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Letter V

LETTER V.

Dear Sir,

'JpHERE seems an important instruction, and of frequent use, in these words of our dear Lord, "Mine hour is "not yet come." The two following years* of which I am now to give some account* will seem as an absolute blank in a very Ihort life: but as the Lord's hour of grace was not yet come, and I was to have still deeper experience of the dreadful state of the heart of man, when left to itself; I have seen frequent cause since toadmire the mercy of the Lord, in banishing me to those distant parts,. and almost excluding me from human society,. at a time when I was big with mischief, and, like one infected with a pestilence, F 3 was

-was capable of spreading a taint -whcreever I went. Had my affairs taken a different turn, had I succeeded in my designs, and remained in England, my sad story would probably have been worse. Worse in myself, indeed, I could have hardly been; but my wickedness would have had greater scope; I might have been very hurtful to others, and multiplied irreparable evils. But the Lord wisely placed me, where I could do little harm. The few I had to converse with were too much like myself, and I was scon brought into such abject circumstances, that I was too low to have any influence. I was rather shunned and despised, than imitated; there being few, even of the negroes themselves, (during the first year of my residence among them,) but thought themselves too good to speak to me. I was as yet an " outcast u lying in my blood,*' (Ezek. xvi.J and, to ,all appearance, exposed to perish.—But the Lord beheld me with mercy—he did not strike me to hell, as I justly deserved "he passed by me when I was in my blood, "and bid me live." But the appointed time for the manifestation of his love, to cover all my iniquities with the robe of his righteousness, and to admit me to the privileges of his children, was not till long afterwards; yet even now he bid me live, and I can only ascribe it to his secret upholding power, that what I suffered in a part of this interval, did not bereave me either of my life or senses; yet, as by these sufferings the force of my evil examples and inclinations was lessened, I have reason to account them amongst my mercies.

It may not perhaps be amiss to digress for a few lines, and give you a very brief sketch of the geography of the circuit I was now confined to, especially as I may F 4 have have frequent occasion to refer to places I shall now mention; for my trade afterwards, when the Lord gave me to see better days, was chiefly to the same places, and with the same persons, where and by whom I had been considered as upon' a level with their meanest slaves. From Cape de Verd, the most western point of Africa, to Cape Mount, the whole coast is full of rivers; the principal are Gambia, Rio Grande, Sierra Leon, and Sherlro. Of the former, as it is well known, and I was never there, I need say nothing. The Rio Grande (like the Nile) divides into many branches near the sea. On the most northerly, called Caebeo, the Portuguese have a settlement. The most southern branch, known by the name of Rio Nuna, is, or then was, the usual boundary of the white men's trade northward. Sierra Lecn is a mountainous peninsula, uninhabited, and I believe inaccessible, upon account

count of the thick woods, excepting those parts which lie near the water. The river is large and navigable. From hence, about twelve leagues to the south-east, are three contiguous islands, called the Benanoes, about twenty miles in circuit: this was about the centre of the white men's residence. Seven leagues farther, the same way, lie the Plantanes, three small islands, two miles distant from the continent at the point, which form one fide of the Sherbro. This river is more properly a. found, running within a long island, and receiving the confluence of several large rivers, " rivers unknown to "sonZ" Dut far more deeply engraven in my remembrance, than the Po or Tyber. The southermost of these has a very peculiar course, almost parallel to the coast; so that in tracing it a great many leagues upwards, it will seldom lead one above three miles, and sometimes not more than

half half a mile from the sea shore. Indeed I know not, but that all these rivers may have communications with each other, and with the sea in many places, which I have not remarked. If you cast your eyes upon a large map of Africa* while you are reading this, you will have a general idea of the country I was in -y for though the maps are very incorrect, most of the places I have mentioned are inserted, and in the fame order as I have named. them. i

My new master had formerly resided near Cape Mount, but he now settled at the Plantaws, upon the largest of the three islands. It is a low sandy island, about two miles in circumference, and almost covered with palm-trees. We immediately began to build a house, and to' enter upon trade. I had now some desire to retrieve my lost time, and to exert diligence in what was before me; and he

was

was a man with whom I might have lived tolerably well, if he had not been soon influenced against me.: but he was much under the direction of a black woman, who lived with him as a wife. She was a person of some consequence in her own country, and he owed his first rife to her interest. This woman (I know not for what reason) was strangely prejudiced against me from the firsthand what made it still worse for me, was a severe fit of illness, which attacked me very soon, be* fore I had opportunity to shew, what I could or would do in his service. I was sick when he failed in a shalop to Rio Nuna, and he left me in her hands. At first I was taken some care of bur, as I did not recover very soon, she grew weary, and entirely neglected me. I had somer times not a little difficulty to procure a draught «f cold water, when burning with a fever. My bed was a mat, spread

upon

upon 2 board or chest, and a log of wood my pillow. "When my fever left me, and my appetite returned, I would gladly have eaten, but there was no one gave unto me. She lived in plenty herself, but hardly allowed me sufficient to sustain life, except now and then, when in the highest good humour, Ihe would send me victuals in her own plate after stie had dined; and this (so greatly was my pride humbled) I received with thanks and eagerness, as the most needy beggar does an alms. Once, I well remember, I was called to receive this bounty from her own hand, but, being exceedingly weak and feeble, I dropped the plate. Those who live in plenty can hardly conceive how this loss touched me; but Ihe had the cruelty to laugh at my disappointment; and though the table was covered with dimes, (for she lived much in the European manner) she refused to

give me any more. My distress has been at times so great, as to compel me to go, by night, and pull up roots in the plantation, (though at the risk of being punished as a thief)> which I have eaten raw upon the spot, for fear of discovery. The roots I speak of are very wholesome food, when boiled or roasted, but as unfit -to be eaten raw in any quantity as a potatoe. The consequence of this diet, which, after the first experiment, I always expected, and seldom missed, was the same as if I had taken tartar emetic; so that I have often returned as empty as I went; yet necessity urged me to repeat the trial several times. I have sometimes been relieved by strangers; nay, even by the slaves in the chain, who have secretly brought me victuals, (for they durst not be seen to do it) from their own slender pittance. Next to pressing want, nothing sits harder upon the mind than scorn and : contempt;

fOHtempt; and of this likewise I had an abundant measure. When I was Very .flowly recovering* this woman would sometimes pay me a visits not to pity or relieve* but to insult me. She would call me worthless and indolent, and compel me to walk, which, when I could hardly do, she would set her attendants to mimic-my motion* to clap their hands* laugh, throw limes at me; or, if. they chose, to throw stones (as I think was . the case once or twice) they were not re^ buked: but, in general, though all who depended on her favour must join in her treatment, yet, when me was out of sight* I was rather pitied .than scorned by the meanest of her slaves. At length my master returned from his voyage; I com.plained of ill usage, but he could not believe me; and, as I did it in her hearing, I fared no better for it. .But, in his second voyage, he took me with him/ We did pretty well for a while, till a brother trader he met in the river persuaded him, that I was unfaithful, and stole his goods in the night, or when he was on shore. v This was almost the only vice I could not be justly charged with : the only remains of a good education, I could boast of, was what is commonly called honesty; and as far as he had entrusted me, I had been always true; and though my great distress might, in some measure, have excused it, I never once thought of defrauding him in the smallest matter. However, the charge was believed, and I condemned without evidence. From that time be likewise used me very hardly; whenever he left the vessel, I was locked upon deck, with a pint of rice for my day's allowance; and, if he staid longer, I had no relief till his return. Indeed, I .believe, I mould have been nearly starved, but for an opportunity.of catching sisli

somesometimes. When fowls were killed for his own use, I seldom was allowed any part but the entrails^ to bait my hooks with: and, at what we call stack water, that is, about the changing of the tides, when the current was still, I used generally to fish, (for at other times it was not practicable) and I very often succeeded. If I saw a fish upon my hook, my joy was little less than any other person may have found, in the accomplishment of the scheme he had most at heart. Such a fish, hastily broiled, or rather half burnt, without sauce, salt, or bread, has afforded me a delicious meal. If I caught none, I might, if I could, sleep away my hunger till the next return of stack water, and then try again. Nor did I suffer less from the inclemency of the weather, and the want of cloaths. The rainy season was now advancing; my whole suit was a shirt, a pair of trowsers, a cotton

handhandkerchief instead of a cap, and a cotton cloth about two yards long, to supply the want of upper garments; and thus accoutred, I have been exposed for 20, 30, perhaps near 40 hours together, in incessant rains, accompanied with strong gales of wind, without the least shelter, when my master was on shore. I feel to this day some faint returns of the violent pains, I then contracted. The excessive cold and wet, I endured in that voyage, and so soon after I had recovered from a long sickness, quite broke my constitution and my spirits; the latter were soon restored, but the effects of the former still remain* with me, as a needful memento of the service and the wages of sin. :] In about two months we returned, and then the rest of the time I remained with him was chiefly spent at the Planfanes, under the same regimen as I have already mentioned. My.haughty heart was now G . brought brought down, not to a wholesome repentance, not to the language of the prodigal; this was far from me; but my spirits were funk ; I lost all resolution, and almost all reflection. I had lost the fierceness which fired me, when on board the Harwich, and which made me capable of the most desperate attempts; but I was no further changed than a tyger, tamed by hunger—remove the occasion, and he will be as wild as ever.

One thing, though strange, is most true. Though destitute of food and cloathing, depressed to a degree beyond common wretchedness, I could sometimes collect my mind to mathematical studies. I had bought Barrow's Euclid at Plymouth; k was the only volume I brought on shore; it was always with me, and I used to take it to remote corners of the island by the sea-side, and draw my diagrams with >a long stick upon the sand. Thus I often i beguiled

Beguiled my sorrows, and almost forgot my feeling—and thus, without any other assistance, I made myself, in a good measure, master of the first six books of Euclid. I am

Yours, as before.

17 January 1763.

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