Polly (Lauren Frances Jones)
From the movie: Clarissa's War
My name is Polly, jes Polly. When I was old enough to leave my mammy, Masta Robert give me to Miss Clarissa, only I couldn't say such a mouthful so I called her Missa and do till this day. I never had to work in the cotton fields or the kitchen like my sistahs. I learned how to read and write along with Missa when her mama died and Miss Matilda come to Mimosa Manor to take care of Masta Robert's three chil'ren.
When Missa come to Whitehaven to marry Masta Malcolm, I was sent right along with her. And then come the war and Masta Malcolm and all the othah young men went off to fight. Then Missa had a chile and I took care of little Masta Robert while her and the othah ladies round about spent their days working for the Ladies' Aid Society. When the fightin' got closer, Masta Josiah let the soldiers use Whitehaven for a hospital and Captain Burke was put in charge. The captain was a Yankee doctah but when the womenfolk left, Missa stayed on to nurse the wounded and I stayed, too.
That was when I got to know Napoleon. He drove Masta Josiah's carriage but now the masta ordered him to stay and hep Missa and make sure she was safe with all the soldiers about. He was some fine man--tall and wide-shouldered and strong as a ox--but gentle, too. Before long, he took notice of me and we started talkin' when nobody was watching. Then we got bolder and met in secret and began hugging and kissing. When Missa caught us one day, she scolded me and said I was not to be with Napoleon again or she would tell Masta Josiah and Napoleon would be punished.
I doan know what would have happened but Masta Malcolm come home a few days and Missa and me went to be with him at Fleur-de-Lis where the women was staying. That man was a drunk and a brute and he told Missa she couldn't go back to Whitehaven to nurse the soldiers. She stood up to him and he hurt her. Well, Missa didn't take kindly to that so she had Napoleon bring us back to Whitehaven in the middle of the night. I knew he would get whipped for that, and he had been talking of running away before now. So I ast the captain if he could hep him and he did. Captain Burke had a brother in New York whose wife took in runaway slaves and that was where Napoleon went.
He has been gone some time now, and the captain tole me he is driving a carriage for his brother's wife and I am glad he be safe and free. When Missa heard about it, she said she guessed I would run away to be with him, and I want to real bad. But I knows my duty and Missa needs me, specially now with another chile on the way. Besides, Napoleon is a big city man now and he may not want the likes of me. I think about the life we might have had when the war is over. And sometimes I ast the Lord to bring him back to me but I guess He be too busy with all the fightin' and dyin' to pay attention to a slave like me.
Excerpt from This Time Forever
"Now, Polly, I want to know just what is going on here," Clarissa said sternly as she faced her servant in the sitting room upstairs.
"What you mean, Missa?" Polly looked uneasy.
"I mean, how did you come to know that Napoleon is working for Major Burke's brother? And how long have you known?"
"He send me a lettah?"
"Napoleon can't write."
"Well, he have somebody else write it." Polly shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.
"And sent it to Major Burke? He helped Napoleon run away, didn't he?"
"No, Missa, he didn't do nothin' but write a lettah."
"Why did he do that, Polly?" Clarissa demanded.
"Cause I ast him to, Missa," Polly said in a contrite voice.
"I should tell his master what you did, Polly. Napoleon was a valuable slave."
"Ain't no use in takin' on so, doan do no good. Napoleon be free now anyways."
Clarissa nodded slowly. "So are you, Polly. And since you know where Napoleon is, are you planning to leave too?"
"No, Missa." Polly shook her head. "You gonna need me here."
Clarissa looked thoughtful. "Perhaps Napoleon will come back when the war is over."
"I doan think so, Missa. That man done gone for good. He got a fine job for pay, driving a carriage for a newspaper lady."
"Polly," Clarissa hesitated as her servant looked at her expectantly, "do you love Napoleon?"
"More'n anything in the world, Missa," Polly said softly, "but I knows my duty. I belong here with you."
"Then, I thank you, Polly." Clarissa crossed the distance between them and the two women embraced. "Good night."
After Polly had gone, Clarissa stood for a moment deep in thought. Maybe she and Polly shared more than she could have imagined. She knew what it was like to love someone without hope too. She should confront Philip Burke with what Polly had told her, but she knew it was useless. He didn't believe in slavery and, of course, he'd taken the opportunity to help a slave escape when he had the chance. Maybe he was right in his belief that one man shouldn't be allowed to own another.
Note: Lauren Jones was Polly in the film, Clarissa's War, adapted by Greg J. Welsch from the novel, The Time Forever, and filmed by Reel Cool Films, directed by Wes Pryor.
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