Twas important to have a tea-party, as they had all been invited by everybody,–the Bromwicks, the Tremletts, and the Gibbonses. It would be such a good chance to pay off some of their old debts, now that the lady from Philadelphia was back again, and her two daughters, who would be sure to make it all go off well.
But as soon as they began to make out the list they saw there were too many to have at once, for there were but twelve cups and saucers in the best set.
“There are seven of us, to begin with,” said Mr. Peterkin.
“We need not all drink tea,” said Mrs. Peterkin.
“I never do,” said Solomon John. The little boys never did.
“And we could have coffee, too,” suggested Elizabeth Eliza.
“That would take as many cups,” objected Agamemnon.
“We could use the every-day set for the coffee,” answered Elizabeth Eliza; “they are the right shape. Besides,” she went on, “they would not all come. Mr. and Mrs. Bromwick, for instance; they never go out.”
“There are but six cups in the every-day set,” said Mrs. Peterkin.
The little boys said there were plenty of saucers; and Mr. Peterkin agreed with Elizabeth Eliza that all would not come. Old Mr. Jeffers never went out.
“There are three of the Tremletts,” said Elizabeth Eliza; “they never go out together. One of them, if not two, will be sure to have the headache. Ann Maria Bromwick would come, and the three Gibbons boys, and their sister Juliana; but the other sisters are out West, and there is but one Osborne.”
It really did seem safe to ask “everybody.” They would be sorry, after it was over, that they had not asked more.
“We have the cow,” said Mrs. Peterkin, “so there will be as much cream and milk as we shall need.”
“And our own pig,” said Agamemnon. “I am glad we had it salted; so we can have plenty of sandwiches.”
“I will buy a chest of tea,” exclaimed Mr. Peterkin, “I have been thinking of a chest for some time.”
Mrs. Peterkin thought a whole chest would not be needed; it was as well to buy the tea and coffee by the pound. But Mr. Peterkin determined on a chest of tea and a bag of coffee.
So they decided to give the invitations to all. It might be a stormy evening, and some would be prevented.
The lady from Philadelphia and her daughters accepted.
And it turned out a fair day, and more came than were expected. Ann Maria Bromwick had a friend staying with her, and brought her over, for the Bromwicks were opposite neighbors. And the Tremletts had a niece, and Mary Osborne an aunt, that they took the liberty to bring.
The little boys were at the door, to show in the guests, and as each set came to the front gate they ran back to tell their mother that more were coming. Mrs. Peterkin had grown dizzy with counting those who had come, and trying to calculate how many were to come, and wondering why there were always more and never less, and whether the cups would go round.
The three Tremletts all came, with their niece. They all had had their headaches the day before, and were having that banged feeling you always have after a headache; so they all sat at the same side of the room on the long sofa.
All the Jefferses came, though they had sent uncertain answers. Old Mr. Jeffers had to be helped in, with his cane, by Mr. Peterkin.
The Gibbons boys came, and would stand just outside the parlor door. And Juliana appeared afterward, with the two other sisters, unexpectedly home from the West.
“Got home this morning!” they said. “And so glad to be in time to see everybody,–a little tired, to be sure, after forty-eight hours in a sleeping-car!”
“Forty-eight!” repeated Mrs. Peterkin; and wondered if there were forty-eight people, and why they were all so glad to come, and whether all could sit down.