Lidia trudged up the long farm lane, not even turning to wave to her friends still on the school bus. Her mind was too busy with her problem: What can I possibly find between now and tomorrow morning to take to the class auction? The auction, with its proceeds going to the Junior Red Cross, was an annual affair in the country school, but it was a new experience for Lidia.
Oh dear. As if I haven’t got enough to worry about learning a new language in a new land, and trying to make new friends in a new school.
Her problem was instantly forgotten, however, when she opened the cottage door and saw a letter on the floor. It bore an official-looking return address, and it had a Red Cross emblem in the upper left-hand corner.
She knew that she would have to be patient until her parents came home for supper; then she would read it to them. Without the advantage of school, which Lidia had in this new country, her parents’ knowledge of English was very limited.
If only the letter contained some good news about her uncle! Lidia placed the envelope against the only ornament on the shelf, a little blue glass pony. As her fingers touched the figurine, she prayed fervently that it would soon be reunited with its mate, the one that used to sit by its side in their house in Poland. When they had made plans to emigrate to America, not knowing when—or even if—they might meet again, the two Jelinek brothers had each taken one of the glass ponies, praying that they would be together again one day.
Mr. Williams, who owned the farm where Lidia and her parents lived, admired the pony one day and was told the story of the two brothers. He had written to the Red Cross, asking for information. Surely this letter would tell them that the younger Jelinek was now in the United States too!
Remembering that she had promised to start preparing supper, Lidia went into the kitchen and got out pots for the vegetables. As she set the table, she looked on all the cupboard shelves. There was nothing that she could take to the auction sale tomorrow! Not a trinket, not a spare dish, nothing. There were only the bare necessities that the Williamses had kindly provided for them. She dreaded being the only one in her class not to add some object to the collection on her teacher’s desk.
The door suddenly opened, and Lidia rushed with the letter to greet her parents. And while they waited apprehensively, she stumbled through the unfamiliar phrases as she read the letter to them. Then, as she came to the closing sentence, she slowly read these discouraging words: “We are sorry that we have found no trace of your brother. However, be assured that we will keep trying …”
Silence hung in the room. Then Father said quietly, “I’ll wash. Then we’ll eat supper.”
After the usual prayer of thanks for food and shelter, the family avoided speaking of the letter. Father told of a sick cow that was now getting well; Mother had helped Mrs. Williams clean the attic of the rambling old farmhouse.
“And how was school, Lidia?” Father asked.
The girl kept her eyes on her plate as she answered, “Fine, Father. Fine.”
“But you are very quiet,” Father pursued. “You have trouble at school?”
“No, no trouble.”
“It’s just this auction at school tomorrow, and I should take something.”
“Auction?” Mother asked. “What is that?”
“Oh, everybody takes something, then the teacher asks for bids, and the one who bids the highest buys the book or ornament or whatever. The money goes to the Red Cross.”
“That is good,” Father said, nodding. “The Red Cross helped us many times. Here, take this.” Reaching into his pocket, he drew out a few coins.
“No thanks, Father,” Lidia said, pushing it away. “I have money of my own I earned from weeding the garden for Mrs. Williams. But we are supposed to take something that can be sold.”
Father looked around the room. “There is so little here.”
Lidia’s face fell. “I know,” she cried. “There’s nothing I can take—nothing in this place!” She hung her head to hide her tears and wished that she had kept her words in check.
The girl waited for her father to scold her; instead, he got up slowly and went over to the shelf. He stood a minute, then he came back with the glass pony in his hand. “Take this,” he said quietly.
Lidia’s eyes widened. “You don’t mean … the pony?”
Lidia felt the smooth blue glass and touched the black eyes. Nobody spoke. She knew how much the pony meant to her father, and she sensed that her parents were thinking back to happier days when there were two little ponies standing together on the top of a piano.
In the morning the glass ornament sparkled on her teacher’s desk, and it brought the highest bid in the auction. Nancy Crane, its new owner, wrapped it carefully in tissue paper and put it in a box. Lidia could not help feeling sad as she watched.
At supper that night, Lidia described the sale and told her parents that Nancy said that she would take very good care of the pony.
“It’s good,” Father said, smiling, “that the pony helps the Red Cross in a very small way.”
While Lidia was wiping the dishes after supper, a knock on the door startled them. Looking past her father at the open door, Lidia saw her schoolmate Nancy. A tall man was with her.
“Hi, Lidia,” the girl called. “This is my father, and we’ve come to see you about the glass pony.”
As they sat around the table, Nancy’s father took the glass pony out of his pocket, set it on the table, and began explaining: “I couldn’t believe it when Nancy brought this home. Your Lidia had told her that it was but one of a pair and that you left the other in Poland.”
“Yah,” Mr. Jelinek replied, “with my brother.”
“Well,” the other man paused dramatically. “I’ve seen the mate to this pony.”
Lidia saw Father’s hands clench tightly, and Mother’s hand cover her mouth. “You are sure of this?” Father whispered.
“As sure as my name’s Walt Crane. I saw it only a few months ago.”
“How, Mr. Crane?” Lidia asked. “I mean, who had it?”
“A young man came asking for work. I didn’t need any extra help, but I knew that my cousin in Grand Falls did, so I drove him there. I saw the mate to this pony when I helped him move in.”
“This place, is it far?” Lidia asked.
“About 190 kilometers. Listen, everyone, come home with me, and I’ll telephone my cousin. As best as I can recollect, that young man did look like you, Mr. Jelinek. He must be your brother.”
As the Jelineks grabbed their jackets, Nancy gently placed the glass pony on the shelf. “Keep it, Lidia,” she said. “Soon they’ll be a pair again.”
As they were driving up the lane to the Crane farm, Lidia said to Nancy, “It’s really funny. Just yesterday a letter from the Red Cross said that they had not found my dad’s brother yet but that they’d keep trying. And it was actually through the Red Cross auction today that we have found him!”
She felt a hand on her sleeve, and Nancy said, “My grandma always says, ‘God often works in mysterious ways.’ And I guess that it must be true.”