Lucien's fate takes a dramatic turn in the courtroom.

Changed Circumstances - Chapter 2: 'The Judgement'
by Chrisus
Series: Changed Circumstances

"Who's Guy Maratier? Do you know him? What can you tell me about him?"

I'm surprised by the directness of Simon Barrow's questions. But even more so his agitated manner puzzles me.

Normally, Simon is deferential and polite when he addresses me. I'm struck by the fact that he hasn't greeted me formally as is his custom. Usually, I'd be annoyed by this, but something in his manner tells me things aren`t quite as they should be. So I choose to overlook his breach of etiquette and answer his questions.

"I know of Guy Maratier but I don't know him and I've never met him. He is a very distant relation of mine. Why are you asking?"

I choose my answers carefully. I have no wish to divulge to Simon this unfortunate aspect of my family's history.

I'm well aware of Guy Maratier. He is after all one of only three living relatives of mine; albeit a very distant one. His grandmother, Charlotte Barrois was my grandfather's sister and only sibling who I never knew and she wasn't spoken of within the family. As a child I was unaware of her and it wasn't until my late-teens that I learned of her existence,

As a young woman she was noted for her beauty and high spirits and was greatly loved by her parents. As a Barrois, she was expected to make a suitable marriage with the son of another pioneering family thus adding to the family`s prestige. Instead, as I understand the story, she fell in love with a handsome, young employee at "La Forˆt" and disgraced herself and the family honour by falling pregnant to him. Considered a fortune hunter by the Barrios family, the employee was dismissed and when he left, Charlotte went with him. Outraged, the family cut all ties with their errant daughter and dispossessed her.

Contrary to the Barrois opinion of him, the overseer wasn't a fortune hunter and from all accounts he and Charlotte were genuinely in love. I'm not too sure of what happened to them. But I did hear that their lives were made difficult. Charlotte, of course, was ostracized by "polite society" and the only work her husband could find was as an overseer of slaves on the farms of the nouveau riche and never on the plantations of the establishment. The old money families - always "close knit" - refused to employ him out of respect for the Barrois family.

Initially, I was fascinated by this "skeleton in my family's closet" and made recent discreet inquiries about this unacknowledged branch of the Barrois. These disclosed that Charlotte had a son who was born shortly before my own father's birth and he was her only child. Denied the education and privileges enjoyed by my father, Charlotte's son had never amounted to much and had drifted from job to job before drinking himself into an early grave. Unable to maintain a steady relationship, he managed to father his one and only child, Guy before his marriage broke up. My inquiries told me that Guy is eight years older than me and now, at twenty-nine, he is married, but separated, and has an eleven year old son named Etienne. Guy, like his father before him, doesn't amount to much and prefers to live on his wits.

My curiosity satisfied, I'd promptly forgotten about this branch of the family and haven't given any thought to them since. Until now, that is, but why has Simon Barrow asked about Guy and in what context? I'm a little perplexed.

"Well then! We could have a problem." Simon replies. "I have just been informed that he has petitioned the court about your grandfather's will."

"Why? I don`t understand?" My confused questions tumble out. "Can he do that? What are his grounds for petitioning?"

"I don't know on what grounds he's based his petition. But yes! If he's a relation of your grandfather's - he does have the right to petition. Look I don't know any more about it than what I've already told you. But we may need to go into court and make him an "offer". How do you feel about that, Lucien?"

"Is that really necessary?" Is all I manage to blurt out.

"Lucien, I would think this is all about money. Obviously, he's after some of your money. While your grandfather's will was quite explicit in that you are his sole heir - and that's legally binding and no court will alter that - it could be easier if you agree to give him a sizeable sum as a goodwill gesture. This could prevent a protracted and messy ongoing battle through the courts."

I can see the wisdom of what Simon is saying. It's clear that Guy is looking to share in my good fortune and common sense tells me it's better to settle with him amicably rather than engage in a costly and rancorous court battle. And certainly there are enough funds in the estate to allow for this. Also, I ask myself - do I want a public airing of the family's unhappy history? I decide I will do all I can to prevent this from happening.

"Alright Simon. I see the wisdom of your suggestion. What amount would you suggest we offer?'

"Let's play it by ear, shall we? We don't want to offer too much for a start, Let's start small and work up and see how far he'll push us ? But I do have your permission to go into the court and negotiate?"

"Yes!" I reply simply.


As we enter into the courtroom, I feel apprehensive and intimidated. I've never been to a court before so everything is strange and bewildering.

The room itself isn't large; one could say it has an air of intimacy about it.
I'm not to know it's been designed to put the litigants at their ease. Its primary function is one of mediation and conciliation, unlike the adjoining courts used for hearing criminal cases. Nevertheless I do feel confronted by it. I'm not here of my own free will; I've been ordered to appear.

At the head of the room is a raised bench behind which, I presume Judge Matthews will preside and below it are the ancillary tables at which the court officials are already sitting. A court bailiff directs the two of us to a table set to the left and in front of the judge's bench - I'm to learn this is the respondent's table - and in a corresponding position on the judge's right is an identical table for the use of the petitioner. Sitting at this table are two men whom I assume are Guy and his lawyer.

It's not too difficult for me to decide which one is my relative - I recognise in him a family resemblance to my grandfather. As I look at Guy, I see a tall, powerfully built man of striking appearance. His black, shoulder length hair frames his handsome face and even beneath his cheap clothes, I see he possesses an impressive physique. I'm strangely drawn to him and I ask myself - if it's because of our common blood? I have a sense of regret that we've met under these circumstances and wished we had known each other through the lonely years of my childhood. How I would dearly have liked an older "brother" to look up to. Perhaps even now we can be friends. I'll certainly make an effort to do so.

Then, he looks towards me and stares directly into my face. He smiles but not in welcome. The sheer malevolence of his smile causes my blood to run cold and I shudder as I see the hatred in his eyes. Quickly, I avert my eyes and continue scanning the room.

There is a small, public area set aside for visitors to the court and it's already crowded by spectators - I wonder at their interest in something as trivial as my routine visit to this court. I'm to discover later that these are, in the main, friends and supporters of Guy Maratier. And seated in the front row of the public gallery are several men equipped with cameras. I don't know it, but these are members of the press alerted by Guy to this afternoon's hearing. He has told them of the possibility of something unusual and newsworthy happening and they sit bored and waiting. In their experience nothing newsworthy EVER happens at the Court of Disputations.

As my gaze travels around the room, I watch as several uniformed officers of the court file in and line up against a wall. For some unknown reason their presence disturbs me and makes me fearful. Why are they here and for what purpose? I'm about to ask Simon but am prevented from doing so by the shouted order of the Judge's Clerk to

"ALL RISE! For His Honour, Judge Clarence J Matthews.

We remain standing as His Honour takes his seat and the clerk reads out the business of the court. The judge then asks if both litigants are present and when told that we are, he asks that both Guy and I remain standing. Our respective lawyers stand alongside of us.

Judge Matthews reminds us that, whilst the proceedings will be conducted informally, we are still in a court of law and that its dignity is to be preserved. He tells our lawyers that he'll allow them some latitude but won't tolerate any unruly interjections of behaviour from either of them or their clients. Anyway, he tells us the proceedings will be brief as a decision on the matter before him has already been made and this afternoon's gathering is simply a formality - it is serves as an opportunity to deliver those findings.

All of this is bewildering to me and I'm unaware of what matter is before him that required his deliberation. As I glance sideways at Simon, I note the perplexed look on his face. I am disturbed by all of this.

His Honour addresses me and asks if I'm KNOWN as Lucien Henri Barrios - as he does so, I sense his hostility towards me and I note the disdain in his voice - I answer in the affirmative. Then he asks Guy if he IS Guy Patric Maratier. After answering "Yes, Your Honour" the judge gives Guy permission to sit. In contrast, I am ordered to remain standing throughout the proceedings.

I now know something is seriously amiss and this is re-enforced by Simon' whispered protest to me of "What the fuck's going on?

Suddenly, I'm afraid.

In great detail, Judge Matthews now explains why we are here.


If this court is designed to put its protagonists at ease then I feel decidedly uneasy. I'm the only one standing - everyone else is sitting - and inexplicably I feel "guilty". But of what am I guilty?

I notice that the members of the public have a new interest in proceedings. It's almost as though they sense something momentous is about to happen and they lean forward eagerly listening to Judge Matthews. Even the journalists have stirred from their lethargic boredom and are busily recording every word of his deliberation. The room is electric with anticipation.

I can't describe how I feel. I know `something" is wrong and now I am really scared. What is happening is totally unexpected and I still don't know what I have done and why I'm being treated this way. I ask myself. What have I done? What is my crime? I rack my brains thinking - what is my transgression?

As the only one standing, I feel like a criminal and I suppose I must look like one to the rest of the court-room. Briefly I have a flashback to the seven young convicts I'd just watched being taken to the forge for branding and collaring as the first step into their slavery. Is this how they were treated when they appeared before the courts? Did they have to stand as judgment was passed on them? My bowels squirm and I feel the need to piss - badly. My body trembles involuntarily.

The stillness of the court-room is broken by the drone like pitch of Judge Matthew's words and the occasional gasps of surprise from an outraged public. And as I listen, I too share their disbelief. At another time and under different circumstances, I would have shared their self-justified outrage. The story being outlined by Judge Matthews is so shocking in its content that it has the potential to shake the foundations on which a slave-owning society rests. To a slave-holder, what the judge is portraying is a heinous crime deserving of the strongest condemnation.

As I listen to the judge's words, I'm mortally afraid and a sideways glance at Simon Barrows face tells me my fear is justified. As he listens to the Judge Matthew's deliberation, he looks shocked and totally disbelieving of what the judge is saying.

My mind reels at the judge's words as he details the case against me.


Judge Matthews outlines to the court how shortly after the death of Jean-Claude Barrois, - my grandfather - and the settlement of his will in my favour, the Court of Disputations had received a petition from Guy Patric Maratier claiming that the will was illegal and asking for it to be set aside in his favour.

Judge Matthews tells us that at first he'd viewed the petition as preposterous and determined to dispense with it quickly. And to avoid any embarrassment to the illustrious Barrois family he decided to do so in secret. However, as he considered the petition, there were several compelling factors and documentary evidence that made him reconsider his initial re-action to Guy Maratier's petition.

In essence the petition suggested that the will was illegal in declaring me as its sole beneficiary. It went on to say that I had no legal standing under the law as I was slave-born. (At this, the court erupts noisily and has to be brought to order). I'm confused and the implications of these words don't register.

The petition stated Henri Barrois was indeed my father but my mother however was a slave-woman known as Ophelia who was in the service of the Barrois household. After my birth, the slave Ophelia was sold but the family kept me and presented me to society as its son and grandson.

At this point, Judge Matthews pauses to comment on the sense of disgust he'd felt when he'd discovered this subterfuge on the part of Barrois family. It is, he said an outrage that anyone would foist a slave born child onto a trusting society and present it as the family's heir. Further, he adds it is fraudulent and disgraces the proud Barrois family. Once he'd established that a fraud had been committed, he worked diligently to right an evil wrong and to restore some measure of honour to the tarnished Barrois name.

Returning to the petition, Judge Matthews told us how he'd gone to great lengths to establish the authenticity or otherwise of Guy's claims. He'd managed to locate the slave, Ophelia, now an elderly nanny to a family of five children, and he'd managed to obtain a statement from her supporting Guy's petition. Of course, the judge hastens to remind us that the evidence of a slave is inadmissible to a court unless that evidence is obtained under "duress". The slave Ophelia had given her evidence under duress and therefore the judge accepted it. But even then, he wasn't completely satisfied and, in the interests of justice, he had DNA samples taken from both Ophelia and me. Just how he'd managed to extract my DNA is open to conjecture and he didn't elaborate on this. Still, I often attend social activities and I suppose it would be easy for someone to secretly obtain a sample of my DNA.

The ethics of his actions don't seem to worry the judge; he goes on to justify his actions by saying that if the test refuted Guy's claims then it was done in my best interests but if it established that I was indeed slave-born then no harm was done as slaves don't have rights under law. Anyway, he concludes, it needed to be done in the interests of justice.

The tenor of his arguments and the ominous tone of his voice confirm by worst fears. The inference in his words already sees me as a slave. I am doomed. What is to happen to me?

The court is brought to a shocked hush as Judge Matthews now hands down his findings. My world is crashing down around me. Less than an hour ago, I was Lucien Henri Barrois sole possessor of the family's fortune and full of the pride and arrogance of the rich and powerful. Now it appears that all this is to be stripped away from me leaving me where and as what ........?

Trembling from a mixture of shock, uncertainty and fear, I struggle to listen as Judge Matthews hands down his decision. It is devastating for me.

Judge Matthews tells us once more of his disgust at the machinations of my grandfather and father in presenting me to polite society as a legitimate member of their family and at their cruel betrayal in denying the existence of a true heir of the blood in the person of Guy Marratier.

At this juncture, he pauses and offers Guy the court's profound expression of regret at this deplorable action on the Barrois family's part. And he tells Guy how pleasing it is to him - personally- that he is able to rectify the situation. I look across at Guy and see him smiling broadly as he acknowledges the judge's sentiments.

Returning to his judgment, Judge Matthews tells us that my father, Henri hadn't broken any laws in impregnating the slave -woman, Ophelia. He was only exercising the rights of a young master in using a slave for his own pleasure - all perfectly legal and understandable. But he adds that the law is quite explicit when it comes to the status of any progeny born from such a liaison; it is and remains a slave unless manumitted by the "father". A close scrutiny of the records had shown no such manumission had ever occurred and therefore the legal status of the individual known to us as Lucien Barrois is that of a slave.

The silence of the court-room is broken by my anguished scream of, "NOOOOO......!" as I collapse into my seat.

My outburst earns me a stern rebuke from the judge and he orders the court guards to restrain and gag me. I struggle futilely in their firm grasp as my hands are fastened behind my back and I have a gag placed in my mouth. As they do so I`m conscious of the room being lit up by camera flashes. I`m not to know my story and its accompanying pictures will soon be front page news and will set tongues wagging over many a dinner-table where I`d once sat as a welcome and honoured guest.

I'm shaking uncontrollably and sobbing hysterically into my gag as I listen to Judge Matthews return to delivering his verdict.

"I find that the petition is upheld and I further find in favour of the petitioner, Guy Patric Maratier"

There is a triumphant shout from my distant cousin and the court breaks into shouts and loud handclapping from his supporters. The judge watches indulgently; the excitement of the petitioner and his friends is perfectly understandable. Judge Matthews is pleased - Justice has been served and he is its Instrument.

He waits patiently until the noise subsides and resumes his deliverance.

"I rule that the individual presented to this court as Lucien Henri Barrois is slave born and the progeny of a casual liaison between Henri Barrois and one of his slave women, called by the name Ophelia. In the absence of any "Document of Manumission" granting him freedom, I further rule that the legal status of the individual known as Lucien Henri Barrois is that of a slave and I order that he be returned to immediate slavery. He is no longer entitled to bear the name by which he has been known to date and in the absence of any other name he wiil now be referred to simply as "slave". And of course, he IS the property of the Barrois estate."

These words don't penetrate into the swirling maelstrom of my mind and I don't hear as Judge Matthews continues.

"My findings do in fact invalidate the will of the late Jean-Claude Barrois in that he nominated a slave as his heir and sole beneficiary. His actions in elevating a slave above his true station are reprehensible and endangers the very fabric of our society. It has distressed me to no end that a name so illustrious as that of Barrois could perpetrate so vile a crime, but I have to some extent been able to mitigate their guilt in this by looking closely at the will and establishing that Guy Patric Marratier is in fact the true and sole heir to the Barrois estate. I therefore declare him as the true successor by both blood and birth to the Barrois fortune."

Again the court-room erupts as Guy's friends and supporters in the public gallery break into loud cheering.

"Mr. Maratier, you have my heartiest congratulations on your good fortune and I express my sincerest regret at the unfair and quite spiteful treatment of the late Jean-Claude Barrois in seeking to deny you your birthright. I derive much personal satisfaction in righting a great wrong. But now we need to get down to the serious business of transferring the Barrois estate over to you. Already, I have court officials working on this and over the coming days they'll help you to establish your authority over the various Barrois enterprises."

I still stand uncomprehending of what is happening to me. The judge's words swirl around me.

"Mr. Maratier, no doubt you'll want to take immediate possession of your town residence and the plantation known as "La Forˆt". To help you do this I'll send a court bailiff with you to establish your ownership of them as soon as proceeding here are finished and I order Mr. Simon Barrow to assist you in every way possible. I can count on your co-operation, can't I Mr. Barrow?"

"Indeed you can, Your Honour." Simon answers as he hastily leaves my side and moves over to Guy's table.

I now stand alone. I am completely, utterly and devastatingly alone. I'm now a slave without a friend in this court and indeed, as I'm to find out in coming days, without one in the wider world.

"Mr. Maratier. What are your wishes regarding your slave?" The judge's question crashes through my conscious and I'm aware that it's me he's referring to.

"How do you mean, Your Honour?" Guy asks.

"Well the slave is your property, Mr. Maratier. What do you want done with him. He's now yours to do with as you please. That is, once he's been processed through the courts. We will need to issue you with "documents of ownership" for him. Do you have a name for him that we can use to register him under or do you intend to let him remain unnamed?"

Guy pauses as he considers this before answering. "Rafe, Your Honour. I want to call him Rafe."

"That's' spelt R-A-F-E is it? The judge asks. "We must get the spelling correct."

"Yes, Your Honour."

"It's an unusual name, Mr Maratier. Nevertheless it's a good name for a slave - brief and straight to the point. Why did you choose it, Mr Maratier?"

"Your Honour. When I was a boy I had a dog named Rafe."

"Ahh! So it's a pet's name. Do you intend to keep your new slave as a pet, Mr Maratier?

"No, not at all, Your Honour. He was the Barrois family's pet for far too long. It's my intention that he's to experience life as a working slave. I'll be putting him to hard labour."

"I commend your decision, Mr Maratier. The slave is eminently suited for heavy duty work. I congratulate you. It could be said that this is your first executive decision as the head of the Barrois enterprises. If you keep making those types of level-headed decisions then I know the business is in good hands. But tell me Mr Maratier, Is it your intention to retain the name of Barrois for your various businesses or are you to change them to Maratier? You're perfectly entitled to do that, you know."

"To be honest with you, Your Honour. I haven't thought about that. After all, I couldn't pre-empt your decision could I?'

Indeed not, Mr Maratier. That was very wise of you."

"I would need to think carefully about that. It would mean changing the companies' name and logo. And I would think - although I don't know for sure - that all the Barrois slaves wear the Barrois brand.'

"A minor concern, I should think, Mr Maratier. You could always re-brand your slaves on another part of the body with your own logo; more or less putting your stamp on them. Certainly there would be a few legal necessities to be attended to in changing the name and logo of the various Barrois enterprises but re-branding the slaves is a decision for you alone to make. They're your property, after all. With regard to changing the name of the companies, I'm sure Mr Simon Barrow would be willing to assist you with this. Isn't that so, Mr Barrow?"

"Absolutely, Your Honour! I'd be delighted to assist Mr Maratier in any way I can."

"I'm sure you would, Mr Barrow." The judge adds sarcastically. "There you are then, Mr Maratier. Call on Mr Barrow to assist you. And I strongly urge you to do so. This whole unsavoury affair is likely to cause a backlash against anything bearing the Barrois name When this unhappy event becomes known, the public will be justifiably angry at the Barrois family's unscrupulous attempt to foist a slave onto society. I'm afraid; Mr Maratier that the Barrois name is now sullied and irredeemable. In your own interests, I urge you to use your own name rather than the disgraced Barrois name. The public will, I'm sure understand and accept the necessity for you to do this."

"Thank you for your wise counsel, Your Honour. I see the wisdom of what you're saying and will take immediate steps to implement the changes you suggest. I'm grateful for your good advice."

"I'm glad and I wish you good luck. Remember, if you encounter any difficulties, I stand ready to assist. But now let's return to your slave. You're quite sure about the name you've chosen for him. It's your wish that the slave be known as Rafe?"

"Yes, Your Honour. I'm quite sure,"

"Then in future, the slave is to be called Rafe." Judge Matthews rules.

I listen in shocked disbelief at my dispossession. In less than an hour, I have lost my fortune and my freedom and I've also been stripped of my humanity. I no longer have the name I'd borne all my life and that identified me as a free person; I am now a slave called by the name my new master has chosen for me. I'm no longer Lucien Barrois, freeman; now I'm the slave, Rafe. I am at rock bottom. Things can't get worse for me. How wrong I am.

"There now remains only the physical examination of the slave as a preliminary to filling in his papers and then he'll need to be branded and collared before he is taken from the court's precincts." The judge continues, "Once that has been done, the slave is yours to take with you should you so desire. You indicated earlier that he is to be put to hard labour. Is it your wish to keep him for such duties or do you want him sent to the dealers for sale as a work slave, Mr. Maratier?"

"No, Your Honour. I intend to keep him whilst I decide his future." Guy answers quickly.

"I assume the slave is unbranded? Perhaps we should check whether or not he is?" Judge Matthews comments, "Bailiff! Unfasten the slave's hands and have him disrobe for the court please."

I'm totally unprepared for this and listen in shocked horror at the judge's instructions. Through my consternation, I hear the ripple of conversation from the watching spectators who are, no doubt, excited at the prospect of my ultimate humiliation and the sight of my enforced nakedness.

This eagerness on their part is soon to be shared in the wider community. I'm about to become a "cause celebre", one much discussed and debated, widely despised, absolutely reviled and the subject of much voyeuristic curiosity.

I wait as the guards unfasten my wrists; incongruously I think that tonight I was meant to share the podium with the Governor as he outlines his tough new stance on the state's slavery laws. My former name was meant to add substance to his proposals. I don't realise it, but it won't be the prestige of the former Lucien Barrois who gives strength to his arguments. Rather tonight, he'll use the unhappy saga of the slave, Rafe to rail against the abolitionists and do-gooders and to scare the public into an acceptance of his extreme policies. In fact, it will be the story of Rafe which wins the election for the Governor and give him the excuse to implement even more draconian laws controlling the already miserable lives of slaves than the ones he'd previously proposed.

Life for slaves is about to become even harder than it is currently. After The Governor's successful re-election, masters will be allowed to work their slaves longer and harder and to subject them to even harsher punishments than they already suffer. This will be the unintended result of my story. I, as the slave Rafe, will be the cause of their increased misery and suffering and I will share in their hardships.


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