Ester Ried Part 1
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by Pansy (aka. Isabella M. Alden).
She did not look very much as if she were asleep, nor acted as though she expected to get a chance to be very soon. There was no end to the things which she had to do, for the kitchen was long and wide, and took many steps to set it in order, and it was drawing toward tea-time of a Tuesday evening, and there were fifteen boarders who were, most of them, punctual to a minute.
Sadie, the next oldest sister, was still at the academy, as also were Alfred and Julia, while little Minnie, the pet and darling, most certainly was _not_. She was around in the way, putting little fingers into every possible place where little fingers ought not to be. It was well for her that, no matter how warm, and vexed, and out of order Ester might be, she never reached the point in which her voice could take other than a loving tone in speaking to Minnie; for Minnie, besides being a precious little blessing in herself, was the child of Ester's oldest sister, whose home was far away in a Western graveyard, and the little girl had been with them since her early babyhood, three years before.
So Ester hurried to and from the pantry, with quick, nervous movements, as the sun went toward the west, saying to Maggie who was ironing with all possible speed:
"Maggie, do _hurry_, and get ready to help me, or I shall never have tea ready:" Saying it in a sharp fretful tone. Then: "No, no, Birdie, don't touch!" in quite a different tone to Minnie, who laid loving hands on a box of raisins.
"I _am_ hurrying as fast as I _can_!" Maggie made answer. "But such an ironing as I have every week can't be finished in a minute."
"Well, well! Don't talk; that won't hurry matters any."
Sadie Ried opened the door that led from the dining-room to the kitchen, and peeped in a thoughtless young head, covered with bright brown curls:
"How are you, Ester?"
And she emerged fully into the great warm kitchen, looking like a bright flower picked from the garden, and put out of place. Her pink gingham dress, and white, ruffled ap.r.o.n--yes, and the very school books which she swung by their strap, waking a smothered sigh in Ester's heart.
"O, my patience!" was her greeting.
"Are _you_ home? Then school is out".
"I guess it _is_," said Sadie. "We've been down to the river since school."
"Sadie, won't you come and cut the beef and cake, and make the tea? I did not know it was so late, and I'm nearly tired to death."
Sadie looked sober. "I would in a minute, Ester, only I've brought Florence Vane home with me, and I should not know what to do with her in the meantime. Besides, Mr. Hammond said he would show me about my algebra if I'd go out on the piazza this minute."
"Well, _go_ then, and tell Mr. Hammond to wait for his tea until he gets it!" Ester answered, crossly.
"Here, Julia"--to the ten-year old newcomer--"Go away from that raisin-box, this minute. Go up stairs out of my way, and Alfred too.
Sadie, take Minnie with you; I can't have her here another instant.
You can afford to do that much, perhaps."
"O, Ester, you're cross!" said Sadie, in a good-humored tone, coming forward after the little girl.
"Come, Birdie, Auntie Essie's cross, isn't she? Come with Aunt Sadie.
We'll go to the piazza and make Mr. Hammond tell us a story."
And Minnie--Ester's darling, who never received other than loving words from her--went gleefully off, leaving another heartburn to the weary girl. They _stung_ her, those words: "Auntie Essie's cross, isn't she?"
Back and forth, from dining-room to pantry, from pantry to dining-room, went the quick feet At last she spoke:
"Maggie, leave the ironing and help me; it is time tea was ready."
"I'm just ironing Mr. Holland's s.h.i.+rt," objected Maggie.
"Well, I don't care if Mr. Holland _never_ has another s.h.i.+rt ironed.
I want you to go to the spring for water and fill the table-pitchers, and do a dozen other things."
The tall clock in the dining-room struck five, and the dining-bell pealed out its prompt summons through the house. The family gathered promptly and noisily--school-girls, half a dozen or more, Mr. Hammond, the princ.i.p.al of the academy, Miss Molten, the preceptress, Mrs.
Brookley, the music-teacher, Dr. Van Anden, the new physician, Mr.
and Mrs. Holland, and Mr. Arnett, Mr. Holland's clerk. There was a moment's hush while Mr. Hammond asked a blessing on the food; then the merry talk went on. For them all Maggie poured cups of tea, and Ester pa.s.sed bread and b.u.t.ter, and beef and cheese, and Sadie gave overflowing dishes of blackberries, and chattered like a magpie, which last she did everywhere and always.
"This has been one of the scorching days," Mr. Holland said. "It was as much as I could do to keep cool in the store, and we generally ARE well off for a breeze there."
"It has been more than _I_ could do to keep cool anywhere," Mrs.
Holland answered. "I gave it up long ago in despair."
Ester's lip curled a little. Mrs. Holland had nothing in the world to do, from morning until night, but to keep herself cool. She wondered what the lady would have said to the glowing kitchen, where _she_ had pa.s.sed most of the day.
"Miss Ester looks as though the heat had been too much for her cheeks," Mrs. Brookley said, laughing. "What _have_ you been doing?"
"Something besides keeping cool," Ester answered soberly.
"Which is a difficult thing to do, however," Dr. Van Anden said, speaking soberly too.
"I don't know, sir; if I had nothing to do but that, I think I could manage it."
"I have found trouble sometimes in keeping myself at the right temperature even in January."
Ester's cheeks glowed yet more. She understood Dr. Van Anden, and she knew her face did not look very self-controlled. No one knows what prompted Minnie to speak just then.
"Aunt Sadie said Auntie Essie was cross. Were you, Auntie Essie?"
The household laughed, and Sadie came to the rescue.
"Why, Minnie! you must not tell what Aunt Sadie says. It is just as sure to be nonsense as it is that you are a chatter-box."
Ester thought that they would _never_ all finish their supper and depart; but the latest comer strolled away at last, and she hurried to toast a slice of bread, make a fresh cup of tea, and send Julia after Mrs. Ried.
Sadie hovered around the pale, sad-faced woman while she ate.
"Are you _truly_ better, mother? I've been worried half to pieces about you all day."
"O, yes; I'm better. Ester, you look dreadfully tired. Have you much more to do?"
"Only to trim the lamps, and make three beds that I had not time for this morning, and get things ready for breakfast, and finish Sadie's dress."
"Can't Maggie do any of these things?"
Ester Ried Part 1
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Ester Ried Part 1 summary
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