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   Chapter 4 A THANKSGIVING DINNER

A Dear Little Girl at School By Amy Ella Blanchard Characters: 18725

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The first direct effect of the club was far from pleasant to Edna, for she forgot all about studying a certain lesson, and did not remember about it till she and Dorothy met at school on Monday morning, and then she was overcome with fear lest she should be called upon to recite something of which she knew scarcely anything. However, by dint of peeps at the book between whiles, after devoting to it all the time she had before school was called to order, she managed to get through the recitation, yet not without many misgivings and a rapid beating of the heart when Miss Ashurst called upon her. Edna was always such a conscientious child about her lessons that Miss Ashurst rather overlooked the fact that upon this occasion she was not quite as glib as usual, and she took her seat with a feeling of great relief, determining that she would not forget her lessons another Saturday.

There was more than one opportunity that day to exercise the rule of the G. R. Club, and the girls of the Neighborhood Club, as they called theirs, were a little surprised at the appearance of good-will shown by the others.

"Oh, I know just what they are up to," Clara Adams told her friends; "they want to get in with us and are being extra sweet. I know that is exactly their trick. Don't you girls pay any attention to them. Of course we could let Jennie Ramsey in, because she lives on our street, but the others, we couldn't any more than we could Betty Lowndes or Jessie Hill."

"Well, it seems to me if they are good enough for Jennie Ramsey to go with they are good enough for us," returned Nellie Haskell.

"No, I'm not going to have them," replied Clara, "and if you choose to go over to them, Nellie Haskell, you can just make up your mind that I'll have no more to do with you." So Nellie succumbed although she did smile upon Dorothy when the two met and was most pleasant when Edna offered to show her about one of the lessons.

Agnes advised that the girls make no secret of their club. "It is nothing to be ashamed of, I am sure," she said, "and if any of the girls want to join it I am sure they are quite welcome to." And indeed it did appeal so strongly to some of the older girls that before the week was out several new members were enrolled, and it was decided to change the time of meeting to Friday afternoon so that those in the city might have their convenience considered while the girls living in the country could easily stay in till a later hour.

The little girls felt themselves rather overpowered by the coming into their ranks of so many older members, but on the other hand they felt not a little flattered at being important enough to belong to the same club, so as the rule worked both ways it made it all right, especially as Betty Lowndes and others were admitted and were no older than themselves.

"They may have more in number," said Clara when she was told of how the club was increasing, "but we are more exclusive, my mother says."

This remark made its impression as Clara intended it should, though Nellie looked wistfully across at where half a dozen little girls were joyously eating their lunch and discussing the good times the elder girls were planning. "You know," Agnes had told them, "if you want to become a junior branch of the same club it will be perfectly easy for you to do it. At the end of a month you can decide, though Helen Darby and Florence Gittings agree with me that there is no reason why we shouldn't all hang together. It will be more convenient for one thing and we can take turns in arranging the entertainment part. I don't see why we all shouldn't enjoy some of the same kind of things."

"Oh, we'd much rather stay in," replied Edna. "At least I would."

"I would! I would!" came from all the others.

Although there is a high and marked difference between fifteen and eight or nine, in most matters, in this of the club there appeared to be a harmony which put them all on the same footing. The older sisters were more ready to help the younger ones with their lessons while the younger ones were more eager to run on errands or to wait on the older ones, in consequence there was a benefit all around.

Of course Miss Ashurst and Mr. Horner were by no means unaware of what was going on and they smiled to see how pleasant an atmosphere prevailed in the school all except in the unfortunate Neighborhood Club which they would have gladly disbanded. "It will probably die of its own discontent," said Miss Ashurst to the principal, "I give it just three months to exist for the girls are dropping out one by one."

Mr. Homer smiled and nodded his head. He was a man of few words yet very little escaped his keen eyes.

The next meeting of the G. R.'s was even more successful than the first. A number of things were discussed and the little girls learned many things that they had not known before.

"Suppose Clara Adams did want to come into the club or wanted to be friends I suppose we'd have to be kind to her," said Dorothy, a little regretfully.

"Of course you'd have to be kind to her," said Helen Darby, "but you wouldn't have to clasp her around the neck and hang on her words, nor even visit her. One can be kind without being intimate."

This was putting it in rather a new light and the little girls looked at one another. They had not easily distinguished the difference before this.

"The same way about Mr. Horner," Helen went on, "you don't have to get down and tie his shoes, but if you do have a chance to do something to make things pleasanter for him, why just trot along and do it." And Helen nodded her head emphatically.

"Dear oh, me," sighed Florence, "we are getting our standards way up. I should probably fall all over myself if I attempted to do anything for him. I am almost scared to death at the mere thought."

"He won't bite you," replied Helen, "and you don't have to get close enough to him to comb his eyebrows. What I mean is that we can 'be diligent and studious' as the old copy-books used to have it, speak well of his school, and not carry tales home that will make our families think we are martyrs and that he is an ogre, or someone to be feared constantly."

"Helen Darby! I'd like to know who has been giving you all these new ideas," said Florence.

"Why, I think Mrs. Conway started them by the way she talked to Agnes, and I have a modest claim to some brains of my own, so I thought out the rest and talked it over with father who put things very clearly before me, and showed me that school-girls are half the time silly geese who seem to think their teachers are created for the mere purpose of making their lives miserable. Father said that the shoe was usually on the other foot, and that the girls were much more liable to make the teachers' lives miserable. That set me a-thinking. Let me remark in passing that father says he thinks our club is great, and he wants to have a hand in furnishing the entertaining some time."

This announcement made quite a ripple of excitement, for Mr. Darby did nothing by halves and it was expected that there would be a good time for the G. R.'s when they met at Helen's house.

Edna kept in mind what had been said about Uncle Justus and before very long came an opportunity to prove her powers of doing him a kindness. It was just before Thanksgiving that Mrs. Conway came in one Thursday afternoon to see Aunt Elizabeth and of course her own two little daughters as well. Edna sat very close to her mother on the sofa, her hand stroking the smooth kid glove she wore.

It was a queer thing to have her mother for company, but it was very delightful, too.

"I hope you and Uncle Justus can come out to take Thanksgiving dinner with us," said Mrs. Conway to her aunt.

"Thank you, my dear, but I am afraid it is impossible," was the response. "I long ago promised to go to sister Julia's, and hoped Justus would go, too, but he insists that he cannot possibly take the time, for it is something of a trip. He says he has some school papers he must attend to, and moreover, has promised to address a meeting in the afternoon, so that it will be impossible."

"I am very sorry," returned Mrs. Conway, "for we had quite counted on you both. Perhaps Uncle Justus can take the time to come to us even if he cannot go so far as Aunt Julia's."

Mrs. Homer shook her head. "I am afraid not, but you can ask him. Julia will be greatly disappointed, but you know Justus is nothing if not conscientious and if he has made up his mind he ought not to go, nothing will alter his decision."

"What time is his meeting?" asked Mrs. Conway.

"At half past two, I believe."

"Oh, dear, then I am afraid it will be difficult for him to get to us, or rather to get away. We are to have dinner at two rather than in the evening, partly on account of the children and partly on account of the maids, to whom I have promised the time after they have finished the necessary work. There is a train at two-forty-five, but that would be too late, and it takes nearly an hour by the trolley cars."

"Then I am afraid he will have to dine alone," said Mrs. Horner, "I don't suppose he has ever done such a thing in his life as that, but it cannot be helped. Julia has few opportunities of seeing her family and he insists that I must not think of disappointing

her on his account."

Edna listened very soberly to all this, and when it was learned later that nothing could alter Uncle Justus's decision, she felt very sorry for him. She took occasion to open up the subject herself that afternoon. "Uncle Justus," she asked, "did you ever eat Thanksgiving dinner alone?"

Uncle Justus looked at her over his spectacles. "Well, no, I cannot say that I ever did."

"Shall you like to do it?"

"No, I do not believe I shall particularly enjoy it, but duty must come before pleasure, you know."

"I wish you were going to have dinner with us."

"That would be very agreeable to me, but I fear I cannot think of it upon this occasion."

Edna sighed. She had hoped he might reconsider it. When he had left the room she went out into the kitchen to see Ellen of whom she was very fond. "Ellen," she said "are you going to stay in and cook Uncle Justus's Thanksgiving dinner for him?"

"I am thot. It'll not be much of a job I'll be havin' ayther."

"Why! Isn't he going to have a real Thanksgiving dinner?"

"She was tellin' me this mornin' thot it would be aisy, and I cud have me afthernoon the same as usual, for he'd not be in. Says she, 'a bit av a chicken will do and ye can make a pumpkin pie the day before, so what with a few pertaties and a taste of stewed tomats he'll do bravely."

"Oh dear!" Edna sighed again as she thought of all that would be served at her own home table. Her little face wore a very serious and troubled look every time she looked at Uncle Justus that evening and the next day at recess she unburdened her heart to Dorothy and Jennie. These three always ate their lunch together and they took this opportunity for many a confidence.

"Girls," Edna began smoothing down her frock and folding her hands. "I have a chance to do Uncle Justus a kindness and I can't make up my mind to do it. I'm afraid I'm awfully selfish."

Dorothy laughed. "I'd like to see anybody who's less so, wouldn't you, Jennie?"

"I certainly would. Edna, tell us about it."

"Well, you see Uncle Justus has things to do so he can't go with Aunt Elizabeth to her sister's and he hasn't even time to come to us for Thanksgiving, and he will have to eat his dinner all alone, unless-unless I stay and keep him company."

"Oh Edna, and you couldn't be with your family last year because you were here." Dorothy's tones were almost awe-stricken.

"I know, and of course I am dying to be at home, and that's where the being selfish comes in, I keep thinking how I should hate to eat my dinner alone and every time I look at Uncle Justus I feel so sorry for him I can hardly stand it, then when I think of not going home I feel so sorry for myself I can scarcely stand that."

Both girls were silent. They saw the opportunity for heroic sacrifice as well as Edna did, but they could not advise her either way; it was too weighty a question, though Jennie ventured, "If he is going to be busy all the time you would be all by yourself except at dinner."

"Yes," Edna nodded, "and Ellen is going out after she gets the dishes done, but I suppose I could go home after that. She could put me on the trolley and I'd get home in an hour. I thought about that."

"So, then it wouldn't be like staying all day, would it?" said Dorothy, brightening a little as she saw this much light upon the matter.

"Yes, of course that would make a great difference," returned Edna.

"Or," Jennie had a sudden brilliant thought. "Oh, Edna, I wonder if you couldn't come to my house and stay all night with me. I should be so delighted to have you and I know mother would, too. We aren't to have our Thanksgiving dinner till six, so you could have two."

Edna looked quite happy as this plan was suggested. What girl of nine does not delight in such an experience as spending the night with a friend? The thought of two Thanksgiving dinners, though one might be rather a frugal one, had its charm, too. "I think that would be perfectly lovely," she said, then after a moment's thought, "but you must ask your mother first and I'll ask mine."

"I'll ask her as soon as I go home and will tell you at the club meeting this afternoon, and then you can ask your mother when you get home and let me know on Monday. I just know what mother will say before I ask her."

Then the bell rang and recess was over, but Edna returned to her lessons very happy at this solution of what had been a matter of deep thought. It turned out just as Jennie had prophesied, for she brought a veritable invitation to Edna that afternoon in the shape of a little note, and she further said that Mrs. Ramsey meant to make sure by writing a formal request to Mrs. Conway, therefore Edna considered the matter as good as settled.

She was full of the subject that afternoon when she reached home. It was quite dark although she and the others had taken the train which brought them more quickly. The club meetings were so interesting that it was hard to get away in time, but Mrs. Conway was on the watch as the girls came in the gate. Of course Edna had told Celia about all this, and indeed it had been talked over at the club, all the girls agreeing that it was a perfectly lovely thing for Edna to do, so she came in quite exalted by all the approval.

However, when she told her tale and her mother saw that it was a case of genuine desire to do a good deed, and that in the beginning it had appeared in the light of a heavier sacrifice than could be made easily, she felt that she could allow the child to do as she wished, being sure that it was not in a spirit of self-righteousness. And so, on the evening before Thanksgiving after Uncle Justus had returned from seeing Mrs. Horner safely on her journey to her sister's, he saw a little figure watching for him at the window.

"Well, well, well, little girl," he said, "how is this? I thought you would have been at home before now."

"I'm not going till Friday," replied Edna smiling up at him. "I'm going to stay and have Thanksgiving dinner with you."

"What? What? What?" Uncle Justus frowned and shook his head, but he took off his spectacles and wiped them very vigorously.

"Yes, I am." Edna was very decided. "Mother said I might, and oh, Uncle Justus, she knew Aunt Elizabeth would be away and she thought maybe you and I would like some of our Thanksgiving, so she has sent some of her goodies, and we're going to have a lovely time. I am going to help Ellen set the table and wipe the dishes."

"But, my child, I cannot allow it. No, no, no."

"Oh, but, please." The more Uncle Justus denied, the more anxious was Edna.

"But, my child, it would be selfish and inconsiderate of me in the extreme to take you away from your family on a holiday. I know what it means to little people to have such treats, and to an old fellow like me it will not make such a difference."

"But you told me you had never had a Thanksgiving dinner alone."

"That is quite true, but it is no reason why I should call upon a little girl like you to give up the holiday to me."

"Don't you want me to stay?" asked Edna wistfully, and feeling a little hurt lest after all, her sacrifice was not really needed.

Then Uncle Justus did a rare thing. He sat down, put his arm around her and kissed her on the cheek. "My dear little girl," he replied, "if that is the way you feel, I can only say that I am delighted beyond measure that you want to stay, and you will give me a greater cause for thanksgiving than I have expected or deserved," and he drew her to his knee.

Edna smiled as she wondered what Florence Gittings, or any of the other girls, for that matter, would say if they could see her then so extremely near the fierce eyebrows.

"But what will you do in the afternoon?" asked Uncle Justus after a moment. "I must go out early, you see."

"I know that. At first I thought I would get Ellen to put me on the cars to go home. It would be quite safe, for I have gone so many times, but Jennie Ramsey and her mother have invited me to come there to stay all night. I'll come back here on Friday, if you would like me to, Uncle Justus. I could stay till Aunt Elizabeth comes home."

Uncle Justus was silent for a moment. He smoothed her hair thoughtfully and then he said gently. "Your mother very kindly has asked me to spend the week end with you all, so suppose we go out together on Friday afternoon. I can take my papers with me and do my necessary work on Saturday there as well as here. Your little club meets on Friday afternoon, doesn't it? I will meet you and Celia at the station in time for the four-thirty train, which is the one you usually take, isn't it?"

Edna was surprised that Uncle Justus should know all this about the club and the time of their going home, but she didn't say so. "I think that will be a very nice plan," she told him. "I'll come back here on Friday morning and have dinner with you, and then I can go to the club meeting. It is to be at Helen Darby's this time, and that is very near, you know." The twilight gathered about the two and in the dim light Uncle Justus did not appear in the least a person to stand in awe of, for when Ellen came to call them to supper she was surprised to see the little girl still sitting on the old man's knee, his arm around her and her head on his shoulder.

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