Author: Anne Austin
Publisher: Prabhat Prakashan
View: 3163The long, bare room had never been graced by a picture or a curtain. Its only furniture was twenty narrow iron cots. Four girls were scrubbing the warped, wide-planked floor, three of them pitifully young for the hard work, the baby of them being only six, the oldest nine. The fourth, who directed their labors, rising from her knees sometimes to help one of her small crew, was just turned sixteen, but she looked in her short, skimpy dress of faded blue and white checked gingham, not more than twelve or thirteen. "Sal-lee," the six-year-old called out in a coaxing whine, as she sloshed a dirty rag up and down in a pail of soapy water, "play-act for us, won't you, Sal-lee? 'Tend like you're a queen and I'm your little girl. I'd be a princess, wouldn't I, Sal-lee?" The child sat back on her thin little haunches, one small hand plucking at the skimpy skirt of her own faded blue and white gingham, an exact replica, except for size, of the frocks worn by the three other scrubbers. "I'll 'tend like I've got on a white satin dress, Sal-lee-" Sally Ford lifted a strand of fine black hair that had escaped from the tight, thick braid that hung down her narrow back, tucked it behind a well-shaped ear, and smiled fondly upon the tiny pleader. It was a miracle-working smile. Before the miracle, that small, pale face had looked like that of a serious little old woman, the brows knotted, the mouth tight in a frown of concentration. But when she smiled she became a pretty girl. Her blue eyes, that had looked almost as faded as her dress, darkened and gleamed like a pair of perfectly matched sapphires. Delicate, wing-like eyebrows, even blacker than her hair, lost their sullenness, assumed a lovely, provocative arch. Her white cheeks gleamed. Her little pale mouth, unpuckered of its frown, bloomed suddenly, like a tea rose opening. Even, pointed, narrow teeth, to fit the narrowness of her delicate, childish jaw, flashed into that smile, completely destroying the picture of a rather sad little old woman which she might have posed for before.