It was past midnight, the first day of Spring, when Jemima loaded the wagon with food supplies, cotton diapers, blankets, sleeping bags and a few more items before tucking the empty spaces with infants and toddlers. Last one up was young Elizabeth who gave the stately Negress a strange look.
"Are you sure we need to do this Miss Jemima?" the young girl asked.
"Yes'm I sure am sure," Jemima said as she made sure her own baby, little Earl, was peacefully asleep with the rest of the babes in the back. "Glad you comin' wit' me," the woman added. "Don't know as I could be handlin' all of them alone."
"Oh, we aren't alone," Elizabeth said, half smiling as she tucked her braids under her wool coat. "Morton will be our guide and guard."
"Hmpfff," Jem tightened her bonnet and shifted her skirt as she clambered up beside the girl and took the reins from her hands. "Well don't 'spect he be ridin' up here wit' us. Molasses got 'nuff of a load ta pull." She flecked the horse lightly and the small wagon began moving away from the orphanage on Main Street.
The large black and white dog trotted by the wagon, on Elizabeth's side, as the girl looked down the dark streets.
"Nobody's even up yet," she said softly.
"Nope, most jes' be settlin' down." The woman looked at the girl. "You leave the Streeters a note?"
The girl nodded. "I told them I was with you. On a.. a mission." she added.
"Hmpff," Jem said, then added another "hmpff". She nodded a bit. "Well, suppose you could say it a mission."
They rode slowly down the street, over the bridge and as they moved further away from the town, Elizabeth turned and looked back, watching until there was nothing to see.
"It's.. dark," she whispered. "Kinda .. scary. Are you sure we need to go."
Jemima nodded. "Sure as sure," she said. "I don't get these feelin's offen but when I does... " she paused. "I learnt the hard way, it best ta follow 'em. Even if everybody else think I outa mah mind.. "
After a few moments she suddenly stopped the wagon and cleared her throat.
"Dog." she said. "You kin come up here, iff'n you want. They room 'tween Lizbet' n me."
Elizabeth motioned and Morton softly landed between the two females, settling himself on the floor as Jemima flicked Molasses again.
"Git on, now," she said the horse. "An' don't you say nothin', " she said to the young girl, who closed her mouth and swallowed her giggling "i-thought-you-said" before it rolled out. "He keep us warm," Jemima added, looking straight ahead.