The Peterkins Snowed-Up by Lucretia P Hale

Story type: Literature

Mrs. Peterkin awoke one morning to find a heavy snow-storm raging. The wind had flung the snow against the windows, had heaped it up around the house, and thrown it into huge white drifts over the fields, covering hedges and fences.

Mrs. Peterkin went from one window to the other to look out; but nothing could be seen but the driving storm and the deep white snow. Even Mr. Bromwick’s house, on the opposite side of the street, was hidden by the swift-falling flakes.

“What shall I do about it?” thought Mrs. Peterkin. “No roads cleared out! Of course there’ll be no butcher and no milkman!”

The first thing to be done was to wake up all the family early; for there was enough in the house for breakfast, and there was no knowing when they would have anything more to eat.

It was best to secure the breakfast first.

So she went from one room to the other, as soon as it was light, waking the family, and before long all were dressed and downstairs.

And then all went round the house to see what had happened.

All the water-pipes that there were were frozen. The milk was frozen. They could open the door into the wood-house; but the wood-house door into the yard was banked up with snow; and the front door, and the piazza door, and the side door stuck. Nobody could get in or out!

Meanwhile, Amanda, the cook, had succeeded in making the kitchen fire, but had discovered there was no furnace coal.

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“The furnace coal was to have come to-day,” said Mrs. Peterkin, apologetically.

“Nothing will come to-day,” said Mr. Peterkin, shivering.

But a fire could be made in a stove in the dining-room.

All were glad to sit down to breakfast and hot coffee. The little boys were much pleased to have “ice-cream” for breakfast.

“When we get a little warm,” said Mr. Peterkin, “we will consider what is to be done.”

“I am thankful I ordered the sausages yesterday,” said Mrs. Peterkin. “I was to have had a leg of mutton to-day.”

“Nothing will come to-day,” said Agamemnon, gloomily.

“Are these sausages the last meat in the house?” asked Mr. Peterkin.

“Yes,” said Mrs. Peterkin.

The potatoes also were gone, the barrel of apples empty, and she had meant to order more flour that very day.

“Then we are eating our last provisions,” said Solomon John, helping himself to another sausage.

“I almost wish we had stayed in bed,” said Agamemnon.

“I thought it best to make sure of our breakfast first,” repeated Mrs. Peterkin.

“Shall we literally have nothing left to eat?” asked Mr. Peterkin.

“There’s the pig!” suggested Solomon John.

Yes, happily, the pigsty was at the end of the wood-house, and could be reached under cover.

But some of the family could not eat fresh pork.

“We should have to ‘corn’ part of him,” said Agamemnon.

“My butcher has always told me,” said Mrs. Peterkin, “that if I wanted a ham I must keep a pig. Now we have the pig, but have not the ham!”

“Perhaps we could ‘corn’ one or two of his legs,” suggested one of the little boys.

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“We need not settle that now,” said Mr. Peterkin. “At least the pig will keep us from starving.”

The little boys looked serious; they were fond of their pig.

“If we had only decided to keep a cow,” said Mrs. Peterkin.

“Alas! yes,” said Mr. Peterkin, “one learns a great many things too late!”

“Then we might have had ice-cream all the time!” exclaimed the little boys.

Indeed, the little boys, in spite of the prospect of starving, were quite pleasantly excited at the idea of being snowed-up, and hurried through their breakfasts that they might go and try to shovel out a path from one of the doors.

“I ought to know more about the water-pipes,” said Mr. Peterkin. “Now, I shut off the water last night in the bath-room, or else I forgot to; and I ought to have shut it off in the cellar.”

The little boys came back. Such a wind at the front door, they were going to try the side door.

“Another thing I have learned to-day,” said Mr. Peterkin, “is not to have all the doors on one side of the house, because the storm blows the snow against all the doors.”

Solomon John started up.

“Let us see if we are blocked up on the east side of the house!” he exclaimed.

“Of what use,” asked Mr. Peterkin, “since we have no door on the east side?”

“We could cut one,” said Solomon John.

“Yes, we could cut a door,” exclaimed Agamemnon.

“But how can we tell whether there is any snow there?” asked Elizabeth Eliza,–“for there is no window.”

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In fact, the east side of the Peterkins’ house formed a blank wall. The owner had originally planned a little block of semi-detached houses. He had completed only one, very semi and very detached.

“It is not necessary to see,” said Agamemnon, profoundly; “of course, if the storm blows against this side of the house, the house itself must keep the snow from the other side.”

“Yes,” said Solomon John, “there must be a space clear of snow on the east side of the house, and if we could open a way to that”–

“We could open a way to the butcher,” said Mr. Peterkin, promptly.

Agamemnon went for his pickaxe. He had kept one in the house ever since the adventure of the dumb-waiter.

“What part of the wall had we better attack?” asked Mr. Peterkin.

Mrs. Peterkin was alarmed.

“What will Mr. Mudge, the owner of the house, think of it?” she exclaimed. “Have we a right to injure the wall of the house?”

“It is right to preserve ourselves from starving,” said Mr. Peterkin. “The drowning man must snatch at a straw!”

“It is better that he should find his house chopped a little when the thaw comes,” said Elizabeth Eliza, “than that he should find us lying about the house, dead of hunger, upon the floor.”

Mrs. Peterkin was partially convinced.

The little boys came in to warm their hands. They had not succeeded in opening the side door, and were planning trying to open the door from the wood-house to the garden.

“That would be of no use,” said Mrs. Peterkin, “the butcher cannot get into the garden.”

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“But we might shovel off the snow,” suggested one of the little boys, “and dig down to some of last year’s onions.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Peterkin, Agamemnon, and Solomon John had been bringing together their carpenter’s tools, and Elizabeth Eliza proposed using a gouge, if they would choose the right spot to begin.

The little boys were delighted with the plan, and hastened to find,–one, a little hatchet, and the other a gimlet. Even Amanda armed herself with a poker.

“It would be better to begin on the ground floor,” said Mr. Peterkin.

“Except that we may meet with a stone foundation,” said Solomon John.

“If the wall is thinner upstairs,” said Agamemnon, “it will do as well to cut a window as a door, and haul up anything the butcher may bring below in his cart.”

Everybody began to pound a little on the wall to find a favorable place, and there was a great deal of noise. The little boys actually cut a bit out of the plastering with their hatchet and gimlet. Solomon John confided to Elizabeth Eliza that it reminded him of stories of prisoners who cut themselves free, through stone walls, after days and days of secret labor.

Mrs. Peterkin, even, had come with a pair of tongs in her hand. She was interrupted by a voice behind her.

“Here’s your leg of mutton, marm!”

It was the butcher. How had he got in?

“Excuse me, marm, for coming in at the side door, but the back gate is kinder blocked up. You were making such a pounding I could not make anybody hear me knock at the side door.”

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“But how did you make a path to the door?” asked Mr. Peterkin. “You must have been working at it a long time. It must be near noon now.”

“I’m about on regular time,” answered the butcher. “The town team has cleared out the high road, and the wind has been down the last half-hour. The storm is over.”

True enough! The Peterkins had been so busy inside the house they had not noticed the ceasing of the storm outside.

“And we were all up an hour earlier than usual,” said Mr. Peterkin, when the butcher left. He had not explained to the butcher why he had a pickaxe in his hand.

“If we had lain abed till the usual time,” said Solomon John, “we should have been all right.”

“For here is the milkman!” said Elizabeth Eliza, as a knock was now heard at the side door.

“It is a good thing to learn,” said Mr. Peterkin, “not to get up any earlier than is necessary.”

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