“An Incident in the Late Rebellion in Jamaica”

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An Incident
In the Late Rebellion in Jamaica.

It was about ten o'clock at night, towards the end of the last rebellion, that five privates and a sergeant attached to the —— company of the Trelawny Militia were located in an out-house on —— estate, for the purpose of protecting that property in an anticipated attack of the insurgents.  It was about as dark a night, reader, as I remember ever to have seen ; the rain fell in torrents, not a star was visible, and the thunder broke over our heads in loud and deafening peals, and with a force, too, that shook to its foundation the crazy building in which we were posted.  Not one of us had a dry rag about him ; for as the dismantled old house possessed but half a roof, and the proportion of half a shutter to every three windows—to say nothing of a most lamentable deficiency of sash frames, the rain poured down as mercilessly on us as it did outside of the house.

" Vot a night for firevorks and Wauxall," said young Toosy—(the last importation from Cokaigne, who had joined our company just before the breaking out of the rebellion)—his teeth chattering in his head, and his lips as blue almost as indigo.—" Real stunning enjoyment I call this," continued he, " cuss the rebels, the black varmints, and juice take the Curnol for hordering us on this dirty duty ; you hain't got a cigar about you Dick, 'ave you?  I do think I'd feel better for a veed ".

Dick pouch was forthcoming at the word, but the cigars, like everything else about him, were soaked through with water.  Toosy, however, selected one which he thought he might manage, and crawling towards the single candle, which flared and sputtered in a porter bottle under a table, where it had been placed to protect it as much as possible from the rain, endeavoured to kindle his cigar at the puny flame.  His exertions, were, however, ineffectual, and resulted only in his extinguishing the miserable light, and leaving us in utter darkness.

" Here's a go," exclaimed the unfortunate recruit, as he groped his way back to his comparatively dry corner, amid a volley of abuse from his fellow-sufferers.  " Here's a cussed go, I do believe the devil himself has had a hand in everything that has happened to-night. Fust of all Tom burnt the priming of his gun near my face, as he says, by accident, and singed off von of my viskers ; next that d——d nigger gave me winigar for brandy, and now I have gone and blowed out the honly light ve had.  I'm blessed if it's not enough to drive von distracted;" saying which, poor Toosy coolly deposited himself on
0002 An Incident in the Late Rebellion in Jamaica. 37 a heap of empty bottles and broken glasses.  It required but that to cap the climax of his misfortunes ; starting up with a yell which rung throughout the house, he ran towards the door, determined, as he afterwards told us, rather to brave the storm without, than to remain one moment longer in the house.

But he was suddenly foiled in his attempt to escape.  He had scarcely reached the door when a vivid light shot up on his path, and the entrance to the apartment became occupied by a most extraordinary apparition.  Toosy started back with much more vigour than he had exhibited in making for the door ; and truly, a man of stronger nerve than our poor Cockney, might have felt some dread at the unexpected visit of the being who had so suddenly broken in upon our privacy.

The intruder was a tall gaunt negress, whose age, notwithstanding her erect stature, must have exceeded fifty years ; her dress, which barely reached her skinny legs, was tattered, and dripping with moisture ; her head was bare, and exposed to view a quantity of woolly grey hair, and her features were sharp and severe. But the most striking object about her face, was her mouth ; it looked no more like the usual negro receptacle for cocoas and plantains, than chalk does like cheese ; the lower lip hung down so low, as almost to conceal her chin, whilst five or six long white teeth protruding from her gums, gave her an appearance of ghastliness and terror, which struck a chill to our hearts.  She carried in her left hand a large horn lantern, the side of which was open ; and in her right, a bright matchet or cutlas ; " no word spoke she, " until she had carefully examined the apartment, when in harsh discordant notes, but in terms strikingly devoid of the negro patois, she enquired, " is there a negro here?  Does one of that cursed race inhabit this room?  Be he slave or freeman, no negro, nor none of his blood, must hear the words which I have to speak tonight. "

" There is no negro here, good mother," I replied, " and your light at all events, if not yourself, is most heartily welcome. "

She sat down without replying, and appeared to be deep in thought for some minutes ; at last she muttered " I'll do it "—then turning towards us, enquired, " who commands here? "

" I do," said sergeant S——, rising from a heap of cloaks on which he had thrown himself. " I do, mother, what would you with us? "

"Have you strength and courage?" asked she.  " Could you dare the lion in his den, or rouse the savage tiger in the jungle?  If ye can, follow me—but I warn ye death will be among ye ere the day breaks on this distracted country.  Follow me at once, and nerve yourselves to accomplish an act of daring and of danger. "

" Softly, good mother," said Sergeant S——, "these are not times when men blindly rush into danger, or follow at the beck of every and any one.  We must know whither you would lead us, and the nature of the expedition on which yon command our aid. "

0003 38 An Incident In The

The cautious reply of Sergeant S—— drew forth some commendatory remarks from young Toosy, who was apparently but little disposed to lend the aid of his powerful arm and great military talents in carrying out the desires of the old woman.  Whether it was that the warning contained in the negress's address damped his courage (and, between us, good reader, Toosy was not blessed with any extraordinary development of the organ of combativeness,) or whether he conceived that the misfortunes which had already befallen him, were sufficient for the night, I will not undertake to decide, but his disinclination to trust himself to the guidance of the old woman was expressed in terms so forcible and explicit, that they drew upon his luckless head the entire burst of anger which she had been vainly endeavoring to repress.

" Weak and timid fool," she exclaimed, " your chicken-heart would but destroy our chance of success.  Remain here, if you fear to follow me, and change your musket for a doll.  Is it with men such as you that the government expects to put down this outbreak ?  Fools are they to suppose so !  If there are any men among ye, follow me at once" ; she continued turning to the others, " follow me this instant, or lose the honor which you will acquire in taking one of the most daring and successful of the rebels. "

The tone in which she spoke, her excited gestures, and air of authority, together with the prospect she held out of our taking an insurgent chief, produced the desired effect.  In an instant every man was on his feet, busily resuming the military accoutrements which had been thrown aside, and we were just about to follow our strange guide when the storm of rain and thunder burst forth with renewed fury, and for the moment compelled us to abandon all idea of the expedition.  " However willing we may be to accompany you, my good woman" said Sergeant ——, addressing the negress, " you perceive it will be impossible for us to do so at present.  No human being could live in a night like this, were he exposed to the fury of the elements.  Sit down, therefore, and let us know something more of the service which you require at our hand."

She made no answer to this address, but commenced to pace up and down the dilapidated apartment, totally regardless of the heavy fall of water which poured down through the broken roof on her uncovered head.  After continuing this exercise for some minutes, she gradually drew near to the lantern which she had placed under the table, and throwing herself on the floor, begun to warm her long skinny hand at the flame of the candle, muttering some words the while, but in so low a tone as prevented our catching their import.

Toosy, who appeared to have recovered from the effects of all his late misfortunes, except that particular one which had resulted in the loss of his whisker, began to while away the time with a most melancholy ditty, which, as it belonged to that species of musical compositions usually termed sentimental, aided not a little in producing the
0004 Late Rebellion in Jamaica. 39 effects of a sedative on our senses.  Not that there was anything particularly somnific in the air itself—in fact it was rather an agreeable recital of the loves of a certain Alice Gray, and an anonymous youth.  Toosy possessed little or no musical genius, und had a most extraordinary knack of converting demi-semi-quavers into breeves, and semiquavers into semi-breeves.  The effect of this peculiar talent on the part of Toosy was, as may be supposed, that of extending the air to a most unconscionable length—and to such a height had he carried this new principle in music, that he once contrived to continue the battle of Prague through an entire fortnight ; at the conclusion of which, he relieved our ears with the welcome announcement that he had forgotten the remaining half of the piece.  Toosy, I say, had just commenced to while away the time with the afore-mentioned air, and we were just falling into a refreshing slumber, when we were startled by a sudden and loud exclamation from the old woman.

" Stop," she cried, " stop for the love of God !   That song, that song, it will kill me. "

" There," blubbered out the luckless Toosy.

" There, I've put my foot in it again."  " I always thought you'd kill somebody yet with your cursed howling," said Dick, " Can't you stop with that d——d thing you call a song?  It's enough to kill a deaf horse, much less an old nigger woman.

" I'm sure," commenced Toosy, apologetically, " I'm sure I didn't mean to do any harm to the old 'oman, but—" " It's of no consequence young man," interposed the negress, " and no apology is needed.  'Twas but a momentary spasm that caused me to cry out, and it has passed."

The words, however, to which she had given utterance, refuted her assertion of sudden illness.  I felt convinced there was some mystery connected with the old woman, and determined to make myself acquainted with it.

" You have not complied with our request, good mother," said I, " We asked you to give us some information as to the nature of the service you require of us."

The old woman appeared to reflect for a moment, then putting her hands to her eyes and dashing away a few tears which had gathered there, she said in a voice broken with emotion, " Listen to me ; draw near all of you, and hearken to the story of my life—nearer yet, I must whisper it to you, for I fear I have scarce enough strength left me to tell it."

We drew closer as she requested, and waited eagerly for the words to fall from her lips.

" Do I look like one who has suffered?" she began ; " do I look like one who has ever known what it is to be happy?  Ye answer not ; but let me tell you, I was not always the miserable wretch I appear to be.  Age and misfortunes have broken my spirit, and poverty and neglect are hurrying me to the grave.  I was and
0005 40 An Incident In The am still a slave, though only one in name, for I was ever free to go and come as I liked.  I belonged to —— estate, and was a domestic in the great-house, until I bore my first child, when I was called upon to perform the functions of a nurse.  From these now dry and withered breasts, the only daughter of my dear mistress drew her first sustenance, her unfortunate mother having died in giving her birth.  I nursed my young charge from her infancy, and tended her until she reached the age of twelve years, when my master resolved on sending her to England to be educated.  At her entreaty and my own, I was permitted to accompany her, and I remained in England with her until she returned to Jamaica in her 18th year.  Shortly after that event, my master died under circumstances which created suspicion of his having come to his end by violent means ; but notwithstanding the many investigations which took place into the cause of his sudden death, the crime could not be traced home to any one, and to all but myself it has been until this night buried in mystery.  Miss Harriet, as you may suppose, was considerably affected by the death of her beloved parent, and for some months she was plunged into a state of gloom and sorrow, from which I found it difficult to arouse her.  But unavailing regret, like every thing else, must have an end ; and about two years after her father's death she married a young Englishman, named Gray, who had but a short time before arrived on the island.

" It was about this time also that I married the man with whom I had lived previous to my departure from Jamaica : but I had soon bitter cause to regret the step I had taken.  The little money which the kindness of my mistress had enabled me to save, was seized by my husband, who was a free man, and lavishly squandered on other women for whom he neglected me.  My spirit rose at this treatment.  A feeling of hatred towards him sprung up in my breast, which was not a little increased by a proposition he once made to me to rob my mistress to supply his extravagance.  I do not now recollect what at the time prevented my acquainting my mistress with the nature of the disgraceful proposal which had been made to me, but I have since had bitter reasons to blame myself for not having done so.  Need I say that I met my husband's vile proposition with scorn and revilings?  From that moment we met no more until three or four months after our separation, when I received a message from him, stating that he was dying, and earnestly praying me to see him once again before we parted for ever.  I hastened to him, forgetful of all my past sufferings, and found him as he had said, fast hurrying to the grave.  He recognised me immediately, and motioning all except myself out of the room, beckoned me towards his bedside.  He held out his hand, and not only implored my forgiveness, but also begged me to pray for God's mercy on his soul, for, said he, " there's blood upon it ; the blood of a good worthy man lies heavily on it, and I am stained not alone with the sin of ingratitude towards you, but with the heinous
0006 Late Rebellion in Jamaica. 41 crime of murder !   The name of my late master escaped his lips—my brain reeled at the dreadful confession, and I tottered and fell sense­less to the earth.  My husband was a corpse ere I awoke from my swoon, and I am to this moment ignorant of the motive which induced him to commit the awful deed, and of the means by which he concealed his guilt.

" Heaven only knows what were my sufferings at that time.  The reflection that my poor, lamented master was struck down in the prime of life by my husband's hand—that the child which I then bore in my womb was the offspring of a murderer—that perhaps it would come into the world with all the evils of its father's vile disposition inherent in its nature, drove me mad.  Perhaps it would have been better for myself had I continued in that state, but it was ordained otherwise.  The birth of my child preserved my reason, and I awoke once more to the knowledge of my unhappy condition.

" My mistress also gave birth at this period to a female child, which was called Alice, after its paternal grandmother.  You know now why the song which the young gentleman sung had so great an effect on me.  Alice Gray, my mistress's little daughter became my foster-child ; they were playmates in their infancy, and when my young mistress sprung from infancy to girlhood, Richard became her constant attendant and favorite servant.  Oh ! what a happiness, what a consolation it was to me to see the affectionate care which my son took of his little mistress ! It atoned almost for my past sufferings, and led me to look forward to an old age of happiness and peace.  How has the cup of hope been since dashed from my lips !  How has the hand of my own offspring wrought misery to myself and to all whom I loved !  The serpent was then young ; it had not yet obtained its fangs !  But let me hasten over the few years that intervened between that period and the present.  Days, months, years fled away, varying but little the one from the other.  My mistress had no more children during all that time, and she bestowed all her affection on Miss Alice.  Viewing with horror the idea of a separation from her only and beloved daughter, she would not send her from her, but had her educated at home ; and she grew up loving and worthy to be loved.

" Let me yet hurry on—let me hasten to the period when this unhappy country first began to be shaken by the actions of wicked, selfish, and designing men.  The year 1831 opened as brightly as any that had preceded it.  How did it terminate ? In misery and warfare—in blood shed for its own sake ; for the party-word Freedom was but little understood by even a fourth of those who proclaimed it in the meeting-house and in the hiding-place.  It was used merely as a cloak to conceal the horrid desires of wicked and malevolent men.  Blind and misguided beings !  Ignorant tools of a grasping and avaricious faction—Is murder, freedom ?  Do arson, sacrilege, ingratitude, and theft, constitute freedom ?  Where were the lightnings of heaven, that the goaders on of this horrible rebellion were not struck
0007 42 An Incident In The to the earth ?  Why, oh God !  why has this beautiful land been reddened with the blood of its children !

" It was while these fearful occurrences were at their height, that I discovered that my son was connected with a band of dissolute and fugitive negroes ; but the discovery was made at too late an hour to enable me to snatch him from the gulf of depravity and sin.  He fled from me, and joined the insurgents.  Three months have elapsed since he left me.  In the second, after his flight, my mistress's estate was burned to the ground, herself and her husband barbarously murdered, and their daughter snatched from the flames and the assassin's knife to be reserved for a far more fearful doom.  How I escaped in the general massacre and ruin I know not ; but one week after the destruction of the property, I found myself lying in an out-house which the flames had not devoured—my hands and feet blistered and scarred, my frame weak and feeble, and my mind wandering and at times unsettled.  I sat up on the bare earthen floor and strove to collect my thoughts about me, but was unequal to the task.  Throwing myself down again with the intention to take a little repose, the sound of approaching footsteps struck on my ear, and shortly afterwards the door opened and a human being entered the apartment.  Oh Heaven !  what a sight met my gaze as I cast a startled glance towards the intruder !  I could not believe the evidence of my senses, but started up, drew the object to an open window, and gazed long and earnestly on the pale and emaciated countenance.  The wretched and unfortunate Alice stood, or rather crouched before me.  She was almost naked ; her hair loose and torn, hung wildly about her once beautiful face ; her feet were shoeless, and bleeding from many wounds, and her whole appearance haggard and wretched in the extreme.  Great Heaven!  what a wreck she presented of her former self!  I would rather have seen her dead ; I would rather have seen her years before a lifeless corpse in her young beauty than the miserable thing she then appeared.  Reason, speech, beauty, everything had fled, and but the senseless torpid frame remained.  Instinctively she must have retraced her steps to the home of her childhood.  God only knows what she expected to find there !   What she did find, were ruin and desolation.  I clasped her to my bosom—I washed her bleeding feet with my fast flowing tears—I tore the wretched rags from off my back, and threw them over her shivering and exhausted body—but all was unavailing.  She died within an hour in my arms, but not before she informed me, in a temporary resuscitation of her faculties, that her former play-fellow and servant—my son, the monster to whom I had given birth, was the heartless wretch who had wrought her ruin.

" You know my story ; you have now to learn what motive brought me hither.  'Tis revenge, full and ample revenge.  The blood of my dead mistress's child calls to me for vengeance—and though my own offspring be the sacrifice, shall have it.  But come, come at once,
0008 Late Rebellion in Jamaica. 43 ere the feelings of a parent regain possession of my heart ; come ere I repent me of the deed I am about to commit. "

She rose as she ceased speaking.  Her tall form appeared to expand to a gigantic size, as re-armed with the recital of her woes, she drew herself up and gazed on us as if she would have said, " See, my misfortunes have not yet broken my spirit ; I can still act and think for myself."  Heaven only knows what thoughts were passing in her mind at that moment.  Her eyes flashed, her nostrils dilated, and her breast heaved as though a fearful struggle were going on within her, but not another word escaped her lips at that time ; and she soon after regained her composure.

The storm had now almost subsided.  The wind would moan and sigh occasionally through the thick foliage of the numberless trees that surrounded the house, but there was no longer any rain or thunder, and the earth exhaled that peculiar odour which usually rises from it after a heavy rain.  It yet wanted two or three hours of daylight, and the old woman urged us to take advantage of the remaining hours of darkness, and hasten in pursuit of her wretched son.  Accordingly we made every preparation necessary for the supposed difficulties of the expedition—cleaned and dried our firelocks, examined our ammunition, and found that, fortunately, our powder was perfectly dry ; and put everything else in an effective condition.

After about an hour's hard walking, we followed our strange guide into a narrow defile, overhung by towering and massive rocks.  A mountain torrent, swollen by the late rains, roared and splashed down a precipitous gully that ran along the entire line of road, extending in many instances over large portions of the path itself.  Poor Toosy's misfortunes recommenced as we entered on this portion of our march.  First his hat was knocked over his eyes by an overhanging branch ; then he lost one boot, which was with difficulty recovered ; at another time his lankly feet became entangled in some under-wood, and he was thrown on his face with some violence.  Again he lost his footing and plumped up to his middle in a deep hole filled with water ; and at last, in sheer desperation, he sat himself down on a piece of fallen rock, and swore not to budge another foot farther.  " Take your hand from off mine," said he to one of us who stood by him, " its as cold and clammy as hice: take it away, I say, and leave me here, I am determined I vont walk another inch.  They may do vot they like with me.  They may shoot me, or hang me, or do anything else they please ; but I vont go on to be drowned in any more cussed holes.  There, now go and leave me.  O Lord !  O Lord !   vot's this a-coming to me?  Take it off, take it off ; it's a climming up my face."  He shook his right arm violently, and a snake of about a yard in length rapidly uncoiled itself from the limb, and escaped into the bush.  The outcries which the frightened Toosy made startled the echoes to so great degree, that I have no doubt many a sleeping bird was deprived of its morning's nap.  From one extreme
0009 44 An Incident In The the unfortunate youth fled to another, and he begged and prayed us to take him away as soon as possible.  The dangers of remaining where he was appeared to him much greater than any which he might probably encounter in the onward march ; and he prepared with much alacrity to accompany us the remainder of the way.

Order being once more established, we hasted to make up for the lost time, particularly as some red streaks in the east warned us that the dawn was approaching.  Our way led, for about two miles farther, up the defile, when it was suddenly brought to a close by what appeared to us to be an insurmountable obstacle.  An enormous rock, clothed to its summit with rank vegetation ; completely blocked up the path, and barred all egress in that direction.  Finding himself thus circumstanced, doubts of the honesty and good faith of our guide began to enter the mind of Serjeant S——.  He imagined she had led us into this trap in order to give us into the hands of one of the numerous gangs of insurgent negroes who roamed about in all directions ; and his alarm momentarily increased.  Daylight was now fast stealing on us, and it afforded some satisfaction to know that in the event of Serjeant S——'s suspicions being confirmed, we should at least be able to see and oppose the danger by which we were surrounded.

" See," cried Serjeant S—— suddenly " Look there—to the right !  By heaven there are figures moving on the hill.  Stand to your arms my men.  We must now sell our lives dearly."

" Hola !  Draw not a trigger on our lives," interposed our guide, " the men on the rock above are friends ; they come to aid us in this enterprise. "

" How know we that?  What proof have we that you have not entrapped us into an ambush ?  Look to yourself, old woman, your life shall answer for your treachery. "

The Serjeant stepped forward as he spoke with the intention of seizing her, but she sprung aside with an agility which her age did not betoken, and quickly scrambling up one side of the rock, divided with her powerful arm a thick cluster of underwood, and stepped into the path she had opened for herself.  A few seconds elapsed and she once more appeared on a portion of the rock which jutted far out into the air.  " You forced me to act as I have done," she exclaimed, as she took up her position above us, " one word from my lips and not a life among you would be spared—one musket discharged on this spot and you draw down destruction on your heads !  Think you that I brought you here to murder you.  You have heard the story of my life—do I look like one who has not felt, keenly felt, all the sorrows I described ?   Heaven pardon you for your murderous doubts !   I will yet redeem the pledge I gave you, but think not you have frightened me into doing so. "   " See !" she added, as at a signal twelve or fifteen men rushed down the steep rocks and gathered around her, " see ! I could have crushed you all had I chosen to do
0010 Late Rebellion in Jamaica. 45 so."   She disappeared behind a portion of the rocks as she spoke and soon, after we perceived her descending into the defile, accompanied by three of her followers.  As she advanced Serjeant S—— stepped forward and in a few words expressed his gratitude for her forbearance.  He now declared his readiness to follow with his men whithersoever she chose to lead him ; and giving the word to march, we cautiously ascended a narrow beaten track which our guide pointed out to us.  It was now day-break, but a thick fog which rose from the defile, and overhung the surrounding hills, rendered it necessary that we should tread with the utmost care the precarious path by which we mounted into the region of rock and wood high over our heads.  A quarter of an hour's toil and exertion brought us in front of what appeared to be a deep fissure in the mountain, the entrance to which was partly concealed by a quantity of brush-wood and fragments of limestone.  Cautioning us not to utter a word, and to keep within call, but not to show ourselves in the direct path to the cave, the negress strode towards it, followed by the three negroes who, I had forgotten to say, were armed with old rusty fowling pieces and cutlasses.  The loud barking of a dog within the cave betrayed the approach of the intruder, and the sound of a confused noise in the same direction, shortly after reached our ears.  It was evident that the tenants of the cave were alarmed.  The negress beckoned us to approach, which we did as quickly as the nature of the ground would permit.  No one had yet issued from the cavern ; the persons concealed within were doubtless acting on the defensive, and as it appeared a matter of no difficulty for a party of resolute men to defend the place for a long time, we began to dread that, unprepared as we were to carry on a siege, we would be compelled to retrace our steps without accomplishing the purpose for which we had severely and laboriously toiled.  Serjeant S—— called an immediate council of war, and it was determined to dispose of the few men he had under his command with as much effect as possible.  Myself and another were ordered to advance towards the left of the cavern, where a narrow path was distinctly visible, to intercept whomsoever might attempt to escape in that direction ; two of the negroes, and as many more of our own party, were directed to clamber over the rocks, and endeavour to discover if there were any outlet at the back of the cave ; while Toosy and the remaining negro were posted some yards below, in the track by which we had ascended, and ordered give immediate alarm should any hostile movement be observed in that quarter.  Sergeant S—— himself with the negress and Dick, undertook to keep possession of the path leading to the mouth of the cavern, and to resist every effort of the beseiged to escape.  Having thus disposed of our small force, we waited as patiently as we could until the opportunity should offer for the exercise of more vigorous and decisive measures.  Half an hour passed away, and matters still remained in the same position.  The sun rose in splendour, and
0011 46 An Incident In The Late Rebellion of Jamaica. dispersed the thick mist which surrounded us.  Exhausted with our previous exertions, and anxious to bring the business to a speedy termination, Sergeant S—— now determined to assail the entrance of the cavern at all risks.  He recalled the party under my command which had been posted on the hill, and desiring us to co-operate with him, marched resolutely towards the cave.  Before, however, we had advanced twenty yards, the brushwood which partly concealed the mouth of the cavern was removed, and a young negro of herculean build presented himself at the entrance.  He was armed with a long cavalry pistol, which he carried in his hand ; by his side hung a broad shining cutlass, and in his belt was stuck what appeared to be a sort of dirk.  He desired us to halt, and presented his pistol to enforce his command.  Utterly regardless, however, of the threatening aspect of the rebel, Sergeant S—— commanded us to move forward, but his temerity well nigh cost him his life.  A sudden report, the sharp rustling in the air as the bullet flew through it, and the rapid disappearance of the rebel from the spot on which he had been standing, told that he had vainly expended his shot, and had retreated into the cave.

" Onward," exclaimed Sergeant S——, " and quickly too, but be careful of being surprised in the cavern."  We were now joined by the party who had been sent to learn if there were any other entrance to the cave.  They reported their failure, which perhaps was fortunate for them, as the sequel will shew.  Our force being thus augmented, we did not hesitate for one moment to enter the stronghold of the rebel.  We " carried it at the point of the bayonet," but the object of our pursuit was nowhere to be found.  We could not discover the slightest trace of him.  He had wanished like a wision, as Toosy afterwards observed.  Strewed about the interior of the cave, were some broken victuals, a breaker of water, and some spirits in a bottle.  In an aperture in the solid rock was a bed composed of dried leaves and grass, covered with several pieces of ragged blanketing, on which lay the dead body of a dog, doubtless the same which had warned the rebel of an approach, and which he must have slain under the apprehension of its betraying him.

Annoyed at our want of success, and astonished at the apparent mystery in which the escape of the rebel was shrouded, Sergeant S—— gave strict injunctions to institute an immediate and rigid search throughout the cave, in the hope of discovering some hidden outlet or secret hiding place, for which the cavern offered many facilities.  The words, however, had scarcely left his lips, when a loud cry reached our ears.  It appeared to come from the spot on which we had left Toosy and the negro ; and impressed with the idea that the rebel had found some means to quit the cave, and was then escaping, we hurried out with the view to intercept and take him.  My blood runs cold, and my cheeks pale, even at this distance of time, when the recollection of that day comes over me.  The hand of
0012 [         ] 47 death was almost on us ; certain and deadly destruction hung hovering over our heads but one minute before we rushed from the cavern.  We had scarcely gone one hundred yards, when, with a report like a whole park of artillery discharged simultaneously, and with a concussion that shook the earth for an immense distance around, the cave was blown to atoms and scattered in a thousand fragments in all directions.  For some moments we stood as if rooted to the earth.  We could neither move nor speak.  The suddenness of the occurrence, the horrible intention of the rebel to involve us in his own dreadful fate, from which we were saved only by the merest accident, struck us all as being so terrible and astounding, that for some minutes we were bereft of motion.  Gradually, however, we recovered ourselves, when the first words uttered were thanks to the Almighty One, who had preserved our lives in the moment of danger.  This duty being paid, we looked about to observe the effects of the explosion.  The scorched and disfigured body of the rebel was stretched out at no great distance from us ; beside it was the mangled remains of his dog, and it struck us as being an extraordinary instance of retributive justice that the slaughtered animal should lie side by side with him who had deprived it of life, within an hour after the act had been committed.

We never learned what became of the old negress.  Whether she perished in the cave, or escaped with us, we had no means of ascertaining ; but she was never afterwards seen or heard of.

[         ]

Item Details

Author(s) & contributor(s): Philip Cohen Labatt

Date(s): 1855

Form & transmission history: Short story, as published in a posthumous collection of the author's works.

Original publication details: In Selections From the Miscellaneous Posthumous Works of Philip Cohen Labatt in Prose and Verse, by Philip Cohen Labatt, 36-47. Edited by I. Lawton. Kingston, Jamaica: R.J. DeCordova, 1855.

Digital edition & date: One More Voice, 2021

Critical editing & encoding: Heidi Kaufman, Adrian S. Wisnicki

Cite this digital edition (MLA): Labatt, Philip Cohen. “‘An Incident in the Late Rebellion in Jamaica’” (1855). Heidi Kaufman, Adrian S. Wisnicki, eds. One More Voice, new dawn edition, 2021, https://onemorevoice.org/html/transcriptions/liv_020036_TEI.html.

Rights: Critically-edited text copyright One More Voice. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

Explore complete/original item: Google Books

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