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and Metcalf, who had stationed himself close to her, was whispering some of his insipid compliments in her ear, which drove the bright carnation into her cheeks, when something suddenly struck the door without with a violent blow.
“ Halloh !" shouted the bridegroom, as he started, " that's not very polite knocking. Who's there?
The other guests all turned hurriedly and in surprise toward the sound; but the sole answer was a renewed, and still more violent, knocking:
“ Deuce take his impudence,” Metcalf cried ; “I'll go and see." He suddenly seized the leathern thong which hung to the lateh, pulled it up, and tore the door open.
“Ha!” before him he saw a pair of fixed sparkling eyes, almost starting from their sockets, a widely yawning mouth, with a blooddripping tongue hanging out, and a tremendous row of white grinders-a wolf's head as terrible and dreadful as only imagination could depict it-and behind it, close to the fearful mouth, the death-pale fiercelystaring countenance of Ben Hope, spectrally illumined by the reflection of the torches.
"The wolf, the wolf!” Metcalf yelled, after one alınost flying glance at the fearful group.
“ The wolf!” and he made his way in wild haste through the guests who were thronging up, sprang to the window, and before any one could conjecture his object or prevent him, he leaped with one bound into the open air. Those standing behind, who could not yet see what had been the real cause of such extraordinary activity, laughed ; but those nearest the door also started back in terror, like Metcalf had done, and gazed in amazement at the strange object, in which they were at last enabled to recognize Ben Hope's features.
“The bell, the bell !" was, however, all that the hunter could gasp in a hoarse voice, only distinguishable by those close to him.
« The bell, the bell! my strength is failing me.
“ Heavens!" Bessie now shrieked, who had sprung up in terror at Metcalf's first cry, and hardly believing her eyes, not capable of uttering a word or moving a limb, had gazed fixedly on her lover's death-pale and fearfully distorted features. “Help, help!"
“The bell !” Ben implored. Bessie, the bell : my arms are ready to drop off !”
“ The bell-what bell?" the persons around asked.
“ Ha! the wolf's bell,” the young girl now exclaimed, understanding in a moment all that had seemed to her so terrible. « The wolf's bell : only wait a moment, Ben ; only a few seconds, and I will be back again.” And the girl quickly glided through the doorway, close to the gaping throat of the brute, so close that her shoulder came in contact with its blood-dripping tongue; went into her father's house, which was situated close by, and where the bell was still hanging beneath the rifle, as the old man had hung it after his last fruitless expedition; quickly took it down, and returned with it without the loss of a moment.
In this interval the men had recovered from their first surprise ; old Sutton had joined them, and, quickly understanding all the circumstances of the case, he tried to help Ben, and even offered to take the wolf from him. This, however, the hunter would not consent to, as he did not dare, for his own safety or that of the bystanders, loose the firm hold he now had of the animal ; but Bessie had scarce made her appearance with the bell, when Sutton snatched it from her hand, fastened the strap round the neck of the wolf, which was struggling furiously again, and buckled it not too tightly, but securely enough that it could not be slipped over the head, and yet at the same time did not throttle the wolf. But what to do now when this was all completed ? how get rid of the brute again? for it was very possible that, in its present excited state, it might turn upon its enemies instead of running, and cause some accident, so that they might be eventually compelled to kill it. The tinkling of the bell disturbed the captive more and more ; its exertions became more desperate, the more the poor hunter's strength deserted him. It is true that plenty of men came up with ropes, and one even made a running noose in which the wolf's head should be placed, and its throat squeezed till it was stunned, and then it could be carried out into the forest ; but these appeared much too dangerous experiments, for if any injury were done the animal in consequence, all his labour would have been in vain. At this moment Bessie, who was half-mad from anxiety, cried out,
“ Carry, it into the garden, Ben, where the stream makes the bend ; the bank has given way; and if you throw the wolf in there, it can swim to the opposite side."
“ By Heaven ! the girl is right,” shouted old Sutton, and Ben immediately walked round the house to the spot indicated. The fence which separated him from the garden was immediately torn down, and a few moments later the wolf-hunter stood on the steep bank. Bessie had seized his arm and led him, for fear he might take a step too far and fall in with his burden.
“Now, Ben,” she cried to him, as she suddenly held him back,“ now
* Thank God!” Ben murmured ; and as he opened his arms the dark body glided down the yielding sand, and fell with a loud splash into the current. Several men now came up with candles, and by their pale uncertain light they could perceive the black body of the liberated wolf cutting its way with violent panting through the water ; but as it climbed on to the bank the bell tingled loudly and clearly—the beast tried to shake itself, but was so startled by the strange sound that it quickly bounded up the hill, and for a long distance through the forest they heard the regular strokes of the bell, as the wolf, in that gallop peculiar to these animals, sought to escape, not from its recent foes, for it hardly feared them, but from this insupportable sharp noise beneath its throat.
“ Ha ha !" Ben at last broke the breathless silence with which the men had listened to the sound of the bell as it grew fainter. “He's got it—by Heaven he's got it—let Mr. Metcalf try to do as much now!"
“ Metcalf!" But where was Metcalf then, during the whole of this scene? No one knows-no one ever saw him again on the Washita. His leap through the window could not be doubted, for there were witnesses enough of it, and from the window his track could be followed for a long distance in the direction of Arkansas; but he left all his luggage and even his hat behind him in the settlement, and never even wrote for them. Ben was certainly right in saying that “his evil conscience had driven him away."
And what became of Bessie ? I will spare the reader any long
details, and merely tell him a few circumstances, from which his power of imagination can easily discover the course of events much more clearly than I can describe them.
Mr. Metcalf had really run away ; but the letter which he had received must have been a forgery, for in the selfsame month they heard from a traveller that Metcalf's uncle had been a bankrupt about four weeks before the young gentleman made his appearance on the Washita, and that the pretended heir was even worse than a beggar, for he was up to his ears in debt. He had fancied he could easily win the rich farmer's daughter, and had naturally done all in his power to render it impossible for his dangerous rival to gain the girl's hand. That it had been he who had liberated the captured wolf was almost undoubted; at least shortly after his departure it was openly stated in the settlement; and that old Sutton, after all that had occurred, was ashamed even to mention his proposed son-in-law from town, may be easily imagined.
Since that time ten good years have passed away, and Farmer Sutton sleeps in his own garden gently and calmly beneath the green and Aowery sod. Ben Hope has given up his irregular life as a hunter, has become a respectable farmer, and lives with his dear wife-his own Bessie—and the three boys and two girls who have been born to them during their nine years of matrimony, so happy and contented as it is possible to do. His herds have also wonderfully increased, for the wolves were utterly driven away by their belled companion, and to his fields he has also added largely ; but at the spot where he caught the wolf alive he has built himself a small cabin, and calls it, in remembrance of that happy evening, The Wolf's Bell.
SKETCHES OF LIFE AND CHARACTER IN THE
COMMUNICATED TO, AND EDITED BY, LORD WILLIAM LENNOX.
CHAPTER XII. Having said so much of the blacks, it may be as well that I should add a few words respecting the possibility of employing Britislı emigrants in their places. Many are the attempts which have been made to facilitate the introduction of Scotch, Irish, and English, but in all the instances that came under my own observation they were signal failures. It is impossible for Europeans to withstand the effects of a tropical sua in the low country, if exposed to it from day to day in laborious outdoor work. Disease, brought on almost universally from intemperance, to which there is every temptation in the low price of spirits, soon decimates those who make the attempt. Were it not that rum is to be had for a mere trifle, they might be advantageously employed in coffee plantations, because they are usually found in the mountains where the air is pure and salubrious, or perhaps, here and there, a few as superintendents of grazing farms. To the coast of Africa, then, must Jamaica look for increasing her population, and procuring an adequate supply of labourers.
The possibility of this may appear rather problematical, yet I do not think that it is by any means impossible to solve it satisfactorily; and from the moment that every guarantee shall be given for the voluntary engagement of blacks on the coast of Africa, there can be no doubt that many will avail themselves of the liberal offers of the colonists. I have endeavoured to give a general idea of the state of Jamaica and its prospects, at and previous to the emancipation ; the events of late years are too well known to need a lengthened and tedious detail of matters, which have been often discussed in the English papers. The first year or two of freedom certainly looked gloomy and unpromising : either from bad management on the part of the government, or from the causes I have before adverted to, there was, throughout the island, one universal complaint of the want of cheap labour. Some proprietors talked of throwing up their sugar estates altogether, and turning them into grazing farms; others, again, paid ruinous prices to keep up the produce, at a positive loss, in the hopes of better times, and to prevent weeds overrunning the land, which it would have required almost as much capital to eradicate as it originally cost to clear and plant the estates.
The island press indulged in the most vehement abuse of the local authorities, which was re-echoed by the planters, who saw po term to their sufferings, and attributed all their misfortunes to bad government. The Baptists, who found themselves no longer in the political position in which circumstances had placed them, having succeeded in obtaining all that the negro hoped or wished for, were becoming nothing more than their spiritual advisers ; and as this did not answer their purpose, they sought out a new subject for agitation, and found it ready prepared, in the long-debated question of houses and grounds. Lawyers alone flourished, for it required the strong arm of the law, in many instances, to eject the unwilling labourers. A general distrust prevailed, which paralyzed trade, and threw a gloom over everything. The House of Assembly was so much indisposed towards the government, that, whenever the opportunity offered, they thwarted its views and rejected its measures. The produce of sugar in Jamaica, which during the times of slavery amounted to 35 per cent. of that of the whole West Indian islands, was reduced full two-thirds, in the two or three years that followed the decisive measure of total emancipation. In rum and coffee there was the same alarming falling off; the planters were convinced that their ruin was at hand and inevitable ; they looked upon the blacks as incorrigible, and incapable of working as free men, or, in the words of a French writer, they were the “ Fils de Chuni, une race maudite, condamnée à trainer éternellement la chaine.”
This was the state of affairs when Sir Charles T. Metcalfe was sent out to take the reins of government: there never was a more difficult task allotted to any man, for so great was the antipathy of the planters to the new system, that they would have gladly, had the opportunity offered, thrown themselves into the arms of any power sufficiently strong to receive and protect them. But Sir C. Metcalfe was a man of high integrity and talent, long versed in the science of government, and accustomed in the East to public affairs : it was impossible to have selected a more capable person for so great a trust; indeed there was no one whose qualifications could be put in competition with his great abilities. Affable and plain in his deportment, he soon acquired the confidence of the people he was sent to rule over. He had not been a fortnight in the island before a total change took place in the opinions and feelings of all men ; his presence, like oil on the troubled waters, produced a more calm, dispassionate reasoning on the part of all the sensible portion of the community, who were weary of agitation ; his liberality gained him the good will of all classes, and revived the coufidence of the desponding planters, who had almost given up all hope of bettering their condition. The effects of this are already manifesting themselves in increased efforts, and a cheerful acquiescence on the part of the House of Assembly with all the views of the home government. He had the advantage, too, of arriving after the first outburst of popular clamour was in some measure exhausted ; and although the negroes had disappointed the expectations of their friends, and intoxicated with their newly-acquired freedom, had to a certain extent abandoned work, still their moral conduct was irreproachable, and that portion of the population was much easier to deal with, than it had been during the reigns of its predecessors. Whatever
be the results of the great measure of emancipation, it is to the excellent management of Sir Charles Metcalfe that the colonists may attribute the improvement which has already taken place in their prospects, and in the probable gradual increase of trade hereafter. The friends of freedom, in England and elsewhere, during this eventful period, were not discouraged by the diminished cultivation of tropical produce ; they asserted that the worst was over, and that the falling off in the exports of Jamaica could not long continue. They were confident, too, that the blacks, who had been in some measure prepared for emancipation by wise laws and a religious education, would not be long deaf to the remonstrances of those who understood their real interests : they have not been altogether mistaken. Their predictions have been fully verified. Jamaica exported more in the year 1842 than in 1841, and more than in 1840. If the accounts of the month of October, 1842, in the Colonial Gazette are correct, there was then already a considerable increase, which was still going on. The number of barrels of rum had risen from 8,298 to 12,148 ; the increase of coffee also was from 7,570 measures to 8,803. As compared with 1841, the augmentation on sugar would be one-half, on rum 46 per cent., and on coffee 16. And let it not be supposed that the increase of colonial produce from Jamaica is caused by the immigration of black labourers from the coast of Africa, or other parts of the world. From the United States there have been none ; from Sierra Leone and the Guinea coast the number is scarcely worth taking into consideration.
These facts appear to me conclusive ; they cannot fail to exercise a great influence on public opinion, in all countries, which is favourable to the entire abolition of slavery, wherever it exists, but which required some sure data to judge of the material consequences of the enjancipation. If the results be such as I have described, and I believe I am not very far wrong in what I have stated, the colonists of other nations