Just then Joss came into the kitchen, lugging two large buckets, one empty and the other full of charcoal. With a frown on his face, he set down the bucket, and then reached around me to open the door to the firebox under the pot I was stirring. He shook the riddle so the ashes fell down beneath, then carefully scooped them into the empty bucket with a metal shovel. He took fresh charcoal from the other bucket and added it to the firebox. Then he did the same to the firebox under Prissy’s pot.
When he finished these tasks, Joss wiped the sweat from his face. But not the frown. “It is deucedly hot work keeping these fires going,” he said.
“At least you only need come into this oven of a kitchen once in a while, Joseph Hargraves. Just you try stirring for awhile!” I said.
Joss harrumphed. “Well, if you count all the work I have already done making this charcoal in the first place, then lugging it in here, taking out the ashes, and adding fresh charcoal to the fires, I think I have done my share.”
I knew he did indeed labor very hard every winter, felling trees and splitting the wood, then covering it with a mound of dirt and leaves and slowly burning it into charcoal. “Yes, but do not forget that Father let you trade two bushels of the charcoal you made at the store to get your ice skates. Not to mention your secret hoard of peppermints,” I added with a sly look.
Joss put on the most innocent expression he could manage. “Peppermints? Secret hoard? I have no idea what you’re talking about!”
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