Good massa we find, Sing ting a ring, sing terry, Where buckra man kind, Then Negro heart merry, Sing ting-a-ring, terry Huzza! Now, my black beauties, quiet your ebony pipes, and listen to the words of your Grand Overseer.
Be it known to all that this is the birth-day of the Lady Rosa, the fair daughter of our own benevolent master, Mr. Bless her heart! Right, Quashee: and there's a buckra man coming to make a fine husband for her—Captain Orford, to whom she has long given her heart, returns this very day to claim her hand. Captain Orford! And in requital of such good wishes, our good master gives you a holyday. Adieu to labour! Let the sugar canes take care of themselves, and hey for mirth and merriment! And a fig for Obi, and Three-Fingered Jack! What the devil's the matter with you all? Has the name of that three-fingered rascal power to stop your mirth so suddenly?
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Do you think an old woman, as great a noodle as yourselves, can stop your wind-pipes by cramming parrots feathers, dogs' teeth, broken bottles, rum, and egg-shells into a cow's horn, and then mumbling a few words over it, as incomprehensible as your own fears? Oh, massa, you say what you please, but Obi woman know ebery ting from top of head to bottom of toe; and if once she put Obi o poor negro man, he no eat, he no drink, he no nothing, but pine, pine, pine, pine, pine and die away.
Why, ladies and gentlemen, to judge from your aversion to work, Obi seems rather a fashionable disorder, but as to not eating, drinking, or sleeping, I really discover no symptoms of the complaint, so set your minds at rest, and enjoy the sports. Thanks, thanks, my friends! We may every moment expect the arrival of Captain Orford. The vessel is in harbour, and ere this he must have landed; so haste and prepare to receive him with the respect due to the intended husband of your young mistress. I charge you name not that murderous villain in my presence; you awaken recollections which pain, which agonize me.
No, I allude to scenes long past; to scenes of joy and happiness for ever blasted by the ruffian you have named. Good Heavens!
Long had he been on the estate, and long had every art been tried to soothe his savage nature, for Heaven knows I pitied the unfortunates, and strove by kindness and humanity to mitigate their cruel lot. With Karfa, for so was he then named, alone, my efforts failed; each day but added to his ferocity; crime followed crime, until the villain dared to attempt the honour of my wife.
The signal punishment which awaited him drove him to madness, and under shade of night he burst his bonds, broke into my chamber, and before my sight murdered my unhappy wife. Vainly I endeavoured to grapple with the monster—his giant strength dashed me to the earth, and in the confusion the wretch escaped. And has no attempt been made to secure the murderer? But all have failed; the negroes dread his incantations, and many of our colour believe him possessed of some supernatural power; he has neither accomplices nor associates; alone he plunders, alone he combats, and has hitherto ever destroyed his pursuers or retreated to fastnesses where none dare to follow him; still his malice seems levelled more at me than others, and I often fear my daughter's life will fall a victim to his hatred.
But hark! Haste and bid them conduct my daughter hither. This is indeed a moment which atones for years of sorrow, a moment which gives a protector to my child in every manner worthy of her.
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At least one, sire, who will endeavour to merit such high praise. My every wish is gratified. Come, friends, to the house, where song and dance shall usher in the hour which gives you, Orford, a new claim on my affection. Come, my pretty maid, be brisk; Mr. Ormond and the captain intend to go out shooting for a few hours, so fly and bid the servants prepare. Fly, indeed! Quite free and easy. Pray, where did you learn to forget the difference between black and white, my dingy spark? In England, my dear, where, truth to speak, though I saw many pretty damsels, I saw none that could in any way compare with you, fine model of perfection.
Upon my word, the boy has some sense, and is not so dingy as I at first thought him. Ah, we poor blacks have a weary time of it, and are as much railed at as if the darkness of our skins were a sample of the colour of our hearts.
Black boy him love Jill Jenkins, Tink he'll wed—tink he'll wed, His massa chide him thinking, Beat him head—beat him head, Black boy him love rum, too, Make him groggy—make him groggy, But massa make him come to When him floggy—when him floggy. A fire—a bench before it having figure—covered with a white cloth on it. The fire under an iron pot, suspended by three sticks as in Guy Mannering.
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After performing several incantations, she speaks. Magic fire duly placed In square within a circle traced, Boil the mystic herbs I've brought, Till the Obi charm be wrought; Bones I've raked from the burial ground, When night and the storm were black around; Give strength to my work, till I've fixed my dart, Like a cankerous thorn in the white man's heart— Till I pierce him and wring him in nerve and spleen By the arrows felt, but never seen.
Then by flame unbodied burn him, Then on racking windlass turn him, Till his sinews quiver and ache anew, And the cold sweat falls like drops of dew, Toil him and moil him again and again, Sicken his heart and madden his brain; Till strength, and sense, and life depart, As I tear the last pulse from the white man's heart. Well, mother, how work our charms? Impatience—impatience, hag! The gods of my fathers frown my delay. Years have elapsed since I sacrificed the wife of the white man, a victim to the memory of my beloved Olinda, whom they tore lifeless from these arms as they dragged me from my native land; can I forget?
And long ere this should vengeance have been satisfied, had not a mistaken faith in thy mummery restrained my arm. Rail not on Obi, lest thou feel its power. As Africa receded from my gaze I swore that the first white man who purchased Karfa's services should also feel his hate.
Ormond was that man. The wife of his bosom was my first victim, and long ere this should his bones have been mouldering in the grave, but that you promised a sweeter, though a slower vengeance. And I will perform my promise; Ormond shall die. He but hovers round me for a time, as the fluttering bird struggles to avoid the fascinations of the serpent.
But here have I his image made in wax, and as it is molten by a blue fire kindled with dead men's eyes, so shall he waste, waste, waste. A month! A day shall not elapse ere the blow be struck! Now, 'tis the day on which he purposes to give his daughter's hand in marriage to her lover; and 'tis the day when, bursting like a whirlwind on him, I will sacrifice his every remaining joy to the memory of my broken-hearted wife, my helpless infants, and the wrongs of my poor country.
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Hark, hark! More of your charms, which in the eye of superstition make me invisible—and let me to my work. Here, my son. Yet be not rash, and trust that Obi—. Here is the charm I trust. He named that hour, he said, to escape men's observation, for the sake of her own good name. He named that place, for it was near her dwelling, and on the road between Balerynie and Heriotside, which fords the Sker Burn. The temptation was more than mortal heart could resist.
She gave him the promise he sought, stifling the voice of conscience; and as she clung to his neck it seemed to her that heaven was a poor thing compared with a man's love. Three days remained till Beltane's E'en, and throughout this time it was noted that Heriotside behaved like one possessed. It may be that his conscience pricked him, or that he had a glimpse of his sin and its coming punishment.
Certain it is that if he had been daft before, he now ran wild in his pranks, and an evil report of him was in every mouth.
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He drank deep at the Cross Keys, and fought two battles with young lads that had angered him. One he let off with a touch on the shoulder; the other goes lame to this day from a wound he got in the groin. There was word of the procurator fiscal taking note of his doings, and troth, if they had continued long he must have fled the country.
For a wager he rode his horse down the Dow Craig, wherefore the name of the place has been the Horseman's Craig ever since. He laid a hundred guineas with the laird of Slofferfield that he would drive four horses through the Slofferfield loch, and in the prank he had his bit chariot dung to pieces and a good mare killed. And all men observed that his eyes were wild and the face grey and thin, and that his hand would twitch, as he held the glass, like one with the palsy.
The Eve of Beltane was lower and hot in the low country, with fire hanging in the clouds and thunder grumbling about the heavens. It seems that up in the hills it had been an awesome deluge of rain, but on the coast it was still dry and lowering. It is a long road from Heriotside to the Skerburnfoot.
First you go down the Heriot water, and syne over the Lang Muir to the edge of Mucklewhan. When you pass the steadings of Mirehope and Cockmalane, you turn to the right and ford the Mire Burn. That brings you on to the turnpike road, which you will ride till it bends inland, while you keep on straight over the Whinny Knowes to the Sker Bay.
There, if you are in luck, you will find the tide out and the place fordable dryshod for a man on a horse.
But if the tide runs, you will do well to sit down on the sands and content yourself till it turn, or it will be the solans and scarts of the Solway that will be seeing the next of you. On this Beltane's E'en, the young man, after supping with some wild young blades, bade his horse be saddled about ten o'clock. The company were eager to ken his errand, but he waved them back.
This is a ploy of my own on which no man follows me. Well and on he rode down the bridle path in the wood, along the top of the Heriot glen, and as he rode he was aware of a great noise beneath him.
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It was not wind, for there was none, and it was not the sound of thunder; and aye as he speired at himself what it was it grew the louder, till he came to a break in the trees. And then he saw the cause, for Heriot was coming down in a furious flood, sixty yards wide, tearing at the roots of the aiks and flinging red waves against the drystone dykes. It was a sight and sound to solemnise a man's mind, deep calling unto deep, the great waters of the hills running to meet with the great waters of the sea.
But Heriotside recked nothing of it, for his heart had but one thought and the eye of his fancy one figure. Never had he been so filled with love of the lass; and yet it was not happiness, but a deadly, secret fear. As he came to the Lang Muir it was gey and dark, though there was a moon somewhere behind the clouds.