Time in Jelly Jars (3)

Genre: Sci-fi
Word Count:1,750
Rating:10+
Summary:Lindy continues the strange tale she began in parts 1 and 2.

Previous Parts: (1) (2).

Lindy’s Tale Continues

“One afternoon, as Henry and I were hiding (in the small rough space under the wooden front porch of my father’s house) from Heather, pretending that we were fierce and bloodthirsty pirates and she was a privateer captain working under the command of the East India Trading Company, who was looking for us to reclaim the treasure we had plundered (some gingerbread we had taken from the kitchen), we heard a certain rough voice in the street. ‘The old woman in the market said she saw a strange African man in the lane behind this street less than a fortnight ago. He could still be close.’ I shushed Henry and strained to hear more, but aside from telling someone to search back behind the houses, the rough voice did not tell me anything more.

“‘That is Clement Monprix, the slave hunter come from the Carolinas,’ Henry whispered to me. ‘Father called him a worse savage than any of those he hunts.’ A wicked glint came into his eyes and he added, ‘We should see what they are doing.’ Then he was out from under the porch before I could reply, the gingerbread pirate game forgotten completely. Crawling out from under, I just saw Henry’s back running past the hedges and into his back garden. I followed as swiftly as I could. I found Henry leaning against the side wall of the stable, listening for the men in the lane behind the gardens. He put a finger to his lips to tell me to keep quiet and I saw that he thought that this was just another game to play (like gingerbread pirates and the East India Trading Company and Knights of the Round Table). I found myself wishing that I would told Henry about Jonah hidden in the cellar so that he would know that this was a matter of true worry for me. Perhaps he might be able to help me lure the slave hunters away from where Jonah was hidden, if he knew. But, now if I tell him I have runaway slave hid away in the cellar, he will take it for a part of a game.

“We hear the men coming closer in the lane, beating on the hedgerows and poking at the fences to look for gaps and hidey holes. I remembered the little nest of hay in the stable where Jonah had been harboring from the cold before I brought him into the cellar. We had left the stump of his candle and some scraps of fabric there. What if the men found it? They would know that he had been here for certain. They would look much closer around here in case he was still near. I had to keep them from searching in the Wrights’ stable.

“I was still wondering how to keep the men from the stable when the answer to the problem appeared by itself (himself, to be more exact). Henry’s father came out from the back of the house just after the slave hunters found the place between the hedges and the stable wall that opened to the lane. The men came crawling through the hole to find Mr. Wright pointing his musket at them and telling them that they best get themselves out of his garden or he would have the constable (who was Henry’s uncle) round to arrest the horse thieves he had just caught. Then he sent me home and Henry into his house, making us both promise to stay far away from those men in the future.

***

“I crept down the cellar stairs carrying a morsel of food stolen from the pantry. ‘Jonah, you here? It is me, Katie.’ He stepped out from the shadows and came to me smiling.

“‘I am still here, little miss.’ Jonah took the food from me (some cheese and a crust of bread). ‘What was all the uproar I heard outside today? Was there trouble?’ he asked, his voice rising a little above his normal soft tone.

“‘There are men looking for someone- a runaway slave, I think.’ I told him as I sat down on the bottommost step. ‘They are looking for you, I think.’

“Just then, then door to the kitchen at the top of the stairs opened. Jonah quickly and quietly stepped behind an old table that was stored leaning against on wall of the cellar (Heather had it hauled out to the back garden in the late summer so that we could take our meals outside). I looked up at the person filling the doorway at the top of the stairs. Hard light from the kitchen’s south facing kitchen windows streamed around the form, shadowing his or her face. Then, a voice called, ‘Hey Katie, I know you went down there.’ It was Henry. Relief that it was neither my father nor Heather (or any of the other adults who worked in the house) flooded through me.

“‘Henry Wright!’ I scolded him as I gathered my skirts and came up the stairs, ‘What are you doing coming into my father’s house uninvited and sneaking down to the cellar? Your father will be so very mad at you if he finds out!’ As I climbed up, Henry climbed down and we meet at the halfway point.

“Henry ducked his head down some to look around the cellar. ‘What do you do in here all morning, anyway? I know this is where you come while I am with Master Rutledge.’

“I push him back up into the kitchen. ‘I do not know why you think I am down here all the time or what you think I do here, but I do not. I do not do anything down here,’ I out and out lie to him. And, Henry is a good friend, so I should have hesitated to lie to him, but keeping Jonah safe from the slave hunters was more important, so I did not. I did not even stop to think before I lied to him and dragged him out of the kitchen to the gardens.

***

“That night, Father turned to me at the dinner table and said, ‘Now, Katherine,’ he began calling me Katherine at the same time he decided that I would have a tutor in the spring, ‘I have had a letter from your Aunt Essie in Boston. She has arranged your tutor- a young widow of her acquaintance. Her name is Mrs. Rebecca Logan. She is from a fine family. She had tutors form England in her youth. However her husband left her with little inheritance. And of course, one of the only fitting occupations for such a woman is to take a position instructing and overseeing a girl such as yourself. It is in fact her good fortune that we have need of her a just this time, for Essie informs me that her funds have run quite low. Now what do you say to that?’

“In truth, the problem of the tutor coming in the springtime was not one I had spent much time thinking on since Jonah had arrived. I was still unsure about it, but I also knew Father would not be pleased if I told him of that. ‘I am certain she will be a wonderful tutor, if Auntie Essie chose her.’

“‘Very good. She will be here within the week, if the weather holds. She is coming on the ship’s name which will be wintering in port here before setting out for England in spring.’

“‘This week, Father?’ I asked, much surprised by the timing. ‘Not in the spring?’ I was startled by the change in timing. How was I going to keep helping Jonah if I had a tutor watching over me?

“‘So much the better, that she should be here before the worse of the winter sets in. You can spend the coldest days in the noble pursuit of womanly knowledge. Why, you will be practically grown by the thaw begins.’ And, there was not a thing I could do about it being a child and a girl, as well, so I merely nodded and smiled and finished my dinner (hiding much of it in my apron to bring down to Jonah later, of course).

***

“Three days later when Henry and I were playing that I was Maid Marian and he was Robin Hood and he had to rescue me from a fierce dragon (Henry’s dog Fido) and he suddenly remembered a thing his father spoke of at dinner the evening before. ‘Monprix, the slave hunter, he caught himself a slave yesterday,’ he whispered as if it were not something we were allowed to be talking about. ‘It was an old man. Monprix beat him down hard in the street over on Carteret Street, and told the crowd that gathered that he was still looking for more.’ Then Henry lowered his voice even further and finished, ‘And that he did not have any problem with beating down any Englishman or woman who might be helping any runaways either.’

“‘Oh how terrible!’ I exclaimed, thinking about poor Jonah broken and bleeding like that.

“Then Henry said, ‘Then Uncle Archibald warned Monprix that he was the constable, not Monprix and Monprix would do well to remember that fact. Then he sent the crowd off.’ I wish I had been there to see Uncle Archibald make Monprix take heed. Father said I was lucky not to have been. He did not want me seeing such savageness at so tender an age.’ Then Henry seemed to remember that we were playing and added, ‘But he does not know that I have seen worse.’ He brandished the switch he had been using for his sword. ‘I have slain fire breathing dragons and faced down the wicked Sheriff of Nottingham and lived to tell the tale.’

“I pretended to be impressed with him as part of the game, but I soon tell him that I am tired and go inside. Perhaps I should have told him about Jonah then, since he had told me about the slave hunter and his viciousness, it would have been a good time to (especially since it was clear that Henry and his family saw the slave hunter for what he truly was- a wicked man). Still, I was afraid that even as the Wrights might not want to turn Jonah over the Monprix, they might see the need to follow the law and send him back to his owner.”

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Categories: fiction, science fiction, serial fiction | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Time in Jelly Jars (3)

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