Patience thought her heart would break. She had no idea of how much she'd grown to love this young girl, Biddy, the very evidence of her shame, whom she should have loathed all of these years. She knew her husband was right, they couldn't have a free woman living amongst the slaves. With that thought, Patience frowned and clenched her jaw. She didn't know how, but she would prevail upon her husband to join in her belief that God wanted all men to be free, all women, for that matter. For now, she must be brave for poor Biddy.
Walking into the front hall, she stopped for a moment to look at the young girl. She'd been so much a part of their lives, it was just like seeing one of their own children off to boarding school and such. Thank God, she thought, they are none of them here to say goodbye at this moment. At least Ephraim had waited until most of them were off visiting neighbours, childhood friends with whom they'd spend a night or two catching up on all the gossip of school and things.
Stepping forward, she smiled at the tearful Biddy and said, "Now, Biddy, you are a big girl, almost a woman, and you are free! No sense in you hanging about this place, we'd have nothing for you to do, silly girl! You go now and mind what we've taught you. You may write a letter, once a month should be sufficient to practice your penmanship, and to let us know how you are getting on."
"Oh, Miz Patience," Biddy cried, "what have I done wrong. Why's Marse Ephraim doing this to me? This be my home, Miz Patience. I ain't nevah been nowhere befo' and I don't wannna go now! Please, Miz Patience, talk to him, don't make me go?!"
Patience steeled her heart against Biddy's pleas and her own sorrow. Looking at Biddy with a stern visage, she said coldly, "Biddy, that is enough of this self-indulgence. This is not your home, nor will it ever be. Now, leave as you've been told!" Spinning on her feet, Patience quickly walked away, willing herself not to cry, hating herself for the harsh words. As she walked up the stairs to her bedchamber, she heard Biddy's quiet sobs, then the front door opened and closed with finality.
Cook was there on the front steps. She gave Biddy a hug goodbye and told her not to worry, they had their ways of watching over her and making sure she'd be okay. She pulled a small packet from within the folds of her shawl and said to Biddy, "Now, don't you open this until you are well away from heah, mind? Miz Patience and Mistuh Ephraim, they loves you, but in this world we cain't shows our cares thet way, most times, so they's a little something in heah they asked me ta give you. Promise now...you cain't look at it until you're almos' to Charleston?"
Biddy shook her head yes, wiping the tears away with a big, fresh hanky Patience had given her. She couldn't speak, but looked at Cook and tried to smile. Cook hugged her again, then helped her up into the carriage which was waiting. She whispered to her, "You be a free woman now, sistuh! Don' fergit yer folks back home an' somedays we're alls gonna be free, too. Rejoice and be glad that the Lord done seen fit to free you, child! Goodbye!"
For a long time, despite the cold, Cook stood and watched as the carriage made tracks in the now slushy snow; all the way down the driveway, lined with barren trees, their wild looking branches reaching up in supplication, the light of day bleak against the low clouds. She watched that carriage until she could see no more than a black dot against the horizon, then she suddenly shivered, drew her shawl even closer and trudged back round to the kitchen entrance. A black cloud of doom and heartsick gathered round her so that when she stomped in, shaking the snow off her skirts and boots, the others quickly went back to their work, knowing Cook was in a foul mood which would brook no arguments. Except for a faint sound of sobbing coming from upstairs, a pall of silent sorrow seemed to pervade the house.