The Far Away Colony Chapter 5
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The Far Away Colony
The following Sunday morning, when Julie was taking some shortcuts to go back home, she feared to be reprimanded by her father for having left home without giving news from her. During the whole week the family has been worried about her. She trusted her brother Fabien, with whom she got on well, that she was living for the town to find a job. She imagined she could use this as an excuse. All along the tortuous and damaged road, she felt anguish. She didn't know the road well since she didn't use to take it all the times she went to the town with her father. When she glimpsed an ox cart loaded with different merchandises she decided to find a place at the back, in order to continue her way without having to do further efforts. She knew the carter for having crossed his way several times when he was in the region.
Julie's parents were poor people living in an old sheet metal hut situated in a region called the Bois de Nèfles. The families gathered in this shire led a peaceable and sedentary life. They never left their village and rarely went far from their home. They maintained good relationships and never argued.
They were attached to their land and were respectful. They got news of the world from people crossing the region. Their evenings were often animated by unexpected visits that brought some freshness to their existence.
Charles Deschamps, Julie's father, was leaning against the edge of a well with an ax and a grindstone in his hands. He was speaking with a foreigner who looked tired of having traveled a long distance. He didn't seem somebody from the region. That was immediately noticeable because of his appearance, his clothes and his language.
“Phew! It's so hot!” said the foreigner. “I've drank so much water that my flask is empty. The sun is only half risen though. The day was supposed to be hard. Oh! What a beautiful region!”
“Do you think so? It's really flatterer from you. You haven't been in the island for a long time, I suppose?”
“As a matter of fact we arrived yesterday, my friends and I. They are somewhere in the forest. I saw the smoke and I told myself that I'd better fill my flask before setting off again.”
“You don't have to worry. The region doesn't lack of water and fruits. Habitations are spread everywhere in the highs and you can find hospitality at people's dwellings. We are lucky not to feel ourselves isolated like those who live in the circus. There, the access is difficult, the roads are impassable and dangerous. But hey ! What has brought you, immediately disembarked, to this part of the island? Foreigners rarely come to this side. I hope you have a guide. Otherwise I don't see how you are going to follow your road.”
“We are already warned about what expects us from this adventure. We are accompanied by a person who knows well the region. And we have taken the necessary precautions against bad weather and to protect us from the cold. We want to visit Mrs Desbassyns' vast estate.”
“Oh! You must be courageous.”
“But why do you say that?”
“It seems it brings bad luck to those who search in the past of Mrs Desbassyns. You must have heard what is told about her.”
“Some say she was a bad woman and that she gave hard times to her slaves. Those who knew Mrs Desbassyns tell that she was a remarkable figure of her time. It's only after her death that Mrs Desbassyns' name took a mythical and legendary dimension. She represented the symbol of wealth and had more than 400 slaves and servants at her service.”
“Yet what we know about Mrs Desbassyns is far from what you say. She is the very incarnation of evil and maliciousness. We can't hear her name without giving her the appearance of a she-devil so much she made suffer her slaves with all her atrocities.”
“It's an undeniable fact that slaves have had an unimaginable fate, but I think it's unacceptable to attribute it to a lady for whom a lot of people, specially her slaves, had shed tears for her disappearance inasmuch as you don't cry on the gravestone of somebody you didn't like. I can tell you there were political stakes of crucial importance that led Mrs Debassyns' opponents to misrepresent the truth, to gather a good number of sympathizers, to divert the public opinion against her and to make her assume the crimes other masters committed, which was nobody's secret. People believed in everything they were told. They never made an effort to verify it. Mrs Desbassyns became in a way the scapegoat of many miscreants. She doesn't deserve such an awful place in the heart of people she loved so much. It would be unfair not to recognize her real worth. Today it's nothing else than a matter of opinion.”
“It's difficult to change the opinion of people who shiver and fear when they hear the name of Mrs Desbassyns. I think we've been told too many bad things about this woman so that today we can have the opposite image of what she deserves. Then the time has contributed to push her to the line of imposters and criminals. I think it's a pity she's been reduced to so little in the eyes of a population for whom she contributed so much by the fact that she held their destiny in her hands for years. You have enlightened in me a big part of the obscure opinion I had about Mrs Desbassyns. But from what source do you obtain all these informations to talk to me with so much assurance? You defend Mrs Desbassyns' causes as if you knew her better than anybody else. Do you have some kind of family relationship with her or are you an erudite who studies history's characters and climbs back up the time in search of the truth? In any case it's a pleasure for me to learn what you've just told me. I would make it my duty to share it with whoever wants to listen to me.”
“I am a historian. This visit aims to discover the places where Mrs Desbassyns lived. The essential is to believe in what is true. I am convinced that Mrs Desbassyns doesn't scare you now as much as she did when you ignored what she really was. It's been a pleasure to speak with you and I am happy you listened to me with interest. I have now to go reach my friends who may be worried with my delay.”
“Anything you need, don't hesitate.”
“Thanks for all and goodbye.”
“Good bye and be careful.”