All day long Laura missed Pa, and at night when the wind blew lonesomely over the dark land, she felt hollow and aching.
At first, she talked about him; she wondered how far he had walked that day; she hoped his old, patched boots were lasting; she wondered where he was camping that night. Later she did not speak about him to Ma. Ma was thinking about him all the time and she did not like to talk about it. She did not like even to count the days till Saturday.
“The time will go faster,” she said, “if we think of other things.”
All day Saturday they hoped that Mr. Nelson was finding a letter from Pa at the post-office in town. Laura and Jack went far along the prairie road to wait for Mr. Nelson’s wagon. The grasshoppers had eaten everything, and now they were going away, not in one big cloud as they had come, but in little, short-flying clouds. Still, mil- lions of grasshoppers were left.
There was no letter from Pa. “Never mind,” Ma said. “One will come.”
Once when Laura was slowly coming up the knoll without a letter, she thought, “Suppose no letter ever comes?”
She tried not to think that again. But she did. One day she looked at Mary and knew that Mary was thinking it, too.
That night Laura could not bear it any longer. She asked Ma, “Pa will come home, won’t he?”
“Of course, Pa will come home!” Ma ex- claimed. Then Laura and Mary knew that Ma, too, was afraid that something had happened to Pa.
Perhaps his boots had fallen to pieces and he was limping barefooted. Perhaps cattle had hurt him. Perhaps a train had hit him. He had not taken his gun; perhaps wolves had got him. Maybe in dark woods at night a panther had leaped on him from a tree.
The next Saturday afternoon, when Laura and Jack were starting to meet Mr. Nelson, she saw him coming across the footbridge. Something white was in his hand. Laura flew down the knoll. The white thing was a letter.
“Oh, thank you! Thank you!” Laura said. She ran to the house so fast that she could not breathe. Ma was washing Carrie’s face. She took the letter in her shaking wet hands and sat down.
“It’s from Pa,” she said. Her hand shook so she could hardly take a hairpin from her hair. She slit the envelope and drew out the letter. She un- folded it, and there was a piece of paper money.
“Pa’s all right,” Ma said. She snatched her apron up to her face and cried.
Her wet face came out of the apron shining with joy. She kept wiping her eyes while she read the letter to Mary and Laura.
Pa had had to walk three hundred miles be- fore he found a job. Now he was working in the wheat-fields and getting a dollar a day. He sent Ma five dollars and kept three for new boots. Crops were good where he was, and if Ma and the girls were making out all right, he would stay there as long as the work lasted.
They missed him and wanted him to come home. But he was safe, and already he had new boots. They were very happy that day.