Welcome back to Fiction Friday. This is our fourth excerpt of Sarah Miller’s letters to Amasa Miller in 1853, a story within the much broader contemporary story of my novel Endless Chain. Look for the three previous parts in my last three Fiction Friday blogs. Scroll down and begin with March 21st, or follow the links I gave in last Friday’s post, which was part three.
Last week I promised a peek at the Lithuanian cover, so here it is. I love this Elisa, don’t you?
I hope you’re enjoying these excerpts. It’s fun to tell this story alone instead of in pieces throughout the novel.
In the beginning of this letter Sarah tells Amasa she has realized how little she and her brother have done to fight slavery, which they both abhor. She tells how she vowed to Dorie, an escaped slave who found them because of a quilt hanging from their porch, that she will shelter other runaways in the future. Jeremiah, her brother overhears the promise.
I did not know that Jeremiah stood behind me until he spoke. “Promise nothing,” he admonished me, “except that this woman shall find no harm here. The rest is not our business.”
Jeremiah’s heart has been hardened. This you know. But to hear it spoken so clearly, to hear how sadly transformed he is since the death of his family, frightened me.
“I will speak only the truth,” I told him. “If others come, and they will if we speak of our commitment in the right places, then we will take them in. Or I will not remain.”
Jeremiah did not answer. He strode to the bedside and helped Dorie back under the quilt that had frightened her so. “The future matters not,” he told her. “It matters only that you must rest and recover until you are ready to travel again.”
She was soothed by his words as she had not been by mine. She lay back against the pillows and closed her eyes.
“You must sleep,” he told me. “I will stay with her and make certain she takes no turn for the worse.”
I asked him then the question I had not yet been inspired to voice. “And what will come of her if the slave patrol is searching? Will you give her over to them so that we will be safe from their punishment and that of the law?”
“We will hide her,” he said, never once looking at me. His gaze was far away, somewhere no one else will ever go.
I had pondered this through the long night and found no answer. “There is no place they will not look,” I told my brother.
“They can not look at that which they can not see,” he said.
A week has passed since Jeremiah uttered those odd words, Amasa. And in those seven days my stern, broken hearted brother has wrought such changes that sometimes I am uncertain, upon waking and going downstairs, that this is my childhood home.
In the week since Dorie held the quilt in her trembling hands she has eaten and slept, but rarely spoken. As each day passes, however, she grows more confident that we want only for her to recover her strength so she can continue her journey to freedom.
She still is not well. As of yet I do not know if it was the enslavement or the journey out of it which has laid her so low. I am thin, but she is thinner. Her wrists are as narrow as reeds, her face is skin tightly stretched over bones like a sparrow’s. Her hair which is only a little darker than my own is lusterless. She coughs and I fear she will never draw in another breath. But each day, I believe, she improves a bit.
Pray, Amasa, that the transformation of our home will be completed soon, and that until it is, no one will discover her presence. For if they searched for her now, I fear they would find her. If only she will grow stronger as her safety is secured here, so that soon she will be strong enough to hide without fear.
I will write again, and soon. I know, even though you are far away, that you are as sad and concerned as I am for Dorie’s fate.
With all my heart,
I hope you’re enjoying the letters. Do you think Dorie will find her freedom?