Harper's Round Table, December 24, 1895 online

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"Look back at the city! - look!" said a voice from the hay.

Far to the southward great red tongues of flame were leaping against the
sky; billows of smoke swept up and caught the reflection of the flames,
and sparks filled the air and danced out over the river. The city was on

As George watched the conflagration from the window of the hay-mow,
which was now crowded with excited soldiers, some men on horseback
passed by beneath him.

"There's a warm reception for them," said a short thick-set man with a
round chubby face. His voice had a cheery sound.

"I don't think that it was fired by our directions, General Putnam,"
came the answer.

"Probably it was done by the British themselves. They're not above it.
Gadzooks, it is a grand sight!" said the short man, "and many a Tory
heart is thumping with fear against its Tory ribs, I'll warrant ye."
There came a pause, and then the speaker added, "What was the name of
the lad who saved the powder train?"

"Aaron Burr," was the answer.

"No, not he - the young Lieutenant, I mean - the one who brought the news
from Staten Island?"

"His name has slipped me," replied the second officer, "but I heard the
General himself speak well of him."

George's heart gave a great leap, and then he murmured a prayer that he
might never fail to deserve such commendation. For well-earned praise is
balm to wounds and strengthening to the soul and spirit of the soldier,
be he young or old, great general or humble private in the ranks.




(_In Two Parts._)


It had begun to look as if no one would go to Viola Pitkin's birthday
party; it had been snowing for two days, and the drifts in some places
were as high as a man's head. Patty Perley had tried to take an interest
in the new lace pattern that she was crocheting, and in the paper
lamp-shade she was making, for which Ruby Nutting had taught her to make
roses that almost smelled sweet, they were so natural, and it was all in
vain; and she quite envied Anson, who was trying to draw the buff kitten
stuck into the leg of Uncle Reuben's boot. The kitten's squirming and
the old cat's frantic remonstrances were preventing the picture from
being a success, but Anson was highly entertained, and didn't seem to
care whether he went to the party or not. It was just when Patty was
feeling irritated by this indifference that Uncle Reuben came in, and
she heard him stamping and shaking his clothes in the entry, and saying,
"Whew, this is a night!" Then her spirits went down to zero. But the
very first thing that Uncle Reuben said when he opened the door was:

"I've told Pelatiah to get out the big sled and hitch up the black mare,
and you'll get to your party if the snow is deep. And the sled is large;
you'd better pick up all the youngsters you can along the way."

Now that was like Uncle Reuben as he used to be, not as he had been
since Dave, his only son, ran away; since then he had not seemed to
think there was anything but gloom and sadness in the world. Indeed,
Dave's going had taken the heart out of the good times all over
Butternut Corner. He was only sixteen, and a good boy - his mother had
meant that he should be a minister - but he got into the company of some
wild fellows down at Bymport, and of Alf Coombs, a wild fellow nearer
home, and then he had run away from home under circumstances almost too
dreadful to tell. Burton's jewelry-store at Bymport had been broken into
and robbed of watches and jewelry, and the next morning Dave and Alf
Coombs had disappeared. They had been seen around the store that night;
Dave had not come home until almost morning. The boys had been gone
almost two months now, and the suspicion against them had become almost
a certainty in most people's minds, and it was reported that the sheriff
had a warrant for their arrest, but as yet had not been able to find

With such trouble weighing upon them, Patty had felt as if it were
almost wicked to wish to go to Viola Pitkin's party, but Aunt Eunice had
said, with the quiver about her patient mouth that always came there
when she referred to Dave, that the innocent must not suffer for the
guilty; and she had told Barbara, the "hired girl," to roast a pair of
chickens and make some of her famous cream-cakes also, for it was to be
a surprise party, and each guest was to carry a basket of goodies for
the supper.

And now Uncle Reuben had planned for them to go, in spite of the
snow-drifts; so Patty began to feel that it was not wrong to be
light-hearted under the circumstances.

"Take all the youngsters you can pack on," repeated Uncle Reuben, as
Patty and Anson settled themselves on the great sled, and Pelatiah
cracked his whip over the old horse; "only I wouldn't stop at the foot
of the hill" - Uncle Reuben's face darkened suddenly as he said
this - "we've had about enough of Coombses."

Patty's heart sank a little, for she liked Tilly Coombs. They were rough
and poor people, the Coombs family - "back folks," who had moved to the
Corner only the summer before; the father drank, and the mother was an
invalid, and it was the son Alf who was supposed to have had an evil
influence over Dave. Patty thought it probable that Tilly had been
invited to the surprise party, because Ruby Nutting, the doctor's
daughter, who had planned the party, would be sure to ask her. Poor
people who would be likely to be slighted, and stray animals that no one
wanted, those were the ones that Ruby Nutting thought of first.

Along slid the great sled with its jingling bells, and out of her gate
at the foot of the hill ran Tilly Coombs - the very first passenger.
Patty couldn't help it. She didn't disobey Uncle Reuben's injunction not
to stop; Tilly ran and jumped on.

[Illustration: "YOU'LL LET ME GO WITH YOU, WON'T YOU?"]

"You'll let me go with you, won't you?" she panted. "I couldn't bear to
miss it when she asked me! Some folks wouldn't, but _she_ did. And I
never went to a party in all my life! I couldn't bring anything but some
doughnuts." Tilly opened her small basket, and by the light of
Pelatiah's great lantern Patty saw that eager face darken suddenly. "I
made 'em myself, and I'm afraid they're only middling. Doughnuts will
soak fat, though, won't they?" she added, anxiously, as Patty gazed
doubtfully at the soggy lumps laid carefully in the folds of a ragged
napkin. "I never made any before."

It was altogether an affair of first times with Tilly - a happier thing
in the way of party-going than of doughnut-making!

"They're very nicely flavored," said Patty, tasting critically, "and
where there are so many things nobody will notice if they're not - not so
very light."

Tilly's sharp anxious face brightened a little, but she heaved a sigh
and covered her doughnuts quickly as the sled stopped to take on Rilly
Parkhurst and her cousins, the Stillman boys, and Kathie Loomis, who was
visiting Rilly. The Sage boys came next, and Delia Sage, who was sixteen
and had taught school, but was just as full of fun as if she were young.
It was a merry company; the jingling of the bells was almost drowned in
chatter and laughter, and when Ruby Nutting joined it, she was greeted
with a cheering that, as Pelatiah said, "must 'a' cracked the

The crowd increased; the baskets were all huddled together upon the seat
with Pelatiah, and under the seat, and in the middle of the sled; no one
could keep hold of his own, but there was no fear but that they would
all know their own when they reached Viola's house.

Ruby Nutting was missed suddenly. She hadn't been as gay as usual;
generally Ruby could be depended upon to stir up every one's wits and
make the dullest party merry, but to-night she had been sitting in a
corner talking in a low tone with Alvan Sage. Now she had disappeared,
and Alvan Sage, looking very much surprised and bewildered himself, said
that she had slipped off when they were going a little slowly up the
hill, just as Pelatiah had held the lantern down to see if there was
anything the matter with the horse's foot; she had said she would wait
until Horace Barker's sleigh came along; either she thought the sled was
too crowded, or she wanted to see some one who was coming with the
Barkers. The latter explanation was probable enough, for Chrissy Barker
was on the "committee of arrangements," and had helped Ruby about the

So no one thought much more about it, although it didn't seem like Ruby
to go off without saying anything. The sled party was the first to reach
Viola's, and it was great fun to see her perfect surprise and delight
when they trooped in. They all thought that Ruby Nutting should have
been there then.

Patty had a surprise that was not pleasant. When her basket was carried
in the cover was open, the cream-cakes all jammed and half spoiled, and
the two fine roast chickens were gone!

"See here, you can catch the thief by his mitten!" cried one of the
boys. The rim of the basket was broken, probably by the thief in his
haste, and to one sharply jagged end was attached a long, long string of
red worsted. "Who has a ravelled mitten?"

The color came and went in Tilly Coombs's sharp, elfish little face;
then she thrust her hand into her pocket as if she was thrusting her
mittens deep into it. Patty Perley happened to be standing close beside
her, and saw her.

Patty was mortified to have come to the surprise party with only a few
half-spoiled cream-cakes, but she was kind-hearted, and her first
thought was a pitying one.

"They must be so very poor! Tilly wanted them for her sick mother," she
said to herself.

How Tilly could have taken the chickens from the basket and where she
could have concealed them was a mystery. But Uncle Reuben believed that
all the Coombs family were thievish and sly; perhaps he was right, and
Tilly was used to doing such things. But even Uncle Reuben would not be
very hard upon a girl who had stolen delicate food for her sick mother.

"'Sh! - 'sh! don't say anything about it! It is of no consequence," she
whispered to some girls and boys who were loudly wondering and guessing
about the mysterious theft.

Then they all went into the sitting-room, and the Virginia reel, the
old-fashioned dance with which Butternut Corner festivities almost
always began, was danced, and no one thought any more of the stolen

Ruby Nutting had come by this time, and she led the dance, as usual the
life of the good time. She had come in Horace Barker's sleigh, and she
gayly evaded the wonderings and reproaches of the party she had left. As
the dance ended, Berta Treadwell beckoned slyly to Patty. Berta was
Viola Pitkin's cousin, who had come all the way from California to visit
her; she and Patty had "taken to" each other at once.

"I want you to see such a funny thing!" whispered Berta, drawing Patty
out into the back entry. "That queer-looking girl they call Tilly, with
the wispy black hair and the faded cotton dress, asked me to lend her a
pair of knitting-needles! I got grandma's for her, and she snatched them
out of my hands, she was so eager. 'You needn't tell anybody that I
asked you for 'em, either,' she said, in that sharp way of hers. I had
such a curiosity to know what she was going to do with them that I
watched her. After a while, when the reel was begun and she thought no
one was looking, she slipped out through the wood-shed into the barn.
Come and peep through the crack!"

Patty followed Berta softly through the wood-shed, and looked through a
chink in the rough board partition into the barn.

On an inverted bucket, with a lantern hung upon a nail over her head,
sat Tilly Coombs diligently knitting. The barn was cold; the cattle's
breaths made vapors, and there was a glitter of frost around the beams.
Tilly was muffled in a shawl, but her face looked pinched and blue.

"What is she knitting? It looks like a red mitten," whispered Berta. "Is
she so industrious? To think of leaving a party on a winter night to go
out to the barn and knit! Do you think we ought to leave her there in
the cold? I should think she must be crazy!"

Patty was drawing Berta back through the wood-shed eagerly, in silence.
Berta had not heard about the ravelled mitten; she did not know that
Tilly was trying to knit it into shape again so it would never be known
that it was her mitten that was ravelled.

"I know why she is doing it," said Patty, "though I don't see why she
couldn't have waited until she got home; but I suppose she is awfully
anxious. Berta, don't say that we saw her, or anything about the
needles, to anybody. That will be kind to her, and she is so poor.
Whatever you hear, don't say anything."

"I'm sure I don't want to say anything to hurt her," answered Berta, a
little resentfully, for she did think Patty might have told her all
about it. "But I must say I think society in Butternut Corner is a
little mixed."

"Ruby asked her," explained Patty. "I think it was right; Tilly never
went to a party before."

"Her way of enjoying herself at a party is a little queer," said Berta,

And Patty thought she did not feel quite so sorry as she had done that
Berta was going back to California the next day.

She thought she would tell Ruby Nutting; Ruby would understand, and pity
Tilly; but before she had a chance, while Horace Barker was singing a
college song and Ruby was playing the accompaniment on the piano, a
sudden recollection struck her that sent the color from her face. Aunt
Eunice's spoons!

Aunt Eunice had said that there were never spoons enough to go round at
a surprise party, and Viola Pitkin's mother was her intimate friend, so
she wished to help her all she could, and she put a dozen spoons into
the basket - the solid silver ones that had been Grandmother
Oliver's - and charged Patty to take care of them. And it was not until
she overheard Mrs. Pitkin whisper to Viola that she wasn't _sure_ that
there were sauce-plates enough that Patty remembered the spoons.

She had a struggle to repress a cry of dismay, those spoons were so
precious! Uncle Reuben had demurred when they were put into the basket,
but Aunt Eunice was proud, and always liked to give and lend of her
best. Patty felt as if she must cry out and denounce Tilly when she
crept slyly in behind broad-backed Uncle Nathan Pitkin and slyly warmed
her benumbed hands at the fire. But Patty held her peace; when she had
reflected for a few minutes she knew that this was too grave a matter
for fourteen-year-old wits to grapple with, and she must tell Uncle
Reuben and Aunt Eunice.

Tilly Coombs was drawn into a merry game - Ruby Nutting took care of
that - and before long her queer little sharp face was actually dimpling
with fun, and her laugh rang out with the gayest! Patty Perley looked at
her, and decided that it was a very queer world indeed; for her the joy
of Viola Pitkin's party was done.

When they were all dressing to depart, Patty looked involuntarily at
Tilly Coombs's mittens; in fact, many furtive glances were cast around
at the red mittens by those who remembered the theft of the roast
chickens. There were many of them, red being the fashionable color for
mittens at Butternut Corner, but apparently they were all sound and
whole. Tommy Barker had one mitten with a white thumb, which his blind
grandmother had knitted on in place of a torn thumb, and little Seba
Sage had but one mitten; but that one was very dark red, not the vivid
scarlet of the ravelling.

Rilly Parkhurst whispered to Patty, as she sat down beside her on the
sled: "Tilly Coombs has the ravelled mitten! She is trying to cover it
with her shawl; it is only a little more than half a mitten!"

Patty smothered an exclamation of doubt, and then she gazed curiously at
Tilly's hands; but they were tightly, carefully covered by her shawl.

Could it be that after spending all that time in the cold barn she had
failed to knit up her ravelled mitten? Tilly looked as if she had been
having a good time. Under the light of Pelatiah's lantern her eyes were
shining, her face rippling with smiles. Patty thought with wonder that
she had not seen her look so happy - well, certainly not since her
brother Alf ran away.

"I must have grown plump at the party!" laughed Ruby Nutting. "One of my
mittens is too tight around the wrist." And Patty saw Tilly Coombs
nervously fold her shawl more closely about her mittens.

Just before her own door was reached, Tilly Coombs leaned towards Patty
and whispered, so that even Anson or Pelatiah should not hear.

"I didn't know there were such good times in the world!" she said, with
her face aglow. "And Viola Pitkin's uncle Nathan ate one of my
doughnuts!" But Patty shrank away from her.



The Eve of Epiphany or Twelfth-Night brings to the Roman children very
much the same experience which Christmas brings to young Americans. It
is the time and opportunity for presents, and sometimes for
disappointments and even punishments. Upon this occasion, however, it is
a benefactress instead of a benefactor who confers the coveted favor. It
is not Santa Claus, who, round, red, and good-natured, comes down the
chimney with a gift for every child, but a hideous old woman, lean,
dark, and sour-visaged, who descends the chimney with a bell in one hand
and a long cane in the other. The bell announces her coming, and the
cane is especially for the children who have rebelled against parents
and teachers, or have been otherwise forgetful of duty. The name of this
old crone is Befana, and she brings plenty of good things, in spite of
her forbidding countenance and manner, and the good, obedient child may
confidently expect a stocking full of dainties. She fills the stocking
of the disobedient too, but with ashes! The Festival of the Befana is
one of the most fascinating to the children of Rome. Crowds gather upon
the thoroughfares and fill up the streets and piazzas, and the beating
drums, squeaking whistles, jingling tambourines, and sonorous trumpets
show that Roman children can be quite as noisy in honor of the Befana as
American children are when they wish to welcome Christmas or celebrate
the glorious Fourth. This festival occurs, of course, on the eve of
Twelfth-Night, and in addition to the various noises which assail your
ears, your eyes are feasted with the most startling and curious
spectacles. Very odd and, we can say, very picturesque toys are
exhibited on all sides, and the brilliant display of fireworks gives a
fascination to things which are in themselves ridiculous and grotesque.
Noise, unceasing noise, is the order of the night, and he who can
surprise you with the loudest is greeted with peals of laughter and
shouts of applause. A whistle or horn is always at your ears.

Nor is the custom of receiving presents on this happy occasion confined
to children. The Pope and the Cardinals take part in the rejoicing.
Formerly a chalice of gold containing a hundred ducats was presented to
the Pope with a Latin address and great ceremony, and the Pope, in
accepting it, made his reply in Latin, and graciously allowed the bearer
to kiss his foot. This offering was called the Befana Tribute. The
ceremony was discontinued in the year 1802; but the Befana Tribute is
still offered and accepted. Of course, there are many traditions
concerning the Befana, and it is in honor of a tradition that a burning
broom is always carried in the processions which celebrate her festival.
According to this tradition she is said to have been an old woman, who
was engaged in cleaning the house when the three Kings passed carrying
presents to the infant Christ; she was called to the window to see them,
but she declined to leave her household duties, and said, "I will see
them as they return." But the old woman was denied the blessed sight,
for they did not return that way, and hence she is represented as
waiting and watching for them continually - always standing in the
attitude of expectation, with her broom in her hand.

To disguise themselves as this old woman is one of the pranks of the
Roman boys during the Befana Festival. With blackened faces and
fantastic caps on their heads they stand in the doors with a broom in
one hand and a lantern in the other. Around their necks and suspended to
their waists are rows of stockings filled with sweet-meats, and also
with the reward of evil-doing - the famous ashes! And what do the Roman
children say when they see these representations of the Befana?

Well, very much what the American children say when they see the images
of their dearly loved Santa Claus!



Come, draw around the fire,
And watch the sparks that go
All singing like a fairy choir
Into the realms of snow.

Above us evergreen,
With mistletoe in sprays,
And tenderly the leaves between
The holly-berries blaze.

And while the logs burn bright,
Before the day takes wing,
The happy children, gowned in white,
Their merry carols sing.

Then high the stockings lift,
Like hungry beggars dumb.
_Good Santa Claus, bring every gift,_
_And fill them when you come!_




The most illustrious name connected with London Tower - high over king,
priest, or prince - is the name of Raleigh. There at four different times
he was sent, not so much prisoner of England as of Spain. He never lay
in the lonesome cell in the crypt called his. His longest term was in
the grim fortress Bloody Tower, where his undaunted spirit taught the

"Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage."


He was allowed the freedom of the garden, with a little lodge for a
study - a hen-house of lath and plaster, where he experimented with drugs
and chemicals, studied medicine and ship-building, kept his crucibles
and apparatus, and the near terrace he paced up and down through weary
years is to this day called Raleigh's Walk.

It was in the reign of King James the First - the cruel and cowardly - and
never in his peerless prime was Raleigh greater than in the fourteen
years that sentence of death hung over his head. His prison was a court
to which men crowded with delight. Queen Anne sent gracious messages to
him, and Prince Henry rode down from Whitehall to hear the old sailor
tell of green isles with waving palms like beckoning hands, hints of
wonderful plumage, hissing serpents in tropic jungles, barbarian cities
built of precious stones, and of rivers running over sands of gold, all
waiting for the English conqueror to come and make them his own.

After a morning of high converse the Prince cried out, "No man but my
father would keep such a bird in such a cage," and when the young
listener fell ill the Queen would have him take nothing but Raleigh's
cordial, which, she said, had saved her life.

His best biographer writes: "Raleigh was a sight to see; not only for
his fame and name, but for his picturesque and dazzling figure.
Fifty-one years old, tall, tawny, splendid, with the bronze of tropical
suns on his leonine cheek, a bushy beard, a round mustache, and a ripple
of curling hair which his man Peter took an hour to dress. Apparelled as
became such a figure, in scarf and band of richest color and costliest
stuff, in cap and plume worth a ransom, in jacket powdered with gems,
his whole attire from cap to shoe-strings blazing with rubies, emeralds,
and pearls, he was allowed to be one of the handsomest men alive."

In the eleventh year of his bondage he finished the first part of the
_History of the World_. He wrote what men will not let die, invented the
modern war-ship, and from the turrets of Bloody Tower looked across the
vast blue plain of ocean and directed operations in Virginia and Guiana.
He was a guiding light to his beloved England; proud and brilliant
heroes deferred to him, sought his advice; charming women were charmed
by the most courtly of courtiers, and all felt him to be a man whom the
government could not afford to spare. He knew more than any other person
living about the New World offering endless riches to the Old, and his
services were at the King's command. While prisoner to the crown he
sailed with five ships under royal orders for the region of the Orinoco,
the land of promise unfulfilled. The golden city lighted by jewels was a
vanishing illusion ending in bitter disappointment.

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Online LibraryVariousHarper's Round Table, December 24, 1895 → online text (page 3 of 7)