August 2, 1932
“Sir, excuse me. Could you please tell me what time the train from Springfield arrives?” I was out of breath from running by the time I reached the ticket window.
“Springfield? No train come from Springfield today, miss.” The ticket master spoke thickly around the wad of chewing tobacco in his cheek. I swallowed my disgust and tried not to make a face.
“Not Springfield, Kentucky, sir, Springfield, Illinois.” I felt a tug on my skirt.
“Oh, Illinois. Well, let’s see here.” He spat into a container thankfully hidden behind the counter and got out a paper schedule. “You see, the train wouldn’t come straight from Springfield, honey. It probably come from Louisville or Cincinnati.”
“Yes, yes, I know.” My impatience with this man was growing by the second. “What time does it arrive? I’m supposed to pick up my brother, and I’m afraid I’ve missed the train.”
“Mama.” Maggie tugged my skirt again.
“Just a minute, darling.”
“Well, that’s the thing.” He squinted at me, yellow teeth flashing as he talked. “Springfield wouldn’t be on my paper here. You don’t know which way he come?”
“No, I’m afraid I don’t. I—”
“Mama,” Maggie repeated a little louder.
I closed my eyes in frustration. “I’m trying to find out what time Uncle’s train gets here.”
“This is ’portant.”
“What is it, Margaret? I’m losing my patience.” I turned to look sternly at her.
“Ruth ran that way.” She pointed into the crowd behind us.
I gasped, and my eyes immediately began to search for white blond curls. “Ruth!” I left the man at the window and dodged and ducked among the crowd at the station, calling frantically for my younger daughter. I was practically dragging Maggie behind me, although she was trying her best to keep up.
“Oh, dear Lord! Where is she? Ruth!”
“I’m sorry Mama.” Maggie’s lip quivered. “She pulled me, and I couldn’t hold on.”
“It’s not your fault, darling, but we have to find her right now!” I forced myself not to think about the dangers train stations posed to toddlers.
“Ruth!” Maggie’s little voice rang above the crowd.
I broke through another throng of people and heard a voice calling, “Is this who you’re looking for, ma’am?” Blond curls snapped into focus, and my heart stopped before it started beating again.
A young woman with dark hair was holding Ruth and waving to us. I began rushing toward her, and the woman set Ruth down and watched her toddle straight into my arms.
“Ruth Anne Darcy!” I babbled. “You mustn’t run from Mama like that, darling. Thank you so much for catching her, miss. She’s quick as lightning. I looked away for a moment, and she was gone.”
The young woman smiled. She was pretty, with vivacious brown eyes and dark hair. She leaned down to talk to Maggie, and they proceeded to carry on a grown-up conversation while I tried to slow my pounding heartbeat. Through some pleasant small talk, I found out her name was Elizabeth Bennet, and she had just moved to town with her parents and sisters.
Suddenly, Maggie pulled away from my grasp, her excited “Unca!” ringing through the depot. I turned to see William several yards away, holding out his arms to the girls. I let Ruth down so she could follow her sister.
“I guess I should go. It was good to meet you Miss Bennet, and thank you again for catching Ruth.”
“I hope to see you again soon.” Elizabeth returned my friendly smile. “Goodbye Mrs…”
“Oh, I’m Georgiana. Georgiana Darcy.” I was so flustered I’d forgotten to introduce myself.
When I approached William, he reached over and gave me a quick embrace. “Hello, Gi.”
“I didn’t expect you to bring the whole clan.” He reached down and chucked Maggie’s chin.
“We lost Ruth, but Elizabeth found her,” Maggie piped up.
“What happened? Who found her?” he asked, his expression instantly stern.
“She got away while I was asking about your train. That nice young woman over there caught her before she got too far.” I tried to discreetly point out Miss Bennet to him.
“Her name is Elizabeth, like my middle name,” Maggie chimed in.
“Gi, you could have left the girls at home with Mrs. Reynolds.”
“Well, William,” I replied in exasperation, “I probably should have done that, but all they could talk about this morning was coming to get Unca. I didn’t want to disappoint them.” His terse tone, after I’d just had the scare of my life, was mighty irritating!
“Mmmph.” He leaned over and gathered up Ruth with one arm.
I didn’t take offense at his little grunt. I knew he would have brought them along too.
Maggie tried to take his suitcase and carry it for him, but it was as big as she was. He laughed.
“Here, Maggie Moo.” He gave Ruth back to me and picked up the case in one hand and took Maggie’s hand in the other. “How about you let me carry that big suitcase, and I’ll hold your hand.”
“All right.” Maggie beamed up at him.
I took a deep breath to calm my nerves, and after seeing Maggie’s adoration of her “Unca” for about the thousandth time, whispered a word of thanks for my big brother.