THE BANQUET LAMP
There had been company at the brick
house to the bountiful Thanksgiving
dinner which had been provided at one
o'clock,--the Burnham sisters, who lived between
North Riverboro and Shaker Village, and who for
more than a quarter of a century had come to pass
the holiday with the Sawyers every year. Rebecca
sat silent with a book after the dinner dishes were
washed, and when it was nearly five asked if she
might go to the Simpsons'.
"What do you want to run after those Simpson
children for on a Thanksgiving Day?" queried Miss
Miranda. "Can't you set still for once and listen
to the improvin' conversation of your elders? You
never can let well enough alone, but want to be forever
on the move."
"The Simpsons have a new lamp, and Emma
Jane 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 a
lamp, and where did they get the money to pay for
it? If Abner was at home, I should think he'd been
swappin' 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 I
helped them the Saturday afternoon you were in Portland."
"I didn't take notice, I s'pose, for it's the first
time I ever heard the lamp mentioned. Well, you
can go for an hour, and no more. Remember it's
as dark at six as it is at midnight Would you like
to take along some Baldwin apples? What have
you got in the pocket of that new dress that makes
it sag down so?"
"It's my nuts and raisins from dinner," replied
Rebecca, who never succeeded in keeping the most
innocent 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 thought
if I saved these, it would make the Simpsons'
party better," stammered Rebecca, who hated to
be scolded and examined before company.
"They were your own, Rebecca," interposed
aunt Jane, "and if you chose to save them to give
away, it is all right. We ought never to let this day
pass without giving our neighbors something to be
thankful for, instead of taking all the time to think
of our own mercies."
The Burnham sisters nodded approvingly as
Rebecca went out, and remarked that they had never
seen a child grow and improve so fast in so short a time.
"There's plenty of room left for more improvement,
as you'd know if she lived in the same house
with you," answered Miranda. "She's into every
namable thing in the neighborhood, an' not only
into it, but generally at the head an' front of it,
especially when it's mischief. Of all the foolishness
I ever heard of, that lamp beats everything; it's
just like those Simpsons, but I didn't suppose the
children had brains enough to sell anything."
"One of them must have," said Miss Ellen
Burnham, "for the girl that was selling soap at the
Ladds' in North Riverboro was described by Adam
Ladd as the most remarkable and winning child he ever saw."
"It must have been Clara Belle, and I should
never 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, they
say; and he always brings presents for all the
neighbors. This time it was a full set of furs for
Mrs. Ladd; and to think we can remember the
time he was a barefoot boy without two shirts to his
back! It is strange he hasn't married, with all his
money, and him so fond of children that he always
has a pack of them at his heels."
"There's hope for him still, though," said Miss
Jane smilingly; "for I don't s'pose he's more than thirty."
"He could get a wife in Riverboro if he was a
hundred and thirty," remarked Miss Miranda.
"Adam's aunt says he was so taken with the little
girl that sold the soap (Clara Belle, did you say her
name was?), that he declared he was going to bring
her a Christmas present," continued Miss Ellen.
"Well, there's no accountin' for tastes," exclaimed
Miss Miranda. "Clara Belle's got cross-eyes and
red hair, but I'd be the last one to grudge her a
Christmas present; the more Adam Ladd gives to
her the less the town'll have to."
"Isn't there another Simpson girl?" asked Miss
Lydia Burnham; "for this one couldn't have been
cross-eyed; I remember Mrs. Ladd saying Adam
remarked about this child's handsome eyes. He said
it was her eyes that made him buy the three hundred
cakes. Mrs. Ladd has it stacked up in the shed chamber."
"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, and
changed the subject, much to Jane's gratitude, for
she had been nervous and ill at ease for the last fifteen
minutes. What child in Riverboro could be
described as remarkable and winning, save Rebecca?
What child had wonderful eyes, except the same
Rebecca? and finally, was there ever a child in the
world who could make a man buy soap by the hundred
cakes, save Rebecca?
Meantime the "remarkable" child had flown up
the road in the deepening dusk, but she had not
gone far before she heard the sound of hurrying
footsteps, and saw a well-known figure coming in
her direction. In a moment she and Emma Jane
met and exchanged a breathless embrace.
"Something awful has happened," panted Emma Jane.
"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 selling
the three hundred cakes that got the lamp, so that
we could be together when you told."
"OUR selling the three hundred cakes," corrected
Rebecca; "you did as much as I."
"No, I didn't, Rebecca Randall. I just sat at the
gate and held the horse."
"Yes, but WHOSE horse was it that took us to
North Riverboro? And besides, it just happened
to be my turn. If you had gone in and found Mr.
Aladdin you would have had the wonderful lamp
given to you; but what's the trouble?"
"The Simpsons have no kerosene and no wicks.
I guess they thought a banquet lamp was something
that lighted itself, and burned without any
help. Seesaw has gone to the doctor's to try if he
can borrow a wick, and mother let me have a pint
of oil, but she says she won't give me any more.
We never thought of the expense of keeping up
the lamp, Rebecca."
"No, we didn't, but let's not worry about that
till after the party. I have a handful of nuts and
raisins and some apples."
"I have peppermints and maple sugar," said
Emma Jane. "They had a real Thanksgiving dinner;
the doctor gave them sweet potatoes and cranberries
and 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 at
the Simpsons' windows, and seen the party at its
height. Mrs. Simpson had let the kitchen fire die
out, and had brought the baby to grace the festal
scene. The lamp seemed to be having the party,
and receiving the guests. The children had taken
the one small table in the house, and it was placed
in the far corner of the room to serve as a pedestal.
On it stood the sacred, the adored, the long-desired
object; almost as beautiful, and nearly half as large
as the advertisement. The brass glistened like gold,
and the crimson paper shade glowed like a giant
ruby. In the wide splash of light that it flung upon
the floor sat the Simpsons, in reverent and solemn
silence, Emma Jane standing behind them, hand in
hand with Rebecca. There seemed to be no desire
for conversation; the occasion was too thrilling and
serious for that. The lamp, it was tacitly felt by
everybody, was dignifying the party, and providing
sufficient entertainment simply by its presence;
being fully as satisfactory in its way as a pianola or
a string band.
"I wish father could see it," said Clara Belle loyally.
"If he onth thaw it he'd want to thwap it,"
murmured Susan sagaciously.
At the appointed hour Rebecca dragged herself
reluctantly away from the enchanting scene.
"I'll turn the lamp out the minute I think you
and Emma Jane are home," said Clara Belle.
"And, oh! I'm so glad you both live where you
can see it shine from our windows. I wonder how
long it will burn without bein' filled if I only keep
it lit one hour every night?"
"You needn't put it out for want o' karosene,"
said Seesaw, coming in from the shed, "for there's
a great kag of it settin' out there. Mr. Tubbs
brought it over from North Riverboro and said
somebody sent an order by mail for it."
Rebecca squeezed Emma Jane's arm, and Emma
Jane gave a rapturous return squeeze. "It was Mr.
Aladdin," whispered Rebecca, as they ran down
the path to the gate. Seesaw followed them and
handsomely offered to see them "apiece" down
the road, but Rebecca declined his escort with
such decision that he did not press the matter, but
went to bed to dream of her instead. In his dreams
flashes 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 aunts
"It was a heavenly party," she cried, taking off
her hat and cape.
"Go back and see if you have shut the door
tight, and then lock it," said Miss Miranda, in her
usual austere manner.
"It was a heavenly party," reiterated Rebecca,
coming in again, much too excited to be easily
crushed, "and oh! aunt Jane, aunt Miranda, if
you'll only come into the kitchen and look out of
the sink window, you can see the banquet lamp
shining all red, just as if the Simpsons' house was on fire."
"And probably it will be before long," observed
Miranda. "I've got no patience with such foolish goin's-on."
Jane accompanied Rebecca into the kitchen.
Although the feeble glimmer which she was able
to see from that distance did not seem to her a
dazzling exhibition, she tried to be as enthusiastic
"Rebecca, who was it that sold the three
hundred 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 in
astonishment. "I didn't make a bad guess;" and
she laughed softly to herself.
"I asked you who sold the soap to Adam
Ladd?" resumed Miss Jane.
"Adam Ladd! then he's A. Ladd, too; what fun!"
"Answer me, Rebecca."
"Oh! excuse me, aunt Jane, I was so busy
thinking. 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 big
grown-up man buy anything if he didn't want to?
He needed the soap dreadfully as a present for his aunt."
Miss Jane still looked a little unconvinced,
though she only said, "I hope your aunt Miranda
won't mind, but you know how particular she is,
Rebecca, and I really wish you wouldn't do
anything 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 sold
her cakes to her own relations and to uncle Jerry
Cobb, and I went first to those new tenements near
the lumber mill, and then to the Ladds'. Mr. Ladd
bought all we had and made us promise to keep
the secret until the premium came, and I've been
going about ever since as if the banquet lamp was
inside of me all lighted up and burning, for everybody
Rebecca's hair was loosened and falling over her
forehead in ruffled waves; her eyes were brilliant,
her cheeks crimson; there was a hint of everything
in the girl's face,--of sensitiveness and delicacy
as well as of ardor; there was the sweetness
of the mayflower and the strength of the young
oak, 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 world
as if you did have a lamp burning inside of you,"
sighed aunt Jane. "Rebecca! Rebecca! I wish
you could take things easier, child; I am fearful
for you sometimes."
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