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Old 08-27-2016, 07:08 AM   #1
GrannyGrump
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Webster, Jean: Much Ado About Peter. v1. 27 Aug 2016

MUCH ADO ABOUT PETER By Jean Webster (1876–1916)

First published in 1909.
This book is in the public domain in countries where copyright is “Life+99” or less, and in the USA. Due to copyright restrictions, the illustrations have been omitted.

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Jean Webster (pseudonym for Alice Jane Chandler Webster) was an American author and playwright. Her best-known books feature lively and likeable young female protagonists who come of age intellectually, morally, and socially; with enough humor, snappy dialogue, and gently biting social commentary to make her books enjoyable to modern readers.
* * *
This series of amusing short stories chronicle the adventures of Peter Malone, the Irish head groom employed on a wealthy American estate. With great panache, Peter commits deeds of heroism and acts of folly as he deals with bands of rambunctious children, rivalries with fellow-workers (sporting and otherwise), and the fortunes of flirtation, love, and romance.


EXCERPT:
Spoiler:
“One day last week they nearly broke their blame young necks slidin’ down the wagon-shed roof on a greased tea-tray. There’s a pile o’ straw at the bottom that kind of acted as a buffer, but Master Augustus didn’t steer straight an’ went over the edge. ’Twas only a drop o’ four feet, but he come up lookin’ damaged.

“That ain’t the worst though. Last Sunday afternoon they frightened the cow into hysterics playin’ she was a bull, an’ they was matydoors or torydoors, or whatever ye call them. They stuck pins into her with paper windmills on the end, and she ain’t give more ’n six quarts at any milkin’ since. I was mad, I was, an’ I marched ’em to the house an’ tole their mother.

“‘It grieves me,’ she says, ‘to think that me boys should be so troublesome; but they didn’t mean to be cruel to the poor dumb brute. They’re spirited la-ads,’ she says, ‘an’ their imaginations run away wid them. What they needs is intilligent direction. Ye should try,’ she says, ‘to enter into the spirit o’ their innocint divarsions; an’ when ye see them doin’ somethin’ dangerous, gintly turn their thoughts into another channel. Their grattytood,’ she says, ‘will pay ye for yer trouble.’

“‘Wery well, ma’am,’ says I, not too enthusiastic, ‘I’ll do the best I can,’ and I bows meself out. I’ve been superintendin’ their innocint divarsions ever since, and if there’s anyone as wants the job, I’ll turn it over to him quick.”

Peter paused to back his horses farther into the shade; then having climbed down and taken a drink at a nearby hydrant, he resumed his seat and the conversation.

“But ye should have seen them this mornin’ when I drove off! They was a sight if there ever was one. Joe’s away with Mr. Carter and I’m takin’ charge for the day. When I went into the carriage-house to give Billy orders about hitchin’ up, what should I find but them precious little lambkins gambolin’ around in stri-ped bathin’ trunks, an’ not another stitch. They was further engaged in paintin’ their skins where the trunks left off – an’ that was the most o’ them – with a copper color foundation and a trimmin’ o’ black stripes.

“‘Holy Saint Patrick!’ says I. ‘What the divvil are ye up to now?’

“‘Whoop!’ says Master Bobby. ‘We’ll scalp ye and eat yer heart. We’re Comanche braves,’ he says, ‘an’ we’re gettin’ ready for the war-path.’

“‘Ye look more like zebras,’ says I, ‘escaped from a menagerie.’

“‘Wait till we get our feathers on,’ he says, ‘an’ Pete,’ he adds, ‘will you do me back? There’s a place in the middle that I can’t reach.’

“Wid that he turns a pink an’ white surface a yawnin’ for decoration, an’ presses a can o’ axle grease in me hands. And I’ll be darned if them young imps hadn’t covered their skins with axle grease and red brass polish, an’ for variety, a touch o’ bluing they’d got off Nora in the kitchen. An’ they smelt – Gee! they smelt like a triple extract harness shop. I tole them I thought they’d be havin’ trouble when they was ready to return to the haunts o’ the pale-face; but Master Bobby said their clothes would cover it up.

“I done the job. I don’t set up to be a mural artist, and I ain’t braggin’, but I will say as Master Bobby’s back beat any signboard ye ever see when I finished the decoratin’. I fastened some chicken feathers in their hair, and I hunted out some tomahawks in the lumber room, an’ they let out a war-whoop that raised the roof, an’ scalped me out o’ grattytood.

“‘Now see here,’ says I to Master Bobby, ‘in return for helpin’ along yer innocint amusements, will ye promise to do yer scalpin’ in the paddock, an’ not come near the stables? ‘Cause me floor is clean,’ I says, ‘and I don’t want no blood spattered on it. ’Tis hard to wash up,’ I says. I was, ye’ll observe, gintly turnin’ their thoughts into another channel, like their mother recommended. An’ they promised sweet as cherubs. She was right; they’re spirited la-ads, an’ they won’t be driven. ’Tis best to use diplomacy.

“I left them crawlin’ on all fours through the bushes by the duck pond, shootin’ arrers in the air as innocint as ye please. I dunno, though, how long ’twill last. I tole Billy to keep an eye on them, and I s’pose when I get back, I’ll find his head decoratin’ the hitchin’-post an’ his hair danglin’ from their belts.”

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Have some sympathy for Peter, he is having a rough go of it.
.
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Last edited by GrannyGrump; 09-12-2016 at 06:27 AM.
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