Caroline Quiner and her sister Martha are opposites. Caroline is quiet; Martha says whatever comes to mind. But when two rich girls are mean to Martha, guess who stands up for her Caroline!
The Caroline Chapter Books are part of an ongoing series of Little House Chapter Books.
About the Author
Maria D. Wilkes first read the Little House books as a young girl and has been fascinated by pioneer history ever since. She did extensive research on the Quiner, Ingalls, and Wilder families, studied original sources and family letters and diaries, and worked in close consultation with several historians and the Laura Ingalls Wilder estate as she wrote the Caroline Years books. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Peter, and her daughters, Grace and Natalie.
Doris Ettlinger, a graduate of Rhode Island School of Design, has illustrated many books for children. She lives in Warren County, New Jersey.
Read an Excerpt
Sisters Caroline and Martha Quiner were sisters. They lived in Brookfield, Wisconsin, in a little frame house with their mother and grandmother. They had two big brothers named Joseph and Henry, a little brother named Thomas, and a little sister named Eliza.
Caroline was six years old. She wore her brown hair in one long braid down her back. Martha was eight and wore her brown hair in two long braids. Caroline liked getting up early to help Mother with the morning chores. Martha liked to sleep as late as she could. One thing they both didn't like was helping Mother on wash day.
On wash day, Caroline and Martha had to carry buckets of water all the way from the well to the kitchen. Mother needed a lot of water to do the whole week's washing. Carrying water was hard work. The buckets were very heavy. Caroline always tried to be careful. She didn't like to spill any water on her apron. But Martha's water bucket tipped and spilled with every step.
"When I'm a grown lady," Martha said grumpily as they carried their buckets across the yard, "I'm going to have so many dresses, I'll never have to wash them! I'll just wear a different one every day."
Caroline loved pretty dresses. But right now, all she could think about were her aching fingers.
"Do your fingers hurt, Martha?" she asked.
"My fingers . . . and my hands, and my arms!" Martha grumbled.
"Maybe this will be the last bucket," Caroline said quietly. She did not want Mother to hear her complaining. Mother worked so very hard now that Father was gone. The year before, Father had sailed away on a big boat and he had never come back. Mother said Father was inheaven. Caroline missed him very much.
Finally, Caroline and Martha reached the kitchen. They set their buckets down in front of the hearth.
"Goodness glory, Martha!" Mother laughed. "If you spill any more water on your apron, I won't have to bother washing it!"
Martha wrinkled her nose and looked down at her apron.
"I can't keep all the water from splashing out of the bucket! No matter how hard I try!" she cried.
"Carry a little less at a time, dear," Mother said gently.
Mother poured the buckets into the big iron pot that hung from a hook over the fire.
"That's enough water," Mother told Caroline and Martha. "Now you girls may carry in wood for the fire.
"Caroline rubbed her sore hands together. She wasn't sure if she liked carrying wood any more than she liked carrying water. But Martha was sure.
"Come on!" Martha cried, tugging on Caroline's sleeve.
The girls rushed outside. At the woodpile, Joseph and Henry were busy chopping wood.
"Are you sure you two are strong enough to carry the wood?" Henry asked with a grin. He was only a little bit older than Martha, and he liked to tease her.
"I'm almost as strong as you!" Martha called back. She knelt down and began piling kindling and wood chips into her apron. "I'll show that Henry," she whispered.
Caroline let out a little sigh and began filling her apron, too. Martha did not care about getting dirty, but Caroline did. All day Caroline had tried so hard to keep clean. Now Mother would have to wash her apron, too.
Back and forth across the yard Caroline and Martha went with their aprons full of kindling. Each time Martha gathered another load of wood, she stuck her chin out at Henry. Caroline was tired and wanted to rest, but Martha wanted to show Henry how much wood they could carry.
Finally the water in the pot was steaming and bubbling. Mother called the girls into the kitchen.
"I'm ready to begin the wash," she said.Martha let out a long sigh.
"Your dress will be clean and dry in no time," Mother said cheerfully. "Please go upstairs and practice your Bible verses while you're waiting.
"Every week on wash day, Caroline felt extra sorry for her big sister. Martha only had one everyday dress. So every wash day, Martha had to climb into bed and stay there until her dress and apron were cleaned. Usually Caroline didn't like to wear Martha's old dresses, but on wash day, she was glad that she had two everyday dresses to wear, even if they were hand-me-downs. At least she didn't have to stay in bed while Mother washed.
"Oh, why is it always sunny on the day Mother does the wash?" Martha whispered as she and Caroline climbed the stairs to their bedroom. "I want to be outside today! I don't want to sit in bed and practice silly verses."
"The sunshine will help dry your dress fast," Caroline said, trying to make Martha feel better.
Caroline waited for Martha to undress, and then she rushed downstairs with the clothes in a bundle.For the rest of the morning, Caroline helped Mother with the washing. At noontime, Mother stood up and wiped her hand across her brow.
"Time for dinner," she said with a smile. "We'll finish the rest of the clothes after we eat.
"Mother's face was pink from the heat. Long strands of her black hair had come down from her bun. Caroline thought she looked pretty.
For dinner, Grandma had made plenty of baked beans and pork, sweet potatoes, cheese, and corn bread. The fresh, warm smells filled the whole house. Mother fixed a plate for Martha, and Caroline carefully carried it up the stairs.
When Martha heard footsteps, she quickly began reciting her Bible verses.
"It's only me," Caroline whispered. "Here's your dinner.
"Martha sat up in bed. "Is Mother almost finished washing my dress?" she asked.
"Almost," Caroline answered. "Once the water boils again, she'll start rinsing all the clothes."
"Rinse?" Martha cried. "You mean the clothes aren't even rinsed yet?"