“Oh, dem’s yer rags is dey—fling ’em anywhere, but don’t bring ’em in my kitchen,” said she. “Dere is enuff things in dere now—put ’em down here on this entry table, or dere, long side de knife-Board—any wheres but in de kitchen.”
Charlie mechanically obeyed, and then followed her into her sanctuary.
“Have you had your breakfast?” she asked, in a surly tone. “’Cause if you haven’t, you must eat quick, or you won’t get any. I can’t keep the breakfast things standing here all day.”
Charlie, to whom the long walk had given a good appetite, immediately sat down and ate a prodigious quantity of bread and butter, together with several slices of cold ham, washed down by two cups of tea; after which he rested his knife and fork, and informed Aunt Rachel that he had done.
“Well, I think it’s high time,” responded she. “Why, boy, you’ll breed a famine in de house if you stay here long enough. You’ll have to do a heap of work to earn what you’ll eat, if yer breakfast is a sample of yer dinner. Come, get up, child! and shell dese ’ere pease—time you get ’em done, old Mrs. Thomas will be down stairs.”
Charlie was thus engaged when Mrs. Thomas entered the kitchen. “Well, Charles—good morning,” said she, in a bland voice. “I’m glad to see you here so soon. Has he had his breakfast, Aunt Rachel?”
“Yes; and he eat like a wild animal—I never see’d a child eat more in my life,” was Aunt Rachel’s abrupt answer.
“I’m glad he has a good appetite,” said Mrs. Thomas, “it shows he has good health. Boys will eat; you can’t expect them to work if they don’t. But it is time I was at those custards. Charlie, put down those peas and go into the other room, and bring me a basket of eggs you will find on the table.”
“And be sure to overset the milk that’s ’long side of it—yer hear?” added Aunt Rachel.
Charlie thought to himself that he would like to accommodate her, but he denied himself that pleasure; on the ground that it might not be safe to do it.
Mrs. Thomas was a housekeeper of the old school, and had a scientific knowledge of the manner in which all sorts of pies and puddings were compounded. She was so learned in custards and preserves that even Aunt Rachel sometimes deferred to her superior judgment in these matters. Carefully breaking the eggs, she skilfully separated the whites from the yolks, and gave the latter to Charlie to beat. At first he thought it great fun, and he hummed some of the popular melodies of the day, and kept time with his foot and the spatula. But pretty soon he exhausted his stock of tunes, and then the performances did not go off so well. His arm commenced aching, and he came to the sage conclusion, before he was relieved from his task, that those who eat the custards are much better off than those who prepare them.
This task finished, he was pressed into service by Aunt Rachel, to pick and stone some raisins which she gave him, with the injunction either to sing or whistle all the time he was “at ’em;” and that if he stopped for a moment she should know he was eating them, and in that case she would visit him with condign punishment on the spot, for she didn’t care a fig whose child he was.