An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving by Rose Terry Cooke

A long story about a family of hardy New England pioneers in Revolutionary days. It will be most enjoyed by the older children.
"Pile in, Hannah. Get right down 'long o' the clock, so's to kinder shore it up. I'll fix in them pillers t'other side on't, and you can set back ag'inst the bed. Good-bye, folks! Gee up! Bright. Gee! I tell ye, Buck."

"Good-bye!" nodded Hannah, from the depths of the old calash which granny had given her for a riding-hood, and her rosy face sparkled under the green shadow like a blossom under a burdock leaf.

This was their wedding journey. Thirty long miles to be travelled, at the slow pace of an oxcart, where to-day a railroad spins by, and a log hut in the dim distance.

But Hannah did not cry about it. There was a momentary choking, perhaps, in her throat, as she caught a last view of granny's mob cap and her father's rough face, with the red head of her small stepbrother between them, grouped in the doorway. Her mother had died long ago, and there was another in her place now, and a swarm of children. Hannah was going to her own home, to a much easier life, and going with John. Why should she cry?

Besides, Hannah was the merriest little woman in the country. She had a laugh always lying ready in a convenient dimple.

She never knew what "blues" meant, except to dye stocking yarn. She was sunny as a dandelion and gay as a bobolink. Her sweet good nature never failed through the long day's journey, and when night came she made a pot of tea at the campfire, roasted a row of apples, and broiled a partridge John shot by the wayside, with as much enjoyment as if this was the merriest picnic excursion, and not a solitary camp in the forest, long miles away from any human dwelling, and by no means sure of safety from some lingering savage, some beast of harmful nature, or at least a visit from a shambling black bear, for bears were plentiful enough in that region.

But none of these things worried Hannah. She ate her supper with hearty appetite, said her prayers with John, and curled down on the featherbed in the cart, while John heaped on more wood, and, shouldering his musket, went to lengthen the ropes that tethered his oxen, and then mounted guard over the camp. Hannah watched his fine, grave face, as the flickering light illuminated it, for a few minutes, and then slept tranquilly till dawn. And by sunset next day the little party drew up at the door of the log hut they called home.

It looked very pretty to Hannah. She had the fairy gift, that is so rare among mortals, of seeing beauty in its faintest expression; and the young grass about the rough stone doorstep, the crimson cones on the great larch tree behind it, the sunlit panes of the west window, the laugh and sparkle of the brook that ran through the clearing, the blue eyes of the squirrel caps that blossomed shyly and daintily beside the stumps of new-felled trees—all these she saw and delighted in. And when the door was open, the old clock set up, the bed laid on the standing bedplace, and the three chairs and table ranged against the wall, she began her housewifery directly, singing as she went. Before John had put his oxen in the small barn, sheltered the cart and the tools in it, and shaken down hay into the manger, Hannah had made a fire, hung on the kettle, spread up her bed with homespun sheets and blankets and a wonderful cover of white-and-red chintz, set the table with a loaf of bread, a square of yellow butter, a bowl of maple sugar, and a plate of cheese; and even released the cock and the hen from their uneasy prison in a splint basket, and was feeding them in the little woodshed when John came in.

His face lit up, as he entered, with that joyful sense of home so instinctive in every true man and woman. He rubbed his hard hands together, and catching Hannah as she came in at the shed door, bestowed upon her a resounding kiss.

"You're the most of a little woman I ever see, Hannah, I swan to man."

Hannah laughed like a swarm of spring blackbirds. "I declare, John, you do beat all! Ain't it real pleasant here? Seems to me I never saw things so handy."

Oh, Hannah, what if your prophetic soul could have foreseen the conveniences of this hundred years after! Yet the shelves, the pegs, the cupboard in the corner, the broad shelf above the fire, the great pine chest under the window, and the clumsy settle, all wrought out of pine board by John's patient and skilful fingers, filled all her needs; and what can modern conveniences do more?

So they ate their supper at home for the first time, happy as new-nested birds, and far more grateful.

John had built a sawmill on the brook a little way from the house, and already owned a flourishing trade, for the settlement about the lake from which Nepasset Brook sprung was quite large, and till John Perkins went there the lumber had been all drawn fifteen miles off, to Litchfield, and his mill was only three miles from Nepash village. Hard work and hard fare lay before them both, but they were not daunted by the prospect....

By and by a cradle entered the door, and a baby was laid in it....

One baby is well enough in a log cabin, with one room for all the purposes of life; but when next year brought two more, a pair of stout boys, then John began to saw lumber for his own use. A bedroom was built on the east side of the house, and a rough stairway into the loft—more room perhaps than was needed; but John was called in Nepash "a dre'dful forecastin' man," and he took warning from the twins. And timely warning it proved, for as the years slipped by, one after another, they left their arrows in his quiver till ten children bloomed about the hearth. The old cabin had disappeared entirely. A good-sized frame house of one story, with a high-pitched roof, stood in its stead, and a slab fence kept roving animals out of the yard and saved the apple trees from the teeth of stray cows and horses.

Poor enough they were still. The loom in the garret always had its web ready, the great wheel by the other window sung its busy song year in and year out. Dolly was her mother's right hand now; and the twins, Ralph and Reuben, could fire the musket and chop wood. Sylvy, the fourth child, was the odd one. All the rest were sturdy, rosy, laughing girls and boys; but Sylvy had been a pining baby, and grew up into a slender, elegant creature, with clear gray eyes, limpid as water, but bright as stars, and fringed with long golden lashes the colour of her beautiful hair—locks that were coiled in fold on fold at the back of her fine head, like wreaths of undyed silk, so pale was their yellow lustre. She bloomed among the crowd of red-cheeked, dark-haired lads and lasses, stately and incongruous as a June lily in a bed of tulips. But Sylvy did not stay at home. The parson's lady at Litchfield came to Nepash one Sunday, with her husband, and seeing Sylvy in the square corner pew with the rest, was mightily struck by her lovely face, and offered to take her home with her the next week, for the better advantages of schooling. Hannah could not have spared Dolly; but Sylvia was a dreamy, unpractical child, and though all the dearer for being the solitary lamb of the flock by virtue of her essential difference from the rest, still, for that very reason, it became easier to let her go. Parson Everett was childless, and in two years' time both he and his wife adored the gentle, graceful girl; and she loved them dearly. They could not part with her, and at last adopted her formally as their daughter, with the unwilling consent of John and Hannah. Yet they knew it was greatly "for Sylvy's betterment," as they phrased it; so at last they let her go.

But when Dolly was a sturdy young woman of twenty-five the war-trumpet blew, and John and the twins heard it effectually. There was a sudden leaving of the plow in the furrow. The planting was set aside for the children to finish, the old musket rubbed up, and with set lips and resolute eyes the three men walked away one May morning to join the Nepash company. Hannah kept up her smiling courage through it all. If her heart gave way, nobody knew it but God and John. The boys she encouraged and inspired, and the children were shamed out of their childish tears by mother's bright face and cheery talk.

Then she set them all to work. There was corn to plant, wheat to sow, potatoes to set; flax and wool to spin and weave, for clothes would be needed for all, both absent and stay-at-homes. There was no father to superintend the outdoor work; so Hannah took the field, and marshalled her forces on Nepasset Brook much as the commander-in-chief was doing on a larger scale elsewhere. Eben, the biggest boy, and Joey, who came next him, were to do all the planting; Diana and Sam took on themselves the care of the potato patch, the fowls, and the cow; Dolly must spin and weave when mother left either the wheel or loom to attend to the general ordering of the forces; while Obed and Betty, the younglings of the flock, were detailed to weed, pick vegetables (such few as were raised in the small garden), gather berries, herbs, nuts, hunt the straying turkeys' nests, and make themselves generally useful. At evening all the girls sewed; the boys mended their shoes, having learned so much from a travelling cobbler; and the mother taught them all her small stock of schooling would allow. At least, they each knew how to read, and most of them to write, after a very uncertain fashion. As to spelling, nobody knew how to spell in those days.... But they did know the four simple rules of arithmetic, and could say the epigrammatic rhymes of the old New England Primer and the sibyllic formulas of the Assembly's Catechism as glibly as the child of to-day repeats "The House That Jack Built."

So the summer went on. The corn tasselled, the wheat ears filled well, the potatoes hung out rich clusters of their delicate and graceful blossoms, beans straggled half over the garden, the hens did their duty bravely, and the cow produced a heifer calf.

Father and the boys were fighting now, and mother's merry words were more rare, though her bright face still wore its smiling courage. They heard rarely from the army. Now and then a post rider stopped at the Nepash tavern and brought a few letters or a little news; but this was at long intervals, and women who watched and waited at home without constant mail service and telegraphic flashes, aware that news of disaster, of wounds, of illness, could only reach them too late to serve or save, and that to reach the ill or the dying involved a larger and more disastrous journey than the survey of half the world demands now—these women endured pangs beyond our comprehension, and endured them with a courage and patience that might have furnished forth an army of heroes, that did go far to make heroes of that improvised, ill-conditioned, eager multitude who conquered the trained bands of their oppressors and set their sons "free and equal," to use their own dubious phraseology, before the face of humanity at large.

By and by winter came on with all its terrors. By night wolves howled about the lonely house, and sprung back over the palings when Eben went to the door with his musket. Joe hauled wood from the forest on a hand-sled, and Dolly and Diana took it in through the kitchen window when the drifts were so high that the woodshed door could not be opened. Besides, all the hens were gathered in there, as well for greater warmth as for convenience in feeding, and the barn was only to be reached with snowshoes and entered by the window above the manger.

Hard times these were. The loom in the garret could not be used, for even fingers would freeze in that atmosphere; so the thread was wound off, twisted on the great wheel, and knit into stockings, the boys learning to fashion their own, while Hannah knit her anxiety and her hidden heartaches into socks for her soldier boys and their father.

By another spring the aching and anxiousness were a little dulled, for habit blunts even the keen edge of mortal pain. They had news that summer that Ralph had been severely wounded, but had recovered; that John had gone through a sharp attack of camp-fever; that Reuben was taken prisoner, but escaped by his own wit. Hannah was thankful and grateful beyond expression. Perhaps another woman would have wept and wailed, to think all this had come to pass without her knowledge or her aid; but it was Hannah's way to look at the bright side of things. Sylvia would always remember how once, when she was looking at Mount Tahconic, darkened by a brooding tempest, its crags frowning blackly above the dark forest at its foot and the lurid cloud above its head torn by fierce lances of light, she hid her head in her mother's checked apron, in the helpless terror of an imaginative child; but, instead of being soothed and pitied, mother had only laughed a little gay laugh, and said gently, but merrily:

"Why, Sylvy, the sun's right on the other side, only you don't see it."

After that she always thought her mother saw the sun when nobody else could. And in a spiritual sense it was true.

Parson Everett rode over once or twice from Litchfield that next summer to fetch Sylvia and to administer comfort to Hannah. He was a quaint, prim little gentleman, neat as any wren, but mild-mannered as wrens never are, and in a moderate way kindly and sympathetic. When the children had haled their lovely sister away to see their rustic possessions, Parson Everett would sit down in a high chair, lay aside his cocked hat, spread his silk pocket handkerchief over his knees, and prepare to console Hannah.

"Mistress Perkins, these are trying times, trying times. There is a sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry-trees—h-m! Sea and waves roaring of a truth—h-m! h-m! I trust, Mistress Perkins, you submit to the Divine Will with meekness."

"Well, I don't know," replied Hannah, with a queer little twinkle in her eye. "I don't believe I be as meek as Moses, parson. I should like things fixed different, to speak truth."

"Dear me! Dear me—h-m! h-m! My good woman, the Lord reigneth. You must submit; you must submit. You know it is the duty of a vessel of wrath to be broken to pieces if it glorifieth the Maker."

"Well, mebbe 'tis. I don't know much about that kind o' vessel. I've got to submit because there ain't anything else to do, as I see. I can't say it goes easy—not'n' be honest; but I try to look on the bright side, and to believe the Lord'll take care of my folks better'n I could, even if they was here."

"H-m! h-m! Well," stammered the embarrassed parson, completely at his wit's end with this cheerful theology, "well, I hope it is grace that sustains you, Mistress Perkins, and not the vain elation of the natural man. The Lord is in His holy temple; the earth is His footstool—h-m!" The parson struggled helplessly with a tangle of texts here; but the right one seemed to fail him, till Hannah audaciously put it in:

"Well, you know what it says about takin' care of sparrers, in the Bible, and how we was more valerable than they be, a lot. That kind o' text comes home these times, I tell ye. You fetch a person down to the bedrock, as Grandsir Penlyn used to say, and then they know where they be. And ef the Lord is really the Lord of all, I expect He'll take care of all; 'nd I don't doubt but what He is and does. So I can fetch up on that."

Parson Everett heaved a deep sigh, put on his cocked hat, and blew his nose ceremonially with the silk handkerchief. Not that he needed to: but as a sort of shaking off of the dust of responsibility and ending the conversation, which, if it was not heterodox on Hannah's part, certainly did not seem orthodox to him.... He did not try to console her any more, but contented himself with the stiller spirits in his own parish, who had grown up in and after his own fashion.

Another dreadful winter settled down on Nepasset township. There was food enough in the house and firewood in the shed; but neither food nor fire seemed to assuage the terrible cold, and with decreased vitality decreased courage came to all. Hygienics were an unforeseen mystery to people of that day. They did not know that nourishing food is as good for the brain as for the muscles. They lived on potatoes, beets, beans, with now and then a bit of salt pork or beef boiled in the pot with the rest; and their hearts failed, as their flesh did, with this sodden and monotonous diet. One ghastly night Hannah almost despaired. She held secret council with Dolly and Eben, while they inspected the potato bin and the pork barrel, as to whether it would not be best for them to break up and find homes elsewhere for the winter. Her father was old and feeble. He would be glad to have her with him and Betty. The rest were old enough to "do chores" for their board, and there were many families where help was needed, both in Nepash and Litchfield, since every available man had gone to the war by this time. But while they talked a great scuffling and squawking in the woodhouse attracted the boys upstairs. Joe seized the tongs and Diana the broomstick. An intruding weasel was pursued and slaughtered; but not till two fowls, fat and fine, had been sacrificed by the invader and the tongs together. The children were all hungry, with the exhaustion of the cold weather, and clamoured to have these victims cooked for supper. Nor was Hannah unmoved by the appeal. Her own appetite seconded. The savoury stew came just in time. It aroused them to new life and spirits. Hannah regained courage, wondering how she could have lost heart so far, and said to Dolly, as they washed up the supper dishes:

"I guess we'll keep together, Dolly. It'll be spring after a while, and we'll stick it out together."

"I guess I would," answered Dolly. "And don't you believe we should all feel better to kill off them fowls—all but two or three? They're master hands to eat corn, and it does seem as though that biled hen done us all a sight o' good to-night. Just hear them children."

And it certainly was, as Hannah said, "musical to hear 'em." Joe had a cornstalk fiddle, and Eben an old singing book, which Diana read over his shoulder while she kept on knitting her blue sock; and the three youngsters—Sam, Obed, and Betty—with wide mouths and intent eyes, followed Diana's "lining out" of that quaint hymn "The Old Israelites," dwelling with special gusto and power on two of the verses:

"We are little, 'tis true,
And our numbers are few,
And the sons of old Anak are tall;
But while I see a track
I will never go back,
But go on at the risk of my all.

"The way is all new,
As it opens to view,
And behind is the foaming Red Sea;
So none need to speak
Of the onions and leeks
Or to talk about garlics to me!"

Hannah's face grew brighter still. "We'll stay right here!" she said, adding her voice to the singular old ditty with all her power:

"What though some in the rear
Preach up terror and fear,
And complain of the trials they meet,
Tho' the giants before
With great fury do roar,
I'm resolved I can never retreat."

And in this spirit, sustained, no doubt, by the occasional chickens, they lived the winter out, till blessed, beneficent spring came again, and brought news, great news, with it. Not from the army, though. There had been a post rider in Nepash during the January thaw, and he brought short letters only. There was about to be a battle, and there was no time to write more than assurances of health and good hopes for the future. Only once since had news reached them from that quarter. A disabled man from the Nepash company was brought home dying with consumption. Hannah felt almost ashamed to rejoice in the tidings he brought of John's welfare, when she heard his husky voice, saw his worn and ghastly countenance, and watched the suppressed agony in his wife's eyes. The words of thankfulness she wanted to speak would have been so many stabs in that woman's breast. It was only when her eight children rejoiced in the hearing that she dared to be happy. But the other news was from Sylvia. She was promised to the schoolmaster in Litchfield. Only to think of it! Our Sylvy!

Master Loomis had been eager to go to the war; but his mother was a poor bedrid woman, dependent on him for support, and all the dignitaries of the town combined in advising and urging him to stay at home for the sake of their children, as well as his mother. So at home he stayed, and fell into peril of heart, instead of life and limb, under the soft fire of Sylvia's eyes, instead of the enemy's artillery. Parson Everett could not refuse his consent, though he and madam were both loth to give up their sweet daughter. But since she and the youth seemed to be both of one mind about the matter, and he being a godly young man, of decent parentage, and in a good way of earning his living, there was no more to be said. They would wait a year before thinking of marriage, both for better acquaintance and on account of the troubled times.

"Mayhap the times will mend, sir," anxiously suggested the schoolmaster to Parson Everett.

"I think not, I think not, Master Loomis. There is a great blackness of darkness in hand, the Philistines be upon us, and there is moving to and fro. Yea, Behemoth lifteth himself and shaketh his mane—h-m! ah! h-m! It is not a time for marrying and giving in marriage, for playing on sackbuts and dulcimers—h-m!"

A quiet smile flickered around Master Loomis's mouth as he turned away, solaced by a shy, sweet look from Sylvia's limpid eyes, as he peeped into the keeping-room, where she sat with madam, on his way out. He could afford to wait a year for such a spring blossom as that, surely. And wait he did, with commendable patience, comforting his godly soul with the fact that Sylvia was spared meantime the daily tendance and care of a fretful old woman like his mother; for, though Master Loomis was the best of sons, that did not blind him to the fact that the irritability of age and illness were fully developed in his mother, and he alone seemed to have the power of calming her. She liked Sylvia at first, but became frantically jealous of her as soon as she suspected her son's attachment. So the summer rolled away. Hannah and her little flock tilled their small farm and gathered plenteous harvest. Mindful of last year's experience, they raised brood after brood of chickens, and planted extra acres of corn for their feeding, so that when autumn came, with its vivid, splendid days, its keen winds and turbulent skies, the new chicken yard, which the boys had worked at through the summer, with its wattled fence, its own tiny spring, and lofty covered roofs, swarmed with chickens, ducks, and turkeys. Many a dollar was brought home about Thanksgiving time for the fat fowls sold in Litchfield and Nepash; but dollars soon vanished in buying winter clothes for so many children, or rather, in buying wool to spin and weave for them. Mahala Green, the village tailoress, came to fashion the garments, and the girls sewed them. Uncouth enough was their aspect; but fashion did not yet reign in Nepash, and if they were warm, who cared for elegance? Not Hannah's rosy, hearty, happy brood. They sang and whistled and laughed with a force and freedom that was kin to the birds and squirrels among whom they lived; and Hannah's kindly, cheery face lit up as she heard them, while a half sigh told that her husband and her soldier boys were still wanting to her perfect contentment.

At last they were all housed snugly for winter. The woodpile was larger than ever before, and all laid up in the shed, beyond which a rough shelter of chinked logs had been put up for the chickens, to which their roosts and nest boxes, of coarse wicker, boards nailed together, hollow bark from the hemlock logs, even worn-out tin pails, had all been transferred. The cellar had been well banked from the outside, and its darksome cavern held good store of apples, pork, and potatoes. There was dried beef in the stairway, squashes in the cupboard, flour in the pantry, and the great gentle black cow in the barn was a wonderful milker. In three weeks Thanksgiving would come, and even Hannah's brave heart sank as she thought of her absent husband and boys; and their weary faces rose up before her as she numbered over to herself her own causes for thankfulness, as if to say: "Can you keep Thanksgiving without us?" Poor Hannah! She did her best to set these thankless thoughts aside, but almost dreaded the coming festival. One night, as she sat knitting by the fire, a special messenger from Litchfield rode up to the door and brought stirring news. Master Loomis's mother was dead, and the master himself, seeing there was a new levy of troops, was now going to the war. But before he went there was to be a wedding, and, in the good old fashion, it should be on Thanksgiving Day, and Madam Everett had bidden as many of Sylvy's people to the feast as would come.

There was great excitement as Hannah read aloud the madam's note. The tribe of Perkins shouted for joy, but a sudden chill fell on them when mother spoke:

"Now, children, hush up! I want to speak myself, ef it's a possible thing to git in a word edgeways. We can't all go, fust and foremost. 'Tain't noways possible."

"Oh, Mother! Why? Oh, do! Not go to Sylvy's wedding?" burst in the "infinite deep chorus" of youngsters.

"No, you can't. There ain't no team in the county big enough to hold ye all, if ye squeeze ever so much. I've got to go, for Sylvy'd be beat out if mother didn't come. And Dolly's the oldest. She's got a right to go."

Loud protest was made against the right of primogeniture, but mother was firm.

"Says so in the Bible. Leastways, Bible folks always acted so. The first-born, ye know. Dolly's goin', sure. Eben's got to drive, and I must take Obed. He'd be the death of somebody, with his everlastin' mischief, if I left him to home. Mebbe I can squeeze in Betty, to keep him company. Joe and Sam and Dianner won't be more'n enough to take care o' the cows and chickens and fires, and all. Likewise of each other."

Sam set up a sudden howl at his sentence, and kicked the mongrel yellow puppy, who leaped on him to console him, till that long-suffering beast yelped in concert.

Diana sniffed and snuffled, scrubbed her eyes with her checked apron, and rocked back and forth.

"Now, stop it!" bawled Joe. "For the land's sake, quit all this noise. We can't all on us go; 'n' for my part, I don't want to. We'll hev a weddin' of our own some day!" and here he gave a sly look at Dolly, who seemed to understand it and blushed like an apple-blossom, while Joe went on: "Then we'll all stay to 't, I tell ye, and have a right down old country time."

Mother had to laugh.

"So you shall, Joe, and dance 'Money Musk' all night, if you want to—same as you did to the corn huskin'. Now, let's see. Betty, she's got that chintz gown that was your Sunday best, Dolly—the flowered one, you know, that Dianner outgrowed. We must fix them lawn ruffles into 't; and there's a blue ribbin laid away in my chest o' drawers that'll tie her hair. It's dreadful lucky we've got new shoes all round; and Obed's coat and breeches is as good as new, if they be made out of his pa's weddin' suit. That's the good o' good cloth. It'll last most forever. Joe hed 'em first, then Sam wore 'em quite a spell, and they cut over jest right for Obey. My black paduasoy can be fixed up, I guess. But, my stars! Dolly, what hev' you got?"

"Well, Mother, you know I ain't got a real good gown. There's the black lutestring petticoat Sylvy fetched me two years ago; but there ain't any gown to it. We calculated I could wear that linsey jacket to meeting, under my coat; but 'twouldn't do rightly for a weddin'."

"That's gospel truth. You can't wear that, anyhow. You've got to hev somethin'. 'Twon't do to go to Sylvy's weddin' in linsey woolsy; but I don't believe there's more'n two hard dollars in the house. There's a few Continentals; but I don't count on them. Joe, you go over to the mill fust thing in the morning and ask Sylvester to lend me his old mare a spell to-morrer, to ride over to Nepash, to the store."

"Why don't ye send Doll?" asked Joe, with a wicked glance at the girl that set her blushing again.

"Hold your tongue, Joseph, 'n' mind me. It's bedtime now, but I'll wake ye up airly," energetically remarked Hannah. And next day, equipped in cloak and hood, she climbed the old mare's fat sides and jogged off on her errand; and by noon-mark was safe and sound home again, looking a little perplexed, but by no means cast down.

"Well, Dolly," said she, as soon as cloak and hood were laid aside, "there's the beautifulest piece of chintz over to the store you ever see—jest enough for a gown. It's kind of buff-coloured ground, flowered all over with roses, deep-red roses, as nateral as life. Squire Dart wouldn't take no money for 't. He's awful sharp about them new bills. Sez they ain't no more'n corn husks. Well, we ain't got a great lot of 'em, so there's less to lose, and some folks will take 'em; but he'll let me have the chintz for 'leven yards o' soldier's cloth—blue, ye know, like what we sent pa and the boys. And I spent them two silver dollars on a white gauze neckkercher and a piece of red satin ribbin for ye, for I'm set on that chintz. Now hurry up 'nd fix the loom right off. The web's ready, then we'll card the wool. I'll lay ye a penny we'll have them 'leven yards wove by Friday. To-day's Tuesday, Thanksgiving comes a Thursday week, an' ef we have the chintz by sundown a Saturday there'll be good store of time for Mahaly Green and you to make it afore Wednesday night. We'll hev a kind of a Thanksgiving, after all. But I wisht your pa——" The sentence ended in Hannah's apron at her eyes, and Dolly looked sober; but in a minute she dimpled and brightened, for the pretty chintz gown was more to her than half a dozen costly French dresses to a girl of to-day. But a little cloud suddenly put out the dimples.

"But, Mother, if somebody else should buy it?"

"Oh, they won't. I've fixed that. I promised to fetch the cloth inside of a week, and Squire Dart laid away the chintz for me till that time. Fetch the wool, Dolly, before you set up the web, so's I can start."

The wool was carded, spun, washed, and put into the dye tub, one "run" of yarn that night; and another spun and washed by next day's noon—for the stuff was to be checked, and black wool needed no dyeing. Swiftly hummed the wheel, merrily flew the shuttle, and the house steamed with inodorous dye; but nobody cared for that, if the cloth could only be finished. And finished it was—the full measure and a yard over; and on Saturday morning Sylvester's horse was borrowed again, and Hannah came back from the village beaming with pleasure, and bringing besides the chintz a yard of real cushion lace, to trim the ruffles for Dolly's sleeves, for which she had bartered the over yard of cloth and two dozen fresh eggs. Then even busier times set in. Mahala Green had already arrived, for she was dressmaker as well as tailoress, and was sponging and pressing over the black paduasoy that had once been dove-coloured and was Hannah's sole piece of wedding finery, handed down from her grandmother's wardrobe at that. A dark green grosgrain petticoat and white lawn ruffles made a sufficiently picturesque attire for Hannah, whose well-silvered hair set off her still sparkling eyes and clear healthy skin. She appeared in this unwonted finery on Thanksgiving morning to her admiring family, having added a last touch of adornment by a quaint old jet necklace, that glittered on the pure lawn neckkerchief with as good effect as a chain of diamonds and much more fitness. Betty, in her striped blue-and-white chintz, a clean dimity petticoat, and a blue ribbon round her short brown curls, looked like a cabbage rosebud—so sturdy and wholesome and rosy that no more delicate symbol suits her.

Obed was dreadful in the old-fashioned costume of coat and breeches, ill-fitting and shiny with wear, and his freckled face and round shock head of tan-coloured hair thrown into full relief by a big, square collar of coarse tatten lace laid out on his shoulders like a barber's towel, and illustrating the great red ears that stood out at right angles above it. But Obed was only a boy. He was not expected to be more than clean and speechless; and, to tell the truth, Eben, being in the hobbledehoy stage of boyhood—gaunt, awkward, and self-sufficient—rather surpassed his small brother in unpleasant aspect and manner. But who would look at the boys when Dolly stood beside them, as she did now, tall and slender, with the free grace of an untrammelled figure, her small head erect, her eyes dark and soft as a deer's, neatly clothed feet (not too small for her height) peeping from under the black lutestring petticoat, and her glowing brunette complexion set off by the picturesque buff-and-garnet chintz gown, while her round throat and arms were shaded by delicate gauze and snowy lace, and about her neck lay her mother's gold beads, now and then tangling in the heavy black curls that, tied high on her head with a garnet ribbon, still dropped in rich luxuriance to her trim waist.

The family approved of Dolly, no doubt, though their phrases of flattery were as homely as heartfelt.

"Orful slick-lookin', ain't she?" confided Joe to Eben; while sinful Sam shrieked out: "Land o' Goshen! ain't our Dolly smart? Shan't I fetch Sylvester over?"

For which I regret to state Dolly smartly boxed his ears.

But the pung was ready, and Sam's howls had to die out uncomforted. With many parting charges from Hannah about the fires and fowls, the cow, the hasty pudding, already put on for its long boil, and the turkey that hung from a string in front of the fire and must be watched well, since it was the Thanksgiving dinner, the "weddingers," as Joe called them, were well packed in with blankets and hot stones and set off on their long drive.

The day was fair and bright, the fields of snow purely dazzling; but the cold was fearful, and in spite of all their wraps, the keen winds that whistled over those broad hilltops where the road lay seemed to pierce their very bones, and they were heartily glad to draw up, by twelve o'clock, at the door of the parsonage and be set before a blazing fire, and revived with sundry mugs of foaming and steaming flip, made potent with a touch of old peach brandy; for in those ancient days, even in parsonages, the hot poker knew its office and sideboards were not in vain.

There was food, also, for the exhausted guests, though the refection was slight and served informally in the kitchen corner, for the ceremonial Thanksgiving dinner was to be deferred till after the wedding. And as soon as all were warmed and refreshed they were ushered into the great parlour, where a Turkey carpet, amber satin curtains, spider-legged chairs and tables, and a vast carved sofa, cushioned also with amber, made a regal and luxurious show in the eyes of our rustic observers.

But when Sylvy came in with the parson, who could look at furniture? Madam Everett had lavished her taste and her money on the lovely creature as if she were her own daughter, for she was almost as dear to that tender, childless soul. The girl's lustrous gold-brown hair was dressed high upon her head in soft puffs and glittering curls, and a filmy thread-lace scarf pinned across it with pearl-headed pins. Her white satin petticoat showed its rich lustre under a lutestring gown of palest rose brocaded with silver sprigs and looped with silver ribbon and pink satin roses. Costly lace clung about her neck and arms, long kid gloves covered her little hands and wrists and met the delicate sleeve ruffles, and about her white throat a great pink topaz clasped a single string of pearls. Hannah could scarce believe her eyes. Was this her Sylvy?—she who even threw Madam Everett, with her velvet dress, powdered hair, and Mechlin laces, quite into the background!

"I did not like it, Mammy dear," whispered Sylvy, as she clung round her astonished mother's neck. "I wanted a muslin gown; but madam had laid this by long ago, and I could not thwart or grieve her, she is so very good to me."

"No more you could, Sylvy. The gown is amazing fine, to be sure; but as long as my Sylvy's inside of it I won't gainsay the gown. It ain't a speck too pretty for the wearer, dear." And Hannah gave her another hug. The rest scarce dared to touch that fair face, except Dolly, who threw her arms about her beautiful sister, with little thought of her garments, but a sudden passion of love and regret sending the quick blood to her dark brows and wavy hair in a scarlet glow.

Master Loomis looked on with tender eyes. He felt the usual masculine conviction that nobody loved Sylvy anywhere near as much as he did; but it pleased him to see that she was dear to her family. The parson, however, abruptly put an end to the scene.

"H-m! my dear friends, let us recollect ourselves. There is a time for all things. Yea, earth yieldeth her increase—h-m! The Lord ariseth to shake visibly the earth—ahem! Sylvia, will you stand before the sophy? Master Lummis on the right side. Let us pray."

But even as he spoke the words a great knocking pealed through the house: the brass lion's head on the front door beat a reveille loud and long. The parson paused, and Sylvia grew whiter than before; while Decius, the parson's factotum, a highly respectable old negro (who, with his wife and daughter, sole servants of the house, had stolen in to see the ceremony), ambled out to the vestibule in most undignified haste. There came sounds of dispute, much tramping of boots, rough voices, and quick words; then a chuckle from Decius, the parlour door burst open, and three bearded, ragged, eager men rushed in upon the little ceremony.

There was a moment's pause of wonder and doubt, then a low cry from Hannah, as she flew into her husband's arms; and in another second the whole family had closed around the father and brothers, and for once the hardy, stern, reticent New England nature, broken up from its foundations, disclosed its depths of tenderness and fidelity. There were tears, choking sobs, cries of joy. The madam held her lace handkerchief to her eyes with real need of it; Master Loomis choked for sympathy; and the parson blew his nose on the ceremonial bandanna like the trumpet of a cavalry charge.

"Let us pray!" said he, in a loud but broken voice; and holding fast to the back of the chair, he poured out his soul and theirs before the Lord with all the fervour and the fluency of real feeling. There was no stumbling over misapplied texts now, no awkward objections in his throat, but only glowing Bible words of thankfulness and praise and joy. And every heart was uplifted and calm as they joined in the "Amen."

John's story was quickly told. Their decimated regiment was disbanded, to be reformed of fresh recruits, and a long furlough given to the faithful but exhausted remnant. They had left at once for home, and their shortest route lay through Litchfield. Night was near when they reached the town, but they must needs stop to get one glimpse of Sylvy and tidings from home, for fear lay upon them lest there might be trouble there which they knew not of. So they burst in upon the wedding. But Master Loomis began to look uneasy. Old Dorcas had slipped out, to save the imperilled dinner, and Pokey, the maid (née Pocahontas!) could be heard clinking glass and silver and pushing about chairs; but the happy family were still absorbed in each other.

"Mister Everett!" said the madam, with dignity, and the little minister trotted rapturously over to her chair to receive certain low orders.

"Yes, verily, yes—h-m! A—my friends, we are assembled in this place this evening——"

A sharp look from madam recalled him to the fact that this was not a prayer-meeting.

"A—that is—yes, of a truth our purpose this afternoon was to——"

"That's so!" energetically put in Captain John. "Right about face! Form!" and the three Continentals sprung to their feet and assumed their position, while Sylvy and Master Loomis resumed theirs, a flitting smile in Sylvia's tearful eyes making a very rainbow.

So the ceremony proceeded to the end, and was wound up with a short prayer, concerning which Captain Perkins irreverently remarked to his wife some days after:

"Parson smelt the turkey, sure as shootin', Hannah. He shortened up so 'mazin' quick on that prayer. I tell you I was glad on't. I knew how he felt. I could ha' ate a wolf myself."

Then they all moved in to the dinner table—a strange group, from Sylvia's satin and pearls to the ragged fatigue-dress of her father and brothers; but there was no help for that now, and really it troubled nobody. The shade of anxiety in madam's eye was caused only by a doubt as to the sufficiency of her supplies for three unexpected and ravenous guests; but a look at the mighty turkey, the crisp roast pig, the cold ham, the chicken pie, and the piles of smoking vegetables, with a long vista of various pastries, apples, nuts, and pitchers of cider on the buffet, and an inner consciousness of a big Indian pudding, for twenty-four hours simmering in the pot over the fire, reassured her, and perhaps heartened up the parson, for after a long grace he still kept his feet and added, with a kindly smile:

"Brethren and friends, you are heartily welcome. Eat and be glad, for seldom hath there been such cause and need to keep a Thanksgiving!"

And they all said Amen!