Black Caesar

The Bolt

A fortnight after the life sentence, he picked a path through the bush and bolted. He grabbed as he went an iron pot, some provisions and a musket that he yanked from the grasp of the marine Abraham Hand. Giving up stealth for speed he crashed through the undergrowth and headed up towards the rocky outcrops. When he slowed to listen for pursuers all was quiet except for the thudding of axes.

It was some time since the two guards had given up the chase and stopped to console one other: ‘Let him go, if the blacks don’t get him, his belly will.’

Caesar’s cheek provided the colony with welcome excitement. The Governor posted a reward of five gallons of rum for his return. Some settlers thought Caesar had as good as committed suicide, others expected him to come crawling back within the week, and still others imagined him to have constructed a sort of paradise outside the confines of the ragged settlement. William Blakehurst, a free man, imagined himself five gallons richer, and wasted no time in planning a trap.

Blakehurst was known for his broad shoulders, quick temper and impressive singing voice, the last of which he put to good use as he searched for and found a suitable spot to lay his bait. It was a flat area among the hills, a natural amphitheatre. It was also close to where gardens had been regularly raided since Caesar’s escape. Blakehurst set about chopping trees, then built a fire. He unwrapped three pieces of beef and placed them to sizzle on an iron plate over the coals.

The smell of the meat mixed with the eucalyptus. Blakehurst heard a rustle in the bush but did not look up. When the meat was cooked, he ate a piece and wrapped the remainder in muslin. He packed a bag as if setting out for an afternoon of surveying, left the meat in a wooden box, and headed off.

Walking far enough to be sure that he was out of sight, he pulled his musket from his bag and doubled back. Crouched at the edge of his camp, he watched as Caesar jumped down from the rocks and made for the meat. Blakehurst stormed out, wrested Caesar’s gun and pointed his own into Caesar’s face, yelling: ‘On the ground, you black bastard.’ He tied Caesar’s wrists and pressed his musket into Caesar’s back.

In town, Blakehurst pushed Caesar to the guards and hollered for his rum. That night, revelling in his reward, Blakehurst’s temper got the better of him and he put an axe through the head of one of his companions. He fled for the bush. In the morning, the Governor posted a reward of five gallons of rum for his capture.