Sorry I haven't updated for so long. Hope you enjoy this chapter and I should have chapter 4 up by next Thursday.
“Ah and we were just talking about the two of you,” Harriet gave a chuckle. “Evy, Arthur, how many times have I told you not to slam that door? You’ll tear the house down. Come over here, we’ve got company”
The little girl saw me and her eyes became wide. “Granny, that’s her, that’s the young lady I was telling you about. She’s the one who rescued me from the horrid smelling man hitting me. I see you’ve come to see my Granny after all. Yous remember me, don’t you?”
“I do remember you,” I said with a smile.
“Ah, so you are the young lady with the beautiful horse,” Harriet’s features brightened. “Evelyn loves horses and she couldn’t stop talking about some kind of brown Rainstorm. Didn’t make sense to me for the longest while until I finally understood that the ‘rainstorm’ was the name of a horse and the horse belonged to a lady named Sarah who saved her from a horrid smelling man. I’m afraid this girl doesn’t know how to make herself clear when trying to say something.”
“You named her Evelyn…” I couldn’t imagine a former slave naming their child after a former master.
“After your mother. I don’t know why, I’s guess I felt naming her that would keep her memory alive. Everyone else in the family was determined to destroy it. Evy was my friend. I knows she was white and I was black, but we loved each other just the same. To us, color of skin never mattered. Your mother was the only person kind to me while I was on that plantation, and when her father drove her from the house, I felt sorry for her. It wasn’t really her fault she had a monster for a father. He never cared for either of his daughters, just used them for his own purpose. And when Evelyn dared to bring the family name into gossip, he was determined to have everyone forget her. The only memory they left of Evelyn was her room. Missus Beverly had it closed up and no one was allowed to enter it or touch anything.”
“What of the painting in the hall?” I asked.
“Taken down and placed in her room.”
“But it is hanging now, you see it the minute you enter the house?”
“Is that so?” Harriet was surprised. “They must have put it up after Mr. Beverly died. I’m glad they did. No matter what Evelyn did or how she behaved, she was Massa Beverly's and he should have treated her better.”
We were silent for a few minutes as I digested everything Harriet had just told me. At last I turned to the two children who were standing and staring at the two of us.
“Where is their mother?”
“Both dead! I'm not sure who Arthur belongs to. A man showed up beaten and bleeding and wounded and died within a couple of minutes after coming to my door. In his arms he held his little son. I hid the child when his master came looking for them, and God forgive me, I lied and said that the father had come here on his own. They searched the house but didn’t find the boy because I had hidden him in the gutter afar off. I knew it was a risk, but I was not going to give the poor child back to the hands that killed his father. Praise God they left with nothing and I have kept the boy and raised him as my own. Evy’s mother died in childbirth. She was never strong after that man had his way with her. She had been fading the nine months she carried that blaggard’s child and the birth was too much for her.”
“Was Evy’s father…”
“White? Yes he is. I believe was the saloon owner or something like that. Can’t say for sure, and not like I care to know. The poor girl, she was only fourteen years old and already put through something I had hoped to save her from. But there is no way to hide our skin color. White men seem to thinking that black girls are things they can play with.” Harriet spoke the last words in a bitter tone. I couldn’t blame her. How I wished there was something I could do, but I knew I was powerless. If anything ruled here, it was injustice, and sometimes you just had to face the fact that it was beyond your power to right all the wrongs. Still, I wished to right some of them, to make up for the countless wrongs done to them by my family. Despite all my aunt's lectures on the importance of our family name, sitting in that miserable house, I realized that I was beginning to hate the name and the fact that I was associated with it.
“I’m an old woman, Miss Sarah,” Harriet spoke up again, “not old in years maybe, but old none the less. I’s seen and been through more than someone like you could understand. I’m fading fast, I won’t last much longer, and I worry, what will happen to these little children when I die? They have no one in the world to take care of them. When I’m gone, evil men will take advantage of them. I can’t stop my going away, it is coming and it is coming fast, and I’m frightened as to what will happen to these children.”
I had heard this before. Long ago, when my mother lay on her deathbed, I had heard her confess something similar to Mrs. Hosehigh. It was then that my mother had opened the secret of my aunt and uncle. It was strange how similar the fate of these two women had turned out. But of course I knew my mother was to blame for ending up the way she did, Harriet was a completely different story. All at once I suddenly knew what I had to do.
“Don’t worry, Harriet, I will take the children!”
“You will take them? Take them where?”
“To my home. They can live with me.”
“But I don’t want them to become slaves. I risked a lot to keep them free this long and I don’t want them to become that which I was all my life.”
“I will not allow them to be slaves,” I promised. “I will make Uncle understand. They can work their room and board and when they are grown they can decide what they wish to do with their lives. Harriet, I know what it is like to be them. I too was once a lonely orphan. Thanks to the kindness of my uncle, I have a home, and I will do the same for these children. The likes of us have to watch out for each other. I promise I will not allow them to become slaves, and once they are grown I will grant them the freedom to go where they want.”
She gazed at me suspiciously, not sure if she could believe my words. Promise of the same kind had been made to her far too many times in her life, and all of them had been broken.
“Dear Harriet, I know you find it hard to trust me, but I wish you would. My grandfather ruined so many lives, allow me to try and help the few I can find.”
Harriet was deep in thought for a long while, “you wouldn’t make them slaves?”
“No, I promise you. Mother told me that promises made to the dying must always be kept. I’ve done everything in my power to follow that rule. That is why I have tried so hard and for so long to find you. I’m not like the rest, I have been an outcast once upon a time, I know what it is to be something no one wants.”
“Bless your heart, child, you aren’t at all like a Beverly is supposed to be.”
“Which is probably why my aunt hates me so much,” I couldn’t help saying. “I’m a disgrace to the family name. She even went so far as to ask me why my mother didn’t drown me when she had the chance.”
“Your aunt has a lot of bitterness in her life, a lot of bitterness. Missus Beverly always loved Evy and never failed to show it. Helen was weak and sick and so neither of the parents were proud or fond of her. Oh Miss, never play favorites with your children, you will wound hearts beyond repair.”
The sun was beginning to set and the orange rays peeked through the window, enhancing Harriet’s worn face and giving a glow around it. “Thank you for bringing the note,” Harriet thanked me once again. “I wish I could tell you what peace it brought me. All these years I thought she hated me because of what your grandfather forced me to be. I only wish; I only wish it didn’t have to turn out the way it did. Oh, Mr. Beverly, you drove your daughter to it. It wasn’t her fault.” Her voice dropped to a faint whisper. “Sarah, don’t let anyone ever tell you that it was her fault.”
Those words rang in my ears. They were an echo of the words Jacob Greensten had told me the night before he died.
“You should rest, Harriet,” I took out handkerchief and wiped the sweat from her brow. “I fear I have gotten you far too excited.”
“Watch after the children, don’t let them become slaves,” She grasped my hand. “Don’t let them end up like I did. They are little people, treat them like people. Promise me, promise me you won’t allow them to be abused.”
“I promise,” I assured.
A smile spread on her cracked lips. “Thank you.” She whispered and with a small sigh poor Harriet left her tired body and the cruel world which had so abused her and went to the place where there is no slave and no hate; a land where all live in harmony in the presence of the Savior.