I had expected to find Sarah in a bad mood, but she was beaming. She caught me by the hand before I even had time to wash up and led me into the kitchen. “Look!” she all but shouted, pointing at an apple pie. “I baked it.”
I sniffed it and broke off a kernel of crust. She slapped my hand as I tasted it. It was good, and I said so. Remembering Sarah’s burned bacon just yesterday, I was sure that Aunt Rachel had supervised this pie very closely.
Supper was a festive meal and we sat long over pie and coffee, trading family stories. Afterward, Sarah led me upstairs. She had put knick-knacks and gee-gaws on every available surface, but everything was neat and there was no clothing in sight. I asked where it had all gone, and she said that Aunt Rachel had stored half of her trunks, unopened, in the spare bedroom.
Early to bed and early to rise is the rule on the farm, and I was ready. Every muscle in my body ached from lifting rocks, so I went straight across the hall from Sarah’s bedroom to mine and straight to bed.
It seemed like minutes later that I heard a soft knocking at my door. I sat up with a groan and pushed the window curtain aside, expecting to see a stain of pre-dawn light. The moon was still high. I pushed my legs into trousers and fumbled for the pocket watch Father gave me two years ago. It was just midnight.
////rewrite this as dialog////
Sarah was at the door, looking terrified. I sat her on the bed and asked what the matter was. She had heard voices. She couldn’t say what kind of voices, or where, or what they were trying to say to her, but she was sure that she had heard them. I told her she had just been dreaming, but she would not be satisfied with that. Very carefully, so as not to waken Aunt Rachel, I lit a candle and went downstairs with her. We made a circuit of the first floor before she was satisfied that she had only dreamed the voices, and would go back to bed.
This is a very important and tricky passage. Sarah has heard the sound of slaves who are hidden in the cellar, trapped by the fact that their conductor has been shot, and growing desperate after several days without moving further north. In these last days before the Civil War, due to the Dred Scott decision, reaching to the North no longer means safety. Safety now lies in Canada. They arrived at Aunt Rachel’s house the night Matt and Sarah were sleeping off their train ride. They are the slaves whom Meeker and Bellows are seeking. Of course, Matt know nothing of this – yet.
This passage needs a touch of “ghost story” as a red herring before Matt discovers the truth.
The note-to-self to rewrite as dialog is something I do fairly often. I knew as I was writing that I wasn’t up to making things come out right just then, and I was anxious to continue exploring Matt’s relationship with Ben Sayre, so I made a notation and moved on, with intention of returning later.