The Thanksgiving Dinner was a jollification.
The Maynard children were always a merry crowd, but the added element of Molly's gaiety gave a new zest to the fun.
The pretty table decorations, planned for the expected guests, were modified better to suit the children's tastes, and when dinner was announced and they all went out to the dining-room, a general shout of applause was raised.
In the middle of the table was a large "horn of plenty," fashioned of gilded pasteboard. From its capacious mouth were tumbling oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, nuts, figs, and raisins. The horn itself was beautifully decorated, and seemed to be suspended from the chandelier above by red ribbons.
Also, red ribbons, starting from the horn itself, led to each person's plate, and at the end of each ribbon was a name-card.
Gleefully the children took their places, and laughed merrily at the funny little souvenirs that stood at their plates.
Kingdon had a jolly pig, made of a lemon, with wooden toothpicks stuck in for legs, a curly tail made of a bit of celery, and two black-headed pins for eyes.
Marjorie had a horse made of a carrot, which looked like a very frisky steed, indeed.
"It should have been made of a horse-radish," said Mr. Maynard, who was the originator of these toys, "but I feared that would make you weep instead of laugh."
Molly had a gay-looking figure, whose head was a fig, his body a potato, and his legs and arms bunches of raisins. He wore a red hat with a feather in it, and a red tunic tied with gold braid.
Kitty had a nut doll, whose head was a hazelnut, and its body an English walnut. Its feet and hands were peanuts, stuck on the ends of matches.
Rosy Posy had a card on which were several white mice. These were made of blanched almonds, fastened to the card by stitches of thread, which looked like tiny legs and tails.
Mrs. Maynard found at her place a tiny figure of a dancing girl. The head was a small white grape, and the body and ruffled skirts were merely a large carnation turned upside down.
And Mr. Maynard's own souvenir was a funny old fat man, whose body was an apple, and his head a hickory nut.
Molly had never seen such toys before, and she was enraptured with them, declaring she should learn to make them for her friends at home.
"You can do it, if you try," said Marjorie, sagely; "but they aren't easy to make. Father does them so beautifully, because he is patient and careful. But you and I, Molly, are too slapdash. We'd never take pains to make them so neatly."
"Yes, I would," declared Molly, positively; "because I see how nice they look when they're done well! I don't want any broken-legged pigs, or tumble-to-pieces dolls."
"That's the way to talk," said Mr. Maynard, approvingly; "I foresee, Molly, we shall be great friends, and I'll teach you the noble art of what I call 'pantry sculpture.'"
After the turkey and other substantial dishes had been disposed of, dessert was brought, and, to the great delight of the children, it comprised many and various confections.
First, there was placed at each plate a dear little mince pie, hot, and covered with a drift of powdered sugar. In the middle of each pie stood a lighted candle.
"Oh, ho, it's somebody's birthday!" cried King, as he saw the candles.
"Somebody's only one year old, then," said Molly.
"These aren't birthday candles exactly," said Mr. Maynard. "They're just candles to keep the pies hot. But as I want to eat my pie, I'll just eat the candle first, and get it out of the way."
So saying, he calmly blew out the flame, and in a moment had eaten the candle, wick and all!
"Oh, Father!" cried Marjorie. "How could you do that? Do you like wax candles?"
"These candles aren't exactly wax," said her father, "and I must say mine tasted very good."
Molly's bright black eyes snapped.
"If Mr. Maynard can eat candles, so can I!" she declared, and, blowing out the flame, she bit off the end of her own candle.
"It is good," she said, as she munched it. "I like candles, too."
So then they all tried eating candles. Marjorie tasted hers carefully, and then took a larger bite.
"Why, it's apple!" she cried. And so it was. The "candles" had been cut with an apple-corer, and the "wicks" were bits of almond cut the right shape and stuck in the top of the candle. The oil in the nut causes it to burn for a few moments, and the whole affair looks just like a real candle.
The mince pies were followed by ice-cream, and that by fruits and candies, and then the feast was over, but every one carried away the jolly little souvenirs to keep as mementoes of the occasion. Skating was the order of the afternoon.
Mr. Maynard went with the older children, while Mrs. Maynard and Rosy Posy amused themselves at home.
Kitty couldn't skate very well, but all the others were fairly good skaters, and soon they were gliding over the ice, while Mr. Maynard pushed Kitty in a sliding chair. She thought she had the most fun of all, but the others preferred their own feet to a chair, and skated tirelessly around the lake, not at all dismayed by somewhat frequent upsets and tumbledowns.
The Fultons joined them, and several others, and Molly soon made acquaintance with many of the Maynards' friends.
Molly was such a daring child that Mr. Maynard carefully warned her about going near the thin places in the ice, and she promised to avoid them. But it was with some uneasiness he watched the young skaters, when, at Molly's suggestion, they played "Snap the Whip."
This meant to join hands in a long row, and, after skating rapidly, the one at the end stood still and swung the others round like the lash of a whip. No trouble was likely to occur if they held hands firmly. But to separate meant that the end ones would be whirled away, and might get a bad fall.
As the boys were strong and sturdy, and the girls had promised to hold on tightly and carefully, Mr. Maynard let them play this game, though he had always thought it a dangerous sport.
"Just once more," begged Marjorie, when at last he told them he would rather they'd play something else—and permission was given for one more "Snap the Whip," on condition that it should be the last. And it was.
Marjorie was on one end, and Molly was next to her.
Kingdon was at the other end, and, after a few vigorous strokes, he pulled the line about so suddenly that Molly, who was not expecting it so soon, was jerked away from her next neighbor.
She and Marjorie were flung with force across the ice, but they were quite alert, kept their balance perfectly, and would have been skating back again in a minute, but they chanced upon a thin place in the ice, and it broke through, and in they went!
Many of the children screamed, but Molly's voice rang out clear above the rest:
"Don't yell so! We're all right, only it's awful cold. Just get us out as quick as you can."
Relieved to learn that they hadn't gone under the water, Mr. Maynard soon found a fence-rail, and, with the boys' assistance, it was not long before the dripping girls were once more outside the lake, instead of inside.
"No harm done, if you obey my orders," said Mr. Maynard, cheerily, for the two white faces looked more scared than they had at first. He hurriedly took off their skates, and then said, "Now, run for home, just as fast as you can go, and the one who gets there first shall have a prize."
A little bewildered by this order, but quite ready to obey, Marjorie started at once and fairly flew over the hard ground. Molly followed, and in a moment had overtaken and passed Midget. But spurred by this, Midget ran faster, and at last, quite out of breath, and also quite warm, they reached the Maynard house at almost exactly the same time.
Exhausted, they tumbled in at the door, and Mrs. Maynard met them in the hall.
"What is the matter?" she exclaimed. "Where have you been?"
"Skating," said Marjorie, hurriedly, "and we fell in, and Father said to run home quick and get dry shoes and things and he'd give us a prize."
"A prize!" said Mrs. Maynard, laughing. "You deserve a prize, indeed! A hot bath is what you'll get, and a drink of hot milk."
"All right," said Mopsy, cheerfully, "I don't mind; and, while we're about it, we may as well dress for afternoon."
The programme was carried out as arranged, and not very long after two spick-and-span little girls were sitting by the library fire, sipping hot milk with nutmeg in it.
"Well, upon my word!" said Mr. Maynard, coming in with King and Kitty. "I must have been mistaken! Only a short time ago I saw two children floundering in the lake, and I thought—I truly did—that they were Midge and Molly! How could I have made such a foolish mistake?"
"It was strange, indeed!" said Molly, with twinkling eyes. "Have you been skating, Mr. Maynard?"
"Part of the time. But the rest of the time I was organizing and assisting a rescue party to save those foolish children I was just telling you of."
"We were foolish!" cried Marjorie, jumping up and running to her father's arms. "I'll never do it again, Daddy, dear."
"Indeed you won't, my lady. I hereby issue a mandamus, a fiat, a writ,—and if you don't know what those things are, I'll say a plain every-day rule that is not to be broken,—that you are never to play 'Snap the Whip' again. This is a rule for Marjorie, and to you, Molly, it's a piece of advice."
"I'll take it," said Molly, so meekly that Mr. Maynard smiled, and said:
"Now that incident is closed, and we needn't mention it again. I don't believe you'll even take cold from your sudden plunge, for you both ran home like killdeer. And, by the way, who won the prize?"
"We came in almost exactly together," said Marjorie. "I was a little bit ahead at the door, but Molly was first at the gate, so isn't that even?"
"It surely is, and so you must both have prizes. I haven't them with me at the moment, but I'll engage to supply them before Molly goes home."
Thanksgiving evening was given over to games and quiet frolics.
Mrs. Maynard said the children had had enough excitement for one day, and they must play only sitting-still games, and then go to bed early. So Mr. Maynard proposed a game in which all could join, and when it was finished it would be bedtime for young people.
He produced a large spool, through which had been run a number of different colored and very narrow ribbons. Mr. Maynard held the spool, with the short ends of the ribbons hanging out toward himself, while the long ends of the ribbons, which reached across the room were apportioned one to each child.
They were allowed to select their own colors, and Marjorie took red, and Molly pink. Kitty had the blue one, and King a yellow one. Mrs. Maynard held a white one, and as Rosamond had gone to bed, no more ribbons were used, though there were others in the spool.
"Now," said Mr. Maynard, "I'll begin to tell a story, make it up as I go along, you know, and then when I stop I'll pull one of these ends. I won't look to see which one I pull, but whoever holds the other end of the same ribbon, must take up the story and go on with it. Do you understand?"
"Yes," said all the children at once; so Mr. Maynard began:
"Once on a time there was a Princess who hadn't any name. The reason for this sad state of affairs was that no one could think of a name good enough for her. She was so beautiful and so lovely and sweet-tempered that every name seemed commonplace, and the King and Queen who were her parents offered a great reward to anyone who would suggest a name that seemed appropriate. But, though they proposed every name that was known, and made up a great many more, none seemed to suit, and so the Princess grew up without any name at all. But one day her grandmother gave her a lovely little writing-desk for a birthday present. The Princess was delighted, and immediately she learned to write letters. But, strange to say, she never received any answers to the letters she sent. Days passed, and weeks passed, but nobody answered the letters. She went to the Court Wise Man, and said to him:
"'Prithee, tell me, oh, Seer, why do my friends not answer the letters I have sent them?'
"'Oh, Princess!' said the Court Wise Man, 'it is because you have no name, and, though they have already written letters to you, they know not how to address them. For how can one address a letter to a nameless person?'
"'How, indeed!' cried the Princess. 'But I will have a name. I will choose one for myself.'
"So she sat down, and thought deeply for a long time, and then she jumped up, saying:
"'I have chosen a name! I shall henceforth be called——'"
Mr. Maynard made a dramatic pause, and then pulled quickly on one of the ends of ribbon that hung from his side of the spool.