Elsie had quite the trouble finding me the next morning. She ran about the room calling my name and nearly jumped when I peeked out of the closet.
“Miss Sarah! What are you doing there?”
“Just being as close to mama as I can,” I replied in a sad voice.
“You must never give me such a fright again, I came to the room and you weren’t here. Why, if I had lost you Massa would never have forgiven me.”
I said I was sorry and she made me promise never to sleep in the closet again. She washed and dressed me and took me downstairs for breakfast with my aunt and uncle. After breakfast aunt Helen went off to the drawing room.
“The tailor will come soon,” my uncle informed me, “he will measure you up for a new set of clothes. But I don’t want you waiting around in the house for him. You are pale, I want you to get some fresh air. Why don’t you go out into the garden and play among the flowers. I think the sun would do you a lot of good. Only mind what I said about picking the flowers. Your aunt will be very upset.”
I nodded my head, I would not touch a single flower. My aunt seemed unhappy with me as it was, I didn’t want to make her mad at me. Elsie led me out to the garden, then went back inside, leaving me alone among the flowers. The flowers were in full bloom and the garden was filled with a thick and sweet fragrance as the different scents blended together. The sun was shining and I felt a little joy creep into my dark soul. Here, alone, among the flowers I felt safe somehow. A lot safer than in that house. I walked down the little path, intently studying all the different types of blossoms and never saw him coming at me. All at once I collided into someone and the two of us ended up in a tangled mess on the ground.
“What the!” I heard a boyish voice say. We quickly untangled ourselves and I found myself staring into the dark face of the boy I had bumped into.
“Who are you?” I asked, staring at him.
“Thousand apologies Miss,” he stated in a rather fearful voice, “I didn’t see you coming.”
“The fault is partially mine,” I reassured, “I wasn’t watching where I was going. What’s your name? Who are you?”
“Samuel Climb. I’s a slave here.”
Right, I should have guessed. It was beginning to dawn on me that all people with dark skin were slaves.
“You’s the niece of the Massa and Mistress?” he asked me.
“Yes, my name is Sarah, Sarah…Rose.” I had almost said Sarah Beverly but caught myself in time. No one was supposed to know my real name.
“Pretty name.” He said with a smile.
“Thank you. I like yours too.”
“Most people calls me Sam for short, you can as well.”
“I don’t like the name Sam,” I wrinkled my nose, “I think it spoils the way Samuel sounds!”
“I can’t help that," he said with a bit of a smirk.
I giggled. “Would you mind very much if I called you Sammy? Samuel is too long and Sam sounded dreadful."
He shrugged, “I wouldn’t mind very much.”
“Good, then that’s settled, and you may call me Sarah.” I was excited about making a friend. When you’re alone, making a new friend is like fresh cold water to a thirsty man. “What were you doing here in the garden?”
“Nothin’” he got a bit on the defensive, “what were you doing?”
“I was looking at the flowers.” I didn’t quite understand what exactly I had said to offend him. “You know, I’ve never seen so many together at once. To tell you the truth, I haven’t seen such a grand flower garden before either. Such things aren’t grown on my side of Boston.”
“It’s the Mistress garden,” Sammy said, “She loves flowers. The Massa doesn’t care for them so much. I’ve heard him remark he doesn’t understand the use of them.”
“Flowers remind us that there is still beauty in this world,” I stated. “That is what my mama always said. And it was the perfect excuse for me to persuade her to allow me to become a flower girl?”
“A flower girl?”
“Yes, you know, those girls that go about the streets selling flowers? I didn’t do it very long, only about a year. And of course, I never got my flowers from a garden, I got them at the flower shop.”
“You’re from the city, ain’t ya?”
“Yes, Boston. Born and raised there.”
“What’s it like?”
“Um…” I thought for a moment. “I’ve been told that parts of the city are actually quite nice, but not where I lived. We lived in the slums, so it wasn’t so wonderful. It was all hard work and never enough food. But at least it was mama and me!”
“How are you finding it here?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. I haven’t been here long enough to find out. It’s a very large house and I feel very out of place in it!”
“You’ll get used to it, you’ll see.”
“Do you really think so?”
I smiled. He smiled back at me.
“Do you know the name of this flower?” I felt rather silly asking the question, but as the conversation had died out I felt the need to get it going again.
“Carnation.” He replied without a pause, “didn’t you know that?”
“I only know the names of the flowers I would sell and a carnation was never one of them.”
“So what kind of flowers would you sell?”
“Violets and petunias mostly. Does my aunt have any in her garden?”
“Sure she does, come over, I’ll show you.”
Before I knew it he had taken me on a full tour of the garden and named me each of the flowers that grew there. He knew all the names. Be they roses, or lilies, bluebells or geraniums, he could tell me their name without a moment’s hesitation.
“You like flowers, don’t you?” I asked once we had gotten back to the same place where we had originally bumped into each other.
“Yes, I do,” he got defensive again, “and there ain’t nothing wrong with that!”
“I never said there was.” It was my turn to get defensive. “It was just an observation. Do you work in the garden?”
“I do. It's my job to help Kristoffs with the gardening.”
“He’s the gardener in charge of the Mistress’ flower garden.”
“Do you like working in the garden?”
“I could do a lot worse.” He got a faraway look in his eyes, “it could be the cotton fields for me.”
“The cotton fields?”
“Yes, most of the slaves work there. Only a handful are household slaves, I’s guess I’s lucky enough that I am a household slave. I kow for a fact that life on the cotton fields is close to hell.”
“You don’t like being a slave do you?” I felt so stupid for asking that question, but my mouth had babbled it out before I had a chance to stop myself.
“Would you like to be a slave, Miss?” He replied. I didn’t answer his question, I got the point.
“How old are you?” I changed the subject.
“I turned eleven on April 15th!”
“What a coincidence!” I exclaimed. “Your birthday is on the same day as mine! I was also born on April 15th, only I’m not eleven, I just turned eight.”
We were interrupted by Elsie who came out to look for me.
“Miss Sarah,” she called, “Massa Greensten is calling for you. Sarah, where are you…oh. Well, well, looks like you met my little brother in the flower garden.”
“He’s your brother?”
“Yes, he is. And he’s a great lover of them here flowers. Can spend hours and hours with them, which is all great except that we could use his help over at the house a little more often than he gives it.”
Sammy boiled at the introduction given by his sister.
“But he’s learning to be a gardener Elsie,” I found myself defending him. “Isn’t it natural that he should spend a lot of time in the garden? Where else will he learn? You don’t learn gardening by doing household chores.”
Elsie burst out laughing, “yous got yourself an advocate Samuel Climb. Comes along Miss, your uncles is waiting for you. I believe the tailor has come.”
“Goodbye Sammy,” I smiled, “I hope to catch you around again soon. Thank you for showing me the flowers.”
He didn’t answer, but smiled in a boyish way. I ran over to catch up with Elsie, who had already started for the house.