I was getting dressed for my wedding and Pixy was brushing my hair when I heard a commotion downstairs. Several people were yelling and wailing—ululating is the word that comes to mind—and I rushed down to see what was happening, leaving her to follow after me. As I descended the stairs I saw two female slaves, both of them in tears, screaming at Daniel hysterically. It took me a moment to figure out what they were trying to say, and just as I did I saw Jesse run out the door with the two of them following him. It gradually emerged that a young girl had fallen down our well and one of the male slaves had tried to go down after her, but the rope had broken and he had fallen in too. The rest of the men were out in the fields or away on other tasks and the women who were left on the scene didn’t know what to do. Hence they had rushed to the house.
Pixy began to cry herself, obviously wanting to run after Jesse and the women but worried that she wasn’t supposed to leave me. “Come on,” I yelled, and pulled her by the hand.
In less than a minute we had reached the well, which stood in the yard a ways off from the house. Several of the slave women were looking down into it, wailing and crying. Jesse was lowering himself down, one foot braced on each side for traction. If his legs hadn’t been as long as they were I don’t think he could have managed, but as it was he seemed to be getting a pretty good grip.
“Esther, tie a bucket to a good strong rope and lower it down,” he yelled to me as he descended into the darkness. “Throw a second rope down too.”
“We need a bucket,” I said to the women at the well. “And two ropes.”
One of the women started running and I followed her to the dairy. She made a beeline for a corner where some rope was stashed.
“Don’t got no bucket,” she said.
“There has to be one,” I said.
“They supposed to be here,” she said frantically. “I don’t see none.”
“Where else could they be?” I said.
“By de well,” she said. “But dey ain’t there.”
“Where else?” I said.
“In de shed,” she said, taking off like the Flash.
I ran after her and in another few seconds we had attracted the attention of some of the field hands.
“Bucket!” she screamed as a man stared. He looked confused, then realizing what must have happened he ran to the icehouse next to the river, lifted a bucket full of ice, tipped out the contents, and came running. The three of us ran all the way back to the well and tied the bucket to the rope the other slave had found. The male slave lowered the bucket into the well and threw another rope down, holding tightly onto the end.
“I’ve got her,” I heard Jesse yell up. “But she’s hurt badly. I need to get her up now.”
“What about the man?” I yelled down.
“Broken legs,” Jesse yelled up. “I’m trying to keep his head above water. Hurry or it will be too late!”