“We’re finally here. There is the stone house by the wharf,” Hilda’s father called.
“At last,” her mother sighed. “How good it will be to set foot on dry land again.”
Slowly the ship moved toward the shore. How many days, wondered Hilda, have we traveled up the river from New Orleans?
Soon many people were bustling up and down the gangplank that the sailors had lowered as a bridge between the ship and the wharf.
“Look, Mother,” Hilda called. “There goes Father. He’s carrying our rocking chair down the gangplank.”
When all their belongings had been unloaded, Hilda and her mother walked off the ship and onto land. Father had their belongings piled on a wagon. He helped Hilda and Mother climb onto the wagon seat, and then the three of them rode down the main street of Nauvoo. They rode slowly past the brick homes already completed and other homes being built.
Soon the Larson family reached the outskirts of Nauvoo. Halfway down a narrow lane where weeds grew, Father stopped the horse. They were in front of a small log cabin.
“Is this the home Brother Cox said we could use?” Mother asked as if she could not believe it.
Father stepped from the wagon and reached up to help Hilda down. “Yes,” he answered. “Brother Cox will be in England on his mission through the winter. By next summer we’ll have a home of our own.”
Hilda slowly followed her mother across a dirt yard to the cabin. They stepped through the doorway.
The room was small, about twenty steps in each direction. There was a fireplace on one wall, and two walls had single windows.
Hilda wrinkled up her nose at the smell of the damp earth floor mingled with the odor of old rags used to stuff the cracks.
“Well,” Mother sighed as she took off her shawl, “we must get busy and move our things inside. At least it will be good to have a roof over our heads.”
But sometimes during the winter that followed Hilda thought they would be almost as well off without a roof at all. On wet days it leaked, and icy drops of water often fell on Hilda’s face while she lay sleeping. When she sat before the fireplace, drops sometimes trickled down her neck. The cabin was seldom warm. There were no cupboards; a wooden chest was their table. Hilda’s bed was made on a board placed on the floor.
Father found work in the stone quarry, but on every tenth day he helped build the temple.
Hilda and her mother twisted cotton in wicks to sell to a local candle factory, and Mother sometimes helped a milliner make hats. So the Larsons kept busy throughout the long winter.
Finally spring came. Birds sang in the locust trees. Hilda saw lilac bushes begin to bloom, and bright yellow daffodils dotted the fields.
One morning Hilda’s mother said, “We’ve finished a bundle of wicks. Will you please take it to the factory?”
Hilda was glad for a walk in the warm spring sunshine.
Mother gave her the bundle of wicks and another package pinned tightly together. “Give this package to Mr. Lindgren, the shoemaker, after you deliver the wicks,” Mother told Hilda. “His shop is on the corner of Mulholland Street.”
Hilda asked what was in the package. Mother only smiled. “Mr. Lindgren will know,” she said.
When Hilda reached the candle factory, a plump lady took the wicks and counted them. “You and your mother have earned seventy-four cents,” she said.
Hilda left the factory and walked to Mr. Lindgren’s shop. Inside the long narrow building Hilda could smell new lumber. On a board plank near the door were finished shoes, heavy boots for men, and sturdy shoes for children. A beautiful pair of soft kid shoes caught Hilda’s attention. What girl in Nauvoo will be lucky enough to own those beautiful shoes? she wondered.
“Is that package for me?” Mr. Lindgren asked.
Hilda nodded. “I have one for your mother too,” he said. Mr. Lindgren handed Hilda a plain square box. “Be careful with it,” he cautioned.
Mother was waiting when Hilda reached the cabin. Hilda gave her the money she had received for the wicks, and then she held out the box. But Mother shook her head and told Hilda to keep it.
“I made a hat for Mr. Lindgren’s wife,” she explained, “and in exchange he made me something to give to you, Hilda, because you’ve been such a great help to me.”
Quickly Hilda opened the box. Inside was a pair of beautiful kid shoes just like the ones she had seen in Mr. Lindgren’s shop!
Hilda carefully took the shoes from the box. She could hardly believe they were for her.
“Oh, thank you, Mother!” she exclaimed, her eyes bright with love and happiness.
Hilda knew that she would have other shoes in her life, but she was sure that she would never again have shoes that could make her as happy as this beautiful pair!