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- No Defense, Volume 3. - 1/23 -


NO DEFENSE

By Gilbert Parker

Volume 3.

BOOK III

XVI. A LETTER XVII. STRANGERS ARRIVE XVIII. AT SALEM XIX. LORD MALLOW INTERVENES XX. OUT OF THE HANDS OF THE PHILISTINES XXI. THE CLASH OF RACE XXII. SHEILA HAS HER SAY XXIII. THE COMING OF NOREEN XXIV. WITH THE GOVERNOR XXV. THEN WHAT HAPPENED

CHAPTER XVI

A LETTER

With a deep sigh, the planter raised his head from the table where he was writing, and looked out upon the lands he had made his own. They lay on the Thomas River, a few hours' horseback travelling from Spanish Town, the capital, and they had the advantage of a plateau formation, with mountains in the far distance and ravines everywhere.

It was Christmas Day, and he had done his duty to his slaves and the folk on his plantation. He had given presents, had attended a seven o'clock breakfast of his people, had seen festivities of his negroes, and the feast given by his manager in Creole style to all who came--planting attorneys, buccras, overseers, bookkeepers, the subordinates of the local provost-marshal, small planters, and a few junior officers of the army and navy.

He had turned away with cynicism from the overladen table, with its shoulder of stewed wild boar in the centre; with its chocolate, coffee, tea, spruce-beer, cassava-cakes, pigeon-pies, tongues, round of beef, barbecued hog, fried conchs, black crab pepper-pod, mountain mullet, and acid fruits. It was so unlike what his past had known, so "damnable luxurious!" Now his eyes wandered over the space where were the grandilla, with its blossom like a passion-flower, the black Tahiti plum, with its bright pink tassel-blossom, and the fine mango trees, loaded half with fruit and half with bud. In the distance were the guinea cornfields of brownish hue, the cotton-fields, the long ranges of negro houses like thatched cottages, the penguin hedges, with their beautiful red, blue, and white convolvuluses; the lime, logwood, and breadfruit trees, the avocado-pear, the feathery bamboo, and the jack-fruit tree; and between the mountains and his own sugar-estates, negro settlements and pens. He heard the flight of parrots chattering, he watched the floating humming-bird, and at last he fixed his eyes upon the cabbage tree down in the garden, and he had an instant desire for it. It was a natural and human taste--the cabbage from the tree-top boiled for a simple yet sumptuous meal.

He liked simplicity. He did not, as so many did in Jamaica, drink claret or punch at breakfast soon after sunrise. In a land where all were bon- vivants, where the lowest tradesmen drank wine after dinner, and rum, brandy and water, or sangaree in the forenoon, a somewhat lightsome view of table-virtues might have been expected of the young unmarried planter. For such was he who, from the windows of his "castle," saw his domain shimmering in the sun of a hot December day.

It was Dyck Calhoun.

With an impatient air he took up the sheets that he had been reading. Christmas Day was on his nerves. The whole town of Kingston, with its twenty to thirty thousand inhabitants, had but one church. If he entered it, even to-day, he would have seen no more than a hundred and fifty to two hundred people; mostly mulattoes--"bronze ornaments"--and peasants in shag trousers, jackets of coarse blue cloth, and no waistcoats, with one or two magistrates, a dozen gentlemen or so, and probably twice that number of ladies. It was not an island given over to piety, or to religious habits.

Not that this troubled Dyck Calhoun; nor, indeed, was he shocked by the fact that nearly every unmarried white man in the island, and many married white men, had black mistresses and families born to the black women, and that the girls had no married future. They would become the temporary wives of white men, to whom they were on the whole faithful and devoted. It did not even vex him that a wretched mulatto might be whipped in the market-square for laying his hands upon a white man, and that if he was a negro-slave he could be shot for the same liberty.

It all belonged to the abnormal conditions of an island where black and white were in relations impossible in the countries from which the white man had come. It did not even startle Dyck that all the planters, and the people generally in the island, from the chief justice and custos rotulorum down to the deckswabber, cultivated amplitude of living.

But let Dyck tell his own story. The papers he held were sheets of a letter he was writing to one from whom he had heard nothing since the night he enlisted in the navy, and that was nearly three years before. This was the letter:

MY DEAR FRIEND:

You will see I address you as you have done me in the two letters I have had from you in the past. You will never read this letter, but I write it as if you would. For you must know I may never hope for personal intercourse with you. I was imprisoned for killing your father, Erris Boyne, and that separates us like an abysss. It matters little whether I killed him or not; the law says I did, and the law has taken its toll of me. I was in prison for four years, and when freed I enlisted in the king's navy, a quota man, with my servant-friend, Michael Clones. That was the beginning of painful and wonderful days for me. I was one of the mutineers of the Nore, and--

Here followed a description of the days he had spent on the Ariadne and before, and of all that happened down to the time when he was arrested by the admiral in the West Indian Sea. He told how he was sent over to the Ariadne with Captain Ivy to read the admiral's letter to the seamen, and then, by consent of the admiral, to leave again with Michael Clones for Jamaica, where he was set ashore with twenty pounds in his pocket--and not on parole, by the admiral's command. Here the letter shall again take up the story, and be a narrative of Dyck Calhoun's life from that time until this Christmas Day.

What to do was the question. I knew no one in Jamaica--no one at all except the governor, Lord Mallow, and him I had fought with swords in Phoenix Park five years before. I had not known he was governor here. I came to know it when I first saw him riding over the unpaved street into Kingston from Spanish Town with his suite, ornate with his governorship. He was a startling figure in scarlet, with huge epaulets on his lieutenant-general's uniform, as big a pot as ever boiled on any fire-chancellor, head of the government and of the army, master of the legislature, judging like one o'clock in the court of chancery, controller of the affairs of civil life, and maker of a policy of which he alone can judge who knows what interests clash in the West Indies.

English, French, Spanish, and Dutch are all hereabout. All struggle for place above the other in the world of commerce and society, though chiefly it is the English versus the French in these days; and the policy of the governor is the policy of the country. He never knows whether there will be a French naval descent or whether the blacks in his own island will do as the blacks in St. Domingo did--massacre the white people in thousands. Or whether the free blacks, the Maroons, who got their freedom by treaty with Governor Trelawney, when the British commander changed hats with Cudjoe, the Maroon chief, as the sealing of the bargain--whether they will rise again, as they before have risen, and bring terror into the white settlement; and whether, in that case, all negro-slaves will join them, and Jamaica become a land of revolution.

Of what good, then, will be the laws lately passed regulating the control of slaves, securing them rights never given before, even forbidding lashes beyond forty-nine! Of what use, then, the punishment of owners who have ill-used the slaves? The local councils who have power to punish never proceed against white men with rigour; and to preserve a fair balance between the white man up above and the black down below is the responsibility of the fair- minded governor. If, like Mallow, he is not fair-minded, then is the lash the heavier, and the governor has burdens greater than could easily be borne in lands where the climate is more friendly.

Lord Mallow did not see me when I passed him in the street, but he soon came to know of me from the admiral and Captain Ivy, who told him all my story since I was freed from jail. Then he said I should be confined in a narrow space near to Kingston, and should have no freedom; but the admiral had his way, and I was given freedom of the whole island till word should come from the Admiralty what should be done with me. To the governor's mind it was dangerous allowing me freedom, a man convicted of crime, who had been imprisoned, had been a mutineer, had stolen one of his majesty's ships, and had fled to the Caribbean Sea. He thought I should well be at the bottom of the ocean, where he would soon have put me, I make no doubt, if it had not been for the admiral, and Captain Ivy--you do not know him, I think--who played a good part to me, when men once close friends have deserted me.

Well, we had, Michael and I, but twenty pounds between us; and if there was not plenty of free food in the island, God knows what would have become of us! But there it was, fresh in every field, by every wayside, at every doorway. We could not starve, or die of thirst, or faint for lack of sleep, since every bush was a bed in spite of the garapatos or wood-ticks, the snore of the tree-toad, the hoarse shriek of the macaw, and the shrill gird of the guinea- fowl. Every bed was thus free, and there was land to be got for a song, enough to grow what would suffice for two men's daily wants. But we did not rest long upon the land--I have it still, land which cost me five pounds out of the twenty, and for the rest there was an old but on the little place--five acres it was, and good land too, where you could grow anything at all. Heaven knows what we might have become in that tiny plantation, for I was sick of life, and the mosquitos and flying ants, and the chattering parroquets, the grim gallinazo, and the quatre, or native bed--a wooden frame and canvas; but one day at Kingston I met a man, one Cassandro Biatt, who had an obsession for adventure, and he spoke to me privately. He said he knew me from people's talk, and would I listen to him? What was there to do? He was a clean-cut rogue, if ever there was one, but


No Defense, Volume 3. - 1/23

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