Home is Where the Heart is"

Chapter 2 THE SURPRISE

The next few weeks went by rather quickly for Carrie. Every morning she got up, got dressed and braided her hair. Then she braided Grace’s hair. After that she went downstairs to help Ma with the breakfast. The three sisters always walked together to school, but after school Cassandra usually went home with her friends. Ma used to tell Cassandra to invite her friends over to their house, but Cassandra never did. She was too afraid her friends wouldn’t like the Ingalls’ house. At lunchtime the girls usually ate together, but when they had finished Cassandra always went to talk to her friends. Even little Grace had started making friends, and usually went to play with them during the rest of the recess. Carrie would usually just sit outside and read a book, or study. She wasn’t happy about the situation, but she was getting used to it. After school Carrie and Grace went home together, while Cassandra usually went with her friends somewhere. If Ma was working in the restaurant (which she did most of the weekdays, as well as some Saturdays), Carrie had watch Grace until Ma came home. She also had to start with the supper, so it would be done by the time Pa came home from work.

One evening Carrie was doing her homework in the kitchen with Cassandra and Carrie when Pa came in. “Hey, I got some exciting news!”, he said. Then he called upstairs “Albert, James, come here! I have a surprise!”.
The boys hurried down the stairs. Carrie looked at her Pa. She couldn’t wait to hear the news! “Guess who I got a letter from?”, Pa asked. “Santa Claus”, said Grace immediately. Even though it was only the beginning of October, she was already thinking about Christmas. The others laughed. ”No, not Santa”, Pa said, “it’s from Uncle Jed”. Both James and Cassandra started talking at the same time. They were really excited! But Carrie was disappointed. Uncle Jed was James and Cassandra’s uncle, not hers. Once he visited them in Walnut Grove, and wanted James and Cassandra to come and live with him. Carrie remembered how worried she had been that she would loose Cassandra, and how happy she was when it was decided that James and Cassandra got to stay with the Ingalls family. But now she almost hoped Uncle Jed wanted Cassandra to come and live with him. Uncle Jed was really rich, so it should suit Cassandra just fine, Carrie thought. But she soon realized what mean thoughts she was having.

“Calm down now” Pa said, “or I won’t tell you what Uncle Jed writes in his letter”. Both James and Cassandra became quite.
“Well, he sends his love to both of you, of course, and hopes the whole family is doing fine. Also, he writes that as an early Christmas present he wants you each to pick out a new outfit. And that’s all of you, not just James and Cassandra”. Carrie looked up, feeling much happier. She hadn’t really expected Uncle Jed to give anything to her, or to Albert and Grace. Although when he came to Walnut Grove he had bought clothes for them all too, so she really shouldn’t be that surprised. But it was just hard for her to think of Uncle Jed as a nice person after all the fighting that had gone on when he wanted to take James and Cassandra. But this sure was kind of him!
But Ma wasn’t really happy about it. “It just isn’t right, Charles”, she said, “we can’t let the man buy clothes for all our children”. “Well, it’s what he wants to do, Caroline”, Pa replied. “He won’t take no for an answer”. “Well…all right then”, Ma said, still not looking too happy about it.

The following day they all walked with Ma to the clothing store where Pa worked. It was a big store, with one department for men and boy’s clothes, and another for women and girl’s clothes. Pa went with Albert and James to help them pick out new suits, while Ma stayed with the girls. Carrie and Cassandra looked on all the lovely dresses in the store, while Ma helped Grace pick out a pretty blue dress.
“Look at this one, Ma”, Carrie called to her mother. She had found a lovely dark green dress. It was rather simple, but a little bit more grown-up than Carrie’s old dresses. Ma came over to take a look at it. “I like it”, she said, “I think it will look really nice on you, Carrie”. Carrie smiled. “You don’t think it’s too expensive?”, she asked. Ma looked at the price tag, “No, I think it will be fine”, she assured Carrie.
“Have you found a dress you like, Cassandra?”, Ma asked. “Yes, I want this one”, Cassandra said, “isn’t it pretty?”. Ma and Carrie both looked at the dress Cassandra was holding. It was dark red, with lots of white lace. “Well”, Ma said, “it’s rather fancy. Wouldn’t it be better if you chose something more practical?”. Carrie couldn’t help smiling. It was so typical of Ma. But Carrie didn’t like Cassandra’s dress either. She thought it was simply a bit too much. It wasn’t really Cassandra style, but it was just the kind of dress Cassandra’s friends would wear. “But I like this dress”, Cassandra objected, “and it is supposed to be an early Christmas present. So I should get to chose it”. “Very well”, Ma said, “if you’re sure it’s the dress you want”.
“Are you ladies ready?”, Pa asked, holding the suits James and Albert had picked out. He gathered up the girls’ new dresses and went over to pay for them with the money Uncle Jed had sent.

They all got to carry their own package when they went home. Carrie felt really happy when she thought about her new dress - it was the nicest dress she had ever owned! Cassandra was walking next to her, but the two girls didn’t say anything to each other. Behind them the rest of the family was talking happily to each other.

When they got home the girls all rushed up to their room to try on their new dresses. “Cassandra, can you help me?” Grace asked. Cassandra had already put her new dress on, and was combing her hair. Sarah had told her she thought Cassandra was too old to have her hair braided. It made her a bit confused, since Carrie always braided her hair, and after all Carrie was two years older than Cassandra was. She looked in the mirror, and decided Sarah was right – she did look better with her hair out. “Cassandra!”, Grace was almost screaming now. Cassandra finally noticed her. “What is it?”, she asked. “I need your help with my dress, I can’t reach the buttons in the back”, Grace explained. “Later”, Cassandra replied, “I want to show Ma my dress”. She left the room, and Grace was standing there with tears in her eyes. “So did I”, she whispered. Carrie, who had also put on her new dress, went over and helped Grace with her buttons. Then they went downstairs together.

“Well, don’t you two look pretty!”, Pa said when she saw them. “Yes, you all look very nice in your new outfits”, Ma said with a smile. “But my dress is the prettiest”, Cassandra said. “Cassandra!”, Ma said, “that’s not polite”.
“What are you talking about? Your dress isn’t pretty at all”, Carrie objected, “it looks like something Nancy Oleson would wear”. Nancy was a rich but very mean girl who lived in Walnut Grove. Carrie never liked her, and she knew Cassandra absolutely hated her. “It does not! This dress is beautiful. But your dress is so boring!”, Cassandra yelled. Both girls were getting really angry now. “Carrie, Cassandra, that’s enough!”, Ma said. “I want you both to apologize to each other”. “Sorry, Carrie”, Cassandra said. “I’m sorry too”, Carrie replied. But neither girl looked like she meant it.


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