A Train Car and the Catcher
In the next two days, Romilly could only remember as a blur and blend of actions and emotions. The vague sense of sleep. The aches of hunger. The numbness of frozen feet. The constant fear of what lay behind and ahead.
Romilly, on the morning of her third day since her flight of the Sampton plantation, stubbled into Rugibie’s train station. It was dark and grey and misty with dawn. The station was jammed people on the platform. With the mixture of the steam of the trains and the early morning haze, it was hard to tell if one was black or white.
She lined up with the rest of the people getting on to train 213, the train heading to Tomson, Massachusetts. She was forced to wait until every white person had shown his ticket to the conductor, even though she was one of the first in the line. Anger flicked like a dying flame, but Romilly was too overcome by exhaustion to kindle it. But when she handed her ticket to the conductor and showed him her note, he grunted and gestured to the luggage car.
“But excuse me, sir,” Romilly said grabbing his sleeve. He slapped it away as if it had scorched the freshly ironed uniform. “I Have a ticket for a seat.”
“If you want to board this train, you stupid slave, you take the luggage car. That’s where the owned stuff belongs, like you.” He strutted away and boarded a passenger car.
Romilly, fuming, climbed into the luggage car. Tall racks were surrounding the walls that held various suitcases and briefcases. But they over spilled and some were flung onto the floor She began to throw and kick them to clear a spot to sit.
Then, a deep, southern drawl floated in from the exterior of the luggage car. Romilly froze, her breath crystalized in her throat. Her blood ran cold.
The voice of Louis Sampton drifted through the cracks in the walls. “Such a pertty little thing. She was good looking, very charming. I wanted her but **** my little brother. Asked for her as ‘is inheritance. My parents gave ‘er to ‘im. He’s gone now up to school in the North, but the pertty little girl’s gone. I is sure she ran. Probably to meet up with my **** brother. Will you look fer her?”
“Sure thing. I is here the best slave catcher in the county.”
There were footsteps away and laughter.
Romilly collapsed onto the luggage, her heart leaping against her rib cage. The train whistled, and the floor vibrated as it started and chugged away from the station. She felt faint. Her mind ran in circles. The family she would be staying with would be endangered if she went to meet them. The train gained speed. If she was being followed, she couldn’t meet up with Levi. He could be jailed or killed. It was not worth the risk. She could not ask him or anyone else to give more than they already had for her sake.
Silent tears trickled down her face as she thought about Levi. The train was flying with speed, air seeping through the cracks in the walls. She felt as if her heart was being ripped apart, fiber by fiber. “I’m sorry I could never tell you why,” she whispered before the car lurched violently, and an overhead rack fell, packed with heavy suitcases, onto bowed
Romilly’s head. There was a flash of white, blinding pain, and the world spun and plunged into darkness.