Chapter 93 Summary
On one of their many buggy rides to the main fights, Tom Lea starts talking to Chicken George almost as an equal. Tom Lea is often asking Chicken George what he is thinking about. Whenever Chicken George lies and tells Lea that he isn’t thinking about anything, Lea gets mad about blacks not speaking their true intelligence. Chicken George tells Tom Lea the truth: that most black folks are scared of white folks. Tom Lea is flabbergasted by this (especially considering the recent slave uprising in Charleston).
Eventually, Tom Lea compares his own young life with that of Chicken George. Tom Lea admits that he is one of ten children who all lived in only two leaky rooms on ten acres of rock not fit for growing any food. Lea’s family is still dirt poor today. Tom Lea left home at eleven years old after a preacher at a revival told Lea that he could make something of himself if he worked hard. Through this comparison, Tom Lea proves that George has had a better experience with everything except freedom.
At one point, Chicken George works the age of the other slaves into the conversation with Tom Lea. George is secretly hoping that Tom Lea will hire another field hand to help his mother and the other slaves on slave row. When Chicken George says that Mingo has been like a father to him, the air fills with tension. Both Chicken George and Tom Lea know who George’s real father is. Still, it isn’t long before the conversation gets friendly again and Tom Lea encourages Chicken George to continue seeing women off the plantation. Lea even offers to give Chicken George a permanent traveling pass.
Suddenly, Chicken George begins confiding in Tom Lea all about a new girl: Matilda. She’s a girl unlike any of the others that he has “tomcatted” with in the past. In fact, she won’t have anything to do with him physically. A former master of Matilda’s was a preacher; therefore, she got to know the Bible really well. It’s Chicken George’s affection for the hard-to-get Matilda that makes him consider that love is more than just sex. Chicken George even admits his thoughts about marrying Matilda. Tom Lea, knowing that he has been meaning to hire another field hand, offers to buy Matilda for Chicken George. Again, Chicken George finds himself speechless.