Chapter 8:DANCE at GRANDPA’S
Chapter 8:DANCE at GRANDPA’S
Chapter 8:DANCE at GRANDPA’S
"Before night," Pa said, "well see the last of the sugar snow.”
So neither Laura said anything more. Uncle George was blowing his bugle. It made a loud, ringing sound in the big room, and Uncle George laughed and danced, blowing the bugle. The a took his fiddle out of its box and began to play, and all the couples stood in squares on the floor and began to dance when Pa called the figures.
It smelled good. The whole house smelled good, with the sweet and spicy smells from the kitchen, and the smell of the hickory logs burning with clear, bright flames in the fireplace, and the smell of a clove-apple beside Grandmas mending basket on the table. The sunshine came in through the sparkling window panes, and everything was large and spacious and clean.
The air was cold and frosty and the light was gray, when Laura and Mary and Ma with Baby Carrie were tucked in snug and warm under the robes.
Ma and Grandma cleared away the dishes and washed them, and swept the hearth, while Aunt Docia and Aunt Ruby made themselves pretty it, their room.
They all hurried to the kitchen for or plates, and outdoors to fill the plates with snow. The kitchen door was open and the cold air came in.
"You cant beat her, George! " somebody shouted.
Everybody made a terrific noise, shouting and yelling and stamping, -cheering Grandma. Grandma jigged just a little minute more, then she stopped. She laughed in gasps. Her eyes sparkled just like Pas when he laughed. George was laughing, too, and wiping his forehead on his sleeve.
In the kitchen Grandma was all by herself, stirring the boiling syrup in the big brass kettle. She stirred in time to the music. By the back door was a pail of clean snow, and sometimes Grandma took a spoonful of syrup from the kettle and poured it on some of the snow in a saucer.
Laura looked at him all the time she was eating her hasty pudding, because she had heard Pa say to Ma that he was wild.
They had washed their hands and faces and scrubbed them well with soap, at the wash-basin on the bench in the kitchen. They had used store soap, not the slimy, soft, dark brown soap that Grandma made and kept in a big jar to use for common every day.
Then Aunt Ruby and Aunt Docia put on their flannel petticoats and their plain petticoats and their stiff, starched white petticoats with knitted lace all around the flounces. And they put on their beautiful dresses.
They all did as Pa said. Laura watched Mas skirt swaying and her little waist bending and her dark head bowing, and she thought Ma was the loveliest dancer in the world. The fiddle was singing:
It did not seem long until they were sweeping into the clearing at Grandpas house, all the sleigh bells jingling. Grandma came to the door and stood there smiling, calling to them to come in.
across from ear to ear. They braided their back hair in long braids and then they did the braids up carefully in big knots.
Aunt Ruby and Aunt Docia and Ma left the dance and came running. They set out pans, pans and little pans, and as fast as Grandma filled them with the syrup they set out mowww•99lib.netre. They set the filled ones away, to cool into maple sugar.
Then they pulled on their beautiful white stockings, that they had knit of fine cotton thread in lacy, openwork patterns, and they buttoned up their best shoes. They helped each other with their corsets. Aunt Docia pulled as hard as she could on Aunt Rubys corset strings, and then Aunt Docia hung on to the foot of the bed ,while Aunt Ruby pulled on hers.
Uncle George was home from the army. He wore his blue army coat with the brass buttons, and he had bold, merry blue eyes. He was big and broad and he walked with a swagger.
"The syrup is waxing. Come and help yourselves.”
Outdoors the stars were frosty in the sky and the air nipped Lauras cheeks and nose. Her breath was like smoke.
She said that Grandpa and Uncle George were already at work out in the maple woods. So Pa went to help them, while Laura and Mary and Ma, with Baby Carrie in her arms, went into Grandmas house and took off their wraps.
Laura could not keep her feet still. Uncle George looked at her and laughed.
She said, Caroline says Charles could span her waist with his hands, when they were married.”
The other room was loud and merry with the music of the fiddle and the noise of the dancing.
All the beautiful skirts went swirling by, and the boots went stamping, and the fiddle kept on singing gaily.
The little circles and the big circles went round and round, and the skirts swirled and the boots stamped, and partners bowed and separated -and met and bowed again.
When they had eaten the soft maple candy until they could eat no more of it, then they helped themselves from the long table loaded with pumpkin pies and dried berry pies and cookies and cakes. There was salt-rising bread, too, and cold pickles boiled pork, and pickles. “Oo, how sour the pickles were.” They all ate till they could hold no more, and then they began to dance again. But Grandma watched the syrup in the kettle. Many times she took a little of it out into a saucer, and stirred it round and round. Then she shook her head and poured the syrup back into the kettle.
Soon everybody was getting up. There were pancakes and maple syrup for breakfast, and then Pa brought the horses and sled to the door.
Everybody was excited. Uncle George kept on) jiggling and Grandma kept on facing him, jigging too. The fiddle did not stop. Uncle George began to breathe loudly, and he wiped sweat off his forehead. Grandmas eyes twinkled.
Pas blue eyes were snapping and sparking. He was standing up, watching George and Grandma, and the bow danced over the fiddle strings. Laura jumped up and down and squealed and clapped her hands.
The fiddling and the dancing went on and on. Laura and the other Laura stood around and watched the dancers. Then they sat down on the floor in a corner, and watched. The dancing was so pretty and the music so gay that Laura knew,, she could never get tired of it.
There was a patty-pan, or at least a broken cup or a saucer, for every little girl and boy. They all watched anxiously while Grandma ladled out the syrup. Perhaps t九*九*藏*书*网here would not be enough. Then somebody would have to be unselfish and olite.
Caroline was Lauras Ma, and when she heard this Laura felt proud.
"She is not, either! " Laura said. "Carries the prettiest baby in the whole world. "No, she isnt," the other Laura said.
"Grand right and left!" Pa called out, and all the skirts began to swirl and all the boots began to stamp. The circles went round and round, all the skirts going one way and all the boots going the other way, and hands clasping and parting high up in the air.
Then Laura woke up, and she was lying across the foot of Grandmas bed. It was morning. Ma and Grandma and Baby Carrie were in the bed. Pa and Grandpa were sleeping rolled up in blankets on the floor by the fireplace. Mary was nowhere in sight. She was sleeping with Aunt Docia and Aunt Ruby in their bed.
At supper time Pa and Grandpa came from the woods. Each had on his shoulders a wooden yoke that Grandpa had made. It was cut to fit around their necks in the back, and hollowed out to fit over their shoulders. From each end hung a chain with a hook, and on each hook hung a big wooden bucket full of hot maple syrup.
Uncle George jigged faster. He jigged twice as fast as he had been jigging. So did Grandma. Everybody cheered again. All the women were laughing and clapping their
Laura sat on their bed and watched them comb I out their long hair and part it carefully. They parted it from their foreheads to the napes of A their necks and then they parted it
Laura clapped her hands in time to the music, with all the other clapping hands. The fiddle sang as it had never sung before. Grandmas eyes were snapping and her checks were red, and underneath her skirts her heels were clicking as fast as the thumping of Uncle Georges boots.
The sun was warm, and the trotting horses threw up bits of muddy snow with their hoofs. Behind the sled Laura could see their footprints, and every footprint had gone through the thin snow into the mud.
"Listen," Uncle George said, "isnt that pretty? " Laura looked at him but she did not say anything, and when Uncle George stopped blowing the bugle she ran into the house.
The snow was damp and smooth in the road, so the sled slipped quickly over it, and the big trees seemed to be hurrying by on either side.
When supper was over, Uncle George went outside the door and blew his army bugle, long and loud. It made a lovely, ringing sound, far away through the Big Woods. The woods were dark and silent and the trees stood still as though they were listening. Then from very far away the sound came back, thin and clear and small, like a little bugle answering the big one.
They looked lovely, sailing over the floor so smoothly with their large, round skirts. Their little waists rose up tight and slender in the middle, and their cheeks were red and their eyes bright, under the wings of shining, sleek hair.
He helped Ma and Carrie in, while Grandpa picked up Mary and Uncle George picked up Laura and they tossed them over the edge of the sled into the str
aw. Pa tucked in the robes around them, and Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle George stood calling, "Good-by! Good-by!" as they rode away into the Big Woods, going home.
Then Grandma said: "Now bring the patty-pans for the children.”
Ma was beautiful, too, in her dark green delaine, with the little leaves that looked like strawberries scattered over it. The skirt was ruffled and flounced and draped and trimmed with knots of dark green ribbon, and nestling at her throat was a gold pin. The pin was flat, as long and as wide as Lauras two biggest fingers, and it was carved all over, and scalloped on the edges. Ma looked so rich and fine that Laura was afraid to touch her.
hands, and all the men were teasing George. George did not care, but he did not have breath enough to laugh. He was jigging.
"Swing your partners!" Pa called, and "Each gent bow to the lady on the left!
Then she came to the door between the kitchen and the big room, and said:
Then everybody began to talk and laugh again.
The big room filled with tall boots and swishing skirts, and ever so many babies were lying in rows on Grandmas bed. Uncle James and Aunt Libby had come with their little girl, whose name was Laura Ingalls, too. The two Lauras leaned on the bed and looked at the babies, and the other Laura said her baby was prettier than Baby Carrie.
Aunt Docias pretty white collar was fastened in front with a large round cameo pin, which had a ladys head on it. But Aunt Ruby pinned her collar with a red rose made of sealing wax. She had made it herself, on the head of a darning needle which had a broken eye, so it couldnt be used as a needle any more.
She stood by the stove, sifting the yellow corn meal from her fingers into a kettle of boiling salted water. She stirred the water all the time with a big wooden spoon, and sifted in the meal until the kettle was full of a thick, yellow, bubbling mass. Then she set it on the back of the stove where it would cook slowly.
But Pa began to play "The Arkansas Traveler," and everybody began to clap in time to the music. So Grandma bowed to them all and did a few steps by herself. She could dance as prettily as any of them. The clapping almost drowned the music of Pas fiddle.
Then he caught her by the hand and did a little dance with her, in the corner. She liked Uncle George. Everybody was laughing, over by the kitchen door. They were dragging Grandma in from the kitchen. Grandmas dress was beautiful, too; a dark blue calico with autumn-colored leaves scattered over it. Her cheeks were pink from laughing, and she was shaking her head. The wooden spoon was in her hand.
People had begun to come. They were coming on foot through the snowy woods, with their lanterns, and they were driving up to the door in sleds and in wagons. Sleigh bells were jingling all the time.
The day seemed very short while Laura and Mary played in the big room and Ma helped Grandma and the aunts in the kitchen. The men had taken their dinners to the maple woods, so for dinner they did not set the table, but ate cold venison san藏书网dwiches and drank milk. But for supper Grandma made hasty pudding.
Laura had never seen a wild man before. She did not know whether she was afraid of Uncle George or not.
At last, as Grandma stirred, the syrup in the" saucer turned into little grains like sand, and Grandma called:
Oh, you Buffalo gals, Arent you coming out tonight, Arent you coming out tonight, Arent you coming out tonight, Oh, you Buff Buffalo gals, Arent you coming out tonight, To dance by the light of the moon?”
Suddenly Uncle George did a pigeon wing, and bowing low before Grandma he began to jig. Grandma tossed her spoon to somebody. She put her hands on her hips and faced Uncle George, and everybody shouted. Grandma was jigging.
There was just enough syrup to go round. The last scrapings of the brass kettle exactly filled the very last patty-pan. Nobody was left out.
Laura loved Grandmas house. It was much larger than their house at home. There was one great big room, and then there was a little room that belonged to Uncle George, and there was another room for the aunts, Aunt Docia and Aunt Ruby. And then there was the kitchen with a big cookstove.
After awhile there was sunshine in the woods and the air sparkled. The long streaks of yellow, light lay between the shadows of the tree trunks, and the snow was colored faintly pink. All the shadows were thin and blue, and every little curve of snowdrifts and every little track in the snow had a shadow.
She and the other Laura, and all the other children, scooped up clean snow with their plates. Then they went back into the crowded kitchen.
"Pull, Ruby, pull!" Aunt Docia said, breathless. "Pull harder." So Aunt Ruby braced her feet and pulled harder. Aunt Docia kept measuring her waist with her hands, and at last she gasped, "I guess thats the best you can do.”
The horses shook their heads and pranced making the sleigh bells ring merrily, and they went on the road through the Big Woods to Grandpas.
Pa showed Laura the tracks of the wild creatures in the snow at the sides of the road. The small, leaping tracks of cottontail rabbits, the tiny tracks of field mice, and the feather-stitching tracks of snowbirds. There were larger tracks, like dogs tracks, where foxes had run, and there were the tracks of a deer that had bounded away into the woods.
A drop of sweat dripped off Georges forehead and shone on his cheek.
MONDAY morning everybody got up early, in a hurry to get started to Grandpas. Pa wanted to be there to help with the work of gathering and boiling the sap. Ma would help Grandma and the aunts make good things to eat for all the people who were coming to the dance.
"I cant leave the syrup," she said.
Aunt Docias dress was a sprigged print, dark blue, with sprigs of red flowers and green leaves thick upon it. The basque was buttoned down the front with black buttons which looked so exactly like juicy big blackberries that Laura wanted to taste them.
"Quick, girls! Its graining!
Breakfast was eaten and the dishes washed and the beds made by lamplight. Pa packed his fiddle carefully i九九藏书n its box and put it in the big sled that was already waiting at the gate.
The air was growing warmer already and Pa said that the snow wouldnt last long.
They fussed for a long time with their front hair, holding up the lamp and looking at their hair in the little looking-glass that hung on the log wall. They brushed it so smooth on each side of the straight white part that it shone like silk in the lamplight. The little puff on each side shone, too, and the ends were coiled and twisted neatly under the big knot in the back.
Pa and Grandpa had brought the syrup from the big kettle in the woods. They steadied the buckets with their hands, but the weight hung from the yokes on their shoulders. A Grandma made room for a huge brass kettle on the stove. Pa and Grand Pa poured the syrup into the brass kettle, and it was so large that it held all the syrup from the four big buckets. Then Uncle George came with a smaller bucket of syrup, and everybody ate the hot hasty pudding with maple syrup for supper.
Aunt Rubys dress was wine-colored calico, covered all over with a feathery pattern in lighter wine color. It buttoned with gold-colored but tons, and every button had a little castle and a tree carved on it.
It was fun to run the whole length of the big room, from the large fireplace at one end all the way to Grandmas bed, under the window in the other end. The floor was made of wide, thick slabs that Grandpa had hewed from the logs with his ax. The floor was smoothed all over, and scrubbed clean and white, and the big bed under the window was soft with feathers.
They could eat all they wanted, for maple sugar never hurt anybody. There was plenty of syrup in the kettle, and plenty of snow outdoors. As soon as they ate one plateful, they filled their plates with snow again, and Grandma poured more syrup on it.
Grandma stood by the brass kettle and with the big wooden spoon she poured hot syrup on each plate of snow. It cooled into soft candy, and as fast as it cooled they ate it.
All at once he threw up both arms and gasped, "Im beat!" He stopped jigging.
Grandma kept on jigging. Her hands were on her hips and her chin was up and she was smiling. George kept on jigging, but his boots did not thump as loudly as they had thumped at first. Grandmas heels kept on clickety-clacking gaily.
Laura watched the dancers again. Pa was playing "The Irish Washerwoman" now. He called:
Suddenly Grandma stopped laughing. She turned and ran as fast as she could into the kitchen. The fiddle had stopped playing. All the women were talking at once and all the men teasing George, but everybody was still for or a minute, when Grandma looked like that.
"Doe see, ladies, doe see doe, Come down heavy on your heel and toe!
George is wild, since he came back from the war," Pa had said, shaking his head as if he were sorry, but it couldnt be helped. Uncle George had run away to be a drummer boy in the army, when he was fourteen years old.
"Yes, she is" "No, she isnt" Ma came sailing over in her fine delaine, and said severely: "Laura!