"You put that whip down, or y'all be sorry."
"I'll be sorry? Not as sorry as you will, boy!"
With that, young Freeland raised the horsewhip and threw a mighty wave of the whip's end at me. Flinching, I felt the sting of a cut across my shoulder. Before the man could raise his arm again for a second blow, I was upon him and knocked him clean off his feet, as my fist drove into his jaw.
Hastening back up, he dusted himself off, righteous indignation in his eyes. I feared I had gone too far, having seen a man broken on the wheel for less.
"What kind of a slave are you?"
"Not the kind you whip like a horse," I retorted. Whatever consequence my foolhardiness might bring, I figured backing down now wouldn't help much.
“Damn you! I paid good money for a good day's work, not a punch on the jaw."
"Well quit cussin' " I said "and let me get back to it."
Mistress Auld had apologised to me as I'd left for the long walk to the Freeland farm that day. She'd said her husband had hired me out because they needed the money, but we both knew it was because he caught me secretly reading the Bible. "Teach one slave to read and soon they'd all cry: freedom!" Mr Auld had said. With that, the bible lessons ceased.
Though the work in the field was backbreaking, I felt I was close to God's creation. With the coming of St Valentine's day, there was much to be done and my hard labor gave me time to think about what Mr Auld had said. I also kept the ragged bible Mistress Auld had given me. By moonlight, I would try to work out the meaning of the words and copy down phrases I knew like: "Christ has set us free."
Later that February, I stood in front of a whole church full of enslaved people, teaching letters at the end of service. Baltimore, where I lived, was a God-fearing place and allowed us to attend church on Sunday, listening to a freed black minister. Nobody figured he would allow reading lessons after his preaching.
Nobody figured I would run away, either. Yet here I am, with my beautiful wife, Anna, both free in New York.
Written for the RP challenge
About the Creator
Author based in Kent, England. A writer of fictional short stories in a wide range of genres, he has been a non-fiction writer since the 1980s. Non-fiction subjects include art, history, technology, business, law, and the human condition.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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