What Every Child Should Know Library
GOOD CHEER STORIES EVERY CHILD SHOULD KNOW
ASA DON DICKINSON
Editor of "The Children's Book of Christmas Stories," Etc.
Published by Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc., for The Parents' Institute, Inc. Publishers of "The Parents' Magazine" 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York
Copyright, 1915, by Doubleday, Page & Company
The Publishers desire to acknowledge the kindness of the Century Company, Ginn & Co., the J. L. Hammett Company, Harper & Brothers, the Houghton, Mifflin Company, the J. B. Lippincott Company, the Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Company, the Outlook Company, the Perry Mason Company, Charles Scribner's Sons, and others, who have granted permission to reproduce herein selections from works bearing their copyright.
(Note.—The stories marked with a star (*) will be most enjoyed by younger children; those marked with a (dagger) are better suited to older children.)
*The Kingdom of the Greedy. By P. J. Stahl
Thankful. By Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Beetle Ring's Thanksgiving Mascot. By Sheldon C. Stoddard
[dagger]Mistress Esteem Elliott's Molasses Cake. By Kate Upson Clark
The First Thanksgiving. By Albert F. Blaisdell and Francis K. Ball
[dagger]Thanksgiving at Todd's Asylum. By Winthrop Packard
How We Kept Thanksgiving at Oldtown. By Harriet Beecher Stowe
*Wishbone Valley. By R. K. Munkittrick
Patem's Salmagundi. By E. S. Brooks
Miss November's Dinner Party. By Agnes Carr
*The Visit. By Maud Lindsay
The Story of Ruth and Naomi. Adapted from the Bible
Bert's Thanksgiving. By J. T. Trowbridge
*A Thanksgiving Story. By Miss L. B. Pingree
[dagger]John Inglefield's Thanksgiving. By Nathaniel Hawthorne
How Obadiah Brought About a Thanksgiving. By Emily Hewitt Leland
The White Turkey's Wing. By Sophie Swet
*The Thanksgiving Goose. By Fannie Wilder Brown
[dagger]An English Dinner of Thanksgiving. By George Eliot
A Novel Postman. By Alice Wheildon
[dagger]Ezra's Thanksgivin' Out West By Eugene Field
*Chip's Thanksgiving. By Annie Hamilton Donnell
[dagger]The Master of the Harvest. By Mrs. Alfred Gatty
*A Thanksgiving Dinner. By Edna Payson Brett
Two Old Boys. By Pauline Shackleford Colyar
A Thanksgiving Dinner That Flew Away. By Hezekiah Butterworth
[dagger]Mon-daw-min. By H. R. Schoolcraft
A Mystery in the Kitchen. By Olive Thorne Miller
*Who Ate the Dolly's Dinner? By Isabel Gordon Curtis
[dagger]An Old-fashioned Thanksgiving. By Rose Terry Cooke
1800 and Froze to Death. By C. A. Stephens
THE CHILDREN'S BOOK OF THANKSGIVING STORIES
THE KINGDOM OF THE GREEDY
BY P. J. STAHL.
TRANSLATED BY LAURA W. JOHNSON.
This fairy tale of a gormandizing people contains no mention of Thanksgiving Day. Yet its connection with our American festival is obvious. Every one who likes fairy tales will enjoy reading it.
The country of the Greedy, well known in history, was ruled by a king who had much trouble. His subjects were well behaved, but they had one sad fault: they were too fond of pies and tarts. It was as disagreeable to them to swallow a spoonful of soup as if it were so much sea water, and it would take a policeman to make them open their mouths for a bit of meat, either boiled or roasted. This deplorable taste made the fortunes of the pastry cooks, but also of the apothecaries. Families ruined themselves in pills and powders; camomile, rhubarb, and peppermint trebled in price, as well as other disagreeable remedies, such as castor —— which I will not name.
The King of the Greedy sought long for the means of correcting this fatal passion for sweets, but even the faculty were puzzled.
"Your Majesty," said the great court doctor, Olibriers, at his last audience, "your people look like putty! They are incurable; their senseless love for good eating will bring them all to the grave."
This view of things did not suit the King. He was wise, and saw very plainly that a monarch without subjects would be but a sorry king.
Happily, after this utter failure of the doctors, there came into the mind of His Majesty a first-class idea: he telegraphed for Mother Mitchel, the most celebrated of all pastry cooks. Mother Mitchel soon arrived, with her black cat, Fanfreluche, who accompanied her everywhere. He was an incomparable cat. He had not his equal as an adviser and a taster of tarts.
Mother Mitchel having respectfully inquired what she and her cat could do for His Majesty, the King demanded of the astonished pastry cook a tart as big as the capitol—bigger even, if possible, but no smaller! When the King uttered this astounding order, deep emotion was shown by the chamberlains, the pages, and lackeys. Nothing but the respect due to his presence prevented them from crying "Long live Your Majesty!" in his very ears. But the King had seen enough of the enthusiasm of the populace, and did not allow such sounds in the recesses of his palace.
The King gave Mother Mitchel one month to carry out his gigantic project. "It is enough," she proudly replied, brandishing her crutch. Then, taking leave of the King, she and her cat set out for their home.
On the way Mother Mitchel arranged in her head the plan of the monument which was to immortalize her, and considered the means of executing it. As to its form and size, it was to be as exact a copy of the capitol as possible, since the King had willed it; but its outside crust should have a beauty all its own. The dome must be adorned with sugarplums of all colours, and surmounted by a splendid crown of macaroons, spun sugar, chocolate, and candied fruits. It was no small affair.
Mother Mitchel did not like to lose her time. Her plan of battle once formed, she recruited on her way all the little pastry cooks of the country, as well as all the tiny six-year-olds who had a sincere love for the noble callings of scullion and apprentice. There were plenty of these, as you may suppose, in the country of the Greedy; Mother Mitchel had her pick of them.
Mother Mitchel, with the help of her crutch and of Fanfreluche, who miaowed loud enough to be heard twenty miles off, called upon all the millers of the land, and commanded them to bring together at a certain time as many sacks of fine flour as they could grind in a week. There were only windmills in that country; you may easily believe how they all began to go. B-r-r-r-r-r! What a noise they made! The clatter was so great that all the birds flew away to other climes, and even the clouds fled from the sky.
At the call of Mother Mitchel all the farmers' wives were set to work; they rushed to the hencoops to collect the seven thousand fresh eggs that Mother Mitchel wanted for her great edifice. Deep was the emotion of the fowls. The hens were inconsolable, and the unhappy creatures mourned upon the palings for the loss of all their hopes.
The milkmaids were busy from morning till night in milking the cows. Mother Mitchel must have twenty thousand pails of milk. All the little calves were put on half rations. This great work was nothing to them, and they complained pitifully to their mothers. Many of the cows protested with energy against this unreasonable tax, which made their young families so uncomfortable. There were pails upset, and even some milkmaids went head over heels. But these little accidents did not chill the enthusiasm of the labourers.
And now Mother Mitchel called for a thousand pounds of the best butter. All the churns for twenty miles around began to work in the most lively manner. Their dashers dashed without ceasing, keeping perfect time. The butter was tasted, rolled into pats, wrapped up, and put into baskets. Such energy had never been known before.
Mother Mitchel passed for a sorceress. It was all because of her cat, Fanfreluche, with whom she had mysterious doings and pantomimes, and with whom she talked in her inspired moments, as if he were a real person. Certainly, since the famous "Puss in Boots," there had never been an animal so extraordinary; and credulous folks suspected him of being a magician. Some curious people had the courage to ask Fanfreluche if this were true; but he had replied by bristling, and showing his teeth and claws so fiercely, that the conversation had ended there. Sorceress or not, Mother Mitchel was always obeyed. No one else was ever served so punctually.
On the appointed day all the millers arrived with their asses trotting in single file, each laden with a great sack of flour. Mother Mitchel, after having examined the quality of the flour, had every sack accurately weighed. This was head work and hard work, and took time; but Mother Mitchel was untiring, and her cat, also, for while the operation lasted he sat on the roof watching. It is only just to say that the millers of the Greedy Kingdom brought flour not only faultless but of full weight. They knew that Mother Mitchel was not joking when she said that others must be as exact with her as she was with them. Perhaps also they were a little afraid of the cat, whose great green eyes were always shining upon them like two round lamps, and never lost sight of them for one moment.
All the farmers' wives arrived in turn, with baskets of eggs upon their heads. They did not load their donkeys with them, for fear that in jogging along they would become omelettes on the way. Mother Mitchel received them with her usual gravity. She had the patience to look through every egg to see if it were fresh.
She did not wish to run the risk of having young chickens in a tart that was destined for those who could not bear the taste of any meat however tender and delicate. The number of eggs was complete, and again Mother Mitchel and her cat had nothing to complain of. This Greedy nation, though carried away by love of good eating, was strictly honest. It must be said that where nations are patriotic, desire for the common good makes them unselfish. Mother Mitchel's tart was to be the glory of the country, and each one was proud to contribute to such a great work.
And now the milkmaids with their pots and pails of milk, and the buttermakers with their baskets filled with the rich yellow pats of butter, filed in long procession to the right and left of the cabin of Mother Mitchel. There was no need for her to examine so carefully the butter and the milk. She had such a delicate nose that if there had been a single pat of ancient butter or a pail of sour milk she would have pounced upon it instantly. But all was perfectly fresh. In that golden age they did not understand the art, now so well known, of making milk out of flour and water. Real milk was necessary to make cheesecakes and ice cream and other delicious confections much adored in the Greedy Kingdom. If any one had made such a despicable discovery, he would have been chased from the country as a public nuisance.
Then came the grocers, with their aprons of coffee bags, and with the jolly, mischievous faces the rogues always have. Each one clasped to his heart a sugar loaf nearly as large as himself, whose summit, without its paper cap, looked like new-fallen snow upon a pyramid. Mother Mitchel, with her crutch for a baton, saw them all placed in her storerooms upon shelves put up for the purpose. She had to be very strict, for some of the little fellows could hardly part from their merchandise, and many were indiscreet, with their tongues behind their great mountains of sugar. If they had been let alone, they would never have stopped till the sugar was all gone. But they had not thought of the implacable eye of old Fanfreluche, who, posted upon a water spout, took note of all their misdeeds. From another quarter came a whole army of country people, rolling wheelbarrows and carrying huge baskets, all filled with cherries, plums, peaches, apples, and pears. All these fruits were so fresh, in such perfect condition, with their fair shining skins, that they looked like wax or painted marble, but their delicious perfume proved that they were real. Some little people, hidden in the corners, took pains to find this out. Between ourselves, Mother Mitchel made believe not to see them, and took the precaution of holding Fanfreluche in her arms so that he could not spring upon them. The fruits were all put into bins, each kind by itself. And now the preparations were finished. There was no time to lose before setting to work.
The spot which Mother Mitchel had chosen for her great edifice was a pretty hill on which a plateau formed a splendid site. This hill commanded the capital city, built upon the slope of another hill close by. After having beaten down the earth till it was as smooth as a floor, they spread over it loads of bread crumbs, brought from the baker's, and levelled it with rake and spade, as we do gravel in our garden walks. Little birds, as greedy as themselves, came in flocks to the feast, but they might eat as they liked, it would never be missed, so thick was the carpet. It was a great chance for the bold little things.
All the ingredients for the tart were now ready. Upon order of Mother Mitchel they began to peel the apples and pears and to take out the pips. The weather was so pleasant that the girls sat out of doors, upon the ground, in long rows. The sun looked down upon them with a merry face. Each of the little workers had a big earthen pan, and peeled incessantly the apples which the boys brought them. When the pans were full, they were carried away and others were brought. They had also to carry away the peels, or the girls would have been buried in them. Never was there such a peeling before.
Not far away, the children were stoning the plums, cherries, and peaches. This work, being the easiest, was given to the youngest and most inexperienced hands, which were all first carefully washed, for Mother Mitchel, though not very particular about her own toilet, was very neat in her cooking. The schoolhouse, long unused (for in the country of the Greedy they had forgotten everything), was arranged for this second class of workers, and the cat was their inspector. He walked round and round, growling if he saw the fruit popping into any of the little mouths. If they had dared, how they would have pelted him with plum stones! But no one risked it. Fanfreluche was not to be trifled with.
In those days powdered sugar had not been invented, and to grate it all was no small affair. It was the work that the grocers used to dislike the most; both lungs and arms were soon tired. But Mother Mitchel was there to sustain them with her unequalled energy. She chose the labourers from the most robust of the boys. With mallet and knife she broke the cones into round pieces, and they grated them till they were too small to hold. The bits were put into baskets to be pounded. One would never have expected to find all the thousand pounds of sugar again. But a new miracle was wrought by Mother Mitchel. It was all there!
It was then the turn of the ambitious scullions to enter the lists and break the seven thousand eggs for Mother Mitchel. It was not hard to break them—any fool could do that; but to separate adroitly the yolks and the whites demands some talent, and, above all, great care. We dare not say that there were no accidents here, no eggs too well scrambled, no baskets upset. But the experience of Mother Mitchel had counted upon such things, and it may truly be said that there were never so many eggs broken at once, or ever could be again. To make an omelette of them would have taken a saucepan as large as a skating pond, and the fattest cook that ever lived could not hold the handle of such a saucepan.
But this was not all. Now that the yolks and whites were once divided, they must each be beaten separately in wooden bowls, to give them the necessary lightness. The egg beaters were marshalled into two brigades, the yellow and the white. Every one preferred the white, for it was much more amusing to make those snowy masses that rose up so high than to beat the yolks, which knew no better than to mix together like so much sauce. Mother Mitchel, with her usual wisdom, had avoided this difficulty by casting lots. Thus, those who were not on the white side had no reason to complain of oppression. And truly, when all was done, the whites and the yellows were equally tired. All had cramps in their hands.
Now began the real labour of Mother Mitchel. Till now she had been the commander-in-chief—the head only; now she put her own finger in the pie. First, she had to make sweetmeats and jam out of all the immense quantity of fruit she had stored. For this, as she could only do one kind at a time, she had ten kettles, each as big as a dinner table. During forty-eight hours the cooking went on; a dozen scullions blew the fire and put on the fuel. Mother Mitchel, with a spoon that four modern cooks could hardly lift, never ceased stirring and trying the boiling fruit. Three expert tasters, chosen from the most dainty, had orders to report progress every half hour.
It is unnecessary to state that all the sweetmeats were perfectly successful, or that they were of exquisite consistency, colour, and perfume. With Mother Mitchel there was no such word as fail. When each kind of sweetmeat was finished, she skimmed it, and put it away to cool in enormous bowls before potting. She did not use for this the usual little glass or earthen jars, but great stone ones, like those in the "Forty Thieves." Not only did these take less time to fill, but they were safe from the children. The scum and the scrapings were something, to be sure. But there was little Toto, who thought this was not enough. He would have jumped into one of the bowls if they had not held him.
Mother Mitchel, who thought of everything, had ordered two hundred great kneading troughs, wishing that all the utensils of this great work should be perfectly new. These two hundred troughs, like her other materials, were all delivered punctually and in good order. The pastry cooks rolled up their sleeves and began to knead the dough with cries of "Hi! Hi!" that could be heard for miles. It was odd to see this army of bakers in serried ranks, all making the same gestures at once, like well-disciplined soldiers, stooping and rising together in time, so that a foreign ambassador wrote to his court that he wished his people could load and fire as well as these could knead. Such praise a people never forgets.
When each troughful of paste was approved it was moulded with care into the form of bricks, and with the aid of the engineer-in-chief, a young genius who had gained the first prize in the school of architecture, the majestic edifice was begun. Mother Mitchel herself drew the plan; in following her directions, the young engineer showed himself modest beyond all praise. He had the good sense to understand that the architecture of tarts and pies had rules of its own, and that therefore the experience of Mother Mitchel was worth all the scientific theories in the world.
The inside of the monument was divided into as many compartments as there were kinds of fruits. The walls were no less than four feet thick. When they were finished, twenty-four ladders were set up, and twenty-four experienced cooks ascended them. These first-class artists were each of them armed with an enormous cooking spoon. Behind them, on the lower rounds of the ladders, followed the kitchen boys, carrying on their heads pots and pans filled to the brim with jam and sweetmeats, each sort ready to be poured into its destined compartment. This colossal labour was accomplished in one day, and with wonderful exactness.
When the sweetmeats were used to the last drop, when the great spoons had done all their work, the twenty-four cooks descended to earth again. The intrepid Mother Mitchel, who had never quitted the spot, now ascended, followed by the noble Fanfreluche, and dipped her finger into each of the compartments, to assure herself that everything was right. This part of her duty was not disagreeable, and many of the scullions would have liked to perform it. But they might have lingered too long over the enchanting task. As for Mother Mitchel, she had been too well used to sweets to be excited now. She only wished to do her duty and to insure success.
All went on well. Mother Mitchel had given her approbation. Nothing was needed now but to crown the sublime and delicious edifice by placing upon it the crust—that is, the roof, or dome. This delicate operation was confided to the engineer-in-chief who now showed his superior genius. The dome, made beforehand of a single piece, was raised in the air by means of twelve balloons, whose force of ascension had been carefully calculated. First it was directed, by ropes, exactly over the top of the tart; then at the word of command it gently descended upon the right spot. It was not a quarter of an inch out of place. This was a great triumph for Mother Mitchel and her able assistant.
But all was not over. How should this colossal tart be cooked? That was the question that agitated all the people of the Greedy country, who came in crowds—lords and commons—to gaze at the wonderful spectacle.
Some of the envious or ill-tempered declared it would be impossible to cook the edifice which Mother Mitchel had built; and the doctors were, no one knows why, the saddest of all. Mother Mitchel, smiling at the general bewilderment, mounted the summit of the tart; she waved her crutch in the air, and while her cat miaowed in his sweetest voice, suddenly there issued from the woods a vast number of masons, drawing wagons of well-baked bricks, which they had prepared in secret. This sight silenced the ill-wishers and filled the hearts of the Greedy with hope.
In two days an enormous furnace was built around and above the colossal tart, which found itself shut up in an immense earthen pot. Thirty huge mouths, which were connected with thousands of winding pipes for conducting heat all over the building, were soon choked with fuel, by the help of two hundred charcoal burners, who, obeying a private signal, came forth in long array from the forest, each carrying his sack of coal. Behind them stood Mother Mitchel with a box of matches, ready to fire each oven as it was filled. Of course the kindlings had not been forgotten, and was all soon in a blaze.
When the fire was lighted in the thirty ovens, when they saw the clouds of smoke rolling above the dome, that announced that the cooking had begun, the joy of the people was boundless. Poets improvised odes, and musicians sung verses without end, in honour of the superb prince who had been inspired to feed his people in so dainty a manner, when other rulers could not give them enough even of dry bread. The names of Mother Mitchel and of the illustrious engineer were not forgotten in this great glorification. Next to His Majesty, they were certainly the first of mankind, and their names were worthy of going down with his to the remotest posterity.
All the envious ones were thunderstruck. They tried to console themselves by saying that the work was not yet finished, and that an accident might happen at the last moment. But they did not really believe a word of this. Notwithstanding all their efforts to look cheerful, it had to be acknowledged that the cooking was possible. Their last resource was to declare the tart a bad one, but that would be biting off their own noses. As for declining to eat it, envy could never go so far as that in the country of the Greedy.
After two days, the unerring nose of Mother Mitchel discovered that the tart was cooked to perfection. The whole country was perfumed with its delicious aroma. Nothing more remained but to take down the furnaces. Mother Mitchel made her official announcement to His Majesty, who was delighted, and complimented her upon her punctuality. One day was still wanting to complete the month. During this time the people gave their eager help to the engineer in the demolition, wishing to have a hand in the great national work and to hasten the blessed moment. In the twinkling of an eye the thing was done. The bricks were taken down one by one, counted carefully, and carried into the forest again, to serve for another occasion.
The TART, unveiled, appeared at last in all its majesty and splendour. The dome was gilded, and reflected the rays of the sun in the most dazzling manner. The wildest excitement and rapture ran through the land of the Greedy. Each one sniffed with open nostrils the appetizing perfume. Their mouths watered, their eyes filled with tears, they embraced, pressed each other's hands, and indulged in touching pantomimes. Then the people of town and country, united by one rapturous feeling, joined hands, and danced in a ring around the grand confection.
No one dared to touch the tart before the arrival of His Majesty. Meanwhile, something must be done to allay the universal impatience, and they resolved to show Mother Mitchel the gratitude with which all hearts were filled. She was crowned with the laurel of conquerors, which is also the laurel of sauce, thus serving a double purpose. Then they placed her, with her crutch and her cat, upon a sort of throne, and carried her all round her vast work. Before her marched all the musicians of the town, dancing, drumming, fifing, and tooting upon all instruments, while behind her pressed an enthusiastic crowd, who rent the air with their plaudits and filled it with a shower of caps. Her fame was complete, and a noble pride shone on her countenance.
The royal procession arrived. A grand stairway had been built, so that the King and his ministers could mount to the summit of this monumental tart. Thence the King, amid a deep silence, thus addressed his people:
"My children," said he, "you adore tarts. You despise all other food. If you could, you would even eat tarts in your sleep. Very well. Eat as much as you like. Here is one big enough to satisfy you. But know this, that while there remains a single crumb of this august tart, from the height of which I am proud to look down on you, all other food is forbidden you on pain of death. While you are here, I have ordered all the pantries to be emptied, and all the butchers, bakers, pork and milk dealers, and fishmongers to shut up their shops. Why leave them open? Why indeed? Have you not here at discretion what you love best, and enough to last you ever, ever so long? Devote yourselves to it with all your hearts. I do not wish you to be bored with the sight of any other food.
"Greedy ones! behold your TART!"
What enthusiastic applause, what frantic hurrahs rent the air, in answer to this eloquent speech from the throne!
"Long live the King, Mother Mitchel, and her cat! Long live the tart! Down with soup! Down with bread! To the bottom of the sea with all beefsteaks, mutton chops, and roasts!"
Such cries came from every lip. Old men gently stroked their chops, children patted their little stomachs, the crowd licked its thousand lips with eager joy. Even the babies danced in their nurses' arms, so precocious was the passion for tarts in this singular country. Grave professors, skipping like kids, declaimed Latin verses in honour of His Majesty and Mother Mitchel, and the shyest young girls opened their mouths like the beaks of little birds. As for the doctors, they felt a joy beyond expression. They had reflected. They understood. But—my friends!—
At last the signal was given. A detachment of the engineer corps arrived, armed with pick and cutlass, and marched in good order to the assault. A breach was soon opened, and the distribution began. The King smiled at the opening in the tart; though vast, it hardly showed more than a mouse hole in the monstrous wall.
The King stroked his beard grandly. "All goes well," said he, "for him who knows how to wait."
Who can tell how long the feast would have lasted if the King had not given his command that it should cease? Once more they expressed their gratitude with cries so stifled that they resembled grunts, and then rushed to the river. Never had a nation been so besmeared. Some were daubed to the eyes, others had their ears and hair all sticky. As for the little ones, they were marmalade from head to foot. When they had finished their toilets, the river ran all red and yellow and was sweetened for several hours, to the great surprise of all the fishes.
Before returning home, the people presented themselves before the King to receive his commands.
"Children!" said he, "the feast will begin again exactly at six o'clock. Give time to wash the dishes and change the tablecloths, and you may once more give yourselves over to pleasure. You shall feast twice a day as long as the tart lasts. Do not forget. Yes! if there is not enough in this one, I will even order ANOTHER from Mother Mitchel; for you know that great woman is indefatigable. Your happiness is my only aim." (Marks of universal joy and emotion.) "You understand? Noon, and six o'clock! There is no need for me to say be punctual! Go, then, my children—be happy!"
The second feast was as gay as the first, and as long. A pleasant walk in the suburbs—first exercise—then a nap, had refreshed their appetites and unlimbered their jaws. But the King fancied that the breach made in the tart was a little smaller than that of the morning.
"'Tis well!" said he, "'tis well! Wait till to-morrow, my friends; yes, till day after to-morrow, and next week!"
The next day the feast still went on gayly; yet at the evening meal the King noticed some empty seats.
"Why is this?" said he, with pretended indifference, to the court physician.
"Your Majesty," said the great Olibriers, "a few weak stomachs; that is all."
On the next day there were larger empty spaces. The enthusiasm visibly abated. The eighth day the crowd had diminished one half; the ninth, three quarters; the tenth day, of the thousand who came at first, only two hundred remained; on the eleventh day only one hundred; and on the twelfth—alas! who would have thought it?—a single one answered to the call. Truly he was big enough. His body resembled a hogshead, his mouth an oven, and his lips—we dare not say what. He was known in the town by the name of Patapouf. They dug out a fresh lump for him from the middle of the tart. It quickly vanished in his vast interior, and he retired with great dignity, proud to maintain the honour of his name and the glory of the Greedy Kingdom.
But the next day, even he, the very last, appeared no more. The unfortunate Patapouf had succumbed, and, like all the other inhabitants of the country, was in a very bad way. In short, it was soon known that the whole town had suffered agonies that night from too much tart. Let us draw a veil over those hours of torture. Mother Mitchel was in despair. Those ministers who had not guessed the secret dared not open their lips. All the city was one vast hospital. No one was seen in the streets but doctors and apothecaries' boys, running from house to house in frantic haste. It was dreadful! Doctor Olibriers was nearly knocked out. As for the King, he held his tongue and shut himself up in his palace, but a secret joy shone in his eyes, to the wonder of every one. He waited three days without a word.
The third day, the King said to his ministers:
"Let us go now and see how my poor people are doing, and feel their pulse a little."
The good King went to every house, without forgetting a single one. He visited small and great, rich and poor.
"Oh, oh! Your Majesty," said all, "the tart was good, but may we never see it again! Plague on that tart! Better were dry bread. Your Majesty, for mercy's sake, a little dry bread! Oh, a morsel of dry bread, how good it would be!"
"No, indeed," replied the King. "There is more of that tart!"
"What! Your Majesty, must we eat it all?"
"You must!" sternly replied the King; "you MUST! By the immortal beefsteaks! not one of you shall have a slice of bread, and not a loaf shall be baked in the kingdom while there remains a crumb of that excellent tart!"
"What misery!" thought these poor people. "That tart forever!"
The sufferers were in despair. There was only one cry through all the town: "Ow! ow! ow!" For even the strongest and most courageous were in horrible agonies. They twisted, they writhed, they lay down, they got up. Always the inexorable colic. The dogs were not happier than their masters; even they had too much tart.
The spiteful tart looked in at all the windows. Built upon a height, it commanded the town. The mere sight of it made everybody ill, and its former admirers had nothing but curses for it now. Unhappily, nothing they could say or do made it any smaller; still formidable, it was a frightful joke for those miserable mortals. Most of them buried their heads in their pillows, drew their nightcaps over their eyes, and lay in bed all day to shut out the sight of it. But this would not do; they knew, they felt it was there. It was a nightmare, a horrible burden, a torturing anxiety.
In the midst of this terrible consternation the King remained inexorable during eight days. His heart bled for his people, but the lesson must sink deep if it were to bear fruit in future. When their pains were cured, little by little, through fasting alone, and his subjects pronounced these trembling words, "We are hungry!" the King sent them trays laden with—the inevitable tart.
"Ah!" cried they, with anguish, "the tart again! Always the tart, and nothing but the tart! Better were death!"
A few, who were almost famished, shut their eyes, and tried to eat a bit of the detested food; but it was all in vain—they could not swallow a mouthful.
At length came the happy day when the King, thinking their punishment had been severe enough and could never be forgotten, believed them at length cured of their greediness. That day he ordered Mother Mitchel to make in one of her colossal pots a super-excellent soup of which a bowl was sent to every family. They received it with as much rapture as the Hebrews did the manna in the desert. They would gladly have had twice as much, but after their long fast it would not have been prudent. It was a proof that they had learned something already, that they understood this.
The next day, more soup. This time the King allowed slices of bread in it. How this good soup comforted all the town! The next day there was a little more bread in it and a little soup meat. Then for a few days the kind Prince gave them roast beef and vegetables. The cure was complete.
The joy over this new diet was as great as ever had been felt for the tart. It promised to last longer. They were sure to sleep soundly, and to wake refreshed. It was pleasant to see in every house tables surrounded with happy, rosy faces, and laden with good nourishing food.
The Greedy people never fell back into their old ways. Their once puffed-out, sallow faces shone with health; they became, not fat, but muscular, ruddy, and solid. The butchers and bakers reopened their shops; the pastry cooks and confectioners shut theirs. The country of the Greedy was turned upside down, and if it kept its name, it was only from habit. As for the tart, it was forgotten. To-day, in that marvellous country, there cannot be found a paper of sugarplums or a basket of cakes. It is charming to see the red lips and the beautiful teeth of the people. If they have still a king, he may well be proud to be their ruler.
Does this story teach that tarts and pies should never be eaten? No; but there is reason in all things.
The doctors alone did not profit by this great revolution. They could not afford to drink wine any longer in a land where indigestion had become unknown. The apothecaries were no less unhappy, spiders spun webs over their windows, and their horrible remedies were no longer of use.
Ask no more about Mother Mitchel. She was ridiculed without measure by those who had adored her. To complete her misfortune, she lost her cat. Alas for Mother Mitchel!
The King received the reward of his wisdom. His grateful people called him neither Charles the Bold, nor Peter the Terrible, nor Louis the Great, but always by the noble name of Prosper I, the Reasonable.
BY MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN.
This tale is evidence that Mrs. Freeman understands the children of New England as well as she knows their parents. There is a doll in the story, but boys will not mind this as there are also two turkey-gobblers and a pewter dish full of Revolutionary bullets.
Submit Thompson sat on the stone wall; Sarah Adams, an erect, prim little figure, ankle-deep in dry grass, stood beside it, holding Thankful. Thankful was about ten inches long, made of the finest linen, with little rosy cheeks, and a fine little wig of flax. She wore a blue wool frock and a red cloak. Sarah held her close. She even drew a fold of her own blue homespun blanket around her to shield her from the November wind. The sky was low and gray; the wind blew from the northeast, and had the breath of snow in it. Submit on the wall drew her quilted petticoats close down over her feet, and huddled herself into a small space, but her face gleamed keen and resolute out of the depths of a great red hood that belonged to her mother. Her eyes were fixed upon a turkey-gobbler ruffling and bobbing around the back door of the Adams house. The two gambrel-roofed Thompson and Adams houses were built as close together as if the little village of Bridgewater were a city. Acres of land stretched behind them and at the other sides, but they stood close to the road, and close to each other. The narrow space between them was divided by a stone wall which was Submit's and Sarah's trysting-place. They met there every day and exchanged confidences. They loved each other like sisters—neither of them had an own sister—but to-day a spirit of rivalry had arisen.
[Footnote 1: From Harper's Young People, November 25, 1890.]
The tough dry blackberry vines on the wall twisted around Submit; she looked, with her circle of red petticoat, like some strange late flower blooming out on the wall. "I know he don't, Sarah Adams," said she.
"Father said he'd weigh twenty pounds," returned Sarah, in a small, weak voice, which still had persistency in it.
"I don't believe he will. Our Thanksgiving turkey is twice as big. You know he is, Sarah Adams."
"No, I don't, Submit Thompson."
"Yes, you do."
Sarah lowered her chin, and shook her head with a decision that was beyond words. She was a thin, delicate-looking little girl, her small blue-clad figure bent before the wind, but there was resolution in her high forehead and her sharp chin.
Submit nodded violently.
Sarah shook her head again. She hugged Thankful, and shook her head, with her eyes still staring defiantly into Submit's hood.
Submit's black eyes in the depths of it were like two sparks. She nodded vehemently; the gesture was not enough for her; she nodded and spoke together. "Sarah Adams," said she, "what will you give me if our turkey is bigger than your turkey?"
"What will you give me if it is?"
Sarah stared at Submit. "I don't know what you mean, Submit Thompson," said she, with a stately and puzzled air.
"Well, I'll tell you. If your turkey weighs more than ours I'll give you—I'll give you my little work-box with the picture on the top, and if our turkey weighs more than yours you give me—What will you give me, Sarah Adams?"
Sarah hung her flaxen head with a troubled air. "I don't know," said she. "I don't believe I've got anything mother would be willing to have me give away."
"There's Thankful. Your mother wouldn't care if you gave her away."
Sarah started, and hugged Thankful closer. "Yes, my mother would care, too," said she. "Don't you know my Aunt Rose from Boston made her and gave her to me?"
Sarah's beautiful young Aunt Rose from Boston was the special admiration of both the little girls. Submit was ordinarily impressed by her name, but now she took it coolly.
"What if she did?" she returned. "She can make another. It's just made out of a piece of old linen, anyhow. My work-box is real handsome; but you can do just as you are a mind to."
"Do you mean I can have the work-box to keep?" inquired Sarah.
"Course I do, if your turkey's bigger."
Sarah hesitated. "Our turkey is bigger anyhow," she murmured. "Don't you think I ought to ask mother, Submit?" she inquired suddenly.
"No! What for? I don't see anything to ask your mother for. She won't care anything about that rag doll."
"Ain't you going to ask your mother about the work-box?"
"No," replied Submit stoutly. "It's mine; my grandmother gave it to me."
Sarah reflected. "I know our turkey is the biggest," she said, looking lovingly at Thankful, as if to justify herself to her. "Well, I don't care," she added, finally.
"When's yours going to be killed?"
"So's ours. Then we'll find out."
Sarah tucked Thankful closer under her shawl. "I know our turkey is biggest," said she. She looked very sober, although her voice was defiant. Just then the great turkey came swinging through the yard. He held up his head proudly and gobbled. His every feather stood out in the wind. He seemed enormous—a perfect giant among turkeys. "Look at him!" said Sarah, edging a little closer to the wall; she was rather afraid of him.
"He ain't half so big as ours," returned Submit, stoutly; but her heart sank. The Thompson turkey did look very large.
"Submit! Submit!" called a voice from the Thompson house.
Submit slowly got down from the wall. "His feathers are a good deal thicker than ours," she said, defiantly, to Sarah.
"Submit," called the voice, "come right home! I want you to pare apples for the pies. Be quick!"
"Yes, marm," Submit answered back, in a shrill voice; "I'm coming!" Then she went across the yard and into the kitchen door of the Thompson house, like a red robin into a nest. Submit had been taught to obey her mother promptly. Mrs. Thompson was a decided woman.
Sarah looked after Submit, then she gathered Thankful closer, and also went into the house. Her mother, as well as Mrs. Thompson, was preparing for Thanksgiving. The great kitchen was all of a pleasant litter with pie plates and cake pans and mixing bowls, and full of warm, spicy odours. The oven in the chimney was all heated and ready for a batch of apple and pumpkin pies. Mrs. Adams was busy sliding them in, but she stopped to look at Sarah and Thankful. Sarah was her only child.
"Why, what makes you look so sober?" said she.
"Nothing," replied Sarah. She had taken off her blanket, and sat in one of the straight-backed kitchen chairs, holding Thankful.
"You look dreadful sober," said her mother. "Are you tired?"
"I'm afraid you've got cold standing out there in the wind. Do you feel chilly?"
"No, marm. Mother, how much do you suppose our turkey weighs?"
"I believe father said he'd weigh about twenty pounds. You are sure you don't feel chilly?"
"No, marm. Mother, do you suppose our turkey weighs more than Submit's?"
"How do you suppose I can tell? I ain't set eyes on their turkey lately. If you feel well, you'd better sit up to the table and stone that bowl of raisins. Put your dolly away, and get your apron."
But Sarah stoned raisins with Thankful in her lap, hidden under her apron. She was so full of anxiety that she could not bear to put her away. Suppose the Thompson turkey should be larger, and she should lose Thankful—Thankful that her beautiful Aunt Rose had made for her?
Submit, over in the Thompson house, had sat down at once to her apple paring. She had not gone into the best room to look at the work-box whose possession she had hazarded. It stood in there on the table, made of yellow satiny wood, with a sliding lid ornamented with a beautiful little picture. Submit had a certain pride in it, but her fear of losing it was not equal to her hope of possessing Thankful. Submit had never had a doll, except a few plebeian ones, manufactured secretly out of corncobs, whom it took more imagination than she possessed to admire.
Gradually all emulation over the turkeys was lost in the naughty covetousness of her little friend and neighbour's doll. Submit felt shocked and guilty, but she sat there paring the Baldwin apples, and thinking to herself: "If our turkey is only bigger, if it only is, then—I shall have Thankful." Her mouth was pursed up and her eyes snapped. She did not talk at all, but pared very fast.
Her mother looked at her. "If you don't take care, you'll cut your fingers," said she. "You are in too much of a hurry. I suppose you want to get out and gossip with Sarah again at the wall, but I can't let you waste any more time to-day. There, I told you you would!"
Submit had cut her thumb quite severely. She choked a little when her mother tied it up, and put on some balm of Gilead, which made it smart worse.
"Don't cry!" said her mother. "You'll have to bear more than a cut thumb if you live."
And Submit did not let the tears fall. She came from a brave race. Her great-grandfather had fought in the Revolution; his sword and regimentals were packed in the fine carved chest in the best room. Over the kitchen shelf hung an old musket with which her great-grandmother, guarding her home and children, had shot an Indian. In a little closet beside the chimney was an old pewter dish full of homemade Revolutionary bullets, which Submit and her brothers had for playthings. A little girl who played with Revolutionary bullets ought not to cry over a cut thumb.
Submit finished paring the apples after her thumb was tied up, although she was rather awkward about it. Then she pounded spices in the mortar, and picked over cranberries. Her mother kept her busy every minute until dinnertime. When Submit's father and her two brothers, Thomas and Jonas, had come in, she began on the subject nearest her heart.
"Father," said she, "how much do you think our Thanksgiving turkey will weigh?"
Mr. Thompson was a deliberate man. He looked at her a minute before replying. "Seventeen or eighteen pounds," replied he.
"Oh, Father! don't you think he will weigh twenty?" Mr. Thompson shook his head.
"He don't begin to weigh so much as the Adams' turkey," said Jonas. "Their turkey weighs twenty pounds."
"Oh, Thomas! do you think their turkey weighs more than ours?" cried Submit.
Thomas was her elder brother; he had a sober, judicial air like his father. "Their turkey weighs considerable more than ours," said he.
Submit's face fell.
"You are not showing a right spirit," said her mother, severely. "Why should you care if the Adams' turkey does weigh more? I am ashamed of you!"
Submit said no more. She ate her dinner soberly. Afterward she wiped dishes while her mother washed. All the time she was listening. Her father and brothers had gone out; presently she started. "Oh, Mother, they're killing the turkey!" said she.
"Well, don't stop while the dishes are hot, if they are," returned her mother.
Submit wiped obediently, but as soon as the dishes were set away, she stole out in the barn where her father and brothers were picking the turkey.
"Father, when are you going to weigh him?" she asked timidly.
"Not till to-night," said her father.
"Submit!" called her mother.
Submit went in and swept the kitchen floor. It was an hour after that, when her mother was in the south room, getting it ready for her grandparents, who were coming home to Thanksgiving—they had been on a visit to their youngest son—that Submit crept slyly into the pantry. The turkey lay there on the broad shelf before the window. Submit looked at him. She thought he was small. "He was 'most all feathers," she whispered, ruefully. She stood looking disconsolately at the turkey. Suddenly her eyes flashed and a red flush came over her face. It was as if Satan, coming into that godly new England home three days before Thanksgiving, had whispered in her ear.
Presently Submit stole softly back into the kitchen, set a chair before the chimney cupboard, climbed up, and got the pewter dish full of Revolutionary bullets. Then she stole back to the pantry and emptied the bullets into the turkey's crop. Then she got a needle and thread from her mother's basket, sewed up the crop carefully, and set the empty dish back in the cupboard. She had just stepped down out of the chair when her brother Jonas came in.
"Submit," said he, "let's have one game of odd or even with the bullets."
"I am too busy," said Submit. "I've got to spin my stint."
"Just one game. Mother won't care."
"No; I can't."
Submit flew to her spinning wheel in the corner. Jonas, still remonstrating, strolled into the pantry.
"I don't believe mother wants you in there," Submit said anxiously.
"See here, Submit," Jonas called out in an eager voice, "I'll get the steelyards, and we'll weigh the turkey. We can do it as well as anybody."
Submit left her spinning wheel. She was quite pale with trepidation when Jonas and she adjusted the turkey in the steelyards. What if those bullets should rattle out? But they did not.
"He weighs twenty pounds and a quarter," announced Jonas, with a gasp, after peering anxiously at the figures. "He's the biggest turkey that was ever raised in these parts."
Jonas exulted a great deal, but Submit did not say much. As soon as Jonas had laid the turkey back on the shelf and gone out, she watched her chance and removed the bullets, replacing them in the pewter dish.
When Mr. Thompson and Thomas came home at twilight there was a deal of talk over the turkey.
"The Adams' turkey doesn't weigh but nineteen pounds," Jonas announced. "Sarah was out there when they weighed him, and she 'most cried."
"I think Sarah and Submit and all of you are very foolish about it," said Mrs. Thompson severely. "What difference does it make if one weighs a pound or two more than the other, if there is enough to go round?"
"Submit looks as if she was sorry ours weighed the most now," said Jonas.
"My thumb aches," said Submit.
"Go and get the balm of Gilead bottle, and put some more on," ordered her mother.
That night when she went to bed she could not say her prayers. When she woke in the morning it was with a strange, terrified feeling, as if she had climbed a wall into some unknown dreadful land. She wondered if Sarah would bring Thankful over; she dreaded to see her coming, but she did not come. Submit herself did not stir out of the house all that day or the next, and Sarah did not bring Thankful until next morning.
They were all out in the kitchen about an hour before dinner. Grandfather Thompson sat in his old armchair at one corner of the fireplace, Grandmother Thompson was knitting, and Jonas and Submit were cracking butternuts. Submit was a little happier this morning. She thought Sarah would never bring Thankful, and so she had not done so much harm by cheating in the weight of the turkey.
There was a tug at the latch of the kitchen door; it was pushed open slowly and painfully, and Sarah entered with Thankful in her arms. She said not a word to anybody, but her little face was full of woe. She went straight to Submit, and laid Thankful in her lap; then she turned and fled with a great sob. The door slammed after her. All the Thompsons stopped and looked at Submit.
"Submit, what does this mean?" her father asked.
Submit looked at him, trembling.
"Speak," said he.
"Submit, mind your father," said Mrs. Thompson.
"What did she bring you the doll baby for?" asked Grandmother Thompson.
"Sarah—was going to give me Thankful if—our turkey weighed most, and I was going to—give her my work-box if hers weighed most," said Submit jerkily. Her lips felt stiff.
Her father looked very sober and stern. He turned to his father. When Grandfather Thompson was at home, every one deferred to him. Even at eighty he was the recognized head of the house. He was a wonderful old man, tall and soldierly, and full of a grave dignity. He looked at Submit, and she shrank.
"Do you know," said he, "that you have been conducting yourself like unto the brawlers in the taverns and ale-houses?"
"Yes, sir," murmured Submit, although she did not know what he meant.
"No godly maid who heeds her elders will take part in any such foolish and sinful wager," her grandfather continued.
Submit arose, hugging Thankful convulsively. She glanced wildly at her great-grandmother's musket over the shelf. The same spirit that had aimed it at the Indian possessed her, and she spoke out quite clearly: "Our turkey didn't weigh the most," said she. "I put the Revolutionary bullets in his crop."
There was silence. Submit's heart beat so hard that Thankful quivered.
"Go upstairs to your chamber, Submit," said her mother, "and you need not come down to dinner. Jonas, take that doll and carry it over to the Adams' house."
Submit crept miserably out of the room, and Jonas carried Thankful across the yard to Sarah.
Submit crouched beside her little square window set with tiny panes of glass, and watched him. She did not cry. She was very miserable, but confession had awakened a salutary smart in her soul, like the balm of Gilead on her cut thumb. She was not so unhappy as she had been. She wondered if her father would whip her, and she made up her mind not to cry if he did.
After Jonas came back she still crouched at the window. Exactly opposite in the Adams' house was another little square window, and that lighted Sarah's chamber. All of a sudden Sarah's face appeared there. The two little girls stared pitifully at each other. Presently Sarah raised her window, and put a stick under it; then Submit did the same. They put their faces out, and looked at each other a minute before speaking. Sarah's face was streaming with tears.
"What you crying for?" called Submit softly.
"Father sent me up here 'cause it is sinful to—make bets, and Aunt Rose has come, and I can't have any—Thanksgiving dinner," wailed Sarah.
"I'm wickeder than you," said Submit. "I put the Revolutionary bullets in the turkey to make it weigh more than yours. Yours weighed the most. If mother thinks it's right, I'll give you the work-box."
"I don't—want it," sobbed Sarah. "I'm dreadful sorry you've got to stay up there, and can't have any dinner, Submit."
Answering tears sprang to Submit's eyes. "I'm dreadful sorry you've got to stay up there, and can't have any dinner," she sobbed back.
There was a touch on her shoulder. She looked around and there stood the grandmother. She was trying to look severe, but she was beaming kindly on her. Her fat, fair old face was as gentle as the mercy that tempers justice; her horn spectacles and her knitting needles and the gold beads on her neck all shone in the sunlight.
"You had better come downstairs, child," said she. "Dinner's 'most ready, and mebbe you can help your mother. Your father isn't going to whip you this time, because you told the truth about it, but you mustn't ever do such a dreadful wicked thing again."
"No, I won't," sobbed Submit. She looked across, and there beside Sarah's face in the window was another beautiful smiling one. It had pink cheeks and sweet black eyes and black curls, among which stood a high tortoise-shell comb.
"Oh, Submit!" Sarah called out, joyfully, "Aunt Rose says I can go down to dinner!"
"Grandmother says I can!" called back Submit.
The beautiful smiling face opposite leaned close to Sarah's for a minute.
"Oh, Submit!" cried Sarah, "Aunt Rose says she will make you a doll baby like Thankful, if your mother's willing!"
"I guess she'll be willing if she's a good girl," called Grandmother Thompson.
Submit looked across a second in speechless radiance. Then the faces vanished from the two little windows, and Submit and Sarah went down to their Thanksgiving dinners.
BEETLE RING'S THANKSGIVING MASCOT
BY SHELDON C. STODDARD.
Beetle Ring had the reputation of being the toughest lumber camp on the river. The boys were certainly rough, and rather hard drinkers, but their hearts were in the right place, after all.
Six months of idleness following a long run of fever, a lost position, and consequent discouragement had brought poverty and wretchedness to Joe Bennett.
The lumber camp on the Featherstone, where he had been at work, had broken up and gone, and an old shack, deserted by some hunter, and now standing alone in the great woods, was the only home he could provide for his little family. It had answered its purpose as a makeshift in the warm weather, but now, in late November, and with the terrible northern winter coming swiftly on, it was small wonder the young lumberman had been discouraged as he tried to forecast the future.
His strength had returned, however, and lately something of his old courage, for he had found work. It was fifteen miles away, to be sure, and in "Beetle Ring" lumber camp, the camp that bore the reputation of being the roughest on the Featherstone, but it was work.
[Footnote 2: From the Youth's Companion, November 30, 1905.]
He was earning something, and might hope soon to move his family into a habitable house and civilization.
But his position at Beetle Ring was not an enviable one. The men took scant pains to conceal their dislike for the young fellow who steadfastly refused to "chip in" when the camp jug was sent to the Skylark, the nearest saloon, some miles down the river, and who invariably declined to join in the camp's numerous sprees. But Bennett worked on quietly.
And in the meantime to the old shack in the woods the baby had come—in the bleak November weather.
Night was settling down over the woods. An old half-breed woman was tending the fire in the one room of the shack, and on the wretched bed lay a fair-faced woman, the young wife and mother, who looked wistfully out at the bleak woods, white with the first snow, then turned her wan, pale face toward the tiny bundle at her side.
"Your pappy will come to-night, baby," she said, softly. "It's Saturday, and your pappy will come to-night, sure." She drew the covers more closely, and tucked them carefully about the small figure.
"Mend the fire, Lisette, please. It's cold. And, Lisette, please watch out down the road. Sometimes Joe comes early Saturdays."
The old woman shook her head and muttered over the little pile of wood, but she fed the fire, and then turned and looked down the long white trail.
"No Joe yet," she said, with a sympathetic glance toward the bed. She looked at the thick gray clouds, and added, "Heap snow soon."
But the night came down and the evening passed, while the women waited anxiously. It was near midnight when the wife's face lighted up suddenly at a sound outside, and directly there was a pounding, uncertain step on the threshold. The door opened and Bennett came in clumsily.
The woman's little glad cry of welcome was changed to one of apprehension at her husband's appearance. The resolute swing and bearing of the lumberman—that had returned as he regained his strength—were gone. He clumped across the room unsteadily on a pair of rude crutches, his left foot swathed in bandages—a big, ungainly bundle.
"What is it, Joe?" the wife asked anxiously.
"Just more of my precious luck, that's all, Nannie." He threw off the old box coat and heavy cap, brushed the melting snow from his hair and beard, and without waiting to warm his chilled hands at the fire, hobbled to the bed and bent over the woman and the tiny bundle.
"Are you all right, Nan?" he asked anxiously.
"All right, Joe; but I've been so worried!"
"And the baby, Nan?"
The wife gently pushed back the covers and proudly brought to view a tiny pink and puckered face. "Fine, Joe. She's just as fine, isn't she?"
A proud, happy light flickered for a moment in the man's eyes as he stooped to kiss the tiny face; then he shut his teeth hard and swallowed suddenly.
"What is it, Joe?" his wife asked, looking at the rudely bandaged foot.
"Cut it—nigh half off, and hurt the bone. It'll be weeks before I can do a stroke of work again. It means—I don't know what, and I daren't think what, Nannie. The cook sewed it up." He glowered at the injured member savagely.
His wife's face grew paler still, but she only asked tenderly, "How did you ever get here, Joe?"
"Rode one of Pose Breem's hosses—his red roan."
"Fifteen miles on horseback with that foot? I should have thought it would have killed you, Joe."
"I had to come, Nan," said the lumberman. "I didn't know how you were getting on, and I had to come."
"I didn't suppose they'd let you have a horse, any of 'em, now sleighing's come."
"They wouldn't—if I'd asked 'em. They don't seem to like me very well, and I didn't ask."
His wife's big, wistful eyes were turned upon him in quick alarm. "I'm scared, Joe, if you took a horse without asking. What'll they think? Where is it, Joe?"
"Don't ye worry, Nan. I've sent the horse back by Pikepole Pete. He'll have him back before morning—Pose won't miss him till then—and I wrote a note explaining. Pose will be mad some, but he'll get over it."
The young lumberman listened uneasily to the storm, which was increasing, looked at his wife's pale face a moment, and added:
"I had to come, Nan. I just had to."
But the woman was only half reassured. "If anything should happen," she said, "if he shouldn't get it back, they'd think you—you stole it, and—"
"There, there, Nan!" broke in her husband, "don't be crossing bridges. Pete'll take the horse back. I've done the fellow lots of favours, and he won't go back on me. Don't worry, girl!"
He moved the bandaged foot and winced, but not from the pain of the wound. The hard look grew deeper on his face. "I'm down on my luck, Nan," he said, hopelessly. "There's no use trying. Everything's against me, everything—following me like grim death. And grim death," he jerked the words out harshly, "is like to be the end of it, here in this old shack that's not fit to winter hogs in, let alone humans. There's not wood enough cut to last a week. You'll freeze, Nan, you and the baby, and I'm—just nothing."
He took two silver dollars from his pocket, and said, almost savagely, "There's what we've got to winter on, and me crippled."
But his wife put her hand on his softly. "Don't you give up so, Joe," she said. And presently she added: "Next Thursday's Thanksgiving. We've seen hard times, and we may see harder, but I never knew Thanksgiving to come yet without something to be thankful for—never."
Outside the storm continued, fine snow sifting down rapidly. "Pikepole Pete" found stiff work facing it, and bent low over the red roan's neck.
"Blue blazes!" he muttered. "Bennett's a good fellow all right, and he's hurt; but if he hadn't nigh saved my life twice he could get this critter back himself fer all of me!" He glanced at the dark woods and drew up suddenly. "The road forks here, and Turner's is yonder—less than a mile. I'll hitch in his barn a spell and go on later," and he took the Turner fork.
But at Turner's Pete found two or three congenial spirits—and a jug; and a few hours later the easy-going fellow was deep in a tipsy sleep that would last for hours.
The following Sunday morning came bright and clear upon freshly fallen snow that softened all the ruder outlines of town and field and woods. Beetle Ring camp lay wrapped in fleecy whiteness.
The camp was late astir, for Sunday was Beetle Ring's day—not of rest, but of carousal. Two men had started out rather early—the camp's jug delegation to the Skylark. Presently the men began to straggle out to the snug row of sheds where the horses were kept. Posey Breem yawned lazily as he threw open the door of his particular stall, then suddenly brought himself together with a jerk and stared fixedly.
"What ails you now, Pose? Seen a ghost?"
"Skid" Thomson stopped with the big measure of feed which he was carrying.
"No, I've seen no ghost," said Breem slowly, still staring. "Look here, Skid!" Thomson looked into the stall, and nearly dropped the measure.
"By George, Pose!" he said. "By—George!"
The news flew over the camp like wildfire. Posey Breem's red roan, the best horse in the camp, had been stolen! The burly lumbermen came hurrying from all directions. There was no doubt about it—the horse was gone, and the snow had covered every trace. There was absolutely no clue to follow. Silently and sullenly the men filed in to breakfast. In a lumberman's eyes hardly a crime could exceed that of horse stealing.
"What I want to know is," said Breem, as he glanced sharply round the long room of the camp, "what's become of that yellow-haired jay—Bennett?"
"By George!" said Skid Thomson, "that's right! Where is the critter?"
"Skipped!" said Bill Bates, sententiously, after a quick search had been made. "It's all plain enough now. I never liked the close-fisted critter."
"Nor I, either!" growled Skid. "Never chipped in with the boys, but was laying low just the same."
"You won't catch him, either," said Bates. "They're sharp—that kind. The critter knew 'twould snow and hide his tracks."
"And I'd just sewed up his blamed foot!" muttered the cook in disgust.
"Maybe we'll catch him. Up to Fat Pine two years ago," began Breem, reminiscently, "Big Donovan had a horse stole. They caught the fellow."
"Yes, I remember," said Skid Thomson. "I was there. We caught him up north." The men nodded understandingly and approvingly.
"Wuth a hundred and fifty dollars, the roan was," said Breem.
Beetle Ring camp passed an uneasy day, the "jug" for once receiving scant attention. Late in the afternoon "Trapper John," an old half-breed who hunted and trapped about the woods, stopped at the camp to get warm.
"Didn't see anybody with a horse last night or this morning, eh, John?" asked Posey Breem.
"Um, yes," responded the old trapper, quickly. "Saw um horse las' night—man ride—big foot—so." Old John held out his arms in exaggerated illustration.
Beetle Ring rose to its feet as one man. "What colour was the horse, John?" asked Breem softly.
"Huh! Can't see good after dark, but think um roan." Breem looked slowly round the silent camp, and Beetle Ring grimly made ready for business.
It was evening when the men stopped a few rods below the shack. A light shone out from a window, lighting up a little space in the sombre woods.
"The fellow's got pals prob'bly," said Posey Breem. "You wait here while I do a little scouting."
Breem crept cautiously into the circle of light, and glancing through the uncurtained window, saw his man—with his "pals." He saw upon the miserable bed a woman with a thin, pale face and sad, wistful eyes, eyes that yet lighted up with a beautiful pride as they rested upon the man, who sat close by, holding a tiny bundle in his arms.
The man shifted his position a little, so that the light fell upon the bundle, and then the watcher outside saw the sleeping face of a baby.
There was a rumour in the camp that Posey Breem had not always been the man that he was—that a woman had once blessed his life. But since they had carried the young mother away, with her dead baby on her breast, to place the two in one deep grave together, he had gone steadily downward.
With hungry eyes Breem gazed at the scene in the poor little house, his thoughts flying backward over the years. A sudden sharp, impatient whistle roused him, and he strode hastily back to the waiting men.
"Well, Pose?" interrogated Skid impatiently.
"He's there, all right," said Breem, in a peculiar tone. "I ain't overmuch given to advising prowling round folks' houses, but you fellows just look in yonder." He jerked his head toward the shack. And a line of big, rough-looking men filed into the little illumined space, to come back presently silent and subdued.
"Now let's go home," said Breem, turning his horse toward camp.
"And your horse, Pose?" questioned Bates.
"Burn the horse!" said Breem quickly. "D'ye think the like of yonder's a horse thief? I ain't worrying 'bout the horse." And the men rode back to camp silently.
The next morning, when Breem swung open the door of the stall, he was not surprised to find the red roan standing quietly by the side of his mate. A bit of crumpled paper was pinned to the blanket. Breem read:
I rode your horse. I had to. I'll surely make it right.
"Course he had to!" growled the lumberman, and he passed the paper round.
"Oncommon peart baby," said Skid, at last.
"Dreadful cold shack, though!" muttered Bates, conveying a quarter of a griddlecake to his mouth.
"That's just it," said Pose, scowling. "Just let a stiff nip of winter come, and the woman yonder and the little critter, they'd freeze, that's what they'd do, in that old rattletrap."
The men looked at one another in solemn assent. "And I've been thinking," continued Breem, "since Bennett there belonged to the camp, and since we kind of misused the fellow for being stingy—for which we ought to have been smashed with logs—that we have a kind of a claim on 'em, as 'twere, and they on us. And we must get 'em out of that yonder before they freeze plumb solid." He stopped inquiringly.
"Right as right," assented several.
"And I've been thinking," said Bates suddenly, "about that storeroom of ours. It's snug and warm, and there's a lot of room in it, and we can put a stove into it and—" But the rest of Bates's suggestion was drowned in a round of applause.
"And I've been thinking, just a little," put in Skid Thomson, "and if I've figured correct, next Thursday's Thanksgiving—don't know as I've thought of it in ten years—and if we stir round sharp we can get things ready by then, and—well, 'twouldn't hurt Beetle Ring to celebrate for once—" But Skid was also interrupted by a cheer.
"And it's my firm belief," reflected Bates with an air of profound conviction, "that that baby of Bennett's was designed special and, as you might say, providential, for to be Beetle Ring's mascot. Fat Pine and Horseshoe have 'em—mascots—to bring luck, and I've noticed Beetle Ring ain't had the luck lately it should have."
Bates paused, and the camp meditated in silent delight.
Thanksgiving morning was a cold one, but clear. More snow had fallen, and the deep, feathery whiteness stretched away until lost in the dark background of the pines and spruces. A wavering line of smoke rose over the roof of the little old shack in the woods.
Bennett was winding rags round the armpieces of the rough crutches. He had dragged in some short limbs the day before for fuel, but in so doing had broken open the wound, which gave him excruciating pain.
"Joe," said his wife, suddenly, "where are you going?"
"I'm going to try for help, Nan. We're out of nigh everything, and my foot no better."
"You can't do it, Joe. You—you'll die, if you try, Joe, alone in the woods. Oh, Joe!"
The look of hope that had never wholly left the woman's eyes was slowly fading out.
"We'll all die if I don't try, Nannie. I'm—"
"Huh!" suddenly exclaimed the old woman, peering out of the little window. "Heap men, heap horses! Look, see 'em come!"
Bennett turned hastily, and saw a long line of stalwart men and sturdy horses threshing resolutely through the deep snow and heading directly for the shack. He looked keenly at the men, and his face paled a little, but he said steadily, "It's the Beetle Ring men, Nan."
His wife gave a sharp cry. "It's the horse, Joe! It's the horse! They're after you, Joe, sure!" She caught her husband's arm.
The men were now filling up the little space before the shack. Directly there came a sounding knock. Bennett opened the door to admit the burly frame of Posey Breem. He said quietly:
"I'm here all right, Pose, and I took your horse, but—"
"Burn the hoss!" said Breem explosively. "That's all right. Shake, pard!" He held out a brawny hand. Bennett "shook" wonderingly.
"Wife, pard?" asked Breem, gently, nodding toward the bed. Bennett hastily introduced him.
"Kid, pard?" Breem pointed a stubby finger at the little bundle.
The lumberman grinned delightedly, then coughed a little, and began awkwardly:
"Pard, th' boys over at Beetle Ring heard—as you might say, accidental"—Breem coughed into his big hand—"about your folks over here, your wife and—the baby. They were powerful interested, specially about the baby. Why, pard, some of the boys hain't seen a baby in ten years, and we thought as you belonged to the camp, maybe you and your wife would allow that the camp had a sort of claim on the little critter yonder." He eyed the tiny bundle wistfully.
"And another thing that hit the boys, pard," he went on. "Up at Fat Pine they got what they call a mascot, bein' a tame b'ar; an' up at Horseshoe they got a mascot, bein' a goat. Lots of camps have 'em—fetches luck. And the boys are sure that this baby of yours was designed special to be Beetle Ring's mascot. Now, pard, Beetle Ring, as you know, ain't what you'd call a Sunday-school, but the boys they'll behave. They fixed up that storeroom to beat all, nice bed, big stove, and lots of wood, and so on, and we've got a cow for the woman and baby. Say, we want you powerful. Got a sleigh fixed, hemlock boughs and a cover of robes and blankets, and Skid'll drive careful. He's a master at drivin', Skid is. You'll come, won't you? The boys are waitin'."
Big tears were in the woman's eyes as she turned toward her husband. "Oh, Joe," she said, and choked suddenly; but she pressed the baby tightly to her breast. "I knew 'twould come Thanksgiving."
"There, pard," said Breem, after blowing his nose explosively, "you just see to wrappin' up the woman and the kid, and me and Skid, being as you're hurt, you know, 'll tote 'em out to the sleigh."
The young mother was soon placed carefully in the sleigh, the old woman following. But when Skid Thomson appeared in the door of the old shack, bearing a tiny form muffled up with wondrous care, the whole of Beetle Ring shouted.
Breem led up a spare horse for Bennett's use. The latter stopped short, with a curious expression on his face. The horse was the red roan.
But Breem only said, his keen eyes twinkling:
"Under such circumstances as these, pard, you're welcome to all the hosses in Beetle Ring."
With steady, practiced hand Skid Thomson guided his powerful team through the deep snow, over the rough forest road; and sometimes brawny arms carried the sleigh bodily over the roughest places.
* * * * *
At the close of the day an anxious consultation took place in the big main room of Beetle Ring, and presently two men appeared outside.
They walked slowly toward what had been the camp's storeroom, but halted before the door hesitatingly.
"You go in ahead, Skid, and ask 'em," said Breem, earnestly, to his companion.
"No, go ahead yourself, Pose. I'd be sure to calk a hoss or split a runner, or somethin'. Go on!"
Breem knocked, and both went in.
"All right, pard?"
"Right as right, Pose," said Joe Bennett.
"Wife all right?" Breem turned toward the bed, and Mrs. Bennett smiled up at him with happy eyes, and with a bit of colour already showing in her pale face. Breem smiled back broadly. Then he asked, "And, pard, the baby?"
"Peart as peart, Pose."
Breem waited a little, twirling his cap, but receiving a sharp thump from Thomson, went on:
"The boys, pard, are anxious about the little critter. They're kind of hankering, pard, and, mum, if you are willin', and ain't 'fraid to trust her with us, why, we'd be mighty glad to tote her—just for a few minutes—over to camp. The boys are stiddy, all of 'em, stiddy as churches. They hain't soaked a mite to-day, mum, and they ain't goin' to; they've hove the jug into a snowdrift, and they'd take it kind, mum—if you are willin'."
The woman, still smiling happily, was already wrapping up the baby.
Breem held up a warning finger when he returned a little later, and again smiled delightedly.
"Went to sleep a-totin'—if you'll believe it, the burned little critter!" he said, softly. "And," he added, "the boys, pard, are mighty pleased; and, mum, they thank you kindly. They say, the boys do, there ain't such a mascot as theirs in five hundred miles; they see luck comin', chunks of it, pard, already." And the big fellow went out and closed the door gently.
MISTRESS ESTEEM ELLIOTT'S MOLASSES CAKE
The Story of a Postponed Thanksgiving
By Kate Upson Clark.
Older boys and girls who are familiar with "The Courtship of Miles Standish" will enjoy the colonial flavour of this tale of 1705.
"Obed!" called Mistress Achsah Ely from her front porch, "step thee over to Squire Belding's, quick! Here's a teacup! Ask Mistress Belding for the loan of some molasses. Nothing but molasses and hot water helps the baby when he is having such a turn of colic. Beseems me he will have a fit! Make haste, Obed!"
[Footnote 3: From Wideawake, November, 1891, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Company.]
[Footnote 4: The main facts in this story are strictly historical.]
At that very moment Squire Belding's little daughter Hitty was travelling toward Mistress Ely's for the purpose of borrowing molasses wherewith to sweeten a ginger cake. Hitty and Obed, who were of an age, met, compared notes, and then returned to their respective homes. Shortly afterward both of them darted forth again, bound on the same errands as before, only in different directions.
Mr. Chapin, the storekeeper, hadn't "set eyes on any molasses for a week. The river's frozen over so mean and solid," he said, "there's no knowing when there'll be any molasses in town."
There had been very peculiar weather in Colchester during this month of October, 1705. First, on the 13th (Old Style), an unprecedently early date, had come a "terrible cold snap," lasting three days. This was followed by two days of phenomenal mildness. The river had frozen over during the "cold snap," and the ice had melted during the warm days, until, on the 19th, it was breaking up and preparing to go out to sea. In the night of the 19th had descended a frigid blast, colder than the original one. This had arrested the broken ice, piled it up in all sorts of fantastic forms, and congealed it till it looked like a rough Alaskan glacier. After the cold wind had come a heavy snowstorm. All Colchester lay under three feet of snow. Footpaths and roads were broken out somewhat in the immediate village, but no farther. It was most unusual to have the river closed so early in the season, and consequently the winter supplies, which were secured from New London and Norwich, had not been laid in. Even Mr. Chapin, the storekeeper, was but poorly supplied with staples of which he ordinarily kept an abundance on hand.
Therefore when Obed and Hitty had made the tour of the neighbourhood they found but one family, that of Deacon Esteem Elliott, the richest man in the place, which had any molasses. Mistress Elliott, in spite of her wealth, was said to be "none too free with her stuff," and she was not minded to lend any molasses under the circumstances, for "a trifling foolish" cake. Obed's representation of the distress of the Ely baby, however, appealed even to her, and she lent him a large spoonful of the precious liquid.
That afternoon there was as much visiting about among the Colchester housewives as the drifts permitted. Such a state of things had never been known since the town was settled. No molasses! And Thanksgiving appointed for the first Thursday in November! Pray what would Thanksgiving amount to, they inquired, with no pumpkin pies, no baked beans, no molasses cake, no proper sweetening for the rum so freely used in those days?
Mistress Esteem Elliott was even more troubled than the rest of Colchester, for was not her buxom daughter, and only child, Prudence Ann, to be married on Thanksgiving Day to the son of a great magnate in the neighbouring town of Hebron? And was it not the intention to invite all of the aristocracy of both towns to be present at the marriage feast?
Mistress Elliott accordingly pursued her way upon this Tuesday afternoon, October 19, 1705, over to Mistress Achsah Ely's. There she found Mistress Belding, who, remembering Mistress Elliott's refusal to lend her molasses, was naturally somewhat chill in her manner.
Mistress Elliott had scarcely pulled off her homespun leggings (made with stout and ample feet) and pulled out her knitting work, when Mistress Camberly, the parson's wife, a lady of robust habit and voluble tongue, came in.
"And what are we going to do, Mistress Ely?" she burst out, as soon as the door was opened at her knock. "Not a drop of molasses to be had for love nor money, and Thanksgiving Day set for the 4th of November!"
"Mistress Elliott has a-plenty of molasses," affirmed Mistress Belding, with a haughty look at her unaccommodating neighbour.
"I'd have you to know, Mistress Betty Belding," retorted Mistress Elliott, "that I have a bare quart or so in my jug, and, so far as I can learn, that is all that the whole town of Colchester has got to depend upon till the roads or the river can be broken to Norwich."
Mistress Ely well understood this little passage-at-arms, for Obed had told her the whole story; but as her baby had been cured by Mistress Elliott's molasses, she did not think it proper to interfere in the matter. Neither did the good parson's wife, although she could not comprehend the rights of the case. She simply repeated her first question: "What are we going to do about it, I should like to know?"
"I wonder if Thanksgiving Day could not be put off a week," suggested Mistress Belding, who had a good head, and was even reported to give such advice to her husband that he always thought best to heed it.
"Such a thing was never heard of!" cried Mistress Elliott.
"But there's no law against it," insisted Mistress Belding boldly. "By a week from the set day there will surely be some means of getting about the country, and then we can have a Thanksgiving that's worth the setting down to."
After a long talk the good women separated in some doubt, but as Squire Belding and Mr. Ely were two of the three selectmen, they were soon acquainted with the drift of the afternoon's discussion. The result of it all is thus chronicled in the town records of Colchester:
"At a legal town-meeting held in Colchester, October 29, 1705, it was voted that WHEREAS there was a Thanksgiving appointed to be held on the first Thursday in November, and our present circumstances being such that it cannot with convenience be attended on that day, it is therefore voted and agreed by the inhabitants as aforesaid (concluding the thing will not be otherwise than well resented) that the second Thursday of November aforesaid shall be set aside for that service."
This proceeding was, on the whole, as the selectmen had hoped that it would be, "well resented" among the Colchester people, but there was one household in which there was rebellion at the mandate. In the great sanded kitchen of Deacon Esteem Elliott pretty, spoilt Prudence Ann was fairly raging over it.
"I had set my heart on being married on Thanksgiving Day," she sobbed, "And here it won't be Thanksgiving Day at all! And as for putting off a wedding, everybody knows there is no surer way of bringing ill luck down than that! I say I won't have it put off! But we can't have any party with no molasses in town! Oh, dear! I might as well be married in the back kitchen with a linsey gown on, as if I were the daughter of old Betty, the pie woman! There!"
Then the proud girl would break into fresh sobs, and vow vengeance upon the selectmen of Colchester. She even sent her father to expostulate with them, but it was of no use. They had known all along that the Elliotts did not want the festival day put off, but nobody in Colchester minded very much if the Elliotts were a little crossed.
Prudence Ann would not face the reality till after the Sabbath was past. On that day the expectant bridegroom managed to break his way through the drifts from Hebron, and he was truly grieved, as he should have been, at the very unhappy state of mind of his betrothed. He avowed himself, however, in a way which augured well for the young people's future, ready to do just what Prudence Ann and her family decided was best.
On Monday morning Mistress Elliott sat down with her unreasonable daughter and had a serious talk with her.
"Now, Prudence Ann," she began, "you must give up crying and fretting. If you are going to be married on Thursday, we have got a great deal of work to do between now and then. If you are going to wait till next week, I want to know it. Of course you can't have a large party, if you choose to be married on the 4th, but we will ask John's folks and Aunt Susanna and Uncle Martin and Parson Camberley and his wife. We can bake enough for them with what's in the house. If you wait another week, you can probably have a better party—and now you have it all in a nutshell."
Prudence Ann was hysterical even yet, but at last her terror of a postponed wedding overcame every other consideration. The day was set for the 4th, and the few guests were bidden accordingly.
On the morning of the wedding, on a neat shelf in the back kitchen of the Elliott residence, various delicacies were resting, which had been baked for the banquet. Mistress Elliott's molasses had sufficed to make a vast cake and several pumpkin pies. These, hot from the oven, had been placed in the coolness of the back kitchen until they should be ready for eating.
It so happened that Miss Hitty Belding's sharp eyes, as she passed Mistress Elliott's back door, bound on an errand to the house of the neighbour living just beyond, fell upon the rich golden brown of this wonderful cake. As such toothsome dainties were rare in Colchester at just this time, it is not strange that her childish soul coveted it, for Hitty was but ten years old. As she walked on she met Obed Ely.
"I tell you what, Obed," said Miss Hitty, "you ought to see the great molasses cake which Mistress Elliott has made for Prudence Ann's wedding. It is in her back kitchen. I saw it right by the door. Mean old thing! She wouldn't lend my mother any molasses to make us a cake. I wish I had hers!"
"So do I!" rejoined Obed, with watering lips. "I'm going to peek in and see it."
Obed went and "peeked," while Hitty sauntered slowly on. The contemplation of the cake under the circumstances was too much for even so well-brought-up a boy as Obed. Without stopping to really think what he was doing, he unwound from his neck his great woollen "comforter," wrapped it hastily around the cake, and was walking with it beside Hitty in the lonely, drifted country road five minutes later. The hearts of the two little conspirators—for they felt guilty enough—beat very hard, but they could not help thinking how good that cake would taste. A certain Goodsir Canty's cornhouse stood near them in a clump of trees beside the road, and as the door was open they crept in, gulped down great "chunks" of cake, distributed vast slices of what was left about their persons, Obed taking by far the lion's share, and then they parted, vowing eternal secrecy. Nobody had seen them, and something which happened just after they had left Mistress Elliott's back kitchen directed suspicion to an entirely different quarter.
Not two minutes after Obed's "comforter" had been thrown around the great cake a beautiful calf, the pride of Mistress Elliott's heart, and which was usually kept tied in the barn just beyond the back kitchen, somehow unfastened her rope and came strolling along past the open back door. The odour of the pumpkin pies naturally interested her, and she proceeded to lick up the delicious creamy filling of one after another with great zest.
Just as she was finishing the very last one of the four or five which had stood there, Mistress Elliott appeared upon the scene, to find her precious dainties faded like the baseless fabric of a vision, leaving behind them only a few broken bits of pie crust. A series of "short, sharp shocks" (as described in "The Mikado") then rent the air, summoning Prudence Ann and Delcy, the maid, to the scene of the calamity. Let us draw a veil over the succeeding ten minutes.
At the end of that time Prudence Ann lay upon the sitting-room lounge (or "settle," as they called it then) passing from one fainting fit into another, and Delcy was out in search of the doctor and such family friends as were likely to be of service in this unexpected dilemma. It was, of course, supposed that the calf had devoured the whole of the mighty cake as well as the pies. It was lucky for Obed and Hitty that the poor beast could not speak. As it was, nobody so much as thought of accusing them of the theft, though there were plenty of crumbs in their pockets, while the death of the innocent heifer was loudly demanded by the angry Prudence Ann. It was only by artifice and diplomacy that Mistress Elliott was able to preserve the life of her favourite, which, if it had really eaten the cake, must surely have perished.
The wedding finally came off on the 4th, though there was a pouting bride, and nuts, apples, and cider were said to be the chief refreshments. Prudence Ann, however, probably secured the "good luck" for which she was so anxious, for there is no record nor tradition to the contrary in all Colchester.
Nothing would probably ever have been known of the real fate of the famous cake if the tale had not been told by Mistress Hitty in her old age to her grandchildren, with appropriate warnings to them never to commit similar misdemeanours themselves.
Little Obed Ely, the active agent in the theft, died not long after it. His tombstone, very black and crumbled, stands in one of the old burying grounds of the town, but nothing is carved upon it as to the cause of his early death.
The story of the Colchester molasses famine, and the consequent postponement of their Thanksgiving, naturally spread throughout all the surrounding towns. It was said that in one of these a party of roguish boys loaded an old cannon with molasses and fired it in the direction of Colchester. How they did this has not been stated, and some irreverent disbelievers in the more uncommon of our grandfathers' stories have profanely declared it a myth.
THE FIRST THANKSGIVING
By Albert F. Blaisdell and Francis K. Ball.
A story of the time long ago when the Pilgrims of Plymouth invited the Indian chief Massasoit and his followers to share their feast.
All through the first summer and the early part of autumn the Pilgrims were busy and happy. They had planted and cared for their first fields of corn. They had found wild strawberries in the meadows, raspberries on the hillsides, and wild grapes in the woods.
[Footnote 5: From "Short Stories from American History," Ginn & Co.]
In the forest just back of the village wild turkeys and deer were easily shot. In the shallow waters of the bay there was plenty of fish, clams, and lobsters.
The summer had been warm, with a good deal of rain and much sunshine; and so when the autumn came there was a fine crop of corn.
"Let us gather the fruits of our first labours and rejoice together," said Governor Bradford.
"Yes," said Elder Brewster, "let us take a day upon which we may thank God for all our blessings, and invite to it our Indian friends who have been so kind to us."
The Pilgrims said that one day was not enough; so they planned to have a celebration for a whole week. This took place most likely in October.
The great Indian chief, Massasoit, came with ninety of his bravest warriors, all gayly dressed in deerskins, feathers, and foxtails, with their faces smeared with red, white, and yellow paint.
As a sign of rank, Massasoit wore round his neck a string of bones and a bag of tobacco. In his belt he carried a long knife. His face was painted red, and his hair was so daubed with oil that Governor Bradford said he "looked greasily."
Now there were only eleven buildings in the whole of Plymouth village, four log storehouses and seven little log dwelling-houses; so the Indian guests ate and slept out of doors. This was no matter, for it was one of those warm weeks in the season we call Indian summer.
To supply meat for the occasion four men had already been sent out to hunt wild turkeys. They killed enough in one day to last the whole company almost a week.
Massasoit helped the feast along by sending some of his best hunters into the woods. They killed five deer, which they gave to their paleface friends, that all might have enough to eat.
Under the trees were built long, rude tables on which were piled baked clams, broiled fish, roast turkey, and deer meat.
The young Pilgrim women helped serve the food to the hungry redskins.
Let us remember two of the fair girls who waited on the tables. One was Mary Chilton, who leaped from the boat at Plymouth Rock; the other was Mary Allerton. She lived for seventy-eight years after this first Thanksgiving, and of those who came over in the Mayflower she was the last to die.
What a merry time everybody had during that week! It may be they joked Governor Bradford about stepping into a deer trap set by the Indians and being jerked up by the leg.
How the women must have laughed as they told about the first Monday morning at Cape Cod, when they all went ashore to wash their clothes!
It must have been a big washing, for there had been no chance to do it at sea, so stormy had been the long voyage of sixty-three days. They little thought that Monday would afterward be kept as washday.
Then there was young John Howland, who in mid-ocean fell overboard but was quick enough to catch hold of a trailing rope. Perhaps after dinner he invited Elizabeth Tilley, whom he afterward married, to sail over to Clarke's Island and return by moonlight.
With them, it may be, went John Alden and Priscilla Mullins, whose love story is so sweetly told by Longfellow.
One proud mother, we may be sure, showed her bright-eyed boy, Peregrine White.
And so the fun went on. In the daytime the young men ran races, played games, and had a shooting match. Every night the Indians sang and danced for their friends; and to make things still more lively they gave every now and then a shrill war whoop that made the woods echo in the still night air.
The Indians had already learned to love and fear Captain Miles Standish. Some of them called him "Boiling Water" because he was easily made angry. Others called him "Captain Shrimp," on account of his small size.
Every morning the shrewd captain put on his armour and paraded his little company of a dozen or more soldiers; and when he fired off the cannon on Burial Hill the Indians must have felt that the English were men of might thus to harness up thunder and lightning.
During this week of fun and frolic it was a wonder if young Jack Billington did not play some prank on the Indians. He was the boy who fired off his father's gun one day, close to a keg of gunpowder, in the crowded cabin of the Mayflower.
The third day came. Massasoit had been well treated, and no doubt would have liked to stay longer, but he had said he could stay only three days. So the pipe of peace was silently passed around.
Then, taking their presents of glass beads and trinkets, the Indian king and his warriors said farewell to their English friends and began their long tramp through the woods to their wigwams on Mount Hope Bay.
On the last day of this Thanksgiving party the Pilgrims had a service of prayer and praise. Elder Brewster preached the first Thanksgiving sermon. After thanking God for all his goodness, he did not forget the many loved ones sleeping on the hillside.