"Faster!" The overseer uncoiled his whip. "No." Malcom continued pollinating the vanilla orchid. Slaves in earshot worked faster, heads down.
"What?" The overseer's voice was hard. Several slaves dampened their breechcloths.
"If I go slower now, I'll learn to be faster in the long run." He cried out at the lash across his back, and the overseer pulled him up by the hair.
"One for backtalk. The master'll say what's next." He dragged Malcom toward the house. They left the carefully-pollinated orchid mangled, crushed in Malcom's spasm at the bite of the lash.
In the master's office, Malcom remained still despite the adrenaline in his blood. The overseer fidgeted behind him by the door, and the master read accounts at her desk. Blood ran down Malcom's back and stained his breechcloth.
The master took off her reading glasses and looked up. "You think you'll be faster if you start out slow?" Hesitant, Malcom nodded. She sniffed and blew her nose. "Fine. If you're right, you'll teach the others. If not..." She shrugged. "Remember, many masters would object to the idea that property can learn." She dismissed them with a wave.
That generosity did not save her when the revolution came.