“Sammy, are you easily bribed?”
Sammy blinked at me, trying to grasp the significance of the question I had thrown at him. He had been working in the garden when I had flown over to him with wide eyes and attacked him with my questions.
“Easily bribed!” I finished impatiently for him.
“I…uh…depends for what?”
“For me; I mean, by me, I mean, you know what I mean.”
“Sarah, let’s start from the beginning, and work on your explanation skills, which are severely lacking.”
I took a couple of deep breaths to calm all the emotions that had arisen in me from all that had been said by my aunt and uncle.
“You’re obviously agitated; did you and your aunt have a fight?”
“No, Aunt Helen and Uncle Andrew are in there,” I pointed to the house, “arguing.”
“And you were eavesdropping?” He lifted an eyebrow.
“Naturally. They were debating about me, how could I not listen?”
“Did it have something to do with your refusing Albert Thompson?”
“Everything to do with it. But that’s not what I came to bribe you about. During the course of the conversation, they mentioned the name Harriet and Aunt Helen got all upset when Uncle Andrew brought her up. The point is, before Mama died, she pressed a note into my hand and begged me to get it to Harriet. I’ve asked just about every adult in this house who knew my mother, but they all refuse to talk about her. Everyone says it’s something I had better not know. Now I truly know that there was a Harriet in this household, and from what I heard, somehow my grandfather was involved. So, I was wondering, perhaps you could try and get it out of your mother or father. I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll get you books from my uncle’s library if I have too! It’s terribly important that I at least discover who Harriet was.”
Sammy thought for a moment, “I don’t promise you I’ll be able to get anything out of Mama or Papa! If it’s a secret, they probably will respect it.”
“But you have to, Sammy. Not for me, for my mother, it was so important to her that I get the note to Harriet and I feel bad that it’s been nearly ten years since Mama died and I still haven’t been able to fulfill my last promise to her.”
“I’ll try, Sarah. I’m not going to make any promises, but I’ll find out what I can.”
“Thank you, Sammy.” I threw my hands around him and kissed him.
“Right, now let me work,” he laughed as he disentangled himself from my embrace, “I’ve got flower bushes to work with if I want them to bloom on your birthday. It isn’t easy to get them to blossom earlier than they are supposed to. Don’t you have like reading or something that you are supposed to do?”
“Not really, with Mr. Jenning taking leave of us this January I don’t really have anything to study anymore. Not that I mind, Mr. Jenning was a good tutor and all, but I’m nearly eighteen, how long was I supposed to remain a student? Though now that I think of it I should go and practice my music or Aunt Helen will be annoyed with my poor music skill.” I gave him one more kiss and ran off to the house to not distract him from his ‘important work’.
I gave Sammy a couple of days, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to find it all out at once. At last my patience wore thin and I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. I found him in the garden (the place I usually found him), grafting the roses.
“So…did you find anything out?”
He didn’t answer right away, and when he finally looked up at me, his eyes were a little troubled.
“Not much,” he confessed, “I had difficulty getting out of Mama what little I was able too! I understand why the Mistress strives to keep it a secret and never talks about it. I’m not sure…”
“Sammy,” I stamped my foot, “you can’t keep it from me. Don’t be like everyone else.”
“Alright, alright, but it’s nothing happy or good.”
“Oh come, like I don’t know that,” I rolled my eyes, “I could tell it from the start that it was nothing happy or good.”
“Again, I want to warn you, Sarah, that I wasn’t able to get much out of my mother and what I was able to get won’t help you find Harriet and actually it’s not much…”
“Would you just stop beating around the bush and tell me?”
“Harriet was your grandfather’s mistress, the Massa James Beverly’s black, slave mistress! After your grandfather died she has not been spoken of, by orders of Mistress Greensten.”
“My grandfather kept a mistress?” I slowly said.
“Yup, several in fact, but Harriet was his last one and the only one he kept for a long period of time. The others came and went.”
“So what set Harriet apart from the rest? If she was one of several why does Aunt Helen get so dramatic every time you mention her name?”
“Once more, I don’t know the details, but it had something to do with the your mother’s engagement to Mr. Earl that never took place and it is all somehow connected with her running away. But then, like I said, Mama doesn’t like to talk about it, seems there is a lot of hurt, misunderstanding and grudges involved.”
I processed all this information. “No doubt through these mistresses that my grandfather produced his ‘five or six’ illegitimate children.” I glumly stated
“I never said that.”
“You didn’t have to. I overheard my uncle mention it,” I was silent for a minute. “She is such a hypocrite.” I suddenly burst out. “How can she defend my grandfather and condemn my mother in the same sentence? It’s not like he was any better than she was. Talk about disgracing the family name. Mistresses and illegitimate children. How can she do that, Sammy? How can she be so unfair?” I was silent for a few minutes, then gave out a gasp and looked at Sammy with wide eyes. “I just realized something.”
“I’m angry at my aunt.”
Sammy gave me a blank look.
“No, you don’t understand, I’ve never actually been angry at my aunt before. I’ve afraid of her and frustrated, but never angry. And now, look at me, I’m actually upset, because I think the way she’s been treating me is really not fair.”
“Well, it looks like you’re finally getting a backbone,” He winked at me.
I crossed my arms in front of me and gave him a frown.
“What I meant to say,” he put his grafting knife down and put his arms around me, “is that you’re finally beginning to see things through my eyes. You’ve noticed that something is unfair and you’re getting angry at the fact. Get angry long enough and you might actually do something about it?”
“Like what? Confront her? I don’t think so; it would be terrible rude. There is such a thing as known as tact and delicacy. My uncle took great pains to teach me both. Oh and respect towards my elders.”
“Maybe not confronting her, but you could try standing up for yourself.”
“Oh, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that,” I shook my head, “I’m not the sort of person who knows how to defend herself, at least not to my aunt. I can do it pretty well with Prissy.” I giggled as I thought of how our last argument with Prissy had ended. We would never learn to get along; I felt we were just destined to hate each other. “Sammy, do you know if Uncle Andrew keeps, or kept, a mistress?”
Sammy gave a definite shake of his head. “Your uncle is too noble to keep a mistress. To him, it’s probably one of the greatest sins you could ever commit. He’s got extremely high moral standards.”
“Evidently not high enough to stop him from keeping slaves.”
“It’s all in the way he’s been brought up. No doubt he’s been brought up to believe that keeping a mistress is wrong, but having slaves is alright. Massa Greensten is a good Massa, a slave could do a lot worse, but not much better.”
“He is very good to me.” I spoke in a quiet tone. “A lot better than my aunt ever was. It puzzles me, Sammy, how someone so unconnected to me could take me in as his very own, and someone to whom I am flesh and blood says I am a stranger to her. I just don’t get it.”
“Flesh and blood has nothing to do with it, Sarah.” Sammy softly said. “Sometimes, it’s just the heart finds in another heart a little piece of itself that had been missing. I think that is what it is like for your uncle, and that was what it is like with me.” He leaned over and tightening his grasp around my waist, softly kissed me. Suddenly, we heard a crack and a voice called out,
“Sam Climb, let go of my niece or I swear to God, I’ll kill you!”
Oh no!!! Now things are really getting out of hand! I hope you all enjoy this bit of a cliffhanger, but rest assured that an update is sure to follow tomorrow :)
votes and comments are appreciated as always :)