The White Turkey's Wing by Sophie Swett
Priscilla, the big white hen turkey, deserved a better fate than
to be eaten on Thanksgiving Day, and Minty and Jason contrived
to save her.
MARY ELLEN was coming home from her school
teaching at the Falls, and Nahum from 'tending
in Blodgett's store at Edom Four Corners, and Uncle
and Aunt Piper with Mirandy and Augustus and the
twins were coming from Juniper Hill, and there was
every prospect of as merry a Thanksgiving as one could
wish to see. And Thanksgivings were always merry
at the Kittredge farm on Red Hill. Uncle Kittredge
might be a trifle over thrift—a leetle nigh, his neighbours
called him—but there was no stinting at Thanksgiving,
and when a boy is accustomed to perpetual cornbread
and sausages, he knows how to appreciate unlimited
turkey and plum pudding; and when he is
used to gloomy evenings, in which Uncle Kittredge
holds the one feeble kerosene lamp between himself
and a newspaper, Aunt Kittredge knits in silent meditation
on blue yarn stockings, he knows how good it is
to have the house filled with lights and people, jolly
games going on in the parlour, and candy-pulling in the
kitchen. All these delights were directly before Jason
Kittredge as he dangled his legs from the stone wall
and whittled away at the skewers which Clorinda,
the "hired girl," had demanded of him, and yet his
heart was as heavy as lead.
He did not even look up when his sister Minty came
up the hill toward him. He knew it was Minty, because
she was hop-skipping and humming, and he
knew that Aunt Kittredge had sent her to Mrs. Deacon
Preble's to get a recipe for snow pudding; she had said
she "must have something real stylish, because she
had invited the new minister and his daughter to dinner."
"Oh, Jason, don't you wish it was always going to
be Thanksgiving Day after to-morrow?" Minty continued
her hop-skipping; she went to and fro before
the dejected figure on the wall. Minty was tall for
twelve, and she had a very high forehead, which made
Aunt Kittredge think that she was going to be "smart."
Aunt Kittredge made her comb her hair straight back
from the high forehead, and fasten it with a round
comb; not a vestige of hair showed under Minty's blue
hood, and her forehead looked bleak and cold, and her
pale blue eyes were watery, and her new teeth were large
and overlapped each other; but Aunt Kittredge said
it was no matter, if she was only good and "smart."
"Why, Jason, is anything the matter?" Minty
stopped, breathless, and the joy faded out of her face.
Jason continued to whittle in gloomy silence. His
hands were almost purple with cold, and the wind
flapped his large pantaloons—they were Uncle Kittredge's
old ones, and Aunt Kittredge never thought it
worth the while to consider the fit if they were turned
up so that he could walk in them.
"You don't care because the new minister and his
daughter are coming?" pursued Minty. Jason's tastes,
as she well knew, did not incline to ministers and schoolmasters
as companions in merrymaking. "She's a big
girl, almost sixteen, and she will go with Mary Ellen,
and we shall have Mirandy and Augustus and the twins;
and the Sedgell girls and Nehemiah Ham are coming in
the evening, and we shall have such fun, and such lots
"That's just like you. You're friv'lous. You don't
know what an awful hard world it is. You haven't
got a realizing sense," said Jason crushingly.
This last accusation was one with which Aunt Kittredge
was accustomed to overwhelm Clorinda when she
burned the pies or wore her best bonnet to evening
meeting. Minty's face grew so long that it looked like
the reflection of a face in a spoon, and the tears came
into her eyes. It must be a hard world, since Jason
found it so. He was much stouter-hearted than she;
his round, snub-nosed, freckled face was generally as
cheerful as the sunshine. Jason had his troubles—Minty
well knew what they were—but he bore them
manfully. He didn't like to have Clorinda use his
hens' eggs when he was saving them to sell, and perhaps
it was even more trying to be at school when the
eggs man came around, and have Aunt Kittredge sell
his eggs and put the money into her pocket. Jason
wished to go into business for himself, and he had a high
opinion of the poultry business for a beginning. Cyrus,
their "hired man," had once lived with a man at North
Edom who made fabulous sums by raising poultry.
But Aunt Kittredge's peculiar views of the rights of boys
interfered with his accumulation of the necessary capital.
All these troubles Jason bore bravely. It must
be some great misfortune that caused him to look so utterly
despairing, and to accuse her of such dreadful
things, thought poor Minty.
Jason took pity on her woful face. "P'raps you're
not so much to blame, Mint. You don't know," he
said, in a somewhat softened tone. "It's Aunt Kittredge."
Minty heaved a long, long sigh. It generally was Aunt
"She's told Cyrus to kill the—the white turkey!"
continued Jason, with almost a break in his voice.
"To kill Priscilla!" gasped Minty. "She couldn't—she
wouldn't! Oh, Jason, Cyrus won't do it, will he?"
"Hasn't he got to if she says so?" demanded Jason
"But Priscilla is yours," said Minty stoutly.
"She says she only let me call her mine. Just as if
I didn't save her out of that weak brood when all the
rest were killed by the thunderstorm! And brought
her up in cotton behind the kitchen stove, no matter
how much Clorinda scolded! And found her nest with
thirty-one eggs in it in the old pine stump! And she
knows me and follows me round."
"I shouldn't think Aunt Kittredge would want to,"
said Minty reflectively.
"She wants a big turkey, because the minister and
his daughter are coming to dinner, and she doesn't
want to have one of the young ones killed, because she
is too stin——"
"I wouldn't care if I were you. After all, Priscilla
is only a turkey," said Minty, attempting to be cheerful.
But this well-meant effort at consolation aroused
Jason's wrath. "That's just like a girl!" he cried.
"What do you care if you only have blue beads and lots
Poor Minty's face lengthened again, and her jaw
fell. "There's my two dollars and thirty cents, Jason,"
she said anxiously.
Jason started; a ray of hope flushed his freckled face.
"We can buy a big turkey over at Jonas Hicks's for
all that money," continued Minty. And then she
drew nearer to Jason, and added a thrilling whisper,
"And we can hide Priscilla!"
Jason stared at her in amazement. He had never expected
Minty to come to the front in an emergency.
Perhaps the high forehead meant something after all.
"She'll be after you about the money, you know," he
said, with a significant nod toward the house.
"It's my own. I earned it picking berries and weeding
old Mrs. Jackman's garden. It's in my bank, and the
bank won't open till there's five dollars in it."
Jason's face darkened.
"But we can smash it," said Minty calmly.
Certainly the high forehead meant something.
Priscilla was hidden. The "smashing" was done in
extreme privacy behind the stone wall of the pasture.
Cyrus was bound over to secrecy, as was also Jonas
Hicks, who, after some haggling, sold them his finest
turkey for two dollars and thirty cents.
"Cyrus is gettin' real handy and accommodatin',"
said Clorinda the next morning, when they were all in
the kitchen, and Jason, ignobly arrayed in Clorinda's
kitchen-belle apron, was chopping, and Minty was seeding
raisins. "I expected nothin' but what I'd got to
pick the white turkey, and he's fetched her in all picked
"She don't weigh quite so much as I expected,"
said Uncle Kittredge, as he suspended the turkey on the
hook of the old steelyards.
Jason and Minty slyly exchanged anxious glances.
Neither of them had looked at the turkey, and Minty's
face was suffused with red even to the roots of her tow-coloured
Mary Ellen and Nahum came that night, and bright
and early on the morning of Thanksgiving Day came
Uncle and Aunt Piper with Mirandy and Augustus and
the twins, and the house was full of noise and jollity.
Jason was obliged to go to church in the morning with
the grown people, but Minty stayed at home to help
Clorinda, and after much manœuvring she found an
opportunity to run down to the shanty in the logging
road and feed the white turkey. The new minister and
his daughter came to dinner, and Jason and Minty were
glad that the children had seats at the far end of the
table. The minister's daughter was sixteen, and looked
very stylish, and Aunt Kittredge said she was glad
enough that they had the snow pudding, and that she
had asked Aunt Piper to bring her sauce dishes.
It had begun to be very merry at the far end of the
table, in a quiet way, for Aunt Kittredge's stern eye
wandered constantly in that direction, and Jason and
Minty had almost forgotten that there were trials and
difficulties in life, when suddenly Aunt Piper's loud
voice sounded across the table, striking terror to their
"You don't say that this is the white turkey? Seems
kind of a pity to kill her, she was so handsome. But
she eats real well. Now, you mustn't forget to let me
take a wing home to Sabriny. You know you always
promised her a wing for her hat when the white turkey
Sabriny was Aunt Piper's niece, who had been left
at home to keep house.
"Sure enough I did," said Aunt Kittredge. "Jason,
you go out to the barn and get Cyrus to give you one
of the white turkey's wings; and Minty, you wrap it up
nice, so it will be handy for your aunt to carry. Go as
soon as you've ate your dinner, so's to have it ready, for
Uncle Piper has got to get home before sundown."
"Yes'm," answered Jason hoarsely, without lifting
his eyes from his plate. He could scarcely eat another
mouthful, and Minty found it unexpectedly easy to
obey Aunt Kittredge's injunction to decline snow
pudding lest there should not be "enough to go round."
"What are you going to do?" asked Minty, overtaking
Jason, as he walked dejectedly through the woodshed
as soon as dinner was over.
"I don't know; run away and be a cowboy like Hiram
Trickey, I guess."
Minty's heart gave a great throb. Hiram Trickey
had sent home a photograph, which showed him to
have become very like the picture of a pirate in Cyrus's
old book, with pistols and a dirk at his belt.
"Jason, the new minister's daughter has got a white
gull's wing on her hat, and—it's up in the spare chamber
on the bed, and I don't think Sabriny would ever know
Jason stared in mild-eyed speechless wonder. Minty
had never shown herself a leading spirit before.
"It will be dark before the minister's daughter goes,
and there's a veil over the hat, and if we put a little
something white on it I'm sure she won't notice. And
when she does notice she won't know what became of
it. And we can save up and buy her another gull's
"Sabriny'll know," said Jason, but there was an accent
of hope in his voice.
"They don't have turkeys, and they know that Priscilla
wasn't a common turkey; perhaps they won't
know the difference," said Minty. "Anyway, it will
give us time to get Priscilla out of the way. If Aunt
Kittredge finds out, she will have her killed right away."
"You go and get the wing off the minister's daughter's
hat, Mint," directed Jason firmly.
Minty worked with trembling fingers in the chilly
seclusion of the spare chamber, but she made a neat
package. And she stuck on to the hat in place of the
wing some feathers from the white rooster.
There was an awful moment as Uncle and Aunt
Piper were leaving.
"Just let me see whether he's got a real handsome
wing," said Aunt Kittredge, taking the package which
Minty had put into Aunt Piper's hand.
"Malachi is in considerable of a hurry, and they've
done it up so nice," said Aunt Piper. "There! I 'most
forgot my sauce dishes, and Sabriny's going to have
Minty drew a long breath of relief as the carriage disappeared
down the lane, and Jason privately confided
to her his opinion that she was "an orfle smart girl."
There was another dreadful moment when the minister's
daughter went home. They had played games
until a very late hour, for Corinna, and she dressed so
hurriedly that she did not observe that anything had
happened to her hat, but as she went down the garden
walk Jason and Minty saw in the moonlight the rooster's
feathers blowing from it.
The next morning, in the privacy afforded by the great
woodpile, to which Jason had gone to chop his daily
stint, the children debated the advisability of committing
the white turkey to the care of Lot Rankin, who
lived with his widowed mother on the edge of the woods.
"It's hard to get a chance to feed her," said Jason,
"and she may squawk."
"Lot Rankin may tell," suggested Minty. And she
heaved a great sigh. Conspiracy came hard to Minty.
Just then the voice of the new minister's daughter
came to their ears. She was talking with Aunt Kittredge
on the other side of the woodpile.
"There was a high wind last night when I went home,
and I suppose it blew away. I am very sorry to lose
it, because it was so pretty, and it was a present, too,"
"Maybe the children have found it; they're round
everywhere," said Aunt Kittredge. And then she called
shrilly to Jason.
Minty shrank down in a little heap behind a huge log
as Jason stepped bravely out from behind the woodpile,
and answered promptly that he had not seen the gull's
wing. That was literally true; but how she was going
to answer, Minty did not know.
It was so great a relief that tears sprang to Minty's
eyes when, after a little more conversation, the minister's
daughter went away. Aunt Kittredge had taken
it for granted that, as she remarked, "if one of them
young ones didn't know anything about it the other
Minty felt her burden of guilt to be greater than she
could bear. And there was no way in which she could
earn money enough to buy the minister's daughter a
new feather until berries were ripe and the weeds grew
in old Mrs. Jackman's garden. Minty racked her
brains to think of something she could give the minister's
daughter to ease her troubled conscience. There
was her Bunker Hill monument, made of shells, her
most precious treasure; she would gladly have parted
with even that, but it stood upon the table in the parlour,
and Aunt Kittredge would discover so soon that it had
gone. And Aunt Kittredge was quite capable of asking
the minister's daughter to return it. Minty felt, despairingly,
that this atonement was impossible.
But suddenly a bright idea struck her. The feather
on her summer Sunday hat! It was blue—it had been
white originally, but Aunt Kittredge had thriftily had
it dyed when it became soiled. Blue would be very
becoming to the minister's daughter, and perhaps she
would like it as well as her gull's wing. There was
another sly visit to the chilly spare chamber. Minty
took the summer Sunday hat from its bandbox in the
closet, and carefully abstracted the blue feather. It was
slightly faded, and there were some traces of the wetting
it had received in a thunderstorm in spite of the handkerchief
which Aunt Kittredge carefully pinned over it;
but Minty thought it still a very beautiful feather. She
put it into a little pasteboard box, wrote the minister's
daughter's name on it, placed it on her doorstep at dusk,
rang the bell, and ran away.
It was nearly a week before she could find this opportunity
to present the feather, for Aunt Kittredge
didn't allow her to go out after dark; and in all that time
they had not been able to negotiate with Lot Rankin,
for Lot had the mumps on both sides at once, and could
not be seen. But the very next day after the minister's
daughter received her feather—as if things were all
coming right, thought Minty hopefully—Uncle Kittredge
sent her down to Lot Rankin's to find out when
he would be strong enough to help Cyrus in the logging
camp; and Jason gave her many charges concerning the
contract she was to make with Lot. But as she was
going out of the house, there stood the minister's daughter
in the doorway, talking with Aunt Kittredge.
"I shouldn't have known where it came from if Miss
Plympton, the milliner, hadn't happened to come in,"
the young girl was saying. "She said at once, 'It's
Minty Kittredge's feather. I had it dyed for her last
summer, and there's the little tag from the dye-house
on it now.' I can't think why she sent it to me."
Aunt Kittredge turned to the shrinking figure behind
her, holding the blue feather accusingly in her hand.
"Araminta Kittredge, what does this mean?" she
"I—I—she felt so bad about her gull's wing, and—and——"
A rising sob fairly choked Minty.
"Please don't scold her. I'm sure she can explain,"
pleaded the minister's daughter.
"It's my duty to find out just what this means," said
Aunt Kittredge severely. "I never heard of a child
doing such a high-handed thing! You can do your
errand now, because your uncle wants you to, but when
you come back I shall have a settlement with you."
Poor Minty! She ran fast, never looking back, although
the minister's daughter called to her in kindliest
There was no hope of keeping a secret from Aunt
Kittredge when once she had discovered that there was
one. The only chance of saving Priscilla's life lay in
persuading Lot Rankin to care for and conceal her.
But, alas! she found that Lot was not to be persuaded.
He was going into the woods to work, and his mother
was "set against turkeys." Moreover, she was "so
lonesome most of the time that when folks did come
along she told 'em all she knew."
Jason, who had been very anxious, met her at the
corner. Perhaps it was not to be wondered at that
Jason was somewhat cross and unreasonable. He said
only a girl would be so foolish as to send that feather to
the minister's daughter. Girls were all silly, even those
who had high foreheads, and he would never trust one
again. He hoped she was going to have sense enough
not to tell, no matter what Aunt Kittredge did.
Poor Minty felt herself to be quite unequal to resisting
Aunt Kittredge, but she swallowed a lump in her throat
and said firmly that she would try to have sense enough.
As they passed the blacksmith's shop, Liphlet, Uncle
Piper's man, called out to them: "Mebbe I shan't have
time to go up to your house. The blacksmith is sick,
so I had to come over here to get the mare shod, and I
wish you'd tell your aunt that Sabriny says 'twan't no
turkey's wing that she sent her: 'twas some kind of a
sea-bird's wing, and it come off of somebody's bunnit,
and she's a-goin' to fetch it back!"
Minty and Jason answered not a word, but as they
went on they looked at each other despairingly.
"We should have been found out anyway," said
Her pitifully white face seemed to touch Jason and
arouse a spark of manly courage in his bosom.
"I'll stand by you, Mint, feather and all. You can't
help being a girl," he said magnanimously. "And I
won't run away to be a cowboy like Hiram Trickey."
Minty gave him a little grateful glance, but she could
not speak. It did not seem so dreadful now about
Hiram Trickey. She wished that a girl could run away
to be a cowboy.
As they slowly and dejectedly drew near the house,
they saw a horse and a farm wagon at the door, and
through the window they discovered that Uncle and
Aunt Kittredge, Clorinda, and Cyrus were all in the
kitchen. There was a visitor. Here was at least a
slight reprieve. They went around through the woodshed;
it seemed advisable to approach Aunt Kittredge
with caution, even in the presence of a visitor.
"Well, I must say I'm consid'able disappointed," the
visitor was saying, as they softly opened the door. He
was a bluff, burly man, who sat with his tall whip between
his knees. "I ought to 'a' stopped when I see
her out there top of the stone wall the last time I come
by—the handsomest turkey cretur I ever did see, and
I've been in the poultry business this twenty years. I
knew in a minute she belonged to that breed that old
Mis' Joskins had; she fetched 'em from York State.
She moved away before I knew it, and carried 'em all
"I bought some eggs of her, and 'most all of 'em
hatched, but that white turkey was the only one that
lived," said Aunt Kittredge. "I declare if I'd known
she was anything more'n common, and worthy of
havin' her picture in a book——"
"You'd ought to have known it, Maria!" said Uncle
Kittredge testily. "I wa'n't for havin' her killed, and
you'd ought to have heard to me!"
"I was calc'latin' to hev her picter right in the front
of my new poultry book," continued the visitor, whom
the children now recognized as the distinguished poultry
dealer of North Edom for whom Cyrus had once
worked. "And I was going to have printed under it,
'From the farm of Abner Kittredge, Esq., Corinna.'
Be kind of a boom for you 'n' Corinna, too—see? And
if you didn't want to sell her right out, I was calc'latin'
to make you a handsome offer for all the eggs she laid."
"There! Now you see what you've done, Maria! I
declare I wouldn't gredge givin' a twenty dollar bill
to fetch that white turkey back!" exclaimed Uncle
"Oh, oh! Uncle Kittredge!" Minty broke away from
Jason, who would have held her back, not feeling sure
that it was quite time to speak, and rushed into the
room. "You needn't give twenty dollars! Priscilla is
down in the little shanty in the logging wood! We
saved her—Jason and I—and we bought a turkey of
Jonas Hicks instead. I paid with my own money,
Aunt Kittredge! And then I—I took the gull's wing
off the minister's daughter's hat to send to Sabriny, and—and
so that's why I sent her the blue feather, and—and
Sabriny's going to send the gull's wing back——"
"Jason, you go and fetch that turkey home!" said
Uncle Kittredge. "And, Maria, don't you blame them
children one mite!"
"I never heard of such high-handed doin's!" gasped
"I expect I shall have to send you children each a
copy of my book with the picter of that turkey in it,"
said the poultry dealer. "And maybe the boy and I
can make kind of a contract about eggs and chickens."
The minister's daughter wore her gull's wing to
church the next Sunday, and she privately confided to
Minty that she "didn't blame her one bit." Aunt
Kittredge looked at Minty somewhat severely for
several days but only as she looked at her when she
turned around in church or fidgeted in the long prayer.
And after the poultry book came out with Priscilla's
photograph as a frontispiece, and people began to make
pilgrimages to the Red Hill farm to see the poultry, she
was heard to say several times that "it was wonderful
to see how a smart boy like Jason could make turkey
raising pay," and that "as for Minty, she always knew
that high forehead of hers wasn't for nothing."