I haven't been outside yet, but it looks rather cold. Still no snow. :( I keep hoping for even a dusting, but instead we have real dust. Everything is covered in dust in our yard because its been so dry and Dad raked the leaves. But I don't want snow today because this evening is our Christmas Open House. We should have over 70 people here! Wow! I'm sure it will be a crowded, crazy and confusing time yet, a lot of fun. We have to get the house ready today. Change the sewing room into the play room, the new room into a game room and pack closets with as much as possible. Should be interesting.
I really haven't written much this week, though I did get some other things done like the doll clothes I had to make. I also finished knitting Mom's first sock and started on the second one.:)
But, I know at least two of my readers are either reading this after the story, or are wishing I'd hurry up and get on with it.:) Okay, okay! Here is part three. Enjoy!
Part 3“I don’t have one,” Susanna replied in a small voice.
“Well, that ain’t my concern though I say it’s a shame to send a young girl like you off with no bag an’ baggage. And right before Christmas, too. Never mind though. Jest follow me close, the snow’s gettin’ deeper all the time.”
Into the world of white the two travelers went, following their guide. For Susanna, who had never seen a snow storm quite like this before, it was frightening, and she clung to her new companion’s hand. By the time they reached a house on the edge of town, Susanna could scarcely breathe, and Robert was in no better shape.
The station master rapped loudly on the door. Quickly it was flung open and a bright faced girl stood before them.
“Annie, I hope you an’ yer aunt can put these two up till the trains start runnin’ again.”
“I’m sure we can. Aunt Lydia!” the girl beckoned her snow covered visitors inside, taking the bag from station master.
As the door closed behind them, a tall, slim woman entered wiping her hands on her apron. “I wondered how those trains would get through in this weather,” she said cheerily. “We’ll find room for you, never fear.” As she talked she bustled about taking off the snow covered garments and settling Susanna and Robert in chairs before the fire. She quickly found out the names of her unexpected guests and continued her cheerful talk. “Annie, we’ll let Susanna sleep in with you seeing you have a larger bed, and do go air out the guest room for Robert. Be sure to light a fire, or no, get Davie to, in the grate to take the chill off.”
Susanna watched without a word as Annie hurried off with a smile to do her aunt’s bidding. “But then her papa is probably coming back,” she told herself. “I would have been cheerful if that were true for me.” Her conscious told her she hadn’t been cheerful since she first arrived, but she refused to listen.
Before long supper was served and everyone gathered around the table. Never had food looked or tasted so good before to Susanna. She realized with a start that she hadn’t eaten since early that morning. It was a merry table though no father or uncle was present. Robert was persuaded to take the head while Aunt Lydia sat at the foot. On each side children of all ages sat and talked, laughed and ate. The only silent one was Susanna.
When the meal was over and the dishes cleared away, One of the little ones brought out a large book and gave it to Aunt Lydia.
“Thank you, Son,” she smiled. Then turning to her guests she said, “We always have a bit of reading and prayer before we skip off to bed. I hope you both will join us.”
Robert expressed delight in staying, saying that it would remind him of home. Susanna would gladly have slipped away, but didn’t want to appear rude.
The prayer that followed the reading was simple. Susanna didn’t hear much of it, but one sentence stayed in her mind.
“Please bless both our guests with the joy of your birth this year.”
Once in bed with Annie, Susanna lay awake for some time. For the first time since she had left, she wondered what her aunt and uncle were doing. Were they worried about her? Had her cousin arrived? Perhaps she should have left them a note saying she was not coming back. It was too late now. She would wire them from the city. At last, Susanna’s eyes closed of their own, and she slept.
She was awakened quite early the following morning when Annie slipped out of bed into the freezing room and rapidly dressed.
“Where are you going?” Susanna queried sleepily.
“To get the kitchen fire started before Aunt Lydia gets up. Why don’t you stay in bed longer. The heat from the chimney will warm this room up before long.” With that, Annie slipped out of the door and down the narrow stairs.
Susanna couldn’t go back to sleep. Why would this girl, who appeared to be about her own age, get up so early just to light a fire for her aunt? Why didn’t the aunt do it? And why was Annie there in the first place? Susanna could hear the wind howling and whistling around the house, and she shivered. Never had she heard a wind like this. It scared her.
All that day the winds blew the snow around in swirling gusts causing visibility to be only a few inches. Inside the little house, all was snug and cheerful. Aunt Lydia bustled here and there for the comforts of her guests as well as in preparation for Christmas. Annie seemed to be always at work. All the children were kept busy, the older ones over lessons and chores indoors while the younger ones played and helped when they could. Everywhere the excitement of Christmas was to be felt.
In an armchair by the large, cheery fire, Robert had been established in the morning, having been told that what he needed was rest and some good food. He didn’t complain but amused himself by telling stories to the young ones or talking to Aunt Lydia, Annie and Davie. He tried talking with Susanna, but she had pulled into her shell and hardly said anything. Her eyes and ears were open, however, and she noticed many things which puzzled her.
That night when Susanna and Annie were in their room, Susanna ventured a few questions.
“Why are you living here?”
Annie smiled. “Because Aunt Lydia is my only living relative besides Uncle Joe, but he’s away at war.”
“When did your parents die?”
“My mother when I was only three and Papa--” For a moment Annie was silent, her face turned away. When at last she looked back at Susanna, there were tears in her eyes, yet she smiled and her voice was soft. “Papa was killed in France two months ago.”
“Yours too.” That was all Susanna said until they were in bed and the only sound was the storm outside. Then in a voice scarce above a whisper she asked, “Have you always lived here in the country?”
Laughing a little, Annie replied, “No, I’m from Chicago, but now I love this place.”
“Why? Because I have the love of my aunt and cousins and,” she added more quietly, “God had a reason for me coming. I sometimes think it was to help Aunt Lydia. But then maybe it is for something else.
“Don’t you ever want to go back?”
“I wouldn’t have any place to go. Besides, I love it here.”
“But all the work they make you do!” Susanna protested.
Annie turned in bed to face her guest in the dark. “When I lived in the city, I only thought of myself, and when I came out here, it was hard. But I am so much happier here where I can work with my hands and help others. Aunt Lydia has been like the mother I don’t remember. And especially at this time of year. When I think that Jesus left all the glories of heaven to be born in a barn and then grow up working, only to die on the cross for me, how can I complain about a few chores?”
Susanna ventured no answer. This was new ground for her. Enjoy working? Enjoy serving others? In all her life she had only thought of her and enjoyed being miserable when things didn’t go her way. Yet here was Annie, full of life and happiness, yes, and even joy, and she was in nearly the same situation as herself. For a long time she lay still, pondering it all. Would she really be happy back in the city? Could she be happy back in that dreadful house with her aunt and uncle and all those cousins? Even knowing her papa wasn’t coming home and her cousin was? No, she couldn’t be happy. Not ever again. Yet, something inside of her kept whispering that she was not being truthful.
It was still snowing when Susanna climbed out of bed the following morning. As she slipped into her cold clothes, her thoughts turned once more to the unsettling ones of the previous nights. It would be easier if she could just forget it all, but there was Annie. If she could be happy helping others, couldn’t she? Would it even be worth trying?
Last part next Friday. Don't miss it!