Helping Hands

August 18, 1896
Sarah Waters

It was 10 AM when the train pulled in to Providence’s Union Station. I was amazingly asleep at the time. The porter woke me when I was all that remained to exit the train.

“I believe this is your stop.” He said.

“How did you know?” I asked.

I was trying to stifle a yawn and blink away the last remnants of sleep without appearing rude. It was a difficult task.

“This is everyone’s stop who was still on the train. Providence is the end of the line.” He explained.

“That actually makes sense.” I said.

He laughed.

“Thank you for waking me.” I said.

“I would have let you sleep longer, we aren’t going anywhere soon but the way your head was slumped you were bound to wake with a stiff neck if you haven’t anyway.”

I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling what he meant.

“I guess I should be off then.” I said.

“You don’t seem to enthused to have arrived.”

“I am excited to be here. I am about a week early though and I am not sure where to go until then.” I said.

“Oh, you are here for the college?”

“Yes, the dormitory does not open until next Monday.”

“How come you are here now then? If you don’t mind me asking that is.”

“It is a long story, but the end is I have no place else to be.”

“I see. Well I have a small apartment here in the city. I am actually here for the next couple of days before heading out again. I have a spare bedroom if you need a place to stay.”

“I don’t mean to impose. I am sure I can arrange something.”

“Whatever suits you. I wouldn’t offer if I didn’t mean it though. You look like you could use a friend.”

“Is it that obvious?” I smiled.

“Yeah, it is. I’ve seen plenty of the girls come and go to this college, you aren’t the typical fare.”


“Forgive me for saying but even a poor working boy like me can tell you don’t come from money.”

“So, most of the girls that come here do?”

“More like all of them.”


“Yeah. How did you end up here?”

“Woman’s Suffrage Scholarship.” I said.

“You mean somebody is paying for you to suffer?” He asked.

The look on the young man’s face was a priceless combination of confusion and disbelief. I choked on my laughter as it had been far to long since I had anything to drink.

“What’s so funny?”

“I never heard anyone put it quite like that before, but I guess it does have a slight ring of truth to it.”

“I tell you, this world is becoming stranger everyday.”

“That is truth.” I said. “I accept your gracious offer as I truly have no place to go. Do you know of any work available in the city? I could use some money.” I said.

“There are a few things around but most won’t be much interested in you.”

“Why is that?”

“College girls aren’t allowed to work while school is in session.” He said.

“I’m hoping to have that rule bent for me.”

“Good luck with that. In the meantime you might check out the laundry house, they hire for a day or two at time depending on how busy they are.”

“That sounds good for a start.” I said.

“I have to sweep out the cars, but if you wait for me inside the station I’ll be done in about an hour and then we’ll get you settled in.” He said.

“I could help.” I offered.

He looked at me for a moment of indecision.

“I am quite capable with a broom.” I said.

“I just bet you are. Here.” He replied and handed me the broom in his hand.

As I swept my way through the train, I realized I should be cautious with the young man. He has given no indication of being anything but helpful, still it is better to be guarded than caught off guard.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Melanie, interesting!!!
Warm hugs,