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placed him in possession of the estate, and he settled down as a regularly established planter, resolved to put every means within reach, in requisition to accelerate the process of money-making, so that he might, while yet in the prime of life, be enabled to retire from business, dispose of his plantation, and retiring to Paris, set up as a man of fortune, and if possible, of fashion.
It may readily be imagined that with this desire and disposition, the whip became gradually more in use on Bellevue property than it had been in other days, and that the punishments were more frequent than heretofore; in fact, Dupres grew by degrees to be a severe master, always doubt, ing that his serfs exerted themselves to the utmost, and most particularly anathematizing them if, in his hearing, the elder ones ventured to express a'grateful recollection of what they called “the good old times of poor old massa.” The effect produced upon these seniors by this alteration of system was any thing but beneficial; and seldom did a week pass without the report of two or three runaways, who, after a few days, were either caught, or tired of starvation, returned to the certainty of a flogging, and perhaps the discipline of the block.
One evening Dupres was returning on foot from a visit to a neighbouring plantation, when he heard footsteps following him ; he stopped -so did his pursuers-it was quite dark-all was as silent as the grave the next moment he heard the sound of some one running towards him, from a different quarter.
“ Who's there?” said Dupres.
The answer was a shot from a musket. Dupres stood unharmed-but a heavy fall and a deep groan announced that somebody was wounded.
“ Is massa safe?” cried or rather sobbed the man who had fallen.
The noise of the shot instantly brought one or two of the guardians to the spot with lanterns--a gleam of light sufficed to show Dupres the faithful playmate of his early youth on the ground, bleeding profusely. Dupres and one of the guardians raised him up—he was scarcely sensible, but he pressed his master's hand to his heart and kissed it fervently, while tears rather of joy for his deliverance than of pain for his own suffering fell from his eyes.
“What is all this?" again asked Dupres, who could not imagine it possible that any body could entertain sufficient ill-will towards him as to attempt his life. Such, however, was the case ; two slaves who had marooned some days before, had been seen by Louis lurking about the plantation ; he thought, as was not unfrequently the case that they were two of Dupres' blacks, that they had repented, and were trying to sneak back to their huts under cover of the darkness, intending to get him, Louis, or some other influential comrade, to plead their cause with the master; but this not having occurred, Louis did not relax in his observation of the strangers, and finding them still loitering on the path by which his master was to return from his social sangaree and “conversation talk," resolved to keep near in case of need, although not choosing to accost them. His suspicions were eventually realized, and at the moment Dupres stopped, Louis, who was within a few yards of the path, distinctly heard the well-known “click," produced by the cocking of a gun, and satisfied as to what was to follow, rushed forward just in time to strike down the weapon levelled at his master's head, and to receive the charge in his own leg.
“Who was the villain who fired the shot ?" said Dupres.
“Ah, me don't know, massa, me don't know," said Louis ; “ he do me no harm-me shall be well two three day, and massa him safe and well now.”
“Lift him up gently,” said Dupres to the bystanders, who had by that time increased in number; carry him home. I will go call up M. Duplaye, the surgeon, and we will have him looked to directly remember," added he, “I owe my life to him-I shall not forget it.”
All this time, Louis wholly regardless of the pain he was suffering, was clasping his hands as if in prayer, thanking Heaven that he had been the means of preserving his master.
This incident produced a marked change in the conduct of Dupres. The manifestation of a hostile feeling towards him on the part of his slaves—for that the shot was fired by some of his own people he had no doubt, although Louis even if he had identified them kept his council upon that point, satisfied with having preserved his master, and not daring to be the criminator of even his guilty comrades-induced Dupres to reflect upon the course he was pursuing, and instead of attributing the hostility of the culprits, for whose detection he made every seasonable preparation, to the increased severity of his discipline, he wrought himself up into the belief that these serious symptoms of revolt against authority had their origin in the laxness of the system observed upon his property. He recollected that the largest sugarplantation on the plain at St. Domingo was that of M. Gallifet situated about eight miles from town. “ The negroes belonging to which,” says Mr. Edwards in his History,“ had been always treated with such kindness and liberality, and possessed so many advantages, that it became a proverbial expression amongst the lower white people in speaking of any man's good fortune to say, “il est heureux comme un nègre de Gallifet.' ” M. Odeluc, the attorney or agent for this plantation, was a member of the general assembly, and being fully persuaded that the negroes belonging to it would remain firm to their obedience, at the outbreak of the insurrection, determined to repair thither to encourage them in opposing the insurgents; to which end he desired the assistance of a few soldiers from the town-guard who were ordered to his support.
He proceeded accordingly, but on approaching the estate, to his grief and surprise, he found all the negroes in arms on the side of the rebels, and horrid to tell, their standard was the body of a white infant which they had recently empaled upon a stake. M. Odeluc had advanced too far to retreat undiscovered, and he and a friend who accompanied him, together with most of the soldiers, were killed without mercy. Two or three only of the patrole escaped by flight, and conveyed the dreadful tidings to the inhabitants of the town."
Dupres saw in the attempt made on his life, a warning for the future; and having read M. Laborie's observations upon that revolt of Gallifet's slaves, in St. Domingo, in which he imputes their rebellion, not to the wise and indulgent treatment which they met with, but to the excessive laxity of their discipline, and their extravagant wealth, became rather doubtful of the wisdom of the “soothing system" on his own. plantation," says Laborie,“ was a perpetual scene of feasting and mer
riment.” On which, Lord Brougham remarks, “ If we should take this as the whole account of the fact, it would be sufficient to account for the prevalence of licentiousness, riot, and a rebellious spirit amongst Galliset's slaves, for surely the possession of so much property, perhaps the enjoyment of so great indulgence, is inconsistent with the condition of bondage."
Dupres accordingly resolved to tighten the reins of control, and to prove, even if the assassins were not discovered, nor of his own gangs, that he was not at any rate to be frightened from his purpose, or forced from the rules he had laid down for the government of his property by foul or violent means.
But something more than this general inducement to an alteration of his policy preyed upon his spirits. He had taken it into his head that his preserver, Louis, who had received in his own person the ball intended for his master, was somehow connected with the plot of assassination. His being on the spot at the time, a circumstance which arose out of his carefulness, and watchful anxiety, Dupres considered as corroborative of his suspicions, the entertaining of which, in any degree, would appear marvellous, if the reader were not to be made aware of an under current of events which was flowing at the same period.
Colonial morality is not, perhaps, the most rigid in the world; and the master of slaves, whatever may be his course of conduct towards the male portion of his subjects, not unfrequently selects some of the exceedingly smart, pretty, well-figured slave-girls to be about his house. Some one—at least for a time—is specially chosen “to take care of his things,” and to act in some sort in the capacity of housekeeper, to whom it is his pleasure—for a season—to be exceedingly kind and humane, sometimes condescending even to playful conversation, and always ready to afford her any little indulgence consistent with her position in his establishment.
It so happened that an olive-cheeked girl, called Adele, had been promoted by Dupres from amongst the “ herd,” for these domestic purposes; and Adele was dressed better than any slave on the estate ; and Adele could read and write, and even “talk conversation,” an expression which to some of our readers might not be quite intelligible unless we were to add that the acme of a coloured girl's ambition, if elevated from a low station to what she considers the enviable distinction of being a white man's mistress, is to be able to sit all day,“ talk conversation, and comb dog."
Adele was, of her class, exceedingly handsome, with fine intelligent eyes, and a manner much above her station ; indeed, her good Jooks, and inherent gracefulness, were generally considered hereditary gifts from her father, who, it was supposed, had before her birth formed an attachment to her mother similar, in most of its points and features, to that which M. Dupres unluckily had formed for her.
That M. Dupres should do exactly as he pleased in his own habitation and with his own slaves, might be all quite right, and certainly it is not our wish or intention to peep or pry into the arcana of any gentleman's establishment, unless we are driven to it of a necessity. As for the feeling, whatever its nature or character, entertained by M. Dupres for Adele, it never should have been noticed here, were it not for the facts that Adele did not reciprocate the admiration expressed for her qualities by her master, and that she was fondly attached to Louis, his former playmate, and recent preserver.
Dupres was conscious of his attachment, but still could not conquer the partiality he felt for the girl. The cruelty of his conduct in endeavouring to alienate her affections from the man whose devotion to him and his interests were-or would have been to any body else—unquestionable, was so obvious, even to himself, that he could not but suspect his humble rival of harbouring in his breast the feelings of a just vengeance so likely to result from jealousy.
Dupres did his faithful slave injustice. Conscious and satisfied of the truth and goodness of Adele, every mark of favour conferred on her by their master afforded him pride and pleasure, and he anxiously looked forward to the “ Planter's birthday' to ask her hand in marriage, satisfied that on that anniversary the master would not hesitate to crown his happiness with his consent.
While Louis was recovering from the wound which he had received, the attentions of Dupres were constant; but if he found that Adele had paid him a visit of kindness, and soothed his sufferings by her lively talk, his feelings of jealousy overcame his gratitude, and if truth were to be told,
his hopes were rather that his preserver might die than recover.
Recover, however, he did, and was openly rewarded for his gallantry and affection by the master; not but that all the slaves upon the estate became fully aware of a vast difference in their treatment after the attempt had been made on his life. Scarcely a day now passed in which the discipline of the whip was not administered, and that in many instances where the crimes of the sufferers were so comparatively trifling, that in former days a slight rebuke or a gentle remonstrance would have been the extremest punishment. Knowing the favour in which Louis was, or ought to be held by M. Dupres, the other slaves always made their appeals to him—begged him to intercede for them, sure that an influence secured as his had been at the risk of his life, would be successfully exerted in behalf of any one of them doomed to the lash for a trifling fault; and Louis presuming, or rather relying, upon the indulgent consideration of his master sometimes did plead the cause of his brethren whose faults appeared sufficiently venial to justify the petition, and had, earlier in the progress of the system, not unfrequently succeeded.
But in the newly-excited temper of Dupres' mind these applications harassed and incensed him, for it was at this period of our little history, that his rage against his preserver had been inflamed to its highest pitch, by the artless admission of Adele to her master of the mutual affection which existed between her and Louis, and of his intention to ask his consent to their union on the approaching birthday, which besides being a “ regular holiday” on the estate—at least it had been so for five-and-thirty years, before the present master came into possession-was always considered a day of grace, on which boons were conferred, indulgences granted, faults forgiven, and punishments remitted.
Poor Adele - little did she think how important to her, and to him she loved, would be this ingenuous confession. Dupres had all along fancied the girl could not, would not, dare not, refuse his advances. He knew that Louis was attached to her-he saw them always walking and talking together, in leisure hours, and Louis, when he found his master kind to her, would seem pleased and delighted; but, till her unfortunate declaration of his intentions towards her, he was not satisfied that Adele loved him, and that their love had been confessed, admitted, and declared.
“ His birthday"-one little month would only elapse before that day arrived—the day when he was to yield up all hopes of triumphing over innocence and virtue—when he was to consent to abandon, what in his heated imagination he believed to be the object nearest his heart, to another. Could he refuse the man who had saved his life? But how saved it? Was it not a plot ?—a scheme?- whereon to found this very claim.
Could this man, if he valued and est eemed him, persist in gaining and securing the affections of Adele, to whom he must know from circumstances, his master was attached ? or was he really blind enough to imagine that he was loading the girl with favours and presents literally and merely because she was a good servant ?
In the midst of these contending feelings, Dupres formed the desperate resolution of getting rid of Louis—not as many who knew the real character of the man might suppose, by means such as had been adopted against himself; but by degrading him, lowering his high spirit, and at the first plausible opportunity subjecting him to the punishment from which he had so frequently endeavoured, even successfully, to save others. He was convinced, from all he knew of his character, that this infiction would either drive him from the estate, or break his heart: and he was moreover convinced that such a display of his impartiality would have a great effect upon the other slaves, who, it must be admitted, were a little jealous of Louis: and more than all it would debase him in the eyes of Adele, whose affection for him after all, might be in some degree connected with the position he held amongst his brethren.
Barbarous as this determination may seem, Dupres was base and vile enough to form it, and the opportunity for putting his dreadful resolve into execution presented itself most aptly for his purpose on the day but one before the “ Birthday.”
It had been customary upon this occasion to commence the preparations for the celebration of the anniversary, on the previous day-flagstaffs were erected on the “ brown green" in front of the house, a sort of rustic orchestra was built for the piper, the fiddler, and the tambourine-player, and another temporary kind of booth, where the supper and rum were distributed, and these were decorated with flowers and leaves, and occasionally a mat de cocagne was erected for the display of the agility and powers of climbing, for which our black brethren are so famous.
Doubtful from the recent alteration in the policy of Dupres' government of his estate, whether the good old custom was to be observed, and not being able to obtain any information from the overseer, who had quarrelled with the master six months before, and exceedingly apprehensive of making any application at head-quarters, the negroes resolved upon sending up their old negotiator Louis, to inquire the “ will and pleasure" of the petty sovereign.
As this address did not involve the interdicted subject of commutation of punishment, the kind-hearted Louis made no scruple to become the spokesman ; but things turned out unluckily. He waited till the evening, when work was over, and came into the verandah, just at the