The table was loaded, as Christmas tables should be, and, as I asked God’s blessing on it and us, the thought came that the answer had preceded the request and that we were blessed in unusual degree.
After dinner the rugs in the great room were rolled up, and the young folks danced to Laura’s music, which could inspire unwilling feet. But there were none such that night. Tom and Kate led off in the newest and most fantastic waltz, others followed, and Polly and I were the only spectators. An hour of this, and then we gathered around the hearth to hear Polly read “The Christmas Carol.” No one reads like Polly. Her low, soft voice seems never to know fatigue, but runs on like a musical brook. When the reading was over, a hush of satisfied enjoyment had taken possession of us all. It was not broken when Miss Jessie turned to the piano and sang that glorious hymn, “Lead, Kindly Light.” Jack was close beside her, his blue eyes shining with an appreciation of which any woman might be proud, and his baritone in perfect harmony with her rich contralto. The young ladies took the higher part, Frank added his tenor, and even Phil and I leaned heavily on Jarvis’s deep bass. My effort was of short duration; a lump gathered in my throat that caused me to turn away. Polly was searching fruitlessly for something to dry the tears that overran her eyes, and I was able to lend her aid, but the accommodation was of the nature of a “call loan.”
As we separated for the night, Jarvis said: “Lady mother, this day has been a revelation to me. If I live a hundred years, I shall never forget it.” I was slow in bringing it to a close. As I loitered in my room, I heard the shuffling of slippered feet in the hall, and a timid knock at Polly’s door. It was quickly opened for Jane and Jessie, and I heard sobbing voices say:—
“Momee, we want to cry on your bed,” and, “Oh, Mrs. Williams, why can’t all days be like this!”
Polly’s voice was low and indistinct, but I know that it carried strong and loving counsel; and, as I turned to my pillow, I was still dreaming the dream of the morning.
WE CLOSE THE BOOKS FOR ’96
The morning after Christmas broke clear, with a wind from the south that promised to make quick work of the snow. The young people were engaged for the evening, as indeed for most evenings, in the hospitable village, and they spent the day on the farm as pleased them best.
There were many things to interest city-bred folk on a place like Four Oaks. Everything was new to them, and they wanted to see the workings of the factory farm in all its detail. They made friends with the men who had charge of the stock, and spent much time in the stables. Polly and I saw them occasionally, but they did not need much attention from us. We have never found it necessary to entertain our friends on the farm. They seem to do that for themselves. We simply live our lives with them, and they live theirs with us. This works well both for the guests and for the hosts.