Authors: Lynn Austin
Tags: #ebook, #book
t o M Y
P A T H
A Light to My Path
Copyright © 2004
Cover design by UDG DesignWorks
Scripture quotations identified NIV are from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher and copyright owners.
Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438
Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Austin, Lynn N.
A light to my path / by Lynn Austin.
p. cm.—(Refiner’s fire)
ISBN 1–55661–444–6 (pbk.)
1. South Carolina—History—Civil War, 1861–1865—Fiction. 2. African American women—Fiction. 3. Plantation life—Fiction. 4. Women slaves—Fiction. I. Title II. Series: Austin, Lynn N. Refiner’s fire.
FROM BETHANY HOUSE PUBLISHERS
All She Ever Wanted
A Proper Pursuit
Until We Reach Home
Wings of Refuge
A Woman’s Place
Candle in the Darkness
Fire by Night
A Light to My Path
HRONICLES OF THE
Gods and Kings
Song of Redemption
The Strength of His Hand
Faith of My Fathers
Among the Gods
LYNN AUSTIN is a three-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels
Hidden Places, Candle in the Darkness,
Fire by Night
. In addition to writing, Lynn is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats, and various church and school events. She and her husband have three children and make their home in Illinois.
our word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path… . I have suffered much;
preserve my life, O Lord, according to your word.
Psalm 119:105, 107
Table of Contents
Fuller Plantation, South Carolina
The only thing that was clear to Kitty in all the fussing and carrying on was that they needed to run. The Yankees were coming—thousands of them. The soldiers would steal everything they could find and burn Massa’s plantation to the ground. They’d do unspeakable things to the women—white women like Missy Claire and even to slave women like Kitty. She and Missy had to flee again, just as they had fled from Massa’s town house in Beaufort a year ago. The plantation was no longer safe.
“Better hurry, ma’am,” the Confederate soldiers warned Missy Claire as they marched past the house. They didn’t even pause for a drink of water or a bite to eat as they marched by on the double-quick. Two of the officers stopped just long enough to say, “The Yankees are coming. Six thousand of them have landed on the mainland at McKay’s Point. That’s only seven miles from Pocotaligo. We figure they’re aiming to cut the rail line between Savannah and Charleston. I’d leave today if I were you, ma’am. Tomorrow morning at the latest.”
“And be careful, ma’am,” the second officer warned. “The Yanks have been stealing our slaves and arming them with guns. Nothing worse than a Negro with a gun in his hands.” The soldiers tipped their hats and marched down the road toward Pocotaligo in their mismatched uniforms and worn-out boots and shaggy beards, leaving nothing but panic and a cloud of dust behind them.
They’d thrown the household into an uproar, filling it with so much fear that Kitty thought for sure it would overflow like a bucket. Missy Claire’s face turned the color of pie dough, and she looked about to faint. Kitty made her sit down real quick in the nearest chair, and she grabbed a palmetto branch to fan her.
“Oh, Lord …” Missy Claire moaned. “Why is this happening to us again? Isn’t it enough that the Yankees chased us from our home once before? Why have those cowards declared war on innocent women and children?”
Kitty waved the fan faster, moving it closer to Missy’s face to help her breathe. “It’ll be okay, Missy. Everything will be okay… .”
“No it won’t!” she shouted. “Didn’t you hear what they said? The Yanks are arming slaves! And once a Negro gets a gun in his hands, he’ll murder us all in our beds!”
Her words gave Kitty the shivers. For a moment it was as if both of them had forgotten that Kitty was also a Negro. She’d been Missy’s slave since they were children, but she’d never seen her this upset, even when they’d fled from Beaufort. Of course, back then they’d thought they would be returning to town in a day or two, once the Yankees were whipped. But that had been nearly a year ago. “Where we gonna run to this time, Missy Claire?” Kitty asked in a hushed voice.
“I don’t know. They’ll burn every plantation house in the area… . We’ll have to pack up everything that we don’t want to lose.”
“Everything?” Kitty glanced around the drawing room. “There’s so much, Missy! All of Massa Fuller’s nice things… . How we gonna know what to take and what to leave?”
She could see that her mistress was getting control of herself again. Missy pushed the fan away from her face and rose her feet. “We’ll have to get all the other house slaves to help us. Now hurry! We’ll pack as much as a wagon will hold, the most valuable things first—then leave the rest to God’s mercy.”
Kitty set to work as fast as she could, but it wasn’t fast enough for Missy. She shoved Kitty backward and nearly knocked her down because she thought Kitty was packing one of the steamer trunks too slowly. When Kitty accidentally dropped the silver caddy, spilling the tableware, Missy grabbed hold of her hair and pulled. And when Kitty asked her who would take care of the house while they were gone, Missy Claire slapped her. “Don’t bother me with your stupid questions, Kitty!” Missy wasn’t usually this mean. She was scared, that’s all.
“If only Roger were here,” she kept saying as they went from room to room, trying to decide what to pack. The big house was crammed clear to the attic with Massa Fuller’s things, passed down through his family for years and years. The paintings of all Massa’s relations would fill an entire wagon all by themselves, and his books would fill a second one. Anyone could see that they would have to leave all his beautiful furniture behind—Massa’s oak desk and his piano, the canopy beds and wardrobes and dressers, the walnut dining table that Delia polished with beeswax and turpentine until it gleamed like a mirror. There were closets full of table linens, feather beds and spreads; cupboards of fine porcelain, silver serving pieces and tableware. They couldn’t possibly take it all. Those Yankees must be demons from hell if they would burn down such a fine old house and destroy all these beautiful things.
Kitty was upstairs packing Missy Claire’s clothes when she heard the rumble of wagon wheels outside. She ran to the window, expecting to see soldiers and armed slaves coming with guns and torches. But the wagon that stopped out front was empty.
“Kitty!” Missy said as she hurried into the bedroom. “One of the field slaves finally brought a wagon up from the barn. Quit gaping out the window and start loading some of these things into it. I already told Delia to gather the baby’s clothes.”
Kitty scooped up two satchels and headed toward the stairs.
“Make sure you hurry right back,” Missy Claire yelled. “None of your usual dawdling!”
Her words hurt more than a kick in the shins. Kitty never dawdled the way a lot of other slaves did. Maybe she daydreamed once in a while, but that was different from dawdling, wasn’t it? Folks dawdled on purpose, but daydreaming was something you just couldn’t help.
Kitty was still grumbling to herself about how unfair Missy was when she met Delia going down the stairs with a bundle of the baby’s clothes. The little woman descended the stairs much slower than Kitty did, her joints painful with age. Kitty slowed her pace to match.
“What’re you pouting about, honey?” Delia asked. “Mind you don’t trip over that bottom lip of yours, hanging clear to the floor.”
“Missy’s been hollering at me all afternoon, Delia.”
“Ain’t just you, honey, that’s for sure. Brr, it’s chilly out here!” she said as she pushed open the door. Outside, the autumn sky was as raw and gray as a tombstone. “Can’t be good for Massa’s little baby to be dragging him all over creation this way,” Delia said, shaking her head. “The Good Lord said that when Judgment Day finally comes, we’re supposed to pray that our flight ain’t coming in the wintertime.”
Kitty looked at Delia in surprise. “Is this here the Judgment Day?”
“Seems like the Lord’s judging some folks,” Delia mumbled, nodding toward the wagon. “Never thought I’d see Massa’s family riding in an old cotton wagon pulled by a team of mules.”
Delia was right. The farm mules that had been hitched to the wagon were what poor folks drove around. But the Confederate soldiers had taken away all of Massa Fuller’s horses a long time ago. Grady had stayed in the carriage house that day rather than watch them go. For as long as he’d been Massa Fuller’s coachman, Grady had looked after those horses like they were his babies, same as Delia looked after Missy Claire’s baby. He had to work as a field slave now that his horses were gone.
Kitty dropped her burdens onto the wagon bed. The driver stood near one of the mules’ heads, adjusting its bridle. It took Kitty a moment to realize that the driver was Grady. He looked even thinner than the last time she’d seen him, and his clothes hung on him like rags. She longed to go to him and hold him in her arms, but when he looked up at her, his expression made her hesitate. It was almost as if he was holding her at arm’s length.