Church Supper

I

THERE were no Community Chests, no Welfare Leagues, no alphabetical conundrums by which to lessen the obligation of the individual to his community in the days of which I write. We were all more or less poor together — compared, that is, to the luxury in which many people of to-day live, and still proclaim their poverty. But nobody, so far as I can recall, ever starved or froze or even felt the pinch of dire necessity. We were cold, we ate a lot of cabbage, potatoes, salt pork, and beans, but we did n’t know we were so badly off. We saw no life of luxury or ease by which to contrast our situation. And so we went along under the delusion that we were often having a good time. We knew nothing of Higher Education, Woman Suffrage, Communism, or Realism — although most of the time we were pretty well on a level with the last. But we believed in God; some of us believed in the Devil. We sang ‘Rock of Ages’ for other reasons than the harmony. And we sort of looked after each other. If a neighbor got sick, other neighbors came in and took care of him. If he died, his friends and relations washed and dressed him in his best and carried him to his last resting place. Sometimes they even looked in on him afterward and read his epitaph. They did n’t begrudge the time or effort. When one amongst us had hard luck, like losing an only cow or horse, or a farm, the neighbors got together and made up a little purse, or even shared their own small homes. We did n’t talk or think much about being our brother’s keeper, but in a way seemed to think we were.

The minister, however, was one for whom everybody had to have a little thought. His salary was generally around three to five hundred dollars a year. Eight hundred was a big salary, and when he got that much he could jolly well look out for himself. But the man that tried to live and bring up a family on three hundred (and house) deserved sympathy — and got it. He got more.

Once a year, and perhaps in some communities twice, the minister’s family was given a Donation Party. As I remember it, this was sponsored by the Ladies’ Aid and usually occurred sometime in March, when what stores he had were pretty well depleted and it would still be some time before he could realize anything on the garden that went with his house.

Now a Donation Party was not by any means an organized affair. Nobody found out what the minister’s family needed, because what they needed perhaps nobody else could give. So the date was set, word sent around by children, hired men, or the dressmaker, and announced at Meetin’. The party took place after supper, so that the guests would in no way diminish the store.

Each one took what he or she happened to have most of and could best spare. One farmer might take a bag of potatoes; two — or even three — might be of the same mind. A peck of beans would furnish substantial meals well into the summer. Beans are wholesome, filling, and cheap; if an army can march on beans, why not the hosts of the Lord? And a good solid slab of salt pork, brine-encrusted, stacked up against the beans, was suggestive of considerable sustenance. A bushel of ‘beggies’ was all that another might have to offer. In March, cabbage was no longer plentiful, and onions were sprouting; the green shoots, cut off well into the solid part and chopped up with vinegar, pepper, and salt, made a not-half-bad relish, but they were pretty well past the cooking stage. The minister’s family would have to do without.

Sauerkraut, however, was plentiful and ripe. A covered tin pail, nosily inspected by some curious guest, exhaled an odor that caused exclamations in varying degree of shock. The odor was quickly suppressed. It had no place amongst the more polite occupants of the table: a pan of raised biscuits, loaves of bread, a crock of butter, and another of lard; jars of canned fruit, glasses of jelly, pickles.

Sometimes a farmer would take a few bags of grain to mill, and share part of the resulting grist with the minister — wheat flour (not too ‘refined’), buckwheat flour, or corn meal. Occasionally the contributor would go to town and buy a few pounds of sugar or groceries to ‘donate.’ Why this generous spirit could not as well have dropped a silver dollar (which made a nice ringing sound against other coins) into the contribution box on Sunday, and let the minister buy his own groceries, is one of those mysteries of the charitably inclined mind into which one probes futilely.

In certain instances of which I know, the minister stealthily loaded up the ‘boot’ of his old top buggy with surplus provender, took it to the next town, and swapped it for something more urgently needed. It was a custom also for the minister and the treasurer to appraise the value of the donations and credit the amount to the Ladies’ Aid. And there have been instances where it was credited against his meagre salary!

The Donation Party was often a bitter pill for the minister to swallow. He would have liked to think of himself as a professional man earning his keep, however small, and being paid like any other laborer. The Donation Party put him in the class of the present-day welfare dependent, but there was nothing he could do — or say — about it, and doubtless the members of his flock never even dreamed that their generosity left a little mark of hurt pride.

Once in a while an understanding mother smuggled in a bundle of clothing outgrown by her own children, but this must be handled with utmost tact.

‘You won’t be offended, Mis’ Wheaton, now, will you? These are just a few things Willie and Eva’ve outgrown, an’ seein’ they’re just a year or so older ’n yours — I hope you won’t take offense.’

Mis’ Wheaton assures her she will not, but an astute eye catches a little tightening of the lips, a slight chill in the averted eye. Food — yes; the donation of food is an accepted custom amongst the indigent profession. But clothes, other people’s left-over-hand-me-downs — this is another matter. To accept from the largesse of parishioners a proportion, as it were, of their wealth is one thing — a sort of tithe. But to be given something for which a family has no longer any use, something worn and discarded, old clothes — that is another. The children are shabby, no doubt. bodies must be warmed as well as fed — put there is also pride. Fortunately for us of to-day whose needs are often no less than were those of yesterday, we have learned, through suffering, that there is such a thing as sharing without endangering self-respect.

The minister’s children stand anxiously near, their eyes popping, their nostrils dilating, their mouths watering. How long, oh, how long before the company will go and they can have a bite!

The neighbors visit; the men, congregated restlessly near the door, talk of the weather. Sun’s getting pretty high now — thaws some every day. Eaves drip — icicles fall. Well, it won’t be long now. Ain’t been a hard winter — saw a woodchuck yest’day. Crows cawin’.

The women, centred about the minister’s wife, talk of spring sewing — Mis’ Lou Esty, the seamstress who goes from house to house, is here, and gives account of her itinerary for February and March. She also deals with the absorbing subject of sleeves — basques, dolmans, width of skirts, gores and gussets. Mrs. Wheaton shows the rag carpet she is making for the parsonage. Offers of rags follow and are accepted with gratitude and pleasure. It makes a difference whether old clothes are given to put on your back or on your floor.

Finally the restive males begin to look significantly at their women-folks and hitch their chairs uncomfortably. The minister takes a hint.

‘Friends,’ he says in his deep and properly ministerial voice, as he rises, ‘I want to tell you how much we appreciate this evidence of your great kindness. Shall we kneel down and extend our thanks for the spirit of brotherly love that prompted these generous gifts?’

‘Huh!’ says my father tartly as he tucks the buffalo robe around my mother’s knees and his own, with me huddled snugly between, ‘I bet he’d a ruther cussed a little. I would — folks come polin’ out a little grub and standin’ around grinnin’ as if they’d laid a egg.’

II

The Church Supper was another means designed to help meet the startlingly small salary of the minister, who usually held Sunday-morning services in the church at the nearest community centre, and then, to earn a few dollars more, traveled to outlying communities, where a meeting was held in the afternoon — in a church, if there was one, otherwise in the schoolhouse. A supper was given in each of these neighborhoods, price probably twenty-five cents, the food having been contributed. It was one of the chief social functions of the year.

Occasionally this supper took the form of a Box Social. Each woman or girl packed a box with suitable food for two people. Wrapped in white tissue and tied with ribbon, the boxes gave promise; piled together on the table, they offered an attractive lottery to the men whose duty — and, in most cases, pleasure — it was to buy them unsight, unseen. Sometimes they were sold at auction, when, if the best cooks could be spotted, certain boxes brought in a most satisfactory return. The older boys often took a girl — the engagement made, perhaps, weeks beforehand at Meetin’, Spellin’ School, or a neighborhood dance. Sometimes they tried to get their girl to describe her box, but this was not considered fair play and only such as were desperately in love succumbed.

Men, too, would often try to identify their own wives’ cookery, being sure then of something good, for, while most of the women of that community were excellent cooks, there were some whose contributions were not sought. Gallantry played its part. ‘Well, if I can’t get hold of my own woman’s cookin’, I’d be tickled to death to get yours, Mis’ Bouldry. That fig cream cake you make is enough to make a man drool just to think of it.’

The Coveills— that irresponsible family, neighbors of ours, distinguished for general shiftlessness, but with several pairs of eyes ever alert for the beneficences of a kindly Providence — always attended Box Socials en masse. Mr. Covell, of course, had to buy a box, but it was the custom to provide a generous supply of free food for the children, so the Coveills went forth fortified by a lean stomach and a fat appetite.

‘I fed ’em light on purpose,’ Mrs. Covell would say blithely, marshaling her brood toward the table prepared for the children. ‘Now, girls,’ — the Covell children were all girls, — ‘you set to and eat your fill. It’s free, you know, so make the most of it. ’

It was Mrs. Covell’s duty, also, to provide a box, and since this was likely to be an unwrapped shoebox of worn and battered appearance, tied with a string, the men were reasonably aware of its parentage — and consequently skillful at evasion; for Mrs. Covell was known as a ‘greasy cook,’ and no one ever partook of her meals a second time if he could help it.

The trouble in evading Mrs. Covell’s contribution was that Mr. Covell also knew his wife’s handiwork and took this welcome opportunity to accomplish a change in nutriment by arriving early and securing, the moment the boxes were put up, any box but his wife’s. Therefore, by the simple process of elimination, Mrs. Covell’s box was always left, and, as in the game of Marching through Jerusalem, the one left out had to take it.

And this might not have been so bad, — there was food is the pantry and the men were not pid, — but the rules of this particular form of entertainment provided that the purchaser of a box must share it with the woman who prepared it.

My father, after one sharp and bitter experience, utterly refused ever to attend another Box Social. He was not particularly socially-minded anyway, except with his own clan, and hated what he called ‘cutting up.’ He was reserved, given to silence, and shy. He did not like mixing in crowds and always got back in a corner, acting, my mother said, ‘like a clam with its mouth shut.’

On this one particular occasion, having followed his usual conservative custom, he found himself with Mrs. Covell’s box, and Mrs. Covell herself, on his hands. He cast an appealing look at my mother — in telling of it later she said he ‘looked like a calf that knew it was going to have its throat cut.’ But she told the story with gusto and a wicked light in her eye that hinted of appreciation unworthy the theme.

‘She led him off in a corner,’ my mother related with relish, ‘like leading a bull into a boxcar. He balked every step of the way — but he went. He said afterwards that when she lifted up the box cover (he would n’t) and he took one look at what’s inside, his stomach turned right square over. Two greasy pieces of cold sausage, coated with lard, two slabs of gray, sour-looking bread, two pickles, two friedcakes. The smell, he said, when the box was opened, — sausage, pickles, and friedcakes that had been cooped up together since the middle of the afternoon, — was enough to knock you down.’

At the moment, however, my mother was eating her supper across the room with the minister, when she saw my father jump up as if he had been stung and come barging across the room straight to her. And before he got halfway there he began to boom, ‘’Miry! For gosh sakes,’Miry, get up! We’ve got to go home! ’

My mother rose in alarm, and so did the minister. ‘What’s the matter?’ she asked him, but he had her by the arm and was marching her away, looking not to left or right, making neither excuse nor explanation except to say, loud enough for everyone to hear, ‘I plumb forgot to milk — I was that anxious to get to the social.’

My mother, to whose skirt I was by that time clinging, stopped dead in her tracks and looked at him in dumb amazement. He was not a man for practical joking and he did not look ill — and he had hated coming to the social.

‘Come along,’ he scolded, ‘get your things on and come. I got to go home and milk.’

My mother knew he had milked; she had taken care of the milk herself. And my father did not lie. Still — he had lied. And now he added another lie.

‘ I’ve got a fresh cow and I got to go home and milk her.’

Nothing to do but we must go home. My father had the horse and sleigh at the door by the time my mother and I had our wraps on. Mother was ready to die of shame and she was so mad she shook.

‘ ’Lije Thompson,’ she said, when we were under way, ‘you’re a liar!’

‘Yes,’ said my father truculently, ‘and what if I be? I’d ruther tell a dozen lies than eat that stuff.’

‘Well,’ said my mother angrily, ‘if you’re going to lie, you might at least tell something folks’d believe.’

‘No,’ declared my father stonily, ‘I don’t tell that kind o’ lies.’

The men, my mother said afterward, could n’t get over laughing about it; they admired his courage. The women did n’t blame him, either; they thought he was smart. They all knew cows did n’t freshen in February. But my mother said she was so ashamed of him it made her sick. She said he could have stood it once. Father said maybe he could — if he’d had to; but he did n’t have to. And he never went to another Box Social.

III

In general, however, the women took great pains with their boxes. There was excitement in the thought of a chance partner. The girls did n’t like it so well, because they wanted to choose the boy they’d eat with. But with the older women almost anyone would be — well, different.

Cold chicken was one of the most popular of box contents. Not pressed chicken, or chicken salad — women did n’t ‘mess up’ their chicken in ways like that. It was good enough just plain cold. You disjointed and cooked the chicken (a last-spring chicken) slowly in a small amount of water, with an onion and a bay leaf and salt and pepper at the last, until it was done. Then you took it out, let it cool, and fried it in butter until slightly brown — just enough butter so it would n’t stick.

Only the white meat and drumsticks were put in the box. The dark meat — upper thigh, neck, back, and liver — was used for the children. Nice, thin slices of bread and butter (yeast bread — my mother said salt-rising bread wouldn’t stand being shut up), and either sweet cucumber or watermelon-rind pickles in a little jar, went into my mother’s box. And cake. Almost always everyone put in two kinds of cake. For one my mother made a marble cake — a cake you almost never see nowadays, probably because it’s a little trouble to make.

For this a rich white cake batter was mixed: three fourths of a cup of butter, two cups of sugar, four eggs, one cup of milk, three cups of flour, four teaspoonfuls of baking powder. When this mixture was beaten to the right consistency (eggs added one at a time to creamed butter and sugar), one third was taken out and to it was added one-fourth pound of grated chocolate, one teaspoonful of cinnamon, and one-fourth teaspoonful of cloves.

Then, into a deep buttered baking tin a layer of the white batter was poured, then a layer of dark, alternating until all the batter was used, leaving white on top. This required baking forty-five minutes in an oven that would just turn a piece of white writing paper to a nice delicate brown. That was the way we tested the oven.

The fig layer cake for which Mis’ Bouldry was famous well deserved its popularity. A white batter, doubtless similar to that used for the marble cake, was baked in layers, but it was the filling that gave it distinction. Figs were cooked in a small amount of water to a rich syrup, then drained and chopped with an equal quantity of raisins, which had first been seeded and cooked. A heavy frosting was made by beating the whites of four eggs to a stiff froth. To half of this the figs and raisins and the small amount of syrup were added, and this was placed between the layers. The remainder of the frosting, flavored with vanilla, covered the cake.

Then there was jelly cake, a sponge cake baked in a thin sheet, spread with currant jelly, rolled, and dusted with powdered sugar.

IV

Many of the recipes used by the farm women of that, time would appall the average housewife of to-day, whether of country or town, in the lavish use of eggs, butter, and cream. Every farmer raised all the fowls his own family could consume and some to spare. The market, however, was limited, and prices low. Rutter and eggs were exchanged for groceries, but ten cents a dozen was a fair price for eggs, and I have seen butter sold for twelve cents a pound. Cream was plentiful, and the recipe for the most delicious cookies I ever tasted in my life called for one cup of sour cream, one-half cup of butter, four eggs, half a teaspoonful of soda, and enough flour to roll, These my Aunt Catherine always kept on hand in a wooden sugar bucket, with equally rich molasses cookies in a stone jar.

There was a certain ‘cream cake’ of which my father was very fond, and which my mother often made for supper when company was coming. This called for four eggs (beaten separately), one cup of sugar, one cup of flour, one-fourth cup of butter (creamed with the sugar), three teaspoonfuls of baking powder, one third of a cup of milk, and one teaspoonful of lemon juice. This was baked in three layer tins and put together with a filling made of one cup of thick sour cream, one cup of sugar, one-half cup of hickory-nut meats rolled fine. This was mixed, boiled, beaten, and spread between layers. The cake was then frosted with white of eggs and sugar.

Of course every storeroom had its supply of nuts. We should as soon have thought of buying apples as nut meats. ‘Going nutting’ was one of the seasonal ceremonies, as distinctive and certain as gathering greens in the spring. My father, mother, and I, followed, preceded, and circumambulated by the dog, Shep, devoted several Sundays to this delightful ceremony throughout October, after the first heavy frost.

On our own place were several hickory trees — shagbarks. And although I have lived in New York State a number of years, and am devoted to it, — flora, fauna, scenery, and people, — I have never been able to overcome a feeling of irritation at hearing upstaters speak of hickory nuts as ‘walnuts.’ As if a hickory nut could grow on a walnut tree! They simply refuse to recognize the hickory tree, and what their forbears made ox yokes, axe helves, and flails of, I cannot think. Certainly not ‘walnut’!

There were both walnut and butternut trees along the roadside, and hazel brush grew everywhere. The shucks from the shagbarks dropped off in neat brown sections, but both walnuts and butternuts had to be shucked when first gathered. If the shucks dried on, it was impossible to remove them, and the nuts were harder to crack. Removing the shucks from the nuts, however, was no easy task, and hands and clothing were likely to be dyed with an almost indelible brown. In fact, housewives used these husks, or the green nut itself, as well as the leaves, to dye carpet rags.

Hazelnuts, growing in clusters, were easier to shuck. When all were done there was a rich store of all four kinds either hung in bags from the rafters of the attic, so that mice, rats, and squirrels could not get at them, or hidden in large wooden sugar buckets. The tin can had not yet invaded our homes to any great extent.

There, however, was the required ingredient for our hickory-nut cake, walnut cake, and for butternut maple candy; also for many a winter night’s or Sunday afternoon’s entertainment. The sound of a hammer clopping against the upturned edge of a flatiron was as familiar to our ears during the winter season as the chonking of apples.

The Box Social was still popular when, ten years later (for I must have been about six at the time my father put a quietus upon our attendance at this particular social function), I began teaching in country schools. What limited memory I have of the earlier affairs is, perhaps, mingled with and colored by those later memories. And since we ‘have our hand in,’ as the excellent cooks of that day used to say, in the matter of cakes, I should like to recall one more recipe that I encountered as ‘schoolma’am,’ and one that I can recommend if you should suddenly decide that a Box Social might be something new by way of entertaining friends bored by the modern cocktail party.

These were quite simply called ‘Mis’ Taylor’s Cupcakes,’ but, if pigs is always pigs, it by no means follows that cupcakes are always cupcakes.

Mis’ Taylor’s recipe called for one cup of sugar, two eggs, one-fourth cup of butter, one-half cup of milk, a cup and a half of flour, two teaspoonfuls of baking powder, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoonful of vanilla. The butter and sugar were creamed, the eggs (beaten separately) added, the yolks first, and whites at the last. Milk and flour (into which baking powder had been sifted) were added alternately, and vanilla last. This was then poured into well-buttered muffin tins (floured) and baked about half an hour in the brown-paper oven (nowadays at 375 degrees.)

When these had been cooled, a deep round was cut out of the top and the cavity filled with a lemon or orange custard; then the top was replaced and covered with a stiff icing. Over this icing, if you want your cakes to look as ours did, sprinkle some pink sugar — if you can find it!

V

Beguiled by the memory of those cakes, which were star features of the Box Socials, we have for the moment lost sight of the Church Supper and its twofold object: a focus for community sociability and a means of replenishing the pastor’s slender purse. The Box Social was but one variant of the occasion. Sometimes, but not frequently, it took the form of an oyster supper, but because oysters had to be paid for, cash money, and the usual viands were contributed, the difference in profit rendered this kind of supper less popular.

Few if any of the country or smalltown churches were equipped with means for serving a supper, or even boasted any room in which such an affair could be held. It was given, therefore, in whatever public building might be available, at the home of the pastor (he thereby benefiting by any surplus quantity of food), or at some private home accommodated to the purpose. After the supper was eaten, games were played, — Whirl the Platter; Spat ’em In, Spat ’em Out; Marching through Jerusalem, — the minister looking benignly on from the seat of honor, flanked by deacons, trustees, Sunday School teachers, and other persons of importance.

As the time for parting drew near, the acknowledged singers of the neighborhood gathered about the organ and led the soaring melody of such appropriate airs as ‘Shall We Gather at the River,’ ‘Sweet Hour of Prayer,’ and finally the Doxology, in which due recognition of present blessings was given.

VI

My father did not much like church suppers, no matter what form they took. In fact, he was quite plainly and sometimes belligerently averse to going away from home at all, especially at mealtime. He liked his own home food, his own chair, his feet under his own table. He enjoyed having his relatives come to visit him, and once in a while of a Sunday he enjoyed visiting them, but he never wanted to stay long. The chores out of the way, his toilet made, — consisting of a shave, his bald head scrubbed until it shone ruddily like a polished Baldwin apple, a clean shirt, black tie, best trousers, and cloth-topped boots, — his breakfast eaten, and he was ready to start.

‘How long ’fore you’ll be ready?’ he would demand to know as he rose from the table.

‘ Well, I ’ve got the dishes to wash and get us ready,’ Mother would answer, meaning herself and me. ‘Take about an hour, maybe.’ She always gave him at least an extra thirty minutes more than she expected it to take, in order to avoid as much champing at the bit as possible.

‘An hour! What’n tunket you want to take an hour for to wash up a mess of dishes and change your dress! I could wash up them dishes, and more too, in fifteen minutes.’

‘S’pose you take right hold of ’em, then,’ my mother countered amiably. ‘You do the dishes and I’ll go get ready.’

Since my father, to my almost certain knowledge, never washed a dish in his life, the challenge was unnoticed other than by a grunt of derision. What he would do would be to go to the barn, hitch the horse to the buggy, drive up ostentatiously and noisily to the stepping block, and then call out, ‘Hey, ’Miry! You ’most ready?’

As long as she could avoid it, Mother would pay no attention. If, within a few minutes, she did not appear at the door ready to go or to reassure him, he would get out, hitch the horse to the post, and, pushing his old hat (for he never seemed to have a new one, whatever the date of purchase) back on his head, come, stomping and fuming, inside.

‘What in tarnation Tophet are you doin’?’ I can hear him cry. ‘You been two hours now, and you ain’t ready yet! ’

‘You look at the clock,’ my mother would advise him. ‘It’s just exactly twenty minutes since we got up from the table, and if you’ll go out and keep still I’ll be out. I’ve got to feed the cat and —’

But what minutiæ of detail still remained to her list of duties were lost to his ears. He would take me by the hand, hustle my stumbling feet to keep stride with his own, and hoist me to the seat. Then he would put his hands behind him, bend his head forward as if searching the ground for reasons for such unconscionable delay, and pace back and forth from horse block to door, pausing an instant at the latter for sounds of approach.

When finally my mother did appear, a rather rusty black hat on her head, coated and gloved, she, impatient at finding him rampant and chafing on the step, would exclaim: —

‘What you in such a hurry for anyway? We’re just goin’ visitin’, ain’t we?’

‘I want to get started,’ he would argue earnestly, ‘so’s we can get home. I got chores to do.’

Inasmuch as no powers of persuasion ever put forth during his lifetime, so long as I knew him, could induce him to remain anywhere more than an hour after dinner had been eaten, there seemed to be no immediate likelihood of stock or fowl going too long unattended. The controversy, however, was a ritual, seldom varied, and never missed.

I remember one particular instance where a church supper was to be held at the town hail some five miles away, when my father’s stubborn disinclination to go from home very nearly redounded to his own grief. He had absolutely refused to go. It was around the first of March; the roads had thawed and frozen, then snow had fallen until neither wheels nor runners could make headway, and he declared that neither he nor his horses were going to be dragged out in such weather.

My mother, however, had been asked to contribute a pan of scalloped potatoes and a couple of pies, and nothing my father could say would deter her from responding to what she considered her duty.

‘I’ll send ’em a couple of dollars,’my father volunteered, ‘and that’s more than the stuff’s worth. Take two dollars out of the ho’ses to go over there. Say nothing of me.‘

‘How’ll you send it?’ inquired my mother tersely.

‘Some tarnation fool will be goin’ over,’ returned my father sententiously. ‘Bouldrys, likely.’ (The Bouldrys lived half a mile beyond us.) ‘Can’t keep some folks to home.’

‘Then I’ll go along with the Bouldrys,’ replied my mother calmly, and proceeded with her baking.

Now a pan of scalloped potatoes, as it came from my mother’s oven, was something that would have drawn a man of less epicurean tastes than my father’s from wherever he might be, so his nose was tickled by its aroma.

For such purpose as this she used a four-quart milkpan. The potatoes, crisped in ice-cold water, were sliced almost precisely to an eighth of an inch in thickness. Over a layer of these in the bottom of the pan, butter was thickly dotted, salt and pepper shaken, followed by a thin drift of flour. This was repeated until the pan was full. Then a good quart of half milk, half cream, was poured over the whole, and the pan set in the oven to cook slowly until the potatoes were done, and the top encrusted in golden brown and richer bronze.

This was one of my father’s bestloved dishes, but to whet, tease, and harry the poor man’s palate even further she had at the same time made two luscious mince pies, unusually large in size, and seeming to excel all others in steaming savoriness.

Close at hand stood my father, his eyes hankering with desire, his face long and doleful.

‘Could n’t you’ve made an extry dish of potatoes,’ he said testily, ‘seein’s I wasn’t goin’? Or anyway another pie?’

‘I just didn’t have time,’ Mother sweetly regretted, as she swathed the dishes in towels to keep them hot. ‘There’s the cold beans left over from yesterday, and some eggs I hardboiled. You can get the bread out of the crock, and the butter’s in the cupboard. And there’s some sauce—’

‘Ain’t you even goin’ to set the table?‘ he demanded incredulously. For my mother to go and leave him alone at mealtime under any circumstances was incredible enough, but to leave him to set his own table was simply unthinkable.

‘I’ll get myself and Delly ready,’ my mother said, ‘and if I have time before the Bouldrys come along I’ll set it.’

‘They may not go,’ argued my father, casting a hopeful eye at the betoweled pans. ‘Lem Bouldry ain’t no fool about his ho’ses, either.’

‘They’re going,’ my mother assured him cheerfully. ‘The hired man went over to town this afternoon — I forgot to tell you. He said they’d be along.’

My father took a few uncertain steps toward the door, hesitated, then came back.

‘What time is this tarnation-fool supper?’ he wanted to know.

‘Six o’clock,’ said my mother, glancing at the clock. ‘It’s pretty near five now. They’ll be along any minute.’

Another turn to the door and back — clump, clump!

‘Well,’ — he stood over the table and glowered,— ‘seein’s you seem to have time enough to get up something to eat for everybody else but me, I s’pose I’ll have to go along, or starve.’

He went along.