The Dread Redeemer, Lazarus Morell

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The final villain in Borges’s collection is Lazarus Morell, a mysterious individual who comes to command a vast business empire ‘redeeming’ thousands of slaves from plantation owners in the Mississippi region.

The scheme ran as follows:

‘They would pick out a wretched slave and offer him his freedom. They would tell him that if he ran away from his master and allowed them to sell him, he would receive a portion of the money paid for him, and they would help him escape again, this time sending him to a free state. Money and freedom, the jingle of silver dollars together with his liberty – what greater temptation could they offer him? The slave became emboldened for his first escape.’

After the slave had been sold, and then sold again, he would meet the following fate:

‘The runaway expected his freedom. Lazarus Morell’s shadowy mulattoes would give out an order among themselves that was sometimes no more than the nod of a head, and the slave would be freed from sight, hearing, touch, day, infamy, time, his benefactors, pity, the air, the hound packs, the world, hope, sweat, and himself. A bullet, a knife, or a blow, and the Mississippi catfish and turtles would receive the last evidence’.

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