De, I know you didn't enjoy all the changes I made in this story, but you were still so supportive and I am so thankful for that. Dedicating this chapter to you :)
“What’s this?” Uncle Andrew stared at me in shock. I had little Evy on my hip and Arthur was hiding behind my skirt.
“Not what, who?” I corrected. “Uncle Andrew, Harriet died yesterday. They buried her this morning and I have brought her grandchildren to live with us. The boy is Arthur and the girl is Evelyn.”
Uncle Andrew’s eyes got wider and wider as I spoke and by the end of it he sank into his seat. “Sarah…you…when…how…I…I don’t know what to say.” He gazed at the two children without blinking, his thoughts obviously in a whirl. “Harriet died?” He decided to start at the beginning.
“Yes sir. I happened to be present when she passed away. The poor woman, she was hanging by a thread that snapped. Oh Uncle Andrew, Providence itself allowed me to find her when I did. Just think, one more day and I would have been too late.”
“What do you plan to do with them?” Uncle motioned towards the children. He was obviously having trouble comprehending all I was telling him
“I thought they could live here until they are old enough to start their own lives. I promised they wouldn’t be enslaved, it was very important to Harriet. They can work their room and board until they have grown.”
Uncle Andrew sat deep in thought. “How old are they?” He asked at last.
“Arthur is ten and Evelyn is four.”
“Ten? That is a little old for him to be Harriet’s grandchild; she couldn’t have been older than forty.”
“He’s not exactly her grandchild. He's an orphan she took in.”
“Aha, that makes more sense. Well,” Uncle Andrew exhaled slowly. “The boy can work in the stables. Now that I’ve made George our butler we could use another hand to help with the horses.”
“I want to work with the horses too!” Evy suddenly spoke out.
I covered her mouth with my hand.
“Stable work isn’t for little girls,” Uncle Andrew replied. “She can find work in the kitchen. Lulu knows how to handle girls and will find her something to do.”
Evy made a face, not happy with this idea. The child had a lot of spirit and was very willful, but she would have to learn to follow Uncle Andrew’s orders while living here. Uncle Andrew’s word was law in our house.
“There is plenty of food in the kitchen,” I whispered, “and I’ll take you to see the horses every day.”
“Alright.” She whispered back.
I saw my uncle put his head in his right hand and I felt bad for surprising him the way I did.
“Take them to Lulu and have her find somewhere to put them. Then come back to my study. You have some explaining to do,” He told me.
“Oh, and Sarah.” He called after me. “Whatever you do, don’t let your aunt find out they are Harriet’s grandchildren.”
Lulu was nearly as shocked as Uncle had been.
“Really, Miss Sarah, bringing children into the house? What will it be next?”
I turned red and gave a nervous laugh, “Uncle asked if you could find a place for them.”
“And who is going to look after them?”
“They are pretty used to looking after themselves. Arthur will work in the stables and Evy will work in the kitchen. Uncle said you would be able to find a place for her.”
“Like I’s don’t have enough to do as it is.”
“I’ll watch out for her most of the time.” I tried to reassure. “I don’t do anything useful in this house anyway. But I must go now. Uncle is just waiting for me and I’ve got to go explain everything in detail to him.”
“Sarah, if you don’t give that man a heart attack nothing will.”
“That’s not funny, Lulu.” I frowned. “Oh.” I lowered my voice. “Lulu you must make it very clear to them that they must never mention to anyone in the house that they are Harriet’s grandchildren. Above all else we must not let Aunt Helen find out.”
“Harriet’s children?” Lulu’s eyes widened. I realized I hadn’t informed her of all the details.
“My uncle told me where I could find Harriet and yesterday I went to her home and gave her Mama’s note. She died last night and I brought her grandchildren to live here because they have nowhere else to go.”
“Harriet is dead?” I saw Lulu’s countenance fall.
“I’m sorry,” I put my hand on hers. “She was very ill when I found her.”
Lulu nodded and wiped a tear from her eye. “Poor woman,” She softly said. “Wherever you are, Massa Beverly, I hope you have paid for what you did to her.” Taking a deep breath Lulu glanced at the children. “Miss Sarah, you are really something,” She shook her head. “I thought no one could out do your mother, but I was wrong. Go off to your uncle, I’ll manage these two.”
“So, you want to give me all the details?”
I sat down in the chair in front of Uncle Andrew and proceeded to explain all that had transpired the day before. He heard me out without interruptions, nodding his head from time to time.
“I can’t believe it,” I summed up my whole story with those four words.
“Can’t believe what?”
“I can’t believe my grandfather would do such a thing.”
“That is because you were lucky enough not to know him,” Uncle Andrew said the words in a flippant manner and right away regretted them. I could tell by how guilty his eyes became. He scratched the back of his head uneasily. It was something he did when he was uncomfortable. (Interesting how he and Jeff had the same habit.)
“I suppose I’m glad I didn’t know him, especially since he would have thrown me out of this house,” I stated with a shrug.
“How do you know that?”
I bit my lip; I had just let my mouth run away with me. “I, um, overheard you and Aunt talking once.”
“Mmmm,” He looked at me suspiciously but said nothing more.
“How could he do that to her?” I persisted. “He ruined her life. She never wanted to be something so dreadful. I mean, he was married, he wasn’t supposed to even have mistresses, much less force someone into it. He promised her so many things and the only promise he kept was granting her freedom when he died. He sold her children and she never found them. In the end she died in poverty and disgrace.”
“Oh Sarah, Sarah,” Uncle sadly shook his head, “such is life. Your grandfather was a proud arrogant man who was used to getting his way.”
“That doesn’t justify his actions.”
“I never said it did.”
“Uncle, before I left Harriet’s home yesterday, she spoke the very same words that your brother told me on his death bed. They all claim ‘it wasn’t her fault; don’t let anyone ever tell you it was her fault.’ I know they are talking about my mother. Harriet told me about her past and through it I was able to learn a little more about my mother, but there is still so much I don’t understand. Harriet mentioned that my grandfather drove my mother from this home, but everyone else says she ran away. I’m tired of the secrets and I’m tired of the mystery. Uncle, I have a right of a daughter to know about my mother’s past. Why is it that you can’t tell me? What could it be that makes it so terrible? All I have heard so far doesn’t seem to point to anything drastically horrid.”
“Sarah, I have told you before, some stories are better left unsaid.”
“No, Uncle,” I stubbornly argued, “the truth will set you free. That was written in the Greatest Book and spoken by the Greatest Person. I am more inclined to believe what He says than what you tell me. Everyone around me keeps telling me what a strong willed person my mother was. They say she was very independent, stubborn, even arrogant. But the mother I knew was weak. She always cried, she rarely spoke and she hid from people. Never once did my mother strike me as being a strong willed person. It’s like all of you are talking about someone who is not my mother. If it wasn’t for the portrait on the wall and the fact that the note to Harriet was truly to the right Harriet, I would sooner assume I am a case of mistaken identity. That somehow there was a mix-up and I am in the wrong house and the Evelyn Beverly who was my mother wasn’t the Evelyn Beverly of this household. I’m tired of everyone hiding things from me. What was it that made my mother run away from home? Did it have something to do with her engagement to Mr. Earl? Did she run away because she just got tired of living here, or was there some deeper darker motive that drove her away? Mrs. Thompson constantly says Mother didn’t understand or respect my grandfather and that she knew nothing of fulfilling her duty as a daughter. What is that supposed to mean?”
My Uncle rubbed his brow, “Oh Sarah, I’m afraid I cannot talk to you about this. It is not my secret and it is not my family. The only person who can really tell you anything about this household is your aunt Helen. I’m afraid the only thing I can say is that your mother was misunderstood by everyone. The reason of her running away runs deeper than her refusing to fulfill her duty as a daughter. It all started with your grandfather refusing to fulfill his duty as a father. It wasn’t one reason that made your mother take off the way she did, it was a thousand little reasons that kept building up.” He ran his hand through his hair. “It is very complicated, Sarah.”
“Does it have to be?”
“I don’t know.” Uncle Andrew gave a frustrated laugh. “I wish it didn’t have to be. But I’m not really at liberty to talk about it. You see, it isn’t exactly my family honor and my family name at stake here.”
“But I am family, why can’t I know about it?”
He looked at me and said the words I had learned to hate the most. “Ask your Aunt. She’s the only person who can talk about it.”
I gave an aggravated sigh. Whatever had happened, it couldn’t be so bad. From the snatches I did hear it wasn’t like murder or something. I finally boiled it down to the fact that my aunt found the subject sensitive and made sure it was never discussed by anyone. And because I was someone she disliked she wasn’t going to go and share secrets with me.
“You know what is ironic?” I spoke after I had processed my thoughts and decided to move on with the subject. “The similarity in which Harriet and my mother died. It was so strange, walking into that little house, seeing her on that bed and going through it all a second time. What is more, both of them were connected to this house and ultimately, this house was the only place the children could go.”
“Your grandfather took two beautiful, innocent lives and completely wrecked them,” My uncle stated, rising from his seat. “Only I beg of you, don’t ever tell your aunt I said that.”
I rose and followed him out of the study. What a day it had been. I resolved to go to my room and try and write out everything I had heard about my mother, Aunt Helen, Harriet and my grandfather. If I put the information on paper I might just be able to piece something together. Running up to my room I stopped at the half way mark. I was out of ink and paper. I spun around and ran back down to the library where I would be sure to find some more. (I still had a terrible habit of running up and down the stairs).
I was about to burst through the door when voices made me stop. Peeking in I saw Uncle Andrew leaning against the fireplace with that same blank, upset look he had had in the study.
“It’s all become so complicated,” Uncle Andrew was talking to Lulu, who was sitting in a chair, nodding from time to time. “Sarah wants to know the truth; she’s tired of everyone keeping things from her. I wish I could tell her, except I promised Helen I would never tell anyone about it. We agreed we would never talk about Harriet or Evelyn or Mr. Beverly. It was so important to her that that past be buried and never brought up again. Of course, at that moment we never thought there would be a Sarah who would want to know anything. Now I’m torn; torn between Helen and Sarah. My one consolation is Jeff isn’t mixed up in all this. Why must Helen hate Sarah?” He looked up at Lulu. “I had hoped to give Sarah a real home, a real family, but it seems all my efforts are in vain.” Uncle Andrew slipped into a chair and for the first time in my life, I saw him bury his head into his hands. I believe only then did I realize how hard it was for my poor uncle to watch his wife and his niece be on such terrible terms and not be able to do anything about it.
“I just wanted to give her the home she never had and the family she had never been granted, but…” His voice trailed off.
“Now, Massa Greensten I will not have you speaking like that,” Lulu was probably the only slave who dared to speak to Uncle Andrew in an authoritative tone of voice. “You know that little girl is happy here. There is no denying her love for you, it’s written all over her face. I knows the Missus and her aren’t on the best of terms, but I will not have you saying that hers is an unhappy life. You’ve done the best anyone could ever do and there is not one person on this earth who can deny that.”
“I’m not saying her life is unhappy, it’s just not the way I had really planned.”
“Huh,” Lulu tossed her head back, “is that not the story of all our lives? Massa Andrew, life is not about perfect, life is about love. Sarah has been loved and what is more, she loves. So don’t go on about this matter anymore.”
Uncle Andrew’s lips broke into a sad smile, “I just wish I could tell her the truth. There is a great verse in the Bible, Sarah herself quoted it to me, about the truth setting us free. I know that if we could get it out then we could be done with it once and for all. Helen can’t keep it hidden inside her forever. That’s no way to forgive and forget.”
“Yous know Helen, it is all a very painful topic for her and the only way she knows how to deal with pain is to never talk about it,” Lulu shook her head. “There’s a lot of pain in this house, and it is not easily gotten rid of. An’ this is coming from a woman who has gone through a lot of pain in her life. Take my advice, Massa Greensten, give it time and prayer and the Lord will work it out.”
“Where do get so much assurance from?”
Lulu laughed. “It’s called faith, Massa Greensten, faith mixed together with a large measure of grace.”
“Is that so? Well, you are more than welcome to share it with me.” Uncle Andrew rose and I quickly ran away from the door and up to my room. He would be so upset if he caught me eavesdropping. It was one of those things that made him REALLY angry. In my room I pondered everything Uncle Andrew had said concerning me and Aunt Helen. I opened my closet and caressed my mother’s old dress. Maybe it wasn’t so important for me to know the past after all. Maybe I should just let the dead bury the dead and move on with my life. I hadn’t thought much about all this while in Europe. I had made a point not to think about it. Returning home had brought back all the memories I had been running from. Memories of Sammy, of everything that had transpired between me and him, the reality of Aunt Helen’s dislike from me and the past that she kept hidden from me. I had been angry, annoyed, even demanding. Perhaps I should ease up a little. My getting angry hadn’t done any good; it had only made Uncle Andrew sad. I firmly shut the door of the closet as I made up my mind; I wouldn’t try to search out things that were being hidden from me. I would wait and perhaps it would turn out like Lulu said. Maybe with time and prayer, it will all come out and I would understand. I decided to try and put Uncle Andrew’s mind to rest and went downstairs to find him. He was in the library, sitting in the same chair, a book on his lap but his eyes staring out the window
“Uncle Andrew,” I softly spoke, coming up from behind and placing a hand on his shoulder, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and maybe we should just put the past behind us.”
He looked up at me, not quite grasping what I was trying to tell him.
“About Mother and Grandfather and Harriet,” I explained. “Let’s just let the dead bury the dead. It’s not really that important and I think my trying to get someone to explain everything to me is just making this whole house miserable.” I smiled as I smoothed out his hair with my left hand. “I’m sorry for making it hard. We can just move on with the present and prepare for future. We can’t change the past after all, but the future is a different matter.”
The clouds in his eyes broke and a smile came to his face. He relaxed and took my hand, “and this coming from the girl who minutes ago was telling me about her right as a daughter.”
“Strange, isn’t it?” I couldn’t help giggling. “But in the past couple of minutes I’ve been doing some serious thinking. I found Harriet and I gave her Mama’s note. I should be happy with that. Come on.” I said, gently breaking free from his grasp and walking to the piano. “I’ll play a bit for you. I haven’t played for you in a long while.” (Not since the whole incident with Sammy)
I just wanted to say I have had quite a bit of mistakes in my writing and I'm sorry about that. I've been battling migrains all of September and that makes me miss things and forget things. I'm going to be doing an edit and correcting errors. Just wanted to apologize for them :)