"My third-born, Wilberforce, became therefore my first-born. A mother's pride and joy.
"Wilberforce went to the best schools in this Island of Bimshire. Then overseas. He travel to countries like Italy, France, Austria and Europe; and when he return - back here to this Island, he start behaving more like a European than somebody born here. But, at least, he came back with his ambition fulfill. A Doctor. Of Tropical Medicines.
"Whereas, had the other two children survive, I wanted them to follow in the path of the Law. They would have made such lovely barsters-at-Law! You don't think so?"
"Yes, ma'am," the Constable says.
"My sweet boy-child, William Henry; and lovely Rachelle Sarah Prudence, the girl.
"Yes, Constable. Me. I, Mary-Mathilda ... I, Mary Gertrude Mathilda, although I don't use Gertrude, as I told you . .
". . . left inside-here at seven o' clock this evening, and walked the four hundred and something yards from here to the Plantation Main House, and it take me fifteen minutes time to arrive there; and. . ."
"Which night you mean, ma'am, when you left your residence of abode?"
"Which night I took the walk? Was it Saturday night, last night, or tonight Sunday night, is what you getting at?"
"I mean that, too, ma'am. But what I really getting at, is if the moon was shining when you leff your home and place of abode, on the night in question, walking to your destination? Or if you was walking in the rain. 'Cause with rain, I have to refer to footsteps. They bound to be footprints. . . "
"If there are footsteps, those would be my prints in the ground, Constable. Bold and strong and deep-deep; deep-enough for water to collect in them. Deep-enough to match the temperriment I was in. I can tell you that my determination was strong.
"It was dark-dark, earlier tonight. But in that darkness, I was not hiding from anybody. Not from the Law; not from God; not from my conscience, as I walked in the valley of the shadow of darkness and of death. No. There was no moon. But I was not a thief, craving the darkness, and dodging from detection. Oh, no!
"A long time ago, before tonight, I decided to stop walking in darkness.
"With that temperriment and determination of mind, I first started, on a regular basis, to polish my hoe. And to pass a grinding stone dip in car-grease, along the blade, since September the fifteenth last-gone; September, October, November just-pass, is three months; and every day for those months, night after night as God send, more than I can call-to-mind. And I have to laugh, why, all-of-sudden, I went back to a hoe, I had-first-used when I was a girl, working in the cane fields, not quite eight years of age. The same hoe, weeding young canes, sweet potato slips, 'eight-weeks' yams, eddoes, all those ground provisions.
"This hoe that I used all those years, in the North Field, is the same hoe I used this Sunday night.
"If it wasn't so black outside, you could look through that window you sitting beside, and see the North Field I refer to, vast and green and thick with sugar cane, stretching for acres and acres, beyond the reach of your eyes, unmeasuring as the sea ...
"So, no, Constable. I was not seeking the shadows of night, even though the moon wasn't shining!
"I already stated to you that at seven o'clock, the hour in question, it was like a full moon was shining, by which I mean, as the saying in this Village goes, a full-moon alters the way men behave and women, too!--turns them into lunatics, and--"
"Pardon me, ma'am. But on the telephone to the sub-station, in your perlimary Statement to Sargeant, Sargeant say that you say the night was dark, and no moon wasn't shining. Is so, Sargeant tell me to write down your Statement, in my notebook, using your exact words. So, I hope that I not stating now, in-front-'o-you, what you didn't state, nor intend to state, in your telephone Statement, ma'am?
From The Polished Hoe by Austin Clarke. HarperCollins Publishers. Used by permission.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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