Virginia - 1850
“No way!” her father shouted. “If you think I’m going to let you marry that….that Yankee sympathizer, you’d better think again!”
“But, Papa, I love him, and he’s not a Yankee sympathizer, he just doesn’t believe in slavery”
“That’s what I said, a Yankee sympathizer. No self-respecting Virginian would believe in such nonsense. We couldn’t have the fields plowed or cotton picked without the boys. True, sometimes, they need a good whoopin’, but have to keep your property in line. And this man of yours would have us all go broke with his Yankee thinkin.’”
“Papa, it is wrong to own another person, I believe that too, so I guess I’m a Yankee sympathizer too.”
“Daughter, hush yu’ mouth, hea’? He done poisoned your mind. Sarah, he isn’t good enough for you, a Yankee sympathizer, and a dirt poor farmer. Girl, what are you thinkin?!. Sometimes I think you lost your mind!”
“Mama, talk sense in to Papa! William is not exactly a “poor famer”. Papa, I don’t know where you get that from. He may be a farmer, but he’s far from poor. He also owns a house in Maryland. His cousin left it to him. It’s where we plan to live.”
“Maryland! That figures, damn Yankee sympathizer would go there. Those people can’t even make up their minds what they are.” Half Yankee, half not, half in between; well I guess he’d be perfect there. But if he thinks he’s gonna take my little girl to some…
“I am NOT your little girl! Like it or not Papa, we’re getting married and moving to Maryland."
“Well, that’s just fine, leave here with that Yankee, and you’re no daughter of mine!"
Sarah gave a long hateful look at her father before she slammed the door.
She met William on the corner. Her tiny figure looked up at the big strong man and she began to cry. Her shoulders were heaving up and down on his chest. She looked up at him and said, “Why does he have to be that way! “ He shrugged his shoulders and held her so tight; she thought her fragile body would break. But that was okay; she loved William’s strong loving arms around her.
William turned toward Sarah and said, “Do you love me?”
Sarah looked shocked, smiled and said, “What kind of question is that, you know I do.”
“Then let’s leave Virginia, tonight! We’ll find a justice of the peace, and then get married proper later. I can’t take this anymore. We’ve been courting for nigh on a year, and your Daddy’s done nothing but bad mouth me. I’ll be a good husband to you Sarah, you know I will!
And so they started their new life together. After an arduous journey, they finally made it to northeastern Maryland. His best friend and cousin left him the house. He had a bout with consumption and was wise enough to make out a will before he passed away. He was only 40, and William still grieved him.
The house was very elegant. Sarah went through the house looking in the large rooms. The furniture was done in a colonial style and the bedrooms the same. She loved her new house. The fireplace in the living room looked so inviting. It would be wonderful for the cool Maryland winters.
She searched everywhere, than found the cellar.
“Oh, William look, it has one of those new type of cellars, below the ground instead of on the side. You could actually make another room of it. Or I could use it to put up jars of fruit; it’s wonderful!"
After the Gordons reveled in their new dwelling, it was getting late and they were both exhausted. They dozed often the minute their heads hit the pillow. But after two hours, William heard a noise outside, Sarah heard it too. They both sat up, Sarah held on to William and whispered, “What is it, William I’m scared." He comforted her and told her to stay put.
William grabbed the shotgun by the side of his bed. “William..what is it?" Sarah cried. William turned quickly, and said,
“Hush, Sarah, and don’t get out of bed. “ She didn’t say a word but obeyed her husband.
William walked quietly around the house with his rifle ready to go off should he find the offender. He took his lantern with him. That’s when he heard the noise.
“Help me”, a man yelled in a whispered voice as though he were hurt.
“ Show yourself, damn it!”
Out of the bushes limped a dark figure. The man had a huge frame and was kneeling on the ground.
There was an air of familiarity about him. The man was black and he knew he had seen him before. The man fainted and fell to the ground.
William went over to him, making sure he had no weapons and this was not a trick. He put his rifle down when he saw the man was unarmed. He looked at the unconscious man and his hand flew to his mouth. Oh, my God, no!, he thought to himself. He stared at the face and wondered why he was in Maryland. He was a slave in Virginia. William had been kind to him when his master was beating him. William pulled the master away, and punched him so hard; the man didn’t know what was happening. While this was going on, Moses ran away. He could not take being a slave anymore. No one knew where he went. And because William was responsible for his escape, he was labeled a “Yankee lover”.
William looked at him and the wounds his master inflicted were fading, but still there. William tended to his wounds the best he could Moses began to stir, when William gave him a strange look.
“Moses, what are you doing here?”
“I follow you and Ms Gordon from ‘ginia”
“How did you do that with us not seeing you?”
“Oh, Mista Gordon, you’d be surprised how folks can hide if they life depended on it. It were a hard journey, but I make it. I had to get away from my Master. He nigh’ on killed me, not once, but many times. He think it was sport to beat up on ol’ Moses. So I ran away. They say Maryland is a free state.”
William hated to tell him, that no, Maryland was not a free state, but it was the last state on the way to freedom. William tried to think. What should he do with Moses? He then got an idea. After Moses healed; he could work for him. He needed a farm hand very badly, but not a slave. He would give him room and board for working. And if his Master came looking for him, well, he’d just have to deal with that. But he knew this wouldn’t last and he’d have to get him out of here. For now, he would let Moses rest in the barn, and come morning they would discuss the options.
He then thought about Sarah. She must be worried out of her mind by now. He took the rifle and the lantern back to their bedroom. Sarah was sitting up; sweat pouring down her face, and shaking with fear.
“Honey, it’s nothing to worry about. Do you remember that slave, Moses?"
She thought for a moment.
“Wasn’t he that slave whose owner…”
“Yeah, I decked him a good one. Moses was afraid and ran away. He followed us all the way up here!”
“I didn’t see him hiding anywhere, did you? He must have hid in back of the train."
“As he said; when folks are desperate enough, they’ll do anything.”
“What will we do with him?”
“We’ll take him in as a farm hand, than try to get him to a free state as soon as possible. I’ve heard this was a slave state, but farther up, in this area, people are more sympathetic.
Moses worked on the farm with William while William tried to think how he could hide Moses if they came looking. He couldn't hide him in the cellar, that's the first place they'd look. Ah, but would they look under it? He began the next day building a room under the cellar. At first he was afraid it would harm the frame of the cellar, but he managed to use cement to fix the cracks. He and Moses worked right after they were through in the fields. Finally after three days of hard work between the two men, it was finished. William looked for a tile to put on top of the dugout, but couldn't find one. He looked behind the building and was lucky enough to find a tile large enough to fit. They nailed it to the floor. It was a bit different from the other tiles, but that didn't matter, or so they thought. When they finished their 'master piece', they both looked back and smiled. That should do the trick.
After a good night's sleep, Moses and William began working in the fields once again. Sarah stayed inside and cleaned house. She also put up preserves and put them in the cellar. Everything was going their way when….a knock on the door. A man in a Confederate uniform faced Sarah. She looked at him in fear, than realized who he was. "Obadiah!!!" Obadiah hugged his big sister as hard as possible. He knew about the falling out between Sarah and the father, and felt terrible about it. He decided to find her and try and make peace with the family.
"C'mon in little brother", said Sarah.
"Fine house you have here Sarah. But Papa is so sorry about everything. He wants us to be a family again. Yes, he could tan William's hide, but he said if I saw you to tell you he loved you."
"I miss him too, Obadiah, but….he doesn't understand; I'm not his little girl anymore. Let's take a walk in the garden." Sarah was so happy to see Obadiah, and so sorry about the state of her family, she forgot William and Moses were in the field where Obadiah would see them.
They walked outside and around her garden when Obadiah saw two figures far off in the field. He knew one was William, but who was the other? He looked like a black man. He looked at Sarah with a question mark on his face. She couldn't believe what she had just done.
"Sarah, who is that with William? He looks like a Negra, does he have papers?"
Sarah hesitated, what should she tell him? She thought for a moment and said,
"He's a free man, he's been a wonderful help to us on the farm."
"If that's so, than why I don't we go over and get acquainted?"
"No, No, Obadiah, he'll look at that Confederate uniform and be scared to death even if he is free."
"Sarah, I don't believe you. I can always tell when you're lying; you get a little twitch around your mouth. He's a runaway slave, isn't he?! Oh, Sarah, don't you know, you done broke the law now?"
Obadiah ran to the middle of the field, his shot gun in tow. Sarah ran after him, "No Obadiah, don't!" cried Sarah. William didn't see him at first, but took off his hat and wiped his brow. He was talking to Moses, when Moses screamed when he saw Obadiah. He ran as fast as he could. He ran around the backdoor of the house and down the cellar. He fell through the trap door. At first William didn't know what was going on, he had his back turned the other way when Obadiah came outside. When he looked at the Confederate uniform, he became livid. "Get off of my property, you damn, reb!" he shouted to Obadiah. Obadiah ignored him and kept chasing Moses.
"William, he's my brother!" Sarah cried.
"I'm sorry Sarah, brother or no, he's not welcome here!"
Moses was fleet of foot and was in the cellar before Obadiah could get near him.
"Where are you, damn it"! Obadiah was lost, it's like Moses had disappeared into thin air. He then went through the kitchen door and saw the door to the cellar. He had found him! Or so he thought. He looked around all through the cellar cursing and calling out Moses' name. "You can't hide here forever, and you know it, damn it!" Just then William and Sarah came down to the cellar. William looked triumphantly at Obadiah.
"He's not here as you can see."
"Then damn it, where is he?! He couldn't have disappeared into thin air!"
Obadiah kept looking around, when suddenly he fell through the floor. There was Moses cowering in the corning of the trap. It was dark in the trap and very small. William finally made it to the cellar, his rifle in tow. Sarah was with him, and William pushed her back so she would be out of harm's way. William knew Obadiah and Moses were in the trap door, and opened it to pull them out. He grabbed a hold of Obadiah's hand when he looked at a passed out Moses. He tugged his on army and managed to get him out.
Obadiah pulled Moses out of the trap, nearly pulling his arm out of socket. He pointed the gun at Moses, and said, "Okay, I'm taking you back to Virginia where you belong. Mr. Seward is very upset about losing his property. Turn around. Moses obeyed as Obadiah tied harsh rope around his hands.
"Alright, Negra, now go! He pushed Moses up the stairs, with the intention of dragging him back to Virginia in his wagon. William followed them up the stairs and shouted,
"You can't do this, damn you, sorry piece of trash. He's a man, for God's sake!"
With anger, William pulled Obadiah back to the cellar. Moses fell with him. Obadiah looked back at William and threw a harder punch. They kept this up for about ten minutes. While they were going at each other, Sarah untied Moses' hands. Both Moses and Sarah tried to get them to stop, but they kept going at it. Finally, Obadiah and William lay exhausted on the ground. After Obadiah lay there for a while, he finally regained his composure. Sarah was trying to help William, when suddenly a gunshot rang out. Obadiah had shot Moses. Moses lay on the ground moaning in pain, blood was everywhere. William looked at Obadiah staring at Moses with a grin on his face. The fury was welling up in him and with anger, and without thinking he shot Obadiah through the heart.
"Obadiah!", cried Sarah. She held Obadiah's dying body in her arms and rocked him back and forth. Tears poured down her weathered face when she shot her husband a deadly glance.
"You!!!! You just killed my baby brother!!!!" How could you???"
William stared blankly at the man he had just killed. What had he done? He hated the bastard, true , but he never intended to kill him. He then came out of his daze and was listening to Sarah.
"William, did you hear me, do you know what you've done? You killed my brother!! I'll never forgive you for this. I want you out of here…NOW!!!
"Sarah, I never meant to kill him, I wasn't thinking straight, I……
"William, you ignorant ass, you killed my BROTHER!!!!!"
To be continued…..
Mary E. Lacey