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At Last by Charles Kingsley

Part 2 out of 8

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mountain, reached the sea in four hours, and then all was over. The
earthquakes which had shaken for two years a sheet of the earth's
surface larger than half Europe were stilled by the eruption of this
single vent.

No wonder if, with such facts on my memory since my childhood, I
looked up at that Souffriere with awe, as at a giant, obedient
though clumsy, beneficent though terrible, reposing aloft among the
clouds when his appointed work was done.

The strangest fact about this eruption was, that the mountain did
not make use of its old crater. The original vent must have become
so jammed and consolidated, in the few years between 1785 and 1812,
that it could not be reopened, even by a steam-force the vastness of
which may be guessed at from the vastness of the area which it had
shaken for two years. So when the eruption was over, it was found
that the old crater-lake, incredible as it may seem, remained
undisturbed, as far as has been ascertained. But close to it, and
separated only by a knife-edge of rock some 700 feet in height, and
so narrow that, as I was assured by one who had seen it, it is
dangerous to crawl along it, a second crater, nearly as large as the
first, had been blasted out, the bottom of which, in like manner, is
now filled with water. I regretted much that I could not visit it.
Three points I longed to ascertain carefully--the relative heights
of the water in the two craters; the height and nature of the spot
where the lava stream issued; and lastly, if possible, the actual
causes of the locally famous Rabacca, or 'Dry River,' one of the
largest streams in the island, which was swallowed up during the
eruption, at a short distance from its source, leaving its bed an
arid gully to this day. But it could not be, and I owe what little
I know of the summit of the Souffriere principally to a most
intelligent and gentleman-like young Wesleyan minister, whose name
has escaped me. He described vividly as we stood together on the
deck, looking up at the volcano, the awful beauty of the twin lakes,
and of the clouds which, for months together, whirl in and out of
the cups in fantastic shapes before the eddies of the trade-wind.

The day after the explosion, 'Black Sunday,' gave a proof of, though
no measure of, the enormous force which had been exerted. Eighty
miles to windward lies Barbadoes. All Saturday a heavy cannonading
had been heard to the eastward. The English and French fleets were
surely engaged. The soldiers were called out; the batteries manned:
but the cannonade died away, and all went to bed in wonder. On the
1st of May the clocks struck six: but the sun did not, as usual in
the tropics, answer to the call. The darkness was still intense,
and grew more intense as the morning wore on. A slow and silent
rain of impalpable dust was falling over the whole island. The
Negroes rushed shrieking into the streets. Surely the last day was
come. The white folk caught (and little blame to them) the panic;
and some began to pray who had not prayed for years. The pious and
the educated (and there were plenty of both in Barbadoes) were not
proof against the infection. Old letters describe the scene in the
churches that morning as hideous--prayers, sobs, and cries, in
Stygian darkness, from trembling crowds. And still the darkness
continued, and the dust fell.

I have a letter, written by one long since dead, who had at least
powers of description of no common order, telling how, when he tried
to go out of his house upon the east coast, he could not find the
trees on his own lawn, save by feeling for their stems. He stood
amazed not only in utter darkness, but in utter silence. For the
trade-wind had fallen dead; the everlasting roar of the surf was
gone; and the only noise was the crashing of branches, snapped by
the weight of the clammy dust. He went in again, and waited. About
one o'clock the veil began to lift; a lurid sunlight stared in from
the horizon: but all was black overhead. Gradually the dust-cloud
drifted away; the island saw the sun once more; and saw itself
inches deep in black, and in this case fertilising, dust. The
trade-wind blew suddenly once more out of the clear east, and the
surf roared again along the shore.

Meanwhile, a heavy earthquake-wave had struck part at least of the
shores of Barbadoes. The gentleman on the east coast, going out,
found traces of the sea, and boats and logs washed up, some 10 to 20
feet above high-tide mark: a convulsion which seems to have gone
unmarked during the general dismay.

One man at least, an old friend of John Hunter, Sir Joseph Banks and
others their compeers, was above the dismay, and the superstitious
panic which accompanied it. Finding it still dark when he rose to
dress, he opened (so the story used to run) his window; found it
stick, and felt upon the sill a coat of soft powder. 'The volcano
in St. Vincent has broken out at last,' said the wise man, 'and this
is the dust of it.' So he quieted his household and his Negroes,
lighted his candles, and went to his scientific books, in that
delight, mingled with an awe not the less deep because it is
rational and self-possessed, with which he, like other men of
science, looked at the wonders of this wondrous world.

Those who will recollect that Barbadoes is eighty miles to windward
of St. Vincent, and that a strong breeze from E.N.E. is usually
blowing from the former island to the latter, will be able to
imagine, not to measure, the force of an explosion which must have
blown this dust several miles into the air, above the region of the
trade-wind, whether into a totally calm stratum, or into that still
higher one in which the heated south-west wind is hurrying
continually from the tropics toward the pole. As for the cessation
of the trade-wind itself during the fall of the dust, I leave the
fact to be explained by more learned men: the authority whom I have
quoted leaves no doubt in my mind as to the fact.

On leaving St. Vincent, the track lies past the Grenadines. For
sixty miles, long low islands of quaint forms and euphonious names--
Becquia, Mustique, Canonau, Carriacou, Isle de Rhone--rise a few
hundred feet out of the unfathomable sea, bare of wood, edged with
cliffs and streaks of red and gray rock, resembling, says Dr. Davy,
the Cyclades of the Grecian Archipelago: their number is counted at
three hundred. The largest of them all is not 8000 acres in extent;
the smallest about 600. A quiet prosperous race of little yeomen,
beside a few planters, dwell there; the latter feeding and exporting
much stock, the former much provisions, and both troubling
themselves less than of yore with sugar and cotton. They build
coasting vessels, and trade with them to the larger islands; and
they might be, it is said, if they chose, much richer than they
are,--if that be any good to them.

The steamer does not stop at any of these little sea-hermitages; so
that we could only watch their shores: and they were worth
watching. They had been, plainly, sea-gnawn for countless ages; and
may, at some remote time, have been all joined in one long ragged
chine of hills, the highest about 1000 feet. They seem to be for
the most part made up of marls and limestones, with trap-dykes and
other igneous matters here and there. And one could not help
entertaining the fancy that they were a specimen of what the other
islands were once, or at least would have been now, had not each of
them had its volcanic vents, to pile up hard lavas thousands of feet
aloft, above the marine strata, and so consolidate each ragged chine
of submerged mountain into one solid conical island, like St.
Vincent at their northern end, and at their southern end that
beautiful Grenada to which we were fast approaching, and which we
reached, on our outward voyage, at nightfall; running in toward a
narrow gap of moonlit cliffs, beyond which we could discern the
lights of a town. We did not enter the harbour: but lay close off
its gateway in safe deep water; fired our gun, and waited for the
swarm of negro boats, which began to splash out to us through the
darkness, the jabbering of their crews heard long before the flash
of their oars was seen.

Most weird and fantastic are these nightly visits to West Indian
harbours. Above, the black mountain-depths, with their canopy of
cloud, bright white against the purple night, hung with keen stars.
The moon, it may be on her back in the west, sinking like a golden
goblet behind some rock-fort, half shrouded in black trees. Below,
a line of bright mist over a swamp, with the coco-palms standing up
through it, dark, and yet glistering in the moon. A light here and
there in a house: another here and there in a vessel, unseen in the
dark. The echo of the gun from hill to hill. Wild voices from
shore and sea. The snorting of the steamer, the rattling of the
chain through the hawse-hole; and on deck, and under the quarter,
strange gleams of red light amid pitchy darkness, from engines,
galley fires, lanthorns; and black folk and white folk flitting
restlessly across them.

The strangest show: 'like a thing in a play,' says every one when
they see it for the first time. And when at the gun-fire one
tumbles out of one's berth, and up on deck, to see the new island,
one has need to rub one's eyes, and pinch oneself--as I was minded
to do again and again during the next few weeks--to make sure that
it is not all a dream. It is always worth the trouble, meanwhile,
to tumble up on deck, not merely for the show, but for the episodes
of West Indian life and manners, which, quaint enough by day, are
sure to be even more quaint at night, in the confusion and bustle of
the darkness. One such I witnessed in that same harbour of Grenada,
not easily to be forgotten.

A tall and very handsome middle-aged brown woman, in a limp print
gown and a gorgeous turban, stood at the gangway in a glare of
light, which made her look like some splendid witch by a Walpurgis
night-fire. 'Tell your boatman to go round to the other side,'
quoth the officer in charge.

'Fanqua! (Francois) You go round oder side of de ship!'

Fanqua, who seemed to be her son, being sleepy, tipsy, stupid, or
lazy, did not stir.

'Fanqua! You hear what de officer say? You go round.'

No move.

'Fanqua! You not ashamed of youself? You not hear de officer say
he turn a steam-pipe over you?'

No move.

'Fanqua!' (authoritative).

'Fanqua!' (indignant).

'Fanqua!' (argumentative).

'Fanqua!' (astonished).

'Fanqua!' (majestic).

'Fanqua!' (confidentially alluring).

'Fanqua!' (regretful). And so on, through every conceivable tone of

But Fanqua did not move; and the officer and bystanders laughed.

She summoned all her talents, and uttered one last 'Fanqua!' which
was a triumph of art.

Shame and surprise were blended in her voice with tenderness and
pity, and they again with meek despair. To have been betrayed,
disgraced, and so unexpectedly, by one whom she loved, and must love
still, in spite of this, his fearful fall!

It was more than heart could bear. Breathing his name but that once
more, she stood a moment, like a queen of tragedy, one long arm
drawing her garments round her, the other outstretched, as if to
cast off--had she the heart to do it--the rebel; and then stalked
away into the darkness of the paddle-boxes--for ever and a day to
brood speechless over her great sorrow? Not in the least. To begin
chattering away to her acquaintances, as if no Fanqua existed in the

It was a piece of admirable play-acting; and was meant to be. She
had been conscious all the while that she was an object of
attention--possibly of admiration--to a group of men; and she knew
what was right to be done and said under the circumstances, and did
it perfectly, even to the smallest change of voice. She was
doubtless quite sincere the whole time, and felt everything which
her voice expressed: but she felt it, because it was proper to feel
it; and deceived herself probably more than she deceived any one
about her.

A curious phase of human nature is that same play-acting, effect-
studying, temperament, which ends, if indulged in too much, in
hopeless self-deception, and 'the hypocrisy which,' as Mr. Carlyle
says, 'is honestly indignant that you should think it hypocritical.'
It is common enough among Negresses, and among coloured people too:
but is it so very uncommon among whites? Is it not the bane of too
many Irish? of too many modern French? of certain English, for that
matter, whom I have known, who probably had no drop of French or
Irish blood in their veins? But it is all the more baneful the
higher the organisation is; because, the more brilliant the
intellect, the more noble the instincts, the more able its victim is
to say--'See: I feel what I ought, I say what I ought, I do what I
ought: and what more would you have? Why do you Philistines
persist in regarding me with distrust and ridicule? What is this
common honesty, and what is this "single eye," which you suspect me
of not possessing?'

Very beautiful was that harbour of George Town, seen by day. In the
centre an entrance some two hundred yards across: on the right, a
cliff of volcanic sand, interspersed with large boulders hurled from
some volcano now silent, where black women, with baskets on their
heads, were filling a barge with gravel. On the left, rocks of hard
lava, surmounted by a well-lined old fort, strong enough in the days
of 32-pounders. Beyond it, still on the left, the little city,
scrambling up the hillside, with its red roofs and church spires,
among coconut and bread-fruit trees, looking just like a German toy
town. In front, at the bottom of the harbour, villa over villa,
garden over garden, up to the large and handsome Government House,
one of the most delectable spots of all this delectable land; and
piled above it, green hill upon green hill, which, the eye soon
discovers, are the Sommas of old craters, one inside the other
towards the central peak of Mount Maitland, 1700 feet high. On the
right bow, low sharp cliff-points of volcanic ash; and on the right
again, a circular lake a quarter of a mile across and 40 feet in
depth, with a coral reef, almost awash, stretching from it to the
ash-cliff on the south side of the harbour mouth. A glance shows
that this is none other than an old crater, like that inside English
Harbour in Antigua, probably that which has hurled out the boulders
and the ash; and one whose temper is still uncertain, and to be
watched anxiously in earthquake times. The Etang du Vieux Bourg is
its name; for, so tradition tells, in the beginning of the
seventeenth century the old French town stood where the white coral-
reef gleams under water; in fact, upon the northern lip of the
crater. One day, however, the Enceladus below turned over in his
sleep, and the whole town was swallowed up, or washed away. The
sole survivor was a certain blacksmith, who thereupon was made--or
as sole survivor made himself--Governor of the island of Grenada.
So runs the tale; and so it seemed likely to run again, during the
late earthquake at St. Thomas's. For on the very same day, and
before any earthquake-wave from St. Thomas's had reached Grenada--if
any ever reached it, which I could not clearly ascertain--this Etang
du Vieux Bourg boiled up suddenly, hurling masses of water into the
lower part of the town, washing away a stage, and doing much damage.
The people were, and with good reason, in much anxiety for some
hours after: but the little fit of ill-temper went off, having
vented itself, as is well known, in the sea between St. Thomas's and
Santa Cruz, many miles away.

The bottom of the crater, I was assured, was not permanently
altered: but the same informant--an eye-witness on whom I can fully
depend--shared the popular opinion that it had opened, sucked in
sea-water, and spouted it out again. If so, the good folks of
George Town are quite right in holding that they had a very narrow
escape of utter destruction.

An animated and picturesque spot, as the steamer runs alongside, is
the wooden wharf where passengers are to land and the ship to coal.
The coaling Negroes and Negresses, dressed or undressed, in their
dingiest rags, contrast with the country Negresses, in gaudy prints
and gaudier turbans, who carry on their heads baskets of fruit even
more gaudy than their dresses. Both country and town Negroes,
meanwhile, look--as they are said to be--comfortable and prosperous;
and I can well believe the story that beggars are unknown in the
island. The coalers, indeed, are only too well off, for they earn
enough, by one day of violent and degrading toil, to live in
reckless shiftless comfort, and, I am assured, something very like
debauchery, till the next steamer comes in.

No sooner is the plank down, than a struggling line getting on board
meets a struggling line getting on shore; and it is well if the
passenger, on landing, is not besmirched with coal-dust, after a
narrow escape of being shoved into the sea off the stage. But,
after all, civility pays in Grenada, as in the rest of the world;
and the Negro, like the Frenchman, though surly and rude enough if
treated with the least haughtiness, will generally, like the
Frenchman, melt at once at a touch of the hat, and an appeal to
'Laissez passer Mademoiselle.' On shore we got, through be-coaled
Negroes, men and women, safe and not very much be-coaled ourselves;
and were driven up steep streets of black porous lava, between lava
houses and walls, and past lava gardens, in which jutted up
everywhere, amid the loveliest vegetation, black knots and lumps
scorched by the nether fires. The situation of the house--the
principal one of the island--to which we drove, is beautiful beyond
description. It stands on a knoll some 300 feet in height,
commanded only by a slight rise to the north; and the wind of the
eastern mountains sweeps fresh and cool through a wide hall and
lofty rooms. Outside, a pleasure-ground and garden, with the same
flowers as we plant out in summer at home; and behind, tier on tier
of green wooded hill, with cottages and farms in the hollows, might
have made us fancy ourselves for a moment in some charming country-
house in Wales. But opposite the drawing-room window rose a
Candelabra Cereus, thirty feet high. On the lawn in front great
shrubs of red Frangipani carried rose-coloured flowers which filled
the air with fragrance, at the end of thick and all but leafless
branches. Trees hung over them with smooth greasy stems of bright
copper--which has gained them the name of 'Indian skin,' at least in
Trinidad, where we often saw them wild; another glance showed us
that every tree and shrub around was different from those at home:
and we recollected where we were; and recollected, too, as we looked
at the wealth of flower and fruit and verdure, that it was sharp
winter at home. We admired this and that: especially a most lovely
Convolvulus--I know not whether we have it in our hothouses {52a}--
with purple maroon flowers; and an old hog-plum {52b}--Mombin of the
French--a huge tree, which was striking, not so much from its size
as from its shape. Growing among blocks of lava, it had assumed the
exact shape of an English oak in a poor soil and exposed situation;
globular-headed, gnarled, stunted, and most unlike to its giant
brethren of the primeval woods, which range upward 60 or 80 feet
without a branch. We walked up to see the old fort, commanding the
harbour from a height of 800 feet. We sat and rested by the
roadside under a great cotton-wood tree, and looked down on gorges
of richest green, on negro gardens, and groo-groo palms, and here
and there a cabbage-palm, or a huge tree at whose name we could not
guess; then turned through an arch cut in the rock into the interior
of the fort, which now holds neither guns nor soldiers, to see at
our feet the triple harbour, the steep town, and a very paradise of
garden and orchard; and then down again, with the regretful thought,
which haunted me throughout the islands--What might the West Indies
not have been by now, had it not been for slavery, rum, and sugar?

We got down to the steamer again, just in time, happily, not to see
a great fight in the water between two Negroes; to watch which all
the women had stopped their work, and cheered the combatants with
savage shouts and laughter. At last the coaling and the cursing
were over; and we steamed out again to sea.

I have antedated this little episode--delightful for more reasons
than I set down here--because I do not wish to trouble my readers
with two descriptions of the same island--and those mere passing

There are two craters, I should say, in Grenada, beside the harbour.
One, the Grand Etang, lies high in the central group of mountains,
which rise to 3700 feet, and is itself about 1740 feet above the
sea. Dr. Davy describes it as a lake of great beauty, surrounded by
bamboos and tree-ferns. The other crater-lake lies on the north-
east coast, and nearer to the sea-level: and I more than suspect
that more would be recognised, up and down the island, by the eye of
a practised geologist.

The southern end of Grenada--of whatsoever rock it may be composed--
shows evidence of the same wave-destruction as do the Grenadines.
Arches and stacks, and low horizontal strata laid bare along the
cliff, in some places white with guano, prove that the sea has been
at work for ages, which must be many and long, considering that the
surf, on that leeward side of the island, is little or none the
whole year round. With these low cliffs, in strongest contrast to
the stately and precipitous southern point of St. Lucia, the
southern point of Grenada slides into the sea, the last of the true
Antilles. For Tobago, Robinson Crusoe's island, which lies away
unseen to windward, is seemingly a fragment of South America, like
the island of Trinidad, to which the steamer now ran dead south for
seventy miles.

It was on the shortest day of the year--St. Thomas's Day--at seven
in the morning (half-past eleven of English time, just as the old
women at Eversley would have been going round the parish for their
'goodying'), that we became aware of the blue mountains of North
Trinidad ahead of us; to the west of them the island of the Dragon's
Mouth; and westward again, a cloud among the clouds, the last spur
of the Cordilleras of the Spanish Main. There was South America at
last; and as a witness that this, too, was no dream, the blue water
of the Windward Islands changed suddenly into foul bottle-green.
The waters of the Orinoco, waters from the peaks of the Andes far
away, were staining the sea around us. With thoughts full of three
great names, connected, as long as civilised man shall remain, with
those waters--Columbus, Raleigh, Humboldt--we steamed on, to see
hills, not standing out, like those of the isles which we had
passed, in intense clearness of green and yellow, purple and blue,
but all shrouded in haze, like those of the Hebrides or the West of
Ireland. Onward through a narrow channel in the mountain-wall, not
a rifle-shot across, which goes by the name of the Ape's Mouth,
banked by high cliffs of dark Silurian rock--not bare, though, as in
Britain, but furred with timber, festooned with lianes, down to the
very spray of the gnawing surf. One little stack of rocks, not
thirty feet high, and as many broad, stood almost in the midst of
the channel, and in the very northern mouth of it, exposed to the
full cut of surf and trade-wind. But the plants on it, even seen
through the glasses, told us where we were. One huge low tree
covered the top with shining foliage, like that of a Portugal
laurel; all around it upright Cerei reared their gray candelabra,
and below them, hanging down the rock to the very surf, deep green
night-blowing Cereus twined and waved, looking just like a curtain
of gigantic stag's-horn moss. We ran through the channel; then amid
more low wooded islands, it may be for a mile, before a strong back
current rushing in from the sea; and then saw before us a vast plain
of muddy water. No shore was visible to the westward; to the
eastward the northern hills of Trinidad, forest clad, sank to the
water; to the south lay a long line of coast, generally level with
the water's edge, and green with mangroves, or dotted with coco-
palms. That was the Gulf of Paria, and Trinidad beyond.

Shipping at anchor, and buildings along the flat shore, marked Port
of Spain, destined hereafter to stand, not on the seaside, but, like
Lynn in Norfolk, and other fen-land towns, in the midst of some of
the richest reclaimed alluvial in the world.

As the steamer stopped at last, her screw whirled up from the bottom
clouds of yellow mud, the mingled deposits of the Caroni and the
Orinoco. In half an hour more we were on shore, amid Negroes,
Coolies, Chinese, French, Spaniards, short-legged Guaraon dogs, and
black vultures.


It may be worth while to spend a few pages in telling something of
the history of this lovely island since the 31st of July 1499, when
Columbus, on his third voyage, sighted the three hills in the south-
eastern part. He had determined, it is said, to name the first land
which he should see after the Blessed Trinity; the triple peaks
seemed to him a heaven-sent confirmation of his intent, and he named
the island Trinidad; but the Indians called it Iere.

He ran from Punta Galera, at the north-eastern extremity--so named
from the likeness of a certain rock to a galley under sail--along
the east and south of the island; turned eastward at Punta Galeota;
and then northward, round Punta Icacque, through the Boca Sierpe, or
serpent's mouth, into the Gulf of Paria, which he named 'Golfo de
Balena,' the Gulf of the Whale, and 'Golfo Triste,' the Sad Gulf;
and went out by the northern passage of the Boca Drago. The names
which he gave to the island and its surroundings remain, with few
alterations, to this day.

He was surprised, says Washington Irving, at the verdure and
fertility of the country, having expected to find it more parched
and sterile as he approached the equator; whereas he beheld groves
of palm-trees, and luxuriant forests sweeping down to the seaside,
with fountains and running streams beneath the shade. The shore was
low and uninhabited: but the country rose in the interior, and was
cultivated in many places, and enlivened by hamlets and scattered
habitations. In a word, the softness and purity of the climate, and
the verdure, freshness, and sweetness of the country, appeared to
equal the delights of early spring in the beautiful province of
Valencia in Spain.

He found the island peopled by a race of Indians with fairer
complexions than any he had hitherto seen; 'people all of good
stature, well made, and of very graceful bearing, with much and
smooth hair.' They wore, the chiefs at least, tunics of coloured
cotton, and on their heads beautiful worked handkerchiefs, which
looked in the distance as if they were made of silk. The women,
meanwhile, according to the report of Columbus's son, seem, some of
them at least, to have gone utterly without clothing.

They carried square bucklers, the first Columbus had seen in the New
World; and bows and arrows, with which they made feeble efforts to
drive off the Spaniards who landed at Punta Arenal, near Icacque,
and who, finding no streams, sank holes in the sand, and so filled
their casks with fresh water, as may be done, it is said, at the
same spot even now.

And there--the source of endless misery to these happy harmless
creatures--a certain Cacique, so goes the tale, took off Columbus's
cap of crimson velvet, and replaced it with a circle of gold which
he wore.

Alas for them! That fatal present of gold brought down on them
enemies far more ruthless than the Caribs of the northern islands,
who had a habit of coming down in their canoes and carrying off the
gentle Arrawaks to eat them at their leisure, after the fashion
which Defoe, always accurate, has immortalised in Robinson Crusoe.
Crusoe's island is, almost certainly, meant for Tobago; Man Friday
had been stolen in Trinidad.

Columbus came no more to Trinidad. But the Spaniards had got into
their wicked heads that there must be gold somewhere in the island;
and they came again and again. Gold they could not get; for it does
not exist in Trinidad. But slaves they could get; and the history
of the Indians of Trinidad for the next century is the same as that
of the rest of the West Indies: a history of mere rapine and
cruelty. The Arrawaks, to do them justice, defended themselves more
valiantly than the still gentler people of Hayti, Cuba, Jamaica,
Porto Rico, and the Lucayas: but not so valiantly as the fierce
cannibal Caribs of the Lesser Antilles, whom the Spaniards were
never able to subdue.

It was in 1595, nearly a century after Columbus discovered the
island, that 'Sir Robert Duddeley in the Bear, with Captain Munck,
in the Beare's Whelpe, with two small pinnesses, called the Frisking
and the Earwig,' ran across from Cape Blanco in Africa, straight for
Trinidad, and anchored in Cedros Bay, which he calls Curiapan,
inside Punta Icacque and Los Gallos--a bay which was then, as now,
'very full of pelicans.' The existence of the island was known to
the English: but I am not aware that any Englishman had explored
it. Two years before, an English ship, whose exploits are written
in Hakluyt by one Henry May, had run in, probably to San Fernando,
'to get refreshing; but could not, by reason the Spaniards had taken
it. So that for want of victuals the company would have forsaken
the ship.' How different might have been the history of Trinidad,
if at that early period, while the Indians were still powerful, a
little colony of English had joined them, and intermarried with
them. But it was not to be. The ship got away through the Boca
Drago. The year after, seemingly, Captain Whiddon, Raleigh's
faithful follower, lost eight men in the island in a Spanish ambush.
But Duddeley was the first Englishman, as far as I am aware, who
marched, 'for his experience and pleasure, four long marches through
the island; the last fifty miles going and coming through a most
monstrous thicke wood, for so is most part of the island; and
lodging myself in Indian townes.' Poor Sir Robert--'larding the
lean earth as he stalked along'--in ruff and trunk hose, possibly
too in burning steel breastplate, most probably along the old Indian
path from San Fernando past Savannah Grande, and down the Ortoire to
Mayaro on the east coast. How hot he must have been. How often, we
will hope, he must have bathed on the journey in those crystal
brooks, beneath the balisiers and the bamboos. He found 'a fine-
shaped and a gentle people, all naked and painted red' (with
roucou), 'their commanders wearing crowns of feathers,' and a
country 'fertile and full of fruits, strange beasts and fowls,
whereof munkeis, babions, and parats were in great abundance.' His
'munkeis' were, of course, the little Sapajous; his 'babions' no
true Baboons; for America disdains that degraded and dog-like form;
but the great red Howlers. He was much delighted with the island;
and 'inskonced himself'--i.e. built a fort: but he found the
Spanish governor, Berreo, not well pleased at his presence; 'and no
gold in the island save Marcasite' (iron pyrites); considered that
Berreo and his three hundred Spaniards were 'both poore and strong,
and so he had no reason to assault them.' He had but fifty men
himself, and, moreover, was tired of waiting in vain for Sir Walter
Raleigh. So he sailed away northward, on the 12th of March, to
plunder Spanish ships, with his brains full of stories of El Dorado,
and the wonders of the Orinoco--among them 'four golden half-moons
weighing a noble each, and two bracelets of silver,' which a boat's
crew of his had picked up from the Indians on the other side of the
Gulf of Paria.

He left somewhat too soon. For on the 22d of March Raleigh sailed
into Cedros Bay, and then went up to La Brea and the Pitch Lake.
There he noted, as Columbus had done before him, oysters growing on
the mangrove roots; and noted, too, 'that abundance of stone pitch,
that all the ships of the world might be therewith laden from
thence; and we made trial of it in trimming our shippes, to be most
excellent good, and melteth not with the sun as the pitch of
Norway.' From thence he ran up the west coast to 'the mountain of
Annaparima' (St. Fernando hill), and passing the mouth of the
Caroni, anchored at what was then the village of Port of Spain.

There some Spaniards boarded him, to buy linen and other things, all
which he 'entertained kindly, and feasted after our manner, by means
whereof I learned as much of the estate of Guiana as I could, or as
they knew, for those poore souldiers having been many years without
wine, a few draughts made them merrie, in which mood they vaunted of
Guiana and the riches thereof,'--much which it had been better for
Raleigh had he never heard.

Meanwhile the Indians came to him every night with lamentable
complaints of Berreo's cruelty. 'He had divided the island and
given to every soldier a part. He made the ancient Caciques that
were lords of the court, to be their slaves. He kept them in
chains; he dropped their naked bodies with burning bacon, and such
other torments, which' (continues Raleigh) 'I found afterward to be
true. For in the city' (San Josef), 'when I entered it, there were
five lords, or little kings, in one chain, almost dead of famine,
and wasted with torments.' Considering which; considering Berreo's
treachery to Whiddon's men; and considering also that as Berreo
himself, like Raleigh, was just about to cross the gulf to Guiana in
search of El Dorado, and expected supplies from Spain; 'to leave a
garrison in my back, interested in the same enterprise, I should
have savoured very much of the asse.' So Raleigh fell upon the
'Corps du Guard' in the evening, put them to the sword, sent Captain
Caulfield with sixty soldiers onward, following himself with forty
more, up the Caroni river, which was then navigable by boats; and
took the little town of San Josef.

It is not clear whether the Corps du Guard which he attacked was at
Port of Spain itself, or at the little mud fort at the confluence of
the Caroni and San Josef rivers, which was to be seen, with some old
pieces of artillery in it, in the memory of old men now living. But
that he came up past that fort, through the then primeval forest,
tradition reports; and tells, too, how the prickly climbing palm,
{58} the Croc-chien, or Hook-dog, pest of the forests, got its
present name upon that memorable day. For, as the Spanish soldiers
ran from the English, one of them was caught in the innumerable
hooks of the Croc-chien, and never looking behind him in his terror,
began shouting, 'Suelta mi, Ingles!' (Let me go, Englishman!)--or,
as others have it, 'Valga mi, Ingles!' (Take ransom for me,
Englishman!)--which name the palm bears unto this day.

So Raleigh, having, as one historian of Trinidad says, 'acted like a
tiger, lest he should savour of the ass,' went his way to find El
Dorado, and be filled with the fruit of his own devices: and may
God have mercy on him; and on all who, like him, spoil the noblest
instincts, and the noblest plans, for want of the 'single eye.'

But before he went, he 'called all the Caciques who were enemies to
the Spaniard, for there were some that Berreo had brought out of
other countreys and planted there, to eat out and waste those that
were natural of the place; and, by his Indian interpreter that he
had brought out of England, made them understand that he was the
servant of a Queene, who was the great Cacique of the North, and a
virgin, and had more Caciques under her than there were trees in
that island; and that she was an enemy to the Castellani in respect
of their tyranny and oppression, and that she delivered all such
nations about her as were by them oppressed, and, having freed all
the northern world from their servitude, had sent me to free them
also, and withal to defend the country of Guiana from their invasion
and conquest. I showed them her Majesty's picture' (doubtless in
ruff, farthingale, and stomacher laden with jewels), 'which they so
admired and honoured, as it had been easy to make them idolatrous

And so Raleigh, with Berreo as prisoner, 'hasted away toward his
proposed discovery,' leaving the poor Indians of Trinidad to be
eaten up by fresh inroads of the Spaniards.

There were, in his time, he says, five nations of Indians in the
island,--'Jaios,' 'Arwacas,' 'Salvayos' (Salivas?), 'Nepoios,' and
round San Josef 'Carinepagotes'; and there were others, he
confesses, which he does not name. Evil times were come upon them.
Two years after, the Indians at Punta Galera (the north-east point
of the island) told poor Keymis that they intended to escape to
Tobago when they could no longer keep Trinidad, though the Caribs of
Dominica were 'such evil neighbours to it' that it was quite
uninhabited. Their only fear was lest the Spaniards, worse
neighbours than even the Caribs, should follow them thither.

But as Raleigh and such as he went their way, Berreo and such as he
seem to have gone their way also. The 'Conquistadores,' the
offscourings not only of Spain but of South Germany, and indeed of
every Roman Catholic country in Europe, met the same fate as befell,
if monk chroniclers are to be trusted, the great majority of the
Normans who fought at Hastings. 'The bloodthirsty and deceitful men
did not live out half their days.' By their own passions, and by no
miraculous Nemesis, they civilised themselves off the face of the
earth; and to them succeeded, as to the conquerors at Hastings, a
nobler and gentler type of invaders. During the first half of the
seventeenth century, Spaniards of ancient blood and high
civilisation came to Trinidad, and re-settled the island:
especially the family of Farfan--'Farfan de los Godos,' once famous
in mediaeval chivalry--if they will allow me the pleasure of for
once breaking a rule of mine, and mentioning a name--who seem to
have inherited for some centuries the old blessings of Psalm

'Put thou thy trust in the Lord, and be doing good; dwell in the
land, and verily thou shalt be fed.

'The Lord knoweth the days of the godly: and their inheritance
shall endure for ever.

'They shall not be confounded in perilous times; and in the days of
dearth they shall have enough.'

Toward the end of the seventeenth century the Indians summoned up
courage to revolt, after a foolish ineffectual fashion. According
to tradition, and an old 'romance muy doloroso,' which might have
been heard sung within the last hundred years, the governor, the
Cabildo, and the clergy went to witness an annual feast of the
Indians at Arena, a sandy spot (as its name signifies) near the
central mountain of Tamana. In the middle of one of their warlike
dances, the Indians, at a given signal, discharged a flight of
arrows, which killed the governor, all the priests, and almost all
the rest of the whites. Only a Farfan escaped, not without
suspicion of forewarning by the rebels. He may have been a merciful
man and just; while considering the gentle nature of the Indians, it
is possible that some at least of their victims deserved their fate,
and that the poor savages had wrongs to avenge which had become
intolerable. As for the murder of the priests, we must remember
always that the Inquisition was then in strength throughout Spanish
America; and could be, if it chose, aggressive and ruthless enough.

By the end of the seventeenth century there were but fifteen
pueblos, or Indian towns, in the island; and the smallpox had made
fearful ravages among them. Though they were not forced to work as
slaves, a heavy capitation tax, amounting, over most of the island,
to two dollars a head, was laid on them almost to the end of the
last century. There seems to have been no reason in the nature of
things why they should not have kept up their numbers; for the
island was still, nineteen-twentieths of it, rich primeval forest.
It may have been that they could not endure the confined life in the
pueblos, or villages, to which they were restricted by law. But,
from some cause or other, they died out, and that before far
inferior numbers of invaders. In 1783, when the numbers of the
whites were only 126, of the free coloured 295, and of the slaves
310, the Indians numbered only 2032. In 1798, after the great
immigration from the French West Indies, there were but 1082 Indians
in the island. It is true that the white population had increased
meanwhile to 2151, the free coloured to 4476, and the slaves to
10,000. But there was still room in plenty for 2000 Indians.
Probably many of them had been absorbed by intermarriage with the
invaders. At present, there is hardly an Indian of certainly pure
blood in the island, and that only in the northern mountains.

Trinidad ought to have been, at least for those who were not
Indians, a happy place from the seventeenth almost to the nineteenth
century, if it be true that happy is the people who have no history.
Certain Dutchmen, whether men of war or pirates is not known,
attacked it some time toward the end of the seventeenth century,
and, trying to imitate Raleigh, were well beaten in the jungles
between the Caroni and San Josef. The Indians, it is said, joined
the Spaniards in the battle; and the little town of San Josef was
rewarded for its valour by being raised to the rank of a city by the
King of Spain.

The next important event which I find recorded is after the treaty
of 27th August 1701, between 'His Most Christian' and 'His Most
Catholic Majesty,' by which the Royal Company of Guinea, established
in France, was allowed to supply the Spanish colonies with 4800
Negroes per annum for ten years; of whom Trinidad took some share,
and used them in planting cacao. So much the worse for it.

Next Captain Teach, better known as 'Blackboard,' made his
appearance about 1716, off Port of Spain; plundered and burnt a brig
laden with cacao; and when a Spanish frigate came in, and cautiously
cannonaded him at a distance, sailed leisurely out of the Boca
Grande. Little would any Spanish Guarda Costa trouble the soul of
the valiant Captain Teach, with his six pistols slung in bandoliers
down his breast, lighted matches stuck underneath the brim of his
hat, and his famous black beard, the terror of all merchant captains
from Trinidad to Guinea River, twisted into tails, and tied up with
ribbons behind his ears. How he behaved himself for some years as a
'ferocious human pig,' like Ignatius Loyola before his conversion,
with the one virtue of courage; how he would blow out the candle in
the cabin, and fire at random into his crew, on the ground 'that if
he did not kill one of them now and then they would forget who he
was'; how he would shut down the hatches, and fill the ship with the
smoke of brimstone and what not, to see how long he and his could
endure a certain place,--to which they are, some of them, but too
probably gone; how he has buried his money, or said that he had,
'where none but he and Satan could find it, and the longest liver
should take all'; how, out of some such tradition, Edgar Poe built
up the wonderful tale of the Gold Bug; how the planters of certain
Southern States, and even the Governor of North Carolina, paid him
blackmail, and received blackmail from him likewise; and lastly, how
he met a man as brave as he, but with a clear conscience and a clear
sense of duty, in the person of Mr. Robert Maynard, first lieutenant
of the Pearl, who found him after endless difficulties, and fought
him hand-to-hand in Oberecock River, in Virginia, 'the lieutenant
and twelve men against Blackbeard and fourteen, till the sea was
tinctured with blood around the vessel'; and how Maynard sailed into
Bathtown with the gory head, black beard and all, hung at his
jibboom end; all this is written--in the books in which it is
written; which need not be read now, however sensational, by the
British public.

The next important event which I find recorded in the annals of
Trinidad is, that in 1725 the cacao crop failed. Some perhaps would
have attributed the phenomenon to a comet, like that Sir William
Beeston who, writing in 1664, says--'About this time appeared first
the comet, which was the forerunner of the blasting of the cacao-
trees, when they generally failed in Jamaica, Cuba, and Hispaniola.'
But no comet seems to have appeared in 1725 whereon to lay the
blame; and therefore Father Gumilla, the Jesuit, may have been
excused for saying that the failure of the trees was owing to the
planters not paying their tithes; and for fortifying his statement
by the fact that one planter alone, named Rabelo, who paid his
tithes duly, saved his trees and his crop.

The wicked (according to Dauxion Lavaysse, a Frenchman inoculated
somewhat with scientific and revolutionary notions, who wrote a very
clever book, unfortunately very rare now) said that the Trinidad
cacao was then, as now, very excellent; that therefore it was sold
before it was gathered; and that thus the planters were able to
evade the payment of tithes. But Senor Rabelo had planted another
variety, called Forestero, from the Brazils, which was at once of
hardier habit, inferior quality, and slower ripening. Hence his
trees withstood the blight: but, en revanche, hence also, merchants
would not buy his crop before it was picked: thus his duty became
his necessity, and he could not help paying his tithes.

Be that as it may, the good folk of Trinidad (and, to judge from
their descendants, there must have been good folk among them) grew,
from the failure of the cacao plantations, exceeding poor; so that
in 1733 they had to call a meeting at San Josef, in order to tax the
inhabitants, according to their means, toward thatching the Cabildo
hall with palm-leaves. Nay, so poor did they become, that in 1740,
the year after the smallpox had again devastated the island and the
very monkeys had died of it,--as the hapless creatures died of
cholera in hundreds a few years since, and of yellow fever the year
before last, sensibly diminishing their numbers near the towns--let
the conceit of human nature wince under the fact as it will, it
cannot wince from under the fact,--in 1740, I say the war between
Spain and England--that about Jenkins's ear--forced them to send a
curious petition to his Majesty of Spain; and to ask--Would he be
pleased to commiserate their situation? The failure of the cacao
had reduced them to such a state of destitution that they could not
go to Mass save once a year, to fulfil their 'annual precepts'; when
they appeared in clothes borrowed from each other.

Nay, it is said by those who should know best, that in those days
the whole august body of the Cabildo had but one pair of small-
clothes, which did duty among all the members.

Let no one be shocked. The small-clothes desiderated would have
been of black satin, probably embroidered; and fit, though somewhat
threadbare, for the thigh of a magistrate and gentleman of Spain.
But he would not have gone on ordinary days in a sansculottic state.
He would have worn that most comfortable of loose nether garments,
which may be seen on sailors in prints of the great war, and which
came in again a while among the cunningest Highland sportsmen,
namely, slops. Let no one laugh, either, at least in contempt, as
the average British Philistine will think himself bound to do, at
the fact that these men had not only no balance at their bankers,
but no bankers with whom to have a balance. No men are more capable
of supporting poverty with content and dignity than the Spaniards of
the old school. For none are more perfect gentlemen, or more free
from the base modern belief that money makes the man; and I doubt
not that a member of the old Cabildo of San Josef in slops was far
better company than an average British Philistine in trousers.

So slumbered on, only awakening to an occasional gentle revolt
against their priests, or the governor sent to them from the Spanish
Court, the good Spaniards of Trinidad; till the peace of 1783 woke
them up, and they found themselves suddenly in a new, and an
unpleasantly lively, world.

Rodney's victories had crippled Spain utterly; and crippled, too,
the French West Indian islands, though not France itself: but the
shrewd eye of a M. Rome de St. Laurent had already seen in Trinidad
a mine of wealth, which might set up again, not the Spanish West
Indians merely, but those of the French West Indians who had
exhausted, as they fancied, by bad cultivation, the soils of
Guadaloupe, Martinique, and St. Lucia. He laid before the Intendant
at Caraccas, on whom Trinidad then depended, a scheme of
colonisation, which was accepted, and carried out in 1783, by a man
who, as far as I can discover, possessed in a pre-eminent degree
that instinct of ruling justly, wisely, gently, and firmly, which is
just as rare in this age as it was under the ancien regime. Don
Josef Maria Chacon was his name,--a man, it would seem, like poor
Kaiser Joseph of Austria, born before his time. Among his many
honourable deeds, let this one at least be remembered; that he
turned out of Trinidad, the last Inquisitor who ever entered it.

Foreigners, who must be Roman Catholics (though on this point Chacon
was as liberal as public opinion allowed him to be), were invited to
settle on grants of Crown land. Each white person of either sex was
to have some thirty-two acres, and half that quantity for every
slave that he should bring. Free people of colour were to have half
the quantity; and a long list of conditions was annexed, which,
considering that they were tainted with the original sin of slave-
holding, seem wise and just enough. Two articles especially
prevented, as far as possible, absenteeism. Settlers who retired
from the island might take away their property; but they must pay
ten per cent on all which they had accumulated; and their lands
reverted to the Crown. Similarly, if the heirs of a deceased
settler should not reside in the colony, fifteen per cent was to be
levied on the inheritance. Well had it been for every West Indian
island, British or other, if similar laws had been in force in them
for the last hundred years.

So into Trinidad poured, for good and evil, a mixed population,
principally French, to the number of some 12,000; till within a year
or two the island was Spanish only in name. The old Spaniards, who
held, many of them, large sheets of the forests which they had never
cleared, had to give them up, with grumblings and heart-burnings, to
the newcomers. The boundaries of these lands were uncertain. The
island had never been surveyed: and no wonder. The survey has been
only completed during the last few years; and it is a mystery, to
the non-scientific eye, how it has ever got done. One can well
believe the story of the northern engineer who, when brought over to
plan out a railroad, shook his head at the first sight of the 'high
woods.' 'At home,' quoth he, 'one works outside one's work: here
one works inside it.' Considering the density of the forests, one
may as easily take a general sketch of a room from underneath the
carpet as of Trinidad from the ground. However, thanks to the
energy of a few gentlemen, who found occasional holes in the carpet
through which they could peep, the survey of Trinidad is now about

But in those days ignorance of the island, as well as the battle
between old and new interests, brought lawsuits, and all but civil
war. Many of the French settlers were no better than they should
be; many had debts in other islands; many of the Negroes had been
sent thither because they were too great ruffians to be allowed at
home; and, what was worse, the premium of sixteen acres of land for
every slave imported called up a system of stealing slaves, and
sometimes even free coloured people, from other islands, especially
from Grenada, by means of 'artful Negroes and mulatto slaves,' who
were sent over as crimps. I shall not record the words in which
certain old Spaniards describe the new population of Trinidad ninety
years ago. They, of course, saw everything in the blackest light;
and the colony has long since weeded and settled itself under a
course of good government. But poor Don Josef Maria Chacon must
have had a hard time of it while he tried to break into something
like order such a motley crew.

He never broke them in, poor man. For just as matters were
beginning to right themselves, the French Revolution broke out; and
every French West Indian island burst into flame,--physical, alas!
as well as moral. Then hurried into Trinidad, to make confusion
worse confounded, French Royalist families, escaping from the
horrors in Hayti; and brought with them, it is said, many still
faithful house-slaves born on their estates. But the Republican
French, being nearly ten to one, were practical masters of the
island; and Don Chacon, whenever he did anything unpopular, had to
submit to 'manifestations,' with tricolour flag, Marseillaise, and
Ca Ira, about the streets of Port of Spain; and to be privately
informed by Admiral Artizabal that a guillotine was getting ready to
cut off the heads of all loyal Spaniards, French, and British. This
may have been an exaggeration: but wild deeds were possible enough
in those wild days. Artizabal, the story goes, threatened to hang a
certain ringleader (name not given) at his yard-arm. Chacon begged
the man's life, and the fellow was 'spared to become the persecutor
of his preserver, even to banishment, and death from a broken
heart.' {65}

At last the explosion came. The English sloop Zebra was sent down
into the Gulf of Paria to clear it of French privateers, manned by
the defeated maroons and brigands of the French islands, who were
paying respect to no flag, but pirating indiscriminately. Chacon
confessed himself glad enough to have them exterminated. He himself
could not protect his own trade. But the neutrality of the island
must be respected. Skinner, the Zebra's captain, sailed away
towards the Boca, and found, to his grim delight, that the
privateers had mistaken him for a certain English merchantman whom
they had blockaded in Port of Spain, and were giving him chase. He
let them come up and try to board; and what followed may be easily
guessed. In three-quarters of an hour they were all burnt, sunk, or
driven on shore; the remnant of their crews escaped to Port of
Spain, to join the French Republicans and vow vengeance.

Then, in a hapless hour, Captain Vaughan came into Port of Spain in
the Alarm frigate. His intention was, of course, to protect the
British and Spanish. They received him with open arms. But the
privateers' men attacked a boat's crew of the Alarm, were beaten,
raised a riot, and attacked a Welsh lady's house where English
officers were at a party; after which, with pistol shots and
climbing over back walls, the English, by help of a few Spanish
gentlemen, escaped, leaving behind them their surgeon severely

Next morning, at sunrise, almost the whole of the frigate's crew
landed in Port of Spain, fully armed, with Captain Vaughan at their
head; the hot Welsh blood boiling in him. He unfurled the British
flag, and marched into the town to take vengeance on the mob. A
Spanish officer, with two or three men, came forward. What did a
British captain mean by violating the law of nations? Vaughan would
chastise the rascally French who had attacked his men. Then he must
either kill the Spaniard or take him prisoner: and the officer
tendered his sword.

'I will not accept the arms of a brave man who is doing his duty,'
quoth poor over-valiant Vaughan, and put him aside. The hot Welsh
blood was nevertheless the blood of a gentleman. They struck up
'Britons, Strike Home,' and marched on. The British and Spanish
came out to entreat him. If a fight began, they would be all
massacred. Still he marched on. The French, with three or four
thousand slaves, armed, and mounting the tricolour cockade, were
awaiting them, seemingly on the Savannah north of the town. Chacon
was at his wits' end. He had but eighty soldiers, who said openly
they would not fire on the English, but on the French. But the
English were but 240, and the French twelve times that number. By
deft cutting through cross streets Chacon got between the two bodies
of madmen, and pleaded the indignity to Spain and the violation of
neutral ground. The English must fight him before they fought the
French. They would beat him: but as soon as the first shot was
fired, the French would attack them likewise, and both parties alike
would be massacred in the streets.

The hot Welsh blood cooled down before reason, and courage. Vaughan
saluted Chacon; and marched back, hooted by the Republicans, who
nevertheless kept at a safe distance. The French hunted every
English and Irish person out of the town, some escaping barely with
their lives. Only one man, however, was killed; and he, poor
faithful slave, was an English Negro.

Vaughan saw that he had done wrong; that he had possibly provoked a
war; and made for his error the most terrible reparation which man
can make.

His fears were not without foundation. His conduct formed the
principal count in the list of petty complaints against England, on
the strength of which, five months after, in October 1796, Spain
declared war against England, and, in conjunction with France and
Holland, determined once more to dispute the empire of the seas.

The moment was well chosen. England looked, to those who did not
know her pluck, to have sunk very low. Franco was rising fast; and
Buonaparte had just begun his Italian victories. So the Spanish
Court--or at least Godoy, 'Prince of Peace'--sought to make profit
out of the French Republic. About the first profit which it made
was the battle of St. Vincent; about the second, the loss of

On February 14, while Jervis and Nelson were fighting off Cape St.
Vincent, Harvey and Abercrombie came into Carriacou in the
Grenadines with a gallant armada; seven ships of the line, thirteen
other men-of-war, and nigh 8000 men, including 1500 German jagers,
on board.

On the 16th they were struggling with currents of the Bocas, piloted
by a Mandingo Negro, Alfred Sharper, who died in 1836, 105 years of
age. The line-of-battle ships anchored in the magnificent land-
locked harbour of Chaguaramas, just inside the Boca de Monos. The
frigates and transports went up within five miles of Port of Spain.

Poor Chacon had, to oppose this great armament, 5000 Spanish troops,
300 of them just recovering from yellow fever; a few old Spanish
militia, who loved the English better than the French; and what
Republican volunteers he could get together. They of course
clamoured for arms, and demanded to be led against the enemy, as to
this day; forgetting, as to this day, that all the fiery valour of
Frenchmen is of no avail without officers, and without respect for
those officers. Beside them, there lay under a little fort on
Gaspar Grande island, in Chaguaramas harbour--ah, what a Paradise to
be denied by war--four Spanish line-of-battle ships and a frigate.
Their admiral, Apodaca, was a foolish old devotee. Their crews
numbered 1600 men, 400 of whom were in hospital with yellow fever,
and many only convalescent. The terrible Victor Hugues, it is said,
offered a band of Republican sympathisers from Guadaloupe: but
Chacon had no mind to take that Trojan horse within his fortress.
'We have too many lawless Republicans here already. Should the King
send me aid, I will do my duty to preserve his colony for the crown:
if not, it must fall into the hands of the English, whom I believe
to be generous enemies, and more to be trusted than treacherous

What was to be done? Perhaps only that which was done. Apodaca set
fire to his ships, either in honest despair, or by orders from the
Prince of Peace. At least, he would not let them fall into English
hands. At three in the morning Port of Spain woke up, all aglare
with the blaze six miles away to the north-west. Negroes ran and
shrieked, carrying this and that up and down upon their heads.
Spaniards looked out, aghast. Frenchmen, cried, 'Aux armes!' and
sang the Marseillaise. And still, over the Five Islands, rose the
glare. But the night was calm; the ships burnt slowly; and the San
Damaso was saved by English sailors. So goes the tale; which, if it
be, as I believe, correct, ought to be known to those adventurous
Yankees who have talked, more than once, of setting up a company to
recover the Spanish ships and treasure sunk in Chaguaramas. For the
ships burned before they sunk; and Apodaca, being a prudent man,
landed, or is said to have landed, all the treasure on the Spanish
Main opposite.

He met Chacon in Port of Spain at daybreak. The good governor, they
say, wept, but did not reproach. The admiral crossed himself; and,
when Chacon said 'All is lost,' answered (or did not answer, for the
story, like most good stories, is said not to be quite true), 'Not
all; I saved the image of St. Jago de Compostella, my patron and my
ship's.' His ship's patron, however, says M. Joseph, was St.
Vincent. Why tell the rest of the story? It may well be guessed.
The English landed in force. The French Republicans (how does
history repeat itself!) broke open the arsenal, overpowering the
Spanish guard, seized some 3000 to 5000 stand of arms, and then
never used them, but retired into the woods. They had, many of
them, fought like tigers in other islands; some, it may be, under
Victor Hugues himself. But here they had no leaders. The Spanish,
overpowered by numbers, fell back across the Dry River to the east
of the town, and got on a height. The German jagers climbed the
beautiful Laventille hills, and commanded the Spanish and the two
paltry mud forts on the slopes: and all was over, happily with
almost no loss of life.

Chacon was received by Abercrombie and Harvey with every courtesy; a
capitulation was signed which secured the honours of war to the
military, and law and safety to the civil inhabitants; and Chacon
was sent home to Spain to be tried by a court-martial; honourably
acquitted; and then, by French Republican intrigues, calumniated,
memorialised against, subscribed against, and hunted (Buonaparte
having, with his usual meanness, a hand in the persecution) into
exile and penury in Portugal. At last his case was heard a second
time, and tardy justice done, not by popular clamour, but by fair
and deliberate law. His nephew set out to bring the good man home
in triumph. He found him dying in a wretched Portuguese inn.
Chacon heard that his honour was cleared at last, and so gave up the

Thus ended--as Earth's best men have too often ended--the good Don
Alonzo Chacon. His only monument in the island is one, after all,
'aere perennius;' namely, that most beautiful flowering shrub which
bears his name; Warsewiczia, some call it; others, Calycophyllum:
but the botanists of the island continue loyally the name of
Chaconia to those blazing crimson spikes which every Christmas-tide
renew throughout the wild forests, of which he would have made a
civilised garden, the memory of the last and best of the Spanish

So Trinidad became English; and Picton ruled it, for a while, with a
rod of iron.

I shall not be foolish enough to enter here into the merits or
demerits of the Picton case, which once made such a noise in
England. His enemies' side of the story will be found in M'Callum's
Travels in Trinidad; his friends' side in Robinson's Life of Picton,
two books, each of which will seem, I think, to him who will read
them alternately, rather less wise than the other. But those who
may choose to read the two books must remember that questions of
this sort have not two sides merely, but more; being not
superficies, but solids; and that the most important side is that on
which the question stands, namely, its bottom; which is just the
side which neither party liked to be turned up, because under it (at
least in the West Indies) all the beetles and cockroaches,
centipedes and scorpions, are nestled away out of sight: and there,
as long since decayed, they, or their exuviae and dead bodies, may
remain. The good people of Trinidad have long since agreed to let
bygones be bygones; and it speaks well for the common-sense and good
feeling of the islanders, as well as for the mildness and justice of
British rule, that in two generations such a community as that of
modern Trinidad should have formed itself out of materials so
discordant. That British rule has been a solid blessing to
Trinidad, all honest folk know well. Even in Picton's time, the
population increased, in six years, from 17,700 to 28,400; in 1851
it was 69,600; and it is now far larger.

But Trinidad has gained, by becoming English, more than mere
numbers. Had it continued Spanish, it would probably be, like Cuba,
a slave-holding and slave-trading island, now wealthy, luxurious,
profligate; and Port of Spain would be such another wen upon the
face of God's earth as that magnificent abomination, the city of
Havanna. Or, as an almost more ugly alternative, it might have
played its part in that great triumph of Bliss by Act of Parliament,
which set mankind to rights for ever, when Mr. Canning did the
universe the honour of 'calling the new world into existence to
redress the balance of the old.' It might have been--probably would
have been--conquered by a band of 'sympathisers' from the
neighbouring Republic of Venezuela, and have been 'called into
existence' by the massacre of the respectable folk, the expulsion of
capital, and the establishment (with a pronunciamento and a
revolution every few years) of a Republic such as those of Spanish
America, combining every vice of civilisation with every vice of
savagery. From that fate, as every honest man in Trinidad knows
well, England has saved the island; and therefore every honest man
in Trinidad is loyal (with occasional grumblings, of course, as is
the right of free-born Britons, at home and abroad) to the British


The first thing notable, on landing in Port of Spain at the low quay
which has been just reclaimed from the mud of the gulf, is the
multitude of people who are doing nothing. It is not that they have
taken an hour's holiday to see the packet come in. You will find
them, or their brown duplicates, in the same places to-morrow and
next day. They stand idle in the marketplace, not because they have
not been hired, but because they do not want to be hired; being able
to live like the Lazzaroni of Naples, on 'Midshipman's half-pay--
nothing a day, and find yourself.' You are told that there are 8000
human beings in Port of Spain alone without visible means of
subsistence, and you congratulate Port of Spain on being such an
Elysium that people can live there--not without eating, for every
child and most women you pass are eating something or other all day
long--but without working. The fact is, that though they will eat
as much and more than a European, if they can get it, they can do
well without food; and feed, as do the Lazzaroni, on mere heat and
light. The best substitute for a dinner is a sleep under a south
wall in the blazing sun; and there are plenty of south walls in Port
of Spain. In the French islands, I am told, such Lazzaroni are
caught up and set to Government work, as 'strong rogues and
masterless men,' after the ancient English fashion. But is such a
course fair? If a poor man neither steals, begs, nor rebels (and
these people do not do the two latter), has he not as much right to
be idle as a rich man? To say that neither has a right to be idle
is, of course, sheer socialism, and a heresy not to be tolerated.

Next, the stranger will remark, here as at Grenada, that every one
he passes looks strong, healthy, and well-fed. One meets few or
none of those figures and faces, small, scrofulous, squinny, and
haggard, which disgrace the so-called civilisation of a British
city. Nowhere in Port of Spain will you see such human beings as in
certain streets of London, Liverpool, or Glasgow. Every one,
plainly, can live and thrive if they choose; and very pleasant it is
to know that.

The road leads on past the Custom-house; and past, I am sorry to
say, evil smells, which are too common still in Port of Spain,
though fresh water is laid on from the mountains. I have no wish to
complain, especially on first landing, of these kind and hospitable
citizens. But as long as Port of Spain--the suburbs especially--
smells as it does after sundown every evening, so long will an
occasional outbreak of cholera or yellow fever hint that there are
laws of cleanliness and decency which are both able and ready to
avenge themselves. You cross the pretty 'Marine Square,' with its
fountain and flowering trees, and beyond them on the right the Roman
Catholic Cathedral, a stately building, with Palmistes standing as
tall sentries round; soon you go up a straight street, with a
glimpse of a large English church, which must have been still more
handsome than now before its tall steeple was shaken down by an
earthquake. The then authorities, I have been told, applied to the
Colonial Office for money to rebuild it: but the request was
refused; on the ground, it may be presumed, that whatever ills
Downing Street might have inflicted on the West Indies, it had not,
as yet, gone so far as to play the part of Poseidon Ennosigaeus.

Next comes a glimpse, too, of large--even too large--Government
buildings, brick-built, pretentious, without beauty of form. But,
however ugly in itself a building may be in Trinidad, it is certain,
at least after a few years, to look beautiful, because embowered
among noble flowering timber trees, like those that fill 'Brunswick
Square,' and surround the great church on its south side.

Under cool porticoes and through tall doorways are seen dark
'stores,' filled with all manner of good things from Britain or from
the United States. These older-fashioned houses, built, I presume,
on the Spanish model, are not without a certain stateliness, from
the depth and breadth of their chiaroscuro. Their doors and windows
reach almost to the ceiling, and ought to be plain proofs, in the
eyes of certain discoverers of the 'giant cities of Bashan,' that
the old Spanish and French colonists were nine or ten feet high
apiece. On the doorsteps sit Negresses in gaudy print dresses, with
stiff turbans (which are, according to this year's fashion, of
chocolate and yellow silk plaid, painted with thick yellow paint,
and cost in all some four dollars), all aiding in the general work
of doing nothing: save where here and there a hugely fat Negress,
possibly with her 'head tied across' in a white turban (sign of
mourning), sells, or tries to sell, abominable sweetmeats, strange
fruits, and junks of sugar-cane, to be gnawed by the dawdlers in
mid-street, while they carry on their heads everything and anything,
from half a barrow-load of yams to a saucer or a beer-bottle. We
never, however, saw, as Tom Cringle did, a Negro carrying a burden
on his chin.

I fear that a stranger would feel a shock--and that not a slight
one--at the first sight of the average negro women of Port of Spain,
especially the younger. Their masculine figures, their ungainly
gestures, their loud and sudden laughter, even when walking alone,
and their general coarseness, shocks, and must shock. It must be
remembered that this is a seaport town; and one in which the licence
usual in such places on both sides of the Atlantic is aggravated by
the superabundant animal vigour and the perfect independence of the
younger women. It is a painful subject. I shall touch it in these
pages as seldom and as lightly as I can. There is, I verily
believe, a large class of Negresses in Port of Spain and in the
country, both Catholic and Protestant, who try their best to be
respectable, after their standard: but unfortunately, here, as
elsewhere over the world, the scum rises naturally to the top, and
intrudes itself on the eye. The men are civil fellows enough, if
you will, as in duty bound, be civil to them. If you are not, ugly
capacities will flash out fast enough, and too fast. If any one
says of the Negro, as of the Russian, 'He is but a savage polished
over: you have only to scratch him, and the barbarian shows
underneath:' the only answer to be made is--Then do not scratch him.
It will be better for you, and for him.

When you have ceased looking--even staring--at the black women and
their ways, you become aware of the strange variety of races which
people the city. Here passes an old Coolie Hindoo, with nothing on
but his lungee round his loins, and a scarf over his head; a white-
bearded, delicate-featured old gentleman, with probably some caste-
mark of red paint on his forehead; his thin limbs, and small hands
and feet, contrasting strangely with the brawny Negroes round.
There comes a bright-eyed young lady, probably his daughter-in-law,
hung all over with bangles, in a white muslin petticoat, crimson
cotton-velvet jacket, and green gauze veil, with her naked brown
baby astride on her hip: a clever, smiling, delicate little woman,
who is quite aware of the brightness of her own eyes. And who are
these three boys in dark blue coatees and trousers, one of whom
carries, hanging at one end of a long bamboo, a couple of sweet
potatoes; at the other, possibly, a pebble to balance them? As they
approach, their doleful visage betrays them. Chinese they are,
without a doubt: but whether old or young, men or women, you cannot
tell, till the initiated point out that the women have chignons and
no hats, the men hats with their pigtails coiled up under them.
Beyond this distinction, I know none visible. Certainly none in
those sad visages--'Offas, non facies,' as old Ammianus Marcellinus
has it.

But why do Chinese never smile? Why do they look as if some one had
sat upon their noses as soon as they were born, and they had been
weeping bitterly over the calamity ever since? They, too, must have
their moments of relaxation: but when? Once, and once only, in
Port of Spain, we saw a Chinese woman, nursing her baby, burst into
an audible laugh: and we looked at each other, as much astonished
as if our horses had begun to talk.

There again is a group of coloured men of all ranks, talking
eagerly, business, or even politics; some of them as well dressed as
if they were fresh from Europe; some of them, too, six feet high,
and broad in proportion; as fine a race, physically, as one would
wish to look upon; and with no want of shrewdness either, or
determination, in their faces: a race who ought, if they will be
wise and virtuous, to have before them a great future. Here come
home from the convent school two coloured young ladies, probably
pretty, possibly lovely, certainly gentle, modest, and well-dressed
according to the fashions of Paris or New York; and here comes the
unmistakable Englishman, tall, fair, close-shaven, arm-in-arm with
another man, whose more delicate features, more sallow complexion,
and little moustache mark him as some Frenchman or Spaniard of old
family. Both are dressed as if they were going to walk up Pall Mall
or the Rue de Rivoli; for 'go-to-meeting clothes' are somewhat too
much de rigueur here; a shooting-jacket and wide-awake betrays the
newly-landed Englishman. Both take off their hats with a grand air
to a lady in a carriage; for they are very fine gentlemen indeed,
and intend to remain such: and well that is for the civilisation of
the island; for it is from such men as these, and from their
families, that the good manners for which West Indians are, or ought
to be, famous, have permeated down, slowly but surely, through all
classes of society save the very lowest.

The straight and level street, swarming with dogs, vultures,
chickens, and goats, passes now out of the old into the newer part
of the city; and the type of the houses changes at once. Some are
mere wooden sheds of one or two rooms, comfortable enough in that
climate, where a sleeping-place is all that is needed--if the
occupiers would but keep them clean. Other houses, wooden too,
belong to well-to-do folk. Over high walls you catch sight of
jalousies and verandahs, inside which must be most delightful
darkness and coolness. Indeed, one cannot fancy more pleasant nests
than some of the little gaily-painted wooden houses, standing on
stilts to let the air under the floors, and all embowered in trees
and flowers, which line the roads in the suburbs; and which are
inhabited, we are told, by people engaged in business.

But what would--or at least ought to--strike the newcomer's eye with
most pleasurable surprise, and make him realise into what a new
world he has been suddenly translated--even more than the Negroes,
and the black vultures sitting on roof-ridges, or stalking about in
mid-street--are the flowers which show over the walls on each side
of the street. In that little garden, not thirty feet broad, what
treasures there are! A tall palm--whether Palmiste or Oil-palm--has
its smooth trunk hung all over with orchids, tied on with wire.
Close to it stands a purple Dracaena, such as are put on English
dinner-tables in pots: but this one is twenty feet high; and next
to it is that strange tree the Clavija, of which the Creoles are
justly fond. A single straight stem, fifteen feet high, carries
huge oblong-leaves atop, and beneath them, growing out of the stem
itself, delicate panicles of little white flowers, fragrant
exceedingly. A double blue pea {74} and a purple Bignonia are
scrambling over shrubs and walls. And what is this which hangs over
into the road, some fifteen feet in height--long, bare, curving
sticks, carrying each at its end a flat blaze of scarlet? What but
the Poinsettia, paltry scions of which, like the Dracaena, adorn our
hothouses and dinner-tables. The street is on fire with it all the
way up, now in mid-winter; while at the street end opens out a green
park, fringed with noble trees all in full leaf; underneath them
more pleasant little suburban villas; and behind all, again, a
background of steep wooded mountain a thousand feet in height. That
is the Savannah, the public park and race-ground; such as neither
London nor Paris can boast.

One may be allowed to regret that the exuberant loyalty of the
citizens of Port of Spain has somewhat defaced one end at least of
their Savannah; for in expectation of a visit from the Duke of
Edinburgh, they erected for his reception a pile of brick, of which
the best that can be said is that it holds a really large and
stately ballroom, and the best that can be hoped is that the
authorities will hide it as quickly as possible with a ring of
Palmistes, Casuarinas, Sandboxes, and every quick-growing tree.
Meanwhile, as His Royal Highness did not come the citizens wisely
thought that they might as well enjoy their new building themselves.
So there, on set high days, the Governor and the Lady of the
Governor hold their court. There, when the squadron comes in,
officers in uniform dance at desperate sailors' pace with delicate
Creoles; some of them, coloured as well as white, so beautiful in
face and figure that one could almost pardon the jolly tars if they
enacted a second Mutiny of the Bounty, and refused one and all to
leave the island and the fair dames thereof. And all the while the
warm night wind rushes in through the high open windows; and the
fireflies flicker up and down, in and out, and you slip away on to
the balcony to enjoy--for after all it is very hot--the purple star-
spangled night; and see aloft the saw of the mountain ridges against
the black-blue sky; and below--what a contrast!--the crowd of white
eyeballs and white teeth--Negroes, Coolies, Chinese--all grinning
and peeping upward against the railing, in the hope of seeing--
through the walls--the 'buccra quality' enjoy themselves.

An even pleasanter sight we saw once in that large room, a sort of
agricultural and horticultural show, which augured well for the
future of the colony. The flowers were not remarkable, save for the
taste shown in their arrangement, till one recollected that they
were not brought from hothouses, but grown in mid-winter in the open
air. The roses, of which West Indians are very fond, as they are of
all 'home,' i.e. European, flowers, were not as good as those of
Europe. The rose in Trinidad, though it flowers three times a year,
yet, from the great heat and moisture, runs too much to wood. But
the roots, especially the different varieties of yam, were very
curious; and their size proved the wonderful food-producing powers
of the land when properly cultivated. The poultry, too, were worthy
of an English show. Indeed, the fowl seems to take to tropical
America as the horse has to Australia, as to a second native-land;
and Trinidad alone might send an endless supply to the fowl-market
of the Northern States, even if that should not be quite true which
some one said, that you might turn an old cock loose in the bush,
and he, without further help, would lay more eggs, and bring up more
chickens, than you could either eat or sell.

But the most interesting element of that exhibition was the coconut
fibre products of Messrs. Uhrich and Gerold, of which more in
another place. In them lies a source of further wealth to the
colony, which may stand her in good stead when Port of Spain
becomes, as it must become, one of the great emporiums of the West.

Since our visit the great ballroom has seen--even now is seeing--
strange vicissitudes. For the new Royal College, having as yet no
buildings of its own, now keeps school, it is said, therein--alas
for the inkstains on that beautiful floor! And by last advices, a
'troupe of artistes' from Martinique, there being no theatre in Port
of Spain, have been doing their play-acting in it; and Terpsichore
and Thalia (Melpomene, I fear, haunts not the stage of Martinique)
have been hustling all the other Muses downstairs at sunset, and
joining their jinglings to the chorus of tom-toms and chac-chacs
which resounds across the Savannah, at least till 10 p.m., from all
the suburbs.

The road--and all the roads round Port of Spain, thanks to Sir Ralph
Woodford, are as good as English roads--runs between the Savannah
and the mountain spurs, and past the Botanic Gardens, which are a
credit, in more senses than one, to the Governors of the island.
For in them, amid trees from every quarter of the globe, and gardens
kept up in the English fashion, with fountains, too, so necessary in
this tropical clime, stood a large 'Government House.' This house
was some years ago destroyed; and the then Governor took refuge in a
cottage just outside the garden. A sum of money was voted to
rebuild the big house: but the Governors, to their honour, have
preferred living in the cottage, adding to it from time to time what
was necessary for mere comfort; and have given the old gardens to
the city, as a public pleasure-ground, kept up at Government

This Paradise--for such it is--is somewhat too far from the city;
and one passes in it few people, save an occasional brown nurse.
But when Port of Spain becomes, as it surely will, a great
commercial city, and the slopes of Laventille, Belmont, and St.
Ann's, just above the gardens, are studded, as they surely will be,
with the villas of rich merchants, then will the generous gift of
English Governors be appreciated and used; and the Botanic Gardens
will become a Tropic Garden of the Tuileries, alive, at five o'clock
every evening, with human flowers of every hue with human


30th December 1869.

My Dear-----, We are actually settled in a West Indian country-
house, amid a multitude of sights and sounds so utterly new and
strange, that the mind is stupefied by the continual effort to take
in, or (to confess the truth) to gorge without hope of digestion,
food of every conceivable variety. The whole day long new objects
and their new names have jostled each other in the brain, in dreams
as well as in waking thoughts. Amid such a confusion, to describe
this place as a whole is as yet impossible. It must suffice if you
find in this letter a sketch or two--not worthy to be called a
study--of particular spots which seem typical, beginning with my
bathroom window, as the scene which first proved to me, at least,
that we were verily in the Tropics.

You look out--would that you did look in fact!--over the low sill.
The gravel outside, at least, is an old friend; it consists of
broken bits of gray Silurian rock, and white quartz among it; and
one touch of Siluria makes the whole world kin. But there the
kindred ends. A few green weeds, looking just like English ones,
peep up through the gravel. Weeds, all over the world, are mostly
like each other; poor, thin, pale in leaf, small and meagre in stem
and flower: meaner forms which fill up for good, and sometimes,
too, for harm, the gaps left by Nature's aristocracy of grander and,
in these Tropics, more tyrannous and destroying forms. So like home
weeds they look: but pick one, and you find it unlike anything at
home. That one happens to be, as you may see by its little green
mouse-tails, a pepper-weed, {77} first cousin to the great black
pepper-bush in the gardens near by, with the berries of which you
may burn your mouth gratis.

So it is, you would find, with every weed in the little cleared
dell, some fifteen feet deep, beyond the gravel. You could not--I
certainly cannot--guess at the name, seldom at the family, of a
single plant. But I am going on too fast. What are those sticks of
wood which keep the gravel bank up? Veritable bamboos; and a
bamboo-pipe, too, is carrying the trickling cool water into the bath
close by. Surely we are in the Tropics. You hear a sudden rattle,
as of boards and brown paper, overhead, and find that it is the
clashing of the huge leaves of a young fan palm, {78a} growing not
ten feet from the window. It has no stem as yet; and the lower
leaves have to be trimmed off or they would close up the path, so
that only the great forked green butts of them are left, bound to
each other by natural matting: but overhead they range out nobly in
leafstalks ten feet long, and fans full twelve feet broad; and this
is but a baby, a three years' old thing. Surely, again, we are in
the Tropics. Ten feet farther, thrust all awry by the huge palm
leaves, grows a young tree, unknown to me, looking like a walnut.
Next to it an orange, covered with long prickles and small green
fruit, its roots propped up by a semi-cylindrical balk of timber,
furry inside, which would puzzle a Hampshire woodsman; for it is,
plainly, a groo-groo or a coco-palm, split down the middle. Surely,
again, we are in the Tropics. Beyond it, again, blaze great orange
and yellow flowers, with long stamens, and pistil curving upwards
out of them. They belong to a twining, scrambling bush, with
finely-pinnated mimosa leaves. That is the 'Flower-fence,' {78b} so
often heard of in past years; and round it hurries to and fro a
great orange butterfly, larger seemingly than any English kind.
Next to it is a row of Hibiscus shrubs, with broad crimson flowers;
then a row of young Screw-pines, {78c} from the East Indian Islands,
like spiral pine-apple plants twenty feet high standing on stilts.
Yes: surely we are in the Tropics. Over the low roof (for the
cottage is all of one storey) of purple and brown and white
shingles, baking in the sun, rises a tall tree, which looks (as so
many do here) like a walnut, but is not one. It is the 'Poui' of
the Indians, {78d} and will be covered shortly with brilliant
saffron flowers.

I turn my chair and look into the weedy dell. The ground on the
opposite slope (slopes are, you must remember, here as steep as
house-roofs, the last spurs of true mountains) is covered with a
grass like tall rye-grass, but growing in tufts. That is the famous
Guinea-grass {78e} which, introduced from Africa, has spread over
the whole West Indies. Dark lithe coolie prisoners, one a gentle
young fellow, with soft beseeching eyes, and 'Felon' printed on the
back of his shirt, are cutting it for the horses, under the guard of
a mulatto turnkey, a tall, steadfast, dignified man; and between us
and them are growing along the edge of the gutter, veritable pine-
apples in the open air, and a low green tree just like an apple,
which is a Guava; and a tall stick, thirty feet high, with a flat
top of gigantic curly horse-chestnut leaves, which is a Trumpet-
tree. {79a} There are hundreds of them in the mountains round: but
most of them dead, from the intense drought and fires of last year.
Beyond it, again, is a round-headed tree, looking like a huge
Portugal laurel, covered with racemes of purple buds. That is an
'Angelim'; {79b} when full-grown, one of the finest timbers in the
world. And what are those at the top of the brow, rising out of the
rich green scrub? Verily, again, we are in the Tropics. They are
palms, doubtless, some thirty feet high each, with here and there a
young one springing up like a gigantic crown of male-fern. The old
ones have straight gray stems, often prickly enough, and thickened
in the middle; gray last year's leaves hanging down; and feathering
round the top, a circular plume of pale green leaves, like those of
a coconut. But these are not cocos. The last year's leaves of the
coco are rich yellow, and its stem is curved. These are groo-groos;
{79c} they stand as fresh proofs that we are indeed in the Tropics,
and as 'a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.'

For it is a joy for ever, a sight never to be forgotten, to have
once seen palms, breaking through and, as it were, defying the soft
rounded forms of the broad-leaved vegetation by the stern grace of
their simple lines; the immovable pillar-stem looking the more
immovable beneath the toss and lash and flicker of the long leaves,
as they awake out of their sunlit sleep, and rage impatiently for a
while before the mountain gusts, and fall asleep again. Like a
Greek statue in a luxurious drawing-room, sharp cut, cold, virginal;
shaming, by the grandeur of mere form, the voluptuousness of mere
colour, however rich and harmonious; so stands the palm in the
forest; to be worshipped rather than to be loved. Look at the
drawings of the Oreodoxa-avenue at Rio, in M. Agassiz's charming
book. Would that you could see actually such avenues, even from the
sea, as we have seen them in St. Vincent and Guadaloupe: but look
at the mere pictures of them in that book, and you will sympathise,
surely, with our new palm-worship.

And lastly, what is that giant tree which almost fills the centre of
the glen, towering with upright but branching limbs, and huge crown,
thinly leaved, double the height of all the trees around? An ash?
Something like an ash in growth; but when you look at it through the
glasses (indispensable in the tropic forest), you see that the
foliage is more like that of the yellow horse-chestnut. And no
British ash, not even the Altyre giants, ever reached to half that
bulk. It is a Silk-cotton tree; a Ceiba {79d}--say, rather, the
Ceiba of the glen; for these glens have a habit of holding each one
great Ceiba, which has taken its stand at the upper end, just where
the mountain-spurs run together in an amphitheatre; and being
favoured (it may be supposed) by the special richness of the down-
washed soil at that spot, grows to one of those vast air-gardens of
creepers and parasites of which we have so often read and dreamed.
Such a one is this: but we will not go up to it now. This sketch
shall be completed by the background of green and gray, fading aloft
into tender cobalt: the background of mountain, ribbed and gullied
into sharpest slopes by the tropic rains, yet showing, even where
steepest, never a face of rock, or a crag peeping through the trees.
Up to the sky-line, a thousand feet aloft, all is green; and that,
instead of being, as in Europe, stone or moor, is jagged and
feathered with gigantic trees. How rich! you would say. Yet these
West Indians only mourn over its desolation and disfigurement; and
point to the sheets of gray stems, which hang like mist along the
upper slopes. They look to us, on this 30th of December, only as
April signs that the woodlands have not quite burst into full leaf.
But to the inhabitants they are tokens of those fearful fires which
raged over the island during the long drought of this summer; when
the forests were burning for a whole month, and this house scarcely
saved; when whole cane-fields, mills, dwelling-houses, went up as
tinder and flame in a moment, and the smoky haze from the burning
island spread far out to sea. And yet where the fire passed six
months ago, all is now a fresh impenetrable undergrowth of green;
creepers covering the land, climbing up and shrouding the charred
stumps; young palms, like Prince of Wales's feathers, breaking up,
six or eight feet high, among a wilderness of sensitive plants,
scarlet-flowered dwarf Balisiers, {81a} climbing fern, {81b}
convolvuluses of every hue, and an endless variety of outlandish
leaves, over which flutter troops of butterflies. How the seeds of
the plants and the eggs of the insects have been preserved, who can
tell? But there their children are, in myriads; and ere a
generation has passed, every dead gray stem will have disappeared
before the ants and beetles and great wood-boring bees who rumble
round in blue-black armour; the young plants will have grown into
great trees beneath the immeasurable vital force which pours all the
year round from the blazing sun above, and all be as it was once
more. In verity we are in the Tropics, where the so-called 'powers
of nature' are in perpetual health and strength, and as much
stronger and swifter, for good and evil, than in our chilly clime,
as is the young man in the heat of youth compared with the old man
shivering to his grave. Think over that last simile. If you think
of it in the light which physiology gives, you will find that it is
not merely a simile, but a true analogy; another manifestation of a
great physical law.

Thus much for the view at the back--a chance scene, without the
least pretensions to what average people would call beauty of
landscape. But oh that we could show you the view in front! The
lawn with its flowering shrubs, tiny specimens of which we admire in
hothouses at home; the grass as green (for it is now the end of the
rainy season) as that of England in May, winding away into the cool
shade of strange evergreens; the yellow coconut palms on the nearest
spur of hill throwing back the tender-blue of the higher mountains;
the huge central group of trees--Saman, {81c} Sandbox, {81d} and
Fig, with the bright ostrich plumes of a climbing palm towering
through the mimosa-like foliage of the Saman; and Erythrinas {81e}
(Bois immortelles, as they call them here), their all but leafless
boughs now blazing against the blue sky with vermilion flowers,
trees of red coral sixty feet in height. Ah that we could show you
the avenue on the right, composed of palms from every quarter of the
Tropics--palms with smooth stems, or with prickly ones, with fan
leaves, feather leaves, leaves (as in the wine-palm {82a}) like
Venus's hair fern; some, again, like the Cocorite, {82b} almost
stemless, rising in a huge ostrich plume which tosses in the land
breeze, till the long stiff leaflets seem to whirl like the spokes
of a green glass wheel. Ah that we could wander with you through
the Botanic Garden beyond, amid fruits and flowers brought together
from all the lands of the perpetual summer; or even give you,
through the great arches of the bamboo clumps, as they creak and
rattle sadly in the wind, and the Bauhinias, like tall and ancient
whitethorns, which shade the road, one glance of the flat green
Savannah, with its herds of kine, beyond which lies, buried in
flowering trees, and backed by mountain woods, the city of Port of
Spain. One glance, too, under the boughs of the great Cotton-tree
at the gate, at the still sleeping sea, with one tall coolie ship at
anchor, seen above green cane-fields and coolie gardens, gay with
yellow Croton and purple Dracaena, and crimson Poinsettia, and the
grand leaves of the grandest of all plants, the Banana, food of
paradise. Or, again, far away to the extreme right, between the
flat tops of the great Saman-avenue at the barracks and the wooded
mountain-spurs which rush down into the sea, the islands of the
Bocas floating in the shining water, and beyond them, a cloud among
the clouds, the peak of a mighty mountain, with one white tuft of
mist upon its top. Ah that we could show you but that, and tell you
that you were looking at the 'Spanish Main'; at South America
itself, at the last point of the Venezuelan Cordillera, and the
hills where jaguars lie. If you could but see what we see daily; if
you could see with us the strange combination of rich and luscious
beauty, with vastness and repose, you would understand, and excuse,
the tendency to somewhat grandiose language which tempts perpetually
those who try to describe the Tropics, and know well that they can
only fail.

In presence of such forms and such colouring as this, one becomes
painfully sensible of the poverty of words, and the futility,
therefore, of all word-painting; of the inability, too, of the
senses to discern and define objects of such vast variety; of our
aesthetic barbarism, in fact, which has no choice of epithets save
between such as 'great,' and 'vast,' and 'gigantic'; between such as
'beautiful,' and 'lovely,' and 'exquisite,' and so forth; which are,
after all, intellectually only one stage higher than the half-brute
Wah! wah! with which the savage grunts his astonishment--call it not
admiration; epithets which are not, perhaps, intellectually as high
as the 'God is great' of the Mussulman, who is wise enough not to
attempt any analysis either of Nature or of his feelings about her;
and wise enough also (not having the fear of Spinoza before his
eyes) to 'in omni ignoto confugere ad Deum'--in presence of the
unknown to take refuge in God.

To describe to you, therefore, the Botanic Garden (in which the
cottage stands) would take a week's work of words, which would
convey no images to your mind. Let it be enough to say, that our
favourite haunt in all the gardens is a little dry valley, beneath
the loftiest group of trees. At its entrance rises a great
Tamarind, and a still greater Saman; both have leaves like a Mimosa-
-as the engraving shows. Up its trunk a Cereus has reared itself,
for some thirty feet at least; a climbing Seguine {83a} twines up it
with leaves like 'lords and ladies'; but the glory of the tree is
that climbing palm, the feathers of which we saw crowning it from a
distance. Up into the highest branches and down again, and up again
into the lower branches, and rolling along the ground in curves as
that of a Boa bedecked with huge ferns and prickly spikes, six feet
and more long each, the Rattan {83b} hangs in mid-air, one hardly
sees how, beautiful and wonderful, beyond what clumsy words can
tell. Beneath the great trees (for here great trees grow freely
beneath greater trees, and beneath greater trees again, delighting
in the shade) is a group of young Mangosteens, {83c} looking, to
describe the unknown by the known, like walnuts with leaflets eight
inches long, their boughs clustered with yellow and green sour
fruit; and beyond them stretches up the lawn a dense grove of
nutmegs, like Portugal laurels, hung about with olive-yellow apples.
Here and there a nutmeg-apple has split, and shows within the
delicate crimson caul of mace; or the nutmegs, the mace still
clinging round them, lie scattered on the grass. Under the
perpetual shade of the evergreens haunt Heliconias and other
delicate butterflies, who seem to dread the blaze outside, and
flutter gently from leaf to leaf, their colouring--which is usually
black with markings of orange, crimson, or blue--coming into
strongest contrast with the uniform green of leaf and grass. This
is our favourite spot for entomologising, when the sun outside
altogether forbids the least exertion. Turn, with us--alas! only in
fancy--out of the grove into a neighbouring path, between tea-
shrubs, looking like privets with large myrtle flowers, and young
clove-trees, covered with the groups of green buds which are the
cloves of commerce; and among fruit-trees from every part of the
Tropics, with the names of which I will not burden you. Glance at
that beautiful and most poisonous shrub, which we found wild at St.
Thomas's. {84} Glance, too--but, again why burden you with names
which you will not recollect, much more with descriptions which do
not describe? Look, though, down that Allspice avenue, at the clear
warm light which is reflected off the smooth yellow ever-peeling
stems; and then, if you can fix your eye steadily on any object,
where all are equally new and strange, look at this stately tree. A
bough has been broken off high up, and from the wounded spot two
plants are already contending. One is a parasitic Orchis; the other
a parasite of a more dangerous family. It looks like a straggling
Magnolia, some two feet high. In fifty years it will be a stately
tree. Look at the single long straight air-root which it is letting
down by the side of the tree bole. That root, if left, will be the
destroyer of the whole tree. It will touch the earth, take root
below, send out side-fibres above, call down younger roots to help
it, till the whole bole, clasped and stifled in their embraces, dies
and rots out, and the Matapalo (or Scotch attorney, {85a} as it is
rudely called here) stands alone on stilted roots, and board walls
of young wood, slowly coalescing into one great trunk; master of the
soil once owned by the patron on whose vitals he has fed: a
treacherous tyrant; and yet, like many another treacherous tyrant,
beautiful to see, with his shining evergreen foliage, and grand
labyrinth of smooth roots, standing high in air, or dangling from
the boughs in search of soil below; and last, but not least, his
Magnolia-like flowers, rosy or snowy-white, and green egg-shaped

Now turn homewards, past the Rosa del monte {85b} bush (bushes, you
must recollect, are twenty feet high here), covered with crimson
roses, full of long silky crimson stamens: and then try--as we do
daily in vain--to recollect and arrange one-tenth of the things
which you have seen.

One look round at the smaller wild animals and flowers. Butterflies
swarm round us, of every hue. Beetles, you may remark, are few;
they do not run in swarms about these arid paths as they do at home.
But the wasps and bees, black and brown, are innumerable. That huge
bee in steel-blue armour, booming straight at you--whom some one
compared to the Lord Mayor's man in armour turned into a cherub, and
broken loose--(get out of his way, for he is absorbed in business)--
is probably a wood-borer, {85c} of whose work you may read in Mr.
Wood's Homes without Hands. That long black wasp, commonly called a
Jack Spaniard, builds pensile paper nests under every roof and shed.
Watch, now, this more delicate brown wasp, probably one of the
Pelopoei of whom we have read in Mr. Gosse's Naturalist in Jamaica
and Mr. Bates's Travels on the Amazons. She has made under a shelf
a mud nest of three long cells, and filled them one by one with
small spiders, and the precious egg which, when hatched, is to feed
on them. One hundred and eight spiders we have counted in a single
nest like this; and the wasp, much of the same shape as the Jack
Spaniard, but smaller, works, unlike him, alone, or at least only
with her husband's help. The long mud nest is built upright, often
in the angle of a doorpost or panel; and always added to, and
entered from, below. With a joyful hum she flies back to it all day
long with her pellets of mud, and spreads them out with her mouth
into pointed arches, one laid on the other, making one side of the
arch out of each pellet, and singing low but cheerily over her work.
As she works downward, she parts off the tube of the nest with
horizontal floors of a finer and harder mud, and inside each storey
places some five spiders, and among them the precious egg, or eggs,
which is to feed on them when hatched. If we open the uppermost
chamber, we shall find every vestige of the spiders gone, and the
cavity filled (and, strange to say, exactly filled) by a brown-
coated wasp-pupa, enveloped in a fine silken shroud. In the chamber
below, perhaps, we shall find the grub full-grown, and finishing his
last spicier; and so on, down six or eight storeys, till the lowest
holds nothing but spiders, packed close, but not yet sealed up.
These spiders, be it remembered, are not dead. By some strange
craft, the wasp knows exactly where to pierce them with her sting,
so as to stupefy, but not to kill, just as the sand-wasps of our
banks at home stupefy the large weevils which they store in their
burrows as food for their grubs.

There are wasps too, here, who make pretty little jar-shaped nests,
round, with a neatly lined round lip. Paper-nests, too, more like
those of our tree-wasps at home, hang from the trees in the woods.
Ants' nests, too, hang sometimes from the stronger boughs, looking
like huge hard lumps of clay. And, once at least, we have found
silken nests of butterflies or moths, containing many chrysalids
each. Meanwhile, dismiss from your mind the stories of insect
plagues. If good care is taken to close the mosquito curtains at
night, the flies about the house are not nearly as troublesome as we
have often found the midges in Scotland. As for snakes, we have
seen none; centipedes are, certainly, apt to get into the bath, but
can be fished out dead, and thrown to the chickens. The wasps and
bees do not sting, or in any wise interfere with our comfort, save
by building on the books. The only ants who come into the house are
the minute, harmless, and most useful 'crazy ants,' who run up and
down wildly all day, till they find some eatable thing, an atom of
bread or a disabled cockroach, of which last, by the by, we have
seen hardly any here. They then prove themselves in their sound
senses by uniting to carry off their prey, some pulling, some
pushing, with a steady combination of effort which puts to shame an
average negro crew. And these are all we have to fear, unless it be
now and then a huge spider, which it is not the fashion here to
kill, as they feed on flies. So comfort yourself with the thought
that, as regards insect pests, we are quite as comfortable as in an
country-house, and infinitely more comfortable than in English
country-house, and infinitely more comfortable than in a Scotch
shooting lodge, let alone an Alpine chalet.

Lizards run about the walks in plenty, about the same size is the
green lizard of the South of Europe, but of more sober colours. The
parasol ants--of whom I could tell you much, save that you will read
far more than I can tell you in half a dozen books at home--walk in
triumphal processions, each with a bit of green leaf borne over its
head, and probably, when you look closely, with a little ant or two
riding on it, and getting a lift home after work on their stronger
sister's back--and these are all the monsters which you are likely
to meet.

Would that there were more birds to be seen and heard! But of late
years the free Negro, like the French peasant during the first half
of this century, has held it to be one of the indefeasible rights of
a free man to carry a rusty gun, and to shoot every winged thing.
He has been tempted, too, by orders from London shops for gaudy
birds--humming-birds especially. And when a single house, it is
said, advertises for 20,000 bird-skins at a time, no wonder if birds
grow scarce; and no wonder, too, if the wholesale destruction of
these insect-killers should avenge itself by a plague of vermin,
caterpillars, and grubs innumerable. Already the turf of the
Savannah or public park, close by, is being destroyed by hordes of
mole-crickets, strange to say, almost exactly like those of our old
English meadows; and unless something is done to save the birds, the
cane and other crops will surely suffer in their turn. A gun-
licence would be, it seems, both unpopular and easily evaded in a
wild forest country. A heavy export tax on bird-skins has been
proposed. May it soon be laid on, and the vegetable wealth of the
island saved, at the expense of a little less useless finery in
young ladies' hats.

So we shall see and hear but few birds round Port of Spain, save the
black vultures {87a}--Corbeaux, as they call them here; and the
black 'tick birds,' {87b} a little larger than our English
blackbird, with a long tail and a thick-hooked bill, who perform for
the cattle here the same friendly office as is performed by
starlings at home. Privileged creatures, they cluster about on
rails and shrubs within ten feet of the passer, while overhead in
the tree-tops the 'Qu'est ce qu'il dit,' {87c} a brown and yellow
bird, who seems almost equally privileged and insolent, inquires
perpetually what you say. Besides these, swallows of various kinds,
little wrens, {87d} almost exactly like our English ones, and night-
hawking goat-suckers, few birds are seen. But, unseen, in the
depths of every wood, a songster breaks out ever and anon in notes
equal for purity and liveliness to those of our English thrush, and
belies the vulgar calumny that tropic birds, lest they should grow
too proud of their gay feathers, are denied the gift of song.

One look, lastly, at the animals which live, either in cages or at
liberty, about the house. The queen of all the pets is a black and
gray spider monkey {88} from Guiana--consisting of a tail which has
developed, at one end, a body about twice as big as a hare's; four
arms (call them not legs), of which the front ones have no thumbs,
nor rudiments of thumbs; and a head of black hair, brushed forward
over the foolish, kindly, greedy, sad face, with its wide,
suspicious, beseeching eyes, and mouth which, as in all these
American monkeys, as far as we have seen, can have no expression,
not even that of sensuality, because it has no lips. Others have
described the spider monkey as four legs and a tail, tied in a knot
in the middle: but the tail is, without doubt, the most important
of the five limbs. Wherever the monkey goes, whatever she does, the
tail is the standing-point, or rather hanging-point. It takes one
turn at least round something or other, provisionally, and in case
it should be wanted; often, as she swings, every other limb hangs in
the most ridiculous repose, and the tail alone supports. Sometimes
it carries, by way of ornament, a bunch of flowers or a live kitten.
Sometimes it is curled round the neck, or carried over the head in
the hands, out of harm's way; or when she comes silently up behind
you, puts her cold hand in yours, and walks by your side like a
child, she steadies herself by taking a half-turn of her tail round
your wrist. Her relative Jack, of whom hereafter, walks about
carrying his chain, to ease his neck, in a loop of his tail. The
spider monkey's easiest attitude in walking, and in running also,
is, strangely, upright, like a human being: but as for her antics,
nothing could represent them to you, save a series of photographs,
and those instantaneous ones; for they change, every moment, not by
starts, but with a deliberate ease which would be grace in anything
less horribly ugly, into postures such as Callot or Breughel never
fancied for the ugliest imps who ever tormented St. Anthony. All
absurd efforts of agility which you ever saw at a seance of the
Hylobates Lar Club at Cambridge are quiet and clumsy compared to the
rope-dancing which goes on in the boughs of the Poui tree, or, to
their great detriment, of the Bougainvillea and the Gardenia on the
lawn. But with all this, Spider is the gentlest, most obedient, and
most domestic of beasts. Her creed is, that yellow bananas are the
summum bonum; and that she must not come into the dining-room, or
even into the verandah; whither, nevertheless, she slips, in fear
and trembling, every morning, to steal the little green parrot's
breakfast out of his cage, or the baby's milk, or fruit off the
side-board; in which case she makes her appearance suddenly and
silently, sitting on the threshold like a distorted fiend; and
begins scratching herself, looking at everything except the fruit,
and pretending total absence of mind, till the proper moment comes
for unwinding her lengthy ugliness, and making a snatch at the
table. Poor weak-headed thing, full of foolish cunning; always
doing wrong, and knowing that it is wrong, but quite unable to
resist temptation; and then profuse in futile explanations,
gesticulations, mouthings of an 'Oh!--oh!--oh!' so pitiably human,
that you can only punish her by laughing at her, which she does not
at all like. One cannot resist the fancy, while watching her,
either that she was once a human being, or that she is trying to
become one. But, at present, she has more than one habit to learn,
or to recollect, ere she become as fit for human society as the dog
or the cat. {89} Her friends are, every human being who will take
notice of her, and a beautiful little Guazupita, or native deer, a
little larger than a roe, with great black melting eyes, and a heart
as soft as its eyes, who comes to lick one's hand; believes in
bananas as firmly as the monkey; and when she can get no hand to
lick, licks the hairy monkey for mere love's sake, and lets it ride
on her back, and kicks it off, and lets it get on again and take a
half-turn of its tail round her neck, and throttle her with its
arms, and pull her nose out of the way when a banana is coming: and
all out of pure love; for the two have never been introduced to each
other by man; and the intimacy between them, like that famous one
between the horse and the hen, is of Nature's own making up.

Very different from the spider monkey in temper is her cousin Jack,
who sits, sullen and unrepentant, at the end of a long chain, having
an ugly liking for the calves of passers-by, and ugly teeth to
employ on them. Sad at heart he is, and testifies his sadness
sometimes by standing bolt upright, with his long arms in postures
oratorio, almost prophetic, or, when duly pitied and moaned to,
lying down on his side, covering his hairy eyes with one hairy arm,
and weeping and sobbing bitterly. He seems, speaking
scientifically, to be some sort of Mycetes or Howler, from the flat
globular throat, which indicates the great development of the hyoid
bone; but, happily for the sleep of the neighbourhood, he never
utters in captivity any sound beyond a chuckle; and he is supposed,
by some here, from his burly thick-set figure, vast breadth between
the ears, short neck, and general cast of countenance, to have been,
in a prior state of existence, a man and a brother--and that by no
means of negro blood--who has gained, in this his purgatorial stage
of existence, nothing save a well-earned tail. At all events, more
than one of us was impressed, at the first sight, with the
conviction that we had seen him before.

Poor Jack! and it is come to this: and all from the indulgence of
his five senses, plus 'the sixth sense of vanity.' His only
recreation save eating is being led about by the mulatto turnkey,
the one human being with whom he, dimly understanding what is fit
for him, will at all consort; and having wild pines thrown down to
him from the Poui tree above by the spider monkey, whose gambols he
watches with pardonable envy. Like the great Mr. Barry Lyndon (the
acutest sketch of human nature dear Thackeray ever made), he cannot
understand why the world is so unjust and foolish as to have taken a
prejudice against him. After all, he is nothing but a strong nasty
brute; and his only reason for being here is that he is a new and
undescribed species, never seen before, and, it is to be hoped,
never to be seen again.

In a cage near by (for there is quite a little menagerie here) are
three small Sapajous, {90} two of which belong to the island; as
abject and selfish as monkeys usually are, and as uninteresting;
save for the plain signs which they give of being actuated by more
than instinct,--by a 'reasoning' power exactly like in kind, though
not equal in degree, to that of man. If, as people are now too much
induced to believe, the brain makes the man, and not some higher
Reason connected intimately with the Moral Sense, which will endure
after the brain has turned to dust; if to foresee consequences from
experience, and to adapt means to ends, be the highest efforts of
the intellect: then who can deny that the Sapajou proves himself a
man and a brother, plus a tail, when he puts out a lighted cigar-end
before he chews it, by dipping it into the water-pan; and that he
may, therefore, by long and steady calculations about the
conveniences of virtue and inconveniences of vice, gradually cure
himself and his children of those evil passions which are defined as
'the works of the flesh,' and rise to the supremest heights of
justice, benevolence, and purity? We, who have been brought up in
an older, and as we were taught to think, a more rational creed, may

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