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Authors: Erika Robuck

Receive Me Falling (37 page)

BOOK: Receive Me Falling
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“What is it?” asked Meg as Drew sat
in the passenger side of the jeep.

           
“Drive to Eden.”

           
Meg looked back at Brian and put the
jeep into reverse. They drove by Havilla and up to the familiar gates of Eden.
 
The gate was open, so Meg drove the jeep
carefully up the drive.
 
Meg looked at
Drew with concern, and then back at the road leading to the house.
 

           
As they rounded the corner facing
the house, Meg slammed on the breaks, put the jeep in park, and jumped out of
the driver’s side.
 
The sun blazed forth
over the landscape, the birds darted between the trees lining the drive, and a
monkey scurried up a nearby palm.
 
The
fountain stood as it had been, but the house was gone.
  

 
          
Drew
and Brian got out of the jeep and joined Meg in the road.
 
They began to walk toward the site where the
house had been and now, only a pile of rubble remained.
 
The trees and plants along the drive and
around the perimeter of the house were intact.
 
Only the house had been destroyed.
 
Not one stair, chimney, or wall remained.
 
All that was left of the house lay in a heap
of torn wood and plaster.
 

           
“There have been far worse storms
than this since the construction of the house.
 
Why now?” asked Meg.

           
“There’s no sense in asking those
questions,” said Drew.
 
“It’s over.”

           
Meg walked closer and peered into
the pile of rubble.
 
Nothing recognizable
remained.

           
“The mural,” said Brian.

           
“Gwen,” said Meg.
 

           
The group walked around what was
left of the Great House for some time.
 
They poked through the debris, but were unable to find anything in
tact.
 
Meg called Gwen and David, who
came over to inspect the rubble themselves.
 
Gwen wept.
 
Not one piece of the
mural remained.
 
Morning turned into
afternoon.
 
There was nothing left to do
but go, so they took one last look at the site, and left.
 

           
That night, Meg and Brian went to
Drew’s house for dinner.
 
Hamilton was in pictures
everywhere, but Meg didn’t cry.
 
Dorothy
didn’t cry either.
 
She laughed quite a
bit, as did Drew, and they talked late into the night.
 

           
Meg and Brian packed their bags the
next day, and drove to the airport.
 
They
were both sad to go, and looked forward to their return, which they knew
wouldn’t be too far in the future.
 
As the
tiny plane lifted from the runway and circled around the island, Meg saw the
land at Eden.
  
She held Brian’s hand and looked at the land
until it disappeared in the shadow of Mount Nevis.
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

Epilogue

 
 

Meg
sat in the stiff chair in the library of the New York Historical Society.
 
She looked around her and saw a woman with
gray hair leafing through old manuals, and a young man with wire rimmed glasses
running his finger along the archives in search of some lost item.
 
She turned her attention back to the papers
in front of her.
 

           
African
Free School.

           
The collection of materials from the
African Free School
was extensive and text heavy.
 
Meg rubbed
her neck and looked at her watch.

           
3:37
.

           
She wasn’t due to meet Brian until five
o’clock for dinner.
 
He was doing a guest
lecture at NYU on
Paradise Lost &
Regained
, and Meg had accompanied him since she had resigned from her
political post three weeks ago, and had just finished signing Eden’s
settlement papers over to Drew’s nephew and his investment group from Nevis.
 
Meg had
accepted a job with the Annapolis Historical Society, and was writing a book on
slavery in the Caribbean in the late
eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Her research tracing runaway slaves
had led her to the African Free School
in New York.
   

           
The New York Historical Society held
the largest collection of archives from the school.
 
Letters, newspaper clippings, and pamphlets
comprised the bulk of the material.
 
Occasionally, and to the great interest of Meg, manuscripts and
compositions from the students, themselves, surfaced.
 

           
She knew that she would have to come
back tomorrow to finish reading everything, but wanted to stay until
4:00
.
 
She picked up the last, plastic enclosed text of the day, and as she
read, had to contain her shaking.
 
She
brought her hand to her mouth to stifle a gasp, and began to cry.
 
This is what she found.

           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
           
16
March 1834

My Story

           
I was born from my mother in 1812,
but I was born into freedom in 1831.
 
To
everyone’s knowledge I died in Nevis over a
cliff, pushed by my mistress, my sister, Catherine.
 
It was an accident.
 
Her anger caused her to strike me when she
found out the truth of my parentage, and I fell over a ledge.
 
Everyone thought I died.
 
And I let them think that.

           
When I fell, I landed on a shelf
sticking out from the cliff.
 
I suppose
that Catherine didn’t see me there because of the vines and the storm and the
darkness, but I was right there below her.
 
She could have reached out her hand and pulled me up.
 
I almost called to her when I saw her look
over, but then I realized that I had been given a gift.
 
God gave me my earthly death, so that I could
have a new life.
 

           
I was with child, and began having
pains, but I was able to pull myself back up to the top of the cliff by crawling
up the rocks and thick vines.
 
I crawled
through the lagoon nearby, and to the hut of my mother.
 
When I got there, I knew I could not go in.
 
She would not have let me go, so God forgive
me, I crawled further along until I reached Mary’s hut.
 

           
Mary was wise.
 
She knew that some things needed to be kept
secret.
 
I lost the baby that night.
 
I was not far enough along for the child to survive,
and that destroyed me, because it was a dark baby.
 
I had no part of that overseer in me after
all.
 
It was hard to stifle my weeping,
but I did, because I knew I had to.

           
Mary kept me there in secret, and at
great danger to herself, for two weeks, until I was strong enough to run
away.
 
I don’t know what she did with the
child, only that she said he was back with God.
 
When I had to go, I left at night, and traveled to the home of a Quaker
who that man James told me of, if I ever wished to go.
 

           
He and his wife hid me for four
days.
 
They cut my hair and darkened my
skin with ink.
 
They passed me to a
merchant named Richard Buxton and called me Martha, and I was to be known as
his slave as we traveled to a place called Carolina
in America.
 
It was easier than I thought since I, Leah,
was believed dead.
 
No one was searching
for me.

Mr. Buxton was a good man and I will never forget
his kindness.
 
He saw me safely to Carolina, and then up the Chesapeake Bay to Delaware.
 
Once we reached Delaware, he passed me to Mr. Thomas Garrett.
 
I feared him at first, but he delivered me
safely along with all kindness and no harm.
 

I traveled along to New York with several other helpers. I
finally arrived in the night, and was met by a small woman in her dressing gown
and a low candle.
 
Her face was that of
an angel, and she was to be my teacher, and I have been here ever since in her
care and tutorage.
 

I’m Martha now.
 
It’s hard to remember to answer to that name when others call me.
 
I still mourn for my mother, and Mary, and
Toby, and my boy, and my sister.
 
I
wonder if she’s well, and if she married that man, James, and my prayers are
with them all.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Acknowledgments

           
The fiction writer delights in manipulating the truth to
suit her purposes. On two points did I knowingly and deliberately alter the
past:

  • St. Christopher (now St. Kitts) did not put a
    hold on land purchases for plantation development.
  • The
    Thatch
    House Law
    was not enforced in the 19
    th
    century in Nevis.
     
 

To
the best of my knowledge, all other historical references are accurate. I found
these sources to be most helpful:

    • Sugar
      and Slaves
      by Richard Dunn.

·
       
Swords, Ships, and Sugar
by Vincent Hubbard

·
       
Nevis
:
 
Queen of the Caribees
by Joyce Gordon

·
       
www.encarta.msn.com

·
       
www.pbs.org

·
       
www.nevisnaturally.com

·
       
www.nevisisland.com

·
       
www.nevis1.com

·
       
www.nevis-nhcs.org

·
       
www.virtualtourist.com

·
       
http://rain-tree.com

·
       
www.golden-rock.com

·
       
www.rumshop.net

 

Many
thanks to AuthorSupport.com for the beautiful cover design.

 
 

Some
of the places mentioned in present day Nevis are
real.
 
Many thanks to the following for
allowing me the use of their good names:

·
       
Miss June’s

·
       
Scuba
Safari’s

·
       
Sunshine’s

·
       
Eddy’s Bar
and Grill

·
       
Mount Nevis
Hotel Restaurant

·
       
St. Theresa’s
Catholic Church

·
       
Museum
of Nevis
History

 

To
Eric W. Baumgartner
of
Hirschl & Adler Galleries
for his
information on the sales of Benjamin West works.

 

To
Diane Shaw of the Skillman Library at Lafayette College for granting me
permission to quote the letter from the Marquis De Lafayette to George
Washington, from the Marquis De Lafayette Manuscripts collection.

 

To
Charlene & Robert Shephard, Patricia & Richard Robuck, Alexis McKay,
Suzie McKay, Kiera Stewart, Jami Duffy, Kathy Brown, Kim Mattison, Rich Reilly,
Mary Snead, Heather Pacheco, Linda Andrus, Patrick Kiley, Kelly Robuck, Aretha
Elder-Noel, Michael Neff,
Lisa Leitholf, Cara Tracey, and many
others who read (and reread) my novel, babysat my children, housed me for
conferences, questioned my choices, gave me real feedback, and helped shape the
book into what it has become, I thank you.
 

To
Scott for all of his patience, guidance, support and (often unappreciated) good
advice; my gratitude always.

And
finally, to God for giving me a story to tell.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
BOOK: Receive Me Falling
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