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  • Writer's pictureLinda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs

Excerpted Inspirations #104


[At Plumfield, the Bhaers’ boarding school, each student has a garden. One of the crops has a very special destiny.]         Rob’s crop was four small squashes and one immense pumpkin. It really was a “bouncer,” as every one said; and I assure you that two small persons could sit on it side by side. It seemed to have absorbed all the goodness of the little garden, and all the sunshine that shone down on it, and lay there like a round, golden ball, full of rich suggestions of pumpkin-pies for weeks to come. Robby was so proud of his mammoth vegetable that he took every one to see it, and when frosts began to nip, covered it up each not with an old bedquilt, tucking it round as if the pumpkin was a well-beloved baby. The day it was gathered he would let no one touch it but himself, and nearly broke his back tugging it to the barn in his little wheelbarrow, with Dick and Dolly harnessed in front to give a heave up the path. His mother promised him that the Thanksgiving-pies should be made from it, and hinted vaguely that she had a plan in her head which would cover the prize pumpkin and its owner with gory. [...] But the thing that puzzled Mr. Bhaer the most was what became of Rob’s big pumpkin. It had been borne in triumph to the kitchen, where a dozen golden-tinted pies soon after appeared. It would not have taken more than a quarter of the mammoth vegetable to make them, yet where was the rest? It disappeared, and Rob never seemed to care, only chuckled, when it was mentioned, and told his father, “To wait and see,” for the fun of the whole thing was to surprise Father Bhaer, and not let him know a bit about what was to happen. He obediently shut eyes, ears, and mouth, and went about trying not to see what was in plain sight, not to hear the tell-tale sounds that filled the air, not to understand any of the perfectly transparent mysteries going on all about him. Being a German, he loved these simple domestic festivals, and encouraged them with all his heart, for they made home so pleasant that the boys did not care to go elsewhere for fun. [...] [On Thanksgiving Day, a play put on by the youngest children is part of the after-dinner entertainment.] “But I have no toach, Dodmother.” “Behold it!” and Nan waved her wand with such a flourish, that she nearly knocked off the crown of the Princess.       Then appeared the grand triumph of the piece. First, a rope was seen to flap on the floor, to tighten with a twitch as Emil’s voice was heard to say, “Heave, ahoy!” and Silas’s gruff one to reply, “Stiddy, now, stiddy!” A shout of laughter followed, for four large gray rats appeared, rather shaky as to their legs and queer as to their tails, but quite fine about the head, where black beads shone in the most lifelike manner. They drew, or were intended to appear as if they did, a magnificent coach made of half the mammoth pumpkin, mounted on the wheels of Teddy’s wagon, painted yellow to match the gay carriage.      [...] The coach stopped, the godmother lifted in the Princess, and she was trundled away in state, kissing her hand to the public, with her glass shoes sticking up in front, and her pink train sweeping the ground behind, for, elegant as the coach was, I regret to say that her Highness was rather a tight fit.       -Louisa May Alcott, Little Men (1871), pp. 272-273, 318-319, 327-328

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