Sunday, 6 April 2014

Easter Picnic

NANCY, JANE AND DAN were starting on their Easter walk at last. They had made their sandwiches, packed their cupcakes and boiled eggs in the big basket Grandmother had given them this Easter, and put in the milk Mother had told them to take along.

Nancy hadn’t washed the dishes; she put them in a pan behind the curtains on the little green cupboard. Jane had not swept the floors. She swept most of the crumbs back behind the kitchen stove where they would not show. Dan had not carried his wood.

They had all decided they could do their work when they came home. They hadn’t even straightened their clothes closets, nor hung up their clothes; they could do that later.

And now they were really starting out. They were going to go along the creek bank and gather some early leaves and maybe pussy willows until they came to the hills then they could go into the woods a little way if they would not go off the wood road. So they walked along, taking turns at carrying the basket.

Dan gathered the leaves he could find and put them into a match box.

They chatted and skipped along until they came to the edge of the wood. They found a little mossy place then, and sat down to eat their lunch. It was very warm by now and they leaned back against a tree trunk to rest after they had eaten.

But soon they started on. They were soon starting down the old wood road. When they turned the first corner- the one by the big dead tree- they came upon the strangest sight. There stood a great rabbit, as tall as Uncle Jim. He had a big scepter, which looked like a giant stalk of asparagus. He was standing very straight and still in front of a little path.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hello,” they answered, hardly believing their eyes and ears.
“Follow me,” said the Easter rabbit, and he turned and walked up a little path. The children looked at each other. The rabbit had left the wood road.

Just then a little robin flew in into the path from a nearby tree. He chirped a little song and then he turned his head and looked at them. Then he said, “Better follow, better follow.”

Nancy, Jane, and Dan started down the path behind the Easter rabbit. They followed him a long way, until they came to a part of the woods where the trees were very thick and large. In a little clearing they a saw a house. It was a wee, wee house with a straw roof and blue door. There were blue willow trees all around the house. The rabbit stopped and waited at the little white gate. The robin said, “Go in, go in.”

As Nancy, Jane, and Dan went up the tiny walk, the blue door opened, and there stood a little white-haired lady, wiping her hands on her apron.

They politely walked in, a little nervous, and stood just inside the door. Inside the house were hundreds of dishes. Some were on shelves around the house, some were in cupboards, some were on tables, and the sink was stacked clear full.

“Sit down;” said the little old lady, “I have just been washing my dishes”.

Nancy wondered where she could ever have gathered so many dishes.

She had tiny white ones, larger pink ones, larger blue ones with blue willows on them; middle-sized ones with roses and forget-me-nots; white ones with gold rings and edges; brightly colored ones, and tiny dishes made of clay. Nancy offered to help wipe the dishes. They were such pretty dishes. Much prettier than the old ones at home she had washed so many times. They washed, wiped, and put on stack away, but there would be another waiting. Then Jane and Dan helped too, but there were always more dishes. At last the little lady sat down, put her apron over her face, and cried.

“I have been here since I was a young girl and I just can’t catch up to these dishes. The rabbit told me if I didn’t help my mother better, I would have to come and keep them clean, but I didn’t believe him. Now I’m still here and I’m no nearer through than ever.”

But when she had cried awhile she went back to the sink, and all four of them washed and wiped dishes as they had never washed and wiped dishes before. Their towels looked like flying white sails. At last they could see that the dish piles were growing smaller and smaller. And finally, after a very long time, they really caught up. Then the little old lady kissed each one and gave each one a tiny blue and white pitcher to take along.

She thanked them many times and then, they started on their way again.

The Easter rabbit walked ahead up the little path, carried his asparagus staff, and the little robin hopped along at his side. They all walked and walked. By and by they came to a new kind of forest. The children had never seen such strange tress. They were thin and straight then about four feet from the ground. They were very busy but the branches were very short and grew very close together.

The rabbit marched straight on until he reached a little gate. Then he stopped. The robin said, “Go on in, go on in.”

Nancy, Jane, and Dan walked up to a little house that looked very much like the last little house. They knocked and a brisk little woman came to the door. She had a broom in one hand, and a dustpan in the other. She asked them in and went back to sweeping her floor. She would get the dust and dirt almost to the door, when a draft would carry it back. After she had swept the floor three times, she sat down to rest.

“I have been sweeping this floor for twenty years,” she said. “And it’s always dirty. Just as I get to the door, it blows open and I must sweep it all over again.”

“We will help you,” said Jane. So Nancy and Jane started looking for brooms.

“Didn’t you notice the brooms as you came here?” she asked. “The whole forest around here is full of little brooms.”

And so it was. All the queer trees they had seen were little brooms, growing upside-down.

“Be sure to get ripe ones,” she called. “They have colored handles.” Nancy and Jane each picked a bright new broom and started to help sweep the floor. When they were almost to the door, Dan held it for them. They swept the floor three times; it was clean at last. The brisk little woman kissed each child, and going outside, she picked each one a seedling broom. She thanked them and stood beside the door waving until they were out of sight. They walked behind the rabbit with the asparagus staff and the robin that hopped along at his side.

They walked and walked and walked, before the rabbit stopped again. This time in front of a woodcutter’s hut. He stopped and waited as before, and the robin said, “Go in, go in.”

No one came to the door, so the children went around the tiny hut and found a little old man chopping wood. He chopped and chopped, then he’d stop and carry it to the woodshed.

“I never get the woodshed full before night,” he said, “Then I have to use some to cook with. And the next have to start all over.”

“I’ll help you,” said Dan.

They worked and worked, but the woodshed didn’t seem any fuller. So Nancy and Jane helped too, while the little old man chopped the wood. They worked very fast, and the woodshed started to fill up. Bit by bit, it became fuller and fuller. At last, the old fellow stopped chopping wood, and with his great blue handkerchief wiped back and forth on his forehead, pushing a sweaty lock of hair across and back. Then he thanked Dan and Jane and Nancy, as he leaned upon his old ax.

“I can go home now,” He said. There was a lonely smile on his face.

“My mother used to ask me to carry wood, but I hated to so bad. The rabbit said he’d give me another chance, but one day I forgot. I have been chopping it ever since.”

“I want to thank you again, and give you something to remind you to carry your mother’s wood in”. He hurried into his hut and soon returned with three whittled axes only as long as pencils. He handed one to each of the children and then he said, “Good luck! Remember what I’ve told you.”

The robin hurried toward them chirping, “Come on, come on, hurry up, hurry up.” The rabbit was start away so they waved farewell to the woodcutter who waved his blue handkerchief at them as far as they could see. The rabbit was walking faster now and soon came to a very long low house. The rabbit motioned to them to go in. At first they didn’t see anyone inside as they opened the door, but from far back down a long hall they heard sounds.

In a moment a man and woman appeared. The woman asked, “Do you have to stay here, too?” What are you doing?” Dan wanted to know. “We are hanging up our clothes”, said the man.” We wouldn’t hang them up at home and we wouldn’t hang them up at school. Now we have to hang all these up and have it all done by sundown; but we never can.”

“We will help you”, said Nancy, Jane, and Dan. There were rows and rows of coat hangers and hooks for hats. They all started hanging clothes. As they hung, three, two fell down. As they passed the windows, the children noticed that the sun was almost down. “We ought to hang them slower, but real good”, announced Dan,” or we’ll never get through”. So each one took a coat carefully by the shoulders, and started over. Soon they were all hanging in their places.

“Thank you”, said the men and he gave them each small walnuts. “Thank you”, said the woman. “Whenever you are tempted to leave your clothes lying around, just open up this walnut shell. It has hinges like a locket. Then you will be reminded of the days and years we have spent trying to correct bad habits. The habits of putting off until tomorrow, what you could do today. Goodbye.”

The children went outside then stopped and opened the walnut shells. Inside were tiny pictures of an Easter rabbit holding an asparagus staff. A very loud clatter behind them startled them, and they turned. They were back at the edge of the forest, leaning against the big tree. Each rubbed his eyes as they watched a big rabbit leap out of and over their lunch basket and jump through the woods. A startled robin flew away, leaving the crust he had been eating. The sun was going down, so Nancy, Jane, and Dan picked up their coats and baskets and started hurrying home.

I think we may be sure that they washed the dishes, swept the floor, carried in the wood, and hung up their coats and hats when they went home!

How about you? Did you do your chores today?