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If you are a parent, grandparent or caretaker of young children, then this is a book
for you! Actually it is a very short story written by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
in 1931. If one's writing is a reflection of one's personality, then Mrs. Freeman must have been a sweet and gentle person. Like Sarah Orne Jewett, she
seemed to have a particular tenderness for the elderly, but in this case, her tenderness is expressed in a charming story about a little girl who disobeys
her Great-aunt Peggy.
Letitia's parents are both deceased, and she lives in the house where her grandmother and great-grandmother lived and died. Great-aunt Peggy is Letitia's grandfather's sister and they get along most fondly. But sometimes Letitia resents that she has to keep busy at sewing or reading when she prefers to sit idle and daydream about all the things she doesn't have that she wishes she did have, though she really has quite enough. She becomes more and more dissatisfied and doesn't realize how good her life is.
There is a little room off from the kitchen called the cheese room where her grandmother made cheese, and it has a little green door in one of the walls. but the odd thing is that, even though it is an outside wall, when one goes outside, there is no sign of the door. Letitia begs Aunt Peggy to tell her about it, but she always replies, "It is not best for you, my dear."
One cold winter Sunday, Letitia pretends to have a cough so she will not have to walk to church. Aunt Peggy and the elderly maid go, leaving Letitia home alone. She cannot get her mind off the door. She thinks she knows where the key is kept—in a little satin-wood box in a top bureau-drawer. She steals up to Aunt Peggy's room, and there in the box is a little black key on a green ribbon. Trembling, she is determined to open the green door, and when she finally lifts the latch, she finds herself in a dark woods, and worse yet, she hears the "savage whoops of Indians." When she turns to run back into the house, of course it isn't there. And soon after, she hears the sound of a horse and sees a woman riding by with two little girls. A man is running with a gun. He grabs her up and they all rush into their nearby cabin.
After Letitia recovers her wits, she sees a woman, three girls, the man, and the horse all in the house. The man, woman and one of the girls are firing a gun through holes in the walls at their attackers. The younger girls run around with supplies of powder and bullets. After the excitement is over, the mother asks Letitia her name. When she says Letitia Hopkins, the mother stares, because it is her name also and the name of the eldest girl. When Letitia learns that the man's name is Captain John Hopkins, she knows she has gone back in time to her ancestors. The Captain is her great-great-great grandfather. She recognizes him because there is a little picture of him in the parlor in Aunt Peggy's house.
That night, she shares a bed with the three girls, in a cold loft where she hears the sounds of mountain lions and "Injuns." She finally falls asleep at four o'clock, but is soon pulled from bed to get dressed and begin work.. She is told to spin, and is embarrassed that she doesn't know how.
And so the days go by, and Letitia slowly realizes how good she had it with Aunt Peggy. She complained of having to keep busy, but here in the past, she has to downright work., and soon learns all the skills a young lady must know who lives in early America. She becomes terribly homesick.
One day, Captain Hopkins and his wife leave the girls alone so they can visit a sick friend twelve miles away. After the younger girls go to bed, Letitia and the eldest begin to talk, and she finally confides the story of the green door. The ancestor Letitia is amazed, because they also have a green door, but it is on the outside of the cabin nearly covered by a spruce tree. And she also knows there is a little key on a green ribbon. The girls end their discussion and take to their knitting until the sound of a boy yelling to let them in arouses them. It is Josephus Peabody who claims the "Injuns" are after him.. He looks familiar. And he is. It turns out that he is one of Letitia's neighbors in her own time, and he ended up here in nearly the same way as Letitia. To both of them, it seems like such a long time since they were back in their homes.
Letitia and Joe of course think about using the keys to get back home, but they are afraid they will end up in an even worse situation. Eventually, though, they both take the chance. and you can read the book to find how it all turns out!.
This story has an almost fairy-tale-like quality, and it sure beats the gory Grimm's tales. The only thing I have issues about is the "Injun" thing, but a wise adult would certainly clarify that the Indigenous Americans were not savages and that much of what history has recorded about them is myth.
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