From the Children’s Friend, January 1945 –
“… And Let Who Will Be Clever”
By Mabel Harmer
“‘Miss Jinny Carlisle will please come forward and receive this medal for her heroic work in rescuing a baby from a burning building. My, what lovely golden curls you have, Jinny. it is wonderful to be both brave and beautiful –’ Oh, I forgot that it is my turn to do the dishes,” and Miss Jinny Carlisle slipped an imaginary medal into the top dresser drawer, tossed her brown pigtails over her shoulders and dashed downstairs to wash the luncheon dishes.
As she poured a generous supply of soap powder into the dishpan, in order to work up a beautiful, foamy lather, she wondered in a vaguely vexed sort of way why it was that people in other places had all the exciting things to do. Last evening, for instance, when they were calling at the Lamberts’, where Don and Ruth were visiting for the Christmas vacation, the visitors talked so casually about sailing a boat on the San Francisco bay that Jinny had almost fallen from her chair. She simply couldn’t imagine anyone being casual about sailing on a real ocean.
Whoever wrote “Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever,” had never been an eleven-year-old girl, she decided. The poet really should have said, “Be good, sweet maid, and likewise clever and very brave if you ever expect anyone to notice you. And being beautiful will never be held against you.”
If only Mother would let me have a permanent wave, she thought, dousing the water glasses about in the soapy water. They say that nearly every little girl in the city has them. Or, if only I didn’t have freckles on my nose. I wonder if Myrna Loy really does have freckles. She can’t have as many as I or they would show in her pictures.
Her thoughts were interrupted by her mother who called from the other room. “Hurry with the dishes, dear. Mrs. Lambert just phoned that Don and Ruth are coming over to go sledding with you.”
“Oh, goody!” Jinny answered. “I’ll be through in a jiffy,” and the relative number of hers and Myrna Loy’s freckles were cast aside for the more exciting business at hand.
She had just put away the last of her pans when the two children arrived, glowing from the effects of the cold air, in spite of being completely dressed in snow suits.
“We’re so glad that you’ll take us coasting,” Ruth said. “We can’t hope to learn skiing in the few days we are here but we don’t want to miss a single chance to romp in the snow.”
“I should say not,” Jinny answered, delighted that they found something attractive and different in her Idaho ranch land. “There’s a dandy slope at Pine Hill, just a mile from here.”
In just a few minutes she had put on her own wraps and gloves and brought her sled around from the back porch. “Don’t stay too long,” said her mother in parting. “Remember that the sun goes down early these days and that it gets very cold soon after. Mrs. Lambert said that Ruth and Don might come back here for supper, too.”
“We’ll be back early then,” Don promised. “I haven’t been late to a meal since we came here. This mountain air does strange things to my appetite.”
“Which was something to marvel at in the first place,” Ruth added as they went out.
They reached the hill in a glow of anticipation and rode down the white stretch time and time again. Each trip seemed more thrilling than the one before. Once, when they reached the bottom, Jinny pointed to a small shack some distance up the hill and said, “I’d like you to see that some day. It’s old Daniel’s cabin, and right back of it is his mine.”
“Is it a real mine?” Don asked.
“Sure it’s a real mine. Old Daniel works there all the time and he says it’s a good mine.”
“Let’s go up there,” Don suggested eagerly. “I’ve never seen a real mine. Maybe he would take us inside.”
“It’s quite a walk,” warned Jinny. “It’s really much further up than it looks from here and the trail winds way around the mountain side.”
“So what?” Ruth demanded. “We aren’t tenderfeet, you know. We’ve been around, even if it hasn’t been on mountains.”
“I know that,” Jinny answered, still hesitating but half eager to be able to show the children from California a new thrill. “I honestly think we shouldn’t go today. We’ll get plenty tired before we ever reach that cabin.”
“Well, if that’s all,” said Don with a shrug, “let’s get going. Come on, I’ll break the trail.”
Without saying more he started out, and after a second or two Jinny pushed the sleds to one side of the road and followed after Ruth who was close behind her brother. There really seemed to be nothing else to do.
The path went up and down around the side of the mountain and she noticed that after an hour’s climbing and pushing through the snow, Ruth and Don weren’t quite so gay about the adventure as when they had started out. She was rather sure that they were wishing they had taken a shorter climb for their first attempt.
When they finally reached the cabin they were breathless from the climb and chilled from the wind which had risen steadily during the past half hour. “It’s getting rather late,” Jinny said, as they knocked on the door. “We’ll only be able to stay long enough to get warm and have a tiny look at the mine or it will be dark before we get home.”
She knocked several times and then, receiving no answer, opened the door and walked inside, followed by the others. The cabin was empty and cold and looked as cheerless as anything they could imagine.
The bed, over in one corner, was neatly made, and everything else was clean and very orderly. There wasn’t even a dish on the table. There was no fire in the small stove but the wood box was well filled in readiness for the long winter evenings. Jinny felt that she would have welcomed a few signs of disorder; it would look more as if someone were living there.
At last she said, breaking an uncomfortable silence, “Well, there doesn’t seem to be anyone here, does there?”
“Maybe he’s just out to the mine,” Ruth suggested hopefully.
“Sure,” said Don, in a relieved tone of voice. “I’ll bet that’s it. I’ll bet he’s just out there working in his mine.”
“I don’t think so,” Jinny answered, gazing about. “The place looks as if he hadn’t been here for some time. I imagine there’d be a fire in the stove if he was just out in the mine. I’m awfully cold. I guess we’ll have to make one and get warmed up before we start back.”
They found matches and wood, and before long had a brisk fire blazing in the small black stove. Don didn’t mention going out to the mine and Jinny rather imagined that, like herself, he was thinking that the sooner they were on their way home the better it would be for all concerned.
“I’m hungry,” said Ruth, when the first chill had been taken off. “Do you suppose we could find something to eat here?”
“I’ll look,” Jinny answered, “but I doubt if there’ll be anything very fancy here and I’m not sure that we ought to help ourselves to supplies without an invitation, anyway.”
“We can’t be fussy now,” Ruth insisted. “Try and find something and we’ll leave a note asking him to come to dinner.”
Jinny finally located some crackers and a can of beans which they fell to eating with gusto, even if it wasn’t very “fancy.”
Before they had quite finished eating, the room seemed suddenly to darken. Jinny, sure that it couldn’t be nightfall, hurried to the window and discovered with a sinking heart that the wind had risen, drifting the snow about, and that snowflakes were beginning to fall. She knew only too well that, before long, the shallow path would be entirely covered over.
Don and Ruth had joined her at the window by now and, although they knew very little about the dangers of a storm in the mountains, they could see enough to make them wish that they had not ventured beyond the foothills.
“Hadn’t we better be going?” Ruth suggested timidly.
“I’m afraid to go now,” Jinny answered hesitatingly. “We won’t be able to find the path and we might get lost in the mountains. I think that we’d better telephone to the folks so that they will know where we are and plan on staying all night. It will likely clear up by morning and we can find our way down even if the path is covered up.”
Ruth and Don brightened up immediately. “Sure, that will be swell,” said Don with relief in his voice. “I didn’t know there was a phone up here. This will be a real adventure to tell the boys about when I get home. Caught in a mountain storm and spending the night in a miner’s cabin. That’s something, isn’t it?”
“You can have your adventures,” said Ruth, “but I’m awfully glad that we don’t have to go out in this tonight.”
“So am I,” Jinny agreed, as she went over to the old fashioned wall telephone and picked up the receiver. She waited with growing anxiety for an answer and then worked the hook up and down vigorously. “It seems to be dead,” she gasped.”Oh, it just can’t be. We simply must get word down to Mother.”
It was no use. The telephone was as useless for sending a message as the stick of wood over by the stove, and she turned around to face the other two whose cheerfulness had been very brief.
Don gazed steadily at the falling snow for a few minutes and then he said, “I think that I’d better try to get down and let them know. You and Ruth can stay here until it clears and someone comes back to get you.”
“That’s brave of you, Don,” Jinny answered, “but you can’t possibly go. You wouldn’t have a chance in ten of finding your way down. It would be much more sensible for me to try it.” She turned from the window and her glance fell upon old Daniel’s skis, leaning against the wall. She stood still for a moment, thinking hard, and then she said, “That’s what I’ll do! I’ll go down on those skis.”
Oh, no!” cried Ruth. “Not in this storm. What if something should happen to you?”
“Nothing will happen,” said Jinny, with more conviction than she felt. “I’ve been doing Christianas on these hills ever since I was six years old. You had better plan on staying here all night, though, because the folks probably won’t try to come up before morning.”
“Couldn’t you wait for just a little while longer and see if the storm doesn’t let up some?” suggested Don with another worried look at the swirling snow outside the window.
“No. The folks will be terribly upset if we don’t come home by dark and they’ll go out to look for us – goodness knows where. We can’t have them wandering over the mountains all night.”
She put on her wraps and tried on the skis. They were longer than her own but that didn’t worry her much. Her chief concern was whether or not she could go down the mountain side in the storm without running into any trees or rocks. The mountain was fairly clear, as she remembered, but then she had never looked at it with a skiing trip in mind.
She said good-by briefly and started out. Even the dismal little cabin looked warm and cozy and very desirable as she turned her back on it and shut the door. She was greeted immediately by a gust of wind carrying swirling flakes that blew against her face making it wet and cold.
There was a small level space in front of the cabin and she walked over to its very edge before she put on the skis and pushed off. “Easy does it,” she said aloud. “It’s not a bad slope and I can see almost ten feet ahead.”
She began to be more at ease as she sped down the slope. This was no different from a hundred other skiing trips she had taken – except that she couldn’t see where she was going. Quite a difference if one wanted to admit it. She missed a pine by a few inches and a minute later she swung into a small ravine with a suddenness that upset her and sent her sprawling in the deep snow.
Tears came to her eyes as she picked herself up. She had been going so well and had been quite sure that she must be almost at the bottom and then this had to happen. One ski had come off in the spill and she reached out to pick it up again. Her hand touched nothing but the soft snow.
She reached out further still and when she could not find it, began going around in a small circle. There was still nothing to worry about, she told herself. The ski was right there, it couldn’t have flipped very far away and it surely couldn’t have gone down very deep into the snow. A few minutes more of searching, that seemed like so many hours, convinced her that one or the other of these misfortunes had happened.
Frantically she wondered whether she should keep on searching for the ski or try to go down the rest of the way without. Finally she decided in despair that she would have to push her way through the deep show as best she could and hope that it was not too far to the road. She threw down the remaining ski and struggled on.
It was strange how hateful and terrifying the snow had suddenly become – the beautiful snow that she had always loved so much. Now it seemed as if it was trying to drag her down and keep her from reaching safety. At times the drifts were almost waist deep and she could move forward only by inches. She grew so weary that she thought she would simply have to drop down and rest but some hidden inner strength kept her moving on. She knew that perhaps her very life depended upon her ability to keep moving.
Finally, when it seemed as if she couldn’t possibly go on any longer, the ground leveled out and her feet touched the hard, packed surface of the road. The blessed road that led to warmth and Mother.
Dusk was falling rapidly now and she knew that it would surely be dark before she reached home. She beat her hands against her sides to take out the numbness, but the cold had penetrated too deeply and at last she just hugged them to her sides and plodded on. Suddenly the stillness of the winter evening was broken by a sound that sent fresh terror to her heart. The long, low howl of a coyote came echoing over the barren field.
She quickened her steps and tried to shut out the sound. Coyotes weren’t really dangerous, she tried to assure herself. They were cowardly creatures and usually just as frightened of human beings as people were of them – unless there was a pack of them, or they were very hungry. Just the same it was the most terrible sound she had ever heard and she wished that she could move faster down the road.
The low sound came closer and her heart seemed to be as cold as her hands. If only she were not alone – if only she were brave. This was ten times worse than losing her ski on the mountain side, to be all alone out here on this country road. Then she remembered that one was never alone and that perhaps God would help her to be brave. “Dear God,” she prayed, lifting her face to the swirling snow, “please take me home safely and help me to be brave.”
Instantly she felt calmer. Warmth crept into her heart and she eased the pace of her flying feet. In a few minutes more she stopped short and listened. Yes, there was another sound on the winter air – the sweet, welcome sound of hoof beats. She waited breathlessly and, in another minute, the horse and rider came into view. Good old Blackie and Father! Oh, it just had to be Father.
“Hello, there!” called an anxious voice, and in another minute the rider had leaped off the horse and had clasped the shivering girl in his arms.
“Where on earth have you been?” he asked, “and where are the others? Your mother and Mrs. Lambert are almost frantic.”
“They’re all right,” Jinny sobbed. “Just take me home. I’ve never been so scared in all my life.”
The next day Mr. Carlisle broke a path to the cabin and brought Ruth and Don home, sadder and much wiser in the ways of mountain snowstorms.
“It was all my fault,” said Don humbly. “I insisted that we go and I’d never have forgiven myself if anything had happened to Jinny.”
“Nonsense,” Jinny answered quickly. “If old Daniel would just let his friends know when he leaves for the winter, everything would have been all right.”
“Anyway,” said Don, “I think you’re the bravest girl I know. I want a picture of you in your ski suit to show the gang back home when I tell them about it.”
Jinny smiled happily and later on when she was alone in her own room she wound her thick braids around her head and, fastening her mother’s rhinestone pin on top, said to the reflection in the mirror, “Be good, sweet maid, and also brave, and let who will be clever.”