In the sunny morning Ma and Laura helped carry everything from the dugout up to the top of the bank and load it in the wagon. Laura hardly dared look at Pa; they were bursting with the secret surprise for Ma.
Ma did not suspect anything. She took the hot ashes out of the little old stove so that Pa could handle it. She asked Pa, “Did you remember to get more stovepipe?”
“Yes, Caroline,” Pa said. Laura did not laugh, but she choked.
“Goodness, Laura,” Ma said, “have you got a frog in your throat?”
David and Sam hauled the wagon away, across the ford and back over the prairie, up to the new house. Ma and Mary and Laura, with armfuls of things, and Carrie toddling ahead, went over the footbridge and up the grassy path. The sawed- lumber house with its boughten-shingle roof was all golden on the knoll, and Pa jumped off the wagon and waited to be with Ma when she saw the cookstove.
She walked into the house and stopped short. Her mouth opened and shut. Then she said, weakly, “My land!”
Laura and Mary whooped and danced, and so did Carrie, though she did not know why.
“It’s yours, Ma! It’s your new cookstove!” they shouted. “It’s got an oven! And four lids, and a little handle!” Mary said. “It’s got letters on it and I can read them! P A T, Pat!”
“Oh, Charles, you shouldn’t!” Ma said.
Pa hugged her. “Don’t you worry, Caroline!” he told her.
“I never have worried, Charles,” Ma answered. “But building such a house, and glass windows, and buying a stove—it’s too much.”
“Nothing’s too much for you,” said Pa. “And don’t worry about the expense. Just look through that glass at that wheat-field!”
But Laura and Mary pulled her to the cook- stove. She lifted the lids as Laura showed her, she watched while Mary worked the draught, she looked at the oven.
“My!” she said. “I don’t know if I dare try to get dinner on such a big, beautiful stove!”
But she did get dinner on that wonderful stove and Mary and Laura set the table in the bright, airy room. The glass windows were open, air and light came in from every side, and sun- shine was streaming in through the doorway and the shining window beside it.
It was such fun to eat in that big, airy, light house that after dinner they sat at the table, just enjoying being there.
“Now this is something like!” Pa said.
Then they put up the curtains. Glass windows must have curtains, and Ma had made them of pieces of worn-out sheets, starched crisp and white as snow. She had edged them with narrow strips of pretty calico. The curtains in the big room were edged with pink strips from Carrie’s little dress that had been torn when the oxen ran away. The bedroom curtains were edged with strips from Mary’s old blue dress. That was the pink calico and the blue calico that Pa brought home from town, long ago in the Big Woods.
While Pa was driving nails to hold the strings for the curtains, Ma brought out two long strips of brown wrapping-paper that she had saved. She folded them, and she showed Mary and Laura how to cut tiny bits out of the folded paper with the scissors. When each unfolded her paper, there was a row of stars.
Ma spread the paper on the shelves behind the stove. The stars hung over the edges of the shelves, and the light shone through them.
When the curtains were up, Ma hung two snowy-clean sheets across a corner of the bed- room. That made a nice place where Pa and Ma could hang their clothes. Up in the attic, Ma put up another sheet that Mary and Laura could hang their clothes behind.
The house was beautiful when Ma had finished. The pure-white curtains were looped back on each side of the clear glass windows. Between those pink-edged, snowy curtains the sunshine streamed in. The walls were all clean, piny-smelling boards, with the skeleton of the house against them, and the ladder going up to the attic. The cookstove and its stovepipe were glossy black, and in that corner were the starry shelves.
Ma spread the between-meals red-checked cloth on the table, and on it she set the shining- clean lamp. She laid there the paper-covered Bible, the big green Wonders of the Animal World, and the novel named Millbank. The two benches stood neatly by the table.
The last thing, Pa hung the bracket on the wall by the front window, and Ma stood the little china shepherdess on it.
That was the wood-brown bracket that Pa had carved with stars and vines and flowers, for Ma’s Christmas long ago. That was the same smiling little shepherdess, with golden hair and blue eyes and pink cheeks, her little china bodice laced with china-gold ribbons and her little china apron and her little china shoes. She had traveled from the Big Woods all the way to Indian Territory, and all the way to Plum Creek in Minnesota, and there she stood smiling. She was not broken. She was not nicked nor even scratched. She was the same little shepherdess, smiling the same smile.
That night Mary and Laura climbed the lad- der and went to bed by themselves in their large, airy, very own attic. They did not have curtains because Ma had no more old sheets. But each had a box to sit on, and each had a box to keep her treasures in. Charlotte and the paper dolls lived in Laura’s box, and Mary’s quilt blocks and her scrap bag were in Mary’s box. Behind the curtain each had her nail, to take her nightgown off and hang her dress on. The single thing wrong with that room was that Jack could not climb up the ladder.
Laura went to sleep at once. She had been running in and out of the new house and up and down the ladder all day long. But she could not stay asleep. The new house was so still. She missed the sound of the creek singing to her in her sleep. The stillness kept waking her.
At last it was a sound that opened her eyes. She listened. It was a sound of many, many little feet running about overhead. It seemed to be thousands of little animals scampering on the roof. What could it be?
Why, it was raindrops! Laura had not heard rain pattering on the roof for so long that she had forgotten the sound of it. In the dugout she could not hear rain, there was so much earth and grass above her.
She was happy while she lay drowsing to sleep again, hearing the pitter-pat-patter of rain on the roof.