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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

There were about a hundred slaves in each barracoon



Nat then gave the message that Mr. Hill had sent.

"No doubt, Mr. Glover; I dare say this place has been used by slavers for years. Probably there are some large barracoons where the slaves are generally housed, and planters who want them either come or send from all parts of the island. I will go ashore myself early to-morrow morning. There is no question that this is an important capture, and it will be a great thing to break up this centre of the slave-trade altogether. Now that their hiding-place has once been discovered, they will know that our cruisers will keep a sharp look-out here, and a vessel once bottled up in this inlet has no chance whatever of escape. You can go with me, it is thanks to the sharpness of your eyes that we made the discovery."

The sun had not yet shown above the eastern horizon when the captain's gig passed in through the mouth of the inlet, and ten minutes later rowed alongside the wharf in front of the barracoon.

"There is another wharf farther along," the captain said; "we may take that as proof that there are often two of these slavers in here at the same time. Ah, there is Mr. Hill! I congratulate you on your success," he went on, as the first lieutenant joined him; "there is no doubt that this has been a regular rendezvous for the scoundrels. It is well that you attacked after dark, for the cross fire

of those batteries, aided by that of the schooner, would have knocked the boats into matchwood."

"That they would have done, sir. I was very glad when I saw the boat coming, as I thought it was probable that you were on board her, and we are rather in a difficulty."

"What is that, Mr. Hill?"

"Well, sir, as soon as we had settled matters here we followed the enemy, and found a road running up the valley; and as it was along this that most of the fellows who opposed us had no doubt retreated, I thought it as well to follow them up at once. We had evidently been watched, for a musketry fire was opened upon us from the trees on both sides. I sent Mr. Boldero with the marines to clear them out on the left, and Mr. Playford with twenty seamen to do the same on the right, and then I pressed forward with the rest. Presently a crowd of negroes came rushing down from the front, shouting, and firing muskets. We gave them a volley, and they bolted at once. We ran straight on, and a hundred yards farther up came upon a large clearing.

"In the middle stood a house, evidently that of a planter. A short distance off were some houses, probably inhabited by the mulatto overseers, and a few huts for his white overseers, and some distance behind these were four large barracoons. We made straight for these, for we could hear a shouting there, and had no doubt that the mulattoes were trying to get the slaves out and to drive them away into the wood. However, as soon as we came up the fellows bolted. There were about a hundred slaves in each barracoon. No doubt the fellows who attacked us were the regular plantation hands. I suppose the owner of the place made sure that we should be contented with what we had done, and should not go beyond the head of the inlet; and when the firing began again he sent the plantation men down to stop us until he had removed the slaves. I left Mr. Playford in command there, and brought twenty men back here; and I was just going to send off a message to you saying what had taken place, and asking for instructions. You see, with the slaves we found here, we have over five hundred blacks in our hands. That is extremely awkward."

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