A Celebration of Women Writers

"The Peterkins' Summer Journey." by Lucretia P. Hale (1820-1900)
From: The Peterkin Papers by Lucretia P. Hale. (1886; 2nd edition)

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom


IN fact, it was their last summer's journey–for it had been planned then; but there had been so many difficulties, it had been delayed.

The first trouble had been about trunks. The family did not own a trunk suitable for travelling.

Agamemnon had his valise, that he had used when he stayed a week at a time at the academy; and a trunk had been bought for Elizabeth Eliza when she went to the seminary. Solomon John and Mr. Peterkin, each had his patent-leather hand-bag. But all these were too small for the family. And the little boys wanted to carry their kite.

Mrs. Peterkin suggested her grandmother's trunk. This was a hair-trunk, very large and capacious. It would hold everything they would want to carry, except what would go in Elizabeth Eliza's trunk, or the valise and bags.

Everybody was delighted at this idea. It was agreed that the next day the things should be brought into Mrs. Peterkin's room, for her to see if they could all be packed.

"If we can get along," said Elizabeth Eliza, "without having to ask advice, I shall be glad!"

"Yes," said Mr. Peterkin, "It is time now for people to be coming to ask advice of us."

The next morning Mrs. Peterkin began by taking out the things that were already in the trunk. Here were last year's winter things, and not only these, but old clothes that had been put away,–Mrs. Peterkin's wedding-dress; the skirts the little boys used to wear before they put on jackets and trousers.

All day Mrs. Peterkin worked over the trunk, putting away the old things, putting in the new. She packed up all the clothes she could think of, both summer and winter ones, because you never can tell what sort of weather you will have.

Agamemnon fetched his books, and Solomon John his spy-glass. There were her own and Elizabeth Eliza's best bonnets in a bandbox; also Solomon John's hats, for he had an old one and a new one. He bought a new hat for fishing, with a very wide brim and deep crown; all of heavy straw.

Agamemnon brought down a large heavy dictionary, and an atlas still larger. This contained maps of all the countries in the world.

"I have never had a chance to look at them," he said; "but when one travels, then is the time to study geography."

Mr. Peterkin wanted to take his turning-lathe. So Mrs. Peterkin packed his tool-chest. It gave her some trouble, for it came to her just as she had packed her summer dresses. At first she thought it would help to smooth the dresses, and placed it on top; but she was forced to take all out, and set it at the bottom. This was not so much matter, as she had not yet the right dresses to put in. Both Mrs. Peterkin and Elizabeth Eliza would need new dresses for this occasion. The little boys' hoops went in; so did their india-rubber boots, in case it should not rain when they started. They each had a hoe and shovel, and some baskets, that were packed.

Mrs. Peterkin called in all the family on the evening of the second day to see how she had succeeded. Everything was packed, even the little boys' kite lay smoothly on the top.

"I like to see a thing so nicely done," said Mr. Peterkin.

The next thing was to cord up the trunk, and Mr. Peterkin tried to move it. But neither he, nor Agamemnon, nor Solomon John could lift it alone, or all together.

Here was a serious difficulty. Solomon John tried to make light of it.

"Expressmen could lift it. Expressmen were used to such things."

"But we did not plan expressing it," said Mrs. Peterkin, in a discouraged tone.

"We can take a carriage," said Solomon John.

"I am afraid the trunk would not go on the back of a carriage," said Mrs. Peterkin.

"The hackman could not lift it, either," said Mr. Peterkin.

"People do travel with a great deal of baggage," said Elizabeth Eliza.

"And with very large trunks," said Agamemnon.

"Still they are trunks that can be moved," said Mr. Peterkin, giving another try at the trunk in vain. "I am afraid we must give it up," he said; "it would be such a trouble in going from place to place."

"We would not mind if we got it to the place," said Elizabeth Eliza.

"But how to get it there?" Mr. Peterkin asked, with a sigh.

"This is our first obstacle," said Agamemnon; "we must do our best to conquer it."

"What is an obstacle?" asked the little boys.

"It is the trunk," said Solomon John.

"Suppose we look out the word in the dictionary," said Agamemnon, taking the large volume from the trunk. "Ah, here it is–" And he read:–

"OBSTACLE, an impediment."

"That is a worse word than the other," said one of the little boys.

"But listen to this," and Agamemnon continued: "Impediment is something that entangles the feet; obstacle, something that stands in the way; obstruction, something that blocks up the passage; hinderance, something that holds back."

"The trunk is all these," said Mr. Peterkin, gloomily.

"It does not entangle the feet," said Solomon John, "for it can't move."

"I wish it could," said the little boys together.

Mrs. Peterkin spent a day or two in taking the things out of the trunk and putting them away.

"At least," she said, "this has given me some experience in packing."

And the little boys felt as if they had quite been a journey.

But the family did not like to give up their plan. It was suggested that they might take the things out of the trunk, and pack it at the station; the little boys could go and come with the things. But Elizabeth Eliza thought the place too public.

Gradually the old contents of the great trunk went back again to it.

At length a friend unexpectedly offered to lend Mr. Peterkin a good-sized family trunk. But it was late in the season, and so the journey was put off from that summer.

But now the trunk was sent round to the house, and a family consultation was held about packing it. Many things would have to be left at home, it was so much smaller than the grandmother's hair-trunk. But Agamemnon had been studying the atlas through the winter, and felt familiar with the more important places, so it would not be necessary to take it. And Mr. Peterkin decided to leave his turning-lathe at home, and his tool-chest.

Again Mrs. Peterkin spent two days in accommodating the things. With great care and discretion, and by borrowing two more leather bags, it could be accomplished. Everything of importance could be packed, except the little boys' kite. What should they do about that?

The little boys proposed carrying it in their hands; but Solomon John and Elizabeth Eliza would not consent to this.

"I do think it is one of the cases where we might ask the advice of the lady from Philadelphia," said Mrs. Peterkin, at last.

"She has come on here," said Agamemnon, "and we have not been to see her this summer."

"She may think we have been neglecting her," suggested Mr. Peterkin.

The little boys begged to be allowed to go and ask her opinion about the kite. They came back in high spirits.

"She says we might leave this one at home, and make a new kite when we get there," they cried.

"What a sensible idea!" exclaimed Mr. Peterkin; "and I may have leisure to help you."

"We'll take plenty of newspapers," said Solomon John.

"And twine," said the little boys. And this matter was settled.

The question then was, "When should they go?"


Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

This chapter has been put on-line as part of the BUILD-A-BOOK Initiative at the
Celebration of Women Writers.
Initial text entry and proof-reading of this chapter were the work of volunteer
Ami C. Chitwood.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom