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   Chapter 6 THE CLASH OF RACE

No Defense, Volume 3_ By Gilbert Parker Characters: 14388

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


In the King's House at Spanish Town the governor was troubled. All his plans and prophecies had come to naught. He had been sure there would be no rebellion of the Maroons, and he was equally sure that his career would be made hugely successful by marriage with Sheila Llyn-but the Maroons had revolted, and the marriage was not settled!

Messages had been coming from the provost-marshal-general of reports from the counties of Middlesex and Cornwall, that the Maroons were ravaging everywhere and that bands of slaves had joined them with serious disasters to the plantation people. Planters, their wives and children had been murdered, and in some districts the natives were in full possession and had destroyed, robbed and ravaged. He had summoned his commander of the militia forces, had created special constables, and armed them, and had sent a ship to the Bahamas to summon a small British fleet there. He had also mapped out a campaign against the Maroons, which had one grave demerit-it was planned on a basis of ordinary warfare and not with Jamaica conditions in mind. The provost-marshal warned him of the futility of these plans, but he had persisted in them. He had later been shocked, however, by news that the best of his colonels had been ambushed and killed, and that others had been made prisoners and treated with barbarity. From everywhere, except one, had come either news of defeat or set-back.

One good thing he immediately did: he threw open King's House to the wounded, and set the surgeons to work, thereby checking bitter criticism and blocking the movement rising against him. For it was well known he had rejected all warnings, had persisted in his view that trust in the Maroons and fair treatment of themselves and the slaves were all that was needed.

As he walked in the great salon or hall of audience where the wounded lay-over seventy feet long and thirty wide, with great height, to which beds and conveniences had been hastily brought-it seemed to him that he was saving, if barely saving, his name and career. Standing beside one of the Doric pillars which divided the salon from an upper and lower gallery of communications, he received the Custos of Kingston. As the Custos told his news the governor's eyes were running along the line of busts of ancient and modern philosophers on the gilt brackets between the Doric pilasters. They were all in bronze, and his mind had the doleful imagination of brown slave heroes placed there in honour for services given to the country. The doors at the south end of the great salon opened now and then into the council chambers beyond, and he could see the surgeons operating on the cases returned from the plantations.

"Your honour," said the Custos, "things have suddenly improved. The hounds have come from Cuba and in the charge of ten men-ten men with sixty hounds. That is the situation at the moment. All the people at Kingston are overjoyed. They see the end of the revolt."

"The hounds!" exclaimed the governor. "What hounds?"

"The hounds sent for by Dyck Calhoun-surely your honour remembers!"

Surely his honour did, and recalled also that he forbade the importation of the hounds; but he could not press that prohibition now. "The mutineer and murderer, Dyck Calhoun!" he exclaimed. "And they have come!"

"Yes, your honour, and gone with Calhoun's man, Michael Clones, to

Salem."

"To Salem-why Salem?"

"Because Calhoun is there fighting the Maroons in that district. The Maroons first captured the ladies of Salem as they rode in the woods. They were beaten at that game by Calhoun and four men; the ladies then were freed and taken back to Salem. Then the storm burst on Salem- burst, but did not overwhelm. Calhoun saved the situation there; and when his hounds arrive at Salem he will range over the whole country. It is against the ideas of the people of England, but it does our work in Jamaica as nothing else could. It was a stroke of genius, the hounds, your honour!"

Lord Mallow was at once relieved and nonplussed. No doubt the policy of the hounds was useful, and it might save his own goose, but it was, in a sense, un-English to hunt the wild man with hounds. Yet was it un- English? What was the difference between a sword and a good sharp tooth save that the sword struck and let go and the tooth struck and held on? It had been said in England that to hunt negroes with hounds was barbarous and cowardly; but criminals were hunted with bloodhounds in all civilized countries; and as for cowardice, the man who had sent for these hounds was as brave as any old crusader! No, Dyck Calhoun could not be charged with cowardice, and his policy of the hounds might save the island and the administration in the end. They had arrived in the very hour of Jamaica's and Lord Mallow's greatest peril. They had gone on to the man who had been sane enough to send for them.

"Tell me about the landing of the hounds," said Lord Mallow.

"It was last night about dusk that word came from the pilot's station at Port Royal that the vessel Vincent was making for port, and that she. came from Cuba. Presently Michael Clones, the servant of Dyck Calhoun, came also to say that the Vincent was the ship bringing Calhoun's hounds from Cuba, and asking permit for delivery. This he did because he thought you were opposed to the landing. In the light of our position here, we granted the delivery.

"When the vessel came to anchor, the hounds with their drivers were landed. The landing was the signal for a great display on the part of the people and the militia-yes, the militia shared in the applause, your honour! They had had a taste of war with the Maroons and the slaves, and they were well inclined to let the hounds have their chance. Resolutions were then passed to approach your honour and ask that full powers be given to Calhoun to pursue the war without thought of military precedent or of Calhoun's position. He has no official place in the public life here, but he is powerful with the masses. It is rumoured you have an order to confine him to his plantation; but to apply it would bring revolution in Jamaica. There are great numbers of people who love his courage, what he did for the King's navy, and for his commercial success here, and they would resent harsh treatment of him. They are aware, your honour, that he and you knew each other in Ireland, and they think you are hard on him. People judge not from all the facts, but from what they see and hear."

During the Custos' narrative, Lord Mallow was perturbed. He had the common sense to know that Dyck Calhoun, ex-convict and mutineer as he was, had personal power in the island, which he as governor had not been able to get, and Dyck had not abused that power. He realized that Dyck's premonition of an outbreak and sending for the hounds was a stroke of genius. He recalled with anger Dyck's appearance, in spite of regulations, in trousers at the King's ball and his dancing with a black woman, and he also realized that it was a cool insult to himself. It was then he had given the home authorities information which would poison their mind against Dyck, and from that had come

the order to confine him to his plantation.

Yet he felt the time had come when he might use Dyck for his own purposes. That Dyck should be at Salem was a bitter dose, but that could amount to nothing, for Sheila could never marry the man who had killed her father, however bad and mad her father was. Yet it gravelled his soul that Dyck should be doing service for the lady to whom he had offered his own hand and heart, and from whom he had had no word of assent. It angered him against himself that he had not at once sent soldiers to Salem to protect it. He wished to set himself right with Sheila and with the island people, and how to do so was the question.

First, clearly, he must not apply the order to confine Dyck to his plantation; also he must give Dyck authority to use the hounds in hunting down the Maroons and slaves who were committing awful crimes. He forthwith decided to write, asking Dyck to send him outline of his scheme against the rebels. That he must do, for the game was with Dyck.

"How long will it take the hounds to get to Salem?" he asked the Custos presently in his office, with deepset lines in his face and a determined look in his eyes. He was an arrogant man, but he was not insane, and he wished to succeed. It could only be success if he dragged Jamaica out of this rebellion with flying colours, and his one possible weapon was the man whom he detested.

"Why, your honour, as we sent them by wagons and good horses they should be in Dyck Calhoun's hands this evening. They should be there by now almost, for they've been going for hours, and the distance is not great."

The governor nodded, and began to write. A halfhour later he handed to the Custos what he had written.

"See what you think of that, Custos," he said. "Does it, in your mind, cover the ground as it should?"

The Custos read it all over slowly and carefully, weighing every word. Presently he handed back the paper. "Your honour, it is complete and masterly," he said. "It puts the crushing of the revolt into the hands of Mr. Calhoun, and nothing could be wiser. He has the gifts of a leader, and he will do the job with no mistake, and in a time of crisis like this, that is essential. You have given him the right to order the militia to obey him, and nothing could be better. He will organize like a master. We haven't forgotten his fight on the Ariadne. Didn't the admiral tell the story at the dinner we gave him of how this ex-convict and mutineer, by sheer genius, broke the power of the French at the critical moment and saved our fleet, though it was only three-fourths that of the French?"

"You don't think the French will get us some day?" asked the governor with a smile.

"I certainly don't since our defences have been improved. Look at the sixty big cannon on Fort Augusta! They'd be knocked to smithereens before they could get into the quiet waters of the harbour. Don't forget the narrows, your honour. Then there's the Apostle's Battery with its huge shot, and the guns of Fort Royal would give them a cross-fire that would make them sick. Besides, we could stop them within the shoals and reefs and narrow channels before they got near the inner circle. It would only be the hand of God that would get them in, and it doesn't work for Frenchmen these days, I observe. No, this place is safe, and King's House will be the home of British governors for many a century."

"Ah, that's your gallant faith, and no doubt you are right, but go on with your tale of the hounds," said Lord Mallow.

"Your honour, as the hounds went away with Michael Clones there was greater applause than I have ever seen in the island except when Rodney defeated De Grasse. Imagine a little sloop in the wash of the seas and the buccaneers piling down on him, and no chance of escape, and then a great British battleship appearing, and the situation saved-that was how we were placed here till the hounds arrived.

"Your honour, this morning's-this early morning's exit of the hounds was like a procession of veterans to Walhalla. There was the sun breaking over the tops of the hills, a crimsonish, greyish, opaline touch of soft sprays or mists breaking away from the onset of the sunrise; and all the trees with night-lips wet sucking in the sun and drinking up the light like an overseer at a Christmas breakfast; and you know what that is. And all the shore, rocky and sandy, rough and smooth, happy and homely, shimmering in the radiance. And hundreds of Creoles and coloured folk beating the ground in agitation, and slaves a-plenty carrying boxes to the ships that are leaving, and white folk crowding the streets, and bugles blowing, and the tramp of the militia, and the rattle of carts on the cobble-stones, and the voices of the officers giving orders, and turmoil everywhere.

"Then, suddenly, the sharp sound of a long whip and a voice calling, and there rises out of the landing place the procession-the sixty dogs in three wagons, their ten drivers with their whips, but keeping order by the sound of their voices, low, soft, and peculiar, and then the horses starting into a quick trot which presently would become a canter-and the hounds were off to Salem! There could be no fear with the hounds loose to do the hunting."

"But suppose when they get to Salem their owner is no more."

The Custos laughed. "Him, your honour-him no more! Isn't he the man of whom the black folk say: "Lucky buckra-morning, lucky new-comer!" If that's his reputation, and the coming of his hounds just when the island most needed them is good proof of it, do you think he'll be killed by a lot of dirty Maroons! Ah, Calhoun's a man with the luck of the devil, your honour! He has the pull-as sure as heaven's above he'll make success. If you command your staff to have this posted as a proclamation throughout the island, it will do as much good as a thousand soldiers. The military officers will not object, they know how big a man he is, and they have had enough. The news is not good from all over the island, for there are bad planters and bad overseers, and they've poisoned large fields of men in many quarters of the island, and things are wrong.

"But this proclamation will put things right. It will stop the slaves from revolting; it will squelch the Maroons, and I'm certain sure Calhoun will have Maroons ready to fight for us, not against us, before this thing is over. I tell you, your honour, it means the way out-that's what it means. So, if you'll give me your order, keeping a copy of it for the provost-marshal, I'll see it's delivered to Dyck Calhoun before morning-perhaps by midnight. It's not more than a six hours' journey in the ordinary way."

At that moment an aide-de-camp entered, and with grave face presented to the governor the last report from the provost-marshal-general. Then he watched the governor read the report.

"Ten more killed and twenty wounded!" said the governor. "It must be stopped."

He gave the Custos the letter to Dyck Calhoun, and a few moments later handed the proclamation to his aide-de-camp.

"That will settle the business, your honour," said the aide-de-camp as he read the proclamation.

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