Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Candy Country, Page 2

Louisa May Alcott

all into bits because she reproved her fornaughty ways. Lily calmly sat down on the biggest church, crushing itflat, and even tried to poke the moon out of the sky in a pet one day.The king ordered her to go home; but she said, "I won't!" and bit hishead off, crown and all.

  Such a wail went up at this awful deed that she ran away out of thecity, fearing some one would put poison in her candy, since she had noother food.

  "I suppose I shall get somewhere if I keep walking; and I can't starve,though I hate the sight of this horrid stuff," she said to herself, asshe hurried over the mountains of Gibraltar Rock that divided the cityof Saccharissa from the great desert of brown sugar that lay beyond.

  Lily marched bravely on for a long time, and saw at last a great smokein the sky, smelt a spicy smell, and felt a hot wind blowing toward her.

  "I wonder if there are sugar savages here, roasting and eating some poortraveller like me," she said, thinking of Robinson Crusoe and otherwanderers in strange lands.

  She crept carefully along till she saw a settlement of little huts verylike mushrooms, for they were made of cookies set on lumps of the brownsugar; and queer people, looking as if made of gingerbread, were workingvery busily round several stoves which seemed to bake at a great rate.

  "I'll creep nearer and see what sort of people they are before I showmyself," said Lily, going into a grove of spice-trees, and sitting downon a stone which proved to be the plummy sort of cake we used to callBrighton Rock.

  Presently one of the tallest men came striding toward the trees with apan, evidently after spice; and before she could run, he saw Lily.

  "Hollo, what do you want?" he asked, staring at her with his blackcurrant eyes, while he briskly picked the bark off a cinnamon-tree.

  "I'm travelling, and would like to know what place this is, if youplease," answered Lily, very politely, being a little frightened.

  "Cake-land. Where do you come from?" asked the gingerbread man, in acrisp tone of voice.

  "I was blown into the Candy country, and have been there a long time;but I got tired of it, and ran away to find something better."

  "Sensible child!" and the man smiled till Lily thought his cheeks wouldcrumble. "You'll get on better here with us Brownies than with the lazyBonbons, who never work and are all for show. They won't own us, thoughwe are all related through our grandparents Sugar and Molasses. We arebusy folks; so they turn up their noses and don't speak when we meet atparties. Poor creatures, silly and sweet and unsubstantial! I pity 'em."

  "Could I make you a visit? I'd like to see how you live, and what youdo. I'm sure it must be interesting," said Lily, picking herself upafter a tumble, having eaten nearly all the stone, she was so hungry.

  "I know you will. Come on! I can talk while I work." And the funnygingerbread man trotted off toward his kitchen, full of pans,rolling-pins, and molasses jugs.

  "Sit down. I shall be at leisure as soon as this batch is baked. Thereare still some wise people down below who like gingerbread, and I havemy hands full," he said, dashing about, stirring, rolling out, andslapping the brown dough into pans, which he whisked into the oven andout again so fast that Lily knew there must be magic about it somewhere.

  Every now and then he threw her a delicious cooky warm from the oven.She liked the queer fellow, and presently began to talk, being verycurious about this country.

  "What is your name, sir?"

  "Ginger Snap."

  Lily thought it a good one; for he was very quick, and she fancied hecould be short and sharp if he liked.

  "Where does all this cake go to?" she asked, after watching the otherkitchens full of workers, who were all of different kinds of cake, andeach set of cooks made its own sort.

  "I'll show you by and by," answered Snap, beginning to pile up the heapsof gingerbread on a little car that ran along a track leading to someunknown storeroom, Lily thought.

  "Don't you get tired of doing this all the time?"

  "Yes; but I want to be promoted, and I never shall be till I've done mybest, and won the prize here."

  "Oh, tell me about it! What is the prize, and how are you promoted? Isthis a cooking-school?"

  "Yes; the prize for best gingerbread is a cake of condensed yeast. Thatputs a soul into me, and I begin to rise till I am able to go over thehills yonder into the blessed land of bread, and be one of the happycreatures who are always wholesome, always needed, and without which theworld below would be in a bad way."

  "Bless me! that is the queerest thing I've heard yet. But I don't wonderyou want to go; I'm tired of sweets myself, and long for a good piece ofbread, though I used to want cake and candy at home."

  "Ah, my dear, you'll learn a good deal here; and you are lucky not tohave got into the clutches of Giant Dyspepsia, who always gets people ifthey eat too much of such rubbish and scorn wholesome bread. I leave myginger behind when I go, and get white and round and beautiful, as youwill see. The Gingerbread family have never been as foolish as some ofthe other cakes. Wedding is the worst; such extravagance in the way ofwine and spice and fruit I never saw, and such a mess to eat when it'sdone! I don't wonder people get sick; serves 'em right." And Snap flungdown a pan with such a bang that it made Lily jump.

  "Sponge cake isn't bad, is it? Mamma lets me eat it, but I like frostedpound better," she said, looking over to the next kitchen, where pilesof that sort of cake were being iced.

  "Poor stuff. No substance. Ladies' fingers will do for babies, but poundhas too much butter ever to be healthy. Let it alone, and eat cookies orseed-cakes, my dear. Now, come along; I'm ready." And Snap trundled awayhis car-load at a great pace.

  Lily ran behind to pick up whatever fell, and looked about her as shewent, for this was certainly a very queer country. Lakes of eggs allbeaten up, and hot springs of saleratus foamed here and there ready foruse. The earth was brown sugar or ground spice; and the only fruits wereraisins, dried currants, citron, and lemon peel. It was a very busyplace; for every one cooked all the time, and never failed and neverseemed tired, though they got so hot that they only wore sheets of paperfor clothes. There were piles of it to put over the cake, so that itshouldn't burn; and they made cook's white caps and aprons of it, andlooked very nice. A large clock made of a flat pancake, with cloves tomark the hours and two toothpicks for hands, showed them how long tobake things; and in one place an ice wall was built round a lake ofbutter, which they cut in lumps as they wanted it.

  "Here we are. Now, stand away while I pitch 'em down," said Snap,stopping at last before a hole in the ground where a dumb-waiter hungready, with a name over it.

  There were many holes all round, and many waiters, each with its name;and Lily was amazed when she read "Weber," "Copeland," "Dooling," andothers, which she knew very well.

  Over Snap's place was the name "Newmarch;" and Lily said, "Why, that'swhere mamma gets her hard gingerbread, and Weber's is where we go forice-cream. Do _you_ make cake for them?"

  "Yes, but no one knows it. It's one of the secrets of the trade. Wecook for all the confectioners, and people think the good things comeout of the cellars under their saloons. Good joke, isn't it?" And Snaplaughed till a crack came in his neck and made him cough.

  Lily was so surprised she sat down on a warm queen's cake that happenedto be near, and watched Snap send down load after load of gingerbread tobe eaten by children, who would have liked it much better if they hadonly known where it came from, as she did.

  As she sat, the clatter of many spoons, the smell of many dinners, andthe sound of many voices calling, "One vanilla, two strawberries, and aCharlotte Russe," "Three stews, cup coffee, dry toast," "Roast chickenand apple without," came up the next hole, which was marked "Copeland."

  "Dear me! it seems as if I was there," said Lily, longing to hop down,but afraid of the bump at the other end.

  "I'm done. Come along, I'll ride you back," called Snap, tossing thelast cooky after the dumb-waiter as it went slowly out of sight with itsspicy load.

  "I wish you'd teach me to cook. It looks great
fun, and mamma wants meto learn; only our cook hates to have me mess round, and is so crossthat I don't like to try at home," said Lily, as she went trundlingback.

  "Better wait till you get to Bread-land, and learn to make that. It's agreat art, and worth knowing. Don't waste your time on cake, thoughplain gingerbread isn't bad to have in the house. I'll teach you that ina jiffy, if the clock doesn't strike my hour too soon," answered Snap,helping her down.

  "What hour?"

  "Why, of my freedom. I never know when I've done my task till I'm calledby the chimes and