I had only five hours to get Sammy to the Brags before it the sun would begin to rise and all would be lost. I pushed back the covers, slipped out of bed and walked over to my closet. If I was going to pull through a daring rescue mission, I was not going to do it in my nightgown. Out of my closet I pulled out my mother’s old brown working dress. Long ago, my mother had stood in this room, with a daring plan; in the dead of night she stole away from this house, without being seen or caught and had gone off to make her own fortune. Whatever luck had kept her that night, I needed it so much; not for me, for Sammy. I somehow hoped that wearing her dress would give me her courage and strength, not to mention the fact that the dress was simple and plain and comfortable for the task I had set out to do. As soon as I was dressed I went to my dressing table and opening one of my jewelry boxes I retrieved the spare key I had taken from my uncle’s room. Taking the unlit candle that stood on the corner of the dressing table, I silently opened the door and went out into the dark empty hall.
Grasping my dress, which was just a little to long for me, I tip-toed barefoot down the long flight of stairs and came to the first floor of the house. Soon I was at the door of my uncle’s study. Taking a deep breath I slipped the key into the keyhole and turned it. A snap told me the door was unlocked and I pushed it open. Just like the rest of the house, Uncle’s study was engulfed in darkness. I closed the door behind me and only now allowed myself to light the candle. Coming up to the desk, I began my search. It took me a good fifteen minutes, but at last I located the key from the holding shed. It was now twenty past twelve and I still had much to get done. Locking the study, I made my way to the kitchen, where I grabbed a loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese and some apples from a basket in the corner, then silently made my way back up the stairs and to the safety of my room. Only when I was behind the closed door did I allow myself to breathe deeply. So far so good! From another of my jewelry boxes I retrieved the money I had gotten for my jewels. Placing the food in a bag I had prepared earlier, I put the key and money into my pocket and opening my balcony, stepped into the cool night air.
I shivered a little in the wind as I carefully climbed down the vines and managed to safely get to the bottom with only a few scratches on my hands and feet. How glad I was Jeff had taught me to climb up and down these vines as a child, who would have thought one day it would prove to be so useful? Once more lifting my dress, I ran like a frightened deer to where the holding shed was. I knew it wasn’t guarded, so that wasn’t much of a concern, though I did have a nagging thought about what could happen if by chance someone should notice me? I had snuck around this part of the house unnoticed once before, but it had been wind and sleet and not the sort of weather anyone would be want to be outside in. Tonight it was a clear, starry night, but there was no moon, and the cloak of darkness was my one comfort. The grass and dirt pricked my bare feet and I inwardly berated myself for having forgotten to put my shoes on, but there was no going back now and I pressed forward as I was. At last I got to the holding shed and slipped the key into lock and turned it. A snap sounded and the lock clattered to the ground. I held my breath as I hastily retrieved it and looked around. No one was in sight. I pushed the door and it gave an unpleasant groan, causing me to wince and freeze for a couple of seconds. Stillness surrounded me and I took a deep breath, trying to calm my beating heart. It was pitch black inside the shed and I groped around, trying to find Sammy’s sleeping form. At last I stumbled against it. Reaching down, I grasped his shoulder with both hands and gave him a firm shake.
“Sammy, Sammy, wake up,” I whispered.
He bolted into a sitting position. My eyes had adjusted a little to the darkness and I could just barely make out his large frame.
“Who is…” he began before I reached over and shut his mouth.
“Shhh!” I hissed.
“Sarah?” His eyes widened.
“Follow me,” I stated motioning with my hand.
“What’s going on?” He whispered in a confused voice.
“I’ll explain later. Just be quiet and follow me,” I commanded, “oh, and take you coat with you.” I noticed a rough coat on the ground; he had evidently been sleeping on it. We stepped outside and I closed the door, I would lock it when I got back, now time was of the essence and I couldn’t try and fiddle with the lock in the pitch black of the night. Sammy stared at me, eyes wide as saucers. His eyes had also adjusted to the darkness, and though we were still mostly silhouettes to each other, he could see enough to tell him just how unkept I was at the moment. My dress was obviously old and my hair let loose, the golden locks reaching nearly half way down my back and slightly tangled at that. I had no coat, no shawl and no shoes. I had lifted my dress a little when stepping out of the shed and his eyes had noticed my bare feet. I put my finger to my lips, silencing all his questions. We had to get someplace safe before I could explain anything to him. Thanks to my nighttime adventure that fateful March night, I had some idea of how to sneak around the plantation in a way without getting noticed. The day before I had taken a walk, trying to remember the exact route of the Ides of March escapade, and though most of it was still unclear to me, I had a general picture in my mind of where to go. We crept through my garden, and then away from the mansion. My main goal was to get off my uncle’s plantation, the open fields with hardly any trees provided a very unsafe place and should someone want to look they could have easily noticed us. The entire walk across the plantation I prayed like I had never prayed in my life, prayed that this whole plan would work and I would be able to get Sammy away without getting caught. How I wished I could have been able to saddle a horse for Sam, it would have made everything so much faster, but getting into the stables at this time of night, saddling a horse and trying to keep silent at the same time was beyond my power and I had to be satisfied with going by foot. At last we reached the very edge of the plantation and stood by the shade and shadow of two large tangled trees. It was here that I halted and turned to the still very confused Sammy.
“Starting from this point, you must go on alone,” I whispered. “There is a Quaker family that lives a couple of miles from here. The road will lead you to it, but don’t go by the road as that will leave you out in the open and you could be seen. Stick to the shadows and trees but keep the road in sight. At one point you will get to a crossroad, turn left and just go straight till you come to the house of Mrs. Brags, you won’t be able to miss it! Don’t worry they are expecting you! There is a conductor waiting to take escort you to the north, where you will be safe.”
“Sarah, what are you doing?” Sammy stared at me as though he had never seen me before.
“I’m doing what I should have done a long time ago,” I stated. “I’ve been selfish, Sammy selfish and hypocritical. I blame my aunt for being a hypocrite, but honestly, I haven’t been any better. I’ve been going on and on so many times how you weren’t born to be a slave, how you were destined for something greater, how you were meant to be free, but all the while I was the on keeping you in chains, keeping you in slavery. I’m setting you free, Sammy, that’s what I am doing. I should have done it earlier, it would have saved you, me, and everyone else connected a lot of pain and strife, but what was cannot be changed, I can only try and make amends.”
“You’re setting me free?” Sammy repeated slowly.
“Yes, I am. I’m sorry it has to be so secretive, I can’t do it openly, no one would recognize or accept it and it may even cause gossip and talk around the whole neighborhood. My aunt could not bear that and I don’t want to put her through it. Besides, I know uncle would not approve if I approached him with the idea, so I felt if I just went ahead and did it on my own, under the cover of darkness. I discovered my uncle’s plans to sell you only yesterday and so this is all really slapped together, but I know it will work though, if you leave now. It’s possible to get around without anyone noticing you, I should know, I’ve done it before. Here,” I shoved the bag into his hands, “There is a little food inside this pack for your journey, not much, but it should keep you till you get more.”
Sammy took the bag from me as he processed all the information I had just given him. I hoped he was fully awake to understand all I had just said.
“How did you open the door to the holding shed?” He asked me at last.
“I took the key from uncle’s study.”
“He left his study door open?”
“No, I took the spare key from his study out of his room while he was away. I used that to open the study and get the key. Here, you’ll also need this,” I pulled the money out of my pocket, “It’s twenty four dollars, take it, you will need it to start your new life. Only don’t put it all in one pocket, in case you should lose it or get robbed or something.”
“You took money from your uncle?”
“Of course not,” I tossed my head back, “I could never rob my uncle. I sold some jewelry.”
“Oh, Sammy, it’s jewelry, it’s just metal and stones, they can be easily bought back or replaced, it’s not like, like people,” I paused for a second then continued. “One more thing,” I pulled out of my pocket a folded piece of paper, “Take this, in it I have written that you, Samuel Climb, have been set free and are o longer a a slave. It’s not something official, but it does have my name and signature on it. If no one asks you for it, then please don’t show it, but I just want to make sure you have it just in case.” I looked down, took a deep breath and looked up again. “The open road awaits you, Sammy. It’s the road to freedom. You can be your own master, you can do what you want with your life, be something other than what you master will dictates to you. The sky is out there, the stars are calling to you to, go and partake of their freedom.”
“And what about you?” He earnestly asked as he took my cold little hand in his.
I bit my lip. “I’m afraid the stars have crossed me out, and you must continue your journey without me. You future is there, beyond this plantation, mine is here, in it. Oh Sam, deep down in my heart, I always knew this day would come, I dreaded it, hated it, and tried to keep it from happening. I fear the time has come for you and I to go our separate ways,” I looked down, feeling the tears welling up in my eyes.
“But, I don’t want to leave you,” His voice became so sad.
“I don’t want you to leave me either, but we have no choice. Either you leave today and become a free man, or else you leave tomorrow and be sold to a slave trader. You and I will be separated no matter what, but I would prefer that through the separation, you will obtain the freedom that you have long desired. Sammy, you must go and I must remain here! I have a duty to my aunt and uncle, to my family, I cannot go against it.”
He drew me into his arms and I felt his wet cheek against my own.
“You must go on,” I whispered into his ear, “there is so much in store for you, I know that for a fact. Forget your life here, forget the years you toiled as a slave, forget the harshness of the whip, the hunger, the cold. Forget it all, it never was! It was a dream, a dream that is gone forever. Forget the grey eyes that caused your ruin, and the white skin that brought your pain.”
“You know I’ll never be able to forget you,” His voice cracked from emotion. “You will constantly be on my mind.”
I shook my head. “No, keep your mind focused on your future, not on your past.” I bit my lip again, trying to keep my composure.
Sammy stubbornly shook his head. “I know you think of yourself as a mystery and something unnatural, like that blue rose Massa Greensten gave you for your sixteenth birthday, but to me you have always been the purest, fairest of all the roses in the garden. Sarah, there is no way I will be able to forget you, how can I when you will be in every white rose I see.” He gently pulled away from me and looked into my eyes. “I want you to promise me one thing as well. Don’t ever let anyone ever tell you that you were not meant to be. Always look at your life as something rare and wonderful, something beautiful. There is no one like you and no one will ever be able to take your place. No matter what the world, society, your aunt throws at your face, God had a definite purpose for you, trust Him Sarah. You are beautiful in His sight, just as you are beautiful in mine.”
I nodded my head.
“Never forget how I saw you, and how I loved you,” his voice broke, but he steadied it. “Forget me not.” He whispered and leaning over, placed a long kiss on my unresisting lips. I’m not sure how long we held each other, not wanting to let go, knowing that once we did, it would be forever. At last, I pulled away. “You must go now or you will never make it, the night doesn’t last forever.”
He placed one last kiss on my lips, “Thank you, Sarah,” He whispered, “thank you for my freedom.” With those words he turned and walked away. I stayed where I was till he was completely out of sight. He turned four times and looked back at me. It was dark, and I was in the shadows, but I like to think that he still saw me there, the April air blowing my hair making it whip against my face. I hope he took that image of me with him wherever he went. Not the one of a refined and proper lady, always doing my duty to society and following all the rules, nor the frightened, unwanted girl who ran from everything life threw at her, but as the wild, untamed spirit of the night. The Sarah that had been buried by a scandalous birth and a lie, the Sarah I hadn’t known existed till that night; the true Sarah I had let loose for a brief moment. A moment I feared would die when I got back to the house; but a moment that I could share with the Sammy. My last moment with him.
Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!
Cursed be the social lies that warp us from the living truth!
Cursed be the sickly forms that err from honest Nature’s rule!
Cursed be the gold that gilds the straiten’d forehead of the fool!
I know this is all very bittersweet, but it had to be that way! :((
However, if you think the story ends with Sammy's escape, you are severly mistaken! Sarah still has to go back and face her Uncle and Aunt.
I'm pretty sure you are all guessing we are coming to the end of Book 1 of the series, but we are not quite finished yet, so stick with me as we see it through :)