Hans of Iceland

The last day of a condemned man

The hunchback of Notre-Dame

Claude Gueux

Les Misérables

Toilers of the sea

The man who laughs



































































WHEN it came to the turn of Captain Leopold d'Auverney, he gazed around him with surprise, and hurriedly assured his comrades that he did not remember any incident in his life that was worthy of repetition.

“But, Captain d'Auverney,” objected Lieutenant Henri, “you have—at least report says so—traveled much, and seen a good deal of the world; have you not been to the Antilles, to Africa, and to Italy? and above all, you have been in Spain. But see, here is your lame dog come back again!”

D'Auverney started, let fall the cigar that he was smoking, and turned quickly to the tent door, at which an enormous dog appeared, limping toward him.

In another instant the dog was licking his feet, wagging his tail, whining, and gamboling as well as he was able; and by every means testifying his delight at finding his master; and at last, as if he felt that he had done all that could be required of a dog, he curled himself up peaceably before his master's seat.

Captain d'Auverney was much moved, but he strove to conceal his feelings, and mechanically caressed the dog with one hand, while with the other he played with the chin-strap of his shako, murmuring from time to time, “So here you are once again, Rask, here you are!” Then, as if suddenly recollecting himself, he exclaimed aloud, “But who has brought him back?”

“By your leave, Captain—”

For the last few seconds Sergeant Thaddeus had been standing at the door of the tent, the curtain of which he was holding back with his left hand, while his right was thrust into the bosom of his greatcoat. Tears were in his eyes as he contemplated the meeting of the dog and his master, and at last, unable to keep silence any longer, he risked the words, “By your leave, Captain.”

D'Auverney raised his eyes.

“Why, it is you, Thaddeus? and how the deuce have you been able—eh? Poor dog, poor Rask! I thought that you were in the English camp. Where did you find him, Sergeant?”

“Thanks be to Heaven, Captain, you see me as happy as your little nephew used to be when you let him off his Latin lesson.”

“But tell me, where did you find him?”

“I did not find him, Captain; I went to look for him.”

Captain d'Auverney rose, and offered his hand to the sergeant, but the latter still kept his in the bosom of his coat.

“Well, you see, it was—at least, Captain, since poor Rask was lost, I noticed that you were like a man beside himself; so when I saw that he did not come to me in the evening, according to his custom, for his share of my ration bread— which made old Thaddeus weep like a child; I, who before that had only wept twice in my life, the first time when—yes, the day when—” and the sergeant cast a sad look upon his captain. “Well, the second was when that scamp Balthazar, the corporal of the Seventh half brigade, persuaded me to peel a bunch of onions.”

“It seems to me, Thaddeus,” cried Henri, with a laugh, “that you avoid telling us what was the first occasion upon which you shed tears.”

“It was doubtless, old comrade,” said the captain kindly, as he patted Rask's head, “when you answered the roll-call as Tour d'Auvergne, the first grenadier of France.”

“No, no, Captain; if Sergeant Thaddeus wept, it was when he gave the order to fire on Bug-Jargal, otherwise called Pierrot.”

A cloud gathered on the countenance of D'Auverney, then he again endeavored to clasp the sergeant's hand; but in spite of the honor that was attempted to be conferred on him, the old man still kept his hand hidden under his coat.

“Yes, Captain,” continued Thaddeus, drawing back a step or two, while D'Auverney fixed his eyes -upon him with a strange and sorrowful expression—”yes, I wept for him that day, and he well deserved it. He was black, it is true, but gunpowder is black also; and—and—”

The good sergeant would fain have followed out his strange comparison, for there was evidently something in the idea that pleased him; but he utterly failed to put his thoughts into words, and after having attacked his idea on every side, as a general would a fortified place, and failed, he raised the siege, and without noticing the smiles of his officers, he continued:

“Tell me, Captain, do you recollect how that poor negro arrived all out of breath, at the moment when his ten comrades were waiting on the spot? We had had to tie them though. It was I who commanded the party; and with his own hands he untied them, and took their place, although they did all that they could to dissuade him; but he was inflexible. Ah, what a man he was; you might as well have tried to move Gibraltar! And then, Captain, he drew himself up as if he were going to enter a ball-room, and this dog, who knew well enough what was coming, flew at my throat—”

“Generally, Thaddeus, at this point of your story you pat Rask,” interrupted the captain; “see how he looks at you.”

“You are right, sir,” replied Thaddeus, with an air of embarrassment; “he does look at me, poor fellow; but the old woman Malajuda told me it was unlucky to pat a dog with the left hand, and—”

“And why not with your right, pray?” asked D'Auverney, for the first time noticing the sergeant's pallor, and the hand reposing in his bosom.

The sergeant's discomfort appeared to increase. “By your leave, Captain, it is because —well, you have got a lame dog, and now there is a chance of your having a one-handed sergeant.”

“A one-handed sergeant! What do you mean? Let me see your arm. One hand! Great heavens!”

D'Auverney trembled, as the sergeant slowly withdrew his hand from his bosom, and showed it enveloped in a blood-stained handkerchief.

“This is terrible,” exclaimed D'Auverney, carefully undoing the bandage. “But tell me, old comrade, how this happened.”

“As for that, the thing is simple enough. I told you how I had noticed your grief since those confounded English had taken away your dog— poor Rask, Bug's dog. I made up my mind today to bring him back, even if it cost me my life, so that you might eat a good supper. After having told Mathelet, your bât man, to get out and brush your full-dress uniform, as we are to go into action to-morrow, I crept quietly out of camp, armed only with my saber, and crouched under the hedges until I neared the English camp. I had not passed the first trench when I saw a whole crowd of red soldiers. I crept on quietly to see what they were doing, and in the midst of them I perceived Rask tied to a tree; while two of the milords, stripped to here, were knocking each other about with their fists, until their bones sounded like the big drum of the regiment. They were fighting for your dog. But when Rask caught sight of me, he gave such a bound that the rope broke, and in the twinkling of an eye the rogue was after me. I did not stop to explain, but off I ran, with all the English at my heels. A regular hail of balls whistled past my ears. Rask barked, but they could not hear him for their shouts of 'French dog! French dog!' just as if Rask was hot of the pure St. Domingo breed. In spite of all I crushed through the thicket, and had almost got clean away when two red coats confronted me. My saber accounted for one, and would have rid me of the other had his pistol not unluckily had a bullet in it. My right arm suffered; but 'French dog' leaped at his throat as if he were an old acquaintance. Down fell the Englishman, for the embrace was so tight that he was strangled in a moment—and here we both are. My only regret is that I did not get my wound in to-morrow's battle.”

“Thaddeus, Thaddeus!” exclaimed the captain in tones of reproach; “were you mad enough to expose your life thus for a dog?”

“It was not for a dog, it was for Rask.”

D'Auverney's face softened as Thaddeus added: “For Rask, for Bug's dog.”

“Enough, enough, old comrade!” cried the captain, dashing his hand across his eyes; “come, lean on me, and I will lead you to the hospital.”

Thaddeus essayed to decline the honor, but in vain; and as they left the tent the dog got up and followed them.

This little drama had excited the curiosity of the spectators to the highest degree. Captain Leopold d'Auverney was one of those men who, in whatever position the chances of nature and society may place them, always inspire a mingled feeling of interest and respect. At the first glimpse there was nothing striking in him—his manner was reserved, and his look cold. The tropical sun, though it had browned his cheek, had not imparted to him that vivacity of speech and gesture which among the Creoles is united to an easy carelessness of demeanor, in itself full of charm.

D'Auverney spoke little, listened less, but showed himself ready to act at any moment. Always the first in the saddle, and the last to return to camp, he seemed to seek a refuge from his thoughts in bodily fatigue. These thoughts, which had marked his brow, with many a premature wrinkle, were not of the kind that you can get rid of by confiding them to a friend; nor could they be discussed in idle conversation. Leopold d'Auverney, whose body the hardships of war could not subdue, seemed to experience a sense of insurmountable fatigue in what is termed the conflict of the feelings. He avoided argument as much as he sought warfare. If at any time he allowed himself to be drawn into a discussion, he would utter a few words full of common-sense and reason, and then at the moment of triumph over his antagonist he would stop short, and muttering “What good is it?” would saunter off to the commanding officer to glean what information he could regarding the enemy's movements. His comrades forgave his cold, reserved, and silent habits, because upon every occasion they had found him kind, gentle and benevolent. He had saved many a life at the risk of his own, and they well knew that though his mouth was rarely opened, yet his purse was never closed when a comrade had need of his assistance.

D'Auverney was young; many would have guessed him at thirty years of age, but they would have been wrong, for he was some years under it. Although he had for a long period fought in the ranks of the Republican army, yet all were in ignorance of his former life. The only one to whom he seemed ever to open his heart was Sergeant Thaddeus, who had joined the regiment with him, and would at times speak vaguely of sad events in his early life. It was known that D'Auverney had undergone great misfortunes in America; that he had been married in St. Domingo, and that his wife and all his family had perished in those terrible massacres which had marked the Republican invasion of that magnificent colony. At the time of which we write, misfortunes of this kind were so general that any one could sympathise with, and feel pity for, such sufferers.

D'Auverney, therefore, was pitied less for his misfortunes than for the manner in which they had been brought about. Beneath his icy mask of indifference the traces of the incurably wounded spirit could be at times perceived. When he went into action his calmness returned, and in the fight he behaved as if he sought for the rank of general; while after victory he was as gentle and unassuming as if the position of a private soldier would have satisfied his ambition. His comrades, seeing him thus despise honor and promotion, could not understand what it was that lighted up his countenance with a ray of hope when the action commenced, and they did not for a moment divine that the prize D'Auverney was striving to gain was simply—death.

The Representatives of .the People, in one of their missions to the army, had appointed him a Chief of Brigade on the field of battle; but he had declined the honor upon learning that it would remove him from his old comrade Sergeant Thaddeus. Some days afterward, having returned from a dangerous expedition safe and sound, contrary to the general expectation and his own hopes, he was heard to regret the rank that he had refused. “For,” said he, “since the enemy's guns always spare me, perhaps the guillotine, which ever strikes down those it has raised, would in time have claimed me.”

Such was the character of the man upon whom the conversation turned as soon as he had left the tent.

“I would wager,” cried Lieutenant Henri, wiping a splash of mud off his boot which the dog had left as he passed him—”I would wager that the captain would not exchange the broken paw of his dog for the ten baskets of Madeira that we caught a glimpse of in the general's wagon.”

“Bah!” cried Paschal the aid-de-camp, “that would be a bad bargain: the baskets are empty by now, and thirty empty bottles would be a poor price for a dog's paw; why, you might make a good bell-handle out of it.”

They all laughed at the grave manner in which Paschal pronounced these words, with the exception of a young officer of Hussars named Alfred, who remarked:

“I do not see any subject for chaff in this matter, gentlemen. This sergeant and dog, who are always at D'Auverney's heels ever since I have known him, seem to me more the objects of sympathy than raillery, and interest me greatly.”

Paschal, annoyed that his wit had missed fire, interrupted him: “It certainly is a most sentimental scene; a lost dog found, and a broken arm—”

“Captain Paschal,” said Henri, throwing an empty bottle outside the tent, “you are wrong; this Bug, otherwise called Pierrot, excites my curiosity greatly.”

At this moment D'Auverney returned, and sat down without uttering a word. His manner was still sad, but his face was more calm; he seemed not to have heard what was said. Rask, who had followed him, lay down at his feet, but kept a watchful eye on his master's comrades.

“Pass your glass, Captain D'Auverney, and taste this.”

“Oh, thank you,” replied the captain, evidently imagining that he was answering a question, “the wound is not dangerous; there is no bone broken.”

The respect which all felt for D'Auverney prevented a burst of laughter at this reply.

“Since your mind is at rest regarding Thaddeus's wound,” said Henri, “and, as you may remember, we entered into an agreement to pass away the hours of bivouac by relating to one another our adventures, will you carry out your promise by telling us the history of your lame dog, and of Bug—otherwise called Pierrot, that regular Gibraltar of a man?”

To this request, which was put in a semi-jocular tone, D'Auverney at last yielded.

“I will do what you ask, gentlemen,” said he; “but you must only expect a very simple tale, in which I play an extremely second-rate part. If the affection that exists between Thaddeus, Rask, and myself leads you to expect anything very wonderful, I fear that you will be greatly disappointed. However, I will begin.”

For a moment D'Auverney relapsed into thought, as though he wished to recall past events which had long since been replaced in his memory by the acts of his later years; but at last, in a low voice and with frequent pauses, he began his tale.


I WAS born in France, but at an early age I was sent to St. Domingo, to the care of an uncle, to whose daughter it had been arranged between our parents that I was to be married. My uncle was one of the wealthiest colonists, and possessed a magnificent house and extensive plantations in the Plains of Acul, near Fort Galifet. The position of the estate, which no doubt you wonder at my describing so minutely, was one of the causes of all our disasters, and the eventual total ruin of our whole family.

Eight hundred negro slaves cultivated the enormous domains of my uncle. Sad as the position of a slave is, my uncle's hardness of heart added much to the unhappiness of those who had the misfortune to be his property. My uncle was one of the happily small number of planters from whom despotic power had taken away the gentler feelings of humanity. He was accustomed to see his most trifling command unhesitatingly obeyed, and the slightest delay on the part of his slaves in carrying it out was punished with the harshest severity; while the intercession either of my cousin or of myself too often merely led to an increase of the punishment, and we were only too often obliged to rest satisfied by secretly assuaging the injuries which we were powerless to prevent.

Among the multitude of his slaves, one only had found favor in my uncle's sight; this was a half-caste Spanish dwarf, who had been given him by Lord Effingham, the Governor of Jamaica. My uncle, who had for many years resided in Brazil, and had adopted the luxurious habits of the Portuguese, loved to surround himself with an establishment that was in keeping with his wealth. In order that nothing should be wanting, he had made the slave presented to him by Lord Effingham his fool, in imitation of the feudal lords who had jesters attached to their households. I must say that the slave amply fulfilled all the required conditions.

Habibrah, for that was the half-caste's name, was one of those strangely formed, or rather deformed, beings who would be looked upon as monster if their very hideousness did not cause a laugh. This ill-featured dwarf was short and fat, and moved with wondrous activity upon a pair of slender limbs, which, when he sat down, bent under him like the legs of a spider. His enormous head, covered with a mass of red curly wool, was stuck between his shoulders, while his ears were so large that Habibrah's comrades were in the habit of saying that he used them to wipe his eyes when he wept. On his face there was always a grin, which was continually changing its character, and which caused his ugliness to be of an ever-varying description. My uncle was fond of him, because of his extreme hideousness and his inextinguishable gayety. Habibrah was his only favorite, and led a life of ease, while the other slaves were overwhelmed with work. The sole duties of the jester were to carry a large fan, made of the feathers of the bird of paradise, to keep away the sand-flies and the mosquitoes from his master. At meal-times he sat upon a reed mat at his master's feet, who fed him with titbits from his own plate. Habibrah appeared to appreciate all these acts of kindness, and at the slightest sign from my uncle he would run to him with the agility of a monkey and the docility of a dog.

I had imbibed a prejudice against my uncle's favorite slave. There was something crawling in his servility; for though outdoor slavery does not dishonor, domestic service too often debases. I felt a sentiment of pity for those slaves who toiled in the scorching sun, with scarcely a vestige of clothing to hide their chains; but I despised this idle serf, with his garments ornamented with gold lace and adorned with bells Besides, the dwarf never made use of his influence with his master to ameliorate the condition of his fellow-sufferers; on the contrary, I heard him once, when he thought that he and his master were alone, urge him to increase his severity toward his ill-fated comrades. The other slaves, however, did not appear to look upon him with any feelings of anger or rancor, but treated him with a timid kind of respect; and when, dressed in all the splendor of laced garments and a tall pointed cap ornamented with bells, and quaint symbols traced upon it in red ink, he walked past their huts, I have heard them murmur in accents of awe, “He is an obi” (sorcerer).

These details, to which I now draw your attention, occupied my mind but little then. I had given myself up entirely to the emotion of a pure love, in which nothing else could mingle —a love which was returned me with passion by the girl to whom I was betrothed—and I gave little heed to anything that was not Marie. Accustomed from youth to look upon her as the future companion of my life, there was a curious mixture of the love of a brother for a sister, mingled with the passionate adoration of a betrothed lover.

Few men have spent their earlier years more happily than I have done, or have felt their souls expand into life in the midst of a delicious climate and all the luxuries which wealth could procure, with perfect happiness in the present and the brightest hopes for the future. No man, as I said before, could have spent his earlier years more happily—

[D'Auverney paused for a moment, as if these thoughts of by-gone happiness had stifled his voice, and then added:]

And no one could have passed his later ones in more profound misery and affliction.


IN the midst of these blind illusions and hopes, my twentieth birthday approached. It was now the month of August, 1791, and my uncle had decided that this should be the date of my marriage with Marie. You can well understand that the thoughts of happiness, now so near, absorbed all my faculties, and how little notice I took of the political crisis which was then felt throughout the colony. I will not, therefore, speak of the Count de Pernier, or of M. de Blanchelande, nor of the tragical death of the unfortunate Colonel de Marchiste; nor will I attempt to describe the jealousies of the Provincial House of Assembly of the North, and the Colonial Assembly (which afterward called itself the General Assembly, declaring that the word “Colonial” had a ring of slavery in it). For my own part, I sided with neither; but if I did espouse any cause, it was in favor of Cap, near which town my home was situate, in opposition to Port au Prince.

Only once did I mix myself up in the question of the day. It was on the occasion of the disastrous decree of the 15th of May, 1791, by which the National Assembly of France admitted free men of color to enjoy the same political privileges as the whites. At a ball given by the Governor of Cap, many of the younger colonists spoke in impassioned terms of this law, which leveled so cruel a blow at the instincts of supremacy assumed by the whites, with perhaps too little foundation. I had, as yet, taken no part in the conversation, when I saw approaching the group a wealthy planter, whose doubtful descent caused him to be received merely upon sufferance by the white society. I stepped in front of him, and in a haughty voice I exclaimed, “Pass on, sir! pass on! or you may hear words which would certainly be disagreeable to those with mixed blood in their veins.” He was so enraged at this insinuation that he challenged me. We fought, and each was slightly wounded. I confess that I was in the wrong to have thus provoked him, and it is probable that I should not have done so on a mere question of color; but I had for some time past noticed that he had had the audacity to pay certain attentions to my cousin, and had danced with her the very night upon which I had insulted him.

However, as time went on, and the date so ardently desired approached, I was a perfect stranger to the state of political ferment in which those around me lived; and I never perceived the frightful cloud which already almost obscured the horizon, and which promised a storm that would sweep all before it. No one at that time thought seriously of a revolt among the slaves—a class too much despised to be feared; but between the whites and the free mulattoes there was sufficient hatred to cause an outbreak at any moment, which might entail the most disastrous consequences.

During the first days of August a strange incident occurred, which threw a slight shade of uneasiness over the sunshine of my happiness.


ON the banks of a little river which flowed through my uncle's estate was a small rustic pavilion in the midst of a clump of trees. Marie was in the habit of coming here every day to enjoy the sea breeze, which blows regularly in St. Domingo, even during the hottest months of the year, from sunrise until evening. Each morning it was my pleasant task to adorn this charming retreat with the sweetest flowers that I could gather.

One morning Marie came running to me in a great state of alarm. Upon entering her leafy retreat she had perceived, with surprise and terror, all the flowers which I had arranged in the morning thrown upon the ground and trampled under foot, and a bunch of wild marigolds, freshly gathered, placed upon her accustomed seat. She had hardly recovered from her terror, when, in the adjoining coppice, she heard the sound of a guitar, and a voice, which was not mine, commenced singing a Spanish song; but in her excitement she had been unable to catch the meaning of the words, though she could hear her own name frequently repeated. Then she had taken to flight, and had come to me full of this strange and surprising event.

This recital filled me with jealousy and indignation. My first suspicions pointed to the mulatto with whom I had fought; but even in the midst of my perplexity I resolved to do nothing rashly. I soothed Marie's fears as best I could, and promised to watch over her without ceasing, until the marriage tie would give me the right of never leaving her.

Believing that the intruder whose insolence had so alarmed Marie would not content himself with what he had already done, I concealed myself that very evening near the portion of the house in which my betrothed's chamber was situated.

Hidden among the tall stalks of the sugarcane, and armed with a dagger, I waited; and I did not wait in vain. Toward the middle of the night my attention was suddenly attracted by the notes of a guitar under the very window of the room in which Marie reposed. Furious with rage, with my dagger clutched firmly in my hand, I rushed in the direction of the sound, crushing beneath my feet the brittle stalks of the sugar-canes. All of a sudden I felt myself seized and thrown upon my back with what appeared to be superhuman force; my dagger was wrenched from my grasp, and I saw its point shining above me; at the same moment I could perceive a pair of eyes and a double row of white teeth gleaming through the darkness, while a voice, in accents of concentrated rage, muttered, “Te tengo, te tengo!” (I have you, I have you).

More astonished than frightened, I struggled vainly with my formidable antagonist, and already the point of the dagger had pierced my clothes, when Marie, whom the sound of the guitar and the noise of the struggle had aroused, appeared suddenly at her window. She recognized my voice, saw the gleam of the knife, and uttered a cry of terror and affright. This cry seemed to paralyze the hand of my opponent. He stopped as if petrified; but still, as though undecided, he kept the point of the dagger pressed upon my chest. Then he suddenly exclaimed in French, “No, I cannot; she would weep too much,” and, casting away the weapon, rose to his feet, and in an instant disappeared in the canes; and before I could rise, bruised and shaken from the struggle, no sound and no sign remained of the presence or the flight of my adversary.

It was some time before I could recover my scattered faculties. I was more furious than ever with my unknown rival, and was overcome with a feeling of shame at being indebted to him for my life. “After all, however,” I thought, “it is to Marie that I owe it; for it was the sound of her voice that caused him to drop his dagger.”

And yet I could not hide from myself that there was something noble in the sentiment which had caused my unknown rival to spare me. But who could he be? One supposition after another rose in my mind, all to be discarded in turn. It could not be the mulatto planter to whom my suspicions had first been directed. He was not endowed with such muscular power; nor was it his voice. The man with whom I had struggled was naked to the waist; slaves alone went about half-clothed in this manner. But this could not be a slave; the feeling which had caused him to throw away the dagger would not have been found in the bosom of a slave—and besides, my whole soul revolted at the idea of having a slave for a rival. What was to be done? I determined to wait and watch.


MARIE had awakened her old nurse, whom she looked upon almost in the light of the mother who had died in giving her birth, and with them I remained for the rest of the night, and in the morning informed my uncle of the mysterious occurrence. His surprise was extreme, but, like me, his pride would not permit him to believe that a slave would venture to raise his eyes to his daughter. The nurse received the strictest orders from my uncle never to leave Marie alone for a moment; but as the sittings of the Provincial Assembly, the threatening aspect of the affairs of the colony, and the superintendence of the plantation allowed him but little leisure, he authorized me to accompany his daughter whenever she left the house, until the celebration of our nuptials; and at the same time, presuming that the daring lover must be lurking in the neighborhood, he ordered the boundaries of the plantation to be more strictly guarded than ever.

After all these precautions had been taken, I determined to put the matter to further proof. I returned to the summer-house by the river, and repairing the destruction of the evening before, I placed a quantity of fresh flowers in their accustomed place. When the time arrived at which Marie usually sought the sweet shades of this sequestered spot, I loaded my rifle and proposed to escort her thither. The old nurse followed a few steps behind.

Marie, to whom I had said nothing about my having set the place to rights, entered the summer house the first. “See, Leopold,” said she, “my nest is in the same condition in which I left it yesterday; here are your flowers thrown about in disorder and trampled to pieces, and there is that odious bouquet which does not appear at all faded since yesterday; indeed, it looks as if it had been freshly gathered.”

I was speechless with rage and surprise. There was my morning's work utterly ruined, and the wild flowers, at whose freshness Marie was so much astonished, had insolently usurped the place of the roses that I had strewn all over the place.

“Calm yourself,” said Marie, who noticed my agitation; “ this insolent intruder will come here no more; let us put all thoughts of him on one side, as I do this nasty bunch of flowers.”

I did not care to undeceive her, and to tell her that he had returned; yet I was pleased to see the air of innocent indignation with which she crushed the flowers under her foot. Hoping that the day would again come when I should meet my mysterious rival face to face, I made her sit down between her nurse and myself.

Scarcely had we done so when Marie put her finger on my lips: a sound, deadened by the breeze and the rippling of the stream, had struck upon her ear. I listened; it was the notes of a guitar, the same melody that had filled me with fury on the preceding evening. I made a movement to start from my seat, but a gesture of Marie's detained me.

“Leopold,” whispered she, “restrain yourself; he is going to sing, and we shall learn who he is.”

As she spoke, a few more notes were struck on the guitar, and then from the depths of the wood came the plaintive melody of a Spanish song, every word of which has remained deeply engraved on my memory:

Why dost thou fear me and fly me?

Say, has my music no charms?

Do you not know that I love you?

Why, then, these causeless alarms?



A PROLONGED quavering note upon the guitar, like a sob, concluded the song.

I was beside myself with rage. King! black! slave! A thousand incoherent ideas were awakened by this extraordinary and mysterious song. A maddening desire to finish for once and all with this unknown being, who dared to mingle the name of Marie with songs of love and menace, took possession of me. I grasped my rifle convulsively and rushed from the summer-house. Marie stretched out her arms to detain me, but I was already in the thicket from which the voice appeared to have come. I searched the little wood thoroughly, I beat the bushes with the barrel of my rifle, I crept behind the trunks of the large trees, and walked through the high grass.

Nothing, nothing, always nothing! This fruitless search added fuel to the fire of my anger. Was this insolent rival always to escape from me like a supernatural being? Was I never to be able to find out who he was, or to meet him? At this moment the tinkling of bells roused me from my reverie. I turned sharply round, the dwarf Habibrah was at my side.

“Good-day, master,” said he, with a sidelong glance full of triumphant malice at the anxiety which was imprinted on my face.

“Tell me,” exclaimed I, roughly, “have you seen any one about here?”

“No one except yourself, senor mio,” answered he, calmly.

“Did you hear no voice?” continued I.

The slave remained silent, as though seeking for an evasive reply.

My passion burst forth. “Quick, quick!” I exclaimed. “Answer me quickly, wretch! did you hear a voice?”

He fixed his eyes boldly upon mine; they were small and round, and gleamed like those of a wild cat.

“What do you mean by a voice, master! There are voices everywhere—the voice of the birds, the voice of the stream, the voice of the wind in the trees—”

I shook him roughly. “Miserable buffoon!” I cried, “cease your quibbling, or you shall hear another voice from the barrel of my rifle. Answer at once; did you hear a man singing a Spanish song?”

“Yes, senor,” answered he, calmly. “Listen, and I will tell you all about it. I was walking on the outskirts of the wood listening to what the silver bells of my gorra [cap] were telling me, when the wind brought to my ears some Spanish words—the first language that I heard when my age could have been counted by months, and my mother carried me slung at her back in a hammock of. red and yellow wool. I love the language; it recalls to me the time when I was little without being a dwarf—a little child, and not a buffoon; and so I listened to the song.”

“Is that all you have to say?” cried I, impatiently.

“Yes, handsome master; but if you like I can tell you who the man was who sang.”

I felt inclined to clasp him in my arms. “Oh, speak!” I exclaimed; “speak! Here is my purse, and ten others fuller than that shall be yours if you will tell me his name.”

He took the purse, opened it, and smiled. “Ten purses fuller than this,” murmured he; “that will make a fine heap of good gold coins. But do not be impatient, young master, I am going to tell you all. Do you remember the last verse of his song—something about 'I am black, and you are white, and the union of the two produces the beautiful light'? Well, if this song is true, Habibrah, your humble slave, was born of a negress and a white, and must be more beautiful than you, master. I am the offspring of day and night, therefore I am more beautiful than a white man, and—”

He accompanied this rhapsody with bursts of laughter.

“Enough of buffoonery,” cried I; “tell me who was singing in the wood!”

“Certainly, master; the man who sang such buffooneries, as you rightly term them, could only have been—a fool like me! Have I not gained my ten purses?”

I raised my hand to chastise his insolence, when a wild shriek rang through the wood from the direction of the summer-house. It was Marie's voice. Like an arrow I darted to the spot, wondering what fresh misfortune could be in store for us, and in a few moments arrived, out of breath, at the door of the pavilion. A terrible spectacle presented itself to my eyes.

An enormous alligator, whose body was half concealed by the reeds and water plants, had thrust his monstrous head through one of the leafy sides of the summer-house; his hideous, widely-opened mouth threatened a young negro of colossal height, who with one arm sustained Marie's fainting form, while with the other he had plunged the iron portion of a hoe between the sharp and pointed teeth of the monster. The reptile struggled fiercely against the bold and courageous hand that held him at bay.

As I appeared at the door, Marie uttered a cry of joy, and extricating herself from the support of the negro, threw herself into my arms with, “I am saved! I am saved!”

At the movement and exclamation of Marie the negro turned abruptly round, crossed his arms on his breast, and casting a look of infinite sorrow upon my betrothed, remained immovable, taking no heed of the alligator, which, having freed itself from the hoe, was advancing on him in a threatening manner. There would have been a speedy end of the courageous negro had I not rapidly placed Marie on the knees of her nurse (who, more dead than alive, was gazing upon the scene), and coming close to the monster, discharged my carbine into its yawning mouth. The huge reptile staggered back, its bleeding jaws opened and shut convulsively, its eyes closed; and after one or two unavailing efforts it rolled over upon its back, with its scaly feet stiffening in the air. It was dead.

The negro whose life I had so happily preserved turned his head, and saw the last convulsive-struggles of the monster; then he fixed his eyes upon Marie, who had again cast herself into my arms, and in accents of the deepest despair, he exclaimed in Spanish, “Why did you kill him?” and without waiting for a reply leaped into the thicket and disappeared.


THE terrible scene, its singular conclusion, the extraordinary mental emotions of every kind which had accompanied and followed my vain researches in the wood, had made my brain whirl. Marie was still stupefied with the danger that she had so narrowly escaped, and some time elapsed before we could frame coherent words, or express ourselves otherwise than by looks and clasping of the hands.

At last I broke the silence: “Come, Marie, let us leave this; some fatality seems attached to the place.”

She rose eagerly, as if she had only been waiting for my permission to do so, and leaning upon my arm, we quitted the pavilion. I asked her how it had happened that succor had so opportunely arrived when the danger was so imminent, and if she knew who the slave was who had come to her assistance; for that it was a slave was shown by his coarse linen trousers —a dress only worn by that unhappy class.

“The man,” replied Marie, “is no doubt one of my father's negroes, who was at work in the vicinity when the appearance of the alligator made me scream; and my cry must have warned him of my danger. All I know is, that he rushed out of the wood and came to my help.”

“From which side did he come?” asked I.

“From the opposite side from which the song came, and into which you had just gone.”

This statement upset the conclusion that I had been drawing from the Spanish words that the negro had addressed to me, and from the song in the same language by my unknown rival. But yet there was a crowd of other similarities. This negro of great height and powerful muscular development might well have been the adversary with whom I had struggled on the preceding night. In that case his half-clothed person would furnish a striking proof. The singer in the wood had said, “I am black”—a further proof. He had declared himself to be a king, and this one was only a slave; but I recollected that in my brief examination I had been surprised at the noble appearance of his features, though of course accompanied by the characteristic signs of the African race.

The more that I thought of his appearance, the nobleness of his deportment, and his magnificent proportions, I felt that there might be some truth in his statement that he had been a king. But then came the crushing blow to my pride: if he had dared to gaze with an eye of affection upon Marie, if he had made her the object of his serenades—he, a negro and a slave — what punishment could be sufficiently severe for his presumption? With these thoughts all my indecision returned again, and again my anger increased against the mysterious unknown. But t at the moment that these ideas filled my brain, Marie dissipated them entirely by exclaiming, in her gentle voice:

“My Leopold, we must seek out this brave negro, and pay him the debt of gratitude that we owe him; for without him I should have been lost, for you would have arrived too late.”

These few words had a decisive effect. They did not alter my determination to seek out the slave, but they entirely altered the design with which I sought him; for it was to recompense and not to punish him that I was now eager.

My uncle learned from me that he owed his daughter's life to the courage of one of his slaves, and he promised me his liberty as soon as I could find him out.


Up to that time my feelings had restrained me from going into those portions of the plantation where the slaves were at work; it had been too painful for me to see so much suffering which I was powerless to alleviate. But on the day after the events had taken place which I have just narrated, upon my uncle asking me to accompany him on his tour of inspection, I accepted his proposal with eagerness, hoping to meet among the laborers the preserver of my much-beloved Marie.

I had the opportunity in this visit of seeing how great a power the master exercises over his slaves, but at the same time I could perceive at what a cost this power was bought; for though at the presence of my uncle all redoubled their efforts, I could perceive that there was as much hatred as terror in the looks that they furtively cast upon him.

Irascible by temperament, my uncle seemed vexed at being unable to discover any object upon which to vent his wrath, until Habibrah the buffoon, who was ever at his heels, pointed out to him a young negro, who, overcome by heat and fatigue, had fallen asleep under a clump of date-trees. My uncle stepped quickly up to him, shook him violently, and in angry tones ordered him to resume his work.

The terrified slave rose to his feet, and in so doing disclosed a Bengal rose-tree upon which he had accidentally lain, and which my uncle prized highly. The shrub was entirely destroyed.

At this the master, already irritated at what he called the idleness of his slave, became furious. Foaming with rage, he unhooked from his belt the whip with wire-plaited thongs which he always carried with him on his rounds, and raised his arm to strike the negro who had fallen at his feet.

The whip did not fall. I shall, as long as I live, never forget that moment. A powerful grasp arrested the hand of the angry planter, and a negro (it was the very one that I was in search of) exclaimed, “Punish me, for I have offended you; but do not hurt my brother, who has but broken your rose-tree.”

This unexpected interposition from the man to whom I owed Marie's safety, his manner, his look, and the haughty tone of his voice, struck me with surprise. But his generous intervention, far from causing my uncle to blush for his causeless anger, only increased the rage of the incensed master, and turned his anger upon the newcomer.

Exasperated to the highest pitch, my uncle disengaged his arm from the grasp of the tall negro, and pouring out a volley of threats, again raised the whip to strike the first victim of his anger.

This time, however, it was torn from his hand, and the negro, breaking the handle studded with iron nails as you would break a straw, cast it upon the ground and trampled upon the instrument of degrading punishment.

I was motionless with surprise, my uncle with rage; for it was an unheard-of thing for him to find his authority thus contemned. His eyes appeared ready to start from their sockets, and his lips quivered with passion.

The negro gazed upon him calmly, and then, with a dignified air, he offered him an ax that he held in his hand. “White man,” said he, “if you wish to strike me, at least take this ax.”

My uncle, beside himself with rage, would certainly have complied with the request, for he stretched out his hand to grasp the dangerous weapon; but I in my turn interfered, and seizing the ax threw it into the well of a sugar-mill which was close at hand.

“What have you done?” asked my uncle, angrily.

“I have saved you,” answered I, “from the unhappiness of striking the preserver of your daughter. It is to this slave that you owe Marie; it is the negro to whom you have promised liberty.”

It was an unfortunate moment in which to remind my uncle of his promise. My words could not soothe the wounded dignity of the planter.

“His liberty!” replied he, savagely. “Yes, he has deserved that an end should be put to his slavery. His liberty indeed! we shall see what sort of liberty the members of a court-martial will accord him.”

These menacing words chilled my blood. In vain did Marie later join her entreaties to mine. The negro whose negligence had been the cause of this scene was punished with a severe flogging, while his defender was thrown into the dungeons of Fort Galifet, under the terrible accusation of having assaulted a white man. For a slave who did this; the punishment was invariably death.


You may judge, gentlemen, how much all these circumstances excited my curiosity and interest. I made every inquiry regarding the prisoner, and some strange particulars came to my knowledge. I learned that all his comrades displayed the greatest respect for the young negro. Slave as he was, he had but to make a sign to be implicitly obeyed. He was not born upon the estate, nor did any one know his father or mother: all that was known of him was that some years ago a slave ship had brought him to St. Domingo. This circumstance rendered the influence which he exercised over the slaves the more extraordinary, for as a rule the negroes born upon the island profess the greatest contempt for the Congos—a term which they apply to all slaves brought direct from Africa.

Although he seemed a prey to deep dejection, his enormous strength, combined with his great skill, rendered him very valuable in the plantation. He could turn more quickly, and for a longer period, than a horse the wheels of the sugar-mills, and often in a single day performed the work of ten of his companions to save them from the punishment to which their negligence or incapacity had rendered them liable. For this reason he was adored by the slaves; but the respect that they paid him was of an entirely different character from the superstitious dread with which they looked upon Habibrah the Jester.

What was more strange than all was the modesty and gentleness with which he treated his equals, in contrast to the pride and haughtiness which he displayed to the negroes who acted as overseers. These privileged slaves, the intermediary links in the chain of servitude, too often exceed the little brief authority that is delegated to them, and find a cruel pleasure in overwhelming those beneath them with work. Not one of them, however, had ever dared to inflict any species of punishment on him, for had they done so, twenty negroes would have stepped forward to take his place, while he would have looked gravely on, as though he considered that they were merely performing a duty. The strange being was known throughout the negro quarter as Pierrot.


THE whole of these circumstances took a firm hold upon my youthful imagination. Marie, inspired by compassion and gratitude, applauded my enthusiasm; and Pierrot excited our interest so much that I determined to visit him and offer him my services in extricating him from his perilous position. As the nephew of one of the richest colonists in the Cap, I was, in spite of my youth, a captain in the Acul Militia. This regiment, and a detachment of the Yellow Dragoons, had charge of Fort Galifet; the detachment was commanded by a non-commissioned officer, to whose brother I had once had the good fortune to render an important service, and who therefore was entirely devoted to me.

[Here the listeners at once pronounced the name of Thaddeus.]

You are right, gentlemen; and as you may well believe, I had not much trouble in penetrating to the cell in which the negro was confined. As a captain in the militia, I had of course the right to visit the fort; but to evade the suspicions of my uncle, whose rage was still unabated, I took care to go there at the time of his noonday siesta. All the soldiers too, except those on guard, were asleep, and guided by Thaddeus I came to the door of the cell. He opened it for me, and then discreetly retired.

The negro was seated on the ground, for on account of his height he could not stand upright. He was not alone; an enormous dog was crouched at his feet, which rose with a growl, and moved toward me.