lauantai 16. tammikuuta 2016

Chapter Fiveteen: The Haymaking

That July was warm, dusty, and dry. Gardens and corn suffered, but hay was growing better than ever. Because the fields of Five Cherry Trees were all hired, the MacDonald family used to help Mr Kerr with his haymaking, and Mr Kerr then gave them enough hay for their Clover the cow and Donna the horse.

On a hot, cloudless day in the end of July Laura, Aunt Maggie, Louisa, Myra, Ethel, and Tom were walking through the Wood. They were going to the Kerr fields; Aunt Maggie had a basketful of food, Ethel carried a bottle of cold, cool water, and the others had hay-forks.

“I’ve never been making hay”,  said Tom. “That’s exciting.”

“Oh, there’s nothing exciting in it”, said Louisa, who would have liked to read a novel Mr Ferguson had lent her. ”Just working and carrying hay, till your arms are aching and your feet are full of haysticks.”

“Stop moaning, Louisa”, said Laura. ”You should have put your shoes on. There can be snakes on the field.”

“Oh, Mommy!” cried Myra. “There’s hot enough this way, with shoes it would be just awful! And I’ve never seen snakes on the Kerr fields.”

“But I heard Mr Ferguson is comin’, too”, Louisa said a little briskier. “That’s nice.”

“Who told you that?” asked Aunt Maggie.

“Geordie had told Tom, hadn’t he, Tom?”

“That’s right. He says he’s missed haymaking, so now he helps with the Kerrs.”

It was, like Louisa had said, a hard day. Sun was shining brighter than ever, and no clouds appeared to make the air cooler. But Mr Kerr was satisfied, because the hay seemed fine.

Douglas Ferguson had really come along. And though he had been living in a city twenty years, he was as strong and quick as anybody else.

Ethel was too small for real work. So she was left by the food-baskets and told to make tea ready by noon.

“And take care you won’t set the whole grfool on fire”, said Aunt Maggie, before she followed the others to the field.

Tea was ready just when the hungry and thirsty people came for it. Water bottle had been drank empty, so Tom and Geordie rushed to the pond with it. They found some interesting frogs and bird’s eggs on their way and did not come back until everybody had already eaten, but did not care of that little unfortune.

“What shall I do now?” asked Ethel, when Laura was binding a wide handkerchief over her hair and preparing to go back to work. “Couldn’t I help with the hay?”

“No, dearie, I think you would get too tired. Next year, maybe. Now, you can take the dishes to the pond and wash them there, and then come back and have a round with the water bottle. If anybody wants drinking you can take it over.”

Ethel shrugged her shoulders and collected the dishes to a basket.

The afternoon was long. Ethel ran to and fro with the bottle, because everybody was thirsty.

“Oh, I sweat so that I feel like a sponge!” sighed Myra. ”Clover and Donna should be grateful of that hay.”

Louisa did not say anything. Secretly she was happy, because Geordie was collecting hay just before her and sometimes smiled at her.

Almost all the hay had been taken into the barn, and Mr Kerr was just coming with the carriage for the last load, when Ethel suddenly fell down in one corner of the field with a cry.

“What’s going on there?” asked Douglas.

“Help!” Ethel exclaimed. ”Here was a snake, and it… it...” She sobbed so that could not say anything more.

But that was enough. Laura threw her hayfork away and ran over the field, and Aunt Maggie followed her.

Ethel sat on the grfool holding her bare foot. There was two tiny, red plots on her ankle.

“It bite me”, she gasped. ”I didn’t see it — oh Mommy, am I going to die now?”

“Nonsense, dear”,  muttered Laura. ”What kind of a snake it was?”

“I dunno, Mommy. I remember old Joe MacGregor died with a snakebite!”

“You won’t die”, Aunt Maggie said firmly, though she was not so sure. ”What shall we do?”

“I’ll get my motor car so we can drive her over to Glennari”, said Douglas Ferguson behind her. “She mustn’t move now, so the poison won’t spread.”

“I’ll catch your handbag”, said Aunt Maggie and patted Laura’s shoulder. ”And a neat dress for the girl… She mustn’t go to doctor in that old, thin one.”

Laura could not say anything. Ethel’s brown eyes were wide and frightened, and suddenly she buried her face to mother’s dress.

”Is — it — dangerous?” whispered Myra with a pale face.

“I don’t know. Possibly not, if we can go to doctor in time. Oh, Tom, you’re a good runner, go after Aunty and tell her to take Ethel’s stockings and shoes.”

Tom left, and Mrs Kerr came to Laura.

“Child cannot wear any stockings now”,  she said.

“No, but to another foot... She mustn’t go to doctor barefeet... Oh, dearie, does it hurt?”

“A little”,  said a tiny voice somewhere in Laura’s arms.

“Don’t cry”, said Geordie and kneeled by Ethel. ”You’ll have a drive in a motor car, think of it!”

“If I’m goin’ to die?” Ethel lifted her face.

“I’m sure you won’t”, said Louisa and bowed on Geordie’s side. ”And when you’re back home I’ll make sweets for you.”

“Oh.” Ethel wiped tears from her cheeks.

At that moment Tom and Aunt Maggie came back with the handbag and clothes, and Douglas stopped his motor car to the road by the field. Then he took a blanket from the car and came to the crowd.

“Here, pet, I’ll carry you in that”, he said. ”Who’s coming with her?”

“I won’t let you go alone”,  said Maggie to Laura. ”You are such a worrier. Could the children come to your place, Mrs Kerr? They can’t be alone at Five Cherry Trees.”

“Of course”, said Mrs Kerr motherly. “They can sleep in my guest-room.” Mrs Kerr was very proud of her guest-room.

So they left. Laura sat on the back seat with Ethel, and Aunt Maggie on the front one with Douglas.

“Don’t move the girl”, Douglas said, when Laura tried to change Ethel’s clothes. ”We’re all dirty and sweaty, but it’s more important to get into doctor’s in time than to be fancy at town.”

Laura sighed and put the dress back to the basket.

The way was dusty, Ethel coughed and complained. She was getting pale and her forehead was as hot as fire.

“Mommy... If I die, please give my blue silk ribbon to Myra, because I quarreled with her yesterday”, she murmured.

“I will”,  Laura said tenderly and kissed her. “Don’t speak, darling, just rest.”

“Do you think I get white clothes in heaven?”

“Good grief, lfoolie, don’t speak that way!” cried Aunt Maggie. “You’re not goin’ to die!”

“Be quiet”, Douglas whispered. ‘she must be calm. Here’s Glennari way, thank God.”

Glennari had own little hospital, and Douglas stopped his motor car before it. He told Maggie to go and ask the doctor while he took the fevery girl to his arms and carried her up the stairs to the cool and very clean hall.

“This way.” A nurse with a white apron and cap showed the way. “Doctor’s in. You can wait ouside.”

“l’m her mother. Can’t I go with her?” begged Laura. “Oh, please!”

“Let her come”, said the doctor, a middle-aged man with glfooles.

Aunt Maggie sat down to a bench by the door of the doctor’s room. Douglas walked to and fro before her.

“If I only had made them to put their shoes on”,  murmured Aunt Maggie and took her handkerchief. ”Oh, in that case...”

“Don’t be stupid”, said Douglas. ”It’s not your fault.”

“Oh, but it is! Laura said they should wear shoes, but the children said it would be too hot... And I agreed to them... Oh, God!” She put the handkerchief on her face.

Douglas sat by her.

“Don’t cry, Maggie-o-mine”, he said gently. ”You cannot help her a bit with your tears. Be brave, that’s what we all need. Maybe it wasn’t a poison snake at all.”

“You saw she had fever!”

“Well, sometimes one gets fever because of heath, you know. And anyhow, please, stop crying.” Douglas put his arm carefully around Maggie’s shoulders. ”You are a strong lfoolie, I know that.”

“If I could be!” Maggie loaned against him without understanding that. ”But now l’d like to run, only run, and forget all that awful. Little Ethel — oh, why I didn’t give her a honeystick when she asked!”

“She’s not dead, you little fool. Now, somebody comes.”

Maggie noticed Douglas’s arm around her and drew herself back, when doctor opened the door.

“There’s no danger”, he said, smiling. ”You got here in time. But it’s best you leave the girl here overnight — she’ll have a good rest. Tomorrow she’s okay.”

“Thank God!” muttered Aunt Maggie. “Oh, Laura!” She rose and pressed cordially her sister-in-law, who followed the doctor and wiped away tears — but now of relief.

Douglas did not say anything. He still felt Maggie’s soft shoulders under his arm and just smiled by himself.

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