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Title: Rambles in Cuba
Author: Anonymous
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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                           RAMBLES IN CUBA.

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                               NEW YORK:
              _Carleton, Publisher, Madison Square._
                       LONDON: S. LOW, SON & CO.

      Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1870, by

                          GEORGE W. CARLETON,

    In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States
                for the Southern District of New York.

                            Stereotyped at
                 THE WOMEN’S PRINTING HOUSE,
                      Eighth Street and Avenue A,
                               New York.




 In the Tropics--First View of Havana--Entering the
 Bay--Surrounded--Landed--A Street in Havana--“Queen’s Hotel”--A
 Breakfast--The Harbor--The Coolies--The Plaza de Armas--Cuban Women--A
 Volante--Fine Avenues--A Priest--Shopping.....7


 Celebrating a Victory--General Serrano--A Cuban Sacristan--His View
 of Mary Magdalene--Sunday--The Theatre de Tacon--General Serrano’s
 Wife--A “Norther”--The Fish Market--Brilliancy of the Fish--A
 Venerable Cosmopolite--The Slaves--The Chain Gang--The Cerro--A
 Count’s Country-house--No Twilight--Oranges--Polyglot Dinner--Lottery


 Drive to the Sea-shore--Evening Boat-ride--Splendor of the
 Waters--Campo del Marte--Low Mass--The “Madonna”--Beautiful
 Children--Church of San Filipo--Sacred Names--The Mount of
 Jesus--Corruption of the Clergy--Cuba Misrepresented in Books--Growing
 “used to it”--A Creole--Cascarilla--Warm Weather--The Cortina.....30


 Departing Guests--The Varieties--On Board, but not Gone--No
 Chimneys--Dog-Pails--Horses’ Tails--Tall Negroes--Ecclesiastical
 Torchlight Procession--Watchmen--Leaving Havana--In the
 Country--Stopped--Seeking a Breakfast--A Cuban Village--A Primitive
 Well--A Peculiar Palm--Guiness--Our Quarters therein.....45


 A Palm-grove--A Planter’s Household--Coolies as compared with
 Negroes--Anecdotes of Coolies--Robbers--Heterogeneous Dinner--Creole


 “Nice pretty House in the Country”--Wrong Side of the Horse--Discovery
 in Mental Photography--Visit to the Country-house--Not to be
 obtained--Contrast of Palms and Bamboos--The Youth of Tropical
 Nature--A Remarkable Phenomenon--House of the Marquis of V---- --
 “Le Armistad”--Burial of an Officer’s Child--A Shock--“Cafetal”--“La
 Providencia”--A Sugar Plantation--The “Royal Highway”--A Grand


 It Rains--The Effect--No Miserere--Guirappa-seeking--A
 Skeleton Horse--B----’s Pantomimes--A Day More--The Bells of
 Guiness--Market Day--An Invitation--Another Plantation--A Remarkable
 Tree--Palm-Sunday--A Sundayless World--Dreamland--I Didn’t
 Smoke--Cushioned Heads.....84


 Dear old Mr. R---- -- Chess and Whist and Life--Good Friday--A
 Religious Procession--The Silence of the Town--The Miserere--To
 Matanzas--Company in the Cave--Father M----’s approach to
 Matanzas--The Bay--Valley of the Yumuri--The Plaza--The Dominica--The
 Ensor House--Easter Sunday--The Paseo--Steamer to Havana--A Night on
 Board--“Queen’s Hotel”--Tricks on a Travelling Author--Theft on the


 A Discovery for the Benefit of Smugglers--The Steamer Karnak--Adieu,
 Cuba!--An English Ship--Nassau--The Negro Custom-officer--English
 Hotel--An Ex-President--What the Island is and has--The Negro
 Element--The “Eastern Road”--The Air--The Beau Monde--Turtle


 The Military Church--The Zouave Costume--Sunday come again--Twilight
 Rambles--The Kirk--Miscegenation--A Private Misery--The Old Fort--Lazy
 Negroes--Wrecking--The Town Library--Shopping--The Zouave Band--The
 Search for Coolness--The Government House--Silver Key--Buying
 Shellwork--Nassau grows Purgatorial--Farewell to Nassau.....124




     _In the Tropics--First View of Havana--Entering the
     Bay--Surrounded--Landed--A Street in Havana--“Queen’s Hotel”--A
     Breakfast--The Harbor--The Coolies--The Plaza de Armas--Cuban
     Women--A Volante--Fine Avenues--A Priest--Shopping._

HAVANA, March 1, 18--.

The first dawn of day found me already on deck, to assure myself we had
really arrived at the shores of a tropical-world.

I was not disenchanted. A mist had possessed, like a dream, the blue
quiet of the entire bay, half dissolving its masts and sails, softening
the picturesque battlements of Morro Castle, throwing over the walls,
domes, and spires of the city an air of hoary distance so complete that
I half fancied those solitary palm-trees waved their arms over some city
half-buried in the mirage of deserts, or the pages of some mediæval

But the dream departs, and so must we. Stirring music from the two
men-of-war lying at anchor unite with the first sounds from the long,
low barracks close by, and with the signal guns from the Morro, to say
that the sun is risen, and consequently we may go on shore.

First comes the pilot,--a stout Spaniard in supernaturally white
trousers and inexplicably thick overcoat. He sits under the awning of
his boat, and is rowed by twelve bronze, attenuated creoles, dressed in
wide-mouthed jackets, bare feet, much hair,--a few wearing turbans.

The steps are lowered; the pilot comes on deck, says good-morning to the
captain, in dislocated English, and goes forward to his duty.

We make the difficult entrance of the bay, to find ourselves assailed by
every species of small craft. All have awnings, are rowed by negroes,
black to hyperbole (B---- says coal would make a white mark on them), or
by coolies, or creoles; and all are importuning us, with frantic
gestures, imploring or menacing looks, bad Spanish or worse English, to
let them carry us ashore.

Here come boats laden with oranges, or shells, corals, and sponges
for sale; there a pocket edition of a steamboat brings the
health-officer,--without whose inspection no one can come here, even for
his health,--and presently a more elegantly ornamented boat, with
oarsmen in livery, brings the Captain-General’s aid-de-camp, dressed as
if freshly emerged from a Paris bandbox, and anxiously inquiring if
there is news from Spain. Captain ---- replies that there is a victory
over the Moors, and that he brings important dispatches from the Spanish
minister at Washington, which he must deliver in person. Therewith he
accompanies the officer to the Government House, the bundle of documents
under his arm.

Meanwhile the passengers are in great perplexity what hotel to go to,
and I am beginning to feel that sense of desolation and isolation so
natural to a stranger in a strange land, when B---- appears, bringing a
gentleman with a kindly English face, and introduces Mr. S----. At once
we are at home and in safe hands. His boat waits for us. In five minutes
we are in the Custom House to get a permit in exchange for our passports
(for both an enormous fee is demanded), and to await the luggage. This
is soon ranged on great tables before us; all the trunks are opened at
once; travellers, servants, Spaniards, negroes, anybody, as well as the
officials, can critically inspect the mysteries of ladies’ linen and

The hotel being distant but a block, we walk in the street. A Cuban lady
would as soon think of walking a rope, and would do it as well.

Do not figure to yourself Broadway: when I talk of a street in Havana, I
mean a fissure; an opening, in extremely straitened circumstances,
between two stone walls, which the Cubans, being diminutive people, are
able to get through. The sidewalks are in proportion. By dint of
cautious and careful attention to the exigencies of my centre of
gravity, I was able much of the time to get a foothold on the outer
edge of them, while my crinoline, repulsed by the wall on one side,
attracted in self-defence Mr. S----, who walked down in the street on
the other.

We have not even time to glance at the inconceivable novelties on every
hand, for “Queen’s Hotel”, the first English sign we have seen, is here
over the arched gateway. We walk through an open passage leading to the
court, and up the marble steps to an elegant saloon. This hotel, like
every other in the city, is overflowing; so we are obliged to take, for
a few days, “the room behind the curtain;” that is, one end of the
parlor, with only a calico wall between our prospective sleep and the
rows--not groups--of English, Irish, French, but mostly American guests.
I say rows, because the chairs here are always placed in two straight
lines in front of the long open windows, thus bringing their occupants
in a perpetual _vis-à-vis_.

Meantime, Creole and negro waiters are bringing in breakfast to the
adjoining room, which, is partitioned from the airy courtyard only by
high arches and pillars. Every thing looks temptingly fresh and
clean,--quite the reverse of all we have heard of the filth and bad
cooking of Cuba. Fried fruits in great variety, numerous mosaics from
the animal, vegetable, and I know not what kingdoms of nature, of which
I can only remember the name _picadille_, vary the bill of fare. _Café
au lait_ comes in after breakfast is over.

_Night._--All day guns have been firing, flags flying from balconies,
windows, and housetops, and endless preparations for a grand
illumination to-night in honor of the victory.

This afternoon we took the steam ferry across the bay, to get a view of
the harbor decked with its flags, and to see the sugar storehouses on
the other shore.

This is our first sight of coolies in native costume and usual Cuban
occupation. They look not only small, but weak, and extremely feminine
in face and form. They are mostly naked to the waist, where some sort of
a sash confines short loose trousers, and, in the boys, nothing at all.
The faces, more cheerful and adroit in expression than those of the
negroes, are of a brown reddish hue, as if the light came upon them from
a bright copper sun.

To-night we walked to the Plaza de Armas. It is filled with trees, four
of them palms, and with blooming flowers, mostly large, brilliant,
odorless, and unknown to me. During all this time, the band played
sweetly from the opera of Lucia de Lammermoor, and swarthy, moustached
and cigared men, and gaudily-dressed and ill-walking ladies, promenaded
round and round the walks, while their carriages waited outside the

How opaque are these faces! The outside is well enough, admirably
chiselled and toned, but it does not hint of anything behind. They too
often lack the only beautiful features that can be in a man’s
face,--intellect and sensibility. I wonder where Cuban people keep their
souls! Yet for all that, this is a scene of enchantment,--the intense
light in those stars, buried so deep in the intense blue; the dazzling
brightness of the vertical moon, that makes everybody walk upon his own
shadow; the pure breeze, coming fresh from over the sea; the many lights
from the palace balconies, revealing high, open windows, and through
them gay forms and foreign aspects.

_Friday, March 2._--This morning stayed in my room to rest, for I have
commenced with too large doses of the tropics. But who can rest in the
midst of thunderings like these,--guns, bands of music, shouts of
rejoicing? I hope the Spaniards will not gain any more victories over
the Moors until I get away from them.

This evening my first ride in a volante. Cuba is more Spanish than Spain
itself: for here we have the quaint, the characteristic Spain; the Spain
as it was when Don Quixote created it and was created by it; the Spain
isolated; the Spain which Paris and European civilization have little
touched or tainted; the Spain which, in want of religion, has the
absence of progression. But these grotesque volantes! They strike me as
something saved whole out of the general change and wreck of the past.
They consist of two long shafts, with a little low-seated and low-topped
kind of a _tête-à-tête_ at one end, which usually contains three bright,
gauzy clouds, enveloping three plump, dark-eyed ladies in bare head,
neck, and arms,--the youngest and prettiest always between and a little
in front of the other two. At the other end of the shafts is fastened a
minute horse; his tail is carefully braided, and tied with a string to
the left side of the saddle, upon which sits, the postillion, in boots
and livery. Sometimes a second horse is added, upon which the postillion
sits to guide the first; but this is superfluous, and merely, like the
rich mountings of silver on the horse and volante, to display the wealth
of the owner.

The gait of these horses is peculiar and indescribable. It is not a
trot, nor a pace, nor a canter, but a kind of combination of all, and
disdainful avoidance of each. It is a parody on quadrupedal
peripatetics. They are born to it. It is hereditary. It never entered
into the head--or rather feet--of a Cuban Rozinante, that there are
horses in the world not orthodox in this mode of locomotion. It gives
the rider, too, the most ridiculous motion imaginable,--as if the saddle
were a cushion, but a pin-cushion, with the pins stuck the wrong way.

Mr. S----, who accompanied us, said, on our return, that, when paying
the _callisero_, he asked him if he had an _escudo_ in change. “Oh,
yes!” said the darkey, and took the coin out of his ear.

We drove at once past the walls of the city, upon the _Paseo de Isabel
Segunda_ and the _Paseo Tacon_,--said to be the finest avenues in this
hemisphere,--with their five or six rows of magnificent palms, their
smooth, broad roads, statues, fountains, and gardens, and, far in the
distance, the luxurious plains, the graceful green slopes of hills and
mountains, the wonderfully tall, solitary palms and cocoa-trees,
standing like imposing sentinels to keep the voluptuous vegetation from
running riot, and over all the doting sunlight bathing its pet island in
a never-ending tide of fervor.

No wonder these people love gay hues, paint their houses in the
brightest colors, wear dresses and carry umbrellas dyed in rainbows; for
nature sets the example of brilliancy everywhere. The phosphoric waters
surrounding the island reply to every touch, every question, of oar,
with “colors dipped in heaven.” Even the smallest fishes have, almost
without exception, selected their scaly wardrobes from prismatic

Last evening a game of whist, with a Catholic priest to complete the
party. He is a charming, accomplished Irishman; is more clever at
repartee, and more graceful in compliment, than any man I ever saw. What
infinitely delicate things he said! and all with as much feeling as if
he had learned both flattery and feeling in courts, instead of
catechisms. But he is so extravagantly fond of the game, and scolded
B---- so tempestuously, yet politely, for little mistakes, that I was
thankful to have the indulgent face of Mr. S---- for partner, instead of
that of the charming priest. He deplores the religious condition of
Cuba, and ridicules every thing else in it; shrugs his shoulders
sententiously at all these patriotic ebullitions, and declares that
volantes are just fit to carry chickens in. I even heard him, yesterday,
at breakfast, imitating the sing-song tone of the Cuban priests in their
masses, the comical expression of his face equalling the irresistibly
funny intonations of his voice.

_Saturday evening, March 3d._--A shopping excursion, with Mr. S---- for
guide and interpreter. In some shops they knew a little French, but less
English. I was obliged to use French for articles of attire which Mr.
S---- could not manage in Spanish, and, among us all--three or four
clerks usually looking on to help and laugh--I think a linguistical hash
was concocted as droll as any vegetable or animal arrangement that comes
on our hotel tables; and that is saying a great deal, when you consider
the oils, peppers, and garlics that are pressed into the service.

Here merchants do not name the shops after themselves, as Americans do,
but more modestly and tastefully. The shop is christened with a name of
its own, as in Europe. For instance, on one corner you have _Pobre
Diablo_ (Poor Devil), and on the corner opposite _Rico Diablo_ (Rich
Devil); then we have all the saints--and sinners--in the Calendar, so
that the shop can change hands without losing its identity. Shops
containing magnificent goods have often a very humble appearance,
because ladies do not walk the streets, or leave their volantes--those
darling volantes, which are their feet, their couches, their homes, the
body of which they are the soul, and which I have many times seen
standing, much at home, in the corners of their parlors! So all the
goods are kept in great boxes, and carried out to the volantes, where my
lady condescends to sit in state and in attire to inspect, and, without
knowing it, to pay twice the value of all she buys.

On coming home, we took another turn in the _Plaza de Armas_, where
festivities still continue. We are fortunate to be here at this time,
for it is a continual holiday, and will be so nearly all of next week.
Illuminations of all sorts, fine bands of music, awnings and flags of
red and yellow,--the national colors of Spain,--carriages and volantes
full of richly-dressed people, promenaders in Sunday-costume--all these
are to be met in every street of the city. I have been much amused at
promiscuous Moors in effigy, hanging out of the windows, in the centre
of huge doorways, or dangling from a cord over our heads in the middle
of the street. They are usually in full Moorish costume, and pierced
pathetically through the heart. Our driver flourished his whip
vigorously in passing, mostly ending by a patriotic cut at the devoted

Close by this promenade we found a refreshing seat and ice-cream in the
famous Dominica. The cream was fruit-flavored and built up pyramidally
in an overgrown wineglass. On the plate under it, lay a long brown coil,
looking like a cigar, and tasting like a baked combination of brown
sugar, well-beaten eggs, and flour. This is designed as a spoon to eat
the towering cream with, and to eat with the towering cream. Many ladies
sit at the tables, but more remain before the doors and windows in their
volantes, receiving sweet liquids from the waiters, and dispensing
sweeter and more liquid glances to the admiring cavaliers gathered
around them.




     _Celebrating a Victory--General Serrano--a Cuban Sacristan--His
     View of Mary Magdalene--Sunday--The Theatre de Tacon--General
     Serrano’s Wife--A “Norther”--The Fish Market--Brilliancy of the
     Fish--A Venerable Cosmopolite--The Slaves--The Chain Gang--The
     Cerro--A Count’s Country-house--No Twilight--Oranges--Polyglot
     Dinner--Lottery Ticket._

SUNDAY, March 4th.

This morning high mass was celebrated, and the _Te Deum_ sung in the
Cathedral. As this is in honor of the victory, all the church
dignitaries and officers of state were in attendance, dressed in their
respective uniforms. First came Captain-General Serrano, whose title in
Spain is Marquis de San Antonio. He is heralded by a grand flourish of
martial music from the band, which had just played the national air of
Spain. He is a rather fine-looking man, with a massive bald head and
penetrating eye; the countenance expressing weight of character,
stirring experiences in life, a consciousness of power and
responsibility. He is said to be the father of two of the children of
the Queen of Spain. Her marble statue has just been erected in one of
the principal squares, and is nightly illuminated to receive the
admiration and homage of the loyal multitude. Following him, as next in
office, comes the Governor of the Island, whose resemblance to Mr. S----
has often caused them to be mistaken for each other; the latter
sometimes finding honors thrust upon him of which he is wholly
unambitious. Then come all the military, civil, and marine officers, in
gold lace, epaulets, ribbons, stars, and decorations of all devices, the
whole retinue filling the church, except the centre, where a few ladies
in black veils kneel upon bright-colored mats, which servants in livery
bring under their arms and spread for the ladies’ dainty dresses to
cover. A few of these mats are brought by negresses with shawls thrown
over their heads instead of veils. As soon as the mat is spread, the
mistress drops upon it, crossing herself too rapidly and adroitly for
Protestant eyes to follow, all the time saying her prayers and looking
devoutly at the image of the Virgin standing in the centre of the altar.
The negress kneels respectfully upon the bare floor by her side or
behind her. Mr. S---- pointed out to me several counts, marquises, and
other notabilities, refreshing to the republicanism of Yankee optics.
Meanwhile the chancel is filling with bishops, priest, and friars, in
magnificent costumes, and soon the grand _Te Deum_ swells over the
kneeling multitude. Governor, lords, ladies, and soldiers, bowed on the
same floor with the negro slave. It floats on over the floating incense;
then it ascends and seems to pause like a halo around the painted heads
of saints and apostles listening in the ceiling. Just in front of us
knelt Count----, a friend of Mr. S----, leaning upon a diamond-headed
cane, and looking incessantly at his watch, to see how soon the
ceremonies and unaccustomed posture would come to an end.

After all was over, the sacristan, dressed in a blue woollen gown and
wide embroidered white cambric collar, escorted us over the edifice. Its
external, so quaint and unique, so like a relic of the middle ages, with
towers and walls marred and rent, and crumbling with the rapid effects
of the moist climate rather than of time, did not indicate so much
beauty and art as existed within. It is chiefly in the Moorish style,
the numerous paintings mostly from Rome, and nearly all copies from the
best masters. The sacristan made himself jolly; offered to robe me in
the bishop’s vestments and ornament me with the crosiers, and staffs,
and mitres, and what-nots, in the robing-room. But I, being less
familiar with these sacred emblems than he, felt less contempt, and
declined the honor. One of the paintings, a dark old dilapidated affair
hanging in an ante-room, represents Christ talking earnestly to Mary
Magdalene. She turns her coquettish head from him in a most coquettish
way, and with a look of more affected than real shame and sorrow. The
old fellow pointed it out to us, and, with a significant twinkle, said
to Mr. S----, in Spanish,--

“That was Jesus Christ’s _woman_.”

To Mr. S----’s exclamation of astonishment, he replied,--

“Of course he was a man, like the rest of us.”

We paused before the modest tomb of Columbus, whose remains were
interred in the chancel of the Cathedral many years ago, with respectful
ceremonies and magnificence. His bas-relief in marble is placed in much
the same position as the bust of Shakspeare in the Avon church. From the
Cathedral we passed to the miniature garden separating it from the
seminary. This contains flowers, trees, shrubs, a fountain in the
centre. The sacristan picked me a bouquet of pretty purple and pink
blossoms without odor, bowing to my “_gracias_” most graciously, and
upon receiving a little fee, instead of “begging for two reals more,” as
D---- says he did upon his departure, the old man seemed surprised that
he received anything at all.

Staid American eyes are struck by the spiritual stolidity of these
people. Favorites of nature, crowned forever by her flowers, inspired by
her fresh and friendly breezes, basking always in her fondest sunlight,
they receive all these gifts in forgetfulness of the giver. It being
Sunday, all kinds of festivities riot in increased abandonment. The
shops, unlike those of most towns in Europe, are open; tailors and
shoemakers are at their work in little dark dens resembling those to
which the mechanics of Naples retreat on rainy days; and, though
forbidden by law, Sunday trade flourishes thriftily, as if Sundays and
religions were an impertinent restriction upon a Cuban’s right to life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

_Monday, 5th._--This morning we walked on the _Cortina_ to inhale the
cool sea breezes which there defy the scorching tyranny of even this
sun. How refreshing, after panting through those hot, fuming, dusty,
noisy streets, to sit under that dense shade, upon the marble seats,
with the tired city hidden behind you, and the blue tranquil bay
sleeping in its brightness before! The Morro lies peacefully on the
other side, brown, and dim, and silent as a weary lion. From the
lighthouse of the castle are floating flags of various colors, to me
inexplicable. But Mr. S---- explains. The different shapes and colors
indicate the kind and nationality of any vessel that is descried making
for the port; so that long before even the glasses of watchers in the
city can discern anything, it is known by these flags that preparations
must be made to receive the newcomer; that friends are approaching, or
friends must be left behind; that partings and meetings are to resume
their tyranny in the world.

_Evening._--The _Theatre de Tacon_, or Opera House, disappointed us. It
is large, airy, and convenient, but plain and bare to a degree. It being
“Commandment Night,”--that is, the Captain-General having signified his
intention of being present, and the rejoicings not yet over--the usual
opera was omitted. First, a national anthem, sung by one hundred
performers. Then followed a Spanish comedy, capitally acted, I could be
sure, though as good as ignorant of the language. Then came some divine
airs from the opera of the Bohemian Girl, sung by Gassier. Her voice is
full, sustained, in some passages, touching. But the _embonpoint_! Alas,
why must women of the poetical South always be so unpoetically fat! Or
why are we not blind to the incongruity of passion and adipose tissue.
These Spaniards are critical and enthusiastic judges of music; never
tolerate a bad thing; applaud and hiss vociferously.

But to me the attraction of the evening was the lovely marquise, wife of
the Captain-General (sometimes I can understand how a port may be
absolutely panic-struck with a woman’s beauty). A Creole by birth, with
a fortune of several millions, she married Serrano, who became
embassador to France, where he spent the greater part of her wealth in
maintaining the honor of Spain, by a magnificence which is said to have
eclipsed that of the Emperor. So he is sent here to recruit; that is, to
rob the Cubans of a million or two, as his predecessors have done. The
Governor’s box was only two boxes from ours, so that I could distinctly
watch every shade of her expression. La señora looked sad, absent; she
assumes a pensive attitude irresistibly charming in one so lovely and so
necessarily the observed of all observers. Her personal charms are
enough to excite all the enthusiasm the Cubans feel for her, but her
Creole birth renders it unbounded. She wore her dark hair thrown back
from a completely classical head and face; a subdued fire indicating
rare power of passion and suffering burns in her eyes; her nose, mouth,
and chin, are full of sensitive delicacy; in every curve of the
exquisite bust and slender figure, grace achieves a very pathos of
perfection. She was draped in some gauzy fabric floating about her like
a dream; large dark roses on hair, bosom, and dress, the only ornament.
People say she sighs for the life in Paris, and that she was for a long
time the rival of the Empress. Who knows? who can unravel the web of
suffering which stifles out the life and hope from any woman’s heart?
The most comical scenes scarcely wakened a smile on her face; but her
husband, sitting at her right, smiled and patted his white kids with
very accurate and well-timed condescension. The box in which they sat is
gaily hung, the national coat of arms placed over the centre. They went
out between every act to receive guests in an adjoining saloon. We found
more beauty among the women than writers on Cuba had promised us.
Regular, I may say, exquisite, features are very common; and these,
illuminated by dark, deep eyes, with effective and well-manœuvered
glances, make as lovely women as is possible, where intellect and soul
seem to exile themselves behind so much of what elsewhere than on a lady
would be called fat. All are in full, the fullest possible, dress; all
are displaying great eloquence of skill in manipulating their lace and
jewelled fans; all are, or aspire to be, the magnets for the dark,
handsome eyes and well-levelled opera-glasses in the pit below. It was
curious, among all that tumultuous sea of masculine heads in the
parquette, to see not one with fair hair--all black with youth, gray
with manhood, white or bald with age.

_Tuesday, 6th._--The thermometer has fallen from 90 to 75 degrees. This
is the result of a “norther,” which drives the cold waters of the
Atlantic furiously into our bay; changes the usual moist perspiring
atmosphere into a husky dryness; turns the roads, almost the
paving-stones, into dust; shrivels and browns the foliage in the
country; and with its cold puts the low-necked dresses, pantings, and
fans of our hotel-ladies in their trunks. So we ventured on a walk, even
at high noon, to our favorite _Cortina_, keeping on the shady side, and
stopping at the fish market. It is palpably true that God set his dyed
bow in the heavens; but I did not before know that he also set it in the
floods to reassure us that we should have no more floods,--else where
did these fishes learn this trick of exaggerated brightness? Of all the
myriads ranged on the endlessly long metallic tables, I do not remember
one in quaker costume. Everywhere a fantastic variety of colors and
gradations and combinations of shades. Joseph’s coat would have looked
plain beside them. May not the excessive phosphorescence, latent, or
developed in the native waters of these fishes, explain in some way
their pre-eminence of color?

_Wednesday, March 7th._--At last we have a room possessing the
fundamental doctrines of a room, viz., four walls of its own. It was
formerly the library of the bishop, who built the palace and lived in it
several years, and is now, by the way, enormously rich, and “they say”
hints not egregiously pious. Our room has an ambitious window, from
which we always see the sky, and nothing else. The door, protected by
fanciful iron gratings, opens upon the dining-room. The floor, of the
usual black and white marble, resembles a chess-board with the squares
placed diagonally. As queen of this chess-board, I am in a fair way to
be checkmated, as well as its king, if the jolly priest continues his
jolly suppers. The rest of the room would suit me well enough, if it
were not so discouragingly convenient. With the exception of a kind of
wooden-tiled ceiling, and one of the beds furnished with stretched
canvass instead of a mattress, you might suppose yourself commonplacely
domiciled in a respectable hotel in Yankeedom.

_Thursday, 8th._--This morning Mr. S. brought his venerable friend Mr.
R----. He is a Frenchman, though born in Baltimore and educated in
England; has lived indefinitely on the Continent; is waiting to die in
Cuba. He is delightful, thoroughly a cosmopolite, speaks many languages,
knows everything and everybody. Long intimacy with this government, its
officers, and many of the nobility, has made him _au fait_ in the policy
and intrigues as well as customs and characteristics of the island. Lady
Wortly is indebted to him for her anecdotes of Cuba. I have been able to
correct many false impressions received from various writers; for

The line of separation between Creoles and Spaniards is not distinctly
drawn. The Creoles sympathize in these victorious rejoicings; would be
perfectly satisfied with an allegiance to Spain, if they could have a
voice in their own government. Creole ladies are lighter in color,
better educated, less rigid in forms of etiquette and propriety than the
Spanish. But everywhere the negro blood is so intermixed, that it is
impossible to make a distinct separation between any of the races; a
fact of difficult management in the event of self-government, or any
step towards it. He says there are not fifty families in the island
untainted by African blood. It seems very natural that a dark race
should have less repugnance to a black race than white people have.

We all know the greater leniency of the laws here, with regard to
slaves, than in the United States. I find, in addition, that there is,
in Cuba, much more indulgence and affection between master and slave,
unless it be on the remote plantations. In our drives, particularly
through the suburbs, I continually see negroes and their Creole
mistresses, dressed equally well, lounging on the balconies, not as
equals, but in a way that indicates affectionate intimacy, and a gayety
too abundant to suggest the true _dolce far niente_. I am told that,
almost without exception, masters here would be willing to free their
slaves in case of remuneration.

Among the many foolish arrangements of this government, the chain-gang
seems to be a wise one. It is a penitentiary on the highway. My author
on Cuba, says of this chain-gang, “It is Sunday; but no rest for them.”
The truth is, they always rest on Sunday, unless unusual circumstances
occur; as, for instance, a road that must be finished for some great

_Thursday evening, March 9th._--This evening drove to the _Cerro_, three
miles distant, to visit the country house of Count Fernandino, an
intimate friend of Mr. R----, who accompanied us. Contrary to Mr. R----’s
expectations, the family, consisting of the old widowed count, and
his son and daughter-in-law, had not yet left their winter residence in
the city. An old family servant, however, conducted us everywhere, with
equal pride and pleasure. The house is a quaint, irregular structure.
You stumble everywhere upon recesses, balconies, unexpected rooms, and
general surprises. In the drawing-room are two genuine Claude Lorraines,
and two Vernets. I was sorry to be hurried away from them to the
billiard-room; the octagon library, the high, large, open piazza, roofed
with vines and paved with marble, where two hundred dancers find
fantastic toe-room; the curious chambers, busts, statues, curiosities

But the grounds we only saw from the tower, and without them we have
seen nothing. They are extensive and beautiful; here a rustic bridge
crosses the mysteriously winding brook which branches into a fanciful
bathing-house, hung with pictures of naiads and water-gods; there stands
a little airy temple overhung by doting cypresses, and sacred to its
only inhabitant,--an exquisite marble Venus. Wherever chance leads your
steps, it will be sure to reveal some new beauty of tree, or flower, or
shrub, or arbor, or rustic seat; some avenue looking far out upon the
wonderful campagna. As the short and sudden twilight comes, a lovely
waterfall catches the light coming from the distant Morro, with level,
and distinct, and separate rays over the city spires and roofs, over its
pale, irregularly planted lights and absorbing shadows. Many of the
trees and shrubs are from Europe and Asia. The gardener gave me a spray
from an Australian tree, imported when a small slip, for which the count
paid seven hundred dollars. He also gave me two handfuls of bouquets,
some of them from his own private nursery, by which he makes a hundred
dollars per month, in addition to his wages. Mr. R---- tells me that, in
the last hurricane, most of the trees in these grounds were prostrated;
that he saw the count and countess, when they first discovered the
desolation, crying like children. The great difficulty in gardening here
is to repress vegetation, it being nearly impossible to curb its rank
luxuriance. If left to itself, any garden will in two or three years
become a dense impenetrable tangle of trees, vines, flowers, and weeds.
But it is time to hurry away from all this loveliness. A few minutes ago
we were watching the sunset emparadising both heaven and earth; now,
before we have time for a second sigh at its departure, night has
dropped upon us like a silent and intangible avalanche, with no
interluding, apologistic twilight to warn or to reconcile us.

_March 10th._--Rose this morning, as usual, at six. So soon as bathed
and dressed, commenced the day in the customary national style; namely,
by a vigorous attack upon a pyramid of huge oranges, which B---- has
just brought in, paying twelve cents for ten. He gives me two-thirds of
each, for the remaining third and the privilege of peeling them. I am
commanded by high authority to devour twelve every morning; until I
achieve that I cannot be said to like oranges, or even to eat them.

After the nine o’clock breakfast, appeared the white head of Mr. R----,
and, immediately after, a portable set of chess-men, with which he
challenged me to a game. He has not played much for twenty-eight years.
I did not play much before that time; so, not unequally yoked together,
we fought long and desperately; and who do you think won? My modesty
declines to answer.

Dinner at four, with the usual English courses and bill of fare, except
an interspersion of here and there a Spanish or French dish; for
instance,--garlic, onions, and oil, flavored with a piece of stewed
beef; or, further down the table, the same trio thinly populated with
tripe and potatoes; or, on two cross corners of each table, a square
pile of rice, polished with oil and rouged with juice of tomatoes. Then
many new fruits, as the manna, sapote, and others which I will describe
when I know them better. By five o’clock we have usually manifested
fully our approval of all dinners in general, and of polyglott dinners
in particular. The _café noir_ is then dispatched to make the peace, and
we are ready for the cigar, the drive, or the siesta. I do not quite yet
smoke the cigars myself as I see many Havanese ladies doing; but I have
bought a lottery ticket!--the ninth--and the drawing comes on the 22d
inst. Never say you have been to Havana, unless you have bought a
lottery ticket. They are a native production.



     _Drive to the Sea-shore--Evening Boat-ride--Splendor of the
     Waters--Campo del Marte--Low Mass--The “Madonna”--Beautiful
     Children--Church of San Filipo--Sacred Names--The Mount of
     Jesus--Corruption of the Clergy--Cuba Misrepresented in
     Books--Growing “used to it”--A Creole--Cascarilla--Warm
     Weather--The Cortina._

SATURDAY, March 11th.

This morning we drove, or more properly rode, for no one drives in a
volante, to the sea-shore. Although the sun was burning down upon us
with his customary ardor, a “norther” cooled his ferver so effectually
as to make a thick shawl necessary. Thicker boots were indispensable to
save the feet from the sharp points of coral rocks over which we must
walk, upon leaving the volante. With the assistance of our “norther,” a
high tide dashed the waves in furious beauty over the low, unresisting
shore, and with a muffled thunder straight out of the heart of infinity.
I wonder if any familiarity can ever breed a feeling of even
acquaintanceship with this “roar of torn ocean.” Was it not a pretty
scene for us as we stood there,--the graceful, yet frowning Morro, with
its white wave-washed feet, growing from the promontory across the bay,
its fluttering flags foretelling ships like a presentiment, its towers
warming and brightening in the parting smiles of the sun, with a very
human pathos of joy! Far out on the restless sea, more restless ships
toss and tack and veer their sails; clouds, dream thin, and
sunset-souled. How blue they make the sea! How white the dark waves are
painting them!

Behind us in the west rises a rough, high bluff, flanked by endless
lines of barracks; on the outer wall, a solitary sentinel paces and
watches us; under its shadow stands our waiting volante and the sunburnt
_callisero_. Nothing more is visible except the sky-questioning palms
behind the bluff--far in the south the strange city of this strange
clime. Nothing anywhere is familiar save the quiet, tender sky above;
and that is so blue, so intense, so twice a sky, so profound in its
passion of beauty, that you wonder how sorrow and death can live beneath

I do not marvel that the people of sun-lands do not greatly aspire, or
labor, or achieve. What need of this threefold weariness, this getting
of spiritual bread by spiritual brain-sweat, when happiness falls down
upon their heads all day long out of the sky; when feeling, which is a
thousand times better than thought, buds and blossoms out of every
sunbeam, and night is but a sudden sigh, a languishing wink of this
regal lover between caresses.

_Evening._--And the most interesting we have spent in Havana.

To describe a boat-ride upon the phosphorescent waters of this bay, one
should, alas! have some powers of description. I can only outline it in
a homely way and leave the rest to your imagination.

All our previous nights have been without twilight. The only apparent
change was in the color, not the quality, of light; the warm gold,
blanching into a colder, purer blaze, fitting the mind and eye for its
enjoyment: it is the quantity not the intensity of daylight. But
to-night the sun dies under the western sea, and an azure which is
neither light nor darkness, fills the void. The stars discover through
it their happy images below, and our throbbing oars--oars no longer, but
living light--rival the pulsations of the stars.

All this time our “trackless way” is distinctly blazing far behind,
while far below our cutting keel leaves its cicatrice; an antipodean
milky-way, and our prow, like a Yankee boreas, carries its snowcloud in
its teeth. There flies a fish with planetary speed, invisible in air,
but in its native element a mistress “at home.” Even the oscillation of
our little boat causes flashes of softest light in the surrounding air,
by which our faces are brightened to reveal the beautiful peace and
pleasure each feels.

We lean and look in the water at our side, and see the myriad
scintillations that come and go with ever-changing variety, and then
think, that to each spark is attached an organized body, with
circulating medium and force, with sensations more or less acute; and
that in this bay of some three square miles, is a galaxy of worlds;
every globule a world of itself, inhabited by perfect and sentient
beings, each with its hopes, fears, and perhaps its loves and hates, and
therefore sorrows; and then we remember that the whole tropical waters
which girdle the globe are equally crowded with life.

_Saturday, 11th._--The rejoicings profess to have reached a patriotic
climax,--a grand display of all the troops on the island, which is twice
the number of the whole military force of the United States. With the
only vacant seat in our English carriage filled at last by our venerable
friend Mr. N----, we drove out to the Campo del Marte. We found it
difficult and delightful, steering our way through the archipelago of
carriages and volantes filled with ladies in full ball costume, many of
the faces and figures striking, a few very handsome; so that with
well-rewarded patience and time, we obtained a good position.

The poverty of republican eyes is imbibantly observant of all
appurtenances of royalty. First dashes past the knighted
Governor-General, doffing cap and plume, and bowing with great dignity
to the bowing multitude. Following are body-guard and staff, counts,
marquises, and other nobility in uniform, crosses and decorations of

The gentlemen informed me that the troops marched well. I am sure the
regiments of negroes thought so, and enjoyed the supposition. We
returned home to whist and delightful conversation on all things new and
old, followed by the most cordial imaginable of good-nights and

_Sunday._--Early this morning to a Jesuit mass--low mass, and so very
low that it could not be heard at all. Two priests only officiated, both
meek-faced, keeping “custody of eyes;” one of them with the most
remarkable intellectual and characteristic head I ever saw, the other
with the devoutest, purest face. All the devotees, mostly women and
girls, and liveried servants, knelt upon mats placed over the marble
floor. All the ladies were gracefully arrayed in black lace Spanish
veils, which, like moonlight on the Coliseum, “leaves that beautiful
which still was so, and makes that which was not.” They were repeating
their prayers; those who could read, from books, those who could not,
from memory; and all the time the young and pretty ones were rolling
their dark fascinating eyes around upon my escort of gentlemen, except
when the moment came for crossing themselves and looking devoutly
towards an image of the Virgin execrably done in wax.

I find the only way to extract good instead of disgust from scenes like
this, is to ignore the wax and the tawdry ornaments, and to remember
only the divinely sweet woman who loved Christ as I fear none of us have
loved him; who suffered for him as none of us shall be honored by
suffering for him; the only woman who united to the virgin’s charm the
mother’s hallowing rapture; the woman whom God loved more than all
earthly women, making her the mother of his son. You must think of the
sanctity she has given to all motherhood. You must remember the
elevation and delicacy she has given to the love of many pure and wise
priests, who through the dark centuries loved no woman but her; who
centred in her the love that might not be human nor for the human. Think
of all this, and then see if you can wonder that the devout imaginations
of the learned as well as of the ignorant Romanist have found a female
element in the Trinity, and in worshipping the Father and Son have also
most tenderly adored her who was a link between them; her through whom
God is no longer an avenging God, and through whom Christ longs and
makes ready for us.

The church, to my great surprise, though belonging to the Jesuits,
displays no wealth and no taste; forlornly ugly pictures, clumsy tawdry
flowers, and atrocious statues everywhere. Many things, however, were
interesting enough to repay us for the trouble of getting up so early
and walking so far.

Nothing could surpass the extremely graceful attitude of the ladies, or
the universal beauty of the children, especially of the boys. How
exquisitely regular and clear cut are their features! how transparent
their large, soft, black eyes! how intelligent their whole expression! I
am told that all Spanish boys and girls are remarkably precocious. At
thirteen they promise to be geniuses, sing, paint, even write poetry
that would not only startle a Northern mother, but frighten her with a
certainty of the imminent dissolution of her cherub. After that age the
tropical child remains savingly in _statu quo_, if he does not
perceptibly degenerate.

Having still twenty minutes before breakfast, we drove quickly to the
fashionable church of San Filipo. Found it having more pretension than
the Jesuit (“Belen”) church, but not more taste. Abundance of tinsel,
plenty of yellowed grotesque, semi-arabesque carvings on tinselled
columns and what-not, but no beauty, unless, perchance, under the happy
veil of some worshipping angel.

_Sunday evening._--Is it a question of piety, or of taste, that so many
places have holy names? “Jesus dil monto” “Jesus Maria,” “Las dace
Apostles;” the latter being a battery of guns under the Morro, intended
to convert enemies’ ships into enemies’ wrecks--a highly apostolic mode
of conversion.

To end our Sabbath we ascended the Mount of Jesus and walked in a garden
of cocoa-trees supposed to occupy relatively the position of Gethsemane.

Really the straight, tall lines of boles with their parachute tops, in a
rapidly diminishing light, do produce a very novel impression--half
rural, half architectural. One may fancy aisles and naves, transepts and
choirs; the roofs, however, are real, made of leaves fourteen feet long,
drooping like the mitres of a groin, and gothicizing a roof through
which a few slender green rays penetrate--enough to reveal form without
detail. But no marble gives sound to our footsteps; grass, poor a cow
would say, but grass, for a carpet, and old cocoa-nuts to stumble over,
bring us down to earth again. Here we are rewarded by some pretty
flowers, which are the only beauties in this land of beauty who can
wander “in maiden’s meditation, fancy free.” It is an effort to mount
the Pisgah before us, but we must on to the very top, for our ankles are
goaded by living spurs that lie lurking in the grass.

But we are spaciously rewarded, for there lies Havana in its whole
extent before us; the level line of sea behind it; the Morro guarding
it; the Principe fort threatening it; the bay reflecting it and the
setting sun gilding it; palms on every hand outline their greens against
the intensely azure sky behind, and white walls glance out of the
luxuriant foliage, proud that humanity has a home within them. Low-like
mounds fill up the background like priests with shaven crowns, but all
with beauteous vestments sweeping to their feet, running over the plains
between them, up the adjacent ones, round the next--an interminable
reticulation of life and loveliness. The embroidery on God’s footstool
is here wrought with a lavish and loving hand.

Wonderful tropics! The normal home of man; the only soil and sun in
which could grow the fair and fatal tree of knowledge or of life.

No sinister cold, no smoke-tarnished atmosphere, no death-bearing fogs,
no fierce animal energy, no gross crimes; all is sunny and perpetual
youth. Eden unquestionably was not more than twenty-three or thirty
degrees from the equator. But the intermittent flash of the light in the
tower of the Morro startles every half minute the sudden nightfall, and
we hasten to return, in love with nature, and reconciled to ourselves.

_Monday, March 13th._--This morning came Mr. R----, bringing an
unexpected armful of books, with which we are to equip ourselves for a
visit to the country, where we are making arrangements to go. Commenced
the morning by chess, in which I am now habitually ruined, and ended, as
usual, by a long conversation, in which I am listener-in-chief, an
interested if not a brilliant or eloquent one.

Mr. R---- is a Romanist, but I learn from him more of the corruption of
the clergy of the island than an uninitiated Protestant or Romanist
either could invent. Priests in the country are badly salaried, often
unable to get enough to pay their cooking and washing. So they become
entangled in a peculiar kind of reciprocity with some negress or
quadroon, who in time comes to live openly with them, and is recognized,
and not unfrequently respected and acknowledged socially, as the mother
of their large families. I find residents here indignant at visitors who
come and skip over the surface of the country, necessarily, if they
write at all, as superficial as false and absurd. Madame ----’s book is
said to be a tissue of falsehoods, as well as that of D----, which I had
supposed photographic. Every one, in fact, but Humboldt, has assumed a
knowledge to hide ignorance. Cuba seems to be the least abused because
least investigated country which has got into books.

Mr. R---- accepted our invitation to dinner. Like all Frenchmen, he
prefers claret to other wines, and, like all old men who wish to live
long, eats nothing.

_Thursday, 15th._--Who can wonder that sailors never tire of seeing the
sea. With what a loyal instinct the old retired captain seeks the
shelter of some wave-worn cliff where the familiar spray may kiss his
weather-beaten cheek, and the cry of the deep be the lullaby of his last
sleep. Primeval forests want light; prairies are “stale and flat” if not
“unprofitable;” mountain ranges, those petrified waves of earth, are
groups of individuals: but ocean is one, an adequate expression of
extent illimitable, of bulk immeasurable, of depth unfathomable, of
force irresistible, of life everlasting. It is the eternity of time. But
here in Cuba, where so much is transitory and fugitive, where the
accumulation of wealth to expend elsewhere is the aim of all, the
æsthetic claims of the sea are unregarded. The backs of the houses are
universally turned towards it. The Cubans smother palaces in narrow
streets, rejecting the air which has learned purity and inspiration from
the sea, for siroccos of dust and heat. Ugly wharves abound, so do
batteries to make might right. It is only in refinement without
degeneracy, in taste without tinsel, in wealth without avarice, that you
find the loving adornment of ocean’s shores.

We rode, while thinking and saying these things, to Chomero, a little
bay with little cottages on its little sandy shore; little shrubs,
little shells, and little life. A square fort guards it in sinister
silence; a large railway station promises to turn the little Chomero
into the large suburban Carmelo, and straight streets, straight avenues,
and right angles threaten to make it as ugly as the tasteless plans of
architects could devise.

But deliciously sweet is the air; deliciously sweet the new old story
of the sea, and deliciously sweet the _mareschino_ with which we flavor
our _aqua pura_. All things return to their original starting point.
Existence is a rounding of circles. The sun, a tired prodigal, returns
to the parent arms of the horizon; like Socrates, his last act is to
bathe, which he does in the returning tide, and he returns to _el Hotel
de la Reina_, there to chat with Father, C---- or play with Señor R----,
or, better still, to lounge on the sofas and fan our tropical thoughts
into tropical dreams.

_Saturday, 17th._--At last our days are come to have a family
resemblance. I must even confess to a kind of monotony, a
stereotypedness, in their lineaments. I grow to look upon all these
extravagant novelties with _sang froid_, to ride through the streets
reclining in my volante with rarely being amused, and never startled,
that Spanish gentlemen sitting against the walls in rows, or standing at
the corners in groups, one and all, smile and bow, as if I were an old
friend. I am not a bit shocked to see negro and Creole and Spanish
little boys standing in the doors or running about at play with more
backs than shirts--in short, as innocent of clothing as their
great-greatest-grandpapa was when, overtaken by that unfortunate
after-dinner nap, and the angel performed the delicate surgical
operation of taking the still crooked rib from his side, and was not
obliged to waken him by unbuttoning his jacket. I can promenade the
balcony of our hotel without any uncomfortable nervousness because all
the upper and under clerks in the store opposite collect at once to
gape and criticize and express in some way the admiration a Cuban
gentleman is conscientiously bound to feel whenever he sees a wonder. I
can see the lottery venders thrust their tickets into my hand at the
corner of every street when going to church, in all public places and
most private ones, without one puritanical spasm. I am obliged to find
Sunday turned into a general holiday without thinking an earthquake is
coming to-morrow, and to hear the ship’s bell and car’s whistle mingling
with the church bell without expecting a consequent and immediate
steam-boiler explosion. I have even ceased wondering at this eternity of
sunshine, and find it is silly to keep expecting blindness from its
piercing light. I forgot to inquire why it cannot scald these
deliciously cool breezes, or why these strong airs, always blowing upon
the sunshine, as if it were a great plateful of hot gumbo soup, cannot
manage to cool it.

If it be true that many microscopic beings which are vegetables in the
shade become ripened into animals in the sun, then what happens to
animals that live in the sun as much as we do? what are we to ripen to?
Angels naturally--but sadly sunburnt.

This evening, my first acquaintance with a Creole, and one who is not
only willing, but proud, to own it. He speaks English hesitatingly and
solves a difficult riddle--it _is_ possible for a Creole countenance to
express, not only intellectuality, but genius, even spirituality. How
polite are these people! Being an amateur artist, he invited me
to-morrow to his studio; offered at once to contribute to my
portefolio, and to lend any pictures I may choose to copy while on the
island. Conversation turning upon the famous cascarilla, a powder made
of eggshells, and universally used on the skin by these ladies to make
black white, all the gentlemen, strange to say, advocated its use. Upon
this I expressed an intention of getting some immediately and using it
liberally. Señor at once replied, “Oh, I shall be only too happy to send
it to you!” and sure enough, after he left, a beautifully ornamented box
of the ornament, found itself on my dressing-table.

You must never express a particular admiration for any thing one of
these people possesses, or he will at once present it to you, from his
plantation to his pipe; and the latter is the surer test of his
politeness. The other day I asked Mr. R---- where I could find a
bookstore keeping some little views of Havana. The same evening came a
great book containing all I wished, beautifully executed. Last evening
on the _Cortena_, he took out a little microscope to examine some
parasitic flowers I had gathered from the walls of the Cathedral (all
the old walls of buildings are covered with such plants). I could not
help exclaiming at the great power and convenience of the little
instrument, when, what should come this morning but Mr. R---- with a
bright new microscope in his hand, begging I would do him the favor to
accept it!

With all our interest in this Creole, I could not help a sensation of
relief, when he rose to bid us good-night. It is so difficult talking
with a foreigner who can only comprehend your simplest words, which
express your simplest ideas. You feel like a child talking to a child,
knowing all the time that you are without the innocence or beauty of
children. And this repression of thought, instead of repressing the
voice, gives one an unconquerable instinct to raise it to its highest
pitch. One seems to think that an immense quantity of sound will hide an
immense lack of sense; that they do not understand because they do not
hear; that one is not so dumb as _they_ are deaf.

_Sunday, March 18th._--For the first time the heat is oppressive,
enervating. We did not even summon courage for the early mass, the only
religious service in a city which can boast one distinguishing
peculiarity--it practises as much as it preaches, for it almost never
preaches at all. What is better than the _Cortina_ when you talk of
fresh airs, and fresh shade, and fresh silence? So for the _Cortina_ we
set out, stopping by the way at the Cathedral. Here we find half a dozen
sincere-looking devotees kneeling in different parts of the quaint,
cool, serene temple; humble their birth, no doubt, as well as posture,
for they kneel upon the bare marble, with no mat and no appearance of
discomfort. When prayers are said and crossing done, they depart, silent
and unnoticed as they enter; and we, with only the gratification of
curiosity where worship should be, do the same.

Arrived at the promenade, we find an insinuating mist and an unusual
event, a south wind, legitimatizing all this languor. Everybody in
Havana pouts when the wind hails from the equator, and shivers when it
comes out of a temperate zone. Both changes are so slight that a
Northerner, accustomed as he is to the fiercely rapid changes at home,
observes nothing different from usual. The ordinary wind here, which
baffles all the scorching proclivities of this sunshine; which comes
fresh and unworn over the salt and laboring seas; which makes this
island an Eden of never-failing green,--this strong and pure, and
gentle, as all that is strong should be, angel of mercy, is always an
east wind. I am glad that I came to Havana to learn that the sole errand
of an east wind in the world is not to manufacture influenzas,
consumptions, gout-twinges, blue devils, and growlery-mongers.

To-night a long conversation with Father C---- who has just returned from
an expedition to the interior for the purpose of collecting
contributions for “me chur-r-r-rch” in Ireland. We talked of the
Eucharist, of confessions, of indulgences, of rites and popes; in half
an hour I learned more of Romanism from a Romanist’s point of view, than
in a liberal share of twenty-eight years of my former life. He confessed
that the corruptions of the church forced on the Reformation. I am sure
the wary priest rather more than half expected to convert me, and I
amused myself down in my sleeve at his amiable hallucination, while at
the same time I reflected how surely the fogs of prejudice and
sectarianism clear away before the inevitably advancing sun of



     _Departing Guests--The Varieties--On Board, but not Gone--No
     Chimneys--Dog-Pails--Horses’ Tails--Tall Negroes--Ecclesiastical
     Torch-light Procession--Watchmen--Leaving Havana--In the
     Country--Stopped--Seeking a Breakfast--A Cuban Village--A Primitive
     Well--A Peculiar Palm--Guiness--Our Quarters Therein._

MONDAY, March 19th.

One by one, our guests have left the hotel. The swarthy Portuguese
gentleman whose acquaintance we made on shipboard, and who told us so
much of the interiors of Asia and Africa, where he has spent much time.
I am meditating the purchase of a camel to take home with me, to ride
for health and pleasure. Think of the panic of the unsophisticated
people of E---- at seeing a genuine live dromedary, philosophically
promenading their streets with the valley on his back populated by your
rejoicing and philosophical humble servant. Soon after this departure
went the handsome and villainous-looking Russian, whom we suspect to
have been a serf, because he told B---- one evening a long story of his
feats and difficulties on leaving Russia without a passport. He has
travelled all over the world, but in intellect will perpetually live,
and irremediably die, a serf. The young, honest-eyed Scotchman, too,
who played operas for me all one morning with so much skill and
amiability, who has had his throat ventilated by three bullets in three
battles, and is travelling--not consequently--for health, is gone to New
Orleans. The diamond-labelled widow from Boston, worth an undoubted
million, is gone to Matanzas, accompanied by her much-smiling daughter,
and the daughter’s blue-nosed governess. The latter should always be
seen with the ears, for she talked well. The gentleman with consumption
is gone from the adjoining room, so that my nights are no longer made
hideous by his sepulchral cough. He goes to the south of France--so
expect his wife and daughter--I expect to an ocean grave. Also is
departed the dandy from New York, having, like the beast in Daniel’s
vision, a mouth speaking great things, but differing from that other
biblical beast, the Israelites’ calf, in that the ancient calf was
_made_ of ornaments, while this modern one only _wears_ them. The
aldermanic Englishman, with ruddy wife, are gone like a comfort from the
other end of the table, leaving us to their roast beef and ale. The
pretty school-girl and incipient belle from Baltimore, has relieved the
parlor atmosphere of the perfumery of her beaux, and the piano of
gymnastic or belligerent manipulations extraordinary, but not, alas!
unheard of. Indeed, we are left almost alone, for mine hostess declares
she is losing money at four dollars per day in gold. Cannot afford it;
disinclines any longer to endure the imposition of servants and
shopmen--retires to the United States in disgust. Meanwhile the
chamber-maid, having taken a fancy to me, opens for my use the large
parlor in front of my bedroom, where I receive friends and reign supreme
in a room spacious and lofty enough for a church, and retaining all the
odor of sanctity left in it by the Bishop.

This evening we are to pack our trunks, to put on travelling attire, to
say good-by to our friends, to fee the servants who have served us, and
to take a volante for the steamer to Matanzas; but to say we leave here
to-night for Matanzas, would be a choice and especial piece of
presumption. I will tell you why. Last Saturday evening, we rehearsed
all the above-mentioned performance. Our Havanese friends came to say
adieus. Mr. P---- so full of regrets and kind speeches. Mr. M----
sitting by the parlor table, so long writing letters of introduction,
that we did not ask for, to his friends in Matanzas, and then hurrying
down to see that the state-rooms we had secured in the morning were all
right, and to introduce us to the captain. Mr. R---- accepted B----’s
invitation to take a seat in my volante. These public volantes never
hold more than two, and consequently, B---- paid for his amiability by
walking. Nothing doubting, we arrived at the steaming steamer; luggage
is unfastened in great haste; we quickly alight, when, forsooth, the
steamer does not particularly go to-night, not indeed until Monday next.
The wind, it is said, took it in its head this morning to blow a
suggestion breath for an hour; a prophetic flash of lightning was
supposed to have been seen about four o’clock. Every body takes it as a
matter of course, and I am obliged to smother my vexation behind an
appearance of amiability.

A few more novelties, before going, I must bequeathe to you and to my
memory, putting them in the hands of paper and ink for my safe
keeping--then we will have done for the present with Havana. Did you
ever think of one curious result of being really a city of the sun,
viz., it is a city without chimneys. All the box stoves, and air-tight
stoves, and best parlor ditto, were cast, if at all, in the foundry of
Jupiter; all the steam and hot-air furnaces, instead of being interred
in the cellars, are placed in the topmost garret of all garrets; the
great vanity of inventions and ornaments in the shape of fireplaces,
grates with their artistic devices, their pretty screens and shades, and
the glowing faces and toasting feet before them. All these are snugly
built in an architectural niche not made with hands, while their fires
are kindled and formed not by the lungs of bellowses, but by the
early-rising wings of enterprising angels. Ever since making this
discovery I feel quite philosophically inclined to regard the fact that
every man, or at any rate every man and a half you meet, carries his
household fire about with him, using a cigar for fuel, and his devoted
nose for a chimney.

Last night, while passing some highly respectable shops, we saw a pail
of water standing in the door of each. B---- said, “Can you guess what
those are for?” Of course I could not. He replied, “The law commands
them to be provided in every house at certain seasons, so that all dogs
may drink when they wish, and thus diminish the danger of hydrophobia.”

It is not less curious that horses’ tails are braided by law, a fine
following each omission. For aught I know, the law dictates the member
of strands in the braid; that it must be done by a governmental barber,
greased as if it were human, and always tied, as it is, to the left side
of the saddle. This hen-hussy government also directs at what precise
age children must cease to be models for statues and become the victims
of tailors and dress-makers.

I wonder nobody seems to have observed how remarkably tall the larger
number of these negroes are. The women particularly are not only tall
and erect, but magnificent in outline, having an eye to which their
dresses are exceedingly low in the neck and short in the sleeves. They
are absolutely statuesque. The Spanish and Creole ladies look dumpish, I
might say dwarfish, beside them.

But the drawback upon all goings forward, the voluminous reiteration of
feminine folking, must be performed; and we must again test the frailty
of tropical locomotive veracity and steamboat protestations.

_Tuesday, 20th._--We simply didn’t go last night because the steamer
didn’t; reason not yet transpired. I am becoming so used to these
failures of plans and probabilities, that I think nothing would
disappoint me now, but a want of disappointment. However, I was not
sorry that this last detention gave me an opportunity to witness a very
interesting spectacle. A torchlight procession of priests and friars
and mourners and friends, to say mass over a dying person. We were
first drawn to the balcony by the incessant singing of a peculiarly
toned bell, and then we saw them slowly and solemnly marching far below
us, down the dark and narrow street, heralded by the strange bell in the
hands of one of the novices, and going with devout faith in its absolute
efficacy to shrive a human soul--its last earthly help in its last
earthly extremity. The effect was much like that of the _Misericordia_
in the cities of Italy, except that you miss here the quaintness and
impressiveness of the black or white dominos. I did not care for the
superstition; I only felt a profound awe, a solemn sense of mystery and
fitness; I only marvelled that people can ever scorn or ridicule any
faith that is sincere in heart.

At half-past ten we retired, just as the watchman was commencing his
round of duty. Few things are more novel to us than this. The curious
whistle is a kind of prelude to the monotonous tone with which he, every
half-hour, slowly pacing up and down, lantern and spear in hand,
announces the hour of the night and the state of the weather. He keeps a
sharp lookout on the weather as well as other vagrants, and clearly
feels a responsibility in the matter. I have learned all the words he
uses to tell us that the moon is shining, or clouds are obscuring it; if
it is cold enough to encourage an extra blanket, or if a norther or
_sérocco_ is getting the upper hand of things; which hour is giving up
the ghost, or which is like a soul “rolling from out the vast.” But I
can never comprehend what he says, the words are so drawled and twisted
to suit the tune, which my English ears understand to be musical and not
unsuited to a lullaby, and at the same time so many other watchmen in
neighboring streets are mingling their echoes and refrains.

_Guiness, Wednesday, March 21st._--At last! With the earliest dawning of
the dawn we found ourselves actually leaving Havana, and that not by the
boat, which it had become our turn to disappoint. How tired the watchmen
looked as we passed them! lantern lights burnt out, long ancient looking
spears carried listlessly by their sides, the guardianship of the
weather left in the hands of the coming Apollo. The busy markets are
already open; shopmen unfastening shutters; life beginning to awake and
throb through the great body of Havana. Its soul, whether great or
small, is scarcely yet awakened into any circulation through the
channels of art or literature. The bells are ringing, drums beating, and
guns firing, for it is five o’clock. The day is up betimes. The
_morning_ and _evening_ here are the first day, and every day. Noon is
but a shorter panting, gilded, interluding night, when all sleep who
can, and all long for sleep who cannot. But the carriage stops in the
midst of an articulating human mass. How it hurries and bustles! how
many faces it has, and every one a different variety of brown or a new
invention in the shades of black.

Presently the gentlemen come with tickets, separate ones for baggage and
passage, and obtained with much difficulty and circumlocution, as the
rule is that baggage must be sent the night before--which ours was not.
No sooner are we settled in the cool cane seats than--will you believe
it?--a whistle, the modern screech of a steam-whistle, is heard, and we
start precisely punctual to the minute. Therefore, I assert, and will
maintain that it is conceivable, it is not contrary to all the laws of
nature, it is possible for a promise to be kept this side the Tropic of
Cancer. But how am I to become reconciled to all this comfort and speed,
this steam-engine, this trail insinuating itself so complacently through
these celestial plains, snorting and blowing and smoking through these
orange-groves, past these waving royal palms, in the midst of sights and
sounds such as lulled Eve into slumber upon the bridal night of her
birth! O insatiate Yankeedom! with all the lurid sins you have to answer
for, will not this alone secure you a life lease in Purgatory? But I
have no time for unpatriotic indignation. Fields of belligerent looking
pineapples; orchards of bananas twenty feet high, with immense leaves
all torn into rags by the wind; groves of cocoa-nuts that look like
sentimental palms in delicate health, with the green clustered fruit
hanging round their necks like an affectionate necklace; cacti, the
prickly pear growing fifteen feet high, and fences of the kinds I have
cultivated in pots with so much care; vegetables, familiar and
unfamiliar, for the Havana market; everywhere trees of gayest plumage,
the blossoms so large and brilliant, that you grow incredulous and
wonder if your eyes are not become telescopic. As you approach the
interior, immense corn-fields greet you with their sweetened breath,
looking like corn-fields of the Southern States grown delicate and pale
from close confinement, a thickened growth that excludes the air.

At nine o’clock the train stops at a village named Bejucal. But for some
reason it does not start again. B---- inquires to find we are to remain
three hours--some failure in the engine. So we do what nobody else does,
walk half a mile under our umbrellas to examine the town and get a
breakfast. See if you do not think this a droll sight for American eyes.
A village containing over a thousand inhabitants, every house in it,
except the church, of one high story, roofed with large red earthen
tiles, built of stone covered with clay or plaster, and painted in all
possible colors that are bright. Not a pane of glass visible, all the
immense windows being only grated and then filled with idle, staring
women and naked children. Every house opens directly upon the sidewalk;
and in the whole extent of streets, gardens, and courtyards, here in
this land of miraculous vegetation, not a tree to be seen. But I have no
eyes or curiosity left. I am one huge unreconciled appetite.

We stop at a house with larger rooms, larger windows, and larger
basements than the rest; where rows of breakfast-tables, each with a
caster in the centre and a tall black wine-bottle on either side,
promise a drop, possibly a mouthful, of comfort to the perishing inner
woman. But the tablecloths! Even my great hunger hasn’t stomach for
them all, overlaid and underlaid as they are

    “With food-prints that perhaps another,
       Sitting o’er their various stain,
     A forlorn and famished sister
       Seeing still might eat again.”

Not so I. Consequently a private room is ordered with a breakfast in it,
and while preparing to fill up the vaccuum, not of the within, we sally
out for a reconnoitre. Just at the back door, we stumble upon--you do
not guess?--a veritable theatre,--boxes, galleries, pit, stage with
decorations for scenes, painted curtains, trap-door opening upon the
prompter’s den, and niches properly placed for footlights. But the boxes
are only stalls with rough board partitions, the seats are wooden
benches, the galleries are an upper loft still retaining remnants of
former hay, the floor is of mother earth unmodified by pavement or
broom, and in fact we have every evidence that this temple is devoted to
horses and oxen by day, and to the muse of the histrionic art by night.
But this aching void which nature has the good sense to abhor! “Will
breakfast never be ready? It is eleven o’clock! I wish I hadn’t seen the
tablecloths.” Ah, here comes an agile quadroon announcing it in Spanish,
which does not get itself translated. We go to a little bedroom from
which a cot has been hastily ejected, and sit down to a table loaded
with fresh fruits of great variety and abundance, in addition to the
usual bountiful breakfast of the country, and, best of all, clean linen
under them. You are right: we revel, we luxuriate, and to this hour I
sit and think of that breakfast with a gastronomic satisfaction none the
less because we paid five dollars for it. We are now ready for any
adventure at the disposal of the remaining hour, and set out for the
ruins of an old castle said to have been built by the Marquis de San
Phillippi and honored by the presence of King Ferdinand VII. at a ball,
while he was _incognito_ in this country. Now the walls are crumbling to
dust; one or two window-shutters flap disconsolately in the wind,
parasitic plants grow over the mouldering arches where a dead past
sleeps its sleeps and dreams its dreams.

The church, Moorish in architecture, is just across the Plaza, and
invites, but the sun threatens, and we decide for a tempting grove near
the railway station.

As we walk over the very clean pavement, stared at by wondering groups
of villagers, a woman rushes up to us breathlessly explaining that she
knows where the English person who lives here is to be found, and will
be very willing to show us the way.

Mr. S---- thanks her, with the assurance that we are only waiting for
the train; and we soon find ourselves reclining beatifically under
deliciously breathing trees, whose shadows are thick as night with

I must not forget to mention a primitive kind of well we saw when again
_en route_. It was like an ordinary well: an old white horse walking
away from it when the bucket was full and backing to it after it was
emptied into the cask on the cart, and must go down for more.

We came also for the first time upon a peculiar species of palm,
distinguishable from the royal palm only by an enormous swelling half
way up the trunk. I pronounced them dropsical. B---- was more brilliant,
declaring they resembled a snake, that had fallen into the misfortune of
swallowing a toad,--an idea which Mr. S---- developed in a drawing which
I copied and am saving to show you. Very many of these singular trees
grow crookedly--vegetable leaning towers suggesting the idea that a
variation from the perpendicular may be peculiarly incident to trees as
well as tropical towers and morality.

It is an interesting fact that instead of undressing with the indelicate
precipitancy of our trees at home, the palm-tree drops only one leaf
every lunar month,--a replenishing of its wardrobe which is dignified as
well as rhythmical.

On the subject of palms I find authors in Cuba again inaccurate. It is
asserted that they are of no use, when it is true that of all the
several hundreds of varieties found on the island every one is useful. A
gentleman who has lived here in the country many years says, “They are
the most useful tree we have.” They give food to animals, thatches to
roofs, brooms to housemaids, cords to tobacconists, hats to men, besides
being used for numerous other purposes.

The young palm often reminds one of an overgrown aquatic weed; very many
resemble a gigantic pencil-case, the trunk quite straight and equal
until you approach the top, where it suddenly diminishes, looking loose
as if it would shove up and down like the pencil point.

Arrived at Guiness, the volante does not come as we expected from the
plantation where we are invited to spend a week or more. We go--not to a
_fonda_, for they are usually only miserably dirty inns, but to a
private boarding-house, with which Mr. S---- is already acquainted. Here
we find what we have so much desired--a characteristic Cuban house with
characteristic Creole customs, although our landlord is a fat,
good-natured Frenchman, and his wife a tall, stately, imposing negress.
Her history is a little interesting. A sister of hers had a daughter,
whose father was a wealthy Spaniard, and who sent her to Paris to be
educated. Soon after she died, leaving this aunt $10,000, with which she
purchased her freedom, and, I conjecture, the French husband.

As we enter the door, large enough for a camel, she greeted us with a
hospitable smile and graceful bow, at the same time motioning us to sit
in the row of rocking-chairs standing accurately in front of the huge
window. I am told that unlike ordinary parallel lines these have been
known to absolutely meet. If I do not mistake, the occasion is apt to be
when an appreciative señor finds a pretty Creole for a _vis-à-vis_.

The house is a fac-simile of nearly all these houses. Massive stone,
directly upon the street. It is of one high story; tiles keep out the
heat; the pointed roof and bare rafters inside giving a bare-like
effect, which the brick-paved floor tries to counteract, and the
enormous doorways to maintain.

A curtain with curious embroidery at the bottom conceals this door which
separates this _sala_ from my chamber. There I find plenty of finest
linen and the clean odor which should always sanctify bedrooms. Canvas
stretchers across the cot-like bedsteads make a delightfully cool and
clean mattress. Carefully embroidered pillow-cases endeavor to excite
our admiration, and brightly colored pictures of saints and martyrs on
the wall, our devotion.

At three comes a Spanish jumble of sounds which mean, “Dinner is ready.”
We walk out on a back piazza, overlooking the pretty courtyard with its
shrubs and flowers, while we are sheltered from the sun by
thickly-growing and blossoming vines.

Our chairs are a curious kind of wooden frame covered with some sort of
hairy skin stretched tightly across the back and bottom; our floor is of
clean cement; our soup is colored a bright yellow with saffron; our fish
is fresh and white from the Carribean Sea; our rice is pearls set in
sweet oil; our green peas have lost their identity by the same process;
our water--unlike the quality of mercy--is strained, and through a
filter; while our beef, like all the beef we have found in Cuba, is
suspiciously dark and tough. Yet we have faith, remembering that the
colored bipeds are much higher in the market than the quadrupeds. In
addition to all this, our table is loaded with nondescript dishes of
Creole names and ingenuity, and all are ranged in one stiff row down the
middle of the table. Opposite me sits a Creole gentleman who has not
only belonged to the army (it has been asserted that Creoles are not
permitted to enter the army in any capacity), but has been an officer in
Spain. We strike up a conversation in French, and imagine my admiration
for the flexibility of his politeness, when he inquires how long I lived
in Paris. Between dessert and coffee he leaves the table to smoke,
apologizing to Mr. S---- by saying he is so much of a Spaniard that he
must smoke before taking coffee, and he does not like to do it at the
table in the presence of an American lady.

I confess it made me feel a little peculiar to see our French landlord
sitting complacently at the head of the table with his bona-fide negro
wife standing as complacently behind his chair to serve us.

After dinner I am attracted to the water-filter standing in one corner.
It is a large moss-covered porous stone, with a cavity in the top where
the water and charcoal are placed; the water creeping through the stone
drop by drop, into the vessel below. I wish I could remember the name of
the island where it is found, and, indeed, of which it is the



     _A Palm-grove--A Planter’s Household--Coolies as compared with
     Negroes--Anecdotes of Coolies--Robbers--Heterogeneous
     Dinner--Creole Politeness._

THURSDAY, March 22d.

This morning comes intelligence that death has occurred in the family of
the owner of the plantation and that his sister is become insane. Our
visit there is necessarily abandoned. However, we are not uncomfortable
in our present quarters, and its independence reconciles us to the
disappointment; for you must know a Cuban planter would as soon think of
taking pay for the air and sunshine you breathe in his house as for any
amount of board, lodging, or attendance he might give you.

To-day, we discovered an inviting grove of palms just outside the town,
and, unwisely careless of the threatenings of the sun, set out to find
them. They looked very near, over the tops of the houses, and so tall
that, like vegetable Mother Gooses, they seemed to be “sweeping the
cobwebs from the sky,” but, as we walk on, seem to recede farther and
farther. The sun waxes and waxes; our fatigue becomes exhaustion; but we
find, as did Macbeth, that to return is as difficult as to go on; so on
we go--melt--utterly dissolve--until, at last, we reach a lovely
garden, and with permission from the major domo, drop down upon the
roots of a tree in the midst of many of the best fruit and ornamental
trees of the country. Was there ever shade so profound, perfumes so
delicious, orange-trees so dark-leaved and bright-fruited!

The ground around us is covered with a great variety of fallen fruits of
which we do not even know the names. They are left quite at the mercy of
various fat, black, lazy, meandering pigs that at first look to you like
overgrown rats--for, like all the hogs of Cuba, they are entirely
without bristles, as smooth-shaven as if just from the razor of the

Presently, we discover a little house behind the trees, apparently
unoccupied. The same idea occurs to us all at once--if we could get it
to live in while we remain. We go for the major-domo, who conducts us
inside. Rude enough, indeed, for the most rural or romantic tastes, and
with eight great black--so black that you could not see them--negroes
sitting in the middle of the middle room. They are all dressed in spots;
that is, a few rags still cling, by chance, or by preternatural
adhesion, to different parts of the body; and all are busily filling
some sort of a demijohn with a kind of black bran much grown and used
here. Not too inviting, certainly, neither, is the stifling,
annihilating walk before us, in a sun whose furnace is heated seven
times hotter than before. We survive, I could never tell how, to find
that the dinner at home has scarcely survived an hour’s waiting for us,
and I go to rest till soup and fish are over.

Immediately after dinner, a Chinaman rides up to the door, leading three
horses. A friend of Mr. S----, a sugar planter, hearing of our arrival,
sends the horses, with an invitation for us to visit his estate. So soon
as habited, I select the horse that wears the side-saddle. He starts off
at once in the delightful and peculiar gait of Creole horses,--not an
ornamental one, as I somewhere said before, but well suited to the
climate, perhaps a result of it,--an amble, giving exhilarating
exercise, without fatigue.

The plantation is but a league distant, and very soon the tall white
chimneys and low roofs reveal our saccharine destination. Flocks of
decently dressed and moderately happy-faced negroes and coolies are at
work in the corn-fields. As we pass on an odor as of nice sweet cake
while in the progress of baking greets us from the boiling sugar, with a
savory familiarity; then a glimpse through the trees of blue walls and
red tiles suggests the family mansion.

What can be so fresh and peaceful as that pretty, low, rambling house,
nestled in among the greenery, with the huge trees behind it giving that
background so indispensible to beauty in houses, while on all sides
stranger varieties of trees, flowers, and shrubs breathe upon us the
sweetness of their welcome!

Our hostess, a charming lady from the United States, living here twenty
years, meets us on the piazza with a graceful hospitality. The gentlemen
go to the sugar-house or _ingenio_, which yields an income of from
seventy-five to a hundred thousand per year, with two hundred and fifty
negroes and coolies to perform the work. I am taken into the grounds and
gardens by Mrs. D---- and her son; where among all that is new I find a
great variety of cactuses, many twenty or thirty feet high; ripe
oranges, perfectly green in color; mignionette and allspice trees; tall
trees of blooming oleanders; also cape jasmines and the night-blooming

We talk much of the coolie system. Although less amiable than negroes,
Mrs. D---- prefers them on account of their superior activity,
ingenuity, and intelligence. Nearly all of them can read and write, and
have some proficiency in arithmetic and geography. Beside being very
passionate, they consider their persons sacred: many of them would die
rather than endure any bodily chastisement. Several murders have
occurred on this plantation among them, but we learned on the way home
that Mr. D---- had the matter hushed up in some way to save their lives
and his money. To illustrate the character of these antipodes of ours: A
celestial in Havana, supposing himself detected in a theft, confessed
his guilt to the unsuspecting owner of the property, also a Chinaman,
who at once tied his hands behind his back and commenced leading him
through the streets backward. The authorities stopped this, to the great
indignation of the persecutor, because he could not do as people always
did in his own country. But the companions of the thief all deserted
him, refused to eat, sleep, or speak with him, not on account of his
guilt, but of the bodily degradation he had suffered, and the next
morning in despair he went and hanged himself. Mr. R---- told me of a
cook of his (they make the best cooks in the world) who was attacked by
a disease for which the doctor, fearing it to be infectious, sent him to
the hospital. While there he was attended by the noble Sisters of
Charity, of whose unselfish though sometimes mistaken devotion I hear so
much. When he was cured one of the nuns said to Mr. R----, “Do take care
of him, for he is a good Christian; and as he desired it, we have
baptized him.” Afterwards his master, knowing so well the tenaciousness
of the idolatry of the Chinese, said to him, “How come it that you were
baptized?”--“Oh,” said the fellow, “my head was very hot, and I thought
I would let them put a little water on to cool it.” This _was_ being

A little event has just occurred on our plantation, from which I am
wandering. One of the laborers, a Chinaman, it is suspected (because the
negroes are such cowards), threw into one of the wheels of the machinery
an iron bolt of some sort to prevent its operation, and so give them all
a holiday. The master, not being able to discover the offender, forced
them all to work harder than ever through the week, and all the
following Sunday.

But night is coming on and we must go in spite of urgent invitations to
remain, and many expressed regrets from our kind hostess that her house
is already too full of visitors to admit us permanently, and so,
promising to “Come soon and spend the day,” we encounter the darkness,
and I many misgivings of possible robbers. And why should I not? The
country, from all accounts is full of them. Everybody goes armed. Not
one man do you meet, from the elegant señor down to the stupidest negro,
without pistols in his saddle and a long sword at his side, which I
always see brushing against the hedges as they ride in the country, or
rattling on the pavement as they walk in town.

My fears are somewhat quieted by the assurance that nobody accompanied
by a lady has ever been attacked or in all probability will be, an
assurance more interesting than convincing, it must be confessed.
However, somewhat armed and strengthened by my weakness, we ride through
the bristling hedges and star-lighted air until tremor is forgotten in
the sweet enchantment of the scene, and we are sorry to see the lights
of Guiness rising one by one out of the darkness.

_Friday, March 23d._--These people have unquestionably the most
heterogeneous tastes in the world. At dinner to-day I counted ten dishes
entirely new to me,--all but two, intricate complications of flesh,
fish, or fowl, but mostly of vegetables, compounds which no ingenuity of
chemist could hope to resolve back to their elements. How think you, is
unsophisticated American digestion to make terms with this marked array?
How not to disappoint the attentive hostess who expects you to encounter
them all unflinchingly, and end them, not yourself, victoriously?

During dinner we happened to mention our intention of procuring horses
and riding twice a day in search of adventures and an appetite, when
what does a polite Creole opposite do but offer me the use of his own
horse as long as I stay: it is in Matanzas and he will be only too happy
to send for it.

I found my French useful to decline and to express thanks more ample
than the Spanish “_gracias_.”




     _"Nice pretty House in the Country”--Wrong Side of the
     Horse--Discovery in Mental Photography--Visit to the Country
     House--Not to be obtained--Contrast of Palms and Bamboos--The Youth
     of Tropical Nature--A Remarkable Phenomenon--House of the Marquise
     of V----“Le Armistad”--Burial of an Officer’s Child--A
     Shock--“Cafetal”--“La Providencia”--A Sugar Plantation--The “Royal
     Highway”--A Grand View._

This evening comes Mr. S---- from Father P----, full of a nice pretty
house we are to get in the country. Immediately a horse resembling an
overgrown rat is procured, warranted amiable with ladies, and we prepare
for investigation.

Imagine my dismay when about to mount, to find the side-saddle turned to
the right of the horse instead of the left. It is indeed the ordinary
style of this extraordinary country. I remember seeing ladies in long,
white habits, riding in this way in the suburbs of Havana, quite at
ease, and unsuspicious of the droll figure they were making. I have,
however, seen or been told that ladies in the south of Europe are taught
both modes of riding, still, I am not inclined to try a new horse in a
new manner; so, after a change of saddles, we find ourselves sailing off
in the stereotyped gait of the Cuban horse, than which nothing can be
more safe, or less calculated for the display of horsewomanship. The
scene is exquisite; we could ask no change in “the day, the place, the
hour, the sunshine and the shade,” except that one might excuse the low,
red afternoon sun from peering up so inquisitively as it does under
one’s eyelids.

How dense and massive are these great cactus hedges on either side of
the road! and how their fierceness is softened or masked by thick vines
creeping and penetrating everywhere, with blossoms and perfumes in their

My equestrian experiences continually reimpress upon me a discovery I am
making in the philosophy of mental photography of scenery.

Riding towards the east is far more inspiriting than going towards the
west. Travelling to the south is equally more cheering than to the
north. I find that western views, however intrinsically beautiful, have
in them an accent of sadness, of departure, of farewells. It is there
that the sun, and moon, and stars go down to be buried, leaving behind
them a consciousness that all bright and fair and tender things must
also drop into a night of death.

Eastern views, on the contrary, however rude and desolate, are yet seen
and beautified through an atmosphere of hope. A sweet sense of promise
always comes up from under the orient; there is an inherent life and
light in it that no stalking shades can terrify.

Northern views, though outwardly full of grace and beauty, have always
about them a haunting desolation. You think only of those “thrilling
regions of thick-ribbed ice,” with no heart beating under the ribs, no
blood in the veins, no kindling in the fixed eye. You fall into
shivering reveries about the unbending attitude of those hyperborean
scenes, wondering if it is their backbone, the north pole that keeps
them there forever, so stiff and stark. You see those ice fields
inhabited mostly by the longing looks, the gasping yearnings of lost
souls who are condemned to burn forever in flames that do not purify or

But southern views, though they may be insipid or uncouth in material
form and feature, are always sweet with the very soul of passion and
poetry. They cry out for you in advance to all sorrow and hopelessness
and death,--

    “Avaunt thy miscreated front.”

But the low roofs and bright walls of the house we are seeking have
discovered us through the trees.

We enter the long, straight avenue of palms interspersed with laden
orange-trees, and are met at the door, not by simply the _mayoral_, as
we had expected, but by the son of the proprietor who, contrary to our
information, lives here with his family.

We are shown to the _sala_, the living and dining-room combined. Here
sits the pretty, pale mistress sewing on little dresses, while her child
of two years totters up to meet us, three large fourths of her
comfortable little brown delicious form visible.

Our errand is of course baffled, but we sit talking until the host
invites us to visit the grounds. They are large, cultivated with great
care and watered by a kind of inundation. Numbers of exotic fruits are
shown us among others, well grown American apples, which it has been
said, like peaches, will not grow in the tropics. Think of apples nearly
ripe in the month of March!

After having made our adieus we turn our horses’ heads towards the wild,
primitive-looking forest across the plantation. Directly we find a
serpentine path through the dark, rich, reddish-brown soil, the only
soil in which oranges and many other tropical fruits will grow; which
stains the men’s feet who work in it, or shoes if they have them; browns
the oxen, carts, everything that it touches; and which is grateful as
“music after howling,” to sun-dazzled eyes.

I have not before been so much impressed by the exquisite contrast of
palms and bamboo-trees growing together. The strange, sombre palm, with
its erect, uncompromising trunk, its long, straight, dark leaves,
looking so doric, so rich in individuality, and then, nestled quite
under its very shadow, you often see a clump of the slender willowy,
delicate bamboo, its pale green leaves, so soft and fine and feathery.
It is the vegetable masculine and feminine attraction. Or it is not
unlikely that a stern warrior, and an ethereal post would be drawn
together by the same contrasts.

As the path narrows and the forest thickens, these dull things are
obscured by densely woven vines, which everywhere hover over these
trees, making the forests at times so dense, that it must be a very
small bird or breeze to get through them: as for a man, he might as well
attempt to wedge his way into the future before the present has cut a
way for him.

But we do not care to have night shading these shadows with her black
crayons, and so, at the first opening, turn our horses’ heads, and amble
homeward, beneath the thrillings of those great ardent hearts up in the
blue bosom of the sky; those stars so large and fair that we need no
astronomer to suggest that it is only distance which keeps them from
being suns.

_Saturday, 24th._--When we had drunk the delicious coffee and milk, or,
more accurately, milk and coffee, which our landlady brings so soon as
we are awake, or should be, we hurried off for the early ride.

What can be more fresh and innocent, more externally young, than this
tropical nature! She is a robust Titaness, it is true, but always out of
her strong comes forth sweetness, and no riddle either. How readily she
justifies the taste which decks her in these early mornings with all her
jewels! And then she is so tender, so peaceful, so serene. Her tears,
thank heaven, like those of infants, are not tears of sorrow. Her
tempests, tornadoes, and straits of passion have been studiously kept
from us. It is true one misses that “sense of promise everywhere” with
which our Northern springs console their sweet virgin hearts, for nature
is always here in her fruition of beauty; “her every future is already
in her every present.” “The world,” says Plato (and he knows), “is God’s
epistle to mankind.” Here the manuscript is written in a large, generous
hand; the ink flowed freely; the thoughts are largely outlined.

Even the people, in spite of numerous reports of robberies, have almost
universally an innocent and amiable expression of countenance and the
most unoffending, respectful way in the world. Even the horses, I am
constantly assured, are never vicious. A lady might ride at random any
of the native species with safety. It may be that an habitual and
contented indolence is largely among the causes, but it strikes me that
harmlessness is the most apparent characteristic of these children of
the sun.

I must have forgotten to tell you of a remarkable phenomenon which we
met every morning coming in to market from the country, or already
arrived when we leave. It moves like an animal; its physiognomy is that
of a vegetable. The first thing you see advancing upon you is a huge
heap of corn-stalks, called fodder, I think, at home, and mollacca here.
It is very high above, and trails upon the ground below. By careful
examination, you may discover at one end of it a muzzled appearance
resembling a horse’s head; from the other extremity dangles a possible
appendage you would declare to be his tail, while sometimes, by careful
scanning and difficult investigation, you may count four feet under the
thing, upon which it seems to move. Sometimes, eight or ten of these
mysterious apparitions are fastened in a procession by a rope, pace
slowly along with one negro to drive or conduct it, often sitting
astride on the top of this superstructure. After many investigations, I
venture to affirm that the framework of this architecture is actually a
horse buried, yet alive and doing well. It would also have amused you to
see the great sun-umbrellas nearly all these countrymen carry on
horseback; not of the dark orthodox colors, but a bright light red
alternated with blue or yellow, tipped with black, or purple bordered
with green: an attempt to eclipse the sun in more ways than one.

After breakfast we with our umbrellas walked over to accept the
invitation of Father M---- to see his garden, or rather the garden in
the courtyard of the Marquis of V----, in whose vacant house the priest
lives alone and free of expense. Finding that he had not yet returned
from morning mass, we took the liberty of avoiding the scorching sun of
the garden by rambling through the great deserted corridors, chambers,
and antechambers, all built and furnished in Spanish style and only
occupied, like most of the great houses out of the cities, one or two
months of every year. Presently, after I had duly ensconced myself to
rest in one corner of a sofa behind the door of the grand drawing-room,
came in the priest, jolly as the priests of romance, saluting us with a
stunning volley of Spanish and politeness; we replying in smiles and
nods which Mr. S---- did not translate, and in English, which he did.
The reverend father is a short man even for a Creole, and when sitting
suggests the form of a pyramid; but the little twinkling gray eyes
situated near the apex of the structure suggested anything rather than
the sepulchral. After we had seen and duly admired some of the frescoes
in the rooms and all the distant views from different upper piazzas and
windows, the priest, with the air of one who is doing you an uncommon
favor, invited us to visit his sanctum. I put on a look of becoming
gravity and awe, and, with a feeling of profound grief at my ignorance
of the mysteries of science, and, alas! of art and theology, and with
profound gratification that there are some works, even in Cuba, where
science and wisdom find refuge, where learning and piety shake hands, I
follow the father and the gentlemen follow me.

We enter a dark, long passage leading to this cell of midnight vigils
and occult research; the door slowly opens, I reverently enter
upon--heaps of tinsel leaves and flowers, with scissors and glue and all
the paraphernalia for flower-making; piles of bouquets lie on the bed,
all with silver leaves exactly alike, and each one with a brick-red rose
in the centre. They are to decorate the church on Easter Sunday; they
are the only proofs of piety and science and lore that the sanctum of
our jolly priest possesses.

After dinner, Father M---- came in, bringing a gentleman who said we
could have a house of his in the country. We go at once on our horses,
to find a river of remarkably clear and pure water running behind the
house among the trees, all most inviting; but the house is wretchedly
dilapidated, kitchen to be built, and, withal, a Creole overseer is to
occupy one half of it. Thus nonplussed, we resign all thought of a
permanent location in the country, and decide to spend our time in
travelling over the island so soon as the interest of Guiness is

From this place we ride to Le Armistad, the _ingenio_ of Mr. D----, our
first Guiness friend, with the hope of getting some _guirappa_ or
cane-juice to drink. It is said to have remarkable fattening as well as
curative power. But the machinery is silent, the chimneys are smokeless,
the odor of nice sweet cake only regales the nostrils of the memory; and
so, redisappointed, we turn again toward home, and ride through the
hedges by the light of a Venus that has a halo as distinct as you may
have seen around the moon. Instead of fast horsemen with dangling sword
and pistol-equipped saddle, we only meet sleepy-looking market-men
returning home astride the collapsed panniers, which in the morning
bulged at each side of their horses like huge saddle-bags, stuffed with
all kinds of fruits or poultry, and these poor horses would think
themselves fortunate if fruits and ducks and chickens were all that is
packed upon their devoted backs. Not only all the fodder and charcoal go
to town in this way, but I saw this morning four exhausted-looking
creatures wilting along through the mid-day sun with chairs, tables, and
bedsteads, piled high upon their backs, and sometimes a
good-for-nothing-looking negro mounted on the top of all openly
rejoicing in that “bad eminence.”

_Sunday, March 25th._--Awoke too late and too weary for early mass this
morning. Immediately after breakfast I was attracted to the window by
martial music and a procession. The landlady came in, saying it was the
burial of an officer’s child. First came the musicians, mulattoes with
handsome serious faces; after them boys in the dress of novices, then
the priests in robes. But no relatives or mourners were to be seen, for
the immediate friends of the dead never go to the burial, do not leave
their houses on these occasions. It is not considered decent or
appropriate anywhere on the island. One is constantly impressed with the
truth that geographical nearness has little to do with real nearness.
All the customs of this country ally it much more nearly to Europe than
to America.

I stood looking carelessly on at the long procession, with only
curiosity excited, when I am attracted by the peculiarly sad and solemn
and tender expression in the faces of the soldiers who follow. I see
tearful eyes turned toward the centre of the group. I look--what an
apparition! Never shall I forget the shock, the thrill, the agony of the
sight. Upon an open litter carried in the hands of these soldiers it
lay, the little angel face of rarest possible loveliness, wreathed with
flowers that are pale and fair, but not so fair and pale as itself. The
little dead hands full of white flowers are raised and clasped in a
supplicating attitude, the little heavenly form, just the fatal and
familiar size, is robed in a trailing white satin shroud, and over this
unearthly vision shines the burning sun with mocking glare, and upon it
stare the passers-by with indifferent faces through which no broken
heart has ever looked. But with this wonderful image some mother’s soul
at home is blackened, with this wonderful image the blackness of the
grave will be brightened. Ah, that grave! It will hold another dead
infant upon its heart, _but it will give back none in return_!

_March 26th._--Again this morning from bed to horse for a little free
air, a little hour to enjoy this wonderfully sweet and delicious nature
before the sun begins his reign of tyranny, and, to all who have the
temerity to encounter his personal presence, reign of terror.

Among untried points of the compass, we remember due south as one. Here
we very soon find ourselves and the road entering upon a long avenue
formed by hedges that have grown to trees, often meeting over our heads.
These are filled with birds and flowers of all songs and perfumes;
through them we catch glimpses of scattered cocoa-nut groves and wide

Presently we come upon a high, ornamented, close-locked gate, the first
of the kind we have seen, and as unlike a sketch I made of it as a
pretty gate must almost be to a bad drawing of it. On approaching more
nearly we find written upon it “_Cafetal_.” We look over the side fence
and discover a wide avenue of palms leading to the concealed house, and
on both sides the pretty coffee-plant, with its small, dark-green
leaves. All over the wide fields it is growing under the shade of a
great variety of trees,--the cocoa-nut, orange, palm etc.; for you must
know the coffee-plant has the feminine peculiarity of always needing
shelter and protection, as well as of causing palpitations,
exhilarations, trepidations, and nervousness generally.

What a shame and sin it was to turn all these shady, poetical _cafetals_
into horrid _ingenios_ with their treeless, monotonous, endless fields
of cane, their dreary smoking chimneys, their steaming engines, and
broiling machinery of men and women!

In the perpetual battles between gold and beauty, it is likely, I fear,
the latter will not win until it has the millennium for an ally.

As we were turning away from the closed gate, a huge piece of midnight,
bungled into human shape, and dressed, or rather undressed, so as to
display the herculean proportions of the entire morning and evening of
his body, having the noon in eclipse, came up to us, holding out an
immense charcoal paw, accompanied by a beseeching jumble of chopped

B---- put in it a piece of silver, which the black-meat looked at so
contemptuously as to quite spoil his attempt at a civil “_gracias_.”

_Evening._--We ventured to penetrate the inviting avenue of this
morning; found it leads to the beautiful _Cafetal_ of “La Providencia.”
The grounds lovely, with overgrown ornamental trees and shrubs, and
pretty brook of rural and domestic habits. Just beyond we met the
administrator with his wife and sister, returning on horseback from the
“south side.” where we had much wished to extend our own ride. The
_pros_ why we should go are:--this is just the season for the sea-cow;
they are being caught in large numbers, and I am positively assured by
those who should know, that they are the real original mermaid--the
prosaic suggestion of all the romantic ballads and traditions. But the
_cons_ that confront our enthusiasm are mostly the roads, which are so
bad as to be dangerous; the horses we met had been almost buried in the
mud, and it is a severe test of the strength of the most vigorous
person. So we yield to the urgencies of that wretched bugbear,
invalidism, and, finally, to the invitation of the party, to go back
with them to the house. Here we are urged to remain to dinner, which is
waiting in the large living-room where we sit, but the sun is already
set, and we excuse ourselves, accepting at last some fruit and a glass
of _guirappa_.

By the time we have passed the grounds night is lapping over the edge of
day without any perceptible clasp of twilight. And those hedges so high
and thickly woven! The starlight scarcely contrives to get through them.
How easily an army of robbers might conceal there and rush upon us,
unarmed as we are, and the darkness robbing us of our only
protection--my sex, and its weakness and appeal to gallantry. Our horses
even instinctively press close to each other and quicken their pace. But
the darkness, or the invisible hand and heart that fashion it, protects
us safely home. Here we are just in time for the usual evening music on
the plaza, a pretty square in the heart of the little town, made and
ornamented by concha, with much taste and expense. It is like all the
plazas I have seen, an imitation of the one at Havana; with exactly four
palm-trees, with shrubs and flowers and statues; with small
bilious-looking men, and belles with regular oriental features, soft and
dark eyes, fat forms, pretty ball dresses, and an awkward mode of
progression which they fancy is walking.

_Tuesday, 27th._--To-day we explored our way to a new sugar plantation,
the first I have seen where the cane is ground by oxen instead of the
usual steam-engine. I have always pitied those poor oxen and horses
pacing round and round in the mill, round and round with the rounding
months and years; but these wretched beings who drive them, with long
whips or rather poles in their hands, calling out to the long train of
animals at every step, as they follow them, in hideous monotonous,
guttural tones that never end; fifty in number, all young and mostly
females; night and day, day and night; and several overseers with the
invariable long whip in hand to watch at every step,--it made me
heart-sick, and glad enough to turn from the entrance of the building,
where we sat on our horses, and ride up to the house of the _mayoral_
for a glass of water. His wife, with an interesting Creole face and
Spanish tongue, insists that we dismount, which accordingly we do, and
wait while the slip-shod negress (negresses here are always slip-shod)
goes to the sugar-house for _guirappa_. We learn that the plantation
belongs to Marquise Somebody, who only comes once in two or three
years, occupying the family house across the green, which, though ample
and well built, has not a tree, a shrub, a leaf to turn it into a home.
As we wait, a small chain-gang passes by us, coolies and negroes linked
together at their work; not an uncommon appendage to a plantation, and
in fact essential with coolies, who are quite certain to commit suicide
if whipped. The lady tells me by proxy that she much prefers negroes to
coolies because they are so much more amiable.

This being the reverse of opinions frequently expressed to me, I infer
that the preference indicates the character of the employer quite as
much as that of the servants.

We return home with the eight o’clock morning sun applying itself with
the vigor and precision of a hot flatiron to the back of our necks. Here
we cool off and rest ourselves for the substantialest of breakfasts,
only to be surpassed by the substantialest of appetites.

As a daily increasing strength allows a daily increase of circuit in our
excursions, we this evening ventured toward the attractive range of
mountains stretched across the northern horizon. Our course soon led us
upon the “Royal Highway,” a broad, smooth military road leading to
Havana; presently we turned upon a wandering equestrian path, with the
appearance of once having been the rough bed of some mountain stream.
And this is not improbable, for the entire luxuriously fertile plain of
Guiness is watered by streams born and matured here; their course and
the amount of water each plantation shall receive being regulated by
the government.

The water for the towns we see carried in little casks, upon the backs
of the horses.

The soil on those barren heights being too sterile for the luxurious
tastes of the sugar-cane, Indian corn, vegetables for the markets, and
many unfamiliar plants are cultivated by the simple, contented-looking
Creoles, whom we find living in these little scattered cottages, with
their high-pointed thatched roofs, few or no windows, and multitudinous
appendages of goats and children.

Arrived at the top of one mountain, we find another still towering above
us, evidently commanding the northern view, so nothing remains but to
pick our way across the valley and its hill, and inquire the best path
of the wondering mountaineers. As we go on the squalidness increases;
the soil becomes more stony and obdurate; the whole aspect of the
country, with the exception of here and there a stray palm, Mr. S----
tells us, is precisely like that of the poorer parts of Ireland.

At one point we come across oxen toiling up a hill with an immense
hogshead of water, upon a real Yankee sled; at another we meet a dashing
horseman, who reins up to salute us. Mr. S---- praises his horse, when he
replies, with a bow full of native grace, “It is always at the service
of your worship.”

But here we are at last, upon the very pinnacle of this temple,
beholding the kingdoms of Cuba and the glory thereof.

East and west of us mountains--those pyramids of nature, which will
never, like those of man, forget their maker--are rising and falling to
suit their own ideas of grace and majesty; north and south are stretched
fair and smiling plains and valleys, with all their strong contrasts and
harmonious blendings of colors: the horizon on the south is caressed by
the soft, sunny, sky-blue waters of the Carribean Sea, looking like the
beginning of a new firmament; the northern horizon is washed by the
darker and wilder waves of the Atlantic; and over all is poured, in
bewildering floods, the glory and passion of a tropical sunset.




     _It Rains--The Effect--No Miserere--Guirappa-seeking--A Skeleton
     Horse--B----’s Pantomimes--A Day More--The Bells of
     Guiness--Market Day--An Invitation--Another Plantation--A
     Remarkable Tree--Palm-Sunday--A Sundayless World--Dreamland--I
     Didn’t Smoke--Cushioned Heads._


Ever since our arrival in Cuba, nature has kept in her after-dinner
mood; but to-day, for the first time, clouds are come over the sky with
another motive than that of simple ornament. If every cloud is an
angel’s face, and no angel’s faces elsewhere, then are we not blessed
with angelic physiognomies? For the first time these gauzy waves have
ceased to vagabondize over our heads like mere apparitions of loveliness
that cannot discover or remember their own errands in the world. In
short, the rain has poured in torrents, in desperate cataracts, for two
hours. Every thing, as well as the roses, is “dripping and drowned.” The
streets are rushing rivers.

But I do not see that nature is especially glad, or even conscious of
the change, unless it be in sympathy with our gladness; for it is here
that she seems always to have within her, and in the atmosphere she
breathes, a fountain of perpetual freshness and youth.

So many weeks of heat and drouth at home would calcine everything to
ashes; but now we see all vegetation bright as when it was born. Nature
is here a goddess of immortal youth sipping invisible nectar and
ambrosia, and forever ministering to her favorites from the secret of
her reservoirs.

So the rain having made us domestic, I sit behind the grates of the
swelling window, mending gloves, sewing on buttons (they foresaw the
rain), listening to ludicrous passages from Handy Andy, taking lessons
in cribbage, studying Spanish verbs, and watching the enraptured little
boys sailing miniature boats in the street; or the stately negresses
passing by with the rain dripping from umbrellas upon their bare
shoulders; or the omnipresent soldiers hurrying along to get out of the
rain and give me a glimpse of the irresistibly comical cut of their
semi-skirted coats. I do not know how better to describe these coats
than that they always remind me of the pathetic condition of those
redoubtable three blind mice after

    “They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
     And she cut off their tails with the carving knife.”

This evening we mustered courage, India-rubbers, and umbrellas, and went
to the cathedral to hear the _Miserere_. This being Holy Week, it was to
be chanted every night. But the rain, that could not keep away
curiosity, had quenched the fire of devotion. No one else came, and we
wandered about in the silent aisles listening to no music but the
echoings of our own voices through the high arches, and our footsteps
over the marble floor. We saw by the dim light of the wax tapers, only
vague outlines of statues and pictures draped in black crape for the
sadness of the Passion-week.

Presently, through the deepening darkness, we saw emerge the black-robed
figures of two pale, melancholy-looking young priests, moving about like
spectres in the chancel, arranging images and ornaments, and, though
unconscious of our presence, always kneeling and making the sign of the
cross when passing the image of the Virgin.

_Thursday, March 29th._--Again _guirappa_-seeking at the plantation, for
our morning cordial. Young Mr. D----, who brought it, poured out the
great pitcher nearly full that was left upon the ground. I exclaimed at
his wastefulness, when he replied that it is free as water. The negroes
and dogs all drink what they choose, and invariably grow fat in sugar
time. Seeing close by a great black heap resembling a coal-pit, I
inquired its nature. He said it was the animal charcoal with which the
sugar is discolorized; that it comes only from Europe and nothing else
can take its place. Thus the greatest whiteness and purity is obtained
only by means of the blackest substance, as the whitest souls have grown
fair through the darkest suffering, and sometimes, it may be, sin.

Directly a Chinese servant came from the house with the incomparable
coffee and milk always used to pacify Cuban hunger until the late
breakfast hour arrives. We swallowed their coffee, and they our thanks,
with an equal appearance of pleasure.

In bowing ourselves away from the shadow of the building, where our
horses had been standing, we turned upon a curious spectacle,--one of
those skeleton horses that one so often sees moving mechanically about
here under their enormous burdens. The horses pass for living, but I
have more than once inclined to the supposition that it is the galvanic
life which may be given to animals after death. As I was saying, one of
these posthumous nags was slowly coming up the road, with a
comfortable-visaged tin-pedlar mounted astride the roof of the edifice
of which the horse was the basement, and between the two, and branching
out each side of them, a huge pannier, plethoric with all the
paraphernalia appertaining to a tin-pedlar. Over the top were dangling
strings of tin basins and baking pans; long-handled dippers were hitting
the poor animal’s ears at every step he took; and as he turned up to the
house of one of the under overseers, I saw the man pull out from unknown
depths wooden spoons, sticks of tape, molasses candy, yards of calico,
china dolls, and tin boxes of shoe-blacking.

Mr. S---- is gone to Havana, and we are left quite at the mercy of our
French, and the little Spanish we manage to extract from the grammar and
dictionary. Nobody but our host understands a word of French, and in his
absence you can imagine our mute helplessness. If anybody were to come
in at that open door and ask permission to cut my throat, I should
hardly be able to decline the civility or to express any opinion of my
own on the subject. B----, however, as you know, is admirably ingenious
in pantomime, so when we wish any thing I stand in the door, repeating
by rote words I have just picked out of the dictionary, while he is
stationed near talking with nose, eyes, hands, and feet, by way of
explanation; as you remember, in the infancy of the drama among the
Greeks, one performer stood out in the front of the stage repeating the
words while the actors in the background gesticulated the play in
pantomime. All this, as you may imagine, is infinitely amusing to the
always-present retinue of staring servants (there are at least two and a
baby to every guest). These darkeys take great pride in my success in
making my wants known, by using the hissing whistling “ps-s-s-s-s-t,”
with the tongue between the teeth, which always and everywhere answers
in place of bells to call servants, and which I can do like a native.

I had nearly forgotten to mention a little incident that occurred the
day of our arrival, and has since been frequently repeated. Dinner had
just gone out, and we were sitting enjoying our exclusive knowledge of
the English language, which makes us almost as much isolated as if we
had the luxury of a separate table and house, and keeps the curiosity of
the rest of the company in an absolutely abnormal condition of
activity,--thus we were sitting and talking while waiting for the
supplement, the amen to our dinner, viz., the cup of _caffé noir_ (and,
mind you, this word _noir_ is by no means figurative: this after-dinner
coffee is so black and opaque that if an elephant were in the bottom of
the cup you could not see him). Well, as was I trying to say, we were
sitting waiting and talking, when an unaccustomed noise was heard upon
the brick pavement of the parlor; we looked, and lo! what should we see
walking majestically through the parlor, through the doors, through our
piazza, dining-room, through the walk of the courtyard, but the very
fine, well-kept American horse of Monsieur, mine host. B---- and I were
of course sufficiently amused, and the rest of the company sufficiently
astonished at our amusement: the only novelty to them was that the horse
came alone, without the volante.

_Friday, March 30th._--This morning, as every morning, I was not
awakened by the bells and clocks of Guiness; though, for the matter of a
capacity to rupture sleep, they might have been invented by all the imps
of discord. You can no more comprehend than you can describe them. It
would be interesting to know where can have been found metal so base to
produce sounds so execrable that “sweet bells jangled out of tune” would
be heavenly harmony compared with them. You would suppose they been
tuned by an earthquake. If I had to manage to endure them, I should see
to it and have my hours longer, or farther apart. But yet, as I said, it
was not the “braying, horrible discord” of the bells that sent Queen Mab
off in a hysteric fit; it was, alas! the earlier five o’clock sounds of
washings and scrubbings in the next rooms. Such scourings and pourings
and dashings of walls and floors, and of all supposable things, were
surely never heard out of Holland, where, Leigh Hunt tells us, the women
wash everything but the water.

Much as I doat on cleanliness, I find it a poor exchange to pay for it
in the more precious commodity of sleep, and I record myself to you as a
wretched victim to this diurnal deluge of neatness.

On our way to the _ingenio_ I mustered Spanish enough to beg a
cane-stalk of the negresses who were cutting it down with great rapidity
in the fields, using huge sharp knives that I could scarcely lift. They
eagerly gave us more than we could carry, enough to keep us _sucking_
all the way home, and a six weeks to come. Willis says, “Nobody can
starve here: the cane-fields are all open; and if hungry, one has only
to cut a stick and suck.” We discovered this morning still another sugar
plantation, but distrusting the availability of our Spanish, only rode
past the sugar-house without asking for _guirappa_. As we passed a gate
near which groups of women were at work, one of them came up with
outstretched hand, begging countenance, and some sort of a jumble, and
all the rest started to follow her example; but being purseless, and
with no great mind to use a purse if I had had it, I shook my head and
said, “_No hablo Espagnol_,” emphasizing the remark by a decided
application of my horsewhip to the horse.

_Saturday, 31st._--This evening we promised ourselves another visit to
our mountain, but an unusual amount of heat and exhaustion forbade the
ascent, and very soon found me reclining under the irresistible shadow
of trees that knew how to make shade, while B---- galloped off to
reconnoitre. But I soon found myself comparing myself to Gulliver when
he became populated with Liliputians, so many insects shared in my taste
for shade and solitude; and I was glad enough when B---- made his
perspiring appearance.

This being market-day, we found great amusement in watching the peasants
astride their panniers which bestrode the horses. In addition to being
stuffed monstrously with vegetables, over the edge of most of the
panniers were dangling chickens, ducks, and Guinea-hens, tied together
by their feet, feathers ruffled, wings flapping backwards, heads
dangling downwards, and an expression on their faces of pious
resignation adapted to the study of bigger bipeds. All the poor things
were alive, but one was sure must die of vertigo or apoplexy, before
they could by any possibility reach the town. Here we noticed
particularly the tethering of the horses and cattle, a custom
indispensable in a country where there are no fences and rarely hedges.
One end of the rope being tied around the animal’s neck, the other is
fastened to a tree or shrub or stake driven in the ground, or sometimes
to the long, strong grass. Thus localized, they are allowed food and
exercise to the full capacity of the rope, but no farther. Each one is
made a hermit, ruminating round and round in his solitude and his
circle, which, instead of increasing, is sure to diminish, for the rope
gets tangled in knots, or twisted around sticks, or the animal’s own
legs, so that prudence soon forces a sedentary life upon him. Not
unfrequently these ropes were lying in ambush across our path, often so
hidden by the grass that neither ourselves nor our horses discovered
them until we were nearly caught in the snare. Imagine the interesting
frights and ingenious summersaults that we escaped!

I must not forget a remarkable tree we discovered across the fields,
which attracted so much our fancy that we immediately turned off,
overleaping hedges and ditches (small ones) to examine it. Its outward
proportions were on the most magnificent scale, eclipsing in size all
its neighbors and all the trees we have before seen, but the trunk
proved to be nearly or quite hollow. B---- rode in through the gothic
opening, turned his horse around inside, and came out again, and I might
have done the same thing at the same time. It would make a dwelling
absolutely larger than some of the inhabited huts I have seen here. That
admirable disciplinarian, the old woman who lived in her shoe, etc.,
would here have found “ample room and verge enough” for all her surplus
of light infantry, while those who had to go to bed without molasses or
bread could have amused themselves with the echoes of their own
squallings, for the cavity sounded hollow, like a great unfurnished
room. But at the time I only thought how much the tree resembled those
magnificent lives spreading out so fair and grandly, reaching so near
their kindred blue that in the eyes of the world they are fulfilling all
of a high and happy destiny. You must approach very near, perhaps
penetrate the abysses of their being, to find that the great heart is
gone; its place is only supplied by hollow echoes and aching void.

_April 1st._--Palm Sunday--like all the other Cuban Sundays, except that
two, or at most three, men have passed on horseback, with long palm
branches in their hands.

A south wind again, more enervating than can well be imagined by those
who have never felt it come hot and hissing from the equator. It is an
incipient sirocco, and always sends the Italians to bed. Of course, too
languid for the early, and only mass, coming as it does, before
breakfast: the rest of the day we have only to endure with the aid of a
fan, and to watch the altitudes of the thermometer.

I have not yet recovered from the uncomfortable sensation of living in a
Sundayless world,--a world which being so elaborate in its upholstery,
is supposed to have required the full seven days to complete it, leaving
no rest or hallowing for anybody.

You can well understand that writing to you, or anybody, on these hot
but heavenly days, is simply a contrivance for inking over my dulness.
As you suspect, I am getting to live quietly here, dreaming away life,
without much help of books, it is true, but, what is better still,
without much hindrance from them either.

After all, why not take a little time to dream a few little dreams in
this large dream of life? Death will come soon enough to tap us on the
forehead, or it may be to shake us rudely, and then we shall be wide
awake, and for a long time. Besides, if it takes a long time to dream
one’s dreams, it takes as long time to undream them; and you know--who
does not?--that they are a kind of atmosphere which penetrates where
everything _is_ as much as where everything _is not_.

I also assure you that pen and ink have no natural, or so far as I am
concerned, acquired relations with these transcendent tropical nights we
are having now; nights when you can feel this wonderful moonlight,
creeping in its slippers of silence, over all the longing darkness,
through all the sleeping lids of this softly breathing nature,
sprinkling them all the time with its white juice-of-love-in-idleness.
Sometimes, you lie its willing and helpless victim, until all your
unpastured emotions come to be swayed by it, as by a shepherd’s voice.
Again you can think of it only as growing, growing, more and more, wider
and deeper, all over the world, like a blanched and intangible parasite,
which no morning will ever dare with profane fingers to pull up by the

_Tuesday, April 3d._--Yesterday we remembered the invitation of the
major domo of the sugar plantation, where oxen instead of steam get the
saccharineness out of sugar-cane, as we do out of babies--by squeezing.
The consequence was that the rough Creole saw the sun and us dawning
upon him at the same distinguished moment; that we dismounted to be
conducted over the establishment; that the trampling feet of oxen, the
monotonous and endless cries of their female drivers, rang in my ears as
repulsively as they did at first, and still keep doing, in spite of all
my efforts to banish them; that we stood beside the boiling cauldron,
where two withered old men were stationed to skim off the scum, and
remind one of the witches in Macbeth bent over their cauldron to catch
the scum, the “Bubble, bubble, Toil and trouble” of human destiny. While
I stood looking at this strange scene, our conductor, with great
_empressment_, drew from his pocket two fine cigars, offering one to me,
and the other to B----, and was sorely chagrined and puzzled that I
declined it. I was obliged to resort to the plea of invalidism to pacify
him. From this we went to the refining house, where little inverted tin
pyramids, full of sugar, were setting all over the floors, with thick
layers of black clay spread over their heads, and little tubs, to catch
the molasses, set under the opening in their feet. This apartment opened
into the one for drying in which these little vessels had been emptied;
the whitened sugar lay evenly all over the floor, and a fat negress
walked over it with a rake in her hand, and the shoes she was born in on
her feet.

I noticed here, as often before, deep scars on the women’s necks,
cheeks, and arms, frightfully disfiguring, and painfully suggestive, but
I was relieved to find it is only the effects of their favorite custom
of tattooing. I thought before, that nature and the most servile of
drudgery had carried the ugliness of these poor wretches to the
extremest verge of possibility, but I find that, in that “deep,” as
well as in all others, there is still a “lower deep.”

We were also puzzled to divine the import of immense round cushions
fastened securely upon nearly all the women’s heads, but soon discovered
they were to make a comfortable seat for the immense burdens of sugar
going from one house to another; for all the ordinary burdens we had
before seen, carried on the head (negroes here have no idea that their
heads were made for any other use) had been simply with the aid and
comfort of the woolly padding of nature.




     _Dear old Mr. R---- -- Chess and Whist and Life--Good Friday--A
     Religious Procession--The silence of the Town--The Miserere--To
     Matanazas--Company in the Cave--Father M----’s approach to
     Matanzas--The Bay--Valley of the Yumuri--The Plaza--The
     Dominica--The Ensor House--Easter Sunday--The Paseo--Steamer to
     Havana--A Night on board--“Queen’s Hotel”--Tricks on a Travelling
     Author--Theft on the Almanac._

THURSDAY, April 5th.

Yesterday the train brought dear old Mr. R---- to see us. In addition to
our former chess and conversations on literature and art, he reads
French, gives me lessons in Spanish, and occupies all the time that
would otherwise have made this a bigger if not a wiser or a better

I have often suggested to you the resemblance between the game of chess
and the game of life. It occurs to me at this moment, that, if this be
true, fatalism must also be true. These inhabitants of chessdom are
forced about by an inevitable will; their success and ruin are equally
beyond their own let or hindrance. They are created as we are, with
certain powers and spheres for action and being; with certain
possibilities which, whether they will or not, may become
impossibilities, but with, alas! impossibilities which must remain such.

From an inevitable force of circumstances, the great and powerful in
chess may become weak; the insignificant may have a greatness thrust
upon them. The humble pawn can at times act with the dignity of a queen;
the queen is often less powerful than the little plebeian beside her.
The bishops, in their attempts to serve royalty, often sacrifice
themselves; the knights sometimes ruin the queen they are sworn to
protect. The queen has the position many other women would like,--she is
the only female in her empire. But, alas! this dizzying distinction
sometimes spoils her wits: in trying to rule her allies and conquer her
enemies, she is too apt to destroy herself and her kingdom. Her king and
lord lives mostly in _statu quo_-ism. He would be her admiring imbecile
except that he has found out the secret of endless life: “The king never
dies.” He may at times, it is true, be a wandering Jew, but he is an
immortal one; he can well afford to be besotted with inertia, for he is
too wise to die. But this wisdom is also his fatality. All that he and
his queen or subjects do or refrain from doing is foreordained; their
entire existence seems to me an admirable illustration of the doctrine
of predestination.

If, however, you wish to find an example of life as it is, of man as he
is in these strugglings between the inevitable providence (which in
this other game we call chance) and his own free will, between
circumstances and character, ability and materials, we must go to the
game of whist. Here you are always balancing the _must be_ with the _may
be_; you are recalling the past, and from it foreseeing the future. You
are calculating the chances, you are making desperate and uncertain
ventures, which may result in disappointing success or brilliant
failure. And here is life, this unfathomable life of ours; this
wrestling with hidden and unprecedented elements, this combating an
unguessed destiny; more than all, this yielding with an equal grace to
its fondness or its hate. Here, as in life, honor is for the successful;
but true greatness is for him who uses most wisely and most valiantly
the much or the little that is given him.

_Friday, 6th_, has brought back Mr. S----, with intelligence that the
steamer leaves for Nassau on the 14th inst. So we must be off at once to
Matanzas, if at all; and Trinidad, and all other places must, alas! be
given up, from the lateness of the season and the excess of heat.

This evening was celebrated by a grand religious procession, one of the
ceremonies of Good Friday. At five o’clock, low, muffled sounds of music
were heard approaching. Presently the band appeared, draped in mourning;
following it, drawn by black horses, came a great hearse, with heavy
pall and waving plumes, and on the top of this, under a white shroud,
was plainly visible the sharp outline of a human figure; blood spots
were on the edge of the shroud, and above them, drooping on one side,
with matted and stained hair, lay the agonized, ghastly face, in wax, of
the crucified Saviour. It was horrible!

I felt myself grow sick and faint, but looked around in vain for a
corresponding horror in the faces of the other spectators. They stared
on with only a little less than their usual gayety and indifference, and
turned with curiosity, as I did for relief, to the remainder of the
procession. Next came a line of priests in sable robes, and officers of
government with crape on their arms, all with uncovered heads, and
carrying in their hands immense wax candles that flickered and paled
before the light of the receding sun. The procession paused a few
minutes before each of the principal houses, while the dead march kept
beating on. But now they have passed, and here comes an august, standing
figure, mounted upon a high carriage: we soon discover it to be the
Virgin following her son to the grave.

Her dress is of long, trailing black velvet; upon her head is a faded
crown; the face is horribly wan and white, with an expression in it of
excruciating torture and despair, and, alas! what is this carried, high
in the pale, uplifted hand! We shudder, we are faint, we look again; it
is--a deeply flounced, elegantly embroidered white pocket-handkerchief!

Behind all this follows an indiscriminate mass of men, women, and
children; but I have seen enough, and go back to the house, wondering
over the strange things in heaven and earth and our philosophies.

Mr. S---- tells us so much of the elaborate celebrations and ceremonies
in Havana, during these Easter days, that we regret not having gone back
to witness them. Yesterday, the streets in all parts of the city were
filled by ladies walking to and from all the different churches; the
great ambition and proof of piety being, to visit as many as possible
during the day. All were dressed in deep black. This is the only day of
the year when dainty Havanese female feet press the pavements. Not a
sound was to be heard over the entire city. All shops closed, carriages
and vehicles of all kinds forbidden to stir, as was the case in Guiness;
profound silence reigns because Christ is dead, and no profane sound
must disturb his slumbers. In most of the churches an image of the dead
Christ lay in a tomb surrounded by burning tapers, and all the signs of
burial. Even some of the private houses, opening as they do on the
streets, discovered in the principal room, to passers by, the same
ghostly image partly covered by a black pall, while the family and
guests sit around it in deep mourning, which is, or should be, enlivened
only by occasional sobs.

_Friday evening, 10 o’clock._--We are just returned from the Cathedral.
As we entered, the _Miserere_ was being sung by two young priests and
our friend Father M----; the organ accompaniment played by a young
priest. The pathetic strains, here mournful as the sob of a broken
heart, there subdued into the tones of resignation, then suddenly
struggling out in an energy like despair, seemed to thrill all the
hearts of the kneeling worshippers. They were composed entirely of
black-robed women; for you must know, devotion here is entirely a
feminine accomplishment: the men only stand around against the wall to
admire the performer, apparently quite forgetting the performance.

I perceived on one side a regularly arranged pyramid of wax candles. At
certain periods of the ceremony one of the lights was extinguished, then
another and another; when all were out the services were to close; but
finding my strength waning faster than the lights, I came home to make a
hurried note of sounds and scenes that I do not attempt to describe, of
ceremonies that have all the grotesqueness and absurdity of those of
Rome without their dignity and grandeur. The piety of Cuba seems to
think that the next best thing to being in Rome and doing as the Romans
do, is to be out of Rome and do more than Romans do.

_Saturday, April 7th._--At nine o’clock this morning we found ourselves
waiting at the pretty and fanciful American depot for the Havana train.
As soon as fairly seated in the American car, in came our jolly friend
the priest, accompanied by a large number of officers; we find that he
is chaplain of the regiment. Officers have taken the little private
sitting-room one always finds in these cars. They amuse themselves more
than us by uproarious singing and laughter. As we start the priest
crosses himself, laughing, and accompanying it by a muttered prayer; all
we hear is “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” He says this is so that if
any accident happens it shall not be his fault. One of the sharply
moustached officers is the first to get out his cigars and offer one to
me, with a look of some concern that I decline, but all the rest of the
ladies accept, and soon every man in the car, but one woman, is smoking
and happy. But presently Father M---- discovers a pretty Creole lady
acquaintance quietly smoking her cigar, at the other end of the car; he
leaves me with a phrase characteristic of Spanish politeness,--“I kiss
your feet, señora.”

_Saturday._--San Nicola and the other little towns on our way present
uniform features. In all varieties of new palms in groves and avenues;
hogsheads of molasses waiting to get their tickets on the cars; low huts
with thatched roofs, or else the ordinary Cuban house with nearly all
its rooms opening on the street, exposing the occupants to the curiosity
of travellers. These people seem to be as ignorant of private life as
unconscious that they are leading a public one. How much is the privacy
and sanctity of domestic life a matter of climate?

This being within a few days of the season of cock-fighting, these
redoubtable warriors, tied securely by unwilling feet, were being
carried in large numbers to the numerous fighting rendezvous. Their
spurs _were_ very long with which to “prick the sides” of their masters’
“intents,” otherwise I saw nothing to distinguish them from our humble,
domestic, barnyard citizen at home, who crows and struts out his day,
and dies “unwept, unhonored,” etc.

The approach to Matanzas, through a ravine between two mountains, is far
famed, and certainly deserves no small credit for the hasty glimpse it
gives you of an ordinarily interesting town and an extraordinarily
interesting bay, and beyond this an even range of mountains which surely
were not born great, nor have they achieved greatness, although many
travellers and descriptions have thrust greatness upon them.

I will not blacken and mar the myriad-hued brightness of that bay with
ink; nor will I attempt to chronicle the phosphorescent miracles which
are all day long being performed by the gulf stream and the concealed
rocks over which it washes and breaks in sunny foam and dripping
rainbows. It is so marvellously uttered in colors that words would do it

_Evening._--It being well established that the only sane thing to do
upon our arrival was, soon as possible, to see the renowned valley of
the Yumuri, we accordingly walked from the dinner-table into our waiting
volante to go and see the renowned valley of the Yumuri.

We drove at once as far up the Cumbri mountain as is consistent with
horse and carriage possibility, the rest of the way trusting to the
unwillingness of feet that walk under the burden of an old fatigue and a
new dinner.

Inversely, like Milton’s pandemonium, above the highest peak, a higher
peak still beckoned us up with false assurances, until at last this is
really the very final topmost top, and we are distinctly rewarded for so
much patience.

On one hand the heavy-walled, gaudily-painted city, with its tumultuous
life, its busy human ascent of toil and gain and fashion; on another
side the throbbing pulse of the bay, sometimes quickening to a fever
like a poet’s eye in fine frenzy rolling, and again stilling to an echo
silent as a dream of silence; on another side still, interwinding hills
and mountains clad in ample verdure, and pretty country seats; and here,
on this side, lies the peaceful little mountain-ringed Yumuri valley. It
is a tiny, but deep and choicely-inlaid casket. There are groves of dark
palms; pale, pea green cane-fields interspersed with dark patches of the
brown soil for contrast; little glancing quicksilver brooks; thatched
cottages buried among flowers and trees, whence come happy voices of
children; here a herd of cattle quietly grazing, there a solitary
market-boy wending sleepily home on his sleepy horse,--and all this full
to the brim, to the very mountain-ring of the faint, fading glance of a
sun that is just breathing his last upon his bed on the western horizon.

And now, the thickening twilight is just able to reveal to us the path
leading to our volante; the famous cave is far off and out of the
question; and soon we are leaving nature and her spells behind; faster
and faster we descend, until soon city lights and city sounds direct us
to the Plaza. Here the band is playing and promenading, bare-headed
ladies are enjoying the cool air and the warm admiration so grateful to
us women in warm climates.

We leave our volante to join the gauzy, chattering stream, and suddenly
stumble upon--none other than the gentlemanly Creole officer who was our
table _vis-à-vis_ at Guiness. Offering me his arm, the rest following,
we walked round and round the flower-scented grounds, listening to all
the music that could insert itself between the pauses of our
conversation. Very soon fatigue and faintness drive us in to the
_Dominica_, a restaurant of which Matanzas is justly proud,--to my
taste, with its cheerful frescoes, much more inviting than the one at
Havana. Here we find ice-cream, frozen juice of pineapples and other
fruits, _orchata_ (almond juice), and a strip, a mere parallelogram of a
breath of sponge-cake to eat with them. But I am too weary for any
refreshment that can be found outside a pair of clean linen sheets.
B---- hisses “ps-s-s-s-st” for a volante and directs the driver to go at
once to the “Ensor House.”

_Easter Sunday, April, 8th._--Just too late for the grand procession
which celebrated this morning, glorious as all Easter mornings should
be. We tried to reconcile ourselves by attending high mass at the
Cathedral. Even here, at eight o’clock, the ceremonies were closing; we
had only time to catch a glimpse of the gold-laced robes of the priest
as he disappeared behind the chancel, and a hasty scrutiny of the
perfect flower-bed of kneeling beauties covering the entire floor of the
building. I was taken completely by storm. So much and so rare beauty
concentrated in so little time and space! Every woman, old and young,
was in full dress: white silk, with lace flounces, a long white lace
veil thrown, like an exquisite fancy, over head and shoulders, instead
of the usual black mantilla, was the most favorite and _recherché_

Here in Matanzas is a decided sprinkling of the Anglo-Saxon blood, just
enough to flush and brighten the skin and to remove two or three of the
strata of fat, which are so universal with the white ladies of Havana.
Many are even so delicate in coloring, that the winds of heaven must
have considerately passed by them on the other side. Still the ladies of
Matanzas almost invariably retain the classically regular features, the
dark fascinating eyes, the grace of posture, the meaning movement, the
language of the fan, the perfect busts and arms copied from a more
luxurious Venus de Medici. I cannot indeed say how much of all this
effect was owing to the contagious admiration of a circle of señors, who
had also come to the sanctuary for worship, preferring however, in all
good taste, truly to offer their devotions at the shrines of living
virgins in flesh and blood and moire antique, to that of a dead one in
tinsel and wax. Nor can I vouch for the effect of cascarilla
artistically applied; for these ladies are all allowed amateurs in its
use. I tried however, to forget all this--to enjoy by faith as well as
by sight; and I did succeed in bringing away with me an impression of
loveliness that would be an actual inheritance to an artist.

From the Cathedral we drove to the somewhat incipient Paseo. It is an
unfinished sentence, yet prettily punctuated,--here by commas in the
shape of vine-porched cottages, there by a long dash of green fields;
now a parenthesis made by brackets of palm-trees including a little
bright piece of the bay, uttering itself in a low tone of voice;
presently an exclamation point, made of mounted cannon; and finally a
full architectural period at the end--the country house of Count
Somebody, or possibly of the Austrian Ambassador.

I am not sorry that we leave by steamer to-night for Havana. Most
travellers, I believe, prefer Matanzas; but to me it lacks the chief
charm of its elder sister,--the quaintness and novelty, while I find
little to supply their place. Undoubtedly it is far more modern in its
spirit, and for a resident might have more social congeniality: but when
you consider that the sights are all seen; the heat so terrific that the
presentation of our letters of introduction becomes formidable; that
there is little left for us but a questionable amalgamation of American
and Spanish cookery, and unutterable suffocation in a room carefully
constructed to admit all of the sun and none of the air,--will you not
allow that in this instance a moderate, though possibly somewhat
habitual desire for change is fairly legitimate?

_Havana, April 9th._--The hour of nine o’clock last night, if it had not
been totally blind with the darkness, would have seen us tumbling down
from the shore to one of the little row-boats that serve you up to the
waiting steamer for Havana. Learning that the cabins below were mere
dens, we all remained on deck till the clocks on shore struck eleven,
then twelve; then till the steamer began to manifest signs of life; then

    “The ship was cleared,
     The harbor cleared,
     Merrily we did drop
     Below the kirk, below the hill,
     Below the lighthouse top,”

and we began to plunge in darkness and the broad ocean; and then one
little hour more for the moon to rise out of this black sepulchre like
its guardian ghost; we wait for it to say its say of beauty, and to
brighten the farewell we take of Mr. S----, who leaves in the morning
before we are awake, and whose constant kindness has been beyond return.

Now at last we really go; and what think you is the way to the ladies’
cabin? None other than directly through the gentlemen’s saloon, where
the occupants all lie in open berths, and in most ghostly states of
attire. I catch one glimpse of horizontal whiteness, draw my veil, seize
B----’s arm, eventuate at the farther end. Here numerous nasal
ebullitions (why will nobody submit to calling the thing snoring, if he
himself is the offender?

    “All men think all men” snorers “but themselves”)

are exchanged for intimations of equally fabulous sea-sickness, and I
find myself safely arrived in the ladies’ cabin, where babies are
prevailing to a sleepless extent.

Here my mattress, sheets, counterpane, are utterly ignored or forsworn
in a cane-bottomed berth. Without any unpinning or unhooking delay, I
follow the example of the groups of shady-faced ladies around me, not of
Christabel when

    “Her gentle limbs she did undress,
     And lay down in her loveliness.”

This morning, after a delightful slumber all the sweeter because
unexpected, I was awakened at daylight by a rattling of spoons, cups,
and saucers. It is my companions taking their cup of coffee,--that
inevitable potion without which you could never convince newly awakened
Cuban men and women of their personal identity, or of the possibility of
the world wagging one step farther.

We had already been lying an hour or more in the bay of Havana. Very
soon all the passengers are gone but ourselves; we, the only foreigners,
are left alone to wait the hour when a volante can be obtained. B----
goes as fast as possible to secure rooms at the hotel. One Chinese
waiter offers me milkless coffee; another bushy-headed antipode stands
in the door, with pail and mop in hand, waiting for me to go. At last,
with patience in a precarious condition, I rush out on one side of the
vessel to get out of the way, and I am driven thence by the observing
disposition of a swarthy man lying in his berth in a little vessel
moored next to our own: he leans on his coatless elbow with an air of
cool curiosity that is unendurable. Then I go to the other side, where
dirty drippings from the upper deck, suggest anew the superfluity of my
presence and drive me, this time fluctuating on the precincts of
ill-temper, out to the gentlemen’s cabin. Here I met B---- tired out
with looking for a volante, and the disappointment of not finding rooms
at Mrs. A----’s where we hoped to go for a change.

At last, after a deal of English and Spanish nobody understands, and of
pantomimes that would have enlightened “blocks, and stones, and worse,”
etc., we find ourselves re-established at Queen’s Hotel, in a room
which, it is plain to see, if there were light enough in it to see
anything, was made for some uncompleted individual,--one in whom had
never been breathed the breath of life, or who had breathed it all out
again, with little hope of a second respiratory experiment.

_Tuesday, April 10th._--Last night arrived a young Bostonian, who, like
ourselves, has been adventuring in the interior. He tells us he knows
well the young man who gave a well-known author on Cuba all the facts in
his book except the few the author learned personally. He says the
person is a great practical joker, and plumes himself on the humbugging
he achieved.

The day has passed in farewell sight-seeings and shoppings, the latter
consisting mostly of the purchase of Spanish fans and linen dresses. And
now I am ready to part from Cuba with scarcely a regret, yet carrying
with me only fresh experiences and smiling memories. The sun in this
social as well as material firmament has been cloudless, or with only
rare veils to brighten its brightness.

I have, it may be, hung on the walls of my life some new pictures, which
will help to keep it from the ravages of time, somewhat as the paintings
of Protogones saved the city of Rhodes from the destruction of its

I do not yet recover from the impression that I have committed a kind of
theft upon nature, or the almanacs, or the thermometers--or all of them;
for I have stolen and luxuriated in an extra summer; so that this
twice-flowered year is likely to be for me the impendingly pious

    “Next year after never,
     When two Sundays come together”




     _A Discovery for the Benefit of Smugglers--The Steamer
     Karnak--Adieu, Cuba!--An English Ship--Nassau--The Negro
     Custom-officer--English Hotel--An Ex-President--What the Island is
     and has--The Negro Element--The “Eastern Road”--The Air--The Beau
     Monde--Turtle Houses._

APRIL 11th.

Last evening, after visits from nearly all our friends; after a long
walk in search of Spanish books, to find them much dearer than in New
York; after looking as a matter of curiosity at the diamonds which are
so lavishly displayed in the shops, to find them all singularly
yellow,--I retired to sleeplessness and suffocation in my air-tight
room. I awoke this morning with only life enough left in me to rejoice
in the prospect of the little sea-voyage before us.

At ten comes Mr. R---- to accompany us to the wharf, where we found
other friends awaiting us, with row-boat and swarthy boatman ready to
carry us out to the steamer.

And here, as a conscientious narrator of important and dignified
historical events, I have to record an item of experience, an
unintentional experiment, that possibly may be of service to future
female travellers.

So soon as our volante reached the landing, the custom-house officer
appeared, received my keys, proceeded with official composure to examine
the trunks. But the instant the top of the first was raised, up popped,
most ferociously, in his face, a white skeleton--a hooped petticoat! At
the last moment I discovered it lying on the top of the wardrobe in the
hotel, and in great haste had stuffed it in the top of the trunk I was
locking. As you may guess, a general shout of laughter followed from the
watching bystanders and my friends, and I soon found my chagrin giving
way before the irresistibly funny scene, and joined in the merriment.
B---- took the thing, flourished it for my benefit, and crowded it back
again. He then pointed to the other trunks, but the nonplussed officer
solemnly shook his head, declaring himself quite satisfied. He expressed
doubts about our being people likely to carry contraband articles.
Hereafter, when you wish to smuggle cigars, linen, or guava jelly, you
have only to cram an apparition of this sort--a jack-in-the-box--in the
top of your trunk, and you are safe.

But here we are at the steamer. Our friends come on deck; we sit talking
until the last moment arrives for setting sail; they descend the
step-ladder to the little boat, and their waving handkerchiefs are soon
lost among the shipping.

A pretty, fair-haired girl sits near me, whom, from her resemblence to
the captain, I perceive to be his daughter. Presently she asks me to go
to the other end of the ship to see the anchor drawn up--always a
cheerful sight when fifteen or twenty ruddy Englishmen march regularly
round and round at the work, while the pleasant roundelay all sing
directs their movements.

And now “the last link is broken which binds me to” this happy clime; we
float down through the winding bay; past ships of all nations; past our
favorite Cortina; the Punto; the Morro, that was the first to welcome
and is the last to leave us; and now the low shores are receding fast in
the distance, and the bright walls and brown tiles and pleasant friends
fade out again into the past and the forever.

_Thursday, 12th._--We are glad of this opportunity to know a thoroughly
English ship-captain, officers, crew, custom, and discipline. Nothing
can be better fitted to inspire confidence than the fresh, honest,
intelligent face of Captain B----, with his rough sailor dress, and
manners whose bluffness cannot conceal the completely affable and
well-bred gentleman under them.

The passengers are so few that we are beginning to know them all.
Various miscellaneous gentlemen of as many different nations; three or
four Spanish ladies and gentlemen, some with children and servants;
captain’s daughter and ourselves, complete the list. One of the
Spaniards, who is to leave wife and eldest son in New York while he
goes with the youngest son, a poor little sea-sick thing, to Germany, to
school, speaks English and French with some fluency, while--a not
unfrequent occurrence in Cuban families--the wife knows and cares only
for Spanish. He has been pronouncing difficult Spanish words to me while
his pretty wife laughs kindly at my attempts and helps him in his
self-appointed task. So what with this novel sociality and a summer sea
as beautiful and almost as calm as the sky, we get, instead of
sea-sickness, delicious sleep and rare gusto for this English roast
beef; instead of enervation, health that waxes with every hour.

_Evening._--Nothing could be more enchanting than this air and sunshine,
this bright crystal sea, this gently-moving ship, this entire voyage. A
few low reefs and coral islands are becoming visible with our glasses;
also many vessels lying quietly here and there,--wreckers I am told,
which do a most flourishing business in these regions; indeed I learn
that wrecking is the chief and all-absorbing occupation of Nassau, for
which we are bound.

If genuine storms and honest ignorance of these dangerous passages do
not supply a sufficient number of wrecks to satisfy the gambling tastes
of the wreckers, and of the merchants who make fortunes by their spoils,
it is found easy enough to make bargains with unprincipled captains, by
which, for a certain sum, a wreck can be achieved at a given time with
unfailing certainty. This is so managed that captain and wreckers shall
make a comfortable little speculation of the affair and nobody lose
anything except the all unsuspicious insurance company or the innocent
owners of the vessel.

_Nassau, New Providence, Royal Victoria Hotel, April 13th._--After being
rocked gently to sleep, and then sung into deep slumbers all night by
these pure-voiced ocean nurses, I was awakened this morning by the
firing of guns announcing our entrance in the bay of Nassau. This city
is to be our destiny for the next month, at the end of which the next
regular steamer goes north. It is thought prudent to graduate in this
way the change from the heat of Havana to the probable cold of New York.

We hung on deck to reconnoitre this little item of our future, and to
find ourselves anchored in the brightest, lightest possible pea-green
water, through which the clean, beautiful bottom is so clearly revealed,
that the numerous swarming boats seem to be floating in an atmosphere
only a little more dense and colored than the delicious nectar we are

While waiting for the inevitable custom-house officer, we lean over the
deck railing to watch this phantom loveliness, and the boatmen that are
urging us in English that sounds as droll as did the Spanish at first in
Havana, to buy their wares. These consist of the only exports of the
island,--sponges, bananas, pineapples; some of the larger boats have the
bottoms covered with living turtles, others are half full of huge conch
shells, or varieties of smaller shells arranged regularly in partitional

Presently the captain comes and points out the just arrived
custom-house officer, a regal-looking negro, dressed in uniform. While
B---- goes with him to examine the luggage, the captain shows us the
white pilot-boat from which one of his men was knocked overboard on the
last voyage, by the rough waves in this bay. The negroes who were rowing
him fled in affright: before help could arrive he had gone down for the
last time, and was never seen again. But a few days after, a shark was
caught and killed, and safely in his stomach lay the man’s hand,
immediately recognizable by the sleeve and cuff; beside it lay a goat’s
head and horns, and various other trophies of a shark’s victories.

But now we must go: the boat waits for us here, and the hotel carriage
on shore. A farewell with our Spanish friends, by whose cards I find, as
I have before been informed, that the husband and wife in Cuba have
distinctly different names; the name on the card of one gives you no
clue to name or address of the other.

An English carriage brought us up the English road, past the English
faces to the English-built hotel here on the hill, overlooking the
English town, the bright bay, and outstretched ocean that owe allegiance
to Her Majesty. Even the hotel belongs to the British government.

The high upper parlor opens upon a piazza commanding a noble and
extensive view. While waiting here for my room,--its occupants go north
in this steamer,--a quiet, elderly gentleman, with much blandness and
benevolence in his not extraordinary face, entered, and sitting down by
the table addressed some kind and casual remarks, evidently intended to
make a stranger feel at home, while I, tired of this long silent sitting
and waiting, was glad enough of any change. On going down stairs I found
I had been conversing with ex-President P----, who has been here since
January for the health of his invalid wife, and also possibly to find a
place where he can escape being lionized, and enjoy the retired literary
leisure of which he is fond.

At half-past two came dinner. It is so late in the season, that not more
than a dozen guests are left. Turtle soup of nicest and freshest quality
commenced the ceremony, turtle pie helped to continue it, so did turtle
steak, otherwise you might imagine yourself at an ordinary American
hotel except that beef and mutton, and ducks and chickens, appear in an
excellent state of mummification, as if they had all died of a lingering
consumption, and would severally assist us to follow their example. The
climate of the tropics is ill-adapted to our domestic animals. We are
told that the best American cows die here after a few months, even if
brought in the fall. Still it is a question, if want of care, and a
general shiftlessness in all matters of the sort, have not more sins of
animal murder to answer for than this delicious climate. The residents
confess as much. By the way, can you guess the proper, legitimate name
of the natives of New Providence? Not, as they are sometimes called,
“Bahamaites,” or “Nassauers,” or “West Indians,” but _Conchs_.

This evening our first drive; pleasant, but exhausting, I much fear; all
that the island has of novelty or interest, measuring, as it does, only
fourteen miles in length and eight in width. In the first place, it is
not only founded upon a rock, but it _is_ a rock; the _debris_ of coral
reefs up to within a few inches of the surface. This surface is clothed
with a light soil, which in the country is clothed with a light verdure,
mostly of shrubs, briers, and weeds, interspersed here and there with
stray dwarfed palms and cocoas. Occasionally the curious cotton-tree is
found, with wide patriarchal branches covered with delicate green
leaves, or else with a long, large pod full of perfect cotton to all
appearances, perhaps intents, but not purposes, for it is proved to be
useless. The roots of this tree, doubtless for want of soil, grow very
much out of the ground, living in the air almost as much as the
branches. In the town and its suburbs, oranges, bananas, sabadillas,
mangoes, etc., are cultivated extensively, giving the whole place from a
distance the air of an inhabited garden.

The streets and roads are a phenomenon. Every one is of solid rock
covered with some kind of cement most dazzling to the eyes in its
whiteness; so much so, that strangers are advised to never go out
without veils. I see many of the inhabitants wearing blue and green
glasses. But no rain or drought can affect them; never mud, never dust;
always as smooth and white and clean as the cement floors in the parlors
of Havana.

I am more than anything else impressed with the quantity and quality of
the negro element. There are, according to statistics, eight black to
one white person, but in passing the streets you would suppose the
pepper to be more than the rule, and the salt less than the exception.
Bless me! how they bubble and swarm in every street, every corner, every
alley, every hut; to each man two women, to each woman at least a dozen
babies; and men, women, and children always idle, and intensely
contented with their idleness; fat, and lusty, and happy, and
good-for-nothing. I think no one can come from a slave country to this
without acknowledging the obtrusive difference, the increased appearance
of happiness; if jolly contentedness can be called so. And rapidly as
they increase in the States, no colored fertility can match this, where
babies are undoubtedly indigenous to the soil, cuticle though it is.
Every way I turn I expect to see a head just budding from the ground,
hands sprouting, wool germinating, or possibly a foot grown uppermost,
with the rest of the dawning body just bursting from the ground, and
like Milton’s hind, or calf, or some other quadruped in Eden, “pawing to
get free.”

If I were to ask one of these bouncing negresses, as Willis did, what
curiosity or product peculiar to the island I could find to carry home,
I should unquestionably get the same answer,--except that his, being on
the island of Martinique, was in French,--“_Bien que les enfants. En

_Saturday, April._--This evening a drive on the “Eastern Road,” the
Paseo of Nassau.

I thought the air in Cuba unparalleled, but this is freer, purer; an
always fresh and warm-enough seabreeze. It has a richness, roundness,
completeness; it is not a thin, sharp, cutting melody, but a perfectly
elaborated harmony. In what a gentle, healing affectionate way it
possesses one, interpenetrating all the sensitive fevered fibres of the
lungs like a blessing, or like a spirit full of blessings, bringing with
it vitality, repose, and life!

In our drive we met all the _beau monde_ of Nassau, the government
officers and families, with their always English faces and figures,
which are in strikingly redundant contrast with the consumptive
Americans seated up and down our hotel table. One thing assures me that
I am not in Spanish Cuba, with her tenacity for national customs and
habits; a tenacity for which I, coming from the shifting fancies of
Yankeedom, sincerely honor her. It is this: We are once more in a land
of gloves and bonnets. How stiff are these London exported bonnets
compared with those exquisitely graceful Spanish veils, or prettier
hair-ornamented Spanish heads; and as for the gloves, I can now
understand without surprise that when Cubans first saw foreigners
wearing gloves they supposed them used to hide some frightful blemish or

Our drive lay along the shore of this extraordinary bay, with its long
parallel lines of brightest, lightest blue and pea-green, contrasting
with the dark ultramarine purples and browns of all hues and densities,
sometimes shading into each other, again preserving themselves, in spite
of all republican efforts of the wind, clearly distinct. The cause of
this phenomenon, I am told, is still a disputed question among the
scientific. On the other side of the bay are built the cottages of
wreckers and fishermen, the latter including those who dive for sponges,
many of which we saw lying about in immense heaps; also those who dive
for conch shells, which are exported in large quantities to France to be
used in various artistic manufactures. The shores are covered with
superannuated and dilapidated conchs, bleaching in the sun and calcining
in the waves.

Another novelty is the turtle houses, built of poles out in shallow
water, in such a way that the water can get freely in and out, while the
self-roofed crawlers do neither the one nor the other.




     _The Military Church--The Zouave Costume--Sunday come
     again--Twilight Rambles--The Kirk--Miscegenation--A Private
     Misery--The Old Fort--Lazy Negroes--Wrecking--The Town
     Library--Shopping--The Zouave Band--The Search for Coolness--The
     Government House--Silver key--Buying Shellwork--Nassau grows
     Purgatorial--Farewell to Nassau._

SUNDAY, April 15th.

One of the ladies having invited me to accompany her to the military
church, we started early, hoping to arrive in time for the military
music and procession, but both were over. Everybody was quietly
assembled in the church, a plain, old-fashioned building, with large
windows wide open, and between them numerous tablets and inscriptions.
Two clergymen officiated; the English officers occupied the front pews;
a few chance visitors besprinkled the body of the church, while thickly
packed in the background, or blackground, were the soldiers with tall,
fine forms, Moorish features, and jet-black skins. The gallery was also
filled by them; the services and hymns were played by their band, and
sung by their choir; all the colored people above and below responded
heartily from open prayer-books during the entire service, and listened
with intelligent interest to the sermon. This was a farewell discourse
from their young pastor of the last year: it was appropriate in spirit,
but so mouthed and mumbled that I scarcely comprehended a word of it.

When, at last the services were over, the black soldiers,--for all the
soldiers on the island are black,--with their white officers, filed in a
long procession while performing certain military evolutions, and then
marched off to the music of a quiet march.

A novel feature of all this was the quaint and picturesque Zouave
costume of the soldiers, which has within a few months been
adopted,--the bright red embroidered jacket, white sleeves, full blue
Turkish trousers, caught just below the knee into a leathern leggin
which half conceals the shoe; the pretty red cap, with a white turban
twisted gracefully around the crown, from which hangs a huge yellow silk
tassel,--all this entire wild and oriental dress harmonizes so
completely with these black, well-formed, often handsome faces and
stately forms, and with this gorgeous sunlight and tropical brightness
of coloring everywhere, that these soldiers seem things wholly unique
and original, beings born just as they are from the burning maternal
heart of this bounteous nature. How mean and modern these
Parisian-dressed men looked beside them! Never were stove-pipe hats so
high and stiff--mathematical tailoring so prim and prosaic and square

 [A] The Zouave costume having been so universally worn by soldiers of
 the United States, since the above was written, it has, of course,
 lost what was its greatest charm--its novelty.

In every thing we constantly see the complete dissimilarity of the
islands of Cuba and New Providence, and in nothing more than in the
recognition of Sunday. A few hours’ sail floats you down through
centuries; from much poetry, it is true, alas! to much prose, but
nevertheless from the dark ages to one of civilization, and from a chain
of weeks linked together by no golden clasp into a country where one
seventh of the time the Presence comes so near that you can hear--if you
have ears to hear--the trailing of its robes down the dismal steps of
all the following week.

_Monday, 16th._--Last evening we commenced a twilight ramble which
terminated at the kirk.

As our walk had been a little long, we sat down to rest, before
arriving, on a little retired rock, commanding bay, city, and clouds of
perfumes from neighboring gardens. Presently a tremendous explosive
sound took place just behind us, and continued on in a perpetual
thundering till we came near being as much petrified as the rock under
us. I had only sense enough left to discover that it was undoubtedly the
church-bell inviting to the house of quiet. But why so tremendous a
summons? Is it to ring out the piety of the entire island? or to break
into shivering fragments the after-dinner naps of the church-goers? or
to deafen them in defence of the stupid sermon to come? or perchance it
may be to call the mermaids and respectable shell-conchs, and other
residents of the surrounding vasty deep? With my questions still
unanswered, we arose to go, and on turning the first corner found that
close behind the wall where we had been sitting, in a little low shelter
for the purpose, situated in the remotest corner of the church grounds,
was the ordinary-sized bell, that had seemed terrifically loud, not from
its size, but from its proximity. Why this wretched attempt at a
campanile is preferred to our method of enthroning the bell on the
pinnacle of the temple, I cannot divine.

The kirk we found even plainer and less tasteful than the established
church of the morning. The noble-faced but prosy clergyman, a
Presbyterian in gown and scarf of the Episcopal clergy; the excellent
though a little shrill-voiced choir, composed entirely of mulattoes.
Just before services began, a handsome lady, well dressed, and whiter
than myself, walked into one of the central pews, followed by a tall,
equally well dressed and perfectly black husband. This is the only
negation of races I have seen, and I cannot tell if it is often

_Monday evening._--I impart to you a private piece of misery. My windows
overlook, and, still worse, overlisten the poultry yard, where
med-_lays_ and _mêlèes_ and sound-_lays_ make the “nights hideous,” as
well as the mornings. The reason is, these West Indian chickens have no
respect for almanacs. They not only ignore the comings and goings of the
sun, but they have no shadow of respect for his definite intentions
that everybody should sleep in his absence. In short, which means in
long, very long, they crow all night, insisting on waking at eleven
o’clock to inform me that the daylight has gone, just as conscientiously
as at one to assert that it is coming, and at four to suggest that it
has just arrived. The geese, the turkeys, the guinea-hens, and, most
vociferous of all, the ducks, are equally assiduous in performing their
vocal responsibilities. No wonder they turn to universal lungs and come
on the table pathetic carcasses, painful relics, poultryitic proof that
bipeds fare best when sound is sacrificed to substance.

A drive this evening on the “Western Road,” which, like all the other
roads, is of smooth solid rock. It lies along the sea shore, where
shells are said to abound; but my enthusiasm, as well as feet, was sadly
dampened by fruitless searchings on the sharp wave-riddled rocks, and
the equally infertile sand-beach.

A little way out of town stand the curious ruins of a fort, built by the
Spaniards when they possessed this island; for you must know, it was
handed about from one government to another, changing hands half a dozen
times or more before England could get a secure hold. Victoria now finds
it a constant drain on her treasury, but, good mother that she is! her
feeble children are nourished and supported with no less fidelity than
that with which the strong ones sustain her.

The fort is circular, with a curious pointed, perfectly solid wing on
one side, the design of which nobody can now discover. Another fort,
built by the Spaniards on the hill opposite my window, has the same
singular appendage, which is, however, well preserved and appropriated
to some military use.

The ruined fort which we passed possesses a subterranean passage,
leading to the government house, in which are numerous mysterious
apartments, having the always-attractive reputation of being haunted. At
various times, various ladies and gentlemen have undertaken to penetrate
them, but these irreverent pursuers of spirits under difficulties are
always summarily dismissed by the inhospitable ghost.

Farther on, we found numerous desolated plantations, presided over by
dilapidated country houses. It is universally found, that since the
emancipation of the slaves, some thirty years since, the impoverished
owners are obliged to abandon their estates.

The negroes now cannot be coaxed or hired or driven to work more than is
absolutely necessary to keep soul and body from a divorce. No public
improvements have been built since the emancipation. It is doubtless
true that the wrecking trade, which of late years is become so
flourishing, has, in its speculating, I may say gambling, influences,
had a tendency to destroy legitimate industry. What is the use of
working their black fingers to the bone, when any day an ill wind may
blow them enough good or goods to make everybody rich? when any wind
that is good for anything, and knows what it is about, comes to them
dressed in silks and satins of the latest fashion, sometimes with a
Paris bonnet on its head, sometimes loaded with jewelry which it lays
at their feet, and begs they will be good enough to accept as a present.

_April 17th._--The town library is well filled with books, excellently
bound, none of them in paper or muslin. It has also a respectable number
of curiosities; there we pass a pleasant early morning hour.

To-day my first shopping excursion in Havana. We heard enticing accounts
of the great bargains to be made here, not only in wrecked goods, but in
English importations free of duty. I found, however, nothing of the
sort; on the contrary, heaps of wrecked and damaged goods lying about
the doors of the shops, or strewn upon the sidewalks; mostly sell as
high as the same thing uninjured in New York.

These merchants are constantly in the practice of wetting and wilting
their superannuated goods in salt water and then displaying them as
wrecked articles, thus imposing on foreigners and ignorant customers,
who suppose that, as a matter of course, they are making “stunning

After dinner, like everybody else, we drove to hear the Zouave band. On
Tuesday and Friday afternoons they find themselves the centre of a large
admiring carriage audience. On benches ranged immediately around them,
are seated crowds of colored nurses with English infants, while older
children are running and playing everywhere with the sweet inexhaustible
happiness which children find in every clime under the sun.

These Africans play operatic music with expression as well as
precision. Like all the negroes of these English islands, they are
taught reading, writing, and the elements of an ordinary school
education. The surgeon of the army tells me that their ready emotional
nature and quickness for time and tune, nearly atone for the, to them,
unattainable intellectual and artistic culture ordinarily necessary to
the full expression of these musical compositions.

We everywhere find coolness the thing most sought by these adopted
children of the sun. Witness their universal white linen umbrellas to
whose blinding glare no coolness could ever reconcile me. Witness also
the prevailing thick, white flannel coats, vests, and trousers worn by
the gentlemen as a morning and business dress. In a country where dust
and mud are matters of merely books and faith, and where perspiration is
a matter for draughts of air to manufacture fevers of, this soft, cool,
non-conducting dress has its advantages.

As we were coming out from tea this evening, General P---- called over
the bannisters to know if we were ready for the usual game of whist. We
found him in the upper parlor, seated opposite the rocking-chair, which
nobody will occupy at whist but myself. I find in him qualities not
often combined in a whist-player,--scientific skill, and what I am far
more capable of appreciating, patience and kind encouragement for the
mistakes of his partner.

_Wednesday evening, April 17th._--This morning the General knocked at
our door to say that the United States Consul would be here at
half-past three, with his carriage, to carry us up to the Government
House, this being the reception day of Mrs. B----, its mistress. We
went, accordingly, to find the walks and house filled with coming and
going guests. On sending in cards we were at once ushered into the
drawing-room, where was her ladyship seated in one corner of a sofa,
without crinoline, which she has never worn. There is character for you!
Her dress and cap were of some gauzy material tinctured with purple; the
same color looked from the underside of her point lace collar and cuffs,
and after my turn was over for commonplaces, I had leisure, or seized it
from the stupid conversation of Doctor somebody on the other side of me,
to discover that the lady’s face was full of culture and spirit, and
that her high-toned guests perfectly agreed with me in the opinion. A
grand piano occupied one side of the octagon room, its polished feet,
like those of its mistress, standing upon a bare, shining oak floor; the
wide open windows commanded a triple view of sea, valley, and forest. As
we came out Mr.----, the graceful bachelor consul, registered our names
in a book kept for the purpose and then brought us home.

_Friday, April 20th._--A boat ride yesterday morning, followed by a long
exhausting walk on the bare beach of Hog Island, which lies stretched
out in front of Nassau for the apparent purpose of making a harbor. All
this fatigued out of me every writing possibility. But to-day we sailed
delightfully over to Silver Key, one of the many uninhabited little
islands that lie within a few hours’ sail of Nassau. The gentlemen were
obliged to wade from the boat to the shore; the ladies were curiously
carried in the arms of the sailors. But we soon forgot the awkwardness
of this novel locomotion in the exciting pleasure of collecting the
pretty shells, corals, sea-fans, and sea-stars, with which we loaded our
pockets, pocket-handkerchiefs, and the arms of the sailors and

Our sailors insist that all these little islands still contain gold and
silver, buried long ago by the pirates, who first of all discovered and
inhabited them. It is true that a fruitless expedition from the United
States once came to make search.

As we passed down the bay, we had a new view of the two or three
“slavers” that lie at anchor. One of them was years ago tossed on the
shore and nearly wrecked by a tornado. The others are noble ships left
deserted to waste and decay in the storms and sunshine. They are fair
but doomed and desolate monuments of a foul traffic, and of a silent
wrath which corrodes their falling masts and haunts like black ghosts
their misery-memoried cells.

_April 21st._--This afternoon looking for shell-work, for which Nassau
is famous. Among other manufactures, we found two maiden sisters living
alone in a little rose-vined cottage. The room was full of natural
curiosities, drawings, and a variety of handiwork discoursing decided
taste and talent. They sold me some very curious sponges and sea-fans,
and kindly gave me a spirited drawing in water colors, representing a
native woman carrying her baby in a bag on her back, according to a
very general custom here. We found these maidens truly intelligent and
polite. Since our return we learn that their mother was a perfectly
black negro, their father formerly a governor of the island.

We ended our drive by visiting a famous banyan-tree, and by an attempt
to stretch it, which hordes of provokingly critical mosquitoes
frustrated. This tree most commonly grows as a parasite on the Pride of
India, a fine native tree, which is often at last hugged to death by its
_soi-distant_ friend.

Returned home after dark, past cottages and country-houses in which not
a single light was burning, a precautionary defence against mosquitoes.

_May 7th._--All these languid days a constant south wind, bringing
intense incapacity for every effort. My pen, a seldom skipping
grasshopper, is indeed become a burden; it refuses to help me “lift the
weight of the superincumbent hour,” even for you.

Our second week here made to us the fatal revelation that Nassau had
exhausted its claims to interest. Since that time the heat alone has
been enough to legitimize its claim to being a mild Purgatory, from
which no prayers, penances, or even money could release us, there being
no escape except by the monthly steamer.

A few pleasant events, it is true, have medicated this ennui. Amongst
them was a musical soiree, for which General P---- procured us tickets,
an amateur affair for benevolent purposes. It had a charming duett or
two on the harp and piano, one on the cornet, extremely graceful. Then
there was an evening out to tea; then there were a few kindly lent
books. But the crowning event was the welcome advent of the steamer on
its way to Havana, once more establishing us in a world from which we
seem to have been vanished a century. It brought fresh news, fresh
letters, fresh promises of home.

Floods of rain came too, at last, drowning out the heat, baptizing these
air-gormandizing trees, filling the drained wells with assurances that
we will not just now

    “Die of thirst with all the waters near.”

It is a curious fact that the tide rises and falls regularly every day
in these wells. With the exception of one or two small lakes in the
interior, no other water is found on the island, which may help to
explain the fact that it had no indigenous animals.

_Thursday night, May 10th._--I sit alone by the waxen taper in my room
to write my parting with Nassau--to end for the present my
pen-peregrinations. But I fear I cannot muster one decorous sigh for the
occasion. Everybody is going; there will be many partings but few
farewells. I will leave with you and with memory those tropical
experiences, knowing that, whatever _you_ may do with them, memory is
like all other sextons--he buries more than he exhumes. The full-packed
trunks, carpet-bags, and boxes of curiosities around me, are welcome
reminders that early to-morrow morning the good ship Karnak will
breathe a welcome breath through her two great red nostrils and will
wind and puff her way around the lighthouse in search of us.


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Typographical errors corrected by the etext transcriber:

makes everbody walk=> makes everybody walk {pg 12}

she maried Serrano=> she married Serrano {pg 22}

Whatever chance leads your steps=> Wherever chance leads your steps {pg

a Nothern mother=> a Northern mother {pg 35}

acceped our invitation=> accepted our invitation {pg 38}

for his amibility=> for his amiability {pg 47}

she purshased her freedom=> she purchased her freedom {pg 57}

when an appreciative señor find a pretty=> when an appreciative señor
finds a pretty {pg 57}

with permissien from the major domo=> with permission from the major
domo {pg 61}

trees of the the country=> trees of the country {pg 61}

the sweetnes of their welcome=> the sweetness of their welcome {pg 62}

have occured on this plantation=> have occurred on this plantation {pg

tremor is forgetten=> tremor is forgotten {pg 65}

not to dissappoint=> not to disappoint {pg 75}

under ones eyelids=> under one’s eyelids {pg 68}

jolly priest posesses=> jolly priest possesses {pg 74}

image some mothers’s soul=> image some mother’s soul {pg 77}

our enthusiam=> our enthusiasm {pg 77}

and several overseeers=> and several overseers {pg 80}

carressed by the soft=> caressed by the soft {pg 83}

vertigo or apolexy=> vertigo or apoplexy {pg 91}

the major dome=> the major domo {pg 94}

To Matanazs=> To Matanazas {pg 97}

entirely a feminine accomplisment=> entirely a feminine accomplishment
{pg 102}

lady aquaintance=> lady acquaintance {pg 103}

occurence in Cuban families=> occurrence in Cuban families {pg 116}

measuring, as it does, only fourteen feet in length and eight in width=>
measuring, as it does, only fourteen miles in length and eight in width
{pg 120}

sincerly honor her=> sincerely honor her {pg 122}

an ameteur affair=> an amateur affair {pg 134}

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+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.