Authors: Lois Gladys Leppard
The Mandie Collection: Volume Three
Copyright Â© 1988, 1989, 1990
Lois Gladys Leppard
MANDIEÂ® and SNOWBALLÂ® are registered trademarks of Lois Gladys Leppard
Cover design by Dan Pitts
Cover illustration by Chris Wold Dyrud
Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Ebook edition created 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any meansâfor example, electronic, photocopy, recordingâwithout the prior written permission of the publisher. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
For Shannon Mason Leppard,
My beautiful daughter-in-law,
“A new commandment I give unto you,
That ye love one another;
as I have loved you,
that ye also love one another.”
The eleventh Commandment
CREATURE IN THE ROOM
Mandie and Celia ran ahead of Uncle Cal as they climbed the stairs in the Misses Heathwood's School for Girls. The flu epidemic was over and it was time to settle down to classes again. Christmas holidays were coming up next, also their quarterly examinations.
“We'll open our door for you, Uncle Cal,” Mandie called back to the old Negro man who worked for the school. Stopping at the door, she quickly turned the knob and flung the door open. Then she stood back to allow Uncle Cal to enter with the luggage.
The two girls froze in horror at the scene that greeted them in their room. April Snow was just releasing a mouse from a fruit jar into their chifferobe. The mouse jumped back out and disappeared under the bed.
Mandie and Celia screamed and quickly stepped backward. April Snow darted past them and ran down the long hallway.
Uncle Cal instantly set down the bags he was carrying and crawled around on his hands and knees, looking for the mouse.
Just then Miss Prudence Heathwood appeared in their doorway. “What's all the commotion about here?” the short, thin headmistress demanded.
“A m-mouse, M-m-miss P-prudence!” Mandie managed to reply.
“What?” The headmistress took a step backward.
Uncle Cal got up from his hands and knees. “De mouse got away. It done gone,” he explained.
“We know exactly who put this one in our room, Miss Prudence,” Celia said. “It was April Snow.”
Miss Prudence turned to look at the auburn-haired girl. “April Snow? How do you know that?” she asked.
“She was in our room when we opened the door,” Mandie explained.
“Yessum,” Uncle Cal agreed. “We saw huh puttin' dat mouse in de chifferobe, we did.”
Miss Prudence frowned. “Are you sure about this, Uncle Cal?”
“Yessum, we seed huh fo' sure,” the old man replied.
“The mouse jumped back out of the chifferobe and ran under the bed,” Mandie added.
“I'll see to her,” Miss Prudence promised. “Uncle Cal, get the mousetraps and set them in the room. We have to catch the thing.”
Celia looked worried. “But what are we going to do, Miss Prudence? We can't stay here with that mouse running loose,” she protested.
Miss Prudence thought for a moment. “We don't have any more rooms for students, as y'all know,” she replied. “So you have my permission to sleep in the guest room on the first floor until the mouse is caught. But you can't move your things down there. It would be too much clutter.”
Mandie and Celia looked at each other.
“Miss Prudence, I know the easiest solution to this problem,” Mandie said. “If you would let Uncle Cal go back to my grandmother's house and get my kitten, Snowball, he'd catch that mouse fast.”
“A cat in this school?” Miss Prudence exclaimed. “You know I don't allow any animals here.”
“But Miss Prudence, we could keep him shut up in our room,” Mandie offered. “He wouldn't bother anyone.”
“He's a good kitten,” Celia added. “He always lets you know when he wants to go outside.”
Miss Prudence didn't reply but stood there looking at the two girls.
“Dat cat, he be a good cat,” Uncle Cal spoke up. “Missy 'Manda be right. He catch de mouse in no time flat. Be easier than traps. De girls, dey might step on de traps.”
Miss Prudence sighed in irritation. “All right, Uncle Cal. Go get the cat. But remember,” she said, turning to the girls, “that cat is not to be let out of this room. Do you both understand that? And when he catches the mouse, he is to be sent back to your grandmother's house, Amanda. Do you hear?”
“Yes, ma'am,” both girls agreed.
“Thanks, Miss Prudence,” Mandie said. She looked over at Uncle Cal, who was setting the girls' luggage inside the room. “Please hurry.”
“I be on my way,” he replied.
Without saying anything more, Miss Prudence hurried down the hallway.
“Uncle Calâ” Mandie grasped the old man's arm. “Do you think Aunt Phoebe would mind coming up here to help us unpack while you're gone, just in case that mouse shows up again?”
“You jes' wait right heah in de hall,” he said. “I sends Phoebe right up.”
As the old man started down the hall to find his wife, who also worked for the school, the girls walked over to the windowseat across the hall and sat down.
“Oh, what a terrible thing to happen on our first day back to school!” Celia fussed. “I hope Miss Prudence punishes that April Snow good.”
“Don't worry. She will!” Mandie predicted. “I just don't understand why April Snow is always doing mean things to us.”
“It is odd how she keeps after us,” Celia agreed.
“I think she's just trying to aggravate me, probably because when I first came here, I moved out of her room to move in with you,” Mandie said thoughtfully.
“She's only making trouble for herself when she tries to make trouble for us,” Celia observed. “And we don't ever do anything back to her.”
“I can't let April spoil my excitement,” Mandie said, looking out the window. “I'm just so anxious to get back home for Christmas. I want to know what the big surprise is that my mother has for me.”
“It must be something awfully important,” Celia told her friend. “Otherwise your mother wouldn't have sent Uncle Ned all the way from Franklin to your grandmother's house here in Asheville just to
tell you. I'm just glad the flu epidemic is over and we can all get back to school and get this term over with.”
“Me, too,” Mandie agreed. “But I'm still worried about Hilda. I hope she gets well soon. Grandmother Taft said she would let me know how she is from time to time. Maybe Hilda will get well in time for her and Grandmother to go home with me for Christmas. I wish you could go to my house for Christmas, Celia.”
“You know I have to spend Christmas at home. But my mother promised that we'd go to your house in time to see the new year come in. Just think, it'll soon be 1901.”
“Yes, 1900 sure went by fast, didn't it?” Mandie replied. “So many things have happened this year.”
“I'm not going to give you your Christmas present from me until we come to your house for New Year's,” Celia told her.
“That's good because I wanted to wait to give you yours then, too,” Mandie said. She drew a deep breath. “Oh, how I wish I knew what my mother's surprise is. I can't even guess what it might be.”
Celia jumped up from the windowseat. “Here comes Aunt Phoebe,” she said.
The old Negro woman hurried to meet them and embraced them both at the same time.
“I'm glad to see you, Aunt Phoebe,” Mandie said. “I'm so happy you and Uncle Cal didn't get the flu.”
“Amen, Missy 'Manda,” the woman said with a nod. “We been prayin' to de good Lawd to stay well so's we could nurse de sick girls here. Thank de Lawd it's all over and gone away.” She glanced over their shoulders. “Now where be dat mouse?” she asked, leading the girls into their room.
“It went under the bed,” Mandie answered. “But just wait until Uncle Cal gets back with Snowball. That kitten will find the mouse in no time.”
“Meantime we better be gittin' dese heah clothes hung up in de chifferobe,” said Aunt Phoebe, bending to pull things out of the luggage where Uncle Cal had left it.
Celia kept looking around on the floor as though she were afraid to move.
“Celia, that mouse is not going to bother us with Aunt Phoebe here,” Mandie told her. “Here, let's help do this.” She shook out a dress to hang.
Celia began her unpacking but still watched the floor. “Y'all are two smart younguns,” the old woman said. “Y'all knows dat mouse is jes' as 'fraid of y'all as you is of him. If you sees him, all you gotta do is shoo at him, and he'll run away.”
“But we don't want it to run away,” Mandie protested. She hung her parasol on a hook and reached for another dress to hang in the chifferobe. “It'll be here forever if we don't catch it somehow.”
“Dat white cat of yours, he gwine to git him, so jes' don't you worry 'bout dat mouse,” Aunt Phoebe said, putting the girls' hat boxes on top of the chifferobe. “When you seen dat Injun man what be a friend of yo' departed papa?”
“Uncle Ned?” Mandie replied. “Oh, he was at Grandmother Taft's house yesterday. He brought me a message from my mother that she has a big surprise waiting for me when I come home for Christmas,” Mandie said. “But he didn't know what the surprise was. He just left me wondering about it.”
Finished with the unpacking, Aunt Phoebe closed the door of the chifferobe. “Well, I reckon you'll see what dat message be when you gits home fo' Christmas,” she said.
At that moment Uncle Cal appeared in the doorway with a large basket in his hand. He set it down in front of Mandie. “Heah be dat cat, Missy 'Manda,” he said.
Mandie quickly removed the lid on the basket and grabbed Snowball before he could jump out and run away. She held him close and he purred.