On The Banks Of Plum Creek ( Chapter 40)

On The Banks Of Plum Creek

Laura Ingalls Wilder

Chapter 40
Christmas Eve

Pa went early to do the chores that evening, and Jack went with him, staying close to his heels. Jack did not intend to lose sight of Pa again.

They came in, cold and snowy. Pa stamped the snow from his feet and hung his old coat with his cap on the nail by the lean-to door. “The wind is rising again,” he said. “We will have another blizzard before morning.”

“Just so you are here, Charles, I don’t care how much it storms,” said Ma.

Jack lay down contentedly and Pa sat warming his hands by the stove.

“Laura,” he said, “if you’ll bring me the fiddle-box I’ll play you a tune.”

Laura brought the fiddle-box to him. Pa tuned the fiddle and rosined the bow, and then while Ma cooked supper he filled the house with music.

“Oh, Charley he’s a fine young man,
Oh, Charley he’s a dandy!
Charley likes to kiss the girls
And he can do it handy!

“I don’t want none of your weevily wheat,
“I don’t want none of your barley,
I want fine flour in half an hour,
To bake a cake for Charley!”

Pa’s voice rollicked with the rollicking tune, and Carrie laughed and clapped her hands, and Laura’s feet were dancing.

Then the fiddle changed the tune and Pa began to sing about sweet Lily Dale.

“’Twas a calm, still night,
And the moon’s pale light
Shone soft o’er hill and vale…”

Pa glanced at Ma, busy at the stove, while Mary and Laura sat listening, and the fiddle slipped into frolicking up and down with his voice.

“Mary put the dishes on,
The dishes on, the dishes on,
Mary put the dishes on,
We’ll all take tea!”

“And what shall I do, Pa?” Laura cried, while Mary ran to get the plates and cups from the cupboard. The fiddle and Pa kept singing, down all the steps they had just gone up.

“Laura take them off again,
Off again, off again,
Laura clear the table when
We’ve all gone away!”

So Laura knew that Mary was to set the table for supper and she was to clear away afterward.

The wind was screaming fiercer and louder outside. Snow whirled swish-swishing against the windows. But Pa’s fiddle sang in the warm, lamp-lighted house. The dishes made small clinking sounds as Mary set the table. Carrie rocked herself in the rocking-chair and Ma went gently between the table and the stove. In the middle of the table she set a milk-pan full of beautiful brown baked beans, and now from the oven she took the square baking-pan full of golden corn-bread. The rich brown smell and the sweet golden smell curled deliciously together in the air.

Pa’s fiddle laughed and sang,

“I’m Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines,
I feed my horse on corn and beans
Although ’tis far beyond my means, for
I’m Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines!
I’m Captain of the army!”

Laura patted Jack’s furry smooth forehead and scratched his ears for him, and then with both hands she gave his head a quick, happy squeeze. Everything was so good. Grasshoppers were gone, and next year Pa could harvest the wheat. Tomorrow was Christmas, with oyster stew for dinner. There would be no presents and no candy, but Laura could not think of anything she wanted and she was so glad that the Christmas candy had helped to bring Pa safe home again.

“Supper is ready,” Ma said in her gentle voice.

Pa laid the fiddle in its box. He stood up and looked around at them all. His blue eyes shone at them.

“Look, Caroline,” he said, “how Laura’s eyes are shining.”

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