The electricity in the atmosphere was exceptionally brilliant the night it came alive. Hidden beneath the floorboards of the attic in the old Maddox mansion for years, new life was breathed upon it the moment he placed it within his hands. The black onyx cane felt ice cold to the touch, but was a magnificent specimen of swirled colors and rubies at the handle which formed a sort of snake-like motif.
By pure luck he had found the hidden compartment under the board as he surveyed the items in the old house, checking for any hidden jewels within its confinement. His foot had tripped over a lifted piece of wood, and upon observation he quickly pulled out the cane, along with a lady’s journal. Now nestled between a shrouded sofa and end table, he picked up the journal and began to digest its contents.
The penmanship’s author had been a Mrs. Estelle Maddox, who surprisingly had become the lady of the house after first meeting her slave owner husband while being enslaved herself under his father the elder John Maddox Sr.
The journal began in 1812, while Estelle and Junior were adolescents, and John Jr. took an interest in assisting his new found friend to learn how to write. The journal continued throughout the years as their friendship and love blossomed for each other, until John Maddox Jr. became the man of the house, taking over the plantation and his father’s booming tobacco business.
As the man continued to read the words, unaware was he of the swirls of mist that had formed across the covered sofa as if in an embrace. He continued to flip through the pages and learned that after the Senior Maddox had passed, John had moved Miss Estelle into the confinements of the mansion. This caused an upheaval in society of course, as John was a young, wealthy bachelor, primed for a prestigious life, and Miss Estelle was simply a slave. A freed slave by now as John owned her, but a slave nonetheless.
To make life simpler she desired to go back to the slave quarters and allow him his privilege, but he would have none of it. They had a quiet ceremony with her mother and father present and it was settled. The journal went on to document tea parties and dinners that she attempted to host in order to keep as much of an appearance as possible, until one by one people started to appear.
It was as if the principalities of the day were bending for her. John Jr. supported her actions and nurtured her courage as he wanted the best for his wife, and he knew that he could provide it, and together broke the boundaries of high society. They welcomed twin sons before their first wedding anniversary, and ten more children came in between the first and fiftieth.
The final pages disclosed that John Jr. died before Mrs. Estelle, and she lived the last few years of her life in the home that they had built together and died peacefully surrounded by friends and family. The cane so lovingly placed beside her journal was that of her beloved John.
The last page was signed by her children, and a note to the finder of these items read: “Here lie the possessions of two ideal individuals, who in their own way made history a little better. May their spirit and devotion live on for generations.” And with that the man closed the journal, picked up the cane and left, as he had found his inspiration.
Tamuriel L. Dillard