“He’s just got to sign the papers, hand over the money and it will be all settled,” I heard Uncle Andrew’s voice coming from his study and I slid up closer to the door, wondering what he was talking about. Through the crack I could see Uncle Andrew speaking to Barton. “Sam should be ready for transport the day after tomorrow! Make sure he’s in good shape and well fed, I don’t like selling sickly slaves; after all, the man is paying for him.”
I felt as though my heart had stopped. Was Uncle selling Sammy?
“Yes sir,” Barton gave a frank nod of his head.
“That will be all, you can go.”
Burton gave another nod of his head and walked toward the door. I took a quick leap back, to make it look as though I was casually passing by. He noticed me, gave a nod of recognition and went on his way. I knocked on my uncle’s study and walked in. Uncle Andrew looked up and a shadow appearing on his face when he saw it was me.
“You’re selling Sam?” I asked, placing my hands on his desk and looking straight into his eyes.
“To Mr. Hartbert, yes,” he replied with a cool indifference and he grabbed some papers and began looking over them.
“Not to Mr. Hartbert. Uncle, you can’t do that. The man is a slave trader, heaven knows how he’ll treat Sam and what sort of a rotten master he’ll sell him too. You.just.can’t.do.that!”
“Can’t I?” He lifted an eyebrow, still glancing at his papers. “Sarah, I just did.”
“But why to Mr. Hartbert of all people? That man is a monster.”
“No one else is willing to buy him at the moment.”
“Why sell him at all?”
Uncle Andrew lifted his head. “Because, you, Sarah, have left me with no other choice. I can’t have you running off and carrying on some romance with a slave. You have more important duties before you, can’t you even understand that?”
“More important duties?” I sat down in the chair facing him.
“Yes, duties that do not involve getting involved with a slave. I trusted you, Sarah, I trusted you because you gave me your word that you would end it all! Is that your way of ending it? How could you have lied to me like that? Tell me, is he the reason you have been refusing suitors? Lucky for you, Henry Earl and Albert Thompson were both young men I did not approve of! But what happens when other men enter your life, men of good standing and good breeding, men like Mr. Browne for example. Are you going to refuse them too simply because you a carrying an affair with a slave?”
I looked down.
“I am giving you freedom, Sarah, when it came to choosing a future husband, but that freedom is within certain boundaries and Sam Climb simply does not fit into them. I could just lay down the law and dictate to you who you can see and who you can’t, I could just find the husband myself and force you to marry him. I am not going to do that, but that doesn’t mean you can go running around doing whatever you please with whomever you please. You behavior has angered and saddened me. And it’s not just the fact that you began and carried a romance with a slave, but because you lied to me about it. And you still have the nerve to ask why I am selling him? I do not approve of your romance, and I am putting it to an end, once and for all. If love is what you wish for, Sarah, then I suggest you look for it in your social class."
"If that is the case, perhaps I should seek out a fellow bastard for myself to marry then," I spoke in a haunting tone. It was the first time I had dared to be so sassy with Uncle Andrew. He glanced up at me sharply. For an instant, a look of pain appeared in his eyes, then he masked it with cool indifference.
"Find love in a way that will not put this entire household at the mercy of local gossip. I found out last time, who do you think could find out next? And what will your romance lead to? Did you think of that when you began it? It leads to a dead end. A dead end! Society would never accept anything between you and him, so why play a losing game?”
“I loved him, Uncle.”
“Some loves are better controlled, Sarah. Don’t be…” He halted abruptly.
“Don’t be like my mother?” I finished for him, my voice turning cold.
“Sam leaves the day after tomorrow and that is final! You can leave now, I have work to do.”
I got up and walked to the door.
“At least I didn’t kill him,” my uncle called after me. It was all I could do to keep from slamming the door with all my might. I marched up the stairs thinking hard. Of course Uncle could say things like that. He didn’t know what Sammy had been to me these past two years; he didn’t know how Aunt Helen constantly tormented me! I had kept such things from him not to cause him pain and not to cause a greater rift between him and his wife then there already had been caused with my coming to live here. What could Uncle understand about the pain and guilt and shame that was branded into my heart and soul? If it hadn’t been for Sammy, I don’t know what sort of a state I would have been in. He gave me strength to keep going these two years. Uncle had told me society wouldn’t accept it! What did I care for society? Society never seemed to accept anything. Society didn’t accepts black people, society didn’t accept illegitimate children, society didn’t accept love between a slave and a free man, between two people from a different social classes…well, then, tell me, what did society accept? What was more, society was hypocritical to its core. A black man and a white woman was forbidden, but a white man and black woman was not so bad. Hadn’t my grandfather kept a black mistress? Several in fact. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Mr. Thompson and Mr. Earl also had black mistresses, it seemed to be quite common among landowners. Of course, it was all kept hush-hush, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I shook my head; all these comparisons were leading nowhere. How could I compare anything or anyone to the rich landowners, or with the white men in general. They were the ones that ran the country and made the rules. Even though I was white, I was a woman, and I didn’t have any say or make any rules, I was simple bound to obey them, just as Sammy was. If society said that a black man and a white woman could not fall in love, could not marry, then we could not and there was nothing to do about it.
I sighed and flopped down on my bed, my mind racing as a million thoughts flew in and out. Sammy had just told me this morning that I was the best thing that had ever happened in his life. Well, if I was the best thing that happened to him, I could certainly do better than this. I couldn’t let Sammy get sold. Not to Mr. Hartbert, not to anyone else. I couldn’t talk Uncle out of selling him; his mind was obviously made up. A new thought suddenly struck me. I sat up, slowing chewing it over in my mind. There was one other option. An option I had entertained several times in the past two years but one I had always pushed out of my head. The option of granting Sammy his freedom.
Of course Uncle would never agree to that. No doubt he would say that a freed Sammy was even more dangerous to me and my ‘social life’. If Sammy was free, what was to stop him from making claims on me, what if we were to get it into our heads to run away together? I couldn’t set him free openly; that simply wouldn’t work in this household, not to mention under the circumstances I was currently in.
Suddenly, a new thought dawned on me. I wasn’t going to let him get sold and if I couldn’t get Uncle to free him, there was still one other way. The way of the underground railway.
People had spoken of it before and I had heard it tossed around conversations. Some said it was just a made up story, something that wasn’t actually real. Yet, at the same time, slaves were going missing and there was talk of the ‘Moses of the slaves’ who would help them run away from their masters. The only problem was, I didn’t know anything about the underground railway, or where to find someone who could help me locate it.
I paced the floor, trying to get some sort of plan in my head. I suddenly snapped my fingers as a realization hit me. What about the Brags?
The Brags were a Quaker family who owned a tiny little farm some miles from our plantation. Once, about three or four years ago, my aunt had sent with a basket for them when one of the family members was said to be dying. She had been too ill to go herself then, so had made me go. They had been very secretive for some reason and rather tense it seemed. I had suddenly noticed a black face at one moment. Then it disappeared in the room again. I really hadn’t thought much about it then, we had so many black faces in our house, it was nothing new to me. Only later had I remembered that the Brags were very openly against slavery. Everyone looked down on them because of it and called them abolitionists. I hadn’t said anything about it and had even forgotten the whole incident but now it came back to me. What if the Brags where involved in the undergrounded railway?
Desperate means call for desperate measures and I decided it was worth a try. I resolved to go the Brags, maybe they could help me get Sam out of here before Uncle sold him.
What will happen now? Will Sarah really be able to set Sammy free before Mr. Greensten sells him for good?