“Mr. Greensten, the slave is gone.”
I ran from my room and leaned over the railing of the staircase.
“He’s what?” My Uncle’s voice was filled with surprise and disbelief.
“He’s gone, sir; the holding shed is empty.”
I saw my uncle coming out of his study and I flew back to my room, shutting the door behind me I waited for the inevitable.
I don’t know what time I got home, it was very late, that is for sure. I had returned to the holding shed and locked it once more, then I climbed back to my room, put the key back into Uncle Andrew’s study and gone to bed. I didn’t sleep long though, with the crack of dawn I was wide awake and waiting. Elsie had come to my room and everything the morning procedure went on as it usually did. Breakfast was a silent affair. After breakfast Uncle had gone to his study, Elsie had left to take Sam his breakfast, Aunt Helen was in the drawing room and I slipped the spare key to its proper place. After this I had returned to my room and waited for Sammy’s missing presence to be discovered.
I hated how quickly my uncle caught onto things.
“Come to my study please, right this moment.”
I took a deep breath, told my reflection to be brave; that I was a strong woman who could stand up for herself and went downstairs. Upon entering the study I saw Aunt Helen sitting there. I winced realizing I was going to be attacked from both fronts.
“Have a seat, if you will,” My uncle motioned to a free chair. I pensively sat down and await the storm to strike.
“Where is he, Sarah,” Uncle Andrew was straight to the point.
“Don’t play ignorant with me; where is Sam?”
“I don’t know.”
“Sarah…” My uncle narrowed his eyes.
“I’m honest; I don’t know where he is.”
“Oh, so you weren’t the one who let him out last night?”
He was a quick guesser; that was for sure.
“I was the one.”
“You mean to tell me that you are admitting letting Sam out of the holding shed but you don’t know where he is?”
“I mean just that. Just because I let him out doesn’t mean I’m hiding him somewhere.”
“You let him out,” Aunt Helen frowned and shook her head.
“Helen, please,” Uncle Andrew silenced her. “Why did you let him out?”
“I granted Sam his freedom."
“I granted him his freedom. I let him go and he’s gone. Where he went, I don’t know, but that isn’t any of my business anymore. Where he goes and what he does is up to him now.”
“How did you get him out of there?”
“I unlocked the door.”
“How did you get it out of my study without me noticing?”
“I came at night when everyone was sleeping?”
“And how did you get into the study? The door was locked and I had the key.”
“I took the spare.”
“The spare? So you mean to tell me that went into my room, took the spare, then broke into my study, went through my drawers, took the key from the shed and then let Sam out?”
Uncle Andrew was so shocked, he could only stare at me, not knowing how to react. Aunt Helen took advantage of this.
“Sarah, I don’t even know where to begin.”
I braced myself.
“I suppose I could start with saying that you are going to be the ruin of this house, obviously continuing what your mother had started. Apart from caring a…a…a romance with a slave, which is far exceeding your mother in scandal, you had the nerve to go and release him! What do you think the local gossip will say of us now? You were courted by men of good standing and position, men who far exceeded you in family and rank, but you turned them down, preferring instead a little black boy! What is more, you had no respect for your uncle, who gave you a name and an existence and hid your disgrace and the disgrace of your mother from the rest of the world; some way of showing your thanks! But I suppose I should not have expected more. Your mother had the same way of expressing her gratitude when she ran off one blessed night. You’ve come quite near to doing the same thing, what surprises me is that you didn’t run off with him. I don’t know what your uncle is going to do with you, but I do know what your grandfather would have done! He would have thrown you out of this house, disowned you and declared none of us would have anything to do with you.” My aunt shook her head.
“Helen,” my uncle looked at her.
“I’m sorry, Andrew, I’ve held my peace long enough. I’ve borne with everything that girl ever was or did, but this has gone too far. Sarah, don’t you have any respect for the family that sheltered you? You know your place in society. You are worthless, you are a child of sin and disgrace, but we took you in anyway, and you repay us by placing on this house more disgrace and more gossip! How can I ever face anyone again once it starts going around that my own niece assisted a slave in escaping just because she had allowed herself to believe she was in love with him! Honestly, Sarah, why didn’t your mother have the decency to get rid of you when she had a chance?”
“I don’t know,” I shot at my aunt, “I don’t know why my mother didn’t drown me after my birth! Maybe it would have been a lot simpler for us all. I suppose we’ll never know. All we know is that she didn’t drown me and that I am here right now and there is nothing we can do about that fact! There will be no scandal! It is unfair of you to judge matters before you hear them. I don’t know why you decided that I didn’t think about the ‘family name and honor’ as you put it? Other than you, Uncle Andrew and perhaps the Climb family, no one knows of the romance. Barton only has a vague idea of what could have happened, and it is all in the direction of Sam behaving…behaving in certain manner. No one, other than you and Uncle knows that it was I who let Sam out; to the rest of the world it seems like Sam just escaped. Don’t you think I did that on purpose? Slaves run away, that is a well know fact, nobody will think anything about me being involved. The ‘family name’ is clear. Are you satisfied now?”
“How can I be satisfied, when my own niece helped a slave escape? Your Uncle and I never expected you to be such a little thief…
“Now wait a minute,” I interrupted my aunt, waving my hands in help get my point across, “who on earth said anything about stealing? Allow me to remind you that Samuel Climb was my slave. Uncle gave him to me and if I choose to set him free, then I have every right to set him free. There is no gossip involved, the whole thing is clear or suspicion, and what is more, the man is gone. Uncle wanted so bad to get rid of him. Does it matter if he is sold or if he leaves of his own accord? Either way, he’s gone and he’s not coming back. We’re through with it. Uncle has his way and I have my way and we can put the whole thing behind us. I’m sorry if I have caused you pain, Uncle Andrew, if you wish to send me away then you are free to do so. I have lied to you and I have hurt you and I sincerely apologize for that.”
“You should have thought about the consequences before you and that slave got involved." My Aunt was not so easily deterred, "I suppose the only thing left for you to do is tell me that you are carrying his child.”
“Whatever makes you think I would have done something like that?” I felt my face turn hot with anger. “Why are you of this fixed opinion that just because I am my mother’s daughter means I’m going to go and do everything the way she did? Aunt Helen, I am not spoiled goods. I never SLEPT with the man,”for the first time in my life I raised my voice at my Aunt.
Uncle Andrew coughed a little and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Such things were rarely spoken of in a whisper behind closed doors, never out in the open and most certainly never shouted out across the entire house. I didn’t even notice Uncle’s discomfort; I was too agitated to care about the proper rules of decency and tact at the moment. “Don’t you think that I of all people should know what taking things to far could lead too? How can I, when I am reminded of that fact every day by you! I loved Sammy, loved him with all my heart, I still love him, but it was an innocent and pure love! A love that kept my pride and my dignity in one piece. Sam loved me he loved me the way I was, despite the fact that I was ‘incomplete’ as you have so often put it. He loved me and told me that no matter what my past, I was still someone special in the sight of God. Which is hardly as much as I can say for you.”
“You will not compare me to that slave, Sarah,” My aunt’s voice got cold. “And you will not lecture me about God. What your mother did was a horrid sin in the eyes of God, and you are the sad product of it. Nothing you say can justify your existence.”
“I don’t need to justify my existence! Why can’t you love me, Aunt Helen? Christ sure could, or have you forgotten how he was a friend to publicans and sinners? He said he came not for the righteous, but to bring sinners to repent. If God’s own Son can find it in his heart to love me, to die for me, then why can’t you? How long have I yearned for your love, for your affections? How long have I done everything in my power to obtain them? My mother was not perfect, I know that, but she never once failed to prove to me daily how much she loved me. When I lost her at the tender age of eight, I would have turned to you for that motherly love and affection that I sorely missed, but you refused to give it to me, you were cold and above me. It hurt me at first, but at last I learned to live with the fact that I was not a favorite and never would be. What is more, I learned not to mind so much! Like it or not, I had to face the cold truth and move on. Like it or not, Aunt Helen, I am your niece and the daughter of your deceased sister. This is something you cannot change, so I’m afraid you are simply going to have to come to terms the fact and live with it. Excuse me!” I marched out o the study and went to my room. Leaning against the door it suddenly dawned on me then that I had just won my first battle with my aunt. Not that it was something to be proud of; a fight in the family is never something to be proud of. It was just that this was the first time in my life I had stood up for myself in front of Aunt Helen and fought for my dignity and respect. I couldn’t help but think that Sammy would have been proud of me.
Drama, drama, drama, things get pretty heated in this chapter! Book 1 is almost done. Just one chapter left :) It will come out tomorrow, so hang around and see what happens :)