Susannah Lee

On the southern banks of the Susquehanna, when the last dregs of winter were melting away- that’s when I first met my true love. Her name was Susannah Lee, and I had never seen anything quite like her. She was a hard worker, and often days, nearly months, would pass before I would see her again. Everyone knew how diligent Susannah Lee was, and many an eye watched her and her crewmates with jealousy.
I tended to the barge I worked on, but my thoughts would always wander. How wonderful it must be, to work alongside her! She could steer through the sharpest of storms, bring in a fine penny, and she certainly was easy on the eyes.
She labored under a man named Lionel Piers, but she seemed like she would be happier if she were sailing the rivers as she pleased. I remember, faintly, asking him about her.
“Now, Miss Susannah here, she’s a fine, fine lady,” he had said around his cigar. “I’ve put a lot of money into her, too, so she’s with me until she works it off, with some profit to boot.” He and his crew undocked, and I sadly waved as I watched my Susannah drift down the river again. She didn’t deserve a life like this, slaving away on the riverside. She deserved an ocean all her own. I set it in my mind that day that I would pay her debt to Mr. Piers, and free her once and for all.
It wasn't easy. Good heavens, it was nearly impossible. Only the Lord knows how many times I lost faith in myself. My body ached every night- falling into my cot for a precious few hours of sleep, only to do it all over again tomorrow. The only thing that kept me going was that vision of my lady. She was waiting, and no gentleman ever keeps a lady waiting. So I pressed forward, and finally came up with a sufficient sum.
I wrote a letter to Lionel Piers, and the next time he was in port he contacted me. We met at the inn and I got straight to the point. “Mr. Piers,” I said, “I’d like to pay you for Susannah Lee.” I slid my carefully saved bills towards him. He rifled through the stack with a capitalist eye.
Finally, he spoke. “You think Susannah’s worth this much?” he asked skeptically. My heart sank.
“I know she’s worth more than that, sir,” I spoke honestly. “I think she’s worth more than I can ever earn. But you're a rich man. You run a good business. Will losing her really hurt you?” I could barely breathe, I was so nervous.
But Mr. Piers, to my surprise, split a grin. “Exactly what I wanted to hear,” he said. “I’ve been thinking of letting her go her own way. She’s been getting older, and she’s being outpaced. I can tell you’ll treat her well, so I’ll take your deal.” He gathered up the product of my years of work and put it in his jacket, as if it were simply pocket money to spend at his leisure.
Awestruck, I hardly understood what he had said. I shook his hand fervently. “Thank you, Mr. Piers, you have no idea what-”
“It was truly my pleasure,” he said, with a tip of his hat. “She’ll be waiting at the dock for you tomorrow.”
I barely slept, and when I arrived, I saw he was true to his word. Susannah Lee was there, waiting for me. I had all my things, so there was no delay. I hopped aboard, feeling her smooth planks beneath my bare feet. Susannah Lee and I sailed away, and everything was right in my book.