When I left, after much more pleasant talk, they both came with me to the door seeming greatly improved in spirits.
“You’ve given us something to live for, Mr. Grayson,” said Mrs. Starkweather.
So I walked homeward in the highest spirits, and an hour or more later who should we see in the top of our upper field but Mr. Starkweather and his wife floundering in the snow. They reached the lane literally covered from top to toe with snow and both of them ruddy with the cold.
“We walked over,” said Mrs. Starkweather breathlessly, “and I haven’t had so much fun in years.”
Mr. Starkweather helped her over the fence. The Scotch Preacher stood on the steps to receive them, and we all went in together.
I can’t pretend to describe Harriet’s dinner: the gorgeous brown goose, and the apple sauce, and all the other things that best go with it, and the pumpkin pie at the end—the finest, thickest, most delicious pumpkin pie I ever ate in all my life. It melted in one’s mouth and brought visions of celestial bliss. And I wish I could have a picture of Harriet presiding. I have never seen her happier, or more in her element. Every time she brought in a new dish or took off a cover it was a sort of miracle. And her coffee—but I must not and dare not elaborate.
And what great talk we had afterward!
I’ve known the Scotch Preacher for a long time, but I never saw him in quite such a mood of hilarity. He and Mr. Starkweather told stories of their boyhood—and we laughed, and laughed—Mrs. Starkweather the most of all. Seeing her so often in her carriage, or in the dignity of her home, I didn’t think she had so much jollity in her. Finally she discovered Harriet’s cabinet organ, and nothing would do but she must sing for us.
“None of the new-fangled ones, Clara,” cried her husband: “some of the old ones we used to know.”
So she sat herself down at the organ and threw her head back and began to sing:
“Believe me, if all those endearing young charms,
Which I gaze on so fondly to-day——,”
Mr. Starkweather jumped up and ran over to the organ and joined in with his deep voice. Harriet and I followed. The Scotch Preacher’s wife nodded in time with the music, and presently I saw the tears in her eyes. As for Dr. McAlway, he sat on the edge of his chair with his hands on his knees and wagged his shaggy head, and before we got through he, too, joined in with his big sonorous voice:
“Thou wouldst still be adored as this moment thou art——,”
Oh, I can’t tell here—it grows late and there’s work to-morrow—all the things we did and said. They stayed until it was dark, and when Mrs. Starkweather was ready to go, she took both of Harriet’s hands in hers and said with great earnestness:
“I haven’t had such a good time at Christmas since I was a little girl. I shall never forget it.”