Two Brass Kettles
I N a little town not far from Boston stood an old brick house. It did not look like a brick house, for it had been covered on the outside with boards.
It was the safest house in the village, and during King Philip's War the neighbors often used to come to this "fort-house," as it was called, for safety. When its great oak doors were bolted and its strong shutters fastened, there was little danger from Indians. They could not burn its brick walls as they did so many log cabins.
But no Indians had been seen for a long time, and the people began to think that danger from them was past. One Sunday morning, Mr. and Mrs. Minot, who lived in the old house, went to meeting, leaving their two little ones with Experience, the maid.
It was a very hot summer day and the windows in the big kitchen were wide open. The butterflies flitted to and fro in the bright sunshine, and the bees hummed drowsily in the vines twining about the window.
The two little children sat upon the floor while Experience built a fire in the brick oven and began to prepare dinner.
When this was finished, she drew her chair up beside the open window. "Now, little one," she said to the baby, as she picked her up, "let us sit here in the breeze and watch for mother to come."
Experience sang softly and rocked to and fro, hoping the baby would go to sleep. But Baby had no thought of going to sleep. She laughed and crowed and tried to catch the pretty shadows as they danced over the window sill.
Suddenly Experience saw a sight which made her heart stand still. Behind a row of currant bushes was an Indian, creeping on his hands and knees toward the house.
Only a moment Experience sat still and stared at the savage, then she quickly bolted the door and closed the windows. There was no time to close the heavy shutters.
What should she do with the children? She looked about for a safe hiding place. On the floor, bottom upward, stood the two great brass kettles which Experience had scoured the day before. She quickly raised one of the kettles and pushed the baby under it, then, before Baby's little brother could think what had happened, down came the other kettle over him.
Then Experience rushed to the oven for a shovel of hot coals. "If that Indian comes in here I'll give him a taste of these hot coals," said she. But suddenly she noticed that the Indian carried a gun.
"Oh!" she thought, "he can shoot much farther than I can possibly throw these coals." So she dropped the shovel upon the hearth and fled upstairs for the gun. "Keep still, children," she whispered, as she ran past them.
But the children did not keep still. They did not at all like being crowded under the kettles. They tried to push them over, but the kettles were too heavy. Then they began to yell, partly in terror, and partly in anger. The sound made the kettles ring with a strange, wild noise.
When the Indian appeared at the window, he looked about the room and could see no one, yet where could that dreadful noise come from? He stared at the kettles, wondering what creatures those could be that howled and rumbled so frightfully.
Just then the children began to creep toward the light, moving the kettles, which looked like two great turtles.
"Ugh! Ugh! Me shoot!" grunted the mystified Indian. Boom-oom-oom-m! went the bullet, glancing from kettle to kettle.
The babies were frightened, but not at all hurt, so they howled all the louder and crept faster than ever toward the window.
Now it was the Indian's turn to be frightened. Ugh! Gun no hurt him! Him come!" Then he dropped his gun and fled. He had no wish to fight with two great monsters that could not be hurt with a gun.
Experience saw him as he ran away through the garden, and fired at him, but he was soon out of sight. She could still hear the children crying under the brass kettles, so she knew they were not hurt. Before she could get down stairs, Mr. and Mrs. Minot came home from meeting. There lay the gun before the window, and the children were still under the kettles, howling madly and struggling to be free.
"What is the matter? What has happened?" the parents cried, and Experience told the story of the Indian.
"Perhaps he is still hiding somewhere on the farm," said Mr. Minot, seizing his gun.
He hurried across the garden, looking behind trees and bushes for the Indian. At last he found him, but the Indian could do no harm then. His body lay beside the brook, for the maid's aim had been more true than she thought.