Excerpt: Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar
Chateau Verettes, Port Mara, St. Domingue, 1703
Having grown too large and intimidating for the delicate sensibilities of the Arnaut family, the “freshwater” house slaves and, most importantly, Liana Royer, Nwoye, now called “Henri” by his owners, is removed from the main house and sent to work at the plantation’s lumber mill, deep in the surrounding jungle, taken there by Carvele Royer, the plantations cruel manager.
“At first he thought his new assignment was a reward for all his effort and hard work at the chateau’s main house. Instead, it turned out be a punishment, a banishment for offenses unknown. For several weeks, when he had first arrived at the mill, he’d tried to understand why, what he could have done to be treated so, but he gave up, never concluding the matter. He could find no offense. He had done everything that was expected of him, completed every task, learned every lesson, even, and especially, command of the strange language the white jackals spoke, but, neither his triumphs nor his loyalty seemed to have mattered. He’d no way to know of the complaints, of Madam Arnaut’s desperate fear of him, a fear she shared with her daughter and the house staff, especially Delano who now realized his early mistakes. Even Paul Arnaut himself found that Henri was just not suited to being a valet, or personal servant. Not knowing what else to do with the boy, he determined to send him away, beyond the nearby cane fields, to the lumber mill deep in the jungle.
Now Henri spent his days entirely focused on the brutal and dangerous work he’d been sent to do. He spent the nights in deepest, dreamless sleep, too exhausted of mind and body to be disturbed by thoughts of either the past, or the people who populated those memories. He ate better here than the slop that was served in the slave compound, or the table scraps he’d eaten in the main house. Out here, the jungle provided all manner of wildlife for roasting on the cook fires and vegetation enough to fill any void of hunger. By both the jungles bounty and by hard labor, over time, Henri grew in physical stature and strength, his muscles bulging as he worked with saw and axe, in the dappled sunlight of the jungles and at the mill. His formidable size, his scarred face and his tough, saltwater manner, a manner that had proven detrimental to him at the chateau, became an asset to him in the rough world of the jungles. Henri had seen many a man die here, crushed under the weight of falling hardwood trees, or huge, mule-drawn logs they were sawn into, or bleeding to death from the loss of limb, some bitten by poisonous insects or snakes, others killed in one of the frequent fights that broke out in camp over food or possessions, or just beaten to death by club wielding overseers.
It was just such an incident that brought Henri into the fight game…”