"Anna please, sit over here with me under this shade tree. I will share my lunch with you," he said.
"Oh no, I couldn't do that. I have already eaten and I have an apple yet to finish." She reached into her apron pocket and held out a big red apple and proceeded to rub and shine it with the bottom of her apron.
He asked her if she had inspected the rooms in the house and wanted to know what she thought?
"It is a very nice---house and I will try and keep it in order for you," she replied.
"No, that is not what I meant. You're are a woman and I need to know what you would do---to make it---nicer. You see everything in it has been that same way for twenty four years that I know of and I think it is time to improve it.
"Oh I understand and do you plan on entertaining?" she asked.
"Well, yes in a way, you see I have plans on expanding my stables and in doing so would like to invite different horse breeders here. I still want to grow the crops which all land owners here do but they do not raise horses---I enjoy both." He then leaned back and drank his coffee as he watched her nibble at her apple.
"Sir I really can't---."
He cut her words off---"no, I want you to tell me what you would do if that house was yours. You know just pretend it was yours. What would you do to each of those rooms. Please I don't know anything about decorating and such---that is something that just comes natural with a woman, not a man. You can ask me about that tobacco out there in that field or the cotton and I know, yet I have no idea of what items or color should be in that house. I know that we have only known each other for a few days but like I said before I do not judge anyone for what they did or not do, in the past---I only see what they show me each day---forward."
"Well---if you are sure," she said cautiously.
He then gave her that devastating smile that almost made her drop her apple.
They were both silent for a long moment, both in their own thoughts. He could see a woman with dark hair and dark eyes, even though they showed a sadness. She was tall and a bit to thin he thought but that might have been to her circumstance's. With out that crinkled dark dress and apron on and in some stylish dress he was sure she would turn any mans head.
She laid her half eaten apple carefully down in her lap and looked at him. "The first thing I would do is to get rid of all those dark drapes and I would make the colors of each room light and cheery. I would let all the light in and also to see the beauty of all the flowers that I would plant every where, especially at the long entrance to the front door and---."
Again he held up his hand to halt her words and chuckled as he could see the excitement in her eyes on this subject.
Anna you are right and I think that is exactly what should be done so if you make a list of what each room needs in your opinion, I will go over it and see to the details of getting it done but you didn't mention the kitchen?"
"Oh that is more Meg's area, you better ask her about that and I am sure she would give it to you, for just this morning I heard her using several un-lady like words to the oven."
John's rich laughter could be heard with clarity and immeditatly the big stallion snorted and pawed the ground when he heard it. Again he chuckled but this time he lowered his voice. "Anna I don't think that beast agrees or even likes me yet, he said with a added wink.
Quickly she jumped up. "I must get back and help Meg."
He held out the basket to her. "Tell Meg the lunch was excellent. I also enjoyed the company." She felt his hand brush against hers and the feeling startled her.
John watched in awe as she walked along the fence, for the big stallion was pacing calmly along the other side as if to say---here---here I am. He held his breath when she stopped and slowly reached in her apron pocket and pulled out the half eaten apple. He could hear her softly talking all the time to the big stallion. Slowly she held out her hand with the apple. The stallion snorted softly and eyed her and then slowly he reached over the top rail and took the apple. She continued to talk to him. He could only sit there mesmerized with what he was seeing. Although he could not hear what she was saying. This was the same animal that he was sure, would have tried to kill him earlier. Yet this woman had him eating out of her hand. She then continued on into the stable and the horse walked with her until she disappeared through the door.
John got up and walked toward the fence. The big stallion immediately raced back to confront him and again started pawing at the ground as if to dare him into his territory again. When he stepped back into the stable he saw that MoJo had been standing there and witnessed the same scene. "MoJo I guess we just didn't know how to approach him, maybe we had better get a big barrel of apples down here to the stables," he said as he shook his head in disbelief.
"No Mister John that won't do it!" he said it with such assurance that John stopped and looked at him.
"What do you mean? You seen how calm he was when she gave him the apple!"
"Yes sir, but it---weren't the apple---Miss Anna has---gris-gris."
He knew that MoJo was superstitious as many of his workers were and they had certain beliefs and sayings. Well tomorrow he would approach the animal with a treat of an apple which they did have an abundance of. After all, he believed that animal and man were not that much different---once you found their weakness.
Tomorrow he planned on tearing himself away from the work long enough to visit his neighbor and pay his condolences and attend the grave side service. Adam Hedrick had been a friend of his fathers and he had married the young Abigail Clifford from Baltimore when she embarrassed her wealthy family by having a child out of wed-lock.
He grinned, because he or anyone else around the area was not surprised by hearing of old Adams death, for Abigail was still not very discrete with her actions. She flirted with any man that came along. She made it very plain that that he too, was on her list. No! Abigail was not his type of woman but he needed to keep a good relationship with her because of her land that bordered his, and he wanted to be in good standing. He knew also that they were all closely observing his ways for he was doing things differently and they did not take to change so readily.
As he entered the house through the kitchen entrance he startled Meg.
"Oh sir, you startled me," she said as she stepped back from scouring the big stove. She had the block soot smeared across her cheeks and her apron was black. It was then he thought about how thoughtless he must be for he realized that these women had only the clothes that they had on their backs when they came here. He remembered Anna did have a small valise but what was in it he did not know? Knowing that there were several large trunks stored in the attic with his mothers clothes he would offer that to them and maybe they could alter the material. He also made a mental note to add bolts of material to his list when they made a trip back to Baltimore, but that would not be until the fall and they needed something now. He would send one of the men to bring the trunks down in the morning.
"Meg I forgot to mention to you or Anna that I needed to attend a funeral service this afternoon. I hope that I have a clean change of cloths for that big stallion thought I needed a dust bath."
"I think that Anna is up stairs right now tidying up your room. I do know that she aired out some of your cloths this morning with the rest of the house."
He made his way toward the stairs, noticing that the women must have been very busy because most of the drapes where removed and several windows were open to catch the breeze. When he reached the top lnding he heard her. She was humming a soft tune. He quietly stepped up to the door of his room and looked in. She was standing on a stool and was attempting to remove the heavy drape as she leaned far over and tugged at the drape. He seen the stool move and the next instant with two big strides he caught her as she fell.
"Oh my," she stammered. She was now wrapped tightly in his arms. It was a long and silent moment---and knowing that she should say something---his mouth was so near and the words would not surface.
He knew that he should gently set her down and say something half way intelligent but she felt so soft and those dark eyes were sending sensations through his body that had been held a bay for way to long.
The spell was broke as Meg stepped into the room. "Sir I thought you might enjoy a cup of coffee while ye are dressing." She set the cup down and quickly left the room.
Anna was right behind her tell herself that this was the man that she was indentured to and that was what it had to be between them---she was simply his servant and that was---all. He had just been there at the right moment and caught her when she slipped from the stool. Yet what she had felt from his mere touch was new to her. She had several beau's in the past and their touch had never sent sensations through her body as she had just experienced.
MoJo stood there with his riding mare and waited for John. John told him that he wanted to work with the stallion tomorrow and see if they could win his confidence with the enticement of those apples as Anna had. He watched as John rode off in the direction of the Clifford estate. He sadly shook his head because he had seen and heard of the cruelty that was handed out on that land. He knew that it would now be much harder for the servants with Mrs Abigail in full charge and her overseer---Tobin. Tobin enjoyed using his whip. He also knew that Abigail Hidrick used her overseer for her own personal pleasure for he had come across them in what they must have thought a secluded spot along the creek that bordered their property.
John stood back from the grave site and watched Abigail put on a show as being the grieving widow. Tobin stood over to one side with his whip tied to his belt. He stroked it like it was his lover. The man had no morals in any form.
At the proper time he planned on approaching Abigail on the subject of purchasing that piece of land that his father had so foolishly gambled away in a bet with her late husband. That piece of land was like a wedge in his land. Not only was it valuable bottom land but it made him have to cross her land to get to his next section. There had been a conflict with Tobin over this and it depended on his mood for he threatened to use his whip. One of his men had felt the sting of it and he was determined that it would never happen again.
That evening after the kitchen chores were done. Meg and Anna took time to sit under the big oak tree, trying to find some evening breeze. The days were now hot and humid. This was something that they were not accustomed to. Still Meg reminded her that they had a roof over their heads and their bellies were full.
She tried not to reply to Meg's wisdom on that subject because there were many nights that she cried herself to sleep over the things that she had once had and---lost. Later that night she got up from her bed and went to the window. She could feel the perspiration trickling down between her breast. It was impossible to sleep. She had on a white gauze night shirt that they had found in the trunks that the men had brought from the attic.
Quietly she slipped out of the bed and walked towards the stable. She was sure that everyone would be asleep, for she saw no candle lights. The slight breeze that had appeared from the west, felt good with the loose fitting gown on.
As she entered the stable she could hear the rustle of the mares and they each greeted her with a muzzle to her outstretched hand. There was a lamp lit and hanging on the center post. She noticed that under it was a barrel of apples.
She heard the noise first. The big stallions stall was empty, as she followed the sound she found him out in the fenced area. He had been standing there with his ears pitched straight up and a little forward. He had heard her coming. She moved very slowly as not knowing how the white gauze night shirt might startle him if the breeze caught it. Maybe she should have thought to put on her wrapper but it was so hot.
Standing by the fence she watched as the big stallion slowly made his way up to it. He stretched his big neck over the top rail and she softly rubbed his head.
"I think that I know what you would like my big friend." She held the apple behind her and continued to talk to him. Finally she presented him with the treat he was waiting for. Slowly she slipped between the rails of the fence as she continued to talk softly to him. She rubbed her hands over his neck and back. The big animal made no attempt to challenge her as he had done to John. He just stood there and watched her and several times he nuzzled her for more of her touching hands. He was also anticipating that there might just be another apple.
Finally she slipped back to the other side of the fence. All the time she kept talking to the stallion. She looked into his beautiful face and wished that she could just climb on his back and let him take her racing through the fields and feel the air rushing around them. It was that freedom that she knew that they both needed above all else and this had been taken from them.
John stood there in the dark in front of his bedroom window and was spell bound at what he had just witnessed. Again he had seen the stallion that tried to stomp him into the ground, was as docile as a new born kitten---at Anna's mere touch. He didn't know which at that moment fascinated him the most---the stallion or the woman standing there with the white gauze gown blowing in the gentle breeze.