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A Roving Commission by G. A. Henty

But surely you would have warning


"Not

here, surely, monsieur? Your negroes seem to me to be contented and happy, and I am sure they are well treated."

"That is undoubtedly so; but, as I told you, the negroes are like children, they will laugh one minute and scream with rage the next. There is never any saying what they may do. I can hardly bring myself to think that such a thing could happen, but I have taken to carrying pistols in my pockets, and I have stored some arms in that closet in the hall; at least I should have them handy, and I doubt not that the house servants will remain true, and I hope many of my slaves. It is for this that I have gathered the arms together."

"But surely you would have warning?"

"At the first whisper I should, of course, drive my wife and child down to the town, where we should be safe, for there the whites are strong, and we have no fear of an attack. However, we must trust that such a thing may never happen, or that if it does, it may be in the far distance. But come when it will, everyone should receive warning in plenty of time to make all preparations. It seems to me impossible that a plot of any magnitude could be passed from end to end of this island, and be known to so vast a number of negroes, without some of them warning their masters of the danger, for there are tens of thousands who are almost like members of their masters' families."

"I

should say it is quite impossible that any extensive plot could be hatched without its being known in a very short time to everyone," Nat agreed; "and in any case, although those who live far in the interior of the island might have reason to fear, should the negroes break out, I can hardly think that, within little more than an hour's drive from the city, you need feel any uneasiness whatever."

"No, I feel that there ought to be no trouble here, at any rate unless there is a successful insurrection in other parts of the island; no doubt that would be infectious elsewhere. But the negroes near the town would be the last to join in such a movement, for they might be sure that the whites there would take speedy vengeance on all within their reach. However, let us think no more of it at present; my wife and Myra will be wondering what we can find to talk about so long."

Nat lay awake for some time that night thinking of what Monsieur Duchesne had said. He had heard vaguely, while he was there before, of the manner in which the revolution in France had affected the island, but it was a subject that was little discussed at the planter's. Having all the feelings and prejudices of the old _noblesse_ of France, he had from the first been opposed to the popular movement in Paris, and had held himself altogether aloof from the demonstration on the island. The subject was painful to him, and he had seldom alluded to it in his family circle. It seemed to Nat inconceivable that any general movement could be planned among the blacks without warning being received by the planters. When he went out next day he looked with more attention than before at the slaves working on the plantations. It seemed to him that their demeanour was quieter than usual; the mulatto overseers seemed to pay less attention to them, and he was surprised to come upon three of them talking earnestly together, whereas, hitherto, he had always seen them on different parts of the estate.


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