Trials & Tribulations of Modesty Greene

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Chapter 23: Harriet Tubman

1850 – Dorchester County, Maryland, America

Pa walked with the three of us, holdin’ on my arm as we went, Robert on one side of us and Harry on the other. I couldn’t help but think of Benji. I meant what I said, I wouldn’t wait. He needed to be caught up with us by dawn when we hunkered down during the daylight. As we walked we acted more like a family, enjoying a stroll out of doors than runaways.

“How’d you meet Ma?” Harry asked our father.

“It was nothin’ more than good luck for me and bad luck for a white massa,” he said, a smile ebbing across his blindfolded face. “Massa Atthow died, and no one knew what became of his wife. His daughter Mary had the slaves that had come with her mother’s dowry and she ended up joinin’ up with Thompson.”

“Was it love at first sight?” Harry asked. We were all enthralled with the story.

“Well, she was but thirteen and I was fifteen so as much as two young ’uns can fall in love.” He chuckled at the memory, “You three remember Modesty? Your ouma?”

“Yes, Pa,” we all seemed to say at once.

“Well she set us up proper and gave us the nicest little weddin’. Since she only had the one child, she doted on us as much as any free mudder would have. We had Linah within the year.” Me and Robert shot a look at each other. It was only obvious Linah weren’t Pa’s, surely he saw that. She was lighter than all of us, by quite a bit, and she was also built different, tall and lanky, whereas the rest of us kids were short and stocky. It was as if he could read our energy. “We never did consummate our marriage until your sista was toddlin’ around.” He sucked his teeth and continued. “Oh, Linah’s mine through and through, your ma never did treat her any different and neither would I, just like Calvin. Don’t matter.”

I gave my dad’s arm a little squeeze. “This is probably as far as you should come, Pa.” He stopped and held his hands out for one of us to take. I moved into his arms. “I love you, I’ll be back for you and Ma, I promise.”

“You just take care of yourself, Minty. Take care of my boys, too. All these children of God. Keep doin’ the Lord’s work, girl.” He held me and I could feel his shoulders shake with emotion. Harry hugged him next, then Robert put his arm around him and turned him a hundred-eighty degrees.

“Pa, you stand here until you don’t hear us no more,” he started to say.

I interrupted with a bubble of a laugh. “The way these boys go on down’s like a herd of heifer cows, you may be standin’ there a while.”

“And careful you don’t see Benji on his way back,” Harry threw in.

“You children be safe and send word home if you can.” He stood as if at attention, “Remember to hold steady onto the Lord, and know He’ll see you through.”

I couldn’t help but smile. “Will do, Pa.” That was it and we were gone.

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