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By Jane L. Stewart
“We’ve got to be patient if we want to be really helpful,” she explained to Dolly Ransom, who was disposed to resent the woman’s unfriendly aspect.
“But I don’t see why she has to act as if we were trying to annoy her, Miss Eleanor!”
“She doesn’t mean that at all, Dolly. You’ve never known what it is to face the sort of trouble and anxiety she has had for the last few days. She’ll soon change her mind about us when she sees that we are really trying to help. And there’s another thing. Don’t you think she’s a little softer already?”
“Oh, she is!” said Bessie, with shining eyes. “And I think I know why–”
“So will Dolly–if she will look at her now. See, Dolly, she’s looking at her children. And when she sees how nice the girls are to them, she is going to be grateful–far more grateful than for anything we did for her. Because, after all, it’s probably her fear for her children, and of what this will mean to them, that is her greatest trouble.”
Dinner was soon ready, and when it was prepared, Eleanor called the homeless family together and made them sit down.
“We haven’t so very much,” she said. “We intended to eat just this way, but we were going on a little way. Still, I think there’s plenty of everything, and there’s lots of milk for the children.”
“Why are you so good to us?” asked the woman, suddenly. It was her first admission that she appreciated what was being done, and Eleanor secretly hailed it as a prelude to real friendliness.
“Why, you don’t think anyone could see you in so much trouble and not stop to try to help you, do you?” she said.
“Ain’t noticed none of the neighbors comin’ here to help,” said the woman, sullenly.
“I think they’re simply forgetful,” said Eleanor. “And you know this fire was pretty bad. They had a great fight to save Cranford from burning up.”
“Is that so?” said the woman, showing a little interest in the news. “My land, I didn’t think the fire would get that far!”
“They were fighting night and day for most of three days,” said Eleanor. “And now they’re pretty tired, and I have an idea they’re making up for lost sleep and rest. But I’m sure you’ll find some of them driving out this way pretty soon to see how you are getting on.”
“Well, they won’t see much!” said the woman, with a despairing laugh. “We came back here, ’cause we thought some of the buildings might be saved. But there ain’t a thing left exceptin’ that one barn a little way over there. You can’t see it from here. It’s over the hill. We did save our cattle and a good many chickens and ducks. But all our crops is ruined–and how we are ever goin’ to get through the winter I declare I can’t tell!”
“Have you a husband? And, by the way, hadn’t you better tell me your name?” said Eleanor.
“My husband’s dead–been dead nearly two years,” said the woman. “I’m Sarah Pratt. This here’s my husband’s sister, Ann.”
“Well, Mrs. Pratt, we’ll have to see if we can’t think of some way of making up for all this loss,” said Eleanor, after she had told the woman her own name, and introduced the girls of the Camp Fire. “Why–just a minute, now! You have cows, haven’t you? Plenty of them? Do they give good milk?”
“Best there is,” said the woman. “My husband, he was a crank for buyin’ fine cattle. I used to tell him he was wastin’ his money, but he would do it. Same way with the chickens.”
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