Crashing through the undergrowth of the tropical trees in the hot, humid air, Kweku fought to understand where he’d gone wrong. It wasn’t his fault that Nana Opuku Ware, the Ashanti King, favored him, a by-blow, over the son who would be king, Okyere.
Kweku had overheard Okyere whining to the king, telling him that Kweku was revealing to the Dutch team camped out on the river bank the locations of the locations of the gold digs the Ashanti had concealed between the Ankobra and Volta rivers.
But he hadn’t done that. He had been in the forest the whole time, clearing timber. He hadn’t talked to the outlanders; not to any of them. It had been Okyere that Kweku had seen conversing with those others--the English. Kweku honored his king and supported his people’s teasing of the Europeans with the yellow grit they so wanted to take away from Ashanti.
Had Okyere found out that Kweku had seen him with the snatchers of men?
Or was this all because Okyere was jealous. This is what Kweku believed. Okyere was jealous of the favor the king bestowed on Kweku, even though Kweku had no intention of challenging Okyere when the time of the kings came. Kweku had always been careful to be friendly and deferential with Okyere and to remain on his sunny side--not that Okyere had a sunny side. Kweku’s mother had taught him that he had to do that to survive. Kweku would never forget what his mother had drummed into him.
But it didn’t matter what Kweku did. It only mattered that Okyere saw the threat and saw the favor the king showed to Kweku.
Kweku could hear the beaters off to his left. If he could make it to the river, he could swim across and they would not know where he had gone. He could send a message to his father--the man he could not call father but who treated him as a son. He could send a message and all would be well. He would say nothing of Okyere and his jealous ways and his lying ways. No, even now Kweku could not say such a thing about Okyere in his father’s ear. That would get Okyere exactly what he wanted; that would be playing into Okyere’s designs. Kweku was not looking for a fight. Kweku was a man of peace. He knew that there were those who could not believe this because of his warrior stature and his strength. And yes, the beauty and fullness of his body. The men of the village hid their women from him, even now, when Kweku was barely beyond the manhood ritual.
The river. The beaters were coming close. He had to make it to the river. Turn right down this path and . . . Humphh!
Kweku looked down from the netting that held him prisoner in the trees above the path.
He was not alone. He should have guessed. Okyere stood below him, grinning up at him. Kweku’s heart sank as he saw that Okyere was not alone. Beside him stood two of the English. The men Kweku had seen Okyere talking to before. Those men who came up the river in empty boats--and returned with filled boats. The men came, and after they left, the village was missing a few men, women, and even children.
Kweku did not have to guess what Okyere was up to. Why he was standing there, smiling, beside the two English. A dead Kweku might be a found Kweku and might lead to questions Okyere would not wish to have to stand before King Nana Opuku Ware and answer.
A Kweku seen walking in chains between two English to their boat on the water and then never seen again was a missing Kweku that the king of the Ashanti all too well could understand.
* * * *
Kweku did not see the light of day for longer than he could count. He could not, of course, count time. Kweku needed the change from light to dark and back to dark to be able to count the passage of time. And since all was dark and dank and putrid in the belly of this vast vessel wallowing on the endless sea, it did not matter whether he could count.
Time meant little to him now. He had been betrayed. And he knew, because it was that way with the others led off to the river in chains between two English, that he would not be going back to the kingdom of the Ashanti again--at least not any time soon. And, of course, time had no real meaning for him now.
He could not blame Okyere, though. Kweku was man enough to know that if he was the one who was the king’s son and Okyere the bastard, he, Kweku, would have done the same. Or perhaps not. Perhaps he would have been at least honorable enough just to kill Okyere and not to make him suffer for a birth and a favoring that were not his choice. But there was nothing to be gained to think about it further. Kweku lived in a new world now--for as long as he lived.
Only survival had meaning. Finding food and water, even moving in this mass of chained and moaning humanity in the darkness of the belly of the vessel was all he thought of. And increasingly he didn’t think of that either--and as interminable time of misery oozed on, even survival was not something he cared much of.
If he could not live Ashanti--clean and standing tall under the trees of his forests--why live at all? Others around him, here in the stinking darkness of the vessel, had already made that decision. Perhaps they were the brave, pure ones. Perhaps his was the shame for clinging to a life that no longer was Ashanti.
But just about the time he was ready to fight his instincts and give his life up, he could smell a change on the breeze, even here in the fetid belly of the vessel. He could smell the scent of land and plants. And he lurched against the man shackled to him, dead for endless time already, giving off a smell that Kweku had already adjusted to--because he had no other choice--as the vessel banged up against something hard.
He was soon to learn that they had arrived on the Caribbean island of Barbados, on the other side of the great sea from Kweku’s own land. And he found that the wooden dock they had banged up against ran onto the land, upon which stood many tall dwellings. Some of these structures were built of wood and others were constructed of stone and smooth, hard mud and were taller and far more numerous than the squat thatch and mud homes his own village was made of. And there were English for as far as he could see--walking purposely and gathering in groups. All looking busy but not being busy doing much of anything. All stinking of English in their choking layers of cloth under the hot sun. The ones Kweku saw who were doing anything, usually at great exertion and who did not stink because they knew what not to put on their bodies, were like him--black. From Africa. Some were Ashanti, like him. A few even looked like Ashanti he had known. But they weren’t anything like they had been when he had known them. In their own village they had stood tall and walked proudly--even when bearing burdens. Here they were bent over, seeing nothing but the ground or the booted feet of the stinking English.
Kweku could barely walk as he was led in chains onto the dock--freed now of the truly dead weight of the man who had keened for endless time of his lost loved ones, until his keening had grown dim and eventually had stopped altogether.
The sun was too bright for Kweku, after all of the darkness, and he stumbled and received, with shock, the splashing of the water on his naked body from a bucket, with no preparation that it was happening. Still, he would have welcomed a second dousing. And a mouthful or two of the cool water as well.
“This one is the sturdiest. He should take the best price.”
“I agree. Look at the musculature. And see the manhood and balls on the darkie. He would be good in your fields--and even better in the beds of your black females, wouldn’t he, Nathan? You have always said you wanted more of them. You could have a new one in each season from each of your females if you put this one to work.”
Kweku’s eyesight was beginning to clear now. They had been shoved, staggering--the survivors of the journey--straight to a platform near where the dock met the land. There, while Kweku tried to focus on the hated wooden vessel that had taken him away from his home to who knows where, he was sold to Nathan Semple of Semple Hill.
“Take him to the wagon, Jim and Joshia. Leave him in chains. He doesn’t look like he has fight in him, but he be a real stud of a darkie. I would not want him to escape or, more likely, be stolen from me by one of my neighbors. We shall see what we shall see in how long it takes to train him to the fields and how easily he can handle that and provide me new stock as well. I be going to the tavern for a snort. Put him in the wagon. We will let him ride part way to Semple Hill. He do look all in.”
Kweku understood none of this, of course. But he was a bright man--and a survivor. Soon he would understand well enough. For now, he laid back on sacking on the floor of the wagon and hoped that wherever the English had gone, he would be there for a long time. Smelling the salt sea air and watching the branches of the trees wave above his head was glorious and took him right into sleep. Almost into sleep. The two the English had sent him off in chains with were dark, like him. But they were not Ashanti. He suspected that they both were Ewe, which made him wary. But they were not like any Ewe he knew. They were like the dogs of his village, slithering around, tails between their legs, looking at the ground. Not really men at all.
How long, he thought, before he would become like them. But then the answer sprang to him: never. But his heart was heavy. He now wished that he had had the strength to die in the belly of the vessel. Because he was smart enough to realize that such as these two beaten men was what he would be expected to become here as well.
If needed, he would pretend to be what they wanted. But he would learn. He would learn where he was so that he could figure out how not to be here anymore.
* * * *
“Your name is Hubbard. On the plantation, you will simply be called Hubbard. Away from the plantation, you will be called Hubbard Semple, so that all know who you belong to.”
I belong to no one but myself, Kweku declared inside. But to the overseer, he simply said, “Yas, Mas.”
He had been in the field for two changes of the moon ere he had been called before the overseer. He had learned to cut the cane for the sugar, and he had been good at it. He was smart enough to know that he needed to be good at whatever he was told to do. And he was quick with the language, too. By the time the overseer summoned him, he was able to understand what having a new name meant--and he had quickly learned the phrase , “Yas, Mas.”
He wasn’t going to learn the phrase, “Yas, Missus,” for a while--but not all that long, actually.
He didn’t really see the plantation’s master, Nathan Semple, again before he left Barbados. Semple spent a good amount of his time in Bridgetown, where Kweku’s vessel had docked. But Semple’s wife, Louise, didn’t like the dirty bustle of Bridgetown.
She did, however, enjoy coming out to the verge of the trees bordering the cane fields, along with a chair carried by one of the house darkies. She brought her needlework with her and sat and watched the slaves, mostly men stripped to their waists and in leggings that barely covered their pelvises and thighs, work the cane.
“Starting today you will only work the fields from sunup to sundown,” the overseer told Kweku when he’d been given his new name.
“Yas, Mas,” Kweku--rather, Hubbard--said, his face pointed at the floor, his body held in a submissive position.
“And after you have supped, you will spend the nights in the huts I tell you to go to. And you will help increase the family of slaves on the plantation. Do you understand?”
Hubbard was determined to be good at what he was told to do. And he was very good with his work at night in the huts. He was so good that descriptions of his prowess and equipment reached the plantation house and the ears of Louise Semple.
One night Hubbard heard the quiet knock on the door of the hut he had been sent to that night. He had finished with his plowing and so could rise quickly and go to the door. Louise Semple was standing there in a night dress and holding a candle that was wavering in her hand.
“There is need of you in the big house,” was all she said.
It was all she needed to say. Hubbard had seen her eyeing him, and he knew that both Massa Semple and the overseer had gone to Bridgetown for several nights. That was the first--but not the last--time that Hubbard was to use the phrase “Yas, Missus.”
Hubbard might bow and scrape to the master and the overseer, but he could see immediately that he need not do so for the missus. He let her know he would fuck her, but he insisted that she bathe her body of the stink of all that she covered herself with by day before he would give her the cock. And in the giving of the cock he made very sure that she understood that this was being done for his pleasure.
Neither the overseer nor Nathan Semple were really sure that anything was happening If they had been, Hubbard would have been flayed and hung. Both he and Louise were too clever for that. Louise wasn’t quite as clever as Hubbard, though--certainly not in the long run. In the short run she was much too happy that Nathan spent so much time in Bridgetown. She also spent entirely too much time on the lawn of the plantation near the cane fields. And her maids twittered behind their fingers at how often she bathed.
But Nathan couldn’t be sure that anything at all was wrong--at least not then. There was that nagging feeling, however. Louise had become entirely too pleasant and no longer was anxious for the cock as she had previously been when he’d been away for an extended time. So, he went into Bridgetown and bought four strapping male slaves from an incoming vessel stopping in Barbados en route to Massachusetts, the slaver Thomas, captained by its owner, Thornton Cole, and struck up a deal quite favorable with Cole for a trade for four of the youngest and fittest slaves from Semple Hill.
Cole couldn’t believe his good fortune. He was trading four recently transported slaves who might not even survive the night and were straight out of Africa for four healthy field hands.
He was even more delighted when the four slaves were brought to him from Semple Hill. One, in particular, because Thornton Cole had very special pleasures, was a wonder to see that put Cole immediately into arousal. When he asked, the Semple Hill overseer, who was more observant than his master was, was happy to identify the slave as Hubbard Semple--and to be well rid of him.
It was a slow progression up the East Coast of the American continent for the Thomas, but Hubbard was well away en route to a new life before Louise determined that she was pregnant and was faced with the dangerous chore of doing something about it--knowing full well who the father was.
* * * *
It didn’t take Hubbard long to figure out what Thornton Cole was interested in during the voyage of the Thomas up the American coast. He was prepared to do what needed to be done to survive, but he’d also do what he could to bend the inevitable to his advantage. Hubbard was a smart young man. Okyere had been quite correct in the assessment that he needed to get rid of him back in the Ashanti Kingdom.
Barely two days out of Bridgetown, the slaver, Cole, showed that he was much more progressive than most of those transporting slaves from Africa to the New World. He didn’t keep his merchandise cooped up in the dark hold of the ship--at least not all of the time. He had them brought up in small groups during the day and permitted them to stand, albeit still in chains, on the open deck and take in the clean, sea air. Those permitted to do this were fed while they were topside.
Hubbard had already seen the interested look in Thornton Cole’s eyes on the dock back in Bridgetown. But now he gained more evidence of the man’s interest. Nearly every time a group was brought up from the hold, Hubbard was among them, being given far more access to the unusual privilege than any of the other slaves. And while Hubbard stood there, filling his lungs as full as he could with fresh air--naked as all of the slaves were, except for their chains--he could see out of his peripheral vision that Cole was watching him. If he turned his face toward Cole, he would be rewarded with a friendly smile.
The clincher came in the late afternoon of the fourth day, as the Thomas hugged the coast and sailed north by northeast.
Hubbard was brought up to the deck with a group of others. However, he was separated from them. The others, along with most of the crew on deck were moved toward the bow. Hubbard was separated from the two men he’d been manacled to with leg irons and chains and was chained to an iron ring next to the window of a cabin at the bow. He was at the side railing, barely within sight of anyone else in the crew or the group of slaves brought up with him.
He enjoyed the solitude and was feeling the closest sense of freedom he had in over a year.
But while he was filling his lungs with sea air, as he always did when given the chance, and watching the American coast slide by in the distance, he heard the noise. He knew instantly what the noise was. He was a smart young man. And he’d been making that noise regularly himself in recent months.
He instinctively turned and looked through the window into the cabin beyond, as he obviously was meant to do.
There were several comely young men in the crew. Hubbard hadn’t shown much interest in them, but a good part of him figuring out what made Thornton Cole tick was in watching Cole watch these young men.
The young man that Cole had naked and bent over his captain’s chair in the cabin was one of the “prettier” young men of the crew, one who it didn’t take much for Hubbard to figure out was providing sport to many of the men in the crew. Hubbard had already decided that this was probably exactly why the young man was part of the crew--for the sport the others needed as they plied the Atlantic and Caribbean with their endless stream of slaves.
Cole too was naked, and although he was fucking the ass of the young sailor hard from behind, he was standing somewhat away from him in all parts not buried in the young man. He was flexing his muscles, showing off his physique, which Hubbard thought was a fine physique, for a man. It was rather obvious, Hubbard being a smart young man himself, that Cole was actually posing and even putting himself in the best light. And he was posing for the window Hubbard was looking through. He was posing for Hubbard, sending a message.
Hubbard got the message. He knew that Cole, as not only the ship’s captain, but also its owner, and most likely the man who would hold sway over Hubbard’s life even when they got to the auction block wherever they were going, was all-important to his own survival.
Therefore, he wasn’t surprised that when the ship arrived off a port Cole happily told him was named Beaufort and was a short sloop sail from a newly building town named Savannah on a river of the same name, to find that most of the crew were getting into the ship’s sloop.
Cole was pleased to tell Hubbard, who had been brought up from the hold, dowsed with water several times, and brought to Cole in his quarters, that he had given much of the crew a two-day furlough for a visit to this new town called Savannah. More than half of the slaves in the hold also were sent off with his men--for the slave markets of the south. But Hubbard wasn’t among those sent away.
A short crew remained on the ship, and would come if Cole summoned them, but other than that he and Hubbard would be quite alone in Cole’s cabin.
“How does that set with you?” Cole asked.
“Yes, Mas,” Hubbard answered.
Cole took that as a hopeful sign. He was nearly salivating at the sight of the dark brown giant standing before him, legs proudly spread wide, low-hanging manhood and balls looking just as proud, naked, but for the wrist irons connected with a chain. He was wearing leg irons too, but there were no chains down there.
“Did you see me through the window the other evening?”
“Do you understand what I was doing?”
“I could find a hammock for you in the forecastle. You would not need to go back to the hold. Do you understand that? I can do that if you please me. Do you want to please me?”
“Yas, Mas.” Hubbard could actually understand Cole quite well, and he also had a larger vocabulary in English than he had exhibited. But he wanted to keep it simple. There were not many choices here. He still could possibly obtain a better choice than Cole had in mind. He would have to play this carefully.
Cole came around his desk and approached the magnificent African. He circled Hubbard, poking and prodding and gliding his hands here and there. Thus far it was no more than any slaver had done on several occasions, starting at the river in Ashanti. Hubbard understood what would please Cole, though, and he thought whatever thoughts he had to think to make his member start to harden.
Cole gave a little pleased gasp, as Hubbard began to have some success with that.
The slaver’s hands were trembling as they glided over Hubbard’s muscles now, and he went down on his knees almost as if they’d given way. Hubbard grunted as he felt the wet mouth open up over the bulb of his cock. He stood there, for several minutes, lost in whatever thoughts were needed to give Cole the response he wanted.
Hubbard was guided over to the desk and shown that he was to bend over it on his belly and spread his legs. He grunted again, now genuinely in an arousal of his own, as Cole’s tongue and lips moved between his butt cheeks and began giving his opening wet attention.
The African giant waited until Cole had risen, stripped, and was approaching his quarry’s back with a hand holding his dick steady. And then, lightning swift, Hubbard rose, turned, and twisted Cole around and down on his belly on the desk top.
Cole would have cried out--if he could. But Hubbard had the chain running from one wrist to the other around Cole’s neck, and although he wasn’t choking the slaver hard, he was applying enough pressure to cause Cole to care about nothing but the next breath--and trying with his own frantic hands to pull the chain away from his throat.
He would have screamed if he could when Hubbard’s cock began to invade his channel, but once it was past the sphincter and well lodged and Cole had time to adjust to the length and girth of it, Hubbard slowly pulled the chain away and Cole’s gurgling noises turned to little yips of ecstasy.
Cole, who never before had been the one taken, was now completely taken. He had had no idea that his arousal and satisfaction was greater with another man’s cock inside him than it had been with him doing the fucking. And this slave, this Hubbard Semple, had a magnificent black cock that sent Cole into waves and waves of satisfaction. Thornton Cole had moved into a whole new world of desire fulfilled.
That night Hubbard did not sleep either in the hold with the other slaves or in a hammock in the forecastle. He didn’t sleep much at all. He spent the night in Cole’s bed in the captain’s cabin, giving Cole what he now realized he wanted more than anything else in sex and what would help Hubbard survive.
By the time they reached the coast of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Hubbard was a fixture in Thornton Cole’s cabin. He was out of his chains, washed regularly, and dressed as well as any of the crew whenever there was a reason for him to be dressed at all--which Cole did what he could to keep at a minimum.
He had also successfully signaled to Cole that he also needed to wash more regularly to realize the most satisfying servicing from Hubbard.
Standing off of the harbor at Shernhaven and waiting for the sloops to arrive to take Cole’s precious human cargo to the wharf and the slave market, Cole stood beside Hubbard at the rails and worked with him to identify and name the steadily moving improvements being made to the town.
“That’s a lighthouse up there--or will be when it’s finished--on the Lower Head spit,” Cole said. “And opposite to that on that bluff over there, the Upper Head, is my house. Not the one right on the bluff, but the next one down toward the town. And look how much has been built in the town since last time I was in port. Edwin Geer has been busy. I hope that he has been as diligent with adding to our tavern at the corner of Hobart and Cole. Yes, I own a tavern--along with Edwin Geer--on a street with my name on it. Geer has a street named for his family too--on the other side of the common. See where that is? See the shipyard in the shadow of Upper Head? Look to the right of that. To where you can see tree tops. That’s the common. Aiken Shern wants that named for him. But we shall see about that.”
While Cole was rambling on, the crew was in the hold trying to make the surviving slaves as presentable as possible for market. Already buyers were gathering on the wharf. Cole wanted to dispose of his goods as quickly as possible. He was lucky. Only five of them had died on the sail up from Barbados.
Hubbard was thinking lickety-split while Cole was talking even though he was trying to pay attention to and follow what Cole was explaining. If there was any hope of escape when they got to the town, what was pouring out of Cole’s mouth was useful information.
The African feared what would happen. Who would buy him; what would be expected of him.
He needn’t have worried, though. Thornton Cole had no intention of selling his big African stud. He didn’t even have him landed on the wharf where buyers could see him. Two crew members took him--once more in chains, but dressed, to the south of the Lower Head spit, where Cole had horses sent to bring them around the Lower Head Road to Hobart Street and then to the corner of Cole and Hobart.
Hubbard saw that the biggest building in evidence on the street was the place Cole had told him about, the tavern Coles and Geer owned together, the tavern named the Landho, having inherited it from three generations of ancestors. The Landho had always been much more than a tavern.
Here, Hubbard was chained to a bed by an ankle and kept there for two months, earning Cole the money he had planned to get out of such a fine specimen of a slave.
Eventually, Hubbard became a fixture at the bar in the tavern. He was chained to the rail on the service side of the bar to act as a bartender and as a visual threat to troublemakers whenever he wasn’t unchained and led upstairs with a customer--where he was chained again.
By night, he lived in the loft of the carriage house of the Cole home on the Upper Head bluff. He never entered the Cole house, where Thornton Cole’s wife held sway, with her four children, three boys and a girl. But when Thornton Cole ordered a fancy mattress brought down from Boston, it was destined to go in the loft above the carriage house, not in the main house.
Thornton Cole spent few nights in his own house during the periods when he wasn’t at sea building his slave trade business.
Cole didn’t come back from one of these voyages; neither did his ship, the Thomas.
After a few months, Mrs. Cole, who didn’t believe in slavery and who sold her husband’s other two slaver ships, let Hubbard go free. She also freed the female kitchen slave Thornton had brought into the house. Hubbard continued to work in the tavern, another business Mrs. Cole divested herself of by selling it to Edwin Geer. Mrs. Cole didn’t believe in what she knew was going on there either.
Hubbard and the kitchen maid produced six children before Edwin Geer caught Hubbard Semple trying to produce a child on his wife too.
Then Edwin Geer shot Hubbard Semple dead. That didn’t make a ripple of concern in the town of Shernhaven, and Judge Aiken Shern dismissed all charges against Geer.
Hubbard Semple had been a popular figure in the town. Truth be known, Geer was the laughing stock of the town’s men because his young wife was cuckolding him with far more than Semple and the townsmen liked to live vicariously in Semple’s sexual exploits. But he was, after all, little more than a savage slave, and Edwin Geer was from a founding family, a family that had built the town almost with its own hands--although perhaps more with the Shern- and Cole-family brains.
There was some talk of burying Hubbard Semple in the corner of the commons, but by that time there was already a movement under foot to remove all of the graves there and rename the commons Shern Park.