“Triangles is set up, Sire.”
“Very good, Ben,” said the Colonel-General. He’d been wise to bring this boong with him, the most reliable of the lot. “You know, we’re expecting a new crop of convicts. The Sirius should be arriving any day now.”
Ben stared at the floor. “Yes, Sire.”
“And do you know why I had you set up the triangles as you did?”
Ben shook his head, eyes still down.
The Colonel-General walked around the desk and placed a plump hand on the black man’s gnarled shoulder. “Because, Ben, I need you to use them to help me maintain discipline. I want you to be my good flogging arm. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? To flog the convicts?”
“They’d some of them be white mens, sire?”
“All of them are, Ben. But convicts. Criminals all, deserving of punishment.”
Ben looked up, smiled. “I reckon then I’d like it well enough, Sire.”
Norfolk Island was a remote adjunct to the British penal colony in New South Wales that was often used as a punishment of last resort for problematic prisoners. It was a literal hell on earth. Floggings of 100 or 200 lashes with with the lead-tipped cat-o-nine-tails were common. If a man fainted on the triangle before he had received his prescribed number of lashes, he was taken down and the remainder doled out when he regained consciousness. If the flogger did not wield the lash with appropriate zeal, he himself would be flogged. Conditions were so vile that in 1814 the British abandoned efforts to colonize it.