In exactly the same way that Ursula’s observation of the contents of the barrel in the dark, dusty corner of the cellar brought its contents into reality, the opening of the cellar door brings herself as a discoverer of mysteries into reality. Much depends on who opens the door and finds her.
Fortunately for Ursula, it is the teacher who lives at the top of the stairs. Had it been the widow, her family might have been evicted from its rooms. Had it been the cook, a thrashing might have ensued. Had it been her own mother, an even worse thrashing might have been Ursula’s fate. And, had it been the traveling salesman from Montana, the girl might never have been seen again, creating a future in which there was no granddaughter and namesake to collect our friends on Pine Street into a tribe.
The teacher had borrowed the key from the cook, as some of the jars of preserves lined up on the shelves were her own, made the previous summer. Gooseberry jam was a favorite, and the teacher craved some for her afternoon toast and tea.
Hearing the lighter footsteps coming down the steps, Ursula realizes it is not the widow or the cook. She slides the lid back on the barrel, and takes her chance. She appears from the dusty corner, working up a few tears to court the sympathy of whoever her observer will turn out to be, and calls out: “Please, please let me out of here.”
“Ursula?” The teacher jumps in surprise. “Is that you, dear? What on earth are you doing down here?”
“I got locked in,” the girl cries, knowing that a partial truth is better than a complete lie.
“Oh, my dear girl, come with me,” the kind young teacher says. She has not been around the block enough times to know the lessons of lying, has led a very pleasant and sheltered life, and the trickster universe has not yet noticed her. “Let’s get you cleaned up and back to your mother.”