Anne-Marie recovered from her illness without lasting side effects, and after the severe winter storms had passed, Emilie and Karl were to learn that many people in their community had contracted the same illness, and for the very young and the very old, in some cases it had been fatal.
With the storms passed and the roads once again passable, three of the Bell children living with Karl and Emilie were able to return to school for the first time since the loss of their home and their parent. Sue was happy to be retuning to school once again, as she missed being with the other girls her own age that attended her small county school. George balked loudly, and complained that he was too old to attend, especially since he already knew that he wanted to be a farmer like his Dad, and for that, one needn’t waste time getting an education. He reasoned he could read and write, and that was just about all the learning skills he needed to make it in this world. Charles Jr. despaired at having to return to school to the whispers and snickers of the other children. He knew he was stupid and would never learn the way the other children did, and so he plotted and planned the best ways to avoid attending classes.
Emilie missed the older children during the day, but at the same time was content to be able to spend the extra time with Karl’s small children and Richard. She coddled the children with stories and songs all the while tending to her many chores as housekeeper and surrogate mother. She sewed and mended clothes; cooked and cleaned; made butter, soap and candles; and spent hours trying to decide whether to stay on the farm with Karl and his family, or return to Germany, where her other family waited patiently for her return.
The long winter evenings were spent with most of the family gathered around the large kitchen table, the older children doing school work, and the younger children coloring and pretending to be just like their school-age friends. Karl took his place at the head of the table, and was there to help the children with their lessons, and to write his own correspondence to his sister, or to pour over the week-old newspapers, or tally his account books.
It was one such evening when Emilie surprised them all by joining the group at the table and asking Sue for a piece of paper and a pencil. The younger children, knowing that Emilie could not read or write English, snickered at the thought that Emilie was going to attempt to write a letter. They had forgotten that she was fully capable of writing in her own language, and so when she bowed her head over her paper and started to write, their faces became serious.
“Who are you writing to, Emilie? Raymond asked, ever curious and seldom afraid to voice his thoughts, unlike the other children.
“Raymond!” Karl scolded, “It is not polite to ask such a question!” he informed his son, even as he waited anxiously for Emilie to answer the question.
Emilie smiled tolerantly, “It’s okay for you to ask, Raymond. I am writing to my family in Germany,” she said and then returned to the letter she was carefully composing.
“Oh . . .” Raymond glanced at his father quickly, knowing that somehow his father would not like the sound of that statement. Just like he thought, Karl raised his eyes from the newspaper he had been reading and glanced across the table where Emilie sat. Raymond wasn’t sure, but he thought he had heard his Dadda and Emilie arguing about Germany. Becoming quickly bored with the adults in his life’s problems, he shrugged his shoulders and returned to the picture he was coloring.
Karl’s heart threatened to jump right out of his chest at Emilie’s words, and the fact that she refused to look at him, but kept her head bent over her page, made him feel sick to his stomach. Unable to stand her continued silence, he folded his paper hastily and pushed away from the table.
Emilie noticed Karl’s departure and wished to explain the contents of her letter, but knew that if she put off the writing of it, she might just change her mind completely.
Dear Uncle Helmuth and family,
How very nice it was to get your most welcome letter and the money for passage home to Germany.
So much as happened since I last wrote to you, that I must tell you about. First, I am no longer staying in the city with the Browns, but have secured employment on a farm in rural Manitoba. I am working as a housekeeper for Martha Brown’s brother and his family. Just after I started working here, a neighbor four miles away lost his home and wife in a tragic fire, and because the family had no place to go, my employer decided to open his home to some of the children, so you see, Uncle, I am very much needed here. There are now five children to cook and clean for, and my days are very much filled with good deeds to this family.
Conditions here are not as your farm in Germany, but I am learning more and more every day how to be a good farm woman. I am treated very well here, and for now wish to remain here where I can be of use to these good people.
I am happy, Uncle; I miss Wilhelm terribly, but this large family has helped heal the pain of loosing my dear brother.
I am sending the money back to you, and also sending my new address so you can send letters directly here. We only get mail once a week, but I shall look forward to receiving your letters and news of home.
Your Ever Loving Niece,