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 to eat!"

"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 Kittredge.

"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 grimly.

"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 of candy?"

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 and drawed."

"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 hair.

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 souls:

"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 was killed."

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 the difference."

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 wing."

"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 company to-morrow!"

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," she said.

"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 didn't."

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 demanded sternly.

"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 tones.

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 Minty.

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 with her."

"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 Kittredge.

"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 Aunt Kittredge.

"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."