Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

A Parsnip Stew
by [?]

Ruth stood by with a dish and spoon, while her mother stirred the stew carefully to be sure that it was not burning on the bottom of the kettle. Her sister Serena was paring apples and playing with the cat, and her father and her uncles Caleb and Silas sat before the fire smoking, sniffing the stew, and watching solemnly. The uncles had just come in, and proposed staying to dinner.

Mrs. Whitman squinted anxiously at the stew as she stirred it. She feared that there was not enough for dinner, now there were two more to eat.

“I’m dreadful afraid there ain’t enough of that stew to go round,” she whispered to Ruth in the pantry.

“Oh, I guess it’ll do,” said Ruth.

“Well, I dun know about it. Your father an’ Caleb an’ Silas are dreadful fond of parsnip stew, an’ I do hate to have ’em stinted.”

“Well, I won’t take any,” said Ruth. “I don’t care much about it.”

“Well, I don’t want a mouthful,” rejoined her mother. “Mebbe we can make it do. Caleb an’ Silas don’t have a good hot dinner very often, an’ I do want them to have enough, anyway.”

Caleb and Silas Whitman were old bachelors, living by themselves in the old Whitman homestead about a mile away, and their fare was understood to be forlorn and desultory. To-day they watched with grave complacency while their sister-in-law cooked the stew.

Over on the other side of the kitchen the table was set out with the pewter plates and the blue dishes. The stew was almost done, Mrs. Whitman was just about to dip out the slices of pork into the dish that Ruth held, when there was a roll of wheels out in the yard, and a great shadow passed over the kitchen floor.

“Mother, it’s the Wigginses!” said Ruth, in a terrified whisper.

“Good gracious!” sighed her mother; “they’ve come to dinner.”

Everybody stared for a second; then Mrs. Whitman recovered herself. “Father, you go out an’ help them put the horse up. Don’t sit there any longer.”

Then she threw open the door, and thrust her large handsome face out into the rain. “Why, how do you do, Mis’ Wiggins?” said she, and she smiled beamingly.

The wagon looked full of faces. On the front seat were a large man and two little boys; out of the gloom in the rear peered two women and a little girl. They were Mr. Wiggins, his wife and three children, and his mother. They were distant relatives of Mrs. Whitman’s; they often came over to spend the day, and always unannounced.

Mr. Whitman came out clumsily and opened the barn doors, and Mr. Wiggins led the horse into the barn. “I hope you ‘ain’t got wet,” Mrs. Whitman said. Nothing could have exceeded her cordiality; but all the time she was thinking of the parsnip stew, and how it surely would not go around now.

Ruth had not followed the others out to greet the guests. She stayed by the kettle and stirred the stew, and scowled. “I think it’s downright mean for folks to come in this way, just dinner-time,” said she to the uncles, who had not left their chairs. And they gave short grunts which expressed their assent, for neither of them liked company.

They watched soberly as Ruth stirred the stew, but they did not dream that there was not enough to go around.

When her mother and the guests entered, Ruth turned around and bobbed her head stiffly, and said, “Pretty well, thank you,” and then stirred again. Serena helped the Wigginses take off their things. She untied old Mrs. Wiggins’s pumpkin hood, and got her cap out of her cap basket and put it on for her. She also took off little Mary Wiggins’s coat, and set her in a little child’s arm-chair and gave her a kiss. Little Mary Wiggins, with her sober, chubby face and her rows of shiny brown curls, in her best red frock and her scalloped pantalets, was noticed admiringly by everybody but Ruth.