“But this is the man I meant,” she said.
“This one?” Contempt rang in the voice. Peter Blood found himself staring into a pair of beady brown eyes sunk into a yellow, fleshly face like currants into a dumpling. He felt the colour creeping into his face under the insult of that contemptuous inspection. “Bah! A bag of bones. What should I do with him?”
He was turning away when Gardner interposed.
“He maybe lean, but he’s tough; tough and healthy. When half of them was sick and the other half sickening, this rogue kept his legs and doctored his fellows. But for him there’d ha’ been more deaths than there was. Say fifteen pounds for him, Colonel. That’s cheap enough. He’s tough, I tell your honour — tough and strong, though he be lean. And he’s just the man to bear the heat when it comes. The climate’ll never kill him.”
There came a chuckle from Governor Steed. “You hear, Colonel. Trust your niece. Her sex knows a man when it sees one.” And he laughed, well pleased with his wit.
But he laughed alone. A cloud of annoyance swept across the face of the Colonel’s niece, whilst the Colonel himself was too absorbed in the consideration of this bargain to heed the Governor’s humour. He twisted his lip a little, stroking his chin with his hand the while. Jeremy Pitt had almost ceased to breathe.
“I’ll give you ten pounds for him,” said the Colonel at last.
Peter Blood prayed that the offer might be rejected. For no reason that he could have given you, he was taken with repugnance at the thought of becoming the property of this gross animal, and in some sort the property of that hazel-eyed young girl. But it would need more than repugnance to save him from his destiny. A slave is a slave, and has no power to shape his fate. Peter Blood was sold to Colonel Bishop — a disdainful buyer — for the ignominious sum of ten pounds.
One sunny morning in January, about a month after the arrival of the Jamaica Merchant at Bridgetown, Miss Arabella Bishop rode out from her uncle’s fine house on the heights to the northwest of the city. She was attended by two negroes who trotted after her at a respectful distance, and her destination was Government House, whither she went to visit the Governor’s lady, who had lately been ailing. Reaching the summit of a gentle, grassy slope, she met a tall, lean man dressed in a sober, gentlemanly fashion, who was walking in the opposite direction. He was a stranger to her, and strangers were rare enough in the island. And yet in some vague way he did not seem quite a stranger.