What a difference a little experience can make. When I walked into the library today where our class was meeting, I found every student already occupied at a computer. The letters were open on their computer monitors and the girls were pouring over the archaic handwriting. I could hardly get them to look away for a moment as I held up the original photos and news clippings I brought to show.
"Who had the letter about Mercy's kidnapping?"
A hand shot up, "I did. It talked about white slavery too."
"Here is the news article," I said, showing the girls the original and reading "Thinks Sister Used as Victim of Hypnotist."
At first a few girls were listening and looking at the photos; soon the entire class was gathered around the large conference table with jaws dropped.
"She was kidnapped?"
"Well, the family thought so, but here is her photo with the man . . . "
"He looks so nice," they repeated. "He looks normal."
"Yes, he does, and she married him."
"Were they happy? Did they stay married?"
"Not really. He did leave her, and her daughter had mental problems."
"What else?" They wanted to know.
I could only answer, "I don't know. Read your letters today and see what mysteries you can uncover or solve."
They actually raced back to their computers to continue reading.
Students were so quietly intent on their reading that the library felt like. . . a library. After a time, as they finished transcribing their leters, the girls began to read aloud their transcription with a partner to check their work. Now they knew the stories of two letters. Some girls were ready for another and began a second or third transcription. With one day of our library time remaining, it seems likely that nearly everyone will meet the assignment of transcribing two letters.