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[2 of 5] Kindred, pp. 66-121, by Octavia E. Butler (1979)

Author: Octavia E Butler

“The Fall. The Fight” Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler, Beacon Press, 1988, pp. 66-121.

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THE FALL

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Rufus’s father arrived on a flat-bed wagon, carrying his familiar long rifle—an old muzzleloader, I realized. With him in the wagon was Nigel and a tall stocky black man. Tom Weylin was tall himself, but too lean to be as impressive as his massive slave. Weylin didn’t look especially vicious or depraved. Right now, he only looked annoyed. We stood up as he climbed down from the wagon and came to face us.

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“What happened here?” he asked suspiciously.

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“The boy has broken his leg,” said Kevin. “Are you his father?”

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“Yes. Who are you?”

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“My name’s Kevin Franklin.” He glanced at me, but caught himself and didn’t introduce me. “We came across the two boys right after the accident happened, and I thought we should stay with your son until you came for him.”

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Weylin grunted and knelt to look at Rufus’s leg. “Guess it’s broken all right. Wonder how much that’ll cost me.”

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The black man gave him a look of disgust that would surely have angered him if he had seen it.

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“What were you doing climbing a damn tree?” Weylin demanded of Rufus.

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Rufus stared at him silently.

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Weylin muttered something I didn’t quite catch. He stood up and gestured sharply to the black man. The man came forward, lifted Rufus gently, and placed him on the wagon. Rufus’s face twisted in pain as he was lifted, and he cried out as he was lowered into the wagon. Kevin and I should have made a splint for that leg, I thought belatedly. I followed the black man to the wagon.

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Rufus grabbed my arm and held it, obviously trying not to cry. His voice was a husky whisper.

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“Don’t go, Dana.”

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I didn’t want to go. I liked the boy, and from what I’d heard of early nineteenth-century medicine, they were going to pour some whiskey down him and play tug of war with his leg. And he was going to learn brand new things about pain. If I could give him any comfort by staying with him, I wanted to stay.

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But I couldn’t.

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His father had spoken a few private words with Kevin and was now climbing back up onto the seat of the wagon. He was ready to leave and Kevin and I weren’t invited. That didn’t say much for Weylin’s hospitality. People in his time of widely scattered plantations and even more widely scattered hotels had a reputation for taking in strangers. But then, a man who could look at his injured son and think of nothing but how much the doctor bill would be wasn’t likely to be concerned about strangers.

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“Come with us,” pleaded Rufus. “Daddy, let them come.”

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Weylin glanced back, annoyed, and I tried gently to loosen Rufus’s grip on me. After a moment, I realized that Weylin was looking at me—staring hard at me. Perhaps he was seeing my resemblance to Alice’s mother. He couldn’t have seen me clearly enough or long enough at the river to recognize me now as the woman he had once come so near shooting. At first, I stared back. Then I looked away, remembering that I was supposed to be a slave. Slaves lowered their eyes respectfully. To stare back was insolent. Or at least, that was what my books said.

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“Come along and have dinner with us,” Weylin told Kevin. “You may as well. Where were you going to stay the night, anyway?”

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“Under the trees if necessary,” said Kevin. He and I climbed onto the wagon beside the silent Nigel. “Not much choice, as I told you.”

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I looked at him , wondering what he had told Weylin. Then I had to catch myself as the black man prodded the horses forward.

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“You, girl,” Weylin said to me. “What’s your name?”

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“Dana, sir.”

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He turned to stare at me again, this time as though I’d said something wrong. “Where do you come from?”

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I glanced at Kevin, not wanting to contradict anything he had said. He gave me a slight nod, and I assumed I was free to make up my own lies. “I’m from New York.”

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Now the look he was giving me was really ugly, and I wondered whether he’d heard a New York accent recently and found mine a poor match. Or was I saying something wrong? I hadn’t said ten words to him. What could be wrong?

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Weylin looked sharply at Kevin, then turned around and ignored us for the rest of the trip.

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We went through the woods to a road, and along the road past a field of tall golden wheat. In the field, slaves, mostly men, worked steadily swinging scythes with attached wooden racks that caught the cut wheat in neat piles. Other slaves, mostly women, followed them tying the wheat into bundles. None of them seemed to pay any attention to us. I looked around for a white overseer and was surprised not to see one. The Weylin house surprised me too when I saw it in daylight. It wasn’t white. It had no columns, no porch to speak of. I was almost disappointed. It was a red-brick Georgian Colonial, boxy but handsome in a quiet kind of way, two and a half stories high with dormered windows and a chimney on each end. It wasn’t big or imposing enough to be called a mansion. In Los Angeles, in our own time, Kevin and I could have afforded it.

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As the wagon took us up to the front steps, I could see the river off to one side and some of the land I had run through a few hours— a few years—before. Scattered trees, unevenly cut grass, the row of cabins far off to one side almost hidden by the trees, the fields, the woods. There were other buildings lined up beside and behind the house opposite the slave cabins. As we stopped, I was almost sent off to one of these.

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“Luke,” said Weylin to the black man, “take Dana around back and get her something to eat.”

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“Yes, sir,” said the black man softly. “Want me to take Marse Rufe upstairs first?”

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“Do what I told you. I’ll take him up.”

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I saw Rufus set his teeth. “I’ll see you later,” I whispered, but he wouldn’t let go of my hand until I spoke to his father.

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“Mr. Weylin, I don’t mind staying with him. He seems to want me to.”

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Weylin looked exasperated. “Well, come on then. You can wait with him until the doctor comes.” He lifted Rufus with no particular care, and strode up the steps to the house. Kevin followed him.

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“You watch out,” said the black man softly as I started after them.

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I looked at him, surprised, not sure he was talking to me. He was.

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“Marse Tom can turn mean mighty quick,” he said. “So can the boy, now that he’s growing up. Your face looks like maybe you had enough white folks’ meanness for a while.”

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I nodded. “I have, all right. Thanks for the warning.”

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Nigel had come to stand next to the man, and I realized as I spoke that the two looked much alike, the boy a smaller replica of the man. Father and son, probably. They resembled each other more than Rufus and Tom Weylin did. As I hurried up the steps and into the house, I thought of Rufus and his father, of Rufus becoming his father. It would happen some day in at least one way. Someday Rufus would own the plantation. Someday, he would be the slaveholder, responsible in his own right for what happened to the people who lived in those half-hidden cabins. The boy was literally growing up as I watched—growing up because I watched and because I helped to keep him safe. I was the worst possible guardian for him—a black to watch over him in a society that considered blacks subhuman, a woman to watch over him in a society that considered women perennial children. I would have all I could do to look after myself. But I would help him as best I could. And I would try to keep friendship with him, maybe plant a few ideas in his mind that would help both me and the people who would be his slaves in the years to come. I might even be making things easier for Alice.

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Now, I followed Weylin up the stairs to a bedroom—not the same one Rufus had occupied on my last trip. The bed was bigger, its full canopy and draperies blue instead of green. The room itself was bigger. Weylin dumped Rufus onto the bed, ignoring the boy’s cries of pain. It did not look as though Weylin was trying to hurt Rufus. He just didn’t seem to pay any attention to how he handled the boy— as though he didn’t care.

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Then, as Weylin was leading Kevin out of the room, a red-haired woman hurried in.

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“Where is he?” she demanded breathlessly. “What happened?”

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Rufus’s mother. I remembered her. She pushed her way into the room just as I was putting Rufus’s pillow under his head.

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“What are you doing to him?” she cried. “Leave him alone!” She tried to pull me away from her son. She had only one reaction when Rufus was in trouble. One wrong reaction.

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Fortunately for both of us, Weylin reached her before I forgot myself and pushed her away from me. He caught her, held her, spoke to her quietly.

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“Margaret, now listen. The boy has a broken leg, that’s all. There’s nothing you can do for a broken leg. I’ve already sent for the doctor.”

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Maragret Weylin seemed to calm down a little. She stared at me. “What’s she doing here?”

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“She belongs to Mr. Kevin Franklin here.” Weylin waved a hand presenting Kevin who, to my surprise, bowed slightly to the woman. “Mr. Franklin is the one who found Rufus hurt,” Weylin continued. He shrugged. “Rufus wanted the girl to stay with him. Can’t do any harm.” He turned and walked away. Kevin followed him reluctantly.

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The woman may have been listening as her husband spoke, but she didn’t look as though she was. She was still staring at me, frowning at me as though she was trying to remember where she’d seen me before. The years hadn’t changed her much, and, of course, they hadn’t changed me at all. But I didn’t expect her to remember. Her glimpse of me had been too brief, and her mind had been on other things.

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“I’ve seen you before,” she said.

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Hell! “Yes, ma’am, you may have.” I looked at Rufus and saw that he was watching us.

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“Mama?” he said softly.

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The accusing stare vanished, and the woman turned quickly to attend him. “My poor baby,” she murmured, cradling his head in her hands. “Seems like everything happens to you, doesn’t it? A broken leg!” She looked close to tears. And there was Rufus, swung from his father’s indifference to his mother’s sugary concern. I wondered whether he was too used to the contrast to find it dizzying.

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“Mama, can I have some water?” he asked.

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The woman turned to look at me as though I had offended her. “Can’t you hear? Get him some water!”

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“Yes, ma’am. Where shall I get it?”

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She made a sound of disgust and rushed toward me. Or at least I thought she was rushing toward me. When I jumped out of her way, she kept right on going through the door that I had been standing in front of.

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I looked after her and shook my head. Then I took the chair that was near the fireplace and put it beside Rufus’s bed. I sat down and Rufus looked up at me solemnly.

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“Did you ever break your leg?” he asked.

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“No. I broke my wrist once, though.”

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“When they fixed it, did it hurt much?”

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I drew a deep breath. “Yes.”

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“I’m scared.”

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“So was I,” I said remembering. “But . . . Rufe, it won’t take long. And when the doctor is finished, the worst will be over.”

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“Won’t it still hurt after?”

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“For a while. But it will heal. If you stay off it and give it a chance, it will heal.”

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Margaret Weylin rushed back into the room with water for Rufus and more hostility for me than I could see any reason for.

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“You’re to go out to the cookhouse and get some supper!” she told me as I got out of her way. But she made it sound as though she were saying, “You’re to go straight to hell!” There was something about me that these people didn’t like—except for Rufus. It wasn’t just racial. They were used to black people. Maybe I could get Kevin to find out what it was.

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“Mama, can’t she stay?” asked Rufus.

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The woman threw me a dirty look, then turned gentler eyes on her son. “She can come back later,” she told him. “Your father wants her downstairs now.”

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More likely, it was his mother who wanted me downstairs now, and possibly for no more substantial reason than that her son liked me. She gave me another look, and I left the room. The woman would have made me uncomfortable even if she’d liked me. She was too much nervous energy compacted into too small a container. I didn’t want to be around when she exploded. But at least she loved Rufus. And he must have been used to her fussing over him. He hadn’t seemed to mind.

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I found myself in a wide hallway. I could see the stairs a few feet away and I started toward them. Just then, a young black girl in a long blue dress came out of a door at the other end of the hall. She came toward me, staring at me with open curiosity. She wore a blue scarf on her head and she tugged at it as she came toward me.

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“Could you tell me where the cookhouse is, please?” I said when she was near enough. She seemed a safer person to ask than Margaret Weylin.

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Her eyes opened a little wider and she continued to stare at me. No doubt I sounded as strange to her as I looked.

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“The cookhouse?” I said.

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She looked me over once more, then started down the stairs without a word. I hesitated, finally followed her because I didn’t know what else to do. She was a light-skinned girl no older than fourteen or fifteen. She kept looking back at me, frowning. Once she stopped and turned to face me, her hand tugging absently at her scarf, then moving lower to cover her mouth, and finally dropping to her side again. She looked so frustrated that I realized something was wrong.

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“Can you talk?” I asked.

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She sighed, shook her head.

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“But you can hear and understand.”

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She nodded, then plucked at my blouse, at my pants. She frowned at me. Was that the problem, then—hers and the Weylins’?

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“They’re the only clothes I have right now,” I said. “My master will buy me some better ones sooner or later.” Let it be Kevin’s fault that I was “dressed like a man.” It was probably easier for the people here to understand a master too poor or too stingy to buy me proper clothing than it would be for them to imagine a place where it was normal for women to wear pants.

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As though to assure me that I had said the right thing, the girl gave me a look of pity, then took my hand and led me out to the cookhouse.

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As we went, I took more notice of the house than I had before- more notice of the downstairs hall, anyway. Its walls were a pale green and it ran the length of the house. At the front, it was wide and bright with light from the windows beside and above the door. It was strewn with oriental rugs of different sizes. Near the front door, there was a wooden bench, a chair, and two small tables. Past the stairs the hall narrowed and at its end, there was a back door that we went through.

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Outside was the cookhouse, a little white frame cottage not far behind the main house. I had read about outdoor kitchens and outdoor toilets. I hadn’t been looking forward to either. Now, though, the cookhouse looked like the friendliest place I’d seen since I arrived. Luke and Nigel were inside eating from wooden bowls with what looked like wooden spoons. And there were two younger children, a girl and boy, sitting on the floor eating with their fingers. I was glad to see them there because I’d read about kids their age being rounded up and fed from troughs like pigs. Not everywhere, apparently. At least, not here.

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There was a stocky middle-aged woman stirring a kettle that hung over the fire in the fireplace. The fireplace itself filled one whole wall. It was made of brick and above it was a huge plank from which hung a few utensils. There were more utensils off to one side hanging from hooks on the wall. I stared at them and realized that I didn’t know the proper names of any of them. Even things as commonplace as that. I was in a different world.

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The cook finished stirring her kettle and turned to look at me. She was as light-skinned as my mute guide—a handsome middle-aged woman, tall and heavy-set. Her expression was grim, her mouth turned down at the comers, but her voice was soft and low.

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“Carrie,” she said. “Who’s this?”

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My guide looked at me.

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“My name is Dana,” I said. “My master’s visiting here. Mrs. Weylin told me to come out for supper.”

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“Mrs. Weylin?” The woman frowned at me.

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“The red-haired woman—Rufus’s mother.” I didn’t quite catch myself in time to say Mister Rufus. I didn’t really see why I should have to say anything. How many Mrs. Weylins were there on the place anyway?

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“Miss Margaret,” said the woman, and under her breath, “Bitch!”

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I stared at her in surprise thinking she meant me.

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“Sarah!” Luke’s tone was cautioning. He couldn’t have heard what the cook said from where he was. Either she said it often, or he had read her lips. But at least now I understood that it was Mrs. Weylin— Miss Margaret—who was supposed to be the bitch.

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The cook said nothing else. She got me a wooden bowl, filled it with something from a pot near the fire, and handed it to me with a wooden spoon.

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Supper was corn meal mush. The cook saw that I was looking at it instead of eating it, and she misread my expression.

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“That’s not enough?” she asked.

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“Oh, it’s plenty!” I held my bowl protectively, fearful that she might give me more of the stuff. “Thank you.”

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I sat down at the end of a large heavy table across from Nigel and Luke. I saw that they were eating the same mush, though theirs had milk on it. I considered asking for milk on mine, but I didn’t really think it would help.

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Whatever was in the kettle smelled good enough to remind me that I hadn’t had breakfast, hadn’t had more than a few bites of dinner the night before. I was starving and Sarah was cooking meat—probably a stew. I took a bite of the mush and swallowed it without tasting it.

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“We get better food later on after the white folks eat,” said Luke. “We get whatever they leave.”

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Table scraps, I thought bitterly. Someone else’s leftovers. And, no doubt, if I was here long enough, I would eat them and be glad to get them. They had to be better than boiled meal. I spooned the mush into my mouth, quickly fanning away several large flies. Flies. This was an era of rampant disease. I wondered how clean our leftovers would be by the time they reached us.

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“Say you was from New York?” asked Luke.

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“Yes.”

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“Free state?”

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“Yes,” I repeated. “That’s why I was brought here.” The words, the questions made me think of Alice and her mother. I looked at Luke’s broad face, wondering whether it would do any harm to ask about them. But how could I admit to knowing them—knowing them years ago—when I was supposed to be new here? Nigel knew I had been here before, but Sarah and Luke might not. It would be safer to wait—save my questions for Rufus.

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“People in New York talk like you?” asked Nigel.

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“Some do. Not all.”

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“Dress like you?” asked Luke.

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“No. I dress in what Master Kevin gives me to dress in.” I wished they’d stop asking questions. I didn’t want them to make me tell lies I might forget later. Best to keep my background as simple as possible.

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The cook came over and looked at me, at my pants. She pinched up a little of the material, feeling it. “What cloth is this?” she asked.

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Polyester double knit, I thought. But I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

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She shook her head and went back to her pot.

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“You know,” I said to her back, “I think I agree with you about Miss Margaret.”

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She said nothing. The warmth I’d felt when I came into the room was turning out to be nothing more than the heat of the fire.

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“Why you try to talk like white folks?” Nigel asked me.

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“I don’t,” I said, surprised. “I mean, this is really the way I talk.”

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“More like white folks than some white folks.”

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I shrugged, hunted through my mind for an acceptable explanation. “My mother taught school,” I said, “and. . .”

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“A nigger teacher?”

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I winced, nodded. “Free blacks can have schools. My mother talked the way I do. She taught me.”

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“You’ll get into trouble,” he said. “Marse Tom already don’t like you. You talk too educated and you come from a free state.”

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“Why should either of those things matter to him? I don’t belong to him.”

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The boy smiled. “He don’t want no niggers ’round here talking better than him, putting freedom ideas in our heads.”

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“Like we so dumb we need some stranger to make us think about freedom,” muttered Luke.

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I nodded, but I hoped they were wrong. I didn’t think I had said enough to Weylin for him to make that kind of judgment. I hoped he wasn’t going to make that kind of judgment. I wasn’t good at accents. I had deliberately decided not to try to assume one. But if that meant I was going to be in trouble every time I opened my mouth, my life here would be even worse than I had imagined.

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“How can Marse Rufe see you before you get here?” Nigel asked.

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I choked down a swallow of mush. “I don’t know,” I said. “But I wish to heaven he couldn’t!”

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4

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I stayed in the cookhouse when I finished eating because it was near the main house, and because I thought I could make it from the cookhouse into the hall if I started to feel dizzy—just in case. Wherever Kevin was in the house, he would hear me if I called from the hallway.

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Luke and Nigel finished their meal and went to the fireplace to say something privately to Sarah. At that moment, Carrie, the mute, slipped me bread and a chunk of ham. I looked at it, then smiled at her gratefully. When Luke and Nigel took Sarah out of the room with them, I feasted on a shapeless sandwich. In the middle of it, I caught myself wondering about the ham, wondering how well it had been cooked. I tried to think of something else, but my mind was full of vaguely remembered horror stories of the diseases that ran wild during this time. Medicine was just a little better than witchcraft. Malaria came from bad air. Surgery was performed on struggling wide-awake patients. Germs were question marks even in the minds of many doctors. And people casually, unknowingly ingested all kinds of poorly preserved ill-cooked food that could make them sick or kill them.

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Horror stories.

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Except that they were true, and I was going to have to live with them for as long as I was here. Maybe I shouldn’t have eaten the ham, but if I hadn’t, it would be the table leavings later. I would have to take some chances.

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Sarah came back with Nigel and gave him a pot of peas to shell. Life went on around me as though I wasn’t there. People came into the cookhouse—always black people—talked to Sarah, lounged around, ate whatever they could put their hands on until Sarah shouted at them and chased them away. I was in the middle of asking her whether there was anything I could do to help out when Rufus began to scream. Nineteenth-century medicine was apparent 1 work.

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The walls of the main house were thick and the sound r come from a long way off—thin high-pitched screaming. ‘ had left the cookhouse, now ran back in and sat dc with her hands covering her ears.

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Abruptly, the screaming stopped and I move gently. Her sensitivity surprised me. I would havf be used to hearing people scream in pain. She 1 ; heard nothing, then looked at me.

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“He probably fainted,” I said. “That’s best for a while.”

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She nodded dully and went back out to whatever she had been doing.

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“She always did like him,” remarked Sarah into the silence. “He kept the children from bothering her when she was little.”

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I was surprised. “Isn’t she a few years older than he is?”

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“Born the year before him. Children listened to him though. He’s white.”

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“Is Carrie your daughter?”

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Sarah nodded. “My fourth baby. The only one Marse Tom let me keep.” Her voice trailed away to a whisper.

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“You mean he. . . he sold the others?”

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“Sold them. First my man died—a tree he was cutting fell on him. Then Marse Tom took my children, all but Carrie. And, bless God, Carrie ain’t worth much as the others ’cause she can’t talk. People think she ain’t got good sense.”

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I looked away from her. The expression in her eyes had gone from sadness—she seemed almost ready to cry—to anger. Quiet, almost frightening anger. Her husband dead, three children sold, the fourth defective, and her having to thank God for the defect. She had reason for more than anger. How amazing that Weylin had sold her children and still kept her to cook his meals. How amazing that he was still alive. I didn’t think he would be for long, though, if he found a buyer for Carrie.

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As I was thinking, Sarah turned and threw a handful of something into the stew or soup she was cooking. I shook my head. If she ever decided to take her revenge, Weylin would never know what hit him.

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“You can peel these potatoes for me,” she said.

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T had to think a moment to remember that I had offered my help. I he large pan of potatoes that she was handing me and a knife ooden bowl, and I worked silently, sometimes peeling, and driving away the bothersome flies. Then I heard Kevin t me. I had to make myself put the potatoes down ’r them with a cloth Sarah had left on the table. Then bout haste, without any sign of the eagerness or re- him nearby again. I went to him and he looked at

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hand, but I drew back, looking at him. He dropped his hand to his side. “Come on,” he said wearily. “Let’s go where we can talk.”

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He led the way past the main house away from the slave cabins and other buildings, away from the small slave children who chased each other and shouted and didn’t understand yet that they were slaves.

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We found a huge oak with branches thick as separate trees spread wide to shade a large area. A handsome lonely old tree. We sat beside it putting it between ourselves and the house. I settled close to Kevin, relaxing, letting go of tension I had hardly been aware of. We said nothing for a while, as he leaned back and seemed to let go of tensions of his own.

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Finally, he said, “There are so many really fascinating times we could have gone back to visit.”

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I laughed without humor. “I can’t think of any time I’d like to go back to. But of all of them, this must be one of the most dangerous— for me anyway.”

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“Not while I’m with you.”

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I glanced at him gratefully.

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“Why did you try to stop me from coming?”

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“I was afraid for you.”

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“For me!”

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“At first, I didn’t know why. I just had the feeling you might be hurt trying to come with me. Then when you were here, I realized that you probably couldn’t get back without me. That means if we’re separated, you’re stranded here for years, maybe for good.”

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He drew a deep breath and shook his head. “There wouldn’t be anything good about that.”

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“Stay close to me. If I call, come quick.”

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He nodded, and after a while said, “I could survive here, though, if I had to. I mean if . . .”

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“Kevin, no ifs. Please.”

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“I only mean I wouldn’t be in the danger you would be in.”

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“No.” But he’d be in another kind of danger. A place like this would endanger him in a way I didn’t want to talk to him about. If he was stranded here for years, some part of this place would rub off on him. No large part, I knew. But if he survived here, it would be because he managed to tolerate the life here. He wouldn’t have to take part in it, but he would have to keep quiet about it. Free speech and press hadn’t done too well in the ante bellum South. Kevin wouldn’t do too well either. The place, the time would either kill him outright or mark him somehow. I didn’t like either possibility.

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“Dana.”

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I looked at him.

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“Don’t worry. We arrived together and we’ll leave together.”

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I didn’t stop worrying, but I smiled and changed the subject. “How’s Rufus? I heard him screaming.”

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“Poor kid. I was glad when he passed out. The doctor gave him some opium, but the pain seemed to reach him right through it. I had to help hold him .”

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“Opium . . . will he be all right?”

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“The doctor thought so. Although I don’t know how much a doctor’s opinion is worth in this time.”

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“I hope he’s right. I hope Rufus has used up all his bad luck just in getting the set of parents he’s stuck with.”

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Kevin lifted one arm and turned it to show me a set of long bloody scratches.

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“Margaret Weylin,” I said softly.

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“She shouldn’t have been there,” he said. “When she finished with me, she started on the doctor. ‘Stop hurting my baby!’

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I shook my head. “What are we going to do, Kevin? Even if these people were sane, we couldn’t stay here among them.”

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“Yes we can.”

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I turned to stare at him.

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“I made up a story for Weylin to explain why we were here—and why we were broke. He offered me a job.”

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“Doing what?”

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“Tutoring your little friend. Seems he doesn’t read or write any better than he climbs trees.”

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“But. . . doesn’t he go to school?”

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“Not while that leg is healing. And his father doesn’t want him to fall any farther behind than he already is.”

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“Is he behind others his age?”

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“Weylin seemed to t hink so. He didn’t come right out and say it, but I think he’s afraid the kid isn’t very bright.”

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“I’m surprised he cares one way or the other, and I think he’s wrong. But for once Rufus’s bad luck is our good luck. I doubt that we’ll be here long enough for you to collect any of your salary, but at least while we’re here, we’ll have food and shelter.”

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“That’s what I thought when I accepted.”

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“And what about me?”

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“You?”

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“Weylin didn’t say anything about me?”

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“No. Why should he? If I stay here, he knows you stay too.”

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“Yes.” I smiled. “You’re right. If you didn’t remember me in your bargaining, why should he? I’ll bet he won’t forget me though when he has work that needs to be done.”

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“Wait a minute, you don’t have to work for him. You’re not supposed to belong to him.”

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“No, but I’m here. And I’m supposed to be a slave. What’s a slave for, but to work? Believe me, he’ll find something for me to do—or he would if I didn’t plan to find my own work before he gets around to me.”

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He frowned. “You want to work?”

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“I want to … I have to make a place for myself here. That means work. I think everyone here, black and white, will resent me if I don’t work. And I need friends. I need all the friends I can make here, Kevin. You might not be with me when I come here again. If I come here again.”

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“And unless that kid gets a lot more careful, you will come here again.”

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I sighed. “It looks that way.”

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“I hate to think of your working for these people.” He shook his head. “I hate to think of you playing the part of a slave at all.”

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“We knew I’d have to do it.”

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He said nothing.

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“Call me away from them now and then, Kevin. Just to remind them that whatever I am, they don’t own me. . . yet.”

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He shook his head again angrily in what looked like a refusal, but I knew he’d do it.

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“What lies did you tell Weylin about us?”