Four Little Blossoms at Brookside Farm/Chapter 8
LEARNING TO MILK
DOT ran off to the Apgar house as fast as her short legs would carry her, to find Jud and ask him if he had taken their toys in out of the rain. The other children followed Bobby along the brook.
"Because our feet are as wet as they can be, now," he said, "and if Aunt Polly is going to scold, getting them wetter won't make her scold any more."
"It looks like more rain," worried Meg, scanning the clouds. "Why don't we go back, Bobby, and come out after dinner? If the raft floated as far as the woods, the trees will keep it dry."
Bobby was very damp and very hungry, and he, too, thought that after dinner would be a better time to hunt for the toys.
"Come on, Twaddles," he shouted. "We're going back."
Twaddles was some distance ahead, and he turned so quickly that one foot slipped. Meg and Bobby saw him tumble into the brook with a loud splash.
It wasn't very deep, but it was very wet, and though Bobby reached him in a second, poor Twaddles was frightened.
"I'm so co-old!" he wept loudly. "I want Mother!"
"Well, don't stand here all day," said Bobby practically. "Take hold of Meg's hand, and we'll run to the house. Linda was making soup this morning, Twaddles. Think how good nice, hot soup will taste!"
Meg took his hand, and, Bobby on the other side, Twaddles ran with all his might toward dry clothes and hot soup. It was raining hard again.
"Why, children!" Aunt Polly met them at the door, for she had long ago come back from taking Mother Blossom to town. "Has anything happened? I found Dot in the hammock crying for her doll and—— But Twaddles is dripping!"
"He fell in the brook," explained Bobby concisely.
"Poor lamb!" comforted Aunt Polly. "Come upstairs, dear, and Auntie will see that you're rubbed dry. And Bobby and Meg, don't stand around in those wet shoes one minute. Change them immediately."
Half an hour later four clean, dry little Blossoms were at the table enjoying Linda's delicious soup and other good things. The day had turned to a cold, rainy, dismal one, very different from the promise of the sunny summer morning. Aunt Polly said they would have to manufacture their own sunshine that afternoon.
"You mustn't think of going to hunt for the toys till to-morrow, and only then if it's clear," she announced firmly. "Likely as not the raft sank, and you mustn't feel too bad about the toys. You'll find plenty of other things to play with on the farm."
All that afternoon it poured, and all that afternoon the four little Blossoms spent in Linda's kitchen cooking and pulling molasses candy. They had the sweetiest, stickiest time you ever heard of, and when about six o'clock the rain stopped and the sun came out pure yellow gold, they had a plate of beautiful cream-colored candy to take to Mrs. Peter Apgar.
"Who wants to help me milk?" asked Jud, passing the kitchen door as they were talking to his mother.
"Oh, Jud, I do!" begged Meg. "You promised to show me how."
"We'll all come," said Bobby. "Aunt Polly isn't going to have supper till seven o'clock tonight, 'cause the minister is coming. We've got oceans of time."
"Dot looks dressed up to me," announced Jud. "Keep her out of the mud, somebody."
"This is my prettiest dress," said Dot serenely, smoothing down the folds of her white dotted swiss under her coral-colored sweater.
Mrs. Sally Sweet looked mildly interested when she saw such a number of people coming into her comfortable barnyard, and when Jud drove her into the barn and fastened her in the stanchion, all the children stood around to watch.
When Jud had the pail nearly full of milk, he rose carefully.
"Now, Meg," he said, "you sit here. Easy now; don't be nervous. Don't you know a cow won't give milk if she knows you're nervous? Now work your fingers like this——"
Meg sat on the three-legged stool and tried to do exactly as Jud told her. Bobby and Dot and Twaddles stared at her open-mouthed. She was actually milking a live cow!
"Keep right on; that's fine," encouraged Jud. "You're doing first rate."
His father called him just then, and he ran to the door to see what was wanted. Meg, beaming, kept on milking. All would have been well if Mrs. Sally Sweet hadn't remembered her calf, Buttercup, and opened her mouth to give a tremendous and unexpected, "Moo!"
The four little Blossoms were sadly startled. Meg jumped up, upsetting the pail of milk over herself and Bobby, who stood nearest, and knocking down Twaddles and Dot who were close behind her. As luck would have it, both twins pitched into a heap of soft hay and were not hurt at all. But when they scrambled to their feet, alas! streams of yellow, bright yellow, decorated Dot's sweater and dress and splashed Twaddles' middy blouse.
"For goodness' sake!" cried Jud, coming back in time to view this wholesale damage. "What have you been up to now?"
"There must have been eggs in that hay," said Twaddles disapprovingly.
"Some hen stole her nest, and you've finished her hopes," sighed Jud. "I must say you're a sweet looking mess. Wonder what Miss Polly will say?"
"My! and the minister's coming to supper," announced Bobby, remembering this for the first time.
"I thought you looked dressed up," Jud groaned. "I suppose I ought to have paid more attention. Well, come on, we'll go up the back way and I'll tell Miss Polly most of it was my fault."
The four little Blossoms, eggy and milky, followed Jud up to the house. He meant to take them in through the kitchen in case the minister should be on the front porch and so spare Aunt Polly's company the sight of such a forlorn procession. But, just as they rounded the back of the house, they met Aunt Polly showing the minister and his wife her kitchen garden.
"Twaddles!" gasped poor Aunt Polly, for Twaddles was ahead.
"We—we—we were learning to milk," said Meg apologetically.
The minister and his wife took one look at the four, and then they sat down on the back doorstep and laughed and laughed. After a minute Aunt Polly joined them, and then the children and Jud began to giggle.
"Hurry and get into something clean," commanded Aunt Polly, wiping her eyes. "Linda is just putting supper on the table. I don't care what you put on, as long as it is clean. I spent an hour dressing you, and now see the result."
The four little Blossoms made haste to scurry into clean suits and dresses, and in a short time were ready to come downstairs and meet the minister and his wife properly.
"To-morrow morning," said Bobby, as Aunt Polly put out the light and kissed them goodnight, "we must go and hunt for the raft."
But in the morning Peter Apgar rattled up to the door while they were still at the breakfast table, with Jerry and Terry harnessed to an empty wagon.
"Anybody here want to go over to the mill with me?" he called loudly.
Of course the four children were wild to go, and Aunt Polly said that she was sure Peter had room for every one.
"Take good care of them, Peter," she said, following them down to the gate.
"I will," promised Peter. "I've got an old quilt spread down in the bottom for them to sit on. If the jolting tires 'em two can sit up with me, taking turns."
Spotty wagged his tail as they drove off, but he would not follow the wagon. He knew it was his place to stay and take care of Aunt Polly.
The mill was about four miles from Brookside, and the children enjoyed the drive intensely. Good-natured Peter allowed each one to "drive," holding the reins carefully as he told them, "Because," said Peter seriously, "even if you're only learning, you might as well begin right."
When they reached the mill, Jerry and Terry were tied to a post and Peter and the children went inside. Bobby was rather disappointed with the outside of the mill; he had expected it to look like the mills he saw in pictures, with great wide sails flattened against the sky.
"Electric power runs this mill," Peter explained when Bobby asked where the sails were. "You'll find plenty to see inside."
A short, stout man in a dusty white coat met them, and Peter gave him his order.
"I've some little folks from down the state a way with me," Peter told the man. "Guess you can show 'em round the mill a bit this morning?"
"I should say so!" was the hearty answer. "Come along, everybody, and we'll see just how grain is milled."
It was not a real flour mill. That is, not one of the great mills that turn millions of bushels of wheat into flour; but it did grind buckwheat for the farmers and made coarse flour and feed for their stock, cracked corn for poultry and so on. The four little Blossoms saw much to interest them, but the great round stones that ground the grains and the arrangements for sifting the dust and chaff from the grain interested them the most.
"It must be fun to be a miller!" said Bobby, when they were ready to go and the noon whistle blew and the big stones stopped turning as the power was shut off. "Maybe when I grow up I'll run a mill."
Rattling home in the big wagon with two sacks of "middlings" in the back with them, Twaddles and Dot decided that they, too, would have a mill some day.