How thrilled I am to be chosen by the clubs as a National Blue Ribbon selection. I sincerely thank the editors for adding The Kitchen House to their bookshelf. It is indeed an honor.
I love to read. Ever since I was a child, good books have taken me to hallowed ground, where I’ve been introduced to people and places I would never otherwise have known. It is my sincere wish that The Kitchen House might do the same for others.
From the first day that I began to write, this story had a voice of its own. It is true that I did my part with research and placing myself at my desk, but as I wrote I was as surprised as any future reader might be to learn of the unrelenting challenges the characters faced. Many days I sat with pencil in hand, shocked at what came to me. At times I was so disturbed that I tried to change the storyline, only to learn that the characters refused to participate. As they resolutely stood back, I unsuccessfully struggled on without their input, and thus learned that I was not the one leading the charge. I came to care so deeply for the characters that I cried with the last edit of the manuscript, for I knew that I had completed my part and now had to release this beloved family.
My dearest hope is that you, the reader, might come to know and care for Lavinia, Belle and their extended family as I did. I am grateful for the opportunity to present you with their story.
The Kitchen House
...after I woke, wedged between crates and bags, I was terror-stricken to discover that I did not know where I was, nor could I recall my name. I was frail after months of rough travel, and when the man lifted me from the wagon, I clung to his broad shoulders. He was having none of that and easily pulled my arms loose to set me down. I began to cry and reached back up for him, but he pushed me instead toward the old Negro male who was hurrying toward us.
“Jacob, take her,” the man said. “Give her to Belle. She’s hers for the kitchen.”
“Yes, Cap’n.” The old man kept his eyes low.
“James! James, you’re home!”
A woman’s call! Hopeful, I stared up at the enormous house in front of me. It was made of clapboard and painted white, and a wide porch framed the full length of the front. Towering columns circled with vines of green and violet wisteria stood on either side of the broad front steps, and the air was thick with the fragrance this early April morning.
“James, why didn’t you send word?” the woman sang out into the morning mist.
Hands on his hips, the man leaned back for a better view. “I warn you, wife. I’ve come home for you. Best come down before I come up.”
Above, at a window that appeared open to the floor, she laughed, a figure of white froth capped by billowing auburn hair. “Oh no, James. You stay away until you’ve been washed.”
“Mrs. Pyke. Prepare yourself,” he shouted, and bounded over the threshold. Inside, he continued to shatter the peace. “Where is everyone?” I heard him call. “I’m home!”
At a run, I began to follow, but the dark old man caught my arm and held me. When I fought him, he lifted me up, and I screamed in terror. Swiftly, he carried me to the back of the house. We were high on a hill, and out farther, lesser hills surrounded us. A horn blasted, frightening me further, and I began to hit at my captor. He shook me firmly. “You stop this now!” I stared at him, at his foreign dark brown skin that contrasted so with his white hair, and his dialect so strange that I scarcely understood. “What you fightin’ me for?” he asked. I was exhausted by it all and dropped my head on the man’s thin shoulder. He continued on to the kitchen house.
“Belle?” the old man called. “Belle?”
“Uncle Jacob? Come in,” a feminine voice called, and the wooden door creaked as he pushed it open with his foot.
Uncle Jacob slid me to my feet while a young woman came slowly down the stairs, then came forward, quickly tying a band of green calico around a thick braid of glossy black hair. Her large green eyes grew wide in disbelief as she took me in. I was comforted to see that she was not as foreign-looking as the man who had brought me to her, for though her light brown skin still differed from mine, her facial features more resembled my own.
Uncle Jacob spoke. “The cap’n send this chil’ to you. He say she for the kitchen house.”
“What’s that man thinking? Can’t he see she’s white?”
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