"So, tell me, Silas, how did this 'Mr. Kyle' teach you to read?"
Silas, a sweet-faced boy of nine years, told me about Kyle's visit about two years ago, when Fern's son decided to do some research for a class lecture. He wanted to present to his class a realistic portrait of life on a southern plantation during those turbulent years prior to secession. Kyle posed as a 'friend' of Charles Woodbridge, and claimed he knew Charles from college. Of course, Charles, being somewhat the dim sort, thought nothing of it as he wholeheartedly wined and dined Kyle Grigsby -- a man from the 21st Century at that. What Charles didn't know was that this new 'friend' was secretly teaching the slave children to read and Silas was one of them.
I recalled Kyle's first impressions upon his return from 19th Century Tennessee. "Nisha, it's no wonder so many slaves tried to escape that place. It was sheer Hell. Teaching Silas to read was risky in the extreme."
Yes, imparting such knowledge to slaves was not only forbidden by the slaveowners; it was illegal in nearly every slave state. In wake of slave revolts and armed raids, codes were enacted -- codes that further restricted a slave's movements. No slave was to be out and about without a traveling pass, and no slave was to learn how to read and write. It was even illegal for a white to teach a slave to read.
That's what Silas told me when I caught him earlier that day. "Mama don't know I can read. See?" He indicated a secret place underneath my bed: a loose floorboard at that. "I hide my books down in here," Silas whispered to me as he showed me a neat little stack of books of all kinds. There were novels, a book of speeches, a hymnbook, as well as that battered Bible. Discovering that place gave me an idea.
After Silas left, I took out both pager and bracelet, wrapped both in a white handkerchief, then hid the precious bundle amongst Silas' secret stash. Not to worry, Silas, you're secret's safe with me.
But something kept nagging at me. Where was Charles? When was this 'special initiation'? And where was Claude Frollo? Earlier, after I discovered Silas' true identity, Iggy told me that Claude was literally yet secretly seething after he had personally witnessed my flogging courtesy of Corabeth and Charles Woodbridge. "Believe me, Nisha. His Honor wanted to kill those two on the spot, but he told me that the escape must go on like clockwork. He told Jeremiah to get this escape underway tonight!"
Tonight! Maybe seeing my sufferings spurred Claude Frollo to speed up my rescue. My time was precious as a very drunk and determined Charles Woodbridge was presently planning my 'initiation'. Wasting no time, I took out my pager and risked sending a desperate message:
Honey, I'm out in the slave quarters...Iggy knows which one...I'm sorry you had to witness all that this afternoon...I don't know how much more I can take...Baby, please...Charles has vowed he'd 'teach this black wench a lesson'. Claude, he's killed before...the girl before me, Hattie...Charles brutally raped, then battered that girl to death...I'm scared Claude...I'm really scared!
Within seconds, a response:
M. Jeremiah Smiley and I are presently on our way. Believe me that my heart nearly broke when that unholy monster and that damned siren beat and humiliated you. At that point, what could I have done? I cherish you so, Danisha. Your courage and strength under fire has further deepened my love and devotion for you. You are by far more of a lady than that cursed Mlle. Woodbridge shall ever be. Your sufferings shall end, dear one. I promise to make all this up to you in due time. Soyez courageux, mon cherie!
My Claude...my 'sugarbritches'...
Even in the face of uncertainty he's never failed to cheer me on with those words: Soyez courageux, mon cherie! His ever strengthening love, his steadfast devotion, that tight bond and firm foundation, will be put to the test within the hour. As I hastily returned my pager to its hiding place, Charles Woodbridge was making tracks toward the slave quarters.
"Nancy, Nancy...I'm surely looking forward to passing a pleasant evening.
Now...Don't get stupid on me, like that other girl."
Later that evening, when things quieted down for the evening, Charles Woodbridge decided he needed 'some air'. Like hell he does! I know what he's here after...
Ever since that afternoon, I was banned from the main house; Matilda
had dispatched Silas with warning of Charles' journey down to the slave
quarters. Ugh! How disgustingly drunk he was. Charles Woodbridge was a
handsome man, but arrogant and cruel. His abundant blond hair curled up
slightly around his ears, giving the impression of an ante-bellum satyr.
His eyes were almost like his sister's -- a cold pale blue -- no warmth,
Charles, whiskey bottle in hand, sauntered into the cabin as he eyed me up and down. I'm no fool; I knew what the man was thinking. All I could do was try to stall for time with some small talk, and maybe a few words of apology.
"Mistuh Charlie, suh," I began, my voice trembled as I perfected that 'old slave' dialect, "Ah's awful sorry, suh, 'bout dis af'noon, suh."
Charles took another swig of whiskey then plopped down on the bed. His
eyes seemed to eat right through my clothes. He finally spoke, slurring
his words, "My dear Nancy, you finally get around to apologizing -- Slut!
You foul black slut!" Charles' temper flared as he hurled accusations at
me. "I saw you, looking at Mr. Frollo -- And I saw the way he looked at
He arose from the bed, grabbed me by the shoulders, and shook me. I nearly choked from the strong odor of whiskey. "Yes, I saw the way you carried on around my guest -- Sashaying yourself, giving him the eye...And he...Well, Nancy. I just might let that Frenchman have his way with you, after I've had mine. But I'm sure a fine upstanding man like Mr. Frollo doesn't relish sloppy seconds!"
And with that, Charles had me in a hammerlock; I couldn't break away if I could! I could feel his lips upon me; his tongue trying to force its way between my clenched teeth. I don't know what came over me, but a flood of memories flashed before me. There were Malus and another man accosting me in a dark Paris alley...BC Bell taunting me with death to the man I truly loved...Two men who held Iggy and me hostage. Oh God, Charles means it! He's actually going to rape me! That preservation instinct kicked in as I felt my knee jab against Charles groin. The scion of Woodbridge Landing gasped in shock as he suddenly released me, then stumbled back yowling in pain.
Acting swiftly, I ran towards the door; I actually had the latch string undone when suddenly I felt hands upon me. Charles cursed and damned me as he locked his arms around me again. He hurled me to the floor, pinning me down under the weight of his body. I felt blow after blow as Charles repeatedly slapped my face. Funny, but I don't even remember screaming. All I remember is sending frantic telepathic messages to Claude Frollo. Claude! Claude! Where are you? I need you here -- NOW!
Suddenly Charles' hands found their way under my skirt. He actually began to caress my thighs in the roughest way. All I wanted was for Claude Frollo to come through that door and end this. It was Claude Frollo -- a man who had earned a reputation for cruelty, but never once raised a hand to me -- who I really loved and wanted. No other man had ever touched me since Claude -- I wanted no other man since Claude. I never had to fight off Claude Frollo for he never allowed himself to behave in such an ungentlemanly manner. Now Charles, on the other hand, was a man of a different time and culture. In his mind I was inferior and was placed upon this earth to serve and please my 'superiors'. I was to lay back and accept the inevitable, forget all about my humanity, because in Charles' eyes I was of less worth than his horses or dogs. Claude Frollo saw me as a lady, even once said that I had the bearing of royalty. Charles saw me as 'Miss Loosey', an overheated black harlot fit for just one thing. He's never getting what he thinks...and if I had to fight off Charles Woodbridge and get killed in the end, well...
I felt my dress being ripped off my body.
Charles' tongue and hands were everywhere while I continued to flail
away at him. His very words were meant to break my spirit, my grit. No
"Damn black...! I'll teach you to sass me! That's what got Hattie killed...She didn't know how to keep her place!"
Now was the moment of truth: Charles was within seconds of finally conquering me. I felt the sudden hardness as he forced my thighs apart. Jesus, help me! Where's Claude? Where's...?
I felt Charles' teeth upon my breast; he actually drew blood. Any time now...Charles Woodbridge will have me...
Suddenly, Charles' body heaved as if someone had hit him from behind.
He released me, and got up to face his assailant. All I heard as I scrambled
to my feet was Charles' voice: "Why, sir, I believe you'll have to
wait your turn."
Then I heard stabbing sounds, followed by Charles' gasps and moans. What is happening? Can't see too good...Why...? Claude...! Claude Frollo, why are you...?
The sight that greeted me as I finally focused on my 'rescuer' -- I couldn't believe this! Claude Frollo, the 15th Century magistrate, was stabbing Charles Woodbridge to death! And Claude seemed to take a peculiar delight as he worked the dagger deep within Charles' vitals -- Claude was actually smiling with evil glee!
Charles looked at Claude in amazement, coughed up blood and bile, then breathed his last before he slumped to the floor.
Claude Frollo rushed to me, flung his arms around me, saying, "My Nisha,
my darling!" He nearly broke down as he held me tightly for what
seemed like hours. Then he released me, and said that, "We need to hurry
before they discover Charles is dead."
Although I was relieved Claude rescued me from a brutal sexual assault, I didn't understand. Why would a 15th Century man kill a 19th Century...?
"Claude Frollo," I said as I lifted both pager and bracelet from their
hiding place, "you know very well about 'Changing outcomes'!" He
only smiled and said as he loaded Silas' books into a burlap sack, "I shall
explain it all later, my love. Right now, we need to hurry..."
We were safely aboard a northbound flatboat that would soon take us into Kentucky. From there, we -- Claude, Iggy, Cissy, and I -- would soon depart while our 1859 companions continued their journey to freedom. But there were nagging questions: When will they discover Charles' body? How will this impact the future of those slaves still at Woodbridge Landing? And why did Claude Frollo kill the man at all?
"My dear," said Claude as he gently draped his black cloak around my
shoulders, "I believe Lili can explain that." Lili...He never calls
my friends or family by their nicknames, except, of course...
Cissy McMullen recounted the true fate of Charles Woodbridge. "Danisha, when Charles tried to assault you, you would have been the latest in a long string of slave women he brutalized. One of those women was Hattie. You see, after Hattie died, Caleb indeed bought a new girl to look after his daughter. But Charles, being of the mind that Black women were solely for the purpose of..."
I finished that phrase with tinge of disgust, "...our sole purpose is to serve and pleasure our 'superiors'."
Cissy continued, "Anyway, with a new girl about to receive Charles' special 'welcoming gift', Matilda wasn't about to see another woman degraded at Charles' hand. So..."
Iggy and Claude saw this coming; Claude finished, "The houseman, Josiah, killed Charles Woodbridge -- Almost in the same manner as Jules killed Malus.."
I nodded, "Bashed him in the head with a shovel."
Claude Frollo had ended Charles Woodbridge's life, thus saving Josiah from the harshest of tortures. It was Claude who insisted that Jeremiah Smiley's escape plan be pushed up one day, or else Josiah would've been a dead man. His Grace explained, "The family, once Charles' body was discovered, hanged Josiah on the spot, but not after they made the old man suffer the worst tortures...Why, what they did to Josiah rivaled that of my own..." He stopped then continued, "...and Matilda..."
He turned to look at me, then, "Darling, Caleb Woodbridge would sell Matilda to another planter, but not after he...Danisha, he had that old woman beaten so badly..." Claude then finally said, "I had no idea your American slave system was so brutal, so..."
He clung to me as if I was all he had left in the world. I felt his lips upon mine; his arms protectively enfolded my body. Oh Claude..I love you...You actually killed a man just to save me, and others...You never did that before...I don't quite know what to say...
Then I thought of Silas, who was presently peering out from under an old blanket. His eyes widened when he espied Claude Frollo kissing me, and I didn't fight back. Claude and I detected this boy, then bent down to say to him, "Silas, this man loves me despite my color. Men like Mister Charles only want to abuse us womenfolk. Mr. Claude here is an honorable man -- We've known each other for years."
Silas only nodded then said, "But Nancy...Why did this man kill Mistuh Charlie?" Claude Frollo interrupted with, "My boy, I did what I had to do...I had to save Mlle...er...Miss Danisha's life."
"Miss Danisha? I thought your name was Nancy!" The poor kid was so confused that I whispered to Claude, "Maybe we shouldn't tell him everything; after all, this boy has to grow up in Illinois, then marry and have kids..."
Many an hour passed as we tried to explain to Silas that we were here
only to find a wanted man. "And that," I finally said, "is why we're here. You
see, Silas, that Frenchman who sold me is a very bad man."
"Like Mistuh Charlie?", asked Silas.
"In a way, Silas, but this man..."
Claude Frollo interrupted me as the boat docked just north of the border; he obviously didn't want me to tell Silas everything. From here we would make our exit to yet another time period. And Silas and company? It would be a perilous journey as they found themselves camped out in caves and abandoned barns. Weeks would pass before they would finally reach Illinois and Indiana. In time, Jeremiah Smiley would return to Tennessee, sell his farm, then move on to another slave state to continue his mission-- Jeremiah said he was heading for Maryland this time.
On the banks of the Cumberland, as we said our goodbyes, Silas got a glimpse of my transtemporal device. He then saw Claude synchronizing his; the boy was even more confused. "Mistuh Claude, what is that thing?"
The medieval magistrate's last words to Silas were, "Take care of your family, young Silas, and study hard. Tell your children that you had the rare opportunity to glimpse into your past, and your future."
"Huh?", said Silas, scratching his head in puzzlement. Before long, the four of us -- Iggy, Cissy, Claude, and me -- soon vanished in a sea of white light. I wondered what Silas and the others thought when they saw that!
All I remember was hearing Josiah and Matilda exclaim as we faded into
a time warp, "Lord be praised! Them folks was angels! See that, Silas?
That's the Light of the Lord! We's sure 'nough goin' to the Land o'
END OF BOOK THREE
Wendell relates the facts concerning 'Le Chameleon"...Claude Frollo acquaints himself with the 'Swing' era...One of Claude's ladies takes to the airwaves...
Where's Marcel Rougleot? Getting a job!
Go To Transition 2!
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