Last week I shared the beginning of Sarah’s final letter from my novel Endless Chain. Are you new to Fiction Friday? You can read an explanation plus all the letters by going to “Categories” on the right on this page, clicking on Fiction Friday, and scrolling down to March 21st, which is when these selections began. At that point you can read them in order by scrolling back up.
The photo accompanying this post is “Old Rag Edited” by Aaron Leavy from Flickr. I had so much fun choosing photos for these posts and appreciate the Flickr photographers who are willing to share their work for others to use. It’s sobering to imagine the terrain that Dorie might have traveled across as she continued her escape.
While this is the end of Sarah’s final letter, it’s not the end of the story. At the conclusion of Endless Chain Sam and Elisa, the major contemporary characters, piece together what they believe must have happened from other documents. You won’t be disappointed.
It’s been my pleasure to share these excerpts with you. I hope you’ve enjoyed a peek at life in 1853 on a Shenandoah Valley farm.
I know not what transpired next, for I left and returned to my bed. Before I fell asleep I prayed she would stay, but I had heard enough to know this prayer would not be answered. Dorie knew she could not remain and continue to put us in danger.
She was gone when I awoke just before dawn. I crept down the stairs to find Jeremiah asleep and no sign of our friend. I woke him at once, and we searched the farm and our road in both directions, Jeremiah on horseback and I on foot. But Dorie has vanished.
I believe, as does Jeremiah, that our grieving young mother is slowly making her way to Maryland, to the plantation where her daughter was sent. Last night Dorie told him that she is certain the slaves there will know what happened to Marie.
I believe her own life no longer matters to her, and that if she can only determine Marie’s fate, she will gladly give up what little freedom she has found. I can not bear to think what might happen to her if she is captured by the patrol on that journey , or what fate might await her at the hands of the man who claims to own her. Likely he will imprison her or worse.
Jeremiah has spoken little today. Once again he is the silent, sorrowful man I had reluctantly come to know. I, too, find little about which I can be hopeful, Amasa.
I have devised a plan to offer Dorie what little assistance I can. Tomorrow I will ask Jeremiah to speak with Hiram Place about the evils of slavery. He should as much as confess we are hiding a slave somewhere on the farm with us. This, of course, will bring the patrol to our doorstep again, but if we are wrong about Hiram, perhaps Jeremiah will find another way to bring the hunters here.
In the days ahead we will tantalize them with Dorie’s presence and become openly secretive. I shall draw curtains during the day and scurry around the homestead after dark, as if I have something to hide. I will send pleading glances at Jeremiah when they arrive and tearfully beg them not to search.
I will, in short, do everything I must to convince them Dorie is still about. This will not fool them for long, but perhaps it will give our friend a chance to gain ground.
There is nothing more I can do. As the day has passed I have become resigned to the inevitable. I will never know if Dorie finds her daughter or a home away from bondage. I am resolved, however, that I can help others like her. In the days ahead, once the hunters are gone, I will seek out other sympathizers and tell them to send runaways to me. I will sew black squares on the quilt that Mama left me and hang it on our porch every night. I will laugh in the faces of the slave patrol or preach the gospel of Jesus to them. (I am afraid one will be as helpful to their souls as the other.)
Because Jeremiah has been loathe to leave us, I have yet to receive a letter from you that addresses all I have told you of this business. In Lynchburg tonight you are doubtless thinking of me as I think of you now. But I feel in my heart that you approve of our actions and grieve at the outcome.
I ask only one thing of you, Amasa. Upon your father’s death, please come to me for one last visit. I long so desperately to see you. Come here and let me convince you that whatever the future holds, we must make our plans together. I beg you not to head west without letting me hold you again.
I will close now. You are my heart and my soul. I see your face at night before I close my eyes and on waking each morning. At least I have this much of you.
I wait for the news that I know will be coming shortly, and I pray I can bear it.
Your very own,