“But I thought we were walking together! Aren’t we friends too?” It was Saturday morning and Jo and I were rushing to get ready for the nature walk. Or rather, I was rushing and Jo was trying to read her letter she hadn’t had time to read before breakfast— though she’d still tried until I bucked her up. The morning’s post had brought the usual for me. Nothing.
“Of course we’re friends! I’m just walking with Henri today, she prom—” a knock at the door cut her off and a freckled nose poked through.
“Aren’t you two ready yet?”
“I am.” I said, pinning my collar. “Jo, you don’t have time to read that now! You’ll make us late!”
“Oh, there’s a trick to that!” Henri skipped in the room and plucked the letter out of Jo’s hands. “You rush and get ready first then read her letter to her while she’s dallying and buttoning up the wrong button to the wrong hole.”
“I have no—n oh, that’s what’s wrong!” Jo quickly put her buttons to right and Henri looked at her letter.
“Oh— it’s just from your mother. The way you had your nose stuck in it I thought it was something juicy from on of your brothers.” Henri sounded disappointed. Why the hurry to read it?”
“If I had a letter from MY mother I’d want to read it right away too!” I was still put out with Jo, but maybe if I sided with her she’d change her mind and walk with me on the nature walk.
“Well of course you would.” Henri said.
“If you all must know.” Jo scrambled her belongings into a satchel, “I wrote Mother to ask permission for Bobbie to stay the holidays with me as seeing as she can’t go home. I was trying to get to her reply—”
“She says yes.” Henri said flatly.
“Hooray!” Jo cheered and I grinned. At least she was still my friend after all. “Now I’m ready, put that letter down and come on!”
Henri put the letter down quietly and joined us as we sped out the door and down the stairs as fast as we could without actually running in the hallway and earning ourselves a scolding or worse— a black mark.
“You will come, won’t you?” Jo asked me.
“I—” of course I’d love to, but Jo cut me off.
“My brothers will all be home and we’ll have such larks. Why we have this little stream at the bottom of the garden and— Henri, what’s the matter? Why are you so glum?”
“Oh, it’s nothing.” Henri shrugged.”
“Of course it is! Now don’t keep it in!”
“It’s just, Oh, Jo! Bobbie! I also wrote my mother asking for Bobbie to stay the holidays and in the last post yesterday she sent her reply saying she’d love to have her, only I didn’t get the chance to ask her yet. But Jo asked you first, of course and I’m sure you shall have a jolly time with her and her brothers and sisters.”
“Do you have brothers and sisters?” I asked Henri.
“Yes.” She said. “But they’re all grown up now.”
“Why don’t I ask my mother if you can come too?” Jo said. “I’m sure she’d say yes.”
“But mine wouldn’t. I’m at school all term, she’ll want to see me, I know.”
“Well, how about we both go stay with you? That will be jolly, no boys! What do you say?”
“That would be lovely but I doubt very much Mother would say yes. Her and Father are getting ready to go abroad and I only got permission for Bobbie because she has no family near and I convinced Mother she was a quiet girl and wouldn’t be any trouble.”
“Well, I asked first, but you got permission first.” Jo said. “I think we’ll have to leave it up to Bobbie to choose.”
“I—” how could I choose? I really wanted to spend the holidays with Jo, I’d get to experience a live I’d never had before and it sounded like so much fun. But my short time at school had taught me how wonderful it was to have companions your own age. Would it be selfish to enjoy myself with Jo and leave Henri on her own?
“Only don’t decide now.” Henri said. “Think it over. Has Jo mentioned you’re walking with Marjorie today?”
“Yes I did!” Jo said.
“No.” I said. “You just said you were walking with Henri.”
“Yes, because Marjorie asked Henri too so she could walk with you.”
“Oh. I just thought you didn’t want to walk with me.” I admitted with a smile. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest.
“Oh Jo!” Henri sighed.
“You silly goose,” Jo said. “Of course I want to walk with you, but we walk in pairs and I can’t walk with you both.”
“I never thought of that.” I said. And I truly hadn’t. At home if I wanted to walk with a particular servant then any one was at my beck and call. “So friends are like desks. You have to take turns.” I mused.
Jo laughed. “Truly, this week Marjorie did ask to walk with you, sorry I never got to tell you that part, but it is nice to walk with Henri as I don’t get to spend enough time with her as you.”
“I see.” I said.
Soon we were all assembled outside and Miss Jane instructed us to form two lines. Mariah and Valerie headed up the front and Marjorie and I the rear.
“I don’t want any trouble out of you two or you’ll both have to walk in single file.” Miss Jane glared at Jo and Henri. After she turned away Marjorie giggled.
“Jo led Henri into a few scrapes last term.” She said to me.
“So I’ve heard.” I said.
We started on our walk, which was more of a march than a walk, but was pleasant all the same. Every now and then Miss Jane would stop at a point of interest and ask questions. Henri made sure to nudge Jo to encourage her to answer and I was pleased to see that every answer she offered was correct.
“Jo and Henri said that you wanted to walk with me.” I said to Marjorie as we marched along.
“Yes.” She said. “I thought it would be nice as seeing as we are both so far from home.”
“You more so than I.” I said.
“It’s not the distance so much.” She said. “It’s that it takes three months to get a letter here and another three months back. Even mailships have to go the long way around to avoid the occupied territory. There are so many things that I think I’d love to ask Mother’s advise on but there’s no point because a reply is six months away.”
“So you don’t get any letters from home then.” I said.
“Well, yes. On the ways I sent letters to Mother at every port we stopped at and she writes to me regularly only she stops three months before the end of the the year because they’d never get to me anyway. I get letters, there’s just no conversation back and forth. She wrote to me the day I left of course, so I had a letter here waiting for me when I arrived to cheer me up after nine months without word. It beat me by a day.” Marjorie smiled. “But it’s still not the same.”
“Well, that’s more than I’ve had.” I tried not to let the bitterness show in my voice. “I’ve only had one letter. That was from my nursery maid to tell me she was visiting her mother and her new address didn’t make it to me.” I sighed.
“Really? Your parents never sent one ahead for you?”
“Well, they brought me here so I guess they never thought it necessary.” I said.
“Well, I’m sure your mother will send you a bundle from the first port they stop at.” Marjorie said confidently. “Mothers are like that the first time they send their daughters away, I know. My first term here Mother sent one every day and they didn’t always arrive in the right order so it got a bit confusing, but it was nice all the same.”
“I hope so.” I said. “You— you don’t… you don’t think they’ve forgotten about me… do you?” I bit my lip, it wasn’t until I voiced it that I realsied that had been worrying at me for days.
“Not a scrap of me could think that. Trust me, they’ll be thinking about you every day. You just see. Be paitent and you’ll get the most wonderful letter ever for the wait, I promise.”
I smiled. “Thank you Marjorie.”
As we continued with our nature walk I had an added spring in my march. Just you see, she’d said, and I would. I’d wait and, knowing my mother, when my letter came it would be the bestest letter in all the world. It would be so great it would make even Jo and Henri jealous. I just had to wait a little longer.