A Day to Be Brave


1 Agnes tried not to squirm in the narrow bunk so that she wouldn’t wake her little sister, Sarah, lying beside her. She pulled the blanket up over her ears, but even that didn’t keep out the faint tom-tom beat of drums from across the river. Father insisted that the Indians were friendly to the settlers, but Agnes was still afraid. Finally she fell asleep.

2 Agnes felt like she’d only been asleep a few minutes when little Sarah pounced on her, pulling back the blanket and saying, “Up, Aggie. It’s morning—get up!” Mama was ladling hot oatmeal into their bowls. “Your father and Tom have left already to help the new family build their cabin,” she told the two girls.

3 Agnes’s spirits rose at the mention of new neighbors, even though they would live miles away. Maybe there’ll be a girl my age, she hoped, someone to take the place of Emily, far away in Scotland.

Loud banging startled them, and before anyone could reach the cabin door, young Billy Harris burst in. “Mrs. McTavish, it’s Ma. She’s feeling bad, and the baby’s coming. Please come and help!”

4 Agnes quickly helped her mother gather up some things to take, while Billy jumped around, getting in the way. “Now, Agnes,” Mama said, “you’ll have to be in charge until Papa and Tom get back.” Agnes gulped but only said, “Don’t worry about us, Mama. We’ll be OK.”

5 As Mama and the boy set off, Agnes asked, “Now, what shall we do today?” Sarah pleaded, “Play with your shoes! Dance on the tree stump!” Agnes laughed. “Your favorite game!” Sarah clumped up the steps to the upper room and came down dangling the shoes by their laces. The shoes had become a link with the past for Agnes.

6 As Agnes put on the shoes, many wonderful memories of Scotland came back to her. At the door she began to wonder if they should leave the cabin. What if the Indians are watching? Her stomach tightened with fear. Not wanting to frighten Sarah, however, Agnes let herself be pulled outside.

7 But there was no happy spring in her step as she went through a Scottish dance routine on the tree stump. She finally stopped, panting, and took off the shoes and put them on the stump.

Sarah was coaxing for a turn just as Agnes heard a rustle in the brush. She spun, terrified, and was sure that she caught a glimpse of an Indian!

8 Grabbing Sarah’s hand, Agnes ran back to the cabin, then barricaded the door with the stout plank as her father did each night. Sarah cried, “Aggie, we forgot the shoes! I’ll go get them.” “No!” Agnes cried. Then, gaining control of herself, she softened her voice, adding, “Leave them, Love. We can get them later.”

9 The day dragged by slowly. As Agnes did small jobs in the cabin, she kept scanning the clearing through the window, looking for anything unusual. Then late in the afternoon she suddenly realized that her beautiful shoes were no longer on the stump!

Shouts from outside told Agnes that her father and brother were back, and she saw her mother, too, clambering out of the horse-drawn cart. “This is no gilded coach,” her mother joked, “but it saved me a long walk home. Papa found out that I was at the Harrises’ and picked me up. The Harrises have a fine new baby son. We’ll take some dinner over to them tomorrow.”

10 That evening Agnes told the family about seeing an Indian and bringing Sarah inside and about the shoes vanishing. Mama stroked her daughter’s hair and said, “I can see that you have the makings of a fine, strong pioneer woman!”

11 The next morning Sarah looked out the door and shouted, “Aggie! Mama! Look! There are some slippers on the stump. Come and see!” But what Sarah thought were slippers sitting on the stump were really soft leather moccasins with beaded embroidery down the front.

12 Agnes quickly looked toward the river. On the opposite bank she saw a tall, leather-shirted Indian man moving forward out of the trees. Then another figure came into view, an Indian girl waving in a friendly gesture and holding up Agnes’s shoes by their long laces.

It took a minute before Agnes understood. Then she smiled and held up the beaded moccasins and waved back.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Robyn S. Officer