The Little Colonel At Boarding-School, Chapter 15: Thanksgiving Day

THE LITTLE COLONEL AT BOARDING-SCHOOL
by Annie Fellows Johnston (1863-1931)

Published July, 1903
Illustrated by Etheldred B. Barry

 

 

 

CHAPTER XV.
THANKSGIVING DAY

ONE might have thought, watching the pillow-fight which went on that night at bedtime, that the fairy-tale had been told too soon. The five girls, romping and shrieking through halls and bedrooms as the sport went on, fast and furious, seemed too young for its grave lessons. But "the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts," even when its actions are most childish and careless, and the little tale made a deeper impression than the teller of it realized.

For one thing, Betty laid aside the book she was writing, although she had secretly cherished the hope of having the story of Gladys and Eugene published sometime during the coming year.

"I might be ashamed of it when I am grown," she explained, quoting old Hildgardmar: ""Tis but a little mantle thou couldst weave this year, at best, fit but to clothe the shoulders of yon curly shepherd lad.' If I am to outgrow my ideals as I do my dresses, I ought to wait. I want the critics to say of me 'Thou waitedst till thy woman's fingers wrought the best that lay within thy woman's heart.'  So I'll lay the book aside for a few years, till I've learned more about people. But I'll write it some day."

It was that same night, while they were getting ready for bed, that the Shadow Club was disbanded.

"I nevah want to heah that name again," exclaimed Lloyd, shaking out her hair and beginning to brush it. "It was so disgraced by being dragged into the newspapahs with such a lie, that it almost makes me ill whenevah I think of it."

"Oh, you don't want to give up the work for the mountain people, do you?" asked Allison, in dismay.

"No, but I'd like to stop until aftah the holidays. We have so much to do getting ready for Christmas. Besides, I'd like to be able to tell the girls that there wasn't such a club any moah. The next term we could make a fresh start with a new name, just the five of us."

"Oh. let's call it 'The Order of Hildegarde!"' cried Betty, enthusiastically. "And all the time we are doing 'broidery and fair needlework' to sell for the mountain people, we can be trying to weave our ideals as Hildegarde did, so that we may not miss the happiness that is written for us in the stars."

" I'd like that," exclaimed Allison, entering into the new plan eagerly. "We could have club colours this time, gold and rose, the colour of the warp and woof, you know."

"Yes, yes! That's it!" assented Kitty, with equal enthusiasm. "Streamers of narrow gold and rose ribbon, pinned by a tiny gilt star, to remind us of what is written in the stars. Don't you think that would be lovely, Katie?"

"Yes," answered Katie, "but I think if we want to keep the order a secret we oughtn't to wear such a badge in public. It would be safer to keep them in our 'inner rooms.'  But we could use them in all sorts of ways, the ribbons crossed on our pincushions, or streamers of them to tie back our curtains, or broad bands on our workbaskets and embroidery-bags."

Lloyd gave ready assent. "That would suit me, for my room at home is already furnished in rose colah. All I would have to do is to add the gold and the sta'hs."

And mine is a white and gold room," said Betty. "I'll only have to give it a few touches of rose colour."

A few more words settled the matter, as the girls hovered around the fire in their night-dresses, and then the establishment of the new Order of Hildegarde was celebrated by a pillow fight, the like of which for noise and vigour had never before been known at The Beeches.

In the hard work that followed after their return to school, time slipped by so fast that Thanksgiving Day came surprisingly soon Nearly all the pupils and teachers went home for the short vacation, or visited friends in Louisville. Even the president and his wife went away. Only six girls besides Lloyd and Betty were left to follow the matron to church on Thanksgiving morning.

It was a lonesome walk. A Sabbath-like stillness pervaded the quiet Valley, and the ringing of the bell in the ivy-grown belfry of the little stone church, and the closed doors at the post-office, gave the girls the feeling that Sunday had somehow come in the middle of the week. As they crossed the road toward the iron gate leading into the churchyard, Lloyd looked up past the manse toward The Beeches, hoping for a glimpse of the Walton girls. Then she remembered that Allison had told her that they were all going to town to celebrate the day with her Aunt Elise, and the feeling of being left out of everybody's good times began to weigh heavily upon her. 

No smoke was coming out of any of the chimneys, either at The Beeches or Edgewood. When she thought of Locust, also cold and empty, with no fire on its hospitable hearths, no feast on its ample table, no cheer anywhere within its walls, and her family far away, a wave of homesickness swept ever her that brought a mist over her eyes. She could scarcely see as they went up the steps.

Mrs. Bond, with her usual dread of being late, had hurried them away from the seminary much too soon. Not more than half a dozen carriages had driven into the grove around the little country church when they reached the door, and only a few people were waiting inside. As Lloyd sat in the solemn silence that was broken only now and then by a stifled cough or the rustle of a turning leaf, she had hard work to battle back the tears. But with a sudden determination to overcome such a feeling, she sat up very straight in the end of the pew, and pressed her lips together hard.

"It's almost wicked of me," she thought, "to feel so bad about the one thing I can't have when there are a thousand other things that ought to make me happy. It's only a pah't of my bo'ding school experiences, and will be ovah in a little while. I don't suppose anybody in church has moah to be thankful for than I have."

She glanced furtively across the aisle. "I'm thankful that I'm not that old Mistah Saxon with his wooden leg, or that poah little Mrs. Crisp in the cawnah, with five children to suppo't, and one of them a baby that has fits."

Her gaze wandered down the opposite aisle. "And I'm suah it's something to be thankful for not to have a nose like Libbie Simms, or such a fussy old fathah as Sue Bell Wade has to put up with. And I'm glad I haven't such pooh taste as to make a rainbow out of myself, wearing so many different colahs at once as Miss McGill does. Five different shades of red on the same hat are enough to set one's teeth on edge. I believe I could go on all day, counting the things I'm glad I haven't got; and as for the things I have ---" She began checking them off on her fingertips. There was a handful before she had fairly begun to count; home, family, perfect health, the love of many friends, the opportunities that filled every day to the brim.

The organist pulled out the stops and began playing an old familiar chant as a voluntary. As the full, sweet chords filled the church Lloyd could almost hear the words rising with the music:

"My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life."

As the music swelled louder, her counting was interrupted by the opening of the door and the entrance of several generations of the Moore family, who had come back to Oaklea for a Thanksgiving reunion. It seemed good to Lloyd to see the old judge's white head gleaming like silver in its accustomed pew. His benign face fairly radiated cheerfulness and good-will as he took his place once more among his old neighbours.

Rob walked just behind him, so tall and erect, it seemed to Lloyd that he must have grown several inches in the three short months since they had cut the last notches in the measuring-tree. As he turned to throw his overcoat across the back of the seat, his quick glance spied Lloyd and Betty several pews in the rear, and he flashed them a smile of greeting. At the same time, so quickly and deftly that Mrs. Bond did not see the motion, he held up a package that be had carried in under his overcoat, and instantly dropped it out of sight again on the seat. Then he straightened himself up beside his grandfather, as if he were a model of decorum.

Lloyd and Betty exchanged a meaning glance which seemed to say, "That five-pound box of Huyler's best he promised us;" and Lloyd found herself wondering several times during the long service how he would manage to present it. That problem did not worry Rob, however. As the congregation slowly moved down the aisles and out into the vestibule, he elbowed his way to Mrs. Bond, standing beside her eight charges like a motherly old hen.

"Good morning, Mrs. Bond," he exclaimed, in his straightforward, boyish way. "You're going to take me under your wing and let me walk to the gate with Betty and Lloyd, aren't you! I'll be as good as grandfather if you will, and I'll even take him along if it's necessary to have anybody to vouch for me."

His mischievous smile was so irresistible that she gave him a motherly pat on the shoulder. "Run along," she exclaimed. laughingly. "I'll follow presently. There are several people I want to speak to first."

[Left:  "'It's like a bit of home to see you again.'"]

"Oh, Rob," exclaimed Lloyd, as he started down the avenue beside her and Betty. "Its like a bit of home to see you again. Talk fast and tell us everything. Do you think you'll pass in Latin? Is it decided whethah you're to go East to school aftah Christmas? Did you see that awful piece in the papah about our club?"

She poured out her questions so rapidly that they were halfway to the seminary before he could answer all her catechism, and then he had so many to ask her that she almost forgot to tell him about the box they had received from Locust that morning.

"A suah enough Thanksgiving-box!" she exclaimed gleefully. "Just as if we'd really been away off from home at school, with all the good things that Mom Beck could think of or Aunt Cindy could cook, from a turkey to a monstrous big fruit-cake. Mothah planned the surprise before she went away. Think of the gay midnight suppahs we could have if we hadn't turned ovah a new leaf and refawmed."

"So you've reformed!" he repeated. "Then boarding-school life can't seem as funny to you as you thought last September it was going to be."

"Yes, it does," protested Betty. "I'll be glad when the next four weeks are over so that we can go back to Locust, but excepting only two or three things that happened, I've enjoyed every minute that we've been at the seminary. I'll always be glad that we had this experience."

"And it wasn't at all like you said it would be." added Lloyd, laughingly, " 'scorched oatmeal and dried apples and old cats watching at every keyhole.' There was some eavesdropping, but it wasn't the teachahs who did it, and we had moah fun getting even with the girl who did than I could tell in a week. I'll tell you about our playing ghost, and all the rest, when you come out Christmas."

Then I'll have to hand over the candy," he said. "You've earned it, if you've stood the strain this long and kept as hale and hearty as you look."

They had reached the high green picket gate by this time, and, delivering the box to the girls, with a few more words he left them. Dinner was to be early at Oaklea, he said, as they were all going home on the five o'clock train.

"Oh, it was just like having a piece of home to see him again," exclaimed Lloyd, looking after him wistfully as he lifted his cap and walked rapidly away. "I can hardly wait to get back now. Wouldn't you like to walk up to Locust aftah dinnah, Betty?"

"No, I believe not;' was the hesitating reply.  "It would make me feel more homesick than if I stayed away altogether. Mom Beck will be off keeping holiday somewhere, and everything will be shut up and desolate-looking. Probably all we'd see would be Lad and Tarbaby out in the pasture. Let's walk over to Rollington instead, after dinner, and take a lot of things to that poor little Mrs. Crisp out of our box from home."

"How funny for you to think of the same thing that I did this mawning in church!" exclaimed Lloyd. "The text made me think of it, and when I looked across at her in that pitiful old wispy crape veil, and thought of the washing she has to do, and the baby with the fits, I was so thankful that I was not in her place that I felt as if I ought to give her every penny I possess."

It was a very quiet day. A better dinner than usual, and the long walk over to Rollington late in the afternoon was all that made it differ from the Sundays that they had spent at the seminary. But as the two little Good Samaritans trudged homeward over the frozen pike, swinging their empty basket between them, Lloyd exclaimed, "I've had a good time to-day, aftah all, and I would have been perfectly misah'ble if I'd gone on the way I stahted out to do --- thinking about the one thing I wanted and couldn't have. I just made myself stop, and go to thinking of the things I did have, and then I forgot to feel homesick. Counting yoah blessings and carrying turkey to poah folks doesn't sound like a very exciting way to spend yoah holidays, but it makes you feel mighty good inside, doesn't it! Especially when you think how pleased Mrs. Crisp was."

"Yes," answered Betty. "I don't know how to express the way the day has made me feel. Not happy, exactly, for when I'm that way I always want to sing." She held her muff against her cold face. "It's more like a big, soft, furry kind of contentment. If I were a cat I'd be purring."

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