Page:Female Prose Writers of America.djvu/228

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198
ANN S. STEPHENS.

the supper-room, where a warm mug of gingered cider waited his acceptance.

What a time the fiddler took in drinking his cider! We could fancy him tasting the warm drink, shaking it about in the mug, after every deep draught, and marking its gradual diminution, by the grains of ginger clinging to the inside, with philosophical calmness—all the time chuckling, the old rogue, over the crowd of impatient young creatures waiting his pleasure in the next room.

At length, Cousin Rufus flung open the door leading to the long kitchen, arms were presented, white hands trembling with impatience eagerly clasped over them, and away we went, one and all, so restless for the dance that two-thirds of us took a marching step on the instant.

The old kitchen looked glorious by candlelight. Everywhere the wreathing evergreens flung a chain of tremulous and delicate shadows on the wall. A huge fire roared and flashed in the chimney, till some of the hemlock boughs on either side grew crisp and began to shower their leaves into the flames, which crackled the more loudly as they received them, and darting up sent a stream of light glowing through the upper branches and wove a perfect net-work of shadows on the ceiling overhead. The birds gleamed out beautifully from the deep green, the tall candles glowed in their leafy chandeliers till the smooth laurel leaves and ground pine took more than their natural lustre from the warm light, and the whole room was filled with a rich fruity smell left by the dried apples and frost grapes just removed from the walls.

Old Ben was mounted in his chair, a huge seat which we had tangled over with evergreens. He cast his eye down the columns of dancers with calm self-complacency, took out his fiddle, folded up the green baize satchel, and began snapping the strings with his thumb with a sort of sly smile on his sharp features which, with broken music sent from his old violin, was really too much for patient endurance.

Miss Narissa Daniels led off with the first stamp of old Ben’s foot, and Elizabeth stood pensively by, evidently reluctant to engage herself before the doctor’s arrival; Julia had Cousin Rufus