This yearly festival was always kept at Plumfield in the good old-fashioned way,
and nothing was allowed to interfere with it. For days beforehand, the little girls
helped Asia and Mrs. Jo in store-room and kitchen, making pies and puddings,
sorting fruit, dusting dishes, and being very busy and immensely important. The
boys hovered on the outskirts of the forbidden ground, sniffing the savory odors,
peeping in at the mysterious performances, and occasionally being permitted to
taste some delicacy in the process of preparation.
Something more than usual seemed to be on foot this year, for the girls were as
busy up-stairs as down, so were the boys in school-room and barn, and a
general air of bustle pervaded the house. There was a great hunting up of old
ribbons and finery, much cutting and pasting of gold paper, and the most
remarkable quantity of straw, gray cotton, flannel, and big black beads, used by
Franz and Mrs. Jo. Ned hammered at strange machines in the workshop, Demi
and Tommy went about murmuring to themselves as if learning something. A
fearful racket was heard in Emil's room at intervals, and peals of laughter from
the nursery when Rob and Teddy were sent for and hidden from sight whole
hours at a time. But the thing that puzzled Mr. Bhaer the most was what became
of Rob's big pumpkin. It had been borne in triumph to the kitchen, where a dozen
golden-tinted pies soon after appeared. It would not have taken more than a
quarter of the mammoth vegetable to make them, yet where was the rest? It
disappeared, and Rob never seemed to care, only chuckled when it was
mentioned, and told his father, "To wait and see," for the fun of the whole thing
was to surprise Father Bhaer at the end, and not let him know a bit about what
was to happen.
He obediently shut eyes, ears, and mouth, and went about trying not to see what
was in plain sight, not to hear the tell-tale sounds that filled the air, not to
understand any of the perfectly transparent mysteries going on all about him.
Being a German, he loved these simple domestic festivals, and encouraged them
with all his heart, for they made home so pleasant that the boys did not care to
go elsewhere for fun.
When at last the day came, the boys went off for a long walk, that they might
have good appetites for dinner; as if they ever needed them! The girls remained
at home to help set the table, and give last touches to various affairs which filled
their busy little souls with anxiety. The school-room had been shut up since the
night before, and Mr. Bhaer was forbidden to enter it on pain of a beating from
Teddy, who guarded the door like a small dragon, though he was dying to tell
about it, and nothing but his father's heroic self-denial in not listening, kept him
from betraying a grand secret.
"It's all done, and it's perfectly splendid," cried Nan, coming out at last with an air
"The you know goes beautifully, and Silas knows just what to do now," added
Daisy, skipping with delight at some unspeakable success.