Friday, June 11, 2010

WHEN AMBER CRIED ENOUGH: by Marguerite Mohler Hanson; part 8; 1932

The whole thing broke that evening. Dolly rounded up Drag and Henry when she found out she couldn't stop her mother, and the three started up the hill to the Chapelle house on the run, Dolly panting explanations.

"Mother talked all afternoon about giving Amber a piece of her mind and then she called up Mrs. Morris a few minutes ago--said she was coming up to see them. I phoned Amber to look out--Mother was on a rampage."

Drag groaned and lost a step.

"Amber's a good sport. She promised to hide in the silo if necessary."

"My heavens, what she must think of this family!" moaned Henry.

"Likes us," panted Dolly. "Says we're fun."

They found Mrs. Morris and their mother in the yard looking for Amber.

"I can't imagine where she's gone," protested Mrs. Morris. "I heard her answer the phone just a few minutes ago. She might be out at the calf yard."

They all trailed round the corner of the house. Drag caught his mother's arm. "What's this I hear?" he whispered.

"I know what I'm doing," she responded with dignity.

"Have a heart, Mother," he begged. "Be good."

"I'm going to give Amber a piece of my mind."

"You start something," he warned, "and I'll pick you up and trot you home." She knew he could do it, too.

They came in sight of the silo which was a thirty foot pit with a circular, cement wall extending a couple of feet about ground. Suddenly Drag remembered what Amber had said about the silo. Maybe she had meant it.

He knew that the morning before an itinerant outfit had begun filling the Chapelle silo. They had dropped in a few loads of fodder and then encountered engine trouble and quit. Now, with fermentation at its height, the pit would be a poison chamber filled with carbon dioxide.

Did Amber know of this danger? Had she crept down ignorantly, into that deadly, odorless gas?

Drag quickened his step to a run. The pit was deep and dark. But he fancied he could make out a lighter shadow at the bottom. Mrs. Morris had said that Amber wore a white dress.

Henry appeared at his side. They called a few times. With the machine out of order, air could not be blown down to purify the hole. There was only one thing to do. Drag swung over the rim and started down.

"Wait," Henry caught at him, "there's a gas mask in the house."

Drag shook his head, "I'm afraid to wait. It's a matter of minutes. I'll take the chance. Get the mask. Call a doctor. Maybe I won't make it."

A crowd had collected, including the village fire department which brought a pulmotor.

Amber was the first to regain consciousness. A few minutes later they quit working on Drag. He struggled to a sitting position and saw Amber bundled against a cushioned tree trunk near by. Hardly knowing what he did, he staggered to her side, knelt down and took her hand, unmindful of the crowd.

Amber moved over and made room for him against her tree.

"Let's not play that game any more," she whispered plaintively.

"Not so good, was it?" he answered noticing the shadows under her eyes.

The doctor had watched them, smiling; and then turned to the two older women. "We'll give them a few minutes together."

They felt better with every breath they drew.

Amber resumed her drowsy whispering. "I've been listening. Henry saved us both. He's a hero. He had a terrible time with you. He's so small and you're so big. You were very foolish to come down without a mask."

"Being foolish is the best thing I do," muttered Drag.

Amber put a hand on his arm. "But that is not enough," she whispered.

He looked down at her quickly, his heart beginning to pound. There was something in her eyes, in her voice. He bent, kissed her and kept on kissing her.

The scandalized family formed a screen around them.

Amber was struggling in rosy laughter.

"Drag--you goose--not here! Drag, please, enough--enough!

Drag smiled and let her go.

"At last--enough!" he said.

Amber looked up at Mrs. Flemming ingratiatingly. "Are you still angry at me?" she asked.

The older woman's eyes twinkled.

"Forgive me, Amber, I misunderstood. It wasn't done this way when I was a girl.