When Calls the Heart(7)

By: Janette Oke

Mother was almost beside herself with joy and excitement when I told her. Julie begged to go with me. I loved Julie and I was sure that there would be many times in the future when I would wish for her company; but the thought of trying to watch over a girl like Julie, in a land filled with men looking for brides, fairly made me shiver. I was glad when Papa and Mother promptly told her no.

Another month, and the school year came to a close. I waved good-bye to the last pupil, packed up all my books and teaching aids, and closed the door of the classroom carefully behind me for the last time. Blinking back some tears, I said good-bye to my fellow teachers and walked away from the school without looking hack.

I had let Mother tell Jonathan about my decision, and he seemed overjoyed that I actually was coming. He even wrote a letter to me, telling me so directly. His and Mother's excitement seemed to be contagious, and my desire to see my brother was growing daily.

Jonathan had passed the word to the school superintendent, and he, too, hurried a letter off to me. Mr. Higgins (the name somehow suited my mental image of him) assured me that he was pleased to hear that I would be coming west; and, his letter stated, he would give care aid consideration in assigning me to the school that he felt was right for me, and he would be most anxious to meet me upon my arrival.

The days, filled with shopping, packing and finally shipping my belongings, passed quickly.

Jonathan had said that anything I could spare should be shipped early. The freight cars had a tendency to get shuttled aside at times and often took longer for the trip than the passenger cars. I secretly wondered if Jonathan wasn't using this as a ploy, reasoning that the shipped-ahead trunks would be a measure of insurance against a girl who at the last moment might wish to change her mind.

It could have happened. too. When the day arrived that Papa and I took my trunks to the freight station and I presented my belongings to the man behind the counter, the realization fully hit me that I was taking a giant step into the unknown. Somewhat dazed, I watched my trunks being weighed and ticketed and finally carted away from the checking desk on a hand-pulled wagon. In those trunks were my books, bedding, personal effects, and almost my entire wardrobe. It seemed to me that a large part of my life was being routinely trundled away. For a moment fear again tightened my throat, and I had an impulse to dash out and gather those trunks back to myself and hurry back to the familiar comfort of my own home and room. Instead, I turned quickly and almost stumbled out of the building. Papa had to break into full stride in order to catch up to me.

"Well, that's cared for," I said in a whispery voice. trying to intimate that I was glad to scratch one more task from my awesome list. I think that Papa saw through my bluff'. He answered me heartily but completely off the subject. "Saw a delightful little hat in that smart little shop beside Eatons. I thought at the time it was just made for you. Shall we go and take a look at it?"

Some men despise being seen in a lady's shop. My father was not one of them. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he had four daughters and an attractive wife. Papa loved to see his women dressed prettily and took pleasure in helping us to choose nice things. Besides, he was well aware of the fact that a new hat was often good medicine for feminine woes-especially when the difficulty was no more serious than a butterfly stomach.

I smiled at him, appreciative of his sensitivity. Who would pamper me when I was away from Papa' I took his arm and together we headed for the little shop.

Papa was right. The hat did suit me well: the emeraldgreen velvet looked just right with my dark gold hair and hazel eyes. I liked it immediately and was glad that he had spotted it. In fact, I decided right then and there that I would wear it upon my arrival in Calgary. It would give me a measure of confidence, and I had a feeling I would need all of it that I could get.

As we rumbled home in our motor car, I again thought of what a thoughtful man I had for a father. I reached over and placed my hand on the arm of his well-cut suit. I would miss him. I used my handkerchief to wipe some tears from my eyes, murmuring something about the wind in my face. There was still a week before I would board the train. I didn't need to get soft and sentimental yet.

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