John Childs remembered the first time he met Mr. Harken. It was early spring in 1819, and he was working as a hand for the Overseer. John thought nothing of him and paid him little attention. To John he was just another hired hand. Although he was a white hired hand, he was still treated as such. John did not know of the harsh discipline he enjoyed when Mr. Franks left. When Mr. Franks was moved to the cotton plantation, Mr. Harken took over as Overseer.
John was now riding in the back of a carriage with his father, and Mr. Harken. The Glenwood Plantation was not doing so well the last three seasons, and was ready to sell some property. John was now eighteen, and his father wanted him to participate in the family's business. The ride lasted almost two hours. He had to listen to Mr. Harken's accounts of Cherokee attacks and how slaves should be treated. John tried his best to ignore him as he seemed to be one of those whom found fault in everything.
When the carriage finally stopped, Colby opened the door muttering about how the place looked like it was ran by a bunch of wild animals. John knew his father listened to Colby, as they grew up together. Colby was the best slave his father owned. No one really questioned how John's father treated him as a friend rather than a common slave. Colby also never made mistakes and would make sure the other slaves were in line. Although Colby never whipped anyone, his word was just as powerful as the Overseer's lash. No one dared question his loyalties, as his position often irritated Mr. Harken to no end.
The owners of the plantation greeted all of them accept Colby who stayed with the carriage. John walked with his father around the grounds and remarked how the plantation had fallen into disrepair. The big house needed a coat of paint, and the boards of the front porch were all loose. John walked towards the fields, as his father spoke with the owner on the dilapidated porch.
The easy stroll through the spring crops was nice. He noticed how the cotton fields seemed to be neglected as well. There were some slaves milling about, but no real work was being done that day. When he came to a clearing he saw a lone female slave. She was walking through a small field of wild flowers. Every few steps she would bend over to collect some. She walked towards John holding a mixed assortment of colored wildflowers. She looked to be about his age, and did not have the clothes of the field slaves. She was a petite girl, just barely clearing five feet. She must not have been a field hand, her face and hands showed no signs of it, John noticed.
When she was only a few paces off from John he could make out the sadness in her features. She was quite attractive, and the smell of the flowers she held only added to her allure. John thought she had a beauty about herself even though she walked as if she was dead to the world. Her face looked too young to be so doleful. She did manage to lift her head when she walked by him. With a slight nod upwards, she cracked the smallest of smiles before her gloomy look returned.
John finished his stroll, but could think of nothing other than the bright smile she showed him. When he got back to the big house he saw his father and Mr. Harken inspecting a group of slaves. They were all lined up as they were being poked and prodded. His father and Mr. Harken went down the line of slaves and called out prices. John knew this was his father's offer to buy them. None of the offers were of market price either. John figured his father was going to fleece the owner and probably resell the slaves he did not need. John wanted to laugh as the offers came in and were accepted by the owner.
John walked over and whispered to his father. "There was another one in the fields that looked good too. She may be a good for the house."
John then heard his father mention to the owner about the slave he saw so depressed in the field. The owner surprised John refusing his father's offer. His father was a successful planter for a reason. He knew how to handle situations, and make the best deals possible. He was a shrew negotiator and had proven it to John on many occasions, and today was one of them. John's father then offered to buy nothing and wait for the bank to hold the auction, saying that the auction prices would be much cheaper. The owner relented and nodded his head, agreeing to the low price.
John, Mr. Harken, and his father left the plantation with more slaves then they had anticipated on buying. Colby was left to bring the slaves back with the spare horse. Colby was often allowed to roam freely within the county as everyone seemed to know his freedoms. He was now in charge of the new slaves and making sure they got back to the plantation.
Mr. Harken was now the coach driver. John's father was grinning at the new stock of slaves he just got at a steal of a price. His father then told John how the other planters would not buy from him due to rumors about small pox outbreak at his plantation. His father seemed to be explaining more of the plantation's expenses as if he would someday be in charge. John simply sat back and let his father go on about what he planned to do with the new slaves, he was just happy he did not have to hear the hideous stories of Mr. Harken.
The next day John awoke to the sound of the plantation slaves gathering to see Colby ride back with the dozen new slaves. John got dressed and went to watch as Mr. Harken and Colby assigned jobs and living quarters. Then he spotted her, the girl he saw in the fields. She still had a somber look about her. She wordlessly followed Colby as he showed her the cabin she was now going to live in.
John was happy that she was given the cabins of the craftsmen and house slaves. The other slaves were taken to the field slave cabins further away from the main house. Since it was just her, she did not have to share the cabin with anyone. John had no idea when she would be sharing the cabin or if she would ever share it. He knew his father was strict about slaves moving cabins or sleeping in a place they should not.
The moment she went into her new cabin, John wanted so badly to introduce himself. Her morose disposition bothered him more than he cared to allow. To him it was a shame for such a pretty girl to be so sad. It may be the idea of a new place and the unknown had stolen her smile. John had made up his mind, he would introduce himself. Before he could talk to her, he was called off to meet his tutor.
John resented the fact his father insisted on him still having tutors come to the plantation just for him. John wanted to attend college, but his father still wanted him around the plantation. The only reason he could figure was that his father would be without any family around. His mother refused to live on the plantation until the end of the harvest season. He always laughed at her inability to handle the heat and humidity. John often tried to stay later on in the season, well after both of his parents went to the summer home.
The day seemed to drag on. Before John knew it the sun had set, and he had yet to meet the new slave. He was disappointed; he did not even know her name. When John finished his chores he was finally able to get away and walk down to the slave cabins. Holding nothing but a lantern, he made his way to the row of cabins. They were close to the house, and kept in very good condition. Although the slaves were not allowed to roam the plantation at a certain time, some were allowed if their jobs permitted. Colby often roamed around to make sure there was no issues. Slaves would rather speak with him compared to Mr. Harken.
As her cabin came into view he spotted Mr. Harken heading there as well. John's heart dropped. He could make out Harken's sinister grin in the dim glow of his lantern. John knew exactly what he was going there for. He quickened his pace to get there just before him.
When John reached her rough cut wooden door he made his inquiry to Mr. Harken. "Did not expect to see you out around here at such an hour."
Spitting out something before thinking. "Just checking up on the new niggers. Does your Pa know you're out here?"
"About the same as he knows you're out here." John shot back with a strong tone. He never spoke to Mr. Harken like that before. He just knew that Mr. Harken was going to do something wrong to the new slave.
John turned his head, ending the conversation before Mr. Harken could respond, and opened the door to the cabin. As John walked in he saw the new slave standing there at the doorway as if she knew he was going to come inside. As he stepped in to close the door, she walked to the small bed in the corner and sat down. The look on her face was that of fear, panic, and solemn resignation.
John turned his attention away from her to peer out of the small window. He smiled to himself, his little ruse worked, and Mr. Harken retreated back to his own place. When the dim light of the overseer faded in the distance he knew that he'd won a small victory.
John turned around when he heard a quiet soft voice speak. "You gonna have me?"
John didn't like the fear in her eyes as she regarded him, "I am only here so he doesn't touch you." He said to ease her fears.
"I just be figuring you get here before he did, or you be taking turns wit me."
"Nobody is going to be taking turns with you. I came here to make sure of that."
"So you going to sells me then for someone else?" She said on a sigh.
John walked over to her with his hands out in a calming gesture. "My father is not going to sell you, and Mr. Harken is not going to have you."
.... There is more of this story ...