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thu frankness an.i courage with which he had avowed his change of sentiments. By this avowal, Casar 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 oft'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 Koromimtyn 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. Cawar 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, Casar, 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 Caesar 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 w'"what was required of him by the sorceress Esther, he was devoted to die. What it was that Esther required of him Clara knew not: she knew nothing of the conspiracy. The timidity of her character was ill-suited to such a project; and every thing relating to it had been concealed from her with the utmost care.
When she explained to Ciesar the cause of her dejection, his natural courage resisted these superstitious fears; and he endeavoured to raise Clara's spirits. He endeavoured in vain: she fell at his feet, and with tears, and the most tender supplications, conjured him to avert the wrath of the sorceress by obeying her commands, whatever they might be!" Clara," replied he, "you know not what you ask!" "I ask you to save your life !" said she. "I ask you, for my sake, to save your life, while yet it is in your power!" "But would you, to save my life, Clara, make me the worst of criminals? Would you make me the murderer of my benefactor?" Clara started with horror!" Do you recollect the day, the moment, when we were on the point of being separated for ever, Clara? Do you remember the white man's coming to my cottage? Do you remember his look of benevolence? his voice of compassion? Do you remember his generosity? Oh! Clara, would you make me the murdererof this man?'" "Heavenforbid!" said Clara. "This cannot be the will of the sorceress!" "It is!" said Ccesar. "But she shall not succeed, even though she speaks with the voice of Clara. Urge me no further, my resolution is fixed. I should be unworthy of your love if I were capable of treachery and ingratitude." "But, is there no means of averting the wrath of Esther?" said Clara. "Your life"—" Think, first, of my honour," interrupted Caesar. "Your fears deprive you of reason. Return to this sorceress, and tell her that I dread not her wrath. My hands shall never be imbrued in the blood of my benefactor. Clara! Can you forget his look, when he told us that we should never more be separated?" "It went to my heart," said Clara, bursting into tears. "Cruel, cruel Esther! Why do you command us to destroy such a generous master?"
The conch sounded to summon the negroes to their morning's work. It happened, this day, that Mr Edwards, who was continually intent upon increasing the comforts and happiness of his slaves, sent his carpenter, while Caesar was absent, to fit up the inside of his cottage; and, when Caesar returned from work, he found his master pruning the branches of a tamarind tree, that overhung the thatch. "How comes it, Csesar," said he, "that you have not pruned these branches?" Caesar had no knife. "Here is mine for you," said Mr Edwards. "It is very sharp," added he, smiling; "but I am not one of those masters who are afraid to trust their negroes with sharp knives." These words were spoken with perfect simplicity: Mr Edwards had no suspicion, at this time, of what was passing in the negro's mind. Cassar received the knife without uttering a syllable; but no sooner was Mr Edwards out of sight than he knelt down, and, in a transport of gratitude, swore that, with this knife he would stab himself to the heart, sooner than betray his master! j
The principle of gratitude conquered every other sensation. The mind of Cfesar was not insensible to the charms of freedom: he knew the negro conspirators had so taken their measures that there was the greatest probability of their success. His heart beat high at the idea of recovering his liberty; but he was not to be seduced from his duty, not even by this delightful hope: nor was he to be intimidated by the dreadful certainty that his former friends and countrymen, considering him as a deserter from their cause, would become his bitterest enemies. The loss of Hector's esteem and affection was deeply felt by Caesar. Since the night that the decisive conversation, relative to Mr Edwards, passed, Hector and he had never exchanged a si liable.
This visit proved the cause of much suffering to Hector, and to several of the slaves on Jefferies' plantation. We mentioned that Durant had been awakened by the raised voice of Hector. Though he could not find any one in the cottage, yet his suspicions were not dissipated; and an accident nearly brought the whole conspiracy to light. Durant had ordered one of the negroes to watch a boiler of sugar: the slave was overcome by the heat, and fainted. He had scarcely recovered his senses when the overseer came up, and found that the sugar had fermented, by having remained a few minutes too long in the boiler. He flew into a violent passion, and ordered that the negro should receive fifty lashes. His victim bore them without uttering agroan; but, when his punishment was over, and when he thought the overseer was gone, he exclaimed, "It will soon be our turn!"
Durant was not out of hearing. He turned suddenly, and observed that the negro looked at Hector, when he pronounced these words; and this confirmed the suspicion that Hector was carrying on some conspiracy. He immediately had recourse to that brutality which he considered as the only means of governing black men: Hector and three other negroes were lashed unmercifully; but no confessions could be extorted.
Mr Jefferies might perhaps have forbidden such violence to be used, if he had not been at the time carousing with a party of jovial West Indians; who thought of nothing but indulging their appetites in all the luxuries that art and nature could supply. The sufferings, which had been endured by many of the wretched negroes, to furnish out this magnificent entertainment, were never once thought of by selfish epicures. Yet, so false are the general estimates of character, that all these gentlemen passed for men of great feeling and generosity! The human mind, in certain situations, becomes so accustomed to ideas of tyranny and cruelty, that they no longer appear extraordinary or detestable: they rather seem part of the necessary and immutable order of things. Mr Jefferies was stopped, as he passed from his dining-room into his drawing-room, by a little negro child, of about five years old, who was crying bitterly. He was the son of one of the slaves, who were at this moment under the torturer's hand. "Poor little devil!" said Mr Jefferies, who was more than half intoxicated. "Take him away; and tell Durant, some of ye, to pardon his father—if he can." The child ran, eagerly, to announce his father's pardon; but he soon returned crying more violently than before. Durant would not hear the boy; and it was now no longer possible toappeal to Mr Jefferies, for he was in the midst of an assembly of fair ladies; and no servant belonging to the housedaredtointerruptthefestivitiesof theevening. Thethree men, who were so severely flogged to extort from them confessions, were perfectly innocent: they knew nothing of the confederacy; but the rebels seized the moment, when their minds were exasperated by this cruelty and injustice, and they easily persuaded them to join the league. The hopes of revenging themselves upon the overseer was a motive sufficient to make them brave death in any shape.
Another incident, which happened a few days before the time destined for the revolt of the slaves, determined numbers who had been undecided. Mrs Jefferies was a languid beauty: or rather a languid fine lady who had been a beauty, and who spent all that part of the day which was not devoted to the pleasures of the table, or in reclining on a couch, in dress. She was one day extended on a sofa, fanned by four slaves, two at her head and two at her feet, when news was brought that a large chest, directed to her, was just arrived from London. This chest contained various articles of dress of the newest fashions. The Jamaica ladies carry their ideas of magnificence to a high pitch: they willingly give a hundred guineas for a gown, which they perhaps wear but once or twice. In the elegance and variety of her ornaments, Mrs Jefferies was not exceeded by any lady in the island, except by one who had lately received a cargo from England. She now expected to outshine her competitor, and desired that the chest should be unpacked in her presence. In taking out one of the gowns, it caught on a nail in the lid, and was torn. The lady, roused from her natural indolence by this disappointment to her vanity, instantly ordered that the unfortunate female slave should be severely chastised. The woman was the wife of Heo tor; and this fresh injury worked up his temper, naturally vindictive, to the highest point. He ardently longed for the moment when he might satiate his vengeance.
The plan the negroes had laid was to set fire to the canes, at one and the same time, on every plantation; and, when the white inhabitants of the island should run to put out the fire, the blacks were to seize this moment of confusion and consternation to fall upon them, and make a general massacre. The time when this scheme was to be carried into execution was not known to Caesar; for the conspirators had changed their day, as soon as Hector told them that his friend was no longer one of the confederacy. They dreaded he should betray them; and it was determined that he and Clara should both be destroyed, unless they could be prevailed upon to join the conspiracy.
Hector wished to save his friend; but the desire of vengeance overcame every other feeling. He resolved, however, to make an attempt, for the last time, to change Caesar's resolution. For this purpose, Esther was the person he employed: she was to work upon his mind by means of Clara. On returning to her cottage one night, she found, suspended from the thatch, one of those strange fantastic charms, with which the Indian sorceresses terrify those whom they have proscribed. Clara, unable to conquer her terror, repaired again to Esther, who received her first in mysterious silence; but, after she had implored her forgiveness for the past, and with all possible humility conjured her to grant her future protection, the sorceress deigned to speak. Her commands were that Clara should prevail upon her lover to meet her, on this awful spot, the ensuing night.
Little suspecting what was going forward on the plantation of Jefferies, Mr Edwards that evening gave his slaves a holiday. He and his family came out at sun-set, when the fresh breeze had sprung up, and seated themselves under a spreading palm-tree, to enjoy the pleasing spectacle of this negro festival. His negroes were all well clad; their turbans were of the gayest colours, and their merry countenances suited the gayety of their dress. While some were dancing, and some playing on the tambourine, others appeared amongst the distant trees, bringing baskets of avocado pears, grapes, and pine-apples, the produce of their own provision-grounds; and others were employed in spreading their clean trenchers, or the calabashes, which served for plates and dishes. The negroes continued to dance and divert themselves till late in the evening. When they separated and retired to rest; Caesar, recollecting his promise to Clara, repaired secretly to the habitation of the sorceress. It was situate in the recess of a thick wood. When he arrived theru, ha