Margadele looked around in surprise, as she thanked Martha for the hospitality. “I most truly thank you for being so willing to let me stay.” She swayed a little. “Sorry, I think I’m still getting used to having my feet on something solid and stable.” She put a hand to her head, and let the bag she was carrying drop to the floor.
“Nancy was on her feet instantly, and rushed to her side. Taking her gently by the arm, she led her to a chair by the table where she had been working. “Here, miss, sit here, I’ll get you a drink.” She moved to where Martha was already pouring a cup of tea. “What do you take in your tea?” Nancy asked.
“Um….milk and a teaspoon of sugar, if you have it,” Margadele said.
Nancy prepared the tea and brought it to her. “There, get that inside you and you should be feeling better soon.”
“Thanks,” Margadele said. “I’m sorry; I am not usually prone to fainting spells. I guess the whole thing affected me more than I thought.” She picked up the cup and took a sip. “Ah, that hits the spot!” She leaned back and relaxed.
“I don’t know how you managed at all,” Martha said. “I know I wouldn’t have been able to do anything. I would have cowered in the basket and landed who knows where!”
Nancy agreed. “You had sense enough to at least try. But how did you know what to do?”
Margadele looked at her, smiling. “It took me long enough to remember I had an instruction manual with me. Once I check that out, I was able to get the balloon down to where I could make out things below me. It was cold, so I put my hoodie on, and figured out what was what. After that it wasn’t too hard, until the wind veered north and I needed to try to land.”
Just then Larry came in, not from the door where they had entered, but through a door by the fireplace. “Miss O’Brien, I have brought in the rest of the bags and backpacks from the balloon. I thought you might prefer to have them here.” He had two backpacks, one on each shoulder, and two large bags in his hands. He put these on the table and let the backpacks drop beside them.”
Margadele thanked him, and told Martha that the bags were the food stores they’d packed for the trip. “We planned on landing at various places, but were going to stay up overnight, too. So we packed things that would keep for those times. Please, feel free to use what is there, if the blizzard lasts long you may need the extra supplies.”
Martha and Larry thanked her, and the bags were placed in the storage room. She finished her tea, and Nancy touched her arm. “I hope you don’t mind sharing with me. Come and I’ll show you our room, and the bathroom. I know you will want to freshen up before dinner.” They went out the door by the fireplace.
To Margadele’s astonishment, there were two bedrooms, a bath and a large store room extending in a straight line from the main room. Nancy explained that the house was of stone, and the snow blocks were built about six inches away from the outside, leaving an air space between to prevent moisture from gathering. Near the top of the walls clear ice sheets were embedded to allow daylight to penetrate, so that they could have sunlight during the clear days.
The room Nancy took her to was beautifully decorated, with twin beds covered by matching crocheted afghans in a bright blue, purple and pink floral pattern. “Oh, this is lovely!” Margadele exclaimed. “I love the afghans!”
Nancy smiled shyly “Thanks you, I made them. And I did the interior decorating of the whole house. Now I’ll leave you to freshen up and go help mother. Come back when you are ready.” She left. Margadele opened her backpack and found a change of clothes, bright red pants and shirt, with red socks and slippers. In about fifteen minutes she felt renewed and walked back to the main room, where she found the family busy with preparations for what looked to be a sumptuous meal.
During the meal they explained how they came to be living so far from civilization and how the house had been built. Larry supplied all the meat they needed by hunting and fishing, and Martha and Nancy had a garden where they grew fruits and vegetables in the warmer weather. The land was extremely productive, they claimed, and they often got two crops in the short growing season. From the delicious meal she was eating, Margadele could only believe them, and marvel.
After dinner was over and everything cleared away, Nancy got out the shirt she was decorating with bead and quill work, and they settled around the fireplace. Then they asked Margadele to tell them of her adventures. She willingly set out to do so, making it into an exciting tale as she talked. When she was finished, they all exclaimed at the dangers she had endured, and how glad they were that she was safe.
“But now it’s time we went to our rest. Morning comes early, always heralded by the dogs demanding their food.” Larry laughed as he stood. “Listen – it sounds like the blizzard is getting worse.” They all stood in silence as they listened to the howling, screaming wind. ‘How long will I have to stay here?’ Margadele thought as she went with Nancy to their room. ‘Larry tried to raise Yellowknife on the radio, but there was too much electrical interference. Marybeth and the boys – everyone must be frantic with worry about me. I hope we can get word out soon.’