Thankful 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.
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
"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
"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 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
"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?"
"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
"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
Submit slowly got down from the wall. "His feathers
are a good deal thicker than ours," she said, defiantly,
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
"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'
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
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
"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
"I guess she'll be willing if she's a good girl," called
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