The Voice of Silence

By Betsy

 

Daisy Cooper had just finished collecting her purchases when a familiar voice caught her attention.

 

“Daisy? Daisy Cooper, as I live and breathe!  My, my, but it’s been a long time!  I had no idea you were here!”  A tall, spare woman dressed in a rusty black silk gown bustled down the boardwalk toward Daisy and wrapped her in an eager hug.

 

“Why, Angela Gooding, what ever brings you to Laramie?  You’re looking very well, how long do you plan to be in town?”  Daisy greeted her old friend enthusiastically.

 

“Not long.  I’m on my way to visit my son in Rawlins and this is just a layover.  Oh, Daisy, I’d like you to meet my traveling companion, Ann Taylor; Ann, this is Mrs. Cooper, an old friend.  Daisy, why don’t we go over to the hotel and talk over old times.  You know, I haven’t had a chance to tell you yet about my boy, Charlie….”  Arm in arm, Mrs. Gooding led Daisy towards the hotel, talking a mile a minute, Ann Taylor following silently behind.

 

After several minutes of rapid conversation in the parlor of the hotel, Mrs. Gooding checked her watch and rose to her feet. 

         

“I hope you’ll excuse me for a moment, Daisy,” she said, “There’s something I really must see to.  Oh, no, I’ll go by myself; it won’t take long.”

         

The two ladies watched her bustle quickly from the room, and then Daisy turned to Ann Taylor, who was still watching the door, her face shielded by an ugly black bonnet.

 

“Well, now you and I can get a chance to know one another,” Daisy smiled.  “Angela is a very nice woman, but she does tend to rattle on!”

 

Ann did not reply, but kept her eyes fastened on the door.  Confused, Daisy reached over and touched her arm gently. 

 

“Miss Taylor, are you feeling well?”

 

Ann looked quickly at Daisy and then pointed to her ears and mouth and shook her head.  Daisy leaned back in her chair, shocked.

 

“You mean you cannot hear or speak?” she asked, realizing as she did so that her words were futile.

 

Ann had in the mean time reached into her pocket and was now writing quickly on a pad of paper.  Handing the pad to Daisy, she watched with a slight wrinkle between her large brown eyes.

 

          Mrs. Cooper, it read

I am deaf and mute, but I can read lips fairly well.  As long as I can see your lips, and you speak at a normal speed, I will be able to “read” what you say.

         

Daisy looked up at the girl.            “Oh, my dear,” she said kindly.  “Well.  Have you known Mrs. Gooding long?”

 

Ann half shrugged and held up two fingers.

 

“Two years?”  Daisy ventured.  Ann nodded, and Daisy continued the conversation.

 

“You’re from back east, then?”  The girl nodded, and Daisy asked, “How, I mean, do you like the west?”

 

Ann held her head at an angle, seeming to ponder the question and then gave a brief nod.  She was a pretty girl, Daisy decided, a quite young girl, and very petite.  She was shorter than Daisy by a few inches and quite thin.  Her large brown eyes were framed by long, curly lashes.  She had a small nose that turned up at the end and soft brown hair combed straight back under her horrid bonnet.  She was unattractively attired in a black traveling outfit that was too big for her and her long fingers were covered with black gloves.  Her feet were encased in scuffed brown boots that dangled above the floor.

 

          “Mrs. Gooding never did have much sense of style,” Daisy thought ruefully.

 

Just then a small boy hurried into the room carrying an envelope. 

 

“Mrs. Cooper, a lady said fer me ta give ya this,” he said, presenting it to her.

 

“Why, thank you, Ted,” Daisy said.  She reached into her reticule for a coin and took the missive.

 

“Thank ya, Ma’am,” small Ted grinned from ear to ear as he left the room.

 

Quickly Daisy opened the letter that bore only her name without an address and began to read, with Ann watching her every move.

          My Dear Daisy, it read

How good it was to run into you after all these years.  You are just the person to help me out of my little difficulty.

You see, two years ago I became the guardian of this young lady.  She is very useful around the house and such, but I really have no use for her.  As you know I travel quite a lot, and keeping track of her in a crowded place is not very easy.  So when I came west to visit my son, I hoped very much to find a solution to my problem.  Not that she is a problem of course, she is a very dear, sweet girl, and she reads lips very well.  I know you will take the best of care of her, you are such a kind, sweet, loving person, I just know you will find it in your heart to take her into your home.

By the time you read this, I will be on the stage to Rawlins.  I’m sorry it had to be this way, but, well, I just couldn’t take any chances. 

You are such a wonderful friend, Daisy.

                   Thank you so much,

                                                Angela.

         

“Well of all the nerve!”  Daisy rose to her feet and crushed the letter between her hands.  “To just run off and leave you here like, like, like a piece of luggage!  Why, if I ever see her again, I’ll…”  She turned to Ann, who was sitting very tensely on the easy chair, a note written in her beautiful handwriting in her hand which she handed to the angry woman.

 

          Mrs. Cooper,

I’m very sorry.  I was afraid this was going to happen.  Please, don’t worry about me.  I’m sure I can find work here in town, or if not, that I can somehow earn enough to take me (here the word ‘home’ had been written and scratched out) back east.

 

Daisy smiled and then put her arm around the girl.  Turning Ann’s head to face her, she said, “Of course not, Ann.  You’ll come with me.  Come, get your things and let’s go home.”

 

Ann smiled shyly at Daisy and led her to the front desk where she collected a small, travel worn, carpetbag.  Turning to Daisy expectantly, she followed the small woman out and down the street to the buckboard. 

 

The ride to the Sherman ranch was a quiet one, Daisy allowing Ann to watch the view instead of “listening” to a conversation.  At the ranch, Ann helped carry in the purchases, and then Daisy sent her to change into a house dress.

 

Soon she returned wearing a brown calico dress just as pleasing to the eye as the black had been.  Daisy made a mental note to see that Ann got some proper dresses soon.

 

The girl looked around expectantly to see what needed to be done, but Daisy placed a soft hand on her arm.

 

“There will be plenty of opportunities for you to help later, but first I want you to sit down and write your history on that piece of paper.  I want to know more about you.”

 

Ann complied and before long handed Daisy the paper, written on both front and back, with tiny illustrations here and there.  Taking Daisy’s place at the stove, she divided her attention between the kindly lady at the table and the frying chicken on the stove.

 

What Daisy read filled her with sadness.  Ann had been born to a recently widowed mother who died when she was only five years old.  From then on, the girl had been in and out of orphanages, sent from foster home to foster home, with no one really caring what happened to her.  The ones that had cared had already had large families of their own, or were for some other reason unable to take her for good.  Mrs. Gooding had been tricked into taking her in two years ago, and, while kind, had never been pleased to have Ann on her hands. 

 

When Daisy finished the narrative, she went over the young girl and embraced her warmly.  Then, taking her face between her two, work-worn, loving hands, she said firmly,

 

“As long as I live, you can always be sure of a home with me.  Do you understand that?”

 

Ann nodded and buried her face in Daisy’s soft shoulder.  The eyes she at last raised to Daisy’s were brimming with tears, but her lips were curved in a happy smile.  With her right hand she almost touched her chin, and then brought her hand down with an incline of the head.  Seizing her pad of paper from her pocket, she wrote ‘Thank you, oh, thank you!”

 

“You’re quite welcome, dear.  Would you like to set the table?” 

 

Ann nodded eagerly and accepted the tableware Daisy handed her.  As she set each plate in front of a chair, the door opened and Jess bounced through.  Seeing her, he stopped dead.  Whipping off his hat, he hung it on the rack by the door and then slowly advanced.

 

“Howdy, ma’am,” he said.  She had her back to him and did not turn around.  Jess looked puzzled and stepped carefully past her to the kitchen.

 

“Hiya, Daisy,” he said, giving her a squeeze.  Then dropping his voice, he whispered, “Who is that?”

 

“Oh, that’s Ann Taylor; she’s going to be staying with us for awhile.”

 

Jess looked surprised at Daisy’s less than confidential tone of voice and glanced over his shoulder at the girl. 

 

“Why don’t you go introduce yourself, Jess?”  Daisy asked, stirring the chicken.

 

Jess shrugged and again approached the girl, who saw him coming and looked up in time to see him start speaking.

 

“Howdy, ma’am, my name’s Jess Harper; welcome to the Sherman Ranch.”

 

She smiled, pulled a pad of paper from her pocket, wrote something quickly, and handed it to him with a smile.

 

Confused, he glanced at the paper and read:

          I am pleased to meet you, Jess Harper.  Although I cannot hear you or speak to you, I am grateful for your welcome.

 

Jess raised his eyes to hers, his eyebrows turning up above his nose in consternation, clearly unsure how to proceed.

 

Ann reached for the pad of paper and wrote again:

          As long as you speak at a normal speed and I can see your lips, I will be able to understand what you say.

 

Jess’s face relaxed as he read this, and he caught her eye to say “I’m glad.”

 

He returned to the kitchen to wash up for supper, and Ann moved to a place facing the door just in time to see it open and a tall young man carrying a squirming boy come through.  He stopped in his tracks when he saw her and his mouth formed the word ‘oh’.  Setting the now still boy on his feet, the young man moved forward, hand outstretched to greet her.

 

“Welcome to the Sherman ranch, Miss…” he paused waiting for her to supply her name.

 

Ann pulled the pad from her pocket, removed the top sheet of paper and wrote her reply.

          Taylor, Ann Taylor.  No ‘Miss’ is necessary.

 I can read your lips as long as I can see them and you speak normally.

 

This she handed to him and waited, brown eyes riveted to his face, until he looked up.

 

“Pleased to meet you, Ann.  My name’s Slim Sherman.”  Her eyes moved to the boy and back to Slim, hoping he would read her mind.  “And this is Mike.”

 

Ann smiled at Mike and nodded to him.  He nodded silently back and looked up at Slim.

 

“How come she don’t say nothin’, Slim?” he asked.

 

“She can’t, Mike,” Slim replied, handing the pad of paper back to Ann.  “She can’t hear and can’t talk.”

 

“How come?”

 

Ann handed him the pad of paper.

          I was born that way, Mike, it read.  For the same reason you were born with blond hair.

 

Mike looked up at Slim, who had read the paper over his shoulder. 

 

“How’d she know what I asked?” He demanded. 

 

“I guess she read your lips, Mike,” Slim replied, slightly surprised himself.  “‘Mon, let’s go get washed up for supper.  ‘Scuse us, Ann.”

 

In the kitchen, Slim demanded of Daisy as to where she had found the girl, to which Daisy replied she would tell them all about it over supper.

 

At the table, once everybody had been served, Daisy started her story.

 

“Well.  I was just coming out of the general store when I heard somebody call my name.  It was an old friend of mine from back east, Angela Gooding.  She was on her way to Rawlins to visit her son, - at least she said she was.  Any way, we got to talking and went over to the hotel to have a real catching up.  After awhile she excused herself saying she had something to attend to.  More coffee, Slim? 

 

“Where was I?  Oh, yes.  A little while later a boy came in with a note from her.  She had taken the stage on to Rawlins, leaving Ann in my care!  Can you imagine!  She just left that girl there, not even bothering to say goodbye, just waltzing off on that stage without even bothering to find out if I’d take the girl or not!  Just a cool little note asking me to take her!”

 

“Take it easy, Daisy,” Jess grinned.  “I haven’t seen you so worked up for a long time!”

 

“Well, you would be too, if you had been there,” Daisy cried, her brow furrowed.

 

“Sure, Daisy, I know,” Jess agreed.

 

“You’re gonna keep her, aren’t you?”  Slim asked, buttering one of Daisy’s delectable rolls.

 

“Of course I’m going to keep her!”

 

“Now don’t get touchy, Daisy, it was just a simple question,” Slim pleaded.

 

“I’m sorry, Slim.  It’s just…” Daisy sighed.

         

“I know, Daisy, I know.”

 

Now Mike raised his head and queried,           “Where’s she gonna sleep?”

         

The two men stopped eating and considered the question, the bunkhouse looming ominously in their thoughts.

 

“Why, with me, of course!”  Daisy replied.  “We’ll just push my bed closer to the wall and we’ll bring one of the beds from your room in for her.”

 

Ann had been quickly writing and now handed a note to the boss of the outfit.

 

“Nonsense, Ann you needn’t sleep on the floor,” Daisy assured her, returning the pad.

 

Ann wrote again.

 

“Well, if you’re sure…” At Ann’s nod, she turned to her menfolk.  “Ann asks to sleep on the floor.  She says she prefers it.”

 

Ann nodded to both young men and the case was closed.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

         

The next morning Daisy awoke to find Ann’s quilts neatly folded and the room empty besides herself.  Dressing quickly, she went in search of the girl and found her out back, busily scrubbing a filthy shirt.  Daisy placed a hand on her shoulder, and Ann looked up promptly.

 

“Good morning, dear, what on earth are you doing?”

 

Ann pointed to the laundry.

 

“Yes, I see that, but why?”

 

Ann dried her hands on her apron and pulled out her means of communication.

          I wanted to do something to earn my keep, but I didn’t dare start breakfast yet.

 

“It’s awfully early, dear.”

 

          I always get up this early.

 

“I see.  Well, I certainly am grateful.”

 

Ann smiled and returned to her work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

“You must a been up mighty early, Daisy, to git all that washin’ done,” Slim remarked over breakfast. 

 

“Oh, it wasn’t me, Slim.  Ann was already up and started by the time I got up.”  Daisy replied, refilling Mike’s glass of milk.

 

“She sure must be an early riser,” Jess said.  He looked around the table, and Ann passed the marmalade.

 

“Thanks.” Jess checked to make sure she wasn’t watching before adding “Ya know, it’s almost uncanny how she reads yer thoughts.”

 

“She’s fun,” Mike piped up.  “Last night she was teachin’ me some sign language and drawin’ pictures fer me.  She draws real good.  She drawed Slim an’ it looked jest like ‘im, wrinkles an’ all!”

 

“Drew, Mike,” From Daisy, with

 

“Wrinkles!” From Slim at the same time.

 

“Jest when ya smile, Slim.”  Mike assured him, placidly eating his breakfast.

 

Jess stole a glance at Ann to see how much of that she had followed and was surprised to see her trying very hard not to laugh.  He wondered what it would sound like if she did laugh, and figured she must be an awful fast reader.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

The days went by, but not too many of them had passed before Daisy made a trip to town to select material for some new dresses for Ann.  She took the girl with her, and together they decided on several very pretty shades of calico and even several yards of worsted linen for a party dress that Ann was sure she would never need.  These dresses made a definite improvement to Ann’s appearance, as did her softer arrangements of hair, introduced by Daisy, who loved to play with the girl’s long, wavy tresses.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Soon after Ann had completed her party dress, a delicate pink color with a full skirt, a tiny waist, puffed short sleeves, and a dainty lace collar, an invitation came for the Sherman family to attend a dance given in the honor of the birthday of a neighbor girl.

 

Daisy read the invitation, looked at her menfolk and ordered haircuts for the lot of them.  Ann immediately volunteered to help, and was assigned Jess, so that Daisy wouldn’t have to listen to his complaining. 

 

Daisy and Ann removed their victims to the porch after dinner and, with Mike on the porch railing to supervise, proceeded to cut the hair.  Jess soon started complaining, but Slim and Daisy just laughed at him.

 

“A lot a good that’ll do ya, partner,” Slim grinned, “She can hear a word you say!”

 

“That’s what worries me!  I’m just sure she’s gonna take off my ear!”

 

“Just hold still and everything will be fine, Jess,” Daisy caroled.

 

“Ouch!”

 

Ann stopped cutting and balanced her pad against the back of Jess’s head.

          Silly, that was just the cold of the scissors touching the top of your ear.  But if you don’t sit still, you’ll wish you had!  Underneath she had sketched a picture of Jess, mouth open in shock as he surveyed a very patchy hair cut in a mirror.

 

“Huh.  Very funny,” Jess growled.  But he did try harder to hold still after that.

 

At last they were all ready, even Mike, who, while he would have turned Slim and Jess’s shins black and blue had they attempted to barber his blond hair, would never dream, or dare, kick his beloved Aunt Daisy.

 

At the dance, Ann sat quietly on the sidelines until Daisy pulled Mike aside and convinced him to dance with Ann.

 

“But I can’t dance, Aunt Daisy!”

 

“Sure you can, Mike, just do what Slim and Jess are doing.  Go on now!”

 

Mike approached Ann and bowed, just as Jess had done.  Offering his hand to her he motioned to the dance floor with the other one.  Ann rose and curtsied deeply.

 

For awhile they struggled and then the sheriff laid a kindly hand on Mike’s shoulder.

 

“May I?” he asked.

 

Mike looked relieved as he surrendered his partner and took off to find Daisy and the cookie she had promised him.

 

Sheriff Mort Corey waited until he got the rhythm of the dance and then led Ann in among the dancers.

 

“You dance very well,” he complimented her.

         

Ann inclined her head, her dark, upswept hair gleaming in the candle light.

 

“You the new young lady at the Sherman ranch, aren’t you?”

 

Ann nodded.

 

“You dance very well indeed, then.”

 

There was no sitting still for Ann after that.  Every young man there wanted to dance with her, in awe of her beauty and her ability to dance so well without hearing a sound.  Jess attributed it to her uncanny sixth sense, but that night before bed she confided her secret to Daisy.  She just watched the other ladies and followed whatever they did.

 

And so the days past with Ann becoming more and more a part of life at the Sherman ranch with each passing day.  She took over many of the chores until Daisy wondered how she had ever gotten her day’s work done without her.  Mike doted on her and was quick to learn the sign language she so enjoyed teaching him.  He took her riding and fishing in return, and would spend the evenings watching her fill the sketchbook that was a gift from Slim.  As for Slim and Jess, in her they found a sister who was always ready to “listen” to their problems and always had a reasonable answer.  They had never heard again from Mrs. Gooding after her hasty departure from the hotel, and while Daisy at last was able to put away her bitterness toward her, the unfortunate Mrs. Gooding was as an honorable friend who had toppled from a pedestal, never to be reinstated.  Ann was very happy at the Sherman ranch and took the opportunity to thank her Maker for Mrs. Gooding desertion regularly.

 

Then, one day in August, the stage pulled into the relay station.  Slim and Jess were working cattle off in the hills somewhere out of sight, and for once the stage was early.   Mose and Pete, who was riding shotgun, changed the horses themselves amid good natured grumbles while the two passengers, a man and a lady, were invited into the house for lunch.

 

Daisy was in the kitchen, and Ann was waiting on the table.  Life at the Sherman ranch had changed her, for the better.  Her face was no longer painfully thin and her eyes were no longer frightened.  Her hair was pulled back into a loose chignon that allowed several wisps to escape and frame her face with small curls. 

 

Ann poured a cup of coffee for the man and looked up in time to see the ‘tea’ on the lady’s lips.  Reaching for her means of conversation, she wrote:

          Would you prefer tea, ma’am?

 

The lady looked slightly surprised and answered aloud, making sure she had Ann’s attention and speaking as she would to any waitress,

 

“Yes, please, if it is no bother.”

 

Ann smiled, shook her head, and took the lady’s mug to the kitchen with her.  She returned soon with plates of food which she placed on the table. 

 

Before she could reach for her paper, the woman intercepted her and using her hands, informed the girl that she spoke sign language.  Ann smiled in surprised delight and replied in kind that the tea would be ready soon.

 

Daisy soon brought in the steaming tea, as always, a cheery welcome on her face.

 

“Oh, thank you, ma’am, I do hope it wasn’t to much bother,” the lady said gratefully.

 

“Not at all!  By the way, Ann tells me you speak sign language,” Daisy continued.

 

“Yes, I do, and so does my husband.  You see, we are the founders and heads of an establishment back east for children who are deaf and mute.”  The lady explained.

 

“Oh, really, how very interesting!”  Daisy pulled out a chair, saying as she did so, “What do you do at this establishment?”

 

Ann appeared in the doorway behind her and the husband caught her up to date on the conversation in sign language, much to Daisy’s delight, who found this means of communication fascinating.  Ann quickly moved to the other end of the table where she could ‘listen’ to everyone. 

 

“My name is Linda McTavish, and this is my husband Fred.  Our establishment is really a boarding school for children such as Ann.  Not all of our children are entirely deaf, though, and a few of them can speak.  But we teach the same courses offered at, may I say, regular, schools, along with special classes to foster speech and perfect their grasp of the manual system of speech.” 

 

“You see, not all, in fact many of those who cannot hear,” Mr. McTavish explained, “Have no physical reason for not speaking.  They have simply never heard human speech and have no means by which to learn it.  By use of special training techniques we are able to teach them how to speak, after a fashion.  Because they cannot hear the sound of their own voices, they lack the fluctuation a person who hears naturally picks up on.

 

“Say, this steak is the best I’ve had yet!  You’re a wonderful cook, Mrs…”       

 

“Cooper.  I’m glad you like it.  How did you get started in this?”

 

“Mr. McTavish and I were never able to have children of our own, Mrs. Cooper, so at last we decided to adopt a child, or two.  As we began to tour the orphanages, we were touched by the plight of the deaf and mute children.  I had an aunt who was deaf and mute and I was aware that they require at least some special care.  Orphanages are simply not set up to provide special care, or at least, many of them are not.  Fred and I discussed it, and at last decided that perhaps this was our mission.  Perhaps, because we could not have children of our own, our calling in life was to provide care for those who need it most.  We began research the idea, visiting schools in the east and such, and finally opened our own school in Indiana.  We started with only three children we collected from nearby orphanages, and had tripled that number by the following year.”

 

“How many do you have now?”  Daisy asked.

 

“Exactly one hundred!” Fred said jubilantly.  “Fifty boys and fifty girls; our dormitories are filled to the maximum, and we have more wanting to come join our family.  Just before we left on this vacation we broke ground for two new dorms.”

 

“We really are a family, Mrs. Cooper.  At the present time we only have two dorms, one for the boys and one for the girls, and Fred and I are the chief mother and father of these.  Each dorm of fifty is divided into five wards of ten under the care of an adult ward mother or father.  We only hire ‘mothers’ and ‘fathers’ who can hear, you understand, of course.”

 

Daisy nodded and refilled Mr. McTavish’s coffee cup.  “Of course.  What are the age ranges of your children?”

 

“We take orphans when they are still in their infancy,” Mrs. McTavish explained.  “We have a special branch to care for these until they are of school age.  Those who come from families we encourage to stay at home until they are at least six years old, to provide a solid family background.  In some instances, of course, this is unadvisable, or impossible, in which case we take them sooner.  They board with us until they are around eighteen, at which time they decide whether they want to stay on with us and become teachers or some other staff member, or to go on to special colleges back east.”

 

Ann asked a question.

 

“Oh, yes, Ann, we do hire deaf men and women as teachers.  It’s like hiring a German professor to teach German.  Sign language is their ‘native’ tongue, shall we say, and they relate to the younger very well.  Besides, they inspire the children and show them that their disability need not limit their future.  We have several deaf accountants to help Mr. McTavish manage the finances, and there are janitors, housekeepers, cooks, a nurse or two, and a few seamstresses on our payroll who grew up in the school.”

 

Mose stuck his head in the door just then.

 

“Stage is ‘bout ready to roll out, folks,” he announced.  Daisy bustled up from the table.

 

“Oh, no it isn’t, Mr. Mose.  Not until you and Pete at least have a cup of coffee!” she caroled, hurrying to the kitchen for two more cups and returned with an appetizing looking cake as well.  “And perhaps some cake,” she wheedled.

 

“Well,” Mose hesitated, and then shouted over his shoulder for Pete to tie the team and come on in.

 

Ann was dispatched to the kitchen for more plates and Mrs. McTavish leaned close to Daisy.

 

“Mrs. Cooper,” she asked, “Fred and I are going to be in Laramie a few days, would it be alright if we talk to Ann more about this school, and perhaps offer her a position as a teacher?”

 

Daisy faltered as she cut the cake in thick wedges.

 

“Oh, my,” she said.  “Oh, my.”  Ann returned with the plates and Mrs. McTavish patted Daisy’s arm.

 

“Think about it, please.  We understand if you would rather we did not.”

 

The cake was greatly enjoyed, but soon Mose was pulling out his watch again and pronouncing it time to hit the road once more.  As the McTavishes left, Daisy laid a hand on Mrs. McTavish’s arm.

 

“It is selfish of me to want to keep her here.  She would welcome the chance to work with children like her and to give them the chances she would have liked to have at their age.  Would you like me to bring her into Laramie tomorrow?”

 

Mrs. McTavish smiled and patted Daisy’s hand. 

 

“Mrs. Cooper, you are a wonderful woman.  I will rent a buggy at the livery station and drive out tomorrow sometime.  Thank you.”

 

“All aboard!” Mose shouted, and Mrs. McTavish hurried to join her husband in the coach.

 

As Daisy and Ann watched them leave, Ann put her arm around Daisy’s waist and leaned her head against her shoulder then pulled back and questioned with her eyes the wrinkles on Daisy’s brow.  Daisy took Ann’s face between her hands and kissed her forehead.

 

“You know, Ann, I’m very glad Angela left you with me that day,” she said.  “Come on, let’s do the dishes before the boys get back and make more!”

         

That night after supper Daisy filled Slim and Jess in on their visitor while Ann sketched the little group.  The news the McTavishes had brought with them awoke a great longing within her.  To be a teacher and give children an education in a way they understood would be the most wonderful thing in the world, she decided.  Yet how could she give up the home offered her here to travel alone to a school as far away as Indiana where she might not even be able to get a job.  She wished they could have stayed longer and told them more about their school and the programs there. 

 

Ann looked up as Jess laid a hand on her shoulder.

 

“Hey, that’s pretty good,” he said, motioning to the unfinished picture.  “You’re pretty quiet tonight,” he added.  Ann shot him a look out of the corner of her eye and smiled as she returned to her drawing.  Slim joined them and put his hand on the edge of her paper for her attention.  When she looked up he asked,

 

“What do you think of the McTavish’s school?”

 

Ann took out her pad of paper.

I think it is wonderful.  If only I could have had a chance like the one they offer their children.  It’s very true what they said about orphanages not being equipped for children with special needs.  They try, most of them, to be very kind, but with so many responsibilities, it just is not possible to reach each child.

 

“The McTavish school has a lot of responsibilities, too,” Slim pointed out.

 

Yes, but the way they have divided their children up into ‘wards’, and not just wards by age, allows for more individual attention for each person, Ann argued.  They also have several teachers who, ‘relate well with the children’, they said.  I wish I could learn more about the system.

 

Mike scampered over for help with the spelling of a word and Ann helped him rephrase the sentence to make better sense.

 

“She’d certainly make a wonderful teacher,” Daisy remarked to no one in particular before shooing Mike off to bed.

 

The next afternoon Ann was hanging the wash out on the line when she saw Mrs. McTavish pull into the yard driving a one horse rig.  Putting her head in the kitchen door she alerted Daisy to their visitor and continued around the house to greet the lady.

 

“Hello, Ann, surprised to see me?”  At Ann’s nod and invitation to step down and come in, Mrs. McTavish alighted and tied the horse to the rail of the porch. 

 

“Hello, Mrs. Cooper, I was wondering if I could borrow Ann this afternoon and tell her more about the school!”  Linda McTavish greeted Daisy, who bid her come in and take a seat while Ann changed into something nicer, taking Ann’s gasp and eager clasp of hands as the girl’s approval of the idea.  Ann flew to change and Mrs. McTavish accepted the proffered cup of tea.

 

“I understand this is a hard thing for you, Mrs. Cooper,” Mrs. McTavish said when Daisy joined her at the table with two cups of tea.

 

“Please, call me Daisy.  Yes, it is rather difficult, but I spent quite a bit of time in prayer, and I realize that this is a wonderful, once in a lifetime chance for Ann, and I’m sure she’d love to accept the offer.”

 

“And I am Linda.  The world needs more unselfish women like you, Daisy.  Here come two strangers from back east offering a job to your daughter that will take her away from family and friends, and you have the faith in a loving Heavenly Father and unselfish desire to give her a chance in life that you are willing to let her go for something better.  That take real courage and faith.”

 

“Ann isn’t my daughter, not my literal daughter, at least.  No, she came to us this spring and has since become as dear to me as if she were my own.  And although it will be hard to let her go, every child needs a chance to try their wings.  But she will always have a home with me, if she wants it.”

 

Linda squeezed Daisy’s hand, and Ann came through the door neatly attired in a simple, yet comely, slate blue dress and attractive bonnet.  Bidding Daisy farewell, she followed Linda out to the buggy and off they drove.  The day dragged for Daisy, and she tried to boost her spirits by preparing an extra special evening meal.  Linda returned Ann in time to help with final supper preparations and drove off without revealing the outcome of their afternoon.  Ann was also quiet in that regard, and Daisy did not push her, knowing the girl would tell her when she was ready.  Supper was a rather somber affair, to Mike’s puzzlement, and everyone went to bed soon after the dishes had been done.

 

When Ann was in her nightgown, she took her pad of paper and began to write, sitting cross-legged on her bed of quilts she continued to insist remain on the floor.

 

Dear Aunt Daisy, I have been offered a position teaching at the McTavish’s school for the deaf.  They seem to be such wonderful people, and this school seems to be wonderful, too.  You are the closest thing to a mother I have known for fourteen years, won’t you please advise me as a mother would?

 

Daisy kissed her forehead.  “You are the closest thing to a daughter I’ve ever had.  Do you want to take this position?”

 

Yes, and no.  It would be so exciting, so rewarding to be able to teach children, and I know I could do it, I taught Mike a few signs.  But, in order to take this position, I would have to leave  you and Slim and Jess and dear little Mike.  I’m in a quandary, Aunt Daisy, and so I ask your advice.  What would you do?

 

Daisy sat on the edge of her bed and began to brush out her pale gold hair.

 

“Sometimes we have to give up one good thing in order to take a better one, Ann.  I would accept.  Although we love having you here and will always welcome you back, I feel you be able to touch those children in a very special way that will make their lives better.”

 

Ann nodded slowly.

 

I hope so.  Anyway, there is so much more I can do there, where I will be useful.  I understand what you mean about giving up one good thing for something better.  It is like Jess giving up going into town the other day to take Mike fishing.

         

“Exactly,” Daisy agreed.  “And you are very useful here.  I don’t know how I ever got alone without you, or how I will if you accept this offer.  You know there is a sure way to know what you ought to do, Someone who will be sure to give you the right answer.  I will support you no matter what you choose.”

 

          Thank you.  I know.  I have been asking Him ever since the McTavishes arrived yesterday.  And I think He is saying ‘go ahead’. 

The McTavishes will be in town for two more days.  If I decide to go with them I am to let them know and travel east with them when they leave.  I guess we’d better tell Slim and Jess and Mike in the morning.

         

Daisy agreed, thinking it would not be a cheerful chore.  She was right, it was not cheerful.  Mike was the worst, questioning why she would ever want to leave them, wasn’t she happy here?  Slim and Jess understood, but that did not make it any easier to let her go.  The next day and a half were a whirl of activity, washing and pressing and packing Ann’s meager belongings.  Meager as they were, they were still more than she had arrived with, so the boys presented her with a new trunk as their going away present.  All too soon she was aboard the stage with the McTavishes, waving goodbye the four people she had learned to love and knowing she was going to be mighty homesick for a while.

 

EPILOGE

One Year Later

 

Dearest Aunt Daisy, Slim, Jess, and Mike,

 

I have the most wonderful news for you.  I am engaged to be married!  He is a teacher here at the school.  His name is Terrance O’Reilly and very wonderful.  He is neither deaf nor mute, but a young man very interested in the work we do here.  A dorm father, he is as much a boy as those under his care.  If Jess were Irish, as Terry certainly is, he would be something like him.  He is taller than Jess, though, shorter than Slim, with the loveliest red, wavy hair I have ever seen.  His eyes are as blue as the lake on a summer’s day and he is well endowed with freckles.  I am told he sings like an angel and he has used this skill to attempt to teach our children here how to raise and lower the pitch of their voices in speech.  I’m sure you know what this means better than I do. 

 

We are to be married in May, just before school lets out so that all our little borders can be in attendance.  He say’s we’ll be taking, (he’s got me writing just as he talks!) our honeymoon to visit my mother’s grave, which I have not seen for many a long year, and then west to visit the Sherman ranch.  He has never been on a western ranch and is very excited to ‘be making the acquaintance of one’.

 

As for me, I am so very happy and so eternally grateful to all of you for making this possible.  For indeed you have.  If you, dearest Aunt Daisy, had not taken me home with you that day, how long ago it seems, I would never have been able to experience the joy that comes from working with these dear children, or have ever met Terry.  You showed by the way you cared for me that I was a person just as good as the next.  You gave me confidence in myself and my capabilities. You were the mother I was lacking. Thank you for that.

Slim and Jess, thank you for being the best of brothers an orphan ever had.  You made me feel of worth through your politeness and brought me out of my shell with your good nature bantering. 

 

Mike, you were, and I hope, still are, the best friend I had ever had.  Thank you for teaching me to ride and fish and for letting me see what friendships could be like.

 

I love you all so very much.  May God bless and keep you all until next we meet.

 

Your,

 

          Ann

 

Daisy surreptitiously wiped her eyes as she folded the letter to return it to the envelope. 

 

“Why, you’re not crying, are ya Daisy?”  Jess demanded.

 

“It’s such a beautiful ending!”  She laughed through her happy tears.

 

The End

 

 



*********************************



Back to
Fanfic