“You do it beautifully, Tom. I’ll give you a conundrum to lighten your labour: Why are bad boys like cake?” asked Polly, anxious to cheer him up.

“Because a good beating makes them better. I doubt that myself, though,” answered Tom, nearly knocking the bottom of the bowl out with his energetic demonstrations, for it was a relief to do something.

“Bright boy! here’s a plum for you,” and Polly threw a plump raisin into his mouth.

“Put in lots, won’t you? I’m rather fond of plum-cake,” observed Tom, likening himself to Hercules with the distaff, and finding his employment pleasant, if not classical.

“I always do, if I can; there’s nothing I like better than to shovel in sugar and spice, and make nice, plummy cake for people. It’s one of the few things I have a gift for.”

“You’ve hit it this time, Polly; you certainly have a gift for putting a good deal of both articles into your own and other people’s lives, which is lucky, as we all have to eat that sort of cake, whether we like it or not,” observed Tom, so soberly that Polly opened her eyes, and Maud exclaimed,—

“I do believe he’s preaching.”

“Feel as if I could sometimes,” continued Tom; then his eye fell upon the dimples in Polly’s elbows, and he added, with a laugh, “that’s more in your line, ma’am; can’t you give us a sermon?”

“A short one. Life, my brethren, is like plum-cake,” began Polly, impressively folding her floury hands. “In some the plums are all on the top, and we eat them gaily, till we suddenly find they are gone. In others the plums sink to the bottom, and we look for them in vain as we go on, and often come to them when it is too late to enjoy them. But in the well-made cake, the plums are wisely scattered all through, and every mouthful is a pleasure. We make our own cakes, in a great measure, therefore let us look to it, brethren, that they are mixed according to the best receipt, baked in a well-regulated oven, and gratefully eaten with a temperate appetite.”

“Good! good!” cried Tom, applauding with the wooden spoon. “That’s a model sermon, Polly,—short, sweet, sensible, and not a bit sleepy. I’m one of your parish, and will see that you get your ‘celery punctooal’, as old Deacon Morse used to say.”

“ ‘Thank you, brother; my wants is few, and ravens scurser than they used to be’, as dear old Parson Miller used to answer. Now, Maud, bring on the citron,” and Polly began to put the cake together in what seemed a most careless and chaotic manner, while Tom and Maud watched with absorbing interest till it was safely in the oven.

“Now make your custards, dear; Tom may like to beat the eggs for you; it seems to have a good effect upon his constitution.”

“First-rate; hand ’em along,” and Tom smoothed his apron with a cheerful air. “By the way, Syd’s got back. I met him yesterday, and he treated me like a man and a brother,” he added, as if anxious to contribute to the pleasures of the hour.

“I’m so glad!” cried Polly, clapping her hands, regardless of the egg she held, which dropped and smashed on the floor at her feet. “Careless thing! pick it up, Maud, I’ll get some more,” and Polly whisked out of the room, glad of an excuse to run and tell Fan, who had just come in, lest, hearing the news in public, she might be startled out of the well-bred composure with which young ladies are expected to receive tidings, even of the most vital importance.

“You know all about history, don’t you?” asked Maud, suddenly.

“Not quite,” modestly answered Tom.

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