4.4 APHRA BEHN
Aphra Behn was the first commercially successful woman writer in England in the seventeenth century, writing in various genres, including drama, prose, and poetry. Her prose contributed to the development of the novel as genre in English.
Her origins are uncertain. Her father may have been a barber. Or she may have been born into the landed gentry, as her evident education in languages and literatures accords with that class. Or she may have been adopted by John Johnson, a relative of Lord Francis Willoughby (1614-1666).
In the mid 1600s, she traveled to Suriname, West Indies, then under British rule. She was brought there either by a couple named Amis, who may have been her parents, or by Johnson, who was appointed as the island’s deputy governor. By 1658, she had returned to London and married a merchant named Behn who had connections to the court of Charles II. Her husband died in 1665, leaving Behn in precarious financial circumstances. In 1666, during the Dutch Wars, Behn traveled to Antwerp as a spy in service to King Charles II. He apparently did not pay her for her work for, in 1667, Behn returned to London and was arrested and briefly imprisoned for debt.
That same year, she began her professional career as writer, starting with plays that achieved increasing financial success. Mainly romantic comedies, her plays involved sexual adventures and marital mishaps and addressed women’s limited opportunities in her society. They include The Amorous Prince: Or, The Curious Husband (167), Abdelazer: Or, The Moor’s Revenge (1676), The Rover: Or, the Banished Cavaliers, Parts I and II (1677, 1681), The Emperor of the Moon (1687), and The Widow Ranger: Or, The History of Bacon of Virginia (1689).
Image 4.3 | Aphra Behn
Artist | Peter Lely
Source | Wikimedia Commons
License | Public Domain
Her poetry, which she published between 1684 and 1688, often took the woman’s perspective, with women speakers and, like her plays, they addressed women’s desires and appetites. For example, “The Disappointment” (1684) deals with a woman’s disappointment in her male partner’s impotence.
She also wrote epistolary prose, prose romances, and the prose “history” of Oroonoko: Or, The History of the Royal Slave (1688). Like many early novels, this work hybridizes various discourses and forms, including idealism and realism, and the travelogue, romance, and tragedy. Oroonoko, an African prince, is betrayed into captivity and enslavement by his own grandfather. On the island of Surinam, Oroonoko is reunited with his beloved Imoinda. To protect her and their child from captivity, Oroonoko rebels against white plantation owners. He fails and kills Imoinda before his capture and slow execution—which comes in the form of dismemberment. Through Oronooko, Behn powerfully expresses betrayal and tragedy as general to the human condition. Her success as a woman writer may be measured by the fact that after her death in 1689, she was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Image 4.4 | Oroonoko
Artist | Aphra Behn
Source | Wikimedia Commons
License | Public Domain
The History of the Royal Slave
I Do not pretend, in giving you the History of this Royal Slave, to entertain my Reader with the Adventures of a feign’d Hero, whose Life and Fortunes Fancy may manage at the Poets Pleasure; nor in relating the Truth, design to adorn it with any Accidents, but such as arriv’d in earnest to him: And it shall come simply into the World, recommended by its own proper Merits, and natural Intrigues; there being enough of Reality to support it, and to render it diverting, without the Addition of Invention.
I was my self an Eye-Witness, to a great part, of what you will find here set down; and what I cou’d not be Witness of, I receiv’d from the Mouth of the chief Actor in this History, the Hero himself, who gave us the whole Transactions of his Youth; and though I shall omit, for Brevity’s sake, a thousand little Accidents of his Life, which, however pleasant to us, where History was scarce, and Adventures very rare; yet might prove tedious and heavy to my Reader, in a World where he finds Diversions for every Minute, new and strange: But we who were perfectly charm’d with the Character of this great Man, were curious to gather every Circumstance of his Life.
The Scene of the last part of his Adventures lies in a Colony in America, called Surinam, in the West-Indies.
But before I give you the Story of this Gallant Slave, ’tis fit I tell you the manner of bringing them to these new Colonies; for those they make use of there, are not Natives of the place; for those we live with in perfect Amity, without daring to command ’em; but on the contrary, caress ’em with all the brotherly and friendly Affection in the World; trading with ’em for their Fish, Venison, Buffilo’s, Skins, and little Rarities; as Marmosets, a sort of Monkey as big as a Rat or Weesel, but of a marvellous and delicate shape, and has Face and Hands like an Humane Creature: and Cousheries, a little Beast in the form and fashion of a Lion, as big as a Kitten; but so exactly made in all parts like that noble Beast, that it is it in Minature. Then for little Parakeetoes, great Parrots, Muckaws, and a thousand other Birds and Beasts of wonderful and surprizing Forms, Shapes, and Colours. For Skins of prodigious Snakes, of which there are some threescore Yards in length; as is the Skin of one that may be seen at His Majesty’s Antiquaries: Where are also some rare Flies, of amazing Forms and Colours, presented to ’em by my self; some as big as my Fist, some less; and all of various Excellencies, such as Art cannot imitate. Then we trade for Feathers, which they order into all Shapes, make themselves little short Habits of ’em, and glorious Wreaths for their Heads, Necks, Arms and Legs, whose Tinctures are unconceivable. I had a Set of these presented to me, and I gave ’em to the King’s Theatre, and it was the Dress of the Indian Queen, infinitely admir’d by Persons of Quality; and were unimitable. Besides these, a thousand little Knacks, and Rarities in Nature, and some of Art; as their Baskets, Weapons, Aprons, &c . We dealt with ’em with Beads of all Colours, Knives, Axes, Pins and Needles; which they us’d only as Tools to drill Holes with in their Ears, Noses and Lips, where they hang a great many little things; as long Beads, bits of Tin, Brass, or Silver, beat thin; and any shining Trincket. The Beads they weave into Aprons about a quarter of an Ell long, and of the same breadth; working them very prettily in Flowers of several Colours of Beads; which Apron they wear just before ’em, as Adam and Eve did the Fig-leaves; the Men wearing a long Stripe of Linen, which they deal with us for. They thread these Beads also on long Cotton-threads, and make Girdles to tie their Aprons to, which come twenty times, or more, about the Waste; and then cross, like a Shoulder-belt, both ways, and round their Necks, Arms and Legs. This Adornment, with their long black Hair, and the Face painted in little Specks or Flowers here and there, makes ’em a wonderful Figure to behold. Some of the Beauties which indeed are finely shap’d, as almost all are, and who have pretty Features, are very charming and novel; for they have all that is called Beauty, except the Colour, which is a reddish Yellow; or after a new Oiling, which they often use to themselves, they are of the colour of a new Brick, but smooth, soft and sleek. They are extream modest and bashful, very shy, and nice of being touch’d. And though they are all thus naked, if one lives for ever among ’em, there is not to be seen an indecent Action, or Glance; and being continually us’d to see one another so unadorn’d, so like our first Parents before the Fall, it seems as if they had no Wishes; there being nothing to heighten Curiosity, but all you can see, you see at once, and every Moment see; and where there is no Novelty, there can be no Curiosity. Not but I have seen a handsom young Indian, dying for Love of a very beautiful young Indian Maid; but all his Courtship was, to fold his Arms, pursue her with his Eyes, and Sighs were all his Language: While she, as if no such Lover were present; or rather, as if she desired none such, carefully guarded her Eyes from beholding him; and never approach’d him, but she look’d down with all the blushing Modesty I have seen in the most severe and cautious of our World. And these People represented to me an absolute Idea of the first State of Innocence, before Man knew how to sin: And ’tis most evident and plain, that simple Nature is the most harmless, inoffensive and vertuous Mistress. ’Tis she alone, if she were permitted, that better instructs the World, than all the Inventions of Man: Religion wou’d here but destroy that Tranquillity, they possess by Ignorance; and Laws wou’d but teach ’em to know Offence, of which now they have no Notion. They once made Mourning and Fasting for the Death of the English Governor, who had given his Hand to come on such a Day to ’em, and neither came, nor sent; believing, when once a Man’s Word was past, nothing but Death cou’d or shou’d prevent his keeping it: And when they saw he was not dead, they ask’d him, what Name they had for a Man who promis’d a thing he did not do? The Governor told them, Such a man was a Lyar, which was a Word of Infamy to a Gentleman. Then one of ’em reply’d, Governor, you are a Lyar, and guilty of that Infamy. They have a Native Justice, which knows no Fraud; and they understand no Vice, or Cunning, but when they are taught by the White Men.They have Plurality of Wives, which, when they grow old, they serve those that succeed ’em, who are young; but with a Servitude easie and respected; and unless they take Slaves in War, they have no other Attendants.
Those on that Continent where I was, had no King; but the oldest War-Captain was obey’d with great Resignation.
A War-Captain is a Man who has lead them on to Battel with Conduct, and Success; of whom I shall have Occasion to speak more hereafter, and of some other of their Customs and Manners, as they fall in my way.
With these People, as I said, we live in perfect Tranquillity, and good Understanding, as it behooves us to do; they knowing all the places where to seek the best Food of the Country, and the Means of getting it; and for very small and unvaluable Trifles, supply us with what ’tis impossible for us to get; for they do not only in the Wood, and over the Sevana’s, in Hunting, supply the parts of Hounds, by swiftly scouring through those almost impassable places; and by the meer Activity of their Feet, run down the nimblest Deer, and other eatable Beasts: But in the water, one wou’d think they were Gods of the Rivers, or Fellow-Citizens of the Deep; so rare an Art they have in Swimming, Diving, and almost Living in Water; by which they command the less swift Inhabitants of the Floods. And then for Shooting; what they cannot take, or reach with their Hands, they do with Arrows; and have so admirable an Aim, that they will split almost an Hair; and at any distance that an Arrow can reach, they will shoot down Oranges, and other Fruit, and only touch the Stalk with the Dart’s Points, that they may not hurt the Fruit. So that they being, on all Occasions, very useful to us, we find it absolutely necessary to caress ’em as Friends, and not to treat ’em as Slaves; nor dare we do other, their Numbers so far surpassing ours in that Continent.
Those then whom we make use of to work in our Plantations of Sugar, are Negro’s, Black-Slaves altogether; which are transported thither in this manner.
Those who want Slaves, make a Bargain with a Master, or Captain of a Ship, and contract to pay him so much a-piece, a matter of twenty Pound a Head for as many as he agrees for, and to pay for ’em when they shall be deliver’d on such a Plantation: So that when there arrives a Ship laden with Slaves, they who have so contracted, go a-board, and receive their Number by Lot; and perhaps in one Lot that may be for ten, there may happen to be three or four Men; the rest, Women and Children: Or be there more or less of either Sex, you are oblig’d to be contented with your Lot.
Coramantien, a Country of Blacks so called, was one of those places in which they found the most advantageous Trading for these Slaves; and thither most of our great Traders in that Merchandice traffick’d; for that Nation is very war-like and brave; and having a continual Campaign, being always in Hostility with one neighbouring Prince or other, they had the fortune to take a great many Captives; for all they took in Battel, were sold as Slaves; at least, those common Men who cou’d not ransom themselves. Of these Slaves so taken, the General only has all the profit; and of these Generals, our Captains and Masters of Ships buy all their Freights.
The King of Coramantien was himself a Man of a Hundred and odd Years old, and had no Son, though he had many beautiful Black-Wives; for most certainly, there are Beauties that can charm of that Colour. In his younger Years he had had many gallant Men to his Sons, thirteen of which died in Battel, conquering when they fell; and he had only left him for his Successor, one Grand-Child, Son to one of these dead Victors; who, as soon as he cou’d bear a Bow in his Hand, and a Quiver at his Back, was sent into the Field, to be trained up by one of the oldest Generals, to War; where, from his natural Inclination to Arms, and the Occasions given him, with the good Conduct of the old General, he became, at the Age of Seventeen, one of the most expert Captains, and bravest Soldiers, that ever saw the Field of Mars: So that he was ador’d as the Wonder of all that World, and the Darling of the Soldiers. Besides, he was adorn’d with a native Beauty so transcending all those of his gloomy Race, that he strook an Awe and Reverence, even in those that knew not his Quality; as he did in me, who beheld him with Surprize and Wonder, when afterwards he arriv’d in our World.
He had scarce arriv’d at his Seventeenth Year, when fighting by his Side, the General was kill’d with an Arrow in his Eye, which the Prince Oroonoko (for so was this gallant Moor call’d) very narrowly avoided; nor had he, if the General, who saw the Arrow shot, and perceiving it aim’d at the Prince, had not bow’d his Head between, on purpose to receive it in his own Body rather than it shou’d touch that of the Prince, and so saved him.
’Twas then, afflicted as Oroonoko was, that he was proclaim’d Genéral in the old Man’s place; and then it was, at the finishing of that War, which had continu’d for two Years, that the Prince came to Court; where he had hardly been a Month together, from the time of his fifth Year, to that of Seventeen; and ’twas amazing to imagine where it was he learn’d so much Humanity; or, to give his Accomplishments a juster Name, where ’twas he got that real Greatness of Soul, those refin’d Notions of true Honour, that absolute Generosity, and that Softness that was capable of the highest Passions of Love and Gallantry, whose Objects were almost continually fighting Men, or those mangl’d, or dead; who heard no Sounds, but those of War and Groans: Some part of it we may attribute to the Care of a French-Man of Wit and Learning; who finding it turn to very good Account to be a sort of Royal Tutor to this young Black, & perceiving him very ready, apt, and quick of Apprehension, took a great pleasure to teach him Morals, Language and Science; and was for it extreamly belov’d and valu’d by him. Another Reason was, He lov’d, when he came from War, to see all the English Gentlemen that traded thither; and did not only learn their Language, but that of the Spaniards also, with whom he traded afterwards for Slaves.
I have often seen and convers’d with this great Man, and been a Witness to many of his mighty Actions; and do assure my Reader, the most Illustrious Courts cou’d not have produc’d a braver Man, both for Greatness of Courage and Mind, a Judgment more solid, a Wit more quick, and a Conversation more sweet and diverting. He knew almost as much as if he had read much: He had heard of, and admir’d the Romans; he had heard of the late Civil Wars in England,and the deplorable Death of our great Monarch; and wou’d discourse of it with all the Sense, and Abhorrence of the Injustice imaginable. He had an extream good and graceful Mien, and all the Civility of a well-bred great Man. He had nothing of Barbarity in his Nature, but in all Points address’d himself, as if his Education had been in some European Court.
This great and just Character of Oroonoko gave me an extream Curiosity to see him, especially when I knew he spoke French and English, and that I cou’d talk with him. But though I had heard so much of him, I was as greatly surpriz’d when I saw him, as if I had heard nothing of him; so beyond all Report I found him. He came into the Room, and address’d himself to me, and some other Women, with the best Grace in the World. He was pretty tall, but of a Shape the most exact that can be fansy’d: The most famous Statuary cou’d not form the Figure of a Man more admirably turn’d from Head to Foot. His Face was not of that brown, rusty Black which most of that Nation are, but a perfect Ebony, or polish’d Jett. His Eyes were the most awful that cou’d be seen, and very piercing; the White of ’em being like Snow, as were his Teeth. His Nose was rising and Roman, instead of African and flat. His Mouth, the finest shap’d that cou’d be seen; far from those great turn’d Lips, which are so natural to the rest of the Negroes. The whole Proportion and Air of his Face was so noble, and exactly form’d, that, bating his Colour, there cou’d be nothing in Nature more beautiful, agreeable and handsome. There was no one Grace wanting, that bears the Standard of true Beauty: His Hair came down to his Shoulders, by the Aids of Art; which was, by pulling it out with a Quill, and keeping it comb’d; of which he took particular Care. Nor did the Perfections of his Mind come short of those of his Person; for his Discourse was admirable upon almost any Subject; and who-ever had heard him speak, wou’d have been convinc’d of their Errors, that all fine Wit is confin’d to the White Men, especially to those of Christendom; and wou’d have confess’d that Oroonoko was as capable even of reigning well, and of governing as wisely, had as great a Soul, as politick Maxims, and was as sensible of Power as any Prince civiliz’d in the most refin’d Schools of Humanity and Learning, or the most Illustrious Courts.
This Prince, such as I have describ’d him, whose Soul and Body were so admirably adorn’d, was (while yet he was in the Court of his Grandfather) as I said, as capable of Love, as ’twas possible for a brave and gallant Man to be; and in saying that, I have nam’d the highest Degree of Love; for sure, great Souls are most capable of that Passion.
I have already said, the old General was kill’d by the shot of an Arrow, by the Side of this Prince, in Battel; and that Oroonoko was made General. This old dead Hero had one only Daughter left of his Race; a Beauty that, to describe her truly, one need say only, she was Female to the noble Male; the beautiful Black Venus, to our young Mars; as charming in her Person as he, and of delicate Vertues. I have seen an hundred White Men sighing after her, and making a thousand Vows at her Feet, all vain, and unsuccessful: And she was, indeed, too great for any, but a Prince of her own Nation to adore.
Oroonoko coming from the Wars, (which were now ended) after he had made his Court to his Grandfather, he thought in Honour he ought to make a Visit to Imoinda,the Daughter of his Foster-father, the dead General; and to make some Excuses to her, because his Preservation was the Occasion of her Father’s Death; and to present her with those Slaves that had been taken in this last Battel, as the Trophies of her Father’s Victories. When he came, attended by all the young Soldiers of any Merit, he was infinitely surpriz’d at the Beauty of this fair Queen of Night, whose Face and Person was so exceeding all he had ever beheld, that lovely Modesty with which she receiv’d him, that Softness in her Look, and Sighs, upon the melancholy Occasion of this Honour that was done by so great a Man as Oroonoko, and a Prince of whom she had heard such admirable things; the Awfulness wherewith she receiv’d him, and the Sweetness of her Words and Behaviour while he stay’d, gain’d a perfect Conquest over his fierce Heart, and made him feel, the Victor cou’d be subdu’d. So that having made his first Complements, and presented her an hundred and fifty Slaves in Fetters, he told her with his Eyes, that he was not insensible of her Charms; while Imoinda,who wish’d for nothing more than so glorious a Conquest, was pleas’d to believe, she understood that silent Language of new-born Love; and from that Moment, put on all her Additions to Beauty.
The Prince return’d to Court with quite another Humour than before; and though he did not speak much of the fair Imoinda, he had the pleasure to hear all his Followers speak of nothing but the Charms of that Maid; insomuch that, even in the Presence of the old King, they were extolling her, and heightning, if possible, the Beauties they had found in her: So that nothing else was talk’d of, no other Sound was heard in every Corner where there were Whisperers, but Imoinda! Imoinda!
’Twill be imagin’d Oroonoko stay’d not long before he made his second Visit; nor, considering his Quality, not much longer before he told her, he ador’d her. I have often heard him say, that he admir’d by what strange Inspiration he came to talk things so soft, and so passionate, who never knew Love, nor was us’d to the Conversation of Women; but (to use his own Words) he said, Most happily, some new, and till then unknown Power instructed his Heart and Tongue in the Language of Love, and at the same time, in favour of him, inspir’d Imoinda with a Sense of his Passion. She was touch’d with what he said, and return’d it all in such Answers as went to his very Heart, with a Pleasure unknown before: Nor did he use those Obligations ill, that Love had done him; but turn’d all his happy Moments to the best advantage; and as he knew no Vice, his Flame aim’d at nothing but Honour, if such a distinction may be made in Love; and especially in that Country, where Men take to themselves as many as they can maintain; and where the only Crime and Sin with Woman is, to turn her off, to abandon her to Want, Shame and Misery: Such ill Morals are only practis’d in Christian-Countries, where they prefer the bare Name of Religion; and, without Vertue or Morality, think that’s sufficient. But Oroonoko was none of those Professors; but as he had right Notions of Honour, so he made her such Propositions as were not only and barely such; but, contrary to the Custom of his Country, he made her Vows, she shou’d be the only woman he wou’d possess while he liv’d; that no Age or Wrinkles shou’d incline him to change, for her Soul wou’d be always fine, and always young; and he shou’d have an eternal Idea in his Mind of the Charms she now bore, and shou’d look into his Heart for that Idea, when he cou’d find it no longer in her Face.
After a thousand Assurances of his lasting Flame, and her eternal Empire over him, she condescended to receive him for her Husband; or rather, receiv’d him, as the greatest Honour the God’s cou’d do her.
There is a certain Ceremony in these Cases to be observ’d, which I forgot to ask him how perform’d; but ’twas concluded on both sides, that, in Obedience to him, the Grand-father was to be first made acquainted with the Design: for they pay a most absolute Resignation to the Monarch, especially when he is a Parent also.
On the other side, the old King, who had many Wives, and many Concubines, wanted not Court-Flatterers to insinuate in his Heart a thousand tender Thoughts for this young Beauty; and who represented her to his Fancy, as the most charming he had ever possess’d in all the long Race of his numerous Years. At this Character his old Heart, like an extinguish’d Brand, most apt to take Fire, felt new Sparks of Love, and began to kindle; and now grown to his second Childhood, long’d with Impatience to behold this gay thing, with whom, alas! he cou’d but innocently play. But how he shou’d be confirm’d she was this Wonder, before he us’d his Power to call her to Court (where Maidens never came, unless for the King’s private Use) he was next to consider; and while he was so doing, he had Intelligence brought him, that Imoinda was most certainly Mistress to the Prince Oroonoko. This gave him some Shagrien; however, it gave him also an Opportunity, one Day, when the Prince was a-hunting, to wait on a Man of Quality, as his Slave and Attendant, who shou’d go and make a Present to Imoinda, as from the Prince; he shou’d then, unknown, see this fair Maid, and have an Opportunity to hear what Message she wou’d return the Prince for his Present; and from thence gather the state of her Heart, and degree of her Inclination. This was put in Execution, and the old Monarch saw, and burnt: He found her all he had heard, and wou’d not delay his Happiness, but found he shou’d have some Obstacle to overcome her Heart; for she express’d her Sense of the Present the Prince had sent her, in terms so sweet, so soft and pretty, with an Air of Love and Joy that cou’d not be dissembl’d; insomuch that ’twas past doubt whether she lov’d Oroonoko entirely. This gave the old King some Affliction; but he salv’d it with this, that the Obedience the People pay their King, was not at all inferior to what they pay’d their Gods: And what Love wou’d not oblige Imoinda to do, Duty wou’d compel her to.
He was therefore no sooner got to his Apartment, but he sent the Royal Veil to Imoinda; that is, the Ceremony of Invitation; he sends the Lady, he has a Mind to honour with his Bed, a Veil, with which she is cover’d, and secur’d for the King’s Use; and ’tis Death to disobey; besides, held a most impious Disobedience.
’Tis not to be imagin’d the Surprize and Grief that seiz’d this lovely Maid at this News and Sight. However, as Delays in these Cases are dangerous, and Pleading worse than Treason; trembling, and almost fainting, she was oblig’d to suffer her self to be cover’d, and led away.
They brought her thus to Court; and the King, who had caus’d a very rich Bath to be prepar’d, was led into it, where he sate under a Canopy, in State, to receive this long’d for Virgin; whom he having commanded shou’d be brought to him, they (after dis-robing her) led her to the Bath, and making fast the Doors, left her to descend. The King, without more Courtship, bad her throw off her Mantle, and come to his Arms. But Imoinda, all in Tears, threw her self on the Marble, on the Brink of the Bath, and besought him to hear her. She told him, as she was a Maid, how proud of the Divine Glory she should have been of having it in her power to oblige her King: but as by the Laws, he cou’d not; and from his Royal Goodness, wou’d not take from any Man his wedded Wife: So she believ’d she shou’d be the Occasion of making him commit a great Sin, if she did not reveal her State and Condition; and tell him, she was anothers, and cou’d not be so happy to be his.
The King, enrag’d at this Delay, hastily demanded the Name of the bold Man, that had marry’d a Woman of her Degree, without his Consent. Imoinda, seeing his Eyes fierce, and his Hands tremble; whether with Age, or Anger, I know not; but she fansy’d the last, almost repented she had said so much, for now she fear’d the Storm wou’d fall on the Prince; she therefore said a thousand things to appease the raging of his Flame, and to prepare him to hear who it was with Calmness; but before she spoke, he imagin’d who she meant, but wou’d not seem to do so, but commanded her to lay aside her Mantle, and suffer her self to receive his Caresses; or, by his Gods, he swore, that happy Man whom she was going to name shou’d die, though it were even Oroonoko himself. Therefore (said he) deny this Marriage, and swear thy self a Maid. That (reply’d Imoinda) by all our Powers I do; for I am not yet known to my Husband. ’Tis enough (said the King:) ’tis enough to satisfie both my Conscience, and my Heart. And rising from his Seat, he went, and led her into the Bath; it being in vain for her to resist.
In this time the Prince, who was return’d from Hunting, went to visit his Imoinda, but found her gone; and not only so, but heard she had receiv’d the Royal Veil. This rais’d him to a Storm; and in his Madness, they had much ado to save him from laying violent Hands on himself. Force first prevail’d, and then Reason: They urg’d all to him, that might oppose his Rage; but nothing weigh’d so greatly with him as the King’s Old Age uncapable of injuring him with Imoinda. He wou’d give way to that Hope, because it pleas’d him most, and flatter’d best his Heart. Yet this serv’d not altogether to make him cease his different Passions, which sometimes rag’d within him, and sometimes softned into Showers. ’Twas not enough to appease him, to tell him, his Grand-father was old, and cou’d not that way injure him, while he retain’d that awful Duty which the young Men are us’d there to pay to their grave Relations. He cou’d not be convinc’d he had no Cause to sigh and mourn for the Loss of a Mistress, he cou’d not with all his Strength and Courage retrieve. And he wou’d often cry, O my Friends! were she in wall’d Cities, or confin’d from me in Fortifications of the greatest Strength; did Inchantments or Monsters detain her from me, I wou’d venture through any Hazard to free her: Buthere, in the Arms of a feeble old Man, my Youth, my violent Love, my Trade in Arms, and all my vast Desire of Glory, avail me nothing: Imoinda is as irrecoverably lost to me, as if she were snatch’d by the cold Arms of Death: Oh! she is never to be retriev’d. If I wou’d wait tedious Years, till Fate shou’d bow the old King to his Grave; even that wou’d not leave me Imoinda free; but still that Custom that makes it so vile a Crime for a Son to marry his Father’s Wives or Mistresses, wou’d hinder my Happiness; unless I wou’d either ignobly set an ill President to my Successors, or abandon my Country, and fly with her to some unknown World, who never heard our Story.
But it was objected to him, that his Case was not the same; for Imoinda being his lawful Wife, by solemn Contract, ’twas he was the injur’d Man, and might, if he so pleas’d, take Imoinda back, the Breach of the Law being on his Grand-father’s side; and that if he cou’d circumvent him, and redeem her from the Otan, which is the Palace of the King’s Women, a sort of Seraglio, it was both just and lawful for him so to do.
This Reasoning had some force upon him, and he shou’d have been entirely comforted, but for the Thought that she was possess’d by his Grand-father. However, he lov’d so well, that he was resolv’d to believe what most favour’d his Hope; and to endeavour to learn from Imoinda’s own Mouth, what only she cou’d satisfie him in; whether she was robb’d of that Blessing, which was only due to his Faith and Love. But as it was very hard to get a Sight of the Women, for no Men ever enter’d into the Otan, but when the King went to entertain himself with some one of his Wives, or Mistresses; and ’twas Death at any other time, for any other to go in; so he knew not how to contrive to get a Sight of her.
While Oroonoko felt all the Agonies of Love, and suffer’d under a Torment the most painful in the World, the old King was not exempted from his share of Affliction. He was troubl’d for having been forc’d by an irresistable Passion, to rob his Son of a Treasure, he knew, cou’d not but be extreamly dear to him, since she was the most beautiful that ever had been seen; and had besides, all the Sweetness and Innocence of Youth and Modesty, with a Charm of Wit surpassing all. He found that, however she was forc’d to expose her lovely Person to his wither’d Arms, she cou’d only sigh and weep there, and think of Oroonoko; and oftentimes cou’d not forbear speaking of him, though her Life were, by Custom, forfeited by owning her Passion. But she spoke not of a Lover only, but of a Prince dear to him, to whom she spoke; and of the Praises of a Man, who, till now, fill’d the old Man’s Soul with Joy at every Recital of his Bravery, or even his Name. And ’twas this Dotage on our young Hero, that gave Imoinda a thousand Privileges to speak of him, without offending; and this Condescention in the old King, that made her take the Satisfaction of speaking of him so very often.
Besides, he many times enquir’d how the Prince bore himself; and those of whom he ask’d, being entirely Slaves to the Merits and Vertrues of the Prince, still answer’d what they thought conduc’d best to his Service; which was, to make the old King fansy that the Prince had no more Interest in Imoinda, and had resign’d her willingly to the Pleasure of the King; that he diverted himself with his Mathematicians, his Fortifications, his Officers, and his Hunting.
This pleas’d the old Lover, who fail’d not to report these things again to Imoinda, that she might, by the Example of her young Lover, withdraw her Heart, and rest better contented in his Arms. But however she was forc’d to receive this unwelcome News, in all Appearance, with Unconcern, and Content, her Heart was bursting within, and she was only happy when she cou’d get alone, to vent her Griefs and Moans with Sighs and Tears.
What Reports of the Prince’s Conduct were made to the King, he thought good to justifie as far as possibly he cou’d by his Actions; and when he appear’d in the Presence of the King, he shew’d a Face not at all betraying his Heart: So that in a little time the old Man, being entirely convinc’d that he was no longer a Lover of Imoinda, he carry’d him with him, in his Train, to the Otan, often to banquet with his Mistress. But as soon as he enter’d, one Day, into the Apartment of Imoinda, with the King, at the first Glance from her Eyes, notwithstanding all his determin d Resolution, he was ready to sink in the place where he stood; and had certainly done so, but for the Support of Aboan, a young Man, who was next to him; which, with his Change of Countenance, had betray’d him, had the King chanc’d to look that way. And I have observ’d, ’tis a very great Error in those, who laugh when one says, A Negro can change Colour; for I have seen ’em as frequently blush, and look pale, and that as visibly as ever I saw in the most beautiful White. And ’tis certain that both these Changes were evident, this Day, in both these Lovers. And Imoinda, who saw with some Joy the Change in the Prince’s Face, and found it in her own, strove to divert the King from beholding either, by a forc’d Caress, with which she met him; which was a new Wound in the Heart of the poor dying Prince. But as soon as the King was busy’d in looking on some fine thing of Imoinda’s making, she had time to tell the Prince with her angry, but Love-darting Eyes, that she resented his Coldness, and bemoan’d her own miserable Captivity. Nor were his Eyes silent, but answer’d hers again, as much as Eyes cou’d do, instructed by the most tender, and most passionate Heart that ever lov’d: And they spoke so well, and so effectually, as Imoinda no longer doubted, but she was the only Delight, and the Darling of that Soul she found pleading in ’em its Right of Love, which none was more willing to resign than she. And ’twas this powerful Language alone that in an Instant convey’d all the Thoughts of their Souls to each other; that they both found, there wanted but Opportunity to make them both entirely happy. But when he saw another Door open’d by Onahal, a former old Wife of the King’s, who now had Charge of Imoinda; and saw the Prospect of a Bed of State made ready, with Sweets and Flowers for the Dalliance of the King; who immediately lead the trembling Victim from his Sight, into that prepar’d Repose. What Rage! what wild Frenzies seiz’d his Heart! which forcing to keep within Bounds, and to suffer without Noise, it became the more insupportable, and rent his Soul with ten thousand Pains. He was forc’d to retire, to vent his Groans; where he fell down on a Carpet, and lay struggling a long time, and only breathing now and then,—O Imoinda! When Onahal had finish’d her necessary Affair within, shutting the Door, she came forth to wait, till the King call’d; and hearing some one sighing in the other Room, she pass’d on, and found the Prince in that deplorable Condition, which she thought needed her Aid: She gave him Cordials, but all in vain; till finding the nature of his Disease, by his Sighs, and naming Imoinda. She told him, he had not so much Cause as he imagin’d, to afflict himself; for if he knew the King so well as she did, he wou’d not lose a Moment in Jealousie, and that she was confident that Imoinda bore, at this Minute, part in his Affliction. Aboan was of the same Opinion; and both together, perswaded him to re-assume his Courage; and all sitting down on the Carpet, the Prince said so many obliging things to Onahal, that he half perswaded her to be of his Party. And she promis’d him, she wou’d thus far comply with his just Desires, that she wou’d let Imoinda know how faithful he was, what he suffer’d, and what he said.
This Discourse lasted till the King call’d, which gave Oroonoko a certain Satisfaction; and with the Hope Onahal had made him conceive, he assum’d a Look as gay as ’twas possible a Man in his Circumstances cou’d do; and presently after, he was call’d in with the rest who waited without. The King commanded Musick to be brought, and several of his young Wives and Mistresses came all together by his Command, to dance before him; where Imoinda perform’d her Part with an Air and Grace so passing all the rest, as her Beauty was above ’em; and receiv’d the Present, ordain’d as a Prize. The Prince was every Moment more charm’d with the new Beauties and Graces he beheld in this fair One: And while he gaz’d, and she danc’d, Onahal was retir’d to a Window with Aboan.
This Onahal, as I said, was one of the Cast-Mistresses of the old King; and ’twas these (now past their Beauty) that were made Guardians, or Governants to the new, and the young Ones; and whose Business it was, to teach them all those wanton Arts of Love, with which they prevail’d and charm’d heretofore in their Turn; and who now treated the triumphing happy Ones with all the Severity, as to Liberty and Freedom, that was possible, in revenge of those Honours they rob them of; envying them those Satisfactions, those Gallantries and Presents, that were once made to themselves, while Youth and Beauty lasted, and which they now saw pass were regardless by, and pay’d only to the Bloomings. And certainly, nothing is more afflicting to a decay’d Beauty, than to behold in it self declining Charms, that were once ador’d; and to find those Caresses paid to new Beauties, to which once she laid a Claim; to hear ’em whisper as she passes by, That once was a delicate Woman. These abandon’d Ladies therefore endeavour to revenge all the Despights, and Decays of Time, on these flourishing happy Ones. And ’twas this Severity, that gave Oroonoko a thousand Fears he shou’d never prevail with Onahal, to see Imoinda. But, as I said, she was now retir’d to a Window with Aboan.
This young Man was not only one of the best Quality, but a Man extreamly well made, and beautiful; and coming often to attend the King to the Otan, he had subdu’d the Heart of the antiquated Onahal, which had not forgot how pleasant it was to be in Love: And though she had some Decays in her Face, she had none in her Sence and Wit; she was there agreeable still, even to Aboan’s Youth; so that he took pleasure in entertaining her with Discourses of Love: He knew also, that to make his Court to these She-Favourites, was the way to be great; these being the Persons that do all Affairs and Business at Court. He had also observ’d that she had given him Glances more tender and inviting, than she had done to others of his Quality: And now, when he saw that her Favour cou’d so absolutely oblige the Prince, he fail’d not to sigh in her Ear, and to look with Eyes all soft upon her, and give her Hope that she had made some Impressions on his Heart. He found her pleas’d at this, and making a thousand Advances to him; but the Ceremony ending, and the King departing, broke up the Company for that Day, and his Conversation. Aboan fail’d not that Night to tell the Prince of his Success, and how advantageous the Service of Onahal might be to his Amour with Imoinda. The Prince was overjoy’d with this good News, and besought him, if it were possible, to caress her so, as to engage her entirely; which he cou’d not fail to do, if he comply’d with her Desires: For then (said the Prince) her Life lying at your Mercy, she must grant you the Request you make in my Behalf. Aboan understood him; and assur’d him, he would make Love so effectually, that he wou’d defie the most expert Mistress of the Art, to find out whether he dissembl’d it, or had it really. And ’twas with Impatience they waited the next Opportunity of going to the Otan.
The Wars came on, the Time of taking the Field approach’d, and ’twas impossible for the Prince to delay his going at the Head of his Army, to encounter the Enemy: So that every Day seem’d a tedious Year, till he saw his Imoinda; for he believ’d he cou’d not live, if he were forc’d away without being so happy. ’Twas with Impatience therefore, that he expected the next Visit the King wou’d make; and, according to his Wish, it was not long.
The Parley of the Eyes of these two Lovers had not pass’d so secretly, but an old jealous Lover cou’d spy it; or rather, he wanted not Flatterers, who told him, they observ’d it: So that the Prince was hasten’d to the Camp, and this was the last Visit he found he shou’d make to the Otan; he therefore urg’d Aboan to make the best of this last Effort, and to explain himself so to Onahal, that she, deferring her Enjoyment of her young Lover no longer, might make way for the Prince to speak to Imoinda .
The whole Affair being agreed on between the Prince and Aboan, they attended the King, as the Custom was, to the Otan; where, while the whole Company was taken up in beholding the Dancing, and antick Postures the Women Royal made, to divert the King, Onahal singl’d out Aboan, whom she found most pliable to her Wish. When she had him where she believ’d she cou’d not be heard, she sigh’d to him, and softly cry’d, Ah, Aboan! When will you be sensible of my Passion? I confess it with my Mouth, because I wou’d not give my Eyes the Lye; and you have but too much already perceiv’d they have confess’d my Flame: Nor wou’d I have you believe, that because I am the abandon’d Mistress of a King, I esteem my self altogether divested of Charms. No, Aboan; I have still a Rest of Beauty enough engaging, and have learn’d to please too well, not to be desirable. I can have Lovers still, but will have none but Aboan. Madam (reply’d the half-feigning Youth) you have already, by my Eyes, found, you can still conquer; and I believe ’tis in pity of me, you condescend to this kind Confession. But, Madam, Words are us’d to be so small a part of our Country-Courtship, that ’tis rare one can get so happy an Opportunity as to tell one’s Heart; and those few Minutes we have are forc’d to be snatch’d for more certain Proofs of Love, than speaking and sighing; and such I languish for.
He spoke this with such a Tone, that she hop’d it true, and cou’d not forbear believing it; and being wholly transported with Joy, for having subdu’d the finest of all the King’s Subjects to her Desires, she took from her Ears two large Pearls, and commanded him to wear ’em in his. He wou’d have refus’d ’em, crying, Madam, these are not the Proofs of your Love that I expect; ’tis Opportunity, ’tis a Lone hour only, that can make me happy. But forcing the Pearls into his Hand, she whisper’d softly to him, Oh! Do not fear a Woman’s Invention, when Love sets her a-thinking. And pressing his Hand, she cry’d, This Night you shall be happy. Come to the Gate of the Orange-Groves, behind the Otan; and I will be ready, about Mid-night, to receive you. ’Twas thus agreed, and she left him, that no notice might be taken of their speaking together.
The Ladies were still dancing, and the King, laid on a Carpet, with a great deal of pleasure, was beholding them, especially Imoinda; who that Day appear’d more lovely than ever, being enliven’d with the good Tidings Onahal had brought her of the constant Passion the Prince had for her. The Prince was laid on another Carpet, at the other end of the Room, with his Eyes fix’d on the Object of his Soul; and as she turn’d, or mov’d, so did they; and she alone gave his Eyes and Soul their Motions: Nor did Imoinda employ her Eyes to any other Use, than in beholding with infinite Pleasure the Joy she produc’d in those of the Prince. But while she was more regarding him, than the Steps she took, she chanc’d to fall; and so near him, as that leaping with extream force from the Carpet, he caught her in his Arms as she fell; and ’twas visible to the whole Presence, the Joy wherewith he receiv’d her: He clasp’d her close to his Bosom, and quite forgot that Reverence that was due to the Mistress of a King, and that Punishment that is the Reward of a Boldness of this nature; and had not the Presence of Mind of Imoinda (fonder of his Safety, than her own) befriended him, in making her spring from his Arms, and fall into her Dance again, he had, at that Instant, met his Death; for the old King, jealous to the last degree, rose up in Rage, broke all the Diversion, and led Imoinda to her Apartment, and sent out Word to the Prince, to go immediately to the Camp; and that if he were found another Night in Court, he shou’d suffer the Death ordain’d for disobedient Offenders.
You may imagine how welcome this News was to Oroonoko, whose unseasonable Transport and Caress of Imoinda was blam’d by all Men that lov’d him; and now he perceiv’d his Fault, yet cry’d, That for such another Moment, he wou’d be content to die.
All the Otan was in disorder about this Accident; and Onahal was particularly concern’d, because on the Prince’s Stay depended her Happiness; for she cou’d no longer expect that of Aboan. So that, e’er they departed, they contriv’d it so, that the Prince and he shou’d come both that Night to the Grove of the Otan,which was all of Oranges and Citrons; and that there they shou’d wait her Orders.
They parted thus, with Grief enough, till Night; leaving the King in possession of the lovely Maid. But nothing cou’d appease the Jealousie of the old Lover: He wou’d not be impos’d on, but wou’d have it, that Imoinda made a false Step on purpose to fall into Oroonoko’s Bosom, and that all things look’d like a Design on both sides, and ’twas in vain she protested her Innocence: He was old and obstinate, and left her more than half assur’d that his Fear was true.
The King going to his Apartment, sent to know where the Prince was, and if he intended to obey his Command. The Messenger return’d, and told him, he found the Prince pensive, and altogether unpreparing for the Campaign; that he lay negligently on the Ground, and answer’d very little. This confirm’d the Jealousie of the King, and he commanded that they shou’d very narrowly and privately watch his Motions; and that he shou’d not stir from his Apartment, but one Spy or other shou’d be employ’d to watch him: So that the Hour approaching, wherein he was to go to the Citron-Grove; and taking only Aboan along with him, he leaves his Apartment, and was watch’d to the very Gate of the Otan; where he was seen to enter, and where they left him, to carry back the Tidings to the King.
Oroonoko and Aboan were no sooner enter’d, but Onahal led the Prince to the Apartment of Imoinda; who, not knowing any thing of her Happiness, was laid in Bed. But Onahal only left him in her Chamber, to make the best of his Opportunity, and took her dear Aboan to her own; where he shew’d the heighth of Complaisance for his Prince, when, to give him an Opportunity, he suffer’d himself to be caress’d in Bed by Onahal .
The Prince softly waken’d Imoinda, who was not a little surpriz’d with Joy to find him there; and yet she trembl’d with a thousand Fears. I believe, he omitted saying nothing to this young Maid, that might perswade her to suffer him to seize his own, and take the Rights of Love; and I believe she was not long resisting those Arms, where she so long’d to be; and having Opportunity, Night and Silence, Youth, Love and Desire, he soon prevail’d; and ravish’d in a Moment, what his old Grand-father had been endeavouring for so many Months.
’Tis not to be imagin’d the Satisfaction of these two young Lovers; nor the Vows she made him, that she remain’d a spotless Maid, till that Night; and that what she did with his Grand-father, had robb’d him of no part of her Virgin-Honour, the Gods, in Mercy and Justice, having reserv’d that for her plighted Lord, to whom of Right it belong’d. And ’tis impossible to express the Transports he suffer’d, while he listen’d to a Discourse so charming, from her lov’d Lips; and clasp’d that Body in his Arms, for whom he had so long languish’d; and nothing now afflicted him, but his suddain Departure from her; for he told her the Necessity, and his Commands; but shou’d depart satisfy’d in this, That since the old King had hitherto not been able to deprive him of those Enjoyments which only belong’d to him, he believ’d for the future he wou’d be less able to injure him; so that, abating the Scandal of the Veil, which was no otherwise so, than that she was Wife to another: He believ’d her safe, even in the Arms of the King, and innocent; yet wou’d he have ventur’d at the Conquest of the World, and have given it all, to have had her avoided that Honour of receiving the Royal Veil. ’Twas thus, between a thousand Caresses, that both bemoan’d the hard Fate of Youth and Beauty, so liable to that cruel Promotion: ’Twas a Glory that cou’d well have been spar’d here, though desir’d, and aim’d at by all the young Females of that Kingdom.
But while they were thus fondly employ’d, forgetting how Time ran on, and that the Dawn must conduct him far away from his only Happiness, they heard a great Noise in the Otan, and unusual Voices of Men; at which the Prince, starting from the Arms of the frighted Imoinda, ran to a little Battel-Ax he us’d to wear by his Side; and having not so much leisure, as to put on his Habit, he oppos’d himself against some who were already opening the Door; which they did with so much Violence, that Oroonoko was not able to defend it; but was forc’d to cry out with a commanding Voice, Whoever ye are that have the Boldness to attempt to approach this Apartment thus rudely, know, that I, the Prince Oroonoko, will revenge it with the certain Death of him that first enters: Therefore stand back, and know, this place is sacred to Love, and me this Night; to Morrow ’tis the King’s.
This he spoke with a Voice so resolv’d and assur’d, that they soon retir’d from the Door, but cry’d, ’Tis by the King’s Command we are come; and being satisfy’d by thy Voice, O Prince, as much as if we had enter’d, we can report to the King the Truth of all his Fears, and leave thee to provide for thy own Safety, as thou art advis’d by thy Friends.
At these Words they departed, and left the Prince to take a short and sad Leave of his Imoinda; who trusting in the strength of her Charms, believ’d she shou’d appease the Fury of a jealous King, by saying, She was surpriz’d, and that it was by force of Arms he got into her Apartment. All her Concern now was for his Life, and therefore she hasten’d him to the Camp; and with much a-do, prevail’d on him to go: Nor was it she alone that prevail’d, Aboan and Onahal both pleaded, and both assur’d him of a Lye that shou’d be well enough contriv’d to secure Imoinda. So that, at last, with a Heart sad as Death, dying Eyes, and sighing Soul, Oroonoko departed, and took his way to the Camp.
It was not long after the King in Person came to the Otan; where beholding Imoindawith Rage in his Eyes, he upbraided her Wickedness and Perfidy, and threatning her Royal Lover, she fell on her Face at his Feet, bedewing the Floor with her Tears, and imploring his Pardon for a Fault which she had not with her Will committed; as Onahal, who was also prostrate with her, cou’d testifie: That, unknown to her, he had broke into her Apartment, and ravish’d her. She spoke this much against her Conscience; but to save her own Life, ’twas absolutely necessary she shou’d feign this Falsity. She knew it cou’d not injure the Prince, he being fled to-an-Army that wou’d stand by him, against any Injuries that shou’d assault him. However, this last Thought of Imoinda’s being ravish’d, chang’d the Measures of his Revenge; and whereas before he design’d to be himself her Executioner, he now resolv’d she shou’d not die. But as it is the greatest Crime in nature amongst ’em to touch a Woman, after having been possess’d by a Son, a Father, or a Brother; so now he look’d on Imoinda as a polluted thing, wholly unfit for his Embrace; nor wou’d he resign her to his Grand-son, because she had receiv’d the Royal Veil. He therefore removes her from the Otan, with Onahal; whom he put into safe Hands, with Order they shou’d be both sold off, as Slaves, to another Country, either Christian, or Heathen; ’twas no matter where.
This cruel Sentence, worse than Death, they implor’d, might be revers’d; but their Prayers were vain, and it was put in Execution accordingly, and that with so much Secrecy, that none, either without, or within the Otan, knew any thing of their Absence, or their Destiny.
The old King, nevertheless, executed this with a great deal of Reluctancy; but he believ’d he had made a very great Conquest over himself, when he had once resolv’d, and had perform’d what he resolv’d. He believ’d now, that his Love had been unjust; and that he cou’d not expect the Gods, or Captain of the Clouds, (as they call the unknown Power) shou’d suffer a better Consequence from so ill a Cause. He now begins to hold Oroonoko excus’d; and to say, he had Reason for what he did: And now every Body cou’d assure the King, how passionately Imoinda was belov’d by the Prince; even those confess’d it now, who said the contrary before his Flame was abated. So that the King being old, and not able to defend himself in War, and having no Sons of all his Race remaining alive, but only this, to maintain him on his Throne; and looking on this as a Man disoblig’d, first by the Rape of his Mistress, or rather, Wife; and now by depriving of him wholly of her, he fear’d, might make him desperate, and do some cruel thing, either to himself, or his old Grand-father, the Offender; he began to repent him extreamly of the Contempt he had, in his Rage, put on Imoinda. Besides, he consider’d he ought in Honour to have kill’d her, for this Offence, if it had been one: He ought to have had so much Value and Consideration for a Maid of her Quality, as to have nobly put her to death; and not to have sold her like a common Slave, the greatest Revenge, and the most disgraceful of any; and to which they a thousand times prefer Death, and implore it; as Imoinda did, but cou’d not obtain that Honour. Seeing therefore it was certain that Oroonoko wou’d highly resent this Affront, he thought good to make some Excuse for his Rashness to him; and to that End he sent a Messenger to the Camp, with Orders to treat with him about the Master, to gain his Pardon, and to endeavour to mitigate his Grief; but that by no means he shou’d tell him, she was sold, but secretly put to death; for he knew he shou’d. never obtain his Pardon for the other.
When the Messenger came, he found the Prince upon the point of Engaging with the Enemy; but as soon as he heard of the Arrival of the Messenger, he commanded him to his Tent, where he embrac’d him, and receiv’d him with Joy; which was soon abated, by the down-cast Looks of the Messenger, who was instantly demanded the Cause by Oroonoko, who, impatient of Delay, ask’d a thousand Questions in a Breath; and all concerning Imoinda: But there needed little Return, for he cou’d almost answer himself of all he demanded, from his Sighs and Eyes. At last, the Messenger casting himself at the Prince’s Feet, and kissing them, with all the Submission of a Man that had something to implore which he dreaded to utter, he besought him to hear with Calmness what he had to deliver to him, and to call up all his noble and Heroick Courage, to encounter with his Words, and defend himself against the ungrateful things he must relate. Oroonoko reply’d, with a deep Sigh, and a languishing Voice,—I am arm’d against their worst Efforts—; for I know they will tell me, Imoinda is no more—; and after that, you may spare the rest. Then, commanding him to rise, he laid himself on a Carpet, under a rich Pavillion, and remain’d a good while silent, and was hardly heard to sigh. When he was come a little to himself, the Messenger ask’d him leave to deliver that part of his Embassy, which the Prince had not yet devin’d: And the Prince cry’d, I permit thee—Then he told him the Affliction the old King was in, for the Rashness he had committed in his Cruelty to Imoinda; and how he daign’d to ask Pardon for his Offence, and to implore the Prince wou’d not suffer that Loss to touch his Heart too sensibly, which now all the Gods cou’d not restore him, but might recompence him in Glory, which he begg’d he wou’d pursue; and that Death, that common Revenger of all Injuries, wou’d soon even the Account between him, and a feeble old Man.
Oroonoko bad him return his Duty to his Lord and Master; and to assure him, there was no Account of Revenge to be adjusted between them; if there were, ’twas he was the Agressor, and that Death wou’d be just, and, maugre his Age, wou’d see him righted; and he was contented to leave his Share of Glory to Youths more fortunate, and worthy of that Favour from the Gods. That henceforth he wou’d never lift a Weapon, or draw a Bow; but abandon the small Remains of his Life to Sighs and Tears, and the continual Thoughts of what his Lord and Grand-father had thought good to send out of the World, with all that Youth, that Innocence, and Beauty.
After having spoken this, whatever his greatest Officers, and Men of the best Rank could do, they cou’d not raise him from the Carpet, or perswade him to Action, and Resolutions of Life; but commanding all to retire, he shut himself into his Pavillion all that Day, while the Enemy was ready to engage; and wondring at the Delay, the whole Body of the chief of the Army then address’d themselves to him, and to whom they had much a-do to get Admittance. They fell on their Faces at the Foot of his Carpet; where they lay, and besought him with earnest Prayers and Tears, to lead ’em forth to Battel, and not let the Enemy take Advantages of them; and implor’d him to have regard to his Glory, and to the World, that depended on his Courage and Conduct. But he made no other Reply to all their Supplications but this, That he had now no more Business for Glory; and for the World, it was a Trifle not worth his Care. Go, (continu’d he, sighing) and divide it amongst you; and reap with Joy what you so vainly prize, and leave me to my more welcome Destiny .
They then demanded what they shou’d do, and whom he wou’d constitute in his Room, that the Confusion of ambitious Youth and Power might not ruin their Order, and make them a Prey to the Enemy. He reply’d, He wou’d not give himself the Trouble—; but wish’d ’em to chuse the bravest Man amongst ’em, let his Quality or Birth be what it wou’d: For, O my Friends (said he!) it is not Titles make Men brave, or good; or Birth that bestows Courage and Generosity, or makes the Owner happy . Believe this, when you behold Oroonoko, the most wretched, and abandon’d by Fortune, of all the Creation of the Gods. So turning himself about, he wou’d make no more Reply to all they cou’d urge or implore.
The Army beholding their Officers return unsuccessful, with sad Faces, and ominous Looks, that presag’d no good Luck, suffer’d a thousand Fears to take Possession of their Hearts, and the Enemy to come even upon ’em, before they wou’d provide for their Safety, by any Defence; and though they were assur’d by some, who had a mind to animate ’em, that they shou’d be immediately headed by the Prince, and that in the mean time Aboan had Orders to command as General; yet they were so dismay’d for want of that great Example of Bravery, that they cou’d make but a very feeble Resistance; and at last, down-right, fled before the Enemy, who pursu’d ’em to the very Tents, killing ’em: Nor cou’d all Aboan’s Courage, which that Day gain’d him immortal Glory, shame ’em into a Manly Defence of themselves. The Guards that were left behind, about the Prince’s Tent, seeing the Soldiers flee before the Enemy, and scatter themselves all over the Plain, in great Disorder, made such Out-cries as rouz’d the Prince from his amorous Slumber, in which he had remain’d bury’d for two Days, without permitting any Sustenance to approach him: But, in spight of all his Resolutions, he had not the Constancy of Grief to that Degree, as to make him insensible of the Danger of his Army; and in that Instant he leap’d from his Couch, and cry’d,—Come, if we must die, let us meet Death the noblest Way; and ’twill be more like Oroonoko to encounter him at an Army’s Head, opposing the Torrent of a conquering Foe, than lazily, on a Couch, to wait his lingering Pleasure, and die every Moment by a thousand wrecking Thought; or be tamely taken by an Enemy, and led a whining, Love-sick Slave, to adorn the Triumphs of Jamoan, that young Victor, who already is enter’d beyond the Limits I had prescrib d him.
While he was speaking, he suffer’d his People to dress him for the Field; and sallying out of his Pavillion, with more Life and Vigour in his Countenance than ever he shew’d, he appear’d like some Divine Power descended to save his Country from Destruction; and his People had purposely put him on all things that might make him shine with most Splendor, to strike a reverend A we into the Beholders. He flew into the thickest of those that were pursuing his Men; and being animated with Despair, he fought as if he came on purpose to die, and did such things as will not be believ’d that Humane Strength cou’d perform; and such as soon inspir’d all the rest with new Courage, and new Order: And now it was, that they began to fight indeed; and so, as if they wou’d not be out-done, even by their ador’d Hero; who turning the Tide of the Victory, changing absolutely the Fate of the Day, gain’d an entire Conquest; and Oroonokohaving the good Fortune to single out Jamoan, he took him Prisoner with his own Hand, having wounded him almost to death.
This Jamoan afterwards became very dear to him, being a Man very gallant, and of excellent Graces, and fine Parts; so that he never put him amongst the Rank of Captives, as they us’d to do, without distinction, for the common Sale, or Market; but kept him in his own Court, where he retain’d nothing of the Prisoner, but the Name, and return’d no more into his own Country, so great an Affection he took for Oroonoko;and by a thousand Tales and Adventures of Love and Gallantry, flatter’d his Disease of Melancholy and Languishment; which I have often heard him say, had certainly kill’d him, but for the Conversation of this Prince and Aboan, the French Governor he had from his Childhood, of whom I have spoken before, and who was a Man of admirable Wit, great Ingenuity and Learning; all which he had infus’d into his young Pupil. This French-Man was banish’d out of his own Country, for some Heretical Notions he held; and though he was a Man of very little Religion, he had admirable Morals, and a brave Soul.
After the total Defeat of Jamoan’s Army, which all fled, or were left dead upon the Place, they spent some time in the Camp; Oroonoko chusing rather to remain a while there in his Tents, than enter into a Place, or live in a Court where he had so lately suffer’d so great a Loss. The Officers therefore, who saw and knew his Cause of Discontent, invented all sorts of Diversions and Sports, to entertain their Prince: So that what with those Amuzements abroad, and others at home, that is, within their Tents, with the Perswasions, Arguments and Care of his Friends and Servants that he more peculiarly priz’d, he wore off in time a great part of that Shagrien, and Torture of Despair, which the first Efforts of Imoinda’s Death had given him: Insomuch as having receiv’d a thousand kind Embassies from the King, and Invitations to return to Court, he obey’d, though with no little Reluctancy; and when he did so, there was a visible Change in him, and for a long time he was much more melancholy than before. But Time lessens all Extreams, and reduces ’em to Mediums and Unconcern; but no Motives or Beauties, though all endeavour’d it, cou’d engage him in any sort of Amour, though he had all the Invitations to it, both from his own Youth, and others Ambitions and Designs.
Oroonoko was no sooner return’d from this last Conquest, and receiv’d at Court with all the Joy and Magnificence that cou’d be express’d to a young Victor, who was not only return’d triumphant, but belov’d like a Deity, when there arriv’d in the Port an English Ship.
This Person had often before been in these Countries, and was very well known to Oroonoko, with whom he had traffick’d for Slaves, and had us’d to do the same with his Predecessors.
This Commander was a Man of a finer sort of Address, and Conversation, better bred, and more engaging, than most of that sort of Men are; so that he seem’d rather never to have been bred out of a Court, than almost all his Life at Sea. This Captain therefore was always better receiv’d at Court, than most of the Traders to those Countries were; and especially by Oroonoko, who was more civiliz’d, according to the European Mode, than any other had been, and took more Delight in the White Nations; and, above all, Men of Parts and Wit. To this Captain he sold abundance of his Slaves; and for the Favour and Esteem he had for him, made him many Presents, and oblig’d him to stay at Court as long as possibly he cou’d. Which the Captain seem’d to take as a very great Honour done him, entertaining the Prince every Day with Globes and Maps, and Mathematical Discourses and Instruments; eating, drinking, hunting and living with him with so much Familiarity, that it was not to be doubted, but he had gain’d very greatly upon the Heart of this gallant young Man. And the Captain, in Return of all these mighty Favours, besought the Prince to honour his Vessel with his Presence, some Day or other, to Dinner, before he shou’d set Sail; which he condescended to accept, and appointed his Day. The Captain, on his part, fail’d not to have all things in a Readiness, in the most magnificent Order he cou’d possibly: And the Day being come, the Captain, in his Boat, richly adorn’d with Carpets and Velvet-Cushions, row’d to the Shoar to receive the Prince; with another Long-Boat, where was plac’d all his Musick and Trumpets, with which Oroonoko was extreamly delighted; who met him on the Shoar, attended by his French Governor, Jamoan, Aboan, and about an hundred of the noblest of the Youths of the Court: And after they had first carry’d the Prince on Board, the Boats fetch’d the rest off; where they found a very splendid Treat, with all sorts of fine Wines; and were as well entertain’d, as ’twas possible in such a place to be.
The Prince having drunk hard of Punch, and several Sorts of Wine, as did all the rest (for great Care was taken, they shou’d want nothing of that part of the Entertainment) was very merry, and in great Admiration of the Ship, for he had never been in one before; so that he was curious of beholding every place, where he decently might descend. The rest, no less curious, who were not quite overcome with Drinking, rambl’d at their pleasure Fore and Aft, as their Fancies guided ’em: So that the Captain, who had well laid his Design before, gave the Word, and seiz’d on all his Guests; they clapping great Irons suddenly on the Prince, when he was leap’d down in the Hold, to view that part of the Vessel; and locking him fast down, secur’d him. The same Treachery was us’d to all the rest; and all in one Instant, in several places of the Ship, were lash’d fast in Irons, and betray’d to Slavery. That great Design over, they set all Hands to work to hoise Sail; and with as treacherous and fair a Wind, they made from the Shoar with this innocent and glorious Prize, who thought of nothing less than such an Entertainment.
Some have commended this Act, as brave, in the Captain; but I will spare my Sence of it, and leave it to my Reader, to judge as he pleases.
It may be easily guess’d, in what manner the Prince resented this Indignity, who may be best resembl’d to a Lion taken in a Toil; so he rag’d, so he struggl’d for Liberty, but all in vain; and they had so wisely manag’d his Fetters, that he cou’d not use a Hand in his Defence, to quit himself of a Life that wou’d by no Means endure Slavery; nor cou’d he move from the Place, where he was ty’d, to any solid part of the Ship, against which he might have beat his Head, and have finish’d his Disgrace that way: So that being deprived of all other means, he resolved to perish for want of Food: And pleased at last with that Thought, and toil’d and tired by Rage and Indignation, he laid himself down, and sullenly resolved upon dying, and refused all things that were brought him.
This did not a little vex the Captain, and the more so, because, he found almost all of ’em of the same Humour; so that the loss of so many brave Slaves, so tall and goodly to behold, wou’d have been very considerable: He therefore order’d one to go from him (for he wou’d not be seen himself) to Oroonoko, and to assure him he was afflicted for having rashly done so unhospitable a Deed, and which cou’d not be now remedied, since they were far from shore; but since he resented it in so high a nature, he assur’d him he wou’d revoke his Resolution, and set both him and his Friends a-shore on the next Land they shou’d touch at; and of this the Messenger gave him his Oath, provided he wou’d resolve to live: And Oroonoko, whose Honour was such as he never had violated a Word in his Life himself, much less a solemn Asseveration; believ’d in an instant what this Man said, but reply’d, He expected for a Confirmation of this, to have his shameful Fetters dismiss’d. This Demand was carried to the Captain, who return’d him answer, That the Offence had been so great which he had put upon the Prince, that he durst not trust him with Liberty while he remained in the Ship, for fear lest by a Valour natural to him, and a Revenge that would animate that Valour, he might commit some Outrage fatal to himself and the King his Master, to whom his Vessel did belong. To this Oroonoko replied, he would engage his Honour to behave himself in all friendly Order and Manner, and obey the Command of the Captain, as he was Lord of the King’s Vessel, and General of those Men under his Command.
This was deliver’d to the still doubting Captain, who could not resolve to trust a Heathen he said, upon his Parole, a Man that had no sence or notion of the God that he Worshipp’d. Oroonoko then replied, He was very sorry to hear that the Captainpretended to the Knowledge and Worship of any Gods, who had taught him no better Principles, than not to Credit as he would be Credited: but they told him the Difference of their Faith occasion’d that Distrust: For the Captain had protested to him upon the Word of a Christian, and sworn in the Name of a Great GOD; which if he shou’d violate, he would expect eternal Torment in the World to come. Is that all the Obligation he has to be Just to his Oath, replied Oroonoko? Let him know I Swear by my Honour, which to violate, wou’d not only render me contemptible and despised by all brave and honest Men, and so give my self perpetual pain, but it wou’d be eternally offending and dispeasing all Mankind, harming, betraying, circumventing and outraging all Men; but Punishments hereafter are suffer’d by ones self; and the World takes no cognizances whether this God have revenged em, or not, tis done so secretly, and deferr’d so long: While the Man of no Honour, suffers every moment the scorn and contempt of the honester World, and dies every day ignominiously in his Fame, which is more valuable than Life: I speak not this to move Belief, but to shew you how you mistake, when you imagine, That he who will violate his Honour, will keep his Word with his Gods. So turning from him with a disdainful smile, he refused to answer him, when he urg’d him to know what Answer he shou’d carry back to his Captain; so that he departed without saying any more.
The Captain pondering and consulting what to do, it was concluded that nothing but Oroonoko’s Liberty wou’d encourage any of the rest to eat, except the French-man, whom the Captain cou’d not pretend to keep Prisoner, but only told him he was secured because he might act something in favour of the Prince, but that he shou’d be freed as soon as they came to Land. So that they concluded it wholly necessary to free the Prince from his Irons, that he might show himself to the rest; that they might have an Eye upon him, and that they cou’d not fear a single Man.
This being resolv’d, to make the Obligation the greater, the Captain himself went to Oroonoko; where, after many Complements, and Assurances of what he had already promis’d, he receiving from the Prince his Parole, and his Hand, for his good Behaviour, dismiss’d his Irons, and brought him to his own Cabin; where, after having treated and repos’d him a while, for he had neither eat nor slept in four Days before, he besought him to visit those obstinate People in Chains, who refus’d all manner of Sustenance; and intreated him to oblige ’em to eat, and assure ’em of their Liberty the first Opportunity.
Oroonoko, who was too generous, not to give Credit to his Words, shew’d himself to his People, who were transported with Excess of Joy at the sight of their Darling Prince; falling at his Feet, and kissing and embracing ’em; believing, as some Divine Oracle, all he assur’d ’em. But he besought ’em to bear their Chains with that Bravery that became those whom he had seen act so nobly in Arms; and that they cou’d not give him greater Proofs of their Love and Friendship, since ’twas all the Security the Captain (his Friend) cou’d have, against the Revenge, he said, they might possibly justly take, for the Injuries sustain’d by him. And they all, with one Accord, assur’d him, they cou’d not suffer enough, when it was for his Repose and Safety.
After this they no longer refus’d to eat, but took what was brought ’em, and were pleas’d with their Captivity, since by it they hop’d to redeem the Prince, who, all the rest of the Voyage, was treated with all the Respect due to his Birth, though nothing cou’d divert his Melancholy; and he wou’d often sigh for Imoinda, and think this a Punishment due to his Misfortune, in having left that noble Maid behind him, that fatal Night, in the Otan, when he fled to the Camp.
Possess’d with a thousand Thoughts of past Joys with this fair young Person, and a thousand Griefs for her eternal Loss, he endur’d a tedious Voyage, and at last arriv’d at the Mouth of the River of Surinam, a Colony belonging to the King of England, and where they were to deliver some part of their Slaves. There the Merchants and Gentlemen of the Country going on Board, to demand those Lots of Slaves they had already agreed on; and, amongst those, the Over-seers of those Plantations where I then chanc’d to be, the Captain, who had given the Word, order’d his Men to bring up those noble Slaves in Fetters, whom I have spoken of; and having put ’em, some in one, and some in other Lots, with Women and Children (which they call Pickaninies,)they sold ’em off, as Slaves, to several Merchants and Gentlemen; not putting any two in one Lot, because they wou’d separate ’em far from each other; not daring to trust ’em together, lest Rage and Courage shou’d put ’em upon contriving some great Action, to the Ruin of the Colony.
Oroonoko was first seiz’d on, and sold to our Over-seer, who had the first Lot, with seventeen more of all sorts and sizes; but not one of Quality with him. When he saw this, he found what they meant; for, as I said, he understood English pretty well; and being wholly unarm’d and defenceless, so as it was in vain to make any Resistance, he only beheld the Captain with a Look all fierce and disdainful, upbraiding him with Eyes, that forc’d Blushes on his guilty Cheeks, he only cry’d, in passing over the Side of the Ship, Farewel, Sir: ’Tis worth my Suffering, to gain so true a Knowledge both of you, and of your Gods by whom you swear. And desiring those that held him to forbear their pains, and telling ’em he wou’d make no Resistance, he cry’d, Come, my Fellow-Slaves; let as descend, and see if we can meet with more Honour and Honesty in the next World we shall touch upon. So he nimbly leap’d into the Boat, and shewing no more Concern, suffer’d himself to be row’d up the River, with his seventeen Companions.
The Gentleman that bought him was a young Cornish Gentleman, whose Name was Trefry; a Man of great Wit, and fine Learning, and was carry’d into those Parts by the Lord—Governor, to manage all his Affairs. He reflecting on the last Words of Oroonoko to the Captain, and beholding the Richness of his Vest, no sooner came into the Boat, but he fix’d his Eyes on him; and finding something so extraordinary in his Face, his Shape and Mien, a Greatness of Look, and Haughtiness in his Air, and finding he spoke English, had a great mind to be enquiring into his Quality and Fortune; which, though Oroonoko endeavour’d to hide, by only confessing he was above the Rank of common Slaves, Trefry soon found he was yet something greater than he confess’d; and from that Moment began to conceive so vast an Esteem for him, that he ever after lov’d him as his dearest Brother, and shew’d him all the Civilities due to so great a Man.
Trefry was a very good Mathematician, and a Linguist; cou’d speak French and Spanish; and in the three Days they remain’d in the Boat (for so long were they going from the Ship, to the Plantation) he entertain’d Oroonoko so agreeably with his Art and Discourse, that he was no less pleas’d with Trefry, than he was with the Prince; and he thought himself, at least, fortunate in this, that since he was a Slave, as long as he wou’d suffer himself to remain so, he had a Man of so excellent Wit and Parts for a Master: So that before they had finish’d their Voyage up the River, he made no scruple of declaring to Trefry all his Fortunes, and most part of what I have here related, and put himself wholly into the Hands of his new Friend, whom he found resenting all the Injuries were done him, and was charm’d with all the Greatnesses of his Actions; which were recited with that Modesty, and delicate Sence, as wholly vanquish’d him, and subdu’d him to his Interest. And he promis’d him on his Word and Honour, he wou’d find the Means to re-conduct him to his own Country again: assuring him, he had a perfect Abhorrence of so dishonourable an Action; and that he wou’d sooner have dy’d, than have been the Author of such a Perfidy. He found the Prince was very much concern’d to know what became of his Friends, and how they took their Slavery; and Trefry promis’d to take care about the enquiring after their Condition, and that he shou’d have an Account of ’em.
Though, as Oroonoko afterwards said, he had little Reason to credit the Words of a Backearary, yet he knew not why; but he saw a kind of Sincerity, and awful Truth in the Face of Trefry; he saw an Honesty in his Eyes, and he found him wise and witty enough to understand Honour; for it was one of his Maxims, A Man of Wit cou’d not be a Knave or Villain.
In their passage up the River, they put in at several Houses for Refreshment; and ever when they landed, numbers of People wou’d flock to behold this Man; not but their Eyes were daily entertain’d with the sight of Slaves, but the Fame of Oroonoko was gone before him, and all People were in Admiration of his Beauty. Besides, he had a rich Habit on, in which he was taken, so different from the rest, and which the Captain cou’d not strip him of, because he was forc’d to surprize his Person in the Minute he sold him. When he found his Habit made him liable, as he thought, to be gaz’d at the more, he begg’d Trefry to give him something more befitting a Slave; which he did, and took off his Robes. Nevertheless, he shone through all; and his Osenbrigs (a sort of brown Holland Suit he had on) cou’d not conceal the Graces of his Looks and Mien; and he had no less Admirers, than when he had his dazeling Habit on: The Royal Youth appear’d in spight of the Slave, and People cou’d not help treating him after a different manner, without designing it: As soon as they approach’d him, they venerated and esteem’d him; his Eyes insensibly commanded Respect, and his Behaviour insinuated it into every Soul. So that there was nothing talk’d of but this young and gallant Slave, even by those who yet knew not that he was a Prince.
I ought to tell you, that the Christians never buy any Slaves but they give ’em some Name of their own, their native ones being likely very barbarous, and hard to pronounce; so that Mr. Trefry gave Oroonoko that of Caesar; which Name will live in that Country as long as that (scarce more) glorious one of the great Roman; for ’tis most evident, he wanted no part of the Personal Courage of that Caesar, and acted things as memorable, had they been done in some part of the World replenish’d with People, and Historians, that might have given him his due. But his Misfortune was, to fall in an obscure World, that afforded only a Female Pen to celebrate his Fame; though I doubt not but it had liv’d from others Endeavours, if the Dutch, who, immediately after his Time, took that Country, had not kill’d, banish’d and dispers’d all those that were capable of giving the World this great Man’s Life, much better than I have done. And Mr. Trefry, who design’d it, dy’d before he began it; and bemoan’d himself for not having undertook it in time.
For the future therefore, I must call Oroonoko, Caesar, since by that Name only he was known in our Western World, and by that Name he was receiv’d on Shoar at Parham-House, where he was destin’d a Slave. But if the King himself (God bless him) had come a-shore, there cou’d not have been greater Expectations by all the whole Plantation, and those neighbouring ones, than was on ours at that time; and he was receiv’d more like a Governor, than a Slave. Notwithstanding, as the Custom was, they assign’d him his Portion of Land, his House, and his Business, up in the Plantation. But as it was more for Form, than any Design, to put him to his Task, he endur’d no more of the Slave but the Name, and remain’d some Days in the House, receiving all Visits that were made him, without stirring towards that part of the Plantation where the Negroes were.
At last, he wou’d needs go view his Land, his House, and the Business assign’d him. But he no sooner came to the Houses of the Slaves, which are like a little Town by it self, the Negroes all having left Work, but they all came forth to behold him, and found he was that Prince who had, at several times, sold most of ’em to these Parts; and, from a Veneration they pay to great Men, especially if they know ’em, and from the Surprize and Awe they had at the sight of him, they all cast themselves at his Feet, crying out, in their Language, Live, O King! Long live, O King! And kissing his Feet, paid him even Divine Homage.
Several English Gentlemen were with him; and what Mr. Trefry had told ’em, was here confirm’d; of which he himself before had no other Witness than Caesar himself: But he was infinitely glad to find his Grandure confirm’d by the Adoration of all the Slaves.
Caesar troubl’d with their Over-Joy, and Over-Ceremony, besought ’em to rise, and to receive him as their Fellow-Slave; assuring them, he was no better. At which they set up with one Accord a most terrible and hidious Mourning and condoling, which he and the English had much a-do to appease; but at last they prevail’d with ’em, and they prepar’d all their barbarous Musick, and every one kill’d and dress’d something of his own Stock (for every Family has their Land apart, on which, at their leisure times, they breed all eatable things;) and clubbing it together, made a most magnificent Supper, inviting their Grandee Captain, their Prince, to honour it with his Presence; which he did, and several English with him; where they all waited on him, some playing, others dancing before him all the time, according to the Manners of their several Nations; and with unwearied Industry, endeavouring to please and delight him.
While they sat at Meat Mr. Trefry told Caesar, that most of these young Slaves were undon in Love, with a fine she Slave, whom they had had about Six Months on their Land; the Prince, who never heard the Name of Love without a Sigh, nor any mention of it without the Curiosity of examining further into that tale, which of all Discourses was most agreeable to him, asked, how they came to be so Unhappy, as to be all Undon for one fair Slave? Trefry, who was naturally Amorous, and lov’d to talk of Love as well as any body, proceeded to tell him, they had the most charming Black that ever was beheld on their Plantation, about Fifteen or Sixteen Years old, as he guest; that, for his part, he had done nothing but Sigh for her ever since she came; and that all the white Beautys he had seen, never charm’d him so absolutely as this fine Creature had done; and that no Man, of any Nation, ever beheld her, that did not fall in Love with her; and that she had all the Slaves perpetually at her Feet; and the whole Country resounded with the Fame of Clemene,for so, said he, we have Christ’ned her: But she denys us all with such a noble Disdain, that ’tis a Miracle to see, that she, who can give such eternal Desires, shou’d herself be all Ice, and all Unconcern. She is adorn’d with the most Graceful Modesty that ever beautifyed Youth; the softest Sigher— that, if she were capable of Love, one would swear she languish’d for some absent happy Man; and so retir’d, as if she fear’d a Rape even from the God of Day; or that the Breezes would steal Kisses from her delicate Mouth. Her Task of Work some sighing Lover every day makes it his Petition to perform for her, which she excepts blushing, and with reluctancy, for fear he will ask her a Look for a Recompence, which he dares not presume to hope; so great an Awe she strikes into the Hearts of her Admirers. I do not wonder, replied the Prince, that Clemene shou’d refuse Slaves, being as you say so Beautiful, but wonder how she escapes those who can entertain her as you can do; or why, being your Slave, you do not oblige her to yield. I confess, said Trefry, when I have, against her will, entertain’d her with Love so long, as to be transported with my Passion; even above Decency, I have been ready to make use of those advantages of Strength and Force Nature has given me. But oh! she disarms me, with that Modesty and Weeping so tender and so moving, that I retire, and thank my Stars she overcame me. The Comapany laught at his Civility to a Slave, and Caesar only applauded the nobleness of his Passion and Nature; since that Slave might be Noble, or, what was better, have true Notions of Honour and Vertue in her. Thus past they this Night, after having received, from the Slaves, all imaginable Respect and Obedience.
The next Day Trefry ask’d Caesar to walk, when the heat was allay’d, and designedly carried him by the Cottage of the fair Slave; and told him, she whom he spoke of last Night liv’d there retir’d. But, says he, I would not wish you to approach, for, I am sure, you will be in Love as soon as you behold her. Caesar assur’d him, he was proof against all the Charms of that Sex; and that if he imagin’d his Heart cou’d be so perfidious to Love again, after Imoinda, he believ’d he shou’d tear it from his Bosom: They had no sooner spoke, but a little shock Dog, that Clemene had presented her, which she took great Delight in, ran out; and she, not knowing any body was there, ran to get it in again, and bolted out on those who were just Speaking of her: When seeing them, she wou’d have run in again; but Trefry caught her by the Hand, and cry’d, Clemene, however you fly a Lover, you ought to pay some Respect to this Stranger: (pointing to Caesar) But she, as if she had resolv’d never to raise her Eyes to the Face of a Man again, bent ’em the more to the Earth, when he spoke, and gave the Prince the Leasure to look the more at her. There needed no long Gazing, or Consideration, to examin who this fair Creature was; he soon saw Imoinda all over her; in a Minute he saw her Face, her Shape, her Air, her Modesty, and all that call’d forth his Soul with Joy at his Eyes, and left his Body destitute of almost Life; it stood without Motion, and, for a Minute, knew not that it had a Being; and, I believe, he had never come to himself, so opprest he was with over-Joy, if he had not met with this Allay, that he perceiv’d Imoinda fall dead in the Hands of Trefry: this awaken’d him, and he ran to her aid, and caught her in his Arms, where, by degrees, she came to herself; and ’tis needless to tell with what transports, what extasies of Joy, they both a while beheld each other, without Speaking; then Snatcht each other to their Arms; then Gaze again, as if they still doubted whether they possess’d the Blessing: They Graspt, but when they recovered their Speech, ’tis not to be imagin’d, what tender things they exprest to each other; wondering what strange Fate had brought ’em again together. They soon inform’d each other of their Fortunes, and equally bewail’d their Fate; but, at the same time, they mutually protested, that even Fetters and Slavery were Soft and Easy; and wou’d be supported with Joy and Pleasure, while they cou’d be so happy to possess each other, and to be able to make good their Vows. Caesar swore he disdain’d the Empire of the World, while he cou’d behold his Imoinda; and she despis’d Grandure and Pomp, those Vanities of her Sex, when she cou’d Gaze on Oroonoko. He ador’d the very Cottage where she resided, and said, That little Inch of the World wou’d give him more Happiness than all the Universe cou’d do; and she vow’d, It was a Pallace, while adorn’d with the Presence of Oroonoko .
Trefry was infinitely pleas’d with this Novel, and found this Clemene was the Fair Mistress of whom Caesar had before spoke; and was not a little satisfied, that Heaven was so kind to the Prince, as to sweeten his Misfortunes by so lucky an Accident; and leaving the Lovers to themselves, was impatient to come down to Parham House, (which was on the same Plantation) to give me an Account of what had hapned. I was as impatient to make these Lovers a Visit, having already made a Friendship with Caesar; and from his own Mouth learn’d what I have related, which was confirmed by his French-man, who was set on Shore to seek his Fortunes; and of whom they cou’d not make a Slave, because a Christian; and he came daily to Parham Hill to see and pay his Respects to his Puple Prince: So that concerning and intresting my self, in all that related to Caesar, whom I had assur’d of Liberty, as soon as the Governor arriv’d, I hasted presently to the Place where the Lovers were, and was infinitely glad to find this Beautiful young Slave (who had already gain’d all our Esteems, for her Modesty and her extraordinary Prettyness) to be the same I had heard Caesar speak so much off. One may imagine then, we paid her a treble Respect; and though from her being carv’d in fine Flowers and Birds all over her Body, we took her to be of Quality before, yet, when we knew Clemene was Imoinda, we cou’d not enough admire her.
I had forgot to tell you, that those who are Nobly born of that Country, are so delicately Cut and Rac’d all over the fore-part of the Trunk of their Bodies, that it looks as if it were Japan’d; the Works being raised like high Poynt round the Edges of the Flowers: Some are only Carv’d with a little Flower, or Bird, at the Sides of the Temples, as was Caesar; and those who are so Carv’d over the Body, resemble our Ancient Picts, that are figur’d in the Chronicles, but these Carvings are more delicate.
From that happy Day Caesar took Clemene for his Wife, to the general Joy of all People; and there was as much Magnificence as the Country wou’d afford at the Celebration of this Wedding: and in a very short time after she conceiv’d with Child; which made Caesar even adore her, knowing he was the last of his Great Race. This new Accident made him more Impatient of Liberty, and he was every Day treating with Trefry for his and Clemene’s Liberty; and offer’d either Gold, or a vast quantity of Slaves, which shou’d be paid before they let him go, provided he cou’d have any Security that he shou’d go when his Ransom was paid: They fed him from Day to Day with Promises, and delay’d him, till the Lord Governor shou’d come; so that he began to suspect them of falshood, and that they wou’d delay him till the time of his Wives delivery, and make a Slave of that too, For all the Breed is theirs to whom the Parents belong: This Thought made him very uneasy, and his Sullenness gave them some Jealousies of him; so that I was oblig’d, by some Persons, who fear’d a Mutiny (which is very Fatal sometimes in those Colonies, that abound so with Slaves, that they exceed the Whites in vast Numbers) to discourse with Caesar, and to give him all the Satisfaction I possibly cou’d; they knew he and Clemene were scarce an Hour in a Day from my Lodgings; that they eat with me, and that I oblig’d ’em in all things I was capable of: I entertain’d him with the Lives of the Romans, and great Men, which charm’d him to my Company; and her, with teaching her all the pretty Works that I was Mistress off; and telling her Stories of Nuns, and endeavoring to bring her to the knowledge of the true God. But of all Discourses Caesar lik’d that the worst, and wou’d never be reconcil’d to our Notions of the Trinity, of which he ever made a Jest; it was a Riddle, he said, wou’d turn his Brain to conceive, and one cou’d not make him understand what Faith was. However, these Conversations fail’d not altogether so well to divert him, that he lik’d the Company of us Women much above the Men; for he cou’d not Drink; and he is but an ill Companion in that Country that cannot: So that obliging him to love us very well, we had all the Liberty of Speech with him, especially my self, whom he call’d his Great Mistress; and indeed my Word wou’d go a great way with him. For these Reasons, I had Opportunity to take notice to him, that he was not well pleasd of late, as he us’d to be; was more retir’d and thoughtful; and told him, I took it Ill he shou’d Suspect we wou’d break our Words with him, and not permit both him and Clemeneto return to his own Kingdom, which was not so long a way, but when he was once on his Voyage he wou’d quickly arrive there. He made me some Answers that shew’d a doubt in him, which made me ask him, what advantage it wou’d be to doubt? it would but give us a Fear of him, and possibly compel us to treat him so as I shou’d be very loath to behold: that is, it might occasion his Confinement. Perhaps this was not so Luckily spoke of me, for I perceiv’d he resented that Word, which I strove to Soften again in vain: However, he assur’d me, that whatsoever Resolutions he shou’d take, he wou’d Act nothing upon the White-People; and as for my self, and those upon that Plantation where he was, he wou’d sooner forfeit his eternal Liberty, and Life it self, than lift his Hand against his greatest Enemy on that Place: He besought me to suffer no Fears upon his Account, for he cou’d do nothing that Honour shou’d not dictate; but he accus’d himself for having suffer’d Slavery so long; yet he charg’d that weakness on Love alone, who was capable of making him negect even Glory it self; and, for which, now he reproches himself every moment of the Day. Much more to this effect he spoke, with an Air impatient enough to make me know he wou’d not be long in Bondage; and though he suffer’d only the Name of a Slave, and had nothing of the Toil and Labour of one, yet that was sufficient to render him Uneasy; and he had been too long Idle, who us’d to be always in Action, and in Arms: He had a Spirit all Rough and Fierce, and that cou’d not be tam’d to lazy Rest; and though all endeavors were us’d to exercise himself in such Actions and Sports as this World afforded, as Running, Wrastling, Pitching the Bar, Hunting and Fishing, Chasing and Killing Tigers of a monstrous Size, which this Continent affords in abundance; and wonderful Snakes, such as Alexander is reported to have incounter’d at the River of Amozons, and which Caesar took great Delight to overcome; yet these were not Actions great enough for his large Soul, which was still panting after more renown’d Action.
Before I parted that Day with him, I got, with much ado, a Promise from him to rest yet a little longer with Patience, and wait the coming of the Lord Governor, who was every Day expected on our Shore; he assur’d me he wou’d, and this Promise he desired me to know was given perfectly in Complaisance to me, in whom he had an intire Confidence.
After this, I neither thought it convenient to trust him much out of our View, nor did the Country who fear’d him; but with one accord it was advis’d to treat him Fairly, and oblige him to remain within such a compass, and that he shou’d be permitted, as seldom as cou’d be, to go up to the Plantations of the Negroes; or, if he did, to be accompany’d by some that shou’d be rather in appearance Attendants than Spys. This Care was for some time taken, and Caesar look’d upon it as a Mark of extraordinary Respect, and was glad his discontent had oblig’d ’em to be more observant to him; he received new assurance from the Overseer, which was confirmed to him by the Opinion of all the Gentlemen of the Country, who made their court to him: During this time that we had his Company more frequently than hitherto we had had, it may not be unpleasant to relate to you the Diversions we entertain’d him with, or rather he us.
My stay was to be short in that Country, because my Father dy’d at Sea, and never arriv’d to possess the Honour was design’d him, (which was Lieutenant-General of Six and thirty Islands, besides the Continent of Surinam) nor the advantages he hop’d to reap by them; so that though we were oblig’d to continue on our Voyage, we did not intend to stay upon the Place: Though, in a Word, I must say thus much of it, That certainly had his late Majesty, of sacred Memory, but seen and known what a vast and charming World he had been Master off in that Continent, he would never have parted so Easily with it to the Dutch. ’Tis a Continent whose vast Extent was never yet known, and may contain more Noble Earth than all the Universe besides; for, they say, it reaches from East to West; one Way as far as China, and another to Peru: It affords all things both for Beauty and Use; ’tis there Eternal Spring, always the very Months of April, May and June; the Shades are perpetual, the Trees, bearing at once all degrees of Leaves and Fruit, from blooming Buds to ripe Autumn; Groves of Oranges, Limons, Citrons, Figs, Nutmegs, and noble Aromaticks, continually bearing their Fragrancies. The Trees appearing all like Nosegays adorn’d with Flowers of different kind; some are all White, some Purple, some Scarlet, some Blew, some Yellow; bearing, at the same time, Ripe Fruit and Blooming Young, or producing every Day new. The very Wood of all these Trees have an intrinsick Value above common Timber; for they are, when cut, of different Colours, glorious to behold; and bear a Price considerable, to inlay withal. Besides this, they yield rich Balm, and Gums; so that we make our Candles of such an Aromatick Substance, as does not only give a sufficient Light, but, as they Burn, they cast their Perfumes all about. Cedar is the common Firing, and all the Houses are built with it. The very Meat we eat, when set on the Table, if it be Native, I mean of the Country, perfumes the whole Room; especially a little Beast call’d an Armadilly, a thing which I can liken to nothing so well as a Rhinoceros; ’tis all in white Armor so joynted, that it moves as well in it, as if it had nothing on; this Beast is about the bigness of a Pig of Six Weeks old. But it were endless to give an Account of all the divers Wonderfull and Strange things that Country affords, and which we took a very great Delight to go in search of; though those adventures are oftentimes Fatal and at least Dangerous: But while we had Caesar in our Company on these Designs we fear’d no harm, nor suffer’d any.
As soon as I came into the Country, the best House in it was presented me, call’d St. John’s Hill. It stood on a vast Rock of white Marble, at the Foot of which the River ran a vast depth down, and not to be descended on that side; the little Waves still dashing and washing the foot of this Rock, made the softest Murmurs and Purlings in the World; and the Oposite Bank was adorn’d with such vast quantities of different Flowers eternally Blowing, and every Day and Hour new, fenc’d behind ’em with lofty Trees of a Thousand rare Forms and Colours, that the Prospect was the most raving that Sands can create. On the Edge of this white Rock, towards the River, was a Walk or Grove of Orange and Limon Trees, about half the length of the Marl hear, whose Flowery and Fruity bear Branches meet at the top, and hinder’d the Sun, whose Rays are very fierce there, from entering a Beam into the Grove; and the cool Air that came from the River made it not only fit to entertain People in, at all the hottest Hours of the Day, but refresh’d the sweet Blossoms, and made it always Sweet and harming; and sure the whole Globe of the World cannot show so delightful a Place as this Grove was: Not all the Gardens of boasted Italy can produce a Shade to outvie this, which Nature had joyn’d with Art to render so exceeding Fine; and ’tis a marvel to see how such vast Trees, as big as English Oaks, cou’d take footing on so solid a Rock, and in so little Earth, as cover’d that Rock but all things by Nature there are Rare, Delightful and Wonderful. But to our Sports;
Sometimes we wou’d go surprizing, and in search of young Tigers in their Dens, watching when the old Ones went forth to forage for Prey; and oftentimes we have been in great Danger, and have fled apace for our Lives, when surpriz’d by the Dams. But once, above all other times, we went on this Design, and Caesar was with us, who had no sooner stol’n a young Tiger from her Nest, but going off, we incounter’d the Dam, bearing a Buttock of a Cow, which he had torn off with his mighty Paw, and going with it towards his Den; we had only four Women, Caesar, and an English Gentleman, Brother to Harry Martin, the great Oliverian; we found there was no escaping this inrag’d and ravenous Beast. However, we Women fled as fast as we cou’d from it; but our Heels had not sav’d our Lives, if Caesar had not laid down his Cub, when he found the Tiger quit her Prey to make the more speed towards him; and taking Mr. Martin’s Sword desir’d him to stand aside, or follow the Ladies. He obey’d him, and Caesar met this monstrous Beast of might, size, and vast Limbs, who came with open Jaws upon him; and fixing his Awful stern Eyes full upon those of the Beast, and putting himself into a very steddy and good aiming posture of Defence, ran his Sword quite through his Breast down to his very Heart, home to the Hilt of the Sword; the dying Beast stretch’d forth her Paw, and going to grasp his Thigh, surpris’d with Death in that very moment, did him no other harm than fixing her long Nails in his Flesh very deep, feebly wounded him, but cou’d not grasp the Flesh to tear off any. When he had done this, he hollow’d to us to return; which, after some assurance of his Victory, we did, and found him lugging out the Sword from the Bosom of the Tiger, who was laid in her Bloud on the Ground; he took up the Cub, and with an unconcern, that had nothing of the Joy or Gladness of a Victory, he came and laid the Whelp at my Feet: We all extreamly wonder’d at his Daring, and at the Bigness of the Beast, which was about the highth of an Heifer, but of mighty, great, and strong Limbs.
Another time, being in the Woods, he kill’d a Tiger, which had long infested that part, and born away abundance of Sheep and Oxen, and other things, that were for the support of those to whom they belong’d; abundance of People assail’d this Beast, some affirming they had shot her with several Bullets quite through the Body, at several times; and some swearing they shot her through the very Heart, and they believ’d she was a Devil rather than a Mortal thing. Caesar, had often said, he had a mind to encounter this Monster, and spoke with several Gentlemen who had attempted her; one crying, I shot her with so many poyson’d Arrows, another with his Gun in this part of her, and another in that; so that he remarking all these Places where she was shot, fancy’d still he shou’d overcome her, by giving her another sort of a Wound than any had yet done; and one day said (at the Table) What Trophies and Garlands Ladies will you make me, if I bring you home the Heart of this Ravenous Beast, that eats up all your Lambs and Pigs? We all promis’d he shou’d be rewarded at all our Hands. So taking a Bow, which he chus’d out of a great many, he went up in the Wood with two Gentlemen, where he imagin’d this Devourer to be. They had not pass’d very far into it, but they heard her Voice, growling and grumbling, as if she were pleas’d with something she was doing. When they came in view, they found her muzzling in the Belly of a new ravish’d Sheep, which she had torn open; and seeing herself approach’d, she took fast hold of her Prey, with her fore Paws, and set a very fierce raging Look on Caesar, without offering to approach him; for fear, at the same time, of loosing what she had in Possession. So that Caesar remain’d a good while, only taking aim, and getting an opportunity to shoot her where he design’d; ’twas some time before he cou’d accomplish it, and to wound her, and not kill her, wou’d but have enrag’d her more, and indanger’d him: He had a Quiver of Arrows at his side, so that if one fail’d he cou’d be supply’d; at last, retiring a little, he gave her opportunity to eat, for he found she was Ravenous, and fell too as soon as she saw him retire; being more eager of her Prey than of doing new Mischiefs. When he going softly to one side of her, and hiding his Person behind certain Herbage that grew high and thick, he took so good aim, that, as he intended, he shot her just into the Eye, and the Arrow was sent with so good a will, and so sure a hand, that it stuck in her Brain, and made her caper, and become mad for a moment or two; but being seconded by another Arrow, he fell dead upon the Prey: Caesar cut him Open with a Knife, to see where those Wounds were that had been reported to him, and why he did not Die of ’em. But I shall now relate a thing that possibly will find no Credit among Men, because ’tis a Notion commonly receiv’d with us, That nothing can receive a Wound in the Heart and Live; but when the Heart of this courageous Animal was taken out, there were Seven Bullets of Lead in it, and the Wounds seam’d up with great Scars, and she liv’d with the Bullets a great while, for it was long since they were shot: This Heart the Conqueror brought up to us, and ’twas a very great Curiosity, which all the Country came to see; and which gave Caesar occasion of many fine Discourses; of Accidents in War, and Strange Escapes.
At other times he wou’d go a Fishing; and discoursing on that Diversion, he found we had in that Country a very Strange Fish, call’d, a Numb Eel, (an Eel of which I have eaten) that while it is alive, it has a quality so Cold, that those who are Angling, though with a Line of never so great a length, with a Rod at the end of it, it shall, in the same minute the Bait is touched by this Eel, seize him or her that holds the Rod with benumb’dness, that shall deprive ’em of Sense, for a while; and some have fall’n into the Water, and others drop’d as dead on the Banks of the Rivers where they stood, as soon as this Fish touches the Bait. Caesar us’d to laugh at this, and believ’d it impossible a Man cou’d loose his Force at the touch of a Fish; and cou’d not understand that Philosophy, that a cold Quality should be of that Nature: However, he had a great Curiosity to try whether it wou’d have the same effect on him it had on others, and often try’d, but in vain; at last, the sought for Fish came to the Bait, as he stood Angling on the Bank; and instead of throwing away the Rod, or giving it a sudden twitch out of the Water, whereby he might have caught both the Eel, and have dismist the Rod, before it cou’d have too much Power over him; for Experiment sake, he grasp’d it but the harder, and fainting fell into the River; and being still possest of the Rod, the Tide carry’d him senseless as he was a great way, till an Indian Boat took him up; and perceiv’d, when they touch’d him, a Numbness seize them, and by that knew the Rod was in his Hand; which, with a Paddle (that is, a short Oar) they struck away, and snatch’d it into the Boat, Eel and all. If Caesar were almost Dead, with the effect of this Fish, he was more so with that of the Water, where he had remain’d the space of going a League; and they found they had much a-do to bring him back to Life: But, at last, they did, and brought him home, where he was in a few Hours well Recover’d and Refresh’d; and not a little Asham’d to find he shou’d be overcome by an Eel; and that all the People, who heard his Defiance, wou’d Laugh at him. But we cheared him up; and he, being convinc’d, we had the Eel at Supper; which was a quarter of an Ell about, and most delicate Meat; and was of the more Value, since it cost so Dear, as almost the Life of so gallant a Man.
About this time we were in many mortal Fears, about some Disputes the English had with the Indians; so that we cou’d scarce trust our selves, without great Numbers, to go to any Indian Towns, or Place, where they abode; for fear they shou’d fall upon us, as they did immediately after my coming away; and that it was in the possession of the Dutch, who us’d ’em not so civilly as the English; so that they cut in pieces all they cou’d take, getting into Houses, and hanging up the Mother, and all her Children about her; and cut a Footman, I left behind me, all in Joynts, and nail’d him to Trees.
This feud began while I was there; so that I lost half the satisfaction I propos’d, in not seeing and visiting the Indian Towns. But one Day, bemoaning of our Misfortunes upon this account, Caesar told us, we need not Fear; for if we had a mind to go, he wou’d undertake to be our Guard: Some wou’d, but most wou’d not venture; about Eighteen of us resolv’d, and took Barge; and, after Eight Days, arriv’d near an Indian Town: But approaching it, the Hearts of some of our Company fail’d, and they wou’d not veture on Shore; so we Poll’d who wou’d, and who wou’d not: For my part, I said, If Caesar wou’d, I wou’d go; he resolv’d, so did my Brother, and my Woman, a Maid of good Courage. Now none of us speaking the Language of the People, and imagining we shou’d have a half Diversion in Gazing only; and not knowing what they said, we took a Fisherman that liv’d at the Mouth of the River, who had been a long Inhabitant there, and oblig’d him to go with us: But because he was known to the Indians, as trading among ’em; and being, by long Living there, become a perfect Indian in Colour, we, who resolv’d to surprize ’em, by making ’em see something they never had seen, (that is, White People) resolv’d only my self, my Brother, and Woman shou’d go; so Caesar, the Fisherman, and the rest, hiding behind some hick Reeds and Flowers, that grew on the Banks, let us pass on towards the Town, which was on the Bank of the River all along. A little distant from the Houses, or Hutts; we saw some Dancing, others busy’d in fetching and carrying of Water from the River: They had no sooner spy’d us, but they set up a loud Cry, that frighted us at first; we thought it had been for those that should Kill us, but it seems it was of Wonder and Amazement. They were all Naked, and we were Dress’d, so as is most comode for the hot Countries, very Glittering and Rich; so that we appear’d extreamly fine; my own Hair was cut short, and I had a Taffaty Cap, with Black Feathers, on my Head; my Brother was in a Stuff Sute, with Silver Loops and Buttons, and abundance of Green Ribon; this was all infinitely surprising to them, and because we saw them stand still, till we approach’d ’em, we took Heart and advanc’d; came up to ’em, and offer’d ’em our Hands; which they took, and look’d on us round about, calling still for more Company; who came swarming out, all wondering, and crying out Tepeeme; taking their Hair up in their Hands, and spreading it wide to those they call’d out too; as if they would say (as indeed it signify’d) Numberless Wonders, or not to be recounted, no more than to number the Hair of their Heads. By degrees they grew more bold, and from gazing upon us round, they touch’d us; laying their Hands upon all the Features of our Faces, feeling our Breasts and Arms, taking up one Petticoat, then wondering to see another; admiring our Shooes and Stockings, but more our Garters, which we gave ’em; and they ty’d about their Legs, being Lac’d with Silver Lace at the ends, for they much Esteem any shining things: In fine, we suffer’d ’em to survey us as they pleas’d, and we thought they wou’d never have done admiring us. When Caesar, and the rest, saw we were receiv’d with such wonder, they came up to us; and finding the Indian Trader whom they knew, (for ’tis by these Fishermen, call’d Indian Traders, we hold a Commerce with ’em; for they love not to go far from home, and we never go to them) when they saw him therefore they set up a new Joy; and cry’d, in their Language, Oh! here’s our Tiguamy, and we shall now know whether those things can speak: So advancing to him, some of ’em gave him their Hands, and cry’d, Amora Tiguamy, which is as much as, How do you,or Welcome Friend; and all, with one din, began to gabble to him, and ask’d, If we had Sense, and Wit? if we cou’d talk of affairs of Life, and War, as they cou’d do? if we cou’d Hunt, Swim, and do a thousand things they use? He answer’d ’em, We cou’d. Then they invited us into their Houses, and dress’d Venison and Buffelo for us; and, going out, gathered a Leaf of a Tree, call’d a Sarumbo Leaf, of Six Yards long, and spread it on the Ground for a Table-Cloth; and cutting another in pieces instead of Plates, setting us on little bow Indian Stools, which they cut out of one intire piece of Wood, and Paint, in a sort of Japan Work: They serve every one their Mess on these pieces of Leaves, and it was very good, but too high season’d with Pepper. When we had eat, my Brother, and I, took out our Flutes, and play’d to ’em, which gave ’em new Wonder; and I soon perceiv’d, by an admiration, that is natural to these People; and by the extream Ignorance and Simplicity of ’em, it were not difficult to establish any unknown or extravagant Religion among them; and to impose any Notions or Fictions upon ’em. For seeing a Kinsman of mine set some Paper a Fire, with a Burning-glass, a Trick they had never before seen, they were like to have Ador’d him for a God; and beg’d he wou’d give them the Characters or Figures of his Name, that they might oppose it against Winds and Storms; which he did, and they held it up in those Seasons, and fancy’d it had a Charm to conquer them; and kept it like a Holy Relique. They are very Superstitious, and call’d him the Great Peeie, that is, Prophet They show d us their Indian Peeie a Youth of about Sixteen Years old, as handsom as Nature cou’d make a Man. They consecrate a beautiful Youth from his Infancy, and all Arts are us’d to compleat him in the finest manner, both in Beauty and Shape: He is bred to all the little Arts and cunning they are capable of; to all the Legerdemain Tricks, and Slight of Hand, whereby he imposes upon the Rabble; and is both a Doctor in Physick and Divinity. And by these Tricks makes the Sick believe he sometimes eases their Pains; by drawing from the afflicted part little Serpents, or odd Flies, or Worms, or any Strange thing; and though they have besides undoubted good Remedies, for almost all their Diseases, they cure the Patient more by Fancy than by Medicines; and make themselves Fear’d, Lov’d, and Reverenc’d. This young Peeie had a very young Wife, who seeing my Brother kiss her, came running and kiss’d me; after this, they kiss’d one another, and made it a very great Jest, it being so Novel; and new Admiration and Laughing went round the Multitude, that they never will forget that Ceremony, never before us’d or known. Caesar had a mind to see and talk with their War Captains, and we were conducted to one of their Houses; where we beheld several of the great Captains, who had been at Councel: But so frightful a Vision it was to see ’em no Fancy can create; no such Dreams can represent so dreadful a Spectacle. For my part I took ’em for Hobgoblins, or Fiends, rather than Men; but however their Shapes appear’d, their Souls were very Humane and Noble; but some wanted their Noses, some their Lips, some both Noses and Lips, some their Ears, and others Cut through each Cheek, with long Slashes, through which their Teeth appear’d; they had other several formidable Wounds and Scars, or rather Dismemberings; they had Comitias, or little Aprons before ’em; and Girdles of Cotton, with their Knives naked, stuck in it; a Bow at their Backs, and a Quiver of Arrows on their Thighs; and most had Feathers on their Heads of divers Colours. They cry’d, Amora Tigame to us, at our entrance, and were pleas’d we said as much to em; they seated us, and gave us Drink of the best Sort; and wonder’d, as much as the others had done before, to see us. Caesar was marvelling as much at their Faces, wondering how they shou’d all be so Wounded in War; he was Impatient to know how they all came by those frightful Marks of Rage or Malice, rather than Wounds got in Noble Battel: They told us, by our Interpreter, That when any War was waging, two Men chosen out by some old Captain, whose Fighting was past, and who cou’d only teach the Theory of War, these two Men were to stand in Competition for the Generalship, or Great War Captain; and being brought before the old Judges, now past Labour, they are ask’d, What they dare do to shew they are worthy to lead an Army? When he, who is first ask’d, making no Reply, Cuts of his Nose, and throws it contemptably on the Ground; and the other does something to himself that he thinks surpasses him, and perhaps deprives himself of Lips and an Eye; so they Slash on till one gives out, and many have dy’d in this Debate. And ‘its by a passive Valour they shew and prove their Activity; a sort of Courage too Brutal to be applauded by our Black Hero; nevertheless he express’d his Esteem of ’em.
In this Voyage Caesar begot so good an understanding between the Indians and the English, that there were no more Fears, or Heart-burnings during our stay; but we had a perfect, open, and free Trade with ’em: Many things Remarkable, and worthy Reciting, we met with in this short Voyage; because Caesar made it his Business to search out and provide for our Entertainment, especially to please his dearly Ador’d Imoinda, who was a sharer in all our Adventures; we being resolv’d to make her Chains as easy as we cou’d, and to Compliment the Prince in that manner that most oblig’d him.
As we were coming up again, we met with some Indians of strange Aspects; that is, of a larger Size, and other sort of Features, than those of our Country: Our Indian Slaves, that Row’d us, ask’d ’em some Questions, but they cou’d not understand us; but shew’d us a long Cotton String, with several Knots on it; and told us, they had been coming from the Mountains so many Moons as there were Knots; they were habited in Skins of a strange Beast, and brought along with ’em Bags of Gold Dust; which, as well as they cou’d give us to understand, came streaming in little small Chanels down the high Mountains, when the Rains fell; and offer’d to be the Convoy to any Body, or Persons, that wou’d go to the Mountains. We carry’d these Men up to Parham, where they were kept till the Lord Governour came: And because all the Country was mad to be going on this Golden Adventure, the Governour, by his Letters, commanded (for they sent some of the Gold to him) that a Guard shou’d be set at the Mouth of the River of Amazons, (a River so call’d, almost as broad as the River of Thames) and prohibited all People from going up that River, it conducting to those Mountains of Gold. But we going off for England before the Project was further prosecuted, and the Governour being drown’d in a Hurricane, either the Design dy’d, or the Dutch have the Advantage of it: And ’tis to be bemoan’d what his Majesty lost by loosing that part of America .
Though this digression is a little from my Story, however since it contains some Proofs of the Curiosity and Daring of this great Man, I was content to omit nothing of his Character.
It was thus, for sometime we diverted him; but now Imoinda began to shew she was with Child, and did nothing but Sigh and Weep for the Captivity of her Lord, her Self, and the Infant yet Unborn; and believ’d, if it were so hard to gain the Liberty of Two, ’twou’d be more difficult to get that for Three. Her Griefs were so many Darts in the great Heart of Caesar; and taking his Opportunity one Sunday, when all the Whites were overtaken in Drink, as there were abundance of several Trades, and Slaves for Four Years, that Inhabited among the Negro Houses; and Sunday was their Day of Debauch, (otherwise they were a sort of Spys upon Caesar;) he went pretending out of Goodness to ’em, to Feast amongst ’em; and sent all his Musick, and order’d a great Treat for the whole Gang, about Three Hundred Negros; and about a Hundred and Fifty were able to bear Arms, such as they had, which were sufficient to do Execution with Spirits accordingly: For the English had none but rusty Swords, that no Strength cou’d draw from a Scabbard; except the People of particular Quality, who took care to Oyl ’em and keep ’em in good Order: The Guns also, unless here and there one, or those newly carri’d from England, wou’d do no good or harm; for ’tis the Nature of that County to Rust and Eat up Iron, or any Metals, but Gold and Silver. And they are very Unexpert at the Bow, which the Negros and Indians are perfect Masters off.
Caesar, having singl’d out these Men from the Women and Children, made an Harangue to ’em of the Miseries, and Ignominies of Slavery; counting up all their Toyls and Sufferings, under such Loads, Burdens, and Drudgeries, as were fitter for Beasts than Men; Senseless Brutes, than Humane Souls. He told ’em it was not for Days, Months, or Years, but for Eternity; there was no end to be of their Misfortunes: They suffer’d not like Men who might find a Glory, and Fortitude in Oppression; but like Dogs that lov’d the Whip and Bell, and fawn’d the more they were beaten: That they had lost the Divine Quality of Men, and were become insensible Asses, fit only to bear; nay worse: an Ass, or Dog, or Horse having done his Duty, cou’d lye down in Retreat, and rise to Work again, and while he did his Duty indur’d no Stripes; but Men, Villanous, Senseless Men, such as they, Toyl’d on all the tedious Week till Black Friday; and then, whether they Work’d or not, whether they were Faulty or Meriting, they promiscuously, the Innocent with the Guilty, suffer’d the infamous Whip, the sordid Stripes, from their Fellow Slaves till their Blood trickled from all Parts of their Body; Blood, whose every drop ought to be Reveng’d with a Life of some of those Tyrants, that impose it; And why, said he, my dear Friends and Fellow-sufferers, shou’d we be Slaves to an unknown People? Have they Vanquish’d us Nobly in Fight? Have they Wone us in Honourable Battel? And are we, by the chance of War, become their Slaves? This wou’d not anger a Noble Heart, this wou’d not animate a Souldiers Soul; no, but we are Bought and Sold like Apes, or Monkeys, to be the Sport of Women, Fools and Cowards; and the Support of Rogues, Runagades, that have abandon’d their own Countries, for Rapin, Murders, Thefts and Villanies: Do you not hear every Day how they upbraid each other with infamy of Life, below the Wildest Salvages; and shall we render Obedience to such a degenerate Race, who have no one Humane Vertue left, to distinguish ’em from the vilest Creatures? Will you, I say, suffer the Lash from such Hands? They all Reply’d, with one accord, No, no, no; Caesar has spoke like a Great Captain; like a Great King .
After this he wou’d have proceeded, but was interrupted by a tall Negro of some more Quality than the rest, his Name was Tuscan; who Bowing at the Feet of Caesar, cry’d, My Lord, we have listen’d with Joy and Attention to what you have said; and, were we only Men, wou’d follow so great a Leader through the World: But oh! consider, we are Husbands and Parents too, and have things more dear to us than Life; our Wives and Children unfit for Travel, in these unpassable Woods, Mountains and Bogs; we have not only difficult Lands to overcome, but Rivers to Wade, and Monsters to Incounter; Ravenous Beasts of Prey—To this, Caesar Reply’d, That Honour was the First Principle in Nature, that was to be Obey’d; but as no Man wou’d pretend to that, without all the Acts of Vertue, Compassion, Charity, Love, Justice and Reason; he found it not inconsistent with that, to take an equal Care of their Wives and Children, as they wou’d of themselves; and that he did not Design, when he led them to Freedom, and Glorious Liberty, that they shou’d leave that better part of themselves to Perish by the Hand of the Tyrant’s Whip: But if there were a Woman among them so degenerate from Love and Vertue to chuse Slavery before the pursuit of her Husband, and with the hazard of her Life, to share with him in his Fortunes; that such an one ought to be Abandon’d, and left as a Prey to the common Enemy. To which they all Agreed,—and Bowed. After this, he spoke of the Impassable Woods and Rivers; and convinc’d ’em, the more Danger, the more Glory. He told them that he had heard of one Hannibal a great Captain, had Cut his Way through Mountains of solid Rocks; and shou’d a few Shrubs oppose them; which they cou’d Fire before ’em? No, ’twas a trifling Excuse to Men resolv’d to die, or overcome. As for Bogs, they are with a little Labour fill’d and harden’d; and the Rivers cou’d be no Obstacle, since they Swam by Nature; at least by Custom, from their First Hour of their Birth: That when the Children were Weary they must carry them by turns, and the Woods and their own Industry wou’d afford them Food. To this they all assented with Joy.
Tuscan then demanded, What he wou’d do? He said, they wou’d Travel towards the Sea; Plant a New Colony, and Defend it by their Valour; and when they cou’d find a Ship, either driven by stress of Weather, or guided by Provide nce that way, they wou’d Sieze it, and make it a Prize, till it had Transported them to their own Countries; at least, they shou’d be made Free in his Kingdom, and be Esteem’d as his Fellow sufferers, and Men that had the Courage, and the Bravery to attempt, at least, for Liberty; and if they Dy’d in the attempt it wou’d be more brave, than to Live in perpetual Slavery.
They bow’d and kiss’d his Feet at this Resolution, and with one accord Vow’d to follow him to Death. And that Night was appointed to begin their March; they made it known to their Wives, and directed them to tie their Hamaca about their Shoulder, and under their Arm like a Scarf; and to lead their Children that cou’d go, and carry those that cou’d not. The Wives who pay an intire Obedience to their Husbands obey’d, and stay’d for ’em, where they were appointed: The Men stay’d but to furnish themselves with what defensive Arms they cou’d get; and All met at the Rendezvous, where Caesar made a new incouraging Speech to ’em, and led ’em out.
But, as they cou’d not march far that Night, on Monday early, when the Overseers went to call ’em all together, to go to Work, they were extreamly surpris’d, to find not one upon the Place, but all fled with what Baggage they had. You may imagine this News was not only suddenly spread all over the Plantation, but soon reach’d the Neighbouring ones; and we had by Noon about Six hundred Men, they call the Militia of the County, that came to assist us in the persute of the Fugitives: But never did one see so comical an Army march forth to War. The Men, of any fashion, wou’d not concern themselves, though it were almost the common Cause; for such Revoltings are very ill Examples, and have very fatal Consequences oftentimes in many Colonies: But they had a Respect for Caesar, and all hands were against the Parhamites, as they call’d those of Parham Plantation; because they did not, in the first place, love the Lord Governor; and secondly, they wou’d have it, that Caesar was Ill us’d, and Baffl’d with; and ’tis not impossible but some of the best in the Country was of his Council in this Flight, and depriving us of all the Slaves; so that they of the better sort wou’d not meddle-in the matter. The Deputy Governor, of whom I have had no great occasion to speak, and who was the most Fawning fair-tongu’d Fellow in the World, and one that pretended the most Friendship to Caesar, was now the only violent Man against him; and though he had nothing, and so need fear nothing, yet talk’d and look’d bigger than any Man: He was a Fellow, whose Character is not fit to be mention’d with the worst of the Slaves. This Fellow wou’d lead his Army forth to meet Caesar; or rather to persue him; most of their Arms were of those sort of cruel Whips they call Cat with Nine Tayls; some had rusty useless Guns for show; others old Basket-hilts, whose Blades had never seen the Light in this Age; and others had long Staffs, and Clubs. Mr. Trefry went a long, rather to be a Mediator than a Conqueror, in such a Batail; for he foresaw, and knew, if by fighting they put the Negroes into dispair, they were a sort of sullen Fellows, that wou’d drown, or kill themselves, before they wou’d yield; and he advis’d that fair means was best: But Byam was one that abounded in his own Wit, and wou’d take his own Measures.
It was not hard to find these Fugitives; for as they fled they were forc’d to fire and cut the Woods before ’em, so that Night or Day they persu’d ’em by the light they made, and by the path they had clear’d: But as soon as Caesar found he was persu’d, he put himself in a Posture of Defence, placing all the Women and Children in the Reer; and himself, with Tuscan by his side, or next to him, all promising to Dye or Conquer. Incourag’d thus, they never stood to Parley, but fell on Pell-mell upon the English, and kill’d some, and wounded a good many; they having recourse to their Whips, as the best of their Weapons: And as they observ’d no Order, they perplex’d the Enemy so sorely, with Lashing ’em in the Eyes; and the Women and Children, seeing their Husbands so treated, being of fearful Cowardly Dispositions, and hearing the English cry out, Yield and Live, Yield and be Pardon’d; they all run in amongst their Husbands and Fathers, and hung about ’em, crying out, Yield, yield; and leave Caesar to their Revenge; that by degrees the Slaves abandon’d Caesar, and left him only Tuscan and his Heroick Imoinda;who, grown big as she was, did nevertheless press near her Lord, having a Bow, and a Quiver full of poyson’d Arrows, which she manag’d with such dexterity, that she wounded several, and shot the Governor into the Shoulder; of which Wound he had like to have Dy’d, but that an Indian Woman, his Mistress, suck’d the Wound, and cleans’d it from the Venom: But however, he stir’d not from the Place till he had Parlv’d with Caesar,who he found was resolv’d to dye Fighting, and wou’d not be Taken; no more wou’d Tuscan, or Imoinda. But he, more thirsting after Revenge of another sort, than that of depriving him of Life, now made use of all his Art of talking, and dissembling; and besought Caesar to yield himself upon Terms, which he himself should propose, and should be Sacredly assented to and kept by him: He told him, It was not that he any longer fear’d him, or cou’d believe the force of Two Men, and a young Heroin, cou’d overcome all them, with all the Slaves now on their side also; but it was the vast Esteem he had for his Person; the desire he had to serve so Gallant a Man; and to hinder himself from the Reproach hereafter, of having been the occasion of the Death of a Prince, whose Valour and Magnanimity deserv’d the Empire of the World. He protested to him, he look’d upon this Action, as Gallant and Brave; however tending to the prejudice of his Lord and Master, who wou’d by it have lost so considerable a number of Slaves; that this Flight of his shou’d be look’d on as a heat of Youth, and rashness of a too forward Courage, and an unconsider’d impatience of Liberty, and no more; and that he labour’d in vain to accomplish that which they wou’d effectually perform, as soon as any Ship arriv’d that wou’d touch on his Coast. So that if you will be pleas’d, continued he, to surrender your self, all imaginable Respect shall be paid you; and your Self, your Wife, and Child, if it be here born, shall depart free out of our Land. But Caesar wou’d hear of no Composition; though Byam urg’d, If he persu’d, and went on in his Design, he wou’d inevitably Perish, either by great Snakes, wild Beasts, or Hunger; and he ought to have regard to his Wife, whose Condition required ease, and not the fatigues of tedious Travel; where she cou’d not be secur’d from being devoured. But Caesar told him, there was no Faith in the White Men, or the Gods they Ador’d; who instructed ’em in Principles so false, that honest Men cou’d not live amongst ’em; though no People profess’d so much, none perform’d so little; that he knew what he had to do, when he dealt with Men of Honour; but with them a Man ought to be eternally on his Guard, and never to Eat and Drink with Christians without his Weapon of Defence in his Hand; and, for his own Security, never to credit one Word they spoke. As for the rashness and inconsiderateness of his Action he wou’d confess the Governor is in the right; and that he was asham’d of what he had done, in endeavoring to make those Free, who were by Nature Slaves, poor wretched Rogues, fit to be us’d as Christians Tools; Dogs, treacherous and cowardly, fit for such Masters; and they wanted only but to be whipt into the knowledge of the Christian Gods to be the vilest of all creeping things; to learn to Worship such Deities as had not Power to make ’em Just, Brave, or Honest. In fine, after a thousand things of this Nature, not fit here to be recited, he told Byam, he had rather Dye than Live upon the same Earth with such Dogs. But Trefry and Byam pleaded and protested together so much, that Trefry believing the Governor to mean what he said; and speaking very cordially himself, generously put himself into Caesar’s Hands, and took him aside, and perswaded him, even with Tears, to Live, by Surrendring himself, and to name his Conditions. Caesar was overcome by his Wit and Reasons, and in consideration of Imoinda; and demanding what he desir’d, and that it shou’d be ratify’d by their Hands in Writing, because he had perceiv’d that was the common way of contract between Man and Man, amongst the Whites: All this was perform’d, and Tuscan’s Pardon was put in, and they Surrender to the Governor, who walked peaceably down into the Plantation with ’em, after giving order to bury their dead. Caesar was very much toyl’d with the bustle of the Day; for he had fought like a Fury, and what Mischief was done he and Tuscan perform’d alone; and gave their Enemies a fatal Proof that they durst do any thing, and fear’d no mortal Force.
But they were no sooner arriv’d at the Place, where all the Slaves receive their Punishments of Whipping, but they laid Hands on Caesar and Tuscan, faint with heat and toyl; and, surprising them, Bound them to two several Stakes, and Whipt them in a most deplorable and inhumane Manner, rending the very Flesh from their Bones; especially Caesar, who was not perceiv’d to make any Mone, or to alter his Face, only to roul his Eyes on the Faithless Governor, and those he believ’d Guilty, with Fierceness and Indignation; and, to compleat his Rage, he saw every one of those Slaves, who, but a few Davs before, Ador’d him as something more than Mortal, now had a Whip to give him some Lashes, while he strove not to break his Fetters; though, if he had, it were impossible: But he pronounced a Woe and Revenge from his Eyes, that darted Fire, that ’twas at once both Awful and Terrible to behold.
When they thought they were sufficiently Reveng’d on him, they unty’d him, almost Fainting, with loss of Blood, from a thousand Wounds all over his Body; from which they had rent his Cloaths, and led him Bleeding and Naked as he was; and loaded him all over with Irons; and then rubbed his Wounds, to compleat their Cruelty, with Indian Pepper, which had like to have made him raving Mad; and, in this Condition, made him so fast to the Ground that he cou’d not stir, if his Pains and Wounds wou’d have given him leave. They spar’d Imoinda, and did not let her see this Barbarity committed towards her Lord, but carry’d her down to Parham, and shut her up; which was not in kindness to her, but for fear she shou’d Dye with the Sight, or Miscarry; and then they shou’d loose a young Slave, and perhaps the Mother.
You must know, that when the News was brought on Monday Morning, that Caesar had betaken himself to the Woods, and carry’d with him all the Negroes. We were possess’d with extream Fear, which no perswasions cou’d Dissipate, that he wou’d secure himself till Night; and then, that he wou’d come down and Cut all our Throats. This apprehension made all the Females of us fly down the River, to be secur’d; and while we were away, they acted this Cruelty: For I suppose I had Authority and Interest enough there, had I suspected any such thing, to have prevented it; but we had not gon many Leagues, but the News overtook us that Caesar was taken, and Whipt like a common Slave. We met on the River with Colonel Martin, a Man of great Gallantry, Wit, and Goodness, and whom I have celebrated in a Character of my New Comedy, by his own Name, in memory of so brave a Man: He was Wise and Eloquent; and, from the fineness of his Parts, bore a great Sway over the Hearts of all the Colony: He was a Friend to Caesar, and resented this false Dealing with him very much. We carried him back to Parham, thinking to have made an Accomodation; when we came, the First News we heard was, that the Governor was Dead of a Wound Imoinda had given him; but it was not so well: But it seems he wou’d have the Pleasure of beholding the Revenge he took on Caesar; and before the cruel Ceremony was finish’d, he drop’d down; and then they perceiv’d the Wound he had on his Shoulder, was by a venom’d Arrow; which, as I said, his Indian Mistress heal’d, by Sucking the Wound.
We were no sooner Arriv’d, but we went up to the Plantation to see Caesar, whom we found in a very Miserable and Unexpressable Condition; and I have a Thousand times admired how he liv’d, in so much tormenting Pain. We said all things to him, that Trouble, Pitty, and Good Nature cou’d suggest; Protesting our Innocency of the Fact, and our Abhorance of such Cruelties. Making a Thousand Professions of Services to him, and Begging as many Pardons for the Offenders, till we said so much, that he believ’d we had no Hand in his ill Treatment; but told us, he cou’d never Pardon Byam; as for Trefry, he confess’d he saw his Grief and Sorrow, for his Suffering, which he cou’d not hinder, but was like to have been beaten down by the very Slaves, for Speaking in his Defence: But for Byam, who was their Leader, their Head;—and shou’d, by his Justice, and Honor, have been an Example to ’em.—For him, he wish’d to Live, to take a dire Revenge of him, and said, It had been well for him, if he had Sacrific’d me, instead of giving me the contemptable Whip. He refus’d to Talk much, but Begging us to give him our Hands; he took ’em, and Protested never to lift up his, to do us any Harm. He had a great Respect for Colonel Martin, and always took his Counsel, like that of a Parent; and assur’d him, he wou’d obey him in any thing, but his Revenge on Byam. Therefore, said he, for his own Safety, let him speedily dispatch me; for if I cou’d dispatch my self, I wou’d not, till that Justice were done to my injur’d Person, and the contempt of a Souldier: No, I wou’d not kill my self, even after a Whiping, but will be content to live with that Infamy, and be pointed at by every grining Slave, till I have compleated my Revenge; and then you shall see that Oroonoko scorns to live with the Indignity that was put onCaesar. All we cou’d do cou’d get no more Words from him; and we took care to have him put immediately into a healing Bath, to rid him of his Pepper; and order’d a Chirurgeon to anoint him with healing Balm, which he suffer’d, and in some time he began to be able to Walk and Eat; we fail’d not to visit him every Day, and, to that end, had him brought to an apartment at Parham .
The Governor was no sooner recover’d, and had heard of the menaces of Caesar, but he call’d his Council; who (not to disgrace them, or Burlesque the Government there) consisted of such notorious Villains as Newgate never transported; and possibly originally were such, who understood neither the Laws of God or Man; and had no sort of Principles to make ’em worthy the Name of Men: But, at the very Council Table, wou’d Contradict and Fight with one another; and Swear so bloodily that ’twas terrible to hear, and see ’em. (Some of ’em were afterwards Hang’d, when the Dutch took possession of the place; others sent off in Chains:) But calling these special Rulers of the Nation together, and requiring their Counsel in this weighty Affair, they all concluded, that (Damn ’em) it might be their own Cases; and that Caesar ought to be made an Example to all the Negroes, to fright ’em from daring to threaten their Betters, their Lords and Masters; and, at this rate, no Man was safe from his own Slaves; and concluded, nemine contradicente that Caesar shou’d be Hang’d.
Trefry then thought it time to use his Authority; and told Byam his Command did not extend to his Lord’s Plantation; and that Parham was as much exempt from the Law as White-hall; and that they ought no more to touch the Servants of the Lord—(who there represented the King’s Person) than they cou’d those about the King himself; and that Parham was a Sanctuary; and though his Lord were absent in Person, his Power was still in Being there; which he had intrusted with him, as far as the Dominions of his particular Plantations reach’d, and all that belong’d to it; the rest of the Country, as Byam was Lieutenant to his Lord, he might exercise his Tyrany upon. Trefry had others as powerful, or more, that int’rested themselves in Caesar’s Life, and absolutely said, He shou’d be Defended. So turning the Governor, and his wise Council, out of Doors, (for they sate at Parham-house) they set a Guard upon our Landing Place, and wou’d admit none but those we call’d Friends to us and Caesar.
The Governor having remain’d wounded at Parham, till his recovery was compleated, Caesar did not know but he was still there; and indeed, for the most part, his time was spent there; for he was one that lov’d to Live at other Peoples Expence; and if he were a Day absent, he was Ten present there; and us’d to Play, and Walk, and Hunt, and Fish, with Caesar. So that Caesar did not at all doubt, if he once recover’d Strength, but he shou’d find an opportunity of being Reveng’d on him: Though, after such a Revenge, he cou’d not hope to Live; for if he escap’d the Fury of the English Mobile, who perhaps wou’d have been glad of the occasion to have kill’d him, he was resolv’d not to survive his Whiping; yet he had, some tender Hours, a repenting Softness, which he called his fits of Coward; wherein he struggl’d with Love for the Victory of his Heart, which took part with his charming Imoinda there; but, for the most part, his time was past in melancholy Thought, and black Designs; he consider’d, if he shou’d do this Deed, and Dye, either in the Attempt, or after it, he left his lovely Imoinda a Prey, or at best a Slave, to the inrag’d Multitude; his great Heart cou’d not indure that Thought. Perhaps, said he, she may be first Ravished by every Brute; exposed first to their nasty Lusts, and then a shameful Death. No; he could not Live a Moment under that Apprehension, too insupportable to be born. These were his Thoughts, and his silent Arguments with his Heart, as he told us afterwards; so that now resolving not only to kill Byam, but all those he thought had inrag’d him; pleasing his great Heart with the fancy’d Slaughter he shou’d make over the whole Face of the Plantation. He first resolv’d on a Deed, that (however Horrid it at first appear’d to us all) when we had heard his Reasons, we thought it Brave and Just: Being able to Walk, and, as he believ’d, fit for the Execution of his great Design, he beg’d Trefry to trust him into the Air, believing a Walk wou’d do him good; which was granted him, and taking Imoinda with him, as he us’d to do in his more happy and calmer Days, he led her up into a Wood, where, after (with a thousand Sighs, and long Gazing silently on her Face, while Tears gust, in spight of him, from his Eyes) he told her his Design first of Killing her, and then his Enemies, and next himself, and the impossibility of Escaping, and therefore he told her the necessity of Dying; he found the Heroick Wife faster pleading for Death than he was to propose it, when she found his fix’d Resolution; and, on her Knees, besought him, not to leave her a Prey to his Enemies. He (griev’d to Death) yet pleased at her noble Resolution, took her up, and imbracing her, with all the Passion and Languishment of a dying Lover, drew his Knife to kill this Treasure of his Soul, this Pleasure of his Eyes; while Tears trickl’d down his Cheeks, hers were Smiling with Joy she shou’d dye by so noble a Hand, and be sent in her own Country, (for that’s their Notion of the next World) by him she so tenderly Lov’d, and so truly Ador’d in this; for Wives have a respect for their Husbands equal to what any other People pay a Deity; and when a Man finds any occasion to quit his Wife, if he love her, she dyes by his Hand; if not, he sells her, or suffers some other to kill her. It being thus; you may believe the Deed was soon resolv’d on; and ’tis not to be doubted, but the Parting, the eternal Leave taking of Two such Lovers, so greatly Born, so Sensible, so Beautiful, so Young, and so Fond, must be very Moving, as the Relation of it was to me afterwards.
All that Love cou’d say in such cases, being ended; and all the intermitting Irresolutions being adjusted, the Lovely, Young, and Ador’d Victim lays her self down, before the Sacrificer; while he, with a Hand resolv’d, and a Heart breaking within, gave the Fatal Stroke; first, cutting her Throat, and then severing her, yet Smiling, Face from that Delicate Body, pregnant as it was with Fruits of tend’rest Love. As soon as he had done, he laid the Body decently on Leaves and Flowers; of which he made a Bed, and conceal’d it under the same cover-lid of Nature; only her Face he left yet bare to look on: But when he found she was Dead, and past all Retrieve, never more to bless him with her Eyes, and soft Language; his Grief swell’d up to Rage; he Tore, he Rav’d he Roar’d, like some Monster of the Wood, calling on the lov’d Name of Imoinda; a thousand times he turn’d the Fatal Knife that did the Deed, toward his own Heart, with a Resolution to go immediately after her; but dire Revenge, which now was a thousand times more fierce in his Soul than before, prevents him; and he wou’d cry out, No; since I have sacrificed Imoinda to my Revenge, shall I loose that Glory which I have purchas’d so dear, as at the Price of the fairest, dearest, softest Creature that ever Nature made? No, no! Then, at her Name, Grief wou’d get the ascendant of Rage, and he wou’d lye down by her side, and water her Face with showers of Tears, which never were wont to fall from those Eyes: And however bent he was on his intended Slaughter, he had not power to stir from the Sight of this dear Object, now more Belov’d, and more Ador’d than ever.
He remain’d in this deploring Condition for two Days, and never rose from the Ground where he had made his sad Sacrifice; at last, rousing from her side, and accusing himself with living too long, now Imoinda was dead; and that the Deaths of those barbarous Enemies were deferr’d too long, he resolv’d now to finish the great Work; but offering to rise, he found his Strength so decay’d, that he reel’d to and fro, like Boughs assail’d by contrary Winds; so that he was forced to lye down again, and try to summons all his Courage to his Aid; he found his Brains turn round, and his Eyes were dizzy; and Objects appear’d not the same to him they were wont to do; his Breath was short; and all his Limbs surprised with a Faintness he had never felt before: He had not Eat in two Days, which was one occasion of this Feebleness, but excess of Grief was the greatest; yet still he hop’d he shou’d recover Vigour to act his Design; and lay expecting it yet six Days longer; still mourning over the dead Idol of his Heart, and striving every Day to rise, but cou’d not.
In all this time you may believe we were in no little affliction for Caesar, and his Wife; some were of Opinion he was escap’d never to return; others thought some Accident had hap’ned to him: But however, we fail’d not to send out an hundred People several ways to search for him; a Party, of about forty, went that way he took; among whom was Tuscan, who was perfectly reconcil’d to Byam; they had not gon very far into the Wood, but they smelt an unusual Smell, as of a dead Body; for Stinks must be very noisom that can be distinguish’d among such a quantity of Natural Sweets, as every Inch of that Land produces. So that they concluded they shou’d find him dead, or somebody that was so; they past on towards it, as Loathsom as it was, and made such a rusling among the Leaves that lye thick on the Ground, by continual Falling, that Caesarheard he was approach’d; and though he had, during the space of these eight Days, endeavor’d to rise, but found he wanted Strength, yet looking up, and seeing his Pursuers, he rose, and reel’d to a Neighbouring Tree, against which he fix’d his Back; and being within a dozen Yards of those that advanc’d, and saw him; he call’d out to them, and bid them approach no nearer, if they wou’d be safe: So that they stood still, and hardly believing their Eyes, that wou’d perswade them that it was Caesar that spoke to ’em, so much was he alter’d; they ask’d him, What he had done with his Wife? for they smelt a Stink that almost struck them dead. He, pointing to the dead Body, sighing, cry’d, Behold her there; they put off the Flowers that cover’d her with their Sticks, and found she was kill’d; and cry’d out, Oh Monster! that hast murther’d thy Wife: Then asking him, Why he did so cruel a Deed? He replied, he had no leasure to answer impertinent Questions; You may go back, continued he, and tell the Faithless Governor, he may thank Fortune that I am breathing my last; and that my Arm is too feeble to obey my Heart, in what it had design’d him: But his Tongue faultering, and trembling, he cou’d scarce end what he was saying. The English taking Advantage by his Weakness, cry’d, Let us take him alive by all means:He heard ’em; and, as if he had reviv’d from a Fainting, or a Dream, he cry’d out, No, Gentlemen, you are deceiv’d; you will find no more Caesars to be Whipt; no more find a Faith in me: Feeble as you think me, I have Strength yet left to secure me from a second Indignity. They swore all a-new, and he only shook his Head, and beheld them with Scorn; then they cry’d out, Who will venture on this single Man? Will no body? They stood all silent while Caesar replied, Fatal will be the Attempt to the first Adventurer; let him assure himself, and, at that Word, held up his Knife in a menacing Posture, Look ye, ye faithless Crew, said he, ’tis not Life I seek, nor am I afraid of Dying; and, at that Word, cut a piece of Flesh from his own Throat, and threw it at ’em, yet still I wou’d Live if I cou’d, till I had perfected my Revenge . But oh! it cannot be; I feel Life gliding from my Eyes and Heart; and, if I make not haste, I shall yet fall a Victim to the shameful Whip. At that, he rip’d up his own Belly; and took his Bowels and pull’d ’em out, with what Strength he cou’d; while some, on their Knees imploring, besought him to hold his Hand. But when they saw him tottering, they cry’d out, Will none venture on him? A bold English cry’d, Yes, if he were the Devil; (taking Courage when he saw him almost Dead) and swearing a horrid Oath for his farewell to the World; he rush’d on Caesar, with his Arm’d Hand met him so fairly, as stuck him to the Heart, and he fell Dead at his Feet. Tuscan seeing that, cry’d out, I love thee, oh Caesar; and therefore will not let thee Dye, if possible: And, running to him, took him in his Arms; but, at the same time, warding a Blow that Caesar made at his Bosom, he receiv’d it quite through his Arm; and Caesar having not the Strength to pluck the Knife forth, though he attempted it, Tuscan neither pull’d it out himself, nor suffer’d it to be pull’d out; but came down with it sticking in his Arm; and the reason he gave for it was, because the Air shou’d not get into the Wound: They put their Hands a-cross, and carried Caesar between Six of ’em, fainted as he was; and they thought Dead, or just Dying; and they brought him to Parham, and laid him on a Couch, and had the Chirurgeon immediately to him, who drest his Wounds, and sow’d up his Belly, and us’d means to bring him to Life, which they effected. We ran all to see him; and, if before we thought him so beautiful a Sight, he was now so alter’d, that his Face was like a Death’s Head black’d over; nothing but Teeth, and Eyeholes: For some Days we suffer’d no body to speak to him, but caused Cordials to be poured down his Throat, which sustained his Life; and in six or seven Days he recover’d his Senses: For, you must know, that Wounds are almost to a Miracle cur’d in the Indies; unless Wounds in the Legs, which rarely ever cure.
When he was well enough to speak, we talk’d to him; and ask’d him some Questions about his Wife, and the Reasons why he kill’d her; and he then told us what I have related of that Resolution, and of his Parting; and he besought us, we would let him Dye, and was extreamly Afflicted to think it was possible he might Live; he assur’d us, if we did not Dispatch him, he wou’d prove very Fatal to a great many. We said all we cou’d to make him Live, and gave him new Assurances; but he begg’d we wou’d not think so poorly of him, or of his love to Imoinda, to imagine we cou’d Flatter him to Life again; but the Chirurgeon assur’d him, he cou’d not Live, and therefore he need not Fear. We were all (but Caesar) afflicted at this News; and the Sight was gashly; his Discourse was sad; and the earthly Smell about him so strong, that I was perswaded to leave the Place for some time; (being my self-but Sickly, and very apt to fall into Fits of dangerous Illness upon any extraordinary Melancholy) the Servants, and Trefry, and the Chirurgeons, promis’d all to take what possible care they cou’d of the Life of Caesar; and I, taking Boat, went with other Company to Colonel Martin’s, about three Days Journy down the River; but I was no sooner gon, but the Governor taking Trefry, about some pretended earnest Business, a Days Journy up the River; having communicated his Design to one Banister, a wild Irish Man, and one of the Council; a Fellow of absolute Barbarity, and fit to execute any Villany, but was Rich. He came up to Parham, and forcibly took Caesar, and had him carried to the same Post where he was Whip’d; and causing him to be ty’d to it, and a great Fire made before him, he told him, he shou’d Dye like a Dog, as he was. Caesar replied, this was the first piece of Bravery that ever Banister did; and he never spoke Sence till he pronounc’d that Word; and, if he wou’d keep it, he wou’d declare, in the other World, that he was the only Man, of all the Whites, that ever he heard speak Truth. And turning to the Men that bound him, he said, My Friends, am I to Dye, or to be Whip’d? And they cry’d, Whip’d! no; you shall not escape so well: And then he replied, smiling, A Blessing on thee; and assur’d them, they need not tye him, for he wou’d stand fixt, like a Rock; and indure Death so as shou’d encourage them to Dye. But if you Whip me, said he, be sure you tye me fast.
He had learn’d to take Tobaco; and when he was assur’d he should Dye, he desir’d they would give him a Pipe in his Mouth, ready Lighted, which they did; and the Executioner came, and first cut off his Members, and threw them into the Fire; after that, with an ill-favoured Knife, they cut his Ears, and his Nose, and burn’d them; he still Smoak’d on, as if nothing had touch’d him; then they hack’d off one of his Arms, and still he bore up, and held his Pipe; but at the cutting off the other Arm, his Head sunk, and his Pipe drop’d; and he gave up the Ghost, without a Groan, or a Reproach. My Mother and Sister were by him all the while, but not suffer’d to save him; so rude and wild were the Rabble, and so inhumane were the Justices, who stood by to see the Execution, who after paid dearly enough for their Insolence. They cut Caesar in Quarters, and sent them to several of the chief Plantations: One Quarter was sent to Colonel Martin, who refus’d it; and swore, he had rather see the Quarters of Banister, and the Governor himself, than those of Caesar, on his Plantations; and that he cou’d govern his Negroes without Terrifying and Grieving them with frightful Spectacles of a mangl’d King. Thus Dy’d this Great Man; worthy of a better Fate, and a more sublime Wit than mine to write his Praise; yet, I hope, the Reputation of my Pen is considerable enough to make his Glorious Name to survive to all Ages; with that of the Brave, the Beautiful, and the Constant Imoinda.
4.4.2 Reading and Review Questions
Why, and to what effect, do you think Behn uses such realistic detail, such concrete particularity, describing plants, animals, clothes, tattoos, and more? How do her descriptions compare with those of Raleigh in The Discovery of Guiana?
What comment, if any, does Behn make about Christianity through her “pagan” hero Oroonoko?
What role, if any, do deception and treachery play in this work, and why? What’s the impact of their having occurred both in Africa and Suriname, through both relatives and white slave holders?
How does Behn deal with love in this novel, with relations between men and women? How does she involve race and culture with love, and why? How does her way of dealing with love compare with Spenser’s?
What is the effect—dramatic, aesthetic, moral, etc.—of Oroonoko’s torture? Why do you think Behn details his dismemberment for the reader rather than have it happen “offstage?”