Linda Porter Carlyle

MacKenzie Isabelle Evans shook with excitement. She smoothed the blue apron that covered her long dress. She stuck one foot out and looked happily at her new old-fashioned shoes. Then she stood up straight and watched her pretend big sister Louise open the back door of Beekman House. Mac took a deep breath. It was her first day working as a real volunteer! She hoped she would do a good job!

Six visitors filed into the kitchen. They seemed drawn to the big, black cook stove like a magnet. It was cold and rainy outside, and the stove gave off cheery warmth. Everybody held their hands out to the welcome heat.

Louise smiled at the people.

Mac looked at her, and then she smiled at the visitors too.

Louise introduced herself. She explained that she was the Beekman’s hired girl and this was her little sister who had come to help her for the afternoon. She patted Mac’s shoulder. Louise asked the visitors where they were from.

A tall man with a bristly brown moustache said he and his wife were from New York. They had come to Jacksonville to spend some time with his sister, he said. The man smiled when he talked. He had a very different accent. He didn’t sound a bit like most people in Oregon. Mac liked listening to him.

The next three women to introduce themselves lived just down the road a ways, they said. But they had never before gotten around to visiting Beekman House. They were curious to see it inside and to learn about its history.

The last woman wore a long fur coat. She had bright yellow curly hair and carried a big tote bag over her arm. Knitting needles stuck out the top of the bag, and Mac could see the ball of bright green yarn that the needles were poked into. The woman said she was visiting from California.

Mac smiled at her. “What are you knitting?” she asked, trying to be friendly.

The woman looked puzzled. Then her face cleared. “Oh!” she said. “Just a sweater.” She pushed the needles farther down into her bag and pulled the bag close to her body.

Louise turned to Mac. “You’d better hurry up and get those cookies in the oven so our visitors can enjoy them before they leave,” she scolded gently.

Mac’s face turned red. She didn’t know if Louise was really scolding her or just pretending to. She carefully spooned dough from the big pottery bowl onto the old cookie sheet. She left lots of space between each bit of dough so the cookies wouldn’t stick to each other as they swelled and baked in the oven. And she listened to Louise begin to tell the visitors all about the old wood-burning cook stove. About baking in it, and about the special warming oven up on top, and about how the stove even heated water for the house.

The back door banged open. Joseph plunged into the kitchen carrying a great armload of wood. He dropped it with a thud and a clatter into the wood box beside the sink. One log missed the wood-box. It rolled across the floor and hit Mac’s foot.

“Be careful!” she shrieked. “You’ll scratch my new shoes!”

The visitors laughed. Mac’s cheeks burned. Maybe she wasn’t supposed to say things like that while she was a volunteer.

Louise joined in. “Yes, boy! You’d better be more careful! I don’t know what Mrs. Beekman would say if she knew you were dropping logs all over her clean kitchen floor!”

Joseph looked horrified. “I’m sorry!” he managed to say. He picked up the log, laid it gently in the wood box, and slunk out the door.

Louise gave the visitors her attention again. She told them about the icebox and the new electric lights. “We’ve had electric lights for five years now,” she said. “It’s so nice to have light by just turning a switch! And the electric lights are so much brighter than our old kerosene lamps. Do you have electric lights in your homes?” she asked the visitors.

Pretty soon Louise led the visitors into the sitting room and introduced them to the woman who was playing the part of Mrs. Beekman that afternoon. Mrs. Beekman would show them the next part of the house.

Mac leaned against the table and took a deep breath. “This volunteering is hard work!” she exclaimed as Louise came back into the kitchen.

Louise grinned at Mac. “But you love it. I can tell!” she said. “And you’re doing a really good job so far.”

“Thank you!” Mac breathed.

Louise opened the oven door. She grabbed a potholder and pulled the pan of cookies out of the oven. “Let’s get another batch baking, and then we’ll try these and see if they taste as good as they smell,” she said.

The time flew by. Two more groups of visitors came in through the back door and learned all about the Beekman kitchen. Mac was kept busy taking hot oatmeal raisin cookies off the cookie sheet, putting new bits of dough back on it to bake, and listening to Louise talk.

Miss Carol slipped quietly into the kitchen. She waited until Louise finished her presentation and took the group of visitors into the sitting room. When Louise came back, Miss Carol grabbed her arm. “Something awful has happened!” she whispered. “There are two artifacts missing from one of the bedrooms upstairs!”

Louise looked shocked.

“I didn’t notice anything missing until the last group of visitors went back downstairs,” Miss Carol said. “And then when I was looking around, I saw that the beautiful old comb and brush set are not on the dresser where they’re supposed to be! I didn’t see anybody take them or even touch them, but they’re gone!”

“You’d better phone the museum right away and tell them,” Louise advised. She looked at Mac. “We’ve never had anything stolen since I’ve been working here,” she said. “I wonder who did it? How will we ever find out?”

Continued next week

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