A Thanksgiving Dinner by Edna Payson Brett

Ministers' sons, somehow, have a bad reputation. Little Johnnie was one and he thought it pretty hard to have to go to church on Thanksgiving Day. But the pink-frosted cakes——
"OH, DEAR!" puffed a certain little boy one bright Thanksgiving morning, as he jerked his chubby neck into the stiffest of white collars. "Great fun, isn't it, having to sit up in meeting for a couple of hours straight as a telegraph pole when I might be playing football and beating the Haddam team all to hollow! This is what comes of your pa's being the minister, I s'pose."

But Johnnie, for that was his name, continued his dressing, the ten years of his young life having taught him how useless it is to make a fuss over what has to be done.

In a few minutes he had finished, and was quite satisfied with his appearance, but for his shoes. These he eyed for a moment, and concluding that they would not pass inspection, started for the woodshed to give them a shine.

On his way he passed the open dining-room door, and suddenly halted. "Oh! Why can't I have a nice little lunch during sermon time?"

He took a step back and peeped slyly into the room; then stole across to the old-fashioned cupboard, stealthily opening the doors, and such an array of good things you never beheld! Sally was the best cook in Brockton any day, but on Thanksgiving she could work wonders.

He looked with longing eyes from one dish to another. Now the big pies were out of the question, and the cranberry tarts—he felt of them lovingly—but no, they were altogether too sticky. He stood on tiptoe to see what was on the second shelf. To his delight he found a platter filled with just the daintiest little pink-frosted cakes you ever saw.

"O-oo, thimble cakes!" he exclaimed. "You are just the fellows I want! I'll take you along to church with me." He cast one quick glance around, then grabbed a handful of the tiny cakes and crammed them into his trousers' pocket.

"Lucky for me ma isn't going to meeting to-day," chuckled the naughty boy, "and I don't believe grandma'd ever tell on me if I carried along the turkey!"

The early bell had now begun to ring, and Johnnie started for the village church.

"Come, my son," said Doctor Goodwin, as they entered the meeting-house, "you are to sit in the front seat with grandma this morning: she is particularly anxious to hear every word of the sermon to-day. And where's your contribution, boy? You haven't forgotten that?"

"No, sir," meekly answered Johnnie, "it's tied up in my handkerchief." But his heart sank—the front seat! How ever was his lunch to come in now?

The opening hymn had been sung, the prayer of thanksgiving offered, and now, as the collection was about to be taken, the pastor begged his people to be especially generous to the poor on this day.

Up in the front pew sat Johnnie, but never a word of the notice did he hear, so busy was he planning out his own little affair. It wasn't such easy planning either, just supposing he got caught!

But what was that? Johnnie jumped as if he had been struck. However, it was nothing but the money plate under his nose, and the good Deacon Simms standing calmly by.

To the guilty boy it seemed as if the deacon must have been waiting for ten minutes at the least, and in a great flurry he began to fumble for his handkerchief. What had he done with it? Oh, there it was at last, way down in the depths of his right trousers' pocket.

He caught hold of the knotted corner, and out came the handkerchief with a whisk and a flourish, and scatter, rattle, helter-skelter, out flew a half-dozen pink thimble cakes, down upon the floor, back into Mrs. Smiley's pew, and to Johnnie's horror one pat into the deacon's plate!

The good man's eyes tried not to twinkle as he removed the unusual offering, and passed on more quickly than was his wont.

Miserable Johnnie, with his face as red as a rooster's comb and eyes cast down in shame, saw nothing but the green squares on the carpet and the dreadful pink-frosted cakes. He was sure that every one in the church was glaring at him; probably even grandma had forsaken him, and each moment he dreaded—he knew not what.

To his surprise, the service seemed to go right on as usual. Another hymn was sung, and then there was a general settling down for the sermon. Very soon he began to grow tired of just gazing at the floor, yet he dared not look up, and by and by the heavy eyes drooped and Johnny was fast asleep.

All was now quiet in the meeting-house save the calm, steady voice of the preacher. Pretty soon a wee creature dressed all in soft brown stole across the floor of a certain pew. She was a courageous little body indeed, but what mother would not venture a good deal for her hungry babies? Such a repast as this was certainly the opportunity of a lifetime. Looking cautiously around, then concluding that all was safe, she disappeared down a hole in a corner way under the seat. In a twinkling she was back again; this time, however, she was not alone. Four little ones pattered after Mamma Mouse, and eight bright eyes spied a dinner worth running for.

Never mind what they did; but when Johnnie awoke at the strains of the closing hymn and tried to remember what had gone wrong, he saw nothing of the pink-frosted cakes save some scattered crumbs.

What could have become of them, he thought, in bewilderment.

He hardly knew how he got out of the church that day, but he found himself rushing down the road a sadder and a wiser boy. Grandma and papa had remained to chat. Johnnie did not feel like chatting to-day.

When he reached the house he did not go in, but out to the hayloft, his favourite resort in time of trouble. When the dinner bell sounded, notwithstanding the delicious Thanksgiving odours which had been wafted even to the barn, it was an unwelcome summons; yet go he must, and walking sheepishly into the dining-room, he slunk into his chair.

"Well, John," said his father, as he helped him to turkey, "I understand that you did not forget the poor to-day. Eh, my son?"

"The poor?" What could he mean? Johnnie was too puzzled to speak.

Then his father went on to tell how little Mrs. Mouse and her babies had nibbled a wondrous dinner of pink thimble cakes on the floor of pew number one while Johnnie slept. Grandma and Mrs. Smiley had told him all about it on the way home; besides, he had seen enough himself from the pulpit.

Johnny bravely bore the laugh at his expense, and as the merriment died away heaved a deep sigh of relief, and exclaimed, "Well, I'm glad somebody had a feast, even if it wasn't the fellow 'twas meant for! Humph, 'twas quite a setup for poor church mice, wasn't it? But they needn't be looking for another next year. You don't catch me trying that again—no-sir-ee!"