Obeah

one, with part of a small wooden house, of which one room was occupied by an old coloured woman, who lived there with a little girl* This woman was looked on with a good deal of dread by the people, being supposed to possess a knowledge of a good many unholy tricks, and it was confidently hoped that my near neighbourhood would do her good, and at all events induce her to be seen now and then at church, which is here a great sign of respectability. When taking possession of my part of the house, I was shown her room, and noticcd particularly that it contained some really handsome pieces of the massive furniture so much esteemed by Creoles. A tremendous family four-poster, with heavy, handsomely turned pillars, stood in one comer near a ponderous mahogany wardrobe, and various other heavy bits of furniture pretty well filled the little room» The door of her apartment opened on to my room, which she had to pass through every time she went out of the house. This was an unpleasant arrangement, but was shortly to be remedied by having another door made in her room leading outside. However, the night after my taking possession, I heard a monotonous sound through the partition, as of 6ome one crooning a sing-song chant. This continued for over an hour, and more than once I felt inclined to rap at the partition and beg the old dame to shut up her incantations, but it finally acted as a lullaby and I soon dropped asleep. The next morning, having got up and dressed, I noticed that all was per-

Mysterious Diminagement. 19

fectly silent next door and on listening attentively failed to hear a sound. I feared something had gone wrong, but noticed that the door leading outside had not been opened, as a chair I had placed against it was in precisely the same position as I had left it. I then knocked at her door several times, but obtained no answer; fearing an accident had happened, I opened the door, and as it swung back on its hinges I was astounded to see the room perfectly empty and evidently swept clean. On examining the room carefully I found it only had two small windows besides the door leading into my room. From that day to this, neither I nor any one living in that district have ever seen or heard anything of that woman or of her little girl. How she moved all her heavy furniture out of that little room, has ever remained an inexplicable mystery. I would have defied any man to move the wardrobe alone, and even if the old woman had had strength enough to carry the furniture away, she never could have dragged it through my room without disturbing me. However, these are. the facts of the case, and I have never been able to explain them."

" It is certainly astonishing/' I rejoined, " and it is a pity the old lady did not let you into the secret of her mysterious déménagement. Pickford's vans and the miseries of packing would be things of the past."

" Be that as it may,9' returned my friend, " this is a case which happened to me personally, and which I

have never been able to explain satisfactorily, and I daresay many an instance just as puzzling has happened to many others. Half the stories the negroes will tell you about Obeah are just exaggerations, produced by their fear of anything which they cannot explain at once, and their unreasoning belief in the powers of the Obeah or Wanga man.

" This terror of witchcraft is no doubt fostered by the stories handed down to them by their fathers and mothers of what happened in slavery time, when the slaves of an estate would sometimes be decimated by the machinations of an Obeah man or woman, who, under the name of working Obeah, would simply make away with their victims by the use of poisonous planta only known to Africans, and the effects of which, being unknown to medical science, prevented the crime from being brought home to its author."

Père Labat, in his old work on the West Indies, "Nouveau Voyage aux Iles d'Amérique/' published in 1712, gives an instance of wholesale poisoning by an African slave on a plantation in Martinique. He relates how an African being once on the point of death, sent for his master and confessed himself guilty of the deaths of more than thirty slaves, who had died, from an unaccountable disease, on the estate during the previous two years. He explained that to attain his ends, he used to obtain the juice of a plant found commonly on the windward coasts of these islands ; he would always keep the nail of one of his fingers

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