No Longer Just the Two of Them

“How could you think of doing such a thing? I’m deeply hurt.” Florrie glared at her adopted brother, Harper. She was hurt, cut to the quick. After all these years of taking care of him and now he wanted to buy a slave woman to take her place. It was unthinkable and cruel. She fought back the tears.

“I’m sorry, Florrie. The last thing I want to do is to hurt you.”

“Then, why are you doing this? Why can’t things continue as they are? I’ve been taking care of you since Father and Mother died. We’ve been very happy, haven’t we?”

“Yes, Florrie. We’ve been very happy but I think it’s time that you had a life of your own. You should be married with your own family–“

“I don’t want to be married with my own family. You’re my family and I’m perfectly happy living here with you in the home we grew up in.”

“But, Florrie. Wouldn’t you be happier being a wife and a mother?”

“No, I would not. My happiness comes from taking care of you.”

“It isn’t right, Florrie. You’re still young and attractive. Isn’t there one man in all of Atlanta whom you could settle down with?”

“No! I don’t plan on settling down with anyone. I’m going to stay right here and continue to take care of you.”

Harper sighed. “It’s obvious that I won’t be able to change your mind but I will still get a slave girl to help you.”

“I don’t need any help. I’ve been managing quite well on my own for years.”

“This house is too big for the two of us and you’re wearing yourself out. You need help, whether you want to admit it or not. I’m going over to the Yates’ plantation tomorrow to get a slave girl.”

“I won’t have her taking my place.”

“She’s not taking your place, Florrie. No one can take your place. She’s just going to help with some of the chores, that’s all.”

“We’ve never had slaves in this house before. Father and Mother would turn in their graves if we were to have one of them in here.”

“There’s nothing wrong with having one of them living and working here, Florrie.”

“I don’t want a negress under this roof, traipsing about the place, touching things, doing things and acting like she belongs here when she doesn’t. She and her kind belong in the fields not in our homes.”

Harper’s gaze lowered to the Bible she was clutching in her hands. “What does the Good book say about how we should treat others?”

“It says we ought to treat others as we would like to be treated.”

“Well, then?”

“Slaves are treated well, aren’t they? They’re well-fed and have somewhere to live. They should be happy that they have work. Besides, it isn’t our fault that they are slaves. It’s their own people–the Africans who sold them. If they treated their own like that why should we be criticized for the way we treat them?”

Harper stood up. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

“Do you think it’s right to buy a slave?” she countered. “That’s what you’ve decided to do, isn’t it?”

“I have no choice. The Yates aren’t going to let me have one of their slaves for free.”

“Don’t go through with it, Harper. I don’t need any help taking care of this house and you. Send a telegram to the Yates, telling them that you’ve changed your mind.”

“No, Florrie. I’ve made up my mind and I’m not going to change it. You’ll just have to get used to having someone else here.”

“Where’s that slave going to sleep?” Florrie demanded.

“We can find her a space near the kitchen or in the laundry or we can make her a pallet to sleep on in the spare bedroom–“

“No! I don’t want her sleeping in the house. Let her sleep in the stable.”

“The stable?”

“Yes. I’m sure she’ll be comfortable there. It’s either the stable or under a tree but, she’s not going to sleep in this house.” And after casting a mutinous look in his direction, she whirled around and stomped out of the room.

Sources: VOX; Healthy Journal; Encyclopedia Virginia

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