Tuesday, February 12, 2008

chapter 2

The Herbert plantation was a large affair some ways down the coast from the harbor. John Herbert had invested in the land when it could be bought for a song--or, rather, the price of a pair of slave hands--and had worked it ferociously, making a small fortune in sugar cane. His wife had died giving birth to their second child, who had soon followed its mother. Mary, his eldest at seventeen, was the light of his life. When the British Crown decided to take a more active hand in Nevis, it was natural that the mantle of responsibility should fall to its most well known and wealthy resident.

John Herbert agreed with that assessment and took his duties as president seriously. He ruled Nevis fairly, if somewhat stringently when it came to interpreting the laws, but recognised that his power ended largely at the shoreline. Consequently he made sure to be the center of his small kingdom, and no detail escaped his notice.

The beautiful white plantation house had been built seven years previously, and it was due to the large cadre of house slaves that he coud afford to give such a large party on such short notice. The Negroes had been running off their feet ever since their master announced he intended to give a party that evening. Savoury smells issued from the kitchen. In the garden, lanterns were being hung. And a small army in and of itself was attending to Miss Mary, Miss Herbert (Herbert's spinster sister) and Mrs. Nisbet.

But Hollee knew nothing of these preparations or domestic sagas. He had decided to walk the two or so miles between the Windsong and Herbert House and was rather enjoying the novelty of moving in the same direction and meeting no deck or railing. On his left, the sea, the beautiful blue tropical sea spread away to where the sun was just beginning to lay his red mantle in preparation for setting. On his right the green trees of Nevis rose suddenly into volcanic peaks (extinct now) like they had been sculpted by a giant pastry chef. Unseen animals made the leaves rustle and a faint breeze carried the smell of lush vegetation. Hollee's shoes made a dull sound on the wooden boardwalk that rose above white sand, almost too bright to look at.

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