Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Manuscript (04/29/10)
TITLE: The Unexpected Legacy
By pamela ewell
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"Sara, look at the house! It's beautiful and stately. Are you sure you want to sell it, your family has owned it for generations?" Jon said in excitment. Jon was her fiance and for the last two hours he had gotten royally on her nerves going on about the history of the house and how wonderful it would be to raise a family here.
"Jon, for the last time. Shut up about it. This plantation was the biggest purchaser of slaves in the state and it disgusts me! My great great grandfather must of been a pig to do such a thing and I don't want any part of it. I don't know why Auntie Ann left it to me in the first place."
"Maybe cause you are the last Whitley." Jon snapped back irrated at her for not even considering it.
They were pulling in front of the house now and she wanted to think about what she had to do. "We are going to go in, make an inventory of furniture,decide what to sell and that's final."
As she got out of the jeep she noticed that a white cobblestone walkway went up to the house and around to the side all the way past a big barn in the distance to two smaller buildings just down the hillside. How odd, she thought.
As she was turning the key to enter the house a truck pulled up and an old black man got out with the biggest smile she had ever seen. " You must be Ms. Sara!" he said with a raised eyebrow. "You are more beautiful than your Aunt Ann told me."
"I beg your parden, but who are you? How do your know Aunt Ann?" Sara replied.
" I'm Jarvis. Your Aunt Ann was one of my best friends. I helped her keep the place up after she got sick."
"I see" Sara said. "Well, Jarvis, I'm just here to take inventory before we sell, but it's nice to meet you. Thank you for helping Aunt Ann."
"That's a shame. A Whitley has been my family's neighbor for generations. Ann said you'd be coming after she passed and asked me to come show you how to get in the attic." Jarvis was frowning now and looking uncomfortable. He had thought this was going to be a pleasant experience meeting Ann's only niece but it was not turning out that way.
"Jarvis, just why do I need to know where the attic is." Sara said as she looked at the top of the stairs in
disgust. There on the wall hung a large picture of her great great grandfather, Thomas Whitley, slave trader.
"Well, that's where all Sara Elizabeth Whitley's things are stored. Ann wanted you to get to know your namesake."
Sara followed Jarvis up the stairs not daring to look a the painting of her grandfather again for fear she would physically be sick. Down the hallway they entered a smaller staircase into the attic. Jarvis flipped a light switch, " I'll leave you to your inventory now. It was nice to finally meet you, Ann often spoke of you with pride." Sara nodded a polite "Thank you." as see looked in amazement around the room.
The room was full of old toys from yesteryear, trunks, and boxes stacked up in neat care. She knew from her grandmother that her namesake had left the plantation after she married and had died having her grandmother and Aunt Ann. Yet here in this attic were all their childhood treasures and their mother's treasures lovingly packed away.
A box in the far corner caught her eye, it simple said "Sara" on the outside. It was if it had been placed at just the right level to catch her attention when she entered the room. That Aunt Ann, sneaky as always.
Carefully, Sara opened the box. She almost felt guilty, like she was invading someone elses home. At first she looked through old pictures, but then she saw it, a hugh leather bound book. It read,"SARA ELIZABETH WHITLEY"
Sara carefully opened the yellow pages and began to read about the life of young Sara. Everyday stuff except that most of Sara's friends seemed to be what she called Negro help. She learned that Sara, her brother Thomas and their "help" built the cobblestone walkway with the pretense it would help everyone find their way. She didn't know what that meant, but young Sara seemed excited about it as she wrote about its progress everyday.
Sara skipped over a few pages carefully as not to damage the book.
"Today Thomas and I went to town with Papa. Papa said it was time we seen the ugliness of the world so that we would know good when we seen it. I didn't know what he was talking about at first but it was frightening when we got there. Papa took us to the slave blocks. He explained that ships brought the Negroes over from a far away land. People here in town sold them for money, like cattle. I watched in horror as these people were sold, even children my age. Papa bid on everyone. Sometimes he would get out bid and his fist would clinch in anger but he did his very best to buy every one he could."
Sara gasped in astonishment as she read the next line.
"When we got home Papa gave them all their freedom papers and a deed to each family for a small parcel of our land. He also gave each family a Bible. One of the workers explained to them that all that he asked in return is that they follow the white cobblestone path every Sunday to the church he built on the end of the property so that they can learn about Jesus. Saturdays we hold school in the building right next to the church so that they can learn to read. I'm so proud of Papa! He says that all men were created equal under God's eyes. That our jobs here on earth are not to hurt one another but to help each other and spread the Word of God to everyone.
Tears rolled down Sara's face, all these years she had thought her grandfather was an evildoer. Through the writings of a young child she found that he was trying to save people from not only their earthy fate but also from a fate that lasted for eternity.
"Jon, JON," she yelled , as she ran down the attic stairs book in hand. "I think we will stay after all!"
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