Debra Doyle and James D. Macdonald
IN THE First Year came the Plague, and in the Tenth Year the Burning, and afterwards came the Grooglemen out of the Dead Lands....
—A History of the New World From the Beginning to the Present Day, by Absolom Steerforth, Speaker of the Amity Crossroads Assembly.
Take one in three.
Don't take me.
—Children's counting-out rhyme, Foothills District.
Daniel Henchard was sixteen and a bit, and Leezie Johnson was almost fourteen, when the grooglemen came down out of the mountains into the new-settled country.
The grooglemen came between hay-making and harvest-time, on a moonless night when the lightning flashed and the thunder boomed across the hills. In the dawn, a column of smoke rose from the Johnson homestead off to the east. Those of the Henchards who were eating breakfast in the kitchen saw the smoke, and made up their minds to go have a look. They would see the trouble and help if they could, for the Henchards and the Johnsons were kin as well as neighbors.
The Johnson place was more than an hour away to run, and longer at a walk. It was mid-morning before the farmhouse came into view, and what the Henchards saw then was as bad as could be. The whole house was burnt, and the ashes gone white from burning out without being quenched—the outbuildings too, and never a sight of living man or beast.