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Lizzie
Page 5


Meka-thee-ing-gay, now Elizebeth, though she was a child, worked hard. She was only a child but she had received her instructions from her mother,  earlier. In these new surrounding she was carefully carrying them out. Quietly, she observed the other children who were not faring as well. Some in their lonely homesickness would cry themselves to sleep at night. Others openly disobeyed, becoming scornfully belligerent; thus reaping punishment as an insult to their sorrow. She, as her mother had taught her, was quick to follow instructions.  Her mother and father instilled in her the need to learn the language of the white man. Not even would she speak her own language in whispered secrecy among her peers. She did not wish to take the chance of being switched. This was not a matter of fear so much as a loss of dignity. The girl had the inborn need for being proud and she did not want the matrons to bring her to a moment of showing weakness. The other children stood motionless through their punishment, neither crying out,  or visibly showing their pain. Lizzie, though very young,  didn't want things to come that place with herself. She seemed to understand her Mother's games in teaching her this. “Don't let them make you cry.”  She could hear her mother's voice in her mind.

Elizebeth saw some of her classmates had been placed at the mercy of their captors in this manner. Esther had taught the girl well. Although she was only four she met the challenge of psychological warfare with her own intelligence. Seeking a way to bargain with their conquerors. The mother realized the necessity of learning their language. The game she set before her daughter was that of mastering this strange new way of speaking. The soft singing sounds had to be changed to a sharp way of cutting off words. "She-no-dah," Esther laughed, "is now 'dog." Although she emphasized the shortness and curtness she didn't do so too much. Just enough for the girl to be interested. By cutting off the words too much some of the parents had given their children, whether by plan, or coincidence, a rebellious ring to the words.

The name Elizebeth soon was shortened to "Lizzie," by a kindly matron who had taken the small child under her wing. The girl had to adjust to this short name with no meaning.

Now the child was struggling with the task of buttoning the new shoes which replaced the soft comfortable moccasins she had worn before coming here. Her tiny fingers worked with determination to try to pull the button through the tight loop which would hold the shoe together on the side of her foot.

"Lizzie.” You will have to use this button hook on those." The gentle lady offered the instrument like a long wire with a small hook at the tip of it. The woman showed Lizzie how to slip the wire through the small loop and over the button, pulling it through. The child looked up to the new friend she felt she had, and smiled.

"Look, Lizzie, aren't these the prettiest ribbons? I picked the colors I knew you would like best."  The matron held out the strips of shiny fabric for the girl to touch.

The girl studied this new part of her costume in her typical, cautious, native way. By touching them she became enthralled with the slippery shininess of the strips of fabric. The ribbons met the touch of her fingers with an uncanny new sensation. There was nothing in her world as far as articles of dress having this same feel. Her fingers felt the strange slippery texture of it. It had the same lack of resistance she felt when she held an icicle in the winter. But, it was without the coldness to burn her fingers.

Elizebeth scrunched up her eyes and smiled the smile that covered her whole face and the matron could see her joy with this new part of her costume.

"Let's get these in your hair now.” The young attendant realized she could work a little faster with the child and this she did.

The woman carried the tiny girl, Lizzie,  into the cafeteria.  She wanted to see to it the child had a good table and a protected place. The quiet inexperienced personality of the little girl would require she be placed where some of the seasoned children would not be able to beg food from her, leaving her with less to eat.

Lizzie sat in front of her tray of food and she was so overwhelmed by the newness of her surroundings. She really wasn't interested in the meal before her. Those large dark brown eyes were ever observant and she was taking in the costume of the girls who sat around her. Their's was a uniform identical to hers. The stiff starched fabrics made into dresses with puffed sleeves and pinafore was not unpleasant. Her stare was interrupted by the sound of the superintendent's voice behind her.

"Well, little Lizzie, how are you this morning?"

She looked up to see a pleasant smiling face. "Come Lizzie. Let me help you with your food."  The man picked her up and held her in one arm. He moved her tray closer and, while he sat with her, he encouraged her to eat the food before her.

"I will help you with your food this morning."  From that morning on, Lizzie sat beside the kind gentleman. He saw to it she was interested in eating her food. Elizebeth felt secure and adjusted easily to this new world.


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