The French Girl
Knock, knock, knock.
“I will answer, Mama!” Marie Brinker opened the door of their cabin one spring Saturday morning.
“Hello, Gretel!” Marie said to the girl who stood there. Gretel bobbed in a little curtsy. Her brown braids circled her head and a big blue and gray-striped apron wrapped around her middle. “Mrs. Beger will butcher geese next week. She has sent me to ask you to a feather bee,” the girl said.
“Can we go, Mama?” Marie thought the idea of playing with soft feathers very nice. “Will you be there, too?” she asked. Gretel was Mrs. Beger’s “girl.” Even though she was only eleven, a year older than Marie, Mrs. Beger had taken Gretel in to help with her huge brood of children.
Marie would love to have someone like Gretel to watch over her sister Matilda and brother Henri while Mama cared for baby Carrie.
“Feathering is such a mess, my daughter. I don’t have anyone to watch the baby,” Mrs. Brinker said.
“Mrs. Brinker, Mrs. Beger says to tell you that I will care for little ones if their mothers will attend.”
“Let’s go, Mama. It will be fun,” Marie begged.
“Mrs. Beger says to tell you also that if you provide a goose, we will all share the feathers.”
“It is nice to share the work,” Mrs. Brinker said. “I guess we can provide a goose. You tell her we’ll come.”
Gretel made her curtsy again, smiled at Marie, and skipped away.
“Mama, what do we want with feathers? Are you going to make a feather duster?”
“No, daughter. When feathers are clean and dried, we will make new featherbeds.”
“Oh! One for Henri and one for Carrie?”
“Marie, you are full of questions this morning.”
“Yes, Mama. But—”
“No more, now. You don’t even have your hair brushed. You saw how neat Gretel looked. Go, take my brush and go outside. Take care of Matilda’s hair, and then she will brush yours. I will tie the ribbons when you are ready.”
“It’s a good thing you don’t have school this morning. You would be late.”
“I wonder who else is coming to the feather bee?” Marie said. “I hope all my friends will be there!”
“We have many chores, daughter. Don’t dawdle. You must help with the store in a short while.”
“Can I turn the sign to ‘open’?” Marie asked.
“It is Matilda’s turn today,” Mama said. “We need to dust the shelves. Hurry with your hair!”
Marie took her sister outside. “The shelves are so empty it won’t take long to dust them,” she told Matilda. “Then we can play with the children who come with their mothers.”