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   Chapter 5 IN A BLIZZARD

A Dear Little Girl at School By Amy Ella Blanchard Characters: 16974

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

The enjoyment of helping Ellen, of setting the table and of being consulted on such important subjects as whether the best china and the finest tablecloth should be used almost made up to Edna for being away from home on Thanksgiving day. The basket sent by Mrs. Conway contained several things which made the dinner much more of a feast than it would otherwise have been, for there was a jar of tomato soup, a small chicken pie with scalloped leaves and little balls of crust on top, some delicious pickles, a glass of currant jelly and another of cranberry sauce. Margaret had brought in a bunch of cut flowers from Mrs. MacDonald's greenhouse, the day before and these set in the middle of the table were a lovely ornament.

"It's the foinest lookin' table iver I saw in this house," said Ellen when Edna called her in to see. "What was it yez were sayin' about thim little toasty crusts for the soup. I'd be afther makin' thim if I cud know wanst."

"Oh, I can tell you just how," said Edna, "for I have watched our cook make them." She felt very important to be overseeing this piece of cookery and went in to call her uncle, feeling very much pleased at what had been accomplished.

"Well, well, well," exclaimed Uncle Justus, "this does look like holiday times. Who did all this?"

"Ellen and I," Edna told him, "and it was lots of fun."

Uncle Justus nodded. "I dare say," he said with a smile, as he sat down.

It was really a merrier repast than Edna had ever eaten under that roof, for instead of eating his dinner in silence as he generally did, Uncle Justus was quite talkative and actually attempted to joke once in a while. When Ellen was taking away the plates before she served the dessert, the old gentleman arose. "I think," he said, "that this is just the occasion to open that jar of ginger Captain Doane sent me awhile ago." So he went to his own special cupboard, unlocked the door and brought forth the wicker bound ginger jar which had been there several weeks, and it is safe to say Edna was given her share.

"A famous dinner," said Uncle Justus as he rose from the table. "I can't remember that I ever had a pleasanter one, and I have you to thank for it, my dear. Now, I am afraid I shall have to go to my meeting, but I know you have an agreeable plan for the evening, so I do not feel the reluctance in leaving that I should otherwise."

Edna helped him on with his overcoat, handed him his walking stick and saw him off, standing in the door, and hoping he would look back. He did this giving her a smile and nod as she waved her hand. Then she went back to Ellen and together they did the dishes very carefully. After this both must get dressed, and an hour later they were about to start when the bell rang and Ellen opened the door to Jennie Ramsey.

"I thought I'd just come for you in the motor car," she said. "Mother said Mack could take us for a little ride in the fresh air so we would have a better appetite for dinner."

This was quite exciting, for Edna's opportunities for riding in an automobile were not many.

The magnificence of the Ramsey's dinner far outdid Aunt Elizabeth's, but Edna did not enjoy it one whit the more, although it was very delightful to be served by a man in livery, and to have such exquisite china and glass to look at during the meal. The child felt a little shy in the presence of so many strangers, and had little to say. Moreover, she had too often been told by Aunt Elizabeth that "little children should be seen and not heard" for her not to remember she must not chatter. Really the best time came when she and Jennie went up to bed when Jennie showed her all her treasures, her pretty room and her rows of books. They became very confidential as they snuggled down under the covers, and when Mrs. Ramsey came in to kiss them both good-night, Edna felt much happier than had seemed possible she could be when she first considered that she must spend the day and night away from her mother.

The club meeting at Helen Darby's the next day was a fine affair, too, for Mr. Darby had provided an entertainment which pleased them all. A wonderful juggler did all sorts of curious tricks and a young man sang the drollest of songs. Then, too, the refreshments were unusually good. It had been made an inviolable rule that not more than three articles were to be served, but when there were ice cream, delicious cakes and bon-bons, surely these were quite enough.

"You see," said Helen in explanation, after some of the girls had protested, "father said this was a holiday meeting and it might be a little more elaborate, he thought."

Uncle Justus took Edna and Celia home that evening, and if he did not enjoy his visit it was not the fault of the girls. It is probable the old gentleman had rarely had such attentions and such a fuss made over him. He was invited to the Evans's to supper on Saturday and to Mrs. MacDonald's to dinner on Sunday. He was taken to drive; he was invited to walk, and really was quite overcome by all this thought of him from the members of the G. R. Club.

Monday morning saw everyone but Celia back at school. Celia having had too much Thanksgiving, or too much something was not able to go, and indeed, had to remain at home for the entire week, and it seemed very much like the old days to Edna when she had to stay at Uncle Justus's without her sister. Aunt Elizabeth returned home on Monday afternoon, quite "smoothed out" Edna told her mother afterward. So the week sped along in the old way till Friday afternoon.

It had begun to snow a little when Edna started out to the club meeting which was held at Florence Gittings's. The little girl had no fear, however, for she expected to meet Dorothy and Agnes and go home with them, but for some reason neither was present. Later on it was learned that Mr. Evans had called for them at their aunt's and had taken them home fearing a heavy storm would prevent their going later. A telegram which they sent to Edna at Florence Gittings's was not delivered till after the child had left the house.

"You aren't going off by yourself," said Florence when the club meeting was over. It had seemed rather a poor little affair after the brilliancy of Helen's entertainment, and with both Agnes and Celia missing. However they had all done their best, but it broke up rather earlier than usual.

"Oh, I must go," said Edna. "I am sure Agnes and Dorothy will be at the railway station, and we can all go out together."

"But it is snowing so hard and the wind is making the snow drift," continued Florence.

"Oh, but the cars go all the way to the station. I won't have to walk, and very likely mother will send one of the boys, Cousin Ben, perhaps, to meet me."

"I wish we had a telephone," said Florence, "but we haven't, and I suppose you can telephone from the station if you want to."

"I might do that," said Edna.

"I think you'd better go back to your Uncle Horner's," suggested Helen.

"Oh, but-" Edna did not want to do this. A whole week at the school without Celia was about all she thought she could stand. "I shall do all right," she insisted. "I'm sure the girls will be at the station." So the others saw her depart without urging her further.

Owing to the snow which was drifting heavily, the cars were running much more slowly than usual, and when Edna reached the station her train had just gone. It was the train her father always took and she had hoped to see him. She decided to telephone and took out her purse to see what money she had. Alas! she had but ten cents, not enough for an out-of-town toll. She had her school ticket fortunately. Celia was the one who always carried the money for the expenses, and Edna remembered that her mother had told her to be sure to provide herself with enough. "If you find you run short," she told the child, "either send down to your father for some change or borrow it from Aunt Elizabeth."

Edna would rather have done almost anything than borrow from Aunt Elizabeth and she had forgotten to look in her purse anyhow, before starting. "Even if I had," she told herself, "I would have thought I had enough for I didn't expect to need anything but car fare." The next train would leave at five, but as it was a short run Edna thought she might venture to take it, even though it might be dark when she reached the station. She could telephone to the house from there, if necessary. So she waited patiently till it shoul

d be time for her train to be ready and then she went out and took her seat. It was snowing desperately hard she noticed as they moved along, and the train stopped frequently, but at last she reached her own station and got off feeling very thankful to be this near home. She looked around; not a soul was there to meet her. She would have to telephone. She turned toward the waiting-room, but to her consternation found the door locked.

There was not a soul in sight. She stood still for a while. It was getting colder, and the snow was drifting and swirling around at a great rate. What should she do? The station master had probably gone home to his supper, for there were no more trains till nearly six o'clock from either direction. He had not counted on his presence being needed between whiles once he had seen to his freight and baggage, and he had gone to the back of the building where he lived.

It was not more than a ten minutes' walk to her home in good weather, and Edna at last thought she would venture. She pulled her hat down over her ears and her coat collar up around her neck and started. It was desperate walking here in the country where the sharp wind seemed to search out every unprotected part of the body. The snow nearly blinded her, and cut her face like a knife. Every little while she had to stop to get breath, and as she found the difficulties increasing she thought of all the stories she had heard of persons perishing in the snow a few yards from their own door-ways. "I wish I had gone back to Uncle Justus," she murmured. "Oh, dear, I don't believe I will ever get there."

The whiteness of the snow made it possible for her to see a little of the way when she first started, but as she went on and it grew darker she began to wonder if she were in the road. She brushed away the stinging flakes and looked around, peering into the darkness gathering around her. Through the blinding, hurrying flakes she could see twinkling lights here and there, and presently she located the piece of woods just beyond her own home, but it was far to the left, and she realized that she had turned into a by-road instead of keeping to the main one. The tears began to course down her cheeks when she appreciated how far she was from her own house. "I can never go back," she sobbed. "I can't. I am so cold and so tired, I'm afraid I can't get there. It would never do to stand still," she realized and presently she made up her mind to struggle on toward the nearest light a little ahead.

She bowed her head again and pressed on through the drifts, feeling her strength would do no more than get her to this refuge. At last it was reached, a little house, by the wayside, a tiny garden in front and a small cow-shed behind. Managing to get the gate open, Edna went upon the porch and knocked at the door.

It was opened by a little girl about her own age. "Why," she exclaimed, "who is it? I thought you were mother. Come right in out of the storm. Isn't it a dreadful one?"

Edna, scarce able to speak, tottered into the room, warm from a bright fire in a base-burner stove and cheerful by reason of a lighted lamp.

"You are all covered with snow," the little girl went on. "Do come to the fire and take off your hat and coat. You must be nearly frozen and I expect your feet are wet and cold. I'll take off your shoes."

She stooped down and began to unfasten the snowy shoes after removing the rubbers Edna had been fortunate enough to have put on.

In a moment the wanderer was able to tell her story, and to thank her little hostess for her attentions. "I don't know what I am going to do," she said. "I'm afraid I can't get home, and there isn't any way to send them word to come for me. Of course they will think I have stayed in the city. If I had known how bad the storm was going to be I would never have started, but I did want to see my mother."

"And I want to see my mother," replied her hostess. "She went down the road this morning to see my aunt who is ill, and she was coming back on this train that got in a little while ago, the train you must have come on."

"I didn't see anyone get off," Edna told her, "only two or three men who got into a wagon and drove off before I left the station. Most everyone I know comes out on the train before that, but I missed it, you see."

"Well, I am very glad to have you here," said the other. "If mother did not come on that train she won't come at all, I am sure, for the next ones don't stop at my aunt's station, and I should have been here all alone. What is your name?"

"My name is Edna Conway, and I live on the main road just this side of that piece of woods you see after you pass Mrs. MacDonald's. Hers is the big gray house with the greenhouses, you know."

"Oh, yes I know it very well. My name is Nettie Black. My mother and I live here just by ourselves since my father died."

"Oh," Edna felt very sorry that Nettie was fatherless, but she did not know exactly what to say about it. "Will your mother be worried about your being here alone?" she asked after a moment.

"I s'pose she will, but it can't be helped. I know she would have come if she could. I only hope my aunt isn't worse. I wish she could know I am not to be alone."

"And I wish, my mother knew I was safe," returned Edna. "I am sure, though, that she thinks I am at my uncle's in the city, and I hope she does think so."

"Are you quite warm, now?" asked Nettie. "If you are we will have some supper."

"Oh, you are very kind," returned Edna a little embarrassed. "I think it is very hard on you to have me come in this way like a stray cat."

Nettie laughed. "I like stray cats, and we always take them in. There is a lovely one in the kitchen, now, that we make a great pet of. He came to us so thin and miserable, but now he is as fat as butter."

"I'd love to see him," returned Edna, "and won't you let me help you get supper?"

"There isn't so very much to get," returned Nettie a little shamefacedly. "There is only bread and butter and what is left of the rice-pudding I had for dinner. We could toast the bread, and there's milk. If you don't mind my taking part of the milk for it, I could have milk-toast and we could drink cambric tea."

"I like cambric tea," replied Edna, "and I am very fond of milk-toast. Oh, dear, I am so thankful to be here instead of out in the cold."

"I am thankful, too. I'll go out and make the toast. Will you come?"

Edna was pleased enough to do this, to make the acquaintance of the big black cat, and to help make the toast. "I don't see how you will ever know how to make the dip part," she said to Nettie.

"Oh, but I do know. Mother taught me, and I can do it very well. The great thing is not to let the milk burn and to put in only the least little bit of thickening."

Edna watched the process admiringly. Nettie was so very expert and bustled around like an experienced housekeeper. The house was very small, only two rooms downstairs and two up, with an attic over all, but everything was neat and clean, and the dishes, of course, were set out in an orderly manner upon a white tablecloth. The dish of smoking toast flanked by the rice pudding made an excellent meal. Nettie poured the tea and served her guest in the most hospitable way. They ate their meal in the front room before the fire, and now that she was warmed and was no longer hungry, Edna began to be interested in her surroundings. It was a plainly furnished room, a faded carpet on the floor, an old-fashioned sofa against one wall, a claw-footed mahogany table against the other, a bookcase between the windows. One or two engravings hung on the wall and a dingy portrait in an old frame. The chairs matched the sofa, one being a comfortable rocker with cover of haircloth.

After they had washed the supper dishes, Nettie made ready for the night by putting more coal on the fires and carefully barring the shutters and doors below. Then with a small lamp in her hand she escorted her guest to the upstairs room. It was rather chilly and was also plainly furnished, though the old-fashioned four-poster bed was made up neatly, and the high bureau showed a clean cover. The wind howled and whistled around the house, the sharp snow crystals clicked against the panes, but as Edna crept under the covers she could feel only thankful that she had this shelter and was soon asleep with Nettie beside her already in the land of Dreams.

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