A NOVEL PICNIC
But at last they were all ready to begin.
Mr. Maynard, in his position of teacher, insisted on absolute system and method, and everything was arranged with care and regularity.
"The first thing to learn in candy-making," he said, "is neatness; and the second, accuracy."
"Why, Father," cried Dorothy, "I didn't know you knew how to make candy!"
"I know more than you'd believe, to look at me. And now, if you four girls will each squeeze the juice of an orange into a cup, we'll begin."
Marjorie and Kitty and Gladys and Dorothy obeyed instructions exactly, and soon each was carefully breaking an egg, and still more carefully separating the white from the yolk.
Mrs. Maynard seemed to find plenty to do just waiting on the workers, and it was largely owing to her thoughtfulness that oranges and eggs and cups and spoons appeared when needed, almost as if by magic.
Meantime the two boys were working rapidly and carefully, too. They grated cocoanut and chocolate; they cut up figs and seeded dates; they chopped nuts and raisins; and they received admiring compliments from Mrs. Maynard for the satisfactory results of their work.
"Oh, isn't it fun!" exclaimed Marjorie, as she and Gladys were taught to mold the creamy, white fondant they had made, into tiny balls. Some of these white balls the smaller girls pressed between two nut kernels, or into a split date; and others were to be made into chocolate creams. This last was a thrilling process, for it was not easy at first to drop the white ball into the hot black chocolate, and remove it daintily with a silver fork, being most careful not to leave untidy drippings.
Cocoanut balls were made, and nougat, which was cut into cubes, and lovely, flat peanut sugar cakes.
The boys did all these things quite as well as the girls, and all, except Rosy Posy, worked with a will and really accomplished wonders.
Each was allowed to eat five finished candies of any sort and at any time they chose, but they were on their honor not to eat more than five.
"Oh," sighed Marjorie, as she looked at the shining rows of goodies on plates and tins, "I'd like to eat a hundred!"
"You wouldn't want any luncheon, then," said her father. "And as it's now noon, and as our candies are all done, I suggest that you all scamper away to some place where soap and water grow wild, and return as soon as possible, all tidy and neat for our picnic luncheon."
"Lunch time!" cried Gladys, in surprise. "It can't be! Why, we've only been here a little while."
But it was half-past twelve, and for the first time that whole morning the children looked out of the windows.
"It's still raining," said King, "and I'm glad of it. We're having more fun than at an outdoor picnic, I think."
"So do I!" cried all the others, as they ran away upstairs.
Shortly after, seven very spick-and-span-looking children presented themselves in the lower hall. Curls had been brushed, hair-ribbons freshly tied, and even Boffin had a new blue ribbon round his neck.
"Now for the real picnic!" cried Mr. Maynard, as he led the way into the living-room.
As Marjorie entered, she gave a shriek of delight, and turned to rush into her father's arms.
"Oh, Daddy!" she cried. "What a lovely picnic! It's a million times better than going to the woods!"
"Especially on a day like this," said her father.
The others, too, gave exclamations of joy, and indeed that was small wonder.
The whole room had almost been turned into a woodland glen.
On the floor were spread some old green muslin curtains that had once been used for private theatricals or something.
Round the walls stood all the palms and ferns and plants that belonged in other parts of the house, and these were enough to give quite an outdoorsy look to the place.
To add to this, great branches of leaves were thrust behind sofas or tables. Some leaves were green and some had already turned to autumn tints, so it was almost like a real wood.
Chairs and tables had been taken away, and to sit on, the children found some big logs of wood, like trunks of fallen trees, and some large, flat stones.
James, the coachman, and Thomas, the gardener, had been working at the room all the time the children were making candy, and even now they were peeping in at the windows to see the young people enjoying themselves.
In the middle of the room was what looked like a big, flat rock. As it was covered with an old, gray rubber waterproof, it was probably an artificial rock, but it answered its purpose. Real stones, twigs, leaves, and even clumps of moss were all about on the green floor cloth, and overhead were the children's birds, which had been brought down from the playroom, and which sang gaily in honor of the occasion.
"Isn't it wonderful?" said Dorothy Adams, a little awed at the transformation scene; "how did you do it, Mr. Maynard?"
"I told my children," he replied, "that since they couldn't go to the picnic the picnic should come to them, and here it is."
Rosy Posy discovered a pile of hay in a corner, and plumped herself down upon it, still holding tightly her beloved Boffin.
Then James and Thomas came in carrying big, covered baskets.
"The picnic! The picnic!" cried Rosy Posy, to whom a picnic meant chiefly the feast thereof.
After the baskets were deposited on the ground near the flat rock, James and Thomas went away, and none of the servants remained but Nurse Nannie, who would have gone to the picnic in the wood, and who was needed to look after little Rosamond.
"Now, my boys," said Mr. Maynard, "we must wait on ourselves, you know; and on the ladies. This is a real picnic."
Very willingly the boys fell upon the baskets, and soon had their contents set out upon the big rocks.
Such shouts of delight as went up at sight of those contents!
And indeed it was fun!
No china dishes or linen, but wooden plates and paper napkins in true picnic style. Then while the girls set the food in order, the boys mended the fire in the big fireplace, and put potatoes in to roast. Mrs. Maynard had thoughtfully selected small potatoes, and so they were soon done, and with butter and pepper and salt they tasted exactly as roast potatoes do in the woods, and everyone knows there is no better taste than that!
While the potatoes were roasting, too, the lemonade must be made. Mr. Maynard and Dick Fulton squeezed the lemons, while Kingdon volunteered to go down to the spring for water.
This made great fun, for they all knew he only went to the kitchen, but he returned with a pail of "cold spring water," and then Mrs. Maynard attended to the mixing of the lemonade.
The feast itself was found to include everything that had been asked for beforehand.
Cold chicken, devilled eggs, sandwiches, lemon tarts, all were there, besides lots of other good things.
They all pretended, of course, that they were really in the woods.
"How blue the sky is today," said Mr. Maynard, looking upward, as he sat on a log, with a sandwich in one hand and a glass of lemonade in the other.
As the ceiling was papered in a design of white and gold, it required some imagination to follow his remark, but they were all equal to it.
"Yes," said Marjorie, gazing intently skyward; "it's a beeyootiful day. But I see a slight cloud, as if it might rain tomorrow."
"We need rain," said Mr. Maynard; "the country is drying up for the lack of it."
As it was still pouring steadily, this was very funny, and of course they all giggled.
Then King went on.
"The sun is so bright it hurts my eyes. I wish I had a pair of green glasses to protect them."
"Or a parasol," said Gladys. "I'm sorry I left mine at home."
"What are we going to do at the picnic this afternoon, Father?" asked Kitty.
"I thought we'd fly kites," said Mr. Maynard, "but there isn't a breath of air stirring, so we can't."
The wind was blowing a perfect gale, so this made them all laugh again, and Gladys said to Marjorie, "I do think your father is the funniest man!"
At last the more substantial part of the luncheon was over, and it was time for the ice-cream.
The freezer was brought right into the picnic ground, and Kingdon and Dick were asked to dig the ice-cream out with a big wooden spoon, just as they always did at picnics. The heaps of pink and white delight, on fresh pasteboard plates, were passed around, and were eaten by those surprising children with as much relish as if they hadn't just consumed several basketsful of other things.
Then the candies were brought in, but, strange to say, nobody cared much for any just then.
So Mrs. Maynard had the seven pretty fancy baskets, that they had gathered nuts in, brought back, and each child was allowed to fill a basket with the pretty candies.
These were set away until the picnic was over, when they were to be taken home as souvenirs.
Luncheon over, Mr. Maynard decreed that the picnickers needn't do the cleaning away, as that couldn't be done by merely throwing away things as they did in the woods.
So Sarah came in to tidy up the room, and Mr. Maynard seated his whole party on the big logs and stones, while he told them stories.
The stories were well worth listening to, and though Rosy Posy fell asleep, the others listened breathlessly to the tales which were told in a truly dramatic fashion. But after an hour or so of this, Mr. Maynard suddenly declared that the picnic was becoming too quiet.
"I wanted you all to sit still for a while after your hearty luncheon," he said, "but now you need exercise. Shall we play 'Still Pond'?"
A howl of glee greeted this suggestion, for Still Pond in the house was usually a forbidden game.
As you probably know, it is like Blindman's Buff, only the ones who are not blinded may not move.
Marjorie was "It" first, and after being carefully blindfolded by her father, she stood still in the middle of the floor and counted ten very slowly. While she did this, the others placed themselves behind tables or chairs, or wherever they felt safe from the blindfolded pursuer.
"Ten!" cried Marjorie, at last. "Still Pond! No moving!"
This was a signal for perfect quiet; any one moving after that had to be "It" in turn.
No sound was heard, so Marjorie felt her way cautiously about until she should catch some one. It was hard for the others not to laugh as she narrowly escaped touching Kingdon's head above the back of the sofa, and almost caught Kitty's foot as it swung from a table. But at last she caught her father, who was on the floor covered up with an afghan, and so Mr. Maynard was "It" in his turn.
It was a rollicking game, and a very exciting one, and, as often was the case, it soon merged into Blindman's Buff. This was even more romping and noisy, and soon the picnic sounded like Pandemonium let loose.
"Good!" cried Mr. Maynard, as he looked at the red, laughing faces, and moist, tumbled curls. "You look just like a lot of healthy, happy boys and girls should look, but that's enough of that. Now, we'll sit down in a circle, and play quiet games."
Again the group occupied the logs and stones, ottomans and sofa cushions if they preferred, and they played guessing games selected by each in turn.
When it was Mr. Maynard's turn, he said he would teach them the game of the Popular Picnic. He began by telling them they must each in turn repeat what he himself should say.
Turning to Kingdon, he said, "Today I have been to the Popular Picnic."
So Kingdon said to Dick, "Today I have been to the Popular Picnic."
Then Dick said it to Marjorie, and Marjorie to Gladys, and so on all round the circle.
Then Mr. Maynard said, gravely: "Today I have been to the Popular Picnic. Merry, madcap Mopsy Midget was there."
This was repeated all round, and then to the lingo Mr. Maynard added, "Kicking, kinky-legged Kingdon was there."
This, after the other, was not so easy, but they all repeated it.
Next came, "Dear, dainty, do-little Dorothy was there."
This made them laugh, but they said it safely all round.
Then, "Delightful, dangerous, Deadwood Dick was there."
They had to help each other this time, but not one of them would give up the game.
"Gay, gregarious, giggling Gladys was there."
Gladys was indeed giggling, but so were all the others. Still they were a determined lot, and each time round each one repeated all the sets of names, amid the laughing of the others.
"Kind-hearted, Kindergarten Kitty," was an easy one, but when the list wound up with "Rollicking Rufflecumtuffle Rosy Posy," the game ended in a gale of laughter.
But they remembered many of the funny phrases, and often called each other by them afterward.
"Now," said Mr. Maynard, "we'll play something less wearing on the intellect. This is called the motor-car game, and you must all sit in a row. Kingdon, you're the chauffeur, and when chauffeur is mentioned, you must make a 'chuff-chuff' sound like starting the machine. Dick, you're the tire, and when tire is said, you must make a fearful report like an explosion of a bursting tire. Dorothy, you're the number, and when number is mentioned, you must say six-three-nine-nine-seven."
"What am I, Father?" said impatient Kitty.
"Oh, you're the man that they run over, and you must groan and scream. Marjorie, you're the speed limit, and you must cry, 'Whiz! Zip!! Whizz!!!' Gladys, you're the dust. All you have to do is to fly about and wave your arms and hands, and sneeze. Rosy Posy, baby, you're the horn. Whenever father says horn, you must say 'Toot, toot!' Will you?"
"Ess. Me play game booful, me an' Boffin; we say, 'Toot, toot!'"
"Now," went on Mr. Maynard, "I'll tell the story and when any of you are mentioned you must do your part. Then if I say automobile, you must all do your parts at once. Ready now: Well, this morning I started out for a ride and first thing I knew my tire burst."
A fearful "Plop!" from Dick startled them all, and then the game went on.
"I feared I was exceeding the speed-limit [much puffing and whizzing from Marjorie], and as I looked back through the dust [great cloud of dust represented by Gladys' pantomime] I saw I had run over a man!"
The awful groans and wails from Kitty were so realistic that Mr. Maynard himself shook with laughter.
"I sounded my horn——"
"Tooty-toot-toot!" said Rosy Posy, after being prompted by Kingdon.
"But as I was my own chauffeur"—here Kingdon's representation of a starting motor quite drowned the speaker's voice—"I hastened on before they could even get my number."
"Eight-six-eleven-nine," cried Dorothy, quite forgetting the numbers she had been told. But nobody minded it, for just then Mr. Maynard said, "And so I went home with my automobile."
At this everybody turned up at once, and the dust cloud flew about, and the man who was run over groaned fearfully, and tires burst one after another, and the horn tooted, until Mr. Maynard was really obliged to cry for mercy, and the game was at an end.
The afternoon, too, was nearly at an end, and so quickly had it flown that nobody could believe it was almost six o'clock!
But it was, and it was time for the picnic to break up, and for the little guests to go home. It had stopped raining, but was still dull and wet, so the raincoats were donned again, and, with their beautiful baskets of candies wrapped in protecting tissue papers, Gladys and Dorothy and Dick clambered into Mr. Maynard's carriage and were driven to their homes.
"Good-bye!" they called, as they drove away. "Good-bye, all! We've had a lovely time!"
"Lovely? I should say so!" said Marjorie, who was clinging to her father's arm. "It's been the very best Ourday ever, and I'm so glad it rained!"
"My prophecy has come true!" declared Mr. Maynard, striking a dramatic attitude. "Only this morning I prognosticated you'd say that, and you——"
"And I didn't see how it could be possible," agreed Marjorie, wagging her head, wisely. "I know it. But you made it possible, you beautiful, dear, smart, clever, sweet father, you, and I've had just the elegantest time!"
"When it's my turn, I shall choose a picnic in the house," said Kitty.
"Not unless it's a rainy day," said her father. "I've enjoyed the day, too, but I can tell you it's no joke to get up this kind of a picnic. Why, I was telephoning and sending errands for two hours before you kiddies were awake this morning."
"Dear Daddy," said Marjorie, caressing his hand in both her own, "you are so good to us; and I do hope it will rain next Ourday!"
"So do I!" said all the others.