After the Prairie: A continuation of the lives of Michael London's Little House On The Prairie TV characters.
For episode summaries and a list of characters, please visit the homepage listed in my profile.
Episode Three: "Settling In" (Part One)
Author's Note: In yet another infamous Little House continuality error, history was re-written to create the character of Jenny Wilder. Originally Royal Wilder had two sons, Myron and Rupert, and his wife Millie was pregnant with a third child. In Little House A New Beginning Jenny is apparently an only child whose mother died when she was young. Since there is no way that Royal having the two sons and Jenny would make sense, we are going to use the re-written history and assume that Jenny was an only child whose mother died when she was young.
This episode also marks the first appearance of Jake Hunter, an original character who will have a recurring role in the series.
In the last episode, the Ingalls, Wilders, and Olesons (minus Willie and Rachel) had just moved to New York City following the destruction of Walnut Grove. The story continues…
Carrie Ingalls was all smiles.
It was Carrie's fourteenth birthday. Her family had gotten together and surprised her with a party inside Mary and Adam's apartment. She had just opened the present Charles had made her, a little jewelry box with a hand carved letters, which read "CCI". That stood for Caroline Celestia Ingalls.
"Oh Pa," Carrie breathed, hugging Charles "it's beautiful!" Carrie then turned to everyone.
"I still can't believe you all got this together so fast. We just moved here."
"Did you think we'd forget your birthday?" Laura teased.
"Of course not, Laura," said Carrie. She placed the box on the table behind her with all the other opened presents. "But with the move I never expected all this!"
"Well you expected wrong," said Mary who went to hug Carrie.
After they hugged, Carrie picked up her next present. She couldn't find a label on it. "Who is this from?" she asked.
"It's from me," said Grace. Grace was wearing Laura's blue Sunday dress that Laura had once worn as a little girl in Walnut Grove. "I forgot to put my name on it," she admitted sheepishly.
"It's okay, Grace" said Carrie smiling fondly at her baby sister. She opened the present. It was small bow that Grace had made with some help and advice from Caroline.
"Oh Grace, it's so pretty" said Carrie leaning down to hug Grace.
Carrie was about to turn around to put the bow with the other opened presents When Jenny and Cassandra came forward.
"This is from us," they said almost in unison bringing out a box.
Absentmindedly, Carrie put the bow on the edge of the table. Jenny and Cassandra handed her the present. Carrie was about to take the wrapping off.
"Before you open it," said Cassandra, "Jenny and I have something we'd like to say."
Meanwhile the bow fell off the table, unnoticed.
"When James and me first came to Walnut Grove," Cassandra began "Everyone treated us like family. But you Carrie, especially treated me like a sister, and I know it couldn't have been easy suddenly having another girl just your age around. I know it would be hard for me to suddenly have a new sister. I'd feel like she was taking my place you know."
"No you wouldn't Cassandra," said Carrie. "And I think everyone gets a little jealous once in a while. But as long as they don't stay that way that's what counts."
"Yeah," said Cassandra as they hugged.
Jenny then approached Carrie and Cassandra. "Laura is my Aunt," she began, "and since you guys are her sisters, that makes you my aunts, too. But when we moved in with you guys in Bur Oak you two really make me feel welcome. For the first time in my life, I felt like I have real sisters, something I've never had."
"I guess what we're trying to say Carrie is that you don't have to be sisters by blood to be sisters," said Cassandra.
"And so," said Jenny "This present is for you but it's for both of us as well."
Carrie took it and opened it. Inside were three beaded necklaces.
"Jenny and I made them," said Cassandra. The three girls put on the necklaces. Each one was made with clay beads of many pretty colors. Adam quietly described the beads to Mary as Carrie looked at Jenny and Cassandra.
"Sisters," said Carrie holing up a pinkie.
"Sisters," said Jenny and Cassandra hooking pinkies with Carrie.
The three girls embraced.
As everyone around her smiled, Grace caught sight of the bow on the floor. She picked it up. Grace looked at Carrie, Cassandra, and Jenny sadly before tucking the bow away in her dress.
At a boarding house, Isaiah Edwards sat in his room thinking.
He had told Charles that he wasn't feeling well, and to give Carrie her present. Isaiah just wasn't in any mood to go to a party.
Isaiah sat and thought about his life.
He has lost his entire family to illness back in Kansas before he had ever met the Ingalls. Then when he had come to Walnut Grove to live, he met the widow Grace Snider and they married a year later, adopting the Sanderson children on their wedding day. Several years later, his son John Sanderson Jr. was murdered on the streets of Chicago. It was that which led Isaiah to drinking again, and led his wife Grace to divorce him. His other two children, Karl and Alicia, wanted nothing to do with him. It was Charles and Laura who helped Isaiah stop drinking, and then Laura named him the Godfather of her daughter Rose. Soon after that, Isaiah met a wild boy, Matthew Rogers, who had run away from the circus. He took Matthew in (also winning a court case in which he was awarded custody) and they lived together happily for a while. But then when Matthew's father showed up Matthew decided that he wanted to live with him. So Isaiah bid goodbye to Matthew and moved into the Wilder boarding house.
At the boarding house, he met a follow bachelor named Sherwood Montague. The two men couldn't be more different and yet Isaiah had kind of taken a liking to Montague, even if the man was strange.
Even if the men were different, Isaiah felt better with him around. With two married couples in the mansion, Laura and Almanzo, and Willie and Rachel, Isaiah knew he would have felt out of place if not for Montague.
But now there was no Montague, who knows where he's sailed off to now,Isaiah thought. Now his circle of friends consisted of married couples: Charles and Caroline, Laura and Almanzo, Mary and Adam, Nellie and Percival, Nels and - the children of the married couples.
That same night, Nellie and Percival were helping Nels, Harriet, and Nancy move into their new home/business.
"Oh that goes upstairs," Harriet was saying to the two moving men that they had hired.
The men took the Olesons' brand new couch upstairs.
"Oh Nellie," said Harriet as Nellie came inside with a lamp "Why didn't you bring the grandchildren over?"
"Mother," said Nellie, "what would we do with the children? They would just be in the way."
"No more in the way than Mother Oleson is, Nellie" said Percival testily while was trying to get by Harriet with a heavy crate. Percival was rather annoyed with his mother-in-law, who had been doing more talking and ordering around than actual work.
"Oh!" Harriet moved out of the way as Percival went upstairs. "And don't call me Mother Oleson!" she yelled after him.
"Yes Mrs. Oleson!" he called back pointedly.
"Don't call me that either!" she yelled. "I am your mother-in-law after all," she added quietly.
"Perhaps Mother if you weren't so rude, people wouldn't mind calling you by your first name," Nellie suggested as she started upstairs with the lamp.
"Nellie!" Harriet said admonishing her oldest child. "Anyway I do want to thank you and Percival for helping us find this place."
Nellie came back down the stairs and put down the lamp on a crate of dishes. "You're welcome Mother," she said. "You will thank Percival personally?"
"Yes," Harriet nodded grudgingly. A hint of a smile appeared. "It -it was nice of Percival to help."
Nellie shook her head and smiled. "Don't ever change Mother," she said hugging Harriet.
Nels and Harriet had decided to abandon the mercantile business for good and open up a restaurant in New York. With the help of Nellie and Percival, they located a place that could be used as both a business and a home. Harriet even hired a demographics expert to get advice on what types of food they should serve. After living at the Cohen home/store for the last several days, everyone was looking forward to the Olesons having a home of their own -for many reasons.
As Nellie and Harriet continued to hug, Nancy came down the stairs with a feather duster and a rag. She wore a kerchief on her head. She gave Nellie the evil eye.
Harriet spotted Nancy then. "Oh Nancy, how's the dusting coming?"
"It's fine Mother," she said testily.
"Nancy," said Nellie "You're doing a good job with cleaning the bedrooms."
"Thank you, Nellie" said Nancy forcing a smile.
The two hugged.
If I give her compliments, maybe that will have a positive effect on her, Nellie thought.
I hate you Nellie, thought Nancy.
"Oh," said Harriet. "My two daughters, getting along."
"I'm so happy we moved here Mother," Nancy continued her charade.
"I look forward to spending more time with you Nancy," said Nellie.
"Oh..." Nancy said smiling.
Nels descended the stairs then. He stopped three-quarters of the way down.
"Harriet we need you upstairs, those moving men, nor Percival, nor I can make heads or tails of these instructions of yours," he said while holding a sheet of paper.
"What's wrong with my instructions Nels?" said Harriet taking the paper as the two went upstairs.
As Nancy was about to walk by Nellie, Nellie stopped her.
"Just a minute Nancy," she said.
Nancy stopped, afraid that Nellie had seen through her act.
"I just wanted to say thank you," Nellie began. "When I came to visit Walnut Grove I told you that in order for us to be friends you'd have to want it as much as I did. And now I think you do. I think things are going to be a lot different between us from now on. a lot better."
"Nellie... I-" Nancy said.
"Don't say a word," said Nellie. "Just remember that you don't have to be sisters by blood to be sisters. I am your big sister, and you can always come to me to talk, about anything."
"Thank you, Nellie" Nancy said. "That means so much coming from you right now."
"Good," said Nellie giving Nancy a quick hug.
Nancy watched as Nellie went up the stairs with the lamp. Nancy tossed the dust rag over her shoulder and smirked.
"What a dummy!"
That night after the party, the Ingalls returned home with Carrie's presents
"That was quite a party wasn't it?" said Caroline. "Fourteen years old."
"In two years you'll be sixteen and I won't be able to call you a little girl anymore," said Charles.
"Oh Pa," said Carrie.
"Pa," said Cassandra "Can Jenny stay over tomorrow night?"
"Tomorrow's Saturday which means church on Sunday," Caroline reminded them.
"Yes Ma," said Cassandra who knew Caroline would want the girls to get a good night's sleep.
"How about Sunday night then Ma?" Carrie asked.
Caroline and Charles exchanged glances. "All right," she consented. "You're lucky that school hasn't started yet," she smiled.
Grace had just finished kissing her parents good night as was about to go upstairs when she overheard Charles speak to Carrie. "You sure you three girls won't be cramped in that little room?"
"Oh Pa," said Carrie, "we've slept in smaller spaces, and besides what's one more person sleeping in that room?"
Grace sat on her bed in her nightgown and nightcap crying. She was holding her favorite rag doll. In her head she kept hearing Carrie, Jenny and Cassandra say "Sisters" and Carrie say, "What's one more person sleeping in that room?"
She buried her face in her pillow. Grace knew that she should be happy that she got her own room, but she wasn't.
Grace wanted things to go back to the way they were before, when Carrie and Cassandra included her in everything. Ever since Jenny had come along, her sisters had spent most of their time with her.
Grace was angry. How could they call Jenny their sister? Her last name wasn't Ingalls it was Wilder! Sure Cassandra was adopted, but that was it. Cassandra was adopted into the Ingalls family along with James. Ma and Pa adopted Cassandra which makes her my real sister, thought Grace. Laura and Almanzo were the ones who adopted Jenny.
From under her pillow, Grace took out the bow that she had made for Carrie. Angrily she threw it across the tiny bedroom.
Monday morning, the Ingalls and Jenny sat around the breakfast table.
"Did you girls get enough sleep last night?" Caroline asked.
"Oh yes Aunt Caroline," said Jenny. "We're fine."
"You three were noisy with all your giggling," James complained.
"Like you're never noisy James," said Cassandra. "You snore."
"You, too" he said.
"Children," said Caroline warningly, but she was smiling.
Later, Charles and Caroline were alone in the kitchen.
"I best finish up," said Charles who was still eating. Isaiah and Almanzo will be over here soon so we can drive to work together."
"I'm glad work's starting," said Caroline. "A body shouldn't sit around all day with nothing to do."
"Nothing to do?" said Charles. "I've been unpacking and fixing Grace's room up."
"I know, said Caroline. "I was talking about me."
"You?" asked Charles surprised, "You're one of the hardest working people I know."
"Thank you," said Caroline "but for once in my life I don't have work or any little ones to take care of. I'm not sure what I'm going to with myself," she admitted.
"Well," said Charles. "There's Laura and Mary to visit, or you could work. You know I'm no longer set against that."
"I suppose," said Caroline "It's just that we always said that once we got in a position where we both didn't have to work, I would stop working. We're certainly not as well off as Nels and Harriet, but we can manage."
Charles nodded. "I want you to do what makes you happy, darlin'," he smiled kissing her.
"I will Charles, I will," said Caroline. "I'm just not sure what that is yet."
Charles and Caroline had joined everyone else in the parlor. There was a knock on the door. "I'll get it," said Jenny.
She returned with Laura, Almanzo, Rose, and Isaiah. Everyone greeted each other.
"Time for work Charles!" said Isaiah.
Charles nodded. "It's a shame you had to miss Carrie's party the other night," he said.
Isaiah nodded. "Uh, yeah." He quickly turned to Carrie. "No hard feelings young'n?"
"Of course not Mr. Edwards," she said. "I really liked the sewing book you got me."
"Aw, a women in the store helped me pick it out," Isaiah admitted.
He and Carrie shared a laugh, lightening Isaiah's mood.
"We better go," said Almanzo. "We don't want to be late for our first day of work."
The three men left. After which Caroline turned to the children.
"Today we're going to go enroll you in school," she announced.
"Aw Ma can't we do that later?" James asked.
"Certainly not," said Caroline. "All of you need to get registered right away."
"Yes Ma," said James groaning.
"Come on now," said Laura who was standing next to Caroline. "School's not that bad James."
James turned to his older sister. "I guess," he said. "I'd just rather be outside playing baseball."
"Someday you're going to thank Ma for sending you to school," said Laura. "Trust me, I didn't like school either when I was younger and I became a schoolteacher."
"If you say so, Laura" said James.
"I do, say so" said Laura patting James on the arm. "Now let's go."
Charles, Almanzo, and Isaiah arrived at for work in a buckboard. After unhitching the buckboard and putting the horses away in the stable they walked on.
"You know what would be nice?" said Almanzo "Is if one of those new-fangled cable cars ever came out this way. We wouldn't have drive out to work everyday."
"You wouldn't ever see me get in one of those things," said Isaiah. "That horseless carriage stuff sounds a little too rich for my blood."
"I'm with you," said Charles. "Now I don't think the omnibus is too bad an idea though."
An omnibus was a large carriage pulled by horses, which could seat several people.
"You two are starting to sound too much like city boys," Isaiah joked. "What's the world coming to when a man can't even drive himself to work anymore?"
As they neared the entrance Almanzo turned to Isaiah. "Come on now, Isaiah, you know how much I appreciate a man doing for himself, but frankly I'd rather not deal with the horses and the buckboard come wintertime since we agreed to take turns driving that thing."
"Fair enough," said Isaiah.
The three men walked under the sign that read Hunter's Sawmill and took the place in.
The sawmill was quite a site indeed. Large stream engines were everywhere. Huge logs came in on a water canal. Horses carted large piles of smaller logs while men counted endless piles of lumber.
Isaiah whistled. "We're not in Walnut Grove anymore boys, this here is a big-city mill."
The foreman approached them. "What can I do for you?" he asked in a friendly voice.
"Our names are Edwards, Ingalls, and Wilder," said Isaiah, pointing to indicate. "We're here to see Mr. Hunter, 'bout some jobs he had for us."
"Okay," nodded the foremen. "Go right into the building over there, the fellow at the desk will help you out."
"Much obliged," said Isaiah.
"He's a friendly, sort" said Isaiah to Charles and Almanzo as they walked away form the foreman.
"After living in Bur Oak f I've found that a lot of folks come from the country like us. And even if they don't, not all city-folk are bad people,' said Charles.
"Just most of them," Isaiah joked as the three laughed walking on.
Inside the building, they were shown into Mr. Hunter's office. Mr. Hunter was out for the moment. After a few minutes, he returned.
Jake Hunter was a man in his early sixties. He had gotten where he was by hard work and gumption. Jake had a worn, angular face but a good heart. While not the most sociable of men, Jake was fair.
Charles, Almanzo, and Isaiah stood up. "Mr. Hunter," said Charles shaking Jake's hand. "We're the three men that Adam Kendall told you about."
"Oh yes," said Jake in his deep voice. "You might be Charles Ingalls. And this man here is Isaiah Edwards. And this strapping young fellow must be Almanzo Wilder."
"Thank you sir," said Almanzo shaking Jake's hand.
"Much obliged," said Isaiah shaking Jake's hand as well.
"Well gentlemen as you know I value Adam's law services very much which is why I took his word when he said you three would be perfect for the job," said Jake.
"Don't worry sir," said Charles. "We won't prove Adam wrong."
"Good," said Jake. "After you sign some papers, I'll have my foreman Mr. O'Malley show you gentlemen the ropes, and then you can get started."
Charles, Almanzo, and Isaiah were shown the ropes and worked hard. Almanzo helped to lift the chopped lumber off the wagons. Isaiah helped to drive wagons from one side of the mill to the other. Charles, who was still a strong man in his late forties, helped to load and unload finished lumber that had been sawed into neat boards.
The three men enjoyed the work, but were looking forward to lunch
when they could rest a bit.
"Wow I can't believe how different school is here!" exclaimed Cassandra.
Caroline, Laura, Rose, Jenny, Carrie, Cassandra, James, and Grace were walking home after registering the oldest children at the nearest high school. The four older children were starting at the pieces of paper that their schedules were written down on.
"I know," said Jenny. "Can you imagine different teachers for every subject?"
"And different classrooms!" Carrie added.
"It's sort of like college isn't it Laura?" Cassandra asked.
"Yes, it is" said Laura. "Expect that college classes can have a lot more students."
Cassandra nodded. "Albert always told us that big cities school were different," she said.
"That's right," said James. "Bur Oak only has one high school, and we just stayed in the same classroom all day. There were a couple different teachers though."
"I think I might take the graduation test at the end of my second year," said Jenny. "They say that some of the girls don't stay on past the first two years."
"Now Jenny,' said Laura. "You shouldn't be afraid to stay on just because there won't be as many girls. If you want to go to college, those extra two years will really help to prepare you."
"I know Aunt Laura but-"
"No buts," said Laura. "Jenny, think of the opportunities you get here in the city. Walnut Grove had a wonderful school, but there are so many other things you can learn now that you couldn't before."
"Like French and art appreciation?" asked Jenny pointedly.
Laura drew back. She remembered well the time that Harriet Oleson had taken over as teacher at Walnut Grove School and taught subjects totally inappropriate to a farming community.
"Point well taken," Laura said sheepishly. "You have to do what's right for you Jenny. Just promise me that you'll do something because you want to do it, not because everyone else is doing it."
"I promise," said Jenny.
Caroline shook her head and smiled at the two. The group let a couple pass by them. "I remember all the fuss they made when I went to high school. About half the students were from the country. We came into the town every day to go to school. The other half was raised in town. One year they argued about whether to add an agriculture or an art class."
They all laughed.
"You must have fond memories of high school Ma," said Cassandra.
Caroline sighed. "Of high school yes, but I'll have to tell you the story about my high school reunion."
Charles and Caroline had gone to their twenty-fifth high school reunion only to discover that most of their former friends, while quite wealthy, were also corrupt and unhappy. It had been an eye-opening experience for both.
"I'm just we have what's most important," said Caroline. "Family."
Everyone nodded. As they continued walking, a boy, dodging passers-by run up to James.
"Hi, Mrs. Ingalls, Mrs. Wilder," said the boy walking along with them. "Can James came over for while?" The boy was Harold Johnson, one of the Ingalls' neighbors.
"If it's okay with your mother, Harold," said Caroline. Harold nodded. "Just be home in time for supper, James" said Caroline.
"Yes Ma," he said before kissing his mother goodbye and running off with Harold.
"Aunt Caroline can Carrie and Cassandra come over for a while?" Jenny asked.
"It's up to Laura," said Caroline.
"Of course it's all right," said Laura. "I love having my sisters over."
Grace, looked up at Laura then. Did Laura mean her, too?
"We'll see you later Ma," said Laura. Grace watched them walk off in the other direction.
"Bye, Laura!" said Caroline waving to her adult daughter.
Grace started to follow them.
"Oh no," said Caroline putting an arm out to stop Grace. "It's your turn to get enrolled in school."
"We offer a wide variety of programs for the… improvement of a young lady. Our studies include: etiquette, music, art, French, and Latin. All of our ladies are trained in equestrian arts to ride sidesaddle. We also teach young women to develop an appreciation for the opera and the ballet."
Harriet and Nancy, dressed expensively, were continuing their tour of a very elite private school in suburb of New York. Harriet was continuing on her quest to mold Nancy into a "marriageable young woman". Harriet figured that Nancy needed an earlier start than Nellie ever did.
"Oh this school is nice," said Harriet, her eyes gleaming nervously as she looked around. "How much does it cost?" she asked, knowing that breaking the news to Nels would be difficult.
"Step into my office and we shall discuss that, Mrs. Oleson," said the man.
Alone, Nancy looked at the ornate school in disgust. She had no desire to learn about opera and Latin.
After a moment Harriet and the man returned from his office. Harriet looked rather flustered.
"Uh - thank you Mr. Kater," she said uneasily. "We'll let you know."
Mr. Kater kissed Harriet's gloved hand prudishly.
"Come along Nancy," said Harriet briskly, hurrying her daughter away.
Mr. Kater, with his slimly black moustache, smirked at Harriet and Nancy as they left.
Mr. Kater's secretary approached him then.
"Do you think that girl will attend?" she asked.
"No," said Mr. Kater smugly. "The middle class can't afford a place like this."
In the buckboard, on their way back home, Harriet turned to Nancy. "Oh that school is expensive," she said. After a moment she went on. "But it is nice, and Nels will simply have to understand that a girl of your… unique personality, deserves to be in a school such as that."
"I don't want to go there Mother," said Nancy.
"You don't?" said Harriet who considered arguing with Nancy. "Oh, well I uh, wouldn't want you to go anywhere that would make you unhappy," she quickly covered by pouting affectionately. Inwardly, Harriet breathed in a sigh of relief. She wouldn't have to take out a loan to pay for Nancy's schooling after all.
"I think it's best of you go to school closer to home anyhow," Harriet said. She smiled. "There's a very nice little private academy a few blocks away from our new home. I hear that a lot of handsome young men go there whose parents run successful businesses," she said smiling at Nancy.
Nancy, still not too keen about the idea of any kind of private school, did smile slyly at the mention of "handsome young men".
"Well..." said Nancy weighing her options.
"Oh, I almost forget" said Harriet switching subjects before Nancy could answer. "Nellie, Percival, and his mother have gone to visit a sick friend so the twins are staying with us tonight."
Nancy's mood changed like the crack of a whip. "What!?" she snarled.
"Precious, it's only for one night." said Harriet, "and you won't have to share a room with them this time," she said referring to the near disastrous stay the Olesons had at the Cohen store when they first arrived in New York.
"Yes, Mother," grumbled Nancy crossing her arms as Harriet drove on.
Charles, Almanzo and Isaiah sat eating their lunch on one of the benches outside when O'Malley, the foreman, and a well-dressed man approached them.
"Mr. Ingalls?" said O'Malley.
"Yes, that's me" said Charles.
"This is Mr. Stone," he said "He'd like to speak to you all," O'Malley nodded politely and left.
"Stone" said Charles shaking his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you."
"Ingalls," said Stone, whose personality was anything but. "I hope those places I got you fellows are working out."
Adam, who had made many connections, called upon Stone, a real estate agent who he had done taxes for, to help him find homes for the Ingalls, Wilders, and Isaiah..
"They are working out fine," said Charles. "I still don't know how you were able to get those places for us with such a low deposit."
"Connections, Mr. Ingalls, it's all about connections," he said smiling.
"Well believe me Mr. Stone," said Almanzo. "The money we saved was greatly appreciated."
"Good," said Stone. "Edwards, are you settling in your place?"
"Oh I'm settled all right," he said dryly. Isaiah lived in one of the boarding houses in a respectable area. It was quite a departure from living above the saloons back in Kansas.
"Good," said Stone who didn't catch the tone Isaiah's voice. "Well I must get back to work. Perhaps all our families can picnic together sometime."
Stone's final comment replayed in Isaiah's head. Too bad I don't have a family, he thought.
Caroline and Grace arrived at the local grade school. It was a large two-story brick building with large panes of glass. The playground consisted of two swing sets, three seesaws and an old fashioned swing tied to a tree. There was also a large patch of grass along with a large patch of cement with lines painted on it to be used for various games Everything thing was painted, expect for the old swing.
"Wow.." said Grace staring at the playground in wonder. "The one in Bur Oak looked noting like this!
"It's very nice isn't it?" said Caroline. "From everything I've heard, this is a very good school Grace."
As they approached the building, Grace looked at the playground. For the first time, Grace wouldn't be going to school with any of her siblings. And Jenny will get to go to the same school as Carrie and Cassandra, she thought glumly.
Continued in Episode Four