Read My Name Is Not Angelica Online

Authors: Scott O'Dell

My Name Is Not Angelica (7 page)

Mistress Jenna stared at the ceiling as I fanned her.

"I'll send you to St. Thomas. You'll feel better there," Master van Prok said gently.

"And leave you here alone?"

"Only for a month or two. By then the drums will be quiet and you can come home," he promised.

"A month is such a long time."

"You have been starving, Jenna, spending sleepless nights. I worry about you."

"I am worried about you, my dear Jost. I wish you could go to St. Thomas, too. But of course you can't. What awful times have befallen us."

A fourth drum, a small one over the hills to the northeast, was talking now.

Mistress Jenna asked for a drink of rum and I brought it. Kill Devil was all that we had left. She sipped it for a while. Her face brightened.

Suddenly she nudged my foot and told me to pack her things. "Four dresses for daytime," she said. "Three for evening. That is all. I plan to be quiet."

I caught my breath at the thought of leaving St. John.

"And start packing soon," she said. "We don't know when the governor will leave."

She had heard me catch my breath.

"Don't fret," she said. "You'll have more to eat on St. Thomas. You'll like that, won't you, Angelica?"

I was careful not to make her suspicious, to let her know that I would never leave St. John. They could put me in the black hole under the mill and burn me with red-hot pincers.

"I'll pack your clothes tomorrow," I said.

Past midnight, after the van Proks were asleep, Dondo followed me outside. "I heard you talking to Mistress Jenna," he said. "Did you lie when you let her know that you'd go with her?"

"Yes."

"You're not going?"

"No."

"What can you do?"

"Run."

"Where?"

"I don't know. I can't go to Mary Point. Not now. But Whistling Cay is just opposite the point and close. What do you think?"

"I was there once. Caves and places to hide in. They'd never find you."

Nero stood half-hidden in the mill doorway, watching us. Without another word, we parted.

16

Toward evening Gardelin's red-coated soldiers rode into Hawks Nest. They brought the governor bad news. Most of the plantations had missing slaves. Some had lost two slaves. Erik van Slyke at Hurricane Hole had lost four slaves.

One of his runaways had been caught hiding in a tree. He was very young, younger than I, no more than a boy, with scars from two-pronged pincers. Governor Gardelin had him put into the black cave under the sugar mill. The cave was too small to lie down in and the only air came through a crack in the door.

The slaves were called in from the fields. Mistress Jenna and Master van Prok watched from the courtyard. Dondo and I watched from the house, from a window covered with pinguin thorns.

Governor Gardelin gave a speech about runa
ways. What a crime it was to leave your master who had paid good rigsdalers for you, who fed and housed and protected you.

Raising his voice so that not a single word would be missed, he said, "This man who ran away from Erik van Slyke's plantation was gone longer than three days, longer than five days, longer than seven days. He was gone eight days. Therefore he shall be punished under Article Five of the new laws. He shall receive one hundred and fifty lashes, given to him by Nero, your respected bomba."

There was no sound from the slaves. No sound from the black hole.

Dondo said, "I know this boy. He's called Leander by the whites. I don't know his name. You'll remember the time I was sent to the van Slyke plantation?"

"I don't remember."

"Well, I was sent there by Master van Prok to bring back a child he had bought. The mother didn't want the girl to leave. When Leander and I came to her hut, she set it on fire. I stood there and could not move, as if I was bound with chains. Leander pulled me out of the way. He rushed through the flames and saved the mother but not the child. I remember him well."

The drums had started up and were talking back and forth. Not yet about the boy Governor Gardelin was about to punish.

"One hundred and fifty lashes," Dondo said to me, "will strip the flesh from half his bones. If the boy lives he will be a cripple."

Governor Gardelin said, "I will return tomorrow at noon to see that my orders are promptly carried out."

Before the governor went back to the ship, Isaak Gronnewold talked to him. I was too far away to hear what they were saying, but I saw the governor shrug his shoulders and turn away.

Dondo said quietly, "The boy shall not be punished."

"Be careful," I warned him. "Soldiers are camped close by. And the bomba will be on the prowl."

"The boy shall not be punished," Dondo said again.

The van Proks came and he said no more.

I brought Mistress Jenna a drink of Kill Devil. As she sipped it, she said to her husband, "He's such a young man. It's a shame to punish him so much. You could purchase him from van Slyke and speak to Governor Gardelin. Perhaps the governor would relent since you wish to use the boy here at Hawks Nest."

"I do not have the money even if his owner wishes to sell him," Master van Prok said. "As for the governor, he is a man who does not relent."

Dondo glanced at me and made a sign that meant the boy was safe. He would not be punished. Mak
ing a sign back, I warned him yet again to be careful.

Mistress Jenna drank two more Kill Devils before I put her in bed. She was happy about going to St. Thomas. The governor had told her that he was leaving tomorrow after the boy was punished.

It was midnight when I left her and went outside. A moon among some slow-moving clouds made light shadows everywhere. The drums had picked up the happening at Hawks Nest. The soldiers were playing at cards, shouting and laughing as Dondo left the house.

He passed me without a word. He walked fast to the black hole and lifted the iron rod that barred the door. He pulled the boy out of the hole. He pointed to the north and said, "Run!"

The boy raced by me. I think he was dazed. "Run," I said, "run up the shore to the camp of runaways. It's about..." He was gone before I finished.

Dondo had disappeared. I heard Nero scuttling along far up the trail on his midnight prowl. I went to the storehouse and filled a gourd with muscovado. The brown sugar would last me for days.

I hurried halfway up the trail and hid in the cactus by the big tree and waited for Nero to pass on his way back to the tower.

He took a long time. I needed to start for Whistling Cay before the tutu called the slaves to work.
I began to worry. Had he seen the boy? Had he seen Dondo? Was he following them? I had to leave before dawn. In the daylight it would be dangerous.

I listened for the noises Nero always made as he shuffled along. A dry wind was blowing down from the hills, rustling the leaves of the mimosa. There were soft, drawn-out sounds from the sea, all kinds of sly sounds, but not the bomba's footsteps.

Suddenly, on the trail between me and the huts, a shot rang out. It was followed by a second shot and a muffled cry. A torch flared through the trees.

I dropped the muscovado and ran. Around a bend in the trail I came upon the bomba. In one hand he held a branch of torchwood, in the other hand, a musket. On the ground in front of him lay a figure crouched in pain.

The boy had escaped. A musket shot had struck Dondo below the knee. It had gone through his flesh but not the bone; still it had brought him down.

The bomba strutted around, muttering threats. He thrust the torch at Dondo's face. "You will pay for this, you scoundrel," he shouted.

Men came. They carried Dondo back to his hut. We bound up the wound and I got some malaguette from the house. As I was giving him the medicine, my hand touched a small packet he had hidden in his hair. It was the gunpowder, the last powder he planned to take.

He fell asleep. The bomba and Master van Prok stood nearby. I slipped the packet into my own hair and hid it under my sleeping mat with the pot fish net. Then I went back to Dondo's hut and stayed with him the rest of the night.

17

The news reached Governor Gardelin soon after dawn. At noon he was at Master van Prok's door. I expected to see him in a fury, but he was calm and smiling, as if he had come to pay a friendly visit.

The two men sat on the porch looking at the blue sea. They drank two mugs of beer, smoked their long-stemmed pipes, and talked. The governor asked about Dondo.

"He's a stout young man and the wound's not serious," Master van Prok said. "He should be around by tomorrow or the next day."

"You mean he will be walking?" the governor asked.

"Limping," the Master said.

"Limping or not, I'll be back to see him," the governor said.

An evil look cast a shadow over his face. Again, he sent for the captain of his small army and told
him to visit all the nearby planters as he had the first day, to see that they and three of their slaves were on hand at noon of the following day.

He and Master van Prok drank another mug of beer and talked about the clouds that were gathering in the west. Then he left and returned to his ship, with a happy smile.

He was back in the morning with a long line of sailors, who sang as they climbed the trail from the beach. They had baskets of food, as much food as on the first day. At the end of the line they carried a curious thing of wood and wheels. Never in my life I had seen anything like it. It turned out to be a rack, a thing that pulls people apart.

The field slaves did not go to work that day. After a handful of dried pot fish, the bomba marched them and their children to the tower and had them stand with their backs against the stone wall until the sun went down.

We were quiet through the night. We had slept fitfully. Fear was in the air, in the wind that swept down from the hills, in the poor earth that was sad and packed beneath us. What the governor would do during the coming day no one knew or could guess. But we were sure that it would be bad.

Two of the youngest girls came and lay down beside me. I held their hands and talked to them about the time when rain would fall and flowers bloom.

Soldiers were lined up on both sides of the slaves. The owners of ten plantations sat on benches in front of the tower. Their bombas crouched behind them, and their slaves were gathered with our slaves. Mistress Jenna looked out from the window barred with pinguin thorns, at her husband and Governor Gardelin.

They stood at the cave door where Dondo was locked in. They watched a man who was tinkering with the rack's straps and wheels. I had not seen him before. He had a scraggly gray beard and his chest was covered with a mat of gray hair. He had curly gray hair on the backs of his hands and he was part white.

Governor Gardelin spoke to him. "When, my trusted executioner, will you be ready?"

"I am ready now," the man said. "I have been ready for a long time."

"Good," the governor said.

The locked door was opened and Dondo was pulled out of the cave. It took him a while to stand up.

"You know why you will be punished?" Governor Gardelin asked.

Dondo straightened his shoulders, took a deep breath, and was silent.

"Answer me," the governor said quietly, "or it shall go doubly hard with you."

Still Dondo was silent.

"Look at me respectfully and answer," Governor Gardelin said.

Dondo looked beyond him at the sea and the dark clouds above it and said nothing. He stood with his wounded leg bent. He was in pain but tried not to show it.

"Very well," the governor said, "since you choose to remain silent, whether from stupidity or arrogance, I shall tell the gathering why you are being punished. You have helped a felon to escape. You have tried to escape yourself. These are crimes that insult God and myself, Philip Gardelin, governor of St. Thomas and St. John, chief of the Danish West India and Guinea Company."

He glanced at the fire burning against the wall, where long-handled pincers were heating. He nodded to slaves, who fastened Dondo hand and foot to the trunk of a tree that grew beside the tower door. He made a sign to the executioner. The man drew the pincers from the fire, spat upon them, I guess to test the heat, then put them back in the fire to heat some more.

Isaak Gronnewold rode into the courtyard while the governor was talking. He sat listening until the talk was finished. Then he got down from his donkey and went up to the governor. He was covered with white dust from the trail.

Angry at what he had heard, he stood with his back to the tongs heating in the fire.

"How do you know that Abraham helped the boy escape?" he said. "How do you know that Abraham tried to escape?"

The governor was surprised that anyone would dare to criticize him. His white wig had tilted to one side. He set it carefully on his head and did not answer.

"There has to be a trial, a regular trial," Isaak Gronnewold said. "A man can't be punished for a crime someone decides he has done."

"Someone?" the governor asked. "It's not just someone who has decided. It's the governor of St. Thomas and St. John, the chief of the Danish West India and Guinea Company, who has decided."

Preacher Gronnewold turned to the plantation owners seated on the bench. "What do you say?" he shouted. "Should Abraham be tried?"

"No," Erik Peter van Slyke shouted.

"No," Master van Prok shouted.

A chorus of "nos" rang out. The bombas joined their masters. Our slaves huddled against the stone wall were silent.

"See," the governor said, "you're wrong. Those who struggle to save their fields and mills, who live day and night in constant fear of their lives, say 'no' to you."

Isaak Gronnewold stared at the plantation owners and the bombas, then at the governor.

"They live in terror because their slaves live in terror," Gronnewold said.

He squared his bony shoulders. He stared at Governor Gardelin. He stared at the plantation owners and the bombas. "The Lord has said, 'Inasmuch as ye have done
it
unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done
it
unto me.' "

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