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 7)

My body is vibrating, I've been sitting so long. I get up and start to dance a little. Now everybody's looking my way. I figure this is a good thing 'cause I’m giving Miss Lesley time to collect herself.

"It's not so bad, Miss Lesley," I say, sliding past two desks. "He took the book with him. Arthur is never going to give up his reading, no matter where he goes."

"Sit down, Grace," she says, and her voice is low and quiet again.

"We all got to go in sometime. My sister Delia gets her own spinning frames soon. Any day now I'm going to start doffing for my mother." My voice just rattles on sometimes. Follows my feet. Times like these, I can't seem to control either one.

"Why don't you start now?" says Miss Lesley. Her voice has some kind of menace in it.

I can't be hearing her right.

"They don't need me yet," I say. "But don't you see it's a good thing? I'm going to be making extra money so we can buy me my own pair of shoes and I won't have to share with Delia no more. And Henry can get a pair of his own so he won't have to wear those broken-down ones Felix's mother give us to use for Mass."

All eyes turn to my brother in the front row and his bare feet swinging back and forth. He makes them go quiet and glares at me. Any day he can, he runs down the hill barefoot rather than squish himself into my old school shoes.

"You know if I start doffing, then Delia will work her own frame and my mother will still have a doffer and I'll get the two and a half dollars a week and—"

"Get out, Grace." She is not screaming like before, but she is talking loud. And she's walking toward me as if she's considering running me over. "Go on," she orders. "I'm not going to stand here anymore and wait for that man to snatch another one of my best readers right from under my nose. You want to go doff your mother's machine, then go. Get out!"


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