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Authors: Katherine Paterson

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BOOK: Bread and Roses, Too
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"
We shall not be moved,
" the marchers responded.

"Let them shoot and stab us," another voice said.

"
We shall not be moved.
"

And everyone around her was singing now:

"
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
We shall not be, we shall not be moved.
Like a tree planted by the water,
We shall not be moved.
"

The singing went on and on. Above it, she could hear the bull horn-amplified demands that the crowd disperse. There were occasional scuffles when someone tried to work his or her way through the marchers toward the mills. "Scab! Scab! Go home!"

Eventually, Rosa could feel that the crowd had loosened its grip on her. She began to ease her way sideways until she was able to slip out of the crowd and into a side street, where she found herself suddenly looking up at the dark brick exterior of Newbury Street School.

She was panting, not from running—she hadn't run at all—but from the exertion of working her way through the mob. Her heart was pounding, and despite the snow, which swirled about her and almost obscured the school building, she was sweating as though it were summer.

Later, she wondered why she had done it, but at the moment the school represented safety, and unlike the marchers whose courage had nearly suffocated her, she wanted to be safe from those soldiers with their fixed bayonets that stabbed and, who knew? might shoot children.

"You're tardy, Rosa," Miss Finch said as Rosa crept into the classroom.

Rosa ducked her head in apology and slid into her seat. There were only a handful of students present. The native-born and the Irish were there, except for Joe O'Brien, but not many of the children of the unskilled workers, the ones who would be on strike. The class was in the middle of their arithmetic lesson. Fortunately, arithmetic came easily to Rosa, and although she had no textbook, she had been able to keep up by listening carefully to Miss Finch's explanations.

When it was nearly time for the dinner bell, Miss Finch said, "There is, as you no doubt know, a large, unruly mob on Canal Street. I suggest that when you go home for dinner you avoid going in that direction no matter how curious you might feel about the activities taking place today. The crowd is dangerous. Some are undoubtedly armed. If you are wise, you'll remain in the safety of the school building this dinner hour, as I will myself. But since some of your parents may be expecting you home, I won't prevent your going. Just stay away from the mill area and try to stay out of trouble."

Rosa hadn't thought about what she should do at dinnertime. Would anyone be expecting her home? Granny J. was probably there with baby Ricci and Mrs. J.'s little boys. But she'd have to go back on the street to get home. She got up and started for the door only to be stopped by the teacher's voice calling her name.

"Rosa."

"Yes, Miss Finch."

"You were absent Friday afternoon. Do you have an excuse for that?"

"No, ma'am."

The teacher stood up and came to where Rosa waited. "You must not let your parents—your mother, rather—keep you from school. You understand that, don't you?" she said softly.

"Yes, ma'am."

"I hope you were able to persuade her not to strike."

Rosa just hung her head. Miss Finch's shoes were almost new—leather boots laced tight. Her feet would never feel the snow leaking through the soles.

"Rosa, I'm speaking to you, dear. Look at me, please."

She raised her eyes to look at the teacher's pale face pinched in disapproval. It was thin, but had Miss Finch ever known real hunger?

"Are the people in your family a part of this terrible strike?"

"They're hungry, Miss Finch." Rosa nearly whispered the words, but the teacher had heard her. She could see Miss Finch's eyes blink, and she began to fiddle with a pencil she held.

"You know what Mr. Wood said. The mills can't afford to pay wages for fifty-six hours' work when they're only getting fifty-four."

Something stiffened inside of Rosa. "But he got five houses."

"He
has
five houses."

"Yes, ma'am. And so many automobiles he can't count them."

Miss Finch jerked her head. Her cheeks reddened. "I think that was meant as a jest. Nonetheless. Your parents are breaking the law."

"My papa is dead."

"Yes, you said. I'm sorry. Truly. But whoever in your household is taking part in this wretched business needs to be warned off. Do they realize that Joseph Ettor is an anarchist? That means, Rosa, that he doesn't believe either in God or the law. He's"—she lowered her voice and her head and said, almost in a whisper—"he's a
Marxist."

"Father Milanese says we have the right to ask for a living wage."

Miss Finch sniffed. "Father Milanese is not in line with the rest of the religious leaders of this city, all of whom have denounced the strike as godless and lawless. Isn't he Italian?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"There, you see. I'm sure your bishop will soon set him straight."

There was no need to remind Miss Finch that she, Rosa, was also Italian, as was her entire family. Despite the two strikes against her—that she was both Catholic and Italian—Miss Finch had always encouraged her.

"Well, I had hopes for you, Rosa." She walked away and put the pencil down on the desk, expecting, perhaps, that Rosa would disappear.

"Please, ma'am. I want to learn. You said I should make something of myself."

The teacher came back and put her hand gently on Rosa's shoulder. "Yes, I did. I'm just—I'm just afraid for you, Rosa, dear. There are so many obstacles...."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Try to persuade your mother not to strike, won't you? It's a terrible mistake. Those outside agitators ... They can't be trusted."

"He said no violence. That's what he told everybody."

"Who said that?"

"Mr. Ettor."

Miss Finch's hand went from Rosa's shoulder to her own throat. "He's the worst. Rosa, you mustn't believe anything he says. He doesn't care for the mills or the workers here in Lawrence. He is only after power for himself. There'll be terrible violence. He'll do awful things and try to blame others. People will get killed. You'll see."

Rosa left the school. She should have run, there was so little time before the afternoon session, but the streets were too crowded for her to run properly, and, besides, she needed to think. Could Miss Finch be right? Could the man Mamma and Anna and all the workers were following be only after power for himself? A boy had been stabbed this morning. But it was the militia who had done it, not the workers. Unless ... unless Miss Finch was right. Unless Joe Ettor would try to blame the police and the militia for things his own followers had done. Rosa shook her head to try to clear it. Everything was too confusing. Whom could she believe? It was a messy, terrible business. She wanted her mother and sister out of it no matter who was right and who was wrong. It was just too dangerous. Suppose they got killed and she was left alone with only little Ricci? They'd starve for sure—if they didn't freeze first.

The Return of Rosa's Rat

Rosa went back to school on Tuesday. What else was she to do? Mamma and Anna and the Jarusalises were so involved in the strike that they were always out, meeting, picketing, or marching. She'd tried to convince them how dangerous it was until she was hoarse, but Mamma just patted her on the head and went out the door. Granny J. was busy with her grandsons, Jonas and Kestutis, and little Ricci, and Rosa couldn't talk to her anyway.

The big news at school was that Joe o'Brien had been arrested. "Arrested?" Rosa said. "Why?"

"Oh, he wanted to be a big shot. He went down to the picket line, where a bunch of strikers were throwing snowballs at the police. They took 'em all to jail." Luigi was grinning. "But Joe's got him a Irish daddy. He hauled Joe home and said he couldn't leave the house till the strike was over. He was lucky. The judge give the men a year."

"For throwing snowballs?"

Luigi nodded solemnly. "For throwing snowballs."

When Miss Finch walked into the classroom, the straggly remnant of what had once been the class stood up. They weren't always so polite, but the strike had infused a bit of pride into the children of the strikers.

Miss Finch smiled faintly at the gesture. "You may be seated, class," she said.

"You hear about Joe, miss?" Luigi asked.

"Yes," she said and hesitated, as though undecided as to how to proceed.

"He almost went to jail!" Celina said.

"Joseph was very foolish," Miss Finch said. "And, although it is a shame that he will be missing so much school, I think his father is wise to keep him off the streets. I trust this will be a lesson to you all—if you had any thought of becoming involved in this ugly business."

Rosa winced.

"I'm sure some of you think a year in jail is an unreasonable sentence for throwing snowballs. But as the judge said, 'The only way we can teach them is to deal out the severest sentences.' It should certainly make other Italian strikers think twice before they show such disrespect to authority."

"Joe ain't Italian," Luigi said.

"And he should have known better. Now, those of you who have arithmetic books..."

But Rosa couldn't put her mind on sums. What if Anna were arrested? After all, she had been right up front in the parade with her big American flag. The police were sure to notice her, and Anna wouldn't be able to stand being in jail for a day, much less a year. or Mamma, who had been singing louder than anybody? Her heart skipped a beat. If Mamma were arrested, none of them could survive. She had to persuade Mamma to go back to work. or at the very least to stop marching and picketing.

That evening she tried again. "Mamma, they put some men in jail—for a whole year. Just for throwing snowballs."

Mamma sighed. "They tell us law show no favorite, but how can you say that? Put a man in jail for throwing snowball."

"What if they put you in jail?"

"Who, me?" Mamma laughed. "Me? I just stupid Italian woman. What do they care about me?"

"Mamma!
They'll put anyone in jail for the least little thing."

"Can they put ten, twenty thousand peoples in jail? only jail big enough is the mills, and we already been in those."

Mrs. J., Anna, and Marija laughed at that. Anna laughed so hard, she began to cough. Mamma got her a cup of water and put her arm around her. She murmured to Anna while the girl sipped the water. Rosa watched in horror. Was it just the winter weather or was Anna getting sick in the lungs the way so many of the girls did?

She was startled by Mrs. J.'s jovial "And we ain't goin' back till dey do what we say, hey, Alba?" Mrs. J. had taken to calling Mamma by her first name. Mamma looked up, her worried look gone. It wasn't right. The Jarusalises were boarders whose no-good papa had run off. Now all of a sudden, Mrs. J. was acting cozy as a sister to Mamma, and Mamma didn't even seem to mind. She was smiling.

"Oof," she said, dropping into a chair. "My feet tired, just like I work all day. Go down street, Marija. Find out where we meet tomorrow." Anna started for the door. "No, not you,
bambina.
You rest a bit here with Mamma. We got to be strong for tomorrow."

"Mamma!" Rosa couldn't believe her ears. "You're not going to parade again
tomorrow?
"

"I do if Joe Ettor say so."

"Mamma, you're just letting those godless anarchists push you around!"

Mamma snapped around to look at her. "What do you know, Rosa? You see inside Mr. Joe Ettor's heart?"

"Miss Finch—"

"Don' 'Miss Finch' me, okay? She know school, she don' know nothing 'bout mill work or Mr. Joe Ettor, neither. Now go on, Marija. Run ask Mrs. Marino where we meeting tomorrow morning. And you, Anna, go lie down on the bed a minute." Anna hesitated. "Go on, obey your mamma." Anna went into the back room, but she left the door open, as though afraid she might miss something.

Mamma settled down in her chair, and then to Rosa's horror she leaned forward, took off her worn shoes, and began to rub her feet—right there in front of Mrs. Jarusalis. She breathed out a huge sigh, making Mrs. J. laugh again.

"Goot idea, Alba," she said, taking off her own shoes and raising a big, dirty foot across her knee to rub it, her skirt hiked up almost to her waist.

Was the strike going to turn them all into savages?

"Oooh, could I use a cuppa coffee now," Mamma said.

"Can you still remember da taste?" Mrs. J. asked.

"Never forget coffee. Like you don' forget your first kiss." Mamma's eyes were closed, and she licked her lips, as though tasting either the coffee or the kiss, making Rosa cringe with embarrassment.

"I have to do my homework now."

"Good," said Mamma without opening her eyes. "Good girl."

After she had finished her homework—what she could do of it without an arithmetic or grammar textbook—Rosa stayed in the front room with the door closed. She could hear the women talking and laughing; even Granny and the little Jarusalis boys were joining in the good humor of the evening. Mamma and Mrs. J. were the happiest they'd been since they'd lived together. It made Rosa angry. Mamma was ruining her life—all their lives—with this crazy strike. Anna would get sick, and they'd starve—which reminded her that no one had even mentioned supper.

Just then the door to the hall flew open, and Marija burst through it and headed for the kitchen. "Close the door!" Rosa cried, but Marija didn't hear her. She was rushing in with news. When Rosa got off the bed to close the door herself, she heard them all talking at the same time, their words tripping over each other. Rosa heard the word "food" and, in spite of herself, went to the kitchen to find out what the excitement was about.

Anna was already up from her rest. She turned when she saw Rosa standing there. "They've set up a soup kitchen!" she said, her eyes dancing. "Union workers from Boston and Lowell brought it. And they say people are going to send money from all over the country! Workers everywhere want to support us in the strike!"

BOOK: Bread and Roses, Too
8.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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