These Happy Golden Years (Chaprer 11)
These Happy Golden Years
Laura Ingalls Wilder
Waking next morning was happier than Christmas. “Oh, I’m at home!” Laura thought. She called, “Carrie! Good morning! Wake up, sleepyhead!” She almost laughed with joy as she shivered into her dress and skipped downstairs to button her shoes and comb her hair in the warming kitchen where Ma was getting breakfast.
“Good morning, Ma!” she sang.
“Good morning,” Ma smiled. “I declare you look better already.”
“It’s nice to be home,” Laura said. “Now what shall I do first?”
She was busy all that morning, helping with Saturday’s work. Though usually she disliked the dryness of flour on her hands, today she enjoyed kneading the bread, thinking happily that she would be at home to eat the fresh, brown-crusted loaves. Her heart sang with the song on her lips; she was not going back to the Brewsters’ ever again.
It was a beautifully sunny day, and that afternoon when the work was all done, Laura hoped that Mary Power would come to visit with her while they crocheted. Ma was gently rocking while she knitted by the sunny window, Carrie was piecing her quilt block, but somehow Laura could not settle down. Mary did not come, and Laura had just decided that she would put on her wraps and go to see Mary, when she heard sleigh bells.
For some reason, her heart jumped. But the bells rang thinly as they sped by. There were only a few bells; they were not the rich strings of bells that Prince and Lady wore. Their music had not died away, when again sleigh bells went tinkling past. Then all up and down the street, the stillness sparkled with the ringing of the little bells.
Laura went to the window. She saw Minnie Johnson and Fred Gilbert flash by, then Arthur Johnson with a girl that Laura did not know. The full music of double strings of bells came swiftly, and Mary Power and Cap Garland dashed by in a cutter. So that was what Mary was doing. Cap Garland had a cutter and full strings of sleigh bells, too. More and more laughing couples drove up and down the street, in sleighs and cutters, passing and repassing the window where Laura stood.
At last she sat soberly down to her crocheting. The sitting room was neat and quiet. Nobody came to see Laura. She had been gone so long that probably no one thought of her. All that afternoon the sleigh bells were going by. Up and down the street her schoolmates went laughing in the sunny cold, having such a good time. Again and again Mary and Cap sped past, in a cutter made for two.
Well, Laura thought, tomorrow she would see Ida at Sunday School. But Ida did not come to church that Sunday; Mrs. Brown said that she had a bad cold.
That Sunday afternoon the weather was even more beautiful. Again the sleigh bells were ringing, and laughter floating on the wind. Again Mary Power and Cap went by, and Minnie and Fred, and Frank Hawthorn and May Bird, and all the newcomers whom Laura barely knew. Two by two they went gaily by, laughing and singing with the chiming bells. No one remembered Laura. She had been away so long that everyone had forgotten her.
Soberly she tried to read Tennyson’s poems. She tried not to mind being forgotten and left out. She tried not to hear the sleigh bells and the laughter, but more and more she felt that she could not bear it.
Suddenly, a ringing of bells stopped at the door! Before Pa could look up from his paper, Laura had the door open, and there stood Prince and Lady with the little cutter, and Almanzo stood beside it smiling.
“Would you like to go sleigh riding?” he asked.
“Oh, yes!” Laura answered. “Just a minute, I’ll put on my wraps.”
Quickly she got into her coat and put on her white hood and mittens. Almanzo tucked her into the cutter and they sped away.
“I didn’t know your eyes were so blue,” Almanzo said.
“It’s my white hood,” Laura told him. “I always wore my dark one to Brewster’s.” She gave a gasp, and laughed aloud.
“What’s so funny?” Almanzo asked, smiling.
“It’s a joke on me,” Laura said. “I didn’t intend to go with you any more but I forgot. Why did you come?”
“I thought maybe you’d change your mind after you watched the crowd go by,” Almanzo answered. Then they laughed together.
Theirs was one of the line of sleighs and cutters, swiftly going the length of Main Street, swinging in a circle on the prairie to the south, then speeding up Main Street and around in a circle to the north, and back again, and again. Far and wide the sunshine sparkled on the snowy land; the wind blew cold against their faces. The sleigh bells were ringing, the sleigh runners squeaking on the hard-packed snow, and Laura was so happy that she had to sing.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way!
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh.”
All along the speeding line, other voices took up the tune. Swinging out on the open prairie and back, fast up the street and out on the prairie and back again, the bells went ringing and the voices singing in the frosty air.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells,
Jingle all the way!”
They were quite safe from blizzards because they did not go far from town. The wind was blowing, but not too hard, and everyone was so happy and gay for it was only twenty degrees below zero and the sun shone.