Western Fiction posted September 9, 2013 Chapters: Prologue -Prologue- 1... 

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The Orphan Train

A chapter in the book AN ORPHAN NAMED JO

Chapter Twelve, Part One

by c_lucas

September, 1879
The Orphan Train

Ending of the last chapter: Jo spent two weeks in the infirmary and slowly regained her senses. At first, she nibbled at her meals, but began to eat more and more. Whenever she could, she received permission to visit Rudy’s Grave. She returned to her bed in the dorm and her work crew, but all was not right in her world. The weeks went by and Jo began to show improvement.

One of the older girls walked up to Jo, who was sweeping the second floor. “Mrs. Griffin wants you at her office.”
Jo followed the girl without speaking, knocked on the office door and waited for the command to enter. A strange woman sat in front of the desk, facing Mrs. Griffin.
“Jo, this is Mrs. Swartz of The Children's Aid Society. She has found members of your family.”
 Jo’s heart skipped a beat. “You found Nana Sullivan?”
The woman glanced at Mrs. Griffin before returning her attention to Jo. “No, but two of your father’s brothers have contacted us from Kansas. They would like you to come live with them.” The woman fumbled through her oversized purse and handed Jo’s two tin-types; the first Jo had seen of the new-fangled metal pictures.
Jo studied the one of a woman and man stiffly facing the camera. The woman held a baby in a long-flowing Christening gown. Tears began to form as she recognized her mother. That's Mammy holding a baby … the baby is me. That’s the mean man who stole me from her.
A further glance at the man dried her tears.  She placed her thumb over his face. “Where did you get this?”
Mrs. Swartz ignored her question. “Do you recognize anyone in the picture?”
Jo held on to the first picture and looked at Mrs. Swartz. "This is me mammy  holding me. The man is me father. Can I keep this?" Jo realized she was speaking in her old language.

"You can in a moment. Do you know any of the men in the second picture?"
There were three men in work clothing standing by an old train engine. Jo studied the picture. "The one in the middle looks like my father, but he is younger." Are those two men my uncles?
Jo pointed to the image in the center. “I’ve never seen him cleaned and dressed up before, but I know him. He's my father. Mother told me about him when he came to our flat. He’s a very mean man. Dadio Sullivan stopped him from beating me and Mother."
The woman frowned at Jo. Then smiled. "You proved the other two men are your uncles." She turned the second picture over and pointed to some scratchings on it. "We have found your father's two brothers living in Kansas. They want you to come live with them."
"I never met them." They're strangers to me. "How do you know they are my uncles?" Jo looked up at her, not knowing what was expected of her.
"Can you read what it says on the back of the picture?"
Jo shook her head. "No ma'am. I never learned to read."
"It says, 'The Wiley Brothers, 1869.'" She smiled. "The other two are your uncles, who will love and take care of you. Do you want both of these pictures?"
"Just the one with my mother in it. I don't care about the other one."
"Maybe you'll learn to care about your uncles when you meet them." She handed Jo both types.
Jo stared at the image of her mother holding her. Why did you have to leave me?
Mrs. Swartz cleared her throat and Jo turned her attention to her. "I will be taking a group of orphans to Kansas and if you want to come with us, you'll be welcome."

"Will there be children my age?"

"There will be boys and girls of all ages. I am sure you will make friends. It'll be a three-day trip, and we will have our own car."
Jo looked down at the dress she'd worn for almost a year. "I don't have any clothes to wear on such a trip."
"I will pick you up, along with a few others, the day before we leave. You'll be given a bath, checked by a doctor, and given new clothes."
"Will you be taking Johnny with us?" Jo noticed a surprised look on Mrs. Swartz's face.
"I don't have a 'John' or 'Johnny' on my list."
Smiling, Jo felt good about the trip. "I would be happy to join you, but what if I don't like my uncles?"
"If that becomes the case, you will stay with me. I am sure a smart young lady, like you, will get along with anybody."
Good, she doesn't know what I did to Johnny after what he did to me.
Jo was happy when she found out Melinda would be riding on the Orphan Train with her.
“I wished Maggie would come with us.” Jo kicked at the ground with her right foot.
“She wants to go up North, A family has asked for a girl who can work with young children,” Melinda responded. “At least you will be with members of your family.”
Three days later, Jo and Melinda, plus three young boys were picked up by Mrs. Swartz. She arrived in an open wagon pulled by two horses. The driver was an elderly man, who ignored the children. He dropped everyone off at a worn-out building. Jo heard a train whistle, but could not see the train.
Several women and older girls were waiting inside. A teenage girl walked up to Jo. "Hi, I'm Josephine and I'll be your partner. You'll need a bath and new clothes."

Jo shook her hand and curstied. "Thank you, It's nice to meet you." She spied Melinda several feet away.

“Line against the wall with your partner.” Mrs. Swartz called out.

Jo left Josephine’s side and walked over to Melinda. Their hug was interrupted by an angry Josephine.
“You are to stay with me. We don't have much time.”
“Why don’t you stay with us?” Jo gripped Melinda’s hand and stared at Josephine.


Thank you Angelheart for the use of your image, "Yes We Can."

Note to new readers: The prologue has a synopsis of the chapters to date.

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