When Lyddie starts work at a textile mill, she's required, like everyone else, to sign a contract of employment. For most people, this is a mere formality. But for someone like Lyddie, who's barely literate, it can be a real chore.
It's difficult enough for Lyddie to read a simple letter. But a contract, full of big words and legal jargon, is virtually impossible to read. Lyddie wishes that her brother Charlie were there to read it aloud to her and explain what all the big words mean.
It takes Lyddie several months before she's finally able to read the document she was given when she signed her contract, the Regulations for the Boarding Houses of the Concord Corporation. Had she been able to read them at the time, she would've known what to expect.
But when she finally finds out what's in the Regulations, she's shocked to discover that she's required to be vaccinated for smallpox. The whole procedure's pretty unpleasant, to say the least—a doctor gouges her leg and pours some liquid onto the wound, which turns into a nasty sore in a few days' time.
If Lyddie had been able to read the Regulations, she might have been better prepared for this ordeal.