HOW WE KEPT HOUSE
 WHILE building the clumsy fireplace, I had asked
myself many times how it might be possible for
mother to do any cooking when it was filled with
blazing wood; but I soon had good proof that
it would serve her purpose nearly as well as if it
had been fashioned
properly, with a
fair chimney to
carry away the
smoke. She had
brought with her
call a Dutch oven,
which is nothing
more than a box
of thin iron, with
one side wholly
open so that the heat may come at whatever is inside,
and with a shelf in the middle to hold three or four
small pots or pans.
Ours was about three feet wide, two feet in depth,
with a height of two and one half feet. When the
open side of this was set directly in front of the fire,
and well into the fireplace that it might be banked
 around with live embers, that which had been put
inside must perforce be cooked, and in a very cleanly
There is little need for me to say that mother had
iron pots which might be bung directly over the fire
by chains attached to a stout bar of wood laid across
the top of the fireplace; but these could be used only
for boiling, while the baking must be done in some
such contrivance as the oven.
Many of our neighbors, having no such luxuries as
we, baked their bread in iron pans set directly among
the embers; but this was by no means cleanly, since, as
father often said, there was more of ashes than meal
when the loaf was cooked.
As for water, we had it in plenty. Within twenty
yards of our cave was a spring from which an hundred
people might have quenched their thirst every minute in
the day without lessening the supply, and in front of us
was the river, on the bank of which, when the weather
was not too cold, mother and I washed the clothes.
When we first set up housekeeping, father believed
we could make shift to eat while sitting on the ground;
but before the first meal had come to an end, both he
and mother understood that something in the way of a
table must be provided.
It would surprise you to know how readily you can
make certain things for your comfort or necessities,
 when forced so to do, or go without. I made legs for
a table by driving four stakes firmly into the ground on
that portion of our floor of earth opposite the fireplace.
From one to the other of these I tied four saplings with
small ropes which one of the seamen gave me.
Our goods had been put on board the ship in huge
wooden boxes, and the boards from one of these made the
top of my table, while for chairs we had short, stout
logs, so large that they would not readily be overset.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics