Civil Words

October 21, 1896
Elizabeth Bassett

I was nervous. Knowing that I would find her and that I had every advantage did nothing to calm my tingling nerves. There is just something about Sarah Waters that leaves me feeling inadequate. I will never make the difference I want to achieve on my own, but maybe with Sarah I can still be a part of the change for which we are waiting.

It is a hard thing to accept. I am jealous of her and I know it is wrong. More important, the man I have allowed to stand between us is not what he seems. Jonathon Goulding is at best a liar and at worst a thug. In either case, he does not deserve my heart nor hers. But, knowing a thing does not diminish the pain or cause the heart to love any less.

I saw her shadow on the sidewalk. I stepped out into the lamp light before I could change my mind. She stopped in her tracks and regarded me cautiously. She said nothing as she looked me over, no doubt searching for weaknesses.

“I didn’t mean to startle you.” I said.

“Then you should not have leapt from the shadows at night.” She replied.

“I wanted to speak with you.”

“And so we are speaking.”

“You were very brave last week.”

“Bravery is doing what is right even when it is not easy or popular. What I did was what I had to do. That is called surviving.”

“You could just say thank you.”

“For a compliment you do not mean and I do not deserve? No thank you.”

“You are determined to be difficult.”

“Just honest. Say what it is you came here to say and stop wasting our time.”

“Fine. I don’t like you. You are constantly rude and condescending to everyone in sight. You obviously don’t care about your appearance and you look down upon those who do. I guess you think you are better than the rest of us, but you are not. You are just another Primrose girl, just like the rest of us that you seem to despise.”

“Have you been waiting a long time to say that to me? Do you think I care what you think or what anyone thinks? Do you?”

“No, I know you don’t. You think you are special and maybe you are.”

“Maybe you should get to your point, if you have one that is.”

“Look, I can see you aren’t like everyone else. You don’t talk about being equal to men like a dreamer does. You prove it to them and to everyone else in everything you do and everything you say. I’m not like you but sometimes I wish I were.”

“You don’t want to be like me. I don’t want to be like me.”

“It’s like Mr. Bryan says, we all have our cross to bear. You are right though, I don’t know what happened to you to make you who you are and I probably don’t want to know. What I do want is to make a difference for the girls here at Primrose and maybe beyond.”

“Do you know what making a difference is?”

“I’m going to guess our definitions are a bit askew.”

Sarah laughed.

“It’s not the definition that is the problem, it is the aftermath.” She said.

“There is a price for change. I understand that. What I can’t understand is why you think it is not worth it.”

“Then you are an idiot. Not fifty years ago this country nearly tore itself apart over the concept of freedom. The result is a piece of paper declaring all men are equal and free but the writing on the page does not make the words truth nor does it make them reality. Thousands of men died for that page to be written but ask anyone who knew them, who loved them, and they will tell you that no amount of change was worth one drop of blood that was spilled.”

“And what if we asked the slave who has now a free man?”

“He would tell you a piece of paper does not make a man free.”

“So what does?”

“Belief. It starts there at least I think.”

“Well, if you ever change your mind and decide you want to be a part of something bigger than yourself, you know where to find me.”

“All things change in time. Have patience.”

“We’ve been waiting long enough.” I said.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Ashley, yes, but then I've been a radical all my life.
Warm hugs,