Emilie knew that her time with the Brown’s would soon have to come to an end, and in her heart she also knew that she would go to Martha’s brother Karl, and help him care for his home and his children, at the same time relieving Martha’s family of an extra mouth to feed.
“It’s time for me to go,” she told Martha the next morning as she calmly wiped the crumbs from the counter after breakfast.
Martha nodded her head, “I hate to say it, but you are right, Emilie. Winter is fast approaching and if you are going to go out to the country, you need to do it soon, before travel becomes difficult.”
“I shall miss you all,” Emilie swallowed around the sudden lump in her throat.
Martha dropped what she was doing and rushed to Emilie’s side. “We shall miss you as well, but we will always keep in touch. I will write you often.”
“I cannot read or write English yet,” Emilie’s downtrodden expression broke Martha’s heart.
“Then we shall have to convince Karl to teach you, or maybe we can even convince him to install a telephone, then we can visit whenever we want!”
“I think poor Karl will regret the day he hired me,” was Emilie’s only reply.
“Poor Karl my eye; he will be glad to have you once he sees how well you care for his children!”
The day Emilie was to depart for Karl Wright’s farm on the western most part of the Manitoba prairie, a light skiff of snow began to fall. It had been snowing off and on for the past few days, but now the temperatures were plunging well below freezing, and staying there for days at a time. Emilie prepared for her journey with mixed emotions. One moment she was sure that the next few months would be an incredible adventure of discovery, just as her immigration was supposed to have been all those months ago when her and Wilhelm had first set out for their new home. In the next moment she despaired leaving that which had become familiar. She looked forward to meeting her new employer and especially his two small children, but her heart was clothed in sorrow as she contemplated leaving her newest and dearest friend, Martha.
If asked, she would never be able to describe why Martha had become such a fast friend. Surely Martha’s kindness during the lowest time of her life was one factor, but it was more than that. From the beginning, Martha had accepted all that Emilie was, and more important all that she was not. She did not seem to care that Emilie spoke broken English and could not read the English language. The fact that Emilie was a German woman, in a time when being anything save Anglo-Saxon was to be ridiculed or scorned, made absolutely no difference to Martha what so ever. Even the fact that Emilie knew absolutely nothing about the life she would soon be living, brought no scorn from her friend, just kindly advice and instruction. When compared to Mrs. Harriet Tober, Martha was saint-like in Emilie’s eyes, and she knew she would always hold their friendship dear to her heart.
That’s why for the first time in many weeks, tears sprang to Emilie’s eyes as she embraced her friend close to her heart, and held on for dear life. She had no idea when she would next see Martha and her family, but already Emilie was looking forward to the day.
“Emilie, please don’t shed those tears; because if you don’t stop, I’ll be bawling right along with you,” Martha sniffed delicately.
“What am I going to do without you?” Emilie sighed as she pulled away from her friend and dabbed absently at her face.
“You will be much too busy to even think about me, but I promise I’ll write to you often.”
Emilie smiled and shook her head negatively, “You are wrong, you know; I shall miss you terribly. I hope I won’t let you down too much - there is so much that I do not know, Martha. What if I make a horrible farm woman?”
“Then I suspect Karl will throw you out,” Martha teased with a wink and a smile.
Pete interrupted them from the car where he sat waiting for their good-byes to end. “Martha, please hurry with your farewells, we have to be going or we won’t make it on time. The train will be leaving in an hour!”
“Coming Pete,” Martha called back impatiently, and then returned her attention to Emilie. “Please give my love to Karl and the children; and good luck to you, Emilie,” she said as she gave Emilie one last squeeze and pushed her friend towards the waiting car.
Emilie hurried to the car and climbed into the seat beside Pete. The minute the car door closed, the jalopy pulled away from the drive. Emilie’s last glimpse of her friend was of a smiling Martha, clutching her coat tightly closed with one hand, and waving wildly with the other.
Emilie kept that vision in her mind as the train chugged along at a snails pace, puffing it’s way across the cold, snow-covered prairie soil. If one could have actually gazed out of the frost-covered window, there would have been nothing to witness but frozen land covered with dense bush and a dusting of fresh snow.
Emilie shifted uncomfortably on the hard wooden bench seat, and furiously rubbed the window pane with her gloved hand; alternately blowing her own warm breath against the frozen glass to clear a small patch of glass to look through. The minute she stopped her actions the frost covered the glass again, thicker than it had been before. Giving up, she leaned back against the wooden bench and wondered how much longer she would have to endure this cold, hard, ride.
Martha had packed enough food and supplies to last several days of travel, even though the train ride would be just under eight hours long. Along with the food, there were extra blankets; some used children’s clothing, and several bolts of heavy gray flannel material, which she had insisted Emilie take along, and use however she saw fit.
As the train moved along toward her final destination Emilie thought about Karl Wright, and wondered if he would be pleased to have someone take over the care of his children. All she knew of the man was what Martha had told her, and sadly, not much of what she had learned gave her any clue as to how he would receive her into his home. Oh Martha had told her plenty all right; sometimes more that Emilie had felt the need to know. “Karl feels such a failure,” Martha had said much to Emilie’s chagrin. She had not thought it proper to be privy to the poor man’s intimate problems, but Martha had told her anyway. “It will help you understand the man you soon will be living with,” had been Martha’s very own words.
Emilie didn’t know if she would find it any easier to live with the man, knowing what she did about his life with his wife, but the knowledge did make her hurt even more for his children. Already Emilie felt protective of those two small children, and it was really for their benefit that she was making her way across the frozen prairie now.
Emilie closed her eyes and wondered what the days ahead would bring. Would she be an adequate caregiver to the two small children? She had not been close to many children since her own young siblings had perished in the fire that had all but wiped out her family. What if she didn’t know how to properly care for these children, then what would her kind friend Martha think of her? And what did she know of farming in this barren county? Nothing, she admitted to herself truthfully. She wondered, not for the first time, if she was making the biggest mistake of her life in moving so far away from everything that had become familiar to her.
Her troubled thoughts drifted to her brother Wilhelm, and to the life they were to have had together, here in this new country. Oh how she missed him, never more than right at this moment as she made her way to a stranger and his family. Would Wilhelm have approved of her decision to live and work for a male stranger? Not likely, she mused silently. Wilhelm had been very absolute in his convictions of what was right and what was wrong. He would never have tolerated the idea of her living with an unmarried man, un-chaperoned, no matter where the place, much less in a community miles away from civilization.
How different her life was turning out, than what they had envisioned all those months ago, as they crossed the Atlantic Ocean from their home. Their hopes and dreams had been alive, bright with visions of prosperity and long, full, lives stretching endlessly ahead of them. Many times Wilhelm had teased her that she would probably fall in love and marry soon after their arrival, leaving him alone once again. He had seen her future filled with love, family, and a home of her own; but he had left her alone and all her dreams had died right along with him that fateful day in October. Now she was left to her own devices, and she feared she was not up to the task of making her way successfully on her own.
Well, Emilie thought as she startled with at the shouting conductor announcing that her destination had been reached, it was too late for second thoughts. She had already made her decision, and for Emilie, it was final.