AUTHOR'S NOTE: Gideon talked so much about growing up with Harriet, but I thought it was odd his lust for her wasn't explored more fully. It was vaguely hinted at, but if he had acted on it, that definitely would've been another reason for her to run.
Though Eliza Brodess and Edward Brodess were Harriet's owners in real life, Gideon himself was entirely fictional. But the name Gideon means "feller, hewer" in Hebrew like a wheat scythe. A fitting and well-chosen name by the writers, in my opinion.
Obviously Gideon is a terrible person, and in no way do I support his views or actions.
"And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth."
- Revelation 6:8 King James Version
Gideon has desired Minty as long as he can remember.
He grows up as an only child - his future siblings will be significantly younger than him – and so a few slave children are brought in to be his playmates. Her name is actually Araminta, but the toddler Gideon can't pronounce it, so the toddler slave girl's name is changed to Minty. He can't recall a time when she isn't in his life. She is always there, somewhere. If not within eyesight, then he can always find her somewhere about the plantation grounds.
Then, he doesn't know how whites are supposed to treat slaves. His parents yell at and hit the coloreds, but young Gideon laughs and plays with his companions. When his mother is away from the nursery, Minty and the other slave children relax. Somewhat. Gideon never questions why only he is allowed to use the expensive rocking horse, or why he always wins at jacks, marbles, and Blind Man's Bluff. The first time Minty beats him in a race, his mother slaps the girl. Minty never bests him at any game ever again.
When Gideon turns ten, all but one of his playmates stop coming to the nursery.
"They have to work in the fields," his father explains. "That is what slaves do, and they are old enough now."
At this, Gideon throws a tantrum in front of his father and bursts into tears before his mother.
True, Minty is not as pretty as white girls. But where white girls are prissy and delicate as china dolls, Minty is strong and bold - especially when it's just the two of them alone. She makes him feel alive in a way no Southern belles can.
His mother gives in, and convinces Edward to change his mind. Minty stays as Gideon's companion.
When he is twelve, he catches scarlet fever.
Everything is a delirious haze. The world is on fire, and nothing will cool it. Endless damp cloths are placed on his forehead, but they do no good. His mother spends most of her time at his side, but on rare occasions Edward convinces Eliza to sleep.
But Minty never leaves Gideon. She has orders from his mother, of course, but he finds himself hoping it's because Minty also wants to stay of her own volition. As he drifts in and out of consciousness, he hears Minty praying. His mother's prayers are dry. Most white folks go to church, but their religion is stiff and rehearsed. But just like everything in life, Minty is passionate. She prays aloud, swaying, even singing to God. All for Gideon.
The first thing he sees when his fever breaks is her.
His mother shoves the slave aside, but Eliza's concern is smothering. Minty watches from the corner of the nursery, calm and steady as Edward and Eliza fuss almost hysterically over their son.
When Gideon and Minty are both thirteen, she is sent to the fields.
No amount of arguing makes his father cave this time. "You and she are almost grown! Folks are starting to talk, Gideon! It is high time you stopped running around with that slave girl and actually made proper white friends!"
Not long after Minty stops coming to the main house, Gideon goes to see her. Even three days is too long to be apart. He slips down to the cotton fields when the overseer is on a break - the slaves, of course, do not have breaks - and the boy pulls Minty into the smokehouse.
"What're you doing here?" Minty demands.
"I had to see you," he says. "I missed-"
"Do you know what'll happen to me if the overseer catches me with ya?" she interrupts, looking nervously at the smokehouse door.
"I missed you," he says indignantly. He came all this way, risked so much to do this, and now she's not even happy to see him? Maybe his father is right. Maybe even Minty is ungrateful like the other slaves. Maybe she's always been this way, and Gideon was never able to see it - until now, that is.
"I've got to go, Gid-" she start to say, but he interrupts her by kissing her.
He never expected his first kiss to be with a colored girl. And he also doesn't expect that it would be so short, or that she would shove him away. "What're you doing?"
"What does it look like?" He takes a step towards her. "It is called a kiss."
"You ain't supposed to kiss me," she says, backing away.
"Yes, I can," Gideon snaps. Why can't she be reasonable like she was before? "I can do whatever I want. My father owns you, slave."
This is the first time they've ever openly acknowledged the elephant in the room. Neither had forgotten it before, but it was just the way life was, and there was nothing either of them could do to change it. But he has to make her see. His need for another kiss is all-consuming.
Minty lifts her chin. "I said no!"
He grabs her, holding her arms as tight as he can so she can't escape. He kisses her, pretending that pressing his mouth against hers hard enough means that she's willingly kissing him back. He then wraps his arms around her waist, pinning her against his own body, and a whole new feeling fills him. He doesn't know what it is, but he likes it-
The smokehouse door flies open.
"Get off Master Gideon!" the overseer bellows, dragging Minty away from her owner's son.
"I was-" Gideon protests.
But then the overseer literally punches Minty to the ground. When she is down, the overseer picks up a metal weight and throws it at her.
Gideon hears the snap of her skull cracking open. Blood pours from the wound on her forehead, running over her eye and down her nose. She's still breathing, but doesn't rise.
Gideon has never been so scared in his life.
Minty lives and is mostly herself again, but Gideon doesn't see her much after that.
Years pass with only a few glimpses of her now and again. His mother keeps trying to pair him off with white girls, but they never capture his eye. The only time any girl holds his attention is when his friends take him to a brothel for his sixteenth birthday. The whorehouse has both black and white prostitutes, and then he sees one girl who has a similar build to Minty.
This streetwalker's skin is light brown, not as dark as Minty. But he closes his eyes, pictures the slave girl back home as he loses his virginity to a whore whose name he doesn't ask for, and imagines he's deflowering Minty.
When Gideon and Minty are twenty-seven, she prays for his father to die.
She's been married to John Tubman for a few years now. It means little; slaves can be sold and their marriages ended in the process, and Gideon won't acknowledge her marital status. But what he can't ignore is how happy Minty is with John. She never smiles or laughs with Gideon anymore the way she does with John. The last time she seemed to so at ease with Gideon was before that day in the smokehouse when they were thirteen. Yes, from that day on he had started treating her the way a white man should treat his slave, but Gideon still craves her.
Eliza is still pressuring her son to marry, but every girl he is introduced to only reminds him of how alive Minty is. Of course he doesn't think of marrying Minty; the thought never even crosses his mind. But he can't stand the idea of taking a bland white wife and going to her bed for the dullest sex of his life when Minty exists.
Minty and John's hiring of a lawyer infuriates Gideon. Her desire to have her children be born free makes Gideon's blood boil. It is a flagrant defiance of his pursuit of her, as this is her clear statement of choosing John over him. After Edward rips up the letter from the lawyer, Gideon finds Minty praying. But this time she's not asking God to spare a life; she begs the Lord to kill her owner. Gideon tries to make her see reason, but she remains defiant, so he slaps her.
They stand there looking at each other as the sound of the slap fills the woods. Both are breathing hard, and though she glares at him with hatred in her eyes, he kisses her and backs her up against a tree. How dare she choose a colored man over him? How dare she try to free herself? How dare she defy him instead of submitting like a slave should? She must be shown her place once and for all.
But when he reaches for her skirts, she knees him between the legs and runs.
He watches her flee. Yes, she caused him considerable pain, but it also sends desire rushing low in his belly. No matter its intention, she had still touched him intimately. This is the most physical contact they've had since they were thirteen, and now he promises himself that he will bed her whether she wishes to or not. She's denied him far too long, and it's time Gideon got what he wants.
And then his father dies.
Gideon has to arrange the funeral, because his bereft mother is in no state to do so. This puts her son's plans concerning Minty on hold, but he tells himself that he will have her after the ceremony. He - along with his mother - is now co-owner of Minty, and he will treat her as he sees fit. And oh, does he ever have it planned out. He even dreams of it, imagines the feeling of her body beneath his in his mind's eye until he wakes up in a sweat, aching with desire.
But then she disappears.
Three years later, he finally sees her again.
Bigger Long locates her, but Gideon shoots him before the tracker can kill Minty. She has to be alive for Gideon to do what he's wanted for so long. As he runs her down with his white horse, he imagines taking her right here on the ground, pinning her down into the autumn leaves and then-
But she shoots him before he can shoot her. Pain explodes in his hand as blood oozes over his fingers. "Get on the ground!" she orders as if she is the master and he is the slave.
"Minty-" he protests.
"My name ain't Minty no more! My name is Harriet Tubman!" she says grandly as if she is an empress.
Fury surges in him, yes, because this is conformation that she is the one stealing so many slaves, even from his own plantation under his very nose. But his need to have her grows so strongly its almost painful, because she is the most vibrant person he's ever know. She is color in a world of gray, a fire in the night. Everyone else sleepwalks, merely exists, but she lives.
"On your knees," she says. He imagined saying this to her once, but now she has his own rifle pointed at him, and so he does what she says. He believes she will shoot him, that he will die here in the woods of Maryland. At least he will perish with her as the last thing he sees.
"God says you will die right here in the war," she says instead of killing him, as if the rumored war is already in full force. There's no mistaking Minty is prophesizing right now. "You will fight for a lost cause, and the South will lose." Fury blazes in her eyes. "God don't mean people to own people!"
Minty takes Gideon's pale horse and leaves.
He finally marries.
The blonde and blue-eyed Susanna is so insipid she probably has water instead of blood in her veins. She rouses no desire in him, and when he does lie with her - only for the sake of having children and literally nothing else - he always closes his eyes and tries to think of his former slave. It doesn't work.
He tries not to think of the prophecy when his mother and wife see him off to war. But joining a battalion makes forgetting Minty's words impossible. When he looks at his comrades, all he can think of is the South falling to the diabolical Yankees. Gideon believes in the Confederate cause with all his heart, but he knows they will lose.
And then his unit goes to that Maryland woods. He fights back against the soldiers in blue as fiercely as he can, desperate to stay alive. But then Gideon is shot in the stomach, and his intestines spill out onto the dirt. His beautiful dove gray uniform with gold embroidery is stained a deep, awful, wet crimson.
The last thing he thinks of is Minty as the darkness envelops him.