“Oh, mother, mother!” exclaimed Lucy Welford, as she bounded into her mother’s room, one bright, frosty morning. “Uncle John is in the parlor, and he has come to ask you if he may take Mary and me home with him to pass Thanksgiving. O, please, mother, let us go. Thanksgiving in the country is so delightful, much more so than in the city. Such fine sleigh-rides, and such grand slides on the pond.”
“And the delicious pumpkin pies, and the roast turkeys, and the bowls of sweet milk and cream,” continued Mary, who had followed her sister to hear their mother’s decision. “Oh, it will be so pleasant. And only think, mother, Uncle John is going to have a large party—a regular feast—he says; and Aunt Clara thinks that Lucy and I can assist her very much if you will be so kind as to let us go.”
“Very well,” replied their mother, smiling; “we will go and talk with Uncle John about it, and see if father thinks he can spare both of his girls for a few days.”
To the great joy of Mary and Lucy, father and mother at length gave their consent; and, warmly wrapped in hoods and cloaks, with a large carpet-bag to contain such articles as would be necessary for them during their stay, they sprang lightly into Uncle John’s comfortable sleigh, and with many a kind good-by to the dear ones at home, were soon riding swiftly away, leaving far behind the various sights and sounds of the busy city.
A pleasant ride of fifteen miles brought them to the old-fashioned farmhouse, where the sound of the merry bells soon called Aunt Clara to the door, and with a most affectionate welcome, she hugged her young nieces, and expressed her joy that their parents had consented to spare them to her for a short time.
The ride in the fresh air had given the girls fine rosy cheeks and excellent appetites, and they were quite ready to accept Aunt Clara’s invitation to take a luncheon of bread and milk, and some of her nice doughnuts.
“And now, dear aunt, do tell us all about the party,” exclaimed Lucy. “Will there be any young folks, or is it only for grown up people like you and Uncle John? We tried to make him tell us about it as we rode along; but he only laughed, and said we should find out when the day came.”
“There will be both young and old,” replied their aunt, smiling, “about fifty in all; so you see I shall be much in need of your help in entertaining so large a company.”
“We will do everything we can to help you,” said Mary, “and we have brought our new winter frocks to wear, and new ribbons for our hair; and mother said, if anything else was needed, we could send her word to-morrow, as Uncle John said he should be obliged to go into town.”
“Oh, your dress will do very well, I have no doubt,” replied her aunt. “Our friends are not very showy people, and will come in plain attire. But I must leave you and Lucy to entertain yourselves for a short time, as a part of my morning work is unfinished. I suppose you will not be at a loss for amusement.”
“Not at all,” answered both of the girls. “We will go to the barn, and find Uncle John, and see if our old pets among the sheep and the cows have forgotten us.”
The remainder of the day passed pleasantly away, and the girls were so much fatigued with the unusual exercise they had taken in running about the farm, that they were quite glad when bed-time came, and slept soundly until the bright rays of the morning sun were beaming in at their window.
“Tomorrow will be the day for the party,” exclaimed Lucy, as she and her sister quickly dressed for breakfast, fearful that they had already kept their aunt waiting. “I expect to enjoy it so much.”
“So do I,” replied Mary. “I am very glad that there are young people coming. There are some sweet little girls in the neighborhood. I hope Aunt Clara has invited Mrs. Carlton’s family. They live in the great white house on the hill, and are very pleasant people.”
“No doubt they will be here,” returned Lucy, “and the Wilsons and Smiths, and, perhaps, Mr. Marion’s family. There must be many others coming who we do not know, for aunt said there would be about fifty guests. O, I am sure it will be delightful!”
Breakfast over, Aunt Clara soon found abundance of work for her two young assistants. There were nutmegs to grate, eggs to beat, apples to peel, meat to mince, and various other employments, which the girls found very interesting. The tables were soon loaded with pies, cakes, warm bread, and every variety of eatables, while turkeys and chickens by the dozens were in a state of preparation, and the large pots over the fire were filled with the nice hams which Uncle John had provided for the occasion.
Everything showed that there was to be a bountiful feast, and our young friends danced for joy, as they thought of the pleasure in store for them.
The much wished for day came at length, and a bright and beautiful day it was. The guests were expected to arrive about noon, and by eleven o’clock, Lucy and Mary, having assisted their aunt in preparing the long table in the dining-room, rushed to their own room to dress, that they might be ready to receive them.
The great double sleigh with the pretty gray ponies was already harnessed, for some of the visitors, as Uncle John observed, lived at quite a distance from the farm, and he had promised to send for them at the proper time.
“Very kind of Uncle John,” observed Mary to her sister, “but I should think they would prefer coming in their own carriages.”
“Oh, but it is so pleasant to load up that old double sleigh,” returned Lucy. “The younger part of the company will enjoy the arrangement exceedingly. Just tie this bow for me, Mary, and then, I believe, we are all ready. Let us go down at once. I have no doubt that a part of the company have arrived.”
But the parlors were still empty. Even Aunt Clara had not yet appeared, and after surveying themselves with much satisfaction in the large mirror, and impatiently walking up and down the room for a short time, the girls decided to find her, and ask if the dinner hour had not nearly arrived. To their surprise, they found the table already loaded with the smoking plum puddings, and nicely roasted turkeys and chickens, which Uncle John and Aunt Clara were carrying.
“But no one has come yet, Uncle John,” exclaimed both Lucy and Mary in a breath. “Won’t the dinner be cold?”
“Our friends have all arrived,” was their uncle’s quiet reply; and as he spoke, the door leading from the great kitchen was thrown open, and a crowd of people, young and old, appeared.
There were the workers, who had toiled hard through the year for the support of his large family. There, too, was the cheerful wife and the joyful little ones, and, perhaps, the aged grand-parents, whose feeble steps were supported by their children, as they took their seats at the bountifully spread table. In short, the most worthy in the immediate vicinity of the farm were there assembled, and some few from a greater distance.
Mary and Lucy had not time to recover from their surprise, before all the guests were seated at the table, and Uncle John, rising from his chair,welcomed them kindly, and after explaining in a few words the origin of Thanksgiving Day, asked them all to join him in giving thanks for the bountiful harvest.
Each guest was then plentifully supplied with the good things upon the table, and Aunt Clara requested her nieces to attend particularly to the little children, and see that all their wants were cared for.
A happier party was seldom seen. After dinner, presents of food and clothing were distributed among them, and Mary and Lucy found great satisfaction in dressing the children in new clothes, and seeing the gratitude and joy in their smiling little faces.
After an hour or two spent in this manner, the great sleigh and the gray horses came merrily jingling to the door, and the old people and the children were safely conveyed to their homes, and the rest of the party, with many thanks and blessings to their kind hosts, took their leave.
“Well, girls, how did you enjoy my party?” exclaimed Uncle John, as he reentered the parlor, after bidding farewell to the last of his guests.
“O, very much indeed,” was the reply. “It was very different from what we expected, but still we enjoyed it very much. It is so pleasant to make others happy.”
“It is, indeed, my children,” returned Uncle John, “and it appears to me that on a day like this, that it is my duty and my pleasure to do so.