Aunt Thankful by M. H.
SHE was our school teacher, a little
bit of a woman, hardly larger than a
good-sized doll. She had moved into our
village years before I was born; for so I
heard the folks say, I don’t know how
many times. Nobody seemed to know
where she came from. She had no relatives—at
least, none called to see her or
to visit her. Once or twice, as I grew
older, I heard dark hints whispered about
Aunt Thankful, about her having left her
early home to get away from unpleasant
memories, but no whisper against her
character. She was a good woman, a
Christian woman—only the people called
But everybody loved her. In sickness
or health, in trouble or joy, in prosperity
or adversity, everybody was sure they
could depend upon assistance and sympathy,
if needed, from Aunt Thankful.
She was always ready to extend her helping
hand, always ready to do a generous
act. She was ever true to herself as well
as to her neighbors. Perhaps that was
the reason why the world called her odd.
If so, how earnestly I wish there were a
great many more odd folks!
Aunt Thankful lived many years in the
village before she began to keep school.
I remember how funny she used to look
as she came down the street towards the
school-house. She was so small that I
should not have been astonished to see
her driving a hoop to school.
Then she wore her spectacles in such
a funny way! What use they were to her,
I never could discover. If she looked
at the scholars in the school-house, she
looked over the glasses; if she was reading
or writing, she looked under them.
I have often heard boys, who were considered
truthful, declare that on no occasion
was she ever known to look through them.
But what made Aunt Thankful so popular
with the children was her kind manner
and her kinder words. Somehow or
other she used to like the poor and the
friendless children the best. That was
quite a puzzle to me at first. We usually
pay most attention to such as are well off,
and prosperous, and dressed nicely. But
not so was it with Aunt Thankful. She
took sides always with the weak and the
down-trodden. I have seen her mend
many an apron, many a torn dress worn
by a poor scholar, during school hours.
She did it, too, in such a kind way, that
it made one forget that they were poor.
That was because she was ODD, you
As I grew up, I began to understand
more of this good lady’s character than I
ever dreamed when I went to school. I
saw things in a different light, as it were.
And for her many good acts, from the
fact that she was about my first school
teacher, I do not think I shall ever forget
There is another reason why I shall
never forget Aunt Thankful. Perhaps I
had better tell you about it. She kept
our village school one summer; I think
it must have been the second or third
year I went to school. Anyhow, I was
in one of the lower classes.
The school-house was a little box of a
thing, hardly bigger than a decent-sized
shed. There was only one room in the
building. The teacher sat upon a small
platform on one side, while the seats for
the scholars were raised, one above the
other, on the opposite side. Over the
teacher’s desk was a little square window,
looking out upon the horse shed in the
It was a hot summer forenoon, and the
windows were all open; the morning lessons
had been completed. Aunt Thankful
sat writing at her desk, now and then
casting her eyes round the school-room,
to see that everything was in order. But
there was mischief brewing. The children
were waiting impatiently for noon
recess, and more than one of them were
having a quiet whisper or giggle all by
All at once some of the children saw
the mischievous face of a monkey peeping
in at the little back window behind the
teacher’s desk. Of course those who saw
such an unusual sight laughed outright,
greatly to the astonishment of Aunt
Rap! rap! rap! went her ruler upon
the desk, as a signal for quiet. At the
noise the monkey dodged out of sight in
a moment, and soon the children were
restored to order. Aunt Thankful went
To explain so unusual a sight, I ought
to say that a strolling organ man, with a
monkey, had been in the village that day.
He had stopped in the shed behind the
school-house to eat his dinner. Accidentally,
he had fallen asleep; and his monkey,
being of an inquisitive turn, had got
loose, and was exploring on his own account.
He carried a part of his chain
upon his neck all the while, and somehow
or other he had climbed up to the little
square window, as related.
Aunt Thankful went on writing. But
soon the monkey appeared again over her
head, turning his funny little face to one
side and the other, showing his teeth,
grinning, and going through other performances.
This time the laughing was
louder than before, because more children
saw the show. I must record here that
a funnier sight I never have witnessed.
The teacher looked up once more, and
rapped on her desk quite indignantly.
“James Collins,” she said, with severe
authority, “come here, this moment. If
you cannot sit in your seat without laughing,
come and stand by me. You, too,
Walter, and Solomon. And you, Martha
Hapgood. I am astonished at your conduct.”
The recusant children ranged themselves
before the teacher, who seemed to
think she had now quenched the rebellion.
I noticed that they managed to stand so
they could have a good view of the window,
as if they expected, or even hoped
for, another occasion for laughing.
And they didn’t wait long, either. In
a minute or two the monkey appeared for
the third time; and on this occasion he
came wholly into sight, chain and all, and
began to dance up and down in his peculiar
way, bowing and nodding to the spectators.
By this time all the children had
found out—by the usual school telegraph,
I suppose—what was going on,
and joined in a loud and universal laugh.
“Sakes alive!” exclaimed Aunt Thankful,
jumping up and seizing her ruler;
“what’s got into the children?” Whether
the monkey thought the flourish which
the teacher’s ruler took was a signal for a
fight or not, I never knew; but certain it
is he began to scream and shake his chain.
The children laughed louder than ever.
Aunt Thankful turned round, saw what
the trouble was, and raised her hands.
The monkey construed this as an act of
war, and with a single jump landed on
the desk. Here for a few moments he
made the papers fly pretty nimbly. He
upset the inkstand, scattered the sandbox
and pens, screaming all the while like
mad. After he had experimented long
enough, he gave another jump out of the
window; and that was the last we saw of
Aunt Thankful looked as white as a
sheet. She was taken by surprise, and
seemed really frightened.
“Marcy on us,” she said, as soon as
she could find words, “what a dreadful
creature! You may go to your seats,
children; I guess you can be excused for
The poor lady proceeded to pick up her
papers, and set matters to rights. It was
quite a task. The ink had run over all
her papers and into her desk. For years
after, that ink spot was pointed out by the
children to the new comers, and the story
of the monkey had to be related.
Before noon the organ grinder had
wakened from his after-dinner sleep, and
finding out that his monkey had been into
mischief, concluded that it was best to be
off. He was not seen in the village any
Aunt Thankful kept school afterwards
for several years, and then age compelled
her to give up her office. About that
time, and just when she wanted it most,
one of the inhabitants of our village left
her three thousand dollars in his will, as
a “mark of his esteem.” Surely never
was charity more properly bestowed, or
more gratefully received. I don’t think
there was a person in the world who envied
her the gift, or thought it undeserved.