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By Jane L. Stewart
Eleanor looked grave. She shaded her eyes with her hand, and stared ahead of her.
“Oh,” she cried, “what a shame! I remember now. There was a farm house there! I’m afraid we were wrong when we spoke of there being no houses in the path of this fire!”
They pressed on steadily, and, as they approached the group forlorn, distressed and unhappy, they saw that their fears were only too well grounded. The people in the road were staring, with drawn faces, at a scene of ruin and desolation that far outdid the burnt wastes beside the road, since what they were looking at represented human work and the toil of hands.
The foundations of a farm house were plainly to be seen, the cellar filled with the charred wood of the house itself, and in what had evidently been the yard there were heaps of ashes that showed where the barns and other buildings had stood.
In the road, staring dully at the girls as they came up, were two women
Eleanor looked at them pityingly, and then spoke to the older of the two women.
“You seem to be in great trouble,” she said. “Is this your house?”
“It was!” said the woman, bitterly. “You can see what’s left of it! What are you–picnickers? Be off with you! Don’t come around here gloating over the misfortunes of hard working people!”
“How can you think we’d do that?” said Eleanor, with tears in her eyes. “We can see that things look very bad for you. Have you any place to go–any home?”
“You can see it!” said the woman, ungraciously.
Eleanor looked at her and at the ruined farm for a minute very thoughtfully. Then she made up her mind.
“Well, if you’ve got to start all over again,” she said, “you are going to need a lot of help, and I don’t see why we can’t be the first to help you! Girls, we won’t go any further now. We’ll stay here and help these poor people to get started!”
“What can people like you do to help us?” asked the woman, scornfully. “This isn’t a joke–’t ain’t like a quiltin’ party!”
“Just you watch us, and see if we can’t help,” said Eleanor, sturdily. “We’re not as useless as we look, I can tell you that! And the first thing we’re going to do is to cook a fine dinner, and you are all going to sit right down on the ground and help us eat it. You’ll be glad of a meal you don’t have to cook yourselves, I’m sure. Where is your well, or your spring for drinking water? Show us that, and we’ll do the rest!”
Only half convinced of Eleanor’s really friendly intentions, the woman sullenly pointed out the well, and in a few moments Eleanor had set the girls to work.
“The poor things!” she said to Margery, sympathetically. “What they need most of all is courage to pick up again, now that everything seems to have come to an end for them, and make a new start. And I can’t imagine anything harder than that!”
“Why, it’s dreadful!” said Margery. “She seems to have lost all ambition–to be ready to let things go.”
“That’s just the worst of it,” said Eleanor. “And it’s in making them see that there’s still hope and cheer and good friendship in the world that we can help them most. I do think we can be of some practical use to them, too, but the main thing is to brace them up, and make them want to be busy helping themselves. It would be so easy for me to give them the money to start over again or I could get my friends to come in with me, and make up the money, if I couldn’t do it all myself.”
“But they ought to do it for themselves, you mean?”
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