“Any news, mother?” asked Edna one Friday afternoon when she came home from school.
“There’s a letter from grandma,” replied Mrs. Conway after kissing the lips held up to hers. “There isn’t any real news in it, but there is an invitation.”
“What kind of an invitation?”
“A Thanksgiving kind.”
“Oh, mother, what do you mean?”
“I mean that grandma wants us all to spend an old-fashioned Thanksgiving with her; the kind she used to have when she was young. She says she and grandpa are both getting old and they may not be able to have the whole family there together again.”
“And are we going?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“The whole family?”
“I think perhaps you and I will go on a day or two ahead and let the others follow. Celia and the boys can come with your father, who probably could not get off till Wednesday afternoon. Grandma asks that I bring my baby with me.”
“And that means me,” returned Edna, hugging herself. “How long shall we stay, mother?”
“That depends upon several things which will have to be learned later, so I can’t tell just yet.”
Edna danced off to hunt up her brothers that she might tell them the news. She found them in their little workshop over the stable. Charlie was making a new box to put in his pigeon house and Frank was watching him. They had not seen their little sister since Monday for she and her sister Celia went to school in the city, remaining until the Friday afternoon of each week.
“Hello!” cried Charlie, looking up. “When did you come?”
“Oh, we’ve just come, only a few minutes ago, and what do you think is the news?”
“The Dutch have taken Holland,” returned Charlie, hammering away at his box. “Just hand me that box of nails, Frank, won’t you?”
“That’s a silly answer,” said Edna with contempt.
“Well, if it’s news, how did you expect me to know it?”
“I didn’t expect you to know it, only to guess.”
“It’s nothing so unimportant,” Edna continued; “for it concerns you boys, too, but if you don’t want to know I’ll go up to Dorothy’s; she’ll be interested even if she isn’t going.”
“Going? Where?” cried both boys.
“That’s for me to know and for you to find out,” retorted Edna, beginning to scramble down the ladder. Both boys darted after; Charlie swung himself down ahead of her to the floor below and was ready to grab her before she reached the last rung. Then there was much laughing, scrambling, tickling and protesting till at last Edna was compelled to give up her secret, ending triumphantly with: “And I’m going first with mother.”
“Mother did. We are to go two or three days ahead of anyone else.”
“Oh, well, I don’t care,” returned Charlie. “There wouldn’t be any boys for me to play with anyhow.”
“How many are coming for Thanksgiving?” asked Frank.
“I don’t know exactly,” Edna answered, “but I suppose all the aunts and cousins and uncles that can get there. Aunt Lucia and Uncle Bert and of course Aunt Alice and her boys, Ben and his brother. Ben will have to go, and I’m awfully glad; he’s my favoritest cousin.”
“How about Louis?”
“He is not any relation to grandma and grandpa Willis, is he?”
“I don’t know; I never could get relations straight. I hope he isn’t any kin to them and I am sorry he is to us, for he is a pill. You know he is, no matter what you say. Just look how he acted last summer. You needn’t try to excuse him, for Dorothy told me all about it.”
Edna could not deny facts, for it was quite true that her cousin Louis was not above blame in sundry instances, so she changed the subject by saying, “I think I’ll go over to Dorothy’s anyhow.”
The boys did not try to detain her and she ran out along the road and up to the old-fashioned house where her friend Dorothy Evans lived. Dorothy was playing with her kitten out on the side porch. She had dressed the little creature in long clothes and was walking up and down singing to it as it lay contentedly in her arms, it’s two gray paws sticking out from the sleeves of a little red sacque belonging to one of Dorothy’s dolls.
“Doesn’t Tiddlywinks look funny?” said Dorothy by way of greeting. “And isn’t he good? I believe he likes to be dressed up, for he lies as still as anything. Of course, if he fussed and meowed, I would take off the things and let him go.”
Edna touched the soft silvery paws gently. “I believe he does like it,” she returned. “See, he shuts his eyes exactly as if he felt nice and cozy. Oh, Dorothy, guess what! We are all going to grandpa Willis’s next week. We are all going for Thanksgiving, only mother and I are going first. Isn’t that lovely?”
“Lovely for you, I suppose,” replied Dorothy dejectedly, “but I shall miss you dreadfully.”
“Oh, no, you won’t, when you have Margaret and Nettie so near. Besides I shall not be gone long, not more than a week.”
“Are there any girls there?” asked Dorothy, a little jealously.
“Is it in the real country?”
“It is real country and yet it isn’t, for it is a village. Grandpa has a farm, but just across the street is a store and the church is only a few steps away, and there are lots of neighbors; some have big places and some have little ones. Grandpa’s isn’t as big as the biggest nor as little as the littlest.”
“Does he keep horses and cows and chickens and things?”
“Oh, my, yes, and ducks and turkeys and sheep.”
“I should think it would be a pretty nice sort of place.”
“It is lovely and I am always crazy about going there.”
“But please don’t stay too long this time,” urged Dorothy.
“You might take the mother cat,” Dorothy suggested; “she is very gentle and nice.”
They went in search of Tiddlywinks’ mother, but Madam Pittypat objected to being made a baby of, for, though she was gentle enough, she squirmed and twisted herself out of every garment they tried upon her, and, at the first opportunity, walked off in a most dignified manner, as though she would say: “Such a way to treat the mother of a family!”
So the two little girls concluded that they would free Tiddlywinks and turn him again into a kitten. They left him stretching himself and yawning lazily, as they trudged off to see their friend, Margaret McDonald, that they might tell her Edna’s news.
The days sped by quickly until Tuesday came, when Edna and her mother were to start on their journey. Edna at first decided to take her doll Ada “because she is more used to traveling,” she said, but at the last moment she changed her mind saying that Ada had been on so many journeys that she thought someone else should have a chance and, therefore, it was her new doll, Virginia, who was dressed for the trip. The previous year Edna had spent Thanksgiving Day with her Uncle Justus; this year it would be quite a different thing to sit at table with a whole company of cousins instead of dining alone with Uncle Justus.
It was a journey of three hours before the station of Mayville was reached, then a drive of four miles to Overlea lay before them. But there was grandpa himself waiting to help them off the train, to see that their trunks were safely stowed into the big farm wagon, and at last to tuck them snugly into the carriage which was to bear them to the white house set in behind a stately row of maples. These had lost their leaves, but a crimson oak still showed its red against the sky, and the vines clambering up the porch waved out scarlet banners to welcome the guests.
Grandma Willis was standing on the porch to greet them as they drew up before the door. Behind her stood Amanda and behind Amanda a little girl about twelve or thirteen. Behind the little girl trailed a cat and three kittens. At the sight of these Edna gave a squeal of delight. “New kittens, grandma? How lovely! I’m so glad,” she cried.
Grandma smiled. “Well, give me a good hug and kiss first and then Reliance can let you take one of the kittens to hug.”
“Who is Reliance? Is that what you call the mother-cat?”
Edna did not understand this latter speech but she smiled encouragingly at Reliance who smiled back at her. Then after the huggings and kissings were given to Mrs. Willis, Reliance picked up one of the kittens and held it out to Edna who cuddled it up to her and followed the others into the house.
It was a big old-fashioned place where the Willis family had lived for many generations. In the large living-room was a huge fireplace in which now a roaring fire crackled and leaped high. There was a small seat close to it and on this Edna settled herself.
“Here, here, aren’t you going to stay a while?” cried grandpa who had given over the carriage into the hands of Ira, the hired man, and who had just come in.
“Then why don’t you take off your things? Mother, isn’t there any place they can lay their bonnets and coats? It seems to me there should be a bed or cupboard somewhere.”
“Now, father,” protested Mrs. Willis, “you know this house is big enough to hold the hats and coats of the entire family.”
“Didn’t know but you were house-cleaning and had every place turned upside down.”
“Now, father,” Mrs. Willis continued, “you know we’ve been days getting the house cleaned and that everything is in apple-pie order for Thanksgiving.”
Grandpa gave Mrs. Conway a sly wink. “You’d think it ought to be in apple-pie order,” he said, “by the way they have been tearing up the place. Couldn’t find my papers, my sticks, my umbrella or anything when I wanted them. I am glad you all have come so you can help me hunt for them.”
“Why, father, how you do go on,” Mrs. Willis interposed. The old gentleman laughed. He was a great tease, as Edna well knew.
“Where shall we go to lay off our things, mother?” asked Mrs. Conway.
“Up to your own old room over the dining-room. Here, Reliance, take the kitten and you, Edna, can come along with your mother.”
“There’s no need for you to go up, mother,” said Mrs. Conway. “I have been there before, you know, and I think I can find the way.” Then the two smiled wisely at one another.
But grandma would go and presently Edna found herself in a large room which looked out upon the west. Mrs. Conway stood still and gazed around her. “How natural it all seems,” she said, “even to the pictures upon the walls. I went from this room a bride, Edna, and when I come back to it I feel not a day older. This is the same furniture, but this is a new carpet, mother, and new curtains, and the little cot you have put in for Edna, I suppose.”
“Yes, there are some things that will not last a lifetime,” answered Mrs. Willis, “and we must furbish up once in a while. I thought you would rather have Edna here with you than elsewhere, and at such a crowded time we have to stow away as we can. I have put another cot in my room for one of the other children and Celia is to go in with Becky.”
While they were talking Ira brought up the trunks and Mrs. Conway commenced the task of unpacking, so very soon they were settled and ready for dinner, which was served in the big dining-room where was another open fireplace not quite so large as the first, but ample enough. Reliance waited upon the table and helped to clear away the dishes afterward.
“When you are through with your tasks, Reliance, you can take Edna out and show her the chickens and pigs and things,” said grandma.
“Reliance is quite a recent addition to the family, isn’t she?” said Mrs. Conway when the little maid went out.
“Yes,” Mrs. Willis replied. “Amanda isn’t as young as she was and we thought it would be a good thing to have someone here who could save her steps and who could be trained to take her place after a while. I think Reliance promises to be very capable in time.”
While her mother talked to the grandparents, Edna walked softly around the room looking at the different things, the pictures, books and ornaments. There was a high mantel upon which stood a pair of Dresden vases and two quaint little figures. In the middle was a china house with a red door and vines over the windows. Edna had always admired it and was glad to see it still there. She stood looking at it for a long time. She liked to have her grandmother tell her its history. “That was brought to me by my grandfather when he returned from England,” Mrs. Willis always said. “I was a little girl about six years old. Later he brought me those two China figures. He was a naval officer and that is his portrait you see hanging on the wall.”
“I love the little house,” remarked Edna, knowing that the next word would be: “You may play with it if you are very careful. It is one of my oldest treasures and I should be very grieved if it were broken.”
“I used to think that same thing when I was a little girl,” her grandmother told her.
“I think maybe you’d better put it back so I won’t break it,” said Edna, carefully handing the treasure to her grandmother, “and then will you please tell me about the pictures?”
“The one over the mantel is called ‘The Signing of the Declaration of Independence,’ and that small framed affair by the chimney is a key to it, for it tells the names of the different men who figure in the picture.”
“Yes; and that other is General Washington, whom, of course, you know.”
“Oh, yes, of course; and I know that little girl, the black head over there; it is my great-great-grandmother.”
“The silhouette, you mean? Yes, that is she, and she is the same one who did that sampler you see hanging between the windows. She was not so old as you when she did it.”
Edna crossed the room and knelt on a chair in front of the sampler. It was dim with age, but she could discern a border of pink flowers with green leaves and letters worked in blue silk. She followed the letters with the tip of her finger, tracing them on the glass and at last spelling out the name of “Annabel Lisle, wrought in her seventh year.”
“You might be worse employed,” said her grandmother, smiling.
“Did you ever do a sampler?” asked Edna.
“Not a sampler like this one, but I learned to work in cross stitch. Do you remember the little stool in the living-room by the fireplace?”
“The one with roses on it that I was sitting on?”
“Yes; that I did when I was about your age, and the sofa pillow with the two doves on it I did when I was about Celia’s age. I was very proud of it, I remember.”
“May I go look at them?”
So Edna went into the next room and carefully examined the two pieces of work which now had a new importance in hereyes. A little girl about her age had done them long ago. She discovered, too, a queer-looking picture behind the door. It was of a lady leaning against an urn, a weeping-willow tree near by. The lady held a handkerchief in her hand and looked very sorrowful. Edna wondered why she seemed so sad. There were some words written below but they were too faint for her to decipher, and she determined to ask her grandmother about this picture which she had never noticed before. While she was still looking at it, Reliance came to the door to say, “I can go now; I’ve finished what I had to do.” Edna turned with alacrity and the two went out together.
Categories: English Literature