Read CHAPTER XV - THE BRASS KETTLE. of Little Grandmother , free online book, by Sophie May, on

There was a great time that year preparing for Thanksgiving.  It seemed as if the tall clock had never ticked so fast before, nor the full moon smiled down from the top of it with such a jolly face.

“It’s going to be what you may call a sort of a double Thanksgiving,” said Moses.

“Why?” asked Patty.  “Because there’ll be double turkeys and double puddings?”

“No, Patty Lyman!  Don’t you remember what’s going to happen before dinner?”

“O, you mean the wedding!  I knew that ever so long ago.”

Patty had heard of it the day before.

“Equal to Fourth of July and training-day put together,” remarked Moses, snatching a handful of raisins out of the bowl Mary held in her lap.

“Yes,” said Patty, leaving off her spice-pounding long enough to clap her hands; “it’s splendid!”

“I don’t see how you can say so,” said the thoughtful Mary, “when our dear sister Dorcas is going ’way off, and never’ll live at home any more!”

“Yes, I know it,” responded Patty, looking as serious as she could, for Mary was wiping her eyes on her apron.  “It’s dreadful!  O, how bad I feel!”

The kitchen was so full you could hardly turn around.  Everybody was there but Dorcas, and she was finishing off her wedding-dress.  Mrs. Lyman was stuffing two large turkeys; Betsey was making brown bread; Moses chopping mince-meat; and those who had nothing else to do were talking.  Aunt Hannah was there, helping Rachel make the wedding-cake; but the trouble was with aunt Hannah that she couldn’t come without bringing her baby; and there he was, rolling about the floor like a soft bundle of yellow flannel ­a nice, fat baby, with a ruffled cap on his head.  He was named Job, after his father, who had borne that name through a long life, and been very patient about it.

“Now, Patty,” said Rachel, “I see you’ve stopped pounding cloves, and I wish you’d take care of this baby; he is rolling up towards the molasses jug, and will tip it over next thing he does.”

Patty had only stopped pounding for half a minute.  It seemed to her that her right hand always had a mortar-pestle in it.  She ran now to get some playthings for Job ­a string of earthen-ware beads, and a pewter plate to hold them when he should break the string; and a squash-shell, filled with peas, ­just as good as a rattle, let me tell you.  Then she sat on the floor, making baby-talk with the little creature, who has since that been somebody’s grandfather.

Patty always meant well, and now she was really able to help a great deal.  At ten years old she was quite a tall girl, though what the country-folks called rather “slim.”  Her dress was made of thick cotton and woollen goods, all rough with little knobs, ­the same Rachel had woven in “blue and copperas checks.”

Patty soon tired of amusing Job.  She wanted to do something of more importance.

“I should think I might chop mince-meat instead of you, Moses.  There, now, you’re getting it so fine ’twill be poison.”

Aunt Hannah heard that and laughed.

“That child takes everything in earnest,” said she.  “I told Moses if he got the mince-meat too fine, ’twould be poisonous; but I never saw any mince-meat that was too fine ­did you, Rachel?”

“Mary,” said Mrs. Lyman, “if you please, you may poke up the coals now.  George, you’ll have to move round, and let her get to the oven.”

“I’ll attend to it myself,” said George, rising from his chair, at one end of the big fireplace, and stirring the glowing coals in the brick oven with the hard-wood “poking-stick.”

“Now, if you’ll all keep still,” said James, “I’ll read you something from the newspaper.”

Moses dropped his chopping-knife, Mary looked frightened, and Patty stopped shaking the squash-shell.  They knew it would never do to make a noise while James was reading.

“My son, my son,” pleaded Mrs. Lyman, turning round from her turkey, and shaking her darning-needle at him, “you wouldn’t try to read in all this confusion?  Wait till we get a little over our hurry.  Go to the end-cupboard, and fetch me a couple of good, stout strings; I want these turkeys all ready to tie on the nails.”

She was going to roast them before the fire.  That was the way they cooked turkeys in old times.

“And, Betsey,” said Mrs. Lyman, “you may as well go to work on the doughnuts.  Make half a bushel or more.”

“What about the riz bread?” said Betsey.

“I should think a dozen loaves would be enough,” replied Mrs. Lyman, who was now beginning to make a suet pudding.

You see they meant to have plenty of food, for beside their own large family, they expected twenty or thirty guests to dinner day after to-morrow.

“O, mother!” exclaimed Mary, “I’m afraid you’re not making that pudding thick enough.  Siller Noonin says the pudding-stick ought to stand alone.”

“Priscilla is thinking of the old Connecticut Blue Laws about mush,” replied Mrs. Lyman, smiling; “we don’t mind the blue laws up here in Maine.  And this isn’t mush, either; it’s suet pudding. ­Solomon, my son, you may go into the shed-chamber, and bring me a bag of hops; we must have some beer starting.”

Betsey swung the frying-kettle on the crane, and had just turned away, when the baby crept up, and tipped over sick George’s basin of pussy-willow and cider, which was steeping in one corner of the fireplace.  There was no harm done, only Job lost his patience, and cried, and for five minutes there was a perfect Bedlam of baby-screams, chopping-knives, and mortar-pestles, and in the midst of it, the sound of the hired men winnowing grain in the barn.

But there could hardly be too much noise for Patty.  I presume she was never happier in her life than on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving; but Wednesday came, and it rained in torrents.

“Will they be married if it doesn’t clear off?” said she.

“You do ask the funniest questions,” replied Rachel.  “Just as if Mr. Starbird would stay away from his own wedding on account of the weather!”

It rained all night; but Thursday morning the sun came rushing through the clouds, his face all aglow with smiles, and put an end to such dismal business.  Patty looked out of the window, and watched the clouds scampering away to hide, and whispered in her heart to the little birds that were left in the maple trees, ­

“How kind God is to give us a good wedding-day!”

About ten o’clock the guests began to come, and among the first was Mr. Starbird.  Patty had never seen him look so fine as he did when he stood up with her dear sister Dorcas to be married.  He wore a blue coat, and a beautiful ruffled shirt, and his shoe-buckles ­so Moses said ­were of solid silver.  Why he needed gloves in the house, Patty could not imagine; but there they were on his hands, ­white kids at that.

Dorcas was quite as fine as the bridegroom.  She had no veil, but her high-topped comb sat on her head like a crown, and there was a wonderfully rich stomacher of embroidered lace in the neck of her dress.  Such a dress!  It shimmered in the sun like a dove’s wings, for it was of changeable silk, the costliest affair, Patty thought, that a bride ever wore.  It was fastened at the back like a little girl’s frock, and the waist was no longer than the waist of a baby’s slip.

Patty took great pride in looking at her beautiful sister, from the top of her shell comb to the tips of her white slippers, which were just the size of Patty’s own.

The ceremony was as long as a common sermon; and it would have been longer yet, if Elder Lovejoy had been there to perform it.  He was sick, and this man, who came in his place, did not speak in a sing-song tone; Patty was not sure it was quite right to do without that.  He was young and diffident.  Patty knew he trembled, for she could see his coat-flaps shake; and she can see them shake now, every time she thinks of the wedding.

There is something else she can see; and, as I don’t believe you ever heard of such a thing, I must tell you.

After the dinner of turkeys, roast beef, mince pies, apple pies, pumpkin pies, plum and suet pudding, doughnuts, cheese, and every other good thing you can think of, the children went into the back room for a frolic.  There were aunt Hannah’s three oldest girls, and uncle Joshua’s four big boys, William Parlin and his sister Love, and a few more.

While they were there, just beginning a game of blindfold, the bride came out in her travelling-dress, with her young husband, to say good by.  Mary fell to crying, the twins had tears in their eyes, and it would have been a very sober time, if Rachel had not called out, in her brisk way, ­

“All step round to the sides of the room, and let me have the middle!”

People always minded Rachel; so she had the floor at once, though no one could think what she meant to do, when she brought along a big brass kettle, the very one in which Patty had dipped those unfortunate candles, and set it upon a board, in the middle of the floor.

“Now, my friends,” said she, courtesying, “you all know I am the oldest daughter, and it isn’t fair that my younger sister should be married before I am; do you think it is?”

“No, no; not at all,” said uncle Joshua’s four boys, laughing.

“And I don’t see,” added Rachel, with another courtesy, ­“I don’t see how Mr. Starbird happened to make such a strange mistake as to choose Dorcas instead of me!”

“I beg your pardon,” said Mr. Starbird, bowing very low, “I never’ll do so again.”

“But since the deed is done,” said Rachel, “and cannot be undone, I shall be obliged to dance in the brass kettle.  That’s what ladies do whose younger sisters are married first.”

Then, with quite a sober face, she mounted a wooden cricket, stepped into the kettle, and began to dance.

There was not room to take many steps; but she balanced herself very gracefully, and sung, keeping time with her feet.

Rachel was one of the brightest, wittiest young ladies in Perseverance, and this performance of hers amused the bride and bridegroom, and everybody else but little Patty.  Patty took it all in earnest.  She had never heard before of the funny ceremony of dancing in a brass kettle, and wondered if it had anything to do with those candles of hers.

“Mr. Starbird likes Dorcas better than he does Rachel,” thought the little girl, “and that was why he asked her to marry him.  I should think Rachel might know that!  She says he made a mistake; but he didn’t!  If Rachel feels so bad, I shouldn’t think she would tell of it.  Poor Mr. Starbird!  He’ll be so sorry! and Dorcas will be so sorry!  O, I wish Rachel hadn’t told ­”

“Why, Patty, what makes you look so sober?” asked William Parlin.  “You look as if Master Purple had been feruling you.”

But Patty was ashamed to let any one know the trouble in her mind; and after the bride and bridegroom had gone, she ran away by herself to cry; and that is all she remembers of the wedding.

“Is it really grandma Parlin you have been writing about?” says Prudy.

“It doesn’t seem much like it; for here she sits, with her cap and spectacles on, knitting a stocking.  Please take off your cap, grandma, so we can think how you looked when you were a little girl.”

Mrs. Parlin took it off, but it didn’t make any difference, for her hair was grayer still without the lace.

“That isn’t the way, children,” said aunt Madge; “you’ll have to imagine how she looked; or, as Fly would say, you must make believe.  Touch her hair with gold.  There, see how it shines!  Take off those spectacles; smooth out the wrinkles; make her face as soft as a rose-leaf, as soft as your face, Fly; dwindle her figure down, down, till she looks about ten years old.  Now do you see her?  Isn’t she pretty?  How the sparkles come and go in her eyes!  Wouldn’t you like to have a romp with her in the new-mown hay?  For she hasn’t any more rheumatism in her back than a butterfly.  Her feet are dancing this minute in pink kid slippers with rosettes on them as big as poppies, and she wears a white muslinet gown, with a pink calico petticoat.  Wasn’t that the way she was dressed at the wedding, father Parlin?”

“How should I know?” replies grandpa.  “I don’t remember what she had on; but she was the spryest, prettiest little girl in town; and she hasn’t a child ­no, nor a grandchild either ­that begins to be equal to her.”

“Except Flyaway,” cries Prudy; “you forget that Flyaway is just like her!”

This is not a bad place to leave our friends.  I did intend to tell about another member of the circle; but I believe I will not, for I may put him into another story; that is, if you would like to hear about William Parlin, ­I wonder if you would? ­in a book we will call “LITTLE GRANDFATHER.”