Excerpt from Elizabeth Winthrop’s “Counting on Grace”

This novel about a 12-year-old mill worker was inspired by a Lewis Hine photograph.

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(Continued from page 2)

"And if you hadn't read ahead, Arthur?"

" 'Cause there are soldiers in the story. If there are soldiers, there's gonna be a war."

"Right. This is a story about the Civil War. Some of you children could have had grandparents who fought in that war."

"Not me," says Dougie. "My grandparents lived in Ireland."

"Me either," yells Felix. "My grandparents were born in Canada."

Miss Lesley claps her hands for silence. The whole time she's teaching, Miss Lesley moves around the room, keeping us kids in order. I'm back at my desk, but my feet are dancing underneath. Miss Lesley slaps them with her ruler whenever she passes by. I pretend I don't even feel it. Seems she cares more about sitting still than learning.

"You older children go on reading among yourselves now. One sentence each, then pass the book."

I hate that. I like to hear my voice doing the reading. Or Arthur's. Thomas mumbles so you can't understand him and Norma just pretends to read and Rose is too busy twirling her hair around her finger and staring at Thomas. I hate when the story goes too slow. Then I forget what's happening.

It's Arthur who’s reading when we hear footsteps outside on the wooden porch, the thunk of a boot against the step to knock off the mud. We get still. The man coming through that door understands that Miss Lesley don't like dirt in her classroom. We know who it is. We know what he's going to say. I sneak a peek at Arthur, who's put the book down. For once.


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