Freedom Bound

Freedom Bound by Jean Rae Baxter Read Free Book Online

Book: Freedom Bound by Jean Rae Baxter Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jean Rae Baxter
foolish to hide the truth from thee.”
    â€œIt doesn’t matter. Just tell me what’s going on. Who was
that woman?”
    â€œPhoebe, the girl I taught to read.”
    â€œAnd that baby is her child?”
    â€œYes.”
    â€œAnd the white man who’s been watching your house is
the one who dragged her away?”
    â€œThe slave catcher. Yes.”
    Although her head ached, Charlotte’s brain was beginning to put the puzzle together.
    â€œWhat about the black boy who was watching the house?”
    â€œHis name is Jammy. The Morley family owns him as well
as Phoebe. Jammy’s the stable groom.”
    â€œIs he the baby’s father?”
    â€œNo. He’s not the father.” Mrs. Doughty paused. “Let me
take the baby upstairs and then come back for thee. A dark
cellar is no place to talk.”
    Now that the baby was quiet, Patience, Charity and Joseph began a crying chorus of their own, the noise carrying
from their upstairs bedroom down to the cellar. What a
night for everyone!
    Mrs. Doughty carried the baby up the steep steps. She
would not return for quite a while, Charlotte thought, not
until she had managed to settle all the little ones.
    Charlotte moved her limbs one by one. Nothing felt
seriously wrong. Putting her hand to the back of her head,
she felt a bump, but no bleeding. No need to wait for Mrs.
Doughty’s help. Bringing the candle with her, she crept up
the steep steps.
    At the top, she sat for a moment on the floor near the
open trap door. She had better close it, she thought, before
anybody else fell through.
    The door moved freely on its hinges. When she had it
closed, she went into the kitchen to rekindle the fire. Thebaby, wrapped in a blanket, was asleep on top of the quilt
that covered Charlotte’s cot, where Mrs. Doughty had laid
him down.
    From above came the voice of Mrs. Doughty comforting
her children.
    When the fire was blazing, Charlotte filled the kettle and
hung it on the hook over the flames. They could use a cup
of tea while they talked, and they certainly did need to talk.
Charlotte suspected that some terrible trouble lay behind
the events of the night.
    After a time, Mrs. Doughty came downstairs and collapsed onto a chair at the table. Charlotte poured the tea and
passed a cup to her.
    â€œWho is the baby’s father? Or doesn’t it matter?”
    â€œIt matters.”
    Charlotte waited, expecting she knew not what.
    Mrs. Morley set down her teacup. Her eyes met Charlotte’s.
    â€œThe father is Phoebe’s master, Lewis Morley. He forced
himself upon her. She was fourteen.”
    â€œOh!” For a moment, silence hung between them. “That’s
terrible.”
    She didn’t know what else to say. She had been prepared
for something bad, but not as bad as this. It was sad. It was
sordid. It appeared to be dangerous. Mrs. Doughty had
answered her question, yet the answer just raised more
questions. Although Charlotte dreaded what she would hear
next, she wanted to know the truth.
    â€œIt’s common,” Mrs. Doughty said, “for a master to abuse
his female slaves. They have no power against him.”
    â€œCommon? If the slave owner is married, doesn’t his wife
object?”
    â€œThe wives can’t stop it. Most pretend not to notice. Some
accept it as a normal part of married life.”
    â€œMerciful heavens! What can they be thinking?”
    â€œThey must accept what they cannot change. Mrs. Morley,
like many wives in her situation, can’t stand the sight of her
husband’s half-black children. The more they resemble him,
the more bitter she feels.”
    â€œI don’t blame her.”
    â€œMrs. Morley will not allow such children to remain in
the household. Phoebe knew that her baby would soon be
taken from her. Rather then lose him, she decided to run
away with him, and she turned to Jammy for help.”
    â€œHe agreed to help her?”
    â€œYes. Jammy

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