Kitchen Junket by Ralph Page

      "Time for Money Musk," said Mother quietly. No fanfare over this most famous of all New England dances. A simple statement of fact accepted by all of us.
      "All right everybody. Here we go. First and fourth couples join right hands and turn once and a half around. Go below one couple and forward six. Three quarters round and forward six again. Three quarters round and right and left four. All ready Jim?"
      We did the dance New Hampshire style; using twenty four measures of music instead of thirty two; taking little short steps all the way thru the dance. Each time we went "forward six" we used the old step that was half way between a pas de bas and a Highland Fling step. Extremely difficult to describe, you would have to see it to have any idea how it should be done.
      Money Musk was one dance we tried to do perfectly. No fooling around was tolerated. If you couldn't do it the way it was supposed to be done, we didn't want you in the set; "Go somewhere else and learn it, but don't you dare to louse up OUR sets."
      We did the dance twice through. Then Clint asked: "We got to do the Lancers before we stop dancin'?"
      "Yes, you have," answered Aunt Mabel. "Do you good to dance like a gentleman once in a while."
      "That's what I've been doin' in Money Musk. Too much bowin' and scrapin' in the Lancers for me. I'm goin' to set this one out."
      "Me too," chimed in Henry Wilson and Sheldon.
      "Oh no you're not," cried the girls. "Nobody sits down at THIS junket. You just want to sneak another dipper of cider." And they were hustled off into the sets forming for the London Lancers.
      Funny thing about the Lancers. Most of the men hated it, and most of the girls loved it. The only figure we men cared for was the "grand square", which was just tricky to be interesting.
      Uncle Wallace was a great believer in making us do something we didn't like to do. "Good for all five figures of the dance. And we bowed to our partners and corners a hundred times it seemed. We advanced and retired and turned our partners and corners and opposites into place by both hands. It was sort of fun, but we were bored stiff by the time it ended.
      There was a concerted rush for refreshments when the Lancers was finished. It was the last round and well we knew it. We also knew that the dancing part of the junket was over for the evening. It was nearly one o'clock and we had done a lot of figures. Uncle Wallace's junkets were always like that. Sure, we had refreshments and lunch, but the main idea was to dance.
      "Come on, fellers," said Harry, "Let's bring the stove in. Wallace don't want to do it alone."
      "Damned thing never comes in as good as it goes out," panted Ernest, after we had finally gotten it leveled up to Uncle's liking. Then we brought in the chairs and the kitchen and dining room tables, as well as the one in the living room.
      "Many hands make light work," quoted Sheldon.
      "Even if some of 'em don't do much," added Clint.
      "I feel like singing," said Larry. "Al, Sam, Harry, come on, all of you and join me in a hum."
      A hum? That's what he said, but you could have heard us three hills off. We sang "Aunt Dinah's Quilting Party", "Hear Dem Bells," and "Cocachelunk, chelunk, chelaylee" with everybody joining in on the choruses. The mood changed as swiftly as it had come, and we sang next "Juanita" followed by "Steal Away," and "Were You There?" We didn't consider it a sacrilege to sing the last two spirituals at a kitchen junket. We all felt that the mood of a group was of more importance than the place.
      Then the four of us sang "Shenandoah" and "John Peel". Never, it seemed to me, did Larry sing the melody of these last two songs better than tonight. His voice had the soft contagious lilt common to many good Irish tenors, and Larry could have gone far in the musical world if he had not been needed so desperately at home.
      As we finished "John Peel", Florence asked: "Al, you've just back from traipsin' all over Canada. Didn't you learn any French songs up there? We want to hear some if you did."
      "Yes, I learned several," I replied, "but I'll have to sing them in French and you won't understand the words."
      "Never mind," everybody answered at once. "Just tell us what they are about before you start in and we'll guess the rest."
      "Well, here is a nice one they sing on New Year's Eve. Groups of young men wearing masks, go from house to house most of the night. When they go into the house they sing this lively song, "La Guillannee", then they dance with the girls of the house and the mother passes around cakes and cookies, and puts her donation for the poor in the basket which the masqueraders carry with them for that purpose."
      "Seems like a nice habit," said Mother, "let's hear it."
      "The first verse gretts everbody in the house, and then they say that it's the last day of the year, "La Guillannee" is due, and so on."
      "Bon soir, le maitre et la maitresse
      Et tout le monde du logis,
      Pour le dernier hour de l'annee
      La Guillannee vous nous devez,
      Si vous ne voulez rien donner
      Dites nous le.
      On vous de mand'ra seulement
      Un'e chinee.
      Dansons, dansons la guillannee,
      Dansons, dansons la guillannee,
      La guillannee, la guillannee,
      Dansons, dansons la guillannee."
"And here's one I heard all over Quebec and Ontario. It's about a girl named Isebeau, who walked in her garden near the sea and met thirty young sailors. The best looking one sang a song that she liked, and he tells her that if she will go on board ship with him he'll teach it to her. She goes, but begins to cry, saying that she has lost her wedding ring. He dives for it, can't find it, dives again, and again, and is drowned that third time."
      "Isebeau se promene le long de son jardin,
      Isebeau se promene le long de son jardin,
      Le long de son jardin,
      Sur le bord de l'ile,
      Le long de son jardin,
      Sur le bord de l'eau,
      Sur le bord du vaisseau."
"They have some good songs, don't they Al", said Uncle Wallace.
      "Sure do. A fine people. Most of them good workers, and all of them happy and gay."
      "Used to know a song about a colored gal. Heard it first in a minstrel show, years ago. Goes like this."
      "I met a pretty yaller gal,
      Her name I do not know,
      I meet her ev'ry evenin'
      No matter where I go.
      Her eyes are brown, her hair is black,
      My heart goes pitter pat,
      You'd know her if you saw her
      For she's always dressed in blue.
      Oh she drives this darky crazy,
      I don't know what to do,
      If I can't have the pretty yaller gal
      That I saw dressed in blue."
By this time the fire had burned itself low, and Harry asked: "Did you ever hear about the ghost in Sheldon's attic?"
      "No. And you never did either," answered Sheldon. "There ain't any there. Nor anywhere else either."
      "Well, I don't know about that. There's some funny things happened that nobody can explain."
      "Not in our house," said Florence. "It's a new house and ghosts don't like a new place."
      "Don't seem to," stated Uncle Wallace. "And did you ever notice it's always over in the next town or the next state where such things happen? Funny about that, ain't it?"
      "Nothing funny about it at all, "affirmed Sheldon more positively than before, "there isn't any such thing as a ghost. When you're dead you're dead, and no part of you comes back to wander around the earth."
      "You're mighty sure about that," growled Jim Davis, "Must be you never heard what happened to your father when he was a boy. Seems he went one summer to live with an uncle over in York state. Very first night he was there he got woke up by loud thumps on the floor beneath his bed. He said he thought someone was trying to scare him and didn't pay much attention to it. But every night it was just the same, and he finally mentioned it to his uncle. Both of 'em stayed awake the next night waiting for the noise, and as soon as they dozed off there it was again; several loud thumps on the floor. Well, the next day they moved your father into a different room, but the same thing happened again. Then his aunt begun havin' trouble with the picture of her dead mother, that hung on the wall in one of the rooms. Kept droppin' to the floor. Then the noises began to come from all over the house, from the walls as well as the floors. This was too much of a good thing and they started lookin' for someone to sell the place to; hadn't lived there very long so it didn't hold 'em none. An old Frenchman in town told them that just a hundred years before there'd been a man and wife murdered in the house. Never found their bodies, but the floors and walls were all covered with blood. Never knew who did it nor what for. Well, they sold the place after a while an' come back here to live. Pretty quick after they'd sold out, the house got struck by light'nin' and burned flat. How do you explain all that if it warn't ghosts?"
      "Must be ghosts, too, that man the "Dead Ship of Harpswell", stated Larry. "That's down on the coast of Maine, you know. Every once in a while people down there see this ship floating toward shore. An old timer she is, with tall masts and sails all tore to tatters. No name on her and no one can get an answer from her. She don't make a sound, but in fair weather or foul, when she appears off the coast she sails right in 'til she almost touches shore; then she stops and floats off rudder foremost to sea."
      "They tell many stories about phantom canoes in Canada," I added, "they call them chasse-galerie, and they sail through the air just clearing the tree tops, and are filled with homesick men who have sold their souls to the devil so that a chasse-galerie may transport them back to the homes they have left. I heard old men and women swear by all that was holy that they had heard these phantom canoes; heard the sound of paddles the faint chant of a chanson de voyageur, and the distant splash of water. The men who take this trip are usually trappers or miners who have been away from home maybe two or three years. They never return for the devil never lets them go once they've sold themselves to him. He keeps his word about letting them see their home and families, but he makes no promises to permit them to remain home once they have seen it from the tree tops. They are damned souls who must forever ride the skies."
      "Damned souls, indeed," snorted Sheldon, unbeliever to the last. "We'll be damned if we don't get out of here and go home. We'll come again Wallace when we can stay longer."
      "Oh, must you go?" asked Aunt Mabel. But there was little urgency in her voice. It really was getting late, though of course we did not leave immediately. That would have been a grave breach of courtesy.
      We found our baskets and retrieved our coats and hats. Spent a few minutes reliving certain little episodes of the past evening, and gradually edged toward the door. Each of us thanked the old couple for a delightful evening, and hoped we could come again sometime.
      "Good night, everybody," said Uncle Wallace as we said our last goodbyes. "'T was nice havin' you here. We'll have to have another before hayin' starts. Take care an' don't let one of Al's chasse-galeries carry you off on the way home."
      As we turned the corner of the driveway and started down the dirt road to the village, we all turned and shouted a loud "Goodnight, Uncle Wallace. Come and see us, Aunt Mabel."
      The two were standing in the kitchen doorway, silhouetted by the lamplight, waving goodnight to us all. The kitchen junket was over.
  The End