Though it is done a day later than I expected, I have finished the next part of Following Orders: Gingerbread.
This one is longer than the others, so I’m not going to take a ton of space up here explaining. Besides, this one can stand alone more than any of the other parts.
If you want an explanation of characters and such, the first part would be the place to go:
And the rest of the adventure is chronicled in these parts:
Without further ado,
I hope you enjoy this adventure: Gingerbread.
Fitting into the Kennedy family turned out easier than Horatio expected. He helped with the chores and got to know all Archie’s siblings a little better. Charlie was constantly asking him questions, Polly making sure he was comfortable, and Will looking for the opportunity to prank him.
Whist was a useful tool as well. Soon, all the Kennedys were proficient at it and many evenings were spent playing in turns.
So passed the first week.
“Archie? Horatio?” Polly’s voice was barely a whisper as she peeked around the door at the two sleeping in their beds. The rest of the house stayed in sleepy silence and Polly shivered. She walked towards the beds softly on her bare feet.
“Archie?” she bent over her brother and tapped his arm as hard as she dared, which wasn’t very hard. Nothing. Polly furrowed her brow and frowned, then determinedly, shook his arm.
Archie’s eyes came open and he turned his head to look at his little sister.
“Hmm?” he sat up and rubbed at his eyes.
“Can you wake up Horatio?” Polly whispered. “I need both of you.”
Taking a deep breath and stretching, Archie swung his feet out of bed and went to wake his friend. One tap and Horatio sat straight up looking at both Kennedys.
“What is it?” he whispered. Archie shrugged.
“Polly wanted me to wake you up.”
“I need help making something.” Polly bounced on her feet excitedly, but kept her voice to a whisper. “Come to the kitchen. I’ll wait for you there.” And with that she ran out of the room and down the hall.
Archie and Horatio exchanged a questioning glance, then went about dressing themselves. In a few minutes, they both joined Polly in the kitchen.
“What are we doing, Polly?” Archie whispered, “The sun isn’t even up. What are you doing awake?”
“Remember?” Polly raised her eyebrows, “It’s Charlotte’s birthday today.”
Archie slapped his hand over his eyes,
“Oh, it is! I forgot. One looses track of dates when on the sea for so long.”
“And I wanted to make her gingerbread this morning.” Polly smiled a small smile.
“Well, that’s very thoughtful of you,” Horatio said, “But how do we come into all this?”
“I… I’ve never made gingerbread before. And I needed help.” She pulled the recipe out of her apron pocket, “Nathaniel was up so late last night, I couldn’t bother him. And Will would be so loud he’d wake up Charlotte for sure.”
It was quiet for a moment as her two chosen helpers tried to recollect exactly what they’d seen the cooks do in the galley.
Polly noticed their hesitation.
“You can help, can’t you?” She looked worried and hopeless for a second.
“Of course we can,” Horatio forced a smile, hoping this venture didn’t end in little girl tears and ruined gingerbread.
A smile broke across Polly’s face and for a second it looked as if she might hug Horatio. But, thankfully, she just skipped over to grab a mixing bowl.
“I can mix the things in the bowl if you two get the ingredients. I can’t lift the flour sack by myself.” She pulled her hair back into a quick braid and grabbed a large bowl from off the bench.
Archie grabbed the flour sack from the corner and hauled it over to near the bowl.
Polly stuck her hand out and the two looked at the recipe together.
“’Take three pounds of flour’ is what it says first.” She observed.
“I’ll pour it in and you tell me when to stop.”
“Alright. Horatio? Could you get the sugar?”
“Certainly,” Horatio walked over to the corner where the flour came from and brought the sugar back to the bench. Archie continued to pour in the flour while Polly squinted at the bowl that was growing fuller by the second.
“Archie, I think that’s enough,” Horatio pulled up the edge of the flour sack, “We don’t want to overdo it.”
“But are you sure we shouldn’t make it double?” Archie set down the flour sack, “It is a birthday after all.”
“Yes, but this recipe seems rather large as it is. I’m sure Charlotte will be satisfied with merely a single batch of gingerbread, no matter how fond she is of it.”
Archie shrugged and brought the flour back to its former location. Polly consulted the recipe again.
“Now one pound of sugar,” she looked helplessly up at Horatio, “Can you measure that?”
“Well, if Archie put in three pounds of flour, then I simply need to put in a third of what he put in with sugar.” And the sugar was added in good proportion with a happy grin from Polly.
The butter and treacle were added in similar manner. And after a little hunting, some old ginger root and a nutmeg were found. Horatio and Archie were put to work grinding one and grating the other, while Polly snuck out to milk the cow for some cream.
Outside, the black sky was lightening to a soft shade of grey. The only sounds inside were the scratch of the nutmeg on the grater and a soft, steady thudding as Archie ground the ginger.
Horatio tapped the grater on the edge of the bowl to get some of the extra nutmeg out.
“Have you cooked at all before, Archie?”
“Not enough to brag on. I helped Charlotte make bread on last leave. I wasn’t sure when it was supposed to be done and I kind of forgot about it for a bit.” He laughed ruefully, “I wasn’t allowed to help with the second batch.”
Horatio nicked his finger on the grater and stopped, wincing. He looked over at Archie, concern for the wellbeing of this gingerbread batch obvious on his face.
Archie noticed, shrugged again and concentrated on grinding the ginger root.
Horatio raised his eyebrows and went back to the nutmeg.
The door creaked softly and a whisper of cold morning air swirled inside around Polly with her pail of milk. She grinned at both of her helpers and took off her coat.
“I just need to skim the cream and we’ll be ready to roll them out,” her voice was still soft, “Could you two start up the fire?” Her smile spread wider and she bounced on her toes a little.
“Archie? Do you think we’ll have them done by the time she’s up?”
“With luck,” Archie looked out the window. The sky was a faint tinge of pink.
“She’s usually up around sunrise, so we’d better hurry.”
The fire was crackling nicely in the hearth as Horatio added the wood pieces as quietly as he could. Which wasn’t very quiet, keeping in mind that he was throwing chunks of wood, but at least he was trying.
Archie puffed at the bottom of the fire with the bellows and Polly had her hands punching around in the bowl of brown dough for the gingerbread.
“Rolling pin, please,” Polly chirped, turning the dough out on the counter.
“Yes, ma’am.” Archie pulled it off the shelf and gave it to her, snitching a piece of dough as he pulled his hand away.
“Hey!” Polly spun around, balling up her sticky hands.
Archie gave her braid a tug and popped the bit in his mouth.
“I’m making sure it’s not poison. We wouldn’t want to kill our birthday queen now, would we?” he winked at her.
Polly stuck her tongue out and swiped at him with one hand. Laughing, Archie dodged it and went back to the bellows.
“Well, if we don’t want to take extra security measures…” he sniffed and pretended to be insulted, but was unsuccessful in wiping the grin off his face. Polly put the crook of her arm over her face to smother her laugh.
Horatio looked between the two siblings, halfway between being bewildered and amused. He watched Archie, almost waiting for an explanation, but his friend seemed not to notice.
It was a strange few minutes. Archie puffed the bellows and Polly rolled out the dough. They were both quiet, but giggling fits burst out from either at seemingly random moments.
The loudest was from Polly as she was getting down the teacup to cut out the cookies. Horatio had been sitting and watching the fire and it made him jump violently.
“Are you all right?” he started to stand up.
“Yes, fine.” Polly tried to pull a straight face and started giggling all over again. It seemed to affect Archie as well as soon as he looked at her. It got louder, though they both muffled their laughter in their sleeves.
“Archie! Polly!” Horatio’s voice was a shocked, coarse whisper. “You’ll wake her up if you go on like this!”
The laughter quieted slowly and Polly was able to cut out the cookies without sputtering on them. A general hush fell over the room again, punctuated by only a few chuckles that made Horatio jump. What had gotten into them? He’d never seen this sort of thing happen before and it was rather worrying.
Best change the subject and get back to the cookies.
“Are you ready to start them baking, Polly?” Horatio took the peel and held it out helpfully.
“I think the first batch is ready, yes.” Polly picked up a cookie in each hand and set them on the wood paddle.
It filled up quickly and was ready to bake within a few minutes. Archie and Horatio slid the peel into the oven, wincing at the heat on their faces. And the gingerbread was baking.
Now just to wait for Charlotte to get up.
Polly rolled out more cookies and the boys tirelessly watched the oven. The sky outside gradually faded to an orang-ish pink and birds began their chirping.
“I think we should check them now.” Archie grabbed a little butter knife and pulled out the cookies. They were all a pretty golden brown and looked perfect. He stuck the knife in the center of the largest one and pulled it out. It was coated in warm batter. Archie shrugged and pushed the peel back in.
“Those really looked done,” Horatio protested.
“Yes, but the knife didn’t come out clean. It’s got dough all over it, see? Charlotte always tests cakes like that, and if the knife doesn’t come out clean… back in it goes.”
None of the non-chefs in the kitchen wanted to argue with Charlotte’s proven kitchen methods, so they waited longer. A few more minutes passed and they pulled them out again to check.
The little gingerbreads were starting to look very dark indeed, but still the butter knife came out as though the centers were raw. Back in they went.
“I have another batch now,” said Polly, “maybe we can just use that one for the first plate.”
“Not raw cookies,” Archie held up the butter knife, “We’ll just wait a few more minutes. They’ll have to be done by then.”
The sun was just peeking over the horizon as they pulled out the cookies a third time. Smoke was coming from the smaller ones and they were starting to look black. Archie poked another cookie. Still, the center seemed as liquid as it was before.
Horatio frowned at the knife, “Something’s telling me that this isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.”
A sleepy head poked around the corner, light-colored hair in disarray.
“What is that smell?”
The three cooks whirled around to face the pleasantly surprised birthday girl.
“We…” Archie began.
“Gingerbread?” Charlotte laughed, “You’re making gingerbread?”
“For you!” Polly smiled, “For your birthday!”
“You three…?” Charlotte was incredulous, but a delighted smile still spread across her face. “So, I assume I don’t have to make breakfast now?”
“Nope,” chirped Polly, “We’re just waiting for the gingerbread to be done.”
Charlotte looked over at the little black cookies and the still sticky knife in Archie’s hand.
“Oh, the knife? That doesn’t work on gingerbread. It’ll always come out wet.”
Archie and Horatio looked embarrassed. Charlotte smiled,
“Can I have helping you finish the gingerbread as part of my birthday present?”
Of course, that was a present they readily gave her.
Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Fun fact: I drew from real life on a certain element of this story. I made gingerbread once and burnt it to a crisp when I made the same mistake as Archie. The toothpick never came out clean, even when the gingerbread was black and the oven was smoking. XP
Anyway, please comment! I’d love to hear your favorite parts and characters! 🙂