The All-Black Town: Part 11

Marse Little summoned Truehart again, and this time he went with a heavy heart. He had naysayed Little, and Little was sure to be angry about it. But when he got there, Marse Little invited him to sit down. He sat on the edge of the chair, unable to take any ease. Marse Little put him in mind of a snake, who watched and waited for his moment to strike.

Marse Little said, “Did you tell those folks about my offer?”

“I did, Marse Little.”

“Will they sell?”

Truehart took a deep breath. As mildly as he could, he said, “They ain’t inclined to, sir.”

Marse Little’s voice rose. “I’d offer more.”

“It ain’t a matter of money, Marse Little.”

Marse Little leaned back in his chair. Pretending to take his ease. He said, “I went down to the county courthouse and I found out how much land you have in that place you call your town.”

“Yes, sir.” Yassuh.

“Three hundred acres,” Marse Little said.

Truehart fell silent.

Little sat up straight, his eyes glittering. “Three hundred acres!” he yelled.

Truehart didn’t speak. Be still, he told himself. Let him yell himself out. “You’re all in this together. You and Ben and Dan and Pete. Three hundred acres! What does a nigger need with three hundred acres!”

Let him be, the way you’d leave a snake be. Get away quiet when he’s done.

Marse Little yelled, “Grow cotton on it! And take it up to Greenwood to get it ginned!” He slammed his cane against the edge of his desk, hard enough to leave a mark on the wood.

Truehart started. It was too much like the sound of a cane on a man’s flesh.

Little said, “Didn’t we warn you? Don’t you recall?”

Truehart thought of the spot in Leflore County that no one in Willow Bend would go near.

Little said, “We can refresh your memory, if you forgot.”

Truehart stared at the brightly-colored Aubusson carpet. He said softly, “Nossuh.”