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   Chapter 7 CAPS AND APRONS

Glenloch Girls By Grace May Remick Characters: 17037

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


"Now, young ladies, please come to order," said Dorothy, rapping on the table with a wooden spoon, which seemed the most appropriate symbol of office for the president of a cooking club.

It was a day in late November, and the afternoon sun streaming in at the windows of the Ellsworth kitchen smiled broadly at the sight of six cooks in caps and aprons. This was the first working meeting of the club, and as the girls had thought it better to make six the membership, Katharine French and Alice Stevens had been invited to join.

"Usually," continued Dorothy, in an official manner which she flattered herself was in close imitation of the president of the Glenloch Fortnightly Club, "Usually we shall choose our dishes beforehand and bring the materials for making them. As this is the first meeting, Mrs. Ellsworth is going to let us use her materials, and she thinks that we'd better get up a simple supper for our first attempt. I thought that popovers, scalloped oysters, baked apples, cake, chocolate and some simple dessert would be nice, and after this you can make things as elaborate as you like."

Dorothy looked so dignified and important as she finished her little speech that irrepressible Charlotte longed to tickle her or rumple her hair, two things that the neat Dorothy loathed. As she couldn't she only said meekly, "Please, ma'am, are we to choose which we'd rather cook? If we are, I prefer the apples."

"So do I," laughed Katharine; "you're not any lazier than I am,

Charlotte."

"We'll have to write the names of things on slips of paper and draw for them," said Dorothy, "and no matter what you get you must do the best you can with it."

"My, but you are stern, Dolly," said Betty admiringly. "I should probably have let them spend the next half hour wrangling about what they'll do."

Charlotte, who had been made secretary, wrote the names of the various dishes on slips of paper and put them in the hat which Betty brought her. Then with a low bow she presented the hat to Dorothy, who drew the slip on which was written "scalloped oysters."

"How noble of you, Dolly, to draw the one we should all have hated," cried Ruth. "Oh, I'm not sure but this is just as bad," she added, as the slip marked "dessert" fell to her lot. Betty found herself staring at the word "popovers," while Katharine and Alice drew cake and chocolate respectively.

"Girls, I don't need to tell you that 'the lame and the lazy are always provided for,'" cried Charlotte, as she triumphantly flourished the "baked apple" slip. "I will prepare my portion of the feast and then read a while."

"Oh, I forgot to say," said Betty, "that mother suggested that the one who baked the apples might even up things by building the fire. She said one of the first duties of a cook was to know how to manage the stove."

"I wouldn't have believed it of you, Betty," groaned Charlotte, as she made up a face. "I don't know anything about building a fire. How under the sun shall I begin?"

"Read this and grow wise," answered Betty, thrusting an open cookbook under Charlotte's nose. "That tells you just how to do it."

Each of the other girls having brought a cookbook buried herself in it for the time being, while Charlotte, left to her own resources, proceeded to build the fire. First she read with great care the directions in the cookbook, and then looked rather helplessly at the stove.

"This is the front draught, of course," she murmured, "but where's the oven draught? Betty, do tell me where the oven draught is on this stove."

Betty flew over from the further side of the big kitchen, and pointed out the oven draught. Then she absorbed herself again in her book so completely that Charlotte hadn't the courage to ask for further instructions. She noticed a damper in the stovepipe, and wanted to ask about that, but pride forbade. "I'll do this alone or perish in the attempt," she said to herself with noble courage, and proceeding on the principle that she ought to change the existing condition of everything, she turned the one in the stovepipe and speedily forgot all about it. Then she put in a layer of twisted papers, laid the kindlings artistically, with air-spaces between the sticks, and before putting on the covers stood off to admire her work. She looked around for sympathy, but the girls were ail absorbed in their books, and no one gave her a glanee. Then with the sigh of unappreciated genius, she covered the stove, and touched a match to the papers through the front grate.

The kitchen was very still except for the crackle of the fire. The sunshine came like a shower of gold through the west window, glorifying everything it touched. Charlotte, feeling extremely capable, began with great energy to add an extra polish to the apples which she was to bake.

Suddenly Dorothy raised her head and sniffed the air. "I smell smoke. Oh, Charlotte, look at your stove," she cried.

Even as she spoke the smoke poured out around the covers in great volume. Clouds of smoke forced their way through hitherto unsuspected cracks.

"Open the windows," gasped Betty, whom the stinging wood smoke almost blinded.

"Perhaps I turned the dampers wrong," cried Charlotte, making a dash for the stove, and turning the oven draught. The result was disastrous, for the smoke rolled out with still greater violence, only to be met and beaten back into the room by the air from the windows. Charlotte turned the oven draught again, and then stood helpless.

Suddenly Betty bethought herself of what her mother had told her. "There's a damper in the stovepipe," she choked, covering her streaming eyes with one hand, and waving the other wildly in the air. "Did you touch that?"

"Yes," gasped Charlotte.

"Well, turn it the way it isn't, quick," and while Charlotte reached for the damper, Betty groped her way to the sink to soothe her afflicted eyes with cold water.

Coughing, and with smarting eyes, the girls stood around, while as if by magic the clouds of smoke diminished to tiny streams and then died away altogether.

"How beautifully simple," said Charlotte grimly. "That makes me feel small."

"It wasn't your fault," said Betty. "Mother told me to be sure to remember that that damper in the pipe wasn't to be changed, and of course I had to forget."

Charlotte lifted the cover, and surveyed the fire with a critical though somewhat humbled air. Then after letting it burn up a little she put in a goodly supply of coal and went back to her apples.

"The cake and the apples must go in as soon as the oven is hot," said Dorothy, emerging from her cook-book. "That will leave the oven free for my oysters and Betty's popovers."

Ruth gave a squeal of delight. "I've found a recipe for a pudding that sounds perfectly fascinating, and the cooking can be done on the top of the stove, which is an advantage."

"I can't decide between a chocolate cream cake and a cake with caramel filling," wailed Katharine, who loved rich, mushy, sweet things.

"Goodness, child," said Dorothy, with that superior air which she so often affected, "don't try anything so hard the first time. Find something simple."

"Crushed again," muttered Katharine, only loud enough for Ruth to hear. "Dolly loves to manage everything. You mustn't even breathe hard, girls, for ten minutes, and don't walk so heavily," she said as she carried her cake pan across the kitchen and deposited it in the oven. "This cake is going to be simply dandy, and my heart will be broken if it falls."

"Better not leave the oven door open so long then," said Betty, who having nothing to do for the moment was interesting herself in her neighbor's affairs.

Katharine, who had been absorbed in gazing proudly at her creation, started guiltily, and the oven door slipping from her fingers shut itself with a crash that filled her with horror.

"Do you suppose that old door's spoiled it?" she said in a despairing voice. "I don't see how it can fall, though, till it has begun to rise," she added hopefully to Betty as she went back to the table to clear away her cooking dishes.

"Just give a look at my apples when you're looking at your cake, will you, Kit?" asked Charlotte, who had produced a small book from some mysterious hiding-place, and was slipping off into a comer with it.

"That isn't fair," called Dorothy sharply, but Charlotte pretended not to hear, and Dorothy with a shrug of the shoulders gave her up as a hopeless case. Dorothy and Charlott

e were apt to turn their sharp edges toward each other, though either would have defended the other had an outsider interfered.

"Dear me, things look too good to be true," said Ruth a little later as Katharine took her cake, golden-brown and deliciously light, from the oven. "It seems as though some one would have to make a failure of something."

"It won't be my apples," proclaimed Charlotte with great pride. "Now I call that an artistic piece of cookery; they're not all mushy and cooked to death, but they've split open just enough to show that they're done."

"Small credit to you," laughed Alice. "If it hadn't been for Katharine you wouldn't have come out of your book for the next hour."

"Don't be envious, Al," answered Charlotte sweetly. "Perhaps your chocolate will be as good as my apples."

"There," said Ruth with a sigh of relief, "now that can cool, and

I'll put the finishing touches on later."

Suddenly the door-bell rang sharply. "You'll have to go to the door, girls," said Betty, poking her head into the dining-room, "for there's no one besides us in the house."

There was a murmur of conversation at the door, and then Ruth came flying into the kitchen with shining eyes and flushed cheeks. "There's the dearest little old woman at the door, girls," she said, "with soap and pins and needles to sell, and I'm so sorry for her because she says she hasn't sold a thing today. And she's the cleanest-looking old dear you ever saw, and don't you think we might ask her to stay to supper?"

Ruth stopped for lack of breath, and her face fell as she saw plainly that both Dorothy and Betty disapproved of her plan. She started slowly toward the door, wondering how much money she had in her purse, and whether it would be enough to get the old woman her supper, when help came from an unexpected quarter. Charlotte, who at that moment was so completely a Knight of the Round Table that she could hardly refrain from using the language of chivalry, and who saw in this instance a chance to bring chivalric ideas into practical use, said excitedly, "Why not, girls, if she's clean? She certainly can't run off with the silver with six of us to watch her."

"She's very respectable looking," pleaded Ruth; "her clothes are neat, and she looks as though-as though she'd seen better days."

"Mother said she wished we could make our club helpful to some one besides ourselves," said Betty slowly; "perhaps this is one of the ways."

"Of course it is," answered Ruth, and was about to make a wild dash for the door when she remembered that Dorothy was president and ought to have the deciding voice. "What do you say, Dolly?" she asked coaxingly. Dorothy frowned. "I don't approve of it a bit," she said, "but as you all seem to be against me I won't say anything more about it." Ruth walked slowly toward the front door, feeling very undecided, but Charlotte, who had followed her, helped her to a decision by saying softly, "Go ahead and invite her, Ruth; Dolly will come round ail right."

Seated in the kitchen the old woman didn't look at all dangerous even to Dorothy's suspicious eyes. She was dressed neatly in black, and, though politely urged, refused to take off either bonnet or shawl. Much conversation with her was impossible, for she was very deaf and mumbled so in talking that it was hard to understand her. The girls couldn't help liking the rosy face with its crown of snowy hair under a black veil, and they felt, too, that gentle glow of pride which comes of exceeding virtue. The old lady's bright eyes traveled from one to the other of them as they worked, and occasionally her whole frame trembled as though with emotion.

"Poor old soul! Perhaps she had daughters of her own," said Alice in a low voice.

It was impossible for the old woman to have heard, but it seemed almost as though she had, for just at that moment she sighed deeply, and drawing from her bag a neatly folded handkerchief wiped her eyes. Then she settled her spectacles on her nose and looked up at Ruth with a brave smile. The girls were touched by her courage, and each resolved privately to buy some of her pins and needles before she left the house.

At last everything was ready and the girls looked at the table with pardonable pride. "My, but I'm hungry," sighed Ruth, "and everything looks so good."

"I don't see why my popovers aren't poppier," said Betty anxiously. "I thought I followed-Oh, goose! Idiot! What do you think I did?" she wailed. "I wanted to be sure to have enough, so I doubled the recipe-but I forgot to double the eggs!"

Betty's despair was so comical that the girls couldn't help laughing, in spite of the fact that the popovers had not fulfilled the end and aim of their existence.

"Oh, Betty, to leave out the poppiest part of them," laughed Charlotte; "now just look at my apples; not a thing left out in cooking those."

The girls shouted again, and the old woman looked around the table as though wondering what the fun was about.

The supper progressed merrily, and everything, even the unambitious popovers, tasted good to the hungry cooke. Their guest paid the highest possible compliment to her hostesses by devouring with great eagerness everything that was offered to her. After she had been served three times to scalloped oysters, and had eaten five popovers and two baked apples, the girls looked at each other in amazement.

"The poor old thing probably hasn't had a square meal in years," said Charlotte softly.

"She'll never be able to walk if she eats ail that cake and pudding she has on her plate," said Dorothy anxiously, "and that's her second cup of chocolate. Why, she's got an appetite like-like a boy."

There was a subdued chuckle from the other end of the table followed by a laugh which ail the girls recognized. Then the old woman, very red in the face and very much hampered by her skirts, pushed back her chair and started for the door.

Quick as a flash Dorothy, looking very determined, stood with her back against the door. "Guard the other door, girls, and some one help me here!" she cried. "Now, Joe Bancroft, who helped you get up this trick?"

Joe, to whom laughter and eating were the main objects of life, threw back his head and laughed until he choked, and grew so red in the face that the girls were actually frightened.

"Oh, oh," he gasped at last, "that's done me lots of good. I think

I could eat a little more supper now."

He looked so funny standing there in the neat, black skirt topped by the respectable bonnet and shawl, the spectacles and white hair, that the girls went off into shrieks of merriment. Even Dorothy, who was really angry, couldn't wholly resist the fun of the situation, but she was sober again in a moment and said sternly, "You haven't told us yet who are the others. You never got this up all by yourself, I know."

"Honor forbids me to mention the names of my partners in crime," answered Joe with great solemnity. "They will all be glad to know that you were so kind to a poor old woman-who may have had daughters of her own," he added with a naughty twinkle in his eye.

"Oh, this is too much. Do let him go, Dolly," begged Charlotte.

"We know well enough that Frank and Bert are in it, and probably

Phil Canfield and Jack."

"No, not Phil and Jack," said Joe quickly, and then groaned inwardly over his stupidity.

"Thanks. That's all we wanted to know," answered Charlotte with triumph in her voice.

"That's one for you, Charlotte. You had me there ail right. Now, ladies, with your kind permission I'll go, leaving you in part payment for my gorgeous supper my stock in trade."

He drew from his bag and laid solemnly on the table one paper of pins, one of needles, and a cake of soap. Then, seeing that the girls at the other door had relaxed their watchfulness, he slipped past them, through the kitchen and out the back door.

A shout of boyish laughter greeted him, and Dorothy groaned as she heard it. "Why didn't you keep him, girls? I was going to make him wash the dishes," she said mournfully.

"It's much nicer to have him out of the way," answered Ruth. "Besides, I want to taste my pudding and Katharine's cake if that greedy boy has left any of it."

"Betty's mother will be so pleased to hear that we've begun so soon to make our club helpful to some one else," observed Charlotte pensively, as they finished washing the dishes, and the club ended its first meeting with a burst of laughter.

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