Read CHAPTER IV - A HEARTY DINNER of A Dear Little Girl's Thanksgiving Holidays , free online book, by Amy E. Blanchard, on ReadCentral.com.

It would be quite a task if one were to try to compute the number of buckwheat cakes consumed at the long tables the next morning, and there might have been more but that Charlie stopped Frank in the act of helping himself to a further supply by saying: “Look here, son, if you keep on eating cakes you won’t give your Thanksgiving dinner any show at all. I’m thinking about that turkey.”

This remark was passed down the table and had the effect of bringing the breakfast to a conclusion. The boys scampered off out of doors to scour the place for nuts or to dive into unfrequented woodsy places, while the girls gathered around the crowing baby, in high good-humor with herself and the world at large. Then the nurse bore baby off and Edna turned to her mother for advice.

“What can I do, mother?” she asked.

“Why, let me see. Your Aunt Alice and I are going to help your grandma to arrange the tables, after a while. We shall want a lot of decorations besides the roses your Uncle Bert brought. Suppose you little girls constitute yourselves an order of flower girls with Celia at your head, and go out to find whatever may do for the tables.”

“There are some chrysanthemums, little yellow ones, and there are a few white ones, too; I saw them yesterday down by the fence.”

“They will do nicely; we will have those and anything else that will be pretty for the table or the rooms.”

“Shall we ask Lulie to go with us?” whispered Edna.

“Certainly I would. She isn’t quite so old as you, but she is the only other little girl here, and it would be very rude and unkind to leave her out.”

“You ask her,” continued Edna in a low tone.

For answer Mrs. Conway smiled over at Lulie. “Don’t you want to be a flower girl?” she asked; “Celia, I propose that you take these two little girls in tow and go on an expedition to gather flowers to deck the tables and the house, I know you will enjoy it.”

“Indeed I shall,” replied Celia. “Come on, girls, let’s see what we can find.” And the three sallied forth to discover what might be of use.

An hour later they came back laden with small branches of scarlet oak, with graceful weeds, with the little buttony chrysanthemums, and with actually a few late roses which had braved the frost and were showing pale faces in a sheltered corner when the girls came upon them. By this time, the three cousins were well acquainted, the two younger the best friends possible, so that when dinner was really ready they were quite happy at being allowed to sit side by side.

It would fill a whole chapter if I were to tell you about all the good things on that table. Grandpa carved a huge brown turkey at one end, while Uncle Bert carved an equally huge and brown one at the other end. Grandma served the flakiest of noble chicken-pies at her side of the table, while Aunt Alice served an oyster-pie of the same proportions and quite as delicious. The boys, not in the least disturbed by the memory of the buckwheat cakes, were ready with full-sized appetites, while the girls, after their scramble in search of decorations, had no reason to complain of not being hungry. To Cousin Becky’s lot fell one of the wishbones, and to Edna’s joy she had the other. Cousin Becky put hers up over the front door after dinner, and it was the strangest thing in the world that Mr. Howard Colby should be the first to come in afterward. Edna decided to save hers till it was entirely dry.

“What are you going to do with it then?” asked Lulie.

“I haven’t quite decided. I shall take it home, and maybe I’ll pull it with Dorothy or maybe I will make a pen-wiper of it for a Christmas gift. I might give it to Ben.”

“I never heard of wishbone pen-wipers,” said Lulie. “Are they very hard to make?”

“Not so very, if you have anyone to help you with the sealing-wax head. Celia could help me with that. You make a head, you know, and then the wishbone has two legs and you dress it up so it is a pen-wiper.” This was not a very clear description, but Lulie was satisfied, especially as at that moment Ben came to them and said that everyone was going to play games, in order that their dinners might properly digest.

“Everybody?” inquired Lulie. “The grandparents, too?”

“Of course,” Ben told her. “We are going to begin with something easy, like forfeits, and work up to the real snappy ones after.”

“What are the snappy ones?” asked Edna.

“Oh, things like Hide-and-Seek and lively things that will keep us on the jump.”

The two little girls followed Ben into the next room and before long everyone was trying to escape from grandpa who was as eager for a game of Blind Man’s Buff as anybody, and who at last caught Becky, who in turn caught Howard Colby because he didn’t try to get out of her way. This ended that game, but everybody was so warmed up to the fun that when it was proposed to carry on a game of Hide and Seek out of doors all agreed, and Edna was so convulsed with laughter to see her dignified, great-uncle Wilbur crouching behind a wood-pile and peeping fearfully over the top that she forgot to hide herself properly and was discovered by Ben in a moment.

“You’re no good at all at hiding,” Ben told her. “Anybody could have found you with half an eye.”

“Oh, I don’t care,” replied Edna; “I’ll have just as much fun finding out some one else,” and she it was who made straight for Uncle Wilbur’s wood-pile to which he had returned with the fond belief of its serving as good a turn a second time.

It was not so very long before the older persons declared that they had had enough of it. The men returned to the house to have a smoke and the ladies to chat around the fire. As for the children, it was quite too much to expect them to go in while there was a twinkle of daylight left, and, as Amanda expressed it, “They took the place.” The girls did not roam far from the house but the boys wandered much further afield, bringing caps and pockets full of nuts, and clothes full of burs and stick-tights, even Ben brought back a hoard of persimmons touched by the frost and as sweet as honey.

He poured these out on a flat stone near which Edna was standing. “Come here, Edna,” he said, “let’s divvy up. I’ll give you half; you can take what you don’t eat to your mother and I’ll take what I don’t eat to my mother.”

Edna squatted down by the stone and began delicately to nibble at the fruit which still bore its soft purple bloom. “I don’t believe I shall eat very many,” she said, “for my dinner is still lasting, and there will be supper before I am ready for it. We are not going to have a real, regular set-the-table supper, because grandma thinks Amanda and Reliance should have some holiday, too, but we are going to have sandwiches and cakes and nuts and apples and cider and a whole lot of things; something like a party you know. Aren’t you going to eat any of your persimmons, Ben?”

“No, that coming supper party sounds too seductive; I’ll wait so that I can do it justice.”

“What did you see out in the woods?” asked Edna.

“Foxy grape-vines and bare trees,” he answered promptly.

“Do you mean b-e-a-r trees or b-a-r-e trees?”

“Which ever you like; I’ve no doubt there were both kinds.”

“Oh, Ben,” Edna glanced around fearfully, “do you really think there are bears around here?”

“I know there are, sometimes.” He drew down his mouth in a way which made Edna suspect a joke.

“When is the sometimes?” she asked suspiciously.

“When they have a circus at Mayville.”

“Oh, you Ben Barker, you are the worst,” cried Edna roguishly pulling his nose.

“Here, here,” he exclaimed, “look out, it might come off like the fox’s tail.”

“What fox?”

“Don’t you know the story of ‘Reynard, the Fox’? It is in one of those big, red books that lie on that claw-footed table in the living-room.”

“Here, in this house?”

“Yea, verily. You don’t mean to say you have never read those books! Why, there is not a year since I was eight years old that I haven’t pored over them. Every time I have been here, and that is at least once a year, I go for those books, I’d advise you to make their acquaintance.”

“You tell me the story; then I won’t have to read it.”

“No, my child, I shall not allow you to neglect your opportunities through any weakness on my part. Read it for yourself, and thereafter, the red book will be one of your prized memories of ‘Overlea.’”

“Then tell me again about the lady and the willow tree,” begged Edna; “that was so funny.”

Ben laughed. “I am afraid I don’t remember that so well as I do the fox story, but maybe I will think of some more about her. Come, it is time to go in. They may be eating those chicken or turkey sandwiches this very minute.”

Hanging on his arm, Edna skipped along to the house to find that it was quite too early to think of sandwiches, though the lamps were lighted in all but the living-room where a cheerful fire made the place light enough. Around the fire sat grandma, Aunt Emmeline, Aunt Alice and Mrs. Conway. Aunt Lucia was upstairs with the babies. Uncle Wilbur was taking a nap, and grandpa and Uncle Bert were out looking after the stock, as Ira and the other man had been allowed a holiday. Over in the corner of the sofa sat Cousin Becky and her lover talking in low tones.

“Dear me,” said grandma, as the children all trooped in, “we must have a light; these little folks may not like to sit in the dark.”

“This is the best kind of light,” declared Ben, “and the very time for telling tales. Let’s all sit around the fire and have a good time. We’ll begin with the oldest and so on down to the youngest If we don’t have time to go all the way down the line, we’ll stop when we’re hungry. How’s that, grandma? Do you like the plan?”

“It is just as the others say, my dear,” she answered.

“It’s a lovely plan, Ben,” said Mrs. Conway. “You will have to begin, mother, and Aunt Emmeline can come next.”

“Oh, dear,” protested that lady, “I never was one for telling tales; you will have to count me out.”

“I am sure if I can, you can,” grandma assured her. “What shall it be about, children?”

“Oh, about when you were a little girl,” cried Edna.

“About the time the horse ran away with you,” spoke up the boys.

“About your first ball please,” begged Celia.

Grandma laughed. “Just listen to them. They have heard all those things dozens of times. I’ll tell you what we will do. I will tell about the runaway horse, that belongs to the time when I was a little girl, and Emmeline shall tell about her first ball, and I can remind her if she forgets anything. I remember her first ball even better than my first, for it was at hers I met your grandfather.”

This was all so satisfactory that there was not a murmur of dissent, and grandma began: “It was when I was about ten years old that I went one day with my father to the nearest village. He was driving a pair of spirited horses, and on our way home a parcel we were bringing home, fell out of the buggy. My father stopped the horses and ran back to pick up the parcel, but before he could get to the buggy, the horses took fright at a piece of paper blowing along the road in front of them and off they started, full tilt, down the road. In vain my father cried, ‘Hey, there! Whoa, Barney! Whoa Pet!’ on they went faster and faster. I managed to hold on to the reins but my young hands were not strong enough to control the wild creatures, and I thought every minute would be my last, for up hill and down dale we went at such a pace I had never known. Over a stump would jounce the buggy, and I would nearly pitch out. Around the last curve they went with a swing which I thought would land me on my back or my head, but I managed to keep my seat and at last saw the open gate of our own lane before me. Would the horses go through without hitting a gate post? Would they run into a fence or over a pile of stones at one side? My heart was in my mouth. I jerked the reins in a vain attempt to guide them, but on they went, pell-mell, making straight for the open gate. Presently I saw some one rush from the house and then another person come flying from the stables. Just before we reached the gate, it was flung to with a bang. The horses pranced, swung a little to one side and stopped short, and I heard some one say, ‘So, Barney, so Pet!’ I didn’t know what happened next but the first thing I knew I was lying on the lounge in the sitting-room, my mother bending over me, and holding a bottle of salts to my nose, ’Oh, dear, oh, dear,’ my mother was crying, ’another minute and the child might have been killed.’”

“Who was it shut the gate?” asked Allen eagerly.

“Amanda’s mother, who was living with us at that time.”

“And who caught the horses?” queried Ted.

“Jim Doughty, who was our hired man.”

“Weren’t you nearly frightened to death?” Lulie put the question.

“Very nearly, and so was my father. He was as pale as a ghost when he got home. He had to walk all the way, and said he thought he should never get there. The country wasn’t as thickly settled as it is now, and there were no houses between us and the spot where the horses took fright.”

“Where is the place you lived?” asked Allen.

“About five miles from here.”

“I should like to see it,” said the boy musingly. “I suppose those horses are dead. I’d like to see horses that could run like that.”

“They would be somewhere in the neighborhood of sixty-five or seventy years old by this time,” said grandma with a smile, “and the oldest horse I ever knew was forty.”

“Gee! but that was old,” remarked Frank. “Whose was it, grandma? Yours?”

“No, my grandfather’s. Her name was Dolly, and she took my grandparents to church every Sunday for many years, up to a little while before she died. Now, Emmeline, let’s hear about the ball.”

“It was just a ball,” began Aunt Emmeline.

“The County Ball,” put in grandma. “They always have one every year at Fair time. Emmeline was sixteen and I was eighteen. Now go on, Emmeline.”

“I wore white tarlatan trimmed with forget-me-nots,” said Aunt Emmeline, “and I danced my first dance with Steve Hardesty.” She paused and gave a little sigh. “He took me into supper, too, poor Steve.” Grandma leaned over and laid her hand softly on her sister’s. “It is such a long time, such a very long time ago,” she said softly.

Aunt Emmeline smiled a little sadly. “Yes, a long time,” she repeated. “You wore, what was it you wore, Cecelia?”

“I wore pink tarlatan trimmed with rosebuds and a wreath of them in my hair. The skirt was caught up with bunches of the little buds and green leaves, and I thought it the prettiest dress I ever saw.”

“It was a great ball,” Aunt Emmeline went on, brightening. “I danced every set, and so did you, Cecelia.”

“And how everyone did talk because I danced so many with Ben Willis whom I had met for the first time that night. He would see me home, you remember, although Uncle Phil and Cousin Dick were both there to look after us; we were staying at our uncle’s, my dears. It was during the early days of the war, and there was much talk of what would happen next and who would be going off to join the army, you remember.”

“It was not till two years after, that Steve went,” said Aunt Emmeline wistfully.

“Tell us about Steve,” spoke up Frank. “Did he become a soldier?”

Celia shook her head warningly at her little brother, for she knew Aunt Emmeline’s story, and of how her young lover was killed in battle, but Aunt Emmeline did not hesitate to answer. “Yes, he went, but he never came back.”

Silence fell upon the little group for a moment till Aunt Emmeline herself broke it by saying, “Do you remember, Cecelia, how angry you were with Polly Parker because she copied your dress, and how you were going to have yours trimmed with daisies, and changed all that at the last moment? I can see you now, ripping off those inoffensive daisies and flinging them on the floor.”

Grandma laughed. “Well, after all, hers wasn’t a bit like mine, for it was a different shade of pink and wasn’t made the same way. Yes, I was furious, I remember, because it wasn’t the first time Polly had copied my things; she had a way of doing it.”

“Here comes grandpa,” announced Herbert who did not find all this talk of dress and balls very interesting.

The entrance of grandpa and Uncle Bert broke up the party by the fire, for soon the sandwiches and other things were brought in, then came songs and games till, before anyone realized it, bedtime came and Thanksgiving Day was over.