Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter XI.: BEASTS HUNT MEN IN DEMERARA. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 2
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Chapter XI.: BEASTS HUNT MEN 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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BEASTS HUNT MEN IN DEMERARA.
The absent brother and sister were less willing to relinquish the hope of return. Upon this hope they had lived from the moment of their departure: they saw it in each other's eyes, while their captivity was too new to allow them an opportunity of speaking of it; and they kept it alive by sympathy when some relaxation of discipline allowed them to exchange a whisper from time to time. They planned to escape in the night, to take refuge in the woods, and subsist there as well as they could till the search should be over, and they could find their way back to Mr. Bruce's estate, and throw themselves at their master's feet to petition for such an exchange of slaves as would allow them to remain in their old habitation. They had no thought of evading slavery altogether. They had no means of leaving the coast, or of obtaining their freedom within it. The utmost they hoped was to spend a life of slavery under a lenient master, and among those they had tong known, and could love: a wish not so very immoderate or presumptuous, it may be thought, as to merit very severe chastisement. Yet they knew that no punishment would be thought too heavy, if they should be detected in cherishing this hope.
One afternoon, they and their black brethren on the estate were left unguarded, owing to the sudden illness of the driver, who fell down in the field and was carried home in fits. A glance instantly passed from Willy to Nell, and joy was in their hearts that an opportunity of escape should occur so much sooner than they had expected. There was no roll-call that night. If there had been, the brother and sister would have been called in vain, for they were already on their perilous way to the woods. Nobody missed them: they met nobody as they proceeded in the shade till sunset, and over the plain in the twilight, till they reached the forest. They did not know their way any further than they had been able to study it by observing the stars. They were to travel northward when the time should come for them to proceed to Mr. Bruce's; but their immediate object was to escape pursuit: and as pursuit would most probably be directed where it would be guessed they wished to go, they turned due west for the present, as soon as they could make out the points of the compass by the lights overhead. They pushed on at their utmost speed, disregarding cold, hunger, and the difficulties of the way. They hastily plucked wild fruit when it hung within reach, now creeping through thick underwood, now helping one another over fragments of rock, and never stopped till day began to dawn. Then Nell cast herself down on the ground, and besought her brother to let her rest. He now observed for the first time that one of her feet was covered with blood, and frightfully swollen. A large thorn had pierced it some hours before, and as she had in her hurry let it remain, it was buried too deep to be easily got out, and site was so lame as to be unable to go farther.
Willy looked round anxiously, and walked from side to side to gaze abroad and see whether this spot was easily accessible from any quarter. He came back presently with a more cheerful countenance, saying,
“The bushes are thick all round us, and the wood is very wild; and there is fruit on the trees, and a little river near, where we may drink, if we could but hide ourselves as long as the sun is up, we might be safe for many days.”
“Cannot we pile up these big stones to make a hiding-place, Willy? Set them one upon another against this bank, and leave a hole behind where we may creep in.”
Willy found this not very difficult. The hiding place looked outside like a natural heap of fragments of rock, while behind there was a hole large enough for two people to sit upright; and when some dry grass was shaken down to make the ground soft, the runaway slaves thought they could be content to remain in this narrow dwelling for a long time. Willy laughed as he had not laughed since childhood, when he leaned back in his dark corner, and Nell smiled as much as the pain of her foot would let her. Hope had already done her heart good. Twenty-four hours sooner she would have made everybody near her melancholy with her groans, for slaves are fond of pity, and are made selfish by their wrongs; but now, Nell began to feel like a free-woman. She could procure no indulgence by complaint, and she was grateful to her brother for his assistance in making her escape. She therefore hoped that he would sleep, and remained quite quiet that she might not hinder his doing so. Perhaps she would have attempted to sing a drowsy song, if she had not been afraid of betraying their retreat by permitting any sound to issue from it.
Her fit of patience lasted longer than might have been expected from such a novice in the virtue. For a few hours she sat bearing the pain very well, and she might possibly have endured for another if she had not heard, or fancied she heard, a sound which made her heart throb as painfully as her foot. The woods reposed in all the stillness of noon, or she would have supposed the sound to be some freak of the wind among the high foliage of the forest; but there was no wind, there was nothing to provoke an echo; and her ears were struck by something too like the distant, the very distant baying of a hound. She laid her hand on her brother's arm. He did not stir. She paused to listen again before she disturbed him, She had not long to wait. It came again, nearer, and too distinct to be mistaken. She shook the sleeper.
“Willy, Willy! hark to the hounds! The hounds are after us!”
Willy groaned as he started up, and shook some of the stones overhead, which rolled down with a great clatter.
“Never mind that, Nell. We could not keep under cover with the hounds upon us. O, if we had but passed a stream in our way! If we could but have baulked the hounds!”
“There is a river below,” cried Nell; and Willy was off at the word.
“O, Willy, Willy, do not leave me! I cannot walk. O, carry me with you!”
Willy hesitated a moment as his worse and better nature strove together. He came back for his sister, took her on his back, and began to scramble down to the stream. It was too late, however. The shouts of men were now heard mingling with the loud and louder baying of the blood-hounds, which might be expected the next moment to spring from the bushes upon their victims. There was no hope of getting down to the stream in time, much less of being hidden on the opposite side. Willy cast a hurried took behind him every moment; and when at last he heard a rustling in the underwood, and saw fierce eyes glaring upon him, he laid his burden on the grass, crying,
“Nell, will you die or be a slave?”
Nell grovelled on the earth and made no answer.
“I will die!” shouted Willy, and was about to spring into the water. His sister recalled him by her cry.
“Becky; poor Becky! She will be all alone when our father dies.”
Willy turned. What his choice would have been cannot be known, for there was no time for choice. Before the slave-hunters could come up to see what happened, a fierce blood-hound had sprung at Willy's throat and brought him down. Once having tasted blood, the animal was not to be restrained by whistle, shouts or blows, till the long death-grapple was over. When the mangled negro had ceased to struggle, and lay extended in his blood, the hound slunk back into the bushes, licking his chops, and growling at Nell as if he would make another spring if he dared.
The remaining fugitive had no power to resist, even if she had had the will. But her will was annihilated. She had nothing to hope or to fear in the present extremity of bodily and mental misery. She sat quietly on the grass when they tied her hands behind her back. She attempted to walk when she was bid, and submitted to be carried when it was found she could not stand. She did not speak when they took up the body of her brother from its bloody bed, nor start when they tossed it into the stream, though splashed by the plunge.
She was conscious but of one passing impulse during her journey back,—to throttle the man on whose shoulders she was carried, as the hound had throttled her brother: but the effort only served to remind her that her arms were fastened. She was asleep or in a stupor when brought back to her hut, a circumstance which was pointed out by a white as conclusive of the fact that negroes have no feeling. As she was too lame to work, however, and not in the best condition for the lash, she was not roused. There was some mercy in leaving her to find out for herself, when she should again be able to collect her disordered thoughts, that the brand and the stocks were waiting for her, and that the days of her bondage must henceforth be spent alone.