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Chapter 12 – Slaves - HeartfireThe Tales of Alvin MakerVolume Vby Orson Scott Card(c) 1998 by Orson Scott Cardv...

Chapter 12 – Slaves

"You must take care of him," said Balzac."In a boardinghouse for ladies?" asked Margaret.Calvin stood there, his unblinking gaze focused on nothing."They have servants, no? He is your brother-in-law, he is sick, they will not refuse you."Margaret did not have to ask him what had precipitated his decision. At the French embassy today Balzac received a letter from a Paris publisher. One of his essays on his American travels had already appeared in a weekly, and was so popular that the publisher was going to serialize the rest of them and then bring them out as a book. A letter of credit was included. It was enough for a passage home."Just when you start earning money from your writing about America, you're going to leave?""Writing about America will pay for leaving America," said Balzac. "I am a novelist. It is about the human soul that I write, not the odd customs of this barbaric country." He grinned. "Besides, when they read what I have written about the practice of slavery in Camelot, this will be a very good place for me to be far away."Margaret dipped into his futures. "Will you do me one kindness, then?" she asked. "Will you write in such a way that when war comes between the armies of slavery and of liberty, no government of France will be able to justify joining the war on the side of the slaveholders?""You imagine my writing to have more authority than it will ever have."But already she saw that he would honor her request, and that it would work. "You are the one who underestimates yourself," said Margaret. "The decision you made in your heart just now has already changed the world."Tears came to Balzac's eyes. "Madame, you have give me this unspeakable gift which no writer ever get: You tell me that my imaginary stories are not frivolous, they make life better in reality.""Go home, Monsieur de Balzac. America is better because you came, and France will be better when you return.""It is a shame you are married so completely," said Balzac. "I have never loved any woman the way I love you in this moment.""Nonsense," said Margaret. "It is yourself you love. I merely brought you a good report of your loved one." She smiled. "God bless you."Balzac took Calvin's hand. "It does me no good to speak to him. Tell him I did my best but I must to go home.""I will tell him that you remain his true friend.""Do not go too far in this!" said Balzac in mock horror. "I do not wish him to visit me."Margaret shrugged. "If he does, you'll deal with him."Balzac bowed over her hand and kissed it. Then he took off at a jaunty pace along the sidewalk.Margaret turned to Calvin. She could see that he was pale, his skin white and patchy-looking. He stank. "This won't do," she said. "It's time to find where they've put you."She led the docile shell of a man into the boardinghouse. She toyed with the idea of leaving him in the public room, but imagined what would happen if he started breaking wind or worse. So she led him up the stairs. He climbed them readily enough, but with each step she had to pull him on to the next, or he'd just stand there. The idea of completing the whole flight of stairs in one sweep was more than his distracted attention could deal with.Fishy was in the hall when Margaret reached her floor. Margaret was gratified to see that as soon as Fishy recognized who it was, she shed the bowed posture of slavery and looked her full in the eye. "Ma'am, you can't bring no gentleman to this floor."Margaret calmly unlocked her door and pushed Calvin inside as she answered. "I can assure you, he's not a gentleman."Moments later, Fishy slipped into the room and closed the door behind her. "Ma'am, it's a scandal. She throw you out." Only then did she look at Calvin. "What's wrong with this one?""Fishy, I need your help. To bring this man back to himself." As briefly as she could, she told Fishy what had happened with Calvin."He the one send my name back to me?""I'm sure he didn't realize what he was doing. He's frightened and desperate.""I don't know if I be hating him," said Fishy. "I hurt all the time now. But I know I be hurting.""You're a whole woman now," said Margaret. "That makes you free, even in your slavery.""This one, he gots the power to put all the names back?""I don't know.""The Black man who take the names, I don't know his name. Be maybe I know his face, iffen I see him.""And you have no idea where they take the names?""Nobody know. Nobody wants to. Can't tell what you don't know.""Will you help me find him? From what Balzac said, he lurks by the docks.""Oh, it be easy a-find him. But how you going a-stop him from killing you and me and the White man, all three?""Do you think he would?""A White woman and a White man who know that he gots the names? He going a-think I be the one a-tell you." She drew a finger across her throat. "My neck, he cut that. Stab you in the heart. Tear him open by the belly. That's what happen to the ones who tell.""Fishy, I can't explain it to you, but I can assure you of this– we will not be taken by surprise.""I druther be surprise iffen he kill us," said Fishy. She mimed slitting her own throat again. "Let him sneak up behind.""He won't kill us at all. We'll stand at a distance.""What good that going a-do us?""There's much I can learn about a man from a distance, once I know who he is.""I still gots a room to finish cleaning.""I'll help you," said Margaret.Fishy almost laughed out loud. "You the strangest White lady.""Oh, I suppose that would cause comment.""You just set here," said Fishy. "I be back soon. Then I be on your half-day. They have to let me go out with you."***Denmark spent a fruitless morning asking around about a White man who suddenly went empty. He'd knock on a door, pretending to be asking for work for a non-existent White master– just so the slave who talked to him had a story to tell when somebody asked them who was at the door. The slaves all knew who Denmark was, of course– nobody was more famous among the Blacks of Camelot than the taker of names. Unless it was Gullah Joe, the bird man who flew out to the slaveships. So there wasn't a soul who didn't try to help. Trouble was, all these people with no name, they had no sharp edge to them. They vaguely remembered hearing this or that about a White man who was sick or a White man who couldn't walk, but in each case it turned out to be some old cripple or a man who'd already died of some disease. Not till afternoon did he finally hear a story that sounded like it might be what he needed.He followed the rumor to a cheap boardinghouse where yes, indeed, two White men had shared a room, and one of them, the Northerner, had taken sick with a strange malady. "He eat, he drink, he pee, he do all them thing," said the valet who had cared for their room. "I change him trouser three times a day, wash everything twice a day." But they had left just that morning. "French man, he gots a letter, he pack up all, take away that empty man, now they be both all gone.""Did he say where he taking the sick man?" asked Denmark."He don't say nothing to me," said the valet."Does anybody know?""You want me to get in trouble, asking question from the White boss?"Denmark sighed. "You tell him that Frenchman and that Northerner, they owe my master money."The valet looked puzzled. "Your master dumb enough a-lend them money?"Denmark leaned in close. "It's a lie," he said. "You say they owe my master money, then the White boss tell you where they gone off to."It took a moment, but finally the valet understood and retreated into the house. When he came back, he had some information. "Calvin, he the sick man, he gots a sister-in-law here. At a boardinghouse.""What's the address?""White boss don't know.""White boss hoping for a bribe," said Denmark.The valet shook his head. "No, he don't know, that the truth.""How'm I going to find her with no address?"The valet shrugged. "Be maybe you best ask around.""Ask what? 'There's a woman with a sick brother-in-law named Calvin and she living in a boardinghouse somewhere.' That get me a lot of results."The valet looked at him like he was crazy. "I don't think you get much that way. I bet you do better, you tell them her name.""I don't know her name.""Why not? I do."Denmark closed his eyes. "That's good. How about you tell me that name?""Margaret.""She got her a last name? White folks has a last name every time.""Smith," said the valet. "But she don't look big enough for smith work.""You've seen her?" asked Denmark."Lots of times.""When would you see her?""I run messages to her and back a couple of times."Denmark sighed, keeping anger out of his voice. "Well now, my friend, don't that mean you know where she lives?""I do," said the valet."Why couldn't you just tell me that?""You didn't be asking where she live, you ask for the address. I don't know no number or letter.""Could you lead me there?"The valet rolled his eyes. "Sixpence to the White boss and he let me take you."Denmark looked at him suspiciously. "You sure it ain't tuppence to the White boss and the rest to you?"The valet looked aggrieved. "I be a Christian.""So be all the White folks," said Denmark.The valet, all anger having been stripped from him long ago, had no chance of understanding pointed irony. "Of course they be Christian. How else I learn about Jesus 'cept from them?"Denmark dug a sixpence out of his pocket and gave it to the valet. In moments he was back, grinning. "I gots ten minutes.""That time enough?""Two blocks over, one block down."When they got to the door of Margaret Smith's boardinghouse, the valet just stood there."Step aside so I can knock," said Denmark."I can if you want," said the valet. "But I don't see why.""Well if I don't knock, how'm I going to find out if she be in?""She ain't in," said the valet."How you know that?""Cause she over there, looking at you."Denmark turned around casually. A White woman, a White man, and a Black servant girl were across the street, walking away."Who's looking at me?""They was looking," said the valet. "And I know she can tell you about that Calvin man.""How do you know that?""That be him."Denmark looked again. The White man was shuffling along like an old man. Empty.Denmark grinned and gave another tuppence to the valet. "Good job, when you finally got around to telling me."The valet took the tuppence, looked at it, and offered it back. "No, it be sixpence the White boss want.""I already paid the sixpence," said Denmark.The valet looked at him like he had lost his mind. "If you done that, why you be giving me more? This tuppence not enough anyway." Huffily, he handed the coin back. "You crazy." Then he was gone.Denmark sauntered along, keeping them in sight. A couple of times the slave girl looked back and gazed at him. But he wasn't worried. She'd know who he was, and there was no chance of a Black girl telling this White lady anything about the taker of names.***"That him," said Fishy. "He take the names."Margaret saw at once in Denmark's mind that he could not be trusted for a moment. She had been looking for him, and he had been looking for her. But he had a knife and meant to use it. That was hardly the way to restore Calvin's heartfire."Let's go down to the battery. There are always plenty of people there. He won't dare harm a White man in such a crowd. He doesn't want to die.""He won't talk to you, neither," said Fishy. "He just watch.""He'll talk to me," said Margaret. "Because you'll go ask him to.""He scare me, ma'am.""Me too," said Margaret. "But I can promise you, he won't harm you. The only one he wants to hurt is Calvin here."Fishy looked at Calvin again. "Look like somebody done hurt him most all he can be hurt till he be dead." Then she realized what she had said. "Oh.""This name-taker, Denmark Vesey, is quite an interesting fellow. You know that he isn't a slave?""He free? Ain't no free Blacks in Camelot.""Oh, that's the official story, but it isn't so. I've already met another. A woman named Doe. She was given her freedom when she became too old to work.""They turn her out then?" demanded Fishy, outraged."Careful," said Margaret. "We're not alone here."Fishy at once changed her demeanor and looked down at the street again. "I seen too many damn cobblestones in my life.""They didn't turn her out," said Margaret. "Though I have no doubt there are masters cruel enough to do so. No, she has a little room of her own and she eats with the others. And they pay her a small wage for very light work.""They think that make up for taking her whole life away from her?""Yes, they think it does. And Doe thinks so, too. She has her name back, and I suppose she has reason enough to be angry, but she's happy enough.""Then she a fool.""No, she's just old. And tired. For her, freedom means she doesn't have to work anymore, except to make her own bed.""That won't be enough for me, Miz Margaret.""No, Fishy, I'm quite sure it won't. It shouldn't be enough for anyone. But don't begrudge Doe her contentment. She's earned it."Fishy looked back and became agitated. "He coming closer, ma'am.""Only because he's afraid of losing track of us in the crowd." Margaret steered Calvin toward the seawall. Out in the water they could see the fortresses: Lancelot and Galahad. Such fanciful names. King Arthur indeed. "Denmark Vesey is free and he earns his living by keeping the account books of several small businesses and professional offices.""A Black man know his numbers?""And his letters. Of course he pretends that he works for a White man who really does the work, but I doubt any of his clients are fooled. They maintain the legal fiction so that nobody has to send anyone to jail. They pay half what they would for a White man, and he gets paid far more than he needs to live in Blacktown. Clever.""And he take the names.""No, actually, he collects them, but he takes them somewhere and gives them to someone else.""Who?"Margaret sighed. "Whoever it is, he knows how to shut me out of just that part of Denmark's memory. That's never happened to me before. Or perhaps I simply didn't notice it. I must have skimmed past this man's heartfire before, searching for the taker of names, but because only part of his memory was hidden, I would never have noticed." Then she thought a little more. "No, I daresay I never looked in his heartfire, because he has his name, and so his heartfire burns brightly enough that I would have assumed he was a White man and not looked at all. He was hidden right out in the open.""You a witchy woman, ain't you, ma'am?""Not in the sense that White folks use the word," said Margatet. "I don't do any cursing, and what hexes I have to protect me, those were made by my husband. I do no such work. What I am is a torch. I see into people's heartfire. I find the paths of their future.""What you see in my future?""No, Fishy," said Margaret. "You have so many paths open before you. I can't tell you which one you'll take, because it's up to you.""But that man, he don't kill me, right?"Margaret shook her head. "I don't see any paths right now where that happens. But I don't tell futures, Fishy. People live and die by their own choices.""Not even your own future? Your husband?"Margaret grimaced. "I did try to get my husband to change his life. You see, on every path where he doesn't get killed sooner, he ends up dying because of the betrayal of his own brother."Fishy took only a moment to realize the connection. "Be maybe you don't mean this brother?""No, I do mean this brother.""Then why you not let that name-taker man cut his throat?""Because my husband loves him.""But he going a-kill him!"Margaret smiled wanly. "Isn't that the strangest thing?" she said. "Knowing the future doesn't change a man like my husband. He does what's right no matter where the road leads.""He always do what's right?""As much as he understands it. Most of the time he tries to do as little as possible. He tries to learn, and then teach. Not like Denmark Vesey. He's a man who acts." Margaret shuddered. "But not wisely. Cleverly, yes, but not wisely, and not kindly, either.""He squatting under that tree yonder.""Now is the time, Fishy. Go to him, tell him I want to talk to him.""Oh, Miz Margaret, you sure he don't hurt me?""He'll think you're pretty." Margaret touched her arm. "He'll think you're the most beautiful woman he's ever seen.""You joking now.""Not at all. You see, you're the first free Black woman he's known.""I not free.""He bought a slave once. Hoping to make her his wife. But she was so ashamed of being owned by a Black man that she threatened to expose his ability to read and write and tell the authorities that he's a free Black in Camelot.""What he do?""What do you think?""He kill her.""He tried. At the last moment he changed his mind. She's still his slave, but she's crippled. Mind and body.""You didn't have to tell me that story," said Fishy. "I wasn't going to let him talk love to me. He scare me too bad.""I just thought you should know.""Well, you know what? It take away some of my scared, knowing that about him."It stabbed Margaret to the heart, watching the smiling girl change before she turned around and walked among the Whites promenading on the battery. The smile fled; her eyelids half closed; she bent her shoulders and looked down as she made her way, not directly toward Denmark, but off at an angle. After a short time she doubled back and came to him from another way. Very good, thought Margaret. I didn't think to tell her to do that, but it keeps it from being obvious to onlookers that I sent her to fetch Denmark.Fishy handled it deftly. My mistress want a-talk to you. What about? My mistress want a-talk to you. No matter what he said, she answered like a parrot. Maybe he knew she was pretending or maybe he thought she was stupid and stubborn, but either way, it got him up and walking, following Fishy's roundabout course as she walked two paces ahead of him. They couldn't walk side by side, or it would seem to White folks that they were promenading, and it would be taken as outrageous mockery. Instead it was obvious she was leading him, which meant they were on an errand for their master, and all was well with the world."What you want to talk about?" Denmark asked her, keeping his head downcast. But in the tone of his voice she could hear his hostility toward her."You're looking for me," she said."Am not," he said."Oh, that's right. It's Calvin you're looking for.""That his name?""His name won't give you any power over him greater than what you already have.""I got no power over nobody."Margaret sighed. "Then why do you have a knife in your pocket? That's against the law, Denmark Vesey. You have other hidden powers. You're a free Black in Camelot, doing account books for– let's see, Dunn and Brown, Longer and Ford, Taggart's grocery–""I should have knowed you been spying on me." There was fear in his voice, despite his best effort to sound unconcerned. "White ladies got nothing better to do."Margaret pressed on. "You found out where I lived because the valet at Calvin's former boardinghouse led you. And you have a woman at home whose name you never utter. You nearly drowned her in a sack in the river. You're a man with a conscience, and it causes you great pain."He almost staggered from the blow of knowing how much she knew about him. "They hang me, a Black man owning a slave.""You've made quite a life for yourself, being a free man in a city of slaves. It hasn't been as good for your wife, though, has it?""What you want from me?""This isn't extortion, except in the mildest sense. I'm telling you that I know what and who you are, so that you'll understand that you're dealing with powers that are far out of your reach.""Sneakiness ain't power.""What about the power to tell you that you have it in you to be a great man? Or to be a great fool. If you make the correct choice.""What choice?""When the time comes, I'll tell you what the choice is. Right now, you have no choice at all. You're going to take me and Calvin and Fishy to the place where you keep the name-strings."Denmark smiled. "So they still some things you don't know.""I didn't say I knew everything. The power that hides the names also hides from me your knowledge of where they are.""That be the truth, more than you know," said Denmark. "I don't even know myself."Fishy scoffed aloud at that. "This ain't no White fool you can play games with.""No, Fishy," said Margaret, "he's telling the truth. He really doesn't know. So I wonder how you find your way back?""When it time for me to go there, I just wander around and pretty soon I be there. I walk in the door and then I remember everything.""Remember what?""How do I know? I ain't through that door.""Powerful hexery," said Margaret, "if hexery it be. Take me there.""I can't do that," said Denmark."How about if I cut off your balls?" asked Fishy cheerfully.Denmark looked at Fishy in wonder. He'd never heard a Black woman talk like that, right out in public, in front of a White."Let's hold off on the mutilation, Fishy," said Margaret. "Again, I think Denmark Vesey may be telling me the truth. He really can't find the place unless he goes there alone."Denmark nodded."Well, then. I think we have no further business together," said Margaret. "You can go now.""I want that man," said Denmark. He glanced at Calvin."You'll never have him," said Margaret. "He has more power than you can imagine.""Can't be that much," said Denmark. "Look at him, he's empty.""Yes, he was taken by surprise," said Margaret. "But you won't hold him for long.""Long enough," said Denmark. "His body starting to rot. He be dying.""You have till the count of three to walk away from me and keep on walking," said Margaret."Or what?""One. Or I'll call out for you to take your filthy paws off of my body."Denmark at once backed away. There could be no charge more sure of putting Denmark on the end of a rope without further discussion."Two," said Margaret. And he was gone."Now we lost him again," said Fishy."No, my friend, we've got him. He's going to lead us right where we want to go. He can't hide from me." Margaret made a slow turn, taking in the view. "Today, I think it's worth it to splurge on a carriage ride."Margaret led Fishy and Calvin to the row of waiting carriages. It took Margaret lifting his foot and Fishy pulling him up to get Calvin's uncaring body into the coach. The moment Calvin was settled in his seat, Fishy started to get down."Please, stay inside with me," said Margaret."I can't do that."As if he were part of their conversation, the White driver opened the sliding window between his seat and the interior of the carriage. "Ma'am," he said, "you from the North, so you don't know, but around here we don't let no slaves ride in the carriage. She knows it, too– she's got to step out and walk along behind.""She has told me of this law and I will gladly obey it. However, my brother-in-law here is prone to get rather ill during carriage rides, and I hope you understand that if he vomits, I am not prepared to hold a bag to catch it."The driver considered this for a moment. "You keep that curtain closed, then. I don't want no trouble."Fishy looked at Margaret, incredulous. Then she leaned over and pulled the drapes closed on one side of the coach while Margaret closed them on the other. Once they were closed off from public view, Fishy sat on the padded bench beside Calvin and grinned like a three-year-old with a spoon full of molasses. She even bounced a little on the seat.The window opened again. "Where to, ma'am?" asked the driver."I'll know it when I see it," Margaret said. "I'm quite sure it's in Blacktown, however.""Oh, ma'am, you oughtn't to go up there.""That's why I have my brother-in-law with me.""Well, I'll take you up there, but I don't like it.""You'll like it better when I pay you," said Margaret."I'd like it better iffen you paid me in advance," said the driver.Margaret just laughed."I meant to say half in advance.""You'll be paid upon arrival, and that, sir, is the law. Though if you'd like to throw me out of your carriage, you are free to summon a constable. You can ask him about having a slave seated in your carriage, too, while you're at it."The driver slammed the window shut and the carriage lurched forward, quite roughly. Fishy whooped and nearly fell off her seat, then sat there laughing. "I don't know how come you White folks don't ride like this all the time.""Rich people do," said Margaret. "But not all White people are rich.""They all richer than me," said Fishy."In money, I'm quite sure you're right." And then, because she was enjoying Fishy's delight, she also bounced up and down on her seat. The two of them laughed like schoolgirls.***Denmark felt the knife in his pocket like a two-ton weight. It was a terrible thing he'd been planning to do, killing a helpless man like that, and it was made all the worse by the fact that White lady knew he meant to do it. He was used to being invisible, White people paying him no mind except now and then to give him a little random trouble. But this woman, her idea of trouble was specific. She knew things about him that nobody knew, not even Gullah Joe. She scared him.So he was glad to get away, glad to wander the streets of Blacktown until he came upon a door and suddenly he knew this was the one, though he couldn't have said how he knew, or why he didn't remember it from before. He set his hand on the knob and it opened easily, without a key. Once he was inside and the door shut behind him, he remembered everything. Gullah Joe. The struggle over the name-strings. No wonder he was supposed to kill that White man! The thing he did, unraveling some poor slave's name and cutting it loose to wander who knows where...But he did know where. He whooped with laughter. "Gullah Joe, you won't believe it! I met the Black girl what got her name cut loose by the devil you caught!"Gullah Joe glared at him. "Be maybe you not shouting me business so all can hear it in the street, they.""She goes by the name Fishy," said Denmark, close enough that he didn't have to shout. "I don't think it was no accident that White boy cut her name loose, cause she be rented out to his sister-in-law.""I think you telling me you find this White man?""I did, but he ain't dead yet."Gullah Joe slapped the table hard. Denmark was startled and his jocular mood fell away. "You lose you courage?""She knew I was coming," said Denmark."A woman, she!""She got him down to the battery, all them White folks around, you think I'm going to show that knife, let alone cut a White boy with it?""Boy? This White man be maybe him a child?""No, he a man, but he be young. Bet he don't shave." Denmark remembered how Calvin looked. So empty. Like his woman. That White witch knew all about her.Against his will, Denmark looked for her. There she was, mending clothes in a corner. She didn't look up. It took all her concentration just to get the needle into and out of the cloth. She used to be hot-hearted like that Fishy girl. Maybe I could have won her over fairly, if I tried. If I set her free. But I had to control her, didn't I? Just like a White man. I was master."How he be?" demanded Gullah Joe."Who?""The devil him body!""He pretty far gone, Gullah Joe.""Not far enough." Gullah Joe glanced over to the circle that contained the captive. Denmark saw that it was twice as thick with knotwork charms as it had been when he left early in the morning."He been trying to escape?""Be maybe he already escape, him.""Well, if he did, wouldn't we know it? Wouldn't you be dead?""Be maybe he learn too much," said Gullah Joe. "Look! Look a-that."Though there was not a touch of a breeze in the attic, one of the charms suddenly swayed, then bounced up and down."He doing that?" asked Denmark.Gullah Joe looked at him with scorn. "No, fool, they cockroaches in the charm, they be making her bounce.""How can he do that if you got him captive?"Gullah Joe might have had an answer, but at that moment they both heard the door opening downstairs. Gullah Joe seemed to leap straight up in the air, and Denmark was about to let out an exclamation when Joe shook his head violently and covered his own mouth with his hand as a sign for silence.Denmark leaned over close. "I thought you said nobody could get in here."There were footsteps on the stairs. No effort was being made to muffle them, either. Clump, clump, clump. Slow progress, many feet.Finally Denmark realized what he was hearing. "It's her," he whispered. "She brought him here."Her voice wafted up the stairs. "Indeed I did," she said. "Step aside, Denmark Vesey. It's Gullah Joe I need to talk to."Gullah Joe danced around his desk like a child desperate to pee. Nobody had ever pierced his defenses so easily. No one had ever called him by name when he didn't want them to. Whoever this was had to be so powerful that Gullah Joe hardly knew what charms to try. She had already passed by some of his most powerful ones.Denmark saw the witchy man's desperation and realized that this situation was definitely not under control."Calvin!" cried Margaret. "Can you hear my voice?"They were near the top of the stairs, now, able to peer around in the attic and see all the hanging charms. The White woman, the White man, and the slave girl Fishy.Margaret was listening for an answer. To her surprise, it came from the man beside her."I hear you," said Calvin. But his voice was soft, his manner distracted."I've brought your body near to your doodlebug, Calvin," she explained.Calvin's mouth mumbled a reply. "Get me out of here," he said, his voice flat."Kill him now," said Gullah Joe. "He body, she calling back him soul. Kill him!"Denmark picked up a much larger knife than the one he had concealed in his pocket. "You keep him back," he said to Margaret.She ignored him completely, and instead began to lead Calvin closer to the large concentration of charms."Stop, you! Don't take him there!" Gullah Joe threw a handful of powder at her, but it blew away from her in a sudden breeze and ended up stinging his eyes and making him weep. "How you do that witchery!"She ignored him, and parted the charms to push Calvin through."Oh, yes," said Calvin, now sounding more like himself, though not quite that cocky yet. "This is right. Bring me home.""Stop him!" screamed Gullah Joe.Denmark lunged between the charms and the White man, his knife drawn.Margaret immediately shoved Calvin hard, forcing him and Denmark both to stumble and fall into the midst of the circle that contained Calvin's doodlebug.Gullah Joe howled in fury and threw himself to the floor."I have a problem, here, Margaret."It was quite likely the thing Calvin would have said. It had his intonation. And it was certainly true. Unfortunately, the voice was coming out of Denmark Vesey's mouth."What's your problem, Calvin?" she asked."I can't get back into my body," he said. "So I'm glad you tossed in a spare. "That's not a spare body, somebody's using it," Margaret said."You think I don't know that? But I can't get into my own body and I can't talk without I got one."Margaret walked over to Gullah Joe. "What's wrong? Why can't he get back into his body?""Cause she be half-dead, she! Look a-him, he steal my friend body him!""Your body is dying," Margaret said to Calvin. "Denmark said something about that before. You're rotting.""Give back him body!" cried Gullah Joe."Then help me get him back into his own body!""How I do that!" said Gullah Joe. "He dead man in him grave!""He is not," said Margaret. "Calvin, you have to heal your body.""I don't know how," said Calvin. "I never tried to raise the dead.""You're not dead," said Margaret. "Look, your chest is rising and falling.""All right, I'm trying, but it's not like a cut finger, I don't know what to–""Wait!" Abruptly, Margaret turned around, walked over to Gullah Joe, and dragged him to his feet. "You know!" she shouted. "Tell me!""What I know?" said Gullah Joe, feigning helpless misery. "You the witchy woman, you break down all this charm, you."Gullah Joe smiled and shrugged. Margaret recognized the expression, the gesture. It was the way slaves told their masters to go to hell. She looked into his heartfire and saw many things. But all his lore was hidden from her."You know how to heal him," Margaret said, looking him in the eyes, her breath on his face. "You've captured souls before, and you know how to put them back."Gullah Joe just folded his arms and stared off into space."Excuse me, Miz Margaret," said Fishy. She pushed past Margaret and, placing her left hand on Gullah Joe's right cheek, with her right hand she slapped his other cheek with such force that blood shot right out of his mouth. "Talk to the nice lady!" screamed Fishy in Gullah Joe's face. "She be no enemy, you hear me?""Him scare me!" cried Gullah Joe, pointing at Calvin on the floor. "Get him out on that body!"Fishy laid another slap on him, this time so hard that Gullah Joe fell over, his arms pinwheeling, his long knotted braids flopping away from his body. Some charm must have come loose this time, because suddenly more of his mind opened up to Margaret. She didn't need him to tell her now. She opened two little jars on Joe's big table, got two solid pinches of powder, one from each, then strode to the charm circle where Calvin lay and threw the powder out over him.She thought of Antigone as she did it, spreading dirt on her brother's corpse despite the edict of Creon forbidding it. Am I ritually burying my husband's brother? If I thought Alvin might be saved by letting him die... but I'd lose Alvin. This is his beloved little brother that he played with half his growing-up years. If he dies it can't be by my hand, even indirectly. It would destroy my life with Alvin, and wouldn't necessarily save his. In Alvin's heartfire, which she spent a moment checking, there was no path that did not lead to Calvin's treachery. As long as the boy is alive, Alvin isn't safe.And yet it was for love of Alvin that she didn't let him die. The powders drifted down onto Calvin's body, got sucked in through his nostrils, and almost at once he became more animated. He sat up. "I'm so damn hungry," he said.Gullah Joe screamed. "No! Go back! Get out of here!"Calvin rose to his feet. "This the bastard trapped me here outside my body?""It was an accident," said Margaret. "Don't harm him."Calvin reached up, then winced and stumbled."Heal yourself!" cried Margaret again.Calvin stood there, apparently trying something that no one else could see. "I'm getting better by the second," he said. "Just having my bug back in my body, it's healing me by itself."At that moment, Fishy screamed. Margaret whirled around, and there was Denmark, knife in hand, staggering toward Calvin, brandishing the blade. Fishy leapt onto his back, tugging on the knife arm, and finally toppling the two of them onto the floor.In the meantime, Calvin wasn't swaying anymore. He was steady on his feet, and when he turned around to face Denmark, he had the presence of mind to heat the knife so hot that Denmark screamed and flung it from him. "You got into my body!" Denmark screamed at Calvin, but now he was holding his burned hands limply in front of him. "I be wearing your castoff!"Calvin seemed not even to notice Denmark. It was Gullah Joe he was looking for. "You lousy bastard, you filthy trap-laying witch!" he cried. "Where are you!"At that moment a seagull started fluttering frantically around the room. Before it could find an open window, Calvin pointed at it and it dropped to the floor. In the instant, the bird disappeared and Gullah Joe lay there where it had been. Calvin advanced toward him, and the look of hate and rage on his face was terrible to behold."Calvin, stop it!" cried Margaret. "It was an accident! They caught you in a snare but they had no idea it was you, and when they realized your powers they had no choice but to keep you confined for fear of whatever vengeance you might take."Calvin regarded her in silence for a moment, then turned back to the circle he had been in. He yanked all the charms from the ceiling until the circle didn't exist anymore. Gullah Joe's weeping was the only sound they could hear. But when Calvin walked over to the lesser circle and began pulling down those charms too, Joe began to shout at him. "Leave that alone! I begging you! You turn them loose like that, some of names never find they way home to they body!"Calvin paid no attention to him. He tore the charms from the ceiling and then opened the new net, this time by hand, scattering the namestrings all over the attic floor."Don't hurt them," Gullah Joe pleaded, weeping. "Stop him, Denmark!"But Denmark was sitting on the floor, weeping."Tear up the name-strings," cried Fishy. "Give the slaves back their anger!"Calvin looked over at Fishy and smiled nastily. "What good does anger do for anybody?"Then, savagely, furiously, with the power of his mind alone he unmade all the knotted strings until they lay in tatters. They all watched the seething pile of name-strings as bits of this and that flew upward from the untangling mass. And then all lay still, the bits and pieces commingled.Now that the deed was done, Gullah Joe stopped remonstrating with Calvin. He looked up toward the invisible sky beyond the ceiling that crouched overhead. "Go home to you body, you! All you name go home!" Then he sank to his knees, weeping."What are you crying for," demanded Calvin. He looked at Denmark, too, who was only just beginning to dry his eyes."You too strong a wind for me," said Gullah Joe. "Oh, my people, my people, go home!"Calvin lurched toward him a couple of steps, then fell to the floor. "I'm dying, Margaret," he said. "My body's too far gone.""He be dying, that save me the trouble of killing him," said Denmark. "All we done for our people, he just undid it all.""No!" cried Fishy. "He be setting us free! All our rage tied up in that net, that be the bad jail of all. We be slaves then, right down to the heart. Give up ourself so we can hide? From what? The worst thing already happen, when we give you our name-string."Margaret knelt beside Calvin's body. "You have to heal yourself," she kept murmuring to him."I don't know where to start," Calvin whispered. "I'm filled with corruption clear through.""Alvin!" cried Margaret desperately. "Alvin, look! Look at me! See what's happening here!" She rose to her feet and began forming letters in the air. H-E-L-P. C-A-L-V-I-N. H-E-A-L H-I-M! "Look at me and save his life, if you want him to live!""What you do in the air, you?" asked Fishy. "What you waving at?""My husband," said Margaret. "He doesn't see me." She turned to Gullah Joe. "Is there something you can do to help all those lost names return home?""Yes," said Joe."Then take your friend Denmark and go do it.""What are you going to do" asked Denmark sullenly."I'm going to try to get my husband to heal his brother. And if he can't, then I'm going to hold Calvin's hand while he lies dying."Calvin let out a deep moan of despair. "I ain't ready to die!" he said."Ready or not, you'll have to do it sometime," Margaret reminded him. "Heal yourself, as best you can," she told him. "You're supposed to be a Maker, aren't you?"Calvin laughed. Weak and bitter, the sound of that laughter. "I spend my whole life trying to get out from under Alvin. Now the one time I need him, it's the only time he isn't right there under foot."In the ensuing silence, Gullah Joe's voice came, soft and low. "They do it, them," he said. "They finding the way back.""Then you'd better go out into the street and spread the word through the city," said Margaret. "They're filled with rage long pent up. You have to keep them from rising up in a fruitless rebellion as soon as all their strong passions come back." They did nothing. "Go!" she shouted. "I'll take care of Calvin here."Gullah Joe and Denmark staggered out into the street, going from house to house. Already the sound of moaning and singing could be heard all over the city. In Blacktown, they collared every black person they could find and explained it to them as best they could, then sent them out with the warning: Contain your anger. Harm no one. They'll destroy us if we don't keep to that. The taker of names says so. We're not ready yet. We're not ready yet.Inside the warehouse attic, Margaret and Fishy were reduced to mopping Calvin's brow as he lay delirious in his fever-racked stupor. Body and soul were together again, but only, it seemed, in time to die.After a while a third pair of hands joined them. A Black woman who moved slowly, hesitantly. Her speech was slurred when she asked a question or two; it was hard to understand her. Margaret knew at once who she was. She laid her hand on the Black woman's hand; on the other side of her, Fishy did the same. "You don't gots to work today," said Fishy. "We take care of him."But the woman acted as if she didn't understand. She kept on helping them take care of Calvin as if she had some personal stake in keeping him alive. Or maybe she was simply loving her neighbor as herself.

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