The working house

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When the sun was raising, flooding of lights the fields and the roofs of those poor houses, as well as bathing the sky in a warm and red light; a wagon pulled by two brown horses was crossing the villages.

No one had seen such a big wagon ever before, as horses were fairly uncommon to be seen in that country. People, there, used to have oxes and not horses to pull the plow, as they didn't have to buy them. There were plenty of cows in that country, and their calves were reared not only for their meat, but also for working in the fields.

So while the wagon was passing through the field, all the farmers interrupted their work to look at the man who was driving that vehicle. He wasn't a local, as no one could recognize his face. 

The farmers were still standing, looking at that mysterious wagon which was starting to disappear into the horizon. It rarely happened that an outsider came to their country, as there was nothing but dirty people and poverty to be found there. That was the reason why all these busy people were still gazing, out of curiosity, at the wagon which was moving away, shrinking until it disappeared without a trace, like a mirage.

Actually, the man who was driving that wagon wasn't alone. He and a younger guy were sent by the workhouse's owner they were working for as part of the indoor staff.

The two men were in charge of going from town to town in search of poor families' children to hire in the workhouse which was recently built near in the city's outskirts.

The sun had still not risen when the wagon driven by the strangers stopped in front of Cowherd's home. The older man got out of the vehicle to go knocking at the wooden door.

Margareth's father opened the door, staring at the mysterious man with eyes full of mistrust. However, when the man began to explain him the reason why they were going door to door, he started to show interest in what he had to say, to such an extent that he couldn't turn down the stranger's offer.

Actually, not only that city man offered Mr. Cowherd money in exchange of his older daughter, but he would have also taken the girl to a place where she would have been feed for free, in exchange of her work.

For him, such a proposal sounded like a dream. Not only he would have received money, he'd have also gotten rid of that burden without having to leave her in the woods, where she would have died soon after, starved or attacked by some wild animal.

And so it happened that the farmer accepted the offer without thinking twice or asking for his wife's opinion about the whole matter.

The man just grabbed the small sack full of heavy coins and rushed into Maggie's room, where his daughter was lying motionless - as usual - on her mattress filled with straw, squeezing an old scarecrow as if it was a cute puppy. Without saying a word or explaining her the situation, he grabbed the little girl for an arm and dragged her to the front door, where the two strangers with the wagon were impatiently waiting.

Just a moment before Maggie was put in the back of the wagon, her mother saw what was happening. Yet she didn't step in to stop those strangers who were grabbing her terrified daughter's arms. All in all, she was relieved that a solution to the family's main issue had been eventually found, so she stayed silent while looking at the vehicle that was moving away, taking her daughter with them.

No one told Margareth what was happening and where she was supposed to go; so in a blink of an eye, the poor and frightened to death girl found herself crammed in a little and filthy space with a crowd of scared and silent kids, each of whom smelled  like dirt, sweat or coal. She didn't know either who were the shivering children with her or where she was, she just knew that she had been abandoned and her family wasn't with her anymore.

The wagon took hours to complete the journey, as the men went to all the villages in the area to get some more children whose families were poor to the point of not being able to support them anymore. The number of children crammed into the back of the wagon kept increasing, while that dirty place was getting more and more narrow, to the extent that it seemed there was no air to breathe.

It was late in the afternoon when they arrived to the work-house and the wagon stopped. The children were dropped off and taken to the entrance of the factory.

There, a small wooden bowl with a liquid soup in it and a crooked spoon were given to each children. No new clothes or beds were offered them, since as soon as they had finished eating that miserable dinner, they were brought to the workstation and assigned to a specific place.

No one asked for their name or age, no one cared of them. They were just numbers, mere machines, which were fed and housed only to make them work and produce, as if they were pouring oil in a machine to make it work faster instead of feeding a human being.

In all this, Margareth was scared than ever. Not only she spilled the soup on her, scalding her arms, she also tripped several times as she couldn't see where she was going.

Despite being on the verge of tears, she did her best not to burst into tears and kept following the crowd of children, since she got assigned to the sewing and spinning area by the owner. 

There she stopped, clenching her teeth to suppress her extreme anxiety, while the man followed by the crowd of children which was becoming smaller and smaller, passed over without giving her instructions or explaining her what to do.

So, left even more confused than she was before, Maggie stayed motionless, as she had and used to at home. The noise in that place was awful and wholly surrounded her and her thoughts, so owing to the increasing fear she dropped the beloved scarecrow - the only thing she could took from home - without being able to find it again. She wanted to scream, but the noise was so loud that no one could hear her voice and stop that uproar, so she started to cry in panic.

Not many minutes later came another man, and seeing that the red-haired girl wasn't doing anything but staring at the wall, he started to yell at her and cracked the rod he was holding, slapping it on her legs.

"What the hell are you doing?? You're paid to WORK, not to sleep or fool around!" He shouted.

No one has ever treated her so cruelly so far, so Margareth only managed to whisper "...I-I.. d-don't know what to do.." in a faint and hesitant voice.

Annoyed, the man roughly replied "Even a retarded child would understand something so basic! You just have to use that cotton-spinning machinery which is even easier than sewing by hand, you lazy and useless child!"

Then he went away and Margareth, left alone, thought "well, if that's about sewing, I think I can do that" and extended her arms, looking for the needle and thread, but her hands went under the cogs of the machine and she got her fingers and hands cut everywhere and blood started dripping from all those wounds, blood spreading all over the place.

At the sight of the big amount of blood, the child next to her started yelling and so did, one after another, the others.

The children, out of their minds, were still screaming or looking in fear at the bleeding girl like they were paralyzed. The commotion caught the attention of the sentry and again came the same man who scolded and hit Margareth before. Having seen what happened, he grabbed the poor girl for the hair, with the conviction that she was just dumb or with cognitive delay. But when he tried to look into her eyes, he eventually noticed that they were white and empty, like they were dead. That child sure couldn't see at all, with such dreadfully eyes.

At that point, in rage, he understood that he had been fooled by that family of ignorant farmers and went after the two guys who were charged to pick up all those children to scold them.

In the meanwhile the girl was dragged off the area while the owner was thinking what to do with her now. Looking at that dirty and shaking little girl, he noticed that despite her appearance she had long, sleek hair of a beautiful red color, even though it was messy. So he made a decision that was going to benefit him.

He wickedly grinned, pleased with the brilliant idea he just had. Maggie couldn't see his ghastly smile, otherwise she would have started shaking worse than ever, like a bunny held by a butcher.

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