Obeah

that the best thing they could do was to take no notice of our sloop when she came into the little bay.

"We advanced noiselessly towards the overturned boat, where our enemy, like a hermit crab, was lying in wait* to pounce down on the first cask we landed. Getting close up behind, we could hear him whistling very softly to himself, no doubt already reckoning his share of such a fine haul. 'By Jove ! the sloop must be worth four hundred or five hundred pounds; and the cargo perhaps two hundred pounds more; I am sure the boss ought to give me a cool hundred for this/ Such were most probably his happy thoughts, which were doomed to come to an unpleasant rupture, for suddenly kicking down the supports, we caused the uplifted 6ide of the boat to fall to the ground, thus completely covering up our revenue officer, who had now become as harmless to us as if he had been twenty miles of£ The poor fellow on finding himself a prisoner, seemed cruelly distressed. His futile efforts to raise the boat were most ludicrous; his prison, besides being very weighty, was rendered immovable by our sitting upon it. You may imagine how we laughed at his muffled shouts for help: he thumped and kicked away to his heart's content, or rather discontent, and very soon subsided into com* parative silence.

"Our adversary now being safely disposed of, we, could leisurely proceed to land, so I despatched the boy to get tbe boat and tell tbe men to begin unloading. The first boat-load came ashore, a puncheon of rum, and some brandy was landed and carried off by the people who were ready to receive it. T The unfeeling mate, as every package came ashore, rapped his knuckles on the top of the boat aud in the most respectful tones, 'Another puncheon gone, sir; this makes three, you had better check it off Seven more cases of brandy to come, sir!' The poor fellow insido, meanwhile making the most terrific threats. Every now and then he would yell out, / Let me out, I tell you, you'll repent of this.' Then he would come down the scalo,' Oh, come on, let me out, and I shan't split on you/ No doubt he was beginning to feel the sand cold, lying a few hours on the beach at night is not pleasant. Then he would go off on another tack, and yell out (the voice sounded rather feeble to us), * Remember, it is fifty pounds fine for obstruction, you had better let me out.' He must have got pretty tired, as after kicking the inside of the boat for about two hours, he seemed partially to collapse, and only disturbed us now and then by a few cries for help. The things had nearly all been landed, when we began to consider what measures we could take to prevent his seeing any of us, which would never do, as the alarm would be given and we should thenceforward be unable to touch at the island as a peaceful and law-abiding trader. One of the men, however, brought some pickets and hammered them deep into the sand, on hoth sides of the overturned boat, which by means of these, was firmly lashed with ropes to the ground. The defeated foe being disposed of, we finally : arranged matters on shore, got into our boat, and half-an-hour after the Artful Dodger had shaken out her sails and was standing out to sea. As to the unfortunate revenue officer, I believe his renewed shouts and kicks attracted the attention, the next morning, of some passers-by, who delivered him from 'his ignominious position. He really deserved something for his pluck, I hope the Governor rewarded him."

By the time the captain had ended his story, night had closed in once more. The fire-flies were flitting round the summits of the nutmeg-trees and the infinite army of humming insects had begun their ceaseless chorus. A glorious full moon had risen, Venus like, from the waves and was shedding her pure silvery light over the ocean, giving it the appearance of a mighty silver shield.

Some flickering lights on the opposite hill-side induced someone to say that the loupgaroos were out to-night, and at their ghastly pranks, and another of the visitors began to make some reflections on this ridiculous creole superstition. Our host, in the course of the conversation, remarked how deeply rooted and ancient was this belief in the existence of vampires, and bringing out a very rare, valuable old *

work on the West Indies—" Nouveaux voyages aux Isles d'Amérique, par Père Labat "—translated to us an interesting passage where the old author gave a most extraordinary anecdote relating to the wonderful achievements of an old sorceress doing business in the vampire line. The extract was as follows :—

"Nearly all the negroes who leave their country, having attained the age of manhood, are sorcerers, or, at all events, are much tainted with magic, witchcraft, and poison. The incident which I am going to relate, although extremely marvellous, cannot be doubted, as I possess the proofs of its authenticity.

" The Count de Genness, commanding a squadron of the king's ships, having reduced the fort of Goree in 1696, embarked on two of his ships all the negroes found in the baracoons of the English traders and despatched them' to the French Islands. In one of these ships were found some black women much versed in the diabolical sciences, and who worked their spells to such effect that the vessel became almost stationary, and the voyage, usually performed in twice twenty-four hours, took seven weeks, the ship remaining as if 6tuck fast in the same spot, a few leagues from land, notwithstanding that there was a favourable wind blowing continually. Such an extraordinary occurrence much amazed the officers and crew, who, not knowing the cause of this phenomenon, could not remedy it. Water and provisions began to fail, there was a great mortality among the blacks and a great many were thrown overboard. Some of them, when about to die, complained of an old black woman, accusing her of being the cause of their death, saying that she had threatened to eat their hearts out, and that they were gradually wasting away, whilst suffering great pain. The captain of the ship caused the bodies of some of these negroes to be opened, and their hearts and livers were really found to be as dry and empty as a bladder, although otherwise they seemed in their natural condition.

"The captain then caused the accused black woman to be tied to one of the guns and severely whipped; so as to force her to acknowledge the crime with which she was charged. -As she did not seem to feel the blows, the surgeon-major of the ship thought that the provost was not striking hard enough, and, taking a rope's end, he struck her several times with it, with all his might. The witch affected still more than before not to feel the slightest pain, and toll the surgeon that as he was ill-treating her without reason she would make him repent of it, and would eat his heart also. Two days after, the surgeon died in agony. His body was opened, and his heart and liver were found to be as dry as parchment.

" The captain did not know what to do after what had just occurred. He might easily have had the woman strangled or thrown into the sea; but he feared that she was not the only one, and that her companions in the black art might retaliate and re-

yenge her death; so, on the contrary, he treated her well and made her the grandest promises if she would cease her evil practices. A bargain was made and it was agreed that she should be sent back to her country, with two or three others whom she named, on condition she promised to allow the ship to continue its journey. In order to impress this officer with a sense of her power, she asked if he had any fruit, or anything else eatable on board. He answered that he had some water-melons. 'Show them to me/ returned she, 'and without touching or coming near them, I engage- to have eaten them before twenty-four hours are over.9 He accepted the challenge and showed her some water-melons, which he placed in a box which was immediately locked/ and of which he placed the key in his pocket. The next morning the woman asked him to look at the melons; he opened the box in which they had been placed, and, to his great satisfaction, found them seemingly untouched; his joy, however, was but of short duration, and was changed to extreme astonishment on attempting to take up the fruit; they were entirely empty, and nothing but the skin remained inflated like a balloon and dry as parchment. The ship was accordingly obliged to return to land, to take in water and fresh supplies. The redoubtable woman was left on shore with several of her associates, and the ship thereupon continued and performed her voyage in a perfectly prosperous manner/'

CHAPTER XVI.

The last, which should have been first—Erroneous ideas on tlie climate of the West Indies—" The white man's grave "— Low death-rate in Grenada—Origin and cause of bad reputation—Drink! —Scenery in Grenada—Fronde on the West Indies—Coloured people—Representative institutions—Hope for the West Indies!

On thinking over what I am about to write, I find that I have left for the last chapter what ought really to have appeared in tho first. When I began this little volume I resolved to do my best to remove a few of the erroneous ideas 80 prevalent in England about the climate and actual state of tho West Indian colonies, and I now find that, apart from what may be gathered by the reader from the foregoing rough sketches, I have given no statistics or comparative statement, which would show more clearly than anything else how far from the truth are the ideas entertained "at home" about the West Indies.

Figures are rarely interesting except when they appear on the right side of one's bank book, but they convey, in statistics, better than anything else, the true impression generally sought to be given in av book treating of history or geography. Hours of talking and quires of scribbling would do but little to alter the ideas of people who have always been led to believe that the "West Indies come next to the Gold Coast in point of a deadly climate. The title of a pleasantly written little book, "A West Indian Sanatorium and a Guide to Barbados/' published last year, must have caused many who had not read the contents to smile grimly at what they took to be a lugubrious piece of satire, but when figures are put side by side, and one is forced to believe that even in Barbados, the place known in England as " the white man's grave," the death-rate is 2*98 per cent., that white children, as a rule, grow up excessively strong and healthy, that few countries in the world can show such high numbers where the deceased have reached an age above sixty, and that small-pox, pulmonary diseases and diphtheria are almost unknown, the reader is forced to consider that he has been labouring under a false impression. Many people at home imagine that yellow fever is established en permanence in the West Indian colonies, andthat the chances are two to one in favour of being carried off by it.

Nor is Barbados the exception among the West Indian islands in points of salubrity. Barring British Guiana, with its fever-stricken swamps, nearly every other colony, and especially the smaller islands, can show as small and even smaller death-rates than Barbados. Grenada, for instance, has not suffered from an epidemic for over thirty years. Its death-

rate is 2*46 per cent., and phthisis, scarlet fever and consumption are quite unknown. The reader may ask, "Then how on earth did the colonies earn their bad reputationP" The answer is, "Through the class of men which formerly colonized these islands.'1 Fifty or sixty years ago, large numbers of young Scotchmen and Englishmen of low extraction were sent out by the absentee owners of estates as overseers and managers. In nine cases out of ten, these young men fell victims, not to " this fatal climate," as one sees inscribed on their tombstones—but to their careless habits, grossly immoral conduct and hard rum-drinking. Many of these unfortunates died from want of care and coarse nourishment. To hard drinking, however, ought mainly to bo ascribed the evil reputation of the West Indian colonies ; these young English and Scotch immigrants, long before they were acclimatized to the tropics, would indulge in unlimited quantities of the poisonous common rum manufactured on the estates, and in many cases would generally be carried off by delirium tremens. The cause of their deaths would never bo reported home under its true name, but rather as "fever" and " the effects of this deadly climate! "

Happily "nous avons changS tout cela," and deaths from intemperance are at present rare—at all events in Grenada. I fear one cannot 'say as much for British Guiana, where eight or nine gin zwizzles before breakfast are almost an institution. Morals, too,vI

think, are improving, but what with tho warm climate, easy notions of the lower classes on virtue, and moderate exactions of the West Indian Phrynes, there is a good deal of room for improvement.

The scenery of the West Indian islands is generally celebrated, thanks to Eingsley, Trollope, Lady Brassey, Froude and many others, and of all the lovely islands of the Caribbean Sea, Grenada is generally allowed to be the " Pearl of the Antilles."

Between St. Vincent and Grenada, the English steamer passes through a chain of nearly four hundred little islets of surpassing beauty. Each one seems more beautiful than the last, and almost makes one wish to emulate Alexander Selkirk; the deep ultramarine of the ocean gradually toning down to a lovely sea green, while a dazzling white strip of sand divides the miniature waves from the cool green shore. Clumps of waving cocoanut palms grow right down almost to tbe water's edge, their feathery spathes tipped with the golden light of the tropic sun, while the cool dark shade beneath makes one long to jump overboard and swim ashore.

Clumsy-looking grey pelicans, with immense long beaks, hover above the undulating waves in quest of their prey, while now and then a silver-gleaming flying-fish will skim above the water for a few seconds, trying to escape from its inveterate foes, the dolphin or barpcouta. .

Tho rate at which the steamer goes along hardly gives one more than a harried glimpse of these lovely little islets. Some of them are just masses of grey and white cliffs, seeming quite inaccessible and only tenanted by immense numbers of pelicans, man-'o'-war birds and sea-gulls, which, if the steamer blew its whistle, would fly out from the crevices in such swarms as to positively darken the air.

Presently the steamer passes larger islands, some measuring two or three miles in circumference. One or two of them are inhabited, and a few little brown thatched huts may be seen standing in the midst of a green patch of plantains, while the little fishing canoes lie run up on the dazzling white beach.

Grenada, which up to now had loomed in the distant horizon, like a dark-lying cloud, begins to grow more and more distinct, and one is soon able to discern the bright white strip of sand along the sea shore, while above that, patches of light-green sugar-canes can be described; and higher up still, as the island shelves up gradually, the dark-green forest-clad hills and mountains overtop each other until they culminate in two or three lofty peaks rearing their summits high up in the bright blue sky.

As the steamer comes closer in shore, one is soon able to make out the little negro houses which dot the coast, while here and there, nestling in the midst of broad fields of bright green sugar-cane, a mass of fine large buildings, evidently sugar-works, may be seen. In most cases, near by, on a small eminence, a prettily painted villa, with bright red roof, peeps put of clumps of glorious palmistes or mountain palms, rearing their plumed heads a hundred feet from the ground.

Presently, turning a little promontory, we come in sight of a cosy little town clustered round a couple of churches whose tinkling bells may almost be heard calling to morning service. Yalley after valley spreads itself out before the traveller's eyes until, after coasting round the island some twenty miles, he at last comes in sight of St. George's, the chief town of the island. As the steamer nears the bay, a number of cranky little canoes will be passed, each manned by almost, if not entirely, naked black men, who haul up their fishing-nets and lines without the slightest con« cern at their more than airy attire. Now and then larger canoes will be overtaken, evidently carrying passengers from the. coast to the chief towns, and sailing pretty swiftly along under one huge leg of mutton sail supported by a bamboo mast right in the bows.

St. George's is a very picturesque little town, seen from the sea, and, to judge from appearances, should be a very religious one. No less than three large churches, and two smaller edifices which look like chapels, seem to domineer over the cluster of houses built around them.

A small promontory, on which appears a picturesque old fort and a glaring white hospital, juts out into the bay and forms one of the loveliest and safest harbours one could ever wish to see. In formation very much

- resembling Dartmouth, the land rises up all round tbe almost land-locked harbour, and numbers of prettily painted villas and cottages dot the hill-sides. Feathery clumps of bamboos grow side by side with the glorious scarlet " flamboyant," while here, there and everywhere, cocoa-nut palms and palmistes give a distinctive tropical cachet to the whole scene. In the distance, above the hills surrounding the harbour, one can see the pale blue peaks of the mountains inland, picked out against the serene blue sky, while all around groves of cocoa-nut trees, cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices, 'seem to load the breeze with heavy odours.

While giving full justice to the picturesque beauty of the islands, many of the authors who have written on these colonies have evidently come out with a parti pris, and seem to have made up their minds to see everything in accordance with their preconceived notions on these colonies.

Though perfectly correct in many of his remarks, Froude, in his book, "The English in the West Indies,'9 goes rather far in his undoubted prejudice against the negroes and coloured population of the West Indies. While deprecating my presumption in criticizing such an author as Froude, I am bound to say that his interesting work on these islands, though vigorously and graphically written, is not as reliable in its details as might have been expected. Mr. Froude took about two months to " rush around" the

West Indies, and during that short space of time appears to have visited some fifteen or twenty different places. He devotes a whole chapter to Grenada^ and yet as a fact, only came ashore for dinner and was off again the same evening, by the same steamer. Consequent on this thorough investigation, Mr. Froude managed to find out that the colony was virtually in the hands of the blacks, and that the whites were evacuating the place as quickly as possible. Had Mr. Froude taken the trouble to look up the statistics of the island, he would have found that at the end of last century, when the West Indian colonies were at the height of their prosperity, Grenada numbered, exclusive of the English troops, some twelve hundred whites and twenty-three thousand slaves and free coloured people. The last census, taken in 1882, showed over nine hundred whites and forty-four thousand people of colour..

Mr. Froude seems to judge of the prosperity of s colony by the number of English-born inhabitants it possesses. We are inclined to think, however, that s colony derives more benefit from a settled population of well-educated and energetic Creoles, who are thoroughly acclimatized and possess a stake in the country, than from a fluctuating number of roving English people who stay in the colony for a few years, make what money they can, live as economically ts possible, and finally clear out with their " pile " without having endowed the colony with any corresponding benefit.

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