A LITTLE TIME BEFORE EASTER
by John Mabry
America, Mrs. Ditchman
In the beauty of the lilies,
Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom,
That transfigures you and me;
As He died to make men holy,
Let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on.
-Julia Ward Howe, "Battle Hymn of the Republic"
He was the biggest man Andrew had ever before seen; his broad chest heaved as he drew once more from the mug in his hand. He slammed it to the table with a grunt as all the men around him cheered.
Andrew's dark eyes met the other man's, as he took a seat next to a sailor. The big man looked away. "Mulatto," whispered Andrew. Their eyes met again. His skin was deeply black, as was his hair, which, though not of negro texture, hung in as unordely fashion about his forehead and touched down upon the big black ears.
"Mulatto?" the huge lops displayed the full ferocity in his face. Perhaps ugly is a blunt term, unnatractive would do better to suit it.
Andrew tensed, sensing anger in the man's voice, then was deeply relieved: for the man burst into full, ,friuty laughter. Not stopping the chuckling, the man made his way to Andrew's table; men split like a great sea allowing him passage.
Black hand clashed and blended with black hand. As the hands pumped the hazy pub air, the mouths of the men turned un into broad smiles.
"Crispus Attucks!" The big man offered
"Andrew Wendell. Is that your master's name?" Andrew
"I have no master."
"But if they catch you--"
The mug in Attucks' hand shattered into innumerable fragments. "What could they do?" And then he began to laugh again, and he swept back into the human ocean, shouting for another mug. It was then that Andrew noticed that he and Attucks were the only ones present that were of the negro race. He also noticed that inside of Attucks' cloak was a bulge that could only be a club. Andrew scanned his pockets with his hands for his one great prize: his pocket watch. It gleamed gold as he drew it forth and opened it.
"Just time enuff for an ale," he thought, and rose to fetch a mug.
"Hey, Darkie!" Yelled a sailor, "Two!--ale!"
"Yessuh," he souted back.
"Andrew?" inquired Mr. Wendell.
"Yessuh," Andrew let the door creak to a close behind him.
Master Oliver was a man of average build, with shocking red hair, which was beginning to thin at the top. His large Welsh nostrils twitched as he smelt the smoke on his slave. "Been to the pub again Andrew?"
"Yessuh, ah has. Ah's had only one, though, Master Oliver, only one, and ale at that, suh."
"How much did you spend, son?" One red eyebrow cocked slightly as he neered out of slanted eyes.
"Six and a penny, suh.}
"Six and a penny!! For an ale!!??" Wendell was shouting now, "Dratted Lobster-Backs! They'll tax us until we die, and steal us from our graves if we don't Day the king for it an'yuly!"
" 'scuse, suh, but I was told to buy for a sailor, suh."
Wendell's countenance softened, "Well, you're MY nigger, not the cursed sailorts, hear?"
Andrew smiled, and swelled inwardly with pride, "Yessuh. Thank you, suh."
Mr. Oliver Wendell reached into his vest for his nocket book and took out a sixpence. "Here, Andrew, take this. I want you to look over the kitchen, today. Also, make sure quarters are clean, and don't spend to much time checking Matilda's room. If you save enough for your wedding, I'll have a cabin built for you, in the North field. Quickly, now, and the rest of the day tomorrow is yours."
"Aye, suh, thank'ee. I'd praay more for a master as you, suh. Glory to God for you, suh, Glory ...." Andrew's singing filled the hallway, and eventually was drowned within the labrynth of velveted hallways. Mr. Oliver Wendell closed his eyes, smiled, and took up the song where Andrew had left off.
Mistress Ann sighed softly into one of the windows. The mist of her breath appeared and faded back into the small imported french panes.
"Yess'm, Mistress Annie?" The youthful black face peered at her through gold wire spectacles.
"W'hat day is this?"
"Why't be the fifth of March, miss. It'd be a day for snow to melt and for bread be baked," her nostrils twitched for she also smelled blood thick in the air, but she said nothing.
After much of the snow had seeped into gutters and the bread had been eaten, the clock in the town square soundead:
Andrew closed the door behind him.
His boots clacked at the stone pavement beneath him.
"Good Evenin'. Mister Andrew!" Said a field hand, smiling.
"Good Evening, Jack."
The gate creaked open as Andrew caught sight of one of the sailors that had been in the pub.
"My arm, it's near to fallin' off!"
"Quickly, then, suh, into the house, we'll fix you up, suh."
The fire blazed. The Aquaintence stated with great concern, "they're near to killing in the squareDarkie? Darkie" But Andrew had gone, the door echoed through the hallow halls as it shut.
Crispus Attucks, his dark hands stuck deep within his pockets, breathed frost upon the early evening air. His hands were comfortable, for no cold metal was in them to bite them. His silver, all that he had, had been taken. Taxes. At gunnoint. Crispus sneered, "Ahm, not even's free as th' white man--why must I be held in bondage twice?!" His voice quivered, and his massive feet pounded the rubble beneath him.
People saw him, then looked away, not altogether, unimpressed. Attucks' friendly and loud attitude was, at this moment, at least, slightly disturbed. He drew his cordwood club, and instantly was surrounded by twenty or so others, following his example.
British soldiers, their coats symbolic of their souls, chatted uncomfortably. The, there rose up from the crowd the sound of boys, taunting. The red faces of the red clad soldiers scowled, as a hat was taken off by a snowball. More white projectiles flew rapidly, filling the late afternoon sky. And the air was also filled with sounds: wails and curses. That had begun with the boys now had started with the men.
Andrew rounded the corner of a building, getting then a full
view of the square. His eyes lit upon an officer upon whom many
of the boys were jumping and kicking, and hitting with their small
fists. Though the damage intended was not that which was done,
the enraged officer drew his gun and shouted, but the sound was
muffled as he was being held a whipping boy for his nation. He would have fallen to the adolescent legion, as his subordinates just stood by, watching, had he not pulled the trigger on his gun. A shot rangout. Silence fell. The game became no longer any fun to the boys; they scampered off, some in tears, others merely in terror.
The officer lowered his head, and glowered at his feet, sweat Doured openly from his skin, and melted into the slush under his boots.
A quiet roar became increasingly louder, and Andrew saw several men appear out of an alley, all shouting, and cursing. The were fallowed by several more, one of which, Andrew saw, was the Mulatto. He led them in their cries, in their blasphemy, and into battle. He wielded his great cordwood club gracefully, as he beat away would-be assailents. Soon he stood before the officer.
The next event took not a second, but as Andrew looked into the face of the Mulatto he saw more than a fight for freedom, and a mind as sharn as any. He saw a body capable of working the land and working a living. In him, Andrew saw the hope of his race: mankind. Standing for what he believed in, standing until felled. Attucks, at that moment became more to Andrew than a loud boice in the nub, but a hero.
As the cordwood club came swiftly around, it caught a grenaider upside the head: the soldier never woke. The club flew again. Through the air it swent, the officer, its target. The officer, face squinted in fear, looked into the eyes of the Mulatto.
Andrew looked away in anticipation of the next bloody scene.
As Andrew walked away, he heard from the crowd a voice ringing strong and clear, "FIRE! "
A gun went off.
Andrew felt the anger surge through the course of his veins; pain racked his face as recognition made a discovery:
A groan resounded, the sluch gabe way to the displacement of a giant form. Andrew's teeth gritted, and he dashed into a empty doorway, seeking a solitary refuge to weep and pray.
The clouds looked threatening as the spring day turned slightly warmer. Andrew, downcast, as was usual now, passed the alley that led to the place where "it" had taken nlace. Andrew tripped. Exploding with a gutteral "oof!" his hand struck a large, extremely hard object. Upon closer inspection, andrew found it to be a club, made of cordwood, and it was familiar. It was Attucks'.
"Was it worth it?" Andrew sobbed, turning the club over and over. The mud of freshly nelted snow saturated his clothing, but he paid it no mind.
It was then that he noticed something he had before seen: a smill wad of paper. Carefully, he drew it out. On a piece of ancient newspaper was the deliberate scrawl of an unlearned man,
STAND FAST THEREFOR IN THE LIBERTY WHEREWITH CHRIST HATH MADE US FREE AND BE NOT INTANGLED, AGAIN WITH THE YOKE OF BONDAGE...
Andrew wined a dry hand against a wet eye, "No," he thought, "America o' His dyin', it daon't really matter which, Freedom ain't never really free."
Carefully he folded the crumpled paper, and slipped it into his vest pocket. Then, the club disappeared into the folds of his cloak, which he pulled tighter around himself, he rose to his feet and walked towards the courtroom. The clouds broke open, and even God began to weep.
"America, the beautiful"
"Where had he heard that? He shrugged, possibly somewhere in the purple mountains' majesty.
And tears continued to fall.
#1. Eyewitness: The Negro in American History.
#2. World Book Encyclonedia.
#3. American Histoy Illustrated; November, 1975.
#4. The unlimited stretches of John Mabry's imagination.