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their families?" "Of that I don't pretend to judge. All I know is, that the West India planters would be ruined, if they had no slaves, and I am a West India planter." "So am I: yet I do not think they are the only people whose interest ought to be considered, in this business." "Their interests, luckily, are protected by the laws of the land; and, though they are rich men, and white men, and freemen, they have as good a claim to their rights, as the poorest black slave on any of our plantations." "The law, in our case, seems to make the right; and the very reverse ought to be done: the right should make the law.'' "Fortunately, for us planters, we need not enter into such nice distinctions. You could not, if you would, abolish the trade. Slaves would be smuggled into the islands." "What, if nobody would buy them! You know that you cannot smuggle slaves into England. The instant a slave touches English ground, he becomes free. Glorious privilege! Why should it not be extended to all her dominions? If the future importation of slaves into these islands were forbidden by law, the trade must cease. No man can either sell or possess slaves, without its being known; they cannot be smuggled like lace, or brandy." "Well, well!" retorted Jefferies, a little impatiently, "as yet, the law is on our side. I can do nothing in this business, nor you neither." "Yes, we can do something; we can endeavour to make our negroes as happy as possible." "I leave the management of these people to Durant." "That is the very thing of which they complain; forgive me for speaking to you with the frankness of an old acquaintance." "Oh, you can't oblige me more! I love frankness of all things! To tell you the truth, I have heard complaints of Durant's severity; but I make it a principle to turn a deaf ear to them, for I know nothing can be done with these fellows without it Youare partial to negroes; but even you must allow they are a race of beings naturally inferior to us. You may in vain think of managing a black as you would a white. Do what you please for a negro, he will cheat you the first opportunity he finds. You know what their maxim is: "God gives black men what white men forget."
To these common-place desultory observations, Mr Edwards made no reply; but recurred to poor Casar, and offered to purchase both him and Clara, at the highest price the sheriff's officer could obtain for them at market. Mr Jefferies, with the utmost politeness to his neighbour, but with the most perfect indifference to the happiness of those whom he considered of a different species from himself, acceded to this proposal. "Nothing could be more reasonable," he said, "and he was happy to have it in his power to oblige a gentleman, for whom he had such a high esteem."
The bargain was quickly concluded with the sheriff's officer; for Mr Edwards willingly paid several dollars more than the market m T
price for the two slaves. When Caesar and Clara heard that they were not to be separated, their joy and gratitude were expressed with all the ardour and tenderness peculiar to their different characters. Clara was an Eboe, Cassar a Koromantyn negro. The Eboes are soft, languishing, and timid. The Koromantyns are frank, fearless, martial, and heroic.
Mr Edwards carried his new slaves home with him, desired Bayley, his overseer, to mark out a provision-ground for Caesar, and to give him a cottage, which happened at this time to be vacant.
"Now, my good friend," said he to Caesar, "you may work for yourself, without fear that what you earn may be taken from you; or that you should ever be sold, to pay your master's debts. If he does not understand what I am saying," continued Mr Edwards, turning to his overseer, " you will explain it to him."
Caesar perfectly understood all that Mr Edwards said; but his feelings were at this instant so strong that he could not find expression for his gratitude: he stood like one stupified! Kindness was new to him! it overpowered his manly heart; and, at hearing the words "my good friend," the tears gushed from his eyes. Tears which no torture could have extorted! Gratitude swelled in his bosom; and he longed to be alone, that he might freely yield to his emotions.
He was glad when the conch-shell sounded, to call the negroes to their daily labour, that he might relieve the sensations of his soul by bodily exertion. He performed his task in silence; and an inattentive observer might have thought him sullen. In fact, he was impatient for the day to be over, that he might get rid of a heavyload which weighed upon his mind.
The cruelties practised by Durant, the overseer of Jefferies' plantation, had exasperated the slaves under his dominion. They were all leagued together in a conspiracy, which was kept profoundly secret. Their object was to extirpate every white man, woman, and child, in the island. Their plans were laid with consummate art; and the negroes were urged to execute them by all the courage of despair. The confederacy extended to all the negroes in the island »f Jamaica, excepting those on the plantation of Mr Edwards. To them no hint of the dreadful secret had yet been given; their countrymen, knowing the attachment they felt to their master, dared not trust them with these projects of vengeance. Hector, the negro who was at the head of the conspirators, was the particular friend of Caesar, and had imparted to him all his designs. These friends were bound to each other by the strongest ties. Their slavery and sufferings began in the same hour: they were both brought from their own country in the same ship. This circumstance alone, forms.
amongst the negroes, a bond of connection not easily to be dissolved. But the friendship of Caesar and Hector commenced even before they were united by the sympathy of misfortune; they were both of the same nation, both Koromantyns. In Africa, they had both been accustomed to command; for they had signalized themselves by superior fortitude and courage. They respected each other for excelling in all which they had been taught to consider as virtuous; and with them revenge was a virtue!
Revenge was the ruling passion of Hector: in Caesar's mind it was rather a principle, instilled by education. The one considered it as a duty, the other felt it as a pleasure. Hector's sense of injury was acute in the extreme; he knew not how to forgive. Casar's sensibility was yet more alive to kindness than to insult. Hector would sacrifice his life, to extirpate an enemy. Caesar would devote himself, for the defence of a friend; and Caesar now considered a white man as his friend. He was now placed in a painful situation. All his former friendships, all the solemn promises, by which he was bound to his companions in misfortune, forbade him to indulge that delightful feeling of gratitude and affection, which, for the first time, he experienced for one of that race of beings whom he had hitherto considered as detestable tyrants! objects of implacable and just revenge!
Caesar was most impatient to have an interview with Hector, that he might communicate his new sentiments, and dissuade him from those schemes of destruction which he meditated. At midnight, when all the slaves except himself were asleep, he left his cottage, and went to Jefieries' plantation, to the hut in which Hector slept. Even in his dreams, Hector breathed vengeance. "Spare none I Sons of Africa, spare none!" were the words he uttered in his sleep, as Caesar approached the mat on which he lay. The moon shone full upon him. Caesar contemplated the countenance of his friend, fierce even in sleep. "Spare none? Oh, yes! There is one that must be spared. There is one for whose sake all must be spared!" He wakened Hector, by this exclamation: "Of what were you dreaming?" said Caesar. "Of that which, sleeping or waking, fills my soul! Revenge! Why did you waken me from my drearn? It was delightful! The whites were weltering in their blood! But, silence! We may be overheard!'' "No; every one sleeps, but our selves,'' replied Caesar. "I could not sleep—without speaking to jou Oh—a subject that weighs upon my mind. You have seen Mr Edwards?" "Yes. He that is now your master.'' "Hethatisnow my benefactor! My friend!" "Friend! Can you call a white man friend?" cried Hector, starting with a look of astonishment and indignation! "Yes;" replied Caesar, with firmness. "And you would speak, ay and would feel, as I do, Hector, if you knew this white man1. Oh, how unlike he is to all of his race, that we have ever seen! Do not turn from me with so much disdain! Hear me with patience, my friend!" "I cannot," replied Hector, "listen with patience to one who, between the rising and the setting sun, can forget all his resolutions, all his promises! Who, by a few soft words, can be so wrought upon as to forget all the insults, all the injuries, he has received from that accursed race; and can even call a white man friend!"
Caisar, unmoved by Hector's anger, continued to speak of Mr Edwards with the warmest expressions of gratitude; and finished by declaring he would sooner forfeit his life than rebel against such a master. He conjured Hector to desist from executing his designs; but all was in vain. Hector sat with his elbows fixed upon his knees, leaning his head upon his hands, in gloomy silence. Caesar's mind was divided, between love for his friend, and gratitude to his master: the conflict was violent, and painful. Gratitude at last prevailed: he repeated his declaration, that he would rather die than continue in a conspiracy against his benefactor.
Hector refused to except him from the general doom. "Betray us if you will!" cried he. "Betray our secrets, to him whom you call your benefactor: to him whom a few hours has made your friend! To him sacrifice the friend of your youth, the companion of your better days, of your better self! Yes, Caesar, deliver me over to the tormentors: I can endure more than they can inflict. I shall expire without a sigh, without a groan. Why do you linger here, Caesar? Why do you hesitate? Hasten this moment to your master; claim your reward, for delivering into his power hundreds of your countrymen! Why do you hesitate? Away! The coward's friendship can be of use to none. Who can value his gratitude? Who can fear his revenge?" Hector raised his voice so high, as he pronounced these words, that he wakened Durant, the overseer, who slept in the next house. They heard him call out suddenly, to inquire who was there; and Caesar had but just time to make his escape, before Durant appeared. He searched Hector's cottage; but, finding no one, again retired to rest. This man's tyranny made him constantly suspicious: he dreaded that the slaves should combine against him; and he endeavoured to prevent them, by every threat and every stratagem he could devise, from conversing with each other. They had, however, taken their measures, hitherto, so secretly, that he had not the slightest idea of the conspiracy which was forming in the island. Their schemes were not yet ripe for execution; but the appointed time approached. Hector, when he coolly reflected on what had passed between him and Caesar, could not help admiring the frankness and courage with which he had avowed his change of sentiments. By this avowal, (.";; sar had in fact exposed his own life to the most imminent danger, from the vengeance of the conspirators ; who might be tempted to assassinate him who had their lives in his power. Notwithstanding the contempt with which, in the first moment of passion, he had treated his friend, he was extremely anxious that he should not break off all connection with the conspirators. He knew that Caesar possessed both intrepidity and eloquence; and that his opposition to their schemes would perhaps entirely frustrate their whole design. He therefore determined to use every possible means to bend him to their purposes.
He resolved to have recourse to one of those persons who, amongst the negroes, are considered as sorceresses. Esther, an old Koromantyn negress, had obtained, by her skill in poisonous herbs, and her knowledge of venomous reptiles, a high reputation amongst her countrymen. She soon taught them to believe her to be possessed of supernatural powers; and she then worked their imagination to what pitch and purpose she pleased. She was the chief instigator of this intended rebellion. It was she who had stimulated the revengeful temper of Hector almost to frenzy. She now promised him that her arts should be exerted over his friend; and it was not long before he felt their influence. Casar soon perceived an extraordinary change in the countenance and manner of his beloved Clara. A melancholy hung over her, and she refused to impart to him the cause of her dejection. Caesar was indefatigable in his exertions to cultivate and embellish the ground near his cottage, in hopes of making it an agreeable habitation for her; but she seemed to take no interest in any thing. She would stand beside him immoveable, in a deep reverie; and, when he inquired whether she was ill, she would answer no, and endeavour to assume an air of gayety: but this cheerfulness was transient; she soon relapsed into despondency. At length she endeavoured to avoid her lover; as if she feared his further inquiries.
Unable to endure this state of suspense, he one evening resolved to bring her to an explanation. "Clara," said he, "you once loved me: I have done nothing, have I, to forfeit your confidence?" "I once loved you!" said she, raising her languid eyes, and looking at him with reproachful tenderness; "and can you doubt my con stancy? Oh, C&sar, you little know what is passing in my heart' You are the cause of my melancholy!" She paused and hesitatedas if afraid that she had said too much: but Casar urged her with so much vehemence, and so much tenderness, to open to him her whole soul, that, at last, she could not resist his eloquence. She reluctantly revealed to him that secret of which she could not think without horror. She informed him that, unless he complied with