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Authors: P. J. Dean

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Kindred

BOOK: Kindred
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KINDRED

 

By

 

P.J. Deed

 

 

 

 

© copyright by P.J. Deed, Feb. 2008

Cover Art by Eliza Black, Feb. 2008

ISBN 978-1-60394-131-0

New Concepts Publishing

Lake Park, GA 31636

www.newconceptspublishing.com

 

This is a work of fiction. All characters, events and places are of the author’s imagination and not to be confused with fact. Any resemblance to living persons or facts is merely coincidence.

 

 

Dedication

This book is dedicated to my maternal grandmother, Pauline Dean Johnson, and to all of the peoples in me.

 

 

Part One: The Idyll

 

Prologue

Maryland, 1760

A tobacco plantation

Shrieks and moans echoed around the clearing and into the pasture beyond. Bullets whizzing through the humid, evening primrose-scented night air, found their fleshy targets, toppling them on the spot. Fires burning out of control in the frame-and-log slave cabins roared at a deafening pitch.

“Get ’em! Afta ’em! No su’vivas!” bellowed the young, white planter to his fellow patrollers. He waved his rifle in the direction of the fleeing black woman, a little girl slung across her chest.

“Make it to dem fields en we be free!” the panic-stricken woman chanted to herself. With the mounted pursuers on her heels, she grasped her precious cargo tighter as she raced across the open pasture. She heard the crack of a shot behind her, then the distinct resonance of a bullet just passing over her head. Sweating, gasping for breath, she gained the tobacco fields. She hurled herself into tall

rows of leafy plants. Surprised by the violent jostling, the little girl howled.

“Hush, baby. Please.” The fatigued woman bundled the child closer and rocked her.

Shouts and the noise of galloping horses stilled her efforts to soothe the girl. She dropped to the ground and crouched low in the crop that she had toiled to plant. The patrollers dismounted, and led by her zealous young master marched between the rows, lanterns held high.

“Mind the flames, boys,” the young master reminded. “I want to catch ’em, but I don’t wanna lose this crop over a couple o’nigras. Take the dog in instead. He’ll bring her down.”

The woman breathed so deeply and quickly, she imagined that they heard her. One patroller and his dog passed not four feet from her. The dog looked in her direction but stayed silent. Maybe he remembered that she used to toss him scraps out the back door and scratch behind his ears. Just maybe. He and his master continued on. Gauging that her pursuers were far enough away, the woman turned around and crawled back in the other direction. She traversed the pasture again and arrived back at the slave quarters.

Jumping at every sound, she nervously scanned her surroundings for any sign of life. The cabins were engulfed in flame. The wood crackled and popped and fell in on itself. The

heat drove her back when she tried to enter her old place. Through the doorway she could see that her few belongings were now ash.

She looked around again. Bodies everywhere. Brown bodies. Slashed, hanged, shot. She gagged at the sight of the blood which soaked the ground. She wretched at the smell of burning flesh. The little girl she held was unusually quiet and immobile. She just stared.

The woman glanced up at the blackened, oak tree next to her. A black male danced in the breeze. A burlap bag over his head, she could not identify the man at first.

Then her eyes widened in horror.

“Gawd! Oh Gawd!”

She recognized the bloody shirt. She knew the craftsmanship. It was hers. And the man wearing it, was hers. It was Josiah, her

husband. Her daughter. Her daughter’s man. All gone. Her sole link to them was the grandchild in her arms. Tears half blinding her, she backed away from the tree.

She almost tripped over a small boy who’d dragged himself out from under a man and a woman. They were his parents and had succeeded in shielding him from attack. Alarmed, he wailed loudly.

“Chil’!” she whispered. “Hush up or we be daid on de spot.“

Summoning strength from an unknown source, she gathered him up, tucked him under an arm and continued on. The two children slowed her down considerably, but she would not leave them behind. She slunk past the smokehouse, the empty brick kitchen and the main house with its brightly illuminated parlor. She raised up a bit to witness the discomposed white womenfolk flitting around and fanning furiously to ward off an episode of the vapors.

“Who gwine clean yo’ fancy house now?” She said softly to herself. “Who gwine cook? Who gwine bring een dem crops? Not dis’ granny!” She kissed the tops of the young ones’ heads. “An’ not dese chillun!”

Reaching the road, she stayed in the shadow of the sycamore, wild cherry and white oak trees bordering the plantation. North. She didn’t know how to get there, but that was where they were going. God would guide them she believed. Send them an angel. Did He send angels to black folks? On a night like this, did He even know that

black folks existed? She was petrified and tired. Her arms were about to give out.

The clip-clop of horses’ hooves and the snapping of reins transported her back to the here-and-now. Falling back, she stood stock-still next to a huge oak. The children whimpered and squirmed. The wagon stopped just short of the tree. The woman

swallowed audibly. She slipped the knot on the sling supporting the little girl, never taking her eyes from the road. She let the girl and boy slide to the grass at the base of the tree.

“Seddown!,” she whispered. “Don’ y’all come out fuh nutt’n’!” She reached in her apron pocket and pulled out a small knife.

A dark-haired, white male, pistol in hand, hopped out of the wagon. He pivoted and retrieved a lit lantern from its interior. Raising it a little, he approached where the group hid.

“Come on out. Hurry up. This road’s not safe for you.” He motioned towards the wagon with his lantern. “Get in. Get under the burlap sacking. Stay down or we all will be killed.”

A giant rush of relief sped through Rozina. She recognized the man. She put away her knife, bent and collected the children.

God had sent her angel.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter One

 

Late Spring 1766

Twainhaven Hall

Near Fort Stanwix, Mohawk River Valley

“Kindred! Kindred! Come’yuh!” Rozina summoned her granddaughter from the side door of the kitchen at Twainhaven Hall. She waved her white apron fiercely to get the girl’s attention.

“Be right there!” the child answered.

The last six years had flown by, healing the mental wounds of the frightened threesome by the road, and convincing Rozina to trust at least one ‘buckruh’ or white person. She’d asked God for an angel and He’d sent one: Doctor Douglas Twain. Dr. Twain was a distant cousin of the planter who owned the plantation where Rozina had been a slave. Dr. Twain had thought the whole notion of slavery, abhorrent. He had frequently voiced his opinion loudly to his kin. He’d treated Rozina with respect whenever he’d encountered her. She’d remembered that. During his visit, the unfounded rumor of a slave uprising had circulated. Whipped into a frenzy by lurid descriptions of masters being killed in their beds, their lily-white women being ravished by big, black bucks. Dr. Twain’s host, Sebastian Oren Brainerd, had initiated and led a colonists’ attack on the slave quarters of his plantation and of others neighboring his property. No planter worried about not having enough labor to harvest their crops. New slaves arrived every day at the nearest harbor. Also, the massacre would discourage the replacements from even pondering insurrection. Rozina and her granddaughter, the only surviving members of their family, escaped, along with an orphaned boy. Dr. Twain, having had enough of his cousin, had made an early departure. He and Rozina crossed paths on that fateful night when she’d thought all was lost. The trio had taken refuge in his rig. The journey North had been arduous and dangerous. Dr. Twain did not know which had been more taxing---navigating inhospitable landscapes and rivers or steering clear of the inhospitable humans inhabiting them. Finally reaching the river, he’d bribed a ship captain to take them North. Only after they’d reached the Mohawk River Valley did Rozina relax.

Rozina found freedom and respect at Twainhaven Hall. And she was definitely what the doctor needed. In her, the unmarried Dr. Twain, found a competent and capable cook and household manager. Dr. Twain held no slaves. He paid wages to anyone who worked for him. He hailed from a wealthy family in England, who did not look upon their boy’s desire to “work” as appropriate for his status. Accustomed to mingling with the aristocracy, an excellent marksman and earmarked for “great things”, he’d left that life behind and had come to the colonies to make his way. As his doctor’s fees did not cover all his expenditures, Twainhaven Hall was a profitable farm too. The stone hall, which took two swift years to hack from a wilderness which threatened to reclaim it, was built on a rise and summoned a marvelous vista of lowland and river. Dr. Twain’s palisaded estate was half a mile from the river and a mile from the heavily mired King’s Highway.

The main house had few outward-facing windows, Dr.Twain’s chief concern there was security. The front faced south in the direction of the river. The rear faced the woods, and from the vantage point of a modest second floor Palladium window, one could oversee a compact, cobblestone courtyard. Upon entering, visitors stood in a long hallway running the depth of the house, with a massive chimney which warmed two symmetrical rooms. Flues served the upper rooms. Toward the back of the hall on the first floor was the cooking room. An attic and a cellar with a second kitchen completed the house. Several stone outbuildings surrounded the main house. The land yielded apples, pumpkins, and what the indigenous Haudenosaunee called the ‘Three Sisters’ maize, beans and squash. Anything the land could nurture, flourished at Twainhaven Hall. The irony was, that this oasis of civility and calm had sat in the midst of a bloody war. But once inside, Dr. Twain had closed out the unrest the best he could, had kept his musket handy and had retreated into his books and his garden.

Kindred, a sprightly, intelligent wisp, was now 8 years of age. She was the color of a newly minted, autumn leaf. Dressed in plain, blue, homespun and green felt waistcoat, her fuzzy, jet black braids tucked under a cotton head wrap, she knelt in the midst of the herb garden. It was her favorite place on the farm, second to the library, and was her responsibility. She and Joshua, now eleven years of age, and for all intents and purposes, her brother, could name all the plants Dr. Twain cultivated there. The garden yielded herbs for the table and for ailments.

“Lavender, clove, chamomile. And sage for tonight’s supper.” She proceeded to pick more varieties, gingerly, so as to not crush them. Some would be dried and ground into powders—some would be steeped for teas, others still, mashed for poultices and pastes. Kindred gathered her crop into her basket, rose and walked to the kitchen door.

Kindred loved this region in general, too. Because of Dr. Twain’s and the Reverend Elijah Harkness’ instruction, she and her brother knew the Mohawk River Valley like the backs of their hands. They recited the Indian place names and the names left by the early Dutch settlers. The Mohawk River, half a mile from Twainhaven Hall,

had also been a teacher. Anointed Te-non-an-at-che, “the river flowing through mountains” by the native Haudenosaunee, or Iroquois, as the French named them, she and Joshua would visit its banks often to watch the geese and the otter and everything that drew sustenance from the river. It was a route usually astir with activity, but now it had slowed due to the incessant wars. Everything vital to civilized living came up this river—foodstuffs, arms, household goods, luxury items from abroad like refined sugar, tea, coffee and sumptuous fabrics, and unfortunately humans captured during raids. A year

earlier, Dr. Twain had taken the two of them by boat, east, all the way to the falls at Cohoes, the Mohawk’s intersection with the Hudson River. They then navigated back up the river to Fort Stanwix.

Rozina thought she would die before they got back, but the children had loved it.

The trip almost did not happen. Dr. Twain had a most heated debate with the ferryman. Law dictated that no ferrymen were to transport Indians or Negroes across rivers. The ferryman was going to deny them passage until Dr. Twain explained to the man that no law would be violated. He, Kindred and Joshua were traveling
down
river and then back
up
, not
across
.

This area was home to the infamous League of the Iroquois. These six tribes formed an extended household of sorts called “The Lodge Extended Lengthwise.” These tribes ruled the Mohawk River Valley from Albany westward. The League consisted of the Mohawk, who lived the farthest east, and who were designated “Keepers of the Eastern Door of the Lodge.” The farthest west were the Seneca, the “Keepers of the Western Door.” The Onondaga, in the very middle were the “Fire Keepers” as well as the “Wampum Keepers.” Those duties made their village, Onondaga, the capital. The Grand Council held meetings there. The remaining tribes, the Oneida, the Cayuga and the absorbed Tuscarora, originally from North Carolina, dotted the residual land in the valley.

Twainhaven Hall sat right in the midst of Oneida country. The Oneida, or “People of the Standing Stone,” were so named, because the council rock that all their villages had, was the place where people congregated for ceremonies. Presently, they lived mainly at Kanowalohale, the main castle as it was called, not far from the hall.

Kindred hurried up the steps and into the kitchen. She plunked her basket on the long, pine work table.

“I picked what you needed, Gramma.”

“Dey be waitin’ on you. Git.” Rozina kissed her granddaughter on the top of her head. She then gently sifted through the herbs in the basket. “Weh de lem’n ba’m?”

BOOK: Kindred
9.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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