Though not mentioned frequently in Susanna’s Secret, Elijah is by no means a minor character in the story. His ‘back story’ tells everything--how he came to Texas with Nathan and Susanna Kingsley as a slave and remained technically such until the end of the Civil War some 20+ years later.
Mr. Nathan brought me out here when I was a slave, but he never treated me like one. Place to live, work to do, chance to learn to read and write, a name. . .Kingsley. . .even the chance to leave when the war’s over.”
“I’m glad you didn’t. You’ve been part of us for a lifetime. Part of our family.”
This brief exchange between Elijah and Susanna tells his back story in a few words, though in Wednesday’s blog on Nathan Kingsley, I imagined him as a slave on a plantation in the deep south. I could see the lower social status Nathan and Elijah becoming friends as little boys and growing up together--so Elijah’s escape to accompany Nathan to Texas seems a natural circumstance.
The story portrays him as working in the house rather than on the ranch, a sort of ‘houseman’. But he did back-breaking labor alongside Nathan and Susanna as they built the Kingsley Empire. I believe, when Nathan could afford help, he place Elijah inside not as a servant but as a manager. He helped raise the Kingsley children and probably became their confidante in the stead of a busy, frequently-absent father.
He states his position neatly:
“Elijah, how much do you know about. . .”
He shook his head and held up his hand as if to stop the flow of her words. “I don’t know nothing, Miz Kingsley. Nothing but what I see ‘round here.”
She laughed a little then. “And you don’t miss a thing either. It was a good day for all of us when my husband brought you out here. I didn’t believe in slavery, but he said you’d be better off with us.”
“And I was.”
I expect Elijah was a ‘free’ man long before Emancipation. Upon Nathan’s Kingsley’s death, he probably inherited what was rightly his--either an interest in the ranch itself or land and capital to use for himself.
Perhaps Nathan knew what he wanted, but did he know who he was? Susanna struggles with her own identity. But Elijah knows who is he, so his personal dignity and self-confidence brings a certain stability to the shattered family.
Does he know their secrets? Of course. Does he keep them? To the grave.
And will he always be there for them?
Until his dying day and probably beyond as they remember him.
A minor character ‘on the fringe’ often guides the story more than anyone else.
I have been a fan of Ms Nickles books for a long time, I love her writing skills. This book is no exception, "Susanna's Secret" kept me spell-bound to the last page. ~Paula
Releases June 28
Pre-sales available June 21
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