Part 3 out of 8
where such indeed prevail," replied Kingston. "There is no island in the
Caribbean Sea where the early riser may not enjoy this delightful,
bracing atmosphere. At Jamaica in particular, where they collect as much
snow as they please in the mountains; yet, at the same time, there is
not a more fatal and unhealthy spot than Port Royal harbour, in the same
"Is the plantation we are going to situated as high above the level of
the sea as we are now?"
"No; most plantations are in the ravines, between the hills. The
sugar-cane requires heat. As soon as we are on the summit of this next
hill we shall descend to it."
In half an hour they arrived at the end of their journey, when they
stopped at an extensive range of low buildings, situated at the head of
the valley, which descended to the sea,--now for the first time
presented to their view since they had quitted Bridgetown. The owner of
the estate was at the door to receive them. He was a tall, spare man,
dressed in nankeen jacket and trousers, with a large-brimmed straw hat
upon his head.
"Welcome, gentlemen, welcome. Kingston, how are you?" said he, as they
stopped. "Now dismount, gentlemen; the boys will take the mules. Boy
Jack, where are you? Where's Baby, and where's Bulky? Come here, you
lazy rascals, and take the mules. Now then, gentlemen, I'll show you the
way. I ordered breakfast on the table, as I saw you coming down the
So saying, the old gentleman led the way through a portico. At the sight
of strangers, the windows underneath were crowded with faces of various
degrees of colour--eyes and mouths wide open, the latter displaying rows
of teeth, so even and so brilliantly white, that they might cause a
sensation of envy to many an English belle.
The party were ushered into a spacious and cool apartment on the
ground-floor, where a table was covered with all the varieties of a
tropical breakfast, consisting of fried fish, curries, devilled poultry,
salt meats, and everything which could tend to stimulate an enfeebled
"Now, gentlemen, let me recommend you to take a white jacket; you'll be
more at your ease, and there is no ceremony here. Boy Jack, where's the
sangoree? This is a fine climate, Captain Berecroft; all you have to
attend to is--to be temperate, and not to check the perspiration."
Boy Jack who, _par parenthese_, was a stout, well-looking negro, of
about forty years of age, now made his appearance with the sangoree.
This was a beverage composed of half a bottle of brandy and two bottles
of Madeira, to which were added a proportion of sugar, lime-juice, and
nutmeg, with water _ad lib_. It was contained in a glass bowl, capable
of holding two gallons, standing upon a single stalk, and bearing the
appearance of a Brobdingnag rummer. Boy Jack brought it with both hands,
and placed it before his master.
"Now, sir, will you drink?" said the planter, addressing Mr Berecroft.
"Thank you," replied Mr Berecroft, "I never drink so early in the
"Drink! why this is nothing but _swizzle_. Here's your health, sir, I'll
show you the way."
The large goblet was fixed to his lips for upwards of a minute: at last
they unwillingly separated, and the old planter recovered his
respiration with a deep sigh. "Now then, gentlemen, do you take a
little; don't be afraid; there's nothing you mayn't do in this climate,
only be temperate, and don't check the perspiration." At this moment
Newton was startled, and looked under the table.
"I thought it was a dog, but it's a little black child."
"Oh! there's one out, is there? Why, Boy Jack, did I not tell you to
shut them all in?"
"Yes, sar, so I did," said the black man, looking under the table.
"Eh!--it's that d--d little nigger--two-year old Sambo--no possible
keeping him in, sar.--Come out, Sambo."
The child crawled out to his master, and climbed up by his knee: the old
planter patted his woolly head, and gave him a piece of grilled turkey,
with which he immediately dived again under the table.
"The fact is, captain, they are accustomed to come in at breakfast-time;
they are only shut out to-day because I have company. That door behind
me leads into the nursery-yard."
"Yes, I'll show it you by-and-bye; there's plenty of them there."
"Oh, pray let us have them in--I wish to see them, and should be sorry
to be the cause of their being disappointed."
"Open the door, Boy Jack." As soon as it was open, about twenty black
children, from seven to three years old, most of them naked, with their
ivory skins like a polished table, and quite pot-bellied from good
living, tumbled into the room, to the great amusement of Newton and the
party. They were followed by seven or eight more, who were not yet old
enough to walk; but they crawled upon all-fours almost as fast as the
others who could walk erect after the image of their Maker.
The company amused themselves with distributing to the children the
contents of the dishes on the table--the elder ones nestling alongside
of the planter and his friends with the greatest familiarity, while the
younger sat upright on the floor, laughing as they devoured their
"Of course, these are all slaves?" observed Mr Berecroft.
"Yes, bred them all myself," replied the planter; "indeed, out of two
hundred and fifteen which I have on the estate, I think that there are
not more that twelve who were not born on this property, during my
father's time or mine. Perhaps, as breakfast is over, you will like to
inspect my nursery."
The planter led the way into the yard from which the children had
entered. It was a square, of about two roods of ground, three sides of
which were enclosed by rows of small houses, of two rooms each; and most
of them were occupied by female slaves, either nursing children at the
breast, or expecting very soon to have that duty to perform. They received
their master with a smiling face, as he addressed a question to each of
them when he entered their abode.
"Now these are all my _breeding_ women; they do no work, only take care
of the children, who remain here until they are eight or nine years old.
We have a surgeon on the estate, who attends them as well as the other
slaves when they are sick. Now, if you feel inclined, we will go round
The old planter, in a few minutes' walk, brought them to an extensive
row of detached cottages, each centred in a piece of garden-ground, well
stocked with yams, sweet potatoes, bananas, and other tropical
productions. Poultry of all descriptions were scattered in profusion
about the place, and pigs appeared to be abundant.
"Now, captain, these are the cottages of the working slaves. The
garden-ground is allowed to them; and whatever they can make by its
produce, or by their pigs and their poultry, is all their own."
"But how are they subsisted?"
"By rations, as regularly served out as yours are on board of your
vessel, and they have as much as they can consume."
"Are they all single men?"
"No, mostly married to slave girls on the estate: their wives live with
them, unless they breed, and then they are removed up to the nurseries."
"And what work do you exact from them?"
"Eight hours a day--except in crop-time, and then we are very busy; so
that they have plenty of leisure to look after their own interests if
"Do they ever lay up much money?"
"Very often enough to purchase their freedom, if they wished it."
"If they wished it!" replied Mr Berecroft with surprise.
"Yes; without explanation, that may appear strange to you, and still
more strange, the fact, that freedom offered has often been refused. A
man who is a clever workman as a carpenter, or any other trade, will
purchase his freedom if he can, because artisans can obtain very high
wages here; but a slave who, if I may use the term, is only a common
labourer, would hardly support himself, and lay by nothing for his old age.
They are aware of it. I have offered emancipation to one or two who have
grown old, and they have refused it, and now remain as heirlooms on the
estate, provided with everything, and doing little or no work, if they
please. You saw that old man sweeping under the portico? Well, he does that
every day; and it is all he has done for these five years. Now, if you
please, we will go through the plantations, and visit the sugar-mills."
They passed the slaves, who were at work hoeing between the canes; and
certainly, if an estimate of their condition was to be taken by the
noise and laughter with which they beguiled their labour, they were far
from demanding pity.
"But, I must confess, that there is something in that cart-whip which I
do not like," observed Newton.
"I grant it; but custom is not easily broken through; nor do we know any
substitute. It is the badge of authority, and the noise of it is
requisite to summon them to their labour. With me it is seldom used, for
it is not required; and if you were captain of a man-of-war, I should
answer you as I did Captain C----; to wit--I question much whether my
noisy whip is half so mischievous as your silent _cat_."
The sugar-mills, stables of mules, boilers, coolers, &c., were all
examined, and the party returned to the plantation-house.
"Well, captain, now you have witnessed what is termed slavery, what is
your opinion? Are your philanthropists justified in their invectives
"First assure me that all other plantations are as well regulated as
your own," replied Mr Berecroft.
"If not, they soon will be: it is to the interest of all the planters
that they should; and by that, like all the rest of the world, they will
"But still there have been great acts of cruelty committed; quite enough
to prepossess us against you as a body."
"I grant that such has been the case, and may occasionally be so now;
but do not the newspapers of England teem with acts of barbarity? Men
are the same everywhere. But, sir, it is the misfortune of this world,
that we never know _when to stop_. The abolition of the slave-trade was
an act of humanity, worthy of a country acting upon an extended scale
like England; but your philanthropists, not content with relieving the
blacks, look forward to the extermination of their own countrymen, the
whites--who, upon the faith and promise of the nation, were induced to
embark their capital in these islands."
"Doubtless they wish to abolish slavery altogether," replied Berecroft.
"They must be content with having abolished the horrors of it, sir,"
continued the planter. "At a time when the mart was open, and you could
purchase another slave to replace the one that had died from
ill-treatment, or disease, the life of a slave was not of such
importance to his proprietor as it is now. Moreover, the slaves imported
were adults, who had been once free; and, torn as they were from their
natural soil and homes, where they slept in idleness throughout the day,
they were naturally morose and obstinate, sulky, and unwilling to work.
This occasioned severe punishment; and the hearts of their masters being
indurated by habit, it often led to acts of barbarity. But slavery,
since the abolition, has assumed a milder form--it is a species of
_bond_ slavery. There are few slaves in existence who have not
been born upon the estates, and we consider that they are more
"Will you explain what you mean by _more lawfully_?"
"I mean, captain (for instance), that the father of that boy (pointing
to one of the negro lads who waited at breakfast) was my slave; that he
worked for me until he was an old man, and then I supported him for many
years until he died. I mean, that I took care of this boy's mother, who,
as she bore children, never did any work after her marriage, and has
since been only an expense to me, and probably will continue to be so
for some years. I mean, that that boy was taken care of, and fed by me
until he was ten years old, without my receiving any return for the
expense which I incurred; and I therefore consider that he is indebted
to me as a bond-slave, and that I am entitled to his services; and he,
in like manner, when he grows too old to work, will become a pensioner,
as his father was before him."
"I perceive the drift of your argument; you do not defend slavery
"No; I consider a man born free, and made a slave, is justified in
resorting to any means to deliver himself; but a slave that I have
reared is lawfully a slave, and bound to remain so, unless he can repay
me the expense I have incurred. But dinner is ready, captain; if you
wish to argue the matter further, it must be over a bottle of claret."
The dinner was well dressed, and the Madeira and claret (the only wines
produced) of the best quality. Their host did the honours of his table
with true West Indian hospitality, circulating the bottle after dinner
with a rapidity which would soon have produced an effect upon less
prudent visitors; and when Mr Berecroft refused to take any more wine,
he ordered the ingredients for arrack punch.
"Now, Mr Forster, you must take a tumbler of this, and I think that
you'll pronounce it excellent."
"Indeed!------" replied Newton.
"Nay, I will take no denial; don't be afraid; you may do anything you
please in this climate, only be temperate, and don't check the
"Well, but," observed Newton, who placed the tumbler of punch before
him. "You promised to renew your argument after dinner; and I should
like to hear what you have to urge in defence of a system which I never
have heard defended before."
"Well," replied his host, upon whom the wine and punch had begun to take
effect, "just let me fill my tumbler again to keep my lips moist, and
then I'll prove to you that slavery has existed from the earliest times,
and is not at variance with the religion we profess. That it has existed
from the earliest times, you need only refer to the book of Genesis; and
that it is not at variance with our religion, I must refer to the fourth
Commandment. How can that part of the commandment be construed, 'and the
stranger that is within thy gates'? To whom can this possibly apply but
to the slave? After directing that the labour of all the household,
'man-servant and maid-servant,' should cease, it then proceeds to the ox
and the ass, and the stranger that is within thy gates. Now, gentlemen,
this cannot be applied to the stranger in the literal sense of the word,
the hospitality of the age forbidding that labour should be required of
him. At that time slaves were brought from foreign lands, and were a
source of traffic, as may be inferred by the readiness with which the
Ishmaelites purchased Joseph of his brethren, and resold him in Egypt.
"Nay, that slavery was permitted by the _Almighty_ is fully proved by
the state of the Jewish nation, until _He_ thought proper to bring
them out of the house of bondage.
"If, then, the laws of God provided against the ill-treatment of the
slave, slavery is virtually acknowledged as not being contrary to His
Divine will. We have a further proof, _subsequent to the mission of our
Saviour_, that the apostles considered slavery as lawful."
"I remember it: you refer to Paul sending back the runaway slave
Onesimus. Well, I'll admit all this," replied Mr Berecroft, who had a
great dislike to points of Scripture being canvassed after dinner; "and
I wish to know what inference you would draw from it."
"That I was just coming to: I assert that my property in slaves is
therefore as legally mine as my property in land or money; and that any
attempt to deprive me of either is equally a _robbery_, whether it be
made by the nation or by an individual. But now, sir, allow me to ask
you a question, show me where liberty is?--Run over all the classes of
society, and point out one man who is free?"
Mr Berecroft, who perceived the effect of the arrack punch, could not
refrain from laughing, as he replied, "Well, your friend Mr Kingston, is
he not free?"
"Free! Not half so free as that slave boy who stands behind your chair.
Why, he is a merchant; and whether he lives upon a scale of princely
expenditure, whether wholesale or retail, banker, or proprietor of a
chandler's shop, he is a speculator. Anxious days and sleepless nights
await upon speculation. A man with his capital embarked, who may be a
beggar on the ensuing day, cannot lie down upon roses: he is the
_slave_ of Mammon. Who are greater _slaves_ than sailors? So are
soldiers, and all who hold employ under government. So are politicians:
they are _slaves_ to their tongues; for opinions once expressed, and
parties once joined, at an age when reason is borne down by enthusiasm,
and they are fixed for life against their conscience, and are unable to
follow its dictates without blasting their characters. Courtiers are
_slaves_, you must acknowledge."
"I beg your pardon," interrupted Kingston, "but I perceive that you make
no distinction between those enthralled by their own consent, and
"It is a distinction without a difference," replied the planter, "even
if it were so, which it is not, but in particular cases. The fact is,
society enthrals us all. We are forced to obey laws, to regard customs,
to follow the fashion of the day, to support the worthless by
poor-rates, to pay taxes, and the interest of a debt which others have
contracted, or we must go to prison."
"And the princes and rulers of the land--do you include them?" inquired
"They are the greatest of all; for the meanest peasant has an advantage
over the prince in the point on which we most desire to be free--that of
the choice in his partner in life. He _has none_, but must submit to the
wishes of his people, and trammelled by custom, must take to his bed one
whom he cannot take to his heart."
"Well, by your account, there is nobody free, unless it be _Liberty_
"Why, sir," rejoined the planter, "to prove to you that I was correct
when I asserted that there was no such thing in this world as liberty,
paradoxical as it may appear, Liberty is but Liberty when in _bondage_.
Release her, and she ceases to exist; she has changed her nature and
character; for Liberty _unrestrained_ becomes _Licentiousness_."
"Well," said Mr Kingston, laughing with the rest at this curious remark,
"as you have now arrived at your climax, with your leave we will go to
"Have I convinced you?" demanded the planter, taking the tumbler from
"At least you have silenced us. Now, if you please, we will put on our
coats and retire to our apartments."
"Yes--do," replied the other, who was not very steady; "do--or you may
check the perspiration. Boy Jack, where are the lights? Good-night,
The negro led the way to a large room with two beds in it, for Newton
and the master of the brig. Having first pointed out to them that there
was a jug of sangoree, "suppose gentlemen thirsty," he wished them
good-night, and left the room.
"Well, Newton," said Mr Berecroft, as soon as they were alone, "what do
you think of the planter?"
"I think that, considering his constant advice to be temperate, he
swallowed a very large quantity of arrack punch."
"He did indeed; but what think you of his arguments?"
"I hardly can say, except that none of them were sufficiently convincing
to induce me to be a slave proprietor. We may perhaps, as he asserts,
have contented ourselves with the shadow instead of the substance; but
even the shadow of liberty is to be venerated by an Englishman."
"I agree with you, my boy. His discourse did, however, bring one idea
into my head; which is, that there is a remarkable connection between
religion and slavery. It was in a state of bondage that the Jews were
prepared to receive the promised land; and whenever they fell off from
the true worship, they were punished by captivity. It was through the
means of slavery that the light of the true faith was first brought to
our island, where it has burnt with a purer flame than elsewhere; for,
if you recollect, the beauty of some English children exposed for sale
at Rome, assisted by a Latin pun, caused the introduction of
Christianity into Great Britain; and who knows but that this traffic, so
offensive to humanity, has been permitted by an Allwise Power, with the
intent that some day it shall be the means of introducing Christianity
into the vast regions of African idolatry?"
"True," observed Newton; "and the time may not be far distant."
"That it is impossible to calculate upon. _He_ worketh by His own
means, which are inscrutable. It was not the cause of virtue, but a
desire that vice might be less trammelled, which introduced the
Reformation in England. The more we attempt to interfere with the
arrangements of the Almighty, the more we shall make evident our own
folly and blindness, and His unsearchable and immutable
wisdom.--Good-night, my boy."
"_Lucy_--Are all these wretches slaves?
_Stanley_--All sold, they and their posterity, all slaves.
_Lucy_--O! miserable fortune!
_Bland_--Most of them know no better, but were
Born so, and only change their masters."
The party were up at an early hour on the ensuing morning, that they
might enjoy the delightful freshness of the air, which so soon
evaporates before the scorching rays of the tropical sun. They were
joined at breakfast by the doctor who attended the estate, and who had
called in to announce the birth of a little negro boy in the early part
of the night.
"Who did you say, doctor?" answered the planter, "Mattee Sally? Why, I
thought Jane Ascension was in advance of her."
"They were running it _neck and neck_, sir," replied the surgeon.
"How is she--quite hearty?"
"Quite, sir; but very anxious about the child's name, and requests to
speak with you as soon as you have breakfasted."
"We will go to her. You have no idea," observed the planter to Mr
Berecroft and Newton, "what importance these people attach to the naming
of their children. Nothing but a fine long name will satisfy them. I
really believe, that if I refused her, or called the boy Tom, she would
eat dirt. I believe we have all done: Boy Jack, bring the sangoree.
Doctor, I daresay that your clay wants moistening, so take the first
This important commencement and finale to the repast having been duly
administered, they proceeded to the range of buildings before mentioned,
in one of which they found the lady _in the straw_, sitting up, and
showing her white teeth at her master's approach, as if nothing very
particular had occurred.
"Well, Mattee, how are you?" said the planter. "Where's the piccaninny?"
"Ab um here, sar--keep im warm," replied the woman, pointing to a roll
of blanket, in which the little creature was enveloped.
"Let us see him, Mattee."
"No sar, too cold yet--bye bye, massa, see um; make very fine sleep now.
Suppose white piccaninny, suppose black piccaninny--all same--like
plenty sleep. Um know very well, hab plenty work to do bye bye--sleep
all dey can, when lilly."
"But you'll smother him," observed Newton.
"Smoder him?--what dat--eh?--I know now massa mean, stop um breath. No:
suppose him no smoder before, no smoder now, sar. Massa," continued the
woman, turning to the planter, "no ab name for piccaninny?"
"Well, Mattee, we must find one; these gentlemen will give him a name.
Come, captain, what name do you propose?"
"Suppose we christen him _Snub_," replied Berecroft, winking at the
"Snob! What sart a name you call dat, sar?" replied the woman, tossing
up her head. "Snob! no, sar, you 'front me very much. Snob not proper
"Well, then, Mr Forster," said the planter, "try if you can be more
"What do you think of Chrononhotonthologus?" said Newton to the woman.
"Eh! what dat?--say that again, sar," replied the woman.
"Eh! dat real fine name for piccaninny," cried the woman, with delight
in her countenance. "Many tanky, sar. Chroton--polygarse."
"No, no," replied Newton, laughing; "Chrononhotonthologus."
"Es, hab um now--Hoton--tolyglass."
"No, that's only part. Chronon--hoton--thologus."
"I see--very fine name--Proton--choton--polyglass."
"Yes, that's nearer to it," replied Newton.
"Well, then, that point's settled," said the planter to the woman. "Is
it all right, Mattee?"
"Es, massa; many tanks to gentleman--very fine name, do very well, sar."
"Doctor, put the name down opposite the register of the birth. Now,
Mattee, all's right, good-bye," said the planter, leaving the room and
followed by the others.
"Do you really intend to call the child by that name?" inquired Mr
"Why not? it pleases the woman, and is as good as any other; it is of no
consequence. They almost all have names, certainly not quite so long as
the present; but as they grow longer, their names grow shorter. This
name will first be abbreviated to Chrony; if we find that too long, it
will be reduced again to Crow; which, by-the-bye, is not a bad name for
a negro," said the planter, laughing at the coincidence.
Reader, did you ever, perchance, when in a farmyard, observe a hen or
other domestic fowl, who having pounced upon half a potato, or something
of the same description, too large to be bolted down at once, tries to
escape with her prize, followed by all the rest, until she either drops
it or eludes their vigilance? If so, you form some idea of a negro woman
with a hard word in her mouth; which, although she does not know the
meaning of, she considers as an equal treasure.
Newton had turned round to the courtyard, in the centre of which several
women were sitting down at various employments; when one who had been
busied in some little offices for the woman whom they had just visited,
and had in consequence been present at the choice of the name, took her
seat with the party in question. To several queries put to her she
replied with extreme hauteur, as if she considered them as impertinent,
and frowned upon her companions most majestically.
After a short time she rose, and turning round, with the look of an
empress, said, "Now, I shall go look after my Hoton-poton-pollybass."
"Eh?" cried one, opening her eyes with wonder.
"What dat?" screamed another.
"How you call dat long ting?" demanded a third.
"Eh! you tupid black tings," replied the proud possessor of the new
word, with a look of ineffable scorn, "you no know what um call
Poton-hoton-poll-fass. Me _no_ tell you," continued she, as she walked
away, leaving the others almost _white_ with envy and astonishment.
Shortly after this Mr Kingston with his party took their leave of the
hospitable old planter, and commenced their return to Bridgetown. They
had not proceeded further than a quarter of a mile, when, ascending a
little hill, Newton discovered that a negro was assisting his own ascent
by hanging on to the tail of his mule.
"How do you do this morning, sar?" said the man, grinning, as Newton
"I'm very well, sir, I thank you; but I'm afraid I shall not be able to
keep up with the rest, if my mule has to pull you up hill, as well as
"Es, sar, mule go faster. Massa not understand; mule very obstinate,
sar. Suppose you want go one way, he go anoder--suppose you pull him
back by tail, he go on more."
"Well, if that's the case, you may hold on. Do you belong to the
"No, sar, me free man. Me work there; carpenter, sar."
"A carpenter! How did you learn your trade, and obtain your freedom?"
"Larn trade board man-of-war, sar--man-of-war make me free."
Mr Berecroft, who had been listening to the colloquy, took up the
"Were you born in this country?"
"No, sar! me Ashantee man."
"Then how did you come here?"
"Why, sar, ab very fine battle in Ashantee country. Take me and send me
down to coast; sell me for slave. Go on board French schooner--English
frigate take schooner, send me to Sarra Leon."
"Well, what did you do there?"
"Bind 'prentice, sar, to Massa Cawly, for farteen years--all de same as
slave; work very hard; yam bad; plenty fever in dat country--much better
"Then how did you get away from Sierra Leone?"
"Go to sleep one day in de bush--tieves come steal me, take me down to
coast, sell me again."
"Well, where did you go then?"
"Bard schooner again, sar. Another man-of-war take schooner in West
Indies: send her in prize. Keep me and some on board becase want hands;
keep me, becase speak little English."
"How did you like a man-of-war?" inquired Newton.
"Man-of-war very fine place; but all slaves there--captain steal men
every ship he come to. But sailor no tink so; ebery night we all sing,
Britong nebber, nebber, nebber, will be slave. Make me laugh, sar,"
continued the man, showing his teeth with a broad grin.
"What was the frigate's name?"
"Very fine name, sar, call her _Daddy Wise_."
[Footnote 1: _Dedaigneuse_, we suppose.]
"How long were you on board of her?"
"Far year, sar; larn carpenter trade--go to England--pay off--get plenty
money--come out here in marchant vessel; England very fine place, but
too much cold," said the negro, shuddering at the bare recollection.
"Now, tell me," said Kingston, "of course you recollect being in your
own country? Which do you like best--that or this?"
"Ashantee very good country--Barbadoes very good country. Ashantee
nebber work, hab no money--here plenty work, plenty money."
"Well, but where would you rather be--here or there?"
"Don't know, sar. Like to find country where no work, plenty money."
"Not singular in his opinion," observed Newton.
"Men do all work here, sar: women only talk," continued the negro. "My
country, men nebber work at all--women do all work, and feed men."
"Then what does the man do?" inquired Berecroft.
"Man, sar," replied the negro, proudly, "man go fight--go kill."
"Is that all?"
"Yes, sar, that all."
"So, you then mean to say, that if you could go back to Ashantee now you
would remain there?"
"Yes, sar, stay there--do no work--sleep all day--make women feed me."
"How inveterate is early habit!" observed Mr Berecroft. "This man,
although free in a civilised country, would return to his idleness, and
resume his former ignorance."
"And so would every slave not born in the country. It requires one or
two generations to destroy this savage nature," replied Kingston. "I
believe, idleness, like gout, to be a hereditary disease, either in
black or white; I have often observed it in the latter. Now, until man
labours there is no chance of civilisation: and, improved as the race of
Africa have been in these islands, I still think that if manumitted,
they would all starve. In their own country nature is so bountiful that
little or no labour is required for the support of life; but in these
islands the soil, although luxuriant, must be nurtured."
"You do then look forward to their ultimate freedom?" inquired Newton.
"Most assuredly. Already much has been done, and if not persecuted, we
should be able and willing to do much more."
"The public mind in England is certainly much inflamed against you,"
"It is; or rather, I should say, the more numerous public composed of
those persons unable to think for themselves, and in consequence, led by
others styling themselves philanthropists, but appearing to have very
jesuitical ideas with regard to truth. This I have no hesitation in
asserting, that if philanthropy had not been found to have been so very
_profitable_, it never would have had so many votaries: true
philanthropy, like charity, begins at home. Observe how the papers teem
with the misery of the lower classes in England, yet this affects not
the West India philanthropist. You perceive not their voices raised in
behalf of their suffering countrymen. They pass the beggar in the
street; they heed not the cry of starvation at home; but everywhere
raise petitions for emancipation; or, in fact, for the destruction of
the property of others. That it is an invidious property, I grant, and I
wish I could dispose of mine; but that is not so easy. My ancestors
embarked their capital in these islands upon the faith and promises of
the country, when opinions were very different from what they are now,
and I cannot help myself. However, the time will come when England will
bitterly rue the having listened to the suggestions and outcries of
these interested people."
"I do not understand you. How do you mean?"
"I said before, that it was on the faith of the country that we embarked
our property in these islands. You are not perhaps aware, that when, in
the reign of Queen Anne, the Assiento treaty was made, by which we
obtained the privilege of supplying all the islands with slaves, it was
considered as one of the most important acquisitions that could be
obtained. Public opinion has now changed; but if a nation changes her
opinion, she must at the same time be just. Let the country take our
estates and negroes at a fair valuation, and we shall be most happy to
surrender them. If she frees the slaves without so doing, she is guilty
of robbery and injustice, and infringes on the constitution of the
country, which protects all property, and will of course allow us to
decide upon our own measures."
"May I inquire what those would be?"
"Throwing off the yoke, declaring ourselves independent, and putting
ourselves under the protection of America, who will gladly receive us,
aware that we shall be a source not only of wealth but of security."
"Would America risk a war to obtain these islands?"
"She would be foolish not to do so; and England would be more than
foolish to engage in one. It is true, that if not immediately supported
by America, England might create a scene of confusion and bloodshed in
the colonies; but the world has too often had the severe lesson, that
colonies once detaching themselves are never to be regained. England
would therefore be only entailing a useless expense, however gratifying
it might be to her feelings of revenge."
"But do you think that this is likely to occur?"
"I do, most certainly, if those who govern continue to listen to the
insidious advice of the party denominated 'Saints'; and I am afraid that
it will not be until these islands are separated from the
mother-country, that she will appreciate their value. Our resolution
once formed, we white slaves (for slaves we are) will not flinch; and
the islands of the Caribbean Sea will be enrolled as another star, and
add another stripe to the independent flag, which is their natural
"I trust that will never come to pass."
"And so do I, Mr Berecroft; for I am an Englishman, and love my
country, and the loss of these colonies would be a blow from which
England would never recover."
"You forget her extensive colonies in the East."
"I do not; but the West Indies add to her wealth and her commercial
prosperity, to her nursery of seamen and her exhausted revenue. They, on
the contrary, add only to her grandeur, for they cost the country three
millions a year; and I doubt whether at that expense it is worth while
to retain any colony, however vast and extensive it may be. I consider,
that if the East India ports were open to all the world, and the
territory governed by its former princes, England, with all the
competition which would take place, would yet be a gainer; and, on the
other hand, I know that by the loss of these islands, she would find a
decrease of millions in her revenue."
"Then the philanthropists must pay the national debt?" observed Newton,
"They be d----d!" replied Kingston, who was warm with his argument; "they
would not pay a farthing."
"The sea-breach'd vessel can no longer bear
The floods that o'er her burst in dread career.
The labouring hull already seems half fill'd
With water, through an hundred leaks distill'd:
Thus drench'd by every wave, her riven deck,
Stript and defenceless, floats a naked wreck."
Newton remained at Bridgetown, under the roof of Mr Kingston, for more
than three weeks, by which time the brig was laden, and waiting for
convoy to proceed to England.
Mr Berecroft had made every preparation for his voyage, when an
unexpected circumstance occurred, which eventually proved the occasion
of great hardship and danger to Newton. This was, the master of a large
ship belonging to the same owners, and then lying in Carlisle Bay, to
proceed homeward by the same convoy, had so ingratiated himself with a
wealthy widow residing upon the island, that rather than he should again
trust himself to the fickle element, she had been induced to surrender
up to him her plantation, her negroes, and her fair self,--all equally
bound to honour and obey through their future lives.
Mr Berecroft, in consequence of this resignation of his brother captain,
was appointed to the command of the larger vessel; and Jackson, the
first mate, ordered to take the command of the _Eliza and Jane_. This
was a sad blow to Newton, and one which he could not avoid, as Mr
Berecroft could not take him in his new ship,--all the subordinate
situations being already filled up.
At first, he was inclined to quit the brig; but by the advice of Mr
Berecroft and Kingston, he was persuaded to go the passage home, as he
was now first mate of the vessel, and would incur forfeiture of all
wages if he broke the articles which he had signed at Liverpool.
Unpleasant as the prospect was, he was further induced by Berecroft's
assurance, that now Jackson was provided for, he would arrange with the
owners that Newton should be appointed the first mate of his own ship,
as soon as they arrived in England.
In a few days the men-of-war made their appearance. Newton, who had
remained on shore until the last moment, shook hands with his friendly
patron, and thanking Mr Kingston for his kindness, went on board of the
vessel with a sorrowful and foreboding heart.
Nor was he at all inclined to cheer up as he stepped on the deck of the
brig, and beheld Jackson with a handspike, still brandishing over his
head, standing across the body of one of the seamen, whom he had just
dashed to the deck with the implement in his hand. At the sight of
Newton, the wrath of the new captain appeared to be increased. He eyed
him malevolently, and then observed, with a sneer, "That's what all
skulkers may expect on board of my vessel."
Newton made no answer, and Jackson went forward, where the remainder of
the crew were heaving up the anchor with the windlass. Newton walked up
to the seaman, who appeared still insensible, and examined him. The iron
plate at the end of the handspike had cut deep into the skull, and there
was every appearance of a contusion of the brain.
Calling the boy who attended the cabin, Newton, with his assistance,
carried the man below, and laid him in his berth. He then repaired on
deck, and took the helm, the anchor of the brig being atrip. In a
quarter of an hour the sail was on her, and she followed the course
steered by the men-of-war, who were about to run through the other
islands, and pick up several vessels, who were waiting for their
"If you expect an easy berth as first mate, you are mistaken, my joker,"
said Jackson to Newton, as he steered the vessel; "you've skulked long
enough, and shall now work double tides, or take the consequence. If you
don't, I'll be d----d!"
"I shall do my duty, Mr Jackson," replied Newton, "and fear no
"Indeed! You saw how I settled a skulk just now;--beware of his fate!"
"I neither anticipate it, nor fear it, Mr Jackson. If it comes to
handspikes, two can play at that game. I rather think that before many
hours are over you will be sorry for your violence, for I believe that
man to be in considerable danger. Even now, I should recommend you to
demand surgical assistance from the frigate."
"Demand it, if you dare--I am captain of this ship, sir. The rascal may
die--and be d----d!"
To this disgusting speech Newton made no reply. He had made up his mind
to put up with everything short of downright aggression, and for three
days more he obeyed all orders, however arbitrary and however annoying.
During this period the man who had been injured became gradually worse:
his illness increased rapidly; and on the fifth day he became
delirious, and in a state of high fever, when Newton again pointed out
the propriety of asking surgical aid from one of the men-of-war. This
suggestion was answered by Jackson, who was now really alarmed, with a
volley of oaths and execrations, ending with a flat refusal. The crew of
the brig murmured, and collected together forward, looking occasionally
at the men-of-war as they spoke in whispers to each other; but they were
afraid of Jackson's violence, and none ventured to speak out. Jackson
paced the deck in a state of irritation and excitement as he listened to
the ravings of his victim, which were loud enough to be heard all over
the vessel. As the evening closed, the men, taking the opportunity of
Jackson's going below, went up to Newton, who was walking aft, and
stated their determination that the next morning, whether the master
consented to it or not, they would hail the frigate, and demand surgical
assistance for their shipmate. In the midst of the colloquy, Jackson,
who hearing the noise of the people overhead coming aft, had a suspicion
of the cause, and had been listening at the bottom of the ladder to what
was said, came up the hatchway, and accusing Newton of attempting to
raise a mutiny, ordered him immediately to his cabin, stating his
intention of sending him on board of the frigate the next morning to be
placed in confinement.
"I shall obey your order," replied Newton, "as you are in command of
this vessel. I only hope that you will adhere to your resolution of
communicating with the frigate." So saying, he descended the companion
But Jackson, who, both from the information of the cabin-boy, and the
fact that the incoherent ravings of his victim became hourly more
feeble, thought himself in jeopardy, had no such intention. As the night
closed in, he remained on deck, gradually taking off first one sail and
then another, until the brig was left far astern of the rest of the
convoy, and the next morning there was no other vessel in sight; then,
on pretence of rejoining them, he made all sail, at the same time
changing his course, so as to pass between two of the islands. Newton
was the only one on board who understood navigation besides Jackson, and
therefore the only one who could prove that he was escaping from the
convoy. He was in confinement below; and the men, whatever may have been
their suspicions, could not prove that they were not steering as they
About twelve o'clock on that day the poor sailor breathed his last.
Jackson, who was prepared for the event, had already made up his mind
how to proceed. The men murmured, and proposed securing Jackson as a
prisoner, and offering the command to Newton. They went below and made
the proposal to him; but he refused, observing, that until it was proved
by the laws of the land that Jackson had murdered their shipmate, he was
not guilty, and therefore they had no right to dispossess him of his
command; and until their evidence could be taken by some of the
authorities, he must remain; further pointing out to them, that as he
could be seized immediately upon his arrival at an English port, or
falling in with a man-of-war during their passage, the ends of justice
would be equally answered, as if they committed themselves by taking the
law into their own hands.
The men, although not satisfied, acquiesced, and returned to their duty
on deck. Jackson's conduct towards them was now quite altered; he not
only treated them with lenity, but supplied them with extra liquor and
other indulgences, which, as captain, he could command. Newton, however,
he still detained under an arrest, watching him most carefully each time
that he was necessitated to come on deck. The fact was, Jackson, aware
that his life would be forfeited to the laws of his country, had
resolved to wreck the brig upon one of the reefs to the northward, then
take to his boats, and escape to one of the French islands. At his
instigation, the body of the man had been thrown overboard by some of
the crew, when they were in a state of half intoxication.
Newton, who had been below four days, had retired as usual to his
hammock, when a sudden shock, accompanied by the fall of the masts by
the board, woke him from a sound sleep to all the horrors of shipwreck.
The water pouring rapidly through the sides of the vessel, proved to him
that there was no chance of escape except by the boats. The shriek, so
awful when raised in the gloom of night by seamen anticipating immediate
death, the hurried footsteps above him, the confusion of many voices, with
the heavy blows from the waves against the side of the vessel, told him
that the danger was imminent, even if escape were possible. He drew on his
trousers, and rushed to the door of his cabin. Merciful Heaven! what was
his surprise, his horror, to find that it was fastened outside. A moment's
thought at the malignity of the wretch (for it was indeed Jackson, who,
during the night, had taken such steps for his destruction) was followed by
exertions to escape. Placing his shoulders against his sea-chest, and
his feet against the door, his body in nearly a horizontal position, he
made a violent effort to break open the door. The lock gave way, but the
door did not open more than one or two inches; for Jackson, to make
sure, had coiled down against it a hawser which lay a few yards further
forward in the steerage, the weight of which the strength of no five men
could remove. Maddened with the idea of perishing by such treachery,
Newton again exerted his frantic efforts--again and again, without
success. Between each pause, the voices of the seamen asking for the
oars and other articles belonging to the long-boat, proved to him that
every moment of delay was _a nail in his coffin_. Again and again were
his efforts repeated with almost superhuman strength; but the door
remained fixed as ever. At last, it occurred to him that the hawser,
which he had previously ascertained by passing his hand through the
small aperture which he had made, might only lay against the lower part
of the door, and that the upper part might be free. He applied his
strength above, and found the door to yield: by repeated attempts he at
last succeeded in kicking the upper panels to pieces, and having forced
his body through the aperture, Newton rushed on deck with the little
strength he had remaining.
The men--the boat--were not there: he hailed, but they heard him not; he
strained his eyes--but they had disappeared in the gloom of the night;
and Newton, overcome with exhaustion and disappointment, fell down
senseless on the deck.
"_Paladore_--I have heard,
Have read bold fables of enormity,
Devised to make men wonder, and confirm
The abhorrence of our nature; but this hardness
Transcends all fiction."
"_Law of Lombardy_."
We must now relate what had occurred on deck during the struggle of
Newton to escape from his prison. At one o'clock Jackson had calculated
that in an hour, or less, the brig would strike on the reef. He took the
helm from the man who was steering, and told him that he might go below.
Previous to this, he had been silently occupied in coiling the hawser
before the door of Newton's cabin, it being his intention to desert the
brig, with the seamen, in the long-boat, and leave Newton to perish.
When the brig dashed upon the reef, which she did with great violence,
and the crew hurried upon deck, Jackson, who was calm, immediately
proceeded to give the orders which he had already arranged in his mind;
and the coolness with which they were given quieted the alarm of the
seamen, and allowed them time to recall their scattered senses. This,
however, proved unfortunate for Jackson. Had they all hurried in the
boat at once, and shoved off, he would in all probability have been
permitted to go with them, and Newton, in the hurry of their
self-preservation, would have been forgotten; but his cool behaviour
restored their confidence, and, unhappily for him, gave the seamen time
to reflect. Everyone was in the boat; for Jackson had quietly prepared
and put into her what he considered requisite, when one of the men
called out for Newton.
"D----n Newton now!--save your own lives, my lads. Quick in the boat, all
"Not without Mr Newton!" cried the men, unanimously. "Jump down, Tom
Williams, and see where he is; he must sleep devilish sound."
The sailor sprung down the companion-hatch, where he found the hawser
coiled against the door, and heard Newton struggling inside. It was
enough. He hastened on deck, and told his companions; adding, that "it
would take half an hour to get the poor fellow out, and that's longer
than we dare stay, for in ten minutes the brig will be to pieces."
"It is you, you murdering rascal, who did it!" cried the man to Jackson.
"I tell you what, my lads, if poor Mr Newton is to die, let this
scoundrel keep him company."
A general shout proclaimed the acquiescence of the other seamen in this
act of retributive justice. Jackson, with a loud oath, attempted to
spring into the boat, but was repelled by the seamen; again he made the
attempt, with dreadful imprecations. He was on the plane-sheer of the
brig, and about to make a spring, when a blow from a handspike (the same
handspike with which he had murdered the unfortunate seaman) struck him
senseless, and he fell back into the lee-scuppers. The boat then shoved
off, and had not gained more than two cables' lengths from the vessel,
when Newton effected his escape, and ran on deck, as narrated in our
The brig had now beat up so high on the reef that she remained firmly
fixed upon it; and the tide having ebbed considerably, she was less
exposed to the beating of the waves. The sun was also about to make his
appearance, and it was broad daylight when Jackson first came to his
recollection. His brain whirled, his ideas were confused, and he had
but a faint reminiscence of what had occurred. He felt that the water
washed his feet, and with a sort of instinct he rose, and staggered up
to windward. In so doing, without perceiving him, he stumbled over the
body of Newton, who also was roused up by the shock. A few moments
passed before either could regain his scattered senses; and, at the same
time, both sitting up on the deck, at about a yard distant, they
discovered and recognised each other.
Newton was the more collected of the two, for Jackson's insensibility
had been occasioned by bodily--his, by mental concussion. The effect of the
blow was still felt by Jackson; and although recovered from the stupor, a
dull, heavy sensation affected his eyesight, and confused his ideas.
The sight of Newton went far to recover Jackson, who started up as if to
grapple with the object of his hatred. Newton was on his legs at the
same moment, and retreating, seized upon the handspike, which lay on the
deck, close to where Jackson had been struck down, and placed himself in
an attitude of defence. Not a word was exchanged between them. They
remained a few seconds in this position, when Jackson, whose brain was
again affected by the violence of his feelings, dropped down upon the
deck in a renewed state of insensibility.
Newton had now time to look about him; and the prospect was anything but
cheering. It was almost low water; and in every direction he perceived
reefs of coral rock, and large banks of sand, with deep channels between
them, through which the tide flowed rapidly. The reef upon which the
brig had been grounded was of sharp coral; and, in the deeper parts, the
trees could be discerned, extending a submarine forest of boughs; but it
was evident that the reef upon which the vessel lay was, as well as most
of the others, covered at high water. As a means of escape, a small boat
was still hanging over the stern, which Newton was able to manage either
with her sails or her oars, as might be required.
As there was no time to be lost, and the only chance of escape remained
with the boat, Newton commenced his arrangements. The mast and sails
were found, and the latter bent;--a keg was filled with water,--a
compass taken out of the binnacle,--a few pieces of beef, and some
bread, collected in a bag and thrown in. He also procured some bottles
of wine and cider from the cabin: these he stowed away carefully in the
little locker, which was fitted under the stern-sheets of the boat. In
an hour everything was ready; and throwing into her some pieces of spare
rope, and a small grapnel to anchor with, there being still sufficient
water alongside to float her, Newton gradually lowered one tackle and
then another, until the boat was safe in the water. He then hauled her
up alongside, made her fast by the painter, and stepped her mast.
All was now ready--but to leave Jackson to be washed away by the
returning tide, when the brig would unquestionably go to pieces!--Newton
could not do it. True, he had sought his life, and still displayed the
most inveterate rancour towards him; and Newton felt convinced that no
future opportunity would occur that his enemy would not profit by, to
insure his destruction. Yet to leave him--a murderer!--with all his sins
upon his soul, to be launched so unprepared into the presence of an
offended Creator!--it was impossible--it was contrary to his nature and
to the religion which he professed. How could he hope for the Divine
assistance in his perilous undertaking, when he embarked on it, regardless
of the precept to forgive his enemy?
Newton ascended to that part of the deck where Jackson lay, and roused
him. Jackson awoke, as if from a deep sleep, and then stared at Newton,
who, as a precaution, held the handspike in his hand.
"Mr Jackson," said Newton, "I have roused you to let you know that the
boat is now ready, and that I am going to shove off."
Jackson, who recollected the scene of the previous night, and perceived
Newton standing over him with the hand-spike, appeared wholly unnerved. In
point of muscular power Newton was his superior, independent of the weapon
in his possession.
"Not without me!--not without me!" cried Jackson, raising himself upon
his knees. "For mercy's sake, Mr Newton, do not leave me to this horrid
"You would have left me to one even more dreadful," replied Newton.
"I beg your pardon!--Pardon me, Mr Newton, I was drunk at the
time--indeed I was. I don't know what I do when I'm in liquor.--Don't
leave me!--I'll obey your orders, and do anything you wish!--I'll wait
upon you as your servant!--I will, indeed, Mr Newton!"
"I neither ask that you will obey my orders, nor wait upon me," replied
Newton. "All I request is, that you will lay aside your wanton
animosity, and exert yourself to save your life. For what you have
already attempted against me, may God forgive you, as I do! For what you
may hereafter attempt, you will find me prepared. Now follow me into the
Without further exchange of words Newton, followed by Jackson, went into
the boat, and shoved off. The weather was moderate and the wind light.
There were two islets which Newton had marked, which apparently were not
covered at high water, one about ten miles distant in the supposed
direction of the land, for Newton had shrewdly guessed the locality of
the reef; and the other about two miles from the first, further out,
with trees growing to the water's edge. To this latter Newton proposed
pulling, and waiting there until the next morning. When they were both
in the boat, Newton finding that the wind was contrary, unshipped the
mast, and taking the foremost oar, that Jackson might not sit behind
him, desired him to take the other. The tide, which was now flood, and
swept out to the southward, obliged them to pull at an angle to reach
their intended destination. It was not until sunset that, with great
exertion, they fetched the island nearest to the land, not the one that
was covered with trees, as they had intended. As soon as the boat was
secured, exhausted with fatigue, they both threw themselves down on the
sand, where they remained for some time. Having recovered a little,
Newton procured from the boat some of the supplies which they required,
and after satisfying their hunger in silence, they both lay down to
repose. Newton, who was still afraid of Jackson's diabolical enmity,
which his silence implied to be again at work, closed his eyes, and
pretended for some time to be asleep. As soon as it was dark, he rose,
and first listening to the breathing of his comrade, who appeared to be
in a sound slumber, he walked away from him about one hundred yards, so
that it would be difficult to find him; he placed the handspike under
his head for a pillow, and worn out with mental and bodily fatigue, was
soon in a state of oblivion.
His sleep, although profound for three or four hours, was subsequently
restless. The mind, when agitated, watches for the body, and wakes it at
the time when it should be on the alert. Newton woke up: it was not yet
daylight, and all was hushed. He turned round, intending to get up
immediately; yet, yielding to the impulse of wearied nature, he again
slumbered. Once he thought that he heard a footstep, roused himself, and
listened; but all was quiet and still, except the light wave rippling on
the sand. Again he was roused by a sort of grating noise; he listened,
and all was quiet. A third time he was roused by a sound like the
flapping of a sail: he listened--he was sure of it, and he sprang upon
his feet. It was dawn of day, and as he turned his eyes towards the
beach, he perceived to his horror that the boat was indeed under sail,
Jackson, who was in it, then just hauling aft the main-sheet, and
steering away from the island. Newton ran to the beach, plunged into the
sea, and attempted to regain the boat; but he was soon out of his depth,
and the boat running away fast through the water. He shouted to Jackson
as a last attempt. The scoundrel waved his hand in ironical adieu, and
continued his course.
"Treacherous villain!" mentally exclaimed Newton, as his eyes followed
the boat. "Was it for this that I preserved your life, in return for
your attempts on mine? Here, then, must I die of starvation!--God's will
be done!" exclaimed he aloud, as he sat down on the beach, and covered
his face with his hands.
"For now I stand as one upon a rock,
Environed with a wilderness of sea,
Who marks the waxing tide grow wave by wave,
Expecting ever when some envious surge
Will in his brinish bowels swallow him."
The tide was on the ebb when Newton was left in this desolate situation.
After some minutes passed in bitterness of spirit, his natural courage
returned; and, although the chance of preservation was next to hopeless,
Newton rose up, resolved that he would use his best efforts, and trust
to Providence for their success. His first idea was to examine the
beach, and see if Jackson had left him any portion of the provisions
which he had put into the boat; but there was nothing. He then walked
along the beach, following the receding tide, with the hope of
collecting any shell-fish which might be left upon the sands; but here
again he was disappointed. It was evident, therefore, that to stay on
this islet was to starve; his only chance appeared to remain in his
capability of reaching the islet next to it, which, as we have before
mentioned, was covered with trees. There, at least, he might find some
means of sustenance, and be able with the wood to make a raft, if
nothing better should turn up in his favour.
The tide swept down towards the islet, but it ran so strong that there
was a chance of his being carried past it; he therefore determined to
wait for an hour or two, until the strength of the current was
diminished, and then make the attempt. This interval was passed in
strengthening his mind against the horror of the almost positive death
which stared him in the face.
It was about an hour before low water that Newton walked into the sea,
and, commending himself to Providence, struck out for the islet, keeping
his course well to windward, to allow for the tide sweeping him down. To
use a nautical phrase, he "held his own" extremely well, until he
reached the centre of the channel, where the water ran with great
velocity, and bore him down rapidly with the stream. Newton struggled
hard; for he was aware that the strength of the current once passed, his
labour would be comparatively easy; and so it proved: as he neared the
shore of the islet, he made good way; but he had been carried down so
far when in the centre of the stream that it became a nice point, even
to the calculation of hope, whether he would fetch the extreme point of
the islet. Newton redoubled his exertions, when, within thirty yards of
the shore, an eddy assisted him, and he made sure of success; but when
within ten yards, a counter current again caught him, and swept him
down. He was now abreast of the very extreme point of the islet; a bush
that hung over the water was his only hope; with three or four desperate
strokes he exhausted his remaining strength, at the same time that he
seized hold of a small bough. It was decayed--snapped asunder, and
Newton was whirled away by the current into the broad ocean.
How constantly do we find people running into real danger to avoid
imaginary evil! A mother will not permit her child to go to sea, lest it
should be drowned, and a few days afterwards it is kicked to death by a
horse. Had the child been permitted to go afloat, he might have lived
and run through the usual term of existence. Wherever we are, or
wherever we may go, there is death awaiting us in some shape or another,
sooner or later; and there is as much danger in walking through the
streets of London as in ploughing the foaming ocean. Every tile over our
heads contains a death within it as certain, if it were to fall upon
us, as that occasioned by the angry surge which swallows us up in its
wrath. I believe, after all, that as many sailors, in proportion, run
out their allotted span as the rest of the world that are engaged in
other apparently less dangerous professions; although it must be
acknowledged that occasionally we do become food for fishes. "There is a
tide in the affairs of men," says Shakespeare; but, certainly, of all
the tides that ever interfered in a man's prospects, that which swept
away Newton Forster appeared to be the least likely to "lead to
fortune." Such, however, was the case. Had Newton gained the islet which
he coveted, he would have perished miserably; whereas it will soon
appear that, although his sufferings are not yet ended, his being
carried away was the most fortunate circumstance which could have
occurred, and proved the means of his ultimate preservation.
Newton had resigned himself to his fate. He ceased from further
exertion, except such as was necessary to keep him above water a little
longer. Throwing himself on his back, he appealed to Heaven for pardon,
as he floated away with the stream. That Newton had as few errors and
follies to answer for as most people, is most certain; yet even the most
perfect soon run up a long account. During our lives our sins are
forgotten, as is the time at which they were committed; but when death
is certain, or appears to be so, it is then that the memory becomes most
horribly perfect, and each item of our monstrous bill requires but a few
seconds to be read, and to be acknowledged as too correct. This is the
horror of death; this it is which makes the body struggle to retain the
soul, already pluming herself and rustling her wings, impatient for her
flight. This it is which constitutes the pang of separation, as the
enfeebled body gradually relaxes its hold, and--all is over, at least on
this side of the grave.
Newton's strength was exhausted; his eyes were fixed on the clear blue
sky, as if to bid it farewell; and, resigned to his fate, he was about
to give over the last few painful efforts which he was aware could only
prolong, not save his life, when he received a blow on his shoulders
under the water. Imagining that it proceeded from the tail of a shark,
or of some other of the ravenous monsters of the deep, which abound
among these islands, and that the next moment his body would be severed
in half, he uttered a faint cry at the accumulated horror of his death;
but the next moment his legs were swung round by the current, and he
perceived, to his astonishment, that he was aground upon one of the
sand-banks which abounded on the reef, and over which the tide was
running with the velocity of a sluice. He floundered, then rose, and
found himself in about one foot of water. The ebb-tide was nearly
finished; and this was one of the banks which never showed itself above
water, except during the full and change of the moon. It was now about
nine o'clock in the morning, and the sun shone with great power. Newton,
faint from want of sustenance, hardly knew whether to consider this
temporary respite as an advantage. He knew that the tide would soon flow
again, and he felt that his strength was too much spent to enable him to
swim back to the islet which he had missed when he had attempted to
reach it, and which was more than two miles from the bank upon which he
then stood. What chance had he, then, but to be swept away by the return
of the tide? He almost regretted that it had not been a shark instead of
the sand-bank which had struck him; he would then have been spared a few
hours of protracted misery.
As Newton had foreseen, the ebb-tide was soon over; a short pause of
"slack water" ensued, and there was an evident and rapid increase of the
water around him: the wind, too, freshened, and the surface of the ocean
was in strong ripples. As the water deepened, so did the waves increase
in size: every moment added to his despair. He had now remained about
four hours on the bank! the water had risen to underneath his arms, the
waves nearly lifted him off his feet, and it was with difficulty that he
could retain his position. Hope deserted him, and his senses became
confused. He thought that he saw green fields, and cities, and
inhabitants. His reason was departing; he saw his father coming down to
him with the tide, and called to him for help, when the actual sight of
something recalled him from his temporary aberration. There was a dark
object upon the water, evidently approaching. His respiration was almost
suspended as he watched its coming. At last he distinguished that it
must either be a whale asleep, or a boat bottom up. Fortunately for
Newton, it proved to be the latter. At last it was brought down by the
tide to within a few yards of him, and appeared to be checked. Newton
dashed out towards the boat, and in a minute was safely astride upon it.
As soon as he had recovered a little from his agitation, he perceived
that it was the very boat belonging to the brig, in which Jackson had so
treacherously deserted and left him on the island!
At three o'clock it was high water, and at five the water had again
retreated, so that Newton could quit his station on the bottom of the
boat, and walk round her. He then righted her, and discovered that the
mast had been carried away close to the step, but, with the sail, still
remained fast to the boat by the main-sheet, which had jammed on the
belaying pin, so that it still was serviceable. Everything else had been
lost out of the boat, except the grapnel, which had been bent, and which
hanging down in the water, from the boat being capsized, had brought it
up when it was floated on the sand-bank. Newton, who had neither eaten
nor drunk since the night before, was again in despair, tormented as he
was by insufferable thirst: when he observed that the locker under the
stern-sheets was closed. He hastened to pull it open, and found that the
bottles of wine and cider which he had deposited there were remaining. A
bottle of the latter was soon poured down his throat, and Newton felt as
if restored to his former vigour.
At seven o'clock in the evening the boat was nearly high and dry. Newton
baled her out, and, fixing the grapnel firmly in the sand, lay down to
sleep in the stern-sheets, covered over with the sail. His sleep was so
sound that he did not wake until six o'clock the next morning; when the
boat was again aground. He refreshed himself with some wine, and
meditated upon his prospect. Thanking Heaven for a renewed chance of
escape, and lamenting over the fate of the unprepared Jackson, who had
evidently been upset, from the main-sheet having been jammed, Newton
resolved to make for one of the English isles, which he knew to be about
two hundred miles distant.
The oars had been lost, but the rudder of the boat was fortunately made
fast by a pennant. In the afternoon he drew up his grapnel, and made
sail in the direction, as well as he could judge from the position of
the sun, to the English isles. As the night closed in, he watched the
stars, and steered his course by them.
The next day came, and, although the boat sailed well, and went fast
before a free wind, no land was in sight. Newton had again recourse to
the cider and the wine.
The second night he could hardly keep his eyes open; yet, wearied as he
was, he still continued his course, and never quitted his helm. The day
again dawned, and Newton's strength was gone, from constant watching;
still he bore up against it, until the sun had set.
No land was yet to be seen, and sleep overpowered him. He took a hitch
of the main-sheet round his finger, that, should the breeze freshen, he
might be roused, in case he should go to sleep; and, having taken this
precaution, in a few minutes the boat _was steering herself_.
"But man, proud man,
Dress'd in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high Heaven."
The reef upon which the brig had been wrecked was one of those extending
along the southward of the Virgin Isles. Newton had intended to steer
well to the eastward, with the view of reaching one of the northernmost
English colonies; but not having a compass, he naturally was not very
equal in his course. The fact was that he steered well to the southward
of it; and after he fell asleep, the boat ran away still further off her
course, for she was on the larboard tack, and having no weight in her
except Newton, who was aft in the stern-sheets, she did not feel
inclined to keep her wind. Newton's sleep was so profound, that neither
the pulling of the main-sheet, which he held with a round turn round
his hand, nor the dancing of the boat, which during the night had run
fast before an increasing breeze, roused him from his lethargy. On
sailed the boat, left to the steerage of Providence; on slept Newton, as
if putting firm reliance in the same. It was not until the break of day
that his repose was very abruptly broken by a shock, which threw him
from the stern-sheets of the boat, right over the aftermost thwart.
Newton recovered his legs, and his senses, and found himself alongside
of a vessel. He had run stem on to a small schooner, which was lying at
anchor. As the boat was drifting fast by, Newton made a spring, and
gained the deck of the vessel.
"Ah! mon Dieu!--les Anglais--les Anglais--nous sommes prisonniers!"
cried out the only man on deck, jumping on his feet, and making a
precipitate dive below.
The vessel, of which Newton had thus taken possession, was one employed
in carrying the sugars from the plantations round to Basse Terre, the
port of Guadaloupe, there to be shipped for Europe,--Newton's boat
having run away so far to the southward, as to make this island. She was
lying at anchor off the mouth of a small river, waiting for a cargo.
It happened that the crew of the schooner, who were all slaves, were
exactly in the same situation as Newton, when their vessels came in
contact--viz., fast asleep. The shock had awakened them; but they were
all below except the one who had kept such a remarkably good watch.
Exhausted as Newton was, he could not but smile at his uninterrupted
possession of the vessel's decks. Anxious to have communication with the
people on board, he sat down, awaiting their coming up from below. In a
minute or two, a black head was seen to rise slowly and fearfully out of
the fore-scuttle; then it disappeared. Another rose up and went down
again as before; and thus it went on until Newton reckoned ten different
faces. Having individually ascertained that there was but one man, and
that one not provided with any weapons, the negroes assumed a degree of
courage. The first head that had made its appearance, the woolly hair of
which was of a grizzly gray from age, was again popped up the
fore-scuttle, with an interrogatory to Newton, in French, who he was,
and what he wanted? Newton, who did not understand a word of the
language, shook his head, and, opening his hands and extending his arms,
to show that he had no means of defence, he beckoned to them to come up.
The man's head had again disappeared, and, after a little demur, nine or
ten negroes crawled up out of the fore-scuttle, one after another, each
with some weapon or another by way of security. They remained on the
forecastle of the vessel until the last was up; and then at a nod given
by their grizzle-headed leader, they advanced aft in a body towards
Newton. Newton rose and pointed to the boat, which had now drifted about
a quarter of a mile astern. He then made signs to give them to
understand that he had been wrecked.
"Apparemment c'est un pauvre miserable, qui a fait naufrage," observed
the old negro, who appeared to have the charge of the vessel; "Gustave
Adolphe, tu parles bien l'Anglais; demandez-lui les nouvelles,"
continued the old man, folding his arms across, and looking very _big_
indeed, as he reclined against the mainmast of the vessel.
Gustave Adolphe stood forward from the rest of the negroes. He was a
short, fat, shiny-faced fellow, with his hair platted into about fifty
little tails. He first bowed to his old commander, then placing his arms
akimbo, walked up to Newton, and looking him full in the face, commenced
his duty of interpreter, as follows:--
"I say--God dam--"
"Oui, monsieur, c'est un Anglais."
"Continuez, Gustave Adolphe," replied the old negro, with a majestic
Gustave Adolphe, with another bow, resumed:
"I say--where com?"
"Barbadoes," replied Newton.
"Monsieur, il vient de Barbadoes."
"Continuez, Gustave Adolphe," replied his superior, with a wave of his
"I say--where go?"
"Where go?" replied Newton, "go to the bottom."
"Monsieur, il allait au port de Bo--tom."
"Bo--tom," repeated the old negro. "Ou diable est ca?"
Here a general consultation was held, by which it appeared that such a
port had never been heard of in the West Indies.
"Gustave Adolphe, demandez-lui si c'est un port Anglais."
"I say--Bo--tom--English port?"
"No," replied Newton, amused with the mistake; "I should rather call it
"C'est un port neutral, monsieur."
"Gustave Adolphe, demandez-lui de quelle ile."
"I say, what isle--Bo--tom?"
Newton, who was faint with hunger and thirst, was not inclined at the
moment to continue the conversation, which otherwise would have been a
source of amusement. He replied by making signs that he wished to eat
"Monsieur," said Gustave Adolphe to the old negro, "le prisonnier refuse
de faire reponse, et demande a manger et a boire."
"Va l'en chercher, Gustave Adolphe," replied the old man. "Allons,
messieurs," continued he, addressing the other negroes. "Il faut lever
l'ancre de suite, et amener notre prisonnier aux autorites; Charles
Philippe, va chercher mon porte-voix."
The negro captain walked up and down the deck of the schooner, a vessel
about thirty feet long, until Charles Philippe made his appearance with
the speaking-trumpet. He then proceeded to get the vessel under weigh,
with more noise and fuss than is to be heard when the proudest
three-decker in the English navy expands her lofty canvas to the gale.
Gustave Adolphe, in obedience to the commands he had received, brought
up to Newton a bunch of bananas, a large piece of salt fish, and a
calabash of water. The latter was immediately applied to his lips, and
never removed while a drop remained, much to the astonishment of the
negro, who again sported his English.
"I say--very good--ab more?"
"If you please," replied Newton.
"Monsieur," said Gustave Adolphe to his commander, "le prisonnier a
soif, et demande encore de l'eau."
"Va l'en chercher donc," replied the old negro, with a wave of his
speaking-trumpet. "Charles Philippe, attention a la barre, sans venir
au vent, s'il vous plait. Matelots du gaillard d'avant," continued
he, roaring through his speaking-trumpet! "bordez le grand foc."
[Footnote 1: Mind your weather-helm.]
[Footnote 2: Forecastlemen, haul aft the jib-sheet.]
In the space of two hours, the schooner was brought to an anchor, with
as much noise and importance as she had been got under weigh. A boat
capable of holding three people--one rower and two sitters--was shoved
off the vessel's deck, and the negro captain, having first descended to
his cabin for a few minutes, returned on deck dressed in the extremity
of _their_ fashion, and ordered the boat to be manned.
Gustave Adolphe accordingly manned the boat with his own person, and the
negro captain politely waved his hand for Newton to enter; and then,
following himself, Gustave Adolphe rowed to a landing-place, about
twenty yards from the schooner.
"Gustave Adolphe, suivez en arriere, et gardez bien que le prisonnier
n'echappe pas;" so saying, monsieur le capitaine led the way to a large
white house and buildings, about two hundred yards from the river's
banks. On their arrival, Newton was surrounded by twenty or thirty
slaves of both sexes, who chattered and jabbered a thousand questions
concerning him to the negro captain and Gustave Adolphe, neither of whom
condescended to reply.
"Monsieur de Fontanges--ou est-il?" inquired the old negro.
"Monsieur dort," replied a little female voice.
The captain was taken aback at this unfortunate circumstance; for no one
dared to wake their master.
"Et Madame?" inquired he.
"Madame est dans sa chambre."
There again he was floored--he could not venture there; so he conducted
Newton, who was not very sorry to escape from the burning rays of the
sun, to his own habitation, where an old negress, his wife, soon
obtained from the negro that information relative to the capture of
Newton which the bevy of slaves in the yard had attempted in vain--but
wives have such winning ways with them!
"What elegance and grandeur wide expand,
The pride of Turkey and of Persia land!
Soft quilts on quilts, on carpets carpets spread,
And couches stretch'd around in seemly band,
And endless pillows rise to prop the head.
* * * * *
Here languid Beauty kept her pale-faced court."
The female slaves who could not obtain the history of Newton immediately
repaired to the chamber of their mistress, knowing that if they could
succeed in raising her curiosity, they would at the same time gratify
their own. Madame de Fontanges was, as they asserted, in her chamber,
or, what may now be more correctly styled, her boudoir. It was a room
about fourteen feet square, the sides of which were covered with a
beautiful paper, representing portions of the history of Paul and
Virginia: the floor was covered with fine matting, with here and there a
small Persian carpet above it. Small marble tables were decorated with a
variety of ornaments and French perfumes, or vases filled with the
splendid flowers of a tropical clime. There was a large window at each
end of the room, cut down to the ground, in the French fashion; and
outside of both was a little balcony--the trellice-work covered with
passion-flower and clematis. The doors and other compartments of the room
were not papered, but had French mirrors let into the pannelling. On a low
ottoman of elegant workmanship, covered with a damasked French silk,
reposed Madame de Fontanges, attended by three or four young female slaves,
of different complexions, but none of pure African blood. Others were
seated upon the different Persian carpets about the room, in listless
idleness, or strewing the petals of the orange-flower, to perfume the
apartment with its odour. The only negro was a little boy, about six years
of age, dressed in a fantastic costume, who sat in a corner, apparently in
a very sulky humour. Madame de Fontanges was a Creole,--that is, born in
the West Indies of French parents. She had been sent home to France for her
education, and had returned at the age of fourteen to Guadaloupe, where
she soon after married Monsieur de Fontanges, an officer of rank, and
brother to the governor of the island. Her form was diminutive, but most
perfect; her hand and arm models for the statuary; while her feet were
so small as almost to excite risibility when you observed them. Her
features were regular, and when raised from her usual listlessness,
full of expression. Large hazel eyes, beautifully pencilled eyebrows,
with long fringed eyelashes, dark and luxuriant hair, Grecian nose,
small mouth, with thin coral lips, were set off by a complexion which
even the climate could not destroy, although it softened it into extreme
Such was the person of Madame de Fontanges, now about eighteen years
old, and one of the most beautiful specimens of the French Creole which
could be imagined. Her perfect little figure needed no support; she was
simply attired in a muslin _robe de chambre_, as she reposed upon the
ottoman, waiting with all the impatience of her caste for the setting in
of the sea-breeze, which would give some relief from the oppressive heat
of the climate.
"Eventez! Nina, eventez!" cried she to one of her attendants, who was
standing at the head of the sofa with a large feather fan.
"Oui, madame," replied the girl, stirring up the dormant atmosphere.
"Eventez! Caroline, eventez mes mains, vite."
"Oui, madame," replied the second, working away with another fan.
"Eventez! eventez mes pieds, Mimi."
"Oui, madame," replied the third, fanning in the direction pointed out.
"Louise," said Madame de Fontanges, languidly, after a short pause,
"apportez-moi de l'eau sucree."
"Oui, madame," replied another, rising, in obedience to the order.
"Non, non! Je n'en veux pas--mais j'ai soif horrible. Manchette, va
chercher de l'eau cerise."
"Oui, madame," replied Manchette, rising from her seat. But she had not
quitted the room before Madame de Fontanges had changed her mind.
"Attendez, Manchette. Ce n'est pas ca. Je voudrais de limonade.
Charlotte, va l'en chercher."
"Oui, madame," said Charlotte, leaving the room to execute the order.
"Ah, mon Dieu! qu'il fait une chaleur epouvantable.
"Mimi, que tu es paresseuse? Eventez! vite, vite.
"Ou est Monsieur?"
"Ah! qu'il est heureux. Et Cupidon--ou est-il?"
"II est ici, au coin, madame. Il boude."
"Qu'est-ce qu'il a fait donc?"
"Ah, madame! Il a vole le dindon roti, et l'a tout mange."
"Ah, le petit polisson! Venez ici, Cupidon."
Cupidon, the little negro-boy we have before mentioned as sitting in the
corner of the room, walked up with a very deliberate pace to the side of
the ottoman, his two thick lips sticking out about six inches in advance
of the remainder of his person.
"Cupidon," said the lady, turning a little on one side to speak to him,
"tu as mange le dindon entier. Tu as mal fait, mon ami. Tu seras malade.
Comprends-tu, Cupidon, c'est une sottise que tu as fait?"
Cupidon made no reply; his head was hung down a little lower, and his
lips extended a little further out.
"Sache que tu es un petite voleur!" continued his mistress.
Cupidon did not condescend to answer.
"Allez, monsieur; ne m'approchez pas."
Cupidon turned short round without reply, and walked back to his corner
with the same deliberate pace as before, when he came out of it.
Charlotte now returned with the lemonade for which she had been
despatched, and informed her mistress as she presented it, that
Nicholas, who had charge of the schooner, had returned with an European
prisoner; but that neither he nor Gustave would give her any further
information, although she had requested it in the name of her mistress.
This was quite an event, and gave a fillip to the inertness of Madame de
Fontanges, whose curiosity was excited.
"A-t-il bonne mine, Charlotte?"
"Oui, madame, c'est un bel homme."
"Et ou est-il?"
"Il faut l'eveiller. Faites bien mes compliments au Monsieur de
Fontanges, et dites-lui que je me trouve fort malade, et que je voudrais
lui parier. Entends-tu, Celeste; je parle a toi."
"Oui, madame," replied the girl, throwing some orange flowers off her
lap, and rising to deliver her message.
M. de Fontanges, who, like most of the Europeans, slept through the
hottest portion of the day, rose in compliance with his wife's message,
and made his appearance in the boudoir, dressed in a white cotton jacket
and trousers. A few polite inquiries after the health of Madame de
Fontanges, which, as he had conjectured from similar previous
occurrences, was not worse than usual, were followed by his receiving
from her the information of Newton's arrival, coupled with an
observation, that it would amuse her if the prisoner were interrogated
in her presence.
Newton was summoned to the boudoir, where M. de Fontanges, who spoke
very good English, received from him the history of his disasters, and
translated them into French, to gratify the curiosity of his wife.
"C'est un beau garcon," observed M. de Fontanges. "Mais que faire? Il
est prisonnier. Il faut l'envoyer a mon frere, le gouverneur."
"Il est joli garcon," replied Madame de Fontanges.
"Donnez-lui des habits, Fontanges; et ne l'envoyez pas encore."
"Et pourquoi, mon amie?"
"Je voudrais lui apprendre le Francais."
"Cela ne se peut pas, ma chere; il est prisonnier."
"Cela se peut, Monsieur de Fontanges," replied the lady.
"Je n'ose pas," continued the husband.
"Moi j'ose," replied the lady, decidedly.
"Je ne voudrais pas," said the gentleman.
"Moi, je veux," interrupted the lady.
"Mais il faut etre raisonnable, madame."
"II faut m'obeir, monsieur."
"Pschut!" replied the lady; "c'est une affaire decidee. Monsieur le
gouverneur ne parle pas l'Anglais. C'est _absolument necessaire_ que le
jeune homme apprenne notre langue; et c'est mon plaisir de l'enseigner.
Au revoir, Monsieur de Fontanges. Charlotte, va chercher des habits."
"'Tis pleasing to be school'd in a strange tongue
By female lips and eyes; that is, I mean
When both the teacher and the taught are young,
As was the case, at least, where I had been.
They smile so when one's right, and when one's wrong
They smile still more."
M. de Fontanges, aware of the impetuosity and caprice of his wife (at
the same time that he acknowledged her many redeeming good qualities),
did not further attempt to thwart her inclinations. His great objection
to her plan was the impropriety of retaining a prisoner whom he was
bound to give up to the proper authorities. He made a virtue of
necessity, and having acquainted Newton with the wish of Madame de
Fontanges, requested his parole of honour that he would not attempt to
escape, if he was not delivered up to the authorities, and remain some
time at Lieu Desire. Newton, who had no wish to be acquainted with a
French _cachot_ sooner than it was absolutely necessary, gave the
promise required by M. de Fontanges, assuring him that ingratitude was
not a part of his character. M. de Fontanges then requested that Newton
would accept of a portion of his wardrobe, which he would direct to be
sent to the room that would be prepared for him. This affair being
arranged, Newton made his bow to the lady, and in company with M. de
Fontanges, retired from the boudoir.
It may be suspected by the reader, that Madame de Fontanges was one of
those ladies who cared a great deal about having her own way, and very
little for her husband. As to the first part of the accusation, I can
only observe, that I never yet had the fortune to fall in with any lady
who did not try all she could to have her own way, nor do I conceive it
to be a crime. As to the second, if the reader has formed that
supposition, he is much mistaken. Madame de Fontanges was very much
attached to her husband, and the attachment as well as the confidence
It was not, therefore, from any feeling of jealousy that M. de Fontanges
had combated her resolution; but, as we have before observed, from a
conviction that he was wanting in his duty, when he did not report the
arrival of Newton at the plantation. The wish of Madame de Fontanges to
detain Newton was, as she had declared, a caprice on her part, which had
entered her head, to amuse herself by teaching him French. It is true
that had not Newton been remarkably prepossessing in his appearance, the
idea would in all probability have never been conceived; but, observing
that he was much above the common class, and wishing to relieve the
general monotony of her life by anything which would create amusement,
she had formed the idea, which, when combated by her husband, was
immediately strengthened to a resolution.
Of this Newton received the benefit. An excellent dinner or rather
supper with M. de Fontanges, a comfortable bed in a room supplied with
all that convenience or luxury could demand, enabled him to pass a very
different night from those which we have lately described.
About twelve o'clock the ensuing day, Newton was summoned by one of the
slave girls to the boudoir of Madame de Fontanges. He found her on the
ottoman, as before. Newton, who had been operated upon by a black
barber, and was dressed in the habiliments of M. de Fontanges, made a
much more respectable appearance than upon his former introduction.
"Bon jour, monsieur," said the lady.
Newton bowed respectfully.
"Comment vous appelez-vous?"
Newton, not understanding, answered with another bow.
"Le jeune homme n'entends pas, madame," observed Mimi.
"Que c'est ennuyant. Monsieur," said Madame Fontanges, pointing to
herself, "moi,--Madame de Fontanges: vous?" pointing to him.
"Nu-tong Fasta--ah, c'est bon; cela commence," said the lady. "Allons,
mes enfans, repetez-lui tous vos noms."
"Moi--Mimi," said the girl bearing that name, going up to Newton, and
pointing to herself.
"Mimi," repeated Newton, with a smile and nod of his head.
"Et moi--Cupidon," finished the little black boy, running up, and then
retreating as fast back into his corner.
Newton repeated all the names, as the individuals respectively introduced
themselves to him. Then there was a pause, during which, at the desire of
Madame de Fontanges, Newton was offered a chair, and sat down.
"Allons, dites-lui les noms de toute la garniture," said Madame de
Fontanges to her attendants.
"Oui, madame," said Mimi, going up to Newton, and, pointing to the fan in
"Eventail," repeated Newton, who began to be amused, and who now
repeated every French word after them.
"Flacon," said Charlotte, showing him the eau-de-Cologne bottle.
"Chaise," cried Louise, holding up a chair.
"Livre," said Nina, pointing to a book.
"Mouchoir," said Caroline, holding up an embroidered handkerchief.
"Montre," followed up Manchette, pointing to her mistress's watch.
"Canape," cried Celeste, pointing to the ottoman.
"Joli garcon," bawled out Cupidon, coming up to Newton, and pointing to
This created a laugh, and then the lesson was continued. Every article
in the room was successively pointed out to Newton, and he was obliged
to repeat the name; and afterwards the articles of their dress were
resorted to, much to his amusement. Then, there was a dead stand:--the
fact is that there is no talking with noun substantives only.
"Ah! mon Dieu! il faut envoyer pour Monsieur de Fontanges," cried the
lady; "va le chercher, Louise."
M. de Fontanges soon made his appearance, when the lady explained to him
their dilemma, and requested his assistance. M de Fontanges laughed, and
explained to Newton, and then, by means of his interpretation, connected
sentences were made, according to the fancy of the lady, some of which
were the cause of great merriment. After an hour, the gentlemen made
"I think," observed M. de Fontanges, as they walked away, "that if you
really are as anxious to learn our language as madame is to teach you,
you had better come to me every morning for an hour. I shall have great
pleasure in giving you any assistance in my power, and I trust that in a
very short time, with a little study of the grammar and dictionary, you
will be able to hold a conversation with Madame de Fontanges, or even
with her dark-complexioned page."
Newton expressed his acknowledgments, and the next day he received his
first lesson; after which he was summoned to support the theory by
practice in the boudoir of Madame de Fontanges. It is hardly necessary
to observe that each day increased the facility of communication.
For three months Newton was domiciled with Monsieur and Madame
Fontanges, both of whom had gradually formed such an attachment to him,
that the idea of parting never entered their heads. He was now a very
tolerable French scholar, and his narratives and adventures were to his
benefactors a source of amusement, which amply repaid them for the
trouble and kindness which they had shown to him. Newton was, in fact, a
general favourite with every one on the plantation, from the highest to
the lowest; and his presence received the same smile of welcome at the
cottage of the slave as at the boudoir of Madame de Fontanges.
Whatever may have been the result of Newton's observations relative to
slavery in the English colonies, his feelings of dislike insensibly wore
away during his residence at Lieu Desire; there he was at least
convinced that a slave might be perfectly happy. It must be acknowledged
that the French have invariably proved the kindest and most considerate
of masters, and the state of bondage is much mitigated in the islands
which appertain to that nation. The reason is obvious: in France, there
is a _bonhommie_, a degree of equality, established between the
different grades of society by universal politeness. A French servant is
familiar with his master at the same time that he is respectful: and the
master, in return, condescends to his inferior without forgetting their
relative positions. This runs through society in general: and as no one
can well be polite without some good-nature (for politeness, frivolous
as it may appear, is a strong check upon those feelings of selfishness
too apt to be indulged in), it leads to a general feeling of good-will
towards others. This has naturally been practised by Frenchmen wherever
they may be; and the consequence is that the slaves are treated with
more consideration, and, in return, have warmer feelings of attachment
towards their owners than are to be found in colonies belonging to other
nations. Newton perceived and acknowledged this, and, comparing the
condition of the people at Lieu Desire with that of most of the
peasantry of Europe, was unwillingly obliged to confess that the former
were in every respect the more fortunate and the more happy of the two.
One morning, soon after Newton had breakfasted with M. de Fontanges, and
had been summoned to the boudoir, a letter was brought in. It was from
the governor to M. de Fontanges, stating that he had heard with great
surprise that M. de Fontanges concealed an English prisoner in his
house, and desiring that he might be immediately sent up to
head-quarters. That there might be no delay or refusal, a corporal,
accompanied by two file of men, brought down the intimation to the
Newton was in the very middle of a long story, Madame de Fontanges on
the ottoman, and her attendants collected round her, seated on the
floor--even Cupidon had advanced from his corner to within
half-distance, his mouth and eyes wide open, when M. de Fontanges
entered the boudoir, with anxiety and chagrin expressed in his
"Qu'est-ce qu'il y a, mon ami?" said Madame de Fontanges, rising
hastily, and running up to her husband.
M. de Fontanges answered by putting the governor's letter into his
"Ah! les barbares!" cried Madame de Fontanges; "est-il possible? Pauvre
Monsieur Nutong! On l'amene au cachot."
"Au cachot!" cried all the coloured girls at a breath and bursting into