The Hour and the Man, by Harriet Martineau.
The following is taken with acknowledgements from Chambers Dictionary of Biography, about the subject of this book.
Pierre Dominique Toussaint l'Ouverture (1746-1803). Haitian black revolutionary leader (the surname derives from his bravery in once making a breach in the ranks of the enemy). Born of African slave parents in Haiti, he was freed in 1777. In 1791 he joined the black insurgents, and in 1797 was made commander-in-chief in the island by the French Convention. He drove out British and Spaniards, restored order and prosperity, and about 1800 began to aim at independence. Napoleon proclaimed the re-establishment of slavery, but Toussaint declined to obey. He was eventually overpowered and taken prisoner, and died in a prison in France.
Harriet Martineau wrote this book in 1839, during which year she also wrote "Deerbrook", and published an analysis of her tour of America, from which she had returned in 1836.
THE HOUR AND THE MAN, BY HARRIET MARTINEAU.
The nights of August are in Saint Domingo the hottest of the year. The winds then cease to befriend the panting inhabitants; and while the thermometer stands at 90 degrees, there is no steady breeze, as during the preceding months of summer. Light puffs of wind now and then fan the brow of the negro, and relieve for an instant the oppression of the European settler; but they are gone as soon as come, and seem only to have left the heat more intolerable than before.
Of these sultry evenings, one of the sultriest was the 22nd of August, 1791. This was one of five days appointed for rejoicings in the town of Cap Francais—festivities among the French and Creole inhabitants, who were as ready to rejoice on appointed occasions as the dulness of colonial life renders natural, but who would have been yet more lively than they were if the date of their festival had been in January or May. There was no choice as to the date, however. They were governed in regard to their celebrations by what happened at Paris; and never had the proceedings of the mother-country been so important to the colony as now.
During the preceding year, the white proprietors of Saint Domingo, who had hailed with loud voices the revolutionary doctrines before which royalty had begun to succumb in France, were astonished to find their cries of Liberty and Equality adopted by some who had no business with such ideas and words. The mulatto proprietors and merchants of the island innocently understood the words according to their commonly received meaning, and expected an equal share with the whites in the representation of the colony, in the distribution of its offices, and in the civil rights of its inhabitants generally. These rights having been denied by the whites to the freeborn mulattoes, with every possible manifestation of contempt and dislike, an effort had been made to wring from the whites by force what they would not grant to reason; and an ill-principled and ill-managed revolt had taken place, in the preceding October, headed by Vincent Oge and his brother, sons of the proprietress of a coffee plantation, a few miles from Cap Francais. These young men were executed, under circumstances of great barbarity. Their sufferings were as seed sown in the warm bosoms of their companions and adherents, to spring up, in due season, in a harvest of vigorous revenge. The whites suspected this; and were as anxious as their dusky neighbours to obtain the friendship and sanction of the revolutionary government at home. That government was fluctuating in its principles and in its counsels; it favoured now one party, and now the other; and on the arrival of its messengers at the ports of the colony, there ensued sometimes the loud boastings of the whites, and sometimes quiet, knowing smiles and whispered congratulations among the depressed section of the inhabitants.
The cruelties inflicted on Vincent Oge had interested many influential persons in Paris in the cause of the mulattoes. Great zeal was exorcised in attempting to put them in a condition to protect themselves by equal laws, and thus to restrain the tyranny of the whites. The Abbe Gregoire pleaded for them in the National Assembly; and on the 10th of March was passed the celebrated decree which gave the mulattoes the privileges of French citizens, even to the enjoyment of the suffrage, and to the possession of seats in the parochial and colonial assemblies. To Europeans there appears nothing extraordinary in the admission to these civil functions of freeborn persons, many of whom were wealthy, and many educated; but to the whites of Saint Domingo the decree was only less tremendous than the rush of the hurricane.
It arrived at Cap Francais on the 30th of June, and the tidings presently spread. At first, no one believed them but the mulattoes. When it was no longer possible to doubt—when the words of Robespierre passed from mouth to mouth, till even the nuns told them to one another in the convent garden—"Perish the colonies, rather than sacrifice one iota of our principles!" the whites trampled the national cockade under their feet in the streets, countermanded their orders for the fete of the 14th of July (as they now declined taking the civic oath), and proposed to one another to offer their colony and their allegiance to England.
They found means, however, to gratify their love of power, and their class-hatred, by means short of treason. They tried disobedience first, as the milder method. The governor of the colony, Blanchelande, promised that when the decree should reach him officially, he would neglect it, and all applications from any quarter to have it enforced. This set all straight. Blanchelande was pronounced a sensible and patriotic man. The gentlemen shook hands warmly with him at every turn; the ladies made deep and significant curtseys wherever they met him; the boys taught their little negroes to huzza at the name of Blanchelande; and the little girls called him a dear creature. In order to lose no time in showing that they meant to make laws for their own colony out of their own heads, and no others, the white gentry hastened on the election of deputies for a new General Colonial Assembly. The deputies were elected, and met, to the number of a hundred and seventy-six, at Leogane, in the southern region of the island, so early as the 9th of August. After exchanging greetings and vows of fidelity to their class-interests, under the name of patriotism, they adjourned their assembly to the 25th, when they were to meet at Cap Francais. It was desirable to hold their very important session in the most important place in the colony, the centre of intelligence, the focus of news from Europe, and the spot where they had first sympathised with the ungrateful government at home, by hoisting, with their own white hands, the cap of liberty, and shouting, so that the world might hear, "Liberty and Equality!" "Down with Tyranny!"
By the 20th, the deputies were congregated at Cap Francais; and daily till the great 25th were they seen to confer together in coteries in the shady piazzas, or in the Jesuits' Walk, in the morning, and to dine together in parties in the afternoon, admitting friends and well-wishers to these tavern dinners. Each day till the 25th was to be a fete-day in the town and neighbourhood; and of these days the hot 22nd was one.
Among these friends and well-wishers were the whites upon all the plantations in the neighbourhood of the town. There was scarcely an estate in the Plaine du Nord, or on the mountain steeps which overlooked the cape, town, and bay, on all sides but the north, which did not furnish guests to these dinners. The proprietors, their bailiffs, the clergy, the magistrates, might all be seen along the roads, in the cool of the morning; and there was a holiday air about the estates they left behind. The negroes were left for this week to do their work pretty much as they liked, or to do none at all. There was little time to think of them, and of ordinary business, when there were the mulattoes to be ostentatiously insulted, and the mother-country to be defied. So the negroes slept at noon, and danced at night, during these few August days, and even had leave to visit one another to as great an extent as was ever allowed. Perhaps they also transacted other affairs of which their masters had little suspicion.
All that ever was allowed was permitted to the slaves on the Breda estate, in the plain, a few miles from Cap Francais. The attorney, or bailiff of the estate, Monsieur Bayou de Libertas, was a kind-hearted man, who, while insisting very peremptorily on his political and social rights, and vehemently denouncing all abstract enmity to them, liked that people actually about him should have their own way. While ransacking his brain for terms of abuse to vent on Lafayette and Condorcet, he rarely found anything harsh to utter when Caton got drunk, and spoiled his dinner; when Venus sent up his linen darker than it went down to the quarter, or when little Machabee picked his pocket of small coin. Such a man was, of course, particularly busy this week; and of course, the slaves under his charge were particularly idle, and particularly likely to have friends from other plantations to visit them.
Some such visitor seemed to be expected by a family of these Breda negroes, on the Monday evening, the 22nd. This family did not live in the slave-quarter. They had a cottage near the stables, as Toussaint Breda had been Monsieur Bayou's postillion, and, when he was lately promoted to be overseer, it was found convenient to all parties that he should retain his dwelling, which had been enlarged and adorned so as to accord with the dignity of his new office. In the piazza of his dwelling sat Toussaint this evening, evidently waiting for some one to arrive; for he frequently put down his book to listen for footsteps, and more than once walked round the house to look abroad. His wife, who was within, cooking supper, and his daughter and little boy, who were beside him in the piazza, observed his restlessness; for Toussaint was a great reader, and seldom looked off the page for a moment of any spare hour that he might have for reading either the books Monsieur Bayou lent him, or the three or four volumes which he had been permitted to purchase for himself.
"Do you see Jean?" asked the wife from within. "Shall we wait supper for him?"
"Wait a little longer," said Toussaint. "It will be strange if he does not come."
"Are any more of Latour's people coming with Jean, mother?" asked Genifrede, from the piazza.
"No; they have a supper at Latour's to-night; and we should not have thought of inviting Jean, but that he wants some conversation with your father."
"Lift me up," cried the little boy, who was trying in vain to scramble up one of the posts of the piazza, in order to reach a humming-bird's nest, which hung in the tendrils of a creeper overhead, and which a light puff of wind now set swinging, so as to attract the child's eye. What child ever saw a humming-bird thus rocking—its bill sticking out like a long needle on one side, and its tail at the other, without longing to clutch it? So Denis cried out imperiously to be lifted up. His father set him on the shelf within the piazza, where the calabashes were kept—a station whence he could see into the nest, and watch the bird, without being able to touch it. This was not altogether satisfactory. The little fellow looked about him for a calabash to throw at the nest; but his mother had carried in all her cups for the service of the supper-table. As no more wind came at his call, he could only blow with all his might, to swing the tendril again; and he was amusing himself thus when his father laid down his book, and stepped out to see once more whether Jean was approaching.
"Lift me down," said the boy to his sister, when his head was giddy with blowing. Genifrede would fain have let him stay where he was, out of the way of mischief; but she saw that he was really afraid of falling, and she offered her shoulders for him to descend upon. When down, she would not let him touch her work; she took her scissors from his busy hands, and shook him off when he tried to pull the snowberries out of her hair; so that there was nothing left for the child to play with but his father's book. He was turning it over, when Toussaint re-appeared.
"Ha! boy, a book in your hands already? I hope you may have as much comfort out of that book as I have had, Denis."
"What is it? what is it about?" said the boy, who had heard many a story out of books from his father.
"What is it? Let us see. I think you know letters enough to spell it out for yourself. Come and try."
The child knew the letter E, and, with a good deal of help, made out, at last, Epictetus.
"What is that?" asked the boy.
"Epictetus was a negro," said Genifrede, complacently.
"Not a negro," said her father, smiling. "He was a slave; but he was a white."
"Is that the reason you read that book so much more than any other?"
"Partly; but partly because I like what is in it."
"What is in it—any stories?" asked Denis.
"It is all about bearing and forbearing. It has taught me many things which you will have to learn by-and-by. I shall teach you some of them out of this book."
Denis made all haste away from the promised instruction, and his father was presently again absorbed in his book. From respect to him, Genifrede kept Denis quiet by signs of admonition; and for some little time nothing was heard but the sounds that in the plains of Saint Domingo never cease—the humming and buzzing of myriads of insects, the occasional chattering of monkeys in a neighbouring wood, and, with a passing gust, a chorus of frogs from a distant swamp. Unconscious of this din, from being accustomed always to hear more or less of it, the boy amused himself with chasing the fireflies, whose light began to glance around as darkness descended. His sister was poring over her work, which she was just finishing, when a gleam of greenish light made both look up. It came from a large meteor which sailed past towards the mountains, whither were tending also the huge masses of cloud which gather about the high peaks previous to the season of rain and hurricanes. There was nothing surprising in this meteor, for the sky was full of them in August nights; but it was very beautiful. The globe of green light floated on till it burst above the mountains, illuminating the lower clouds, and revealing along the slopes of the uplands the coffee-groves, waving and bowing their heads in the wandering winds of that high region. Genifrede shivered at the sight, and her brother threw himself upon her lap. Before he had asked half his questions about the lights of the sky, the short twilight was gone, and the evening star cast a faint shadow from the tufted posts of the piazza upon the white wall of the cottage. In a low tone, full of awe, Genifrede told the boy such stories as she had heard from her father of the mysteries of the heavens. He felt that she trembled as she told of the northern lights, which had been actually seen by some travelled persons now in Cap Francais. It took some time and argument to give him an idea of cold countries; but his uncle Paul, the fisherman, had seen hail on the coast, only thirty miles from hence; and this was a great step in the evidence. Denis listened with all due belief to his sister's description of those pale lights shooting up over the sky, till he cried out vehemently, "There they are! look!"
Genifrede screamed, and covered her face with her hands; while the boy shouted to his father, and ran to call his mother to see the lights.
What they saw, however, was little like the pale, cold rays of the aurora borealis. It was a fiery red, which, shining to some height in the air, was covered in by a canopy of smoke.
"Look up, Genifrede," said her father, laying his hand upon her head. "It is a fire—a cane-field on fire."
"And houses, too—the sugar-house, no doubt," said Margot, who had come out to look. "It burns too red to be canes only. Can it be at Latour's? That would keep Jean from coming.—It was the best supper I ever got ready for him."
"Latour's is over that way," said Toussaint, pointing some distance further to the south-east. "But see! there is fire there, too! God have mercy!"
He was silent, in mournful fear that he knew now too well the reason why Jean had not come, and the nature of the conversation Jean had desired to have with him. As he stood with folded arms looking from the one conflagration to the other, Genifrede clung to him trembling with terror. In a quarter of an hour another blaze appeared on the horizon; and soon after, a fourth.
"The sky is on fire," cried Denis, in more delight than fear. "Look at the clouds!" And the clouds did indeed show, throughout their huge pile, some a mild flame colour, and others a hard crimson edge, as during a stormy sunset.
"Alas! alas! this is rebellion," said Toussaint; "rebellion against God and man. God have mercy! The whites have risen against their king; and now the blacks rise against them, in turn. It is a great sin. God have mercy!"
Margot wept bitterly. "Oh, what shall we do?" she cried, "What will become of us, if there is a rebellion?"
"Be cheerful, and fear nothing," replied her husband. "I have not rebelled, and I shall not. Monsieur Bayou has taught me to bear and forbear—yes, my boy, as this book says, and as the book of God says: We will be faithful, and fear nothing."
"But they may burn this plantation," cried Margot. "They may come here, and take you away. They may ruin Monsieur Bayou, and then we may be sold away; we may be parted—"
Her grief choked her words.
"Fear nothing," said her husband, with calm authority. "We are in God's hand; and it is a sin to fear His will. But see! there is another fire, over towards the town."
And he called aloud the name of his eldest son, saying he should send the boy with a horse to meet his master. He himself must remain to watch at home.
Placide did not come when called, nor was he at the stables. He was gone some way off, to cut fresh grass for the cattle—a common night-labour on the plantation.
"Call Isaac, then," said Toussaint.
"Run, Genifrede," said her mother. "Isaac and Aimee are in the wood. Run, Genifrede."
Genifrede did not obey. She was too much terrified to leave the piazza alone; though her father gently asked when she, his eldest daughter, and almost a woman, would leave off being scared on all occasions like a child. Margot went herself; so far infected with her daughter's fears as to be glad to take little Denis in her hand. She was not long gone. As soon as she entered the wood she heard the sound of her children's laughter above the noise the monkeys made; and she was guided by it to the well. There, in the midst of the opening which let in the starlight, stood the well, surrounded by the only grass on the Breda estate that was always fresh and green; and there were Isaac and his inseparable companion, Aimee, making the grass greener by splashing each other with more than half the water they drew. Their bright eyes and teeth could be seen by the mild light, as they were too busy with their sport to heed their mother as she approached. She soon made them serious with her news. Isaac flew to help his father with the horses, while Aimee, a stout girl of twelve, assisted her mother in earnest to draw water, and carry it home.
They found Genifrede crouching alone in a corner of the piazza. In another minute Toussaint appeared on horseback, leading a saddled horse.
"I am going for Monsieur Bayou myself," said he; adding, as he glanced round the lurid horizon, "it is not a night for boys to be abroad. I shall be back in an hour. If Monsieur Bayou comes by the new road, tell him that I am gone by Madame Oge's. If fire breaks out here, go into the wood. If I meet Placide, I will send him home."
He disappeared under the limes in the avenue; and his family heard the pace of the horses quicken into a gallop before the sound died away upon the road.
The party of deputies with whom Monsieur Bayou was dining were assembled at the great hotel, at the corner of Place Mont Archer, at Cap Francais. Languidly, though gladly, did the guests, especially those from the country, enter the hotel, overpowering as was the heat of the roads and the streets. In the roads, the sand lay so deep, that the progress of horsemen was necessarily slow, while the sun seemed to shed down a deluge of flame. In the streets, there was the shelter of the piazzas; but their pillars, if accidentally touched, seemed to burn the hand; and the hum of traffic, and the sound of feet, appeared to increase the oppression caused by the weather. Within the hotel, all was comparatively cool and quiet. The dining and drawing-rooms occupied by the guests adjoined each other, and presented none but the most welcome images. The jalousies were nearly closed; and through the small spaces that were left open, there might be seen in one direction the fountain playing in the middle of the Place, and in the other, diagonally across the Rue Espagnole, the Jesuits' Walk, an oblong square laid down in grass, and shaded in the midst by an avenue of palms. Immediately opposite the hotel was the Convent of Religieuses, over whose garden wall more trees were seen; so that the guests might easily have forgotten that they were in the midst of a town.
The rooms were so dark that those who entered from the glare of the streets could at first see nothing. The floor was dark, being of native mahogany, polished like a looking-glass. The walls were green, the furniture green—everything ordered in counter-action of light and heat. In the dining-room more was visible; there was the white cloth spread over the long range of tables, and the plate and glass, glittering in such light as was allowed to enter; and also the gilded balustrade of the gallery, to be used to-day as an orchestra. This gallery was canopied over, as was the seat of the chairman, with palm branches and evergreens, intermixed with fragrant shrubs, and flowers of all hues. A huge bunch of peacocks' feathers was suspended from the lofty ceiling, and it was waved incessantly to and fro, by strings pulled by two little negroes, at opposite corners of the room, causing a continual fanning of the air, and circulation of the perfumes of the flowers. The black band in the orchestra summoned the company to dinner, and entertained them while at it by playing the popular revolutionary airs which were then resounding through the colony like the hum of its insects, or the dash of its waterfalls. As they took their seats to the air of the "Marseillaise Hymn," more than one of the guests might be heard by his next neighbour singing to himself:
"Allons, enfans de la patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrive."
Before politics, however, there was dinner to be attended to; and the first-fruits of the eloquence of the meeting was bestowed on the delicate turtle, the well-fattened land-crabs, and the rich pasties—on the cold wines, the refreshing jellies, and the piles of oranges, figs, and almonds, pomegranates, melons, and pine-apples. The first vote of compliment was to Henri, the black cook from Saint Christophe, whence he had been brought over by the discerning hotel-keeper, who detected his culinary genius while Henri was yet but a lad. When the table was cleared, a request was sent up to the chairman from various parties at the table, that he would command Henri's attendance, to receive the testimony of the company respecting the dinner he had sent up, and to take a glass of wine from them.
Dr Proteau, the chairman, smilingly agreed, saying that such a tribute was no more than Henri's professional excellence and high reputation deserved; and Henri was accordingly summoned by a dozen of the grinning black waiters, who ran over one another in their haste to carry to the kitchen the message of these, the highest gentry of the land. The waiters presently poured into the room again, and stood in two rows from the door, where Henri appeared, not laughing like the rest, but perfectly grave, as he stood, white apron on, and napkin over his arm, his stout and tall figure erect, to receive the commands of his masters.
"Was your father a cook or a gourmand, Henri? Or are you all good cooks at Saint Christophe?" asked a deputy.
"If it is the air of Saint Christophe that makes men such cooks as Henri, the knights of Saint John of Malta had a goodly gift in it," said another.
"Can one get such another as you for money, Henri?" asked a third.
"How many boys has your wife brought you, Henri? We shall bid high for them, and make your master's fortune, if he trains them all to your profession," said a fourth.
"Tell your master he had better not part with you for any sum, Henri. We will make it worth his while to refuse more for you than was ever offered yet."
"Your health, Henri! May you live out all the turtle now in Saint Domingo, and the next generation after them."
Amidst all these questions and remarks, Henri escaped answering any. He stood looking on the ground, till a glass of champagne was brought to him, bowed to the company, drank it off, and was gone.
"How demure the fellow looks!" said Monsieur Papalier, a planter, to Bayou, his neighbour in the plain, who now sat opposite to him; "what an air of infinite modesty he put on! At this moment, I daresay he is snapping his fingers, and telling the women that all the money in Saint Domingo won't buy him."
"You are mistaken there," said Bayou. "He is a singular fellow, is Henri, in more ways than his cookery. I believe he never snapped his fingers in his life, nor told anybody what his master gave for him. I happen to know Henri very well, from his being an acquaintance of my overseer, who is something of the same sort, only superior even to Henri."
"The fellow looked as if he would have given a great deal more than his glass of wine to have stayed out of the room," observed Monsieur Leroy. "He has nothing of the mulatto in him, has he? Pure African, I suppose."
"Pure African—all safe," replied Bayou. "But observe! the music has stopped, and we are going on to the business of the day. Silence, there! Silence, all!"
Everybody said "Silence!" and Dr Proteau rose.
He declared himself to be in a most remarkable situation—one in which he was sure every Frenchman present would sympathise with him. Here he stood, chairman of a meeting of the most loyal, the most spirited, the most patriotic citizens of the empire, chairman of an assemblage of members of a colonial parliament, and of their guests and friends—here he stood, in this capacity, and yet he was unable to propose any one of the loyal toasts by which it had, till now, been customary to sanction their social festivities. As for the toast, now never more to be heard from their lips—the health of the king and royal family—the less that was said about that the better. The times of oppression were passing away; and he, for one, would not dim the brightness of the present meeting by recalling from the horizon, where it was just disappearing, the tempest cloud of tyranny, to overshadow the young sunshine of freedom. There had been, however, another toast, to which they had been wont to respond with more enthusiasm than was ever won by despotic monarchy from its slaves. There had been a toast to which this lofty roof had rung again, and to hail which every voice had been loud, and every heart had beat high. Neither could he now propose that toast. With grief which consumed his soul, he was compelled to bury in silence—the silence of mortification, the silence of contempt, the silence of detestation—the name of the National Assembly of France. His language might appear strong; but it was mild, it was moderate; it was, he might almost say, cringing, in comparison with what the National Assembly had deserved. He need not occupy the time of his friends, nor harrow their feelings, by a narrative of the injuries their colony had sustained at the hands of the French National Assembly. Those around him knew too well, that in return for their sympathy in the humbling of a despot, for their zeal in behalf of the eternal principles of freedom, the mother-country had, through the instrumentality of its National Council, endeavoured to strip its faithful whites in this colony of the power which they had always possessed, and which was essential to their very existence in their ancient prosperity—the exclusive power of making or enforcing laws for their own community. The attempt was now made, as they too well knew, to wrest this sacred privilege from their hands, by admitting to share it a degraded race, before whose inroads would perish all that was most dear to his fellow-citizens and to himself—the repose of their homes, the security of their property, the honour of their colour, and the prosperity of the colony. He rejoiced to see around him, and from his heart he bade them welcome, some fellow-labourers with himself in the glorious work of resisting oppression, and defending their ancient privileges, endeared to them by as many ages as had passed since distinctions of colour were made by an Almighty hand. He invited them to pledge themselves with him to denounce and resist such profane, such blasphemous innovations, proposed by shallow enthusiasts, seconded by designing knaves, and destined to be wrought out by the agency of demons—demons in human form. He called upon all patriots to join him in his pledge; and in token of their faith, to drink deep to one now more deserving of their homage than was ever king or National Assembly—he need not say that he alluded to the noblest patriot in the colony—its guardian, its saviour—Governor Blanchelande.
The gentleman who rose, amidst the cheers and jingling of glasses, to say a few words to this toast, was a man of some importance in the colony as a member of its Assembly, though he otherwise held no higher rank than that of attorney to the estate of Monsieur Gallifet, a rich absentee. Odeluc was an old resident, and (though zealous for the privileges of the whites) a favourite with men of all colours, and therefore entitled to be listened to by all with attention, when he spoke on the conflicting interests of races. However his opinions might please or displease, all liked to look upon his bright countenance, and to hear his lively voice. Vincent Oge had said that Odeluc was a worse foe to the mulattoes than many a worse man—he always so excited their good-will as to make them forget their rights.
As he now rose, the air from the peacock-fan stirring the white hair upon his forehead (for in the heats of Saint Domingo it was permitted to lay wigs aside), and the good wine animating yet further the spirit of his lively countenance, Odeluc was received with a murmur of welcome, before he opened his lips to speak.
"I must acknowledge, my fellow-citizens," said he, "I never was more satisfied with regard to the state of our colony than now. We have had our troubles, to be sure, like the mother-country, and like all countries where portions of the people struggle for power which they ought not to have. But we have settled that matter for ourselves, by the help of our good Governor, and I firmly believe that we are at the commencement of a long age of peace."
Here some applauded, while two or three shook their head. Odeluc continued—
"I see some of my friends do not altogether share my hopes. Yet are these hopes not reasonable? The Governor has himself assured me that nothing shall induce him to notice the obnoxious decree, till he has, in the first place, received it under all the official forms—in the next place, written his remonstrance to the government at home—and, in the third place, received an answer. Now, all this will take some time. In three days, we deputies shall begin our session; and never were the members of any assembly more united in their will and in their views, and therefore more powerful. We meet for the express purpose of neutralising the effects of this ill-judged decree; we have the power— we have the will—and who can doubt the results? The management of this colony has always succeeded well in the hands of the whites; they have made its laws, and enforced them—they have allowed the people of colour liberty to pursue their own business, and acquire property if they could, conscious of strength to restrain their excesses, if occasion should arise: and, as for the negro population, where in the world were affairs ever on a better footing between the masters and their force than in the colony of Saint Domingo? If all has worked so well hitherto, is it to be supposed that an ignorant shout in the National Assembly, and a piece of paper sent over to us thence, can destroy the harmony, and overthrow the prosperity which years have confirmed? I, for one, will never believe it. I see before me in my colleagues men to whom the tranquillity of the colony may be safely confided; and over their heads, and beyond the wise laws they are about to pass for the benefit of both the supreme and subordinate interests of our community. I see, stretching beyond the reach of living eye, a scene of calm and fruitful prosperity in which our children's children may enjoy their lives, without a thought of fear or apprehension of change. Regarding Governor Blanchelande as one of the chief securities of this our long tenure of social prosperity, I beg to propose, not only that we shall now drink his health, but that we shall meet annually in his honour on this day. Yonder is Government-House. If we open our jalousies wide enough, and give the honours loudly enough, perhaps our voices may reach his ears, as the loyal greeting that he deserves."
"Do not you smell smoke?" asked Bayou of his neighbour, as the blinds were thrown open.
"What a smell of burning!" observed the chairman to Odeluc at the same moment.
"They are burning field-trash outside the town, no doubt," Odeluc answered. "We choose the nights when there is little wind, you know, for that work."
There was a small muster of soldiers round the gates of Government-House, and several people in the streets, when the honours were given to the Governor's name. But the first seemed not to hear, and the others did not turn their heads. The air that came in was so hot, that the blinds were immediately ordered to be closed again. The waiters, however, seemed to have lost their obsequiousness, and many orders and oaths were spent upon them before they did their duty.
While the other gentlemen sat down, a young man remained standing, his eyes flashing, and his countenance heated, either by wine, or by the thoughts with which he seemed big.
"My fellow-citizens," said Monsieur Brelle, beginning in a very loud voice, "agreeing as I do in my hopes for this colony with Monsieur Odeluc, and, like him, trusting in the protection and blessing of a just Providence, which will preserve our rights, and chastise those who would infringe them—feeling thus, and thus trusting, there is a duty for me to perform. My friends, we must not permit the righteous chastisements of Providence to pass by unheeded, and be forgotten. The finger of Providence has been among us, to mark out and punish the guilty disturber of our peace. But, though dead, that guilty traitor has not ceased to disturb our peace. Do we not know that his groans have moved our enemies in the National Assembly; that his ashes have been stirred up there, to shed their poison over our names? It becomes us, in gratitude to a preserving Providence, in fidelity to that which is dearer to us than life—our fair fame—in regard to the welfare of our posterity, it becomes us to mark our reprobation of treason and rebellion, and to perpetuate in ignominy the name of the rebel and the traitor. Fill your glasses, then, gentlemen, and drink—drink deep with me—Our curse on the memory of Vincent Oge!"
Several members of the company eagerly filled their glasses; others looked doubtfully towards the chair. Before Dr Protean seemed to have made up his mind what to do, Monsieur Papalier had risen, saying, in a rather low and conversational tone—
"My young friend will allow me to suggest to him the expediency of withdrawing his toast, as one in which his fellow-citizens cannot all cordially join. We all unite, doubtless, in reprobating treason and rebellion in the person of Oge; but I, for one, cannot think it good, either in taste or in policy, to curse the memory of the dead in the hearing of those who desire mercy for their fallen enemies (as some here present do), or of others who look upon Oge as no criminal, but a martyr—which is, I fear, the case with too many outside." He pointed to the windows as he spoke, where it now appeared that the jalousies had been pushed a little open, so as to allow opportunity for some observation from without. Monsieur Papalier lowered his tone, so as to be heard, during the rest of his speech, only by those who made every effort to catch his words. Not a syllable could be heard in the orchestra outside, or even by the waiters ranged against the wall; and the chairman and others at the extremities of the table were obliged to lean forwards to catch the meaning of the speaker, who proceeded—
"No one more heartily admires the spirit and good-humour of our friend, Monsieur Odeluc, than myself: no one more enjoys being animated by the hilarity of his temper, and carried away by the hopeful enthusiasm which makes him the dispenser of happiness that he is. But I cannot always sympathise in his bright anticipations. I own I cannot to-day. He may be right. God grant he be so! But I cannot take Monsieur Odeluc's word for it, when words so different are spoken elsewhere. There are observers at a distance—impartial lookers-on, who predict (and I fear there are signs at home which indicate) that our position is far from secure—our prospects far other than serene. There are those who believe that we are in danger from other foes than the race of Oge; and facts have arisen—but enough. This is not the time and place for discussion of that point. Suffice it now that, as we all know, observers at a distance can often see deeper and farther than those involved in affairs; and that Mirabeau has said—and what Mirabeau says is, at least, worth attention—Mirabeau has said of us, in connection with the events of last October, 'They are sleeping on the margin of Vesuvius, and the first jets of the volcano are not sufficient to awaken them.' In compliment to Mirabeau," he concluded, smiling, and bowing to Monsieur Brelle, "if not in sympathy with what he may think my needless caution, I hope my young friend will reserve his wine for the next toast."
Monsieur Brelle bowed, rather sulkily. No one seemed ready at the moment to start a new subject. Some attacked Monsieur Papalier in whispers for what he had said; and he to defend himself, told, also in whispers, facts of the murder of a bailiff on an estate near his own, and of suspicious circumstances attending it, which made him and others apprehend that all was not right among the negroes. His facts and surmises went round. As, in the eagerness of conversation, a few words were occasionally spoken aloud, some of the party glanced about to see if the waiters were within earshot. They were not. There was not a negro in the apartment. The band had gone out unnoticed; to refresh themselves, no doubt.
Odeluc took the brief opportunity to state his confidence that all doubts of the fidelity of the negroes were groundless. He agreed with Monsieur Papalier that the present was not the time and place for entering at large into the subject. He would only just say that he was now an old man, that he had spent his life among the people alluded to, and knew them well, if any man did. They were revengeful, certainly, upon occasion, if harshly treated; but, otherwise, and if not corrupted by ignorant demagogues and designing agents, they were the most tractable and attached people on earth. He was confident that the masters in Saint Domingo had nothing to fear.
He was proceeding; but he perceived that the band was re-entering the orchestra, and he sat down abruptly.
The chairman now discovered that it had grown very dark, and called out for lights. His orders were echoed by several of the party, who hoped that the lights would revive some of the spirit of the evening, which had become very flat.
While waiting for lights, the jalousies were once more opened, by orders from the chair. The apartment was instantly pervaded by a dull, changeful, red light, derived from the sky, which glowed above the trees of the Jesuits' Walk with the reflection of extensive fires. The guests were rather startled, too, by perceiving that the piazza was crowded with heads; and that dusky faces, in countless number, were looking in upon them, and had probably been watching them for some time past. With the occasional puffs of wind, which brought the smell of burning, came a confused murmur, from a distance, as of voices, the tramp of many horses in the sand, and a multitude of feet in the streets. This was immediately lost in louder sounds. The band struck up, unbidden, with all its power, the Marseillaise Hymn; and every voice in the piazza, and, by degrees, along the neighbouring streets and square, seemed to join in singing the familiar words—
"Allons enfants de la patrie, Le jour de gloire est arrive."
The consternation of the deputies and their guests was extreme. Every man showed his terror in his own way; but one act was universal. Each one produced arms of one sort or another. Even Odeluc, it appeared, had not come unarmed. While they were yet standing in groups about the table, the door burst open, and a negro, covered with dust and panting with haste, ran in and made for the head of the table, thrusting himself freely through the parties of gentlemen. The chairman, at sight of the man, turned pale, recoiled for a moment, and then, swearing a deep oath, drew the short sword he wore, and ran the negro through the body.
"Oh, master!" cried the poor creature, as his life ebbed out in the blood which inundated the floor.
The act was not seen by those outside, as there was a screen of persons standing between the tables and the windows. To this accident it was probably owing that the party survived that hour, and that any order was preserved in the town.
"Shame, Proteau! shame!" said Odeluc, as he bent down, and saw that the negro was dying. Papalier, Bayou, and a few more, cried "Shame!" also; while others applauded.
"I will defend my deed," said Proteau, struggling with the hoarseness of his voice, and pouring out a glass of wine to clear his throat. His hand was none of the steadiest as he did so. "Hush that band! There is no hearing oneself speak. Hush! I say; stop!" and swearing, he passionately shook his fist at the musicians, who were still making the air of the Marseillaise peal through the room. They instantly stopped, and departed.
"There! you have sent them out to tell what you have done," observed a deputy.
"I will defend my deed," Proteau repeated, when he had swallowed the wine, "I am confident the negroes have risen. I am confident the fellow came with bad intent."
"No fear but the negroes will rise, anywhere in the world, where they have such as you for masters," said Odeluc.
"What do you mean, sir?" cried Proteau, laying his hand on the hilt of his dripping sword.
"I mean what I say. And I will tell you, too, what I do not mean. I do not mean to fight to-night with any white: and least of all with one who is standing in a pool of innocent blood, of his own shedding." And he pointed to Proteau's feet, which were indeed soaked with the blood of his slave.
"Hush! hush! gentlemen!" cried several voices. "Here is more news!"
"Hide the body!" said Bayou, and as he spoke he stooped to lift it. Monsieur Brelle made shorter work. He rolled it over with his foot, and kicked it under the table. It was out of sight before the master of the hotel entered, followed by several negroes from the plain, to say that the "force" had risen on several plantations, had dismantled the mills, burned the sugar-houses, set fire to the crops, murdered the overseers, and, he feared, in some cases, the proprietors.
"Where?" "Whose estates?" "What proprietors?" asked every voice present.
"Where did it begin?" was the question the landlord applied himself first to answer.
"It broke out on the Noe estate, sir. They murdered the refiner and his apprentice, and carried off the surgeon. They left another young man for dead; but he got away, and told the people on the next plantation; but it was too late then. They had reached Monsieur Clement's by that time, and raised his people. They say Monsieur Clement is killed; but some of his family escaped. They are here in the town, I believe."
Some of the deputies now snatched their hats, and went out to learn where the fugitives were, and thus to get information, if possible, at first hand.
"All is safe in our quarter, at present, I trust," said Papalier to Bayou; "but shall we be gone? Your horse is here, I suppose. We can ride together."
"In a moment. Let us hear all we can first," replied Bayou.
"Do you stay for that purpose, then, and look to our horses. I will learn what the Governor's orders are, and come here for you presently." And Papalier was gone.
When Bayou turned to listen again, Odeluc was saying—
"Impossible! incredible! Gallifet's force risen! Not they? They would be firm if the world were crushed flat. Why, they love me as if I were their father!"
"Nevertheless, sir, you owe your safety to being my guest," said the landlord, with a bow as polite as on the most festive occasion. "I am happy that my roof should—"
"Who brought this report?" cried Odeluc. "Who can give news of Gallifet's negroes?" And he looked among the black faces which were clustered behind the landlord. No one spoke thence; but a voice from the piazza said—
"Gallifet's force has risen. The canes are all on fire."
"I will bring them to their senses," said Odeluc, with sudden quietness. "I have power over them. The Governor will give me a handful of men from the town guard, and we shall set things straight before morning. The poor fellows have been carried away, while I was not there to stand by them—but making speeches here, like a holiday fool! I will bring them to their senses presently. Make way, friends—make way."
And Odeluc stepped out among the blacks on the piazza, that being the shortest way to Government-House.
"I hope he is not too confident," whispered a town deputy to a friend from the south. "But this is bad news. Gallifet's plantation is the largest in the plain, and only eight miles off."
A sort of scream, a cry of horror, from one who stood close by, stopped the deputy.
"Boirien! what is the matter?" cried a deputy, as Boirien hid his face with his arms upon the table, and a strong shudder shook his whole frame.
"Do not speak to him! I will tell you," said another. "Oh, this is horrible! They have murdered his brother-in-law on Flaville's estate, and carried off his sister and her three daughters into the woods. Something must be done directly. Boirien, my poor fellow, I am going to the Governor. Soldiers shall be sent to bring your sister into the town. We shall have her here before morning; and you must bring her and her family to my house."
No one could endure to stay and hear more. Some went to learn elsewhere the fate of those in whom they were interested. Some went to offer their services to the Governor; some to barricade their own houses in the town; some to see whether it was yet possible to entrench their plantations. Some declared their intention of conveying the ladies of their families to the convent; the place always hitherto esteemed safe, amidst all commotions. It soon appeared, however, that this was not the opinion of the sisters themselves, on the present occasion, nor of the authorities of the town; for the muffled nuns were seen hurrying down to the quay, under the protection of soldiers, in order to take refuge on board the vessels in the bay. All night long, boats were plying in the harbour, conveying women, children, plate, and money, on board the ships which happened to be in the roads.
The landlord would have been glad of the help of any of his guests, in clearing his house; but they had no sympathy to spare—no time to think of his plate and wines. As the whites disappeared from the room, the blacks poured in. They allowed the landlord to sweep away his plate, but they laid hands on the wines; and many a smart speech, and many a light laugh, resounded within those walls till morning, while consternation reigned without. When these thoughtless creatures sauntered to their several homes in the sunrise, they found that such of their fellow-servants as they had been accustomed to look up to, as abler and more trusted than themselves, had disappeared, and no one would tell whither they were gone—only that they were quite safe.
When Monsieur Papalier returned to the hotel, from his cruise for information, he found his neighbour Bayou impatiently waiting on horseback, while Henri, still in his white apron, was holding the other horse.
"Here, sir—mount, and let us be off," cried Bayou. "We owe it to my friend Henri, here, that we have our horses. The gentlemen from the country very naturally took the first that came to hand to get home upon. They say Leroy is gone home on a dray-mule. I rather expect to meet Toussaint on the road. If he sees the fires, he will be coming to look after me."
"He cannot well help seeing the fires," replied Papalier. "They are climbing up the mountain-side, all the way along the Haut du Cap. We shall be singed like two porkers, if we do not ride like two devils; and then we shall be lucky if we do not meet two thousand devils by the way."
"Do you suppose the road is safe, Henri?" asked Bayou. "I know you will tell me truth."
"Indeed, master, I know nothing," replied Henri. "You say you shall meet Toussaint. I will ride with you till you meet him, if you will. Our people all know him and me."
"Do so, Henri. Do not wait to look for another horse. Jump up behind me. Mine is a strong beast, and will make no difficulty, even of your weight. Never mind your apron. Keep it for a flag of truce, in case we meet the enemy."
They were off, and presently emerged from the comparative darkness of the streets into the light of the fires. None of the three spoke, except to urge on the horses up the steep, sandy road, which first presented an ascent from the town, and then a descent to the plain, before it assumed the level which it then preserved to the foot of the opposite mountains, nearly fifty miles off. No one appeared on the road; and the horsemen had, therefore, leisure to cast glances behind them, as they were slowly carried up the ascent. The alarm-bell was now sending its sullen sounds of dismay far and wide in the air, whose stillness was becoming more and more disturbed by the draughts of the spreading fires, as the canes caught, like torches, up the slopes to the right. Pale twinkling lights, sprinkled over the cape and the harbour-lights which looked like glow-worm tapers amidst the fiery atmosphere, showed that every one was awake and stirring in the town, and on board the ships; while an occasional rocket, mounting in the smoky air, from either the Barracks or Government-House, showed that it was the intention of the authorities to intimate to the inhabitants of the remoter districts of the plain that the Government was on the alert, and providing for the public safety.
On surmounting the ridge, Henri stretched out his hand, and pulled the bridle of Monsieur Bayou's horse to the left, so as to turn it into a narrow, green track which here parted from the road.
"What now, sir?" cried Papalier, in a tone of suspicion, checking his horse, instead of following.
"You may, perhaps, meet two thousand devils, if you keep the high road to the plain," answered Henri, quietly. To Monsieur Bayou he explained that Toussaint would probably choose this road, through Madame Oge's plantation.
"Come on, Papalier; do not lose time. All is right enough," said Bayou. "The grass-tracks are the safest to-night, depend upon it."
Papalier followed, in discontented silence. In a few moments, Henri again pulled the bridle—a decided check this time—stopping the horse.
"Voices," he whispered. Bayou could hear none. In a moment, Henri continued.
"It is Toussaint, I thought we should meet him hereabouts."
The next turn of the path brought them upon Toussaint, who was advancing with the led horse from Breda. Not far behind him was Madame Oge's house, the door standing wide, and, seen by the light within, a woman in the doorway. Toussaint pulled up, Henri leaped down, and ran to shake hands with his friend. Papalier took the opportunity to say, in a low voice, to Bayou—
"You must send your fellow there on board ship. You must, there is no doubt of it. The Governor, and all the householders in Cap, are doing so with their cleverest negroes; and if there is a clever one in the colony, it is Toussaint."
"I shall do no such thing," said Bayou. "I have trusted Toussaint for these thirty years; and I shall not distrust him now—now when we most need those we can best confide in."
"That is exactly what Monsieur Clement said of his postillion; and it was his postillion that struck him to the heart. You must send Toussaint on board ship; and I will tell you how—"
Papalier stopped, perceiving that the two negroes were not talking, but had their eyes fixed on him.
"What is that?" said Henri. "Is Toussaint to go on board ship?"
"No, no; nonsense," said Bayou; "I am not going to send anybody on board ship. All quiet at Breda, I suppose, Toussaint?"
"All quiet, sir, at present. Monsieur Papalier—on board ship I will not go."
"As your master pleases. It is no concern of mine, Toussaint," said Papalier.
"So I think," replied Toussaint.
"You see your faithful hands, your very obedient friends, have got a will of their own already," whispered Papalier to Bayou, as they set their horses forward again: Henri turning homewards on the tired horse which had carried double, and Bayou mounting that which Toussaint had brought.
"Will you go round, or pass the house?" Toussaint asked of his master. "Madame Oge is standing in the doorway."
Bayou was about to turn his horse's head, but the person in the doorway came out into the darkness, and called him by his name. He was obliged to go forward.
"Madame," said he, "I hope you have no trouble with your people. I hope your people are all steady."
"Never mind me and my people," replied a tremulous voice. "What I want to know is, what has happened at Cap. Who have risen? Whose are these fires?"
"The negroes have risen on a few plantations: that is all. We shall soon—"
"The negroes!" echoed the voice. "You are sure it is only the negroes?"
"Only the negroes, madame. Can I be of service to you? If you have any reason to fear that your force—"
"I have no reason to fear anything. I will not detain you. No doubt you are wanted at home, Monsieur Bayou."
And she re-entered her house, and closed the doors.
"How you have disappointed her!" said Papalier. "She hoped to hear that her race had risen, and were avenging her sons on us. I am thankful to-night," he continued, after a pause, "that my little girls are at Paris. How glad might that poor woman have been, if her sons had stayed there! Strange enough, Paris is called the very centre of disorder, and yet it seems the only place for our sons and daughters in these days."
"And strangely enough," said Bayou, "I am glad that I have neither wife, son, nor daughter. I felt that, even while Odeluc, was holding forth about the age of security which we were now entering upon—I felt at the moment that there must be something wrong; that all could not be right, when a man feels glad that he has only himself to take care of. Our negroes are better off than we, so far. Hey, Toussaint?"
"I think so, sir."
"How many wives and children have you, Toussaint?" asked Papalier.
"I have five children, sir."
"And how many wives in your time?"
Toussaint made no answer. Bayou said for him—
"He has such a good wife that he never wanted more. He married her when he was five-and-twenty—did not you, Toussaint?"
Toussaint had dropped into the rear. His master observed that Toussaint was rather romantic, and did not like jesting on domestic affairs. He was more prudish about such matters than whites fresh from the mother-country. Whether he had got it out of his books, or whether it really was a romantic attachment to his wife, there was no knowing; but he was quite unlike his race generally in family matters.
"Does he take upon himself to be scandalised at us?" asked Papalier.
"I do not ask him. But if you like to consult him about your Therese, I do not doubt he will tell you his mind."
"Come, cannot we go on faster? This is a horrid road, to be sure; but poor Therese will think it is all over with me, if she looks at the red sky towards Cap."
There were reasons enough for alarm about Monsieur Papalier's safety, without looking over towards Cap. When the gentlemen arrived at Arabie, his plantation, they found the iron gates down, and lying on the grass— young trees hewn down, as if for bludgeons—the cattle couched in the cane-fields, lapped in the luxury of the sweet tops and sprouts—the doors of the sugar-house and mansion removed, the windows standing wide, and no one to answer call. The slave-quarter also was evidently deserted.
Papalier clapped spurs to his horse, and rode round, faster than his companions could follow him. At length Bayou intercepted his path at a sharp turn, caught his bridle, and said—
"My dear fellow, come with me. There is nothing to be done here. Your people are all gone; and if they come back, they will only cut your throat. You must come with me; and under the circumstances, I cannot stay longer. I ought to be at home."
"True, true. Go, and I will follow. I must find out whether they have carried off Therese. I must, and I will."
Toussaint pricked his horse into the courtyard, and after a searching look around dragged out from behind the well a young negress who had been crouching there, with an infant in her arms. She shrieked and struggled till she saw Papalier, when she rushed towards him.
"Poor Therese!" cried he, patting her shoulder. "How we have frightened you! There is nobody here but friends. At least, so it seems. Where are all the people? And who did this mischief?"
The young creature trembled excessively; and her terror marred for the time a beauty which was celebrated all over the district—a beauty which was admitted as fully by the whites as by people of her own race. Her features were now convulsed by fear, as she told what had happened—that a body of negroes had come, three hours since, and had summoned Papalier's people to meet at Latour's estate, where all the force of the plain was to unite before morning—that Papalier's people made no difficulty about going, only stopping to search the house for what arms and ammunition might be there, and to do the mischief which now appeared—that she believed the whites at the sugar-house must have escaped, as she had seen and heard nothing of bloodshed—and that this was all she knew, as she had hidden herself and her infant, first in one place, and then in another, as she fancied safest, hoping that nobody would remember her, which seemed to have been the case, as no one molested her till Toussaint saw her, and terrified her as they perceived. She had not looked in his face, but supposed that some of Latour's people had come back for her.
"Now you will come with me," said Bayou to Papalier, impatiently.
"I will, thank you. Toussaint, help her up behind me, and carry the child, will you? Hold fast, Therese, and leave off trembling as soon as you can."
Therese would let no one carry the infant but herself. She kept her seat well behind her master, though still trembling when she alighted at the stables at Breda.
Placide and Denis were on the watch at the stables.
"Run, Denis!" said his brother. And Denis was off to tell his mother that Toussaint and Monsieur Bayou were safe home.
"Anything happened, Placide?" asked Bayou.
"Yes, sir. The people were sent for to Latour's, and most of them are gone. Not all, sir. Saxe would not go till he saw father; nor Cassius, nor Antoine, nor—"
"Is there any mischief done? Anybody hurt?"
"No, sir. They went off very quietly."
"Quietly, indeed! They take quietly enough all the kindness I have shown them these thirty years. They quietly take the opportunity of leaving me alone to-night, of all nights, when the devils from hell are abroad, scattering their fire as they go."
"If you will enter, Monsieur Bayou," said Toussaint, "my wife will get you supper; and the boys and I will collect the people that are left, and bring them up to the house. They have not touched your arms, sir. If you will have them ready for us—"
"Good, good! Papalier, we cannot do better. Come in. Toussaint, take home this young woman. Your girls will take care of her. Eh! what's the matter? Well, put her where you will—only let her be taken care of—that is all."
"I will speak to Jeannette, sir."
"Ay, do. Jeannette will let Therese come to no harm, Papalier. Come in, till Toussaint brings a report of how matters stand with us poor masters."
WHAT TO DO!
The report brought by Toussaint was astounding to his hearers, even after the preparation afforded by the events of the evening. It was clear that the negroes had everything in their own hand, and that the spirit roused in them was so fierce, so revengeful, as to leave no hope that they would use their power with moderation. The Breda estate, and every one near it, was to be ravaged when those on the north side of the plain were completely destroyed. The force assembled at Latour's already amounted to four thousand; and no assistance could be looked for from the towns at all adequate to meet such numbers, since the persons and property of the whites, hourly accumulating in the towns as the insurrection spread, required more than all the means of protection that the colony afforded. The two gentlemen agreed, as they sat at the table covered with supper, wine, and glittering arms, that to remain was to risk their lives with no good object. It was clear that they must fly.
Toussaint suggested that a quantity of sugar from the Breda estate was now at Port Paix, lying ready for shipment. There was certainly one vessel, if not more, in that port, belonging to the United States. If the gentlemen would risk the ride to the coast with him, he thought he could put them on board, and they might take with them this sugar, intended for France, but now wanted for their subsistence in their exile. Bayou saw at once that this was the best plan he could adopt. Papalier was unwilling to turn his back so soon, and so completely, on his property. Bayou was only attorney to the Breda estate, and had no one but himself to care for. Papalier was a proprietor, and he could not give up at once, and for ever, the lands which his daughters should inherit after him. He could not instantly decide upon this. He would wait some hours at least. He thought he could contrive to get into some town, or into the Spanish territory, though he might be compelled to leave the plain. He slept for this night with his arms at hand, and under the watch of Placide, who might be trusted to keep awake and listen, as his father vouched for him. Bayou was gone presently; with such little money as he happened to have in the house; and in his pockets, the gold ornaments which Toussaint's wife insisted on his accepting, and which were not to be despised in this day of his adversity. He was sorry to take her necklace and ear-rings, which were really valuable; but she said, truly, that he had been a kind master for many years, and ought to command what they had, now that they were all in trouble together.
Before the next noon, Monsieur Bayou was on board the American vessel in the harbour of Port Paix, weary and sad, but safe, with his sugar, and pocketsful of cash and gold trinkets. Before evening, Toussaint, who rode like the wind, and seemed incapable of fatigue, was cooling himself under a tamarind-tree, in a nook of the Breda estate.
He was not there to rest himself, while the world seemed to be falling into chaos around him. He was there for the duty of the hour—to meet by appointment the leader of the insurgents, Jean Francais, whom, till now, he had always supposed to be his friend, as far as their intercourse went, though Jean had never been so dear to him as Henri. He had not sat long, listening for sounds of approach amidst the clatter of the neighbouring palm-tree tops, whose stiff leaves struck one another as they waved in the wind, when Jean appeared from behind the mill.
"You have stopped our wheel," said Toussaint, pointing to the reeking water-mill. "It will be cracked in the sun before you can set it going again."
"Yes, we have stopped all the mills," replied Jean. "Every stream in the colony has a holiday to-day, and may frolic as it likes. I am afraid I made you wait supper last night?"
"You gave me poison, Jean. You have poisoned my trust in my friends. I watched for you as for a friend; and what were you doing the while? You were rebelling, ravaging, and murdering!"
"Go on," said Jean. "Tell me how it appears to you; and then I will tell you how it appears to me."
"It appears to me, then, that if the whites are to blame towards those who are in their power—if they have been cruel to the Oges, and their party—if they have oppressed their negroes, as they too often have, our duty is clear—to bear and forbear, to do them good in return for their evil. To rise against them cunningly, to burn their plantations, and murder them—to do this is to throw back the gospel in the face of Him who gave it!"
"But you do not understand this rising. It is not for revenge."
"Why do I not understand it. Because you knew that I should disapprove it, and kept me at home by a false appointment, that I might be out of the way. Do you say all this is not for revenge? I look at the hell you have made of this colony between night and morning, and I say that if this be not from revenge, there must be something viler than revenge in the hearts of devils and of men."
"And now, hear me," said Jean, "for I am wanted at Latour's, and my time is short. It was no false appointment last night. I was on my way to you, when I was stopped by some news which altered our plans in a moment, and made us rise sooner, by three days, than we expected. I was coming to tell you all, and engage you to be one of our chiefs. Have you heard that the Calypso has put into port at the other end of the island?"
"Then you do not know the news she brought. She has a royalist master, who is in no hurry to tell his news to the revolutionary whites. The king and all his family tried to escape from France in June. They were overtaken on the road, and brought back prisoners to Paris."
Toussaint, who always uncovered his head at the name of the king, now bent it low in genuine grief.
"Is it not true," said Jean, "that our masters are traitors? Do they not insult and defy the king? Would there not have been one shout of joy through all Cap last night, if this news had been brought to the deputies after dinner with their wine?"
"It is true. But they would still have been less guilty than those who add ravage and murder to rebellion."
"There was no stopping the people when the messengers from the Calypso crossed the frontier, and sent the cry, 'Vive le Roi! et l'ancien regime,' through the negro quarters of every estate they reached. The people were up on the Noe plantation at the word. Upon my honour, the glare of the fire was the first I knew about it. Then the spirit spread among our people, like the flames among our masters' canes. I like murder no better than you, Toussaint; but when once slaves are up, with knife and firebrand, those may keep revenge from kindling who can—I cannot."
"At least, you need not join—you can oppose yourself to it."
"I have not joined. I have saved three or four whites this day by giving them warning. I have hidden a family in the woods, and I will die before I will tell where they are. I did what I could to persuade Gallifet's people to let Odeluc and his soldiers turn back to Cap: and I believe they would, but for Odeluc's obstinacy in coming among us. If he would have kept his distance, he might have been alive now. As it is—"
"And is he dead?—the good Odeluc?"
"There he lies; and half-a-dozen of the soldiers with him. I am sorry, for he always thought well of us; but he thrust himself into the danger. One reason of my coming here now is to say that this plantation and Arabie will be attacked to-night, and Bayou had better roost in a tree till morning."
"My master is safe."
"On the sea."
"You have saved him. Have you—I know your love of obedience is strong—have you pledged yourself to our masters, to oppose the rising— to fight on their side?"
"I give no pledges but to my conscience. And I have no party where both are wrong. The whites are revengeful, and rebel against their king; and the blacks are revengeful, and rebel against their masters."
"Did you hear anything on the coast of the arrival of the Blonde frigate from Jamaica?"
"Yes; there again is more treason. The whites at Cap have implored the English to take possession of the colony. First traitors to the king, they would now join the enemies of their country. Fear not, Jean, that I would defend the treason of such; but I would not murder them."
"What do you mean to do? this very night your estate will be attacked. Your family is almost the only one remaining on it. Have you thought what you will do?"
"I have; and your news only confirms my thought."
"You will not attempt to defend the plantation?"
"What would my single arm do? It would provoke revenge which might otherwise sleep."
"True. Let the estate be deserted, and the gates and doors left wide, and no mischief may be done. Will you join us then?"
"Join you! no! Not till your loyalty is free from stain. Not while you fight for your king with a cruelty from which your king would recoil."
"You will wait," said Jean, sarcastically, "till we have conquered the colony for the king. That done you will avow your loyalty."
"Such is not my purpose, Jean," replied Toussaint, quietly. "You have called me your friend; but you understand me no more than if I were your enemy. I will help to conquer the colony for the king; but it shall be to restore to him its lands as the King of kings gave them to him—not ravaged and soaked in blood, but redeemed with care, to be made fair and fruitful, as held in trust for him. I shall join the Spaniards, and fight for my king with my king's allies."
Jean was silent, evidently struck with the thought. If he had been troubled with speculations as to what he should do with his undisciplined, half-savage forces, after the whites should have been driven to entrench themselves in the towns, it is possible that this idea of crossing the Spanish line, and putting himself and his people under the command of these allies, might be a welcome relief to his perplexity.
"And your family," said he: "will the Spaniards receive our women and children into their camp?"
"I shall not ask them. I have a refuge in view for my family."
"When will you go?"
"When you leave me. You will find the estate deserted this night, as you wish. The few negroes who are here will doubtless go with me; and we shall have crossed the river before morning."
"You would not object," said Jean, "to be joined on the road by some of our negro force; on my pledge, you understand, that they will not ravage the country."
"Some too good for your present command?" said Toussaint, smiling. "I will command them on one other condition—that they will treat well any white who may happen to be with me."
"I said nothing about your commanding them," said Jean. "If I send men I shall send officers. But whites! what whites? Did you not say Bayou was on the sea?"
"I did; but there may be other whites whom I choose to protect, as you say you are doing. If, instead of hiding whites in the woods, I carry them across the frontier, what treatment may I expect for my party on the road?"
"I will go with you myself, and that is promising everything," said Jean, making a virtue of what was before a strong inclination. "Set out in two hours from this time. I will put the command of the plain into Biasson's hands, and make a camp near the Spanish lines. The posts in that direction are weak, and the whites panic-struck, if indeed they have not all fled to the fort. Well, well," he continued, "keep to your time, and I will join you at the cross of the four roads, three miles south of Fort Dauphin. All will be safe that far, at least."
"If not, we have some strong arms among us," replied Toussaint. "I believe my girls (or one of them at least) would bear arms where my honour is at stake. So our king is a prisoner! and we are free! Such are the changes which Heaven sends!"
"Ay, how do you feel, now you are free?" said Jean. "Did you not put your horse to a gallop when you turned your back on your old master?"
"Not a word of that, Jean. Let us not think of ourselves. There is work to do for our king. He is our task-master now."
"You are in a hurry for another master," said Jean. "I am not tired of being my own master yet."
"I wish you would make your people masters of themselves, Jean. They are not fit for power. Heaven take it from us, by putting all power into the hand of the king!"
"We meet by starlight," said Jean. "I have the business of five thousand men to arrange first; so, more of the king another time."
He leaped the nearest fence and was gone. Toussaint rose and walked away, with a countenance so serious, that Margot asked if there was bad news of Monsieur Bayou.
When the family understood that the Breda estate was to be attacked this night, there was no need to hasten their preparations for departure. In the midst of the hurry, Aimee consulted Isaac about an enterprise which had occurred to her, on her father's behalf; and the result was, that they ventured up to the house, and as far as Monsieur Bayou's book-shelves, to bring away the volumes they had been accustomed to see their father read. This thought entered Aimee's mind when she saw him, busy as he was, carefully pocket the Epictetus he had been reading the night before. Monsieur Papalier was reading, while Therese was making packages of comforts for him. He observed the boy and girl, and when he found that the books they took were for their father, he muttered over the volume he held—
"Bayou was a fool to allow it. I always told him so. When our negroes get to read like so many gentlemen, no wonder the world is turned upside down."
"Do your negroes read, Monsieur Papalier?" asked Isaac.
"No, indeed! not one of them."
"Where are they all, then?"
Aimee put in her word.
"Why do they not take care of you, as father did of Monsieur Bayou?"
Monsieur Papalier did not much relish the idea of roosting in a tree for the night; especially as, on coming down in the morning, there would be no friend or helper near, to care for or minister to him. Habitually and thoroughly as he despised the negroes, he preferred travelling in their company to hiding among the monkeys; and he therefore decided at once to do as Toussaint concluded he would—accompany him to the Spanish frontier.
The river Massacre, the boundary at the north between the French and Spanish portions of the island, was about thirty miles distant from Breda. These thirty miles must be traversed between sunset and sunrise. Three or four horses, and two mules which were left on the plantation, were sufficient for the conveyance of the women, boys, and girls; and Placide ran, of his own accord, to Monsieur Papalier's deserted stables, and brought thence a saddled horse for the gentleman, who was less able than the women to walk thirty miles in the course of a tropical summer's night.
"What will your Spanish friends think of our bringing so many women and children to their post?" said Papalier to Toussaint, as soon as they were on their way. "They will not think you worth having, with all the incumbrances you carry."
"I shall carry none," said Toussaint.
"What do you mean to do with your wife and children?"
"I shall put them in a safe place by the way. For your own sake, Monsieur Papalier, I must ask you what you mean to do in the Spanish post—republican as you are. You know the Spaniards are allies of the king of France."
"They are allies of France, and will doubtless receive any honourable French gentleman," said Papalier confidently, though Toussaint's question only echoed a doubt which he had already spoken to himself. "You are acting so like a friend to me here, Toussaint, that I cannot suppose you will do me mischief there, by any idle tales about the past."
"I will not; but I hear that the Marquis d'Hermona knows the politics of every gentleman in the colony. If there have been any tales abroad of speeches of yours against the king, or threats, or acts of rebellion, the Marquis d'Hermona knows them all."
"I have taken less part in politics than most of my neighbours; and Hermona knows that, if he knows the rest. But what shall I do with Therese, if your women stop short on the way? Could you make room for her with them?"
"Not with them, but—"
"My good fellow, this is no time for fancies. I am sorry to see you set your girls above their condition and their neighbours. There is no harm about poor Therese. Indeed, she is very well educated; I have had her well taught; and they might learn many things from her, if you really wish them to be superior. She is not a bit the worse for being a favourite of mine; and it will be their turn soon to be somebody's favourites, you know. And that before long, depend upon it," he continued, turning on his saddle to look for Genifrede and Aimee. "They are fine girls,—very fine girls for their age."
When he turned again, Toussaint was no longer beside his horse. He was at the head of the march.
"What a sulky fellow he is!" muttered the planter, with a smile. "The airs of these people are curious enough. They take upon them to despise Therese, who has more beauty than all his tribe, and almost as much education as the learned Toussaint himself."
He called to the sulky fellow, however, and the sulky fellow came. What Papalier wanted to say was—
"You seem to know more of these Spaniards than I. What will become of Therese, if I take her among them; which, you see, you oblige me to do?"
"I proposed to her," said Toussaint, "to leave her with some of our people near Fort Dauphin."
"Fort Egalite, you mean. That is its present name, you know. So you asked her! Why did you not speak to me about it? It is my affair, not hers."
"I thought it her affair. She will not remain behind, however. She begged me to say nothing to you about her leaving you."
"Indeed! I will soon settle that." And the planter immediately overtook the horse on which sat Therese, with her infant on her arm. Therese smiled as she saw him coming; but the first few words he said to her covered her face with tears. Blinded by these tears, she guided her horse among the tough aloes which grew along the border of the bridle-path, and the animal stumbled, nearly jerking the infant from her arms. Her master let her get over the difficulty as she might, while he rode on in the midst of the green track.
Placide disdained to ride. He strode along, singing in a low voice, with a package on his shoulders, and his path marked by the fireflies, which new round his head, or settled on his woollen cap. Isaac had made Aimee happy by getting on her mule. Genifrede heard from the direction in which they were, sometimes smothered laughter, but, for the most part, a never-ending, low murmur of voices, as if they were telling one another interminable stories. Genifrede never could make out what Isaac and Aimee could be for ever talking about. She wondered that they could talk now, when every monkey-voice from the wood, every click of a frog from the ponds, every buzz of insects from the citron-hedge, struck fear into her. She did not ask Placide to walk beside her horse; but she kept near that on which her mother rode, behind Denis, who held a cart-whip, which he was forbidden to crack—an accomplishment which he had learned from the driver of the plantation.
It soon became clear that Jean had made active use of the hours since he parted from Toussaint. He must have sent messengers in many directions; for, from beneath the shadow of every cacao grove, from under the branches of many a clump of bamboos, from the recess of a ravine here— from the mouth of a green road there, beside the brawling brook, or from their couch among the canes, appeared negroes, singly or in groups, ready to join the travelling party. Among all these, there were no women and children. They had been safely bestowed somewhere; and these men now regarded themselves as soldiers, going to the camp of the allies, to serve against their old masters on behalf of the king. "Vive le Roi, et l'ancien regime!" was the word as each detachment joined—a word most irritating to Papalier, who thought to himself many times during this night, that he would have put all to hazard on his own estate, rather than have undertaken this march, if he had known that he was to be one of a company of negroes, gathering like the tempest in its progress, and uttering at every turning, as if in mockery of himself, "Vive le Roi, et l'ancien regime!" He grew very cross, while quite sensible of the necessity of appearing in a good mood to every one— except, indeed, poor Therese.
"We are free—this is freedom!" said Toussaint more than once as he laid his hand on the bridle of his wife's horse, and seemed incapable, of uttering any other words. He looked up at the towering trees, as if measuring with his eye the columnar palms, which appeared to those in their shade as if crowned with stars. He glanced into the forest with an eye which, to Margot, appeared as if it could pierce through darkness itself. He raised his face in the direction of the central mountain-peaks, round which the white lightning was exploding from moment to moment; and Margot saw that tears were streaming on his face— the first tears she had known him shed for years. "We are free—this is freedom!" he repeated, as he took off his cap; "but, thank God! we have the king for our master now."
"You will come and see us," said she. "We shall see you sometimes while you are serving the king."
"Yes." He was called away by another accession of numbers, a party of four who ran down among them from a mountain path. Toussaint brushed away his unwonted tears, and went forward, hearing a well-known voice inquire for Toussaint Breda.
"Here I am, Jacques!" he exclaimed in some surprise, as he addressed himself to a short, stout-built young negro. "You are the first townsman among us, Jacques. Where is old Dessalines?"
"Here is my master," said Jacques.
"Not the better for being a master," said the old tiler, who was himself a negro. "I found myself no safer than Jacques in the town; so I came away with him, and we have been among the rocks all day, tired enough."
"Have not you a horse for him?" asked Jacques. Toussaint stepped back, to desire Aimee and Isaac to give up their mule to Dessalines; but before it was done, Dessalines was mounted on Papalier's horse. Jacques had told Papalier, on finding that he had not been walking at all, that his horse was wanted, and Papalier had felt all the danger of refusing to yield it up. He was walking moodily by the side of Therese, when Toussaint offered him the mule, which he haughtily declined.