He wondered about Margie. Her letter didn’t seem quite right. Something about the tone of it, didn’t seem like Margie. Perhaps she was just worried about him. Perhaps she was lonely. Perhaps…he tried not to think about it too much. Margie was his Margie, and she would always be there for him.
Margie, his Margie, she followed him faithfully from the city, she didn’t even consider not going back to his home—of course she would move the country, that’s where Lee wanted to be, and so that’s where she would be.
“Whatcha doing, mister?” a girlish voice called.
Lee quickly drew his hand back from the tree branches, startled, but it was too late. There was already an apple fallen into his palm.
“Oh…just picking an apple.”
“But that’s my apple tree, mister. See?”
The girl across the fence pointed to the ground.
“The trunk comes up on our side. It is my tree.”
She stared expectantly at him.
Lee wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do.
“I…uh…I mean, I didn’t, um…”
“But I suppose I’ll let you go this once. My papa would probably nearly strangle you, if he found out you took one of our apples.” Lee wasn’t sure if the girl was serious, or only joking.
“You’re a stranger around here?”
“Yes, from out of town. I am staying with my uncle, Mr. Husemann.”
“He is a good neighbor. But has quite a rude nephew…” she laughed. “I am just teasing, don’t worry so much.”
Lee smiled, awkwardly.
“I’d still like to know your name, mister.”
“Lee. Lee Mitchell.”
“Nice to meet you, Miss Johns.” “And you, Mr. Mitchell.” Margie took a step forward and leaned on the fence. “So what brings you here?”
“Just visiting. To see what it’s like.”
“Where are you from?” “Out in the country, Alwein is the town near our farm.”
“I never heard of it.”
“No one has, we’re used to it.”
“And so why did you come here?”
“To see the world.”
“To see the world.”
“Is this what you think the world is?” “Not all of it, but more than what we have in Alwein.”
“Do you like the city?”
“Not really. There isn’t room to move around, to think, to breathe.”
“We get along just fine, the city is so exciting, always changing, always something happening.” “Yes, but on my farm, we know we can trust the land, it will always be there. It doesn’t change. It is a good thing.”
“How long are you staying?”
“I don’t know yet. I just got here, it depends on if I get used to it or not.”
“Well, I need to be going,” Margie said, “nice to meet you.”
Then she was gone, and Lee was left in a whirlwind.
There weren’t girls like that back in the country. All the girls he knew were strong workers, tan and silent. But Margie was slim, like a slip of sunshine, and she wasn’t afraid to speak. Her eyes were bright and bold. He liked her already.
“Aunt Jane, who are your neighbors?” Lee asked quietly.
“Old Mrs. Gates?”
“No, on the other side.”
“You mean the Johns?” “Yes.” “Why do you ask?”
“I met Miss Johns today.”
“Oh.” She was silent, and then suddenly looked up from her embroidery. “You met Margie?”
“Oh! What happened? How did you meet her?”
“Well…I didn’t realize it, but the apple tree in the back belongs to them, and I was ready to take an apple, and Miss Johns came out and told me that it was their tree.”
“Was that all?” “No, we talked for a few minutes.”
“Fredrick, I think we need to invite the Johns family over for dinner,” Jane said.
He looked up sharply from the paper.
“Why would we need to do that? We already know them.” “Yes, but Lee doesn’t.” She spoke in a low whisper, as if afraid of someone listening in. “And I think he likes Margie. There can’t be any decent girls out there where he lives. Think of what it would do for him, and his family, if he married her.”
Lee was thrown in with Margie frequently, and they grew to know each other better. He discovered that Margie on the inside was even more entrancing than Margie on the outside.
And then the day came when Lee realized he had to return home. His help would be needed on the farm. He promised his mother he would return. She was begging him to come back. But he could not leave Margie there, alone, without telling her how he felt.
They were together under the apple tree. Margie had given him the privilege of enjoying its fruits.
“Margie,” he said quietly. “I am going to be leaving.”
She looked at him in surprise.
“Already? I thought you would stay longer. I mean…you haven’t really gotten to see the city much, and it would be a shame…it would be a shame if you went back to the country without knowing it better.”
“I know, but my family needs me to help. And they miss me.” Margie was silent.
“But, Margie, can we write to each other? And Margie…I, I, um…I want you to come out to my farm, and marry me. I love you Margie, you’re not like anyone I’ve ever known. I want to live with you, to share my life with you.”
“Oh!” She glanced at him with shock. “You want to marry me?” She asked, a little breathless.
“Yes, I love you, Margie. Will you marry me?” “I don’t know…I need to ask my papa…I don’t know.” “But do you love me?”
“Yes, yes. I love you, Lee, I do.”
“Then I will ask your father.”
Margie heard the door close. She heard Lee’s footsteps outside on the sidewalk.
“Margie, papa wants you,” her mother called.
She took a deep breath and went into his room.
“Yes, papa?” “I think you know. That young man, Lee, he just asked for permission to marry you.”
“Yes. And…?” He took his glasses off and looked steadily at her.
“Margie, do you realize what you are doing?” “Yes.”
“You’re devoting your life to this country bumpkin?”
“He’s not a bumpkin. He is just different. And I want to spend my life with him.” “You love him?” “Yes.”
“I don’t know, papa,” she took his hand, “but I do. Please let us marry,” she pleaded.
“We may never see you again.”
“His farm isn’t that far away.”
“And you’ve never been to the country.”
“I will get used to it. And I love him.”
“What if you don’t get used to it? And you marry him? You’ll be trapped.”
“I’ll be happy. I’ll get used to it because that is where Lee is.”
“I know. Like my father.”
“What will I do? What will I do without my little girl? And he is poor, and you will never be famous or rich. You’ll just be stuck out on that deserted countryside, with a poor farmer.”
“Papa, don’t say that! Lee is a good man, and he isn’t poor. He isn’t rich, but he isn’t poor. We will manage. Have you told mama?”
“No, I’ll let you do that,” he laughed.
“Margie, I can’t let you do that!” her mother moaned. “That is just too much. I didn’t like that boy hanging around here, now I see I should have stopped it at the beginning.”
“But mama, we love each other…”
“Love? How can that silly young boy love? His head is full of cows, and corn, and…” she broke down and began crying. “Margie, you’re the only child we have. And you want to leave and go off there?”
“Yes, I love him.”
“But what will we do without you?”
“You did something before I was born, didn’t you? You can still go to parties and drink tea with fancy ladies.”
“But the house will be so lonely without you…”
Margie put her arms around her mother.
“I know. But would you have me give up an opportunity for love and happiness?”
“No, no, I wouldn’t want that. I want you to be happy. But how will you find happiness on that farm? It seems so strange.”
“I know, but I love him. That makes all the difference.”
“Well, Lee, my parents finally agreed,” she said quietly. “It took some convincing. And there are some conditions.”
“We have to wait until the spring. But we can write letters.”
“I am leaving in five minutes, to catch the train. My uncle is tired of me being here, I think, he is rushing me out on the soonest train,” Lee laughed. “But I will write you. And make plans—there shall be a wedding in May!”
“Yes, Lee, I will look forward to that, and write to you in the meantime. What do you think your parents will say?” “I don’t know. But they cannot stop me. Once my mind is made up, no one can stop me.”
He took her hand and kissed it.
“Don’t worry, and don’t get lonesome. I will be back to take you home. I will always love you—don’t forget that.” She brushed tears from her eyes and nodded.
“Yes, I love you, and I’ll try not to become impatient. I’ll be waiting for you.”
And in the distance they heard the train whistling.
“I need to go. Good-bye, Margie.
And so he was gone. She watched after him, fading away into the blur of crowds until she could see him no more.
“I love you, Lee” she whispered. “I love you.”
He didn’t notice the other passengers, or anything about the train. He couldn’t get his mind off Margie. But as he drew closer to home, a nagging worry grew. How would he tell his parents?
“Oh, Lee, you’re home!” Eva threw her arms around him. “We’ve missed you so much. I nearly thought you wouldn’t come back at all.”
“I promised I would return, so here I am.”
And even then, as she embraced him, she knew there was something different. She knew something had happened to him in the city. She looked up at him, hoping he would tell her. But he brushed her silent questions aside.
“Where is father?”
“Out in the barn, Avery’s out there too.”
“I’ll go surprise them.”
He nonchalantly greeted his father and brother.
“I am back. Here to help out with the chores again,” he laughed.
“Glad you’re back,” his father said simply.
It wasn’t until after dinner that night did he tell them.
“Mother, father, I have some news for you.” He paused, unsure of how to say it. “While I was in the city…I mean, there were—there are—some neighbors, they live next to Uncle Fredrick. They have a…oh, I’ll start again. Next May, I am going to marry Margie Johns, a girl I met in the city.”
His father looked at him, slightly surprised, more confused than shocked. His mother looked down, her lips tight.
“And you didn’t ask for our permission?” his mother said.
“I knew you would say no.”
“Why?” she asked, a bit offended at his presumption.
“Because she isn’t who you wanted me to marry. But she is a good girl, very nice, very pretty.”
“And you love her?”
“And she loves you?” “Yes.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. Only a girl in love would want to marry some nearly-poor farmer and move out to this sort of place.”
“Well, I hope she can adjust to life out here. And I hope she is really a good girl,” his father said.
His mother was silent.