Trouble Down South Art Challenge
Painting No. 10
The Feisty Rubeline
Here is another painting on the theme of slavery for the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge with Leslie Saeta. My paintings are reflective of the stories in my Trouble Down South and Other Stories short story collection and my novel Bootlegger Haze (Books One and Two).
This is a painting of the feisty Rubeline, a slave who retaliates against the horrible treatment by her slave master’s mother. The painting was inspired by my short story “Missus Buck–Part Two (A Short Story)” in which slaves are subjected to treacherous treatment at the hands of their master’s mother. She wreaks havoc on the slaves, forcing the feisty slave Rubeline to take action in her own way. Here is an excerpt from “Missus Buck–Part Two (A Short Story).
Missus Buck had awakened earlier that morning and requested that Rubeline make her a tray of poached eggs, toast, and coffee and serve it to her in bed. Rubeline did as she was directed, but not with pleasure.
Standing outside the guest room holding the tray of food, Rubeline inhaled deeply and then let out a long sigh, “Lawd, if dat woman bend muh nerve dis mornin’…,” and then she knocked and entered the room.
“Set it over there and hand me my brush!” Missus Buck commanded.
Rubeline paused and before she had time to think about her words, she blurted out, “I ain’t yo’ servant!”
“What’d you say to me, nigger?” Missus Buck snapped.
Rubeline said nothing, now fearful that she may have sealed her fate to be sold once Massa Norris returned.
“You will serve me as long as I am staying in this house,” Missus Buck continued. “Now draw my bath and don’t make the water too hot.”
Rubeline moved with a rapidity that mimicked a hummingbird. She did not regret her words. She just forgot herself. Missus Buck had the tendency to bring out the worst in people, and she definitely knew how to bring it out in Rubeline.
“Ya spiteful old witch,” Rubeline mumbled under her breath.
“What’d you say?” Missus Buck snapped.
“I said I’d add some salts to yo’ water so ya won’t itch,” Rubeline replied in a normal voice.
“Fine,” Missus Buck grunted. “Don’t make it too hot, I said.”
Rubeline returned to the kitchen to finish fixing breakfast for Victor and Horatio. They ate some blueberry hoecakes with maple syrup drawn from the maple trees at the back of the plantation. When they finished eating, Rubeline inspected their tongues to see whose was bluest.
“I dink Horatio’s won dis time, Massa Victor,” Rubeline noted, holding Horatio’s mouth open and examining his tongue.
“No, mine is bluer,” Victor replied, holding his mouth open for Rubeline to compare to Horatio’s.
“Hum, ya jus’ might be right, Massa Victor,” Rubeline recanted.
Horatio and Victor giggled as they looked in each other’s mouths. Then they ran outside to play. Rubeline and Aunt Virginny began preparations for lunch. She sent Aunt Virginny out to the barn to tell Luther to fetch some wood for the fireplace so that she could make opossum stew. Missus Buck dressed and came downstairs and stood at the entrance to the kitchen.
“Send that butler boy into the parlor,” Missus Buck ordered and sauntered out of the kitchen.
“I’ll send ya sumptin’ alwight,” Rubeline mumbled. She walked to the back door and called out for the butler, “Luther! Luther! Come hither.” Luther appeared before her, dirty and sweaty from chopping wood. “Missus Buck r’quested ya in a parlor. Be careful wit’ dat wretched old woman.”
Luther nodded and headed inside. He returned shortly and told Rubeline that Missus Buck had requested a bottle of Cabernet from Massa Norris’s wine cellar.
“I don’t know how ta tell which da right boddle,” Luther told Rubeline. “I cain’t read.”
“I’ll go witcha,” Rubeline said and followed him out back to a shed built into the ground. They entered the dusty cavern and looked around for the specific wine Missus Buck had requested.
“Is dis it?” Luther asked.
“How would ya know? Ya said ya cain’t read,” Rubeline said.
“I know some ledders,” Luther told Rubeline. “Can you read?”
“I can read a bit, but ya bedder not tell a soul,” Rubeline warned. “Dar. Da one wit’ Merlot on it. Dus’ it off and take it to her.”
“But she said Cabernet,” Luther corrected.
“Ya want her ta know you can read? Give her a reason ta have ya sold off?” Rubeline cautioned.
“Oh, yeah,” Luther realized. He headed out of the cellar with the bottle of wine in his hands and walked into the parlor, standing before Missus Buck.
“Here’s ya is, Missus,” Luther said, holding out the bottle in front of her.
She examined it briefly, and in as sharp a tongue as a venomous viper, she snapped, “You damned fool! You think I’m stupid? That’s not a Cabernet. That’s a Merlot.”
“Uhm sorry, Missus,” Luther moaned.
“Go back and get the right one,” she ordered.
Luther turned and raced out of the room. Rubeline had heard Missus Buck’s cries from the kitchen and went with Luther once again to the cellar.
“What’re goin’ do now?” Luther asked. “If we bring da right one, she goin’ know we can read.”
“We’ll jus’ keep takin’ her da wrong one,” Rubeline responded.
Luther returned with a different bottle of wine, only to be met with Missus Buck’s brashness once again.
“If you don’t bring me the right bottle, I’m going to have you flogged,” she demanded.
Luther returned to the cellar more unnerved now than before.
“Here, take dis one. It’s Cabernet,” Rubeline said.
“I thought we were goin’ keep takin’ her da wrong one,” Luther moaned.
“If we do, ya’ll certainly git flogged, so lit’s see wat she goin’ do wit’ da right boddle,” Rubeline said, slightly concerned herself with Missus Buck’s unreasonable demands.
Luther went back once again, and this time Missus Buck was livid.
“How did you know this was Cabernet?” she asked angrily. “You can read, can’t you nigger?”
“Huh?” Luther uttered. “No’mam. I cain’t read. I…I jus’ picked up da first boddle I saw, Missus.”
“You’re lying,” she snapped.”
“No, Missus,” Luther replied. “Uhm tellin’ da twuth.”
“You’re calling me a liar?” Missus Buck asked haughtily.
“No’mam, I mos’ certainly ain’t, Missus,” Luther responded nervously.
“You are calling me a liar, aren’t you?” Missus Buck repeated accusingly.
Rubeline heard the accusation and entered the room in defense of Luther. “He cain’t read, Missus Brand’nburg. He cuddn’t figure out da right wine ta bring ya, so he jus’ picked one,” Rubeline said calmly.
“How do you know?” Missus Buck asked angrily.
“I went wit’ ‘em,” Rubeline replied.
“Well, I didn’t ask your opinion,” she snapped.
“I was only tryin’ ta help,” Rubeline said, trying to explain. “He don’t know how ta read, Missus. He cuddn’t figure out da right wine.”
“That’s a lie. He can read,” Missus Buck said sharply. “I want that boy whipped.”
“Missus, please,” Rubeline pleaded.
“Get the overseer,” Missus Buck ordered. “Now!”
Prints are available for purchase of the painting “The Feisty Rubeline.” Prints are available in sizes 8 x 10, 11 x 14, and 16 x 20 inches (unframed). Email Katrina Williams at stepartdesigns at hotmail dot com for prices.
Check out the 30 Paintings in 30 Days Challenge with Leslie Saeta–http://www.lesliesaeta.blogspot.com/.
I am an artist and an author of southern and historical fiction and short stories. View all my artwork on my artist page at Daily Paintworks.
Check out more of my artwork at my Art Blog–KPWms Art Studio.