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Title: Due South or Cuba Past and Present
Author: Ballou, Maturin Murray, 1820-1895
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Due South or Cuba Past and Present" ***

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TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:

1) Passages in italics are surrounded by _underscores_.

2) A few chapter sub-headings do not end with a period. For consistency,
  obvious errors have been corrected by ending these with a period.

3) A few obvious misprints where sentences did not end with a period have
  been corrected.

4) The words "manoeuvres" and "manoeuvre" use oe ligature in the original.

5) The following misprints have been corrected:
  "which we pet in our" corrected to "which we put in our" (page 243)
  "Britian" corrected to "Britain" (page 271)

6) Other than the corrections listed above, printer's inconsistencies in
  spelling, punctuation, hyphenation and ligature usage have been retained.



                               DUE SOUTH
                         CUBA PAST AND PRESENT


                                  BY
                           MATURIN M. BALLOU
        AUTHOR OF "DUE WEST; OR ROUND THE WORLD IN TEN MONTHS"


                          BOSTON AND NEW YORK
                    HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN AND COMPANY
                    The Riverside Press, Cambridge


                           Copyright, 1885,
                         By MATURIN M. BALLOU.

                        _All rights reserved._


                         ELEVENTH IMPRESSION


      _The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A._
    Electrotyped and Printed by H. O. Houghton & Company.



                               PREFACE.


The public favor accorded to a late volume by the author of these
pages, entitled "Due West; or Round the World in Ten Months," has
suggested both the publication and the title of the volume in hand,
which consists of notes of a voyage to the tropics, and a sojourn
in Cuba during the last winter. The endeavor has been to present a
comprehensive view of the island, past and present, and to depict
the political and moral darkness which have so long enshrouded it.
A view of its interesting inhabitants, with a glance at its beautiful
flora and vegetation generally, has been a source of such hearty
enjoyment to the author that he desires to share the pleasure with
the appreciative reader. The great importance of the geographical
position of the island, its present critical condition, and the
proposed treaty of commerce with this country, together render it
at present of unusual interest in the eyes of the world. If possible,
Cuba is more Castilian than peninsular Spain, and both are so Moorish
as to present a fascinating study of national characteristics.

                                                              M. M. B.



                              CONTENTS.


                              CHAPTER I.
                                                                    PAGE
    Departure. -- On Board Ship. -- Arrival at Nassau. -- Capital
    of the Bahamas. -- Climate. -- Soil. -- Fruits and Flowers.
    -- Magic Fertility. -- Colored Population. -- The Blockade
    Runners. -- Population. -- Products. -- A Picturesque Local
    Scene. -- Superstition. -- Fish Story. -- The Silk-Cotton
    Tree. -- Remarkable Vegetation. -- The Sea Gardens. -- Marine
    Animal Life. -- The Bahama Banks. -- Burial at Sea. -- Venal
    Officials. -- Historical Characters. -- The Early Buccaneers.
    -- Diving for Drinking-Water.                                      1

                             CHAPTER II.

    Among the Islands. -- San Salvador. -- A Glimpse at the
    Stars. -- Hayti. -- The Gulf Stream. -- The Caribbean Sea. --
    Latitude and Longitude. -- The Southern Coast of Cuba. -- A
    Famous Old Fortress. -- Fate of Political Prisoners. -- The
    Oldest City in Cuba. -- The Aborigines. -- Cuban Cathedrals.
    -- Drinking Saloons. -- Dogs, Horses, and Coolies. -- Scenes
    in Santiago de Cuba. -- Devoured by Sharks. -- Lying at
    Anchor. -- Wreck of a Historic Ship. -- Cuban Circulating
    Medium. -- Tropical Temperature.                                  24

                             CHAPTER III.

    Doubling Cape Cruz. -- Trinidad. -- Cienfuegos. -- The Plaza.
    -- Beggars. -- Visit to a Sugar Plantation. -- Something
    about Sugar. -- An Original Character. -- A Tropical Fruit
    Garden. -- Cuban Hospitality. -- The Banana. -- Lottery
    Tickets. -- Chinese Coolies. -- Blindness in Cuba. -- Birds
    and Poultry. -- The Cock-Pit. -- Negro Slavery, To-Day. --
    Spanish Slaveholders. -- A Slave Mutiny. -- A Pleasant
    Journey across the Island. -- Pictures of the Interior. --
    Scenery about Matanzas. -- The Tropics and the North
    contrasted.                                                       46

                             CHAPTER IV.

    The Great Genoese Pilot. -- Discovery of Cuba. -- Its Various
    Names. -- Treatment of the Natives. -- Tobacco! -- Flora of
    the Island. -- Strange Idols. -- Antiquity. -- Habits of the
    Aborigines. -- Remarkable Speech of an Indian King. -- A
    Native Entertainment. -- Paying Tribute. -- Ancient Remains.
    -- Wrong Impression of Columbus. -- First Attempt at
    Colonization. -- Battle with the Indians. -- First Governor
    of Cuba. -- Founding Cities. -- Emigration from Spain. --
    Conquest of Mexico.                                               70

                              CHAPTER V.

    Baracoa, the First Capital. -- West Indian Buccaneers. --
    Military Despotism. -- A Perpetual State of Siege. -- A
    Patriotic Son of Cuba. -- Political Condition of the Island.
    -- Education of Cuban Youths. -- Attempts at Revolution. --
    Fate of General Narciso Lopez. -- The Late Civil War and its
    Leader. -- Terrible Slaughter of Spanish Troops. --
    Stronghold of the Insurgents. -- Guerrillas. -- Want of
    Self-Reliance. -- Spanish Art, Literature, and Conquest. --
    What Spain was. -- What Spain is. -- Rise and Fall of an
    Empire.                                                           88

                             CHAPTER VI.

    Geographical. -- A Remarkable Weed. -- Turtle-Hunting. --
    Turtle-Steaks in Olden Times. -- The Gulf Stream. -- Deep-Sea
    Soundings. -- Mountain Range of Cuba. -- Curious Geological
    Facts. -- Subterranean Caverns. -- Wild Animals. -- The
    Rivers of the Island. -- Fine Harbors. -- Historic Memories
    of the Caribbean Sea. -- Sentinel of the Gulf. -- Importance
    of the Position. -- Climate. -- Hints for Invalids. --
    Matanzas. -- Execution of a Patriot. -- Valley of Yumuri;
    Caves of Bellamar; Puerto Principe; Cardenas.                    102

                             CHAPTER VII.

    City of Havana. -- First Impressions. -- The Harbor. --
    Institutions. -- Lack of Educational Facilities. -- Cuban
    Women. -- Street Etiquette. -- Architecture. -- Domestic
    Arrangements. -- Barred Windows and Bullet-Proof Doors. --
    Public Vehicles. -- Uncleanliness of the Streets. -- Spanish
    or African! -- The Church Bells. -- Home-Keeping Habits of
    Ladies. -- Their Patriotism. -- Personal Characteristics. --
    Low Ebb of Social Life. -- Priestcraft. -- Female Virtue. --
    Domestic Ties. -- A Festive Population. -- Cosmetics. --
    Sea-Bathing.                                                     125

                            CHAPTER VIII.

    Sabbath Scenes in Havana. -- Thimble-Riggers and Mountebanks.
    -- City Squares and their Ornamentation. -- The Cathedral. --
    Tomb of Columbus. -- Plaza de Armas. -- Out-Door Concerts. --
    Habitués of Paseo de Isabella. -- Superbly Appointed Cafés.
    -- Gambling. -- Lottery Tickets. -- Fast Life. -- Masquerade
    Balls. -- Carnival Days. -- The Famous Tacon Theatre. -- The
    Havana Casino. -- Public Statues. -- Beauties of the
    Governor's Garden. -- The Alameda. -- The Old Bell-Ringer. --
    Military Mass.                                                   144

                             CHAPTER IX.

    Political Inquisition. -- Fashionable Streets of the City. --
    Tradesmen's Signs. -- Bankrupt Condition of Traders. -- The
    Spanish Army. -- Exiled Patriots. -- Arrival of Recruits. --
    The Garrote. -- A Military Execution. -- Cuban Milk Dealers.
    -- Exposure of Domestic Life. -- Living in the Open Air. --
    The Campo Santo of Havana. -- A Funeral Cortége. -- Punishing
    Slaves. -- Campo de Marte. -- Hotel Telegrafo. -- Environs of
    the City. -- Bishop's Garden. -- Consul-General Williams. --
    Mineral Springs.                                                 166

                              CHAPTER X.

    The Fish-Market of Havana. -- The Dying Dolphin. -- Tax upon
    the Trade. -- Extraordinary Monopoly. -- Harbor Boats. -- A
    Story about Marti, the Ex-Smuggler. -- King of the Isle of
    Pines. -- The Offered Reward. -- Sentinels in the Plaza de
    Armas. -- The Governor-General and the Intruder. -- "I am
    Captain Marti!" -- The Betrayal. -- The Ex-Smuggler as Pilot.
    -- The Pardon and the Reward. -- Tacon's Stewardship and
    Official Career. -- Monopoly of Theatricals. -- A Negro
    Festival.                                                        184

                             CHAPTER XI.

    The Havana Lottery. -- Its Influence. -- Hospitality of the
    Cubans. -- About Bonnets. -- The Creole Lady's Face. -- Love
    of Flowers. -- An Atmospheric Narcotic. -- The Treacherous
    Indian Fig. -- How the Cocoanut is propagated. -- Cost of
    Living in Cuba. -- Spurious Liquors. -- A Pleasant Health
    Resort. -- The Cock-Pit. -- Game-Birds. -- Their Management.
    -- A Cuban Cock-Fight. -- Garden of the World. -- About
    Birds. -- Stewed Owl! -- Slaughter of the Innocents. -- The
    Various Fruits.                                                  200

                             CHAPTER XII.

    Traveling by Volante. -- Want of Inland Communication. --
    Americans Profitable Customers. -- The Cruel National Game.
    -- The Plaza de Toros. -- Description of a Bull-Fight. -- The
    Infection of Cruelty. -- The Romans and Spaniards compared.
    -- Cry of the Spanish Mob: "Bread and Bulls!" -- Women at the
    Fight. -- The Nobility of the Island. -- The Monteros. --
    Ignorance of the Common People. -- Scenes in the Central
    Market, Havana. -- Odd Ideas of Cuban Beggars. -- An Original
    Style of Dude. -- A Mendicant Prince.                            219

                            CHAPTER XIII.

    Introduction of Sugar-Cane. -- Sugar Plantations. -- Mode of
    Manufacture. -- Slaves on the Plantations. -- African
    Amusements. -- The Grinding Season. -- The Coffee
    Plantations. -- A Floral Paradise. -- Refugees from San
    Domingo. -- Interesting Experiments with a Mimosa. -- Three
    Staple Productions of Cuba. -- Raising Coffee and Tobacco. --
    Best Soils for the Tobacco. -- Agricultural Possibilities. --
    The Cuban Fire-Fly. -- A Much-Dreaded Insect. -- The Ceiba
    Tree. -- About Horses and Oxen.                                  236

                             CHAPTER XIV.

    Consumption of Tobacco. -- The Delicious Fruits of the
    Tropics. -- Individual Characteristics of Cuban Fruits. --
    The Royal Palm. -- The Mulberry Tree. -- Silk Culture. -- The
    Island once covered by Forests. -- No Poisonous Reptiles. --
    The Cuban Bloodhound. -- Hotbed of African Slavery. --
    Spain's Disregard of Solemn Treaties. -- The Coolie System of
    Slavery. -- Ah-Lee draws a Prize. -- Native African Races. --
    Negroes buying their Freedom. -- Laws favoring the Slaves. --
    Example of San Domingo. -- General Emancipation.                 260

                             CHAPTER XV.

    Slave Trade with Africa. -- Where the Slavers made their
    Landing. -- An Early Morning Ride. -- Slaves marching to
    Daily Labor. -- Fragrance of the Early Day. -- Mist upon the
    Waters. -- A Slave Ship. -- A Beautiful but Guilty
    Brigantine. -- A French Cruiser. -- Cunning Seamanship. -- A
    Wild Goose Chase. -- A Cuban Posada. -- Visit to a Coffee
    Estate. -- Landing a Slave Cargo. -- A Sight to challenge
    Sympathy and Indignation. -- Half-Starved Victims. --
    Destruction of the Slave Ship.                                   282

                             CHAPTER XVI.

    Antique Appearance of Everything. -- The Yeomen of Cuba. -- A
    Montero's Home. -- Personal Experience. -- The Soil of the
    Island. -- Oppression by the Government. -- Spanish Justice
    in Havana. -- Tax upon the Necessities of Life. -- The
    Proposed Treaty with Spain. -- A One-Sided Proposition. -- A
    Much Taxed People. -- Some of the Items of Taxation. -- Fraud
    and Bankruptcy. -- The Boasted Strength of Moro Castle. --
    Destiny of Cuba. -- A Heavy Annual Cost to Spain. --
    Political Condition. -- Pictures of Memory.                      300



                              DUE SOUTH.



                              CHAPTER I.

    Departure. -- On Board Ship. -- Arrival at Nassau. -- Capital
    of the Bahamas. -- Climate. -- Soil. -- Fruits and Flowers.
    -- Magic Fertility. -- Colored Population. -- The Blockade
    Runners. -- Population. -- Products. -- A Picturesque Local
    Scene. -- Superstition. -- Fish Story. -- The Silk-Cotton
    Tree. -- Remarkable Vegetation. -- The Sea Gardens. -- Marine
    Animal Life. -- The Bahama Banks. -- Burial at Sea. -- Venal
    Officials. -- Historical Characters. -- The Early Buccaneers.
    -- Diving for Drinking-Water.


We left Boston in a blustering snow-storm on the morning of February
25th, and reached New York city to find it also clothed in a wintry
garb, Broadway being lined on either side of its entire length with
tall piles of snow, like haycocks, prepared for carting away during
the coming night. Next morning, when we drove to the dock to take
passage on board the steamship Cienfuegos, the snow-mounds had all
been removed. The mail steamer sailed promptly at the hour assigned,
hauled out into the stream by a couple of noisy little tugs, with
two-inch hawsers made fast to stem and stern. Before sunset the pilot
left the ship, which was then headed due south for Nassau, N. P.,
escorted by large fields of floating ice, here and there decked with
lazy snow-white sea-gulls. The sharp northwest wind, though
blustering and aggressive, was in our favor, and the ship spread all
her artificial wings as auxiliary to her natural motor. We doubled
Cape Hatteras and Cape Lookout well in towards the shore, sighting on
the afternoon of the fourth day the Island of Abaco, largest of the
Bahama Isles, with its famous "Hole in the Wall" and sponge-lined
shore. The woolen clothing worn when we came on board ship had already
become oppressive, the cabin thermometer indicating 72° Fahrenheit.
With nothing to engage the eye save the blue sky and the bluer water,
the most is made of every circumstance at sea, and even trivial
occurrences become notable. The playful dolphins went through their
aquatic pantomime for our amusement. Half a dozen of them started off
just ahead of the cutwater, and raced the ship for two hours, keeping
exactly the same relative distance ahead without any apparent effort.
Scores of others leaped out of the water and plunged in again in
graceful curves, as though they enjoyed the sport. A tiny land bird
flew on board, and was chased all over the ship by one or two
juveniles until caught, panting and trembling with the unwonted
exertion. Presently it was given its liberty, partook freely of bread
crumbs and drank of fresh water, then assumed a perch aloft, where it
carefully dressed its feathers, and after thanking its entertainers
with a few cheerful notes it extended its wings and launched out into
space, no land being in sight. The broken mainmast of a ship,
floating, with considerable top hamper attached, was passed within a
cable's length, suggestive of a recent wreck, and inducing a thousand
dreary surmises. At first it was announced as the sea serpent, but its
true nature was soon obvious. At midnight, March 1st, Nassau light
hove in sight, dimmed by a thin, soft haze, which hung over the water,
and through which the light, by some law of refraction, seemed to be
coming out to meet the ship. Overhead all was bright,--almost dazzling
with unnumbered stars and familiar constellations, like silver
spangles on a background of blue velvet. We anchored off the island an
hour before daylight, the harbor being too shallow to admit the ship.
A forbidding sand bar blocks the entrance, inside of which the water
is but fifteen feet deep. Indeed, Nassau would have no harbor at all
were it not that nature has kindly placed Hog Island in the form of a
break-water, just off the town. The vibrating hull of the Cienfuegos
was once more at rest; the stout heart-throbs, the panting and
trembling, of the great engine had ceased; the wheelhouse and decks
were deserted, and one was fain to turn in below for a brief nap
before landing on this the most populous of the Bahamas.

The island, which was settled by Europeans as early as 1629, embraces
nearly a hundred square miles, forming an oasis in the desert of
waters. It is sixteen miles long and about one half as wide,
containing fourteen thousand inhabitants, more or less, who can hardly
be designated as an enterprising community. On first landing,
everything strikes the visitor as being peculiarly foreign,--almost
unique. The town is situated on the northerly front of the island,
extending along the shore for a couple of miles, and back to a crest
of land which rises to nearly the height of a hundred feet. This
elevation is crowned by the residence of the English Governor-General,
in front of which may be seen a colossal but not admirable statue of
Columbus. The town boasts a small public library, a museum, theatre,
several small churches, a prison, a hospital, and a bank. The
government maintains one company of infantry, composed of black men,
officered by whites. It must be admitted that they present a fine
military appearance when on parade. Nassau has long been a popular
resort for invalids who seek a soft, equable climate, and as it lies
between the warm South Atlantic and the Gulf Stream it is
characterized by the usual temperature of the tropics. There seemed to
be a certain enervating influence in the atmosphere, under the effects
of which the habitués of the place were plainly struck with a spirit
of indolence. The difference between those just arrived and the
regular guests of the Victoria Hotel, in this respect, could not fail
to be observed. The languidly oppressive warmth imparts a certain
softness to manners, a voluptuous love of idleness, and a glow to the
affections which are experienced with less force at the North. Neither
snow nor frost is ever encountered here, and yet it is as near to
Boston or New York as is the city of Chicago. The temperature, we are
told, never falls below 64° Fahrenheit, nor rises above 82°, the
variations rarely exceeding five degrees in twenty-four hours. In
Florida a change of twenty degrees is not unusual within the period of
a single day. The thermometer stood at 73° on the first day of March,
and everything was bathed in soft sunlight.

It is somewhat singular that an island like New Providence, which is
practically without soil, should be so remarkably productive in its
vegetation. It is surrounded by low-lying coral reefs, and is itself
composed of coral and limestone. These, pulverized, actually form the
earth out of which spring noble palm, banana, ceiba, orange, lemon,
tamarind, almond, mahogany, and cocoanut trees, with a hundred and one
other varieties of fruits, flowers, and woods, including the
bread-fruit tree, that natural food for indolent natives of equatorial
regions. Of course in such a soil the plough is unknown, its
substitutes being the pickaxe and crowbar. However, science teaches us
that all soils are but broken and decomposed rock, pulverized by
various agencies acting through long periods of time. So the molten
lava which once poured from the fiery mouth of Vesuvius has become the
soil of thriving vineyards, which produce the priceless Lachryma
Christi wine. This transformation is not accomplished in a lifetime,
but is the result of ages of slow disintegration.

Among other flowering trees, some strikingly beautiful specimens of
the alligator-pear in full bloom were observed, the blossom suggesting
the passion-flower. While our favorite garden plants at the North are
satisfied to bloom upon lowly bushes, at the South they are far more
ambitious, and develop into tall trees, though sometimes at the
partial expense of their fragrance. The air was full of sweet perfume
from the white blossoms of the shaddock, contrasting with the deep
glossy green of its thick-set leaves, the spicy pimento and cinnamon
trees being also noticeable. With all this charming floral effect the
bird melody which greets the ear in Florida was wanting, though it
would seem to be so natural an adjunct to the surroundings. Nature's
never-failing rule of compensation is manifested here: all the
attractions are not bestowed upon any one class; brilliancy of
feathers and sweetness of song do not go together. The torrid zone
endows the native birds with brilliant plumage, while the colder North
gives its feathered tribes the winning charm of melody.

The soil of these Bahama Islands, composed of such unpromising
ingredients, shows in its prolific yield how much vegetation depends
for its sustenance upon atmospheric air, especially in tropical
climes. The landlord of the Victoria Hotel told us, as an evidence of
the fertility of the soil, that radish seeds which were planted on the
first day of the month would sufficiently mature and ripen by the
twenty-first--that is in three weeks--for use upon the table; and also
that potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons were relatively
expeditious in ripening here after planting. Our mind reverted to the
jugglers of Madras and Bombay, who made an orange-tree grow from the
seed, and bear fruit before our very eyes, at a single sitting.

The luscious pineapple, zapota, mango, pomegranate, guava, star-apple,
citron, custard-apple, mammee, and other fruits abound. The
profuseness and variety of beautiful ferns and orchidaceous plants
will also be sure to attract the attention of the Northern visitor.
The rocky formation of the soil produces good natural roads, so that a
long drive in the environs of Nassau is like a pleasure excursion over
a well-macadamized thoroughfare. We were told of a delightful drive of
fifteen miles in length which follows the sea beach the whole
distance, but did not find time to test its attractions, though
strongly tempted by the excellence of the roads. Here, as in other
tropical regions, each month has its special floral display, although
there are many, and indeed a majority, of the plants which continue to
flower all the year round. We observed that the stone walls and
hedges were now and again covered for short spaces with the
coral-vine, whose red blossoms, so pleasing to the eye, emit no odor.
The yellow jasmine was dazzlingly conspicuous everywhere, and very
fragrant. Red and white roses, various species of cacti, and
tube-roses bloomed before the rude thatched cabins of the negroes in
the environs, as well as in the tiny front gardens of the whites in
the streets of the town; while red, white, and pink oleanders grew as
tall as trees, and flower here every month in the year. The
night-blooming cereus abounds, opening just at sunset, and closing
again at break of day. The outside leaves of this poetical flower are
of a pale green, the inner ones of a pure wax-like white, and the
petals light yellow. Complete, it is about eight inches long, and from
twelve to fifteen in circumference.

While we drove through the suburbs, slatternly, half-clothed family
groups of negroes watched us with curious eyes, and on the road aged
colored men and women were occasionally met, who saluted us with grave
dignity. No one seemed to be at work; sunshine was the only
perceptible thing going on, ripening the fruits and vegetables by its
genial rays, while the negroes waited for the harvest. Like the birds,
they had no occasion to sow, but only to pluck and to eat. There was,
both in and out of the town, a tumble-down, mouldy aspect to the
dwellings, which seemed to be singularly neglected and permitted to
lapse into decay. With the exception of the town of Nassau, and its
immediate environs, New Providence is nearly all water and wilderness;
it has some circumscribed lakes, but no mountains, rivers, or
rivulets. The island is justly famous for the beauty and variety of
its lovely flowers. It is true that the rose is not quite equal in
color, development, and fragrance to ours of the North; Nature has so
many indigenous flowers on which to expend her liberality that she
bestows less attention upon this, the loveliest of them all. The
Cherokee rose, single-leafed, now so rare with us, seems here to have
found a congenial foreign home. In the suburbs of Nassau are many
attractive flowers, fostered only by the hand of Nature. Among them
was the triangular cactus, with its beautiful yellow blossom, like a
small sunflower, supported by a deep green triangular stem.

The pendulous cactus was also hanging here and there on walls and tree
trunks, in queer little jointed, pipe-stem branches. The royal palm,
that king of tropical vegetation, is not very abundant here, but yet
sufficiently so to characterize the place. Its roots resemble those of
asparagus, and are innumerable. Another peculiarity of the palm is
that it starts a full-sized trunk; therefore, not the diameter, but
the height, determines its age, which is recorded by annual concentric
rings clearly defined upon its tall, straight stem.

During the late civil war in the United States, when blockade runners
made this place a port of call and a harbor for refitting, it was by
English connivance practically a Confederate port. The officers and
sailors expended their ill-gotten wealth with the usual lavishness of
the irresponsible, the people of Nassau reaping thereby a fabulous
harvest in cash. This was quite demoralizing to honest industry, and,
as might be expected, a serious reaction has followed. Legitimate
trade and industry will require years before they can reassert
themselves. Sudden and seeming prosperity is almost sure to be equally
transitory. We were told that, during the entire period in which the
Confederates resorted here under the open encouragement and protection
of England, the town was the scene of the most shameful drunken orgies
from morning until night. Lewdness and crime were rampant. Officers
played pitch-penny on the veranda of the Victoria Hotel with gold
eagles, and affiliated openly with negresses. The evil influence upon
all concerned was inevitable, and its poisonous effect is not yet
obliterated.

Three quarters of the present population are negroes, but of course
all trace of the aborigines has disappeared. It is curious and
interesting to know what Columbus thought of them. He wrote to his
royal mistress, after having explored these Bahamas, as follows: "This
country excels all others as far as the day surpasses the night in
splendor; the natives love their neighbors as themselves: their
conversation is the sweetest imaginable, and their faces are always
smiling. So gentle and so affectionate are they that I swear to your
highness there is no better people in the world."

The negroes are mostly engaged in cultivating patches of pineapples,
and yams, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables; a large number of the
males employ themselves also in fishing and gathering sponges. It will
be remembered that from this locality comes the principal supply of
coarse sponge for Europe and America. There is also a considerable
trade, carried on in a small way, in fine turtle-shell, which is
polished in an exquisite manner, and manufactured by the natives into
ornaments. Though the Bahama sponges are not equal to those obtained
in the Mediterranean, still they are marketable, and Nassau exports
half a million dollars' worth annually. It is a curious fact that
sponges can be propagated by cuttings taken from living specimens,
which, when attached to a piece of board and sunk in the sea, will
increase and multiply. Thus the finest Mediterranean specimens may be
successfully transplanted to the coral reefs of these islands, the
only requisite to their sustenance seeming to be a coralline shore and
limestone surroundings. Another important industry which gives
employment to a considerable number of the inhabitants is the canning
of pineapples, a process which is equivalent to preserving them for
any length of time. One firm on Bay Street, as we were informed,
canned and exported nearly a million of pines in one season, lately;
and another, engaged in the fresh-fruit trade, shipped to the States
fifteen cargoes of pines in one year, besides many thousands of
cocoanuts. These are not all raised in Nassau, but this port is made
the headquarters for collecting and disposing of the fruit grown upon
what are termed the out-islands, as well as marketing the large
product of its own soil. It is but a short drive inland to the
extensive pineapple fields, where the handsome fruit may be seen in
the several stages of growth, varying according to the season of the
year. If intended for exportation, the fruit is gathered green; if for
canning purposes, the riper it is the better. The visitor will also be
impressed by the beauty and grace of the cocoanut trees, their pinnate
leaves often a hundred feet from the ground, notwithstanding the bare
cylindrical stem attains a thickness of only two feet.

The Royal Victoria Hotel, though bearing a loyal name, is kept by an
American, and is a very substantial, capacious building, composed of
native limestone, four stories high, three of which are surrounded by
wide piazzas, which afford the shade so necessary in a land of
perpetual summer. The native stone of which the island is composed is
so soft when first quarried that it can easily be cut or sawed into
any shape desired, but it hardens very rapidly after exposure to the
atmosphere. The hotel will accommodate three hundred guests, and is a
positive necessity for the comfort and prosperity of the place. It was
built and is owned by the British government, who erected it some
twenty-five years since. At the time of our arrival there was gathered
under the lofty Moorish portico of the hotel a most picturesque group
of negroes, of both sexes and of all ages, their ebony faces forming a
strong contrast to the background of well-whitewashed walls. Some of
the women were dressed in neat calico gowns, and wore broad-brimmed
straw hats; some were in rags, hatless, shoeless, and barelegged; some
had high-colored kerchiefs wound turban-like about their woolly heads;
and some wore scarlet shawls, the sight of which would have driven a
Spanish bull raving mad. There were coquettish mulatto girls with
bouquets for sale, and fancy flowers wrought of shells; these last of
most exquisite workmanship. Specimens of this native shell-work were
sent to the Vienna Exposition, where they received honorable mention,
and were afterwards purchased and presented to the Prince of Wales.
Old gray-haired negroes, with snow-white beards on a black ground,
offered fruits in great variety,--zapotas, mangoes, pineapples, and
grape-fruit. Others had long strings of sponges for sale, wound
round their shoulders like huge snakes; some of these were good, but
many were utterly useless. No one knows this better than the cunning
negroes themselves, but strangers, only touching at Nassau, they do
not expect to see again, and there is proverbially cheating in all
trades but ours. A bright, thrifty-looking colored woman had spread
out her striped shawl upon the ground, and on this arrayed a really
fine collection of conch-shells for sale, delicately polished, and of
choice shapes. When first brought to the surface by the divers they
are not infrequently found to contain pearls imbedded in the palatable
and nutritious meat. These pearls are generally of a pinkish hue, and
greatly prized by the jewelers. Now and then a diver will realize a
hundred dollars for one of them. From the conch-shell also come the
best shell cameos. A smart half-breed offered canes of ebony, lignum
vitæ, lance, and orange wood, all of native growth. He was dressed in
a white linen jacket, pantaloons to match, with a semi-military cap,
cocked on one side of his head,--quite a colored dude. The women who
sell native-made baskets are most persistent, but if you purchase of
them make your own change, for they are apt to take money away for
this purpose and to forget to return. Negro nature is frail,
characterized at Nassau by theft and licentiousness, but great crimes
are rare. If you have occasion to hire a boat for a sail in the
harbor, be sure to find and employ "Bushy," a tall, intelligent
darkey, the best boatman and stroke-oar in Nassau.

Bushy showed us what he called a fish-whip, made from the whipray, a
fish quite new to us, but indigenous to these waters. With a body
shaped like a flounder, it has a tail often ten feet long, tapering
from about one inch in thickness at the butt to an eighth of an inch
at the small end. When dried this resembles whalebone, and makes a
good coach-whip. There is a great variety of fish in and about the
Bahamas. We saw, just landed at Nassau, a jew-fish, which takes the
same place here that the halibut fills at the North, being cut into
steaks and fried in a similar manner. They are among the largest of
edible fish, and this specimen weighed about four hundred pounds.
According to Bushy, at certain seasons of the year the jew-fish lies
dormant upon the sandy bottom, and refuses to take the bait. In these
transparent waters he is easily seen when in this condition, and the
native fishermen then dive down and place a stout hook in his mouth!
Though this may sound like a "fish story," we were assured by others
of its truth. Bushy undertook to give us the names of the various
fishes which abound here, but the long list of them and his peculiar
pronunciation drove us nearly wild. Still a few are remembered; such
as the yellow-tailed snapper, striped snapper, pork-fish, angel-fish,
cat-fish, hound-fish, the grouper, sucking-fish, and so on. Both
harbor and deep sea fishing afford the visitor to Nassau excellent
amusement, and many sportsmen go thither annually from New York solely
for its enjoyment.

The colored people of Nassau, as we were assured by one competent to
speak upon the subject, form a religious community, according to the
ordinary acceptation of the term. They are very fond of church-going,
and of singing and shouting on all religious occasions. Nervously
emotional, they work themselves up to a hysterical condition so
furious as to threaten their sanity, but having naturally so little of
that qualification, they are pretty safe. No people could possibly be
more superstitious. They shut up and double lock the doors and windows
of their cabins at night to keep out evil spirits. There are regular
professional man-witches among them, persons a little shrewder and
more cunning than their fellows. The very ignorant believe in a sort
of fetichism, so that when a boat starts on a sponge-fishing trip, the
obeah man is called upon for some coöperation and mysticism, to insure
a successful return of the crew. The sponge fishermen have several
hundred boats regularly licensed, and measuring on an average twenty
tons each. On favorable occasions these men lay aside their legitimate
calling, and become for the time being wreckers, an occupation which
verges only too closely upon piracy. The intricate navigation of these
waters, dotted by hundreds of small reefs and islands, and which can
be traversed by only three safe channels, has furnished in former
years a large amount of shipwrecked merchandise to Nassau. The
wrecking business at best is extremely demoralizing, unfitting any
community of men for legitimate industry, as we know very well by the
experience gained on our own Florida shore. Men who have cruised
fruitlessly for months in search of a profitable wreck will sometimes
be tempted to decoy a ship from her proper course, and lead her upon
the rocks, by a display of false lights.

In front of the Victoria Hotel are some noble specimens of the ceiba,
or silk-cotton tree, as it is called here, the finest and loftiest we
have seen in any country. These trees, naturally slow growers, must
be over a century in age, and afford, by their widespread branches, a
shade equally graceful and grateful. Like the india-rubber trees of
Asia, these ceibas have at least one half of their anaconda-like roots
exposed upon the surface of the ground, dividing the lower portion of
the stem into supporting buttresses, a curious piece of finesse on the
part of nature to overcome the disadvantage of insufficient soil. The
tree bears annually a large seed-pod, packed with cotton of a soft,
silky texture, and hence its name. It is, however, suitable neither
for timber nor fuel, and the small product of cotton is seldom if ever
gathered. The islanders are proud of a single specimen of the banyan
tree of considerable size, which they show to all visitors; but it
cannot be indigenous--it must have been brought in its youth from
Asia. There is, however, in these West Indian isles, the black
mangrove, with very similar habit to the banyan. The limbs spread to
such an extent from the trunk as to require support to prevent them
from breaking off or bending to the ground by their own weight; but to
obviate this, nature has endowed the tree with a peculiar growth. When
the branches have become so heavy as to be no longer able to support
themselves, they send forth from the under side sprigs which, rapidly
descending to the ground, take root like the banyan, and become
supporting columns to the heavy branches above. So the writer has seen
in Hindostan a vine which grew, almost leafless, closely
entwined around the trees to the very top, whence it descended, took
fresh root, and ascended the nearest adjoining tree, until it had gone
on binding an entire grove in a ligneous rope. Long tendrils of the
love-vine, that curious aerial creeper, which feeds on air alone,
were seen hanging across some of the low branches of the Nassau trees,
and we were told that the plant will grow equally well if hung upon a
nail indoors. Emblematic of true affection, it clings, like Japanese
ivy, tenaciously to the object it fixes upon. One specimen was shown
to us which had developed to the size of the human hand from a single
leaf carelessly pinned by a guest to one of the chamber walls of the
hotel.

There are said to be six hundred of the Bahama islands, large and
small, of which Nassau is the capital, and there, as already
intimated, the English Governor-General resides. This numerical
calculation is undoubtedly correct; many are mere rocky islets, and
not more than twenty have fixed inhabitants. Is there anything more
wonderful in nature than that these hundreds of isles should have been
built up from the bottom of the sea by insects so small as to be
microscopic? All lie north of Cuba and St. Domingo, just opposite the
Gulf of Mexico, easily accessible from our own shores by a short and
pleasant sea-voyage of three or four days. They are especially
inviting to those persons who have occasion to avoid the rigor of
Northern winters. People threatened with consumption seek Nassau on
sanitary principles, and yet it was found upon inquiry that many
natives die of that insidious disease, which rapidly runs its career
when it is first developed in a tropical climate. To the author it
would seem that consumptives might find resorts better adapted to the
recovery of their health. Intermittent fever, also, is not unknown at
Nassau.

The sea gardens, as they are called, situated just off the shores of
the island, are well worth a visit; where, by means of a simple
instrument of wood and glass, one is enabled to look many fathoms
below the surface of the water, which is here so remarkable for its
transparency. These water glasses are all of home manufacture, easily
improvised, being formed of a small wooden box three or four inches
square, open at the top, and having a water-tight glass bottom. With
the glass portion slightly submerged, one is enabled to see distinctly
the beautiful coral reefs, with their marvelous surroundings. There
are displayed tiny caves and grottoes of white coral of great delicacy
and variety, star-fishes, sea-urchins, growing sponges, sea-fans, and
gaudy-colored tropical fishes, including the humming-bird-fish, and
others like butterflies with mottled fins and scales, and that little
oddity the rainbow-fish. The prevailing color of this attractive
creature is dark green, but the tinted margins of its scales so
reflect the light as to show all the colors of the rainbow, and hence
its name. When bottled in alcohol, these fairy-like denizens of the
deep lose their brilliancy, which they exhibit only in their native
element. This unique display is greatly enhanced in beauty by the
clearness of the Bahama waters, and the reflected light from the
snow-white sandy bottom, dotted here and there by curious and delicate
shells of opalescent lustre. One longs to descend among these coral
bowers,--these mermaid-gardens,--and pluck of the submarine flora in
its purple, yellow, and scarlet freshness.

It will be remembered that Columbus wrote home to his royal patrons
that the fish which abounded in the seas partook of the same novelty
which characterized everything else in the New World. This was about
four hundred years ago, before the great Genoese had discovered Cuba.
"The fish," as he wrote, "rivaled the birds in tropical brilliancy of
color, the scales of some of them glancing back the rays of light like
precious stones, as they sported about the ships and flashed gleams of
gold and silver through the clear water."

The surface life of these translucent waters is also extremely
interesting. Here the floating jelly-fish, called, from its
phosphorescence, the glow-worm of the sea, is observed in great
variety, sheltering little colonies of young fishes within its
tentacles, which rush forth for a moment to capture some passing mite,
and as quickly return again to their shelter. One takes up a handful
of the floating gulf-weed and finds, within the pale yellow leaves and
berries, tiny pipe-fish, sea-horses, and the little nest-building
antennarius, thus forming a buoyant home for parasites, crabs, and
mollusks, itself a sort of mistletoe of the ocean. The young of the
mackerel and the herring glance all about just beneath the surface
near the shore, like myriad pieces of silver. Now and again that
particolored formation of marine life, the Portuguese man-of-war, is
observed, its long ventral fins spread out like human fingers to
steady it upon the surface of the water. Verily, the German scientist
who says there is more of animal life beneath the surface of the sea
than above it cannot be far amiss. This seems to be the more
reasonable when we consider the relative proportions of land and
water. The whole surface of the globe is supposed to have an area of
about two hundred million square miles. Of these only about fifty
millions are dry land. Within the harbor of Nassau the divisions of
shoal and deep water presented most singular and clearly defined
lines of color, azure, purple, and orange-leaf green,--so marked as to
be visible half a mile away. All was beneath a sky so deeply and
serenely blue as constantly to recall the arching heavens of middle
India.

The Bahama Banks is a familiar expression to most of us, but perhaps
few clearly understand the significance of the term, which is applied
to a remarkable plateau at the western extremity of the archipelago,
occupying a space between two and three hundred miles long, and about
one third as wide. These banks, as they are called, rise almost
perpendicularly from an unfathomable depth of water, and are of coral
formation. In sailing over them the bottom is distinctly seen from the
ship's deck, the depth of water being almost uniformly forty to fifty
feet. Some years since, when the author was crossing these banks in a
sailing ship, a death occurred among the foremast hands, and the usual
sea burial followed. The corpse was sewn up in a hammock, with iron
weights at the feet, the more readily to sink it. After reading the
burial service the body was launched into the sea from a grating
rigged out of a gangway amidship. The waters were perfectly calm, and
the barque had but little headway. Indeed, we lay almost as still as
though anchored, so that the body was seen to descend slowly alongside
until it reached the calcareous, sandy bottom, where it assumed an
upright and strangely lifelike position, as though standing upon its
feet. An ominous silence reigned among the watching crew, and it was a
decided relief to all hands when a northerly wind sprang up, filling
the canvas and giving the vessel steerage way.

So many years have passed since the occurrence of the scene just
related that we may give its sequel without impropriety, though, at
the same time, we expose the venal character of Spanish officials. The
man we buried on the Bahama Banks had died of small-pox, though no
other person on board showed any symptoms of the disease. On entering
the harbor of Havana, three days later, we had been hailed from Moro
Castle and had returned the usual answer. A couple of doubloons in
gold made the boarding officer conveniently blind, and a similar fee
thrust quietly into the doctor's hand insured a "clean bill of
health," under which we were permitted to land! The alternative was
twenty-one days' quarantine.

Fort Montague, mounting four rusty guns, "with ne'er a touch-hole to
any on 'em," as Bushy informed us, stands upon a projecting point
about a mile from the town of Nassau, the road thither forming a
delightful evening promenade, or drive. The fort is old, crumbling,
and time-worn, but was once occupied by the buccaneers as a most
important stronghold commanding the narrow channel. These sea-robbers
imposed a heavy tax upon all shipping passing this way, and for many
years realized a large income from this source. It was only piracy in
another form. Most vessels found it cheaper to pay than to fight. When
the notorious Black Beard had his headquarters at Nassau, he sought no
such pretext, but preyed upon all commerce alike, provided the vessels
were not too well armed to be captured. This notorious pirate had an
innate love for cruelty, and often tortured his captives without any
apparent purpose, after the fashion of our Western Indians. When the
English lashed the mutineers of Delhi and Cawnpore to the muzzles of
their cannon and blew them to pieces, they were enacting no new
tragedy; legend and history tell us that Black Beard, the pirate of
the Windward Passage, set them that example many years before. His
rule was to murder all prisoners who would not join his ship, and
those whom he took fighting, that is, with arms in their hands, were
subjected to torture, one form of which was that of lashing captives
to the cannon's mouth and applying the match. Fort Montague is not
occupied by even a corporal's guard to-day, and is of no efficiency
whatever against modern gunnery. The reader will thus observe that the
principal business which has engaged Nassau heretofore has been
wrecking, buccaneering, privateering, and blockade running.

Some noted characters have found an asylum here, first and last. After
Lord Dunmore left Virginia he sought official position and made a home
on the island. He was appointed governor, and some of the buildings
erected by him are still pointed out to the visitor, especially that
known as the Old Fort, just back of the Victoria Hotel, crowning the
height. His summer seat, known as the Hermitage, is a quaint old
place, still in fair condition, and surrounded by oaks and cocoanut
trees, near the sea. Such matters do not often get into history, but
legend tells us that some strange orgies took place at the Hermitage,
where the play was for heavy stakes, and the drinking was of a similar
excessive character.

Another well-known individual who sought to make a home here, and also
to escape from all former associations, was the notorious
Blennerhasset, a name familiar in connection with Aaron Burr. After
his trial, it will be remembered that he suddenly disappeared, and
was heard of no more. He left his country for his country's good,
changing his name to that of Carr. His objective point was Nassau;
there his undoubted talent and legal ability were duly recognized and
he was appointed government attorney, officiating in that capacity for
a number of years. Having deserted his first wife, he found another to
console him upon the island. At last wife number one appeared upon the
island. She had discovered his hiding-place, and a domestic war
ensued. Wife number two carried the day and the rightful spouse was
sent away and paid an annuity to keep away. The pretended Mr. Carr is
said to have finally lapsed into habits of excessive intemperance, and
to have found a stranger's grave on the island.

Much of the drinking water, and certainly the best in use at Nassau,
as well as on some of the neighboring islands, is procured in a
remarkable, though very simple manner, from the sea. Not far from
shore, on the coral reefs, there are never-failing fresh water
springs, bubbling up from the bottom through the salt water with such
force as clearly to indicate their locality. Over these ocean springs
the people place sunken barrels filled with sand, one above another,
the bottoms and tops being displaced. The fresh water is thus
conducted to the surface through the column of sand, which forms a
perfect filterer. Such a crude arrangement is only temporary, liable
to be displaced by any severe storm which should agitate the
surrounding waters. If destroyed in the hurricane season, these
structures are not renewed until settled weather. In so small and low
lying an island as that of Nassau, it is very plain that this crystal
liquid, pure and tasteless, cannot come from any rainfall upon the
soil, and its existence, therefore, suggests a problem, the solving of
which we submit to the scientists.

On the arid shores of the Persian Gulf, where rain so seldom falls,
and where there are no rills to refresh the parched soil, fresh water
is also obtained from submerged springs beneath the salt water. Here
it is brought to the surface by divers, who descend with a leather
bag, the mouth of which being opened over the bubbling spring is
quickly filled and closed again, being drawn to the surface by those
who are left there to assist the diver, who hastens upward for air. In
descending his feet are weighted with stones, which being cast off at
the proper moment, he naturally rises at once to the surface. This
operation is repeated until a sufficient quantity of fresh water is
procured. There is no mystery, however, as to the source of these
springs. The rain first falls on the distant mountains, and finding
its way downward through the fissures of rocky ledges, pursues its
course until it gushes forth in the bed of the gulf.



                             CHAPTER II.

    Among the Islands. -- San Salvador. -- A Glimpse at the
    Stars. -- Hayti. -- The Gulf Stream. -- The Caribbean Sea. --
    Latitude and Longitude. -- The Southern Coast of Cuba. -- A
    Famous Old Fortress. -- Fate of Political Prisoners. -- The
    Oldest City in Cuba. -- The Aborigines. -- Cuban Cathedrals.
    -- Drinking Saloons. -- Dogs, Horses, and Coolies. -- Scenes
    in Santiago de Cuba. -- Devoured by Sharks. -- Lying at
    Anchor. -- Wreck of a Historic Ship. -- Cuban Circulating
    Medium. -- Tropical Temperature.


After leaving Nassau we stood northward for half a day in order to get
a safe and proper channel out of the crooked Bahamas, where there is
more of shoal than of navigable waters, leaving a score of small
islands behind us inhabited only by turtles, flamingoes, and sea
birds. But we were soon steaming due south again towards our objective
point, the island of Cuba, five hundred miles away. San Salvador was
sighted on our starboard bow, the spot where Columbus first landed in
the New World, though even this fact has not escaped the specious
arguments of the iconoclasts. Nevertheless, we gazed upon it with
reverent credulity. It will be found laid down on most English maps as
Cat Island, and is now the home of two or three thousand colored
people. San Salvador is nearly as large as New Providence, and is said
to claim some special advantages over that island in the quality of
its fruits. It is claimed that the oranges grown here are the sweetest
and best in the world, the same excellence being attributed to its
abundant yield of pineapples and other tropical fruits.

There are so many of these small islands in the Bahama group that the
geographers may be excused for the heterogeneous manner in which they
have placed them on the common maps. To find their true and relative
position one must consult the sailing-charts, where absolute
correctness is supposed to be found, a prime necessity in such
intricate navigation. The total population of the Bahamas has been
ascertained, by census, to be a fraction less than forty thousand.

The voyager in these latitudes is constantly saluted by gentle breezes
impregnated with tropical fragrance, intensified in effect by the
distant view of cocoanut, palmetto, and banana trees, clothing the
islands and growing down to the water's very edge. As we glide along,
gazing shoreward, now and again little groups of swallows seem to be
flitting only a few feet above the water for a considerable distance,
and then suddenly disappearing beneath the waves. These are
flying-fish enjoying an air bath, either in frolic or in fear;
pursued, may be, by some aqueous enemy, to escape from whom they essay
these aerial flights. The numerous islands, very many of which are
uninhabited, have yet their recorded names, more or less
characteristic, such as Rum Key, Turk's Island,--famous for the export
of salt,--Bird Rock, Fortune Island, Great and Little Inagua, Crooked
Island, and so on, all more or less noted for the disastrous wrecks
which have occurred on their low coralline shores. Our Northern cities
are largely dependent upon the Bahamas for their early annual supplies
of pineapples, cocoanuts, oranges, bananas, and some vegetables, in
which they are all more or less prolific. Here also is the harvest
field of the conchologist, the beaches and coral reefs affording an
abundant supply of exquisitely colored shells, of all imaginable
shapes, including the large and valuable conch-shell, of which many
thousand dollars' worth are annually exported, the contents first
serving the divers for food.

It was interesting to remain on deck at night and watch the heavens,
as we glided silently through the phosphorescent sea. Was it possible
the grand luminary, which rendered objects so plain that one could
almost read fine print with no other help, shone solely by borrowed
light? We all know it to be so, and also that Venus, Mars, Jupiter,
and Saturn shine in a similar manner with light reflected from the
sun. It was curious to adjust the telescope and bring the starry
system nearer to the vision. If we direct our gaze upon a planet we
find its disk sharply defined; change the direction and let it rest
upon a star, and we have only a point of light, more or less
brilliant. The glass reveals to us the fact that the star-dust which
we call the Milky Way is an aggregation of innumerable single suns.
Sweeping the arching blue with the telescope, we find some stars are
golden, some green, others purple, many silvery-white, and some are
twins. Probably there is no such thing as stars of the first and
second magnitude, as the common expression names them. It is most
likely only a question of distance, which regulates the brightness to
our vision. Science reduces the distances of heavenly bodies from our
earth to figures, but they are so immense as to be simply bewildering.
At the North the moon is silvery, but in tropical skies at night it
becomes golden, glowing, and luxurious in its splendor, never pale and
wan as it seems with us.

When the lonely lighthouse which marks Cape Maysi, at the easterly
point of Cuba, hove in sight on the starboard bow, the dim form of the
mountains of Hayti was also visible on the opposite horizon. A
subterranean connection is believed to exist between the mountain
ranges of the two islands.

When the outline of the Haytian mountains was in view, it was very
natural to express a wish to visit the island at some convenient time.
This led to some intelligent and interesting remarks from a compagnon
de voyage, who had resided for two years at Port-au-Prince, the
capital. "Unless you are compelled to land there," said he, "I advise
you to avoid Hayti." He fully confirmed the reports of its barbarous
condition, and declared it to be in a rapid decadence, as regarded
every desirable element of civilization. In the country, a short
distance from either Gonaives, Jacmel, or Port-au-Prince, where the
mass of the negro population live, Voudou worship and cannibalism are
quite common at the present time. The influence of the Voudou priests
is so much feared by the government that the horrible practice is
little interfered with. When the officials are forced to take
cognizance of the crime, the lightest possible punishment is imposed
upon the convicted parties. The island of San Domingo is about half
the size of Cuba, Hayti occupying one third of the western portion,
the rest of the territory belonging to the republic of San Domingo.
"As to Port-au-Prince," said our informant, "it is the dirtiest place
I have ever seen in any part of the world." Nevertheless, the historic
interest clustering about the island is very great. It was the seat of
the first Spanish colony founded in the New World. Its soil has been
bathed in the blood of Europeans as well as of its aboriginal
inhabitants. For three hundred years it was the arena of fierce
struggles between the French, Spaniards, and English, passing
alternately under the dominion of each of these powers, until finally,
torn by insurrection and civil war, in 1804 it achieved its
independence. The city of San Domingo, capital of the republic, is the
oldest existing settlement by white men in the New World, having been
founded in 1494 by Bartholomew Columbus. It contains to-day a little
less than seven thousand inhabitants.

We gave Cape Maysi a wide berth, as a dangerous reef makes out from
the land, eastward, for a mile or more. The fixed light at this point
is a hundred and thirty feet above sea level, and is visible nearly
twenty miles off shore.

We were running through the Windward Passage, as it was called by the
early navigators, and whence one branch of the Gulf Stream finds its
way northward. The Gulf Stream! Who can explain the mystery of its
motive power; what keeps its tepid waters in a course of thousands of
miles from mingling with the rest of the sea; whence does it come? The
accepted theories are familiar enough, but we do not believe them.
Maury says the Gulf of Mexico is its fountain, and its mouth is the
Arctic Sea. The maps make the eastern shore of Cuba terminate as
sharply as a needle's point, but it proved to be very blunt in
reality, as it forms the gateway to the Caribbean Sea, where the
irregular coast line runs due north and south for the distance of many
leagues. It is a low, rocky shore for the most part, but rises
gradually as it recedes inland, until it assumes the form of hills so
lofty as to merit the designation of mountains.

There was on board of our ship an intelligent resident of Santiago,
who was enthusiastic in his description of the plains and valleys
lying beyond the hills which stood so prominently on the coast,--hills
probably older than any tongue in which we could describe them. The
Scriptural Garden of Eden has absolutely been placed here by
supposition on the part of traveled people. The temperature is simply
perfect, if we are to believe our informant; the vegetation is of a
primitive delicacy and beauty unequaled elsewhere; the fruits are
fabulously abundant and of the most perfect flavor; the water bubbles
forth from springs of crystal purity, and the flora is so lovely as to
inspire the most indifferent beholder with delight. "It is called the
Garden of Cuba," said the American Consul of Cienfuegos, "but many go
further, and declare it to be the location of the original Paradise."
Certain it is that the few Americans who have sought this so highly
praised region, though compelled to deny themselves the ordinary
comforts to be found in more accessible resorts, have admitted with
emphasis that nature, pure and undefiled, was here to be enjoyed in
unstinted measure.

The hills bordering the shore and extending some distance inland
contain much undeveloped mineral wealth, such as iron, silver, and
gold. A mine of the former product is now being profitably worked by
an American company, and the ore regularly shipped to Pennsylvania for
smelting. This ore has special properties which render it more than
usually valuable, and it is even claimed to be the best iron mine in
the world. There is a strangely solitary and inhospitable appearance
about this portion of the island, devoid as it is of all human
habitations, and fringed either with long reaches of lonely
snow-white beach or rugged brown rocks. The volcanic appearance of the
land is significant of former upheavals, and this immediate region is
still occasionally troubled with geological chills and fever.

The nights of early March in this latitude were exceedingly beautiful,
and solemnly impressive was the liberal splendor of the sky. The full
moon looked down upon and was reflected by waters of perfect
smoothness. River navigation could not have been more quiet than were
these nights on the blue Caribbean Sea. The air was as mild as June in
New England, while at night the Southern Cross and the North Star
blazed in the horizon at the same time. As we steered westward after
doubling the cape, both of these heavenly sentinels were seen abeam,
the constellation on our port side, and the North Star on the
starboard. Each day, at the noon hour, the passengers were interested
in watching the officers of the ship while they were "taking the sun,"
to determine the latitude and longitude. Shall we put the process into
simple form for the information of the uninitiated? When the sun
reaches the meridian, or culminating point of ascension, the exact
moment is indicated by the instrument known as a quadrant, adjusted to
the eye of the observer. The figures marked on the quadrant give the
latitude of the ship at the moment of meridian. The ship's time is
then made to correspond, that is to say, it must indicate 12 o'clock,
M., after which it is compared with the chronometer's Greenwich time,
and the difference enables the observer to determine the longitude. As
fifteen miles are allowed to the minute, there will be nine hundred
miles to the hour. The importance of absolute correctness in the
chronometer will at once be realized, since, were it only three
minutes out of the way, it would render the calculation as to
longitude wrong by nearly fifty miles, which might be, and doubtless
often has been, the cause of wrecking a ship upon rocks laid down upon
the charts, but supposed to be far away. With the chronometer and the
quadrant observation correctly ascertained, the sailing-master can
prick off his exact situation on the chart. So long as the weather
will permit a clear view of the sun at noon, the ship's precise
location on the wide waste of waters can be known; but when continuous
cloudy weather prevails, the ship's course is calculated by what is
called dead reckoning, depending upon the speed and distance run as
indicated by the log, which is cast hourly under such circumstances,
and becomes the main factor in calculating the position of the ship.
Of course the result cannot be very accurate, but is a dernier
ressort. When land is in sight no observation is necessary, as the
bearing of the ship is then unmistakably defined.

The sea was like molten sapphire as we glided swiftly along the
southern coast of Cuba, watching the gracefully undulating shore. The
mountains rose higher and higher, until they culminated in the lofty
peak of Pico Turquino (blue mountain), over ten thousand feet high, as
lately ascertained by actual measurement. There are coves and bays
along this coast where oysters _do_ grow upon trees, ridiculous as the
assertion first strikes the ear. The mangrove-trees extend their roots
from the shore into the sea, to which the oysters affix themselves,
growing and thriving until plucked by the fishermen. They are small
and of an inferior species compared with those of our own coast, but
are freely eaten in the island. Near the shore hereabouts are many
islets containing from three to five square miles, some of which are
quite barren, while others are delicious gardens, full of tropical
fruit trees, flowers, and odoriferous plants, where Paul and Virginia
might have felt quite at home, wandering hand in hand.

Soon after passing the remarkably sheltered port of Guantanamo, which
was for nearly a century the most notorious piratical rendezvous in
the West Indies, the famous castle of Santiago is seen. It is known as
Moro Castle, but it antedates the more familiar Moro of Havana by a
full century. This antique, yellow, Moorish-looking stronghold--which
modern gunnery would destroy in about eight minutes--is picturesque to
the last degree, with its crumbling, honeycombed battlements, and
queer little flanking turrets, grated windows, and shadowy towers. It
is built upon the face of a lofty dun-colored rock, upon whose
precipitous side the fortification is terraced. It stands just at the
entrance of the narrow channel leading to the city, so that in passing
in one can easily exchange oral greetings with the sentry on the outer
battlement. What strikingly artistic pictures the light and shade
together formed with those time-stained walls, as we steamed slowly by
them! On the ocean side, directly under the castle, the sea has worn a
gaping cave, so deep that it has not been explored within the memory
of the people living in the neighborhood. The broad and lofty entrance
is in form as perfect an arch as could be drawn by the pencil of a
skillful architect. As is usual with such formations all over the
world, there is a romantic legend concerning the cave related as
connected with the olden time, and there is also a prevailing
superstition, that no one attempting to explore it will live to
return.

In passing up the channel two or three little forts of queer
construction are seen, supplementing the larger one, placed upon
jutting headlands. The Moro of Santiago is now used as a prison for
political offenders; its days of defensive importance ended with the
period of the buccaneers, against whose crude means of warfare it was
an ample protection. As we steamed past it that sunny afternoon,
stimulated by the novelty of everything about us, a crowd of pallid,
sorrowful faces appeared at the grated windows, watching us
listlessly. Two days later five of them, who were condemned patriots,
were led out upon those ramparts and shot, their bodies falling into
the sea, and eight were sent to the penal settlement of Ceuta. Spain
extends no mercy to those who dare to raise their hands or voices in
favor of freedom; her political existence is sustained only in an
atmosphere of oppression and cruelty. Every page of her history is a
tableau of bloodshed and torture. The narrow winding channel which
leads from the open sea to the harbor passes through low hills and
broad meadows covered with rank verdure, cocoanut groves, and little
fishing hamlets. Thrifty laurels, palms with their graceful plumes of
foliage, and intensely green bananas line the way, with here and there
upon the banks a pleasant country house in the midst of a pretty
garden of flowering shrubs. So close is the shore all the while that
one seems to be navigating upon the land, gliding among trees and over
greensward rather than on blue water. Presently we pass a sharp angle
of the hills into a broad, sheltered bay, and before us lies the
quaint, rambling old city of Santiago de Cuba, built upon a hillside,
like Tangier in Africa, and nearly as Oriental as that capital of
Morocco. The first most conspicuous objects to meet the eye are the
twin towers of the ancient cathedral which have withstood so many
earthquakes. The weather-beaten old quartermaster on our forecastle
applies the match to his brass twelve-pounder, awaking a whole
broadside of echoes among the mountains, the big chain rushes swiftly
through the hawse-hole, and the ship swings at her anchor in the
middle of the picturesque bay.

A boat was promptly secured with which to land at this ancient city,
founded by Velasquez. From the moment one touches the shore a sense of
being in a foreign land forces itself upon the new-comer. The
half-unintelligible language, the people, the architecture, the
manners, the vegetation, even the very atmosphere and the intensity of
the sunshine, are novel and attractive. It is easy to convey our
partial impressions of a new place, however unique it may be, but not
our inward sensations. The former are tangible, as it were, and may be
depicted; the latter are like atmospheric air, which cannot be seen,
but is felt. The many-colored, one-story houses of Santiago are
Moorish in architecture, ranged in narrow streets, which cross each
other at right angles with considerable regularity, but with roadways
in an almost impassable condition, lined with sidewalks of ten or
fifteen inches in width. These thoroughfares were once paved with
cobblestones, but are now characterized by dirt and neglect, a stream
of offensive water constantly percolating through them, in which
little naked children are at play. No wonder that the city is
annually decimated by yellow fever; the surprise is that it does not
prevail there every month in the year. The boys and girls of the lower
classes, white and black, are not thought to require clothing until
they are about nine years of age. A few negresses were observed
sitting on the ground, at the corners of the streets, beside their
baskets containing sweet cakes, mouldy biscuits, bananas, and
grape-fruit, the uninviting appearance of which seemed to indicate
that they were in the last stage of collapse. Was it possible any one
could eat such stuff? As we passed and repassed these patient waiters,
certainly no purchasers appeared. How the forty-five thousand
inhabitants manage to achieve a living it would be difficult to
imagine, for the town seemed to be as dead and void of all activity as
Cordova, in far-off Spain, the sleepiest city in all Europe. Santiago
has not a single bookstore within its limits. No other place in
Christendom, with so numerous a population, could exist, outside of
Spain, without some literary resort. There are here three or four
spacious two-story club-houses, with some pretension to neatness and
social accommodations; but then no Cuban town of any size would be
complete without these anti-domestic institutions, where the male
population may congregate for evening entertainment. The interior
arrangements of these club-houses were entirely exposed to view, as we
passed by the iron-grated windows, devoid of curtains, blinds, or
screens of any sort, and extending from ceiling to floor.

Santiago dates back to the year of our Lord 1514, making it the oldest
city in the New World, next to San Domingo, and it will be remembered
as the place whence Cortez sailed, in 1519, to invade Mexico. Here
also has been the seat of modern rebellion against the arbitrary and
bitterly oppressive rule of the home government. The city is situated
six hundred miles southeast of Havana, and, after Matanzas, comes next
to it in commercial importance, its exports reaching the handsome
annual aggregate of eight millions of dollars. It is the terminus of
two lines of railways, which pass through the sugar districts, and
afford transportation for this great staple. Three leagues inland,
among the mountains, are situated the famous Cobre copper mines, said
to be of superior richness, and whence, in the days of their active
working, four million dollars' worth of the ore has been exported in
one year. This was the amount shipped in 1841, and so late as 1867 six
thousand tons were exported in ten months. Not content with realizing
a very large income from the mines by way of taxes upon the product,
the Spanish government increased these excise charges to such an
extent as to absorb the entire profits of the works and kill the
enterprise, so that the rich ores of Cobre now rest undisturbed in the
earth. It seems there is an Indian village near the copper mines,
whose people are represented to be the only living descendants of the
aborigines,--the Caribs whom Columbus found here on first landing.
Careful inquiry, however, led us seriously to doubt the authenticity
of the story. Probably this people are peculiar in their language, and
isolation may have caused them to differ in some respects from the
inhabitants of the valley and plains, but four centuries must have
destroyed every trace of the early inhabitants of Cuba. Having been
from the very outset enslaved and brutally treated by the Spaniards,
it is believed that as early as the year of our Lord 1700 they had
utterly disappeared, and some historians say no trace even was to be
found of the native race one century after the settlement of the
island by Europeans.

The head of the Church of Rome in Cuba is located here, it being an
archbishop's see; and the elaborate ceremonials which occasionally
take place attract people from the most distant cities of the island.
We chanced to be present when the bishop was passing into the
cathedral, clothed in full canonicals and accompanied by church
dignitaries bearing a canopy above his head. Observing our little
party as strangers, though in the midst of a stately ceremony, the
bishop graciously made us a sign of recognition. The cathedral of
Santiago is the largest in Cuba, but extremely simple in its interior
arrangements; and so, indeed, are all the churches on the island. As
to the exterior, the façade resembles the cathedral of Havana, being
of the same porous stone, which always presents a crumbled and mottled
surface. The inside decorations are childish and fanciful, consisting
mostly of artificial flowers of colored paper, crudely formed by
inexperienced hands into stars, wreaths, and crosses. One innovation
was noticed in this church: a saint on the right of the altar was
mounted upon a wooden horse, with spear in rest à la militaire,
forming a most incongruous figure. In the church of Matanzas, visited
a week or two later, the effigy of our Saviour was observed to be half
dressed in female attire, a glaring absurdity which the author has
once before seen in the Spanish convent-church of Burgos. In the
Matanzas church alluded to, boys and girls of nine and ten years were
seen at the confessional. Could absurdity be carried to a greater
height? These with negro women form nearly all the audiences to be met
with in the Cuban churches, unless upon festal occasions. The men
manifest their indifference by their absence, and white women are
scarcely represented. Besides the cathedral, Santiago has three or
four other old churches, small and dilapidated, within whose sombre
walls one seems to have stepped back into the fifteenth century. Upon
strolling accidentally into one of these we felt a chill suffuse the
whole system, like that realized on descending into a dark, undrained
cellar.

The multiplicity and gaudiness of the drinking-saloons and bar-rooms
were particularly noticeable in passing along the principal streets,
and all were doing a thriving business, judging from appearances. The
Cubans drink lightly, but they drink often, and are especially
addicted to gin, which is dealt out to them at an extraordinarily low
price. It appears that people can consume a much larger quantity of
spirituous liquors here without becoming intoxicated than they can do
at the North. It is very rare to see a person overcome by this
indulgence in Cuba, and yet, as was afterwards observed in Cienfuegos,
Matanzas, and Havana, the common people begin the day with a very
liberal dram, and follow it up with frequent libations until
bed-time,--tippling at every convenient opportunity. A few of the
better class of private houses were constructed with courts in the
centre, where flowers and tropical fruits were growing luxuriantly.
These dwellings were confined to no special quarter of the town, but
were as often found next to a commercial warehouse or a negro shanty
as elsewhere. The dogs, horses, and Chinese coolies were all in
wretched condition. One might count the ribs of the first two a long
way off, while the latter were ragged, lame, half-starved, and many
of them blind. Animals are the recipients of the severest sort of
usage both in Cuba and Spain. Few vehicles were to be seen, as
merchandise is mostly transported on the backs of mules and ponies,
and these animals are seldom shod.

The town is lighted with gas, or rather it was so illuminated a few
weeks since; but it was quietly whispered about that the corporation
had failed to pay for this service last year, and that the monopoly
itself was on the verge of bankruptcy, like nearly everything else of
a business character in Cuba. The gaslights certainly appeared pale
and sickly enough, as though only half confirmed in the purpose of
giving any light at all, and were prematurely extinguished in many of
the streets. In the shops, whose fronts were all open, like those of
Canton and Yokohama, the clerks were to be seen in their shirt
sleeves, guiltless of vests or collars, coquetting over calicoes and
gaudy-colored merinos with mulatto girls decked in cheap jewelry, and
with negresses wearing enormous hoop-earrings. At the approach of
evening the bar-rooms and saloons, with a liberal display of
looking-glasses, bottles of colored liquors, gin, and glitter, were
dazzling to behold. The marble tables were crowded with domino and
card players, each sipping at intervals his favorite tipple. The
sidewalks are so narrow that the pedestrian naturally seeks the middle
of the street as a pathway, and the half a dozen victorias and four
volantes which form the means of transportation in Santiago, and which
are constantly wandering about in search of a job, manage to meet or
to overtake one perpetually; causing first a right oblique, then a
left oblique, movement, with such regularity as to amount to an
endless zig-zag. We did not exactly appreciate the humor of this
annoyance, but perhaps the drivers did. After climbing and descending
these narrow, dirty streets by daylight and by gaslight, and watching
the local characteristics for a few hours, one is only too happy to
take a boat back to the ship, and leave all behind.

A desire for a cold bath and a good swim is natural in this climate
after sunset, but beware of indulging this inclination in the waters
of Santiago. Under that smooth, inviting surface, glistening beneath
the rays of a full moon, lurk myriads of sharks. They are large,
hungry, man-eating creatures, the tigers of the ocean, and the dread
of all local boatmen here. To fall overboard in these waters, however
good a swimmer one may be, is simply to be devoured. At Singapore,
Sumatra, or Batavia, a Malay will for a consideration dive into the
waters of the Malacca Straits, armed with a long, sharp knife, boldly
attack a shark, and rip open his bowels at the moment when he turns on
his side to give the deadly bite. But on that coast this dreaded fish
appears singly; it is rare to see two of them together; while Santiago
harbor seems to swarm with them, the dark dorsal fin of the
threatening creatures just parting the surface of the sea, and
betraying their presence. Lying at anchor between our ship and the
shore was a trig Spanish corvette,--an American-built vessel, by the
way, though belonging to the navy of Spain. It was curious at times to
watch her crew being drilled in various martial manoeuvres. While an
officer was exercising the men at furling topsails, a few days before
our arrival, a foretopman fell from aloft into the sea. Under
ordinary circumstances and in most waters, the man could easily have
been saved, but not so in this instance. He did not even rise to the
surface. A struggle for portions of his body between half a dozen
ravenous sharks was observed alongside the corvette, and all was
quickly over. The foretopman had been torn limb from limb and
instantly devoured.

The over-stimulated brain felt no inclination for sleep on this first
night in the harbor, the situation was so novel, and the night itself
one to suggest poetic thoughts. The moon was creeping slowly across
the blue vault, like a great phantom mingling with the lambent purity
of the stars. We sat silently watching the heavens, the water, and the
shore; saw the lights go out one after another among the clustering
dwellings, and the street gas-burners shut off here and there, until
by and by the drowsy town was wrapped in almost perfect darkness. Only
the ripple of the sea alongside the ship broke the silence, or the
sudden splash of some large fish, leaping out of and falling back into
the water. It seemed as though no sky was ever before of such
marvelous blue depth, no water so full of mystery, no shore so clad in
magic verdure, and no night ever of such resplendent clearness. The
landing-steps and grating had been rigged out from a broad porthole on
the spar deck, where a quartermaster was awaiting the return of the
purser and a party of gentlemen who were making late, or rather early,
hours on shore; for it was nearly two o'clock in the morning, and the
weary seaman, who had sat down at his post on the grating, was snoring
like a wheezy trombone. The measured tread fore and aft of the second
officer, who kept the anchor watch, was the only evidence of
wakefulness that disturbed our lonely mood. A similar night scene was
vividly called to mind as experienced in Typhoon Bay, below Hong Kong,
a few years since.

In the harbor, next morning, a sunken wreck was pointed out to us,
which was partially visible at low tide, not far from the shore. Only
the ribs and stanchions are still held together by the stout keel
timbers and lower sheathing. This wreck has lain there unheeded for
years, yet what a story these old timbers might tell, had they only a
tongue with which to give voice to their experience!--literally the
experience of ages. We refer to the remains of the old St. Paul, one
of the ships of the great Spanish Armada that Philip II. sent to
England in 1588, being one of the very few of that famous flotilla
that escaped destruction at the time. What a historical memento is the
old wreck! After a checkered career, in which this ancient craft had
breasted the waves of innumerable seas and withstood the storms of
nearly three centuries, she was burned to the water's edge here in the
harbor of Santiago a few years since, and sunk, where her remains now
lie, covered with slime and barnacles,--a striking emblem of the
nation whose flag she once proudly bore. During the last years of her
career afloat she was used for transporting troops from Europe, and as
a Spanish guard-ship in these seas by the local government. It is
doubtful if it is generally known that this relic of the Spanish
Armada is in existence. Curio-hunters, once put upon the scent, will
probably soon reduce these ancient timbers to chips, and a crop of
canes and snuff-boxes, more or less hideous and more or less
counterfeit, will ensue.

Here we got our first experience of the present currency,--the
valueless circulating medium of Cuba. When one has occasion to visit
the island it is best to take American funds, either in bank-bills or
gold, sufficient to meet all ordinary expenses. Our bank-bills and our
gold are both at a premium. This will also save all necessity for
drawing on home through any local bankers, who have a way of charging
for the accommodation quite after the style of everything Spanish. The
hotel-keepers will require their pay on the basis of Spanish gold, but
will cheerfully allow a premium of six per cent. on American gold or
American bank-bills. As to the banks in Cuba, all are shaky, so to
speak; several have lately failed, and the others might as well do so.
It is not long since the president of the Havana Savings Bank placed a
pistol at his temple and blew his brains out. Mercantile credit may be
said to be dead, and business nearly at a standstill. Commercial
honesty is hardly to be expected from a bankrupt community, where the
people seem only to be engaged in the sale and purchase of lottery
tickets, a habit participated in by all classes.

What little gold and silver coin there is found in circulation is
mutilated; every piece of money, large and small, has been subjected
to the ingenious punch, and thus has lost a portion of its intrinsic
value. American gold and silver, not having been thus clipped, justly
commands a six per cent. premium.

The circulating medium upon the island is paper scrip, precisely
similar to that used in this country before the resumption of specie
payment. This scrip is dirty beyond endurance, and one absolutely
hesitates to take it in making change.

When our currency became soiled and torn we could exchange it for new,
but there is no such facility in Cuba. One dollar of our money will
purchase $2.45 of this scrip. It passes current, and really seems to
answer the necessities of trade, but even the Cubans are not deceived
by it. They know that it is really worthless, being based upon
nothing, and issued indiscriminately by a bankrupt government. The
paper-mill grinds it out in five, ten, twenty, and fifty cent pieces
as fast as it can be put into circulation, while no one knows how much
has been issued. But one thing is known; namely, that every authorized
issue of a given sum has been enormously exceeded in amount.

Within about five years, or less, an issue of bank-bills and of this
small currency was entrusted to an establishment in the United States,
when fourteen millions of dollars were printed in _addition_ to the
amount authorized! All were duly receipted for and signed by corrupt
Spanish officials, who coolly divided these millions among themselves!
The Captain-General of Cuba during whose administration this financial
stroke was accomplished came to the island a poor man, and returned to
Spain in two years possessed of three million dollars!

There is no more beautiful or safe harbor in the world than that of
Santiago de Cuba, commercially speaking, as it is completely
land-locked and protected on all sides from storms; but for the same
reason it is as close and hot an anchorage as can be found in the
tropics. An intelligent resident gave us 80° Fahrenheit as the average
temperature of the year, though the thermometer showed a more
ambitious figure during our brief stay. There are but two seasons,
the wet and the dry, the latter extending from September to May. The
city might have an excellent water supply if there were sufficient
enterprise among the citizens to cause it to be conducted by pipes
from the springs in the neighboring hills. It is now wretchedly
deficient in this respect, causing both suffering and ill health in a
climate especially demanding this prime necessity of life.



                             CHAPTER III.

    Doubling Cape Cruz. -- Trinidad. -- Cienfuegos. -- The Plaza.
    -- Beggars. -- Visit to a Sugar Plantation. -- Something
    about Sugar. -- An Original Character. -- A Tropical Fruit
    Garden. -- Cuban Hospitality. -- The Banana. -- Lottery
    Tickets. -- Chinese Coolies. -- Blindness in Cuba. -- Birds
    and Poultry. -- The Cock-Pit. -- Negro Slavery, To-Day. --
    Spanish Slaveholders. -- A Slave Mutiny. -- A Pleasant
    Journey across the Island. -- Pictures of the Interior. --
    Scenery about Matanzas. -- The Tropics and the North
    contrasted.


To reach Cienfuegos, our next objective point, one takes water
conveyance, the common roads in this district being, if possible, a
degree worse than elsewhere. It is therefore necessary to double Cape
Cruz, and perform a coasting voyage along the southern shore of the
island of about four hundred miles. This is really delightful sailing
in any but the hurricane months; that is, between the middle of August
and the middle of October. It would seem that this should be quite a
commercial thoroughfare, but it is surprising how seldom a
sailing-vessel is seen on the voyage, and it is still more rare to
meet a steamship. Our passage along the coast was delightful: the
undulating hills, vales, and plains seemed to be quietly gliding past
us of their own volition; the tremor of the ship did not suggest
motion of the hull, but a sense of delight at the moving panorama so
clearly depicted. No extensive range of waters in either hemisphere is
so proverbially smooth as the Caribbean Sea, during eight months of
the year, but a stout hull and good seamanship are demanded during the
remaining four, especially if coming from the northward over the
Bahama Banks and through the Windward Passage, as described in these
chapters.

The city of Trinidad, perched upon a hillside, is passed at the
distance of a few miles, being pleasantly situated more than a league
from the coast. The town of Casilda is its commercial port. This
arrangement was adopted in the early days as a partial protection
against the frequent inroads of the buccaneers, who ceased to be
formidable when separated from their ships. Trinidad was once the
centre of the prosperous coffee trade of Cuba, but is now, and has
been for many years, commercially wrecked. It is very beautifully
located, with Mount Vijia for its background, in what is declared to
be the healthiest district upon the island. But it is an ancient city,
comparatively deserted, its date being nearly contemporary with that
of Santiago. Cienfuegos, its successful business rival, is on the
contrary quite modern, exhibiting many features of thrift and
activity, and is counted the third commercial city of Cuba. Like
Cardenas, it is called an American capital. It has some twenty-five
thousand inhabitants, a large proportion of whom speak English, nine
tenths of its commerce being with the United States. In this immediate
neighborhood Columbus, on his second voyage, saw with astonishment the
mysterious king who spoke to his subjects only by signs, and that
group of men who wore long white tunics like the monks of mercy, while
the rest of the people were entirely naked. The town is low and level,
occupying a broad plane. The streets are of fair width, crossing each
other at right angles, and are kept neat and clean. The harbor is an
excellent and spacious one, admitting of vessels being moored at the
wharves, a commercial convenience unknown at Santiago, Matanzas, or
Havana. The navies of all the world might rendezvous here and not
crowd each other. Three rivers, the Canudo, Saludo, and Danuyi, empty
into the bay, and each is navigable for a considerable distance
inland, a matter of great importance in a country so devoid of good
roads. The parti-colored houses are of the usual Cuban type, mostly of
one story, built with a patio or open courtyard in the centre, well
filled with flowering plants, among which were observed the attractive
coral-tree, which resembles a baby palm, and the universal banana.

The Plaza of Cienfuegos forms a large, well-arranged square, where an
out-door military concert is given twice a week, a universal practice
in all Cuban cities. It is laid out with excellent taste, its broad
paths nicely paved, and the whole lighted at night with numerous
ornamental gas-lamps. The vegetation is both attractive and
characteristic, consisting of palms, laurels, and flowering shrubs,
mingled with which are some exotics from the North, which droop with a
homesick aspect. Plants, like human beings, will pine for their native
atmosphere. If it be more rigorous and less genial at the North, still
there is a bracing, tonic effect, imparting life and strength, which
is wanting in the low latitudes. On one side of this fine square is
the government house and barracks, opposite to which is an open-air
theatre, and in front is the cathedral with any number of discordant
bells. The little English sparrow seems to be ubiquitous, and as
pugnacious here as on Boston Common, or the Central Park of New York.
Boyish games are very similar the world over: young Cuba was playing
marbles after the orthodox fashion, knuckle-down. It was very pitiful
to behold the army of beggars in so small a city, but begging is
synonymous with the Spanish name, both in her European and colonial
possessions. Here the maimed, halt, and blind meet one at every turn.
Saturday is the harvest day for beggars in the Cuban cities, on which
occasion they go about by scores from door to door, carrying a large
canvas bag. Each family and shop is supplied with a quantity of small
rolls of bread, specially baked for the purpose, and one of which is
nearly always given to the applicant on that day, so the mendicant's
bag becomes full of rolls. These, mixed with vegetables, bits of fish,
and sometimes meat and bones when they can be procured, are boiled
into a soup, thus keeping soul and body together in the poor creatures
during the week.

Cienfuegos is situated in the midst of a sugar-producing district,
where soil and climate are both favorable, and over twenty large
plantations are to be seen within a radius of two or three leagues.
The export from them, as we were informed by the courteous editor of
"La Opinion," a local paper, aggregates thirty thousand hogsheads
annually. The visitor should not fail to make an excursion to some
representative plantation, where it is impossible not to be much
interested and practically informed. One of these sugar estates,
situated less than two leagues from the town, was found to be
furnished with a complete outfit of the most modern machinery, which
had cost the proprietor a quarter of a million dollars. It was working
with the usual favorable results, though at the present price of sugar
no profit can accrue to the planter. The plantation presented a busy
scene. During the grinding season the machinery is run night and day,
but is obliged to lie idle for eight months out of the year.

In the uncultivated fields through which we passed when driving out to
the sugar estate, the prickly pear grew close to the ground in great
luxuriance, as it is seen on our Western prairies. Its thick leaves,
so green as to be dense with color, impart the effect of greensward at
a short distance. On close inspection it was seen to be the star
cactus, which like the Northern thistle kills all other vegetation
within its reach. Here and there the wild ipecacuanha with its bright
red blossom was observed, but the fields, except those devoted to the
cane, were very barren near Cienfuegos.

Sugar-cane is cultivated like Indian corn, which it also resembles in
appearance. It is first planted in rows, not in hills, and must be
hoed and weeded until it gets high enough to shade its roots. Then it
may be left to itself until it reaches maturity. This refers to the
first laying out of a plantation, which will afterwards continue
fruitful for years by very simple processes of renewal. When
thoroughly ripe the cane is of a light golden yellow, streaked here
and there with red. The top is dark green, with long narrow leaves
depending,--very much like those of the corn stalk,--from the centre
of which shoots upwards a silvery stem a couple of feet in height, and
from its tip grows a white fringed plume, of a delicate lilac hue. The
effect of a large field at its maturity, lying under a torrid sun and
gently yielding to the breeze, is very fine, a picture to live in the
memory ever after. In the competition between the products of
beet-root sugar and that from sugar-cane, the former controls the
market, because it can be produced at a cheaper rate, besides which
its production is stimulated by nearly all of the European states
through the means of liberal subsidies both to the farmer and to the
manufacturer. Beet sugar, however, does not possess so high a
percentage of true saccharine matter as does the product of the cane,
the latter seeming to be nature's most direct mode of supplying us
with the article. The Cuban planters have one advantage over all other
sugar-cane producing countries, in the great and inexhaustible
fertility of the soil of the island. For instance: one to two
hogsheads of sugar to the acre is considered a good yield in Jamaica,
but in Cuba three hogsheads is the average. Fertilizing of any sort is
rarely employed in the cane-fields, while in beet farming it is the
principal agent of success.

Though the modern machinery, as lately adopted on the plantations, is
very expensive, still the result achieved by it is so much superior to
that of the old methods of manufacture that the small planters are
being driven from the market. Slave labor cannot compete with
machinery. The low price of sugar renders economy imperative in all
branches of the business, in order to leave a margin for profit. A
planter informed the author that he should spread all of his molasses
upon the cane-fields this year as a fertilizer, rather than send it to
a distant market and receive only what it cost. He further said that
thousands of acres of sugar-cane would be allowed to rot in the fields
this season, as it would cost more to cut, grind, pack, and send it to
market than could be realized for the manufactured article. Had the
price of sugar remained this year at a figure which would afford the
planters a fair profit, it might have been the means of tiding over
the chasm of bankruptcy which has long stared them in the face, and
upon the brink of which they now stand. But with a more than average
crop, both as to quantity and quality, whether to gather it or not is
a problem. Under these circumstances it is difficult to say what is to
become, financially, of the people of Cuba. Sugar is their great
staple, but all business has been equally depressed upon the island,
under the bane of civil wars, extortionate taxation, and oppressive
rule.

If you visit Cienfuegos you will take rooms at the Hotel Union, as
being the least objectionable of the two public houses which the city
contains, and there you will make the acquaintance of Jane, who is an
institution in herself. Indeed, she will doubtless board your ship
when it first arrives, so as to enlighten you concerning the
excellences of the Union over its rival establishment, which will also
be sure to be represented. Jane is interpreter and general factotum of
that delectable posada, the Union, and being the only one in the house
who speaks either French or English, she becomes an important factor
in your calculations. Jane's nationality is a pleasing mystery, but
she may be classed as a Portuguese quadroon. Venus did not preside at
her birth, but, by means of the puff-ball and egg-shell powder, she
strives to harmonize her mottled features. Being interpreter,
waitress, hotel-runner, and chambermaid, she is no idler, and fully
earns the quarter eagle you naturally hand her at leave-taking. In
visiting the neighboring sugar plantation Jane acts as your guide, on
which occasion her independence will be sure to challenge admiration.
She salutes slave or master with equal familiarity, conducts you
through each process of the elaborate works, from the engine to the
crushing mill, and so on, until you reach the centrifugal machine,
where the glistening crystals of pure sugar fall into an open
receptacle ready for packing and shipment. She takes you into the
slave-quarters among the pickaninnies, hens, pigs, and pigeons,
looking on blandly and chewing huge pieces of cane while you
distribute the bright ten cent pieces with which you filled your
pocket at starting. If Jane slyly pinches a papoose and causes it to
yell, it is only for fun; she means no harm, though the dusky mite
gets smartly slapped by its mother for misbehaving. The cabin floor of
bare earth is sure to be covered with these little naked, sprawling
objects, like ants. On the way back to town Jane orders the postilion
to drive into the private grounds of a palatial Cuban residence, where
she boldly announces herself and party to the proprietor in good
rolling Spanish. It is the home of Señor N----, a wealthy merchant of
the city. We are received as though we belonged to the royal family.
The hospitable owner speaks English fluently, and answers our thousand
and one questions with tireless courtesy, takes us into his superb
fruit garden (of which more anon), then introduces us to his domestic
quarters, where everything appears refined, faultlessly neat, and
tasteful. If you go to the railroad station, as usual the evening
before departure, in order to secure tickets and get your baggage
labeled,--for the cars start in the morning before daylight,--Jane
will accompany you, riding by your side in the victoria. Excuse her if
she orders the calash thrown back, as she appears bonnetless in a
loud, theatrical costume, trimmed with red and yellow, and carrying a
bouquet in her freckled hands. It is her opportunity, and she looks
triumphantly at the street loungers in passing. If you are charged on
your bill a Delmonico price for a mythical lunch to be taken with you
on the journey to Matanzas, and which Jane has forgotten to put up,
pay without wrangling; it saves time and temper.

The tropical garden which we visited just outside of Cienfuegos
embraced a remarkable variety of trees, including some thrifty
exotics. Here the mango, with its peach-like foliage, was bending to
the ground with the weight of its ripening fruit; the alligator pear
was marvelously beautiful in its full blossom, suggesting, in form and
color, the passion-flower; the soft delicate foliage of the tamarind
was like our sensitive plant; the banana trees were in full bearing,
the deep green fruit (it is ripened and turns yellow off the tree)
being in clusters of a hundred, more or less, tipped at the same time
by a single, pendent, glutinous bud nearly as large as a pineapple.
The date-palm, so suggestive of the far East, and the only one we had
seen in Cuba, was represented by a choice specimen, imported in its
youth. There was also the star-apple tree, remarkable for its uniform
and graceful shape, full of the green fruit, with here and there a
ripening specimen; so, also, was the favorite zapota, its rusty-coated
fruit hanging in tempting abundance. From low, broad-spreading trees
depended the grape-fruit, as large as an infant's head and yellow as
gold, while the orange, lime, and lemon trees, bearing blossoms, green
and ripe fruit all together, met the eye at every turn, and filled the
garden with fragrance. The cocoanut palm, with its tall, straight
stem and clustering fruit, dominated all the rest. Guava, fig,
custard-apple, and bread-fruit trees, all were in bearing. Our
hospitable host plucked freely of the choicest for the benefit of his
chance visitors. Was there ever such a fruit garden before, or
elsewhere? It told of fertility of soil and deliciousness of climate,
of care, judgment, and liberal expenditure, all of which combined had
turned these half a dozen acres of land into a Gan Eden. Through this
orchard of Hesperides we were accompanied also by the proprietor's two
lovely children, under nine years of age, with such wealth of promise
in their large black eyes and sweet faces as to fix them on our memory
with photographic fidelity.

Before leaving the garden we returned with our intelligent host once
more to examine his beautiful specimens of the banana, which, with its
sister fruit the plantain, forms so important a staple of food in Cuba
and throughout all tropical regions. It seems that the female banana
tree bears more fruit than the male, but not so large. The average
clusters of the former comprise here about one hundred, but the latter
rarely bears over sixty or seventy distinct specimens of the
cucumber-shaped product. From the centre of its large broad leaves,
which gather at the top, when it has reached the height of twelve or
fifteen feet there springs forth a large purple bud ten inches long,
shaped like a huge acorn, though more pointed. This cone hangs
suspended from a strong stem, upon which a leaf unfolds, displaying a
cluster of young fruit. As soon as these are large enough to support
the heat of the sun and the chill of the rain, this sheltering leaf
drops off, and another unfolds, exposing its little brood of fruit;
and so the process goes on until six or eight rings of young bananas
are started, forming, as we have said, bunches numbering from seventy
to a hundred. The banana is a herbaceous plant, and after fruiting its
top dies; but it annually sprouts up again fresh from the roots. From
the unripe fruit, dried in the sun, a palatable and nutritious flour
is made.

No matter where one may be, in town or country, in the east or west
end of the island, Santiago or Havana, the lottery-ticket vender is
there. Men, women, and children are employed to peddle the tickets,
cripples especially being pressed into the service in the hope of
exciting the sympathies of strangers and thus creating purchasers. It
may be said to be about the only prosperous business at present going
on in this thoroughly demoralized island. Half the people seem to
think of nothing else, and talk of dreaming that such and such
combinations of numbers will bring good luck. Some will buy only even
numbers, others believe that the odd ones stand the best chance of
winning; in short, all the gambling fancies are brought to bear upon
these lotteries. Enough small prizes are doled out to the purchasers
of tickets, by the cunning management, to keep hope and expectation
ever alive in their hearts, and to coax out of them their last dollar
in further investments. "If," said a native resident of Matanzas to
us, "these lotteries, all of which are presided over by the officials,
are honestly conducted, they are the one honest thing in which this
government is concerned. Venal in everything else, why should they be
conscientious in this gambling game?" No one believes in the integrity
of the government, but, strange to say, the masses have implicit faith
in the lotteries.

At one corner of our hotel in Cienfuegos, there sat upon the sidewalk
of the street a blind beggar, a Chinese coolie, whose miserable,
poverty-stricken appearance elicited a daily trifle from the habitués
of the house. Early one morning we discovered this representative of
want and misery purchasing a lottery ticket. They are so divided and
subdivided, it appears, as to come even within the means of the street
beggars! Speaking of blindness, the multiplicity of people thus
afflicted, especially among negroes and coolies, led to the
enumeration of those met with in a single day; the result was
seventeen. On inquiry it was found that inflammation of the eyes is as
common here as in Egypt, and that it runs a rapid and fatal
course,--fatal to the sight after having once attacked a victim,
unless it receives prompt, judicious, and scientific treatment.

The Chinese coolies, who are encountered in all parts of the island,
but more especially in the cities, are almost invariably decrepit,
poverty-stricken mendicants, and very frequently blind. They are such
as have been through their eight years' contract, and have been
brought to their present condition by ill-treatment, insufficient
food, and the troubles incident to the climate. In the majority of
cases these coolies have been cheated out of the trifling amount of
wages promised to them, for there is no law in Cuba to which they can
appeal. There are laws which will afford the negro justice if resorted
to under certain circumstances, but none for the coolies. There are
some few Chinamen who have survived every exigency, and are now
engaged in keeping small stores or fruit stands, cigar making, and
other light employments, their only hope being to gain money enough
to carry them back to their native land, and to have a few dollars
left to support them after getting there. There are no Chinese
laundries in Cuba; John cannot compete with the black women in this
occupation, for they are natural washers and ironers. John is only a
skillful imitator. He proves most successful in the cigarette and
cigar factories, where his deft fingers can turn out a more uniform
and handsome article than the Cubans themselves. Machinery is fast
doing away with hand-made cigarettes. At the famous establishment of
La Honradez, in Havana, which we visited some weeks later, one machine
was seen in operation which produced ten thousand complete cigarettes
each hour, or a million per day! Still this same establishment
employed some fifty Chinese in order to supply its trade with the
hand-made article, for home consumption. The Cubans prefer to unroll
and readjust a cigarette before lighting it. This cannot be done with
the machine-made article, which completes its product by a pasting
process. The three machines (an American patent) at the Honradez
factory turn out three millions of cigarettes per day, and this is in
addition to those which are hand-made by the Chinese.

The landlord of the Hotel Union, at Cienfuegos, will give you plenty
of fruit and cheap Cataline wine, but the meat which is served is poor
and consists mostly of birds. Any other which may be set before you
will hardly be found to be a success, but then one does not crave much
substantial food in this climate. There is a small wild pigeon which
forms a considerable source of food in Cuba, and which breeds several
times in a year. They are snared and shot in large numbers for the
table, but do not show any signs of being exterminated. Ducks and
water-fowl generally abound, and are depended upon to eke out the
short supply of what we term butcher's meat. Three quarters of the
people never partake of other meat than pigeons, poultry, and wild
ducks. Eggs are little used as food, being reserved for hatching
purposes. All families in the country and many in the cities make a
business of raising poultry, but the product is a bird of small
dimensions, not half the size of our common domestic fowls. They are
very cheap, but they are also very poor. The practice is to keep them
alive until they are required for the table, so that they are killed,
picked, and eaten, all in the same hour, and are in consequence very
tough. As the climate permits of hens hatching every month in the
year, the young are constantly coming forward, and one mother annually
produces several broods; chickens, like tropical fruits, are
perennial.

Sunday is no more a day of rest in Cienfuegos than it is in other
Roman Catholic countries; indeed, it seemed to be distinguished only
by an increase of revelry, the activity of the billiard saloons, the
noisy persistency of the lottery-ticket venders, the boisterousness of
masquerade processions, and a general public rollicking. The city is
not large enough to support a bull-ring, but cock-pits are to be found
all over the island, and the Sabbath is the chosen day for their
exhibitions. It must be a very small and very poor country town in
Cuba which has not its cock-pit. The inveterate gambling propensities
of the people find vent also at dominoes, cards, checkers, and chess
in the bar-rooms, every marble table being in requisition for the
purpose of the games on Sundays. Having noticed the sparse attendance
at the cathedral, we remarked to Jane that the church was quite
empty, whereupon she replied with a significant leer, "True, Señor,
but the jail is full." More than once an underlying vein of sarcasm
was observed in the very pertinent remarks of which Jane was so
happily delivered.

There are comparatively few slaves to be found on the plantations or
elsewhere in the vicinity of Cienfuegos: in fact, slavery is rapidly
disappearing from the island. "Slave labor is more costly than any
other, all things considered," said a sugar planter to us. "I do not
own one to-day, but I have owned and worked six hundred at a time," he
added. "We pay no tax on the laborers we hire, but on slaves we pay a
heavy head-tax annually." An edict has been promulgated by the home
government, which went into force last year, and which frees one slave
in every four annually, so that on January 1, 1888, all will have
become free. In the mean time the commercial value of slaves has so
decreased in view of their near emancipation that they are not
appraised on an average at over fifty or sixty dollars each. The law
has for a period of many years provided that any slave who pays to his
master his appraised value shall at once receive his free papers. Many
purchase their liberty under this law, and then hire themselves to the
same master or to some other, as they may choose,--at low wages, to be
sure, but including food and shelter. Slaves have always been entitled
by law in Cuba to hold individual property independent of their
masters, and there are few smart ones who have not accumulated more or
less pecuniary means during their servitude. They have had no expenses
to meet in the way of supporting themselves. That has devolved upon
their owners, so that whatever money they have realized by the several
ways open to them has been clear profit. Many slaves have anticipated
the period of their legal release from servitude, and more will do so
during the present year. We also heard of planters who, realizing the
inevitable, have manumitted the few slaves whom they still held in
bondage, and hiring them at merely nominal wages, believed they saved
money by the operation.

It will be seen, therefore, that slavery as an institution here is
virtually at an end. Low wages will prevail, and this is necessary to
enable the planters to compete with the beet sugar producers of
Europe. In truth, it is a question how long they will be able to do so
at any rate of wages. The modern machinery being so generally adopted
by the sugar-cane planters, while remarkably successful, both, as to
the quality and the quantity of the juice it expresses from the cane,
not only is expensive in first cost, but it requires more intelligent
laborers than were found serviceable with the old process. To supply
the places of the constantly diminishing slaves, emigrants, as they
were called, have heretofore been introduced from the Canary Islands;
men willing to contract for a brief period of years, say eight or ten,
as laborers, and at moderate wages. These people have proved to be
good plantation hands, though not so well able to bear the great heat
of the sun as were the negroes; otherwise they were superior to them,
and better in all respects than the Chinese coolies, who as workers on
the plantations have proved to be utter failures. The mortality among
these Mongolians, as we learned from good authority, had reached as
high as sixty-seven per cent, within eight years of their date of
landing in Cuba, that being also the period of their term of contract.
None have been introduced into the island for several years. This
coolie importation, like the slave-trade with Africa, was a fraud and
an outrage upon humanity, and never paid any one, even in a mercenary
point of view, except the shipowners who brought the deceived natives
from the coast of China. Slavery in Cuba and slavery in our country
were always quite a different thing, and strange to say the laws of
the Spanish government were far more favorable and humane towards the
victims of enforced labor than were those established in our Southern
States. When the American negro ceased to be a slave, he ceased to
cultivate the soil for his master only to cultivate it for himself.
Not so in the tropics. The Cuban negro, in the first place, is of a
far less intelligent type than the colored people in the States;
secondly, the abundance of natural food productions in the low
latitudes, such as fruit, fish, and vegetables, requires of the negro
only to pluck and to eat; clothing and shelter are scarcely needed,
and virtually cost nothing where one may sleep in the open air without
danger every night in the year; and finally, the negro of the tropics
will not work unless he is compelled to.

There is a certain class of the Spanish slaveholders who have always
fought against negro emancipation in any form,--fought against
manifest destiny as well as against sound principles, fought indeed
against their own clear interest, so wedded were they to the vile
institution of slavery. Yet to every thinking man on the island, it is
clearly apparent that human slavery in Cuba, as everywhere else, has
proved to be a disturber of the public peace, and has retarded more
than anything, else the material and moral progress of the entire
people. It is but a short time since that the editor of a Havana
newspaper, the "Revista Economica," was imprisoned in Moro Castle, and
without even the pretense of a trial afterwards banished from the
island, because he dared to point out the fact in print that the
freeing of the slaves would prove a mutual benefit to man and master,
besides being a grand act of humanity. Two years since the slaves on a
large plantation near Guines refused to work on a holiday which had
always heretofore been granted to them; whereupon the soldiery were
called in to suppress what was called a mutiny of the blacks,
resulting in nine negroes being shot dead, and many others put in
chains to be scourged at leisure. Doomed as we have shown slavery to
be, still it dies hard in Cuba.

In the vicinity of Cienfuegos, Santiago, and Trinidad, in the mountain
regions of the eastern district, there are many lawless
people,--banditti, in fact, who make war for plunder both upon native
and foreign travelers, even resorting in some cases to holding
prisoners for ransoms. Several aggravating instances of the latter
character came to our knowledge while we were on the spot. Since these
notes were commenced five of these robbers have been captured,
including the leader of the band to which they belonged, a notorious
outlaw named Clemente Martinez. They were taken by means of a
stratagem, whereby they were decoyed into an ambush, surrounded, and
captured red-handed, as they fought furiously, knowing that they had
no mercy to expect at the hands of the soldiers. It was the civil
guard at Rancho Veloz who made this successful raid into the hills,
and every one of the prisoners was summarily shot. Such, off-hand
punishment is dangerous, but in this instance it was no more prompt
than just. It is necessary, therefore, to carry arms for self-defense
upon the roads in some parts of the island, and even the countrymen
wear swords when bringing produce to market. Residents having occasion
to go any distance inland take a well-armed guard with them, to
prevent being molested by the desperate refugees who lurk in the hill
country. Undoubtedly many of these lawless bands are composed of
former revolutionists, who are driven to extremes by want of food and
the necessities of life.

Our journey was continued from Cienfuegos to Havana, by way of
Matanzas, crossing the island nearly at right angles. The traveler
plunges at once by this route into the midst of luxuriant tropical
nature, where the vegetation is seen to special advantage,
characterized by a great variety of cacti and parasitic growth,
flowering trees and ever graceful palms, besides occasional ceibas of
immense size. Though the landscape, somehow, was sad and melancholy,
it gave rise to bright and interesting thoughts in the observer:
doubtless the landscape, like humanity, has its moods. Vegetation,
unlike mankind, seems here never to grow old, never to falter; crop
succeeds crop, harvest follows harvest; nature is inexhaustible,--it
is an endless cycle of abundance. Miles upon miles of the bright,
golden-green sugar-cane lie in all directions, among which, here and
there, is seen the little cluster of low buildings constituting the
negroes' quarters attached to each plantation, and near by is the tall
white chimney of the sugar-mill, emitting its thick volume of
wreathing smoke, like the funnel of a steamboat. A little on one side
stands the planter's house, low and white, surrounded by beautiful
shade trees and clustering groups of flowers. Scores of dusky Africans
give life to the scene, and the sturdy overseer, mounted on his little
Cuban pony, dashes back and forth to keep all hands advantageously at
work. One large gang is busy cutting the tall cane with sharp,
sword-like knives; some are loading the stalks upon ox-carts; some are
driving loads to the mill; some feeding the cane between the great
steel crushers, beneath which pours forth a ceaseless jelly-like
stream, to be conducted by iron pipes to the boilers; men, women, and
children are spreading the crushed refuse to dry in the sun, after
which it will be used for fuel. Coopers are heading up hogsheads full
of the manufactured article, and others are rolling up empty ones to
be filled.

Some years ago, when the author first visited Cuba, the overseer was
never seen without his long, cutting whip, as well as his sword and
pistols. The latter he wears to-day, but the whip is unseen. The fact
is, the labor on the plantations is now so nearly free labor that
there is little if any downright cruelty exercised as of yore. Or,
rather, we will qualify the remark by saying that there has been a
vast improvement in this respect on the side of humanity. The shadow
of the picture lies in the past. One could not but recall in
imagination the horrors which so long characterized these plantations.
The bloodthirsty spirit of the Spanish slaveholders had free scope
here for centuries, during which time the invaders sacrificed the
entire aboriginal race; and since then millions of Africans have been
slowly murdered by overwork, insufficient food, and the lash, simply
to fill the pockets of their rapacious masters with gold. Few native
Cubans are sugar-planters. These estates are almost universally owned
and carried on by Spaniards from the European peninsula, or other
foreigners, including Englishmen and Americans.

Occasionally, in the trip across the island, we passed through a crude
but picturesque little hamlet having the unmistakable stamp of
antiquity, with low straggling houses built of rude frames, covered at
side and roof with palm bark and leaves; chimneys there were
none,--none even in the cities,--charcoal only being used for cooking
purposes, and which is performed in the open air. About the door of
the long, rambling posada, a dozen or more horses were seen tied to a
long bar, erected for the purpose, but no wheeled vehicles were there.
The roads are only fit for equestrians, and hardly passable even for
them. At rare intervals one gets a glimpse of the volante, now so
generally discarded in the cities, and which suggested Dr. Holmes's
old chaise, prepared to tumble to pieces in all parts at the same
time. The people, the cabins, and the horses, are all stained with the
red dust of the soil, recalling the Western Indians in their war
paint. This pigment, or colored dirt, penetrates and adheres to
everything, filling the cars and decorating the passengers with a
dingy brick color. It was difficult to realize that these
comparatively indifferent places through which we glided so swiftly
were of importance and the permanent abode of any one. When the cars
stop at the small way-stations, they are instantly invaded by
lottery-ticket sellers, boys with tempting fruit, green cocoanuts,
ripe oranges, and bananas,--all cheap for cash. And here too is the
guava seller, with neatly sealed cans of the favorite preserve.
Indeed, it seems to rain guava jelly in Cuba. Others offer country
cheese, soft and white, with rolls, while in a shanty beside the road
hot coffee and "blue ruin" are dealt out to thirsty souls by a
ponderous mulatto woman. There are always a plenty of the denizens of
the place, in slovenly dresses and slouched hats, hands in pockets,
and puffing cigarettes, who do the heavy standing-round business.
Stray dogs hang about the car-wheels and track to pick up the crumbs
which passengers throw away from their lunch-baskets. Just over the
wild-pineapple hedge close at hand, half a score of naked negro
children hover round the door of a low cabin; the mother, fat and
shining in her one garment, gazes with arms akimbo at the scene of
which she forms a typical part. The engineer imbibes a penny drink of
thin Cataline wine and hastens back to his machine, which has been
taking water from an elevated cistern beside the track, the bell
rings, the whistle sounds, and we are off to repeat the process and
the picture, six or eight leagues further on. Take our advice and
don't attempt to make a meal at one of these stations. The viands are
wretchedly poor, and the price charged is a swindle.

As we approach Matanzas the scene undergoes a radical change.
Comfortable habitations are multiplied, passable roads appear winding
gracefully about the country, groves and gardens spring into view,
with small and thrifty farms. Superb specimens of the royal palm begin
to appear in abundance, always suggestive of the Corinthian column.
Scattered over the hills and valleys a few fine cattle are seen
cropping the rank verdure. There is no greensward in the tropics, and
hay is never made. The scenery reminds one of Syria and the Nile.

One sees some vegetable and fruit farms, but sugar raising absorbs
nearly every other interest, the tobacco leaf coming next, now that
coffee is so neglected. The farmer ploughs with the crooked branch of
a tree, having one handle with which to guide the crude machine,--just
such an instrument as is used for the purpose in Egypt to-day, and has
been used there for thousands of years. The cattle are mostly poor,
half-starved creatures,--starved amid a vegetation only too rank and
luxuriant. The dairy receives no attention in Cuba. Butter is seldom
made; the canned article from this country, thin and offensive, is
made to answer the purpose. The climate is too hot to keep butter or
cream without ice, and that is expensive. Human beings, men, women,
and children, look stunted and thin, possessing, however, wonderfully
fine eyes, large, lustrous, and ebony in hue; eyes that alone make
beauty; but the physiognomists have long since learned that eyes of
themselves are no indication of character or moral force.

The thermometer had stood since early morning at 83°, during the long
ride from Cienfuegos. It was hot and dusty. Notwithstanding the
ceaseless novelty of the scene, one became a little fatigued, a little
weary; but as we approached Matanzas, the refreshing air from off the
Gulf of Mexico suddenly came to our relief, full of a bracing tonic,
and rendering all things tolerable. The sight of the broad harbor,
lying with its flickering surface under the afternoon sun, was
beautiful to behold.

After all, these tropical regions lack the delicious freshness of the
greensward, of new foliage, and the fine fragrance of the rural North;
they need the invigorating sleep of the seasons from which to awake
refreshed and blooming. Where vegetation is growing and decaying at
the same time, there can never be general freshness and greenness;
eternal summer lacks interest; we crave the frost as well as the
sunshine. Compensation follows fast upon the heels of even a Northern
winter. The tropical loveliness of the vegetation in this attractive
land indicates what Cuba should be, but is not.

Having accompanied the reader across many degrees of latitude,
effecting a landing and reaching the interior of Cuba, let us now pass
to other considerations of this interesting and important island.



                             CHAPTER IV.

    The Great Genoese Pilot. -- Discovery of Cuba. -- Its Various
    Names. -- Treatment of the Natives. -- Tobacco! -- Flora of
    the Island. -- Strange Idols. -- Antiquity. -- Habits of the
    Aborigines. -- Remarkable Speech of an Indian King. -- A
    Native Entertainment. -- Paying Tribute. -- Ancient Remains.
    -- Wrong Impression of Columbus. -- First Attempt at
    Colonization. -- Battle with the Indians. -- First Governor
    of Cuba. -- Founding Cities. -- Emigration from Spain. --
    Conquest of Mexico.


The island of Cuba was discovered by the great Genoese pilot, on the
28th day of October, 1492. The continent of America was not discovered
until six years later,--in 1498. The name of Columbus flashes a bright
ray over the mental darkness of the period in which he lived, for the
world was then but just awakening from the dull sleep of the Middle
Ages. The discovery of printing heralded the new birth of the republic
of letters, and maritime enterprise received a vigorous impulse. The
shores of the Mediterranean, thoroughly explored and developed, had
endowed the Italian States with extraordinary wealth, and built up a
very respectable mercantile marine. The Portuguese mariners were
venturing farther and farther from the peninsula, and traded with many
distant ports on the extended coast of Africa.

To the west lay what men supposed to be an illimitable ocean, full of
mystery, peril, and death. A vague conception that islands hitherto
unknown might be met afar off on that strange wilderness of waters was
entertained by some minds, but no one thought of venturing in search
of them. Columbus alone, regarded merely as a brave and intelligent
seaman and pilot, conceived the idea that the earth was spherical, and
that the East Indies, the great El Dorado of the century, might be
reached by circumnavigating the globe. If we picture to ourselves the
mental condition of the age and the state of science, we shall find no
difficulty in conceiving the scorn and incredulity with which the
theory of Columbus was received. We shall not wonder that he was
regarded as a madman or as a fool; we are not surprised to remember
that he encountered repulse upon repulse as he journeyed wearily from
court to court, and pleaded in vain to the sovereigns of Europe for
aid to prosecute his great design. The marvel is that when door after
door was closed against him, when all ears were deaf to his earnest
importunities, when day by day the opposition to his views increased,
when, weary and footsore, he was forced to beg a bit of bread and a
cup of water for his fainting and famishing boy at the door of a
Spanish convent, his reason did not give way, and his great heart did
not break with disappointment.

But he felt himself to be the instrument of a higher power, and his
soul was then as firm and steadfast as when, launched in his frail
caravél upon the ocean, he pursued day after day and night after
night, amidst a murmuring, discontented, and even mutinous crew, his
westward path across the trackless waters. No doubt he believed
himself to be inspired, or at least specially prompted from above.
This was shown by his tenacious observance of all ceremonies of the
Church, in his unaffected piety, and in that lofty and solemn
enthusiasm which was a characteristic of his whole life. This must
have been the secret in no small degree of the power he exerted so
successfully over his semi-barbarous followers, who were more affected
by awe than by fear. It was the devout and lofty aspect of their
commander which controlled his sailors under circumstances so trying.
We can conceive of his previous sorrows, but what imagination can form
an adequate conception of his hopefulness and gratitude when the
tokens of the neighborhood of land first greeted his senses? What
rapture must have been his when the keel of his barque first grounded
on the shore of San Salvador, and he planted the royal standard in the
soil, as the Viceroy and High-Admiral of Spain in the New World! No
matter what chanced thereafter, a king's favor or a king's
displeasure, royal largesses or royal chains, that moment of noble
exultation was worth a lifetime of trials.

Columbus first named Cuba "Juana," in honor of Prince John, son of
Ferdinand and Isabella. Subsequently the king named it Fernandina.
This was changed to Santiago, and finally to Ave Maria; but the
aboriginal designation has never been lost, Cuba being its Indian and
only recognized name. The new-comers found the land inhabited by a
most peculiar race, hospitable, inoffensive, timid, fond of the dance
and the rude music of their own people, yet naturally indolent, from
the character of the climate they inhabited. They had some definite
idea of God and heaven, and were governed by patriarchs or kings,
whose word was their only law, and whose age gave them undisputed
precedence. They spoke the dialect of the Lucayos, or Bahamas, from
which islands it is presumed by historians they originated; but it
would seem more reasonable to suppose that both the people of the
Bahamas and of the West India isles came originally from the mainland;
that is, either north or south of the Isthmus of Panama. In numbers
they were vaguely estimated at a million, a calculation the
correctness of which we cannot but doubt. Reliable local authority,
Cubans who have made a study of the early history of the island,
assured the author that the aborigines at the time of Velasquez's
first settlement, say in 1512, could not have exceeded four hundred
thousand. They had but few weapons of offense or defense, and knew not
the use of the bow and arrow. Being a peaceful race and having no wild
animals to contend with, their ingenuity had never been taxed to
invent weapons of warfare against man or beast. The natives were at
once subjected by the new-comers, who reduced them gradually to an
actual state of slavery, and proving hard task-masters, the poor
overworked creatures died by hundreds, until they had nearly
disappeared. The home government then granted permission to import
negroes from the coast of Africa to labor upon the soil and to seek
for gold, which was known to exist in the river courses. Thus
commenced the foreign slave-trade of the West Indies, King Ferdinand
himself sending fifty slaves from Seville to labor in the mines, and
from that time this plague spot upon humanity has festered on the
island. It should be remembered in this connection that previous to
the discoveries of Columbus, negro slavery had been reduced to a
system by the Moors, and thus existed in Spain before the days of the
great Genoese.

The Spaniards were not content with putting the aborigines to labor
far beyond their power of endurance on the soil where they were born,
but shipped them by hundreds to Spain to be sold in the slave-market
of Seville, the proceeds being turned into the royal treasury.
Columbus himself was the promoter of this outrageous return for the
hospitality he had received at the hands of the natives. Irving
apologetically says he was induced to this course in order to
indemnify the sovereigns of Castile and Leon for the large expense his
expedition had been to them. The fact that the great navigator
originated the slave-trade in the New World cannot be ignored, though
it detracts in no small degree from the glory of his career.

Although the conquerors have left us but few details respecting these
aborigines, still we know with certainty from the narrative of
Columbus, and those of some of his most intelligent followers, that
they were docile, artless, generous, but inclined to ease; that they
were well-formed, grave, and far from possessing the vivacity of the
natives of the south of Europe. They expressed themselves with a
certain modesty and respect, and were hospitable to the last degree.
Reading between the lines of the records of history, it is manifest
that after their own rules and estimates, their lives were chaste and
proper, though it was admissible for kings to have several wives.
Moreover, though living in a state of nudity, they religiously
observed the decencies of life, and were more outraged by Spanish
lasciviousness than can be clearly expressed. This debasing trait,
together with the greed for gold exhibited by the new-comers,
disabused the minds of the natives as to the celestial origin of their
visitors, a belief which they at first entertained, and which the
Spaniards for mercenary purposes strove to impress upon them. The
labor of this people was limited to the light work necessary to
provide for the prime wants of life, beyond which they knew nothing,
while the bounteous climate of the tropics spared the necessity of
clothing. They preferred hunting and fishing to agriculture; beans and
maize, with the fruits that nature gave them in abundance, rendered
their diet at once simple, nutritious, and entirely adequate to all
their wants. They possessed no quadrupeds of any description, except a
race of voiceless dogs, as they were designated by the early
writers,--why we know not, since they bear no resemblance to the
canine species, but are not very unlike a large rat. This animal is
trapped and eaten by the people on the island to this day, having much
of the flavor and nature of the rabbit.

The native Cubans were of tawny complexion and beardless, resembling
in many respects the aborigines of North America, and as Columbus
described them in his first communication to his royal patrons, were
"loving, tractable, and peaceable; though entirely naked, their
manners were decorous and praiseworthy." The wonderful fecundity of
the soil, its range of noble mountains, its widespread and
well-watered plains, with its extended coast line and excellent
harbors, all challenged the admiration of the discoverers, so that
Columbus recorded in his journal these words: "It is the most
beautiful island that eyes ever beheld,--full of excellent ports and
profound rivers." And again he says; "It excels all other countries,
as far as the day surpasses the night in brightness and splendor." The
spot where the Spaniards first landed is supposed to be on the east
coast, just west of Nuevitas. "As he approached the island," says
Irving, "he was struck with its magnitude and the grandeur of its
features: its airy mountains, which reminded him of Sicily; its
fertile valleys and long sweeping plains, watered by noble rivers; its
stately forests; its bold promontories and stretching headlands, which
melted away into remotest distance."

Excursions inland corroborated the favorable impression made by the
country bordering upon the coast. The abundance of yams, Indian corn,
and various fruits, together with the plentifulness of wild cotton,
impressed the explorers most favorably. Their avarice and greed were
also stimulated by the belief that gold was to be found in large
quantities, having received enough to convince them of its actual
presence in the soil, but in the supposition that the precious metal
was to be found in what is termed paying quantities they were
mistaken.

The Spaniards were not a little surprised to see the natives using
rude pipes, in which they smoked a certain dried leaf with apparent
gratification. Tobacco was indigenous, and in the use of this now
universal narcotic, these simple savages indulged in at least one
luxury. The flora was strongly individualized. The frangipanni, tall
and almost leafless, with thick fleshy shoots, decked with a small
white blossom, was very fragrant and abundant; here also was the wild
passion-flower, in which the Spaniards thought they beheld the emblems
of our Saviour's passion. The golden-hued peta was found beside the
myriad-flowering oleander, while the undergrowth was braided with
cacti and aloes. The poisonous manchineel was observed, a drop of
whose milky juice will burn the flesh like vitriol. Here the invaders
also observed and noted the night-blooming cereus. They were delighted
by fruits of which they knew not the names, such as the custard-apple,
mango, zapota, banana, and others, growing in such rank luxuriance as
to seem miraculous. We can well conceive of the pleasure and surprise
of these adventurous strangers, when first partaking of these new and
delicate products. This was four hundred years ago, and to-day the
same flora and the same luscious food grow there in similar abundance.
Nature in this land of ceaseless summer puts forth strange eagerness,
ever running to fruits, flowers, and fragrance, as if they were
outlets for her exuberant fecundity.

The inoffensive, unsuspicious natives shared freely everything they
possessed with the invaders. Hospitality was with them an instinct,
fostered by nature all about them; besides which it was a considerable
time before they ceased to believe their guests superior beings
descended from the clouds in their winged vessels. The Indians lived
in villages of two or three hundred houses, built of wood and
palm-leaf, each dwelling containing several families, the whole of one
lineage, and all were governed by caciques or kings, the spirit of the
government being patriarchal.

We are told by Las Casas, who accompanied Velasquez in all his
expeditions, that "their dances were graceful and their singing
melodious, while with primeval innocence they thought no harm of being
clad only with nature's covering." The description of the gorgeous
hospitality extended to these treacherous invaders is absolutely
touching in the light of our subsequent knowledge. They reared no
sacred temples, nor did they seem to worship idols, and yet some few
antiquities have been preserved which would seem to indicate that the
natives possessed grotesque images, half human and half animal, like
Chinese gods in effect. These were wrought so rudely out of stone as
hardly to convey any fixed idea; vague and imperfect, it is not safe
to define them as idolatrous images. They might have been left here by
a previous race, for, as we are all aware, respectable authorities
hold that this part of the world was originally peopled by
Carthaginians, Israelites, Egyptians, Hindoos, and Africans. Columbus,
in his second voyage to the West Indies, found the stern-post of a
vessel lying on the shore of one of the Leeward isles, which was
strongly presumptive evidence that a European ship had been in these
waters before him. The fact that at this writing, as already
described, there lies in the harbor of Santiago the wreck of the old
St. Paul, which must be over three centuries old, shows how long a
piece of marine architecture may last, submerged in salt water.

An idol similar to those referred to was dug up in Hayti, and is now
believed to be in the British Museum, drawings of which the author has
seen, and which resemble original religious emblems examined by him in
the caves of Elephanta, at Bombay. This emblem, carved by a people
unacquainted with the use of edge tools, is believed by antiquarians
to afford a degree of light as to the history of worship of the
ancient inhabitants of Hispaniola, and also to form a collateral
support of the conjecture that they sprang from the parent stock of
Asia. According to Las Casas, the native Cubans had a vague tradition
of the formation of the earth, and of all created things; of the
deluge, of the ark, the raven, and the dove. They knew the tradition
of Noah also, according to the same high authority, but for our own
part we do not believe that the aborigines had any knowledge of this
Biblical story. Their priests were fanatics and kept the people in
fear by gross and extravagant means; but as to any formulated system
of religious worship, it may be doubted if the aborigines of Cuba
recognized any at the time of its discovery by Columbus. Unbroken
peace reigned among them, and they turned their hands against no other
people.

These aborigines exhibited many of the traits universally evinced by
savage races, such as painting their bodies with red earth and
adorning their heads with the feathers of brilliant birds. Much of the
soil is red, almost equal to a pigment, for which purpose it was
employed by the natives. They lived mostly in the open air, weaving
themselves hammocks in which they slept, suspended among the trees.
The cotton which they spun grew wild, but tobacco they planted and
cultivated after a rude fashion. The iguana and the voiceless dog,
already spoken of, were hunted and eaten, the former of the lizard
family, the latter scarcely more than fifteen inches long. They had
domestic birds which they fattened and ate. Their only arms were
lances tipped with sea-shells, and a sort of wooden sword, both of
which were more for display than for use. Fish they caught in nets and
also with hooks made of bones. Their boats, or canoes, were formed of
the dug-out trunks of trees, and some of these canoes, as Columbus
tells us, were sufficiently large to accommodate fifty men. An ancient
writer upon this subject says the oars were well formed and properly
fitted, but were used only with the power of the arms, that is as
paddles, no rowlocks being cut in the boat. The speed attained by
them was remarkable, reaching four leagues an hour when an effort to
that end was made by the occupants. A large canoe, made from the
straight trunk of a mahogany tree, is described as having been five
feet in width and seventy-five feet long. This craft was propelled by
twenty-five oarsmen on each side, a steersman in the stern, and a
lookout at the prow. This was a cacique's barge, in which he made
visits of state along shore and up the rivers.

History has preserved a remarkable and characteristic speech made by a
venerable cacique, who approached Columbus with great reverence on the
occasion of his second visit to Cuba, and who, after presenting him
with a basket of ripe fruit, said: "Whether you are divinities or
mortal men, we know not. You have come into these countries with a
force, against which, were we inclined to resist, it would be folly.
We are all therefore at your mercy; but if you are men, subject to
mortality like ourselves, you cannot be unapprised that after this
life there is another, wherein a very different portion is allotted to
good and bad men. If therefore you expect to die, and believe, with
us, that every one is to be rewarded in a future state according to
his conduct in the present, you will do no hurt to those who do none
to you." This was duly interpreted to Columbus by a native whom he had
taken to Spain, and who had there acquired the Spanish language. His
name was Didacus, and the date of the speech was July 7, 1492. The
truth of this version is attested by Herrera and others.

The reception which Bartholomew Columbus, who was appointed Deputy
Governor in the absence of the Admiral, afterwards met with in his
progress through the island to collect tribute from the several
caciques manifested not only kindness and submission, but also
munificence. Having heard of the eagerness of the strangers for gold,
such of them as possessed any brought it forth and freely bestowed it
upon the Spaniards. Those who had not gold brought abundance of
cotton. One cacique in the interior, named Behechio, invited the
Deputy Governor to a state entertainment, on which occasion he was
received with great ceremony. As he approached the king's dwelling,
the royal wives, thirty in number, carrying branches of palm in their
hands, came forth to greet the guest with song and dance. These
matrons were succeeded by a train of virgins. The first wore aprons of
cotton, the last were arrayed only in the innocence of nature, their
hair flowing long and freely about their shoulders and necks. Their
limbs were finely proportioned, and their complexions, though brown,
were smooth, shining, and lovely. The Spaniards were struck with
admiration, believing that they beheld the dryads of the woods and the
nymphs of the ancient fables. The branches which they bore were
delivered to the strangers with low obeisance, indicating entire
submission. When the Spaniards entered the rural palace, amid songs
and the rude music of the people, they found there a plentiful and,
according to the Indian mode of living, a sumptuous banquet prepared
for them.

After the repast the guests were each conducted to separate lodgings,
and each provided with a cotton hammock. On the next day feasting and
games were resumed; dancing and singing closed each evening for four
consecutive days, and when the Deputy Governor and his people
departed, they were laden with gifts by their generous entertainers,
who also accompanied them far on their way. This episode will perhaps
serve better to give us a just insight into the condition and
character of the aborigines of Cuba at that early period than any
amount of detailed description possibly could.

These aborigines, according to Las Casas, had no tradition even,
touching their own origin, and when asked about it only shook their
heads and pointed to the sky. Antiquarians have endeavored to draw
some reliable or at least reasonable deductions from the collection of
bones and skeletons found in the mountain caves of the island, but no
conclusion worthy of record has ever been arrived at. Still, upon
these evidences some scientists pin their faith that Cuba was a
portion of the primitive world. Speaking of these caves, there are
many subterranean openings on the island, down which rivers of
considerable size abruptly disappear, not again to be met with, though
it is reasonably presumed that they find their way through the rocks
and soil to the sea-coast.

During the ten years subsequent to its discovery, Columbus visited and
partially explored the island at four different times, the last being
in 1502, four years previous to his death, which took place at
Valladolid in 1506. It seems singular to us that his investigations
left him still ignorant of the fact that Cuba was an island, and not a
part of a new continent. This conviction remained with him during his
lifetime. It was not until 1511 that the Spaniards commenced to
colonize the island, when Diego Columbus, then Governor of San
Domingo, sent an expedition of three hundred men for the purpose,
under the command of Diego Velasquez, whose landing was disputed by
the natives. A period of ten years had served to open their eyes to
Spanish lust and lore of gold, and from having at first regarded them
as superior beings, entitled to their obedience, they were finally
thus driven to fight them in self-defense. But what could naked
savages, armed only with clubs and spears, accomplish against
Europeans, trained soldiers, furnished with firearms, protected by
plate armor, and accompanied by bloodhounds,--men who had learned the
art of war by fighting successfully with the valiant Moors? The
natives were at once overpowered and hundreds were slaughtered. From
that time forth they became the slaves of their conquerors; a fact
which reconciles us in some degree in the light of poetical justice to
the fact that Amerigo Vespucci, who followed in the footsteps of
others, yet took the honors of discovery so far as to give his name to
the largest quarter of the globe.

Diego Velasquez, the earliest Governor of the island, appears to have
been an energetic and efficient magistrate, and to have administered
affairs with vigor and intelligence. He did not live, however, in a
period when justice ever erred on the side of mercy, and his harsh and
cruel treatment of the aborigines will always remain a stain upon his
memory. The native population soon dwindled away under the sway of the
Spaniards, who imposed tasks upon them far beyond their physical
powers of endurance. The victims of this hardship had no one to
befriend them at that time, and no one has done them justice in
history. The few glimpses of their character which have come down to
us are of a nature greatly to interest us in this now extinct race.
Their one fault was in trusting the invaders at all. At the outset
they could have swept them from the face of the earth, but, once
permitted to establish themselves, they soon became too powerful to be
driven out of the land. A native chief, whose only crime was that of
taking up arms in defense of the integrity of his little territory,
fell into the hands of Velasquez, and was cruelly burned at the stake,
near what is now the town of Yara, as a punishment for his patriotism.
The words of this unfortunate but brave chief (Hatuey), extorted by
the torments which he suffered, were: "I prefer hell to heaven, if
there are Spaniards in heaven!"

In point of energetic action and material progress, Velasquez reminds
us of a later Governor-General, the famous Tacon. In a single decade,
Velasquez founded the seven cities of Baracoa, Santiago de Cuba,
Trinidad, Bayamo, Puerto del Principe, St. Spiritus, and, on the south
coast near Batabano, Havana, since removed to its present site. He
caused the mines to be opened and rendered them profitable, introduced
valuable breeds of cattle, instituted agricultural enterprise, and
opened a large trade with San Domingo, Jamaica, and the Spanish
peninsula. Population increased rapidly, thousands of persons
emigrating annually from Europe, tempted by the inviting stories of
the returned explorers. Emigration schemes were approved and fostered
by the home government, and thus a large community was rapidly divided
among the several cities upon the island. Still this new province was
considered mainly in the light of a military depot by the Spanish
throne, in its famous operations at that period in Mexico. The fact
that it was destined to prove the richest jewel in the Castilian
crown, and a mine of wealth to the Spanish treasury, was not dreamed
of at that date in its history. Even the enthusiastic followers of
Cortez, who sought that fabulous El Dorado in the New World, had no
promise for this gem of the Caribbean Sea; but, in spite of every side
issue and all contending interests, the island continued to grow in
numbers and importance, while its native resources were far beyond the
appreciation of the home government.

Thus Cuba became the headquarters of the Spanish power in the West,
forming the point of departure for those military expeditions which,
though circumscribed in numbers, were yet so formidable in the energy
of the leaders, and in the arms, discipline, courage, fanaticism, and
avarice of their followers, that they were amply adequate to carry out
the vast scheme of conquest for which they were designed. It was hence
that Cortez embarked for the conquest of Mexico; a gigantic
undertaking, a slight glance at which will recall to the mind of the
reader the period of history to which we would direct his attention.

Landing upon the continent (1518) with a little band scarcely more
than half the complement of a modern regiment, Cortez prepared to
traverse an unknown country, thronged by savage tribes with whose
character, habits, and means of defense he was wholly unacquainted.
This romantic adventure, worthy of the palmiest days of chivalry, was
finally crowned with success, though checkered with various fortunes,
and stained with bloody episodes that prove how the threads of courage
and ferocity are inseparably blended in the woof and warp of Spanish
character. It must be remembered, however, that the spirit of the age
was harsh, relentless, and intolerant, and that if the Aztecs,
idolaters and sacrificers of human victims, found no mercy at the
hands of the fierce Catholics whom Cortez commanded, neither did the
Indians of our own section of the continent fare much better at the
hands of men professing to be disciples of a purer faith, and coming
to these shores, not as warriors, but themselves persecuted fugitives.

The Spanish generals who invaded Mexico encountered a people who had
attained a far higher point of civilization than their red brethren of
the outlying Caribbean Islands, or those of the northeastern portion
of the continent. Vast pyramids, imposing sculptures, curious arms,
fanciful garments, various kinds of manufactures, the relics of which
strongly interest the student of the past, filled the invaders with
surprise. There was much that was curious and startling in their
mythology, and the capital of the Mexican empire presented a strange
and fascinating spectacle to the eyes of Cortez. The rocky
amphitheatre in the midst of which it was built still remains
unchanged, but the great lake which surrounded it, traversed by
causeways and covered with floating gardens laden with flowers, is
gone.

The star of the Aztec dynasty set in blood. In vain did the
inhabitants of the conquered city, roused to madness by the cruelty
and extortion of the victors, expel them from their midst. Cortez
refused to flee farther than the shore; the light of his burning
galleys rekindled the desperate valor of his followers, and Mexico
fell, as a few years after did Peru under the perfidy and sword of
Pizarro, thus completing the scheme of conquest, and giving Spain a
colonial empire far more splendid than that of any other power in
Christendom.

Of the agents in this vast scheme of territorial aggrandizement, we
see Cortez dying in obscurity and Pizarro assassinated in his palace,
while retributive justice has overtaken the monarchy at whose behest
the richest portions of the Western Continent were violently wrested
from their native possessors.



                              CHAPTER V.

    Baracoa, the First Capital. -- West Indian Buccaneers. --
    Military Despotism. -- A Perpetual State of Siege. -- A
    Patriotic Son of Cuba. -- Political Condition of the Island.
    -- Education of Cuban Youths. -- Attempts at Revolution. --
    Fate of General Narciso Lopez. -- The Late Civil War and its
    Leader. -- Terrible Slaughter of Spanish Troops. --
    Stronghold of the Insurgents. -- Guerrillas. -- Want of
    Self-Reliance. -- Spanish Art, Literature, and Conquest. --
    What Spain was. -- What Spain is. -- Rise and Fall of an
    Empire.


Baracoa lies one hundred miles northeast from Santiago, and was the
capital of the island as first established by Velasquez. Here Leo X.
erected in 1518 the first cathedral in Cuba. The town is situated on
the north coast, near the eastern extremity of the island, having a
small but deep harbor, and a considerable trade in the shipping of
sugar and fruits to this country. The population at present numbers
about six thousand. Five years after the settlement of Baracoa, the
capital was moved to Santiago de Cuba, where it remained until 1589,
when Havana was formally declared to be the capital of the island, its
first Captain-General being Juan de Tejada. The city was captured and
partially destroyed by a French pirate in 1638, and afterwards
suffered a like catastrophe at the hands of the buccaneers of combined
nationality, embracing some disaffected Spaniards. So late as 1760
Havana was captured and held by the English, under the Duke of
Albemarle, but was restored to Spain, after a brief occupancy, in
1763. The first grand impulse to the material prosperity of the city,
anomalous though it may seem, was given through its capture by the
British. It is true that the victors seized everything by force, but
they also taught the listless people how to repair their losses, and
how to multiply prosperity. The port of Havana, accustomed heretofore
to receive the visits of half a score of European vessels annually,
suddenly became the rendezvous of a thousand ships in the same period
of time, much to the surprise of the inhabitants. Bourbon in nature as
the Spaniards were and still are, they could not but profit by the
brilliant example of their enemies, and from that time forward the
city grew rapidly in commercial importance, and has continued to do
so, notwithstanding the rivalry of Matanzas, Santiago, Cienfuegos, and
other ports, as well as the drawbacks of civil war and business
stagnation.

These buccaneers of the West Indies, to whom we have so often alluded,
were composed mostly of English, French, and Dutch adventurers, whose
bitter hatred the Spaniards early incurred. They were for a long time
their terror and scourge, being the real masters of the ocean in these
latitudes. They feared no enemy and spared none, while by shocking
acts of needless cruelty they proved themselves fiends in human shape.
Among these rovers there were often found men particularly fitted for
the adventurous career they had adopted, men who combined remarkable
executive ability with a spirit of daring bravery and a total
disregard of all laws, human and divine. By a few such leaders the
bands of freebooters were held in hand, and preserved their
organization for many years; obedience to the word of their chief,
after he was once chosen as such, being the one inviolable law of
their union. The romance of the sea owes its most startling chapters
to the career of these pirates. Sometimes their principal rendezvous
was at the Isle of Pines; at others further north among the Bahamas,
Nassau being one of their favorite resorts.

In the mean time, under numerous and often changed Captains-General,
the island of Cuba increased in population by free emigration from
Spain, and by the constant importations of slaves from Africa. It may
be said to have been governed by a military despotism from the very
outset to the present time; and nothing short of such an arbitrary
rule could maintain the connection between the island and so exacting
a mother country, more than three thousand miles across the ocean.
Accordingly we find the Captain-General invested with unlimited power.
He is in fact a viceroy appointed by the crown of Spain, and
accountable only to the reigning sovereign for his administration of
the colony. His rule is absolute. He has the power of life and death
in his hands. He can by his arbitrary will send into exile any person
who resides in the island whom he considers inimical to the interests
of the home government. Of the exercise of this power instances are
constantly occurring, as in the case of the editor of the "Revista
Economica," already recorded. He can at will suspend the operation of
the laws and ordinances, can destroy or confiscate property, and in
short, the island may be said to be in a perpetual state of siege.

Such is the infirmity of human nature that few individuals can be
safely trusted with despotic power; accordingly we find no
Captain-General whose administration will bear the test of rigid
examination. Indeed, the venality of a majority of these officials
has been so gross as to have passed into a proverb. It is not to be
expected that officers from Spain should consult the true interests of
the Cubans; they are not sent hither for that purpose, but merely to
look after the revenue of the crown, and to swell it to the very
uttermost. The office of Governor-General is of course a brilliant
prize, for which there are plenty of aspirants eagerly struggling,
while the means by which a candidate is most likely to succeed in
obtaining the appointment presupposes a character of an inferior
order. This official knows that he cannot count on a long term of
office, and hence he makes no effort to study the interests or gain
the good-will of the people over whom he presides. He has a twofold
object only in view: namely, to keep the revenue well up to the mark,
and to enrich himself as speedily as possible. The princely salary he
receives--fifty thousand dollars per annum, with a palace and
household attendants supplied--is but a portion of the income which,
by a system of peculation, he is enabled to divert to his private
coffers. As a rule, the Captain-General comes out to Cuba a poor man,
and returns a rich one, however brief his term of office.

Occasionally during the lapse of years a true and patriotic man has
filled this important post, when the remarkable elements of prosperity
contained within the limits of this peerless land were rapidly
developed and advanced. Such an one was Don Luis de las Casas, whose
name is cherished by all patriotic Cubans, as also is that of Don
Francisco de Arrango, an accomplished statesman and a native of
Havana. He was educated in Spain, and designed to follow the law as a
profession. This man, being thoroughly acquainted with the
possibilities of the island and the condition and wants of his
countrymen, succeeded in procuring the amelioration of some of the
most flagrant abuses of the colonial system. In his argument for
reform before the home government, he told them that serious dissent
permeated every class of the community, and was bid in return to
employ a still more stringent system of rule. To this Arrango replied
that force was not remedy, and that to effectually reform the
rebellious they must first reform the laws. His earnest reason carried
conviction, and finally won concession. By his exertions the staple
productions of the island were so much increased that the revenue, in
place of falling short of the expenses of the government as his
enemies had predicted, soon yielded a large surplus. He early raised
his voice against the iniquitous slave trade, and suggested the
introduction of white labor, though he admitted that the immediate and
wholesale abolition of slavery was impracticable. This was the rock on
which he split, as it regarded his influence with the Spaniards in
Cuba, that is, with the planters and rich property holders. Slavery
with them was a sine qua non. Many of them owned a thousand Africans
each, and the institution, as an arbitrary power as well as the means
of wealth, was ever dear to the Spanish heart. Former and subsequent
Captains-General not only secretly encouraged the clandestine
importation of slaves, after issuing an edict prohibiting it, but
profited pecuniarily by the business. It was owing to his exertions
that the duty on coffee, spirits, and cotton was remitted for a period
of ten years, and that machinery for the sugar plantations was allowed
to be imported into Cuba from the United States free of all duty.

The patriotic services of Arrango were appreciated by the court of
Madrid, although he was at times the inflexible opponent of its
selfish schemes. The Cross of Charles III. showed the esteem in which
he was held by that monarch. With a modesty which did him honor he
declined to accept a title of nobility which was afterwards tendered
to him by his king. This patriotic son of Cuba was at heart a
republican, and declared that the king could make noblemen, but God
only could make gentlemen. In 1813, when, by the adoption of the
Constitution of 1812, Cuba became entitled to representation in the
general Cortes,--a privilege but briefly enjoyed,--he went to Madrid
as a deputy, and there achieved the crowning glory of his useful life:
namely, the opening of the ports of the island to foreign trade. In
1817 he returned to his native land with the rank of Counselor of
State and Financial Intendant of Cuba, also possessing the Grand Cross
of the Order of Isabella. He died in 1837, at the age of seventy-two,
after a long and eminently useful life, bequeathing large sums of
money for various public purposes in his native isle.

When the invasion of Spain, which took place in 1808, produced the
Constitution of 1812, Cuba was considered entitled, as we have stated,
to enjoy its benefits, and it was so announced by royal statute; but
political revolution at home and a manifest restiveness upon the
island finally led in 1836 to the revoking of this royal statute,
which had never been practically operative, and the old Constitution
was proclaimed.

Up to this period of time the various political events at home had
disturbed but slightly the tranquillity of this rich province of
Spain. The Cubans, although sensible of the progress of public
intelligence and wealth under the protection of a few enlightened
governors and through the influence of some distinguished and
patriotic individuals, still felt that these advances were slow,
partial, and limited. The most intelligent realized that there was no
regular system; that the public interests were sure to suffer,
confided to officials entrusted with unlimited power. They frequently
saw themselves betrayed by a cupidity which impelled the authorities
to enrich themselves in every possible way at the expense of general
suffering. Added to these sources of discontent was the powerful
influence exerted by the spectacle of the rapidly increasing greatness
of the United States, where a portion of the Cuban youths were wont to
receive their education. No matter in what political faith these
youths had left home, they were sure to return republicans.

There also were the examples of Mexico and Spanish South America,
which had recently conquered with their blood their emancipation from
monarchy. Liberal ideas were naturally diffused by Cubans who had
traveled either in Europe or North America, there imbibing the spirit
of modern civilization. But with a fatuity and obstinacy which has
always characterized her, the mother country resolved to ignore all
causes of discontent, and their significant influence as manifested by
the people of the island. In place of yielding to the popular current
and introducing a liberal and mild system of government, she drew the
reins yet tighter, curtailing many former privileges. Thus it was that
blind persistence in the fatal principle of despotic domination
relaxed the natural bonds uniting Cuba and the mother country, and
infused gall into the hearts of the governed. Obedience still
continued, but it was the dangerous obedience of terror, not the
secure and instinctive spirit of loyalty.

This severity on the part of the home government has naturally given
rise to several attempts to cast off the Spanish yoke. The first
occurred in 1823, when Simon Bolivar offered to aid the disaffected
party by throwing an invading force into the island. Another was made
in 1826, and a third in 1828. In 1848 a conspiracy was formed at
Cienfuegos and Trinidad to establish Cuban independence, under the
leadership of General Narciso Lopez; but finding that his plans were
premature, he escaped to this country, and here arranged a descent
upon the island, which he led in person: this was in 1850. General
Lopez, however, was not seconded by the timid natives, though they had
freely pledged themselves to do so, and his expedition, after winning
one decisive battle and several important skirmishes, was at last
overpowered and its leader promptly executed. General Lopez was an
adopted citizen of Cuba, and was married to one of her daughters. He
was executed at the age of fifty-two.

The Lopez expedition would seem to have been the most serious and best
organized attempt at revolution in Cuba by invasion, though there have
been formidable attempts since. From 1868 to 1876 Cuba may be said to
have been in a state of chronic civil war. This outbreak was led by
Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, an able lawyer and wealthy planter of
Bayamo, in the eastern department of the island. He raised the
standard of independence on his estate, Demajagua, supported at the
outset by less than fifty men. This was in October, 1868, and by the
middle of November he had an organized army of twelve thousand men;
poorly armed, it must be admitted, but united in purpose and of
determined will. That portion of the island contiguous to Santiago,
and between that city and Cienfuegos, was for a long period almost
entirely in possession of the patriot forces. Here many sanguinary
battles were fought with varying fortune, at terrible sacrifice of
life, especially on the part of the government troops, over one
hundred thousand of whom, first and last, are known to have perished
in that district. Spain actually sent one hundred and forty-five
thousand enlisted men to Cuba during the eight years of active
warfare. Of this number those who finally returned to the European
peninsula were but a few hundreds! It was publicly stated in the
Cortes of Madrid that not enough of that immense force ever returned
to fill a single regiment! The climate was far more fatal to these
soldiers than were patriot bullets. The warfare was conducted by the
native Cubans mostly on the guerrilla plan, and was ten times more
destructive to the imported soldiers than to themselves. Discipline
counted for little or nothing in contending with men who fought
single-handed and from ambush, decimating the ranks of an invading
column, who in turn could only fire at random.

Exhaustion and promised concessions, which were, as usual with the
Spanish government, never fulfilled, finally brought this struggle to
an end; but it cost Spain many millions of dollars and the lives of
over a hundred and fifty thousand men, saying nothing of the
destruction of an enormous amount of property on the island, belonging
to loyal Spaniards. Miles upon miles of thrifty plantations, with all
their buildings and machinery, were laid waste, and remain so to this
day.

Since 1876 there have been roving bands of insurgents in existence,
causing the authorities more or less serious trouble, leading them at
times to make serious attempts at their entire suppression. But the
mountains and half-inaccessible forests of the eastern department
still serve to secrete many armed and disaffected people, whose
frequent outbreaks are made public by the slow process of oral
information. The press is forbidden to publish any news of this
character. Thus it will be seen that, although the spirit of liberty
may slumber in the island, it is by no means dead, nor is the intense
hatred which exists between the home-born Spaniard and the native
Cuban growing less from year to year. Indeed, the insurrection of
Trinidad and Cienfuegos (1868) still smoulders, and any extreme
political exigency would be liable to cause it to blaze forth with
renewed force. The region where the insurgents have always made their
rendezvous, and which they have virtually held for years, is nearest
to Guantanamo and Santiago. This mountainous district is the resort of
all runaway slaves, escaped criminals, and those designated as
insurgents. These together form at the present time a roving community
of several hundred desperate men. These refugees, divided into small
bands, make predatory raids upon travelers and loyal planters, as we
have described, to keep themselves supplied with the necessities of
life other than those afforded by the prolific hand of Nature.
Occasionally they are organized by some fresh leader, some daring
native, stimulated by a spirit of patriotism, and possessing some
executive ability; then follows a systematic outbreak of just
sufficient importance to harass the government, and to form, perhaps,
an excuse for demanding a fresh regiment of victims from the European
peninsula. Such a guerrilla contest engages the worst passions of the
combatants, and quarter is neither asked nor given when they come face
to face. The bloodthirsty acts of both sides, as related to the author
during his late visit to the spot, are too horrible to record in these
pages. It is not legitimate warfare, but rather wholesale murder,
which characterizes these occasions, and there is no expedient of
destruction not resorted to by both the refugees and the pursuing
soldiers. The nature of the country favors the revolutionists, and
determines their mode of conflict. Thus far, when the irregular bands
have been strong enough to meet these detachments of regulars sent
into their neighborhood to capture them, they have nearly always
beaten them gallantly, and this has served to perpetuate their hopes,
desperate as is a cause which only outlaws, escaped criminals, and
slaves dare to fight for. These people appear to be well supplied with
arms and ammunition, which it is said are smuggled to them from
sympathizers in this country, particularly from Florida. Though their
ranks are supposed to embrace but small numbers, still they form a
nucleus at all times, about which discontented spirits may gather.
Thus it is found necessary to quarter a foreign army of thirty
thousand soldiers upon the people at the present time, while half the
navy of Spain lies anchored in the ports of the island.

One great drawback and defect in the character of the native Cubans
is a want of self-reliance. The remedy for the outrageous oppression
under which they have so long struggled lies within themselves; "for
they can conquer who believe they can." In the consciousness of
strength is strength, but the Creole republicans have never yet
evinced the necessary degree of true manhood to challenge general
outside sympathy, or to command the respect of other nationalities.
The numerous revolutionary outbreaks upon the island--so frequent in
the last half century as to be chronic--have all been of the most
insignificant character, compared with the importance of the occasion
and the object in view. These efforts have mostly been made from
without, almost entirely unsupported from within the borders of Cuba,
with the exception of that of 1868. It appears incredible that an
intelligent people, within so short a distance of our Southern coast,
constantly visited by the citizens of a free republic, and having the
example of successful revolt set them by the men of the same race,
both in the North and the South, weighed down by oppression almost
without parallel, should never have aimed an effectual blow at their
oppressors. It would seem that the softness of the unrivaled climate
of those skies, beneath which it is luxury only to exist, has unnerved
this people, and that the effeminate spirit of the original
inhabitants had descended in retribution to the posterity of their
conquerors.

In closing these brief chapters relating to the early history of the
island of Cuba, and in bringing the record up to our own period, some
natural reflections suggest themselves as to the present condition of
the mother country. We follow with more than passing interest the
condition of Spain, whose history is so closely interwoven with our
own. From the close of the fifteenth century our paths have run on in
parallel lines, but while we have gone on increasing in power and
wealth, she has sunk in the scale of decadence with a rapidity no less
surprising than has been the speed of our own progress. At the
commencement of the sixteenth century Spain threatened to become the
mistress of the world, as Rome had been before her. She may be said to
have at that period dominated Europe. In art she was in the very
foremost position: Murillo, Velasquez, Ribera, and other famous
painters were her honored sons. In literature she was also
distinguished: both Cervantes and Lope de Vega contributed to her
greatness and lasting fame. While, in discoverers and conquerors, she
sent forth Columbus, Cortez, and Pizarro. The banners of Castile and
Aragon floated alike on the Pacific and the margin of the Indian
Ocean. Her ships sailed in every sea, and brought home freights of
fabulous value from all the regions of the earth. Her manufacturers
produced the richest silks and velvets; her soil yielded corn and
wine; her warriors were adventurous and brave; her soldiers inherited
the gallantry of the followers of Charles V.; her cities were the
splendid abodes of luxury, refinement, and elegance. She was the court
of Europe, the acknowledged leader of chivalry and of grandeur.

This is the picture of what Spain was at no remote period of time, but
in her instance we have an example showing us that states are no more
exempt than individuals from the mutability of fate. So was it with
Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, and Rome, though in their case we look far
back into the vista of history to recall the change, whereas in the
instance of Spain we are contemporary witnesses. From a first-class
power, how rapidly she has sunk into comparative insignificance! She
has been shorn of her wealthy colonies, one after another, in the East
and in the West, holding with feeble grasp a few inconsiderable
islands only besides this gem of the Antilles, the choicest jewel of
her crown. Extremely poor and deeply indebted, she has managed for
years to extort by means of the most outrageous system of taxation a
large share of her entire revenue from the island of Cuba, her home
population having long since become exhausted by over-burdensome
imposts. Her nobles of to-day are an effeminate, soulless, and
imbecile race, while the common people, with some excellent qualities,
are yet ignorant, cruel, and passionate. The whole country is divided
against itself, the tottering throne being with difficulty upheld.
Even the elements have of late seemed to combine against her,
decimating whole cities of her southern possessions by earthquakes,
and smiting her people with pestilence.

This simple statement of her present situation is patent to all who
read and observe. It is not an overdrawn picture. In it the moralist
beholds the retributive justice of providence. As Spain in the
plenitude of her power was ambitious, cruel, and perfidious, so has
the measure which she meted out to others been in return accorded to
herself. As with fire and sword she swept the Aztec and the Incas from
Mexico and Peru, so was she at last driven from these genial countries
by their revolted inhabitants. The spoiler has been despoiled, the
victor has been vanquished, and thus has Spain met the just fate
clearly menaced by the Scriptures to those who smite with the sword.



                             CHAPTER VI.

    Geographical. -- A Remarkable Weed. -- Turtle-Hunting. --
    Turtle-Steaks in Olden Times. -- The Gulf Stream. -- Deep-Sea
    Soundings. -- Mountain Range of Cuba. -- Curious Geological
    Facts. -- Subterranean Caverns. -- Wild Animals. -- The
    Rivers of the Island. -- Fine Harbors. -- Historic Memories
    of the Caribbean Sea. -- Sentinel of the Gulf. -- Importance
    of the Position. -- Climate. -- Hints for Invalids. --
    Matanzas. -- Execution of a Patriot. -- Valley of Yumuri;
    Caves of Bellamar; Puerto Principe; Cardenas.


Having thus briefly glanced at the historical and political story of
Cuba,--whose very name seems bathed in sunshine and fragrance, yet
bedewed with human tears,--let us now consider its peculiarities of
climate, soil, and population, together with its geographical
characteristics. The form of the island is quite irregular, resembling
the blade of a Turkish scimitar slightly curved back, or that of a
long narrow crescent, presenting its convex side to the north. It
stretches away in this shape from east to west, throwing its western
end into a curve, as if to form a barrier to the outlet of the Gulf of
Mexico, and as if at some ancient period it had formed a part of the
American continent; severed on its north side from the Florida
peninsula by the wearing of the Gulf Stream, and from Yucatan, on its
southwestern point, by a current setting into the Gulf. Two broad
channels are thus formed, by either of which the Mexican Gulf is
entered.

These channels are nearly of the same width, somewhat exceeding a
hundred miles each, the northern passage being a few miles the
broader. The Bahama Banks extend along its northern coast-line about
fifty or sixty miles distant, where commences the group of many small
isles known as the Bahamas, and of which we have already treated. On
her eastern extreme, near Cape Maysi, Cuba is within about fifty miles
of the western shore of Hayti, from which it is separated by the
Windward Passage. The southern shore is washed by the Caribbean Sea,
which is also here and there interspersed with small islands of little
importance. One hundred and fifty miles due south lies the British
island of Jamaica, with a superficial area of over four thousand
square miles. Still further to the eastward, on the other side of
Hayti, lies Porto Rico (like Cuba a Spanish possession), and the two
groups of islands known as the Leeward and Windward isles. These are
of various nationalities, including English, French, and Dutch, thus
completing the entire region familiarly known to us as the West
Indies.

In approaching the coast from the Windward isles, the observant
traveler will notice the fields of what is called gulf-weed, which
floats upon the surface of the sea. It is a unique genus, found
nowhere except in these tropical waters, and must not be confounded
with the sea-weed encountered by Atlantic steamers off the Banks of
Newfoundland, and about the edges of the Gulf Stream in that region.
This singular and interesting weed propagates itself on the waves, and
there sustains, as on the shore of New Providence, zoöphytes and
mollusks which also abound in these latitudes. The poetical theory
relating to this sargasso, and possibly to the animals that cling to
it, is that it marks the site of an Atlantic continent sunk long ages
since, and that, transformed from a rooting to a floating plant, it
wanders round and round as if in search of the rocks upon which it
once grew. The southern shore of Cuba presents much of special
interest to the conchologist in the variety and beauty of the
sea-shells that abound upon its beaches. The water is of an exquisite
color, a brilliant green, very changeable, like liquid opal. Were an
artist truthfully to depict it, he would be called color-mad. Northern
skies are never reflected in waters of such fanciful hues. Some
beautiful specimens of white corals are found here, but they are not a
characteristic of the coast.

On that portion bordering the Old Bahama Channel, and also opposite
the Isle of Pines, which Columbus named Evangelista,--on this south
shore, large numbers of turtles are taken annually, which produce the
best quality of tortoise-shell. It is strange that the habits of these
creatures down here in the Caribbean Sea should so closely resemble
those of the tiny tortoises described by Thoreau as frequenting Walden
Pond. The female turtle digs the hole in which to deposit her eggs on
the sandy beach, just above the margin of high tide, generally
choosing a moonlight night for the purpose. The hole is often so large
that the turtle will require an hour of industrious labor to dig it to
her entire satisfaction. Observing the strictest silence, the
turtle-hunter steals upon the animal, and with a single motion turns
it upon its back, rendering it utterly helpless, after which it can be
secured at will. Thousands are annually caught in this manner.

It is a curious fact worth recalling to memory that four hundred
years ago, when Columbus first landed upon the island, he found that
the aborigines kept turtle corrals near the beach, amply supplied with
these animals. From them they procured eggs, and also furnished
themselves with the only meat which it was possible to obtain, if we
except that of the little "voiceless dog" which they hunted, and such
birds as they could snare. Probably as many turtles were taken by
those Carib Indians in 1492 as are caught by the fishermen this year
of our Lord, in the same waters, showing how inexhaustible is the
supply of Neptune's kingdom. Modern epicures may not therefore claim
any distinction as to the priority of discovery touching turtle soup
and turtle steaks, both of which were certainly indulged in by the
Caribs in Columbus' time, and probably they were in vogue many
centuries previous.

One neither departs from nor approaches the Cuban shore without
crossing that marvelous ocean river, the Gulf Stream, with banks and
bottom of cold water, while its body and surface are warm. Its color,
in the region of the gulf where it seems to have its rise, is indigo
blue, so distinct that the eye can follow its line of demarkation
where it joins the common waters of the sea in their prairie-green.
Its surface temperature on the coast of the United States is from 75°
to 80° Fahrenheit. Its current, of a uniform speed of four to five
miles per hour, expends immense power in its course, and moves a body
of water in the latitude of the Carolina coast fully two hundred miles
wide. This aqueous body exceeds in quantity the rivers of the
Mississippi and the Amazon multiplied one thousand times. Its
temperature diminishes very gradually, while it moves thousands of
leagues, until one branch loses itself in Arctic regions, and the
other breaks on the coast of Europe. It is well known to navigators
that one branch of the Gulf Stream finds its outlet northward from the
Caribbean Sea through the Windward Passage, and that here the current
extends to the depth of eight hundred fathoms; the width, however, in
this section is not over ten miles. It will be nothing new to tell the
reader that the sea, especially in its proximity to the continents,
has a similar topographical conformation beneath its surface. The
bottom consists of hills, mountains, and valleys, like the surface of
the earth upon which we live. A practical illustration of the fact is
afforded in the soundings taken by the officers of our Coast Survey in
the Caribbean Sea, where a valley was found giving a water depth of
three thousand fathoms, twenty-five miles south of Cuba. The Cayman
islands, in that neighborhood, are the summit of mountains bordering
this deep valley at the bottom of the sea. It is known to extend over
seven hundred miles, from between Cuba and Jamaica nearly to the head
of the bay of Honduras, with an average breadth of eighty miles. How
suggestive the subject of these submarine Alps! Thus the island of
Grand Cayman, scarcely twenty feet above sea level, is the top of a
mountain twenty thousand five hundred and sixty-eight feet above the
bottom of the submarine valley beside which it rises,--an altitude
exceeding that of any mountain on the North American continent. A
little more than five miles, or say twenty-seven thousand feet, is the
greatest depth yet sounded at sea.

With an extensive coast-line particularly well adapted for the
purpose, smuggling is at all times successfully carried on in Cuba,
stimulated by an almost prohibitory tariff. It is well understood that
many of the most prosperous merchants in Havana are secretly engaged
in this business. The blindness of minor officials is easily
purchased. The eastern department of the island is most notorious for
this class of illegal trade. It was through these agencies that the
revolutionists were so well supplied with arms, ammunition, and other
necessities during the eight years of civil war. While we are writing
these lines, the cable brings us news of a fresh landing of
"filibusters" on the shores in this immediate neighborhood.

Cuba is the most westerly of the West Indian isles, and compared with
the others has nearly twice as much superficial extent of territory,
being about as large as England proper, without the principality of
Wales. Its greatest length from east to west is very nearly eight
hundred miles; its narrowest part is over twenty miles, and its
average width about forty miles. The circumference of the island is
set down at two thousand miles, and it is supposed to contain
thirty-five thousand square miles. The face of the interior is
undulating, with an average level of three hundred feet above the
surface of the sea. The narrow form of the island, and the chain of
mountains which divides it throughout its whole length, leave a
limited course for its rivers, and consequently most of these in the
rainy season become torrents, and during the rest of the year are
nearly dried up. Those streams which sustain themselves at all seasons
are well stocked with fine fish, and afford to lovers of the piscatory
art admirable sport. Near their mouths some of the rivers, like those
of the opposite coast of Florida, are frequented by crocodiles.

The chain of mountains running through the centre of the island, more
or less broken in its course, is lofty in the east, but gradually
diminishes in elevation towards the west, until it becomes a series of
gently undulating hills of one or two hundred feet above sea level,
ceasing as a connected range in the vicinity of Matanzas. On the
easterly end this range of mountains approaches the south coast
between Puerto Principe and Trinidad. The country lying between Cape
Cruz, Cape Maysi, and the town of Holguin has the highest elevations;
the most lofty point, Turquino, lately measured, has a height of ten
thousand eight hundred feet. Illustrative of the great revolutions
which the globe has undergone in its several geological epochs,
petrified shells and bivalves are found on the summits of these
highest peaks, surrounded by coral rocks, both of which differ
entirely from those at present existing on the shores of the Antilles.
An immense bowlder was pointed out to us on the summit of La Gran
Piedra, at an elevation of five thousand feet, of totally different
composition from any other rocks on the island. The great mystery is
how such a mass of solid stone could have got there. Most of these
mountains are thickly wooded, some of them to their very tops, and
appear to be in a perpetual state of verdure. There are mahogany trees
in these hills reported to be of almost fabulous dimensions, besides
other trees of great age. Some idea of the excellence of the timber
grown in Cuba may be had from the fact that over one hundred Spanish
ships of war--some of which were of the largest size, mounting a
hundred and twenty guns--have been built from native stock at the port
of Havana.

Copper ore is found in abundance, as well as silver and iron, in the
mountains. Snow is never known to fall even in these elevated
districts, and of course in no other part of the island. In the
interior, the extreme heat of the low-lying sea-coast and cities is
not experienced, and the yellow fever is unknown. Low, level swampy
land is found only on the southern coast, where there are some wild
deer, wild cats and dogs, which are hunted; the former introduced into
Cuba half a century since, the two latter descended from domestic
animals. Large tracts of undulating country are without trees,
affording good pasturage. In some of the mountains are extensive
caves, not unlike the caves of Bellamar near the city of Matanzas, in
which are still to be found the bones of an unknown race, while
several of these elevations are so precipitous as to be nearly
inaccessible.

Travelers who have visited the Bay of Biscay, on the French and
Spanish shore near Biarritz, have observed how the rocks have been
worn into caverns, arches, alcoves, and honeycombed formations by the
action of the waters for centuries. Just so the soft limestone strata
beneath the surface of Cuba, in many portions of the island, have been
hollowed out, tunneled, and formed into caves, by the tremendous
downpour and wash of tropical rains. So the action of the sea has
created a cave under Moro Castle, at the mouth of the harbor of
Havana, as well as under that other Moro which stands guard over the
entrance of Santiago de Cuba. The existence of these subterranean
caverns has often led to serious accidents. In some instances
buildings which were by chance erected just over them have suddenly
been swallowed up as though by an earthquake.

Many of the rivers are navigable for short distances. The longest is
the Cauto, in the eastern department, which, rising in the Sierra del
Cobre, passes between Holguin and Jiguani, and empties on the south
coast a little north of Manzanillo. It is navigable for half its
length, between fifty and sixty leagues. The river Ay has falls in its
course two hundred feet high, and a natural bridge spanning it, nearly
as remarkable as that of Virginia. The Sagua le Grande is navigable
for five leagues, and the same may be said of the river Sasa. The
Agabama, emptying on the south coast near Trinidad, is also partially
navigable. There are two hundred and sixty rivers in all, independent
of rivulets and torrents. So abundantly is the island supplied with
fresh-water springs, especially on the south side, that the pure
liquid filters through the fissures of the stratified rock in such
quantities as to form, by hydrostatic pressure, springs in the sea
itself some distance from the shore. The sulphurous and thermal
springs of San Diego are the resort of numerous invalids annually, who
come hither from Europe and America.

The coast and harbors of Cuba are carefully marked for the purpose of
navigation by eighteen well-placed lighthouses, visible from fifteen
to twenty miles at sea, according to the importance of the surrounding
points. That which stands in Moro Castle, on the south side of the
harbor's entrance at Havana, is eighty feet in height and about a
hundred and fifty from the level of the sea. It is visible in clear
weather twenty miles from shore. In honor of a former Governor-General
this lighthouse bears the inscription "O'Donnell, 1844," in mammoth
letters. So plain and safe is the entrance to this harbor, which in
the narrowest part is some hundred yards wide, that a pilot is hardly
necessary, though foreign vessels generally take one. There is little
or no tide on this part of the coast, the variations never exceeding
two feet. No regular ebb and flow is therefore observable, but when
the land breeze rises there is a very slight tide-way setting out of
the harbor. No country in the world of the size of this island has so
many large and fine harbors. They number twenty-nine on its northern
side and twenty-eight on the southern. The well-defined water-line
along the yellow, rusty rocks of the coast shows the mark of ages, and
also that there has been no upheaval since the land took its present
shape. Where there are no regular harbors the shore is indented with
numerous deep channels forming inlets, safe only for native boatmen,
as the winding course of the blue waters covers myriads of sunken
rocks. On the southern side, opposite the Isle of Pines, there are
some beautiful reaches of beach, over which the gentle surf rolls
continuously with a murmur so soft as to seem like the whispered
secrets of the sea. Yet what frightful historic memories brood over
these deep waters of the Archipelago, where for nearly two centuries
floated and fought the ships of sea-robbers of every nationality, and
where the cunning but guilty slave-clippers, fresh from the coast of
Africa, loaded with kidnapped men and women, made their harbor! With
all their dreamy beauty, the tropics are full of sadness, both in
their past and present history.

The occasional hurricanes, which prove so disastrous to the Bahamas
and other isles in the immediate vicinity of Cuba, rarely extend their
influence to its shores, but the bursts of fury which these usually
tranquil seas sometimes indulge in are not excelled in violence in the
worst typhoon regions.

The nearest port of the island to this continent is Matanzas, lying
due south from Cape Sable, Florida, a distance of a hundred and thirty
miles. Havana is located some sixty miles west of Matanzas, and it is
here that the island divides the entrance to the Gulf of Mexico, whose
coast-line, measuring six thousand miles, finds the outlet of its
commerce along the shore of Cuba, almost within range of the guns in
Moro Castle. Lying thus at our very door as it were, this island
stands like a sentinel, guarding the approaches of the Gulf of Mexico,
whose waters wash the shores of five of the United States, and by
virtue of the same position barring the entrance of the great river
which drains half the continent of North America. Nor does the
importance of the situation end here. Cuba keeps watch and ward over
our communication with California by way of the isthmus. The peculiar
formation of the southeastern shore of this continent, and the
prevalence of the trade-winds, with the oceanic current from east to
west, make the ocean passage skirting the shore of Cuba the natural
outlet for the commerce also of Venezuela, New Granada, Costa Rica,
and Nicaragua. It is not surprising, therefore, when we realize the
commanding position of the island, that so much of interest attaches
to its ultimate destiny.

Cuba seems formed to become the very button on Fortune's cap. No
wonder that the Abbé Raynal pronounced it to be the boulevard of the
New World, or that the Spanish historian called it the fairest emerald
in the crown of Ferdinand and Isabella. Under any other government in
Christendom than that of Spain, the island would to-day have been one
vast smiling garden, for its natural advantages are absolutely
unequaled. To oppress and rob its inhabitants has been the unvarying
policy of the home government from first to last. The undisguised
system has been to extort from them every farthing possible in the way
of taxes. No legitimate business could sustain itself against the
enormous exactions of the Spanish rule. Coffee and cotton planting
have been absolutely driven out of the island by the taxes imposed
upon their production. In short, the mother country has carried her
system of oppression and despotism in Cuba to the utmost stretch of
human audacity.

Probably no place has a finer or more desirable climate than has the
main portion of Cuba, with the clear atmosphere of the low latitudes,
no mist, the sun seldom obscured, and a season of endless summer. We
do not wonder that the Northern invalid turns instinctively towards so
inviting a clime, where Nature in all her moods is so regal. The
appearance of the sky at night is far brighter and more beautiful than
at the North. The atmosphere does not seem to lose its transparency
with the departure of the day. Sunset is remarkable for its soft
mellow beauty, all too brief to a New England eye accustomed to the
lingering brilliancy of our twilights. For more than half a century
the island has been the resort of invalids from colder climes in
search of health, especially those laboring under pulmonary
affections. Such have rarely failed to realize more or less benefit
from the mild and equable temperature. The climate so uniformly soft
and soothing, the vegetation so thriving and beautiful, the fruits so
delicious and abundant, give it a character akin to fairyland. Here
Nature seems ever in a tender, loving mood, the very opposite of her
cold temperament at the North.

The best time to visit the island, for those who do so in search of
health, is from the beginning of January to the middle of May. It is
imprudent to remain in the cities of Cuba later than the latter
period, as the fever season then commences. The invalid will find that
very many physical comforts, and some things deemed imperative at
home, must be sacrificed here as quite unattainable: such, for
instance, as good beds, strict cleanliness, good milk, and sweet
butter. The climatic advantages must suffice for such deprivations.
During the greater portion of the year it is dry and hot, the rainy
season commencing in June and ending in September. The northeast
trade-winds blow over the island from March to October, and though it
is especially important to avoid all draughts in the tropics, still
one can always find a sufficiently cool and comfortable temperature
somewhere, when the trade-wind prevails. To persons in the early
stages of consumption this region holds forth great promise of relief;
the author can bear witness of remarkable benefit having been realized
in many instances. At the period of the year when New England invalids
most require to avoid the rigors of the prevailing east winds, namely,
in February, March, April, and early May, the island of Cuba is in the
glory of high summer, and enjoying the healthiest period of its annual
returns. When consumption originates in the island,--as was also found
to be the case at Nassau,--it runs its course to a fatal end with such
rapidity that the natives consider it to be a contagious disease.
Early in May the unacclimated would do well to leave, taking passage
up the Gulf to New Orleans, or across the Gulf Stream, which here runs
thirty-two miles in width, to Key West, Florida, thence by boat to
Tampa Bay, and by railroad to Sanford, and by the St. John's River to
St. Augustine, enjoying a brief stay at the latter places, where every
requisite convenience can be enjoyed. Jacksonville should not be
missed, and by coming north thus slowly and pleasantly, the change of
climate is not realized, and June weather will greet the returning
traveler with genial warmth.

Owing to the proximity of the northwestern part of Cuba to our own
continent, the climate is somewhat variable, and at a height of five
hundred feet above the level of the sea, ice is sometimes, though
rarely formed; but, as has already been said in these notes, snow
never falls upon the island. At long intervals Cuba has been visited
by brief hailstorms, and persons who tell you this will add, "but we
never have known it in our day." In the cities and near the swamps,
the yellow fever, that scourge of all hot climates, prevails from the
middle of June to the last of October; but in the interior of the
island, where the visitor is at a wholesome distance from humidity and
stagnant water, it is no more unhealthy than our own cities in summer.
It is doubtful if Havana, even in the fever season, is any more
unhealthy than New Orleans at the same period of the year. Fevers of
different degrees of malignity prevail from May to November, and
occasionally throughout the year. Among these the yellow fever is the
most dangerous, and sooner or later all resident foreigners seem to
suffer from it, as a sort of acclimation; once experienced, however,
one is seldom attacked a second time. In the ports yellow fever is
often induced by carelessness and exposure; excesses on the part of
foreign sailors are frequently the cause of its fatal attack upon
them. The thermometer is never known to rise so high in Havana or
Santiago, the opposite extremes of the island, as it does sometimes in
New York and Boston. The average temperature is recorded as being 77°,
maximum 89°, minimum 50° Fahrenheit. We have been thus elaborate as
regards this matter because it is of such general interest to all
invalids who annually seek an equable clime.

The principal cities are Havana, with a population of nearly three
hundred thousand; Matanzas, with fifty thousand; Puerto Principe,
thirty thousand; Cienfuegos, twenty-five thousand; Trinidad, fourteen
thousand; San Salvador, ten thousand; Manzanillo, Cardenas, Nuevitas,
Sagua la Grande, and Mariel. Among its largest and finest harbors
those of Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Nipe, and Nuevitas are the best;
the bay of Matanzas is also large, but shallow. This city stands next
to Havana in population, but not in commercial importance. It is said
to be healthier than the capital, but it lacks those attractions of
life and gayety which are essential even to invalids to render them
contented. The streets are wide, and many of the Moorish
characteristics of Spanish cities, so common in both this island and
the European peninsula, are wanting here. It was built much later and
more under foreign direction than Havana. The secret of the superior
health of Matanzas over that of the capital is undoubtedly because of
its better drainage and general cleanliness.

Located in one of the most fertile portions of the island, the city
extends up the picturesque and verdant hills by which the bay is
surrounded, in the form of an amphitheatre. The fortifications are of
rather a meagre character, and could not withstand a well organized
attack for half an hour. Modern improvements in the construction of
heavy guns and projectiles have rendered all the forts in Cuba of no
importance as a means of defense against a first-class invading fleet.
The custom house is the most prominent building which strikes the eye
on approaching the city by water; though built of stone, it is only
one story in height, and was erected at the commencement of the
present century. On the heights above the city the inhabitants have
planted their country seats, from whence the view of the widespreading
bay forms a delightful picture. The climate is thought to be
especially adapted for the cure of throat and lung diseases, and the
city is annually resorted to by those seeking relief from these
troubles, as also by those afflicted with neuralgia and rheumatism.
The first land made by southern-bound steamers from Boston and New
York is the Monte del Pan, or Bread Mountain, forming a lofty
background for the city. There are three large churches in Matanzas, a
well appointed and spacious theatre, a bull-ring, and cock-pits.
Statistics show that the custom-house receipts of the port reach about
two million dollars annually. There are two railroads connecting the
city with Havana, one of which runs also to the interior southeasterly
to Cienfuegos, Sagua, and Villa Clara, intersecting a rich
sugar-producing country, from whence it brings a large amount of
freight to the coast for shipment. On these Cuban roads one rides in
American-built cars, drawn by American engines, and often run by
American engineers. Railroads were in use in Cuba before they were
adopted in any other Spanish-speaking country, and there are now
nearly a thousand miles in active operation on the island.

Matanzas is bounded on the north by the river Yumuri, and on the south
by that of San Juan. The town is built upon the site of a former
Indian village, known to the early discoverers by the name of Yucayo.
It is upon the whole a well-built city, containing some small public
squares and a pretty Plaza de Armas, like that of Havana, ornamented
with choice trees and flowers, with a statue of Ferdinand VII. in its
centre. It was in this square that Gabriel Concepcion de la Valdez, a
mulatto poet and patriot of Cuba, was shot by the soldiers of the
line. He was accused of complicity with the slave insurrection of
1844, when the blacks attempted to gain their freedom. At the time of
his execution the first volley fired by the troops failed to touch a
vital spot, and the brave victim, bleeding from many wounds, still
stood erect, facing his executioners. He then pointed to his heart,
and said in a calm clear voice, "Aim here!" The order was at once
obeyed, and the second volley sent the heroic man to that haven where
there is no distinction as to color. This martyr, of whom
comparatively little is known to the public, possessed all the true
elements of a poet. Many of his productions have been preserved in
print, and some were translated and republished in England a few years
since.

The Plaza of Matanzas is small, smaller even than that of Cienfuegos,
but it presents within its circumscribed space a great variety of
tropical trees and flowers, over which stand, sentinel-like, a few
royal palms with their ashen-gray stems and concentric rings. The star
of Bethlehem, fifteen feet high, was here seen full of lovely scarlet
blossoms; the southern jasmine, yellow as gold, was in its glory;
mignonette, grown to a graceful tree of twenty feet in height, was
fragrant and full of blossoms, close beside the delicate vinca, decked
in white and red. Some broad-leaved bananas were thriving in the
Plaza, while creeping all over that tree and shrub combined, the
Spanish bayonet, were pink, purple, and white morning-glories, at once
so familiar and suggestive. Opposite the Plaza are several government
offices, and two or three very large, fine club-houses, remarkable for
the excellence of their appointments and the spaciousness of the
public rooms. Club life prevails in Matanzas, as usual at the expense
of domestic life, just as it does in Havana, being very much like
London in this respect. It is forbidden to discuss politics in these
clubs, the hours being occupied mostly over games of chance, such as
cards, dominoes, chess, and checkers. Gambling is as natural and
national in Cuba as in China. Many Chinese are seen about the streets
and stores of Matanzas, as, indeed, all over the island--poor fellows
who have survived their apprenticeship and are now free. They are
peaceful, do not drink spirits, work from morning until night, never
meddle with politics, and live on one half they can earn, so as to
save enough to return to their beloved native land. You may persuade
him to assent to any form of religion as a temporary duty, but John is
a heathen at heart, and a heathen he will die.

The famous afternoon drive of Matanzas was formerly the San Carlos
Paseo. It has fine possibilities, and is lined and beautifully
ornamented with thrifty Indian laurels. It overlooks the spacious
harbor and outer bay, but is now utterly neglected and abandoned; even
the roadway is green with vegetation and gullied with deep hollows. It
is the coolest place in the city at the evening hour, but the people
have become so poor that there are hardly a dozen private vehicles
owned in the city, and, consequently, its famous drive is deserted.
Matanzas, like all the cities of Cuba, is under the shadow of
depressed business, the evidences of which meet one on all hands.

The two objects of special interest to strangers who visit Matanzas
are, first, the valley of the Yumuri, which may be described briefly
as a narrow gorge four miles long, through which flows the river of
the same name. The view of this lovely valley will recall, to any one
who has visited Spain, the Vega of Granada. There are several
positions from which to obtain a good view of the valley, but that
enjoyed from the Chapel of Monserrate, on the hill just back of the
town, is nearest, and was most satisfactory to us. The view includes a
valley, peaceful, tropical, and verdant, embracing plantations,
groves, and farms, in the midst of which the river glides like a
silver thread through the verdure, and empties into the Bay of
Matanzas. The universal belief is that this vale was once a vast, deep
lake, walled across the present seaward opening of the valley, from
whence a fall may have existed as a natural overflow. Some fearful
convulsion of nature rent this bowl and precipitated the lake into the
ocean, leaving only the river's course.

The second object of note which the visitor will not willingly miss is
a sight of the famous caves of Bellamar, situated about two leagues
from the city proper. It is customary to make this trip in a volante,
and it is quite the thing to ride, at least once, in this unique
vehicle, the only article ever invented in Cuba. The road to the
caves is extremely rough, and this vehicle is best adapted to pass
over the irregularities. If there are only gentlemen of the party, go
on horseback. On entering the caves the visitor should throw off any
extra clothing that can conveniently be left behind, as it is very
warm within, and on coming out, unless one has an extra garment to put
on, too great a change of temperature will be realized. These singular
caves lead three hundred feet and more beneath the surface, and
present beauties to the eye incident to all such subterranean
formations. They were discovered accidentally, a few years since, by
some stone quarriers, who, on opening into them, imagined they had
broken the crust of the earth. In driving to the caves the Bay Street
road, through the city, should be taken, which forms one of the finest
thoroughfares of any Cuban town. The architecture of the dwellings is
that of combined Italian, Grecian, and Moorish, ornamented with
colonnades and verandas of stone and iron. Fine as the façades of
these houses are,--none above one story in height,--they present a
faded and forlorn aspect, a sort of dead-and-alive appearance, yet in
accordance with life and business, not only in Matanzas, but all over
the island. This one boulevard of Matanzas ends by the shore of the
bay, where the fine marine view will cause you to forget all other
impressions for the moment, but you will not tarry here. Turning
eastward you soon strike the road to the caves, and _such_ a road--it
is like the bed of a dry mountain torrent.

Persons visiting Matanzas must make up their minds to be content with
indifferent hotel accommodations. In fact there are no really good
hotels in Cuba; those which exist are poor and expensive. On the
inland routes away from the cities there are none, and the humble
hostelries, or posadas, as they are called, are so indifferent in
point of comforts as not to deserve the name of inns. As a rule,
invalids rarely go beyond the cities to remain over night. Brief and
pleasant sojourns may be made at Havana, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, and
Sagua la Grande, from whence excursions can be made by rail or
otherwise and return on the same day. Let us qualify these remarks, as
applied to the Hotel Louvre at Matanzas. There was a degree of
picturesqueness about this establishment which was not without its
attraction, and it was certainly the most cleanly public house in
which we found a temporary home while on the island. Its rooms
surrounded a bright clean court, or patio, planted with creeping
vines, palmettos, bananas, and some fragrant flowering shrubs. The
dining-room is virtually out of doors, being open on all sides, and
opposite the hotel is a small plaza with tropical trees, backed by an
old, musty church, whose bell had the true Spanish trick of giving
tongue at most inopportune moments. The rooms of the Louvre are quite
circumscribed as to space, and the partitions separating the
apartments do not reach to the ceiling, so that privacy, night or day,
is out of the question. The floors are all tiled in white marble, and
the attendance is courteous. One does not look for a choice bill of
fare in Cuba, and therefore will not be disappointed on that score.
You will be charged Fifth Avenue prices, however, if you do not get
Fifth Avenue accommodations. If you have learned in your travels to
observe closely, to study men as well as localities, to enjoy Nature
in her ever-varying moods, and to delight in luxurious fruits,
flowers, and vegetation, you will find quite enough to occupy and
amuse the mind, and make you forget altogether the grosser senses of
appetite.

Puerto Principe is the capital of the central department of Cuba, and
is located well inland. The trade of the place, from the want of water
carriage, is inconsiderable, and bears no proportion to the number of
its inhabitants, which aggregates nearly thirty-one thousand. The
product of the neighborhood, to find means of export, must first make
its way twelve and a half leagues to Nuevitas, from whence, in return,
it receives its foreign supplies. The two places are now, however,
connected by a railroad. Puerto Principe is about one hundred and
fifty leagues from Havana. Its original location, as founded by
Velasquez in 1514, was at Nuevitas, but the inhabitants, when the
place was feeble in numbers, were forced to remove from the coast to
avoid the fierce incursions of the pirates, as did the people of
Trinidad, who removed from the harbor of Casilda.

Cardenas is situated a hundred and twenty miles from Havana on the
north coast, and is the youngest town of note in Cuba, having been
founded so late as 1827. It has a population of between four and five
thousand. Its prosperity is mostly owing to the great fertility of the
land by which it is surrounded. It is called the American city,
because of the large number of Americans doing business here, and also
because the English language is so universally spoken by the people
who reside in the place. The Plaza contains an excellent marble statue
of Columbus, and is tastefully ornamented with tropical verdure. In
the harbor of Cardenas is seen one of those curious springs of fresh
water which bubble up beneath the salt sea. The city is the centre of
a sugar-producing district, and a considerable portion of the sugar
crop of the vicinity of Havana is also shipped from this port to
America. It is connected with both the metropolis and Matanzas by
rail, and is well worthy of a visit by all who can find the necessary
time for doing so.

Between Havana and Nuevitas, along the northern slope of the island,
are many vast tracts of unimproved land of the best quality. Much of
it is overgrown with cedar, ebony, mahogany, and other valuable
timber; but a large proportion is savanna or prairie, which might,
with little difficulty, be reduced to cultivation. The timber alone,
which is often found in large compact bodies, would pay the cost of
the land and the expense of clearing it. Many branches of agriculture
are neglected which might be made very remunerative, but it will never
be brought about except by foreign capital and tact. The natives have
not the requisite enterprise and industry. While these chapters are
passing through the press, the home government is discussing in the
Cortes the propriety of making a large loan to the Cubans for the
purpose of bringing the lands above referred to into market, as well
as rendering others accessible. But it is doubtful if anything
practical is accomplished, unless foreign interest should be enlisted.



                             CHAPTER VII.

    City of Havana. -- First Impressions. -- The Harbor. --
    Institutions. -- Lack of Educational Facilities. -- Cuban
    Women. -- Street Etiquette. -- Architecture. -- Domestic
    Arrangements. -- Barred Windows and Bullet-Proof Doors. --
    Public Vehicles. -- Uncleanliness of the Streets. -- Spanish
    or African! -- The Church Bells. -- Home-Keeping Habits of
    Ladies. -- Their Patriotism. -- Personal Characteristics. --
    Low Ebb of Social Life. -- Priestcraft. -- Female Virtue. --
    Domestic Ties. -- A Festive Population. -- Cosmetics. --
    Sea-Bathing.


Havana is a thoroughly representative city,--Cuban and nothing else.
Its history embraces in no small degree that of all the island, being
the centre of its talent, wealth, and population. It has long been
reckoned the eighth commercial capital of the world. Moro Castle, with
its Dahlgren guns peeping out through the yellow stones, and its tall
sentinel lighthouse, stands guard over the narrow entrance of the
harbor; the battery of La Punta on the opposite shore answering to the
Moro. There are also the long range of cannon and barracks on the city
side, and the massive fortress of the Cabanas crowning the hill behind
the Moro. All these are decorated with the red and yellow flag of
Spain,--the banner of blood and gold. So many and strong
fortifications show how important the home government regard the
place.

The harbor or bay is shaped like one's outspread hand, with the wrist
for an entrance, and is populous with the ships of all nations. It
presents at all times a scene of great maritime activity. Besides the
national ships of other countries and those of Spain, mail steamers
from Europe and America are coming and going daily, also coasting
steamers from the eastern and southern shores of the island, added to
regular lines for Mexico and the islands of the Caribbean Sea. The
large ferry steamers plying constantly between the city and the Regla
shore, the fleet of little sailing boats, foreign yachts, and
rowboats, glancing in the burning sunlight, create a scene of great
maritime interest.

The city presents a large extent of public buildings, cathedrals,
antique and venerable churches. It has been declared in its prosperity
to be the richest place for its number of square miles in the world,
but this cannot be said of it at the present time. There is nothing
grand in its appearance as one enters the harbor and comes to anchor,
though Baron Humboldt pronounced it the gayest and most picturesque
sight in America. Its multitude of churches, domes, and steeples are
not architecturally remarkable, and are dominated by the colossal
prison near the shore. This immense quadrangular edifice flanks the
Punta, and is designed to contain five thousand prisoners at a time.
The low hills which make up the distant background are not
sufficiently high to add much to the general effect. The few palm
trees which catch the eye here and there give an Oriental aspect to
the scene, quite in harmony with the atmospheric tone of intense
sunshine. Unlike Santiago or Matanzas, neither the city nor its
immediate environs is elevated, so that the whole impression is that
of flatness, requiring some strength of background to form a complete
picture. The martial appearance of the Moro and the Cabanas,
bristling with cannon, is the most vivid effect of the scene, taken as
a whole. It might be a portion of continental Spain broken away from
European moorings, and floated hither to find anchorage in the
Caribbean Sea. One is also reminded of Malta, in the farther
Mediterranean, and yet the city of Valetta, bright, sunny, and
elevated, is quite unlike Havana, though Fortress St. Angelo overlooks
and guards the place as the Moro does this tropical harbor, and Cuba
is the Italy of America.

The waters of the harbor, admittedly one of the finest in the world,
are most of the time extremely dirty. Many years ago a canal was
commenced which was designed to create a flowage calculated to keep
the harbor clear of the constantly accumulating filth, but it was
never finished, and there remains an evidence of Spanish inefficiency,
while the harbor continues to be a vast cesspool. It would be supposed
that in a fever-haunted region, great attention would be bestowed upon
the matter of drainage, but this is not the case in Havana, or other
cities of the island. Most of the effort made in this direction is
surface drainage, the liquid thus exposed quickly evaporating in the
hot sunshine, or being partially absorbed by the soil over which it
passes.

Havana contains numerous institutions of learning: a Royal University,
founded in 1733, a medical and law school, and chairs of all the
natural sciences. In spite of their liberal purposes and capabilities,
however, there is a blight hanging over them. Pupils enlist cautiously
and reluctantly. Among other schools there is a Royal Seminary for
girls, scarcely more than a name, a free school of sculpture and
painting, and a mercantile school, with a few private institutions of
learning. There is a fairly good museum of natural history, and just
outside the city a botanical garden. Still the means of education are
very limited in Cuba, an evidence of which is the fact that so many of
her youth of both sexes are sent to this country for educational
purposes. An order was at one time issued by the government
prohibiting this, but its arbitrary nature was so very outrageous,
even for a Spanish government, that it was permitted to become a dead
letter. What are called free schools, as we use the term, are not
known in the island; the facilities for obtaining even the simplest
education are very poor. Boys and girls, so far as any attempt is made
to educate them, are taught separately, and really under the eye of
the Church. Priests and nuns are the agents, the former notoriously
making a cloak of their profession for vile and selfish purposes. If
we speak decidedly upon this subject, yet we do so with less emphasis
than do the Cubans. The girls are taught embroidery and etiquette,
considered to be the chief and about the only things necessary for
them to know. These young girls are women at the age of thirteen or
fourteen, and frequently mothers of families before they are twenty.
Of course they fade early. In domestic life the husband is literally
lord and master, the wife, ostensibly at least, is all obedience.
There is no woman's rights association on the island, nor even a
Dorcas society. While young and unmarried, the ladies are strict
adherents to all the conventionalities of Spanish etiquette, which is
of the most exacting character, but after marriage the sex is perhaps
as French as the Parisians, and as gay as the Viennese, under the
stimulus of fast and fashionable society.

The reason of the edict issued by the government forbidding parents
to send their children to this country for educational purposes was
obvious. The young Cubans during their residence here imbibed liberal
ideas as to our republican form of government, which they freely
promulgated and advocated on their return to their native island. Even
those who had been educated in France or England, and they were
numerous, readily sympathized with the pupils returned from America,
and became a dangerous element. Long before the first Lopez
expedition, these sons of planters and rich merchants had formed
themselves into a secret society, with the avowed purpose of freeing
Cuba sooner or later from the Spanish yoke.

The low-lying, many-colored city of Havana, called San Cristobel,
after the great discoverer, was originally surrounded by a wall,
though the population has long since extended its dwellings and
business structures far into what was, half a century since, the
suburbs. A portion of the old wall is still extant, crumbling and
decayed, but it has mostly disappeared. The narrow streets are paved
or macadamized, and cross each other at right angles, like those of
Philadelphia, but in their dimensions reminding one of continental
Toledo, whose Moorish architecture is also duplicated here. There are
no sidewalks, unless a narrow line of flagstones can be so called, and
in fact the people have less use for them where nearly every one rides
in a victoria, the fare being but sixteen cents per mile. A woman of
respectability is scarcely ever seen walking in the streets, unless
she is a foreigner, or of the lower class, such as sellers of fruit,
etc. Those living in close proximity to the churches are sometimes
seen proceeding to early mass, accompanied by a negress carrying a
portable seat, or a bit of carpet on which to kneel upon the marble
floor of the cathedral. But even this is exceptional. Cuban etiquette
says that a lady must not be seen on the streets except in a vehicle,
and only Americans, English, and other foreigners disregard the rule.

The architecture of the dwelling-houses is exceedingly heavy, giving
them the appearance of great age. They are built of the porous stone
so abundant upon the island, which, though soft when first worked into
suitable blocks, becomes as hard as granite by exposure to the
atmosphere. The façades of the town houses are nearly always covered
with stucco. Their combination of colors, yellow, green, and blue,
harmonizes with the glowing atmosphere of the tropics. This will
strike the stranger at first as being very odd; there is no system
observed, the tenant of each dwelling following his individual fancy
as to the hue he will adopt, a dingy yellow prevailing. Standing upon
the Campo de Marte and looking in any direction, these changing colors
give a picturesque effect to the range of buildings which surround the
broad field. In this vicinity the structures are nearly all of two
full stories, and many with rows of lofty pillars supporting broad
verandas, including one or two palaces, one fine large club-house,
some government offices, and the Telegrafo Hotel. These varying colors
are not for fancy alone, they have a raison d'être; namely, to absorb
the sharp rays of the constant sunshine. But for some toning down of
the glare, one's eyes would hardly be able to sustain the power of
vision. The vividness with which each individual building and object
stands out in the clear liquid light is one of the first peculiarities
which will strike the stranger.

The dwelling-houses are universally so constructed as to form an open
square in the centre, which constitutes the only yard or court that is
attached. The house is divided into a living-room, a store-room,
chambers, and stable, these all upon one floor, while the family
vehicle blocks up in part the only entrance, which is used in common
by horses, ladies, slaves, and gentlemen callers. If there is a second
story, a broad flight of steps leads to it, and there are the family
chambers or sleeping apartments, opening upon a corridor which extends
round the court. Peculiar as this manner of building at first seems,
it is well adapted to the climate, and one soon becomes satisfied with
it.

With such surroundings it is easy to imagine one's self at Granada, in
far-off Spain, and it seems almost natural to look about for the
Alhambra. An air of rude grandeur reigns over these houses, the
architecture being Gothic and Saracenic. In the more ancient portions
of the town little picturesque balconies of iron or wood jut out from
the second-story windows, where the houses rise to the dignity of two
stories. From these balconies hang little naked children, like small
performers upon the trapeze, until the passer-by fears for their
lives. The travel in the narrow streets is regulated by law, and so
divided that only certain ones are used for vehicles going north, and
others for those traveling south. Thus, vehicles bound into the city
from the Paseo go by the way of Obispo Street, but must return by
O'Riley Street, so that no two ever meet in these narrow
thoroughfares,--a plan which might be advantageously adopted
elsewhere.

The rooms of the houses are lofty and the floors stuccoed or tiled in
marble, while the walls and ceilings are frequently ornamented in
fresco, the excellence of the workmanship varying in accordance with
the owner's means. The most striking peculiarity of the town-house in
Cuba is the precaution taken to render it safe against sudden attack.
Every man's house is literally his castle here, each accessible window
being secured with stout iron bars, reaching from the top to the
bottom, while bullet-proof doors bar the entrance,--the whole
seriously suggestive of jails and lunatic asylums. No carpets are used
even in the parlors, though a long rug is sometimes placed between the
inevitable double row of rocking-chairs. The best floors are laid in
white marble and jasper. The great heat of the climate renders even
wooden floors quite insupportable. The visitor is apt to find his bed
rather unsatisfactory, it being formed by stretching a coarse canvas
upon a framework, with an upper and under sheet. Mattresses are not
used by the natives, who reject them as being too warm to sleep upon,
but the liberality evinced in the shape of mosquito netting is as
commendable as it is necessary.

The public vehicle called a victoria is a sort of four-wheeled calash,
and it has entirely superseded the volante for city use. There are
thousands of them about the town, forming a collection of wretchedly
wornout carriages, drawn by horses in a like condition. The drivers
occupy an elevated seat, and are composed equally of whites and
negroes. The charge for a passage from point to point within the city
is forty cents in Cuban paper money, equal to sixteen cents of our
currency; three times that sum is charged if engaged for the hour. The
streets are in a very bad condition and sadly need repairing. The
roads leading out to the suburbs in every direction are full of deep
holes, and are badly gullied by the heavy rains. The streets, even
about the paseos, are so impregnated with filth, here and there, as to
be sickening to the senses of the passer-by. Once in three or four
weeks somebody is awakened to the exigency of the situation, and a
gang of men is put to work to cleanse the principal thoroughfares, but
this serves only a temporary purpose. We were told that the reason for
this neglect was that no one was regularly paid for work; even the
police had not received any pay for seven months, and many refused to
serve longer. The soldiery had not been paid their small stipend for
nearly a year, but enlisted men sent out from Spain, forming the army,
are more easily kept together and more amenable to discipline than any
civil body of officials could be. "With everybody and everything so
enormously taxed," we ventured to suggest to our informants, "there
should be no lack of pecuniary means wherewith to carry on all
departments of the government. Pray what becomes of all this money?"
The reply was, "Who can say?" with a significant shrug of the
shoulders. With all the exactions of the officials, and with the
collection of nearly thirty millions of dollars annually, but a moiety
finds its way into the national treasury. Peculation is reduced to a
science, and is practiced from the highest to the lowest official sent
out by the home government. "Spain has squeezed the orange nearly
dry," said a distinguished Cuban to us in Matanzas, "and a collapse is
inevitable. We are anxiously waiting to see it come; any change would
be for the better. We were long threatened with a war of races, if we
did not sustain Spanish rule in the island. That is, if we were not
loyal to the Madrid authorities, the slaves should be freed to prey
upon us. Blood would flow like water. The incendiary torch would be
placed in the hands of the negroes, and they should be incited to
burn, steal, and ravish! Cuba should be Spanish or African. There was
a time when this threat had great force, and its execution was indeed
to be dreaded; but that time is past, and no such fear now exists. The
slaves are being gradually freed, and are amalgamating with the rest
of the populace. The slow liberation of the blacks has accustomed them
to freedom, and any organized outrage from that source has ceased to
be feared."

Why all the bells in Havana should be rung furiously and continuously
every morning about daylight, one cannot exactly understand. There
does not seem to be any concert of action in this awful conspiracy
against sleep; but the tumult thus brought about would certainly seem
to be sufficient to "wake the isle from its propriety." From every
square with its church, and every church with its towers, this
brazen-tongued clamor is relentlessly poured forth. In most Christian
lands one good bell is all-sufficient for a church steeple, but here
they have them in the plural, and all striving to excel each other at
the same moment. Of course no one is able to sleep amid such an
outburst of noise, or within the radius of a league. Bells and
mosquitoes are two of the prevailing nuisances of this thrice-sunny
city. Nor must we forget to add to these aggravations the ceaseless,
triumphant crowing of the game-cocks, the noisiest and most boastful
of birds, large numbers of which are kept by the citizens purely for
gambling purposes in the cock-pit. Besides these "professional" birds,
every nook and corner is filled with fowls kept for brooding purposes,
each bird family with its crower.

We have said that the Cuban ladies rarely stir abroad except in a
vehicle, and whatever their domestic habits may be, they are certainly
good housekeepers in this respect. While our ladies are busy sweeping
the city sidewalks with their trailing dresses, these wisely leave
that business to the gangs of criminals detailed from prison to fill
that office, with their limbs chained and a heavy ball attached to
preserve their equilibrium,--though we should qualify this remark by
saying that these condemned men, once so common upon the streets and
highways, were not seen during our late visit to Havana. It is,
perhaps, owing to the home-keeping habits of the ladies that the feet
of the Cuban señoritas are such marvels of smallness and delicacy,
seemingly made rather for ornament than for use. You catch a glimpse
of them as they step into their victorias, and perceive that they are
daintily shod in French slippers, the soles of which are scarcely more
substantial than brown paper. Their feet are made for ornament and for
dancing. Though they possess a roundness of form that leaves nothing
to be desired in symmetry of figure, still they are light as a
sylph,--so buoyant, clad in muslin and lace, that it would seem as if
a breeze might waft them away like a summer cloud. Passionately fond
of dancing, they tax the endurance of the gentlemen in their worship
of Terpsichore, stimulated by those Cuban airs which are at once so
sweet and so brilliant.

There is a striking and endearing charm about the Cuban ladies, their
every motion being replete with a native grace. Every limb is elastic
and supple. Their voices are sweet and low, while the subdued tone of
their complexions is relieved by the arch vivacity of night-black
eyes, that alternately swim in melting lustre, and sparkle in
expressive glances. If their comeliness matures, like the fruits of
their native clime, early and rapidly, it is sad to know that it also
fades prematurely. One looks in vain for that serene loveliness
combined with age which so frequently challenges our admiration at the
North. Their costume is never ostentatious, though often costly, and
sometimes a little too mixed or variegated when seen in public. At
home, however, nothing of this sort is observed. There the dress is
usually composed of the most delicate muslin, the finest linen, and
richest silks. We must admit that one rarely sees elsewhere such
contrasts in colors upon the person of the fair sex as are at times
encountered upon the Paseo. It would drive a French modiste wild to
see the proprieties so outraged. It requires all the proverbial beauty
of these señoras and señoritas to carry off respectably such
combinations as scarlet and yellow, blue and purple, orange and green;
but they do it by sheer force of their beautiful eyes and finely
rounded figures. It must be acknowledged that the element of native
refinement is too often wanting, and that the whole exhibition of the
sex is just a little prononcée. They have no intellectual resort, but
lead a life of decided ease and pleasure much too closely bordering
upon the sensuous, their forced idleness being in itself an incentive
to immorality and intrigue. The indifferent work they perform is
light and simple; a little sewing and embroidery, followed by the
siesta, divides the hours of the day. Those who can afford to keep
their victorias wait until nearly sunset for a drive, and then go to
respond by sweet smiles to the salutations of the caballeros on the
paseos; afterwards to the Parque de Isabella II., to listen to the
military band, and then, perhaps, to join in the mazy dance. That
these ladies are capable of deep feeling and practical sympathy on
such occasions as would naturally draw these qualities forth, we know
by experience. When the patriot forces were poorly armed, with but
scant material, and ammunition was short, these fair patriots gave
freely of their most valuable jewels as a contribution to the cause of
liberty.

A sad instance illustrative of this fact was told us by a resident of
Havana. The young ladies and matrons of a certain circle in the city,
at the commencement of the year 1872, had put their diamonds and
precious stones together to realize money for forwarding supplies to
the insurgents under Cespedes, who was then operating in the vicinity
of Santiago. The jewels were secretly intrusted to a brother of one of
the ladies, a young man who had just reached the age of twenty-two.
His part of the business was the most difficult to perform, but he
finally succeeded in realizing over four thousand dollars in gold for
the gems intrusted to him. Fortunately the money was at once forwarded
to the patriot leader through a safe and reliable channel. Hardly had
the business been accomplished to the satisfaction of all concerned
when the young Cuban was secretly denounced to the Governor-General as
a suspected person. The settings and jewels had all been disposed of
so as to be beyond recognition, and it is not known to this day how
the brother's complicity with his sisters and their friends was
divulged, but presumedly it was through the Jew pawnbrokers. The
brother was arrested and thrown into Moro Castle, where he was
subjected to the closest examination to find out his accomplices.
Loyal and affectionate, he could not be made to speak. He was finally
offered his freedom and permission to leave the island if he would
divulge all. The government reasoned that if they could make a witness
of him they would succeed in serving their own interest best, as by
sacrificing one prisoner they might gain knowledge of many disaffected
people whom they did not even suspect of disloyalty. One of the
sisters of the prisoner determined to assume the guilt, and declare
that her brother was the unknowing agent of her purpose; but when at
last satisfied that this would not free him, she reluctantly gave up
the design. The young Cuban maintained his silence. No publicity was
given to the matter. He was brought before a military tribunal--so
much is known. The sentence never publicly transpired. Like most
political prisoners who pass within the walls of Moro Castle, his fate
remains a secret.

There are two sides to every picture; even light casts its shadow, and
we feel constrained to speak plainly. Social life in the island is
certainly at a very low ebb, and unblushing licentiousness prevails.
That there are many and noble exceptions only renders the opposite
fact the more prominent. This immorality is more particularly among
the home Spaniards, whose purpose it is to remain here long enough to
gain a certain amount of money, and then to return to the mother
country to enjoy it. They look upon all associations contracted here
as of a temporary character, and the matter of morality does not
affect them in the least. Domestic comforts are few, and, as we have
intimated, literature is hardly recognized. The almost entire absence
of books or reading matter of any sort is remarkable. A few daily and
weekly newspapers, under rigid censorship, supply all the taste for
letters. Married women seem to sink far below their husbands in
influence. The domestic affections are not cultivated; in short, home
to the average Cuban is only a place to sleep,--not of peaceful
enjoyment. His meals are rarely taken with his family, but all spare
hours are absorbed at the club. Domestic infidelity is prevalent, and
female virtue but little esteemed. Priest-craft and king-craft have
been the curse of both Spain and Cuba. Here, as in Italy, the
outrageous and thinly-disguised immorality of the priesthood poisons
many an otherwise unpolluted fount, and thus all classes are liable to
infection. Popery and slavery are both largely to be charged with the
low condition of morals, though the influence of the former has of
late years been much curtailed, both in Spain and in Cuba. The young
women are the slaves of local customs, as already intimated, and
cannot go abroad even to church without a duenna,--a fact which in
itself proves the debased standard of morals. The men appear to have
no religion at all, but the women very generally attend early mass and
go periodically to confessional. No one seems to think it strange for
a white man to have a colony of mulatto children, even though he be
also the father of a white family! Many have only the mulatto family,
and seem content. These are generally the home Spaniards, already
spoken of, and when their fortunes are secured they recklessly sever
all local ties and responsibilities and return to Spain. This is no
new thing, as there are many families in Cuba of fair position
socially, and often of considerable wealth, whose members are by the
right of classification quadroons. Miscegenation has greatly
complicated social matters, and in half a century, more or less, it
may produce a distinctive class, who will be better able to assert and
sustain their rights than those who have preceded them.

The class of home Spaniards who have emigrated to Cuba has always been
of a questionable character. The description of them by Cervantes in
his time will apply in our own day with equal force. He says: "The
island is the refuge of the profligates of Spain, a sanctuary for
homicides, a skulking-place for gamblers and sharpers, and a
receptacle for women of free manners,--a place of delusion to many, of
amelioration to few."

One peculiarity which is sure to strike the stranger unpleasantly, and
to which allusion has incidentally been made, whether in public or
private houses, in the stores or in the streets, is that the colored
children of both sexes, under eight and nine years of age, are
permitted to go about in a state of nudity. In the country, among the
Montero class, this custom also extends to the white children. The
colored men who labor in the streets and on the wharves wear only a
short pair of linen pantaloons, displaying a muscular development
which any white man might envy. The remarkable contrast in the
powerful frames of these dusky Africans and the puny Asiatic coolies
is extraordinary. On the plantations and small farms the slaves wear
but one garment, just sufficient for decency. The great heat when
exposed to the sun is the reason, probably, rather than any economical
idea.

The populace of Havana is eminently a festive one. Men luxuriate in
the café, or spend their evenings in worse places. A brief period of
the morning only is given to business, the rest of the day and night
to melting lassitude, smoking, and luxurious ease. Evidences of
satiety, languor, and dullness, the weakened capacity for enjoyment,
are sadly conspicuous, the inevitable sequence of indolence and vice.
The arts and sciences seldom disturb the thoughts of such people.
Here, as in many European cities, Lazarus and Dives elbow each other,
and an Oriental confusion of quarters prevails. The pretentious
town-house is side by side with the humble quarters of the artisan, or
even the negro hut, about which swarm the naked juveniles of color, a
half-clad, slatternly mother appearing now and then. The father of
this brood, if there be an acknowledged one, is probably at work upon
some plantation not far away, while madame takes in linen to wash, but
being possibly herself a slave, pays over one half of her earnings to
some city master. High and low life are ever present in strong
contrast, and in the best of humor with each other, affording elements
of the picturesque, if not of the beautiful. Neatness must be ignored
where such human conglomeration exists, and as we all know, at certain
seasons of the year, like dear, delightful, dirty Naples, Havana is
the hot-bed of pestilence. The dryness of the atmosphere transforms
most of the street offal into fine powder, which salutes nose, eyes,
ears, and mouth under the influence of the slightest breeze. Though
there are ample bathing facilities in and about the city, the people
of either sex seem to have a prejudice against their free use. In most
hot climates the natives duly appreciate the advantage of an abundance
of water, and luxuriate in its use, but it is not so in Cuba. We were
told of ladies who content themselves with only wiping neck, face, and
hands daily upon a towel saturated with island rum, and, from what was
obvious, it is easy to believe this to be true.

Sea-bathing is a luxury which the Northern visitor will be glad to
improve, if the natives are not, and for their information let us
state that it may be safely enjoyed here. Establishments will be found
where baths have been cut in the rock on the shore, west of the Punta
fort, along the Calle Ancha del Norte. Here water is introduced fresh
from the Gulf Stream, sparkling and invigorating, and characterized by
much more salt and iodine than is found in more northern latitudes. It
is the purest sea-bathing to be found in any city that we know of,
refreshing and healthful, producing a sensation upon the surface of
the body similar to that of sparkling soda-water on the palate. The
island abounds in mineral springs, both hot and cold, all more or less
similar in character, and belonging to the class of sulphur springs.
Many of these have considerable local reputation for their curative
properties.

In passing through O'Riley, Obispo, Obrapia, or any business streets
at about eleven o'clock in the forenoon and glancing into the stores,
workshops, business offices, and the like, one is sure to see the
master in his shirt-sleeves, surrounded by his family, clerks, and
all white employees, sitting in full sight at breakfast, generally in
the business room itself. The midday siesta, an hour later, if not a
necessity in this climate, is a universal custom. The shopkeeper, even
as he sits on duty, drops his head upon his arm and sleeps for an
hour, more or less. The negro and his master both succumb to the same
influence, catching their forty winks, while the ladies, if not
reclining, "lose themselves" with heads resting against the backs of
the universal rocking-chairs. One interior seen by the passer-by is as
like another as two peas. A Cuban's idea of a well-furnished
sitting-room is fully met by a dozen cane-bottom rocking-chairs, and a
few poor chromos on the walls. These rocking-chairs are ranged in two
even lines, reaching from the window to the rear of the room, with a
narrow woollen mat between them on the marble floor, each chair being
conspicuously flanked by a cuspidor. This parlor arrangement is so
nearly universal as to be absolutely ludicrous.



                            CHAPTER VIII.

    Sabbath Scenes in Havana. -- Thimble-Riggers and Mountebanks.
    -- City Squares and their Ornamentation. -- The Cathedral. --
    Tomb of Columbus. -- Plaza de Armas. -- Out-Door Concerts. --
    Habitués of Paseo de Isabella. -- Superbly Appointed Cafés.
    -- Gambling. -- Lottery Tickets. -- Fast Life. -- Masquerade
    Balls. -- Carnival Days. -- The Famous Tacon Theatre. -- The
    Havana Casino. -- Public Statues. -- Beauties of the
    Governor's Garden. -- The Alameda. -- The Old Bell-Ringer. --
    Military Mass.


On no other occasion is the difference between the manners of a
Protestant and Catholic community so strongly marked as on the
Sabbath. In the former, a sober seriousness stamps the deportment of
the people, even when they are not engaged in devotional exercises; in
the latter, worldly pleasures and religious forms are pursued, as it
were, at the same time, or follow each other in incongruous
succession. We would not have the day made tedious, and it can only be
so to triflers; to the true Christian it will ever be characterized by
thoughtfulness and repose. The Parisian flies from the church to the
railway station to join some picnic excursion, or to assist at the
race-course, or he passes with a careless levity from St. Geneviève to
the dance booths of the Champs Elysées. In New Orleans, the Creole who
has just bent his knee before the altar repairs to the theatre to pass
the evening; and the Cuban goes from the absolution of the priest to
the hurly-burly of the bull-ring or the cock-pit.

The influence of fifteen minutes in the church, if salutary, would
seem to be quickly dissipated by the attraction of the gaming-table
and the masked ball. Even the Sunday ceremonial of the Church is a
pageant: the splendid robes of the officiating priest, changed in the
course of the service like the costume of actors in a drama; the
music, to Protestant ears operatic and exciting; the clouds of incense
scattering their intoxicating perfumes; the chanting in a strange
tongue, unknown to the majority of the worshipers,--all tend to give
the Roman Catholic services a carnival character. Far be it from us,
however, to charge these congregations with an undue levity, or a lack
of sincerity. Many a lovely Creole kneels upon the marble floor
entirely estranged from the brilliant groups around her, and
apparently unconscious for the time of the admiration she excites.
There are many, no doubt, who look beyond the glittering symbols to
the great truths of the Being whom they are intended to typify. The
impression made by the Sabbath ceremonials of the Church strikes us as
evanescent, more pleasing to the fancy than informing to the
understanding. Still, if the Sabbath in Catholic countries is not
wholly devoted to religious observances, neither are the week days
wholly absorbed by business and by careless pleasures. The churches
are always open, silently but eloquently inviting to devotion, and it
is much to be able to step aside at any moment from the temptations,
business, and cares of life into an atmosphere of seclusion and
religion. The solemn quiet of an old cathedral on a week day is
impressive from its very contrast to the tumult outside. Within its
venerable walls the light seems chastened, as it falls through stained
panes and paints the images of Christian saints and martyrs on the
pavement of the aisles. A half unwilling reverence is apt to stimulate
us on such an occasion, however skeptical we may be.

The Sabbath in Havana breaks upon the citizens amid the ringing of
bells, the firing of cannon from the forts, the noise of trumpets, and
the roll of the drum. It is no day of physical rest here, and the
mechanical trades are uninterrupted. It is the chosen period for the
military reviews, the masked ball, and the bull-fight. The stores are
open as usual, the same cries are heard on the streets, and the
lottery tickets are vended on every corner. The individuals who devote
themselves to this business are in numbers like an army with banners.
They rend the air with their cries, promising good luck to all
purchasers, while they flourish their scissors with one hand, and
thrust the sheet of printed numbers in your face with the other, ready
to cut any desired ticket or portion of a ticket. The day proves
equally propitious for the omnipresent organ-grinder and his
ludicrously-dressed little monkey, à la Napoleon; the Chinese peddler;
the orange and banana dealer; and the universal cigarette purveyor.
Still, the rough Montero from the country, with his long line of
loaded mules or ponies, respectfully raises his broad Panama with one
hand while he makes the sign of the cross with the other as he passes
the church door. The churches of Havana look very old and shabby
compared with those of peninsular Spain, where the splendor of church
ornamentation reaches its acme.

In and about the commercial part of the town, the out-door gambler
forms a conspicuous feature of the Sabbath, seated upon a cloth spread
upon the ground, and armed with cards, dice, cups, and other
instruments. With voluble tongue and expressive pantomime urging the
passer-by to try his luck, he meets with varying success. Many who are
drawn into the net are adroitly permitted to win a little, and
afterwards to lose much. Sailors on shore for a day's liberty are
profitable game for these thimble-riggers, as they are called with us.
Both Spaniards and Creoles patronize them, and occasionally a negro
tries his luck with a trifle. In open squares, or at the intersection
of several streets, one sometimes sees a carpet spread upon the
ground, upon which an athlete accompanied by a couple of expert boys,
dressed in high-colored tights ornamented with spangles, diverts the
throng by exhibiting gymnastics. At the close of the performance, a
young girl in a fancy dress and with long, flowing hair passes among
the spectators and gathers a few shillings. Not far away is observed
Punch and Judy in the height of a successful quarrel to the music of a
harp and a violin. The automatic contestants pound and pommel each
other after the conventional fashion.

The city abounds in well-arranged squares, often ornamented by the
royal palm, always a figure of majesty and beauty, with here and there
a few orange, lime, and banana trees, mingled with the Indian laurel,
which forms a grateful shade by its dense foliage. The royal palm is
strongly individualized, differing from other trees of the same
family. It is usually from sixty to eighty feet in height at what may
be called its maturity, and not unfrequently reaches a hundred, the
tall trunk slightly swelling near the middle and tapering at either
extremity. The upper portion is of a fresh and shining green,
contrasting with the lower section, which is of a light slate color.
It is crowned by a tuft of branches and leaves at its apex, like a
bunch of ostrich feathers drooping in all directions. It seems as
though the palm could not be out of place in any spot. It imparts
great beauty to the scenery in and about Havana. When it is found
dotting a broad stretch of country here and there in isolated groups,
or even singly, it is always the first object to catch and delight the
eye. It is also a marked and beautiful feature where it forms a long
avenue, lining the road on either side leading to a sugar or coffee
plantation, but it requires half a century to perfect such an avenue.

The Plaza de Armas, fronting the Governor's palace, is a finely kept
square, and until the Parque de Isabella was finished, it was the
great centre of fashion, and the place of evening resort. At one
corner of this Plaza is an insignificant chapel, built upon the spot
where Columbus is said to have assisted at the first mass celebrated
on the island; an anachronism easily exposed were it worth the while.
The great discoverer never landed at Havana during his lifetime,
though his body was brought hither for burial, centuries after his
death. There is one fact relating to this site in the Plaza de Armas
fully authenticated, and which is not without interest. An enormous
old ceiba tree originally stood here, beneath whose branches mass was
sometimes performed. This remarkable tree having expired of old age
was removed by order of the Governor-General, and the chapel was
erected on the spot where its widespread branches had cast their
shadow for centuries. We did not see the interior of the chapel, as it
is opened but once a year to the public,--on the 16th of November,
which is the feast day of San Cristobal, when mass is celebrated in
honor of the great discoverer. It is said to contain a marble bust of
Columbus, and two or three large historical paintings.

This square is divided into neatly kept paths, and planted with
fragrant flowers, conspicuous among which were observed the white and
red camellias, while a grateful air of coolness was diffused by the
playing of a fountain into a broad basin, ornamented by a marble
statue of Ferdinand VII. The Creoles are passionately fond of music,
and this park used to be the headquarters of all out-door concerts.
Their favorite airs are waltzes and native dances, with not a little
of the Offenbach spirit in them. The guitar is the favorite domestic
musical instrument here, as in peninsular Spain, and both sexes are as
a rule clever performers upon it. Evening music in the open air is
always attractive, but nowhere is its influence more keenly felt than
under the mellow effulgence of tropical nights. Nowhere can we
conceive of a musical performance listened to with more relish and
appreciation than in the Plaza de Armas or the Parque de Isabella in
Havana. The latter place on the occasion of the concerts is the resort
of all classes. Here friends meet, flirtations are carried on, toilets
are displayed, and lovers woo. Even the humble classes are seen in
large numbers quietly strolling on the outer portions of the Plaza
listening to the fine performances of the band, and quietly enjoying
the music, "tamed and led by this enchantress still." The balmy nature
of the climate permits the ladies to dispense with shawls or wraps of
any sort; bonnets they very seldom wear, so that they sit in their
vehicles, or alighting appropriate the chairs arranged for the purpose
lining the broad central path, and thus appear in full evening dress,
bare arms, and necks supplemented by most elaborate coiffures. Even
the black lace mantilla, so commonly thrown over the head and
shoulders in the cities of Spain, is discarded of an evening on the
Plaza de Isabella.

It was very amusing to sit here near the marble statue of the ex-queen
(which is, by the way, a wonderful likeness of Queen Victoria), where
the band, composed of sixty instrumental performers, discoursed
admirable music, and to observe young Cuba abroad, represented by boys
and girls of ten and twelve years dressed like young ladies and
gentlemen, sauntering arm in arm through the broad paths. These
children attend balls given by grown-up people, and are painted and
bedizened and decked out like their elders,--a singular fashion in
Cuban cities. It is true they not infrequently fall asleep on such
occasions in rocking-chairs and in odd corners, overcome by fatigue,
as the hours of festivity creep on towards the morning. Childhood is
ignored. Youth of a dozen years is introduced to the habits of people
thrice that age. We were sadly told, by one who is himself a parent,
that most children in the island but twelve years of age know the
delicate relations of the sexes as well as they would ever know them.
What else could be expected in an atmosphere so wretchedly immoral?
Small boys dressed in stovepipe hats and swallow-tail coats, and
little misses in long dresses with low necks look like mountebanks.

Opposite the Plaza de Isabella, on the Tacon Theatre side of the
square, are situated the most fashionable cafés and restaurants of the
capital, where "life" commences at nine o'clock in the evening and
rages fast and furious until the small hours of the morning. In these
resorts, which are one blaze of light, every gas-burner reflected by
dozens of mirrors, the marble tables are all occupied by vivacious
patrons. Some are playing dominoes, some few are engaged at games of
chess, others are busy over checkers or cards, and all are gambling.
Even the lookers-on at the games freely stake their money on the
fortunes of the several players. The whole scene is one of noise and
confusion, fifty tongues giving voice at the same time. If a Spaniard
or Creole loses a dollar he gesticulates and argues about it as though
thousands were involved in the issue. These people represent all
classes. Some are in their shirt-sleeves, some roughly clothed, some
in full evening dress; Spaniards, Creoles, mulattoes, and occasionally
an unmistakable European. They drink often, but not strong liquors,
and one is surprised to hear coffee so often called for in place of
wine. The games are kept up until two or three o'clock in the morning.
Loitering about the doors beggars always form the shadow of the scene;
some lame, some blind, mostly negroes and coolies; now and then there
is seen among them an intelligent but sad white face, which looks
rather than utters its appeal. These are often the recipients of the
successful gambler's bounty. Now and again a lottery-ticket vender
comes in and makes the circuit of the tables, always disposing of more
or less chances, sometimes selling a whole ticket, price one doubloon,
or seventeen dollars. As we watch the scene a daintily dressed youth
with shining beaver lounges in, accompanied by one of the demi-monde
gayly dressed and sparkling with jewelry which betrays her want of
modesty. She is of the true Andalusian type, olive complexion,
coal-black hair with eyes to match, and long dark lashes; petite in
figure and youthful, but aged in experience. Bonnetless, her luxuriant
hair is set high upon her head, held by a square tortoise-shell comb,
and carelessly thrown off her forehead with a parting on one side. Be
sure some sad story underlies her career. She is of just that gypsy
cast that painters love to delineate. They sit down at a side table
and order ices, cake, and champagne. These are consumed amid jests and
laughter, the spurious champagne, at a fabulous cost, is drunk
merrily, the hours creep on, and the couple retire to give place to
others, after having furnished a picture of the fast, false life of
these brilliant, but dissipated haunts.

Some of these cafés are more exclusive than others, where respectable
ladies and gentlemen can retire after the band has ceased its
performance, and enjoy the cooling influence of an ice. The Louvre,
just opposite the Plaza de Isabella and adjoining the Tacon Theatre,
is one of such. These establishments couple with their current evening
business that of the manufacture of choice preserves for domestic use
and also for export, the fruits of the island supplying the basis for
nearly a hundred varieties of fruit preserves, which find large sales
in our Northern cities and in Europe.

In carnival week these cafés do an immense business; it is the harvest
of their year. People who can hardly afford three meals a day pinch
themselves and suffer much self-denial that they may have money to
spend in carnival week. The public masquerade balls, which then take
place, allure all classes. The celebrations of the occasion culminate
in a grand public masquerade ball given in the Tacon Theatre. The
floor of the parquette is temporarily raised to a level with the
boxes and the stage, the entire floor or lower part of the house being
converted into a grand ball-room. The boxes and galleries are thrown
open free to the public. The music, furnished by two military bands,
alternating in their performance, is kept up until broad daylight,
while the participants come and go as they please. A little after
midnight an organization called the comparzas comes upon the scene. It
is composed of men, boys, and women, all masked, who have practiced
for the occasion some emblematic dance to perform for their own and
the public amusement. The other dancers give way and the new-comers
perform, in harlequin fashion, their allotted parts. Towards morning a
large paper globe is suspended from the ceiling and lowered to within
a certain height from the floor. Blindfolded volunteers of both sexes,
furnished with sticks, are permitted to walk towards and try to hit
it. Scores fail, others just graze the globe of paper, all amid loud
laughter from the spectators. Finally some one hits the globe full and
fair, bringing down the contents amid vociferous applause. Then
commences a general scramble for the contents, consisting of bonbons,
toys, and fancy trinkets.

The celebrated Tacon Theatre faces the Paseo de Isabella, and is built
on the corner of San Rafael Street. It is a capacious structure, but
extremely plain and unimpressive in its exterior appearance. It has
five tiers of boxes and a spacious parquette, the latter furnished
with separate arm-chair seats for six hundred persons. The entire
seating capacity of the house is a trifle over three thousand, and the
auditorium is of the horseshoe shape. The lattice-work finish before
the boxes is very light and graceful in effect, ornamented with gilt,
and so open as to display the dresses and pretty feet of the fair
occupants to the best advantage. The frescos are in good style, and
the ornamentation, without being excessive, is in excellent and
harmonious taste. A large, magnificent glass chandelier, lighted with
gas, and numerous smaller ones extending from the boxes give a
brilliant light to this elegant house, which is one of the largest
theatres in the world. The scene is a remarkable one when tier upon
tier is filled with gayly dressed ladies, powdered and rouged as Cuban
women are apt to be, in the most liberal manner. The parquette is
reserved for gentlemen, and when the audience is assembled forms a
striking contrast to the rest of the house, as they always appear in
dark evening dress, and between the acts put on their tall black
beaver hats. These audiences have their own special modes of
exhibiting appreciation or applause, when captivated by a prima
donna's or a danseuse's efforts to please them. At favorable moments
during the performance the artist is showered with bouquets; white
doves are set free from the boxes, bearing laudatory verses fastened
to their wings; gentlemen throw their hats upon the stage, and
sometimes even purses weighted with gold. Tiny balloons are started
with long streamers of colored ribbon attached; jewelry in the shape
of bracelets and rings is conveyed over the footlights; in short,
these Spaniards are sometimes extraordinarily demonstrative. A furore
has sometimes cost these caballeros large sums of money. But we are
describing the past rather than the immediate present, for the
scarcity of pecuniary means has put an end to nearly all such
extravagances. The Havanese are peculiar in their tastes. While Miss
Adelaide Phillips was more than once the recipient of extravagant
favors on the Tacon Theatre stage, Jenny Lind did not pay her
professional expenses when she sang there.

The military are always in attendance in large numbers at the theatre,
as at all public gatherings in Cuba, their only perceptible use being
to stare the ladies out of countenance and to obstruct the
passageways. In front of the main entrance to the theatre is an open
area decorated with tropical plants and trees, where a group of the
crimson hibiscus was observed, presenting a gorgeous effect of color.
The other places of amusement in Havana, of a dramatic character, are
the Payret Theatre, very large, seating twenty-five hundred; the
Albisu Theatre, and the Circo, Teatro de Jané, this latter combining a
theatre with a circus.

As a place of amusement and instruction combined we should be remiss
not to mention the Casino of Havana. It is carried on by an organized
society formed on the basis of a club and has, we were told, over one
hundred members. The Casino occupies a fine building, fronting Obispo
Street, and close to the parks. It supports a free school for teaching
the English and French languages and drawing. After some fifteen years
of successful existence the society has become one of the institutions
of the metropolis. The halls and apartments are large, lofty, and very
finely furnished with all domestic conveniences except sleeping
accommodations. Here dramatic entertainments are frequently given,
mostly by amateurs, and generally for charitable purposes. The main
ball-room of the Casino is handsomely decorated and is the scene of
occasional masked balls, after the true Madrid style, where many an
intrigue is consummated which does not always end without bloodshed.
It is the favorite resort of all the high officials of Havana, who
have within their possible reach too few social entertainments not to
make the most of those presented at the Casino. During the carnival
season the ball-room of the establishment is said to present, in the
form of nightly masquerade balls, scenes which for gayety and
picturesqueness cannot be surpassed in Europe.

Old Havana is certainly eclipsed by the really fine broad streets and
the palatial buildings which have sprung up outside of her ancient
limits. In point of picturesqueness the old town has precedence. Near
where the Indian Paseo and the Plaza de Isabella II. join each other,
a portion of the old wall which once surrounded the city is still to
be seen, with its crumbling bastions and ivy-grown débris. Sufficient
is left to show that the wall was a remarkably substantial one and an
efficient defense against the modes of attack prevalent when it was
built. The Indian Paseo commences opposite the Campo de Marte, and is
so called from the large marble fountain dedicated to that aboriginal
idea. This elaborate structure was executed in Italy at large expense.
Its principal figure is an Indian maiden, allegorical of Havana,
supporting a shield bearing the arms of the city. These paseos are
admirably ornamented on either side by a continuous line of laurel
trees whose thick foliage gives admirable shade. On either side of the
long central promenade the well-paved streets are broad and handsome,
being ornamented with high buildings of a domestic and public
character and of good architectural effect. The Matanzas & Havana
Railroad depot is situated just opposite one end of the Campo de
Marte, its freight yard extending also along the Paseo for an entire
block, detracing much from the fine effect of the broad street. The
trains and noisy engines being thus brought into the midst of the
dwellings and business centre of the city render it very
objectionable. The guests of the Telegrafo Hotel can bear testimony as
to the nuisance thus created, being awakened at all sorts of
unreasonable hours by the engine bell and steam whistle.

The Botanical Garden is situated about a mile from the city proper,
adjoining which are the attractive grounds of the Governor General's
country-house. Both are open to the public and richly repay a visit.
The Governor's grounds are shaded by a great variety of tropical trees
and flowers. Here was seen what is called the water rose, pink in
color and nearly double the size of our pond lily, recalling the
Egyptian lotus, to which family it would seem it must belong.
Altogether, the place is a wilderness of blossoms, composed of exotic
and native flowers. There is also an interesting aviary to be seen
here, and a small artificial lake is covered with curious web-footed
birds and brilliant-feathered ducks. The gardens seem to be neglected,
but they are very lovely in their native luxuriance. Dead wood and
decaying leaves are always a concomitant of such gardens in the low
latitudes. If the roses and heliotropes are in full bloom, some other
flowering shrub alongside is taking its rest and looks rusty, so that
the whole garden is never in a glow of beauty at one time, as is the
case with us in June. The noble alley of palms, the great variety of
trees, blossoms, and shrubs, the music of the fountains, and the
tropical flavor permeating everything were all in the harmony of
languid beauty. The coral tree, that lovely freak of vegetation, was
in bloom, its small but graceful stem, seven or eight feet in height,
being topped above the gracefully pendent leaves with a bit of
vegetable coral of deepest red, and in the form of the sea growth from
which it takes its name. The star cactus was in full flower, the
scarlet buds starting out from the flat surface of the thick leaves
after a queer and original fashion. The bread-fruit tree, with its
large, melon-like product, hung heavy with the nourishing esculent.
The Carolina tree, with gorgeous blossoms like military pompons,
blazed here and there, overshadowing the large, pure white, and
beautiful campanile, with hanging flowers, like metallic bells, after
which the plant is named. Here too was a great variety of the scarlet
hibiscus and the garland of night (galan de noche), which grows like a
young palm to eight or nine feet, throwing out from the centre-of its
drooping foliage a cluster of brown blossoms tipped with white, shaped
like a mammoth bunch of grapes. It blooms at night and is fragrant
only by moon and starlight. Cuba presents an inexhaustible field for
the botanist, and in its wilder portions recalls the island of Ceylon
in the Indian Ocean. As Ceylon is called the pearl of India so is Cuba
the pearl of the Antilles.

To reach the Governor's Garden one turns west from the Campo de Marte
and takes the Calzada de la Reina, which followed about a mile in a
straight line becomes the Paseo de Tacon, really but a continuation of
the former street, commencing at the statue of Carlos III., a colossal
monument placed in the middle of the broad driveway. This Paseo forms
the favorite evening drive of the citizens, where the ladies in
victorias and the gentlemen either as equestrians or on foot pass and
repass each other, gayly saluting, the ladies with a coquettish
flourish of the fan, and the gentlemen with a peculiar wave of the
hand. It is in fact the Champs Elysées of Havana, but the road is
sadly out of repair and as dusty as an ash-pit.

The Alameda--every large Spanish city has a spot so designated--skirts
the shore of the harbor on the city side, near the south end of
Oficios Street, and is a favorite resort for promenaders at the
evening hour. Here a refreshing coolness is breathed from off the sea.
This Alameda de Paula might be a continuation of the Neapolitan
Chiaja. With characteristics quite different, still these shores
constantly remind one of the Mediterranean, Sorrento, Amalfi, and
Capri, recalling the shadows which daily creep up the heights of San
Elmo and disappear with the setting sun behind the orange groves.
Sometimes it would seem to be the grand problem of humanity, why the
loveliest regions of the earth and the softest climates should be
apportioned to the share of slaves and despots.

The cathedral of Havana, on Empedrado Street, is a structure of much
interest, its rude pillared front of defaced and moss-grown stone
plainly telling of the wear of time. The two lofty towers are hung
with many bells, which daily call with their brazen tongues to matins
and vespers. Some of these bells are very ancient. The church is not
elaborately ornamented,--it rather strikes one with its unusual
plainness. It contains a few oil paintings of moderate merit, and also
the tomb where the ashes of Columbus so long reposed. All that is
visible of this tomb, which is on the right of the altar, is a marble
tablet six or eight feet square, upon which, in high relief, is a bust
of the great discoverer. As a work of art, the less said of this
effigy the better. Beneath the image is an inscription sufficiently
bombastic and Spanish in tone, but therein we observed no mention was
made of the chains and imprisonment with which an ungrateful country
rewarded this man whom history so delights to honor. It will be
remembered that Columbus died at Valladolid in 1506. In 1513 his
remains were transferred to Seville, preparatory to their being sent,
as desired in his will, to St. Domingo, to which city they were
removed in 1536. When that island was ceded to France, they were
brought with great pomp to Havana in a national ship (January 15,
1796), and deposited in this cathedral in the presence of all the high
authorities of the island. These remains have again been removed, and
are now interred at Seville, in Spain. The cathedral, aside from this
association, is really attractive, and one lingers with quiet
thoughtfulness among its marble aisles and confessionals. The lofty
dome is supported by pillars of marble and the walls are frescoed. The
high altar is a remarkable composition, with pillars of porphyry
mingled with a confusion of images, candlesticks, and tinsel. The
stalls for the priests are handsomely carved in mahogany. It was
annoying to see Gothic grandeur and modern frippery so mingled as was
observable in this church. When mass is being performed women attend
in goodly numbers, but one rarely sees any of the male population
present, unless they be, like the author, strangers come hither from
curiosity to see the interior of this Cathedral de la Virgen Maria de
la Concepcion.

All persons who come to Havana visit the cathedral because it contains
the tomb of Columbus, but if they have traveled in Europe they have
seen so much finer structures of this class, especially in Spain, that
this one challenges but little attention. Let us, gentle reader, go up
into the lofty bell tower, where we shall find the most comprehensive
view possible of the Cuban capital. The old bell-ringer, seated before
a deal table, ekes out a scanty living by making cigars away up here
in his circumscribed eyrie. What an original he would have been in the
practiced hands of Victor Hugo! This hermit of the tower will call
your attention to the ancient bells, which are his sole companions:
one bears the date of 1664, with a half-defaced Latin legend; another
is dated at London, 1698. He is a queer old enthusiast about these
bells, and will tell you on what special occasions of interest he has
caused them to speak with metallic tongue to the people: now as a
danger signal; then uttering sounds of triumph and announcing a
victory; again, tolling the notes of sorrow for the departed, or as
merry marriage bells, the heralds of joy. He will tell you how many
years, man and boy, he has summoned the devout to matins and to
vespers with their resonant voices. If you have a fancy for such
things, and some silver to spare, after leaving the bell tower the
sacristan will show you the rich vestments, robes, and laces for
priestly wear belonging to the church, not forgetting many saintly
garments wrought in gold and studded with precious stones. Perhaps you
will think, as we did, that such things are but tinsel before Him whom
they are supposed to honor. Such dazzling paraphernalia may attract
the ignorant or the thoughtless--may make followers, but not
converts. Conviction is not the child of fancy, but of judgment.

In an anteroom at the left of the altar there are also to be seen
utensils of silver and gold, with many costly ornaments for use before
the altar on special church occasions. One of these is a triumph of
delicate workmanship and of the silversmith's art. It is in the form
of a Gothic tower of very elaborate and artistic design, composed of
solid silver, ornamented with gold and precious stones. One regards
this thoroughly useless disposal of money with the thought that the
articles were better sold and the proceeds bestowed in worthy charity.
It would then fulfill a far more Christian purpose than that of adding
glitter to church pomp and ceremony.

To witness the observance of Holy Week, commencing with Palm Sunday,
in Havana, one would be impressed with a conviction that the people
were at heart devout Roman Catholics. The occasion is solemnly
observed. On Sunday the old cathedral is crowded by people who come to
obtain branches of holy palm from the priests. The old bell-ringer
becomes an important agent of the ceremonies, and the solemn spirit of
the occasion seems to imbue all classes of the Havanese. On Holy
Thursday, just before midday, the bells of all the churches cease to
ring, and every vehicle in the city disappears from the streets as if
by magic. The garrison marches through the principal thoroughfares in
silence, with measured tread and arms reversed. The national flags
upon the shipping, and on all the forts from Moro to the Castillo del
Principe, are displayed at half mast. The cathedral and the churches
are draped in mourning. On Friday, the effigy of our Saviour's body
is carried in solemn procession, men and priests marching with heads
uncovered, and devout women of the common classes, especially colored
ones, kneeling in the street as it passes. On Saturday, at ten o'clock
in the morning, the old bell-ringer suddenly starts a merry peal from
the cathedral tower--the bells of La Merced, San Agustin, Santa Clara,
and Santa Cataline follow; the town awakens to gayety as from a
lethargic sleep. Whites and negroes rush through the streets like mad;
vehicles of all sorts again make their appearance, the forts and
national ships are dressed in holiday flags, and the town is shaken
with reiterated salutes from a hundred cannons.

Military mass, as performed within the cathedral, seemed more like a
theatrical show than a solemn religious service. On the occasion
referred to, the congregation as usual was sparse, and consisted
almost exclusively of women, who seem to do penance for both sexes in
Cuba. The military band which led the column of infantry marched in,
playing a quick operatic air, deploying to one side for the soldiery
to pass towards the altar. The time-keeping steps of the soldiery upon
the marble floor mingled with drum, fife, and organ. Through all this,
one caught now and then the monotonous voice of a shaven-headed
priest, reciting his prescribed part at the altar, kneeling and
reading at intervals. The busy censer boys in white gowns; the flaring
candles casting long shadows athwart the high altar; the files of
soldiers kneeling and rising at the tap of the drum; the atmosphere
clouded with the fumes of burning incense,--all combined to make up a
singularly dramatic picture. The gross mummery witnessed at the temple
of Buddha in Ceylon differed only in form, scarcely in degree.

The wealth of the churches of the monks in the island was formerly
proverbial, but of late the rich perquisites which the priests were so
long permitted to extort from the credulous public have been diverted
so as to flow into the coffers of the crown. A military depotism
brooks no rival in authority. The priests at one time possessed large
tracts of land in Cuba, and their revenue therefrom, especially when
they were improved as sugar plantations, was very large. These lands
have all been confiscated by the government, and with the loss of
their property the power of the monks has declined and their numbers
have also diminished. Still the liberty of public worship is denied to
all save Roman Catholics. Since the suppression of monastic
institutions, some of the convents have been utilized for hospitals,
government storehouses, and other public offices in Havana. There are
some manifest incongruities that suggest themselves as existing
between Church and state upon the island. For instance, the Church
recognizes the unity of all races and even permits marriage between
all, but here steps in the civil law of Cuba and prohibits marriage
between white persons and those having any taint of negro blood. In
consequence of this,--nature always asserting herself regardless of
conventionalities,--a quasi family arrangement often exists between
white men and mulatto or quadroon women, whereby the children are
recognized as legitimate. But should either party come under the
discipline of the Church, the relationship must terminate. Again, as
is perfectly well known, many of the priests, under a thin disguise,
lead domestic lives, where a family of children exist under the care
of a single mother, who is debarred from the honest name of wife by
the laws of celibacy which are stringently held as the inexorable
rule of the Church.

If the priesthood keep from cock-fighting and gambling, says a late
writer on the subject, notwithstanding many other departures from
propriety, they are considered respectable. Can there be any wonder
that the masses of men in Cuba recognize no religious obligations,
since none save Roman Catholicism is tolerated, and that, through its
priesthood, is so disgraced?



                             CHAPTER IX.

    Political Inquisition. -- Fashionable Streets of the City. --
    Tradesmen's Signs. -- Bankrupt Condition of Traders. -- The
    Spanish Array. -- Exiled Patriots. -- Arrival of Recruits. --
    The Garrote. -- A Military Execution. -- Cuban Milk Dealers.
    -- Exposure of Domestic Life. -- Living in the Open Air. --
    The Campo Santo of Havana. -- A Funeral Cortége. -- Punishing
    Slaves. -- Campo de Marte. -- Hotel Telegrafo. -- Environs of
    the City. -- Bishop's Garden. -- Consul-General Williams. --
    Mineral Springs.


The Inquisition, as it regards the Church of Rome, is suppressed in
Cuba, but the political inquisition, as exercised by the government on
the island, is even more diabolical than that of the former Jesuitical
organization, because it is more secret in its murderous deeds, not
one half of the horrors of which will ever be publicly known. Moro
Castle is full of political prisoners, who are thinned out by
executions, starvation, and hardships generally, from day to day, only
to make room for fresh victims. He who enters those grim portals
leaves all hope behind. Political trials there are none, but of
political arrests there are endless numbers. The life of every citizen
is at the disposal of the Captain-General. If a respectable person is
arrested, as one suspected of animosity towards the government, he
simply disappears. His friends dare not press his defense, or inquire
too closely as to his case, lest they, too, should be incarcerated on
suspicion, never again to regain their liberty. A maxim of Spanish law
is that every accused person is guilty, until he proves himself
innocent! As a large majority of the people, in their hearts,
sympathize with the revolutionists, and are revolutionists in secret,
they are liable to say or to do some trifling thing unwittingly, upon
which the lynx-eyed officials seize as evidence of guilt, and their
arrest follows. What fearful stories the dungeons of Moro could reveal
had they tongue with which to speak!

Obispo and O'Riley streets are the principal shopping thoroughfares of
the metropolis, containing many fine stores for the sale of dry goods,
millinery, china, glassware, and jewelry. These shops are generally
quite open in front. Standing at the end, and looking along either of
these thoroughfares, one gets a curious perspective view. The
party-colored awnings often stretch entirely across the narrow
streets, reminding one of a similar effect in Canton, where straw
matting takes the place of canvas, forming a sort of open marquee. The
queer names adopted for the stores never fail to afford a theme of
amusement; the drawling cries of the fruit-dealers and peripatetic
tradesmen giving an added interest. The merchant in Havana does not
designate his establishment by placing his own name upon his sign, but
adopts some fancy title, such as Diana, America, The Star, Virtue, The
Golden Lion, and so on, which titles are paraded in gilt letters over
the door. The Spanish people are always prodigal in names, making the
sun, moon and stars, gods and goddesses, all do duty in designating
their stores, villas, and plantations. Nearly every town on the island
is named after some apostle or saint. The tradesmen are thorough Jews
in their style of dealing with the public, and no one thinks of paying
them the price which they first demand for an article. It is their
practice in naming a price to make allowance for reduction; they
expect to be bargained with, or cheapened at least one half. The
ladies commonly make their purchases late in the afternoon or evening,
stopping in their victorias at the doors of the shops, from whence the
articles they desire are brought by the shopmen and deftly displayed
on the street. When lighted up at night the stores are really
brilliant and attractive, presenting quite a holiday appearance; but
customers are sadly wanting in these days of business depression. "I
have been compelled to dismiss my salesmen and do their work myself,"
said a dry-goods merchant to us; "we dare not give credit, and few
persons have cash to spare in these times."

One of the principal causes of the present bankrupt condition of the
people of Cuba is the critical period of transition through which the
island is passing from slave to free labor; besides which there is the
exhaustion consequent upon years of civil war and a succession of bad
crops. Labor is becoming dearer and sugar cheaper. The Spaniards are
slow to adopt labor-saving machinery, or new ideas of any sort, and
those not already supplied have neither capital nor credit with which
to procure the new machinery for sugar-making. The enormous production
of European beet-sugar has cut off all Continental demand for their
staple, and has in some degree superseded its use in America.
Brigandage is on the increase, as poverty and want of legitimate
employment prevail. Money, when it can be borrowed at all, is at a
ruinous interest. The army of office-holders still manage to extort
considerable sums in the aggregate from the people, under the guise of
necessary taxes. Financial ruin stares all in the face. It is a sad
thing to say, but only too true, that among people heretofore
considered above suspicion in commercial transactions great dishonesty
prevails, pecuniary distress and lack of credit driving men, once in
good standing, to defraud their creditors at home and abroad. Estates
and plantations are not only heavily mortgaged, but the prospective
crops are in the same condition, in many cases. In former prosperous
years the planters have been lavish spenders of money, ever ready to
use their credit to the full extent, until their interest account has
consumed their principal. The expensive habits acquired under the
promptings of large profits and a sure market are difficult to
overcome, and people who never anticipated the present state of
affairs are now forced to exercise economy and self-denial. Cuban
planters and their families, in years past, came to our most
fashionable watering-places decked with jewels of almost fabulous
value, and they lavished gold like water; most of these individuals
considered themselves to be rich beyond the chances of fortune. Their
profuse style of living was a source of envy; their liberality to
landlords and to servants was demoralizing, as it regarded the tariff
of hotel prices for more steady-going people. Thousands of human
beings were yielding their enforced labor to fill these spendthrifts'
purses, and sugar was king. The picture has its reverse. Civil war has
supervened, the slaves are being freed, sugar is no longer a bonanza,
and the rich man of yesterday is the bankrupt of to-day. Truly riches
have wings.

Spain keeps a large and effective force of soldiers upon the
island,--an army out of all proportion in numbers to the territory or
people she holds in subjection. The present military force must
number some forty thousand, rank and file, and the civil department
fully equals the army in number; and all are home Spaniards. A large
portion of the military are kept in the eastern department of the
island, which is and has ever been the locality where revolutionary
outbreaks occur. Eighty per cent, of all the soldiers ever sent to
Cuba have perished there! It is as Castelar once pronounced the island
to be, in the Cortes at Madrid, namely, the Campo Santo of the Spanish
army. Exposure, a miserable commissariat, the climate, and insurgent
bullets combine to thin the ranks of the army like a raging
pestilence. We were informed by a responsible party that twenty-five
per cent, of the newly-arrived soldiers died in their first year,
during what is called their acclimation. Foreigners who visit Cuba for
business or pleasure do so at the most favorable season; they are not
subjected to hardships nor exposed in malarial districts. The
soldiers, on the contrary, are sent indiscriminately into the fever
districts at the worst season, besides being called upon to endure
hardships, all the time, which predispose them to fatal diseases.

There are known to be organized juntas of revolutionists at Key West,
Florida, in Hayti, and also in New York city, whose designs upon the
Cuban government keep the authorities on the island in a state of
chronic alarm. A revolutionary spirit is felt to be all the while
smouldering in the hearts of this oppressed people, and hence the
tyrannous espionage, and the cruelty exercised towards suspected
persons. So enormous are the expenses, military and civil, which are
required to sustain the government, under these circumstances, that
Cuba to-day, notwithstanding the heavy taxes extorted from her
populace, is an annual expense to the throne. Formerly the snug sum of
seven or eight millions of dollars was the yearly contribution which
the island made to the royal treasury, after paying local army, navy,
and civil expenses. This handsome sum was over and above the pickings
and stealings of the venal officials. As to the Cuban sympathizers at
Key West, Florida, a recent visit to that port, just opposite to the
island on the hither side of the Gulf Stream, showed us that they
formed a large proportion of the population of that thrifty American
town. On a day which was the anniversary of some patriotic occasion
relating to the island, hundreds of Cuban flags (the single star of
free Cuba) were seen displayed upon the dwellings and public places.
There are believed to be two thousand Creoles residing here, who have
either been expelled from the island for political reasons, or who
have escaped from thence as suspected patriots. These people are very
generally engaged in the manufacture of the well-known Key West
cigars.

The Spanish army is governed with an iron hand. Military law knows no
mercy, and it is always more or less a lapse into barbarism where it
takes precedence. The ranks are filled by conscription in Spain, and
when the men first arrive at Havana they are the rawest recruits
imaginable. Soldiers who have been doing garrison duty are sent inland
to fill the decimated ranks of various stations, and room is thus made
for the recruits, who are at once put to work, enduring a course of
severe discipline and drill. They land from the transports, many of
them, hatless, barefooted, and in a filthy condition, with scarcely a
whole garment among a regiment of them. The writer could hardly
believe, on witnessing the scene, that they were not a set of
criminals being transported for penal servitude. Fatigue dresses no
doubt awaited them at the barracks, and after a while they would be
served with a cheap uniform, coarse shoes, and straw hats. They are
like sheep being driven to the shambles, and are quite as helpless.
Twenty-five per cent, and upwards of these recruits are usually under
the sod before the close of a twelve-month!

Sometimes the hardship they have to endure breeds rebellion among
them, but woe betide those who commit any overt act, or become leaders
of any organized attempt to obtain justice. The service requires
frequent victims as examples to enforce the rigid discipline. The
punishment by the garrote is a common resort. It is a machine
contrived to choke the victim to death without suspending him in the
air. At the same time it is fatal in another way, namely, by severing
the spinal column just below its connection with the brain. The
condemned man is placed upon a chair fixed on a platform, leaning his
head and neck back into a sort of iron yoke or frame prepared to
receive it. Here an iron collar is clasped about the throat. At the
appointed moment a screw is suddenly turned by the executioner,
stationed behind the condemned, and instantaneous death follows. This
would seem to be more merciful than hanging, whereby death is produced
by the lingering process of suffocation, to say nothing of the many
mishaps which so often occur upon the gallows. This mode of punishment
is looked upon by the army as a disgrace, and they much prefer the
legitimate death of a soldier, which is to fall by the bullets of his
comrades when condemned to die.

The writer witnessed one of these military executions, early on a
clear April morning, which took place in the rear of the barracks near
La Punta. It was a trying experience, and recalled to mind the
execution of the mulatto poet and patriot, Valdez, which had occurred
a few years before in the Plaza at Matanzas. It was a sight to chill
the blood even under a tropical sun. A soldier of the line was to be
shot for some act of insubordination against the stringent rules of
the army, and that the punishment might prove a forcible example to
his comrades the battalion to which he belonged was drawn up on parade
to witness the cruel scene. The immediate file of twelve men to which
the victim had belonged were supplied with muskets by their officer,
and we were told that, according to custom, one musket was left
without ball, so that each one might hope that his was not the hand to
slay his former comrade. A sense of mercy would still lead them all to
aim faithfully, so that lingering pain might be avoided.

The order was given: the bright morning sun shone like living fire
along the polished barrels of the guns, as the fatal muzzles all
ranged in point at the body of the condemned. "Fire!" said the
commanding officer. A quick, rattling report followed, accompanied by
a thin cloud of smoke, which was at once dispersed by the sea breeze,
showing the still upright form of the victim. Though wounded in many
places, no vital spot had been touched, nor did he fall until the
sergeant, at a sign from his officer, advanced with a reserved musket,
and quickly blew out his brains! His body was removed. The troops were
formed into column, the band struck up a lively air, and thus was a
human being launched into eternity.

Few current matters strike the stranger as being more peculiar than
the Cuban milkman's mode of supplying the required aliment to his town
customers. He has no cart bearing shining cans, they in turn filled
with milk, or with what purports to be milk; his mode is direct, and
admits of no question as to purity. Driving his sober kine from door
to door, he deliberately milks then and there just the quantity
required by each customer, delivers it, and drives on to the next. The
patient animal becomes as familiar with the residences of her master's
customers as he is himself, and stops unbidden, at regular intervals,
before the proper doors, often followed by a pretty little calf, which
amuses itself by gazing enviously at the process, being prevented from
interfering by a leather muzzle. Sometimes the flow of milk is checked
by an effort of the animal herself, when she seems to realize that the
calf is not getting its share of nourishment. The driver then promptly
brings the calf to the mother's side, and removes the muzzle long
enough to give the little one a brief chance. The cow freely yields
her milk while the calf is close to her, and the milkman, muzzling the
calf, adroitly milks into his measure. The same mode is adopted in
India and the south of Spain. There are at least two good reasons for
delivering milk in hot climates after this fashion. First, there can
be no adulteration of the article; and second, it is sure to be fresh
and sweet. This last is a special desideratum in a climate where ice
is an expensive luxury, and the difficulty of keeping milk from
becoming acid is very great. The effect upon the cow is by no means
salutary, causing the animal to produce much less in quantity than
when milked clean at regularly fixed hours, as with us. Goats are
often driven about for the same purpose and used in the same manner.
It was a surprise not to see more of these animals in Cuba, a country
especially adapted to them. Cows thrive best upon grass, of which
there is comparatively little in the tropics,--vegetation runs to
larger development; but goats eat anything green, and do well nearly
anywhere. It is a singular fact that sheep transported to this climate
cease gradually to produce wool. After three or four generations they
grow only a simple covering, more like hair than wool, and resemble
goats rather than sheep.

Glass is scarcely known in Cuban windows; the glazier has yet to make
his début in Havana. The most pretentious as well as the humblest of
the town-houses have the broad, high, projecting window, reaching from
floor to ceiling, secured only by heavy horizontal iron bars,
prison-like in effect, through which, as one passes along the narrow
streets, it is nearly impossible to avoid glancing in upon domestic
scenes that frequently exhibit the female portion of the family en
déshabillé. Sometimes a loose lace curtain intervenes, but even this
is unusual, the freest circulation of fresh air being quite necessary.
The eye penetrates the whole interior of domestic life, as at Yokohama
or Tokio. Indeed, the manners of the female occupants seem to court
this attention from without, coming freely as they do to the windows
to chat with passers-by. Once inside of these dwelling-houses there
are no doors, curtains alone shutting off the communication between
chambers, sitting-rooms, and corridors. These curtains, when not
looped up, are sufficient to keep out persons of the household or
strangers, it being the custom always to speak, in place of knocking,
before passing a curtain; but the little naked negro children, male
and female, creep under these curtains without restraint, while
parrots, pigeons, and fowls generally make common use of all nooks and
corners of the house. Doors might keep these out of one's room, but
curtains do not. The division walls between the apartments in private
houses, like those in the hotels, often reach but two thirds of the
way up to the walls, thus affording free circulation of air, but
rendering privacy impossible. One reason why the Cubans all possess
such broad expanded chests is doubtless owing to the fact that their
lungs find free action at all times. They live, as it were, in the
open air. The effect of this upon strangers is seen and felt,
producing a sense of physical exhilaration, fine spirits, and a good
appetite. It would be impossible to live in a dwelling-house built in
our close, secure style, if it were placed in the city of Havana. The
laundress takes possession of the roof of the house during the day,
but it is the place of social gathering at night, when the family and
their guests enjoy the sea-breeze which sweeps in from the Gulf of
Mexico. On a clear, bright moonlight night the effect is very striking
as one looks across the house-tops, nearly all being upon a level.
Many cheerful circles are gathered here and there, some dancing to the
notes of a guitar, some singing, and others engaged in quiet games.
Merry peals of laughter come from one direction and another, telling
of light and thoughtless hearts among the family groups. Occasionally
there is borne along the range of roofs the swelling but distant
strains of the military band playing in the Plaza de Isabella, while
the moon looks calmly down from a sky whose intensely blue vault is
only broken by stars.

The cemetery, or Campo Santo, of Havana is situated about three miles
outside of the city. A high wall incloses the grounds, in which
oven-like niches are prepared for the reception of the coffins
containing the bodies of the wealthy residents, while the poor are
thrown into shallow graves, often several bodies together in a long
trench, negroes and whites, without a coffin of any sort. Upon them is
thrown quicklime to promote rapid decomposition. The cremation which
forms the mode of disposing of the bodies of the deceased as practiced
in India is far less objectionable.

The funeral cortége is unique in Havana. The hearse, drawn by four
black horses, is gilded and decked like a car of Juggernaut, and
driven by a flunkey in a cocked hat covered with gold braid, a scarlet
coat alive with brass buttons and gilt ornaments, and top boots which,
as he sits, reach half-way to his chin. This individual flourishes a
whip like a fishing-pole, and is evidently very proud of his position.
Beside the hearse walk six hired mourners on either side, dressed in
black, with cocked hats and swallow-tail coats. Fifteen or twenty
victorias follow, containing only male mourners. The driver in
scarlet, the twelve swallow-tails in black, and the occupants of the
victorias each and all are smoking cigars as though their lives
depended upon the successful operation. And so the cortége files into
the Campo Santo.

Not far from La Punta there is a structure, protected from the public
gaze by a high wall, where the slaves of either sex belonging to the
citizens of Havana are brought for punishment. Within are a series of
whipping-posts, to which these poor creatures are bound before
applying the lash to their bare bodies. The sight of this fiendish
procedure is cut off from the public, but more than one person has
told us of having heard the agonizing cries of the victims. And yet
there are people who will tell us these poor creatures are far better
off than when in their native country. One slave-owner said it was
necessary to make an example of some member of all large households of
slaves each month, in order to keep them under discipline! Another
said, "I never whip my slaves; it may be necessary upon a plantation,
but not in domestic circles in town. When they have incurred my
displeasure, they are deprived of some small creature comfort, or
denied certain liberties, which punishment seems to answer every
object." So it will be seen that all slave-holders are not cruel. Some
seem as judicious and reasonable as is possible under the miserable
system of slavery.

Opposite the Indian Paseo, General Tacon, during his governorship of
the island, constructed a broad camp-ground for military parades in
what is now becoming the heart of the city, though outside the limits
of the old city walls. He called it the Campo de Marte, and surrounded
the whole space, ten acres, more or less, with a high ornamental iron
fence. It is in form a perfect square, and on each of the four sides
was placed a broad, pretentious gateway, flanked by heavy square
pillars. That on the west side he named Puerta de Colon; on the north,
Puerta de Cortes; on the south, Puerta de Pizarro; and on the east
side, facing the city, he gave the gate the name of Puerta de Tacon.
His administration has been more praised and more censured than that
of any of his predecessors since the days of Velasquez. This Campo de
Marte, which, as stated, was originally intended for military purposes
generally, is now converted into a public park, laid out with spacious
walks, fountains, handsome trees, and carriage-ways. The gates have
been removed, and the whole place thrown open as a thoroughfare and
pleasure-ground.

Speaking of this open square brings us to the subject of hotels in
Havana, and as we have so often been questioned upon this subject,
doubtless a few words upon the matter will interest the general
reader. We made our temporary home for nearly a month at the Hotel
Telegrafo, but why it is so called we do not know. It is considered to
be one of the best in the city, and is centrally situated, being
opposite to the Campo de Marte. There was a chief clerk who spoke
English, and another who spoke French, and two guides who possessed
the same facilities. The price of board was from four to five dollars
per day, including meals and service. The rooms were very small, table
fair, plenty of fruits and preserves, but the meats were poor. Fish
was always fresh and good in Havana. Coffee and tea were poor. If one
desires to procure good coffee, as a rule, look for it anywhere rather
than in countries where it is grown. Cleanliness was not considered as
being an indispensable virtue in the Telegrafo. Drainage received but
little attention, and the domestic offices of the house were seriously
offensive. The yellow fever does not prevail in Havana except in
summer, say from May to October; but according to recognized sanitary
rules it should rage there every month in the year. The hotels in
peninsular Spain are dirty enough to disgust any one, but those of
Havana are a degree worse in this respect. Any of our readers who
have chanced in their travels upon the Fonda de Rafaela, for
instance, at Burgos, in Spain, will understand us fully. It was of no
use to remove elsewhere; after examining the other hotels it was
thought best to remain at the Telegrafo, on the principle adopted by
the Irishman, who, though not inclined to believe in Purgatory, yet
accepted this item of faith lest he should go further and fare worse.
There is the San Carlos Hotel, near the wharves, which is more of a
family than a travelers' resort; the Hotel Pasaje, in Prado Street,
quite central; Hotel Europe, in La Plaza de San Francisco; and Hotels
Central and Ingleterra: the last two are opposite the Plaza de
Isabella, and are in the midst of noise and gayety. Arrangements can
be made at any of these houses for board by the day, or on the
European plan; all have restaurants.

There are some very attractive summer resorts in the environs of the
city, one of the nearest and prettiest of which is El Cerro (the
hill), one league from town. It has a number of remarkably pleasant
country-seats, some of which have extensive gardens, rivaling that of
the Captain-General in extent. But to reach Cerro one has to drive
over a road which is in such want of repair as to be dangerous,
gullied by the rains, and exhibiting holes two feet deep, liable to
break the horses' legs and the wheels of the vehicles. Here is a road,
close to Havana, with stones weighing hundreds of pounds on the
surface, in the very wheel-tracks. Handsome hedges of the wild pine,
the aloe, and the Spanish bayonet line the road, where an occasional
royal palm, the emblem of majesty, stands alone, adding grandeur to
all the surroundings. If you drive out to Cerro, put on a linen
duster; otherwise you will be likely to come back looking like a
miller's apprentice. Not far beyond Cerro there lies some beautiful
country, reached by the same miserable road. Puentes Grandes, a small
village near the falls of the Almendares River, is but two miles
further north than Cerro, and adjoining this place, a couple of miles
further, is a small, picturesque village called Ceiba, from the
abundance of that species of tree which once flourished there. These
two places have some interesting country residences, where the
wealthiest citizens of Havana spend their summers. The village of
Quemados is also in this immediate neighborhood, about a couple of
leagues from town; here is situated the Havana Hippodrome, where
horse-races take place in the winter season. We must not forget to
mention Vedado, on the seashore, whither the Havanese drive oftenest
on Sundays; it is also connected with the city by steam-cars and
omnibus. There are some fine villas here, and it is quite a Cuban
watering-place, affording excellent bathing facilities. Vedado has
wide streets, and, after the city, seems to be remarkably clean and
neat.

The Bishop's Garden, so called because some half century since it was
the residence of the Bishop of Havana, is about four miles from the
city, on the line of the Marianao railroad. It must have been a
delightful place when in its prime and properly cared for; even now,
in its ruins, it is extremely interesting. There are a score, more or
less, of broken, moss-grown statues, stone balustrades, and stone
capitals lying among the luxuriant vegetation, indicating what was
once here. Its alleys of palms, over two hundred years in age, the
thrifty almond-trees, and the gaudy-colored piñons, with their
honeysuckle-like bloom, delight the eye. The flamboyant absolutely
blazed in its gorgeous flowers, like ruddy flames, all over the
grounds. The remarkable fan-palm spread out its branches like a
peacock's tail, screening vistas here and there. Through these grounds
flows a small swift stream, which has its rise in the mountains some
miles inland, its bright and sparkling waters imparting an added
beauty to the place. By simple irrigating means this stream is made to
fertilize a considerable tract of land used as vegetable gardens,
lying between Tulipan and Havana. The Bishop's Garden still contains
large stone basins for swimming purposes, cascades, fountains, and
miniature lakes, all rendered possible by means of this small, clear,
deep river. The neglected place is sadly suggestive of decay, with its
moss-covered paths, tangled undergrowth, and untrimmed foliage.
Nothing, however, can mar the glory of the grand immemorial palms.

The town of Tulipan, in which is the Bishop's Garden, is formed of
neat and pleasant residences of citizens desiring to escape the bustle
and closeness of the city. The houses are half European or American in
their architecture, modified to suit the climate. Here the American
Consul-General has a delightfully chosen home, surrounded by pleasant
shade, and characterized by lofty, cool apartments; with bright, snowy
marble floors, plenty of space, and perfect ventilation. Mr. Williams
is a gentleman unusually well fitted for the responsible position he
fills, having been a resident of Cuba for many years, and speaking the
language like a native. In his intensely patriotic sentiments he is a
typical American. It is not out of place for us to acknowledge here
our indebtedness to him for much important information relating to
the island.

The most celebrated mineral springs in Cuba are to be found at San
Diego, where there are hot sulphur waters, springs bubbling
ceaselessly from the earth, and for which great virtues are claimed.
The springs are situated west of Havana, between thirty and forty
leagues, at the base of the southern slope of the mountains. These
waters are freely drank, as well as bathed in, and are highly charged
with sulphureted hydrogen, and contain sulphate of lime and carbonate
of magnesia. There are some diseases of women for which the San Diego
waters are considered to be a specific, and remarkable cures are
authenticated. Rheumatism and skin diseases are specially treated by
the local physician. There is a very fair hotel at San Diego, located
near the baths, and many Americans speak warmly in praise of the place
as a health resort.

Next to the springs of San Diego, those of Madruga are notable,
situated between Matanzas and Havana, and which can be reached by
rail. The character of these springs is very similar to those of San
Diego, though of lower temperature. They are used both for bathing and
for drinking. Madruga is more easily accessible from the metropolis
than is San Diego. There is also a good physician resident in the
village.



                              CHAPTER X.

    The Fish-Market of Havana. -- The Dying Dolphin. -- Tax upon
    the Trade. -- Extraordinary Monopoly. -- Harbor Boats. -- A
    Story about Marti, the Ex-Smuggler. -- King of the Isle of
    Pines. -- The Offered Reward. -- Sentinels in the Plaza de
    Armas. -- The Governor General and the Intruder. -- "I am
    Captain Marti!" -- The Betrayal. -- The Ex-Smuggler as Pilot.
    -- The Pardon and the Reward. -- Tacon's Stewardship and
    Official Career. -- Monopoly of Theatricals. -- A Negro
    Festival.


The fish-market of Havana doubtless affords the best variety and
quality of this article to be found in any city of the world, not even
excepting Madras and Bombay, where the Indian Ocean and the Bay of
Bengal enter into rivalry with each other as to their products. The
scientist Poey gives a list of six hundred species of fishes
indigenous to the shores of Cuba. The supply of the city is not only
procured from the neighboring waters, but fishermen come regularly a
distance of over a hundred miles to the ports of the island, from
Florida and Yucatan, with their small cutters well loaded. It was
through the means afforded by these fishing crafts that communication
was kept up between the Cuban patriots at Key West and their friends
on the island, and no doubt smuggling was also carried on by them,
until they came under the strict surveillance of the revenue officers.

The long marble counter of the Marti fish-market, at the end of
Mercaderes Street, affords a display of the finny tribe which we have
never seen equaled elsewhere. Every hue and combination of iris
colors is represented, while the variety and oddity of shapes is
ludicrous. Even fishing on the coast and the sale of the article are
virtually government monopolies; indeed, everything is taxed and
double taxed in Cuba; the air one breathes would be, could it be
measured. Fish are brought into this market, as at many other tropical
ports, alive, being preserved in wells of salt water which also act as
ballast for the fishing vessels. One morning, among others brought to
the Marti market a dolphin was observed, but as it is not a fish much
used for the table why it came hither was not so clear to us. Being
curious as to the accuracy of the poetical simile of changing colors
which characterize its dying hours, the just landed dolphin was
closely watched. The varying and multiform hues were clearly exhibited
by the expiring fish. First its skin presented a golden shade, as if
reflecting the sun, this changing gradually into a light purple.
Presently the body became silvery white, followed slowly by
alternating hues of pearl and yellow, and finally death left it of a
dull, lustreless gray.

The market is about two hundred feet long, with one broad marble table
extending from end to end. The roof is supported by a series of arches
resting upon pillars. One side is entirely open to the street, thus
insuring good ventilation. It is not far from the cathedral, and in
the vicinity of the shore, but is in some measure superseded by the
large central Mercado de Tacon in the Calzada de la Reina, one block
from the Campo de Marte. In this latter market we saw shark's flesh
sold for food and freely bought by the negroes and Chinese coolies.

The monopoly granted in Tacon's time to the famous smuggler whose name
the fish-market on Mercaderes Street still bears has reverted to the
government, which requires every fisherman, like every cab driver, to
pay a heavy tax for the privilege of following his calling. The
boatman who pulls an oar in the harbor for hire is obliged to pay the
government for the simple privilege. A writer in a popular magazine
lately compared these harbor boats of Havana to Venetian gondolas; but
even poetical license will not admit of this. They do, however, almost
precisely resemble the thousand and one boats which besprinkle the
Pearl River at Canton, being of the same shape, and covered in the
stern by a similar arched frame and canvas, the Chinese substituting
for this latter the universal matting. The Havana boatmen have so long
suffered from the extortion of the Spanish officials that they have
learned the trick of it, and practice the same upon travelers who make
no bargain with them before entering their tiny vessels.

The fish monopoly referred to was established under the governorship
of Tacon, and is of peculiar origin. We cannot do better, perhaps, by
way of illustrating his arbitrary rule, than to relate for the
reader's benefit the story of its inauguration and enforcement.

One of the most successful rogues whose history is connected with that
of modern Cuba was one Marti, who during his life was a prominent
individual upon a limited stage of action. He first became known as a
notorious and successful smuggler on the coast of the island, a daring
and reckless leader of desperate men. At one time he bore the
pretentious title of King of the Isle of Pines, where he maintained a
fortified position, more secure in its inaccessibility than for any
other reason. From hence Marti dispatched his small fleet of cutters
to operate between Key West and the southern coast of Cuba, sometimes
extending his trips to Charleston, Savannah, and even to New Orleans.
With the duty at ten dollars a barrel on American flour legitimately
imported into the island, it was a paying business to smuggle even
that prosaic but necessary article from one country to the other, and
to transport it inland for consumption. By this business Marti is said
to have amassed a large amount of money. He is described as having
been a tall, dark man of mixed descent, Spanish, Creole, and mulatto.
His great physical strength and brute courage are supposed to have
given him precedence among his associates, added to which he possessed
a large share of native shrewdness, cunning, and business tact. His
masquerading capacity, if we may believe the current stories told of
him, was very remarkable, enabling him to assume almost any disguise
and to effectually carry it out, so as to go safely among his enemies
or the government officials and gain whatever intelligence he desired.
Little authentic information can be had of such a man, and one depends
upon common report only in making up a sketch of his career; but he is
known to have been one of the last of the Caribbean rovers, finally
turning his attention to smuggling as being both the safer and more
profitable occupation. The southern coast of Cuba is so formed as to
be peculiarly adapted to the business of the contrabandists, who even
to-day carry on this adventurous game with more or less impunity,
being stimulated by the excessive and unreasonable excise duties
imposed upon the necessities of life.

When Tacon first arrived in the colony he found the revenue laws in a
very lax condition. Smuggling was connived at by the venal
authorities, and the laws, which were so stringent in the letter, were
practically null and void. It is said that Marti could land a
contraband cargo, at that time, on the Regla side of Havana harbor in
broad daylight without fear of molestation. The internal affairs of
the island were also in a most confused condition; assassinations even
in the streets of Havana were frequent, and brigandage was carried on
in the near environs of the city. The Governor seemed actuated by a
determination to reform these outrages, and set himself seriously
about the business. He found that the Spanish vessels of the navy sent
hither to sustain the laws lay idly in port, the officers passing
their time in search of amusement on shore, or in giving balls and
dances on board their ships. Tacon saw that one of the very first
moves essential to be made was to suppress the wholesale system of
smuggling upon the coast. The heretofore idle navy became infused with
life and was promptly detailed upon this service, coasting night and
day along the shore from Cape Antonio to the Point of Maysi, but to
little or no good effect. A few captures were made, but the result was
only to cause a greater degree of caution on the part of the
contrabandists. In vain were all the measures taken by the officials.
The smuggling was as successful as ever, and the law was completely
defied. At last, finding that his expeditions against the outlaws
failed, partly from their adroitness and bravery and partly from want
of pilots capable of guiding attacking parties among the shoals
frequented by the smugglers, a large and tempting reward in gold was
offered to any one of them who would desert his comrades and act as
pilot to the King's ships. At the same time a double reward was
offered for the person of Marti, dead or alive, as he was known to be
the leader of the desperate men who so successfully defied the
authorities. These offers were fully promulgated, and care was taken
that those who were most interested should be made aware of their
purport. But the hoped-for result did not ensue. There was either too
much honor among the guilty characters to whom the bribe was offered
to permit them to betray each other, or they feared the condign
punishment which was the portion of all traitors among them. The
government had done its best, but had failed to accomplish its object.

It was a dark, cloudy night in Havana, some three or four months
subsequent to the offering of the rewards to which we have referred.
Two sentinels were pacing back and forth before the main entrance of
the Governor's palace which forms one side of the area inclosing the
Plaza de Armas. The military band had performed as usual that evening
in the Plaza and had retired. The public, after enjoying the music,
had partaken of their ices and favorite drinks at La Domenica's and
found their way to their homes. The square was now very quiet, the
stillness only broken by the music of the fountain mingled with the
tread of the two sentinels. The stars looked calmly down from between
the rifts of hanging clouds which crowded one another onward as though
bound to some important rendezvous, where they were to perform their
part in a pending storm. A little before midnight a tall figure,
wrapped in a half military cloak, might have been observed watching
the two guards from behind the marble statue of Ferdinand. After
observing that they paced their apportioned walk, meeting each other
face to face, and then separated, leaving a brief moment when the eyes
of both were turned away from the entrance they were placed to guard,
the stranger seemed to calculate the chances of passing them without
being discovered. It was an exceedingly delicate manoeuvre,
requiring great care and dexterity. Watching for the favorable moment
the purpose was, however, accomplished; the tall man in the cloak at a
bound passed within the portal and quickly secreted himself in the
shadows of the inner court. The sentinels paced on undisturbed.

The individual who had thus stealthily effected an entrance within the
gates of the palace now sought the broad marble steps which led to the
Governor's business suite of rooms, with a confidence that evinced a
perfect knowledge of the place. A second sentinel was to be passed at
the head of the stairs, but, assuming an air of authority, the
stranger gave a formal military salute and passed quickly forward as
though there was not the least question as to his right to do so. The
drowsy guard promptly presented arms, doubtless mistaking him for some
regular officer of the Governor's staff. The stranger boldly entered
the Governor's reception-room and closed the door behind him. In a
large chair sat the commander-in-chief before a broad table, engaged
in writing, but he was quite alone. An expression of undisguised
satisfaction passed across the weather-beaten countenance of the
new-comer at this state of affairs, as he coolly cast off his cloak,
tossed it carelessly over his arm, and proceeded to wipe the
perspiration from his face. The Governor, looking up with surprise
and fixing his keen eyes upon the intruder, asked peremptorily:--

"Who enters here unannounced and at this hour?"

"One who has important information to impart to the government," was
the quiet reply.

"But why seek this manner of audience?"

"For reasons, Excellency, that will soon appear."

"How did you pass the guard unchallenged?"

"Do not mind that for the present, Excellency."

"But I do mind it very seriously."

"It can be explained by and by."

"Very well," said the Governor, "speak quickly then. What is your
business here?"

"Excellency, you have publicly offered a handsome reward for any
information concerning the contrabandists," continued the stranger.
"Is it not so?"

"Ha!" said the Governor, "is that your errand here? What have you to
say about those outlaws? Speak, speak quickly."

"Excellency, I must do so with caution," said the stranger, "otherwise
I may condemn myself by what I have to communicate."

"Not so," interrupted Tacon, "the offer"--

"I know, Excellency, a free pardon is promised to him who shall turn
state's evidence, but there may be circumstances"--

"The offer is unconditional, as it regards pardon."

"True, but"--

"I say you have naught to fear," continued Tacon; "the offered reward
involves unconditional pardon to the informant."

"You offer an additional reward, Excellency, for the discovery of the
leader of the contrabandists, Captain Marti."

"Ay."

"It is a full revelation I have come hither to make."

"Speak, then."

"First, Excellency, will you give me your knightly word that you will
grant a free pardon to me, a personal pardon, if I reveal all that you
require?"

"I pledge you my word of honor," replied the Governor.

"No matter how heinous in the eyes of the law my offenses may have
been, still you will pardon me under the King's seal?"

"Why all this reiteration?" asked Tacon impatiently.

"Excellency, it is necessary," was the reply.

"I will do so, if you reveal truly and to any good purpose," answered
the Governor, weighing carefully in his mind the purpose of all this
precaution.

"Even if I were a leader among these men?"

The Governor hesitated but for a single moment, while he gave the man
before him a searching glance, then said:--

"Even then, be you whom you may, if you are able and willing to pilot
our ships and reveal the rendezvous of Marti and his followers, you
shall be rewarded and pardoned according to the published card."

"Excellency, I think that I know your character well enough to fully
trust these words, else I should not have ventured here."

"Speak, then, and without further delay. My time is precious,"
continued the Governor with manifest impatience, and half rising from
his seat.

"It is well. I will speak without further parley. The man for whom you
have offered the largest reward--ay, dead or alive--is before you!"

"And you are"--

"Captain Marti!"

Tacon had not expected this, but supposed himself talking to some
lieutenant of the famous outlaw, and though no coward he instinctively
cast his eyes towards a brace of pistols that lay within reach of his
right hand. This was but for a moment; yet the motion was not
unobserved by his visitor, who, stepping forward, drew a couple of
similar weapons from his own person and laid them quietly on the
table, saying:--

"I have no further use for these; it is to be diplomacy for the
future, not fighting."

"That is well," responded the Governor; and after a few moments of
thought he continued: "I shall keep my promise, be assured of that,
provided you faithfully perform your part, notwithstanding the law
demands your immediate punishment. For good reasons, as well as to
secure your faithfulness, you must remain under guard," he added.

"I have anticipated that, and am prepared," was the reply.

"We understand each other then."

Saying which he rang a small silver bell by his side, and issued a
verbal order to the attendant who responded. In a few moments after,
the officer of the watch entered, and Marti was placed in confinement,
with directions to render him as comfortable as possible under the
circumstances. His name was withheld from the officers.

Left alone, the Governor mused for a few moments thoughtfully over the
scene which we have described, then, summoning the officer of the
guard, demanded that the three sentinels on duty should be relieved
and brought at once before him. What transpired between them was not
made public, but it was known on the following day that they had been
condemned to the chain-gang for a whole month. Military law is rigid.

On the subsequent day, one of the light-draught corvettes which lay
under the guns of Moro Castle suddenly became the scene of the utmost
activity, and before noon had weighed anchor and was standing out of
the harbor. Captain Marti was on board acting as pilot, and faithfully
did he guide the government ship in the discharge of her errand among
the bays and shoals of the southern coast. For more than a month he
was engaged in this piloting to all the secret haunts and storage
places of the contrabandists, but it was observed that very few stores
were found in them! On this famous expedition one or two small vessels
were taken and destroyed in the bays of the Isle of Pines, but not one
of the smugglers was captured. Information of the approach of the
would-be captors was always mysteriously conveyed to them, and when a
rendezvous was reached the occupants, it was found, had fled a few
hours previously! The amount of property secured was very small, but
still the organization which had so long and so successfully defied
the government was broken up, and the smugglers' place of rendezvous
became known. Marti returned with the ship to claim his reward. Tacon
was well satisfied with the result and with the manner in which the
ex-smuggler had fulfilled his agreement. The officials did not look
very deeply into the business, and they believed that Marti had
really betrayed his former comrades. The Governor-General summoned him
to his presence and said to Marti:--

"As you have faithfully performed your part of our agreement, I am
prepared to fulfill mine. In this package you will find a free and
unconditional pardon for all your past offenses against the law. Mark
the word _past_ offenses," reiterated the Governor. "Any new
disloyalty on your part shall be as promptly and rigorously treated as
though these late services had never been rendered. And here is an
order upon the treasury for the sum"--

"Excellency, excuse me," said the pardoned smuggler, stepping back,
and holding up his hand in significance of declining the reward.

"What does this mean?" asked Tacon.

"Permit me to explain, Excellency."

"What, more conditions?" asked the Governor.

"The pardon, Excellency, I gladly receive," continued Marti. "As to
the sum of money you propose to give me, let me make you a proposal."

"Speak out. Let us know what it is."

"The treasury is poor," said the ex-smuggler, "I am rich. Retain the
money, and in place of it guarantee me alone the right to fish on the
coast of Cuba, and declare the business of supplying the people with
fish contraband, except to me and my agents. This will amply
compensate me, and I will erect a public market at my own expense,
which shall be an ornament to the city, and which at the expiration of
twenty-five years shall revert to the government."

"So singular a proposition requires to be considered," said the
Governor.

"In the mean time I will await your commands," said Marti, preparing
to leave.

"Stay," said the Governor. "I like your proposal, and shall probably
accede to it; but I will take a day to give it careful thought."

As Tacon said, he was pleased with the idea from the outset. He saw
that he was dealing with a thorough man of business. He remembered
that he should always have the man under his control, and so the
proposal was finally accepted and confirmed.

The ci-devant smuggler at once assumed all the rights which this
extraordinary grant gave to him. Seeking his former comrades, they
were all employed by Marti on profitable terms as fishermen, and
realized an immunity from danger not to be expected in their old
business. Having in his roving life learned where to seek fish in the
largest quantities, he furnished the city bountifully with the
article, and reaped a large annual profit, until the period expired
for which the monopoly was granted, and the market reverted to the
government.

Marti, in the mean time, possessing great wealth, looked about him to
see in what enterprise he could best invest it. The idea struck him
that if he could obtain some such agreement relating to theatricals in
Havana as he had enjoyed in connection with the fishery on the coast,
he could make a profitable business of it. He was granted the
privilege he sought, provided he should build one of the largest and
best appointed theatres in the world on the Paseo, and name it the
Tacon Theatre. This agreement he fulfilled. The detailed conditions of
this monopoly were never made public.

Many romantic stories are told relating to Captain Marti, but these
are the only ones bearing upon the subject of our present work which
are believed to be authentic.

Of all the Governors-General who have occupied that position in Cuba,
none are better known at home or abroad than Tacon, though he filled
the post but four years, having been appointed in 1834, and returning
to Spain in 1838. His reputation at Havana is of a somewhat doubtful
character, for although he followed out with energy the various
improvements suggested by Arranjo, yet his modes of procedure were
often so violent that he was an object of terror to the people
generally rather than one of gratitude. It must be admitted that he
vastly improved the appearance of the capital and its vicinity, built
a new prison, rebuilt the Governor's palace, constructed several new
roads in the environs, including the Paseo bearing his name, and
opened a large parade-ground just outside the old city walls, thus
laying the foundation of the new city which has sprung up in the
formerly desolate neighborhood of the Campo de Marte. Tacon also
practically suppressed the public gaming-houses, but this radical
effort to check an inherent vice only resulted in transferring the
gambling-tables of the private houses devoted to the purpose into the
public restaurants, which was not much of an improvement.

In one important matter he was more successful; namely, in instituting
a system of police, and rendering the streets of Havana, which were
formerly infested with robbers, as secure as those of most of our
American cities. But his reforms were all consummated with a rude,
arbitrary arm, and in a military fashion. Life or property were
counted by him of little value, if either required to be sacrificed
for his purpose. Many people fell before his relentless orders. There
was undoubtedly much of right mingled with his wrongs, but if he left
lasting monuments of energy and skill behind him, he also left many
tombs filled by his victims. Notwithstanding all, there seemed to be
throughout his notable career a sort of romantic spirit of
justice--wild justice--prompting him. Some of the stories still
current relating to him go far to show this to have been the case,
while others exhibit the possibilities of arbitrary power, as
exercised in the contract with Captain Marti.

On January 6th, the day of Epiphany, the negroes of Havana, as well as
in the other cities of the island, make a grand public demonstration;
indeed, the occasion may be said to be given up to them as a holiday
for their race. They march about the principal streets in bands, each
with its leader got up like a tambour major, and accompanied by rude
African drum notes and songs. They are dressed in the most fantastic
and barbarous disguises, some wearing cow's horns, others masks
representing the heads of wild beasts, and some are seen prancing on
dummy horses. All wear the most gorgeous colors, and go from point to
point on the plazas and paseos, asking for donations from every one
they meet. It is customary to respond to these demands in a moderate
way, and the greatest reasonable latitude is given to the blacks on
the occasion; reminding one of a well-manned ship at sea in a dead
calm, before the days of steam, when all hands were piped to mischief.
But what it all means except improving a special occasion for
wholesale noise, grotesque parading, and organized begging, it will
puzzle the stranger to make out. Among the colored performers there is
but a small proportion of native Africans, that is, negroes actually
imported into Cuba; most of them are direct descendants, however,
from parents who were brought from the slave coast, but it must be
remembered that none have been imported for about thirty years.

The Isle of Pines, which has been more than once alluded to in these
notes, is situated less than forty miles south of Cuba, being under
the jurisdiction of the Governor-General of Havana. It is forty-four
miles long and nearly as wide, having an area of between twelve and
thirteen hundred square miles. It is supposed that there are about two
thousand inhabitants, though Spanish statistics are not to be relied
upon. Like Cuba, it has a mountain range traversing the middle for its
whole length, but the highest portion does not reach quite two
thousand feet. The island has several rivers and is well watered by
springs. The climate is pronounced to be even more salubrious than
that of Cuba, while the soil is marvelously fertile. An English
physician, who, with a patient, passed a winter at Nueva Gerona, which
has a population of only a hundred souls, says the climate is
remarkably bland and equable, especially adapted for pulmonary
invalids. The coast is deeply indented by bays, some of which afford
good anchorage, though the island is surrounded by innumerable rocky
islets or keys. The Isle of Pines is very nearly in the same condition
in which Columbus found it in 1494, containing a large amount of
precious woods, and some valuable mines of silver, iron, sulphur,
quicksilver, and quarries of beautifully variegated marble. It is
reached by special steamers from Havana, not oftener than once a
month.



                             CHAPTER XI.

    The Havana Lottery. -- Its Influence. -- Hospitality of the
    Cubans. -- About Bonnets. -- The Creole Lady's Face. -- Love
    of Flowers. -- An Atmospheric Narcotic. -- The Treacherous
    Indian Fig. -- How the Cocoanut is propagated. -- Cost of
    Living in Cuba. -- Spurious Liquors. -- A Pleasant Health
    Resort. -- The Cock-Pit. -- Game-Birds. -- Their Management.
    -- A Cuban Cock-Fight. -- Garden of the World. -- About
    Birds. -- Stewed Owl! -- Slaughter of the Innocents. -- The
    Various Fruits.


There is a regularly organized lottery in Havana, to which the
government lends its name, and which has semi-monthly drawings. These
drawings are made in public, and great care is taken to impress the
people with the idea of their entire fairness. The authorities realize
over a million dollars annually by the tax which is paid into the
treasury on these most questionable enterprises. The lottery is
patronized by high and low, the best mercantile houses devoting a
regular sum monthly to the purchase of tickets on behalf of their
firms. One individual of this class told the writer that no drawing
had taken place within the last ten years at Havana in which the firm
of which he was a member had not been interested to the extent of at
least one doubloon, that is, one whole ticket. The mode usually is,
however, to purchase several fractional parts of tickets, so as to
multiply the chances. On being asked what was the result of the ten
years of speculation in this line, the reply was that the books of the
firm would show, as it was entered therein like any other line of
purchases. Curious to find an authentic instance as an example, the
matter was followed up until the result was found. It seemed that this
house had averaged about four hundred dollars per annum expended for
lottery tickets, that is, four thousand dollars in the last ten years.
On the credit side they had received in prizes about nineteen hundred
dollars, making a loss of twenty-one hundred dollars. "But then,"
remarked our informant, "we may get a big prize one of these
days,--who knows?"

The lottery here proves to be as great a curse as it does in Italy,
where its demoralizing effects are more apparent. The poorer classes,
even including the slaves and free negroes, are regular purchasers,
and occasionally a prize is realized among them, which stimulates to
increased ventures. A few years since, some slaves upon a plantation
near Alquizar purchased a single ticket, clubbing together in order to
raise the money. These Africans drew a prize of forty thousand
dollars, which sum was honestly paid to them, and they purchased their
freedom at once, dividing a very pretty amount for each as a capital
to begin business on his own account.

"And pray what became of those liberated men?" we asked of our
informant. "Singular to say I can tell you," he answered. "Others felt
the same interest you express, and they have been followed in their
subsequent career. There were sixteen of the party, who realized equal
portions of the prize. They were valuable slaves, and paid an average
of fifteen hundred dollars each for their free papers. This left them
a thousand dollars each. Two returned to Africa. Four joined the
insurgents at Santiago, in 1870, and were probably shot. The remainder
drank themselves to death in Havana, or died by fevers induced
through intemperate habits." "Did you ever know a man, white or black,
who drew a prize of any large amount, who was not the worse for it
after a short time?" we asked. "Perhaps not," was his honest reply. A
miserable creature came into the vestibule of the Telegrafo Hotel one
day begging. After he had departed we were told that a few years ago
he was possessed of a fortune. "Why is he in this condition?" we
asked. "He was engaged in a good business," said our informant, "drew
a large prize in the lottery, sold out his establishment, and gave
himself up to pleasure, gambling, and drink. That is all that is left
of him now. He has just come out of the hospital, where he was treated
for paralysis."

Honestly conducted as these lotteries are generally believed to be,
their very stability and the just payment of prizes but makes them the
more baleful and dangerous in their influence upon the public. As
carried on in Havana, the lottery business is the most wholesale mode
of gambling ever witnessed. Though some poor man may become
comparatively wealthy through their means, once in twenty years, yet
in the mean time thousands are impoverished in their mad zeal to
purchase tickets though it cost them the last dollar they possess. The
government thus fosters a taste for gambling and supplies the ready
means, while any one at all acquainted with the Spanish character must
know that the populace need no prompting in a vice to which they seem
to take intuitively. No people, unless it be the Chinese, are so
addicted to all games of chance upon which money can be staked.

Spaniards, and especially Cuban Spaniards, receive credit for being
extremely hospitable, and to a certain extent this is true; but one
soon learns to regard the extravagant manifestations which so often
characterize their domestic etiquette as rather empty and heartless.
Let a stranger enter the house of a Cuban for the first time,
especially if he be a foreigner, and the host or hostess of the
mansion at once places all things they possess at his service, yet no
one thinks for a single moment of interpreting this offer literally.
The family vehicle is at your order, or the loan of a saddle horse,
and in such small kindnesses they are always generous; but when they
beg you to accept a ring, a book, or a valuable toy, because you have
been liberal in your praise of the article, you are by no means to do
so. Another trait of character which suggests itself in this
connection is the universal habit of profuse compliment common among
Cuban ladies. Flattery is a base coin at best, but it is current here.
The ladies listen to these compliments as a matter of course from
their own countrymen or such Frenchmen as have settled among them, but
if an American takes occasion to express his honest admiration to a
Creole, her delight is at once manifest. Both the French and Spanish
are extremely gallant to the gentler sex, but it requires no argument
to show that woman under either nationality is far less esteemed and
honored than she is with us in America.

The bonnet, which forms so important a part of a lady's costume in
Europe and America, is rarely worn by the Creoles, and strangers who
appear on the streets of Havana with the latest fashion of this ever
varying article are regarded with curiosity, though so many American
and English ladies visit the island annually. In place of a bonnet,
when any covering is considered desirable for the head, the Cuban
ladies generally wear a long black veil, richly wrought, and gathered
at the back of the head upon the clustered braid of hair, which is
always black and luxuriant. More frequently, however, even this
appendage is not seen, and they drive in the Paseo or through the
streets with their heads entirely uncovered, save by the sheltering
hood of the victoria. When necessity calls them abroad in the early or
middle hours of the day, there is generally a canvas screen buttoned
to the dasher and extended to the top of the calash, to shut out the
too ardent rays of the sun. Full dress, on all state occasions, is
black, but white is universally worn by the ladies in domestic life,
forming a rich contrast to the olive complexions of the women.
Sometimes in the Paseo, when enjoying the evening drive, these fair
creatures indulge in strange contrasts of colors in dress. They also
freely make use of a cosmetic called cascarilla, made from eggshells
finely powdered and mixed with the white of the egg. This forms an
adhesive paste, with which they at times enamel themselves, so that
faces and necks that are naturally dark resemble those of persons who
are white as pearls.

There is one indispensable article, without which a Cuban lady would
feel herself absolutely lost. The fan is a positive necessity to her,
and she learns its coquettish and graceful use from childhood. Formed
of various rich materials, it glitters in her tiny hand like a gaudy
butterfly, now half, now wholly shading her radiant face, which
quickly peeps out again from behind its shelter, like the moon from
out a passing cloud. This little article, always costly, sometimes
very expensive, in her hand seems in its eloquence of motion almost to
speak. She has a witching flirt with it that expresses scorn; a
graceful wave of complacence; an abrupt closing of it that indicates
vexation or anger; a gradual and cautious opening of its folds that
signifies reluctant forgiveness; in short, the language of the fan in
the hand of a Cuban lady is a wonderfully adroit and expressive
pantomime that requires no interpreter, for, like the Chinese written
language, it cannot be spoken.

It may be the prodigality of nature in respect to Flora's kingdom
which has retarded the development of a love for flowers among the
people of the island. Doubtless if Maréchal Niel roses, Jacqueminots,
jonquils, and lilies of the valley were as abundant with us in every
field as clover, dandelions, and buttercups, we should hardly regard
them with so much delight as we do. It is not common to see flowers
under cultivation as they are at the North. They spring up too readily
in a wild state from the fertile soil. One cannot pass over half a
league on an inland road without his senses being regaled and
delighted by the natural floral fragrance, heliotrope, honeysuckle,
sweet pea, and orange blossoms predominating. The jasmine and Cape
rose, though less fragrant, are delightful to the eye, and cluster
everywhere among the hedges, groves, and coffee estates. There is a
blossoming shrub, the native name of which we do not remember, but
which is remarkable for its multitudinous crimson flowers, so
seductive to the humming-birds that they hover about it all day long,
burying themselves in its blossoms until petal and wing seem one. At
first upright, a little later the gorgeous bells droop downward and
fall to the ground unwithered, being poetically called Cupid's tears.
Flowers abound here which are only known to us in our hothouses, whose
brilliant colors, like those of the cactus, scarlet, yellow, and blue,
are quite in harmony with the surroundings, where everything is aglow.
There was pointed out to us a specimen of the frangipanni, a tall and
nearly leafless plant bearing a milk-white flower, and resembling the
tuberose in fragrance, but in form much like our Cherokee rose. This
plant, it will be remembered, was so abundant and so pleasant to the
senses as to attract the attention of the early explorers who
accompanied Columbus across the sea.

There seems to be at times a strange narcotic influence in the
atmosphere of the island, realized more especially inland, where the
visitor is partially removed from the winds which commonly blow from
the Gulf in the after part of the day. So potent has the writer felt
this influence that at first it was supposed to be the effect of some
powerful and medicinal plant abounding in the neighborhood; but on
inquiry it was found that this delightful sense of ease and indolent
luxuriousness was not an unusual experience, particularly among
strangers, and was solely attributable to the narcotic of the soft
climate. By gently yielding to this influence one seemed to dream
while awake, and though the sense of hearing is diminished, that of
the olfactories appears to be increased, and pleasant odors float on
every passing breeze. One feels at peace with all human nature, and a
sense of voluptuous ease overspreads the body. Others have experienced
and remarked upon this sensation of idle happiness. The only
unpleasant realizing sense during the enjoyment of this condition is
the fear that some human voice, or some chance noise, loud and abrupt,
may arouse the dreamer from his trance.

Specimens of the Indian fig, as it is called here, will be sure to
attract the visitor's eye on his inland excursions. It clasps,
entwines, and finally, serpent-like, kills the loftiest forest
monarchs, and taking their place, firmly roots itself and becomes a
stately tree, fattening upon its ill-gotten possession. Its unfading
leaf of vivid green is beautiful to look upon, in spite of its known
and treacherous character. In many respects it typifies the Spanish
discoverers of this beautiful isle, who gradually possessed themselves
of its glorious heritage by the destruction of its legitimate owners.

The manner in which that prolific tree, the cocoanut palm, is
propagated was a curious and interesting study for a leisure hour, the
germination having been with us heretofore an unsolved riddle. Within
the hard shell of the nut, among the mass of rich creamy substance,
near the large end, is a small white lump like the stalk of a young
mushroom, called the ovule. This little finger-like germ of the future
tree gradually forces itself through one of the three eyes always to
be found on the cocoanut. What giant power is concealed within that
tiny ovule, apparently so soft and insignificant! Having pierced its
way through the first shell, it then gradually rends the outer coat of
fibrous covering and curves upward towards the light. Into the inner
shell which it has vacated, it throws little fibrous threads which
slowly absorb the albumen, and thus sustain its new life as it rapidly
develops. First a few leaves grow upward, which from the very outset
begin to assume the pinnate form of the cocoanut leaf, while,
stretching earthward, a myriad of little threads of roots bury
themselves in the ground. Though the tree will grow to a height of
sixty feet or more, these roots will never individually exceed the
size of the fingers on one's hand. In five or six years the tree will
produce its first cluster of cocoanuts, and for several years will go
on increasing in fruitfulness and yielding a bountiful crop for fifty
or sixty years. It was a constant wonder how these cocoanut trees
could sustain an upright position with such a weight of ripening fruit
clustered beneath the shade of their tufted tops.

As regards the cost of living in the island, it may be said to average
higher to the stranger than in the United States. At the city hotels
and large boarding houses the charge is modified from four or five
dollars per day; if a special bargain is made for a considerable
period, it is customary to give a reduction on transient rates of ten
or fifteen per cent. Among the small towns in the interior, at the
houses of entertainment, which are wretchedly poor as a rule, the
charges are exorbitant, and strangers are looked upon as fair game.
This, however, is no more so than in continental Europe, where, though
the accommodations are better, the general treatment is the same. The
luscious and healthful fruits of the country form a large share of the
provisions of the table in Cuba, and are always freely provided. A
fair quality of claret wine, imported from Spain, is also regularly
placed before the guest free of charge, it being the ordinary drink of
the people; but beware of calling for other wines, and particularly
champagne, unless you are prepared to be swindled by the price charged
in your bill. Of course you get only imitation champagne,--that is to
be expected; you do the same nearly everywhere. There is not enough
pure champagne manufactured in Europe to supply the Paris and London
markets alone. The mode of cooking is very similar to the French, plus
the universal garlic, which, like tobacco, appears to be a prime
necessity to the average Spanish appetite. One does not visit Cuba,
however, with the expectation of finding all the niceties of the table
which are ordinary comforts at home, and therefore he is quite content
to enjoy the delightful fruits of the country, the novel scenery, the
curious vegetation, and the captivating climate, which cannot fail to
compensate for many small annoyances.

One of the most pleasant and healthful resorts for a temporary home on
the island is probably the small but thrifty town of Guines, situated
about forty-five miles from Havana, with which it is connected by
rail; indeed, this was the first railroad constructed in Cuba, that
between Matanzas and Havana being the second. Both were mainly the
result of American enterprise and capital. There are now a little over
nine hundred miles of railroad in operation, and more is urgently
demanded to open internal communication with important sections. The
water communication along the southern and northern coasts is mostly
depended upon, and a very well organized system is sustained by three
or four lines of domestic steamers. The immediate locality of Guines
is thought to be one of the most salubrious and best for invalids on
the western division of the island, and is largely resorted to by
Americans. It has generally more of the comforts considered necessary
for persons in delicate health than can readily be obtained in
Havana, and one has here the quiet and retirement which it is
impossible to find in the metropolis.

Here will be seen, as in all towns large or small in Cuba, a curious
place of amusement of circular form, called a "pit," where the natives
indulge their national passion for cock-fighting and gambling
combined. It is astonishing how pugnacious and fierce these birds
become by careful training; the instinct must be in them or it could
not be so developed. When brought together and opposed to each other
in battle, one must die, and often both do so, for they will fight as
long as they can stand on their feet. The pit is always crowded, and
the amount of money which changes hands daily in this cruel mode of
gambling is very considerable. Women not infrequently attend these
contests, but only those of the pariah class, certain back seats being
reserved for them, while here and there may be seen a shovel-hatted
priest, as eager in the result as the professionals themselves. The
cock-pit is a circular building, thirty or forty feet in diameter,
resembling on the outside a huge haystack. The size, however, is
regulated according to the population of the immediate neighborhood.
The seats are raised in a circle, one above another, about a central
ring in which the contest takes place. The ground is covered with
sawdust or tan. The birds are of a native game breed, and are subject
from chickenhood to a peculiar course of treatment. The English
game-cock is prized here only for crossing with the native breed. He
cannot equal the Spanish bird in the necessary qualities of pluck and
endurance.

The food of the game-cock when in training is regulated with great
care, carefully weighed, and a certain number of ounces is given to
him three times a day, so that the bird, like a race-horse, is never
permitted to grow fat, but is kept in what is called fighting
condition. Some days before a contest they are fed with a few ounces
of raw meat once during the twenty-four hours, which, being kept
always a little hungry, they devour with avidity. Greater care as to
diet and exercise could not be taken by pugilists training for a
conflict. The feathers of these fighting-cocks are closely cropped in
a jaunty style; the neck and head, to the length of three inches, is
completely plucked of all feathers, the comb being trimmed close to
the crown. The flesh which is thus left bare is daily rubbed with rum
until it becomes hardened and calloused. Brief encounters are
permitted among them under proper restrictions, when they are young.
No fear is felt that they will seriously injure each other, until they
are old enough to have the sharp steel gaffs affixed upon the spurs
with which nature has supplied them. Then, like men armed with sword
and dagger, they attack each other with fatal earnestness, making the
blood flow at every stroke. It is singular that the birds are so
determined upon the fight that no amount of loud cries, or challenges
between the betters, or jeers by the excited audience, disturbs them
in the least.

The author witnessed one of these exhibitions at Guines. The
fighting-ring of the cock-pit was some twelve feet in diameter, the
seating capacity being arranged for about a hundred persons or more,
and each bench was fully occupied. The two birds pitted against each
other were carefully weighed, and the result was announced to the
audience. They were then passed in review, held in the hands of their
respective owners, and betting at once commenced as to which would
win the victory. In the mean time the two birds seemed quietly
awaiting their time, and by the knowing way in which both surveyed the
surroundings and the assembled people, they really appeared as if they
understood the business in hand. There was no struggling on their part
to get out of the hands of those who held them. Presently they were
passed into the care of the umpires, two of whom officiated, and who
then affixed the steel gaffs to the spurs of the contestants. The two
birds were then placed on the ground inside of the ring, opposite each
other. No sooner did they feel themselves fairly on their feet than
both crowed triumphantly, eying each other with fell intent.

Then commenced a series of bird-tactics, each partially advancing and
pretending to retreat as if to draw on his antagonist, pecking the
while at imaginary kernels of corn on the ground. In the mean time the
audience almost held its breath in anticipation of the cunningly
deferred onset. Presently the two birds, as if by one impulse, rushed
towards each other, and a simultaneous attack took place. The contest,
when the birds are armed with steel gaffs, rarely lasts more than
eight or ten minutes before one or both are so injured as to end the
fight. The money staked upon the fight is won by those backing the
bird which survives, or is longest in dying. When the artificial spurs
are not used, and the birds fight in their natural state, the battle
sometimes lasts for an hour, but is always fatal in the end to one or
the other, or both. Eyes are pecked out, wings and legs broken, necks
pierced again and again; still they fight on until death ensues.
During the fight the excitement is intense, and a babel of voices
reigns within the structure, the betting being loud, rapid, and high.
Thus in a small way the cock-fight is as cruel and as demoralizing as
that other national game, the terrible bull-fight, indigenous to Spain
and her colonies.

Cuba has justly been called the garden of the world, perpetual summer
smiling upon its shores, and its natural wealth and possibilities
baffling even the imagination. The waters which surround it, as we
have seen, abound with a variety of fishes, whose bright colors,
emulating the tints of precious stones and the prismatic hues of the
rainbow, astonish and delight the eye of the stranger. Stately and
peculiar trees enliven the picturesque landscape. Throughout the woods
and groves flit a variety of birds, whose dazzling colors defy the
palette of the artist. Here the loquacious parrot utters his harsh
natural notes; there the red flamingo watches by the shore of the
lagoon, the waters dyed by the reflection of his scarlet plumage. It
would require a volume to describe the vegetable and animal kingdom of
Cuba, but among the most familiar birds are the golden robin, the
bluebird, the catbird, the Spanish woodpecker, the gaudy-plumed
paroquet, and the pedoreva, with its red throat and breast and its
pea-green head and body. There is also a great variety of wild
pigeons, blue, gray, and white; the English lady-bird, with a blue
head, scarlet breast, and green and white back; the indigo-bird, the
golden-winged woodpecker, the ibis, and many smaller species, like the
humming-bird. Of this latter family there are said to be sixty
different varieties, each sufficiently individualized in size and
other peculiarities to be easily identified by ornithologists. Some
of these birds are actually no larger in body than butterflies, and
with not so large a spread of wing. A humming-bird's nest, composed of
cotton interlaced with horse-hair, was shown the author at Buena
Esperanza, a plantation near Guines. It was about twice the size of a
lady's thimble, and contained two eggs, no larger than common peas.
The nest was a marvel of perfection, the cotton being bound cunningly
and securely together by the long horse-hairs, of which there were not
more than three or four. Human fingers could not have done it so
deftly. Probably the bird that built the nest and laid the eggs did
not weigh, all fledged, over half an ounce! Parrots settle on the sour
orange trees when the fruit is ripe, and fifty may be secured by a net
at a time. The Creoles stew and eat them as we do pigeons; the flesh
is tough, and as there are plenty of fine water-fowl and marsh birds
about the lagoons as easily procured, one is at a loss to account for
the taste that leads to eating parrots. The brown pelican is seen in
great numbers sailing lazily over the water and dipping for fish.

Strange is the ubiquity of the crows; one sees them in middle India,
China, and Japan. They ravage our New England cornfields, and in
Ceylon,--equatorial Ceylon,--they absolutely swarm. When one,
therefore, finds them saucy, noisy, thieving, even in Cuba, it is not
surprising that the fact should be remarked upon, though here the
species differs somewhat from those referred to, being known as the
Jack-crow or turkey-buzzard. In the far East, like the vulture, the
crow is considered a natural scavenger or remover of carrion, and the
same excuse is made for him in Cuba and Florida. But is he not more of
a freebooter and feathered bandit,--in short, a prowling thief
generally? Nature has few birds or animals upon her varied list with
which we would find fault, but the crow,--well, having nothing to say
in its favor, let us drop the subject. Parrots, paroquets, tiny indigo
birds, pedorevas, and robins,--yes, these are all in harmony with
mingled fragrance and sunshine, but the coal-black crow, with his bad
habits and hoarse bird-profanity, bah! When these West Indian islands
were first settled by Spanish emigrants, they were the home of myriads
of birds of every tropical variety, but to-day the feathered beauties
and merry songsters have been entirely driven away from some of the
smaller islands, and decimated on others, by the demand for bird's
wings with which to deck ladies' bonnets in Europe and America.
Sportsmen have found it profitable to visit the tropics solely for the
purpose of shooting these rainbow-colored creatures for ornaments.
Aside from the loss to general interest and beauty in nature caused by
this wholesale destruction of the feathered tribe, another and quite
serious result has been the consequence. A plague of vermin has
followed the withdrawal of these little insect-killers. It is so
natural to look for them amid such luxuriant vegetation that they
become conspicuous by their absence. Now and again, however, the ears
are gratefully saluted by the trilling and sustained notes of some
hidden songster, whose music is entirely in tune with the surrounding
loveliness, but truly delightful song-birds have ever been rare in the
low latitudes, where there is more of color than song.

Those agriculturists who possess sufficient means confine themselves
solely to the raising of sugar, coffee, and tobacco, the former
principally employing capital. Indian corn, which the first settlers
found indigenous here, is quite neglected, and when raised at all it
is used before ripening, almost universally, as green fodder; very
little is ripened and gathered as grain. It is found that horses and
cattle can be kept in good condition and strength, while performing
the usual labor required of them, by feeding them on a liberal
allowance of cornstalks, given in the green state, before the corn has
begun to form on the cob. The Cubans will tell you that the nourishing
principle which forms the grain is in the stalk and leaves, and if fed
in that state before ripening further, the animals obtain all the
sustaining properties which they require. The climate is particularly
adapted to the raising of oranges, but there is very little attention
given to propagating this universally popular fruit, more especially
since the increased production which has taken place on the other side
of the Gulf Stream in Florida. Three years after the seed of this
fruit is deposited in suitable soil in Cuba the tree becomes ten or
twelve feet in height, and in the fourth year rarely produces less
than a hundred oranges, while at ten years of age it commonly bears
three and four thousand, thus proving, with proper care, extremely
profitable. It will be remembered that it is the longest lived of
succulent fruit trees. There are specimens still extant in Cuba known
to be one hundred years old. The oranges produced in Florida are of
equally good quality, and bring a better price in the market, but the
crop is subject to more contingencies and liability to loss than in
Cuba. The frost not infrequently ruins a whole season's yield in the
peninsula in one or two severe nights, while frost is never
experienced upon the island.

It seems unreasonable that when the generous, fruitful soil of Cuba is
capable of producing two or three crops of vegetables annually, the
agricultural wealth of the island should be so poorly developed.
Thousands upon thousands of acres of fertile soil are still in their
virgin condition. It is capable of supporting a population of almost
any density,--certainly from eight to ten millions of people might
find goodly homes here, and yet the largest estimate at the present
time gives only a million and a half of inhabitants. When one treads
the fertile soil and beholds the clustering fruits in such abundance,
the citron, the star-apple, the perfumed pineapple, the luscious
banana, and other fruits for which our language has no name, not
forgetting the various noble woods which caused Columbus to exclaim
with pleasure, and to mention the palm and the pine growing together,
characteristic types of Arctic and equatorial vegetation, we are
struck with the thought of how much Providence and how little man has
done for this Eden of the Gulf. We long to see it peopled by men who
can appreciate the gifts of nature, men who are willing to do their
part in recognition of her fruitfulness and who will second her
spontaneous bounty.

Nowhere on the face of the globe would well-directed, intelligent
labor meet with a richer reward, nowhere would repose from labor be so
sweet. The hour of rest here sinks upon the face of nature with a
peculiar charm; the night breeze, in never-failing regularity, comes
with its gentle wing to fan the weary frame, and no danger lurks in
its breath. It has free scope through the unglazed windows, and
blowing fresh from the broad surface of the Mexican Gulf, it bears a
goodly tonic to the system. Beautifully blue are the heavens and
festally bright the stars of a tropical night, where familiar
constellations greet us with brighter radiance and new ones charm the
eye with their novelty. Preëminent in brilliancy among them is the
Southern Cross, a galaxy of stars that never greets us in the North.
At midnight its glittering framework stands erect. That solemn hour
past the Cross declines. How glorious the nights where such a heavenly
sentinel indicates the watches! "How often have we heard our guides
exclaim in the savannas of Venezuela," says Humboldt, "or in the
deserts extending from Lima to Truxillo, 'Midnight is past, the Cross
begins to bend.'" Cuba is indeed a land of enchantment, where nature
is beautiful and bountiful, and where mere existence is a luxury, but
it requires the infusion of a sterner, a more self-reliant,
self-denying and enterprising race to test its capabilities and to
astonish the world with its productiveness.



                             CHAPTER XII.

    Traveling by Volante. -- Want of Inland Communication. --
    Americans Profitable Customers. -- The Cruel National Game.
    -- The Plaza de Toros. -- Description of a Bull-Fight. -- The
    Infection of Cruelty. -- The Romans and Spaniards Compared.
    -- Cry of the Spanish Mob: "Bread and Bulls!" -- Women at the
    Fight. -- The Nobility of the Island. --The Monteros. --
    Ignorance of the Common People. -- Scenes in the Central
    Market, Havana. -- Odd Ideas of Cuban Beggars. -- An Original
    Style of Dude. -- A Mendicant Prince.


The volante, the national vehicle of Cuba, and until latterly the only
one in common use upon the island, has been several times spoken of.
It has been superseded, especially in Havana, just as steam launches
are crowding out the gondolas on the canals of Venice. Our present
notes would be quite incomplete without a description of this unique
vehicle. It is difficult without experience to form an idea of its
extraordinary ease of motion, or its appropriateness to the
peculiarities of the country roads, where only it is now in use. At
first sight, with its shafts sixteen feet long, and wheels six yards
in circumference, one would think that it must be very disagreeable to
ride in; but the reverse is the fact, and when seated the motion is
most agreeable, like being rocked in a cloud. It makes nothing of the
deep ruts and inequalities upon the execrable roads, but sways gently
its low-hung, chaise-like body, and dashes over and through every
impediment with the utmost facility. Strange as it may seem, it is
very light upon the horse, which the postilion also bestrides. When
traveling any distance, a second horse is added on the left, abreast
of the first, and attached to the volante by an added whiffletree and
traces. When there are two horses the postilion rides the one to the
left, thus leaving the shaft-horse free of other weight than the
vehicle.

If the roads are very rough, which is their chronic condition, and
there is more than usual weight to carry, a third horse is often
added, and he is placed abreast with the others, to the right of the
shaft horse, being guided by a bridle rein in the hands of the
calisero, as he is called. Heretofore the wealthy people took great
pride in these volantes, a purely Cuban idea, and they were ornamented
for city use at great expense with silver trimmings, and sometimes
even in gold. A volante equipped in this style, with the gayly-dressed
negro postilion, his scarlet jacket elaborately trimmed with gold or
silver braid, his high jack-boots with big silver buckles at the
knees, and huge spurs upon his heels, was quite a dashing affair, more
especially if a couple of black-eyed Creole ladies constituted the
freight.

Were it not for the few railroads and steamboat routes which are
maintained, communication between the several parts of the island
would be almost impossible. During the rainy season especially, inland
travel is impracticable for wheels. China or Central Africa is equally
well off in this respect. Nearly all transportation, except it be on
the line of the railroads, is accomplished on mule-back, or on the
little Cuban horses. The fact is, road making is yet to be introduced
into the island. Even the wonderful volante can only make its way in
the environs of cities. Most of the so-called roads resemble the bed
of a mountain torrent, and would hardly pass for a cow-path in
America. Nothing more clearly shows the undeveloped condition of the
island than this absence of means for internal communication. In
Havana and its immediate environs the omnibus and tramway afford
facilities which are liberally patronized, though when the latter was
first introduced it was considered such an innovation that it was most
bitterly opposed by the citizens. Like the railroads, the tramway was
the result of foreign enterprise, and has doubled the value of
property in any direction within a couple of leagues of the city
proper.

One of the most petty and most annoying experiences to which the
traveler is subjected is the arbitrary tax of time and money put upon
him by the small officials, of every rank, in the employment of the
government. By this system of small taxes upon travelers, a
considerable revenue is realized. Where this is known, it keeps
visitors away from Cuba, which is just what the Spaniards pretend to
desire, though it was found that the Creoles did not indorse any such
idea. Americans leave half a million dollars and more annually in
Havana alone, an estimate made for us by competent authority.
Passports are imperatively necessary upon landing, and if the visitor
desires to travel outside of the port at which he arrives a fresh
permit is necessary, for which a fee is charged. In vain do you show
your passport, indorsed by the Spanish consul at the port from which
you embarked in America. The official shrugs his shoulders, and says
it is the law. Besides, you are watched and your movements recorded at
police headquarters; though in this respect Berlin is quite as
uncomfortable for strangers as is the city of Havana. Despots must
hedge themselves about in every conceivable way. Be careful about the
contents of your letters sent from or received in Cuba. These are
sometimes delivered to their address, and sometimes they are not. Your
correspondence may be considered of interest to other parties as well
as to yourself, in which case an indefinite delay may occur in the
receipt thereof.

Of all the games and sports of the Spaniards, that of the bull-fight
is the most cruel, and without one redeeming feature to excuse its
indulgence. During the winter season, weekly exhibitions are given at
Havana on each recurring Sunday afternoon, the same day that is chosen
for the brutal sport in Madrid and other Spanish peninsular cities.
The arena devoted to this purpose will seat about ten thousand
persons. The ground upon which the fight takes place occupies about an
acre, and is situated on the Regla side of the harbor, in the Plaza de
Toros. The seats are raised one above another, in a complete circle,
at a secure height from the dangerous struggle. Sometimes, in his
furious onslaughts, the bull throws himself completely over the stout
boards which separate him from the spectators, when a wild stampede
occurs.

On the occasion of the fight witnessed by the author, after a shrill
flourish of trumpets a large bull was let loose from apartments
beneath the seats, the door of which opened into the arena. The poor
creature came from utter darkness, where he had been kept for many
hours, into a blaze of bright sunlight, which confused him for a
moment, and he pawed the ground excitedly, while he rolled his big
fierce eyeballs as though he suspected some trick had been played upon
him. Presently, having become accustomed to the light, he glared from
one side to the other as if to take in the situation, and see who it
was that dared to oppose him.

In the ring, distributed here and there, were some half a dozen
professional fighters on foot, called banderilleros and chulos,
besides which there were two on horseback, known as picadors. The
former held scarlet flags in their hands, with which to confuse and
tease the bull; the latter were armed with a long pole each, at the
end of which was a sharp piece of steel capable of wounding the bull,
but not deeply or dangerously. These fighters were a hardened set of
villains, if the human countenance can be relied upon as showing forth
the inner man. They rushed towards the animal and flaunted their flags
before his eyes, striving to excite and draw him on to attack them.
They seemed reckless, but very expert, agile, and wary. Every effort
was made to worry and torment the bull to a state of frenzy. Barbs
were thrust into his neck and back by the banderilleros, with small
rockets attached. These exploded into his very flesh, which they
burned and tore. Thrusts from the horsemen's spears also gave harsh,
if not dangerous wounds, so that the animal bled freely at many
points.

When the infuriated beast made a rush at one of his tormentors, they
adroitly sprang on one side, or, if too closely pressed, these
practiced athletes with a handspring leaped over the high board fence.
Whichever way he turned the bull met a fresh enemy and another device
of torment, until at last the poor creature was frantically mad. The
fight then became more earnest, the bull rushing first at one and
then another of his enemies, but the practiced fighters were too wary
for him; he could not change position so quickly as they could.
Finally, the bull turned his attention to the horses and made madly
first at the one which was nearest, and though he received a tearing
wound along his spine from the horseman's spear, he ripped the horse's
bowels open with his horns and threw him upon the ground, with his
rider under him. The men on foot rushed to the rescue and drew off the
bull by fresh attacks and by flaunting the flags before his eyes. In
the mean time, the rider was got out from beneath the horse, which lay
dying. The bull, finding that he could revenge himself on the horses,
transferred his attention to the other and threw him to the ground
with his rider, but received another long wound upon his own back.
Leaving the two horses lying nearly dead, the bull again turned upon
the banderilleros, rushing with such headlong speed at them that he
buried his sharp horns several inches in the timbers of the fence. It
was even a struggle for him to extract them. The purpose is not to
give the bull any fatal wounds, but to worry and torment him to the
last degree of endurance. This struggle was kept up for twenty minutes
or more, when the poor creature, bleeding from a hundred wounds,
seemed nearly exhausted. Then, at a sign from the director, there was
a grand flourish of trumpets, and the matador, a skillful swordsman
and the hero of the occasion, entered the ring to close with the bull,
singly. The other fighters withdrew and the matador advanced with a
scarlet flag in one hand and his naked sword in the other. The bull
stood at bay, too much worn by the fight and loss of blood to
voluntarily attack this single enemy. The matador advanced and lured
him to an attack by flaunting his flag. A few feeble rushes were made
by the bleeding animal, until, in a last effort to drive his horns
into this new enemy, he staggered heavily forward. This time the
matador did not leap to one side, but received the bull upon the point
of his Toledo blade, which was aimed at a spot just back of the horns,
where the brain meets the spinal column. As the bull comes on with his
head bent down to the charge, this spot is exposed, and forms a fair
target for a practiced hand. The effect was electrical. The bull
staggered, reeled from side to side for an instant, and then fell
dead. Four bulls were destroyed in a like manner that afternoon, and,
in their gallant fight for their lives, they killed seven horses,
trampling their riders in two instances almost fatally, though they
are protected by a sort of leather armor on their limbs and body.
During the fight with the second bull, which was an extremely fierce
and powerful creature, a young girl of eighteen dressed in male
attire, who was trained to the brutal business, took an active part in
the arena with the banderilleros. One remarkable feat which she
performed was that of leaping by means of a pole completely over the
bull when he was charging at her. At Madrid, where the author
witnessed a similar exhibition, the introduction of a young girl among
the fighters was omitted, but otherwise the performance was nearly
identical. At the close of each act of the murderous drama, six horses
gayly caparisoned with bells and plumes dashed into the arena led by
attendants, and chains being attached to the bodies of the dead
animals, they were drawn out at great speed through a gate opened for
the purpose, amid another flourish of trumpets and the shouts of the
excited multitude.

The worst of all this is that the influence of such outrageous cruelty
is lasting. It infects the beholders with a like spirit. In fact, it
is contagious. We all know how hard the English people became in the
time of Henry VIII. and Bloody Mary.

In this struggle of the bull ring there is no gallantry or true
bravery displayed on the part of the professional fighters. They run
but little personal risk, practiced as they are, sheltered and
protected by artificial means and armed with keen weapons, whereas the
bull has only his horns to protect himself from his many tormentors.
There is no possible escape for him; his fate is sealed from the
moment he enters the ring. All the true bravery exhibited is on his
part; he is always the attacking party, and were the exhibition to be
attempted in an open field, even armed as they are, he would drive
every one of his enemies out of sight. The much-lauded matador does
not take his position in front of the animal until it is very nearly
exhausted by loss of blood and long-continued, furious fighting. In
our estimation, he encounters far less risk than does the humblest of
the banderilleros or chulos, who torment the bull face to face in the
fullness of his physical strength and courage. Still, instances are
not wanting wherein these matadors have been seriously wounded and
even killed by a frantic and dying bull, who has roused himself for a
last final struggle.

Whatever colonial modification the Spanish character may have
apparently undergone in Cuba, the Creole is Castilian still in his
love for the cruel sports of the arena. Great is the similitude also
between the modern Spaniard and the ancient Roman in this respect. As
the Spanish language more closely resembles Latin than does the
Italian, so do the Spanish people show more of Roman blood than the
natives of Italy themselves. _Panem et circenses_ (bread and
circuses!) was the cry of the old Roman populace, and to gratify their
wishes millions of sesterces were lavished, and hecatombs of human
victims slain in the splendid amphitheatres erected by the masters of
the world in all the cities subject to their sway. And so _pan y
toros_ (bread and bulls!) is the imperious demand of the Spaniards, to
which the government is forced to respond. The parallel may be pursued
still further. The proudest ladies of Rome, maids and matrons, gazed
with liveliest interest upon the dying gladiators who hewed each other
in pieces, or on the Christians who perished in conflict with the wild
beasts, half starved to give them battle. So the señoras and señoritas
of Madrid, Seville, Malaga, and Havana enjoy, with keen delight, the
terrible spectacle of bulls slaughtered by picadors and matadors, and
gallant horses ripped up and disemboweled by the horns of their brute
adversaries. It is true that the ameliorating spirit of Christianity
is evinced in the changes which the arena has undergone. Human lives
are no longer designedly sacrificed wholesale in the bloody contests,
yet the bull-fight is sufficiently barbarous and atrocious. It is a
national institution, indicative of national character.

To look upon the serenity of Cuban ladies, driving in the Paseo or
listening to the nightly music in the Plaza de Isabella, one could not
possibly imagine them to be lacking in tenderness, or that there was
in them sufficient hardihood to witness such exhibitions as we have
described, and yet one third of the audience on the occasion spoken of
was composed of the gentler sex. They are almost universally handsome,
being rather below the average height of the sex with us, but
possessing an erect and dignified carriage. Their form, always rounded
to a delicate fullness, is quite perfection in point of model. Their
dark hair and olive complexions are well matched,--the latter without
a particle of natural carmine. The eyes are a match for the hair,
being large and beautifully expressive, with a most irresistible dash
of languor in them,--but not the languor of illness. It is really
difficult to conceive of an ugly woman with such eyes as they all
possess in Cuba,--the Moorish, Andalusian eye. The Cuban women have
also been justly famed for their graceful carriage, and it is indeed
the poetry of motion, singular as it may appear, when it is remembered
that for them to walk abroad is such a rarity. It is not the simple
progressive motion alone, but also the harmonious play of features,
the coquettish undulation of the face, the exquisite disposition of
costume, and the modulation of voice, that engage the beholder and
lend a happy charm to every attitude and every step.

The gentlemen as a rule are good-looking, though they are much
smaller, lighter, and more agile than the average American. The lazy
life they so universally lead tends to make them less manly than a
more active one would do. It seems to be a rule among them never to do
for themselves that which a slave can do for them. This is
demonstrated in the style of the volante, where the small horse is
made not only to draw the vehicle, but also to carry a large negro on
his back as driver. Now, if reins were used, there would be no
occasion for the postilion at all, but a Spaniard or Creole would
think it demeaning to drive his own vehicle. With abundance of
leisure, and the ever present influences of their genial clime, where
the heart's blood leaps more swiftly to the promptings of the
imagination and where the female form earliest attains its maturity,
the West Indians seem peculiarly adapted for romance and for love. The
consequent adventures constantly occurring among them often culminate
in startling tragedies, and afford plots in which a French
feuilletonist would revel.

The nobility of Cuba, so called, is composed of rather homespun
material, to say the least, of it. There may be some fifty individuals
dubbed with the title of marquis, and as many more with that of count,
most of whom have acquired their wealth and position by carrying on
extensive sugar plantations. These are sneeringly designated by the
humble classes as sugar noblemen, and not inappropriately so, as
nearly all of these aristocratic gentlemen have purchased their titles
outright for money. Not the least consideration is exercised by the
Spanish throne as to the fitness of these ambitious individuals for
honorary distinction. It is a mere question of money, and if this be
forthcoming the title follows as a natural sequence. Twenty-five
thousand dollars will purchase any title. Such things are done in
other lands, but not quite so openly. And yet the tone of Cuban
society in its higher circles is found to be rather aristocratic and
exclusive. The native of Old Spain does not endeavor to conceal his
contempt for foreigners of all classes, and as to the Creoles, he
simply scorns to meet them on social grounds, shielding his
inferiority of intelligence under a cloak of hauteur, assuming the
wings of the eagle, but possessing only the eyes of the owl. Thus the
Castilians and Creoles are ever at antagonism, both socially and
politically. The bitterness of feeling existing between them can
hardly be exaggerated. The sugar planter, the coffee planter, the
merchant, and the liberal professions stand in the order in which we
have named them, as regards their relative degree of social
importance, but wealth, in fact, has the same charm here as elsewhere
in Christendom, and the millionaire has the entrée to all classes.

The Monteros or yeomanry of the island inhabit the less cultivated and
cheaper portions of the soil, entering the cities only to dispose of
their surplus produce, and acting as the marketmen of the populous
districts. When they stir abroad, in nearly all parts of the island,
they are armed with a sword, and in the eastern sections about
Santiago, or even Cienfuegos, they also carry pistols in the holsters
of their saddles. Formerly this was indispensable for self-protection,
but at this time weapons are more rarely worn. Still the arming of the
Monteros has always been encouraged by the authorities, as they form a
sort of militia at all times available against negro insurrection, a
calamity in fear of which such communities must always live. The
Montero is rarely a slaveholder, but is frequently engaged on the
sugar plantations during the busy season as an overseer, and, to his
discredit be it said, he generally proves to be a hard taskmaster,
entertaining an intuitive dislike to the negroes.

An evidence of the contagious character of cruelty was given in a
circumstance coming under the author's observation on a certain
plantation at Alquizar, where a manifest piece of severity led him to
appeal to the proprietor in behalf of a female slave. The request for
mercy was promptly granted, and the acting overseer, himself a
mulatto, was quietly reprimanded for his cruelty. "You will find,"
said our host, "that colored men always make the hardest masters when
placed over their own race, but they have heretofore been much
employed on the island in this capacity, because a sense of pride
makes them faithful to the proprietor's interest. That man is himself
a slave," he added, pointing to the sub-overseer, who still stood
among the negroes, whip in hand.

The Montero sometimes hires a free colored man to help him in the
planting season on his little patch of vegetable garden, in such work
as a Yankee would do for himself, but these small farmers trust mostly
to the exuberant fertility of the soil, and spare themselves all
manual labor, save that of gathering the produce and taking it to
market. They form, nevertheless, a very important and interesting
class of the population. They marry very young, the girls at thirteen
and fifteen, the young men from sixteen to eighteen, and almost
invariably rear large families. Pineapples and children are a
remarkably sure crop in the tropics. The increase among them during
the last half century has been very large, much more in proportion
than in any other class of the community, and they seem to be
approaching a degree of importance, at least numerically, which will
render them eventually like the American farmers, the bone and sinew
of the land. There is room enough for them and to spare, for hardly
more than one tenth of the land is under actual cultivation, a vast
portion being still covered by virgin forests and uncleared savannas.
The great and glaring misfortune--next to that of living under a
government permitting neither civil nor religious liberty, where
church and state are alike debased as the tools of despotism,--is
their want of educational facilities. Books and schools they have
none. Barbarism itself is scarcely less cultured. We were told that
the people had of late been somewhat aroused from this condition of
lethargy concerning education, and some effort has recently been made
among the more intelligent to afford their children opportunities for
instruction. But at the present writing, the Egyptian fellah is not
more ignorant than the rural population of Cuba, who as a mass possess
all the indolence and few of the virtues of the aborigines.

There is one highly creditable characteristic evinced by the Monteros
as a class, and that is their temperate habits in regard to indulgence
in stimulating drinks. As a beverage they do not use ardent spirits,
and seem to have no taste or desire for the article, though they drink
the ordinary claret--rarely anything stronger. This applies to the
country people, not to the residents of the cities. The latter quickly
contract the habit of gin drinking, as already described. There is one
prominent vice to which the Monteros are indisputably addicted;
namely, that of gambling. It seems to be a natural as well as a
national trait, the appliances for which are so constantly at hand in
the form of lottery tickets and the cock-pits that they can hardly
escape the baleful influences. There are some who possess sufficient
strength of character and intelligence to avoid it altogether, but
with the majority it is the regular resort for each leisure hour. One
of their own statesmen, Castelar, told the Spaniards, not long since,
that gambling was the tax laid upon fools.

Perhaps the best place at which to study the appearance and character
of the Monteros is at the Central Market, where they come daily by
hundreds from the country in the early morning to sell their produce,
accompanied by long lines of mules or horses with well-laden panniers.
It is a motley crowd that one meets there, where purchasers and
salesmen mingle promiscuously. From six to nine o'clock, A. M., it is
the busiest place in all Havana. Negroes and mulattoes, Creoles and
Spaniards, Chinamen and Monteros, men and women, beggars, purchasers,
and slaves, all come to the market on the Calzada de la Reina. Here
the display of fruits and vegetables is something marvelous, both in
variety and in picturesqueness of arrangement. This locality is the
natural resort of the mendicants, who pick up a trifle in the way of
provisions from one and another, as people who do not feel disposed to
bestow money will often give food to the indigent. This market was the
only place in the city where it was possible to purchase flowers, but
here one or two humble dealers came at early morn to dispose of such
buds and blossoms as they found in demand. A blind Chinese coolie was
found sitting on the sidewalk every morning, at the corner of the
Calzada de la Reina, just opposite the market, and he elicited a
trifle from us now and again. One morning a couple of roses and a
sprig of lemon verbena were added to his small gratuity. The effect
upon that sightless countenance was electrical, and the poor
mendicant, having only pantomime with which to express his delight,
seemed half frantic. The money fell to the ground, but the flowers
were pressed passionately to his breast.

Did it remind him, we thought, of perfumes which had once delighted
his youthful senses in far-off Asia, before he had been decoyed to a
foreign land and into semi-slavery, to be deprived of health, liberty,
sight, hope, everything?

The Cuban beggars have a dash of originality in their ideas as to the
successful prosecution of their calling; we mean those "native and to
the manor born." Some of them possess two and even three cadaverous
dogs, taught to follow closely at their heels, as they wander about,
and having the same shriveled-up, half-starved aspect as their
masters. One beggar, who was quite a cripple, had his daily seat in a
sort of wheelbarrow, at the corner of Paseo Street, opposite the Plaza
de Isabella. This man was always accompanied by a parrot of gaudy
plumage, perched familiarly on his shoulder. Now and then the cripple
put some favorite bird-food between his own lips, which the parrot
extracted and appropriated with such promptness as to indicate a good
appetite. Another solicitor of alms, quite old and bent, had an
amusing companion in a little gray squirrel, with a collar and string
attached, the animal being as mischievous as a monkey, now and then
hiding in one of the mendicant's several pockets, sometimes coming
forth to crack and eat a nut upon his owner's shoulder. A blind
beggar, of Creole nationality, sat all day long in the hot sun, on the
Alameda de Paula near the Hotel San Carlos, whose companion was a
chimpanzee monkey. The little half-human creature held out its hand
with a piteous expression to every passer-by, and deposited whatever
he received in his master's pocket. These pets serve to attract
attention, if not commiseration, and we observed that the men did not
beg in vain.

The acme of originality, however, was certainly reached in the case of
a remarkable Creole beggar whose regular post is on the west corner of
the Central Market. This man is perhaps thirty-five or forty years of
age, and possesses a fine head, a handsome face, and piercing black
eyes. He is of small body, and his lower limbs are so withered as to
be entirely useless; so he sits with them curled up in a low, broad
basket, in which he is daily brought to the spot, locomotion in his
case being out of the question. He wears the cleanest of linen, and
his faultless cuffs and ruffled shirt-bosom are decked with solid gold
studs. He is bareheaded, but his thick black hair is carefully
dressed, and parted with mathematical precision in the middle. He
wears neither coat nor vest, but his lower garments are neatly adapted
to his deformity, and are of broadcloth. This man does not utter a
word, but extends his hand pleasantly, with an appealing look from his
handsome eyes, which often elicits a silver real from the passer-by.
We acknowledge to having been thus influenced more than once, in our
morning walks, by a sympathy which it would be difficult to analyze.
We had seen a colored dude selling canes at Nassau, but a dude
mendicant, and a cripple at that, was a physical anomaly.



                            CHAPTER XIII.

    Introduction of Sugar-Cane. -- Sugar Plantations. -- Mode of
    Manufacture. -- Slaves on the Plantations. -- African
    Amusements. -- The Grinding Season. -- The Coffee
    Plantations. -- A Floral Paradise. -- Refugees from St.
    Domingo. -- Interesting Experiments with a Mimosa. -- Three
    Staple Productions of Cuba. -- Raising Coffee and Tobacco. --
    Best Soils for the Tobacco. -- Agricultural Possibilities. --
    The Cuban Fire-Fly. -- A Much-Dreaded Insect. -- The Ceiba
    Tree. -- About Horses and Oxen.


The first sugar plantation established in Cuba was in 1595, nearly
three hundred years since. These plantations are the least attractive
in external appearance, but the most profitable pecuniarily, of all
agricultural investments in the tropics, though at the present writing
there is a depression in prices of sugar which has brought about a
serious complication of affairs. The markets of the world have become
glutted with the article, owing to the enormous over-production in
Europe from the beet. The plantations devoted to the raising of the
sugar-cane in Cuba spread out their extensive fields, covered with the
corn-like stalks, without any relief to the eye, though here and there
the graceful feathery branches of the palm are seen. The fields are
divided off into squares of three or four acres each, between which a
roadway is left for ox-teams to pass for gathering purposes. On some
of the largest estates tramways have been laid, reaching from the
several sections of the plantation to the doors of the grinding-mill.
A mule, by this means, is enabled to draw as large a load as a pair
of oxen on plain ground, and with much more ease and promptness.

About the houses of the owner and the overseer, graceful fruit trees,
such as bananas and cocoanuts, with some flowering and fragrant
plants, are grouped, forming inviting shade and producing a
picturesque effect. Not far away, the low cabins of the blacks are
half hidden by plantain and mango trees, surrounded by cultivated
patches devoted to yams, sweet potatoes, and the like. Some of the
small gardens planted by these dusky Africans showed judgment and
taste in their management. Chickens and pigs, which were the private
property of the negroes, were cooped up just behind the cabins. Many
of these plantations employ from four to five hundred blacks, and in
some instances the number will reach seven hundred on extensive
estates, though the tendency of the new and improved machinery is to
constantly reduce the number of hands required, and to increase the
degree of intelligence necessary in those employed. Added to these
employees there must also be many head of cattle,--oxen, horses, and
mules. The annual running expenditure of one of these large estates
will reach two hundred thousand dollars, more or less, for which
outlay there is realized, under favorable circumstances, a million
five hundred thousand pounds of sugar, worth, in good seasons, five
cents per pound at the nearest shipping point.

There are a few of the small estates which still employ ox-power for
grinding the cane, but American steam-engines have almost entirely
taken the place of animal power; indeed, as we have shown, it will no
longer pay to produce sugar by the primitive processes. This creates
a constant demand for engineers and machinists, for whom the Cubans
depend upon this country. We were told that there were not less than
two hundred Bostonians at the present time thus engaged on Cuban
estates. A Spaniard or Creole would as soon attempt to fly like a bird
as to learn how to run a steam-engine or regulate a line of shafting.
It requires more intelligence and mechanical skill, as a rule, than
the most faithful slaves possess. A careful calculation shows that in
return for the services of this small band of employees taken from our
shores, this country takes eighty per cent. of all the sugar produced
upon the island! Twelve per cent. is consumed by peninsular Spain,
thus leaving but eight per cent. of this product for distribution
elsewhere.

During the grinding season, which begins about the first of December
and ends in April, a large, well-managed sugar plantation in Cuba is a
scene of the utmost activity and most unremitting labor. Time is
doubly precious during the harvesting period, for when the cane is
ripe there should be no delay in expressing the juice. If left too
long in the field it becomes crystallized, deteriorating both in its
quality and in the amount of juice which is obtained. The oxen
employed often die before the season is at an end, from overwork
beneath a torrid sun. The slaves are allowed but four or five hours
sleep out of the twenty-four, and being worked by watches during the
night, the mill does not lie idle for an hour after it is started
until the grinding season is closed. If the slaves are thus driven
during this period, throughout the rest of the year their task is
comparatively light, and they may sleep ten hours out of the
twenty-four, if they choose. According to the Spanish slave
code,--always more or less of a dead letter,--the blacks can be kept
at work in Cuba only from sunrise to sunset, with an interval of two
hours for repose and food in the middle of the day. But this is not
regarded in the sugar harvest season, which period, after all, the
slaves do not seem so much to dread, for then they are granted more
privileges and are better fed, given more variety of food and many
other little luxuries which they are known to prize.

On Sunday afternoons and evenings on most of the plantations the
slaves are given their time, and are permitted, even in the harvest
season, to amuse themselves after their own chosen fashion. On such
occasions the privilege is often improved by the blacks to indulge in
native African dances, crude and rude enough, but very amusing to
witness. The music for the dancers is supplied by a home-made drum,
and by that alone, the negro who plays it being to the lookers-on
quite as much of a curiosity as those who perform the grotesque
dances. This humble musician writhes, wriggles, twists himself like a
corkscrew, and all the while beats time, accompanying his notes with
cries and howls, reminding one of the Apache Indian when engaged in a
war dance. It is astonishing to witness to what a degree of excitement
this negro drummer will work himself up, often fairly frothing at the
mouth. A buxom wench and her mate step forward and perform a wild,
sensuous combination of movements, a sort of negro can-can, like those
dancing girls one sees in India, striving to express sentiments of
love, jealousy, and passion by their pantomime, though these negroes
are far less refined in their gestures. When these two are exhausted,
others take their place, with very similar movements. The same
drummer labors all the while, perspiring copiously, and seeming to get
his full share of satisfaction out of the queer performance. This is
almost their only amusement, though the Chinese coolies who have been
distributed upon the plantations have taught the negroes some of their
queer games, one, particularly, resembling dominoes. The author saw a
set of dominoes made out of native ebony wood by an African slave,
which were of finer finish than machinery turns out, delicately inlaid
with ivory from alligators' teeth, indicating the points upon each
piece. We were told that the only tool the maker had with which to
execute his delicate task was a rude jack-knife. We have said that the
negroes find in the singular dance referred to their one amusement,
but they sometimes engage among themselves in a game of ball, after a
fashion all their own, which it would drive a Yankee base-ball player
frantic to attempt to analyze.

The sugar-cane yields but one crop in a year. There are several
varieties, but the Otaheitan seems to be the most generally
cultivated. Between the time when enough of the cane is ripe to
warrant the getting-up of steam at the grinding-mill and the time when
the heat and the rain spoil its qualities, all the sugar for the
season must be made; hence the necessity for great industry on the
large estates. In Louisiana the grinding season lasts but about eight
weeks. In Cuba it continues four months. In analyzing the sugar
produced on the island and comparing it with that of the
mainland,--the growth of Louisiana,--chemists could find no difference
as to the quality of the true saccharine principle contained in each.
The Cuban sugar, compared with beet-sugar, however, is said to yield
of saccharine matter one quarter more in any given quantity.

In society the sugar planter holds a higher rank than the coffee
planter, as we have already intimated; merely in the scale of wealth,
however, for it requires five times the capital to carry on a sugar
estate that would serve for a coffee estate. Some of the large sugar
plantations have been owned and carried on by Jesuit priests--we were
about to write ex-Jesuit priests, but that would not be quite correct,
for once a member of this order one is bound to it for all time. The
priest or acknowledged member of the organization may be forced for
prudential reasons to temporarily change his occupation, but he cannot
sever himself from the responsibilities which he has once voluntarily
assumed. There was a time when much of the landed and fertile property
of the island was controlled by the Church,--in fact owned by it,
though often by very questionable titles. The original owners, under
cunning pressure, perhaps on a threatened death-bed, were induced to
will all to the Church; or as an act of deep penance for some crime
divulged at the confessional, they yielded up all. To preserve this
property and possibly to cause it to produce an income for the Church,
certain priests became active planters. Extreme ecclesiastic rule, as
has been said, is greatly modified in Spain and her colonies, the
natural reaction of the hateful days of the Inquisition.

As the sugar plantation surpasses the coffee in wealth, so the coffee
estate surpasses the sugar in every natural beauty and attractiveness.
A coffee plantation, well and properly laid out, is one of the most
beautiful gardens that can well be conceived of, in its variety and
loveliness baffling description. An estate devoted to this purpose
usually covers a hundred acres, more or less, planted in regular
squares of one acre or thereabouts, intersected by broad alleys lined
with palms, mangoes, bananas, oranges, and other fruits; as the
coffee, unlike the sugar cane, requires partial protection from the
ardor of the sun. Mingled with the trees are lemons, limes,
pomegranates, Cape jasmines, and a species of wild heliotrope,
fragrant as the morning. Occasionally in the wide reach of the estate
there is seen a solitary, broad-spreading ceiba, in hermit-like
isolation from other trees, but shading a fragrant undergrowth.
Conceive of this beautiful arrangement, and then of the whole when in
flower; the coffee, with its milk-white blossoms, so abundant that it
seems as though a pure white cloud of snow had fallen there, and left
the rest of the vegetation fresh and green. Interspersed in these
fragrant alleys dividing the coffee plants is the red of the Mexican
rose, the flowering pomegranate, the yellow jasmine, and the large,
gaudy flower of the penon, shrouding its parent stem in a cloak of
scarlet. Here too are seen clusters of the graceful yellow flag, and
many wild flowers, unknown by name, entwining their tender stems about
the base of the fruit trees. In short, a coffee plantation is a
perfect floral paradise, full of fragrance and repose.

The writer's experience was mainly gained at and about the estate of
the late Dr. Finley, a Scotch physician long resident upon the island.
He had named his plantation after the custom with a fancy title, and
called it Buena Esperanza. Here was seen the mignonette tree twenty
feet high, full of pale yellow and green blossoms, as fragrant as is
its little namesake, which we put in our conservatories. There were
also fuchsias, blue, red, yellow, and green, this last hue quite new
to us. The night-blooming cereus was in rank abundance, together with
the flor de pascua, or Easter flower, so lovely in its cream-colored,
wax-like blossom. The Indian poui, with its saffron-colored flowers,
was strikingly conspicuous, and there too was that pleasant little
favorite, the damask rose. It seemed as if all out-doors was an exotic
garden, full of marvelous beauty. What daily miracles nature is
performing under our only half-observant eyes! Behold, where the paths
intersect each other, a beautiful convolvulus has entwined itself
about that dead and decaying tree, clothing the gray old trunk with
pale but lovely flowers; just as we deck our human dead for the grave.

It was the revolution in San Domingo which gave the first great
stimulus to the culture of the coffee plant in Cuba, an enterprise
which has gradually faded out in the last decade, though not
absolutely obliterated. The refugees from the opposite shore sought
shelter wherever they could find it among the nearest islands of the
Archipelago, and large numbers made their new homes in the eastern
department of Cuba, near the cities of Trinidad and Santiago. Here
they turned lands which had been idle for three and four centuries
into smiling gardens, and the production of the favorite berry became
very profitable for a series of years, many cargoes being shipped
annually to this country from the two ports just named. The production
of sugar, however, has always maintained precedence, dividing the
honor to-day only with tobacco in the manufactured state. Coffee does
not figure to any extent in the statistics of exports. Exorbitant
taxation and the cruel ravages of civil war, in the coffee districts
especially, are largely the cause of the loss of an important and
profitable industry.

Some amusing experiments with a mimosa or sensitive plant served to
fill a leisure hour at Buena Esperanza, under our host's intelligent
direction. It grew wild and luxuriantly within a few feet of the broad
piazza of the country-house. Close by it was a morning-glory, which
was in remarkable fullness and freshness of bloom, its gay profuseness
of purple, pink, and variegated white making it indeed the glory of
the morning. It was a surprise to find the mimosa of such similar
habits with its neighbor, the morning-glory, regularly folding its
leaves and going to sleep when the shades of evening deepened, but
awaking bright and early with the first breath of the morn. So
sensitive is this most curious plant, so full of nerves, as our host
expressed it, that it would not only shrink instantly, like unveiled
modesty, at the touch of one's hand, but even at the near approach of
some special organisms, ere they had extended a hand towards it. Five
persons tried the experiment before the sixth illustrated the fact
that touch was not absolutely necessary to cause the leaves to shrivel
up or shrink through seeming fear. Our host even intimated that when
the mimosa had become familiar with a congenial person its timidity
would vanish, and it could be handled gently by that individual
without outraging its sensibility. Of this, however, we saw no
positive evidence. If Mr. Darwin had supplemented his chapters on the
monkey by a paper relating to the mimosa, he might possibly have
enabled us to find a mutual confirmation in them of some fine-spun
theory.

The three great staple productions of Cuba are sugar, the sweetener;
coffee, the tonic; and tobacco, the narcotic of half the world. The
first of these, as we have shown, is the greatest source of wealth,
having also the preference as to purity and excellence over any other
saccharine production. Its manufacture also yields molasses, which
forms an important article of export, besides which a spirituous
liquor, called aguardiente, is distilled in considerable quantities
from the molasses. The cane, which grows to about the size of a large
walking-stick, or well-developed cornstalk, is cut off near the ground
and conveyed in the green state, though it is called ripe, to the
mill, where it is crushed to a complete pulp between stones or iron
rollers. After the juice is thus extracted the material left is spread
out in the sun to dry, and is after being thus "cured" used for fuel
beneath the steam-boilers, which afford both power to the engine and
the means of boiling the juice. Lime-water is employed to neutralize
any free acid as well as to separate the vegetable matter. The
granulation and crystallization are effected in large flat pans, or
now more commonly by centrifugal machines, rotating at great speed. It
is then crushed and packed either in hogsheads or in boxes for
exportation; canvas bags are also being largely employed, as they are
easier to pack on board ship, and also to handle generally. A
plantation is renewed when deemed necessary, by laying the green canes
horizontally in the ground, when new and vigorous shoots spring up
from every joint, showing the great fertility of the soil.

Coffee was introduced by the French into Martinique in 1727, but it
did not make its appearance in Cuba until forty years later, or, to be
exact, in 1769. The decadence of this branch of agriculture is due
not only to the causes we have already named, but also to the inferior
mode of cultivation adopted on the island. It was predicted some years
before it commenced, and when the crash came the markets of the world
were also found to be greatly overstocked with the article. While some
planters introduced improved methods and economy in the conduct of
their estates, others abandoned the business altogether, and turned
their fields either into sugar-raising, fruits or tobacco. Precisely
the same trouble was experienced in the island of Ceylon, which was at
one time a great coffee-raising centre, but now its planters are many
of them abandoning the business, while others adopt new seed and new
methods of culture. In Cuba it was found that the plants had been
grown too closely together and subjected to too close pruning, while
the product, which was gathered by hand, yielded a mixture of ripe and
unripe berries. In the countries where coffee originated, a very
different method of harvesting is adopted. The Arabs plant the
coffee-shrubs much farther apart, allow them to grow to considerable
height, and gather the crop by shaking the tree, a method which
secures only the ripe berries. After a few weeks, or even days, the
field is gone over a second time, when the green berries have become
fit to gather, and readily fall to the ground.

A coffee estate well managed, that is, combined with the rearing of
fruits and vegetables intermingled, thus affording the required shade
for the main crop, proves fairly profitable in Cuba to-day, and were
this industry not hampered and handicapped by excessive taxes, it
would attract many new planters. The coffee ripens from August to
December, the nuts then becoming about the size of our cherries. The
coffee-berry is the seed of the fruit, two of which are contained in
each kernel, having their flat surfaces together, surrounded by a soft
pulp. The ripe berries are dried by exposure to the sun's rays, then
bruised in a mill, by which means the seeds are separated from the
berry. They are then screened to cleanse them, after which they are
bagged, and the coffee is ready for market. Some planters take great
care to sort their crop by hand, in which operation the negro women
become very expert. By dividing the berries into first and second
qualities as to size and cleanliness, a better aggregated price is
realized for the entire harvest. Not only are the coffee estates much
more pleasing to the eye than the sugar plantations, but they are also
much more in harmony with the feelings of the philanthropist. There is
here no such exigency in getting in the harvest, leading to the
overwork of the slaves, as on a sugar estate in the grinding season.
Indeed, we were assured that it was quite possible to carry on a
coffee estate with white labor. When, heretofore, a negro has been
brought to the block in Havana, or any other Cuban city, the price
realized for him has always been materially affected by the question
whether he had been employed on a sugar estate in the grinding season.
If he had been thus employed it was considered that his life has been
unduly shortened, and he sold accordingly at a lower price. At the
present time few negroes are bought or sold, as their market value has
become merely nominal. There is no good reason why white labor is not
suited to the coffee and tobacco estates. When the field labor upon
the sugar estates is almost wholly performed by machinery, that is,
the cane cut by a reaper, there will be so much less exposure to the
sun that white hands, under proper management, can perform it.

Tobacco, indigenous to both Cuba and the United States, is a great
source of revenue upon the island. Its cultivation involves
considerable labor and expense, as the soil must be carefully chosen
and prepared, and the crop is an exhaustive one to the land; but the
cultivation does not require machinery, like sugar-cane, nor quite so
much care as does the growing coffee. It is valued in accordance with
the locality from which it comes, some sections being especially
adapted to its production. That of the greatest market value, and used
in the manufacture of the highest-cost cigars, is grown in the most
westerly division of the island, known as the Vuelta de Abajo (Lower
Valley). The whole western portion of Cuba is not by any means
suitable to the production of tobacco. The region of the best tobacco
is comprised within a small parallelogram of very limited extent.
Beyond this, up to the meridian of Havana, the tobacco is of fine
color, but of inferior aroma. From Consolacion to San Christoval the
tobacco is very "hot,"--to use a local phrase,--harsh, and strong, and
from San Christoval to Guanajay the quality is inferior up to Holguin
y Cuba, where better tobacco is produced. The fertile valley of Los
Guines produces poor smoking-tobacco, but an article excellent for the
manufacture of snuff. On the banks of the Rio San Sebastian, are also
some estates which produce the very best quality of tobacco. Thus
it will be seen that certain properties of soil operate more directly
in producing a fine grade of tobacco than any slight variation of
climate. Possibly a chemical analysis of the soil of the Vuelta de
Abajo would enable the intelligent cultivator to supply to other lands
the ingredients wanted to make them produce equally good tobacco. A
fairly marketable article, however, is grown in nearly any part of the
island. Its cultivation is thought to produce a full ten per cent.
upon the capital invested, the annual crop of Cuba being estimated in
value at about twenty-three million dollars. The number of tobacco
planters is said to be about fifteen thousand, large and small. On
many tobacco farms the labor is nearly all performed by white hands.
Some coolies and some negroes are also employed even on small estates.

When it is remembered that so small a portion of the land is under
cultivation, and yet that Cuba exports annually a hundred million
dollars worth of sugar and molasses, besides coffee, tobacco, fruits,
and precious woods, it will be realized what might be accomplished,
under a liberal system of government, upon this gem of the Caribbean
Sea. Cacao, rice, plantains, indigo, and cotton, besides Indian corn
and many nutritious vegetables, might be profitably cultivated to a
much larger degree than is now done. It is a curious and remarkable
fact, suggesting a striking moral, that with the inexhaustible
fertility of the soil, with an endless summer that gives the laborer
two and even three crops a year, agriculture generally yields in Cuba
a lower percentage of profit than in our stern Northern latitudes,
where the farmer has to wrench, as it were, the half-reluctant crop
from the ground. It must be remembered that in Cuba there are numerous
fruits and vegetables not enumerated in these pages, which do not
enter into commerce, and which spring spontaneously from the fertile
soil. In the possession of a thrifty population the island would be
made to blossom like a rose, but as it now is, it forms only a garden
growing wild, cultivated here and there in patches. None of the fine
natural fruits have ever been improved by careful culture and the
intelligent selection of kinds, so that in many respects they will not
compare in perfection with our average strawberries, plums, pears, and
peaches. Their unfulfilled possibilities remain to be developed by
intelligent treatment.

The plantain, which may be said to be the bread of the common people,
requires to be planted but once. The stem bears freely, like the
banana of the same family, at the end of eight months, and then
withering to the ground renews itself again from the roots. Sweet
potatoes once planted require care only to prevent their too great
luxuriance, and for this purpose a plough is passed through them
before the wet season, and as many of the vines as can be freely
plucked up are removed from the field. The sugar-cane, on virgin soil,
will last and prove productive for twenty years. The coffee shrub or
tree will bear luxuriantly for forty or fifty years. The cocoanut palm
is peculiar to all tropical climates, and in Cuba, as in the Malacca
Straits and India, bears an important share in sustaining the life of
the people, supplying milk, shade, and material for a hundred domestic
uses. It grows in luxuriant thriftiness all over the island, in high
and low land, in forests, and down to the very shore washed by the
Gulf Stream. It is always graceful and picturesque, imparting an
oriental aspect to everything which surrounds it. It is estimated
that over ten million acres of native forests, covered by valuable
wood, still remain untouched by the woodman's axe, especially on and
about the mountain range, which extends nearly the entire length of
the island, like the vertebræ of an immense whale.

About the coffee plantations, and indeed throughout the rural portions
of the country, there is a curious little insect called a cocuyo,
answering in its general characteristics and nature to our firefly,
though it is quadruple its size, and far the most brilliant insect of
its kind known to naturalists. They float in phosphorescent clouds
over the vegetation, emitting a lurid halo, like fairy torch-bearers
to elfin crews. One at first sight is apt to compare them to a shower
of stars. They come in multitudes immediately after the wet season
sets in, prevailing more or less, however, all the year round. Their
advent is always hailed with delight by the slave children, as well as
by children of a larger growth. They are caught by the slaves in any
desired numbers and confined in tiny cages of wicker, giving them
sufficient light in their cabins at night for ordinary purposes, and
forming the only artificial light permitted them. We have seen a
string of the little cages containing the glittering insects hung in a
slave-cabin in festoons, like colored lamps in fancy-goods stores in
America. The effect of the evanescent light thus produced is very
peculiar, but the number of insects employed insures a sufficiently
steady effect for ordinary purposes. These little creatures are
brought into Havana by young Creole children and by women, for sale to
the ladies, who sometimes in the evenings wear a small cage hung to
the wrist containing a few of the cocuyos, and the light thus produced
is nearly equal to a small candle. Some ladies wear a belt of them at
night, ingeniously fastened about the waist, others a necklace, and
the effect is highly amusing. In the ballroom they are worn in the
flounces of ladies' dresses, where they glisten very much like
diamonds and other precious stones. Strange to say, there is a natural
hook near the head of the firefly, by which it can be attached to the
dress without apparent injury to it. The town ladies keep little cages
of these insects as pets, feeding them on sugar, of which they appear
to be immoderately fond. On the plantations, when a fresh supply is
desired, one has only to wait until evening, when hundreds can be
secured with a thread net at the end of a pole. By holding a cocuyo up
in the out-door air for a few moments, large numbers are at once
attracted to the spot. In size they are about an inch long, and a
little over an eighth of an inch in breadth.

There is an insidious and much dreaded insect with which the planters
have to contend on the sugar and coffee plantations, but which is not
met with in the cities; namely, the red ant, a much more formidable
foe than any one not acquainted with its ravages would believe. These
little creatures possess a power altogether out of proportion to their
insignificant size, eating into the heart of the hardest wood, neither
cedar, iron-wood, nor even lignum-vitæ being proof against them. They
are not seen at the surface, as they never touch the outer shell of
the wood whose heart they are consuming. A beam or rafter which has
been attacked by them looks as good as when new, to the casual
observer, until it is sounded and found to be hollow, a mere shell in
fact. Even in passing from one piece of timber to another, the red
ant does so by covered ways, and is thus least seen when most busy.
The timbers of an entire roof have been found hollowed out and
deprived entirely of their supporting strength without the presence of
the insect enemy being even suspected until chance betrayed the
useless character of the supports. For some unknown reason, upright
timbers are rarely attacked by them, but those in a reclining or
horizontal position are their choice. These destructive red ants are
nearly always to be found in tropical countries, as in India, Batavia,
and Sumatra, where they build mounds in the jungle half the size of
the natives' cabins. They may be seen marching like an invading army
in columns containing myriads across the fields of southern India.

The interior landscape, more particularly of the middle district of
the island, is here and there ornamented by fine specimens of the
ceiba, or silk-cotton tree, which is often seen a hundred feet in
height, with stout and widespread branches, giving the idea of great
firmness and stability. It sends up a massive sinewy trunk for some
fifty feet, when it divides into branches covered with a dense canopy
of leaves, expanded like an umbrella, and forming a perfect shade
against the power of the torrid sun. The ceiba is slow of growth, but
attains to great age, specimens thriving when Columbus first landed
here being, as we were assured, still extant. Next to the royal palm,
it is the most remarkable of all the trees which loom up beneath the
brilliant purple skies of Cuba. The negroes have a superstition that
the ceiba is a magic tree haunted by spirits, a singular notion also
shared by the colored people of Nassau, though these two islands are
so many hundreds of miles apart and have never had any natural
connection. There is certainly something weird in the loneliness and
solitary grandeur of the tree. Next to the palm and ceiba in beauty
and picturesqueness of effect is the tamarind tree, with its deep
green and delicate foliage, presenting a singular and curious aspect
when thickly looped on every branch with hanging chocolate-colored
pods.

Under the noonday sun, sitting in the deep shade of some lofty ceiba,
one may watch with curious eyes the myriads of many-hued, broad-winged
butterflies, mingling orange, crimson, and steel-blue in dazzling
combinations, as they flit through the ambient atmosphere with a
background of shining, evergreen foliage, the hum of insects and the
carol of birds forming a soft lullaby inviting sleep. Naturalists tell
us that no less than three hundred distinct species of butterflies are
found in Cuba, ranging in size from a common house-fly to a
humming-bird. The day dies with a suddenness almost startling, so that
one passes from sunshine to starlight as if by magic. Then the cocuyo
takes up the activity of insect life, flashing its miniature torches
over the plantations, and peeping out from among the dense foliage,
while the stars sing their evening hymn of silent praise.

The Cubans have a peculiar mode of harnessing their oxen, similar to
that seen in the far East and also in some parts of Europe, as at San
Sebastian, on the Bay of Biscay. A stout wooden bar is placed at the
root of the horns, and so securely bound to them with thongs that the
animal draws, or rather pushes, by the head and frontlet, without
chafing. The Cuban oxen have a hole pierced in their nostrils, through
which a metallic ring is secured, and to this a rope is attached,
serving as reins with which to guide the animal. This mode of
harnessing certainly seems to enable the oxen to bring more strength
to bear upon the purpose for which they are employed than when the
yoke is placed, as is the case with us, about the throat and
shoulders. The greatest power of horned animals undoubtedly lies in
the head and neck, and the question arises whether in placing the yoke
on the neck and breast we do not get it out of reach of the exercise
of that strength, and cause the animal to draw the load behind him by
the mere force of his bodily weight and impetus. The West Indian
animal is small, and often of the cream-colored breed, mild-eyed and
docile, of which one sees such choice specimens in Italy and
especially on the plains of Lombardy.

Not quite satisfied with the conclusion first arrived at, we gave this
subject of the harnessing of oxen a second consideration, and in
carefully watching the operation of the frontlet-bar we detected at
least one very cruel and objectionable feature in this mode of
harnessing. The animals are necessarily so bound to the bar that to
move their heads one way or the other is a simple impossibility, while
our mode of yoking oxen leaves them very much at liberty in the use of
their heads, thus enabling them to shake off flies and other biting
insects which may tease them, whereas the eyes of a Cuban ox are often
seen infested with flies which he cannot get rid of while in harness,
however he may be beset by them. This alone, in a climate where biting
insects swarm all the year round, is a most serious objection to the
frontlet-bar as compared with the yoke.

The Cuban horse deserves more than a mere mention in this connection.
He is a remarkably valuable animal, especially adapted to the climate
and to the service required of him. Though small and delicate of limb
he can carry a great weight, and his gait is not unlike that of our
pacing horses, though with much less lateral motion, and is remarkably
easy for the rider, certainly forming the easiest gait combined with
rapidity of motion possessed by any breed. He has great power of
endurance, is a small eater, requiring no grain as a general thing,
but is satisfied with the green leaves and stalks of the corn, upon
which he keeps in good condition and flesh. He is a docile little
creature, easily taught and easily taken care of. The Cuban horse
knows no shelter except the heavens above him, for there are no barns
in Cuba; but he will no more wander away from his master's door, where
he stands at nearly all hours of the day with the saddle on his back,
than would a favorite dog. The Montero inherits all the love of his
Moorish ancestors for the horse, and never stirs abroad except upon
his back. He considers himself established for life when he possesses
a good horse, a sharp Toledo blade, and a pair of silver spurs. Being
from childhood accustomed to the saddle, it is natural for him to be a
good rider, and there are none better even in Arabia. He is apt to
tell big stories about his little horse, intimating its descent direct
from the Kochlani, or King Solomon's breed, and to endow it with
marvelous qualities of speed and endurance. The Montero is never heard
to boast of his wife, his children, or any other possession, but he
does "blow" for his horse.

One of this class stood beside his pony one warm afternoon opposite
the Hotel Telegrafo, where a few of the guests were seated under the
broad veranda. The sleek, well-formed animal elicited some
complimentary remarks, which gratified the owner, who spoke English
after the style of his people. He indulged in praises of the horse,
especially as to the ease and steadiness of his gait, and offered a
bet that he could ride round the outside of the Campo de Marte on him
and return to the spot where he stood, at ordinary speed, carrying a
full glass of water without spilling a tablespoonful of the liquid;
such is the ease of motion of these animals trained to what is called
the paso gualtrapeo. Four corners were to be turned by the Cuban, as
well as half a mile of distance accomplished. The small bet suggested
was readily taken, and the full tumbler of water brought out of the
house. The Cuban mounted his pony and rode round the park with the
speed of a bird, easily winning his bet.

The visitor, as he proceeds inland, will frequently observe on the
fronts of the dwellings attempts at representations in colors of birds
and various animals, resembling anything rather than what they are
apparently designed to depict. The most striking characteristics are
the gaudy coloring and the remarkable size. Pigeons present the
colossal appearance of ostriches, and dogs are exceedingly elephantine
in their proportions. Space would not be adequate to picture horses
and cattle. Especially in the suburbs of the cities this fancy may be
observed, where attempts at portraying domestic scenes present some
original ideas as to grouping. If such ludicrous objects were to be
met with anywhere else but in Cuba they would be called caricatures.
Here they are regarded with the utmost complacency, and innocently
considered to be artistic and ornamental. Noticing something of the
same sort in Vevay, Switzerland, not long since, the author found on
inquiry that it was the incipient art effort of a Spanish Creole, who
had wandered thither from the island.

The policy of the home government has been to suppress, so far as
possible, all knowledge of matters in general relating to Cuba;
especially to prevent the making public of any statistical information
regarding the internal resources, all accounts of its current growth,
prosperity, or otherwise. Rigidly-enforced rules accomplished this
seclusiveness for many years, until commercial relations with the
"outside barbarians" rendered this no longer possible. No official
chart of Havana, its harbor, or that of any other Cuban city has ever
been made public. Spain has seemed to desire to draw a curtain before
this tropical jewel, lest its dazzling brightness should tempt the
cupidity of some other nation. Notwithstanding this, our war
department at Washington contains complete drawings of every important
fortification, and charts of every important harbor in Cuba. Since
1867 we have been connected with Cuba by submarine cable, and through
her with Jamaica since 1870. The local government exercises, however,
strict surveillance over telegraphic communications.

The political condition of Cuba is what might be expected of a
Castilian colony, ruled and governed by such a policy as prevails
here. Like the home government, she presents a remarkable instance of
the standstill policy, and from one of the most powerful and wealthy
kingdoms of Europe, Spain has sunk to the position of the humblest and
poorest. Other nations have labored and succeeded in the race of
progress, while her adherence to ancient institutions and her
dignified contempt for "modern innovations" have become a species of
retrogression, which has placed her far below all her sister
governments. The true Hidalgo spirit, which wraps itself up in an
antique garb and shrugs its shoulders at the advance of other nations,
still rules over the realm of Ferdinand and Isabella, while its
high-roads swarm with gypsies and banditti, as tokens of decaying
power.



                             CHAPTER XIV.

    Consumption of Tobacco. -- The Delicious Fruits of the
    Tropics. -- Individual Characteristics of Cuban Fruits. --
    The Royal Palm. -- The Mulberry Tree. -- Silk Culture. -- The
    Island once covered by Forests. -- No Poisonous Reptiles. --
    The Cuban Bloodhound. -- Hotbed of African Slavery. --
    Spain's Disregard of Solemn Treaties. -- The Coolie System of
    Slavery. -- Ah-Lee draws a Prize. -- Native African Races. --
    Negroes buying their Freedom. -- Laws favoring the Slaves. --
    Example of St. Domingo. -- General Emancipation.


The consumption of tobacco in the form of cigars is almost incredibly
large in Cuba, and for the city of Havana alone it has been estimated
to amount to an aggregate cost of five million dollars per annum.
Every man, woman, and child appears to be addicted to the habit. It
strikes a Northerner as rather odd for a lady to sit smoking her
cigarette in her parlor, but this is not at all rare. The men of all
degrees smoke everywhere, in the dwelling-house, in the street, in the
theatre, in the cafés, and in the counting-room; eating, drinking,
and truly it would also seem, sleeping, they smoke, smoke, smoke. At
the tables d'hôte of the hotels it is not unusual to see a Cuban take
a few whiffs of a cigarette between the several courses, and lights
are burning close at hand to enable him to do so. If a party of
gentlemen are invited to dine together, the host so orders that a
packet of the finest cigarettes is frequently passed to his guests,
with a lighted taper, in the course of the meal, and at its close some
favorite brand of the more substantial cigar is furnished to all.
Thus, tobacco is consumed on every occasion, in the council-chamber,
the court, at funerals, in the domestic circles, at feasts, and on the
out-door drive. The slave and his master, the maid and her mistress,
boy and man, all, all smoke. It seems odd that one does not scent
Havana far out at sea before the land is sighted.

We were told that gentlemen who have the means to procure them smoke
on an average what is equivalent to a dozen cigars per day, and those
of the other sex addicted to the habit consume half that quantity. Of
late the larger proportion, however, takes the form of cigarettes,
which are far more subtle in effect when used to excess. The
consequence of this large home consumption, in addition to the export
of the article, is that a very numerous class of the population is
engaged in the manufacture, and little stores devoted solely to this
business are plentifully sprinkled all about the metropolis. The
imperial factory of La Honradez, already described, occupies a whole
city square, and is one of its curiosities, producing from three to
four million cigarettes per diem. This house enjoys special
governmental protection, and makes its annual contribution to the
royal household of Madrid of the best of its manufactured goods. A
snuff-taker is rarely to be met with, and few, if any, chew the weed,
if we except the stevedores and foreign sailors to be seen about the
shore and shipping. Havana has no wharves, properly speaking; vessels
are loaded and discharged by means of lighters or scows. The negroes
become passionately fond of the pipe, inhaling into their lungs the
rich, powerful narcotic and driving it out again at their nostrils in
slow, heavy clouds, half dozing over the dreamy effect. The postilion
who waits for a fare upon the street passes half his time in this way,
dreaming over his pipe of pure Havana, or renewing constantly his
cigarette. The price of manufactured tobacco in Cuba is about one half
that which we pay for the same article in America, either at wholesale
or retail, as shipping expenses, export duty, and import duty must be
added to the price charged to the consumer.

In discussing this habit one naturally looks back about four hundred
years, recalling the amazement of the Spanish discoverers, when they
first landed here, at seeing the Indians smoking a native weed which
was called tobacco. The practice was, at that time, entirely unknown
in Europe, though now indulged in as a luxury by nearly half the
population of the globe.

We have only a partial idea at the North of the true character of
tropical fruits, since only a small portion of them are of such a
nature as to admit of exportation, and such as are forwarded to us
must be gathered in an unripe condition in order to survive a short
sea-voyage. The orange which we eat in Boston or New York, therefore,
is a very different-flavored fruit from the same when partaken of in
Havana or Florida. The former has been picked green and ripened on
shipboard, as a general thing; the latter was perhaps on the tree an
hour before you ate it, ripened under its native skies and upon its
parent stem. So of the banana, one of the most delightful and
nutritious of all West Indian fruits, which grows everywhere in Cuba
with prodigal profuseness,--though we are told that as regards this
fruit it is claimed that, like some varieties of our pear, it ripens
as well off the tree as on it; and the same is the case with some
other fleshy fruits. After the banana has attained its full growth,
the final process of ripening commences, as it were, within itself;
that is to say, the fruit ceases to depend upon the tree for
sustenance or farther development. The pulp becomes gradually
sweetened and softened, chiefly by the change of the starch into more
or less of soluble sugar. When the bananas are shipped to our Northern
markets they are as green as the leaves of the trees on which they
grew. Most of us have seen cartloads of them in this condition landing
at our city wharves. Placed in an even temperature and in darkness
they will ripen and become as yellow as gold in a very few days.

The banana and plantain differ from each other much as an apple and a
potato differ; the latter should always be cooked before eating, but
the former may be either eaten raw or cooked, according to the taste.
The banana is gathered at three different stages of its growth. At a
quarter of its maturity it is rather milky, and contains much starch.
Roasted in ashes, or boiled in water, it forms a very nourishing food,
and is a good substitute for bread. If eaten at three fourths of its
growth it is less nourishing, but contains more sugar. Lastly, when
perfectly ripe, it develops an acrid principle, both wholesome and
palatable. The fig banana is a favorite species, and forms a universal
dessert in the ripe state with the Creoles. A frequent reference is
made to it in these notes because of its importance. The enormous
productiveness of the plant and its nutritious character assure to the
humble classes an abundant subsistence. People may go freely into the
wild lands and find edible bananas at any time, without money and
without price. In the cities the charge for them is so moderate that a
person must be poor indeed who cannot afford a liberal quantity of
them daily.

Some of the other fruits are the mango, pomegranate, pineapple,
zapota, tamarind, citron, fig, cocoa, lemon, rose-apple, and
breadfruit. Japan, India, and Ceylon afford nothing more fascinating
or strange in their vegetable kingdoms than this favored isle. The
fruits are simply wonderful in variety and perfection. One eats eggs,
custard, and butter off the trees. Though all these fruits are
universally eaten, the orange seems to be the Creole's favorite, and
if he be a person of even ordinary means, he seldom rises in the
morning until he has drunk his cup of coffee and eaten a couple of
oranges, brought fresh and prepared for him by a servant. The practice
is one into which the visitor falls very pleasantly, and finds it no
less refreshing than agreeable. It seems to rain oranges in Havana.
They are scarcely less cheap than the luscious banana.

The rose-apple grows on one of the most symmetrical trees in Cuba,
with strong, oval, glossy leaves. The blossoms are large, white, and
of pleasant odor, followed by a round fruit about as large as a
well-developed California peach, with a smooth skin, cream-colored
within and without. The pulp is as firm as a ripe seckel pear, and the
taste is so strong of otto-of-rose that more than one at a time palls
upon the palate. It is much used among the Cubans as an agreeable
flavoring for soups and puddings. Of the fruit trees the lemon is
perhaps the most attractive to the eye; for though small and dwarfish,
yet it presents the flowers, small green lemons, and the ripe yellow
fruit all together, reminding one of the Eastern alma. The green
leaves when young are nearly as fragrant as the lemon verbena.

The mammee is a curious fruit growing on lofty, umbrageous trees,
appearing as musk-melons would look if seen hanging in elm-trees.
Large and high-flavored, the fruit is solid in texture like the
American quince. The flavor of the mammee resembles our peach, though
not quite so delicate. Its color when ripe is a light yellow.

The mango is nearly as abundant and prolific as the banana, and yet it
came originally from the far East. It grows upon a very handsome tree,
the leaves being long, lanceolate, polished, and hanging in dense
masses of dark-green foliage. In size it is like a full-grown New
England apple tree. The mango is about thrice the size of an egg plum,
and when ripe is yellow in color, and grows in long pendant bunches.
When this fruit is at its best it is very juicy, and may be sucked
away like a grape. The negroes are immoderately fond of it, and when
permitted to do so are apt to make themselves ill by their greediness.

The cocoa-nut tree grows to the height of fifty feet and more,
differing from the royal palm by its drooping nature. At its summit is
a waving tuft of dark green, glossy, pinnate leaves, from ten to
fifteen feet in length, like mammoth plumes, immediately under which
are suspended the nuts in heavy bunches, often weighing three hundred
pounds. When the nut has attained nearly its full size, it is said to
be in the milk, and it then furnishes a delightful, cooling, and
healthful beverage. In taste it is sweetish, and its effect is that of
a slight diuretic.

The sapotilla is a noble fruit tree, with feathery, glossy leaves. The
blossoms are white and bell-shaped, with an agreeable perfume like an
apple-blossom. The fruit is round, about the size of a peach, the
skin being rough and dark like a russet apple or a potato, but when
fully ripe it is delicious, and melts away in the mouth like a
custard.

The pineapple, that king of fruits, though in itself presenting such a
fine appearance, is the plainest of all in its humble manner of
growth. It is found wild in Cuba, and there are several varieties
cultivated, none quite equal, it seemed to us, to those found in
Singapore and other equatorial islands. Its style of growth is the
same in either hemisphere. It grows singly upon its low stem, reaching
to a height of eighteen or twenty inches above the ground. A single
fruit-stem pushes up from the earth, blossoms, and in about eighteen
months from the planting it matures a single apple, weighing three or
four pounds and upwards; and what a royal fruit it is! A field well
covered with the yellow, ripening apples is a very beautiful sight.
Though the plant produces but one apple at a time, it will continue to
yield an annual crop for three or four years, if cultivated. It is
raised from slips, planted much as our farmers set out young cabbages
or lettuce.

The custard-apple grows wild, but is also cultivated and thereby much
improved. Its color externally is green, and it has a tough skin, is
of a subacid flavor, and as full of little flat black seeds as a shad
is of bones. It is much used in Cuba for flavoring purposes, and is
soft and juicy, each specimen weighing from a pound to a pound and a
half. The star-apple is so called because when cut through
transversely its centre presents the figure of a star. Even when quite
ripe the interior is green in color. Its flavor is exquisite, like
strawberries and cream, and it is eaten with a spoon, the outside
skin forming as it were a shell or cup.

The guava tree is small and resembles our young cherry trees. The
fruit is about the size of the lime, which it much resembles. It is
made little use of in its natural condition, but is in universal
demand as a preserve; the jelly made from it is famous all over the
world. When it is freshly cut, one will scent a whole room for hours
with its distinctive flavor.

The pomegranate, a general favorite in the torrid zone, flourishes in
Cuba, but is seen in much greater perfection in Africa. It is doubtful
if it is indigenous here, though it is now found in such abundance,
and as much depended upon for a food supply as apples are with us.
Doubtless the reader has seen the bush in bearing in our hothouses,
the fruit when cut being full of red seeds glistening like rubies.

The tamarind is a universal and thrifty tree in the island, lofty and
umbrageous, a quick grower and yet long-lived. The fruit is contained
in a pod,--like a full, ripe pea-pod,--covering mahogany-colored
seeds. The pulp when ripe and fresh is as soft as marmalade, and quite
palatable; its flavor is sugared acid. Steeped in water it forms a
delightful and cooling beverage, much used as a drink in the tropics.

The orange, lime, lemon, and citron are too well known to require
detailed description. The wild or bitter orange is much used for
hedges: its deep green glossy foliage and its fragrant blossoms and
its golden fruit make such hedges strikingly effective. The rind of
the bitter orange is used to make a sweetmeat with which we are all
familiar.

More than once the Moorish garden of the Alcazar, at Seville, and the
garden of Hesperides, at Cannes, were recalled in hours of delightful
wanderings among the orange groves of Cuba. Yet these latter are
neglected, or at least not generously cultivated, no such care being
given to them as is bestowed upon the orange orchards of Florida; but
the glowing sun and ardent breath of the tropics ask little aid from
the hand of man in perfecting their products. The fruits and flowers
of the American Archipelago--"air-woven children of light"--are not
only lavishly prolific, but perfect of their kind. No wonder that
scientists and botanists become poetical in their descriptions of
these regions.

The royal palm, so often alluded to, grows to the height of seventy
feet, more or less. It is singular that it should have no substance in
the interior of its trunk, though the outside to the thickness of a
couple of inches makes the finest of boards, and when seasoned is so
hard as to turn a board-nail at a single stroke of the hammer. It is
remarkable also that a palm tree which grows so high has such tiny,
thread-like roots, which, however, are innumerable. The top of the
palm yields a vegetable which is used as food and when boiled is
nutritious and palatable, resembling our cauliflower. Though there are
many species of palm in Cuba, one seldom sees the fan-palm, which
forms such a distinctive feature in equatorial regions as at Penang
and Singapore.

Humboldt thought that the entire island was once a forest of palms,
mingled with lime and orange trees. The mulberry tree, if not
indigenous, was found here at so early a period that it is a matter of
doubt as to its having been imported from other lands. It grows to
great perfection, and has led to several attempts in the direction of
silk-raising, the silkworm also proving more prolific even than in
Japan. Some of the fine, hard fancy woods of Cuba were employed in the
finish of apartments in the Escurial palace near Madrid. Ebony,
rosewood, fustic, lancewood, mahogany, and other choice woods are very
abundant, especially the mahogany, which grows to enormous size. The
exportation of them has only taken place where these woods were best
located for river transportation to harbors on the coast. The interior
of the island is so inaccessible that it has hardly been explored.
There are fertile valleys there of two hundred miles in length and
thirty in width, with an average temperature of 75°, a maximum of 88°,
and a minimum of 52°, thus affording a most perfect and healthful
climate, favorable to human and to vegetable life, and it should be
remembered that malarial diseases or yellow fever are unknown in the
districts removed from the coast, and no one ever heard of sunstroke
in Cuba.

It is somewhat remarkable that there should be no poisonous animals or
reptiles in the island, but so we were creditably informed. Snakes of
various species abound, but are considered entirely harmless, though
they are sometimes destructive to domestic fowls. During a pleasant
trip between San Antonio and Alquizar in a volante with a hospitable
planter of that region, this subject happened to be under discussion,
when we saw in the roadway a snake six or eight feet long, and as
large round as the middle of one's arm. On pointing it out to our
friend, he merely told us its species, and declared that a child might
sleep with it unharmed. In the mean time it was a relief to see the
innocent creature hasten to secrete itself in a lime hedge close at
hand. Lizards, tarantulas, and chameleons are frequently seen, but
are considered to be harmless. One often awakes in the morning to see
lizards upon his chamber wall, searching for flies and insects, upon
which they feed.

The Cuban bloodhound, of which we hear so much, is not a native of the
island, but belongs to an imported breed, resembling the English
mastiff, though with larger head and limbs. He is by nature a fierce,
bloodthirsty animal, but the particular qualities which fit him for
tracing the runaway slaves are almost entirely acquired by careful
training. This is accomplished by experts in the business, who are
sometimes Monteros, and sometimes French overseers of plantations who
are out of work or regular engagement. Each estate keeps some of these
dogs as a precautionary measure, but they are seldom called into use
of late, for so certain is the slave that he will be instantly
followed as soon as missed, and inevitably traced by the hounds, that
he rarely attempts to escape from his master unless under some
peculiarly aggravating cause. It may even be doubted whether a slave
would be pursued to-day were he to attempt to escape, because slavery
is so very near its last gasp. In one respect this is an advantage to
the negroes, since the master, feeling this indifference, grants the
blacks more freedom of action. So perfect of scent is the Cuban
bloodhound that the master has only to obtain a bit of clothing left
behind by the runaway and give it to the hound to smell. The dog will
then follow the slave through a whole population of his class, and
with his nose to the ground lead straight to his hiding-place.

For three centuries Cuba has been the hotbed of African slavery. Few,
if any, have been imported during the last thirty years, that is to
say since 1855, during which year some cargoes were successfully run.
In 1816, the Spanish government, in a solemn treaty, declared its
conviction of the injustice of the slave trade. On the 23d of
September, 1817, in consideration of four hundred thousand pounds
sterling paid as an equivalent by Great Britain, Spain ratified a
treaty proclaiming that the slave trade should cease throughout all
the dominions of that country on the 30th day of May, 1820, and that
it should not afterwards be lawful for any Spanish subject to purchase
slaves. It was further declared by the home government that all blacks
brought from Africa subsequent to that date should be at once set
free, and the vessel on which they were transported should be
confiscated, while the captain, crew, and others concerned should be
punished with ten years' penal servitude. Yet, as all the world knows,
this was nothing more than a dead letter so far as Cuba was concerned,
and so late as 1845, statistics show an arrival of imported slaves
from Africa of fifteen thousand negroes annually, for the previous
twenty years. Tacon, Governor-General from June, 1834, until April,
1838, like his predecessors and successors made no secret of receiving
seventeen dollars per head,--that is one doubloon,--on every slave
landed. Other officials spent their fees on themselves or hoarded them
for a fortune to be enjoyed on returning home to Spain, but Tacon
expended his in beautifying Havana and its environs. That the home
government secretly fostered the slave trade, notwithstanding the
solemn treaty entered into with Great Britain, no one pretends to
deny.

The coolie system, which was latterly substituted for that of the
importation of Africans, was commenced in 1847, but it was only
slavery under another form, being in point of humanity even more
objectionable. Fully seventy per cent. of the Chinese coolies died
during the eight years they were bound by their contract to serve
their masters! Even after that period was completed, unjust laws and
schemes were adopted to retain their services whenever the planters
desired it; but the truth is, the planters, after a thorough
experience, were generally glad to get rid of the Mongolians. All of
them were decoyed from home under false pretenses and large promises,
and only arrived in Cuba to find themselves virtually slaves. But
there was no help for them. They were thousands of miles from China,
in a land of whose language they knew nothing, and so they were
obliged to submit. If after their term of service expired they
succeeded in reaching Havana, or other Cuban cities, and by becoming
fruit peddlers or engaging in any other occupation tried to earn
sufficient money to carry them back to their native land, they still
were brutally treated by all parties, and were ever at the mercy of
the venal police. On the plantations they received perhaps a little
more consideration than the blacks, simply because they were less
tractable and more dangerous on account of their greater degree of
intelligence and keener sense of the wrong done them. The planter,
always short of laborers, has heretofore been willing to pay the
shipping-agencies four hundred dollars for a newly-arrived coolie,
whose services he thus secured for eight years, the coolies at the
expiration of the period to receive a mere nominal sum, out of which
they have mostly been cheated by some means or other. The whole
business of coolie importation is vile beyond measure, and must have
included in its aggregate over three hundred thousand Chinese. There
are still believed to be some sixty thousand left upon the island,
most of whom remain because they have no means of returning to their
native land. Half of these subsist by begging. Broken in health and
spirits, they await the coming of that final liberator who is the last
friend of suffering humanity.

The Chinese are best adapted to the work of the cigar factories, where
they excel in the occupation of cigar and cigarette making, and many
hundreds are thus employed in Havana. But they are totally unfit for
plantation labor, under the hardships of which their feeble frames
succumb. They prove themselves very good servants in the cities, being
very quick to learn, and ready to adapt themselves to any light
occupation. A Chinaman is sly, cunning, and, to a certain degree,
enterprising; but he must be trusted cautiously. As a house-servant,
footman, cook, or waiter he is admirable. Here, in this to him foreign
land, he cannot suppress his instinct for gambling; it seems to be
born in him, and he will often lose in an hour the hard accumulation
of months, or even years. As to the lottery, he is always the
purchaser of portions of tickets at every drawing, and occasionally
becomes a winner. A thrifty Chinaman, for there are some such even in
Havana, bearing the characteristic name of Ah-Lee, connected with a
bricabrac store on the Calzada de la Reina, held a lucky number in the
lottery drawn during our brief stay at the Hotel Telegrafo. When the
prizes were announced, he found that he was entitled to five hundred
dollars. The agents tried to pay Ah-Lee in Cuban currency, but he was
too smart for them, and showed them their own announcement promising
to cash all prizes, with the usual discount, in gold. So Ah-Lee got
his prize finally in gold. We were told by one whose experience was
extensive, and whose testimony was worthy of respect, that the coolies
would lie and steal with such apparent innocence as to deceive the
most wary, and that as regards their moral nature it seemed to be
totally undeveloped. For our own part we still sympathize with John.
He has been so outrageously cheated and abused from the hour when he
stepped on board the transport ship which brought him from China up to
the present time that he has learned the trick of it. If he is not
strong enough to demand his rights, we certainly hope that he may have
sufficient cunning to obtain them by outwitting his adversaries.

In their slave condition the Chinese coolies and the negroes were at
times so affected by a spirit of superstition as to cause them to
commit suicide, the latter actuated, as it seemed, by a feeling of
despair, the former through a vindictive spirit towards their masters.
Both were also moved by a superstitious conviction that their spirits
would at once be returned to their native land, to inhabit a sort of
spirit paradise or intermediate state between earth and heaven. It is
very strange that so peculiar and so similar a belief should be
indigenous in the minds of such distinctive races. At the period when
the free importation from Africa was carried on, the most difficult
thing the planters had to contend with was a proneness to suicide on
the part of those slaves who were newly imported, and who entertained
this same remarkable idea.

Though we abhor the entire system of Cuban labor, yet it cannot be
denied that the slaves, so far as material comfort goes, are better
lodged, fed, and cared for than four fifths of the population of
Ireland and India, and, furthermore, this comparison will hold good as
regards a large portion of continental Europe. A well-fed, well-kept
negro is twice as valuable, twice as serviceable to his master as a
neglected one, and no one knows this better than the master who
governs his slaves on purely mercenary grounds, and is yet very
careful to supply liberally their physical wants. These slaves are
descended from various African tribes, whose characteristics are so
marked as to be easily discernible even by strangers. The Congoes are
small in stature, but very agile and good workers, and in past years
they have been a favorite tribe. The Fantees are a larger race of
negroes, hard to manage, and possessing a revengeful nature. Those
from the Gold Coast are still more powerful in body, but are
good-natured and well-liked by planters. The Ebros are less black than
those already named, almost mulatto in complexion, and make favorite
house servants. The Ashantees are of another prominent tribe, and are
also popular as plantation hands, but not numerous.

The tattooed faces, bodies, and limbs of a large portion of the
slaves, especially of the hands upon the plantations, shows their
African nativity, while the smooth skin and generally greater degree
of intelligence of others show them to have been born in slavery upon
the island. These latter are mostly sought for service in the cities.
They are remarkably healthy when not overworked, and form the most
vigorous part of the population. When an epidemic breaks out among
the blacks, it seems to carry them off by wholesale, proving much more
fatal than among the whites. Cholera, small-pox, and pneumonia
sometimes sweep them off at a fearful rate. It is a curious fact that
if a negro is really ill, he requires just twice as much medicine to
affect him as a white person.

There are said to be three hundred thousand free negroes on the
island, of whom comparatively few are found inland upon the
plantations; they are all inclined to congregate in the cities and
large towns, where, truth compels us to say, they prove to be an idle
and vicious class, and as a body useless both to themselves and to the
public. There are believed to be at present in Cuba about one hundred
and forty thousand male and about sixty thousand female slaves. To
carry on the great industry of the island as systematized by the
planters, this number of hands is entirely inadequate. It is sometimes
asked how there came to be so many free negroes in the island. It
should be clearly understood that the laws which govern Cuba are made
by the home government, not by the planters or natives of Cuba, and
that indirectly these laws have long favored emancipation of the
blacks. For many years any slave has enjoyed the right to go to a
magistrate and have himself appraised, and upon paying the price thus
set upon himself he can receive his free papers. The valuation is made
by three persons, of whom the master appoints one, and the magistrate
two. The slave may pay by installments of fifty dollars at a time, but
he owes his full service to his master until the last and entire
payment is made. If the valuation be twelve hundred dollars, after the
slave has paid one hundred he owns one twelfth of himself, and the
master eleven twelfths, and so on. Until all is paid, however, the
master's dominion over the slave is complete. There has also long been
another peculiar law in operation. A slave may on the same valuation
compel his master to transfer him to any person who will pay the money
in full, and this has often been done where slave and master disagree.
This law, as will be seen, must have operated as it was designed to
do, as a check upon masters, and as an inducement for them to remove
special causes of complaint and dissatisfaction. It has also enabled
slaveholders of the better class, in the case of ill-usage of blacks,
to relieve them by paying down their appraised value and appropriating
their services to themselves. All this relates to the past rather than
the present, since, as we have explained, the relationship of slave
and master is now so nearly at an end as to render such arrangements
inoperative.

There was a law promulgated in 1870,--the outgrowth of the revolution
of 1868, which dethroned Isabella II.,--declaring every slave in Cuba
to be free after reaching the age of sixty, and also freeing the
children of all slaves born subsequent to that year. But that law has
been ignored altogether, and was not permitted even to be announced
officially upon the island. In the first place, few hard worked slaves
survive to the age of sixty; and in the second place, the children
have no one to look after or to enforce their rights. Spain never yet
kept troth with her subjects, or with anybody else, and the passage of
the law referred to was simply a piece of political finesse, designed
for the eye of the European states, and more particularly to soothe
England, which country had lately showed considerable feeling and
restlessness touching the disregard of all treaties between herself
and Spain.

The slaves who still remain upon the plantations appear in all outward
circumstances to be thoughtless and comparatively content; their light
and cheerful nature seems to lift them above the influence of brutal
treatment when it is encountered. That they have been called upon to
suffer much by being overtasked and cruelly punished in the past,
there is no doubt whatever, but it may be safely stated that their
condition has been greatly improved of late. The owners are obliged by
law to instruct the slaves in the Catholic faith, but this has never
been heeded to any extent by the planters, though all the children are
baptized in infancy. The law relative to the treatment of the negroes
also prescribes a certain quantity and quality of food to be regularly
furnished to them, but the masters are generally liberal in this
respect, and exceed the requirements of the law, as their mercenary
interest is obviously in that direction. The masters know by
experience that slaves will not work well unless well fed. With no
education or culture whatever, their intelligence remains at the
lowest ebb. "With plenty of food and sleep," said an owner to us,
"they are as easily managed as any other domestic animals."

Until latterly the slaves have been carefully watched at night, but
nearly all these precautions against their escaping from servitude
seem to have been dropped. They are no longer locked up in corral,
their special night quarters. Of course they are kept within certain
bounds, but the rigorous surveillance under which they have always
lived is no longer in force. The two sexes are nominally separated,
but as there is no strict recognition of the marital relation, and
free intercommunication between them really exists, the state of
morality may be imagined. It has always been customary for mothers to
receive certain consideration and partial relief from hard labor
during a reasonable period prior to and subsequent to their
confinement, with encouraging gifts from the masters, which has caused
them generally to covet the condition of maternity. Still the
proportion of female slaves on the plantations has always been so
small, compared with that of the other sex, that not nearly so many
children are born as would be supposed. Female slaves have generally
been sent to town service, even when born on the plantations.

It has always been clearly understood that the births on the part of
the negroes in Cuba have not nearly kept pace with the number of
deaths among them, even under apparently favorable circumstances. One
has not far to look for the reason of this. Promiscuous intercourse is
undoubtedly the predisposing cause, which is always an outgrowth of a
largely unequal division of the sexes. On the plantations the male
negroes outnumber the females ten to one. In the cities the males are
as five to one. When the slave trade was carried on between Africa and
the island, the plan was to bring over males only, but it was hardly
practicable to adhere strictly to the rule, so women were not declined
when a cargo was being made up and nearly completed. Thus a disparity
was inaugurated which has continued to the present day, with only a
slight equalizing tendency.

The present plan of freeing the slaves recommends itself to all
persons who fully understand the position, and if it be honestly
carried out will soon obliterate the crime of enforced labor upon the
island. A sudden freeing of the blacks, that is, all at once, would
have been attended with much risk to all parties, although justice and
humanity demand their liberation. France tried the experiment in St.
Domingo, and the result was a terrible state of anarchy. Not only did
she lose possession of the island, but the people settled down by
degrees into all the horrors of African savagery, even to cannibalism.
England followed, and generously paid the British planters of Jamaica
for all their slaves, giving the latter unconditional freedom. Of
course this ruined the island commercially, but it was strict justice,
nevertheless. Extreme measures are open to objection even in behalf of
justice. It was hoped that the freed negroes of Jamaica would become
thrifty and industrious, earning fair wages, and that crops would
still be remunerative, but it was not so. The negro of the tropics
will only work when he is compelled, and in the West Indies he has
scarcely more to do, as it regards sustaining life, than to pluck of
the wild fruits and to eat. The sugar plantations of Jamaica have
simply ceased to exist.

Every reasonable Cuban has long realized that the freedom of the
blacks was but a question of time, and that it must soon be brought
about, but how this could be accomplished without rendering them
liable to the terrible consequences which befell St. Domingo was a
serious problem. The commercial wreck of Jamaica had less terror for
them as an example, since of late their own condition could in that
respect hardly be worse. Therefore, the manumitting of one slave in
every four annually, so organized that all shall be free on January 1,
1888, is considered with great favor by the people generally, except
the most radical of old Spaniards. All are thus prepared for the
change, which is so gradually brought about as to cause no great
shock. It is not unreasonable to believe that the instantaneous
freeing of all the slaves would have led to mutual destruction of
whites and blacks all over the island.



                             CHAPTER XV.

    Slave Trade with Africa. -- Where the Slavers made their
    Landing. -- An Early Morning Ride. -- Slaves marching to
    Daily Labor. -- Fragrance of the Early Day. -- Mist upon the
    Waters. -- A Slave Ship. -- A Beautiful but Guilty
    Brigantine. -- A French Cruiser. -- Cunning Seamanship. -- A
    Wild Goose Chase. -- A Cuban Posada. -- Visit to a Coffee
    Estate. -- Landing a Slave Cargo. -- A Sight to challenge
    Sympathy and Indignation. -- Half-Starved Victims. --
    Destruction of the Slave Ship.


The author's first visit to the island of Cuba was during the year
1845, at a period when the slave traffic was vigorously, though
surreptitiously carried on between Africa and the island. The trade
was continued so late as 1853, and occasional cargoes were brought
over even later, slavers having been captured on the south coast two
years subsequent to the last named date. The slave vessels generally
sought a landing on the south side, both as being nearest and safest
for them, but when they were hard pressed they made a port wherever it
could be most easily reached. A favorite point at the time of which we
speak, was in the Bay of Broa, on the south coast, nearly opposite to
the Isle of Pines. It was here in 1845 that the author witnessed a
scene which forms the theme of the following chapter. A superior
knowledge of all the hidden bays and inlets of the south side gave the
contrabandists great advantages over any pursuing vessel, and their
lighter draught of water enabled them to navigate their small crafts
where it was impossible for a heavy ship to follow.

We were on a brief visit to the coffee estate of Don Herero, near
Guines, and having expressed a desire to visit the southern coast, our
host proposed that we should do so together on the following day. We
were to start on horseback quite early in the morning, so as to
accomplish the distance before the heat of the sun should become
oppressive.

The early day is almost as beautiful as the evenings of this region, a
fact to which we were fully awakened at an early hour, after a
refreshing night's sleep. Don Herero was already awaiting us on the
broad piazza, which we reached in time to see the slaves, directed by
an overseer, file past the house towards the field. "A couple of hours
before sunrise," said our host, "is the best time for them to work,
and we add these two hours to their noon rest, so that it divides the
labor to better advantage and avoids the midday heat." There were
perhaps seventy or eighty of this gang of slaves, one fifth only being
women. Don Herero went among them and exchanged some pleasant words,
mostly with the women, one of whom, evidently in a delicate situation,
he singled out and led aside, directing her to return to the huts. It
seemed that she had prepared to go to the field, but he did not
approve of it, and she acquiesced good naturedly. It was observed also
that he gave her a piece of money with a pleasant word, bidding her to
purchase some coveted piece of finery,--probably a gaudy "bandana," of
whose bright colors the negro women are very fond, binding them
turban-fashion about their curly heads. Another passion among the
Cuban negresses is a desire for large hoop earrings. Silver, or even
brass will answer, if gold cannot be obtained.

As we rode off that delicious morning towards our destination, mounted
upon a couple of bright little easy-going Cuban ponies, with their
manes and tails roached (that is, trimmed closely, after a South
American fashion), the cool, fresh air was as stimulating as wine. At
first we passed down the long avenue of palms which formed the
entrance of the plantation, and which completely embowered the road,
like the grand old oaks one sometimes sees lining the avenues to rural
English estates. The delicious fragrance of the morning atmosphere,
still moist with dew, the richness of the foliage, and the abundance
of fruit and flowers were charming beyond description. We glided along
at an easy gait over the roads, which in this thickly populated
district were smooth and admirably kept, lined on either side by
hedges of the flowering aloe, intermingled with many sweet-scented
shrubs, all trimmed with mathematical precision. But the gayest and
prettiest hedges were composed of the bitter orange, all aglow with
small yellow fruit, hanging in almost artificial regularity and
abundance. This immediate district was at that time in possession of
wealthy owners, who vied with each other in rendering their
surroundings attractive to the eye. Now and again we met little gangs
of trusted slaves, who had been sent out on special errands, all of
whom recognized Don Herero, and made him a respectful obeisance, which
he very carefully returned. There is a strict degree of etiquette
sustained in regard to these small matters between the slaves and
whites, which goes far in maintaining respect and discipline.

A ride of a couple of leagues or more brought us finally to a gentle
rise of ground, which opened to our view the ocean, and a line of
coast extending for many miles east and west. It was still quite
early, and a morning mist hung over the quiet Caribbean Sea, which
stretches away southward towards the Isle of Pines and the more
distant isle of Jamaica. A gentle breeze began at that moment to
disperse the mist and gradually in conjunction with the sun to lift
the veil from the face of the waters. For a considerable time,
however, only a circumscribed view was to be had, but Don Herero
observed that the mist was quite unusual; indeed, that he had seen
such a phenomenon but once or twice before on Cuban shores. He assured
us that with the exercise of a little patience we should soon be
rewarded by a clear and extensive view. So dismounting and lighting
our cigars we leaned upon the saddles of the horses and watched the
wreaths of the mist bank gradually dissolving. To the eastward there
jutted out a promontory with a considerable elevation, behind which
the sun began to show his florid countenance. Presently the indistinct
outline of a graceful tracery of spars and cordage greeted the eye
through the misty gauze, growing steadily more and more distinct and
gradually descending towards the sea level, until at last there lay
before us in full view, with a look of treacherous tranquillity, the
dark, low hull of a brigantine.

"A slaver!" was the mutual and simultaneous exclamation which burst
from our lips as we gazed intently on the small but symmetrical
vessel.

Don Herero looked particularly intelligent, but said nothing. There
could be no doubt as to the trade which engaged such a clipper craft.
No legitimate commerce was suggested by her appearance, no honest
trade demanded such manifest sacrifice of carrying capacity. It was
very natural that her guilty character should add interest to her
appearance and cause us to examine her very minutely. A short distance
from where we stood there was gathered a group of a dozen or more
persons, who silently regarded the brigantine, but they evinced no
surprise at her appearance there so close to the shore. She was of a
most graceful model, perfect in every line, with bows almost as sharp
as a knife. The rig was also quite unusual and entirely new to us. Her
deck was flush fore and aft. Not so much as an inch of rise was
allowed for a quarter-deck, a style which gave large stowage capacity
below deck, the level of which came up to within a couple of feet of
the cappings of the bulwarks. As we have before intimated, it required
no interpreter to indicate what business the brigantine was engaged
in. A single glance at her, lying in so unfrequented a place, was
enough. The rakish craft was of Baltimore build, of about two hundred
tons measurement, and, like many another vessel turned out by the
Maryland builders, was designed to make successfully the famous middle
passage to or from the coast of Cuba, loaded with kidnapped negroes
from the shores of Africa. The two requisites of these clippers were
great speed and large stowage capacity for a human freight.

At first it appeared as though Don Herero had purposely brought us
here to witness the scene, but this he insisted was not the case,
declaring that the presence of the slaver was a surprise to him. Be
that as it may, it was clear that a cargo of negroes was about to be
landed, and certain rapid signals had been exchanged by flags from a
neighboring hut ever since the mist lifted. Repulsive as the idea was
to a Northerner, still it would do no good to avoid the sight, and so
we resolved to witness the disembarkation. Our friend, though a
slaveholder, was so more by force of circumstances than through his
own choice; he did not defend the institution at all. His solemn
convictions were entirely against slavery, and he more than once said
he heartily wished that some means might be devised which should
gradually and effectually relieve the planters from the entire system
and its many troubles. Don Herero now lies in one of the tombs in the
Campo Santo, near Havana, but were he living he would doubtless
rejoice at the present manner of solving a question which was so
involved in perplexity during the last of his days.

While we were exchanging some remarks upon the subject, our attention
was suddenly drawn towards another striking object upon the waters of
the bay.

Nearly a league beyond the slaver, looming up above the mist, we could
now make out three topmasts, clearly defined, the stately set of
which, with their firm and substantial rig, betrayed the fact that
there floated beneath them the hull of a French or an English
man-of-war, such as was commissioned at that time to cruise in these
waters for the purpose of intercepting and capturing the vessels
engaged in the African slave trade.

"A cruiser has scented the brigantine," said Don Herero.

"It certainly appears so," we affirmed.

"Unless there be sharp eyes on board the little craft, the cruiser
will be down upon her before her people even suspect their danger."

"The brigantine can hardly escape, at any rate," we suggested.

"Don't be too sure," said Don Herero.

It was impossible for our friend to suppress the nervous anxiety which
so manifestly actuated him as he viewed the new phase of affairs.

"Look! Look!" he exclaimed.

While he spoke, a drapery of snow-white canvas fell like magic from
the spars of the slaver, ready to catch the first breath of the breeze
which the stranger was bringing down with him, though the larger
vessel was still partially wrapped in a thin bank or cloud of fog. A
couple of long sweeps were rigged out of either bow of the brigantine,
and her prow, which just before was heading shoreward, was swung to
seaward, while her canvas was trimmed to catch the first breath of the
on-coming breeze.

"This looks like business," said Don Herero with emphasis, at the same
time shading his eyes with both hands to get a better view of the
situation.

"Can you define the new-comer's nationality?" we asked.

"Not yet."

"See! she is now in full sight."

"French!" exclaimed Don Herero, as the tri-colors were clearly visible
hanging from her peak.

"What will the cruiser do with the brigantine?" we asked.

"First catch your hare," said our friend.

Our host then explained that the slaver had evidently intended to land
her cargo under cover of the night, but had been prevented by the mist
from coming to anchor in time. Fog, being so seldom known on this
coast, had not entered into their calculations. She had most likely
felt her way towards the shore by soundings, and was waiting for full
daylight when we discovered her.

While this explanation was being made, the brigantine had already got
steerage way upon her, aided by the steady application of the sweeps,
and her sharp bow was headed off shore. Nothing on the sea, unless it
were a steamer, could hold speed with these fly-aways, which were
built for just such emergencies as the present. The gradually
freshening breeze had now dispersed the mist, and the two vessels were
clearly in view from the shore and to each other. The remarkable
interest of the scene increased with each moment. Don Herero, with all
the excitability of his nationality, could hardly contain himself as
he walked rapidly back and forth, always keeping his eyes towards the
sea.

The cruiser had come down under an easy spread of canvas, wearing a
jib, three topsails, fore, main, and mizzen, and her spanker. It did
not appear as if she had any previous intimation of the presence of
the slaver, but rather that she was on the watch for just such a
quarry as chance had placed within reach of her guns. The moment she
discovered the brigantine, and at a signal which we could not hear
upon the land, a hundred dark objects peopled her shrouds and spars,
and sail after sail of heavy duck was rapidly dropped and sheeted
home, until the mountain of canvas began to force the large hull
through the water with increasing speed.

In the mean time the lesser craft had been by no means idle. In
addition to the regular square and fore and aft sails of a brigantine,
she had a mizzen-mast stepped well aft not more than four feet from
her taffrail, upon which she had hoisted a spanker and gaff-topsail,
thus completing a most graceful and effective rig, and spreading a
vast amount of canvas for a vessel of her moderate tonnage. It was
quite impossible to take one's eyes off the two vessels. It was a race
for life with the slaver, whose people worked with good effect at the
sweeps and in trimming their sails to make the most out of the light
but favorable wind that was filling them. The larger vessel would have
made better headway in a stiff breeze or half a gale of wind, but the
present moderate breeze favored the guilty little brigantine, which
was every moment forging ahead and increasing the distance between
herself and her enemy.

"Do you see that commotion on the cruiser's bow?" asked our friend
eagerly.

"Some men are gathered on the starboard bow," was our answer.

"Ay, and now she runs out a gun!"

That was plain enough to see. The cruiser trained a bow-chaser to bear
on the slaver, and the boom of the gun came sluggishly over the sea a
few seconds after the puff of smoke was seen. A quick eye could see
the dash of the shot just astern of the brigantine, where it must have
cast the spray over her quarter-deck. After a moment's delay, as if to
get the true range, a second, third, and fourth shot followed, each
ricochetting through and over the slight waves either to starboard or
port of the slaver, without any apparent effect. The brigantine, still
employing her sweeps, and with canvas well trimmed, took no notice of
the shots.

Every time the gun was discharged on board the cruiser, it became
necessary to fall off her course just a point or two in order to get a
proper aim, and her captain was quick to see the disadvantage of this,
as he was only assisting the slaver to widen the distance between
them. It would seem to the uninitiated to be the easiest thing
possible to cripple the brigantine by a few well directed shots, but
when sailing in the wake of an enemy this is by no means so easily
done. Besides, the distance between the two vessels, which was
considerable, was momentarily increasing. Notwithstanding that the
broad spread of canvas on board the slaver made her a conspicuous
mark, still, so far as could be seen or judged of by her movements,
she remained untouched by half a dozen shots, more or less, which the
cruiser sent after her as she slipped away from her big adversary. We
could even see that the sweeps were now taken in, showing that the
master of the slaver considered the game to be in his own hands.

"The brigantine steers due south," said our friend, rubbing his hands
together eagerly. "She will lead the Frenchman a wild goose chase
among the Cayman Isles, where he will be most likely to run aground
with his heavy draught of water. The sea round about for leagues is
underlaid by treacherous coral reefs. We shall see, we shall see," he
reiterated.

"But they must certainly have a good pilot on board the cruiser," we
ventured to say.

"Undoubtedly," replied Don Herero, "but the brigantine is built with a
centre-board, thus having, as it were, a portable keel, and can sail
anywhere that a man could swim, while the cruiser, with all her
armament, must draw nearly three fathoms. A ship will sometimes follow
a chase into dangerous water."

"True," we responded, "the brigantine's safety lies in seeking shoal
water."

"You are right, and that will be her game."

In half an hour both vessels were hull down in the offing, and were
soon invisible from our point of view. The early ride and subsequent
excitement had developed in us a healthy appetite, and we were
strongly reminded of the fact that we had not breakfasted. We were
near the little hamlet of Lenore, where there was a small inn, which
we had passed on the way, and towards which we now turned our horses'
heads. A breakfast of boiled eggs, fried plantains, and coffee was
prepared for us and well served, much to our surprise, supplemented by
a large dish of various fruits, ripe and delicious. Don Herero had
left us for a few moments while the breakfast was preparing, and it
must have been owing to his intelligent instructions that we were so
nicely served, for, as a rule, country posadas in Cuba are places to
be avoided, being neither cleanly nor comfortable. For strangers they
are not entirely safe, as they are frequented by a very rough class of
people. These idlers do not indulge in spirituous liquors to excess,
partaking only of the light Cataline wine in universal use both in
Spain and her colonies. Intemperance is little seen outside the large
cities, but gambling and quarreling are ever rampant among the class
who frequent these posadas. In the present instance there were a dozen
and more individuals in the Lenore inn who were more or less connected
with the expected arrival of the slave brigantine, and the
disappointment caused by the arrival upon the scene of the French
cruiser had put them all in a very bad humor. Angry words were being
exchanged among them in the large reception apartment, and Don Herero
suggested that we should finish our cigars under an inviting shade in
the rear of the posada.

At our host's suggestion a neighboring coffee plantation was visited,
and its floral and vegetable beauties thoroughly enjoyed. It was in
the very height of fragrance and promise, the broad expanse of the
plantation, as far as the eye could extend, being in full bloom. Some
hours were agreeably passed in examining the estate, the slaves'
quarters, and the domestic arrangements, and also in partaking of the
hospitalities of the generous owner, after which we rode back to
Lenore.

"We must not miss the closing act of our little drama," said Don
Herero, significantly.

"The closing act?" we inquired.

"Certainly. You do not suppose we have yet done with the brigantine?"

"Oh, the brigantine. Will she dare to return, now the cruiser has
discovered her?"

"Of course she will, after dropping her pursuer. Strange that these
French cruisers do not understand these things better; but so it is."

And Don Herero explained that the French cruisers watched the southern
coasts of the island, while the English cruised on the northern shore,
attempted to blockade it, and also cruised farther seaward, on the
line between Africa and Cuba. A couple of American men-of-war, engaged
in the same purpose of suppressing the slave trade, patrolled the
African coast. It was nearly night before we got through our dinner at
the posada. Just as we were preparing to leave the table, the landlord
came in and announced to Don Herero that if we desired to witness the
close of the morning's business in the bay, we must hurry up to the
plateau.

We hastened to our former position, reaching it just in time to see
the brigantine again rounding the headland. She now ran in close to
the shore, where there seemed to be hardly water sufficient to float
her, but the exactness and system which characterized her movements
showed that her commander was not a stranger to the little bay in
which he had brought his vessel. All was instantly bustle and
activity, both on board and on shore. There were not more than twenty
people to be seen at the shore, but each one knew his business, and
went about it intelligently. There was no more loud talking or
disputation. These men, all armed, were accustomed to this sort of
thing, and had evidently been awaiting the slaver's arrival for some
days. They were a rough-looking set of desperadoes, among whom we
recognized several who had been at the posada.

The brigantine was quickly moored as near to the shore as possible,
and a broad gangway of wood was laid from her deck to a projecting
rock, over which a long line of dark objects was hurried, like a flock
of sheep, and nearly as naked as when born into the world. We walked
down to the landing-place, in order to get a closer view. The line of
human beings who came out from below the deck of the slaver were
mostly full-grown men, but occasionally a woman or a boy came out and
hastened forward with the rest. As we drew nearer, one or two of the
women, it was observed, had infants in their arms, little unconscious
creatures, sound asleep, and so very young that they must have been
born on the voyage. How the entire scene appealed to our indignation
and sympathy! What misery these poor creatures must have endured,
cooped up for twenty-one days in that circumscribed space! They were
all shockingly emaciated, having sustained life on a few ounces of
rice and a few gills of water daily distributed to them. The
atmosphere, thoroughly poisoned when so confined, had proved fatal to
a large number. As we stood there, one dark body was passed up from
below the deck and quietly dropped into the bay. Life was extinct. It
was quite impossible to suppress a shudder as we looked upon the
disgraceful scene, which being observed Don Herero said,--

"They look bad enough now, but a few days in the open air, with a
plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, and sweet water to drink, will
bring them round. They will get a good bath directly at the first
river they cross, which is the thing they most require."

While our friend was speaking, four tall, gaunt, fierce-looking
negroes passed us, shackled two by two at the wrists. Their eyes
rolled curiously about, full of wonder at all they saw, everything was
to them so strange. They knew no more than children just born what was
in store for them.

"Poor fellows!" we ejaculated. Perhaps they detected sympathy in the
tone of voice in which the words were uttered. They could not
understand their purport, but all four were observed to turn their
eyes quickly towards us, with an intelligent expression.

"These are Ashantees," said Don Herero. "They have thriven but poorly
on their small allowance of nourishment, but they will improve rapidly
like the rest, now they have landed. They belong to a powerful tribe
in Africa, and are rarely captured and sold to the factories on the
coast. They are sturdy and serviceable fellows, but they must be
humored. The lash will not subdue them. They bring a high price in
Havana for harbor workers."

Hastening back to the posada, a large basket of cassava bread and an
abundance of ripe bananas and oranges, with half a dozen bottles of
wine, were procured. With these, carried by a couple of colored boys,
we hastened back to the landing-place in time to distribute the
refreshments to all the women and boys. The balance of the provisions
were dealt out to the few men who had not already been hurried away
from the spot. It is impossible to describe the surprise and grateful
expression upon those dusky faces among the half-famished creatures,
as they eagerly swallowed a portion of the wine, and ate freely of the
delicious fruit and nourishing bread.

We were told afterwards that there were about three hundred and fifty
of these poor creatures originally embarked, and over three hundred
were landed. Perhaps between thirty and forty had died on the passage,
unable to sustain life under such awful circumstances, packed, as they
necessarily were, almost like herring in a box. Once a day, in fair
weather, thirty or forty at a time were permitted to pass a half hour
on deck. That was all the respite from their confinement which they
enjoyed during the three weeks' voyage. The horrors of the "middle
passage" have not been exaggerated.

"They must have lost many of their number by death, on the voyage," we
suggested to Don Herero, as we observed their weak and tremulous
condition.

"Doubtless," was the response.

"And what do they do in that case?"

"They have the ocean always alongside," was his significant reply.

"They throw them over as they did that body just now?" we asked.

"Exactly. And many a poor sick creature is cast into the sea before
life is extinct," he continued.

"That is adding murder to piracy," was our natural and indignant
rejoinder.

"Hush!" said Don Herero, "these are sensitive people, and desperate
ones, as well. I should find it difficult to protect you if they were
to overhear and understand such words."

We realized that his remarks were true enough. We were in a land of
slavery, and that meant that everything evil was possible.

The last of the living freight had been landed, and arranged in
marching trim they were turned with their faces inland, staggering as
they went, their swollen and cramped limbs hardly able to sustain the
weight of their bodies. They were all secured with handcuffs, twenty
in a lot, between whom,--there being ten on a side,--a pole was
placed, and each was fastened by a chain running through the steel
handcuffs to the pole. An armed Spaniard directed each lot. The faces
of all were quite expressionless. They had just endured such horrors
packed beneath the deck of the brigantine that the present change must
have been welcome to them, lame as they were.

We had been so completely engaged in watching the colored gangs and in
moving up to our lookout station of the early morning that our
thoughts had not reverted to anything else, but as the last lot filed
by there boomed over the waters of the bay the heavy report of a gun,
at once calling our attention seaward. A change had come over the
scene. That which has taken some space to relate had transpired with
great rapidity. Night had settled over the scene, but the moon and
stars were so marvelously bright as to render objects almost as plain
as by day. The ocean lay like a sheet of silver, luminous with the
reflected light poured upon it by the sparkling skies. Looking towards
the southeast, we saw the French cruiser rounding the headland which
formed the eastern arm of the little bay, and she had already sent a
shot across the water aimed at the brigantine. Don Herero had
prognosticated correctly. The slaver had led the cruiser a fruitless
chase and lost her among the islands, and then returning to her former
anchorage had successfully discharged her cargo. Her tactics could not
have been anticipated by the cruiser, yet had an armed party been left
behind in boats, the brigantine might have been captured on her
return. But then again, if the cruiser had left a portion of her crew
at this point, the slaver would have been notified by the friends on
shore, and would have sought a landing elsewhere.

The brigantine had cast off her moorings and was now standing seaward,
with her sails filled. We could distinctly see a quarter boat leave
her side manned by some of her crew, who at once pulled towards the
nearest landing. At the same time a bright blaze sprang up on board
the slaver just amidships, and in a moment more it crept, like a
living serpent, from shroud to shroud and from spar to spar, until the
graceful brigantine was one sheet of flame! It was dazzling to look
upon, even at the distance where we stood, the body of high-reaching
flame being sharply defined against the background of sky and blue
water.

While we watched the glowing view the cruiser cautiously changed her
course and bore away, for fire was an enemy with which she could not
contend. Presently there arose a shower of blazing matter heavenward,
while a confused shock and a dull rumbling report filled the
atmosphere, as the guilty brigantine was blown to atoms! Hemmed in as
she was there could be no hope of escape. Her mission was ended, and
her crew followed their usual orders, to destroy the ship rather than
permit her to fall a prize to any government cruisers.



                             CHAPTER XVI.

    Antique Appearance of Everything. -- The Yeomen of Cuba. -- A
    Montero's Home. -- Personal Experience. -- The Soil of the
    Island. -- Oppression by the Government. -- Spanish Justice
    in Havana. -- Tax upon the Necessities of Life. -- The
    Proposed Treaty with Spain. -- A One-Sided Proposition. -- A
    Much Taxed People. -- Some of the Items of Taxation. -- Fraud
    and Bankruptcy. -- The Boasted Strength of Moro Castle. --
    Destiny of Cuba. -- A Heavy Annual Cost to Spain. --
    Political Condition. -- Pictures of Memory.


Everything in Cuba has an aspect of antiquity quite Egyptian. The
style of the buildings is not unlike that of the Orient, while the
trees and vegetable products increase the resemblance. The tall,
majestic palms, the graceful cocoanut trees, the dwellings of the
lower classes and many other peculiarities give to the scenery an
Eastern aspect quite impressive. It is impossible to describe the
vividness with which each object, artificial or natural, house or
tree, stands out in the clear liquid light where there is no haze to
interrupt the view. Indeed, it is impossible to express how
essentially everything differs in this sunny island from our own
country. The language, the people, the climate, the manners and
customs, the architecture, the foliage, the flowers, all offer broad
contrasts to what the American has so lately left behind him. It is
but a long cannon shot, as it were, off our southern coast, yet once
upon its soil the stranger seems to have been transported to another
quarter of the globe. It would require but little effort of the
imagination to believe one's self in distant Syria, or some remoter
part of Asia.

One never tires of watching the African population, either in town or
country. During the hours which the slaves are allowed to themselves,
they are oftenest seen working on their own allotted piece of ground,
where they raise favorite fruits and vegetables, besides corn for
fattening the pig penned up near by, and for which the drover who
regularly visits the plantations will pay them in good hard money.
Thus it has been the case, in years past, that thrifty slaves have
earned the means of purchasing their freedom, after which they have
sought the cities, and have swelled the large numbers of free negroes
who naturally tend towards these populous centres. Some become
caleseros, some labor upon the water-front of the town as stevedores,
porters, and the like, but the majority are confirmed idlers. In the
cities even the slaves have always had a less arduous task to perform
than those on the plantations. They are less exposed to the sun, and
are as a rule allowed more freedom and privileges. The women never
fail to exhibit the true negro taste for cheap jewelry. A few gaudy
ribbons and a string of high-colored glass beads about the neck are
greatly prized by them. Sometimes the mistress of a good looking
negress takes great pleasure in decking her immediate attendant in
grand style, with big gold finger rings, large hoop earrings, wide
gold necklace, and the like. A bright calico gown and a flaring
bandana kerchief bound about the head generally complete the costume
of these petted slaves. There was one sight observed in the church of
Santa Clara of significance in this connection. Before the altar all
distinction ceased, and the negress knelt on the same bit of carpet
beside the mistress.

The native soil of Cuba is so rich that a touch of the hoe prepares it
for the plant. It is said to be unsurpassed in the world in this
respect, and only equaled by Australia. The Monteros have little more
to do than to gather produce, which they carry daily to the nearest
market, and which also forms their own healthful and palatable food.
Nowhere are the necessities of life so easily supplied, or are men so
delicately nurtured. And yet to our Northern eye these Monteros seemed
rather a forlorn sort of people, forming a class by themselves, and
regarded with disdain by the Spaniards and most Creoles, as our
Southern slaveholders used to regard the poor whites of the South. If
one may judge by appearances they are nearly as poor in purse as they
can be. Their home, rude and lowly, consists generally of a cabin with
a bamboo frame, covered by a palm-leaf roof, and with an earthen
floor. There are a few broken hedges, and numbers of ragged or naked
children. Pigs, hens, goats, all stroll ad libitum in and out of the
cabin. The Montero's tools--few and poorly adapted--are Egyptian-like
in primitiveness, while the few vegetables are scarcely cultivated at
all. The chaparral about his cabin is low, tangled, and thorny, but it
is remarkable what a redeeming effect a few graceful palms impart to
the crudeness of the picture.

The Montero raises, perhaps, some sweet potatoes, which, by the bye,
reach a very large size in Cuban soil. He has also a little patch of
corn, but _such_ corn. When ripe it is only three or four feet in
height, or less than half the average of our New England growth, the
ears mere nubbins. This corn grows, however, all the year round, and
is fed green to horses and cattle. All this is done upon a very small
scale. No one lays in a stock of anything perishable. The farmer's or
the citizen's present daily necessities alone are provided for.
Idleness and tobacco occupy most of the Montero's time, varied by the
semi-weekly attractions of the cock-pit. The amount of sustaining food
which can be realized from one of these little patches of ground, so
utterly neglected, is something beyond credence to those who have not
looked bountiful nature in the face in Cuba.

While traveling in the vicinity of Guines, the author stopped at one
of these lonely Montero homes to obtain water and refreshment for his
horse. These were promptly furnished in the form of a pail of water
and a bundle of green cornstalks. In the mean time the rude
hospitality of the cabin was proffered to us, and we gladly sat down
to partake of cocoanut milk and bananas. One of the family pets of the
cabin consisted of a tall white bird of the crane species, which,
regardless of goat, kid, hens, chickens, and children, came boldly to
our side as though accustomed to be petted, and greedily devoured the
banana which was peeled for him and cut into tempting bits. One wing
had evidently been cut so that the bird could not fly away, but his
long, vigorous legs would have defied pursuit, had he desired to
escape. Four children, two of each sex, two of whom were white and two
mulatto, quite naked, and less than ten years of age, kept close to
the Montero's Creole wife, watching us with big, wondering eyes, and
fingers thrust into their mouths. What relationship they bore to the
household was not clearly apparent. On rising to depart and attempting
to pay for the entertainment, the master of the cabin, with true Cuban
hospitality, declined all remuneration; but a handful of small silver
divided among the children satisfied all, and we parted with a hearty
pressure of the hand.

The richest soil of the island is black, which is best adapted to
produce the sugar-cane, and is mostly devoted, if eligibly located, to
that purpose. To a Northerner, accustomed to see so much enrichment
expended upon the soil to force from it an annual return, this
profuseness of unstimulated yield is a surprise. The red soil of Cuba,
which is impregnated with the oxide of iron, is less rich, and is
better adapted to the coffee plantation. The mulatto-colored earth is
considered to be inferior to either of the others named, but is by no
means unproductive, being preferred by the tobacco growers, who,
however, often mingle a percentage of other soils with it, as we
mingle barnyard refuse with our natural soil. Some tobacco planters
have resorted by way of experiment to the use of guano, hoping to
stimulate the native properties of the soil, but its effect was found
to be not only exhausting to the land, but also bad for the leaf,
rendering it rank and unfit for delicate use.

Coal is found near Havana, though it is of rather an inferior quality,
and, so far as we could learn, is but little used, the planters
depending mostly upon the refuse of the cane with which to run their
boilers and engines. Trees have been only too freely used for fuel
while accessible, but great care is now taken to utilize the cane
after the juice is expressed. Trees, which are so much needed in this
climate for shade purposes, have mostly disappeared near Havana. When
Columbus first landed here he wrote home to Spain that the island was
so thickly wooded as to be impassable.

The lovely climate and beautiful land are rendered gloomy by the state
of oppression under which they suffer. The exuberant soil groans with
the burdens which are heaped upon it. The people are not safe from
prying inquiry at bed or board. Their every action is watched, their
slightest words noted and perhaps distorted. They can sing no song of
liberty, and even to hum an air wedded to republican verse is to
provoke suspicion. The press is muzzled by the iron hand of power. Two
hours before a daily paper is distributed on the streets of Havana, a
copy must be sent to the government censor. When it is returned with
his indorsement it may be issued to the public. The censorship of the
telegraph is also as rigorously enforced. Nor do private letters
through the mails escape espionage. No passenger agent in Havana dares
to sell a ticket for the departure of a stranger or citizen without
first seeing that the individual's passport is indorsed by the police.
Foreign soldiers fatten upon the people, or at least they eat out
their substance, and every town near the coast is a garrison, every
interior village a military depot.

Upon landing, if well advised, one is liberal to the petty officials.
Chalk is cheap. A five-dollar gold-piece smooths the way wonderfully,
and causes the inspector to cross one's baggage with his chalk and no
questions asked. No gold, no chalk! Every article must be scrupulously
examined. It is cheapest to pay, humiliating as it is, and thus
purchase immunity.

As a specimen of the manner in which justice is dispensed in Havana
to-day, a case is presented which occurred during our stay at the
Telegrafo Hotel. A native citizen was waylaid by three men and robbed
of his pocket-book and watch, about fifty rods from the hotel, at
eight o'clock in the evening. The rascal who secured the booty,
threatening his victim all the while with a knife at his throat,
instantly ran away, but the citizen succeeded in holding on to the
other two men until his outcries brought the police to the spot. The
two accomplices were at once imprisoned. Three days later they were
brought before an authorized court, and tried for the robbery. Being
taken red-handed, as it were, one would suppose their case was clear
enough, and that they would be held until they gave up their
accomplice. Not so, however. The victim of the robbery, who had lost a
hundred and sixty dollars in money and a valuable gold watch, was
coolly rebuked for carrying so much property about his person, and the
case was dismissed! Had the sufferer been a home Spaniard possibly the
result would have been different. The inference is plain and doubtless
correct, that the official received half the stolen property, provided
he would liberate the culprits. Sometimes, as we were assured, the
victim outbids the rogues, and exemplary punishment follows!

Flour of a good commercial quality sells at present in Boston for six
dollars per barrel. Why should it cost fourteen dollars in Havana and
other ports of Cuba? Because Spain demands a tax of one hundred per
cent. to be paid into the royal treasury upon this prime necessity of
life. This one example is sufficient to illustrate her policy, which
is to extort from the Cubans every possible cent that can be obtained.
The extraordinary taxation imposed upon their subjects by the German
and Austrian governments is carried to the very limit, it would seem,
of endurance, but taxation in Cuba goes far beyond anything of the
sort in Europe. Spain now asks us to execute with her a "favorable"
reciprocity treaty. Such a treaty as she proposes would be of very
great benefit to Spain, no doubt, but of none, or comparatively none,
to us. Whatever we seemingly do for Cuba in the matter of such a
treaty we should do indirectly for Spain. She it is who will reap all
the benefit. She has still upon her hands some fifty to sixty thousand
civil and military individuals, who are supported by a miserable
system of exaction as high and petty officials in this misgoverned
island.

It is for the interest of this army of locusts in possession to keep
up the present state of affairs,--it is bread and butter to them,
though it be death to the Cubans. Relieved of the enormous taxation
and oppression generally which her people labor under in every
department of life, Cuba would gradually assume a condition of thrift
and plenty. But while she is so trodden upon, so robbed in order to
support in luxury a host of rapacious Spaniards, and forbidden any
voice in the control of her own affairs, all the treaty concessions
which we could make to Spain would only serve to keep up and
perpetuate the great farce. Such a treaty as is proposed would be in
reality granting to Spain a subsidy of about thirty million dollars
per annum! This conclusion was arrived at after consultation with
three of the principal United States consuls on the island. Cuba
purchases very little from us; she has not a consuming population of
over three hundred thousand. The common people, negroes, and Chinese
do not each expend five dollars a year for clothing. Rice, codfish,
and dried beef, with the abundant fruits, form their support. Little
or none of these come from the United States. The few consumers wear
goods which we cannot, or at least do not produce. A reciprocity
treaty with such a people means, therefore, giving them a splendid
annual subsidy.

Taxed by the government to the very last extreme, the landlords,
shopkeepers, and all others who work for hire have also learned the
trick of it, and practice a similar game on every possible victim.
Seeing a small desirable text book in a shop on the Calle de Obrapia,
we asked the price.

"Two dollars, gold, señor," was the answer.

"Why do you charge just double the price one would pay for it in
Madrid, Paris, or New York?" we asked.

"Because we are so heavily taxed," was the reply, and the shopman went
on to illustrate.

Each small retail store is taxed three hundred dollars for the right
to do business. As the store increases in size and importance the tax
is increased. A new tax of six per cent. on the amount of all other
taxation has just been added, to cover the cost of collecting the
whole! A war tax of twenty-five per cent. upon incomes was laid in
1868, and though the war has been ended ten years it is still
collected. Every citizen or resident in Havana is obliged to supply
himself with a document which is called a cedula, or paper of
identification, at an annual cost of five dollars in gold. Every
merchant who places a sign outside of his door is taxed so much per
letter annually. Clerks in private establishments have to pay two and
one half per cent. of their quarterly salaries to government.
Railroads pay a tax of ten per cent. upon all passage money received,
and the same on all freight money. Petty officials invent and impose
fines upon the citizens for the most trifling things, and strangers
are mulcted in various sums of money whenever a chance occurs,
generally liquidating the demand rather than to be at the cost of time
and money to contest their rights. The very beggars in the streets,
blind, lame, or diseased, if found in possession of money, are forced
to share it with officials on some outrageous pretext. All these
things taken into consideration show us why the shopkeeper of Havana
must charge double price for his merchandise. We have only named a few
items of taxation which happen to occur to us, and which only form a
commencement of the long list.

It is nearly impossible at present to collect a note or an account on
the island. Several of the guests at the Telegrafo had come from the
United States solely upon these fruitless errands, each having the
same experience to relate. Dishonest debtors take advantage of the
general state of bankruptcy which exists, and plead utter inability to
meet their obligations, while others, who would gladly pay their
honest debts if it were possible, have not the means to do so.

There is considerable counterfeit paper money in circulation, and we
were told that the banks of the city of Havana actually paid it out
knowingly over their own counters, mixed in with genuine bills,--a
presumed perquisite of the bank officers! This unprecedented fraud
was not put a stop to until the merchants and private bankers
threatened to have the doors of the banks closed by popular force if
the outrage was longer continued. Could such a public fraud be carried
on under any other than a Spanish government? It is not pleasant to
record the fact, but it is nevertheless true that the Spaniards in
Cuba are artful, untruthful, unreliable even in small things, with no
apparent sense of honor, and seeking just now mainly how they can best
avoid their honest obligations. As evil communications are contagious,
the Cubans have become more or less impregnated with this spirit of
commercial dishonesty. It must be admitted that of true, conscientious
principles neither party has any to spare.

The writer has often been asked about Moro Castle. Much has been said
about its "impregnable" character, but modern military science will
not recognize any such theory. A thousand chances are liable to
happen, any one of which might give the place into the hands of an
invading force. Has it not already been twice taken? Though it may be
said that auxiliary forts have been added since those experiences,
nevertheless modern artillery would make but short work of the boasted
defenses of Havana, and would knock the metropolis itself all to
pieces in a few hours, while lying out of range from Moro Castle. No
invading force need attack from the seaward side, unless it should be
found particularly desirable to do so. The place could be easily
taken, as the French took Algiers, by landing a sufficient force in
the rear. With the exception of the fortresses in and about Havana,
the island, with its two thousand miles of coast line and nearly one
hundred accessible harbors, is certainly very poorly prepared to
resist an invading enemy. Cuba's boasted military or defensive
strength is chimerical.

That the island naturally belongs to this country is a fact so plain
as to have been conceded by all authorities. In this connection one is
forcibly reminded of the words of Jefferson in a letter to President
Monroe, so long ago as 1823, wherein he says: "I candidly confess that
I have ever looked on Cuba as the most interesting addition which
could be made to our system of States. The control which, with Florida
Point, this island would give us over the Gulf of Mexico and the
countries and the isthmus bordering it, would fill up the measure of
our political well-being." Is it generally known that Cuba was once
freely offered to this government? During the presidency of Jefferson,
while Spain was bowed beneath the yoke of France, the people of the
island, feeling themselves incompetent to maintain their independence,
sent a deputation to Washington city proposing its annexation to the
federal system of North America. The President, however, declined to
even consider the proffered acquisition. Again, in 1848, President
Polk authorized our minister at Madrid to offer a hundred million
dollars for a fee simple of the island, but it was rejected by Spain.

Completely divided against itself, the mystery is how Cuba has been so
long sustained in its present system. Spain has crowded regiment after
regiment of her army into the island. It was like pouring water into a
sieve, the troops being absorbed by death almost as fast as they could
be landed. The combined slaughter brought about by patriot bullets,
hardships, exposure, fever, and every possible adverse circumstance
has been enormous beyond belief. In spite of all this sacrifice of
human life, besides millions of gold expended annually, what does
Spain gain by holding tenaciously to her title of the island? Nothing,
absolutely nothing. The time has long passed when the system of
extortion enforced upon the Cubans served to recuperate the royal
treasury. The tide has entirely changed in this respect, and though
the taxation has been increased, still the home government is mulcted
in the sum of six or eight millions of dollars annually to keep up the
present worse than useless system. The deficit of the Cuban budget for
the present year, as we were credibly informed, could not be less than
eight millions of dollars. How is Spain to meet this continuous drain
upon her resources? She is already financially bankrupt. It is in this
political strait that she seeks a one-sided treaty with the United
States, by means of which she hopes to eke out her possession of the
island a few years longer, through our liberality,--a treaty by which
she would gain some thirty millions of dollars annually, and we should
be just so much the poorer.

As regards the final destiny of Cuba, that question will be settled by
certain economic laws which are as sure in their operation as are
those of gravitation. No matter what our wishes may be in the matter,
such individual desires are as nothing when arraigned against natural
laws. The commerce of the island is a stronger factor in the problem
than mere politics; it is the active agent of civilization all over
the world. It is not cannon, but ships; not gunpowder, but peaceful
freights, which settle the great questions of mercantile communities.
Krupp's hundred-ton guns will not control the fate of Cuba, but sugar
will. We have only to ask ourselves, Whither does the great commercial
interest of the island point? It is in the direction in which the
largest portion of her products find their market. If this were
England, towards that land her industry and her people would look
hopefully, but as it is the United States who take over ninety per
cent. of her entire exports, towards the country of the Stars and
Stripes she stretches out her hands, and asks for favorable treaties.

At the present moment she has reached a crisis, where her condition is
absolutely desperate. The hour is big with fate to the people of Cuba.
As long as European soil will produce beets, the product of the cane
will find no market on that side of the Atlantic. Cuba must in the
future depend as much upon the United States as does Vermont,
Mississippi, New York, Ohio, or any other State. The effort to bring
about a reciprocal treaty of commerce with us is but the expression of
a natural tendency to closer bonds with this country. Thus it will be
seen that as regards her commercial existence, Cuba is already within
the economic orbit of our Union, though she seems to be so far away
politically. The world's centre of commercial gravity is changing very
fast by reason of the great and rapid development of the United
States, and all lands surrounding the union must conform to the
prevailing lines of motion.

It is with infinite reluctance that the temporary sojourner in Cuba
leaves her delicious shores. A brief residence in the island passes
like a midsummer night's dream, while the memories one brings away
seem almost like delusive spots of the imagination. Smiling skies and
smiling waters; groves of palms and oranges; the bloom of the
heliotrope, the jasmine and the rose; flights of strange and gaudy
birds; tropic nights at once luxurious and calm; clouds of fireflies
floating like unsphered stars on the night breeze; graceful figures of
dark-eyed señoritas in diaphanous drapery; picturesque groups of
Monteros, relieved by the dusky faces and stalwart forms of the sons
of Africa; undulating volantes, military pageants, ecclesiastical
processions, frowning fortresses, grim batteries, white sails,
fountains raining silver; all these images mingle in brilliant
kaleidoscopic combinations, changing and varying as the mind's eye
seeks to fix their features. Long after his departure from the
enchanting island, the traveler beholds these visions in the still
watches of the night, and again listens to the dash of the sea-green
waves at the foot of the Moro and the Punta, the roll of the drum and
the crash of arms upon the ramparts, or hears in fancy the thrilling
strains of music from the military band in the Paseo de Isabella.

If it were possible to contemplate only the beautiful that nature has
so prodigally lavished on this Eden of the Gulf, shutting out all that
man has done and is doing to mar the blessings of heaven, while
closing our eyes to the myriad forms of human misery that assail them
on every hand, then a visit to or a residence in Cuba would present a
succession of unalloyed pleasures, delightful as a poet's dream. But
the dark side of the picture will force itself upon us. The American
traveler, keenly alive to the social and political aspects of life,
appreciates in full force the evils that challenge his observation at
every step. If he contrasts the natural scenery with the familiar
pictures of home, he cannot help also contrasting the political
condition of the people with that of his own country. The existence,
almost under the shadow of the flag of the freest institutions the
earth ever knew, of a government as purely despotic as that of the
autocrat of Russia is a monstrous fact that must startle the most
indifferent observer.

To go hence to Cuba is not merely to pass over a few degrees of
latitude,--it is to take a step from the nineteenth century back into
the dark ages. In the clime of sunshine and endless summer, we are in
the land of starless political darkness. Lying under the lee of a land
where every man is a sovereign is a realm where the lives, liberties,
and fortunes of all are held at the will of a single individual, who
acknowledges fealty only to a nominal ruler more than three thousand
miles across the sea.

In close proximity to a country where the taxes are self-imposed and
so light as to be almost unfelt is one where each free family pays
over five hundred dollars per annum, directly and indirectly, for the
support of a system of bigoted tyranny, scarcely equaled
elsewhere,--forming an aggregate sum of over twenty-six millions of
dollars. For all this extortion no equivalent is received. No
representation, no utterance, for tongue or pen are alike proscribed;
no share of public honors, no office, no emolument. The industry of
the people is crippled, their intercourse with other nations is
hampered in every conceivable manner, and every liberal aspiration of
the human soul stifled in its birth. Can good morals and Christian
lives be expected of a people who are so down-trodden?

Salubrious in climate, varied in production, and most fortunately
situated for commerce, there must yet be a grand future in store for
Cuba. Washed by the Gulf Stream on half her border, while the
Mississippi pours out its riches on one side and the Amazon on the
other, her home is naturally within our own constellation of stars,
and some of those who read these pages may live to see such a
consummation.





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