There had been company at the brickhouse to the bountiful Thanksgivingdinner which had been provided at oneo'clock,--the Burnham sisters, who lived betweenNorth Riverboro and Shaker Village, and who formore than a quarter of a century had come to passthe holiday with the Sawyers every year. Rebeccasat silent with a book after the dinner dishes werewashed, and when it was nearly five asked if shemight go to the Simpsons'.
"What do you want to run after those Simpsonchildren for on a Thanksgiving Day?" queried MissMiranda. "Can't you set still for once and listento the improvin' conversation of your elders? Younever can let well enough alone, but want to be foreveron the move.""The Simpsons have a new lamp, and EmmaJane and I promised to go up and see it lighted,and make it a kind of a party.""What under the canopy did they want of alamp, and where did they get the money to pay forit? If Abner was at home, I should think he'd beenswappin' again," said Miss Miranda.
"The children got it as a prize for selling soap,"replied Rebecca; "they've been working for a year,and you know I told you that Emma Jane and Ihelped them the Saturday afternoon you were inPortland.""I didn't take notice, I s'pose, for it's the firsttime I ever heard the lamp mentioned. Well, youcan go for an hour, and no more. Remember it'sas dark at six as it is at midnight Would you liketo take along some Baldwin apples? What haveyou got in the pocket of that new dress that makesit sag down so?""It's my nuts and raisins from dinner," repliedRebecca, who never succeeded in keeping the mostinnocent action a secret from her aunt Miranda;"they're just what you gave me on my plate.""Why didn't you eat them?""Because I'd had enough dinner, and I thoughtif I saved these, it would make the Simpsons'
party better," stammered Rebecca, who hated tobe scolded and examined before company.
"They were your own, Rebecca," interposedaunt Jane, "and if you chose to save them to giveaway, it is all right. We ought never to let this daypass without giving our neighbors something to bethankful for, instead of taking all the time to thinkof our own mercies."The Burnham sisters nodded approvingly asRebecca went out, and remarked that they had neverseen a child grow and improve so fast in so short atime.
"There's plenty of room left for more improvement,as you'd know if she lived in the same housewith you," answered Miranda. "She's into everynamable thing in the neighborhood, an' not onlyinto it, but generally at the head an' front of it,especially when it's mischief. Of all the foolishnessI ever heard of, that lamp beats everything; it'sjust like those Simpsons, but I didn't suppose thechildren had brains enough to sell anything.""One of them must have," said Miss EllenBurnham, "for the girl that was selling soap at theLadds' in North Riverboro was described by AdamLadd as the most remarkable and winning child heever saw.""It must have been Clara Belle, and I shouldnever call her remarkable," answered Miss Miranda.
"Has Adam been home again?""Yes, he's been staying a few days with his aunt.
There's no limit to the money he's making, theysay; and he always brings presents for all theneighbors. This time it was a full set of furs forMrs. Ladd; and to think we can remember thetime he was a barefoot boy without two shirts to hisback! It is strange he hasn't married, with all hismoney, and him so fond of children that he alwayshas a pack of them at his heels.""There's hope for him still, though," said MissJane smilingly; "for I don't s'pose he's more thanthirty.""He could get a wife in Riverboro if he was ahundred and thirty," remarked Miss Miranda.
"Adam's aunt says he was so taken with the littlegirl that sold the soap (Clara Belle, did you say hername was?), that he declared he was going to bringher a Christmas present," continued Miss Ellen.
"Well, there's no accountin' for tastes," exclaimedMiss Miranda. "Clara Belle's got cross-eyes andred hair, but I'd be the last one to grudge her aChristmas present; the more Adam Ladd gives toher the less the town'll have to.""Isn't there another Simpson girl?" asked MissLydia Burnham; "for this one couldn't have beencross-eyed; I remember Mrs. Ladd saying Adamremarked about this child's handsome eyes. He saidit was her eyes that made him buy the three hundredcakes. Mrs. Ladd has it stacked up in the shedchamber.""Three hundred cakes!" ejaculated Miranda.
"Well, there's one crop that never fails in Riverboro!""What's that?" asked Miss Lydia politely.
"The fool crop," responded Miranda tersely, andchanged the subject, much to Jane's gratitude, forshe had been nervous and ill at ease for the last fifteenminutes. What child in Riverboro could bedescribed as remarkable and winning, save Rebecca?
What child had wonderful eyes, except the sameRebecca? and finally, was there ever a child in theworld who could make a man buy soap by the hundredcakes, save Rebecca?
Meantime the "remarkable" child had flown upthe road in the deepening dusk, but she had notgone far before she heard the sound of hurryingfootsteps, and saw a well-known figure coming inher direction. In a moment she and Emma Janemet and exchanged a breathless embrace.
"Something awful has happened," panted EmmaJane.
"Don't tell me it's broken," exclaimed Rebecca.
"No! oh, no! not that! It was packed in straw,and every piece came out all right; and I was there,and I never said a single thing about your sellingthe three hundred cakes that got the lamp, so thatwe could be together when you told.""OUR selling the three hundred cakes," correctedRebecca; "you did as much as I.""No, I didn't, Rebecca Randall. I just sat at thegate and held the horse.""Yes, but WHOSE horse was it that took us toNorth Riverboro? And besides, it just happenedto be my turn. If you had gone in and found Mr.
Aladdin you would have had the wonderful lampgiven to you; but what's the trouble?""The Simpsons have no kerosene and no wicks.
I guess they thought a banquet lamp was somethingthat lighted itself, and burned without anyhelp. Seesaw has gone to the doctor's to try if hecan borrow a wick, and mother let me have a pintof oil, but she says she won't give me any more.
We never thought of the expense of keeping upthe lamp, Rebecca.""No, we didn't, but let's not worry about thattill after the party. I have a handful of nuts andraisins and some apples.""I have peppermints and maple sugar," saidEmma Jane. "They had a real Thanksgiving dinner;the doctor gave them sweet potatoes and cranberriesand turnips; father sent a spare-rib, and Mrs.
Cobb a chicken and a jar of mince-meat."At half past five one might have looked in atthe Simpsons' windows, and seen the party at itsheight. Mrs. Simpson had let the kitchen fire dieout, and had brought the baby to grace the festalscene. The lamp seemed to be having the party,and receiving the guests. The children had takenthe one small table in the house, and it was placedin the far corner of the room to serve as a pedestal.
On it stood the sacred, the adored, the long-desiredobject; almost as beautiful, and nearly half as largeas the advertisement. The brass glistened like gold,and the crimson paper shade glowed like a giantruby. In the wide splash of light that it flung uponthe floor sat the Simpsons, in reverent and solemnsilence, Emma Jane standing behind them, hand inhand with Rebecca. There seemed to be no desirefor conversation; the occasion was too thrilling andserious for that. The lamp, it was tacitly felt byeverybody, was dignifying the party, and providingsufficient entertainment simply by its presence;being fully as satisfactory in its way as a pianola ora string band.
"I wish father could see it," said Clara Belleloyally.
"If he onth thaw it he'd want to thwap it,"murmured Susan sagaciously.
At the appointed hour Rebecca dragged herselfreluctantly away from the enchanting scene.
"I'll turn the lamp out the minute I think youand Emma Jane are home," said Clara Belle.
"And, oh! I'm so glad you both live where youcan see it shine from our windows. I wonder howlong it will burn without bein' filled if I only keepit lit one hour every night?""You needn't put it out for want o' karosene,"said Seesaw, coming in from the shed, "for there'sa great kag of it settin' out there. Mr. Tubbsbrought it over from North Riverboro and saidsomebody sent an order by mail for it."Rebecca squeezed Emma Jane's arm, and EmmaJane gave a rapturous return squeeze. "It was Mr.
Aladdin," whispered Rebecca, as they ran downthe path to the gate. Seesaw followed them andhandsomely offered to see them "apiece" downthe road, but Rebecca declined his escort withsuch decision that he did not press the matter, butwent to bed to dream of her instead. In his dreamsflashes of lightning proceeded from both her eyes,and she held a flaming sword in either hand.
Rebecca entered the home dining-room joyously.
The Burnham sisters had gone and the two auntswere knitting.
"It was a heavenly party," she cried, taking offher hat and cape.
"Go back and see if you have shut the doortight, and then lock it," said Miss Miranda, in herusual austere manner.
"It was a heavenly party," reiterated Rebecca,coming in again, much too excited to be easilycrushed, "and oh! aunt Jane, aunt Miranda, ifyou'll only come into the kitchen and look out ofthe sink window, you can see the banquet lampshining all red, just as if the Simpsons' house wason fire.""And probably it will be before long," observedMiranda. "I've got no patience with such foolishgoin's-on."Jane accompanied Rebecca into the kitchen.
Although the feeble glimmer which she was ableto see from that distance did not seem to her adazzling exhibition, she tried to be as enthusiasticas possible.
"Rebecca, who was it that sold the threehundred cakes of soap to Mr. Ladd in North Riverboro?""Mr. WHO?" exclaimed Rebecca"Mr. Ladd, in North Riverboro.""Is that his real name?" queried Rebecca inastonishment. "I didn't make a bad guess;" andshe laughed softly to herself.
"I asked you who sold the soap to AdamLadd?" resumed Miss Jane.
"Adam Ladd! then he's A. Ladd, too; what fun!""Answer me, Rebecca.""Oh! excuse me, aunt Jane, I was so busythinking. Emma Jane and I sold the soap to Mr.
Ladd.""Did you tease him, or make him buy it?""Now, aunt Jane, how could I make a biggrown-up man buy anything if he didn't want to?
He needed the soap dreadfully as a present for hisaunt."Miss Jane still looked a little unconvinced,though she only said, "I hope your aunt Mirandawon't mind, but you know how particular she is,Rebecca, and I really wish you wouldn't doanything out of the ordinary without asking her first,for your actions are very queer.""There can't be anything wrong this time,"Rebecca answered confidently. "Emma Jane soldher cakes to her own relations and to uncle JerryCobb, and I went first to those new tenements nearthe lumber mill, and then to the Ladds'. Mr. Laddbought all we had and made us promise to keepthe secret until the premium came, and I've beengoing about ever since as if the banquet lamp wasinside of me all lighted up and burning, for everybodyto see."Rebecca's hair was loosened and falling over herforehead in ruffled waves; her eyes were brilliant,her cheeks crimson; there was a hint of everythingin the girl's face,--of sensitiveness and delicacyas well as of ardor; there was the sweetnessof the mayflower and the strength of the youngoak, but one could easily divine that she was one of"The souls by nature pitched too high,By suffering plunged too low.""That's just the way you look, for all the worldas if you did have a lamp burning inside of you,"sighed aunt Jane. "Rebecca! Rebecca! I wishyou could take things easier, child; I am fearfulfor you sometimes."