Young Adult Fiction posted September 19, 2013 Chapters:  ...30 31 -32- 33... 

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The Orphan Train-continued

A chapter in the book AN ORPHAN NAMED JO

Chapter Twelve Part Two

by c_lucas

At the age of nine, Jo's father killed her mother and kidnapped her. He attempted to sell her to a brothel, but Jo escaped and lived the life of an orphan. This is a continuation of her story.

September, 1879
END OF LAST CHAPTER:  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 curtsied. "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 her partner’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.
Mrs. Swartz walked over to them. “Is there a problem?”
“You told me to look after Jo and she walked away from me.”  Glaring at Jo, the teen girl, showed her displeasure.
“You’ll have to stay with Josephine.” The woman glanced at Jo and Melinda holding hands.  “You can visit with your friend, later. Right now, you need to bathe and put on your new clothes; let Josephine help you.”
“Can she help us both?” Jo gripped Melinda’s hand tighter.
“I’m afraid not. There is too much to be done.” She looked at Melinda. “Where is your partner?”
“I don’t have one, ma’am.”
Mrs. Swartz nodded at Josephine. “When you finish with Jo, would you come for Melinda? We’re rushed for time."
“Yes, ma’am,” Josephine answered. She took Jo’s hand and started to walk off.
Jo stopped and pulled her hand free. “Ma’am, if you are rushed for time. Let Melinda come with us. We won’t cause Josephine any trouble.”
Mrs. Swartz glanced at Josephine, shrugged, then nodded. “Okay, but the first time you hold her up, or give her any trouble,  you’ll have to come back and wait until Josephine is finished with Melinda.”
“Fair enough, ma’am, thank you.” Jo took Melinda's hand and offered Josephine her free hand. The teenaged girl took it and led them to a private area. “The first thing you need to do is to take a bath and have your hair cleaned.”
Much to Josephine’s surprise, the two girls bathed each other and washed each other’s hair. She wrapped towels around each, checked their heads, and motioned for them to follow her to another partitioned-off wall.
Ten minutes later the girls, were dressed in clean clothing and standing in line, waiting to be checked by the doctor and dentist.
Afterward, Josephine sat Jo on a stool and trimmed her hair. When she finished with Melinda, she sat them, with other cleaned children, on rough-hewed benches against the front wall.
Jo and Melinda sat quietly holding hands for courage. Two women started down the bench, pinning on each dress or shirt, a small sign telling the child’s name and a number. As one woman issued a number, the other recorded it by the name in the book. They came to Jo.
“What’s your name?”
“Jo Wiley.” The woman holding the book put her finger on the page and turned back to  the beginning. She checked the roster and looked at the other woman. “Number only, she being picked up at Cawker by her uncle.”
The other woman scratched on the badge and pinned it to Jo’s dress. They moved on.
Melinda waited until the two women moved on. “They put my name and a number on my badge, but they only put a number on your badge.”
“What number did they give me?” Jo tried to turn the badge, so she could read it, but failed.
“You’re number thirty-seven and I'm number thirty-six,” Melinda informed her. Their conversation was interrupted by Mrs. Swartz blowing a whistle.
“Okay, we’ll be sleeping here tonight and getting on the train early in the morning. Please line up so you can receive a basket with your name or number on it. Boys go over there behind the curtain. Girls stay on this side of the curtain. Everyone, take your basket, which has personal items in them. You will be taking the items, but leaving the baskets.”
“I need to use the outhouse,” Melinda said to Josephine.
“Okay, I’ll take you,” Josephine glanced at Jo. “Do you need to use the outhouse, also?” She received a nod. “Okay, they’re out back. Hold hands and I’ll take you.” She held Melinda’s hand and took the two girls behind the building.
Two outhouse structures set a distance apart from each other.   A woman and young girl exited one set. The woman took a small bucket of white powder and went back in. Josephine led her charges to where the little girl waited.
The woman returned just as Josephine arrived. “I wish all the toilets were as fresh as this one.” She smiled at the newcomers, took the little girl’s hand and returned to the main building.
“How come these don’t smell as bad as the ones at the orphanage?” Jo asked.
“They use lime to cover the waste,” Josephine answered. She led Jo and Melinda to the first two and used the third one herself.
When they came out, Josephine pointed to the filled bucket. “Take one and cover your mess” They put the empty buckets with the others. On the way back to the building, Josephine stopped them at the pump and filled a larger bucket.  “Take the bar of soap and wash your hands. The towels are dirty, so shake your hands until they are dry."
Once back inside the building, Josephine instructed them how to load their bags leaving the metal plate, cup and spoon and fork until last. Then she held onto Jo’s hand and pointed to the children lining up against one wall. “Melinda, stand with those children.”
 Mrs. Swartz made some adjustments. She had the girls grouped together in one line and the boys in another line. In both lines the children were aligned from the shortest to the tallest. 
“Now, boys and girls, this is the way I want you to line up at each stop. The people will want to touch you and to check you out. If anyone is improper with you and touched you where you don’t want to be touch, please let me know.”
“Okay, ladies, now it’s your turn.”  Josephine had Jo sit on the bench and joined the other adults.
Mrs. Swartz smiled at the nervous children. “We’re going to play a game. Pretend these ladies are wanting to adopt one of you. Be polite, smile and answer their questions truthfully.”
The children settled down after a while and joined in. One of the women walked up to Melinda. Jo jumped up and started toward them.
Mrs. Swartz intercepted Jo. “I need you to sit on the bench and just watch.”
“I don’t want Melinda to be chosen. I want her to stay with me.”
“I know, dear, but your uncles only want you. Melinda will have to find her own new parents. You want her to be happy, don’t you?”
Jo turned away from Mrs. Swartz and stared at Melinda who was paying attention to the lady questioning her.  Jo lowered her head. “Yes, ma’am, I do.” She returned to the bench.
The adults worked with the children until supper time.
While Mrs. Swartz was resting and sipping on a glass of ice tea, Jo, followed by Melinda, approached her. “Ma’am, why didn’t you have me line up?”  She stepped back and reached for Melinda’s hand.
”You have already been spoken for. Your uncles will be picking you up in Cawker. We’ll be there in three days.” She smiled at the girls. “I don’t blame you for being scared. You both will have new families before this trip is over.”
It was on the afternoon of the second day when Melinda found her new parents. Jo ran over to the window and saw her in the back of a wagon. The two friends waved goodbye and stared at each other until the wagon was out of sight.
Jo had an empty feeling in the pit of her stomach. She sat alone on her bench as the train started moving and hugged herself as tears rolled down her face.

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Orphan Trains National Museums

Images of the Riders of the Orphan Trains
Orphan Train Movie- 19th century full length movie


Thank you, Donkeyoatey for the use of your image, "Lonely Bench."

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

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