Frederick was out in the garden. It was late in the afternoon and the weather was nice and cool. In about two hours the Whitlocks would be arriving at Cherryville to have dinner with the Livingstons. Mr. and Mrs. Whitlock was a very nice couple. They had three daughters–Scarlet, Marietta and Veda. Scarlet, the eldest was the prettiest one, Marietta was the smart one and Veda was the accomplished one.
They were all very pleasant girls but rather competitive. Whenever they visited Cherryville, they vied for Frederick’s attention. Of the three, he enjoyed Marietta’s company the most because they had similar tastes in Literature, Music and Art.
After dinner, Marietta and he would withdraw to the study where he would show her the book of poetry by William Cowper which he brought back from England. She would get a kick out of it because William Cowper was Jane Austen’s favorite poet and Jane Austen was Marietta’s favorite writer. He had read all of the poems in one sitting and after some consideration, he decided that The Nightingale And Glow-Worm was the poem he liked best. He would recite it to Marietta and then, lend her the book and the next time they saw each other, she would tell him which poems she liked best.
Smiling, he rose to his feet. He would go to his room and relax there until it was time to get ready for dinner. Whistling, he made his way to the side of the house and stopped abruptly when he saw Hester. Immediately, his heartbeat accelerated. It always did whenever he saw her. The first time it happened was when he met her and it startled him then. His reaction to her unnerved him then as it did presently.
What should he do? Say hello to her and then, depart or should he stay and talk to her for a while? This would be the first time that he would be completely alone with her.
He approached her. “Good afternoon, Hester,” he muttered after clearing his throat.
“Good afternoon, Master Frederick.”
“My parents and I are expecting the Whitlocks for dinner this evening.”
“Yes, Master Frederick. The Mistress tole me. I was just on ma way to pick some fresh flowers fo de drawing-room.” That was when he noticed the basket in her hand.
“Yes, I expect they will be spending the evening in the drawing-room after dinner. Could you put some in the library too? Miss Marietta and I will be in there.”
“Yes, Master Frederick.”
He tried not to stare but she was an attractive woman, most likely in her mid-thirties. Her skin was smooth and flawless. Was it soft to the touch? He felt his face grow hot and abruptly, he excused himself and walked away.
Hester set the basket down and fixed her shawl. Mrs. Livingston had given it to her. She was a very nice and kind lady who treated her and the other servants well. Mr. Livingston was stern but not cruel or harsh towards them. Frederick was friendly to them and they all liked him. Hester feared that she liked him too much.
She had to remember her place. She was a slave and he was the son of slaveowners. She was black and he was white. He was going to marry one day and run this plantation.
Yes, the Mistress had mentioned that the Whitlocks were coming to dinner that evening. She also mentioned that the three lovely Misses Whitlocks were competing for Frederick’s affections. Frederick had mentioned one of them in particular–Miss Marietta. Perhaps, she was the one who had won his favor. Perhaps she was going to be the next mistress of Cherryville. And what would become of me? Lord Jesus, I hope they set me free. I don’t want to be sold again.
Hester bent over and picked up the basket. She headed for the garden.
Source: Poem Hunter