These Happy Golden Years
stopped, for if Mary lost any more hairpins, her beautiful large knot of hair would come off.
    Just at that instant, a bit of snow flung from Prince's 112
    foot fell into Laura's lap. Cap's shoulder was turned to her as he struggled with Mary. Laura nipped up the bit of snow and neatly dropped it inside his collar at the back of his neck.
    “Ow!” he yelled. “Looks like you'd help a fellow, Wilder. Two girls against me is too many.”
    “I'm busy driving,” Almanzo answered, and they all shouted with laughter. It was so easy to laugh in the springtime.

HOLDING DOWN A CLAIM
    Uncle Tom went east on the train next morning.
    When Laura came home from school at noon, he was gone.
    “No sooner had he gone,” said Ma, “than Mrs. McKee came. She is in distress, Laura, and asked me if you would help her out.”
    “Why, of course I will, if I can,” Laura said. “What is it?”
    Ma said that, hard as Mrs. McKee had worked at dressmaking all that winter, the McKees could not afford to move to their claim yet. Mr. McKee must keep his job at the lumberyard until they saved money enough to buy tools and seed and stock. He wanted Mrs.
    McKee to take their little girl, Mattie, and live on the claim that summer, to hold it. Mrs. McKee said she 114
    would not live out there on the prairie, all alone, with no one but Mattie; she said they could lose the claim, first.
    “I don't know why she is so nervous about it,” said Ma. "But it seems she is. It seems that being all alone, miles from anybody, scares her. So, as she told me, Mr.
    McKee said he would let the claim go. After he went to work, she was thinking it over, and she came to tell me that if you would go with her, she would go hold down the claim. She said she would give you a dollar a week, just to stay with her as one of the family."
    “Where is the claim?” Pa inquired.
    “It is some little distance north of Manchester,” said Ma. Manchester was a new little town, west of De Smet.
    “Well, do you want to go, Laura?” Pa asked her,
    “I guess so,” Laura said. “I'll have to miss the rest of school, but I can make that up, and I'd like to go on earning something.”
    “The McKees are nice folks, and it would be a real accommodation to them, so you may go if you want to,” Pa decided.
    “It would be a pity, though, for you to miss Mary's visit home,” Ma worried.
    “Maybe if I just get Mrs. McKee settled on the claim and used to it, I could come home long enough to see Mary,” Laura pondered.
    “Well, if you want to go, best go,” Ma said. “We needn't cross a bridge till we come to it. Likely it will work out all right, somehow.”
    So the next morning Laura rode with Mrs. McKee and Mattie on the train to Manchester. She had been on the cars once before, when she came west from Plum Creek, so she felt like a seasoned traveler as she followed the brakeman with her satchel, down the aisle to a seat. It was not as though she knew nothing about trains.
    It was a seven mile journey to Manchester. There the trainmen unloaded Mrs. McKee's furniture from the boxcar in front of the passenger coach, and a teamster loaded it onto his wagon. Before he had finished, the hotelkeeper was banging his iron triangle with a spike, to call any strangers to dinner. So Mrs. McKee and Laura and Mattie ate dinner in the hotel.
    Soon afterward the teamster drove the loaded wagon to the door, and helped them climb up to sit on the top of the load, among the rolls of bedding, the kitchen stove, the table and chairs and trunk and boxes of provi-sions. Mrs. McKee rode in the seat with the teamster.
    Sitting with their feet hanging down at the side of the wagon, Laura and Mattie clung to each other and to the ropes that bound the load to the wagon, as the team drew it bumping over the prairie. There was no road. The wagon wheels sank into the sod in places where it was soft from the melting snow, and the wagon and its load lurched from side to side. But it went very well until they

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