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The Fancy – Written By Mercedes Keyes

The Fancy – Written By Mercedes Keyes

I’m an author – and I’ve been writing since for a long time. It started in grammar school. Instead of paying attention to my English teacher or my History teacher, my mind was off in another world of my making. One thing I’ve always had is an imagination. More than like due to the time I spent alone as a little girl. Back in that day, we didn’t have gadgets to keep us entertained – all we had was our minds, the outside world and the inside world we made of home. While I had siblings, 3 brothers – we grew up separated due to divorce. I lived in Chicago – they were in Mississippi. In any case – the world and life that was mind growing up – contributed a great deal to his gift, sometimes curse that I have for writing. I began seriously writing at the age of 23. Previous to focusing on my first book, 3 story ideas went through my mind – “Midnight Blue” – “Aphrodisiac” and “Princess Ces’alena” I’d taken down notes for each, but it is the latter that took off in my mind, heart and stomach – so that is the one that was written. It was published for the first time back in 2005 – it went through a 2nd edition and now, I’m working on the final 3rd edition release. I cannot wait to be done. In the meantime – I thought I’d give a taste of another historical tale I wrote – it is a the 1st book of what will soon be 6 in a series. I call it, { The Fancy Series – Cora’s Daughters} the following is an excerpt from it. Hope you enjoy it – that it urges you to read on.

“The Fancy” is PG-16 ~ a simple read surrounding Dr. Quinton Thaddeus Caine and a gift that he received for saving a life back in 1830… here’s a taste.

Excerpt:


Chapter I

Weaver Port, Connecticut, 1830

For once, he was glad that he’d chosen to walk to those needing his care instead of taking his carriage; that day, he needed to breathe, reminding himself why he’d chosen his direction in life, the stroll was to help clear his head, and now concluding his day, the much sought after surgeon, Doctor Quinton Thaddeus Caine, took a deep breath to steel himself; reaching up, he firmly applied the door knocker, giving it three precise raps against the weather worn brass plate. The day could not end soon enough for him; it had started out dreadfully, where bad dreams awoke him; now, coming to the end of it, he wished to put it behind him; all the negatives within him seemed to be reflected in the weather. Grey, dreary, misty, wet and cool – in fact, he hadn’t seen the sun all week.

Shaking his head, he blew air from his nostrils as if to clear it, there was still the odor of unwashed bodies, excrement and blood hanging in his sinuses – such putrid, vile odors; the stench from illnesses was bad enough but, was compounded by those who seemed to have an aversion to soap and water. For such a strong portion of his young lifestyle, his dream had been to make a difference in the physical wellbeing of his fellow man. Having endured the death of his younger sister as she wasted away to nothing, the life ebbing from her – he’d prayed long into the night that God would send an angel to save her. Standing at her grave proved his prayer unanswered; so many questions plagued his mind, the one that lingered, why? Why would The Creator bring forth humans to live in such an ugly world for a relatively short time only for them to suffer for most of it and then – die? Why bring them forth to be adored by family, admired by acquaintances – only to have their bodies invaded by mysterious plagues that sometimes took them quickly or caused them to suffer day and night until finally, the grim reaper snatched them away?

So much life, equally matched, by so much death.

Why?

The door opened.

He sighed, concluding his thoughts. “Come in sir, all have been awaiting you.”

Quinton nodded with a wan smile, he had a mere few seconds to change his mood into that of someone looking forward to the dinner party given in his honor.

“Your cloak, sir, your hat.”

He followed protocol handing his garments over, “Dreary day sir, the Lord, is showing his gloom.”

“Em, so it appears.” Quinton responded in his proper English accent. He noted the servant was well spoken for a bondsman. Quinton wondered what crimes he’d committed back in England to be sent over and lowered to such a status, filling such a position? He reflected on the servant’s comment, finally answering from deeper thought, “Perhaps he sees the things that I see, men – their activities – are certain to bring any father gloom. Is it any wonder he has not scrapped us all to begin anew.”

“One can wonder sir…” the white, male servant murmured, as if his words sent him into thoughts of that possibility and then, “This way sir.” Their steps took them a short way into the candle lit parlor where voices of men conversed about the laws that froze and took over those of the Cherokee nation, gleefully discussing how it wouldn’t be long before they were removed from Georgia – freeing the land for more ‘civilized settlers.’ His welcomed presence interrupted their topic, for which he was glad, with the host relieved that he’d finally arrived. Smiling enthusiastically the slave trader and auctioneer, Henry J. Bancmen greeted him, “Ahhh, he’s here, the good Dr. Quinton Caine, come in, come in.” – Shaking Quinton’s hand and patting him on the back, he turned him towards his guests, “I’m sure you’ve met most here.”

“Yes, I have,” Quinton nodded, shaking one man’s hand and moving on to another; the banker, Lawrence Carter, whose wife Janet sat in the corner sipping tea with the other wives – a couple of daughters were present as well, smiling at him coquettishly, one or two hoping to gain his attention, perhaps, his admiration. There was also the town merchant, James Armfield and his wife Paulette, and last the livery owner, Richard McKinney and his wife, Grace with their daughter. Quinton was the youngest of all the men present, in his early thirties – the perfect age for a man to marry – the others were in their forties to sixties. Coming from a prestigious family back in England, he’d deserted all that that represented to travel and increase his means of healing, moving extensively from one continent to another, Africa, the Orients, the jungles of Southern continents – learning much as a physician until he settled on the new lands of America. Having arrived on the shores of the South, Quinton had been immediately put off the idea of settling in such a barbaric place – where men of his ilk wallowed in the sinful pleasures of peddling human flesh, giving way to their heinous perversions, forcing upon fellow humans their twisted fetishes – simply because there were no laws established to say, that, they could not. Thus, as if there was no God they must answer to, they purged themselves upon those with extra pigmentation and coarse hair – declaring them less than human and therefore exploitable as they saw fit. Not long after witnessing a slave auction, where the men as well the women were stripped bare for all to gawk at and to be bid upon – did he conclude such a place was not for him. In the end, he’d settled in much further North, a place called, Connecticut. The deciding factor to settle there happened just as quickly as the decision not to settle in the South. He’d visited the local universities and to his pleasure, saw two Negro men walking along freely, smartly dressed. Later he discovered that they were attending the universities among other Negroes and Indians from various tribes. He then knew, he was where he hoped to remain. Moving further into Connecticut, he’d accepted a place among the people in a small town called Weaver Port which had no physician so the town’s folk were overjoyed to receive him.

Quinton had barely settled into the townhouse provided for him before his skill was urgently called upon. One sort of plague after another, some simple, some not so simple and already, three had died before he could attempt to save them, one, a small child. That all happened within the first week of his arrival, he realized that his choice of residence would command a great deal of his time. A month in, he found himself in attendance to the mother of Henry J. Bancmen – who at the time, had been in the South, bartering, trading, auctioning slaves. While Quinton fully disapproved, he was not God, nor Christ, and for that matter, neither the law nor a judge, his services were to aid in the healing of the flesh, not the morality nor the spirit.
Amidst the need to attend others, he was summoned urgently by Francis Bancmen, he was needed for her mother-in-law; and remained by the side of Beatrice Bancmen which had been crucial to her survival.

Thus… the dinner party.

Quinton was tired, what he most wanted was time alone to rest. Yet, he smiled, answered questions asked of him, such as the one asked by Clarice, the daughter of Richard McKinney, “So, if I may ask, from which hamlet of England have you travelled?” He smiled, politely, trying to enjoy his meal, “My family owns coal mines and ironworks there, and they have holdings bordering those of Sir Fitzallan not far from the area of Riverham, in the village – Stowles.” He informed her with a nod and smile, however, he turned his attention away from her immediately after answering, wishing to give no hope of anything more. He also avoided getting in too deeply with political topics that might bring about hostilities, after all – he was new to the town. He could already see who ran things, his host; he supposed it was a good thing that he’d saved Bancmen’s mother’s life; his success put him in an honorable state before Henry Bancmen. Quinton considered that he could almost like the man, almost, that is, if it weren’t for his ideas and feelings on the matters of slavery, peddling human beings for financial gain and power. Quinton kept his views light – polite and neutral. He struggled through dinner, especially with Clarice eyeing him throughout, – he simply wasn’t looking for a wife at that time considering what he did with his time, there was little room to woo and court – then make a place in his lifestyle for a woman who may end up needing too much of his attention.

After dinner, the men retired to the smoking room, where discussions of things indecent were kept from the delicate ears of women. Puffing pipes and cigars, sipping scotch and old brandy helped to bring Quinton closer to the end of his endurance. Finally, Henry decided to call the evening to a close, realizing how the doctor was struggling to stay alert, he encouraged him to stay behind after seeing his guests to the door. Bancmen, not wishing to drag things out any further, informed his wife that he and Quinton were setting out. Retrieving their cloaks, he went on to share the extent of his gratitude, “My mother’s life is obviously of great value to me…” he began, as they made their exit from his home. Due to the weather, they wore their full wraps, hats, scarves and gloves. They went to the waiting carriage and climbed in. Bancmen called to his driver, “To the docks, my ship, the Hawkers Bay.” He turned back to Quinton, continuing. “…now, as I was saying, what you’ve done, cannot be properly compensated for, however, I shall do my best to repay you. You are young yet, with much to see. ‘Tis not an easy matter to settle when one is off to the welfare of others. I trust that every man has his moments when his needs must be attended, yours I am certain can be no less.”

Quinton was fighting to focus on his words, “I beg your forgiveness – my needs are simple, for now – a welcoming bed, quiet, a few hours undisturbed – that sir, I assure you would fit the bill.”

“Ah, I would not doubt it. However, something extra will see you off even better, I’ve no doubt, you will be pleased. This gift, will serve you in many ways – you deserve it – and you shall have her. Come, we’ve arrived, follow me.”

Quinton was now instantly alert as the coach pulled to a halt with both men alighting from it. Quinton was unsure of what had just transpired. Did he say, her? He couldn’t be sure of what was happening as they crossed the docks on route to board his ship. Quinton followed close on Henry’s heels, his mind unsure – trying to sort through it.

“Evenin’ sa’ – i’ta’be a chilly night sa’ – was hopin’ you’d be back soon, like t’get a brew down’me I would, ‘fore th’hour stops me, sa’.” One of the crewmen forced to stay on board, went on, eagerly wringing his hands at the thought of finally being let off for the night; he grabbed the lantern rushing before them with it held high.

“At our conclusion you may carry on.” Henry returned.

The man nodded, he was nervous, having much to explain, “T’was a bit of trouble sa’…” Quinton heard the man rambling on, inasmuch as Quinton would have liked to halt his host, there was a certain curiosity within him to see where was leading; instead of questioning the matter on such a dreadful night, he lacked the ability to explain even to himself why he followed without complaint. Foremost, that moment, was to watch his steps upon the docks, wet as they were, a slip could land him in the frigid waters lapping against the ship’s hull beneath the gang plank; winds blew in and about them, chilling the night further, hastening their steps onto the ship and then below.

“What trouble?” Henry asked, also treading carefully.

“… the crewmen, some returned filled with mead – ale – seekin’ the fancy…”

“What are you saying?!” Henry paused to demand.

“All is well – she – she is safe,” the slave keeper assured his boss, wishing to digress, he carried on saying, “tis a night not fit fo’man’o’beast, I say – mead, a fire, bit o’stew’s me plan.” He chattered away, to fill the silence as both men followed him down one deck, then another, heading for the bowels of the ship.

“Aye, sounds a night well spent.” Henry commented, although leery of where they were being led.

Quinton remained silent, noticing a shift in the smells assailing him – smells that made him pause, asking, “Our destination will find me where, exactly?”

“Come along, you shall see – not much farther.” Henry continued, a chuckle in his tone, “…cover your nose if you must.” Henry was slightly nervous, unsure of how things were since his leaving, but trusted all was well. Quinton sighed and resumed his onward progress as finally they stopped before a bolted door, which was quickly opened and swung wide for them to enter onto steps leading into a dark room, “Why are we here? Why is there no light?” Henry snapped his displeasure clear. “Was sir, blew out I’m thinkin’.”

“Blew out?! This is not where I left her! Have you not checked on her? What is going on?”

The man shrugged and stammered trying to find his words, he was tired after all, he’d been guarding her for over a day; he turned to the dark, held the lantern high; the odor almost made Quinton turn to flee; he did not because he realized they were speaking of a possible person, and yet, he still could not be certain of what he was about to encounter. The cavern stank of rottenness and excrement. “Here wench! Show yer’self!” The man shouted into the darkness. When nothing happened Henry snapped at him, “She had better be as I left her, you fool! I’ll have answers for this! Find the other lantern!” He ordered.

Right away the man went down the steps, holding his lantern high to find the other when his foot stepped on something soft, yet firm, whatever it was – it squished and mashed beneath his feet, making the most awful sound, gasping, he stepped away, lowering the light to see a slew of dead rats.

“My God!” Quinton gasped out loud. Neither man could believe his eyes; quickly the man found the other lantern and lit it to shed more light within, only to see a quarter of circle spread of dead rats; various ones with blood stains about their heads. There were blood stains dotted along the wall – splats and blotches of it from them as if they’d been thrown against it with great force, the impact causing them to fall where they lay, dead or dying, some still twitching, a few had been stepped upon by the man holding the lantern.

“My God – what is this place?!” Quinton asked, appalled at what he saw, “So many rats, who killed them? Leaving them here to die, rot and stink!?” He protested, growing angry with what he saw, “Have you any idea of what sickness can come from this?!”

Henry could not believe what he saw either, he looked up from the rats to the man, asking with brisk anger, “Where is she?!”

“I sweah t’ya – she was here!”

“Wench!? Speak up now I say! Say something?!” Henry called out.

“Surely there is no human here, in such a place as this? Who? What wench?” Quinton asked, stunned.

“She is only a slave, but a fancy of great costs! This is not how she was to be kept!”

“A slave? You are carting about slaves, under such conditions; to a state where such a thing has been outlawed?”

“Not any slave, your – slave. The wench is for you, your gift.” Henry pointed out, ignoring his charge surrounding the freedom declaration in that state. Quinton’s mind spun with this revelation as he charged accusingly “This is how you give gifts?! Wrapped in feces, soiled with vermin, smelling of death, no doubt crawling with pestilence?! Give me that!” He spoke harshly again, snatching one of the lanterns from the slave keeper. Stepping down into the stew of filth, he boldly moved forward, bracing himself for what he might find, his shoes sticking to the surface of the floor, stepping into unmentionable goo, thick sludge and filth. “This is horrendous – I seriously doubt we shall find a soul alive beyond the light, there can be no way -….” he was silenced by what he saw. First they noted a shaking and then, shiny, oily like, dark skin, much of it – belonging to the poor soul tucked away, as if hiding, with little clothing to cover or protect her from the cold, let alone the filth in which she squatted. Then there was movement, a rat – it’s front feet touching her hip to crawl up when suddenly, to Quinton’s astonishment – quick as a blink of an eye, her hand was there, grabbing the creature by its tail, causing it to squeak in fear as she reared back and – pitched it from her with such a force so it hit the wall with a sickening thud – it too leaving it’s mark where they’d only just looked and commented upon the others. The rat lay twitching, dying. “Bloody hell!” Henry gasped. Eyes wide, Quinton glanced back at her, she never looked his way, tucking her face back down between her knees, where she hugged her body in a ball to resume her shaking from the cold.

“By all that’s holy! The wench is killin’ the rats!” The slave keeper exclaimed in shock, crossing himself as if she had to be possessed to not fear them – to instead kill them. Ignoring both men and acting without thought, Quinton sat the lantern forward on the floor to keep his eyes on her, he unsnapped his cape coat at his neck, removing it with a hasty swish from around his shoulders and moved in close to the shivering wench, bending low as he went, dropping the heavy cape around her; she smelled horrible, but who wouldn’t under such conditions.

“What are you doing?” Henry asked.

“What do you think?! She should not be in such abysmal confinement!” Quinton returned, “You offer me a gift riddled with filth, soaked in shite – freezing to death! Instead of help – you give me more to see to!”

“Let this be the last gift you offer in exchange for a deed in value of your mother!”

“The value of the fancy is sound! I did not give such orders – to keep her in such a state!” Henry argued his case, turning to the slave keeper, “Who placed her here?!” he demanded.

“I did sa’, it was hide her, or see her raped by the crew, filled with ale they were, wishin’ a bit of skirt.” The man babbled nervously, “Three or more were seekin’ the wench for – well – sa’… you know.” He gulped.

“Let me by!” Quinton snarled, holding his gift high against his body. He had wrapped her as securely as he could in his cape. She now lay curled within, cradled against his chest, shaking, her teeth chattering, eyes closed with no fight against him – her fate now in his hands. Both men moved aside as he carefully took to the steps, up and onward towards the exit, the other two men following behind. “How can you have slaves here?” Quinton asked, holding her close, he could only see the top of her braided head of hair, with her face tucked and hidden while shivering, “I do not condone such inhumane practices.”

Not about to answer that charge, the trader stated instead, “Your actions toward the wench falls to you. Set her free for all I care – she is no longer a concern of mine – I would give her under better conditions – how we found her was not my doing. Place her feet upon the cobbled way with a push and be done with her, I have washed my hands.” Henry was a bit put off, embarrassed by the way she was found, and being reviled by the doctor, set his face aflame, he turned to the man behind him – “See to that room! I want all trace of rats removed! Immediately! It will be clean enough for repast!” He barked. It was clear to Quinton the slave trader had, nor, shown any fear for a deed that should not be happening where he’d chosen to live – which proved, that nothing had been established or set firm as of yet concerning slavery and the treatment of those still bound by it. Obviously, if one could obtain a slave, there was no strict law set yet to bring them before a judge or court. With his jaw set, and his nostrils filling once more with stench, Quinton marched onward with his burden. As for the man on board commissioned to watch over her, he stood whimpering in misery – his plans for how he would spend his evening, dashed. Careful of each step and mindful of the cold slippery deck, Quinton made his way down the plank and walked past the carriage.

“Wait!” Henry shouted to him, “…surely you don’t intend to walk all the way with her?”

“My intent is to keep her downwind and the wind at my back. Thank you and good evening!” Quinton called out, each step quick and precise, a couple of times he had to heft her upward against him, she was heavier than she looked, solid in her build while small in stature. He was strong and had endured much, so to walk with her in his arms was something he had little choice but do, she was too weak to walk after all. Making his way along the docks, heading towards town, he was content with the breeze coming up from behind him, which kept him in clean fresh air, there was no way he would have been able to sit in the carriage with her on his lap in such a tight space – her odor would have filled it in no time. Moving along at a steady and direct clip, he nodded to those in town who turned to look at him and at the bundle held before him. He gave no concern to anyone but to the one in his arms.

“Speak to me, can you talk?” He asked, trying to ascertain how bad a condition she was in. “Are you able to understand what I am saying?” There was no answer, just more shaking and teeth chattering. “Bloody-hell! I haven’t a clue of what to do with you, however, it was certain you could not be left in such a state!” He smiled, “I must admit, I have never seen such an act, slinging rats! In truth, I would confess this to no one, nor shall you repeat it…” He informed her, despite her silence, still grinning at the thought, “… they frighten me, rats!” He shivered, “… while you showed no fear, it was not the place for you, and, well – here we are. No, it would not have gone well for me walking away; I am a man after all, but you, ah – you are something else altogether, tossing rats – and I might add, not a shriek from you, no – not the slightest.” This time a chuckle shook his body, the more he revisited the act, the funnier it became, so that he laughed out loud, having seen the shock on Henry and the slave keeper’s faces, how wide their eyes had been. He carried his gift for three more blocks away from the docks – down a bit of a road and another block, and then finally up to his door. “Due to your silence, I can’t know if you understand me; but if either of us is to get any relief, I have no choice but put you on your feet to gain entry to my home. Do try to keep alert.” He went on, leaning her to the corner of the door, lowering her feet and pressing her backward. “Here now, stand – stand…” He brought his hand away slowly, palm flat to her while holding his breath, praying she was able to remain on her feet. Palm in air, midway between them – he watched her head slowly, suddenly shift upward to reveal her forehead, clearing the opening of his cape and next – a noble full brow and almond shaped cognac colored eyes, looking feverishly at him; the whites a bit of pink, her focus hazy, and up more, as if the head of a turtle was coming out of its shell, her features cleared his cape to show a long narrow nose and then chapped full, dry lips. His next breath caught in his throat at the sight of her.

“I will…stand.” She barely gasped out in her whispered delirium.

Quinton blinked, his hand – palm towards her was still up in the air between them, seemingly frozen there before he pulled it away, his fingers curling inward. “Yes, well – I will hurry.” He stammered, with his ears ringing – he quickly unlocked his door, pushing it open and turning with the intent of taking her up once more, when she stopped him.

“No…” Her voice broke, teeth chattering, fighting the chills that racked her body, “… I – will – walk.” She gasped between wheezy gulps of air.

He couldn’t speak.

She took one step in, two, three more and suddenly, she was a heap on the floor. Once more, Quinton had to blink himself awake – he was in possession of a slave girl – albeit a sick, stinky one – but one just the same.

 

Chapter II

Shivering, trying to draw a breath, shaking her head, water trickling down her face, going into her nose and mouth, she woke struggling to breathe – her body slightly folded upright inside of an old wooden slipper bath, the water was icy cold as it was being poured on the top of her head, over and over rinsing her down. She grabbed for the wrist of the hand that held her up by the back of her neck; she gripped it tightly with both hands, trying to push him away, but that hand had a firm hold of her. “No!” She cried out, shaking her head.

“Yes, hold still – finally, you’re awake. By all means, hang on – wait, one more.” He sighed, glad that she was finally coming to, “Ah, now, finally I have your full attention -ach- calm yourself. All has been fine until this moment, I assure you, I did very well, all on my own – now, this struggle from you only makes the lot of it tiresome. And I am tired I’ll have you know, but little else could be done. As a gentleman, you have my word, I’ve not been improper…” Their eyes met, hers startled, unsure and fearful. It took her a moment, staring at him, and then she realized what was happening as she blew the water from her mouth. She was with the man who had claimed her, the one who had taken her from the ship; her eyes were wide – seeking some type of reassurance that with him – she would be safe. Quinton could read all of those fears in her stunning eyes; as he’d seen to her, stripping from her what little garb there had been, he could see why she had been so valuable, such a fancy. Simply put, she was of perfect form from head to feet – her skin, her features, and the coarse wavy texture of her curly, brown hair. Yes, he imagined that she did indeed, define a fancy. To help relax her, he went on speaking to her, clearing his throat to break the lock their eyes held, he remembered what he’d been saying, “…truth of the matter, you’re not well and you – no offense – smelled as if you’d been rolled in manure, or, something worse.” He smiled at her to soften his words of truth while she might be of a sensitive nature, “… yes… calm down, see what you’ve done, a mere moment of wrestling with me has spent all of your energy, you’re limp as a kitten again, and I’m right back where I started. No matter, this time – you can hear me and you understand, I know you do. You spoke to me earlier, before you fainted – which is reassuring to know that you’re not addle-brained – you made perfectly good sense.” He took a breather; his mind racing; the bathing part was done, she was clean, the odor of earlier gone, “Hmmm, now, to our predicament. I haven’t a scrap, rag or cloth in which to dress you. I can cover you, but – you are without clothing. If that were not enough, I still haven’t a clue of what to do with you. Regardless of how I came to be in possession of you, I can’t very well keep you, now can I? I mean you’re a human after all – a young girl I imagine; not a dog one brings in off the street and claims ownership, although many would have loved to do such a thing were you the find. I, cannot – it would not be right for me to keep you.” He paused, setting the bowl down that he’d used to rinse her; now that she was awake, he could let her go and thus, leaning with his bare arms on the edge of the tub, his sleeves rolled back, he stared at her. She was cold and her teeth chattered, but she needed the cold bath to help with the fever she had.

“I suppose you’re ready to come out now? Yes? No?”

She nodded.

“I have a fire going in the other room, it will warm you.” He announced as he stood, taking first the towel to her and then a sheet. “For the time being, this is all I have to cover you, it will suffice for now I suppose. Stand, I can dry you, or you may do so yourself, however you must first promise not to faint, if you feel you may, I will help you, dry you myself, which shall it be?”

She stood, sleek, shivering, covering her small breasts, bent as if she could hide her hairy mound by doing so. “Never mind such modesty, I am a physician, I’ve seen you – bathed you from the head down, everywhere in fact, needed to be certain you weren’t hiding any parasites… it’s something I’ve never done – but we shall all experience most, once, I would think.” He aided her from the bath, to stand before him while he took it upon himself to dry her off, starting at the top of her head, “You will need to comb your hair at some point; however, for now, we shall leave it braided until a better time…” – he continued on, drying down her body, trying to keep his mind on the chore and not the glorious form of stunning femininity, or the way it made his heart race at such close administrations. “That’s better, now let’s wrap this sheet around you – that’s a good girl, not such a bad job if I must say so myself; this way.” He led her through the hall, past two doors and into his favorite room. A fire was going strong, the heat of it made her sigh out loud; her pleasure could not be missed with the closing of her eyes. He took her to a seat that he often occupied. “Sit there, I will bring you a bowl of broth, bit of bread; you are fortunate – as my life has taken me on adventures where learning to cook was necessary or else find famine at my door.” He disappeared for his gift to peek out from under the sheet to take in her surroundings. From the room she’d been bathed in and departed, down the hall to this room, most had been bare – to cross the threshold where she now sat in a room fully cluttered and surrounded by books.

Masculine, chunky furniture filled the room, a sofa, a large table; it too, loaded down with books, a cabinet of glass paneled doors and behind them, glass and ceramic vials of various sizes and colors. There were ledgers, a writing table and other objects she could not identify. Sitting forward she moved from the comfortable chair she knew was his, to the foot stool and there she sat instead.

“Ah, this will help, get this down your neck; and I shall have a go in the other room for a bath.” He was saying on the way back in, to find her sitting low to the floor on his foot stool, close to the fire. “What are you doing there?” He stopped to ask. She remained silent, shy, unwell and unsure of where her life would be taking her. Exhaling, Quinton moved forward kneeling before her, instructing, “Hands out, this will warm you.” He coaxed staring into her eyes, “Here, take it, I made it for you.”

“What – you gone – do wit’ me?” She asked softly, as if speaking with too much volume would get her thrown into the streets.

“For now, feed you, I pray, make you better and tomorrow, we shall see.” He moved the soup closer to encourage her into taking the bowl. Transferring it from his hands, to hers, their fingers brushed, they both became aware of their proximity and the fact that he was a lone man, with a naked woman, who – for all intents and purposes, was his, to do with what he wanted. She took it gently, lowering her eyes, praying that he intended to keep her, he seemed gentle; he also liked to talk, even to her.

That was new, unfamiliar – her original white master had never spoken to her and her mother other than to tell them what to do. She was the last of her mother’s daughters, there had been six in all – sent off to masters of their own, or sold away to someone who dealt in fancies. Bred especially to accompany her new owner and warm his bed, taking her to do whatever he saw fit. Her original purchase had been so she could be auctioned off for a higher price – she had been the best – saved for last from the other eight she’d been collected with. Now it would seem, she might not be auctioned, if this man chose to keep her. “I – I would stay – wit’ – wit’ you masta’, not be send away. I’m strong, won’t be no burden – promise I won’t masta’.” Again her voice was soft, timid.

“I am not your master – this state is a free one, you are forced to remain with no one. I especially see no reason to own you – perhaps I will find a better place for you.”
She glanced up, panic in her eyes, “Please – ain’ no better place – I beg you – put me to any task, I see it through – but don’t send me off.” She pleaded, she’d heard him, the things he had said to the fancy breeder, to the slave keeper. She remembered the shock of being lifted in his arms, how he’d cradled her close as if he cared for her being. It didn’t seem to her reasoning, that someone capable of beating you, harming you, would care for you the way he did, rebuking others for the way he’d found her. He was different. It was stuck in her mind how he spoke to her every step of the way, bringing her to his home. No grumbles, no threats, no lecherous behavior or leering, no cruelty – nothing of the sort. There was something about him, different from the others. Besides, he was not old; he was in fact pleasing to the eyes, his looks not so offensive she would have to force herself to perform whatever acts he would come to demand. She knew that her placement could be far worse, and she also knew what it meant to be who and what she was; she knew that she could end up in the hands of someone who had not a care for whatever suffering or pain he might inflict upon her. This man had cared, carried, bathed her, and talked to her as if she were a flesh and blood human with feelings – he showed concern, as if it mattered how he treated her, how she was treated, how she felt. Thus began her silent prayer, that she be granted the privilege of remaining in his possession.

Quinton backed away from her and stood his height of 6ft. Leaving her for a moment, he returned with a plate of bread, “Eat as I’ve said, here – bread, fill your belly. Once I’ve cleaned we can-…”

“No masta please – I’ah clean – not you!” She cried as if in a panic, standing, she had tears in her eyes, “Res’, I’ah see to it.” She was swaying, and fighting to stay on her feet – she hadn’t eaten in days.

“Don’t panic – my God, what have you gone through? What is it that you fear?” He couldn’t help it, he found his hand once more there with his fingers caressing her skin, her looks commanded an audience, even if an audience of one, himself, “… I can only imagine.” He went on, “… I ask you, do not – whatever things have transpired to bring you here, do not fear me. I would do you no harm – no never. Do as I say – you are barely standing, let alone with strength enough to clean the mess I’ve made.”

“For me though masta’, that mess mine.” She tried again.

He pushed her back to the stool, “You are not my slave – sit – eat.”

“I got – to be somebody slave – rather be yours.” She murmured softly, with her head swimming and ears buzzing, with white lights flashing before her eyes, she quieted. He was saying nothing more, simply gazing at her silently, until finally, he turned from her and left the room.

With no other choice, she did as she was told – however, it was not easy getting the food down, she felt queasy, her head felt heavy with fever and pressure – what she wanted most, was to lie on the floor before the fire and sleep – but if she was going to be any good to him, she had to get stronger, better – thus, she was able to finish all the food. By this time Quinton had emptied the bath, refilled it, stripped, washed, rinsed himself off and dried. He donned a nightshirt for her sake, not his own – he preferred sleeping bare following a bath; this could not be – with a woman about. When all was done, he returned to the room – totally exhausted – realizing she had disappeared. “Where now have you gone to, my little rat-slayer? You have a knack for tucking away.” He spoke out loud looking about the room, and then, seeing a flash of white, the sheet he gave her to cover herself – there it was, on the floor, hidden behind his chair among his books. Stepping closer to it, he realized she was still within it, balled up on the floor; sound asleep as if a weary dog by the fire. He couldn’t believe his eyes. With a sigh, he muttered, “You’ll be the death of me – you will.” He worked to move books aside, his chair and other things that stood in the way of getting a good hold of her. Once more, he hefted her high. She was shivering again, teeth chattering, feverish. “Wench, if you are my gift – you must break this fever, I would have my gift at full health – I haven’t a plot within which to bury you just yet. Come, I’ve no choice but to keep my eye on you, and I can’t very well do so with you here, balled up on the floor.” He continued on, thinking out loud. He made his way to the stairs and slowly up them, his slow pace showed how close he was to collapsing himself. His sigh was due to gladness at seeing his bedroom, where there too he’d lit a fire for the night. Carrying her to the bed, he pulled his covers back and laid her there. Moments later, he lay beside her – she’d curled into a ball once more, her back to him, her body tight and tucked into the fetal position – close to him, oblivious to her surroundings.

End of Excerpt If you’re interested in reading on, 262 pages more will bring you to the ending.

Mercedes KeyesThe Fancy – written by Mercedes Keyes is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Also available at my Amber Shop along with my other quality interracial works of historical fiction.

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