In the antebellum south sometimes the owners are as miserable as their slaves.
| The scream, like a banshee howling, came from Techie’s cabin. Della, a slave, was dying this time. Twenty-four years old, her body was torn unmercifully after ten deliveries. She never had the time to heal between each child before she was pregnant again. Only five of the babies had lived and they were girls.
Young female slaves are sold for more money if the buyers find them strong and able to bear children. Also, if they are skilled at cooking or sewing clothes for the mistress they are worth more. Even experience serving in the Master’s home made them a better investment. Otherwise, they are sold cheaply as weaker field hands compared to the strong young males.
Della had grown up on the plantation. She served in the house until young Master Walton noticed her charms. Once he started to bed her, Mrs. Walton had her banished her to an outside cooking cabin. She was always pregnant so she was unable to work in the fields. Now, Della lay soaked in sweat and life’s precious blood, too exhausted to move.
“One of you chillen, go fetch young Master,” Techie commanded.
All of Della’s children were Sam Walton’s, the plantation owner’s son. He had stopped visiting Della’s cabin several months ago. Worn and broken from babies, she was soft like a ripe peach inside. That once sweet peach was now rotten.
Sam already had his eye on a young female house servant.
A scrawny black boy ran to the hog killing cabin. The smell of freshly killed meat hung in the air. Sam usually supervised the operation because he wanted to make sure nothing was stolen. He sometimes did the slaughtering although he preferred his stallion and the thrill of the hunt for deer or other wildlife.
“Master, Ms. Della is dying, she done had a babe.”
“Is the baby a boy?” Sam asked.
“Was, Suh, but it dead now.”
Master said, “I’ll come soon. Have ya’ll sent for the Preacher?”
“Yes, Suh, he coming. But she dyin fast!” the boy was stuttering. His eyes looked so large, the fear seemed to fill his tiny face.
Sam Walton entered the cabin. The stink of death made him want to retch. Della lay in a pool of black foul smelling blood. It had trickled for hours. Her face was gray and pinched, a mixture of pain and loss of blood. She looked like a skull without much flesh stretched over it.
“I’m dying, Sam,” she whispered.
“The Preacher is coming, Della. Your soul is safe.”
“Please, say you love me Sam,” she begged, trying to grab at his hand.
“You ask too much, foolish talk!” He pushed her shaking slender brown hand away.
He fled outside to his horse.
Love talk was ridiculous. He had only told his wife he loved her on the day of marriage. He had never even kissed a slave on the mouth when bedding her. He had promised a young Della when he first wanted her that he wouldn’t sell their children. All she ever gave him were girls no one wanted so, the promise wasn't broken.
Slaves were taught from the Bible to obey their masters. This was the way it was supposed to be. They were children and had to be led. He treated his slaves really well compared to other plantation owners. They were fed, had a roof over their heads, church meetings and some holiday time to be with family.
This new wench he had his eyes on was strong. She would give him fine young bucks that would get a good price. It wasn’t any different from the best cotton crop. A slave, bought young and healthy, would learn a talent like shoeing horses. In the end it meant money.
His own wife, Marlene, wasn’t able to have babies. She had been pregnant once and miscarried in the fourth month. They continued to try to conceive but it just didn't work. Sam knew it wasn't any fault of his. He rarely felt the urge to bed his wife anymore. Marlene knew a man had his needs but she didn’t want it thrown in her face. Sam didn't understand why God gave him such lousy luck.
The cabin was suddenly ice cold as Della’s spirit left her body. Everyone around her was shaking and moaning. Her body went from pale and cold to appearing as if it had been in the grave for a month. The skin melted away. Her eyes, nose and mouth were now open sockets where insects crawled. Everyone fled the cabin. Even the Preacher decided the Devil had gotten there first.
Sam Walton rode like the wind. He prayed to God for forgiveness concerning unrighteous acts he had commited against Della and his wife. He felt something evil and demonic at his back. It felt like sharp steaming claws of monsters grabbing flesh right through his clothing. The pain was like nothing he had ever experienced. He cried tears of blood where the pressure was pulsing at his very eye sockets. He began to pray for death.
The mighty oak, where he had whipped slaves, caught Sam’s neck with its Spanish moss. It entwined his body from the horse and tightened it into a noose.
Sam heard Della’s soft laughter and then his preacher's words as the fires of Hell began to lick his boots.
"If you sow sorrow,
you will reap misery.
If you are rich
and spread evil,
you will suffer
a thousand painful deaths."
By Kathie Stehr