Read CHAPTER VIII - ON THE MARCH AGAIN of A Campfire Girl's Test of Friendship , free online book, by Jane L. Stewart, on ReadCentral.com.

After supper, when the others who had done the good work of rebuilding were ready to go, all the girls of the Camp Fire lined up in front of the new house and sped them on their way with a cheer and the singing of the Wo-he-lo cry.

“Listen to that echo!” said Dolly, as their song was brought back to them.  “I didn’t notice that last night.  Is it always that way?”

“Always,” said Tom Pratt.  “Folks come here sometimes to yell and hear the echo shout back at them.”

“Good!” cried Eleanor.  “That supplies a need I’ve been thinking of all day!”

“What’s that, Miss Mercer?” asked Mrs. Pratt.

“Why, if you are going into the business of supplying eggs and butter to the summer folk at the lake and to others in the city, you’ll need a name for your farm.  Why not call it Echo Farm?  That’s a good name, and in your case it means something, you see.”

“Whatever you say, Miss Mercer!  Though I’d never thought of having a name for the place before.”

“Lots of things are going to be different for you now, Mrs. Pratt.  You’re going to be a business woman, and to make a lot of money, you know.  Yes, that will look well on your boxes.  When I get back to the city I’ll have a friend of mine make a drawing and put that name with it, to be put on your boxes, and on all the paper you will use for writing letters.”

“Dear me, it’s going to be splendid, Miss Mercer!  Why, that fire is going to turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to us, I’m sure!”

“I think we can often turn our misfortunes into blessings if we take them the right way, Mrs. Pratt.  The thing to do is always to try to look on the bright side, and, no matter how black things seem, to try to see if there isn’t some way that we can turn everything to account.”

“Well, I would never have done it if you hadn’t come along, Miss Mercer.  You gave us all courage in the first place, and then you got Jud Harkness and all the others to come and help me this way.”

“Oh, they’d have done it themselves, as soon as they heard.  I didn’t suggest a thing-I just told them the news, and they thought of everything else all by themselves.  The only thing I thought of was using your farm so that it would really pay you.”

“Now that you’ve told us how, it seems so easy that I wonder I never thought of it myself.”

“Well, lots and lots of farmers just waste their land and themselves, Mrs. Pratt.  You’re not the only one.  My father has a farm, and in his section he’s done his level best to make the regular farmers see that there are new ways of farming, just as there are new ways of doing everything else.”

“That’s what my poor husband always said.  He had all sorts of new-fangled ideas, as I used to call them.  Maybe he was right, too.  But he didn’t have money enough to try them and see how they’d do, though we always made a good living off this place.”

“Well, the advantage of my idea is that you don’t need much money to give it a trial, and if you don’t succeed, you won’t lose much.”

“I think we’d be pretty stupid if we didn’t succeed, after the fine start you’ve given us, and the way you’ve told me what to do.”

“Well, I think so myself,” said Eleanor, with a frank laugh.  “And I know you’re not stupid-not a bit of it!  It’s going to be hard work, but I’m sure you’ll succeed.  You’ll be able to hire someone to do most of the work for you before long, I think, and then you’ll have to have a rest, and come down to visit me in the city.”

“Well, well, I do hope so, Miss Mercer!  I ain’t been in the city since I don’t know when.  Tom-my husband-took me once, but that was years and years ago, and I expect there’s been a lot of changes since then.”

“I’m going to keep an eye on you, Mrs. Pratt.  And I feel as if I were a sort of partner in this business, so if you don’t make as much money as I think you ought to, why, you’ll hear from me.  I can promise you that!  Girls, we’ll sleep in the lean-to to-night, and in the morning we’ll be off, bright and early.”

“Oh,” said Mrs. Pratt, “have you really got to go?  And you’ll not sleep out to-night!  You’ll take the house, and we’ll be the ones to sleep outside.”

“Nonsense, Mrs. Pratt!  Who should be the ones to sleep in this fine new house the first night but you?  We love to sleep in the open air, really we do!  It’s no hardship, I can tell you.”

And, despite all of Mrs. Pratt’s protests, it was so arranged.

“I’ll hate to go away from here-really I will!” said Dolly, to Bessie.  “It’s been perfectly fine, helping these people.  And I feel as if we’d really done something.”

“Well, we certainly have, Dolly,” said Bessie.

“I do hope that butter and egg business will do well.”

“I know it’s going to do well,” said Eleanor, who had overheard.  “And one reason is that you girls are going to help.  Now we must all get to sleep, or we’ll never get started in the morning.  I think we’ll have to ride part of the way to the seashore in the train, after all.  We don’t want to be too late in getting there, you know.”

And in a few minutes silence reigned over the place.  It was a picture of peace and content-a vast contrast to the scene of the previous night, when desolation and gloom seemed to dominate everything.

Parting in the morning brought tears alike to the eyes of those who stayed behind and those who were going on.  The experience of the last two days had brought the Pratts and the girls of the Camp Fire very close together, and the Pratt children-the younger ones at least-wept and refused to be comforted when they learned that their new friends were going away.

“Cheer up,” said Eleanor.  “We’ll see you again, you know.  Maybe we’ll all come up next summer.  And we’ve had a good time, haven’t we?”

“We certainly have!” said Mrs. Pratt, and there was sincerity, as well as pleasure, in her tone.  “I’ve often heard that good came out of evil, and joy out of sorrow, but I never had any such reason to believe it before this!”

Before the final parting, Eleanor had shown Mrs. Pratt exactly what she meant about the new way in which the butter was to be made.

“Of course, as your business grows, you will want to get better machinery,” she had said.  “That will make the work much easier, and you will be able to do it more quickly too, and with less help than if you stuck to the old-fashioned way.”

“I’m going to take your advice in everything about running this farm, Miss Mercer,” Mrs. Pratt had replied.  “You’ve certainly shown that you know what you’re talking about so far.”

“Take a trip down to my father’s farm some time, Mrs. Pratt, and they’ll be glad to show you everything they have there, I know.  My father is very anxious for all the farmers in his neighborhood to profit by any help they can get.  The only trouble is that a good many of them seem to feel that he is interfering with them.”

“Well, if they’re as stupid as that, it serves them right to keep on losing money, Miss Mercer.”

“But it’s natural, after all.  You see they’ve run their farms their own way all their lives, and it’s the way they learned from their fathers.  So it isn’t very strange that they’re apt to feel that they know more, from all that practice and experiment, than city people who are farming scientifically.”

“Does your father enjoy farming?”

“He says he does-and it’s a curious thing that he makes that farm pay its way, even allowing for a whole lot of things he does that aren’t really necessary.  That’s what proves, you see, that his theories are right-they pay.

“Of course, he could afford to lose money on it, and you can’t make a whole lot of those farmers in our neighborhood believe that he doesn’t.  So now he is having the books of the farm fixed up so that any of the farmers around can see them, and find out for themselves how things are run.”

Tired as the girls of the Camp Fire had been, the night before, they were wonderfully refreshed by their night’s sleep.  The weather was much more pleasant than it had been, and a brisk wind had driven off much of the smoke that still remained when they reached the Pratt farm as a reminder of the scourge of fire.  So the conditions for walking were good, and Eleanor Mercer set a round, swinging pace as they started off.

“I’ll really be glad to get out of this burned district.  It’s awfully gloomy, isn’t it, Bessie?” said Dolly.

“Yes, especially when you realize what it means to the people who live in the path of the fire,” answered Bessie.  “Seeing the Pratts as they were when we came up has given me an altogether new idea of these forest fires.”

“Yes.  That’s what I mean.  It’s bad enough to see the forest ruined, but when you think of the houses, and all the other things that are burned, too, why, it seems particularly dreadful.”

“Tom Pratt told me that a whole lot of animals were caught in the fire, too-chipmunks, and squirrels, and deer.  That seems dreadful.”

“Oh, what a shame!  I should think they could manage to get away, Bessie.  Don’t you suppose they try?”

“Oh, yes, but you see they can’t reason the way human beings do, and a lot of these fires burn around in a circle, so that while they were running away from one part of the fire they might very easily be heading straight for another, and get caught right between two fires.”

Soon, however, they passed a section where the land had been cleared of trees for a space of nearly a mile, and, once they had travelled through it, they came to the deep green woods again, where no marring traces of the fire spoiled the beauty of their trip.

“Ah, don’t the woods smell good!” said Dolly.  “So much nicer than that old smoky smell!  I never smelt anything like that!  It got so that everything I ate tasted of smoke.  I’m certainly glad to get to where the fire didn’t come.”

Now the ground began to rise, and before long they found themselves in the beginning of Indian Gap.  The ground rose gradually, and when they stopped for their midday meal, in a wild part of the gap, none of the girls were feeling more than normally and healthfully tired.

“Do many people come through here, Miss Eleanor?” asked Margery.

“At certain times, yes.  But, you, see, the forest fires have probably made a lot of people who intended to take this trip change their minds.  In a way it’s a good thing, because we will be sure to find plenty of room at the Gap House.  That’s where we are to spend the night.  Sometimes when there’s a lot of travel, it’s very crowded there, and uncomfortable.”

“Is it a regular hotel?”

“No, it’s just a place for people to sleep.  It’s where the trail starts up Mount Sherman, and it’s the station of the railroad that runs to the top of the mountain, too, for people who are too lazy to climb.  There’s a gorgeous view there in the mornings, when the sun rises.  You can see clear to the sea.”

“Oh, can’t we stop and see that?”

“We haven’t time to climb the mountain.  If you want to go up on the incline railway, though, we can manage it.  You get up at three o’clock in the morning, and get to the top while it’s still dark, so that you can see the very beginning of the sunrise.”

There was not a dissenting voice to the plan to make the trip, and it was decided to take the little extra time that would be required.

“After all,” said Eleanor, “we can get such an early start afterward that it won’t take very much time.  And to-morrow we’ll finish our tramp through the gap, and stop at Windsor for the night.  Then the next day we’ll take the train straight through to the seashore.  I think really we’ll have more fun, and get more good out of it if we spend the time there than if we go through with our original plan of doing more walking before getting on the train.”

“Yes.  We’ve lost quite a little time already, haven’t we?” said Margery.

“Two whole days at Lake Dean, and two days more staying with the Pratts,” said Eleanor.  “That’s four days, and one can walk quite a long distance in four days if one sets one’s mind and one’s feet to it.”

“Well, we certainly couldn’t help the delay,” said Margery.  “At Lake Dean the fire held us-and I wouldn’t think very much of any crowd that could see the trouble those poor people were in and not stay to help them.”

They slept well in the early part of that night in the rough quarters at the Gap House, and, while it was still dark, they were routed out to catch the funicular railway on its first trip of the day up Mount Sherman.

At first, when they were at the top of the mountain, there was nothing to be seen.  But soon the sky in the east began to lighten and grow pink, then the fog that lay below them began to melt away, and, as the sun rose, they saw the full wonder of the spectacle.

“I never saw anything so beautiful in all my life!” exclaimed Bessie with a sigh of delight.  “See how it seems to gild everything as the light rises, Dolly!”

“Yes, and you can see the sea, way off in the distance!  How tiny all the towns and villages look from here!  It’s just like looking at a map, isn’t it?”

“Well, it was certainly worth getting up in the middle of the night to see it, Bessie.  And I do love to sleep, too!”

“I’d stay up all night to see this, any time.  I never even dreamed of anything so lovely.”

“We were very fortunate,” said Eleanor, with a smile.  “I’ve been up here when the fog was so thick that you couldn’t see a thing, and only knew the sun had risen because it got a little lighter.  I’ve known it to be that way for a week at a time, and some people would stay, and come up here morning after morning, and be disappointed each time!”

“That’s awfully mean,” said Dolly.  “I suppose, though, if they had never seen it, they wouldn’t mind so much, because they wouldn’t know what they were missing.”

“They never seemed very happy about it, though,” laughed Eleanor.  “Well, it’s time to go down again, and be off for Windsor.  And then to-morrow morning we’ll be off for the seashore.  We’re to camp there, right on the beach, instead of living in a house.  That will be much better, I think.”