A Novel Postman by Alice Wheildon

A little country girl made known her wants in a decidedly original way. A small boy in the city did his best to satisfy them. This is at once a story of Thanksgiving and of Christmas.
"OH, MOTHER! what do you suppose Ellen found in the turkey? You never could guess. It's a letter—yes, a real letter just stuffed inside—see!" And Freddie held before his mother's wondering eyes a soiled and crumpled envelope which seemed to contain a letter.

Freddie had been in the kitchen all the morning watching the various operations for the Thanksgiving dinner which was "to come off" the next day, when all the "sisters, cousins, and aunts" of the family were to assemble, as was their custom each year, and great was the commotion in the kitchen and much there was for Master Fred to inspect. When Ellen put her hand into the turkey to arrange him for the stuffing, great was her astonishment at finding a piece of paper. Drawing it quickly out she called, "Freddie, Freddie, see here! See what I've found in the turkey! I declare if he isn't a new kind of a postman, for sure as you're born this is a letter, come from somewhere, in the turkey. My! who ever heard of such a thing?"

Freddie, standing with eyes and mouth wide open, finally said, "Why, Ellen, do you believe it is a letter?"

"Why, of course it is! Don't you see it's in a' envelope and all sealed and everything?"

"Yes, but it hasn't any stamp and how could a turkey bring it—how did it get in him?"

"Oh," laughed Ellen, "that's the question! You'd better take it right up to your mother and get her to read it to you and perhaps it will tell."

So Freddie, all excitement, rushed upstairs and into his mother's room, shouting as we have read.

His mother took the letter from him. "Where did you get this, Freddie—what do you mean by finding it in the turkey?"

"Why, Ellen found it in the turkey when she was fixing him, and I don't see how it got there."

Mrs. Page turned the envelope and slowly read, "To the lady who buys this turkey," written with a pencil and in rather crooked letters on the outside; then opening the envelope she found, surely enough, a letter within, also written in pencil, in rather uncertain letters, some large, some quite small, some on the line, others above or below, but all bearing sufficient relation to one another for her finally to decipher the following:

Nov. 20,
Mad River Village, N. H.

dere lady I doo want a dol for Christmas orful and mother says that Sante Claws is so busy in the city that she gueses he forgits the cuntry and for me to rite to the city lady who buys our turkey and ask her if she will pleas to ask Sante Claws if he could send a dol way up here in the cuntry to me. I will hang my stockin in the chimly and he cannot mistake the house becaus it is the only house that is black in the hole place. I have prayed to him lots of times to give me a dol but I gues he does not mind prayers much from a little girl so far away so will you pleas to ask him for me and oblige

Lucy Tillage.

P. S.—I hope the turkey will be good to eat, he is our very best one and I was sorry to have him killed, but I never had a dol.

Freddie listened, very much interested, sometimes helping to make out the letters while his mother read this remarkable letter. At its conclusion he dropped upon a chair in deep thought while in his imagination he saw a small black house surrounded by turkeys running wildly about while a little girl tried to catch the largest.

"Oh, mother," at length he sighed, "only think of a girl who never had a doll, and Beth has so many she don't know what to do with them all—shall you ask Santa Claus to send her one?"

"Well," said Mrs. Page, who also had been in deep thought, "do you think we better ask Santa Claus to send her one, or send her one ourselves? You and Beth might send her one for a Christmas present."

At once Freddie became fired with the desire to rush to a store, purchase a doll, and send it off to the little "black house." He seemed to think the house was little because the girl was little.

"No, no, Freddie, not so fast," said Mrs. Page. "I think we better wait till papa comes home and then we will ask his advice about it: first, if he knows of a town in New Hampshire of this name, and then if he thinks there may really be a little girl there who has such an odd name—I shouldn't be surprised if Papa could find out all about her."

Freddie thought it was hard to wait until his father came home before something was done about securing a doll; still he knew his mother was right and tried to be patient, wishing Beth would come home, wondering how the little girl looked, and if she had any brothers who wanted something, and fifty other things, till he heard his father's key in the front door; then down he rushed, flourishing the open sheet in his hand, and gave him a most bewildering and rapid account of the letter and the finding it in the turkey, ending with, "Now, Papa, do you know of any such town, and did you ever hear of Lucy Tillage before, or of anybody's turkey having a letter sent in him, and don't you think we might send her the doll right away so's she might have it for Christmas sure—don't you, Papa? And if we can't get a new one won't you tell Beth to send one of hers? I know she won't want so many and——"

"Oh! stop, my boy," said Mr. Page, laughing heartily; "wait a moment, Fred, I don't half understand what this is all about—a letter and a turkey and a little girl with a doll and a turkey in a black house——"

"Now, Papa, you're getting it all mixed up; you read the letter yourself, please."

So Mr. Page read the letter and heard about finding it in the turkey, and then talked it over with his wife and Freddie and Beth, who had come in from her play, and it was decided that he should write to the postmaster and minister in Mad River Village asking them if they knew of any family in the place of the name of Tillage, and if they did, whether they were a poor family, and how many children they had, and anything else they might know of them.

There was no time to lose if the doll was to be sent for Christmas, so both letters were written that very evening and Freddie begged to put them in the post box himself that there might be no mistake in that.

Then came a long time of waiting for Master Fred. At first he thought one day would be enough for the letter to find its way to Mad River Village; but upon a solemn consultation with the cousins and aunts who came to the Thanksgiving party, it was decided that three days, at least, ought to be allowed for a letter to reach a place that none of them had ever heard of, and perhaps there was not such a village anywhere after all; but Freddie had made up his mind that there was somewhere, and so each morning found him watching for the postman and each night he went to bed disappointed, saying, "Oh! I hope there is a truly Mad Village."

Beth was almost as much excited as Fred about Lucy's letter, but still she laughed at him as older sisters sometimes seem to take pleasure in doing, saying, "I guess it's a delicious wonderland kind of a letter, and that the people up there are mad people to be sending letters in turkeys!"

"Well, you just wait, Beth, and see if they are," answered Fred; and sure enough, after ten days of waiting Freddie was rewarded by receiving from the postman a yellow envelope with "Mad River Village" printed in large, clear letters "right side of the stamp." He ran as fast as he could with it to his father, shouting to Beth by the way to "come and see if there isn't a Mad Village and a Lucy Tillage."

Mr. Page was never given so short a time before to open a letter and adjust his glasses, but then a letter had never before been received under such circumstances. It proved to be from the postmaster at Mad River Village, and ran as follows:

Mad River Village, N. H.

Mr. Page of Boston: I rec. your letter a Day or two since and hasten to ans. it right away, as you wish, by this morning's mail which I must put up pretty soon so this letter must be short. Yes sir I do know a family in this town by the name of Tillage and they're a good respectable family too. They live a mile or two out of the village on a farm his father left him and I guess they have pretty hard times making both ends meet—there ain't much sale up here for farm things, you know, and it costs a heap to send them to Boston but they do say that of late he's raised lots of chickens and turkeys to send to Boston for Thanksgiving. Last year he and his wife started in on taking summer boarders and I guess they done first rate. They're young folks, got three children, a little girl a small boy and a baby and I guess they'll do as well as any one can on that farm, it's a likely place but his father ain't been dead long and Geo. didn't have no show while the old man was alive. He buys his flour and groceries of me and I call him a honest fellow and I guess you'd like to board with them if you want to try them next summer. I don't think of anything more to say so will close.

Yours respt.
Josiah Safford.

P. S.—His name and address are George Tillage, Intervale Farm, Mad River Village, N. H.

This was a highly satisfactory letter, especially to Master Fred who had shouted gleefully to Beth, "I told you so!" "I do know a family of the name of Tillage," and when his father read "three children, a little girl, etc.," he nearly turned a somersault in his excitement, dancing about and saying, "that's Lucy! that's Lucy!"

Mr. Page turned smilingly to his wife, saying, "Well, my dear, this does not sound so much like a fairy tale after all, and I really think you and the children must play Santa Claus and send Lucy a doll."

"Oh, yes, Papa, of course we must! Yes, do, Mamma!" shouted both children at once. "It'll be such fun and she won't know where it comes from."

Mrs. Page was only too willing, so she promised, only adding that she hoped the minister would give an equally good account.

The children, however, were quite satisfied with the postmaster's letter and began preparations the very next morning to secure the doll and her "fit out" as Beth called it. First, Beth's dolls were looked at to see if one of them would do to take a trip into the country, but although there were quite a number of them none seemed to just suit their ideas of what Lucy's doll should be. So Mamma was appealed to and in consequence a visit was paid to Partridge's store by Mrs. Page, accompanied by Beth and Master Fred. Here such a bewildering array of dolls was presented to the children that it was with difficulty they finally decided upon one with blue eyes and short golden hair, and real hair that curled bewitchingly. Then came the selection of the "fit out." Freddie thought she should have skates and a watch and bracelets and one of the cunning waterproof cloaks and a trunk—in fact, everything that could be bought for a doll (and in these days that means all articles of apparel, whether for use or ornament, that could be bought for a real person); but Mrs. Page explained that she would not need so many things in Mad River Village, so he was contented with a trunk which he selected himself, while his mother and Beth bought a little hat and cloak, shoes, stockings, and a pretty sunshade—the dresses and underclothing Beth thought she could make with the aid of her mother's seamstress, and she was very ambitious to try.

Freddie thought the "small boy" and the "baby" ought to have presents sent to them also; so he was allowed to select a drum, which he was sure the boy "would like best of anything," and a pretty rattle and a rubber cow for the baby.

It was a very busy season of the year for the Pages as well as for other people, and Beth had many presents to think about, but she kept the little dresses and clothes for Lucy's doll in mind and worked and planned with a will all the time she could spare for them, and Mary, the seamstress, sewed and sewed, and as she knew how to cut dresses as well as make them, in about two weeks they had, as Beth said, "a lovely fit out," even to a tiny muff and collar made from some bits of fur mamma had and a sweet little hood made just like Beth's own.

Then Miss Doll was dressed in her travelling suit, muff and all, her other dresses and clothing packed in the little trunk, and she herself carefully tucked in on top, then Beth shut the cover and locked it, tying the key to one of the buckles of the side strap—a box had been procured and into it was packed the trunk, the drum, and the presents for the baby, supplemented by Freddie with a ball which he had found among his own playthings and two cornucopias of candy which he had purchased himself, saying that "Christmas won't be Christmas if they don't have some candy." Mrs. Page "filled in the nooks and corners just to steady the whole," as she modestly said, with a pair of strong warm mittens for Mr. Tillage, some magazines and books, several pairs of long thick stockings which Freddie had outgrown but not worn out, and over the whole a beautiful warm shawl.

Then Beth and Fred composed a letter together which Beth wrote and they both signed:

Dear Lucy Tillage:—The turkey brought the letter safely to us and we wanted to be Santa Claus ourselves and so send the doll and the other things for a Christmas present to you and your brother and the baby.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Beth Page,
Fred Page.

This they neatly folded, put in an envelope addressed to Miss Lucy Tillage, Mad River Village, and placed on the shawl where it might be seen the moment the box was opened. They felt very proud and happy when the box was finally nailed up and directed in clear printed letters to

GEORGE TILLAGE,
Intervale Farm,
Mad River Village,
New Hampshire.

Freddie insisted that Lucy's name ought to be put on, too, as she was the one who had written the letter and to whom the box was really sent; so "For Lucy" was printed across one corner and underlined that her father might see it was sent particularly to her. It all seemed so mysterious, sending presents to people they did not know, and so delightful, that they thought this the best Christmas they had ever known and only wished that they could be in the little "black house" when the box was opened, to see Lucy's face as she caught sight of the cunning trunk and then the doll which she had so longed for.

The very day the box was sent on its way there came a letter from a minister in the town in which Mad River Village was located, saying that he "did not know any family of the name of Tillage, but upon inquiry he had found that there was a family of that name living on the other side of the river, but as they did not go to his church he was not acquainted with them; he was sorry, etc., etc."

But the children cared little for this letter; their faith in Lucy was not shaken, and they were very happy that they had answered her letter.