Read The Missing Book Online

Authors: Lois Gladys Leppard

Tags: #Fiction

The Missing Book

BOOK: The Missing Book

With love to
Julia Elizabeth Maron,
Margaret and Joe Maron's Little Princess

Will Mandie lose her book and her friend?

“AMANDA, WHY SO QUIET?” her mother asked as they drove along the trail.

“Oh, I was just thinking,” Mandie replied.

“Thinking about what?”

“Mrs. Chapman taking a job way off somewhere. Faith would have to move away,” Mandie said.

“I know it's hard to lose a friend, but just think what this will do for Mrs. Chapman if she is able to secure the position,” Mrs. Shaw said. “She will be able to earn a living for herself and Faith. And after losing all her family in that fire back in Missouri, she has no one but Faith. She needs Faith worse than we need her.”

Mandie looked up at her mother. “I know, Mama. I'm glad for Mrs. Chapman, and Faith seems to be glad about it too, even though she knows she will have to move.”

“Don't worry about losing a friend. You and Faith can always visit, and you will make more friends in the future,” Mrs. Shaw promised.

“Maybe someone will move into their old house if they leave here,” Mandie said hopefully. Then her thoughts drifted back to the missing book.

How could she tell her parents the truth?


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Where Is It?

“LET'S SEE NOW,” Mandie said to herself as she placed her books on a table in the parlor. “I think I'll do my reading assignment first.”

Mandie had come home from school that March afternoon and had immediately sat down to begin her homework. Her mother was at Miss Abigail's house helping the neighbor women finish some needlework for Mrs. Chapman. Her father was outside working on the split-rail fence around their property. And her sister, Irene, was nowhere to be found.

Mandie shuffled through the books, looking for her reading book. It was not there.

“Oh, shucks!” she exclaimed. “I don't have my book. I wonder where it is.” She thought for a moment and then said aloud, “Joe must have it. He must have forgotten to give it to me when he carried my books home from school.”

The nine-year-old girl pushed back her long blond braid and tried to figure out how she could get her reading assignment done without the book. She couldn't borrow Irene's; her sister was two years older and did not have the same book.

At that moment Mandie's yellow cat, Windy, came in from the kitchen and began purring and rubbing around her ankles. Mandie picked her up. “Lucky you, you don't have such things as homework,” she said to the cat, rubbing her head.

Mandie had never failed to do her homework, and this problem had her worried. Maybe she could go over to Miss Abigail's house and read her lesson out of Faith's book. Faith and her grandmother, Mrs. Chapman, were still staying with Miss Abigail because their house had not been completely repaired yet because of bad weather. But how would she get over there?

“I'll go ask my father if he will take me,” Mandie said to herself. She quickly set the cat down. “You can't go, but I won't be gone long,” she told Windy.

Windy looked up at her and let out a loud purr.

Mandie went to the front door, looked back to be sure Windy was not following her outside, and quickly slipped out. She hurried around the yard, searching for her father. She hadn't seen him when she came home, so she guessed he was at the back of the property.

Spring of 1898 was coming early in western North Carolina, and Mandie happily breathed in the fresh, warm air. Soon Charley Gap would be budding out all over with new leaves, and wildflowers would begin appearing in the woods. Mandie had hated wearing all her heavy winter clothes during the terribly cold winter they had had. Today was warm enough for her to come outside without her coat.

“Daddy, where are you?” Mandie yelled. She hurried toward the back property line.

Just as she passed the barn, her father suddenly appeared in the doorway. “Here I am,” he called back to her.

“Oh, Daddy, I didn't even think about you being in the barn,” Mandie said as she walked over to him.

“I'm repairing a harness,” Mr. Shaw told her. “What was the rush all about?”

“I don't have my reading book and I need to do my homework so I was wondering if you would take me over to Miss Abigail's so I could use Faith's,” Mandie quickly explained in one long breath.

“If you had homework in it, why didn't you bring it home?” her father asked.

“I thought I did—I mean, I was supposed to, but somehow I don't have it,” she explained. “Either Joe didn't give it to me with my other books when I came home or I left it at school. But I think I remember putting it in my stack to bring home, so most likely Joe has it.”

“And you want to go to Miss Abigail's just to use Faith's book?” he asked.

“Yes, sir. You see, Mama is over there and I can come back home with her if you will take me now,” Mandie told him.

“I'm sorry, Amanda, but it's not possible right now for me to take you,” Mr. Shaw said, holding up a leather strap. “Your mother took the cart and I am repairing the other harness, so we can't use the wagon.”

“Oh, shucks! What am I going to do?” Mandie said, blowing out her breath.

“Maybe you'll have time to read your lesson tomorrow before your class begins,” her father suggested.

“I might,” Mandie said, disappointed. “I'll be up on the road waiting when Joe comes by in the morning. If we hurry maybe I'll get to school early enough.”

Mr. Shaw's blue eyes smiled down at Mandie's blue ones as he said, “And if you don't get it read in time, I'm sure Mr. Tallant will forgive you if you explain.” He reached to push back a lock of his red hair as the wind ruffled it.

“Oh, if Joe has it, why didn't he bring it back to me? He knows I have homework,” Mandie said with a loud groan.

“Maybe he will yet.You just got home,” her father reminded her. “Go get the rest of your homework done just in case Joe does bring the book.”

“Yes, sir, I suppose I'd better,” Mandie replied.

She returned to the house and quickly did her other homework, still hoping Joe would come by. But by bedtime that night Joe had not shown up.

The next morning Mandie was up early and rushed through breakfast. She had been up at the road waiting for Joe for at least thirty minutes before he finally came.

Mandie hurried to meet him. “I was hoping you'd come by early,” she told him as he reached to take her books. He always carried her books to school and then home in the afternoon.

“Early? Why?” Joe asked as Mandie started down the road.

“I don't have my reading book and couldn't do my homework. Do you have it?” Mandie asked, looking up at him as her short legs tried to keep up with his long ones.

“Your reading book? No, I don't have your reading book,” he replied.

“Didn't I give it to you with all my other books when we left school yesterday?” Mandie asked.

“Why, no,” Joe said. “I gave you all the books you gave me.”

Mandie blew out her breath. “Then I must have left it at school, because I didn't have it when I got home.”

“Yes, it must be at school,” Joe agreed.

When they got to the schoolhouse, they found they were early after all. Mr. Tallant, the schoolmaster, was at his desk, but the only other pupil there was Faith.

“Good morning. Y'all are early too,” Faith greeted them as Mandie hurried down to her desk.

“Yes, I'm looking for my reading book,” Mandie told her. She quickly went through the books in her desk. “It's not here.” She looked over at Joe.

He shrugged. “I'm sorry, but I have no idea where it is.”

Mandie explained her dilemma to Faith, who immediately held out her reading book. “Here, use mine,” she said. “You've got time to read the assignment before we begin class.”

“Thank you,” Mandie said gratefully, taking the book and quickly turning to the appropriate page.

By the time all the other pupils had arrived, Mandie was finished with the lesson and gave the book back to Faith. Now she was prepared for today. But what would she do about homework for tomorrow?

And where was her reading book? What had happened to it? It had to be somewhere, but where?

When school was out for the day, Faith again came to the rescue. “Mandie, why don't you come home with me and do the assignment in reading out of my book?” she said as she left the schoolhouse with Mandie and Joe. “Your mother is there again today working on the needlework. You could go home with her.”

“That's a good idea, except my father will be wondering where I am if I don't get home on time,” Mandie told her.

“I could go by your house and tell him,” Joe offered as the three started down the road.

Mandie stopped to look up at the tall boy. “Would you, Joe?” she asked.

“Sure,” Joe replied. “You girls go ahead. I'm going to take the shortcut.” He started off toward the woods.

“Wait!” Mandie called. She ran to catch up with him. “Joe, how about not mentioning the book? Just tell my father I went home with Faith and will come back with my mother. You see, I haven't decided what to tell them about the book.” Her parents wouldn't be happy to hear she had lost a schoolbook.

“All right,” Joe agreed. “See you in the morning.”

“Thank you, Joe,” Mandie called back to him as she went to join Faith.

“It is strange about your book, isn't it? It seems to have just vanished,” Faith remarked as they walked on.

“Yes, I can't figure it out at all,” Mandie said, frowning. “I've been wondering if maybe Joe could have dropped it on the way to my house from school yesterday. Of course, I won't say that to him because he wouldn't like it.”

“But, Mandie, if he had dropped it I'd think someone would have found it,” Faith replied.

“Yes, and my name is on the first page inside the book,” Mandie said. “There is also an inkblot from it that just barely smudged a place on the top edges of the pages. You can barely see it, but I know it's there.”

“Wouldn't you think if someone found it they'd return it to you?” Faith asked.

“Some animal could have found it and carried it off somewhere,” Mandie said, her eyes wide.

Faith's eyes widened too.

When Mandie and Faith got to Miss Abigail's house, they found Mandie's mother sitting in the parlor with Miss Abigail, Mrs. Chapman, and several other ladies. All were busily doing needlework.

Mrs. Shaw looked up at Mandie in surprise. “Is something wrong, Amanda?”

Mandie smiled and said, “Oh, no, Mama. I decided to walk home with Faith so we could do our homework together while you are here.”

“Well, then you'd better get at it,” Mrs. Shaw told her. “I don't plan on staying much longer.”

“Yes, ma'am,” Mandie replied.

“Come on, Mandie, let's go up to my room,” Faith said, leading the way into the long hallway and toward the staircase.

Once they were behind closed doors in Faith's room, Faith handed her reading book to Mandie. “Here, do this first.”

“Thank you,” Mandie said, accepting the book and turning the pages to find the homework assignment.

Before long Mandie was finished, and once again she and Faith discussed the missing-book situation.

“What are you going to do?” Faith asked. “You are welcome to use my book anytime, but you do need your own book.”

“I don't really know what to do,” Mandie replied, sitting on the window seat overlooking the front yard. “Our books cost so much money now. I remember my mother and father talking about it back at the first of this school year. It seems the books keep going up in price every year, and I know my parents don't have a lot of money. And they might think I was just careless and lost it.”

“But I think they would want to be sure you had the necessary books to learn your lessons,” Faith said. “I think you ought to tell them.”

“I suppose I'll have to sooner or later. We have a lot of school time left yet before we get out for the summer,” Mandie said with a big sigh. “I'd like to find my book. I thought maybe I could search for it awhile longer before I tell them it's missing.”

“I'll help you all I can, Mandie,” Faith offered.

“I just don't know how to begin looking for it,” Mandie said. “I don't know when it disappeared. Before I went home from school? Or did it get lost on the way home, or what? I do know I had it that morning at school. I definitely know that.”

“Do you think another pupil could have borrowed it that day? Without you seeing them, that is?” Faith asked.

“I don't know how anyone could have done that without my seeing them,” Mandie said.

“You will have to tell Mr. Tallant you don't have your reading book, because he asks us to read in class a lot,” Faith reminded her.

“I know,” Mandie said as she stood up. “Let's go back downstairs. My mother may be getting ready to go home.”

When the girls returned to the parlor, the ladies had paused in their needlework and were listening to Mrs. Chapman's latest news. Faith's grandmother had had medical treatment in New York back in the winter for burns on her face and was now in much better health. She was looking for a teaching position; she had been a schoolteacher before the accident.

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