The Year 1827
I remember. The sun broke softly through the river’s haze, rising and moving silently toward me over the rice fields as I picked my way across the swept dirt clearing between the cabin nearest the big house and those of the field slaves set somewhat apart. Warm tears ran down my cheeks and onto my neck, catching in my kerchief, caught before they reached the top of the colorless osnaburg shift I wore. My head drooped revealing the top of my black curly hair, full of dust and tangled beyond belief. My feet shuffled with each step, dirt stirring quietly around like the buzzing gnats always present there along the Georgia coast. I gave no thought to where I went. I simply walked toward someone who might give comfort. Someone who could ease my breaking heart.
My tears flowed not only for me, but for my Maum and Daddy I left behind, deathly sick in their bed in the little cabin near the house. Senator Elliott’s words still rang in my ears.
“Little Leah, you go along now, out to the field slave cabins and don’t you come back. You find a place to stay where the dysentery has not reached. Go find Daddy William. He’ll take care of you. Don’t come back. I’ll take care of Maum Bess and Daddy Isaiah. You know I will, but don’t you come back . . . hear child?”
He had been on his knees, right at my level. Face-to-face we was, as I begged to him to let me stay. He held me as the tears began to pool in my eyes, just as I had seen him hold his own little Susan. Yet, he sent me away. I knew my Maum was truly ill for she had not gone to the kitchen for three days now. Someone else cooked for Senator Elliott. Not that the man had eaten much. He had not taken much rest either, although Maum Grace had urged him to take care of himself. I had watched him move from cabin to cabin giving comfort and aid for some eighteen days now. Carrying water from the well. Carrying food for those still able to eat. And carrying off the dead.
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