WHY THE PETERKINS HAD A LATE DINNER.
THE trouble was in the dumb-waiter. All had seated themselves at the dinner-table, and Amanda had gone to take out the dinner she had sent up from the kitchen on the dumb-waiter. But something was the matter; she could not pull it up. There was the dinner, but she could not reach it. All the family, in turn, went and tried; all pulled together, in vain;the dinner could not be stirred.
“No dinner!” exclaimed Agamemnon.
“I am quite hungry,” said Solomon John.
At last Mr. Peterkin said, “I am not proud. I am willing to dine in the kitchen.”
This room was below the dining-room. All consented to this. Each one went down, taking a napkin.
The cook laid the kitchen table, put on it her best table-cloth, and the family sat down. Amanda went to the dumb-waiter for the dinner, but she could not move it down.
The family were all in dismay. There was the dinner, half-way between the kitchen and dining-room, and there were they all hungry to eat it!
“What is there for dinner?” asked Mr. Peterkin.
“Roast turkey,” said Mrs. Peterkin.
Mr. Peterkin lifted his eyes to the ceiling.
“Squash, tomato, potato, and sweet potato,” Mrs. Peterkin continued.
“Sweet potato!” exclaimed both the little boys.
“I am very glad now that I did not have cranberry,” said Mrs. Peterkin, anxious to find a bright point.
“Let us sit down and think about it,” said Mr. Peterkin.
“I have an idea,” said Agamemnon, after a while.
“Let us hear it,” said Mr. Peterkin. “Let each one speak his mind.”
“The turkey,” said Agamemnon, “must be just above the kitchen door. If I had a ladder and an axe, I could cut away the plastering and reach it.”
“That is a great idea,” said Mrs. Peterkin.
“If you think you could do it,” said Mr. Peterkin.
“Would it not be better to have a carpenter?” asked Elizabeth Eliza.
“A carpenter might have a ladder and an axe, and I think we have neither,” said Mrs. Peterkin.
“A carpenter! A carpenter!” exclaimed the rest.
It was decided that Mr. Peterkin, Solomon John, and the little boys should go in search of a carpenter.
Agamemnon proposed that, meanwhile, he should go and borrow a book; for he had another idea.
“This affair of the turkey,” he said, “reminds me of those buried cities that have been dug out,–Herculaneum, for instance.”
“Oh, yes,” interrupted Elizabeth Eliza, “and Pompeii.”
“Yes,” said Agamemnon, “they found there pots and kettles. Now, I should like to know how they did it; and I mean to borrow a book and read. I think it was done with a pickaxe.”
So the party set out. But when Mr. Peterkin reached the carpenter’s shop, there was no carpenter to be found there.
“He must be at his house, eating his dinner,” suggested Solomon John.
“Happy man,” exclaimed Mr. Peterkin, “he has a dinner to eat!”
They went to the carpenter’s house, but found he had gone out of town for a day’s job. But his wife told them that he always came back at night to ring the nine-o’clock bell.
“We must wait till then,” said Mr. Peterkin, with an effort at cheerfulness.
At home he found Agamemnon reading his book, and all sat down to hear of Herculaneum and Pompeii.
Time passed on, and the question arose about tea. Would it do to have tea when they had had no dinner? A part of the family thought it would not do; the rest wanted tea.
“I suppose you remember the wise lady of Philadelphia, who was here not long ago,” said Mr. Peterkin.
“Oh, yes,” said Mrs. Peterkin.
“Let us try to think what she would advise us,” said Mr. Peterkin.
“I wish she were here,” said Elizabeth Eliza.
“I think,” said Mr. Peterkin, “she would say, let them that want tea have it; the rest can go without.”
So they had tea, and, as it proved, all sat down to it. But not much was eaten, as there had been no dinner.
When the nine-o’clock bell was heard, Agamemnon, Solomon John, and the little boys rushed to the church, and found the carpenter.
They asked him to bring a ladder, axes and pickaxe. As he felt it might be a case of fire, he brought also his fire-buckets.
When the matter was explained to him, he went into the dining-room, looked into the dumb-waiter, untwisted a cord, and arranged the weight, and pulled up the dinner.
There was a family shout.
“The trouble was in the weight,” said the carpenter.
“That is why it is called a dumb-waiter,” Solomon John explained to the little boys.
The dinner was put upon the table.
Mrs. Peterkin frugally suggested that they might now keep it for the next day, as to-day was almost gone, and they had had tea.
But nobody listened. All sat down to the roast turkey; and Amanda warmed over the vegetables.
“Patient waiters are no losers,” said Agamemnon.