Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter V.: NO HASTE TO THE WEDDING IN DEMERARA. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 2
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Chapter V.: NO HASTE TO THE WEDDING IN DEMERARA. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 2 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1832). Vol. 2.
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NO HASTE TO THE WEDDING IN DEMERARA.
About this time there was occasion for a family consultation in old Mark's cottage; and it took place one day instead of the afternoon sleep, to which the family regularly composed themselves when dinner was done, except at such busy seasons as deprived them of the indulgence necessary to negroes.
Old Mark had talked on, as usual, all dinner time, his children listening to him as if he had been an oracle, except Nell, who, for once, seemed inattentive to her father, and full of her own thoughts. Becky observed upon this as soon as there was a pause, saying that she supposed Nell had had some scolding, or was likely to be punished for having spoiled some of her work that morning. Willy said that it was a different sort of speech that Nell bad had made to her; and he laughed. Becky's face clouded over at once; for, much as she had to say about the compliments paid to herself, she knew that Nell had far more.—Nell was handsomer and more spirited than Becky; and they were about equally vain; so that, till they had each a lover, there were frequent quarrels between the sisters; and even since their rivalry had ceased, Becky was subject to pangs of envy as often as she beard of her sister being more admired than herself.
Nell now explained that their neighbour Harry had made up his mind at last to marry her if she chose; and she only waited to know what her father would say.
He shook his head, and asked how long it was since there had been a slave marriage on he estate. None of the young people remembered one on their plantation, but there had been one in the neighbourhood within ten years. Mark remembered that he had been happier with his wife than before be married her; and from his own experience, would have recommended his daughters to settle; but more and more difficulties had arisen since his young days about the consequences of slaves' marriages, and he was afraid to advise the step; especially as Willy was altogether against it, out of regard to his sister, and Becky, because her own lover would not promise to marry her. Willy did not speak for a long time; while his father went on prosing about how everybody would talk, and stare, and wonder, and whether it would please or displease their master, and lastly, whether Nell would be happier or less happy after it.
“If you will marry too, Willy——”
“I won't marry,” said Willy, doggedly.
“Your master values you, and so it is most likely he would not be angry; and it would make people wonder less about Nell.”
“They might well wonder at me. No, father; I saw what came of the marriage in the next plantation. It was just like no marriage,”
“But there is a law now to make our marriages as lawful as white people's.”
“To bind a man and his wife together as long as they are both slaves; but if the man gets free, the woman cannot go with him. His money is not hers because it is his; and if anybody buys her, her husband may not follow her unless his master allows it. They cannot do their children any good. They cannot make them free, nor save them from labour, nor help them to get justice.”
“But there is a pleasure in living with a wife in a cottage, and in sowing corn together, and in making the fire for one another, and in having her to talk to, and to dance with, when holidays come.”
Willy observed that all this might be done without being married, and was done by everybody on the plantation, who would have married if the civil rights of marriage had been allowed to them as to the whites.
“But you do every thing for yourself, Willy. You want nobody to sing to you, or to dance with you, or to go to market with you. You want nobody to love.”
“I love you, father, and Nell, and Becky.”
“But I shall die soon, and Nell, will marry, and Becky loves her lover. It is time you should find somebody else to love.”
“The time is past, father. I began to love Clara once, just before she died; and while I was forgetting my sorrow for her, I learned by what I saw, never to love anybody else.”
“Because a black must he first a slave and then a man. A white woman has nobody to rule her but her husband, and nobody can hurt her without his leave: but a slave's wife must obey her master before her husband; and he cannot save her from being flogged. I saw my friend Hector throw himself on the ground when his wife was put in the stocks; and then I swore that I would never have a wife.”
“But think of Hector's children, Willy. O, you do not know the pleasure of hearing one's little children laugh in the shade, when the sun makes one faint at noon! It is like a wind from the north. And to let them sleep under the same mat, and to see them play like the whites, —and then their master pats their heads sometimes when they follow him.”
“Like dogs,” said Willy, “that as often get a kick as a kind word. When I see little children as clever and as merry as whites, I take them up in my arms and love them; but when they are carried away where their father shall never see them again, or when their mothers look sad to find them growing as stupid as we are, I am glad that I am not their father.”
“Becky!” said her father, “are these the reasons that your lover will not marry you?”
Becky made no answer; for the fact was she knew nothing more than that he thought there was no occasion.
“Willy!” said the old man again, “if you will not love nor marry here, you will try to go somewhere where you can be a man and a husband without being a slave. You work in our ground. Is it that you may be free when I am dead?”
“No, father, I shall not try to be free.”
“Why then do you sow corn and dig our ground for us? If you get money, why will you not pay it to be free?”
“I sow corn that you may have as good food as when you were young and could dig like me. I get money because others do so; but, unless it were many times as much, it does little good to me, for I shall never be free. The Englishmen, over the sea, tell us that they wish us to be free, and bid us try to buy our ransom; and when we have nearly done so, they put a higher price upon us, and laugh when we give up.”
“How can people, so far off raise our price?”
“They raise the price of sugars because our masters ask them, and then our masters raise our price, Hector once hoped to buy his freedom; and it made him happy to see his master look sad, because then he knew that his master could not sell his sugar, and did not want his slaves so much, and Hector hoped that no more sugar would be sold till his master had taken his ransom and let him go. But one day the overseer told him that his ransom was too low and he must not go yet. It was because his master wanted to make sugar again; and he wanted to make sugar because he people in England pitied our masters, and made sugar dearer that they might be rich.”
“If the whites in England pitied us,” said Nell, “they would make sugar cheaper that we might he free.”
“Till they do,” said Willy, folding his arms, “I will be as I am, I will work no more than I cannot help. I will sleep all I can, that I may forget. I will love my father till he dies, and Nell and Becky till they have husbands that will love them more than I. Then, since I cannot love, I will hate; and I will call to the hurricane to bury me under my roof and set me free.”
“You will love our young master, Willy? He did not forget you while he was beyond the sea, and he is a kind master now he has come back.”
“I did not forget him,” said Willy. “I remember how he made me play with him when we were both boys; but I did not love him then, because he was oftener my master than my playfellow; and I do not love him now, because he will be my master again. Don't ask me, father, to love anybody. Slaves cannot love.”
Willy looked round for his sisters; but Nell was gone to Harry's cottage to tell him she would marry him, thus taking advantage of her brother's mention of husbands for herself and Becky. Becky had followed to see how Harry would take the communication. So Willy threw himself down on his mat as if going to sleep, while his father, whose ideas had been carried back to his young days, sat at the door of the hut, singing to himself the song with which he had courted his long-buried wife.