Chapter XIII. Nan's First Cake-Baking
 

"LET'S!" cried Nan.

"Yes, let's!" echoed Flossie.

"I want to help too," put in Freddie. "Want to make a cake all by my own self."

"Freddie can make a little cake while we make a big one," said Bert.

It was on an afternoon just a week before Christmas and Mrs. Bobbsey had gone out to do some shopping. Dinah was also away, on a visit to some relatives, so the children had the house all to themselves.

It was Bert who spoke about cake-making first. Queer that a boy should think of it, wasn't it? But Bert was very fond of cake, and did quite some grumbling when none was to be had.

"It ought to be easy to make a nice big plain cake," said Bert. "I've seen Dinah do it lots of times. She just mixes up her milk and eggs and butter, and sifts in the flour, and there you are."

"Much you know about it!" declared Nan. "If it isn't just put together right, it will be as heavy as lead"

"We might take the recipe out of mamma's cook-book," went on Bert; and then the cry went up with which I have opened this chapter.

The twins were soon in the kitchen, which Dinah had left spotlessly clean and in perfect order.

"We mustn't make a muss," warned Nan. "If we do, Dinah will never forgive us."

"As if we couldn't clean it up again," said Bert loftily.

Over the kitchen table they spread some old newspapers, and then Nan brought forth the big bowl in which her mother or the cook usually mixed the cake batter.

"Bert, you get the milk and sugar," said Nan, and began to roll up her sleeves. "Flossie, you can get the butter."

She would have told Freddie to get something, too--just to start them all to work--but Freddie was out of sight.

He had gone into the pantry, where the flour barrel stood. He did not know that Nan intended to use the prepared flour, which was on the shelf. The door worked on a spring, so it closed behind him, shutting him out from the sight of the others.

Taking off the cover of the barrel, Freddie looked inside. The barrel was almost empty, only a few inches of flour remaining at the bottom. There was a flour scoop in the barrel, but he could reach neither this nor the flour itself.

"I'll have to stand on the bench," he said to himself and pulled the bench into position. Then he stood on it and bent down into the barrel as far as possible.

The others were working in the kitchen when they heard a strange thump and then a spluttering yell.

"It's Freddie," said Nan. "Bert, go and see what he is doing in the pantry."

Bert ran to the pantry door and pulled it open. A strange sight met his gaze. Out of the top of the barrel stuck Freddie's legs, with a cloud of flour dust rising around them. From the bottom of the barrel came a succession of coughs, sneezes, and yells for help.

"Freddie has fallen into the flour barrel!" he cried, and lost no time in catching his brother by the feet and pulling him out. It was hard work and in the midst of it the flour barrel fell over on its side, scattering the flour over the pantry and partly on the kitchen floor.

"Oh! oh! oh!" roared Freddie as soon as he could catch his breath. "Oh, my! oh, my!"

"Oh, Freddie, why did you go into the barrel?" exclaimed Nan, wiping off her hands and running to him. "Did you ever see such a sight before?"

Freddie was digging at the flour in his eyes. He was white from head to feet, and coughing and spluttering.

"Wait, I'll get the whisk-broom," said Bert, and ran for it.

"Brush off his hair first, and then I'll wipe his face," came from Nan.

"Here's the wash-rag," put in little Flossie, and catching it up, wringing wet, she began to wipe off Freddie's face before anybody could stop her.

"Flossie! Flossie! You mustn't do that!" said Bert. "Don't you see you are making paste of the flour?"

The wet flour speedily became a dough on Freddie's face and neck, and he yelled louder than ever. The wash-rag was put away, and regardless of her own clean clothes, Flossie started in to scrape the dough off, until both Nan and Bert made her stop.

"I'll dust him good first," said Bert, and began such a vigorous use of the whisk-broom that everybody began to sneeze.

"Oh, Bert, not so hard!" said Nan, and ran to open the back door. "Bring him here."

Poor Freddie had a lump of dough in his left ear and was trying in vain to get it out with one hand while rubbing his eyes with the other. Nan brushed his face with care, and even wiped off the end of his tongue, and got the lump out of his ear. In the meantime Flossie started to set the flour barrel up once more.

"Don't touch the barrel, Flossie!" called Bert. "You keep away, or you'll be as dirty as Freddie."

It was very hard work to get Freddie's clothes even half clean, and some of the flour refused to budge from his hair. By the time he was made half presentable once more the kitchen was in a mess from end to end.

"What were you doing near the flour barrel?" asked Nan.

"Going to get flour for the cake."

"But we don't want that kind of flour, Freddie. We want this," and she brought forth the package.

"Dinah uses this," answered the little boy.

"Yes, for bread. But we are not going to make bread. You had better sit down and watch Bert and me work, and you, Flossie, had better do the same."

"Ain't no chairs to sit down on," said Freddie, after a look around. "All full of flour."

"I declare, we forgot to dust the chairs," answered Nan. "Bert, will you clean them?"

Bert did so, and Freddie and Flossie sat down to watch the process of cake-making, being assured that they should have the first slices if the cake was a success.

Nan had watched cake-making many times, so she knew exactly how to go to work. Bert was a good helper, and soon the batter was ready for the oven. The fire had been started up, and now Nan put the batter in the cake tin.

The children waited impatiently while the cake was baking. Nan gave Freddie another cleaning, and Bert cleaned up the pantry and the kitchen floor. The flour had made a dreadful mess and the cleaning process was only half-successful.

"'Most time for that cake to be done, isn't it?" questioned Bert, after a quarter of an hour had passed.

"Not quite," answered Nan.

"I don't want to wait all day," complained Freddie.

"Freddie, you keep still or you shan't have any."

At this threat the little boy grew very sober.

"Come on, we'll sing a song--then maybe the cake will be done," cried Bert, and started one of the school songs. Nan joined in and Bert began to dance around the kitchen with Freddie and Flossie.

"Now, I'm sure it must be done," said Flossie after the romping had come to an end.

"Just a few minutes more," said Nan.

Presently she opened the oven door and tried the cake by sticking a broom whisp into it. The flour was just a bit sticky and she left the cake in a little longer.

When it came out it certainly looked very nice. The top was a golden brown and had raised beautifully. The cake was about a foot in diameter and Nan was justly proud of it.

"Wish you had put raisins in it," said Freddie. "Raisins are beautiful."

"No, I like plain cake the best," said Bert.

"I like chocolate," came from Flossie.

"And I like layer cake, with currant jelly in between," said Nan. "But I didn't dare to open any jelly without asking mamma."

"Let us surprise her with the cake," said Bert.

"Want cake now," protested Freddie. "Don't want to wait 't all!"

But he was persuaded to wait, and the cake was hidden away in the dining-room closet until the hour for the evening meal.

When Dinah came home she noticed the mussed-up kitchen, but Nan begged of her to keep quiet.

"All right, honey," said the colored cook. "But I know youse been a-bakin'--I kin smell it in de air."

When they sat down to the evening meal all of the children produced the cake in great triumph.

"Oh, Nan, a real cake!" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "How nice it looks!"

"We've got some real housekeepers around here," said Mr. Bobbsey. "I'll have to try that, sure."

When the cake was cut all ate liberally of it. They declared it just right and said it could not be better. Even Dinah was tickled.

"Couldn't do no better maself," she declared. "Bymeby Dinah will be cut out of a job--wid Miss Nan a-doin' ob de bakin'."

"No, Dinah, you shall stay even if I do do the baking," answered Nan; and went to bed feeling very happy.