The Making of Marty
by Elsie Talmage Brandley
Chapter 9 – Marty Keeps a Promise
The weeks passed by so swiftly that it was the middle of September before anyone realized that the summer had gone. The children of Springdale were making the most of the last two weeks of their vacation, for school would begin on the fist of October and then they knew their play hours would be few. They went climbing in the hills and hunting for service berries and choke cherries down by the river and they did not mind at all if they found only a handful, for they had so much fun just going on the trips.
The Conway family had all gone camping for a week. It was rather late for such an outing, but the work of the summer had kept them all so busy that this was the first real chance they had had to go away for a littler est. When they were making their plans they had fully expected to take Marty with them, and she had wanted to go, too. This was the first time in her life that a summer had been put in at work instead of play, and the little girl found it very tiresome at times. She longed for a real rest, with her time to do with as she pleased, and once or twice she had felt that she could not bear the tedious days much longer. The outdoors was so beautiful, and called to her to come out and play among the fallen leaves and autumn flowers. The Sandstrom children loved Marty so dearly that they hated to let her out of their sight. They followed her about her work the whole morning long, and her afternoons were always spent in taking care of them and telling stories to them. It was very hard to refuse to go with Aunt Nanna and the girls on their camping trip. Perhaps she would not have had enough courage to see them go away without her if it had not been for a visit she had made two or three days before they left.
Mrs. Sandstrom was teaching Marty to cook, and for supper one night they had made a delicious rice-custard pudding. Everyone enjoyed it very much indeed, and after the meal was over Mrs. Sandstrom asked Marty if she would like to take a nice dish of it over to Jessie Sayre and her family. Marty was delighted to do it, and almost danced along the few blocks she had to go.
Her knock was answered by Jessie, whose face lighted up at the sight of her friend.
“Come in, Marty, and see how well Tommy looks. He is sitting up and eating now, and he seems almost better.”
Marty followed Jessie into the living room, where she could hardly believe the sight that met her eyes. The room was full of flowers, asters and golden-rod making it look like a garden. Everything was as clean as a pin, and Tommy and his mother had such happy faces that they looked better than she had ever seen them. Tommy was pale, but his eyes twinkled with the joy of returning strength, and the way in which he ate his boiled egg showed that there was nothing wrong with his appetite. At the sight of the mound of tempting pudding, his smile became broader than ever.
“I could eat every bit of that,” he announced frankly. “But I won’t, ‘cause mama likes it too, and so does Jess.”
Jessie beamed fondly upon the little brother.
Here Mrs. Sayre broke in.
“The doctor says that he isn’t at all sure that Tommy got the fever by drinking that well water. There have been two or three cases in town, you know, and a family on the next block has had it, and didn’t report it for ever so long. We used to get milk from them sometimes, so it’s more than possible that Tommy took the fever from the milk. Don’t worry any more, dear, for the chances are that it wasn’t your fault at all.”
Marty’s whole being was flooded with relief. The fear that Tommy might never get well, and it would be her fault had haunted the girl all through the weeks of his illness. And now to learn that only a part of the responsibility was hers almost overcame her.
She stayed a while longer, and every moment was more and more impressed by the love and harmony which dwelt in that humble little home.
“Our home was never so sweet and peaceful,” she thought to herself. “There was always a cross word or a pout to spoil it – and that was my fault, too. A little girl can make a whole family either happy or unhappy, and I always made mine unhappy.”
It was not a pleasant thought, but it was quickly followed by another one.
“From the minute I get home, it will be a different story! If Jessie can bring so much gladness to her mother, I can too, and I’m going to do it.”
It was the next day that Claire and Dora came racing down with the news of their camping trip.
“It is going to be just heaps of fun!” exclaimed Dora. “We go every year, and have the best time.”
“We cook things over an open fire and sleep in beds up on the wagon,” chimed in Claire.
“But I can’t go, girls,” answered Marty, who hoped with all her heart that something would happen to make it possible for her to go with her cousins.
“Of course you can go. Mother says you need a rest. You’ve worked hard all summer.”
“Mrs. Sandstrom needs someone to help her, and if I leave her, Jessie would think she had to come back. They aren’t ready to get along without her at home yet, so I must stay.” Marty was greatly disappointed, but the picture she carried in her mind of the Sayre family helped her bear it.
“I’m going home and get mama to come right down and talk to you. It’s so silly for you to act this way when you’ve spent weeks and weeks helping Jessie Sayre out,” and Claire started off toward home. Dora followed her, and Marty left alone, began to cry.
In a few minutes Grace and Buddy came out and wanted to go for a walk. Marty dried her eyes, and taking one of each of their hands, started out. The afternoon was beautiful, so they stayed outdoors for hours, and gathered sun-flowers and golden-rod to take home. Then they turned slowly around and strolled back.
“Let’s go in the back door, so we won’t drop flowers all over the house,” Marty suggested, and they did as she said.
“Let’s not make a sound until we get in the kitchen, and then have a flower surprise on mother,” Grace whispered, so all of them walked on tiptoe without any noise.
Mrs. Sandstrom was not in the kitchen so still quietly they proceeded toward the next room, where they heard her voice speaking to somebody. Marty could not help hearing what was said, and as she heard, her cheeks grew rosy with pleasure.
“It is hard of her to give up the trip, but Marty has promised to stay until Jessie can come back, and I’ve noticed that Marty always keeps a promise.”
Stepping back, Marty pushed the two little ones ahead of her into the room. When she finally went in, she found her Aunt Nanna talking to Mrs. Sandstrom, and she knew that they had been discussing the outing.
“The girls wanted me to come down to coax you to go with us, Marty,” her aunt said. “But I don’t want to coax you. I want you to do the thing you feel is right, dear.”
“Then I’ll stay, Aunt Nanna. I’d dearly love to go with you, but I know that Jessie is still needed at home, and still needs the money I earn here. So go along without me, and have a good time.”
After the Conway cousins had gone, Marty thought about them every day, and wondered what they were doing. She did not regret staying behind for in the back of her brain she could always hear the words, “I’ve noticed that Marty always keeps a promise.”
The days went by fast, and Marty began to look for the return of the cousins. One day near the last of September it looked stormy, and she hoped they would get home before the rain came. A ring of the telephone sent her flying, for she expected to hear Claire’s voice or Dora’s at the other end. Instead, it was a strange lady, asking for Mrs. Sanderson.
“She is out for about an hour. Will you ‘phone later?” answered Marty.
“No, I can just as well give you the message. Mrs. Sandstrom wanted some tomatoes, so my husband is bringing two bushels in from the farm for her. It feels like storm, so tell her that he will put them on the lawn in front of the Daniels place, at the crossroads. They are the very last of the tomatoes so be sure to tell her to get them before it storms. Can you remember that?”
“Yes, I can remember. I’ll see that she gets them, sure.”
Five minutes later there was another ring of the telephone bell. this time it was Claire, and she was so excited she could hardly talk.
“Come on up and stay all night, Marty. We have loads to tell you about the trip. Daddy saw a real live bear, and Dora and I each caught a fish. Can you come right now?”
“Mrs. Sandstrom will be home in about an hour, and then I’ll come tearing. I’m here alone with the kiddies. You come down and wait here until their mother gets back.”
“All right,” and Claire hung up the receiver.
When she came, the two talked so fast that they could hardly believe an hour had passed when Mrs. Sandstrom walked in. At sight of the visitor Mrs. Sandstrom smiled and said kindly, “I’m sure Marty is aching to see the rest of the family, so run along, dear. I’ll get along nicely for the rest of the day.”
“Thank you so much. I am anxious to see them all, and I’ll be back in the morning.”
There was a great deal to hear about from Aunt Nanna and the children. It seemed like a glorious home-coming, and Marty began to realize how very lonesome she had been. Supper tasted better than any meal she had ever eaten, and afterwards the dishes vanished as if by magic under the busy hands of the three, with Teddy helping to clear the table.
They were all tired after their long day of travel, so went to bed early. Marty was sleeping with Dora, and both were falling into a pleasant doze when a distant rumbling made Marty sit up in bed. It was thundering, and would soon begin to rain, and Marty remembered that not once had she thought of Mrs. Sandstrom’s tomatoes.
“I’ve noticed that Marty always keeps a promise.”
Mrs. Sandstrom had said that about her, and here she had forgotten all about a promise she had made. Well, it was not too late yet.
“Dora, Dora, wake up!”
“What’s the matter, Marty? Are you sick or something?”
“No, I’m not sick. Listen, Dora. Where is the Daniels place, at the crossroads?” Marty whispered.
Dora sat up in bed, too.
“Are you crazy, Marty Lane? What do you want to know about the Daniels place for, in the middle of the night?” Dora was plainly worried.
“I’m not crazy, and it isn’t a minute after ten o’clock. I want to know where the Daniels place is because I forgot to tell Mrs. Sandstrom to send down there for some tomatoes, and they’ll be ruined if this rain pelts down on them. I have to take Teddy’s wagon and go after them.”
“You are the oddest girl I ever knew, Marty, but if you are sure you have to go, of course I’ll go, too.”
“Oh, Dora, would you? I was frightened stiff at the idea of going alone, but I have to go.”
The girls dressed silently, and crept out into the night without waking a soul. They carried Ted’s creaky wagon for part of a block, and then put it down and ran as fast as they could, with the wagon clattering along behind them. it was almost a mile to the cross-roads, but they got there before the rain came, and found the two baskets of tomatoes in perfect condition.
“I’m glad I brought a quilt,” said Marty, as a rain drop hit her.”We’ll have to fly like three mad dogs and a dragon were chasing us.”
“It’s hail, and the hailstones are as big as eggs,” was Dora’s answer as they set out for home. “the quilt is all that will save them.”
It did hail violently, but the girls found their way home without any difficulty. Lightning flashed across their path, and the thunder claps nearly deafened them as the hailstones beat upon their hastening forms.
Finally they reached home once more, and fell into bed, battered and exhausted. they laughed until the bed shook, for it seemed such a crazy journey, now it was over. Before long they fell into a deep sleep, and slept until the sun woke them, and Marty jumped up quickly.
As she went down the street to Mrs. Sandstrom’s, a wagon full of tomatoes went along with her, and within her heart, something sang over and over again, “Marty always keeps a promise.”