This is a work of fiction and in no way draws on the lives of any specific person or persons. If there is any similarity to any real persons or events it is entirely coincidental. Some license has been taken with places as well.
The work is copy righted (c) by the author and may not be reproduced in any form without the specific written permission of the author. It is assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of their submission agreement but it may not be copied or archived on any other site without the written permission of the author.
Thanks to Rob (in Atlanta) a note: "... In chapter 2, which is set in 1833, it mentions Atlanta. Atlanta did not exist, yet. It might have existed as a little railroad village called Terminus. In the 1840s, as it began to grow due to the railroads, it was named Marthasville. Later in the 1850s, it was renamed Atlanta. It wasn't much of a town until the 1850s. Even during the Civil War, it was smaller than Savannah."
I want to thank all of you who have written to me about
the story. Your comments are greatly appreciated. I hope that I haven't missed writing back to any of
you. Here is the next part and chapter of this historical story.
Byron was ecstatic when Ty told him that he had decided to go West with him. He hadn't seriously thought that Ty would ever leave his cabin.
With as much determination as Ty had given to the project of building his cabin when he first came there, he now gave to the plans for leaving it.
First they had to go to Asheville to gather information about traveling. Ty knew something about the trains and the coaches, but he had no idea of how to use them, and what they cost. Then he had to figure out how much money he had. After that he to see if there was a chance he could sell his cabin and land to someone.
When Ty told Byron that he would have to go on to Charlotte to see about his funds and to see about selling his land, Byron began to make excuses for not wanting to go."But I have to go," Ty insisted, then sensing that Byron was hiding something asked, "You in some kinda trouble in Charlotte?"
Byron had pondered this a long time before deciding not to tell Ty about his past. But now he had to.
"I don't know if it's going to make any difference or not," Byron began, "I would have told you sooner only I didn't want you to know in case there was ever a problem. But now you have to know.
"Ty," he said softly, "I'm a slave." Byron watched as Ty sat looking at him.
"How could you be?" Ty's mind couldn't quite understand what Byron was saying.
"You know about mixed-bloods, don't you?" Byron asked.
"Of course," Ty said, "But you can always tell." And you could usually.
"Not always," Byron said. And Byron told Ty the story of how he came to end up where he was.
"Now you see why I don't want to go to Charlotte."
"Yeah, now I see." Ty nodded his head, "Now I see a lot of things."
"Don't be angry with me, Ty," Byron pleaded.
"Oh, Byron," Ty said, "I'm not angry with you. You did what you thought was best, and I appreciate that. It wouldn't have made any difference to me, even if you was Black, same as me.
"You can still go to Charlotte with me, you can just call yurself something else, 'til we git things straightened out. I'll find out how much trouble yur in, if'n any."
They went the next day to Asheville. His excitement over the plans they were making were almost more that he could bare. The following day they headed out to Charlotte. It took three days of walking to reach the city. Things had changed some since he'd last been there. When Ty went to the office of the lawyer, Templeton, he found that the man had died. The man who had replaced him was a far different sort of man. He remembered Ty, not that he'd ever met him, but from the newspaper stories at the time of Randy Jones' death. He'd wondered what had happened to him.
Ty stood quietly in the of center of the office while the gray-haired man went through the files after Ty told him what he wanted to know.
"It looks as if," the man began, "Templeton was a bit of a rogue. Seems he stole a lot of money from you in the form of fees he charged for handling your affairs. Hmmm," he said as he continued leafing through the papers.
"Can you come back tomorrow, I want to have the judge look these over before we do anything about your funds?"
"Yes, Sir, I kin."
"Good. About ten o'clock will be fine."
"Thank you, Sir." Ty said. The man went back to looking through the papers as Ty turned and walked out of the office.
Outside Byron was waiting, standing looking around the street. It'd been a while since he was in Charlotte too. Together they walked down the street toward the bank. Byron had had an account in the bank too, so they decided that it was best if Byron waited outside.
The cashier frowned, "Yes, what can I do for you?"
"My names Jones, Tyrone Jones, I got a account here, please can you tell me how much is in it?" Ty's voice was soft and clear.
"You wait right here, I'll check." The cashier hurried off to the office in back. He returned a short time later. His face was red and he seemed flustered.
"I'm terribly sorry, Mister Jones. Would you follow me to Mister Hamilton's office?" The young man indicated that Ty should got around the end of the row of cages to the office he'd been to. Ty followed him into the office.
"Sir," he said to the man behind the desk, this is Mister Jones." And then he left.
The man stood up and looked at Ty, he was puzzled.
"Mister, Jones," he began, "Your account's been closed. Mister Templeton withdrew that last of your money a short time before he died. I'm afraid you'll have to check with his estate to see what's become of it."
"Thank you, Sir," Ty said. What the other man had said was true, he was a crook! Ty returned to the outer office and found Byron waiting for him, he'd been worried when he saw Ty go into the office.
"What'd he say?" Byron asked.
"He said that Templeton, took it all out."
"Don't worry, the lawyer I talked to just a while ago, said he'd check with the judge about it. Seems he knew Templeton, and that he was stealing from me. I got to go back tomorrow at ten."
"Come on, let's go get something to eat, I'm starved," Byron said.
Ty smiled, Byron's forthright manner pleased him. Together they walked to the hotel and went to the dining-room. It was noon and a crowd was already filling it.
"Do you have a private dining-room?" Byron asked. The manager looked at Byron and then at Ty.
Sensing a scene if he said no, said, "Follow me, Sir."
Byron and Ty followed the man through the dining-room and up the short flight of stairs.
"Will this be satisfactory?" he asked holding open the door to small private room.
"Yes, thank you," Byron said. "Send up a waiter to take our order as soon as you can."
"Very good, Sir," the man turned and hurried off. Byron had dressed in his finest clothes that morning, and so looked the part of a fine gentleman, in spite of his roughly trimmed hair. Ty's clothes were not so fine, but they were clean and neat, leftovers from his servant days.
Byron snickered as he shut the door and took a seat at the table.
"Did you see the look on his face?" Byron laughed. "He knew if he didn't give us a room, I'd make him give us a table in the main dining-room, something he didn't want to have to do."
Ty joined in the laughter, although he was more concerned about other matters. Would he have any money at all?
All that was forgotten as the food began to arrive. Byron ordered freely from the menu, as a treat to them both for having endured the privation of the cabin for so long. He didn't have all that much money, but enough for a treat he felt certain, even if Ty were penniless.
Since they were staying over in town, Byron knew that they were really going to have a problem about lodgings.
But he handled it deftly by telling the hotel manager that Ty was his manservant and had to be at hand in case he needed him. It turned out that they had a suite, in fact several which were intended for just such a purpose. That is two bedrooms adjoining, one very small for the servant, and the other much fancier for the master. Byron cared little how they did it, but more that the arrangements could and would be made.
A more meager meal was eaten that evening, and tired from their trek down from the hills, they slept soundly, both in the same bed with clean white sheets and pillows.
The next day Ty with Byron accompanying him, went to see the lawyer at the appointed time. Byron had decided to take a chance on being recognized. They had to wait a few minutes as the other client took longer than expected.
Finally they were admitted to the office and asked to sit down.
"First," the man began, "I've gone over all the books on Mister Jones' accounts. I've examined Mister Templeton's accounts as well. I've spoken to the probate judge and he's agreed to let me make certain adjustments in these accounts.
"It seems that Templeton was regularly transferring money from your account to his, claiming fees as the reason. The result at the end was that he had all your money in his account, and you had none.
"I've arranged with the bank to transfer almost all of it back to your account, except for reasonable executor fees. Your account will now have a balance of just over twenty-five thousand dollars."
The man paused to allow what he'd just said to sink in.
Ty didn't speak. Then the man added, "This doesn't include what you'll get when you sell the parcel of land in the hills where you've been living. That should net several hundred dollars easily."
Ty stood up finally and said, "I appreciate all you've done for me, Sir. I'm sure that you'll make an appropriate charge for your services, and I'll have the bank send you a check."
"There'll be no charge, Mister Jones. I'll bill the Templeton account for this service, after all, it's their fault it was necessary." The man smiled and nodded to Byron who was beaming. Byron stood up and walked over to the desk to shake hands with the lawyer. It wasn't proper for Ty to do so, and so Byron did so.
"Thank you, Sir," Byron said, "Both Mister Jones and I will remember what you've done for him, and if we should ever need the services of a lawyer we'll remember you."
"You're quite welcome, and good luck to you." They turned to leave. "Excuse me, Sir," the lawyer said, "But aren't you Mister Harper?"
Byron was ready, "Yes Sir, I am related to the Harpers of Charlotte. It's said that I bare a resemblance to them."
"I just met Mister Byron one or two times," the man said, "It was such a shame about Mister Jeffrey, dying in that accident a few years back."
"Do you know, Sir, what ever became of Byron Harper? I hear tell, he was a slave."
"So the sisters claimed. He disappeared right after the accident. The two sisters took over Jeffrey's lands when Byron was declared unable to inherit them."
"Is that a fact?" Byron nodded.
"Yes, and it's a shame he ran away too," the man said adding, "Because my partner handled the estate and told me that if Byron had stayed and wanted to protest the decision, he could likely have won. Seems like, no papers were ever filed which proved anything other than he was Ralph's son. His birth records don't mention his mother, just his father's.
"Quite an interesting case."
"Thank you again, Sir," Byron said.
They left the office still in a state of shock. Ty was a wealthy man by any standards. Used wisely, he have enough money to live comfortably all the rest of his life, even if he never worked again.
And Byron could be wealthy too, possibly. It was a hard decision now. He'd buried his past, but now perhaps it was time to look into it again. They would have to think about it for a while.
Back at the hotel, they talk over how they were going to handle this new development. They didn't actually need the money that Byron might, just might be able to secure. Ty was in favor of leaving the dead buried, and Byron was inclined to leave it alone too. But a nagging thought kept coming back to his mind, and he didn't know what it was.
"I'll tell you what," Byron said, "Since you say you don't think we should wait around trying to get something we might never get. And since we'd have enough money without it, I don't mind not having more. But I'd like to go out and visit the graves of my family, my Mama's and Jeffrey's."
Ty thought a moment, and agreed, "I don' suppose thet could hurt none."
It was agreed, they would go for a visit. Byron was anxious to see his home again, and see who was still around. The next morning, after getting a horse for Ty to ride, and some fresh clothes, they sat out for the plantation where Byron was born. It was almost a half day's ride, and was just past noon when they rode up to the two cemeteries. They looked little different from when he'd left. The Blacks' was still run down and over grown with grass and weeds, and the Whites' was cleared of weeds, and the fence freshly painted. They stepped down and Ty stayed with the horses as Byron walked through them.
Fond memories came rushing back, bringing a teary look to his face as he gazed upon the stones in the carefully tended plot reserved for the Harpers. They stood in a row, Jeffrey, Ralph, Mary Ellen, their mother, James Arthur, their father, and the others. Each looking older than the other, which they were indeed.
After a few moment, Byron walked back and they remounted. A few minutes ride and they were at the Big House. It was closed, or so it looked. The yard was still cared for, but the windows shuttered in front. Children still played in the drive as they rode up.
"Master Byron!" a voice called, "Master Byron!"
Byron turned and looked in the direction of the house. Climbing down the steps, one at a time an old woman hobbled.
"Flora!" he called back. He jumped down from his horse and ran to her. She hugged and kissed him crying all the while.
"Oh," she wailed, "You ain't dead like they said. Youse alive!"
After she calmed down, she asked him to come up to the house. She looked at Ty. "Guess you can bring him too, if'n you have a mind to."
Byron smiled at her, she hadn't changed a bit.
"So tell me all about the place, what's going on?" Byron said as they walked slowly up the walk to the house.
Flora gave Byron the news. After he'd left, Cynthia and Margaret had the two houses closed up, except for the kitchen, library, and the family dining-rooms. They were kept open so that the men who ran the places had someplace to retire to when they were visiting on business, which was every couple of days or so.
Almost all the Blacks who'd worked for Byron and Jeffrey, who'd been freed, had left and gone North to work. They, the White folk, had to buy more slaves to work the land. Of the people that Byron knew, only Charles was still here, besides Flora. And Charles was ill now. He was at the other house, being tended by one of the new slave girls who cooked and cleaned at the house. He wasn't well, but the doctors didn't know what was wrong with him, he just didn't feel good, and could barely walk.
Byron's eyes saddened when she told him of Charles. As Byron remembered, Charles was much younger than Ty, and had never been sick so far as he remembered. He decided that they'd ride over and see him, but they'd be back for dinner, as Flora insisted.
Byron and Ty rode the short ways to the new house, which looked much the same as it had when he left, except some of the trees and bushes were larger now.
They were let into the house when Byron explained that he was there to see Charles. The girl showed them to the room which Charles used.
"Charles, you old loafer!" Byron smiled as he saw him.
"Byron!" Charles began weeping unashamedly, "Dear God you're alive!" He reached out his arms and Byron went to his bed and they hugged.
Byron told Charles of their plans, and of some of the things that had happened. And Charles filled in the gaps in Flora's account of the happenings there.
It seems that neither plantation was doing very well since he'd left. The sisters' husbands were not well suited to farming, and with having to buy all new help, they just couldn't get things going well again ? what with all the thieving the new slaves were doing. Charles said that the sisters often talk as though they wished that he, Byron would come back.
When Byron asked Charles about his illness, Charles said that he didn't really know. He'd fallen from a horse and hurt his back, a year after Byron left. Since then he hadn't been able to do much. And with Byron gone, he really didn't care.
Byron wished there was more that he could say, more that he could do. He knew that he could never come back to stay. It had hurt him too much when they forced him to leave. And with Jeffrey gone, nothing there, except Charles meant anything to him. In his present condition Charles was hardly able to go along with them. Ty watched and listened as he began to get a picture of this young man with whom he was forever entwined.
Byron asked Charles if would go to the other house for dinner with Flora. Charles declined, and wished that they would stay. Byron said that she'd made him promise to go back, and he couldn't very well not go back. But Byron agreed that he would stop back the next day to visit some more.
On the way back to the old house, they encountered Cynthia and her husband on the road. They had heard from Flora that Byron was back, and they were anxious to talk with him.
"I do declare," Cynthia said when she said Byron, "You haven't changed a bit."
"Good day, Miss Cynthia," Byron said coolly, and nodded to her husband.
"You will come to dinner tomorrow evening, Byron," she gushed, "Flora told us that you were having dinner with her tonight."
"Thank you kindly for the invitation, M'am," he answered, adding, "I'm not certain that I'll be available."
"Oh, please Byron. Let bygones be bygones," she pleaded. "You know that I always favored you."
"Perhaps," he conceded. "I'll send word if I can't make it."
"Well, then," she smiled, "We'll see you tomorrow evenin' then." Byron tipped his hat as the coach moved on down the road.
Ty looked at Byron quizically, "You are a hard man, Byron."
"Perhaps," he smiled, "But she's such a phony."
They laughed and road back to the house. Byron was still not clear about how to handle the situation. If he became entangled with them again, it would delay their journey to St. Louis, perhaps for a year. He wondered if it would be worth it.
Later that night, after a frank discuss of the situation, it was agreed that Byron would listen to what Cynthia had to say, but that they would not delay their trip by more than three weeks at the most.
The next day they returned to visit with Charles, who seemed surprisingly much better. At late afternoon, Ty and Charles who were getting on quite well, insisted that Byron should go on alone to dinner, and that they would visit until he returned. There was room for Ty to stay the night, should Byron decide to stay over. Seeing that he was outnumbered, he gave in, and rode off to visit with Cynthia.
As Ty and Byron had thought, Cynthia had a plan which she felt would be attractive to Byron. What she proposed to him was that he take over management of the two plantations as a full partner, sharing fifty percent of the profits.
"I've talked with my attorney," Byron lied, a little lie since he had talked with an attorney, "And he advises me that I should go to court to regain my land." Byron paused and waited until he was certain that both Cynthia and her husband had ample time to considered what it meant.
"It seems," he said, "The papers which the attorney said existed the day he read the will, you couldn't produce. And further, that the records on my birth only show my father's name, not my mother's." He paused again.
"However," he continued, "I have no desire to become embroiled in a legal battle, and have decided that I am leaving shortly for California. Therefore I will sell you these lands for a reasonable sum, so that you should legal title to them in the future, as you well know, you could never sell them without it since your claim to them is clouded."
"But," Cynthia started, but was interrupted by her husband, who knew better than she what the legal implications were.
"Just what do you call reasonable?" he asked.
"Make me an offer," Byron said, throwing it back to him.
"I should think that five dollars an acre would be fair, considering how run down the land is."
"I was thinking more like fifteen," Byron said.
"Never!" Cynthia said.
"Be still!" her husband glared at her. "Ten."
"Twelve fifty, not a penny less!" Byron was firm. "I warn you, you'll loose in court, and it'll cost you besides."
"Alright, twelve fifty."
Byron smiled, he'd won. "Let's see," he said, "That makes twenty thousand dollars, seems that I recall that there are sixteen hundred acres total."
"But," Cynthia said, "There's a lot of marsh land too, and that ain't worth all that."
"Please, Cynthia," he husband said frowning at her, then smiling at Byron said, "There's the new house to consider."
Byron smiled. He knew exactly what the man was thinking. He didn't want the land to farm himself, and knew that he could get at least fifteen maybe twenty an acre for it, if he split it up. And considering that there were two sets of buildings, and a full compliment of slaves, it would still be a good deal for whomever bought it.
"Can you stop in Charlotte on Friday, Byron," he asked.
"Yes, I'll be in town then."
"Good, I'll have the papers drawn up, and your money will be ready then."
"Good," Byron said and then he stood up. "I really must be getting back."
"Oh," Cynthia said, "I was so hoping that you could stay awhile."
"No, I promised some friends that I'd be back early for a game of cards. I'm already late." He smiled, knowing all the time, she could hardly wait for him to leave. She couldn't bare the thought that this bastard son of a slave women and beaten her out of so much money.
Byron rode quickly back to the new house, and gave the good news to Ty and Charles who were still up and sipping on glasses of iced brandy.
Both men were pleased with the results of his meeting.
Byron felt better too, now that he wasn't virtually penniless as he had been when they arrived in Charlotte.
"Byron," Charles said, "Tyrone has told me that you're going West, and he's invited me to go along if I'm able."
Byron beamed, "You're kidding?"
"No, Byron," Charles smiled, "And I'm going too!" They hugged.
Ty smiled as the two friends embraced. Charles had told Ty much of the details of Byron's background, and relationships, almost none of which Byron had revealed to Ty. Now he understood why these people meant so much to him, and why he had to do what he had done. Ty had no fear that Charles was a threat to what he and Byron had, in fact it could only add to it. Charles would be a good asset in the years to come, whatever the fates would bring, because he understood Byron in a way that no one else could.
Since they could leave Charlotte by weeks end, they could travel a little slower until Charles was able to move faster once he became used to riding again. Plans were revised and more changes made as the week progressed.
To be continued ---
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