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and if you like you can stay with her."

"I should like to go and see her and Baby Josy, but I'd rather come
back, please. Demi would miss me, and I love to be here, Aunty."

"You can't get on without your Demi, can you?" and Aunt Jo looked as if
she quite understood the love of the little girl for her only brother.

"'Course I can't; we're twins, and so we love each other more than other
people," answered Daisy, with a brightening face, for she considered
being a twin one of the highest honors she could ever receive.

"Now, what will you do with your little self while I fly around?" asked
Mrs. Bhaer, who was whisking piles of linen into a wardrobe with great

"I don't know, I'm tired of dolls and things; I wish you'd make up a new
play for me, Aunty Jo," said Daisy, swinging listlessly on the door.

"I shall have to think of a brand new one, and it will take me some
time; so suppose you go down and see what Asia has got for your lunch,"
suggested Mrs. Bhaer, thinking that would be a good way in which to
dispose of the little hindrance for a time.

"Yes, I think I'd like that, if she isn't cross," and Daisy slowly
departed to the kitchen, where Asia, the black cook, reigned

In five minutes, Daisy was back again, with a wide-awake face, a bit of
dough in her hand and a dab of flour on her little nose.

"Oh aunty! Please could I go and make gingersnaps and things? Asia isn't
cross, and she says I may, and it would be such fun, please do," cried
Daisy, all in one breath.

"Just the thing, go and welcome, make what you like, and stay as long as
you please," answered Mrs. Bhaer, much relieved, for sometimes the one
little girl was harder to amuse than the dozen boys.

Daisy ran off, and while she worked, Aunt Jo racked her brain for a
new play. All of a sudden she seemed to have an idea, for she smiled
to herself, slammed the doors of the wardrobe, and walked briskly away,
saying, "I'll do it, if it's a possible thing!"

What it was no one found out that day, but Aunt Jo's eyes twinkled so
when she told Daisy she had thought of a new play, and was going to buy
it, that Daisy was much excited and asked questions all the way into
town, without getting answers that told her anything. She was left at
home to play with the new baby, and delight her mother's eyes, while
Aunt Jo went off shopping. When she came back with all sorts of queer
parcels in corners of the carry-all, Daisy was so full of curiosity that
she wanted to go back to Plumfield at once. But her aunt would not be
hurried, and made a long call in mamma's room, sitting on the floor with
baby in her lap, making Mrs. Brooke laugh at the pranks of the boys, and
all sorts of droll nonsense.

How her aunt told the secret Daisy could not imagine, but her mother
evidently knew it, for she said, as she tied on the little bonnet and
kissed the rosy little face inside, "Be a good child, my Daisy, and
learn the nice new play aunty has got for you. It's a most useful and
interesting one, and it is very kind of her to play it with you, because
she does not like it very well herself."

This last speech made the two ladies laugh heartily, and increased
Daisy's bewilderment. As they drove away something rattled in the back
of the carriage.

"What's that?" asked Daisy, pricking up her ears.

"The new play," answered Mrs. Jo, solemnly.

"What is it made of?" cried Daisy.

"Iron, tin, wood, brass, sugar, salt, coal, and a hundred other things."

"How strange! What color is it?"

"All sorts of colors."

"Is it large?"

"Part of it is, and a part isn't."

"Did I ever see one?"

"Ever so many, but never one so nice as this."

"Oh! what can it be? I can't wait. When shall I see it?" and Daisy
bounced up and down with impatience.

"To-morrow morning, after lessons."

"Is it for the boys, too?"

"No, all for you and Bess. The boys will like to see it, and want to
play one part of it. But you can do as you like about letting them."

"I'll let Demi, if he wants to."

"No fear that they won't all want to, especially Stuffy," and Mrs.
Bhaer's eyes twinkled more than ever as she patted a queer knobby bundle
in her lap.

"Let me feel just once," prayed Daisy.

"Not a feel; you'd guess in a minute and spoil the fun."

Daisy groaned and then smiled all over her face, for through a little
hole in the paper she caught a glimpse of something bright.

"How can I wait so long? Couldn't I see it today?"

"Oh dear, no! It has got to be arranged, and ever so many parts fixed in
their places. I promised Uncle Teddy that you shouldn't see it till it
was all in apple-pie order."

"If uncle knows about it then it must be splendid!" cried Daisy,
clapping her hands; for this kind, rich, jolly uncle of hers was as
good as a fairy godmother to the children, and was always planning merry
surprises, pretty gifts, and droll amusements for them.

"Yes; Teddy went and bought it with me, and we had such fun in the shop
choosing the different parts. He would have everything fine and large,
and my little plan got regularly splendid when he took hold. You must
give him your very best kiss when he comes, for he is the kindest uncle
that ever went and bought a charming little coo Bless me! I nearly told
you what it was!" and Mrs. Bhaer cut that most interesting word short
off in the middle, and began to look over her bills, as if afraid she
would let the cat out of the bag if she talked any more. Daisy folded
her hands with an air of resignation, and sat quite still trying to
think what play had a "coo" in it.

When they got home she eyed every bundle that was taken out, and one
large heavy one, which Franz took straight upstairs and hid in the
nursery, filled her with amazement and curiosity. Something very
mysterious went on up there that afternoon, for Franz was hammering,
and Asia trotting up and down, and Aunt Jo flying around like a
will-o'-the-wisp, with all sort of things under her apron, while little
Ted, who was the only child admitted, because he couldn't talk plain,
babbled and laughed, and tried to tell what the "sumpin pitty" was.

All this made Daisy half-wild, and her excitement spread among the boys,
who quite overwhelmed Mother Bhaer with offers of assistance, which she
declined by quoting their own words to Daisy:

"Girls can't play with boys. This is for Daisy, and Bess, and me, so
we don't want you." Whereupon the young gentlemen meekly retired, and
invited Daisy to a game of marbles, horse, football, anything she liked,
with a sudden warmth and politeness which astonished her innocent little

Thanks to these attentions, she got through the afternoon, went early
to bed, and next morning did her lessons with an energy which made Uncle
Fritz wish that a new game could be invented every day. Quite a thrill
pervaded the school-room when Daisy was dismissed at eleven o'clock,
for everyone knew that now she was going to have the new and mysterious

Many eyes followed her as she ran away, and Demi's mind was so
distracted by this event that when Franz asked him where the desert
of Sahara was, he mournfully replied, "In the nursery," and the whole
school laughed at him.

"Aunt Jo, I've done all my lessons, and I can't wait one single minute
more!" cried Daisy, flying into Mrs. Bhaer's room.

"It's all ready, come on;" and tucking Ted under one arm, and her
workbasket under the other, Aunt Jo promptly led the way upstairs.

"I don't see anything," said Daisy, staring about her as she got inside
the nursery door.

"Do you hear anything?" asked Aunt Jo, catching Ted back by his little
frock as he was making straight for one side of the room.

Daisy did hear an odd crackling, and then a purry little sound as of a
kettle singing. These noises came from behind a curtain drawn before a
deep bay window. Daisy snatched it back, gave one joyful, "Oh!" and then
stood gazing with delight at what do you think?

A wide seat ran round the three sides of the window; on one side hung
and stood all sorts of little pots and pans, gridirons and skillets;
on the other side a small dinner and tea set; and on the middle part a
cooking-stove. Not a tin one, that was of no use, but a real iron stove,
big enough to cook for a large family of very hungry dolls. But the best
of it was that a real fire burned in it, real steam came out of the
nose of the little tea-kettle, and the lid of the little boiler actually
danced a jig, the water inside bubbled so hard. A pane of glass had
been taken out and replaced by a sheet of tin, with a hole for the small
funnel, and real smoke went sailing away outside so naturally, that it
did one's heart good to see it. The box of wood with a hod of charcoal
stood near by; just above hung dust-pan, brush and broom; a little
market basket was on the low table at which Daisy used to play, and over
the back of her little chair hung a white apron with a bib, and a droll
mob cap. The sun shone in as if he enjoyed the fun, the little stove
roared beautifully, the kettle steamed, the new tins sparkled on the
walls, the pretty china stood in tempting rows, and it was altogether as
cheery and complete a kitchen as any child could desire.

Daisy stood quite still after the first glad "Oh!" but her eyes went
quickly from one charming object to another, brightening as they looked,
till they came to Aunt Jo's merry face; there they stopped as the happy
little girl hugged her, saying gratefully:

"Oh aunty, it's a splendid new play! Can I really cook at the dear
stove, and have parties and mess, and sweep, and make fires that truly
burn? I like it so much! What made you think of it?"

"Your liking to make gingersnaps with Asia made me think of it," said
Mrs. Bhaer, holding Daisy, who frisked as if she would fly. "I knew Asia
wouldn't let you mess in her kitchen very often, and it wouldn't be
safe at this fire up here, so I thought I'd see if I could find a little
stove for you, and teach you to cook; that would be fun, and useful too.
So I travelled round among the toy shops, but everything large cost too
much and I was thinking I should have to give it up, when I met Uncle
Teddy. As soon as he knew what I was about, he said he wanted to help,
and insisted on buying the biggest toy stove we could find. I scolded,
but he only laughed, and teased me about my cooking when we were young,
and said I must teach Bess as well as you, and went on buying all sorts
of nice little things for my 'cooking class' as he called it."

"I'm so glad you met him!" said Daisy, as Mrs. Jo stopped to laugh at
the memory of the funny time she had with Uncle Teddy.

"You must study hard and learn to make all kinds of things, for he says
he shall come out to tea very often, and expects something uncommonly

"It's the sweetest, dearest kitchen in the world, and I'd rather
study with it than do anything else. Can't I learn pies, and cake, and
macaroni, and everything?" cried Daisy, dancing round the room with a
new saucepan in one hand and the tiny poker in the other.

"All in good time. This is to be a useful play, I am to help you, and
you are to be my cook, so I shall tell you what to do, and show you how.
Then we shall have things fit to eat, and you will be really learning
how to cook on a small scale. I'll call you Sally, and say you are a new
girl just come," added Mrs. Jo, settling down to work, while Teddy sat
on the floor sucking his thumb, and staring at the stove as if it was a
live thing, whose appearance deeply interested him.

"That will be so lovely! What shall I do first?" asked Sally, with such
a happy face and willing air that Aunt Jo wished all new cooks were half
as pretty and pleasant.

"First of all, put on this clean cap and apron. I am rather
old-fashioned, and I like my cook to be very tidy."

Sally tucked her curly hair into the round cap, and put on the apron
without a murmur, though usually she rebelled against bibs.

"Now, you can put things in order, and wash up the new china. The old
set needs washing also, for my last girl was apt to leave it in a sad
state after a party."

Aunt Jo spoke quite soberly, but Sally laughed, for she knew who the
untidy girl was who had left the cups sticky. Then she turned up her
cuffs, and with a sigh of satisfaction began to stir about her kitchen,
having little raptures now and then over the "sweet rolling pin," the
"darling dish-tub," or the "cunning pepper-pot."

"Now, Sally, take your basket and go to market; here is the list of
things I want for dinner," said Mrs. Jo, giving her a bit of paper when
the dishes were all in order.

"Where is the market?" asked Daisy, thinking that the new play got more
and more interesting every minute.

"Asia is the market."

Away went Sally, causing another stir in the schoolroom as she passed
the door in her new costume, and whispered to Demi, with a face full of
delight, "It's a perfectly splendid play!"

Old Asia enjoyed the joke as much as Daisy, and laughed jollily as the
little girl came flying into the room with her cap all on one side, the
lids of her basket rattling like castanets and looking like a very crazy
little cook.

"Mrs. Aunt Jo wants these things, and I must have them right away," said
Daisy, importantly.

"Let's see, honey; here's two pounds of steak, potatoes, squash, apples,
bread, and butter. The meat ain't come yet; when it does I'll send it
up. The other things are all handy."

Then Asia packed one potato, one apple, a bit of squash, a little pat
of butter, and a roll, into the basket, telling Sally to be on the watch
for the butcher's boy, because he sometimes played tricks.

"Who is he?" and Daisy hoped it would be Demi.

"You'll see," was all Asia would say; and Sally went off in great
spirits, singing a verse from dear Mary Howitt's sweet story in rhyme:

"Away went little Mabel,
With the wheaten cake so fine,
The new-made pot of butter,
And the little flask of wine."

"Put everything but the apple into the store-closet for the present,"
said Mrs. Jo, when the cook got home.

There was a cupboard under the middle shelf, and on opening the door
fresh delights appeared. One half was evidently the cellar, for wood,
coal, and kindlings were piled there. The other half was full of little
jars, boxes, and all sorts of droll contrivances for holding small
quantities of flour, meal, sugar, salt, and other household stores. A
pot of jam was there, a little tin box of gingerbread, a cologne bottle
full of currant wine, and a tiny canister of tea. But the crowning charm
was two doll's pans of new milk, with cream actually rising on it, and
a wee skimmer all ready to skim it with. Daisy clasped her hands at
this delicious spectacle, and wanted to skim it immediately. But Aunt Jo

"Not yet; you will want the cream to eat on your apple pie at dinner,
and must not disturb it till then."

"Am I going to have pie?" cried Daisy, hardly believing that such bliss
could be in store for her.

"Yes; if your oven does well we will have two pies, one apple and one
strawberry," said Mrs. Jo, who was nearly as much interested in the new
play as Daisy herself.

"Oh, what next?" asked Sally, all impatience to begin.

"Shut the lower draught of the stove, so that the oven may heat.
Then wash your hands and get out the flour, sugar, salt, butter, and
cinnamon. See if the pie-board is clean, and pare your apple ready to
put in."

Daisy got things together with as little noise and spilling as could be
expected, from so young a cook.

"I really don't know how to measure for such tiny pies; I must guess
at it, and if these don't succeed, we must try again," said Mrs. Jo,
looking rather perplexed, and very much amused with the small concern
before her. "Take that little pan full of flour, put in a pinch of salt,
and then rub in as much butter as will go on that plate. Always remember
to put your dry things together first, and then the wet. It mixes better

"I know how; I saw Asia do it. Don't I butter the pie plates too? She
did, the first thing," said Daisy, whisking the flour about at a great

"Quite right! I do believe you have a gift for cooking, you take to it
so cleverly," said Aunt Jo, approvingly. "Now a dash of cold water,
just enough to wet it; then scatter some flour on the board, work in
a little, and roll the paste out; yes, that's the way. Now put dabs of
butter all over it, and roll it out again. We won't have our pastry very
rich, or the dolls will get dyspeptic."

Daisy laughed at the idea, and scattered the dabs with a liberal hand.
Then she rolled and rolled with her delightful little pin, and having
got her paste ready proceeded to cover the plates with it. Next the
apple was sliced in, sugar and cinnamon lavishly sprinkled over it, and
then the top crust put on with breathless care.

"I always wanted to cut them round, and Asia never would let me. How
nice it is to do it all my ownty donty self!" said Daisy, as the little
knife went clipping round the doll's plate poised on her hand.

All cooks, even the best, meet with mishaps sometimes, and Sally's first
one occurred then, for the knife went so fast that the plate slipped,
turned a somersault in the air, and landed the dear little pie upside
down on the floor. Sally screamed, Mrs. Jo laughed, Teddy scrambled to
get it, and for a moment confusion reigned in the new kitchen.

"It didn't spill or break, because I pinched the edges together so hard;
it isn't hurt a bit, so I'll prick holes in it, and then it will be
ready," said Sally, picking up the capsized treasure and putting it into
shape with a child-like disregard of the dust it had gathered in its

"My new cook has a good temper, I see, and that is such a comfort," said
Mrs. Jo. "Now open the jar of strawberry jam, fill the uncovered pie,
and put some strips of paste over the top as Asia does."

"I'll make a D in the middle, and have zigzags all round, that will be
so interesting when I come to eat it," said Sally, loading the pie with
quirls and flourishes that would have driven a real pastry cook wild.
"Now I put them in!" she exclaimed; when the last grimy knob had been
carefully planted in the red field of jam, and with an air of triumph
she shut them into the little oven.

"Clear up your things; a good cook never lets her utensils collect. Then
pare your squash and potatoes."

"There is only one potato," giggled Sally.

"Cut it in four pieces, so it will go into the little kettle, and put
the bits into cold water till it is time to cook them."

"Do I soak the squash too?"

"No, indeed! Just pare it and cut it up, and put in into the steamer
over the pot. It is drier so, though it takes longer to cook."

Here a scratching at the door caused Sally to run and open it, when Kit
appeared with a covered basket in his mouth.

"Here's the butcher boy!" cried Daisy, much tickled at the idea, as she
relieved him of his load, whereat he licked his lips and began to beg,
evidently thinking that it was his own dinner, for he often carried it
to his master in that way. Being undeceived, he departed in great wrath
and barked all the way downstairs, to ease his wounded feelings.

In the basket were two bits of steak (doll's pounds), a baked pear, a
small cake, and paper with them on which Asia had scrawled, "For Missy's
lunch, if her cookin' don't turn out well."

"I don't want any of her old pears and things; my cooking will turn out
well, and I'll have a splendid dinner; see if I don't!" cried Daisy,

"We may like them if company should come. It is always well to have
something in the storeroom," said Aunt Jo, who had been taught this
valuable fact by a series of domestic panics.

"Me is hundry," announced Teddy, who began to think what with so much
cooking going on it was about time for somebody to eat something. His
mother gave him her workbasket to rummage, hoping to keep him quiet till
dinner was ready, and returned to her housekeeping.

"Put on your vegetables, set the table, and then have some coals
kindling ready for the steak."

What a thing it was to see the potatoes bobbing about in the little pot;
to peep at the squash getting soft so fast in the tiny steamer; to whisk
open the oven door every five minutes to see how the pies got on, and
at last when the coals were red and glowing, to put two real steaks on
a finger-long gridiron and proudly turn them with a fork. The potatoes
were done first, and no wonder, for they had boiled frantically all the
while. The were pounded up with a little pestle, had much butter and no
salt put in (cook forgot it in the excitement of the moment), then it
was made into a mound in a gay red dish, smoothed over with a knife
dipped in milk, and put in the oven to brown.

So absorbed in these last performances had Sally been, that she forgot
her pastry till she opened the door to put in the potato, then a wail
arose, for alas! alas! the little pies were burnt black!

"Oh, my pies! My darling pies! They are all spoilt!" cried poor Sally,
wringing her dirty little hands as she surveyed the ruin of her work.
The tart was especially pathetic, for the quirls and zigzags stuck up in
all directions from the blackened jelly, like the walls and chimney of a
house after a fire.

"Dear, dear, I forgot to remind you to take them out; it's just my
luck," said Aunt Jo, remorsefully. "Don't cry, darling, it was my fault;
we'll try again after dinner," she added, as a great tear dropped from
Sally's eyes and sizzled on the hot ruins of the tart.

More would have followed, if the steak had not blazed up just then,
and so occupied the attention of cook, that she quickly forgot the lost

"Put the meat-dish and your own plates down to warm, while you mash the
squash with butter, salt, and a little pepper on the top," said Mrs. Jo,
devoutly hoping that the dinner would meet with no further disasters.

The "cunning pepper-pot" soothed Sally's feelings, and she dished up her
squash in fine style. The dinner was safely put upon the table; the six
dolls were seated three on a side; Teddy took the bottom, and Sally the
top. When all were settled, it was a most imposing spectacle, for one
doll was in full ball costume, another in her night-gown; Jerry, the
worsted boy, wore his red winter suit, while Annabella, the noseless
darling, was airily attired in nothing but her own kid skin. Teddy, as
father of the family, behaved with great propriety, for he smilingly
devoured everything offered him, and did not find a single fault. Daisy
beamed upon her company like the weary, warm, but hospitable hostess so
often to be seen at larger tables than this, and did the honors with an
air of innocent satisfaction, which we do not often see elsewhere.

The steak was so tough that the little carving-knife would not cut it;
the potato did not go round, and the squash was very lumpy; but the
guests appeared politely unconscious of these trifles; and the master
and mistress of the house cleared the table with appetites that anyone
might envy them. The joy of skimming a jug-full of cream mitigated the
anguish felt for the loss of the pies, and Asia's despised cake proved a
treasure in the way of dessert.

"That is the nicest lunch I ever had; can't I do it every day?" asked
Daisy as she scraped up and ate the leavings all round.

"You can cook things every day after lessons, but I prefer that you
should eat your dishes at your regular meals, and only have a bit of
gingerbread for lunch. To-day, being the first time, I don't mind, but
we must keep our rules. This afternoon you can make something for tea
if you like," said Mrs. Jo, who had enjoyed the dinner-party very much,
though no one had invited her to partake.

"Do let me make flapjacks for Demi, he loves them so, and it's such fun
to turn them and put sugar in between," cried Daisy, tenderly wiping a
yellow stain off Annabella's broken nose, for Bella had refused to eat
squash when it was pressed upon her as good for "lumatism," a complaint
which it is no wonder she suffered from, considering the lightness of
her attire.

"But if you give Demi goodies, all the others will expect some also, and
then you will have your hands full."

"Couldn't I have Demi come up to tea alone just this one time? And after
that I could cook things for the others if they were good," proposed
Daisy, with a sudden inspiration.

"That is a capital idea, Posy! We will make your little messes rewards
for the good boys, and I don't know one among them who would not like
something nice to eat more than almost anything else. If little men are

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Online LibraryLouisa May AlcottLittle Men → online text (page 5 of 23)