Authors: Carol Ryrie Brink
Softly they went through the underbrush looking for the fawn. Its white spots on brown were like the small white flowers on the brown leaves. Tom looked at it for almost a minute before he really saw it. It was lying very quiet there where its mother had left it, and keeping very still as she had taught it to keep.
Tom knelt beside it and his hands were slow and gentle in their movements, so that he would not frighten it. He could hear Warren crashing through the brush near by.
He said in a quiet, warning voice,
“What? Did you find it, Tom? Did you find the fawn?”
“Quiet,” Tom said.
“Oh, Tom!” whispered Warren, coming to stand beside him and look at the perfect little creature which lay trembling on its bed of leaves and flowers and ferns.
“The mother’s dead,” said Tom in a low voice. “I guess it hasn’t anybody but us. Like Caddie’s lamb.”
“Can we raise it on a bottle, Tom, do you think?”
“Ya. George Custis raised one.”
“What if the hunters get it, like they got its Ma?” whispered Warren fiercely, wiping his eyes and nose upon his sleeve.
“We’ll put a red flannel band around its middle,” Tom said, “so they’ll know not to shoot.”
Gently he lifted it and wrapped his coat around it.
“I guess we got our pet now, Tom,” Warren said. “You guess so?”
“Ya, I guess so,” said Tom.
They walked very softly through the woods carrying the fawn by turns, and their eyes shone with a new brightness.
Emma Went Too
, and Emma McCantry all started early to walk into Eau Galle to see the Medicine Show. They were going to have supper at Lida’s Grandma’s, and Mr. Woodlawn was going to drive them home after the show was over. Caddie’s brothers had gone to Eau Galle with Father in the morning.
Caddie had on her good blue dress and Lida a new bonnet with artificial cherries on it. Emma didn’t have anything new to wear, but she felt lucky enough to be getting to go at all. There were always so many things to do at home which Mrs. McCantry didn’t like to do because they spoiled her hands. But neither Emma nor Mrs. McCantry cared how Emma’s hands looked, so it was often hard to get away. Of course Emma had the eggs to deliver to the crossroads store on the way, and the candle mold to return to Grandma Butler at the second farm before the crossroads, and the Star of Bethlehem quilt pattern to borrow from the blacksmith’s wife; but she did
have to take a baby along to mind, and that was something. Emma sighed. It wasn’t that she minded looking after the younger children or running her mother’s errands; but it was so nice to have a day to herself once in a while, and time to go somewhere with the other girls.
“They say it’s a dandy show,” said Caddie. “Robert Ireton saw it in Durand last week. The man who runs it is called Dr. Hearty, and he sings and plays the banjo and does sleight-of-hand tricks. He has an old spotted horse and he carries his show along with him in his wagon.”
“Does he have a trick dog, too?” asked Lida.
“Oh, yes. That’s about the best part. They say his medicine cures everything that you could have, but I guess Dr. Nightingale doesn’t think much of it. Most people go to see the show, not to buy the medicine.”
“I’m sure I don’t want any medicine,” said Lida, “but it will be fun to hear banjo singing and see magic. Did a medicine show ever come out here before?”
“Not that I ever heard of.”
Emma jogged along beside them with the basket of eggs on one arm and the candle mold under the other, and she didn’t say a word but she kept smiling. She thought to herself that she had never seen a show at all and this was going to be quite wonderful. When they cut across the pasture a bobolink whistled at them, and Emma whistled back at it—a true bobolink call.
“I wish I could do that,” said Caddie, puckering up her lips to try.
“Emma can make lots of birds’ whistles, can’t you, Emma?” asked Lida.
Emma smiled and pursed up her lips, and out came the sound the robins make just before rain.
They turned in at Grandma Butler’s place. Caddie and Lida sat down in the hammock under the pines to wait
while Emma took the candle mold around to the back door.
“Oh, Emma,” said Grandma Butler. “I’m so glad you’ve come by. I was just wondering what in the world I’d do. Johnny forgot to take the cow to pasture this morning before he left, and she’s been bawling her head off ever since. I’d have taken her long ago, but my legs are full of rheumatics today. If you’ll just drive her down for me, Johnny will see that she gets home tonight.”
Emma thought of telling Grandma Butler that she was on her way to Eau Galle to see Dr. Hearty’s wonderful Medicine Show, but she didn’t like to disappoint people and she could hear the cow bawling mournfully in the barn. It wouldn’t take long, and if she hurried she could catch the girls before they got to the crossroads. She ran around the house and told them to walk kind of slow and she would catch them up as soon as she could. Then, with the basket of eggs on one arm and a stick in the other hand, Emma drove the old cow down to the pasture.
The cow took her time about getting there and kept stopping every few steps to eat by the way, but finally she was safe behind pasture bars and Emma could hurry once more. She crawled under the pasture fence and skirted the swampy place behind Butler’s farm. A red-winged blackbird, swaying on a reed, gave a fluty call and Emma whistled back at him. She was used to swampland and the birds that lived there. She took a short cut across fields, and she could see Caddie and Lida on the road ahead of her.
When she came to the crossroads, they were still ahead of her.
They waved and called, “Hurry up, Emma!”
“You go on. I’ll catch up with you,” called Emma.
But she was beginning to wonder if she would, for she would have to take the other branch of the crossroad for nearly a quarter of a mile to go by the blacksmith’s house. Of course there was a lane there that made a short cut back to the main road to Eau Galle, and if she hurried she might catch them before they came into town.
She ran into the crossroads store with her basket of eggs. Both Mr. Hooper and his brother were busy attending to customers and Emma had to wait. She tapped her toe impatiently on the floor. The three little Hooper boys were playing tag around the cracker and gingersnap barrels, but they stopped and came to stand and stare at Emma.
“You goin’ to the Medicine Show to Eau Galle?”
“I aim to,” said Emma, smiling. “Are you?”
“Pa won’t let us,” they said dismally. “We ain’t never seen a show like that with torchlight and magic and banjo singin’.”
“I never have either,” said Emma. “I’m real pleased to get away to go.”
Mr. Hooper took her basket now and began counting the eggs with great deliberation.
“Mis’ McCantry want any groceries?”
“No. You’re to credit the eggs to her account, please.”
“Which way you going?”
“I’m going by the blacksmith’s house to borrow a quilt pattern and then by the lane into Eau Galle.”
“Fine!” said Mr. Hooper. “You’re just the person I’m looking for. There’s a letter here come for Mr. Tatum,
and you can drop it by for the old man without going fifty steps out of your way. I’d send the little boys, but the last time they took a letter to him they dropped it in the mud and he couldn’t half read it. Now he won’t have them on the place. But I know you’re always careful, Emma.”
“Yes, sir,” said Emma.
She wasn’t surprised because, ever since the family had come back and settled on the corner of the Woodlawn and Nightingale places, people had trusted her with their errands. Somehow they never trusted her mother or Pearly, but they always trusted Emma. It was not very convenient if one were in a hurry. She stuck the letter in her pocket and hurried faster than ever.
It was considerably more than fifty steps out of her way to Mr. Tatum’s door, but perhaps Mr. Hooper had forgotten. The old man was a long time answering her knock and, when he came, he looked as if he had been sleeping.
“Letter, eh?” he said, peering at it shortsightedly. “You’ll have to come in and read it to me, my dear. I’ve broken my spectacles.”
Emma sighed. This was beginning to assume the proportions of a bad dream—one of those dreams in which you try so hard to get somewhere on time, and everything conspires to stop you. She stepped inside the door and broke the seal of the letter. How untidy Mr. Tatum’s kitchen was! There were dirty pans and dishes in the sink, and the floor couldn’t have been swept for days. If only she hadn’t been in such a hurry—
“It’s from your daughter, Hazel,” said Emma. “She says she’ll be up by the steamer on Thursday afternoon.”
“Thursday?” said the old man. “Ain’t that today?”
Emma thought. Yes, the girls had said, “Ask your mother to let you off
afternoon, because there’s going to be a medicine show in Eau Galle.”
“That’s right,” said Emma. “It’s today. The steamer ought to get in any time now.”
“My land!” said Mr. Tatum. “Look at this house, and Hazel neat as a pin! But I’ve had lumbago in my back for nearly a week.”
“You tell me what to do,” said Emma. “I’m a mighty hand at tidying.”
She flew around the way she had to do at home on a Saturday morning. While the kettle boiled she swept the floor, and when the water was hot she clattered through the dishes and pans. Mr. Tatum straightened up the beds and picked up the old newspapers which he had left lying on the front-room floor. The house began to look better.
“What you got to eat?” asked Emma.
“Ham an’ potatoes,” said Mr. Tatum doubtfully.
“Anything in the garden?”
“Rhubarb. But I ain’t pulled it for a long time on account of my back.”
“Rhubarb sauce an’ hot biscuits,” said Emma to herself.
She ran out into the garden and found the rhubarb. It was rather old now, but it would do. The sun was getting low in the sky; almost any moment Mr. Tatum’s daughter might come walking up the path. She washed the rhubarb and cut it up and put it on in a saucepan with a little water. Mr. Tatum peeled the potatoes and sliced the ham while
she mixed up the biscuits. When the rhubarb began to bubble and turn soft and pink, she added the sugar to it and took it off to cool.
“Now you put the biscuits in the oven as soon as you start the ham, and you’ll have a real nice supper for her.”
“Won’t you stay an’ eat, Emma?”
“No, I’m in kind of a hurry,” said Emma. “Thanks just the same.”
She ran down the road to the blacksmith’s house. The sun was going lower. Cowbells tinkled across the fields. A catbird called and, without stopping to think, Emma answered it.
“Mis’ Peavy, Mama wants to know please can she borrow your Star of Bethlehem quilt pattern?”
“Why, yes, Emma, if she’ll think to return it.”
remember,” Emma said.
“It may take me a minute to hunt it up. Will you hold the baby for me while I look?”
“Yes, ma’am,” said Emma.
She sat in the big rocker and held the baby. It was the first time she had sat down since morning, and it made her realize that she was tired. The blacksmith’s wife was taking a long time to find the quilt pattern, but it didn’t matter now. Emma knew that she was too late. Supper would be over at Lida’s Grandma’s before she could get to Eau Galle. She might still be in time to see the Medicine Show; but it would soon be getting dark, and if she should miss the girls in the crowd she would have no way of getting home again that night. She tried to think back over the afternoon and wonder if she could have hurried a little
more here or there. But it didn’t seem as if she would have done anything differently, even if she could. An unexpected tear rolled down the side of Emma’s nose, but she brushed it hastily away. The Peavy baby was warm and soft to hold, and he was going to sleep in her arms.
When she left the Peavys’ farm with the quilt pattern in her pocket, the sun had just slipped below the horizon and the sky was all clear and softly green like glass. There were two tiny pink clouds overhead, and the first star was just beginning to wink experimentally.
Down the road ahead of her Emma saw something which had not been there when she came by before. It was an odd-looking red wagon—almost like a little house on wheels, and something seemed to have gone wrong with it. One of the wheels was sunk in a muddy rut of the road, and a man in a stovepipe hat was out examining the extent of the damage.
Emma came up alongside and looked on.
“I guess you broke your axle, mister.”
“Snakes an’ fishes!” said the man. “I guess I did!”
A little spotted dog jumped out of the wagon and came to bark at Emma. A fat spotted horse craned its neck around and rolled its eyes to see why the wagon wouldn’t budge. There were gold filigree designs around the top of the red caravan, and iron sockets that looked as if they might be made for holding torches. The man wore a long frock coat and a marvelous flowered waistcoat. It was all very strange. Emma’s heart began to beat more quickly.