Linda took another family of the Carter slaves with her when she left. Ben and Beulah had five children. The oldest, a boy, was twelve and the youngest was six months old.
As they traveled they talked and sang. At first Linda just listened to the others sing. Her heart was still too heavy. They stayed away from towns, remembering what happened when Alice and Ray rode with Thomas into a town. They camped off the main roads and as close to the woods as they could pull the wagon. Linda had papers for all of Ben’s family that were slaves and proof of Beulah’s freedom. Mr. Carter had bought her freedom when Ben expressed his desire to marry her when she was the slave of a neighbor. When Linda heard the story of how Beulah was treated by her owners, anger and resentment struggled in her breast for her sister. She felt as though it was an insult to the whole human race for, not one but three “white men” to treat another living being in such a cruel manner, let alone another human being.
She was still seething with anger about it when Ben sat his family down for their daily Bible reading. Linda sat with them and held the baby on her lap. He wasn’t clean – none of them were – but she cuddled him close and forgot how she felt about dirt.
“I had a vision,” said Ben. “The words running through my head during the vision were, ‘I am crucified with Christ. I am dead and my life is hid with Christ in God.’ The vision was Christ on the cross; and there I was, dying with him – on the same cross. Then I knew I was truly dead and Christ could live through me. I am possessed by Christ and no longer a slave to my old anger and resentment. I am free to live my new life in Christ with the joy of the Lord flooding my soul.”
“Amen,” Beulah said; and she had such a beautiful smile on her face that Linda began to cry softly. All the anger and resentment left her as she got a picture of her own self on the cross with Jesus.
“Thank you.” She hugged the baby closer and dried her tears.
They saw a few escaped slaves running and hiding in the woods. Of course they ignored them. Most of the time they had the road all to themselves, but one day as Linda was walking at the head of the horse toward the woods, the team suddenly stopped and she heard a gravelly voice demand, “Hey, you boy, get down off that there seat. You gonna die…”
Linda was at the horses head before he finished. “WHAT are you doing with my property? Get your hands off that bridle and step aside.”
He was a big burly man, but he didn’t have a badge of authority so Linda stood as tall as her five feet would let her and glared.
The man took a step back and growled, “You in big trouble if you is helpen these slaves escape.”
“What authority do you have to question me?”
“I could tell the sheriff.”
“Then I shall show the sheriff the papers. Good day.” She nodded and, slapping the nearest horse on the flank, began walking.
Linda didn’t turnaround to see if the man would pursue and bother them further. When they stopped for the night, Ben caught some fish and they had their meal without interruption. They watched carefully all the next day but were unmolested.
That evening, after another meal of fish and beans, Ben took his Bible out and read the 40th chapter of Isaiah. When he finished, he shut the book and looked at Linda.
“Mr. Ben, what does it mean to wait upon the Lord?”
“I was the Carters’ butler. I waited upon them. I didn’t act on my own initiative, but I was ready and alert to act when they wanted me to. I think waiting on the Lord is something like that. There was no anxiety on my part and I didn’t try to second guess them. I knew what they wanted because I knew them. I think we know what God wants when we read his word a lot. For instance, from the portion I just read, we know he is gentle and wants us to comfort each other. He wants us to speak softly but be clear about what we say. He wants his glory to shine through us. He wants us to know his word is firm and eternal and he wants us to reveal the truth to others. He is the master and he comes in power to pay back his enemies and gently lead his flock. He tenderly hugs us to his breast and leads his babies to good food.”
“That means good spiritual food; am I right?”
“Yes. You are his baby and he will lead you to good food.”
“Maybe some of those passages I learned are good food. My mother gave me a poem based on the Song of Songs. She said it was a demonstration of how God feels about us. I lost it before I read it through.”
“We could read it and see what you missed. I’m sure your mother’s poem was beautiful, but the way King James wrote it isn’t bad either. It is a love poem and I think we can discover what she meant you to see when we read it from the Bible.”
“Oh Mr. Ben, you’re so good for me.” Linda cuddled two of the children closer to her and smiled at Beulah. “Now I understand why Mrs. Carter insisted you come with me. I thought it was for your sake alone. She did say I needed you, but I thought she meant I needed your services as protector. She saw my spiritual need.” Linda took the warmth of that thought and slept peacefully through the night.
A few nights later after the boys caught their supper and Beulah and Linda were gutting and cleaning the fish, Linda said, “I just feel that I must check one more time for Phillip, Beulah. I can’t seem to believe he’s dead and buried in an unmarked grave. I want to talk to as many people as I can. Surely someone will be able to give me some information.”
“That’s how I would feel if it was my Ben.”
Linda took in a deep breath and let it out before she spoke. “Phillip’s very important to me, but we never spoke of love or marriage. I wish we had.”
“Do you feel about him the way Solomon wrote in his song?”
“Yes.” Linda could feel the heat rise from the back of her neck and flood her face.” I hope I’m not just being silly – because of the poem my mother wrote and all.”
“Real love isn’t silly, Linda. It’s good and necessary.”