A Roving Commission: or, Through the Black Insurrection at Hayti
скачать книгу бесплатно
"There is nothing that you could do, thank you," Nat said cheerfully. "Myra is getting on capitally. I shall soon be all right again."
When everything was done, he said, "You are a trump, Myra, you have done it first-rate." Then the girl, who had gone on as quietly as if she had been accustomed to such work all her life, broke down, and, bursting into a fit of crying, threw herself down by the side of her mother. Nat would have attempted to soothe her, but her mother said, "Leave her to me, she will be all the better for a good cry." Nat went down again to the stream, picked up the four pistols the Creoles had carried and unwound their sashes, thinking that these would be better than the make-shift that he wore. As he did so two small bags dropped out. He opened them; both contained jewels, some of which he had seen Madame Duchesne wearing.
"That is a bit of luck," he said to himself. "No doubt directly they entered the house these scoundrels made one of the women show them where madame's jewel-case was, and divided the contents between them. When Dinah comes we must get these bodies down the stream. I could do it myself were it not for this rib, but it would not be safe to try experiments. What a plucky girl Myra is! Most girls would have been ready to faint at the sight of blood. I will wait a few minutes before I go up so as to give her time to pull herself together."
In ten minutes he went up again. "Madame," he said, "I have something that I am sure you will be very glad to get back again. I took off the sashes of those rascally mulattoes, and these two bags fell out of them. What do you think they contain? Some of your jewels."
Madame Duchesne and Myra both uttered exclamations of pleasure. "They are family jewels," Myra said, "and my father and mother both prize them very much. How strange they should have been on these men!"
"The two mulattoes were two of your overseers, and no doubt ran straight up and seized them directly they entered the house."
She saw that her mother wished to speak, and leaned down over her, for Madame Duchesne could not as yet raise her voice above a whisper.
"Turn them out," she said, "and see how many are missing."
Although Nat had seen Madame Duchesne in full evening dress two or three times when parties of friends had assembled at the house, and had noticed the beauty of her jewels, he was surprised at the number of bracelets, necklaces, brooches, and rings that poured out from the bags. Some of the larger articles, which he supposed were ornaments for the hair, were bent and crumpled up so as to take up as little space as possible. Myra held them up one by one before her mother's eyes.
"They are all there, every one of them," the latter whispered. "Your father will be pleased."
"The greater part of these," Myra said to Nat, "were brought over when the Baron Duchesne, our ancestor, came over here first, but a great many have been bought since.I have heard mamma say that each successor of the name and estate has made it a point of honour to add to the collection, of which they were very proud, as it was certainly the finest in the island; and besides, it was thought that if at any time Hayti should be captured, either by the Spanish or your people, or if there should be trouble with the blacks, it would be a great thing to have valuables that could be so easily hidden or carried away."
"Then they have thought all along that there might be a rising here some day?"
"Yes. I have heard my father say that when he was a boy he has heard his grandfather talk the matter over with others, and they thought that the number of slaves in the island was so great that possibly there might some day be a revolt. They all agreed that it would be put down, but they believed that the negroes might do terrible damage before enough troops could be brought from France to suppress it."
"They thought rightly," Nat said, "though it has been a long time coming; and the worst of it is that even if it is put down it may break out again at any time. It is hardly reasonable that, when they are at least ten to one against the whites and mulattoes together, men should submit to be kept in slavery."
"But they were very well off," Myra said. "I am sure they were much better off than the poorer whites."
"From what I have seen of them I think they were," Nat replied, "but you see people do not know when they are well off. I have no doubt that if the last white man left the island, and slavery were abolished for ever, the negroes would be very much worse off than they were before, and I should think they would most likely go back to the same idle, savage sort of life that they live in Africa. Still, of course, at present they have no idea of that. They think they will be no longer obliged to work, and suppose that somehow they will be fed and clothed and have everything they want without any trouble to themselves. You see it is just the same thing that is going on in France."
"Well, now, what are you going to do next, Nat?"
"I shall load the pistols. I have got four more now. Then I shall take my place at the mouth of the cave again. I hope that when Dinah comes she will bring us news that will enable us to move away. The fact that this party was coming here for refuge shows that the blacks are growing alarmed, and perhaps have already suffered a defeat, in which case the way will be clear for us. If not, I must get her to help me clear the place down below, it will not be difficult. What have you got on the fire?"
"There is a fowl that I have been stewing down to make the broth for mother. I have another cut up ready for grilling."
Two hours later Nat, to his surprise, saw Dinah hurrying down the ravine, for he had not expected her until evening. He stood up at once. She paused when she caught sight of the bodies lying below the cave.
"It is all right, Dinah," he shouted. "We have had a bit of a fight, but it only lasted for a minute or two, and except that I got a graze from a pistol-ball, we are unhurt."
"De Lord be blest, sah!" she said as she came up. "Eight ob dem, and you kill dem all, sah?"
"Yes; one could hardly miss them at that distance. I am glad to say that none of them got away. You are back earlier than I expected."
"Yes, sah; me found out all de news in good time, and den, as eberyone say hurricane come on, I hurry all de way to get here before he come."
"Well, come up, Dinah. Madame is going on very well. You know those two mulattoes?"
"Me know dem, sah; dey bery bad men, dey lead de black fellows to de attack."
"Well, it is well that they came up here, for they had, hidden in their sashes, all madame's jewels."
"Dat am good news, sah," the old woman said as she joined him, "dat powerful good news. Madame didn't say anyting about jewels, but Dinah tought of dem, and what a terrible ting it would be if she had lost dem! Dat good affair."
"So you think that we are going to have a storm, Dinah?"
"Sartin suah, sah; bery hot las' night, bery hot dis morning, and jest as me got to top of hill me saw de clouds coming up bery fast."
"I didn't notice the heat particularly. Of course it is very shady in this deep gorge, and one does not see much of the sky."
"Dis bery good place, sah – better dan house, much better dan forest. Me was despate frighted dat storm would come before me got here."
"I was wanting you to help me put the bodies into the stream, Dinah."
"No need for dat, sah; when storm come wash dem all down – no fear ob dat."
She went into the cave, and Nat followed her.
"Me hab good news for you, ma'am. De whites come out strong from de town wid regiment of troops and de sailors from English ship; de blacks hab a fight down in de plain, but dey beat dem easy. Den yesterday de bands of Fran?ois come down from de mountains, get to our plantation in de evening; dey bery strong, dey say dar am ten thousand ob dem. Dey s'pect de whites to come and attack to-morrow. To-day dey clearing out all de plantations on de plain. De black fellows say dey cut dem all to pieces."
"There is no fear of that," Nat broke in. "So you think that they will fight in the morning?"
"No, sah, me no tink dat; me suah dat as soon as de whites see de hurricane coming dey march back fast to de town; no can stand hurricane widout shelter. You had better light de lantern, it am getting as dark as night."
Nat went to the entrance. Looking up, he saw a canopy of black cloud passing overhead with extraordinary rapidity. Almost instantaneously there came a flash of lightning, nearly blinding him, accompanied by a tremendous clap of thunder. He turned hastily back into the cave.
"It is lucky that you arrived in time, Dinah; if you had been ten minutes longer you would have been caught."
He stopped speaking, for his voice was drowned in a tremendous roar. He was about to go to the mouth of the cave again, but Dinah caught hold of his jacket.
"No, sah, you mustn't go; if you show your head out beyond de cabe, de wind catch you and whirl you away like leaf, nobody neber see you no more. We safe and comfor'ble in here. We just got to wait till it all over. Dat wind strong enough to trow down de strongest trees, blow down all de huts, take de roof off de strongest house. We not often hab hurricanes in dis island, but when dey come, dey come bery bad. Dose ten tousand black fellows down at de plantation dey hab a bery bad time ob it to-night, dey wish demselves dead afore morning."
"It is very bad for the women and children too, Dinah."
"Yes, sah, me hab not forgotten dat; but most ob dem will hab gone, dey run away when dey hear dat de whites coming out of town. Dey know bery well dat de whites hab good cause to be bery angry, and dat dey shoot eberyone dey catch."
"But they will be just as badly off in the woods as they would be in their huts, Dinah. Have your daughter and her children got away?"
"No, sah, dey wur going jest as I started, but I told dem dat hurricane coming, and dat dey better stay in de clearing; and dey agreed to hide up in de little stone hut at end of garden where dey keep de tools and oder tings. De roof blow off, no doubt, but de walls am low and strong. Dey hab bad time dere, but dey safe."
With Dinah's assistance, Nat fixed a blanket at the point where the narrow entrance widened out, to keep out the swirls of wind which from time to time rushed in, propping it in its place by the hand-barrow on which Madame Duchesne had been brought up. Myra had finished cooking the fowls just as her nurse arrived, and they sat down to their meal heedless of the terrific tempest that was raging outside.