Up close the man had a mien of potency; being in his presence was intimidating, for it seemed that any offer he was ready to bestow upon me, would not be refused unless I wanted to continue in my current state. His bushy beard complimented his heavy eyebrows; barely did I see his eyes, that to this day still holds terror over me. His dress was opulent, which was a comfort to me. During his introduction he never gave his name. I asked for it and his jolly face went into a stern frown as if to avert any further inquires of his surname. Dropping my head in shame ( not from his look, but from by plight), I listened to him speak.
“You look in need of help friend.”
“Yes, sir,” I replied.
“I’m a sincere man: when I see the trouble a man is in, such as your case, I offer help.”
Comforting words, but little did I know the true meaning behind them.
“I’m hungry, tired, and need of a bath. I’ll work for your generosity, sir,” I said in haste, “Just help me.”
A smile came over his face as if he had heard my words before. Surprisingly he brought me to my feet, for I was on my knees before, and walked with me explaining the terms in helping me. We would sign a contract, he and I, stating that I would work with him as a manservant in his home. After seven years of work, my freedom would be at hand, and to sweeten the pot, I would receive enough money to buy land for myself and to prosper my own way. The deal was to posh to deny; and after buying me a large meal, I said I would do so.
A horse and buggy awaited me. The courthouse was only a few minutes away. The judge drew out the contracts. The man sign is name on one line and then gave me the pen. I was cautious; for there was an abundant use of words just to explain the deal between us beforehand, but I signed; neglecting to read the document. Outside we returned to the drawn carriage, upon which I asked for a copy of the contract. The man placed his heavy hand on my should proclaiming:
“We’ll worry about that later, we have a long journey ahead of us. Get some sleep.”
I did not push the issue further, although I was inclined to do so. The ride went down a beaten path and before I got my wits about me, my hometown was gone. The man began to whistle a tune, that was so smoothing that slumber began to overtake me; however, before my eyes were completely shut, I believed I saw that man look over me with a cruel smile, but I cannot be too sure if I was in the state of dreaming or not. In an hour or so I awoke; the scenery was foreign to me. I asked where we were.
“Far away,” said the man, ” My home is up ahead.”
Over the hilltop, appeared a grand home of brick design. This sight, with all its grandeur, was not the sight that kept me spellbound. Over to my left, worked a host of men and women. Some looked as if they were dead as the heavy heat of the sun beat upon them. I made eye contact with a few of them, and I could not tell if they were telling me to run for my life or if the sun had a strange effect on them. The silent communication ended when a taskmaster struck one of them with a cudgel, sending the other workers back to toiling the soil. I thought the one he had struck was dead, for he was carried away by two other taskmasters. I could tell that they were not well taken care of, and I wasted no time in demanding who and why they were treated as such.
“Who are they?” I asked.
The man continued to pull into his courtyard, ignoring my voice.
“Again, sir, I ask who are they?”
“Field-workers,” he said a little agitated by my question.
“But you said I would work in your home. The contract-”
“You will work in my home,” replied the man slowly, ” if you keep all the demands placed upon you.”
“And if I should miss them.”
“Just keep them,” said the man.
Indeed my only concern was for myself. As long as went well for me for those seven years, as I supposed, I found little benevolence for the field-workers. The man invited me to follow him to his home. Upon crossing the threshold, I took step three, which I shall explain further.