Emilie read the letter through one last time, and knew a moment of guilt for her blatant omission regarding Karl Wright’s lack of a wife. She knew her Uncle would insist she return home at once, if he knew that she was living with an unmarried man, but she also knew that she could no more leave this family, than she could cut off her own arm.
She folded her letter, and went in search of Karl. She found him lying on the sofa in the living room, with his arm carelessly covering his face and eyes.
“Karl?” Emilie approached quietly in case he slept.
He lowered his arm and turned his head in her direction.
“Could I have an envelope?” she watched him struggle to a sitting position and rub his eyes tiredly.
He didn’t answer immediately, but sat silently his eyes focused to the folded paper in her hands.
“Am I to know the contents of that letter, Emilie? Have you finally made your answer to your Uncle?”
“Yes . . .”
He waited as she chose the rocking chair and set her body heavily into it. “I wrote my Uncle that I will be staying on here; that is if you still want me to. . .”
Karl’s eyes lit with happiness for the first time since Christmas morning. “Of course I still want you to stay; you have known that from the start, Emilie!” he accused.
“But you have been so distant since before Anne-Marie’s illness, I thought perhaps you had changed your mind.”
Karl sighed deeply and rubbed his large hand across his face in weariness, “I’m sorry. I have been so worried about everything, that I guess I just became distant from you and the children. The thing is, I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to provide for everyone for the rest of the year. There is very little money for seed for crops, and without the crops we cannot live. Sometimes I think you would have a better future if you went back to Germany,” his warm gazed rested on her troubled expression, “But I do not want you to go.”
Emilie saw the pain of indecision cross Karl’s expression, and once again felt a kinship with her employer. She berated herself for giving his mood swings no more thought than how her own personal feelings were being affected. She had been behaving very selfishly, she could see that now, and starting this very minute, that would all have to change.
Karl’s voice broke into her thoughts, “There is one way that I can think of to make some money, but I’m guessing that you won’t like it, Emilie.”
Dread filled her heart. “What’s that, Karl?”
“I could go back up to the mountains and cut and haul wood for the winter. When I was there, the foreman of the mill was looking for help, and told me that anytime I wanted, I could work for him.”
Emilie’s face fell.
“I know you didn’t want me to go the last time, but I think you could handle things a lot better now. And George is here, he’s as good a worker as any man I know, and Frederich would help too . . .”
“For how long Karl?” Emilie could barely speak; her heart was pounding in her chest so rapidly.
“I would be gone till spring.”
Emilie rose from her chair, and stood uncertainly in front of Karl. She watched his face for a moment and knew that he had already made up his mind to go, and had only be waiting for her decision to stay, before committing himself completely to the idea. She also knew that she would do whatever it took to make his leaving easy on the small people who depended on him for their survival. She smiled sadly and nodded her head in understanding.
“When will you leave?” she asked quietly, now resigned to the fact that she would spend the rest of the winter with five children who would look to her for comfort and instruction.
“The sooner, the better . . . maybe the day after tomorrow . . .”
“We’d better tell the children then,” Emilie turned to go back into the kitchen where the children were starting to become loud and boisterous. It was evident by the sounds coming from around the table that all work had ceased, and play had begun.
“Emilie, wait!” Karl called her back into the room. He took a few steps until he stood beside her, and stopped. He reached his hand across the space separating them, and gently brushed her cheek. “I will miss you . . .”
She closed her eyes as he gently caressed her face, so he could not see the tears that were gathering there. She turned her face gently into his open palm and sighed deeply. She was just about to tell him that she would miss him too, when a small voice spoke from directly behind where they stood.
“Dadda, I’m all finished my picture. Here, Look!”
Karl dropped his hand and walked around Emilie, and bent to see the picture his son had drawn for him. “That’s a very nice picture, Raymond. Could I keep it all to myself?” he asked as he inspected the childish drawing of a barn and a horse.
“Yes please, Dadda,” Raymond’s little chest expanded with pride. He turned to Emilie and smiled brightly. “Tomorrow I will draw one just for you, Emilie!” his little voice promised proudly.
Emilie turned her now composed self to the little boy. “I would love that very much, Raymond,” She bent to scoop the child in a generous hug. She clung to his small body as if it was a lifeline until his persistent wiggling begged her to release him entirely.
Karl took his son’s hand and led him into the kitchen, and left Emilie to follow along behind. Without glancing her way he told the children to settle down and then informed them that within a few days he would be gone. A collective silence permeated the room as the children one by one absorbed his message.
“I am going to be counting on all of you to help Emilie in whatever she tells you to do. George, you are going to be in charge of the livestock and also you are to help Emilie with the smaller children – you too Sue,” he instructed gently. “Hopefully we will all be so busy that before we know it, spring will be here!”