I wonder how many of you are ready for this story? No, it is not the Western. I tried writing the next part last Sunday, but I just couldn't get into it. I'll try again this Sunday. Thankfully I didn't have to rely on the Western for something to post nor did I have to scramble around to get something. I have a Scribbler assignment that I just finished, so I decided to post that as it is a story. So, if any of you readers are Scribblers, don't read it unless you have your assignment done or almost done. :)
Yes Abigail, each of the names of the children last weeks story were rivers. Did you figure out just where they were? They were from, U.S., Africa, Australia, U.K., Middle East and another from Asia. Of course they don't go in that order.:)
Some of you may notice a new feature on my blog. I now have just to the right, a list of all my labels. (I started putting labels on my posts.) Now, if you want to read all the Western at once, just click on "Western" and it will pull them all up. Same with poems, children's stories, etc. So, I hope you can use that new feature sometime.
I want to give you a quick update on my book. :) I have had several more people give me some feed back and so far, they all say to publish it. :) My photographer has only one more picture to take for the book. Should I share some of them here on my blog? And another question for those of you who are reading or will read my book, should there be a "family tree" in the front to help keep everyone straight?
And now the story. This story had to be 2000 words or under. I just got it under by five words or so.:} I also had to use four characters only in my story. I could mention others, but only four were to be in it. Enjoy!
The Graham Quartet and the Lonely Cabin
Snow lay everywhere. Every branch of every tree was laden with the white stuff just waiting to drop down on some unsuspecting head. However, not a person was to be seen. Nothing but snow was visible all around the cabin. Nothing moved. Nothing could be heard. Not even a bird sang or a squirrel chattered. Though not a breath of breeze blew, the air was bitterly cold, the type of cold that penetrates through coats and scarves to the very bone. All the shining of the mid day sun in the clear blue sky couldn’t add warmth to the day, but rather only enhanced the freezing air. There was no sign of life in the cabin. No light, no sound, no smoke. All was still. Still and intensely cold.
This sense of quietness was broken at last by the faint far-off creaking of snowshoes. Closer and closer they came. In the quiet the sound seemed louder, more obtrusive. Drawing nearer and yet nearer the cabin, the steps continued. Now two distinct sets of snowshoes were heard. Behind a clump of pine trees the intruders halted. Silence once again prevailed.
After several minutes of watching and listening to nothing but the stillness around them and feeling the bitter cold penetrating their layers of clothing, one of them, the oldest, spoke in tones scarcely audible.
“I don’t see anything. Perhaps we should move up.”
“Not until we know Elsa and Tim are in place.”
“They could be there waiting for us.”
The smaller form shook her head. “They’d have given the signal.”
“I suppose you’re right, as usual.” Seventeen-year-old Matt’s eyes smiled down at his younger sister.
For several more minutes they waited, hearing nothing but quiet. Suddenly the stillness was shattered rudely by the sharp crack of a twig breaking. Then another. Matt and Selena looked at each other questioningly. Was this the first part of the signal? As if in answer two more snaps were heard almost immediately. That was it! The signal they had waited for. Now it was time to advance.
Slowly, with great caution, the two slipped from their hiding place. Matt was in front while Selena followed closely. They approached the cabin from the front. All was hushed save for the squeaking of their snowshoes. Selena, pausing for just a moment and listening hard, thought she heard a similar creak coming from behind the house.
Then without warning, another crack of a twig breaking startled them both. They froze in their tracks hardly daring to breathe. What was that? Another crack followed by two more was heard. How could that be? The signal had already been given. Was this a trap? Had they just imagined the first signal?
Slowly Matt turned his head to look at his sister. Her eyes were wide and questioning. What should they do? There was no place to hide; they were half way to the cabin. Should they risk going on or should they wait? Matt made gestures, asking Selena what she thought. He didn’t dare speak even in a whisper now. He thought they could go on, but knowing Selena was not reckless, he wanted to know what she thought. To his surprise, Selena motioned forward and nodded. It was too risky to wait out in the open. Better to be right next to the cabin.
With twice as much caution the two continued their way, eyes and ears tuned to anything that might mean danger. Each creak of their snowshoes was as a shout to their taut nerves. They hardly dared breathe. When a small shower of snow fell with a soft plop without warning in front of Selena, she started and just barely managed to choke back a scream. As it was, her sharp intake of breath alerted Matt, and he turned quickly. For an instant they stared at each other then slowly lifted their eyes to the branches above them. There was nothing there. All it had been was a branch shaking off its blanket of snow.
Selena shivered and once again they set off stealthily. When they reached the cabin, they paused. Matt carefully, cautiously pressed his ear to the door and listened. Nothing. Not a sound could be heard behind that wooden partition which separated inside from out. Leaning close to Selena he breathed,
“Should we go in?” Matt was not at all fearful, yet he had learned that though his sister was only fourteen, she often had more caution and wisdom in tight or dangerous situations than he.
He was not surprised therefore when she shook her head and replied equally low,
Meanwhile on the hill behind the lonely cabin, nineteen-year-old Elsa was holding a conference with her youngest brother. “I don’t see any smoke, Tim. Do you?”
Tim had been gazing down at the cabin. “Could be it is only a small fire. You know,” he added, “wouldn’t want to give it all away.”
Elsa nodded. The boy’s keen brain and quick thinking were constantly amazing her. Now, with great care they began their decent. By keeping close to the trees and using them as walking sticks they managed to make the decent without any mishaps other than breaking some twigs now and then.
At last the level ground was reached. Both paused a moment and listened. There was nothing to listen to. All was still. Before them lay several yards of open ground where the sun shone in dazzling splendor on the carpet of snow. Elsa shaded her eyes with her heavily gloved hand and peered in the direction of the cabin. Not a sign of smoke could be seen from the chimney.
Tim turned to her with a frown between his eyes. He gestured towards the cabin and shrugged. Elsa also shrugged. Should they go on? The cabin looked uninhabited, but suppose it wasn’t? Suppose someone really was there, maybe hurt or sick? With a slight nod she started forward only to pause suddenly and look back up the hill. Was anyone watching them? They would be easy to see in the open. Satisfied that all was clear she once more set off. Their snowshoes made easy going over the drifts of snow. When at last they reached the shelter of trees once again, they gave an inward sigh of relief.
Elsa motioned for Tim to give the signal. Feeling around in his pocket, Tim frowned, pulled off his glove and felt again. At last he turned to Elsa. The look on his face and shrug of his shoulders told her that what he was to use as a signal had been lost. What should they do? Should they go on? She hesitated. They were so close, and yet, if Matt and Selena weren’t ready . . . She shivered, and Tim put a hand on her sleeve.
“We’ll freeze if we just stay here. I think we should go,” he whispered so low that had his mouth not been next to her ear she would not have heard the words.
Feeling the cold penetrating her coat she realized the wisdom of this, and together they started forward. Reaching the cabin from the rear, they halted, listening. Tim thought he heard a sound, faint but there. With gestures it was decided that they would each go a different way around the building, looking for signs of life and of Matt and Selena.
Crouching under the window against the wall, Matt and Selena waited. Each minute added to the growing numbness each was beginning to feel. They had heard no sound from inside. It seemed as though it had been hours since they had first heard the signal. How long did it take to get to the cabin? Suddenly Selena stiffened and grasped her brother’s arm. Had she really heard something? Footsteps perhaps. Was it from outside or in the cabin? Her breath began coming quicker, and she felt she would scream. She almost did when suddenly around the corner beside her Elsa appeared. Then around the other side came Tim. At last they were all together.
“Hear anything?” whispered Elsa.
Matt shook his head.
“There was no smoke and no light,” put in Tim. “What should we do?”
“Did you see any other signs?” Matt questioned.
Elsa and Tim shook their heads.
“Then let’s give the signal knock.”
Holding their breaths, the Graham siblings waited as Matt gave five quick raps on the door followed by two slower ones. They waited. Silence. Not a single solitary sound was to be heard. Selena shivered. She was cold. Matt knocked again, but still no answer.
“Perhaps he didn’t come,” Tim murmured.
“I think he would have let us know if he hadn’t,” Elsa answered.
After a moment of silence, Matt said softly, “I think we should just go in.”
Gasps came from the girls at the mere thought. But though they gasped, neither of them protested as Matt grasped the doorknob and turned it. It was locked.
“Search for a key somewhere,” he whispered.
They all looked. Even Selena who felt as though she was about frozen. It was no use. If a key was hidden somewhere abouts, they couldn’t find it.
“You know what that means,” queried Tim, wild excitement in his eyes. “It means,” he continued as the others looked at him, “that he is inside but is in dire need of help. He must be hurt and can’t get to the door.”
“Or it could mean he has gone and taken the key with him,” Matt observed.
“Or maybe he never came in the first place,” Elsa put in.
Selena didn’t speak. She was trembling from cold and excitement.
Matt glanced at her. “Well, we just have to get in, with or without a key.”
He nodded toward Selena.
Elsa put an arm about her younger sister. “Get in then,” was all she said, for at that instant she began to realize that she too was freezing cold as the excitement began to wane.
Matt and Tim began trying the windows. The ones on the front were locked or jammed, either way they didn’t open. On the side Matt at last found one that seemed loose. He pried and pushed it until at last he was able to raise it about twelve inches and there it stuck fast. Cautiously he moved the curtain and looked in. The room was empty. No one was there. It looked completely deserted.
“Tim,” Matt called quietly, “Do you think you can get in that window?”
“Sure thing.” Tim was game to try anything.
“Just remember,” Matt added, “you have more layers on than usual.”
For answer Tim pulled off his heavy coat, scarf and hat and shoved them inside the window first. Then with a boost from his brother he managed to squeeze through the window. It was with relief that the girls, waiting in the front, heard the door unlock and then saw it open.
A blazing fire had driven out the last finger of cold from the room leaving it cozy and warm. The four siblings sat about the table discussing the note Matt held in his hand.
“Read it again,” Elsa requested.
Sorry I couldn’t wait for you as planned. I just discovered I had to catch the next train. If I leave now I should make it. You probably won’t see my tracks as it is snowing. If you read this note that means you found the window I left unlatched. Thanks for all your help and hope to see you again. Take care and be careful.
“Well, that’s that,” Tim said.
“I just hope he’s safe,” murmured Selena almost to herself.
Matt and Elsa exchanged startled glances. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t know, but I think we were being watched. If whoever it was knows Guy isn’t here, then--” she stopped significantly while the others stared at her.
“Perhaps we should head back and talk to Dad.”