An air of gloom pervaded the store. Outside the rain came pattering down.
It ran in torrents off the porch roof and across the entrance made a
formidable moat, which had been temporarily bridged by an empty soapbox.
It gathered on the limbs of the leafless trees and poured in steady
streams upon the backs of the three forlorn horses, that, shivering
under water-logged blankets, stood patiently, with hanging heads, at the
hitching rail. Within everything was dry, to be sure, but the firewood,
which was damp and would not burn, so the big egg stove sent forth no
cheerful rays of heat and light. Out from its heart came the sound of
sizzle and splutter as some isolated flame attacked a piece of wet
hickory. It seemed to have conveyed its ill-humor to the little group
The Tinsmith arose from the nail keg upon which he had been seated,
walked disconsolately to the door and gazed through the begrimed glass
at the dreary village street. He stood there a moment, and then lounged
back to the stove.
As he rubbed his hands on the pipe in vain effort to absorb a little
heat, he grumbled, “This here rain’s upset all my calkerlations. I was
goin’ to bile to-morrow, but you uns doesn’t catch me makin’ cider sech a
day ez this. My weemen sayd they’d hev the schnitz done up to-day an’ we
could start the kittles airly in the mornin’. Now all this time is loss.”
“Seems like ye’re bilin’ kind o’ late,” said the Storekeeper, resting
both elbows on the counter and clasping his chin in his hands. “Luther
Jimson was tellin’ me the other day how all the folks up the walley hes
The storm had kept the Patriarch at home, so the Chronic Loafer had the
old man’s chair. He leaned back on two legs of it; then twisted his long
body to one side so his head rested comfortably against his favorite pile
“Speakin’ o’ apple butter,” he said, “reminds me of a good un I hed on my
Missus last week.”
“It allser remin’s me,” interposed the Tinsmith, “that I met Abe Scissors
up to preachin’ a Sunday, an’ he was wond’rin’ when you was goin’ to
return his copper kittle.”
“Abe Scissors needn’t git worrit ’bout his kittle. I’ve a good un on him
ez well ez on the Missus. His copper kittle—-”
The Farmer, who had almost been hidden by the stove, at this juncture
leaned forward in his chair and interrupted, “But Abe Scissors hain’t got
no kittle. That there—-”
“Let him tell his good one,” cried the School Teacher. “He’s been tryin’
it every night this week. Let us get done with it.”
The Farmer grunted discontentedly but threw himself back in silence. With
marked attention, however, he followed the Loafer’s narration.
“The Missus made up her mind she’d bile apple-butter this year, bespite
all my objections, an’ two weeks ago this comin’ Saturday she done it.
They ain’t no trees on our lot, so I got Jawhn Longnecker to give me six
burshel o’ Pippins an’ York Imper’als mixed, on condition I helped with
his thrashin’ next month. I give Hiram Thompson that there red shote I’d
ben fattenin’ fer a bawrel o’ cider. She’d cal’lated to put up ’bout
fourteen gallon o’ butter. I sayd it was all foolershness, fer I could
buy it a heap sight cheaper an’ was gittin’ tired o’ Pennsylwany salve
any way. Fer all year round, zulicks is ’bout the best thing to go with
“Mentionin’ zulicks,” interrupted the Storekeeper, “remin’s me that
yesterday I got in a bawrel o’ the very finest. It’s none o’ yer common
cookin’ m’lasses but was made special fer table use.”
“I’ll bring a tin down an’ hev it filled,” continued the Loafer, “fer
there’s nawthin’ better’n plain bread an’ zulicks. But the Missus don’t
see things my way allus, an’ they was nawthin’ but fer me to borry the
Storekeeper’s horse an’ wagon an’ drive over to Abe Scissors’s an’ git
the loan o’ his copper kittle an’ stirrer.”
“But Abe Scissors hain’t got no copper kittle,” cried the Farmer
“He sayd it was his copper kittle an’ I didn’t ast no questions,” the
Loafer replied. “My pap allus used to say that ’bout one half the
dissypintments an’ onhappinesses in this worl’ was due to questionin’,
an’ I ’low he was right. So I didn’t catechize Abe Scissors. He ’lowed
I could hev the kittle jest ez long ez I didn’t burn it, fer he claimed
he’d give twenty-five dollar fer it at a sale last spring. Hevin’ made
satisfactory ’rangements fer the apples, the cider, the kittle an’ the
stirrer, they was nawthin’ left to do but bile. Two weeks ago to-morrer
we done it.
“The Missus inwited several o’ her weemen frien’s in the day before to
help schnitz, an’ I tell you uns, what with talkin’ ’bout how many pared
apples was needed with so much cider biled down to so much, an’ how much
sugar an’ cinn’mon otter be used fer so many crocks o’ butter, them folks
hed a great time. ’Hen they finished they was a washtub full o’ the
finest schnitzed apples ye ever seen.”
“Borryed my washtub-still,” exclaimed the Tinsmith.
“A gentleman is knowd be the way he lends, my pap use to say,” drawled
the Loafer, gazing absently at the ceiling.
“Well, ef your father was anything like his son he knowd the truth o’
that sayin’,” snapped the Tinsmith.
“He use to argy,” continued the Loafer, ignoring this remark, “that them
ez hesn’t the mawral courage to refuse to lend ’hen they don’t want to,
is allus weak enough to bemoan their good deeds in public. But it ain’t
no use discussin’ them pints. I got everything I needed, an’ on the next
mornin’ the Missus was up airly an’ at six o’clock hed the fire goin’ in
the back yard, with the kittle rigged over it an’ hed begin to bile down
that bawrel o’ cider.
“Bilin’ down ain’t bad fer they hain’t nawthin’ to do. It’s ’hen ye
begins puttin’ in the schnitz an’ hes to stir ketches ye. I didn’t ’low
I’d stir. Missus, ’hen the cider was all biled down to a kittle full,
sayd I hev ter, but I claimed I’d worked enough gittin’ the things.
Besides I’d a ’pointment to see Sam Shores, the stage-driver, ’hen
he come th’oo here that afternoon. The Missus an’ her weemen frien’s
grumbled, but begin dumpin’ the schnitz in with the bilin’ cider an’ to
do their own stirrin’. I come over here an’ was waitin’ fer the stage.
After an’ hour I concided I’d run over to the house an’ git a drink o’
cider. I went in the back way, an’ there I seen Ike Lauterbach’s wife
a-standin’ stirrin’. The rest o’ the weemen was in the kitchen.
“‘Hen Mrs. Lauterbach seen me she sais pleasant like, ‘I’m so glad you’ve
come. Your wife an’ the rest o’ the ladies hes made a batch o’ cookies.
Now you jest stir here a minute an’ I’ll go git some fer ye.’
“I was kind o’ afraid to take holt on that there stirrer, so sayd I’d git
’em meself. But she ’sisted she’d be right out, an’ foolish I tuk the
han’le. I regret it the minute I done it. I stirred an’ stirred, an’ Mrs.
Lauterbach didn’t come. Then I hear the weemen in the house laughin’ like
“The Missus she puts her head out an’ sais, ‘Jest you keep on stirrin’.
Don’t you dast stop fer the butter’ll stick to the kittle an’ burn it ef
“Down went the windy. I was jest that hoppin’ mad I’d a notion to quit
right there an’ leave the ole thing burn, but then I was afraid Abe
Scissors might kerry on ef I did. So I stirred, an’ stirred, an’ stirred.
I tell ye I don’t know any work ez mean ez that. Stop movin’ the stick
an’ the kittle burns. Ef any o’ you uns ever done it you’ll know it ain’t
no man’s work.”
“The weemen allus does it with us,” said the Miller in a superior tone.
“I cal’lated they was to do it with us, but I mistook,” the Loafer
continued. “I stirred, an’ stirred, an’ stirred. The fire got hotter
an’ hotter an’ hotter, an’ ez it got warmer the han’le o’ the stirrer
seemed to git shorter, an’ me face begin to blister. I kep’ at it fer an’
hour an’ a half, tell me legs was near givin’ way under me, me fingers
was stiff an’ achin’, me arms felt like they’d drop off from pushin’ an’
twistin’ that long stick. The apples was all dissolved but the butter was
thin yit, an’ I knowd it meant th’ee hours afore we could take the kittle
offen the fire.
“Then I yelled fer help. One o’ the weemen come out. I was that mad I
most swore, but she jest laughed an’ poked some more wood on the fire
an’ sayd ef I didn’t push the stick livelier the kittle’d burn. The fire
blazed up hotter an’ hotter, an’ it seemed like me clothes ’ud begin to
smoke at any minute. Me arms an’ legs was achin’ more’n more. Me back was
’most broke from me tryin’ to lean ’way from the heat. Me neck was ’most
twisted off be me ’temptin’ to keep the blaze from blindin’ me. It come
four o’clock an’ I yelled fer help agin.
“The Missus stuck her head outen the windy an’ called, ‘Don’t you let
that kittle burn!’
“I was desp’rate, but I kep’ stirrin’ an’ stirrin’. It come sundown an’
begin to git darker an’ darker, an’ the butter got thicker an’ thicker,
but I knowd be the feel that they was a couple o’ hours yit. I begin to
think o’ lettin’ the ole thing drop an’ Abe Scissors’ kittle burn, fer
I held he didn’t hev no business to lend it to me ’hen he knowd well
enough it ’ud spoil ef I ever quit stirrin’. Oncet I was fer lettin’ go
an’ slippin’ over here to the store, fer I heard several o’ the fellys
drive up an’ hitch an’ the door bang shet. But ’hen I tried to drop the
stick I jest couldn’t. Me fingers seemed to think it wasn’t right an’
held to the pole, an’ me arms kep’ on pushin’ an’ pushin’ tho’ every
motion give me an ache. I jest didn’t dast, so kep’ stirrin’ an’ stirrin’
an’ stirrin’, an’ thinkin’ an’ thinkin’ an’ thinkin’, an’ wond’rin’ who
was over here an’ what was doin’. An’ ez I kep’ pushin’ an’ pushin’,
an’ thinkin’ an’ thinkin’, I clean forgot meself an’ all about the
“I come to with a jump fer some un hed me be the beard. ’Hen I looked
up I seen the Missus an’ her weemen frien’s standin’ ’round me
gestickelatin’. The Missus was wavin’ what was left o’ the stirrer. It
was jest ’bout half ez long ez ’hen I begin with it, fer the cross piece
that runs down into the butter an’ ’bout half the han’le was burned off.
Seems I’d got the ole thing clean outen the kittle an’ hed ben stirrin’
it ’round the fire.”
“Reflex action,” suggested the Teacher.
“The butter was fairly smokin’. An’ the kittle! Well, say, ef that there
wasn’t jest ez black on the inside ez ef if was iron ’stead o’ copper.
An’ the weemen! Mebbe it was reflect actin’ they done, ez the teacher
sais, but whatever it was it skeered me considerable. But final I seen
how funny it was, how the joke was on the Missus who’d loss all her
apple-butter, ’stead o’ on me, an’ how I’d got square with Abe Scissors
fer lendin’ me his copper kittle ’hen he knowd it ’ud burn ef I ever
stopped stirrin’. An’ I jest laughed.”
The Loafer straightened up in his chair and began to rock violently to
and fro and to chuckle.
The Farmer arose and walked around the stove.
“What fer a kittle was that?” he asked in a low, pleasant tone. “Was they
a big S stamped on the inside next the rim?”
“That’s the one exact. He! he!” cried the Loafer, with great hilarity. “S
fer Scissors an’—-”
“S stands fer Silver too,” yelled the Farmer. “My name’s Silver. I lent
that kittle to Abe Scissors four weeks ago.”
The Loafer gathered himself together and arose from the muddy pool at the
foot of the store steps. He gazed ruefully for a moment at the closed
door, and seemed undecided whether or not to return to the place from
which he had been so unceremoniously ejected. Then the sound of much
laughing came to his ears, and he exclaimed, “Well, ef that ain’t a good
And he ambled off home to the Missus.