At the kitchen stairs Mahailey met him in gleeful excitement. "Lord 'a' mercy, Mr. Claude, I can't git the storm door open. We're snowed in fas'." She looked like a tramp woman, in a jacket patched with many colours, her head tied up in an old black "fascinator," with ravelled yarn hanging down over her face like wild locks of hair. She kept this costume for calamitous occasions; appeared in it when the water-pipes were frozen and burst, or when spring storms flooded the coops and drowned her young chickens.
The storm door opened outward. Claude put his shoulder to it and pushed it a little way. Then, with Mahailey's fireshovel he dislodged enough snow to enable him to force back the door. Dan came tramping in his stocking-feet across the kitchen to his boots, which were still drying behind the stove. "She's sure a bad one, Claude," he remarked, blinking.
"Yes. I guess we won't try to go out till after breakfast. We'll have to dig our way to the barn, and I never thought to bring the shovels up last night." "Th' ole snow shovels is in the cellar. I'll git 'em."
"Not now, Mahailey. Give us our breakfast before you do anything else."
Mrs. Wheeler came down, pinning on her little shawl, her shoulders more bent than usual. "Claude," she said fearfully, "the cedars in the front yard are all but covered. Do you suppose our cattle could be buried?"
He laughed. "No, Mother. The cattle have been moving around all night, I expect."
When the two men started out with the wooden snow shovels, Mrs. Wheeler and Mahailey stood in the doorway, watching them. For a short distance from the house the path they dug was like a tunnel, and the white walls on either side were higher than their heads. On the breast of the hill the snow was not so deep, and they made better headway. They had to fight through a second heavy drift before they reached the barn, where they went in and warmed themselves among the horses and cows. Dan was for getting next a warm cow and beginning to milk.
"Not yet," said Claude. "I want to have a look at the hogs before we do anything here."