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 6)

"Do I have to go?" he asks.

The silence is so big it could make us all deaf. For just a moment. Then from the back row, one of the big girls calls out in an Arthur voice.

"Do I have to go?"

Dougie picks it up. "Miss Lesley, do I have to go?"

"Quiet," says Miss Lesley. The ruler hits the nearest desk, two inches from my brother Henry's nose. He's calling out with the rest of them. But there's nothing Miss Lesley can do. The chanting gets bigger, like some kind of balloon blowing up in the room, pushing out all the other air.

"Children," Miss Lesley screams. Normally she don't need to raise her voice. So now we know she's lost the fight. This is the one fight she's always going to lose. Arthur gets up suddenly. The taunting fades almost as fast as it started. We all watch as he snakes his way between the desks and flies out across the front porch, like some kind of trapped animal who just found his cage door standing open.

For a big man, French Johnny can move pretty quick. Suddenly he's gone too.

I look over at Arthur's desk. He left most everything behind. Except the book. The book we were all reading.

Miss Lesley's got her back to us and she ain't speaking. Her shoulders are moving up and down. I think maybe she's crying, but there's no noise coming from her. This is worse than her screaming. Nobody knows what to do.


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