(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

As a consequence of the French Revolution, in 1794 the French National Convention declared freedom and equality for black slaves in the colonies, including the French part of the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo. Kongo Hoango, an old West African who faithfully served his white master for years, rebelled with his fellow blacks, massacred the planter and his entire family, and took over the plantation as his base of marauding operations to help drive the French from the island. Kongo Hoango makes it his practice to have his wife, Babekan, and her daughter, Toni, offer sanctuary to fugitive whites during his absence on raiding expeditions, allowing their unsuspecting guests to believe themselves safe from the rebels until Kongo Hoango returns and brutally executes them.

One night in the year 1803, a desperate white man comes to the house asking for assistance for himself, his family, and several of their household servants. They have narrowly escaped death at the rebels’ hands in the town of Fort Dauphin and are fleeing on foot and under cover of darkness in the hope of reaching Port-au-Prince, the sole remaining French stronghold, in time to leave the island for Europe. The man identifies himself as Gustav von der Ried, a Swiss officer who was in the French service at Fort Dauphin. The rest of his party, he tells them, is in hiding some distance away until he can return with fresh provisions for their journey. Gustav cannot understand why his family, Swiss citizens, should be as much threatened by the rebels as the French colonists, but he realizes now that it is their race, not their nationality, which puts their lives in peril. Babekan tells him that she and Toni also suffer cruelties at the hands of the blacks because both women betray their mixed blood by their lighter-colored skin.

It is decided that Gustav should spend the night at the plantation and send for his family the following day. Toni brings supper for their guest, and Gustav is struck by the charms of the girl, who has, after all, been taught to use them in beguiling those unfortunate enough to stray into Kongo Hoango’s trap. In the course of the conversation at table, Gustav tells the story of a white planter from Fort Dauphin and a black slave girl whom the landowner had sought favors of and later abused. The girl had her revenge, however, when she...

(The entire section is 959 words.)