Monday, December 19, 2005

Beautiful...Tangled Roots - Ch. 19 Part 1

Chapter 19
After briefly stopping in Abigail’s bedroom to tell her of his departure that bright and early Sunday morning, Edric went to Eve’s quarters and kissed both her and his daughter goodbye before his long journey.

“I should return in a week, my love,” he said, after obtaining yet another kiss from Eve in the living room area of the refurbished cabin.

“I’ll miss you.” Eve smiled at him with love shining in her eyes. The same love that she’d had for over five years. She was amazed that such depth of affection hadn’t dimmed one iota in all that time. It had actually gotten stronger.

“I will miss you, too,” Edric replied. He also loved Eve more today than he ever did before. This was a woman that he planned to go old with. A woman whose face he planned to gaze into before he took his final earthly breath.

Then Edric looked down at Indigo again and touched her long ponytails, one at a time. “Will you miss me, little one?”

Indigo smiled up into his kind face. “Every second you’re gone, Dr. Daddy.”

Edric chuckled with elation at his daughter’s heartwarming words. And it was on that happy note that he left his home for a big medical conference up in Tennessee.

******

Around 9pm, Eve was called away to check on one of the older slaves. It seems that York had had a bit too much to drink earlier in the evening and decided that he was in the mood for swinging his whip around the slave quarters now that Dr. Wainwright was gone. Jasper tired to move some children out of the way and got several lashes across his back in the process. Now he was hurting something awful.

No one knew where York was now and since Dr. Wainwright was gone, they called on the woman that usually tended to the needs of the elderly slaves out of the kindness of her heart - Eve. A few slave children had gone to Miss Abigail for help when things first started getting out of hand, but she promptly refused to intervene in undesirable matters such as that.

Deciding to leave Indigo in bed asleep with just a quick word to Charlotte to look out for the cabin, Eve trudged all the way on the other side of the compound to Jasper’s quarters. She was disturbed to find the old man still bleeding in some spots where a squeamish Hester hadn’t had the stomach to do what was necessary to halt the flow.

Drawing on all the things she’d gleaned from her mother, grandmother, and from Dr. Wainwright, Eve retrieved fresh water and a clean rag to cleanse Jasper’s wounds. Then she began to apply pressure to certain ones to stop the bleeding for good. Afterwards she cleansed the wounds again. This time she applied a salve made from aloe plants that she had growing in her cabin. By the time she put fresh bandages on Jasper’s back, there was mighty shouting to be heard outside. There was also the smell of smoke in the air.

Rushing outside, Eve received another shock to her system. It was Charlotte’s son Jem and he was screaming for her at the top of his lungs. “Miss Eve, ya have ta come quick! Yo cabin is on fire!”

Eve immediately took off in a fast run, forgetting all about Jasper and the supplies she left behind. Nothing mattered now that Indigo was in danger. All the way there, she kept thinking that Miss Abigail had somehow set fire to her place out of jealousy. Yet when Eve approached the main house, a black dress clad Abigail was out on the porch looking just as shocked as everyone else as many of the slaves struggled to put the blaze out.

Eve shot through the crowd and ran into the house with no regard to her own safety. She had to find Indigo! Yet when she approached her daughter’s bedroom, she saw that it was engulfed in flames. This was obviously where the fire had started. Although her lungs burned from the smoke, Eve ventured further into Indigo’s room. When she saw an open window, hope arose in her chest and she quickly ran out of the burning cabin.

After bending to catch several lung restoring breaths, Eve practically crawled to the other side of the house. But what she saw next caused all hope to die in every part of her being. There was her daughter’s quilt lying on the ground under the window and it was a bloody mess.

When Charlotte brought a lantern closer to her, Eve was able to see that the blood was actually written in letters. Upon studying the words inscribed thereon, Dr. Wainwright’s mistress swooned as her grief-stricken mind wisely shut her body down for awhile. What Eve had feared the most, had finally come upon her.

Although the rest of the slaves thought that Eve fainted when she saw all the blood on the quilt, Abigail Wainwright knew that her husband’s lover had actually fainted because she’d read the bloody message on the coverlet. That life-changing message said: ‘You took our land and killed it with your bad seed. We took your seed and killed her on our land’.

******

Up in Tennessee, Edric was busy making all kinds of important business contacts. He’d even made a new friend and it was only day two of the conference. Edric didn’t have many close friends these days and he was glad to have found one connected to his profession, even if he was a northerner. This new friend was a Quaker fellow by the name of Moses Shaffield. Moses was a medical supplier and he frequently traveled all over the nation on business.

“So tell me, Dr. Wainwright, are you a slaveholder?” Moses asked as they sat at a late supper together in the hotel restaurant. They’d talked about everything else since meeting, including their families, their children, and their medical careers. Moses saw no reason not to talk about something that was usually at the center of every northerner and southerner gathering.

At the induction of that sensitive topic, Edric turned uncomfortably red in the neck and cheek areas. His complexion now almost matched the vivid colors in his dashing shawl collared vest. “Yes, I am a slaveholder. But I treat all of my slaves well. Enough food and clothing, adequate medical care, frequent breaks during the day, and Sundays and holidays off,” he said in his own defense. “Also no beating,” Edric added.

“I see, so you’re a good slaveholder?” Inwardly, Moses doubted if such a thing even existed. In his opinion, anyone who owned another person against his/her will couldn’t be too good.

“I try to be.” Edric picked up his glass from the white clothed table and took a long swig of water to remove the uncomfortable lump in his throat. It was a good thing that his meal was already consumed because his appetite would have surely flown away at this change in conversation.

“That is commendable compared to some of the other slaveholders I have met. Most would whip their slaves almost to the point of death and still require that they come to work the next day,” Moses replied. Although he was not as uncomfortable as his companion, he still fumbled nervously with his black cravat and high shirt collar. After all, slavery was a hot issue in any circle these days since it always produced such intense feelings in people, whether they be for or against the institution.

“I am not like that. I treat my slaves with a certain amount of respect unknown to most of my peers. In fact, the daughter that I told you about earlier is from a slave woman.” Edric paused and then shared something that he’d never told another white soul. “Eve is the woman’s name and I love her very much. And if I could, I would gladly make her my wife instead of the woman my family picked out for me.”

Moses’ eyes arched in wonder. He never expected the man to say those things in a hundred years. “That’s quite a declaration. Do you share it much?” Moses couldn’t imagine Dr. Wainwright having many white friends if he frequently went around making such proclamations.

Edric shook his head. “I have never shared it with anyone but Eve for obvious reasons. I do not really know why I am sharing it with you now. It is just that I feel very peaceful around you even in the midst of my current discomfit. As if I can trust you somehow.”

Moses nodded in appreciation of the compliment he’d been given. Many deemed him to be trustworthy, but never upon first meeting. Truly something unique was happening between him and Dr. Wainwright. It was as if God was personally weaving the strands of their friendship together. If He was, then this was subject to be the best friendship either of them had ever had, the strongest, too.

Moses also nodded in complete understanding. He’d felt the same peace about Edric when he first met him and thus decided to tell him so. “I feel the same way about you, despite the fact that you own slaves,” Moses said with a smile. Then he thought of something else. “Does your wife know of your deep affection for this other woman?”

“I have not admitted anything, but I am sure she suspects. After all, I can not stop smiling around Eve or my daughter. They make me so happy and even now I can not wait to get back home to them.”

Moses suddenly frowned. “Pardon my candor, but a smart man would have never left his mistress and illegitimate child under the authority of his undoubtedly jealous wife in the first place,” he said, spewing wisdom in the no-nonsense way that he was so known for.

Edric paused for a moment as he thought about what had just been said to him. Steadfastly overlooking the manner in which wisdom had come since the truth was the truth in any form, Dr. Wainwright instead focused on the fact that he was married to a very jealous and often very deceptive woman. There was no telling what things Abigail had put in motion from the moment he left.

Suddenly Edric bolted up from the table, pulling paper currency from his gold money clip as he did. “I have to get home. I must have been insane to leave my family unattended.”

“I concur,” Moses replied, bidding his new friend goodbye and a safe return home.
© 2005 Suprina Frazier

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