Fiction Friday: An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott
Welcome to Fiction Friday, my opportunity each week to post an excerpt from one of my own books or those of my friends and colleagues.
Today we have a special treat, an excerpt from a short story written in 1882 by Louisa May Alcott (beloved author of Little Women) and republished by Berkley in 1995. A Hallmark movie “based on the story” aired in 2010, but “based on the story” is used in its widest sense.
Would I leave you with only the introduction to this Thanksgiving tale? Absolutely not. If this snippet captures your interest, then you can finish the story here. It’s short and easy to read online. Share with your kids and grandkids. Maybe they would like to take turns reading it out loud with you.
So take it away, Louisa May, and happy day-after-our-U.S.-Thanksgiving to everyone near and far.
SIXTY YEARS AGO, up among the New Hampshire hills, lived Farmer Bassett, with a houseful of sturdy sons and daughters growing up about him. They were poor in money, but rich in land and love, for the wide acres of wood, corn, and pasture land fed, warmed, and clothed the flock, while mutual patience, affection, and courage made the old farmhouse a very happy home.
November had come; the crops were in, and barn, buttery, and bin were overflowing with the harvest that rewarded the summer’s hard work. The big kitchen was a jolly place just now, for in the great fireplace roared a cheerful fire; on the walls hung garlands of dried apples, onions, and corn; up aloft from the beams shone crook-necked squashes, juicy hams, and dried venison–for in those days deer still haunted the deep forests, and hunters flourished. Savory smells were in the air; on the crane hung steaming kettles, and down among the red embers copper saucepans simmered, all suggestive of some approaching feast.
A white-headed baby lay in the old blue cradle that had rocked six other babies, now and then lifting his head to look out, like a round, full moon, then subsided to kick and crow contentedly, and suck the rosy apple he had no teeth to bite. Two small boys sat on the wooden settle shelling corn for popping, and picking out the biggest nuts from the goodly store their own hands had gathered in October. Four young girls stood at the long dresser, busily chopping meat, pounding spice, and slicing apples; and the tongues of Tilly, Prue, Roxy, and Rhody went as fast as their hands. Farmer Bassett, and Eph, the oldest boy, were “chorin’ ’round” outside, for Thanksgiving was at hand, and all must be in order for that time-honored day.
To and fro, from table to hearth, bustled buxom Mrs. Bassett, flushed and floury, but busy and blithe as the queen bee of this busy little hive should be.
“I do like to begin seasonable and have things to my mind. Thanksgivin’ dinners can’t be drove, and it does take a sight of victuals to fill all these hungry stomicks,” said the good woman, as she gave a vigorous stir to the great kettle of cider applesauce, and cast a glance of housewifely pride at the fine array of pies set forth on the buttery shelves.
“Only one more day and then it will be the time to eat. I didn’t take but one bowl of hasty pudding this morning, so I shall have plenty of room when the nice things come,” confided Seth to Sol, as he cracked a large hazelnut as easily as a squirrel.
“No need of my starvin’ beforehand. I always have room enough, and I’d like to have Thanksgiving every day,” answered Solomon, gloating like a young ogre over the little pig that lay near by, ready for roasting.
“Sakes alive, I don’t, boys! It’s a marcy it don’t come but once a year. I should be worn to a thread paper with all this extra work atop of my winter weavin’ and spinnin’,” laughed their mother, as she plunged her plump arms into the long bread trough and began to knead the dough as if a famine were at hand.
Tilly, the oldest girl, a red-cheeked, black-eyed lass of fourteen, was grinding briskly at the mortar, for spices were costly, and not a grain must be wasted. Prue kept time with the chopper, and the twins sliced away at the apples till their little brown arms ached, for all knew how to work, and did so now with a will.
“I think it’s real fun to have Thanksgiving at home. I’m sorry Gran’ma is sick, so we can’t go there as usual, but I like to mess ’round here, don’t you, girls?” asked Tilly, pausing to take a sniff at the spicy pestle.
“It will be kind of lonesome with only our own folks.” “I like to see all the cousins and aunts, and have games, and sing,” cried the twins, who were regular little romps, and could run, swim, coast, and shout as well as their brothers.
Enjoy the remainder of the story here.
This is always a great read! It has been a “few” years since I read this….!!! Thanks for the pleasant reminder…..I read Alcott..every few years..she was a wonder in her time….and yet still…..
I love this story – I just blogged about it on my Louisa May Alcott blog – you can see it here: http://louisamayalcottismypassion.com/2013/11/28/an-old-fashioned-louisa-may-alcott-thanksgiving-2/
Thanks, Susan, for the link.