Beginning on March 21 at Fiction Friday I’ve shared letters written in 1853 from Sarah Miller to Amasa Stone. These were originally published in my novel Endless Chain, book two of my Shenandoah Album series. While most of the novel is set in contemporary times, Sarah’s letters, written before the War Between the States, are woven throughout.
You can catch up with the others by clicking Fiction Friday under categories to the right, and paging down to March 21st. Then scroll up and read in order what’s been published here so far.
This is the second and last portion of Sarah’s third letter. Sarah and her brother Jeremiah are harboring a runaway slave named Dorie, and last week we learned why Dorie ran away. Dorie’s daughter has been sold away from her, and Dorie is trying to find her.
This isn’t the only letter Sarah writes Amasa on this particular day. Next week we’ll begin the fourth letter, written later that afternoon when Sarah shares a harrowing experience with Amasa.
Oh, Amasa, I have no words for the pain in her eyes when she talks about being separated so cruelly from her daughter. She knows where the little girl was sent, having risked everything before her exile to Harrisonburg to steal into Henry Beaumont’s study to find the sale papers. She can read and understand maps. She learned from others how to stay alive on her journey and who might help her. She prepared as best she could, packing food, even forging papers that claimed she had been recently freed (although it is doubtful that any who read such a document would believe it to be true.)
Before we found her Dorie had been on her journey for four weeks, and she was nearly captured twice. Jeremiah is certain there are handbills in every town in the valley describing her and seeking her return. He has seen one such in our own little burg. For the most part she walked mountain ridges, staying far from settlements and using the stars as guidance. Several times near the beginning she was moved from one safe place to another by people who were willing to help. She has hidden in caves and in the cellars of vineyards.
She came to us because she was told that when she reached Mauertown she must look for certain landmarks that would guide her to safety. My heart is brightened that someone not far away is taking in men and women, even families, who are escaping injustice. In the storm and with illness dragging at her, she was badly lost and mistook our house for theirs because of Mama’s quilt. But by God’s grace she was not led astray.
Jeremiah has finished her hiding place, and even I, who have lived in this house all my life, would have difficulty discerning it. Dorie knows how to secret herself there, if need be, and I am adept at swiftly moving shelves into position and jars to cover their width. The room is dank and narrow, but it is freedom’s home.
Jeremiah surprises me, Amasa. From the beginning he was willing to act to save Dorie, but with a willingness born of conscience alone. He was troubled by her presence and the demands it made of him. He wanted only to live his life in silence and despair.
Now once again he is becoming aware there are people who have suffered more than he. While extending shelter to Dorie he has extended a new and tender regard for her that swells my heart with pride. Upon hearing Dorie’s story for the first time he resolved to help her find Marie, for he fears that a child this young might change hands many times before she grows to be a useful member of a slave owner’s family.
Jeremiah has convinced Dorie to let him make inquiries before she leaves us. I believe he is reluctant to see her go. She has brought new life to our home and although he would never express it, I think her quiet, feminine ways remind him of Rachel. Dorie’s love for her daughter reminds him of his wife, as well. These good memories restore his heart.
I have prayed for something to bring Jeremiah back to us, and Dorie is God’s answer.
I will close now. With these words go my deepest affection.
Always with you,
Watch for Sarah’s fourth letter next week.