The Sandman: His Farm Stories  by Willliam J. Hopkins

The Fireplace Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds; and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

In the kitchen there wasn't any stove, because they didn't have stoves then, but there was a great enormous fireplace, so big that great long sticks of wood could be put in it to burn. And Uncle John or Uncle Solomon had to cut the wood that was to be burned in the fireplace, and pile it up in a great pile near the kitchen door.


In the fireplace was a long iron stick that went along near the top, and at the side of the fireplace it bent down like an elbow and went into some hinges that were in the wall of the fireplace. And at the end of this long iron stick was a hook, so that a kettle would hang on it over the fire. This iron stick they call a crane; and it would swing out on the hinges, away from the fire, so that they could hang something on without burning their hands, and then they could swing it back again.

And every night, before she went to bed, Aunt Deborah took the shovel and put ashes all over the fire, so that it wouldn't blaze and burn the wood all up, but wouldn't go out, either. For there wasn't any furnace, and if the fire went out, the house would get very cold, and there weren't any matches then, so that it was hard to light the fire.

At that farm-house were a great many chickens, and in the summer-time they liked to fly up into the trees, and sit on the branches to sleep. And in the morning, as soon as it began to get light, the old rooster would wake up and flap his wings and crow very loud. So, one morning, the old rooster crowed very early and waked Uncle John and Aunt Deborah, and Uncle Solomon and Aunt Phyllis.

And they all got up and put on their clothes and went down-stairs. Uncle Solomon and Uncle John went to the barn to look after the horses and the cows and the oxen, and Aunt Deborah and Aunt Phyllis began to fix the fire and get breakfast ready.

Aunt Phyllis went to the spring-house for the milk and the butter, and to the buttery for some other things. Then she went to the hen-house to find some eggs.

Aunt Deborah raked all the ashes off the fire and put on some sticks of wood that Uncle John had brought in, and then she took the blower and blew the fire with it until it began to blaze. Then she took the iron kettle and filled it with water at the well, and she pulled the crane out away from the fire, with an iron hook, and hung the kettle on the hook of the crane, and swung it back over the fire. And the fire blazed, and the water in the kettle got hot, and after a while it began to boil.


While the water in the kettle was getting hot, Aunt Deborah took some corn-meal and some flour and some salt and some sugar, and mixed them together in a big yellow bowl, and she mixed in some soda and some cream-o'-tartar. They are fine white powders that would make the johnny-cake light and nice when it was baked; for she was making johnny-cake. Then she took the milk that Aunt Phyllis had brought from the spring-house, and she poured some of it into the bowl and stirred it all in. And when she had poured in all the milk that she wanted, she took some of the eggs that Aunt Phyllis had brought, and she broke the shells and let the inside of the eggs drop into a littler bowl, and then she beat them all up together until they were all foamy. Then she poured them into the big yellow bowl and stirred them all in. When all the things were stirred up together, Aunt Deborah took a pan that had a cover, and she put butter all over the pan, and poured in the things from the yellow bowl. Then she put on the cover, and she took a kind of rake and she raked some of the blazing fire away, and with a long iron fork she put the pan down on the hot coals. Then she raked the fire on top of the pan again and left it.

When the johnny-cake was in the fire, getting baked, Aunt Deborah got some tea out of the jar that they called a caddy, and she put it in the teapot. Then she pulled the crane away from the fire, with the hook, and she poured some boiling water in on the tea and set the teapot down in front of the fire. Then she put some eggs in the kettle and swung it back over the fire.

While Aunt Deborah was making the johnny-cake and the tea, Aunt Phyllis had put the plates on the table, and the mugs, and the cups and saucers, and the knives and forks, and all the other things, and she had put some butter on the table, on a plate, and some milk in a white pitcher. Then she went to the buttery and took down a ham that hung on a hook, and she cut some thin slices and put them on a plate and put that plate on the table. And by that time the johnny-cake was done and the eggs, and the tea. And Aunt Deborah swung the crane off the fire and took the eggs out with a ladle that had little holes in it for the water to go through. Then she poured cold water on the eggs, so that they wouldn't cook any more, and she put them in a bowl and put them on the table. Then she raked the fire off the top of the pan, and took the pan out with the long iron fork. And she took the cover off, and the johnny-cake was nice and brown, and just right and smoking hot. And she cut it into little squares and put it in a dish, and Aunt Phyllis put all the rest of the things on the table while Aunt Deborah went to the door and took down the horn and blew it.

Then Uncle Solomon and Uncle John came in from the barn, and little Charles and little John came in from driving the cows, and little Sam came down-stairs. And they all sat down at the table and ate their breakfast, and it was very nice.

And that's all.