These Happy Golden Years (Chaprer 32)
These Happy Golden Years
Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Haste to the Wedding”
Carrie and Grace eagerly offered to do all the housework, so that Ma and Laura could finish the cashmere, and every day that week they sewed as fast as they could.
They made a tight-fitting basque, pointed at the bottom back and front, lined with black cambric lining and boned with whalebones on every seam. It had a high collar of the cashmere. The sleeves were lined, too. They were long and plain and beautifully fitted, with a little fullness at the top but tight at the wrists. A shirring around each armhole, in front, made a graceful fullness over the breast, that was taken up by darts below. Small round black buttons buttoned the basque straight down the front.
The skirt just touched the floor all around. It fitted smoothly at the top, but was gored to fullness at the bottom. It was lined throughout with the cambric dress lining, and interlined with crinoline from the bottom to as high as Laura’s shoes. The bottom of the skirt and the linings were turned under and the raw edges covered with dress braid, which Laura hemmed down by hand on both edges, so that no stitches showed on the right side.
There was no drive that Sunday. Almanzo came by for only a moment in his work clothes, to say that he was breaking the Sabbath by working on the house. It would be finished, he said, by Wednesday; so they could be married Thursday. He would come for Laura at ten o’clock Thursday morning, for the Reverend Brown was leaving town on the eleven o’clock train.
“Then better come over with your wagon, Wednesday, if you can make it, for Laura’s things,” Pa told him. Almanzo said he would, and so it was settled, and with a smile to Laura he drove quickly away.
Tuesday morning Pa drove to town, and at noon he came back bringing Laura a present of a new trunk. “Better put your things into it today,” he said.
With Ma’s help, Laura packed her trunk that afternoon. Her old rag doll, Charlotte, with all her clothes carefully packed in a cardboard box, she put in the very bottom. Laura’s winter clothes were laid in next, then her sheets and pillow cases and towels, her new white clothes and calico dresses and her brown poplin. The pink lawn was carefully laid on top so that it would not be crushed. In the hatbox of the trunk’s till, Laura put her new hat with the ostrich tips, and in the shallow till itself she had her knitting and crochet needles and worsted yarns.
Carrie brought Laura’s glass box from the whatnot saying, “I know you want this.”
Laura held the box in her hand, undecided. “I hate to take this box away from Mary’s. They shouldn’t be separated,” she mused.
“See, I’ve moved my box closer to Mary’s,” Carrie showed her. “It doesn’t look lonesome.” So Laura put her box carefully in the trunk till among the soft yarn, where it could not be broken.
The trunk was packed, and Laura shut down the lid, Then Ma spread a clean, old sheet across the bed. “You will want your quilt,” she said.
Laura brought her Dove-in-the-Window quilt that she had pieced as a little girl while Mary pieced a nine-patch. It had been kept carefully all the years since then. Ma laid it, folded, on the sheet, and upon it she placed two large, plump pillows.
“I want you to have these, Laura,” she said. “You helped me save the feathers from the geese that Pa shot on Silver Lake. They are good as new; I have been saving them for you. This red-and-white-checked tablecloth is like those I have always had; I thought it might make the new home more homelike if you saw it on your table,” and Ma laid the tablecloth, still in its paper wrapping, on the pillow. She drew the corners of the old sheet together over all, and tied them firmly. “There, that will keep the dust out,” she said.
Almanzo came next morning with Barnum and Skip hitched to his wagon. He and Pa loaded the trunk and the pillow bundle into it. Then Pa said, “Wait a minute, don’t hurry away, I’ll be back,” and he went into the house. For a moment or two all the others stood by the wagon, talking, and waiting for Pa to come from the door.
Then he came around the corner of the house, leading Laura’s favorite young cow. She was fawn-colored all over, and gentle. Quietly Pa tied her behind the wagon, then threw her picket rope into the wagon as he said, “Her picket rope goes with her.”
“Oh, Pa!” Laura cried. “Do you really mean I may take Fawn with me?”
“That is exactly what I do mean!” Pa said. “Be a pity if you couldn’t have one calf out of all you have helped to raise.”
Laura could not speak, but she gave Pa a look that thanked him.
“You think it is safe to tie her behind those horses?” Ma asked, and Almanzo assured her that it was safe, and said to Pa that he appreciated the gift of a cow.
Then turning to Laura he said, “I’ll be over in the morning at ten o’clock.”
“I will be ready,” Laura promised, but as she stood watching Almanzo drive away, she was unable to realize that tomorrow she would leave home. Try as she would, she could not think of going away tomorrow as meaning that she would not come back, as she had always come back from drives with Almanzo.
That afternoon the finished black cashmere was carefully pressed, and then Ma made a big, white cake. Laura helped her by beating the egg whites on a platter with a fork, until Ma said they were stiff enough.
“My arm is stiffer,” Laura ruefully laughed, rubbing her aching right arm.
“This cake must be just right,” Ma insisted. “If you can’t have a wedding party, at least you shall have a wedding dinner at home, and a wedding cake.”
After supper that night, Laura brought Pa’s fiddle to him, and asked, “Please, Pa, make some music.”
Pa took the fiddle from the box. He was a long time tuning it; then he must resin the bow carefully. At last he poised the bow above the fiddle strings and cleared his throat. “What will you have, Laura?”
“Play for Mary first,” Laura answered. “And then play all the old tunes, one after another, as long as you can.”
She sat on the doorstep and just inside the door Pa and Ma sat looking out over the prairie while Pa played “Highland Mary.” Then while the sun was going down he played all the old tunes that Laura had known ever since she could remember.
The sun sank from sight, trailing bright banners after it. The colors faded, the land grew shadowy, the first star twinkled. Softly Carrie and Grace came to lean against Ma. The fiddle sang on in the twilight.
It sang the songs that Laura knew in the Big Woods of Wisconsin, and the tunes that Pa had played by the campfires all across the plains of Kansas. It repeated the nightingale’s song in the moonlight on the banks of the Verdigris River, then it remembered the days in the dugout on the banks of Plum Creek, and the winter evenings in the new house that Pa had built there. It sang of the Christmas on Silver Lake, and of springtime after the long, Hard Winter.
Then the fiddle sounded a sweeter note and Pa’s deep voice joined its singing.
“Once in the dear dead days beyond recall
When on the world the mists began to fall,
Out of the dreams that rose in happy throng,
Low to our hearts love sang an old sweet song.
And in the dusk where fell the firelight gleam
Softly it wove itself into our dream.
“Just a song at twilight, when the lights are low
And the flickering shadows softly come and go,
Though the heart be weary, sad the day and long,
Still to us at twilight comes love’s old song,
Comes love’s old sweet song.
“Even today we hear of love’s song of yore,
Deep in our hearts it swells forever more.
Footsteps may falter and weary grow the way,
Still we can hear it at the close of day,
So to the end when life’s dim shadows fall,
Love will be found the sweetest song of all.”