Great-Grandma's Hallowe'en By Helen Chase Good Housekeeping. October 29, 1887, p. 300. October days were almost done; The red leaves strewed the garden, The dahlias bent their splendid heads, And seemed to ask our pardon For leaving us; the cricket sang A plaintive little ballad Among the grasses, while, above, The blackbird —saucy dallard!-- Chattered and crooned from out an ash, Aflame with scarlet berries, While idly drifted, in the wind, The thistle's fairy wherries.
All Hallowe'en was almost here; Great-grandma —dainty maiden*-- In lilac print, was stepping round Her store-room, richly laden With golden pies and 'lection cake, And luscious tarts and crullers, And apples —stored with nectar—each Aglow with gorgeous colors; For such a party as was set For Thursday night, why, never Had Middlesex been bidden to, In cold or summer weather.
And Lois Brown would bring with her Her cousin "'way from Bostin;" While Persis Drake, the old Squire's son, Would have Alphonso Austin, Just home from foreign parts, where he The Queen, in her young beauty*, Had seen in London town! Each maid Felt it her bounden duty To don her finest gown, and strive, With purpose sweet and hearty, To show the strangers "how to hold A Hallow Even party."
At last it came —the fateful night! Great-grandma —like a picture, In peach-blow silk, and bodice trim-- Received her guests. The mixture That's sacred to all Hallowe'en-- "Snap-dragon" —crowned the buffet; The hickory logs blazed merrily, While Ruth and Simon Luffet Led off and named the chestnuts brown, And set them wildly snapping, And swung the finger-rings, to tell Your fortune by their tapping.**
"Oh, who will try the lonely walk Around the garden, holding A looking-glass, as backward she Steps slowly? None?" Then, folding A kerchief round her dainty neck, Great-grandma bravely started Adown the path, while silently, The girls all stood—faint-hearted. "What's that? A shriek?" All sought the door. There stood Great-grandma, blushing, And by her side, a gallant youth, Her sudden tumult hushing.
"Good friends," he said, "my ship rides yon, At anchor in the harbor, And with dispatches, as I rode, I halted at the arbor To hear your merriment, when sped A maiden down the border, And" —(here the gallant stranger smiled)-- "She deemed me a marauder! But if her gentle heart can prompt Her to forgive my daring, I vow she never shall regret Her deed of sweet forbearing."
Great-grandma smiled, and held her hand Out toward the handsome stranger, And over it he bowed. Alas! Her lovers each saw danger To all their schemes in that caress! And—well, within the harbor, A ship long tarried, and next June, When roses decked the arbor, A bride across the old oak hall, All swept and garnished duly, Stepped softly to the stranger's side, And vowed she'd love him truly!
*Note that the poem was written in 1887, but tells of an old woman reminiscing and waxing nostalgic about a much earlier time. The reader is cued in to this when Great Grandma is called "dainty maiden" —i.e., when the story takes place, she is still a young, unmarried woman. The line "the Queen, in her young beauty" is a reference to the early days of Victoria's rule: she took the throne in 1838.
**For details of old fortune-telling techniques which help the reader understand this poem, please see this piece from 1895: All Hallow Eve
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