Stories of the Pilgrims - M. B. Pumphrey

The First Washing Day in New England

It was Monday morning, and the sun was brighter and the weather more mild than in weeks before.

The children gazed eagerly toward the shore and thought what fun it would be to have a long run on that smooth, sandy beach, or to hunt for nuts in those great woods. They were so tired of being on the ship.

Just then Mistress Brewster came upon the deck. She shaded her eyes with her hand and looked off across the water. "What a good place to do our washing!" she said, as she gazed at the shore. "Not one proper washing day have we had since we sailed."

It did not take long to get tubs, pails, and everything ready. John Alden and John Howland loaded the things into the boat and rowed the merry party to the shore.

But Mistress Brewster did not forget the children, who looked longingly at the boat as it pulled away. When it came back for its next load, she said kindly, "Come, boys. You shall have your run on the beach. We need your quick feet and strong arms to bring brushwood for our fires. And the girls must come too. They can help spread the clothes upon the bushes to dry."

It seemed so good to be on the ground again. As soon as the boat touched the sand the children sprang ashore and raced each other up and down the beach.

[Illustration] from Stories of the Pilgrims by M. B. Pumphrey

The first washing day in New England

"Let's hunt for nuts under those trees!" cried Love Brewster, and away the boys bounded toward the woods. John Alden shouldered his gun and went with them, for it was not safe for them to go into the forest alone.

In the edge of the woods stood a tall, straight tree. The long scales which curled from its shaggy bark told John Alden it was a hickory tree. Under the tree was a thick carpet of yellow-brown leaves. Under that carpet there must be plenty of sweet nuts.

The boys dragged their feet through the deep leaves, or tossed them aside with their hands. Yes, there lay the white nuts, thousands and thousands of them. The frost had opened their tough, brown coats, but the tree had covered them with a blanket of leaves.

While the boys were gone, the men drove two forked stakes into the hard sand. Across the top of these stakes they placed a long pole from which to hang the great kettles.

Soon the fire was snapping and crackling under the kettles. The flames leaped higher and higher as the children piled dry leaves and branches upon them. Then the water began to simmer and sing.

All the morning the women rubbed and boiled, or rinsed and wrung the clothes. The men were kept busy carrying water and firewood.

By noon the tubs were empty, and as Mary Chilton spread the last little dress to dry, she saw the boat pull away from the "Mayflower."

"Here comes Priscilla with our dinner!" she cried.

Priscilla was a wonderful cook. Sometimes there was but little to cook, but Priscilla could always make something dainty and good from the plainest food.

To-day she had made a great kettle of soup, with vegetables and the broth of the wild birds. How good it smelled as it heated over the fire!

[Illustration] from Stories of the Pilgrims by M. B. Pumphrey

"Here comes Priscilla with our dinner"

Long before night the clean, fresh clothes were dry and folded away in the tubs and kettles. Then the tired but happy Pilgrims rowed back to the "Mayflower."