« 前へ次へ »
constantly attended at the huts of the negroes, and the effects of his discourses were soon visible—the joyous dance in a few weeks was exchanged for 'holdings forth,' and even at midnight the nasal hum of
praising the Lord' was to be heard from one or more of the huts. But this was not all. I often overheard the negroes arguing upon emancipation and the right of obedience; and before Mr. Saul Fallover had been two months on the plantation, the chapel was deserted, Mr. Wilson unheelled, and the negroes insolent, idle, and unhappy. I no longer walked down in the evening to the huts, but remained at the plantationhouse with Mr. L- , who was in a constant state of excitement and alarm from the alteration which had taken place in one of the best regulated and happiest plantations in Antigua.
It is necessary for the development of my story, that I here make a confession of conduct on my own part, which I shall not attempt to extenuate. I had formed an intimacy with one of the household slaves belonging to Mr. L- , a young creature, about seventeen, of the class called Mustafina. She would in England have been considered as little more than a brunette ; her black hair was long and straight, and when the color mantled through her clear skin, she might be considered more than handsome. This class of Creoles are too proud of their color to mix with the negroes; the consequence is, that they are too often induced to form connexions with Europeans, who happen to be on the plantations. Maria, for such was her name, was strongly attached to ine, and from her I often obtained important information. One day I was talking about the new missionary, and wishing him at the devil, when Maria replicd,
•Suppose you wish him at the devil, he very soon go, Edward, I know that.'
. What makes you think so, Maria?'
"I tell you—so long as he talk about faith and 'mancipation, all very well. Negro like to hear talk all 'bout that ; but last night I go down, hear very fine sermon, and he talk about Obeah,,say Obeah very bad thing. Now that never do-old Nelly hear it all.'
Why old Nelly can't hear a word, Maria.'
Not hear, Massa Edward-Nelly hear and Nelly see more than you tbink. Old Nelly never forgive that missionary man.'
"What harm can she do him, Maria?"
Do-what harm do-do all-do every thing-make him die in one minute-make him die in one year-five year-just as old Nelly please.'
Indeed; by poison of course—but how can she give it to him with, out being found out?
•Found out,' replied Maria ; 'what negro tell; what negro not do what Nelly say? Look, Massa Edward,' continued she, opening my snuff-box, and taking out a very small pinch, which, as she dropped it on the table, she divided into three portions, and placed at a little distance from each other. "See, this one heap kill one year-two heap kill one month-three heap kill one hour-no matter how little-kill in timeman must die.'
But, Maria, you can only know this by hearsay.'
So help me, Heaven, Edward, it all true. My mother had some, and show it to me.' • What color is it, Maria?' All same dust,' replied she, pointing to the ground.
But, Maria, your mother has been dead these three years. What became of this poison?'
"How I know, Massa Edward,' replied she, coloring up, and shortly afterwards she quitted the room.
Mr. L had often told me that the negroes were acquainted with poisons of a most subtle nature, but that the Obeah people only know how to inanufacture them. The surgeon who attended the estate, with whom I was on intimate terms, happened to call in a little while after this conversation, which I related to him. Ile contirmed the account, and told me many curious particulars relative to Obeah practices.
For many weeks the power of Mr. Saul over the negroes appeared to increase ; they daily grew more discontented, and declared they were entitled to their freedom. All happiness had fled from the plantationi. .Mr. L- was gloomy, the overseer alarmed, and the drivers bad great difficulty in inaking the gangs perform their alloited tasks. One day I was sitting behind a row of prickly-pear bushes, which bordered the cane grounds, when the main gang, who were at work with their hves, following each other in two lines, approached me, and I overheard the following conversation.
Dat not de true faite,' crieri one. -Eh ! you d-n nigger, what you know 'bout true faite? 'replied another.
• What I know-I know dis : suppose 'em cut a man in half with caue knife, and he ab true faith, he inake himself whole again, all same as before.'
"Well, nebber mind, next Kissmas, see what cane knife do. Recollect what Massa Saul say.' Here the negro sung in a low tone, Kissinass come, then white man see,
Hal--le-u-gar. “How many week fore Kissmas come?” said a voice which I knew to bo that of John Pepper.
Suppose 'steal you look ater Kissmass, you look ater you own d-n little wife, Sally,' cried one of the women. This remark occasioned a leud laugh through the whole gang.
• Massa Saul teach Sally de truc faite,' observed another and a geueral laugh again succeeded.
By this time they had hoed up to the end of the row, within a few feet of where I remained concealed. A loud crack from the whip of the driver, who stood at some distance, and out of hearing, announced to the gang that their day's work was over. The negroes threw down their hoes, and sauntered back to their buts.
I now clearly perceived how matters stood ; that the missionary was evidently exciting the slaves to rebellion, and in all probability had also encouraged the pretty Sally to incontinence. In the evening I walker down to the hut of John Pepper. He was sitting at the door, apparently in no pleasant humor. "As I afterwards found out, he had for some time been taunted with his wife's infidelity, which latterly she had been careless of concealing. There was, perhaps, some extenuation to be offered for her, when it is considered, that she had married John Pepper more from fear of the Obeah woman than from any regard for him. She now had become strongly attached to the inissionary, and very often remained with him until a late hour in the morning, regardless of the anger and jealousy of her husband.
• Well, John,' said I, how is your wife, Sally zis she at home?"
"No, Massa Compton,' replied he, sulkily; "she go to inissionary mannot come back yei.
Oh!' replied I, sarcastically, to learn the true faith, I presume.' The eyes of the negro flashed fire, and he ground his teeth, but made 20 reply. I must acknowledge that I was pleased with this decided proof of jealousy on the part of the husband, and hoped that the ' backsliding' of ihe missionary might prove his ruin. I therefore continued
Sally is very handsome, John. I wonder that you trust her so much.'
So help me God, Massa Compton, she no care for me, more than one pepper-corn. Dat d-- massa Saul-she lub him, she tell me so ; aud tell me she not lib with black nigger, like me ;' and the poor fellow burst into tears.
I attempted to console him. In a few minutes he wiped his eyes, and looking fiercely, said, • Nebber mind, me ab revenge when Kissmass come.'
Revenge when Christmas comes, Pepper; it's a long while to Christmas, and I am afraid that what you all expect at Christmas will not take place. The governor knows all about your intentions, and the troops are all ready.'
Eh!'exclaimed the negro, astonished.
Even so, Pepper; and I tell you so as a friend ; you had better tell the others that they may give over their foolish ideas—that Mr. Saul has deceived you, and will bring you all into trouble.' • How you kuow Massa Saul tell us ?-dat a secret.'
Yes, but secrets are found out ; for instance, what took place between your wife and the missionary was a secret at first, but every body knows it now.'
D-punn ! dat no secret now,' replied John, pulling out a tuft of his woolly hair in his rage.
If he was a good man, would he have taken Sally from you? Did be not preach to you that all that was wrong?'
“Yes, massa; he tell us dat all very bad; I see, wbat be tell all lie. But, Massa Compton, ine tink go to Obeah woman, Nelly, she make Sally lub me again.' - Well, you can try, Pepper.'
Will you speak, Massa Compton ? suppose you speak, Nelly, mind all you say.'
This I would not consent to ; I knew what Pepper intended, which was, to ask for a love philter from the Obeah, in the efficacy of which, the negroes have the greatest faith. My first application for her interTerence in his behalf had not been productive of happiness ; and in this instance I considered it would be disreputable. I had great cause afterwards to rejoice that I did not, or I should have been, 10 a certain degree, accessary to the tragical events which occurred in consequence of the second application to the Obeah woman. I hardly need observe, that I did not, until some time afterwards, become acquainted with the circumstances which I shall now relate.
It was not until a fortnight after this conversation that Pepper applied to the Obeah woman ; and at that time a remarkable coincidence took place. Mr. Wilson, io whom it had been satisfactorily proved that Mr. Saul Fallover had disgraced his profession by his connexion with Pepper's wife, considered it his duty to call and expostulate with bim upon his conduct. This he did, and so effectually, that Mr. Fallover ac
knowledged his error, and promised immediately to break off the connexion. Whether it was that Mr. Saul had become tired of her sable charms, or, what would be more charitable to suppose, that he was really moved by the exhortations of Mr. Wilson, aud afraid of the scandal which had been bruited, certain it is, that the very next day he desired Sally not to come near him again. The poor girl's attachment by this time amounted to infatuation, and imagining that his rejection of her proceeded from indifference, she determined upon applying to old Nelly for the very same charm, to revive the love of the missionary, which her husband wished to obtain to revive her love for him. Sally was the first who requested the assistance of the Obeah woman, and obtained from her a promise of what she desired. On the following evening her husband applied to the Obeah woman, and made a similar request, stating to old Nelly, that the missionary had taken away his wife. When Pepper left off speaking, the old woman sawed her body to and fro on the stone for some time, musing and muttering. She then rose, hobbled into the hut, and in a short time re-appeared, holding in one hand a calabash, in which the draught for Sally to give the missionary had been prepared, and in the other an Obeah horn. She again sat down on the stone, placed the calabash on the ground before her, and the Obeah horn between her knees, muttering as she removed from it small bunches of parrot's feathers, teeth of men and animals, and sundry other supposed charms. At last she drew forth a bit of rag, carefully tied up, and fumbling at it some time with her trembling fingers, succeeded in detaching the thread. Out of this rag she took a small quantity of powder, and motioning to Pepper to hold out his hand, laid it on the palm and pointed to the calabash, that he should drop it in. He did so ; the old woman waved her hand for him to depart, and held up three fingers as a signal that in three days he was to come again. Sally, who had been appointed to call that very evening for her philter, came soon afterwards, received the calabash, and retired.
The next day an express was sent to the surgeon of her plantation, requesting his immediate attendance, as Mr. Fallover was alarmingly ill. The surgeon obeyed the summons, but on his arrival he found that the missionary was nearly dead. In two hours he expired. A dispatch had been sent off to Mr. Wilson at the earnest request of the sufferer, but before Mr. Wilson could arrive, all was over. The unfortunate man was in too great pain to be able to speak. But once only did he say to the surgeon in detached words, as he held up the stump of his left arm, i When, I lost this, I lost my livelihood-and my poor-miserablesoul.' As the surgeon decidedly asserted that he had fallen a victim to poison, and the rupture between him and Sally was as well known as their previous intimacy, she was immediately taken into custody by the authorities. The poor girl acknowledged that she had found means to administer to him a love philter, procured from old Nelly, and her frantic grief at his death convinced the magistrates that she had been made an instrument to the vengeance of old Nelly against the missionary, for his having preached against the practice of the Obeah. The old woman was ordered to be brought before the magistrates on the ensuing morning, although they were aware that there was little chance of her making a confession. They were however saved the trouble of examination, as when the hut was entered, she was found dead. Whether she had died a natural death, or had destroyed herself, it was impossible to say, although to all appearance the former appeared to have been the case
After the missionary was dead, Sally, who was discharged, returned to her husband, and during my stay on the island I never heard that she had behaved herself improperly. The negroes also, again under the influence of Mr. Wilson, gradually returned to their cheerfulness and foriner obedience, although it was a long while before they could forget the lessons which they had received on the subject of true faith and emancipation,
My narrative would now conclude, were it not that I have a little episode to tell relative to myself. I had remained some months longer at the plantation, and was seriously thinking of taking my passage for England, when Mr. L- informed me that he expected his daughter to return by the next ship, and that he hoped that I would be present at the happy meeting. I consented to remain, and in due course of time Miss L- arrived, and was welcomed at the plantation. Her appearance gave a fillip to the usual monotony of a colonial residence, and there was a general rejoicing. If I thought her a pretty, elegant girl at our casual and hasty meeting, my late seclusion, and the contrast of her pure red and white, hitherto not affected by the climate, with the variety of shades of color which latterly I had witnessed in the female face, made me wonder at my former blindness to her personal charms. In a week I was desperately in love, and having no rivals, was perhaps as much indebted to that circumstance as to any advantages of my own for a favorable reception. Before the first month had passed I had offered, and had been accepted by the daughter, and heartily congratulated by the father.
I have mentioned in my narrative, that I had imprudently formeil a connexion with a young house slave of the name of Maria; and the reader must naturally be prepared to hear, that as my feelings warıned towards my new attachment, so did they cool towards her.
At the first suspicion, the poor girl tried every art which her fondness could suggest to secure my fidelity. She took every opportunity of throwing herself in my way, and exhausted her various arts of pleasing. So jealously did she watch me, that I seldom could be alone with Miss
- without her interruption, upon one excuse or tbe other. At last she taxed me with desertion, to which I pleaded not guilty, pointing out the necessity of my paying some attention to the daughter of the house. I confess that I was moved by the poor girl's tears, which proved the sincerity of her attachment; but what love can be lasting which is not founded upon respect for the individual? I daily became more assiduous to Miss L- , and more careless of showing my indifference to Maria. One day she came into my sitting-room, apparently determined to come to an explanation.
At first, she looked mournfully at me, the tears gathering in her eyes ; but her countenance soon changed. Coloring deeply, she advanced with a proud step.
Mister Compton, I ask you but one question-only one; which you mean to have, Miss Laura or Maria?' And she panted to suffocation as she ceased to speak.
• I cannot imagine, Maria, that you have any right to ask that question.'
I have right, Mister Compton, all the right woman can have; and I must have answer.' Well, then,' replied I, with a selfish disregard to her feelings, for