Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: CALL (01/14/16)
- TITLE: The Secret Seventeen
By Hannah Gaudette
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Eleanor winced at the harsh grip on her arm and stumbled forward in attempt to keep from being dragged. The dusty pink dawn caressed her father's Georgia plantation. On any other morning, the familiar sight would have brought comfort and joy to her spirit; this morning it only served as a painful reminder. She hadn't been careful enough.
If only she'd gone earlier in the night this time as she had before. Eleanor knew going after midnight was taking a huge risk of being seen by one of the overseers upon her return. But after taking the same risk so many times prior, perhaps some of the fear of discovery had worn slightly.
God, please help me to remain strong, she pleaded in silent terror. How could she be afraid of her own father? It was a dreadful thing. Her gaze was drawn toward the house. The freshly painted walls offered no comfort as her eyes caught the lone figure planted in front of them, hands on hips. Her father.
The overseer brought Eleanor to a halt as her father cast a fierce, smoldering glare upon her, his piercing gray eyes making her heart nearly stop beating.
It had started just over a year ago. A traveling preacher came to town, and Eleanor heard him speak accidentally. He shouted from the middle of the street to anyone who passed by, speaking openly against slavery. Eleanor had thought this quite bold of him, considering where he was. But then she heard his words. They were delivered with such confidence and passion, even while a glimmer of pure desperation lingered in the man's eyes.
On that day, Eleanor's life had begun to change. The slavery she witnessed on her father's plantation became a sickening sight in her eyes, though she remained completely powerless to stop it, and lacked the courage to speak against it.
Eventually, she heard God's undeniable call to her soul, beckoning her out to action. It was the actions of freeing in secret seventeen slaves that now brought her before her father, and made him appear to her as a complete and terrifying stranger.
“Ned tells me he saw you freeing two slaves this morning,” he reported in a low snarl.
Eleanor's legs became weak. The seventeen faces rushed into her mind. “I did.”
“And what exactly were you thinking?”
Her eyes slid closed in a grimace. Oh, Lord, why is this happening? With that, a gushing wave of peace enveloped her, strengthening her, granting her a courage that had eluded her far too often. No matter what happened, she was here because the Lord had called her.
Eleanor stared hard at her father. “Because what we're doing here is wrong. Everything we've been doing is wrong, but it isn't too late to do something about it. These people aren't animals – they're human.” Conviction empowered her words. “All they want is to live in freedom. Isn't that what we all want?”
The painful blow landed hard on her cheek. Eleanor winced and bit back tears, struggling to maintain eye contact with her father.
“You're the one who let those other 'missing' slaves go,” he seethed, “aren't you?”
Her firm stand remained. “Yes.”
He looked from Eleanor to the overseer, then back to his daughter, as if barely believing what he was hearing. “Where did they go?”
Eleanor froze. Her carefully planned escape route, which had been followed by all of the seventeen, could fall to pieces if he ever found out.
“I said, where did they go?” His muscles visibly tensed as each second passed without answer. “Eleanor, where?”
“I can't tell you,” she responded, her voice small.
Her father gave a brief nod. “All right, then. As you wish.” He glanced at the overseer. “Thank you for reporting this.”
The man bid a respectful goodbye before walking away. Eleanor's gaze returned to look her father in the eyes.
His wrath wasn't shaken in the least. It was only fueled by her firm defiance.
“Father,” Eleanor said gently, “please try to understand. This was something I had to do, something I couldn't ignore.”
“Enough.” He guided her by the arm toward the door of the house.
Eleanor remained unshaken. No matter what punishment he gave, she knew that, by God's grace, a secret seventeen were saved.
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