Before Grace could answer, Miss Delaney took her hand and tugged her across the room. Her face felt hot, and she could feel her heart beating hard. Why couldn't Katie come with her to talk to the man and lady? What did they want to say to her?
"This is Grace." Miss Delaney gave her a little push toward the man and lady. "She's seven years old."
The lady in the penny-colored dress smiled. "Hello, Grace. I'm Mrs. Hamilton, and this is Mr. Hamilton."
Grace knew she should say something, but she couldn't make her voice come out. She bit her lip and looked at the floor.
"Have you been to school yet?" The man's voice was strong and loud.
Grace kept her eyes down. If she said yes, would they ask her to count or recite? She could do that with Katie but not with people she didn't know.
The lady bent down toward her. "Can you tell us something you enjoy doing?" Her voice sounded nice, but when Grace glanced at her face, there were lines across the lady's forehead. Was she mad because Grace didn't answer?
Grace peeked over her shoulder at Katie. Her sister sent her a pleading look, but Grace wasn't sure what she was supposed to say or do.
"Mr. Hamilton and I have a dog named Cooper," the lady continued. "He's a very pretty collie. We like to take him for walks in the park or spend time with him out in our garden. Do you like dogs?"
Most of the dogs Grace had seen in London lived on the street and weren't very friendly. Her mum had always told her to stay away from them. What should she say?
"What's your favorite food?" the lady asked.
If she said Mum's meat pies, would they know what she meant? Grace shrugged.
The man frowned. "Why won't she speak to us?"
Mrs. Hamilton patted Grace's shoulder. "I'm sure this is all a bit overwhelming." She turned to Miss Delaney. "Do you have information about her background and family? Is she in good health?"
"She's in excellent health. All the children are given examinations before they leave England and on arrival in Canada." Miss Delaney opened a file and sorted through some papers. "She's an orphan from London with no relatives who can care for her. She was born on May 16." She closed the file and looked up at Mrs. Hamilton. "I can assure you she will have more to say once she feels comfortable. Isn't that right, Grace?"
"Yes ma'am," Grace whispered.
Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton looked at each other. Mr. Hamilton nodded and then turned to Miss Delaney. "Very well. We'll take her."
Grace gasped. They were going to take her? What about Katie? She turned and looked toward the back wall. Her sister watched her with wide eyes.
Mr. Hamilton stepped up to the table and signed a paper. Mrs. Hamilton took Grace's hand and started toward the side door.
Grace pulled back. "Wait!"
"It's all right, dear." Mrs. Hamilton gripped harder and continued toward the door. "Our motorcar is just outside. Have you ever ridden in a motorcar?"
"No! No!" She screamed and tried to wriggle away.
Mrs. Hamilton held on tight. "There's no need to make a fuss."
Grace's eyes burned and overflowed, and her cries turned to jerky sobs. "That's enough! Settle down, Grace!" Mr. Hamilton scooped her up and hurried across the room.
Grace tried to get away, but Mr. Hamilton's strong arms pressed her hard against his chest. She jerked her head up, searching for her sister as they passed out the door. Katie stood by the wall, a wide-eyed, fearful look on her face. Grace's heart lurched, and she screamed her sister's name. But the door slammed behind them, and she couldn't see Katie anymore.