The black man shook his head.
“You got food in your tote there?”
“You must be hungry then,” the farmer said. “Get what apples you want. There’s a spring over there too what if your throat’s dry. I’ll go to the cabin and fix you a map.” The white man paused. “Fetch some corn to take if you like, and tell that othern he don’t have to hide in there lest he just favors it.”
The farmer walked back toward the cabin.
“Come out, boy,” Viticus said.
The tassels swayed, and the youth reappeared.
“You hear what he say?”
“I heard it,” the youth answered, and began walking toward the orchard.
They ate two apples each before going to the spring.
“Never tasted water that cold, and it full summer,” the youth said when he’d drunk his fill. “The Colonel say it snows here anytime and when it do you won’t see no road nor nothing. Marster Helm’s house boy run off last summer, the Colonel say they found him froze stiff as a poker.”
“You believing that then you a chucklehead,” Viticus said.
“I just telling it,” the youth answered.
“Uh-huh,” his elder said, but his eyes were not on the youth but on something in the far pasture.
Two mounds lay side by side, marked with a single creek stone. Upturned earth sprouted a few weeds, but only a few. The youth turned from the spring and looked as well.
“Lord God,” he said. “This place don’t long allow a body to rest easy.”
“Come on,” Viticus said.
The fugitives stepped back through the orchard and waited in front of the barn. The farmer was on his way back, a bucket in one hand and the flintlock in the other.
“Why come him to still haul that gun?” the youth asked.
The man’s lips hardly moved as he spoke.
“Cause he ain’t fool enough to trust two strangers, ’specially after you cut and run.”
The farmer’s eyes were on the youth as he crossed the pasture. He set the bucket before them and studied the youth’s face a few more moments, then turned to the older fugitive.
“There’s pone and sorghum in there,” the farmer said, nodding at the bucket. “My daughter brung it yesterday. She’s nary the cook her momma was, but it’ll stash in your belly.”
“Thank you, suh,” the youth said.
“I brung it for him, not you,” the farmer said.
The older fugitive did not move.
“Go ahead,” the farmer said to him. “Just fetch that pone out the bucket and strap that sorghum on it.”
“Thank you, suh,” the older fugitive said, but he still did not reach for the pail.
“What?” the white man asked.
“If I be of a mind to share …”
The white man frowned.
“He don’t deserve none, but it’s your stomach to miss it, not mine.”
The older fugitive took out a piece of the pone and the cistern of sorghum. He swathed the bread in syrup and offered it to the youth, who took it without a word. Neither sat in the grass to eat but remained standing. When they’d finished, the older fugitive set the cistern carefully in the bucket. He stepped back and thanked the farmer again, but the farmer seemed not to hear. His blue eyes were on the youth.