Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Chapter 5 - Fields


Morning came and they gathered in the grass in front of the senzala. From there they were taken a few miles away to the fields. It took them more than half an hour to get there, so they needed to get started while it was still dark.

Kima walked in silence like everyone else. Shebeh’s husband, Kwame, had explained to her that it was better to behave well. He told her that their master was kinder than other planters, because he allowed them to come back from the fields as soon as it was dark, that was unless they were in the sugar-boiling season. Their master was good, and he believed that it was better to let the slaves rest and live longer, and even have children. He also gave them two barrels of ears of corn and a pint of salt per month, even some meat when it was cheap. We should be grateful for that, he had said. But as Kima walked beside the mules, hearing them snort in the dark, she didn’t feel grateful. She didn’t care much about the two barrels of corn, in fact she didn’t care much about anything. She wished she was back in Ndongo, and she wished her father hadn’t died on the boat.

They arrived in the fields and the sky was already a light grey. She felt the breeze on her skin and she tightened her shoulders. It was never really cold here, but the lack of sleep made her shiver. Her body felt slowed down.

There was a man standing in front of the plantation. He was a tall man, with square shoulders and an angular face, not fat like the overseer who had led them from the senzala. He counted them as they walked into the path bordering the sugar canes. When Kima came, slightly ahead of the mules, he put out an arm to stop her. ‘What’s this?’ he asked.

‘She came in with the lot that arrived on Saturday,’ replied the man who had taken them to the field. ‘She was with the rest of the cargo, she came almost for free.’

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