I do not pretend, in giving you the history of this Royal Slave, to entertain my reader with adventures of a feigned hero, whose life and fortunes fancy may manage at the poet's pleasure; nor in relating the truth, design to adorn it with any accidents but such as arrived in earnest to him.
They are extreme modest and bashful, very shy, and nice of being touched.
He was adorned with a native beauty, so transcending all those of his gloomy race that he struck an awe and reverence even into those that knew not his quality; as he did into me, who beheld him with surprise and wonder, when afterwards he arrived in our world.
The whole proportion and air of his face was so nobly and exactly formed that, bating his color, there could be nothing in nature more beautiful, agreeable, and handsome.
Imoinda is as irrecoverably lost to me as if she were snatched by the cold arms of death… Oh! she is never to be retrieved… unless I would either ignobly set an ill precedent to my successors, or abandon my country, and fly with her to some unknown world who never heard our story.
And I have observed, 'tis a very great error in those who laugh when one says, "A negro can change color": for I have seen 'em as frequently blush, and look pale, and that as visibly as ever I saw in the most beautiful white. And 'tis certain that both these changes were evident, this day, in both these lovers.
He sent a messenger to the camp, with orders to treat with him about the matter, to gain his pardon, and to endeavor to mitigate his grief; but that by no means he should tell him she was sold, but secretly put to death: for he knew he should never obtain his pardon for the other.
To describe her truly, one need say only, she was female to the noble male; the beautiful black Venus to our young Mars; as charming in her person as he, and of delicate virtues. I have seen a hundred white men sighing after her, and making a thousand vows at her feet, all in vain, and unsuccessful.
Some have commended this act, as brave in the captain; but I will spare my sense of it, and leave it to my reader to judge as he pleases.
He was very sorry to hear that the captain pretended to the knowledge and worship of any gods, who had taught him no better principles than not to credit as he would be credited.
He saw an honesty in his eyes, and he found him wise and witty enough to understand honor: for it was one of his maxims, A man of wit could not be a knave or villain.
He begged Trefry to give him something more befitting a slave, which he did, and took off his robes: nevertheless he shone through all, and his osenbrigs…could not conceal the graces of his looks and mien; and he had no less admirers …the royal youth appeared in spite of the slave, and people could not help treating him after a different manner, without designing it.
But as it was more for form than any design to put him to his task, he endured no more of the slave but the name, and remained some days in the house, receiving all visits that were made him, without stirring towards that part of the plantation where the negroes were.
I was infinitely glad to find this beautiful young slave (who had already gained all our esteems, for her modesty and her extraordinary prettiness) to be the same I had heard Caesar speak so much of…we paid her a treble respect; and though…we took her to be of quality before, yet when we knew Clemene was Imoinda, we could not enough admire her.
Much more to this effect he spoke, with an air impatient enough to make me know he would not be long in bondage; and though he suffered only the name of a slave, and had nothing of the toil and labor of one, yet that was sufficient to render him uneasy; and he had been too long idle, who used to be always in action, and in arms.
And why," said he, my dear friends and fellow-sufferers, should we be slaves to an unknown people? Have they vanquished us nobly in fight? Have they won us in honorable battle? And are we by the chance of war become their slaves?
All that love could say in such cases being ended, and all the intermitting irresolutions being adjusted, the lovely, young, and adored victim lays herself down before the sacrificer; while he, with a hand resolved, and a heart breaking within, gave the fatal stroke, first cutting her throat, and then severing her yet smiling face from that delicate body, pregnant as it was with the fruits of tenderest love.
He tore, he raved, he roared like some monster of the wood, calling on the loved name of Imoinda. A thousand times he turned the fatal knife that did the deed toward his own heart, with a resolution to go immediately after her; but dire revenge, which was now a thousand times more fierce in his soul than before, prevents him.
"Look ye, ye faithless crew," said he, "'tis not life I seek, nor am I afraid of dying" (and at that word, cut a piece of flesh from his own throat, and threw it at 'em), "yet still I would live if I could, till I had perfected my revenge. But oh! it cannot be; I feel life gliding from my eyes and heart; and if I make not haste, I shall fall a victim to the shameful whip."
"My friends, am I to die, or to be whipped?" And they cried, "Whipped!”...And then he replied, smiling, "A blessing on thee"; and assured them they need not tie him, for he would stand fixed like a rock, and endure death so as should encourage them to die; "But, if you whip me," said he, "be sure you tie me fast."