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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 17. Housekeeping Experiences
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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 17. Housekeeping Experiences Post by :geoall28 Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :1958

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The Hoosier Schoolboy - Chapter 17. Housekeeping Experiences


Mrs. Dudley having gone to Cincinnati the next day to attend her sister, who was ill, Jack was left to make his arrangements for housekeeping with Bob. Each of the boys took two cups, two saucers, two plates, and two knives and forks. Things were likely to get lost or broken, and therefore they provided duplicates. Besides, they might have company to dinner some day, and, moreover, they would need the extra dishes to "hold things," as Jack expressed it. They took no tumblers, but each was provided with a tin cup. Bob remembered the lantern, and Jack put in an ax. They did not take much food; they could buy that of farmers or in Port William. They got a "gang," or, as they called it, a "trot-line," to lay down in the river for catfish, perch, and shovel-nose sturgeon, for there was no game-law then. Bob provided an iron pot to cook the fish in, and Jack a frying-pan and tea-kettle. Their bedding consisted of an empty tick, to be filled with straw in Judge Kane's barn, some equally empty pillow-ticks, and a pair of brown sheets and two blankets. But, with one thing and another, the skiff was well loaded.

A good many boys stood on the bank as they embarked, and among them was Columbus, who had a feeling that his best friends were about to desert him, and who would gladly have been one of the party if he could have afforded the expense.

In the little crowd which watched the embarkation was Hank Rathbone, an old hunter and pioneer, who made several good suggestions about their method of loading the boat.

"But where's your stove?" he asked.

"Stove?" said Bob. "We can't take a stove in this thing. There's a big old fire-place in the house that'll do to cook by."

"But hot weather's comin' soon," said old Hank, "and then you'll want to cook out in the air, I reckon. Besides, it takes a power of wood for a fire-place. If one of you will come along with me to the tin-shop, I'll have a stove made for you, of the best paytent-right sort, that'll go into a skiff, and that won't weigh more'n three or four pounds and won't cost but about two bits."

Jack readily agreed to buy as good a thing as a stove for twenty-five cents, and so he went with Hank Rathbone to the tin-shop, stopping to get some iron on the way. Two half-inch round rods of iron five feet long were cut and sharpened at each end. Then the ends were turned down so as to make on each rod two pointed legs of eighteen inches in length, and thus leave two feet of the rod for a horizontal piece.

"Now," said the old hunter, "you drive about six inches of each leg into the ground, and stand them about a foot apart. Now for a top."

For this he had a piece of sheet-iron cut out two feet long and fourteen inches wide, with a round kettle-hole near one end. The edges of the long sides of the sheet-iron were bent down to fit over the rods.

"Lay that over your rods," said Hank, "and you've got a stove two foot long, one foot high, and more than one foot wide, and you can build your fire of chips, instid of logs. You can put your tea-kittle, pot, pipkin, griddle, skillet, _or gridiron on to the hole"--the old man eyed it admiringly. "It's good for bilin', fryin', _or brilin', and all fer two bits. They ain't many young couples gits set up as cheap as that!"

An hour and a half of rowing downstream brought the boys to the old cabin. The life there involved more hard work than they had expected. Notwithstanding Jack's experience in helping his mother, the baking of corn-bread, and the frying of bacon or fish were difficult tasks, and both the boys had red faces when supper was on the table. But, as time wore on, they became skilful, and though the work was hard, it was done patiently and pretty well. Between cooking, and cleaning, and fixing, and getting wood, and rowing to school and back, there was not a great deal of time left for study out of school, but Jack made a beginning in Latin, and Bob perspired quite as freely over the addition of fractions as over the frying-pan.

They rarely had recreation, excepting that of taking the fish off their trot-line in the morning, when there were any on it. Once or twice they allowed themselves to visit an Indian mound or burial-place on the summit of a neighboring hill, where idle boys and other loungers had dug up many bones and thrown them down the declivity. Jack, who had thoughts of being a doctor, made an effort to gather a complete Indian skeleton, but the dry bones had become too much mixed up. He could not get any three bones to fit together, and his man, as he tried to put him together, was the most miscellaneous creature imaginable,--neither man, woman, nor child. Bob was a little afraid to have these human ruins stored under the house, lest he might some night see a ghost with war-paint and tomahawk; but Jack, as became a boy of scientific tastes, pooh-poohed all superstitions or sentimental considerations in the matter. He told Bob that, if he should ever see the ghost which that framework belonged to, it would be the ghost of the whole Shawnee tribe, for there were nearly as many individuals represented as there were bones in the skeleton.

The one thing that troubled Jack was that he couldn't get rid of the image of Columbus as they had seen him when they left Greenbank, standing sorrowfully on the river bank. The boys often debated between themselves how they could manage to have him one of their party, but they were both too poor to pay the small tuition fees, though his board would not cost much. They could not see any way of getting over the difficulty, but they talked with Susan about it, and Susan took hold of the matter in her fashion by writing to her father on the subject.

The result of her energetic effort was that one afternoon, as they came out of school, when the little packet-steamer was landing at the wharf, who should come ashore but Christopher Columbus, in his best but thread-bare clothes, tugging away at an old-fashioned carpet-bag, which was too much for him to carry. Bob seized the carpet-bag and almost lifted the dignified little lad himself off his feet in his joyful welcome, while Jack, finding nothing else to do, stood still and hurrahed. They soon had the dear little spindle-shanks and his great carpet-bag stowed away in the skiff. As they rowed to the north bank of the river, Columbus explained how Dr. Lanham had undertaken to pay his expenses, if the boys would take him into partnership, but he said he was 'most afraid to come, because he couldn't chop wood, and he wasn't good for much in doing the work.

"Never mind, honey," said Bob. "Jack and I don't care whether you work or not. You are worth your keep, any time."

"Yes," said Jack, "we even tried hard yesterday to catch a young owl to make a pet of, but we couldn't get it. You see, we're so lonesome."

"I suppose I'll do for a pet owl, won't I?" said little Columbus, with a strange and quizzical smile on his meagre face. And as he sat there in the boat, with his big head and large eyes, the name seemed so appropriate that Bob and Jack both laughed outright.

But the Pet Owl made himself useful in some ways. I am sorry to say that the housekeeping of Bob and Jack had not always been of the tidiest kind. They were boys, and they were in a hurry. But Columbus had the tastes of a girl about a house. He did not do any cooking or chopping to speak of, but he fixed up. He kept the house neat, cleaned the candlestick every morning, and washed the windows now and then, and as spring advanced he brought in handfuls of wild flowers. The boys declared that they had never felt at home in the old house until the Pet Owl came to be its mistress. He wouldn't let anything be left around out of place, but all the pots, pans, dishes, coats, hats, books, slates, the lantern, the boot-jack, and other slender furniture, were put in order before school time, so that when they got back in the afternoon the place was inviting and home-like. When Judge Kane and his wife stopped during their Sunday-afternoon stroll, to see how the lads got on, Mrs. Kane praised their housekeeping.

"That is all the doings of the Pet Owl," said Bob.

"Pet Owl? Have you one?" asked Mrs. Kane.

The boys laughed, and Bob explained that Columbus was the pet.

That evening, the boys had a box of white honey for supper, sent over by Mrs. Kane, and the next Saturday afternoon Jack and Bob helped Judge Kane finish planting his corn-field.

One unlucky day, Columbus discovered Jack's box of Indian bones under the house, and he turned pale and had a fit of shivering for a long time afterward. It was necessary to move the box into an old stable to quiet his shuddering horror. The next Sunday afternoon, the Pet Owl came in with another fit of terror, shivering as before.

"What's the matter now, Lummy?" said Jack. "Have you seen any more Indians?"

"Pewee and his crowd have gone up to the Indian Mound," said Columbus.

"Well, let 'em go," said Bob. "I suppose they know the way, don't they? I should like to see them. I've been so long away from Greenbank that even a yellow dog from there would be welcome."

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