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Aunt Mary’s Preserving Kettle
by [?]

“I DECLARE, if these preserves haven’t been working!” exclaimed Aunt Mary, as she opened a jar of choice quinces, and perceived that, since they were sealed up and carefully stored for the winter, fermentation had taken place.

“And the peaches, too, as I live!” she added on examining another jar. “Run, Hannah, and bring me my preserving kettle. I shall have to do them all over.”

“Mrs. Tompkins borrowed it, you know, yesterday,” Hannah replied.

“So she did, I declare! Well, you must run over to Mrs. Tompkins, Hannah, and tell her that I want my preserving kettle.”

Hannah departed, and Aunt Mary proceeded to examine jar after jar of her rich store of preserves, and, much to her disappointment, found that all of her quinces and peaches, comprising some eight or ten jars, had commenced working. These she took from their dark corners in the closet, and, placing them on the large table in the kitchen, awaited patiently Hannah’s return. In about fifteen minutes her help entered.

“But where is the kettle?” inquired Aunt Mary, eagerly.

“Why, ma’am, Mrs. Tompkins says as how she ain’t quite done with it yet; she’s finished her pears; but then she has her mamlet to do.”

Aunt Mary Pierce was a good woman, and her heart was full of kind feelings towards others. But she had her foibles as well as her neighbours, and among these was an almost passionate admiration of her beautiful bell-metal preserving kettle, which was always kept as bright as a gold eagle. Nothing tried Aunt Mary more than to have to lend her preserving kettle. But as in reading her Bible she found it written–Of him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away–she dared not refuse any of the applications that were made for it, and in preserving time these were enough to try the patience of even a better woman than Aunt Mary. The fact was, that Aunt Mary’s preserving kettle was the best in the village, and there were at least a dozen or two of her neighbours, who did not think their sweetmeats good for any thing if not prepared in this favourite kettle.

“Ain’t it too bad!” ejaculated Aunt Mary, lifting her hands and then letting them fall quickly. “Ain’t it too bad! But it is always so! Just when I want my own things, somebody’s got them. Go right back, Hannah, and tell Mrs. Tompkins that my preserves are all a working, and that I must have my kettle at once, or they will be ruined.”

Hannah started off again, and Aunt Mary stood, far less patiently than before, beside the table on which she had placed her jars, and awaited her return.

“Well,” she asked eagerly, as Hannah entered after the lapse of some ten minutes, where is the kettle?”

“Mrs. Tompkins says, ma’am, that she is very sorry that your preserves have commenced working, but that it won’t hurt them if they are not done over for three or four days. She says that her mamlet is all ready to put on, and as soon as that is done you shall have the kettle in welcome.”

Poor Aunt Mary was, for a few minutes, mute with astonishment. On recovering herself, she did not storm and fret. Indeed, she was never guilty of these little housewife effervescences, usually taking every trouble with a degree of Christian meekness that it would have been well for many in the village, even the minister’s wife, to have imitated.

“Well, Hannah,” she said, heaving a sigh, “we shall have to wait, I suppose, until Mrs. Tompkins has finished her marmalade. But I am afraid all these preserves will be spoiled. Unless done over immediately on their beginning to work, they get a flavour that is not pleasant. But we must wait patiently.”

“It’s a downright shame, ma’am, so it is!” said Hannah, “and I wonder you take it so quietly. If it was my kettle, and I wanted it, I reckon I’d have it too quick. Only just say the word, ma’am, and I will get it for you if I have to take it off of the fire.”