Aunt Abigail laughed, took up the paddle, and after three or four passes the butter was a smooth, yellow ball. “Well, that brings it all back to me!” she said? “when I was a little girl, when my grandmother first let me try to make a pat. I was about five years old—my! what a mess I made of it! And I remember? doesn’t it seem funny—that she laughed and said her Great-aunt Elmira had taught her how to handle butter right here in this very milk-room. Let’s see, Grandmother was born the year the Declaration of Independence was signed. That’s quite a while ago, isn’t it? But butter hasn’t changed much, I guess, nor little girls either.”
Elizabeth Ann listened to this statement with a very queer, startled expression on her face, as though she hadn’t understood the words. Now for a moment she stood staring up in Aunt Abigail’s face, and yet not seeing her at all, because she was thinking so hard. She was thinking! “Why! There were real people living when the Declaration of Independence was signed—real people, not just history people—old women teaching little girls how to do things—right in this very room, on this very floor—and the Declaration of Independence just signed!”
To tell the honest truth, although she had passed a very good examination in the little book on American history they had studied in school, Elizabeth Ann had never to that moment had any notion that there ever had been really and truly any Declaration of Independence at all. It had been like the ounce, living exclusively inside her schoolbooks for little girls to be examined about. And now here Aunt Abigail, talking about a butter-pat, had brought it to life!
Of course all this only lasted a moment, because it was such a new idea! She soon lost track of what she was thinking of; she rubbed her eyes as though she were coming out of a dream, she thought, confusedly: “What did butter have to do with the Declaration of Independence? Nothing, of course! It couldn’t!” and the whole impression seemed to pass out of her mind. But it was an impression which was to come again and again during the next few months.
BETSY GOES TO SCHOOL
Elizabeth Ann was very much surprised to hear Cousin Ann’s voice calling, “Dinner!” down the stairs. It did not seem possible that the whole morning had gone by. “Here,” said Aunt Abigail, “just put that pat on a plate, will you, and take it upstairs as you go. I’ve got all I can do to haul my own two hundred pounds up, without any half-pound of butter into the bargain.” The little girl smiled at this, though she did not exactly know why, and skipped up the stairs proudly with her butter.