Chapter 4: The Storm

The next few months passed by quickly for Emily.  Sister Ricks had agreed to help her with her father’s scarf in exchange for Emily’s help with other sewing projects.  Emily spent every spare moment working on the secret present, impatient to see the look on her father’s face Christmas morning when he saw the special gift.  

“Don’t forget your homework,” mother reminded her as Emily got ready for school one cold December morning.  

“I have it, ma,” she assured her, placing her slate inside her lunch bucket.  “You are still coming with me to Sister Ricks’ home after school today, aren’t you?”

“Yes, dear.  I am,” her mother said, while she helped Faith put on her coat.  She tried to pull the sleeves down far enough to cover Faith’s arms, but the coat was just too small.  

“I’m sorry, Faith.  This will just have to do for right now.  We have to wait till next year before I can get the material to make you a new coat,” mother apologized.

“That’s all right, ma.  This is warm enough for me,” Faith assured her, struggling to button up the tight coat.

“How about a blanket?  You would need to be careful with it, though.  You know we only have three left after the move,” mother suggested, walking towards the bedroom where the family shared three small beds.  

“I’m fine, ma.  Really, I am,” Faith said, picking up her lunch bucket and walking towards the door.  Her mother turned and looked at her with an apologetic glance.  

“She can wear mine, and I can use the blanket,” Emily offered, beginning to take off her coat.  Her mother stopped her.

“We may do that soon, but for today both of you use your own coats.  I’ll talk to your father about maybe getting some material after Christmas,” her mother said, opening the door.  The cold December wind immediately filled the cabin.  Emily took her younger sister’s hand and led her out into the yard.

“I’ll meet you at Sister Ricks’ house, Emily.  Oh, and when you see James at school, remind him that he needs to bring Faith home today,” mother said, leaning on the doorway as her daughters walked towards the little schoolhouse close by.  Emily nodded and waved good-bye.  The walk wasn’t too long, but it was cold outside and she wanted to hurry to the tiny cabin  they held school in. 

James was waiting for them inside the door as they came into the cabin.  He usually came early to help bring in the wood for the stove.  Their teacher, Miss Rebma, was a nice young lady who had only recently joined the Church and come to the United States from Europe.  Emily could never could remember where exactly she was from, but everyone liked her accent and her appreciation for her new country.  

“Is Adam here?” Emily asked James, as soon as she got her coat off.

“No, and I don’t think he’s coming.  I think he’s helping his father fix their roof and barn all this week,” James answered.  “Why do you care anyway?  Ever since you completely ignored him at his own birthday party, he hasn’t wanted to talk to you.”

“I keep telling you that I didn’t ignore him,” Emily defended, placing her hands on her hips and gritting her teeth.  James had been teasing her about that night way too long, and she was losing her patience with him.  “I was just trying to be a polite lady, and polite ladies don’t make a lot of noise is all.”

“Sure,” James mocked.  He walked away from her toward his seat when Miss Rebma came in.  Soon the room was full of children of all ages and in various levels of coats and blankets.  The stove in the room gave heat but not enough to fight off the bitter wind blowing through the tiny cracks in the log walls.

The day went slowly for Emily, because all she could think about was what was going to happen later that afternoon.  She anxiously waited for the moment when Miss Rebma excused them, and she would be able to meet her mother at Sister Ricks’ home.  She was so lost in thought, in fact, that when they really were excused, Faith had to nudge her and tell her it was time to go.

“Take Faith home,” Emily reminded James as she quickly picked up her things and dashed out the door.

“What’s going on with Emily?” Faith asked, watching Emily run down the path outside.
James shrugged.

“Maybe it has something to do with Adam.  She’s been acting strange since his party,” he guessed, putting on his scarf.  “Whatever it is, I just hope it’s over with soon.”
Emily ran up to the door of Sister Ricks’ home and knocked loudly.  Soon the door opened, and she saw her mother standing there.  Albert was hiding behind his mother’s skirts, and Sister Ricks was sitting at the table behind them.

“Come in child,” Sister Ricks called to her.  Emily stepped in and looked up at her mother with an excited face.

“Has she shown it to you yet?” Emily asked, hoping that the answer would be no.  She wanted to be the one to show the completed scarf to her mother for the first time.
“Sister Ricks thought you would probably like to do that yourself,” her mother answered, sitting down at the table.  

Emily looked at Sister Ricks for permission, and when she nodded, Emily was off to the bedroom to get the scarf.

“Thank you so much for doing this for her, Mabel,” mother said while giving  Albert a small toy to play with.

“She’s a sweet girl, Ruth.  It has been nice to have a child in the home again.  With Thomas always away at work or the temple, I have felt rather lonely here in this little house.  Emily has brightened these few months for me, and this tradition your family has with the scarf is a wonderful idea,” Sister Ricks said, putting down the sewing project she was working on to pat mother's hand.  “I’m sure your husband will be pleased with how it turned out.  Emily worked very hard to get it just right.”

Just then Emily came out of the other room with something behind her back.
“Close your eyes, ma,” she said proudly.  Her mother closed her eyes and smiled at her daughter’s excitement.

“Here it is!” Emily happily announced, holding the scarf out from end to end for her mother to see.  Mother opened her eyes and quickly got up from her chair to get a closer look.  She gently ran her fingers across the knitted designs.

“Oh, it’s beautiful, sweetheart,” she said softly.  

“I made the scarf dark blue to remind pa of the night sky,” Emily explained.  Against the dark blue color of the yarn were white, little snowflakes knitted into the design.

“You did an excellent job, sweetheart,” Emily’s mother said, giving her daughter a hug.
“I can’t wait to give it to him Christmas morning,” Emily said excitedly.  She carefully folded the scarf and gently smoothed out the edges. 

“It will definitely be a Christmas he won’t soon forget,” mother agreed, putting on her coat.   

Sister Ricks stood and picked up an extra piece of cloth from her sewing project.  She helped Emily wrap it around the scarf to keep it dry and hidden from her father’s eyes.

“Thank you so very much, Mabel,” mother said, lovingly squeezing Sister Ricks’ hand.  “You have been an angel to help her do this.”

“My pleasure,” she replied, patting Emily on the back.  Emily gave her a big hug as a thank you.  
Emily put on her coat and picked up the scarf in its little covering.  Mother pulled at the door handle, and the door opened with a giant woosh of wind.  In fact, the door opened so quickly and with so much force behind it, mother couldn’t hold on to it, and it banged up against the inner wall of Sister Ricks’ little home.

“Oh, my,” Sister Ricks’ exclaimed, pulling her shawl tighter around her as she struggled to keep her sewing pieces from flying around the room.  Mother quickly pushed the door closed again.

“I do believe a storm is coming,” mother said, laughing slightly at the sudden burst of wind and the commotion it had caused in the little cabin.  

“You better get along home before it snows,” Sister Ricks advised, picking up the last piece of cloth from the floor.

Mother agreed.  She picked up Albert and wrapped her own coat as much around the now sleeping boy as she could.  She then took Emily’s hand and once again opened the door but this time only enough for them to squeeze through.  Emily turned and waved good bye to Sister Ricks and then followed after her mother.  As they stepped out into the wind, both of them had to hold onto their bonnets to keep them from flying off their heads.

“We need to hurry, Emily.  This is going to be a bad one,” mother yelled over the howling, piercing wind.  Tiny sticks and specks of dirt began pelting Emily’s face as she tried to pull her bonnet tightly around her.  With her free hand, she quickly hugged her gift tight to her so that she wouldn’t lose it in the storm.  Her mother held on to her arm and pulled her through the almost blinding whirlwind of dirt, grass, and twigs that lay in their path towards home.  She placed her head in front of Albert as much as she could to block the wind from him.

“Hold on!” Mother yelled as she clung to her daughter.  The storm was coming so fast and furious that both of them realized they were going to be in a lot of trouble if they couldn’t reach home soon.  Emily narrowed her eyes against the wind and debris and tried to focus on the path in front of her.  Soon her heart sank slightly as she realized that among the dirt and other flying objects, more than a few snowflakes began to dance in the swirling wind.   She bowed her head and pushed on after her mother, feeling reassured by her mother’s hand gripping her arm and leading her onward.  

The walk home from Sister Ricks’ home was usually something Emily could do without even thinking about the distance, but today the way home seemed eternally long.   She clung even tighter to her precious present for her father.  She had worked too hard and too long on it for it to be lost in a terrible snowstorm.  

“We’re almost there,” Emily heard her mother’s voice above the howling and whistling sounds of the wind.  Emily looked up and tried to see their home in the distance.  All she could see, however, was that the snow had become thicker and that it seemed to be forming a white sheet in front of them.  Emily felt the whirling flakes stinging her cheeks and eyelids.  Her thin coat was no match for the wind, which seemed to pierce her to the bones.  

“My legs are hurting, ma!” Emily shouted up towards the dark figure next to her.  Emily’s woolen socks felt as if tiny holes had been punctured in them and each burst of wind and snow cut into her legs with a fierceness Emily had never felt before.  

“Hold on, Emily.  We’re almost there,” mother repeated.  She looked down at her daughter and pulled her closer to her long skirts.  “Stand a little behind me so I can block some of the wind.”
Emily moved behind her mother’s long skirts, which seemed to come alive in the wind, whipping and floating up against Emily’s body.  She buried her head into her mother’s coat as much as possible and held on to the back of it for security.  So positioned, mother kept walking through the storm and towards the safety of their little home.   

Several minutes passed as they continued to walk as fast as they could, and the storm grew in strength and snow.  Emily’s footsteps started to crunch and crackle as snow piled up on the ground beneath them.  

“Please, Heavenly Father,” Emily began to pray under her breath.  “Help us be all right.  And help Pa to be all right, too.”   

Just as she finished her prayer, she heard a voice coming from in front of them. She peeked around her mother and saw a figure running towards them through the storm.  Mother quickened her pace, and Emily was forced to run behind her, still holding onto to her mother’s skirt to keep up.  

“Ma! Hurry!” James’ voice came ringing through the wind.  Soon Emily could see him and then she felt wrapped up in something nice and warm as James grabbed her and hurried her along the path.  After another couple of minutes, she could see the shape of their cabin and barn looming big in front of her and, then in what seemed like a volley of wind and snow, she was swept inside their home.

“Wow!” Faith cried, looking at her mother, James, Albert, and Emily standing and shivering next to the door.  “You look like snowmen!”

“That was the fastest moving blizzard I think I’ve ever seen,” mother declared in amazement, looking down at herself covered in snow. She quickly dusted Albert off and placed him in front of the fire to warm up.  She then shook her skirts and quickly took off her dripping coat and hung it near the fire.  Once there, she rubbed her hands and arms and tried to soak in as much of the fire’s heat as possible.  She motioned for Emily to join her.

James helped Emily out of the blanket he had wrapped her in outside.  She then took off her coat and bonnet, but before she joined her mother near the fireplace, she ran into the bedroom and unwrapped the scarf to see if it was all right.

“Emily,” James called after her, annoyed that she wasn’t trying to get warmed up.

“Leave her be, James.  It’s a surprise,” his mother said, now standing with her back to the fire and shivering slightly as her body warmed up.

“A surprise? For me?” Faith excitedly asked, going towards the bedroom.  Her mother quickly stopped her and gave her a stern look.

“Leave her be,” she repeated.

Emily examined the scarf and found that even though the cloth wrap had done a very good job at protecting her little treasure, it was still moist.  She stretched it out between her bedposts and hoped that the wind coming through the cracks in the walls would air it out quickly.  She then joined her mother in front of the fire and warmed up her very cold, sore legs.

“Where is your father?” asked mother, looking around in concern at the somewhat empty cabin.

“Pa is outside somewhere.  He was going to go make sure the barn was secure.  I was heading to help him when I saw you and Emily coming over the hill.”

“I’m glad you did,” mother said gratefully, putting her coat back on.

“Where are you going now, ma?” asked Faith.

“I’m going to make sure your father is all right.  You three stay put and make sure your little brother is warm enough,” mother answered, opening the door and pushing her way back into the storm.

“What’s the surprise, Emily?” Faith asked, pulling at Emily’s sleeve.  Emily pushed her sister’s hand away from her.

“It’s not for you,” Emily said, knowing that would end her sister’s curiosity.

James was kneeling in front of the fire, adding some kindling and making sure Albert and his blanket were safe from any stray sparks when the door burst open and in ran his parents.

“Glory be to snowmen!” father thundered as he stomped inside, shaking snow off of his hat and spreading it around the cabin in a flurry.

“Jonathan!” mother exclaimed, as everyone screamed from being sprayed with the flying snow.  Father only laughed and started taking off his very worn out coat.  Mother sighed and did the same while looking at the mess her husband had made.

“Is Albert all right?” she asked James, noticing her youngest boy on the floor.  

“Just fine.  Sleeping like a baby,” James answered, looking at his little brother.

“Shouldn’t he be off the floor?” father asked, suddenly sounding very concerned.

“He’s warmer by the fire than in the other room,” James explained, defending his decision to leave Albert where he was.  Mother nodded her agreement.

“Is it going to snow all night, Pa?” Faith asked her father. 

“I think so, little lady,” he answered, starting to walk into the bedroom.

“Wait!” Emily called after him, running to get in his way.  She had just remembered that his scarf was out where he could possibly see it, and she wanted to hide it before he went in there.

Father stopped and Emily dashed over to where the scarf was drying out.  She checked it and then put it under her pillow for safe keeping.

“Can I go in now?” father asked her as she came back out near the fire.  Emily nodded, and her father disappeared inside.  Mother smiled at her as Emily sighed in relief that her secret was still safe.

The family was sitting around the dinner table eating some warm stew and trying to stay away from the whistling walls when James thought he heard something outside.

“Are you sure?” asked father, as he stood up and walked to the door.

“It sounded like horses,” James said.

Father put on his coat to go outside for a look when everyone heard a very loud knock at the door.  Mother quickly stood in front of a now awake and hungry Albert to block him from the wind and then motioned to father that it was all right to open the door.

Father slowly opened it, trying to let in as little of the howling wind and snow as possible.  Soon a snow covered figure slipped quickly through the opening and stood in their little cabin.

“Hello, brother,” he said, nodding his snow filled hat towards father.  His teeth were chattering and he rocked back and forth as he rubbed his arms and hands for warmth.

“Good gracious, what are you doing out in the storm?” asked mother, moving the cold man towards the fire.  He gratefully hovered over the warm flame for only a second and then turned back towards father.

“I stopped by because yours was the only house we’ve been able to see for quite a while.  We are in a great hurry to get to Nauvoo, but one of our party is very cold with no coat or hat and needs something--anything, to use to warm himself.  The rest of us have little or nothing as it is and have nothing to give him,” the strange man quickly explained in an anxious and concerned voice.  He looked at mother and then back at father.  “Please, I know it is a lot to ask, but he really needs something.”

“Why don’t you all come inside and wait for the storm to end?” invited mother, feeling sorry for the men.

“I agree. No matter what we give you, it won’t be enough to keep you warm out there all the way to Nauvoo,” father added.

“I appreciate your kindness,” the man replied, nodding in respect towards mother. “ But for our safety as well as your own, we must get to Nauvoo.  It will be safe for us there.”

Father and mother looked at each other.  They knew the signs of men on the run from a mob when they saw them.  Mother quickly went into the bedroom and began looking around for something to give them.

“Emily!” she called.  Emily went into the bedroom and found her mother folding up the blanket from James and Albert’s bed.    They could hear father and the man still talking in the other room.

“That’s James’ blanket,” Emily pointed out.  She knew that with that one gone, there would only be two full size quilts left in the home.  She knew from experience in Missouri that they needed more than that for their little family to stay warm.

“We must hurry, sweetheart,” mother said, ignoring Emily’s protest.  She leaned down to Emily and looked her in the face.  “I can either give them this blanket or we could think of something else.”

“Like what?” asked Emily, looking around the mostly bare room.

“I could give him my shawl,” mother answered, lifting it out of her trunk near her bed.  “But he would need a little more to really be warm.”

Emily looked at her mother in confusion.  What else could there be? Everyone had so little to help them keep warm.  Her mother only stared at her with a mixture of sadness and encouragement in her expression.  Suddenly, Emily thought of something.

“No,” she said firmly, realizing that her mother was thinking of her scarf.

“Emily, they need our help,” mother answered.  Father walked into the room.

“You need to hurry, Ruth.  They’ve got to go before the mob finds them,” he said anxiously.

“We don’t even know who they are,” Emily protested, not wanting to give in to her mother's wish.

“They’re missionaries who have been north of here preaching.  A group of men became angry with them and have been chasing them for miles, shooting at them whenever they had the chance.  If they can get to Nauvoo, the city can protect them,” father explained.

“They’ll never find them in the storm,” Emily said, trying to think of something, anything that would make this situation go away.

“Do you want to take that chance?” mother gently chided her.

Emily closed her eyes and tightened her fists for just a moment.  Then, muttering under her breath, she quickly went to her pillow and took out the scarf.

“What is that?” father asked, looking at his would-be present.

“I’ll explain later,” mother answered, taking the scarf from Emily’s stretched out hand.  She took that along with her shawl to the man standing anxiously at the door.

“Will this be enough?” she asked, handing him what she had.  

“Yes, thank you,” he answered, gratefully taking her offering.  “Thank you all.” 

So saying, the strange man disappeared into the storm outside.  Emily turned back into the dark bedroom and sat silently on her bed.  She stared into the darkness and tried to hold back the tears that were forming in her eyes.