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Title: Cuba Past and Present
Author: Davey, Richard, 1848-
Language: English
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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.

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CUBA PAST AND PRESENT

[Illustration: _CHRISTOPHORUS COLUMBUS LIGURINDI_.

_ARUM PRIMUS INVENTOR ANNO 1492_

    _Qui rate velivola occiduos penetrauit ad indos,
      Primus et Americam Nobilitavit humum.
    Astrorum consultus et ipso Nobilis ausu,
      Christophorus tali fronte columbus erat._



CUBA

PAST AND PRESENT

BY

RICHARD DAVEY

AUTHOR OF "THE SULTAN AND HIS SUBJECTS"

_With Illustrations and Map_.

NEW YORK:

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

1898



PREFACE.


Any contribution to Cuban literature cannot, if so I may call it, but
possess considerable interest at this absorbing moment. The following
pages embody the experience gathered during a visit to Cuba some years
ago, and to this I have added many facts and memoranda bestowed by
friends whose knowledge of the country is more recent than my own, and
information collected from various works upon Cuba and West Indian
subjects. I do not pretend that the book is an authoritative text-book
on Cuban matters--I give it as the result of personal observation, so
far as it goes, supplemented in the manner already indicated; and as
such I believe it will not be found lacking in elements of interest and
entertainment. Certain chapters on Columbus and on the West Indian
Manuscripts in the Colonial Exhibition have been included as an
Appendix.

The description of the youth of Columbus, the "Great Discoverer," has
never, so far as I am aware, been attempted before in the English
tongue. It appeared to me to be appropriate to a work on the island he
was the first to discover, and I have therefore included it in this
book. It is founded on original and authentic documents, discovered in
the Genoese Archives by the late Marchese Staglieno. These I have
carefully examined and verified, and to the facts therein contained I
have added others, which I have myself unearthed in the course of my own
researches in the Città Superba.

The chapter on the Colonial Exhibition Manuscripts speaks for itself,
and my readers will be struck by the fact that the condition of the
British West Indian Colonies, at the close of the last century,
resembled in many respects not a little that of Cuba at the end of ours.

The chapter on the Bahamas, which closes the volume, has been inserted
to mark an evident contrast, and point a moral, which will hardly escape
the thoughtful reader's eye.

I cannot forbear paying here a tribute to the memory of the very
remarkable American gentleman, the late Mr George Wilkes, in whose
company I first saw the beautiful "Pearl of the Antilles." On the
important paper which he founded, the New York _Spirit of the Times_, I
worked for several very happy years, and I take this opportunity of
expressing to its present editor and to Mr Stephen Fiske, my gratitude
for much and constant courtesy, shown me ever since I left its staff.

RICHARD DAVEY.



CONTENTS.


                                                                    PAGE

    PREFACE                                                            v

    CHAPTER    I. THE ISLAND                                           1

       "      II. POPULATION                                          14

       "     III. A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ISLAND                       39

       "      IV. THE BEGINNINGS OF THE REBELLION                     65

       "       V. HISTORY OF REBELLION UP-TO-DATE                     93

       "      VI. HAVANA AND THE HAVANESE                            121

       "     VII. MATANZAS                                           148

       "    VIII. CIENFUEGOS                                         161

       "      IX. TRINIDAD AND SANTIAGO DE CUBA                      173

       "       X. SOME WEIRD STORIES                                 193

       "      XI. PLANTATION LIFE                                    205

       "     XII. AN ISLE OF JUNE--A CONTRAST                        224

    APPENDIX   I. THE BOYHOOD OF COLUMBUS                            237

       "      II. SOME UNEDITED DOCUMENTS CONNECTED WITH
                    THE HISTORY OF THE WEST INDIES                   257



ILLUSTRATIONS.

    _Portrait of Columbus_                                _Frontispiece_

    HAVANA                              _to face_                     121

    MATANZAS                               "                          148

    SANTIAGO                               "                          173

    MAP OF CUBA                                           _at end of Book_



CUBA PAST AND PRESENT



CHAPTER I.

THE ISLAND.


Cuba, "the Pearl of the Antilles" and the key to the Gulf of Mexico, is
not only the largest, but the most important and the wealthiest island
in the West Indian Archipelago. Its curious shape has been aptly
compared to that of a bird's tongue,--a parrot's by preference. From
Point Maisi, at one extremity, to Cape San Antonio, at the other, it
describes a curve of 900 miles, being, at its greatest breadth, only 120
miles from sea to sea. It is traversed throughout its Eastern province
by a range of mountains, which, according to Humboldt, continue under
the Ocean, and emerge thence in British Honduras, to receive the
somewhat unromantic appellation of the Coxcombe Chain,--another proof,
if such were needed, of the fact that, in prehistoric times, this
island, together with its numerous neighbours, formed part of the main
Continent.

The coast of Cuba, on either side beyond the range of the Sierra
Maestra, is singularly indented and irregular; and by reason of its
innumerable tiny bays, capes, peninsulas, shallows, reefs, "cays,"
promontories, and islets, presents, on the map, the appearance of a deep
curtain fringe. The surface measurement of the island is fully 35,000
square miles. In other words, it is a little bigger than Portugal, or
somewhat over a fourth the size of Spain.[1]

The Sierra Maestra range rises from the coast, out of the Ocean, with
grand abruptness, immediately opposite the sister island of Jamaica. It
here presents much the same stately and varied panorama as may be
admired on the Genoese Riviera, and, by a series of irregular terraces,
reaches the Ojo del Toro, or the "Sources of the Bull," where it
suddenly drops towards the centre of the chain, whence it sends up one
exceedingly lofty peak, the Pico Turquino, rising 6900 feet above the
sea. From this point the range diminishes in height again, until it
reaches the valley of the Cauto River, whence it runs in a straight line
to Santiago de Cuba, after which it rapidly declines in height, and
loses itself in the unwholesome Guananamo Marshes. A section of this
range is popularly known, on account of its mineral wealth, as the
Sierra de Cobre, or Copper Chain. Its principal peak, La Gran Piedra, so
called from a huge block of conglomerate perched upon its extreme
summit, is about 5200 feet high. None of the numerous peaks and crags of
the Sierra Maestra and the Cobre Ranges show the least trace of recent
volcanic eruption, although limestone is found high up among the
mountains, and alarming earthquakes are of frequent occurrence, notably
in the province of Santiago. At the eastern extremity of the island are
a number of isolated mountains, linked together by low-lying hills. Two
other ranges of hills exist, in the neighbourhood of Matanzas, and at
the back of Havana, but although they present an imposing appearance
from the seaboard, at no single point do they exceed a height of 1000
feet. The mountain ranges occupy about one-third of the island; the
other two-thirds are more or less spreading and fairly well cultivated
plains and level valleys, but even these fertile regions are broken by
lagoons and marshes, like those in the Campagna.

Until quite late in the last century, coffee and tobacco were the
principal objects of the planter's care and industry, but in 1786 the
French refugees from San Domingo persuaded the Cubans to extend their
sugar plantations, and sugar very soon became the staple cultivation of
the country. Next to sugar, tobacco and coffee are the chief products,
but cotton is also grown, but not very extensively. Cocoa and indigo
have received considerable attention lately, and maize has always been
one of the absolute necessaries of life, and may be described as the
bread of the country; cereals have no place in its husbandry, and are
imported, for the most part, unfortunately, from Spain, which country
holds a monopoly, which has had its share in bringing about the unhappy
civil war of the last three years. As the negroes and the poor whites
have rarely, if ever, tasted wheat flour, its absence is not felt by
them, but it is an absolute necessity to the upper classes and to the
foreigners. Yams, bananas, guavas, oranges, mangoes, and pineapples, are
the chief fruits cultivated for exportation. The decline in the
popularity of mahogany as a furniture wood in America and Europe--a mere
freak of fashion--has been greatly felt. It used to be a most valuable
product, and was exported in great quantities, especially to
England,--the Cuban variety being considered the finest.

The mountain regions of Cuba are extremely picturesque, but very
sparsely populated, and, for the most part, little known. Their slopes
are often covered by forests or jungles, whose rich vegetation,
constantly moistened by innumerable springs, rivulets, and heavy dews,
is rankly luxuriant. Immense mineral wealth is supposed to be hidden in
the heart of these mountains, but, though the copper mines are fairly
well worked, neither gold nor silver have yet been discovered in any
quantity, notwithstanding the ancient and persistent tradition as to
their abundance.

The entire coast of Cuba is protected, in a measure, by coralline and
rocky reefs, "cays," and muddy shallows, which stretch out into the sea
for miles. These are most dangerous, and have often, in stormy weather,
proved fatal to large vessels, as well as to small fishing craft. Some
of these banks are really fair-sized islands, covered with beautiful
vegetation, but, as a rule, they are only inhabited by fishermen, and
that merely at certain seasons of the year. In many localities the sea
is very deep quite close in-shore, and offers excellent harbours and
refuges for vessels plying on the busiest sea-road in the Western
Hemisphere. The most important of the numerous outlying islands is La
Isla dos Pinos, a famous health resort, where, for some unaccountable
reason, the pine-tree of our northern regions flourishes to perfection
amid tropical surroundings.

Every part of Cuba is supplied with fresh water. There are several
fairly broad, though shallow rivers. The Cauto, which takes its rise in
the Sierra Maestra, and flows into the sea at the mouth of Manzanillo
Bay, is about 130 miles in length, and navigable for small craft. The
only other rivers of any importance are the Sagua Grande and the Sagua
Chica. Neither of these is navigable, even for small craft, except for a
week or so at the close of the rainy season. Springs and streams of
exquisitely pure water are to be found in incredible abundance. Indeed,
the island has been described as consisting of a series of vast caverns
rising over huge reservoirs of fresh water, and the number of caves and
grottoes to be found circling over pools of limpid water is really
remarkable. In the mountains there are lovely waterfalls, amongst which
the cascades of the Rosario are the most celebrated. A number of
fair-sized lakes add considerably to the beauty of the scenery in the
interior of the island, and, what is more, they are well stocked with a
variety of fish of delicious flavour.

Cuba is phenomenally free from noxious animals and reptiles. Columbus
only found two quadrupeds of any size on the whole island--a sort of
barkless dog, the guaquinaji, possibly a racoon,[2] and a long-bodied
squirrel. Many imported domestic animals, such as the horse, the pig,
the dog, the cat, and the goat, have in the course of time run wild, and
are to be found in great numbers in the densest parts of the forests in
the interior. Our canine friend has modified himself considerably since
he first landed on Cuban soil. He has dwindled, on the one hand, into
the tiny Havanese toy spaniel, and has developed on the other into the
colossal molasso, which was constantly employed, but a few years back,
in the highly humane sport of slave-hunting. The prehistoric sportsman,
however, must, if he was an amateur of big game, have had a good time of
it in Cuba, for fossils of mastadons, elephants, hippopotami, and other
large and uncanny beasts of the antediluvian world, who have joined the
majority countless ages ago, are still constantly to be found.

Some members of the bat family grow to an enormous size, their wings
measuring from a foot to a foot and a half from tip to tip. I remember
one night, on a plantation near Puerto Principe, one of these most
unpleasant monsters flopped through my bedroom window on to the floor.
For a few moments I was convinced that I had received a visitation
either from Minerva's very own owl or from a dusky cherub.

With the sole exception of a rather long, but not particularly harmful
boa, venomous or dangerous snakes are, I was assured, not to be found
anywhere on the island. This, however, is a popular error, for in most
of the sugar plantations there dwells a small red asp, whose bite is
exceedingly dangerous. The creature may not be indigenous; he may have
come over with the first sugar-canes from San Domingo. According to the
Cubans, imported reptiles, even after a short residence on their native
soil, become innocuous, and it must be confessed that the scorpion,
which is disagreeably prominent in the island, is less hurtful here than
elsewhere. As I happen to have been bitten both by an Italian and a
Cuban scorpion, I am in a position to know something about the matter.
The Italian rascal stung me in the foot, and sent me to bed with a
frightful pain, and a fever which lasted a week. The Cuban gentleman
nipped my finger, caused me awful agony, the arm swelling up to twice
its size; but I had no fever, neither was I obliged to seek my bed. My
Cuban wound, I, remember, was rubbed with a decoction of deceased
scorpions, preserved in oil, which certainly soothed the pain, and,
further, I was plentifully dosed with Kentucky whisky. In a few hours
the suffering passed off, and, after two days of extraordinary numbness
in all parts of the body, I completely recovered. My private opinion is
that the cure was effected by the decoction of defunct scorpions, and
that no difference really exists between the poisonous qualities of the
European and the Cuban reptile.

If Cuba possesses no very obnoxious reptiles, their absence is amply
atoned for by the surprising collection of annoying insects of all sorts
and kinds. The Cuban mosquitoes must be heard, seen, and felt, before
they can be imagined. I had hitherto thought the Venetian _zanzare_
diabolical pests enough in all conscience, but, when compared with their
Cuban brethren, they stand as angels to demons. Then there are
irritating jiggers, ants, giant wasps, infernal little midges, spiders
as big as the crown of your hat, and other disreputable gentry who shall
be nameless, and who, I learn on good authority, were first imported
into our own unsuspecting continent from the West Indies. Alas! they are
with us still! In Cuba they haunt the woods and gardens, secrete
themselves in the turn-up of your trousers, and in the train of your
skirt. They soon let you know their whereabouts, I can assure you! Two
very remarkable insects deserve special mention. One is the large
"vegetable bee," a member of the bee family, condemned by nature to
carry an umbrella-shaped fungus of the _Clavara_ tribe on his back, and
the other, the superb cucullo, a monster fire-fly, who emits rays of
light from two eyes on his back and one in his breast. Three of these
creatures under a glass shade suffice to illumine a moderate-sized room,
and, if it were not for the rhythmical flickering glare produced by the
breathing of the insects, it would be easy to read by their
extraordinary glow.

The Cuban birds are identical with those found in other West Indian
islands. Among the great variety of humming-birds, only one is
recognised as indigenous to the island. All sorts of tropical fish
abound, both in the sea, in the rivers, and the lakes. On the latter,
the rather exciting sport of tortoise-hunting may be enjoyed, and the
sportsman may chance an unpleasant encounter with the dangerous, but
easily avoided cayman. Most Cuban travellers make acquaintance with the
frightful-looking, but perfectly harmless iguana, at some friend's
house, where he occasionally joins the family circle in the capacity of
prime domestic pet. As to the lizards, they are exceedingly well
represented, both in gardens and in woods, from the charming,
bright-eyed little metallic green and blue opidian, to a very large and
ugly brown old lady and gentleman--they usually go abroad in pairs--to
be met with in your walks, and which the uninitiated are apt to mistake
for a couple of miniature crocodiles. But they are simply very large and
harmless lizards, with prodigiously long Latin names. Then, too, there
is the interesting and ever-changing cameleon, and the pretty striped
flying squirrel, and the delightful little dormouse, a long-established
native of the island, well beknown, it would seem, to Christopher
Columbus and his companions, who have condescended to make special
mention of his timid, yet friendly presence.

As to the flora, it is surpassingly beautiful. I shall have occasion to
return to it at greater length, and will only say in this place that it
embraces nearly every variety of plant, flower, and fern known in the
tropical and sub-tropical zones. European fruits, flowers, and
vegetables can be easily and largely cultivated on the highest plateaux
of the Sierra Maestra.

The climate of Cuba is, for the tropics, a very tolerable one, quite
enjoyable indeed from November to the beginning of May, during which
time the heat is rarely oppressive. The summer season is extremely
enervating, and in many parts of the island actually dangerous, on
account of the excessive heat and the incessant torrents of rain, which
together create an unhealthy steaming miasma. The forests, with their
prodigious stratas of decaying vegetation, emit, especially in summer,
unwholesome malarial vapours, and the lagoons and marshes on the broads
are sometimes hidden for days at a time by a dense and deadly but
perfectly white fog. Yellow fever is said not to have made its
appearance till 1761; at any rate it is from that date only that it has
been regarded as a distinct disease indigenous to the island. The deadly
vomito nigro has often appeared in various parts of Cuba in epidemic as
well as isolated form. It rarely if ever attacks the negroes, but has
proved only too fatal to newcomers.[3] I cannot help thinking that it is
mainly due to the filthy habits of a people unacquainted with the
hygienic laws, and who do not object to have their latrines in the
middle of their kitchens, and to a general system of drainage, which,
even in the capital and in the other principal towns, is wretchedly
antiquated. Dysentery annually carries off a great number of European
colonists, especially children, and cholera very frequently decimates
the blacks and Chinese, without doing the slightest injury to the whites
among whom they live. The wholesomest parts of the island are in the
eastern provinces, where yellow fever rarely makes its appearance. This
is simply due to a healthy combination of sea and mountain breezes. The
outlying island of Pinos, already mentioned, is remarkably healthy, no
epidemic ever having been known there, and it is, consequently, a
favourite resort with the wealthier Cubans and European colonists, who
have built charming cottages amongst its fragrant pine-groves.

I am quite persuaded that Cuba could be rendered fairly healthy by
proper irrigation and drainage. The towns are nearly all without proper
drains, and the inhabitants are generally very uncleanly in their
habits, although well-managed public baths abound. Like most members of
the Latin family, the Cubans seem to have a horror of cold water, and
rarely indulge in a "tub." On the other hand, to do them justice, at
certain seasons of the year they seem never out of the sea, which is
often so warm that you can stop in it for hours without getting a chill.
However, whether they wash or not matters little, for even in the best
regulated families their hygienic habits apparently are indescribably
filthy. Add to this state of affairs the still dirtier practices of the
immense negro and coolie population, and a faint idea may be formed of
the real cause of the unhealthiness of the place. I have often wondered
that the pest did not carry off half the population. It _has_
occasionally done so, and Yellow-Jack is always seeking whom he may
devour,--generally some invalid from the United States, who has come out
in search of health, or some over-robust European emigrant. As an
illustration of the rapidity with which this fell disease overcomes its
victims, I will relate an incident which occurred during my first visit
to the island, very many years ago. On board the ship which conveyed us
from New York to Havana was a certain Senator L...., well known in New
York and Washington for his good looks and caustic wit. In his youth he
had been engaged to a lovely Cuban girl, whose parents had sternly
rejected his suit, and had obliged their young daughter to marry a
wealthy planter very much her senior. She had recently become a widow,
and our friend, who had already been to Havana to lay his fortune at her
feet, and had been accepted, was hastening back to claim her as his
bride. On our arrival in Havana we all breakfasted together, the party
including the still very handsome widow Doña Jacinta. In the afternoon
the bridegroom went sketching in the market-place. Yellow-Jack laid his
hand on him, and before morning he was dead! The funeral took place on
the very day appointed for the wedding. I shall never forget the
procession. The whole of Havana turned out to witness it. The church of
the Merced, where the Requiem was sung, was so crowded that several
persons were seriously injured. The floral offerings were of surprising
beauty. All the Donnas in the town, in their thousands, accompanied the
_cortège_ conveying the coffin to the port, where it was placed on an
American steamer to be taken to New York for burial. The local papers
contained many really charming sonnets and poems addressed to the
afflicted Doña Jacinta, who, by the way, some time afterwards followed
her lover's body to New York, and there became a Little Sister of the
Poor.



CHAPTER II.

POPULATION.


There must have been people in Cuba in the very night of time, for some
prehistoric race has left its trace behind. Numerous stone implements of
war and agriculture, closely resembling those so frequently found in
various parts of Europe, have been unearthed, near Bayamo, in the
Eastern Province. Then, again, within the last thirty years, a number of
_caneyes_ or pyramidical mounds, covering human remains, many of them in
a fossilized condition, have been discovered in the same part of the
island. Specimens of rude pottery, bearing traces of painting, have also
been dug up in various places, and I have in my possession a little
terra-cotta figure, representing an animal not unlike an ant eater,
which was found in the neighbourhood of Puerto Principe, and exhibited
in the Colonial Exhibition of 1886. Many small earthenware images of a
god, wearing a kind of cocked hat, and bearing a strong resemblance to
Napoleon I., are often picked up in out-of-the-way places, but we have
no other evidence that the ancient Cubans were blessed with any
conspicuous knowledge of the fine arts. The majority of the friendly
Indians who greeted Columbus on his first landing are believed to have
spoken the same language as the Yucayos of the Bahamas, and the
aboriginal natives of Hayti and Jamaica. Grijalva declares they used a
language similar to that of the natives of Yucatan--at any rate, on his
first expedition into that country, he was accompanied by some Cubans,
who made themselves understood by the inhabitants. Although Columbus
mentions the good looks of the early Cubans with admiration, there is
every reason to believe that the Discoverer flattered them considerably.
They seem to have been men of medium height, broad-shouldered,
brown-skinned, flat-featured, and straight-haired. The women are
described as better looking than the men, and do not appear to have
disfigured themselves by ornamental cheek slashes and other hideous
tattooing. They were, as we have already seen, an amiable set of
savages, quite innocent of cannibal tastes. Their huts were made of palm
branches, and their cooking was performed in the most primitive fashion,
over a wood fire, lighted in the open air. Some of their tribes, more
advanced in civilization than others, wore aprons decorated with shells
or with the seeds of the caruba, strung together in rather pretty
designs.[4]

In order to understand the very complex matter known as the Cuban
question, it is necessary for the reader to know something about the
exceedingly mixed population of the island, whereof "Cubans" form by far
the greater part. The present population, estimated at over 1,600,000,
may be divided into six sections[5]:--The Cubans, the Spaniards, the
Creoles, the foreigners, the coloured folk of African origin, of all
shades, from the deepest ebon to the lightest cream, and the coolies or
Chinese.

For three hundred years Cuba was exclusively inhabited by Spaniards, or
people of Spanish descent. The political and religious conditions of the
country were therefore far more favourable to peace and unity, and the
island was much less difficult to govern, than in these troublous times
of ours.

The "Cubanos" are the descendants of Spanish colonists, who have
inhabited the island for at least two generations. The slightest
admixture of African blood debars the enjoyment of this distinction. The
first Spanish immigration into Cuba began very soon after the conquest
of the island, and consisted mainly of adventurers who had accompanied
the earlier expeditions, and who settled permanently in the country,
after having returned to Spain, and transported their wives, and such
members of their families as were ready to follow them, to their new
homes. Almost all these individuals were either of Castilian or
Andalusian origin. A few years later, emigrants began to come in from
the Basque Provinces, and from Catalonia.

The descendants of these early colonists form the present aristocracy of
Cuba, and many of them bear names which have cast lustre on Spanish
history.[6]

Cuba was governed, for over three centuries, by the laws which bound the
other Hispano-American colonies. These were framed by Philip II., and
are still known as _Las Leyes de Indias_.

The unbending nature, and jealous religious orthodoxy of the Spaniards,
offered scant encouragement to the establishment of settlers of any
other race or faith. The Inquisition soon reigned in the island, in all
its gloomy and mysterious horror. To its merciless pressure, and
frequently cruel action, we may perhaps ascribe the instinctive hatred
of the "powers that be"--so characteristic of the modern Cuban--even as
hereditary memories of the doings of Mary Tudor and her Spaniard husband
have implanted a sullen distrust of the Spanish nation in the breast of
the average Englishman.

From the physical point of view, the Cubans are inferior to their
Spanish forefathers, a fact which may be attributed, perhaps, to the
effect of an enervating climate on successive generations. Still, it has
been remarked that they do not seem to have deteriorated,
intellectually, to the same extent as the descendants of the French and
other European Creoles in the West Indies. They are lithe, active, and
occasionally very good-looking, in spite of their pasty complexions and
somewhat lustreless dark eyes. They are certainly more progressive in
their ideas, and more anxious to educate their sons, at all events, to
the highest possible standard, than are their Spanish cousins. A
remarkable impetus was given to education in Cuba by the celebrated Las
Casas, who governed the island from 1790. He increased the endowment of
the University of Havana, which had been established in 1721, and
greatly extended its sphere of action, by creating several important
professorial chairs, and notably one of medicine. He assisted the
Jesuits in improving their colleges. It should be noted, to the credit
of this much maligned order, that the Fathers provided their pupils with
a thorough classical education, and also instructed them in foreign
languages.

During the great Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods there was
considerable chaos in the island, and the vigilance of the censorship
became so relaxed, that the large towns were flooded with French and
Italian literature of an advanced kind, and the ex-pupils of the Jesuits
devoured the translated works of Voltaire, Rousseau, and Beccaria with
an avidity which must have sorely scandalized their orthodox
instructors. The Voltarian spirit thus introduced amongst the better
class of Cubans has endured to this day, and though they pay every
outward respect to their religion, they are exceedingly sceptical both
in thought and speech. During the last seventy years, again, the country
has been overrun by Americans, who have introduced every form of
Protestantism, from Episcopalianism to Quakerism, and even Shakerism.
This large acquaintance with varied schools of religious thought has had
its effect in broadening the horizon of the Cuban mind. Many young men
are sent to schools and colleges in the United States, in England, in
France, in Germany even, or else to the Jesuits' colleges at Havana and
Santiago. Yet the mother country refused for years to admit even the
best class of Cubans to any share in the administration of the island,
and though within the last two decades this rule has been somewhat
relaxed, the result, politically speaking, has not always been
satisfactory, even to the natives. In the legal and medical professions
they have attained brilliant success, and some very large fortunes have
been made. The majority, however, follow the life of planters, or engage
in mercantile pursuits. Here again there is cause for trouble. In bygone
days the Spanish hidalgos were granted large estates in Cuba, and though
they rarely visit the country, they still retain them, entrusting the
management of their property to agents and overseers. Among these
absentee landlords are the Aldamas, Fernandinas, dos Hermanos,
Santovenios, and the Terres, whose palaces in the Cerro quarter of
Havana have stood uninhabited for years, except, perhaps, for an
occasional and rare winter visit. Still there are, or were, until quite
lately, many wealthy Cuban planters who reside on their plantations,
with their wives and families. A few years ago--I daresay it is so
still, on such estates as have not been devastated by the Rebels or the
Spaniards--the grown-up sons lived with their parents, each attending to
a separate department of the plantation, until the father died. Then one
of them--the eldest, as a rule--took over the whole estate, paying each
of his brothers a proper proportion of his net yearly earnings, and if
sufficient frugality was exercised, he was able to pay them a share of
the original property into the bargain. But even when these events took
place, they did not necessitate the separation of the family.

The Cubans are naturally a domestic and affectionate people, exceedingly
happy in their home relations. In many a Hacienda, from one to four or
five families will live most peaceably, under the same roof. The men, as
a rule, make excellent husbands, and are passionately fond of their
children, whom they are apt to spoil, and often ruin, by allowing the
coloured servants to over-indulge them. In these patriarchal homesteads,
the children, being not a little isolated from other society, become
exceedingly attached to each other. When the girls attain a marriageable
age they are placed in seclusion, under the charge of a governess, or
else sent to one or other of the great convents in the Capital managed
by French and Spanish nuns of the Sacré Cœur, Assumption, and
Ursuline orders. The results of this system are not always fortunate.
Premature marriages abound. Many a Cuban is a father before he is
eighteen years of age, by a wife a couple of years his junior--a fact
which may account, even more, perhaps, than the much-blamed tropical
climate, for the physical inferiority of the race. Then again, as is
invariably the case in slave countries, a pernicious laxity in morals is
tolerated, and Cuban life, in cities and plantations alike, will not, I
have been assured on good authority, bear too close investigation. If
the ancestors were devoted to their Voltaire and their Jean Jacques, the
modern descendants are equally zealous readers of all the most
suggestive French and Italian novels. The fine literature of the mother
country has never found much favour in Cuba, and the educated islanders
are far more intimately acquainted with Zola, Gaboriau, Gyp, and
Huyssman than with Cervantes, Calderon, Lope, and Fernan Cabalero. They
do not even patronise their own national drama, preferring modern French
and Italian plays. It is a curious fact that even really excellent
Spanish troupes have failed to attract audiences in Havana, whereas
French and Italian companies have done tremendous business during the
few weeks of their stay in the city. I shall have occasion to speak
elsewhere of the great love of music which has long distinguished the
Cubans, whose principal Opera House has been kept up all through the
century to a pitch of excellence worthy of one of the great European
capitals.

The Cuban women, even in the lower classes, are generally far better
looking than the men. Those of the upper ranks are often extremely
fascinating. Their features are small and delicate, their eyes dark and
fine, and their hair magnificent. Their feet and hands are small, and
although they cannot vie in grace with their Andalusian sisters, they
have a distinct and striking charm, peculiar to themselves. They have a
regrettable weakness for plastering their faces with rice powder, to an
extent which sometimes makes them look absolutely ghastly, and, like
most Creoles, they are apt, except on formal occasions, to neglect the
elementary duty of personal neatness. They are fond of lolling about in
their own homes, in wrappers, none of the cleanest, and are much
addicted to swinging in hammocks, coiling themselves up on sofas, and,
above all, rocking lazily to and fro, in low American chairs.

Of society, even in the city of Havana, there is little or none. A few
large parties are given by the wealthier families in the winter season,
but very few people can converse easily on any interesting subject.
Conversation must soon flag, indeed, in a country where the intellectual
pabulum of the fair sex consists, generally speaking, of a singular
combination of the Catholic prayer-book and the worst stamp of French
novel. The usual way of spending the evening in a Cuban house is to
place two long rows of rocking-chairs opposite one another, and sit
chatting, everybody, meanwhile, smoking the inevitable cigarette. In
some of the houses, music of a high order may be heard, and not a few of
the Cuban ladies sing charmingly. During the Carnival, a good many
dances take place in private houses, but even these are extremely dull,
for as soon as a gentleman has danced with a lady, he is expected to
lead her back to her rocking-chair, where she sits smoking in smiling
silence till the arrival of another partner. It would be thought highly
improper for a young man to start a conversation, let alone a
flirtation, with an unmarried girl.

The general want of that association between the sexes, so necessary to
the welfare of each, makes the Cuban women indifferent to the opinion of
the Cuban men. They care for nothing but the most childish chatter and
gossip, have no desire to improve their minds, no ambition beyond that
connected with their own personal comfort and vanity. They marry when
they are mere children, from twelve years of age to about
eighteen,--and if no suitor has appeared upon the scene by that time,
they are looked on as old maids. Belonging to a most prolific race,
those who marry soon have large families about them, and devoted as they
are, in most cases, to their children, they find their happiness in
their domestic circle. The haughty spirit derived from their Spanish
ancestry is not dead in the hearts of the Cuban ladies. Many of them
have proved the fact, of late, by qualities of self-sacrifice, courage,
and splendid heroism, which have gone far to carry the revolutionary
struggle to its present phase. The exceedingly pernicious habit of
bandaging infants in swaddling clothes is still prevalent, even in the
best regulated Cuban families. This may account for the excessive infant
mortality, for though as many as eight or ten children are born to most
parents, they rarely succeed in rearing more than three or four.

There is a saying in Havana that "the church is good enough for the old
maids of both sexes." The women are pious from habit. Nearly all of them
begin the day by going to Mass, and in Holy Week they literally live in
church. But, for all this, religion does not seem to have any deep
influence on their lives. The men make no pretence to piety. Generally
speaking, Catholicism in Cuba has become a mere matter of form and
custom, although there are doubtless many sincerely pious people in the
island, who practise all the Christian virtues, both in public and in
private. Still, I fear the clergy can hardly have done their duty by
their flocks for many generations past. Yet, I am assured, a more
evangelical spirit is stirring among them at the present moment. This
we may fairly ascribe to the vigilance and zeal of the present Pope, Leo
XIII., who has appointed more energetic and able bishops than any of his
predecessors, since the Apostolic age. I am assured that the present
Archbishop of Santiago and Bishop of Havana--the island is divided into
two dioceses--have effected many remarkable reforms, not only among
their clergy, but also among the laity.

To resume: the Cubans are, as I have already indicated, the descendants
of Spaniards born on the island. They form considerably over a third of
the population. The true Spanish population, which is not at all
numerous, includes the absentee grandees, who own at least a fourth of
the island, the numerous officials sent out from Spain, and the very
considerable garrison which has always been kept in Cuba, to maintain
order, and suppress all attempts at open rebellion. The Spaniards keep
very much to themselves, although, of course, many of them are allied
with Cuba by family ties, and are on very friendly terms, in times of
peace, with their own kinsfolk. Still, there is a local feeling against
them, as the representatives of bad government in a sorely-troubled
colony. Their manners and customs are not quite identical with those of
the natives. Their women, for instance, have a far higher sense of
dignity than the native ladies. They are more sincerely pious, and, in
many cases, far more highly educated and accomplished. On the other
hand, the men are extremely overbearing and exclusive. Their manners are
ridiculously elaborate, but their hospitality, though courteously
proffered, is less genuine than that of the native Cubans. When a Cuban
says, "Come and stay," or "Come and dine with me," he means it, and is
hurt, however humble his circumstances may be, if you refuse.

During the last fifty years, a great many Americans have established
themselves in Cuba as planters, merchants, and shopkeepers. They come
from all parts of the United States, and associate very little with the
Spaniards, although they are generally very friendly with the Cubans.
The principal American settlements are at Cardenas, quite a modern town,
and known as "The American City," Havana, Cienfuegos, and Santiago. The
Spaniards, on the other hand, suspect and dislike the Americans. There
are not many English established on the island. The railroads, however,
and some of the best tobacco estates, are mainly in British hands. There
is a small French colony, consisting mainly, I am assured, of persons
who cannot live in their own country. In the old slave times, most of
the overseers were Frenchmen who had been expelled from France, and not
a few were well known as having "served their time." There is also a
small Italian colony, and a very considerable German contingent, who
live their own lives, apart from their neighbours. Until within quite
recent times no religion but the Roman Catholic was tolerated on the
island, but, at the present moment, there is, if anything, greater
freedom of worship than in Spain itself. From all I have heard, Cuba is
the last place in the world where people trouble their heads over
theological or philosophical questions. Life is essentially
materialistic, and the chief aim and struggle of existence is to get as
much comfort as may be, out of an exceedingly uncomfortable climate.

The Jews in Cuba barely number 500, and are mostly of Spanish origin,
and engaged in trade. A great many Jews fled to the West Indies from
Spain, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but few remained in
the Spanish possessions. The danger was too great. Five or six of the
Cuban Jewish families are reported wealthy, and are much respected, but
they keep entirely to themselves. We next come to the two last divisions
of the heterogeneous population of the Pearl of the Antilles,--the
coloured race, and the Coolies.

The coloured folk of Cuba, who vary, as I have said, from the deepest
ebony to the lightest cream, form a little over a third of the whole
population. That they are not more numerous in proportion to the whites,
is due to causes which I shall endeavour to explain hereafter. At a very
early date, slaves were introduced into Cuba, to replace the massacred
aborigines. At first the black merchandise was exceedingly dear; in
fact, according to ancient authorities, slaves were "worth their weight
in gold." But, in the seventeenth century, the importation from Africa
began on a great scale, though very few females were at first landed, as
the majority died on the way over. This fact necessitated a system of
constant replenishment of the males, and it was only in the last century
that negresses were brought to Cuba in any great numbers. Their
appearance was followed by the inevitable result--a peaceful invasion of
small niggers. And the dusky Venus found scores of worshippers, among
the haughty Dons. Even worthy Brian Edwards, the pious author of the
_History of the West Indies_, did not neglect to pay tribute to the
charms of the "Sable Aphrodite" in an Ode from which I cannot resist
culling the following lines:--

    Her skin excell'd the raven plume,
    Her breath the fragrant orange bloom,
      Her eye the tropic beam.
    Soft was her lip as silken down,
    And mild her look as ev'ning sun
      That gilds the Cobre stream.

    The loveliest limbs her form compose,
    Such as her sister Venus chose
      In Florence, where she's seen,
    But just alike, except the white,
    No difference, no--none at night,
      The beauteous dames between.

    O sable Queen! thy mild domain
    I seek, and court thy gentle reign,
      So soothing, soft, and sweet,
    Where meeting love, sincere delight,
    Fond pleasure, ready joys invite,
      And unbought raptures meet.

    The prating Frank, the Spaniard proud,
    The double Scot, Hibernian loud,
      And sullen English, own
    The pleasing softness of thy sway,
    And here, transferr'd allegiance pay,
      For gracious is thy throne.

Notwithstanding the nominal abolition of the slave trade, something like
half a million of slaves have been imported into Cuba since the first
treaty between England and France,--for the gradual abolition of slavery
was officially signed in 1856. The traffic continued even as late as
1886, when slavery was at last entirely and finally suppressed. It was
often connived at by the Governor, and other high officials at Havana,
who thus increased their popularity, and their private fortunes. In the
course of 1878 I was told, on good authority, of a cargo of sixty Congo
negroes, which had just been landed in a small port in the neighbourhood
of Havana, and sold to planters in the interior. The first step towards
emancipation was the freeing of all infants born of slave parents, and
of all slaves who had attained their fiftieth year. This was achieved in
1856, with very curious consequences. The infants, being deemed
worthless by their parents' owners, as soon as they realised the fact
that when the children were reared they would have no control over them,
were purposely neglected, and thousands of them perished in their
earliest years. The old folk, on the other hand, were, in most
instances, turned adrift, to enjoy their freedom as best they might, as
vagrants on the highways and byways, or as beggars in the towns. Not a
few died of starvation, and this is one of the main causes which has
reduced the coloured population in Cuba much below its natural
proportion, to that of other countries, where slavery has lately
existed. Many years have elapsed since slaves were publicly sold in the
market-places of Havana and the large cities, but until ten years ago,
advertisements for their sale continued in the principal papers, and I
hold a collection of these, which proves that very little or no
attention was paid to the freedom of infants, even after the passing of
the law in 1856. For the majority of these advertisements refer to
children of twelve and fifteen years of age, who are generally offered
for "private sale," the intending purchaser being asked to "inspect the
goods at the house of the present proprietor." Here is a specimen, dated
April 1885:--"Anyone who requires a nice active little girl of light
colour, aged 12, can inspect her at the house of her mistress. Price to
be settled between the parties privately" (here follows the address).
This is a proof, if proof were needed, of how the slave laws were
regarded in Cuba; and even now, I am assured, in many of the more lonely
plantations, the blacks have not fully realized that they are free, and
continue working gratuitously, as in the old days. On the other hand,
the vast majority, being of opinion that freedom means idleness, have
ceased labour altogether, and, as their requirements are remarkably
modest, a number of them have departed for the woods and wildernesses,
where they lead much the primitive life led by their forebears in their
native Africa. These refugees have proved admirable recruits for the
rebel army, and have, on more than one occasion, found an opportunity of
wreaking their vengeance on their late masters' plantations and
homesteads.

I do not think the slaves were any worse treated in Cuba than in the
Southern States of America before the Abolition, and, indeed, I have
not noticed in Latin slave-owning countries that strong prejudice, on
the part of the whites, against the blacks, which exists all over the
United States, and amounts to a sense of absolute loathing. I am
convinced the free blacks in Cuba are better treated than their
liberated brethren in the Southern States. They are more civilly handled
by the whites, who appear to me to have very little or no prejudice
against them. They mingle freely with the white congregations in the
churches, and are even allowed to walk in the various religious
processions, side by side with their late owners. If the Americans ever
conquer Cuba, they will have to deal with a coloured population which
has long been accustomed to far more courteous treatment than the
Yankees are likely to vouchsafe to it.

The Spanish laws for the protection of the slaves were remarkable for
their humanity. According to the _Leyes de Indias_, all slaves had to be
baptized, and their marriages were to be considered legal. It was
unlawful to separate families. In the towns and villages, judicial
tribunals were instituted, to which any slave could have recourse
against his master. It was illegal to administer more than twenty-five
lashes in a single week on the bare back of any slave, male or female.
It was murder to kill a slave, unless, indeed, it could be proved that
he had attempted to assassinate his master, or strike him, to burn his
house or property, or to violate his wife, daughter, or any other white
female, howsoever humble, in his employ. But these laws, unfortunately,
were rarely observed. It is true that Syndicates, as they were termed,
existed in the capital and in all the larger towns, and were
occasionally useful to the household slaves. But the unfortunate
plantation hands were either utterly ignorant of the existence of these
tribunals, or were unable to reach them. If a bold applicant contrived
to apply to these organizations, his master soon found means to make him
regret his temerity. The slaves were well fed, because they were
considered useful beasts of burden. But during the sugar harvest they
were cruelly overworked, sometimes labouring nineteen or twenty hours
out of the twenty-four, and this for weeks at a stretch, without any
interruption, even on the Sundays. They would often fall down exhausted
from sheer fatigue, only to struggle to their feet again under the
overseer's merciless whip. Personally, I witnessed very few acts of
cruelty, during a visit to the island before the emancipation. Once I
did see a number of blacks in the coffee fields wantonly flipped with
the whip, simply to keep them "spry," as the Yankees say. One horrible
instance, however, took place to my knowledge. A strikingly handsome
mulatto had escaped into the woods. For a week after his recapture he
was daily subjected to the most horrible tortures, the ostensible object
of which was to strike terror into the souls of such of his fellow
slaves who might be tempted to follow his example. They subjected him to
torments too shocking for description, and rubbed his wounds with _agua
ardiente_. The poor wretch, writhing in agony, and shrieking with pain,
was bound hand and foot to the stump of a tree. The strangest part of
it was that the niggers for whom this torture, which eventually ended in
death, was intended as a warning, did not seem impressed by its horror.
They merely laughed and shrieked like so many fiends--possibly they were
accustomed to such scenes, and callous. The excuse given for the
diabolical treatment of this particular slave was that he had escaped
into the forest, where a number of other runaways were in hiding, and
had formed a dangerous association, with the object of pillage and
incendiarism. I afterwards learnt that the master of the plantation on
which the awful crime took place was notorious for his brutality, and
consequently shunned by all his neighbours. A year or so later, he was
arrested on some charge or other connected with the ill-treatment of his
slaves, and after paying a heavy fine, found it to his interest to leave
the island. He came to Paris, where he was well known for his
eccentricity and extravagance, and there died some years ago. Even in
the case of this unfavourable specimen of the Cuban planter the
household slaves were treated with the utmost indulgence, and petted and
pampered to their hearts' content. They were as vicious, idle,
happy-go-lucky a lot as ever existed! I did hear some horrible stories
of fiendish cruelty devised by spiteful mistresses, and inflicted upon
their female servants. One, for instance, which may or may not have been
true, of a lady who, because her own eyes worried her, stabbed out those
of her waiting-maid with pins. Perhaps the worst features of slavery in
Cuba were, as I have already stated, the length of the working hours,
and the fact that the masters considered their religious duty to have
ended with the wholesale administration of baptism. It never entered
their heads to teach the poor wretches any lesson beyond that of
implicit obedience to their own will and caprice. Even the rudiments of
the catechism were absolutely forbidden. Many a worthy priest has found,
to his cost, that any attempt to Christianize the field hands was the
worst possible mistake he could make in their owners' eyes. It not only
involved him in difficulties with the masters, but with his own
ecclesiastical superiors. The Jesuits and Franciscans were persecuted,
and threatened with expulsion over and over again, because they
persisted in their efforts to convert the negroes. The fact is, the
masters were quick to understand that the ethics of Christianity are not
compatible with slavery. Yet many household slaves received a religious
education rather elaborate than otherwise, were obliged to attend
morning and evening prayers, and to say the Rosary, a very favourite
form of devotion at the present time with all Cuban negroes, who will
sit for hours in the glaring sun, telling their beads and smoking
cigarettes, with the oddest imaginable expression of mingled piety and
self-indulgence on their faces. Although the days of slavery are long
since passed,--and they were quite as harmful to the whites as they were
to the negroes,--the condition of the dark population in Cuba has not
greatly improved. On some of the more lonely plantations, as I have
pointed out elsewhere, they still seem unaware that they are
emancipated, but the vast majority have foresworn all regular
employment, and live as best they can, from hand to mouth.

That portion of the coloured population of Cuba which has been free for
several generations, is in better case than the corresponding section in
the United States. The negroes belonging to it earn their living as
labourers, workmen, servants, hackney-coach drivers, messengers, and
even as musicians, in the various towns. Some few are fairly well off.
Whatever their vices may be, they are by no means ambitious, and are
contented with the simplest pleasures. The men love a glass of _agua
ardiente_, and the women delight in any scrap of cast-off finery with
which they can parade the streets, and show themselves off to the
admiration and envy of their neighbours. I fancy that half the old ball
dresses in Europe find their way, after various vicissitudes, to Cuba.
On a Sunday or a feast-day, the ebon ladies sally forth in all their
glory, arrayed in their white sisters' cast-off finery, with low necks
and short sleeves. The matter of underclothing is frequently altogether
overlooked, shoes and stockings never by any chance appear, but a bright
flower is invariably stuck in each woolly pate. Some of the holiday
makers sport a pair of long kid gloves, which have the oddest possible
effect. In church the dusky beauties squat, beads in hand, upon the
floor of the nave, which is reserved for their accommodation, while the
gentlemen darkies stand round in the side aisles. When Mass is over, the
sable congregation pours forth into the sunny streets, each member,
almost without exception, armed with a cigarette. The little negro
children are the sweetest little rascals upon earth, and I can quite
understand the enthusiastic lady who was heard to exclaim "Oh, why can't
we have black babies who turn white when they grow up." These said black
babies are inconceivably quaint, and the older children charming, and
very intelligent, till they reach their twelfth year, when their brains
suddenly appear to cease all development, excepting in the imitative
arts. The Cuban negroes are madly fond of music, and although they
prefer the dreadful tom-tom, and their own barbaric sounds, imported,
doubtless, from Africa, they will crowd the galleries of the Tacon
Theatre to listen to Italian operas. When I was last in Havana, nearly
every darkie you met was whistling the Toreador song from "Carmen," the
favourite opera then being performed, to the accompaniment of an
orchestra largely composed of coloured people,--a peculiarity which
would never be tolerated in the States, where no white conductor would
lead a mixed band, and where half the audience would leave the house on
beholding woolly heads bending over instruments played by sable hands.
Many members of the Tacon orchestra, one of the best in existence, are
full-blooded negroes, and, with their co-operation, not only Italian,
but Wagnerian opera, is successfully performed.

Slavery has unfortunately been replaced, in Cuba, by coolie labour, a
form of the same cruel institution, which, for some occult reason, has
never excited the same amount of horror in Europe, possibly because it
does not bear the actual name of slavery, and because most people
imagine the wretched coolie sells himself, instead of being sold. In
1877 there were 43,000 Chinese workmen on the island, all that remained
out of 100,000, originally imported, of whom not less than 16,000 had
died on their way out from China. At the present moment the coolies
number something like 40,000. These poor wretches do not bring their
female belongings with them, and are consequently reduced to a condition
of enforced celibacy; for so great is the contempt in which these
voluntary slaves are held, not even the lowest negress will have
anything to do with them. Despised by the whites, and detested by the
blacks, they lead a miserable life, and die like flies, in the scorching
climate. The very partial success of the coolie immigration scheme led,
some years ago, to the importation of Mayas from Yucatan, but this has
not been followed by happy results; and what with the depreciation of
tropical produce, the number of estates which have gone out of
cultivation, and the revolutionary movement, the present condition of
the coloured class, and of the coolies, is exceedingly deplorable. They
have swollen the ranks of the malcontents, and form a portion of that
starving multitude of which we have heard so much of late. In a word,
they are workmen out of employment, starving plantation hands, and their
condition seems irremediable, unless, indeed, some wealthy Power should
eventually take the island in hand, and spend countless millions in the
endeavour to lift it, once more, to its former condition of prosperity.



CHAPTER III.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ISLAND.


It was on the morning of Friday, 12th October 1492, that Christopher
Columbus first saw the New World rising on the ocean horizon. The
ardently prayed-for land proved to be an island, called by the natives
Guanahanè, and by the explorer baptized San Salvador, but known to us
now as the chief of the Bahamas group. After making friends with the
gentle natives, and taking in supplies of food and water, Columbus,
though at some loss as to which way he should direct his course, set
sail once more. Such a multitude of islands lay before him, large and
small, "green, level, and fertile," that he grew fairly confused as to
which way to turn. He fancied he was sailing in the Archipelago,
described by Marco Polo as studding the seas which washed the shores of
Chin, or China, a great, great distance from the mainland. These, the
Venetian traveller had declared, numbered some 7000 or 8000--rich in
gold, silver, drugs, spices, and many other precious objects of
commerce. Night obscured the delightful vision, and the verdure-clad
islands faded into the tropical darkness. The next morning Columbus
landed on a pretty islet, the inhabitants of which greeted him in the
most friendly manner, and to which he gave the name of Santa Maria de la
Concepcion. But the extreme simplicity of their costume--they were clad
in all their native innocence--and the absence of all signs of wealth,
led the Discoverer to think that perhaps, after all, he was still far
from that part of the world mentioned by the imaginative Marco. Next, he
landed on a beautiful island, now known as Exuma, to which he gave the
name of Fernandina, in honour of His Most Christian Majesty. Here the
ladies betrayed more native modesty, for, he gravely assures us, "they
wore mantles made of feathers, and cotton aprons." He had disembarked in
a noble harbour, bordered by shady groves, "as fresh and green as in the
month of May in Andalusia." The trees, the fruits, the herbs, the
flowers, the very stones, were, for the most part, as different from
those of Spain as day is to night.

On 19th October he left Fernandina, steering towards another island,
called Saometo, where, as he gathered from the natives, he was to find
rich mines of gold, and a monarch who held sway over all the surrounding
lands. This potentate was said to dwell in a mighty city, and to wear
garments studded with gold and gems. He reached the island in due time,
but neither monarch nor mine found he. It was a delightful spot,
however, blessed with deep lakes of fresh water, and with such swarms of
singing-birds that the explorer felt, so he declared, that he could
"never desire to depart thence. There are flocks of parrots which
obscure the sun, and other brilliant birds of so many kinds and sizes,
and all different from ours, that it is wonderful, and besides, there
are trees of a thousand sorts, each having its particular fruit, and of
marvellous flavour." To this enchanting island he gave the name of
Isabella, after his royal patroness.

Whilst the Discoverer was seeking for healing herbs, and "delighting in
the fragrance of sweet and dainty flowers," and, moreover, "believing
that here were many herbs which would be of great price in Spain for
tinctures and medicines," his followers were clamouring to the natives
concerning the whereabouts of mines of gold and silver, which, we need
hardly say, existed only in their ardent, greedy, and deluded
imaginations. Whether Columbus and his companions mistook the natives'
signs or not, certain it is that, for several days, he was once more
convinced he was in the neighbourhood of the islands of which Marco Polo
had written. The capital of this archipelago was supposed to be a city
called Quinsai, and there Columbus intended personally to deliver the
letter of the Castilian sovereigns to the mysterious Khan. With his mind
full of such airy castles, he set sail from Isabella on the 24th
October, steering, haphazard, west-south-west. After three days'
navigation, in the course of which he touched at a group of small
islands, which he christened Islas de Arena, now supposed to be the
Mucacas, he crossed the Bahama Bank, and hove in sight of Cuba. Lost in
contemplation of the size and grandeur of the new island, its high
soaring mountains, which, he tells us, reminded him of those of Sicily,
its fertile valleys, its long, sweeping, and well-watered plains; its
stately forests, its bold promontories and headlands melting away into
the softest distance, he once more concluded that this, at last, must be
the enchanted country of the Venetian explorer. Landing, he took
possession in the name of Christ, Our Lady, and the Sovereigns of Spain,
and christened the new country Juana, in honour of the Infanta Doña
Juana. The land on which he set foot is believed to have been just to
the west of Nuevitas del Principe, the seaport of the city of Puerto
Principe. The objects which first arrested his attention were a couple
of huts, from which the inmates had fled. Their interiors boasted no
evidences of civilization or wealth. Their sole contents were a few
fishing-nets, hooks, harpoons of bone, and a queer sort of dog (the
breed, alas, is now extinct, I fear!), "which never barks." With the
humane consideration which distinguished the illustrious Italian, though
his Spanish followers can never be said to have followed his good
example, Columbus ordered that nothing should be touched or disturbed in
the two cabins. There was a certain foresight, too, about the order; it
was more advantageous to pose as a demi-god than to run the risk of
being taken for a thief.[7]

The scenery of Cuba is described by Columbus in his usual glowing
language. Then, as now, it was a marvel of tropical beauty. He was
specially impressed by the vivid splendour of the jewelled
humming-birds, which hovered around the innumerable and gorgeous
blossoms clustering every bough. The smaller species of fireflies he had
frequently seen in Italy, but the _luccioli_ of the Old World were as
sparks to lamps beside the meteor-like creatures which, even on the
brightest nights, made a flickering radiance in the Cuban forests. In a
word, Cuba broke upon him like an Elysium. "It is the most beautiful
island that eye of man ever beheld, full of excellent woods and deep
flowing rivers." He was utterly convinced, now, he had reached Cipango,
that wonderful spot which, according to Marco Polo, possessed mountains
of gold, and a shore the sands of which were strewn with oriental
pearls. A worthy native further deluded the already over-credulous
Discoverer by inducing him to believe that the centre of the island, at
a place called Cubanacan, literally glittered with gold. Now Cubanacan
is uncommonly like Cublia-Khan, the name of the Tartar sovereign
mentioned by Polo, and this confusion of names probably led Columbus and
his companions to the conviction that Cuba was not an island, but part
of the main continent.

Suddenly, one day, the weather changed; the sky, hitherto as blue as a
turquoise, grew dark and heavy, torrents of rain began to fall, and
Columbus was obliged to relinquish all further pursuit of adventure in
the heart of the island, and to confine his operations to the coast.

There is nothing more pathetic in the "Journal" of Columbus than those
passages which deal with the discovery of Cuba. Illusion after illusion
fades away. To-day there are reports of gold and silver mines; to-morrow
someone has heard of cinnamon and nutmeg trees, and even of the humble
rhubarb, but, on examination, gold and silver, cinnamon, nutmeg, and
rhubarb, all prove delusions. The Spaniards showed the natives pearls,
at which they merely smiled,--to them they were naught but pretty white
beads. Gold did not impress them as being of any particular value or
beauty; and they were understood to say that, in the more distant parts
of the country, the people wore ornaments made of that precious metal
about their necks, arms, and ankles. Then came an old native who
announced that further on dwelt men who had but one eye, and that below
their shoulders; others who had dogs' heads; and others, again, who were
vampires, and sucked their prisoners' blood until they died of
exhaustion, and thereby confirmed Othello's account of his adventures--

    "In lands where dwell cannibals that each other eat,
    The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
    Do grow beneath their shoulders."

Everything, in a word, was new and wonderful, and everything tended to
make the Discoverer think he was approaching that object of his dreams,
"the city of the Khan."

In November he was still wandering down the coast of the magnificent
island, which he believed to be part of the Continent,--an error in
which he continued until his death. Yet, had he but sailed three days
further, he would have touched the main coast of Florida. Certain
writers assert that he landed in British Honduras, without, however,
realizing that, by so doing, he had discovered the real Continent of
America.

Here we must take our leave of the illustrious Discoverer and his
adventures. If I have dwelt so long upon them, it has been simply in
order to impress my readers with the fact that, when Columbus reached
Cuba, he discovered a country, the inhabitants of which were evidently
at peace among themselves and their neighbours. Yet, almost from the day
of his arrival to the present time, the unhappy island has been stained
by incessant tragedy. The illustrious Italian firmly believed he had
brought a blessing to the natives. His arrival, alas! only signified the
beginning of their extermination.

The early inhabitants, not only of Cuba, but of all the other islands,
were certainly of common origin, spoke the same language, practised the
same customs, and held similar superstitions. They bore a distinct
resemblance to certain tribes of Indians on the main Continent, to the
Arrowauk in particular. They were well made, of dark brown complexion,
with goodly features and long straight hair. They went by the generic
name of Charaibes or Caribees. Several distinct tribes may have existed,
but the evidence is that they were all of one family, which had in all
probability swarmed out of the great hive of the Mexican empire. Juan de
Grijalva, a Spanish navigator, declared, in 1518, that he found a people
on the coast of Yucatan who spoke the same language as the natives of
the island. According to Las Casas, and to Peter Martyr, who wrote on
the authority of Columbus himself, there were about 1,200,000 souls in
Cuba at the time of its discovery. This was possibly the result of some
rough calculation made upon the large number of people noticed as living
upon the immediate sea-board. It is certain that not Cuba only, but all
the neighbouring islands, were thickly populated at the time of their
discovery, and also that the aborigines were exceedingly gentle in
character. They almost invariably received the European adventurers as
beings of a superior order, who had alighted from some spirit world,
evidently with the intention of doing them good--a conviction
strengthened by the graceful courtesy which still distinguishes their
descendants in Spain and Italy. This conviction was, ere long, to be
cruelly shaken! The islanders, in spite of many virtues, had a moral
code of the loosest description, and, if we may believe Ovando, Europe
owes them its first acquaintance with one of the most terrible penalties
exacted by Nature from the too fervent worshipper of Venus. Labour and
cultivation appear to have been little practised by the Caribbees, who
found the great fertility of their country sufficient to enable them to
lead a life of delightful indolence. Their fashions never changed--since
they had none to change--and their wives' milliner's bills troubled them
not. They spent their time in athletic exercises, in dancing, hunting,
fishing, and in fact, according to contemporary Spanish evidence, the
aboriginal Cubans would seem to have discovered the real secret of
life, and to have been far more philosophical than their restless and
over-ambitious conquerors.

They treated their elders with respect, and their wives with affection;
and they were untainted with cannibalism and other objectionable savage
practices. The discovery of fragments of ancient pottery, by no means
inartistically designed, and other objects indicating a higher
civilization than that for which Columbus gave them credit, would lead
one to believe that the natives were not devoid of a certain degree of
culture. Contemporary testimony is almost universally in favour of their
firm belief in the existence of a personal Deity, who had power to
reward merit and punish vice, a heaven and a hell. Columbus, according
to his own account, seems, between the years 1492-4, to have acquired
sufficient knowledge of the Indian language to understand a good deal of
what was said to him. He had taken two Indians back with him to Spain,
and had studied assiduously with them. However that may be, he declares
that on one occasion, in July 1494, during his second visit, an aged
Cuban made him the following speech as he presented him with a basket of
fruit and flowers: "Whether you are a divinity," said he, "or a mortal
man, we know not. You come into these countries with a force which we
should be mad to resist, even if we were so inclined. We are all,
therefore, at your mercy; but if you and your followers are men like
ourselves, subject to mortality, you cannot be unapprised that after
this life there is another, wherein a very different portion is allotted
to good and bad men. And if you believe you will be rewarded in a
future state, you will do us no harm, for we intend none to you."

The fairy-like opening of the dramatic history of Cuba, with all the
quaint descriptions of its Eden-like beauty bequeathed to us in its
Discoverer's Journal, was soon to degenerate into a horrible tragedy.
Not a generation elapsed before the Spaniards were deep in the very
tactics which have been disgracing their behaviour in Cuba during this
last decade. In the most wanton, senseless, and barbarous fashion, they
fell on the wretched natives, with no other object than that of
extirpating them, so as to usurp their possessions. They even went so
far as to assure the poor wretches that if they would embark with them
on their ships they would take them to certain islands where their
ancestors resided, and where they would enjoy a state of bliss of which
they had no conception. The simple souls listened with wondrous
credulity, and, eager to visit their friends in the happy region
described, followed the Spaniards with the utmost docility. By these
damnable devices over 40,000 human beings were decoyed from their homes
and ruthlessly slaughtered. Las Casas and Peter Martyr relate tales by
the dozen concerning the frightful cruelty of the men whom they had the
misfortune to accompany to the New World. Martyr tells us that some
Spaniards made a vow to hang or burn thirteen natives in honour of the
Saviour and the Twelve Apostles every morning. Certain monsters, more
zealous than the rest, drove their captives into the water, and after
forcibly administering the rite of baptism, cut their throats to prevent
their apostacy. But I will not harrow the reader with further accounts
of the astounding cruelty shown by the Spanish conquerors of Cuba. I
will simply repeat with their own historian, Martyr, "that in the whole
history of the world such enormities have never before been practised."
If any further testimony were needed, we have that of the venerable Las
Casas. Even Oviado, who strives to palliate his countrymen's
barbarities, confesses that in 1535, only forty-three years after the
discovery of the West Indies, and when he himself was on the spot, there
were not above 500 of the original natives left alive in the island of
Hispaniola.[8]

This wholesale massacre may have been carried out with a view to
ensuring the complete Spanish repopulation of the islands. The
destruction of the natives naturally led, in course of time, to the
importation, on a very large scale, of negro slavery, and the unnatural
trade continued until its final abolition, which took place some twelve
years ago. Traces of Indian blood are still evident amongst the
inhabitants of the wild regions in the eastern part of Cuba, who boast
indeed that they are the "Caribbees." The women are especially
beautiful, and remarkable for the extraordinary length of their hair,
which sometimes touches the ground. A female attendant in the house of a
planter whom I visited in this part of the island some years ago, was,
I was assured, of undoubted Caribbean descent. She was rather tall,
copper-coloured, and her hair, when she let it fall loose, nearly
reached her ankles, perfectly straight, and intensely black. She was not
a slave, and was treated with respect and kindness by her employers.

Although Columbus revisited the island three times before he returned to
Spain, to rest his weary bones in that peace his enemies so persistently
denied him, he died, as I have said, in the full conviction that it
formed part of the Asiatic continent, and it was not until 1508 that, at
the command of Nicola Ovanda, a certain Captain Sebastian
circumnavigated the island, and established the undoubted fact of its
being completely surrounded by water. In 1511, Columbus' son Diego, then
Governor of Hispaniola, otherwise Hayti, sent Diego Velasquez to Cuba,
with full authority to colonize it. This process he performed by
parcelling out the island among his followers and reducing the natives
to slavery. The poor creatures, never having been accustomed to hard
work, rebelled, and were forthwith mercilessly exterminated. Velasquez
founded many towns, among them Baracoa, Bayamo, Trinidad, Puerto
Principe, Santiago de Cuba (in 1515), and San Christobal de Habana
(Havana) (in 1519), this last city not exactly in its present position.

More interesting by far than Velasquez was his lieutenant, Hernando
Cortez, eventually to be known as the intrepid explorer of Mexico. The
lustre of his career in Cuba was stained, however, by his ferocious
treatment of the aborigines, whom he condemned to work in his newly
discovered copper mines, and tortured to death because they refused to
obey their taskmaster. His love affairs, on the other hand, were
romantic, and are still enshrined in the legendary history of the
island. His great, if cruel, name figures in many a folk-lore tale, but
no allusion is ever made to his subsequent adventures on the main
continent. Velasquez, too, is not forgotten. His Governorship had
evidently many features of excellence, and if he bears the shame of
having introduced the curse of negro slavery, he must be given credit
for having planted the first sugar cane in his fair domain.

After his death, in 1524, the history of Cuba is a blank until the year
1538, when Hernando de Soto landed in the island, and fitted out, in the
harbour of Santiago, the celebrated but unfortunate expedition to
Florida, by means of which he hoped to annex that country to the Spanish
territory. The undertaking, one of vast importance to the future welfare
of the New World, was disastrous in many ways. The flower of the Spanish
colonists perished in numerous battles with the natives, Cuba was
drained of her European population, and the progress of the island
lamentably retarded. Meanwhile, the venerable Las Casas had settled
himself in Havana, and started many wise reforms. Thanks to him, the
future enslavement of the natives was rendered impossible. The
benevolent law, unfortunately, came all too late--the great majority had
already perished. Las Casas built several charitable institutions and
hospitals in various parts of the island, notably at Havana and
Santiago, and obtained for Havana the grant of civic rights, as capital
of the island. For a few years Cuba enjoyed a measure of peace and
prosperity, interrupted by fierce occasional raids by French, Dutch, and
English buccaneers and pirates.

The great Buccaneering period in West Indian history, from the second
quarter of the sixteenth century till the end of the seventeenth, is one
of the most romantic and exciting that can be conceived. This celebrated
association of piratical adventurers maintained itself in the Caribbean
seas for over a century, by dint of audacity, bravery, and shrewdness.
It was organized for a systematic series of reprisals on the Spaniards;
but in the course of time all sense of honour disappeared, and its
members indulged in indiscriminate piracy. Its name, singular to relate,
is derived from the Caribbee word _bucan_, a term for preserved meat,
smoked dry in a peculiar manner. From this the French adventurers formed
the verb _bucaner_ and the noun _bucanier_, which was eventually
adopted, oddly enough, by the English, whereas the French preferred the
word _filibustier_, a possible corruption of our "freebooter," still
used to designate a certain portion of the Cuban rebels. The real motive
for the existence of the buccaneers was the universal detestation in
which Spain was held in the West Indian Archipelago. The Spanish
assumption of a divine right to half of the New World, in accordance
with the grant bestowed on them by Pope Alexander VI., and traced in his
own hand on the famous Borgian map, and the diabolical cruelties
practised by them upon all foreign interlopers who chanced to fall into
their hands, led to an association for mutual defence among all
adventurers of other nations, whom the reports of its fabulous wealth
had attracted to this part of the New World. Their policy was war to the
death against all Spaniards. Their code was of the simplest. They lived
in community: locks and bars were proscribed as an insult to their
honesty. Each buccaneer had his comrade, who stood by him when alive,
and succeeded to his property at his death. Their centre of operations
was the island of Tortuga, near San Domingo, where, when not hunting the
Spaniards or being hunted by them in return, they enjoyed peace of a
kind. Their life was wild and terrible, and their history teems with
cruelty and bloodshed, but the lurid page is lighted here and there by
tales of romantic adventure, chivalrous valour, and brilliant
generalship. Cupid, too, occasionally lent his aid to soften the rugged
asperities of the buccaneer's career. Who has not heard how Peter of
Dieppe fell in love with, and carried off, the daughter of the Governor
of Havana? and of how Van Horn lost his life in saving his daughter's
honour? Pre-eminent amongst such names as L'Olonnais, Michael de Busco,
Bartholomeo de Portuguez, and Mansvelt, stands forth that of Henry
Morgan, the Welshman, who organised fleets and armies, besieged rich
cities, reduced strong fortresses, displayed throughout his long career
an absolute genius for command, was finally knighted by Charles II., and
ended his wild and spirited career as Deputy-Governor of Jamaica, a
somewhat tame conclusion! Had he loved gold less, and power more, he
might have died Emperor of the West Indies, but he was content to retire
into comparative obscurity with his enormous fortune, after having made
the western hemisphere, from Jamaica to Rio, ring with his name and
fame. The buccaneers were then, as we see, a thoroughly well organised
association of sea-banditti, consisting mainly of English, French, and
Dutch adventurers, who harassed the coast of Cuba for over a century,
and finally, with the connivance of their respective Governments, laid
hands on Jamaica, Hayti, and others of the islands. In 1528 they even
ventured to attack Havana, set the town on fire, and reduce it to ashes.
There were no fortifications to repel them then, and the straw and
wooden buildings burnt merrily. When the buccaneers evacuated the ruins,
Hernando de Soto, the future discoverer of the Mississippi, hastened
from Santiago, where he was residing, and set himself to work to rebuild
the city in its present position, and surround it by well-designed and
constructed fortresses. So great was the terror inspired by the
buccaneers, that special laws were enacted in Cuba to protect the
seaports from their predatory attacks. People were ordered to keep
within their doors after certain hours of the night. Every man was
commanded to wear his sword, not only by day, but by night, and it was
death to assist any buccaneer who attempted to escape, after falling
into the hands of the Spaniards. In 1556, Jacob Sores, a famous pirate,
whose much-dreaded name was used by the Cuban women to frighten their
unruly children, again attacked Havana, reduced the fortress, and sacked
the church and city. Terrible stories are told of the outrages and
murders which he committed, and of his hair-breadth escape from being
captured, which he owed to a Spanish lady who had fallen desperately in
love with him. After the departure of Sores and his gang, Havana and the
other growing cities of the island were fortified afresh, so that when
Drake arrived in 1555, he thought twice before attacking the capital,
and sailed away without firing a shot. In 1589 Philip II. built two
castles, the Morro and Los tres Reyes (The Three Kings), designed by
Giovanni Batista Antonelli, an Italian architect in his employ. These
exist to this day, though, of course, greatly modified, especially of
late years, by being adapted to modern purposes of warfare. Havana now
had become too strong for the buccaneers, and although they frequently
threatened it, they dared not venture near enough to do much harm. The
town repulsed the persistent attack of the Dutch Admiral, Jolls, who
menaced it from August to September 1628.

During the seventeenth century, Havana and the other large towns of Cuba
were greatly extended, surrounded by walls (portions of which, as well
as the picturesque old gates, were recently standing), and soon became
renowned throughout the West Indies for their wealth and luxury. The
long series of Spanish Governors, or Captains-General, as they were and
are still called, made a point of importing splendid equipages, plate,
china, and even pictures by the great Spanish masters. When His
Excellency went abroad, it was in a gilded coach, not unlike that of our
Lord Mayor, drawn by twelve mules, caparisoned in yellow, red, and
gold, the national colours of the kingdom. A host of slaves of every
tint, wearing gorgeous liveries, followed, some on horseback, others
running by the side of the sumptuous vehicle. Trumpeters preceded, and
men in armour closed the procession. His Excellency's consort, who had
to enact the part of Vice-Queen, was instructed, before leaving Madrid,
in all the formidable etiquette of the Spanish court. Those members of
noble Spanish families who had established themselves, at an early
period, in the colony, continued to bear their titles, and formed an
aristocracy which held aloof from the untitled planters, and attended
the court of the Governor with all the state it could possibly assume.
These magnates, likewise, went abroad in gilded coaches, drawn by four,
six, and even eight richly caparisoned mules, and had their trains of
gaily liveried slaves. Horses were at one time scarce in the island, but
before the end of the seventeenth century they were numerous enough, and
the volante, a picturesque carriage, evidently a modification of a
similar vehicle then in use in the Peninsula, made its first appearance.
Another feature of those days, which has long since disappeared, was the
state barges which served to convey the rich and highly-born across the
harbour, and which, if I may rely on a contemporary engraving now before
me, were richly carved and gilded, and rowed by as many as twenty
oarsmen in gaudy costumes. In another print, dated 1670, representing
the market-place at Havana, a number of ladies are seen wearing the old
Spanish costume, farthingale and mantilla _au grand complet_, as we see
them in the pictures of Velasquez, and attended by slaves carrying
China silk parasols with deep fringes, to shield their mistresses from
the sun. In one corner a slave is being sold, while in another a sacred
image is carried in procession by a number of friars. Half-naked negroes
are running about hawking bananas, oranges, and pineapples. To the left
of the market-place is a church, now no longer in existence, which must,
I presume, have been that of San Domingo, annexed to which were the
prisons of the Holy Office, which undesirable institution was
established early in the 16th century, soon after the foundation of the
colony. It worked in Cuba with as much fierce cruelty as in all the
other Spanish dominions, and _autos da fé_ of heretics and heathens were
a frequent form of entertainment. Early, too, in the 17th century, a
good-sized theatre, where the plays of Calderon and Lope de Vaga were
doubtless performed, was opened in Havana. In Holy Week, _autos_, or
sacred dramas, were given in the open, "weather permitting." In a word,
Havanese life, in those far-off times, was a reflection of life in Spain
as it has been depicted by Cervantes and Lesage, and the Countess
d'Aulnoy.

Very soon after the Conquest, the Church obtained large grants of
valuable property, and down to the first quarter of the present century
a good fifth of the island was Church property. Most of the great
religious orders were represented--including the Benedictines and the
Carthusians. The Franciscan and Dominican friars had a number of
priories in various parts of the island, and were much esteemed by the
people, whom they steadily befriended. To their credit, be it recorded,
the Dominican friars occupied themselves a great deal with the condition
of the slaves, obtained the freedom of many, and redressed the wrongs of
thousands. The Jesuits made their first appearance very soon after the
creation of their celebrated order. They established themselves in
Havana, Santiago, Matanzas, and Puerto Principe, where they opened
Colleges for the education of the sons of the upper classes. There were
also many nunneries, peopled generally by sisters from Europe, who
educated the daughters of the wealthy, and gave primary instruction to
the children of the people. As is usually the case in Catholic
countries, numbers of churches were built, some of them of considerable
architectural pretensions, in the well-known Hispano-American style, of
which many excellent examples are still extant, not only in Havana, but
throughout the whole of South America. Some of the more popular shrines,
like that of Neustra Señora de Cobre, the Lourdes of Cuba, were, and are
still, rich in _ex votos_, in gold, silver, and even jewels.

The Holy Week ceremonies still remain rather crude reproductions of
those which annually attract so many hundreds of visitors to Seville.
But notwithstanding the existence of many learned and estimable prelates
and priests, the general character of the clergy in Cuba has been
indifferent, and I am afraid the Cubans have ever held the gorgeous
ceremonies of their Church in greater affection than her moral
teachings.

Up till 1788, the Cuban Church was ruled by a single bishop, but in
that year it was divided into two dioceses, each covering about one half
of the island. In 1804, Santiago, the eastern diocese, was raised to the
dignity of an archbishopric. The other, which contains the city of
Havana, still remains a bishopric.

The European revolutions of the end of the last and the beginning of the
present centuries had their effect on Cuba, and a great number of
monasteries and convents were closed, their inmates scattered, and their
property confiscated.

Unfortunately, the Inquisition, which had been implanted at an early
period everywhere in the Spanish colonies, with the object of compelling
the aborigines and the imported slaves to embrace Catholicism, was used
as a means of overawing refractory colonists, who were soon made aware
that either open or covert disapprobation of the proceedings of their
rulers was the most deadly of all heresies. From the middle of the 17th
century until the close of the 18th, the annals of the Havanese
Inquisition contain endless charges of heresy against native-born
Spaniards--charges which were in reality merely expressions of political
displeasure, and had nothing whatever to do with religion.

The palace of the Holy Office and its prisons, which stood close to the
Church of San Domingo, were destroyed many years ago, and are now
replaced by the old market-place of Cristina, once the scene of an
unusual number of _autos da fé_--a favourite form of religious
entertainment in South America, it would appear, for in a curious old
book, dated 1683, which I picked up in Havana for a few pence, the
author complains of the dull times, "nobody, not even a negro, having
been burnt alive for nearly six months." A Havanese _auto da fé_, in the
palmy days of Spanish supremacy, must have been quite a pretty sight,
including, as it did, an allegorical procession to the place of
execution, with children dressed in white as angels, and little nigger
boys as devils, tails and horns complete, dancing before the condemned,
who, of course, wore the traditional _san benito_, a sort of high mitre
and shirt, embellished with demoniacal representations of Satan and his
imps, capering amid flames and forked lightning. Then came the Governor
and his court, the civil and military officials, the clergy, the monks,
and the friars singing the seven penitential psalms--in a word,
everything "_muy grandiose y espectacolos_."

The early years of the 18th century were exceedingly prosperous for
Cuba. The buccaneers and pirates had almost entirely ceased from
troubling. The sugar trade was at its zenith, and although the Spanish
administration was vile, the governors rapacious, and the taxation
preposterous, colossal fortunes were made by the Cuban planters, and the
name of the island was synonymous with the idea of wealth and riotous
living. The Havanese carnival was almost as brilliant in its way as that
of Venice, and public and private gambling was tolerated on a scale
which attracted adventurers from all parts of the southern hemisphere.
Those were halcyon days, disturbed in 1762 by the rather unexpected
appearance, in the port of Havana, of an English war squadron of 32
sail, with 170 transports, bearing a considerable body of troops under
the command of his Grace of Albemarle and Sir George Picknell. This
formidable armament, altogether the largest America had yet seen, laid
siege to the city, which surrendered after an heroic defence of two
months' duration. The British troops were landed and marched on
Guanacaboa, from the heights of which place they fired down upon Morro
Castle and the city proper. The Spaniards made a fatal mistake--blocking
up the harbour by sinking two vessels at its mouth. This they did to
exclude the English and prevent the destruction of the Spanish fleet.
But though they did shut out the English they also imprisoned
themselves, and the enemy, seeing it was impossible for the Dons to
escape, even if they would, directed their whole attention to their land
attack. After a gallant struggle, the Spaniards, who numbered some
27,600 men, surrendered, and were permitted to march out of the city
with the honours of war, the spoil divided by the British amounting to
£736,000. The English troops next took Matanzas, and remained in
possession of this portion of the island of Cuba for nine months, when,
by the Treaty of Paris, it was restored to Spain, in exchange for
Florida. During the British occupation the trade of the country was
greatly improved by the importation of slaves from other British
possessions and by the newcomers' superior knowledge of agriculture; so
that the invasion proved, on the whole, a distinct benefit to the
country, opening out a new era of prosperity for the Spaniards and
other colonists. It has been said, indeed, that the real prosperity of
the islands dates from our occupation, which ended July 18, 1763.

About 1765 there was a remarkable emigration of Frenchmen, partly from
Martinique and partly from the mother-country into Cuba. The new
colonists brought improved agricultural implements, and not a few of
them opened shops in the chief cities, and did a large trade in French
goods. Some French missionaries also arrived about the same time. These
were mostly Jesuits, who, when they had acquired the language, began to
preach practical sermons, which were greatly relished by the
inhabitants. The French introduced apiculture, a branch of industry
which has flourished ever since, and which has enabled the Cubans to
supply the neighbouring islands with wax candles at a much cheaper rate
than those hitherto imported from Europe. It is curious to notice, in
some of the old log-books still preserved, the numerous entries as to
the importation of wax candles made at Havana, to Jamaica, Trinidad, and
Nassau. In the log-book of the ship "Royal George," which was in the
harbour of Havana on 16th June 1810, I find this entry--"Sent two men
over to the town to purchase wax candles, which are very well made in
this city, and also 20 bars of French bees-wax, and some soap for
friends of mine in the Bahamas."

In 1763, France having ceded Luisiana to Spain, Don Antonio Alloa sailed
for New Orleans, to take possession in the name of Their Catholic
Majesties. He was so ill received as to be obliged to return forthwith
to Havana, where Marshall O'Reilly, an exile of Irish origin, organized
an expedition to Luisiana, and seized the capital, which, however, was
not held for very long.

A very interesting incident took place in 1776. The United States were
struggling for their independence, when their first embassy, headed by
the famous Benjamin Franklin, arrived in Paris in the spring of that
year, and solicited authorization from Louis XVI. to proceed to Madrid,
to implore Don Carlos III. to grant them the aid and protection of
Spain. Two members of the embassy, Messrs Arthur and Charles Lee, were
allowed to present themselves at court, and the king accorded them a
most gracious reception, and cordially promised them his support. His
Majesty permitted Mr John Jay, a prominent representative of the
American Congress, to remain in Madrid to continue negotiations, which
resulted in Spain's affording the Americans truly practical assistance
in the shape of money and men, the Spanish Minister for the Interior,
Conde de Florida-Blanca, making them several grants of money out of the
treasury. Permission was also given them to raise a corps of Spanish
volunteers, who proceeded to Cuba, where they were reinforced by Cubans,
and embarked thence for the States. These services were rewarded by the
Americans with expressions of unbounded gratitude. "The people of
America can never forget the immense benefit they have received from
King Carlos III.," said Washington, and a few years later, in 1780, a
messenger was sent from Congress to the Spanish King, carrying with him
an illuminated address of thanks and a new bill for £100,000, which
they begged him to accept, "in the name of an everlastingly grateful
people." But even in those days there were doubts cast upon the "lasting
gratitude" of the American people. The Conde d'Aranda, the Ambassador at
Paris, wrote a letter to Florida-Blanca containing these significant
words:--"This American Republic was born a dwarf, but one day she will
become a giant. She will then forget the blessings she received from
France and Spain, and only think of her own aggrandisement."

The administration of Don Luis Las Casas, who arrived as Captain-General
in 1790, was one of the most brilliant epochs of Cuban history. With
indefatigable industry he promoted a number of public works of the first
importance, introduced the culture of indigo, extended the commercial
importance of the island by removing, as far as his authority permitted,
the trammels imposed upon it by the old system of ecclesiastical and
aristocratic privileges, and has left a glorious name in the long list
of Captains-General, only equalled by that of Tacon in our own century.

The great French Revolution produced a prodigious impression throughout
the whole of the West Indies. In many of the neighbouring islands,
especially in Jamaica and San Domingo, the negroes revolted, and the
action of Toussaint L'Ouverture, who had started as a Royalist, but who,
on the emancipation of the slaves in 1794, went over to the Republic,
was a subject of common talk in Havana, where the Spaniards had great
difficulty in suppressing a popular rising on the part of the Cubans,
who were already heartily disgusted with their maladministration. On
many of the plantations the more intelligent negroes, discovering that a
decree for the emancipation of slavery had been passed in the French
colonies, clamoured in vain for a like act of grace from the Spanish
Government, and finally rebelled, escaping into the woods, where they
formed themselves into bands, which soon became a dangerous nuisance,
and were ruthlessly suppressed by the cruel methods which have ever
characterised Spanish rule. Throughout the last quarter of the 18th
century the Cubans, as distinguished from the Spanish, manifested a
strong desire to free themselves from the oppression of the
mother-country, and not a few ardent spirits were made to feel the power
of the Holy Office, their patriotism being skilfully interpreted as
heresy, and punished accordingly. I think I am correct in considering
the year 1766 as the date of the commencement of the Cuban Independence
movement, which has lately culminated in a breach of the prolonged peace
of two continents. But this is a subject which will require another
chapter, and this brief history of Cuba must close, for the present, on
the threshold of the century which has only two more years to run--years
destined, in all probability, to witness the opening of a new era, one,
let us hope, of peace and prosperity for the Pearl of the Antilles.



CHAPTER IV.

THE BEGINNINGS OF THE REBELLION.


The difficulties of governing a colony blessed with so heterogeneous a
population as Cuba, are, as may well be conceived, great and manifold.
The ordinary newspaper reader is apt to conclude that his favourite
daily fully instructs him as to the Hispano-Cuban question, and takes
the Spaniards for a set of damnable inquisitors, who harry, torture, and
starve the angelic Cubans out of sheer devilry, precisely as the unlucky
Abd'ul' Hamid is supposed to have given his personal supervision to the
Armenian massacres. The Cuban business, like all other great political
and social questions, is a very complex one, and, in order to gain even
a general idea of its intricacies, some knowledge of its origin must be
obtained.

Spain's greatest mistake has been the persistent obstinacy with which
she has attempted to govern her colonies by the sword and the crozier--a
combination of military and ecclesiastical methods which, successful as
it may have been in the earlier periods of her history, has proved
ominously fatal in our times, and especially so in Cuba, where, since
the end of the last century, education has made considerable strides,
and the better class of colonists have watched, with rising enthusiasm,
the great revolutionary wave which has swept over Europe and America
alike.

The youth of Cuba entered heartily into the spirit of the times. Yet,
when the Great Revolution affected Spain, and spread to her colonies,
which, for the most part, rose in open rebellion against her, Cuba
remained faithful to the mother country,--in spite of her keen sympathy,
expressed and actively testified, for the United States in their late
struggle for independence. At the same time, Cubans were beginning to
realise the fact that they themselves were none too well governed; and
indeed for over a century and a half the Spanish islanders had been
chafing against official exactions, and against the obsolete form of
government established in the island. The famous colonial code, _Las
leyes de Indias_, already mentioned, was still in force, and unmodified,
as yet, to suit the exigencies of a newer civilization. In 1766 there
had been a distinct movement against the then Captain-General,--so the
Governor of the island was called,--who had taken upon himself to levy a
tax on all slaves imported, which tax he was accused of applying to his
own benefit. Then came the incident in the reign of Charles III., when
Spain afforded active assistance to the American insurgents, and a
number of Spanish and Cuban volunteers started from Havana, where they
had assembled, to join the rebellion against Great Britain. The words
"freedom and independence" were thus early rendered familiar to Cuban
ears. A little later, following the example of the great Anglo-Saxon
colony of the North, all the Spanish settlements in South America broke
into open revolt, and clamoured for their liberty. The name of Bolivar
was soon to set men's pulses beating under the Southern Cross, even as
that of Washington had lately stirred all hearts in the Northern
Hemisphere. The Spanish empire in the New World was tottering to its
fall. One by one Spain's colonies were torn from her feeble grasp. The
long-drawn revolution in Mexico, which, after fermenting for nearly half
a century, tossed the unhappy country to and fro from 1810 to 1824, had
a definite effect on the destiny of Cuba, which for over three centuries
had been partially dependent on the government of that once opulent
colony.

In a Catholic country, when priestly influence becomes apparently
paramount, it is frequently opposed by an under-current of surreptitious
free-thought. This condition of things began, in the case of Cuba, quite
early in the present century. A number of secret societies were then
formed, the majority of them affiliated to the great Masonic
Brotherhood, which has worked so mightily to undermine Spanish dominion
in the Southern Americas. For the Cuban lodges, like those of Italy and
France, have always occupied themselves with the religious and political
questions so rigorously avoided by English Masons. Their influence has
always been opposed to that of the clergy, and therefore to that of a
Government which has ever encouraged the interference of the Church in
temporal matters. For many years, Cuba has been covered by a network of
mysterious revolutionary associations, such as the _Rationales
Caballeros_, _Soles de Bolivar_, _Aguila Nigra_, and a host of others,
too numerous to mention. But these, for a considerable time, showed no
prominent activity--a circumstance accounted for by a sudden change in
the fortunes of the island. I have said that, until 1800, Cuba had been
dependent upon the Vice-royalty of Mexico, which was bound to pay all
the expenses of the maintenance of her public institutions, ports, and
roads. As the Spanish power in Mexico declined, the island, as may be
imagined, suffered; her ports soon fell into a deplorable condition,
and, owing to absolute monopolies imposed upon her trade,--held partly
by the Mexican Government, and partly by a chartered company established
at Seville,--the visits of merchantmen to her harbours grew few and far
between. The Revolution, which set a Bonaparte on the Spanish throne,
temporarily removed this incubus, and in 1805 the Cuban ports were
thrown open to general commerce, with the result that, whereas in 1804
less than a dozen ships, all belonging to the Seville company, passed
the Morro Castle at Havana, in 1806 over a thousand vessels from all
parts of the world cast anchor in the harbour. And further, the French
emigrants who had fled, twenty years earlier, from the San Domingo
massacres, had persuaded their Cuban hosts to devote their attention to
the sugar trade. Cane planting had for some years increased, in all
directions, and so rapidly, that travellers declared they scarcely
recognised the country, once so beautiful with its scores of dainty
green coffee plantations,--so exquisitely lovely when the star-like
blossoms scent the air,--now replaced by far-stretching acres of
unsightly cane. Be this as it may, sugar and tobacco were soon grown in
great abundance, and Cuba, with her ports freed from all the mediæval
trammels which had hitherto shackled her commercial capacities, was soon
able to supply more than half the total amount of sugar then consumed in
Europe. This commerce resulted in an era of exceptional prosperity,
which lasted until 1825. Meanwhile the Cubans proved their passionate
affection for their mother country by refusing to acknowledge the
Napoleonic supremacy, and even by openly joining the enemies of their
deposed sovereigns. Every member of the Cuban National Assembly took the
oath to preserve his country for his former king. Such ardent patriotism
won the island the proud title of "Cuba la sempre Fiel!"--"Cuba the ever
Faithful."

The restoration of the Spanish monarchy, in 1814, was hailed with the
utmost enthusiasm by the colonists. Nevertheless, even at this time,
feuds between the Spaniards and the Cubans were frequent, the latter
lampooning the former as Godas or Goths; and it is even said that when
the Spanish ladies wore their hair long, the Cuban Senōras cropped
theirs short--whence the name of pelonas (croppies) given them by their
rivals to this day. Well would it have been for Spain had she availed
herself of this outburst of loyalty in the richest corner still left to
her of her once prodigious empire! But insensate counsels prevailed, and
the mother country, by her ruthless abuse of Cuban confidence, gave
fresh and lamentable proof of her incapacity for colonial government.

It must be admitted that, whether at home or abroad, the Spaniards have
never been an easily governed people. The renowned Guicciardini,
Florentine ambassador to Ferdinand the Catholic, reports a very
interesting conversation with that monarch concerning his subjects.

"Ah!" said the father of our Katherine of Aragon, "the Spaniards were
ever essentially a nation of warriors, and also most undisciplined!
Everybody wants to be at the top of the tree, and nobody consents to
obey. The soldiers are better than their officers. Every Spaniard knows
how to fight, but none knows how to command either himself, or others."
Whereupon the Florentine historian adds, by way of rider--"This, in all
probability, is because discord is natural to the Spaniards,--an
illustrious, but arrogant, irritable, and turbulent, though generous,
race!"

If they were unmanageable in the days of their grandeur, when they had
all the wealth of the Indies at command, we may easily conceive what
they must be now, when they have fallen from the position of the
richest, to that of the poorest, nation in Europe.

The Cubans, the descendants of Spaniards, have inherited the Spanish
tendency to anarchy. When the army in Spain--as was of almost yearly
occurrence, earlier in this present century--made a Pronunciamento,
their Cuban brethren forthwith raised an insurrection, on some pretext
or another, of their own; and, as M. Charles Benoit says in his deeply
interesting work, _L'Espagne, Cuba, et les Etats-Unis_, "this natural
tendency on the part of the Spanish population in Cuba has been, if
anything, augmented by the influx of emigrants from all parts of the
world, who have brought with them all kinds of ideas and theories on the
subjects of morals and politics, and have thereby rendered the existing
confusion tenfold greater than in the good old times, when there were
only Cubans--that is to say, Spanish and negroes--on the island, and
everybody thought more or less alike." For all this, deep in his heart
the Cuban retains an intense love of the mother country,--a passionate
affection, indeed, which, should the Americans be victorious in the
present war, may eventually cause them considerable trouble.

In spite of the high sounding but empty title of "Faithful Cuba,"
bestowed on her generous island sons, Spain subtly reverted to her old
methods, and used their country as a sort of conquered El Dorado, the
quickly developed resources of which she was determined to turn to her
selfish account, regardless of possible consequences. The Cubans,
however, who had learnt many things since the opening of the century,
soon showed a distinct disinclination to submit to this process. The era
of prosperity already alluded to had attracted numbers of emigrants to
the island, from every quarter of the world,--more especially from the
United States; and constant contact with different races and varied
religions, added to the influence of the secret societies previously
mentioned (which had by this time become both wealthy and flourishing),
soon made their impression upon the better educated and more intelligent
classes, and therefore upon the masses, who, losing that extreme respect
for religious authority, ordinarily so characteristic of the Spanish
race, learnt to despise a feeble Government, which openly used its
clergy for its own ends and purposes.

Fortunately for Spain, and also for her Cuban subjects, the island was
administered, during the early years of the nineteenth century, by
Tacon, a man of exceptional ability and energy, who recognised the
immense capabilities of the country, and did his utmost to develop them.
He passed many laws of a beneficent and useful nature, and, in a word,
covered himself with honour, his name being even yet synonymous,
throughout the island, with ideas of justice and good government. Even
in his days some feeble attempts at insurrection were made, and a
certain Lorenzo placed himself at the head of some 3000 rebels, mostly
escaped negroes. Tacon had not much difficulty in routing him and his
ill-disciplined troops. The Havana of that period was by no means a safe
place of residence. It had become the gambling hell of the Americas, and
it was dangerous to walk its darksome streets at night, without a
considerable escort. Tacon availed himself of the opportunity created by
the great fire of 1802 (April 25-26) to rebuild the quarter of the city
then destroyed in a more regular style, and prohibited the future
erection of wooden houses, as dangerous to the public safety. He lighted
the city, suppressed the gambling saloons, prohibited the national game
of _Monte_, and established a well-organized police force and a fire
department. To sum it up, he proved, even in those far-off times, that
under a firm hand and common-sense administration, Cuba can be as well
and as easily governed as any other country under the sun. The great
Governor was guilty, however, of one dark deed: he encouraged the slave
trade. Hands were needed all over the Colony, on account of the
marvellous impetus which had been given to the sugar industries, and the
unfortunate Africans were used, so to speak, to pay the piper. In less
than ten years, over a hundred thousand negroes were imported into Cuba;
and as the masters never seriously attempted to civilize their field
hands, the present descendants of these slaves have added not a little
to the general anarchy now existing in the troubled island.

In 1812, the Cubans, still faithful to Spain, notwithstanding her many
sins of omission and commission, assisted in putting down a revolt among
the slaves in the neighbourhood of Bayamo, captured Aponte, the rebel
chief, and hanged him, together with eight of his associates. Hundreds
of negroes were massacred, or else driven into the forest, to die of
want.

The era of prosperity, which for nearly a quarter of a century, staved
off open revolt, began to decline between 1822 to 1837. The United
States had consolidated, and their increasing trade interfered
considerably with that of the whole West Indian Archipelago. Spain,
meanwhile, had gradually settled back into her old mediæval
ways--enlivened by palace scandals and military _Pronunciamentos_. The
series of governors who succeeded Tacon were, with but few exceptions, a
worthless set, and the crowd of minor officials who accompanied them
were mere leeches, whose sole object was to seize every possible
opportunity, legitimate or illegitimate, for lining their own pockets.
Ridiculous taxes, unreasonable dues and fees, were invented and imposed.
When the unfortunate Cubans raised an outcry against this wholesale
robbery, they were treated as rebels, and not a few,--chiefly members of
the various secret societies,--were arrested and imprisoned, and even
executed, without trial.[9]

In 1835 the Cubans claimed to have their interests represented in the
National Cortes by native members. The request was treated with a
contempt that will never be forgotten nor forgiven. From that day, a
feeling of bitter hatred and distrust has utterly severed the Cuban
population from its Spanish brethren. Ties of blood have been torn
asunder, and the sad truth that a family feud exceeds all others in
bitterness, has received fresh and inevitable confirmation. The earlier
insurrections of the century were invariably accompanied by the same
cruel reprisals on both sides. But they brought about no permanent
improvement in the condition of the people. Spain continued her obsolete
and selfish policy; Cuba never ceased to rebel.

The revolutionary period of 1848 did not, as may well be imagined, pass
without leaving its mark on the island. Strange as it may seem, the
starting point of the fresh series of rebellions was the pretty
Filarmonia Theatre, at Santiago de Cuba, where, some forty years ago,
the fascinating Adelina Patti made her début. In the winter of 1850
General Lopez led a filibustering expedition from the United States,
with the object of seizing Cuba, and proclaiming her independence. That
his attempt was favoured, and even financially assisted, by many
Americans, is an undoubted fact; but, unfortunately for its promoters,
it was a signal failure. A number of hot-headed young men,--some of them
belonging to the best families in the island--suspected of favouring
Lopez and his companions, were arrested, and several were shot, without
form of trial. As may well be imagined, the impression produced in the
ancient capital of the Eastern Province, and indeed throughout the
island, by this violent action on the part of the Spanish authorities,
was profound, and the feeling soon reached such a pitch that no
native-born Cuban would be seen speaking to a Spaniard. The Carnival
gaieties were suspended, and the city was thrown into deep mourning.
The Spaniards, resolved to mark their contempt for the islanders, gave
a ball at the Filarmonia. Groups of young Cubans forced their way
through the terrified dancers, and proceeded to insult and disfigure a
portrait of Queen Isabella II. The confusion was terrible, and many
ladies were severely hurt. Yet the incident was allowed to pass without
any attempt being made to discover and punish the offenders, who,
by-the-way, were masked. A few weeks afterwards, a Cuban lady of high
rank and great wealth, hoping to cast oil on troubled waters, hired the
same hall, and sent out invitations for a _tertullia_, to which she bade
representatives of both the belligerent parties. The consequences were
ghastly. The Spanish officers and the Cuban _jeunesse dorée_ found
themselves, suddenly and unexpectedly, face to face. An unlucky jest, at
the expense of an old Spanish officer, fired the mine, and in a moment
the ball-room was in an uproar, and the scene of gaiety changed to one
of combat. Ladies fainted, and were trampled under foot, chandeliers
fell smashing to the ground, and the most awful and horrible confusion
ensued. Five or six people were killed--amongst them a Spanish lady of
distinction--and nearly a hundred persons were seriously hurt. As to the
luckless hostess, she betook herself to Europe at the earliest possible
opportunity, and there remained; but from that day to this the incidents
at the Filarmonia Ball have never been forgotten in Cuba. Some of the
young brawlers were arrested, and certain of them,--youths belonging to
the richest families in the city,--were imprisoned in the Morro Castle,
and thence transported to Ceuta, the Spanish penal station in Morocco,
whence they never returned.

For some years after this gloomy event, Cuba went from bad to worse, _de
mal em peyor_. But it would be useless, and, indeed, merely confusing,
at this date, to enter into the details of what is, after all, merely
the local history of a bye-gone time. The weak Government of Queen
Isabella, which lacked even the faintest sense of providence, continued
to exploit Cuba in every possible manner, and to send out needy
generals, and pauper nobles, to act as Governors. In the meantime, as it
may be interesting, at this juncture, to recall, the United States had
already cast longing eyes on the fair Queen of the Antilles. An almost
forgotten episode of this period was brought to light, but the other
day, in the pages of the _Fortnightly Review_. In a most interesting
article, Mme. Colmache, the venerable and distinguished widow of
Talleyrand's last secretary, gives a terse and singularly interesting
account of an intrigue, all the details of which are in her personal
recollection. It seems that fifty years ago, Louis Philippe, seized with
a desire for territorial aggrandisement, took advantage of Spain's
poverty to make overtures for the purchase, not only of Cuba, but of
Puerto Rico and the Philippines. As a matter of fact, the deal would
have been actually concluded, but for the French monarch's parsimony.
Queen Christina's representative in Paris, Señor Campanuzo, was
instructed to ask 30,000,000 reals for Cuba, and 10,000,000 for Puerto
Rico and the Philippines. The terms for the purchase of Cuba and Puerto
Rico having been agreed, the treaty was to have been signed at the
Tuileries. But at the last moment, the Bourgeois King demanded that the
Philippines should be thrown in free; and so firmly did he insist, that
the Spanish representative could only declare that the treaty had better
be thrown into the fire. This course was actually pursued.

Twenty years later another offer for the purchase of Cuba, and a far
more offensive one, was made by the United States. In the year 1860,
President Buchanan greatly alarmed the Spanish Government, by a message
as threatening in its nature as that recently despatched by President
M'Kinley to the advisers of Queen Christina, at Madrid. Its purport may
be expressed as follows, although, to be sure, the matter was not quite
so plainly couched, but the inference could not be misunderstood.
"Circumstances and destiny absolutely require that the United States
should be masters of the island of Cuba. That we should take it by
filibustering or violence is not in accordance with our national genius.
It will suit our character and honesty much better to obtain it by
purchase. Let us therefore offer a fair price for it. If that fair
price[10] shall be refused, we, of course, shall have a _casus belli_.
Spain will have injured us, and we may declare war. Under these
circumstances, we should probably obtain the place without purchase, but
we will hope for better things."

This domineering proposal to annex Cuba by purchase was indignantly
refused at Madrid; but Mr Anthony Trollope, who happened to be in the
island at the time the proposition was made, tells us it elicited the
greatest possible enthusiasm there. "The plea," he writes, "under which
Mr Buchanan proposes to quarrel with Spain, if she will not sell that
which America wishes to buy, is the plea under which Ahab quarrelled
with Naboth. A man is individually disgusted that a President of the
United States should have made such an utterance. But looking at the
question from a broader point of view, one can hardly refrain from
rejoicing at any event which will tend to bring about that which in
itself is so desirable." After all, California had been purchased from
Spain by the United States, and Texas had been annexed by filibustering
incursions. There can be no question that both these States, though
peopled by Spaniards, precisely as Cuba was, had flourished exceedingly
under the star-spangled banner. Mr Trollope gives us a picture of the
public mind in Cuba in 1860, which convinces us the local opinion has
undergone very little change since his day. That which he wrote
thirty-eight years ago reads exactly as if it had been penned yesterday.
He says--"From such information as I could obtain, I am of opinion that
the Cubans themselves would be glad enough to see the transfer well
effected. How, indeed, can it be otherwise? At present they have no
national privilege, except that of undergoing taxation. Every office is
held by a Spaniard. Every soldier in the island--and they say there are
25,000--must be a Spaniard. The ships of war are commanded and manned by
Spaniards. All that is shown before their eyes of brilliance, and
power, and high place, is purely Spanish. No Cuban has any voice in his
own country. He can never have the consolation of thinking that his
tyrant is his countryman, or reflect that, under altered circumstances,
it might possibly have been his fortune to tyrannize. What love can he
have for Spain? He cannot even have the poor pride of being slave to a
great lord. He is the lackey of a reduced gentleman, and lives on the
vails of those who despise his manners. Of course the transfer would be
grateful to him."

"But no Cuban will himself do anything to bring it about. To wish is one
thing, to act is another. A man standing behind his counter may feel
that his hand is restricted on every side, and his taxes alone
unrestricted, but he must have other than Hispano-Creole blood in his
veins if he do more than stand and feel. Indeed, wishing is too strong a
word to be fairly applicable to his state of mind. He would gladly
consent that Cuba should be American, but he would prefer that he
himself should lie in a dormant state while the dangerous transfer is
going on."

The United States, whose hands were soon busied by the outbreak of their
own Civil War, dropped the Cuban proposal, and the whole question
remained in abeyance for some considerable time. Meanwhile matters had
reached an unendurable pitch. It was almost impossible for a Cuban to
obtain justice, and the Governor and his Spanish satellites continued
their systematic methods of bribery and corruption. Yet money was
plentiful in the island, where the commercial class had been immensely
swelled by numerous American and English fortune-hunters, who had
purchased large estates from impoverished Cubans, and had started sugar
and tobacco-growing on an improved system in various parts of the
island. In 1865, the Cubans, driven to despair by the vexatious
treatment of their rulers, addressed a petition to Queen Isabella II.,
which bore not less than 20,000 signatures, and implored Her Majesty to
consider the pitiable condition into which Spain's most splendid
possession had fallen, and to send out a Commission to inquire into the
abuses which rendered their lives unendurable, and prevented them from
earning an honest living for themselves and their children. Not the
least of these abuses were capricious and questionable management of the
Banca Espanōl, the only bank in the island. In answer to this
petition, the Junta created a body of twenty-two Cuban commissioners and
twenty-two Spanish, which original number, however, was unjustly
increased by the admission of a perfect army of Spanish nobles and
officials. The Cuban members, thus left in a minority, were not very
hopeful of obtaining much benefit from the Commission. They made a
sensible proposal for the gradual diminution of the taxes, especially
those connected with the export trade, and submitted a plan for the
gradual emancipation of the slaves. One of their principal schemes for
diminishing taxation,--by the substitution of a direct tax on the total
revenue, instead of the existing vexatious system of indefinite and
capricious taxes on the export and import trades,--was rejected, or
rather it was turned against their real interests. The Custom House
duties were cunningly diminished, and the tax on the total revenue of
the island raised from five to ten per cent,--a clear case of robbing
Peter to pay Paul, which exasperated the island population beyond
measure. The arrangement of the question of the abolition of negro
slavery was also eminently unsatisfactory. A decree provided that
newly-born slave children should be considered free, and that all slaves
over fifty years of age should be immediately emancipated. I have
elsewhere pointed out the unfortunate results of this system. The slave
trade continued in Cuba up till 1886, and during that time,
notwithstanding all the treaties signed between England and Spain,
several hundred thousand African negroes are said to have been imported
into Cuba, and sold with the connivance of the officials, who levied a
private tax of a gold doubloon, or about £3, on every woolly head so
purchased. To quote Mr Trollope once more--"The bribery and corruption
that goes on in Cuba is known to everyone, and best known to the
Government of Spain. Under these circumstances, who can feel sympathy
with Spain, or wish that she should retain her colonies? Does she not
daily show she is unfit to hold them? There must be some stage in
misgovernment which will justify the interference of bystanding nations,
in the name of humanity. That rule in life which forbids a man to come
between a husband and wife is a good rule. But, nevertheless, who can
stand by quiescent, and see a brute half murder the poor woman whom he
should protect?"

At last the insurrection broke out in earnest at Yara, in the Eastern
District. A number of determined men, assisted, undoubtedly, by the
secret societies to which I have drawn attention in an earlier part of
this chapter, commenced a systematic propagation of the theory that
unless force were used, and the assistance of the United States and of
the already emancipated States of South America secured, there was no
chance of justice for Cuba. At the head of the movement was a man of
very remarkable character, Carlos Manuel Cespedes. He was no penniless
adventurer, but a Cuban gentleman of large means,--one of the wealthiest
planters in the island. He was not at first inclined to sever the island
from the mother-country, for he was, by nature, essentially loyal. Even
before embarking upon his undertaking he warned the Spanish Government
of his intention, and of the danger it ran by persisting in its old
methods. A sincere Catholic, he refused to join in any of the overt
anti-religious propaganda then so greatly in vogue among revolutionists.
He desired to remain on friendly terms with the clergy of the island,
but at the same time he hoped that, under a more liberal form of
government, the Cuban clergy would administer the Catholic Church in the
same progressive spirit which has made her so respected and powerful in
the United States. To these fine qualities of heart and head Cespedes
added the advantages of a noble presence and of an extraordinary
oratorical talent.

In the beginning of 1865--the year of the petition to Queen
Isabella,--Cespedes' plans were nearly matured, but for various reasons
he did not intend the rebellion should break out before the autumn
season. Unfortunately, the individual to whom the funds destined for the
insurrection had been entrusted made off with the money, and betrayed
the secrets of the organization to the Spaniards on condition that he
was allowed to keep his booty. This act of treachery forced Cespedes'
hand, and he was obliged to move earlier than he had originally
intended. He found himself, not only without funds, but without arms.
When his troops inquired what weapons they were to use in the coming
struggle, he replied, with something of the spirit of an ancient Roman:
"With those of our enemies" ("_Con las de nos enemigos_.") The few guns
in his possession were distributed among his followers, and he, with his
band of some 500 men of all degrees and, indeed, of all colours, started
for Puerto de Buniatos, in the vicinity of Santiago. On the way they
seized all the fire-arms they could find in every plantation they came
across. For two months they remained encamped outside the city walls
without being attacked by the handful of Spanish troops which composed
the garrison. As a matter of fact, there were exceedingly few Spanish
troops in Cuba at that moment--barely enough to keep order in the
island. At the end of December, however, 30,000 troops were landed, and
presently augmented by a body of volunteers collected from various parts
of the island, among them a number of Catalan Cubans, who shortly proved
themselves absolute savages. A number of Spanish warships also arrived
in the ports of Havana and Santiago. Orders were sent from Madrid to use
the sternest measures for the immediate suppression of the
insurrection. The first step taken in this direction was the burning of
the vast plantation owned by Cespedes himself. This was the signal for a
series of massacres and reprisals all over the island. As if by magic,
the absentee Spanish grandees' great plantations were set ablaze. Then
the Spaniards fired the Cuban plantations, and in a few weeks a quarter
of the island lay in ashes, and thousands of slaves and workmen wandered
about idle, homeless, and starving. The insurgents, who were almost
without arms, were obliged to take refuge in the interior of the island,
where they raised the Cuban flag--the American stripes with one solitary
star--and were soon joined by men, women, children, and slaves, all
flying before the Spanish soldiery. The rebels installed themselves in
the city of Bayamo, which for several weeks they contrived to hold
against the enemy. A conspiracy on the part of certain Catalans, who had
joined their forces, being discovered, the traitors were put to death.
On learning this the Spaniards, who had encamped some miles from the
city, suddenly appeared before its walls. Seeing resistance was
hopeless, Cespedes, with the consent of the inhabitants, set the city on
fire, rather than see it fall into the hands of the enemy. An awful
massacre ensued, in which the Spanish soldiers spared neither man,
woman, nor child. On the other hand, the rebels, it must be confessed,
were guilty of the most horrible atrocities. In vain did Cespedes and
his lieutenant, Ignacio Agramonte, implore their followers to remember
that those who fought for liberty and progress must set the example of
mercy. The rebel bands were not men like unto their leaders, gently
born and carefully educated, but a horde gathered together out of every
social class and every race, indeed, for thousands of plantation hands
had fled their burning hovels, and taken up arms in a cause which they
believed would lead them to liberty. Words fail to describe the scenes
of horror which ensued. The dogs of war were let loose upon the unhappy
island. Up and down it, from one end to the other, the plantations
flamed. Towns and villages were laid in ruins, and to add to the terrors
of the situation, famine and pestilence stalked the land, even as at the
present moment. Hundreds of young Cubans, suspected of favouring the
revolution, were arrested on the most flimsy pretexts. A jest, the
wearing of a certain coloured flower, the whistling of a popular tune,
were sufficient to work a man's ruin. The prisoners were shot in dozens,
and shipped off by hundreds into penal servitude. By the end of 1868,
the Spanish garrison consisted of not less than 80,000 men, all well
armed, and whose officers, in their mad desire to stamp out the
rebellion which had now assumed formidable proportions, laid no
restraint on their subordinates' licence. In April of the following year
a proclamation was issued by the Spanish Commander-in-Chief at Bayamo,
which decreed that any individual over fifteen years of age found beyond
the limits of his property and unable to give an account of himself,
should be forthwith shot. All deserted houses, or all houses over which
a white flag of truce did not float, in sign of peace and devotion to
the Government, were to be immediately reduced to ashes. This order
only increased the horrors of the situation. Scores of planters who were
ignorant of its existence, and who were going peaceably on business
intent between their plantations and the neighbouring towns, were shot
by the soldiers, who were only too delighted to display their zeal and
rob their victims, and hundreds of houses were pillaged.

At this juncture Cuban affairs began once more to attract universal
attention in the United States. The interest taken in the rebellion and
the rebels by our American cousins was not, in all probability,
exclusively platonic. Whether this was the case or not, they contrived
to supply the insurgents, not with money only, but with men and arms, so
that the insurgent army rose in a short time to 55,000 well-armed men,
mainly entrenched in the mountainous districts, whence they were able to
make successful raids. On the 10th of April 1869, at the city of
Guaimaro, in the very heart of the island, the first Cuban Chamber of
Deputies was opened by Cespedes, and the new assembly forthwith
proclaimed Cuban independence and the establishment of a republic.
General Cespedes was unanimously elected President, and his
brother-in-law, Manuel de Quesada, who had served under Juarez, of
Mexican fame, assumed the name of commander-in-chief of the Cuban army.
Slavery was formally abolished. Freedom of worship was established, and
equality of all in the eyes of the law affirmed. The young Republic even
ventured to send envoys to the three countries which had shown her most
sympathy,--England, France, and the United States. The Envoy
Extraordinary of Cuba to the United States of America, Morales Lumus,
was, however, received with great coolness by General Grant, who
steadfastly refused to recognise the new Government. As a matter of
fact, whilst Cuba had been fighting for her independence, Spain had
dethroned the kindly Queen Isabella, and replaced General Prim at the
head of the Iberian Republic. The great Republic of the New World had
naturally hailed the chief of a revolution which had driven Isabella II.
from one of the oldest thrones in the Old World; while Prim, who was
anything but the visionary he is generally supposed to have been, had
arrived at the conclusion that Cuba cost the mother country far more
than she was worth, and had actually proposed--through Hamilton Fish,
then Secretary of State--the sale of the island of Cuba to the United
States Government for a sum of 100,000,000 pesetas! It is only fair to
add that, by the suggested agreement, America was to grant the island
its independence, abolish slavery, and proclaim an armistice, pending
the proclamation of peace. Poor Lumus' heart sank within him, for he
knew the Spanish character by heart, and was perfectly well aware of
what Prim was driving at. If he himself remained in power, the United
States would be allowed to do with Cuba pretty much as they thought fit.
Otherwise, if the ex-Queen or her son were restored, the Marshal hinted
an intention of securing the island for himself. With a heart like lead,
Lumus returned to Cespedes. The outlook was of the darkest, for the fate
of the mother country as well as that of the newly-born island Republic
hung in the balance.

General Sickles proceeded at once to Madrid, with full powers from the
United States Government, to conclude the proposed sale of Cuba to the
American Republic. The negotiations proved much more difficult than
President Grant had believed possible, Prim placing a thousand obstacles
in the way of the final conclusion of the bargain. Many believed that he
had been won over to the pro-slavery party. After a wearisome and
fruitless mission, Sickles was recalled. Later on an incident
occurred--that of the _Virginius_--too lengthy to recapitulate here,
which resulted in the capture by the Spaniards of that filibustering
vessel, which was proceeding from the United States to assist the rebels
with arms, ammunition, and men. The _Virginius_ was taken to Havana, and
sixty-one prisoners, including several Englishmen and twenty-two
Americans, were ultimately shot. On November 5th, 1869, the leaders of
the adventure, Navaro, Ryan, Jesus del Sol, and Pedro Cespedes--the
President's brothers--were put to death by the Spaniards, and their
heads carried in triumph through the streets. All this is far-off
history nowadays,--interesting, nevertheless, if only as a record. The
indignation excited throughout the United States by the _Virginius_
business was indescribable, and very nearly ended in a declaration of
war. Spain eventually thought it wise to make, through Señor Castelar,
an abject apology, and granted an indemnity to the families of the
unfortunate men who had been executed. The _Virginius_ was formally
handed back to the Americans, but the luckless vessel, which had been
severely damaged, began to leak, and sank on her way home from Bahia de
Honda to New York. This closed, and somewhat tamely, an incident which
was within an ace of bringing about, some thirty years earlier, the
events now taking place.

Whilst the negotiations for the release of the disabled _Virginius_ were
dragging their slow length along--they were conducted by the Spaniards
with all the dilatoriness which distinguish them--that nation underwent
a weird series of political changes and intrigues. The Republican party,
although flattered by Prim, who wished in his heart to be the first
President of the Iberian Republic, was evidently distasteful to the
majority of Spaniards, accustomed to the pageantry of the solemnest and
most stately of European Courts. It was therefore deemed necessary to
establish an interregnum with Marshall Serano as Regent, and to cast
about for some Catholic prince to place upon the vacant throne of the
Bourbons. Choice fell upon Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen--a
most luckless selection, since, by offending the susceptibilities of
France, it led to the Franco-Prussian war. King Victor Emmanuel's son,
Amedeo, was now offered the crown of Spain, and accepted it, swearing to
observe the Constitution over the body of Prim, who had been
assassinated on December 28, 1870, by an unknown hand. How Amedeo failed
to satisfy his new subjects, and finally was compelled to resign his
ill-fitting crown and return-to Italy; how an abortive attempt to
establish a Republic failed, and degenerated into anarchy; how Don
Carlos and his followers caused useless shedding of blood in the
Northern Provinces; and how, finally, Queen Isabella's son was restored
in 1874, under the title of Alfonzo XII., are matters of history
doubtless well-known to every reader of this book, and therefore only
need to be recorded as reflecting upon Cuban affairs. When the Cespedes'
Republic fell, the victorious Monarchy reappeared. But rebellion, overt
and covert, still disturbed the distracted island until 1874, when the
tragic death of Cespedes broke down the revolutionary spirit and brought
about a temporary lull.

The adherents of Cespedes had by this time dwindled to a mere handful;
and, driven desperate by hunger and despair, the forlorn but still
bold-spirited band took refuge in a fastness on the Eastern coast,
whence they hoped to escape to Jamaica. A slave betrayed their
hiding-place to the Spaniards. A fierce hand-to-hand fight ensued.
Cespedes fought like a lion against overwhelming odds. His friends fell
dead or wounded at his feet; but still he battled on, slaying seven of
his opponents with his own hand, and wounding many others. At last,
seeing all hope was lost, he fought his way through the Spaniards, and,
mortally wounded as he was, flung himself over the rocks, and thus
escaped his hated captors. His mangled body was recovered, carried to
Santiago, and there secretly buried. The dead man was mourned, and is
mourned even to this day, by all true Cubans. The stage on which he
played his part was, it may be said, a little one. His life and doings
may be forgotten beyond the limits of the country he strove to serve.
But such qualities of head and heart, such fervour of self-sacrifice and
steadiness of purpose, as marked the career of Carlos Manuel Cespedes,
must surely entitle him to an honoured place on the golden roll of the
world's true heroes. May he rest in peace!



CHAPTER V.

THE HISTORY OF THE REBELLION UP-TO-DATE.


The dying Cespedes bequeathed his honours to his friend and henchman,
Don Salvador Cisneros y Bétancourt, Marquez de Santa Lucia, who was
forthwith elected President of the Republic. He displayed exceptional
ability, endeavoured to bring some discipline into the ranks of his more
or less disorderly followers, and succeeded for a time, not only in this
attempt, but also in reviving the dashed spirit of the rebels in the
Eastern Province. At length he wearied of what ultimately proved a
thankless task, and retired to make room for Don Francisco Aquelera, who
became third President of this essentially rural Republic, whose
Parliament was wont to assemble in the heart of a dense forest, or in
some mountain solitude.

Aquelera, although a man of marked ability, was no longer in the prime
of life, and soon grew tired of the roving existence circumstances
compelled him to lead. After his retirement, a new name begins to figure
prominently in Cuban affairs,--that of Maximo Gomez, who was elected
Commander-in-Chief of the rebel forces, _L'Ejercito libertador de la
Republica de Cuba_, some twenty years ago. With a comparatively small
following, he managed, by sheer dint of audacity and profound
strategical knowledge, to keep 20,000 Spaniards at bay. Gomez is a
thorough soldier, one of the best the New World has possessed. I met him
once, and was greatly struck by his martial bearing and his fiery black
eyes, rendered still more conspicuous by his perfectly white hair, and
long moustachios. He was born in 1837. Although afflicted with a
terrible ulcer in his right leg, and unable to sit a horse except in a
side saddle like a woman's, he is an intrepid rider, and knows not the
meaning of the words fear or fatigue.

The other leader of the present rebellion is not less remarkable,
Calixto Garcia Iñiguez, who began his career as a bank clerk, and who,
therefore, combines with soldierly qualities of a high order,
considerable financial and business knowledge.

The treaty of Zanjou, signed February 10th, 1878, put a stop, for some
years, to anything like rebellion on a serious scale. A good deal of
mystery surrounds this treaty, to which the President of the Republic
and his secretary, only, affixed their signatures, without the formal
consent of the other rebel generals, officers, and deputies. However,
Marshal Martinez Campos, Commander-in-Chief of the Spanish army,
approved it, although the enemies of the Cuban cause describe the
document, somewhat sarcastically, as being more of a deed of
capitulation than a treaty. The clauses proposing that the political
organization of the island should be placed on the same footing as that
of Puerto Rico, that a general amnesty for all political offences should
be forthwith promulgated, that political prisoners should be pardoned,
and that coolies and fugitive slaves who had served in the Cuban army
should be emancipated, met with the approval of Señor Canovas de
Castillo, and the treaty was officially signed and accepted at Madrid.
For some time afterwards, peace nominally existed in almost every part
of the island. The rebels were not, however, wholly inactive.
Notwithstanding the accepted treaty, there was still a President of the
Cuban Republic, Vicente Garcia, and a Parliament, which sat in the
wilderness, at stated periods of the year. In 1879 this "Parliament" was
dissolved, and with its dissolution the period of the "big rebellions"
closes, and that of the little wars, _la guerra chiquita_, opens.
Meanwhile, Maximo Gomez, seeing there was no immediate work for him to
do, betook himself to San Domingo, to bide his time, and to place
himself in active correspondence with the Gran Junta, or principal Cuban
Revolutionary Association, in New York.

And here it may be as well to examine rather closely two matters
connected with Cuban affairs. The first is the assistance afforded to
the Cuban rebels by the United States, and the second, the conditions of
the rebel army, as it stood three years since, when the insurrection
began to assume alarming proportions.

As far back as 1823, John Quincy Adams said: "From a multitude of
considerations, Cuba has become an object of transcendent importance to
the commercial and political interests of our Union. Its commanding
position, ... the nature of its productions and of its wants, furnishing
the supplies and needing the returns of a commerce immensely profitable
and mutually beneficial, give it an importance in the sum of our
national interests with which that of no other foreign territory can be
compared, and little inferior to that which binds the different members
of the Union together."

The reasons which induced Adams to make this statement have not
diminished in late years; far from it, especially since the enormous
development of the Mississippi valley, and of the Gulf Coast. Although
there can be no question that the vast majority of the people of the
United States have expressed an unselfish sympathy for the unfortunate
Cubans, their politicians, and, above all, their financiers, have added
to this sentiment a profound knowledge of the great value which Cuba
must eventually prove to the Union, were she more firmly governed, and
her American interests better protected. Among the advocates for the
annexation of Cuba have been the following Presidents: Jefferson,
Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Jackson, Polk, Fillmore, Pierce, and
Buchanan.

A remarkably interesting article on Cuban Diplomacy from 1795 to 1898
appeared recently in _Harper's Magazine_, in which Professor Albert
Bushnell traces the rise of the sympathy of the American people for
Cuban independence or annexation, and points out very plainly that
"when, as in 1886, slavery was definitely abolished, the Spanish
Government promised other excellent reforms, but, as usual, very soon
things fell back into their old rut. The Captain-General was still
practically absolute; the island was saddled with the debt created to
hold it in subjection; it was still exploited for the benefit of Spain,
and the same wearisome impediments were laid on foreign traders. For
example, in 1880 several vessels were fired upon by Spanish gunboats
outside the jurisdiction of Cuba; in 1881 an American cattle steamer,
subject to a tax of $14.90, was taxed $387.40, because she had some
lumber on board. In 1882 began a long drawn-out correspondence on
overcharges and illegal exactions by Spanish consuls over vexatious
fines for small clerical errors, and over annoying passport regulations.
The most serious trouble arose out of the refusal of the Spanish
authorities, to return estates confiscated during the war to American
citizens of Cuban birth.

"Meanwhile trade between the United States and Cuba was advancing by
leaps and bounds. In 1850 the sum of the Cuban trade into and out of the
United States was $20,000,000; in 1880 $76,000,000; in 1894
$105,000,000. American capital became engaged in sugar and other
industries. The two countries tried to put their tariffs on a better
footing by the Convention of 1884, for the mutual abandonment of
discriminating duties; in 1893 Spain accepted reciprocity under the
tariff of 1890; but the Cuban authorities evaded the privileges thus
conferred, on the ground that they were governed by a special Spanish
translation from the English version of the treaty, and not by the
original Spanish version; and it was three years before the Home
Government could straighten out this petty snarl.

"In 1884-5 came some filibustering expeditions; the United States
exerted itself to stop them, and there was no Cuban insurrection. On the
whole, the years from 1879 to 1894 were freer from diplomatic
controversy than any like period since 1845. Meanwhile the Cubans in the
United States had accumulated a revolution fund of a million dollars."

I have already stated that a network of secret societies has covered
Cuba, ever since the beginning of this century. Branches of these
mysterious associations have been established in nearly every city on
the seaboard of the two Americas, from New York to Buenos Ayres, at
Boston, Savanah, Charlestown, Norfolk, Tampa, Kingston (Jamaica), etc.
Their headquarters have been established, for some five and forty years,
in the American metropolis, and are known as the Gran Junta, or Cuban
Revolutionary Agency.

From this centre, the rebellion has been mainly worked. It is presided
over, at the present time, by Señor Thomaso Estrado Palma, who was born
at Bayamo, some sixty-seven years ago, and who for a short time acted as
President of the Cuban Republic. He was captured by the Spaniards, and
imprisoned for several years. About 1895 he reappeared in New York, as
headmaster of a Hispano-American College, and as one of the leading
members of the Junta. He is not only thoroughly well aquainted with all
the secrets of the rebels, but is also by no means ignorant of the
movements of the Spaniards. He bears an eminently respectable character,
is a man of considerable literary attainments, and, considering his age,
may be described as remarkably active. The New York Junta publishes a
bi-weekly paper, entitled _La Patria_, edited by Don Enrique José
Varona, who, if I mistake not, is a brother of that Varona who was shot
during the affair of the "Virginius." The line of Presidents of the
Cuban Republic is still unbroken, and the gentleman who at present fills
the position is a man of considerable culture, and, moreover, a wealthy
planter, whose estates, however, he has neglected for some years, in
order the better to serve his country.

One of the great grievances of the Spaniards is the fashion in which the
American Government has tolerated the existence of this Gran Junta, and
the formation of branch offices, all over the States. And, when you come
to think of it, it does seem somewhat intolerable that a power which
calls itself friendly,--since it has a representative at the court of
Madrid,--should encourage a whole network of conspiracy against a
Government, with which it keeps up a constant interchange of official
courtesies; but at the same time, it should be remembered that these
associations cannot be suppressed, in a free country like America, so
long as the members take care not to go beyond the letter of the law.
Under President Cleveland, matters were otherwise. The United States
Government made some pretence of moderating the zeal of the Juntas, and
spent many million dollars in endeavours to prevent the departure of
filibusters, to join the rebel forces. But notwithstanding the dignified
policy of President Cleveland, which for some years gave the Spaniards a
fair chance of pacifying the distracted island, they utterly failed to
avail themselves of the opportunity.

The task of restoring order in such an island as Cuba is one demanding
almost superhuman energy and tact, and these are qualities in which the
Spanish race, a naturally excitable one, is absolutely deficient. Yet it
must be allowed that the Cuban civil war resembles none other that has
ever been fought in any part of the world, or at any period of recorded
history. Revolution, as a rule, starts from the large cities, and thence
penetrates by degrees into the villages and rural districts. It is quite
otherwise in Cuba. With the exception of one or two easily quelled riots
in Havana, Cienfuegos, Santiago, and Bayamo, the capital cities and
towns of the island have scarcely participated in the rebellion; their
citizens, although for the most part Cuban born, have apparently
remained aloof,--possibly because the rebellion has proved exceedingly
injurious to their trade and commerce. This accounts for the curious
fact that while we hear so much about the terrible sufferings of the
Cuban people, and their deadly hatred of their Spanish masters, we see
in numberless photographs, reproduced in our illustrated papers, and
representing the departure or arrival of Spanish troops at Havana or
other leading cities, such a display of enthusiasm on the part of the
citizens, as we should have little expected.

The long streets are thronged, the balconies are crowded, Spanish flags
float in all directions, and the troops march along under a shower of
flowers, whilst young ladies are seen rushing forward to offer them
refreshments. Now it must be remembered that at least two-thirds of
these enthusiastic spectators are quite as Cuban as the most ardent of
the rebels; but they are people who have something to lose by the
continuance of the civil war, and a good deal to gain by its cessation,
therefore they eagerly welcome the Spanish soldiers, in the hope that
they may suppress the rebellion, without the intervention of the
Americans, a people who, however well-intentioned they may be, are, from
the Cuban point of view, aliens in race, and even in religion. We should
never lose sight of the fact that the rebels are not the angels some
writers would lead us to believe them. Even enthusiasts, who see their
budding wings, acknowledge that they have destroyed, burnt, pillaged,
and retaliated, quite as barbarously as their Spanish enemies.

I remember hearing, from the lips of one who saw the outrage
perpetrated, a story of some eight or ten Spanish women who, in the war
of 1873, went to the rebel camp to beg the lives of their captured
fathers, brothers, and husbands.

The unhappy women were treated in the most revolting manner, and
subsequently butchered. Hundreds of other stories, just as horrible,
have been told of Maceo, and above all, of Manuel Garcia, the ex-brigand
chief, who joined the rebel army, and boldly styled himself Manuel Ist,
King of the Cuban highwaymen. He surrounded himself with a gang of
picked ruffians, and became the terror of all the peaceful planters of
both parties, from whom he used to levy tribute, and whom he never
hesitated to murder, if they refused to submit to his extortions. This
abominable personage was killed on February 24th, 1895, by the sacristan
of the parish church of Arcos de Canosina.

Last year the rebel army was composed, so far as I have been able to
ascertain, very much as follows: 25,000 infantry without transport;
14,000 cavalry, with 13,000 horses and mules; artillery,--22 guns, 190
mules or horses, and about 800 men; the whole regular and irregular
army, amounting to about 70,000 men, some 10,000 of whom are absolutely
unarmed. During the last two years these numbers have probably been
greatly reduced. The duty of the unarmed men consists in going round the
field after a battle, and gathering up the arms dropped by the wounded
and the dead. Behind this regular army, if so it can be called, is
another, consisting of a horde of civilized and uncivilized adventurers,
recruited from all parts of the island, and indeed from the four
quarters of the globe; among them you will find field hands out of
employment, the riffraff turned out of the neighbouring islands,
Americans, Mexicans, Germans, Italians, and even a few Englishmen. Yet a
third band follows behind this extraordinary mass of heterogenous
humanity,--a mob of ex-slaves, reinforced by coolies, who may be
described as camp followers, and bring their women and children with
them. This formidable and incessantly moving army is divided into
sections, and distributed over various parts of the island, in camps (by
courtesy so called, for their tents are exceedingly few in number, and
the majority have to sleep in the open, unless they have time and skill
to make themselves huts with palm branches). These Cuban rebels, being
acclimatized, have a great advantage over the Spaniards in pursuit of
them, who, as often as not, are trapped by "Yellow Jack." They are less
easily overwhelmed by the deadly miasmas which hang over the desolate
places where, for safety's sake, they are compelled to pitch their
tents.[11] Still thousands of them do perish, for though the _vomito
nigro_ does not attack the blacks, it carries off thousands of whites
and coolies, while other loathsome diseases decimate the uncleanly
negroes and their coolie brethren.

The wildest imagination can scarcely conceive a more wonderful scene
than that presented by an encampment of Cuban rebels in one of the
virgin forests which still cover a considerable portion of the island,
or else on those level marsh lands, called Manigua, which bear so strong
a resemblance to the Roman Campagna.

Only those who have been in a tropical forest can form any idea of what
it is like. I remember once being taken by two excellent guides a few
hundred yards into one of these jungles. An English forest generally
consists of one, or, at the most, four or five varieties of tree--the
oak, the pine, the ash, the birch, the beech--with an undergrowth of
wild nuts and bramble, and a still lower one of bracken fern and grass.
In a tropical forest almost every tree and shrub is wholly different
from its neighbour.

The first impression made upon me, as I sauntered into this green maze,
was one of absolute amazement, not unmingled with a certain sense of
terror. The vegetation around me was of such unusual proportions that I
felt myself a mere pigmy, a sort of Jack the Giant-Killer wandering in
quest of the Ogre's Castle. And indeed the thick growth of tree trunk
and palm stems, absolutely leafless for some forty or fifty feet, might
easily be mistaken for the dead walls of some enchanted fortress.
Looking up, however, one beheld, instead of blue sky, an aerial canopy
of the densest foliage, varying in tint from the deepest to the
tenderest green.

These Cuban forests are pathless: to traverse them you must cut or burn
your way; their labyrinths remind you at every turn of the opening lines
to Dante's _Inferno_:

    "Nel mezzo de cammin di nostra vita
    Mi ritrovai per una selva, oscura
    Chè la diritta via era smarrita."

As you pass along, clouds of winged creatures rise out of the grass,
some of them infamously unkind and pernicious, others beautiful and
harmless. In the openings the most inconceivably lovely flowers bloom,
and humming birds flash hither and thither, sparkling like variegated
jewels in the few rays of sunshine that penetrate the massive canopy of
leaves.

Now and again their passage is barred by the rope-like branches of some
uncanny creeper, that come pouring down from above like the tangled
rigging of a wrecked ship. You draw back in alarm, lest the strange
thing should suddenly come to life, and turn into a chain of angry
serpents. To your surprise you perceive one side of it to be literally
blazing with flame-coloured orchids, red and orange. In the centre of
yonder little open space is a dead tree that some huge parasite has
seized upon, dragged out of earth and imprisoned in a woody cage, every
bar of which is tapestried with the most exquisite orchids. Yonder
growth, which reaches far above your knees, consists of the great
wheel-shaped maiden-hair fern, whose fronds are so exquisite and so
brittle that you feel remorse at trampling so tender and delicate a
carpet under foot. Presently you find yourself ascending a rocky
eminence, crowned by half a dozen soaring cabbage palms, and thence you
plunge into a shrubbery where the exquisite Tabernæ-montana, or the
resplendent Calycophyllum, fills the hot moist air with an overpowering
perfume, recalling that of our homely syringa. On and on you go, through
groves of palm trees, tied together by entwined lianas, looking, for all
the world, like motionless boa constrictors, and on which countless tiny
lizards, or harmless little snakes, glisten in the sunlight. Now and
then a flying squirrel flashes past, or a monster bat is disturbed, or
you form the acquaintance of an ugly old iguana, who winks at you with a
knowing eye, and withdraws, as suddenly as he appeared, behind a trap
door of broad glossy leaves. Here are clusters of begonias, there a
veritable cataract of morning glory, the deep blue flowers so thickly
set together that not a green leaf is to be seen, for many yards. When
you least expect it, the wooden walls open, and discover a glimpse of
some placid lake, embedded like a jewel in a frame of dark green orange
trees laden with golden fruit, and covered with every sort of water
lily, varying from the most dazzling white to the deepest crimson and
violet. The heat is so great that you feel an irresistible impulse to
throw off your clothes and jump into the pellucid water; but your guide,
divining your intention, soon makes you alter your mind, assuring you
that the bed of the lakelet swarms with uncanny aquatic snakes, while
perchance that unpleasant individual, the ugly caiman, lurks in the
dark, under yon mass of arum lilies, ready to pounce upon you, and snap
off your leg. Yonder is a turtle scudding along, and round the shores of
an islet, covered with delicate bamboo cane, sails a whole fleet of
gorgeous water fowl. The impulse to push forward and discover new
wonders and beauties for yourself is swiftly checked by your guide, who
warns you that, as the sun begins to drop, noxious vapours presently
will rise,--vapours charged with deadly fevers and incurable agues. And
so you hurry back, thanking heaven, all the time, that you have a guide
with you, for without his friendly aid you might wander round and round
in this maze of luxuriant vegetation, never straying far from the point
whence you started, and sink at last, exhausted, to die of hunger and
thirst, with, it may be, a cluster of tempting poison peaches dripping
luscious but death-dealing syrup just above your parched lips. In
forests such as these, stretching for leagues across the island, do the
Cuban rebels pitch their camps.

Through these wild forsaken regions there are neither roads nor paths,
and the enemy has concealed the trace of his footsteps with the utmost
precaution. Every bush may mask an ambuscade, and behind every rock some
danger lurks. Sometimes the Spaniards--to whom experience has taught
many things--may mark the exact position of the rebels by the whirl of
the vultures, circling high above it, watching the time when, after the
camp has broken up, they may make a descent upon the scanty fragments of
victuals left behind, or upon the dead bodies of those who have perished
of wounds, of starvation, perchance, or of some malignant fever.
Overhead is a brazen black-blue sky, through which the sun darts red-hot
rays, or else a black stretch of dense clouds, belching cataracts of
water from week's end to week's end, and frequently torn by the most
terrific storms of thunder and lightning. The marvel of it is that so
many men, and even women, are able to live at all, under such dreadful
conditions, more often than not lacking the veriest necessaries of life,
and depending for their daily food on their knowledge of the qualities,
poisonous or harmless, of the various fruits, berries, and herbs they
find about their path. I wonder if it ever occurs to people who talk so
glibly of Cuban affairs, over their well-spread tables, that at this
very moment there are considerably over a hundred thousand human beings
encamped, under these appalling conditions, in various districts of
Cuba, not to mention the miserable _reconcentrados_, or men out of
employment, whom the towns-people reject, whom the rebel army is not
allowed to absorb into its ranks, and who, between the two camps, have
been systematically starved to death, especially under the merciless and
cruel rule of General Weyler.

In the dry season matters are a trifle better, the fevers diminish, and
it is possible to sleep in the open air without serious risk. The
insects, too, are a trifle less vicious, and the brilliant moonlit
winter's nights are often pleasant enough. Then the bivouac becomes
endurable, and if the enemy is sufficiently distant, a certain element
of gaiety lends a picturesque, even romantic, character to the barbaric
gathering. The negroes twang their banjos, blow their horns, and dance
in rings, and the white adventurers gather round the camp fires, to tell
old-world stories, or dream, perchance, of their childhood, spent under
more temperate skies,--and in their heart of hearts, as their
recollection slips back to home, to regret they ever embarked on such
pitiful adventures as these. Suddenly the alert is called, the trumpet
blows, an order is hoarsely shouted, and the motley crowd moves on
elsewhere, or is commanded to make a descent on some plantation to
demand provisions, and, may be, if the owner does not comply, to fire
his sugar canes. Not unfrequently, to screen their flight, they set
light to the prairie or to the forest, and the grass and the trees burn
on for days and nights on end. Some of these bands have a chaplain with
them--a priest of the sort called in England, before the Reformation, a
"hedge-priest"--who, on Sundays and feast days, celebrates Mass at an
improvised altar, in some forest glade. But, on the other hand, the
negroes, of whom there are thousands, seem, as a result of the free life
they lead, to have reverted, in most cases, by a species of atavism, to
their old savage habits.

I have said elsewhere that in the olden days their Cuban masters only
gave them a veneer of Christianity; they soon relapse into the obscene
and bloody creed of Voudism, the traditions of which they have never
lost. And in almost every rebel camp there are a number of coolies who,
although--to please the Cubans--they prostrate themselves before the
images of Neustra Señora de Cobre, and of Our Lady of Guadalupe,
secretly practise the lowest forms of Buddhism.

It is now time to turn our attention to an extremely interesting
personage, who, in his day, has given the mother country more trouble,
probably, than any other of the numerous leaders of the rebellion--the
famous Maceo. He was a true son of the revolution, born at Santiago di
Cuba in that great year of universal revolt, 1848. He was not, as has
been so frequently stated in English newspapers, a gentleman of noble
family. As a matter of fact, he began life as a muleteer. Hence his
wonderful knowledge of the Cuban ravines and passes, which has been so
precious both to his followers and to himself. He never made any
pretence of being a "Caballero," but gave himself out for what he was, a
blunt man of the people (egregiously vain, let me add, and astonishingly
ignorant!). Four years ago the following description of Maceo was
written me from Cuba by a friend who knew him well. "This wonderful man,
though short of stature, looks the very incarnation of a Spadassin of
the good old times of Calderon and Lope, and this notwithstanding his
strong evidences of negro blood. True, his features are none too
regular, but his complexion is, to say the best of it, swarthy. His eyes
are splendid, and he has formidable moustachios, which would have roused
the envy of a musketeer. He is scrupulously neat in his dress, and wears
his much belaced gold uniform with a gallant air. His broad-brimmed
white felt hat sets off his face to advantage. On the whole, he at
first impressed me very favourably. Suddenly, however, something annoyed
him, and he turned round on one of his men, and burst into a storm of
oaths. Then he showed his white teeth, shook with nervous fury, and
looked very fierce." For a good many years, Maceo was the hero of the
day. Even in the towns, where interest in the rising is apt to flag,
people liked to talk of his adventures. He bore the marks of twenty-five
wounds,--twenty caused by bullets, and five by sword thrusts. He
possessed a quality of ubiquity which at times seemed almost miraculous.
When the Spaniards were perfectly certain that Maceo and his men were in
the west, they were tolerably certain to turn up in the east. A dozen
times, at least, he was reported killed, but sooner or later he always
reappeared, and in a condition altogether too lively for Spanish taste.
Some persons even now believe he was not shot, as reported, on December
9th, 1895. But there can be but little doubt his adventurous career is
ended, otherwise he would have certainly reappeared ere this, especially
as he is sorely needed, no one having as yet risen up to take his place.
General Gomez and Maceo have been by far the most interesting figures in
the Cuban rebellion. In the time to come he will, I feel sure, be the
hero of a score of novels, as startling and sensational as any of those
of Mayne Reid or Fenimore Cooper.

Far be it from me to disparage the motives of the men who have conducted
this revolt against a distinctly vicious and obsolete government. The
saddest fact connected with the present struggle is that Spain's
punishment has come upon her at a time when she least deserves it, for
during the last ten years, though all too late, a great deal has been
done for the island by the mother country. In the first place, it is not
true that Cubans are not admitted to any official position in the
administration of their country. At this present time at least one-half
of the Government employés, high and low, are Cubans. There are some
scores of Cuban officers in the Spanish army. Cuba is represented at the
Cortes by thirteen Senators, and thirty Deputies. The University of
Havana is almost entirely in the hands of Cubans; the Rector, Don
Joaquim F. Lastres, and the Vice-Rector, are both of them natives of the
island. All the Deans are Cubans, and out of eighty Professors, sixty
are Spaniards born in the island, _ergo_ Cubans. All the Advocates of
the Supreme Court are Cubans, many belonging to families which have
resided for generations in the island. Still there is widespread and
well-founded discontent. The island is not properly administered.
Everything is in a state of confusion. Red-tapeism--the curse of Spanish
bureaucracy--is rampant, and the system of petty backsheesh is almost as
universal as in Turkey.

There is much truth, too, in Mr Gossip's statement in his article in the
May number of the _Fortnightly Review_, entitled "The Mournful Case of
Cuba," which runs as follows:--

     "Spain has placed an almost insuperable barrier in the way of
     American merchants, should they attempt to enter her ports with
     American products, in the form of a protective tariff, which
     resembles in many respects, the policy once pursued by England
     against her American colonies, of which the 'Boston tea party' was
     the direct result, has proved very detrimental to American
     interests. For while the United States purchases, at least, more
     than seventy per cent. of everything Cuba has to sell, Cuba in
     return buys from the United States less than twenty per cent. of
     the articles she imports--chiefly flour, petroleum, and other
     non-competitive articles, which Spain is unable to furnish; so that
     it is to the land of the Stars and Stripes that Cuba must look,
     since, as long as beets are grown in Europe, the product of the
     sugar cane will find no market on the European side of the
     Atlantic. Thus, the mother country pockets annually, through her
     antiquated institutions, the Yankee millions, which, under proper
     conditions of trade, would be returned to the people of the United
     States in payment for American coal, iron, and manufactured goods,
     which are often sent to Spain and then re-shipped to Cuba, as the
     only practical method of getting into the latter country. Owing to
     the backwardness of Spanish industries, and the inability of Spain
     to supply Cuba with the products she requires, the Cubans have to
     consume Spanish articles of inferior quality, or pay exorbitant
     prices for foreign goods, owing to the prohibitive duties imposed,
     which merely place large sums in the Spanish exchequer. Spanish
     merchants practise a novel fraud by nationalising foreign products
     for importation into Cuba, and thus the senseless commercial policy
     of Spain is the cause of inextinguishable discontent.

     "It is true, also, that Cuba is within the economic orbit of the
     United States, and that the commerce of the island is a strong
     factor in the Cuban problem, inasmuch as it is the active agent of
     civilization everywhere; and sugar is omnipotent from the purely
     commercial American point of view. There are certain fixed economic
     laws, which are as sure in their operation as gravitation, and must
     inevitably affect the ultimate destiny of Cuba."

I do not think sufficient attention has been paid by students of the
Cuban question to facts wholly unconnected with bad government and of a
purely economic nature. First and foremost of these is the depreciation
in the commercial value of local produce, especially the loss on sugar,
which is mainly due to the popularity and cheapness of beetroot sugar on
the continent of Europe. Without undue entering into details, I would
point out that Cuba is in this respect going through precisely the same
financial and commercial crisis as the other and better-governed West
Indian Islands. The tobacco trade, I hear, is less flourishing than it
used to be. It has to contend with the prodigious development which has
recently taken place in the tobacco markets of Asia Minor, Egypt,
Europe, and the United States. In a word, Cuba has been doing very badly
now for over twenty years, and families which were not very long ago
amongst the richest of our period, are now paupers, eager to sell their
few remaining jewels, bric-à-brac, and even their fans, lace, and
brocades, to the passing stranger. To add to the general distress came
the completion of the abolition of slavery, with its usual result--the
negroes refused to work. Coolies were imported, but the climate did not
suit them. White labour has not been tried, for the simple reason that
it is a foredoomed failure. Masters who have had to deal with negroes
all their lives are never able to manage poor whites. Hundreds of
plantations have gone out of cultivation, and thousands of half savage,
coloured folk, have gone to swell in the all-pervading anarchy which the
Spanish Government is not strong enough to suppress.

Meanwhile the rebellion has absorbed an incredible amount of Spanish
capital, and drained the mother country of hundreds of thousands of
young men, the great majority of whom will never see their homes again.
Cuba, in her present condition, is Spain's ruin, and it would have been
well for the Spaniards if they had sold the island half a century ago.

"Cuba," said a Spanish writer the other day, "is a sort of bottomless
waste-paper basket. The women of Cadiz and its neighbourhood hold the
very name of Cuba in execration, they have seen so many of their sons
and sweethearts depart thither, never to return."

I am not one of those who see an angel in every Cuban rebel, and a devil
in every Spaniard; I hold that in this, as in almost every other human
concern, the case, to put it vulgarly, is "six to the one, and half a
dozen to the other." There are grave faults, nay, crimes, on both sides,
and the condition of the island in the present half of the century, and
especially during the last five years, is a disgrace to civilization.
When individual Spaniards have tried to do their best for the Cubans,
their good intentions have not received much response from their
superiors. Take, for instance, Martinez Campos, who was sent out to the
island some years back as Commander-in-Chief; he was an honourable and
humane man, desirous of doing the best he could to reduce bitterness and
evolve peace. But his efforts were frequently baulked by the home
Government, which was for ever pressing him to take active measures. He
knew the island, having been there twenty years before, and under
exceptional circumstances, but he was powerless to plant the olive
branch he had brought with him from Spain, whence he had started amidst
the most enthusiastic expectations, and to which he returned, not unlike
the proverbial rocket that went up in a blaze of glory, to fall a flat,
burnt stick. I cannot forbear thinking that the gravest mistake of the
Spanish Government in the whole of this Cuban business was its
peremptory recall of Martinez Campos, and, above all, the despatch of
such a man as General Weyler, with the strictest orders to put the
rebellion down at any cost.

Weyler, Marquis of Tenerife, is an extraordinary individual. He has been
charged with appalling cruelty, and although, in a recent interview in
the _Daily Telegraph_, he is described as bringing forward some
justification for certain of his acts, still the fact remains, that
since the dreadful days of Alva, the horrors he has perpetrated in Cuba
have rarely been equalled in human history. Indeed, with his Belgian
descent, he seems to have inherited something of the unrelenting nature
of those cruel bigots who transformed the Sablon Square in Brussels into
a sort of permanent furnace, for the roasting of human beings. He might
be Caesar Borgia come to life again, in a modern Spanish uniform. He
conceived it his duty to extinguish the civil war at any cost, and he
used the self-same methods which made the fame (or shame) of Hernando
Cortez and of Alva. I have waded through a mass of evidence against him,
and must confess, even allowing for considerable exaggeration, that he
stands out in unpleasant relief against an ugly background of massacre
and starvation. His desperate struggle to stamp out the revolt seems to
have driven him to frenzy, and the rebels were roused, on their side, to
reprisals of an equally shocking character. But the rebellion was not to
be quelled even by General Weyler's bloody methods. Like some gaunt
skeleton, it rose up again, in its marshes and its forests, and defied
him. The wretched _reconcentrados_ were starved to death, or shot down
by scores, but the undaunted resistance still waved its scarlet and
white striped banner, with the solitary "star of hope" glittering in its
corner. At last, and none too soon, in response to the indignant
outcries of Europe and America, Weyler was recalled. Meanwhile the New
York Junta availed itself of the excitement produced by the harrowing
stories of Weyler's inhuman methods, to work up the easily excited
Americans to the very verge of hysteria.

An incident occurred in Havana some little while back, which, although
trivial enough when reduced to its true proportions, has had a vast
influence in bringing about the present war. Miss Evangelina Cisneros, a
daughter of that Marquis de Santa Lucia who was second President of the
Cuban Republic, effected her escape from a Cuban prison under
exceptional circumstances. We are assured that she is exceedingly
lovely, and, judging by her numerous photographs, she certainly must be
very pretty. Her aged father has been in a State prison at Havana for
some years. His dutiful daughter, hearing that his health was breaking
down under the prolonged confinement, went one day to the governor of
the prison, Colonel Berriz, and throwing herself upon her knees before
him, implored him to use his influence to obtain her parent's
liberation. If we are to believe Miss Evangelina Cisneros' account of
the affair, the colonel offered her the same vile conditions that the
Count de Luna suggests to Leonora (in _Il Trovatore_), when that
operatic heroine begs him to release Manrico. The fair Evangelina
scorned the proposal, and, in a whirlwind of indignation, fled from her
insulter's presence. According to the Colonel, there is not a word of
truth in the whole story; he vows he is the victim of an hysterical
girl, who had been caught carrying letters to the rebel army. Be this as
it may, Señorita Cisneros was arrested and sent to prison, and to what
seems to have been a very undesirable one, in which she was given scanty
fare, and forced to associate with the very lowest females. Here she
remained for many months, in the greatest agony of mind, until she
managed, one fine day, to communicate with Mrs Lee, the wife of the
United States Consul, by means of a few words scratched on a bit of
paper with a pin, dipped in her own blood. Mrs Lee contrived to visit
her, and does not seem, to tell the truth, to have had much difficulty
in obtaining admission to her cell. The sad story was soon afterwards
published broadcast all over the United States and England, thanks
mainly to the arch-millionaire journalist, Mr W. E. Hearst, who,
perceiving that Evangelina's adventures would make excellent copy for
his paper, and considerably help the Cuban cause, commissioned Mr
Deckar, a young gentleman connected with his staff, to go to Cuba and
effect her release, which exploit was duly performed with splendid
courage and skill. The fair Evangelina was enabled, thanks to Mr
Deckar's intervention, to stupefy her companions with sweetmeats infused
with laudanum, and, whilst they lay in a profound slumber, to squeeze
herself through the bars of her cell window, to cross a ladder stretched
from roof to roof, and finally, after many hairbreadth perils and
dangers, to effect her escape from Cuba like another Rosalind, in the
disguise of a boy--all of which tends to prove that the Cuban prisons
are not particularly well guarded.

Meanwhile, a petition to the Queen of Spain, signed by hundreds of
American ladies, headed by the President's mother, was sent from New
York to Madrid, and yet another to the same purpose was forwarded from
London, where two ladies, famed for their instinctive horror of anything
approaching self-advertisement--Mrs Ormiston Chant and the fair author
of _The Sorrows of Satan_--warmly espoused the fate of the hapless
Evangelina, whose adventures, in spite of a monster reception in Madison
Square, attended by not less than 250,000 persons, with appropriate
banners, flowers, and bands of music, fell rather flat in New York. Her
gallant rescuer being a married man, Evangelina remains to this day in
"maiden meditation, fancy free."

But the sensation produced by this interesting case was immense.
Portraits of Mlle. Cisneros were sold by the thousand, and from New York
to San Francisco execration of the Spaniards rose to fever heat.

Soon afterwards occurred the terrible "Maine" disaster, which, coming on
the top of the Cisneros business, drove the American masses, egged on by
the clamours of the "yellow press," to force the reluctant President
into a strangely sudden declaration of war,--a struggle, the fate of
which, even as I write, yet hangs in the balance.

                    * * *

_P.S._--Even as these pages go to press, a telegram announces the
marriage of "Miss Evangelina Cisneros to one of her rescuers."

[Illustration: HAVANA.]



CHAPTER VI. HAVANA AND THE HAVANESE.[12]


Notwithstanding the mosquito nuisance and indifferent drainage, the
traveller's first impression of Havana is distinctly agreeable, and the
pleasing illusion is never completely destroyed. The harbour is
wonderfully picturesque. Opposite the entrance stands the Morro Castle,
built by Philip II. of Spain in 1573. It was formerly almost a
_facsimile_ of that curious little castellated Moorish fortress which
faces the beautiful Monastery and Church of Belem, at Lisbon, but has
been considerably altered of late years in the process of adaptation to
uses of modern warfare. Then comes in view the other historical
fortress, La Punta, also erected by our Queen Mary's sinister consort.
To the left are two rather sharp promontories, crested by several fine
churches, one "Los Angeles," fully two hundred years old--an age in the
New World corresponding to hoar antiquity in the Old. Beyond these, upon
a number of low-lying hills, rises the city, an irregular mass of
one-storied dwellings, painted a vivid ochre, and interspersed with
church domes and towers, with here and there tall, lank cocoa palms, or
a tuff of banana leaves waving over some garden wall. Vessels from every
part of the world, feluccas, with their swallow-shaped sails, some
dazzling white, others a deep-red brown, fill up the foreground--whilst
canoe-like market boats, laden with tropical fruits, fish, vegetables,
and flowers, and rowed by negroes naked to the waist, scud in all
directions over the deep-blue waters.

Arriving, as I did, from New York, which I had left deep in snow, this
summer scene was most exhilarating, and the exceeding transparency of
the Cuban atmosphere added considerably to its beauty. Everything seemed
unusual, novel, and, above all, utterly unlike what I expected. The
impress of the mother-country, Spain, is felt and seen everywhere, and
modern American influences are barely perceptible as yet. From the sea,
Havana might be Malaga or Cadiz, but when you land, memories of Pompeii
immediately crowd upon you. What we should call the city proper, the
commercial quarter of the Cuban capital, consists of a labyrinth of
narrow lanes, traversed by one or two broadish streets, the two
principal of which are known all over Southern America and the West
Indies as Calle O'Reilly and Calle O'Bisbo, and run from the Governor's
Palace right out to the walls of the city. Few of the houses which line
these lanes and alleys are more than one storey high, but that one
storey is so exceedingly lofty that it would make three in an average
London dwelling. The lower half of every house is painted either a deep
darkish blue, a deep Egyptian red, or a vivid yellow ochre; the upper
part is always a dazzling white. As in Pompeii, you notice rows of
stucco columns, painted half one colour half another. Peeping through
the ever-open doorways you may, as you pass along, obtain something more
than a mere casual glimpse of the interior of the dwellings. If you are
early enough, you may behold the family at its toilet, for there is very
little privacy anywhere in Cuba, every act, from entry into life to its
final exit, from baptism to burial, being serenely performed in the
utmost publicity. The lower windows, overlooking the street, are
protected by heavy iron bars, and behind these you may, in certain
quarters of the town, see lively groups of Havanese Geishas, their faces
thickly powdered with rice flour, their long black hair plaited, and
their opulent charms displayed to liberal advantage--"sono donne che
fano all'amore!"

The frequent curious overhanging windows, with their iron bars, would
give the place a prison-like appearance, were they not painted in the
most brilliant colours--orange, scarlet, and pea-green. More frequently
than not, the fragrance of the family dinner falls pleasantly on your
olfactory nerve, and you may even catch a glimpse of the cook, a
negress, invariably presiding over the charcoal stove in the kitchen,
turban on head, a long calico skirt streaming behind her, and in her
mouth the inevitable cigarette, without which no Cuban coloured lady can
be happy.

There is no West End, so to speak, in Havana, the mansions of the
wealthy being scattered through every part of the city. Some of the
better sort of houses are exceedingly handsome, but they are all built
on one plan, in the classical style, with an inner courtyard, surrounded
by handsome marble or stucco columns. I imagine them to be designed much
on the same plan as the villas of ancient Rome. You first look into a
fine hall--generally either built of white marble or else stuccoed to
look like it. Here the family Victoria or old-fashioned Volante is
usually stowed away. Here also stands, rather for ornament than use, a
sedan-chair, which is, more often than not, richly painted and gilded.
Beyond this hall is the Pateo, in the centre of which there is usually a
garden rich in tropical vegetation, shading either a fountain or a large
gilded aviary full of brilliant parrots and parrakeets. In some houses
there is a picture or statue of the Virgin, or some Saint, with a lamp
burning before it day and night. In the Pateo, the family assembles of
an evening, the ladies in full dress; and as it is generally brilliantly
illuminated, the pleasant domestic scene adds greatly to the gay
appearance of the streets, which fill with loungers in the cool of the
evening.

The Havanese shops are plentifully supplied with European and native
goods, but, as in almost all tropical countries, very few of them have
windows, and the wares are exposed in the open, as in an Eastern
bazaar. Only a few years ago the jewellers' and goldsmiths' shops were
renowned throughout the Western world, but now, unfortunately, they are
entirely ruined. Even in 1878, when the shoe first began to pinch in
Cuba, many fine jewels, and some beautiful specimens of old Spanish
silver, Louis XV. fans, snuff-boxes, and bric-à-brac of all kinds, were
offered for sale. Often a negress would come to the hotel bearing a
coffer full of things for inspection; the mistress who sent the good
woman must have had implicit trust in her servant, for she frequently
sold her wares for very considerable sums. Few of the Havanese magnates
and rich planters have anything worth selling left them nowadays, but
only a few years ago Havana was a happy hunting-ground for bargain
seekers.

The handsomest street in Havana is the Cerro, a long thoroughfare
running up a hill at the back of the town, bordered on either side by
enormous old villas, in the midst of magnificent gardens. The finest of
these mansions belongs to the very old Hernandez family, and is built of
white marble in the usual classical style. The adjacent villa,
Santoveneo, has a lovely garden, and used to be famous for its
collection of orchids, the late Countess de Santoveneo, a very wealthy
lady, being a great collector. She was a clever, agreeable woman, well
known in Paris, where she usually spent the summer and autumn. In the
midst of a perfect forest of cocoa palms stands the former summer villa
of the Bishops of Havana, now a private residence.

Then, one after the other, follow the handsome dwellings of the
Havanese aristocracy--of the Marquese dos Hermanos, of the Duque de
Fernandina, of the Conde Penalver, of the Marqueza d'Aldama, etc. The
cacti in these villa gardens are of amazing size and shape, some showing
leaves thick and strong enough to bear the weight of a full-grown man.
In the gardens of the Conde de Penalver there is a glorious mangoe
grass, the first I ever saw, and the finest. Unfortunately, these Havana
Edens are infested all the year round by swarms of mosquitos. The
residents seem skin-proof, and do not appear to suffer from the insects'
attacks. But woe waits on the unwary new-comer who tempts fate by
lingering in these lovely gardens!

There are several delightful public promenades in the city and its
suburbs, the Paseo de Isabel for instance, with its wide pavement and
its stately central avenue of flowering trees. Here stands an
exceedingly imposing monument, the Fontana de India, which would put our
all too notorious "shaving-brushes" in Trafalgar Square to shame. On the
summit of a snow-white marble pedestal is a fine statue of the Antilles,
represented by an Indian maiden airily attired in robes of nihil, and
adorned with beads and a head-dress of plumes. Cornucopias full of
tropical fruits and flowers rest at her feet, and four monstrous
dolphins cast down volumes of foaming water into a spacious marble
basin. Forming a background to this remarkable work of art are the
public gardens of La Glorietta, with their oleander groves and towering
palm trees. In the great pond the Victoria Regia floats its colossal
silver cups. Hard by is the Campo de Marte, or Mars' field, where the
soldiers drill, and beyond which stands the splendid palace of the
Aldama family, in the midst of a glorious tropical garden.

The Calzada de la Reina is another wide street, running from the Campo
de Marte, to the Calzada Belancion and the Paseo de Tacon. This is the
fashionable shopping street, and, as a rule, crowded with carriages in
the early morning hours, when the Cuban ladies make their purchases. No
Havanese lady ever condescends to leave her victoria to enter a
shop--the shopman invariably brings out his wares for her inspection,
and the bargaining takes place in the open street, and is often very
animated and amusing.

The Paseo de Tacon is, however, by far the finest promenade in the city,
and quite worthy of any capital in the world. A very broad drive passes
between a double row of splendid acacias of the "peacock" variety--so
called on account of their huge tufts of crimson and yellow flowers. The
Paseo dates back to 1802, and is adorned by several handsome statues and
memorial columns. Of an evening it blazes with electric light, and,
moreover, boasts an interminable switchback railway, a great source of
amusement to the young fry of Havana. At the extreme end of Tacon,
which, by the way, is sometimes as animated with carriages and
pedestrians as the Champs Elyseés, are the Botanical Gardens, which are
surprisingly fine. Imagine all the conservatories of Kew and the Crystal
Palace without their glass roofs, and you may then form a vague notion
of the glories of these gardens. There is an avenue of cocoa palms here
which is of almost unearthly beauty. I remember seeing these Gardens
illuminated for a _fiesta_ with myriads of coloured lights, and
surpassing in fairylike beauty any transformation scene ever devised at
dear old Drury. The stems of the palm trees, "all set in a stately row,"
seemed converted into pillars of gold, and, far above, a good hundred
feet and more, scintillated clusters of tiny lamps, like jewels among
their waving fronds.

Of an early winter morning--a winter morning in Cuba is like an ideal
one in late May in our latitudes, Tacon Gardens are delightful, they are
so well arranged and so full of interest. In the centre is the Quinta,
or summer-house, which you reach by a very long verdant tunnel, formed
of Pacific roses and the clustering yellow banksia. Here also I first
made the acquaintance of the duck plant, or _Aristolochia pelicana_ of
which more anon, and of the divinely beautiful Cuban morning glory,
_convolvulus major_--with its immense bunches of the deepest blue
flowers. In the evening the moon-flower opens its colossal white disks,
and the night-blooming cerus is also a perennial attraction to those who
have never seen it burst into glory at a given hour, and shed around an
almost too powerful odour of attar of roses.

Take Havana for all in all, in times of peace it is by far and away the
pleasantest city in the Southern Hemisphere--the most resourceful, for
it has capital public libraries, museums, clubs, and theatres. Of an
evening it is quite charming. Then the streets are thronged with people
until early morning. The bands play selections from the latest
operas--even Wagnerian airs--the señoras and señoritas parade up and
down with their attendant cabaleros, and mostly in evening, nay, full
ball dress, with only a lace veil over their heads. A brilliant double
line of equipages fills the central drive, and very smart many of them
are--as well turned out as any in Hyde Park or the Bois. The cafés, and
there are hundreds of them, are dazzling with electric and incandescent
light, and packed by a motley crowd as picturesque as it is animated.
Negresses, in gaudy cast-off finery, offer you _dulce_ or sweetmeats,
and coloured boys cry "limonata" and ice water. Everybody has a
cigarette between their lips or their fingers. Banjos twang and
mandolines tinkle in all directions, and if you chance to get a good
seat at the Café Dominico, or the Louvre, where the world of fashion is
wont to assemble to suck ice drinks through long straws, smoke
cigarettes, and criticise their neighbours, you can pass many an amused
hour, watching the passing show of this West Indian Vanity Fair.

If it please you to leave the gay throng to its devices, its cigarettes,
and its scandal, to quit the flaring thoroughfares and betake yourself
to the semi-deserted bye streets, you will find plenty to attract and
amuse you. Here, for instance, is a street so narrow, you might shake
hands across it. The mellow tropical moonlight falls only on the roofs
of its tall one-storied houses, and on the tapering campanile of some
church or convent, which it transforms for the time being into a column
of burnished gold. A vivid glare across the street attracts your
attention. It proceeds from a cavernous-looking tavern, whose otherwise
gloomy interior is lighted up by strings of Chinese lanterns. A crowd of
negroes, smoking cigars or cigarettes, stand in a confused group round a
couple, consisting of a huge Congo black naked to the waist, and a lady
of a few shades lighter hue, dancing the obscene Cubana, to the intense
gratification of the dusky spectators. Down another still narrower
street, across a little Plaza, and we find ourselves in a sort of
covered gallery, where whole families of respectable citizens, gran'pa
and gran'ma included, are supping _al fresco_--by the light of a number
of curious brass lamps, such as the old Romans used. Not far off you
catch a glimpse of the sea glistening in the moonlight, which turns the
distant suburb of Regla, on the opposite side of the harbour, into rows
of ivory dice, the square one-storied houses looking for all the world
like those pernicious toys on a colossal scale. Resisting the pressing
invitation of a party of gaudily dressed ladies seated in the huge
cage-like window of a house hard by, we find ourselves, by a sudden
turn, in the Cathedral Square. Although late, the great church is open
and brilliantly illuminated, and within we can see the pious throng,
kneeling before the high altar, chanting Ave Maria--

_Ora pro nobis, nunc et in ora mortis nostris._

Commend to me a city of the Latin race for delightful contrasts, and I
assure you Havana is no exception to the rule.

The picturesque _volante_, once as essentially Cuban as the gondola is
Venetian, has entirely disappeared, at all events from the streets of
the capital. It is, or perhaps I should say it was, a very
singular-looking vehicle, with its wonderful spider-web-like wheels, its
long shafts, and its horse or mule, upon whose back the driver should
perch in a clumsily-made saddle. It had something of the litter on
wheels, and was usually occupied of an afternoon on Sundays and
holidays, by two or three ladies, magnificently dressed in full ball
costume, and blazing with jewels, the fairest of the trio sitting on the
knees of the other two. The _volante_ was sometimes splendidly decorated
with costly silver platings and rich stuffs. The negro driver wore a
very smart dark blue and red cloth livery, covered with gold lace, high
jack-boots coming almost up to his waist, and carried a long
silver-mounted whip in his hand; victorias and landaus have usurped the
place of these old-world coaches, excepting in the country, where they
are often to be met with on the high roads.

For its size (the population is about 230,000) Havana is exceptionally
well supplied with public and private carriages. You can hire an
excellent _victoria de plaza_ for 1 fr. 50 the hour, and a custom, which
the London County Council might imitate and introduce with advantage,
has long been in use in the Cuban capital. To avoid extortion from the
cab-drivers, the lamp-posts are painted various colours, red for the
central district, blue for the second circle, and green for the outer.
Thus, in a trice, the fare becomes aware when he gets beyond the
radius, and pays accordingly. Trouble with the Havanese hack coachman,
usually a coloured man, and very civil, is of the rarest occurrence.

Although an eminently Catholic city, Havana cannot be said to be rich in
churches. A goodly number have been destroyed during the various
rebellions, especially those of the middle of the century (1835), when
the religious orders were suppressed. The largest church is the Merced,
a fine building in the _rococo_ style, with handsome marble altars and
some good pictures. It is crowded on Sundays and holidays by the
fashionable world of the place, the young men forming up in rows outside
the church as soon as Mass is over, to gaze at the señoritas and their
chaperons. The Cathedral is the chief architectural monument of interest
in Havana. It was erected for the Jesuits in 1704 on the site of a much
older church built in 1519, and dedicated to St Cristobal, the patron of
the city. The first Bishop of Havana was an Englishman, a Franciscan
named Fray José White. He occupied the See from 1522 to 1527. The old
cathedral being considered too small, this church was converted into a
cathedral in the present century. It is built in the usual
Hispano-American style, with a big dome, and two stumpy towers on either
side of the centre. Internally the effect is rather heavy, owing to the
dark colour of the marbles which cover the walls, but compared with most
churches in these latitudes, the edifice is in exceptionally good taste,
with a remarkable absence of the tawdry images and wonderful
collections of trumpery artificial flowers and glass shades which, as a
rule, disfigure South American churches. The choir would be considered
handsome even in Rome, and the stalls are beautifully carved in
mahogany. Almost all the columns in the church are also mahogany, highly
polished, producing the effect of a deep red marble, most striking when
relieved, as in this case, by gilt bronze capitals. In the choir is the
tomb of Columbus. The great navigator died, as most of my readers will
doubtless be aware, at Valladolid, in Spain, on Ascension Day 1506, and
his body was at first deposited, after the most pompous obsequies, in
the church of San Francisco, in that city.

In 1513, the remains were conveyed to the Carthusian monastery of Las
Cuevas, at Seville, where King Ferdinand erected a monument over them,
bearing the simple but appropriate inscription:--

    "A CASTILE Y LEON
    NUEVO MUNDO DIO COLON."

Twenty-three years later, the body of Columbus, with that of his son
Diego, was removed to the island of San Domingo, or Hayti, and interred
in the principal church of the capital; but when that island was ceded
to the French, the Spaniards claimed the ashes of the Discoverer, and
they were carried to Havana and solemnly interred in the Cathedral on
the 15th January 1796. The remains, which by this time, it seems, were
scanty enough, were placed in a small urn, deposited in a niche in the
left wall of the chancel, and sealed up with a marble slab, surmounted
by an excellent bust of the bold explorer, wreathed with laurel. The
inscription, a very poor one, excited considerable ridicule, and a
pasquinade was circulated lamenting the absence of the nine Muses on the
occasion of its composition.

Of late years, however, the inhabitants of San Domingo[13] have set up a
protest in favour of certain bones which have been discovered in their
own cathedral, and declare by their gods, or by their saints, that never
a bone of Columbus left their island, and that the relics of the great
Christopher in the Cathedral of Havana, unto which so many pilgrimages
have been made, are as apocryphal as were those of certain saints
mentioned by Erasmus.

As a matter of fact, so far as I can make out after the perusal of a
number of pamphlets on the subject, only half the bones of Columbus were
taken to Havana. The priests at San Domingo kept back a portion of the
body and hid it in the south of the sacristy of their Cathedral, where
it was discovered with many evidences of its authenticity in 1877.

Of the other numerous Havanese churches there is not much to be said,
except that nearly all have remarkable ceilings, decorated in a sort of
mosaic work in rare woods, often very artistic in design. Columns of
mahogany are frequently seen, and nearly all the churches are lined
with very old Spanish or Dutch tiles. The Church of Santa Clara,
attached to a very large nunnery, is a favourite place of devotion with
the fashionable ladies, who squat on a piece of carpet in front of the
Madonna, with their negro attendant kneeling a few feet behind them.
When the lady has performed her devotions, the sable footman takes up
her carpet, and follows her out of the church, walking solemnly a few
feet behind her. In the Church of the Merced there is a very curious
picture representing a group of Indians being slaughtered by a number of
Spaniards. In the centre is a wooden cross, upon the transverse portions
of which Our Lady is seated, holding the infant Jesus in her arms. In
the corner is a long inscription of some historical importance. It runs
thus:--

     "The Admiral, Don Christopher Columbus, and the Spanish Army, being
     possessed of the 'Cerro de la Vega,' a place in the Spanish island,
     erected on it a cross, on whose right arm, the 2nd of May, 1492, in
     the night there appeared with her most precious Son, the Virgin,
     Our Lady of Mercy. The Indians, who occupied the island, as soon as
     they saw Her, drew their arrows, and fired at Her, but as the
     arrows could not pierce the sacred wood, the Spaniards took
     courage, and, falling upon the said Indians, killed a great number
     of them. And the person who saw this wonderful prodigy was the V.
     R. F. Juan."

The Jesuits have an important college for boys in Havana. Annexed to it
is the Observatory, said to be the best organised in South America. The
church is handsome, and over the high altar hangs a famous holy family,
by Ribeira. In connection with this college there is also a museum and
library, especially rich in drawings and prints, illustrating Cuban
life and scenery, from the sixteenth century down to our own times.

The wooden images of saints on the altars in the Havanese churches are
most picturesque, and their costumes often very quaint. St Michael, for
instance, may appear in white kid dancing shoes and a short velvet
frock, and the Madonna is usually attired in the cumbersome Spanish
court dress of the sixteenth century; with farthingale and ruff
complete.

A remarkably fine old church is San Francisco, long since desecrated and
converted into the custom-house. It has a noble tower, and stands in a
conspicuous position down by the harbour. In the suppressed monastery is
a vast room with a glorious cedar-wood ceiling. San Francisco is famous
in the annals of Havana for a triple murder, which took place upon its
altar in 1833, before the Church was converted to profane purposes, and
was still one of the most popular shrines in the city. Hard by is an
old-world café--the Leon de Oro--which in those days was tenanted by an
Italian with a pretty wife. The worthy man got jealous of her, and,
finding out that her paramour was the Secretary of the Captain-General,
Don Alonzo Vales y Sandoval--watched his opportunity to avenge himself.
It chanced that the noble Don was ordered to watch by the Sepulchre in
this church on Holy Thursday evening. Dressed, therefore, in his scarlet
robes, as a member of the Confraternity of the Sacred Blood, the unlucky
gentleman was apparently absorbed in prayer before the altar, when the
infuriated Italian dealt him a blow in the back with a stiletto, which
killed him there and then. Before the horrified congregation could
arrest him, he murdered his wife, who was kneeling in prayer close by
her lover, and then stabbed himself--all of which uncanny tragedy I
found solemnly related in choice Spanish in an old Havana journal, dated
June 17, 1833.

The numerous charitable institutions in the capital, and throughout the
island, are well managed, and generally clean. The Casa de Beneficencia,
founded by the famous Las Casas, as an asylum for the extremes of life,
the very young and very old, is especially interesting. It is managed by
those admirable women, the Little Sisters of the Poor. Nothing can
exceed the exquisite cleanliness of the Lazar House, situated at some
distance from the city, in which six nuns and two priests have banished
themselves from the world in order to tend the many hapless lepers on
the island.

But admirably managed, roomy, and well endowed though they undoubtedly
are, the charitable establishments of Havana do not supply the demand,
for the place swarms with beggars, especially in these recent hard
times. Never, no, not even in Spain or Italy, have I seen such terrible
beggars as those of Cuba. They haunt you everywhere, gathering round the
church doors, whining for alms, insulting you if you refuse them, and
pestering you as you go home at night, never leaving you till you either
bestow money on them, or escape within your own or some friendly door.

Kingsley described Havana as "the Western Abomination," so low was his
opinion of the moral tone of its inhabitants. Whether his judgment was
right or wrong, I dare not say, but I know enough to convince me that
the average Havanese drawing-room can provide quite as much ill-natured
gossip as any in London. Here, as elsewhere in Southern America,
religion has become a mere affair of ceremony and outward observance,
with little or no moral influence. I am assured that of late years there
has been a considerable reaction, and that numerous missions have been
preached by priests and friars, imported from Europe in the hope of
exciting the zeal of the native clergy, which has very possibly been
affected by the enervating influence of the climate. Be this as it may,
the churches in Cuba are a never-failing source of interest, by reason
of the quaint and everchanging scenes their interiors exhibit. In some
of them the music is admirable in its way, although entirely of an
operatic character. At the Merced there is a full orchestra, and the
principal singers from the opera may often be heard at High Mass.

Church has always, in Latin countries, been the scene of a good deal of
quiet flirtation, and I remember one Sunday morning, in the Cathedral of
Havana, being initiated by a friend into the mysteries of fan language.
We watched an extremely good-looking and richly apparelled young lady,
who, after she had said her preliminary devotions, looked round her as
if seeking somebody. Presently she opened her fan very wide, which, as
the Cuban who was with us at the time assured us, meant "I see you."
Then she half closed it; this indicated "Come and see me." Four fingers
were next placed upon the upper half of the closed fan, signifying, "At
half-past four." The fan was next dropped upon the floor, which, we were
told, signified the fact that the lady would be alone. A Havanese lady,
who is expert in this system of signalling, can talk by the hour with
the help of her fan, and of a bunch of variously coloured flowers, each
of which has some special meaning.

Amongst so pleasure-loving a people as the Cubans, public amusements
hold a far more prominent place than they do in any of the United
States, with, perhaps, the sole exception of New Orleans, and the
carnival at Havana was at one time the most brilliant in the Americas.
For many years, however, its glories have been declining, and during the
last few decades the upper and middle classes have taken scant part in
the festivities. I can remember, however, many years ago, seeing the
famous ribbon dance performed by people of quality in the open streets.
A gaily-dressed youth walked in front of the company, holding a pole,
from which floated a number of coloured ribbons, which the various
couples held in their hands, and threaded into a kind of plait as they
moved gracefully round the leader of this _al fresco_ cotillon. It was a
very pretty sight to see hundreds of masqueraders parading the streets,
engaged in this graceful pastime, and each band accompanied by a group
of musicians. Throughout the carnival the negroes are allowed to mingle
with the white population in all festivities, and even in the great
gala procession of carriages, which passes round the gaily decorated
city during three successive afternoons, the negroes' donkey tandems and
brilliantly draped waggons are permitted to take their places among the
equipages of their masters. The negroes formerly went about the streets
masked and disguised, and as they formed one-third of the population,
there was no lack of variety of costume, but neither bon-bons nor flower
throwing had any place in this somewhat formal pageant. The Cubans
evidently do not appreciate cut blossoms, for you rarely, if ever, see a
bouquet in their houses, although their gardens simply blaze with every
sort of flowers.

After sunset the revel begins in earnest. The negroes come out in their
thousands, carrying lighted Chinese lanterns hanging from the top of
bamboo poles. They shout and leap, and at every open space they dance to
the sound of tom-toms and horns, their two chief musical instruments.
All the theatres have a masked ball, that of the _Tacon_[14], which is
the finest and largest theatre in the Southern Hemisphere, being
exclusively devoted to the upper and middle classes. Here there is a
great display of jewellery, the ladies, as in Italy, wearing the little
loup mask and a domino, while most of the gentlemen are in evening
dress. Of recent years, the ball at the _Tacon_ has greatly diminished
in gaiety and local colour. The usual European dances fill the entire
programme, and there is very little difference between this _veglione_
and any in Nice, Rome, or Naples.

At the "Payrete," an immense theatre near the _Tacon_, matters are quite
otherwise, and the coloured element largely prevails. An outlandish
orchestra, consisting of the usual horns and tom-toms, bangs a wild,
savage melody, with a kind of irregular rhythm, marking time, but
without the faintest vestige of tune. The couples stand and jig, facing
each other,--occasionally in a manner which is better left undefined,
but usually with a solemnity defying all description. Now and again the
male dancers utter a piercing whoop, and the couples forthwith change
sides. It is impossible to conceive that fun or amusement can be
extracted from such a monotonous performance. But that these good people
do find enjoyment in it cannot be questioned, since they frequently
continue performing this dance, which is known as the "Cubana," for many
hours at a stretch, without moving a yard from the spot where they
began. Another popular dance is the Canga, a sort of slow waltz, which,
when danced by the class which dances in public in Havana, is the most
indecent spectacle conceivable. Meanwhile the barbaric orchestra bangs
ever, making noise enough to raise the dead--tom-tom whack, tom-tom
wick, tom-tom whoop--_e da capo_. It ends by maddening the European ear,
and the onlooker is forced to bolt or risk an epileptic seizure, or some
such misfortune. This weird carnival ball, as seen from a box, is one of
the most singular sights imaginable, but the spectator must make up his
mind to evil smells as well as noise--all the perfumes of Araby would
not sweeten the theatre. The scenes in the brightly lighted streets
outside struck me as infinitely preferable. The crowded cafés, before
which groups of smartly dressed young negro mandolinists play, and very
creditably, selections from popular operas, in the confident hope of
being treated to ices, or something stronger, have a distinct and
original charm. Punctually at twelve o'clock on Shrove Tuesday the
cannon boomed from Morro Castle, announcing that King Carnival had just
expired. On the morrow, the pious crowded the churches to receive the
penitential ashes. Lent began in earnest, and was very rigorously kept,
so far as the eating of flesh was concerned. An average Cuban negro
would sooner take poison than a mouthful of meat on the abstinence days,
although, I fear, his moral sense might easily be weighed and found
wanting in other particulars.

The Cubans, notwithstanding their worship of the tom-tom and the horn,
and the popularity of noisy music, possibly imported from Africa by the
Congo slaves who swarm on the big plantations, are a very musical race.
The _Tacon_ opera-house, which can accommodate 5,000 persons, is, in its
way, a very fine theatre, built in Italian fashion with tiers of boxes,
one above another. They are separated by gilded lattices, so as to
afford every possible means of ventilation. Round each tier of boxes is
a sort of ambulatory or verandah, overlooking the great Square. The
upper gallery is exclusively devoted to the coloured people, who, on a
Sunday, fill it to suffocation. They are considered the most critical
part of the audience, and their appreciation or disapproval is generally
well founded, and liberally demonstrated. The first two rows of boxes
belong to the aristocracy and wealthy merchants, and the display of
jewellery on a gala night used to be quite amazing. The lower part of
the house is divided into a pit and orchestra stalls. When crowded, the
_Tacon_ presents a really fine appearance. The stage is, I should say,
as large as that at Covent Garden, and the operas are perfectly mounted
and staged. A great peculiarity of this theatre is the orchestra, which
is of almost unrivalled excellence, although at least one half of its
performers are coloured, and some of them full-blooded negroes. I think
I am correct in saying that on several occasions the conductor himself
has been a coloured gentleman. Two of the very best performances of
_Aïda_ (with Campanini and Volpini) I ever enjoyed, I saw at the
_Tacon_, where some of the greatest vocalists of the present century
have appeared, including Malibran, Grisi, Mario, Alboni, Tedesco, Patti,
Nilsson, Nevada and Guerrabella (Miss Genevieve Ward). I have seen it
stated that Mme. Adelina Patti made her début in the Filarmonia of
Havana. This is an error. This theatre is at Santiago, and it was there
the fascinating prima donna won her first laurels. Her mother and
father, Signor and Signora Barili Patti, both of them singers of the
first rank, made, if I am not misinformed, their last appearance on the
stage at the Tacon theatre. The Cubans do not care for the Spanish
national drama. They prefer adaptations from the French and Italian;
and Havana, unlike Mexico, has not produced a single dramatist of note.
Spanish companies come every year from Madrid, but they are rarely well
patronised. On the other hand, Ristori, Salvini, Duse, and Sarah
Bernhardt have received almost divine honours in the Cuban capital.

One night I dropped into the _Torrecillas_, a little fourth-rate house,
and on going to the box-office to pay for my seat, to my utter
astonishment I found the employee absent, although the theatre was open,
and a crowd thronging in to attend a gratuitous rehearsal of a piece
which was to be performed on the following evening for money. The house
was dimly lighted. The orchestra consisted of a piano, and the back
scene was formed of odds and ends of scenery jumbled together in the
funniest confusion. A stoutish young fellow, a sort of Sancho Panza, was
rehearsing the company, the ladies of which lounged about in various
parts of the house, smoking incessant cigarettes. The play was one of
the kind known in Spain as a "Zarzuela," or farce. The plot was simple
enough, dealing with the adventures of a runaway negro, who tried to
become manager of a strolling troupe of players. The fun consisted in
admirable delineation of each character, and the spirited acting. One
scene, representing the appearance of the troupe at Mocha, a country
village, was irresistibly droll. Some of the actors went down among the
audience, pretending to be country spectators, and cracked excellent
jokes at the expense of the troupe on the topics of the day, and popular
abuses in general. In the last scene the national "Garacha" was
admirably danced. It is as objectionable, in itself, as the "Cubana,"
but it was quite transformed by the grace of the artists.

The bull-ring and the cock-pit are still national institutions
throughout Cuba. Each city has its ring and its cock-pit. I drove out
one Sunday to the "Galleria," as it is called, at the corner of the
Calle Manuel, in a rather low quarter of Havana. I found a motley
assembly of beggars, cake-vendors, and negroes, hanging about the entry
and the box office, if so I may call it, which was neat and smart enough
for a metropolitan theatre. The price of admission to the best seats was
only two shillings. Passing a bar, before which a noisy crowd was
drinking gin and _aguardiente_, blaspheming and quarrelling, I found
myself in the "Galleria," which is of circular form built of open
wood-work, exactly like two large round hen-coops placed one on top of
another. There were four galleries, with several rows of chairs,
thronged by an excited betting crowd, which included the usual
proportion of negroes, but no women. As I entered, a fight had just come
to a close, and the noise was deafening. Everybody was shouting and
gesticulating at once. In a few moments the bell rang, and comparative
silence ensued. The ring was cleared, and two men appeared in the
centre, each holding a beautiful bird in his hands. The Cuban breed of
cocks, although small, is remarkably well-proportioned and elegant. I am
no expert in cock-fighting and will simply jot down my impressions of
the combat. At first I found it interesting enough, but, by and by,
when the stronger bird crippled its antagonist, the poor, bleeding
creature was artificially excited to continue the battle to the bitter
end, by being "restored" with spoonfuls of Santa Cruz rum blown in a
spray from the mouth of its owner over its head, and the sight grew
simply disgusting. I was relieved when it was all over, and the poor,
beautiful bird lay dead. The audience interested me far more than the
fight. The people around me were so absorbed in the death struggle that
some faces grew ashen pale, others flushed, their eyes rolled, they
roared, they bellowed, and they pantomimed from the lower to the upper
galleries. Doré alone could have done justice to the scene, but,
picturesque though it was, it was a degrading exhibition of cruelty and
base passion. The upper classes, I am glad to say, have long ceased to
frequent the "Galleria," and some of the best houses have even closed
their doors to young men known to be frequenters of these cock-pits. I
did not see a bull-fight while I was in Cuba. They were, I suppose, not
in season, otherwise they are as frequent and as popular there as in
Spain and the south of France. They are conducted in exactly the same
ceremonious and pageantic manner as in Spain, and almost as
magnificently, and, needless to say, they are as bloody, if not more so,
and quite as demoralizing. If it were not hypocrisy on the part of an
Englishman in these days of "general bookmaking," when the "special,"
announcing the names of the "winners," is more eagerly bought up than
any containing political news of the highest importance, I might descant
on the immorality of the Cuban weekly lottery. Everybody is interested
in it, and I am assured it is "a curse" to the country. Doubtless it is
so, and so, indeed, are our own "winners." Gambling in some shape or
other seems inherent in the human race, and I cannot see much difference
between the Havanese lottery and our own racecourse. Both are equally
dangerous to those who cannot afford to bet. In Cuba the wretched negro
starves himself to put his last penny on some favourite number, and in
London the bootblack goes without his dinner in the hope of doubling the
"winner."



CHAPTER VII.

MATANZAS.


The immediate environs of Havana are disappointing, although some of the
neighbouring villages are pretty enough. Every visitor to Havana is sure
to be taken to three places--Puentes Grandes, Marianao, and Carmelo. A
little railway carries you, as slowly as steam can do it, in about an
hour, out to Marianao. If it were not for the groups of palm trees and
the huge plantain leaves, generally very dusty and tattered, hanging
over the garden walls, you might easily mistake the country for certain
districts in Northern France. It undulates, just as it does in Normandy,
up and down over low-lying hills, and the straight roads, bordered with
coca palm trees, reminded me forcibly of the poplar avenues round Rouen.
Before very long, however, you are made aware that you are under the
Southern Cross, for, just before you reach your destination, you form
your first acquaintance with the banyan tree, of which there is a
celebrated group, considered one of the finest in the West Indies,
standing in the middle of a field. The central tree, which must be of
great age, is of vast size. From its upper branches it has cast down
numerous feelers, which, in their turn, have become big trees, and so
the one growth contrives to cover some four or five acres of ground.
After you have amused yourself by walking in and out of the innumerable
arches and avenues formed by this grand specimen of perhaps the most
extraordinary species of tree in existence, you follow a narrow path,
and walk on to Marianao, a Cuban village boasting an odd-looking church
painted a vivid blue, and some very nice country houses, embedded in
orange and banana orchards. There are a number of restaurants in the
place, and on Sundays the foreign residents, especially the Germans,
come out here to eat supper and drink lager-beer. What pleased me most
about Marianao were the country lanes, which are bordered by hedgerows
covered with delightful creepers, the coral,--with its clusters of pink
and white flowers,--the morning glory, with its wealth of azure
blossoms,--the scarlet passion flower,--the blue sweet pea,--and a
species of wild stephanotis, with an overpowering scent.

[Illustration: MATANZAS.]

Puentes Grandes lies half-way between Marianao and Havana. It possesses
the only nail factory in the country, worked by several hundred coolies.
Carmello is a village of restaurants and cabarets, situated at the head
of a little sandy bay glorified by a tradition that it was once visited
by Columbus. Hither people drive out of an evening from Havana, to eat
oysters, lobsters, and other crustacea, and, above all, to enjoy the
cool sea breeze. Here I first beheld the most astonishing of all
flowers--the _aristolochia pelicana_. It is a variety of the
_aristolochia sìpho_, which has been recently brought over to England
from America and acclimatised, and which is popularly known as the
"Dutchman's pipe," on account of the peculiar shape of the flower, which
is exactly like a little tobacco-pipe. The Cuban variety is a sturdy
creeper, with enormous, heart-shaped leaves. This flower must be seen to
be appreciated. When open, it presents the appearance of a huge porous
plaster about a foot in diameter. The edge is perfectly white and waxy,
the centre a dark brown, with a slit in the middle, opening into a
pod-shaped cup, and furnished with sharp bristles, usually garnished
with drops of syrup, to allure the flies and other insects, which, when
once they enter that little "parlour," find themselves in a veritable
ogre's castle, whence no escape is possible, for the hungry flower soon
absorbs and devours them. When the pouch is full,--and it will contain
several hundred insects,--the enormous flower closes, and assumes the
exact shape of a beautiful white duck. Severed from its stem, and placed
in the centre of a bouquet of flowers, or on a sheet of looking-glass in
the centre of a dining-table, this weird flower produces a very
startling effect. It is the custom in Havana to place one of these
strange freaks of nature in the centre of a bouquet, which is always
offered to a successful prima-donna on her first appearance at the
National Theatre.

One fine morning towards the middle of Lent I left Havana with a friend,
to make a tour of the other cities of the island, beginning with
Matanzas.

A Cuban railway is unlike any other railway in the world. The carriages
are built on the American plan, with a promenade from end to end, but
there are no glass windows, and when one considers the heat, one is
thankful that there are no cushions, to harbour dust and insects. The
conductor stands in front, and is perpetually ringing a bell, which does
not seem to help on the speed of the train in the very least degree.

Havana has no far-stretching suburbs, like most European cities, and you
very soon find yourself quite in the open country. It chanced that, on
this particular morning, a thick, low fog hung like a misty veil over
the fields, and the lofty palm trees shot up into the clear atmosphere
above in the most fantastic manner. However, by-and-bye, as the sun grew
stronger, the mist lifted entirely, and towards midday we found
ourselves passing through an extremely pretty country, traversed in
every direction by interminable lines of coca palm trees, which wound
through the sugar-cane fields, otherwise not particularly picturesque.
We stopped for luncheon at a village called, I think, Rincon, where
there is a regular Cuban buffet. The principal dish, I remember, was
roast sucking-pig, cold but succulent. Coolies and negroes came round
with baskets of fruit--bananas, pineapples, oranges, mangoes, and
zapadillos. After this station, we travelled between rocky cliffs, in
the fissures of which grew the most exquisite ferns I have ever seen out
of a hot-house, the hardy, glossy, oak-leaf fern, so sought after in
Covent Garden Market being especially plentiful. At last, after a
pleasant, but deadly slow journey, we arrived safely at Matanzas, which,
after the capital and Santiago, is by far the most flourishing city in
the island. Its real name is San Carlos, though it is popularly known as
Matanzas, or the "Butcheries." Most of the encyclopædias inform you that
it is so called after a frightful massacre of Caribbees, which took
place early in the 16th century. This is an error. There was no city
here till 1649, when the town was founded on the site of an old
slaughter-house, owned by the Havana butchers.

We drove straight from the station to the "Leon de Oro," reputed the
best hotel in the island. Cuban hotels, even those in the capital, are
none of them of superlative excellence, and although in all that
concerns the elegances of life the "Inglaterra", the "Louvre" and the
"Pasage" at Havana are infinitely superior to the old "Leon de Oro,"
they are distinctly its inferiors in point of cleanliness, and, above
all, in the matter of cooking.

Very brilliantly painted in fresco are the walls of the "Golden Lion" of
Matanzas. Venus rises from the sea in your bedroom, or rather in that
portion of an enormous dormitory which is allotted to you. Paris offers
the golden apple to the three goddesses in the dining-room, and the
whole court of Olympus, more or less successfully limned by an Italian
artist, occupies the lofty walls of the general sitting-room on the
first and only floor. The waiters are nearly all Coolies, and very clean
and tidy they are. The landlady, in the days of my youth, was a French,
coloured dame of enormous size, but also of almost preternatural
activity. "Madame" was everywhere, upstairs and downstairs, and never
seemed to go to sleep. It mattered little at what hour of the day or
night you happened to come in, you were sure to find the old lady, with
a huge turban on her head, ready to bid you welcome, with the very
broadest of smiles. As my friend and myself had brought her a letter,
which, by-the-way, she could not read, of introduction from one of her
Havanese patrons, she made a prodigious fuss in our honour. She felt
sure, she said, that, being Englishmen, we should like to have a bedroom
all to ourselves, to which reasonable proposition we very naturally
assented. Presently she took us upstairs to a very long and very lofty
dormitory, furnished with about a dozen brass bedsteads, arranged
against the walls in a double line, each duly protected by mosquito
curtains, and supplemented by a table, a chair, an iron tripod, bearing
a basin and jug, and a flat candlestick. Having paraded us once or twice
up and down this apartment, she suddenly stopped in front of two neat
little bedsteads standing side by side, and, pointing to them, informed
us in Creole French (she came from Martinique) that she destined them
for our accommodation. But what about the proffered privacy? Were we to
dress and undress in the presence of the strange occupants of the other
dozen beds, and were we to be soothed, or otherwise, throughout the
dreary watches of the night, by their combined snores. We resolved,
between ourselves, to make no comment, to leave fate and Madame to work
out our destiny. We descended to our dinner without venturing the least
observation. When we went upstairs again to unpack our travelling
trunks, we were heartily amused to find that the worthy old soul had
fenced us off from our future companions, with four long sheets,
fastened by old-fashioned washing-pegs, to a rope stretched tightly
across the room.

I remember we had an excellent dinner, the best we had yet eaten in
Cuba. There was a very good broth--_sopa de pan_--followed by a fair
preparation of fresh fish--_pescado frito_. Then came a great national
dish--sheeps' brains fried in butter, with tomato sauce, succeeded by a
reasonably fat and tender chicken, _a la Creola_, that is to say, with a
delicious sauce made with various vegetables; and a dish of _ternero
asado_ (roast veal) ended what might be termed the serious portion of
the meal. Then came guava jelly, eaten with little cakes, and a splendid
dessert of fresh bananas,--the small, stumpy, fat one, _plantano de
Guinea_, is the only one which is eaten as a fruit in Cuba. The large
ones, of the sort sent to England, are considered as vegetables, and
either fried as a separate dish, like potatoes, or cut up in slices and
used in salads. The Cuban oranges are magnificent, very large, pale in
colour, and innocent of seeds. The pine-apples are, of course, splendid,
and are cooked as sweet dishes, in a variety of ways. There is one
necessary of life which you are obliged to dispense with, and that is
butter, which is only likely to appear in the houses of the very rich,
or at one or two of the best hotels in Havana. There is an appalling
decoction called _mantiquella_, which is kept in a bottle, and poured
out for the benefit of American and English visitors, who are asked to
believe it is butter! God save the mark, it's exactly like train-oil.
Everything is fried in olive oil, but of excellent quality, so you soon
learn to do without butter to your bread, and, indeed, with as little
bread as may be, for nowhere is it very good. Otherwise, Cuban cooking
is not bad when once the traveller knows the ropes, and what to order.
It is certainly much better than the Spanish _cuisine_. There is a Cuban
cookery book in the British Museum, printed and published in Havana in
the year 1879, the perusal of which I commend to those of my readers who
are interested in such matters. They will learn how to make some
excellent and very succulent dishes. Cuban cooks are not strong on
sweetmeats, and they rarely, if ever, attempt pastry. On the other hand,
their fruit cheeses, especially the famous guava jelly, are worthy of
their world-wide renown. Ice was only introduced into the island about
forty years ago, and is even now considered a great luxury; but a
cocoa-nut gathered before dawn, and kept as much in the shade as
possible until wanted, is the most refreshing of drinks. The milk which
it contains is icy cold, and with a few spoonfuls of rum or brandy, and
a little sugar thrown in, is really excellent. Then, too, wherever you
go, you are sure to be offered _narangiata_, or orangeade, which all
Cubans make to perfection. Excellent Spanish and French wines and lager
beer are to be had in almost all the inns.

The lower part of every Cuban hotel is used as a café and restaurant,
and stands open to the four winds of heaven. It begins to fill
immediately after sunset, and in warm weather is never empty until four
o'clock in the morning. In the middle of the café is the kitchen, and
in the centre of the kitchen will be found an indispensable retreat
which does not add to the sanitary advantages of the establishment.
Otherwise, a Cuban kitchen affords much interest and amusement to those
in search of the picturesque. Round it are arranged little open charcoal
stoves, above which are suspended an endless number of copper saucepans.
Sometimes, up in a corner, is an image of our Lady of Guadaloupe,
blessing, apparently, from the interior of her glass case, the motley
gathering of cooks of all ages and colours, who are intently busy doing
nothing. Here on the floor sits a little darkie shelling peas, and near
him another small sable urchin howls because his ears have just been
boxed for licking his fingers. Yonder is a group of chattering
mulatresses whipping a cream, and there "Madame" herself roars at the
top of her voice at the chief cook, standing frying chicken livers,
strung on a skewer, over one of the innumerable charcoal fires, whose
fumes would suffocate the whole noisy party, if this weird kitchen were
not, but for its ceiling, quite an open air arrangement, for there are
no glass windows anywhere in the house, the only protection against a
storm being the green venetian blinds.

Our first night at the "Leon de Oro" was a memorable one. The hotel was
packed, and, notwithstanding the seclusion of our canvas walls, it was
impossible to get a wink of sleep,--in the first place, on account of
the mosquitoes, and in the second on that of the chorus of snores which
resounded on all sides after two o'clock in the morning, when our
neighbours, after chattering among themselves like so many magpies, and
even singing in chorus, finally succumbed to the claims of nature, and
tumbled to sleep. The next day Madame found us two small rooms at the
top of the house, where we were quite comfortable for the rest of our
visit.

Matanzas is a well-built city, situated on a very beautiful bay, and
backed by an admirable range of hills. Two rivers flow through it, the
Yumurri and San Juan. The fine Plaza de Armas, in front of the
Cathedral, and in the very centre of the town, is planted with a double
row of magnificent acacias. The church, dedicated to St Charles, is fair
sized, and has an imposing tower, but is not otherwise interesting.
There are two other smaller churches in the town, but Matanzas is looked
upon, throughout the country, as anything but orthodox. There are,
however, several convents, and two very well managed hospitals. The
fashionable quarter of the city is called "Versailles." Here the
wealthier citizens have built themselves a number of beautiful villas,
in the usual classical, one-storied style. These dazzling white marble
columns, elaborate iron-work balconies, mosaic pavements and handsome
porticoes, are doubtless a very accurate reproduction of the sort of
house which lined the Via Appia in the palmy days of ancient Rome. Most
of these houses are frescoed with mythological subjects, and painted in
bright colours, whose somewhat garish tones are subdued by the deep
green of the wonderful vegetation which surrounds them, and by the
dazzling glare of the sunlight, which, pouring down from the deepest of
blue skies, seems to mellow even the gaudiest colours into delightful
harmony.

The chief attractions of Matanzas are not, however, within the city
walls, but a pleasant drive's distance beyond its gates. The first of
these are the far-famed caves of Bellamar. There are certain
much-talked-of wonders of nature, the first sight of which is apt to
disappoint you,--Niagara Falls, for instance, and even the Mammoth Caves
of Kentucky; but the Matanzas caverns are so dazzlingly beautiful that
you are both astonished and delighted. They surprise by their size, they
fascinate by the clearness and brilliance of their crystal walls. The
first chamber, called the "Gothic Temple," is 250 feet in length by 83
in width. Its walls are of pure crystal. From the lofty roof hang
monster stalactites covered with millions of flashing crystals full of
prismatic hues. Following the guide, who carries a limelight, you next
enter a large hall, or chamber, which looks absolutely as if it had been
made of whipped cream. Then, after passing through endless crystal
halls, you reach the _fuente de nieve_, the snow-fountain, in which the
stalactites have assumed the semblance of a cascade of frosted snow.
These caves extend for about three miles, and are between 300 and 500
feet below the surface of the earth, and may therefore be reckoned
amongst the largest in the world. They were discovered quite
accidentally, some fifty years ago, by the workmen of a certain Don
Manuel Santos Parga, who, whilst digging in this vicinity, fell into
what afterwards proved to be one of the principal of the thirty-eight
halls, or caves, which have subsequently been discovered. To the credit
of their proprietor, they are most beautifully kept, no one being
allowed to use smoky torches, or defile the crystals in any way, and
commodious bridges and foot-paths, which add considerably to the comfort
of the visitor, have been built at the owner's expense.

The next attraction of Matanzas is the famous valley of the Yumurri. To
see it to perfection, it should be visited, not by pale moonlight, but
at the decline of day, when the sun is setting behind the low-lying
hills on the opposite side of the fertile valley, through which the
Yumurri river meanders like a silver ribbon, fringed with innumerable
tiny tributary streams, which immensely increase the productive powers
of this magnificent expanse of richly cultivated land. The vegetation is
indescribably beautiful and varied. Every sort of palm tree grows, and
as the land is undulating in character, the panorama is broken up in the
most charming manner, by groups of slender columns, surmounted by waving
plumes, which intercept, without impeding, the view of golden cane
fields and the tender green coffee plantations which stretch in all
directions, until it fades into the delicate mauve tint of approaching
evening. The view over the valley of the Yumurri is one of those
glorious things which a Milton might have described, a Turner or a
Martin might have painted. It baffles the efforts of my humble pen. All
I can say is that I have seen a good half of the fair world in which man
is called to spend his petty span, but never have my eyes rested on any
scene which could equal this in poetic loveliness. It is a fragment,
surely, left of that Paradise from which our first parents managed
between them to shut out their descendants for ever. We lingered long,
wondering at the beauty of it all, quite unable to tear ourselves away.
The sun, having passed through the closing phases of its daily course,
became a ball of glowing fire, and quenched itself within a violet
cloud. The moon rose and flooded the happy valley with golden radiance,
so brilliant that only the stars in the larger constellations, such as
the Southern Cross, were visible.



CHAPTER VIII.

CIENFUEGOS.


To my mind, Cienfuegos is the Cuban port which should, under a sensible
and progressive administration, offer the finest prospect for future
development and prosperity. The bay is extremely beautiful, and on its
deep expanse the combined fleets of the nations might anchor in perfect
security. Four rivers, which might easily be rendered navigable, the
Damuji, the Salado, the Caonao, and the Orimao, flow into its waters.
Here, in the brighter times to come, when the Spaniards shall cease from
troubling and the rebels be at rest, will surely be the capital of a new
Cuba.

Cienfuegos is on the direct line to Panama, and, once the isthmus is
cut, must become of vast commercial importance. At present it contains
less than 20,000 inhabitants, and its trade is of no exceptional value.
It is not an ancient city. It only dates from the beginning of the
present century, and derives its name from the celebrated Cuban general,
Cienfuegos. The church, a very hideous edifice, much older than the
town, contains a famous Madonna, whose robes of cloth of gold and violet
velvet were presented by Queen Isabella II., and who is the object of
many pious pilgrimages. The inns are fairly good, for Cuba. In one of
them, La Fonda de Paris, I was nipped by a scorpion, and that hotel is
consequently bound up, as far as I am concerned, with very unpleasant
associations.

The country round Cienfuegos is far more interesting than the town, and
a long drive enabled me to form the acquaintance of a very interesting
type of Cuban--the Guajiro, or white peasant, who abounds in this part
of the island, where many of them cultivate a few acres, and live a life
quite distinct from that of the rest of the world. The Guajiro is
generally of Catalonian or Andalusian origin. Many trace their descent a
long way back to ancestors who came over to Cuba a century or two ago.
As a rule, the men are handsome, manly fellows. They sit a horse as if
born on its back, and seem, like the centaurs of yore, to form part and
parcel of the animal. Their dialect, a mixture of Spanish and of
African, picked up among the negroes, is exceedingly difficult to
understand. The Guajiro used to be a slave-owner, and a terribly hard
task-master was he, for if there is one thing he hates more than
another, it is work. He enjoys sitting in the shade, smoking his
cigarette, and lazily, drowsily, watching his female belongings at their
labour. On the other hand, when roused to effort, he can perform
miracles: ride heaven only knows how many miles, in the blazing sun, and
build a palm hut in a few hours. Living from hand to mouth, rarely, if
ever, taking the trouble to cultivate his tiny domain properly, the true
Guajiro is a perfect illustration of the fact that "man wants but
little here below." His chief food consists of bananas hot, and bananas
cold, of tomatoes, and other vegetables and fruits unknown in European
markets, which are said to be both excellent and nourishing. He rarely
touches meat, except pork, on which he mainly feeds, but he often
catches fish for his dinner, and looks upon an iguana or a bull-frog as
a desirable delicacy. When he is not a liliputian landowner, he earns
his living as a herdsman, for, from childhood up, he has acquired a vast
experience in the management of cattle and horses--and, above all, of
niggers. Under these circumstances he is obliged to work. He hires
himself out by the week or month, during the harvest season, like any
other labourer, and thereby earns a fair wage, which he spends freely,
on Sundays and _fiestas_, in the taverns, or in betting at cock-fights
or at the bull-ring.

The Guajiro who owns a few acres of land is a far more interesting
individual than his fellow, the hired labourer. He is so gloriously,
insolently, independent. What cares he for the luxuries of life, if he
have but a dish of bananas for his dinner, and a smart suit of clothes
in his chest to wear o' Sundays? Six days out of the seven see him
pottering about his farmyard, a magnificent dunghill, on which his brood
of dark-eyed urchins flourishes in primitive costumes, and spends its
time in festive sports, together with the family dogs, pigs, and cows.
On high days and holidays he makes himself very smart, dons his white
"ducks" and his untanned pig-skin boots, his gaudy waistband, and his
broad-brimmed straw hat. The rest of the time he wears his pants and
his jacket only. A born musician, he plays the guitar, and often sings
charmingly. Sometimes that modern wandering Jew, the Italian
organ-grinder, accompanied by a monkey, stops in the dusty road in front
of the Guajiro's domicile, and tunes up "Il Baccio," or the "Blue Danube
Waltz," whereupon the Guajiro and his wife and their brood fall into an
ecstacy of wonderment, and reward the musician liberally, being under
the impression that his music is due to his skill and not to mere
mechanical contrivance.

The Guajira (the Missis) is also a character in her way. On her
shoulders, poor soul, falls the burden of the heavier work, all except
tending the cattle. She does the cooking, such as it is! She mends the
family rags, and washes them, and looks after the skinny fowls--nothing
on earth will fatten a Cuban fowl! Above all she keeps a vigilant eye on
her mischievous flock of Guajiritos, who never learn to read or write,
but sprawl about the filthy yard, or, when they are old enough, depart
on joyous expeditions in the woods, to search for natural curiosities
fit for food, such as iguanas, lizards, a large fat black snake, said to
be very tender, and better than an eel, frogs as big as your head, and
other such horrors, which the Guajira converts into succulent dishes.

The family mansion is built of palm branches, and has a rickety,
earthquaky appearance about it, that may be very picturesque, but must
be very uncomfortable. The whole family sleeps on the straw-littered
floor. Such Guajiros as I visited seemed to be happy enough, but in the
rainy season they often suffer from rheumatism, ague, and other like
diseases. Thousands of them have joined the rebellion, in the hope of
its eventually leading to a betterment in their condition, which, as
they get into closer contact with civilization, grows daily less
endurable.

The Guajiro of bygone times, with his bright eyes and his guitar, is the
starving reconcentrado of to-day. I like to think of him as he was, not
as he is. Let us, therefore, behold the Señor and the Señora Guajiro in
all the glory of their war-paint, _en route_ for the procession of the
Angel, for instance, in their village church of Santa-Fé. The Señor is
dressed up in all his Sunday go-to-meeting best, a costume very like
that of our own coster-boys, and the same blood doubtless courses
through their veins, for I am assured, on authority, that Whitechapel
'Arry and his "donah" originally came from the sunny land of Spain, in
Merry King Charles II.'s time, to sell oranges to benighted Britishers,
and that, liking us and our ways, he then and there condescended to take
up his abode amongst us. Certainly the Cuban Guajiro shares 'Arry's
propensity for mother-of-pearl and silver buttons, with which he covers
every available part of his clothing, his jacket, his waistcoat, and his
trousers. By her lord's side tramps the faithful Guajira, a very
beautiful young matron, frequently, with delicate, regular features and
soft brown eyes with sweeping lashes. Her gown is made of gaudy chintz,
patterned with flaring bunches of roses. Most probably the fabric was
made in England in the tasteless early Victorian days, and intended as
furniture covering. Its train sweeps up a cloud of dust, for it would be
derogatory for any respectable Guajira to lift her skirts like those
miserable English and American women, who hold up their petticoats to
their knees, and go picking their way along as if they were treading on
eggs and were afraid of breaking them. The very negresses know better.
Nevertheless, the Guajira takes good care to display her very small,
brown, stockingless feet, thrust into a pair of green or red zapatos, or
slippers, in which she intends to dance the Creola. Over her shoulders
is a China crape shawl, either white or rose-coloured--a wedding
present,--and her raven tresses are set off by a bunch of wax-like
stephanotis or of scarlet hibiscus. Before and behind their parents trot
the "family," some dozen of them, the baby borne in the arms of a small
but very gorgeous negress. As to these little brown ones, I have seen
them trotting along without a stitch of clothing, with their hair very
neatly brushed and their small tawny feet encased in patent leather
shoes, the whole shaded by an old scarlet parasol. Sometimes, however,
the Guajiro and the Guajira may be particularly well-to-do, and in this
case they do not condescend to trapese along the dusty roads like the
common of mortals, negroes and mulattoes and "sich'z," but make a
triumphal entry on horseback, or on a little Cuban pony, gloriously
bedecked with silver and brass bells and buttons, and long tags of
yellow and red worsted balls. Or else they come along on bullock-back,
the Guajira sitting sideways on the beast's back, keeping her position
by clinging to her husband's waistband. Nothing quainter or more
picturesque can be imagined than this, to European ideas, queerest of
methods of locomotion. The bullock gallops clumsily enough, but seems to
fancy himself immensely in his rather novel character of horse. If,
perchance, you meet a dozen or so of these singular equestrians, you are
likely to retain a pleasant recollection of their picturesqueness to
your dying day.[15]

But let us hasten, or else we shall lose our Guajiro and Guajira in the
crowd in the _fiesta_, and that would be a sad pity. Their first duty is
to go to church, where we shall see them praying with pathetic sincerity
before the illuminated shrine of Our Lady of the Cobre or of Guadalupe.
No philosophical doubt haunts the consciences of these good folk. God
and His Blessed Mother hear every word they say to Them, and, as they
are on very friendly terms with the Powers that be, they place their
affairs most frankly before Them, firmly believing that if they do their
best to keep straight, according to their lights, their prayers will
surely be heard, else why pray at all? They have a good deal to pray
for. The Guajiro slily asks that he may be inspired to bet on the
winning cock, and the Guajira has a yellow lottery ticket in her bosom,
the number of which was selected at the instance of a notorious African
witch. Now that was very wrong, and the Guajira's mind is not at all
easy on the subject, for the new Cura, Padre Pablo has told her over
and over again that Lolla, the witch, is a black limb of Satan, and that
if things were as they ought to be, she would long ago have been burnt
at the stake. But still, if Our Lady would but make that number win,
there would be ten or twenty dollars to the good, and see what a lot of
comforts that would enable her to get. And, besides that, is not the old
Guajiro's grandmother, who is nearly a hundred, ill at home, and is she
not always wanting medicine, and things that poor people cannot afford
to buy, and, the children are really getting too old to go about without
any clothing, especially Cassandrina, who is nearly seven years of age.
But how is one to buy dresses, in these hard times, for growing wenches,
even if they are one's own children, unless a little windfall drops into
one's lap? Therefore, "O Most Pitiful Lady of the Cobre, ask your Son,
whose image wears such a pretty frock of sky blue satin, with a golden
fringe, to let old black Lolla's number win. _Por amor de Dios._"

Being perfectly satisfied that their prayers are duly registered in the
Court of Heaven, the worthy couple and their brood, who, by-the-way,
have been staring all the time, with eyes as big as halfpence, at the
gorgeous robes of Our Lady of the Cobre, flock out of church into the
broad, sunny plaza, where, although it is only six o'clock a.m.
(everything in Cuba is done at an unearthly hour on account of the
heat), the Procession is already beginning to form, so as to be over
before High Mass begins. Bless me, how magnificent it all is! So much
better done than in the days of the old Cura, a dreadful old person,
concerning whom there were so many queer stories. Since our blessed
Pope, Leo XIII., has come to the throne, things _have_ changed for the
better.

First come the confraternities of the Precious Blood and of Our Lady of
the Cobre, all very decently dressed, the blacks and the whites mixed
up, on a footing of perfect equality, holding candles in their hands,
without any distinction of caste or colour. Then the Children of Mary,
not a few of them dressed up as Saints,--St Agnes with her lamb, St John
with sheep-skin wound round his chubby limbs, St Francis as a little
monk, and so forth. And lastly, the priests in their showiest vestments,
and the choir boys with their incense, and the climax of the function,
the Angel,--that is to say, a chariot drawn by two white oxen, whose
sweeping horns are tipped with gold foil, in which, on a throne made of
leaves and artificial roses, sits a little girl attired as an angel with
a flaxen wig, for in tropical countries, where mortals are generally
black-haired, all Celestial beings are supposed to be blondes. The
angel's wings are made of coloured bits of paper, cut in the shape of
feathers, arranged with a distinct eye to artistic effect. When the
angel and her chariot arrive in front of the Church the priests bring
forth the statue of Our Lady of the Cobre, and place it under a gorgeous
canopy, where it remains, whilst the terrestrial angel recites a _loja_
or sonnet, in honour of the Blessed Lady. Then the Benediction is given,
all the motley crowd drops on its knees, and afterwards everybody
hurries into the Church to hear Mass, and so the religious part of the
fiesta ends. Later in the day after the mid-day siesta, we shall find
the Guajiro at the cockpit, which women are prohibited by law from
attending, so that the Guajira will be discovered sitting outside the
village fonda, gossiping with her cousins and friends, and sipping
tamarind water, whilst her numerous progeny disport themselves in the
middle of the square, where there is a sort of fair in progress. If the
favourite cock wins,--and it must surely win on this special
occasion,--the Guajiro will be in the best of humours, and he and his
wife will dance the Creola until the small hours, for a Cuban dances
even when he is half-dead. Long before the sun rises our friends will
have wended their way home, and there will be but little joy in their
lives until the next fiesta comes round. But as there happen to be
seventy-two of them besides fifty-two Sundays, the chintz dress with the
big roses will stir up the dust between the farm and Santa-Fé on many an
occasion yet, before Christmas comes round again, and everybody goes to
pray before the Infante de Dios[16] in the Parish Church.

In the neighbourhood of Cienfuegos, I had the questionable pleasure of
beholding a Cuban "duck hunt." In the diary of our good Boy-King, Edward
VI., appears the following entry:--

"1550, June 4. Sir Robert Dudley, eldest (surviving) son to the Earl of
Warwick, married Sir John Robsart's daughter, Amy, after which marriage,
there were certain gentlemen that did strive who should first take away
a goose's head which was hanged alive on two cross posts."

The cruel sport, at one time considered a courtly pastime in England, is
still a favourite in Cuba. Two posts are set up, some three yards apart,
and to the centre of the cross beam a live duck or goose is tied by the
legs, head downwards. Then some ten or twenty men on horseback dash
under the posts, and the victor is he who "takes away the goose's head"
as he gallops through. The wretched bird's head being well greased, it
often happens that the poor creature's sufferings are prolonged for many
minutes, whilst the wild crew of horsemen strive to wrench it off,
without losing their balance or falling from horseback. The hubbub is
deafening, everybody shouts at once, and, above the din, you can hear
the piercing shrieks of the half-strangled fowl. As all the horses must
pass under the comparatively narrow gangway, many are thrown down, while
others take fright and gallop off, frequently leaving their _caballeros_
sprawling, and perhaps badly damaged, on the ground. It is a disgusting
and most cruel exhibition, and makes one feel sorry that it should have
been included among the wedding festivities of so interesting and much
to be pitied a heroine as Amy Robsart.



CHAPTER IX.

TRINIDAD AND SANTIAGO DE CUBA.


The next place of importance on our tour was Trinidad de Cuba, a queer
little city of about 18,000 inhabitants, with funny old-fashioned
houses, their windows protected by thick iron gratings, like those of a
mediæval Italian city, scrambling in somewhat disorderly fashion up and
down the sides of a steepish hill called the Vija, or Watch Tower.
Trinidad is situated about ten miles inland from the sea-shore, and is
said to be one of the oldest and quaintest towns in this part of the
West Indies, having been founded by Diego Velasquez in 1513.
Historically speaking, its chief interest centres round Cortez, who
started on his famous expedition to Mexico from the neighbouring bay of
Casilda.

[Illustration: SANTIAGO.]

In a little shop in Trinidad, where ink and paper and a few old books
were sold, I picked up an almost contemporary engraving of Hernando
Cortez, which represents him as a fine-looking warrior, attired in a
most elaborate suit of richly damascened mail, over which he wears a
striped petticoat-like garment reaching below his knees. His feet are
encased in plate armour. On his head he wears a splendid helmet, from
which float a score of prodigiously long ostrich feathers. In his hand
he bears a spear. The background is a view of a distant city, with
several palm trees. The features are perfectly regular, and the
illustrious Lothario sports a sweeping moustache, and has a dare-devilry
expression which the ancient and skilful limner has reproduced with
apparently scrupulous fidelity. It is evidently an original portrait,
and is dated 1542. It was copied, in all probability, from some
contemporary oil-painting, and engraved, of course, in Europe--probably
in Flanders.[17]

We had early dinner here, at the hospitable residence of a rich American
planter, who has built himself a large and handsome house, just outside
the town, and furnished it sumptuously. It was very pleasant to meet
cultivated and intellectual women in such an out-of-the-way part of the
world, and we took leave of our host and hostess--the lady an excellent
botanist--regretfully, bearing away with us big baskets of luscious fruit
and a bouquet of exquisite flowers.

Late in the afternoon we embarked for Santiago on board a neat little
steamer which plies along the coast from Havana twice a week. We should
gladly have stayed a little longer at Trinidad; but the following was
Palm Sunday, and I was anxious to reach Santiago for Holy Week, although
my companion, being nothing like so indefatigable a sightseer as myself,
was much put out by my persistence.

The coast line between Trinidad and Santiago is extremely pretty--at
least what we saw of it, for darkness soon sets in in these latitudes,
there being absolutely no twilight, as in more northern regions. We were
able, however, to admire the very beautiful cluster of "cays" which rise
out of the sea in all directions, some of them large enough to be
habitable, though they are left desolate, and others mere barren rocks,
with a palm tree or so growing on their crests. The effect they produced
in the setting sunlight was exquisite enough to excuse the enthusiastic
encomiums of Christopher Columbus when he first beheld them, and mistook
them for the islands mentioned by Marco Polo as being off the coast of
Asia.

At last the sun went down in a glorious blaze of purple and gold; a blue
darkness enveloped the enchanting scene. The night air was delightfully
balmy, so we sat on deck until quite late, being joined by several
American and Cuban ladies and gentlemen who were going our way. A
remarkably intelligent Bostonian, Major B----, said in the course of
conversation, that he felt sure Cuba would, within a few years, have
passed out of Spanish hands into those either of England or America. He
had apparently great interests in the island, knew every inch of it, and
assured us that its fertility and resources were incalculably great. It
was, he said, in a very backward state.

"On the majority of the plantations," he continued, "there are no
improved implements of husbandry--no labour-saving machines--nothing,
indeed, which indicates an advanced or advancing agriculture, although
the machinery for grinding the cane and making sugar is often of the
best and latest pattern. With the most generous of soils, there is worse
culture in Cuba than anywhere else in the civilized world, except,
perhaps, in the southern parts of Italy or Spain, and in both instances
from like causes--that is, from the consolidation of immense landed
estates in the hands of a few, mainly absentees--and the consequent
withdrawal of the sources of national wealth from general circulation.

"There are, comparatively speaking, only a small number of acres of
cultivable land held by small proprietors, who work on their own soil.
The largest number of acres are owned by Spanish and Cuban grandees,
some of whom have not been in the island for twenty years. They draw
their revenue hence to dissipate it in a whirl of frivolity, either in
Paris or Madrid. This system of accumulation in mortmain has hung for
generations like a millstone around the necks of the Cuban people, and
will, I am afraid, continue so to do. The abolition of slavery will,
however, surely make a difference. Very soon the large estates will have
to be cut up for want of sufficient hands; and the raising of cane, the
grinding of it and the making of it into sugar, will become two
different occupations, similar to the plan adopted in Germany, where the
sugar-maker either buys the beet crop entirely from the farmer, or
grinds the beets on shares of the sugar made. Then, again," remarked our
new friend, "I cannot help alluding to the vast difference in
characteristics,--though they spring from the same race,--between the
Cubans and the Spaniards. The aggregation of men into cities for
purposes of trade, though necessary, does not tend to develop their
intellectual faculties. The habit of acting in masses, or with masses,
as every urban population must do, breeds a tendency to sacrifice duty
to political expediency. Principles are continually yielded to the will
of others, and lose their sacredness. In a rural population there is
more isolation and more individuality. This is peculiarly the case with
the Cuban planters, farmers, guarijos, and labourers. An agricultural
population has always been deemed the most simple-minded, and its
character, whatever it may be, the most unchangeable. So here, also, the
Creoles are more unsophisticated than the Spaniard, and have fewer of
the vices and needs of modern society.

"After all, nations, like individuals, grow up under the influence of a
vast body of experiences. Not one cause, but a multitude of causes,
extending through many years, make people different from each
other,--even those of the same race, as is the case here in Cuba. They
may be gradually moulded, by these experiences, into absolute
antagonism. The Spaniards are well aware of the fact, and do not
hesitate to say so. They acknowledge that they can raise almost
everything in this beautiful and fertile isle--except Spaniards. Though,
year after year, there is a steady stream of immigration from the home
country, it does not change the characteristics of the natives. It
appears to be a law of immigration that, if not the immigrant himself,
his children at all events, are sure to adopt the modes of thought of
the people among whom their parents have made their home. How could it
be otherwise? The children grow up with the children of the country, and
it becomes their country. The most durable of all associations--those of
childhood--make the children of the immigrant as faithful and as
patriotic as those of the men who have lived for generations in the
country. All in vain does Spain pour her troops into this island.
Granted that by superior numbers she maintains her sway over this
people,--what a barren conquest it is, when you come to think of it! The
Cubans hate those who govern them, and the Spaniards never feel secure.
True, history tells us of but one way by which the national character of
a people can be modified, and that is by conquest; but even conquest,
without beneficial administration, producing assimilation, fails, as it
must fail where there is an absolute rule by one antagonistic people
over another, which engenders hatred, and foments a passionate
rebellion, even at the risk of martyrdom. The Spaniards are a fine race,
but they utterly misunderstand the difference which has grown up between
themselves and the Cubans. Although they acknowledge them their own
children, they persist in treating them as inferiors, and governing them
accordingly. Every attempt at improvement on the part of the Cubans is
systematically stamped out by the Government.

"The abolition of slavery has not proved a blessing either to the slaves
or their late owners. Like everything Spanish, it has been badly
planned, and has brought ruin to thousands without benefiting the
negroes.

"The island is cruelly overtaxed, to keep up a garrison fifty times more
numerous than would be necessary if it were properly administered. I am
quite sure Spain will eventually lose this rich possession. I assure
you, and without the least prejudice, I think her quite incapable of
keeping it. She has had any amount of experience, but of the wrong sort;
and as to her men, her governors and commanders, however honest they may
be in their own country, so soon as they land here they grow either
corrupt or tyrannical."[18]

Morning found us running along some of the grandest coast scenery in the
world: at this point the Macaca or Sierra Maestra Mountains rise boldly
from the sea, to the height of 5000 and 6000 feet. The Ojo del Toro, one
of the highest peaks of the range, is fully visible far away in the
extreme distance, and towering above it you perceive the sharp peak of
Turquino, the loftiest in the whole island, 6800 feet high. I was much
struck by the resemblance between this coast-line and that between Nice
and Monte Carlo. The colouring is almost identical, the sea as deep a
blue as the Mediterranean; and the slopes of the rocky mountains are
clothed with the same rich tints, shading from indigo to the palest
grey. At about ten o'clock we were informed we were nearing Santiago,
but it was a considerable time before the city rose in sight, long,
even, after we had passed Cabanas, the first fort.

Santiago Bay is shaped like a champagne bottle, with a narrow neck and
an oblong body. It is a most difficult harbour to enter, and the town
ought to be impregnable; but the fortresses, although architecturally
imposing,--especially the Morro, which looks like a mediæval castle, its
walls rising straight out of the rocks,--are, I am assured, mere toys so
far as modern warfare is concerned. The bay itself, on which the city is
built, spreads out, once you have passed the straits, like a glorious
lake, circled by green hills, thickly covered by the most varied
vegetation, with groups of tall palm-trees standing out conspicuously
here and there. Presently, a turn brings you in front of the city, with
its lofty cathedral towers, and its brightly painted houses, terraced up
the hill to a height of about 500 feet above the level of the sea.

There is no more picturesque bay in the world than this, unless, indeed,
it be that of Naples. The scene is so enchanting, so brilliant, that one
is perfectly enraptured, and feels inclined to burst into open applause,
as if in the presence of some grand stage effect. Everything seems to
have been arranged by nature for some pageant. Nor is the illusion lost
on landing, for as you climb the steep streets you are constantly
attracted by some picturesque and unusual object or view. Here, for
instance, facing you, as you step to earth, is a fruit stall such as you
can only see in Santiago. Thousands of huge bunches of bananas, varying
in colour from the deepest apple-green to the palest gold, cover its
lofty walls. These green ones are unripe, and are intended for
exportation. Then come countless rows of pineapples, pyramids of
oranges, baskets of crocodile pears and custard apples, and enormous
clusters of purple plums.

We put up at an hotel kept by an old Cuban, who, understanding European
ways, gave us two separate though very tiny bedrooms, and made us as
comfortable as possible. For luncheon he sent us up an excellent
omelette, the first we had tasted since we left New York. I remember,
too, we had ripe mangoes here, for the first time, and liked them only
fairly well. Tropical fruit, barring bananas, oranges, and pineapples,
is, to my thinking, mighty insipid. The Cuban mango, however, has its
charms.

Santiago de Cuba is by far the most historical city in the country. It
was founded in 1515 by Diego Velasquez, who landed here, in obedience to
the commands of Diego Columbus, on his first voyage from Hayti, to take
formal possession of the island. From the port of Santiago, too, Juan de
Grijalva started in 1518 on his famous expedition for the conquest of
Yucatan. Hitherto also came Hernando Cortez, bent on the same
undertaking.

Less than a quarter of a century after these memorable visits, the place
had become so peopled with new settlers that it was elevated to the
dignity of a city, and, in 1527, was created a bishopric. A year later,
Narvaez set forth hence on his memorable expedition for the conquest of
Florida, whence "he never more returned." Later in the same year
Hernando de Sotto arrived, accompanied by over a thousand armed men, to
assume the command of the entire island. He brought with him his wife,
Doña Isabella de Bobadilla, a lady who was famous for her beauty and
her virtues. During his celebrated expeditions into the Americas, he
left her here, in the responsible position of Governess of the island.
She was the only woman who ever ruled in Cuba. Her sway was beneficent
and mild, but the chroniclers relate that when months and even years
passed without her receiving any letters from her husband, she "pined
and languished, and fell into a lethargic state, so that her life was
despaired of." Whether Doña Isabella Bobadilla died in Cuba or returned
to Spain, I have never been able to ascertain. There is no mention of
her having been buried in the Cathedral here, where Velasquez was
certainly entombed, for in 1810 his body was found by some workmen in a
stone coffin, at a distance of about twenty feet below the soil.

The rest of the history of the town is a repetition of that of Havana, a
series of sieges by pirates and buccaneers. In 1662 it was attacked by
Lord Windsor, and bombarded by a squadron of fifteen vessels. The
English landed, destroyed the Morro Fort, blew up the Cathedral, and
otherwise behaved themselves more like Pagans than Christians.

On Palm Sunday morning, we went to the Cathedral to see the great
function of the blessing of the palms. The church is very large--the
largest in the island--and built in the usual Hispano-American style,
with a squat dome in the middle, and two rather fine towers on each side
of the façade. The nave is of unusual width, and the side chapels, of
which there are a great number, are full of rare marbles, and splendid
mahogany woodwork. The stalls in the magnificent choir and the seats
throughout the church are all made of solid deep red mahogany; the
edifice otherwise presents nothing of interest, excepting the priestly
vestments, very fine specimens of old Spanish needlework. We found the
church packed, most of the ladies being in deep mourning, but in
low-necked dresses, which, at so early an hour, produced a startling
effect. It afforded us an opportunity for a most interesting study of
feminine shoulders, varying in tint from the snowy white of the Creola,
to the dainty olive of the mulatress, and the ebony black of the ladies
who originally hailed from the Congo. The stately ceremonies, on this
solemn occasion, were exactly the same as those in all other Catholic
churches throughout the world. The priests, however, carried some very
fine palm branches, their long fronds tipped with gold tinsel. In the
afternoon there was a sermon preached by a fiery little Capuchin monk,
who banged his hands on the edge of the pulpit with such force that I am
sure they must have been black and blue by the time he had finished.

In the evening we went for a long drive through some of the most
beautiful scenery I have ever seen. On the following day there was not
much in the way of sacred pageantry. On Holy Thursday the whole town
turned out in deep mourning to visit the Sepulchre in the Churches.
Meanwhile the opera house, the theatres, and all other places of public
amusement were hermetically closed, and Santiago did not present a very
lively appearance, but as we had plenty to see in the neighbourhood,
this did not trouble us much. The Good Friday procession was well worth
seeing. It was a miniature edition of the procession which takes place
in Seville, and was of interminable length. All the confraternities took
part in it. At intervals, life-sized groups made in carved wood,
representing episodes in Our Lord's Passion, were carried on the
shoulders of ten or a dozen negroes. Then came the image of Our Lady of
Sorrows, dressed in the full Court costume of the sixteenth century,
made of cloth of silver, with a mantle of the richest purple velvet.
This was followed by the Archbishop and his clergy, and the grandees of
the place, wearing their decorations, officers in uniform, and gentlemen
in evening dress. The effect of the procession winding through the
narrow streets was extremely picturesque, and it was received on all
sides with profound respect, for the people of Santiago are the most
orthodox on the island, and also, by-the-way, the most intelligent and
the best-looking. Their good looks are said to be due to their numerous
inter-marriages with French women, daughters of emigrants from San
Domingo, who made their appearance here at the end of the last century.
Many of the ladies of Santiago are quite beautiful, and would be much
more so if they did not plaster their faces with cascaria powder to such
an extent that many of them make themselves look like female clowns.

On Holy Saturday morning we were awakened, very early, by the most
hideous noises, firing off of pistols, squibs, and rockets. The
population were busily engaged in hanging Judas Iscariot, an effigy of
this archtraitor being actually suspended to a lamp-post opposite our
hotel, while a vast assembly round it yelled excitedly, insulting it
with an earnestness that might have been intelligible had it been Judas
in the flesh instead of a sham, stuffed presentment.

Santiago was at one time quite a literary centre. Some years back one or
two learned priests devoted themselves there to the study of botany and
astronomy, among them being Padre Luis de Montes, who made a complete
catalogue of the flora of the island. Doña Luisa Perez de Montes de Oca,
a native of Santiago, has written some of the finest sonnets in
contemporary Spanish literature, and Doña Gertrude Gomez de Avellanda,
also born at Santiago, is another delightful poetess, whose name is well
known where-ever the Spanish language is spoken. One name, however,
towers, in Cuban literature, over all others--that of José Maria
Heredia, who was born at Santiago in 1803. His father, a gentleman of
considerable position and wealth, and ardent patriot, was exiled to
Mexico, and carried with him his motherless child, then only three years
of age. At sixteen Heredia lost his father, and returned to Havana,
where, in 1823, he was admitted to the bar, and sent to practise at the
Supreme Court of Puerto Principe. His open expressions of indignation at
the manner in which his country was mishandled, and his well-known
liberal opinions on political and social subjects, eventually roused the
suspicions of the Government, and he was privately advised to leave the
island with all speed, unless he wished to end his days in prison. He
took the hint, abandoned Cuba for America, and settled in New York. In
1825 he published his first volume of poetry, which contained the
celebrated "Exiles' Hymn," the opening lines of which are singularly
appropriate to present circumstances.

    "Fair land of Cuba! on thy shores are seen
    Life's far extremes of noble and of mean,
    The world of sense in matchless beauty dress'd,
    And nameless horrors hid within thy breast.
    Ordain'd of Heaven the fairest flower of earth,
    False to thy gifts, and reckless of thy birth,
    The tyrant's clamour, and the slave's sad cry,
    With the sharp lash in insolent reply,--
    Such are the sounds that echo on thy plains
    While virtue faints, and vice unblushing reigns.
    Rise, and to power a daring heart oppose!
    Confront with death these worse than deathlike woes,
    Unfailing valour chains the flying fate,
    Who dares to die shall win the conqueror's state!"

Another very remarkable poem, published a little later (1833), is the
famous "Niagara," made familiar to English readers by the late Mr Cullan
Bryant's noble blank-verse translation. Never has the grandest of
cataracts been more magnificently described, but, even in the presence
of its overwhelming majesty, Heredia could not forget the mournful
beauty of his beloved Cuba, and through the tremendous sound of its
waters he thought he detected the rustling of the palms of his native
forests, when tossed about by some overwhelming storm. Heredia died in
Mexico in 1838. He was a man of exceeding integrity, and most generous
and amiable. As a poet, he is acknowledged among the greatest who have
cast honour on the tongue of Calderon and Cervantes.

Milanes is another poet who first saw light at Santiago. He was a man of
humbler origin than Heredia, and of more subtle and refined genius. He
died young, of consumption, but his works, which were published some
years after his death, are considered classics by the Spanish. They are
perfect in form, exquisite in thought, but intensely melancholy. It has
been said of Milanes that "he saw life through tears." The greatest poet
Cuba has produced after Heredia, Gabriel de la Concepcion Valdes, better
known by his _nom-de-plume_ of Placido, was born, not at
Santiago,--although he passed some years of his life there,--but at
Matanzas. He was a mulatto by birth. Nature and fortune were against
him. His origin was of the lowest; his father was a half-cast slave, and
he was hideously ugly, miserably poor, and very imperfectly educated.
Yet he triumphed over every obstacle, and has left a great name in
Hispano-American literature. In 1844, rumours of an intended rebellion
among the slaves having reached the ears of the Captain-General at
Havana, a number of negroes and even poor whites (Guajiros), suspected
of sympathising with the slaves, were arrested, and some scores of them
suffered death under the lash. The poet Placido, of whom the whole
coloured population was intensely proud, was accused of having fermented
this rebellion by his eloquence. He was forthwith arrested, and thrown
into prison, and, though he protested his innocence, he was tried, found
guilty, and sentenced to be shot. Fortunately for literature, some time
elapsed between the passing of the sentence and its execution, and the
delay enabled him to compose his two finest poems--the sublime "Prayer
to God" and the touching "Farewell to his Mother." These fine works
would alone suffice to make the name of any poet in any language.
Placido met his fate on 8th June 1844, in the Great Square of Matanzas,
together with nineteen other persons, accused of abetting the negro
rebellion. He walked from his prison with a firm step and unbandaged
eyes, and himself gave the signal to fire. Unfortunately, he was only
wounded, and fell in great agony to the ground. The crowd was moved to
horror and pity, but Placido silenced his many friends present, and,
rising to his feet, said firmly, "Farewell, world,--ever pitiless to
me." Then, pointing to his own brow, he cried, "Soldiers, fire here." In
another instant he fell dead--shot through the head.

Placido addressed several graceful sonnets to the Queen Regent of Spain,
Christina, mother of Isabella II., who took some interest in his fate,
and openly expressed her indignation when she learnt of his tragic
death. Mr William Hurlbut, in his _Pictures of Cuba_, gives an admirable
study of the works of this remarkable poet. "Placido's images," says he,
"are often pathetic in their originality, as, for instance, when he
compares the sudden passing of the moon from behind the cliffs into the
open starlit sky, to the advent into the ball-room of a beautiful
woman, superbly dressed, and wearing a cashmere shawl. Quaintly barbaric
this image seems, yet how charged it is with the sad history of gorgeous
dreams and warm visions, prisoned in the poet-brain of an outcast and a
Pariah."

It would be scarcely just to Havana, if I were to create an impression
that Cuban literary genius was peculiar to the Eastern Province. Havana
has also produced several fine poets. Ramon Zambrana, who, by-the-way,
married the poetess Doña Luisa Perez de Monte de Oca, is a lyrist of the
first rank. His story is quite a romance. The poems of Doña Luisa de Oca
were published under a manly _nom-de-plume_. Admiring them exceedingly,
Zambrana entered into a correspondence with the author, then living at
Santiago. It was only after keeping up a very lively and interesting
correspondence for over a year that he accidentally discovered he had
been writing to a woman. A very trivial incident revealed the truth. In
one of her letters the lady enclosed, by mistake, a note intended for
her milliner. On this the gentleman determined to proceed to Santiago
and make the acquaintance of his fair correspondent, whom he discovered
to be both beautiful and wealthy. Very soon after the marriage,
unfortunately, Zambrana fell ill, and died in the flower of early
manhood.

Don José de la Luz y Caballero, who was for a long time Director of the
College of San Salvador, was also the author of some excellent poetry,
and of a very valuable work on Cuban folk-lore. His views were
altogether too advanced to suit the Government, and he was considerably
persecuted in consequence. He joined the insurrection under Cespedes,
and was killed in the engagement off Bayanno in 1866. Among the minor
poets of Havana may be mentioned Zequeira, Lecares, Palma, Mendira, and
Pina.

In a country where the censorship weighs so heavily on the press, and on
literature in general, as it does in Cuba, prose writers find little or
no scope for their talent. Poetry, especially high class poetry, does
not appeal to the masses so readily as prose, and being considered less
dangerous is more leniently dealt with. Besides, it is generally
published "for private circulation alone." Cuba has produced a few good
local historians, among them the compiler of a work which has been of
the greatest assistance to me in the historical portion of this
book--_Los tres historiadores de la Isla de Cuba_--a collection of the
chronicles of Herrera, Valdes, and Urietta, with copious notes and
additions.

Although local journalism dates from the middle of the last century, the
Cuban newspapers of the present day are of the flimsiest and most stupid
description. They are even worse than those published in Constantinople,
the censorship being, if anything, more childishly interfering than that
of Abd'ul Hamid. Barring a few telegrams from Madrid and New York, the
great political events in Europe and America are barely noticed at all.
On the other hand, you will find plenty of information concerning the
life of the calendar saint of the day, of St Rosa of Lima, for instance,
or of the Blessed Filomena.

Although music is universally popular in Cuba, I know of no
distinguished Cuban composer, musician, or vocalist. Yradié has
collected and elaborated a number of Cuban popular airs, and Bizet has
immortalised the Habanera in _Carmen_, but the first ten bars of that
air are the only ones he has retained without alteration, though
characteristic rhythm is well preserved. The less celebrated _Paloma_,
by Yradié, is, I think, more genuinely Cuban. The negro melodies of the
island are absolutely barbaric, and devoid of time and tune. They have
nothing in common with the charming plantation airs of the Southern
States of America.

Before leaving Santiago de Cuba we drove out to the celebrated Cobre
Mines, some four hours distant from the city, but unfortunately there
had been some accident on the previous day, and we were unable to
descend into them. The scenery along the road, from Santiago, is
magnificent. We went a little beyond the mines, and visited the shrine
of Nuestra Señora de la Caridad de Cobre, a famous place of pilgrimage,
which, however, has lost a good deal of its picturesque interest since
the erection of the brand new church, large and garish, in which the
holy image is enshrined. As it was not a _fiesta_ there were very few
pilgrims, and I, having seen many other like shrines in Europe, was much
more interested in the enormous Caruba trees growing abundantly in the
neighbourhood, which were hung with giant pods, a yard long, containing
_casia_, a dark brown paste, which is made into a syrup, and said to be
very beneficial in cases of sore throat. We brought back a wonderful
collection of pods and giant beans of all sorts, and some beautiful
ferns and flowers, which I contrived to press as soon as I reached the
hotel. However, before leaving Santiago I was presented with a large
album containing a complete set of the ferns of the island. Among the
commonest I noticed are our much prized gold and silver ferns, and some
exquisite maiden-hairs, which, I am assured, have never been
successfully transplanted. Whenever I turn over the pages of this album
with its faded fern leaves, the memories of a delightful week spent in
Santiago crowd into my mind, and I seem to see, as in a vision, the
exquisite bay and the kindly denizens of the old City, built by Diego
Velasquez, a good four hundred years ago.

The steamer which had brought us from Cienfuegos also took us to
Nuevitas. The coast scenery is marvellously fine, and full of interest
on account of its association with Columbus, who was familiar with every
yard of it. We passed Baracoa, the oldest city in the island, with its
picturesque, castle-crowned hill and its splendid mountain background.

Nuevitas is said to be the place where Columbus landed, though recent
students think he really first stepped on shore at Carmello, in the
neighbourhood of Havana. It is now the port of Puerto Principe, an
important town some forty miles distant. The bay of Nuevitas is very
fine, but we miss the lofty mountains of Santiago--this country being
more or less flat, but very rich in vegetation, and beautifully green.
Nuevitas does a good trade in sponges and turtles, and is the depot for
the shipment of sugar and molasses, this being a great cane country.

Puerto Principe itself is the counterpart of any other Cuban town. They
are all exactly alike--the same narrow streets of one-storied,
brightly-painted Pompeian-looking houses, the same wide Plaza with the
same rococo church with its twin towers and flat dome, and the same
formal Almeida full of tropical plants, where the people parade of a
Sunday evening, to the strains of the local band. It is a fairly lively
place, and is reported to be a well-known centre of rebellion.[19]



CHAPTER X.

SOME WEIRD STORIES.


No account of Cuba would be quite complete without some reference to the
superstitious observances of the negro population, which have not failed
to affect, by a kind of reflex action, the ideas and customs of the
white inhabitants of the island.

The negroes have a smattering, of course, of Catholic teaching, and a
tincture of the superstitions which affect the lowest order of Catholic
mind. Super-added to these--or perhaps I should rather say, underlying
them--we find a great mass of Voudistic legend and tradition, and a
consequent observance and practice of those dark, weird, and
blood-curdling mysteries known as the worship of Obi. The origin of this
form of idolatry is lost in antiquity. It was known in ancient Egypt,
where the serpent was called _Ob_ or _Aub_. Traces of it appear even in
Holy Writ. Moses charges the Israelites "not to inquire of the demon
_Ob_"--described in the Vulgate as "divinator" and "sorcilegus." The
Witch of Endor is called _Oub_ or _Ob_ in the original, and the word
appears translated as _Pythonessa_, or Witch.

The African slaves imported their strange rites into the West Indies
when they were carried into slavery, and clung to them with all the
tenacity of an oppressed and cruelly handled race.

The occult power possessed by the Obi man or woman is believed to be
hereditary, but it rarely develops until the individual attains an
advanced age. Fetish worship is a fundamental doctrine, and the Obi man
has the power of causing the Obi, or evil spirit, to pass into any
object he may select, such as the jaw-bone of a horse, or the body of a
monkey. To these objects, living or dead, the worshippers offer fruit,
fowls, and flowers. The ceremony of calling the spirit into its new
abode is full of mystery and horror, and is generally performed at dead
of night, and in some lonely and sequestered spot, far from Christian
and profane eyes.

Many a curious story have I heard, of strange fate and cruel misfortune,
connected with the dark practices of negro witchcraft. The following
tale, which was related to me by a relative of the victim, will serve as
an instance of Obi power. I need scarcely say I do not ask my readers to
believe it, but I am quite sure my informant, by no means an uneducated
man, placed the most implicit faith in every word he spoke.

A certain wealthy Cuban planter, whom I will call Don Pablo, once
suspected an old negro in his service of being an Obi man. He had but
recently returned to his estates, from a long sojourn in Europe, and was
determined to suppress, so far as in him lay, the diabolical ceremonies
which, his overseer assured him, were frequently performed by certain of
the negroes on his plantation, who had thus acquired a vast influence
over their fellows. One night, Don Pablo followed his overseer into the
forest, and reached a deserted hut, evidently used as a fetish temple,
just as the rites began. He hid himself among the jungle, and watched
his opportunity. The assemblage consisted of some twenty to thirty
negroes, of both sexes, plentifully bedecked with beads, shells, and
feathers, but otherwise stark naked. They opened proceedings by
performing a sort of Pyrrhic dance, shouting as they whirled round and
round, and brandishing their torches. Presently the door of the hut
opened, and the Obi man appeared. He was very old, and quite greyheaded.
His naked body was marked with white paint to represent a skeleton, and
his appearance under the pale moonlight and the livid glow of the
torches was weird beyond description. Don Pablo half wished himself at
home--for, like all his race, he was both excitable and superstitious.
In due time, the Obi man brought forward a huge toad, in which, after
many ceremonies, he declared the Obi or fetish to be embodied. This
done, he began to worship it, and to indulge in certain strange and
obscene antics. Don Pablo, in his indignation, burst from his
hiding-place, pistol in hand, commanding the Obi man to desist, and
disperse the gathering, or take the consequences. To his surprise, the
old priest utterly defied him, and boldly told him that if he persisted
in disturbing the strange rites, the most fearful misfortunes would
befall him. The audacious speech was answered by a ringing shot, which
ended the Obi man's career, and broke up the meeting in wild confusion.
A few days afterwards, whilst Don Pablo sat at dinner, his wife fell
suddenly forward and expired. In less than a fortnight his only daughter
died, of some quickly developed and mysterious disease--probably poison.
Broken-hearted and alarmed by these crushing blows, following in such
swift and merciless succession, the unhappy man betook himself to a
neighbouring plantation, and sought to propitiate the offended deity
through another well-known and potent Obi man, but the attempt failed
absolutely. The wizard declared he had no power to undo the mischief,
for, he alleged, the deceased Obi man was far more influential with the
spirits than himself. The miserable Don Pablo returned to his desolate
home to find a letter announcing the death of his only son, who had been
suddenly carried off in Paris, whither he had been sent for his
education.

The number thirteen is considered an unlucky and even fatal one in Cuba.
If you have a fever, the Obi man or woman will give you a little bag
containing twelve seeds of garlic, which you put under your pillow, and
in the morning you are sure to awake quite well,--unless, indeed, the
witch has maliciously inserted a thirteenth seed, in which case you may
as well order your coffin at once.

The evil eye is as prevalent as in Naples, and most houses are protected
from it by a horseshoe, such as we often see, for the matter of that, in
non-superstitious England! An Obi man or woman always has the evil
eye--_mal de ojo_--and can do harm by mere force of will power, even if
the object be many miles removed. If you have incurred the Obi man's
anger, your undertaking, whatever be its nature, is sure to fail; and on
your return home, you may find your favourite child has been stung by a
scorpion, or is dying of the fever, that your blacks are afflicted with
some fell disease, and your herds stolen, or decimated.

Some Obi women are famous as prophetesses. There was a negro witch on
the plantation of Doña Mary d'O----, an American lady, the widow of an
exceedingly rich Cuban planter, and a most kindly and hospitable lady.
One morning our hostess took us down to the negro quarters, to visit the
dusky pythoness, whom we found sitting in the shade of some huge banana
plants, smoking her cigarette. She rose to greet her mistress, and I was
struck at once by her tall, commanding figure, and the stately manner in
which she wore the long draperies of scarlet and white calico, which
fell in ample folds (none of the freshest, I am forced to add) down to
her feet. Her name was appropriate to her profession--Proserpina--Pina,
for short. In answer to our greeting and inquiries after her health,
Proserpina informed us she was well, but that owing to certain portents,
she dreaded the near approach of some misfortune. Sure enough, very
shortly afterwards, the _vomito nigro_ appeared among the plantation
hands, and many of them were swept away. Proserpina was a skilful
palmist, and told us our future with a fair degree of success. She
informed my fellow-traveller, and quite truly, that he would die within
eight years, and assured me I should live to be very old and very rich.
I would fain hope the oracle may yet come true! "Pina" persistently
refused to work, but her mistress, thinking it well to be on good terms
with a personage so greatly looked up to by her fellows, allowed her to
take her own way. She was in great demand among the plantation hands, in
cases of sickness and childbirth, and she was not above accepting her
fees, like any other lady doctor, exacted them, in fact, under threat of
awful penalties. This venerable dame, like most of her profession, was
an adept in the compounding of philtres and deadly poisons, the
ingredients of which recall, in some cases, the uncanny mixtures
prepared by the weird sisters in Macbeth--scorpion's blood six drops,
the head of a toad, the belly of a snake, the poison of a black spider,
and strange herbs gathered by moonlight. The whole mixed in a cauldron
over a fire fed with dead men's bones, and boiled between midnight and
dawn.

Every thoroughbred Cuban believes in ghosts and haunted houses. To this
day certain plantations stand desolate, because nobody will face the
spirits which haunt them--proof, if proof were needed, of the awful
crimes committed within their walls. Before Tacon's time, such high
roads as there were in the interior of the island were very unsafe, and
gangs of banditti infested various parts of the country. They waylaid
travellers, murdered them, and stripped their bodies. Many years ago a
well-known lawyer at Porto Principe was arrested and charged with
organising and financing a gang of monteros who had turned highwaymen,
and killed and plundered various wealthy travellers on their way to
certain plantations in the interior. In the course of his trial it
transpired that the bodies of the victims were buried under the kitchen
floor of a wayside _fonda_ (inn), the precise spots having been revealed
to a negro seer by the ghosts of the slain. To this day, nobody will
pass that _fonda_ on All Souls Eve, because they are sure to see the
spirits of the murdered men barring the road, and supplicating the
passer-by to have a mass and _de profundis_ offered for the repose of
their unshriven souls.

Divers plantations have an evil reputation because negroes have been
burnt there in days long gone by for practising the rites of Obi, or
because their cruel masters desired to get rid of them, for reasons of
their own. When the tempest is at its height, you may yet see, wandering
among the palm trees, a black form wreathed in flames, whose wailing
shriek rises even above the howling of the storm.

The superstitions of the blacks affected the whites: it could hardly be
otherwise; for, however strong caste prejudice may be, the dominant race
must absorb some proportion of the prejudices inherent in those who have
nursed and waited on them in their tenderest and most impressionable
years. Cases have occurred, and may occur even now, in which white men
and women of the lowest class have joined in the strange and repellent
rites of the African religion, if so it can be called. But I need hardly
say that the more educated Cubans, though they admit the existence of a
strange and mysterious faculty in certain of the negro priests and
priestesses, hold themselves utterly aloof from such demoniac and
degrading practices.

Whilst we are on gruesome subjects, I may be excused if I take the
opportunity of saying something about Cuban funeral customs, which have,
however, been greatly modified of late years, in the large towns, owing
to the advance of education, and to some slight improvement in the
popular appreciation of hygiene. Twenty years ago, however (and even
now, in the interior), the corpse used to be dressed up in its best
clothes, the man in his frock-coat, white cravat, and patent-leather
boots, the woman, if married, in her Sunday go-to-meeting best, or if
she were a young girl, in white, with a wreath of flowers round her
head. Thus arrayed, the body, after being exposed in a sort of lying in
state in one of the principal apartments of the house, would be conveyed
to the cemetery, with the lid of the coffin open, so that parents and
friends might be able to admire the final toilette. This custom, which
is still general among the Eastern orthodox Greeks, led in the course of
time to the formation of a singular band of resurrectionists, who, after
some wealthy person's funeral, were wont to steal away by night to the
cemetery, dig up the body and despoil it of its fashionable garments,
which constantly found their way to the second-hand clothiers. At
present, among the educated classes, and in the large cities, the coffin
lid is closed. But a compromise has been devised by the introduction of
a plate-glass lid, through which the pleasing spectacle of the deceased
lying at rest, bedecked with this world's finery, can be enjoyed without
risk. A Cuban funeral procession is generally of very great length, and
usually accompanied by a band of musicians, the town band for
preference, playing operatic airs and even dance music. I once saw a
young lady borne to her last home, her coffin covered with splendid
wreaths, and surrounded by weeping friends, to the tune of the then
popular Baccio waltz. Formerly, as in the East, men and women used to be
hired as mourners, and being trained for the purpose, howled dismally
enough to raise the dead. But they have been abolished, except in
country places, where, in Cuba as elsewhere, old fashions die hard.

Among the guajiros, monteros, and poor whites generally,--and I believe
also amongst the Catholic negroes,--a ceremony takes place on the night
between the death and the funeral (which, by the way, always occurs
within twenty-four hours), which bears a strong resemblance to an Irish
wake: it is called a _velorio_; literally, watch or wake. The friends
and relatives gather round the coffin, and spend the night watching by
the body, which is placed in the centre of the chamber, the coffin being
unclosed, covered with wreaths of flowers and bouquets, and flanked by
six lighted candles. Originally this ceremony, like the Irish wake, was
doubtless intended to be of a highly devotional character, but it has
degenerated, by degrees, into a sort of orgie. A table covered with
viands is set at one end of the room, and close to it stands another of
still greater importance, bearing numerous bottles of aguardiente, gin,
and wine. Frequent libations to the health of the departed soul soon
produce their effect, and the family begins to express its grief in the
most uproarious manner, by dismal exclamations, hair-tearing, and
breast-beating. They address the dead as if he were still living.

"Ah! my poor darling," they say, "don't make any mistake. We are sorry
indeed to lose you, but at present you see we are preparing the funeral
baked meats for those who loved you less than we do. When they have all
got their drinks, we will return, so don't be impatient. By and by we
will howl dismally enough to please you." (_Luego te vamos gritar_.)

As the night wanes, and the aguardiente grows lower in the queer-looking
bottles, the company can no longer restrain its grief. Everybody becomes
inconsolable at once. When dawn comes, and with it the confraternities
and the cura, to fetch the coffin, they not unfrequently find the
company singing, dancing, and shouting as if possessed. And here I may
observe that the Cubans can drink more aguardiente and gin, without
showing any unsteadiness, than any other people on the face of the
earth. They contrive to keep their legs at all events, though I am
afraid they very frequently lose their heads.

Nothing more dismal can be imagined than a Cuban cemetery, which is
usually located in the most arid spot in the neighbourhood of town or
village. The Cubans never dream of planting a tree or a shrub near the
graves of their lamented, for whom, by the way, they wear official
mourning about six times as long as in any other country. At one
extremity of the cemetery invariably stands the unpretentious chapel.
In the centre is the common field, where the poor and the coloured
Catholics are buried,--no heretic being allowed to rest in this
cheerless campo santo. The wealthier among the departed are commemorated
by funereal monuments and slabs inserted in the wall surrounding the
grave-yard, which give their titles at full length, and most
unstintingly commend their virtues.

In the cemetery of Santiago, which, by the way, is one of the dreariest
fields of death I have ever beheld, there is a very interesting monument
erected to the memory of the celebrated Doctor Antomarchi, who attended
Napoleon I. at St Helena during his last illness. It is not remarkably
artistic, but is sufficiently imposing to attract attention. I must say
I felt greatly interested to learn why and wherefore Antomarchi elected
to pass the last years of his life in Santiago de Cuba. This is the
information I obtained concerning him. It seems that, shortly after the
Emperor's death, he made a tour of the world, in search of a missing
brother, whom he had not seen or heard of for many years. Chance threw
them together in the streets of Santiago, and Antomarchi determined to
take up his abode in the same town as the only other surviving member of
his family. As he had a considerable fortune, he took handsome
apartments in one of the best streets of the city, set up as oculist,
and received patients for eye diseases, in the treatment of which he
seems to have been fairly successful. He often spoke of his illustrious
patient, and described his last hours. Dr Antomarchi was a generous man
and charitable to the poor; and although he only lived a few years at
Santiago, where he fell a victim to the yellow fever in 1826, he was so
greatly esteemed that this monument was erected to his memory by public
subscription.

The friend with whom I was travelling was, like myself, an ardent
admirer of Napoleon, and ordered a magnificent wreath to be placed on
the tomb of the man who closed the great Emperor's eyes, and who, like
his imperial master, was destined to end his days in a tropical island.

In these Cuban cemeteries you may occasionally notice certain large land
crabs sidling along with a lazy air, as if they had had an exceedingly
good dinner. All I will say anent them is, that they are often
suspiciously covered with earth, and that I would not eat one of them to
save my life. The negroes, however, declare them to be of exquisite
flavour.



CHAPTER XI.

PLANTATION LIFE.


It is only by visiting two or three of the great plantations, of various
kinds, that one can form any idea, not only of the agricultural wealth
of the island, but of the extraordinary beauty of its flora.

There are plantations and plantations in Cuba, just as there are country
houses and country houses in England: some (I am speaking of the island
before the present rebellion) are magnificent; others are distinctly
rough and tumbledown. The first sugar plantation I had the pleasure of
visiting was situated some miles from Havana, and belonged to an
American gentleman. The approach to the family residence (_casa de
vivienda_) was through handsome iron gates and an apparently
interminable avenue of magnificent Royal palms, which, by the way,
although they produced a most imposing effect, on account of the
exceeding height of the vault of deep green foliage, suspended some
eighty to ninety feet above our heads, afforded little or no shade, for
their superb trunks are as straight as darts, and as smooth as so many
greased poles at an old-fashioned English country fair.

In front of the very large one-storied house was an open space,
converted into a garden by our charming hostess, a Bostonian lady,
devoted to floriculture. It was, I remember, conspicuous for the number
of its immense bushes of flaming hibiscus, then in full and glorious
bloom. Hiding modestly in the shade were some homely pale pink roses,
which had been imported from New England, and which, I was assured,
required the greatest possible care. Their sweetness seemed not a little
overpowered by their gorgeous and sturdy rivals, whose vivid flowers
were as large as the crown of my Panama hat. The drive up to the house
was fenced in by perfect walls of orange trees, whose strongly scented
starlike blossoms mingled with the ripe and golden fruit. On either side
of the door were the finest banana plants I have ever seen, their
velvety leaves being fully ten to fifteen feet in length. At the door
stood our host and hostess, eager to welcome us with true American
cordiality. Mr G---- insisted upon our taking a cocktail there and then,
and a most refreshing and grateful beverage it proved to be, after our
long and dusty drive. The hall of this _hacienda_, an enormous
apartment, with a highly polished floor, served also for drawing-room
and place of general meeting. It was most beautifully furnished, and at
every turn the careful supervision of a woman of culture was evident.

Here were immense Chinese vases full of fresh cut flowers, trailing
boughs of the golden trumpet vine, huge bunches of the peacock acacia,
and other specimens of brilliant tropical bloom, such as my eyes had
never rested on before.

"Ah," said our hostess, "you see I always have cut flowers in my rooms,
but you will never find them in the house of any Spaniard or Cuban. Even
the negroes seem to object to them, and are apt to throw them away as
soon as my back is turned. But what I want you to notice, whilst they
are getting breakfast ready for us, are some mantis which we caught this
morning in the garden;" and here the lady brought forward a box with a
glass lid, containing apparently four or five beautiful green leaves,
about the size and shape of a poplar leaf. But they were living insects,
so cunningly formed by Nature that even the birds disdain to touch them,
be they ever so hungry, fully believing them to be tasteless castaway
foliage. The manti family is largely represented throughout the whole of
the West Indies, from the sly gentleman who looks like a piece of broken
brown stick, some four or five inches in length, to the pale green leaf
we had just admired, and to yet another species which has all the
appearance, and even the indentures and veining, of an autumn-tinted oak
leaf, and which, moreover, the better to deceive its enemies, flutters
to the ground exactly as if the wind had detached it from the bough of
some tall tree.

Everywhere in this fine _hacienda_, all that wealth could procure to
increase comfort had been introduced by a lavish and tasteful hand. The
lofty bedrooms, I remember, were deliciously clean and airy, and the
brass bedsteads--a real luxury in the tropics--were surrounded by the
whitest and most impenetrable of mosquito netting. The coloured
servants, too, looked sleek and happy, and spotless, in their snowy
liveries.

Our host informed us that although since the emancipation of the slaves
he paid his ex-slaves a weekly wage, he had purposely kept up the
numerous institutions in connection with the plantation which were
universal in the slave days, but which many of the native planters had
latterly dispensed with, much to the inconvenience and regret of the
poor black people, now left, with little or no experience, to their own
devices. There was a sort of hospital on this estate, where the sick
were looked after, and a nursery, in which the little black gentry were
screened from the blazing sun, and carefully watched over by several old
ebony and mahogany-tinted ladies deputed for the purpose. At certain
hours of the day the mothers were allowed to tend their little ones, and
to pass with them a half-hour or so of that supreme bliss which is so
dear to every mother's heart.

After a well served and most enjoyable luncheon, and a cigarette, we
sallied forth to see the sights of the place.

A sugar-cane field does not present a particularly inviting appearance,
not more so than the ordinary cane jungles you so frequently come across
in the Genoese Riviera. When green it is pretty enough; but ripe, it has
a distinctly disorderly appearance, and is not to be compared with an
English wheat field in the golden month of August.

There are two sorts of cane: the _criolla_ or native cane, which, I was
told, was first imported from the Canaries by Columbus on his second
voyage. It is considered the least excellent in quality, and is not
largely cultivated by the planters. They leave it to the negroes, who
consume vast quantities of molasses--when they get the chance. The
_Otahite_ is the finest cane. It is very thick, and grows to a height of
from six to sixteen feet. As in the case of all the cane family, the
stem is divided into angular joints, which vary in length as the cane
tapers upwards. The moist, soft pith contains the sweet juice, which,
when pressed out by machinery, is converted into sugar. The sugar
harvest commences late in January, and ends in May, the planting season
taking place during the breaks in the wet season, which lasts from June
to the end of November. The cane is not grown from seed, as is generally
stated, but from slips taken from the top of the plant, the lower leaves
of which are stripped off. When stuck in the ground at regular
intervals, to a depth of about two inches, the cane slips soon take
root, and in about six months grow to maturity, sometimes, but very
rarely, attaining a height of twenty feet.

The field we first visited was a very large one, the ripe canes, of a
pale green turning to grey, undulating over it to a considerable
distance. There must have been some thirty or forty men, women, and
children working in this plot, under the supervision of a mounted
over-seer. The men cut the cane with a small hatchet, the women gathered
it together and tied it into bundles, whilst some of the negroes and
most of the children peeled off the leaves, which are good for fodder,
or hoisted it on to the high-wheeled carts, each drawn by four
prodigiously long-horned oxen, of the breed so dear to the Roman art
student.

The sky above was hazy, almost an English grey, and everything was
subdued to its tone, whereby for once we avoided that glare which, in
warm climates, so often destroys the effect of those soft and fleeting
tints of "middle distance." Some dozen carts piled with the silver-grey
canes filed off in a slow procession down the white-sanded road towards
the _hacienda_, the noble-looking oxen occasionally lifting their heads
to give vent to their feelings, and express their opinion of things in
general, by a prolonged bellow. Each team was led by a negro, with a
wide straw hat on his head, and wearing only a pair of white drawers.
Bobbing up and down among the uncut canes we could see the bright
turbans of the negresses, and occasionally a little ebony imp would turn
an impossible somersault right in front of us, and then drop on his
knees in the expectation, promptly realised, of a liberal donation, as
the price of his queer antic.

The carts take the cane to the mill, where they are unloaded, and where
huge wheels, worked by steam, or latterly by electricity, press the
sugar out of them,--the engine never ceasing its evolutions night or
day. In the old times, the negroes were worked, as I have elsewhere
stated, as many as nineteen and even twenty hours a day, at this, to
them, terrible season. Even now, their hours are very long, but they are
at liberty to strike for higher wages if they choose, and I am assured
they very often do so.

It is very interesting to watch the cane being thrown into the mill, and
to observe the great wheels whirling round and round, while the
continuous river of pale green syrup flows into its wooden trough-like
receptacles, whence it is taken in buckets to the furnaces to be
clarified. In its first state it soon turns acid, and consequently has
to be boiled and clarified immediately, or else it would be ruined; and
this is one of the principal reasons why there is such a press of work
during the sugar harvest. It cannot be neglected for a single hour, and
relays of hands have to relieve each other constantly, rest being
impossible, even on the Sabbath. The juice, after being boiled and
clarified, is filtered through vats, which, up to the rim, are filled
with bone black and changed every six or eight hours, until the juice
turns colour. According to the punctuality and skill with which the bone
black is changed, so does the quality of the sugar increase in
excellence. This apparently simple process is one of the chief expenses,
as well as one of the subtlest arts, of sugar-making. Once clarified,
the sugar goes through a variety of mechanical processes--very absorbing
to the spectator, but not particularly so to the reader,--until it is
eventually converted into moist sugar. Some portion, however, is
retained, and sold as molasses, and golden syrup. When duly prepared for
exportation, it is tightly packed in wooden cases, which are sealed up
and strapped with slips of raw hide, ready for market.

Our first evening on this plantation was delightfully spent. After
dinner,--which, by the way, was served as it would have been in an
English country house, everybody being in full evening dress,--we had
some excellent music. A young Cuban lady and gentleman entertained us by
singing some of the national airs, as arranged by Yradié. The lady sang
with great spirit, and her rendering of _la Paloma_ and of the
_Habanera_ from Carmen was simply perfect. I have never heard the latter
song sung with greater spirit, except by the famous Madame Calvé. Then
two negro musicians were ordered to appear and give us a sample of their
skill. One of the men, who evidently belonged to some very black and
fierce Kaffir tribe, had a melodious baritone voice, and sang several
African melodies, which were recalled to my memory some years
afterwards, by some of the music so dear to the Asiatics of
Constantinople, which is of the same nasal and twangy description, with
endless cadences, and a certain absence of tune, which should win the
approval of all faithful Wagnerians.

As the night was exceedingly clear, before retiring to rest we went for
a stroll in the gardens. It was my first experience of the transcendent
beauties of a full moon in the tropics. Even the glories of an Italian
moonlight must fade before such radiance as I now admired. The light
shed by this southern "orb of night" was almost as golden as that of the
sun, and yet the shadows remained quite dark; hence a vigorous contrast
of light and shade, such as I have never seen elsewhere. The effect as
we passed under the long avenue of palm trees was most striking. We
might have been in the nave of some giant Gothic cathedral,--its columns
were represented by the grey stems of the towering Royal palms, whose
interlaced foliage, high above our heads, suggested the wonderful roof
of Henry VII.'s chapel at Westminster. Some of the hedgerows in the
garden were quite white with the "moon flower," a sort of snowy
night-blooming convolvulus, the flowers of which are of immense size,
and as flat and thin as a sheet of paper. This flower is an annual;
several of its seeds which I carried back with me to England have
succeeded very well.

The next sugar plantation we visited was near Matanzas; but although I
saw several other sugar estates, they did not particularly interest me,
as they were, though perhaps on a larger scale, almost exactly like the
first we had inspected. I was, however, delighted with my first coffee
plantation: I shall not easily forget its fresh beauty and delightful
odour. The coffee berry was introduced into Cuba from Hayti, in 1742,
and has flourished greatly, but the trade has of late considerably
diminished in importance. Nothing can exceed the beauty of a coffee
field. The plants are grown from seed, and are planted in rows sometimes
covering a thousand acres. To screen the shrubs from the prodigious
heat, they are carefully protected by other plants, such as the banana
and the pomegranate tree, under whose shade the shrubs grow freely. Very
often the cocoa plant is grown on the same plantation as the coffee
shrub. There are three kinds of chocolate-producing plants--the caracas,
the pods of which are red; the guayaquil, which bears purple pods,
whereas those of the criolla are yellow. The tree is not pretty: it
looks too much like a small stunted pear-tree, and the fruit grows in a
very odd manner, not in clusters among the leaves, but along the trunk,
from the ground upwards, the seeds being protected by thick, heavy pods,
which, sticking out as they do at regular intervals, produce a most
whimsical appearance. The fruit is ripe for gathering between June and
December, at about the same time as the coffee, the blossoms of which
are in full glory early in February,--distinctly the best month in which
to visit a coffee estate, and enjoy its loveliness to the full.

The _hacienda_ to which the plantation I first visited was attached,
belonged to a Cuban gentleman, and was a great contrast to the
finely-appointed mansion we had recently left. There was no garden, and
the front door was usually encumbered by a noisy group of stark-naked
little darkies of both sexes, whom we generally caught tormenting some
queer-looking animal which they had caught in the fields--a land
tortoise or a baby iguana. They were always sprawling between our feet,
but though they sometimes got more kicks than ha'pence, they seemed
perfectly happy, and as jolly as sandboys. The entrance-hall was
occupied by a double row of rocking-chairs, and by a large deal table,
on which our breakfast and dinner were served, invariably without
tablecloth or napkins. There were, however, any number of
looking-glasses, gorgeous French clocks, artificial flowers under glass
shades, and stupendous bronze lamps, such as you buy at the Louvre or
the Bon Marché, by way of works of art; there was a collection of framed
but extremely primitive chromos, representing scenes in the life of the
Blessed Virgin, and others in gay Parisian life, as it appeared at
Mabile and at the Bal de l'Opera, in the golden days of Müger. No books
or newspapers were anywhere to be seen; on the other hand, there was a
plentiful supply of playing-cards and dominoes, with which we contrived
to amuse ourselves during the evening, or, as I ought rather to say,
throughout the night, for nobody dreamt of going to bed till two o'clock
in the morning. The planter was a very hospitable man, who gave us the
best of wines, and we had several very palatable Cuban dishes, the
dinner always winding up with the inevitable roast sucking-pig, strongly
flavoured with garlic. The Señora was a very stout lady of forty, who
lolled about the house all day long in an old red flannel dressing-gown:
when she was not rocking in a chair, she was swinging in a hammock, with
four or five negresses in attendance on her. They all seemed on the best
of terms, but as they spoke patois, I could not understand their jokes,
possibly made at our expense, for they used to look at us slyly, and
then burst into roars of ill-suppressed laughter. Be that as it may, the
Señora was a very different personage in the evening from the rather
disorderly-looking, middle-aged female, without shoes and stockings, who
was so busy doing nothing all day long. By supper-time she was gorgeous,
dressed up in the very latest of Parisian toilettes, her magnificent
glossy black hair carefully dressed, her podgy fingers blazing with
diamond rings, and her face so thickly coated with rice flour that you
could scarcely distinguish her features, except her lips, which were
painted cherry red, and her eyebrows, which were artificially arched.
She had a rather pretty daughter, called Dolores, who spent her days
much after her mother's fashion. There was yet another daughter, at a
convent in Havana, and a third, about seven years of age, who played
with the little niggers on the doorstep. There was a really fine grand
piano in one corner of the room, every single note of which was out of
tune, and on this delightful instrument the Señorita and a long, thin
young German, whose exact position in the family I never could
define,--I think he must have been the agent's son,--played airs from
Luisa Miller, Ernani, and other pre-historic operas, systematically
disarranged for the piano, for four hands, by a certain Signor Campara.
They were exceedingly proud of their performance, and, once started,
there was no possibility of stopping them until the cards were produced.
Then they flew to the table and took a most active interest in a game at
"Nap," at which I lost a considerable sum of money the first night, and
won it back again the second, to the Señora's extreme and evident
annoyance.

The most extraordinary part about this house was that there were no
single bedrooms. They were replaced by two dormitories on opposite sides
of the house, one for gentlemen and one for ladies. It was all very odd
and amusing, but the hospitality was unbounded. On the last evening of
our stay a _baile_ or dance was given in our honour, to which some of
the neighbours came, and danced the _creola_, and a very elaborate
country-dance in which I was forced to join. I am afraid I did not
acquit myself with much grace, for I was perpetually mistaking the
figures, which provoked much laughter. The ball ended at about two
o'clock in the morning, and most of the company went home on horseback,
after a supper at which no less than four infant pigs were consumed. I
never saw such a people as the Cubans for pork and sucking-pig,--about
the very last dish I should have expected to have come across in those
latitudes. We took leave of our friends with no little regret, for
though they were primitive and very superficially educated people, their
manners were excellent, most courteous, kindly, and well-bred. The
Señora, however, could never keep herself from laughing at our Spanish,
and at the evident reluctance with which we endeavoured to make believe
we enjoyed certain impossible dishes,--a roast iguana among the number.
I did overcome my repugnance to partaking of so unpleasant-looking a
reptile, and found it tasted exactly like tough roast chicken.

Whilst we were staying with this amiable family we were initiated into
the mysteries of guava jelly-making by a tall mulatress, who acted as
cook to the establishment, and who was evidently held in great respect
by every member of the community, especially by the darksome urchins,
who, although they haunted her kitchen in the hope of purloining
titbits, constantly received sharp raps on their woolly pates, from a
prodigiously long iron spoon. There was no very great mystery about the
guava jelly,--the process is exactly like that of compounding any other
fruit-jelly; and as to the paste or cheese, I think that between the
making of it and damson cheese there is only the difference which exists
between Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee. However, I frankly admit my
devotion to guava paste. And as to the jelly,--the Easterns say we may
hope to enjoy in the next world those things which we like best to eat
in this,--therefore pray I, that when I shuffle off this mortal coil, I
need not relinquish all hope of an occasional treat of guava jelly!

A sketch of Cuba which contained no mention of tobacco would be very
much like "Hamlet" without the Prince of Denmark. The name of the dusky
chief whom Christopher Columbus found inhaling the fragrant leaf of the
_tabaco_, as he called it, should have lived even to our days. But, like
that of many another unknown hero, his title is unrecorded, and probably
neither Columbus nor his savage friend ever imagined the prodigious
results that were to grow out of the conversation, in the course of
which the Indian instructed the discoverer of the New World as to the
value and properties of the strange weed, the soothing properties of
which he seemed so greatly to enjoy. Little did they foresee that within
a hundred years a Mahommedan Kaliph and a Christian Pope were both to
fulminate excommunication against such of their followers as ventured to
indulge a taste they deemed unworthy and unclean. The aboriginal
Indians did not smoke tobacco after our present fashion. They inhaled
the fumes through a forked cane, the two prongs of which they applied to
their nostrils, whilst the longer end was plunged among the burning
leaves. Such implements are still used, I am assured, by the negroes in
Cuba, and elsewhere, when they desire to forget their sorrows in the
dreamy sleep thus artificially produced.

Like the vine, tobacco depends for its quality on certain peculiarities
of soil and climatic influences, which have hitherto baffled
investigation. Thus the Cuban tobacco grown in the Vuelta Abajo district
is the finest in the world; and, though the plant grows luxuriantly in
other parts of the island,--as at San Juan dos Remedeos and at
Rematos,--its quality never attains the perfection of that which ripens
in the immense fertile plain which extends westward from Havana. This
part of Cuba is known as the Vuelta Abajo, or "lower valley," in
contradistinction to the upper end of the island called Vuelta Arriba,
or "higher valley." Fortunately for the tourist, the best tobacco
plantations in the island are within an easy journey from the capital,
and close to a village called Guanajay, some twelve miles from the sea,
and accessible by train. It is situated in the midst of very pretty
scenery, of an essentially sylvan character, the numerous tobacco fields
being dotted with magnificent palms and tropical trees. Few tobacco
plantations exceed a size of thirty acres. Each is provided, as a rule,
with a dwelling-house, some cattle-sheds, and a few drying-houses. The
processes of growing and preparing the plant are of the simplest
character, and do not require any special machinery. The tobacco is not
sown in the open field, but in small prepared plots, whence the
seedlings are transplanted when they are a few inches high, and set out
at regular distances in the fields. The Nicotiana,--now common in most
English gardens,--grows taller in Cuba than in this country, usually
reaching a height of from 6 to 8 feet. Each plant is carefully tended
until it is ready for harvesting. All superfluous and ill-shaped leaves
must be removed, and the greatest care taken to protect the plants from
the _vivijagua_, a very large and malicious ant, which is quite capable
of destroying a whole crop within a few hours. The field hands employed
in this cultivation are almost all blacks, who possess an instinctive
knowledge of the needs of each plant, and gather the leaves with an
astonishing delicacy of touch, and absence of over-handling. When the
harvesting and curing time arrives, the leaves are gathered into bundles
of from thirty to forty each, for the best, and from twenty to thirty,
for the second quality.[19] Some eighty to a hundred of these bundles,
when pressed and tied together, form a tercio or bale, weighing about
200 lbs., in which form the tobacco is transported, on muleback, to
Havana. A tobacco plantation is a very pretty sight, and the fragrance
is delightful, for a certain number of plants in each plot are allowed
to flower for seeding purposes. The sowing-time lasts from June to
October; the harvest begins in December and goes on till May.

Some idea of the importance of the tobacco trade is conveyed by the fact
that one hundred million cigars, valued at about two million sterling,
are annually imported into England alone. The earliest shipments take
place in June and July, and are mostly sold to Germany; the British
market being supplied in October and November, when the tobacco is
thoroughly mellowed.

Almost all the Cuban tobacco planters are Spaniards, and the trade, with
few exceptions, is entirely in their hands. Two great foreign firms,
however, stand out prominently. The first, that of Messrs Bock & Co., is
English, and world renowned; the second is German, Messrs Behrens & Co.,
who are the owners of the cigar connoisseur's latest "pet," the brand
"Sol." With hardly any exception, all the other brands of any
renown--the Flor de Cuba, Corona, Villa y Villa, Flor de J. S. Murias,
Pedro Murias--are in the hands of the Spaniards. It is a curious fact
that hitherto no American firm has risen to exceptional renown among the
cigar manufacturers of the world, although the neighbouring isle of Key
West has lately sprung into prominence as a tobacco land of much
promise, and several important firms have been established there with a
fair measure of success. The true Havana cigar is made in Havana only.
Some of the large firms, such as Bock & Co., employ from three to five
thousand hands, almost all Spaniards and Cubans, white labour being
preferred, on account of the delicate processes through which the
tobacco has to pass before it is converted into a cigar. Although there
are certainly more than a hundred cigar manufacturers in Havana, only
two or three of the factories are really worth visiting. The _Corona_ is
perhaps the most striking, because it is located in what was until quite
recently the gorgeous palace of the Aldama family, in the Campo Marte.
The magnificent marble staircases and saloons, with their splendidly
frescoed ceilings, are now turned "to viler purposes," the tesselated
pavements are trodden by the _zapatos_ of the cigar makers, and the
Court of Olympus, in the vaulted roof of the state ballroom, looks down
upon busy groups of tobacco sorters and cigar makers. Each cigar maker
sits before a low table. He begins operations by taking the tobacco leaf
and spreading it smoothly before him. Then he cuts out certain hard
fibres which might interfere with the shape of the cigar. Next he rolls
up the leaf into the correct shape, and if he be a skilful workman he
will do this without further recourse to knife or scissors. The cigars
vary in length according to the brand: they were made much longer
formerly than they are at present. Some used to measure eight inches,
but now four inches is the most usual length. Prices vary from thirty to
one thousand dollars per thousand cigars.

No women are employed in the manufacture except for arranging the cigars
in boxes and pasting down the lids with their well-known and brilliantly
printed labels. The boxes, which are made of cedar wood, form another
important branch of Havanese industry. The Cubans themselves never smoke
cigars: they all use cigarettes, which most of them make and roll, with
a delicacy and grace peculiar to themselves. It is somewhat remarkable
that although the Cubans literally live with a cigarette between their
lips--they begin smoking the first thing in the morning, and continue
until they go to bed--they seem absolutely impervious to any form of
nicotine poisoning. May not its prevalence in European countries be the
result of smoking inferior and dirty tobacco? I was much struck, when
visiting the various tobacco factories in Havana, with the scrupulous
cleanliness everywhere observed. The cigar makers are obliged to wash
their hands constantly all through the day, and no dust or dirt is
tolerated anywhere.



CHAPTER XII.

AN ISLE OF JUNE--A CONTRAST.


It was early on a bright winter morning that our good ship "San Jacinto"
steamed into the harbour of Nassau, the capital of New Providence. As I
leaned over the side and looked down into the waters over which our
vessel moved, I could scarcely believe my eyes. It seemed impossible
that water deep enough to float the ship should be so marvellously
clear. We appeared to be gliding over a sheet of sea-green crystal. Not
a pebble, bit of sponge, shell, fish, crab, or coral, but was distinctly
visible, as if but a few inches below the surface. It was like floating
in ether, for the glint of shimmering sunlight alone proved it was
fluid. But water it was, and nothing else, for, as we neared the wharf,
a score or so of dusky forms splashed into the briny mirror, breaking up
its glassy surface, sent a spray of diamonds into the air, and then
dived into its pellucid depths in quest of coppers liberally scattered
by the amused passengers. "Please, Boss, deeve (give) us a small dive,"
was the entreaty shouted by a good dozen or so of dusky urchins, who, on
the least encouragement, jerked off their coats and shirts and plunged
into the sea. Sometimes they caught the coin before it touched the
bottom, at others the diver remained quite a time searching for his
prize, looking, as seen from above, with his wriggling arms and legs,
like a huge black spider.

When Christopher Columbus landed on the shores of "Guanahanè," on
October 17th, 1492, and named the present island of New Providence San
Salvador, he wrote a letter to the Spanish Sovereigns, full of his usual
expressions of delighted enthusiasm. "The loveliness," says he, "of this
island is like unto that of the Campaña de Cordoba. The trees are all
covered with ever-verdant foliage, and perpetually laden with flowers or
fruit. The plants in the ground are full of blossom. The breezes are
like those of April in Castille." Due allowance made for the
exaggeration of an explorer, in love with the treasure he has found, it
must still be confessed that his words, all glowing as they are,
scarcely overpraise the charm of the peaceful scenery which so stirred
his poetic ardour. For truly the Bahamas are islands like unto that
chosen by Shakespeare for the scene of the "Tempest,"--

    "Full of infinite delight."

New Providence is about twenty miles long by seven in breadth, and is
the most important, though by no means the biggest, of the Bahama group,
which numbers over 600 islands and cays, and contains some 45,000
inhabitants, of whom 20,000 reside in Nassau and its neighbourhood.

The history of the island since its discovery by Columbus, down through
the Buccaneer period, is only interesting to its government and
inhabitants. However dark may be the memories of its old pirate days, it
is now a remarkably respectable place, not even a murder having thrown a
shadow during the past twenty-five years on its nearly untarnished
reputation. It would be difficult to imagine a quieter spot. On Sundays,
especially, is it peaceful, when not only all the shops, but the
majority of the house-shutters also, are closed, and the tranquil air is
laden with church music of the most sober and orthodox description.

The impression produced upon the tourist arriving from Cuba is very
striking, for it brings the different influences of the Spanish and the
Anglo-Saxon races, upon the negroes, into vivid contrast. Personal
observation only can, as I have already said, give any idea of the filth
of the dwellings of the lower classes of Cubans, and especially of the
blacks. The coloured folk of Nassau are, generally speaking, clean and
tidy. Most of the Cuban towns are more or less squalid. The city of
Nassau is, if anything, too prim, and its inhabitants are models of
order both in their dress and habits. A glance reveals the fact that the
coloured people here have been disciplined and trained by a race which
is as certainly superior to the Spanish, in all that concerns
practicality and common sense, as it is inferior to it in natural
artistic instinct. I never saw anything--no, not even in the Whitechapel
and Drury Lane districts of London--to surpass the unutterable disorder
and general abomination of the interiors of the Cuban cottages. But as
you pass along the roads at Nassau, and glance into the windows of the
negroes' cottages, you will almost invariably see tidy interiors worthy
of the brush of a Teniers or a David Wilkie; a floor on which you could
eat your dinner; walls neatly papered with framed chromos symmetrically
arranged upon them; spotless curtains; shining brass lamps and cooking
utensils, and a bed covered with a counterpane as white as driven snow.
If you peep in at meal times you will note a clean cloth covered with
orderly-arranged plates and dishes. I am speaking of the dwellings of
the negroes, of those self-same coloured people who, in the same
climate, only a day and a half's journey away, in Cuba, dwell, under
another race and civilization, in a condition too nasty to be described
here.

Straws show how the wind blows. I saw a poor coloured woman, the day
after I arrived in Nassau, soundly box her little girl's ears because
she appeared in public with a few fluffs of cotton sticking in her wool.
The ordinary afternoon occupation of the coloured ladies in Havana is to
sit in the shade of the big plantain leaves, picking something rather
more animated than cotton fluffs off each other's heads. The Cuban
negresses dress flaringly. They trail a yard of skirt behind them in the
dust, cover their shoulders with a vivid embroidered China crape scarf,
and deck their heads with a mantilla. The effect is picturesque enough,
but look down at their ankles, and you will soon perceive untidy
petticoats and shoeless feet. The coloured girls at Nassau are
remarkably neat and clean, especially on Sundays. The influence of the
Sunday school teacher, preaching, and not in the desert, the gospel of
those four great evangelists, soap and water, comb and brush, is
everywhere manifest, even to the detriment of the picturesque.

As you drive through Grant's Town, the negro quarter of Nassau, you see
so much to gladden you that it does more real good to an invalid than
many a cunningly-prepared draught. Charmingly picturesque wooden huts,
thatched with palmetto, and as neat as you please, overshadowed by
cocoa-nut-trees and exquisite flowering creepers, border either side of
the road. On the thresholds are laughing groups of women and children of
every shade of black, mahogany, and "yullar." Then, when the shades of
evening grow long and deep in the thickets of the banyan-trees, coloured
Pyramus courts coloured Thisbe over the garden wall, and the roads swarm
with little darkies, romping, laughing, and chasing each other round and
about, whilst neatly-dressed women, standing at their doors, or leaning
out of their open windows, watch the return of their "men," as they
boldly call their husbands. The air is still and laden with the
penetrating perfume of the stephanotis, the white blossoms of which
gleam like stars amidst the dark foliage, and of the crimson and pink
oleander, which flowers here to great perfection. It is difficult to
imagine a more peaceful scene--the cheerful sounds of greeting, the
merry chatter of the negroes, the tuning of the banjoes, whilst overhead
the beautiful sunset-lit clouds shed rosy tints abroad, and set forth in
bold relief the tall stems of the waving palms and of the strange-named
trees, whose bizarre foliage arouses wonderment, and between whose
gnarled boughs we catch glimpses of the high-roofed houses of the city,
of the cathedral spire, and of a sea blue as a turquoise, now shivering
beneath the gentlest of breezes.

The town of Nassau itself is not particularly interesting, inasmuch
that, with the sole exception of the cathedral, it cannot boast of a
single monument of artistic importance. The houses, mostly built of
stone, faced with wood, have high slated roofs and wide verandahs, which
surround each storey, and afford some shade during the sunny hours of
the day. The public buildings are clean, but unpretentious, and
evidently modelled after those of some English county town, in which the
sturdy Georgian architecture predominates. There are few traces,
anywhere, of the influence of the higher art, although the cathedral
itself is a fairly handsome Gothic building, wherein the services of the
Church of England are admirably conducted.

The gardens are trim and pretty, but, notwithstanding their profusion of
tropical plants, they lack the luxuriant charm which renders the
ill-kept gardens of Havana so romantic and picturesque. Very few of the
gardens belonging to private houses are of great size, and even
Government House is a modest-looking dwelling, erected on the highest of
the surrounding hills, and commanding a fine view of the town and
harbour.

The chief monument of Nassau is not one built by hand, but a
silk-cotton-tree, planted, some two hundred years ago, by one John
Miller, Esq., opposite the present "public buildings." It is a
stupendous tree of Titanic proportions. The roots, unable to find their
way down through the rocky soil, swell up like buttresses, radiating
round the trunk some fifteen yards, and, rising six and eight feet from
the ground, form part of the actual bulk of the tree, and give the huge
veteran the appearance of a web-footed monster, standing in solemn
reverie. Amongst the gnarled and weird-looking roots are ravines, in
whose dark hollows a legion of elves might dwell and hold their revels.
High above this root-work spreads a canopy of leaves of the most
exquisite, tender green. Singular to say, the gigantic growth flattens
at the top, and is nearly squared off in correspondence with the aspect
the paucity of earth has forced the roots to assume. Had Shakespeare
seen this mighty monster,--which travellers from California declare to
be even more imposing than any of the Mammoth trees,--he would have
immortalised it in a few grand lines, or made it the background of some
quaint fairy scene, the home of another Herne the Hunter, Oberon and
Titania, Ariel, or Puck. There are several other fine silk-cotton-trees
on the island, and in Cuba this tree grows to perfection, but the
specimen I have attempted to describe is universally acknowledged to be
the finest known. I was much surprised to notice the rapidity with which
the silk-cotton tree burst into leaf. On my arrival I noticed one in the
grounds of the hotel which seemed to be dead. The rest were green, but
this one was quite barren. In three days it was lost to sight, hidden in
its own foliage, developed within the space of two nights. The
silk-cotton-tree is so called because it bears a pod full of flossy
silk, which is used instead of down for pillow cases, but the fibres are
too short to be woven.

Nassau and its neighbourhood are really not unlike an open-air museum of
botanical and marine curiosities. As you drive, or walk, through the
woods and lanes, your attention is constantly attracted to some tree or
shrub remarkable for its curious shape, leaves, and flowers. If you ask
its name you will be told it is either the gum-arabic-tree, the guava,
the banyan, the ipicac, the pimento, the spice, the cinnamon, the
pepper, the caper, the castor-oil, or, in short, any one of half the
plants which stock our drug or grocery shops. One day I noticed an
onion-like-looking plant, with somewhat curious leaves, and asked its
name. It turned out to be my old acquaintance "squills," of syrup-fame.
Lady Blake, who is not only a distinguished artist, but an exceptionally
learned botanist, has executed a complete series of exquisite drawings
of the flora of the Bahamas. It would be difficult to overpraise the
artistic, as well as the scientific value of this collection, exhibited
in the Bahama Court of the Colonial Exhibition of 1886. During the
Governorship of her husband, Sir Henry Blake, Lady Blake rendered a like
service to the flora of Jamaica.

The cocoa-nut tree is a recent introduction into the Bahamas. Forty
years back there were few in the whole island of New Providence. The
orange-tree is indigenous to the island, and there is other fruit of
exceedingly fine quality. A very extraordinary fact about the local
vegetation is, that the roots are entirely exposed. The island is of
coral formation, and only very lightly covered with earth; but such is
the abundance of the dews, and so great the fertilising quality of the
atmosphere, that a plant with one or two feelers caught in the pores of
the coraline rock will grow and flourish. There are big trees with all
their roots, save one, above ground. Some trees may be noticed growing
astride the public walks, with one half of their roots on one side and
the rest on the other. The immense amount of decayed animal matter in
the coraline makes it one of the richest of soils, and the heavy dews
which fall immediately after sunset, and of which I shall speak
presently, increase its fertility. A number of "air-plants" grow in the
woods, and of course derive their nourishment entirely from the abundant
dews. These curious plants are, for the most part, a species of wild
pine. One of the most remarkable of them is the "green snake," which
looks exactly like a long serpent. The common life-plant of the tropics
grows everywhere, and, together with the air-plants, rouses much
curiosity among visitors from Europe and North America. If you take one
of its thick, waxy leaves, and hang it on a nail, it will live for
months, and shoot forth others without needing either water or earth.

The useful sizel plant--a fibrous hemp yielding aloe--of great
commercial value, is now extensively cultivated, and with excellent
results. Great impetus was given to its culture by Sir Ambrose Shea
during his prolonged and popular Governorship.

The scenery round Nassau is of pancake flatness, and uninteresting,
except close to the town, where there are some little hills of
inconsiderable height, which might vie in altitude with a certain Mount
Cornelia near St Augustine, Florida, advertised as one of the
attractions of a watering-place called Mount George, because it is
ninety feet high. Verily a dwarf is a giant amongst pigmies, and Mount
Cornelia is a Mount Blanc in flat Florida. If it is ever planted with
the eucalyptus-tree, now extensively cultivated in the south, and which
often attain the extraordinary height of 300 and 400 feet, the trees
will in due time be taller than the mountain.

There are some pretty little lakes in the interior of the island. One of
these, Lake Killarney, is a very charming spot, with a fine view of the
western coast. The lake is about three miles long by one in breadth. All
along the shores are pineapple plantations, which are uncommonly
effective when the pines are in bloom. The plants are set in rows all
over the field, about one or two feet apart, and what with their
variegated foliage--bright green and deep purple--and their vivid
scarlet flowers, they make a striking foreground to any picture. The
Bahama pines are considered the best in these latitudes, and are shipped
in large quantities to Europe and North America.

The crowning glory of Nassau is the unrivalled bay, with its
enchantingly clear, crystal water. Many a happy day have I spent,
sailing round the pretty shores of this pleasant island. We usually had
for "captain" a certain remarkable darkie, by name "Cap'en" Tannyson
Stump, one of those sable worthies you read about, full of drollery,
shrewd and witty withal, and a capital sailor into the bargain. The
Cap'en is reputed wealthy, for he is a great favourite with the
visitors, and, moreover, is considered, by the inhabitants of Grant
Town, the greatest "dissentin' minister" on the island. Amongst other
natural wonders the "Cap'en" took us to see was the "sea garden." I wish
Victor Hugo could have studied it, for possibly he might have been
tempted to describe it, in his vivid language, as a pendant to his
sea-monster, the devil-fish of the "Toilers of the Sea." Thus should we
have had a glowing word picture of the beautiful instead of the
hideous--the paradise of the sea, and not its hell. They give you a box
with a glass bottom to look through. You put it over the side of the
boat, and dip it beneath the waves. Lo! you behold the garden of the
sea-nymphs, the home of Aphrodite. Beneath you, seen through the
pellucid waters of this vast aquarium, is a lovely sea-garden, full of
every imaginable delicate-tinted sea-flower. Some are pale pink, others
light yellow, and some brown as leaves in autumn, massed round the vivid
purple and scarlet sea-anemones, which cling to the summits of beds of
pearly coral. Here purple sea-fans wave gently to and fro. There are
groves of trumpet sponges, and beds of marine blossoms of all kinds and
shapes. Fish as brilliant as hummingbirds--red, blue, metallic-green,
and orange--peep knowingly in and out of the branches of this strange
submarine vegetation, which is crossed and recrossed in all directions
by pathways of sparkling, silver gravel. Nothing more fascinating, more
fairy-like, can be imagined. You expect at any moment to see Venus or
one of her nymphs--or, perchance, old Edward's Sable Aphrodite--rise
suddenly to the surface from this abode of cool delights.

Involuntarily the world-renowned description of the bottom of the sea
was brought to my mind,--

    "Methought I saw ...
    Wedges of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl,
    Inestimable stones, unvalu'd jewels,
    All scatter'd in the bottom of the sea.
    Some lay in dead men's skulls, and, in those holes,
    Where eyes did once inhabit, there were crept
    (As 'twere in scorn of eyes) reflecting gems,
    That woo'd the slimy bottom of the deep,
    And mock'd the dead bones that lay scatter'd by."

A scene very similar to the one described by Shakespeare has been seen
in these clear waters after a wreck. Many years ago, when a hurricane of
unusual violence swept over the islands, and there were several ships
lost in the usually glassy harbour, people, when calm set in again, had
the horror of studying, from their boats, the tragic condition of the
wrecked vessels at the bottom of the bay. They could see the drowned
dead below, whom some weight oppressed and forbade to rise. I well
remember, though 'tis long years since, the dread impression produced
upon me by the sight of the "phantom ship." In the days of the
Spaniards, a vessel of importance, a man-of-war, was wrecked and sunk
opposite a place called Hog Island--Horace Greely's lovely daughter,
Gabriele, re-christened it Isle of Porcina. This vessel fell a victim in
due time to the greed of those wondrous ants of the sea, the coral
insects, who, with infinite industry, soon contrived to coat it with
their microscopic huts, and now you see it lying full five fathoms deep
beneath you, all white and hoary in its coraline encasement. The deck,
the hull, the tattered rigging, ropes and chains, are all white with
corals, and around the ghastly ship rise the pale blue walls of its sea
prison.

The moonlight nights at Nassau, although marvellously beautiful, are not
a little dangerous to fresh arrivals, on account of the heavy dews. I
remember one evening we all went out to see the ruins of the fort built
in 1788 by the Earl of Dunmore, memorably connected with the American
Revolution. It certainly was a lovely sight, and the old grey walls and
tower looked as well as any ruin on Rhine or Nile by that argentine
radiance, approaching sunlight in its tropical brilliance, which renders
things more or less romantic, be they ever so commonplace. The tall
palms rustled in the breeze, and the bay was like a sheet of shivering
quicksilver, just over where the imprisoned phantom ship rests, five
fathoms down, "woo'd for ever to the slimy bottom of the deep." The
sight was exquisite. The price more than one visitor ultimately paid in
aching head and stiff rheumatic bones was anything but light!

And with this glimpse at an Isle of June, as New Providence has been
aptly called--introduced into this book merely as a contrast--I take my
leave.

Vale--gentle reader!--fare thee well.



APPENDIX I.

THE BOYHOOD OF COLUMBUS.


No historical question has been more keenly disputed than that of the
real place where Christopher Columbus was born. The majority incline to
believe him to have been a native of Genoa, or else of the neighbouring
town of Savona. One learned gentleman has even asserted in a very
elaborate pamphlet, published not long ago, that he came from Cremona.
The Abate Casanova of Ajaccio, in another pamphlet, attempts, on the
strength of a very ancient but equally obscure tradition, to prove that
Columbus was a Corsican. He goes so far as to point out the very house
in the Vico del Filo at Calvi, in which he firmly believes the
Discoverer first saw light. His statements, ingenious as they are, lack
contemporary evidence to substantiate them, and very little research
suffices to scatter them to the winds. I have lately seen a curious and
rare French pamphlet, in which Columbus is declared to be a native of
Marseilles, and yet another, the author of which endeavours to convince
his readers that the Discoverer was born at Albenga. In short, a
voluminous literature has sprung out of this vexed question, but to the
serious student of the life and times of Columbus Genoa and Savona alone
appear worthy of respect.

To the Marquis Staglieno of Genoa, one of the most enterprising of
modern Italian historians, and to Mr Henry Harrisse, a learned and
indefatigable American student of the life of Columbus, the definite
determination of the great Navigator's birthplace is really due. He was
born in Genoa, in a house standing still, near the ancient and recently
restored gate of St Andrea, at the top of a long, steep street known as
the Portorio, in the parish of San Stefano.

Domenico Colombo, the father of the illustrious navigator, is described
by Washington Irving and other writers as a "wool comber," but in all
the contemporary documents discovered by the historians just named he is
invariably said to have been "a woollen manufacturer,"--a position very
different from that of a wool comber, the difference being that between
a mechanic and a tradesman. No wonder that Ferdinand Columbus
indignantly contradicted an assertion which most of us, even in this
democratic age, would keenly resent. Although never in affluent
circumstances, Domenico and Susanna Colombo, Christopher's parents, were
evidently highly respectable tradespeople, who spent the whole of their
lives between Genoa and Savona. Probably Domenico Colombo was born at
Quinto, a village not many miles distant from the capital of the Genoese
Republic. His father, Giovanni Colombo, undoubtedly lived there, for, in
a document dated 1439, he is described as "Giovanni Colombo of Quinto,
the father of Domenico of Genoa." This Giovanni was, it seems, according
to another and still more ancient deed, the son of a certain Giovanni
Colombo, of Fontanarossa, another village in the district. As the
inhabitants of this village were engaged in sheep-dealing, it is
probable that this Giovanni was a wool merchant, and since Fernando
Columbo, with the justifiable vanity of the son of a great man, seems to
have been always desirous of claiming a social position, and signs
himself, on more than one occasion, as "of Fontanarossa," we may go so
far as to conclude that the Colombo (or Columbus) family was, according
to its own tradition, the principal in that place. The family and
Christian names of the great-grandmother and grandmother of the
Discoverer of the New World are lost. His mother, however, was Susanna
of Fontanarossa, a native of the suburb of Bisagno. This is proved by a
document in the Savonese archives, whereby, on the 7th August 1743,
"Susanna, daughter of Giacomo of Fontanaruba (the Latin for
Fontanarossa), in the Bisagno, agrees to allow her husband, Domenico
Colombo of Genoa, to sell a house situated in that city, near the
Olivella Gate." It is described as a house with a pleasant garden, in
the parish of San Stefano, and next door to the house and property of
Nicola Paravagna, and adjacent to the property of Antonio Bondi. "The
house faces the principal street, and is close to the old wall of the
town." In this document Domenico Colombo is specially designated as a
citizen of Savona--because, as he had by this time resided there some
years, he was entitled to citizenship.

This house, however, is not, as has been so frequently and erroneously
stated, the one in which Columbus was born. It has long since
disappeared, to make way for the enlargement of the neighbouring
hospital. The Porta (or Gate) Olivella stood for centuries to the right
of the church of San Stefano. As this house is very often mentioned in
deeds of the period of the last half of the fifteenth century as
belonging to the family of Domenico Colombo, we are able to trace its
history with fair accuracy. It formed part of the dower of Susanna
Fontanarossa, for, as we have already seen, it could not be sold without
her permission. It is probable that the family, instead of living in it,
was in the habit of letting it. On more than one occasion the tenant did
not pay his rent, and in 1476 Domenico Colombo had to come from Savona
to Genoa to exact it. Unable to get the £20 due to him for arrears, he
raised (through his notary, a certain Signer Camogli) a loan on the sum,
the tenant, Malio, becoming a guarantee for the amount of his unpaid
rent--"Occasione pensionis euiusdem domus ipsius Dominici quam tenet et
conducit, etc."

Domenico Colombo possessed yet another house, still standing, and
situated close to the recently restored Gate of Sant Andrea, at the top
of the long, steep street still called Portorio. In this venerable
building Christopher Columbus was unquestionably born, in 1451.

Four years before the discovery of America by his illustrious son,
Domenico Colombo, being in reduced circumstances, was obliged to
transfer this house to his son-in-law Bavarello, the husband of his only
daughter Bianchinetta. The papers relative to this proceeding are still
in existence, and bear the date July 30, 1489. Domenico Colombo
certainly lived here with his wife and family from 1435 to 1470, when
they went to Savona. This is proved by the register of the monastery of
San Stefano, in which they are regularly entered as paying a yearly
ecclesiastical tax to the Prior during the whole of this period. They
left Genoa in 1470, and resided at Savona until 1484. The Savonese
archives, however, contain frequent mention of Domenico until 1494, when
he again returned to Genoa, where, in all probability, he died, some
years later. In the deed authorising the sale of the house in Porta
Olivella, the witnesses are "Christopher Colombo and Giovanni
Pellegrino, sons of Domenico and Susanna Colombo."

Washington Irving was unaware of the existence of this son Giovanni
Pellegrino, for he states that "Christopher Columbus was the eldest of
three brothers only--Bartholomew and Giacomo, or James (written Diego in
Spanish)." Giovanni Pellegrino was the second brother, and died
unmarried in 1489. We have more than this proof of his existence. In
another document he is named together with his three brothers,--Christopher,
Bartholomew, and Giacomo. In 1501, ten years after his death, and some
time after that of his father, a man named Corasso Cuneo summoned the
sons of Domenico Colombo before the tribunals of Savona for non-payment
of the price due to him for lands purchased by their father Domenico
many years before his decease. In this curious document we read the
names of Christopher and James--"Christophorem et Jacobum, fratres de
Columbi, filiis et heredes quondam Dominici eorum patris." In the next
register concerning this affair, and dated the same month and year,
Bartholomew is mentioned--"Cristoferi, Bartolomei et Jacobi de Columbis,
quondam Domenici et ipsius heredem." There is no mention of
Bianchinetta, the only sister of the illustrious navigator. She, being a
married woman, was not, according to Genoese law, entitled to inherit
from her father. Here, then, we have the most positive contemporary
evidence that Domenico Colombo was the father of four sons, respectively
named Christopher, Giovanni Pellegrino or Pilgrim (a name sometimes
found in old English registers), Bartolomeo or Bartholomew, and Giacomo
or Diego,--and, therefore, the father of Christopher Columbus,
Discoverer of the New World, who, as everybody knows, had two brothers,
companions in his travels, named Bartholomew and Giacomo (or Diego). We
learn that, according to documents far too numerous to be quoted here,
the said Domenico was a taxpaying resident in the Via di Sant Andrea, in
the city of Genoa, between the years 1435 and 1470. Another and most
important paper, recently discovered by the Marquis Staglieno in the
Atti Notarilli of the city of Genoa, declares Christopher Columbus to be
nineteen years old in 1470. He was born then, we may presume, in October
1451, during the time of his father's residence in the house now
officially declared his birthplace, and situated hard by the noble old
Gate of Sant Andrea.

It is a fortunate thing for Italian history that, in accordance with a
very ancient custom, on the decease of a notary, his papers and
registers are taken charge of by the State, and carefully preserved in
an office specially set apart for the purpose. Although the enormous
accumulation of papers thus preserved from century to century may, in
many instances, be deemed of little importance, they have proved
invaluable funds of information for the historian. It was among the
papers of the notary Stella that Signor Bertolotti unearthed the
particulars of the life and trial of Beatrice Cenci. It was among those
of Pietro Belasio and Nicola Raggio that the Marquis Staglieno
discovered the following curious facts concerning Columbus:--

     "In 1470, on the thirtieth of October, Domenico Colombo and his son
     Christopher appeared before the above-named notaries of the city of
     Genoa, in order to confirm and conclude a contract in which the
     said Christopher Colombo declares himself, with his father's
     endorsement, debtor to the said Belasio to the amount of Genoese
     lire 48. 15. 6. (or about 300 francs) for wine procured by him on
     credit for the supply of his ship, now in the harbour of Genoa.
     Domenico, his father, holds himself security for his said son, who
     is nineteen years of age. Christofferus de Colombo filius Domenico
     Maior anni decemnovum."

And, according to Genoese law, of age.

Columbus tells us in his Autobiography that he went to sea when he was
fourteen. Hence, in 1470, he had been five years a sailor, but he had
not, as yet, wholly abandoned the paternal roof, to reside permanently
in Portugal. He did not do so until six years later. Now, if he went to
sea when he was fourteen, and was still at sea when he was nineteen,
what time had he for studying at the University of Pavia, where,
according to most historians, he acquired his proficiency in Latin, and
in such sciences as were then taught? In my opinion, he never was near
Pavia in his life. No document in Pavian archives proves that Columbus
was a student at that renowned University. The statement rests only on a
very slender local tradition, and on Las Casas' assertion that he
"completed his studies in Pavia." Possibly this writer made a slip of
the pen, and, meaning Patria, wrote Pavia--or did the printer's devil
make the blunder? Certainly Columbus' family was not in a position to
send him to a distant University, and, moreover, there was no necessity
for their so doing, as Genoa possessed famous colleges and schools of
her own.

At the bottom of the long, steep street Portorio, not very far from his
father's house, was a school, directed by the Servite fathers, whose
church, Santa Maria de' Servi, still exists. It strikes me as much more
probable that the boy Columbus attended there, and that some learned
monk taught him Latin, than that he should have been sent to Pavia, as
great a distance from Genoa, in those days, as Paris is now. Moreover,
the learned notary Andrea de Cario was a friend and neighbour of the
family. This gentleman was well off, and, although married, usually wore
an ecclesiastical habit, and acted as the archbishop's Chancellor for
close on half a century. Among his papers and registers, still
preserved, are several mentions of Domenico Colombo and his wife and her
family, the Fontanarosse. Possibly this learned personage may have
undertaken a part of the education of the precocious lad.

If further proof were required of the intimate connection which always
existed between Domenico Colombo and his illustrious son Christopher, I
need simply record the fact that, even when the Great Man was himself in
dire distress, he remembered his aged father, and sent him money to
relieve his pressing debts. The affection between the three brothers
seems to have been extended to certain cousins, for we find, in a
document dated 1476, that Giovanni, Matteo, and Amighetto Colombo, of
Quinto, signed a deed whereby money was raised to enable the eldest,
Giovanni, to go to Spain to serve under his cousin Christopher, who is
described as an Admiral. These men were the sons of Antonio, a brother
of Domenico.

Not one of the documents I have quoted is particularly interesting in
itself. They are very commonplace, and yet how wonderfully they help us
to reconstruct the past! A name here, an allusion there, an unpaid bill,
a summons before the tribunals on a pressing demand for payment of rent,
a receipt, a mere scrap of paper with a great name attached to it, opens
out an entirely new field of research, and dispels mountains of
controversy and theory. I felt myself in very intimate contact with
Columbus when my eyes first rested on the quaint, old-world documents
which he, and his father, and mother, and brothers, signed, four
hundred years ago.

Quite recently, three papers, enriched with the signatures of Columbus
and his father, were unearthed in the State archives of the city of
Genoa (L'Archivio di Stato). From them we gather that, in 1470, Domenico
Colombo, either because his affairs were going badly, or because he
perceived a better chance for himself and family elsewhere, determined
to leave Genoa and establish himself in Savona. He was then in the debt
of a certain Geronimo da Porto, to the amount of 25 lire, or 117 francs
modern money, and evidently could not pay him. Da Porto must have heard
of his intention to leave the city. He summoned him and his eldest son
Christopher before the tribunal, for non-payment of the debt in
question. The judge decided that Domenico and Christopher Colombo should
pay the amount within a year from that date. Whether they eventually
paid or not is doubtful, for, in a codicil to Columbus' will, made some
thirty years later, he leaves "to the heirs of Geronimo da Porto, of
Genoa, the father of Benito da Porto, 20 ducats"--which is nearly double
the amount originally claimed, and leads one to think that it includes
interest for a long period.

In these documents, Domenico Colombo is invariably described as
"Dominicus Columbus, lanerius de Janua, habitator in Saone,"--"a
wool-weaver, living in Savona." In addition to the evidence already
given that Columbus was born in Genoa, I will recall the facts that he
himself, three times in his biography, repeats that he was a native of
that town--"where I lived, and whence I came"--and that Andreo Bemaldez,
curate of Los Pallacios, who was his intimate friend, informs us that he
told him he was born in Genoa. His contemporaries, Agostino Giustinani,
Antonio de Herrera, and Antonio Gallo, the Chancellor of the Bank of St
George, who corresponded with Columbus, repeat the same assertion. Then,
again, it is to the city of Genoa that the dying Columbus leaves the
breviary given him by Pope Alexander VI. Where is it? Certainly not in
Genoa.

Genoa in 1451 presented an aspect different from that which it wears
now, although the street in which Columbus was born, and its
neighbourhood, have not sustained many changes. The ancient houses still
tower up six and eight stories on either side of the narrow and
picturesque thoroughfare of the Portorio, some of them preserving traces
of Gothic windows and doors, and of a sort of Moorish decoration,
running just below the projecting roof, which is peculiar to Genoa. This
street has been known as the Portorio, or _Porta Aurea_, for centuries.
It leads up the hill from the outer wall of the city, and the
characteristic church of San Stefano, with its black and white marble
façade, which gives its name to the suburb, to the inner gate of St
Andrea, and the second ring of walls, now destroyed. This gate is a
noble specimen of feudal architecture, recently somewhat over-restored.
A few years ago it was ten times more picturesque than now, with the
quaint, old houses clinging to its rough walls like barnacles on a
ship's side. These have been removed, and the grand proportions of the
arch, formerly attached on either side to stern and lofty walls, built
in 1155 to resist the attacks of Barbarossa, have been displayed. In
front of this ancient gate is a little platform, surrounded by tall and
irregular houses, coeval with the gate itself. No. 37, lately occupied
by a tinman, is the house in which Columbus was born, and spent his
childhood and youth. I believe, with Mr Harrisse and the Marquis
Staglieno, that he was born in the front room--the best bedroom--of the
first floor, between October 1446 and October 1451. The date must remain
uncertain, because, although the important paper I have mentioned
described him as being nineteen years of age in 1470, it must be
remembered that nineteen was the legal age of manhood under the old
Genoese law, which was identical with the ancient Roman code. The fact
that he was of age--that is nineteen--would never have been specified,
if he had not been a very young man at the time. He might perhaps have
been twenty-three or even twenty-four, but the probability is that he
had just come of age. In 1886 the Municipality of Genoa purchased this
house for 36,000 francs, and it is to be kept intact in memory of
Columbus for ever. Over the door is this inscription:--

    Nulla. Domus. titulo, dignior
              Heic
      Paternis : in : ædibus.
    Christophorus : Columbus.
           Pueritium
    Primioque . juvantam . trasegit.

I think, with Mr Harrisse, that "Forsam natus" might with propriety be
added.

The great Gothic arch of the stern old gate frowned down on the modest
dwelling, and the child Columbus must often have been told the story of
the chains, which in my own boyhood I remember to have seen, hanging on
the grim walls on either side of the arch. They were courteously
restored in 1862 to the Pisans (from whom they had been captured in
1290) in honour of Italian unity.

Not very far off stood, until quite the end of the last century, a
curious old house, with a figure of St Christopher painted upon it,
which doubtless had a lamp constantly burning before it. Possibly it was
in honour of the saint here represented that the future Discoverer of
the New World was christened Christopher. On entering the city proper,
through the arch of St Andrea, the prospect, in the days of Columbus'
youth, was by no means cheerful. The houses, like those of Edinburgh,
rose seven and even eleven storeys, making the narrow courts and
passage-like streets look not unlike dark openings in a Californian
cañon. The hilly position of the town, however, lent itself admirably to
picturesque effects, and the brilliance of the deep blue sky above, and
of the broad streaks of sunlight falling on the squares and little
piazza, brightened what might otherwise have been exceedingly gloomy and
depressing. The palaces of the nobility looked more like fortresses than
civic residences, with scarcely a window on the street. Each possessed a
tall, turreted watch-tower of red brick, picked out with marble, the
finest specimen of which, now existing, is that of the Imbriaci. The
churches and oratories were amazingly numerous, but they were nearly all
exactly alike, built in very plain Gothic architecture, with façades
streaked with alternated layers of black and white marble. A few have
escaped the vandalistic restorations of the 17th and 18th centuries, and
of these the best remaining specimens are the Cathedral, San Matteo
Doria, Santa Maria del 'Orto (desecrated), San Cosmo, San Donate, San
Stefano, and Sant Agostino (desecrated).

But in the 15th century they were to be met with at every turn of the
street, giving a very peculiar appearance to the city. The finest
palaces bordered the Ripa by the port, and these were so beautifully
decorated with frescoes and gilding that Petrarch declared that "nothing
could be imagined more magnificent." The Strade Nuova, Nuovissima, and
Balbi, with their splendid Renaissance palaces, did not come into
existence until late in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Cathedral was
in much the same condition as at present, and the Bank of St George, now
in process of restoration, was considered one of the wonders of the
world.

If the architecture of the city was picturesque, its population was
indescribably so. The streets teemed with life and colour. There were
men in armour, sailors from all parts of the world, guardsmen in the
Doge's liveries striped scarlet and white, ladies of rank proceeding to
church attended by their women, and escorted by little negro pages
bearing their trains, or screening them from the ardour of the sun with
immense, crimson silk parasols. Rich dames, lolling in litters hung with
painted Cordova leather, were carried to and fro on the shoulders of
stalwart African slaves. Veiled women of the people, with their children
clinging round them, sitting outside their doors, not infrequently
engaged in a hair hunt. Priests, monks, and nuns, in every imaginable
kind of ecclesiastical costume, mingled with herculean porters from the
quays, with soldiers and nobles, Levantines and Jews, each in their own
peculiar costume, so that if the houses were sombre, the streets were
ablaze with brilliant and varied dresses. At night, however, the city
looked desolate. Only the lamps burning before the images of the Madonna
and Saints lit up the gloomy thoroughfares and darksome piazzas. At "Ave
Maria," in winter time, everybody was indoors saying the Rosary. Three
times a day, as the "Angelus" tolled, the whole population stopped and
repeated the angelic salutation. This pious custom lasted until quite
late into the first half of the present century.

Unlike Venice, Genoa was no city of pleasure. On the other hand, its
population dearly loved pageantry. Religious processions of the utmost
splendour were of such everyday occurrence that people scarcely noticed
them. The Doge went about attended by at least a hundred officers and
servants. On great festivals the balconies were hung with brocades and
wreaths of fresh flowers, while half the town preceded the Host or the
images of the Madonna and Saints, to the admiration of the other half,
crowding the sidewalks and the overhanging balconies.

Such, then, was Genoa,--Queen of the Mediterranean, as Venice was Queen
of the Adriatic,--when Christopher Columbus first saw the light. His
parents were, as we have seen, people in a humble but eminently
respectable position. Their manner of life differed little from that of
their neighbours. Thus was passed, only fifty years ago, the life of an
honest Genoese family of the lower middle class. At five in the morning
the family, apprentices, and servants rose. After saying the "Angelus,"
they proceeded to the nearest church to Mass. A slice of bread, with
fruit in summer, or dried figs in winter, and a glass of wine, formed
the first meal or breakfast. Then came work until noon, when the frugal
dinner was served--meat once a week, and sweets only on great festivals.
As a rule, it consisted of a _minestrone_, a succulent and wholesome
sort of soup, made with all kinds of vegetables, rice, and bits of pork
cut up into square pieces, macaroni, ravioli, and other like dishes.
After this meal there was an hour for recreation. Then to work again
until sunset, when the whole household repeated the "Angelus," and said
the Rosary. In summer they would go processionally from street image to
image, singing their Aves and Paters with uncommon unction before the
holy figure, round which burned scores of little oil lamps, amid
cart-wheel-shaped bouquets. Sometimes one-half the people on the street
said the Rosary, while the other gave the responses. It is not
surprising if, after a regime of this sort, Christopher Columbus grew up
to be a very pious man. However, there were plenty of scandals going
the round of the town, even in 1451, and I am afraid religiosity rather
than piety was the true characteristic of this singular population.
Still, the evidence in favour of Columbus and his family is so greatly
to their advantage that we may feel sure they were really people of
exceptional integrity and sincere piety.

Little Genoese boys and girls were brought up rather sternly, and the
_ferrula_ was much in use. Often, no doubt, did the small Columbus, both
at home and at school, hold out his chubby hand to receive the strokes.
The mother and sister appeared in public very rarely, and were
invariably veiled. The church was the principal object of these
excellent people's existence. It is so to this day with a majority of
the lower and middle-class Genoese, who spend half their time in church,
and are quite as well pleased to go and hear a sermon as their
neighbours at Turin are to attend a new play. I am quite sure that more
than once a year the infant Columbus and his brothers, dressed up as
saints, and very artistically too, walked in the processions of the
three or four confraternities attached to the church and convent of St
Stefano. I daresay Christopher often impersonated the infant St John, or
even the Child Jesus, and was carried on the shoulders of some gigantic
brother disguised as St Christopher:

    "San Cristofero grosso,
    Porta il mondo a dorso."

--"the big St Christopher carries the world on his back."

In Holy Week, what a time these pious folks had, to be sure! There was
so much to see that people were fain to leave their business to take
care of itself, and either to walk in the processions or else watch them
wend their way along the tortuous streets. There were the flagellants to
see, who whipped themselves until their bare backs were red. As to the
Guilds and Corporations: they were a source of infinite interest and
excitement! Each had its _Cassaccia_ or shrine to carry, and, above all,
its tremendous crucifix, which people wagered would never reach its
destination, so terrific was its weight. If the wretched man who carried
it staggered and fell, hundreds of lire changed hands, and if he managed
to restore it to its place in the Oratory belonging to the Guild, he was
acclaimed as great a hero as a victorious modern jockey. And the
Sepulchres on Holy Thursday, and the Procession of the Passion on Good
Friday, all these wonderful things, and many others too numerous to
describe, did the youthful Columbus admire, enjoy, and venerate,[21] we
may be sure.

The boy Columbus had his sports, too, like any other lad in every part
of the world, old and new. He played boccie or bowls, and _palla_, a
sort of football, and, like all other Genoese urchins, he was, I doubt
not, an excellent diver and swimmer. His character in after life, so
full of noble courage, gentleness, piety, and justice, speaks volumes
for the education he received at his mother's knee. His devotion to
parents is proved by his frequent mention of them, and he loved the
beautiful city "where he was born, and whence he came" with patriotic
ardour.

Although there is no positive proof that such was the case, we may
safely conclude that, together with all the Genoese of his period, he
was imbued from the earliest age with a love of the sea and of
adventure. In the gloom of his father's cavernous shop he must often
have heard foreign and native merchants, captains, and sailors, who came
to purchase woollen goods, relate tales of extraordinary discoveries
made in the unknown seas beyond the Pillars of Hercules. Vast, indeed,
was the commerce of Genoa at this epoch. Her vessels roamed the seas as
far as the Caspian, where Marco Polo found them trading from port to
port. Genoa rivalled Venice in the Levant, and held the keys of the
commerce of North Africa. In Bruges her merchants had a hall of their
own; it still exists, with the effigy of St George over its Gothic
portal. Genoese merchants were well known in the crowded thoroughfares
of London city, and their velvets and silks were to be bought in the
High Street of Edinburgh and in the markets of Copenhagen and
Christiania.

In the last half of the 15th century the world talked much of
discoveries of magic isles of pearl, and of deceptive islands that rose
on the horizon of the Atlantic, and, syren-like, deluded venturesome
travellers to their doom. In Genoa lived the Vivaldi family,
descendants of Vadino and Guido Vivaldi, and of Ugolino and Tedesco
Vivaldi, who, between 1285 and 1290, discovered not only the Azores, but
also Madeira and the Canaries. The fact is mentioned very minutely in
records of the 13th century. Often must Columbus have heard of these
bold pioneers, and likewise of the ship and its crew of thirty men,
which, in 1467,--as we learn from Pietro d'Abano, in his
_Conciliatore_,--the Genoese Government equipped in Lisbon, at its
expense, and sent on a mission of discovery, from whence none ever
returned. Sailors, whose frail vessels had been driven out to sea far
beyond the coast of Spain towards "the new lands," had doubtless seen
the Azores, and, returning home, had spread the most fantastic stories
of cities of gold inhabited by a people whose heads grew beneath their
shoulders. In short, the imaginative child must often have listened to
tales of wonderment such as Othello poured out to Desdemona. At fourteen
he went to sea. He was in the prime of his glorious manhood on that
momentous morn of October 1492, when the verdant islands of San Salvador
and Cuba rose like emeralds out of the shining sea to delight his
thankful vision, and enriched European civilization by opening the gates
of a New World before its wondering eyes.[22]



APPENDIX II.

NOTES ON SOME OLD PAPERS CONNECTED WITH THE HISTORY OF THE WEST INDIES.


IN 1886-7 the writer of these lines became closely connected with the
West Indian Section of the Indian and Colonial Exhibition, South
Kensington. Sir Augustus Adderley, the Commissioner for the West Indies,
a gentleman of varied knowledge and experience, displayed an activity in
organising the Court for which he was responsible, which resulted in a
thorough and most satisfactory representation of the various West Indian
islands under British dominion. To add attraction to his Department, Sir
Augustus set himself to collect every historical document, book, print,
and MS., illustrative of the early history of the islands, which he
could procure. With this object, he entrusted the author with the
mission of obtaining whatever records of Columbus and his companions
existed in Rome and elsewhere, even in the Antilles. Thanks to letters
from Cardinal Manning, an interview with Cardinal Simeone, then Director
of the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda, was soon obtained, and his
introduction to the Secretary, Archbishop Jacobini, granted, in the most
friendly manner. A minute search of the archives of this famous
institution was immediately made, but nothing of any particular
importance connected with the subject of enquiry was found to exist.
Monsignore Jacobini, however, averred that he had heard a story to the
effect that in Napoleon I.'s time, the archives of the Propaganda were
roughly packed in carts, conveyed to Cività Vecchia, and there embarked
for France and Paris. Whilst passing through the streets of Rome,
several bundles of most valuable papers were jolted out, picked up, and
some--but very few--restored to the Congregation. Of the rest, only a
part were returned to the College, whilst almost all the earlier papers
were retained in Paris, and are now stored in the Bibliothèque Nationale
and elsewhere. The existing archives of the Propaganda only date from
the first half of the present century. It was found impossible to obtain
permission for the exhibition of many treasures among the Vatican
MSS.--which, seen through glass cases, would have hardly, indeed,
produced the effect they deserved. All my attention, therefore, was
turned to the small but most interesting collection of parchments and
MSS. in the Borgian Museum. Pre-eminent among these are the far-famed
Borgian Maps, the first of which is probably the earliest existing
geographical record of Central America and the West Indies. Down this
famous sheet Pope Alexander VI.'s own hand traced the lines dividing the
whole of the New World into two equal portions, one for Spain, the other
for Portugal. Notwithstanding his evident desire to oblige the
Commissioner and the Committee, His Holiness decided that so precious
and historical a relic could not be allowed to leave its place, but he
courteously gave permission for the removal to the London Exhibition of
the second Borgian Map, known as "Diego Ribero," a document of the
highest archæological value. The drawing, perfect and beautiful, was
executed by Diego Ribero, geographer to Charles V. from 1494 to 1529,
that is, during the lifetime of Columbus, and under his personal
supervision. Down the centre pass two slight lines, _facsimile_ of the
divisional lines traced by Alexander VI. on the first Borgian Map. The
map, though singularly clearly drawn, is full of absurd inaccuracies.
The West Indies are shown with precision, and the names given with
considerable elaboration. America, on the other hand, is barely
indicated, the coast alone being defined, and Africa is introduced with
the Nile wandering somewhat at random down to three lakes, situated just
above what is now known as Cape Colony. A number of very well-drawn
ships are introduced, of colossal dimensions, in comparison with the
land, and bearing inscriptions to the effect that they are either bound
for, or returning from, the "Maluccas," by which it would appear that
these were then considered the principal maritime port of the world. The
arms of Pope Julius II.--an oak-tree with twisted branches--are
introduced in a shield at the foot, notwithstanding the fact that the
map bears the date of Clement VII. As a specimen of Italian, or rather
Spanish, calligraphy, of the 16th century, it is superb, and in most
perfect preservation. The Congregation of the Propaganda also lent an
engraved reproduction of the famous Marco Polo Map, a curious specimen
of German geographical lore, at the commencement of the 15th century,
the original of which is engraved on brass. It was found to be far too
heavy for transportation. In this map the world is reproduced surrounded
by water, and the general appearance is not unlike that of a drop of
Thames water as seen through a powerful microscope, so confused are the
earth and water, and so mixed up with representations of extraordinary
living creatures.

A very interesting collection of books, maps, prints, and MSS.,
illustrative of the early history of the West Indies, belonging to Sir
Graham Briggs, Mr Audley C. Miles, Mr Henry Stevens, and the writer,
were also exhibited, and the following notes on this improvised library,
which will certainly never be gathered together again, will doubtless be
found of interest, as throwing considerable light on the bygone domestic
history of our colonies in the Antilles.

In the eighteenth century their prosperity was at its height, and a
surprising amount of luxury and magnificence existed in the capitals of
each of our settlements. In 1741, we find the Island of Montserrat
considerably exercised (_The Laws of Montserrat from_ 1640 _to_ 1788) by
many open "Breaches of the Sabbath," a general neglect of "Public
Worship," to the scandalizing of the Protestant religion, and by the
encroachments of the "Scarlet Whore of Rome." To remedy this state of
affairs, the rites and ceremonies of the Church are, according to the
authority mentioned above, to be immediately placed on a footing with
those practised in England, and "an able preaching minister is to be
maintained, at a cost to the public exchequer of 14,000 lbs. of sugar
per annum, or the value thereof in tobacco, cotton, wool, or indigo.
Moreover, the said minister can demand not exceeding 100 lbs. of sugar,
or the value thereof as above, for the joining together any of the
inhabitants of this island in the holy and lawful state of matrimony."
Meanwhile, Trinidad and Cuba, on the other hand, were gravely occupied
by the question of Protestant encroachments. These islands were still
Spanish, and the Inquisition was in full swing, occasionally roasting an
unhappy wight suspected of heresy or idolatry.

"The Laws of Montserrat" enlighten us as to the manner in which the
negroes were treated in some of the islands. Thus, in 1670, an Act was
passed forbidding the negro to enter any plantation save his master's
after nightfall, and should any be found, the owner or overseer of such
plantation was given full power to punish him as he chose. "And should
any negroes harbour or conceal any such loiterers in their cabins, they
shall be taken before the next Justice of the Peace, and there his or
her owner shall, in the presence of the said Justice, exercise the
punishment of forty lashes."

Slaves were not permitted to enter a field of cane with any lights or
fire whatsoever, as, "by their insufferable boldness in so doing, much
damage has been done, and more is likely to ensue, and this is enacted
to prevent future inconvenience, which may happen by such insufferable
boldness."

Should a slave, transgressing this law, happen to set fire to the canes,
he or she "shall not only be whipped, but, if it pleases their master,
be put to death in any fashion he shall devise." If a negro stole a cow
or any other head of cattle, he was to be brought before the next
Justice of the Peace and publicly whipped. This punishment did not
appear to have been sufficiently severe, for by the year 1693, theft had
grown so common that an Act was passed ordaining that "henceforth any
negro that shall be taken stealing or carrying away stock, cattle, or
provisions, amounting to the value of twelve pence, shall suffer such
death as his master shall think fit to award." If a negro was proved
guilty of a theft below the value of twelve pence current money of the
island, "he shall only suffer a severe whipping, and have both his ears
cut off for the first offence, but for the second offence he shall
suffer death in the form aforesaid ... and it shall be lawful to shoot
at, and if possible, kill any negro he shall find stealing his
provision, provided such provision be not within forty foot of the
common path, and that the party so killing hath not expressed hatred or
malice against the owner of such negro." The white servants might, it
appears, "be kicked, but not whipped," otherwise they were treated very
little better than the slaves. Negroes caught without tickets
authorising their absence from their own plantation, are to be whipped
with thirty-nine lashes by the constable who took them, for which
service, "in each case he receives six shillings." Should a slave absent
himself for the space of three months from his master's service, he was
to suffer death as a felon, the owner to be allowed 3500 lbs. of sugar,
out of the public stock, in compensation. Should a slave be killed or
maimed by another man's slave, his owner had his choice of the manner of
the offender's death for the first-named offence, and for the second he
could decide whether he should be whipped, or the offence be atoned by
compensation. From the _Acts and Statutes of Barbados_ (1652), we find
that the maker of a fraudulent and deceitful sale on that island of any
"servant, cattel, negroes, and other flock or commodities, shall suffer
six months' imprisonment, and stand in the Pillory two hours with his
ears nailed thereto, with a paper in his hat, signifying the cause of
his punishment ... and whosoever shall be convicted of carrying away any
goods whatsoever after the same have been legally attached, shall be
sent to prison during fourteen days, and if before the fourteenth day he
have not made satisfaction to his Creditor, he shall be put in the
Pillory and lose both his ears."

To turn to pleasanter things, we learn (from _A Short History of
Barbadoes_, published in 1742) that nothing can exceed the splendour of
the planters' manner of life. They have as fine houses as any in
England, and are attended upon by regiments of negroes, and white
servants in gorgeous liveries. "Their plate and their china, their fine
gowns and their genteel manners, eclipse anything that the writer has
ever seen on his travels, and their hospitality cannot be imagined--an
hospitality for which Great Britain was once so deservedly famed." At
the time when England was divided into two factions, Cavaliers and
Roundheads, the planters, though naturally favouring one side or the
other, made a law amongst themselves, forbidding the use of either of
the two words, on penalty of giving a dinner to their neighbours. Many
purposely made themselves liable to the penalty as a pretext for
entertaining their friends. In those good old times, the Governors,
notably those of Jamaica and Barbadoes, kept great state. When they went
to church, they were preceded by pages in silver and gold liveries, and
gorgeous officers--in fact, the splendour displayed recalled that of the
King himself, when he betook himself in State to St Paul's. A good deal
of jealousy was evinced, at times, between the citizens, as to who was
entitled to attend the Governor's entertainments. The scene round
Government House in James Street, Spanish Town on great ball nights,
must have been of the most picturesque description. The ladies arrived
in their Sedan-chairs, accompanied by armies of slaves, carrying
torches. There must have been some great beauties amongst them, for we
find the author of _Letters from Barbadoes_ deeply impressed with "the
majestic beauty of Miss Dolton," "the divine Miss Gordon," "the
celestial Miss Alleyne," while, he declares,

    "Sisters Carter, as two meteors bright,
    Shine glorious round, and diffuse light."

Balls and parties, routs and dinners, suppers and theatres, occupied the
attention of the West Indian ladies to an extent which would have amazed
their descendants.

The advertisements in the Colonial papers of the last century teem with
offers of "brocaded silk and satins, beaver hats, gold-headed canes,
snuff-boxes, costly china, plate, and patch-boxes," which were imported
on board every vessel, and found a ready sale amongst the luxury-loving
inhabitants. No wonder that occasionally, as we learn from the _Groans
of the Plantation_, the islanders fell into pecuniary embarrassment, and
that money grew so scarce that large cargoes of negroes had to be
exported for sale at Charlestown and New Orleans.

The streets of a West Indian city must have presented a very picturesque
spectacle at this period. Here groups of great ladies--in hoops and
sarsenets, with powdered hair and "patches," escorted by their spruce
cavaliers in the daintiest satin garments which the London or Paris
tailors could supply, their white clad servants at a respectful distance
behind them, carrying their parasols and fans, or lagging in the rear
with their heavily gilt Sedan-chairs--pass up and down under the shadow
of the tropical vegetation, hardly pausing, probably, to notice the
public flogging of a couple of runaway slaves, or the edifying spectacle
of a white servant caught in the act of stealing, seated with his legs
and arms in the pillory, and his nose and ears freshly cut off. Yon
learned-looking gentleman may be Dr Hans Sloane, the famous naturalist,
with his friend Dr Burton, a noted preacher, who occasionally goes the
round of the various islands to exercise his eloquence, and eat a series
of good dinners in return for his pious endeavours to save the souls of
his entertainers. The conversation is not of the most elevated
description. Little or no literature is consumed and canvassed, save
such as comes out in packages from England--_The Gentleman's Magazine_,
_The Lady_, _The Tatler_, Miss Frances Burney's latest novel, Oliver
Goldsmith's _Vicar of Wakefield_, or Fielding's _Tom Jones_. Through the
open windows of the roomy houses, with their broad verandahs, floats the
tinkling of the sempiternal spinette. Very occasionally, as we learn
from the _Grenada Gazette_ (of which a complete file for the years
1792-3 are exhibited by Mr. J. G. Wells), "a grand pianoforte" makes its
appearance, and is considered a great novelty, for which a very high
price is asked and paid.

The _History of the Barbadoes_ states that Lord Howe became Governor in
1733, but fortunately for the Colony, he did not hold the office long,
"for if he had remained a few years longer, he would have ruined
Barbadoes by his introduction of luxury."

In every island, perpetual war was waged between the Governor and the
people, and the people seem to have had good cause to protest, for
almost without exception, it would appear, the Governors sent from the
mother country were most tyrannical and cruel in their methods. This is
proved by the continual protests and "Articles of Complaint" that were
forwarded to England. Many of these temporary rulers seem to have
conceived their sole mission to be to extort money for their own private
pockets by every means in their power, legal or illegal. To rule the
country fairly, and to keep it in a settled condition--a by no means
easy matter in those times--appears to have been quite a secondary
matter in their eyes. A notable instance is that of a Mr Lowther, who
carried on the usual routine of extortion. He was sent out to Barbadoes
in 1711, and in justice to others it must be said, that for downright
wickedness, he far outstripped them. He "swallowed up the taxes as fast
as they were raised, ships forced on the island by stress of weather
were compelled to give him one half of their cargo to save the other; he
seized rich ships without cause; and he suspended Mr Skeen, the
Secretary, because he refused to allow him a pension of £400 per annum
out of the fees in office. He kept a cause of Haggot v. King hanging up
in Chancery all the time he was Governor, only because Mr Haggot would
not consent to the marriage of a young lady under his guardianship to a
person to whom Mr Lowther _owned he had sold her for_ £15,000. Again, in
order to accomplish his bargain, he was about taking her from Mr Haggot
when she was married, and he did actually despoil him of the
guardianship of her sister, declaring that no parent had a right to
appoint a guardian to his child." When officially remonstrated with for
some of his iniquities, Mr Lowther simply replied, "D---- n your laws,
don't tell me of the laws. I will do it, and let me see who dares
dispute it." Again, the Governor of the Bahamas in 1701-2--Mr Elias
Haskett--was, we are informed, such an iniquitous personage, that "he
seizes all the claret and brandy imported into our own port for his own
use, and most unmercifully doth whip the parish beadle (this is enough,
surely, to make the late Mr Bumble turn in his grave) and the tax
collector." This gentleman's evil doings are related in a curious MSS.
document of over twelve closely-printed pages, by one Captain Cole, who,
it appears, was deputed, on his return to England, by the people of New
Providence, to make an official complaint of their Governor.

A rare old pamphlet on the State of Jamaica, published early in the last
century, contains a curious account of the arrival in that island, in
1687, of Christopher, Duke of Albemarle, on his appointment to the
Governorship. He was the only son and heir of John Monk, who had helped
to restore Charles II., and who had been rewarded with a dukedom, the
Garter, and a princely fortune, which his successor completely
dissipated, and reduced himself to beggary. To rid himself of his
importunities, King James II. gave him the above-mentioned position in
Jamaica, where he died, childless, soon after his arrival, and his
honours became extinct. He seems, however, to have lived long enough to
collect a considerable sum of money for his creditors. He entered into
partnership with a Sir William Phipps, who, having discovered the wreck
of a Spanish plate-ship, which had gone down in 1559, provided skilful
divers to search for the sunken treasure, and the partners are reported
to have recovered twenty-six tons of silver. When Albemarle arrived at
Kingston, he behaved in a fashion as arbitrary as it was whimsical. He
immediately called an assembly, which he dissolved as promptly, because
one of the members, in a debate, repeated the adage "_Salus Populi
suprema lex_." His Grace took this member into custody, and caused him
to be fined 600 crowns for his offence. Evidently James II. had
entertained some hope of converting the island of Jamaica to the Roman
Catholic faith, for with Albemarle he sent out a missionary,--Father
Thomas Churchill, but the Duke's death and the Revolution of 1688 upset
the good Father's projects, and, after visiting Cuba, he returned to
England. The Duchess, who accompanied her husband, was a very remarkable
woman, and an exceedingly handsome one. The speaker of the assembly, in
his first address, expatiated upon her presence in the following
extraordinary strain of eloquence: "It is an honour," said he, "which
the opulent Kingdoms of Mexico or Peru could never arrive at, to be
visited by an English Duchess, and even Columbus' ghost would be
appeased, could he but know that his own beloved soil was hallowed by
such footsteps." In a very old private letter, included among the
exhibits, was a singular account of the subsequent career of this
Duchess. It seems that on the death of the Duke, she possessed herself
of all the treasures he had rescued from the Spanish plate-ship, and
refusing to part with a shilling, even to pay his legitimate debts,
prepared to embark for England. But the creditors seized her person in
the King's house, in Spanish Town, and attempted to carry her off. She
contrived, however, to escape, and communicated her distress to the
House of Assembly, who thereupon appointed a formidable committee of
their ablest members to guard her day and night. After some delay, she
was safely embarked for England, on one of the King's ships, and arrived
in this country with all her fortune, on board the "Assistance"
man-of-war, in the beginning of June 1688. For a year or so she made a
great show in London society, gave her friends sumptuous entertainments,
and herself, it would seem, incredible airs. At last the poor lady's
mind gave way. She imagined herself destined to become the wife of the
Emperor of China, who, having heard of her immense wealth, was
hastening, she declared, to come to England, and pay her his addresses.
She dwelt in Montague House, on the site of which the British Museum now
stands, and she furnished the mansion sumptuously for the reception of
her august suitor. She appears to have been a gentle and good-humoured
person, even in her lunacy, and her attendants encouraged her in her
delusions. They did more. They tried to turn her folly to good account
by assisting a certain needy peer, the Duke of Montague, to personate
his Chinese Majesty. "Here," continues the letter, "is the prettiest
piece of business that has ever been. My Lord of Montague, disguised as
the Chinese Emperor, has won the hand of that worthy, silly old woman
the Duchess of Albemarle, and will, doubtless, soon confine her as a
lunatic." She certainly was carefully enough guarded, but she seems to
have been allowed to indulge her mania to her heart's content. She was
wont to stride about her vast apartments, attired as a Chinese Empress,
her attendants taking good care to kneel as she passed, and to address
her in language befitting so transcendant a personage as the consort of
the supreme ruler of the celestial Empire. Her Grace the Duchess of
Albemarle and Empress of China survived her husband, the pretended
Emperor, for many years, and died in 1734, at the vast age of
ninety-eight. She was, it seems, served upon the knee to the end of her
long career, and expired in the full belief that she was a Celestial
Empress.

The _Grenada Gazette_, a curious old newspaper to which I have already
alluded, throws considerable light on the manners and customs of the
period between 1792 and 1799. The details of the French Revolution are
recorded with great minuteness, and it was evidently a subject of deep
interest to the _Gazette's_ numerous readers. The editor can scarcely
contain his indignation as he relates the sufferings of the unfortunate
French king and queen, and he feels sure God will punish the French
people "for their barbarity and utter godlessness." He is certain a
judgment will fall upon them "for their iniquitous conduct, their
cruelty, and their general viciousness." "Oh!" he exclaims, "I have
scarce the power to tell the terrible news of this day: the French king
and queen are in prison. The French, by their own madness and folly,
have thereby prepared themselves and their heirs for the bitterest
punishment of God." When at length he reaches the execution of Marie
Antoinette, he is "prostrate with horror, and dumb with fear." He can no
longer proceed: "his pen is dry from sheer terror, and refuses to
write." The poor gentleman is "thrown into a consternation" as he thinks
of the fate in store for the afflicted little Dauphin. The series of
slave advertisements which disgrace every number of the _Chronicle_ are
curious in their way. Thus the cargo of the ship "Ellen," consisting of
203 Gold Coast negroes, and that of another ship containing 343 young
slaves, are both offered for sale. "Both cargoes are in high health,
and the terms of sale will be made as agreeable as possible to the
purchaser." An estate in St Lucia, placed on the market, comprises
amongst its stock "250 negroes, large and small, and six horses and five
mules." "There are among the negroes twenty tradesmen of great value."
One person wants "a complete washerwoman. Anyone having one to dispose
of may hear of a purchaser." There are many advertisements for the
recovery of runaway slaves, "for whom a genteel reward will be offered,"
to be recognized by their backs, still sore from recent whippings, their
cropped ears and split noses. These horrors seem to make no impression
on the editor--the humane gentleman who so deplores the imprisonment of
the French royal couple. He is not ashamed to advertise "a pretty boy,
nearly white, for sale, price, £20," nor to call attention to Madame
Marchand's announcement that she is about to leave the colony, and
wishes to dispose of her stock-in-trade, consisting of "hardware,
haberdashery, dry goods, a complete collection of the works of the best
French authors, an excellent washerwoman, and two bedsteads." However,
men should be judged, to some extent at all events, according to their
lights, and it must be remembered that although, in the year of grace
1792, slavery was held throughout the West Indies to be a right divine,
the papers above alluded to contained constant appeals to slave-owners
to treat their human property with kindness. And perhaps, after all, the
bulk of the negroes were a good deal happier than many free men are
to-day, for plenty of kindness was shown them. They were allowed three
wives--many, perhaps, will think this was no very kind concession--and
we read of parties given to the negroes, at which servants dressed up in
their mistresses' finery, and danced to a most unreasonable hour of the
night, to the sound of the sackbut and the tabor. I exhibited in the St
Vincent Court of the Exhibition a delightful series of old engravings,
representing negro festivities in the olden times. The darkies had all
Sunday to themselves, and raised pandemonium in the principal streets of
Spanish Town and Nassau, until the nuisance grew unendurable, and was
put down. They used to sing, dance, and wrestle, at which last exercise
they "were marvellously expert," to their hearts' content. When their
behaviour in the streets became unbearable, they were prohibited from
singing or dancing in the vicinity of churches or genteel folks' houses.
Their food was good, and their huts were waterproof, at all events,--for
it was to the interest of the owners, of course, to keep their slaves in
perfect health. Nevertheless, the negroes always felt themselves an
oppressed race, and many were their struggles for freedom. They
concocted various plans for a general rising, which was to make them
masters and the Christians slaves. But the plots were always discovered,
and the ring-leaders tortured and put to death, as an example to the
rest. At one time owners had great difficulty in preventing their slaves
from hanging themselves, either out of fear of possible punishment for
some small fault, or dread of vengeance threatened by masters or
overseers. Consequently no owner ever delayed a punishment. The darkies
all had a firm belief in a resurrection, and were convinced they would
return after death to their own country and begin their lives anew. This
conviction led them to endeavour to expedite their release from slavery.
An owner who had lost several useful slaves in this manner, "caused one
of their heads to be cut off and fixed on a pole 12 feet high, and
obliged all his slaves to come forth and march round this head, to show
the poor creatures that they were in error in thinking the dead returned
to their own country, for this man's head was here, as they all plainly
saw, and how was it possible the body could go without the head?" This
simple theory was quite sufficient to convince them, and thenceforth
that owner never lost another slave by suicide.

Sometimes there was a theatrical performance in one or other of the
capitals of the various islands. Companies from England or France paid
the principal cities a visit, and occasionally amateurs undertook to
assist the professionals, or to supplement their efforts. The French
theatre at St George's, Grenada, had a great reputation throughout the
islands. It was opened about six times in the year, sometimes by an
English and sometimes by a French troupe. We read in the _Grenada
Gazette_ that "on Saturday, 31st August 1792, 'Douglas' was performed,
Lady Randolph by a lady--her first appearance on any stage--and old
Norval by a gentleman." "No admittance," the announcement goes on to
say, "on any account behind the scenes. The gentility is invited to send
their negroes early (to retain seats), who are to sit in their places
till five minutes before the curtain rises, when they are to give up
their places to the proper owners." The managers also remind the
audience to "bring their own candles." The negroes filled the galleries,
and were renowned for their judicious criticism, the warmth of their
applause, and the vehemence of their disapproval. Ladies of great
quality were accommodated with seats on the stage. We note that on one
occasion, in 1798, the French company gives "Nina Folle par Amour." This
must be either Copolla's or Paesiello's opera, composed about that time.

Cock-fighting, we learn from the same journal, was a fashionable sport
of the gentry. "On Saturday, the 31st September 1792, at 10 o'clock, a
match of twenty cocks will be fought by ten gentlemen. _N.B._--A genteel
dinner will be provided." In the same day's issue is announced the
appearance in England of "a new sect, called the Anti-Chartists," whom
it describes as "another branch of those iniquitous wretches who are
opposed to the slave-trade."

Jamaica, then said to be the "wickedest place on earth," is mentioned
with great detail in _The British Empire in America, or the History of
the Discovery, etc., of the British Colonies_ (published in London,
_1708_). The island probably deserved its name, for, in point of fact,
the inhabitants mainly gained their livelihood at that period by trading
with pirates, an enormous number of whom infested the neighbouring seas,
making raids upon the Spanish islands, and carrying off immense treasure
to Jamaica, where it was spent in debauchery.

The same book gives some interesting details of the earthquake in
Jamaica on 7th June 1692. In many of the streets of Port Royal there
were several fathoms of water, "a great mountain split and fell into the
level land, and covered several settlements and destroyed many people."
One settler's plantation was carried half a mile from the place where it
formerly stood. Part of the mountain, after having made several leaps,
overwhelmed a whole family and great part of a plantation, lying a mile
off; "and a large mountain is quite swallowed up, and in the place where
it stood there is now a vast lake, four or five leagues over." About
2000 people perished by this catastrophe.

Owners would never consent to allow their slaves to become Christians,
as will be seen by the following extract:--

"I took a great interest in a certain slave, Sambo, who wanted much to
become a Christian, and spoke to the master of the plantation on his
behalf. His answer was, that were Sambo once a Christian he could no
longer be accounted a slave, and thus owners would lose hold on their
slaves. Were he in this case to do so, such a gap would be opened that
all the planters in the isle would curse him."

We learn from another old volume (_An Account of the Island of Domingo,
1668_) that "there are several old mountains in the midst, which
encompass an inaccessible bottom, where from the top of certain rocks
may be seen an infinite variety of reptiles of dreadful bulk and length.
The natives were wont to tell of a vast monstrous serpent that had its
abode in the said bottom. They affirmed that there was in the head of
it a very sparkling stone, like a carbuncle, of inestimable price, that
the monster commonly veiled that rich jewel with a thin moving skin like
that of a man's eyelid, and when it went to drink, and sported itself in
the deep bottom it fully discovered it, and the rocks all about received
a wonderful lustre from the fire issuing out of that precious gem."

The original entry of the marriage of Lord Nelson in the register of the
parish church where it took place was exhibited in the Nevis Court. Very
singular also is the sales-list of the Byam estate in Antigua, from
which we learn the prices of slaves to have varied from £10 to £150,
"warranted sound." Some elderly ladies and gentlemen of colour are
occasionally "thrown in gratis." Several copies of the slave Bible were
also shown, in which all verses calculated to disturb the idea that
slavery is an institution by right Divine are carefully eliminated.

THE END.



INDEX

A.

Adderley, Sir Augustus, 257.

Advertisements for the sale of slaves, 271.

Albemarle, Duke of, captures Havana and Matanzas, 60.

" Duke of, Governor of Jamaica, 268.

" Duchess of, 269;
  remarkable behaviour of, 270;
  believes herself to be Empress of China, 270.

Amedeo, Prince, accepts the Spanish crown and resigns it again, 90.

American Revolution, the, 62.

Americans, influence of the, upon Cuba, 19;
  settlements in the island, 26;
  help the insurgents, 87.

Amusements in Havana, 129;
  during Carnival, 139.

Animals found by Columbus in Cuba, 6;
  animals of the forests, 106.

Antomarchi, Dr to Napoleon I., 203;
  his death and monument, 203.

Apiculture introduced by French colonists, 61.

Aquelera, Don Francisco, elected President of the Cuban Republic, 93.

Aristocracy, Havanese, 126.

_Aristolochia pelicana_, the, 149.

Army, the rebel, its number and organization, 101.

_Autos da fé_, the frequency of, 56;
  description of an, 59.


B.

Bahamas first sighted by Christopher Columbus, 38;
  New Providence, 224.

Bananas, 4;
  used as vegetables, 154.

Banyan tree, the, 148.

Baracoa founded by Diego Velasquez, 49.

Barbadoes, 263;
  governorship of Lord Howe, 266.

Bats, enormous size of, 7.

Bayamo, founded by Diego Velasquez, 49;
  taken by the Spaniards from the rebels, 85.

Beggars in Havana, the, 137.

Bellamar Caves, the, 158.

Berriz, Colonel, accusations brought against, by Miss Cisneros, 118.

Birds, 8.

Blake, Lady, 231.

Bobadilla, Doña Isabella de, Governess of Cuba, 181.

Bolivar, 67.

Borgian Maps, the, 258.

Botanical Gardens of Havana, the, 127.

British interests in Cuba, 26.

Buccaneers, the, and their romantic history, 51;
  their hatred of the Spaniards, 52;
  their rugged life, 52;
  Henry Morgan, the Welshman, 52;
  they burn Havana, 53;
  enactments against the, 52;
  the adventures of Jacob Sores, 53.

Buchanan, President, threatening message to Spain, 78.

Bull-baiting, 145.

Butter, lack of, in Cuba, 154.


C.

Cactus, the enormous size of the, 126.

Cafés and restaurants, Cuban, 155.

Campos, Marshal Martinez, agrees to the Treaty of Zanjou, 94;
  his good intentions, 116.

Canga, the, 141.

Canovas, Señor, de Castillo, signs Treaty of Zanjou, 95.

Cardenas, called the "American City," 26;
  its population, 192 (in note).

Carnival, dances given during, 23;
  the Havanese Carnival, 139;
  its end on Shrove Tuesday, 142.

Caruba tree, the, 190.

Cattle used as horses, 167 (in note).

Cauto River, the, navigable for small craft, 5.

Caves of the Bellamar, the magnificent, 158.

Cays, the, dangerous to vessels, 5;
  their beauty, 174.

Cemeteries, Cuban, 202.

Cereals, exported from Spain, 4.

Cerro, the, 125.

Cespedes, Carlos Manuel, begins the rebellion, 83;
  his character, 83;
  the burning of his plantation, 85;
  elected President of the Cuban Republic, 87;
  his tragic death, 91.

Chinese, the wretched condition of the, in Cuba, 37;
  the Chinese in the ranks of the rebels, 37;
  their religious practices, 110.

Churches, the, of Havana, 132;
  music in the, 138;
  flirtation in church, 138.

Cienfuegos, the town and harbour, 161;
  the surrounding country, 162.

Cipango, Columbus thinks Cuba is, 42.

Cisneros, Miss Evangelina, story of, 117.

Cisneros y Bétancourt, Don Salvador, elected
  President of the Cuban Republic, 93.

Clergy, the, of the rebel army, 109.

Cleveland, President, tries to prevent filibustering
   expeditions to Cuba, 99.

Climate, 2 (in note);
  is tolerable, 10;
  108.

Coaches in Havana, 131.

Cock-fighting in Cuba, 145;
  a century ago, 275.

Cocoa, 4;
  the plant, 213.

Coffee, was one of the principal products, 3;
  replaced by the sugar cane, 69;
  a coffee plantation, 213.

Columbus, Christopher, first sights the New World, 38;
  lands at Fernandina, 39;
  the wonders he encounters, 39;
  his followers grow clamorous for gold, 40;
  the imaginery Quinsai, 40;
  he discovers Cuba, 40;
  and takes possession of it in the names of the Spanish sovereigns, 41;
  convinced that it is the Cipango described by Marco Polo, 42;
  believes Cuba to be a part of the mainland, 43;
  said to have landed at British Honduras, 44;
  Columbus and the native, 46;
  visits the island twice again, 49;
  the journeyings of his remains, 133;
  his enthusiastic description of New Providence, 225;
  his birthplace, 237;
  and parents, 238;
  the house in which he was born, 240;
  his brothers, 241;
  first goes to sea, 244;
  his education, 244;
  the sports he played when a child, 254.

Columbus, Diego, Governor of Hispaniola, 49.

Cook, the Cuban, 124.

Cookery, Cuban, 155.

Coolie labour, 36.

Cuba, Island of, its shape and size, I;
  mountains, 2;
  position and weather, 2 (in note);
  coffee and tobacco once the chief articles of cultivation, 3;
  French settlers persuade the Cubans to extend their sugar plantations, 4;
  other products, 4; navigable rivers, 5;
  animals and reptiles, 7;
  disagreeable insects, 8;
  flora, 10;
  climate, 10;
  filthy drains, 11;
  its prehistoric inhabitants, 14;
  present population and inhabitants, 16;
  laws, 17;
  first appearance of the Inquisition on the island, 18;
  Las Casas gives an impetus to education, 18;
  state of chaos in, during the Napoleonic period, 19;
  overrun by Americans, 19;
  society in, 23;
  first sighted by Columbus, 40;
  its numerous names, 41 (in note);
  its beauties in the eyes of its Discoverer, 41;
  first circumnavigated, 49;
  Diego Velasquez sent to, 49;
  he founds Havana, Santiago de Cuba, etc., 49;
  Hernando Cortez in, 49;
  C. during the buccaneering period, 51;
  Drake appears off, 54;
  prosperity of, at the beginning of the 18th century, 59;
  taken by the English under the Duke of Albemarle in 1762, 60;
  large French emigration to, 61;
  administration of Don Luis Las Casas, 63;
  effect of the Revolution upon, 66;
  bad times for, 68;
  opening of the Cuban ports, 68;
  "Cuba la Sempre Fiel," 69;
  the beneficent government of Tacon, 72;
  the prosperity of, declining, 73;
  the first indications of rebellion, 74;
  offers to purchase C., 77;
  C. in 1860, 79;
  the state of the island going from bad to worse, 81;
  result of the work of the Commission appointed to enquire
   into the affairs of, 81;
  Maximo Gomez, Commander-in-Chief of the rebel army, 93;
  U.S. trade with Cuba, 97, 113;
  Cuban forests, 104;
  economic condition of, 114;
  C. Spain's death-trap, 115;
  description of Havana, 121;
  Marianao, 148;
  the cafés and restaurants of Cuba, 155;
  Cienfuegos, 161;
  Trinidad, 172;
  backward state of the plantations, 174;
  Santiago de Cuba, 179;
  the newspapers of, 189;
  a Cuban plantation, 205;
  the beauty of the Cuban night, 212;
  a Cuban household, 214.

_Cubana_, the dance, 141.

Cubanos, or Cubans, filthy habits of the, 11;
  descent from early Spanish settlers, 17;
  characteristics of the, 18;
  Voltarian and free-thinking works read by the, during
   the Napoleonic Era, 19;
  many, educated, 19;
  the C. not permitted to share in the Government until
   twenty years ago, 20;
  C. who live for generations on one plantation, 20;
  a very domestic people, 21;
  isolation of the children, 21;
  premature marriages, 21;
  laxity of morals among the, 21;
  morbid literature read by the, 21;
  the drama, 22;
  their love of music, 23;
  their large families, 24;
  the piety of the women, 24;
  insincerity of the, in their religion, 24;
  their contract with foreign ideas, 71;
  their wish to be represented in the Cortes at Madrid, 71;
  they petition Queen Isabella to appoint a Commission to
   enquire into the state of the island, 81;
  C. in official positions, 112;
  the Carnival in Havana, 139;
  their theatricals, 144;
  the Guajiros, 162;
  early habits of the C. 168;
  why they differ with the Spaniards, 176;
  a Cuban funeral, 200;
  a young Cuban lady, 215;
  their partiality for smoking, 222.

Cucullo, the, 8.


D.

DECKER, MR, and the Miss Cisneros incident, 118.

Dinner, a Cuban, 154.

Dogs, 6;
  the tiny spaniel and the colossal molasso, 6.

Drains, abominable condition of the, 11.

Drake, Sir Francis, appears off Cuba, 54.

Duck-hunt, a, 170.

"Dutchman's pipe," the, 150.

Dysentery among European colonists, 10.


E.

EARTHQUAKES, 3.

Eastern Province, the wholesomest part of the island, 11.

Education, impetus given to, by Las Casas, 18;
  the education given by the Jesuits, 19.

Emancipation of the slaves, first steps towards the, 29;
  its horrible results, 29.

Estates, the large, given to Spaniards, 20;
  rarely if ever visited by the latter, 20;
  curious custom on many Cuban estates, 20.


F.

FAN, the language of the, 138.

Ferdinand the Catholic, his opinion of the Spanish people, 70.

Fernandina, 39.

Filharmonia Theatre, an incident in the, 76;
  the first appearance of Mme. Patti at the, 143.

Fish, 6; tropical, 8.

Flora, beauty and variety of the, 10;
  in the forests, 105;
  some strange flowers, 128;
  the banyan tree, etc., 148;
  ferns, 151, 184;
  the moon-flower, 213;
  the silk-cotton-tree, 229;
  the vegetation of New Providence, Bahamas, 231.

Florida, failure of Hernando de Soto's expedition to, 50;
  given to the English in exchange for Cuba, 60.

Foreign residents, 20.

Forests, Cuban, 4, 104.

Fossils of prehistoric fauna, 6;
  of human remains, 14.

France wishes to purchase Cuba, 77.

French Revolution, effects of the, upon the West Indies, 64;
  remarks upon the, 271.

French settlers, persuade the Cubans to enlarge their sugar plantations, 4;
  large emigration of, in 1765, 61;
  they introduce the art of apiculture, 61.

Fruits of Cuba, 4; oranges, bananas, etc., 154.

Funeral rites, 200.


G.

GALEGOS, immigration into Cuba of, 17 (in note).

_Galleria_, the, 145.

Gambling in Cuba, 144.

Game, prehistoric, 6.

Garcia, Manuel, the brigand, 101.

Genoa, the birthplace of Columbus, 238;
  description and appearance of, 247;
  the trade of, 255.

Genoese, the, 252;
  the piety of the, 253.

Ghosts, Cuban belief in, 198.

Gomez, Maximo, Commander-in-Chief of the rebel forces, 93;
  he retires to San Domingo, 95.

Government of Cuba, 74 (in note);
  the bad, 77;
  its backwardness, 115.

Governors, magnificence of the, 54;
  their rapacity, 74.

Grant's Town, 228.

"Green snake," the, 232.

_Grenada Gazette_, 266, 271.

Guajiros, manners and customs of the, 162;
  their supposed relationship with our own costers, 165.

Guanajay, 219.

Guava jelly, 217.


H.

HASKETT, MR ELIAS, Governor of the Bahamas, 267.

Hatuei, the Cacique, bravery of, 15 (in note).

Havana, the city of, society in, 23;
  founded by Diego Velasquez in 1519, 49;
  obtains civic rights under Las Casas, 50;
  burnt by the buccaneers in 1528, 53;
  rebuilt by Hernando de Soto, 53;
  sacked afresh by the buccaneers, 54;
  attacked by the Dutch under Admiral Jolls, who is repulsed, 54;
  first theatre opened in, 56;
  attacked and taken by the English under the Duke of Albemarle, 1762, 60;
  Tacon rebuilds part of the town, 72;
  Diego Velasquez calls Havana "La llave del Nuevo Mondo," 121 (in note);
  view of the town from the harbour, 121;
  the houses of, 123;
  the Cerro, 125;
  aristocracy of, 126;
  cathedral, churches, promenades, gardens, streets, etc., 126;
  mode of shopping in, 127;
  the Botanical Gardens, 127;
  eventide in, 129;
  coaches, 131;
  the churches, 132;
  charitable institutions, 137;
  the beggars of, 137;
  the Carnival, 139.

Havana University established in 1721, 18;
  several chairs created by Las Casas, 19;
  almost entirely governed by Cubans, 112.

Heredia, José Maria, Cuba's greatest poet, 184.

Holy Week in Santiago, 181.

Horses, scarcity of, in Cuba, 55.

Hotels in Matanzas, the, 152.

Houses of Havana, the, 123; of Matanzas,
157.

Howe, Lord, Governor of Barbadoes, 266.

Hurricanes, 2 (in note).


I.

IGUANA, the harmless but hideous, 9;
  roast, 217.

Indian and Colonial Exhibition, 257.

Indigo, 4.

Inhabitants, earliest, 14.

Inquisition, or Holy Office, first introduced into Cuba, 18;
  used against State prisoners, 58.

Insects, disagreeable, 8; several insects first introduced
   into Europe from Cuba, 8;
  the cucullo, 8;
  mosquitoes, 126.

Institutions, charitable, 137.


J.

JAMAICA, 275; an earthquake, 276.

Jesuits, the education given by the, 19;
  persecution of the, 34;
  their first appearance in Cuba, 57.

Jewellery, quantity of, in Havana, 125.

Jews, the, in Cuba, 27.

Junta, Gran, in New York, 98;
  excites the Americans against Weyler's atrocities, 117.


L.

LANGUAGE of the early natives, 15.

Las Casas, aid given to education by, 18;
  his good government, 50.

Las Casas, Don Luis, the good administration of, 63.

_Leyes de Indias, Las_, 18, 31.

Litterateurs of Cuba, 184.

Lizards, variety of, 9.

Louisiana, expedition to, under O'Reilly, 61.

Lowther, Mr, Governor of Barbadoes, 267.


M.

MACEO, cruelty of, 101;
  his character and appearance, 110;
  doubts as to whether he is shot, 111.

Mahogany, a once valuable product, 4.

"Maine" disaster, the, 120.

Maize, always been a necessity of life, 4.

Mangoes, 4.

Mantis, 207.

Marco Polo, 38.

Marianao, 148.

Matanzas taken by the English in 1762, 60;
  its foundation and name, 152;
  "The Golden Lion," 152;
  description of M., 157;
  its attractions, 158;
  the Yumurri Valley, 159.

Mayas, importation into Cuba of, to take the place of coolie labour, 37.

Merced, 132; the curious picture in the, 135;
  its orchestra, 138.

Mexico, the Revolution in, 68.

Milanes, the poet, 186.

Monserrat, condition of the island of, in
the 17th century, 260.

Moon-flower, the, 213.

Morgan, Henry, the Welsh buccaneer, 52.

Morro Castle, 121.

Mosquitos, swarms of, 126.

Mountains of Cuba, 2;
  unhealthy condition of the mountain regions, 4.

Music, Cuban, 190.


N.

NASSAU, the city of, 226;
  Grant's Town, 228;
  the silk-cotton-tree, 229;
  its magnificent bay, 233.

Natives, language of the, at the time of Columbus, 15;
  their appearance and manners of life, 15;
  extermination of the, 15 (in note);
  modesty of the native ladies, 39;
  condition of the, at the time of the discovery, 44;
  their affinity with the natives of the neighbouring
   islands and the mainland, 44;
  their number, 45;
  their quiet life, 45;
  and religion, 46;
  Spanish cruelty to the, 47;
  their few descendants, 48;
  reduced to slavery, 49.

Narvaez starts from Santiago for Yucatan, 180.

Negroes introduced to replace the aborigines, 27;
  the free blacks, 35;
  their liking for gaudy dresses, 35;
  in church, 35;
  their love of music, 36;
  rebellion of the, 64;
  barbaric state of the rebel negroes, 109;
  how the blacks enjoy themselves during the Carnival in Havana, 140;
  piety of the, 142;
  the n. at the opera, 142;
  their superstitions, 193;
  the n. of the Bahamas, 224;
  their cleanly habits, 226;
  the n. of Monserrat, 261.

Nelson, marriage of Lord, 277.

New Providence, Bahamas, 225;
  a contrast after Cuba, 226;
  its vegetation, 231;
  the flatness of the island, 233;
  the heavy dews, 236.

Newspapers, the, of Cuba, 189.


O.

OBI, the worship of, 193;
  strange rites of, 194.

Ojo del Toro, Mountain of, 2.

Oranges, 4.

O'Reilly, Marshal, his expedition to Louisiana, 62.


P.

PALMA, SEÑOR THOMASO ESTRADO,
President of the Gran Junta in New York, 98.

Palm-trees, 205.

_Patria, La_, the Revolutionary journal, 98.

Payrete Theatre, the, 141.

Petition to the Queen-Regent of Spain, 119.

Philip II., laws framed by, 18;
  fortifies Cuba, 54.

Philippe, Louis, wishes to buy Cuba, 77.

Pico Turquino, Mountain, 3.

Pine-apple, the, 4;
  a plantation, 233.

Pinos, La Isla dos, a health resort, 5 and 11.

Plantations, or Haciendas, backward state of the, 174;
  description of a, 205.

Population, sparse, in mountain regions, 4;
  early inhabitants, 14;
  present, 16;
  the rural, 176.

Prim, General, proposes to sell Cuba to the U.S., 88;
  assassination of, 90.

Procession, a religious, 169.

Propaganda, the archives of the, 258.

Puentes Grandes, 149.

Puerto Principe, founded by Diego Velasquez, 49;
  description of, 192.

Punta, La, the fortress, 121.


Q.

QUESADA, MANUEL DE, brother-in-law to Cespedes, elected
 Commander-in-Chief of the insurgent army, 87.

Quinsai, the imaginery city, 40.


R.

RAILWAYS, mainly in British hands, 26;
  Cuban, 150.

Rainy season, 2 (in note).

Rebellion, the Cuban, real commencement of the movement, 64;
  first steps towards open, 75;
  open revolt under Cespedes, 82;
  the holder of the funds decamps, 84;
  want of money and arms, 84;
  rebels worsted at Bayamo, 85;
  the horrors which resulted, 85;
  tragic death of Cespedes, 91;
  Maximo Gomez elected Commander-in-Chief, 93;
  the Treaty of Zanjou, 94;
  abstention of the towns from taking part in the, 100;
  organization of the, 101;
  an encampment, 107.

Rebels, cruelty of the, 101;
  number and organization of the, 101;
  amusements of the, 109;
  their priests, 109.

_Reconcentrados_, the miserable lot of the, 108.

Religion, insincerity of the Cubans in their, 24;
  present religious awakening, 24;
  toleration, 26;
  religion and slavery, 34;
  Catholicism in Cuba, 56;
  ceremonies of the Church, 57;
  an Archbishopric created, 58;
  reaction in favour of, 138;
  a procession, 169;
  state of, in Monserrat, 260.

Reptiles: the red asp, 7;
  scorpions, 7;
  cure for the bite of a Cuban scorpion, 7.

Republic, the Cuban, proclaimed by, and Cespedes elected President, 87;
  send envoys to England, France, and the United States, 87;
  tragic death of Cespedes, 91;
  Don Cisneros y Bétancourt elected President, 93;
  Don Francisco Aquelera, third President, 93;
  the Treaty of Zanjou, 94;
  the Republican Parliament dissolved in 1879, 95.

Rincon, 151.

Rosario waterfalls, 6.


S.

SAN DOMINGO, revolt of the negroes in, 63.

San Francisco, the church of, 136.

San Salvador, first sighted by Columbus, 38.

Santiago, the province of, earthquakes in, 3;
  healthiest half of the island, 11.

Santiago de Cuba, founded by Diego Velasquez in 1516, 49;
  its bay, 178;
  most historical city in the island, 180;
  the cathedral, 181;
  Holy Week in, 181;
  a literary centre, 184.

Santoveneo, the late Countess of, 125.

Secret societies formed, 67;
  branches in America, 98.

Shea, Sir Ambrose, Governor of the Bahamas, 232.

Shopping in Havana, mode of, 127.

Sierra de Cobre, 3.

Sierra Maestra, 1;
  resemblance to Genoese Riviera, 2;
  its peaks, 2.

Silk-cotton-tree, the, 229.

Slaves, female, 28;
  the trade, 29;
  the first steps towards their emancipation, and its
   horrible consequences, 29;
  continued sale of, notwithstanding the law, 30;
  their idea of freedom, 30;
  laws to protect the, 31;
  inhuman torture of, 32;
  the household slaves, 33;
  their long hours of labour, 34;
  slavery and religion, 34;
  slavery replaced by coolie labour, 37;
  large importation of, 73;
  an arrangement for freeing them, 82;
  laws against them, 261;
  advertisements for the sale of, 271;
  good treatment of the, 270.

Society, Cuban, 23.

Sores, Jacob, the adventures of, 53.

Soto, Hernando de, his ill-fated expedition to Florida, 50;
  he rebuilds Havana, 53.

Spain aids the American revolutionists, 62;
  mistaken policy of, with regard to Cuba, 66;
  her revolting colonies, 67;
  revolution in S., 90;
  maladministration of, in Cuba, 112.

Spaniards in the island, 17;
  bigotry of, 18;
  S. and Cubans compared, 18;
  their way of living, 25;
  their cruelty, 47;
  hatred in which they were held in the West Indies, 51;
  dissipation of the Spanish landowners, 175.

Springs, fresh, 6.

Stories of the Obi, strange, 194.

Sucking-pig, the universal love of, 217.

Sugar, French colonists persuade greater growth of, 4;
  sugar canes take the place of coffee, 69;
  depreciation in value of, 114;
  backward state of the plantations, 174;
  description of a s. plantation, 208;
  how sugar is made, 211.

Superstitions, Cuban, 193.


T.

TACON, the good administration of, 72.

Tacon, Theatre, the orchestra of the, 36;
  the Carnival ball at the, 140;
  description of the, 142;
  great singers at the, 143.

Theatres in the West Indies, 274.

Tobacco, one of the chief products, 3;
  some of the best plantations in British hands, 26;
  the trade in a bad state, 114;
  the story of, 218;
  Cuban, 219;
  the tobacco industry, 221.

Tom-tom, the, 36.

Torrecillas Theatre, the, 144.

Tortoise-hunting, 8.

Tortuga, Island of, the headquarters of the buccaneers, 52.

Torture of slaves, inhuman, 32.

Trinidad de Cuba, founded by Diego Velasquez in 1513, 171;
  the starting place of Cortez on his expedition to Mexico, 171.

Turquino, the highest point in Cuba, 178.

Twilight, no, in Cuban latitudes, 174.


U.

UNITED STATES, the, wish to annex Cuba by purchase, 78;
  will not recognise the Cuban Republic, 88;
  another proposal for the purchase of the island, 88;
  indignation in, over the "Virginius" affair, 89;
  importance of Cuba to the, 95;
  her trade with Cuba, 97, 113.

University of Havana established in 1721, 18;
  several chairs created by Las Casas, 19;
  almost entirely governed by Cubans, 112.


V.

VALDES, GABRIEL DE LA CONCEPCION, the mulatto poet, and his works, 186.

Varona, Don Enrique Jose, editor of _La Patria_, 98.

Vegetation of Cuba, 104.

Velasquez, Diego, sent to Cuba, 49;
  founds Havana, Santiago, and other towns, 49;
  impressed by the harbour of Havana, 121 (in note).

Villa Clara, 192.

"Virginius," affair of the, 89.

Volante, first appearance of the, 55;
  how it looked, 131.

_Vomito nigro_, the deadly, 10;
  whites attacked by, 104.


W.

WATERFALLS, the Rosario, 6.

West Indies, general condition of the, during the 17th century, 260;
  different Governors of the, 266.

Weyler, General, Marquis of Tenerife, administration of, 116.


Y.

YAMS, 4.

Yellow fever, said to have first appeared in 1761: the
   quickness with which its victims succumb, 12;
  statistics of, 103 (in note).

Yumurri Valley, the, 159.


Z.

ZAMBRANA, RAMON, the poet, 188.

Zanjou, Treaty of, 94.

[Illustration: Map of Cuba]


Etext transcriber's typgraphical corrections made:

caligraphy=>calligraphy

ansado=asado


FOOTNOTES:

[1] The island of Cuba lies between the Caribbean Sea on the S., and the
Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of Florida, and Bahama Channel on the N., being
nearly equidistant from the peninsulas of Yucatan and Florida and the
islands of Hayti and Jamaica. It stretches in N. lat. from 19° 50' to
23° 9', and in W. long. from 74° 8' to 84° 158'. The rainfall at Havana
is said to be 92.68 inches, or more than double that of the opposite
coast of Florida. The atmospheric tendencies are less violent than in
the other islands. Hurricanes are frequent, but not so terrible as
elsewhere in the same zone. However, one of them, in October 1846,
destroyed a third of Havana, while hundreds were killed and thousands
injured. The north wind blows with more or less strength throughout the
entire winter months. In summer, when the sun is at its zenith,
torrential rains, lasting for days at a time, are frequent. Hail is
rare, but, once or twice in this century, snow has fallen on the upper
plateaus of the Sierra Maestra. According to the proverbial "oldest
inhabitant," the rainfall has considerably diminished of late years
through the burning down of some of the forests in the central district
of the island. It has also been observed that in the past twenty-five
years the rainy season begins much later than it did in the good old
times--in June instead of April; and ends earlier--in July instead of in
October.

[2] The American Racoon--_Procyon lotor_.

[3] The rainfall of Havana is said to be 92.68 ins., more than double
that of the opposite part of Florida. Very heavy, and in certain
districts, dangerous dews, fall immediately after sunset. The
thunderstorms are of tremendous violence, the lightning being often so
incessant as to give quite a steady light.

[4] Between the years 1512-15 the whole island had been explored, and
the aborigines had already disappeared. The poor, timid, harmless
creatures offered no resistance to their conquerors. One chief alone,
the Cacique Hatuei, tried to escape. He refused baptism lest it might
lead to his being condemned to spend eternity in heaven, in the company
of his pious persecutors, who consequently tormented him to death. This
anecdote, related as it is by the Spaniards themselves, gives the
measure of their conception of Christian charity. There are, however,
two sides to every question, and I remember to have read in a very old
Spanish work, on the West Indies, an assertion that the aborigines of
Cuba were afflicted with a certain fell disease which rendered their
disappearance imperative. This may account for the persistence with
which their extermination was carried out, and also for the recorded
fact that in 1554 a number of native families were brought to Havana,
and isolated in a Lazaretto built for their reception near Guanabacoa.

[5] Statistics of Cuban population are very unreliable. The prolonged
rebellion, frequent epidemics and other causes have considerably
diminished the number of inhabitants, especially of late years.
Probably, the actual population does not exceed 1,300,000. According to
Eliseé Reclus, in his splendid _Universal Geography_ (admirably
translated into English, and published by Messrs Virtue & Co.), "Despite
revolutions, wars, and epidemics, the population of Cuba has increased
at least sixfold since the beginning of the last century. Enforced
immigration of whites, negroes, Chinese and Mayas has ceased, and free
immigration is now encouraged by grants of land. But independently of
this movement, there is considerable natural increase by the excess of
births over deaths. In time of peace, the annual increase may be
estimated at from 15,000 to 20,000, a rate according to which the whole
population might be doubled in fifty years. It rose from 600,000 in
1811, and 1,000,000 in 1841, to 1,521,000 in 1887 (last census), and may
now (1891) be estimated at 1,600,000." As to the coloured population, it
is estimated as amounting to between 600,000 and 700,000 all told, but I
very much doubt if it at present reaches anything like that figure,
owing to the number of deaths from starvation, epidemic, etc., which
have occurred during the last ten years, and the cessation of all
coloured immigration into the country.

[6] Since the abolition of slavery, some few Galegos have emigrated from
Spain, mainly to seek employment in the houses of the wealthy. It may
interest the reader to know that the peasantry of Galicia have for many
ages supplied Spain and Portugal with their best domestic servants. They
are an honest and frugal race, faithful to their employers, and
excellent cooks to boot. They are much sought after in Cuba, where they
obtain higher wages than they can earn in the Peninsula.

[7] According to Las Casas and Herrera, the point first touched by
Columbus was situated at the extreme east of the island, at Baracoa.
Navarreto, on the other hand, declares that Columbus landed at the bay
of Nipe; and Washington Irving is of opinion that it was at Nuevitas,
the port of Puerto Principe. Cuba has been called Fernandina, Santiago,
and Ave-Maria Alfa y Omego, but its original native name of Cubican or
Cuba has alone been retained.

[8] Unfortunately, when we come to examine the matter closely, we soon
discover that similar atrocities have always accompanied discoveries of
new lands and peoples. The swarming native populations of North and
South America have nearly all disappeared, and not precisely on account
of an advancing civilization. The unhappy aborigines of Africa have
suffered a similar fate.

[9] Perhaps it were as well if I here remind the reader that Cuba is
ruled by a Governor or Captain-General, whose despotic authority is
derived directly from the Crown. He is supreme head of the island's
civil, military, and ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and is, surrounded by
a crowd of dependents of every degree, beginning with thirty-four
lieutenant-governors, who preside over as many cantons or divisions of
the island, each of whom, in his turn has a host of underlings. Judicial
affairs are in the hands of the "Real Audienca Pretorat or Superine
Court." The judicial districts, of which there are twenty-six, are
presided over by an Alcalde or Mayor, who has a numerous staff of
salaried satellites. The Maritime division of Cuba is subject to a
Commander-General, who is at the head of five stations with centres at
Havana, Trinidad, San Juan de los Remedios, Matanzos, and Santiago de
Cuba. As almost every member of this army of functionaries is Spanish
born, and as the Yankees would express it, "on the mash," some idea may
be conceived of the waste of public money in the way of salaries, paid
to men who, more often than not, have no duties to perform. But it is
quite untrue to assert that no Cubans "need apply" when a vacancy occurs
in this multitudinous burocracy. Quite the contrary. Many Cubans are in
the civil service of the island, but they are powerless to reform
abuses, and frequently are even less scrupulous than the Spaniards.

[10] The price offered was £40,000,000. The Yara rebellion, which broke
out in 1868, cost Spain over 100,000 men, and certainly not less than
£40,000,000, the sum named for the purchase of the island by the United
States.

[11] In an exceedingly interesting letter from the New York
correspondent of the _Pall Mall Gazette_, dated May 24th, I found the
following valuable statistics on the subject of epidemics in Cuba:--

"The dread of yellow fever might reasonably have discouraged the
enlistment of volunteers, who could foresee that they would be needed in
Cuba during the rainy season, but the offers and applications show that
the Government could take into the service to-morrow 500,000 men,
instead of the 125,000 already called, if it should consent to accept
them. The mortality reports of the Spanish army are appalling, but
yellow fever has not been the most deadly of the diseases with which the
Spanish soldiers have contended. The number of deaths in the military
hospitals on the island last year was 32,534, and of the 30,000 sick men
sent back to Spain at least 10 per cent. must have died, for many of
them were beyond cure. The reported deaths were distributed as follows,
in round numbers: Typhoid fever and dysentery, 14,500; malarial fever,
7000; yellow fever, 6000; other diseases, 5000. And 2583 persons died of
small-pox in Havana. But the resident inspector of our Marine Hospital
Bureau (which is a kind of National Board of Health) reports that only
one of the five large military hospitals in Havana is in good sanitary
condition; the others are little better than pest-houses, and one of
them is characterised by the inspector as 'the filthiest building in the
city.' The Spanish soldiers have been sacrificed to the greed and
corruption of their commanders and the prevailing mediæval ignorance of
sanitation.

In the recent official indictments of Spanish misrule in Cuba, scarcely
anything has been said about the perpetual menace of yellow fever
infection to which this country has been subjected, and to the enormous
actual cost in the United States of fever epidemics, the seeds of which
were introduced from the island. Of late years all our yellow fever
epidemics have come from Cuba, and the infection has entered our
Southern States in spite of the most elaborate precautions and defences.
Many years ago the disease was sometimes brought from Vera Cruz; but
Mexico, under the effective and progressive rule of Diaz, has cleansed
her infected ports, and they are no longer to be feared. An epidemic of
this fever on our southern seaboard, even if it be of short duration and
attended by slight mortality, causes very great alarm--because the
ravages of memorable visitations are recalled by the people--and
paralyses commerce and industry throughout a wide area. The actual cost
of such an epidemic may be 100,000,000 dols. The epidemic of last year
entailed a loss of a third or a half of that sum. No relief can be
expected so long as the island shall suffer under Spanish misrule. But
now we may look forward with confidence to the time, not far distant,
when this nuisance shall be abated."

[12] According to the best authorities, Diego Valasquez, the Conqueror
of Cuba, founded the famous city of San Christobal de la Habana in 1519,
and being immensely impressed by the width and depth of the harbour, and
its generally favourable position for trade purposes, he called it _la
llave del Nuevo Mondo_, the key to the New World.

[13] See on this subject the following works: (1) _Los restos de Colon_,
per Don José Manuel de Echeverry, Santander, 1878; (2) _Cristofero
Colombo e San Domingo_, per L. T. Belgrano, Genova, 1879; (3) _Los
Restos de Cristobal Colon_, by Tejera, Santo Domingo, 1879; (4) _Los
restos de Colon_, Emiliano Tejera, Madrid, 1878.

[14] The Tacon Theatre was built in 1830 by a man who made his fortune
selling fish. Having saved up a large sum, he invested it in land, and
built the first market upon the site, and finally, as an act of
gratitude to his fellow-citizens for having assisted him in making some
millions of dollars, he built them their largest theatre.

[15] In a great many parts of the Eastern Province, cattle are used as
horses.

[16] Literally God's Baby.

[17] Exhibited by the writer in the West Indian Court of the Colonial
Exhibition.

[18] From notes made some years ago of the conversation in question.

[19] The two other important Cuban cities which I did not visit are
Cardenas, which is known as the American city, and which is situated
immediately on the seaboard, and has a population of about 20,000
inhabitants, and Villa Clara, which is situated on Jagua Bay, a noble
expanse of water which could easily accommodate and shelter half the
fleets of Europe. Both these cities are remarkably well drained and
prosperous, and give evidence at every turn that they are in the hands
of an enterprising and energetic people. Between the two towns there
must be between five and ten thousand residents, all of whom are engaged
in commerce.

[20] Those who wish to obtain a more perfect knowledge of tobacco and
its cultivation will do well to read the two exhaustive chapters on the
subject, in "Cuba with Pen and Pencil," by Samuel Hazzard, by far the
best book ever written on Cuba.

[21] Then, in all probability, he witnessed the coronation of the Doge
Paul of Novi, a dyer who certainly did business with his father, and
lived in the same neighbourhood. The romantic and tragic history of this
Doge recalls that of Marino Faliero. Deposed by the mob, he was
decapitated.

[22] This Appendix and the following one respectively appeared in
another and less elaborate form in the _National Review_ and the
_Antiquary_, and are reproduced here, with additional matter, by the
courteous consent of the editors of these reviews.--R. D.





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