Marietta, Hester and Educated Slaves

Image by Trevillion

“What has captured your interest?” Mrs. Livingston asked her son. “You’ve been staring out of that window for the longest while.”

“It’s a beautiful day,” Frederick replied. “I’m thinking of going for a walk in the park.”

“Sounds like a good idea. I wish I could go with you but I’m expecting a visit from Mrs. Moore. You remember her.”

“Yes, I do. Her husband is a miner.”


“And I believe they have two daughters and a son.”

“Yes, they do. As I recall both of their daughters were sweet on you.”

“I don’t recall that,” Frederick replied, distracted. His gaze was fixed on Hester as she stood there in the garden, still as a portrait. He was tempted to join her.

“Dinner with the Whitlocks went rather well, don’t you think?” Mrs. Livingston remarked.

“Yes, it did.”

“Where did Marietta and you disappear to after dinner?”

Image by Trevillion

“We went to the study. I showed her the book of poetry by William Cowper which I had purchased in England. I recited my favorite poem to her and lent her the book. She loves poetry too.”

“I think her sisters were green with envy when they realized that the two of you were missing.”

Just then, the butler arrived to inform Frederick that he had a visitor.

“A visitor?” Frederick inquired.

“Yes, Master Frederick. Miss Marietta Whitlock.”

The lady in question suddenly appeared. “Good afternoon, Freddy,” she said brightly. Then, her eyes shifted to Mrs. Livingston. “Good afternoon, Ma’am.”

“Good afternoon, Marietta. This is a pleasant surprise.”

“I thought it was too lovely a day to remain indoors. Besides, I wanted to return Freddy’s book of poetry.” She held it out to him. “I finished reading it this morning. I can see why he was Jane Austen’s favorite poet.”

Frederick took the book from her. “Which was your favorite poem?”

“The one about the mother raven.”

“Ah, yes, A Fable. That’s my mother’s favorite too.”

“Since it’s such a lovely day, why don’t you two enjoy it by taking a turn in the garden?” Mrs. wondered with a smile.

“My, what a perfectly good idea,” Marietta said. She looked at Frederick. “Shall we?”

“Yes.” He placed the book on top of a table.

“I hope you will stay and have tea with us, Marietta.”

“I would be delighted, Ma’am.”

The two young people left the drawing-room. Hester wasn’t in the garden when they got there and Frederick was extremely disappointed. Last night, just before the Whitlocks arrived for dinner, he went into the library to replace a book back on the shelf when Hester walked in. She was carrying a vase of flowers. Frederick watched as she set it on top of the desk.

“These de flowers yo asked me to put in here, Master Frederick.”

Frederick stared at her averted face. “Thank you, Hester.”

“I hope Miss Marietta likes ’em.”

“I’m sure she will.”

She curtsied and then, quickly left the room. Frederick had stood there for a while, exceedingly disconcerted by his reaction to her. He could tell that his face was flushed and his heart was pounding wildly. What was the matter with him? Why did Hester have such a potent effect on him?

“Penny for your thoughts.” Marietta’s voice interrupted his thoughts. She was staring at him. She was a very pretty picture in her fancy hat and dress. Yet, she didn’t make his heart beat faster or his face flush.

“I was thinking about last night.”

“What in particular were you thinking about?”

“Just that it was very nice having dinner with your family. I think everyone had a pleasant time, don’t you?”

“Yes, we did but my sisters were miffed when you and I wandered off.”

“Well, we didn’t exactly wander off. We went to the library.”

“Yes, and as I sat there breathing in the sweet fragrance of the one of flowers which I took from the vase on the desk, you recited a poem to me. You’re the only man who has ever done that. All the other men I’ve been acquainted with don’t appreciate the beauty and emotion expressed in poetry. Most of them don’t read and those who do, their choice of literature is questionable.”

“I wonder what sort of books slaves would enjoy if they could read.”

“Thankfully, we’ll never know because it is a crime to teach them to read and write.”

iStock Image

“Not all states have passed laws against teaching slaves to read and write.”

“Maryland, Kentucky, and Tennessee are the exception which I think is foolish because an educated slave can be very dangerous. They pose a serious threat to our way of life.”

“Still it must be hard not to be able to read and write. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be illiterate.”

“Well, education is for Whites not Negroes. Besides, slaves don’t have to know how to read or write to do their chores.”

Frederick thought of Hester. He knew that if he were in her place, he would want to read and write. He couldn’t accept that education was just for whites only. The Bible didn’t teach that. And the first slaves weren’t blacks but Jews and their slavers were Egyptians who were black. And what about the Ethiopian eunuch who was the servant of a black queen? He was reading the book of Isaiah when the evangelist Philip met him. Slavery wasn’t instituted by God. It was men who enslaved men. “I wonder what would happen to a white person who taught a slave how to read and write.”

“He or she would have to pay a hefty fine of 200 dollars.”

“And what happened if a slave was caught reading?”

“If a slave was caught teaching another slave how to read, he or she would be fined, imprisoned or whipped. The slaves would be guilty of the crime of literacy and would be beaten and in some instances, have their fingers and toes cut off.”

Frederick was appalled. “Slaves having their limbs cut off for learning how to read and write–isn’t that rather extreme?”

“Their owners don’t think so. Could we talk about something else? I find this topic very disagreeable.”

“All right, we’ll talk about something else.” At the back of him mind, he was wondering if it would be wise for him to reach Hester how to read and write. It would certainly give him an excuse to spend time with her. Of course, he would have to be careful that no one found out. It wasn’t paying the fine which concerned him. It was what would happen to Hester if she were caught reading. For her sake, he had to abandon the idea.

Sources: Poem Hunter; Thirteen; The Healthy Journal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.