By Nevada Barr

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With a bend and a puff, she blew out his candle and ran. Both Gracie and Lizbeth were sleeping. Mam had blown out the lamp. Sarah undressed in the dark, leaving her clothes in a heap on the floor. Moonlight shone through the window, projecting a black cross in a square of silver where the mullions threw their shadow on the floor. Sarah sat down on the bench under the window. Shivering in her thin cotton shift, she pressed her thighs together and held her arms close over her chest. Looking past the corner of the cowshed and out over the untilled land, she watched the edge of the woods and the knifesharp shadow of the creek gully.

Gracie stood in the retreating square of sunshine on the barn floor, peering up into the gloom, her little round fists planted importantly where her hips would one day be. ” Sarah snapped. She slid down the rope so fast that she burned her hands. “Why don’t you just go away and leave me be? ” Sam stepped into the light beside the small defiant figure of sister Grace. “Here now. ” “Nothing, Mr. ” Sarah blew gently on her hands. ” Gracie pointed an accusing finger at the broken teeth of mud. Sam turned his eyes on Sarah.

He came back in less than ten minutes, carrying an armload of wood. With him, similarly laden, was a stocky boy of fifteen with a wide, goodnatured face. “This is Clay Beard, Miss Grelznik, Mrs. ” He indicated the hearth with a jerk of his chin. ” Soon a fire was roaring in the grate, and Joseph had the kitchen stove going. Imogene moved closer to the blaze and held a foot out to the flames. Mr. Cogswell and Clay, having no work for their hands, stood awkwardly shoulder to shoulder as if awaiting further orders.

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