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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

Monsieur Duchesne came home as usual just at sunset


"I

hurt it in that fight we had with the pirates. I dare say you heard of it."

"Everyone has heard of it," the planter said. "It was splendid, and there is not one here who does not feel grateful indeed to your ship for having rid us of all those scoundrels, who have been doing us so much harm for years. You have not hurt it much, I hope?"

"It was bad for a bit, but it is all right again now. The doctor orders me to keep to the sling for some time longer, though I am sure there is not the least necessity for it."

"And now about your leave, shall I go off to the ship, think you?"

"The captain himself gave me leave this morning for a week without my even asking for it."

"That is good news indeed. My carriage is at the door; I fortunately told Caesar to wait, as there are some things to take back. My wife and Myra will be delighted to see you, they talk of you always, and will be glad indeed to have you with them again. My boy has gone out to buy the matters required by madame, he will be back in a few minutes."

A quarter of an hour later Nat was on his way out to the plantation, where he was received with a welcome of the warmest kind by Madame Duchesne and her daughter. Both were greatly concerned at finding that his arm had again been injured.

"It

is hard indeed," Myra said, "that I should be so well and strong again, and that you should still be suffering for what you did for me."

"I do not think," he said, "that that business has really anything to do with the last one. A pirate ship blew up close to us; the shock was tremendous. The masts of the brigantine I was in snapped off as if they had been carrots, everyone on deck was thrown down, twelve were killed outright, and the rest of us were all a great deal bruised and hurt. The doctor said that he thought my arm might very well have been broken even had it not been for that accident, and as I came off better than most of the others, I certainly have no reason to complain. It is really quite well again now, and I can use it for almost all purposes. I consider it absurd that I should wear this sling, and would take it off at once, only the doctor made me promise that I would generally wear it; indeed, on board I always took my arm out when I wanted to use it, and he said himself that a certain amount of exercise was good for me."

Monsieur Duchesne came home as usual just at sunset. Nat noticed that at dinner he was evidently preoccupied, though he endeavoured to join in the conversation as cheerily as usual. After the ladies had left the table he said:

"You may have noticed that I am _distrait_, Monsieur Glover, but it is an anxious time for all of us on the island, and has been so, indeed, for some time. You see we are divided into three classes: there are the pure whites, the mulattoes, and the negroes, and even these are subdivided. There are the old settlers, men who, like myself, belong to noble French families, and who, I hope, keep up the best traditions of our country; there are the poor whites, landless men who are discontented with their position, and hate those who are better off, while they stand aloof from the mulattoes. These, again, are equally divided. Many of them are rich men with plantations. They send their sons and daughters over to France to be educated, and take it much amiss that we, who are of pure blood, do not associate with them. Then, again, there are the negroes, who number no fewer than five hundred thousand, while we whites are but forty thousand. We went on well enough together until the States General met in France. It was a bad affair that, for us as well as for France. From that time there has been a ferment. We sent over deputies, eighteen of them, but the Assembly only allowed six to take their seats, and while they snubbed us, the young mulattoes were treated with the greatest favour.


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