Indentured Love-# 9
"Anna I want you to hurry back to the stable and tell MoJo to bring the flat wagon and a mat and blankets and then bring him back to this place."
"What!!, what is it?"
"Do as I say---Now!" It was a tone of voice that she had not heard him use before.
When they arrived back with the wagon, John motioned for MoJo to follow him back into the bushes. All she could do was sit there and wait. Finally she heard them coming back and seen that MoJo had a child in his arms and John had a black women cradled in his arms. He had taken off his shirt and had it draped across the woman. They laid them gently on the mat and covered them with the blanket.
MoJo tied John's horse to the back of the wagon and John gently turned the wagon around and they headed back.
She felt so helpless, not knowing what to do. She knew that this must be the run away slaves that they had heard about. Surely John would not take them back to that horrid Woman Abigail?
When they arrived at the house he told her to go in and have Meg make ready the bed in the back room that they had once occupied. When she glanced back she could see that he was talking to MoJo and he was shaking his head in agreement.
Soon Meg and John had the woman and the child laying on the bed and she was aghast at the sight of the woman as Meg, gently removed the rags that covered her back where she had been severely whipped. The hild a little boy had also been whipped but not as bad as his mother. He just lay there whimpering and reaching out to her.
"Is there anything I can do?" she asked softly. Although she had not the faintest idea of what it would be. She had never seen anything like this before.
Meg spoke first. "Yes, Anna get some water boiling on the stove."
As she turned to do this the door opened and MoJo and his wife Opal came in and she hurried passed her to help Meg. She had a small bag with her and began to empty it out on a tray. There were little bottles of salves and herbs.
John came and stood beside her as she filled the kettles with more water. "Anna it is very important that we say nothing of this incident to anyone. As soon as you are free here go to the barn and work with the children as you normally do. I will go to the field as usual but I will come back here at lunch time so as not to alert anyone to the danger that could come of this situation."
She could only nod her head but felt the touch of his hand where he had placed it on her shoulder long after he left the room.
The children were eagerly waiting for her and were taking turns at drawing the few letters that she had taught them with a stick in the dirt on the barn floor as she had done in teaching them for they had no slates or parchment to draw on as yet. This was one of the items that she had put on her list that John requested she make of their needs. She found it most difficult to keep her mind on her task. The horror of finding the salves and seeing the condition that they were in from the beatings was very unnerving. She had over heard MoJo telling John that this was the work of Tobin and John nodded in agreement.
At noon when she returned she found Meg busy preparing there midday meal and Opal was tending to the woman and the boy. The boy had stopped crying and was sitting up in the bed next to his mother.
"They will survive but the woman will take much longer, for it looks like she took the most of it, probably trying to shield the child. She does not seem to be able to speak as yet. The boy told Opal that his name is Tee-Bow and that is all he has said. Opal will stay and tend to them so no one will suspect that they have been found. It is important to not bring attention to this for Mister John would be in danger," she said in a low tone.
She was slicing bread when John came into the kitchen and she looked over at him. Their gaze locked for a long and breathless moment. She gave herself a mental shake. This was her employer and she had signed her service's over to him. She then lifted her chin up and took a deep breath forcing herself to be in control for it was going to take every once of her being to not let this man find his way into her heart.
John checked on the woman and boy and then returned to the kitchen and sat down and he and Meg talked about the situation with the woman and boy. He said he had a plan but it would mean that he would have to leave for a day and he hoped that no one would notice his absents if it was possible. He would see that MoJo and two of the other men were near the house until he returned.
The both stole quick glances at one another while they ate but did not speak directly. She hoped that Meg did not notice.
That night she did not visit Storm at the stable because she had heard John go out and thought maybe he would be at the stables as she remembered the conversation at the table. Where would he be going so secretly?
John rode all night and arrived at the magistrate's residence early. He had been a friend of her mothers and was known to be a very compassionate man. They talked for a long time and he agreed to make papers for it to show that John was the owner of two slaves by the name of Tee-Bow and Hope. Beings he did not know the name of the woman he simply gave her one. He knew that it would be only a matter of time before they would be noticed on his land and he needed proof that they belonged to him and it was the only way he could protect them. Abigail had said that she did not have a paper for the woman and child only the man. He could only hope that the man had escaped far from Tobin's cruelty.
The next several weeks were very busy with everyone working the fields as the cotton was picked and the tobacco was cut and staked. All the women were busy storing food for the winter months. Meg had every inch of the root cellar filled.
Still the woman that John called Hope had not as yet uttered a word. One morning as they sat at the breakfast table John saw Tee-Bow peaking around the corner from the back room.
"Come over here, Tee-Bow," he said and motioned for the boy to sit on the stool beside him while he drank another cup of coffee. Slowly and shyly he limped over to to where John pointed. John could see that one of his legs was shorter than the other of about two inches. He had obliviously been born with that defect.
Tee-Bow sat looking down and with obvious fear for he was shaking. John reached out and gently put his finger under the boys chin and lifted it up to look into his face. He talked softly to him telling him that he was safe and no one would hurt him anymore.
"Mister John I don't think the boy understands ye, but he seems to be very curious and I feel that he is smarter than most and could be taught." She told him that the wounds on the woman had healed and she was beginning to help around the kitchen but as yet had not uttered a word. She seemed to make attempts when she would be trying to converse with the boy but it would be more grunt like sounds yet the boy seemed to understand.
Anna sat there and watched in fascination as John would point to objects and identify them and then put his finer on Tee-Bows lips. Soon the boy was repeating the words with eagerness as John praised him and encouraged him on with only a smile.
"Yes Meg, I think you are right this boy could learn and he definitely is eager to so so," he said and laughed as he buttered a slice of bread and laden it with a generous amount of jam and handed it to him. He was hesitant at first but then reached out and quickly snatched it up and hobbled back to the room where his mother was. A moment later the woman slyly stepped into the room with Tee-Bow firmly held by the shirt and with bowed head extended her hand with the bread out to Meg as she started backing away.
John could see that she thought he had stolen the bread. "No, no" he said keeping his voice soft. He stood and slowly walked over to them and gently took her by the hand and led them both back to the table and sat her down on the chair by the stool. He then motioned for Tee-Bow to sit on the stool. Neither one would look up at him so he slowly buttered another slice of bread and lathered it with jam and handed it to each of them and added a brilliant smile to with it.
Anna sat there entranced as she watched John so easily charm these two poor soul'sthat sat in front of him. He soon had Tee-Bow once again repeating the items that he pointed to. Then he pointed to Hope's mouth and then back to Tee-Bow. Tee-Bow opened his mouth and pointed to his tongue then shook his had, confirming what John had suspected the woman he now called Hope could not speak.
They all watched as the woman and the boy devoured their bread and Anna could see the small trust that this woman was trying to emit to this man before her with out the spoken---words.
In the days that followed they quickly learned to point and repeat for Tee-Bow and Hop did not have any trouble with indications by signaling what she was trying to say either.
Meg said that Tee-Bow was getting to be a regular little mag-pie and the only way to keep him quiet was put food in front of him.
It was time for all their neighbors to join together to help harvest the fields before the winter. John worked beside his men in the field but he knew that this was frowned on when he joined his neighbors and he dreaded the remarks that they would somehow work into any conversation. Most of all he dreaded the days that he would be working on Abigail's land for she would take every opportunity to show her interest in him as a husband prospect and she was quite brazen about it.
He carefully chose his men that would accompany him there for he did not want any trouble with Tobin. Although he had made it very clear that no man of his would ever feel the lash of the whip. Tobin knew this and his hate showed in his eye every time they confronted one another.
He had given Meg strict orders on keeping Hope and Tee-Bow out of sight while Abigail's men were working with them in their fields. He also told Anna that teaching the children would be postponed until after the harvest. He knew that this type of thinking was new to many of them but he did not want any trouble and he did not want to alarm them either. As soon as the crops in the fields were stored and they were settled in for the winter months he would see that they resumed where they had left off.
Knowing that Tobin was just waiting for the chance to start trouble and he had instructed MoJo to stay at the stable at night so he could keep an eye on any one that might be snooping around after dark. Of course the big Stallion was hard to sneak up on and he would probably be more of an alarm than MoJo. He smiled, as he thought about the only person that could walk up on the stallion and he would be calm with, would be of course Anna.
• To be continued: