The Peterkin Papers Chapter 9


NOT that they were fond of drinking milk, nor that they drank very much. But for that reason Mr. Peterkin thought it would be well to have a cow, to encourage the family to drink more, as he felt it would be so healthy.

Mrs. Peterkin recalled the troubles of the last cold winter, and how near they came to starving, when they were shut up in a severe snow-storm, and the water-pipes burst, and the milk was frozen. If the cow-shed could open out of the wood-shed, such trouble might be prevented.

Tony Larkin was to come over and milk the cow every morning, and Agamemnon and Solomon John agreed to learn how to milk, in case Tony should be “snowed up,” or have the whooping-cough in the course of the winter. The little boys thought they knew how already.

But if they were to have three or four pailfuls of milk every day, it was important to know where to keep it.

“One way will be,” said Mrs. Peterkin, “to use a great deal every day. We will make butter.”

“That will be admirable,” thought Mr. Peterkin.

“And custards,” suggested Solomon John.

“And syllabub,” said Elizabeth Eliza.

“And cocoa-nut cakes,” exclaimed the little boys.

“We don’t need the milk for cocoa-nut cakes,” said Mrs. Peterkin.

The little boys thought they might have a cocoa-nut tree instead of a cow. You could have the milk from the cocoa-nuts, and it would be pleasant climbing the tree, and you would not have to feed it.

“Yes,” said Mr. Peterkin, “we shall have to feed the cow.”

“Where shall we pasture her?” asked Agamemnon.

“Up on the hills, up on the hills,” exclaimed the little boys, “where there are a great many bars to take down, and huckleberry-bushes! ”

Mr. Peterkin had been thinking of their own little lot behind the house.

“But I don’t know,” he said, “but the cow might eat off all the grass in one day, and there would not be any left for to-morrow, unless the grass grew fast enough every night.”

Agamemnon said it would depend upon the season. In a rainy season the grass would come up very fast, in a drought it might not grow at all.

“I suppose,” said Mrs. Peterkin, “that is the worst of having a cow,–there might be a drought.”

Mr. Peterkin thought they might make some calculation from the quantity of grass in the lot.

Solomon John suggested that measurements might be made by seeing how much grass the Bromwicks’ cow, opposite them, eat up in a day.

The little boys agreed to go over and spend the day on the Bromwicks’ fence, and take an observation.

“The trouble would be,” said Elizabeth Eliza, “that cows walk about so, and the Bromwicks’ yard is very large. Now she would be eating in one place, and then she would walk to another. She would not be eating all the time, a part of the time she would be chewing.”

The little boys thought they should like nothing better than to have some sticks, and keep the cow in one corner of the yard till the calculations were made.

But Elizabeth Eliza was afraid the Bromwicks would not like it.

“Of course, it would bring all the boys in the school about the place, and very likely they would make the cow angry.”

Agamemnon recalled that Mr. Bromwick once wanted to hire Mr. Peterkin’s lot for his cow.

Mr. Peterkin started up.

“That is true; and of course Mr. Bromwick must have known there was feed enough for one cow.”

“And the reason you didn’t let him have it,” said Solomon John, “was that Elizabeth Eliza was afraid of cows.”

“I did not like the idea,” said Elizabeth Eliza, “of their cow’s looking at me over the top of the fence, perhaps, when I should be planting the sweet peas in the garden. I hope our cow would be a quiet one. I should not like her jumping over the fence into the flower-beds.”

Mr. Peterkin declared that he should buy a cow of the quietest kind.

“I should think something might be done about covering her horns,” said Mrs. Peterkin; “that seems the most dangerous part. Perhaps they might be padded with cotton.”

Elizabeth Eliza said cows were built so large and clumsy, that if they came at you they could not help knocking you over.

The little boys would prefer having the pasture a great way off. Half the fun of having a cow would be going up on the hills after her.

Agamemnon thought the feed was not so good on the hills.

“The cow would like it ever so much better,” the little boys declared, “on account of the variety. If she did not like the rocks and the bushes, she could walk round and find the grassy places.”

“I am not sure,” said Elizabeth Eliza, “but it would be less dangerous to keep the cow in the lot behind the house, because she would not be coming and going, morning and night, in that jerky way the Larkins’ cows come home. They don’t mind which gate they rush in at. I should hate to have our cow dash into our front yard just as I was coming home of an afternoon.”

“That is true,” said Mr. Peterkin; “we can have the door of the cow-house open directly into the pasture, and save the coming and going.”

The little boys were quite disappointed. The cow would miss the exercise, and they would lose a great pleasure.

Solomon John suggested that they might sit on the fence and watch the cow.

It was decided to keep the cow in their own pasture; and as they were to put on an end kitchen, it would be perfectly easy to build a dairy.

The cow proved a quiet one. She was a little excited when all the family stood round at the first milking, and watched her slowly walking into the shed.

Elizabeth Eliza had her scarlet sack dyed brown a fortnight before. It was the one she did her gardening in, and it might have infuriated the cow. And she kept out of the garden the first day or two.

Mrs. Peterkin and Elizabeth Eliza bought the best kind of milk-pans, of every size.

But there was a little disappointment about the taste of the milk.

The little boys liked it, and drank large mugs of it. Elizabeth Eliza said she could never learn to love milk warm from the cow, though she would like to do her best to patronize the cow.

Mrs. Peterkin was afraid Amanda did not under stand about taking care of the milk; yet she had been down to overlook her, and she was sure the pans and the closet were all clean.

“Suppose we send a pitcher of cream over to the lady from Philadelphia to try,” said Elizabeth Eliza; “it will be a pretty attention before she goes.”

“It might be awkward if she didn’t like it,” said Solomon John. “Perhaps something is the matter with the grass.”

“I gave the cow an apple to eat yesterday,” said one of the little boys, remorsefully.

Elizabeth Eliza went over, and Mrs. Peterkin too, and explained all to the lady from Philadelphia, asking her to taste the milk.

The lady from Philadelphia tasted, and said the truth was that the milk was sour !

“I was afraid it was so,” said Mrs. Peterkin; “but I didn’t know what to expect from these new kinds of cows.”

The lady from Philadelphia asked where the milk was kept.

“In the new dairy,” answered Elizabeth Eliza.

“Is that in a cool place?” asked the lady from Philadelphia.

Elizabeth Eliza explained it was close by the new kitchen.

“Is it near the chimney ?” inquired the lady from Philadelphia.

“It is directly back of the chimney and the new kitchen-range,” replied Elizabeth Eliza. “I suppose it is too hot! ”

“Well, well!” said Mrs. Peterkin, “that is it! Last winter the milk froze, and now we have gone to the other extreme! Where shall we put our dairy?”

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