate and drunk and wint on light-hearted. And nixt he comes to the farmer's house.
"'Will ye tind cows for me?' says the farmer.
"'I will,' says the good son.
"'Be wise,' says the farmer's wife, 'for the clover-field beyant is belongin' to the giant, an' if ye lave in the cows he will kill you dead.'
"'Never fear!' says the good son; 'I don't slape at me worruk.'
"And he goes out in the field and lugs a big stone up in the tree, and thin sinds ivery cow far out in the clover-fields and goes back again to the tree. An' out comes the giant a-roarin' so you could hear the roars of him a mile away; and when he finds the cow-boy, he goes under the tree to shake him down, but the good little son slips out the big stone, an' it fell down and broke the giant's head intirely. So the good son wint running away to the giant's house, and it bein' full to the eaves of gold and diamonds and splindid things!
"See what fine luck comes to folks that is good and honest! An' he wint home and fetched his old mother, an' they lived rich an' continted, and died very old and rispicted."
"That's a nice story," said Edith, and Nelly remarked that it was exactly the way that Aunt Bessie used to tell it.
"Wouldn't it have been awful if the stone hadn't hit the giant?" said Mary, who was timid; while Alice Dennis said, "Now please tell us another."
"I must be going now," said the Widow Sullivan. "Bless your innocent hearts!"
"Oh, I wish you could stay a little longer!" said Nelly. "My Aunt Bessie will soon be home. She has lots of money, and I know she will give you some, so you needn't walk to Boston."
But now, to their great astonishment, the guest laughed and pulled Nelly into her lap and kissed her, and, taking off the big gloves, threw them at Alice with a very small white hand; and next off came the green glasses and the bonnet, and there sat Aunt Bessie herself!
"You dear little geese!" said she. "I mustn't cheat you any longer; but it has been such fun! I supposed you would find me out in the first ten minutes."
And then there was such a frolic!
"I came nearest laughing when you came in with that odd red soup with the big onions," said Aunt Bessie, "for you know I don't like onions at all. And I was sure you would suspect when I asked if you would like to hear the Cakeen story. But the best part of it was that you were all so sweet and kind and ladylike, and did your very best to make a poor old woman comfortable. I couldn't help feeling a little ashamed at being only a naughty older girl who was deceiving you. But I'll help you clear away the dinner, if you like, and then we will have a drive.["]
"Oh, darling Aunt Bessie! you are so funny!" said Nelly, and then they all laughed again. It began to rain, so they couldn't go to drive, but Miss Bessie stayed at Marigold House all the afternoon, and my friend the Housekeeper and her cronies had some capital fun.
"Marigold House" - a sequel to "My Friend the Housekeeper" - first appeared in St. Nicholas (2: 571-575) in July 1875 and was collected in Play Days (1878). This text is from Play Days.
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stoned all the raisins: removed seeds from dried grapes.
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Queen Victoria ... the Princess of Wales ... Mary Queen of Scots ... Empress Eugenie: Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 to 1901 was the longest-reigning monarch in English history. It is probable that the Princess of Wales refers to Victoria's daughter, Vicky, but this is not certain. Mary Queen of Scots is Mary Stuart (1542-87), an ill-fated rival of Queen Elizabeth I of England, who had her beheaded for conspiring against her life. According to the Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, "Eugenia Maria de Montijo de Guzman, b. May 5, 1826, d. July 11, 1920, was empress of France (1853-70) as consort of Napoleon III. Daughter of the Spanish conde de Montijo, she married Napoleon in January 1853. Eugenie's beauty, intelligence, and extravagance enlivened the court."
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whom they were: This is how it appears in Play Days.
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"The Little Cakeen" or "The Bad Son and the Good Son": See Jewett's "Between Mass and Vespers" for a partial telling of the "Cakeen" story. This appears to be an Irish version of the story American children know as "The Gingerbread Man," with its famous refrain: "Run, Run, as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!" See Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock (illustrator) New York: Scholastic Press, 1998. See also: http://www.folktale.net/GBman.html. There are many folk tales that feature a good and a bad son, making it difficult to determine whether the story told here is an original or a folktale. Help is welcome. (Research: Gabe Heller).
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Edited and annotated by Terry Heller, Coe College
Cooking the Dinner
This illustration is integrated into the original publication of "Marigold House" in St. Nicholas. This image is almost certainly by Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1822-1888). Born in Philadelphia, Son of an English actor, Darley was a popular illustrator for works of Irving and Cooper in the 1850's. He exhibited at the National Academy of Art from 1845.
The next illustration follows the text and probably is not directly connected with it. It could be by Edmund Birckhead Bensell, about whom little is known. The "B" signature is like that on other illustrations attributed to him in St. Nicholas, but the artist for this illustration is not otherwise identified. Born in 1842, Bensell is believed to be the brother of the artist George Frederick Bensell, in which case he probably was from Philadelphia. (Source: New-York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America. Yale UP).
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