The sun was scarcely up in the morning
when Eleanor turned out and aroused the girls.
“We’ve got to get our
own breakfast out of the way in a hurry, girls,”
she said. “When country people say early,
they mean early-early! And we
want to have coffee and cakes ready for these good
friends of ours when they do come. A good many
of them will come from a long way off and I think
they’ll all be glad to have a little something
extra before they start work. It won’t
hurt us a bit to think so, and act accordingly anyhow.”
So within half an hour the Pratts
and the Camp Fire Girls had had their own breakfasts,
the dishes were washed, and great pots of coffee were
boiling on the fires that had been built. And,
just as the fragrant aroma arose on the cool air,
the first of the teams that brought the workers came
in sight, with jovial Jud Harkness driving.
“My, but that coffee smells
good, Miss Mercer!” he roared. “Say,
I’m not strong for all these city fixin’s
in the way of food. Plain home cookin’
serves me well enough, but there’s one thing
where you sure do lay all over us, and that’s
in makin’ coffee. Give me a mug of that,
Mis’ Pratt, an’ I’ll start work.”
And from the way in which the coffee
and the cakes, the latter spread with good maple syrup
from trees that grew near Cranford, began to disappear,
it was soon evident that Eleanor had made no mistake,
and that the breakfast that she had had prepared for
the workers would by no means be wasted.
“It does me good to see you
men eat this way,” she said, laughing.
“That’s one thing we don’t do properly
in the city-eat. We peck at a lot
of things, instead of eating a few plain ones, and
a lot of them. And I’ll bet that you men
will work all the harder for this extra breakfast.”
“Just you watch and see!”
bellowed Jud. “I’m boss here to-day,
ma’am, and I tell you I’m some nigger
driver. Ain’t I, boys?”
But he accompanied the threat with
a jovial wink, and it was easy to see that these men
liked and respected him, and were only too willing
to look up to him as a leader in the work of kindness
in which they were about to engage.
“I don’t know why all
you boys are so good to me, Jud,” said Mrs. Pratt,
brokenly. “I can’t begin to find words
to thank you, even.”
“Don’t try, Mis’
Pratt,” said Jud, looking remarkably fierce,
though he was winking back something that looked suspiciously
like a tear. “I guess we ain’t none
of us forgot Tom Pratt-as good a friend
as men ever had! Many’s the time he’s
done kind things for all of us! I guess it’d
be pretty poor work if some of his friends couldn’t
turn out to help his wife and kids when they’re
“He knows what you’re
doing, I’m sure of that,” she answered.
“And God will reward you, Jud Harkness!”
Heartily as the men ate, however,
they spent little enough time at the task. Jud
Harkness allowed them what he thought was a reasonable
time, and then he arose, stretched his great arms,
and roared out his commands.
“Come on, now, all hands to
work!” he bellowed. “We’ve got
to get all this rubbish cleared out, then we’ll
have clean decks for building.”
And they fell to with a will.
In a surprisingly short space of time the men who
had plunged into the ruined foundations of the house
had torn out the remaining beams and rafters, and
had flung the heap of rubbish that filled the cellar
on to the level ground. While some of the men
did this, others piled the rubbish on to wagons, and
it was carted away and dumped. The fire, however,
had really lightened their task for them.
“That fire was so hot and so
fierce,” said Eleanor, as she watched them working,
“that there’s less rubbish than if the
things had been only half burned.”
“I’ve seen fires in the
city,” said Margery, “or, at least, houses
after a fire. And it really looked worse than
this, because there’d be a whole lot of things
that had started to burn. Then the firemen came
along, to put out the fire, and though the things
weren’t really any good, they had to be carted
“Yes, but this fire made a clean
sweep wherever it started at all. Ashes are easier
to handle than sticks and half ruined pieces of furniture.
As long as it had to come, I guess it’s a good
thing that it was such a hot blaze.”
The work of clearing away, therefore,
which had to be done, of course, before any actual
building could be begun, was soon accomplished.
“We’re going to build
just the way Tom Pratt did,” said Jud Harkness.
He was the principal carpenter and builder of Lake
Dean, and a master workman. Many of the camps
and cottages on the lake had been built by him, and
he was, therefore, accustomed to such work.
“You mean you’re going
to put up a square house?” said Eleanor.
“Yes, ma’am, just a square
house, with a hall running right through from the
front to the back, and an extension in the rear for
a kitchen-just a shack, that will be.
Two floors-two rooms on each side of the
hall on each floor. That’ll give them eight
rooms to start with, beside the kitchen.”
“That’ll be fine, and
it will really be the easiest thing to do, too.”
“That’s what we’re
figuring, ma’am. You see, it’ll be
just as it was when Tom Pratt first built here, except
that he only put up one story at first. Then,
as Mis’ Pratt gets things going again, she can
add to it, and if she don’t get along as fast
as she expects, why, we’ll lend her a hand whenever
she needs it.”
“How on earth could you get
all the lumber you need ready so quickly? That’s
one thing I couldn’t understand. The work
is not so difficult to manage, of course. But
the wood-that’s what’s been
“Well, the truth is, ma’am,
I expect to have a little argument about that yet
with a city chap that’s building a house on the
lake. I’ve got the job of putting it up
for him, and if it hadn’t been for this fire
coming along, I’d have started work day before
“Oh, and this is the lumber for his house?”
“You guessed it right, ma’am!
He’ll be wild, I do believe, because there’s
no telling when I’ll get the next lot of lumber
“You say the fire stopped you
from going ahead with his house?”
“Yes. You see all of us
had to turn out when it got so near to Cranford.
My house is safe, I do believe. I’m mighty
scared of fire, ma’am, and I’ve always
figured on having things fixed so’s a fire would
have a pretty hard time reaching my property.
But of course I had to jump in to help my neighbors-wouldn’t
be much profit about having the only house left standing
in town, would there?”
“I guess not!” she said.
“But what a lucky thing for Mrs. Pratt that you
happened to have just the sort of wood she needed!”
“Oh, well, we’d have managed
somehow. Of course, it makes it easier, but we’d
have juggled things around some way, even if this chap’s
plans didn’t fit her foundations. As it
happens, though, they do. Old Tom Pratt had a
mighty well-built house here.”
“Well, I’m quite sure
that just as good a one is going up in its place.”
Jud Harkness watched the work of getting
out the last of the rubbish. Then he went over
to the cleared foundations, and in a moment he was
putting up the first of the four corner posts, great
beams that looked stout enough to hold up a far bigger
house than the one they were to support.
All morning the work went on merrily.
As Eleanor had predicted, and Bessie, too, there was
plenty for the girls to do. The sun grew hotter
and hotter, and the men were glad of the cooling drinks
that were so liberally provided for them.
“This is fine!” said Jud
Harkness, as he quaffed a great drink of lemonade,
well iced. “My, but it’s a pleasure
to work when it’s made so nice for you!
I tell you, having these cool drinks here is worth
an extra hour’s work, morning and afternoon.
And what’s that-just the nails I
want? I’ll give you a job as helper, young
That remark was addressed to Bessie,
who flushed with pleasure at the thought that she
was playing a part, however small, in the building
of the house. And, indeed, the girls all did
their part, and their help was royally welcomed by
Quickly the skeleton of the house
took form, and by noon, when work was to be knocked
off for an hour, the whole framework was up.
“I simply wouldn’t have
believed it, if I hadn’t seen it with, my own
eyes!” said Eleanor. “It’s the
most wonderful thing I ever saw!”
“Oh, shucks!” said Jud,
embarrassed by such praise. “There’s
lots of us-I don’t think we’ve
done so awful well. But it does look kind of
nice, don’t it?”
“It’s going to be a beautiful
house,” said Mrs. Pratt. “And to think
of what the place looked like yesterday! Well,
Jud Harkness, I haven’t any words to tell you
what I really think, and that’s all there is
For an hour or more Margery and her
helpers had been busy at the big fire. At Eleanor’s
suggestion two of the men had stopped work on the
house long enough to put up a rough, long table with
benches at the sides, and now the table was groaning
with the fine dinner that Margery had prepared.
“Good solid food-no
fancy fixings!” Eleanor had decreed. “These
men burn up a tremendous lot of energy in work, and
we’ve got to give them good food to replace
it. So we don’t want a lot of trumpery things,
such as we like!”
She had enforced a literal obedience,
too. There were great joints of corned beef,
red and savory; pots of cabbage, and huge mounds of
boiled potatoes. Pots of mustard were scattered
along the table, and each man had a pitcher of fine,
fresh milk, and a loaf of bread, with plenty of butter.
And for dessert there was a luxury-the only
fancy part of the meal.
Eleanor had had a whispered conference
with Tom Pratt early in the day, as the result of
which he had hitched up and driven into Cranford, to
return with two huge tubs of ice-cream. He had
brought a couple of boxes of cigars, too, and when
the meal was over, and the men were getting out their
pipes, Eleanor had gone around among them.
“Try one of these!” she
had urged. “I know they’re good-and
I know that when men are working hard they enjoy a
The cigars made a great hit.
“By Golly! There’s
nothing she don’t think of, that Miss Mercer!”
said Jud Harkness appreciatively, as he lit up, and
sent great clouds of blue smoke in the air. “Boys,
if we don’t do a tiptop job on that house to
finish it off this afternoon we ought to be hung for
a lot of ungrateful skunks. Eh?”
There was a deep-throated shout of
approval for that sentiment, and, after a few minutes
of rest, during which the cigars were enjoyed to the
utmost, Jud rose and once more sounded the call to
“I’ve heard men in the
city say that after a heavy meal in the middle of
the day, they couldn’t work properly in the afternoon,”
said Eleanor, as she watched the men go about their
work, each seeming to know his part exactly.
“It doesn’t seem to be so with these men,
though, does it? I guess that in the city men
who work in offices don’t use their bodies enough-they
don’t get enough exercise, and they eat as much
as if they did.”
“I love cooking for men who
enjoy their food the way these do,” said Margery
happily. “They don’t have to say it’s
good-they show they think so by the way
they eat. It’s fine to think that people
really enjoy what you do. I don’t care
how hard I work if I think that.”
“Well, you certainly had an
appreciative lot of eaters to-day, Margery.”
As the shadows lengthened and the
sun began to go down toward the west the house rapidly
assumed the look it would have when it was finished.
A good deal of the work, of course, was roughly done.
There was no smoothing off of rough edges, but all
that could be done later.
And then, as the end of the task drew
near, so that the watchers on the ground could see
what the finished house would be like, Mrs. Pratt,
already overwhelmed by delight at the kindness of her
neighbors, had a new surprise that pleased and touched
her, if possible, even more than what had gone before.
A new procession of wagons came into sight in the
road, and this time each was driven by a woman.
And what a motley collection of stuff
they did bring, to be sure! Beds and mattresses,
bedding, chairs, tables, a big cook stove for the
kitchen, pots and pans, china and glass, knives and
forks-everything that was needed for the
“We just made a collection of
all the things we could spare, Sarah Pratt,”
said sprightly little Mrs. Harkness, a contrast indeed
to her huge husband, who could easily lift her with
one hand, so small was she. “They ain’t
much on looks, but they’re all whole and clean,
and you can use them until you have a chance to stock
up again. Now, don’t you go trying to thank
us-it’s nothing to do!”
“Nothing?” exclaimed Mrs.
Pratt. “Sue Harkness, don’t you dare
say that! Why, it means that I’ll have
a real home to-night for my children-we’ll
be jest as comfortable as we were before the fire!
I don’t believe any woman ever had such good
Long before dark the house was finished,
as far as it was to be finished that day. And,
as soon as the men had done their work, their wives
and the Camp Fire Girls descended on the new house
with brooms and pails, and soon all the shavings and
the traces of the work had been banished. Then
all hands set to work arranging the furniture, and
by the time supper was ready the house was completely
“Well,” said Eleanor,
standing happily in the parlor, “this certainly
does look homelike!”
There was even an old parlor organ.
Pictures were on the wall; a good rag carpet was on
the floor, and, while the furniture was not new, and
had seen plenty of hard service, it was still good
enough to use. The Pratt home had certainly risen
like a Phoenix from its ashes. And tired but
happy, all those who had contributed to the good work
sat down to a bountiful supper.