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An excerpt from my Work-in-Progress

Fan Fiction Sequel:

The Mortification of Marie St. Clare
Miss Ophelias Final Effort to Save Tom
By Patricia Backora
Disclaimer: All characters and conflicts in the forthcoming sequel hae
!een !orro"ed from or inspired !y
#arriet Beecher Sto"e$s noel Uncle Toms Cabin
After such a splendid !reakfast% &arie "ondered if &ammy should
hae presided oer the kitchen all these years' &arie% "hose fanciful
ailments made her aerse to eating much% "as so delighted "ith
&ammy$s !iscuits she$d en(oyed three "ith her eggs' She "iped her
mouth and sipped some fine coffee "ith Alfred and &iss )phelia'
Alfred tired of &arie$s ain chatter and !egged to !e excused'
Bo"ing to the ladies% he said% *+$m loath to leae such stimulating
company% !ut !usiness calls' + shall return a!out noon',
&arie rang for &ammy to clear the ta!le% then retired "ith &iss
)phelia to the great parlor% "here the morning sun softened the oaken
austerity of floor-to-ceiling sheles holding dusty old tomes and rare
artifacts' &iss )phelia resumed her eternal knitting "hile &arie rested
on her dian% taking rare interest in a !ook and remarking on an
a!sor!ing story' Finding &arie in ery rare good spirits% &iss )phelia
reflected that the odd ray of sunshine !ursting through the dark clouds
must !e taken adantage of "hile it lasted' Surely nothing could !e
lost !y making one final desperate appeal'
*For the loe of heaen% &arie% for the sake of simple -hristian
charity% + !eg you to take pity on .om',
*Why should + sho" him any faoritism% more than all the rest/,
&arie sniffed'
With 0ankee forthrightness% &iss )phelia said% *Because 1a "ould
hae passed a"ay much sooner if it hadn$t !een for .om2,
&arie tossed her haughty head and "aed her silk handkerchief'
*Stuff and nonsense2 1a "as of a delicate constitution% though not so
fragile as my o"n frame' 1a "asn$t long for this "orld any"ay% for
that second-rate doctor St' -lare insisted on summoning lacked the
competence to cure her ailing lungs' So no" you$re telling me%
)phelia% that all those trash trinkets .om "hittled out of ru!!ish% and
all his &ethodist cater"auling% kept 1a "ith us (ust a !it longer/,
*3uite possi!ly they did' 1ery additional moment "ith that dear
child "as so precious% .om$s selfless deotion to her merits his li!erty a
thousand times oer'
*.here$s more you need to kno"%, &iss )phelia !oldly said' She
paced the floor% regretting she must no" !etray a confidence'
*We "anted to spare you this kno"ledge% &arie% for "e "ere all
fully a"are of your nerous disposition' Augustine asked 1a% .om and
myself to promise neer to reeal a certain misadenture to you' )n
our return from 4ermont% 1a suffered a mishap' She and her father
"ere standing on the guards !y the railings "hen the ship made a
sudden lurch% causing 1a to lose her !alance and tum!le oer!oard
into the rier' .om happened to !e on one of the lo"er decks' #e
"itnessed her fall and leapt into the "ater after her' 5ot only did .om
hold 1a$s head a!oe "ater% he s"am her !ack to safety !efore she
drifted to"ard the churning paddle "heels' .om is a hero and should
!e treated as such% regardless of his race',
A long silence' &arie% a !it dro"sy from her "ine% dra"led% *Were
you actually standing on deck to witness this purported mishap/,
*5o% &arie% + "as knitting in my ca!in at the time' But + did see
1a carried do"n the corridor all dripping "et from falling in',
*Did Augustine see "hat happened/,
*0es% &arie% he "as standing !eside 1a "hen she fell into the
"ater and he sa" .om (ump oer!oard to rescue her',
*So all you had "as 1a$s and Augustine$s "ord for it% !ut of course
they aren$t here to ouch for your ersion of eents' With the white
eye"itnesses dead% no court of la" "ould !e a!le to determine !eyond
a shado" of a dou!t that .om lengthened the life of my child',
&iss )phelia sighed' *.hen +$ll produce a fe" names of white
people "ho "ere there at the time "atching the rescue% (ust so you$ll
kno" +$m not making all this up to sae .om' + met some delightful
-hristian acquaintances on that (ourney% &arie' + could "rite6,
*#ush% )phelia% let sleeping dogs lie' +$ll take your "ord for it'
#eaen kno"s there$s not a dishonest !one in your 0ankee !ody6or in
.om$s !lack !ody',
*So you admit it$s plausi!le that .om did sae 1a$s life/,
*&ost likely he did%, &arie said% her oice as dro"sy as a soft
!ree7e through the treetops'
*.hen reward .om2, &iss )phelia !reathed'
*What re"ard/ .om already got his re"ard "hen St' -lare !ought
him and gae him the !est home any !lack man could ask for',
*But no" .om is in danger of !eing resold to a cruel master' #is
fate is uncertain% and his safety is hanging in the !alance',
*Pooh2, &arie mocked' *We lie in a fallen "orld' 8od doesn$t
promise any of #is creatures happiness in it% least of all me'
Everybodys fate is uncertain% "hether they$re slae or free' St' -lare
discoered that sad fact for himself% to his great detriment' +t$s his
fault +$m a grieing "ido" at such a tender age' Such a rash%
inconsiderate fool% interfering in a drunken !ra"l that didn$t concern
him' Such a sore trial to !efall me so early in life',
*&arie%, remonstrated &iss )phelia "ith a disapproing fro"n%
*are you so in need of money that you$re prepared to sell your
daughter$s o"n saior do"nrier/,
&arie pretended not to understand' *Saior/ )h% my "ord% )phelia%
didn$t you tell me you$re a deout &ethodist/ For all your pretensions
to superior piety% don$t you reali7e "ho the Saior is/ Surely you
aren$t !esto"ing the sacred title of the 9ord :esus -hrist upon an
ignorant !lack slae% een if he does "aste precious "ork time singing
silly hymns' Such heresy% calling .om a saior% did any!ody eer hear
such a thing2, She fell !ack laughing'
*&y dictionary defines a saior as ;one that saes$% &iss )phelia
said' Some!ody "ho !akes is a !aker' Some!ody "ho dries is a
drier' Some!ody "ho !uilds is a !uilder' Some!ody "ho saes is a
saior' .om saed 1a from certain death !y dro"ning' .herefore% it
"ould !e (ust as "icked to sell .om for money as it "as for turncoat
:udas to sell :esus for thirty pieces of siler' +f you possess any
modicum of a conscience% &arie% you "ill% !efore the trader arries
today% "rite out a traeling pass so .om can go home to his loed
ones% and then finali7e the steps Augustine took to set him free' +$ll
pay .om$s steam!oat fare' +f you repay .om$s goodness "ith eil%
nothing !ut misery can !efall you% as Proer!s <=:<> "arns' 8od% the
righteous :udge of all men% "ill surely require it of you% and the
harest you reap for your treachery may !e ery !itter indeed',
*5o% 8od wont require it of me2, &arie "ailed% rising from her
laender-scented settee to "ag her slender finger in &iss )phelia$s
face' *1en if .om did (ump in after 1a% any loyal dog "ould hae
done as much2,
*But Tom is a man, not a dog!, &iss )phelia said tersely' *And don$t
use .om$s !lack color to "hite"ash your sin2 +sn$t a French Poodle
"hite/ 0ou "ouldn$t use that excuse to call me a dog2 #o" dare you
make such a comparison2,
*5onsense2, &arie said% haughtily' *8od made man in #is o"n
image% so ho" can !lack folks !e fully human/ :esus is 8od% and
eeryone kno"s :esus "as "hite as !uttermilk' :ust look at #is
picture in 1a$s room and you$ll see "hat delicate artistry "ent into
portraying #is glorious diinity' :esus had !lue eyes and golden !ro"n
hair' :esus$ peaches and cream complexion glo"s "ith glory as #e
!lesses the little children',
&iss )phelia let out a long moan at such "illful ignorance' #er
solid% saintly soul hated prideful !oasting% !ut she must resort to any
legitimate means to persuade this cruel lady to do "hat "as right'
*&arie% +$e !een "ith you for many long months' 5o" you$ll hae
to admit +$e "orked "onders here' ?pon my arrial + found Dinah$s
kitchen so disorderly it looked like a "hirl"ind had demolished it' By
the time +$d finished instructing Dinah in the rudiments of !asic kitchen
hygiene% and rearranged all the scattered !its and pieces% and cleaned
up her chaos% a miracle of Bi!lical proportions had occurred'
Augustine aailed himself of my expertise in household management%
to spare you the trou!le of undertaking such a heay !urden yourself'
+ performed this daunting task out of compassion for you and your
family' 5ot !ecause + sought any financial renumeration' + receied
room and !oard% plus a small allo"ance from Augustine% for personal
necessities' But + neer asked more than that' 0ou$ll hae to admit%
&arie% that had Augustine engaged the serices of a professional
household efficiency expert% it "ould hae cost him much more',
Petulantly &arie s"atted at a pesky fly "ith her oriental peacock
fan' *So "hat more do you "ant of me% )phelia/ Everybody makes
incessant demands on me2,
*+ ask only .om$s li!erty' When + earlier told you this "as
Augustine$s intention and 1a$s last dying "ish% you "ere too ill to
listen' 5o" that + hae your attention% let me make you a !usiness
proposition' 9et .om accompany me home to 4ermont' #ire him out%
so to speak% as many other slae o"ners do' A certain family friend% a
&r' @ogers% o"ns a lum!er mill' #e has% in times past% hired men of
other races' #e is an industrious -hristian man "ho lies the 8ospel
in acts of charity and kindness' +$m sure &r' @ogers "ould !e happy to
hire such a pious% hard-"orking soul as .om' .om could send you
money in regular installments to pay for his freedom% and you could
mail me !ack signed receipts' Augustine did mention he paid thirteen
hundred dollars for .om% !ut you "ould get eery penny !ack for him'
)n my honor% &arie% +$d neer take undue adantage of your kindly
nature' Please do this% if only out of gratitude for all +$e done here',
*Prices hae gone up%, &arie said% coldly' *&ake it fifteen hundred
and +$ll reconsider',
&iss )phelia% eer practical and prudent% mareled at the
desperate measures she found herself taking to secure .om$s freedom'
#altingly% she said% *+f you insist upon fifteen hundred% then it must !e
so' We$ll raise the money someho"',
&arie loudly rang her !ell' &ammy% eyes reddened "ith "eariness
from "aiting on the la7y lady night and day% ran as fast as she could'
*0es% &iss &arie/, @emem!ering the fate of poor @osa% &ammy
struggled to appear cheerful and conceal her true sentiments'
*&ammy% go fetch .om at once' +t$s urgent' When you$re !ack%
dust all my china figurines !efore packing them into the moing
trunks% after "hich you may clear a"ay the !reakfast dishes and tidy
the kitchen !efore you prepare our dinner',
*0es &iss &arie%, said &ammy% "ho felt like crying as she pondered
"hat "ould !e the sad destiny of her fello" serants'
&iss )phelia could !arely !reathe from the suspense' &arie had
ignored her earlier pleas to set .om free' -ould there yet !e a faint
glimmer of hope that this precious soul might receie a last-minute
repriee from the cruel slae trader/
Standing !efore &arie% hat in hand% .om told his mistress the entire
story as he had lied it' #is account spared no details of the danger
&iss 1a had faced from the perils of the churning paddle "heels in
the choppy rier% or the difficulty he had in fighting the current to
rescue the little girl from certain doom'
Breathless silence' &arie !o"ed her head% da!!ed at her eye "ith
her handkerchief' She coughed% forced her face to dignified
composure' *.om% is your trunk packed yet/,
*0es% &issis%, .om sighed% cautious a!out expecting too much'
*Be sure all your !elongings are ready to go' .hank 8od you saed
&iss 1a so that dear child could !e "ith us a little longer' + al"ays
re"ard faithfulness and deotion to duty',
#er lips spread in a ery rare smile' *.om% +$e got a "onderful
surprise for you' 0ou$re a!out to leae on a ery long !oat trip',
.om felt like shouting hallelu(ah to the skies' But he must retain
his composure' #is fickle mistress had neer !efore acted so
!eneolent' #er moods changed like the "eather% and she could still
change her mind' 1yes lo"ered% he nodded and said% *0es% &issis',
:auntily &arie "aed him a"ay' .om could scarcely restrain his
feet from dancing for (oy' Surely he "ould see his loed ones again'
.o all appearances% his prayers had !een ans"ered2 0et his rapturous
delight "as restrained !y the reali7ation that people he cared a!out%
Adolph and seeral other souls% "ould !e sold at auction and there "as
nothing he could do to sae them'
)nce .om "as out of earshot &iss )phelia smiled (oyously and
!reathed% *So you$e seen the light% &arie% and one day .om really will
!e going home',
&arie ya"ned' *)h .om$s going home% all right% !ut it "ill !e a
new home% pro!a!ly some"here do"n the @ed @ier "here he can lie
out his days in holy usefulness in some pleasant field',
&iss )phelia "as mortified' *But you promised to reward .om !y
sending him home "ith me so he could "ork to purchase his o"n
li!erty2 #o" can you do this to him/ Such "ickedness2,
*+ promised no such thing%, &arie dra"led' *+ only said +$d
reconsider' And + did re"ard .om' 0ou sa" the (oy on his face% and +
"as responsi!le for putting it there' 9isten% cousin% + don$t let no!ody
carry off my property till they$e paid do"n their money first' For (ust
one moment let .om en(oy the delicious delusion of li!erty' :ust like +
entertain the fantasy of !eing "ell% een though +$m al"ays ailing and
no one eer takes notice of it' 9et .om luxuriate in this s"eet moment
of transitory !liss until the trader arries to !urst his !u!!le' #eaen
kno"s there$s not one single moment my own happiness hasn$t !een
oershado"ed !y some secret sorro" + must conceal in my o"n !osom
to spare others the pain of hearing a!out it',
She fanned her face and called for &ammy to dra" the shades and
open the "indo" "ider% as the air "as getting stale'

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