48 Hours a Day
Chapter 244 - New Contact
Of late, a dark cloud had been hanging over the heads of Terrance Manor’s residents.
Leah was in the kitchen, making Malcolm his breakfast when she subconsciously glanced at an empty corner. Just three weeks ago, a familiar face had stood there. She last saw Nadya when he got dragged out of the kitchen by the supervisor after he was reported.
By the time she saw him again, he had already been whipped to oblivion. The supervisor lifted the mangled Nadya and dragged him out of the house. Leah’s heart dropped as she trembled with fear at the awful sight of the now unrecognizable man. Thankfully she managed to put up a calm front.
The constant anxiety she had been subjected to caused her to have vivid and revolting nightmares each night. She started dreaming that the supervisors had come to get her too.
During that trying period, everyone who had been in contact with Nadya was brought in for questioning. Many didn’t make it back, and yet, she had somehow escaped it by serving Malcolm breakfast each day. As a result, no one thought of approaching her so far.
Ever since she was sold to Terrance Manor, Malcolm saw her in a different light. The same went for the other members of the household, who unexpectedly treated her with the utmost respect. Leah was certain, though, that this special treatment wasn’t because of how important she was. Once she lost this “viewed-in-a different-light” status, she would be demoted to the fate of the other slaves in the manor; their survival at the mercy of Malcolm’s whimsical temper. Despite the confusion and the mess in it all, she saw the whole situation crystal clear.
After Nadya’s apprehension, Laeli’s lifeline to the Terrance Manor was severed, turning communications into a daunting task. With tensions running high, the slaves were strictly prohibited from contacting outsiders. They went as far as to replace those tasked to buy food with the supervisors.
Seeing how challenging the situation had become, Laeli put in extra effort to look for a new messenger. Who he found happened not to be a black slave but a missionary who would come to preach at the manor every day. He hailed from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. (Founded by Thomas Bray in 1701, it was approved by the British Royal Family to preach the gospel to Native Americans, blacks, and whites, albeit with limited success.)
Laeli attempted to bribe the priest with the gold coins Zhang Heng gave him, hoping that he could pass his words on to Leah. To protect Leah, he told the priest not to talk to her directly, but instead, to a girl from his tribe. This girl would pass his words to Leah after that.
So, as it was, Laeli was set to leave the place in two days. On that day, Leah was supposed to clean Malcolm’s study. This time, she was asked to slip Normand and Redmond’s letters out of the manor. By choosing this day, Laeli could lower Leah’s risks when she stole the letters. All she needed to do was to hold out until the night, and she would be able to leave the manor. A day before the plan’s execution, Laeli asked the clergy to smuggle in a pile of daggers, guns, and weapons into Terrance Manor.
Unsurprisingly, the straight-as-a-fiddle priest rejected him. Initially, he sympathized with the slaves and yearned to earn a quick buck as well. Never in his mind did it occur to him that Laeli would blow the whole thing out of proportion. The moment he caught sight of the weapons, he was terrified to death.
It was too late for Laeli to step back right now. He had no idea how long Nadya would last inside the manor. He wanted to wait no longer, seeing that he had run out of time to look for a new insider. Once he missed this window of opportunity, he would need to wait another week before he could act again.
In an attempt of encouragement, Laeli kidnapped the priest’s brother after apologizing, intending to use him as a means of leverage. Unbeknownst to the priest, his sympathy would eventually put his life at risk. Suddenly, he realized that Laeli wasn’t the simple man he thought he was. He was a dangerous wild beast that would do anything it took to achieve his goals. Besides, blacks like Laeli were naturally hostile towards the whites since they enslaved them for centuries. It drove him harder to save his people from the manor even if he was to pass the gates of hell and diminished all thought of the consequences that his actions might bring.
There was no turning back for the priest too. He had no choice but to carry out Laeli’s demands if he wanted to save his brother. He came up with an excuse that he was to distribute food to the slaves. Seeking to appear as inconspicuous as he could, he rode on his horse carriage piled with bread back to the manor. At the sight of the heavily laden wagon, the mansion’s butler felt it strange, recalling that the churches didn’t typically help slaves since they all had their masters. If they started distributing alms, it would send a distasteful message to everyone that their masters were not feeding the slaves enough.
However, the priest once said that everyone walking this earth was god’s children, and the status of their wealth did not categorize them. The butler failed to come up with anything that could rebuke those words. After all, everyone in the manor, Malcolm included, respected these missionaries highly. Many of these priests had willingly given up their lives in Scotland to serve the people of the more impoverished regions. Such a sacrifice was deemed admirable, one that almost always gained reverence.
Adding to that, the priest was a regular visitor to Terrance Manor, and the butler felt it wasn’t necessary to inspect his carriage. Thanks to the constant patronage, he was allowed in almost immediately. He was so nervous at that time that he almost bit his tongue.
Once in the compound, the priest parked his carriage at a space where he usually gave his sermons. Once the supervisor saw the man getting down, the slaves were swiftly gathered. The time to eat had almost arrived, and in order not to hold up work, the priest would usually use this time to preach to them.
However, considering the man he was, the priest was too nervous to think straight. All that came out of his mouth were a jumble of unintelligible sentences as his mind reeled with blankness. Luckily for him, the supervisors weren’t the least interested in his sermons. As usual, they would indulge in poker as the words of the priest floated them by. Ironically, none of them noticed the priest acting strangely. As for the slaves, they had always been the priest’s most faithful listeners, daring not to complain or say a word although they noticed that he wasn’t quite himself today. Although seemingly drowned in his words, most slaves actually drifted away as the sermon droned on and on, unconcerned by what the preacher had to tell them.
Ten long minutes later, the priest finally ended the sermon and began distributing the bread around. After making sure everyone had a piece in hand, he took four baskets of bread that were stored under the horse carriage and walked toward the manor. However, the guards blocked him the moment he arrived at the entrance.
The priest knew that his most crucial moment was upon him. Whatever he did next would determine if the plan was a failure or success.
“I’m here to deliver the bread. The female slaves are inside, right?”
“I’m sorry. You are not allowed in the manor without permission.”
“I am burdened by my duty bestowed by the Queen herself to spread the gospel across this land. I have the liberty to travel anywhere I want on this island.”
The priest did his best to sound convincing, but unfortunately, the two guards seemed unmoved by his effective proclamation. Just when the priest was figuring out another way to enter the manor, he heard Wallace scoffing.
“You guys can’t stop him. Father Tim is one of the bravest men that I’ve had the fine pleasure of meeting. I heard that he once walked three days and three nights around North Carolina preaching the gospel! Let the man in.”