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BETSY GRISCOM looked thoughtfully up and down the long table. Her father and mother, her six older sisters, her small brother George, as well as Betsy herself, were sitting around it. Only Martha, two, and the baby, six months old, were already in bed. Betsy counted carefully.
“Ten people,” she said, puzzled. “Ten people are sitting at this table, and there isn’t room for any more. What are we going to do when the baby and Martha are old enough to sit with us at the table? Where will we put them?”
“We can always find room for all our children, Betsy,” said Mr. Griscom, smiling.
“I am glad thee is a carpenter, Father,” said George. “Thee is the best in all Philadelphia. Thee can build us a new table or anything else that we need to have.”
“Father doesn’t make furniture,” said Sarah, who was twelve. “Fathers builds buildings.”
“Thee could make furniture, too, if thee wanted to, couldn’t thee, Father?” George was sure his father could do anything.
Mr. Griscom laughed. “I suppose I will have to make a new table whether I want to or not,” he said. “Betsy is right. We are about to out-grow this one. I’ll certainly have to make the new one before 1758 is over.”
“Good,” Betsy said, pleased. “We’ll have the new table some time this year.”
“I’ll help thee, Father.” George sat up very straight. He was only five years old, but since he was the only boy in the family he considered himself very important.
“I’ll help thee, too, Father.” Betsy raised her shoulders as high as she could. She was a year older than George. If he could help, she could help, too.
“Thee can’t make furniture,” George exclaimed. “Thee is a girl, and thee is too little.”
Betsy didn’t know what to say to George. It was difficult for a little girl to feel as useful as a boy. She looked at her plate.
“I can make doll furniture,” she said. “I can make other furniture, too.”
“Doll furniture!” George laughed. “Doll furniture doesn’t count.” He felt very grown-up. He forgot that he sometimes played with Betsy’s dolls and her other toys.
“Doll furniture does count!” Betsy glanced at her mother. “It does, doesn’t it, Mother?”
“Of course it counts.” Mrs. Griscom smiled at Betsy. “Small things are often more difficult to make than large ones.”
“Little girls come in different sizes, too,” said her father, smiling at his seven daughters. “Don’t worry, Betsy. Thee will soon grow up.”
When dinner was over Betsy and George carried the dishes from the table to the kitchen. Then Rachel and Hannah swept the floor and straightened the room. Debby and Susan washed dishes. Mary and Sarah dried them.
“Let’s go outside and play,” suggested George when he and Betsy had finished their work.
“I can’t.” Betsy shook her head. “I want to make a table for my doll.”
“Thee can’t make a table. Thee is a girl and thee is too little,” George said, laughing.
“I can make a table or anything else I want,” Betsy said, stamping her foot. She ran out the back door and followed a narrow brick walk that led to her father’s workshop. She tugged at the heavy door until she had it open. She stared at the tools hung on pegs around the room.
The tools looked heavy and unfamiliar. Betsy didn’t know the names of most of them or how to use them. She was glad George hadn’t come with her. She was sure he knew more about tools than she did. She didn’t want her brother to remind her that girls didn’t understand carpentry.
She walked around the neat, orderly workshop. She reached up to get a saw, but she could just touch the handle. By standing on some blocks of wood from a scrap pile she pushed up the saw so that the handle was free from the peg.
The big blade bent. The handle swung out and down. It hit Betsy on top of her head.
“Oh!” Betsy dropped the saw. It made a whining sound that seemed to say, “Thee is a girrl, a gi-rrr-lll, rrrr-llll.”
Betsy rubbed her head. Then she laid the saw on her father’s workbench. She wasn’t going to let a bump on the head stop her. She intended to show George that she could make a table.
The scrap pile in the corner contained a real mixture of wood pieces. Betsy chose a few thin boards which looked almost the right length for her table. She liked the wood pile. She often played there with George on rainy days. While their father worked at his bench, the children built stores, houses, and schools. They built wagons and boats. They built tall towers that came tumbling down.
The woodpile was wonderful because it changed every day. Sometimes the pieces were short and thick. Sometimes they were all long and narrow. Today she could find both kinds.
Betsy placed a thin, flat piece of wood on the workbench. She lifted the saw and tried to put it against the wood just the way her father did. The saw was long and heavy. She could not hold the big, awkward tool with her right hand. It wobbled when she tried to saw through the wood. Betsy tugged and pulled.
Betsy wished she didn’t have to make a table. It would be more fun to build a house out of all those wonderful pieces of wood before her father took them away. “But I have to build a table,” she said to herself. “I have to show George that I can do anything he can.”
Betsy put down the saw and rested for a moment. She knew that she would have to succeed in sawing the board. Again she picked up the saw and put it in place on the board. Then she tried to push and pull it, but had trouble holding it upright and keeping it straight. Its sharp teeth made little dents in the wood as they moved over the surface.