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Title: Roaming Through the West Indies
Author: Franck, Harry Alverson
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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[Illustration: Shade-grown tobacco in Porto Rico]



                    ROAMING THROUGH THE WEST INDIES


                                   BY

                            HARRY A. FRANCK

 Author of “A Vagabond Journey Around the World,” “Zone Policeman 88,”
                “Vagabonding Down the Andes,” etc., etc.


                      ILLUSTRATED WITH PHOTOGRAPHS
                             BY THE AUTHOR

[Illustration]

                                NEW YORK
                            THE CENTURY CO.
                                  1920



                          Copyright, 1920, by
                            THE CENTURY CO.



                                   TO
                            MY WIFE, RACHEL,
                    WITH WHOM THIS WAS THE BEGINNING
                      OF A FAR LONGER JOURNEY, AND
                                   TO
                             MY SON, HARRY,
                        WHO JOINED US ON THE WAY



                              FOREWARNING


Some years ago I made a tramping trip around the world for my own
pleasure. Friends coaxed me to set it down on paper and new friends were
kind enough to read it. Since then they have demanded more—at least so
the publishers say—but always specifying that it shall be on foot. Now,
I refuse to be dictated to as to how I shall travel; I will not be
bullied into tramping when I wish to ride. The journey herewith set
forth is, therefore, among other things, a physical protest against that
attempted coercion, a proof that I do not need to walk unless I choose
to do so. To make broken resolutions impossible, I picked out a trip
that could not be done on foot. It would be difficult indeed to _walk_
through the West Indies. Then, to make doubly sure, I took with me a
newly acquired wife—and we brought back a newly acquired son, though
that has nothing to do with the present story.

I will not go so far as to say that I abjured footing it entirely. As a
further proof of personal liberty I walked when and where the spirit
moved me—and the element underfoot was willing. But I wish it distinctly
understood from the outset that this is no “walking trip.” Once having
broken the friends who flatter me with their attention of expecting me
to confine myself to the prehistoric form of locomotion—I shall probably
take to the road again to relieve a chronic foot-itch.

The following pages do not pretend to “cover” the West Indies. They are
made up of the random pickings of an eight-months’ tour of the Antilles,
during which every island of importance was visited, but they are put
together rather for the entertainment of the armchair traveler than for
the information of the traveler in the flesh. While the latter may find
in them some points to jot down in his itinerary, he should depend
rather on the several thorough and orderly books that have been written
for his special benefit.

                                                        HARRY A. FRANCK.



                           TABLE OF CONTENTS


            CHAPTER                                    PAGE

                  I OVERLAND TO THE WEST INDIES           3


                       THE AMERICAN WEST INDIES

                 II RANDOM SKETCHES OF HAVANA            25

                III CUBA FROM WEST TO EAST               50

                 IV THE WORLD’S SUGAR-BOWL               76

                  V UNDER THE PALM-TREE OF HAITI        106

                 VI THE DEATH OF CHARLEMAGNE            128

                VII HITHER AND YON IN THE HAITIAN BUSH  149

               VIII THE LAND OF BULLET-HOLES            189

                 IX TRAVELS IN THE CIBAO                207

                  X SANTO DOMINGO UNDER AMERICAN RULE   229

                 XI OUR PORTO RICO                      256

                XII WANDERING ABOUT BORINQUEN           280

               XIII IN AND ABOUT OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS     304


                        THE BRITISH WEST INDIES

                XIV THE CARIBBEE ISLANDS                339

                 XV “LITTLE ENGLAND”                    360

                XVI TRINIDAD, THE LAND OF ASPHALT       381

               XVII AFRICAN JAMAICA                     403


                 THE FRENCH WEST INDIES AND THE OTHERS

              XVIII GUADELOUPE AND DEPENDENCIES         439

                XIX RAMBLES IN MARTINIQUE               449

                 XX ODDS AND ENDS IN THE CARIBBEAN      475



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


 Shade-grown tobacco in Porto Rico                        _Frontispiece_

                                                             FACING PAGE

 St. Augustine, Florida, from the old Spanish fortress                16

 A policeman of Havana                                                16

 Cuba’s new presidential palace                                       17

 Venders of lottery tickets in rural Cuba                             32

 The winning numbers of the lottery                                   32

 Pigeons are kept to clear the tobacco fields of insects              33

 Ploughing for tobacco in the famous Vuelta Abajo
   district. The large building is a tobacco barn, the
   small ones are residences of the planters                          33

 A Cuban shoemaker                                                    56

 Cuban soldiers                                                       56

 Matanzas, with drying sisal fiber in the foreground                  57

 The Central Plaza of Cienfuegos                                      57

 A principal street of Santa Clara                                    64

 The Central Plaza of Santa Clara                                     64

 A dairyman, Santa Clara district                                     65

 Cuban town scenery                                                   65

 A Cuban residence in a new clearing                                 114

 Planting sugar-cane on newly cleared land                           114

 Hauling cane to a Cuban sugar-mill                                  115

 A station of a Cuban pack train                                     115

 Cuban travelers                                                      80

 A Cuban milkman                                                      80

 A street of Santiago de Cuba                                         81

 Not all Chinamen succeed in Cuba                                     81

 The entire enlisted personnel of the Haitian Navy                   112

 A school in Port au Prince                                          112

 The central square and Cathedral of Port au Prince on
   market day                                                        113

 Looking down upon the market from the cathedral platform            113

 A Haitian gendarme                                                  128

 The president of Haiti                                              128

 A street in Port au Prince                                          129

 The unfinished presidential palace of Haiti, on New
   Year’s Day, 1920                                                  129

 A Haitian country home                                              144

 A small portion of one collection of captured _caco_ war
   material                                                          144

 The _caco_ in the foreground killed an American Marine              145

 Captain Hanneken and “General Jean” Conzé at
   Christophe’s Citadel                                              145

 Ruins of the old French estates are to be found all over
   Haiti                                                             160

 A Haitian wayside store                                             160

 The market women of Haiti sell everything under the
   sun—A “General” in a Haitian market                               161

 There are still more primitive sugar-mills than these in
   Haiti                                                             161

 A corner of Christophe’s Citadel. Its situation is such
   that it could only be well photographed from an
   airplane                                                          176

 The ruins of Christophe’s palace of San Souci                       176

 The mayor, the judge, and the richest man of a Haitian
   town in the bush                                                  177

 Cockfighting is a favorite Haitian sport                            177

 The plaza and clock tower of Monte Cristo, showing its
   American bullet hole                                              192

 Railroading in Santo Domingo                                        192

 The tri-weekly train arrives at Santiago                            193

 Dominican _guardias_                                                193

 Gen. Deciderio Arias, now a cigar maker, whose
   revolution finally caused American intervention in
   Santo Domingo                                                     208

 A bread seller of Santo Domingo                                     208

 The church within a church of Moca                                  209

 The “holy place” of Santo Domingo on top of the Santo
   Cerro where Columbus planted a cross                              209

 A Dominican switch engine                                           224

 A Dominican hearse                                                  224

 American Marines on the march                                       225

 A riding horse of Samaná                                            225

 Advertising a typical Dominican theatrical performance              240

 A tree to which Columbus tied one of his ships, now on
   the wharf of Santo Domingo City                                   240

 The tomb of Columbus in the cathedral of Santo Domingo
   City                                                              241

 Ponce de Leon’s palace now flies the Stars and Stripes              256

 Thousands of women work in the fields in Porto Rico                 256

 Air-plants grow even on the telegraph wires in Ponce                257

 A hat seller of Cabo Rojo                                           257

 There is school accommodation for only half the children
   of our Porto Rico                                                 272

 The home of a lace-maker in Aguadilla                               273

 The Porto Rican method of making lace                               273

 The place of pilgrimage for pious Porto Ricans                      288

 Porto Rican children of the coast lands                             288

 The old sugar-kettles scattered through the West Indies
   have many uses                                                    289

 A corner in Aguadilla                                               289

 The priest in charge of Porto Rico’s place of pilgrimage            296

 One reason why cane-cutters cannot all be paid the same
   wages                                                             296

 A procession of strikers in honor of representatives of
   the A. F. of L.                                                   297

 “How many of you are on strike?” asked Senator Iglesias             297

 The new church of Guayama, Porto Rico                               304

 A Porto Rican ex-soldier working as road peon. He
   gathers the grass  with a wooden hook and cuts it with
   a small sickle                                                    304

 Porto Rican tobacco fields                                          305

 Charlotte Amalie, capital of our Virgin Islands                     305

 A corner of Charlotte Amalie                                        320

 Picking sea-island cotton, the second of St. Croix
   products                                                          320

 A familiar sight in St. Croix, the ruins of an old sugar
   mill and the  stone tower of its cane-grinding
   windmill                                                          321

 A cistern in which rain water is stored for drinking
   purposes                                                          321

 Roseau, capital of beautiful Dominica                               352

 A woman of Dominica bringing a load of limes down from
   the mountain                                                      352

 Kingstown, capital of St. Vincent                                   353

 Trafalgar Square, Bridgetown, Barbados, with its statue
   of Nelson                                                         353

 The Prince of Wales lands in Barbados                               368

 The principal street of Bridgetown, decorated in honor
   of its royal visitor                                              368

 Barbadian porters loading hogsheads of sugar always take
   turns riding  back to the warehouse                               369

 There is an Anglican Church of this style in each of the
   eleven parishes of Barbados                                       369

 The turn-out of most Barbadians                                     384

 A Barbadian windmill                                                385

 Two Hindus of Trinidad                                              385

 Trinidad has many Hindu temples                                     400

 Very much of a lodge                                                400

 At the “Asphalt Lake”                                               401

 There is water, too, in the crevices of the asphalt
   field                                                             401

 As I passed this group on a Jamaican highway, the woman
   reading the Bible was saying “So I ax de Lard what I
   shall do”                                                         416

 “Draw me portrait please, sir!” The load consists of
   school books and a pair of hobnail shoes                          416

 A very frequent sight along the roads of Jamaica                    417

 Our baggage following us ashore in one of the French
   islands                                                           417

 Private graveyards are to be found all over Jamaica                 432

 A street of Basse Terre, capital of Guadeloupe                      432

 A woman of Guadeloupe                                               433

 The town criers of Pointe à Pitre                                   433

 In the outskirts of Guadeloupe’s commercial capital                 448

 Fort de France, capital of Martinique                               448

 The _savane_ of Fort de France, with the Statue of
   Josephine, once Empress of the French                             449

 Women of Martinique                                                 464

 A principal street of Fort de France with its cathedral             464

 The shops of Martinique are sometimes as gaily garbed as
   the women                                                         465

 Empress Josephine was born where this house stands                  465

 The St. Pierre of to-day with Pélée in the background               472

 The cathedral of St. Pierre                                         473

 The present residents of St. Pierre tuck their houses
   into the corners of old stone ruins                               473

 The harbor of Curaçao                                               480

 A woman of Curaçao                                                  480

 The principal Dutch island is not noted for its verdure             481

 A Curaçao landscape                                                 481


                                   MAP

 The itinerary of the author                                          48



                    ROAMING THROUGH THE WEST INDIES



                               CHAPTER I
                      OVERLAND TO THE WEST INDIES


We concluded that if we were to spend half a year or more rambling
through the West Indies we would get sea-water enough without taking to
the ships before it was necessary. Our first dream was to wander
southward in the sturdy, if middle-aged, gasolene wagon we must
otherwise leave behind, abandoning it for what it would bring when the
mountains of central Cuba grew too difficult for its waning vigor. But
the tales men told of southern highways dampened our ardor for that
particular species of adventure. They were probably exaggerated tales.
Looking back upon the route from the eminence of automobile-infested
Havana, we are of the impression that such a trip would have been marred
only by some rather serious jolting in certain parts of the Carolinas
and southern Georgia, and a moderately expensive freight-bill from the
point where lower Florida turns to swamps and islands. If our people of
the South carry out the ambitious highway plans that are now being
widely agitated, there is no reason that the West Indian traveler of a
year or two hence should hesitate to set forth in his own car.

The rail-routes from the northeastern states are three in number,
converging into one at something over five hundred miles from the end of
train travel. Those to whom haste is necessary or more agreeable than
leisure may cover the distance from our greatest to our southernmost
city in forty-eight hours, and be set down in Havana the following dawn.
But with a few days to spare the broken journey is well worth the
enhanced price and trouble. A truer perspective is gained by following
the gradual change that increasing length of summer gives the human race
rather than by springing at once from the turmoil of New York to the
regions where winter is only a rumor and a hearsay.

In the early days of October the land journey southward is like the
running backward of a film depicting nature’s processes. The rich autumn
colors and the light overcoats of Pennsylvania advance gradually to the
browning foliage and the wrap-less comfort of the first autumn breezes,
then within a few hours to the verdant green and simpler garb of full
summer. There are reservations, however, in the change of human dress,
which does not keep pace with that of the landscape. Our Southerners
seem to be ruled in sartorial matters rather by the dictators of New
York fashions than by the more fitting criterion of nature, and the
glistening new felt fedora persists far beyond the point where the
lighter covering would seem more suitable to time and place.

To the Northerner the first item of interest is apt to be the sudden
segregation of races in the trains leaving Washington for the South.
From the moment he surreptitiously sheds his vest as he rumbles across
the Potomac the traveler finds his intercourse with his African
fellow-citizens, be they jet black or pale yellow, circumscribed by an
impregnable wall that is to persist until all but a narrow strip of his
native land has shrunk away behind him. Only as superior to inferior, as
master to servant, or as a curiosity akin to that of the supercilious
voyager toward the “natives” of some foreign land, is his contact
henceforth with the other race. Stern placards point out the division
that must be maintained in public buildings or conveyances; custom
serves as effectually in private establishments; the very city
directories fetch up their rear with the “Colored Department.”

The tourist’s first impression of Richmond will largely depend on
whether his train sets him down at the disreputable Main Street station
or at the splendid new Union Depot on the heights of Broad Street.
Unfortunately, the latter is as yet no more nearly “union” than it is,
in spite of a persistent American misnomer, a “depot,” and his chances
of escaping the medieval landing-place are barely more than
“fifty-fifty.” But his second notion of the erstwhile capital of the
Confederacy cannot but be favorable, unless his tastes run more to the
picturesque than to modern American civilization. He may at this
particular season grumble at a sweltering tropical heat that appears
long before he bargained for it, but the hospitable Richmonder quickly
appeases his wrath in this regard by explaining that some malignant
cause, ranging from the disturbance of the earth’s orbit by the war just
ended to a boiling Gulf Stream, has given the South the hottest autumn
in—I hesitate to say how many decades. Nor, if he is new to the life
below Mason and Dixon’s Line, will he escape a certain surprise at
finding how green is still the memory of the Confederacy. The Southerner
may have forgiven, but he has not forgotten, nor does he intend that his
grandchildren shall do so.

In that endless stretch of sand, cotton, and pine-trees which is locally
known as “Nawth Cahlina, sah,” there are other ways of passing the time
than by watching the endless unrolling of a sometimes monotonous
landscape. One can get into conversation, for instance, with the
train-crew far more easily than in the more frigid North, and listen for
hours to more or less verdant anecdotes, which the inimitable Southern
dialect alone makes worth the hearing. Or, if wise enough to abandon the
characterless cosmopolitan Pullman for the local atmosphere of the day
coach, one may catch such scraps as these—of special interest to
big-game hunters—from the lips of fellow-passengers:

“Say, d’ you hear about Bud Hampton?”

“What Bud done now?”

“Why, las’ week Bud Hampton shot a buck niggah’t weighed ovah _two
hunderd_ pound!”

This particular species of quarry seemed to grow blacker with each
succeeding state. The two urchins in one-piece garments who lugged our
hand-bags up the slope in Columbia made coal seem of a pale tint by
comparison. At the corner of a main street so business-bent as to
require the constant attention of a traffic policeman they steered us
toward the door of a somewhat weather-worn establishment.

“This the best hotel?” I queried, a bit suspicious that the weight of
their burdens had warped their judgment. “How about that one down the
street?” It was a building of very modern aspect, looming ten full
stories into the brilliant Southern heavens.

“_Dat_ ain’ no hotel, sah,” cried the two in one breath, rolling their
snow-white eyeballs, their black toes seeming to wriggle with pride at
the magnificence it presented, “dat’s de _sky-scrapah_!”

It was in Columbia that we felt for the first time irrevocably in the
South. Richmond had been merely an American city with a Southern
atmosphere; South Carolina’s capital was the South itself, despite its
considerable veneer of modern Americanism. One must look at three faces
to find one indubitably white. Clusters of mahogany-red sugar-canes
lolled in shady corners, enticing the black brethren to exercise their
powerful white teeth. Goats drowsed in patches of sand protected from
the insistent sunshine. Motormen raised their caps with one hand and
brought their dashing conveyances to a sudden halt with the other at the
very feet of their “lady acquaintances,” whose male escorts returned the
greeting with equal solemnity. I puzzled for some time to know what
far-distant city this one, with its red soil stretching away to suburban
nothingness from the points where the street paving petered out, with
its goats and sugar-cane, its variegated complexions, and frank
contentment with life, was insistently recalling to memory. Then all at
once it came to me. Purged of its considerable American bustle, Columbia
would bear a striking resemblance to Asunción, capital of far-off
Paraguay. Even the wide-open airiness of its legislative halls, drowsing
in the excusable inoccupancy of what was still mid-summer despite the
calendar, carried the imagination back to the land of the Guaraní.

An un-Northern spaciousness was characteristic of the chief hostelry,
with its ample chambers, its broad lounging-room, its generously gaping
spitoons, offering not too exacting a target to the inattentive fire of
Southern marksmanship. The easy-going temperament of its management came
as a relief from the unflinching rule-of-thumb back over the horizon
behind us. The reign of the old-fashioned “American plan,” synonymous
with eating when and what the kitchen dictates rather than leaving the
guest a few shreds of initiative, had begun again and was to persist for
a thousand miles southward. But can some trustworthy authority tell us
what enactment requires that the “choicest room” of the “best hotel” of
every American city be placed at the exact junction-point of the most
successful attempt to concentrate all its twenty-four hours of uproar? I
ask not in wrath, for time and better slumber have assuaged that, but
out of mere academic curiosity. In the good, old irresponsible days of
my “hobo” youth the “jungle” beyond the railroad yards was far
preferable to this aristocratic Bedlam.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The “sky-scrapah” loomed behind us for half an hour or more across the
mighty expanse of rolling sand-and-pine-tree world, with its
distance-purple tinge and its suggestion of the interior of Brazil,
which fled northward on the next lap of our journey. The cotton-fields
which interspersed the wilderness might have seemed patches of daisies
to the casual glance, rather sparse and thirsty daisies, for this year
the great Southern crop had sadly disappointed its sponsors. Powder-dry
country roads of reddish sand straggled along through the endless
stretches of scrub-pines, carrying here and there the sagging buggy and
gaunt and dust-streaked horse of former days. I relegate the equine
means of transportation to the past advisedly, for his doom was apparent
even in these sparsely cultivated and thinly peopled regions. Before a
little unpainted, wooden negro church that drifted by us there clustered
twenty-eight automobiles, with a bare half-dozen steeds drooping limply
on their weary legs in the patches of shade the machines afforded them.
King Cotton, abetted by his royal contemporaries overseas, has drawn no
color-line in deluging his favors on his faithful subjects. Forests of
more genuine trees replaced the scrub growth for long spaces farther on;
here and there compact rectangles of superlatively green sugar-cane
contrasted with the dead-brown patches of shriveled corn. In the smoking
compartment of the coach placarded “White” shirt-sleeves and open
collars were the rule, but the corresponding section of the “Colored”
car indulged in no such disheveled comfort. The negroes of the South
seem more consistent followers of Beau Brummel than their white
neighbors.

We descended at Savannah in a hopeful frame of mind, for a recent report
announced it the most nearly reasonable in its food prices of the fifty
principal cities of our United States. Georgia’s advantage in the
contest with starvation was soon apparent. At the desk of the hotel
overlooking a semi-tropical plaza the startled newcomer found staring
him in the face a dire threat of incarceration, in company with the
recipient, if he so far forgot himself as to offer a gratuity. There was
something strangely familiar, however, about the manner of the grandson
of Africa who hovered about the room to which he had conducted us,
flecking away a speck of dust here, raising a curtain and lowering it
again to the self-same height over yonder. I had no desire to spend even
a short span of my existence in a Southern dungeon, along with this
dusky bearer of the white man’s burdens. But he would have made a most
unsuitable spectator to the imperative task of removing the Georgian
grime of travel. Enticing him into a corner out of sight of the key-hole
I called his attention to the brilliancy of a silver coin. Instead of
springing to a window to shout for the police, he snatched the curiosity
in a strangely orthodox manner, flashed upon us a row of dazzlingly
white teeth, and wished us a pleasant evening. Possibly I had read the
anti-tipping ordinance too hastily; it may merely have forbidden the
_public_ bestowal of gratuities.

A microscopic examination might possibly have proved that the reckoning
which was laid before us at the end of dinner showed some signs of
shrinkage; to the naked eye it was quite as robust as its twin brothers
to the North. But of course the impossibility of leaving a goodly
proportion of the change to be cleared away with the crumbs would
account for Savannah’s low cost of living. The lengthening of the ebony
face at my elbow as I scraped the remnants of my bank-note together
might have been due to the exertions of the patent-leather shoes that
sustained it to contain more than their fair share of contents. But it
seemed best to make sure of the source of dismay; we might have to eat
again before we left Savannah.

“I understand you can’t accept tips down here in Georgia?” I hazarded,
reversing the usual process between money and pocket. The increasing
elongation of the waiter’s expression branded the notion a calumny even
sooner than did his anxious reply:

“_Ah_ been taking ’em right along, sah. Yes, sah, thank you, sah. Dey
did try to stop us makin’ a livin’, sah, but none of de _gen’lemans_
do’n ferget us.”

I can highly commend the anti-tipping law of Georgia; it gives one a
doubled sense of adventure, of American freedom from restraint,
reminiscent of the super-sweetness of stolen apples in our boyhood days.

We liked Savannah; preferred it, perhaps, to any of the cities of our
journey southward. We liked the Southern hospitality of its churches,
consistent with their roominess and their wide-open windows. We were
particularly taken with the custom of furnishing fans as well as
hymn-books, though we may have wondered a bit whether the segregation of
the colored people persisted clear beyond St. Peter’s gate. We were
especially grateful to the genius of Oglethorpe, who had made this a
city of un-American spaciousness, with every other cross street an ample
boulevard, which gave the lungs and the eyes a sense of having escaped
to the open country. Perhaps it was these wooded avenues, more than
anything else, that made us feel we were at last approaching the
tropics, where life itself is of more real importance than mere labor
and business. Had we settled there, we should quickly have attuned
ourselves to the domesticity of her business customs,—breakfast at nine,
dinner from two to four, giving the mind harassed with the selling of
cotton or the plaints of clients time to compose itself in household
quiet, supper when the evening breezes have wiped out the memory of the
scorching sun. We liked the atmosphere of genuine companionship between
the two sections of the population, despite the line that was sternly
drawn between them where social intercourse might otherwise have blended
together. The stately tread of the buxom negro women bearing their
burdens on heads that seemed designed for no other purpose fitted into
the picture our imaginations persisted in painting against the
background of the old slave-market, with its barred cells, in defiance
of the assertion of inhabitants that not a black man had ever been
offered for sale there.

The man who conducted us to the top of Savannah’s “sky-scrapah”—for
every Southern city we visited boasted one such link between earth and
heaven—was still frankly of the “rebel” turn of mind for all his
youthfulness. He deplored the abolition of slavery. In the good old days
a “niggah” was as valuable as a mule to-day; no owner, unless he was a
fool, would have thought of abusing so costly a possession any more than
he would now his automobile. The golden age of the negro was that in
which he was inspected daily, as soldiers are, and sternly held to a
certain standard of outward appearance and health. To-day not one out of
ten of them was fit to come near a white man. Laziness had ruined them;
their native indolence and the familiarity toward them of white men from
the North had been their downfall. The South had no fear of race riots,
however; those were things only of the North, thanks to the Northerner’s
false notion of the “nigger’s” human possibilities. Why had the black
laborers who had raised this pride of Savannah to its lofty fifteen
stories of height always lifted their hats to him, their foreman, and
addressed the Northern architects with the disrespect of covered heads?
Wise men from “up east” soon learned the error of their ways in the
treatment of the “niggah,” after a few weeks or months of Southern
residence. Slavery, in principle, was perhaps wrong, but it was the only
proper system with negroes. Besides, we should not forget that it was
not the South that had introduced slavery into the United States, but
New England!

Many things, I knew, were chargeable to our northeastern states, but
this particular accusation was new to me. Yet this son of the old South
was a modern American in other respects, for all his out-worn point of
view. His civic pride, bubbling over in a boasting that was not without
a suggestion of crudity, alone proved that. Savannah was destined to
become sooner or later the metropolis of America; it was already second
only to New York in the tonnage of its shipping. I cannot recall offhand
any American town that is not destined some day, in the opinion of its
proudest citizens, to become the leader of our commercial life, nor one
which is not already the greatest something or other of the entire
country. No doubt this conviction everywhere makes for genuine progress,
even though the goal of the imagination is but a will-o’-the-wisp. What
breeds regret in my soul, however, is the paucity of our cities that
aspire to the place of intellectual leadership, as contrasted with the
multitude of those which picture themselves the foremost in trade and
commerce.

Possibly Savannah will some day outstrip New York, but I hope not, for
it has something to-day the loss of which would be an unfortunate
exchange for mere metropolitan uproar and which even its own leisurely
ambitious people might regret when it was too late. This view from its
highest roof, with its chocolate-red river winding away to the sea
sixteen miles distant, and inland to swampy rice-fields and the abodes
of alligators, that can be reached only by “báteau,” with its
palm-flecked open spaces and its freedom from smoke, raised the hope
that it might aspire to remain what it is now incontestably, a “city of
trees” and a pleasant dwelling-place.

                  *       *       *       *       *

There were suggestions in the over-languid manner of some of its poorer
inhabitants that the hookworm was prevalent in Savannah. Well-informed
citizens pooh-poohed the notion, asserting that “hookworm is just a
polite Northern word for laziness.” The particular sore spot of the
moment was the scarcity of sugar. From Columbia onward it had been
served us in tiny envelopes, as in war-days. That displayed in store
windows was a mere bait, for sale only with a corresponding quantity of
groceries. All of which was especially surprising in a region with its
own broad green patches of cane. The unsweetened inhabitants explained
the enigma by a reference to “profiteers,” and pointed out the glaringly
new mansions of several of this inevitable war-time gentry. Others
asserted that the ships at the wharves across the river were at that
very moment loading hundreds of tons of sugar for Europe and furnishing
even Germany with an article badly needed at home. An old darky added
another detail that was not without its significance:

“Dey ’s plenty of sorghum an’ merlasses right now, sah, but de white
folks dey cain’t eat nothin’ but de pure white.”

Men of a more thoughtful class than our guide of the “sky-scrapah” had a
somewhat different view of the glories of the old South.

“Slavery,” said one of them, “was our curse and in time would have been
our ruination. Not so much because it was bad for the negroes, for it
wasn’t, particularly. But it was ruining the white man. It made him a
haughty, irresponsible loafer, incapable of controlling his temper or
his passions, or of soiling his hands with labor. We have real cause to
be grateful that slavery was abolished. But that does not alter the fact
that right was on our side in the war with the North—the right of each
State to dissolve its union with the others if it chose, which was the
real question at issue, rather than the question of holding slaves,
though I grant that we are better off by sticking to the union. If the
South had won, the United States would be to-day a quarrelsome
collection of a score of independent countries, unprogressive as the
Balkans.”

On a certain burning question even the most open-minded sons of the
South were of the prevailing opinion.

“Whatever the North may think,” said one of this class, “we are forced
to hold the fear of lynching constantly over the negro. In the North you
are having far more trouble with them than we. And why? Because you
depend on the authorities to curb them. Down here a serious crime by a
negro is the general, immediate business of every man with a white skin.
We cannot have our wives or daughters appearing on the public
witness-stand to testify against an attacking negro. The surest,
fairest, most effective, and least expensive means of dealing with a
black scoundrel is to hang him at once from the nearest limb and go home
and forget it. It seems to be the prevailing notion in the North that we
are more apt than not to get the wrong man. That does not happen in one
case out of a hundred. Our police and our deputy sheriffs know the whole
history, the habits, character, and hiding-place of every nigger in
their districts. When one of the bad ones commits a serious crime, they
know exactly where to look for him, and the citizens who go with them
take a rope along. Without lynching we would live in mortal terror day
and night. As it is, we have far less trouble with the negroes than you
do in the North, and the vast majority of them get along better with us
than they do with you.”

Good friends squandered a considerable amount of time and gasolene to
show us the region round about Savannah. Despite their warning that this
floor-flat coast land was not the real Georgia, we found the mile after
mile of cream-white roads, built of the oyster-shells that hang like the
bluffs of mountain spurs above its coastal waters, teeming with interest
to Northern eyes. The endless festoons of Spanish moss alone gave us the
sense of having found a new corner of the world. Sturdy live-oaks were
untroubled by these draperies of vegetation, though other trees seemed
gradually to waste away beneath them. The dead-brown fields of corn had
passed the stage where they would have been cut and shocked in the
North, and the ears hung limply, awaiting the hand of the picker.
Corn-stalks do not tempt animals that can graze all through the winter.
The “crackers” whose ramshackle abodes broke the semi-wilderness carried
the memory back to the peasants of Venezuela or of the Brazilian
hinterland; their speech and their mode of life were but a degree less
primitive, curious anachronisms in the bustling, ahead-of-date America
of to-day. Here and there we passed what had once been a great
plantation of the South, productive now chiefly of aggressive weeds. One
such busy estate of slavery days had been revamped and partly restored
to its pre-war condition. By a new generation of Southern planters? No,
indeed! It is to-day the rendezvous of slangy, dollar-worshipping youths
from the North, who bring with them clicking cameras and pampered movie
stars. Thus is the aggressive modern world constantly treading on the
heels of the leisurely past.

Through the first hint of the brief southern twilight there came
marching toward us under the festooned trees a long double-column of
negroes, dressed in dingy cotton garments, with broad black-and-white
stripes, clanging chains pending from their waists to their legs,
shovels over their broad shoulders, and flanked by several
weather-browned white men in faded khaki, carrying rifles. To our
unaccustomed eyes they seemed a detail of some medieval stage-setting,
long since abolished from the scenes of real life, at least in our
western world. Our hosts, however, accepted the group as a consistent
bit of the landscape, scarcely noticeable until our interest called
their attention to it.

“One of our far-famed Georgia chain-gangs,” laughed the man at the
wheel, “which so frequently arouse the wet-eyed pity of your Northern
philanthropists. A little experience with the ‘poor victims’ usually
shows them that the system is not so satanic as it looks from the
strained perspective of the North. You can take my word for it that at
least half those niggers steal something else as soon as possible, once
they are freed, so they can come back again to this comfortable life of
irresponsibility and three square meals a day.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

The scarcity of towns farther south was less surprising within sight of
the soil they must feed on than in the geographies of our school-days.
The region reminded me of tropical Bolivia, with its thinly wooded
pampas alternating with swamps, its reddish, undomesticated-looking
cattle grazing through a wilderness scattered with palm-trees. Gaunt
razor-backed hogs foraged savagely for nourishment among the forest
roots about each “cracker’s” weather-painted hermitage. Other signs of
animal life were rare, except the first buzzards of the tropics we were
approaching, lazily circling over the tree-tops. The single grass-grown
track sped constantly away behind us, as if even this way-station local
saw few reasons to halt in so uncultivated a landscape. One of those
narrow reddish rivers that seem to form the boundaries between all our
southern states rumbled past beneath us, and the endless brown, swampy
flatlands of Florida, punctuated here and there with clusters of small
wooden houses, inconspicuous in their drab setting as animals of
protective coloring, rolled incessantly away into the north.

Jacksonville, the “gateway to Florida,” is not so Southern in aspect as
Savannah. The considerable percentage of Northerners among its
inhabitants and its bustling pursuit of material fortune give it a
“business-first” atmosphere we had not encountered since leaving
Richmond. Negroes, too, were scarcer in proportion to white men, and
destined to become more so as we proceeded, a phenomenon equally
noticeable in Brazil as the traveler approaches the equator. The reason,
of course, is plain, and similar in the two countries. In slavery days
neither our most southern state nor the region of the Amazon were far
enough developed to draw many shiploads of Africans, and their more
recent exploitation has brought an influx of fortune-seekers, chiefly
white in color. The creamy shell roads about “Jax,” as the tendency to
short cuts and brevity has dubbed Florida’s most northern city, race
smoothly away in all directions through endless vistas of straight
yellow pines, interspersed with patches of lilac-hued water hyacinths,
and strewn with spider-like undergrowth that quenches its thirst from
the humid air. To the casual glance, at least, the sandy soil does not
hold great promise, but it is highly productive, for all that. As proof
thereof it is sufficient to mention that the saw-mills that furnished
lath at a dollar a thousand a few years ago command eight times that in
these days of universally bloated prices.

Trainmen in light khaki garb pick up the south-bound express for its
long run of more than five hundred miles through the peninsular state. A
brick highway, inviting to motorists, parallels the railroad for a
considerable distance, and surrenders its task to an efficient, if
blacker, route farther on. There are other evidences than this that
Florida is more conscious of her appeal to Northern excursionists than
are several of her neighbors along the Atlantic seaboard.

St. Augustine is perhaps more attractive, in her own way, than even
Savannah, at least to the mere seeker after residential delights. But
she is scarcely a part of the American South, as we of the North picture
it. The nasal twang of our middle West, or the slurred “r” of New
England are far more often heard on her streets and verandas than the
leisurely drawl of what was once the Confederacy. Tasks that would fall
only to the lot of the black man in Georgia or the Carolinas are here
not beneath the dignity of muscular Caucasian youths. Above all she has
a Spanish tinge that marks her as the first connecting-link with the
vast Iberian civilization beyond. The massive fortress fronting the sea,
the main square that still clings to its ancient name of “Plaza de la
Constitución,” carry the thoughts as quickly back to the days of
buccaneers and the dark shadows of the Inquisition as those where the
Castilian tongue holds supreme sway. Here the very stones of protective
walls and narrow back streets are impregnated with rousing tales of
conscienceless governors from old Spain and revolts of the despised
_criollos_ against the exactions of the ruling “Goths.”

But St. Augustine is, of course, genuinely American at heart for all its
origin, and even its scattering of negroes are proudly aware of their
nationality.

“Look like dat some ovehseas equipment you got dah, sah,” said the
grinning, ink-complexioned youth who carried my _musette_ to a chamber
filled with inviting sea breezes.

“Yes, indeed, George. Why, were you over there?”

“Ya-as, sah. Ah sure help run dem or’nry Germans home. Dey hyeard
a-plenty from d’ shells _we_ sent on fo’ dem—from Bohdeoh.”

The memory of the war he had waged in Bordeaux caused a broad streak of
ivory to break out across his ebony face as often as he caught sight of
us until the “ovehseas equipment” had again disappeared in the direction
of the station.

Occupation, to St. Augustine, seems to be synonymous with the
unremitting pursuit of tourists. Her railway gates are the vortex of a
seething whirlpool of hotel-runners and the clamoring jehus of horse and
gasolene conveyances. An undisturbed stroll through her streets is out
of the question, for every few yards the pedestrian is sure to hear the
gentle rumble of wheels behind him and a sugary, “Carriage, sah? All de
sights in town fo’ two dollars, sah, or a nice ride out to——” and so on
for several minutes, until the wheedling voice has run through the gamut
of sanguinity, persuasiveness, and shriveled hope, and died away in
husky disappointment, only to be replaced a moment later by another
driver’s honeyed tones.

Ponce de Leon, seeking the fountain of youth, failed to recognize in St.
Augustine the object of his quest. Could he return to-day, he would find
that at least the immortality of fame has been vouchsafed him, for his
name flourishes everywhere, on hotel façades, shop fronts, and
cigar-boxes. Perhaps, too, he was near the goal of physical permanence
without suspecting it. At least, if assertion be accepted as proof, St.
Augustine is without a peer in longevity. “The oldest” is the title of
nobility most widely prevalent in all the region. The oldest town, with
the oldest house, flanked by the dwelling of the oldest woman, who
attends the oldest church, linked to her residence by the oldest street,
and visible to possessors of the oldest inducement to human endeavor,
leaves the gaping traveler no choice but to accept the assertion of its
inhabitants that here is to be found the oldest everything under the
sun, or at least in the United States, which is the same thing, for
surely no one would be so unpatriotic as to admit that other lands or
planets could outdo us in anything we set out to accomplish. Even “old
Ponce,” dean of the six thousand saurians—count them if you dare to
doubt—that sleep through the centuries out at St. Augustine’s “Alligator
Farm” confesses, through the mouth of his keeper from upstart Italy, to
five hundred unbroken summers, and placidly accepts the honor of being
“the oldest animal in captivity.” One stands enraged at the thought that
if “Ponce” cared to open his capacious mouth and speak, he might tell an
eager world just what Hernando de Soto wore when his boat glided over
his everglade home, or what were the exact words with which his human
namesake acknowledged his inability to prolong his butterfly existence
by finding the waters of immortality. Small wonder, indeed, that he
dares raise his scaly head and yawn in the face even of insurance
agents.

The trolley that carries “Ponce’s” visitors across the wastes of
brackish water and worthless land separating St. Augustine from the open
sea is virtually a private car to the rare tourist of October days. This
comatose period of the year gives the bather the sense of having leased
the whole expanse of the Atlantic as his own bath-tub. For the native
Floridians, however widely they may extoll their endless stretch of
coast-line, seem to make small use of it themselves.

                  *       *       *       *       *

For hundreds of miles southward the eyes of the traveler weary at the
swamp and jungle sameness of the peninsular state. The Gulf Stream and
the diligent coral have built extensively, but they have left the job
unfinished, in the indifferent tropical way. Grape-fruit farms and
orange-groves break forth upon the primeval wilderness here and there,
yet only often enough to emphasize its unpeopled immensity. Even Palm
Beach has nothing unusual to show until the holidays of mid-winter bring
its vast hostelries back to life. One loses little in fleeing all day
onward at Southern express speed.

Miami, however, is worth a halt, if only for a glimpse of the United
States in full tropical setting. There the refugee from winter will find
cocoanuts nodding everywhere above him; there he may pick his morning
grape-fruit at the door; and he need be no plutocrat to have his table
graced with those aristocratic fruits of the tropics, the papaya and the
alligator-pear. He cannot but be amused, too, at the casual Southern
manners of the street-cars, the motorman-conductors of which make change
with one hand and govern their brakes with the other, or who retire to a
seat within the car for a chat with a passenger or the retying of a
shoelace, while the conveyance careens madly along the outskirt streets.

Thanks, perhaps, to its sea breezes, Miami seemed no hotter than
Richmond, though it was a humid, tropical heat that forced its
inhabitants to compromise with Dame Fashion. As far north as Savannah a
few eccentric beings ignored her dictates to the extent of fronting the
July weather of October in white suits and straw hats, but they had a
self-conscious, hunted manner which proved they were aware of their
conspicuousness. In southern Florida, however, it was rather those who
persisted in dressing by the calendar who attracted attention, and there
were men of all occupations who dared to appear in public frankly devoid
of the superfluous upper garment of male attire.

Some thirty miles south of Miami the “Dixie Highway,” capable and
well-kept to the last, disappears for lack of ground to stand on. The
soldierly yellow pines give way to scrub jungle, and swamps gain the
ascendency over solid earth. Amphibious plants cover the landscape like
armies of ungainly crabs or huge spiders. Compact masses of dwarf trees
and bristling bushes cluster as tightly together as Italian hilltop
villages, as if for mutual protection from the ever-increasing expanses
of water. Wherever land wins the constant struggle against the other
element, the gray “crabs” of vegetation stretch away in endless vistas
on each hand. White herons rise from the everglades at the rumble of the
train, and wing their leisurely way into the flat horizon. A constant
sea breeze sweeps through the coaches. At rare intervals a little wooden
shack or two, sometimes shaded by half a dozen magnificent royal palms,
keeps a precarious foothold on the shrinking soil; but it is hard to
imagine what means of livelihood man finds in these swampy wastes.

[Illustration: St. Augustine, Florida, from the old Spanish fortress]

[Illustration: A policeman of Havana]

[Illustration: Cuba’s new presidential palace]

The mainland ends at Jewfish, a cluster of three or four yellow wooden
cabins, and for more than a hundred miles the traveler experiences the
uncouth sensation of making an ocean voyage by rail. Strangely enough,
however, there is more dry land for a considerable distance after the
continent has been left behind than during the last twenty miles of
mainland. The swamps disappear, and the gray coral rock of the chain of
islands along which the train speeds steadily onward sustains a more
generous vegetation than that of the watery wastes behind. Gradually,
however, the grayish shallows on either hand turn to the ultramarine
blue of the Caribbean, and the score of island stepping-stones along
which the railroad skips grow smaller and more widely separated, with
long miles of sea-washed trestles between them. Within an hour these
have become so narrow that they are invisible from the car windows, and
the train seems to be racing along the surface of the sea itself,
out-distancing ocean-liners bound in the same direction. Brazil-like
villages of sun-browned shacks surrounded by waving cocoanut palms
cluster in the center of the larger keys, as the Anglo-Saxon form of the
Spanish _cayo_ designates these scattered islets of the Caribbean. The
names of the almost unpeopled stations grow more and more Castilian—Key
Largo, Islamorada, Matacumbe, Bahia Honda, Boca Chica. In places the
water underneath is shallow enough for wading, and shades away from
light brown through several tones of pink to the deepest blue. The
building of a railroad by boat must have been a task to try at times the
stoutest hearts, and the cost thereof suggests that the undertaking was
rather a labor of love than a hope of adequate financial return.

The Cuban tinge of the passengers had steadily increased from
Jacksonville southward; now the “White” car showed many a complexion
that was suspiciously like those in the coach ahead. As with the Mexican
passengers of our southwest, however, the “Jim Crow” rules are not too
rigorously applied to travelers from the lands beyond. Indeed, the
color-line all but fades away during the long run through Florida,
partly, perhaps, because of the increasing scarcity of negroes. By the
time the traveler has passed Miami, African features become almost
conspicuous by their rarity.

Toward the end of the three-hour railway journey by sea, land grows so
scarce that platforms are built out upon trestles to sustain the
stations. The wreckage of a foundered ship lies strewn here and there
along the edge of sandy spits across which we rumble from sea to sea.
The pirates of olden days would scarcely believe their eyes could they
awake and behold this modern means of trespassing on their retreats.
Hundreds of palm-trees uprooted by the hurricane of the month before
marked the last stages of the journey, the islands became larger and
more closely fitted together, and as the sun was quenching his tropical
thirst in the incredibly blue sea to the westward, the long line of a
city appeared in the offing and the railroad confessed its inability to
compete longer with its rivals in ocean transportation.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Key West, fifteen hundred miles south of New York, is a quaint mixture
of American and Latin-American civilization, with about equal parts of
each. Its wooden houses of two or three stories, with wide verandas
supported by pillars, lend tropical features to our familiar
architecture. The Spanish tongue, increasingly prevalent in the streets
from St. Augustine southward, is heard here as often as English. The
frank staring that characterizes the Americas below the United States,
the placid indifference to convenience typified in the failure of its
trolley-cars to come anywhere near the railroad station, the tendency to
consider loafing before a fruit-store or a hole-in-the-wall grocery a
fitting occupation for grown men, mark it as deeply imbued with the
Spanish influence. Small as the island is, the town swarms with
automobiles, and the chief ambition of its youths seems to be to drowse
all day in the front seat of a car and trust to luck and a few
passengers at train- or boat-time to give them a livelihood. Doctors and
dentists announcing “special lady attendant” show that the
Latin-American insistence on chaperonage holds full sway. The names of
candidates for municipal offices, from mayor to “sexton of the
cemetery,” are nearly all Spanish. As in the towns along our Mexican
border, the official tongue is bilingual, and Americans from the North
are frankly considered foreigners by the Cubanized rank and file of
voters. Freight-cars marked “No sirve para azucar” (“Do not use for
sugar”) fill the railroad yards; the very motormen greet their
passengers in Spanish.

The resident of the “Island City” does not look forward with dread to
his winter coal-bill. Not a house in town boasts a chimney. But this
advantage is offset by his year-long contest with mosquitos and the
absence of fresh water. The railroad brings long trains of the latter in
gigantic casks; the majority of the smaller householders depend upon the
rains and their eave-troughs. As in all tropical America, the scarcity
of vegetables restricts the local diet. Fish, sponges, and mammoth
turtles are the chief native products, with the exception, of course, of
an industry that has carried the name of Key West to every village of
our land.

Of the two principal cigar factories we visited one was managed by a
Cuban and the other by an American. The employees are some seventy per
cent. natives of the greatest of the West Indies, and Spanish is the
prevailing tongue in the workshops. There, as in the city itself, the
color-line shows no evidence of existence. Each long table presents the
whole gamut of gradations in human complexions. Piece work is the all
but invariable rule, and the notion of striking for shorter hours would
find no adherents. The cigar-maker begins his daily task at the hour he
chooses and leaves when he has wearied of the uninspiring toil. This
does not mean that the tables are often unoccupied during the daylight
hours, for the citizen of Key West, like those in every other corner of
this maltreated and war-weary world, finds the ratio between his
earnings, whatever his diligence, and the demands made upon them,
constantly balancing in the wrong direction, despite a long series of
forced wage increases within the last few years. Not only the
pianist-fingered men who perform the most obvious operation of
cigar-making, that of rolling the weeds together in their final form,
but those who separate the leaves into their various grades and colors
by spreading them around the cloth-bound edge of a half-barrel, the
women who deftly strip them of their central stem, even those who box
and label the finished product, all have the fatness of their pay
envelope depend on the amount they accomplish.

Cigar-making came to Key West as the most obvious meeting-place of
material, maker, and consumer thirty-five years ago. To-day its
factories are almost too numerous for counting. The largest of them are
broad, low, modern structures facing the sea and ventilated by its
constant breezes; the smallest are single shanty rooms. The raw material
still comes chiefly from Cuba, but that from our own country, as far
away as Connecticut, has its place in even the best establishments.
Though women predominate in several of the processes, the actual making
is almost entirely in the hands of men—and their tongues, I might add,
for they do not hesitate to lend the assistance of those to the glue
with which the consumer’s end is bound together. The average workman
rolls some two hundred cigars a day. Men, too, sort the damp and bloated
cigars into their respective shades of colors and arrange them in boxes,
which are placed under a press. From these they are removed by women and
girls, a dozen labels hanging fan-wise from their lower lips, and each
cigar is banded and returned to the box in the exact order in which they
were taken from it. Stamped with the government revenue label precisely
as one affixes the postage to a letter, the boxes are placed in an aging
and drying room—theoretically at least, though the present insistency of
demand often sends them on their way to the freight-cars the very day of
their completion.

The wrapper is of course the most delicate and costly of the materials
used, being now commonly grown under cheese-cloth even in sun-drenched
Cuba. The by-products from the maker’s bench are shipped northward to
cigarette factories. Imperfect cigars are culled out before the boxing
process and consumed locally, being given out to the “general help” to
the extent, in the larger factories, of five or six thousand a month.
The workman, however—and here we find the present day tyranny of labor
maintained even in this far-flung island of our southern coast—is paid
for every cigar he makes, though he may find himself invited to seek
employment elsewhere if his average of “culls” is too persistently high.
It is said that the makers of candy never taste the stuff they supply a
sweet-tooth world; the same may almost be said of the _cigarreros_ of
Key West. If they smoke at all in the tobacco-laden atmosphere of the
factories, they are far more apt to be addicted to the cigarette than to
the product of their own handicraft. The smoker, by the way, who visits
Key West is doomed to disappointment; cigars are no cheaper there than
in the most northwestern corner of our land. Nor should he bring with
him the hope of sampling for once the brands beyond his means. The
factories treat their swarms of visitors with every courtesy—except that
of tucking a cigar, either of the five-cent or the dollar variety, into
a receptive vest pocket.

The cigar-makers of Key West have one drain upon their income which is
not common to other professions. Each one contributes a small sum weekly
to the support of a “reader.” A superannuated member of the craft sits
on a platform overlooking the long roomful of eagle-taloned manipulators
of the weed and reads aloud to them as they work. The custom has all the
earmarks of being a direct descendant of the doleful dirge with which
negro and Indian laborers, in the Old as well as the New World, are
still in some regions urged on to greater exertion. But the reader’s
calling has lost its romantic tinge of earlier days. Those we heard were
not droning the poetry or the colorful tales of the Castilian classics,
but read from a morning newspaper printed in Spanish, with special
emphasis on the successful struggles of the “working class” against
“capitalists” the world over.

The hurricane that vented its chief fury on the Florida keys early in
September was still the chief topic of conversation in Key West. For two
days the inhabitants had been without electricity, gas, or
transportation; in most houses even the bread gave out. The damage was
wide-spread, sparing neither the pipe-organs of churches nor the
mattresses of family bedrooms. Many a house was reduced to a mere heap
of broken boards. Sea-walls of stone were strewn in scattered bits of
rock along the water-fronts; the roofs of some of the stanchest
buildings bore gaping holes that carried the memory back to Flanders and
eastern France.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Two other routes to the Caribbean converge on this one through Key West,
those by way of New Orleans and Tampa. The ferry, for it is little more
than that, which connects the southernmost of our cities with Havana is
the chief drawback of the overland journey. In the first place its rates
testify to its freedom from competition, fifteen dollars and tax for a
bare ninety miles of travel. It is as if our ocean-liners demanded $500
for the journey to Liverpool, without furnishing food or baths on the
way. Then, as though the continued exactions of passport formalities
long after any suitable reason for them had passed were not sufficiently
troublesome to the harassed passenger, his comfort is everywhere second
to that of the steamer personnel, while the outstretched palm invites
special contribution for even the most shadowy species of service. But
once the door of his breathless stateroom is closed behind him, a brief
night’s sleep, if the inexplicable uproar with which the crew seems to
pass its time during the journey permits it, brings him to the
metropolis of the West Indies. A glimpse through the port-hole at an
unseasonable hour shows the horizon dotted at regular intervals by the
arc-lights of Havana’s Malecón, and by the time he has reached the deck,
these have faded away in the swift tropical dawn, and the steamer is
nosing its way through the bottle-mouth of the harbor under the brow of
age-and-sea-browned Morro Castle. There ensues the inevitable wait of an
hour or two until the haughty port doctor rises and dresses with
meticulous care and leisurely sips his morning coffee. When at last he
appears, his professional duty does not delay the long file of
passengers, for the simple reason that his attention is confined to the
incessant smoking of cigarettes behind his morning newspaper. Passports,
so sternly required of the departing American, are not even worthy of a
glance by the Cuban officials; the custom examination is brief and
unexacting. Once he has escaped the aggressive maelstrom of multicolored
humanity which welcomes each new-comer with hopeful shrieks of delight,
the traveler quickly merges into the heterogeneous multitude that is as
characteristic as its Spanish style of architecture of the cosmopolitan
capital of _Cuba libre_.



                        THE AMERICAN WEST INDIES



                               CHAPTER II
                       RANDOM SKETCHES OF HAVANA


A constant procession of Fords, their mufflers wide open, were
hiccoughing out the Carlos III Boulevard toward the Havana ball-park.
The entrance-gate, at which they brought up with a snort and a sudden,
bronco-like halt that all but jerked their passengers to their feet, was
a seething hubbub. Ticket-speculators, renters of cushions, venders of
everything that can be consumed on a summer afternoon, were bellowing
their wares into the ears of the _fanáticos_ who scrimmaged about the
ticket-window. Men a trifle seedy in appearance wandered back and forth
holding up half a dozen tiny envelopes, arranged in fan-shape, which
they were evidently trying to sell or rent. The pink _entradas_ I
finally succeeded in snatching were not, of course, the only tickets
needed. That would have been too simple a system for Spanish-America.
They carried us as far as the grand stand, where another maelstrom was
surging about the chicken-wire wicket behind which a hen-minded youth
was dispensing permissions to sit down. He would have been more
successful in the undertaking if he had not needed to thumb over a
hundred or more seat-coupons reserved for special friends of the
management or of himself every time he sought to serve a mere spectator.

We certainly could not complain, however, of the front-row places we
obtained except that, in the free-for-all Spanish fashion, all the
riffraff of venders crowded the foot-rests that were supposedly reserved
for front-row occupants. Nine nimble Cubans were scattered about the
flat expanse of Almendares Park, backed by Príncipe Hill, with its crown
of university buildings. Royal palms waved their plumes languidly in the
ocean breeze; a huge Cuban flag undulated beyond the outfielders; a
score of vultures circled lazily overhead, as if awaiting a chance to
pounce upon the “dead ones” which the wrathful “fans” announced every
time a player failed to live up to their hopes. On a bench in the shade
sat all but one of the invading team, our own “Pirates” from the Smoky
City. The missing one was swinging his club alertly at the home plate,
his eyes glued on the Cuban _zurdo_, or “south-paw,” who had just begun
his contortions in the middle of the diamond. The scene itself was
familiar enough, yet it seemed strangely out of place in this tropical
setting. It was like coming upon a picture one had known since
childhood, to find it inclosed in a brand new frame.

I reached for my kodak, then restrained the impulse. A camera is of
little use at a Cuban ball game. Only a recording phonograph could catch
its chief novelties. An uproar as incessant as that of a rolling-mill
drowned every individual sound. It was not merely the venders of “_El
escor oficial_,” of sandwiches, lottery-tickets, cigars, cigarettes, of
bottled beer by the basketful, who created the hubbub; the spectators
themselves made most of it. The long, two-story grandstand behind us was
packed with Cubans of every shade from ebony black to the pasty white of
the tropics, and every man of them seemed to be shouting at the top of
his well-trained lungs. I say “man” advisedly, for with the exception of
my wife there were just three women present, and they had the hangdog
air of culprits. Scores of them were on their feet, screaming at their
neighbors and waving their hands wildly in the air. An uninformed
observer would have supposed that the entire throng was on the verge of
a free-for-all fight, instead of enjoying themselves in the Cuban’s
chief pastime.

“Which do you like best, baseball or bull-fights?” I shouted to my
neighbor on the left. He was every inch a Cuban, by birth, environment,
point of view, in his very gestures, and he spoke not a word of English.
Generations of Spanish ancestry were plainly visible through his grayish
features; I happened to know that he had applauded many a _torero_ in
the days before the rule of Spain and “the bulls” had been banished
together. Yet he answered instantly:

“Baseball by far; and so do all Cubans.”

But baseball, strictly speaking, is not what the Cuban enjoys most. It
is rather the gambling that goes with it. Like every sport of the
Spanish-speaking race, with the single exception of bull-fighting,
baseball to the great majority is merely a pretext for betting. The
throng behind us was everywhere waving handsful of money, real American
money, for Cuba has none of her own larger than the silver dollar. Small
wonder the bills are always ragged and worn and half obliterated, for
they were constantly passing, like crumpled waste-paper, from one sweaty
hand to another. The Platt Amendment showed incomplete knowledge of
Cuban conditions when it decreed the use of American money on the
island; it should have gone further and ordered the bills destined for
Cuba to be made of linoleum. Bets passed at the speed of sleight-of-hand
performances. The _fanáticos_ bet on every swing of the batter’s club,
on every ball that rose into the air, on whether or not a runner would
reach the next base, on how many fouls the inning would produce. Most of
the wagers passed so quickly that there was no time for the actual
exchange of money. A flip of the fingers or a nod of the head sufficed
to arrange the deal. There were no dividing lines either of color or
distance. Full-fledged Africans exchanged wagers with men of pure
Spanish blood. Cabalistic signs passed between the grandstand and the
sort of royal box high above. Across the field the crowded _sol_, as the
Cuban calls the unshaded bleachers, in the vocabulary of the bull-ring,
was engaged in the same money-waving turmoil. The curb market of New
York is slow, noiseless, and phlegmatic compared with a ball-game in
Havana.

Close in front of us other venders of the mysterious little envelopes
wandered back and forth, seldom attempting to make themselves heard
above the constant din. Here and there a spectator exchanged a crumpled,
almost illegible dollar bill for one of the sealed _sobres_. My neighbor
on the left bought one and held it for some time between his ringed
fingers. When at last a runner reached first base he tore the envelope
open. It contained a tiny slip of paper on which was typewritten “_1a
base_; _1a carrera_” (1st base; 1st run). The purchaser swore in Spanish
with artistic fluency. I asked the reason for his wrath. He displayed
the typewritten slip and grumbled “_mala suerte_”; then, noting my
puzzled expression, explained his “bad luck” in the patient voice of a
man who found it strange that an American should not understand his own
national game.

“This envelope, which is bought and sold ‘blind’—that is, neither I nor
the man who sold it to me knew what was in it—is a bet that the first
run will be made by a first baseman, of either side. But the man who has
just reached first base is the rrri’ fiel’, and the first baseman is the
man who struck out just before him. If he had made the first run I
should have won eight dollars. But you see what chance he has now to
make the first _carrera_. Cursed bad luck!”

“Rrri’ fiel’,” however, “died” in a vain attempt to steal third base,
and his partner from the opposite corner of the garden was the first man
to cross the home-plate. Instantly a cry of “Lef’ fiel’” rose above the
hubbub and the erstwhile venders of envelopes began paying the winners.
A lath-like individual, half Chinaman, half negro, whom the _fanáticos_
called “Chino,” took charge of the section about us, and handed eight
greasy bills to all those whom luck had favored, tucking the winning
slips of paper into a pocket of his linen coat. But these simple little
wagers were only for “pikers.” There were men behind us who, though they
looked scarcely capable of paying for their next meal, were stripping
twenty and even fifty dollar bills off the rolls clutched in their
sweaty hands and distributing them like so many handbills.

The game itself was little different from one at home. The Cuban players
varied widely in color, from the jet-black third baseman to a shortstop
of rice-powder complexion. Their playing was of high order, quite as
“fast” as the average teams of our big leagues. Cubans hold several
world championships in sports requiring a high degree of skill and
swiftness. The umpire in his protective paraphernalia looked quite like
his fellows of the North, yet behind his mask he was a rich mahogany
brown. His official speech was English, but when a dispute arose he
changed quickly to voluble Spanish. The “_bucaneros_,” as the
present-day pirates who had descended upon the Cuban coast were best
known locally, won the game on this occasion; but the day before they
had not scored a run.

Baseball—commonly pronounced “bahseh-bahl” throughout the island—has won
a firm foothold in Cuba. Boys of all colors play it on every vacant lot
in Havana; it is the favorite sport of the youthful employees of every
sugar estate or tobacco _vega_ of the interior. The sporting page is as
fixed a feature of the Havana newspapers as of our own dailies. Nor do
the Cuban reporters yield to their fellows of the North in the use of
base-ball slang. Most of their expressions are direct translations of
our own vocabulary of the diamond; some of them are of local concoction.
Those familiar with Spanish can find constant amusement in Havana’s
sporting pages. “Fans” quite unfamiliar with the tongue would experience
no great difficulty in catching the drift of the Cuban reporter, though
it would be Greek to a Spaniard speaking no baseball, as a brief example
will demonstrate:

                         EL HABANA DEJO EN BLANCO
                              A LOS PIRATAS

    José del Carmen Rodríguez realizó varios doubleplays sensacionales

                       BRILLANTE PITCHING DE TUERO

 El catcher rojo, Miguel Angel González, cerró con doble llave la segunda
                     base a los corredores Americanos

                              Primer Inning

Bucaneros—Bigbee out en fly al center. Terry, rolling al short, out en
primera. Carey struck out. No hit, no run.

Habana—Papo out en fly al catcher. Merito muere en rolling al pitcher.
Cueto lo imita.

                             Segundo Inning

Bucaneros—Nickolson, rolling al tercera, es out al pretender robar la
segunda. Cutshaw batea de plancha y es safe en primera. Barber out en
rolling á la segunda, adelantando Cutshaw. Carlson out en fly al
catcher. No hit, no run.

Habana—Juan de Angel Aragón out en linea al center. Hungo se pasea.
Calvo hit y Hungo va a segunda. Torres se sacrifica. Acosta, con las
bases llenas, es transferido y Hungo anota. González out en foul al
pitcher. Un hit, una carrera.

Thus the Havanese “reporter de baseball” rattles on, but his reports are
not snatched from the hands of newsboys with quite the same eagerness as
in the North. For the Cuban _fanático_ is not particularly interested in
the outcome of the game itself. A bet on that would be too slowly
decided for his quick southern temperament. He prefers to set a wager on
each swing of the pitcher’s arm, and with the last “out” of the ninth
inning his interest ceases as abruptly as does the unbroken
boiler-factory uproar that rises to the blue tropical heavens from the
first to the last swing of the batter’s club.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The visitor whose picture of Havana is still that of the drowsy tropical
city of our school-books is due for a shock. He will be most surprised,
perhaps, to find the place as swarming with automobiles as an open
honey-pot with flies. A local paragrapher asserts that “a Havanese would
rather die than walk four blocks.” There are several perfectly good
reasons for this preference. The heat of Cuba is far less oppressive
than that of our most northern states in mid-summer. Indeed, it is
seldom unpleasant; but the slightest physical exertion quickly bathes
the body in perspiration, and nowhere is a wilted collar in worse form
than in Havana. Moreover, one must be exceedingly nimble-footed to trust
to the prehistoric means of transportation. The custom of always riding
has left no rights to the pedestrian in the Cuban capital. The chances
of being run down are excellent, and the result is apt to be not merely
broken ribs, but a bill for damages to the machine. Hence the expression
“cojemos un For’” is synonymous with going a journey, however short,
anywhere within the city. Your Havanese friend never says, “Let’s stroll
around and see Perez,” but always, “Let’s catch a Ford,” and by the time
you have succeeded in slamming the door really shut, there you are at
Perez’s _zaguan_.

Fords scurry by thousands through the streets of Havana day and night,
ever ready to pick up a passenger or two and set them down again in any
part of the business section for a mere twenty-cent piece—a _peseta_ in
Cuban parlance. More expensive cars are now and then seen for hire; by
dint of sleuth-like observation I did discover one Ford that was
confined to the labor of carrying its owner. But those are the
exceptions that prove the rule, and the rule is that the instant you
catch sight of the familiar plebeian features of a “flivver” you know,
even without waiting to see the hospitable “Se Alquila” (“Rents Itself”)
on the wind-shield, that you need walk no farther, whatever your sex,
complexion, or previous condition of pedestrianism. They are
particularly suited to the narrow streets that the Spaniard, in his
Arabic avoidance of the sun, bequeathed the Cuban capital. There is many
a corner in the business section which larger cars can turn only by
backing or by mounting one of the scanty sidewalks. The closed taxi of
the North, too, would be as much out of place in Havana as overcoats at
a Fourth of July celebration. A few of the horse carriages of olden days
still offer their services; but as neither driver, carriage, nor steed
seems to have been groomed or fed since the war of independence, even
those in no haste are apt to think twice or thrice, and finally put
their trust in gasolene. Hence the Ford has taken charge of Havana, like
an army of occupation.

Unfortunately, a Ford and a Cuban chauffeur make a bad combination. The
native temperament is quick-witted, but it is scantily gifted with
patience. In the hands of a seeker after pesetas a “flivver” becomes a
prancing, dancing steed, a snorting charger that knows no fear and
yields to no rival. Apparently some Cuban Burbank has succeeded in
crossing the laggard of our northern highways with the kangaroo. The
whisper of your destination in the driver’s ear is followed by a leap
that leaves the adjoining façades a mere blur upon the retina. A traffic
jam ahead lends the snorting beast wings; it has a playful way of
alighting on all fours in the very heart of any turmoil. If a pedestrian
or a rival peseta-gatherer is crossing the street twenty feet beyond,
your time for the next nineteen feet and eleven inches is a small
fraction of a second over nothing. Brake linings seem to acquire a
strangle hold from the Cuban climate. If the opening ahead is but the
breadth of a hand, the Havana Ford has some secret of making itself
still more slender. I have never yet seen one of them climb a palm-tree,
but there is no reason to suppose that they would hesitate to undertake
that simple feat, if a passenger’s destination were among the fronds.

The newspapers run a daily column for those who have been “Ford-ed” to
hospitals or cemeteries. What are a few casualties a day in a city of
nearly half a million, with prolific tendencies? There are voluminous
traffic and speed rules, but he would be a friendless fellow who could
not find a _compadre_ with sufficient political power to “fix it up.”
Death corners—billboards or street-hugging house-walls from behind which
he may dart without warning—are the joy of the Cuban chauffeur. Courtesy
in personal intercourse stands on a high plane in Havana, but automobile
politeness has not yet reached the stage of consideration for others.
Traffic policemen, soldierly fellows widely varied in complexion,
looking like bandsmen in their blue denim uniforms, are efficient, and
accustomed to be obeyed; but they cannot be everywhere at once, and the
automobile is. They confine their efforts, therefore, to a few seething
corners, and humanity trusts to its own lucky star in the no-man’s-lands
between.

The private machines alone would give Havana a busy appearance. All day
long and far into the night the big central plaza is completely fenced
in by splendid cars parked compactly ends to curb. Toward sunset,
especially on the days when a military band plays the _retreta_ in the
kiosk facing Morro Castle and the harbor entrance, an endless procession
of seven-passenger motors files up and down the wide Prado and along the
sea-washed Malecón, two, or at most three, haughty beings, not
infrequently with kinky hair, lolling in every capacious tonneau.
Liveried chauffeurs are the almost universal rule. The caballero who
drives his own car would arouse the wonder, possibly the scorn, of his
fellow-citizens; once and once only did we see a woman at the wheel.
There is good reason for this. The man who would learn to pilot his own
machine through the automobile maelstrom of Havana would have little
time or energy left for the pursuit of his profession. Moreover, the
Latin-American is seldom mechanic-minded. The cheaper grades of cars are
not in favor for private use. Wire wheels are almost universal;
luxurious fittings are seldom lacking. Even the unexclusive Ford is
certain to be decked out in expensive _vestiduras_,—slip-covers of
embossed leather that remind one of a Mexican peon in silver-mounted
sombrero.

The cost of a car in Havana is from twenty to thirty per cent. higher
than in the States, which supplies virtually all of them. A dollar
barely pays for two gallons of gasolene. Licenses are a serious item,
particularly to private owners in Havana, for the fee depends on the use
to which the car is put. Fords for hire carry a white tag with black
figures and pay $12.50 a year. Private cars bear a pink _chapa_ at a
cost of $62.50. Tags with blue figures announce the occupant a
government official or a physician. Then, every driver must be supplied
with a personal license, at a cost of $25. In theory that is all, except
a day or two of waiting in line at the municipal license bureau. In
practice there are many little political wheels to be oiled if one would
see the car free to go its way the same year it is purchased.

Once the visitor has learned to distinguish the tag that announces
government ownership, he will be astounded to note its extraordinary
prevalence in Havana. Even Washington was never like this. Government
property means public ownership indeed in Cuba. If one may believe the
newspapers of the Liberal party,—the “outs” under the present
administration,—the explanation is simple. “Every government employee,”
they shriek, “down to the last post-office clerk who is in personal
favor, has his own private car, free of cost; not only that, but he may
use it to give his babies an airing, to carry his cook to market, or to
take the future _novio_ of his daughter on a joy ride.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

The new-comer’s impressions of Havana will depend largely upon his
previous travels. If this is his first contact with the Iberian or the
Latin-American civilization, he will find the Cuban capital of great
interest. If he is familiar with the cities of old Spain, particularly
if he has already seen her farthest-flung descendants, such as Bogotá,
Quito, or La Paz, he will probably call Havana “tame.” The most
incorrigible traveler will certainly not consider a visit to this most
accessible of foreign capitals time wasted. But his chief amusement will
be, in all likelihood, that of tracing the curious dovetailing of
Spanish and American influences which makes up its present-day aspect.

Both by situation and history the capital of Cuba is a natural place for
this intermingling of two essentially different civilizations, but the
mixture is more like that of oil and water than of two related elements.
The ways of Spain and of America—by which, of course, I mean the United
States—are recognizable in every block of Havana, yet there has been but
slight blending together, however close the contact. Immigrants from old
Spain tramp the streets all day under their strings of garlic, or jingle
the cymbals that mean sweetmeats for sale to all Spanish-speaking
children. Venders of lottery-tickets sing their numbers in every public
gathering-place. On Saturdays a long procession of beggars of both sexes
file through the stores and offices demanding almost as a right the cent
each which ancient Iberian custom allots them. The places where men
gather are wide-open cafés without front walls, rather than the hidden
dens of the North. Havana’s cooking, her modes of greeting and parting,
her patience with individual nuisance, her very table manners are
Spanish. Like all Spanish-America, her sons and daughters are highly
proficient in the use of the toothpick; like them they are exceedingly
courteous in the forms of social intercourse, irrespective of class. As
in Spain, life increases in its intensity with sunset: babies have no
fixed hour of retirement; midnight is everywhere the “shank of the
evening”; lovers are sternly separated by iron bars, or their soft
nothings strictly censored by ever vigilant duennas.

[Illustration: Vendors of lottery tickets in rural Cuba]

[Illustration: The winning numbers of the lottery]

[Illustration: Pigeons are kept to clear the tobacco fields of insects]

[Illustration: Ploughing for tobacco in the famous Vuelta Abaja
district. The large building is a tobacco barn, the small ones are
residences of the planters]

The very Government cannot shake off the habits of its forebears,
despite the tutelage of a more practical race. Public office is more apt
than not to be considered a legitimate source of personal gain. As in
Spain, a general amnesty is ever smiling hopefully at imprisoned
malefactors. The Spanish tendency to forgive crime, combined with the
interrelationship of miscreants and the powers that be, has not merely
abolished, in practice, all capital punishment; it tends to release
evil-doers long before they have found time to repent and change their
ways. Men who shoot down in cold blood—and this they do even in the
heart of Havana—have only to prove that the deed was done “in the heat
of the moment” to have their punishment reduced to a mere fraction of
that for stealing a mule. The pardoning power is wielded with such
Castilian generosity that the genial editor of Havana’s American
newspaper wrathfully suggests the “loosing of all our distinguished
assassins,” that the enormous _cárcel_ facing the harbor entrance may be
replaced by one of the hotels sadly needed to house Havana’s
“distinguished visitors.”

Amid all this the island capital is deeply marked, too, with the
influence of what Latin-America calls “the Colossus of the North.” One
sees it in the strenuous pace of business, in the manners and methods of
commerce. The dignified lethargy of Spain has largely given way to the
business-first teachings of the Yankee gospel. Billboards are almost as
constant eyesores in Havana and her suburbs as in New York; huge
electric figures flash the alleged virtues of wares far into the soft
summer nights. Blocks of office buildings, modern in every particular,
shoulder their way upward into the tropical sky. With few exceptions the
sons of proud old Cuban families scorn to dally away their lives,
Castilian fashion, on the riches and reputations of their ancestors, but
descend into the commercial fray.

One sees the American influence in many amusing little details. The
Cuban mail-boxes are exact copies of our own, except that the lettering
is Spanish. Postage-stamps may be had in booklet form, which can be said
of no other foreign land. Street-car fares are five cents for any
distance, with free transfers, rather than varying by zones, as in
Europe. Barbers dally over their clients in the private-valet manner of
their fellows to the north. Department stores operate as nearly as
possible on the American plan, despite the Spanish tendency of their
clerks to seek tips. Cuban advertisers struggle to imitate in their
newspaper and poster announcements the aggressive, inviting American
manner, often with ludicrous results, for they are rarely gifted with
what might be called the advertising imagination. In a word, Havana is
Spain with a modern American virility, tinged with a generous dash of
the tropics.

I have said that the two opposing influences do not mix, and in the main
that rule strictly holds. A glance at any detail of the city’s life, her
customs, appearance, or point of view, suffices to determine whether it
is of Castilian or Yankee origin. But here and there a fusing of the two
has produced a quaint mongrel of local color. Havana bakes its bread in
the long loaves of Europe, but an American squeamishness has evolved a
slender paper bag to cover them. The language of gestures makes a
crossing of two figures, a hiss at the conductor, and a nod to right or
left, sufficient request for a street-car transfer. The man who occupies
the center of a baseball diamond may be called either a pitcher or a
_lanzador_, but the verb that expresses his activity is _pitchear_.
Shoe-shining establishments in the shade of the long, pillared arcades
are arranged in Spanish style, yet the methods and the prices of the
polishers are American.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Barely had we stepped ashore in Havana when I spied a man in the
familiar uniform of the American Army, his upper sleeve decorated with
three broad chevrons. I had a hazy notion that our intervention in Cuba
had ceased some time before, yet it would have been nothing strange if
some of our troops had been left on the island.

“Good morning, Sergeant,” I greeted him. “Do you know this town? How do
I get to—”

But he was staring at me with a puzzled air, and before I could finish
he had sidestepped and hurried on. I must have been dense that morning,
after a night of uproar on the steamer from Key West, for a score of his
fellows had passed before I awoke to the fact that they were not
American soldiers at all. Cuba has copied nothing more exactly than our
army uniform. Cotton khaki survives in place of olive drab, of course,
as befits the Cuban climate; frequent washings have turned most of the
canvas leggings a creamy white. Otherwise there is little to distinguish
the Cuban soldier from our own until he opens his mouth in a spurt of
fluent Spanish. He wears the same cow-boy sombrero, with similar
hat-cords for each branch of the service. He shoulders the same rifle,
carries his cartridges in the old familiar web-belt, wears his revolver
on the right, as distinct from the left-handed fashion of all the rest
of Latin-America. He salutes, mounts guard, drills, stands at attention
precisely in the American manner, for his “I. D. R.” differs from our
own only in tongue. The same chevrons indicate non-commissioned rank,
though they have not yet disappeared from the left sleeve. His officers
are indistinguishable, at any distance, from our own; they are in many
cases graduates of West Point. An angle in their shoulder-bars, with the
Cuban seal in bronze above them, and the native coat of arms on their
caps in place of the spread eagle, are the only differences that a close
inspection of lieutenants or captains brings to light. From majors
upward, however, the insignia becomes a series of stars, perhaps because
the absence of generals in the Cuban Army leaves no other chance for
such ostentation.

The question naturally suggests itself, “Why does Cuba need an army?”
The native answer is apt to be the Spanish version of “Huh, we’re a free
country, aren’t we? Why shouldn’t we have an army, like any other
sovereign people? Poor Estrada Palma, our first president, had no army,
with the result that the first bunch of hoodlums to start a revolution
had him at their mercy.”

These are the two reasons why one sees the streets of Havana, and all
Cuba, for that matter, khaki-dotted with soldiers. She has no designs on
a trembling world, but an army is to her what long trousers are to a
youth of sixteen, proof of his manhood; and she has very real need of
one to keep the internal peace within the country, particularly under a
Government that was not legally elected and which enjoys little
popularity.

There were some fourteen thousand “regulars” in the Cuban Army before
the European War, a number that was more than tripled under compulsory
service after the island republic joined the Allies. To-day, despite
posters idealizing the soldier’s life and assuring all Cubans that it is
their duty to enlist, despite a scale of pay equalling our own, their
land force numbers barely five thousand. Many of these are veterans of
the great European war,—as fought in Pensacola, Florida. Some wear
fifteen to eighteen years’ worth of service stripes diagonally across
their lower sleeves; a few played their part in the guerilla warfare
against the Spaniards before the days of independence, and have many a
thrilling anecdote with which to overawe each new group of “rookies.” In
short, they have nearly everything in common with our own permanent
soldiers—except the color-line. I have yet to see a squad of white, or
partly white, American soldiers march away to duty under a jet-black
corporal, a sight so commonplace in Havana as not even to attract a
passing attention.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Havana has just celebrated her four-hundredth birthday. She confesses
herself the oldest city of European origin in the western hemisphere.
Her name was familiar to ocean wayfarers before Cortés penetrated to the
Vale of Anáhuac, before Pizarro had heard the first rumors of the
mysterious land of the Incas. When the Pilgrim Fathers sighted Plymouth
Rock, Havana had begun the second century of her existence. In view of
all this, and of the harried career she led clear down to days within
the memory of men who still consider themselves youthful, she is
somewhat disappointing to the mere tourist for her lack of historical
relics. This impression, however, gradually wears off. Her background is
certainly not to be compared with that of Cuzco or of the City of
Mexico, stretching away into the prehistoric days of legend; yet many
reminders of the times that are gone peer through the mantle of
modernity in which she has wrapped herself. From the age-worn stones of
La Fuerza the bustle of the city of to-day seems a fantasy from
dreamland. In the underground passages of old Morro, in the musty
dungeons of massive Cabaña, the khaki-clad soldiers of Cuba’s new army
look as out of place as motor-cars in a Roman arena. The stroller who
catches a sudden unexpected glimpse of the cathedral façade is carried
back in a twinkling to the days of the Inquisition; Spain herself can
show no closer link with the Middle Ages than the venerable stone face
of San Francisco de Paula. The ghosts of monks gone to their reward
centuries ago hover about the post-office where the modern visitor files
his telegram or stamps his picture postals. The British occupied it as a
barracks when they captured Havana in the middle of the last century,
whereby the ancient monastery was considered desecrated, and has served
in turn various government purposes; yet the shades of the past still
linger in its flowery patio and flit about the corners of its capacious,
leisurely old stairways.

Old Havana may be likened in shape to the head of a bulldog, with the
mark of the former city wall, which inclosed it like a muzzle, still
visible. The part thus protected in olden days contains most of Havana’s
antiquity. Beyond it the streets grow wider, the buildings more modern,
as one advances to the newer residential suburbs. Amusing contrasts
catch the eye at every turn within the muzzled portion. Calle Obispo,
still the principal business street, is a scant eighteen feet wide,
inclusive of its two pathetically narrow sidewalks. The Spanish builders
did not foresee the day when it would be an impassable river of
clamoring automobiles. They would be struck dumb with astonishment to
see these strange devil-wagons housed in the tiled passageways behind
the massive carved or brass-studded doors of the regal mansions of
colonial days, as their fair ladies would be horrified to find the
family chapels turned into bath-rooms by desecrating barbarians from the
North. Office buildings that seem to have been bodily transported from
New York shoulder age-crumbled Spanish churches and convents; crowds as
business-bent as those of Wall Street hurry through narrow _callejones_
that seem still to be thinking of Columbus and the buccaneers of the
Spanish main. Long rows of massive pillars upholding projecting second
stories and half concealing the den-like shops behind them have a
picturesque appearance and afford a needed protection from the Cuban
sun, but they are little short of a nuisance under modern traffic
conditions. Old Colón market is as dark and unsanitary as when
mistresses sent a trusted slave to make the day’s purchases. Its long
lines of cackling fowls, of meat barely dead, of tropical fruits and
strange Cuban vegetables, are still the center of the old bartering
hubbub, but beside them are the very latest factory products. One may
buy a chicken and have it killed and dressed on the spot for a _real_ by
deep-eyed old women who seem to have been left behind by a receding
generation, or one may carry home canned food which colonial Havana
never tasted.

The city is as brilliantly lighted as any of our own, by dusky men who
come at sunset, laboriously carrying long ladders, from the tops of
which they touch off each gas jet as in the days of Tacón. Ferries as
modern as those bridging the Hudson ply between the Muelle de Luz and
the fortresses and towns across the harbor; but they still have as
competitors the heavy old Havana rowboats, equipped, when the sun is
high, with awnings at the rear, and manned by oarsmen as stout-armed and
weather-tanned as the gondoliers of Venice. Automobiles of the latest
model snort in continual procession around the Malecón on Sunday
afternoons, yet here and there a quaint old family carriage, with its
liveried footmen, jogs along between them. Many a street has changed its
name since the days of independence, but still clings to its old Spanish
title in popular parlance. A new system of house numbering, too, has
been adopted, but this has not superseded the old; it has merely been
superimposed upon it, until it is a wise door indeed that knows its own
number. To make things worse for the puzzled stranger, the two sides of
the street have nothing in common, so that it is nothing unusual to find
house No. 7 opposite No. 114.

Havana is most beautiful at night. Its walls are light in color, yellow,
orange, pink, pale-blue, and the like prevailing, and the witchery of
moonlight, falling upon them, gives many a quaint corner or narrow
street of the old city a resemblance to fairyland. But when one hurries
back to catch them with a kodak in the morning, it is only to find that
the chief charm has fled before the grueling light of day.

The architecture of the city is overwhelmingly Spanish, with only here
and there a detail brought from the North. The change from the wooden
houses of Key West, with their steep shingled roofs, to the
plaster-faced edifices of Havana, covered by the flat _azoteas_ of
Arab-Iberian origin often the family sitting-room after sunset, is sharp
and decided. Among them the visitor feels himself in a foreign land
indeed, whatever suggestions of his own he may find in the life of the
city. The tendency for low structures, the prevalence of sumptuous
dwellings of a single story, the preference for the ground floor as a
place of residence, show at a glance that this is no American city. Yet
the single story is almost as lofty as two of our own; the Cuban insists
on high ceilings, and the longest rooms of the average residence would
be still longer if they were laid on their sides. To our Northern eyes
it is a heavy architecture, but it is a natural development in the Cuban
climate. Coolness is the first and prime requisite. Massive outer walls,
half their surfaces taken up by immense doors and windows, protected by
gratings in every manner of artistic scroll, defy the heat of perpetual
summer, and at the same time give free play to the all but constant sea
breezes. The openness of living which this style of dwelling brings with
it would not appeal to the American sense of privacy in family life.
Through the iron-barred _rejas_, flush with the sidewalk, the passer-by
may look deep back into the tile-floored parlor, with its forest of
chairs, and often into the living-rooms beyond. At midday they look
particularly cool and inviting from the sun-drenched street; in the
evening the stroller has a sense of sauntering unmolested through the
very heart of a hundred family circles.

Old residents tell us that Havana is a far different city from the one
from which the Spanish flag was banished twenty years ago. Its best
streets, they say, were then mere lanes of mud, or their cobbled
pavements so far down beneath the filth of generations that the
uncovering of them resembled a mining operation. Along the sea, where a
boulevard second only to the peerless Beira Mar of Rio runs to-day, the
last century left a stenching city garbage-heap. The broad,
laurel-shaded Prado leading from the beautiful central plaza to the
headland facing Morro Castle was a labyrinthian cluster of unsavory
hovels. All this, if one may be pardoned a suggestion of boasting, was
accomplished by the first American governor. But the Cubans themselves
have continued the good work. Once cleaned and paved, the streets have
remained so. Buildings of which any city might be proud have been
erected without foreign assistance. In their sudden spurt of ambition
the Cubans have sometimes overreached themselves. A former
administration began the erection of a presidential palace destined to
rival the best of Europe. About the same time the provincial governor
concluded to build himself a simple little marble cabin. Election day
came, and the new president, after the spendthrift manner of
Latin-American executives, repudiated the undertaking of his
predecessor, which lies to-day the abandoned grave of several million
_pesos_. The governor of the province was convinced by irrefutable
arguments that this half-finished little cabin was out of proportion to
his importance, and yielded it to his political superior. It is nearing
completion now, a thing of beauty that should, for a time at least,
satisfy the artistic longings even of great Cuba. For it has nothing of
the inexpensive Jeffersonian simplicity of our own White House, fit only
for such plebeian occupants as our Lincolns and Garfields, but is worthy
a Cuban president—during the few months of the year when he is not
occupying his suburban or his summer palace.

Havana has grown in breadth as well as character since it became the
capital of a free country. While the population of the island has nearly
doubled, that of the metropolis has trebled. Víbora, Cerro, and Jesús
del Monte have changed from outlying country villages of thatched huts
to thriving suburbs; Vedado, the abode of a few scattered farmers when
the Treaty of Paris was signed, has become a great residential region
where sugar-millionaires and successful politicians vie with one another
in the erection of private palaces, not to mention the occasional
perpetration of architectural monstrosities. Under the impulse of an
ever-increasing and ever-wealthier population, abetted by energetic
young Cubans who have copied American real-estate methods, Havana is
already leaping like a prairie fire to the crests of new fields, which
will soon be wholly embraced in the conflagration of prosperity.

                  *       *       *       *       *

One of the purposes of Cuba’s revolt against Spain was the suppression
of the lottery. For years the new republic sternly frowned down any
tendency toward a return of this particular form of vice. To this day it
is unlawful to bring the tickets of the Spanish lottery into the island.
But blood will tell, and the mere winning of political freedom could not
cure the Cuban of his love for gambling. Private games of chance
increased in number and spread throughout the island. The Government saw
itself losing millions of revenue yearly, while enterprising persons
enriched themselves; for to all rulers of Iberian ancestry the
exploitation of a people’s gambling instinct seems a legitimate source
of state income. New palaces and boulevards cost money, independence
brings with it unexpected expenditures. By the end of the second
intervention the free Cubans were looking with favor upon a system which
they had professed to abhor as Spanish subjects. The law of July 7,
1909, decreed a public revenue under the name of “Lotería Nacional,” and
to-day the lottery is as firmly established a function of the Government
as the postal service.

There are two advantages in a state lottery—to the government. It is not
only an unfailing source of revenue; it is a splendid means of rewarding
political henchmen. _Colectorías_, the privilege of dispensing
lottery-tickets within a given district, are to the Cuban congressman
what postmasterships are to our own. The possession of one is a
_botella_ (bottle), Cuban slang for sinecure; the lucky possessor is
called a _botellero_. He in turn distributes his patronage to the lesser
fry and becomes a political power within his district. The whole makes a
splendidly compact machine that can be turned to any purpose by the
chauffeur at the political wheel.

The first and indispensable requisite of a state lottery is that the
drawings shall be honest. Your Spanish-minded citizen will no more do
without his gambling than he will drink water with his meals; but let
him for a moment suspect that “the game is crooked” and he will abandon
the purchase of government tickets for some other means of snatching
sudden fortune. The drawing of the Cuban lottery is surrounded by every
possible check on dishonesty. By no conceivable chance could the inmost
circle of the inner lottery councils guess the winning number an instant
before it is publicly drawn. But there is another way in which the game
is not a “fair shake” to the players, though the simpler type of Cuban
does not recognise the unfairness. The average lottery, for instance,
offers $420,000 in prizes. The legal price of the tickets is $20,
divided into a hundred “pieces” for the convenience of small gamblers,
at a _peseta_ each. Thirty thousand tickets are sold, of which 30% of
the proceeds, or $180,000, goes to the government or its favorite
henchmen. That leaves to begin with only fourteen of his twenty cents
that can come back to the player. Then the law allows the vender 5% as
his profit, bringing the fractional ticket up to twenty-one cents. If
that were all, the players would still have even chances of a reasonable
return. But the “pieces” are never sold at that price, despite the law
and its threat of dire punishment, printed on the ticket itself. From
one end of the island to the other the _billeteros_ demand at least $30
a _billete_; in other words the public is taxed one half as much as it
puts into the lottery itself to support thousands of utterly useless
members of society, the ticket-sellers, and instead of getting
two-thirds of its money back it has a chance of rewinning less than half
the sum hazarded. The most optimistic negro deckhand on a Mississippi
steamboat would hardly enter a crap game in which the “bones” were so
palpably “loaded.” Yet Cubans of high and low degree, from big merchants
to bootblacks, pay their tribute regularly to the _Lotería Nacional_.

Barely had we arrived in Havana when the rumor reached me that the
_billeteros_ could be compelled to sell their tickets at the legal
price, if one “had the nerve” to insist. I abhor a financial dispute,
but I have as little use for hearsay evidence. I concluded to test the
great question personally. Having purchased two “pieces” at the
customary price, to forestall any charge of miserliness, I set out to
buy one at the lawful rate. A booth on a busy corner of Calle Obispo, a
large choice of numbers fluttering from its ticket-racks, seemed the
most promising scene for my nefarious project, because a traffic
policeman stood close by. I chose a “piece” and, having tucked it away
in a pocket, handed the vender a _peseta_.

“It is _thirty_ cents,” he announced politely, smiling at what he took
to be my American innocence.

“Not at all,” I answered, blushing at my own pettiness. “The price is
twenty cents; it is printed on the ticket.”

“_I_ sell them only at thirty,” he replied, with a gesture that invited
me to return the ticket.

“The legal price is all I pay,” I retorted. “If you don’t like that,
call the policeman,” and I strolled slowly on. In an instant both the
vender and the officer were hurrying after me. The latter demanded why I
had not paid the amount asked.

“The law sets the price at twenty cents,” I explained. “As a guardian of
order, you surely do not mean to help this man collect an illegal sum.”

The policeman gave me a look of scorn such as he might have turned upon
a millionaire caught stealing chickens, and answered with a sneer:

“He is entitled to one cent profit.”

“But not to ten cents,” I added triumphantly.

The guardian of law and order grunted an unwilling affirmative, casting
a pitying glance up and down my person, and turned away with another
audible sneer only when I had produced a cent. The vender snatched the
coin with an expression of disgust, and retains to this day, I suppose,
a much lower opinion of Americans.

This silly ordeal, which I have never since had the courage to repeat,
proved the assertion that the Cubans may buy their lottery-tickets at
the legal price, but it demonstrated at the same time why few of them do
so. Pride is the chief ally of the profiteer. The difference between
twenty cents and thirty is not worth a dispute, but the failure of the
individual Cuban to insist upon his rights, and of his Government to
protect them, constitutes a serious tax upon the nation and enriches
many a worthless loafer. With some forty lottery drawings a year, this
extra, illegal ten cents a “piece” costs the Cuban people the neat
little sum of at least $12,000,000 a year, or four dollars per capita.

The drawings take place every ten days, besides a few _loterías
extraordinarias_, with prizes several times larger, on the principal
holidays. They are conducted in the old treasury building down near the
end of Calle Obispo. We reached there soon after seven of the morning
named on our tickets. A crowd of two hundred or more heavy-mouthed
negroes, poorly clad _mestizos_, and ragged, emaciated old Chinamen for
the most part, were huddled together in the shade at the edge of the
porch-like room. A policeman—not the one whose scorn I had
aroused—beckoned us to step inside and take one of the seats of honor
along the wall, not, evidently, because we were Americans, but because
our clothing was not patched or our collars missing. At the back a long
table stretched the entire length of the room. A dozen solemn officials,
resembling a jury or an election board, lolled in their seats behind it,
a huge ledger, a sheath of papers, an ink-well and several pens and
pencils before each of them. At the edge of the room, just clear of the
standing crowd of hopeful riffraff, was a similar table on which another
group of solemn-faced men were busily scribbling in as many large
blank-books, with the sophisticated air of court or congressional
reporters. Between the tables were two globes of open-work brass, one
perhaps six feet in diameter, the other several times smaller. The
larger was filled with balls the size of marbles, each engraved with a
number; the smaller one contained several thousand others, representing
varying sums of money.

Almost at the moment we entered a gong sounded. Four muscular negroes
rushed forth from behind the scenes and, grasping two handles projecting
at the rear, turned the big globe over and over, its myriad of little
balls rattling like a stage wind-storm. At the same time an individual
of as certain, if less decided, African ancestry, solemnly shuffled the
contents of the smaller sphere in the same manner. Then the interrupted
drawing began again. Four boys, averaging eight years of age, stood in
pairs at either globe. At intervals of about thirty seconds two of them
pulled levers that released one marble from each sphere, and which long
brass troughs or runways deposited in cut-glass bowls in front of the
other two boys. The urchin on the big globe side snatched up his marble,
called out a long number—in most cases running into the tens of
thousands—and as his voice ceased, his companion opposite announced the
amount of the prize. Then the two balls were spitted side by side on a
sort of Chinese reckoning-board manipulated by another solemn-faced
adult, who now and again corrected a misreading by the boy calling the
numbers.

For the hour we remained this monotonous formality went steadily on, as
it does every ten days from seven in the morning until nearly noon,
ceasing only when all the balls in the smaller sphere have been
withdrawn. Each of these represents a prize, but as considerably more
than a thousand of them are of one hundred dollars each—or a dollar a
“piece”—the almost constant “con cien pesos” of the prize-boy grew
wearisome in the extreme. The men at the reporters’ table scribbled
every number feverishly with their sputtering steel pens, but the “jury”
at the back yielded to the soporific drone of childish voices and dozed
half-open-eyed in their chairs—except when one of the major prizes was
announced. Then they sat up alertly at attention, and inscribed one
after another on their massive ledgers the number on the ball which an
official held before each of their noses in turn, while the patch-clad
gathering outside the room shifted excitedly on their weary feet and
scanned the “pieces” in their sweaty hands with varying expressions of
disgust and disappointment. Now and then the boys changed places, but
only one of them, of dull-brown complexion and already gifted with the
shifty eye of the half-caste, performed his task to the general
satisfaction. The others were frequently interrupted by a protest from
one of the recorders, whereupon the number that had just been called was
emphatically reread by an adult, amid much scratching of pens in the
leather-bound ledgers. If the monotony of the scene was wearisome, its
solemnity made it correspondingly amusing. An uninformed observer would
probably have taken it for at least a presidential election. Rachel
asserted that it reminded her of Alice in Wonderland, but as my
education was neglected I cannot confirm this impression. What aroused
my own wonder was the fact that some two score more-or-less-high
officials of a national government should be engaged in so ridiculous a
formality, and that a sovereign republic should indulge in the nefarious
profession of the bookmaker. But to every people its own customs.

If I had fancied it the fault of my own ear that I had not caught all
the numbers, the impression would have been corrected by the afternoon
papers. All of them carried a column or more of protest against the
“absurd inefficiency” of the boys who had served that morning; most of
them made the complaint the chief subject of their editorial pages. The
_Casa de Beneficencia_—an institution corresponding roughly to our
orphan asylums—was solemnly warned that it must thereafter furnish more
capable inmates to _cantar las bolas_ (“sing the balls”) on pain of
losing the privilege entirely. Not only had the “uninstructed urchins”
of that morning made mistakes in reading the numbers—a dastardly thing
from the Cuban point of view—but had pronounced many of them in so
slovenly a manner that “our special reporters were unable to supply our
readers with correct information on a subject of prime importance to the
entire republic.” Beware that it never happened again! It was easy to
picture the poor overworked nuns of the asylum toiling far into the
night to impress upon a multi-complexioned group of fatherless gamins
the urgent necessity of learning to read figures quickly and accurately,
if they ever hoped to become normal, full-grown men and perhaps win the
big prize some day themselves.

Winning tickets may be cashed at any official _colectoría_ at any time
within a year, but such delays are rare. Barely is the drawing ended
when the venders, armed with the _billetes_ of the next _sorteo_, hurry
forth over their accustomed beats to pay the winners and establish a
reputation not so much for promptitude as for the ability to offer lucky
numbers. The capital prize, $100,000 in most cases, is perhaps won now
and then by some favorite of fortune, instead of falling to the
Government, collector of all unsold winners, though I have never
personally known of such a stroke of luck during all my wanderings in
lottery-infested lands. Smaller causes for momentary happiness are more
frequent, for with 1741 prizes, divisible into a hundred “pieces” each,
it would be strange if a persistent player did not now and then “make a
killing.” But even these must be rare in comparison to the optimistic
multitude that pursues the goddess Chance, for on the morning following
a drawing the streets of Havana are everywhere littered with worthless
_billetes_ cast off by wrathy purchasers. Wherefore an incorrigible
moralist has deduced a motto that may be worth passing on to future
travelers in Cuba:

“Buy a ‘piece’ or two that you may know the sneer of Fortune, but don’t
get the habit.”

  Three days before the wedding of my sister, mama, she and I went to
  the house of my future brother-in-law to put Alice’s things in
  order. The _novio_ was not there. He had discreetly withdrawn to a
  hotel and only came home now and then for a few moments to give
  orders to the servants. If he found us there he greeted us in the
  hall and did not enter the rooms except as we invited him. As there
  were no women in his family we had to occupy ourselves with all
  these matters.

  “Listen, my daughter,” said mama, one night, after the _novio_ had
  gone, “when to-morrow you take leave of your fiancé do not pass
  beyond the line marked on the floor by the light of the hall lamp.”
  My sister started to protest, “But, mama, what is there wrong in
  that?” “Nothing, daughter, but it is not proper. Do as I tell you.”
  Alice, though slightly displeased with the order, always obeyed it
  thereafter.

These two quotations from one of Cuba’s latest novels give in a nutshell
the position of women in Cuba. Like all Latin-American countries,
especially of the tropics, it is essentially a man’s country. One of the
great surprises of Havana is the scarcity of women on the streets, even
at times when they swarm with promenading men. The Cuban believes as
firmly as the old Spaniard that the woman’s sphere is strictly behind
the grill of the front window, and with few exceptions the women agree
with him. The result is that her interest in life beyond her own
household is virtually nil. The “Woman Suffrage Party of Cuba” recently
issued a pompous manifesto, but it seems to have won about as much
support on the island as would a missionary of the prohibition movement.
In the words of the militants of the sex in Anglo-Saxon lands, “the
Cuban woman has not yet reached emancipation.”

The clerks, even in shops that deal only in female apparel, are almost
exclusively male. The offices that employ stenographers or assistants
from the ranks of the fair sex are rare, and those usually recruit such
help in the United States. Except on gala occasions, it is extremely
seldom that a Cuban girl of the better class is seen in public, and even
then only in company with a duenna or a male member of her immediate
family, and few married women consider it proper to appear unaccompanied
by their husbands, despite American example. As another Cuban waiter has
put it, “One of our greatest defects is the little or entire lack of
genuine respect for women. Though we are outwardly extremely gallant in
society and sticklers for the finer points of etiquette and courtesy, we
almost always look upon a woman merely as a female and our first thought
of at least a young and beautiful woman is to imagine all her hidden
perfections. The instant a lady comes within sight of the average Cuban
gathering all eyes are fixed upon her with a stare that in Anglo-Saxon
countries would be more than impertinent, which pretends to be
flattering, but which at bottom is truly insulting.” He does not add
that the women rather invite this attention and feel themselves
slighted, their attractions unappreciated, if it is not given. Yet of
open offenses against her modesty the Cuban lady is freer than on the
streets of our own large cities. Even in restaurants and gatherings
where those of the land never appear, an American woman is treated,
except in the matter of staring, with genuine courtesy by all classes.

The custom of living almost exclusively in the privacy of her own home
has given the Cuban woman a tendency to spend the day in disreputable
undress. Their hair dishevelled, their forms loosely enveloped in a
_bata_ or in a slatternly petticoat and dressing-sack, usually torn and
seldom clean, their toes thrust into slippers that slap at every step,
they slouch about the house all the endless day. Unless there are guests
they never dress for lunch, seldom for dinner, but don instead earrings,
necklaces, bracelets, and an astonishing collection of finger rings,
powdering their faces rather than washing them. During meals the
favorite topics of conversation are food and digestion; if one of them
has had any of the numerous minor ailments natural to a life of
non-exertion, it is sure to be the subject of a cacophonous discussion
that lasts until the appearance of the inevitable toothpicks. Servants,
with whom they associate with a familiarity unknown in Northern homes,
are numerous, and leave little occupation for the mothers and daughters.
The women never read, not even the newspapers, and their minds, poorly
trained to begin with in the nun-taught “finishing schools,” go to seed
early, so that by late youth or early middle age their faces show the
effects of a selfish, idle existence and a life of continual boredom.
But lest I be accused of being over-critical, let me quote once more the
native writer already introduced:

  In one of the interior habitations a piano sounded, beaten by a
  clumsy hand that repeated the same immature exercise without
  cessation. There was general discussion in the dining-room at all
  hours of the day, mingled with the shrieks of a parrot which swung
  on a perch suspended from the ceiling and the constant disputes of
  the children, who were snatching playthings from one another,
  heaping upon each other every class of verbal injury. The mother
  sewed and the older children tortured the piano during entire hours,
  or polished their nails with much care, rubbing them with several
  kinds of powders. When they had finished these occupations they
  slouched from one end of the house to the other, throwing themselves
  in turn upon all the divans or into the cushioned rocking-chairs and
  yawning with ennui. Their skirts fell from their belts, loosened by
  the languid and lazy gait. The mother did not want the girls to do
  anything in the house for fear they would spoil their hands and lose
  their chances of marriage. On the other hand, in the afternoon when
  the hour of visits drew near the time was always too short to
  distribute harmoniously the color on their cheeks and lips and to
  take off the little hair papers with which they artificially formed
  their waves or curls during the day.

This continual hubbub seems to be customary to every household; all
intercourse, be it orders to servants or admonitions to the insufferable
children, being carried on by yelling. And there are no worse voices in
the world than those of the Cuban women. Whether it is due to the
climate or to the custom of reciting in chorus at school, they have a
timbre that tortures the ear-drums like the sharpening of a saw, and all
day long they exercise them to the full capacity of their lungs. Under
no circumstances is one of them given the floor alone, but the slightest
morsel of gossip is threshed to bits in a free-for-all whirlwind of
incomprehensible shrieking.

On the other hand, the Cuban woman accepts many children willingly, and
in accordance with her lights is an excellent wife and mother. Indeed,
she is inclined to be over-affectionate, and given to serving her
children where they should serve themselves, with a consequent lack of
development in their characters. The boys in particular are “spoiled” by
being granted every whim. The men are much less often at home than is
the case with us, and seldom inclined to exert a masculine influence on
their obstreperous sons. The result is a lack of self-control that makes
itself felt through all Cuban manhood, a “touchiness,” an inclination to
stand on their dignity instead of yielding to the dictates of common
sense.

But if she is slouchy in the privacy of her own household, the Cuban
woman is quite the opposite in public. The grande toilette is essential
for the briefest appearance on the streets. American women assert that
there is no definite style in feminine garb in Cuba, and I should not
dream of questioning such authority, though to the mere masculine eye
they always seem “dressed within an inch of their lives” whenever they
emerge into the sunlight. But it does not need even the intuition of the
sometimes unfair sex to recognise that a life of physical indolence
leaves their figures somewhat dumpy and ungraceful, seldom able to
appear to advantage even in the best of gowns. Nor is it hard to detect
a sense of discomfort in their unaccustomed full dress, which makes them
eager to hurry home again to the negligée of _bata_ and slippers.

If the men monopolize other places of public gathering, the churches at
least belong to the women. There are few places of worship in Havana, or
in all Cuba, for that matter, that merit a visit for their own sake.
Though most of them are overfilled with ambitious attempts at
decoration, none of these is very successful. A single painting of worth
here and there, an occasional side chapel, one or two carved
choir-stalls, are the only real artistic attractions. But several of
them are well worth visiting for the side-lights they throw on Cuban
customs. As in Spain, every variety of diseased beggar squats in an
appealing attitude against the façades of the more fashionable religious
edifices during the hours of general concourse. Luxurious automobiles,
with negro chauffeurs in dazzling white liveries, sweep up to the foot
of the broad stone steps in as continual procession as the narrow
streets permit, but the passengers who alight are overwhelmingly of the
gown-clad gender. Within, the perfume of the worshipers drowns out the
incense. A glance across the sea of kneeling figures discloses
astonishingly few bare heads. The Cuban men, of course, are “good
Catholics,” too, but they are apt to confine their church attendance to
special personal occasions. The church has no such influence in public
affairs in Cuba as in many parts of the continent to the southward; so
little indeed, that public religious processions are forbidden by law,
though sometimes permitted in practice. If the Jesuits are still a power
to be reckoned with, so are _los masones_, and the mere proof of
irreligion is no effective bar to governmental or commercial preferment.

           [Click anywhere on map for high resolution image.]

[Illustration: WEST INDIES]

                  *       *       *       *       *

A deaf person would probably enjoy Havana far more than those of acute
hearing. I have often wondered why nature did not provide us with
earlids as well as eyelids. A mere oversight, no doubt, that would not
have been made had the Cuban capital existed when the first models of
the human being were submitted. Havana may not hold the noise
championship of the world, but at least little old New York is silent by
comparison. Unmuffled automobiles beyond computation, tramcars that seem
far more interested in producing clamor than speed, bellowing venders of
everything vendible, are but the background of an unbroken uproar that
permeates to every nook and cranny of the city. Honest hotel-keepers
tell you frankly that they can offer every comfort except quiet. Even in
church you hear little but the tumult outside, broken only at rare
intervals by the droning voice of the preacher. It is not simply the
day-time uproar of business hours; it increases steadily from nightfall
until dawn. In olden days the _sereno_, with his dark lantern, his pike,
pistol, bunch of keys, whistle, and rope, wandered through the streets
calling out the time and the state of the weather every half-hour. His
efforts would be wasted nowadays. The long-seasoned inhabitants seem to
have grown callous to the constant turbulence; I have yet to meet a
newcomer who confesses to an unbroken hour of sleep. If you move out to
one of the pensions of Vedado, the household itself will keep you
constantly reminded that you are still in Havana. The Cubans themselves
seem to thrive on noise. If they are so unfortunate as to be denied
their beloved din, they lose no time in producing another from their own
throats. After a week in Havana we took a ferry across the harbor and
strolled along the plain behind Cabaña Fortress. For some time we were
aware of an indefinable sensation of strangeness amounting almost to
discomfort. We had covered a mile or so more before we suddenly
discovered that it was due to the unaccustomed silence.



                              CHAPTER III
                         CUBA FROM WEST TO EAST


Steamers to Havana land the traveler within a block or two of the
central railway station, so that, if the capital has no fascination for
him, there lies at hand more than four thousand kilometers of track to
put him in touch with almost any point of the island. The most feasible
way of visiting the interior of Cuba is by rail, unless one has the time
and inclination to do it on foot. Automobiles are all very well in the
vicinity of Havana, but the Cuban, like most Latin-Americans, is
distinctly not a road builder, and there are long stretches of the
island where only the single-footing native horses can unquestionably
make their way. There is occasional steamer service along the coasts,
and with few exceptions the important towns are on the sea, but even to
visit all these is scarcely seeing Cuba.

The railroads are several in number and as well equipped as our
second-class lines. One ventures as far west as Guane; there is a rather
thorough network in the region nearest the capital; or the traveler may
enter his sleeping-car at Havana and, if nothing happens, land at
Santiago in the distant “Oriente” some thirty-six hours later.
Unfortunately something usually happens. The ferry from Key West brings
not only passengers, but whole freight trains, and among the curious
sights of Cuba are box-cars from as far off as the State of Washington
basking in the tropical sunshine or the shade of royal palms hundreds of
miles east of Havana. First-class fares are higher than those of our own
land, but some eighty per cent. of the traveling public content
themselves with the hard wooden benches of what, in spite of the absence
of an intervening second, are quite properly called third-class. Freight
rates are said to average five times those in the United States. Women
of the better class are almost as rarely seen on the trains as on the
streets of Havana, with the result that the few first-class coaches are
sometimes exclusively filled with men, and all cars are smoking-cars.

There are sights and incidents of interests even in the more commonplace
first-class coaches. In the November season, when the mills of the
island begin their grinding, they carry many Americans on their way back
to the sugar estates, most of them of the highly skilled labor class in
speech and point of view. Now and again a well-dressed native shares his
seat with his fighting-cock, dropping about the bird’s feet the sack in
which the rules of the company require it to be carried and occasionally
giving it a drink at the passengers’ water-tank. At frequent intervals
the gamester shrilly challenges the world at large; travelers by Pullman
have been known to spend sleepless nights because of a crowing rooster
in the next berth. Train-guards in the uniform of American soldiers, an
“O. P.” on their collars—this being the abbreviation of the Spanish
words for “Public Order”—armed with rifle, revolver, and a long sword
with an eagle’s-head hilt in the beak of which is held the retaining
strap, strut back and forth through the train, usually in pairs. Most of
them are well-behaved youths, though the wide-spread corps on which the
government largely depends to overawe its revolutionarily inclined
political opponents is not wholly free from rowdies. The trainboy and
the brakemen have the same gift of incomprehensible language as our own,
and only a difference in uniform serves in most cases to distinguish the
name of the next station from that of some native fruit offered for
sale. The wares of the Cuban train vender are more varied than in our
own circumspect land. Not only can he furnish the bottles that cheer, in
any quantity and degree of strength, but also lottery tickets, cooked
food, and oranges deftly pared like an apple, in the native fashion.
There is probably no fruit on earth which varies so much in its form of
consumption in different countries as the orange.

But it is in third-class that one may find a veritable riot of color.
Types and complexions of every degree known to the human race crowd the
less comfortable coaches. There are leather-faced Spaniards returning
for the _zafra_, fresh, boyish faces of similar origin and destination,
Basques in their _boinas_ and corduroy clothes, untamed-looking Haitians
sputtering their uncouth tongue, more merry negroes from the British
West Indies, Chinamen and half-Chinamen, Cuban countrymen in a
combination shirt and blouse called a _chamarreta_, men carrying
roosters under their arms, men with hunting dogs, negro girls in purple
and other screaming colors, including furs dyed in tints unknown to the
animal world, and a scattering of Oriental and purely Caucasian features
from the opposite ends of the earth. Perhaps one third of the throng
would come under the classification of “niggers” in our “Jim Crow”
States; Southerners would be, and sometimes are, horrified to see the
blackest and the whitest race sharing the same seat and even engaged,
perhaps, in animated conversation. In a corner sits, more likely than
not, an enormous negro woman with a big black cigar protruding from her
massive lips at an aggressive angle and a brood of piccaninnies peering
out from beneath her voluminous skirts like chicks sheltered from rain
by the mother hen. All the gamut of sophistication is there, from the
_guajiro_, or Cuban peasant, of forty who is taking his first train-ride
and is waiting in secret terror for the first station, that he may drop
off and walk home, to others as blasé as the entirely respectable,
cosmopolitan, uninteresting travelers in the chair-car and Pullmans
behind.

There are express trains in Cuba, those that make the long journey
between the two principal cities sometimes so heavy with their half
dozen third, their one or two first-class, their Pullman, baggage,
express, and mail-cars, that it is small wonder the single engine can
keep abreast of the time-table even when washouts or slippery,
grass-brown rails do not add to its troubles. Section-gangs are
conspicuous by their scarcity, and those who contract to keep the tracks
clear of vegetation by a monthly sprinkling of chemicals do not always
accomplish their task. But there is nothing more comfortable than
loafing along in the wicker chairs to be found in one uncrowded end of
the first-class coach, without extra charge, with the immense
car-windows wide open, far enough back to miss the inevitable cinders,
through the perpetual, palm-tree-studded summer of the tropics. Even the
expresses are, perhaps unintentionally, sight-seeing trains, though they
are frequently more or less exasperating to the hurried business man.
But, then, one has no right to be a hurried business man in the West
Indies.

The slower majority of trains dally at each station, according to its
size, just about long enough to “give the town the once over”; or, if it
is large enough to be worth a longer visit, one is almost certain to
catch the next train if he sets out for the station as soon as it
arrives. The scene at a Cuban railway station is always interesting.
Except in the largest towns, most of the population comes down to see
the train go through, so that the platform is crowded half an hour
before it is due, which usually means an hour or two before it actually
arrives. The new-comer is apt to conclude that he has little chance of
getting a seat, but he soon learns by experience that few of these
platform loungers are actual travelers. The average station crowd is
distinctly African in complexion, though perhaps a majority show a
greater or less percentage of European ancestry. Pompous black dames in
gaudy dresses, newly ironed and starched, with big brass earrings and
huge combs in their frizzled tresses, their fingers heavy with a dozen
cheap rings, stand coyly smoking their long black cigars. A man with his
best rooster under one arm and his best girl on the other stalks
haughtily to and fro among his rivals and admirers. An excited negro
with a gamecock in one hand waves it wildly in the air as he argues, or
tucks it under an armpit while he wrestles with his baggage. A colored
girl in robin’s-egg blue madly powders her nose in a corner, using a
pocket mirror of the size of a cabinet photograph. _Guajiros_ in
_chamarretas_ with stiffly starched white bosoms which give them a
resemblance to dress shirts that have not been tucked into the trousers,
a big knife in a sheath half showing below them, the trousers themselves
white, or faintly pink, or cream-colored, even of gay plaids in the more
African cases, their heads covered with immense straw hats and their
feet with noiseless _alpargatas_, gaze about them with the wondering air
of peasants the world over. Rural guards of the “O. P.” strut hither and
yon, making a great show of force both in numbers and weapons. Children
of all ages add their falsetto to the constant hubbub of chatter. Here
and there a worn-out old Chinaman wanders about offering _dulces_ for
sale. A negro crone engaged in that unsavory occupation technically
known as “shooting snipes” picks up an abandoned cigar or cigarette butt
here and there, lighting it from the remnant of another and dropping
that into a pocket. The first-class waiting-room is crowded, but the
departure of the train will prove that most of the occupants have come
merely to show off their finery or examine that of their neighbors. A
white-haired old negro man wheels back and forth in the bit of space
left to him a white baby resplendent with pink ribbons. When the train
creaks in at last, would-be baggage carriers swarm into the coaches or
about departing travelers like aggressive mosquitoes. The racial
disorderliness of Latin-Americans, and their abhorrence of carrying
their own bags, make this latter nuisance universal throughout the
length and breadth of the island. It is of no use for the American
traveler to assert his own ability to bear his burdens; no one believes
him, and they are sure to be snatched out of his hands by some officious
ragamuffin before he can escape from the maelstrom. In some stations a
massive, self-assertive negro woman “contracts” to see all hand baggage
on or off the trains, keeping all the rabble of ragged men and boys,
some of them pure white, in her employ and collecting the gratuities
herself in a final promenade through the cars.

Sometimes the train stops for a station meal, the mere buffet service on
board being uncertain and insufficient. Then it is every one for himself
and hunger catch the hindmost, for one has small chance of attracting
the attention of the overworked concessionary if the heaping platters
with which the common table is crowded are empty before he can lay hand
upon them. Then he must trust to the old Chinamen who patiently stand
all day along the edge of the platform, or even well into the night,
slinking off into the darkness with their lantern-lighted boxes of
sweets and biscuits only when the last train has rumbled away to the
east or west.

                  *       *       *       *       *

We were invited to spend a Sunday at a big tobacco _finca_ in the heart
of the far-famed Vuelta Abajo district in Cuba’s westernmost province.
With the exception of Guanajay the few towns between Havana and Pinar
del Rio, capital of the province of the same name, have little
importance. The passing impression is of rich red mud, a glaring
sunshine, and a wide difference between the rather foppish, over-dressed
Havanese and the uncouth countrymen in their _bohíos_, huts of
palm-leaves and thatch which probably still bear a close resemblance to
those in which Columbus found the aborigines living. Then there are of
course the royal palms, which grow everywhere in Cuba in even greater
profusion than in Brazil. The roads are bordered with them, the fields
are striped with their silvery white trunks, their majestic fronds give
the finishing touch to every landscape.

Pinar del Rio itself has the same baking-hot, glaring, dusty aspect of
almost all towns of the interior in the dry season, the same curious
contrasts of snorting automobiles and _guajiros_ peddling their milk on
horseback, the cans in burlap or leaf-woven saddlebags beneath their
crossed or dangling legs. Beyond, the _mixto_ wanders along at a jog
trot, now and then stopping for a drink or to urge a belligerent bull
off the track. Here a peasant picks his way carefully down the car
steps, carrying by a string looped over one calloused finger two lordly
peacocks craning their plumed heads from the tight palm-leaf wrappings
in which their bodies are concealed; there a family climbs aboard with a
black nursegirl of ten, whose saucer eyes as she points and exclaims at
what no doubt seems to her the swiftly fleeing landscape show that she
has never before been on a train. Tobacco is grown in scattered sections
all over Cuba, but it is most at home in the gently rolling heart of
this western province. Being Sunday, there was little work going on in
the fields, but when we passed this way two days later we found them
everywhere being plowed with oxen, birds following close on the heels of
the plowmen to pick up the bugs and worms, women and children as well as
men transplanting the bed-grown seedlings of the size of radish tops.
Time was when the narcotic weed had all this region to itself, but the
lordly sugar-cane is steadily encroaching upon it now, daring to grow in
the very shadow of the old, brown, leaf-built tobacco barns.

Don Jacinto himself did not meet us at the train, but his giant of a son
greeted us with an elaborate Castilian courtesy which seemed curiously
out of keeping with his fluent English, interlarded with American
college slang. How he managed to cramp himself into the driving seat of
the bespattered Ford was as much of a mystery as the apparent ease with
which it skimmed along the bottomless Cuban country road or swam the
bridgeless river. I noted that it bore no license tag and, perhaps
unwisely, expressed my surprise aloud, for Don Jacinto’s son smiled
quizzically and for some time made no other answer. Then he explained,
“Those of us who are old residents and large property holders in our
communities do not bother to take out licenses; besides, they are only
five dollars here in the country, so it is hardly worth the trouble.”

Our host, a lordly-mannered old Spaniard who had come to Cuba in his
early youth, received us on the broad, breeze-swept veranda of his
dwelling. It was a typical Spanish country house of the tropics, low and
of a single story, yet capacious, rambling back through a large,
wide-open parlor, a dining-room almost as extensive, and a cobbled patio
to a smoke-blackened kitchen and the quarters of the dozen black
domestics who were tending the pots or responding with alacrity to the
slightest hint of a summons from Don Jacinto or his equally imperious
son. The living rooms flanked the two larger chambers, and were as
tightly closed as the latter were wide open. The guest room opening
directly off the parlor contained all the conveniences that American
influence has brought to Cuba, without losing a bit of its Castilian
architecture. There were of course neither carpets nor rugs in the
house, bare wooden floors being not only cooler, but less inviting to
the inevitable insects of the tropics. A score of cane rocking-chairs,
the same round rattan which formed the rockers curving upward and
backward to give the chair its arms, and a bare table, constituted the
entire furniture of the parlor. On the unpapered wooden walls hung two
framed portraits and a large calendar. Boxes of cigars lay invitingly
open in all the three rooms we entered and another decorated the table
on the cement-paved veranda.

This last was the principal rendezvous of the household. There a peon
dumped a small cartload of mail, made up largely of technical
periodicals; there the servants and the overseers came to receive
orders. The demeanor of the inferiors before their masters was in
perfect keeping with the patriarchal atmosphere of the entire _finca_.
Thus, one easily imagined, plantation owners commanded and servants
unquestionably obeyed in the days of slavery. There was a certain
comradeship, one might almost say democracy, between the two, or the
several, social grades, but it was not one which carried with it the
slightest suggestion of familiarity on either side.

Luncheon was a ceremonious affair. Rachel, being the only lady present,
was given the head of the table, with Don Jacinto on her right. In
theory the ladies of the household were indisposed, but it was probably
only the presence of strangers, particularly a male stranger, which kept
them from appearing, if only in _bata_ and curlpapers. Below our host
and myself, on opposite sides, the company was ranged down the table in
careful gradations of social standing, empty chairs separating those who
were too widely different in rank to touch elbows. Thus there was a
vacant chair between the son of the house and the head overseer and,
farther down, two of them separated the company chemist from a sort of
field boss. Conversation was similarly graded. The chief overseer did
not hesitate to put in a word or even tell an anecdote whenever guests,
father or son were not speaking; the chemist now and then ventured a
remark of his own, but the field boss ate in utter silence except when
some question from the top of the table brought from him a respectful
monosyllabic reply. Of the food served on one mammoth platter after
another I will say nothing beyond remarking that two thirds of it was
meat, all of it well cooked, and the quantity so great that the whole
assembled company scarcely made a noticeable impression upon it. Over
the table hung an immense cloth fan like the _punkahs_ of India,
operated in the same manner by a boy incessantly pulling at a rope over
a pulley in the far end of the room. Its purpose, however, was
different, as was indicated by its name, _espanto-moscas_ (scare-flies),
for Cuba’s unfailing breeze would have sufficed to keep the air cool;
but when the _wallah_ suddenly abandoned his task with the appearance of
the coffee the flies quickly settled down upon us in a veritable cloud.
It may be that the tobacco fields attract them, for they are ordinarily
far less troublesome in the West Indies than during our own summers.

[Illustration: A Cuban shoemaker]

[Illustration: Cuban soldiers]

[Illustration: Matanzas, with drying sisal fiber in the foreground]

[Illustration: The Central Plaza of Cienfuegos]

November being merely planting time the _finca_ presented a bare
appearance compared with what it would be in March, when the tall
tobacco plants wave everywhere in the breeze. Behind the house was a
dovecote which suggested some immense New York apartment house, so many
were its several-storied compartments. A handful of corn brought a
fluttering gray and white cloud which almost obscured the sun. Pigeons
and chickens are kept in large numbers in the tobacco fields to follow
the plows and eat the insects which would otherwise destroy the seeds
and the young plants. The supply barn was the chief center of industry
at this season, with its plows and watering-pots marshaled in long rows,
its tons of fertilizer in sacks, its cords of baled cheese-cloth, its
bags of tobacco seed, so microscopic in size that it takes four hundred
thousand of them to weigh an ounce. The seed-beds were at some distance.
There the seed is sowed like wheat and the plants grow as compactly as
grass on a lawn until they are about twenty days old, when they are
transferred to the larger fields and given room to expand almost to
man’s height. For acres upon acres the rolling landscape stood forested
with poles on which the cheese-cloth would be hung a few weeks later,
the vista recalling the hop-fields of Bavaria in the spring-time. The
idea of growing “wrapper” tobacco in the shade, in order to keep the
leaves silky and of uniform color, is said to have originated in the
United States and to have made its way but slowly in Cuba, where
planters long considered a maximum of sunshine requisite to the best
quality. To-day it is in general vogue throughout the island.

We whiled away the afternoon on the breezy veranda, where the more
important employees of the _finca_ and men from the neighboring town
came to discuss the crop, to say nothing of helping themselves to the
cigars which lay everywhere within easy reach. There was something
delightfully Old World about the simplicity of this patriarchal family
life, perhaps because it had scarcely a hint of Americanism and its
concomitant commercial bustle. Among the visitors was a lottery vender
on horseback, who sold Don Jacinto and his son their customary half
dozen “strips,” these being sheets of twenty or thirty “pieces” of the
same number. The company doctor parted with thirty dollars for a “whole
ticket.” Each had his own little scheme for choosing the numbers, one
refusing those in which the same figure was repeated, another insisting
that the total of the added figures should be divisible by three, some
depending on dreams or fantastic combinations of figures they had seen
or heard spoken during the day. The workmen on the estate, as on every
one in Cuba, were inveterate gamblers. Not only did they buy as many
“pieces” each week as they could pay for, but they all “played
terminals,” that is, formed pools which were won by the man guessing
correctly the last two numbers of the week’s winning ticket.

We visited tobacco estates in other parts of Cuba and saw all the
process except the cutting and curing before we left the island. At Zaza
del Medio, for instance, whole carloads of small plants are handled
during November. They are very hardy, living for three or four days
after being pulled up by the roots from the seed-beds. Strewn out on the
station platform in little leaf-tied bundles, they were counted bunch by
bunch and tossed into plaited straw saddlebags, to be transported by
pack-animals to fields sometimes more than a day’s journey distant.
Surrounded on all sides by horizonless seas of sugarcane, the Zaza del
Medio region is conspicuous twenty miles off by its tobacco color, not
of course of the plants, but of the rich brown of plowed fields and the
aged thatch-built tobacco barns. We rode that way one day, our horses
floundering through mammoth mud-holes, stepping gingerly through masses
of thorny _aroma_, and fording saddle-deep the Zaza River. Here the
small planter system, as distinctive from the big administrative estates
of Vuelta Abajo, is in vogue. We found lazy oxen swinging along as if in
time to a wedding march, dragging behind them crude wooden plows
protected by an iron point. A boy followed each of them, dropping a
withered small plant at regular intervals, a man, or sometimes a woman,
setting them up behind him. Immense barns made of a pole framework
covered entirely with brown and shaggy guinea-grass bulked forth against
the palm-tree-punctuated horizon. The similarly constructed houses of
the planters were minute by comparison. Here, they told us, tobacco
grows only waist high, in contrast to the six feet it sometimes attains
in Pinar del Rio province. In February or March the plants are cut off
at the base and strung on the poles which lie heaped in immense piles,
and hung for two months in the airy barns. Then they are wrapped in
_yagua_ and carried back to the railroad on pack-animals. _Yagua_, by
the way, which is constantly intruding upon any description of the West
Indies, where it is put to a great variety of uses, is the base of the
leaf of the royal palm, the lower one of which drops off regularly about
once a month. It is pliable and durable as leather, which it resembles
in appearance, though it is several times thicker, and a single leaf
supplies a strip a yard long and half as wide.

Rivals, especially Jamaica, assert that the famous tobacco vegas of Cuba
are worn out and that Cuban tobacco is now living on its reputation. The
statement is scarcely borne out by the aroma of the cigars sold by every
shop-keeper on the island, though to tell the truth they do not equal
the “Habana” as we know it in the North. This is possibly due to the
humidity of the climate. The new-comer is surprised to find how
cavalierly the Cuban treats his cigars, or _tobacos_, as he calls them.
Even though he squanders _dos reales_ each for them he thrusts a handful
loosely into an outside coat pocket, as if they were so many strips of
wood. For they are so damp and pliable in the humid Cuban atmosphere
that they will endure an astonishing amount of mistreatment without
coming to grief. Contrary to the assertions of Dame Rumor, Cubans do not
smoke cigarettes only; perhaps the majority, of the countrymen at least,
confine themselves to cigars.

There are cigar-makers in every town of Cuba, though Havana almost
monopolizes the export trade. How long some of the famous factories have
been in existence was suggested to us by a grindstone in the patio of
the one opposite the new national palace. There the workmen come to whet
their knives each morning, and they had worn their way completely
through the enormous grindstone in several places around the edge. The
methods in Havana cigar factories are of course similar to those of Cayo
Hueso, as Cuba calls our southernmost city. In one of them we were shown
cigars which “wholesale” at fifteen hundred dollars a thousand, though I
got no opportunity of judging whether or not they were worth it, either
in tobacco or ostentation. The stems of the tobacco leaves are shipped
to New York and made into snuff. An average wage for the cigar makers
was said to be five dollars a day. They each paid that many cents a week
to the factory reader, who entertains the male workmen with the daily
newspapers, and the women, by their own choice of course, with the most
sentimental of novels. Girls will be girls the world over.

The dreadful habit of using tobacco has progressed since the day when
Columbus discovered the aborigines of the great island of Cubanacan
smoking, not Habana cigars, but by using a forked reed two ends of which
they put in their nostrils and the other in a heap of burning tobacco
leaves.

Neither space nor the reader’s patience would hold out if I attempted to
do more than “hit the high spots” of our two months of journeying to and
fro in Cuba. There is room for a year of constant sight-seeing and
material for a fat volume in the largest of the West Indies, though to
tell the truth there is a certain sameness of climate, landscape, town,
and character which might make that long a stay monotonous despite the
glories of at least the first two of these. While he lacks something of
that open frankness of intercourse which we are wont to think reaches
its height in our own free and easy land, and the exclusiveness of his
family life puts him at a disadvantage as an entertainer of guests, the
Cuban himself, particularly outside the larger cities, is not
inhospitable. But his welcome of visitors from the North is overshadowed
by the unbounded hospitality of the American residents of Cuba, whether
on the great sugar estates, the fruit farms, in the scattered
enterprises of varied nature in all corners of the island, or in the
many cities that have become their homes. Merely to enumerate the
unexpected welcomes we met with from our own people in all parts of the
island would be to fill many pages.

The cities, on the whole, are the least pleasant of Cuba’s attractions.
Their hotels, and those places with which the traveler is most likely to
come in contact, are largely given over to the insular sport of
tourist-baiting even before mid-winter brings its plethora of
cold-fleeing, race-track-following, or prohibition-abhorring visitors
from the North. Havana, I take it, would be the last place in the world
for the lover of the simplicities of life, as for the man of modest
income, in those winter months when its hotels turn away whole droves of
would-be guests and its already exorbitant prices climb far out of sight
from the topmost rung of the ladder of reason. Incidentally Cuba is in
the throes of what might be called a “sugar _vs._ tourists” controversy.
Its merchants would like to draw as many visitors as possible, but even
its tourist bureau sees itself obliged to “soft pedal” its appeals. If
still more visitors come, where is the island to house them? Time was
when her more expensive hotels, especially of Havana, stood well nigh
empty through the summer and welcomed the first refugees from Jack Frost
with open arms, or at least doors. It is not so to-day. Sugar planters
from the interior, who would once have grumbled at paying a dollar for a
night’s lodging in a back street _fonda_, now demand the most luxurious
suites facing the plaza and the Prado, nay, even house their families in
them for months at a time, to the dismay of foreign visitors. Stevedores
who were once overjoyed to earn two dollars a day sneer at the fabulous
wages offered them now, knowing that a bit of speculation in sugar
stocks will bring them many times the amount to be had by physical
exertion. The advice most apropos to the modern visitor to Cuba whose
tastes are simple and whose fortune is limited would be, perhaps, to
come early and avoid the cities.

We found Pinar del Rio town, for instance, far less beguiling than a
journey we made from it over the mountain to the Matahambre mines. A
peon met us with native horses where the hired Ford confessed its
inability to advance farther. Along the narrow trail the vegetation was
dense and tropical. Royal palms waved high along the borders of the
small streams; red-trunked _macicos, yagrumas_ with their curious
upturned leaves showing their white backs, broke the almost monotony of
the greenery. Here and there we passed a brown grass hut which seemed to
have grown up of itself, a little patch of _malanga, boniato_, or yuca,
the chief native tubers, about it, a dark woman paddling her wash
against the trunk of a palm-tree on the edge of a water-hole, several
babies in single white garments or their own little black skins
scurrying away into the underbrush as we rode down upon them. A few
horsemen passed us, and a pack-train or two; but only one woman among
the score or more we met was mounted. She was a jet-black lady in a
bedraggled skirt and a man’s straw hat, who teetered perilously on her
uncomfortable side-saddle, yet who gazed scornfully down her shaded nose
at Rachel, riding far more easily astride. Finally, when the sun was
high and the vegetation scrubby and shadeless, and we had climbed
laboriously up several steep, bare hillsides only to slide down again
into another hollow, a cleft in the hills gave us a sudden panorama of
the sea, and almost sheer below us lay spread out the mining town. The
setting was barren, as is that of most mines, though five years before
it had been covered with a pine forest, until a cyclone came to sweep it
wholly away and leave only here and there a dead, branchless trunk in a
reddish soil that gave every outer indication of being sterile. A
network of red trails linked together the offices, the shafts and the
reduction plant, the red-roofed houses of the American employees, and
the thatched huts of the mine workers.

Mining is not one of Cuba’s chief assets, but this particular spot is
producing a high-grade copper. Ore was discovered here by a deer hunter
wandering through the forest of pines, but before he could make use of
his knowledge the region was “denounced” by another Cuban and still
belongs to his family, though there is some bitter-worded doubt as to
which branch of it. It goes without saying that the manager is an
energetic young American. The laborers are chiefly Spaniards, for the
Cubans are too superstitious to long endure working underground. The
company builds its own roads, and has installed a telegraph and
post-office without government aid, yet it pays full rates on its
telegrams or letters. We went far down the shaft into the damp blackness
of the eighth and tenth levels, hundreds of feet below the surface,
following the galleries and “stopes” to where the workmen were piling
the bluish rock into the little iron hand-cars, the dull echoing thud of
the dynamiting on some other level sending a shudder through the
mountain. All night long the mine worked tirelessly on, the suspended
ore-cars swinging down their six-mile cables across the gorge to the
loading bins on the edge of the sea.

We followed them in a Ford next morning, from the treeless uplands down
through an oak-grown strip where half-wild hogs fatten themselves,
unwisely, for the plumper of them are sure to grace native boards during
the _fiesta_ of Noche Buena, then along a strip of palms to the
Atlantic. A launch scudded down the coast with us to Esperanza, a long
range of mountains, rounded in form, gashed with red wounds here and
there, looking lofty only because they were so near at hand, seeming to
keep pace with us as if bent on shutting us out of the level country
behind them. After luncheon in the “best hotel,” with a hen under my
chair and a pig under Rachel’s, we Forded to Viñales, the road running
for miles under the very lee of a sheer mountain wall, trees, especially
of the palm variety, rising everywhere out of the crevices of the soft
white rock and seeming to keep their foothold by clutching the wall
above with their upper branches. Caves with elaborate stalactite and
stalagmite formations gaped beneath them, until we rounded the spur and
passed through a sort of mountain portal into the familiar, rolling,
dense-grown interior again.

We returned to Pinar del Rio by _guagua_, a four-seated mail and
passenger auto bus such as ply in many sections of rural Cuba. Its
driver was as wild as his brethren of Havana, and the contrivance leaped
along over the bad roads like a frolicsome goat. Fortunately the usual
crowd had missed their ride that morning and we could stretch our legs
at ease. Only a leathery old lady who dickered for a reduction in fare,
two or three _guajiros_ in their best starched _chamarretas_, a
villager’s shoes which were to be resoled, and two turkeys in palm-leaf
cornucopias made up the passenger list. The shrill whistle in place of a
horn warned dawdling countrymen to beware, for our chauffeur had scant
respect for his fellow-mortals.

Of the several towns which the traveler in Cuba is more or less sure to
visit the first is usually Matanzas, both because it is the first place
of any importance on the way eastward and because it boasts two natural
phenomena that have been widely reported. The town itself, wrapped
around the head of a deeply indented bay, has nothing that may not be
found in a dozen other provincial towns,—unpaved streets reeking with
mud or dust, according to the weather, a cement-floored central plaza
gay with tropical vegetation and flanked by _portales_, or massive
arcades, and constant vistas of the more formal hours of family life
through the street-toeing window grilles. The pursuit of tourists is
among its favorite sports, and not only are the prices and
accommodations of hotels infinitely more attractive in the mouths of
their runners at the station than at their desks, but the entire town
seems to be banded together in a conspiracy to force foreign visitors to
hire automobiles. At least we were forced to learn by experience rather
than by inquiry that the street-cars carry one two thirds of the way to
either of the “sights” for which the place is noted, or that one can
stroll the entire distance from the central plaza in half an hour.

The Yumurí valley is, to be sure, well worth seeing. From the hermitage
of Montserrat, erected by the Catalans of the island on a slope above
the town, the basin-shaped vale has a serene beauty, particularly at
sunrise or toward sunset, which draws at least a murmur of pleasure from
the beholder. Royal palms, singly and in clumps, dot the whole expanse
of plain with their green plumes and silvery trunks and climb the slopes
of the encircling hills, which lie like careless grass-grown heaps of
cracked stone along the horizon. Even by day the silence is broken only
by the distant shouts of a peasant or two struggling with their oxen and
plows; the occasional lowing of cattle floats past on the stronger
breeze of evening. The Cubans rank this as their most entrancing
landscape, but I have seen as pretty views from the abandoned farms of
Connecticut. For one thing the colors are not variegated enough in this
seasonless land to give such scenes the beauty lent by changing leaves,
though much else is made up for by the majesty of the royal palms.

A gentler climb at the other end of town, between broad fields of
rope-producing cactus, brings one to a cheap wooden house which might
pass unnoticed but for the incongruous rumble of an electric dynamo
within it. In sight of the commonplace landscape it is easy to believe
the story that the caves of Bellamar remained for centuries unknown
until a Chinese coolie extracting limestone for a near-by kiln
discovered them by losing his crowbar through a hole he had poked in the
earth. To-day they are exploited by the rope-making company which owns
the surrounding fields. The main portion of the huge limestone cavern
has been fitted with electric lights, which of themselves destroy half
the romance of the subterranean chambers; the temperature is that of a
Turkish bath, and the stereotyped chatter of the guide grows worse than
tiresome. But it would be a pity to let these minor drawbacks repel the
traveler from visiting Cuba’s weirdest scene. The cave contains more
than thirty chambers or halls, the chief of which is the “Gothic
Temple,” two hundred and fifty by eighty feet in extent, its lofty roof
upheld by massive white columns. There are immense natural bath-tubs,
forming waterfalls, fantastic grottoes and nature-sculptured figures of
all shapes and sizes along the undulating central passageway that
stretches far away into the unlighted earth. Mounds that look like
snow-banks, towering walls that seem shimmering curtains, white
glistening slopes down which one might easily fancy oneself tobogganing,
so closely do they resemble our Northern hillsides in mid-winter,
resound with the cackling voice of the irrepressible guide. Of
stalagmites and stalactites of every possible size there is no end, some
of them slowly joining together to form others of those mighty columns
which seem to bear aloft the outer earth. The caves are admirably
fitted, except in temperature, to serve as setting for the more
fantastic of Wagner operas.

If the train is not yet due, it is worth while to visit the rope factory
near the station. As they reach full size the lower leaves of the
_henequen_ plants are cut off one by one and carried to the
crushing-house on a knoll behind the main establishment. Here they are
passed between grooved rollers, the green sap and pulp falling away and
leaving bunches of greenish fibers like coarser corn-silk, which shoot
down across a little valley on cables to the drying-field. Looped over
long rows of poles, they remain here for several days, until the sun has
dried and bleached them to the color of new rope. Massive machines
tended by women and men weave the fibers together in cords of hundreds
of yards long and of the diameter of binding-twine; similar machines
twist three of these into the resemblance of clothes-lines, which in
their turn are woven together three by three, the process being repeated
until great coils of ship’s hawsers far larger than the hand can
encircle emerge at the far end of the room ready for shipment.

[Illustration: A principal street of Santa Clara]

[Illustration: The Central Plaza of Santa Clara]

[Illustration: A dairyman, Santa Clara district]

[Illustration: Cuban town scenery]

From Matanzas eastward fruit and garden plots, and the more intensive
forms of cultivation, die out and the landscape becomes almost unbroken
expanses of sugar-cane. The soil is more apt than not to be reddish.
Automobiles disappear; in their place are many men on horseback and
massive high-wheeled carts drawn by oxen. On the whole the country is
flat, uninteresting, with endless stretches of canefields, palm-trees,
and nothing else. A branch line will carry one to Cárdenas, but it is
hot, dusty, and dry, as parched as the Carolinas in early autumn,
scarcely worth visiting unless one takes time to push on to its
far-famed beach long miles away. Far-famed, that is, in Cuba, where
beaches are rare and water sports much less popular than might be
expected in a land where the sea is always close at hand and summer
reigns the entire twelve-month. Now and again some unheralded scene
breaks the cane-green monotony. There is the little town of Colón, for
example, intersected by the railroad, which passes along the very edge
of its central plaza, decorated with a bronze statue of Columbus
discovering his first land—and holding in his left hand a two-ton anchor
which he seems on the point of tossing ashore.

The older railroad line ends at Santa Clara, one of the few important
towns of Cuba which do not face the sea. But the two daily expresses
merely change engines and continue, in due season, to the eastward. An
energetic Anglo-Saxon pushed a line through the remaining two thirds of
the island within four years after American intervention, without
government assistance, without even the privilege of exercising the
right of eminent domain, though the Spaniards had been “studying the
project” for a half century. There are no osteopaths in Santa Clara.
They are not needed; a ride through its incredibly rough and tumble
streets serves the same purpose. In Havana it is often impracticable for
two persons to pass on the same sidewalk; in many of these provincial
towns it is impossible. The people of Santa Clara seem content to make
their way through town like mountain goats, leaping from one lofty block
of cement to mud-reeking roadway, clambering to another waist-high
sidewalk beyond, mounting now and then to the crest of precipices so
narrow and precarious that the dizzy stranger feels impelled to clutch
the flanking house-wall, only to descend again swiftly to the street
level, climbing over on the way perhaps a family or two “taking the air”
and greeting them with an inexplicably courteous “Muy buenas noches.”
The citizens grumble of course at the condition of their streets and
make periodical demands upon the federal government to pave them, as in
all Latin America. The question often suggests itself, why the dev—, I
don’t mean to be profane, whatever the provocation,—but why in—er—the
world don’t you get together and pave them yourselves? But of course any
newsboy could give a score of reasons why all such matters as that are
exclusive affairs of “the government,” and he would pronounce the word
as if it were some supernatural power wholly independent of mere human
assistance.

In contrast, the central plaza of course is perfectly kept and, though
empty by day, is more or less crowded in the evening, particularly when
the band plays. Seeing only the crowd which parades under the royal
palms in the moonlight, the visitor might come to the false conclusion
that the majority of the population is white, and he would make a
similar error in the opposite direction if he saw the town only by day.
At the evening promenade there is a great feminine display of furs,
though it is about cold enough for a silk bathing-suit; the club members
have a pleasant custom of gathering in rocking-chairs on the sidewalks
before their social meeting-places facing the square. Club life in Cuba
follows the lead of family life in the wide-openness of its more public
functions, though of course there is more intimate club and family
activity far to the rear of the open parlors.

If one is in a lazy mood one rather enjoys Santa Clara, though a hurried
mortal would probably curse its leisurely ways, its languid style of
shopping, for instance, with chairs for customers, and the invariably
male clerks thinking nothing of pausing in the midst of a purchase to
discuss the latest cock-fight with a friendly lounger. We voted the
place picturesque, yet when we took to wondering what made it so we
could specify little more than the crowds of _guajiros_ astride their
horses, their produce in saddle-sacks beneath their elevated legs, who
jogged silently through the muddy streets. Some of these were so
superstitious in the matter of photography that they could only be
caught by trickery. In the evening hours almost every block resounded
with the efforts of amateur pianists. The Cubans are always beating
pianos, but they are strangely unmusical. I have been told that a famous
Cuban pianist won unstinted applause in New York, but of the hundreds we
heard on the island each and all would almost infallibly have won
something far less pleasing.

Musically the Cuban is best at the native _danzón_, a refinement of the
savage African _rumba_. But every town large or small has its weekly
concerts. Perhaps the most amusing one we attended was at the sugar-mill
village of Jatibonico. The players were simple youths of the town, as
varied in complexion and garb as the invariably tar-brushed promenaders
who filed round and round the grass-grown plaza. The instruments were so
unorthodox that we paused to make an inventory of them. Besides a cornet
played by an energetic youth who now and then made it heard far beyond
the reach of the rest of the uproar, there was a trombone and two of
what seemed to be half-breeds among horns, the manipulators of which
varied the effect by now and then holding their hats over the sound
exit. Then there was a cow-horn-shaped gourd which was scraped with a
stick, a block of ebony that was periodically pounded by the same man
who tortured the bass viol, two kettle-drums which would not be silenced
on any pretext, a large metal bowl shaped like a water-jar, that had
originally come from Spain filled with butter, in the single opening of
which the player alternately blew and sucked, giving a weird, echo-like
sound, and, to fill in any possible interstices of sound left, two
heathenish rattles. The band had no leader; each played or paused to
smoke a cigarette as the spirit moved him, and all played by ear. The
unexpected sight of white people among the promenaders caused the entire
band to begin a series of monkey-like antics in an endeavor to outdo one
another in showing off, until the tomtom effect of the entertainment
took on a still more African pandemonium. To this was added the rumble
of frequent trains along the near-by track and the vocal uproar of the
promenaders, striving to imitate in garb and manner the _retreta_
audiences of the larger cities. Long after we had retired a bugle-burst
from the enthusiastic cornet-player now and then floated to our ears
through the tropical night, for the amateurs had none of the weariness
of professional musicians. When the plaza audience deserted them toward
midnight, they set out on a serenading party to the by no means most
respectable houses. Some of them sang as well as played, in that
horrible harmony of Cuba’s rural falsetto tenors, only one of whom we
ever heard without an all but overwhelming desire to fling the heaviest
object within reach.

Cienfuegos, on the seacoast south of Santa Clara, is said to derive its
name from the exclamation of a sailor who beheld a hundred Indian fires
along the beach. It might easily have won a similar designation from
some wrathful description of its climate. The town was laid out a mere
century ago by a Frenchman named Déclouet, and many of its streets still
have French names. It is reputed to be the richest town per capita on
earth, though the uninformed stranger might not suspect that from its
appearance. It gives somewhat more attention to pavements than some of
its neighbors, to be sure, and has electric street-cars. But ostentation
of its wealth is not among the faults of Cienfuegos, perhaps because it
takes its cue from its wealthiest citizen, who is said to lead by more
than a neck all the millionaires of Cuba. Like Mihanovisch in the
Argentine, or the first Astor and Vanderbilt in our own land, this
financial nabob of Cuba began at the bottommost rung of the ladder,
having arrived from Spain in _alpargatas_ and taken to carrying bags of
cement on the docks. To-day he is past eighty-five and owns most of the
property in Cienfuegos and its vicinity, yet, as one of his
fellow-townsmen put it, “if you meet him on the street you want to give
him an old suit of clothes.” During the war he was placed on the British
black-list, and was forced to come often to a certain consulate in an
effort to clear himself, yet he invariably came on foot even though
Cienfuegos lay prostrate under its skin-scorching summer noonday. He
lived across the bay, and while there were millions involved in the
business on hand at the consulate, he invariably persisted in leaving in
time to catch the twenty-cent public boat, lest he be forced to pay a
dollar and a half for a special launch. He abhors modern ways and in
particular the automobile, and refuses to do business with any one who
arrives at his office in one. The story goes that for a long time after
the rest of the island had adopted them Cienfuegos did not dare to
import a single automobile for fear of the wrath of its financial czar.

But if the miser of Cienfuegos holds the palm for wealth, one of his
near rivals in that regard outdoes him in political power. He, too, is a
Spaniard, or, more exactly, a Canary Islander, like many of the
wealthiest men of Cuba. To be born in the Canary Islands and to come to
Cuba without a _peseta_ or even the rudiments of education seems to be
the surest road to riches. I could not risk setting down without
definite proof to protect me the perfectly well-known stories of how
“Pote” got his start in life. Though he owns immense sugar estates and
countless other properties of all kind throughout the island, he is
rarely to be distinguished from any unshaven peon, and even when a new
turn of the political wheel brings him racing to Havana in a powerful
automobile he still looks like some third-class Spanish grocer. Not
until long years after the island became independent did the government
become powerful enough to force “Pote” to remove the Spanish flag from
his buildings and locomotives, and the “J. R. L.” on the latter still
give them the right of way over many a rival cane-grower; for “Pote,”
whisper the managers of corporation sugar-mills, has ways of getting his
product to the market which those who must explain to auditors and
directors higher up cannot imitate.

It is not without significance for the future of Cuba that men of this
type, uneducated, unscrupulous, utterly without any ideal than the
amassing of millions, wholly without vision, have the chief power in its
affairs. Politically the island has been freed from Spanish rule,
economically it is still paying tribute not merely in material things,
but in spiritual, to the most sordid-minded of the grasping
_peninsulares_.

One other town and I am done with them, for though Sagua la Grande and
Caibarien, Ciego de Avila and picturesque Trinidad, at least, are worthy
a passing notice, there is something distinctive about Camagüey, though
the difference is after all elusive and baffling. For one thing it is
more than four hundred years old; for another it is the largest town in
the interior of Cuba. Even it, however, did not shun the coast by
choice, but ran away from the northern shore in its early youth to
escape the pirates, and, to make doubly sure of concealment, changed its
name from Puerto Principe to that of the Indian village in which it
resettled. Its antiquity is apparent, appalling, in fact. Projecting
wooden window grilles, heavy cornices, aged balconies, also of wood, and
tiled roofs hanging well over the street, crumbling masonry, all help to
prove the city a genuine antique. Few of its streets are straight, few
parallel, few meet at right angles, the result being to give the visitor
a curiously shut-in feeling. It is said that this civic helter-skelter
is due to the fact that the refugees from the harassed coast staked
their claims and built their houses at random in their haste to get
under cover, though there is a bon mot to the effect that the streets
were purposely made crooked to fool the pirates. The town is noted for
its _tinajónes_, in the legitimate sense, that is, for in Spanish the
word means not only an immense earthenware jar, but a person with a
large capacity for liquid refreshment. Some of these jars would easily
contain the largest human _tinajón_; the majority of them are more than
a hundred years old; there are said to be none younger than sixty. They
serve the same purpose as our cisterns. Several ancient churches lift
their weather-dulled gray walls and towers above the mass of old houses.
The majority of these are down at heel, their façades battered and
cracked, though the patios or small gardens in their rear are gay with
flowers and shrubbery. Most of its streets were once paved, but that,
too, was long ago, and during the frequent rainy days one must pick
one’s way across them by the scattered cobbles embedded in mud as over a
stream on stepping-stones. The railroad once offered to pave at its own
expense the slough bordering the station, but the local politicians
would not permit it, for the same reason that Tammany prefers to let its
own contracts. Even the social customs of Camagüey are ancient. If “any
one who is any one” dies, for instance, as they do not infrequently,
“everything” closes and all social functions are abandoned, often to the
dismay of hostesses. The town is said to be famed for its beautiful
women and its skilled horsemen; its color-line is reputed more strict
and its negro population less numerous than in the rest of Cuba, at
least three of these things being credited to the fact that the region
was long given over to cattle rather than sugar-cane, requiring fewer
slaves. The casual visitor, however, sees little to confirm these
statements.

To-day even Camagüey province has succumbed to the cane invasion, like
all Cuba, and the raising of cattle has become a secondary industry.
Droves of the hardy, long-horned, brown breed may still be grazing the
savanna lands, searching the valleys for tasty guinea-grass, standing
knee-deep in the little rivers, but Cuba now imports meat, in contrast
to the days when the exporting of cattle was one of her chief sources of
revenue. The climate has had its share in bringing this change. Not only
does it cause the milk to deteriorate in quantity and quality within a
very few years, but the animals decrease steadily in size from
generation to generation. Butter, unless of the imported variety, is as
rare in Cuba as in all tropical America, and the invariable custom of
boiling milk before using makes it by no means a favorite beverage.
Besides, the constant drought in the United States does not extend to
Cuba. But all these causes are but slight compared with the skyrocketing
price of sugar, which is swamping all other industries in the island,
nay, even its scenery, beneath endless seas of cane.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Our good hosts of Tuinucú varied their hospitality by bearing us off on
a two-days’ horseback journey into the neighboring mountains. A
hand-operated ferry and a road that was little more than a trail, except
in width, brought us to the Old World town of Sancti Spiritus, founded
in 1514 and rivaling in medieval architecture and atmosphere almost
anything Spain has to offer. Here a _práctico_, which corresponds to,
but is apt to mean much less than a guide, took the party in charge and
trotted away toward the foothills. A group of priests in their somber,
flowing gowns and shovel hats grinned offensively at the unwonted sight
of ladies riding man-fashion, and the townsmen stared with the customary
Latin-American impudence, but the countrymen greeted us with the
dignified courtesy of old Castilian grandees. Pack-trains shuffled past
in the deep dust now and then, the dozen or more undersized horses tied
together from tails to halters. The fact that this left the animals no
protection from the vicious flies meant no more to the compassionless
_guajiros_ than did the raw backs under the heavy, chafing packs. Cuba,
like all Latin America, is a bad country in which to be a horse, or any
other dumb animal for that matter. Much of the country was uncultivated,
though royal palms and guinea-grass testified to its fertility. Big
dark-red oxen or bulls were here and there plowing the gentler
hillsides, more of them stood or lay at ease under the spreading ceiba
trees. The region was once famed for its coffee, but even the few bushes
that are left get no care nowadays and the time is already at hand when
they are to give way before the militant sugarcane.

We turned into an old estate where a hundred slaves had once toiled. All
but a corner of it was overgrown with bush; the massive old plantation
house had lost all its former grandeur except the magnificent views from
its verandas. A disheveled family of _guajiros_ inhabited it now, its
cobbled courtyard seldom resounded to the hoofs of horses bringing
guests to its very parlor door, the broad, brick-paved coffee-floor was
grass-grown between its joints, the old slave inclosure had been turned
over to the pigs, feeding on _palmiche_, the berries of the royal palm.
The slattern who thrust her head out of the ruined kitchen building had
little claim to propriety of appearance, though she answered a joking
question as to whether she, too, would ride astride with a fervent, “Not
I, God protect me!”

Reminiscences of slave days brought forth the story of “Old Concha” as
we rode onward. She had been a slave on Tuinucú estate as far back as
any one could remember, still is, in fact, in her own estimation. No one
knows how old she is, except that she was married and had several
children when the mother of her present mistress was a child. Her own
answer to the question is invariably “thirteen.” All day long she
potters about the kitchen, though great effort has been made to get her
to rest from her labors. She refuses to accept wages, only now and then
“borrowing” a _peseta_, the total averaging perhaps five dollars a year,
and being mainly spent for tobacco. Whenever any of the modern servants
are remiss in their duties or show a suggestion of impudence she warns
them that the “master’s” whip will soon be tingling their legs, then,
recalling herself, sighs for the “good old days” that are gone. She is
the chief authority on forgotten family affairs, though incapable of
keeping the “in-laws” straight. In her early days Concha accompanied her
mistress to the United States. Arrived at the dock in New York, she
submitted to her first hat, on the warning that she would be conspicuous
without it—and raised it to all white people with whom she spoke. A
custom officer questioned her right to bring in the fifty large black
cigars which she had first attempted to conceal about her person,
doubting that they were for her own use. Concha lighted one forthwith
and quickly convinced the skeptic of her ability to consume them. It is
useless to try to throw anything away at Tuinucú; Concha is certain to
retrieve it and stow it away in her little room, with her “freedom
paper” and her souvenir hat.

By sunset we were surrounded by mountains, though perhaps those of
central Cuba should rather be called ranges of high hills. The little
village of Banao was thrown into a furor of excitement by the arrival of
“caballeros,” and particularly by the announcement that we planned to
camp out on the mountainside. Picnics are as unknown to the Cuban as to
the rest of Latin America. Boys swarmed around us and scampered ahead in
the swiftly falling darkness to show us a spot well up the slope where
water and a bit of open ground were to be found. They told us many
lugubrious tales of the dangers of sleeping in the open air and implored
us to return instead to the hovels they shared with their pigs and
chickens. When it became evident that we were not to be turned from our
reasonless and perilous undertaking, they took to warning us at every
step against the _guao_, quite fittingly pronounced “wow!” This is a
species of glorified poison ivy, equally well named _pica-pica_.
Drawbacks of this kind are rare in Cuba, however, where there are few
poisonous plants, no venomous snakes, not even potato-bugs! The boys
remained with us gladly until the last scraps of the camp-fire meal had
disappeared, but fled with gasps of dismay at the suggestion that they
spend the night there.

The traveler in the West Indies must learn to rise early if he is to
catch the best nature has to offer. Noonday, even when less oppressively
hot than our own midsummers, thanks to the unfailing trade-wind, is
glaring in its flood of colors, insistent, without subtleties. But dawn
and sunrise have a grandeur and at the same time a delicacy, as if the
light were filtered through gauze upon the green-bespangled earth, which
even the gorgeous sunsets and the evanescent twilight cannot equal. As
we watched the new day steal in upon us through the dense foliage, it
would have been easy to fancy that we had been transported to some
fantastic fairyland in which the very birds were bent on adding to the
subtle intoxication of the visitor’s senses.

We beat the sun to the grotto of cold, transparent water and by the time
it began to express itself in terms of heat were scrambling through the
jungle to the nearest summit. Fresh coffee was to be had on many a bush
for the picking; and inviting the red berries looked, too, until a taste
of them had destroyed the illusion. He who fancies Cuban mountains are
not high is due to revise his notions by the time he has dragged himself
up the face of one of them through jagged rocks half concealed beneath
the matted brush, over veritable hedges of needle-pointed cactus, now
and again clutching as the only escape from toppling over backward a
treacherous handful of “wow.” Our garments were torn, our hands cut and
stinging with _pica-pica_, our guide had degenerated from the fearless
fellow of the night before to an abject creature who asked nothing
better than to be left to die in peace by the time we reached the
summit; and even then it was no real summit at all, but only the first
of half a dozen knobs which formed a species of giant stairway to some
unknown region lost in the clouds. In the light of the struggle it had
cost us to cover this infinitesimal portion of the scene before us we
seemed mere helpless atoms lost in the midst of a ferocious nature which
clothed the pitched and tumbled world far beyond where the eye could see
in any direction; or, to put it more succinctly in the words of our
host, we looked like worn-out fleas caught in the folds of a thick and
wrinkled carpet.

The ride homeward was by another road, boasting itself a _camino real_,
but little more than a wide trail for all its claim to royalty. Black
ranges studded with royal palms cut short the horizon. _Guajiros_
slipped past us here and there on little native horses of rocking-chair
gait; others rode more slowly by perched on top of their woven-leaf
saddle-bags, bulging with produce, a chicken or two usually swinging by
the legs from them; all bade us a diffident “_Muy buenas_.” Trees worthy
of being reproduced in the stained-glass windows of cathedrals etched
the sky-line. The stupid peon who posed as guide, flapping his wings
with the gait of his horse like a disheveled crow, knew the names of
only the most familiar growths, which would not so much have mattered
had he not persisted in digging up false ones from the depths of his
turbid imagination. Of the flowers, fruit, and strangely tame
long-tailed birds he had as little real knowledge, though he had seen
them all his life. Nor did he even know the road; I have never met a
Latin-American “guide” who did. A negro boy on horseback singing his
cows home from pasture; a peasant in the familiar high-crowned,
broad-brimmed hat of braided palm-leaves hooking together tufts of grass
with a crotched stick and cutting them off with a machete; children
gathering the oily _palmiche_ nuts which are the chief delicacy of the
Cuban hog, were among the sights of the afternoon. Next to sugar
certainly the most prolific crop in Cuba is babies. Black, brown,
yellow, and all the varying shades between, they not only swarm in the
towns, but cluster in flocks about the smallest country hut, innocent of
clothing as of the laws of sanitation, with no other joy in life than to
roll about on the ground inside or around their little homes and suck a
joint of sugar-cane. The houses of the peasants, still called by the
Indian name of _bohío_, owe nothing to the outside world, but are wholly
built of materials found on the spot, their very furnishings being woven
palm-leaf hammocks, hairy cowhide chairs, pots and dishes made from
gourds picked from the trees. The gates to many _fincas_, mildly
resembling the entrances to Japanese temples, drew the eyes to more
commodious residences as we neared Sancti Spiritus once more, each _casa
vivienda_ of a single low story covered with a tile roof which projected
far out over the earth-floored veranda surrounding it. Nor were these
much different from the humbler _bohíos_ except in size, and perhaps an
occasional newspaper to keep their owners somewhat in touch with the
outside world.

The day died out as we were jogging homeward along the dusty flatlands
between endless vistas of sugar-cane. But as I have not the courage to
try to describe a Cuban sunset I gladly yield the floor to the native
novelist known to his fellow-countrymen as the “Zola of the Antilles,”
who has no fear of so simple a task:

  The sun agonized pompously between incendated clouds. Before it
  opaque mountains raised themselves, their borders dyed purple,
  orange, and violet. The astra itself was not visible, hidden behind
  its blood-streaked curtain, but one divined its disk in the great
  luminous blot which fought to tear asunder the throttling clouds;
  and on high, light, white cupolas, like immense plumages, were
  floating, reddened also, like the dispersed birds of a great flock
  that had been engaged in sanguinary combat. A vast silence had
  established itself, the solemnity of the evening which was rapidly
  expiring, with that brevity of the twilight of the tropics, which is
  similar to a scenic play arranged beforehand. On the blue-gray line
  of the sea the clouds had floundered in an immense stain of violet
  color, furrowed with obscure edges which opened themselves like the
  spokes of a gigantic wheel, in a dress of whitish blue, raising
  itself to the rest of the heavens. The disk of the sun was no longer
  evident; but, far off, some separate little clouds seemed to be
  touched by a lightly purple dyestuff. The picture changed with the
  celerity of an evening sunset on the stage, visibly obscuring
  itself, and by degrees, as if in that stage setting some one were
  shutting off, one after the other, the electric batteries, until the
  scene had been left in darkness. In a few minutes the great violet
  stain, formerly full of light, passed through all the tones of
  color, to convert itself into a great lake, without brilliance, in
  which swam lead colored flocks of birds dyed with black. The
  delicate dyestuff which embroidered for an instant the remote little
  clouds had suddenly rubbed themselves out. Only an enormous white
  plume, stretched above the place in which the sun had sepulchered
  itself, persisted in shining for a long time like a fantastic wreath
  suspended over the melancholy desolation of the crepuscule.
  Afterward that went out also.



                               CHAPTER IV
                         THE WORLD’S SUGAR BOWL


Cuba produces more sugar than any other country in the world. During the
season which had just begun at the time of our visit she expected to
furnish four million tons of it. Barely as large as England, being seven
hundred and thirty miles long and varying in width from twenty-two to
one hundred and twenty miles, the island is favored by the fact that the
great majority of her surface is level or slightly rolling, though the
Pico de Turquino rises 8320 feet above the sea. Her soil is largely of
limestone formation, with very little hard rock. She has considerable
deep red earth which, scientists say, is deteriorated limestone without
a trace of lime left in it. Fresh limestone brought down from the hills
and scattered upon this quickly restores its virgin fertility, and it
responds readily to almost any other fertilizers. There are regions in
Cuba where this reddish soil permeates all the surrounding landscape,
including the faces, garments, and offspring of the inhabitants, giving
its color even to their domestic animals. At least four fifths of the
wealth and happiness of her population depends on her chief industry,
and it is natural that everything else should take second place in the
Cuban mind to the production of sugar.

French colonists running away from their infuriated slaves in Haiti
brought with them the succulent cane, and at the same time a certain
love of comfort and various agricultural hints which may still be traced
on some of the older estates. But the industry has been modernized now
to the point where science and large capital completely control its
methods and its output. The saying is that wherever the royal palm grows
sugar-cane will flourish, while the prevalence of guinea-grass is also
considered a favorable sign. As these two growths are well-nigh
universal throughout Cuba, it would seem that the island is due to
become an even greater leader in sugar production that she is already.

The making of a Cuban sugar plantation is a primitive and, from our
Northern point of view, a wasteful process consistent with virgin lands
and tropical fecundity. Thus it seems in many parts of the island,
particularly in the Oriente, the largest and most eastern of Cuba’s six
provinces. Here vast stretches of virgin forest, often three to five
thousand acres in extent, are turned into cane-fields in a few months’
time. The usual method is to let contracts for the entire process, and
to pay fixed sums for completely replacing the forests by growing cane.
Bands of laborers under native _capataces_ begin by erecting in the edge
of the doomed woods their _baracones_, crudely fashioned structures
covered with palm-leaves, usually without walls. Here the woodsmen, more
often Jamaican or Haitian negroes than Cubans, swing their hammocks side
by side the entire length of the building, if the long roof supported by
poles may be called that, a few of them indulging in the comfort of a
_mosquitero_ inclosing their swinging couch, all of them wrapping their
worldly possessions in the hammock by day. Then with machetes and axes
which to the Northerner would seem extremely crude—though nearly all of
them come from our own State of Connecticut—they attack the immense and
seemingly impenetrable wilderness.

The underbrush and saplings fall first under the slashing machetes. Next
the big trees—and some of these are indeed giants of the forest—succumb
before the heavy axes and, denuded of their larger branches, are left
where they lie. Behind the black despoilers the dense green woodland
turns to the golden brown which in the tropics means death rather than a
mere change of season, and day by day this spreads on and on over plain
and hillock into regions perhaps never before trodden by man. The
easy-going planters of the olden days were apt to spare at least the
royal palms and the more magnificent of the great spreading ceibas. But
the practical modern world will have none of this compassion for beauty
at the expense of utility. As an American sub-manager summed up the
point of view of his class, “If you are going to grow cane, grow cane;
don’t grow royal palms.” Everything falls before the world’s demand for
sugar, translated by these energetic pioneers from the North to mean the
unsparing destruction of all nature’s splendors which dare to trespass
upon the domain of His Majesty, the sugar-cane. Mahogany and
cedar—though occasionally the larger logs of these two most valuable of
Cuban woods are carried to the railroad sidings—are as ruthlessly felled
as the almost worthless growths which abound in tropical forests. Here
and there the contractor leaves an immense _caguarán_ standing, in the
hope that he may not be compelled to break several axes on a wood far
redder than mahogany and harder than any known to our Northern
timberlands. But the inspector is almost sure to detect his little ruse
and to require that the landscape be denuded even of these resisting
growths. Logs of every possible size and of a hundred species cut up the
trails over which the sure-footed Cuban horses pick their way when the
first inspection parties ride out through the fallen woodland.

The clearing of a Cuban forest has in it little of the danger inherent
in similar occupations in other tropical lands. Not only are there no
venomous snakes to be feared, but there are few other menaces to the
health of the workmen. Now and again a belligerent swarm of bees is
encountered, along the coast streams the dreaded _manzanillo_ sometimes
demands the respect due so dangerous a growth. The sap of the
_manzanillo_ is said to be so poisonous that to swallow a drop causes
certain death; hands and face sprayed with it by a careless blow of the
ax swell up beyond all semblance to human form. When one of these rare
species is found, the woodsmen carefully “bark” it and leave it for some
time before undertaking the actual felling. But with few exceptions this
is the only vegetation to be feared in a Cuban wilderness. Even the
malarial fevers which follow not the cutting, but the burning, of the
woodlands are less malignant than those of other equatorial regions.

The burning usually takes place during the first fortnight of March, at
the end of the longest dry season. Indeed, extreme care is exercised
that the firing shall not begin prematurely, for the consumption of the
lighter growths before the larger ones are dry enough to burn would be
little short of a catastrophe for the contractors. When at last the
fires are set and sweep across the immense region with all the fury of
the element, fuel sufficient to keep an entire Northern city warm during
the whole winter is swept away in a single day. At first thought it
seems the height of wastefulness not to save these uncounted cords of
wood, these most valuable of timbers, but not only would the cost of
transportation more than eat up their value before they could reach a
market, without this plenitude of fallen forest the burning would not be
successful and the fertility of the future plantation would suffer. The
time is near, however, scientists tell us, when the Cubans must regulate
this wholesale destruction of their forests or see the island suffer
from one of those changes of climate which has been the partial
ruination of their motherland, Spain.

When the first burning has ended, the larger logs remaining are heaped
together and reburned. Some of them, the _júcaro_, for instance,
continue to smolder for months, this tree having even been known to burn
from top to bottom after catching fire thirty feet from the ground.
Though it is usual in the open savannas, plowing is not necessary in
these denuded woodlands. Here all that is necessary is to hoe away the
grass and the bit of undergrowth that remains. The primitive method of
planting in the slave days still survives. In some sections a man sets
out along each of the proposed rows carrying in one hand a long
sugar-cane and in the other a machete. He jabs the cane into the ground
at intervals of about three feet, slashes off the buried end with his
cutlass, and marches on, to repeat the process at every step. More often
nowadays one man goes ahead to dig holes with a heavy hoe, while another
following him drops into each of them a section of cane and covers it
with a stamp of his bare heel. Two joints and sometimes three are
planted in each hole, to insure the sprouting of at least one of them.
There is a more scientific system of planting, in which a rope with
knots given distances apart is used, but the first method is more
prevalent in the feverish haste of the Oriente. The fact that charred
logs and stumps still everywhere litter the ground rather helps than
hampers the growth of the cane, for as these rot they add new fertilizer
to the already rich soil.

Cane requires some eighteen months to mature in the virgin lands of
Cuba, and will produce from twelve to twenty yearly crops without
replanting. So prolific is the plant in these newer sections that when a
lane several meters wide is left between the rows it is often almost
impenetrable a year later. Cane high above the head of a man on
horseback is by no means rare in these favored regions. By the beginning
of our northern autumn the whole island is inlaid with immense lakes of
maturing cane, the same monotonous panorama everywhere stretching to the
horizon; the uniformly light green landscape, often spreading for mile
after mile without a fold or a knoll, without any other note of color
than the darker green of the rare palm-trees that have escaped
destruction, grows fatiguing to the sight. Cane-fields without limit on
each hand, flashing in the blazing sunshine, have a beauty of their own,
though it is not equal to that of a ripening wheat-field with the wind
rippling across it. There is less movement, less character; it has a
greater likeness to an expressionless human face. Yet toward
cutting-time sunrise or sunset across these endless pale green surfaces
presents swiftly changing vistas which are worth traveling far to see.

The “dead season,” corresponding to the Northern summer, is a time of
comparative leisure on the sugar estates. It is then that the higher
employees, Americans in the great majority of cases, take their
vacations in the North; it is then that the Spanish laborers who come
out for each yearly _zafra_ return to enjoy their earnings in their own
land. Then there is time for _fiestas_ among the native workmen and
their families and those from the near-by islands, who frequently remain
the year round, time for “parties” and dances among the English-speaking
residents of the _batey_. The _batey_ is the headquarters of the entire
_central_, as the sugar estate is called in Cuba. It clusters about the
_ingenio_, or mammoth sugar-mill, which stands smokeless and silent
through all the “dead season,” its towering chimneys looming forth
against the cane-green background for miles in every direction. Here the
manager has his sumptuous dwelling, his heads of departments their
commodious residences, the host of lesser American employees their
comfortable screened houses shading away in size and location in the
exact gradations of the local social scale. Usually there are company
schools, tennis-courts, clubs, stores, hospital, company gardeners to
beautify the surrounding landscape. Outside this American town, often
with a park or a flower-blooming plaza in its center, are scores of
smaller houses, little more than huts as one nears the outskirts, in
which live the rank and file of employees of a dozen nationalities. In
the olden days, when many slaves were of necessity kept the year round,
the _batey_ was a scene of activity at all seasons. But the patriarchal
plantation life, the enchantment of the old family sugar-mill where each
planter ground his own cane, has almost wholly disappeared before these
giants of modern industry which swallow in a day the cane that the
old-fashioned mill spent a season in reducing to sugar.

[Illustration: Cuban travelers]

[Illustration: A Cuban milkman]

[Illustration: A street of Santiago de Cuba]

[Illustration: Not all Chinamen succeed in Cuba]

With the expiration of slavery the patrician style of sugar raising died
out. It became necessary, largely for lack of labor, partly for
convenience sake, to separate the agricultural from the other phases of
the sugar industry. The more customary method to-day is to divide the
estate into a score or more of “colonies,” each in charge of, or rented
to, a _colono_, who operates almost independently, at least until the
cutting season arrives. A few companies are run entirely on the
administrative system, directing every operation from planting to
grinding from a central office; some own little land themselves, but buy
their cane of the independent planters in the surrounding region. But
the _colono_ system gives promise of surviving longest. For one thing,
in case of drought or other disaster, the loss falls in whole or part on
the planter instead of being entirely sustained by the company. Even
when the land from which they draw their cane is not their own property,
the companies keep a force of inspectors who ride day after day through
the cane-fields, offering advice to the _colonos_ here, ordering them to
change their methods there, if they are to remain in the good graces of
the central management. The latter keeps in its offices large maps of
all the region from which its mill is fed, noting on each plot the
condition of the soil, the age of the cane, particularly whether or not
it has been burned over, that it may be assigned its proper turn for
cutting when the grinding season begins.

Fires are the chief bugaboo of the sugar growers. All the fields are cut
up into sections by frequent _guardarayas_, open lanes some fifty yards
wide which serve not only as highways, but as a means of confining a
conflagration to the plot in which it starts. In many cases there are
little watch towers set up on stilts from which to give warning in case
of fire, while special employees sometimes patrol the fields during the
drier months. Rural guards of the “O. P.” corps have orders to be
constantly on the lookout for incendiaries; when a fire starts they
immediately surround the field, and woe betide the luckless mortal who
is caught in it, for all Cuba is banded together to punish the man who
wantonly or carelessly brings destruction upon their principal product.

A cane fire is an exciting event, not to say a magnificent sight.
Starting in a tiny puff of vapor where some careless smoker has tossed a
match, from a passing locomotive, or by intention, it quickly gives
warning by the black-brown column of smoke which rises high into the
clear tropical heavens. Whistles, bells, anything capable of making a
noise, join in the din which summons planters, employees, and
neighboring villagers to stem the threatened catastrophe. By the time
the bright red flames begin to curl above the cane-tops men and boys of
every degree, color, and nationality are racing pell-mell from every
direction toward them, _colonos_, overseers, rural guards, Americans,
Chinamen, Spaniards, West Indian negroes, Cubans ranging from the
village _alcade_ to bootblacks. Many of these bring with them machetes,
others catch up clubs, handsful of brush, the tops of banana plants, and
fall to threshing the flames, which by this time are crackling like the
tearing up of thousands of parchments. Men on horseback race up and down
the open lanes, directing the fighters, ordering the cutting of a new
_guardaraya_ there, commanding the lighting of a back-fire yonder. The
air is full of black bits of cane leaves, the sun is obscured by the
grayish-brown smoke which envelops all the struggling, shouting
multitude and covers the field with an immense pall. A gust of wind
sends the flames jumping to another plot, whirlwinds caused by the heat
catch up the sparks and scatter them at random. New-comers join in the
turmoil, indifferent alike to their garments and their skins.
Half-asphyxiated men stumble out to the open air, gasp a few lungsful of
it, and dash back into the fray; the now immense column of smoke can be
seen over half the province. The pungent scent of crude sugar ladens all
the air. Bit by bit the leaping flames decrease under the chastisement
of hundreds of weapons, or confess their inability to leap across a
wider _guardaraya_. The crackling loses its ominous sound, the voices of
men are heard more clearly above it, gradually it succumbs to the noise
of threshing bushes, the last red glare dies out, and the struggle is
over. The motley throng of fighters, smeared, smudged, and torn, emerge
into the open lanes, toss away their improvised weapons, and straggle
homeward in long streams, while sunset paints the now distant
smoke-cloud with brilliant colors, flecked by the little black particles
which still float in the air. The burning of a cane-field does not mean
the complete loss of its crop. Only the leaves are consumed; the parched
canes are still standing. But these must be cut and ground quickly if
their juice is to be turned into sugar; the ringing of the heavy
cane-knives resounds all through the following day, and by night the
field stands forlorn and ugly in its nudity.

One by one during the month of October the mills of the island begin
their grinding. The cutting has started two days before, and incessantly
through the weeks that follow the massive two-wheeled carts, drawn by
four, six, ten, even twelve oxen, drag the canes to the mill, now
straddling the charred stumps and logs which litter new fields for years
after the first planting, now wallowing in the sloughs into which they
have churned the lanes and highways. Or, if the fields are too far away,
the ox-carts halt at railway sidings, where immense hooks catch up their
entire load and deposit them in cane-cars, long trains of which creak
away in the direction of the _ingenio_. The planters are paid on a
percentage basis, from five to seven _arrobas_ of sugar, or its
equivalent in cash at that day’s market quotation, for a hundred
_arrobas_ of cane, a system which gives the _colono_ his share in any
increase in price. The workmen, more than half of whom are foreigners,
are paid by the “task,” their earnings depending on their strength and
diligence. The natives have a reputation for doing less than their
competitors. There are Cubans who work in both the tobacco and sugar
_zafras_, but most of them are content to spend from four to six months
in the cane-fields earning their five to eight dollars a day, and to
loaf and buy lottery tickets the rest of the year. The result is that
the entire island has a toilsome, preoccupied air during our winter
months and a holiday manner throughout the summer.

Grinding time is the antithesis of the “dead season.” Then the dull
sullen grumble of the mill never ceases, _fiestas_ and “_parties_” are
forgotten, all but the higher employees and the field-men alternate in
their twelve-hour shifts between night and day, with little time or
inclination left for recreation. The chimneys of the _ingenios_ belch
forth constant columns of smoke, by night their blaze of electric lights
makes them visible far off across the country. Once dumped in the chutes
the canes have no escape until they have reached the market, or at least
the warehouse, in the form of sugar. Rivers of juice run from beneath
the rollers to the boiling vats; the centrifugals, most often tended by
Chinamen, whirl the thick molasses into grains, great bags of which are
stood end up on the necks of burly negroes and trotted away to the
_almacen_. The porters must be burly, for Cuba still retains the bag
used in slave days, holding thirteen _arrobas_, or two hundred and
seventy-five pounds, and the negroes insist they must run with them to
keep from falling down. It has more than once been proposed to reduce
the size of the bags, but this would require a change all the way back
to India, where jute and bags originate.

From the days of the primitive _trapiche_, when two logs turned by an ox
or a donkey constituted a Cuban sugar-mill, through the period of
individual growing and grinding, when an army of slaves worked under the
whip for the benefit of an ignorant and often lazy and licentious owner
who considered that work his right, down to the immense _ingenio_ and
extensive _batey_ of modern times, Cuba has been more or less exploited
for the benefit of other lands and peoples. Even to-day, when fabulous
wages are paid to the men who do the actual toiling under the tropical
sun, much of the profit from her soil brings up eventually in the
pockets of others. Few are the _centrals_ which do not win back a
considerable portion of the wages they are forced to pay by maintaining
company stores in which the prices are exorbitant, or in selling the
right to maintain them. Many an American manager frankly admits the
injustice of this, yet all assert themselves unable to remedy it. Of the
sums carried off by workmen from other lands the Cubans have no
complaint, admitting that they earn their hire. But there is a growing
tendency to grumble that the island is being more thoroughly exploited
now than in the days of slavery, for it comes to the same thing, they
contend, whether the larger portion of their national riches go to
Spanish masters or to stock-holders who have never set foot on Cuban
soil. Notwithstanding that the island claims more wealth per capita than
any other land on earth, the inhabitants are not satisfied, either with
themselves or with circumstances, as a brief extract from the native
novel already several times quoted will indicate:

  They [foreign stock-holders] are the owners of everything, soil and
  industry. We abandon it to them with good grace so long as they
  leave to us the politics and public careers, that is, the road of
  fraud and life with little work. On the other hand they, the
  producers, profoundly despise us. It is the case of all
  Latin-America. While we gnaw the bone the true exploiter, who is no
  Cuban, eats the meat. And if we growl, showing our teeth, all they
  have to do is to complain to the diplomats. Then they hand us a
  kick, one on each side, and the matter is settled.

In contrast to the United States, Cuba grows wilder, more pioneer-like,
from west to east. The traveler is aware of this increase of wilderness
about the time he passes Ciego de Avila and the line of the old _trocha_
across the island at the slenderest part of its waist, where are still
seen remnants of the long row of forts from sea to sea with which the
Spaniards vainly hoped to keep the rebels in the eastern end of the
island and save at least the advanced and more populous western half
from open rebellion. There are, to be sure, aged towns and _pueblos_ on
the sunrise side of the _trocha_. Camagüey, for instance, could scarcely
be called a parvenu; and Baracoa, on the extreme eastern beach of the
island, is Cuba’s first settlement. But the fact remains that the
traveler feels more and more in touch with primeval nature as he
advances to the eastward.

Small as it looks on the map, it is hard to realize that for vast
distances the island of Cuba is still the unbroken wilderness of the
days of Columbus. Though it is frequently broken by long stretches of
civilization, the virgin forest is always near at hand on this eastward
journey. There are frequent sugar estates, immense stretches of
pale-green cane from horizon to horizon, but they are of the rough,
wasteful, unfinished type of all pioneering. Cattle dot the great
savannas, sleek, contented-looking cattle of a prevailing reddish tinge,
and scarcely bearing out the assertion that the Cuban climate tends to
dwarf their size. These unpeopled savannas are often of a velvety brown,
now gently rolling, more commonly as flat as the sea itself, and
stretching away farther than the eye can follow with the same suggestion
of endlessness. Gazing out across them, one likes to let the imagination
play on the simpler pre-Columbian days when only the _Siboney_ Indians
trekked across them in pursuit of the one four-foot game with which
nature stocked the island, the diminutive _jutía_.

Of a score of striking trees with which these more open regions are
punctuated, the broad-spreading, open-work, lace-like _algarrobo_,
thorny and of slight value, is the most conspicuous, almost rivaling the
ceiba and the royal palm in the ability to etch the sky-line with its
artistic tracery. Stations are far apart and primitive in character in
this region. Now and again one of special interest brings the long
Habana-Santiago train to a laborious and often lengthy halt. There is
Omaja, for example, said to have been settled by immigrants from
Nebraska, and laboring under the Cubanization of the name they brought
with them. It is the same sun-washed collection of simple dwellings and
wide-open pioneer stores as everywhere greets the eye of the Cuban
traveler. Yet the American’s influence is seen in the immense width of
its one street and the more sturdy aspect of its wooden houses, crude,
yet not without the simpler comforts. The Americans of Omaja, like
several other groups that have settled in Cuba, came to plant fruit,
with the accent on the _toronja_, or grape-fruit, so popular on Northern
breakfast-tables, yet so scorned by the rural Cuban. But it was their
bad luck to strike one of those curious dry spots frequent even in the
wettest American tropics, and most of the score who remain have turned
their attention to lumber. There are long rows of sturdy fruit-trees,
however, as heavy with grape-fruit as a Syrian peddler with his pack,
and hundreds of the saffron-yellow spheres lie rotting under the trees.
Lack of transportation answers for many incongruities. Some of the
orchards have been planted with cane, and only the deep-green crests of
the trees gaze out above the pale-verdant immensity. Yet prosperity
seems to have come to some of the settlers despite droughts and scarcity
of rolling-stock, for in the neighborhood of Omaja are several big
farm-houses of the bungalow family which can scarcely be the products of
Cuban taste.

Beyond come more miles of the lightly wooded wilderness, everywhere
spotted with cattle, here and there a large banana plantation, and
frequent half-clearings in the denser forest, heaped with huge logs of
red mahogany and other valuable woods. The railroad itself does not
hesitate to make ties and trestle beams of the precious _caoba_, the
aristocracy of which is much less apparent in its own setting than after
the expense of distant transportation has been added to its cost. Then
again, like a constant reiteration of the main Cuban motif, come the
endless seas of cane, sometimes full-grown and drowning all else except
the majestic palms, sometimes just started in a flood of the bluer young
plants that cannot yet conceal the burned stumps and charred logs of
regions recently deforested. For a while cultivation disappears
entirely, and the dense virgin forest, just as nature meant it to be,
impassable, hung with climbing lianas, draped with “Spanish moss,” its
huger trees bristling with flowerless orchids of green or reddish tint,
its countless species of larger vegetation choked by impenetrable
undergrowth, shuts in the track for many an uninhabited mile.

But hungry mankind does not long endure this unproductive slovenliness
of nature. Gangs of men as varied in color as the vegetation in species
are laying waste new areas of wilderness, and preparing to complete with
fire the work of their axes and machetes in taming the unbroken soil for
human purposes. Half-naked families of incredible fecundity swarm to the
doors of thatch cabins, to gaze after the fleeing train like wild
animals catching their first glimpse of the outside world. It would be
easy to imagine that the clearing away of the forest has uncovered these
primitive dwellings and their denizens, as it has brought to light the
ant-nests in the crotches of the trees. They seem as little a part of
the modern world as the shelter of some prehistoric Robinson Crusoe.

At Cacocúm, the junction for Holguín, up in the hills to the north, the
primitive and the latest advances of civilization mingle together.
Gaping _guajiros_ watch the unloading of apples and grapes, the chief
delicacies of Cuban desserts, that were grown in the northwesternmost
corner of the United States. The tougher breeds of automobiles wait to
whiz immaculate travelers from distant cities away into the apparently
trackless wilderness; inhabitants of those same Robinson Crusoe huts
come down to exchange roasted slabs of the half-savage hogs which roam
the forests for silver coins and crumpled paper bearing the effigy of
American Presidents.

Farther on, we were still more forcibly snatched back to the present and
the modern. The train burst suddenly upon an immense expanse of cane,
beyond which a low range of mountains, black-blue with a tropical
shower, stretched away with ever-increasing height to the southward.
Almost at the same moment we drew up at the station of Alto Cedro,
junction of the line from Nipe Bay, into which a ship direct from New
York had steamed that morning. It had brought one of the first flocks of
migratory human birds that annually flee before the Northern winters,
made doubly rigorous now by a nationwide drought. The Cuban passengers
of the first-class coach were as suddenly and completely swamped under
the aggressive flood of touring Americans as were the native chests and
bundles in the baggage-car beneath a mountain of trunks which flaunted
the self-importance of their owners. The tales of sad mistakes in
picking lottery numbers and debate on the probable _arrobas_ of the cane
_zafra_, in the softened Spanish of Cuba, turned to chatter of the
latest Broadway success and to gurgles of joy at escaping from a
coalless winter, in a tongue that sounded as curiously anachronistic in
this tropical setting as the heavy overcoats with which the new-comers
were laden looked out of place.

The moon was full that evening, and its weird effect was enhanced by a
slight accident that left the car without lights. Royal palms,
silhouetted against the half-lighted sky, stood out even more strikingly
than by day. The moonlight fell with a silvery sheen on the white-clad
negroes who lined the way wherever the train halted, casting dense-black
shadows behind them. Below San Luís junction, where automobiles offered
to carry passengers down to Santiago in less time than the train, the
vegetation grew unusually dense, the most genuinely tropical we had ever
seen in Cuba. Immense basins filled with magnificent clusters of bamboo,
royal palms in irregular, but soldierly, formations along the succeeding
crests, masses of perennial foliage heaped up in the spaces between—all
shimmered in the moonlight as if the earth had donned her richest
ball-dress for some gala occasion. We sped continually downward, snaking
swiftly in and out through the hills despite the frequent anxious
grinding of the brakes. Here we sank into the trough of one of the few
deep railway cuts in Cuba, there we rumbled across viaducts that lifted
us up among the fronds of the royal palms. A white roadway darted in and
out in a vain attempt to keep pace with us. Now we plunged into tunnels
of vegetation, to burst forth a moment later upon a vast rolling plain
washed by the intense tropical moonlight, which seemed to fall on the
humble thatched roofs scattered about it with a curiously gentle,
caressing touch. Our descent grew gradually less swift, the hills
diminished and shrank away into the distance, and at length the lights
of Santiago, which had flashed at us several times during the last
half-hour, spread about us like a surrounding army.

The short stretch between San Luís and Santiago is one of the prettiest
in Cuba. Travelers covering it twice would do well to make one trip in
automobile. It was our own good fortune to pass four times over it under
as many varying conditions. The two-engine climb in the full blaze of
day shows the scene in a far different mood than under the flooding
moonlight; the ascent at sunset has still another temperament; yet it
would be hard to say which of the three journeys more fully emphasizes
the beauty of a marvelous bit of landscape. Possibly the trip by road
has the greatest appeal, thanks chiefly to an embracing view of Santiago
and all its wooded-mountain environment from the crest of a precipitous
headland. In the early days of American occupation a splendid highway
was built, perhaps in the hope that the Cubans would some day be moved
to carry it on across the island to Havana, perhaps that they might have
a sample of real roadway to contrast with their own sad trails. But the
natives do not seem to have taken the lesson to heart. They call the
road “Wood’s Folly,” and though it still retains some of its former
perfection, the condition into which it has already been permitted to
lapse does not promise well for the future. To the Cubans, content,
apparently, to jounce over all but impassable _caminos_, the building of
good highways will probably be long considered a “folly.”

Though comparisons are odious, Santiago is the most picturesque city of
Cuba, so far as we saw it in two months of rambling to and fro over most
of the island. This is due largely to the fact that it is built on and
among hills. Seen from the bay, or from several other of the many points
of vantage about it, the city lies heaped up like a rock pile, the old
cathedral, which some unhappy thought has subjected to a “reforming,”
crowning the heap, which spreads out at the base as if it had lain too
long without being shoveled together again. Several other church-spires
protrude above the mass, but none of them is particularly striking.
Taken separately, perhaps its houses are little different from
prevailing Cuban architecture elsewhere; built as they are on the
natural terraces of the hills, they are lifted into plainer view, each
standing forth from the throng like the features of persons of varying
height in a human crowd. Huge walls from ten to twenty feet high prove
to be merely the foundations of the dwellings above, which look out head
and shoulders over their next-door neighbors below, to be in turn
overshadowed by their companions higher up. Santiago confesses to more
than four centuries of age, and proves the assertion by her appearance.
The medieval architecture which the conquistadores brought with them
direct from Spain has persisted, and has been reproduced in newer
structures more consistently than in Havana. The red-tiled roofs curve
outwardly far over the street with a curiously Japanese effect.
Balconies high above the pedestrian’s natural line of vision prove on
nearer approach to jut out from the ground floor. Sometimes the steep
streets tire with their climbing and break up frankly into broad
stairways. In other places they fall away so swiftly that they offer a
complete vista of multicolored house-walls, plunging at the end into the
dense blue of the landlocked harbor.

Santiago is picturesque because of its quaint old customs, its amusing
contrasts, the fantastic colors of its buildings, and the tumbled world
that lies about it. All Cuban cities offer a motley of tints, but
Santiago outdoes them all in the chaotic jumble of pigments. In a single
block we found house walls of lavender, sap green, robin’s-egg blue,
maize yellow, sky gray, Prussian blue, salmon, tan, vermilion, and
purple. This jumble of colors, with never two shades of the same degree,
gives the city a kaleidoscopic brilliancy under the tropical sun that is
equally entrancing and trying to the eye. Of quaint old customs there is
that of setting the entrance-steps sidewise into the wall of the house,
so that it must be a sharp-eyed resident who recognizes his own doorway.
It is a less open town than others of Cuba, for the steepness of the
streets has raised the windows above the level of the eye, and only here
and there does the stroller catch that comprehensive glimpse of the
interior which elsewhere gives him a sense of intruding upon the family
circle. It has, however, those same wide-open, yet exclusive, clubs
whose members love to lounge in full sight of their less-favored
fellow-citizens. Of contrasts between the old and the new there are
many. Pack-trains of mules and asses pass under the very lee of the
balcony dining-room overlooking the central plaza, where migratory
mortals sup in full-coursed, solemn state. On Saturdays all sorts and
conditions of human misery crawl in and out among luxurious automobiles,
begging their legitimate weekly pittance. There are few Fords in
Santiago; the steepness of her streets make more powerful cars essential
to certain progress. On the other hand, the medieval horse-drawn
carriage rattles and shakes its palsied way though the narrow _calles_
with a musical jangle of its warning bell.

Time was when Santiago was a sink of disease, if not of iniquity. It has
largely recovered from that condition, and its hundred thousand
inhabitants, tainted in the vast majority of cases with the blood of
Africa, no longer live in constant fear of sudden death. The principal
streets are well paved; its dwellings and places of public gathering are
moderately clean, though in the dry winter season dust swirls high and
penetratingly with every gust of wind. The third city of the island in
commercial importance—Cienfuegos having outstripped it in this
respect—it is the second in political significance. Some rate it first
in the latter regard, for it is usually the pot in which is brewed the
most serious causes of indigestion for the Central Government at Havana.
Santiago has always been noted for an Irish temperament that makes it
constitutionally “ag’in’ the gover’ment.”

Outside the center of town its streets are little more than mountain
trails. The houses degenerate to thatched hovels of mud and plaster;
full-blooded negroes loll in dingy doorways, which give glimpses of
contentment with pathetically few of this world’s comforts. Not a few of
these outskirts’ inhabitants are Jamaicans. One recognizes them by their
ludicrous attempts at aloofness from the native black Cubans, by their
greater circumspection of manner. Here and there a group of them,
usually all women, struggle to make some native urchin understand the
error of his ways and the reason for their incomprehensible displeasure,
and patter off, at least loudly discussing his misbehavior in their
heavy, academic English. In these sections the picturesqueness of
Santiago is apt to express itself chiefly in the variety and pungency of
its odors.

Officially the city is “Santiago de Cuba,” so called by its
sixteenth-century founders to distinguish it from its namesake, Santiago
de Compostella in Spain. Foreigners and even the Cubans of the Western
provinces address it familiarly by the first name; the natives of the
Oriente dub it “Cuba.” Walled on all sides by what to the Cubans are
high mountains, it offers a striking panorama from any high point in the
city. In places the ranges of big hills, culminating in Pico Turquino,
are as brown, bare, and nakedly majestic as the Andes; in others they
are half wooded with green scrub forests, above which commonly float
patched and irregular cloud canvases on which the tropical sunsets paint
their masterpieces with lavish and swift hand.

The city cemetery across the harbor is somehow less gruesome than most
Cuban burial-places. For one thing, it is unusually gifted with grass
and trees and the aery forms of tropical vegetation, instead of being
the bare field of most _campos santos_ in Spanish America. Its graves,
however, are family affairs, built of cement and six or eight “stories”
deep, so that the coffins are set one above the other, as their time
comes, in perfect chronological order. Over the top, commonly a bare
three or four feet above the grass, is laid a huge stone slab,
preferably of marble, with immense brass or nickeled rings at each
corner by which to lift it, and space on its top for a poetic epitaph to
each succeeding occupant. As in all Spanish countries, the tombs of all
but the wealthiest inmates are rented for a term of years, at the end of
which time, if the descendants fail to renew the contract, the bodies
are tossed into a common graveyard, to make room for those of greener
memory.

Martí, the Cuban “Father of Liberty,” is buried here, and Estrada Palma,
promoted from humble pedagogue in one of our own schools to first
President of Cuba. But neither holds the chief place in the heart of the
Cuban masses. That is reserved for Macéo, the negro general killed just
before the dawn of independence during a foolhardy scouting expedition
in the woods of Cacahual, in company with a bare half-dozen soldiers.
The gardeners seemed unusually industrious in the cemetery the day of
our visit; it was only next morning that we discovered they were
preparing for the Cuban “Memorial day,” which is observed throughout the
island, with much spouting of poetry and laying on of flowers, on
December 7, the anniversary of Macéo’s death at the hands of the
Spaniards.

San Juan Hill is a mere knoll in comparison with the ranges that
surround it on all sides. A street-car sets one down within a few
hundred yards of it, or one may stroll out to it within an hour along a
very passable highway. The “peace tree,” an immense ceiba under which
the contending generals came to terms, is peaceful indeed now, with only
the twittering of birds to break the whisper of its languid leaves,
except when a flock of tourists swirl down upon it in one of Santiago’s
hired machines and bellow for “Old Jeff” to come and tell them, in the
inimical dialect of our Southern “darky,” the story of his last battle.
From the ugly brick tower which marks the summit of the only Cuban hill
known to the average American, El Caney lies embowered in its
thick-wooded mountain-slope a few miles away, the same dawdling, sleepy
village it was when the Americans stormed it more than twenty years ago.

Morro Castle, unlike its prototype in Havana, is not visible from the
city; nor is the Caribbean itself. As one _chugs-chugs_ down the
landlocked bay, “Cuba” shrinks away, and finally disappears entirely in
a fold of the fuzzy hills, before the ancient fortress, framed in the
bluest of blue seas, comes into sight. Beyond the point where the
_Merrimac_ failed in its perilous mission a sheltered cove, with a
rusted cannon here and there among the bushes, gives landing-place, and
leaves the visitor to scramble upward along an ancient cobbled roadway
completely arched over in place with the rampant vegetation. Nature is
similarly toiling to conceal the old fortress from modern eyes, and bids
fair in time to succeed. The dismal dungeons, the gruesome
death-chamber, are still there, but the decay that has let the sunshine
filter into them here and there has robbed them of their terror, and
left only an imperfect setting for the anecdotes of a bygone age.
Lizards and others of their sort are the only inhabitants of El Morro
now, and through the huge holes in the outer walls made by American
cannon one may gaze out along the Caribbean to the hazy, mountainous
shore where still lie some of the skeletons of Cervera’s fleet.

Whatever else he misses in Santiago, the traveler should not fail to
spend a Sunday evening in the central plaza. It is a small block square,
completely paved in asphalt, and furnished with an equal profusion of
comfortable benches and tropical vegetation. Any evening, except in the
rainy season when the afternoon shower is delayed, will find it a study
in human types; but toward sunset on Sunday it becomes the meeting-place
par excellence of Santiago’s élite. They gather in almost exact order of
social rank, the smaller fry first, then the more pompous citizens,
until, by seven in this “winter” season, the families that the foreign
visitor never sees at any other time of the week stalk past in the
continual procession. The men, formed three or four or even six abreast,
march on the inside, clock-wise; the women saunter in similar formation
around the outer arc of the circle in the opposite direction. A pace of
about a mile an hour is a sign of proper social breeding. Negroes are by
no means lacking in any Santiago gathering, but they are in the minority
at this weekly promenade. The color line is not sharply drawn, but it is
approximate, in that each rank or group has its own gradations of tints.
The women seldom wear hats; the younger girls tie with a single ribbon
the hair that hangs down their backs. Rice powder is in plentiful
evidence on every feminine face, very few of which, candor obliges the
critical observer to admit, can be called attractive. The men, never
robust, more often slender to the point of effeminacy, one and all wear
stiff straw hats, tipped back at exactly the angle approved by the
Latin-American version of Parisian fashion. A felt hat is prima-facie
evidence of a foreigner; a Panama, all but universal in the country
towns, is almost never seen. Swarms of children of all sizes and colors,
the offshoots of the wealthier families, ludicrously overdressed,
scamper in and out with an _abandon_ in inverse ratio to the social
strata to which they belong. Saucy, rather insolent boys of from twelve
to fourteen, dressed like their elders down to the last trousers’
crease, swing their diminutive canes and strut along among the men, who
treat them with that curious oblivion to their immaturity that is
prevalent in all Latin America. Young as they are, they are old enough
to ogle the little girls of similar age in the approved fashion, half
admiringly, half suggestively, with a cynical shadow of a smile that
seems to belie the patent evidence of their age. Nor are the
over-dressed little maids behindhand in the game of mutual admiration
their elders are playing, and they pass the same quick signs of
recognition to their small boy friends as do their older sisters to
their own forward admirers.

If the municipal band plays the _retreta_, this inevitable Sunday
evening is enlivened, but Santiago comes for its weekly promenade
whether there is music or not. By the height of the evening every plaza
bench, the entire quadrangle of stone balustrade backed by the low
grille inclosing the square, are compactly occupied with admiring
citizens or with older promenaders catching their breath after their
undue exertions. Seven-passenger cars filled with elaborately
upholstered matrons deathly pale with rice powder, with a few elderly,
over-slender males tucked in between them, snort round and round the
square; the electric lights among the palm-trees disclose a slowly
pulsating sea of humanity, chiefly clad in white; the murmur of a
thousand low voices resembles the sound of a broken waterfall; the
musical tinkle of the steel triangles of sweetmeat-sellers blends
harmoniously into the suppressed uproar. “Every one worth knowing” knows
every one else in the throng. The straw hats are frequently doffed with
elaborate courtesy; gentle little bows pass incessantly between the two
opposing columns; the language of fans is constantly in evidence. The
requirements of dress are exacting at this general weekly airing. Ladies
of Santiago’s upper circle must indeed find it a problem not to be
detected here too often in the same gown; the men of the town may be
seen hurrying homeward every Sunday afternoon from their café lollings
or their cock-fights to don their spotless best; negroes of both sexes,
starched and ironed to the minute, walk with the circumspection of
automatons just removed from excelsior-packed boxes. From our Northern
point of view, there is much ill-mannered staring, an ogling of the
younger women which, though accepted as complimentary in Cuba, would be
nothing short of insulting with us. But with that exception, and a
tendency of columns a half-dozen abreast not to give way when courtesy
would seem to demand it, there is a general politeness, an evidence of
good-breeding in the slight social amenities of daily life, that it
would be hard to duplicate in our own brusk-mannered land.

The plaza promenade is a more general gathering-place, a more thorough
clearing-house of common acquaintance, than any included in Anglo-Saxon
institutions. Nowhere do the inhabitants of our own cities so thoroughly
mingle together irrespective of class. At the weekly meeting business
men make many of their coming engagements—or explain the breaking of one
arranged the week before. Here old friends who find no other chance to
get together spend an hour talking over old times; here youth forms new
acquaintances, here kindred spirits who might otherwise never have met
make enduring friendships. The exclusiveness of family life wherever
Spanish civilization has set its stamp is offset by the intercourse
fostered by these Sunday evenings in the public plazas. There the first
tender glances pass between youth and maid, to be followed, with due
propriety of delay, by soft words whispered through the _reja_ of her
prison-like home, and finally by his admittance, under parental
supervision, to the chair-forested parlor, whence there is seldom any
other escape than past the altar. There, too, looser characters
sometimes form their attachments, but always with due outward propriety.
The best-behaved city of our own land cannot be freer from visible
evidence of human perversity than the island of Cuba.

Toward eight the plaza throng begins to thin out. The more haughty
ladies of the _vida social_ and their cavaliers stroll away up the
laboriously mounting streets toward the better residential districts.
The second social stratum follows their lead in all but direction,
descending instead the _calles_ that pitch downward toward the harbor.
All but the rattletrap automobiles that ply for hire have snorted away.
The average tint of the promenaders grows steadily darker. Within a half
hour the plaza has become plebeian again both in manner and garb; in
place of the compact throng their remain only a few scattered groups. In
contrast, the luxurious clubs, facing the square, have taken on new
life. The municipal council meets in its wide-open chamber across the
way, a rabble peering in upon it through the heavy iron bars of the
_rejas_. Inside, beneath an elaborate painting of Santiago’s first
alcade—who was none other than the conqueror of Mexico—taking his first
oath of office, politician-faced men of varying degrees of African
ancestry slouch down into their seats with the super-bored attitude of
legislators the world over. On a rostrum backed not by likenesses of
Cuba’s native heroes, but by a portrait of Roosevelt as a young-man and
another of our own President, a kinky-haired orator begins a peroration
that rouses shrill roars of delight from the _reja_-hugging mob far into
the moonlighted tropical night.

Cuba’s patron saint, though she has never received official papal
sanction, is the Virgin of Cobre. The tale of her miraculous appearance
is monotonously similar to that with which most Spanish-speaking peoples
explain their dedication to some particular enshrined doll. Some three
hundred years ago, the legend runs, two men and a negro slave boy from
the village of Cobre, not far from Santiago, went to Nipe Bay to gather
salt. There they found, floating on the water, an image of the Virgin,
bearing the Child on one arm and holding aloft a gold cross. After
various vicissitudes which the mere heretic may pass over in silence the
image was set up in a shrine on the top of Cobre hill, in a church that
had been specially erected for it.

The figure is of wood, about fifteen inches high, and gaudily decorated
with the silks and jewels given by the pious believers. If one may
accept the testimony of the Cubans of the less-educated class,
particularly the fishermen, the _Virgen de Cobre_ has performed many
astounding miracles. At any rate, her priestly attendants have been
richly showered with worldly gifts, and her shrine is surrounded with
costly votive offerings—or was, at least, until some one ran away with
most of them about the time Spanish rule in Cuba was abolished. Pilgrims
still flock to Cobre, especially during the first days of September, and
if they do not leave gifts of value, at least they decorate the church
with crude and amusing drawings depicting the miracles that have been
performed for them, or with wax likenesses of the varying portions of
their bodies that have been cured by her intercession. A _guagua_
crowded with women of the masses jolts out to Cobre from Santiago even
during the off season. Now and then one runs across Cuban women of
similar antecedents wearing copper-colored ornaments and even entire
costumes of that shade, as signs of having dedicated themselves, in
gratitude for her favors, to the Virgin of Cobre. Many a Cuban church
displays a replica of the famous image, with a miniature boat, carved
from wood and bearing the three salt-gatherers, beneath it.

But the world changes, and the time came when the Virgin entered, in all
innocence, into conflict with practical modern forces beyond her
control. Copper was discovered in the hill beneath her. An English
company contracted to make good any damage their mining operations might
cause to the venerated shrine. During their tenure the church suffered
no injury. The mine was worked to what was considered the limit of its
real productiveness under old methods and was then abandoned. When world
conflict suddenly made copper worth increased exertion, Cobre was taken
over by an American syndicate. The mine had meanwhile filled with water.
When the new company began pumping this out, the old supporting timbers
gave way and the church of the Virgin on the hilltop above began to
sink. In time it fell completely out of sight. A new shrine,
monotonously like the spire-less and uninspiring country churches to be
found throughout all Cuba, was erected for the Virgin and her pilgrims
farther down the valley. The Archbishop of Santiago—for the old Eastern
city still remains the religious capital of the island despite Havana’s
greatness—entered suit against the new company on the strength of the
old English agreement. In his innocence of things worldly and geological
the ecclesiastic feared that the tricky Yankees were forestalling him by
washing out the ore in liquid form. An injunction ordered them to stop
pumping, and the mine rapidly filled again with water. At length the
prince of the church won his suit, with damages in excess of the value
of the mine. The Americans abandoned what had become a more than useless
concession, and to-day a mineful of water, colored with copper sulphates
and lapping undetermined streaks of ore, remains the property of the
Virgin of Cobre.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Daiquirí is not, as Rachel was justified in supposing, a cocktail
factory, but an eminently respectable iron mine belonging now to a great
American syndicate. It lies a score of miles eastward along the coast
from Santiago, and may be reached—when the company chooses it shall
be—by a little narrow-gage railroad older than Cuban independence. From
a dusty suburb of the eastern metropolis we traveled thither by
_cigüena_, as Cubans call a Ford with railroad feet. The half-breed
conveyance roared down a dry and rocky cavern to the coast, bursting out
upon the incredibly blue Caribbean beside a forgotten Spanish fortress
all but hidden under the rampant vegetation. For a time the line spins
along on the very edge of the sea, which lashes constantly at the
supporting boulders, and affords the seeker after scenic beauties an
entrancing vista of mountain headlands protruding one after another into
the hazy distance. This coastal region has little in common with the
fertile and richly garbed flatlands of the interior. Jagged coral rock,
known as _dientas de perro_ (dog’s teeth) to the Cubans, spreads away on
the left and here and there rises in forbidding cliffs on the right.
Vegetation is prolific, as always in the tropics, wherever a suggestion
of foothold offers, but it is a dry and thorny growth, a menacing
wilderness that invites few inhabitants. Only one abode of man breaks
the journey, a cluster of sun-faded huts known as Siboney, on a rock
before which stands a monument to the American forces that landed here
for the march on Santiago.

Farther on, where the sea hides its beauty behind a widening strip of
rocks and bristling vegetation, are a few fertile patches densely
covered with cocoanut and banana groves. A cocoanut plantation is the
lazy man’s ideal investment. Once it is planted, he has only to wait
until the nuts drop to have a steady income, taking the trouble to husk
them if he cares to save something on transportation, but needing to
exert himself no further unless thirst forces him to walk up a tree and
cut down one of the green nuts filled with its pint of cool and
satisfying beverage. The mountains rose to ever more impressive heights
as the tireless Ford screamed onward, their culminating peak exceeded
only by the Pico Turquino, peering into the sky from a neighboring
range. Half bare, brown of tint, wrinkled as the Andes, they rise
majestically into the sky, and if they are not high mountains, as
mountains go the world over, they are at least lofty enough to be
cloud-capped in the early mornings and now and then during the day.
Mining villages, of which there are several besides the “mother mine” of
Daiquirí, began to appear, perched on projecting knobs and knolls, long
before we drew up at the port where hundreds of tons of ore are dropped
every week directly into the ships—when ships can be had.

The mines themselves are laid out in full sight between heaven and
earth. For they are open-work mines, each “bench” like the step of a
giant stairway, reminding one of the Inca terraces of Peru.
Steam-shovels gnaw at the two horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters, frequent
explosions rouse the languid mountains to the exertion of sending back a
long series of echoes, and the gravity-manipulated ore-buckets spin
constantly away across the void to the crushers below. Here, too, the
workmen are Spaniards who remain in Cuba only long enough to carry a
villager’s fortune back to their native land, and their labor in the
open air gives them a tint far different from the human moles of most
mining communities. Their houses are pitched high on a conical hill far
above the mine, the married men living on the topmost summit, the
“single village” farther down the slope, no doubt in order to convince
the benedicts that they have risen to higher things. A locomotive
dragged us up to the bit of a town, whence we rode on horseback to the
crest of another foothill, on which stood in splendid isolation the
residence of the bachelor manager. Of the veritable botanical and
zoölogical gardens with which he had surrounded himself, of the beauty
of the scene as the sun sank into the Caribbean far below, the rustling
of the cocoanut palms in the steady breeze, and the distant sounds of
the mining community settling down for the night I need say nothing
except that we regretted we had not a hundred days instead of one to
spend there.

The manager had lived through several revolutions, the latest less than
three years before, and had grown accustomed to have some brakeman or
miner in his employ march into his office at the head of a dozen
ragamuffins and announce that he had been made a colonel overnight.
Luckily our host was quite plainly liked by all classes of the
community, so that such visits were usually mere social calls, and he
had only to congratulate the new military genius, give him a drink and
smoke a cigarette with him as a sign of equality to have him offer the
mine his protection even unto death and stalk merrily away at the head
of his “troops.” On the mountain-sides across a mighty gully and high
above us were still the remnants of old French coffee plantations, with
native squatters in the old houses. By daylight the steep slopes stood
forth like aged tapestries, golden brown in tinge except where they were
dotted with immense mango-trees which looked at this distance like tiny
green bushes. There one may find dogs, cats, cattle, guinea-fowls, pigs,
and coffee all gone equally wild since the days when the plantation
owners fled.

Wedded as it is to its sugar industry, Cuba is nevertheless capable of
producing many other things. Of four-footed game there is little, as in
all the West Indies. The aborigines must have been mainly vegetarians,
for the only animal on the island at the time of the discovery was the
_jutía_, which looks like a combination of rat, opossum, and woodchuck,
lives in mangroves and hilly places, feeds on the bark of trees, and is
so tame and stupid it may be killed with a club. It is still eaten, “its
flesh being much esteemed by those who like it,” as one description has
it, though to the unaccustomed it is oily and insipid. During the last
century deer were introduced, which are fairly plentiful in some parts
of the island and would be more so if there were game laws and any
feasible means of enforcing them. _Jutías_ and _boniatos_ frequently
constituted the entire commissary of the insurgents against the
Spaniards. The latter is a tuber so prolific that an acre, free from
insects, has been known to produce fifty thousand pounds of it in
eighteen months. Its chief rival in the peasant’s garden and on most
Cuban tables is the _malanga_, the _taro_ of the South Seas, easily
distinguishable by its large heart-shaped leaves. Of the feathered
species there is a larger representation than of quadrupeds. Wild
turkeys, called _guanajos_, abound, the flocks of guineas are sometimes
so large as to do serious damage to the crops. The indigenous birds are
distinguished more by their color than by their ability to sing. The
best of them in the latter respect is the _sinsonte_, which not only
imitates the songs of other birds, but has been known to learn short
pieces of music. Snakes are rare and never venomous, the largest being a
species of boa constrictor with a tan-colored skin, so sleepy and
harmless that small boys climb the trees in which it sleeps and knock it
to the ground with sticks. Cuban oysters are much smaller than ours,
though the natives claim they are more succulent and nutritious. There
are lobsters also, but the finest of all Cuban sea foods is the
_congrejo moro_, a huge crab with a beautiful red and black shell.
Little corn is grown, and still less rice, though the latter invariably
makes its appearance at the two daily meals. Vegetables, except for the
_malanga_ and _boniato_, are rare, as in all tropical America; fruit, on
the other hand, almost unlimited. There are twenty varieties of bananas,
seedy oranges may be had anywhere, the mango, pineapple, _mamey_,
_guayaba_, _mamoncillo_, _guanábana_, _chirimoya_, _sapote_ or
_níspero_, the _papaya_, a tree-grown melon superior to our best
cantaloupes and with a taste of honeysuckle, and the grape-fruit are
among the many island delicacies, but only the pineapple and grape-fruit
are cultivated with any attention. Even with all these fruits to choose
from the most familiar Cuban dessert is the apple, imported from our
Northwestern States and retailing at from twenty to thirty cents each.
Unfortunately, though most American fruits arrive in Cuba in perfect
condition, few of those grown in Cuba can endure the journey to the
United States. Lastly, for the ever-present _palma real_ could not be
left out of any mention of Cuban products, this most beautiful of the
island’s trees is as useful as it is incomparable as a landscape
decoration. The royal palm has no bark and the trunk is hollow, so that
with a very little labor it can be fashioned into waterpipes or split
into a rough and ready lumber. The fronds make splendid roofing, light,
yet impermeable. The _yagua_, or leaf base, has a score of uses. Pigs
prefer the oily little nuts which hang in clusters beneath the leaves to
any other food. The branches to which these seeds are attached make good
brooms; salt can be had from the roots; the “cabbage” from which the
leaves gradually form makes an excellent salad, raw or cooked, and
lastly, the lofty tree is peerless as a lightning-rod.

Daiquirí and Cobre by no means exhaust the places of interest in the
mammoth eastern province of Cuba. There are branch railroad lines, for
instance, to the western, northern, and southern coasts of the province,
each several hours from Santiago. On the way to Manzanillo one passes
the village in which the “_Grito de_ Yara” began the revolt against
Spanish rule, and in the neighborhood of which some of the old
revolutionary leaders still live. Antilla, in the north, faces one of
the most magnificent bays in the New World; beyond the town of
Guantánamo, noteworthy for its unbroken chorus of roosters, two little
railways flank the opposite shores of the gulf of the same name, one of
them passing through an entrancing little valley. The other wanders
across a flat, thorny, and rather arid land to Caimanera, noted for its
salt beds and as the nearest place free from the American drought which
reigns perpetually over the station of our marines and sailors holding
our naval base of Guantánamo Bay.

                  *       *       *       *       *

He who comes to Cuba with the rigid American conception of the gulf
separating the African and the Aryan races will find our ward little
inclined to follow our lead in that particular matter. In the Havana
custom-house his belongings will be examined by a black man. The finest
statue in Cuba is that of the negro general, Macéo; had he lived he
would in all probability have been the island’s first president. One
soon becomes accustomed to seeing negroes slap white men on the back
with a familiar “Hello, Jim,” and be received by an effusive handshake.
Sextets gathered for a little banquet at café tables frequently show as
many gradations of color, from a native Spaniard to a full African,
repulsive perhaps for his diamond rings and over-imitation of Parisian
manners, and are served by obsequious white waiters. The majority of
Cuban negroes, however, seem less objectionable than those in the lands
where the color-line is closely drawn. Accustomed to being treated as
equals, many of them have developed a self-respect and a gentlemanliness
rare among our own blacks, or even among our working class of Caucasian
blood. They have, too, a pride in personal appearance scarcely inferior
to that of the sometimes over-dressed white Cubans. Mark Twain once
stated that there is much to be said for black or brown as the best tint
for human complexions; one is often reminded of the remark in noting how
handsome some of these black Cuban dandies look under their stiff straw
hats.

Negroes, of course, are by no means in the majority in the largest of
the Antilles, though most Cubans probably have African blood in their
veins. In the Oriente may still be found traces of the Siboney Indians.
Immigrants from all the varied provinces of Spain, African slaves,
Chinese coolies, creoles from Haiti, Louisiana, and Florida, and a
scattering of many other races have mingled together for generations;
and from this blending of east and west, north and south, tempered by
the tropical climate, emerges the Cuban. To a certain extent all these
types have kept their racial characteristics, but they are only lost
under the overwhelming influence of what may be called the national
Cuban character, which varies little from that of all Latin-Americans.
Like all nations, the islanders have their good and their bad points.
The simple amenities of life are more thoroughly cultivated than in our
own quick-spoken land. Rudeness is rare; courtesy is wide-spread among
all classes. One would scarcely expect to see duplicated in our large
cities the action of a mulatto traffic policeman stationed on the
busiest corner of Havana’s plaza, who waited for a lull in the task
assigned him to cross the street and, raising his cap, corrected a
direction he had given me a moment before. I have heard a woman tourist
who failed to understand one of these immaculate guardians remark
petulantly to her companions, “You’d think they’d make them learn
English, wouldn’t you?” Our native tongue is often useless in Cuba, to
be sure; but how would it be if _they_, whoever they are, required
travelers to learn Spanish before entering a Spanish-speaking country?
The general courtesy is sometimes tempered by unintentional lapses from
what we understand by that word; Cubans call one another, for instance,
and try to call Americans, by a hissing “P-s-t,” which is not customary
in our own good society. They are emotional and excitable; their
necessity for gesticulation frequently requires them to put down a
telephone receiver in order to use both hands; they have little
concentration of attention, and are much given to generalizing from
superficial appearances to save themselves the labor of going to the
bottom of things. Of quick intelligence, they learn with facility when
there is anything to be gained by learning, but memory rather than
thought is their dominant faculty. This last is probably due to the
antiquated methods of the schools, that make the child a mere parrot and
never develop his powers of judgment and comparison, which often remain
inactive and dormant throughout life.

His politeness has its natural counterpart of insincerity until, in the
perhaps too harsh words of one of his own people, “we cultivate
falsehood with a facility which becomes prodigious.” This insincerity is
perhaps natural in a society that lived for centuries under constant
suspicion of infidelity and surrounded by an atmosphere of distrust on
the part of the Spanish rulers. Pride, which often reaches the height of
a virtue among the Spaniards, is apt to degenerate in the Cuban to mere
vanity, making him more susceptible to flattery than to reason. “Our
dominating nervous temperament,” says the native critic quoted above,
“has contributed to make us irritable, sometimes insufferable. On
account of this sensitiveness we have more sensations than ideas, more
imagination than understanding, with the result that when we turn our
attention to anything the pretty is apt to have more importance than the
true or useful. We are better path-followers than originators; we prefer
to triumph by astuteness rather than by reason; we are prodigal, and for
that reason the thirst for riches is our dominant characteristic. The
rascality of our priests, largely from Spain, has made the average
Cuban, if not an atheist, at least a skeptic and indifferent in
religious matters.”

Americans who have lived in Mexico, of whom there are many now in Cuba,
all make comparisons unfavorable to the Cubans. We did not meet one of
them who was not longing for the day when they, men and women alike,
could return to the land of weekly revolutions. “I hear,” said a visitor
from the North, “that the Cubans are rather slippery in business.” “Say
rather,” replied an old American resident, “that they are good business
men, with the accent on the business.” This verdict seems to be almost
unanimous. The Cuban has a habit of beating himself on the chest and
shouting about his _honor_ at the very moment when both he and his
hearers know he is lying. It is natural, perhaps, that the heat of the
tropics should breed hatred for work and cause men to become tricky
instead. But this trickery is less conspicuous in business than in
politics. The war gave Cuba an enormous commercial impulse, yet there
are comparatively few Cubans in commerce. Parents prefer that their sons
adopt professions or enter government service. A Cuban congressman ended
his appeal for a bill authorizing the government to send a hundred
youths abroad each year to study commerce with, “Those who do not
succeed in business can become government agents and consuls.” The
notion of foisting the failures upon the state awakened not a titter of
surprise among his hearers; they had long been used to that custom under
Spanish rule.

The Cubans are always discussing politics, though the great majority of
them have no voice whatever in the government. To an even greater extent
than with us the best men shun political office. The few of this class
who enter politics soon abandon it in disgust and to an ignorant and
avaricious clique are left the spoils. More than one representative has
learned to sign his name after being elected. One admitted in public
debate that he thought the Amazon was in Europe; another scoffed at the
idea that Cuba was entirely surrounded by water. Congressmen go to their
sessions armed, and revolvers are frequently drawn during some heated
controversy. Some of them have been known to take advantage of the
immunity from arrest to refuse to pay their rent and to make attacks
upon women. A recent president was elected on a platform of
cock-fighting, a national lottery, and _jai alai_, this last being the
Basque game of _pelota_, at which gambling flourishes at its best. The
president now in power was apparently all that a president should be
during the first few months of his term; to-day only those on whom he
has showered favors have a good word for him. “The Liberal who ruled
before him was a grafter,” say natives and foreign residents alike, “but
at least he let other people get theirs, while this man grabs everything
for himself. In other words he is as Conservative as the other was
Liberal.” If one is to believe local opinion, Cuba has had but two
honest and efficient rulers since her independence, some say in her
history,—her first elected president and her first American military
governor. Love for the latter is almost universal; one frequently hears
the assertion that, if he could run and honest elections could be held,
he would be elected president of Cuba by an overwhelming majority,
notwithstanding that the average Cuban does not like the average
American.

Graft, known in Cuba as “_chivo_,” is hereditary in the chief of the
West Indies. In olden days Spain looked upon Cuba as a legitimate source
of quick and easy gain. Royal grants were bestowed upon favorites;
titles and positions were created as a means of securing all the profit
possible. The few years of American rule did little to eradicate this
point of view, and the old idea still persists. Political positions are
treated quite frankly as opportunities for amassing private fortunes,
and the man in public life who does not take complete advantage of his
position is openly rated a fool. The reign of “_chivo_” is supreme
through all the grades of officialdom; it is not necessary to seek
examples, they are constantly thrusting themselves upon the attention.

Investigation has shown that half the owners of private automobiles and
many liquor dealers have paid no licenses, but have “fixed it up” with
the inspectors. During a recent hurricane the new sea-wall along the
Malecón in Havana was totally wrecked, though the portion built during
American rule suffered scarcely any damage. The millionaire Spanish
contractor had saved on cement by giving part of the sum which should
have been spent for it to those whose business it was to pass upon his
work. The director of the national lottery made enough in four years to
buy one of the largest sugar _centrals_ on the island, and his position,
you may be sure, did not come to him gratis. A real estate company
offered to furnish the oil and tarvia if the government of Havana would
pave the streets of a new suburb; one fourth of the material was
actually used for that purpose and the rest was sold by the public
officials. The church is not behindhand in the pursuit of “_chivo_.”
Priests demand fabulous sums for marrying, and advise the _guajiros_ and
laboring classes who cannot pay for the ceremony to go without, as
thousands of families have done, many of them having accepted it years
later as Christmas presents to themselves and their children from
American employers. During the recent census conservative enumerators
failed to enroll liberal citizens, thereby depriving them of the right
to vote; and if the tables had been turned, the only difference would
have been that the other party would have lost their ballots. During the
war a chain was lowered each evening across the mouth of Havana harbor
as a protection against submarines; an English captain who knew nothing
of the new rule against entering the port at night was arrested by a
Cuban naval officer and then told that the matter could be “fixed up”
for a twenty-dollar bill.

“Concessions” and “permits” are the chief aids of the “_chivo_”-seeker.
Each morning six men who have a “concession” netting them a neat little
sum for gathering the rubbish floating on the water row across the
harbor and back without touching the acres of flotsam, and hurry away to
their private jobs early in the day. Havana has several new concrete
piers, but they are not used because of “concessions” to the owners of
tumbledown wharves. The same is true of a new garbage incinerator;
lighterage “concessions” cost fortunes in time and money to ships
entering the harbor. Nothing can be built in Cuba without a permit. The
man who wishes to erect a house in Havana draws up his plans and submits
them to the city architects. As often as he comes to get them, he is
informed that “the man who works on these matters is not here now,
but”—and if he takes the statement at par, the plans are placed at the
bottom of the pile again as he leaves; but if he inadvertently slips a
greenback of large denomination among them, the permit is forthcoming
within twenty-four hours. One must have a permit to make the slightest
alterations in house or office. An American who had secured a permission
to paint his house was threatened with arrest for adding a second coat
without another permit, and forced to “fix it up.” When he tried to
erect a fence he found that it could not be constructed of wood, but ten
dollars made the inspector so blind that one erected of that material is
represented on the city maps as made of cement and iron. The man who
examines your baggage upon arrival in Havana will not pass it for hours
or even days unless you accept his offer to have it transported to your
hotel by draymen of his choosing and at his price, and so on, through
all the vicissitudes of life and every branch of daily intercourse. Like
the lianas and parasites which cling to the trees of Cuban forests, the
productive class of the nation is everywhere supporting these useless
hangers-on; and like those giants of the vegetable world the fertility
of the island makes it strong enough to bear the burden without any
serious impairment of its health and prosperity.



                               CHAPTER V
                      UNDER THE PALM-TREE OF HAITI


We sailed away from Cuba on the Haitian Navy. It happened that the fleet
in question put into Guantánamo Bay to have something done to her
alleged engine at a time which happily coincided with our own arrival at
the eastern end of the island. Otherwise there is no telling when or how
we should have made our second jump down the stepping-stones of the West
Indies, for Cuba and Haiti do not seem to be particularly neighborly.

The once proud _Adrea_ of the New York Yacht Club is a schooner of
almost a hundred tons, and still preserves some of her aristocratic
features despite the lowly state to which she has fallen under her new
name of _L’Indépendance_. Time was when the fleet of the Black Republic
boasted more than twice its present strength; but the larger half of it
was sold one day to the “slave trade,” as they still call the carrying
of negro laborers to the sugar-mills of Cuba, and on the two masts of
_L’Indépendance_ has fallen the entire burden of preserving the Haitian
freedom of the seas.

Eleven wild men, all of them, except one yellow fellow for contrast,
blacker than the shades of a rainy-season midnight, made up her crew,
and the deep-blue and maroon flag of sovereign Haiti flew at her stern.
But there was a lighter tint superimposed upon this dark background both
of flag and crew. The former bore the white shield which announces a
white man in command, and her three officers, averaging the advanced age
of twenty-five, were as Caucasian as a New England village. In real life
they were a bo’s’n of the American Navy and two enlisted men of our
far-flung Marine Corps, hailing from such quaint corners of the world as
Cape Cod, Toledo, and Indianapolis; but in that topsyturvy fairy-world
of the West Indies they were all first lieutenants of the “Gendarmérie
d’Haïti.”

By noon of a midsummer day in December _L’Indépendance_ was rolling
across the Windward Passage in a way out of all proportion to her
importance or to the mere playfulness of the Caribbean waves. When
morning broke, the two horns of Haiti loomed far to the rear on each
horizon, and we had already covered some two thirds of our journey.

But not so fast, lest the inexperienced reader get too hasty and
optimistic a notion of wind-wafted travel. A schooner is a most romantic
means of conveyance—when there is something to fill her sails. I can
imagine no greater punishment for American impatience than to be
sentenced to lie aimlessly tossing through the hereafter in tropical
doldrums where even the fish scorn to bite. Evidently the winds within
the gaping jaws of Haiti are as erratic as the untamable race that
peoples its mountainous shores.

However, let us avoid exaggeration. We did move every now and then,
sometimes in the right direction, occasionally at a spanking pace that
sent the blue waters foaming in two white furrows along our bows. Yet
the mountainous ridges on either hand crept past with incredible
leisureliness. All through the second night the tramp of hurrying bare
feet and the stentorian “French” of the officers sounded about the deck
cots we had preferred to the still luxurious cabins below—and by sunrise
we had covered nearly twenty miles since sunset! Gonave Island, with its
alligator snout, floated on our starboard all that day with a
persistency which suggested we were towing it along with us. Brown and
seeming almost bare at this distance, it showed no other signs of life
than a few languid patches of smoke, which the mulatto cabin-boy
explained as “Burn ’em off an’ then make ’em grow.” It was well that he
had picked up a fair command of English somewhere, for the mere fact
that we both prided ourselves on the fluency of our French did not help
us in any appreciable degree to carry on conversation with the black
crew. The youthful officers, with that quick adaptability which we like
to think of as American, had mastered their new calling even to the
extent of acquiring that strange series of noises which is dignified in
the French West Indies with the name of “creole,” but it would never
have been recognized even as a foster-child on Parisian boulevards.

The mountainous northern peninsula on our port grew slightly more
variegated under an afternoon sun that gave the incredibly blue
landlocked sea the suggestion of an over-indigoed tub on wash-day. The
peninsula was brown, for the most part, with a wrinkled and folded
surface that seemed to fall sheer from the unbroken summit into the
placid blue gulf, and only here and there gleamed a little patch of
green. Yet it must have been less precipitous than it seemed, for we
made out through our glasses more than one clustered village along the
hair-line where sea and mountains met, and now and then a fishing smack
crawling along it put in at some invisible cove.

Before the third day waned, our goal, Port au Prince, was dimly to be
seen with the same assistance, a tiny, whitish, triangular speck which
seemed to stand upright at the base of the hazy mountain-wall stretching
across the world ahead. The wind, too, took on a new life, but it blew
squarely in our faces, as if bent on refusing us admittance to our
destination. The shore we were seeking receded into the dusk, and the
men of endless patience which sailing-vessels seem to breed settled down
to battle through another night, with little hope of doing more than
avoid retreat. We were rewarded, however, with another of those
marvelous West Indian sunsets which only a super-artist could hope to
picture. Ragged handsful of clouds, like the scattered fleece of the
golden-brown _vicuña_, hung motionless against the background of a
pink-and-blue streaked sky, which faded through all possible shades to
the blackening indigo of the once more limitless sea.

How long the winds might have prolonged our journey there is no knowing.
Out of the black night behind us there appeared what seemed a pulsating
star, which gradually grew to unstar-like size and brilliancy.
Excitement broke out among the three white mariners. One of them
snatched an electric lamp and flashed a few letters of the Morse code
into the darkness. They were answered by similar winkings on the arc of
the approaching star. This shifted its course and bore down upon us. The
captain caught up a megaphone and bellowed into the howling wind. The
answer came back in no celestial tongue, but in a strangely familiar and
earthly dialect: “Hello! That you, Louie? Tow? Sure. Got a line, or
shall I pass you one?” A search-light suddenly revealed the navy of
Haiti like a theatrical star in the center of the tossing stage; a
submarine-chaser snorted alongside us with American brevity; our sails
dropped with a run, and a few moments later we were scudding through the
waves into the very teeth of the gale. When I awoke from my next nap,
_L’Indépendance_ was asleep at anchor in a placid little cove.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Port au Prince is not, as it appears from far out in the bay, heaped up
at the base of a mountain-wall, but stretches leisurely up a gentle, but
constant slope that turns mountainous well behind the city. Off and on
through the night we had heard the muffled beating of tomtoms, or some
equally artistic instrument, and occasionally a care-free burst of
laughter, that could come only from negro throats, had floated to us
across the water. The first rays of day showed us a stone’s-throw from a
shore which the swift tropical dawn disclosed as far denser in greenery
than a Cuban coast. The city lay three miles away across the curving
bay. Two slender wireless poles and the stack of a more distant
sugar-mill stood out against the mountain-range behind, while all else
still hovered in the haze of night. Then bit by bit, almost swiftly, the
details of the town began to appear, like a photographic plate in the
developer. A cream-colored, two-towered cathedral usurped the center of
the picture; whitish, box-like houses spotted the slope irregularly all
about it, and the completed development showed scores of little hovels
scattered through the dense greenery far up the hillsides and along the
curving shore. Then all at once a bugle sounded, an American bugle
playing the old familiar reveille, and full day popped forth as suddenly
as if the strident notes had summoned the world to activity.

Two blacks, manning the schooner’s tender, set us ashore in the Haitian
“navy-yard,” a slender wooden pier along which were moored three
American submarine-chasers. An encampment of marines eyed us wonderingly
from the doors of their tents and wooden buildings, beyond which a
gateway gave us entrance to a thoroughly Haitian scene. A stony country
road, flanked by a toy railway line, was thronged with the children of
Ham. Negro women, with huge bundles of every conceivable contents on
their heads, pattered past with an easy-going, yet graceful, carriage.
Others sat sidewise on top of assorted loads that half hid the lop-eared
donkeys beneath them. Red bandanas and turbans of other gay colors
showed beneath absurdly broad palm-leaf hats. Black feet, with the
remnants of a slipper balancing on the toes of each, waved with the pace
of the diminutive animals. The riders could scarcely have been called
well dressed, but they were immaculate compared with the throngs of foot
travelers. A few scattered patches of rags, dirty beyond description,
hung about the black bodies they made no serious effort to conceal. Men
in straggly Napoleon III beards clutched every few steps at the shreds
which posed as trousers. Stark naked urchins pattered along through the
dust; more of them scampered about under the palm-trees. Bare feet were
as general as African features. More than one group sidled crabwise to
the edge of the road as we advanced and gazed behind them with a
startled expression at the strange sound made by our shod feet. Scores
of the most primitive huts imaginable, many of them leaning at what
seemed precarious angles, lined the way. Before almost all of them stood
a little “shop,” a few horizontal sticks raised off the ground by
slender poles and shaded by a cluster of brown palm-leaves. Vacant-faced
negro men and women, none of them boasting a real garment, tended the
establishments squatting or lolling in the patches of shade which the
early morning sun cast well out into the roadway. The stock in trade of
the best of them would not have filled a market-basket. A cluster of
bananas; a few oranges, small, but yellower than those of Cuba;
bedraggled-looking alligator-pears; dust-covered loaves of bread, no
larger than biscuits, made up the most imposing arrays. Many of the
“merchants” had not advanced to the stick-counter stage, but spread
their wares on the ground—little handsful of tiny red beans laid at
regular intervals along a banana-leaf, similar heaps of unroasted
coffee, bundles of fagots, tied with strips of leaf, that could easily
have gone into a coat-pocket. Now and again some black ragamuffin paused
to open negotiations with the lolling shopkeepers, who carried on the
transaction, if possible, from where they lay, rising to their feet only
when the heat of the bargaining demanded it. The smallness of each
purchase was amusing, as well as indicative of Haitian poverty. One
orange, a single banana, a measureful of a coarse, reddish meal tinier
than the smallest glass of a bartender’s paraphernalia, were the usual
amounts, and the pewter coins that exchanged owners were seldom of the
value of a whole cent. With rare exceptions the purchasers wolfed at
once what they had bought as they pattered on down the road.

Details came so thick and fast that it was impossible to catch them all,
even with a kodak. Compared with this, Cuba, after all, had been little
more than semi-tropical. Here the vegetation, the odors, the very
atmosphere were of the genuine tropics. Breadfruit-trees, with their
scolloped leaves, which we had never seen in the larger island to the
westward, shouldered their way upward among the cocoanut-palms.
Mango-trees, as dense as haystacks, cast their black shadows over the
rampant undergrowth. But always the eyes came back to the swarms of
black people, with their festoons of rags contrasting with, rather than
covering, their coal-tinted bodies. What might have seemed a long walk
under a tropical sun became a short stroll amid this first glimpse of an
astonishingly primitive humanity.

For all their poverty, the inhabitants seemed to be frankly happy with
life. They had the playfulness of children, with frequent howls of
full-throated laughter; they seemed no more self-conscious at the
super-tattered state of their garments than were the ambling, over-laden
donkeys at the ludicrous patchiness of their trappings. That lack of the
sense of personal dignity characteristic of the African came to their
rescue in the abjectness of their condition. For they _were_ African, as
thoroughly so as the depths of the Congo. We had strolled for an hour,
and reached the very edge of the city itself, before we met not a white
man, but the first face that showed any admixture of Caucasian blood.
Compared with this callous-footed throng the hodgepodge of Cuban
complexions seemed almost European.

As we neared the town, a train as primitive as the scene about us
chattered round a bend in the tunnel of vegetation, the front of its
first-model engine swinging like the trunk of an excited elephant. The
four open, wooden cars that swayed and screamed along behind it were
densely packed with passengers, yet even here there was not a white
face. The diminutive tender was piled high with cordwood little larger
than fagots, and the immense, squatty smokestack was spitting red coals
over all the surrounding landscape. As the train passed, the negro women
along the road sprang with a flurry of their ragged skirts upon the
track and fell to picking up what we took to be coins scattered by some
inexplicably generous passenger. Closer investigation showed that they
were snatching up live coals with which to light the little brown clay
pipes which give them a flitting resemblance to Irish peasants.

A lower-class market was in full swing in a dust-carpeted patch of
ground on the city water-front. Here the wares were more varied than in
the roadside “shops,” but sold in the same minute portions. American
safety-matches were offered not by the box, but in bundles of six
matches each, tied with strips of leaf. Here were “butcher-shops,”
consisting of a wooden trough full of meat, which owed its preservation
to a thorough cooking, and was sold by the shred and consumed on the
spot. Scrawny, black hags, who had tramped who knows how many miles over
mountain-trails with an ox-load of oranges or coarse tubers on their
heads, squatted here all the morning selling a penny-worth of their
wares at a time, the whole totaling perhaps forty cents, to be
squandered for some product of civilization which they would carry home
in the same laborious fashion. The minority of the women venders had
come on donkeys and were frank in impressing upon their more lowly
sisters the aristocracy which this sign of wealth and leisure conferred
upon them. A native gendarme, dressed in a cheap-looking imitation of
the uniform of our own marines, but as African of soul beneath it as the
most naked of his fellow-citizens, strutted back and forth through the
throngs of clamorous bargainers. Now and again, when a group grew too
large for his liking, he charged into it, waving a long stick and
striking viciously at the legs and backs of all within reach,
irrespective of sex or age. Far from fighting back or even showing
resentment, the childlike blacks fled before him, often with shrieks of
laughter. Ours were the only white faces within the inclosure, yet we
were given passage everywhere with an unostentatious consideration that
in less primitive societies would be called extreme courtesy.

Beggars as inhumanly sunk in degradation as the lowest pariahs of India
shuffled in and out, mutely holding forth filthy tin cups to those
barely a degree above them in want and misery. Near the gate a seething
crowd was collected around a pushcart filled with tin cans of all sizes,
tumbled pellmell together just as they had been slashed open and tossed
aside by a marine mess orderly. An old woman was selling them to eager
purchasers, who looked them over with the deliberate care one might give
an automobile offered for sale, parted at length with the price agreed
upon, after long and vociferous negotiations, and wandered away gloating
over the beauty of their new acquisition, some of them talking to it in
their incomprehensible “French.” The prices varied from “cinq cob” (5
centimes, or 1 cent) for a recent container of jam or pork and beans to
a _gourde_ (twenty cents) or more for the five-gallon gasolene tins that
make such splendid water buckets on the head of the Haitian women. In
another corner was arranged in the dust a display of bottles of every
conceivable size, shape, and previous occupation, from three-sided
pickle flasks to empty beer bottles, constituting the entire stock in
trade of two incredibly ragged females. Scarcely a scrap or remnant,
even of things which we hire men to carry to the garbage heap, but had
its value to this poverty-stricken throng. Particularly was anything
whatever resembling cloth made use of to the utmost end of its
endurance. One of the best dressed of the pulsating collection of
tatters was a powerful black fellow who strutted about in a two-piece
suit fashioned from unbleached muslin that had entered upon its second
term of servitude. Unlike those of his fellows, both garments were
whole, except for one three-cornered rent in what, to a less
self-confident being, would have been an embarrassing position.
Diagonally across the trousers, just above this vent, blazed the word
“Eventually,” and below it the pertinent query, “Why not now?”

[Illustration: The entire enlisted personnel of the Haitian Navy]

[Illustration: A school in Port au Prince]

[Illustration: The Central Square and Cathedral of Port au Prince on
Market Day]

[Illustration: Looking down upon the market from the Cathedral platform]

The American residents of Port au Prince complain that visitors of
scribbling propensities have given too much space to its comic-opera
aspect. It is hard to avoid temptation. The ridiculous is constantly
forcing itself into the foreground, innocently unaware of distracting
attention from the more serious background. For there is such a
background, one which should in all fairness be sketched into any
picture of Haiti which makes a pretense of being true to life. If there
has been a constant tendency to leave it out, it is probably due to the
fact that the average wanderer over the face of the earth finds most
“interesting” the incongruous and the ludicrous.

To close our eyes, then, for the moment to the more obvious details, the
capital of the Black Republic is by no means the misplaced African
village which common report would indicate. Its principal streets are
excellently paved with asphalt; scores of automobiles honk their way
through its seething streams of black humanity. Even along the
water-front the principles of sanitation are enforced. Barefooted “white
wings,” distinguished by immense green hats of woven palm-leaves worn on
top of their personal headgear, are constantly sweeping the city with
their primitive bundle-of-grass brooms. A railroad, incredibly
old-fashioned, to be sure, but accommodating a crowded traffic for all
that, runs through the heart of the town and connects it with others
considerable distances away in both directions. An excellent electric
light service covers the city. Its shops make a more or less successful
effort to ape their Parisian prototypes; its business offices by no
means all succumb to the tropical temptation to sleep through the
principal hours of the day. The French left it a legacy of wide streets,
though failing, of course, to bequeath it adequate sidewalks. Its
architecture is a surprise to the traveler arriving from Cuba; it would
be far less so to one who came direct from Key West. Wooden houses with
sloping roofs are the general rule, thin-walled structures with huge
slatted doors and windows, and built as open as possible to every breeze
that blows, as befits the climate. There are neither red tiles,
strangely tinted walls, nor Moorish _rejas_ and patios to attract the
eye. Indeed, there is little or nothing in the average street vista to
arouse the admiration, though there is a certain cause for amusement in
the strange juxtaposition of the most primitive African reed huts with
the attempts of Paris-educated mulattoes to ape, with improvements of
their own, their favorite French châteaux.

Only two buildings in Port au Prince—one might perhaps say in all
Haiti—boast window-glass. One is the large and rather imposing
cathedral, light yellow both outside and within, flooded with the
aggressive tropical sunshine in a way that leaves it none of the “dim
and mystic light” befitting such places of worship. The other is the
unfinished, snow-white presidential palace, larger and more sumptuous
than our own White House. The cathedral looks down upon the blue harbor
across a great open square unadorned with a single sprig of vegetation;
the palace squats in the vast sun-scorched Champs de Mars, equally bare
except for a Napoleonic statue of Dessalines, his tell-tale complexion
disguised by the kindly bronze, and attended by a modest and deeply
tanned Venus of Melos. The absence of trees in the public squares gives
assistance to the wooden houses in proving the city no offshoot of
Spanish civilization. The tale runs that the Champs de Mars was once
well wooded until a former president ordered it cleared of all possible
lurking-places for assassins.

But Port au Prince is by no means unshaded. The better residential part
up beyond the glaring parade-ground makes full use of the gorgeous
tropical vegetation. Here almost every house is hidden away in its grove
of palms, mangos, breadfruit, and a score of other perennial trees, and
flowering bushes, ranging all the way from our northern roses to the
pale-yellow of blooming cotton-trees and enormous masses of the
lavender-purple bougainvillea, crowd their way in between the
tree-trunks. Oranges, bananas, and the pear-shaped grape-fruit of Haiti
hang almost within reach from one’s window; alligator-pears may be had
in their season for the flinging of a club; he who cares to climb high
enough can quench his thirst with the cool water of the green cocoanut.
The dwellings here are spacious and airy, their ceilings almost double
the height of our own, and if they lack some of the conveniences
considered indispensable in the North, they have instead splendid
swimming-pools and, in many cases, such a view of the lower city, the
intensely blue bay, and the wrinkled brown ranges of the southern
peninsula as would make up for a far greater scarcity of the stereotyped
comforts.

[Illustration: A Cuban residence in a new clearing]

[Illustration: Planting sugar-cane on newly cleared land]

[Illustration: Hauling cane to a Cuban sugar mill]

[Illustration: A station of a Cuban pack-train]

It is a leisurely, but constant, climb from the water-front to these
forest-embowered dwellings. Port au Prince is not blessed with a
street-car system, and its medieval railroad staggers only to the upper
edge of the Champs de Mars. Moreover, the painted drygoods-boxes on
wheels are invariably so densely crammed with full-scented blacks that
not only the white residents, but even the haughty yellow ones, rarely
deign to patronize the spark-spitting conveyance. Long-established
families have their private carriages; the parvenus from foreign lands
own, borrow, or share automobiles; mere clerks and bookkeepers jog
homeward on their diminutive Haitian ponies; and chance visitors trust
to luck and the oily-cushioned wrecks that ply for hire, finishing the
journey on foot from the point where the bony and moth-eaten caricature
of a horse refuses longer to respond to the lashings and screams of the
tar-complexioned driver. Fortunately, it is perfectly good form to
“catch a ride” with any car-owning member of one’s own race.

Let me not leave the impression, however, that the majority of those who
ascend the city depend on gasolene or horseflesh. At least two thirds of
them walk, but it is the two thirds that do not count in polite
parlance. All day long, though far more incessantly, of course, in the
delightful coolness of early morning or the velvety air of evening,
processions of black people of varying degrees of raggedness plod
noiselessly up and down the stony streets of the upper town.
Noiselessly, that is, only in their barefooted tread; their tongues are
rarely silent, and frequent cackles of unrestrained laughter sound from
the bundles beneath which their woolly heads are all but invariably
buried. For be it large or small, a mahogany chest of drawers or a tin
can three inches in diameter, the Haitian always bears his burdens on
his head. _Her_ head would be more nearly the exact truth of the case,
for the women rarely permit their lords and masters to subject
themselves to the indignity of toil. But the merest child of the
burden-bearing sex is rarely seen abroad except under a load that gives
her the appearance of the stem of a toadstool. Some of these
uncomplaining females serve the more fortunate residents of the hill;
most of them trot to and fro between the market and the tiny thatched
cabins sprinkled far up the range behind the city like rice grains on a
green banana leaf. Where the streets break up beyond the last man’s-size
dwellings, narrow trails tunnel on up through the prolific greenery to
these scattered huts of the real Haitian, among which it is easy to
imagine oneself in the heart of Africa.

Five years ago there were barely a score of white men in Port au Prince,
and not many more than that in all Haiti. To-day there are perhaps three
hundred American residents, without counting a large force of occupation
and their families, and to say nothing of a considerable sprinkling of
French, the remnants of what was a flourishing German colony until an
epidemic of internment fell upon it, and a scattering of Italian,
Syrian, and similar tradesmen. The Americans of the first category are
carrying on or opening up new enterprises that promise to offer Haiti a
prosperity not even second to that of Cuba. No one who has visited the
island can question the extraordinary fertility of its soil. The
overwhelming portion of it is as virgin as if the French had never
exploited what was once the richest of their colonies; revolutions have
become, by _force majeure_, a thing of the past. Every new undertaking
must, to be sure, be built or rebuilt from the ground up. During their
more than a century of freedom the negroes have done nothing but
destroy. They have not even exercised their one faculty, that of
imitation, for they have been too much shut off from the rest of the
world to find anything to imitate. Though the sugar-cane was introduced
into Cuba by the French refugees from Haiti, the entire country cannot
at present compete with the largest single sugar-mill in the prosperous
island to the west. The Haitian laborer has lost all knowledge of the
sugar-making process except his own primitive method of producing
_rapadoue_. He must be taught all over again, and he is not a
particularly apt pupil; moreover, complain the men who are striving to
make Haiti bloom once more with cane, no sooner is he taught than the
Cuban planters entice him across the Windward Passage with wages ten
times as high as he receives at home. But capital is beginning to
recognize that despite its obvious drawbacks Haiti offers a rich future,
and several syndicates have already “got in on the ground floor.”

The American residents of Port au Prince, men, women, and children,
swear by it. I have yet to meet one who is eager to leave; many of those
who go north for extended vacations cut them short with a cry of “take
me back to Haiti.” To the misinformed northerner its very name is
synonymous with revolution and sudden death. Outside the field of
romance there is about as much danger of meeting with violence from the
natives as there is of being boiled in oil at a church “sociable.” There
is not a deadly representative of the animal or vegetable kingdom on the
island; except for some malarial regions of rather mild danger the
climate is as healthful as that of the best state in our union—with due
regard, of course, to the invariable rule that white women should season
their residence with an occasional invigorating breath of the north. The
Americans have acquired one by one, as some yellow politician has lost
his grasp on the national treasury, the grove-hidden houses in the upper
town, some of them little short of palatial. There they live like the
potentates of the tropical isles of romance. The blacks are respectful,
childlike in their manner, and have much of the docility of the negroes
of our South before the Civil War. They work for wages which, as wages
go nowadays, are less than a song. House servants receive from five to
eight dollars a month, and the one meal a day to which the masses have
long been accustomed rarely costs a twenty-cent _gourde_. Families who
could scarcely afford the luxury of a single “hired girl” in the land of
their birth keep five servants in Haiti, a cook, butler, upstairs maid,
laundress, and yard boy; for the Haitian is strictly limited in his
versatility, and the cook could no more serve a dinner than a laundress
could give the yard its daily sweeping. They are usually stupid beyond
words, with the mentality of an intelligent child of six, but they are
sometimes capable of great devotion, with a dog-like quality of
faithfulness; and between them all they swathe the existence of their
masters in the comfort of an old-time Southern plantation. All this is
but half the story of contentment with Haitian residence, for the mere
fact that the sun is certain to break forth in all the splendor of a
cloudless sky as sure as the morning comes round is sufficient to make
the cold and dismal north seem a prison by comparison.

There is a certain amount of friction between the several classes of
Americans in Port au Prince, not to mention heroic efforts in “keeping
up with Lizzie.” Ten-course dinners with all the formality and
ostentation which go with them are of daily occurrence; “bridge”
flourishes by day and by night, with far from humble stakes, and dances,
whether at the American Club or in private houses, are not conspicuous
for their simplicity. The two things go together, of course; it is of
little use to disagree with a man if you cannot prove yourself his equal
by “putting up as good a front” as he does. Roughly speaking, our
fellow-countrymen in the Haitian capital may be divided into four
classes, though there are further ramifications and certain points of
contact. Each class has its own faults and virtues, and comes naturally
by them. The half dozen civilian officials who hold the chief offices of
our “advisory” share in the civil government have in too many cases been
chosen for their political standing rather than for their ability or
experience in such tasks as that they are facing. The navy and the
marine officers, between whom a rift now and then shows itself, have the
characteristics of the military calling the world over. They are by
nature direct and autocratic, rather than persuasive and tactful; they
have an almost childish petulance at any fancied slight to their rank,
which does not make it easy for them to coöperate with the civilian
officials. Of their efficiency in their chosen profession there is no
question, but our policy of assigning them to administrative positions
simply because they are already on the national pay-roll and expecting
them to shine in tasks which call for a lifetime of training quite
opposite to that they have received has its drawbacks. The very
qualities which make for success in pacifying the country hamper them in
dealing with the better class of natives, who are, to be sure, negroes,
yet who have the sensitive French temperament and are much more amenable
to persuasion than to bullying. By chance or design the great majority
of our officers in Haiti are Southerners, and they naturally shun any
but the most unavoidable intercourse with the natives. This is one of
the chief bones of contention between the forces of occupation and the
American civilians engaged in business. The latter, while still keeping
a color-line, contend that the natives of education should be treated
more like human beings. They deplore the narrow view-point, the
indifference to industrial advancement, the occasional schoolboy
priggishness of the officers, and the latter retaliate by considering
the term business man as synonymous with money-grabbing and willingness
to cater to the natives for the sake of trade. Not that these
differences cause open rifts in the American ranks, but the atmosphere
is always more or less charged with them. The native of education, on
his side, resents the whole American attitude on the race question, and
not wholly without reason. The color-line is justifiable in so far as it
protects against intermingling of blood, characteristics, and habits,
but there is a point beyond which it becomes d—d foolishness, and that
point is sometimes passed by our officers in Haiti. After all, the
Haitians won their independence without our assistance, and to a certain
extent they are entitled to what they call their _dignité personelle_.
The Southerner is famed for his ability to keep the “nigger” down, but
he is less successful in lifting him up, and that is the task we have
taken upon ourselves in Haiti.

                  *       *       *       *       *

As every American should know, but as a great many even of those who
pride themselves on keeping abreast of the times do not, Haiti has been
an American protectorate since the summer of 1915. There is a native
government, to be sure, ranging all the ebony way from president to
village clerks, but if it functions efficiently, and to a certain degree
it does, it is thanks to a few hundred of our own marines and certain
representatives of our navy. How this strange state of affairs, so
contrary to the forgiving spirit of the present administration, came
about is a story brief and interesting enough to be worth the telling.

The Spanish discoverers—for one must be permitted a running start if one
is to race through the reeking fields of Haitian history—soon wiped out
the native Indian population in their usual genial, but thorough, way.
Fields will not plant, or at least cultivate, themselves, however, even
in so astonishingly fertile a land as the island that embraces the
republics of Haiti and Santo Domingo. Hence the Frenchmen to whom the
western end of the island eventually fell, after varying vicissitudes,
followed the custom of the time and repopulated the colony with negro
slaves. Prosperity reigned for a century or more. There are still
jungle-grown ruins of many an old French plantation mansion to be found
not merely within the very boundaries of the Port au Prince of to-day,
but in regions that have long since reverted to primeval wilderness.
Unfortunately, for the French at least, the slave-traders supplied this
particular market with members of some of Africa’s more warlike tribes,
the descendants of whom, taking the theories of the French Revolution
_au pied de la lettre_, concluded to abolish their masters. Under a
genuine military genius with the blood of African chieftains in his
veins, one Toussaint l’Ouverture, and his equally black successor,
Dessalines, the slaves defeated what was in those days a large French
army, commanded by the brother-in-law of the great Napoleon, and drove
the French from the island. New Orleans and Philadelphia received most
of the refugees, whose family names are still to be found in the
directories of those cities. Except for a few persons the French never
returned, and Haiti has been “the Black Republic” since 1804.

The result was about what our Southern statesmen would have prophesied.
In theory the government of Haiti is modeled on that of France; in
practice it has been the plaything of a long line of military dictators
of varying degrees of color and virtually all rising to power and
sinking into oblivion—usually of the grave—on the heels of swiftly
succeeding revolutions. There have been a few well-meaning men among
them, the last of whom, named Leconte, was blown up in 1912, palace and
all. Most of them were interested only in playing Cæsar, or, more
exactly, Nero, over their black fellow-citizens until the time came to
loot the national treasury and flee, a program which was frequently cut
short by appalling sudden death. The detailed recital of more than a
century of violence, of constant bloody differences between the
mulattoes and the genuine blacks, would be a tale too long for the
modern reader.

In 1915 the presidency was occupied by a particularly offensive black
brother named Guillaume Sam. Though it has not been so recorded, Sam’s
middle name was evidently Trouble. Foreign war-ships took to dropping in
on Port au Prince and demanding the payments of debts to foreigners. Up
in the northern peninsula, as usual in mango-time, when the trees of the
island constitute a commissary, revolution broke out, and, to top off
his woes, Sam was busy marrying off his daughter and installing her in a
new palace. In his wrath at being disturbed at such a time Sam passed
the word to his chief jailer to clean out the penitentiary, some of the
political prisoners in which were no doubt in sympathy with the
revolutionists, but many of whom were there merely because they had
aroused the personal enmity of Sam, or some of his cronies. The sentence
was carried out more like a rabbit-hunt than an execution. In an orgie
in which the primitive instincts of the African had full play the two
hundred or more prisoners were butchered in circumstances better
imagined than described. Among them were many members of the “best
families” of Port au Prince. It is not recorded that any of this class
took personal part in the revenge that followed, but they undoubtedly
instigated it. The rank and file of the town, those same more or less
naked blacks who are ordinarily docile and childlike, surrounded the
palace. Sam had taken refuge in the French legation. For the first time
even in the turbid history of Haiti, the sanctuary of a foreign ministry
was violated by the voodoo-maddened mob. Sam was dragged out, cut to
pieces, and tossed into the bay. Then our marines landed and, to use
their own words, “the stuff was all over.”

American control is due to continue for at least twenty years from that
date. A treaty drawn up soon after the landing of our forces, and
subsequently renewed, provides for the form under which our “assistance”
shall be exercised, as well as specifying the time limit. An American
financial adviser, who is far more than that in practice, an American
receiver of customs, and heads of the engineering and sanitation
departments, are required by the terms thereof, and the final decision
in most matters of importance lies with the American minister. Unlike
the Republic of Santo Domingo in the eastern end of the island, Haiti
still retains her native government, but its acts are subject to a
relatively close supervision by the officers above named, despite the
pretense that our share is only “advisory.”

There are both natives and foreigners who contend that Haiti is fully
capable of governing itself if the white man will go away and let the
Black Republic alone. The following incident is not without its bearing
on the subject:

The Rotary Club of Port au Prince decided in the fifth year of American
occupation to assess every member five dollars for the purpose of
providing a community Christmas for the poor children of the city. Never
had a Christmas-tree been seen in Haiti outside the homes of American or
other foreign residents. The vast majority of Haitians had no conception
that so benevolent a being as Santa Claus existed.

The Port au Prince branch of the club had been very recently organized.
Its membership included not only the representative business men of all
grades in the foreign colony, but it had made a special point of
overlooking the color-line and admitting as many Haitians as white men.
A little closer intercourse now and then between the two races, it was
felt, would do no one any harm, and the experience of similar clubs in
Cuba suggested that it might do considerable good. The military colony,
of course, took no part in this flagrant violation of its strict
Southern principles beyond granting its official blessing, but the
civilians had long contended for a broader-minded attitude.

There was no difficulty in finding representative Haitians of sufficient
culture to be worthy a place in such an assembly. Men educated in Paris,
graduates of the best universities in other European capitals, men who
spoke the French language as perfectly as the French themselves, men who
could give the average American business man cards and spades in any
discussion of art, literature, and the finer things of civilization,
were to be found in the best Haitian homes. The native membership as
finally constituted included cabinet ministers, former ambassadors to
the principal world capitals, lawyers famous for their oratory, and men
who had produced volumes on profound subjects, to say nothing of very
tolerable examples of lyric poetry. The club did not, it is true,
completely obliterate the color-line. It merely moved it along. A
complete sweep of the crowded table at the weekly club luncheons, with
whites and Haitians nicely alternating, did not disclose a single
jet-black face. But that was not the fault of the club; it was due to
the fact that the benefits of higher education have seldom reached the
full-blooded Africans of the island, as distinguished from what are
known locally as the “men of color.”

The wives of the white club members took up the task of providing a
suitable Christmas where the men left off, and pushed the matter with
American enthusiasm. They canvassed the white colony for additional
funds; they solicited contributions in kind from the merchants of
Caucasian blood. Their evenings they spent in making things that would
bring joy to the little black babies, in putting the multifarious gifts
in order, in laying new plans to make the affair a success. By day they
drove about in their automobiles through all the poorer sections of the
city, distributing tickets to the swarms of naked black piccaninnies.
Mobs of harmless, clamoring negroes surrounded their cars, holding up
whole clusters of babies as proof of their right to share in the
extraordinary generosity of the strange white people. Seas of clawing
black hands waved about them like some scene from Dante’s Inferno in an
African setting. A tumult of pleading voices assailed their ears:
“Cartes, mamá, donne-moi cartes! Moi deux petits, mamá! Non gagner carte
pour petit malade, mamá?”

The “ladies of color” of the other club members formed a committee of
their own and lent a certain languid assistance, but the brunt of the
work fell on the incomprehensibly generous whites. The men of the yellow
features were even more willing to leave matters to their Caucasian
associates. The latter were more experienced in the arrangement of
Christmas-trees; moreover, they could descend to vulgar work, which the
élite of Port au Prince could not indulge in without losing caste.
Curious creatures, these whites, anyway; let them go ahead and spread
themselves. The “men of color” were quite willing to sit back and watch
_les blancs_ run the whole affair—except in one particular, the
distribution of tickets. In that they were more than ready to coöperate.
They even made the generous offer of attending to all that part of the
affair. The minister of public instruction came forward with a plan in
keeping with his high rotarian standing. If the bulk of the tickets, say
two thirds of them, for instance, were turned over to him, he would
personally accept the arduous labor of distributing them to the
school-children. Now you must know that the school-children of Port au
Prince constitute a very small proportion of the young population, and
that they are exactly the class which the sponsors of the Christmas-tree
were _not_ trying to reach. Furthermore, do not lose sight of the fact
that the men of color must be constantly on the qui vive to keep their
political fences in order. Even the ladies of the Haitian committee
advised against the minister’s proposition. He, they whispered, would
divide the tickets between his favorite teachers, who in turn would
distribute them to their pet pupils.

Meanwhile Christmas drew near. A band of black men were sent far up into
the mountains to fetch down a pine-tree. They are numerous in some parts
of Haiti, occasionally growing side by side with the palms. The blacks
could not, of course, understand why they must lug a tree for two or
three days over perpendicular trails when trees of a hundred species
abounded in the very outskirts of Port au Prince; but this was not the
first time they had received absurd orders from the incomprehensible
_blancs_. They selected as small a tree as they dared and started down
the mountain-side. As the wide-spreading branches hindered their
progress, they lopped most of them off. How should they know that the
inexplicable white men wanted the branches to hang things on? The
gentleman of color, right-hand man of their great national president,
who had transmitted the order to them had said nothing about that, nor
explained how the branches might be bound close against the trunk by
winding a rope around them.

Christmas morning came. Several Americans defied the tropical sun to
direct the labors of another band of blacks engaged in planting a
diminutive pine-tree with a few scattered twigs at its top, and to hide
its nudity beneath another tree of tropical luxuriance, out on the
glaringly bare Champs de Mars before the grand stand from which the
élite of Port au Prince watches its president decorate its national
heroes after a successful revolution. The rotarians of color could not,
of course, be expected to appear at such a place in the heat of the day.

The ceremony was set for five o’clock, and was expected to last until
nine. The American Electric Light Company had contributed the
illumination, and its manager had installed the festoons of colored
lamps in person. The American chief of police had assigned a force of
native gendarmes to the duty of keeping order. It would be almost their
first test of handling a friendly crowd in a friendly manner. Hitherto
their task had been to hunt down their _caco_ fellows with rifle and
revolver, an occupation far better fitted to their temperament and
liking. An American of benevolent impulses had consented to play Santa
Claus, and give the little black urchins a real Christmas, with all the
trimmings.

Poor Santa Claus did not get time even to don his whiskers. By two the
crowd began to gather. By three all the populace of Port au Prince’s
humble sections had massed about the tree which the incomprehensible
_blancs_ had planted for the occasion instead of performing their
strange rites under one of the many live trees with which the city
abounded. Word had been sent out that full dress was not essential. Old
women who had barely two strips of rag to hang over their dangling
breasts, boys whose combined garments did not do the duty of a pair of
swimming-trunks, had tramped up from their primitive hovels on the edges
of the city. If they were ragged far beyond the northern meaning of that
term, at least their strings and tatters were as clean as water and
sun-bleaching could make them. The women and most of the men carried or
dragged whole clusters of black babies, most of them as innocent of
clothing as a Parisian statue. As they arrived, the children were herded
within the roped inclosure about the tree. Only adults with infants in
arms were permitted inside the ropes; the jet-black sea of small faces
was unbroken clear around the wide seething circle. It was hard to
believe that there were so many piccaninnies in the world, to say
nothing of the mere half-island of Haiti. Outside the ropes an immense
throng of adults, mingled with better-dressed children without tickets,
was shrieking a constant falsetto tumult that made the ear-drums of
those in the focus of sound under the tree vibrate as if their ears were
being incessantly boxed. A “conservative estimate” set the number
present at ten thousand.

Up to this point the gentlemen of color, even those who had been
appointed on the original committee, had kindly refrained from
interference with their more Christmas-experienced white
associates—except in the aforementioned matter of tickets. Now they
appeared en masse to give the distinction of their presence and the
sanction of their high caste to so praiseworthy an undertaking. Cabinet
ministers, newspaper editors, the bright lights of the Haitian bar, the
very president of the republic, strutted down the human lanes that were
opened in their honor and took the chief places of vantage on the
distributing platform beneath the tree. Their dazzling _dernier cri_
garments made the simple American committeemen look like the discards of
fortune. Their features were wreathed in benign smiles. They stepped
forth to the edges of the platform and waved majestic, benevolent
greetings to their applauding constituents outside the ropes. Some one
handed the president a toy horn. He put it to his lips and blew an
imaginary blast to prove what a _bonhomme_ he was at heart and how
thoroughly he entered into the prevailing spirit. The other gentlemen of
color assumed Napoleonic poses; they raised their voices in oratorical
cadences, and, when these failed to penetrate the unceasing din, they
waved their hands at the heaps of gifts about them with sweeping
gestures that said as plainly as if they had spoken in their impeccable
French, “See, my beloved people, what _I_, in my bounty, have bestowed
upon you!”

Soon after four the minister of public works snatched up a bundle of
presents and flung them out into the sweltering sea of upturned little
faces. That was neither the hour nor the manner of distribution that had
been agreed upon, but what should a great political genius know of such
minor details? Besides, there was no hope of delaying the ceremony much
longer. The surging throng was in no mood to watch the absurd antics of
the unfathomable white people, with their patched-up tree and their
queer ideas of order and equal distribution. What they wanted were the
presents, and at once. Those behind were already climbing over those in
front in an effort to get at the heaped-up wares. If the original plan
of waiting until nightfall and the colored lights had been carried out,
the gifts would probably have disappeared in a general mêlée.

The _beau geste_ of the Rotary vice-president was a signal for all his
yellow confrères to distribute largess to their clamoring constituents.
In vain did the white women attempt to exchange gifts for tickets,
according to the system they had worked out. Their kinky-haired
associates would have no such restrictions. As long as a hand was held
out to them they continued to thrust gifts into it, perfectly
indifferent to other hands clutching tickets that were being wildly
flourished about them. There were presents of every possible usefulness
to Haitian poverty—shoes, stockings, hats, shirts, suits, collars, ties,
bales of cloth cut in sizes for varying ages of children’s garments,
candy, toys, food stuffs ranging all the way from cakes to cans of
sardines. The plan had been to gage each gift by the appearance of the
recipient. There was nothing particularly Santa Claus-like in handing a
necktie to a boy who had not shirt enough to which to attach a collar,
nor in wishing a pair of stockings off on a youth whose feet had never
known the imprisonment of shoes. Stark-naked black babies whose ribs
could be counted at a hundred paces were not so much in need of an
embroidered sailor-blouse as of a tin of biscuits. But all this meant
nothing to the excited Haitians on the platform. They poured out gifts
as if the horn of plenty were their own private property. The ministers
caught up whole armfuls of presents and flung them clear over the heads
of the invited children into the shrieking mobs beyond the ropes. The
adults out there were far more likely to vote for them at the next
elections than were the half-starved urchins beneath them. One cabinet
member was seen to toss bundle after bundle to an extraordinarily tall
negro who was known to wield great political power among the masses.
Meanwhile the helpless little urchins within the circle rolled their
white eyes in despair and frantically waved the tickets clutched in
their little black hands, until they went down under the bare feet of
those fighting forward behind them.

The native gendarmes in their uniforms so like that of the American
marines were preserving order much as the pessimists had predicted. One
of them, starched and ironed to the minute, approached an American
distributor and asked, with the sweet-faced courtesy of a Southern lady
of the old school, for one of the riding-whips which some merchant had
contributed. “Here’s a fine fellow,” said the unadorned Santa Claus to
himself, “a real soldier. He wants a whip to use on mounted duty, and so
gentle-mannered a chap will make only proper use of it.” The gendarme
accepted the gift with a polite bow and a grateful smile and marched
back across the ring—to strike full in the face with all his force a
pitiful old black woman who was being forced forward by the crush
behind, and to rain blow after blow on her bare head and breast and on
the naked infant she had brought on the invitation of the ticket
clutched in its tiny hand. What was the good of protesting? He had been
ordered to hold back the crowd, and as he had been forbidden to use the
revolver strapped at his side, how else could he do so? If he had been
checked in his onslaught, he would have spent the rest of the afternoon
wondering what these strange Americans wanted, anyway.

By dint of superhuman exertions the white distributors succeeded in
exchanging something or other for every ticket. But it was a sadly
mis-gifted swarm of children who finally rescued themselves from the
maelstrom. Tiny tots who had set their hearts on a cake or a package of
candy held up the neckties they knew no use for with a “_Pas bon pour
moi! Donne gateau!_” The greatest demand was for shoes. “_Non, non,
papa! soulier, soulier!_” came incessant shrieks from the urchins who
waved unwelcome gifts before the weary distributors. The gentlemen of
color had continued to strew armfuls of presents upon the throng beyond
the ropes. The minister with the lanky confederate had tossed him
assorted wares enough to break the back of a Haitian donkey—a feat
verging on the impossible. When there was nothing else left, he flung
him several huge native baskets which a lady of the committee had loaned
for the occasion. These he followed with the decorations snatched from
the tree. Then he took to unscrewing from their sockets the electric
light bulbs belonging to the company that had contributed the useless
illuminations. This was too much even for the benevolent-featured man
who had been cast for the rôle of Santa Claus. He gathered the slack of
the minister’s immaculate trousers in one hand and set him down out of
reach of further temptation.

The festivities were entirely over by the time the blazing-red tropical
sun sank behind the mountainous range to the westward. The throng
streamed out across the Champs de Mars like a lake of molten lead that
had long been dammed up and had suddenly broken its dikes. Not a scrap
even of the tickets that had been canceled by being torn in two
remained. In Haiti everything has its commercial value. For days to come
little heaps of these bits of cardboard would be offered for sale by the
incredibly ragged old women of the more miserable market-places, to be
made use of the voodoo gods know how. Among the last of the gentlemen of
color to leave the platform was a pompous being resplendent in Port au
Prince’s most fashionable raiment. He was a graduate of the Sorbonne, a
political power in the Black Republic, an officer of the Rotary Club,
and the editor of Haiti’s principal newspaper. In one hand, which he
held half concealed beneath the tails of his frock-coat, he grasped a
dozen bright-colored hair-ribbons and several silk handkerchiefs which
he had filched from the basket of presents that had been intrusted to
him for distribution.



                               CHAPTER VI
                        THE DEATH OF CHARLEMAGNE


The word _caco_ first appears in Haitian history in 1867. The men who
took to the bush in the insurrection against President Salnave adopted
that pseudonym, and nicknamed _zandolite_ those who supported the
government. The semi-savage insurrectionists, flitting at will through
the rugged interior of the country, indifferent alike to the thorny
jungle and the precipitous mountains, saw in themselves a likeness to
the Haitian bird which flies freely everywhere, and in their opponents a
similarity to the helpless caterpillars on which it feeds. The two terms
have persisted to this day.

Haiti has never since been entirely free from _cacos_, though there
have been occasional short periods when the country has been spared
their ravages. Let a new president lose his popularity, however, or
some ambitious rascal raise the banner of revolt, and the
bandit-revolutionists were quick to flock together, beginning their
operations as soon as the mangos were ripe enough to furnish them
subsistence. With the exception of a few ephemeral leaders with more
or less of the rudiments of education, the _cacos_ are a heterogeneous
mob of misguided wretches who have been cajoled or forced into revolt
by circumstances of coercion. Ragged, penniless, illiterate fellows in
the mass, they gather in bands varying from a score to thousands in
number, depending on the reputation, persuasiveness, or power of
compulsion of their self-appointed leaders. The latter, though in some
cases men of standing, are more often as illiterate as their
followers. Now and again one of them, usually with some Caucasian
blood in his veins, has personal ambitions either of making himself
President of Haiti in the long-approved manner, or at least of
becoming powerful enough to force the Government to appoint him ruler
of a province or of a smaller district. Others are merely the agents
of disgruntled politicians or influential “respectable citizens” of
Port au Prince or others of the larger cities, who secretly supply
funds to the active insurrectionists.

[Illustration: The president of Haiti]

[Illustration: A Haitian gendarme]

[Illustration: A street in Port au Prince]

[Illustration: The unfinished presidential palace of Haiti, on New
Year’s Day, 1920]

The backwardness and poverty of Haiti are largely due to the constant
menace of these roving outlaws. Travel has often entirely disappeared
from many a trail; more than one fertile region has been left wholly
uncultivated and virtually uninhabited because of marauding bands of
_cacos_. Cattle, once plentiful throughout the republic, have almost
wholly disappeared, thanks to the fact that their flesh furnishes the
chief means of livelihood and their hides the one sure source of income
for the bandits. The depredations of the _cacos_ have cost the Black
Republic most of its wealth and the greater share of its worldly
troubles.

Some two years after American occupation _cacoism_ took on a new life.
In perfect frankness it must be admitted that this was partly the fault
of the Americans. Next to the cleaning up of Port au Prince the most
important job on hand was the building of roads. If Haiti is to take her
place even at the tail end of civilization, she must become
self-supporting—in other words, able to pay her foreign debts, both
public and commercial. The prosperity of French days, when the island
exported large quantities of coffee, sugar, and cotton, has as
completely disappeared under the anarchy of the blacks as have the old
plantations. What little the country might still export, consisting
mainly of coffee, could not get down to tide-water for lack of highways,
those which the French built having been wholly overgrown by the
militant jungle.

In their eagerness to furnish the country with this first obvious step
to advancement the forces of occupation resurrected an old French law
called the _corvée_. We still have something of the sort in many of our
own rural districts—the requirement that every citizen shall work a
certain number of days a year on the roads. But there is a wide
difference between the public-spirited Americans and the wild black men
into which the mass of Haitians has degenerated. Neither they nor their
ancestors for several generations have seen the need of roads, at least
anything more than trails wide enough along which to chase their
donkeys. But they probably would have endured the resurrected _corvée_
had it been applied in strict legality, a few days’ labor in their own
locality, instead of being carried out with too energetic a hand. When
they were driven from their huts at the point of a gendarme rifle,
transported, on their own bare feet, to distant parts of the country,
and forced to labor for weeks under armed guards, it is natural that
they should have concluded that these new-coming foreigners with white
skins were planning to reduce them again to the slavery they had thrown
off more than a century before. The result was that a certain percentage
of the forced laborers caught up any weapon at hand and took to the
hills as _cacos_. If they have any definite policy, it is to imitate
their forefathers and drive the white men from the island. One chief
announced the program of killing off the American men and carrying their
women off to the hills. The mass of Haitians believe that the world’s
supply of white men is very limited; it is beyond their conception that
there are many fold more of them where these came from. Their ancestors
drove out the French, and they not only did not come back, but the
blacks were never subjected to any punishment—at least any their simple
minds could recognize as such—for their revolt. Why could not a new
Toussaint l’Ouverture accomplish the feat over again?

Our mistake in the matter has been corrected. The American officer who
countenanced, if he did not sanction, these high-handed methods has gone
to new honors on other fields of battle; the young district commanders
whose absolute power led them to apply too sternly their orders to build
roads have returned to the ranks, and the _corvée_ has been abolished.
But the scattered revolt persists, and in the opinion of all but a few
temperamentally optimistic residents, either Haitian or American, is due
to continue for some time to come. That forced labor was not the cause
of _cacoism_, for it is in the Haitian blood to turn _caco_; but it made
a fertile field of ignorant, disgruntled negroes from which the bandit
leaders were able to harvest most of their followers, and it gave added
strength to the chief argument of the rascally leaders—the assertion
that the Americans had come to take possession of Haiti and reëstablish
slavery. To this day even the foreign companies which have no trouble in
recruiting labor for other purposes cannot hire the workmen needed to
build their roads. The thick-skulled native countrymen see in that
particular task the direct route to becoming slaves.

For more than two years courageous young Americans have been chasing
_cacos_ among the hills of central and northern Haiti, with no other
ulterior motive than to give the Black Republic the internal peace it
has long lacked and sadly needed. All of them are members of our Marine
Corps, though many of them are in addition officers of the Gendarmerie
of Haiti, with increased rank and pay. Take care not to confuse these
two divisions of pacifiers, for the gendarmerie has a strong _esprit de
corps_, and a just pride in its own achievements, in spite of being
still marines at heart. For a long time the native gendarmes, of whom
twenty-five hundred, officered by marine enlisted men, have been
recruited by our forces of occupation, were efficient against the
bandits only when personally led by Americans. Merely to shout the word
“_Caco!_” has long been sufficient to stampede a Haitian gathering of
any size. Bit by bit, however, the gendarmes have been taught by
practical demonstration that they are better men than the _cacos_, and
the immediate job of hunting down the bandits is gradually being turned
over to these native soldiers. American supervision, nevertheless, for
years to come will certainly be necessary to eventual success.

Though the world has heard little of it, our _caco_-hunters have
performed feats that compare with anything done by their fellows in
France. In fact, their work has often required more sustained courage
and individual initiative, and has brought with it greater hardships. In
the trenches at their worst the warrior had the support and the sense of
companionship of his comrades and a more or less certain commissary at
the rear; if his opponents were sometimes brutal, they clung to some of
the rules of civilized warfare. In Haiti many a young American gendarme
officer has set forth on an expedition of long duration through the
mountainous wilderness, often wholly alone, except for three or four
native gendarmes, cousins to the _cacos_ themselves, sleeping on the
bare ground when he dared to sleep at all, subsisting on the scanty
products of the jungle, his life entirely dependent on his own wits, and
his nerves always taut with the knowledge that to be wounded or captured
means savage torture and mutilation, to be followed by certain death.
Bit by bit the native gendarmes have been trained to fight the _cacos_
unassisted, and three or four of them have now reached commissioned
rank; but the best of them still require the moral support of a white
leader, and the energetic American youths scattered through the “brush”
of Haiti have the future peace of the country in their keeping.

It must be admitted that the _cacos_ do not constitute a dangerous army
in the modern sense of the word. Their discipline is less than
embryonic, their weapons seldom better than dangerous playthings. One
rifle to five men is the average equipment, and many of these are
antiquated pieces captured from the French expeditionary force under
Leclerc that was driven from the island more than a century ago. Some of
them are of no more use than the _cocomacaque_, or Haitian shillalah,
even when their possessors can obtain ammunition. Such cartridges as
fall into the hands of the _cacos_ are usually wrapped round and round
with paper to make them fit the larger bore of their ancient guns, and
the bullet that comes zigzagging down the barrel is seldom deadly beyond
two hundred yards. But the possession of a rifle, even one worthless as
a firearm, is a sign of leadership that carries with it great personal
pride, and an occasional _caco_ owns a high-powered modern carbine. The
mass of them are armed with machetes, rusty swords of the olden days, or
revolvers even more useless than the rifles.

The lesser military ranks are not in favor among the _cacos_. Every
leader of a band is a general, and usually a major general at that. Most
of them have been commissioned by the _caco_-in-chief—on a slip of paper
scrawled with a rusty pen, or even with a pencil, by the one man on his
staff who can write a more or less legible hand. These “commissions” all
follow the prescribed form which has been stereotyped in Haiti since the
days of Dessalines:

                 “Liberté      Egalité      Fraternité
                          _République d’Haiti_

Informé que vous réunissez les conditions et aptitudes voulues—Informed
that you possess the qualifications and aptitude desired, I hereby
appoint you general of division operating against the Americans and
direct that you proceed with your troops to attack”—this or that hamlet
or village in the hills. The expression “Opérant contre les américains”
is seldom lacking in these scribbled rags, and some of them raise the
holder to higher dignities than were ever reached by mere field marshals
on the battle-grounds of Europe. The “commission,” for instance, of the
“Chief of Intelligence” of the _caco_-in-chief reads succinctly, “I name
you as chief of the Division of Spies to spy everywhere”—an order that
has at least the virtue of leaving the recipient unhampered with that
division of responsibility which has been the bane of civilized warfare.
Incidentally the intelligence system of the _cacos_ is their strongest
point. Like most uncivilized tribes the world over, they have some means
of spreading information that makes the telegraph and even the radio
seem slow and inefficient by comparison. An uninformed stranger, reading
these highfalutin’ “commissions,” might easily picture the _caco_
“generals” as mightier men than Foch and Pershing combined, instead of
what they really are, stupid, uneducated negroes dressed in the dirty
remnants of an undershirt and cotton trousers, a discard straw or felt
hat with a bit of red rag sewed on it as a sign of rank, and armed with
a rusty old saber or a revolver that has long since lost its power to
revolve.

The _cacos_ have a mortal fear of white soldiers. Scores of times a
single marine or gendarme officer has routed bands of a hundred or more,
killing as many as his automatic rifle could reach in the short period
between their first glimpse of him and the time it takes the ragged
“army” to scatter to the four points of the compass through thorny
undergrowth or cactus-hedges which no white man could penetrate though
all the forces of evil were pursuing him. The natives cannot “savez”
this uncanny prowess of _les blancs_, and commonly attribute it to the
sustaining force of some voodoo spirit friendly to the white man. This
belief is to a certain extent a boomerang, for the Haitian gendarmes
often fancy themselves immune in the presence of a white superior, and
more than one of them has bitten the dust because he insisted on calmly
standing erect, smoking a cigarette, and placidly handing cartridges to
the marine who lay hugging the ground beside him, pumping lead into the
fleeing _cacos_. With a white man along how could he be hurt? Up to date
at least three thousand bandits have been killed as against four
Americans,—a major and a sergeant who were shot from ambush, and two
privates who lost their lives by over-confidence.

Captured correspondence shows what a terrible war is this _guerre des
cacos_:

“The Americans,” reads the report of one _général de division_ to his
superior, “attacked us in force on the night of the 13–14th. I found
myself with a shortage of ammunition, but I succeeded in borrowing ten
carbine cartridges and three revolver bullets and was able to hold the
situation in hand.” As a matter of fact the American “force” consisted
on this particular occasion of three marines, and the “general” “held
the situation in hand” by scurrying away through the mountains so fast
that it was a week or more before he got any considerable number of his
band together again.

“I write to tell you,” says another great military genius, “that I had a
cruel battle before Las Cahobas the other day, with one wounded. I also
tell you that I arrested General Ulysses St. Raisin for being drunk and
disarmed him and he is under guard in my camp. Also that General Etienne
Monbrun Dubuisson had a big battle with the Americans last week and
besides having a soldier severely wounded he had one _délégué_ taken by
the whites.”

The Americans who are striving to bring internal peace to Haiti have
come to the unanimous conclusion that the mere killing of _cacos_ will
not wipe out banditism. They have hunted them by every available means,
including the use of aëroplanes. The _cacos_ show a wholesome terror for
the latter, which they call “God’s wicked angels”; they have suffered
“cruel” losses before the machine-guns of the determined American youths
who are pursuing them, but they continue their _cacoism_. All efforts
are now being bent to two ends—to kill off the chiefs and to weed the
country of firearms. In the early days of the occupation the native
caught in possession of a rifle was given five years at hard labor, and
many of them are still serving sentence, though the penalty has recently
been reduced to six months. Every report of “jumping” a band or a camp
of _cacos_ ends now with a regular formula in which only the numbers
differ: “Killed 1 general and 2 chiefs; captured 9 rifles, 6 swords, 11
machetes.”

The tendency of the _caco_ to use his rifle chiefly as ballast to be
thrown overboard when the appearance of a white soldier gives his black
legs their maximum speed has helped this weeding out of weapons, as the
time-honored Haitian custom for opposing warriors to mount a prominent
hillock and hurl foul-mouthed defiance at their foes has raised the
scores of American marksmen. Recently an intelligent propaganda has been
carried on by the gendarmerie to induce the misled rank and file to come
in and surrender their arms, receiving in exchange a small cash
equivalent and a card attesting them _bons habitants_. This offer of
amnesty, which has already shown gratifying results, is brought to the
attention of the bandits chiefly through the market-women, who, swarming
all over Haiti, have always been the chief channel of information for
the _cacos_, with whom they are in the main friendly despite having
frequently been robbed of their wares by some hungry “army.” The chief
drawback to this plan, however, is a certain lack of team-work between
the two corps of caco-hunters. The marines have orders to shoot on sight
any native carrying a rifle—a perfectly justifiable command, since there
is no other distinguishing mark between a _bon habitant_ and a _caco_.
But the result is that the chief who has determined that surrender to
the nearest gendarme officer is the better part of valor, or the _caco_
“volunteer” who has at last succeeded in eluding his own sentries, is
forced to wrap his weapon in banana-leaves and sneak up to within a few
miles of town, hide his firearm, and apply at the gendarmerie for a
native soldier to protect him while he goes to get it.

In most cases the bandits travel in small groups until called together
for some projected attack. But more than one permanent camp, veritable
towns in some cases, has been found tucked away in some mountainous
retreat. The latest of these to be destroyed had seventy-five houses, a
headquarters building (with two hundred chairs), a voodoo temple, and a
cockpit; for the _caco_ remains a true Haitian for all his _cacoism_,
and will not be separated from his voodoo rites, his fighting cock, and
his women except in case of direst necessity.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Of many courageous feats performed by the American youths in khaki who
are roaming the hills of Haiti one stands out as the most spectacular.
Indeed, it is fit to rank with any of the stirring warrior tales with
which history is seasoned from the days of the Greeks to the recent
World War. Hearing it, one might fancy he was listening to a story of
the black ages of Haiti when Christophe was ruling his sable brethren
with bloody hand, rather than to something accomplished a bare half-year
ago by a persevering young American.

Charlemagne Masena Péralte was a member of one of the two families that
have long predominated in the village of Hinche. He was what the
Haitians call a _griffe_, a three-fourths negro. The French priest with
whom he served as choir-boy and acolyte remembers him well as “a boy who
was not bad, but haughty and quick to take offense.” When he had learned
what the thatched schoolhouse of Hinche had to offer, Charlemagne was
sent to Port au Prince, where he finished the course given by French
ecclesiastics. In other words he was a man of education by Haitian
standards. Like many of the sons of the “best families” in Haiti, he
decided to go into politics rather than pursue a more orderly
profession. But politicians are thicker than mangos in the Black
Republic, and for some reason things did not break right for
Charlemagne. Wounded in his pride and denied his expected source of easy
income, he followed the long-established Haitian custom in such matters.
He gathered a band of malcontents and penniless _cacos_ about him and
marched against the capital. The Government realized the danger and
bought Charlemagne off by appointing him commandant of an important
district. A few years later, when a new turn of the political wheel left
him again among the “outs,” he followed the same route to another
official position. It got to be a habit with Charlemagne to force each
succeeding government to appoint him to office.

Finding himself in disfavor with the American occupation, he set out to
work his little scheme once more. It does not seem to have occurred to
him that conditions had changed. Captured, and convicted of _cacoism_ in
October, 1917, by an American court martial sitting in his native town
of Hinche, he was sentenced to five years at hard labor.

A year later, while working on the roads in company with other inmates
of the departmental prison at Cap Haïtien, he eluded his gendarme guards
and escaped. Taking to the bush, he set out to organize a new band of
_cacos_. The _corvée_, then at its height, made his task easier. To turn
the scales still more in his favor, the large gang working on the
highway at Dignon, near his home town, had not been paid in more than
three months, thanks to that stagnation of circulation to which
quartermaster departments are frequently subject. “Come along,” said
Charlemagne, “and _I’ll_ get you your money,” and some three hundred
disgruntled workmen followed him into the mountains.

Within a few months he was signing himself “Chief of the Revolutionary
Forces against the American nation on the soil of Haiti,” and had
gathered several thousand _cacos_ about him. The magic name of General
Charlemagne spread throughout the island. Every leader of a collection
of lawless ragamuffins sought to be “commissioned” by him. He appointed
more generals than ever did a European sovereign. Every lazy black
rascal with nothing to lose and everything to gain joined his growing
ranks. When the simple countrymen would not follow him by choice, they
were recruited by force. He assassinated and punished until his word
became law to any one out of reach of gendarme protection. He spread
propaganda against the American officers, asserted that they had orders
to annex the country, and posed as the savior of Haiti, calling upon the
people to help him drive out the white oppressors as their fathers had
done more than a century before.

As a matter of fact, the patriotism of Charlemagne, of which he
constantly boasted in pompous words, consisted of nothing more or less
than an exaggerated ego and an overwhelming desire to advance his own
personal interests. He had that in common with all the yellow
politicians of Haiti. But he played the patriotic card with unusual
success. Disgruntled politicians and men of wealth who had some personal
reason for wishing the occupation abolished gave him secret aid. The
simple mountain negroes really believed that they were fighting to free
Haiti from the white man, and that under the great General Charlemagne
the task would soon be accomplished. The _corvée_ happened to have been
abolished soon after the “general’s” escape from prison; he quickly took
personal credit for the change and promised the simple Haitians to free
them in the same manner of all foreign interference. Before the end of
1918 he attacked his native town with several thousand followers and was
not easily repulsed. It was decided to put the marines in the field
against him, and for eight months they pursued him in vain. If anything,
the _caco_ situation was becoming worse instead of better. Despite the
“jumping” of many a band and camp by the marines and the gendarmerie,
the central portion of the country was becoming more and more
bandit-ridden. It became apparent that the pacification of Haiti
depended chiefly on the elimination of Charlemagne.

Herman H. Hanneken was a typical young American who had joined the
Marine Corps soon after finishing at the preparatory school on the
corner of Cass and Twelfth streets in his native town of St. Louis.
After taking part in the Vera Cruz demonstration, he was sent to Haiti
with the first forces of occupation, in August, 1915. There he reached
the rank of sergeant, and in due time became in addition a captain in
the Gendarmérie d’Haïti. It was in the latter rather than the former
capacity that he took part in the little episode I am attempting to
report, which was strictly an affair of the gendarmerie as distinguished
from their brotherly rivals in arms, the marines.

In June, 1919, Captain Hanneken was appointed district commander, with
headquarters in the old town of Grande Rivière, famous in Haitian
military and political annals. A powerful fellow of more than six feet,
who had reached the advanced age of twenty-five, he was ideal material
for the making of a successful _caco_-hunter. Having recently returned
from leave in the States, however, and his former stations having been
in peaceful regions, he had little field experience in the extermination
of bandits. Moreover, his extreme modesty and inability to blow his own
horn had never called him particularly to the attention of the higher
officials of the gendarmerie. No one expected him to do more than rule
his station with the average high efficiency which is taken for granted
in any of the hand-picked marines who are detailed as gendarme officers.

Captain Hanneken, however, had higher ambitions. Having familiarized
himself in a month with the routine of his district, he found time
weighing heavily on his hands. He turned his attention to the then most
pressing duty in Haiti, the elimination of Charlemagne. Unfortunately
for his plans, there were almost no _cacos_ in the district of Grande
Rivière. He could not encroach upon the territory of his
fellow-officers; the only chance of “getting a crack” at the bandits was
to import some of them into his own region.

Jean Batiste Conzé, a native of Grande Rivière, was a _griffe_, like
Charlemagne; he also belonged to one of the “best families” of his home
town. But there his similarity with the chief of the _cacos_ ceased. He
had always been a law-abiding citizen, and had once been chief of police
on his native heath. Like all good Haitians, he realized the damage and
suffering which the continued depredations of the bandits were causing
his country. Moreover, he was at a low financial ebb; but that is too
general a condition in Haiti to call for special comment, beyond stating
that a reward of two thousand dollars had been offered for Charlemagne,
dead or alive.

One night Captain Hanneken asked Conzé to call upon him at his
residence. When he was certain that the walls had been shorn of their
ears, he addressed his visitor in the Haitian “creole,” which he had
learned to speak like a native:

“Conzé, I want you to go and join the _cacos_.”

“’Aiti, mon capitaine!” cried Conzé, “Moi, toujou’ bon habitant, de
bonne famille, me faire _caco?_”

“Exactly,” replied Hanneken; “I want you to become a _caco_ chief. I
will furnish you whatever is necessary to gather a good band of them
about you, and you can take to the hills and establish a camp of your
own.”

The conference lasted well into the night, whereupon Conzé consented,
and left the captain’s residence through the back garden in order to
call as little attention as possible to his visit. A few days later,
toward the middle of August, he disappeared from town, carrying with him
in all secrecy fifteen rifles that had once been captured from the
_cacos_, 150 rounds of ammunition, several swords, and a showy
pearl-handled revolver that belonged to Hanneken. He was well furnished,
too, with money and rum, the chief sinews of war among the _cacos_. With
him had gone a personal friend and a trusted native gendarme who was
forthwith rated a deserter on the captain’s roster.

Conzé took pains to be seen by the worst native element as he was
leaving town, among whom he had already spread propaganda calling upon
them to join him in a new _caco_ enterprise. On the road he held up the
market-women and several travelers, taking nothing from them, but
impressing upon them the fact that he had turned bandit. All this was
reported to Captain Hanneken by his secret police. He told them to keep
their ears open, but not to worry, that he would get the rascal all in
good season. One morning a written notice appeared in the market of
Grande Rivière. It was signed by Conzé and berated the commander of the
district in violent terms, calling upon the inhabitants to join the
writer and put an end to his oppression. People recalled that Conzé and
the big American ruler of the town had once had words over some small
matter. Within three days the talk in all the district was of this
member of one of Grande Rivière’s most prominent families who had turned
_caco_.

Specially favored by his rifles, rum, and apparently unlimited funds,
Conzé soon gathered a large band of real _cacos_ about him. When
questions were asked, he explained that he had captured the weapons from
the gendarmerie by a happy fluke, and the wealthy citizens of Grande
Rivière, disgusted with the exactions of American rule, were furnishing
him with money. The new army established a camp at Fort Capois, at the
top of a high hill five hours’ walk from Grande Rivière. Now and then
they made an attack in the neighborhood, Conzé keeping a secret list of
those who suffered serious damage and never allowing his men to give
themselves over to the drunken pillaging that is so common to _caco_
warfare. The people accounted for this by recalling that Conzé had
always been a more kindly man than the average bandit leader. Meanwhile
the new chief continued his recruiting propaganda. He made personal
appeals to those of lawless tendency, he induced several smaller bands
to join him, he sent scurrilous personal attacks on Captain Hanneken to
be read in the market-place. The law-abiding citizens of Grande Rivière,
well aware of the advantages of American occupation and fearful of a
_caco_ raid, appealed to the district commander to drive the new band
out of the region. Hanneken reassured them in a special meeting of the
town notables with the assertion that he already had a scheme on foot
that would settle that rascal Conzé.

At the same time he had as many real worries as the good citizens,
though of a different nature. The first was a threat by the nearest
marine commander to wipe out that camp at Fort Capois if the strangely
laggard gendarme officer did not do so. It would have been fatal to
Hanneken’s plans to take the marines into his confidence; the merest
whisper of a rumor travels with lightning speed in Haiti. Besides Conzé
and his friend the gendarme “deserter,” the only persons whom he had let
into the secret were his department commander and the chief of the
gendarmerie in Port au Prince. Even his own subordinate officers were
kept wholly ignorant of the real state of affairs. In spite of this
extreme care, he was annoyed by persistent rumors that the whole thing
was a “frame-up.” Conzé, ran the market-place gossip, was really a
_zandolite_, a “caterpiller” in the pay of the Government and the
Americans. General Charlemagne, stationed far off in the district of
Mirebalais, had been warned to look out for him, a more or less
unnecessary “tip,” since it is natural to Haitian chiefs to be
suspicious of their fellows. In vain Conzé sent letters written by his
secretary, the “deserted” gendarme, in proper _caco_ style—most of them
dictated by Hanneken—to the big chief, offering the assistance of his
growing band. For a month he received no reply whatever. Then
Charlemagne wrote back in very courteous terms, lauding Conzé’s
conversion to the cause of Haitian liberty, but constantly putting him
off on one polite pretext or another. These letters, always sent by
women of _caco_ sympathies, were a week or more old before the replies
came back through devious bandit channels, and the situation often
changed materially within that length of time, upsetting Hanneken’s
plans. Meanwhile Conzé cleared the region about him, built houses for
his soldiers, and made Fort Capois the talk of all the _cacos_. Each new
recruit was given a draft of rum and what seemed to him a generous cash
bounty, and better food was served than most of them had tasted in their
lives. Still Charlemagne would have nothing to do with him beyond the
exchange of polite, non-committal notes.

At length the _caco_-in-chief sent one of his trusted subordinates to
report on the situation at Fort Capois. General ’Tijacques marched into
Conzé’s camp one evening at the head of seventy-five well-armed
followers, every man with a shell in his chamber. His air was more than
suspicious, and he ended by openly accusing Conzé of being a
_zandolite_.

“If I am, go ahead and shoot me!” cried the latter, laying aside his
weapons and ordering his men to withdraw. ’Tijacques declined the
invitation, but all night long he and his men sat about the fire, their
weapons in their hands, while Conzé slept with the apparent innocence of
a babe. When morning broke without an attack upon him, ’Tijacques was
convinced. He kissed Conzé on both cheeks, complimented him on joining
the “army of liberation,” and welcomed him as a brother in arms. When
Conzé presented him with a badly needed suit of clothes, a still more
desired bottle of rum, and money enough to pay his troops a week’s
salary of ten cents each, he left avowing eternal friendship.

A day or two later Charlemagne sent another of his generals, Papillon,
on a secret mission to arrest Conzé and bring him to his own camp. It
was merely a lucky coincidence that Hanneken had decided on that very
night to “attack” Fort Capois, as he had already done several times
before. Conzé, who made three nightly journeys a week to Grande Rivière
on the pretext of getting more money from the inhabitants friendly to
his cause, and entered Hanneken’s house through the back garden, was
instructed how to conduct himself in the affair to avoid personal
injury. For all that, the American had hard work to keep his gendarmes
from wiping out the camp entirely. In the midst of the fighting he
slipped aside in the bushes and, smearing his left arm with red ink,
wrapped it up in a bandage generously covered with the same liquid. Then
he sounded the retreat, and the gendarmes fell back pell-mell on Grande
Rivière. The next morning the market-place was agog with the astonishing
news. The _cacos_ of Fort Capois had repulsed the gendarmes! Moreover,
the great Conzé himself had wounded the redoubtable American captain! It
would not be long before the bandits descended on Grande Rivière itself!
Some of the frightened inhabitants seized their valuables and fled to
Cap Haïtien.

For days Captain Hanneken wandered disconsolately about the town with
his arm in a sling. When his own officers or friends joggled against it
by accident, he cried out with pain. His greatest difficulty was to keep
himself from being invalided to the rear, or to keep the solicitous
marine doctor from dressing his wounds. News of the great battle quickly
reached Charlemagne. Meanwhile the agent he had sent to arrest Conzé met
’Tijacques on the trail.

“You’re crazy!” cried the latter when Papillon whispered his orders.
“Conzé is as sincere a _caco_ as you or I. I will myself return to
Charlemagne and tell him so.”

The report of ’Tijacques, added to the news that Conzé had wounded the
accursed American commander, as well as repulsing his force, won the
confidence of Charlemagne—with reservations, of course; he never put
full confidence in any one, being too well versed in Haitian history. He
invited Conzé to visit him at his headquarters. There he commissioned
him “General Jean,” thanked him in the name of Haitian liberty, and
promised to coöperate with him. Incidentally, he relieved him of the
pearl-handled revolver that had once belonged to their common enemy,
Hanneken. It was too fine a weapon to be carried by any one but the
commander-in-chief, he explained. Before they parted, he promised the
new general to join him some day in Fort Capois.

Meanwhile the “deserted” gendarme had joined Charlemagne’s forces and
had so completely won his confidence that he was made his private
secretary. He found means of reporting conditions and plans now and then
to Hanneken. Conzé and Charlemagne entered into correspondence in
planning a general attack on Grande Rivière. Here Hanneken well knew
that he was playing with fire. If anything went wrong and Grande Rivière
was taken, nothing could keep the _cacos_ out of Cap Haïtien, the second
city of Haiti and the key to all the northern half of the country.
Besides, how could he be sure that his agents were not “double-crossing”
him instead of Charlemagne?

Negotiations continued all through the month of October. Toward the end
of that month Charlemagne, his brother St. Remy Péralte, several other
generals, and many chiefs arrived at Fort Capois, bringing with them
twelve hundred bandits. In company with “General Jean” they planned a
concerted attack on Grande Rivière. At the same time the programs of two
other assaults, on the towns of Bahon and Le Trou, were set for the same
date. The chief value of the latter was that they would keep the marines
busy and leave the larger town to the protection of the gendarmes.

Charlemagne’s forces were to approach Grande Rivière from the Fort
Capois side and to charge across the river when they received the signal
agreed upon. Conzé’s men were to descend upon the city from the opposite
direction, and “General Jean” was to give the signal himself by firing
three shots from an old ruined fortress above the town. As it was well
known that Charlemagne never attacked personally with his troops, but
hung back safely in the rear, it had been arranged through Conzé that he
await events at a place called Mazaire and enter the city in triumph
after the news of its capture had been brought to him.

On the night set, the last one of October, Captain Hanneken ordered ten
picked gendarmes to report at his residence. With them was his
subordinate, Lieutenant William R. Button, who had just been let into
the secret. The doors guarded against intrusion, Hanneken told the
gendarmes to lay aside their uniforms and put on _caco_-like rags that
had been gathered for the occasion. The two Americans dressed themselves
in similar garments and rubbed their faces, hands, and such portions of
their bodies as showed through the tatters, with cold cream and
lamp-black. Then the detail sallied forth one by one, to meet at a place
designated, where rifles that had been secretly conveyed there were
issued to them.

The pretended cacos took up their post at Mazaire behind a bushy hedge
along which Charlemagne must pass if he kept his rendezvous. While they
lay there, Conzé and his following of real _cacos_, some seven hundred
in number, passed close by them on their way to attack Grande Rivière.
This had been reinforced with a large number of gendarmes and a
machine-gun manned by Americans under the personal command of the
Department Commander of the North, all barricaded in the market-place
facing the river. Conzé gave the preconcerted signal, and Charlemagne’s
army dashed out of the foothills toward the stream. It was only the
over-eagerness of the barricaded force, which failed to hold its fire
long enough, that made the _caco_ casualties number merely by the dozen
rather than by the hundred.

At the height of the battle Charlemagne’s private secretary, the
“deserted” gendarme, crawled up to Hanneken and informed him that the
_caco_-in-chief had changed his mind. With his extraordinary gift of
suspicion, he had smelled a rat. He would not come down to Mazaire until
the actual winner of the battle came to him to announce the capture of
Grande Rivière.

To say that Captain Hanneken received the news quietly is merely another
way of stating that he is not a profane man. Here he had planned and
toiled for four months to do away with the arch _caco_ and break the
back of the rebellion that was holding up the advancement of Haiti, only
to have all his plans fail through the over-suspicion of the outlaw
politician. He had run the risk of having the headquarters of his
district captured, with dire, far-reaching results that no one realized
better than himself. He had played the part of a dime-novel hero,
descended to the rôle of an actor, which his forceful, straight-forward
nature detested, only to be left the laughing-stock of his
fellow-officers of the gendarmerie, to say nothing of the “kidding”
Marine Corps, in which he was still a sergeant. Incidentally, he had
staked the plan to the extent of eight hundred dollars of his own money,
which there was no hope of recovering through the devious channels of
official reimbursement if that plan failed, though as a matter of fact
this latter detail was the least of his worries. It was not a question
of a few paltry dollars, but of success.

If all these thoughts passed through his head as he lay concealed in the
bushes with his dozen fake _cacos_, they passed quickly, for his next
command came almost instantly. It was by no means the first time in this
hide-and-seek game with Charlemagne that he had been forced to change
his plans completely on the spur of the moment.

“Button,” he whispered, “we will be the successful _caco_ detachment
that brings the news of the capture of Grande Rivière to Charlemagne.”

Led by Jean Edmond François, the “deserted” gendarme and private
secretary of the _caco_-in-chief, the little group set out into the
mountains. Charlemagne, said the secretary, had come a part of the way
down from Fort Capois, but had camped for the night less than half-way
to the town. It was nearing midnight. Heavy clouds hung low in the sky,
but the stars shone here and there through them. For three hours the
detail stumbled upward along a difficult mountain trail. Neither of the
Americans knew how soon the gendarmes would lose their nerve and slip
off into the night, frightened out of all discipline by the dreaded name
of Charlemagne. There was no positive proof that they were not
themselves being led into an ambuscade, and they knew only too well the
horrible end that would befall two lone Americans captured by the
bandits. To make matters worse, Button was suffering from an acute
attack of his old malaria, though he was too much a marine and a
gendarme officer to let that retard his steps.

The detachment was halted at last by a _caco_ sentry, who demanded the
countersign. It happened that night to be “General Jean,” in honor of
Charlemagne’s trusted—with reservations—ally, Conzé. François, the
“deserted” gendarme, gave it. The sentry recognized him also as the
private secretary of the great chief. He advanced him, but declined to
let the detail with him pass without specific orders from Charlemagne.
The secretary left his companions behind and hurried on.

The disguised gendarmes mingled with the _caco_ outpost and announced
the capture of Grande Rivière, adding that the population was eagerly
waiting to receive the great Charlemagne and his doughty warriors.
Shouts of triumph rose and spread away into the night. In all the years
of American occupation no town of anything like the size of Grande
Rivière had ever been taken by the _cacos_. It was the death-knell of
the cursed whites, who would soon be driven from the great Republic of
Haiti, as they had been many years before.

Nearly an hour after his departure the secretary returned, to report
that Charlemagne had ordered the detachment to come to him immediately
with the joyful news.

“But,” added François, “there are _six_ series of outposts between here
and Charlemagne’s headquarters. There isn’t a chance in the world that
we can pass them all without being detected, and _cacos_ swarm
everywhere along the trail. It is a question of turning back, _mon
Capitaine_, or of leaving the trail and sneaking up over the mountain
through the brush.”

[Illustration: A Haitian country home]

[Illustration: A small portion of one collection of captured _caco_ war
material]

[Illustration: The _caco_ in the foreground killed an American Marine]

[Illustration: Captain Hanneken and “General Jean” Couze at Christophe’s
Citadel]

“And lose ourselves for good and all,” added Hanneken, in his ready
“creole.” “Nothing doing. Take the lead and keep to the trail.”

The first outpost advanced the detachment without question. The score of
negroes who made it up seemed to be too excited with the taking of
Grande Rivière to be any longer suspicious. Some five minutes later the
group was again halted, this time by an outpost of some forty men. Their
leader scrutinized the newcomers carefully one by one as they passed,
the latter, in turn, shuffling along with bowed heads, as if they were
completely exhausted with the climb from Grande Rivière, which was not
far from the truth. Several of the bandits along the way were heard to
remark in their slovenly “creole,” “_Bon dieu_, but those niggers are
sure tired.” The third and fourth outposts gave the party no trouble,
beyond demanding the countersign, except that casual questions were
flung at them by the _cacos_ scattered along the trail. These the
disguised gendarmes answered without arousing suspicion. Perfectly as he
knew “creole,” Hanneken avoided speaking whenever possible, and left the
word to François, fearful of giving himself away by some hint of a
foreign accent or a mischosen word from the southern dialect, with which
he was more familiar. No white man, whatever his training, can equal the
slovenly, thick-tongued pronunciation of the illiterate Haitian.

At the fifth outpost the leader was a huge, bulking negro as large as
Hanneken, and he stood on the alert, revolver half raised, as the detail
approached. The giving of the countersign did not seem to satisfy him.
He looked Hanneken up and down suspiciously and asked him a question.
The captain, pretending he was out of breath, mumbled an answer and
stalked on. It happened to be his good luck that he is blessed with high
cheek bones and a face that would not be instantly recognized as
Caucasian on a dark night. Button, on the other hand, seemed to arouse
new suspicion. He was carrying an automatic rifle and, in order to
conceal the magazine, bore it vertically across his chest, his arms
folded over it. The negro sentry caught the glint of the barrel and
snatched Button by the arm.

“Where did you get such a fine-looking rifle?” he demanded.

Hanneken, scenting trouble, had halted several paces beyond, his hands
on the butts of the revolver and the automatic which he carried on his
respective hips. It would have been easy to kill the suspicious negro,
but that would have been the end of his hopes of reaching
Charlemagne—and probably of the two Americans. For though the disguised
gendarmes were all armed with carbines, they would have been no match
for the swarms of _cacos_ about them, even if their taut nerves did not
give way in flight under the strain.

Button, however was equal to the occasion.

“Let me go!” he panted, jerking away from the negro leader. “Don’t you
see that my chief is getting out of sight?”

The black giant, still suspicious, yielded with bad grace, and the
Americans hurried on. The sixth outpost was the immediate guard over
Charlemagne, about thirty paces from where he had spread his blanket for
the night. François gave the countersign, took two or three steps
forward, whispered in Hanneken’s ear, “he is up there,” and slipped away
into the bushes. The gendarmes had likewise disappeared. The Americans
advanced to within fifteen feet of a faintly blazing camp-fire. On the
opposite side of it a man stood erect, his silk shirt gleaming in the
flickering light. He was peering suspiciously over the fire, trying to
recognize the newcomers. A woman was kneeling beside the heap of fagots,
coaxing it to blaze. A hundred or more _cacos_ were lined up to the
right, at a respectful distance from the peering chief.

Two negroes, armed with rifles, halted the Americans, at the same time
cocking their pieces. Hanneken raised his black, invisible automatic and
fired at the chief beyond the fire, at the same time shouting, “Let her
go, Button!” in an instant the kneeling woman scattered the fire with a
sweeping gesture and plunged the spot in darkness. Button was spraying
the line of cacos to the right with his machine-gun. The disguised
gendarmes came racing up and lent new legs to the fleeing bandits. When
a space had been cleared, Hanneken placed his handful of soldiers in a
position to offset a counter-attack, and began groping about the
extinguished fire. His hands encountered a dead body dressed in a silk
shirt. This, however, was no proof that his mission had been
accomplished. Some of Charlemagne’s staff might have boasted silk
shirts, also. He ran his hands down the body to a holster and drew out
the pearl-handled revolver which he had loaned to Conzé, and which had
been appropriated in turn by Charlemagne. The _caco_-in-chief had been
shot squarely through the heart.

When daylight came, the hilltop was found to be strewn with the bodies
of nine other bandits, while trails of blood showed that many more had
dragged themselves off into the bushes. Among the wounded, it was
discovered later, was St. Remy, the brother of Charlemagne, who
afterward died of his wounds. The captured booty included nine rifles,
three revolvers, two hundred rounds of ammunition, seven swords, fifteen
horses and mules, and Charlemagne’s voluminous correspondence. This
latter was of special value, since it contained the names of the good
citizens of Port au Prince and the other larger cities who had been
financing the _caco_-in-chief. Most of them are now languishing in
prison. But let me yield the floor to Captain Hanneken’s official diary
of the events that followed. Its succinctness is suggestive of the
character of the man:

  Nov. 1, 1919.—Killed Charlemagne Péralte, Commander-in-Chief of the
  bandits. Wounded St. Remy Péralte. Brought Charlemagne’s body to
  Grande Rivière, arriving 9 A. M. Went to Cap Haïtien with the body.
  Received orders to proceed to Fort Capois next morning. Went to
  Grande Rivière via handcar, arriving 9 P. M. Wrote report re death
  of Charlemagne. Left Grande Rivière with seven gendarmes, via
  handcar to Bahon, arriving midnight.

  Nov. 2.—Left Bahon 1 A. M. with seven gendarmes. Arrived 200 yards
  from first outpost of Fort Capois at 5 A. M. Crawled to 150 yards
  from outpost and remained there until 6:30 A. M., waiting for
  detachment from Le Trou to attack at daybreak, when six bandits came
  in our direction. Opened fire, killing three. All bandits in various
  outposts retreated to main fort. Advanced and captured the first,
  second, and third outposts. Got within 300 yards of fort when they
  opened fire from behind a stonewall barricade. They fired a cannon
  and about 40 rifle shots. Crawled on our stomachs, no cover. Fired
  the machine gun and ordered the gendarmes to advance 15 yards and
  open fire. Kept this up until we arrived within 150 yards, when we
  espied the bandits escaping. Entered fort, burned all huts and
  outposts. Left Fort Capois at 9 A. M. Arrived in Grande Rivière 2 P.
  M., very tired.

The most exacting military superior cannot but have excused this last
somewhat unmilitary remark. Fatigue does not rest long on Captain
Hanneken’s broad shoulders, however, and he soon had his district
cleared again of the _cacos_ he had imported for the occasion. The
two-thousand-dollar reward was divided between Conzé and his one
civilian assistant. Captain Hanneken, Lieutenant Button, and the
gendarmes who accompanied them, were ordered to Port au Prince to be
personally thanked by the President of Haiti and decorated with the
Haitian _medaille d’honneur_, a ceremony against which the captain
protested as a waste of time that he could better employ in hunting
_cacos_. At this writing he is engaged again in his favorite sport in
another district. His Marine Corps rank has been raised to that of
second lieutenant, while Conzé has been appointed to the same grade in
the Gendarmérie d’Haïti, with assignment to plain-clothes duty.

The death of Charlemagne has probably broken the back of _cacoism_ in
Haiti, though it has been by no means wiped out. Papillon, with
’Tijacques and several other rascals as chief assistants, is still
roaming at large in the north, and the youthful Bénoît is terrorizing
the mountainous region in the neighborhood of Mirebalais and Las
Cahobas. But the gendarmerie, assisted by the Marine Corps, may be
trusted to bring their troublesome careers to a close all in good
season. One of the chief problems of the pacifiers at present is to
convince the ignorant _caco_ rank and file that the great Charlemagne
is dead. His superstitious followers credit him with supernatural
powers, and many a captured bandit, when asked who is now his
commander-in-chief, still replies with faithful simplicity, “Mais,
c’est Charlemagne.” The public display of his body at Grande Rivière
and Cap Haïtien produced an effect that will not soon be forgotten by
those who witnessed it, but even that has not fully convinced the
cacos hidden far away in the mountains. So great was the veneration,
or, more exactly, perhaps, the superstition, in which he was held that
it was found necessary to give him five fake funerals in as many
different places, as a blind, and to bury his body secretly in the
out-of-the-way spot, lest his grave become a shrine of pilgrimage for
future _cacos_.



                              CHAPTER VII
                   HITHER AND YON IN THE HAITIAN BUSH


Of many journeys about Haiti, usually by automobile and in the company
of gendarme officers, the first was to the _caco_-infested district of
Las Cahobas. A marine doctor bound on an inspection trip there had a
seat left after his assistant and a native gendarme had been
accommodated. Among the four of us there were as many revolvers and
three rifles, all ready for instant action. One can, of course, hire
private cars for a tour of Haiti, but quite aside from the decided
expense, a Haitian chauffeur under military orders is much to be
preferred to one who is subject to his own whims; moreover, there is
much more to be seen and heard in gendarme company, and, lastly, if one
chances to “pop off” a _caco_, there is not even the trouble of
explaining, for one’s companions will do that in their laconic report to
headquarters.

There are few roads in the West Indies as crowded as that broad new
highway across the plain which is a continuation of the wide main street
of Port au Prince. By it all traffic from the north and west enters the
capital. The overwhelming majority of travelers are market-women, most
of them barefooted and afoot, but a large number are seated sidewise on
their donkeys or small mules, balancing on their toes the slippers,
which are never known to fall off under any provocation. Pedestrians
carry their invariably heavy and cumbersome loads on their heads, the
haughtier class in crude saddle-bags, and the sight of this river of
jogging humanity, often completely filling the broad highway as far as
it can be seen in the heat-hazy distance, is one of which we never tired
as often as we rode out through it.

At the time of the outbreak against the French the population roughly
was made up of thirty thousand whites, as many “people of color,” and
four hundred and fifty thousand blacks. There has been, of course, no
census since that time, but signs indicate that Haiti has now two and a
half million inhabitants, for however unproductive the semi-savage
hordes may be in other ways, they are diligent in the process of
multiplication. White people are more rare to-day, even if one counts
our forces of occupation, than before the revolt, the mixed race has not
greatly increased, so that fully nine tenths of the population are
full-blooded Africans. Close observers are convinced that, thanks mainly
to the constant revolutions, there are three females to every male, and
of the latter a considerable number are now roaming the hills of the
interior as _cacos_. Furthermore, the men take little part in selling
the country produce. The result is that the stream of humanity pouring
into the capital is almost entirely made up of jet-black women and
girls.

The throng was particularly dense on the morning of our journey to Las
Cahobas, for it was Friday, and the great weekly market in Port au
Prince begins at dawn on Saturday morning. An American once stationed
himself at the typical negro arch of triumph, straddling the entrance
from the Cul-de-Sac to the capital, and counted thirty thousand
travelers in an hour, of whom all but about two hundred were
market-women. They were somewhat less multitudinous during our stay in
Haiti, for the Americans had recently set a maximum scale of prices for
foodstuffs, and many of the women had gone on strike and refused to
bring their produce to town. They had another grievance in the
requirement to sell most things by weight. For generations they had sold
only by the “pile,” consisting of three articles of such things as eggs,
plantains, yams, and the like, or of tiny heaps in the case of grains
and similar produce; few of them, moreover, could afford to buy scales,
and they resented the right given purchasers to appeal to gendarmes
stationed in the market-places for the verifying of weights. But only
those who had seen it under still more crowded conditions would have
realized that the highway was not thronged to its full density on this
particular morning.

Through the main street, out past the only modern sugar-mill in Haiti,
for miles across the plain, our constantly honking Ford plowed through
this endless procession of black humanity, casting it aside in two
turbulent furrows of donkeys, mules, women, and multifarious bundles.
There is nothing more amusing, and pathetic, too, than the behavior of
the primitive masses of Haiti before an automobile. This is scarcely to
be wondered at in a country where any wheeled traffic except a very rare
ox-cart crawling along on its creaking and wobbling wheels was unknown
up to a few years ago, and where the half-dozen automobiles of Port au
Prince could not make their way into the country until the Americans had
begun the reconstruction of the roads. But it is proof, too, of the
close relationship of the Haitians to their savage brethren in central
Africa. Just like this, one can easily imagine, the latter would act at
the sudden apparition of a strange machine which the great mass of
Haitians firmly believe is run by voodoo spirits devoted to the white
man.

The highway, like most of those the Americans have built, is of
boulevard width, and there is ample room for even such a throng as this
to pass an automobile in safety. But the primitive-minded natives are
terror-stricken at sight of one bearing down upon them. The mounted
women invariably tumble off their animals and fall to beating, pushing,
and dragging them to the extreme edge of the road, at the same time
shrieking as if the Grim Reaper had suddenly appeared before them with
his sickle poised. The pedestrians succumb to a similar panic, so that
the journey out the flat highway presents a constant vista of
dismounting women and a turmoil of animals and frightened human beings
tumbling over one another in their excited eagerness to get well out of
reach of the swiftly approaching demon of destruction. Farther on, where
the road begins to wind, and the cuts into the hills are often deep, the
scene is still more laughter-provoking, for the startled animals
invariably bury their noses in the sheer road-banks and will not, for
all the cajolery or threats in the world, swing in sidewise along them.
If they are donkeys, the women pick up their hind quarters and lift them
out of the way by main force; when they are too large for this
courageous treatment, the riders put a shoulder to the quivering rumps,
abandon those useless tactics to drag at the halters as the machine
draws nearer, and finally bury their faces also in the bank, as if to
shut out the horrible experience of seeing their precious animals
mutilated beyond recognition.

Still more distracting to drivers is the behavior of persons approached
from the rear. A horn is of little use in this case. The Haitian’s
hearing is acute enough, but his mind does not synchronize in its
various faculties; he is aware of a disagreeable noise behind him, but
that noise does not register as a warning of danger and a call for
action. Then, when at last he realizes that it means something and is
addressed to him, or when the bumper or fender touches his ragged
coat-tail, he is electrified into record-breaking activity.
Unfortunately, his psychology is that of the chicken, and in eight cases
out of ten he darts across the road instead of withdrawing to the side
of it. This happens even when he is far out of danger at the edge of a
wide street or highway, and every automobile trip through the crowded
parts of Haiti is a constant succession of interweaving pedestrians bent
on getting to the opposite side of the road.

An American estate manager who drives a heavy car at a high rate of
speed, yet who is noted for his freedom from accidents, was bowling
alone one September afternoon far out in the country. The road was
twenty-two feet wide, and he was driving to the right of it, without an
animate object in sight except for one ragged countryman plodding along
the extreme left in the same direction. Seeing no reason to do so, he
did not blow his horn. Suddenly the pedestrian caught sight of the car
out of the tail of an eye and darted across the road. The machine struck
him squarely and knocked him, as was afterward proved by measurement,
fifty-two feet, then ran completely over him. The driver hurried him
back to a hospital, where it was found that the only injuries he had
sustained were a few minor bruises and a gash on the head. This was
treated, and a few days later he was discharged, and returned to his
hut, where he died the next week of blood poisoning caused by the native
healer whom he insisted on having redress his almost healed wound.

Though somewhat stony and grown with an ugly, thorny vegetation, the
great Cul-de-Sac plain is noted for its fertility. Here the aborigines
cultivated cotton and tobacco; at the time of French expulsion it had
nearly seven thousand plantations, chiefly of sugar-cane, which was
brought to Haiti from the Canary Islands early in the sixteenth century.
The French had covered it with a thorough irrigation system, with a
_grand bassin_ in the hills above and streams of water spreading from it
like the fingers of the hand to all parts of the plain. There were
numerous splendid highways between towns and estates, and the ninety
thousand acres were dotted with fine residences, hundreds of
sugar-mills, and many coffee, cotton, and indigo works. To-day the roads
which our forces of occupation, or the two American companies that are
beginning to reclaim some of the plain, have not found time to restore
are rutty successions of mud-holes so narrowed by ever-encroaching
vegetation as to resemble the trails of blackest Africa, or have
disappeared entirely. There are a few rude bridges, usually patched upon
the crumbling remains of once fine French structures, but as a rule
streams are forded. Except where the newcomers have constructed new
ones, the saying in Haiti is, “Never cross a bridge if you can go around
it.” Many of the former estates are completely overgrown with brush and
broken walls, trees rise from former courtyards, the remnants of once
sumptuous halls are the haunts of bats, night birds, and lizards. In
some of the less dilapidated ruins negro families now cluster; most of
them live in shanties patched together of jungle rubbish, their only
furnishings a sleeping-net and a German enamelware pot. Whatever else he
lacks, the Haitian always has the latter, its holes stopped with
corncobs until they become too large, when the pot is filled with earth,
planted with flowers, and set up in a conspicuous position about the
hovel. Everywhere are to be found reminders of the prosperous days when
Haiti was France’s richest colony. Large, semispherical iron
sugar-kettles, rusted, broken, and full of holes, lie tumbled everywhere
along the highway and across the plain. Old French bells bearing
pre-Napoleonic dates and quaint inscriptions, ruined stone aqueducts,
mammoth grass-grown stairways, rust-eaten machinery, inexplicable stone
ruins of all shapes and sizes, are stumbled upon wherever the visitor
rambles.

The characteristic sour stench of a dirty little sugar- and rum-mill
only rarely assails the nostrils. The natives have lost not only the
energy, but almost the knowledge, required for the growing and making of
sugar, producing only _rapadoue_, dark-brown lumps of crude, coagulated
molasses, which, wrapped in leaves, are to be found in every Haitian
market. The American companies found the people so ignorant of
agricultural methods that it was impossible to introduce the _colono_
system. The men and women who work in the sugar- and cotton-fields of
these new enterprises are as patched and ragged a crew as can be found
on the earth’s surface. The average daily wage for adult male laborers
in Haiti is a _gourde_, or twenty cents, a day, women and boys in
proportion. The new companies have raised this to thirty cents. In
theory the laborers are fed by their employers, but it would be
considerable exaggeration to call the one gourdful of rice-and-bean hash
which a disheveled, yet dictatorial, old negro woman was dishing out to
each of a long line of gaunt and soil-stained workmen on one of the
estates at which we stopped one evening the nourishment needed for a
long day in the fields. Except for a sugar-cane, a lump of _rapadoue_,
or possibly a bit of rice or plantain, which they find for themselves in
the morning, this is the only food of the Haitian field laborer. So lazy
have they become in their masterless condition that this one meal a day
has come to be the habitual diet of the masses and all they expect of
their employers; but the impression on both sides that this is all they
need is probably costing the companies more in lack of efficient labor
than they themselves realize. Only at one season during the year does
the average Haitian get more than these slim pickings; that is in
mango-time, and then the roads and trails are carpeted with the yellow
pits.

Dusty, thorny, and hot, the Cul-de-Sac plain continued as level as the
sea at its edge to where we began to climb the steep slope of wrinkled,
rusty mountains shutting it off abruptly on the north and offering a
panorama of rare beauty from Port au Prince, particularly when sunrise
or sunset gives them a dozen swiftly changing colors. As we rose above
it, the reedy edged first of two large lakes, one of which stretches on
into the Republic of Santo Domingo, broke the red-brown carpet with a
contrasting shimmer of blue at the eastern end, and the mountains behind
the capital stood forth in silhouette against the transparent tropical
sky. The aboriginal name “Haiti” means a high and mountainous land; like
its inhabitants, its scenery and vegetation are more savage than those
of Cuba. So steep was the new road climbing diagonally up the face of
the range that we were twice compelled to dismount and call upon a gang
of road laborers to push the machine over the next stony rise. The
stream of market-women continued to pour down this in cascades. Many of
the heavy black faces would have made splendid gargoyles. Almost all of
the women wore gowns of blue denim; the year before, the driver said,
they had all worn purple, but the style had changed only in color. Once
we met a lone marine, and higher up paused at a camp where there were
several of them. But they were not the spick-and-span “leather-necks” we
know taking their shore leave along Broadway. They wore only the
indispensable parts of their uniforms, on the faces of those old enough
to produce it was a week’s growth of beard, and they clutched their
rifles with the alert and ready air of expecting to use them at any
moment, for we were now entering a region constantly harassed by
_cacos_.

We grasped our own weapons and closely watched the brush-covered banks
on each hand, as well as every approaching traveler. There are only two
ways of telling a _caco_ from a harmless Haitian; if he is armed or if
he runs. Then the orders are to fire, for the “good citizens” do not
carry weapons and are very careful to move slowly and be prepared to
flourish their _bon habitant_ card at sight of a white face or a
gendarme uniform. Several times I fancied for an instant that we had
been attacked, until I grew accustomed to the thump of stones with which
the road was ever more thickly strewn striking the bottom of the car
with reports startlingly like rifle-shots. From the crest of the first
range we descended into the Artibonite Valley, remarkable for its
colors. A constant series of rusty red humps, more beautiful at a
distance, no doubt, than to a hungry marine climbing over them expecting
at any moment to run into a _caco_ ambush, patches of scenery almost
equal to the Alps in color, slender pines standing out against the red
and tumbled background, here and there a clump of palm-trees to give
contrast and a suggestion of peaceful tropical languor, spread before us
farther than the eye could see.

As far as the marine-garrisoned town of Mirebalais the road was
passable, though it had steadily deteriorated from the modern highway of
the plain to a road made only by the feet of animals and men. It would
have been an exceedingly optimistic stranger, however, who could ever
have attempted to drive an automobile over the mountain trail that lay
beyond, yet over which the doughty Ford climbed as if military orders
forbade it to give up so long as it retained a gasp of life. Here and
there we forded a considerable stream, meeting at one of them a group of
marines driving pack-laden donkeys and cattle, in some cases astride the
latter, more often splashing thigh-deep through the water, and with a
score of produce-bearing natives plodding at their heels for protection.
Farther on we passed an airplane camp, from which “God’s wicked angels,”
as the natives call them, periodically bombard the retreats of the
_cacos_. Rumor has it that these warriors of the air have not always
made certain of the character of the gatherings they attack, and the
_cacos_ once sent a protest to England against the Americans for using a
means of warfare which the “Haitians fighting for their liberty” cannot
combat or imitate.

The name of Las Cahobas, the old Spanish form of the word for
mahogany-trees, is an indication of the fact that it was formerly within
the territory of Santo Domingo. It is a miserable little town in which
the palm-trunk huts that are the lowest form of dwelling in Cuba are
considered residences _de luxe_. A whitewashed jail where the hundred or
more black inmates, most simply dressed in two-piece suits of
red-and-white striped cotton, seem only too glad to get their three
meals a day, two of them with meat rations, was the chief sight of
interest. Some of the gendarme guards had become so thoroughly
Americanized under their marine officers that they “rolled their own,”
closed their tobacco-sacks with their teeth, and returned them to
hip-pockets exactly as required by our military manuals. It is
remarkable what can be done with a backward race under proper guidance.
The officers themselves, nearly all enlisted men in the organization
from which they had been loaned, were, like most of those I met
throughout the country, forceful, energetic, efficient chaps, many of
whom spoke the native “creole” as if they had been born in the district.
In the North we scarcely think of a corporal or sergeant of marines as
standing particularly high in the social scale; in these Haitian
villages they have almost the power of absolute monarchs, and are
treated with corresponding respect by their native subjects. Even the
village accounts are periodically brought to them to be audited. So
accustomed do the Haitians become to obeying the commander of the
district in which they live that it is difficult to get them to change
their allegiance. A marine major who had long reigned in a certain
region summoned all the native authorities to meet a newly arrived
lieutenant colonel, explaining that the latter was thereafter the
commander in chief; yet as long as the major remained, he never broke
the natives of the habit of appealing to him first of all whenever any
official matter turned up.

On the edge of Las Cahobas, as here and there along the road to it, was
a Haitian cemetery. These are invariably bare and sun-scorched, the
graves covered with vault-shaped structures ranging from heaped-up
cobbles to almost elaborate stone and plaster mounds. Without crosses or
any other indication of the Christian faith, they seem to be direct
importations from the interior of Africa, and though one knows that the
stones are piled there primarily to keep the energetic Haitian pigs from
rooting up and feasting on the corpses, it is hard to think of them as
anything but the African’s protection against the voodoo spirits which
must be forcibly prevented from escaping out of bodies committed to the
earth. The usual Haitian funeral is accompanied with strange rites
destined to exorcise these same spirits, after which others of a totally
different nature enliven the proceedings, for the corpse is generally
carried on the heads of men who dance and sing in a drunken orgy all the
way to the burial-ground.

Market-women were still straggling toward town when we returned. The
view of the Cul-de-Sac plain toward sunset, carpeted with brown and
green vegetation, speckled here and there with little houses, the lakes
on the left and the ocean on the right reflecting the colors of the
purple and lilac clouds which hung above the mountains, was as striking
as any I had seen in many a day. Nearer the capital the road was still
almost crowded, while here and there under the trees beside it the
women, their big straw hats off now, but still wearing their brilliant
bandanas, had camped for the night, and were cooking their humble
dinners on fagot fires. Once we found a woman bareheaded, but this was
because she was tearing her hair and shrieking in what seemed to be
physical agony. As she caught sight of my uniformed companions, she
rushed out upon them and reported that she had been robbed by _cacos_ of
the produce she had expected to spread out in the big market-square
before the cathedral by the dawn of Saturday. Such things happen even on
the broad highway into Port au Prince, while more often still gendarmes
are sent out along the road by some colonel or major whose wife has
invited guests, with orders to buy the chickens and turkeys needed
before they reach the close competition of the market. In either case
the women are deeply disgruntled, for the mere selling is only half
their pleasure in offering their wares.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Of the other two highways out of Port au Prince one climbs into the
hills to Pétionville, from which a trail leads to cool and refreshing
Furcy, among its pine-trees, four thousand feet above the sea. A longer
road is that to the southern peninsula. Leaving the capital at the
opposite end of the main street from that to the Cul-de-Sac, it passes
the “navy yard” and skirts the bay for miles beyond. It, too, is apt to
be crowded with market-women, and with donkeys, women, and men carrying
rock salt from Léogane. Half-way to that town there is a clearing in the
dense woods famed as the scene of frequent voodoo rites, and for a long
space the road is bordered by the scraggly tree-bushes of an abandoned
castor-bean plantation from which our Government once hoped to produce
oil for its airplanes. Léogane is a town of considerable size, the usual
grass-grown square of which is faced by a quaint old church of what
might almost be called Haitian architecture. Churches were the only
buildings spared by the infuriated slaves in their revolt against the
French, as the priests were the only white people who escaped attack,
but neglect and the tropical climate have in most cases completed the
work of destruction. The town and the region about it is one of the few
places in Haiti where the malarial mosquito abounds. Here, too, are to
be found many bush-grown ruins of French plantations. Far to the
westward along the tongue of land forming the southern horn of Haiti,
and to be reached only by horse or boat, is the town of Jérémie, near
which the elder Dumas was born, the son of a French general and a negro
slave.

The gendarme officer with whom I was traveling on this occasion,
however, had come to inspect Jacmel, on the southern coast. At two and a
half hours by Ford from the capital, the last part of it by a narrow
dirt roadway winding through high hills, we changed to moth-eaten native
horses and rode away down the River Gauche, which we forded one hundred
and eighteen times during the next four hours. The black soil was
fertile, and cultivated in scattered patches even to the tops of the
hills. Coffee in uncared-for luxuriance often bordering the way showed
what this region had been under the French. It was still well populated,
for the people of the southern peninsula have never revolted, and
_cacos_ are unknown, though there is much petty thieving. At every turn
of the trail startled, respectful negroes raised their hats as we
passed, only a few of them having the half-sullen air of their
fellow-countrymen elsewhere at sight of Americans. Their little huts of
thatch, or _tache_, as _yagua_ is called in Haiti, were everywhere
tucked away in the bush, cattle and pigs were numerous, though all
animals except the goats had a half-starved appearance. Bananas and
oranges grew in profusion; the trail was strewn with the peelings of the
native pear-shaped grape-fruit. Frequent patches of Kafir-corn, called
_pitimi_, the “creole” abbreviation of _petit maïs_, waved their lofty
heads of rice-like grain in the breeze. Immovable donkeys now and then
blocked the trail, indifferent alike to the shrieks of their drivers and
to the commanding voice of the native gendarme who accompanied us. Here
and there washing parties of women were beating their rags on stones at
the edge of the stream and spreading them out in the sun to bleach,
their almost nude black bodies glistening in the sunshine and their
tongues cackling incessantly until a glimpse of us reduced them to
sudden silence. Several times we passed voodoo signs—a chicken with its
entrails removed hanging by one leg from a pole, the white skull of a
horse decorated with bits of red rag set on the top of a cactus-bush.
Now and then we came across the most primitive form of cane-crusher
except the human teeth. It consisted of a grooved stick driven through a
tree or post, with a bit of sapling fastened at one end. While one negro
held a sugar-cane, another rolled the sapling back and forth along it,
the juice running down the groove into a gourd or pot. Wherever the
breeze reached us the weather was agreeable; in the breathless pockets
of the hills the humid heat hung about us like a hot wet blanket.

The marine-gendarme commander of Jacmel met us with an automobile
farther out along the trail than one had ever been driven before, and
the astounded natives fled shrieking before it as if the malignant
spirits they fancied they could hear groaning under its hood were
visibly pursuing them. In the town itself the people greeted their
benevolent despot with just such antics as one might fancy their
forefathers performed before their African chiefs. Jacmel, however, has
a number of “citizens of color” of education and moderate wealth. The
hills about it grow two crops of coffee a year, cotton and cacao
alternate all the year round, veritable forests of cotton-trees cover
the sites of old French plantations, and there is considerable shipping,
though the bay is deep and dangerous. But its prosperity is mainly due,
of course, to its lifelong freedom from _cacos_ and revolutions. It is a
hilly town of six thousand inhabitants, with sharp lines of caste, more
stone buildings than are usual in Haiti, a Protestant as well as a
Catholic church, an imposing _hotel de ville_, with the familiar
misstatement “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité” on its façade, “summer”
homes in its suburbs, and a tile-roofed market. Strangers but seldom
disrupt the languid tenor of its ways, however, and not only is there no
hotel, but not even a place to get a cup of coffee and a sandwich,
unless one accept the hospitality of marines or gendarme officers. Some
years ago a foreign company erected an electric light plant, fitted up
all Jacmel with elaborate poles or underground wires, operated for one
night, collected their government subsidy and as much as possible from
the citizens, and fled. To this day the town continues to worry along
with such lights as might be found in an African village. In 1896 it was
completely wiped out by fire, the land and sea breeze joining to pile
the flames so high that the population was forced to flee to the hills,
leaving all their possessions behind.

On our return to Port au Prince the road, particularly from Léogane in,
was even more densely thronged than usual; for it was the last day of
the year, and New Year’s is not only Haiti’s day of independence, but
the one on which presents are given, after the French custom. Women
carrying on their heads heaps of native baskets higher than themselves,
others with as disproportionate loads of gourds, donkeys laden to the
point of concealment with anything there was any hope of selling for
gifts at that evening’s big market, filled the tumultuous wake behind
us. I called that afternoon on the mulatto President of Haiti in the
unfinished palace, and caught him and the minister of finance in the act
of shaking and rearranging the rugs in preparation for the coming
festivities. No doubt a president whose duties are assumed by men from
the outside world must find something to do to pass the time. Next day,
however, there was no such informality in his manner as he was driven in
silk-hat solemnity to a Te Deum in the cathedral. Four prancing horses
drew the presidential carriage, preceded and followed by a company of
native horsemen in more than resplendent uniforms and drawn sabers. At
the door he was met by the archbishop and all the higher officers of our
forces of occupation, who fell in behind the august ruler as he marched
down the central aisle, flanked at close intervals by negro firemen in
brilliant red shirts of heavy flannel and shining metal helmets. In
their wake came all the élite of Port au Prince, some in silk hats and
full dress, nearly all in brand-new garb, for New Year’s takes the place
of Easter in this respect in Haiti, and so generously perfumed that the
clouds of incense arising about the altar made no impression upon the
nostrils. Outside, the great open square and the adjacent streets were
compact seas of upturned black faces. The booming of cannon frequently
punctuated the ceremony, though the beating of tomtoms would have been
more in keeping, and the cost of the powder might then have been spent
in running the trade school which had just been abandoned for lack of
funds. Faces running all the gamut from white to black were to be seen
in the glaringly yellow interior, but none of the former were Haitian,
and the latter were in the decided majority. The clergy were white, the
acolytes black; the formality and solemnity which reigned could scarcely
have been equaled in the elaborate functions in Notre Dame of Paris.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A Cuban bon mot has it that “The Haitian is the animal which most nearly
resembles man.” Without subscribing to so broad a statement, it must be
admitted that they are close to the primitive savage despite a veneer of
civilization which all but hides the African in the upper class and is
so thin upon the masses as to be transparent. Tradition has it that when
the uprising against the French was planned the conspirators gave every
slave some grains of corn, telling him to throw one away every day and
attack when none remained, for in no other way could they have known the
date. To this day the intelligence of the masses is of that caliber.
Readily capable of imitation, they initiate nothing, not even the next
obvious move in the simplest undertakings. They have not a trace of
gratitude in their make-up, no sexual morality, unbounded superstition,
and no family love. Mothers gladly give away their children; if they
ever see them again there is no evidence of gladness shown on either
side. They have a certain naïve simplicity and some of the unintentional
honesty that goes with it; they have of course their racial
cheerfulness, though even that is less in evidence than among most of
their race. A French woman who has spent nearly all her life in Haiti
long tried to discover some symptoms of poetical fancy or love for the
beautiful among the full blacks. One day she found a servant sitting in
the back yard looking up into the tree-tops. Asked what he was thinking
about, he answered, “I am not thinking; I am listening to the breeze in
the cocoanut-palms.” That is the sum total of sentiment during long
years of observation. Family relations are little short of promiscuous.
Girls who have reached the age of ten are made to understand that they
must be on the lookout for lovers; mothers refuse to support them after
they have grown old enough to live with a man. An old maid is considered
a freak of nature in Haiti, and such freaks are exceedingly rare in the
Black Republic.

[Illustration: Ruins of the old French estates are to be found all over
Haiti]

[Illustration: A Haitian wayside store]

[Illustration: The market women of Haiti sell everything under the sun—A
“General Store” in a Haitian market]

[Illustration: There are still more primitive sugar mills than these in
Haiti]

More temperamental than our own negroes, the Haitians are incredibly
childlike in their mental processes. A certain gendarme officer whose
butler was frequently remiss in his duties had him enrolled in the
native corps in order to bring military discipline to bear upon him. A
few days later the servant requested that he be given the right to carry
arms, like other gendarmes. The officer good naturedly gave him a
harmless old revolver that had been captured from the _cacos_. A few
days later reports began to leak into headquarters that the national
force was terrorizing the inhabitants of a certain section of Port au
Prince. The detectives got busy, and found that the gendarme-butler, his
day’s service over, was in the habit of patrolling that part of town in
which he was born and where he was well known, strutting back and forth
among his awed fellow-citizens during the evening, and from midnight on
beating on house doors and commanding the inmates, “in the name of the
law,” and at the point of his revolver, to come outside and line up “for
inspection.” He had no designs upon their possessions, but was simply
indulging his love for display and authority. When his employer took his
putative weapon away from him again, he wept like a child of six. His
grief, however, was short lived, for when the President called at the
home of the officer on New Year’s afternoon, he found the butler so
dressed up that he inadvertently shook hands with him as one of the
guests.

Abuse of authority is a fixed fault in the Haitian character, as with
most negroes. Of the several reasons why there are only two or three
native lieutenants in the gendarmerie, lack of intelligence and
dishonesty are less conspicuous than the inability to wield authority
lightly. The Haitians of the masses have only three forms of recreation,
dances, cock-fights, and voodooism. They have not even risen to the
level of the “movies,” for though there are two cinemas in the capital
and one in Cap Haïtien, these are too “high brow” for any but the upper
class. Of pretty native customs we found only one—that of hanging up
little colored-paper churches with candles inside them at
Christmas-time. The Haitians are inveterate gamblers, which is only
another way of saying that they abhor work. As the negro admires the
successful and dominant, so he has supreme contempt for the broken and
discredited. The Germans who once ruled the commercial roost in Haiti
and who were interned after our entry into the war would find no
advantage in returning, even if they were permitted to, for they have
lost for life the respect of the natives by allowing themselves to be
arrested. The profiteering Syrians who have largely inherited their
control of commerce have far more standing to-day despite their slippery
methods.

Between the primitive bulk of the population and the slight minority of
educated citizens, mainly “people of color,” there is a wide gulf. Haiti
has no middle class, not even a skilled labor class. Those who have
ambition or wealth enough to go in for “higher education” will have
nothing to do with anything even suggestive of manual labor. The ability
to read, write, and speak French automatically brings with it a contempt
for work and workers. As in all Latin America, an agricultural school is
worse than useless, because it serves only to spoil what might have been
good foremen, and the mere possession of a scrap of paper announcing the
holder a graduate of such an institution is prima-facie evidence that he
intends to loaf in the shade all the rest of his days. The result is
that the population is made up of poverty-stricken, incredibly ignorant
laborers and peasants, and of lawyers, “doctors” of this and that, and
the political-military class which tyrannizes and fattens on the African
masses.

Superficially, the educated class of Haiti is pleasant to meet, though
the first impression seldom lasts. It has all the outward manners of the
French, with none of their solid basis. In discussions of literature and
art these “_gens de couleur_” could give the average American business
man cards and spades; in actually doing or producing something worth
while they are completely out of their depth. Once in a blue moon one
runs across a full-blooded negro who shows outcroppings of genius. We
were invited to meet such a one at the home of a “high yellow” senator
on New Year’s eve, a pianist who had studied in Paris. I had been told
that there were several fine musicians in Haiti, but, in the light of
other experiences, had inwardly scoffed at the idea. It required but
very little time to be convinced that here at least was one. The man not
only played the best classics in a manner that would have been applauded
in the highest class of concert halls, but gave several pieces of his
own composition which could hold their place in any program. He had
played a few times in the United States, but the drawback of color had
proved insurmountable, and as there is naturally no income to be derived
from such a source in Haiti, Ludovic Lamothe now holds a minor clerkship
in the ministry of agriculture! When he had finished, the senator
himself sat down at the piano and gave an exhibition which, I have no
hesitancy in asserting, could scarcely have been duplicated by any
member of our own upper house, and one which reminded us by contrast of
the uproarious rag-time that was even at that moment reigning along
Broadway. Yet it was such men as these that our marines once evicted
from the Haitian senate with, “Come on, you niggers, get out of here!”
Even the Southerner who had been induced to come with us, and whose
muscles seemed to tense with inward horror as our host greeted him with
a handshake and introduced him to the pianist, gradually shrank down
into his chair in unconscious acknowledgment of his own ignorance of the
higher things of life as compared with these cultured “niggers.”

We met a few other men of this type at the yearly “Haitian ball” in the
chief native club, which American civilians attend, to the unbounded
disgust of the forces of occupation. Yet the primitive African now and
then showed itself in the whitest of them. Those who know them well say
that even Haiti’s élite, educated in Europe or the United States, are
apt to forget their Christian faith when troubles assail them and go to
a “Papa Loi” for a _wanga_, or charm, and pay for a voodoo ceremony. In
Paris lives a certain Mme. Thebes, in high repute among those who
believe in sorcery and prophecy. If the stories which gradually leak out
from the confidences of returning natives to their friends are
trustworthy, she tells all Haitians that they are some day to become
president of their country, not a bad guess under old conditions, though
the supernatural madame does not seem to have kept up with the times.
More than one revolution has been started on the strength of her
prophecies. Some of these upper-class “people of color” are descendants
of the same families who fled to Philadelphia and New Orleans at the
time of the slave revolt. The members who remained behind were or have
since become intermixed with the blacks. At least one American connected
with the forces of occupation was introduced at a presidential reception
to a colored family of the same name, which turned out to be relatives.
As the American chanced to be a Southerner, it is easy to imagine
whether the discovery brought joy and mutual social calls.

Stories of human sacrifices, cannibalism, and occult poisonings are
always going the rounds in Haiti, though it is difficult to find any one
of unquestioned integrity who has actually seen such things himself. I
met two gendarme officers who asserted they had found the feet of a
black baby sticking out of a boiling pot, and there are numbers of
well-balanced Americans in Haiti who are firmly convinced that all three
of the crimes above mentioned are practised. Certainly many of the
natives look hungry enough to eat their own children. The body of a
marine was once found in a condition to bear out the charge of
cannibalism, but it has never been proved that this was not the work of
hogs or dogs. Most frequent of all, say the believers, are the cases of
blood-sucking, the victims being preferably virgins. Not long before our
occupation a baby in the best district of Port au Prince died for loss
of blood, which an old neighbor later confessed to having inflicted
while the mother was out of the room. The daughter of a former minister
is said to have been similarly treated by her grandmother and a
prominent man. The rite over, they pronounced her dead, and she was
buried with much pomp, the grandmother, according to the story,
replacing with coffee the embalming fluid that was poured down her
throat. Five years later a rumor of her existence having reached a
priest through the confessional, what is believed to be the same girl
was discovered in a hill town. She was wild, unkempt, demented, and had
borne three children. The coffin was dug up, and in it was found her
wedding dress,—for though she was only eight or nine at the time, it is
the custom in Haiti to bury young girls in such garments,—but the
autopsy proved the remains to be those of a man, the legs cut off and
laid alongside the body. That there are Haitian Obeah practitioners who
have so remarkable a knowledge of vegetable poisons that they can
destroy their enemies or those of their clients without being detected
seems to be generally admitted. Some of these poisons are said to be so
subtle that the victims live for years, dying slowly as from some
wasting disease, or going insane, deaf, blind, or dumb, with the
civilized medical profession helpless to relieve them. Men of undoubted
judgment and integrity, some of them Americans, claim to have positive
proof of such cases.

The less gruesome forms of Obeah and voodooism are known to be practised
in Haiti. The former is a species of witchcraft by men and women who are
supposed to possess supernatural powers, and who certainly have far
greater sway over the masses of the people than priests or presidents.
For a small sum they will undertake to help in business matters, to
create love in unresponsive breasts, possibly to put an enemy out of the
way, and some of the “stunts” they perform are beyond comprehension.
Voodooism, unlike the other, is a form of religion, the deity being an
imaginary “great green serpent,” with a high priest known as “Papa Loi”
and a priestess called “Maman Loi.” Chicken snakes and a harmless python
are kept as sacred beings in Haiti, and fed by the faithful. In theory
the serpent deity demands sacrifices of a “goat without horns”; in other
words, a child, preferably white. But there is no positive evidence to
prove that anything more than goats, sheep, or roosters are actually
sacrificed. These simpler rites are carried on almost openly, and are
accompanied by all sorts of childish incantations, with such nonsensical
fetishes as red rags, dried snakes and lizards, human bones, or portions
of human organs, stolen perhaps from graveyards. The most frequent form
of revenge among the Haitian masses is the burying of a bottle filled
with “charms” of this nature, over which are recited various
incantations at certain phases of the moon, in the hope of bringing
destruction or lesser punishment on the object of the enmity. So firm is
the belief of the negroes in the power of Obeah that they sometimes
succumb to fear and die merely because some one has cast such a spell
upon them. A French priest who was traveling through the country called
at a cabin one night to ask the occupant to show him the way. The man
refused, whereupon the priest, being denied the customary form of
expressing displeasure, began to recite a quotation from Ovid. To his
surprise the native dashed out of his hut, fell at his feet, and offered
to do anything he demanded, if only he would not “put Obeah” on him.
Perhaps the most serious result of these practices is the appalling
number of children who die under the ministrations of voodoo “doctors.”

A group of Americans once offered to pay for a voodoo supper if they
were allowed to attend it. White men are seldom admitted to the native
ceremonies; some have suffered for their intrusion. In this case there
was the added fear that the officials who saw the rites would forbid
them thereafter; but a Frenchman finally persuaded the natives that it
would be to their advantage to let the Americans see one of their
festivities in order to prove that they were harmless. How much was left
out because of the guests there is of course no means of knowing.

About seventy dollars was spent for corn-meal, _tafia_ (crude native
rum), sacrifices, and other things required, and to pay the chief
performers their fees. The temple was decorated with flags and various
fetishes. The ceremony began with a tomtom dance by the priests, who
were soon joined by the high priestess, wearing a white skirt, a red
waist, and a brilliant bandana, and waving spangled flags. Then a goat,
scrubbed to spotless white, its horns gilded, and a red bow on its head,
was brought in. The priestess danced about it with a snaky motion,
holding her shoulders stiffly and giving her waist the maximum of
movement. Then she got astride the goat and rode round and round,
clinging to its horns. Every few minutes the priests gave her _tafia_
until she had worked herself into a real or feigned paroxysm of
excitement. To say that she was intoxicated would perhaps be putting it
too strongly, for the average Haitian is so soaked in rum from birth
that it has little visible effect upon him.

At length a priest caught up a handful of corn-meal and, with what
appeared to be two careless gestures, formed a perfect cross with it on
the ground. Candles were placed at the ends of the cross, then _tafia_
and other liquors were poured along the lines of corn-meal, the
priestess meanwhile continuing to ride the goat with hideous
contortions. Finally she dismounted, slipped off the white skirt,
leaving her entirely clothed in red, and while a priest held the goat by
the front feet she pierced a vein in its neck and drank all the blood
she could contain. For a time she seemed to be in a stupor; then she
began to “prophesy” in loathsome, incomprehensible noises, which a
priest “translated,” probably in terms of his own choosing. While this
pair howled, the goat was prepared and put in caldrons to cook, with
rice, beans, _tafia_, salt, pepper, and lard. Old women stirred the
contents of these with their bare hands, which had been bleached almost
white by frequent emersions in similar boiling messes. When the food was
cooked, the priestess came suddenly out of her trance and fell to with
all the negroes present, who were still sitting about in a circle eating
sacred goat meat and drinking _tafia_ when the white spectators finally
left.

“The only thing wrong with the Haitians is lack of education,” says a
recent investigator, which can scarcely be doubted, since it is true of
all mankind. By some oversight, perhaps, no mention of schools and
courts was made in the treaty under which we are administering the
country. The French maintained no schools for the negroes, and it goes
without saying that conditions scarcely improved during the century and
a quarter of independence. An American superintendent, who is quite
properly a Catholic and of Louisiana creole stock, has been appointed,
and is in theory directly responsible to the native minister of public
instruction. But the higher American civilian officials, clinging
perhaps too closely to the letter of the treaty, have not seen fit to
assign any great amount of the public revenues of Haiti to this purpose.
There are thirteen hundred teachers in the country, probably the
majority of whom are in no way qualified for their task, and of the
fifty thousand pupils enrolled barely one in three is in regular
attendance. In other words, not ten per cent. of the children of school
age get even primary instruction, and less than one per cent. ever reach
the secondary schools. The law school in Port au Prince, with thirty
students, is reported to be efficient; the medical school is frankly a
farce. Teaching methods are in all but a few cases primitive, consisting
of little more than monologues by the “teacher,” to which the pupils
listen only when nothing else occupies their attention. A thorough
reform in this matter is essential to the task we have undertaken in
Haiti, unless we subscribe as a nation to the old Southern attitude that
the negro is better off without education. The present generation is
hopeless in this as in many other regards; it remains to be seen whether
we will and can lift the next out of the primitive savagery which at
present reigns.

The popular language of Haiti bears no very close resemblance to the
tongue from which it is largely descended. The slaves came from
different parts of Africa, in some cases belonging to enemy tribes, and
“creole” is the natural evolution of their desire to talk with one
another. The resultant dialect has French as a basis, but it is so
abbreviated, condensed, and simplified, and includes so many African
words, that it has become almost a new language. It is quite distinct
from the patois of Canada and even of the French West Indies, though
there are points of resemblance. It has not even the inflection of real
French, and only now and then does one knowing that language catch an
intelligible word. Haitian voices have a softness equal to those of our
Southern darkies, and are in marked contrast to the rasping tones of
Cuba. It is a local form of politeness to use a squeaky falsetto in
greetings, and women of the masses curtsy to one another when they shake
hands, probably a survival from slave days originally adopted as a sign
of their equality to their expelled mistresses. Gender, number, case,
modes, tenses, and articles have almost completely disappeared. As a
rule, only the feminine form of adjectives has survived. Plurality is
indicated, when it is necessary, by a participle. Many words have been
abbreviated almost out of recognition. _Plaît-il?_ has become “Aiti?”
The Dominicans over the border are called “Pagno.” The word _bagaille_,
probably a corruption of _bagage_, means almost anything; servants told
to “pick up” that _bagaille_ grasp whatever is nearest at hand; _bon
bagaille_ and _pas bon bagaille_ are the usual forms of good and bad.
“Who” has grown to be “Qui monde ça?” Many words have changed their
meanings entirely; the urchin who approaches you rubbing his stomach and
mumbling “grand gout,” wishes to impress upon you the very probable fact
that he has “large hunger.” On the whole, it is probably an advantage,
in learning Haitian “creole,” not to know real French.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The automobile in which we took our final leave of Port au Prince plowed
its way for several miles along the thronged highway across the
Cul-de-Sac plain, then turned west through an endless semi-desert
bristling with thorny _aroma_. A dead negro lying a few yards from the
road on the bare ground awakened no surprise from our native chauffeur
or the gendarme in plain clothes beside him. There were no vultures
flying about the body. Those natural scavengers were once introduced
into Haiti, but the natives killed and ate them. Soon we came out on the
edge of the sea, along the foot of those same cliffs we had seen while
rolling in the doldrums on the Haitian navy three weeks before. What had
then seemed a sheer mountain wall was in reality a flat narrow plain
backed by sloping hills. Naked black fishermen were plying their trade
thigh-deep in the blue water. Gonave island and the southern peninsula
were almost golden brown under the early sun. For a long time the thorny
desert continued, for southern Haiti had for months been suffering from
drought. There were several ruins of ox-and-kettle sugar-mills, here and
there evidences of former plantation houses; miserable native huts
leaning drunkenly against their broken walls. Once we passed a massive
old stone aqueduct. The parched and sun-burned landscape was now and
then broken by green oases of villages. A little railroad followed us
all the way to St. Marc, but there was no sign of trains. The town was
carpeted in dust, a ruined stone church towered above the low houses, a
dust-and-stone-paved central square had a grandstand and a fountain
screaming in the national colors. Down on the edge of the deep bay
crooked, reddish logwood dragged in by donkeys was being weighed on
large crude wooden scales. This chief product of the region to-day lay
in heaps along the dusty road beyond. Cannon bearing the Napoleonic
device and date, left by the ill-starred expeditionary force under
Leclerc, served as corner-posts of the bridges. The dense green of
mango-trees contrasted with the dry mountain-walled plain; nowhere was
there a sprig of grass, seldom a sign of water. _Pitimi_ grew rather
abundantly, however, and there was some cotton. About the mouth of the
Artibonite, sometimes called the “Haitian Nile,” was a spreading delta
of greenery. Miserable thatched huts of mud plastered on reeds were
numerous, yet blended so into the dull, dry landscape as scarcely to
draw the attention. Negroes carrying huge loads of reed mats now and
then jogged past in the hot dust; everywhere was what a native writer
calls “l’aridité désolante de la campagne.” Yet though the drought
occasionally flagellates portions of it, there is scarcely a spot in
Haiti which would not produce abundantly under anything like proper
cultivation.

Arid hills, with parched, purple-brown scrub forests, shut in the town
of Dessalines, with its pathetic little forts that were long ago
designed to protect the general of the same name. A small, dust-covered,
baking-hot town well back from the sea in a kind of bay of the plain, it
was indeed a negro capital. Farther on the dust and aridity largely
disappeared. There was considerable cotton showing signs of languid
cultivation, some fields were being hoed, others irrigated, as we snaked
in and out along the wrinkled skirts of the rocky range on the right.
Crippled beggars lined the way even here; in fact, there is a suggestion
of India in the numbers of diseased mendicants squatting beside the
dusty, sunny roads of Haiti. Women and children were bathing in brackish
streams. Then it grew arid again, and we found Gonaïves, more than a
hundred miles from the capital, in a very dry setting on the edge of a
smaller bay. It claims twenty-five thousand inhabitants, some of whom
live in moderate comfort. As in Port au Prince, one was assailed on all
sides by the modern Haitian motto, “Gimme fi’ cents,” which is really
not so serious a demand as it sounds, since it only means five centimes.
It was in Gonaïves that independence was declared in 1804, and from here
Toussaint l’Ouverture was sent to France in chains. The town is engaged
chiefly in commerce. From it we turned back north by east into the
country. A pathetic little railroad again began to follow us. The first
few miles over a range of foot-hills were burned as dry as all the
southern slope; then, as we climbed higher, it grew rapidly greener, the
dust disappeared, we forded several small rivers many times, and were
completely shut in by fresh and verdant vegetation before we reached
Ennery.

This is a stony, sleepy little hamlet among the mountains, famed in
Haitian history as the place where Toussaint was living when the French
general Brunet wrote him, asking for an interview, at which he was
traitorously arrested and sent to end his days in a French dungeon.
There we left the road to Cap Haïtien and, still fording, rising
constantly over long humps of ground, always turning, gradually gained
coffee-growing elevation. A fine new road, passing one large marine
camp, carried us higher still, until green mountains stood all about us,
the air grew pleasant as that of our Northern spring-time, and at length
we found ourselves among pine-trees. Just after sundown, in the soft
gray-blue evening of the temperate tropics, we sighted the little white
church of St. Michel, beyond which we spun across a floor-level plateau
a little farther to the residence of an American estate manager. To say
that we had covered a hundred and fifty miles comfortably, with one
short and one long stop, between daylight and dark gives some idea of
what American occupation has done for Haitian roads.

The great plains, fourteen hundred feet high, were flooded with
moonlight all through the night, in which I several times awoke
shivering for all my heavy blankets. By day the sea-flat plateau proved
to be covered with brown grass beneath which was the blackest of loamy
soil. Gasolene tractors were turning this up, working by night as well
as by day, and operated by Haitians who had been trained on the spot
under American overseers. It was virgin soil, for this region was
Spanish territory in the time of the French and had been used only as
grazing land. The new company would soon have hundreds of acres planted
in cotton, with other crops to follow. Such enterprises, multiplied many
fold, are among the most immediate needs of Haiti.

Colonel W—— of the Marine Corps and Major General W——, Chef de la
Gendarmérie d’Haiti, who are one and the same person, set out that
afternoon on an inspection trip through the heart of Haiti, and invited
me to go along. The region being _caco_-infested and a “restricted
district” in which white women were not allowed to travel, Rachel was to
continue by automobile on the well-guarded highway to Cap Haïtien. The
colonel and I left the plantation by car also, skimming for more than an
hour across the wonderful grassy plain without any need of a road.
Groups of horses were grazing here and there, but there were no cattle.
Occasionally we met a lone gendarme plodding along in the shoes to which
he was still far from accustomed. An unfinished road carried us on from
where the plain began to break up into rolling country, with clusters of
trees in the hollows. Now and then the colonel brought down one of the
deep-blue wild pigeons which flew frequently past, but the flocks of
wild guineas usually found in this region had evidently been warned of
his marksmanship. Four-footed game does not exist in Haiti, and even its
harmless reptiles are rare; Noah evidently did not touch the West
Indies. Gradually the forest appeared, growing thicker and thicker,
until we were inclosed in tunnels of vegetation, fording many small
rivers. Suddenly a great hubbub ahead caused us to make sure that our
rifles were in readiness, but it was only a cock-fight in the woods, the
men standing, the women seated on little home-made chairs outside the
male circle about the ring, made of barrel staves driven upright into
the ground. In the next mile we passed a dozen black men, each with a
rooster under one arm, hurrying to the scene of conflict.

At the town of Maissade we halted at a marine camp on a hill overlooking
the surrounding country, and commanded by Captain Becker, a famous
hunter of _cacos_. His tent was almost filled with captured war
material: rifles of every kind in use a century ago corded like so much
stove-wood; revolvers and pistols enough to stock a museum devoted to
the history and development of that arm; French swords dating back to
the seventeenth century; rapiers such as flash through Dumas’s stories;
heaps of rusted machetes, battered bugles, bamboo musical instruments,
and hollow-log tomtoms from voodoo temples; drums abandoned by Leclerc;
ragged pieces of uniform decorated with ribbons; dozens of hats and caps
of “generals,” of felt, cloth, and straw, all more or less ragged, and
all bearing such signs of rank as might be adopted by small boy
warriors. Then there were beads and charms, Obeah vials found on the
bodies of dead _cacos_, mysterious articles of unknown purpose and
origin. The captain dissected one of the charms. It consisted of a
bullet wrapped in a dirty bit of paper on which were scrawled a few
strange characters, the dried foot of a lizard, and what was apparently
a powdered insect, all inclosed in a brass cartridge-shell, with a
string attached to it long enough to go around the neck of the original
owner, whom it was supposed to protect against bullets. The captain had
shot him a few days before, and as he fell he cried out in “creole,” “O
Mama, they’ve got me!” then died cursing the Obeah man for making an
imperfect charm. Some of the _cacos_ in the region had recently
surrendered, and had been made “division commanders,” with the duty of
helping to hunt down their former comrades. One of them had showed the
marine who shot him the bullet which he had dug out of his flesh with a
machete, and now followed him everywhere like a faithful dog.

In the town itself the gendarme detachment was in command of a native
lieutenant who was rated an excellent officer, but he had barely a touch
of negro blood. Beyond was a road of boulevard width along which we spun
at thirty-five miles an hour. Wild pigeons, parrots, and negroes far
less ragged than those of Port au Prince enlivened the striking scenery,
and at sunset we drew up before the gendarmerie of Hinche, the
birthplace of the departed Charlemagne. There was something amusingly
anachronistic in the sight of half a hundred marines playing baseball
and basketball on the plain about their camp at the edge of town, for
Hinche itself had little in common with such scenes.

All Haitian towns have a close family resemblance. There is always a
big, brown, bare, dusty central _place_, with a tiny bandstand with
steps painted in the national colors and surmounted by a single royal
palm-tree, called the “_patrie_.” From this radiate wide, right-angled
dirt streets lined by low houses, some of plastered mud, a few
whitewashed, many of split palm trunks, most of them of _tache_, nearly
all with earth floors, all except the few covered with corrugated iron
in the center of town being roofed with thatch. Some have narrow
sapling-pillared porches paved with little cobblestones, these sometimes
also whitewashed; and where houses are missing are broken hedges of
organ cactus on which hang drying rags of clothing. Facing the _place_
is a more or less ruined church, farther off a large open market-place,
with perhaps a few ragged thatch-roof shelters from the sun. Then there
is sure to be a spick-and-span gendarmerie, with large numbers of docile
prisoners and proud black gendarmes, perhaps a group of marines, or at
any rate of their native prototypes, here and there stalking through the
dusty streets, ignoring the respectful greetings of the teeming black
populace squatted in their doorways or on their dirt floors. Little
fagot fires on the ground behind or beside the huts, a well-worn path
down to the river, and an indefinable scent of the tropics and black
humanity living in primitive conditions complete the picture. Men who
have seen both assert that a Congo village is a paradise compared with a
Haitian hamlet.

The curate came over to smoke a cigarette and drink a sip of rum with us
after supper. He was a large, powerful Frenchman from Brittany, of
remarkably fine features, sparkling blue eyes, and no recent hair-cut or
shave, dressed in an ecclesiastical bonnet and enormous “congress” shoes
run down at heel, and the long black gown which seems so out of place,
yet is really very convenient, in the tropics. For twelve years he had
shepherded Hinche and the neighboring region, being much of the time the
only white man in it. He expected to complete twenty-five years’
residence, then go home in retirement. He traveled freely everywhere
within his district, _caco_ sentinels and the bands themselves hiding
when he passed rather than molest him. Cannibalism was certainly
practised to this day, in his opinion, especially among the hills, where
there were many negroes older than he who had never come to town. There
was less superstition in this district, he asserted, because the people
came somewhat under the more civilized Dominican influence. While we
talked, two former _cacos_, now “division chiefs,” came in to report to
the efficient young American gendarme commander, simple old souls with
childlike eyes and Napoleon III beards whom one would scarcely have
suspected of harming a chicken. The day before two native women had
brought in a _caco_ whom they had cudgeled into submission, and that
afternoon an old man, unarmed, had presented the commander with another,
leading him by a rope around the neck.

In these circumstances we set out on horseback next morning in no great
fear of the bandits, though we kept our rifles and revolvers handy. With
us went a curious dwarf who lived in the next town and who had attached
himself to the Americans like a stray mastiff, which he closely
resembled in expression and in his devotion to them. He was of full size
from the waist upward, but his legs were scarcely a foot long, and his
bare feet hardly reached to the edges of the saddle in which he sat,
once he had been placed there, with all the assurance of a cow-boy of
the plains. Then there was “Jim,” looking like the advance agent of a
minstrel show. “Jim” was a descendant of American negroes, his
grandparents having come from Philadelphia to Samaná, Santo Domingo,
where a number of black colonists from our northern states settled at
the invitation of the Haitians when they ruled the whole island. He
spoke a fluent English, with a mixture of Southern and foreign accent,
as well as “creole” and Spanish, and having served the colonel as
interpreter years before during the marine advance from Monte Cristi to
Santiago, had come to Haiti to join him again when he took charge of the
gendarmerie. He had been assigned to plain-clothes duty, but “Jim’s”
conception of that phrase did not include the adjective, and he had set
forth on what promised to be anything but a dressy expedition in a garb
well suited for a presidential reception. This was already beginning to
show the effects of scrambling through the underbrush in quest of the
wild pigeons which had fallen before the colonel’s shotgun.

The mayor of Hinche, a first cousin of Charlemagne, saw us off in
person, holding the colonel’s stirrup and bidding him farewell with
bared head. We forded the Guayamoc River and wound away through
foot-hills that soon gave way to a brown, level savanna which two years
before had been covered with cattle, now wholly disappeared. Once we
climbed over a large hill of oyster-shells, which geologists would no
doubt recognise as proof that the region was formerly under the sea; but
the French colonists of long ago were probably as fond of oysters as are
their fellow-countrymen to-day, and it is worthy of note that these were
all half-shells. We passed one small village in a hollow, with a mud hut
full of gendarmes; the rest of the morning the dry and arid, yet lightly
wooded, country was almost wholly uninhabited. For long spaces the
scornful cries of black crows were the only sounds except the constant
switching required to keep our thin Haitian horses and mules on the
move.

Thomasique, where we halted for lunch at the mud-hut gendarmerie, was a
dismal little hamlet of lopsided thatched hovels. The commander of the
district had found a new use for captured _caco_ rifles, using the
barrels as gratings for his outdoor cooking-place. The _juge de paix_,
the magistrate, and the richest man of the town, ranging in color from
quadroon to _griffe_, called to pay their respects to the general,
frankly admitting by their attitude that the young American lieutenant
of gendarmes was their superior officer. Under his guidance the revenues
of Thomasique had increased five fold in a single month. It was evident
from the manner of the judge that he had something on his chest, and at
length he unburdened himself. The Government, it seemed, had not paid
him his salary—of one dollar a month—for more than half a year, and he
respectfully petitioned the general to take the matter up with the
president upon his return to Port au Prince. There was probably a
connection between his lack of funds and the auditing of the village
accounts by the lieutenant.

The country was more broken beyond. Pine-trees of moderate size grew
beside girlishly slender little palms with fan-shaped leaves. A high
bank of blue gravel along a dry river-bed would probably have attracted
the attention of a miner or a geologist. In detail the country was not
pretty; in the mass it was vastly so. Brown, reddish, and green hills
were heaped up on every hand; the play of colors across them, changing
at every hour from dawn through blazing noonday into dusk and finally
moonlight, made up for the monotony of the near-by landscape. There were
almost no signs of humanity, the silence was sometimes complete, though
here and there we passed the evidences of former gardens in dry
_arroyos_. Toward sunset we burst suddenly out among banana-groves,
starting up a great flock of wild guineas, and at dark rode into Cerca
la Source, a more than usually whitewashed little town nestled among
real mountains. It was Sunday, and the great weekly cock-fight having
just ended at the barrel-stave pit in a corner of the immense open
_place_, the hubbub of settling bets had not yet subsided, and for a
half hour afterward scores of negroes with pretty game-cocks under their
arms wandered about in the moonlight shouting merry challenges to one
another for the ensuing Sabbath.

Beyond Cerca la Source a steep mountain trail climbs for hours through
the stillness of pine-forests where birds, except the cawing crows, are
rare and almost no human habitations break the vista of tumbled world
over which even the native horses make their way with difficulty. A
telephone wire known among the marines as the “beer-bottle line,” those
being the only insulators to be had when it was constructed by our
forces of occupation, is the one dependable guide through the region.
Four hours brought us to a score of sorry huts in a little hollow known
as La Miel. Even that had its hilltop gendarmerie and prison, commanded
by a native sergeant, who had his force drawn up for inspection when we
arrived, though he had no warning of the colonel’s approach or any other
proof of his official character other than the blouseless uniform he
wore. A white rascal owning a marine uniform could play strange tricks
in Haiti. Even here there was a big French bell of long ago supported by
poles at some distance from the broken-backed church, and Spanish
influence of the Dominicans beyond the now not very distant border
showed itself in such slight matters as the use of “_yo_” for “_ge_” and
“_buen_” instead of “_bon_.” There followed a not very fertile region,
with more pine-trees and long, brown, tough grass, with only here and
there a _conuco_, shut in by the slanted pole fences native to Santo
Domingo, planted with weed-grown _pois Congo_, _manioc_, and tropical
tubers. In mid-afternoon, where the vegetation grew more dense, it began
to rain, as we had been warned it would here before our departure from
Port au Prince. The first sprinkle increased to a steady downpour by
what would probably have been sunset, the trail became toboggans of red
mud down which our weary animals skated for long distances, or sloughs
so deep and slopes so steep that we were forced to dismount and wade, or
climb almost on all fours. Dripping coffee-bushes under higher trees
sometimes lined the way, the best information we got from any of the
rare passers-by was that our destination was a “little big distance”
away. That it remained until we finally slipped and sprawled our way
into it.

It rains the year round in the dismal mountain village where we spent
the night, until the thatched mud houses are smeared with a reeking
slime, and the earth floors are like newly plowed garden patches in the
early spring. The place was more than three thousand feet above the sea,
and the cold seemed to penetrate to the very marrow even within doors.
It was ruled with an iron hand by an “old-timer” who had been so long a
sergeant in the Marine Corps that he had come to divide all the world
into exact gradations of rank. My companion he unfailingly addressed as
“the General,” never by the familiar pronoun “you,” and he took personal
charge of everything pertaining to his comfort, even to removing his wet
garments and extracting the bones from his chosen portions of chicken.
Nothing would induce him to eat before the general had finished or to
sit down in his presence. Myself he treated almost as an equal, or as he
might have another sergeant who slightly outranked him in length of
service, with now and then a hint of scorn at my merely civilian
standing. He was probably as small a man as ever broke into our military
service, yet the stentorian voice in which he invariably gave his
commands to the great hulking negro who served as cook in the
unsheltered “kitchen” outside and as general factotum about the hut
never failed to cause that person to prance with fear. The natives he
addressed in the same tone, and the whole town seemed to spring to
attention when he opened the door and bawled out into the night for the
mayor to “Report here on the double quick.” How the Haitians managed to
understand his English was a mystery, but they lost no time in obeying
every order. After the general had retired, the lieutenant, for such was
his rank in the gendarmerie, confided to me that he had several books on
“creole” and was preparing to learn it. As I had been on the lookout for
something of the kind since my arrival in Haiti, hitherto in vain, I
expressed a desire to see them. The lieutenant cast aside a soaked
tarpaulin and handed me half a dozen French grammars such as are used in
our own schools.

The colonel’s clothing was dry and newly pressed when we set out again
next morning, though my own was still dripping. “Jim’s” plain clothes
were by this time worthy a still more commonplace adjective, for in
addition to the mishaps of the trail, he had spent the night in them on
the bare earth floor of the gendarme barracks. There came a few more red
mud toboggans, then we came out on a vista of half northern Haiti, to
which we descended by a rock trail worn horseback deep in the
mountain-side and so steep that even “Jim” for once deigned to dismount.
The rain ceased a few hundred feet down, though the sky remained dull
and overcast, in striking contrast to the speckless blue heavens of
southern Haiti, for the seasons are reversed in the two parts of the
country. A few hours’ jog across another savanna of denser vegetation
than the plateau of St. Michel brought us to the considerable town of
Ouanaminthe, on the Dominican border, where an automobile bore us away
to the west. The great Plaine du Nord, once completely covered with
sugar-cane and dotted with French plantation houses and mills, was now a
wilderness teeming with blue-legged wild guineas, here and there some
bush-grown stone ruins, through which a mud road and a single telephone
wire forced their way. We passed the populous towns of Terrier Rouge and
Le Trou, famed for their _caco_ sympathies, and Limonade, in the
grass-grown old church of which Christophe, Emperor of northern Haiti,
was once stricken with apoplexy, and brought up in the mud and darkness
at Cap Haïtien.

[Illustration: A corner of Christophe’s Citadel. Its situation is such
that it could only be well photographed from an airplane]

[Illustration: The ruins of Christophe’s palace of Sans Souci]

[Illustration: The mayor, the judge, and the richest man of a Haitian
town in the bush]

[Illustration: Cockfighting is a favorite Haitian sport]

Meanwhile Rachel had reached “the Cape,” as it is familiarly called, by
the usual route. Leaving Ennery, this had begun at once to climb the
mountain Puilboreau, winding in and out along its wrinkled face. The
vegetation was rather monotonous, with a yellowish tinge to the several
shades of green, now and then an orange cactus blossom, a purple morning
glory, a pink vine, or the old-gold bark of a tree adding a touch of
color. The view back down the valley, with its tiny specks of houses,
remained unbroken until they reached the summit three thousand feet
above the sea at Bakersville, so called for the marine who had charge of
this difficult bit of road building, when there burst forth as
far-reaching a scene to the north. The Plaisance Valley lay under the
heavy gray veil of a rain-cloud, the harbor of Cap Haïtien visible far
below, and far off on the horizon was the faint line of what seemed to
be Tortuga, chief of Haiti’s “possessions” and once the favorite
residence of buccaneers. The change of landscape was abrupt; heavy,
dense green vegetation smelling of moisture surrounding the travelers on
every hand as they wound down the mountain-side by a mud-coated highway,
passing here and there gangs of road laborers. This northern slope was
more thickly inhabited, thatched huts conspicuous by their damp brown
against the greenery occasionally clustering together into villages in
which some of the mud walls were whitewashed or painted. Market-women
bound for “the Cape,” men grubbing in the fields, women paddling
clothes—sometimes those in which they should have been dressed—in the
streams, all gave evidence of the slighter dread of _cacos_ on this
northern slope. Then came another climb and a descent into the valley of
the Limbé, some miles along which brought them to the village of the
same name and to the greatest difficulty to the automobilist in Haiti.

The fording of the Limbé is certain to be the chief topic of
conversation between those who have traveled from Port au Prince to Cap
Haïtien. At times it is impassable, and has been known to delay
travelers for a week. This time men and women were crossing with bundles
on their heads and the water barely up to their armpits. A gang of
prisoners was brought from the village gendarmerie, the vitals of the
car removed and sent across on their heads, then with the passengers
sitting on the back of the back seat, the baggage in their laps, the
reunited gang, amid continual shrieks of “_Poussez!_” and an excited
jabbering of “creole,” eventually dragged and pushed the dismantled
automobile to the opposite shore. An hour and a half passed between the
time it halted on one bank and started out again from the other, which
was close to a record for the crossing. From there on the wide, but
muddy, road, now thronged with people returning from market with their
purchases or empty baskets, passed many ruins of old plantations, and
the crumbling stone and plaster gate-posts which once flanked the only
entrances to them.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Cap Haïtien, the second city of Haiti, sometimes called the “capital of
the North,” is situated on a large open bay in which the winds
frequently play havoc. On its outer reef the flagship of Columbus came
to grief on Christmas eve, 1492, and the discoverer spent Christmas as
the guest of the Indian chief who then ruled the district. The wreckage
of the _Santa Maria_ was brought ashore near the present fisher village
of Petit Anse, and here was erected the first European fort in the New
World. In the days of Haiti’s prosperity Cap Haïtien was known as the
“Paris of America” and rivaled in wealth and culture any other city in
the western hemisphere. Then it had an imposing cathedral, several
squares and _places_ decorated with fountains and statuary, and was
noted for its fine residences and urbane society. Old stone ruins still
stretch clear out to the lighthouse on a distant point. Destroyed by the
revolting blacks, by Christophe in his wars against Pétion, by an
earthquake or two, and by more than a century of neglect and tropical
decay, it retains little evidence of its former grandeur. Some of its
wide streets, however, are still stone-paved, and bear names which carry
the imagination back to medieval France. A few of its citizens live in
moderate comfort; the overwhelming majority are content to loll out
their days in uncouth hovels. It is so populous that it supports a
cinema, and some of its business houses are moderately up to date and
prosperous, though these are in most cases owned by foreigners. The
acrid smell of raw coffee everywhere assails the nostrils; coffee spread
out on canvas or on the cement pavement of one of its few remaining
squares is constantly being turned over with wooden shovels by
barefooted negroes who think nothing of wading through it; here and
there one passes a warehouse in which chattering old women sit
thigh-deep in coffee, clawing over the berries with their fleshless
black talons. Its market-place is large and presents the usual chaos of
wares and hubbub of bargaining; its blue vaulted cathedral easily proves
its antiquity, and American marines are everywhere in evidence. On the
whole, its populace is somewhat less ragged than that of Port au Prince,
but whatever it lacks in picturesqueness is made up for by the view of
its surrounding mountains crowned by the great Citadel of Christophe.

Election day came during our stay at “the Cape.” In olden times such an
event was worth coming far to see, provided one could keep out of the
frequent mêlées accompanying it. Under the Americans it is tame in the
extreme. To obviate the necessity of counting more votes than there are
inhabitants, the marines have introduced a plan charming in its
simplicity. As he casts his ballot, each voter is required to dip the
end of his right forefinger in a solution of nitrate of silver. The nail
of course turns black, for the finger-nails even of a negro are
ordinarily light colored,—and remains so until election day is over. Far
be it from me to suggest that such a scheme might be adopted to
advantage in our own country. A few district commanders, to make doubly
sure, use iodine. The rank and file accept this formality as cheerfully
as they do every other incomprehensible requirement of their new white
rulers, most of them making the sign of the cross with the wet finger.
But the haughty “_gens de couleur_” are apt to protest loudly against
this “implied insult to my honor,” and if they can catch the American
official off his guard, are sure to dip in the wrong finger or merely
make a false pass over the liquid, meanwhile scowling into silence the
low-caste native watchers.

Haiti has long dreamed of some day uniting the several bits of miniature
railroad scattered about the country into a single line between the two
principal cities. The existing section in the north, twenty odd miles in
length, connects Cap Haïtien with Grande Rivière and Bahon. Its fares,
like those of the equally primitive lines out of Port au Prince, are so
low that for once the assertions of the owners that they lose money on
passengers can be accepted without a grin of incredulity. To raise them,
however, is not so simple a matter as it may seem, for the Haitian
masses are little inclined as it is to part with their rare _gourdes_
for the mere privilege of saving their calloused feet. There were far
more travelers along the broad highway out of “the Cape” than in the
little cars themselves in which we followed it through a region that
might have been highly productive had it been as diligently tended by
man as by nature. The train stopped frequently and long at forest-choked
clusters of negro huts varying only in size. Such scenes had grown so
commonplace that we found more of interest in the car itself,
particularly among the marines who sprawled over several of the seats.
The majority of our forces of occupation are so decidedly a credit to
their country that it needed the contrast of such types as these to
explain why the “Gooks,” as the natives are popularly known among their
class, generally resent our presence on Haitian soil. Loudmouthed,
profane, constantly passing around a grass-bound gallon bottle of rum,
and boasting of their conquests among the negro girls, they were far
less agreeable traveling companions than the blackest of the natives.
Their “four years’ cruise in Hate-eye,” one would have supposed in
listening to them, was a constant round of these things and “fighting
chickens,” with an occasional opportunity of “putting a lot of families
in mourning” thrown in. Yet underneath it all they were good-hearted,
cheerful, and generous, despite the notion prevalent among too many
Americans that boisterousness and rowdyism is a proof of courage and
manhood.

Grande Rivière is a town of some consequence in Haiti, prettily situated
in a river valley among green hills. Its grassy _place_ and the
unfailing “_patrie_” in its center are decided improvements on most of
those in the republic; the several large church bells under a roof of
their own at some distance from the building itself still retain their
musical French voices. A dyewood establishment is its chief single
industry. The crooked logwood, carved down to the red heart before it
leaves the forests, is gnawed to bits by a noisy machine, boiled in a
succession of vats, the red water running off through sluiceways, and
the waste tossed out to dry and serve as fuel, and the concentrated
product, thick as molasses, is inclosed in barrels for shipment.
Scarcely an hour passes between the picking up of a log and the rolling
away of the barrel containing its extract.

But of all the sights in any Haitian town the market-place is surest to
attract the idle traveler. It was Saturday, or beef day, and two long
lines of venders were dispensing mere nibbles of meat to the clamoring
throng of purchasers, no portion of the animal being too uninviting to
escape consumption. Of a hundred little squares on the ground dotted
with “piles” of miscellaneous wares the inventory we made of one is
characteristic of all, and its sum total of value probably did not reach
two dollars. There were long, square strips of yellow soap, brooms and
ropes made of jungle plants, castor-beans (the oil from which is used in
native lamps), unhulled rice, all kinds of woven things from baskets to
saddle-bags, peanuts, green plantains, pitch-pine kindling for torches,
huge sheets of cassava bread, folded twice, rock salt, gay calicoes, all
tropical fruits, unground pepper, old nails, loose matches, cinnamon
bark, peanut and _jijimi_ sweets, pewter spoons, scissors, thread,
little marbles of blue dye, unassorted buttons, cheap knives,
safety-pins, yarn, tiny red clay pipes and the reed stems to go with
them, rusted square spikes of the kind used a century ago, shelled corn,
ground corn, _pitimi_, several kinds of beans, tiny scraps of leather,
four tin cans from a marine messroom, five bottles of as many shapes and
sizes, one old shoe, and a handful of red berries used in Haiti as
beads.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A bare five days from New York stands the most massive, probably the
most impressive single ruin in America. One might go farther and say
that there are few man-built structures in Europe that can equal in
mightiness and in the extraordinary difficulties overcome in its
construction this chief sight of the West Indies. Only the pyramids of
Egypt, in at least the familiar regions of the earth, can compare with
this gigantic monument to the strength and perseverance of puny man, and
the pyramids are built down on the floor of the earth instead of being
borne aloft to the tiptop of a mountain. It is curious, yet symbolical
of our ignorance of the neighbors of our own hemisphere, that while most
Americans know of far less remarkable structures in Europe, not one in a
hundred of us has ever heard of the great Haitian Citadel of Christophe.

We caught our first view of it from “the Cape.” The January day had
broken in a flood of tropical sunshine, which brought out every crack
and wrinkle of the long mountain-range cutting its jagged outline in the
Haitian sky to the southward of the city. On the top of its highest
peak, called the “Bishop’s Bonnet,” stood forth a square-cut summit
which only the preinformed could have believed was the work of man.
Twenty-five miles away it looked like an enormous hack in the mountain
itself, a curious natural formation which man could never have imitated
except on a tiny scale. It is a standing joke in Cap Haïtien to listen
in all solemnity to newcomers laughing to scorn the assertions of the
residents that this distant mountain summit was fashioned by human
hands.

Now and again as we journeyed toward it on the little railroad to Grande
Rivière we had a glimpse of the citadel through the dense tropical
vegetation, yet so slowly did it increase in size that its massiveness
became all the more incredible. Where we descended at a cross-trail in
the forest a group of small Haitian horses was already awaiting us. The
gendarme officer in charge of them was a powerful young American beside
whom a native of the color known as _griffe_, in civilian garb, looked
like a half-grown boy. For the pilots assigned us on this excursion were
none other than Captain Hanneken and Jean Batiste, now Lieutenant,
Conzé, the exterminators of Charlemagne.

The trail broke out at length into a wide clearing which stretched away
as far as the eye could follow in each direction, its grassy surface cut
up by several wandering paths along which plodded a few natives and a
donkey or two. It was once the “royal highway” between Christophe’s main
palace and Cap Haïtien, outdoing in width the broadest boulevards of
Europe. An hour or more along this brought us to Milot, a small town
lined up on each side of the road like people awaiting a procession of
royalty. At the back of it the highway ended at a great crumbling ruin
which had about it something suggestive of Versailles.

Christophe’s palace of Sans Souci, for such it was, is wholly
uninhabitable to-day, yet there is still enough of it standing to
indicate that it was once one of the most ornate and commodious
structures in the western hemisphere. Two pairs of mammoth gate-posts,
square in form and nearly twenty feet high, guard the entrance to the
lower yard-platform, bounded by a heavy stone wall. On the inside these
are hollowed out into unexpected sentry-boxes, for Christophe was a
strong believer in many guards. Higher up, sustained by a still stronger
wall, is another grassy platform, from which a stairway as broad and
elaborate as any trodden by European sovereigns leads sidewise to a
balustraded entrance court, also flanked by sentry-boxes. Crumbling
walls in which many small bushes have found a foothold tower high aloft
above this to where they are broken off in jagged irregularity. The
palace was evidently five stories high, built of native brick and
plaster, and the architecture is still impressive despite its
dilapidated condition and for all its African-minded ostentation. The
roof has completely given way, and in the vast halls of the lower floor
grow wild oranges and tropical bush. Those higher up, of which only the
edges of the floors and the walls remain, are said to have included a
great ball-room, an immense billiard-hall, separate suites for the
emperor and his black consort, and apartments for the immediate royal
family. At some distance from the palace proper stand the lower walls of
the former lodgings of minor princes, a host of courtiers, the stables,
and the caserns. The several _parterres_, once covered with rare flowers
watered by irrigating canals, are mere tangles of jungle. The
_caimite_-tree under which the black tyrant is said to have sat in
judgment on his subjects, after the example of Louis IX of France, still
casts its mammoth shade in the back courtyard; a small chapel lower down
that was probably used by the lesser nobles serves Milot as a church;
with those exceptions there is little left as Christophe saw it. Our
forces of occupation are threatening to tear down the walls, which are
soon likely to fall of themselves, to clear away the vegetation, and to
build barracks of the materials that remain.

The narrow trail that zigzags from the back of the palace up the
mountain may not be the one by which those condemned under the
_caimite_-tree were carried or dragged to their death before the
ramparts of the citadel, but there remain no evidences of any other
route. Much of the way it is all but impassable even during a lull in
the rainy season, for the dense vegetation shuts out the sun that might
otherwise harden the mud in which the hardiest native horses frequently
wallow belly-deep and now and then give up in frank despair. For a time
it leads through banana- and mango-groves, with huts swarming with negro
babies here and there peering forth from the thick undergrowth; higher
still there is a bit of coffee, but the last two thirds of the journey
upward is wholly uninhabited. Only once or twice in the ascent does one
catch a glimpse of the goal until one emerges from a brown jungle of
giant grasses, to find its grim gray walls towering sheer overhead.

Before this mammoth structure the memory of Sans Souci sinks into
insignificance. As the latter is ornate and cheerful in architecture,
the citadel is savage in its unadorned masculine strength. The mighty
stone walls, twenty feet thick in many cases, are square-cut and
formidable in their great unbroken surfaces. The northern side is red
with fungus, the rest merely weather-dulled. Even the cannon of to-day
would find them worthy adversaries. Time, which has wrought such havoc
on the palace at the mountain’s foot, has scarcely made an impression on
the exterior of this cyclopean structure, and even within only the
wooden portions have given way. Great iron-studded doors groaning on
their mammoth hinges give admittance to an endless labyrinth of gloomy
chambers, dungeon-like in all but their astonishing size. Cannon of the
largest makes known when the fortress was constructed are to be found
everywhere, some of them still pointing dizzily out their embrasures,
stretching in row after row of superimposed batteries, others lying
where the rotting of their heavy wooden supports has left them. Many
bear the royal arms of Spain’s most famous monarchs, several those of
Queen Elizabeth, and the rest evidences of English and French origin.
Tradition has it that Christophe mounted three hundred and sixty-five
cannon of large caliber in the citadel, and it is small wonder that his
successors have not had the courage to attempt to remove them. The
imagination grows numb and helpless at the thought of transporting these
immense weapons by mere man power to the summit of a steep mountain
three thousand feet above the plain below. Yet not only these, but the
uncounted mammoth blocks of stone of which the acres of thick walls are
constructed, the mortars, the iron chests, the smaller cannon, the heaps
of huge iron cannon-supports, the pyramids of cannonballs that are found
wherever the footsteps turn in the clammy chambers or the jungle-grown
courtyards, were all brought here by sheer force of human arms.

Higher and higher the visitor mounts by great dank stairways through
story after story of immense rooms, the vaulted stone ceilings of a few
partly fallen in, most of them wholly intact, all dedicated to the grim
business of war, to come out at last in an upper courtyard with the
ruins of a chapel and the mammoth stone vault in which Christophe lies
buried. Some of the marvels of the place are the stone basins always
full of clear running water, the source of which no man has ever been
able to discover. Here the group of prisoners whom the captain had sent
ahead with the paraphernalia and provisions for an elaborate picnic
lunch were shivering in their thin striped garments until their black
faces seemed to be blurred of outline. Yet they had less cause to
tremble than their fellows of a century ago who were herded in this same
inclosure to await their turn for being thrown from the ramparts above.
For such was Christophe’s favorite method of capital punishment. The
throwing-off place is a long stone platform ten feet wide at the very
top of the citadel. From its edge the sheer wall drops to a sickening
depth before it joins the mountain-slope almost as steep, forming that
great hack in the summit which looks from “the Cape” like a natural
precipice. Men hurled from this height must have fallen nearly a
thousand feet before they struck the bushy boulder-strewn face of the
mountain, down which their mutilated remains bounded and slid to where
they brought up against a ledge of rock or a larger bush, there to lie
until their whitened bones crumbled into dust. Multitudes of his
subjects are said to have met this fate under the black tyrant, some in
punishment for real crimes, more for having unintentionally aroused his
enmity or to satisfy his whims. The story goes that Christophe and his
British ambassador once got into a friendly argument on the subject of
soldierly discipline. The black emperor contended that there was no
order which his troops would not unhesitatingly obey, and to prove his
point he led his guest to the top of the citadel, where he set a company
to drilling and at a given command caused it to march off the edge of
the wall. This particular tale should perhaps be taken with a grain of
salt, but there is unquestionable evidence of similar playful acts on
the part of the heartless monarch.

Once the visitor can withdraw his eyes from the jagged Golgotha below,
the view spread out before him is rivaled by few in the world. All Haiti
seems to be visible in every detail: the ocean, the entire course of
meandering rivers, high mountains, deep valleys, a sea of greenery, form
a circular panorama bounded only by the limitless horizon. Little houses
in tiny clearings on the plain below, a dozen towns and villages, “the
Cape,” Ouanaminthe, even the hills of Santo Domingo, stand forth as
clearly as if they were only a bare mile away, some flashing in the
tropical sunshine, others dulled by the great cloud shadows crawling
languidly across the landscape.

Henri Christophe was a full-blooded negro who passed the early days of
his life as the slave of a French planter. When the blacks rose against
their masters he led the revolt on his own plantation and quickly
avenged his years of bondage. Serving first as a common soldier under
Toussaint l’Ouverture, he rose to the rank of general and became one of
the chief supporters of Dessalines. The assassination of the latter in
1806 left Christophe commander-in-chief of the Haitian forces and led to
his election as the first President of Haiti. His first official act was
to protest against the newly adopted constitution on the ground that it
did not give him sufficient power. Civil war broke out between him and
the mulatto general Pétion, who drove him into the north and became
president in his place, leaving Christophe the official ranking of an
outlaw. Pétion, however, was never able to conquer his rival.
Proclaiming himself president under a new constitution drawn up by an
assembly of his own choosing, the rebel took possession of the northern
half of the country and ruled it for thirteen long years with one of the
bloodiest hands known to history.

In 1811 he proclaimed himself king, honored his black consort with the
title of queen, and proceeded to form a Haitian nobility consisting of
his own numerous children as “princes of the royal blood,” three
“princes of the kingdom,” eight “dukes,” twenty “counts,” thirty-seven
“barons,” and eleven “chevaliers,” each and all of them former slaves or
the descendants of slaves. These jet-black “nobles,” many of whom added
to their titles the names of such native towns as Limonade, Marmalade,
and the like, soon became the laughing-stock of more advanced
civilizations, though candor forces the admission that Christophe was
only following the example of those who ennobled the robber barons of
Europe in earlier centuries, with the slight difference in the matter of
complexions. As “King Henry” he surrounded himself with all the pomp and
ceremony of royalty, erected nine palaces, of which Sans Souci was the
most magnificent and the only one that has not completely disappeared,
built eight royal châteaux, maintained great stables of horses and royal
coaches, innumerable retainers and servants, and a tremendous bodyguard.
Later, feeling that he had not done himself full honor, he named himself
hereditary emperor under the title of “Henri I,” and having come within
an ace of conquering the entire country, settled down to govern his
portion of it in a manner that would have been the envy of Nero.

The name of Christophe, in so far as it is known at all, is synonymous
with unbridled brutality. Yet there is a certain violent virtue in the
efforts by which the ex-slave sought to force his unprogressive black
subjects to climb the slippery ladder of civilization. He founded
schools, distributed the estates of the exiled Frenchmen among the
veterans of his army, reëstablished commercial relations with England
and the United States, created workshops in which the word “can’t” was
taboo. His methods were simple and direct. Causing a French carriage to
be placed at the disposition of his workmen, he ordered them to produce
another exactly like it within a fortnight on pain of death. Similar
tasks were meted out in all lines of endeavor, the tyrant refusing to
admit that what white men could do his black subjects could not do also.
His despotism, however, was not bounded by the mere desire for
advancement. When he passed, the people were compelled to kneel, and
death was the portion of the man who dared look upon his face without
permission. Thievery he abhorred, and inflicted capital punishment for
the mere stealing of a chicken. It came to be a regular part of his
daily life to order men, women, and even children thrown from the summit
of the citadel.

Tradition asserts that thirty thousand of his black subjects perished in
the building of this chief monument to his ambition. All the French and
Belgian architects and the skilled mechanics who worked on it are said
to have been assassinated when it was finished. The tale is still going
the rounds in Haiti that the emperor once came upon a gang of workmen
idling about one of the massive blocks of stone destined for the citadel
above, and demanded the reason for their inaction.

“It is too heavy, Sire,” replied the workmen; “we cannot carry it to the
mountain-top.”

“Line up,” ordered the tyrant; then turning to his bodyguard, he
commanded, “Shoot every fourth man. Perhaps you will feel stronger now,”
he remarked to the survivors as he rode onward.

On his return, however, the stone was no higher up the hill.

“It is quite impossible, your Majesty,” gasped the foreman; “it will not
budge.”

“Throw that man from the precipice,” said the despot, “and repeat the
order of this morning.”

The remaining workmen, according to the tale, succeeded in carrying the
stone to its destination.

Such stories always hover about those mighty monuments that seem
impossible without supernatural aid, yet no one who has beheld the
success with which the forces of gravity have been derided in this
incredible undertaking, incredible even in the enormousness of the
structure itself without taking into account its extraordinary
situation, will question its cost in such details as a few thousand more
or less human lives. Obsessed with the idea that the French would try to
reconquer the country, Christophe had resolved to erect a stronghold
that would be an impregnable place of resistance against them, or at
worst a “nest-egg of liberty,” which would afford certain refuge to the
_défenseurs de la patrie_ until better days dawned for them. There he
stored vast quantities of grain and food, of ammunition, flints,
bullets, powder, soggy heaps of which are still to be found, clothing,
tools, and a gold reserve amounting to more than thirty million dollars.
His enemies saw in the citadel only a pretext to indulge his innate
barbarism, to decimate his people for the mere pleasure of playing Nero.
It may be that this is not a just verdict. Christophe felt that he
incarnated the soul of his black brethren and that belief made him
wholly insensible to any other consideration. The mere fact that his
lack of perspective and his ignorance of such details as the feeding of
a long-besieged garrison made his seemingly impregnable fortress an
utter waste of effort may speak poorly for the instruction which his
French masters gave him, but it does not belittle the actual
accomplishment of his superhuman undertaking.

Christophe as violently died as he had lived. Stricken with apoplexy in
the church of Limonade, he attempted to cure himself by heroic measures,
such as rum and red-pepper baths. Finding this of no avail and refusing
to outlive his despotic power over his subjects, he shot himself through
the head. Barely was his body cold, if we are to believe current
stories, when his officers and retainers sacked the palace of Sans Souci
in which it lay, the wealth of many Haitian families of this day being
based on the spoils from this and his other royal residences. The corpse
was carried to the citadel and covered with quick lime, but tradition
asserts that it retained its life-like appearance for many years
afterward and was on view to all who cared to peer through the glass
heading of the vault until a later ruler decreed this exposition
“indecent,” and ordered the remains to be covered with earth.



                              CHAPTER VIII
                        THE LAND OF BULLET-HOLES


Ouanaminthe is the Haitian “creole” name for a town which the Spaniards
founded under the more euphonious title of Juana Mendez. It is the
eastern frontier station for those who travel overland by the northern
route from Haiti to Santo Domingo. We might have been stranded there
indefinitely but for the already familiar kindness of our
fellow-countrymen in uniform who are scattered throughout the negro
republic. Public conveyances are unknown in Ouanaminthe. Strangers are
more than rare, and the natives trust to their own broad, hoof-like
feet. Walking is all very well for a lone bachelor with no other cares
than a half-filled knapsack. But with a wife to consider, the long trail
loses something of its primitive simplicity; moreover there sat our
baggage staring us in the face with a contrite, don’t-abandon-me air. In
what would otherwise have been our sad predicament, Captain Verner,
commanding the gendarmérie of Ouanaminthe, came to our rescue most
delicately with the assertion that he had long been planning to run over
to Monte Cristi on a pressing matter of business.

The captain’s Ford—his own, be it noted in passing, lest some committee
of investigation prick up its ears—was soon swimming the frontier river
Massacre with that amphibian ease which the adaptable “flivver” quickly
acquires in the often bridgeless West Indies. The change from one
civilization to another—or should I call them two attempts toward
civilization?—was as sudden, as astonishingly abrupt, as the dash
through the apparently unfordable stream. Dajabón, strewn from the sandy
crest of the eastern bank to the arid plains beyond, reminded us at once
of Cuba; to my own mind it brought back the memory of hundreds of
Spanish-American towns scattered down the western hemisphere from the
Rio Grande to Patagonia. With one slight exception the island of Santo
Domingo is the only one in the New World that is divided between two
nationalities; it is the only one on earth, unless my geography be at
fault, where the rank and file speak two different languages. Yet the
shallow Massacre is as definite a dividing line as though it were a
hundred leagues of sea.

Unlike the Haitian shacks behind us, the dwellings of Dajabón were
almost habitable, even to the exacting Northern point of view. Instead
of tattered and ludicrously patched negroes of bovine temperament
lolling in the shade of as ragged hovels of palm-leaves and jungle
rubbish, comparatively well-dressed men and women, ranging in complexion
from light brown to pale yellow, sat in chairs on projecting verandas or
leaned on their elbows in open windows, staring with that fixed
attention which makes the most hardened stranger self-conscious in
Spanish-America, yet which, contrasted with the vacant black faces of
Haiti, was an evidence at least of human intelligence and curiosity. The
village girls, decked out in their Sunday-afternoon best, were often
attractive in appearance, some undeniably pretty, qualities which only
an observer of African ancestry could by any stretch of generosity grant
to the belles of the Haitian _bourgs_ behind us.

Even the change in landscape was striking. Whether the Spaniard
colonized by choice those regions which remind him of the dry and rarely
shaded plains of his own Castille and Aragón, or because he makes way
with a forest wherever he sees one, he is more apt than not to be
surrounded by bare, brown, semi-arid vistas. Haiti had, on the whole,
been densely wooded; luxuriant vegetation, plentifully watered, spread
away on every hand. The great plain that stretched out before us beyond
Dajabón was almost treeless; except for a scattering of withered, thorny
bushes, there was scarcely a growing thing. The rainfall that had been
so frequent in the land of the blacks behind us seemed not to have
crossed the frontier in months. In contrast to _caco_-impoverished
Haiti, large herds of cattle wandered about the brown immensity, or
huddled in the rare pretenses of shade; but what they found to feed on
was a mystery, for there was nothing in the scarce, scanty patches of
sun-burned herbage that could have been dignified with the name of
grass. Even where something resembling a forest appeared farther on it
turned out to be a dismal wilderness of dwarf trees with spiny trunks
and savage thorny branches without a suggestion of undergrowth or ground
plants beneath them. Dead, flat, monotonous, made doubly mournful by the
occasional moan of a wild dove, a more dreary, uninspiring landscape it
would be hard to imagine; the vista that spread away as far as the eye
could see seemed wholly uninviting to human habitation.

It must be an unpromising region, however, that does not produce at
least its crop of mankind. Clusters of thrown-together huts, little less
miserable in these rural districts, it must be admitted, than those of
Haiti, jolted past us now and then, their swarms of stark-naked children
of eight, ten, and even twelve years of age scampering out across the
broken, sun-hardened ground to see us pass. Yet in one respect at least
even these denizens of the wilderness were superior to their Haitian
prototypes—they really spoke their native language. Familiar as we had
both been for years with French, it was rare indeed that we got more
than the general drift of a conversation in Haitian “creole.” The most
uneducated _dominicano_, on the other hand, spoke a Spanish almost as
clear and precise as that heard in the streets of Madrid. There must be
something enduring, something that appeals to the most uncouth tongue,
in the Castilian language. Hear it where you will, in all the broad
expanse of Central and South America, in the former Spanish colonies of
the West Indies, from the lips of Indians, negroes, _mestizos_, or the
Jews of the Near East, banished from Spain centuries ago, with minor
variations of pronunciation and enriching of vocabulary from the tongues
it has supplanted, it retains almost its original purity. What a hybrid
of incomprehensible noises French, on the other hand, becomes in the
mouths of slaves and savages we had all too often had impressed upon us
in Haiti, and were due to have the lesson repeated in the French islands
of the Lesser Antilles. Even our own English cannot stand the wear and
tear of isolation and slovenly vocal processes with anything like the
success of the Castilian. The speech of Canada and of Barbados, closely
as those two lands are linked to the same mother country, seem almost
two distinct languages. But if the Dominicans spoke their language more
purely, their voices had none of the soft, almost musical tones of the
negroes beyond the Massacre. There was a brittle, metallic,
nerve-jarring twang to their speech that was almost as unpleasant as the
high-pitched chatter of Cuban women.

If we noted all these differences between the two divisions of the
island, there was another that impressed us far more forcibly at the
moment. In all our jolting over the roads of Haiti, good, bad, and
unspeakable, we had never once been delayed by so much as a puncture. In
the first mile out of Dajabón we were favored with four separate and
distinct blow-outs. The twenty-eight miles between the frontier and
Monte Cristi—for it is best to hear the worst at once—netted no fewer
than ten!

It was shortly after the fifth, if my memory is not failing, that the
open plain gave way to a thorn-bristling wilderness through which had
been cut a roadway a generous twenty feet wide—_shortly_ after
certainly, otherwise the sixth blow-out would have intervened. I use the
term roadway advisedly, for road there was really none. The Dominican
scorns the building of highways as thoroughly as do any of his cousins
of Spanish descent. With American intervention he was forced, much
against his will and better judgment, to divert a certain amount of
public moneys and labor to making wheeled communication between his
various provinces possible. But though you can drive an unbridled horse
along any open space, you cannot choose the path he shall make within
it. Wide as it was, the roadway was an unbroken expanse of deeply
cracked and thoroughly churned brown mud, sun-burned to the consistency
of broken rock. Along this the first traveler after the long forgotten
rains had squirmed and waded his way where the mud was shallowest, with
the result that the only semblance to a road wandered back and forth
across the misshapen roadway like a Spanish “river” in its ludicrously
over-ample bed.

Here and there we were forced to crawl along the extreme edge of one or
the other of the bristling walls of vegetation; frequently the only
passable trail left the roadway entirely and squirmed off through the
spiny forest, the thorny branches whipping us in the faces. Huge clumps
of organ cactus and others of the same family forced us to make
precarious detours. At the top of a faint rise we sighted the “Morro” of
Monte Cristi, a great bulking rectangular hill that guides the mariner
both by land and sea to the most western port of Santo Domingo. Our
hopes began slowly to revive when—“Groughung!” the sixth mishap befell
us—or was it the seventh? I remember that the eighth overtook us at the
bottom of the rise, when both daylight and our patches were giving out.
The ninth found us in total darkness, and disclosed the fact that there
was not a match on board. The lamps of the car had ceased to function
months before; one does not Ford it by night in the island of Santo
Domingo except upon extreme provocation. A hut discovered back in the
bush was likewise matchless, but the supper fire on the ground beside it
still had a few glowing embers. While Rachel held the blaze of one of
those dried hollow reeds that do duty as torches in Santo Domingo as
near us as was prudent, we improvised a patch that would have caused an
experienced chauffeur to gasp with astonishment. Each rustling of the
thorny brush about us drew our fixed attention. There are bandits in
Santo Domingo as well as in Haiti, and they have far less reputation for
making speed to the rear. The captain carried a revolver, an American
Marine being equally at home in either of the island republics. But the
danger of international complications had prevented his black gendarme
assistant from bringing with him the rifle that might be badly needed.
My visions of losing a congenial companion were vastly enhanced once
when a crashing in the bushes caused us to whirl about on the defensive.
A stray cow ambled past us and away into the black night.

[Illustration: The Plaza and clock tower of Monte Cristo, showing its
American bullet hole]

[Illustration: Railroading in Santo Domingo]

[Illustration: The tri-weekly train arrives at Santiago]

[Illustration: Dominican guardias]

With the tenth mishap, lightless and patchless, we lost the final
remnants of patience and forced our sorry steed to hobble along on three
feet. The road had a pleasant little way of eluding us when least
expected, and a dozen times within the next hour we brought up against
the forest wall, finding our way again only by the sense of touch. Then
at last appeared a flicker of light. But it was only the hamlet on the
bank of the River Yaque, across which we must be ferried on what looked
in the darkness like the top of a soap-box. Fortunately it takes little
to float a Ford. Our crippled charger staggered up the steep bank beyond
this principal stream of northern Santo Domingo, and a half hour later
we rattled into the considerable town of Monte Cristi.

Its streets were as wide as the hilltop roadway behind us, but like it
they had only reached the first stage of development. Worst of all we
were forced to run the full length of nearly every one of them in the
vain quest of some suggestion of hostelry. Our predicament would have
been one to bring salt tears to the most hardened eyes but for the
saving grace of all the island of Santo Domingo—our own people in
uniform. Barely had we discovered the commander-in-chief of Monte
Cristi, a Marine captain bearing the name of one of our early and
illustrious Presidents, than he broke all records in hospitality within
our own experience by turning his entire house over to us. We were never
more firmly convinced of the wisdom of American intervention in Santo
Domingo than at the end of that explosive day.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The otherwise dark and deserted town was gathered in its best starched
attire in the place where any Spanish-American town would naturally be
on a Sunday evening—in the central plaza. This, to begin with, was
strikingly unlike the bare open squares of Haiti, with their unfailing
tribune-and-palm-tree “patrie.” First of all, it was well paved, an
assertion that could not be made of any other spot in town. An elaborate
iron fence surrounded it, comfortable benches were ranged about it,
trees and flowering shrubs shaded it by day and decorated it by night,
the only public lights in town cast an unwonted brilliancy upon the
promenading populace, circling slowly round and round the square, the
two sexes in opposite directions, their voices and footsteps half
drowning the not too successful efforts of a group of misfitted males in
the center of the plaza to produce musical sounds. It was as typically
Spanish a scene as the deserted barren _place_, with the weird beating
of tomtoms floating across it, is indigenous to the republic of Haiti.

It was not until morning, however, that we caught full sight of the
chief feature of the plaza and the pride of Monte Cristi. By daylight a
monument we had only vaguely sensed in the night stood forth in all its
dubious beauty. In the center of the now deserted plaza rose a near
replica of the Eiffel Tower, its open-work steel frame crowned by a
large four-faced clock some fifty feet above our dizzy heads. Well might
the Monte Cristians pride themselves on a feature quite unique among the
plazas of the world.

From this clock tower hangs a tale that is too suggestive of Dominican
character to be passed over in silence. Some years ago, before the
intrusive Americans came to put an end to the national sport, a
candidate for the Dominican Congress came parading his candidacy about
the far corners of the country. In each town he promised, in return for
their aid in seating him in the august assembly, that the citizens
should have federal funds for whatever was most lacking to their civic
happiness. Monte Cristi, being farthest from the cynical capital of any
community in Santo Domingo, took the politician seriously. The town put
its curly heads together and decided that what it most wanted was—not a
real school building to take the place of the rented hut in which its
children fail to learn the rudiments of the three R’s, nor yet pavements
for some of the sandhills that are disguised under the name of streets.
What it felt the need of more than anything else was a town clock that
would cast envy on all its rivals for many miles around. The politician
approved the choice so thoroughly that he advised the opening of
negotiations for its purchase at once, without waiting for the mere
formality of congressional sanction. In due time the monstrosity was
erected. But for some reason the newly elected congressman’s influence
with his fellow-members was not so paramount as his faithful supporters
had been led to believe. Some of them still contend that he did actually
introduce a resolution to provide the noble and patriotic pueblo of
Monte Cristi with a prime necessity in the shape of a community
time-piece; if so the bill died in committee, unattended by priest or
physician. For months Monte Cristi bombarded the far-off capital with
doleful petitions, until at length, with the sudden coming of the
Americans, congress itself succumbed, and the two thousand or so good
citizens of the hapless town found themselves face to face with a
document—bearing a foreign place of issue at that, caramba!—reading
succinctly:

               “To one clock and tower, Dr........$16,000
                            _Please Remit_”

To cap the climax, the ridiculous Americans who had taken in charge the
revenues of the country brought with them the absurd doctrine that
municipalities should pay their bills. Years have passed since the
successful politician visited the northwest corner of the country, yet
Monte Cristi is only beginning to crawl from beneath its appalling clock
tower, financially speaking, and to catch its breath again after relief
from so oppressive a burden. Small wonder that her sand-hill streets are
unpaved and that her children still crowd into a rented hovel to glean
the rudiments of learning.

But the history of the famous clock tower does not end there. Those who
glance at the top-heavy structure from the south are struck by a jagged
hole just above the face of the dial, midway between the XII and the I.
It is so obviously a bullet-hole that the observer could not fail to
show surprise were it not that bullet-holes are as universal in Santo
Domingo as fighting cocks. Thereby hangs another tale.

In the early days of American occupation the choice of commanders of the
_Guardia Nacional_ detachment in Monte Cristi was not always happy. It
was natural, too, that a group of marine officers, bubbling over with
youth, sentenced to pass month after month in a somnolent Dominican
village, should have found it difficult to devise fitting amusement for
their long leisure hours. Pastimes naturally reduced themselves to the
exchange of poker chips and the consumption of certain beverages
supposedly taboo in all American circles and doubly so in the Marine
Corps. The power of Dominican joy-water to produce hilarity is
far-famed. It came to be the custom of the winning card player to
express his exuberance by drawing his automatic and firing several shots
over his head. This means of expression would have been startling enough
to the disarmed Dominicans had the games been played in the open air
with the sun above the horizon. But the rendezvous was naturally within
doors, usually in the dwelling of the commander, and the climax was
commonly reached at an hour when all reputable natives were wrapped in
slumber. The sheet-iron roof that sheltered us during our night in Monte
Cristi corroborated the testimony of the inhabitants that they had
frequently sprung from their beds convinced that yet another revolution
was upon them.

One night a difference of opinion arose among the players as to the hour
that should be set for the cashing in of chips. The commander offered to
settle the problem in an equitable manner. Stepping to the door, he
raised his automatic toward the famous $16,000 clock and fired. The
decision was made; the game ended at twelve:thirty. It is not
particularly strange under the circumstances that the inhabitants of
Monte Cristi are not extraordinarily fond of Americans or of marine
occupation.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The mail coach—in real life the inevitable Ford—left Monte Cristi the
morning after our arrival, obviating the necessity of wiring to Santiago
for a private car. The fare was within reason, as such things go in the
West Indies—sixteen dollars for a journey of some eighty miles—and
despite the pessimistic prophecies of our host we had the back seat to
ourselves the entire distance. Our driver, of dull-brown hue, was of the
same quick, nervous temperament as his Cuban cousins, and scurried away
at thirty miles an hour over “roads” which few American chauffeurs would
venture along at ten. Yet he was surprisingly successful in avoiding
undue jolts; so often had he driven this incredibly rough-and-tumble
route that he knew exactly when and where to slow up for each dry
_arroyo_, to dodge protruding boulders or dangerous sand beds, to drop
from one level to another without cracking a spring or an axle. The
machine was innocent of muffler, hence it needed no horn, and as an
official conveyance it yielded the road to no one, except the few placid
carts whose safety lay in their massiveness.

Many miles of the journey were sandy barren wastes producing only dismal
thorn-bristling dwarf forests. Every now and then we dodged from one
wide caricature of a road to another still more choppy and rock-strewn;
occasionally we found a mile or two of tolerable highway. The scarcity
of travelers was in striking contrast to Haiti. The few people we met
were never on foot, but in clumsy carts or astride gaunt, but hardy,
little horses. Houses of woven palm-leaves, on bare, reddish, hard soil
sheltered the poorer inhabitants; the better-to-do built their dwellings
of split palm trunks that had the appearance of clapboards. Villages
were rare, and isolated houses wholly lacking. Outdoor mud ovens on
stilts, with rude thatched roofs over them, adorned nearly every back or
side yard. At each village we halted before a roughly constructed post
office to exchange mailbags with a postmaster who in the majority of
cases showed no visible negro strain. Pure white inhabitants were
frequent in the larger pueblos; full-blooded African types extremely
rare. Santo Domingo has been called a mulatto country; we found it more
nearly a land of quadroons.

What even the sparse population lived on was not apparent, for almost
nowhere were people working in the fields, and the towns seemed to be
chiefly inhabited by fairly well-dressed loafers, or at best by lolling
shop-keepers. Probably they existed by selling things to one another.
The stocks of the over-numerous shops were amply supplied with bottled
goods, but with comparatively little else, and that chiefly tinned food
from the United States. No old sugar kettles, no ruined French estates,
no negro women in broad straw hats or slippers flapping with the gait of
their donkeys, no improvised markets or clamoring beggars along the
way—none of the familiar things of Haiti were in evidence, except the
fighting cocks. Such horsemen as we passed rode in well upholstered
saddles, doubly softened by the Spanish-American _pellon_, or shaggy
saddle rug. The women accompanying them clung uncomfortably to clumsy
side-saddles, and were dressed in far more style than their Haitian
prototypes, pink gowns being most in favor, and in place of the loose
slippers the majority wore shoes elaborate enough to satisfy a New York
shop-girl. Cemeteries at the edge of each town were forests of wooden
crosses, contrasting with the coffin-shaped cement tombs of Haiti.

Guayovin, a town of considerable size and noted for its revolutionary
history, the scattered hamlet of Laguna Salada, the larger village of
Esperanza, one pueblo after another was the same blurred vista of wide,
sandy streets, of open shop fronts and gaping inhabitants. We soon
detected a surly attitude toward Americans, a sullen, passive resentment
that recalled the attitude of Colombia as I had known it eight years
before. There was more superficial courtesy than in our own brusk and
hurried land; the Dominican, like all our neighbors to the southward,
cultivates an exterior polish. But with the exception of a few who went
out of their way to demonstrate their pro-American sentiments, to
express themselves as far more pleased with foreign occupation than with
the continual threat of revolution, the attitude of silent protest was
everywhere in the air.

At the end of fifty kilometers, in which we had forded only one pathetic
little stream, the landscape changed somewhat for the better, though at
the same time the “road” became even more atrocious. Hitherto the only
beauty in the scene had been a pretty little flowering cactus bush, like
an inverted candelabra, and the soft velvety colors of the barren brown
vistas. Now the thorny vegetation, the chaparral, and the cactus gave
way to clumps of bamboo, to towering palms, and other trees of full
stature, while corn and beans began to clothe the still deadly-dry soil.
High hills had arisen close on the left, higher ones farther off to the
right; then ahead appeared beautiful labyrinths of deep-blue mountains,
range after range piled up one behind the other in amphitheatrical
formation, culminating in the cloud-coiffed peak of Tino, some ten
thousand feet above the sea and the highest point in the West Indies.

Navarrete, strung along the beginning of an excellent highway that was
to continue, except for two unfinished bridges, to Santiago, boasted
real houses, some of palm trunks, most of them of genuine lumber with
more corrugated iron than thatched roofs, some of their walls of faded
pink, green, or yellow, many of them frankly unpainted. A considerable
commercial activity occupied its inhabitants. Beyond, the country grew
still greener, with groves of royal palms waving their ostrich plumes
with the dignified leisureliness of the tropics, and the highway began
to undulate, or, as it seemed to us behind our over-eager chauffeur, to
pitch and roll, over low foot-hills. We picked up a rusty little
railroad on the left, farther on a power line and a dozen telegraph
wires striding over hill and dale, raced at illegal speed through Villa
Gonzalez, and entered a still more verdant region of vegetable gardens
in fertile black soil. Then all at once we topped a rise from which
spread out all the splendid green valley of Yaque, Santiago de los
Caballeros piled up a sloping high ground a couple of miles away, with
mountains that had grown to imposing height still far distant to the
right. A truck-load of marines, monopolizing the right of way in the
innocently obstructive manner we had often seen in France, blocked our
progress for a time; then we swung past the inevitable shaded plaza of
all Spanish-American towns, and drew up with a snort at the Santiago
post office just as the cathedral clock was striking the hour of three.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Before we had time even to set foot in Santiago we were greeted by my
old friend “Lieutenant Long” of Canal Zone police fame, who had already
put the town in a proper mood for our reception. Since the days when we
had pursued felons together along the ten-mile strip of Panamanian
jungle the erstwhile lieutenant, now more fittingly known as “Big
George,” had added steadily to his laurels as a good and true servant of
mankind. From the defelonized banks of the canal to the command of the
sleuths of Porto Rico had been a natural step, and when he had detected
everything worth detecting in our West Indian isle, and fathered a
company of the 17th Infantry during the late international
misunderstanding, “Big George” accepted the Augean task of initiating
the Dominicans into the mysteries of their new American-sired land tax.

Considerably more than four hundred years ago, when the redskin north of
the Rio Grande had yet to scalp his initial pale face, there was founded
in the fertile valley of the Yaque the first of the many Santiagos that
to-day dot the map of more than half the western hemisphere. Thirty
Spanish gentlemen, as the word was understood in those roistering days,
_hidalgos_ who had followed on the heels of Columbus, were the original
settlers, and because of their noble birth they were permitted by royal
decree to call their new home by the name it still officially
bears,—Santiago de los Caballeros. Although the present inhabitants of
the aristocratic old town by no means all boast themselves “gentlemen”
either in the _conquistador_ or the modern sense of the term, some of
the leading families can trace their ancestry in unbroken line from
those old Spanish hidalgos. Many of these descendants of fifteenth
century grandees still retain the armor, swords, and other quaint
warlike gear of their ancestors. A few have even kept their Caucasian
blood pure through all the generations and frequent disasters of that
long four hundred years, but the vast majority of them give greater or
less evidence of African graftings on the family tree. The Cibao, as the
northern half of Santo Domingo is called, is the region in which the
Spaniards first found in any quantity the gold they came a-seeking, and
gentlemanly Santiago has ever been its principal city. Twice destroyed
by earthquakes, like so many cities of the West Indies, sacked by
pirates and invaders more times than it cares to remember, it has
persisted through all its mishaps.

But in spite of its flying start Santiago has by no means kept pace with
many a parvenu in the New World. Barely can it muster twenty thousand
inhabitants, and in progress and industry it has drifted but slowly down
the stream of time. Revolutions have been its chief setback, for the
innumerable civil wars that have decimated the population of the
republic ever since it asserted its freedom from the Spanish crown have
almost invariably centered about the city of caballeros. A hundred
Spanish-American towns can duplicate its every feature. About the
invariable central plaza, with its shaded benches, diagonal walks, and
evening promenaders, stand the bulking, weather-peeled cathedral with
its constantly thumping, tin-voiced bells, the _casa consistorial_ where
the municipal council dawdles through its weekly meetings, the wide open
yet exclusive clubs, and the residences of the most ancient families,
their lower stories occupied by shops and cafés. In contrast to this
proudly kept square the wide, right-angled streets that radiate from it
are either congenitally innocent of paving or littered with the remnants
of what may long ago have been cobbled driveways. As in all
Spanish-America the lack of civic team-work is shown in the sidewalks;
which are high, low, ludicrously narrow, or lacking entirely, according
to the personal whim of each householder, and rather family porches than
public rights of way. Its houses, mostly of one story, never higher than
two, are something more than half of wood, the remainder being adobe or
baked-mud structures that some time in the remote past had their façades
daubed with whitewash or scantily painted in various bright colors. The
cathedral, the municipal building, many a private residence, our very
hotel room were speckled with bullet-holes more or less diligently
patched, corroborating the verbal evidence of Santiago’s revolutionary
activities. There is a faint reminder of the Moors in the tendency for
each trade to monopolize one street to the exclusion of the others. A
dozen barbershops may be found in a single block, cafés cluster
together, drygoods shops with their languid male clerks shoulder one
another with a certain degree of leisurely, unindividualistic
aggressiveness. Farther out, the unkempt streets dwindle away between
lop-shouldered little huts that seem to need the supporting mutual
assistance shared by their neighbors nearer the center of town.

There is not a street car in all the island of Santo Domingo, or Haiti,
as you choose to call it. Dingy, wretched old carriages, their horses
only a trifle less gaunt and ungroomed than those of Port au Prince,
loiter about a corner of the plaza, behind the cathedral, shrieking
their pleas at every possible fare who passes within their field of
vision. Automobiles are not unknown, but they have not yet invaded
Santiago in force. The inevitable venders of lottery tickets, which in
Santo Domingo are of municipal rather than national issue and resemble
the handbills of some itinerant family of barn-stormers, pester the
passer-by every few yards with spurious promises of sudden fortune. In
the cathedral the visitor finds himself face to face at every step with
admonitions that women must have their heads covered and that worshipers
shall not spit on the floor. The first command is universally
recognized, if only by the spreading of a handkerchief over the frizzled
tresses, but the latter is by no means so faithfully obeyed. If there is
anything whatever individualistic about St. James of the Gentlemen that
distinguishes it from its countless cousins below the Rio Grande, it is
the stars and stripes that wave above the ancient fortress overlooking
the placid River Yaque, and the groups of American marines who come now
and then striding down its untended streets.

The average santiagueño reaches the dignity of clothes somewhat late in
life. Naked black or brown babies adorn every block, the sight of a
plump boy of five taking his constitutional dressed in a pair of
sandals, a bright red hat, and a magnificent expression of unconcern
attracts the attention of no one except strangers. Girls show the
prudery of their sex somewhat earlier in life, but many a boy learns to
smoke cigarettes, and even long black cigars, before he submits to the
inconvenience of his first garment. It may be this sartorial freedom of
his earlier life that makes the Santiago male prone to sport a costume
that belies his years. Youths of sixteen, eighteen, and some one might
easily suspect of being twenty, display an expanse of brown legs between
their tight knee-breeches and short socks that makes their precocious
tendency to frequent cafés, consume fiery drinks and man-size cigars,
and _enamorar las muchachas_ doubly striking. They are intelligent
youths, on the whole, compared with their Haitian neighbors, with a
quick wit to catch a political argument or the mysteries of a mechanical
contrivance, though they have the tendency of all their mixed race to
slow down in their mental processes soon after reaching what with us
would be early manhood. _La juventud_ of Santo Domingo is beginning to
look with slightly less scorn upon the use of the hands as a means of
livelihood, an improvement which may be largely credited to American
occupation, not so much through precept and example as by the reduction
in political sinecures and the institution of genuine examinations for
candidates to government office.

In character, as in physical aspect, Santiago is true to type. The
outward forms of politeness are diligently cultivated; actual, physical
consideration for the comfort or convenience of others is conspicuous by
its scarcity. The same man who raises his hat to and shakes hands with
his neighbor ten times a day shows no hesitancy in maintaining any
species of nuisance, from a bevy of fighting cocks to a braying jackass,
against the peace and happiness of that same neighbor, nor in hugging a
house-wall when it is his place to take to the gutter. A haughtiness of
demeanor, an over-developed personal pride that it would be difficult to
find real reason for, burden all except the most poverty-stricken class.
Amid the medley of tints that make up the population the casual observer
might conclude that the existence of a color-line would be out of the
question in Santiago. As he dips beneath the surface, however, he finds
a very decided one, nay, several, dividing the population not into two,
but into three or four social strata, though the lines of demarkation
are neither as distinct nor as adamant as with us. Thus one of the
tile-floored clubs on the central plaza, the chair-forested parlor of
which stands ostensibly wide open, admits no member whose ancestry has
not been unbrokenly Caucasian, while another across the square welcomes
neither pure whites nor full-blooded Africans. An amusing feature of
this club exclusiveness is that the first society, after what is said to
have been violent debate, declined to admit American members, as a
protest against “the unwarranted interference by superior force in our
national affairs.” In retaliation, or rather, in supreme indifference to
this attitude, the forces of occupation have acquired the premises next
door and take no back seat to the Dominicans in the matter of
exclusiveness. It may be the merest coincidence that whenever a dance is
given in the American clubrooms a still more blatant orchestra, seated
close up against the thin partition between the two social rendezvous,
furnishes the inspiration for a similar recreation.

The principal business of Santiago, if one may judge by the frequent
warehouse doors from which issues the acrid smell of sweating tobacco,
is the buying and selling of the narcotic weed. It comes in great bales,
wrapped in _yagua_, or the thick, leathern leaf-stem of the royal palm,
of which each tree sheds one a month and which is turned to such a
variety of uses throughout the West Indies. Women and boys are
constantly picking these bales apart and strewing their contents about
in various heaps, to just what purpose is not apparent to the layman,
for they always end by bundling them up again in the self-same _yagua_,
in which dusky draymen carry them off once more to parts unknown. A
considerable amount of the stuff is consumed locally, however, for
Santiago boasts one large cigar factory and a number of small ones,
ranging down to one-room hovels in which the daily output could probably
be contained within two boxes—were it not the custom in Santo Domingo
simply to tie them in bundles.

The smoker must conduct himself with circumspection in American-governed
Santo Domingo. Each and every cigar is wrapped round not only with the
usual banded trademark, but also with a revenue stamp. Now beware that
you do not indulge that all but universal American habit of removing the
band before lighting the cigar. In Santo Domingo it is unlawful to
withdraw this proof of legal origin until the weed has been “partially
consumed,” and the official expert ruling on that phrase is that the
clipping off of the consumer’s end does not constitute even partial
consumption, which only the burning of a certain portion of the
customarily, opposite extremity, accomplishes. Furthermore, when at last
you do venture to remove the decoration, do not on any account fail to
mutilate it beyond all semblance to its original state. If you are
detected in the perpetration of either of the unlawful acts above
specified, no power can save you from falling into the hands of “Mac,”
who sits in the same office with “Big George”—whenever one or both of
them are not pursuing similar malefactors in another corner of the
Cibao—facing the charge of unlawfully, wilfully, and maliciously
violating Article 12 of the Internal Revenue Law of the sovereign
República Dominicana, and there is no more certain road to the
prisoner’s dock.

But I am getting ahead of my story. “Mac” will make his official entry
all in due season. What I started to explain was why one may frequently
behold an elephantine Dominican market woman, often with a brood of
piccaninnies half concealed in the folds of her ample skirt, parading
down the street with the air of a New York clubman in spite of the
bushel or two of yams or plantains on her head, puffing haughtily at a
cigar the band of which falsely suggests that she has recently
squandered a dollar bill with her tobacconist. Indeed, many an
over-cautious Dominican avoids all possibility of falling into the net
by smoking serenely on through band, stamp, and all, which, to tell the
truth, does not particularly depreciate the aroma of the average native
cigar.

There is sound basis for Article 12. In the good old days when there
were no battalions of marines to interfere with the national sport of
Santo Domingo the stamp tax was already in force, and the consumption of
cigars was almost what it is to-day; yet for some occult reason it
scarcely produced a tenth of its present revenue. First of all there
were the “chivo” cigars,—_chivo_ meaning not merely goat but something
corresponding to our word “graft” in the Spanish West Indies—which never
made any pretense of bearing a stamp. Some of them were made secretly; a
veritable pillar of the social structure of Santo Domingo was discovered
to be operating a clandestine cigar-factory long after the Americans
took up this particular bit of the white man’s burden. Others were
privately placed on the market by legitimate manufacturers, who supplied
a certain percentage of legal stock also. A third scheme was to fill the
pockets of the native inspector with a choice brand and advise him to
forget the matter; still another alternative was to buy the stamps at a
bargain from some revenue official who was hard pressed for ready cash.
But the favorite means of avoiding contributions to the wily politicians
in the capital was simplicity itself. A cigar-maker purchased a hundred
revenue stamps and wrapped them about his first hundred cigars. His
retailer, who might be himself, his wife, his cousin, or at least his
_compadre_, greeted the purchaser with a smiling countenance. “Cigars?
Why certainly. Try these. _Cómo va la señora hoy?_ _Y los niños?_
Curious exhibition that fourth pair of cocks gave on Sunday, _verdad?_”
Bargains are not struck hastily in Santo Domingo. By the time the
transaction was completed the retailer had ample opportunity idly to
slip the bands off the cigars and drop them into his counter drawer. The
purchaser made no protest, even if he noticed the manipulation, for he
was buying cigars, not revenue stamps. It is vouched for that the same
band saw continual service in the old days for a year or two. But it is
a careless smoker to-day who ventures to thrust a cigar into his pocket
without making sure that its proof of legality is intact.

                  *       *       *       *       *

“Big George” arranged that we should spend the first Sunday after our
arrival in the most typical Dominican style of celebration,—the
partaking of _lechón asado_. His choice of scene for the celebration,
too, was particularly happy. An hour’s easy jog from town—easy because
the saddle-horses of Santo Domingo, like those of Cuba, are all
“gaited,” that is, gifted with a singlefoot pace that makes them as
comfortable seats as any rocking-chair—brought us to the estate of
Jaragua, the exact site of the first founding of Santiago by the
Castilian _hidalgos_. It was the first earthquake that caused them to
transfer it from this heart of the valley to the bluff overlooking the
Yaque. The ruins of an old brick-and-stone church, of a water reservoir
or community bath, and long lines of stones embedded in the ground
marking the remnants of cobbled streets and house walls, are half
covered with the brush and jungle-grass of a modern hog farm.
Magnificent royal palms rise from what were once private family nooks;
immense tropical trees spread over former parlors more charming roofs
than their original coverings of thatch; the pigs frequently root up
ancient coins that may long ago have jingled in Columbus’ own pocket.

Under the dense, capacious shade of a fatherly old mango-tree sat a
negro peon, slowly turning round and round over a fire of specially
chosen, aromatic fagots a suckling pig, or _lechón_, spitted on a long
bamboo pole. In the outdoor kitchen of the rambling, one-story,
tile-roofed, delightful old Spanish country house a group of ebony
servants of both sexes and all ages were preparing a dozen other native
dishes the mere aroma of which made a hungry man withdraw to leeward and
await the summons with what patience he could muster. Our host and his
family, with just enough African tinge to their ancestry to make their
hair curl, hurried hither and yon, striving to minister to our already
perfect comfort. There is no more genuine hospitality than that of the
higher class _hacendados_ of rural Latin-America, once they have cast
aside the mixture of shyness and rather oppressive dignity in which they
commonly wrap themselves before strangers.

In due leisurely season the chief victim of the day’s feast, his
mahogany skin crackling from the recent ordeal, bathed in his own tender
juices, was slid down the bamboo pole to a giant platter and given the
place of honor on the family board. Flanked on all sides by the results
of the kitchen industry,—heaping plates of steamed yuca, mashed yams
bristling with native peppers, boiled calabash, plump _boniatos_, golden
Spanish chick-peas, even a Brobdingnagian beefsteak—and these in turn by
the now thoroughly congenial hosts and guests, a barefoot, wide-eyed
servant behind every other chair, the celebration began. Spanish wines
which one would never have credited with finding their way to this
far-off corner of the New World turned the big bucolic tumblers red and
golden in perhaps too rapid succession. Dominican tales of the olden
times, American pleasantries reclothed in rattling Castilian,
reminiscences of Haitian occupation from the still bright-eyed
grandmother, all rose in a babel of hilarity that floated away through
the immense open doorways on the delightful trade winds that sweep
constantly over the West Indies. But alas for the brevity of human
appetite! Long before the center of attraction had lost his resemblance
to the eager little rooter of the day before, while the Gargantuan
beefsteak still sat intact, eyeing the circle with a neglected air, one
after another of the sated convivialists was beckoning away with a
scornful gesture of disinterest the candied and spiced papaya which the
servants were bent on setting before him. What, too, shall I say of the
dastardly conduct of “Big George?” For with his help the _lechón_, nay,
even the neglected beefsteak, might have been reduced to more seemly
proportions before they were abandoned to the eager fingers of the
gleaming-toothed denizens of the kitchen. The painful truth is that the
defelonizer of Porto Rico, the erstwhile dread of Canal Zone criminals,
the man who had so often given a “summary” to a hapless member of the
17th Infantry for being a moment late at reveille, was absent without
leave. Even “Mac,” with his whole family of little Mackites, their
chubby faces giving a touch of old Erin to this Dominican landscape, had
arrived on the scene at the crucial moment. What excuse, then, can one
fabricate for an unhampered bachelor whose seven-league legs might have
covered the paltry distance between new and old Santiago in a twinkling,
yet who had chosen to desert his bidden guests in the heart of a
bandit-infested island? Can even poetic license pardon a man,
particularly a man who dents the lintels of half the doors he passes
through, who remains at home to write sonnets when he might be partaking
of _lechón asado?_ Certainly the admission of such irrelevant testimony
as the fact that the horse furnished him by an unobserving Dominican was
not capable of lifting clear of the ground the seven-league legs already
stigmatized cannot rank even as extenuating circumstances.



                               CHAPTER IX
                          TRAVELS IN THE CIBAO


There are two railroads in Santo Domingo, confined to the Cibao, or
northern half of the Republic, which by their united efforts connect
Santiago with the sea in both directions. The more diminutive of them is
the Ferrocarril Central Dominicano, covering the hundred kilometers
between Moca and Puerto Plata, on the north coast, with the ancient city
of the Gentlemen about two thirds of the way inland. It is government
owned, but takes its orders from an American manager. It burns soft
coal, as the traveler will soon discover to his regret, and, unlike most
lines south of the Rio Grande, it has only one class. The result is that
the single little passenger train which makes the round trip three times
a week and keeps the Sabbath contains a motley throng of voyagers. I say
“contains” with hesitation, for that is somewhat straining the truth.
The bare statement that its gauge is six inches short of a yard should
be sufficient hint to the imaginative reader to indicate the disparity
between travelers and cars. In fact, any but the shortest knees are
prone to become hopelessly entangled with those of one’s companion or in
the rattan seat-back ahead, and the fully developed man who would view
the passing landscape must needs force his head down somewhere near the
pit of his stomach. The train has its virtues, however, for all that.
The more than indefinite periods it tarries at each succeeding station
give the seeker after local color ample opportunity to make the thorough
acquaintance of every town and its inhabitants, particularly as it is
the custom of the latter to gather en masse along the platforms.

We made up a party of four for the journey. “Big George,” his sonnets
safely despatched to his clamoring publisher, was sadly needed to stifle
a feud between his two native subordinates in the northern port; the
rumor of an illicit still in the same locality had been enough to send
“Mac” racing to the station. We wormed our way into one of the two
passenger coaches with mixed feelings. For Rachel it was commodious
enough. After years of experience with the cramped and weak-jointed
furniture of Latin-America I should naturally not be so lacking in
foresight as to choose—or be chosen by—a wife who required an undue
amount of space. “Mac” and I, too, had been booted about this celestial
footstool long enough to accept a certain degree of packing without
protest. But if “Big George” stuck doggedly to the platform and gazed
pensively along the roofs of the cars ahead to where the wool-pated
fireman and engineer were struggling to contain themselves within the
same cab, it was not for the sole purpose of gathering inspiration for
new sonnets from the fronds of the passing palm trees.

However, I was near forgetting to bring “Mac” in for his formal
introduction, and there is no better time to redeem my promise than
while we are tearing along at eight miles an hour over a region we have
already viewed by Ford. Top sergeant of a troop of American cavalry that
won laurels in the Spanish-American war, he had chosen to remain behind
in Porto Rico when his “hitch” was ended. There he helped to set our new
possession to rights and took unto himself the foundation of a family.
With the establishment of American control of customs in Santo Domingo
in 1907 he was the first of our fellow-countrymen to accept the
dangerous task of patrolling the Haitian-Dominican frontier. Many a
party of smugglers did he rout single-handed; times without number he
was surrounded by bandits, or threatened with such fate as only the
outlaws of savage Haiti and their Dominican confederates can inflict
upon helpless white men falling into their hands. “Mac” made it his
business never to be helpless. His trusty rifle lost none of the
accuracy it had learned on the target-range; the tactics of
self-preservation and the will to command he had gained in his long
military schooling stood him in increasing good stead. Even when he was
shot from ambush and marked for life with two great spreading scars
beneath his shirt, he did not lose his soldierly poise, but wreaked a
memorable vengeance on his foes before he dragged himself back to
safety. “Mac” does not boast of these things; indeed, he rarely speaks
of them, except as a background of his witty stories of border control
in the old days. But his colleagues of those merry by-gone times still
tell of his fearless exploits.

[Illustration: Gen. Deciderio Arias, now a cigar maker, whose revolution
finally caused American intervention in Santo Domingo]

[Illustration: A bread seller of Santo Domingo]

[Illustration: The church within a church of Moca]

[Illustration: The “holy place” of Santo Domingo on top of the Santo
Cerro where Columbus planted a cross]

Beyond Navarrete, where the railroad begins to part company with the
highway from the west, the train took to climbing in great leisurely
curves higher and higher into the northern range of hills. Royal palms
stood like markers for steep vistas of denser, but less lofty,
vegetation; scattered houses of simple tropical construction squatting
here and there on little cleared spaces—cleared even of grass, which the
Spanish-American seems ever to abhor—broke the otherwise green and
full-wooded landscape. Worn out rails did duty as telegraph poles; the
power line that brings Santiago its electric light from Puerto Plata
smiled at our pigmy efforts to keep up with it. Higher still the railway
banks were lined with the miserable _yagua_ and jungle-rubbish shacks of
Haitian squatters. An editorial in the least pathetic of Santiago’s
daily handbills masquerading under the name of newspapers had protested
the very day before against this “constant influx of undesirable
immigration.” Indeed, the American governor had recently been prevailed
upon to issue a decree tending to curtail the increase in this sort of
population.

Under this new decree all natives of other West Indian islands resident
within the Dominican Republic must register within four months and be
prepared to leave if their presence is deemed undesirable; those who
seek admission in the future must have in their possession at least
fifty dollars. “Santo Domingo for the Dominicans” is the slogan of those
who have gained the governor’s ear. If they are to have immigration, let
it be Caucasian, preferably from Latin Europe. This demand sounds well
enough in print, but is sadly out of gear with the facts. The Dominican
Republic covers two-thirds of the ancient island of Quisqueya, which has
an area equal to that of Maine or Ireland. Its more than 28,000 square
miles, four times the size of Connecticut and richer in undeveloped
resources than any other region of the West Indies, is inhabited by a
population scarcely equal to that of Buffalo. Nearly two-thirds of those
inhabitants are of the weaker sex; moreover a large percentage of the
males are too proud or too habitually fatigued to indulge in manual
labor, which is the most crying need of the country. Caucasian settlers
would cause it to contribute its fair share to the world’s bread-basket,
were there any known means of attracting them. But as there seems to be
none, its virgin fields must await the importation of labor from its
overcrowded island neighbors, particularly from that land of half its
size and three times its population which is separated from it only by a
knee-deep frontier. Yet what Haitian laborer boasts a fortune of fifty
dollars? A black plutocrat of that grade would remain at home to end his
days in ease in his jungle palace or finance a revolution. The Dominican
is not unjustified in wishing to keep his land free from the semi-savage
hordes beyond the Massacre, but a hungry world will not long endure the
sight of one of its richest garden spots lying virtually fallow.

Beyond a tunnel at the summit of the line, 1600 feet above the sea, the
passengers poured pellmell into a station restaurant. Its long general
table was sagging under a half-dozen styles of meat and all the known
native vegetables and fruits. But woe betide the traveler who clung to
the dignity of good breeding! For he would infallibly be found clamoring
in vain for something with which to decorate his second plate when the
warning screech of the toy locomotive announced that it was prepared to
undertake new feats.

The Atlantic slope of the little mountain range was more unbrokenly
green than the interior valley behind, for it has first choice of the
rains that sweep in from the northeast. Coffee, corn, shaded patches of
cacao, and the giant leaves of the banana clothed the steep hillsides.
Cattle grazed here and there beneath the dense foliage. About the Perez
sugar-mill horn-yoked oxen butted along the bottomless roads massive
two-wheeled carts piled high with cane. Several of the wiser passengers,
a woman or two among them, had sought more commodious quarters in the
“baggage car” ahead, an open box car in which one might pick a steamer
chair or some little less comfortable seat from the luggage piled
helter-skelter against the two end walls. “Big George” invaded the roof
above, where some of us felt impelled to follow, lest his sonnetical
abstraction cause him to be left hanging from the telegraph wire that
sagged low across the line at frequent intervals. This free-and-easy,
take-care-of-yourself-because-we-don’t-intend-to manner of operating
public utilities is one of the chief charms of the American tropics.

At La Sabana, with its majestic ceiba tree framing the jumping-off place
ahead, we halted to change engines. The ten per cent grade down to the
coast had led to the recent introduction of powerful Shea locomotives to
take the place of the former rack-rails that lay in tumbled heaps along
the edge of the constantly encroaching vegetation. Wrecks of cars, like
helpless upturned turtles, rusting away beneath their growing shrouds of
greenery below the embankment of several sharp curves, suggested why the
change had been made. Trees and bushes completely covered with ivy-like
growths as with green clothing hung out in the blazing sunshine to dry
lined the way. The wide-spread view of the foam-edged coast of the blue
Atlantic, with the red roofs of Puerto Plata peering through the trees,
shrank and faded away as we reached the narrow plain, across which we
jolted for ten minutes more through sugar, mango, and banana-bearing
fields before the passengers disentangled themselves on the edge of the
sea.

The port was somewhat larger, more sanitary and more enterprising than
we had expected. Cacao, sugar, and tobacco were being run on mule-drawn
hand-cars out to a waiting steamer, though, strictly speaking, the open
roadstead can scarcely be called a harbor. The town was pretty, shaded
in its outer portions by cocoanut and other seaside tropical trees, and
with all the usual Spanish-American features. A church completely
covered with sheet iron walled one side of the delightful little plaza,
about which were the customary open clubs, one of them occupied by
American marines, whose rag-time phonographs and similar pastimes
ladened the evening breezes more than all the others. The cemetery on
the edge of the sloping hills was agreeably decorated with bushes of
velvety, dark red leaves, but I remember it rather because of the name
of a marine sergeant on the bulkhead of one of those curious Spanish
rows of bureau-drawer graves set into the massive outer wall. Strange
final resting-place of an American boy! Nor was he of this new
generation of “leather-necks” that has settled down to make Santo
Domingo behave itself; he had been left there early in the century,
probably from some passing ship. The familiar time-battered carriages
with their jangling bells rumbled languidly through the streets; a match
factory that lights all the cigars of the revolutionary republic jostled
for space among the dwellings; swarms of mosquitoes drove us to take
early refuge within our bed-shielding _mosquiteros_; American bugle
calls broke now and then on the soft night air, and a large generous
bullet-hole gave the final national touch to our weak-showered, tubless
hotel bathroom.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Our longer trip eastward from Santiago happily coincided with the
monthly inspection tours of their district by “Mac” and “Big George.”
The run to Moca through a rich, floor-flat valley spreading far away to
the southward gave new evidence of the fertility of Santo Domingo.
Bananas and cacao, maize and yuca in the same fields, now and then a
coffee plantation, constituted the chief cultivation. Tobacco was being
transplanted here and there. Frequent villages were hidden away in the
greenery; nowhere was there any evidence of such abject poverty as that
of Haiti. A section of the new national highway which, under American
incentive, is destined some day to connect Monte Cristi with the far-off
capital, followed the railway, but its black loam surface, hardened into
enormous cracks and ruts since the end of the last rainy season, made it
too venturesome a risk even for the courageous Ford. A long viaduct
lifted the train across what Spanish-Americans call a river, and a
moment later we had come to the end of the government railroad.

Moca, famous for its coffee, which is so often taken to be of Arabic
origin, is rated a “white town,” because of a slightly increased
percentage of pure, or nearly pure, descendants of Castilians. Thanks to
the coffee-clad foot-hills to the north and the broad, fertile plain to
the south and east, it is wealthy above the average, and rumor has it
that much gold might be dug up from its back gardens and patios. There
is special reason for this, for like its neighbor, Salcedo, it has ever
been a center of revolutionists, bandits, and political intrigues. Two
presidents have been assassinated in its streets; its hatred of
Americans is as deadly as it dares to be under a firm marine commander.
An excellent, cement-paved, up-to-date market contrasts with the dusty
open spaces, with their squatting, ragged negresses, in Haiti. What was
designed to be an imposing stone church, however, has never reached
anything like completion. Not long ago the resident padre had the happy
thought of instituting a lottery to swell the contributions from his
tardy parishioners, and two glaringly new square cement towers are the
result of the inspiration. But time moves more swiftly than the best
devised schemes; as the towers rise, the already aged stone walls go
crumbling away, and the real place of worship consists merely of a
ragged thatched roof on stilts covering only a fraction of the
half-walled inclosure.

The Ferrocarril de Samaná y Santiago, neither of which towns it actually
reaches, connects at Moca with the government line and runs to the port
of Sanchez on the east coast, with short branches to La Vega and San
Francisco de Macoris. It is popularly known as the “Scotch line,” is
some thirty years old and still equipped with the original rolling
stock, but has a meter gauge, more commodious and better ventilated
cars, a more easily riding roadbed, a daily service in both directions
except on Sunday, and makes slightly better speed than its rival. The
short run to La Vega, with a change of cars at Las Cabullas, is along
the same rich valley. Founded by Columbus himself in a slightly
different locality, this center of a splendidly fertile cacao and
agricultural district is a near replica of Moca, all but surrounded by
the river Camú. Rich black mud, as is fitting in a region producing the
chocolate-yielding pods, slackens the footsteps of visitor and resident
alike in all but the few blocks bordering on the plaza though all its
streets were once paved with stone by a Haitian governor. “Mac” found
interest in its distilleries, shops, and revenue office; “Big George”
made use of those seven-league legs to set the property valuation of the
town in one short day, but our own curiosity centered about the “Holy
Hill” and the ruins of the original settlement. To tell the truth the
latter does not give the traveler’s imagination much to build upon. A
few miles from the modern town, along a stone-surfaced section of that
national highway-to-be, are the remnants of a few stone walls, a low
ancient fortress or two, and slabs of good old Spanish mortar that has
outlived the flat, pale-red bricks it once held together, all hidden
away in the hot and humid wilderness of a badly tended cacao plantation.

The great place of pilgrimage of the region, indeed, the most venerated
spot in all Santo Domingo, is the Santo Cerro, a plump hill surmounted
by a massive stone church, a mile or so nearer the town. Now and again
some faithful believer still comes from a distant corner of the republic
and climbs the long stony slope on his knees, though such medieval piety
has all but died out even in Santo Domingo. The church at the summit is
in the special keeping of Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, whose
miraculous cures are reputed to have no superior anywhere in the
Catholic world. A town of superstitious invalids clusters about the
entrance to the inclosure in wretched thatched huts; on certain days of
the year the sacred hilltop is crowded with the more modern type of
pilgrim, who not infrequently comes by carriage or motor.

The story runs—and up to a certain point at least it is historically
accurate—that Columbus and his men had camped on the hill, when they
beheld swarming up from the vega below a great horde of Indians, bent on
their immediate destruction. The discoverer was equal to the occasion.
Ordering his men to cut a branch from an immense _níspero_ tree beneath
which he had been resting, he fashioned it into a crude cross, and
planted it before the advancing enemy. “Then,” as the cautious old
Italian padre who to-day replaces his illustrious fellow-countryman put
it, “I was not present, so I cannot vouch for it, but _they say_”—that
the Virgin of Las Mercedes appeared in the sky above and saved the day
for the conquistadores. At any rate the Indians were repulsed, and the
Spaniards at once set about building La Vega, old La Vega, that is, at
the foot of the hill.

The church of pilgrimage is modern, marking the site of the ancient one
that was erected over the improvised cross. It, too, is liberally marked
with patched bullet-holes, for Dominican revolutionists have no
compunction in using even a sacro-sacred edifice as a barricade. Inside,
in addition to the richly garbed doll over the altar and the usual gaudy
bric-a-brac of such places, there is a square hole in the marble
pavement of the principal chapel, filled with yellowish soil. This
purports to be the exact spot on which Columbus erected the cross, and
the healing properties of the earth within it depend only on the faith
of the seeker after health—and certain other indispensable little
formalities which are inseparable from all supernatural cures. Pious
Dominicans step into the _santo hoyo_ barefooted, muttering _promesas_,
or promises of reward to the attendant Virgin if their health is
restored, and even those who decline to uncover their pedal infirmities
in so public a place carry off a pinch or a handful of the sacred earth.
Yet the “holy hole” is not the deep well one would fancy four centuries
of such excavation must have left it. If anything it is slightly above
the level of the ground outside the church. For no matter how much of
the yellow soil is carried off during the day, morning always finds the
hole filled again by some “miracle”—which somehow brings up visions of a
poor old native peon wandering about in the darkest hours of the night
with a sack and a shovel.

The original _níspero_ stood for more than four hundred years in the
identical spot where Columbus found it. Not until the month of May
before our visit did it at length fall down—“_por descuido_; for lack of
care,” as the present padre put it, sadly. But the pious old Italian has
planted in its place a “son” of the historical tree,—a twig that already
shows a will to fill the footsteps of its “father”—and from the wood of
the latter he has made a boxful of little crosses which he gives away
“to true believers as sacred relics; to others as souvenirs”—though
there is nothing to hinder the recipient of either class from dropping
into the padre’s bloodless hand a little remembrance “for my poor.”

Even though Columbus had never climbed it nor “miracles” been performed
upon it, the holy hilltop would be a place worth coming far to see, or
at least to look from. The wonderful floor-flat Vega Real, the most
splendid plain in Santo Domingo, if not in the West Indies, is spread
out below it in all its entirety. Dense green, palm-dotted above its sea
of vegetation, even its cultivated places patches of unbroken greenery,
with Moca, Salcedo, far-off “Macoris,” and half a dozen other towns
plainly visible, a sparkling river gleaming here and there, walled in
the vast distance by ranges that rise to pine-clad heights, there are
few more extensive, verdant, or entrancing sights in the world than this
still more than half virgin vale. Compared with it in any respect the
far-famed valley of Yumurí in Cuba is of slight importance.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Several hours’ ride across this world’s garden of the future, with a
change to, and later from, the main line, brought us at nightfall to San
Francisco de Macoris. Unlike nearly every other town of Santo Domingo,
this one is of modern origin, a mere stripling of less than a century of
existence. It lies where the Vega Real begins to slope upward toward the
northern range, with extensive cacao estates of rather indolent habits
hidden away among the foot-hills behind it. A flat town of tin roofs,
its outskirts concealed beneath tropical trees, it offers nothing of
special interest to the mere traveler.

A nine-day fiesta in honor of Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia, which had
broken out with an uproarious beating of discordant church bells, tinny
drums, and home-made fireworks during our day in La Vega raged
throughout all our stay in “Macoris.” All the population capable of
setting one foot before the other joined in the religious processions
that frequently wended their funereal way through the half-cobbled
streets. We found amusement, too, in a local courtroom, where justice
was dispensed by a common-sense old judge in an informal, unbiased way
that seemed strange in a Latin-American atmosphere, particularly so in a
country where a bare five years before most decisions went to the
highest bidder. The improvement suggested that Santo Domingo could be a
success so long as some overwhelming power holds it steady by appointing
the better class of officials and keeping an exacting eye constantly
upon them. A third point of interest which no visitor to the Macoris of
the north should neglect is a chat with “old man Castillo.” Born in
1834, his mind still extremely active, this grandson of old Spain has
been one of the chief sources of information to the wiser Marine
commanders of the district. His personal reminiscences of Haitian rule,
how as a boy he marvelled at the high hats and gorgeous but often
ludicrously patched uniforms of the black troops from the west, make a
colorful picture worth beholding, even were he not the only surviving
general of the war, contemporary with our own struggle between the north
and the south, that brought the final expulsion of Spanish rule from
Santo Domingo. His summing up of the present status of the revolutionary
republic is that of nearly all the conservative, thoughtful element of
the population. For twenty years he had been convinced that intervention
would be for the future good of the country; for at least ten he had
ardently desired it; he would consider it a national misfortune to have
it withdrawn before a new generation has been thoroughly cured of the
empleomania and unruliness which had become the curse of Dominican life.
Mistakes had been made by the forces of occupation, rather by
subordinates than by the higher command, but the whole list of them, he
was convinced, had been easier to bear than the least of their
constantly recurring revolutions.

The engine that had dragged us up to the edge of the vega had not
sufficiently recovered from its exertions to venture down again, and the
locomotive from the main line was forced to delay its appointed task to
come and get us. It is typical of the easy-going charm of the tropics
that the engineer of the day before had profanely declined to exchange
his coal-fed steed for that of his colleague from the east, despite
telegraphic orders from the master of transportation, duly and
officially transmitted through the station agent, hence our not
unprecedented delay. Beyond the junction of La Jina the densely green
vega changed gradually to broad, brown savannahs not unlike our own
Western prairies. These slowly gave place again to _mata_, uncultivated
half-wilderness with flat open spaces. Pimentel, a considerable town at
which travelers to the more important one of Cotui changed from car
seats to saddles, was followed by Villa Riva on the Yuma, the largest
river in the West Indies and navigable for small schooners. The
landscape grew still more open, with immense trees casting here and
there the round shadows of noonday and cacao beans drying on rude raised
platforms or on leaf-mats spread frankly upon the ground before every
_bohío_, or thatch and palm-trunk dwelling. Royal palm trees stretched
in close but broken formation across the flatlands and on up over a high
ridge like the soldiers of an arboreal army in disordered rout. Then the
train rumbled out across a swampy region where the flanges of the rails
were frequently covered by the brackish water and the exhausted engine
stumbled into Sanchez only three hours late.

Strewn along the base of a rocky wooded ridge on the inner curve of the
great horseshoe bay of Samaná, Sanchez is not much to look at despite
its considerable importance, from a Dominican point of view, as the
chief northeastern port and the headquarters of the “Scotch line.”
Several large sheet-iron warehouses and a long wooden pier sprinkled
with cacao beans and the plentiful cinders of a switch engine are its
chief features. Since the virtual repeal of the export tax on cacao,
with “Big George” and the new real estate taxation to take its place,
its activity has somewhat increased.

Like many another corner of Santo Domingo, mosquito- and gnat-bitten
Sanchez would be a dreary spot indeed but for the presence of our little
force of occupation. The natives themselves recognise this, as their
constant appeals for medical attention from the uninvited strangers
demonstrate. With the possible exception of the capital, the republic is
so scantily supplied with physicians that the navy doctors who have the
health of the marines in their keeping are permitted to engage in civil
practice. Even in Santiago, with its 20,000 inhabitants, the great
majority of the population had hitherto no other remedy for their varied
ailments than the sticking of a green leaf on each temple. The bright
youth of the country saw no reason to submit to the arduous training
incident to the medical profession when the study of revolutionary
tactics promised so much quicker results. Small wonder the poor ignorant
populace, knowing no better course to take, repair in their illness to
the Santo Cerro, there to smear themselves with holy dirt in the ardent
hope of improvement; and it may be that the simple priests who abet them
in those absurd antics are not so rascally as they seem from our loftier
point of view, for they too may in their ignorance be more or less
sincere believers in this nonsense.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Sanchez saw, though it may not have noted, the breaking up of our
congenial quartet. “Mac” had received orders to proceed overland through
the bandit-famed province of Seibo to the capital, and accepted my
protection and guidance on the journey. That region being a “restricted
district” for women, Rachel was forced to submit to the tender mercies
of the Clyde Line; while “Big George,” whether through devotion to duty,
a disparity between his own length and that of his salary, or for a
newly developed fear of personal violence, herewith takes his final
leave of this unvarnished tale.

Three hours in an open motor-boat manned by Marines, close along an
evergreen shore stretching in a low, cocoanut-clad ridge that died away
on the eastern horizon, brought the surviving pair of us to Samaná.
Tumbled up the slope of the same ridge, with a harbor sheltered by
several densely wooded islets, the town was more pleasing than the
busier Sanchez. Great patches of the surrounding cocoanut forest were
brown with the ravages of a parasitical disease that attacks leaves,
branches, and fruit not only of these, but of the cacao plants of the
region. Saddle-oxen, once common throughout both divisions of the
ancient Quisqueya, ambled through the streets, their heads raised at a
disdainful angle by the reins attached to their nose-rings. The soft
soil and the frequent rains of the Samaná peninsula account for their
survival here in spite of the ascending price of beef and leather. This,
too, was a town of bullet-holes, for revolutionists have frequently
found its isolation and its custom-house particularly to their liking.
It is a rare house that cannot show a scar or two, and both the
sheet-iron Methodist churches are patched like the garments of a Haitian
pauper.

The existence of two such anomalies in a single town of Catholic Santo
Domingo calls the attention to the most interesting feature of Samaná,
an American negro colony of some two thousand members scattered about
the peninsula. Nearly a century ago, when the black troops from beyond
the Massacre had overrun the entire island, the Haitian king, president,
or emperor, as he happened at the moment to be called, opened
negotiations with an abolition society in the United States with the
hope of attracting immigration. Several shiploads of blacks, all
Northern negroes who had escaped or bought their freedom, responded to
the invitation. Most of them came from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New
Jersey; one of the towns of the peninsula is still known as Bucks County
in memory of the exiles from that part of the first-named state. Numbers
of the new-comers foiled the purpose of the Haitian ruler by quickly
dying of tropical diseases; a very few found their way back to the
United States. The survivors settled down on the five acres of land each
that had been granted them, the Haitians having frankly ignored all
other promises.

Their descendants of the fourth or fifth generation are proud to this
day of their “American” origin. They hail one in the streets of Samaná
and lose no time in establishing their special identity, in a naïve,
respectful manner that has all but disappeared among their brethren in
our own land. Scattered over all the Samaná peninsula, some of them have
been absorbed by the Dominicans, but a considerable colony has never
inter-married with the natives and still retains the speech and customs
their ancestors brought with them. The majority are farmers, moderately
well-to-do, living miles out in the country and only now and then riding
to town on horse- or ox-back. Unlike most of their neighbors they do not
live in concubinage, but are married in their own churches. They are not
liked by the Dominicans, who seem to resent their superior education and
customs, though all admit that they are good citizens and good workers,
though not fighters, as Americans on custom border control soon
discovered. Bigger men both physically and mentally than the natives,
they live in what seem real homes compared with the miserable dirt-floor
huts of the Dominicans of the same color. Wherever a glimpse through a
doorway shows comfort, cleanliness, and a shelf of books one is almost
sure to find English spoken. It is a remarkably pure English, too, for a
tongue that has been cut off from its source for nearly a century, far
superior to that of the British West Indies, though with certain
peculiarities of negro accent. With rare exceptions the “Americans” do
not mix in politics, though they were frequently forced to fight on one
side or the other during the revolutions, because neutrals, abhorred
like a vacuum, lost both liberty and property no matter which side won.
In such times no protection was given non-combatants, except to
foreigners, and the “American” negroes of Samaná are legally Dominicans
despite their protests. One cannot but be proud of the strength of
American influence, of the compliment to our civilization which is
implied by the insistence of these exiles on keeping a sort of separate
nationality, by the strong tendency toward good citizenship they have
maintained through all their generations.

In a little parsonage on the edge of town lives the Rev. James, pastor
of the A. M. E. church, and temporarily in charge also of the Wesleyan
place of worship, locally known as St. Peter’s. His bishop, curiously
enough, lives in Detroit. Pastor James is a full-blooded negro whose
male ancestors have been ministers for generations. Sent to the Northern
States for his final schooling, like many children of the colony, he
worked his way through Beloit College. His wide fund of information on
all subjects would make many of our own ministers seem narrow by
comparison; yet he has little of that curious mixture of humility and
arrogance which is so common among educated negroes. Even in such minor
details as refraining from the use of tobacco his personal habits are a
contrast to the often licentious lives of Dominican priests. In his
fairly voluminous library so rare in Santo Domingo, such books as “Up
from Slavery,” “Negro Aspirations,” and many other tomes, magazines, and
encyclopedias of a serious—and what is more, not merely religious—nature
attract the eye.

Each of the churches has some three hundred members, many of whom ride
in from miles around on Sundays. Inside the bullet-riddled edifices the
un-Catholic pews, the mottoes in English over the pulpits, the
old-fashioned organs all add to the American atmosphere. A third church
is maintained in the region, and the colony has several schools of its
own. Among the best American influences the colonists have retained is
the un-Dominican tendency to help themselves and not depend upon the
government in such matters. Complete segregation of sexes, from the
youngest pupils to the teachers, has been adopted in these schools,
where both Spanish and English are taught. Unlike Haiti, Santo Domingo
grants such institutions no government aid. The pastor receives half his
salary from mission funds from the United States, and the other half not
at all, because local contributions are eaten up by educational
requirements.

The Rev. James has a fund of stories, more amusing to the hearer than to
the teller, for those who care to listen. During one of the last
revolutions, for instance, the town was attacked during services, and
the congregation, putting more faith in self-help than in supernatural
aid, stopped in the middle of a prayer to cut a hole through the church
floor, and remained on the ground beneath until Monday morning. The
colony, in the opinion of its pastor, is eager to have American
occupation continue, or at least to have the United States take
possession of the bay of Samaná, as it has that of Guantánamo in Cuba,
that forces may be close at hand to curb revolutions. Influential
Dominicans, he is convinced, prefer the present status, with the
exception, of course, of the politicians, and even the rank and file are
beginning to see the error of their former ways and to wish peace,
security, and no more destruction of their farms and herds more than
complete national independence. On the whole it is remarkable how this
colony has maintained its customs intact through all the long years
since its establishment. Once given a good start the negro seems to
endure the deteriorating influences of the tropics better than the white
man. The Rev. James, four generations removed from the temperate zone,
is far more of a credit to civilization than many a Caucasian who has
lived a mere twenty years in equatorial lands.

Samaná has a French, or, more exactly, a Haitian colony dating back to
the same period, hence many of its inhabitants speak English, Spanish,
and “creole.” This portion of the population, living chiefly in the far
outskirts, is as much inferior to the Dominicans as the latter are to
the “Americans.” Neapolitans and “Turks” monopolize most of the
commerce, and as usual do no productive labor. Coffee was formerly grown
in some quantity on the peninsula, but cacao was planted in its place
when the latter began to command high prices. Now that the blight has
attacked this and there is hardly enough of the former produced for
local use, exports are slight. Bananas could be grown in abundance;
oranges are so plentiful that the town boys play marbles with them, but
there is no market, or rather no transportation for such bulky products,
which are sold only in small quantities to passing ships for their own
use.

Among the sights of the town is a fine new cockpit as carefully planned
as our metropolitan theaters. It resembles a tiny bull-ring, the
fighting space surrounded by upright boards painted a bright red, a
comfortable gallery rising about the outer circle, ringside boxes
furnished with good cane chairs saving the élite the annoyance of mixing
with the collarless rank and file. Cozy little dens for the fighting
cocks open directly into the ring; a bright new thatched roof shades
spectators and feathered gladiators alike; an outer wall of yagua rises
just high enough to give the breeze free play, yet at the same time to
prevent the tallest citizen from seeing the contest without paying his
_peseta_ at the neat little ticket window. The “American” residents roll
pious eyes at the mention of this nefarious sport. Not merely do they
consider it beneath them to attend such exhibitions, but look upon them
as a particularly sinful way of losing caste, since they are always held
on the “holy Sabbath.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

We sailed across the bay on the mailboat _Nereida_, a wretched little
single-masted derelict no larger than an average lifeboat. Though its
bottom was already heaped with broken rock ballast, an incredible load
of American patent medicine, of flour, rum, soap, cigarettes, sprouted
onions, cottonseed oil, and sundry odds and ends was tumbled into it
before the mails finally put in an appearance an hour after sailing
time. Nine passengers and a crew of two, all negroes except “Mac” and
myself, crowded the frequently sea-washed deck. What our fate would have
been had one of the sudden squalls for which West Indian waters are
noted overtaken us it was all too easy to imagine.

A steady wind on the beam carried us diagonally across the gulf in the
general direction of our destination without the necessity of tacking.
The shore we were leaving was the scene of the first bloodshed between
Columbus and the aborigines of the New World, the forerunner of
countless massacres. The bay was once offered to the United States by a
Dominican president, but a single congressman caused us to decline the
honor. Tiny fishing boats with palm-leaf sails ventured a few miles out
from the land, then abandoned to us the seascape, which remained
unbroken until we neared the southern shore well on in the afternoon.
Constant quarrels between the two halves of the crew on the advisability
of tacking or not tacking enlivened all our snail-like, zigzag course
along the face of the land, and black night had come before we climbed
over the water-soaked cargo to the drunken pier of Jovero.

A gawky village of some six hundred inhabitants, boasting only one
two-story house, this out-of-the-world place was quickly thrown into a
furore of curiosity over its unexpected white visitors. Even the
commander of the _guardia_ detachment was a native lieutenant; the most
nearly Caucasian resident was the town treasurer, a young “Turk” from
Tripoli, in the back of whose more than general store we were finally
served a much needed meal. With three thousand persons in the region
only two copies of a weekly newspaper, according to the post master,
brought them the world’s news, and that was a pathetic little sheet from
across the bay. No wonder false rumors have a free field in such a
community. Cattle, pigs, cacao, and an unseasoned tobacco sold in
mouldy-scented rolls six feet long, called _andullos_, made up the
scanty exports of the district. Barely one per cent. of its territory is
under cultivation, for like all the province of Seibo bandits still
harass it long after the rest of the republic has been pacified.

Under superior orders the native lieutenant assigned a sergeant and
eleven men of the _guardia_ to accompany us through the bandit haunts
beyond. As they lined up for final inspection they were spick and span
out of all parallel in my tropical experience, from newly ironed
breeches to oiled rifles; ten minutes later they were marching knee-deep
through a river in the well-polished shoes they would gladly have left
behind had American discipline permitted it. Their own fault, I mused,
for they might have spent some of their ample garrison leisure in
building a bridge; but I soon withdrew the mental criticism. A single
bridge would not much have improved that route. It consisted of a wide
cleared space through the mountainous forest, and nothing more—rather
less, in fact, for in many places neither the stumps or the huge felled
trunks had been removed. Streams succeeded one another in swift
succession; the almost constant rains of this region had made the steep
slopes precarious toboggans of red mud, where they were not corduroyed
with _camclones_, slippery ridges of earth with deep troughs of muddy
water between them. Here and there the guards were forced to climb a
slimy bank virtually on their hands and knees; in other places the mud
clung to their feet in hundred-weight; with the densest vegetation on
either hand cutting off all suggestion of breeze, the sweat dripped from
them in streams. Within half an hour the bedraggled, soaked,
mud-plastered rifle-bearers staggering before and behind us along the
trail showed slight resemblance indeed to the perfectly starched and
polished young men who had been drawn up for the lieutenant’s
inspection.

“Mac” and I on our sorry mounts were not much better off. It was
beginning to be apparent why one can get from Santiago to New York more
easily and in less time than to the Dominican capital. The ex-“top,” as
a high government official, had been given Jovero’s best mule, but it
would be easy to imagine a better one. My own steed had long since
become a candidate for the glue factory and his suffering air had
already riddled my conscience before a shifting of the saddle-cloth
disclosed an open sore on his back larger than my two hands. Santo
Domingo needs such a law as that with which we cured the Canal Zone of
this heartless Latin-American custom of working their animals in a
mutilated condition. But what could one do under the circumstances but
urge on the suffering beast? We had come too far for me to turn back in
the faint hope of getting another mount; it was as necessary to reach
Seibo as it was not to leave “Mac” in the lurch, and even had I taken to
my feet along with the mud-caked guards the abandoned animal would have
been almost certain to fall into the still less compassionate hands of
the bandits.

Precautions against the latter now began to be taken in earnest. We were
approaching a labyrinth of sharp gullies and high hills which had always
been a favorite lurking-place of the outlaws. Any turn of the now narrow
trail would have made a splendid ambush. Drenching showers at frequent
intervals made it easy for the ruffians to sneak up through the bush
unheard; the heavy humidity of a tropical rainy season deadens sounds
even when the sun shines. The sergeant arranged his men in skirmish
formation, with strict orders not to “bunch up” under any circumstances.
A barefoot native on horseback, who had overtaken us soon after our
departure from Jovero, was forbidden to ride ahead of the party. We had
no means of knowing whether his assertion that he had hastened to join
us for safety’s sake, after waiting a fortnight for a chance to make the
journey, was truth or pretense. These preparations concluded, we moved
forward ready for instant battle.

Nothing of the kind occurred. I might have known it would not; there is
no greater Jonah on earth than I for scaring off adventure. Trails worn
deeper than a horseman’s head and so narrow as to rub our elbows offered
attackers comparative immunity; the dense jungle might easily have
concealed a score of men within a yard or two on either side of us; the
steepness of the mountain-top, forcing us to dismount and drag our
weary, stumbling animals behind us, left us scant breath to spend in
physical combat, yet nothing but the deep, oppressive silence of a
tropical wilderness enlivened our laborious progress. By the time the
summit was reached we were ready to believe that the bandits of Seibo
were a myth. An unbroken expanse of vegetation, dark green everywhere,
spread away to the limitless southern horizon. Yet the rains ceased
abruptly at the crest of the range, and the trail that carried us
swiftly downward was as dry as the Sahara.

The sergeant gradually relaxed his vigilance and let his men once more
straggle along at will, though he watched closely the rare travelers who
began to appear. Several of the guards, I found, as we grouped together
again for a rest, spoke to one another in Samaná English rather than
Spanish. When I gave a cheering word in the latter tongue to a ragged
native civilian who had plodded at my horse’s heels since the beginning
of the journey, he glanced up at me with an expression of
incomprehension and asked the guard behind him to interpret my remark.
He was Canadian born, had been seven years in the sugar fields of Cuba
without learning a word of Spanish, and had been robbed by Haitian
_cacos_ of everything except his tattered hat, shirt and trousers.
“Nobody told me there were that kind of people in that country,” he
explained, plaintively, “I never thought such things of people of _my_
color.” The wisdom gained from that unexpected experience developed a
precaution that had held him nearly three weeks in Jovero awaiting a
safe opportunity to proceed to the sugar district of southeastern Santo
Domingo.

[Illustration: A Dominican switch engine]

[Illustration: A Dominican hearse]

[Illustration: American Marines on the march]

[Illustration: A riding horse of Samaná]

We were soon down on the flatlands again, but it was a long time before
the first signs of cultivation broke the dreary wilderness. This was a
cacao _canuco_, or tiny plantation, overgrown with brush and weeds and
with the scarred ruins of a hut in one corner of it. More of them lined
the way for mile after mile, all abandoned for the past three years,
fear of the bandits making it impossible even to pick the pods that
ripened, rotted, and fell beneath the trees. These endless gardens
choked with weeds made this wonderfully fertile valley seem doubly
pitiful in its uncultivated immensity. The guards, who, after the
fashion of their kind, had made no provision whatever against a long
day’s hunger, climbed the rotting stick fences and picked half-green
bananas and _papayas_, or _lechosas_, as the Dominican calls them, from
the untended plantations. At length huts still standing began to appear,
then inhabited ones, occupied almost exclusively by women, showed that
we were approaching the safety zone. The creak of guinea hens, like
rusty hinges, commenced to break the silence; goats took to capering out
of our way; better dressed people of both sexes gradually put in an
appearance, crowing cocks challenged one another in ever increasing
number, and at sunset the again road-wide trail became the main street
of the town of Seibo.

The capital of a province without so much as the pretense of a hotel is
a rarity even in backward Santo Domingo. Nothing but the most miserable
of thatched huts, with three human nests on legs in one tiny room, and a
back-yard reed kitchen attended by a ragged old negro crone, offers
accommodation to unbefriended strangers in Seibo. It is perhaps the most
out-of-the-way, astonished-at-strangers, unacquainted-with-the-world
town of any size that can be found in the West Indies. Though a large
detachment of marines camp at its bandit-threatened door, it showed
unbounded surprise to see American civilians. Groups of almost foppishly
dressed men lounged about its streets, yet the town itself was little
short of filthy. A curious old domed church, some of it built four
hundred years ago, its original color faded to a spotted pale-blue, and
its aged square tower surmounted by a marine wireless apparatus, is the
only building of importance. From the top of this, or the one other
place in town where one can go upstairs, Seibo is seen to be surrounded
by low hills, everywhere wooded, without a hut outside its compact mass,
its skirts drawn up like those of a nervous old maid in constant dread
of mice. The inevitable fortress that gives Haitian and Dominican
villages a likeness to the castle-crowned towns of medieval Italy
watches over it from a near-by knoll and houses its _guardia_ garrison.
Built almost entirely of wood, the low houses of the better class are
roofed with sheet-iron, the poorer with palm-leaf thatch. It has no
plaza but merely a stony plowed rectangle of unoccupied ground in its
center. The public school has no doors between its rooms, hence is a
constant uproar of teachers and classes shouting against one another.
Seibo bears the reputation of being always “agin’ the gover’ment,” and
it is not strange that we found its people somewhat more surly toward
Americans than those of the Cibao.

That did not hinder them from obeying “Mac’s” official commands with
fitting alacrity, however, whether they were a hint to shop-keepers to
display their licenses as the law required or a whisper to his local
subordinates to correct their methods. The slip-shod ways of native rule
cannot long endure where an exacting American official drops in
unexpectedly every now and then to inspect things down to the slightest
detail. Such close-rein methods are indispensable to the proper
functioning of revenue laws in Santo Domingo. Your Latin-American can
seldom rise to the point of impersonal application of governmental
decrees; with him it is always a personal matter between official and
inhabitant. Checked up in the courteous yet firm manner which “Mac” had
learned by long contact with this race, his subordinates had a curious
resemblance to backward schoolboys whom a teacher holds up to scratch by
frequent kindly assistance with a threat of the switch behind it. The
government of occupation has done everything possible to remove
temptation from both inspected and inspector in internal revenue
matters. Every distillery, for instance, is so constructed that the
owner may watch his product behind iron bars as it runs from still to
receptacle, yet not a drop can he extract without calling upon the
inspector to produce his keys. By such contrivances Santo Domingo is
being gradually weaned away from the irregularities that were long the
curse of its financial legislation.

An invitation from the major in command caused us to change with
alacrity on our second day in Seibo from the “hotel” to a tent in the
marine camp on the edge of town, with a far-reaching view, an unfailing
breeze, and a “swimming hole” in the river below. Here, by dint of
spending most of the day insisting, by offering twice the local rate for
good mounts, by promising a peon “guide” a week’s pay for a day’s work,
by seeing that the horses were within the marine corral before going to
bed, and by being generally and strictly from Missouri, we succeeded in
getting off the next morning at five. The air was damp and fresh. For
the first time in five years I beheld the Southern Cross I had once
known like the features of an old friend. Endless forests with a level
roadway cut through them shut us in all through the morning, only a few
_canucos_ breaking the perspective of sheer forest walls. As in Haiti,
the peasants of Seibo live back out of sight from the main trails, for
fear of bandits, as the vicinity of some of our railroads is still
shunned out of dread of marauding tramps. At another large marine camp
we left the roadway and sagging telegraph wire to La Romana and struck
due southward along a half-cleared trail that after an hour or more
brought us out upon the sun-toasted advance guard of the cane-fields of
the south. Amid the stumps and logs of immense tropical trees, black
with the recent burning, baby sugar-cane was already turning bright
green the broad expanse of newly felled forest. Negroes almost without
exception from the French or British West Indies were adding row after
row of the virgin fields to the sugar supply of a hungry world. Farther
on, beyond another strip of forest soon due for the same fate, came
immense stretches of full-sized cane, then toiling groups of
cane-cutters, huge creaking cane-carts, finally a railroad that scorns
to carry anything but cane, and by ten we had brought up at the _batey_
of Diego, our mounted “guide” straggling in far behind us.

Many of the workmen of the surrounding “colonies” had gone on strike
that morning. The Dominican delegate to the recent labor conference in
Washington had brought back with him this new method of bringing to
terms the “wicked American and Cuban capitalists who would starve us
while carrying off our national wealth.” It was noticeable, however,
that only a small fraction of the idle groups crowding the _batey_ were
natives of the country; the great majority of them grumbled in the
easy-going drawl of the British negro. Small wonder the arguments of the
Spanish-speaking manager who harangued them from the door of the office
fell chiefly on uncomprehending ears. Besides, though their own
arguments were simpler, they were not easily refuted. “Wi’ rice
twenty-fi’ cent a pound an’ sugah eighteen cent in Macoris town what y’u
go’n’ a do, mahn, what y’u go’n’ a do? An’ de washer lady she ax you a
shilling fo’ to wash a shirt! How us can cut a caht-load o’ canes fo’
seventy cent? Better fo’ we if us detain we at home.”

Leaving manager and strikers to settle their differences without our
assistance we climbed to the top of a car-load of cane and were soon
creaking away across the slightly rolling country. A train so long that
it had to be cut in two at the first suggestion of a grade squirmed away
before us like a great green snake. The land became one vast expanse of
sugar-cane, broken only by the clustered buildings of the _bateys_ and
dotted here and there by a royal palm or ceiba, which the woodsmen had
not had the heart to fell. Branch railroads, like the ribs of a leaf,
brought the product of all this down to the main line, whence it poured
into the capacious maw of the Central Santa Fé, the tall chimneys of
which appeared toward sunset, backed far off by a slightly yellowish
Caribbean.

San Pedro de Macoris on the southern coast is a more important town than
its near namesake of the Cibao, yet it is disappointing for all its
size. With a certain amount of modern bustle, more city features than we
had seen since Santiago, a fair percentage of full white inhabitants,
and a rather “cocky” air, it exists chiefly because of a bottle-shaped
harbor with a dangerously narrow entrance between reefs, while its docks
are largely manned by British negroes.

We finally found passengers enough to afford the trip by automobile from
Macoris to the capital. With the single exception of the Haitian journey
to Las Cahobas, I have never known of a worse road being actually
covered by automobile. Sandy or stony beyond words, a constant
succession of rocks, stumps, scrub trees, sun-baked mud-holes, without a
yard of smooth going, it was in fact no road at all, but so often had
travelers followed the same general direction that a kind of route had
grown up of itself. Several times we came to temporary grief; once we
ran into a tree and smashed a case of Cuban rum that had been tied on
the running-board, and as the chauffeur felt impelled to “save” as much
of the precious stuff as possible, his driving was far from impeccable
during the rest of the journey. One after another we bounced through
such towns as La Yeguada, Hato Viejo, Santa Isabela, all spread out
carelessly on the flat, dry, prairie-like country peculiar to the coral
formation of southern Santo Domingo. In one place the mud was so deep
that we were forced to turn aside for a few yards into the private
property of a Cuban ex-general, who occupies a wattled hut with his
illegitimate brood of mulattoes. This wily individual, in spite of the
fact that he draws a generous monthly pension through a foreign bank in
the capital, has placed a guard at his gate and collects two dollars
from every passing automobile. Then came more sugarcane, another large
mill with its creaking ox-carts and striking negroes, and from San
Isidro on sixteen kilometers of excellent highway to Duarte, a suburb of
the capital, and across the Ozama river into Santo Domingo City. The
American governor of the republic had recently made the official
announcement that sixty per cent. of the great national highway from the
capital to Monte Cristi was already completed! He could scarcely have
taken his own words seriously had he been privileged to follow us in the
opposite direction.



                               CHAPTER X
                   SANTO DOMINGO UNDER AMERICAN RULE


This is not the place to recapitulate in detail the busy history of
Santo Domingo,—how the island of Quisqueya, or Haïti, was discovered by
Columbus on his first voyage and named Hispaniola; how it was gradually
settled by the Spaniards, who as usual massacred the aborigines and
imported African slaves in their place to cultivate the newly introduced
sugarcane; how French buccaneers from Tortuga eventually conquered the
western end of the island and were recognized by having a governor sent
out from France; how battles raged to and fro between the French and the
Spaniards until something like the present frontier between Haiti and
Santo Domingo was established; how the English expedition sent out by
Cromwell was repulsed and contented themselves with occupying Jamaica
instead; how the negroes of Haiti at length rose against their masters
and drove the French from the island, then ruled the whole of it for
twenty-two years; how the República Dominicana won her independence from
Spain, voluntarily surrendered it again, regained it in 1865, and
entered into that career of constantly recurring revolutions, in which
the winner always became president and his supporters the possessors of
the public revenues, that eventually led to the present American
occupation. The interest of the modern reader is more apt to begin with
this century. In 1906, in order to keep Germany, Belgium, Italy, and
several other creditors from landing in Santo Domingo to collect the
debts of their nationals, the United States advanced $20,000,000 and
took over the custom houses as security. The following year the United
States and the Dominican Republic signed a convention under which the
former was to appoint a receiver for bankrupt Santo Domingo, five per
cent. of the custom receipts to cover the expenses of the receivership
and a certain amount to be set aside to pay off the national debts and
provide a sinking fund. The convention further stipulated that Santo
Domingo could not contract new public indebtedness without American
consent, and that the United States could intervene if conditions within
the country threatened to interfere with the collection of the custom
duties.

The Dominicans soon broke the former agreement. The government illegally
sold revenue stamps at a fraction of their value; _pagarés_ were issued
at great discounts; goods were purchased in the United States and abroad
without being paid for or legally sanctioned. In five years following
1907 there were six presidents, including the Archbishop. In 1911
Cáceres was shot by his own cabinet members because they were not
allowed to graft enough. The United States superintended the elections
of 1914, with the understanding that all parties should abide by the
result. A hard task that for the Dominicans. Within a year another
revolution broke out, secretly sponsored either by the president himself
for the advantage it would give the government in spending power, or by
the opposition party, led by the minister of war. This outbreak was soon
suppressed. In 1916 President Jimenez had barely retired to his summer
palace when this same Deciderio Arias, a turbulent _cacique_ who had
been given the war portfolio in the hope of keeping him quiet, decided
that his chief should never return to the capital. Supported by the
military forces, with the police split between the two factions, this
coup d’état was on the point of winning, when, at the end of April,
1916, the American Minister sent word that there was trouble again in
Santo Domingo. Then the United States, which had “offered its good
services” many times before and endured Dominican conditions with far
too much patience, decided to act. An ultimatum was sent to Arias
announcing that the United States would no longer permit the
establishment of government by revolution. Marines from Haiti had been
landed at Fort San Gerónimo with orders to support the government of
Jimenez, and with his clandestine approval, and took the capital with
little difficulty. The president publicly repudiated his secret
agreement, in spite of having everything in his favor, and announcing in
a bombastic _pronunciamento_ that his “dignity” would not permit him to
endure a foreign military occupation, resigned with all his government.
For this the marines were duly thankful; it simplified the whole
problem.

Meanwhile a force had landed at Puerto Plata and at Monte Cristi, and
fought their way overland, suffering considerably from snipers on the
way. Arias, who had escaped with all his supporters from the unprotected
side of the city, hurried to the Cibao and attempted to hinder the
marine advance, but was forced to surrender with the capture of
Santiago. His power was still paramount in the capital, however, and he
forced congress to make Hernandez y Carbajal, who had returned from long
exile in Cuba, president. The United States refused to recognise this
illegal election and declined to let the government have any money, with
the result that the country was left without rulers. Finally American
military occupation was proclaimed and our forces took over the entire
government of Santo Domingo, a status compared with which the mere
“advisory” one of our marines in Haiti was far more complicated, and has
remained so to this day.

                  *       *       *       *       *

When the Americans took over Santo Domingo the republic was millions in
debt—something like $40 per capita, to be exact—completely bankrupt, and
the salaries of all but the higher officials were long in arrears. Now,
after less than four years of occupation, there is some $4,000,000 in
the treasury. The new land tax alone—which it has been impossible to
duplicate in Haiti, where laws are still made by a native congress,—has
already produced nearly a million. Most of this goes back to the
municipalities. The old taxes bore far more on the poor man than on the
man of property. Moreover, the government of occupation has collected
more than three times as much from these older sources than was the case
under native rule, chiefly because there is no tax-gatherer’s graft and
the friends of the government are no longer let off unpaid. Every
disbursement is now paid by check, on voucher in duplicate, and the same
man cannot buy and pay. A few American civilians in supervising
positions receive their salaries from Dominican funds—and render many
times value received. The great bulk of the higher officials are of no
expense whatever to the natives, being members of our military forces
drawing their pay from the United States treasury.

The sovereignty of the República Dominicana has never ceased. Its
functions are merely _administered_ by representatives of the United
States Navy and Marine Corps, officially called “The Military Government
of the United States in Santo Domingo.” There is no president or
congress. Even the laws are made by the military governor, an American
admiral. There have been no elections since our occupation; all
officials down to the least important are appointed, directly or
indirectly, by the Americans. The latter control all financial matters
and exercise supervision over the official acts even of the smallest
municipalities. American money, chiefly torn, patched, sewn, dirty,
half-illegible bills, constitutes the circulating medium. On the other
hand, the republic has its own schools, courts, and minor officials. The
Dominican flag flies from all public buildings except American
headquarters. In short, in so far as any definite policy has ever been
announced, we are in Santo Domingo to do exactly what we did in Cuba.

The Americans found the whole question of land titles one of incredible
chaos and fraud. Not only were there few definite deeds in existence,
but the country was overrun with what are known as “peso titles.” In the
old days the King of Spain gave grants of land without any conception of
the limits thereof, often supremely ignorant of its whereabouts. Not
infrequently the same parcel was given to three or four of his faithful
subjects. The grantees, who in many cases had never seen their property,
divided their holdings among several children. The latter had no clear
idea either of the amount or the location of their property. So they
said, “Well, I think it is worth so many pesos,” whereupon each child
was given his fraction of that amount—on paper—and thus the subdivision
went on through many generations. Thousands of these “peso titles” were
sold to speculators, or to natives or foreigners who had worse than hazy
ideas of their worth. Then on top of this there grew up a big business
in fake titles. As many as four thousand have been presented, where
fewer than four hundred showed any evidence of being real. Moreover, the
real ones, being often hundreds of years old and written by men who
could neither spell nor find proper writing materials, were more apt to
look spurious than did the false ones. To clear up this intolerable
situation the Americans decreed that all land titles not proved up to a
certain date reverted to the government. The ruling caused some
injustices, but these were unavoidable under the circumstances and as
nothing compared with the old order of things. The introduction of a
land tax also has caused many who might otherwise have drifted on in the
good old tropical way to clear up their titles. A certain amount of
litigation between the government and individuals is still going on, but
the whole problem is gradually coming to an orderly solution.

Another question which the Americans faced upon their arrival was the
disarming of the country. It had long been the custom in Santo Domingo
for even the small boys to carry revolvers. Among the weapons were many
costly pearl-handled ones; most of them had been manufactured in
Springfield, Mass., or Hartford, Conn. A date was set when all firearms
must be turned in to the military government. The penalty for
non-compliance was at first made very severe. There are men still
serving sentence in the road-gangs of Santo Domingo for having guns in
their possession three years ago. At present the standard punishment is
six months’ imprisonment and $300 fine. With the exception of the
bandit-infested province of Seibo, the entire country has now been
completely cleared of firearms, at least those in actual use. Some, to
be sure, are buried or hidden away in the jungle, but time and the rust
of tropical climates will soon take care of those. The Americans burned
whole roomsful of rifles; more than 200,000 revolvers have been thrown
into the sea outside the capital. To-day it is difficult even for
provincial officials to get permission to carry a shooting iron.

As in other lands under temporary or permanent American rule, from Haiti
to the Philippines, a native constabulary was organized. The _Guardia
Nacional_ of Santo Domingo, consisting at present of a company of some
eighty men in each of the fourteen provinces, has the same organization
as the Marine Corps. Its members enlist for three years, and privates
get $15 a month. Their uniform lacks only the hat ornament and somewhat
more durable dye-stuffs to be an exact copy of that of our
“leather-necks.” The only difference in equipment is the “Krag
Jorgensen” instead of the “Springfield.” The officers are marines,
usually sergeants, except in the higher commands and a very few natives
who have climbed to “shave-tail” rank. All commands are given in
English. A “non-com.” can put his men through the whole drill in that
language, yet if you ask him his name, the answer is almost certain to
be “_No hablo Inglés_.” Unlike the Gendarmérie of Haiti the Guardia is
confined in its duties to matters of national defense; municipal police
still keep order in the cities. We got the impression during our short
stay that the Guardia officers were not quite the equal of those of the
Gendarmérie. For one thing the pay is less attractive, though that of
the men is fifty per cent. higher. Recently, too, all marine sergeants
holding commissioned rank in the Guardia have unwisely been reduced to
privates during their absence from their permanent organizations, with
the unfortunate result that the few native lieutenants get more pay than
their American captains, unless the latter are also commissioned
officers of the Marine Corps. The native rank and file of the Guardia
have a cocky, half-insolent air quite foreign to their simpler fellows
of Haiti; they look as if they would be better fighters, more clever
crooks, and not so easily disciplined.

The _cacos_ of Santo Domingo are called _gavilleros_, _caco_ in that
country meaning merely thief or burglar. They are usually armed with
“pata-mulas” (mule hoofs), which are rifles that have been cut down into
revolvers, partly because they are too lazy to carry the whole gun,
partly because the abbreviation is easier to conceal. In the olden days
any one with a few hundred dollars could raise an “army,” especially by
making copious promises of government jobs to everyone if—or rather,
when—his side won. Not until the Americans came were these
anti-governmental groups called bandits; they were dignified with the
title of revolutionaries. Santo Domingo had long run more or less wild;
many of its men preferred taking to the hills at fifty cents a day with
rations and the possibility of loot to doing honest work at a dollar a
day. As with all Spanish-sired races, the Dominicans have the gambling
instinct well developed. They love the lotteries of life; they would
rather take a chance on winning some big prize as bandits or
revolutionists to toiling in safety at peaceful occupations. Then, too,
many were forced to join these outlaw bands, lest their houses be burned
or their families injured. The _gavillero_ situation had been bad before
the Americans landed. It became worse under the occupation, for reasons
that we shall see.

To begin with, Arias released nearly all the criminals in the country
during his revolt against the Jimenez government. These quickly turned
bandits; later on they pretended to be patriots fighting the American
occupation. As a matter of fact the majority of them were fighting for
food, rather than for either political or patriotic reasons, but bombast
is one of the chief qualities of the Latin-American. The forces of
occupation might in some ways have handled this bandit situation better
than they did; largely because of ignorance of local customs, partly
because of inefficiency and a certain amount of brutality, they made
something of a mess of it, or at least let it become more serious than
it need have done.

Two regiments of marines are engaged in the occupation of teaching the
Dominicans how to live without lawlessness—a scant 5000 of them among a
population of 750,000. Unfortunately there are flaws in all
organizations. There are marine commanders in Santo Domingo so just and
broad-minded that they are almost loved by the naturally hostile
population; there were others who have little real conception of their
duties. The rascally, brutal, worthless, “Diamond Dick” class of
American sometimes gets into the Marine Corps as into everything else
and tends to destroy the good name of the majority. Boys brought up on
dime novels and the movies saw at last a chance to imitate their
favorite heroes and kill people with impunity: some of them, too, were
Southerners, to whom the Dominicans after all were only “niggers.” The
great majority of the forces of occupation were well meaning young
fellows who often lacked experience in distinguishing outlaws from
honest citizens, with the result that painful injustices were sometimes
committed.

These ignorant, or movie-trained, young fellows were sent out into the
hills to hunt bandits. They came upon a hut, found it unoccupied, and
touched a match to the _nipe_ thatch. They probably thought such a hovel
was of no importance anyway, even if it were not a bandit haunt, whereas
it contained all the earthly possessions of a harmless family. In their
ignorance of local customs they could not know that the entire household
was out working in their jungle yuca-garden. Or they found only the
women and children at home, and burned the house because these could not
explain where their man was. Or again, they met a man on the trail and
asked him his business, and because he could not understand their
atrocious imitation of Spanish, or they his reply, they shot him to be
on the safe side. In still other places they burned the houses of
innocent accomplices, because bandits had commandeered food and lodging
there. If one can believe half the stories that are current in all
circles throughout Santo Domingo, the Germans in Belgium had nothing on
some of our own “leather-necks.”

A parish priest of Seibo, who seemed, if anything, friendly to the
occupation, told me of several cases of incredible brutality of which he
had personal knowledge. He could not divulge the secrets of the
confessional, but he could assure me that many of the victims had been
innocent even of hostile thoughts. The Guardia, he asserted, included
some of the worst rascals, thieves, and assassins in the country, men
far worse than the _gavilleros_, and these often egged the naïve
Americans on to vent their own private hates. Scarcely a month before a
sad personal experience had befallen him. On Christmas Day he had gone
with acolytes to another town to attend a fiesta, when a drunken marine
had fired his rifle twice into the wattled hut where it was being held
and killed a boy of ten who was at that moment swinging the censer.

I cannot vouch for all the padre’s statements, but rumors of this kind
were strikingly prevalent among natives and Americans all over Santo
Domingo. On the other hand we must remember that the bandit-hunters
often have no certain means of telling a _gavillero_ from a “good
citizen,” and they cannot always afford to give a man the benefit of the
doubt. One is as apt as the other to look like an honest, simple,
harmless fellow, and there have been sad mistakes on the side of
leniency also, which have naturally led to over-caution. The Dominican
is quite versatile enough to be a bandit one day and to be found
scratching the ground of his jungle garden with his machete the next.
Captured _gavilleros_ have boasted that they hid their guns in a
cane-field when a hostile force appeared, came out and helped the
marines unsaddle, drank a round with them in the neighboring
_licorería_, and recovered their weapons as soon as the hunters had
taken to the trail again. The Guardia, too, has not always been free
from spies. The difficulties of the situation, and the necessity of a
wide knowledge of local customs and conditions on the part of those sent
to handle it, is exemplified by the miscarriage of a plan to clear a
certain district of Seibo of outlaws. The government of occupation
ordered all “good inhabitants” to come into the towns on a certain day,
so that the bad ones might be more easily corralled. But the
_gavilleros_ have a better news service than those who have no
particular reason to keep their ears to the ground. The former learned
of the order, concealed their weapons, and hastened into the villages,
with the result that those who were shot were chiefly honest, simple
peasants.

There have been several battles of importance between the marines and
the _gavilleros_ since the occupation. The latter are more worthy
adversaries than the Haitian _cacos_, though the defeat of a band of
four hundred by a score of Americans is not considered an extraordinary
feat. Thanks either to his Spanish antecedents or to his revolutionary
history, the Dominican has a ferocity and a _desprecio_ of human life
that makes it unwise to be compassionate. More than thirty marines have
been killed in Santo Domingo, as against only four in Haiti. One band
has announced a determination to completely exterminate the white
foreigners, and makes a practice of horribly mutilating the dead and
wounded. A persistent rumor has it that one of its leaders is an
American.

The story of the killing of the bandit chieftain of Santo Domingo is not
so heroic as the extermination of Charlemagne in Haiti—nor as definite.
Vicentico and his men had overrun almost the entire province of Seibo.
In July, 1917, one account has it, a gunnery sergeant who spoke
imperfect Spanish went into his district unarmed and in “civies” and
spent a week in winning the chief’s confidence. The Americans, he told
him, had lost hope of defeating so expert a warrior and would make him a
general and chief of the Guardia, with places for the best of his men,
if he would disband his forces and support the occupation. Another
version is that the real go-between was a “Turk” shopkeeper who had
known him in other days. Questions of individual glory aside, Vicentico
at length set out with seventy picked men to report to the marine
commander. On the way he was suddenly startled to hear one of the wild
birds of Seibo utter its peculiar shriek in a tree-top above him.

“You are betraying me!” cried the chieftain, whirling upon the “Turk”—or
the sergeant—and covering him with his “pata-mulas.” “That bird has
never failed to warn me of danger.”

The emissary, who was evidently gifted with a superhuman tongue, managed
to talk his way back into the confidence of the outlaw, and the journey
proceeded. Arrived at the American headquarters, Vicentico marched
haughtily in upon the marine colonel, his swarthy face twitching with
triumph, and announced himself ready to take over the command of the
Guardia.

“You are under arrest,” said the colonel, dryly.

“Caramba!” cried the outlaw, while a detachment of marines disarmed his
seventy followers, “I _knew_ I should have listened to that bird!”

Just what happened after that is not very clear, except that it was
nothing of which to be particularly proud. One version runs that the
gunnery sergeant entered the outlaw’s cell one night and told him, amid
curses and crocodile tears, that his superiors had repudiated their
promise, but that he would redeem his own unintentional treachery in the
matter by helping the bandit to escape at once—whereupon guards
carefully posted outside met him with a volley sanctioned by the _ley de
fuga_ of his own race. Another termination of the tale has it that a
group of marine officers, “lit up after a big party,” staggered to the
prison and vindicated the loss of some of their comrades by shooting the
outlaw with his handcuffs still on, and without even allowing him time
to call a priest. Just how much truth there is in these varying
accounts, or combinations of the two, will probably remain a mystery,
but even the marines themselves do not often boast of the killing of
Vicentico.

Chronic pessimists and sworn enemies of the occupation assert that the
Americans have made ten bandits for every one they have killed. Without
taking this statement at par, there is at least a grain of truth in the
complementary assertion that the killing of Vicentico made all Seibo
turn _gavilleros_. In some sections only women, children, and old men
are seen; the young bucks have all taken to the hills. The leaders that
are left have no confidence in Americans, especially those in a marine
uniform, and they will no longer enter into negotiations of any nature.
The province wants revenge for what it considers the treacherous
betrayal of one of its popular heroes. We should remember the
time-honored Spanish attitude towards bandits—something mere warriors,
with no time to study history, cannot be expected to know. The
government of Spain has always been more or less an oppressor of the
common people; those who rise against it, either singly or in groups,
are looked upon somewhat as champions of the helpless masses. The
favorite heroes of Spanish dramas to this day are _bandidos_, and they
are always equally noted for their absolute indifference to personal
danger and for their knightly code of honor, to say nothing of their
unfailing generosity toward the poor. It is not hard, therefore, to
understand why _los Americanos_ fell far down the moral scale of Seibo
province by their uncaballeresco treatment of Vicentico.

                  *       *       *       *       *

If I may continue this unprejudiced explanation of things as they seemed
to be in Santo Domingo at the beginning of 1920 without giving the false
impression that the great majority of our forces of occupation are not a
credit to the land of their birth, I would add a word about the effect
of personal conduct. A few marines, some officers among them, vary the
monotony of their assignment by starting irregular households; a
somewhat larger number take undue advantage of their isolation from our
new and not too popular constitutional amendment. The former lapse would
attract but little attention in Santo Domingo, where it is almost a
national custom, were it not an American habit to boast ourselves
superior to other races in such matters, at least in view-point. The
result is a frequent sneering whisper of “hypocrites.” As to the second,
like all Latin races the Dominican is seldom a teetotaler, but he is
even more seldom seen under the influence of liquor, at least publicly.
In a land where any man of standing loses caste by the slightest
evidence of intoxication, the effect on the popular mind of what to
their self-appointed rulers is merely a “little celebration” is
extremely unfortunate. The result of these things, of a certain amount
of crude autocracy, and a tendency to let red tape have the precedence
over common sense, is that our forces of occupation are far less popular
in Santo Domingo than they could be.

There has been a growing tendency on the part of the Dominicans to show
their enmity openly. Several outbreaks at dances and fiestas, ranging
from individual encounters to near-riots, have indicated the feeling
against Americans. Marine officers dancing with Dominican girls have
been subjected to unpleasant scenes. Our men are less often invited to
native clubs than formerly. A less serious and more amusing index,
almost universal south of the Rio Grande, is the increasing refusal to
call us Americans. Several newspapers have permanently adopted the
clumsy adjective “Estadunidense.” If our Southern neighbors have their
way I suppose we shall soon be calling ourselves “Unitedstatians,” or,
as a fellow-countryman who has lived so long among them as to admit
their contention always writes it, “Usians.”

What we need in such jobs as that in Santo Domingo are “long time men,”
soldiers who have learned by experience that the task is rather one of
education than of oppression. I should like to see all those removed
from our forces of occupation who have not a proper respect for
Dominicans; not an unbounded respect—I haven’t that myself—but who at
least admit that our wards are human beings, with their own rights and
customs, and not merely “Spigs” and “niggers.” There is too much of that
“nigger” attitude among the more ignorant class of Americans, who too
often make the color-line a protection against their own shortcomings.

“Mac”—or “Big George,” for that matter—is an excellent example of the
kind of American we want in such places. An early training that has
taught self-control as well as the power to command, a long enough
residence to speak Spanish perfectly, with all its local idioms, a bit
of Irish blarney, which goes a long way with these simple and really
good-hearted people, a due knowledge and regard for their customs and
point of view, yet with a sense of humor to see and enjoy, rather than
be annoyed by, their ridiculous side—in short, a real American, by which
I do not mean the boisterous, bullying fellow who sees no good outside
the United States, but one who can adapt himself to all conditions,
return courtesy for courtesy, concise and straight-forward, living up to
the law in every particular, always giving common sense the right of way
over red tape, kindly worded in all his dealings, yet always letting
possible recalcitrants sense the revolver loaded and cocked under
his—the government’s—coat. Such are the men needed for these jobs, not
the haughty autocrat nor the ignorant “rough-neck.”

The majority of Dominicans object to American occupation for several
reasons. A list of the most potent might run something as follows: That
of the bad boy made to behave himself; the resentment of politicians who
have lost their hold on the public purse; the knowledge that the
Americans consider themselves a superior race; the sharpness of the
American color-line; the military censorship; “unconstitutional”
American military courts; the order against carrying arms; the alleged
breaking by the government of occupation of the Dominican law
restricting immigration. There are others, but they are unimportant as
compared to these.

The first two or three need no explanation. Few Americans realize how
irksome is our attitude on the negro question in a country where not one
inhabitant in ten can show an unquestionable Caucasian pedigree. Even
the Dominicans have a color-line; I have yet to find a country inhabited
by negroes that has not; but they see no justice in ranking a
well-educated, influential citizen of more than the American average of
culture in the same socially impossible category as an illiterate black
dock laborer, simply because his hair is curly and his complexion
slightly dulled. As to the censorship, the occupation calls it
excessively lenient; Dominican writers find it “intolerable.” That it is
stupid goes without saying; it seems to be a universal rule that a
censor must be supremely ignorant of literature and forbidden even to
have a speaking acquaintance with the classics. Yet with an
uninstructed, inflammable population and a pest of irresponsible,
self-seeking scribblers, no military occupation could exist without
taking measures to curtail printed sedition. This is a rock on which the
rather popular military governor and even the best class of natives have
split asunder. The _Comisión Consultiva_, headed by the Archbishop, that
was formed to give the admiral unofficial advice on Dominican matters
beyond his natural ken, resigned at the beginning of 1920 because the
“insupportable” censorship was not wholly abolished, instead of being
merely softened.

The _Cortes Prebostales_ come in for a large share of Dominican
invective. The American military courts, they protest, sometimes try and
punish those who have been acquitted by the native courts, and vice
versa. It is unconstitutional, they cry. True enough, but so is it
unconstitutional to have made it necessary for a foreign military force
to assume the government of the country. Courts martial are resorted to
only in cases of carrying arms, insurrections, assaults on members of
the forces of occupation, and sales of liquor to men in uniform. It
takes no great amount of thinking to see how impossible it would be to
have such matters passed upon by Dominican judges. For one thing, none
of them are covered by the civil laws of Santo Domingo.

[Illustration: Advertising a typical Dominican theatrical performance]

[Illustration: A tree to which Columbus tied one of his ships, now on
the wharf of Santo Domingo City]

[Illustration: The tomb of Columbus in the Cathedral of Santo Domingo
City]

It is naturally irksome to a man who has always considered a revolver as
a sign of caste, an adornment similar to a diamond ring or a gold-headed
cane, to be forced to dispense with this portion of his attire. But not
much can be said for the plaintiff in this case. There is more reason
for sympathy with the countrymen who cannot even have a shotgun to kill
the crows, woodpeckers, guinea-fowls, and parrots that destroy his
crops. The man, too, is entitled to a hearing who has hundreds of
laborers under his command in the wilder sections of the country, or who
lives on the edge of the bandit zone, yet who can have nothing better
than a machete with which to protect himself or his family. Our
experience of the close resemblance between _gavilleros_ and respectable
citizens, however, has sadly shattered our confidence, and it is
difficult even for native officials whose duties carry them about the
country to get permission to dress themselves up in firearms.

I have already spoken of the dog-in-the-manger attitude of the
Dominicans on the subject of immigration. Their complaints on this score
have become less acute since the military government promulgated the
recent decree of registration and proof of self-support for alien
laborers. There is still some grumbling, however. Native law forbids the
bringing in of negro or Oriental workmen “except in cases of emergency.”
The Americans, they assert, have permitted too many blacks from the
neighboring islands to take employment in the great cane-fields of the
South. Yet surely the harvesting of sugar is an “emergency” to the
unsweetened world of to-day. Also, the American steamship line that
monopolizes the carrying of goods to and from Santo Domingo brings
stevedores from Turk’s Island and other points to work the cargoes,
dropping them again at their homes, and the Dominicans complain that
this lowers their standard of living. The fact is that the native
laborers are not merely indolent; they are distressingly independent.
About Thursday a bunch of them get together and say, “We have enough to
live on until Tuesday. Why should we work?” So off goes the bunch on a
dance-fiesta-cockfight spree and the canes wither in the field or
cargoes lie untouched in the hold or on the dock. The workmen of the
South, in particular, have the reputation of being the best time-killers
in the world. The great sugar centrals of that region could not exist
without the privilege of bringing in Haitian or British West Indian
laborers.

Abhorring steady labor as he does, the Dominican has been quick to catch
the drift of modern trade unionism in demanding exorbitant wages for
indifferent work. At the recent labor conference in Washington Santo
Domingo was represented by the mulatto son of a German, formerly
governor of Puerto Plata, and a man who could not but have chuckled at
his own humor in addressing the conference as “my fellow workmen.”
Denied the privilege of holding office in the old style under American
rule, these professional politicians are attempting to get a
strangle-hold on the public purse by forming labor unions and appealing
to the American Federation of Labor to bring its powerful influence to
bear on the military government. The parade of a score of _gremios_
during our stay in the Dominican capital, nearly all of them formed
within six months, shows what success is attending their efforts. The
labor dictator of America seems to have fallen into the trap. He
requests that the laborers of Santo Domingo be given “full liberty of
action,” which sounds to those of us who have been there like permission
to take a gun and turn bandit. Measured in dollars and cents the wages
of the Dominican laborer are not high; balanced against the work he
actually accomplishes they show him rather the exploiter than the
victim. No one on earth, least of all the occupation, is hindering him
from doing a good day’s work and getting reasonably well paid for
it—except his own indolence, which in the end is apt to leave him
swamped beneath foreign immigration in spite of any political
manipulations.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Among those I talked with about their country’s “wrongs” was Deciderio
Arias, the former war minister who added the last straw to American
patience. He runs a pathetic little cigar factory in Santiago now,
sleeping on a cot in one corner of it, and professes, I hesitate to
report, a great friendship for “Big George.” A proud, rather ignorant
mulatto, with perhaps a touch of Indian blood, a commanding manner still
despite his reverses and the high degree of outward courtesy of all his
people, he is, or pretends to be, fairly well satisfied with American
occupation. All he wanted, he asserts, was internal peace for his
beloved native land, and the marines have brought that, or nearly so.
But he regrets that the Americans do not study the customs and
“psychology” of the Dominican people, rather than jumping to the
conclusion that what is good for themselves is unquestionably good for
all other races.

Then there was Santo Domingo’s chief novelist and literary light, the
pride of La Vega. He is perhaps the most outspoken opponent of the
occupation in the country. “Cuba and Porto Rico have always been
colonies,” he frothed, “and are used to having a rule of force thrust
upon them. But Santo Domingo won her own independence single-handed and
what we want, what we must have, is _LIBERTY!_” He did not add that the
meaning of the word in this particular case was the right of continual
revolution, but it was easy to supply that footnote for him. His wrath
was scornful toward those of his fellow-countrymen who had “debased
themselves” to accept office under the occupation, and he asserted that
all who had done so were “the dregs of our national life.” The
novelist’s testimony was somewhat discounted, however, by “Mac’s”
characterization of him as a “one-cylinder crook,” who had been removed
from public office for selling cancelled revenue stamps.

The parish priest of Seibo was far more favorable to the occupation. A
native Dominican, without a hint of the asceticism of the French priests
in Haiti, with a generous waist-line and the face of one who enjoys to
the full all the good things of life, he had the ripe judgment of a man
of the world, rather than the view-point of the cloister. All
intellectual Dominicans, he explained, are ashamed that it was
necessary, yet they know it is for their own good, that the Americans
have “annexed” the country. The lesson has been hard to bear, but it was
unavoidable, and now they have learned it so well that they “will never
do it again”—it sounded like the cry of a bad boy under the paternal
strap—if only we will let them govern themselves and still hold a
menacing hand over them. It is the old Latin-American cry for protection
without responsibility. Every Dominican would bless the United States if
the marines were withdrawn and an advisory governor left. They would
never again steal public office or government funds. They have been
taught that continual revolutions are not a mere pastime, but a crime.
The _intellectual_ Americans of the occupation had done much good, he
asserted, but their works had been largely offset by those of the other
class. For all the violence he had reported, he seemed to have no hard
feelings against us, but he felt that the time had come for us to go
away. He “had heard it said” that the _gavilleros_ would return to their
_canucos_ and settle down again as soon as the Americans leave. Many of
them were simple rascals who had no sense of patriotism whatever, but
only a desire to live by robbery and plunder. They were as apt to kill
their own countrymen as Americans, rather more so, in fact, for the
latter went armed and the Dominicans could not. Yet many of them had
been driven to the hills by force of circumstances—by threats from the
real bandits, by the marines mistaking an innocent family for
_gavillero_ sympathizers, or a man was falsely given a bad name and
dared not come in and give himself up, for fear of suffering the fate of
Vicentico. Once these unwilling outlaws abandoned the fight the rest
would have no choice but to disband.

It is difficult to admit, however, that Santo Domingo is now ready to
govern itself, not because there are no educated and honest men in the
country, but because these cannot get into power. Force rules; just
elections are impossible. As in all Latin-America, with few exceptions,
parties depend upon and take the name of their leader. Principles do not
interest the rank and file in the least. In the old days the president
always appointed a military man as provincial leader, that his “party”
might not assert any signs of independence. Every district had its
little local _cacique_, or tribal chief. Elections were two-day affairs.
Woolly countrymen were brought in from the hills and voted at once. The
_cacique_ got them shaved and voted them again; got them a hair-cut and
voted them again; gave them a new shirt and voted them again. On the
second day a half-dozen more disguises preceded their repeated visits to
the polls. It is hard to believe that a bare four years of occupation
have completely cured the Dominicans of such habits. The Americans, in
fact, have never yet attempted to hold an election, hence there has been
no new ideal held up to them in this matter. Under the old régime judges
divided fines among themselves, and it cost much effort to get them to
give up this privilege. Now they are apt to give ludicrously light
fines, because it all goes to the internal revenue, in which they are
not personally interested. Like a wayward boy who was never taught to
govern himself, but was merely exploited by a heartless stepfather, from
whom he finally ran away, Santo Domingo has no real conception of how to
conduct itself in political matters, and up to the present occupation no
one has ever attempted to teach it what it never learned from Spain or
experience.

Some Dominicans would be satisfied with an American protectorate,
provided they could have their own congress and a certain show of
autonomy. Many thoughtful citizens want us to remain until a new
generation has been trained to administer their affairs. So far little
such training has been done, and it will take a long time to break them
of their “Spig” habits. Cuba and Porto Rico have always been used to
obeying the law, yet they have scarcely yet approached proper
self-government. Santo Domingo has always run more or less wild; she
needs a complete new standard of honor and morals. Among other things
this will require at least twenty-five years of good elementary
schooling. Nor should it be a hesitant, over-kindly schooling. The
textbooks adopted should contain such pertinent queries as: “What are
the chief faults of Dominicans (of Latin-Americans in general) which it
is necessary to correct before they can take their proper place in the
modern world? Answer: We must get rid of _Caudillismo_, of personal
instead of political parties”—and so on, with what may seem offensive
frankness. Not only should Americans remain long enough in Santo Domingo
to train a new generation, but we should tell them at once that such is
our firm intention. The rumor that our troops are about to be withdrawn
is always going around the country, leaving no one a certain peg on
which to hang his hat. Remember how we hate the uncertainty of a
presidential year. There should be a proclamation by our own federal
government to the effect that we are going to remain for many years—I
should say fifty, until all the present generation has disappeared—and
that there is no use kicking meanwhile against the inevitable. Instead
of that the present governor tells them that he will do all in his power
to get them a civil government soon and to have the troops withdrawn,
remaining perhaps as a civil governor. I do not believe they are ready
for any such move, certainly not to handle their own finances, which is
what they wish above all to do. Bit by bit they should be initiated into
the mysteries of real self-government, but we should avoid the error we
made in Cuba, and to some extent in Porto Rico, of graduating them
before they have finished the grammar grades. If the unborn generation
can be reared without political pollution from the living, there is
promise even in such a race as the Dominican. However, have you ever set
out on a journey astride a mongrel native horse and expected him to keep
up with a thoroughbred?

                  *       *       *       *       *

The military occupation has made mistakes; all military governments do.
But they are by no means so many nor so serious as those the Dominicans
made themselves. There have been cases of arbitrariness, snap judgments,
and injustice, but on the whole American rule is just, justifiable, and
well done. Some of the trouble comes from the fact that navy youths of
no experience are given important _secretarías_ that require men of
exceedingly mature judgment—though, to be sure, the governing of Santo
Domingo, with its bare 750,000 inhabitants, is little more than a
mayor’s job, except in extent of territory. A second drawback is that
the most important posts are in the hands of men who know not a word of
Spanish and must do all their work through interpreters, usually of the
politician stripe, with results easily imagined. There is no reason
whatever why graduates of Annapolis or West Point should not know what
has become so important a language to their calling. Did anyone ever
hear of a German professional officer who did not speak at least English
and French fluently? Some of the time that is now given to “social
functions” and the learning of afternoon-tea manners could easily be
sacrificed to our new requirements. Lastly, there should be more
knowledge and interest in our scattered wards among our higher officials
at home. It is not particularly helpful to a naval officer suddenly
appointed governor of such a place as Santo Domingo to have the
secretary who should outline his policy turn from the map on which he
has just looked up that unknown spot and make some such reply as,
“Orders? Don’t bother me with details. I have more important matters
requiring my attention. Go down there and sit on the lid.”

As an example of the improvements already accomplished by the occupation
there is the matter of marriage. Formerly it was almost impossible for
the mass of the people to form legal unions; the cost was too great and
the requirements of birth certificates and other formalities
insurmountable. As a result, marriage had come to be looked upon as a
superfluous ceremony. This condition, more or less universal throughout
the West Indies, is a deliberate legacy of olden times. The exploiters
of the islands, particularly the Spaniards, abetted by the church, whose
prosperity depended on their prosperity, purposely made marriage
difficult among the laboring classes. A married woman and her children
could demand support from her husband; a mere consort added to the
available labor supply, because she was obliged to earn her livelihood
in the fields and to send her children there early in life. Though there
were men who treated their irregular families as legal dependents before
the Americans came, illegitimate children were frequently abandoned,
mistreated, or exploited to a degree that drove many of them to turn
bandit. At best they suffered for want of a firm fatherly hand in their
early years. The occupation attacked this problem by forcing men to pay
for the support and schooling of their “outside” children. As little
stigma attaches to this social misbehavior in Santo Domingo, there was
seldom any difficulty in establishing the parentage. It was usually
common knowledge. Even the priests have families in the majority of
cases, many of them frankly acknowledging their sons and daughters.
There are men in Santo Domingo, some of them veritable pillars of
society, who suddenly saw their burdens increased from two or three
children to twenty-five under the new law. Marriages are now free, and
are public ceremonies. They almost always take place at night, and
crowds gather outside the wide-open, lighted house. Members of the
family come out and talk with friends in the throng now and then but do
not invite them inside. About the parlor table sit the bride and groom,
the notary and the priest, surrounded by the standing relatives and
intimate _amigos_ and _compadres_. There is much signing of documents
and ledgers, each followed by a sort of rapturous sigh from the curious
throng in the street, which under no circumstances short of a downpour
gives any signs of breaking up until the new couple has retired from the
scene. Most dances, fiestas, and family celebrations are like that in
Santo Domingo, where the principal room always faces the street and the
heat makes closed doors and windows worse than superfluous. Sometimes
these open, chair-forested parlors are on a level with the sidewalk,
sometimes several feet below it, but it is impossible to avoid a peep
inside, even if one does not join the crowd. Besides, there is nothing
secretive about such Dominican festivities; the bride who did not see a
throng gathered before her door on her wedding night would probably weep
her eyes out before morning.

When the Americans arrived there were only 18,000 pupils nominally
attending the schools of Santo Domingo. There were no rural schools
whatever. Many “teachers” never taught at all, but were merely political
henchmen who drew salaries, some of them wholly illiterate. Some of them
farmed their “pupils” out or worked them in their own fields.
Superintendents and inspectors rarely did either, and kept no records
whatever. Listen to a passage from a novel by a sworn enemy of the
occupation:

  The average Dominican woman frequented—the word is well chosen—a
  school of first letters sustained and directed by a priest, where
  she learned to read and write after a fashion, the barest rudiments
  of arithmetic and geography, and a world of prayers which the good
  priest made special effort to teach her. She had the catechism at
  her fingers’ ends, but except for the forms of devotion she was a
  complete ignoramus who took seriously any nonsense told her by those
  who happened, falsely or otherwise, to have her confidence.

There was not even a basis on which to build an educational system.
Those charged with the task had to begin from the ground up. The
peculiar status of Santo Domingo gives it an American Minister of Public
Instruction and a native superintendent, the reverse of the case in
Haiti. Both are earnest men, but pedagogy is not on the curriculum at
Annapolis. No attempt has been made to Americanize the schools, as in
Porto Rico and the Philippines, which is proper enough politically but
questionable educationally. Every man has been made personally
responsible for the men under him, clear down through the system. The
occupation now has 100,000 pupils in the schools, with as many still
unprovided for; but many of the former attend only half time for lack of
accommodations. Dominican illiteracy still exceeds ninety per cent., and
information passes chiefly by word of mouth, with consequent garbling.
An attempt is being made to have the university in the capital teach
only “practical” subjects, banishing the lofty culture with which the
Latin-American loves to flirt. One gets the impression, however, that
there is more attention and expense bestowed upon the elaborate
educational pamphlets that pour in a constant stream from the government
presses than on the adobe school houses and the barefoot urchins who
attend them.

The Dominican of the masses is kindly, hospitable, long-suffering, and
hopeful; in spite of having been exploited and mistreated for centuries,
despite his tendency to settle things by force of arms and his low value
on human life, he is still simple and good-hearted underneath. Even in
the days of revolution lone Americans went in safety where a company of
marines now moves with caution. The mothers of American girls married to
officers of the occupation would be horrified to know that their
daughters use murderers from the Guardia prisons as cooks and servants,
yet such arrangements scarcely attract a passing comment among the
Americans in Santo Domingo. Like all Latin-Americans, the _dominicano_
has no compassion, either for animals or his fellow-men. Brave enough in
physical combat, he has little moral courage—I have already mentioned
the inability of native officials to discipline their own people. Worst
of all, he has no idea how to curb his politicians. The best families
emigrated to Cuba during the twenty-two years of Haitian rule, and the
latter closed the university and many of the schools as superfluous
luxuries, which may be among the reasons why the “higher” classes do not
measure up correspondingly in character with the masses. A rise in the
social scale seems frequently to bring a drop in moral standards. As an
example: The son of a shoemaker worked his way through school with truly
American spirit; he studied medicine in Paris, learned English and
French, is a voracious reader of all the literature of his profession in
several languages. Yet when a poor countryman with a broken skull was
brought in to him by a Guardia detachment, he declined to attend him,
after beginning the operation, because no one could assure him his $500
fee.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The Dominicans have few strictly native customs, their chief
characteristic being their fondness for revolutions. They are gay,
vivacious, and frivolous, fond of music and dancing, and find a great
deal of amusement in the most trivial pastimes. Bull-fights have long
since disappeared, but cock-fighting is the universal male sport, and on
Sundays and feast days the cockpit is the center of attraction. Not a
city or village is without its _gallera_; in the country districts there
is sure to be one within easy distance of every collection of thatched
huts. On any holiday the traveler along the principal roads and highways
is certain to meet a cavalcade of horsemen, each carefully carrying in a
sack what the initiated know to be a prize rooster.

The chief _gallera_ of Santo Domingo City was just back of our lodging.
On Sunday we were awakened at dawn by its uproar, which varied in volume
but never once ceased entirely until sunset. In the afternoon I wandered
into the enclosure; paid an admission fee of twenty-five cents, and,
climbing the tank-like outer wall, crowded into a place up near the
round sheet-iron roof. The sport is legalized and a part of the
gate-money goes to the municipality, netting some $1,500 a year. This is
a mere bagatelle, however, compared to the sums that change hands among
the spectators during a single day’s sport. Like most Spanish games,
betting is the chief raison d’être of the cock-fight. The constant,
deafening hubbub recalled the curb market of New York, as well as the
ball games of Havana. Before each separate contest there were long waits
while the shrieking spectators placed their wagers on the two haughty,
gorgeous birds tenderly held by their owners or hired seconds.

It came as a surprise to find what class of men attend these contests in
the capital. The circle of faces rising eight tiers high above the
earth-floored pit were in many cases wholly free from negro strain; the
great majority of the audience was not merely well-dressed, they showed
considerable evidence of moderate affluence. Wealthy merchants and men
high in local affairs, two or three ex-ministers, were pointed out to me
as owners of one or several contending cocks. “Chickens” would be a more
exact term, for the fighters, unlike the spectators, were not confined
to one sex. The _toilettes_ of the birds were fantastic in the
extreme—each had been clipped, picked, or otherwise denuded of its
feathers on various parts of the body, particularly the thighs and neck,
according to the whim or expert opinion of its trainer, and the
appearance of its bare skin demonstrated that it was indeed in the
“pink” of condition. An invariable formality preceded each contest. On a
square board hanging stiffly on poles from the roof was placed a pair of
scales in which the two opponents were weighed in their sacks, custom
requiring that they balance one another to the fraction of an ounce.
Then, when a lull in the betting showed that the spectators had decided
their odds, the owner or his agent filled his mouth with rum and water
and spurted it in a fine spray over the bird from haughty head to bare
legs, and the fight was on.

The first battle after my arrival was between a black hen and a red
India rooster. From the moment of release they went straight at it, like
professional boxers. Now and then they clinched, but as there was no
referee to separate them they eventually broke away themselves. Then the
rooster took to running round and round the ring, the hen after him,
which a “fan” beside me called clever strategy. During the early part of
the fight the favorite changed with every peck, or slash of the spurs.
Shouts loud as those at a Thanksgiving football game seemed to set the
tin roof above us to vibrating. The shrieks of the bettors were
emphasized by waving hands, by jumping up and down, by shaking money in
one another’s faces and placing wagers at a distance by lightning-quick,
cabalistic gestures. Those who hazarded a mere ten dollars a “throw”
were the most insignificant of “pikers”; on every side flashed
hundred-dollar bills, sometimes two or three of them in the same hand.
Screams of ecstasy greeted each clever spur-stroke, awakening a
loathsome disgust for one’s fellow-men. I found myself wondering how
many of these shrieking _fanáticos_ had a tenth as much nerve as their
gamey chickens. Certainly none of them would have endured so much
punishment without crying quits. Gradually the bets dropped from even to
ten to one. The rooster was getting the worst of it. He had gone stone
blind, his head was a mass of blood, he was so groggy on his feet that
he fell dizzily on his side now and then, only to struggle up again and
fight on, pecking the air at random while his opponent continued a
grueling punishment. The owner on the side lines kept shouting frantic
advice to him,—“_Anda, cobarde!_ _Pica, gallo!_” A lucky peck or
spur-thrust sometimes suddenly gives the battle even to a blind cock,
hence there was still hope. Toward the end the rooster frequently lay
down from sheer fatigue, his opponent respecting his fallen condition
with knightly honor and never once touching him until he had wobbled to
his feet again. The exhibition became monotonously disgusting, even some
of the “fans” began to protest, and at length the owner stepped into the
pit with a deprecating shrug of the shoulders and snatched up the
rooster, rudely, in one hand, like some carrion crow. His bleeding head
hung as if he were dead. Even when a gamecock wins, it cannot fight
again for months; if it loses it means the garbage heap or at best some
pauper’s pot. A man at the ringside pulled the natural spurs off the
defeated bird for use on some other less well-armed fowl, losing bettors
began to hunt up the winners and pay their debts, and another throng
invaded the ring in preparation for the next disgusting contest.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Santo Domingo City, more often called “La Capital” within the country,
is a prettier town than Santiago, and somewhat larger. It is less
compact, has more trees and open spaces, and many curious old
ruins,—palaces, gates, fortresses, and churches—so many old churches, in
fact, that some of them are now used as theaters and government offices.
Of the several ancient stone gateways remaining from its former city
wall the most curious is the “Puerta de la Independencia,” opening on a
pretty outer plaza—curious because the Dominicans pretend it is the gate
through which the triumphant army entered after driving out the Haitians
in 1844, though any street urchin knows the entry was really made by a
less ornate gate nearer the sea. Then there is the aged tree down in the
custom house compound on the banks of the Ozama river to which Columbus
is said to have tied one of his ships. The cathedral on the central
plaza is a picturesque pile of old stone, without tower or spire, and
noteworthy for the elaborate tomb of the famous Genoese just inside its
main portal. Without going into the vexed question of whether the bones
it contains are really those of the great discoverer, except to say that
Havana, Valladolid, Seville, and Santo Domingo City are all equally
certain that they have the genuine remains, one can at least say that
the tomb itself is worth visiting. Indeed, though a trifle ornate for
American tastes, it is astonishingly artistic to the traveler long
familiar with the almost universally ludicrous “art” of Latin-American
churches. With its splendid bronze reliefs, its excellent small figures
in marble, and its inspiring general form, it might almost rank as the
gem of ecclesiastical architecture south of the Rio Grande.

Once in the cathedral there are several other things worth a glance
before leaving, though its tiny windows give the interior an eternal
twilight. Two or three paintings by Velasquez and Murillo have a genuine
value; a picture brought over by Columbus can be seen only by means of
the sexton’s key; a cross which the discoverer of America is said to
have set up nearby is protected by glass doors let into the wall because
the faithful and the curious were given to chipping off pieces as sacred
relics or souvenirs. The mahogany choir-stalls, the pulpits, and the
altars are all of rich-red old woodwork. There is an excellent tomb of
the archbishop who was once president. Indeed, it does not seem
necessary to be of Columbian stature to be able to sleep one’s last
sleep beside the doughty old navigator. During our stay in the city the
marble floor was opened a few feet from the historic tomb to receive the
remains of a Syrian merchant, long resident in “La Capital” but deceased
in New York, whose only claim to glory seemed to be a fortune easily won
and wisely spent. The interior of the cathedral has been generously
“restored” by daubing the walls with gleaming white. It was planned to
whitewash the aged outer walls also, but the Pope vetoed the suggestion,
for which the Dominicans seem to have a grievance against him.

The government palace, occupied now by Americans in navy and marine
uniforms, is full of capacious leather-upholstered chairs, in striking
contrast to the average uncomfortable Dominican seat. No wonder they
fought one another to become president. Ostentation is more important
than real use among the two score or more automobiles with wire wheels
and luxurious tonneaux that hover about the central plaza, though there
are good macadam roads for 16, 25, and 30 kilometers respectively in as
many directions. The theaters are seldom occupied by actors in the
flesh, though now and then there is a bit of opera. The only regular
attractions are the movies, which begin at nine in theory, nearer ten in
practice, and feature the same curly-haired heroes and vapid-faced
heroines that nightly decorate the screens in the United States. Like
all Latin-Americans, the people of “La Capital” are great lovers of
noise. Despite American rule the crack-voiced church bells begin their
constant din long before dawn. During the “flu” epidemic, with its
endless succession of funerals, they thumped for nine mortal days
without a pause, until the marine doctors protested that most of the
victims were dying for lack of sleep. Automobiles scorn to use mufflers;
carriages are constantly jangling their bells. Every boy in town is an
expert whistler, and every passer-by will find some way of making a
noise if he has to invent it. The throngs returning from the cinemas
habitually make slumber impossible until after midnight. One comes to
wonder if it is not this constant lack of sleep that makes the
Dominicans so nervous, inattentive, and racially inefficient.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Small as it looks on the map it is not a simple matter to cover all
Santo Domingo in a few weeks. Among the parts we missed were the
southwestern provinces, including the town of Azua, seventy miles from
the capital, founded in 1504 by Don Diego Velazquez, who later conquered
and settled Cuba. Thereabouts once dwelt many illustrious sons of old
Spain, among them Cortés, the conqueror of Mexico, Pizarro, who
subjugated Peru, and Balboa, the discoverer of the Pacific. A much
shorter route from Port au Prince to the Dominican capital is that
through this region, but it is chiefly by water. Lake Azua, partly in
Haiti, is fifty-six feet above sea-level, and a paradise for
duck-hunters. Lake Enriquillo, only five miles east of the other, and
named for the last Indian chief who opposed the Spaniards, is a hundred
feet _below_ the sea and more salty than the ocean itself. Nor should
the traveler to whom time is unlimited fail to visit the high mountain
ranges in the center of the country, with their breakneck trails and
luxuriant vegetation.

One of the drawbacks of West Indian travel is the lack of shipping
between the islands, particularly the larger ones. Only in the ports
themselves can one get the slightest data on sailings, and often not
even there. This is especially true of Santo Domingo, one of whose chief
misfortunes is the American line that holds a virtual monopoly of its
sea-going traffic. Not only are its freight and passenger rates
exorbitant, its treatment of travelers and shippers worse than
autocratic, and some of its steamers so decrepit that they take
twenty-six days for the run down from New York, halting every few hours
to pump out the vessel or patch something or other essential to her
safety, but it keeps a throttle hold on poor Santo Domingo by more or
less questionable means. Not long ago another line proposed to establish
traffic between the island and New Orleans. One of its steamers put into
a Dominican port, offering to take cargo at reasonable rates. Though the
warehouses along the wharves were piled high with cacao, not a bag was
turned over to the newcomer. Her captain button-holed a shipper and
asked for an explanation.

“It’s like this,” whispered the latter, “we should like to give you our
cargo, but if we do, the other line will leave our in-coming goods, on
which we are absolutely dependent, lying on the dock in New York until
they rot.”

The captain visited several other ports of the republic, with the same
result, and the proposed line to New Orleans died for lack of
nourishment. Disgruntled natives assert that the monopoly keeps its hold
because it has a large fund with which to starve out competitors, and
because its president is a member of our Shipping Board. The Dominicans,
however, are losing patience, and there are signs that the freight that
should go in American bottoms will gradually go to British, Dutch, and
later to German steamers.

We were spared all this through the kindness of the military governor,
who sent us to La Romana on a submarine chaser. Lest some reader be
subject to seasickness by suggestion, I shall not say a word about the
ability of these otherwise staunch little craft to cut incredible
acrobatic capers on a barely rippling sea. The fact that we noted the
gaunt old American battleship _Memphis_ still sitting bolt upright on
the rocks beside the seaside promenade of the capital just where a wave
tossed her in September, 1916, the dangerous bottle entrance to the
harbor of San Pedro de Macoris, with its wrecked schooner, and the water
that spouted a hundred feet into the air through the coral holes along
the low rocky coast and hung like mist for minutes before it fell, must
be accepted as proof that we are experienced sailors. At length appeared
the red roofs of La Romana, with its narrow river harbor, similar to
that of the capital, and the Santo Domingo we knew was forever left
behind.

Though it is in Dominican territory, La Romana is virtually American, a
vast estate belonging to a great sugar company of Porto Rico. Thanks
largely to it, sugar is the chief product of Santo Domingo. Here again
was one of the huge _centrals_ with which we had grown so familiar in
Cuba, with its big-business atmosphere, its long rows of excellent
dwellings built of light coral rock along the edge of the jagged coast,
its own stores, clubs, movies, and its many miles of standard-gauge
railroad. We rode about this all the next morning, past immense
stretches of cane, most of it recently cut, through bateys of white
wooden huts raised on stilts, sidetracked now and again by long trains
of cane, hungry bees hovering about them, and finally out upon great
tracts where the company is pushing back the forests and the bandits to
make way for increased sugar production. La Romana embraces a quarter
million acres, of which only 16,000 are under cane, immense as the
fields already look. Three fourths of the estate is estimated good cane
land, and the foothills make excellent pasture as fast as they are
cleared. The felling of these great forests, with what would seem to the
uninformed a wanton waste of lumber, has already altered the rainfall of
the region. Formerly the rains were regular; this year not a drop fell
in January, yet during the forty-eight hours of our visit in early
February, the gauges registered more than five inches. The country women
were everywhere paddling about under strips of _yagua_ in lieu of
umbrellas.

The company employs from 7500 to 9000 men, of whom a bare hundred are
Americans, most of them dwelling in the great central _batey_. The rest
are chiefly Haitians and Porto Ricans, with a large sprinkling of
negroes from all the other West Indian islands. English, Porto Rican,
and Dominican schools are maintained, the teachers of the two former
being paid out of company funds. There are very few Dominican employees,
the natives, though good ax-men, being usually “too Castilian to work
for a living.” Wages range from an average of $1.20 a day for
cane-cutters to $4 for mechanics, with twelve-hour shifts and a twenty
per cent. bonus for all. The contrast between this productive region and
the great virgin wilderness of most of Santo Domingo gave serious
meaning to the parting words of the company punster, “What the
Dominicans need most is to stop raising Cain and go to raising cane.”

We left La Romana and Santo Domingo on one of the two cane boats that
ply nightly between this dependency and the mother country. She was the
flat-bottomed steamer _Glencadam_ from the Great Lakes, flying the
British flag and captained by a quaint old Scotchman whose cabin far
forward contained almost transatlantic accommodations. Once more I draw
the curtain, however, on the merely personal matters of pitch and roll,
greatly abetted in this case by the recent rains, which had made it
impossible to gather more than half a cargo. The very canes themselves
were showing a tendency to waltz before we had passed the mouth of the
river and turned our nose toward Porto Rico, already lying cloud-like
and phantasmal on the eastern horizon.



                               CHAPTER XI
                             OUR PORTO RICO


“When the queen asked for a description of the island,” says an old
chronicle, “Columbus crumpled up a sheet of paper and, tossing it upon
the table, cried, ‘It looks just like that, your Majesty!’”

If we are to believe more modern documents, the intrepid Genoese made
that his stock illustration for most of the islands he discovered. Even
the firm head of Isabela must have wobbled under its crown as one after
another of the misnamed “West Indies” were pictured to her in the same
concise fashion, and brushed off into the regal wastebasket.
Fortunately, paper was cheaper in those days. Or was it? Perhaps it was
the wrath born of seeing her last precious sheet turned into an island
that soured the queen’s gratitude, and brought the doughty discoverer to
dungeons and disgrace.

Questions of wanton waste aside, there could be no more exact
description of Porto Rico. The ancient jest about quadrupling the area
of a land by flattening it out all but loses its facetiousness when
applied to our main West Indian colony. Barely a hundred miles long and
forty wide, a celestial rolling-pin would give old Borinquen almost the
vast extent of Santo Domingo. Its unbrokenly mountainous character makes
any detailed description of its scenic beauties a waste of effort; it
could be little more than a constant series of exclamations of delight.

For all its ruggedness, it is as easy to get about the island as it is
difficult to cover the larger one to the westward. There is not a spot
that cannot be reached from any other point between sunrise and sunset.
A railroad encircles the western two thirds of the island, with trains
by night as well as by day. When the Americans came, they found a
splendidly engineered military road from coast to coast, with branches
in several directions. If this sounds strange of a Spanish country, it
must be accounted for not by civic pride or necessity, but in the vain
hope of defending the island from armed invasion. To-day there are
hundreds of miles of excellent highway covering Porto Rico with a
network of quick transit that reaches all but the highest peaks of its
central range. It is doubtful whether any state of our union can rival
this detached bit of American territory in excellence and extent of
roads, certainly not in the scenic splendor that so generally flanks
them.

[Illustration: Ponce de Leon’s palace now flies the Stars and Stripes]

[Illustration: Thousands of women work in the fields in Porto Rico]

[Illustration: Air-plants grow even on the telegraph wires in Ponce]

[Illustration: A hat seller of Cabo Rojo]

Automobiles flash constantly along these labyrinthian _carreteras_, many
of them bearing the licenses of “the Mainland.” If the visitor has
neglected to include his own car among his baggage and trembles at the
thought of the truly American bill that awaits the end of a private
journey, there are always the _guaguas_, pronounced “wawas” by all but
those who take Spanish letters at full English value. Scarcely a road of
Borinquen lacks one or two of the public auto-buses each day in either
direction, carrying the mails and such travelers as deign to mix with
the rank and file of their fellow-citizens of Spanish ancestry. My
tastes no doubt are plebeian, but I for one gladly pass up the haughty
private conveyance for these rumbling plow-horses of the gasolene world.
They have all the charm of the old stage-coaches that prance through the
pages of Dickens, except for the change of horses. In them one may
strike up conversation with any of the varied types of rural Porto Rico,
and the halt at each post-office brings little episodes that the
scurrying private tourist never glimpses.

“We divide the people of Porto Rico into four categories for purposes of
identification,” said the American chief of the Insular Police,
“according to the shape of their feet. The minority, mostly
town-dwellers, wear shoes. Of the great mass of countrymen, those with
broad, flat feet, live in the cane-lands around the coast. The coffee
men have over-developed big toes, because they use them in climbing the
steep hillsides from bush to bush. In the tobacco districts, where the
planting is done with the feet, they are short and stubby. It beats the
Bertillon system all hollow.”

The man bent on seeing the varying phases of Porto Rican life could not
do better than adopt the chief’s broad divisions of the population; for
our over-crowded little Caribbean isle is a complex community, as
complex in its way as its great stepmother-land, and one that defies the
pick-things-up-as-you-go method. Small as it is, it contains a diversity
of types that emphasizes the influence of occupation, immediate
environment, even scenery, on the human family.

San Juan, the capital—to give the shod minority the precedence—is
compacted together on a small island of the north coast, attached to the
rest of the country only by a broad macadam highway along which stream
countless automobiles, and strictly modern street-cars and their rival
auto-buses in constant five-cent procession. It was a century old when
the Dutch colonized New Amsterdam. Small wonder that it looks upon its
scurrying fellow-citizens from “los Estados” as parvenus. Palaces and
fortifications that antedate the building of the _Mayflower_ still tower
above the compact, cream-colored mass, most of them now housing high
officials from the North. Casa Blanca, built for Ponce de Leon—the
younger, it is true—now resounds to the footsteps of the American
colonel commanding the Porto Rican regiment of our regular army. The
governor’s palace, almost as aged, has an underground passage that
carried many a mysterious personage to and from the outer sea-wall in
the old Spanish days, and through which more than one American governor
is said to have regained his quarters at hours and under conditions
which caused him to mumble blessings on Castilian foresight, though it
is hard to give credence to this latter tradition, for how could he
escape the all-seeing American chief of police who occupies the lower
story? The Stars and Stripes still seem a bit incongruous above the
inevitable Morro Castle, while the tennis-court in its moat and the
golf-links across its grassy parade-ground have almost a suggestion of
the sacrilegious. Of the cathedral with its green plaster covering there
is little to be said, except that the solemn Spanish dedication over the
bones of Ponce de Leon loses something of its solemnity in being signed
by Archbishop Monseñor Bill Jones. The mighty sea-wall that holds the
sometimes raging Atlantic at bay, and massive San Cristobal fortress at
the neck of the town are worth coming far to see, but they have that in
common with many a Spanish-American monument.

For after all, San Juan is still a son of Spain, despite the patently
American federal building that contains its post-office and
custom-house. Its architecture is of the bare, street-toeing façade,
interior-patio variety, its sidewalks all but imaginary, its noise
unceasing. Beautiful as it looks from across the bay, heaped up on its
nose of land, it has little of the pleasant spaciousness of younger
cities, and withal no great amount of the Latin charm with which one
imbues it from afar. Its Americanization consists chiefly of frequent
“fuentes de soda” in place of its bygone cafés, and a certain reflection
of New York ways in its larger stores, whose almost invariably male
clerks sometimes know enough English to nod comprehendingly and bring an
armful of shirts when one asks for trousers. Something more than that,
of course; its dressier men have discarded their mustaches as a sign of
their new citizenship, and many a passer-by who knows not a word of
English has all the outward appearance of a continental American.
Base-ball, too, has come to stay, though the counter influence may be
detected in the custom of American schoolmarms of attending the
bet-curdling horse races in the outskirts of the capital on Sunday
afternoons.

The central plaza on a Sunday evening has a few notes of uniqueness to
the sated Latin-American traveler. It is unusually small, a long, narrow
rectangle with few trees or benches, cement paved from edge to edge, and
burdened with the name of “Plaza Baldorioty.” The Porto Rican seems to
like free play in his central squares; more than a few of them have been
denuded of the royal palms of olden times, and are reduced to the bare
hard level of a tennis-court. A few years ago a venturesome American Jew
conceived the plan of providing concert-going San Juan with
rocking-chairs in place of the uncomfortable iron _sillas_ that decorate
every other Sunday-evening plaza south of the Rio Grande. Strangely
enough, the innovation took. Now one must be an early arrival at the
weekly _retreta_ if he would exchange his dime for even the last of the
rockers that flank the Plaza Baldorioty four rows deep on each side.
While the municipal band renders its classical program with a moderate
degree of skill, all San Juan rocks in unison with the leader’s baton.
All San Juan with the color-line drawn, that is; for whether it is true
that the well-groomed insular police have secret orders to ask them to
move on, or it is merely a time-honored custom, black citizens shun the
central square on Sunday evenings, or at most hang about the outskirts.
There is no division of sexes, however, another evidence perhaps of
American influence. Señoritas sometimes good to look at in spite of
their heavy coating of rice powder trip back and forth beside their
visibly enamored swains as freely as if the Moorish customs of their
neighboring cousins had long since been forgotten. For the time-honored
promenade has not succumbed to the rocking-chair. One has only to turn
his rented seat face down upon the pavement, like an excited
crap-player, to assure his possession of it upon his return from the
parading throng, whose shuffling feet and animated chatter drown out the
music a few yards away, and no great harm done. In that slow-moving
procession one may see the mayor and all the “quality” of San Juan, a
generous sprinkling of Yankees, and scores of American soldiers who know
barely a word of English, yet who have a racial politeness and a
complete lack of rowdyism that is seldom attained by other wearers of
our military uniform. Then suddenly one is aware of a tingling of the
blood as the _retreta_ ends with a number that, far from the
indifference or scorn it evokes in the rest of Latin America, brings all
San Juan quickly to its feet, males uncovered or standing stiffly at
salute—the Star-Spangled Banner.

From the sea-wall one may gaze westward to Cabras Island, with its leper
prisoners, and beyond to Punta Salinas, “poking its rocky nose into the
boiling surf.” Ferries ply frequently across the bay to pretty Cataño,
but it is far more picturesque at a distance. From San Juan, too, the
tumbled deep-green hills behind the little town have a Japanese-etching
effect in the mists of the rainy season that is gradually lost as one
approaches them, as surely as when the sun burns it away.

But there is more to modern San Juan than this old Spanish city huddled
together on its nose of rock. It has grown in American fashion not only
by spreading far beyond its original area, but by boldly embracing
far-flung suburbs within the “city limits.” Puerta de Tierra, once
nothing more than the “land gate” its name implies, is almost a city of
itself, a pathetic town of countless shacks built of tin and drygoods
boxes, spreading down across the railroad to the swampy edge of the bay,
where anemic babies roll squalling and naked in the dirt, and long lines
of hollow-eyed women file by an uninviting milk-shop, each holding forth
a pitifully small tin can. It is far out across San Antonio Bridge,
however, that the capital has seen most of its growth under American
rule. More than half of its seventy thousand, which have raised it,
perhaps, to second place among West Indian cities, dwell in capacious,
well-shaded Miramar and Santurce. Time was when its people were content
to make the upper story of the old town its “residential section,” but
it is natural that the desire for open yards and back gardens should
have come with American citizenship.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Ponce, on the south coast, gives the false impression of being a larger
city than the capital, loosely strewn as it is over a dusty flat plain
and overflowing in hovels of decreasing size into the low foot-hills
behind. It is the most extensive town in Porto Rico, and, like many of
those around the coast, lies a few miles back from the sea, for fear of
pirates in the olden days, with a street-car service to its shipping
suburb of Ponce-Playa. Air-plants festoon its telephone wires, and its
mosquitos are so aggressive that to dine in its principal hotel is to
wage a constant battle, while to disrobe and enter a bathroom is a
perilous undertaking.

It was carnival time when we visited Ponce. By day there was little
evidence of it, except for the urchins in colored rags who paraded the
streets and the unusual throngs of gaily garbed citizens who crowded the
plaza on Sunday afternoon. At night bedlam broke loose, though, to tell
the truth, the uproar was chiefly caused by automobile-horns. The
medieval gaieties of this season have sadly deteriorated under the staid
American influence. What there is left of them takes place chiefly
within the native clubs, each of which has its turn in gathering
together the élite of the city and such strangers as can establish their
ability to conduct themselves with Latin courtesy. We succeeded in
imposing ourselves upon the Centro Español. But there were more
spectators than spectacle in its flag and flower-festooned interior.
Toward ten the throng had thickened to what seemed full capacity, but it
was made up chiefly of staid dowagers and solemn _caballeros_ whose
formal manners would have been equally in place at a funeral. Only a
score of girls wore masks, and these confined their festive antics to
pushing their way up and down the hall, squeaking in a silly falsetto at
the more youthful oglers. Even confetti was strewn sparingly, evidently
for lack of spirit of the occasion, for the mere fact that a small bag
of it cost $1.50 seemed no drawback to those who would be revelers. At
the unseemly hour of eleven the queen at length made her appearance,
escorted to her throne by pages, knights and ladies-in-waiting, while
courtiers flocked about her with insistent manners that could be called
courteous only in Latin-American society. But her beauty was tempered by
an expression that suggested bored annoyance, whether for the tightness
of her stays or the necessity of avoiding lifelong disgrace by choosing
one of these pressing suitors before a year had passed there was no
polite means of learning. The most aggressive swain led her forth and
the dancing began. It differed but slightly from a dance of “high
society” in any other part of the world. I wandered into the “bar.” But
alas! I had forgotten again that I was in my native land. There was
something pathetically ludicrous in the sight of the score of thirsty
Latin-Americans who gazed pensively at the candy, chewing-gum, and “soft
drinks” that decorated what had once been so enticing a sideboard, for
after all they were not of a race that had abused the bottled good cheer
that has vanished.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Mayagüez was more like the ghost of a city than a living town. Its ugly
plaza was a glaring expanse of cracked and wrinkled cement across which
wandered from time to time a ragged, hungry-looking bootblack or a
disheveled old woman, dragging her faded calico train, and slapping the
pavement in languid regularity with her loose slippers. On his cracked
globe pedestal in the center of the square the statue of Columbus stood
with raised hand and upturned gaze as if he were thanking heaven that he
had not been injured in the catastrophe. Of the dozen sculptured women
perched on the balustrade around the place several had lost their lamps
entirely; the rest held them at tipsy angles. The massive concrete and
mother-of-pearl benches were mostly broken in two or fallen from their
supports. Workmen were demolishing the ruined cathedral at the end of
the square, bringing down clouds of plaster and broken stone with every
blow of their picks, and now and then a massive beam or heavy,
iron-studded door that suggested the wisdom of seeing the sights
elsewhere. House after house lay in tumbled heaps of débris as we
strolled through the broad, right-angled streets, along which we met not
hundreds, but a scattered half-dozen passers-by to the block. The
majority of these were negroes. The wealthier whites largely abandoned
the town after the disaster. Spaniards gathered together the remnants of
their fortunes and returned to more solid-footed Spain; Porto Ricans
began anew in other parts of the island. The sisters of St. Vincent de
Paul have a bare two hundred pupils now where once they had two
thousand. It was hard to believe that this was a city of teeming,
over-crowded Porto Rico.

Eighty years ago earthquakes were so continuous in this western end of
the island that for one notable six months the population ate its food
raw; pots would not sit upon the stoves. But the new generation had all
but forgotten that. Guide-books of recent date assert in all sincerity
that “Porto Rico is as free from earthquakes as from venomous snakes.”
Then suddenly on the morning of October 11, 1918, a mighty shake came
without an instant’s warning. Within twenty seconds most of Mayagüez
fell down. The sea receded for several miles, and swept back almost to
the heart of the town, tossing before it cement walls, automobiles, huge
iron blocks, débris, and mutilated bodies. Miraculous escapes are still
local topics of conversation. A merchant was thrown a hundred yards—into
a boat that set him down at length on his own door-step. A great tiled
roof fell upon a gathering of nuns, and left one of them standing
unscratched in what had been an opening for a water-pipe. Scientists,
corroborated by a cable repair-ship, explain that the sea-floor broke in
two some forty miles westward and dropped several hundred fathoms
deeper. Lighter quakes have been frequent ever since; half a dozen of
them were felt all over Porto Rico during our stay there. The
inhabitants of all the western end are still nervous. More than one
American teacher in that region has suddenly looked up to find herself
in a deserted school-room, the pupils having jumped out the windows at
the first suggestion of a tremor.

Mayagüez is slowly rebuilding; of reinforced concrete now, or at least
of wood. Little damage was done on that October morning to wooden
structures, which is one of the reasons that the crowded hovels along
the sea front have none of the deserted air of the city proper. A still
more potent reason is that this class of inhabitants had nowhere else to
go. By Porto Rican law the entire beach of the island is government
property, for sixty feet back of the water’s edge. As a consequence,
what would in our own land be the choicest residential section is
everywhere covered with squatters, who pay no rent, and patch their
miserable little shelters together out of tin cans, old boxes, bits of
driftwood, and _yagua_ or palm-leaves, the interior walls covered, if at
all, with picked-up labels and illustrated newspapers.

One can climb quickly into the hills from Mayagüez, with a wonderful
view of the bay, the half-ruined city, with its old gray-red tile roofs,
rare now in Porto Rico, and seas of cane stretching from the coast to
the foot-hills, which spring abruptly into mountains, little huts strewn
everywhere over their crinkled and warty surface as far as the eye can
see.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Its three principal cities by no means exhaust the list of important
towns in Porto Rico. Indeed the number and the surprising size of them
cannot but strike the traveler, the extent even of those in the interior
astounding the recent visitor to Cuba. There is Arecibo, for instance, a
baking-hot, dusty place on a knoll at the edge of the sea, with no real
harbor, but a splendid beach—given over to naked urchins and foraging
pigs—and a railroad station that avoids the town by a mile or more, as
if it were suffering from the plague. San Germán, founded by Diego
Columbus in 1512, destroyed times without number by pirates, Indians,
all the European rivals of Spain, and even by mosquitos, which forced
its founders to rebuild in a new spot, has moved hither and yon about
the southwestern corner of the island until it is a wonder its own
inhabitants can find it by night. Or there is Cabo Rojo, where hats of
more open weave than the Panama are made of the _cogolla_ palm-leaf of
the palmetto family.

Yauco, a bit farther east, is striking chiefly for the variegated
haystack of poor man’s hovels resembling beehives, that are heaped up
the steep hillside in its outskirt and seen from afar off in either
direction. Guayama is proud, and justly so, of its bulking new church,
which is so up-to-date that it is fitted with Pullman-car soap-spouts
for the saving of holy water. Maunabo, among its cane-fields, lies out
of reach of buccaneer cannon, hurricanes, and tidal waves, like so many
of the “coast” towns of old Borinquen, and does its seaside business
through a “Playa” of the same name. It still holds green the memory of
the stern but playful young American school-master who first taught its
present generation to salute the Stars and Stripes, but though it boasts
a faultless cement building now in place of the hovel that posed as
_escuela pública_ in those pioneer days, it seems not to have learned
the American doctrine of quick expansion as well as some of its fellows.

Beyond Maunabo the highway climbs through huts and rocks that look
strangely alike as they lie tossed far up the spur of the central range,
then past enormous granite boulders that suggest reclining elephants,
and out upon an incredible expanse of cane, with pretty Yabucoa planted
in its center and Porto Rico’s dependent islands of Vieques and Culebra
breaking the endless vista of sea to the southward. Humacao and Naguabo
have several corners worthy a painter’s sketchbook, and soon the
coast-line swings us northward again to sugar-choked Fajardo, with its
four belching smokestacks, and leaves us no choice but to cease our
journeyings by land or return to San Juan. There we may dash across or
around the bay to Bayamón, a “whale of a town and a bad one,” in the
words of the police chief, but also the site of the “City of Puerto
Rico” that afterward changed its name and location and became the
present capital. Of the towns that dot the mountainous interior the
traveler should not miss Caguas and Cayey, Coamo and Comerio,
Barranquitas and Juana Diaz, Lares and Utuado, and a half-dozen others
that are no mere villages, including Aibonito (Ai! Bonito!—Ah! Pretty!)
set more than two thousand feet aloft, and famed for its _fresas_, which
in Porto Rico means a fruit that grows on a thorny bush beside the
little streams of high altitudes, that looks like a cross between a
luscious strawberry and a mammoth raspberry and tastes like neither.

But it is high time now to descend to Coamo Springs for the one
unfailingly hot bath in the West Indies—when one can induce the servants
to produce the key to it.

Some eighty years ago a man was riding over the breakneck trail from
Coamo to Ponce to pay a bill—there is a fishy smell to that last detail,
but let it pass—when he lost his way and stumbled by accident upon a hot
spring. Making inquiries, he found that the region belonged to a
druggist in the southern metropolis and that his own broad acres bounded
the property on the left. He called on the druggist and after the
lengthy preliminaries incident to any Spanish-American deal, offered to
sell his own land to the apothecary.

“It’s of no use to me,” he explained, “and as you have the adjoining
land—and—and”

“Why,” cried the druggist, “my own _finca_ is not worth a peseta to
_me!_ Why on earth should I be buying yours also?”

“Well, then, I’ll buy yours off _you_,” suggested the horseman; “there
is no sense in having two owners to a tract that really belongs
together. Let’s settle the matter and be done with it. I happen to have
two thousand dollars with me. I was going to pay a debt with it”—the
fishy smell was no olfactory illusion, you see—“but—”

The druggist jumped at the chance, the titles were transferred, and the
horseman rode homeward—no doubt giving his creditor a wide berth. He
built a shack beside the hot spring, carved out a bath in the rock,
invited his friends, who also found the strange custom pleasant, and
gradually there grew up around the place a hotel famous for
its—gambling. Clients willingly slept in chairs by day, when rooms were
full, if only they could lose their money by night. By the time the
Americans came Coamo Springs was synonymous with the quick exchange of
fortunes. A more modern hotel had been built, with a broad roofed
stairway leading down to the baths, and rooms enough to ensure every
gambler a morning siesta. Then one day—so the story goes, though I
refuse to be hauled into court to vouch for it—an American governor who
was particularly fond of the attraction of the place, betook too freely
of the now forbidden nectars and ended by smashing up most of the
furniture within reach, whereupon the proprietor sent him a bill for
$1000 damages. Two days later the governor learned officially, to his
unbounded surprise, that gambling was going on at Coamo Springs! The
place was at once raided, and to-day the most model of old ladies may
visit it without the slightest risk of having her sensibilities so much
as pin-pricked.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I came near forgetting entirely, however, what is perhaps the most
typical town of Porto Rico. Aguadilla, nestling in the curve of a wide
bay on the northwest coast, where the foot-hills come almost down to the
sea, and with a pretty little isle in the hazy offing, has much the same
proportion between its favored few and its poverty-stricken many as the
island itself. A monument a mile from town commemorates the landing of
Columbus in 1493 to obtain water, though Aguada, a bit farther south,
also claims that honor. The distinctly Spanish church, too, contains
beautiful hand-carved reproductions in wood of Murillo’s “Assumption”
and “Immaculate Conception,” noteworthy as the only unquestionably
artistic church decorations in Porto Rico. The merely human traveler,
however, will find these things of scant interest compared to the vast
honeycomb of hovels that make up all but the heart of Aguadilla.

The hills, as I have said, come close down to the sea here, leaving
little room for the pauperous people of all Porto Rican suburbs. Hence
those of Aguadilla have stacked their tiny shacks together in the narrow
rocky canyons between the mountain-flanking railroad and the sea-level.
So closely are these hundreds of human nests crowded that in many places
even a thin man can pass between them only by advancing sidewise. Built
of weather-blackened bits of boxes, most of them from “the States,” with
their addresses and trademarks still upon them, and of every conceivable
piece of rubbish that can deflect a ray of sunshine or the gaze of
passers-by, they look far less like dwellings than abandoned kennels
thrown into one great garbage-heap. Of furnishing they have almost none,
not even a chair to sit on in many cases. The occupants squat upon the
floor, or at best take turns in the “hammock,” a ragged gunnysack tied
at both ends and stretched from corner to corner of the usually single
room. A few have one or two soiled and crippled cots, but never the
suggestion of a _mosquitero_, though the mosquitos hold high revel even
by day in this breathless amphitheater. For wash-tubs they use a strip
of _yagua_ pinned together at one end with a sliver and set on the
sloping ground beneath the hut to keep the water from running away at
the other. The families are usually large, in spite of an appalling
infant mortality, and half a dozen children without clothing enough
between them to properly cover the smallest are almost certain to be
squalling, quarreling, and rolling about the pieced-together floor or on
the ground beneath it.

For the hovels are always precariously set up on pillars of broken stone
under their four corners, and the earth under them is the family
playground and washroom. There is no provision whatever for sewerage;
water must be lugged up the steep hillside from the better part of the
town below. Break-neck ladder-steps, slippery with mud and with a broken
rung or two, connect ground and doorway. The poverty of Haiti, where at
least there is spaciousness, seems slight indeed compared to this.

Yet this is no negro quarter. Many of the inhabitants are of pure
Caucasian blood, and the majority of them have only a tinge of African
color. Features and characteristics that go with diligence and energy,
with success in life, are to be seen on every hand. Nor is it a
community of alms-seekers. It toils more steadily than you or I to be
self-supporting; the difficulty is to find something at which to toil.
Scores of the residents own their _solar_, or patch of rock on which
their hut stands; many own the hut itself. Others pay their monthly
rental, though they live for days on a handful of plantains—pathetic
rentals of from twenty to thirty cents a month for the _solar_ and as
much for the hovel, many of which are owned by proud citizens down in
the white-collar part of the town.

For all their abject poverty these hapless people are smiling and
cheerful, sorry for their utter want, yet never ashamed of it, convinced
that it is due to no fault of their own. That is a pleasing peculiarity
of all the huddled masses of Porto Rico. They are quite ready to talk,
too, on closely personal subjects that it is difficult to bring up in
more urbane circles, and to discuss their condition in a quaintly
impersonal manner, with never a hint of whining.

I talked with an old woman who was weaving hats. She lived alone, all
her family having died, of under-nourishment, no doubt, though she
called it something else. The hat she was at work upon would be sold to
the wholesalers for thirty cents; it was almost the equal of the one I
wore, which had cost five dollars,—and the material for two of them cost
her twenty cents. She could barely make one a day, what with her cooking
and housework. Cooking of what, for Heaven’s sake? Oh, yams and tubers,
now and then a plantain from a kind friend she had. One really required
very little for such labor. She smiled upon me as I descended her
sagging ladder and wished me much prosperity.

A muscular fellow a bit farther on, white of skin as a Scandinavian, was
“a peon by trade,” but there was seldom work to be had. He sold things
in the streets. It was a lucky day when he made a profit of fifteen
cents. His wife made hats, too. With three children there was no help
for it, much as he would like to support his family unassisted. The
house? No, it was not his—yet; though he owned the _solar_. The house
would cost $32; meanwhile he was paying thirty cents a month for it.

A frail little woman in the early thirties looked up from her
lace-making as I paused in her doorway. In her lap was a small, round,
hard cushion with scores of pins stuck in it, and a wooden bobbin at the
end of each white thread. She clicked the bits of wood swiftly as she
talked, like one who enjoyed conversation, but could not afford to lose
time at it. Yes, she worked all day and usually well into the
night—nodding at a wick in a little can of tallow. By doing that she
could make a whole yard of lace, and get eighty cents for it. It took a
spool and a third of thread—American thread, _mira usted_—at ten cents a
spool. Fortunately, she was young and strong, though her eyes hurt
sometimes, and people said this work was bad on the lungs. But she had
her mother to support, who was too old to do much of anything—the
toothless crone, grinning amiably, slouched forward out of the “next
house,” which was really another room like the incredibly piece-meal
shack in which I stood, though with a separate roof. The rent of the two
was thirty cents; they were worth thirteen dollars—the lace-maker
mentioned that enormous sum with a catch in her breath. Then she had a
little girl. There had been four children, but three had died. Her
husband was gone, too—Oh, yes, she had been really married. They had
paid $3.75 for the ceremony. She had heard that the Protestants did it
cheaper, but of course when one is born a Catholic.... Some women in the
quarter were “only married by God,” but that was not their fault. She
never had time to go to mass, but she had been to confession four times.
There had been no charge for that. Her daughter—the frizzly-headed
little tot of six or seven had come in munching a mashed _boniato_ in a
tiny earthen bowl, with a broken spoon—went to school every day. She
hoped for a great future for her. She had gone to school herself, but
she “wasn’t given to learn.” She couldn’t get the child the food the
teacher said was good for her. Even rice was sixteen cents a pound, and
those—pointing to three or four miserable roots in the burlap
“hammock”—cost from one to four cents apiece now. And clothing! Would I
just feel the miserable stuff her waist was made of—it was miserable
indeed, though snowy white. Then she had to buy a board now and then for
two or three cents to patch the house; the owner would never do it. Once
she had tried working in a warehouse down by the wharf. The Spaniards
said they paid a dollar a day for cleaning coffee—because the law would
not let them pay less, or work women more than eight hours a day. Yet
the cleaners _must_ do two bags a day or they didn’t get the dollar, and
no woman could do that if she worked ten, or even twelve, hours. Clever
fellows, those _peninsulares_! The little basket of oranges in the
doorway? Oh, she sold those to people in the gully, when any of them
could buy. Some days she made nothing on them, at other times as much as
four cents profit. But “that goes for my vice, for I smoke cigarettes,”
she concluded, as if confessing to some great extravagance.

Down in the plaza that night a score of ragged men lolled about a cement
bench discussing wages and the cost of food. Beans cost a fortune now;
sugar was sixteen cents; coffee, their indispensable coffee, thirty-two.
They did not mention bread; the Porto Rican of the masses seldom
indulges in that luxury. And with the sugar _centrals_ in the
neighborhood paying scarcely a dollar a day, even when one could find
work! “I tell you, we working-men are too tame,” concluded one of them;
“we should fight, rob....” But he said it in a half-joking, harmless way
that is characteristic of his class through all Porto Rico.

                  *       *       *       *       *

It is time, however, that we leave the towns and get out among the
_jíbaros_, as the countrymen are called, from a Spanish word for a
domesticated animal that has gone wild again.

The American Railroad of Porto Rico was originally French, as its
manager is still. Though it is narrow-gauge, it has a comfort and _aseo_
unknown even in Cuba, a cleanliness combined with all the smaller
American conveniences, ice water, sanitary paper cups, blotter-roll
towels—prohibition has at least done away with the yelping trainboy and
made it possible to drink nature’s beverage without exciting comment.
Its fares are higher than in the United States,—three cents a kilometer
in first and 2¼ in the plain little second-class coaches with their hard
wooden benches that make up most of the train. The single first-class
car is rarely more than half filled, for all its comfortable swivel
chairs. Automobiles and the lay of the land, that makes Ponce less than
half as far over the mountain as by rail, accounts for this; though by
night the sleeping-car at the rear is fully occupied by men, usually men
only, who have adopted the American custom of saving their days for
business. The sleeping compartments are arranged in ship’s-cabin size
and run diagonally across the car, to leave room for a passageway within
the narrow coach. These two-bunk cabins are furnished with individual
toilet facilities, thermos bottles of ice water, and electric lights,
and many Porto Ricans have actually learned that an open window does not
necessarily mean a slumberer turned to a corpse by morning. The trainmen
are polite and obliging in an unostentatious way that make our own seem
ogres by comparison. In short, it is a diligent, honest little railroad
suiting the size of the country and with no other serious fault than a
tendency to stop again at another station almost before it has gotten
well under way.

For nearly an hour the train circles San Juan bay, the gleaming,
heaped-up capital, or its long line of lights, according to the hour,
remaining almost within rifle-shot until the crowded suburbs of Bayamón
spring up on each side. Then come broadening expanses of cane, with
throngs of men and women working in the fields, interspersed with short
stretches of arid sand, or meadows bright with pink morning-glories and
dotted with splendid reddish cattle. Beyond comes a fruit district.
Under Spanish rule scarcely enough fruit was grown in Porto Rico to
supply the local demand. The Americans, struck with the excellency of
the wild fruit, particularly of the citrus variety, began to develop
this almost unknown industry. But among the pathetic sights of the
island is to see acre after acre of grape-fruit, unsurpassed in size and
quality, rotting on the trees or on the ground beneath them. While
Americans are paying fabulous prices for their favorite breakfast fruit,
many a grower in Porto Rico is hiring men to haul away the locally
despised _toronjas_ and bury them. Lack of transportation is the chief
answer—that and a bit of market manipulation. Not long ago the discovery
that the bottled juice of grapefruit and pineapple made a splendid
beverage led a company to undertake what should be a booming enterprise,
with the thirsty mainland as chief consumers. But the promoters quickly
struck an unexpected snag. The available supply of bottles, strange to
relate, was quickly exhausted, and to-day the company manager gazes
pensively from his windows across prolific, yet unproductive, orchards.

The pale-green of cane-fields becomes monotonous; then at length the
blue sea breaks again on the horizon. Beyond Arecibo the railroad runs
close along the shore, with almost continuous villages of shaggy huts
half hidden among the endless cocoanut-grove that girdles Porto Rico,
the waves lapping at the roots of the outmost trees. These without
exception are encircled by broad bands of tin. During an epidemic of
bubonic plague the mongoose was introduced into the island, as into
nearly all the West Indies, to exterminate the rats. The rodents
developed new habits and took to climbing the slanting cocoanut trees,
which afforded both food and a place of refuge. The bands of tin have
served their purpose. To-day both rats and snakes are scarce in Porto
Rico, but the inhabitants discovered too late that the chicken-loving
mongoose may be an even greater pest than those it has replaced.
Cocoanuts brought more than one Porto Rican a quick fortune during the
war. Now that the gas-mask has degenerated into a mural decoration,
however, immense heaps of the fibrous husks lie shriveling away where
the armistice overtook them, and even the favorable state of the copra
market seems incapable of shaking the growers out of their racial
apathy.

Several pretty towns on knolls against a background of sea attract the
eye as the train bends southward along the west coast. Below
Quebradillas the railroad swings in a great horseshoe curve down into a
little sea-level valley, plunges through two tunnels, and crawls along
the extreme edge of a bold precipitous coast, past mammoth tumbled
rocks, and all but wetting its rails in the dashing surf. A few tobacco
patches spring up here, where the mountains crowd the cane-fields out of
existence, women and children patiently hoeing, and men plowing the
pale-red soil behind brow-yoked oxen. Crippled Mayagüez drags slowly by,
new seas of cane appear, then the splendid plain of San Germán, with its
vista of grazing cattle and its _pepinos gordos_, reddish calabashes
clinging to their climbing vines like huge sausages. Beyond, there is
little to see, except canefields and the Caribbean, until we rumble into
Ponce, spread away up its foothills like a city laid out in the sun to
dry. On the southeastern horizon lies an island the natives call Caja de
Muertos—“deadman’s box,” and it looks indeed like a coffin, with the
lighthouse on its highest point resembling a candle set there by some
pious mourner. Local tradition has it that this is the original of
Stevenson’s “Treasure Island.”

The train turns back from Ponce, but the railroad does not, and one may
rumble on behind a smaller engine to Guayama. Some day the company hopes
to get a franchise for the eastern end of the island and encircle it
entirely. A private railroad covers a third of the remaining distance as
it is. But the traveler bent on circumnavigating all Porto Rico must
trust to _guaguas_, an automobile, or his own exertions through this
region, and swinging in a great curve around the Luquillo range, with
the cloud-capped summit of the island purple and hazy above him,
eventually fetches up once more in sea-lashed San Juan. By this time, I
warrant, he will long for other landscapes than spreading canefields.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Sugar was shipped from Porto Rico as early as 1533, but the Spaniards
gave it less attention than they did coffee. For one thing their methods
were antiquated. Two upright wooden rollers under a thatched roof,
turned by a yoke or two of oxen, was the customary cane-crusher. Here
and there one of these may be seen to this day. The big open iron
kettles in which they boiled the syrup are still strewn around the
coast, some of them occupied in the plebeian task of catching rain-water
from hovel roofs, many more rusting away like abandoned artillery of a
by-gone age. All the coastal belt is dotted with the ruins of old brick
sugar-mills, their stocky square chimneys broken off at varying heights
from the ground, like aged tombs of methods that have passed away. They
do not constitute a direct loss, but rather unavoidable sacrifices to
the exacting god of modern progress, for barely sixty per cent. of the
sugar contents was extracted by the contrivances of those ox-gaited,
each-planter-for-himself days.

It is natural that combinations of former estates, with immense central
_engenios_, should have followed American possession. To-day four great
companies control the sugar output of Porto Rico, from Guánica on the
west to Fajardo in the east. Like the mammoth _central_ of Cuba, they
reckon their production in hundreds of thousands of bags and utilize all
the aids of modern science in their processes. Their problem, however,
is more complex than that in the almost virgin lands of Cuba and Santo
Domingo. The acreage available for cane production is definitely
limited; virtually all of it has been cultivated for centuries. Charred
stumps and logs of recent deforestation are unknown in Porto Rican
canefields. Instead there is the acrid scent of patent fertilizers and,
particularly in the south, elaborate systems of irrigation. After each
cutting the fields must be replanted; in Cuba and the Dominican Republic
they reproduce for eight to twelve years. A few areas never before
devoted to cane have recently been planted, but they are chiefly small
interior valleys and the loftier foothills well back from the coast. For
the Porto Rican sugar producer is forced to encroach upon the mountains
in a way that his luckier fellows of the larger islands to the westward
would scorn, and his fields of cane are sometimes as billowy as a
turbulent Atlantic.

[Illustration: There are school accommodations for only half the
children of our Porto Rico]

[Illustration: The home of a lace-maker in Aquadillo]

[Illustration: The Porto Rican method of making lace]

Porto Rico was in the midst of a wide-spread strike among the sugar
workers during our stay there. All through this busiest month of
February there had been constant parades of strikers along the coast
roads by day and thronged _mitines_ in the towns each evening. The
paraders were with few exceptions law-abiding and peaceful despite the
scores of red flags that followed the huge Stars and Stripes at the head
of each procession. When the authorities protested, the strike leaders
explained that red had long stood as the symbol of the laboring class in
Spanish countries. They were astounded to learn that to people beyond
the blue sea that surrounds them, the color meant lawlessness and revolt
by violence, and they lost no time in adopting instead a green banner.
When this in turn was found to have a similar significance in another
island somewhere far away, they chose a white flag. It was not a matter
of one color or another, they said, but of sufficient food to feed their
hungry families.

Negro spell-binders from the cities, evil-faced fellows for the most
part, whose soft hands showed no evidence of ever having wielded a
cane-knife, harangued the barefoot multitudes in moonlighted town
streets. When the head of the movement was taken to task by neutral
fellow-citizens for not choosing lieutenants more capable of arousing
general public sympathy and confidence, he replied with a fervent, “I
wish to God I could!” But the ranks of Porto Rican workmen do not easily
yield men of even the modicum of education required to spread-eagle a
public meeting. Held down for centuries to almost the level of serfs,
they have little notion of how to use that modern double-edged weapon,
the strike. They do not put their heads together, formulate their
demands, and carry them to their employers. Inert by nature and
training, they plod on until some outside agitator comes along and tells
them they shall get higher wages if only they will follow his
leadership, whisper to one another that it would be nice to have more
money, and quit work, with no funds to support themselves in idleness or
any other preparation. It is the old irresponsibility, the lack of
foreplanning common to the tropics. Then, that they may not be the
losers whichever side wins, they strive to keep on good terms with their
employers by telling them that only the fear of violence from their
fellows keeps them from coming to work, being so docile by nature that
they would not hurt even the feelings of their superiors.

This time the strikers had been encouraged by what they mistook to be
federal support. The American Federation of Labor had sent down as
investigating delegates two men of forceful Irish wit who were naturally
appalled to find their new fellow-citizens living under conditions
unequalled even among their ancestral peat-bogs. What they did not
recognize was that all over Latin-America, even where land is virtually
unlimited and there are no corporations to “exploit” the populace, the
masses live in much the same thatched-hut degradation. Their
familiarity, with the Porto Rican environment was as negative as their
knowledge of the Spanish language; they made the almost universal
American mistake of thinking that what is true of the United States is
equally so of all other countries, and their straight-forward national
temperament made them, no match for the wily, intricate machinations of
native politicians.

Porto Rico had not been so lively since the Americans ousted the
Spaniards. I had an opportunity of hearing both sides of the case, for
with the privilege of the mere observer I was equally welcome—whatever
the degree may have been—in the touring car of the delegates and at the
dinner-tables of the sugar managers.

“These simple fellows from the States,” said the latter, “think they can
solve the problem of over-population by giving $2.50 a day to all
laborers, good or bad, weak or strong. The result would be to drive the
best workmen out of the country, and leave us, our stock-holders, and
the consumers, victims of the poorest. Like the labor union movement
everywhere, it would give the advantage to the weakling, the scamper,
the time-killer. We have men in our fields who earn $3.50 a day, and who
will tell you they do not know why on earth they are striking. Men who
can cut six tons of cane a day on piece-work will not cut one ton at day
wages. Then there are men so full of the hookworm that they haven’t the
strength to earn _one_ dollar a day. We _centrals_ insist on keeping the
_ajuste_ system that has always prevailed in Porto Rico—the letting of
work by contract to self-appointed gang leaders; and we will not sign a
minimum wage scale because there is no responsible person to see that
the terms are carried out on the laborer’s side. We refuse to deal with
the strikers’ committees because we cannot listen to a lot of bakers and
barbers from the towns who do not know sugarcane from swamp reeds. There
is nothing but politics back of it all any way. This is a presidential
year; that explains the sudden interest of politicians in the poor
down-trodden laboring class. Our men earn at least $1.75 a day—and they
seldom work in the fields after two in the afternoon. Besides that we
give every employee a twenty per cent. bonus, a house to live in if he
chooses, free medical attention, half-time when they are sick, and the
privilege of buying their supplies in our company stores at cost. Cuba
pays higher wages, but the companies get most of it back through their
stores. We run ours at a loss; I can prove it to you by our books; and
we give much to charity. Hungry indeed! Do you know that our biggest
sales to our laborers are costly perfumes? They may starve their
children, but they can always feed fresh eggs to their fighting-cocks.
There is hardly a man of them that is not keeping two or three women. If
we paid our men twice what we do, the only result would be that they
would lay off every other day. Let them strike! We can always get
hillmen from the interior or men from Aguadilla who are only too glad to
work for even less than we are paying now.”

I found Santiago Iglesias literally up to his ears in work at the
headquarters of the Socialist-Labor party, a few doors from the
governor’s palace. About him swarmed several of the foxy-faced
individuals he had himself privately deplored as assistants. A powerful
man in the prime of life, of pure Spanish blood, the radical Porto Rican
senator was quite ready to recapitulate once more his view of the
situation. If he was “playing politics”—and what elective government
official is not every time he opens his mouth or turns over in bed?—he
gave at least the impression of being genuinely distressed at the
condition of Porto Rico’s poverty-bred masses. We had conversed for some
time in Spanish before he surprised me by breaking forth into a vigorous
English, amusing for its curious errors of pronunciation. The minimum
wage demanded, for instance, which recurred in almost every sentence,
always emerged from his lips with the second f transformed into an s.
That is the chief trouble with Santiago, according to his opponents—his
methods are “too fisty.”

“There has been a vast improvement in personal liberty in Porto Rico
under American rule,” he began. “But the island has been surrendered to
Wall Street, to the heartless corporations that always profit most by
American expansion. Moreover, American rule has forced upon us American
prices—it always does—without giving our people the corresponding
income. Formerly all our wealth went to Spain. Now it goes to the
States, but with this difference,—under Spanish rule wages were low but
the employers were paternal; they thought occasionally about their
peons. At least the workers got enough to eat. The corporations that
have taken their place are utterly impersonal; the workmen who sweat in
the sun for them are no more to the far away stock-holders than the
canes that pass between the rollers of their sugar-mills. When they get
these magnificent returns on their investment do the Americans who hold
stocks and bonds in our great _centrals_ ever ask themselves how the men
who are actually earning them are getting on? No, they sit tight in
their comfortable church pews giving thanks to the Lord with a freer
conscience than ever did the Spanish conquistadores, for they are too
far away ever to see the sufferings of _their_ peons.

“The sugar companies can produce sugar at a hundred dollars a ton; they
are getting two hundred and forty. The common stock of the four big
ones, paid from fifty-six to seventy dollars last year on every hundred
dollars invested, not to mention a lot of extra dividends, and their
profits for this _zafra_ will be far higher. The island is being pumped
dry of its resources and nothing is being put back into it. In the
States not twenty per cent. of the national income goes out of the
country; the rest goes back into reproduction. In Porto Rico seventy per
cent. goes to foreigners, and of the thirty left wealthy Porto Ricans
spend a large amount abroad. We do not want our land all used to enrich
non-resident stock-holders; we need it to feed our own people. There is
not corn-meal and beans enough now to go round, because the big sugar
_centrals_ hold all the fertile soil. They have bought all the land
about them, even the foot-hills, so that the people cannot plant
anything, but _must_ work for the companies. Stock-holders are entitled
to a fair profit on the capital actually invested—_actually_, I say—and
something for the risk taken—which certainly is not great. But the Porto
Ricans, the men, and women, and the scrawny children who do the actual
work in the broiling tropical sun should get the rest of it, in wages.
We should tax non-resident sugar companies ten per cent. of their income
for the improvement of Porto Rico; we should borrow several millions in
the States and give our poor people land to cultivate, and pay the loan
back out of that tax. But what can we do? The politicians, the high
officials are all interested in sugar. They and the corporations form
the _invisible_ government; they are the law, the police, the rulers,
the patriots. Patriots! The instant the Porto Rican income-tax was set
at half that in the States the corporations made Porto Rico their legal
residence. When the federal government would not stand for the trick and
forced them to pay the balance they cried unto high Heaven. Porto Rican
law forbids any company or individual to own more than five hundred
acres. They get around the law by trickery, by dividing the holdings
among the members of the same family, by making fake divisions of
company stock. The Secretary of War and other federal officials come
down here to ‘investigate.’ They motor across our beautiful mountains,
have two or three banquets in the homes of the rich or the _central_
managers, and the newspapers in the States shout ‘Great Prosperity in
Porto Rico!’ I tell you it is the criminal lack of equity, the same old
blindness of the landed classes the world over and in all ages that is
driving Porto Rico into the camp of the violent radicals.

“You admire our fine roads. All visitors do. You do not realize that
they were built because the corporations needed them. And did we pay for
them by taxing the corporations? We did not. We paid for them by
government bonds—that is, we charged them up to the children of the
peons. You have probably found that we have inadequate school
facilities. The corporations, the invisible government, do not want the
masses educated, because then they would not have left any easily
manipulated laboring class. Nor do I take much stock in this
over-population idea. At least I should like to see the half million
untilled acres turned over to the people before I will believe
emigration is necessary. Sixty per cent. of Porto Rico is uncultivated,
yet eighty per cent. of the population goes to bed hungry every night in
the year. Then there is this cry of hookworm. Do not let the Rockefeller
Foundation, a direct descendant of the capitalists, tell you lies about
‘anemia.’ The anemia of Porto Rico comes from no worm, but from the fact
that the people are always hungry. It is the sordid miserliness of
corporations, bent on keeping our peons reduced to the level of serfs,
in order that they may always have a cheap supply of labor, that is the
fundamental cause of the misery of Porto Rico, of the naked, barefoot,
hungry, schoolless, homeless desolation of the working classes.”

The calm and neutral observer, neither underfed nor blessed with the
task of clipping sugar-stock coupons, detects a certain amount of froth
on the statements of both parties to the controversy in Porto Rico. But
he cannot but wonder why the sweat-stained laborers in the corn-fields
should be seen wearily tramping homeward to a one-room thatched hovel to
share a few boiled roots with a slattern woman and a swarm of
thin-shanked children while the Americans who direct them from the
armchair comfort of fan-cooled offices stroll toward capacious
bungalows, pausing on the way for a game of tennis in the company
compound, and sit down to a faultless dinner amid all that appeals to
the aesthetic senses. Least of all can he reconcile the vision of other
Americans, whose only part in the production of sugar is the collecting
of dividends, rolling about the island in luxurious touring cars, with
the sight of the toil-worn, ragged workers whose uncouth appearance
arouses the haughty travelers to snorts of scorn or falsetto shrieks of
“how picturesque.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

The problem in Porto Rico, as the reader has long since suspected, is
the antithesis of that in Santo Domingo. In the latter island the
difficulty is to get laborers enough to develop the country; in the
former it is to find labor enough to occupy the swarming population.
Barely three-fourths of a million people are scattered through the broad
insular wilderness to the westward; the census of 1920 shows little
Porto Rico crowded with 1,263,474 inhabitants, that is nearly four
hundred persons to the square mile. There are several reasons for this
discrepancy; for one thing Santo Domingo has been fighting itself for
generations, while Porto Rico has never had a revolution. The obvious
solution of the problem has two serious drawbacks. The Dominicans do not
welcome immigration; they wish to keep their country to themselves. The
Porto Rican is inordinately fond of his birthplace. Send him to the most
distant part of the world and he is sure sooner or later to come back to
his beloved Borinquen. Emigration from the island can reach even
moderate success only when entire families are sent. The letters of
Porto Rican soldiers no nearer the front than Florida or Panama were
filled with wails of homesickness that would have been pitiful had they
not been tinged with what to the unemotional Anglo-Saxon was a
suggestion of the ludicrous.

There is a Japanese effect in the density of population of our little
West Indian colony. When the traveler has motored for hours without once
getting out of sight of human habitations, when he has noted how the
unpainted little shacks speckle the steepest hillside, even among the
high mountains, when he has seen the endless clusters of hovels that
surround every town, whether of the coast or the interior, he will come
to realize the crowded condition. If he is a trifle observant, he will
also see everywhere signs of the scarcity of work. Men lounging in the
doors of their huts in the middle of the day, surrounded by pale women
and children sucking a joint of sugar-cane, are not always loafers; in
many cases they have nowhere to go and work. While the women toil at
making lace, drawn-work, or hats, the males turn their hands to anything
that the incessant struggle for livelihood suggests. The man who spends
two days in weaving a laundry basket and plods fifteen or twenty miles
to sell it for sixty cents is only one of a thousand commonplace sights
along the island highways.

A job is a prize in Porto Rico. If one is offered, applicants swarm;
many a man “lays off” in order to lend his job to his brother, his
cousin, or his _compadre_. Naturally, employers take advantage of this
condition. The American labor delegates told the chief of police that he
should be the first to lead his men on strike, for certainly he could
not keep them honest at forty-five dollars a month.

“Oh, yes, I can,” retorted the chief, “for while we have barely eight
hundred on the force, there are twelve thousand on the waiting-list, and
every policeman knows that if he is fired, he will have to go back to
punching bullocks at a third as much.” _Mozos_ and chambermaids in the
best hotels seldom get more than five dollars a month. Street-car men
get from sixteen to twenty-five cents an hour, depending on the length
of service. In a large clothing factory of Mayagüez, fitted with
motor-run sewing-machines, only a few of the women get a dollar a day;
the majority average fifty cents. The law, of course, requires that they
be paid a minimum wage of a dollar; but what is a mere law among a
teeming population which the Spaniards spent four centuries in training
to be _manso_ and uncomplaining? The favorite trick is to pay the
dollar, and then fine the women fifty cents for not having done
sufficient work. Among the regrettable sights of the island are groups
of callous emissaries frequenting the leading hotels who have been sent
down as agents of certain American department stores to reap advantage
from the local poverty. These _comisionistas_ motor about the island,
placing orders with the wretched native women, but by piece-work, you
may be sure, to avoid the requirement of paying a dollar a day. American
women who are paying several times what they once did for Porto Rican
lace, blouses, and drawn-work, may fancy that some of this increase goes
to the humble _mujeres_ who do the work. Not at all. They are still
toiling in their miserable little huts at the same ludicrous prices,
while their products are being sold on the “bargain” counters in our
large cities, at several hundred per cent. profit. So thoroughly have
these touts combed the country that the individual can nowhere buy of
the makers; their work has all been contracted far in advance.



                              CHAPTER XII
                       WANDERING ABOUT BORINQUEN


The American who, noting the Stars and Stripes flying everywhere and
post-offices selling the old familiar postage-stamps, fancies he is
back in his native land again is due for a shock. Though it has been
Americanized industrially, Porto Rico has changed but little in its
every-day life. Step out of one of the three principal hotels of the
capital and you are in a foreign land. Spanish is as necessary to
the traveler in Porto Rico who intends to get out of the
Condado-Vanderbilt-automobile belt as it is in Cuba, Mexico, or
South America. Though it is not quite true that “base-ball and poker
are the only signs of American influence,” the other evidences might
be counted on the fingers. There is the use of personal checks in
place of actual money, for instance; venders of chickens carry them
in baskets instead of by the legs. Offenders are tried by a jury of
their peers; the native regiment wears the uniform of our regular
army; it would take deep reflection to think of many more instances.
Only one daily newspaper in Porto Rico has an English edition. The
first American theatrical company to visit the island since the
United States took it over was due the week we left. There are
barely ten thousand American residents; except in the capital and
the heart of two or three other cities one attracts as much gaping
attention as in the wilds of Bolivia. In a way this conservatism is
one of the charms of the island. The mere traveler is agreeably
disappointed to find that it has not been “Americanized” in the
unpleasant sense of the word, that it has kept much of its
picturesque, old-world atmosphere.

English is little spoken in Porto Rico. That is another of the surprises
it has in store for us, at least for those of us old enough to remember
what a splurge we made of swamping the island with American teachers
soon after we took it over. It is indeed the “official” language, but
the officials who speak it are rare, unless they come from the United
States, in which case they are almost certain to be equally ignorant of
Spanish. The governor never stirs abroad without an interpreter. The
chief of police rarely ventures a few words of Castilian, though there
is scarcely a patrolman even in the heart of San Juan who can answer the
simplest question in English. Can any one think up a valid reason why a
fair command of the official tongue should not be required of natives
seeking government employment? Spanish is a delightful language; its own
children are no more fond of it than I am. But after all, Porto Rico
differs from the rest of Spanish-America, in that it is a part of the
United States. She aspires some day to statehood. That day should not
come until she knows English; it is not a question of one language in
place of another, but of mutual understanding.

To be sure, English is compulsory in all the schools of the island, but
few pupils learn it thoroughly enough to retain it through life. Most of
them can read it in a parrot-like manner; if they speak it at all, it is
to shout some half-intelligible phrase after a passing American. “Aw
right” is about the only expression that has been thoroughly
Portoricanized. That is not exactly the fault of the pupils. The ear
shudders at the “English” spoken even by those teachers who are supposed
to be specialists in it; the rest are little short of incomprehensible.
Passed on from one such instructor to another, the English that finally
comes down to the pupils resembles the original about as much as an
oft-repeated bit of gossip resembles the original facts. It might almost
be said that there has been no progress made in teaching Porto Rico
English in the twenty years of American rule, or at least in the last
fifteen of them.

On the whole the state of education in Porto Rico is a disappointment.
It is a surprise to the visitor who has thought this essential matter
was settled long ago to find sixty per cent. of the population
illiterate, few countrymen over thirty who can read, and scarcely a
third of the children of school age in school. We had, of course, much
to make up. In 1898, after four centuries of ostensibly civilized
government, there was but one building on the island specially erected
for educational purposes. The total enrollment in the schools, with a
population of nearly a million, was 26,000. Three-fourths of the males
of voting age were wholly illiterate. Pupils were “farmed out,” teachers
drew salaries without ever going near a schoolhouse, all the old Spanish
tricks were in full swing. But that was twenty years ago. Yet the
department of education asks for twenty years more to bring things up to
a “reasonable standard.” Why? Moreover, at the rate things have been
moving it will not nearly do that. The thousand and more
school-buildings that have been erected, tropical Spanish in
architecture, well lighted and ventilated, of concrete in the towns and
wood in the country, their names in English over the entrances, are all
very well, but they are far from sufficient. The census taken just
before our arrival showed almost a half million children of school age,
with 181,716 enrolled, and 146,561 in average attendance. Of the 2984
teachers only 148 were Americans. The only inducement Porto Rico offers
to instructors from “the States” is an appeal to the love of adventure.
Those who wish to make a trip to the tropics may be sure of a
position—at a lower salary than they receive at home, and with the
privilege of paying their own passages down and back to profiteering
steamship companies. No wonder the “English” of Porto Rico is going to
seed.

In the graded school system of the towns all instruction is given in
that maltreated tongue except the class in Spanish. In the rural schools
all the work is given in Spanish except a class in so-called English as
a special subject in all grades above the first. The University of Porto
Rico, seventeen years old, has fewer than a thousand students. The
Agricultural College in Mayagüez has some two hundred. Private
institutions like the Polytechnic Institute of San Germán are doing
yeoman service, but why should the education of Porto Rico depend on
private enterprise? The natives claim that the trouble is that nearly
all the commissioners of education sent down from the United States have
been political appointees; the latter lay the blame to the fact that
salaries and disbursements are set by the native legislature. Somewhere
between the two the education of Porto Rico is suffering.

For all their misfortunes, or perhaps because of them, the Porto Ricans,
especially outside the large cities, are hospitable and soft-mannered,
characterized by a constant courtesy and a solicitude to please those
with whom they come in contact, with little of that bruskness of
intercourse for which “the Mainland” is notorious. The island has a less
grasping, less materialistic atmosphere than Cuba, it is less sinister,
less cynical, more naïve, its people are more primitive and simple,
though industrial oppression and American influence are slowly changing
them in this regard. Their naïveté is often delightful. It is reported
that a company of youthful _jíbaros_ drafted into the Federal service
during the war waited on their captain one day and asked for their
“time,” as they did not care for a job in which they had to wear shoes!
The children are rarely boisterous, rather well-bred, even where little
chance for breeding exists. As a race they have kept many of the
peculiarities of their Spanish ancestry. They are still Latin Americans
in their over-developed personal pride and their lack of a sense of
humor. Moorish seclusion of women still raises its head among the “best
families.” The horror in the slightest suggestion of manual labor, of a
lowering of caste, still oppresses the “upper” class. Few of them would
dream of carrying their own suitcase or a package from a store, even
though they must abandon them for lack of a peon. Though they are far
more polite than our own club-swingers in superficial matters, it has
required persistent training to get the insular police to forget their
high standing and help across the street women or children of the
socially inferior class. Finally, Porto Ricans are little to be depended
upon in the matter of time; _mañana_ is still their watchword despite
twenty years of Anglo-Saxon bustle. But, for that matter, Americans get
hopelessly irresponsible on this same subject after a few years in the
tropics.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The unprepared visitor will find Porto Ricans astonishingly white,
especially in the interior. There are few full negroes on the island;
sixty per cent. of the population have straight hair. Yet there is a
motley mixture of races, without rhyme or reason from our point of view.
Mulatto estate owners may have pure white peons working for them; a
native octoroon is frequently seen ordering about a Gallego servant from
Spain. There is still considerable evidence of Indian blood in the Porto
Rican physiognomy, for the aborigines, taking refuge in the high
mountains, were wiped out only by assimilation. Then there are Japanese
or Chinese features peering forth from many a hybrid face. The Spaniards
brought in coolies to work on the military roads, and they mixed freely
with all the lower ranks of the population. Yet pure-blooded Orientals
are conspicuous by their absence; so overcrowded a community does not
appeal even to the ubiquitous Chinese laundryman. For the same reason
Jews, Syrians, and Armenians have not invaded the island in any great
numbers, though one now and then meets an olive-skinned peddler tramping
from village to town with a great flat basket filled with bolts of
calico and the like on his cylindrical head.

Small commerce is almost entirely in the hands of Spaniards, thanks to
whom the mixture of races that made Latin-America a hybrid is still
going on—to say nothing of an exploiting of the simple _jíbaros_ that
would have been scorned by the old straight-forward, sword-brandishing
conquistadores. The modern Spaniard, especially the Canary Islanders,
come over as clerks, live like dogs until they have acquired an interest
in their master’s business, and eventually set up a little store for
themselves. Sharp, thrifty, heartless, utterly devoid of any ideal than
the amassing of a fortune, they resort to every species of trickery to
increase their already exorbitant profits. The favorite scheme is to get
the naïve countrymen into a gambling game, _manigua_, the native
card-game, for instance, and to urge them on after their scanty funds
are exhausted with a sweet-voiced “Don’t let that worry you, _Chico_,
I’ll lend you all you want. Go ahead and play,” until they have a
mortgage on “Chico’s” little farm or have forced him to sign a contract
to sell them all his coffee at half the market price. Then when his
fortune is made, the wily Iberian leaves each of his concubines and her
half-breed flock of children a little hut, goes back to Spain, marries,
and bequeaths his wealth to his legitimate offspring. Many a little
plantation is still encumbered with these “manigua mortgages.”

To the casual observer there seems to be no color-line in Porto Rico;
but in home life and social matters there is comparatively little
mingling of whites and blacks above the peon class. In the Agricultural
College at Mayagüez, for instance, this question is left entirely to the
pupils. The students draw their own color-line. Clubs are formed that
take in only white members, though a few of these might not pass muster
among Americans. The colored boys do not form clubs because they cannot
afford to do so. In the early days the teachers gave a dance to which
all students were invited without distinction. But the darker youths
brought up all sorts of female companions from the _playa_ hovels, and
the experiment was never repeated. Yet it is no unusual sight to see a
white and a mulatto youth sharing a textbook in the shade of a campus
mango-tree.

There remain few strictly insular customs to distinguish Porto Rico from
the rest of Latin-America. The native musical instrument is a calabash,
or gourd, with a roughened surface over which a steel wire is rubbed,
producing a half-mournful, rasping sound almost without cadence. Thanks
perhaps to American influence, the church bells are musical and are rung
only by day, in grateful contrast to the incessant, broken-boiler din of
other Spanish-settled countries. The _Rosario_, a kind of native wake,
consists of all-night singing by the friends and relatives of the recent
dead. Possibly the most universal local custom is that of using
barbed-wire fences as clothes-lines, to the misfortune even of the linen
of trustful visitors. The panacea for all rural ills seems to be the
tying of a white cloth about the head. Doctors seldom go into the
country, but let the sick be brought in to them, whatever the stage of
their illness. More than ten thousand, chiefly of the hut-dwelling
class, died of “flu” during the winter of 1918–19, largely because of
this inertia of physicians.

One must not lose sight of their history in judging the present
condition of the Porto Rican masses. It is only fifty years since slaves
over sixty and under three were liberated, and later still that slavery
was entirely abolished. No wonder the owners were glad to be rid of what
fast breeding had made a burden, especially with free labor at twenty
cents a day. Yet they were indemnified with eight million dollars from
the insular revenues. Nor was servitude confined to Africans. Spain long
used Porto Rico as a penal colony, and when public works no longer
required them, the convicts were turned loose to shift for themselves.
Most of them took to the mountains where the “poor white” population is
numerous to this day. Yet the later generations are no more criminal
than the Australians; if there is much petty thieving, it is natural in
a hungry, overcrowded community.

The insular police established by the Americans have an efficiency rare
in tropical countries. Their detective force rounds up a larger
percentage of law-breakers than almost any other such body in the world.
The insular character of their beat is to their advantage, of course;
few Porto Ricans can swim. The island has long since been “cleaned up,”
and the unarmed stranger is safer in its remotest corners than on
Broadway. In olden days the Porto Rican was as fond of making himself a
walking arsenal as the Dominican; ten thousand revolvers were seized in
nine years, and miscellaneous weapons too numerous to count have been
confiscated and destroyed. To-day, except in the rare cases when a
desperado like “Chuchu” breaks loose, or strikers grow troublesome, the
spotlessly uniformed insular force has little to do but to enforce the
unpopular laws that have come with American rule.

Porto Rico voted herself dry in 1917. Three varying reasons are given
for this unnatural action, according to the point of view of the
speaker. Missionaries assert that, thanks largely to their work with the
populace, the hungry rank and file determined that _their_ children
should not grow up under the alcoholic burden that had blasted their own
success in life. Scoffers claim the people were misled by psychological
suggestion. The majority make the more likely assertion that the result
was largely due to a mistake on the part of the ignorant peons. The
“dries” chose as their party emblem the green cocoanut, a favorite rural
beverage. Their opponents decorated the head of their ballot with a
bottle. Now, the bottle suggests to the _jíbaros_ of the hills the
Spaniards who keep the liquor shops, and they hate the Spaniards as
fiercely as they are capable of hating anything. Whatever the workings
of their obscure minds, the unshaven countrymen came down out of the
mountains to the polls, and next morning Porto Rico woke up to find
herself, to her unbounded surprise, “bone-dry.” The mere fact that the
politicians and the “influential citizens” almost in a body, and even
the American governor, who saw insular revenues cut down when they sadly
needed building up, were against the change had nothing to do with the
case. Since then the insular police have confiscated hundreds of
home-made stills and thousands of gallons of illicit liquor. It is
rumored that they would like to indict the Standard Oil Company as an
accessory before the fact, for virtually all the stills that languish in
the police museum in San Juan are made of the world-wide five-gallon oil
can, some of them ingenious in the extreme.

Cockfighting was forbidden by American edict soon after we took over the
island—and in retaliation the Porto Rican Legislature forbade
prize-fighting, even “practice bouts.” But there is no law against
keeping fighting-cocks, and where there are game-cocks there is bound to
be fighting, at least in Latin-America. The police are on the constant
lookout for clandestine _riñas de gallos_. One point in favor of the
sleuths is that, though they cannot arrest people for harboring prize
roosters, they can bring them up on the charge of cruelty to animals if
they pick and trim the birds as proper preparation for battle requires.
Americans who have lived long in Porto Rico assert that cock-fighting
and the lottery are so indigenous to the island that there is little
hope of really stamping them out. Indeed, even the police are in
sympathy with the sport, though they may not let that sympathy interfere
with doing their duty. High American officials sometimes ask what there
is wrong in running a lottery, so long as other forms of gambling are
permitted, especially as the old government lottery kept up many
benevolences. Why, they ask, should not the poor man be allowed to “take
a chance” as well as speculators on the stock exchange? Roosters and
_billetes_ are two things that are sure to come back if Porto Rico wins
her autonomy during the life of the present inhabitants. Possibly the
next generation will be like-minded; one of the absorbing tasks of the
insular police is to keep street urchins from gambling on the numbers of
passing automobiles.

It is not surprising that Porto Rico has more than her share of juvenile
offenders. Sexual morality is on a low plane in the island. Though there
is less public vice than with us, the custom of even the “best citizens”
to establish “outside families” is wide-spread. Even the “Washington of
Porto Rico,” who is pointed out as the model man of the island, always
kept two or three _queridas_, and lost none of his high standing with
the natives for that reason. Estate owners are well-nigh as free with
the pretty wives of their peons as were old feudal lords. Women of this
class are often more proud to have a son by the “señor” than by their
own husbands. The latter are easy-going to a degree unknown among us;
they may be cajoled by presents or threatened with discharge—and where
else shall they find a spot to live on?—or at worst they can seek
consolation in the arms of their own _queridas_. The men usually
acknowledge their illegal children without hypocrisy, but they
frequently abandon them to their own devices. Homeless children are one
of the problems of all Porto Rican cities; in San Germán a gang of
little ruffians roost in trees by night. The cook of an American
missionary family openly gave all her wages, except what went for the
rent of her hovel, to her “man,” who was married to another. It was not
that he demanded it; there is little of the “white slave” attitude in
Porto Rico, but she was proud to do so and it is _costumbre del país_.
Much as they deplored such an employee, the missionaries endured her,
knowing only too well by experience that they might look farther and
fare worse. Few Porto Ricans of the better class permit their women to
go to confession, however strictly they keep up the other forms of
religion. Out of church the priests are frankly men like other men, and
seldom have any hesitancy in admitting it. One famous for his pulpit
eloquence brazenly boasts himself “the most successful lover in Porto
Rico.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

It is natural that there should be a certain political unrest in Porto
Rico. The island does not know, for instance—nor does any one else,
apparently—whether it is a colony or a possession of the United States,
or whether it is an integral part of it. A bit of history is required to
explain the situation. The island was under the jurisdiction of Santo
Domingo from its settling to the end of the sixteenth century, when a
royal decree made it an independent colony. For a long time it was not
self-supporting—thanks, no doubt, largely to the dishonesty of its
governors. Its government became such a burden that Spain assigned a
certain proportion of the treasure it was drawing from Mexico to support
it. Incidentally this came near making Porto Rico British, for ships
bringing funds from Mexico were repeatedly made the objects of attack,
and the commander of one of these fleets once attempted to occupy the
island, but disease among his soldiers forced him to abandon the
enterprise, taking with him only such trophies as he could tear from
churches and fortresses. When, a hundred years ago, the wave of
rebellion swept over all the Spanish colonies, Santo Domingo declared
her independence and offered to coöperate with Porto Rico in winning
hers also; but a majority of the inhabitants remained loyal to the
crown. In 1887 a popular assembly in Ponce, while acknowledging
allegiance to Spain, demanded a certain measure of autonomy. There was
danger that the Cuban insurgents would send an expedition to Porto Rico
to join the malcontents there. Hence on November 28, 1897, Spain granted
Porto Rico local government in so far as internal affairs, budgets,
customs, and treaties of commerce were concerned. She was to have an
elective legislature, an upper house appointed by the governor, and a
cabinet composed of residents of the island. The following February such
a cabinet was appointed, and on March 27—note the date—elections were
held. In other words Porto Rico had won autonomy without recourse to
bloodshed, and was on the eve of exercising it when the _Maine_ was
blown up. Moreover, she had never in her history asked to be separated
from Spain.

When the Americans came, a postal system was organized, the government
lottery was suppressed, freedom of speech and of the press was restored,
a police force of natives under American officials was established,
strict sanitary measures were adopted, free schools were opened,
provision was made for the writ of habeas corpus and jury trials, the
courts were reorganized, imprisonment for political offenses, chains and
solitary confinement were abolished, the foreclosure of mortgages was
temporarily suspended, Spanish currency was replaced by American, local
officials were elected, and a civil government was established on May 1,
1900. Note, however, that with all this Porto Rico did not get as much
autonomy as it had already won from Spain. Gradually the island has
almost reached the point politically where the Spanish-American War
found it, but meanwhile there had been much discontent. Then along came
the “Jones bill.” This provides for an elective legislature, extends the
appointive judiciary system, admits a delegate to our Congress, and
grants American citizenship to Porto Ricans. But the acts of the insular
legislature must be approved by the American governor, and six of the
heads of departments that make up the Executive Council are Americans.
The Porto Ricans chafe at citizenship without statehood. The island
complains that it is an organized but not an incorporated territory of
the United States. Though it enjoys many of the rights of territories,
and a larger exemption from federal taxation than ever did any other
American territory, it is not politically happy.

[Illustration: The place of pilgrimage for pious Porto Ricans]

[Illustration: Porto Rican children of the coast lands]

[Illustration: The old sugar kettles scattered through the West Indies
have many uses]

[Illustration: A corner in Aquadillo]

There are four political parties in Porto Rico. The Republicans, who
have little in common with our “G. O. P.,” though they send delegates to
its conventions, want immediate statehood. The Unionists, contrary to
their title, demand independence. There is a strong socialist and labor
party, and a minor group that desires a return to Spanish rule. These
divisions are not so definite as they seem, if we may believe an
unusually informative native postmaster of the interior.

“The people with small government jobs,” he asserted, “many school
teachers among them, secretly long for independence, chiefly in the hope
of getting more graft. The Spaniards still mix secretly in politics and
are really _independentistas_, though pretending to want statehood.
Porto Rico would be wholly Americanized now if the governors had not
ignorantly put in anti-American _políticos_. There has really been only
one competent governor since the Americans took Porto Rico. We are
decidedly not yet ready for jury trial; there was one of the most
serious mistakes. It was also a mistake to make us American citizens
collectively. We should have been given individual choice in the matter.
Now if you accuse a man of not acting like an American citizen he cries,
‘Pah! They _made_ me an American citizen. _I_ had nothing to say about
it.’ The best people think we need twenty years of military rule before
we are given even local liberty. A plebiscite would give a false opinion
because the politicians and the small-estate owners, who are chiefly
Spanish, would send their peons down to vote for independence without
any notion of what it means. And the best class wouldn’t vote. Do you
think I would have my photograph and thumb-print taken, like a common
criminal, in order to cast my ballot? The people do not know how to be
free, after centuries of Spanish slavery. If independence were signed at
eight o’clock to-morrow morning, I should leave Porto Rico at nine!” he
concluded, vehemently.

There is, of course, no more reason why Porto Rico should have her
independence than that Florida should. That she is entitled to be made a
fully incorporated territory now, and a state in due season, seems the
fitting course. But she is decidedly not yet ready for statehood. For
one thing she must first know English. The partial autonomy she already
enjoys shows her far from prepared for self-rule. Uncle Sam is always in
too big a hurry to give his wards local government; also we listen
perhaps too much to Latin-American criticism. We are not used to the
sob-eloquence of the race, which at bottom means very little. The
legislature and native insular officials are by no means free from
intrigue, graft, and dishonesty. Towns with $100,000 incomes spend half
of it in salaries to the mayor and his colleagues. Teachers were forced
to pay ten per cent. of their wages into political funds, and the native
court found that “they can do what they wish with their salaries.” The
great socialist senator himself, rumor has it, bought land in Santurce
at a dollar an acre, had public streets put in, and sold out at three
dollars, though that, to be sure, might have happened in Trenton or
Omaha. Even the post-offices are said to be corrupt with local politics.

So long as there is a great apathetic, illiterate, emotional mass of
voters self-government can be no more than a farce, in Porto Rico or
elsewhere. No Anglo-Saxon party leader can hope to keep pace with the
suave machinations of Spanish-American politicians. They can think of
more tricks overnight than he can run to earth in a week. Some years ago
a youthful American was approached by a Porto Rican political leader
with a request to come and address a public meeting.

“But I don’t know a word of Spanish!” he protested.

“All the better,” replied the politician; “we want you to speak in
English.”

“I never made a speech in my life,” continued the American.

“Talk about anything whatever,” pleaded the other, “the weather, the
scenery, baseball.”

The youth, who was not averse to a “lark,” mounted the platform and
began to expound in choppy words the glories of baseball. At the end of
each sentence the politician silenced him with a gesture and
“interpreted” his statements to the crowded peons, who, to the speaker’s
astonishment, greeted each well-rounded Spanish phrase with howls of
delight. Not until the meeting was over and one of his hearers had
addressed him by a name that was not his own, did the youth awaken to
the fact that he had been introduced as the son of the governor, and
that the Spanish portion of his speech had been an explanation of how
anxious his “father” was to have the “interpreter” elected to the office
he sought. “_Dice el americano_ (the American says)” is still one of the
by-words of Porto Rican politics.

                  *       *       *       *       *

But after all one does not visit so beautiful and fascinating a country
as Porto Rico to chatter of its problems, but to meet its curious people
and to marvel at its glorious scenery. More mountainous than even Haiti
and Santo Domingo, the island is such an unbroken labyrinth of hills,
ranges, and high peaks, of deep valleys, perpendicular slopes, and
precipitous canyons, that its rugged beauty seems never-ending. That
beauty, too, is enhanced by the great amount of cultivation, by the
character it gains over the often uninhabited island to the westward in
being everywhere peopled, by the great variety of colors that decorate
it especially in this tropical spring-time of February. Even along the
rolling coastal belt the highways are lined with the green- and
red-leaved _almendras_, or false almond-trees, which here and there
carpet the roads with Turkish rugs of fallen leaves. Higher up comes the
_roble_, or flowering laurel, with its masses of delicate pink blossoms,
then the _bucaré_-trees, used as coffee shade, daub the precipitous
hillsides with splotches of burnt-orange hue; still farther aloft come
beautiful tree ferns, symbolical of high tropical altitudes, and
everywhere stand the majestic royal palms and the dense, massive
mango-trees, in sorrel-colored blossom at this season, to crown the
heavy green vegetation that everywhere clothes the island. For although
almost every acre of it was denuded of its native forest growth by the
tree-hating Spaniards, nature and the necessities of man have replaced
its unbroken verdure.

It would be hard to say which of the several splendid roads across the
island offers the best glimpse of this scenic fairyland. Some swear by
the Ponce-Arecibo route, through the magnificent Utuado valley; others
find nothing to compare with the stretch between Comerio and Cayey, the
heart of the tobacco district; the most traveled certainly is the great
military highway of the Spaniards, from San Juan to Ponce, the first
half of it rivalled now by an American-built branch through
Barranquitas. Perhaps the most beautiful bit of all is the journey from
Guayama up to Cayey, that, too, by a route that antedates our
possession. One unconsciously compares these achievements of the old
Spanish engineers with our more recent efforts, and the comparison is
not always favorable to the Americans. The Spaniard built in that
leisurely fashion of European highways, which prefers wide detours to
over-steep grades; his successor here and there betrays the impatience
of his race by a too abrupt turn or a sharper slope. Yet the works of
both are splendidly engineered, with never a really dangerous spot to a
sane driver, for all the hairpin curves, the precipitous mountain walls
above and below, the lofty bridges over profound canyons at the bottom
of which insignificant brooks meander or roaring torrents tear seaward
as if fleeing from the wrath of the towering peaks above, according to
the season. There are reminders of Europe at every turn,—crenelated
bridge-parapets, kilometer-posts and white fractions of them at every
hundred meters, squatting men wielding their hammers on roadside
stone-piles, _caminero_ huts every few miles. It is the latter, in
particular, that explain the unfailing near-perfection of Porto Rican
highways. Brick or stone dwellings for the _capataces_, or road foremen,
who must proceed at once to any broken roadbed, rain or shine, are
interspersed with the too miserable huts of the _peones camineros_, who
toil unceasingly day after day in the up-keep of the highways, like
scattered railroad section-gangs. This system, a direct legacy from
Spain, would be the answer to our own road troubles, were it possible to
find men in our country willing to spend their lives at low wages in
such an occupation.

Travel is unceasing along these splendid island roads. Automobiles,
creaking ox-carts and massive tarpaulin-covered freight wagons drawn by
several teams of big Missouri mules, mail-busses and crowded _guaguas_,
horse carriages and now and then a string of pack-animals to contrast
with the flying motors, make endless procession along the way, while
countless barefoot pedestrians flank the blurred roadsides. Only the
horsemen so frequent elsewhere in Latin-America are conspicuous by their
scarcity. In contrast to carefully tended highways are the constant
successions of miserable huts, built of anything that will hold
together, some of them so close to the precipitous edge of the road that
the front yard sometimes comes tumbling down into it in the rainy
season. Others are pitched up the mountain sides to the clouds above,
many of the slopes so sheer that the little garden patches stand almost
on end. A case once actually came to court of a man who sued his
neighbor for pushing his cow off his farm, entailing great labor to
hoist her up again. Little American-style schoolhouses, the Stars and
Stripes always flying above them, the whole interior from teacher to
pupils visible through the wide-open doors, flash past. Lounging men are
frequent, women everywhere making lace or drawn-work squat like toads in
the doorways of their patched hovels, no one of which is insignificant
or inaccessible enough not to have the census-enumerator’s tag tacked in
plain sight on its bare front wall.

From Guayama almost at sea-level the old Spanish _carretera_ climbs
quickly into the cooler air, in snaky fashion, the town and the
cane-green valley below diminishing to a picture framed by the white
beach-line and the fuzzy mountain-slopes, then mounts by tortuous curves
and serpentine loops around the brinks of dizzy precipices to a height
of three thousand feet. For a time it clings along the cliff of a
magnificent little valley, giving an endless succession of vistas,
panoramas of mountains, ravines, and forested slopes, enhanced by
frequent glimpses of the deep-blue Caribbean. No one of these highways
is twice alike; morning or evening, under the blazing tropical sun or
veiled with mountain showers, there is always a different aspect. Then
suddenly it bursts out high above the valley of Cayey, the roof-flecked
red of the town surrounded and packed as far as the eye can see with
cloth-covered tobacco-fields, the crowning beauty of Porto Rican
scenery. As we drop downward by more hairpin curves and climb again into
the hills beyond, the steep mountainsides are everywhere covered in
enormous patches with what look like the snowfields and glaciers of
Switzerland, transported to the tropics. All through the region the big
unpainted wooden barns of the American Tobacco Company bulk above the
shade-grown immensities, as if half buried by drifted snow, until the
entranced beholder finds it hard to remember that he is in a land of
perpetual summer, despite the royal palms that here and there spring
aloft from the white landscape. Elsewhere the unclothed fields are
planted in endless rows of tobacco, on, up, and over hill after
mountain, some of them so steep as to make cultivation seem impossible,
and all looking as if their velvety green fur had been put in order by a
gigantic comb.

Here one meets wagon-loads of tobacco plants and men carrying them in
baskets on their heads, tiny plants in the transplanting season, great
clusters of the full-grown leaves in cutting-time. He is a simple
fellow, the stubby-footed toiler of these regions, so naïve that he
often tucks away for years the checks with which the company pays for
his produce, instead of cashing them. They are always “good,” he argues,
and easily concealed, and he seems never to have heard of the word
interest.

“Where does all this stuff go?” demanded an American tourist who had
been motoring for hours through these tropical glaciers, “I have never
seen much Porto Rican tobacco in the States.”

“Ah, but when it reaches New York it becomes Habana,” explained the
tobacco agent. “You see, we mix it with the Cuban.”

“About one leaf of Habana to a bale of this,” suggested the tourist.

“Well, something like that,” admitted the tobacco-man.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The holy place of Porto Rico—for it would be a strange Latin-American
country without one—is the old church of Hormigueros, a yellow church
high on a hill, conspicuous afar off and with the inevitable cane of the
coast lands stretching away from it as far as the pilgrim can see. The
pious still climb its great stone stairway on their hands and knees,
though rarely now except during the big fiesta in September. The story
is that, some time back in the days of legend, a bull attacked a man in
the field below. The man prayed to the Virgin, promising to do something
in her honor if she would save him, and at the very instant his life was
about to be gored out the bull dropped dead at his feet. There is a
colored picture of that miracle in the church on the hill, which was
built by the grateful man, who also entailed the estate he owned below
to support it in perpetuity. To-day the lands are producing sugar cane
for the Guánica _Central_, which pays rent to the church—and which also
hastens to contribute when the parish priest suggests that money is
needed for a fiesta or for some other purpose. For if the company does
not respond, the priest calls a holiday, digging up some old saint out
of the church calendar, and the fields round about go begging for
laborers.

There is at least one other “sight” which the visitor to Porto Rico
should not miss, for it throws a striking side-light on Latin-American
character. In the hilly little town of Barranquitas is the birthplace of
Luís Muñoz Rivera, often called the “George Washington of Porto Rico.” A
cheap, thin, little clapboarded building, uninviting by our standards,
though almost palatial to the simple country people, it has been turned
into a museum to the dead insular hero, such a museum as cannot often be
seen elsewhere. At the back of the house a lean-to garage has been built
to accommodate the expensive touring-car in which his remains were
carried to the cemetery. Not that Rivera owned an automobile; he was too
honest a servant of his country to have reached that degree of
affluence. It was loaned for the funeral by one of the dead man’s
admirers, a senator and the owner of a large sugar _central_. When the
mourners returned, it was decided to make a Porto Rican “Mount Vernon”
of the humble residence of the departed statesman, to which end the rich
senator not only contributed generously in money, but added the
improvised funeral-car. There it stands to this day, its brand new tires
lifted off the garage floor by wooden horses, the license of four years
ago still on its blunt nose, the plank framework that was built out the
back of it to hold the coffin still intact. Inside the house is the
narrow spring cot on which the hero died, covered with those poetically
lettered purple ribbons of which the Latin-American mourner is so fond,
and a score of other belongings, similarly decorated. These include a
tin bath-tub on wheels, a leather valise, the high-hat box indispensable
to diplomats, several photographs of the deceased, death-masks of his
face and of his hands, his last umbrella—one almost expects to find his
last toothbrush, with a purple bow on the handle—all of them more or
less covered with cobwebs. On his writing-table lies a specially bound
volume of his book of poems, called “Tropicales,” and, most striking
tribute of all, an elaborate bit of embroidery done in the various
shaded hair of his female admirers.

Rivera differed from most politicians in being strictly honest. Not only
did he live within his government salary; he gave a large share of it to
the poor. Bit by bit hatchet-and-cherry-tree stories are already growing
up about his memory. As the leader of the Unionist party he was
violently anti-American, went to the United States to fight for the
independence of the island—and came back ardently pro-American. His
admirers assert that “he would have been the salvation of Porto Rico had
he lived,” though exactly what they mean by the statement they probably
have little notion themselves.

                  *       *       *       *       *

There are two drawbacks to walking in Porto Rico, though the ardent
pedestrian will not let them deter him from his favorite sport. For one
thing an American attracts attention, and loses the incognito that makes
walking in Europe, for instance, so pleasant. Then the roads are too
good. The hard macadam surfaces which are the joy of the motorist are
not soft underfoot, and the rushing automobiles have small respect for
the mere foot-traveler. There are, of course, many unpaved trails in and
over the mountains, but they were scarcely passable at the time of our
visit, for Porto Rico seems to have no definitely fixed wet and dry
season.

I rambled about several sections of the island on foot. There was the
trip to and about Lares, for instance, in the heart of the coffee
district. The men of the over-developed big toes are less in touch with
the outside world than either the cane or tobacco planters. The coffee
industry is the only one that suffered by the island’s change of
sovereignty. Though it was not introduced into Porto Rico until more
than two centuries after the sugar-cane, the Arabian berry was the king
of the island when General Miles landed the first American troops at
Guánica. The loss of their free markets in Spain and Cuba, however,
caused the coffee men to succumb under a discouragement from which they
have not wholly recovered to this day. It is this, no doubt, which
accounts for the careless methods of the _cafetales_, where jungle,
weeds, and parasites often choke the bushes, while the berries are dried
on half-cured cowhides laid in the open streets or on hut floors, with
chickens, dogs, goats, and naked children, to say nothing of pigs,
wandering over them at will. Such conditions will of course improve when
the United States, the greatest coffee-drinking nation on the globe,
finally learns that a berry equal to any in the world can be produced on
American soil.

In Lares region the crop is taken a bit more seriously. There are brick
coffee-floors in many a yard, and the bushes cover even the crests of
the mountains, though the stranger might not suspect it, hidden as they
are by the sheltering trees. They are pretty in their white blossoms in
the February season, and the _bucaré_ trees flame forth everywhere on
the steep slopes. The Spaniards, who own many of the estates, pay fifty
cents “flat” a day to their peons. The more generous Porto Rican
growers, if their own assertions may be taken at par, pay sixty cents,
with the right to eat the oranges and _guineos_, or small bananas, that
fall from the trees, the rent-free possession of an acre of ground on
which to build a hut and graze a cow, a pig, or a few chickens, and
plant a garden, and such free firewood as may be picked up on the
estate. Formerly they paid thirty cents and gave two meals a day, but
the cost of food has caused them to “advance” wages instead. The women
and girls of the region spend most of their time making lace or
drawn-work, as elsewhere, unless they are attracted to the _cafetales_
in picking season by the higher inducement of forty cents a day.

I paused to talk with a youth who kept a roadside “shop.” It consisted
of a few plantain leaves and pieces of boxes laid together into a kind
of shelter and counter. He rarely made a half-dollar daily profit, he
admitted, but that was all he could earn in the coffee fields, and there
he wore out his shoes, which cost much money. He was an ardent friend of
Americans, like many of the country people. Asked to explain his
friendship, he based it chiefly on the fact that they required the
police to speak politely to everyone, did not allow beating, and
punished their own people as well as Porto Ricans, whereas the Spaniards
always used to be let off free. Then the Americans gave free schools. He
had gone to one himself, “but he was not given to learn.” It is a
familiar refrain all over Porto Rico, even from persons who have every
outward evidence of being bright as our average. Doctors say there is a
special reason for this backwardness.

[Illustration: The priest in charge of Porto Rico’s place of pilgrimage]

[Illustration: One reason why cane-cutters cannot all be paid the same
wages]

[Illustration: A procession of strikers in honor of representatives of
the A. F. L.]

[Illustration: “How many of you are on strike?” asked Senator Iglesias]

The peons of the region, silent-footed, listless, are often pure
Caucasian in type; indeed their pasty-white complexions frequently
contrast with the tanned faces of northern visitors. Now and again one
wanders by looking startlingly like a three-day corpse. They are victims
of the hookworm. There is more hookworm in Porto Rico, those who should
know tell us, than in any other country on the globe, with the possible
exception of India and Ceylon. The disease was brought by African
slaves—along with most of the troubles of the West Indies—and while it
does little harm to negroes, it is often fatal to the whites. The
population in the rural areas makes no sanitary provisions, and soil
pollution is wide-spread; they invariably go barefooted, with the result
to be expected. Ninety per cent. of the laboring class was infected with
hookworm when we took over the island. An active campaign was waged at
once and had good results, but with partial autonomy the populace has
fallen back almost into its first pitiable condition. The Rockefeller
Foundation has recently offered three fourths of the preliminary expense
of a new attack on the disease, if the insular government will bear the
rest. For the cure is simple; it only requires persistence. Drafted
soldiers were treated for it, and one may easily detect the superiority
in energy of the _camineros_ and laborers who are still to be seen in
remnants of their old uniforms. In a way it is Porto Rico’s most serious
problem. Even a light infection causes serious mental retardation, and
much money that is spent on schools is lost because of this defective
mentality.

The hookworm is troublesome chiefly in the rural districts. The poor of
the cities, who are bread eaters, have sprue instead. Of late only
certified yeast from the United States has been permitted on the island;
moreover, sprue may be cured by vaccination. A more serious thing is the
prevalence of “t. b.”—which missionaries on the island dub “tin box.”
Since the Americans came, there has been a constant increase in zinc
roofs and sheet-iron houses over the old open-as-wool thatch hovels, and
as the countryman persists in closing by night even the single tiny
window, like that in the end of a box-car, up under the eaves of his
shacks, weak lungs are increasing.

Fruit is abundant along the roads of Porto Rico. Mere bananas are so
plentiful that they are often abandoned to the goats and pigs; in Lares
a man with a wheelbarrow full of them was selling the largest and best
at seven cents a dozen. Wild oranges, sweet, and juicy, for all their
seeds, line the highways in what seems quantity sufficient to supply the
entire demands of the “Mainland.” Most of them never reach the market.
Here and there one runs across a crude packing-house among the hills,
but the fact that a box containing an average of one hundred and fifty
oranges, picked, sorted, crated, and hauled to the coast, sells for
fifty cents answers the natural query. In the trade these are known as
“east-side oranges,” and are generally sold by pushcart men in the
tenement districts of our large cities—at how many hundred per cent.
increase in price purchasers may figure out for themselves.

Vegetable growing has never been favored by the inhabitants of our
strictly agricultural little West Indian possession. Like all
Latin-Americans, they are content to do as their forefathers have done,
and stick to the yams, _yautías_, and _ñames_, a coarse species of sweet
potato, which grow almost wild, and will have nothing to do with Yankee
innovations, though radishes mature in twelve days, and even Irish
potatoes may be grown in the higher altitudes, and the market price of
such vegetables is high. Bit by bit the _jíbaros_ may be coaxed to
improve their opportunities. Clusters of beehives are already common
sights in the island, which can be said of no other section of tropical
America. The Federal Agricultural Experimental Station at Mayagüez is to
be thanked for this improvement. The old legend that bees lose their
custom of laying up honey after a few seasons in a winterless land was
found to be a fallacy, though they mix with the wild black bees of the
island and the queens have to be killed and replaced periodically to
keep the swarms from following the example of tropical man and refusing
duty. Dyewoods, cabinet woods, and timber for building are wholly
lacking in Porto Rico. Imported lumber costs $100 a thousand square
feet. No wonder huts are made of _yagua_, thatch, and odds and ends.
Indeed, the Federal institution mentioned above finds it can get better
lumber out of packing-boxes than it can buy on the island. Porto Rico’s
peculiar condition, a tropical country in which practically all that the
people produce is shipped out of the country, and nearly all they
consume shipped in, makes eventual improvement of these conditions
imperative. It strikes the casual observer as extraordinary, for
instance, that there are no large manufacturing industries on the
island, with its excellent sources of water-power and its unlimited
supply of cheap labor.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I drifted out along the road from Aguadilla southward one day. The first
man to arouse my interest was a little _peon caminero_ clearing the
highway edge of weeds, who was so pretty he would have made a charming
bride in proper garments. His wages were $27.60 a month. He rented a
“house” at $1.50 monthly, so large a house because he kept his wife’s
mother and two sisters, “for they have no other shelter.” He said it
casually, as one speaks of the weather, without the faintest hint of the
boasting an American of his class could scarcely divorce from such a
statement. A bit farther on a diseased old beggar sat on the edge of the
road, the bottom of the dirty old straw hat on the ground before him
sprinkled with copper cents—“chavos,” they call them in Porto Rico,
though the beggars soften their appeal by using the diminutive
“chavito.” There is a suggestion of India in the island’s prevalence of
alms-seekers,—blind men led by a boy or a dog, distressing old women
publicly displaying their ailments, cripples and monstrosities wailing
for sympathy from the passer-by. Scarcity of land and employment,
abetted by the bad Latin-American custom of giving alms indiscriminately
even to children, has brought a plague of professional beggars. One such
fellow in Mayagüez has pleaded himself into possession of a twenty-acre
_finca_—and is still begging. A mendicant of San Germán complains that
the time-table is so badly arranged that he has to run to meet two
trains. An American medical missionary offered to remove the cataracts
from his eyes free of charge, but he declined to have his means of
livelihood cut off. One of our Porto Rican hosts was responding to the
appeal of an old woman for a “chavito” when a boy rushed up and cried,
“Don’t give her anything, señor, she has a cow!” The crone dashed after
the urchin with an astonishing burst of speed, and returned out of
breath to wail, “It is true, caballero, I admit it is true. But I have
no pasture, and I must beg now to support the cow.”

A long row of men were hoeing new sugarcane for the “Central Coloso,”
the tall stack of which broke the almost flat horizon behind them. They
watched my approach, plainly suspicious that any man wearing shoes might
be a company spy, and worked with redoubled energy. They were paid $1.50
for a nine-hour day, except two who were “sick” and a boy of seventeen,
at two thirds that amount, and the _capataz_, who differed from the
others only by the lack of a hoe, at $1.80. As I turned away, the latter
asked in a soft voice if I could tell him the time. Then he drew from
his pocket an Ingersoll watch and, apologizing for his _atrevemiento_
(“daring”), requested me to show him how to set it, the men under him at
the same time protesting that “he should not make so bold with
gentlemen.” A stout, pure-white peon patching the road farther on,
snatched off his hat as I spoke to him. His wages had gone up during the
past year—from seventy-three to eighty cents a day! But he could earn
little more than half that in the coffee estates at home, so he had been
glad to come down to the coast to work. I drifted upon and strolled for
a while along the railroad. The section hands were getting a dollar a
day, which sets Porto Rico thirty years back in that regard, for I
remember that like wages were paid then on the branch line that passed
my birthplace. Perhaps the island’s laborers earn no more than they
receive; a gang of ten men were loading a cane-cart in a neighboring
field a single cane at a time. The two old women who were picking up
rubbish beyond them had never been married, but they had three and four
children respectively. They had always been paid forty cents a day, but
now they had been promised a dollar. Whether or not they would get it
only pay-day could tell. They accepted with alacrity the cigarettes I
offered. At noon I stepped into a shop-dwelling to ask for food. The
lunch that was finally prepared would not have over-fed a field laborer,
yet the cost was eighty cents. The family was moderately clean, and
energetic above the average. The four children all went to school. On
the wall of the poor little hovel, surrounded on all sides by
cane-fields, the oldest boy had chalked in English, “We have no sugar
because we have sent it all to the poor people of Europe.”

Along the soft-dirt private road to the _central_ I met an intelligent
looking man of thirty or so, capable in appearance as any American
mechanic, Caucasian of race, his hair already turning gray. He begged
for a _peseta_. I opened my mouth to ask why a big, strong fellow in the
prime of life should be asking for alms, when my eyes fell upon his
left-leg. It was swollen to the knee with elephantiasis, both the
trouser-leg and the skin having burst with the expansion. A year ago, he
said, he had been out on a Sunday excursion in the country, and had
stopped to wash his feet in a creek. They smarted a bit on the way home,
but he thought nothing of it until, some time later, his left foot began
to swell. He was a cigar-maker by trade, and the _Sanidad_ had refused
to let him work in such a condition, yet the government would not take
care of him. So he wandered about the country, where the people were
more kindly than in the towns. The leg did not exactly hurt any more,
but it seemed to drag all his left side down with its weight. He would
gladly go and have it cut off, if he could find a place to have it done,
though people said even that would not do much good. Tears were near the
brim of his eyes, but they did not well over. Hopeless cases of this
kind seem much more pitiful when one can talk to the sufferer and find
him a rational human being, of some education, than when they are merely
the dog-like wretches of India, who seem scarcely capable of thought.

One morning I stepped off the night train to Ponce and struck out across
the island by the Utuado road. It was an hour before I had emerged from
the populous suburbs of the town. Automobiles snorted past without once
offering a “lift.” Not that I wanted one, but one gets an impression of
selfishness in a community that passes a foot-traveler without a
suggestion of help. It was not universal here, however. Before I had
climbed a mile into the foot-hills a man in a rattletrap buggy pulled
his packages together in the seat and invited me to jump in. It was hard
to explain my refusal. There were many little wayside “restaurants”
where one would least expect any demand for such accommodations. But
people must win a livelihood somehow, as one of the keepers explained.
Then came a string of “villas,” of Porto Ricans, Americans, and a few
Englishmen, modest little summer homes set where they could look down
the valley upon the blue Caribbean. Here and there were the
creeper-grown ruins of old Spanish country houses. Finally—a joke? I
hardly think so, for the Latin-American countryman has as little sarcasm
as sense of humor—a miserable little tin hut, in the yard of which the
owner and his boy were forking manure, was elaborately announced in
large letters as “Villa Providencia.”

At the first miriametro-post the coffee began, bananas and guayaba-trees
shading it. There passed much freight in tarpaulin-covered wagons, the
big brakes badly worn. A crowded _guagua_ rumbled by, the chauffeur and
most of the passengers staring at me with an air that said plainly,
“Look at that stingy _americano_ saving money by walking!” Staring is
universal in Porto Rico, at least outside the larger cities. Even the
“schoolmarms,” always well-dressed in spotless but cheap materials,
pause in their lessons to gaze at the sight that has drawn the pupils’
attention.

Three hours up I had an extended view of the Caribbean, still seeming
barely a rifle-shot way. A boy of eight, living a few yards from a
school, had never attended it, “because he had to take care of a sick
mare at home.” In the hovel-store where I had lunch three little girls
read English to me from their textbooks. I could understand them, but
only by giving their curious pronunciation the closest attention. Of the
information in their Spanish textbooks they had a moderate knowledge for
their years. The houses were constant; one was never out of human sight
or sound. The scarcity of dogs was in contrast to other Latin-American
countries; during an outbreak of bubonic plague some years ago seven
thousand were killed in Ponce alone. In a spot where the roadside grew
precipitous a sad-eyed peon stood looking at the little garden before
his house, which had fallen into the highway, more than fifty feet
below, during the night’s rain. Higher still the road reached its point
of greatest altitude and descended, more or less abruptly, through
artistic tree-ferns and clumps of bamboo to Adjuntas. All I remember of
the flat little town are the oranges heaped up at the roadside, the
drying coffee laid out on burlap sacks before the sleepy little shops,
and that “Ponce de Leon Brothers” kept one of the clothing stores.

Many big auto-trucks were carrying bags of coffee in the direction of
Ponce, as others like them carry tobacco from the region of tropical
glaciers. The road forded a river, but so many stepping-stones had been
laid across it that I needed to take off only one shoe. A new highway to
Lares chewed its way upward into the almost chalky hills to the left. We
certainly build good roads in Porto Rico; the Spanish influence seems to
have survived the change of sovereignty. The highway under my feet
followed a rock-tumbled river all the rest of the day. Census-tags
decorated every hut. The enumerators did not skip their political
opponents, as in Cuba, and though the date had passed after which the
tags might be removed, not one of them had been touched. Most of the
people could not read the printed permission to do so; besides, they
would not dream of meddling in a government matter. Sunset came early
between the mountain walls piled high above me on either side. Then fell
the quick darkness of the tropics, and there began a constant creaking
that suggested young frogs. For an hour I plodded on into the warm
night, the road barely visible under a crescent moon, in the faint rays
of which the feathery bamboos that lined the highway for a mile or more
before reaching Utuado, looked weirdly like faintly moving gigantic
fans.

Utuado is a large town for its situation, and piled up the first slopes
of the hills about it in a stage-setting effect. Dense masses of
fog—strange sight in the West Indies, where the fog-horn never breaks
the slumber of sea passengers—lay in its very streets until the tropical
sun wiped them away toward nine. Great precipices of limestone on either
side, a boiling river below, mountains of bold broken outline ahead,
marked the journey onward. The road climbed frequently, even though it
followed the growing river. Patches of tobacco, as well as coffee,
covered the steep hillsides; vegetation and mankind were everywhere.
Here and there the highway clung by its finger-nails and eyebrows, as
sailors say, along the face of the cliff. Then it regained solid footing
and broke out into a broad, flat coastland, hot, dusty, and
uninteresting, with cane and smoke-belching sugar-mills, and hurried
across it to Atlantic-washed Arecibo.



                              CHAPTER XIII
                    IN AND ABOUT OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS


“It’s all I can do to keep from barking at you,” said a passenger on the
_Virginia_, as he crawled on hands and knees from one of the four
kennels that decorate her afterdeck. As a matter of fact, we all did a
certain amount of growling before the voyage was over. Yet the four of
us who had won the kennels were lucky dogs compared to the unfortunate
dozen or more who had to snatch what sleep they could curled up on the
bare deck or in a single sour-smelling cabin below, where neither color,
sex nor seasickness knew any distinction.

The weakest link in the shipping chain down the West Indies is that
between our own possessions. Once a week a little schooner that was
built to defend America’s yachting championship, but which never reached
the finals, raises its wings in San Juan harbor and, the winds willing,
drops a flock of disgruntled passengers, the United States mails, and an
assorted cargo in St. Thomas and St. Croix in time to return for a
similar venture seven days later. Congressional committees, of course,
have their battleships, and the white-uniformed governors of our Virgin
Islands their commodious steam-yacht; but the mere garden variety of
tax-paying citizen has the privilege of tossing about for several days
on the _Virginia_, subsisting on such food as he has had the foresight
to bring with him, and drinking such lukewarm water as he can coax from
the schooner’s cask.

It is nearly fifty miles from Porto Rico to St. Thomas. All day long our
racing yacht crawled along the coast, San Juan and the island’s
culminating peak, El Yunque, equally immovable on the horizon, while the
half-grown crew alternated between pumping water from the hold and
playfully disobeying the orders of the forceless old mulatto captain.
Nine at night found us opposite Fajardo light—more than an hour by
automobile from our starting-point! While the crew slept, without so
much as posting a lookout, a boy of thirteen sat at the wheel, and the
kennel-less passengers tossed restlessly on their chosen deck spots. A
half-grown pig—the only traveler on board whose ticket specified ship’s
food—wandered disconsolately fore and aft, now and then demanding
admission to one or another of the four “cabins.” No doubt he recognized
them as built for his own, rather than the human, species.

[Illustration: The new church of Guayama, Porto Rico]

[Illustration: A Porto Rican ex-soldier working as road peon. He gathers
the grass with a wooden hook and cuts it with a small sickle]

[Illustration: Porto Rican tobacco fields]

[Illustration: Charlotte Amalie, capital of our Virgin Islands]

Sunrise overtook us still within sight of Porto Rico, but with her
dependencies of Culebra and Vieques abeam, and the hazy mass of the
Virgin group visible on the horizon ahead. Brown, rugged, strangely
aged-looking, Culebra showed no signs of life except the lighthouse set
upon its highest cliff. Vieques, on the other hand, known to
English-speaking mariners as “Crab Island,” is a diminutive replica of
Porto Rico, with four large sugar-mills and a population of some eleven
thousand, American citizens all. The Danes once claimed this also, but
Spanish buccaneers established the more efficacious right of actual
possession, and at length the Porto Rican Government sent an expedition
to annex it to the Spanish crown.

With monotonous deliberation the Virgin group grew in size and
visibility. St. Thomas and St. John took on individuality amid their
flock of rocky keys, and British Tórtola gradually asserted its
aloofness from the American islands. Far off on the blue-gray horizon we
could even make out St. Croix, like a stain on the inverted bowl of sky.
Yet, though the breeze was strong, it was a head wind, and the ocean
current sweeping in from the eastward held us all but motionless when we
seemed to be cutting swiftly through the light waves. For five profane
hours we tacked to and fro within gunshot of a towering white boulder
jutting forth from the sea, and fittingly known as Sail Rock, without
seeming to advance a mile on our journey.

We turned the isolated precipice at last, and headed in toward
mountainous St. Thomas. Neither its scattered keys nor its long broken
coast-line showed any evidence of habitation, but at length three white
specks appeared on its water’s edge, and grew with the afternoon to a
semblance of Charlotte Amalie, a city rivaled in its beauty, at a
distance, by few others even in the beautiful West Indies. We greeted it
with fervent exclamations of delight, piled up white and radiant in the
moonlight on its three hills, like occupants of royal boxes at some gala
performance in its amphitheatrical harbor below. Scarcely a sound came
from it, however, except the languid swish of the waves on what seemed
to be the base of its lower houses, as we dropped anchor near midnight
within rowboat distance of the wharves. It had been an unusually swift
voyage, according to the uncommanding captain, a mere two days instead
of the four or five it frequently requires.

In due course of time a negro youth rowed out to examine us. He was an
exceedingly courteous negro, to be sure, his white uniform was spotless,
and his English impeccable; but there was something incongruous in the
fact that American citizens must have his permission to be admitted into
one American possession from another. The “Grand Hotel,” which virtually
monopolizes the accommodation of transients in St. Thomas, could not
house us, or rather, on second thought, it could, if we would be
contented in the “annex” over a barber-shop across the street. Its
creaking floors were unbroken expanses of spaciousness, but at least
there was a mahogany four-poster in one corner. We sat down on it with a
sigh of contentment—and quickly stood up again, under the impression
that we had inadvertently sat upon the floor. The Virgin Islands have
not yet reached that decadent degree of civilization that requires
bed-springs. As to a bath—certainly, it should be brought at once; and a
half hour later a loose-kneed negro wandered in and set down on the
floor, with the rattle of a hardware-shop in a tornado, a large tin pan,
red with rust. All we had to do, explained the ultra-courteous octoroon
manager, was to call another negro to bring a pail of water _when_—and
the emphasis suggested that the time was still far off—we “desired to
perform our ablutions.” The tub-bearer was evidently too worn out from
his extraordinary exertion to indulge in another before he had taken
time to recuperate.

That loose-kneed stroll of the Virgin-Islander is typical of all his
processes, mental, moral, or physical. It is not merely slow,
rhythmical, and dignified; there is in it a suggestion of limitless
wealth, an untroubled conscience, and an ancestry devoted to leisurely
pursuits for untold generations. In local parlance a “five minutes’
walk” means a block. One must not even speak hastily to a native, for
the only result is wasted breath and the necessity of repeating the
question in more measured cadences. Politeness oozes from his every
pore; “at your sarvice, sar,” and “only too glad to be of use, ma’am,”
interlard every conversation; but any attempt, courteous or otherwise,
to hurry the Virgin Islander brings a sullen resentment which you will
never succeed in smiling away. As the navy men who are governing him put
it in the technical vernacular of their calling, he has only two
speeds,—“Slow Ahead” and “Stop.”

Once the visitor has shaken off the no doubt ridiculous notion that
things should be done in a hurry, or done at all, for that matter, he
will find our newly adopted children an amusing addition to the family.
Like all negroes in contact with civilization, they are fond of
four-jointed words where monosyllables would suffice, and of pompous,
rounded sentences in place of brief-to-the-point statements. “Presently”
means “now”; “He detained from coming” is the local form of “he can’t
come.” Talking is one of the Virgin Islanders’ chief recreations. They
buttonhole the unknown passer-by and unburden themselves to him at
endless length, ceaselessly chattering on until he can forge some excuse
to tear himself away, when they hasten to ask their friends if they,
too, have seen “the stranger with the beard,” “the American who arrived
last night,” “that rich-looking gentleman in a white helmet,” that the
friends may not lose their chance of waylaying the victim who is already
listening to a new monologue around the corner. If they can not find a
hearer, they do not for that reason abandon their favorite sport; it is
commonplace to meet a pedestrian, particularly a woman, chattering
volubly to herself as she shuffles along the street.

Their lack of self-restraint is on a par with their loquacity. When the
first navy hydroplanes flew into the harbor, the entire population
became a screaming mob of neck-craning, pointing, shoulder-clapping,
occupation-forgetting children. The winner of a dollar at the local
“horse” races, in which the island donkeys are now and then pitted
against one another, may be seen turning somersaults in the midst of the
crowd, or throwing himself on the ground, all fours clawing the air, as
he shrieks his ecstasies of delight. It is their joy to parade the
streets in their gayest costumes on any holiday, American, Danish, or
imaginable, that can be dragged into the calendar, dancing and capering
with an energy which their work-a-day manner never suggests. Once a
month, at full moon, the local band marches through the town playing
“Onward, Christian Soldiers,” the population trailing en masse behind
it, singing, clapping hands, and swaying their rather slender, underfed
bodies violently in cadence with the music. They are ardent church-goers
in theory, there being six large churches of as many denominations in
town—but it takes a rousing round of hymns to bring the majority to
indoor services, though boatmen far out in the bay recognize a street
meeting of the Salvation Army by the howling chorus of “Lord, ha’ mercy
on mah sou-ul,” which the cliffs echo out to them.

The Sunday evening band concert, on the other hand, is staid enough to
make a Spanish-American _retreta_ seem uproarious by comparison. It
begins at nine, after the last church service of a Britishly dead
Sunday. The native band, recruited by the administrative Americans, jet
black in features and snow-white in uniform, mounts to the roof of the
old red fortress, while outwardly immaculate negroes, stroll rather
funereally about little Emancipation Park and along the edge of the
quay. The élite of the town sit in their houses, piled steeply up the
pyramidal hills, and let the music float up to them on the harbor
breeze. Our new fellow-countrymen are ostentatiously patriotic in all
that concerns mere formalities. Every morning at eight all St. Thomas
becomes static when the marine band plays our national anthem. The
market-women on the wharf halt as if suddenly turned to stone, holding
whatever posture they happen to be caught in until the last note has
died away; the very boatmen in the bay sit with their poised oars
motionless. Flags burst forth not merely on our own holidays, but on
Danish, on every possible fête day, public or private, even on the
birthdays of distant relatives or mere friends. Curious superstitions
enliven the quaint local color. The appearance of a lizard in the house
is sure proof to the lower classes that there is soon to be an addition
to the family. Servant girls cannot be induced to remove their hats,
whether cooking, making beds, or waiting on table at the most formal
dinner, for fear of sudden death from “dew” falling on their
heads—though it be full blazing noonday.

The great majority of the population is undernourished. Even when their
earnings are sufficient, most of the money is spent on dress. The chief
diet of the rank and file is sugar. A sugar-cane three times a day seems
to be enough to keep many of them alive. The morning meal for the rest
consists of “tea” only, the local meaning of that word being a cupful of
sugar dissolved in warm water. Then along in the middle of the afternoon
they indulge in their only real food, and not very real at that. This is
a plate of “fungee,” a nauseating mixture of fish and corn-meal, which
to the local taste is preferable to the most succulent beefsteak. The
natural result of the constant consumption of sugar is an early scarcity
of teeth. Barely three men in twenty could be enlisted in the native
corps, chiefly because of their inability to cope with navy rations.

It goes without saying that such a population does not furnish model
workmen. From Friday night to Tuesday morning is apt to be treated as
“the Sabbath.” The man who works two days a week at eighty cents has
enough to provide himself with sugar-cane and “fungee.” On the whole,
the women are more industrious than the men, perhaps because the great
disparity of sexes makes the possession of a “man” something in the
nature of a luxury. Time was when the women of St. Thomas were able to
support their husbands in a more fitting manner than at present. In the
good old days hundreds of ships coaled here every month; now many a day
passes without one bringing a throng of negresses scampering for the
coaling-wharf far out beyond “Bluebeard’s Castle.” In a constant stream
the soot-draped women jog up the gang-plank, balancing the eighty-pound
basket of coal on their heads, often without touching it, thrust out a
begrimed hand for the three cents a trip which a local labor leader has
won them in place of the original one, drop the coins into a dust-laden
pocket, dump their load into the steamer’s chute, and trot down again.
Sometimes the ship is a man-of-war that unfairly speeds up the pace of
coalers by having its band play rousing music on the upper deck. Here
and there a man may be made out in the endless chain of black humanity.
At least one of them works with his wife as a “team”—by carrying the
empty basket back to be filled while she mounts with the full one. But
most of the males have the point of view of the big “buck nigger” who
was lying in the shade of the coal-pile watching the process with an air
of languid contentment. “Why de coalin’ is done by women, sah?” he
repeated, scratching his head for a reply. “Why, dat’s woman’s work.”

The population of our Virgin Islands is overwhelmingly negro. Even
Charlotte Amalie cannot muster one white man to ten of African ancestry,
and not a fourth of the latter show any Caucasian mixture. Once upon a
time the Jews were numerous; there is still a Jewish cemetery, but the
synagogue has been abandoned for lack of congregation. Though the
islands were Danish for nearly two and a half centuries, their language
has always been English, probably because their business has ever been
with ships and men who, though it may not always have been their native
tongue, spoke the language of the sea. Some six years before we
purchased the islands the Danes made an attempt to teach Danish in the
schools. But though many little negroes learned to chatter more or less
fluently in that tongue, to the detriment of more essential studies, the
local environment proved too strong, and the very Danish officials
became proficient in English in spite of themselves, though even the
British school superintendent was required to write his correspondence
and reports in the official tongue.

The only element of the population that has never succumbed to its
environment, either racially or linguistically, are the “Chachas.” They
are a community of French fishermen, who have themselves lost any
certain notion of how they came to be stranded on rocky St. Thomas. Some
two hundred of them live in their own village on the outskirts of
Charlotte Amalie; others are scattered along the trail to a similar
village called Hull, on the opposite side of the island. Intermarriage
has given them all a striking family resemblance, and it is hours before
the newcomer realizes that it is not the same man he has met over and
over again, peddling his fish, his goats, or his crude straw hats in the
streets of the town, but a score of more or less close relatives. They
have preserved their blood pure from the slightest negro strain; but
their aloofness has given them a sort of sick-bed pallor, an anemia both
of physique and manner, especially among the women, an almost complete
loss of teeth, and little power to resist disease. Yet the men at least
have by no means lost their old “pep.” They can still fight in a
two-fisted manner that is the awe of their negro neighbors, and they
venture fearlessly far out to sea in their little narrow-chested fishing
boats.

The adults speak a perfectly comprehensible French, but the “creole” of
the children is but little improvement on that of Haiti. For many years
they had their own school, taught by an old Frenchman who drew the
princely salary of five dollars a month. Since his death the children
have been attending the English-speaking Catholic school, and some of
them already mispronounce a certain amount of that tongue—and can beg as
fluently as the little black urchins that swarm about any white
stranger. But their aloofness from the colored population remains. The
latter scorn them as only a negro can the white man who has fallen
socially to his own level, though they take care not to refer to them by
the popular nickname within reach of their hardened fists. The term is
said to have had its origin in the word _chasser_ with which the
fishermen interlard their cries. They call themselves _français_, and
have a simplicity which suggests they have followed the same calling for
many generations. Their houses are mere cabins, with shingled walls and
thatched roofs, scattered about the sand knolls at the edge of the bay.
These are always floored, decorated with a few chromo prints of a
religious nature, and have a better claim to neatness than the hovels of
the negroes about them. While the latter loaf, the “Chachas” ply their
chosen calling diligently, but on Sunday afternoons they may be found in
groups, playing cards in the shade of their date palms, their curious
hats of sewn ribbons of straw tossed on the sandy soil about them. They
profess complete indifference to their island’s change of sovereignty,
except to wonder in vague voices if it is this that has brought the
appalling increase in the prices of food.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Seen from any of its three hills, Charlotte Amalie looks more like a
stage setting than a real town. Its sheet-iron roofs, many of them
painted red, seem to be cut out of cardboard, and the steepness of the
slopes on which the majority of its houses are built suggests the
fantasy of the scene-painter rather than cold practicability. A single
long, level street, still known, on its placards at least, as
Kronprindsens Gade, runs the length of the town and contains nearly all
its commerce. The rest start bravely up the steep hills, but soon tire,
like the inhabitants, and leave their task incompleted. On the eastern
side, where the storms come from, the houses have glass windows, almost
unknown in the larger islands to the westward, and are fitted on all
sides with heavy wooden hurricane-shutters. If these are closed in time,
the roofs can withstand the frequent high winds that sweep down upon the
island, but the local weather prophet has an unenviable task, for to
give the signal for closing the shutters when there is no need for it is
as reprehensible from the native point of view as to fail to foresee
real danger. Bulky stone or brick ovens, separate from the houses, are
the only buildings with chimneys, and many of these were mutilated by
the hurricane of four years ago. Palm-trees and great masses of red and
purple bougainvillea add a crowning beauty to a scene that would be
entrancing even without them.

Of a score of solemn old buildings the most imposing is the residence of
the governor on the middle of the three hills. Higher still stands a
grim tower known as “Blackbeard’s Castle,” about which cling many
legends, but no other certainty than that it was built by a turbulent
colonist of long ago, who was credited, justly no doubt, since that clan
has not wholly died out in St. Thomas to this day, with being a pirate.
But this structure is of slight interest to the average visitor compared
to a similar one on the eastern hill, reputed far and wide as the
original “Bluebeard’s Castle.” Just how it gained this reputation is not
easily apparent, for its real history is almost an open book. Built by
the Danish government in 1700 as a fort, probably to overawe the slaves
in the town below, it remained the property of the king until a century
ago, when it fell into private hands. If any other proof of its entirely
unromantic character is needed, it is sufficient to know that it now
belongs to an Episcopal clergyman living in Brooklyn!

With stone walls five feet thick, three rooms one above the other, and
all in all a pitiless visage, the tower easily lends itself to the
imagination as the scene of marital treachery. The old negro caretaker
will assure you that the dreadful crimes took place in it “jes’ like de
storybook tell.” The yarn that has a wider local belief is somewhat
different. According to this an old trader married a beautiful girl of
Charlotte Amalie and locked her up in the castle while he left the
island on business. During his absence she discovered a mysterious old
chest in the upper story and finally yielded to the feminine impulse to
open it. In it she found letters from a dozen of her husband’s discarded
sweethearts, all of whom still lived in the town. She invited them to a
banquet in the castle—the significant detail of how she got the door
open being passed over in silence—and poisoned them. From there on the
tale forks. One ending has it that the husband returned, repented, and
committed suicide while the beautiful wife was being tried for murder;
the other, that he rushed in and carried her off just as she was about
to be burned at the stake.

The eyes of the modern visitor are sure to be drawn to what looks like
an attempt to pave a large section of the steep hill behind the town. A
great triangular patch of cement gleaming in the sun on one of the
slopes brings to mind the island’s greatest problem. St. Thomas depends
entirely upon the rains for her water-supply, for the water to be had by
boring is so brackish that it ruins even a steamer’s boilers. When
renting or buying a house the most important question is to know the
size and condition of its cistern and what provision has been made for
filling it. In the dry season, which is heartlessly long and appallingly
dry, the poorer people wander from house to house begging a “pan” of
water, and the word means a receptacle of any size or shape that will
hold the precious liquid. The town is convinced that its commercial
decline is due to its lack of water, and that it will come into its own
again if only Uncle Sam will cover its hillsides with cement or
galvanized iron. If they had immense cisterns and a means of filling
them, they say, ships would no longer go to Ponce for water, and perhaps
pick up their coal in Porto Rico also, but would put in at St. Thomas
for all their supplies. To make matters worse, the change of sovereignty
has brought with it the inability to furnish other liquids for which
sea-faring men have looked to St. Thomas for centuries. That seemed the
last straw, but another has since been added to the already crushing
burden. St. Thomas has long been famous for its bay rum. As a matter of
fact the bay oil comes from St. John and the rum came from St. Croix,
until the colonial council voted the islands “dry”—“as if we were not
dry enough already.” But the mixture and sale thereof brought many a
dollar into local pockets. Soon after the “dry” law went into effect,
the natives, to say nothing of our thirsty marines, made the brilliant
discovery that the addition of a bit of bay oil to their favorite
refreshment left it none the less exhilarating. Banished hilarity
returned. The governor was shocked beyond measure, and the sale even of
bay rum is now forbidden except on a police permit, issued only on proof
that it was not to be used for beverage purposes. It is almost as easy
to prove that the moon is made of green cheese. The Virgin Islanders
have several grievances against the Americans who have adopted them, the
strictness of their color-line, for instance; but the greatest of these
is prohibition.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The cluster of islands just east of Porto Rico was discovered by
Columbus on his second voyage; anything that escaped him on the first
journey seems to enjoy at least that secondary distinction. He named
them the Eleven Thousand Virgins; just why, not even his biographers
seem to know. It may be that he had just been awakened from a bad dream,
or possibly the expression was an old-fashioned Italian form of
profanity. It would be easy to think of a more appropriate name, but
they have remained the Virgin Islands to this day.

The Spaniards stopped long enough to exterminate the Indians, but it was
a long time before any one thought it worth while to settle in such a
region. Nothing is more natural than that the name should finally have
attracted to it a party of Frenchmen. Evidently they found it
disappointing, for they did not increase. Then the Danish West India
Company laid claim to St. Thomas and its adjacent islands, and in 1671 a
governor was sent out from Denmark, who founded the town of Charlotte
Amalie, which he named for the then Danish queen. Of course the British
captured the place a few times, and it was often harassed by fires,
hurricanes, and slave rebellions, all of which it more or less
successfully survived. St. Thomas became a harbor of refuge for pirates,
and it frequently became necessary for the English governor of Nevis to
raid it—for the British, you remember, did not believe in piracy. When
the gentlemen enlisted under the skull-and-cross-bones banner had gone
the way of all rascals, the island soon won a place of importance as a
distributing center for slaves.

Meanwhile St. Croix, which is neither geographically, geologically, nor
historically a bona fide member of the Virgin group, had been having a
history of its own. The Knights of Malta colonized it first with three
hundred Frenchmen, but these soon decided that Santo Domingo offered
better real estate possibilities. Then when the Dutch and the British
had concluded that France had a better armed right to it, the latter
sold it to the Danish Company for 750,000 livres. Just how much that was
in real money I am not in a position to state, beyond the assertion that
it would buy far more then than it will nowadays. Thenceforth St. Croix
has followed the fate of the other Danish West Indies.

Many of the colonists were disturbers of the peace or agitators, the
Bolshevists, in short, of those days, who found it to their advantage to
abandon the near-by French and British Leeward Islands. They became too
much for the Company, which in 1764 sold the whole collection to the
Danish crown. All three of the islands of any importance were long
planted in sugar-cane. It covered even the tops of the hills, those of
St. Thomas being cultivated by hand in little stone-faced terraces.
To-day sugar-cane has completely disappeared from St. Thomas, almost
entirely from St. John, and is grown only on the level southern side of
St. Croix. Several slave uprisings had been suppressed with more or less
bloodshed when Denmark subscribed to the then astounding theory that
slavery should be abolished. The agricultural importance of the islands
began at once to decline. Free labor was cheap, but it would not labor.
Then, too, the competition of sugar grown more economically elsewhere
and Napoleon’s establishment of a bounty for beet-sugar growers began to
make life dreary for all West Indian planters.

However, as their agriculture declined, the importance of the Danish
islands as a shipping and distributing center increased, though their
days of greatest prosperity were from 1820 to 1830, when the two
coincided. St. Thomas harbor was forested with the masts of sailing
vessels, carrying goods to and from the four points of the compass. Then
along came Robert Fulton with more trouble for the poor harassed
islanders. Steam navigation made it easy for the West Indies and South
America to import goods direct from Europe, and the Virgin Island
merchants began to lose their rake-off. They picked up, however, by
establishing a coaling station and making St. Thomas a free port and a
general depot of sea-going supplies. Before the World War scores of
ships entered the harbor every week; now the pilot often does not drop
his feet from his hammock to the floor for several days at a time.

For all this, the islands were a liability rather than an asset to the
Danes, and they had long been looking for some kind Samaritan to take
them off their hands. Under Lincoln, Secretary Seward negotiated a
treaty by which we were to have all the group except St. Croix for
$7,500,000. A vote of the population showed them overwhelmingly in favor
of the change; the Danish Government was paternal, but it was far away
and unprogressive. The treaty was ratified in Denmark. The king issued a
manifesto telling his loyal subjects how sorry he was to part with them,
but assuring them, as fathers always do, that it was for their own good.
He did not mention that he needed the money. Two years later he was
forced to admit in another royal document that he was not parting with
them, after all. Senator Sumner, chairman of our Foreign Relations
Committee, did not walk hand in hand with President Johnson. For two
years he kept the treaty in his official pocket, and when it did at
length reappear under Grant, it was adversely reported.

In 1902 a better bargain was struck. A new treaty setting the price of
the whole group at $5,000,000 was drawn up, and ratified by the American
Senate. But this time the Danish Rigsdag turned the tables. Perhaps they
had inside information on the future development of American politics.
If so it proved trustworthy, for by 1916 we were in the hands of an
administration to whom mere money was no object. The Danes quickly
caught the idea, the people themselves voted to sell while the selling
was good, and on the last day of March, 1917, old Danneborg was hauled
down and the Stars and Stripes raised in its place.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I have yet to find any one who knows just why we bought the Virgin
Islands, still less why we paid twenty-five millions for them. As a navy
man engaged in governing them put it, “They are not worth forty cents to
us, or to any one else; though” he added, “it would have been worth a
hundred million to keep Germany from getting them.” If the loss of the
twenty-five millions were an end of the matter, we might forget it; but
it is costing us more than half a million a year to support our little
black children. Furthermore, the Danes made the most of their ripe
opportunity not only in the matter of price, but in an astonishing
number of concessions in their favor. Evidently our Government said to
them, “Go ahead and write a treaty, and we’ll sign it”; and then in the
press of saving the world for democracy we did not have time to glance
it over before adding our signature.

If a farmer bought a farm for, say, twenty-five hundred dollars, and
found, when he came to take possession of it, that it would cost him
fifty dollars a year out of his pocket to run it, that it was inhabited
by a happy-go-lucky lot of negroes who expected him to do many things
for them, from curing their wide-spread disease to sending them to
school; if, furthermore, he discovered that the former owners still held
everything on the farm that was worth owning except the title-deed, he
would probably give it away to the first unsuspecting tenderfoot who
happened along. Unfortunately, governments cannot indulge in that
dying-horse method of laying down their burdens. Even had the purchase
price of almost three hundred dollars an acre included everything of
monetary value on the islands, from the wardrobes of the inhabitants to
the last peasant’s hut, we should have made a bad bargain. But about all
we got for our twenty-five millions is the right to fly our flag over
the islands, and half a dozen old forts and government buildings
entirely stripped of their furniture. The Danish Government has the
reputation of being conservative and economical. It surely is, in more
senses than one. By the terms of the treaty “the movables, especially
the silver plate and the pictures, remain the property of the Danish
Government and shall, as soon as circumstances permit, be removed by
it.” By virtue of that clause they sold at auction every stick of
furniture in the public buildings; they tore the mirrors off the walls;
they removed the gilt moldings from them; they tried to tear off the
embossed leathery wall-paper, and left the rooms looking as if a party
of yeggmen had gutted them; they took down and carried away the rope on
the government flagpole! Economy is a splendid trait, but they might
have left us a chair in which to mourn the loss of our twenty-five—and
more—millions.

Everything worth owning in the islands is still in private, principally
Danish, hands. When we planned to erect a naval station on an utterly
worthless stony hill on St. Thomas harbor, the owners demanded
twenty-five hundred dollars an acre for it. We must maintain all the
grants, concessions, and licenses left by the Danish Government. “Det
Vestindiske Kompagni” retains most of the harbor privileges; another
Danish company, of which the principal shareholder is Prince Axel,
cousin of the king, holds the coaling rights, the electric lighting
rights, the right to operate a dry-dock. We cannot even use American
money in our new possessions. The Danish West Indian bank has the
exclusive concession for issuing notes until 1934, paying a ten per
cent. tax on profits to the Danish Government, and the good old
greenback must be exchanged for the domestic shin-plasters. Naval men
stationed in St. Thomas are forced to pay this institution as high as
two per cent. discount on their U. S. government pay checks; the yearly
budget of our new colony must be made in Danish francs. But though the
domestic money is officially in francs and “bits,” the people talk in
dollars and cents as universally as they speak English instead of
Danish. It is difficult to find anything left by the old régime that is
not protected by that curiously one-sided treaty. An American remarked
casually to an old Danish resident one evening as they were strolling
through Emancipation Park:

“I think we’ll tear down that old bust of King Christian IX and put one
of Lincoln in its place.”

“Vat?” shrieked the Dane. “You can’t do that. Eet ees in de treaty.”

By some oversight the Danes failed to provide for a few of the minor
concessions. There were the apothecaries, for instance. Under Danish
rule one was given exclusive rights in each of the three towns and its
contiguous territory. They were inspected often, old drugs being thrown
out; and they were not allowed to sell patent medicines. Their prices
are reasonable as monopolies go, their stores well kept, and their stock
ample, within Danish limits. When the islands were sold, the
apothecaries complained to the king that they were in danger of being
ruined by American competition; whereupon the king, out of the goodness
of his heart—and the fullness of the twenty-five million—gave them
$30,000 each. Four years have passed since the druggists pocketed this
salve to their injured profits, and they are still doing business at the
old stands without a rival in sight.

Indeed, there is little evidence of that influx of American business men
which was predicted as sure to follow the flag. So far the only one is a
young ex-marine who is breaking into the restaurant and soda-fountain
business. He has been fought at every step by the local merchants.
Living exclusively on trade, with hundred per cent. profits customary
from time immemorial, the wealthier class of the islanders have the
cuteness of the shopkeeper developed to the nth degree, and they will
not readily consent to competition by rank outsiders from the United
States.

Among the things which the Danes left behind were their laws, and their
own judge to administer them. True, Judge Thiele has become an American
citizen, but it is a curious sight to see Americans-born brought into
court by negro policemen, to be tried by a man who is still a foreigner
in point of view and thinking processes in spite of being no longer
officially a subject of the King of Denmark. There are those who claim
he sides with the favorites of the old Government to the decided
disadvantage of Americans, though there are more who speak well of him.
It is enough to know that Americans are being tried in American
territory under the Napoleonic code, in that laborious old-fashioned
style by which the judge questions the witnesses, dictates their answers
in his own more cultured words to a clerk, who writes them all down in
laborious longhand in a great ledger, to be sure that a change should be
made in the judiciary system of our Virgin Islands.

Having bought them, and being forced to support them for the rest of our
natural existence, it might be of interest to make a brief inventory of
our new possessions. The total area of the three islands, with their
seventeen keys, only three or four of which are inhabited, is about 140
square miles. The census taken soon after the raising of the Stars and
Stripes showed something over twenty-six thousand inhabitants, but
several signs indicate that these are decreasing. The only real value of
the Virgin group proper is the splendid harbor of St. Thomas. St. Croix,
forty miles distant from it is considerably larger than all the rest of
this group put together, more populous, more fertile, and could easily
be made self-supporting governmentally, as it always has been privately,
particularly with the introduction of an extensive system of irrigation.

                  *       *       *       *       *

A couple of trails zigzag up the reddish, dry hillside behind Charlotte
Amalie, scattering along the way a few hovels. They really lead nowhere,
however, for there is no other town than the capital on the island. The
hurricane of 1916 blew down most of the farm-houses and many of the
trees, and they were never rebuilt or replanted. Once heavily forested,
later Nile-green with sugar-cane, St. Thomas is now brown, arid, and
dreary, with scarcely a tenth of its acreage under even half-hearted
cultivation. Being all “mountain,” fifteen hundred feet high in one
spot, with buttresses running down to the sea in every direction, it can
hardly be expected to compete with modern agricultural methods.
Moreover, eight of its ten thousand inhabitants have been drawn into
town by the higher wages of harbor work, and though there is now a
scarcity of that, they still remain, to the detriment of what might be
moderately productive plantations, forcing the island to draw its food
from St. John, the British Virgins, or Porto Rico. A journey over the
“mountain” brings little reward except some marvelous views and yet
another proof of how primitive the human family may become.

A so-called road traverses the island from east to west. In company with
a navy doctor I bumped by Ford along the eastern half of this to Water
Bay. A cattle-raising estate called “Tatu,” with a three-story,
red-roofed dwelling, was the only sign of industry along the route. Near
the bay we overtook a man on his way—at nine o’clock in the morning—to
dig a well for the estate owner, and soon talked him into rowing us
across to St. John instead. For the wind was dead ahead, and the old
sail in the bottom of his patched and weather-warped dory would have
been far more hindrance than help in negotiating the stormy three-mile
passage between the islands. Once landed, in Cruz Bay, we rented St.
John’s only public means of conveyance,—two hard-gaited horses named
“Bess” and “Candy Kid”—and rode out into the wilderness.

St. John is little more than that. Its twenty square miles have almost
entirely gone back to forest, through which a few trails meander amid a
silence as unbroken as that of Robinson Crusoe’s place of exile. There
is not a wheeled vehicle on the island; one may ride for miles without
meeting an inhabitant, and the very birds seem to have abandoned it for
more progressive climes. Yet rusted iron kettles and the ruins of stone
sugar-mills, scattered here and there in forest and scrub, show that the
island was once a place of industry. Sugar and cotton plantations almost
completely covered it when, in 1733, a slave rebellion started it on a
decline that has never since ceased. The whites quelled the uprising,
after a half hundred of them and four times as many blacks had lost
their lives, but the negroes won in the end, for the last census showed
but four white men on the island. To-day it has barely eight hundred
inhabitants, of whom, unlike the other islands, the majority are men. A
few mangoes and bananas, yams, okra, and a kind of tropical pumpkin keep
its hut-dwellers alive. Here and there is a little patch of cane, from
which rum was made before the Americans came to interfere with that;
limes are cultivated rather languidly in a few hillside orchards, and
the high ridge between Hope and Bordeaux is covered with bay-trees.

These vary in size from mere saplings to trees twenty feet in height.
The picking is best done in June, when men and boys break off the
smaller branches and carry them to the distilleries. Here the leaves are
cooked in sea water in immense brass decanters, from which the bay oil
is drawn off, and the leaves tossed out, apparently unchanged except
from green to a coppery brown. One hundred and thirty pounds of leaves
are required to produce a quart of oil, which sells at present for six
dollars, and has long had the reputation of being the best on the
market. The bay-tree estates give occasional labor to the inhabitants,
but their livelihood depends chiefly on their own little patches of
tropical vegetables, their cattle, and their fishing. From the high
points of the island one has an embracing view of the British Virgin
Islands, separated from our own by only a few miles, and framed in the
Caribbean like emeralds of fantastic shape in a setting of translucent
blue.

There are no towns on St. John. The nearest semblance to them are a few
scattered clusters of huts around the shores, where customs are as
backward as those of Africa, or Haiti. A handful of these simple
dwellings are rather picturesquely strewn up the steep fishhook-shaped
peninsula that forms the eastern end of the island, connected to the
rest by a narrow neck of land. Between this and what might be called the
mainland is Coral Bay, a harbor of far greater depth than that of St.
Thomas, and so much larger that, experts tell us, the construction of
two break-waters would make it a safe anchorage for the largest navy in
the world. But what, in the name of Neptune, would the world’s largest
navy find to do there?

[Illustration: A corner of Charlotte Amalie]

[Illustration: Picking sea island cotton, the second of St. Croix
products]

[Illustration: A familiar sight in St. Croix, the ruins of an old sugar
mill and the stone tower of its cane grinding windmill]

[Illustration: A cistern in which rain water is stored for drinking
purposes]

We met all the élite of St. John at the Moravian mission of Emmaus at
the head of Coral Bay. The census showed the island inhabited by one
Catholic, forty Lutherans, and the rest Moravians, hence there were few
local celebrities missing at the annual “show” which happened to
coincide with our visit. Negroes dressed in their most solemn garments,
the men in staid black, the women in starched white, poured in on
horseback and afoot from moonrise until the first of the doleful
religious songs and the amusingly stupid dialogues began in the school
chapel. There was the black government doctor, the negro owners of the
two or three farms so large as to be locally known as “estates,” the
island’s few school teachers—its policeman himself might have been there
had I not deprived him of the use of his “Candy Kid.” To tell the truth
they gave a rather good impression, decidedly a better one than the
traveler-baiters of St. Thomas. They were almost English in their cold
leisurely deportment, yet more volubly courteous, and with few
exceptions they frankly looked down upon white men. Many of them had the
outward indices of education, speaking with a chosen-worded formality
that suggested a national convention of pedagogues; not a hint of
hilarity enlivened their intercourse. Perhaps the most amusing part of
all was the overdone company-manner in which they treated their wives,
those same wives who no doubt would take up the chief family burdens
again, once the night had separated the gathering into its natural
component parts.

We found Carl Francis more nearly what it is to be hoped our new wards
can all gradually be brought to resemble. A member of the Colonial
Council, notorious throughout the colony as the man who dared tell the
congressional committee in public session that the chief trouble with
the Virgin Islands is the laziness of their inhabitants, he would
outrank many a politician of our own land in public spirit, for all his
ebony skin. He confirmed the famous statement above mentioned, but added
that there were other things which St. John needed for its advancement.
It needs a mail service, for instance, such as it had under the Danes,
instead of being obliged to go to Charlotte Amalie to post or receive
its letters. It needs more schools, so that its children shall not have
to walk miles over the mountains morning and evening. It must have
something in the nature of an agricultural bank to lend the inhabitants
wherewithal to replant the old estates, if St. John is to regain under
the American flag something of its eighteenth century prosperity.

                  *       *       *       *       *

If the _Virginia_ was unworthy of her calling, what shall I say of the
_Creole_, which carried me from St. Thomas to St. Croix? A battered old
sloop of a type so ancient that her massive wooden rail resembled that
of a colonial veranda, barely fifty feet long, and nearly as wide, her
bottom so covered with barnacles that she did little more than creep in
the strongest breeze, she represented the last stage in ocean-going
traffic. Not only were there no other whites on board, but not even a
mulatto. The passenger-list was made up chiefly of a batch of criminals
and insane who were being sent to their respective institutions in St.
Croix. Most of them wore handcuffs and leg-irons, and the rattle of
chains and the shrieks of their wearers suggested the slave-ships of
olden days. One of the mad women screamed for unbroken hours in the
lingo of the Dutch West Indies; another conducted single-handed an
entire church service, hymns, sermon, prayers, and all.

Yet the crew were at least grown men, and if they were monkey-like in
their playful moods, they had real discipline and a sense of
responsibility when the time came for it that was a welcome contrast to
the surly indifference with which the boys on the _Virginia_ carried out
their orders. The captain was a black man of the coast fisherman type,
but the most entertaining part of the voyage was the unfailing “sir”
with which the mate, a cadaverous old negro who wore a heavy wool
skating-cap and a sort of trench-coat fit for the Arctic even at high
noon, ended his careful repetition of the skipper’s every command.
Moreover,—for we are all apt to judge things from our own petty
personal-comfort angle—the captain and most of his men treated a white
man as if he were of royal blood. Not only did he find me a canvas
steamer-chair, but he refused any of the other passengers admittance to
the three-berth cabin, lest they should “disturb de gen’le-man.” If only
he had been able to adjourn the church service and the other uproar
beyond the bulkhead, I might have had a real night’s sleep.

We left at five in the evening, and by sunrise had covered the forty
miles,—though not, unfortunately, in the right direction. Had our
destination been Frederiksted at the west end of the island, we should
have landed early. But the _Creole’s_ contract calls for a service
between St. Thomas and Christiansted, the two capitals of our Virgin
group, and all day long we wallowed eastward under the lee of St.
Croix’s mountainous northern coast, while “de lepards,” as the sane
passengers called their unsound sisters below, shrieked their maudlin
complaints and the church service began over and over again with a
“Brethren, let us pray for her.”

Christiansted is prettily situated amid cocoanut-palms and sloping
cane-fields at the back of a wide bay, but a long reef with an
exceedingly narrow entrance gives it a poor harbor. Its white or
cream-colored houses, with here and there a red roof, lend it a touch
that is lacking in the half-dozen rather grim-faced villages and estates
that may be seen scattered to right and left along the rugged coast. The
town has wide, rather well-kept streets, many stone houses, an imposing
government building, and climbs away up the stony slope behind as if it
had once planned to grow, but had changed its mind. Old-fashioned chain
pumps supply it with water, from wells rather than from cisterns; a big
Catholic church is barely outrivaled in size by the Anglican; on the
whole, it seems better swept than more populous Charlotte Amalie. Its
people are simple-mannered, rather “gawky,” in fact, with a tendency to
stare strangers out of countenance, and have a leisureliness that shows
even in the long-drawn “Good ahftehnoon, sar,” with which they greet
passers-by.

Christiansted, and all St. Croix, has a special grievance against the
Americans. Under the Danes the governor spent half the year in this
second capital. Now the ruler of the islands only occasionally runs over
from St. Thomas in his private yacht, often returning the same day, and
the Croixians feel slighted. When the admiral and his aides land, it is
mildly like the arrival of royalty. A band or two and most of the
population are drawn up in the sanded space facing the wharf, whence all
proceed to a meeting of the Colonial Council in the old government
building.

Across the street from this is a shop in which Alexander Hamilton once
clerked. His mother, born in St. Croix, married a man named Levine, who
abused her, whereupon she went to live with a Scotchman named Hamilton
in the neighboring British island of Nevis. There Alexander was born,
but when his father went to seek his fortune elsewhere, the mother
returned to her native island. While clerking in the Christiansted shop,
the son wrote his father a letter describing a hurricane that had swept
St. Croix, the father showed it to influential friends, with the result
that Alexander was sent to King’s College (now Columbia University),
and, thanks partly to Aaron Burr, never returned to the West Indies.
Meanwhile his mother remained in St. Croix until her death, and was
buried on a knoll a few miles west of Christiansted. It is a pleasant
burial place, with constant shade and a never-failing trade wind fanning
the flowers above it, a quaint old homestead behind it, and a modern
monument erected by an American woman, inscribed:

                         Rachael Fawcett Levine
                               1736–1768
                She was the Mother of Alexander Hamilton

St. Croix is far more of a real country than all the other islands of
the group put together. Not only is it much larger, being twenty miles
long and five wide, but is much more extensively cultivated. Three
splendid roads run nearly the length of the island, with numerous cross
roads in good condition. Only the rocky eastern end is a wilderness to
which deer, brought into St. Croix by the British when they controlled
it during the Napoleonic wars, go to hide after the cane-fields are cut,
such a wilderness that hunters rarely succeed in stalking the wary
animals in the dense undergrowth. There are far more signs of industry
in St. Croix than in St. Thomas; its estate-owners are on the whole an
intelligent, progressive class, with a social life quite different from
that on the more primitive islands. When one has seen St. Croix, the
twenty-five million does not seem quite so complete and irreparable a
loss.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I took the “King’s Road” through the middle of the island. It runs for
fourteen miles, from Christiansted, the capital, to Frederiksted, its
rival. These names being too much effort for the negro tongue, the towns
are known locally as “Boss End” (either a corruption of the French
_Bassin_ or an acknowledgement that the “bosses” of the island always
lived in the capital) and “West End.” The northern side is abrupt, with
deep water close to the shore, its highest peak, Mount Eagle, rising
1180 feet. South of this range are undulating, fertile valleys and
broad, rolling plains not even suggested along the northern coast, and
the land slopes away in shoals and coral ledges for several miles from
the beach. The highways are maintained by the owners of the estates
through which they run; therefore they follow a somewhat roundabout
course through the canefields, that the expense of maintenance may be
more evenly divided. They are busy roads, dotted with automobiles, of
which there are more than one hundred on the island, many donkeys, heavy
two-wheeled carts hauled by neck-yoked oxen, a kind of jaunting car of
the conservative gentry, and innumerable black pedestrians. The island
is everywhere punctuated with picturesque old stone windmill towers that
once ground cane, their flailing arms long since departed, and gray old
chimneys of abandoned sugar-mills break the sky-line on every hand. Some
of these dull-white heaps of buildings on their hilltops look like aged
Norman castles; there is something grim and northern about them that
does not fit at all with the tropics. They suggest instead the diligence
and foresightedness of the temperate zone. Old human tread-mills may
still be found among them, and slave-house villages that in some cases
are inhabited by the laborers of to-day. Rusted sugar-kettles, such as
are strewn through the West Indies from eastern Haiti to southern
Trinidad, lie abandoned here and there throughout the island.

Sugar-cane once covered even the tops of the hills, but to-day only the
flatter lands are planted, though there are splendid stretches of
cane-green valleys. The names of estates are amusing, and range all the
way from cynicism to youthful hopefulness,—“Golden Grove,” “Work and
Rest,” “Hope and Blessing,” “Whim,” “Slob,” “Judith’s Fancy,” “Barren
Spot,” “Adventure.” The ceiba, or “silk-cotton tree,” beautiful
specimens of the royal palm, the tibet-tree, full of rustling pods that
give it the name of “women’s-tongues” in all the English-speaking West
Indies, everywhere beautify the landscape. Ruins of the slave rebellion,
of the earthquake of 1848, of the disastrous hurricane of 1916, are
still to be found here and there. There is a marvelous view from King’s
Hill, with its old Danish gendarmérie, now a police station, from which
the central highway, lined by palms and undulating through great valleys
of cane, may be seen to where it descends to “West End” and the
Caribbean. In the center of the picture sits Bethlehem, the largest
sugar-mill on the island, with its cane railway and up-to-date methods.
For the modern process of centralization is already spreading in St.
Croix; the small independent mills are disappearing, and with them much
of the picturesqueness of the island. These big mills, as well as most
of the small, are owned by Danes, half the stock of the largest being
held by the Danish government. Unfortunately St. Croix has put all its
eggs in one basket, or at most, two, sugar and sea-island cotton.

There is not a thatched roof on the island. The people live in moderate
comfort, as comfort goes in the West Indies. Toward sunset the roads are
lined with women cane-cutters in knee-length skirts, with footless
woolen stockings that suggest the tights of ballet-dancers, to protect
their legs in the fields, pattering homeward, with their big cane-knives
lying flat on the tops of their heads. Bits of colored rags sewed on the
hatbands of the men indicate that they are members of the newly
organized labor-union. They still bow and raise their hats to passing
white men, yet one feels something of that bolshevistic atmosphere which
their black leaders are fostering among them. The King’s Road passes a
large distillery, which prohibition has closed. Formerly St. Croix made
much rum; now it is giving its attention rather to syrup than to sugar,
as there is more money in the former; but estate-owners are threatening
to give up cane-growing and turn their fields into cattle pastures, so
greatly have the wages of field laborers increased in the last two
years—from twenty-five cents to a dollar a day. For St. Croix is one of
the few islands in the West Indies where “task work” has never taken the
place of a fixed daily wage. Cattle are plentiful on the island, from
which they are sent to Porto Rico in tug-towed open barges. Some of them
are so wild that they are brought down to the coast in cages on wheels,
and all of them are roped and swung on board with little regard to their
bodily comfort.

Fredriksted, the third and last town of our Virgin Islands, is a quaint,
“Dutchy” place some five blocks wide and seven long, with wide sanded
streets, two-storied for the most part and boasting no real public
sidewalks; for though what look like them run beneath the arcades that
uphold the upper-story verandas, they are rather family porches, shut
off by stairways or barricades, which force the pedestrian to take
constantly to the sun-scorched streets. The town has only an open
roadstead; indeed, there is not a good harbor in the island. A native
band recruited by the American navy breaks the monotony of life by
playing here once a week, as it does daily in Christiansted. The cable
company is required by law to furnish the world’s news to the press, but
as the pathetic little newspapers are so small that they can publish
only a few items at a time, the despatches are habitually some two weeks
old, each taking its chronological turn irrespective of importance.

                  *       *       *       *       *

I visited several schools in the Virgin Islands. When an American school
director arrived early in 1918 he found no records either of schools,
pupils, or parents. By dint of going out and hunting them up, he
discovered nineteen educational buildings on the three islands. Ninety
per cent. of the population can read and write after a fashion, but the
majority usually have their letters written by the public scribe, of
whom there is one in each of the three towns, in a set form that gives
all epistles a strong family resemblance. The school system was
honeycombed with all sorts of petty graft. A man who received three
dollars a month for keeping a certain school clean had not seen the
building in years. The town clock of Christiansted has not run for five
years, yet another favored person received a monthly stipend for keeping
it in order. The new director and his two American assistants have still
to contend with many difficulties. There are no white teachers; those
now employed were trained either in Denmark or in the Moravian schools,
and the “English” of most of them almost deserves to be ranked as an
independent dialect. The highest teacher’s salary is seventy-five, the
average twenty-four dollars a month. Boys of sixteen, drawing the regal
income of ten dollars monthly, conduct many of the classes. Those who
served a certain number of years under the Danes receive a pension from
the famous twenty-five millions. They are small pensions, like those
that went to all the small government employees whom the Danes left
behind, and those who still hold their places protest against telling
their new employer how much they draw from Copenhagen, fancying it may
result in a corresponding loss in the increase they fondly hope for
under American rule. Lack of funds has forced the director to maintain
many of the incompetents in office. One rural school we visited is still
taught by the local butcher, whose inefficiency is on a par with his
custom of neglecting his educational duties for his more natural
calling. But as the island budget does not permit an increase of his
monthly thirty-five dollars,—and in every case it is merely Danish, not
American, dollars,—no more competent substitute has yet appeared to
claim the butcher’s ferule.

The country schools have few desks; the children sit on backless
benches, their feet usually high off the floor. The tops of the desks
are in many cases painted black and used as blackboards. A rusty tin cup
was found doing service for all the thirsty; when the Americans
attempted to improve this condition by introducing a long-handled dipper
with an edge cut in repeated V shape, the teachers bent the sharp points
back and returned to the old dip-your-hand-in method. Lessons are often
done on slates or pieces of slate, which the teacher periodically
sprinkles with water from a bay-rum bottle, then requires the sums to be
erased in rhythmical unison. Formerly the teachers sat in the middle of
one large room, surrounded by eight different grades, and the resultant
hubbub may be imagined. The Americans put in partitions, and the uproar
is now somewhat less incoherent. In some of the larger schools there
were half-height partitions, with little sliding-doors, through which
the principal could peer without leaving his central “office.” Loud
protests have been heard because the Americans nailed these up, forcing
upon the sedentary gentlemen in charge the exertion of walking around to
the several doors. The teaching methods were, and in many cases still
are, of that tropically medieval type in which the instructor asks long
questions that require a single-word answer, even that being chiefly
suggested by the questioner.

“What is the longest river in America? Now, then, Miss-Mis-sissi—”

The answer “pi!” by some unusually bright pupil, is followed by
exclamations of praise from the teacher. Like most negroes, the Virgin
Islanders have tolerable memories, but little ability to apply what they
learn. Not the least of the difficulties confronting the new director
was the reform of the Catholic schools, which had long put great
emphasis on matters of religion and treated other subjects with scant
attention. The attempt to better matters sent shrieks of protest to
Washington, whence the director’s hands were more or less tied by
misinformed coreligionists. Bit by bit the Virgin Island schools are
being improved, however, a decree permitting superintendents to fine the
parents of pupils absent without due cause, simply by sending a
policeman to collect the sum assessed, without any troublesome process
of law, having given a badly needed weapon against the once wide-spread
inattendance. Parents who decline, or are unable to pay the fines, are
required to work one day on the roads for every dollar unpaid.

There is no agriculture worth mentioning in St. Thomas and no employing
class in St. John, hence labor troubles have been chiefly confined to
St. Croix. The present leaders of the movement in the larger island are
three negroes, all of them agitators of the more or less violent type,
differing only in degree, and all more or less consciously doing their
best to stir up those of their own color. The one considered the most
radical is the least troublesome, as he can readily be bought off.
Another, a man of some education, runs a newspaper advocating civil
government,—that is, negro government,—preaching that the white man is
the enemy of the black, that St. Croix belongs by right to the latter,
and openly accusing the white officials of incompetency and dishonesty.
In addition to this, he publishes secretly a scurrilous sheet that is
doing much to inflame the primitive minds of the masses. The third
announced in a public meeting that “if the governor don’t do what we
want, we’ll take him out in the bay and send him back where he come
from.”

“Since the Americans came, it is all for the niggers,” said an old
English estate-owner. “The niggers even steal our fruit and vegetables,
carrying them to town a bit at a time in their clothes, for the
policemen are all friendly or related to them. Let those black agitators
go on a bit longer, and we whites will have to leave the island.”

There are signs that the whites are in peril of losing the upper hand in
the island, particularly with the methods of the present governor, who
caters to the negroes with un-American eagerness. As an example, though
his private yacht may be on the point of steaming from St. Thomas to St.
Croix or vice versa, even American white women are left to the mercies
of the filthy _Creole_, lest the local merchants complain that trade is
being taken away from them. Yet native negro girls are readily carried
back and forth, because they happen to be the daughters, relatives, or
dependents of members of the colonial council, or of some other local
officials of the islands we are paying taxes to support.

The negro newspaper man sees much “social injustice” in St. Croix, of
which certainly a customary amount exists; but he seems incapable of
noting the great disinclination to work and the fact that the “paltry
dollar a day” buys scarcely one tenth the amount of labor which
constitutes a day’s work in the white man’s countries with which he
strives to compare his own. In 1916 he went to Denmark and raised funds
to establish several labor-union estates on the island, where the
negroes might raise cattle, cane, and the like, each to get permanent
possession of the piece of land on which he was working as soon as he
had paid off the mortgage. But the farms are already, after a bare two
years in the hands of the union, largely overgrown with weeds, bush, and
miserable shacks, and about the only result of the move has been the
loss of more land to world production, and the infliction of the sponsor
with an exaggerated self-importance that has made him lose the one
virtue of the Virgin-Islander—his courtesy.

On the other hand, the employing class is by no means immune to
criticism. The larger sugar companies were paying cane-growers from six
to seven cents Danish for sugar at the same time that they were selling
it for from twelve to fourteen cents in American money. The diligent
Yankee who controls the lighterage, wharfage, and many other monopolies
at “West End,” as well as sharing with the newspaper man the political
control of the island, cannot be acquitted of the native charge of
exorbitance. A Danish company whose profits in 1919 were more than a
million sent all its gains to Copenhagen, instead of helping to
stabilize the exchange by depositing them in New York.

Among the troubles of St. Croix is the problem of what to do with the
“immigration fund.” Sugar production requires much labor; ever since
slavery was abolished St. Croix has been constantly faced with the
difficulty of getting enough of it. A large percentage of the negroes
would rather become public charges than work more than a few days a
week. In 1854 the planters voluntarily assessed themselves ten cents an
acre to establish an immigration fund, the Government making up the
deficit. Laborers were brought from the other West Indian islands,
particularly from Barbados. Therein lies another grievance of the
planters, who assert that though Barbados implored the Government of St.
Croix to relieve the former island of some of its over-population, when
the request was granted, the Barbadian authorities emptied the jails and
sent out all their riffraff. With the establishment of American rule, it
became illegal to bring in contract labor, and though the immigration
fund now consists of more than seventy thousand dollars, it is
impossible to use it as originally intended. Does the money belong to
the planters, to the United States, or to the Danish Government? The
Croixians are still heatedly debating the question, and at the same time
are complaining of the scarcity and high price of willing labor.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Politically, St. Thomas and St. John, with their numerous neighboring
keys and islets, constitute one municipality, and St. Croix another.
Under the Danes the executive power was vested in a colonial governor
appointed by the crown; the legislative authority being held by a
colonial council in each municipality, some of the members likewise
crown appointments, some elected. With an American admiral as governor,
and naval officers as secretaries and heads of departments, this system
has continued, and will continue until our busy Congress finds time to
establish another form of government. Though the navy men explain to
them that they are virtually under a civil government without the
necessity of supporting it themselves, the natives are not satisfied.
Among other things the labor leader elected to the colonial council of
St. Croix demands the jury trial and “suffrage based on manhood.” The
vote is at present extended to males over twenty-five having a personal
income of three hundred dollars a year or owning property yielding five
dollars a month. Moreover—and this, I believe, is more than we demand
even in the United States—the voters must be of “unblemished character.”
Thus the Danes sought to insure the ballot only to men of responsibility
and there was good reason for the limitation. To the casual observer it
seems that the growing tendency to give the natives the universal
franchise should be combated, unless the islands are to become Haitian.

Last year one of the agitators went to the United States on the hopeful
mission of getting all the offices filled by natives—that is, negroes.
Luckily, his demands were not granted. Civil service already applies;
there is nothing to prevent a native from holding any but the higher
offices if he is fitted for the task; but native ability is not yet high
enough, nor insular morals stanch enough, to give any hope that a native
government would work efficiently without white supervision.

There is more justice in the plea for a homestead act that will turn the
uncultivated land over to the people, though even that should be framed
with care. One of the chief troubles with nearly all the West Indies is
the ease with which lazy negroes may squat on public land. The islanders
have one real kick, however, on the state of their postal service. Under
the Danes there were mail-carriers in the towns, there were country
post-offices, and a certain amount of rural delivery; all
school-teachers sold stamps, and mail was sent by any safe conveyance
that appeared. To-day there are only three post-offices and no mail
delivery, the country people must carry their own letters to and from
one of the three towns, those living on St. John being obliged to bring
and fetch theirs from Charlotte Amalie, and though a dozen steamers may
make the crossing during the week, the mails must wait for the languid
and uncertain _Virginia_ or _Creole_. There are only four postal
employees in St. Thomas, in addition to the postmaster, a deserving
Democrat from Virginia who, in the local parlance, “does nothing but
play tennis and crank a motor-boat.” When one of the mail-schooners
comes in, the population crowds into the post-office in quest of its
mail, disrupting the service, each hopeful citizen coming back again
every half-hour or so until he finds that the expected letter has not
come. Yet carriers were paid only thirty-five dollars Danish under the
Danes, and three or four of them obviated all this chaotic confusion.

Roughly speaking, the St. Thomas division does not want civil
government, feeling it cannot pay for it, and St. Croix does, though her
colonial council has asked that no change be made for the present and
has implied that it expects the expense of government to be chiefly
maintained by congressional appropriation even after the change is made.
But this same body demands full jurisdiction over all taxation, the one
thing it is least competent to handle properly, for it would result in
the powerful and influential and their friends escaping their just share
of the burden. There are queer quirks in the taxation system left by the
Danes. Buildings, for instance, are taxed by the ell, or two square
feet, with the result that old tumble-downs often pay more than smaller
modern and useful structures. There is a tax on wheels, so that the
largest automobile pays five dollars a year, as does the poor man’s
donkey-cart. Moreover, this money does not go to the maintenance of
roads, but into the colonial treasury, as does every other cent of
revenue. Under the Danes, even with lottery taxes yielding a hundred
thousand dollars a year, and a large income from liquor taxes, the
islands were never self-supporting. Our income tax in place of these
amounts to little, especially as many find ways to get out of paying it.
The public revenues of the islands are barely a quarter million a year.
We contribute an equal amount directly, and three hundred thousand
dollars a year in navy salaries besides, for the governor and his
assistants get no other recompense than their regular pay as naval
officers. There are a few persons, not Virgin-Islanders of course, who
advocate annexing the group to Porto Rico. Theoretically, this plan
would greatly simplify matters; in practice there would be certain
decided objections to it, though the scheme might be feasible if worked
out with care. Two things are indispensable, however, that during the
life of the present generation the islands be given no more autonomy
than they have at present, and above all that they be taxed by
disinterested outsiders.

A new code of laws, based on those of Alaska and reputed to contain all
the latest improvements in government, has recently been drawn up for
the Virgin Islands. Unfortunately, the colonial council can reject that
code if they see fit; that is another weakness in the treaty. Already
they have marked for the pruning-knife every clause designed to improve
the insular morals. The marriage ceremony, for instance, has never been
taken very seriously by the natives. Unions by mutual consent are so
numerous that our census-takers were forced to include a fifth class in
their returns—the “consentually married.” Illegitimacy runs close to
eighty per cent., far out-distancing even Porto Rico. In fact, the mass
of the islanders have no morality whatever in that particular matter.
Girls of fourteen not only have children, but boast of it. The Danes are
largely to blame for this state of affairs, for there were few of them
who did not leave “gutter children” behind, though it must be admitted
that our own marines and sailors are not setting a much better example.
The negro, being imitative, is particularly quick to copy any easy-going
ways of his superiors; hence there is almost a complete absence of
public sentiment against such unions among the blacks. Formerly a
special excuse was found in the high cost of legal and church marriages,
the fees for which were virtually prohibitive to the poorer classes.
To-day they are only nominal, and many an old couple has been married in
the presence of their grandchildren. The Danish laws compel the father
to contribute two dollars a month to the support of his illegal
children, but though the man seldom denies his possible parentage, the
woman has frequently no unquestionable proof of it. The new code would
force men to marry the mothers of their children.

“But how can we do that?” cried a member of the colonial council, often
referred to as “the best native on the island,” yet who makes no secret
of having his progeny scattered far and wide. “Most of us are married
already; besides, we would have to legalize polygamy to carry out this
proposed law. We are quite willing to continue the two dollars a month
to our outside children, but how can we marry their mothers? They are
not even of our own class!”

Illegitimacy gives rise to another problem. By the Danish laws still in
force every minor must have a guardian, and that guardian cannot be a
woman, even though she be the mother. Her older brother, her father, or
some more distant relative, slightly interested in his task, commonly
becomes the legal sponsor for her fatherless offspring. The duties of a
guardian are, succinctly, to “take charge of the minor’s property,” with
the resultant abuse to be expected. Policemen are now and then appointed
the legal guardians of a dozen or more young rascals, and it goes
without saying that they do not lie awake nights worrying about the
moral and material advancement of their wards.

Another clause that is not likely to escape the blue pencil of the
councils is that giving the authorities the right to search the persons
and carts of those carrying produce and to demand proof of its legal
possession. Yet without some such law there is slight hope of stamping
out the wide-spread larceny of growing crops.

One of our most serious problems in the Virgin Islands is to combat
disease. The Danes had only three doctors on the islands; now sixteen
navy physicians are busy all the time. Their fees are turned into the
colonial treasury, an arrangement nowhere else in force in American
territory. Half the children die as a natural course, though the islands
are really very healthful, and no white child born under proper
conditions has died since American occupation. There is no hookworm and
little malaria; but much pellagra and “big leg,” or elephantiasis.
Tuberculosis is common, and tests indicate that eighty per cent. of the
population is infected with a hereditary blood disease. There is a leper
colony in St. Croix. The present generation, in the opinion of the navy
men, is hopeless. In the improvement of the next they are hampered by
the ignorance, indifference, and superstition of the parents. The
doctors of “West End” found nothing unusual in the case of a baby that
was brought to the hospital already dead because the father had taken it
first to a native healer, who put “chibble” (pot herbs) under its nose
to cure it of acute indigestion.

But there is a worse problem than that facing us in the Virgin
Islands—the elimination of the habit of trying to live off the exertions
of others. Thanks to their race, history, and situation, the islanders
are inveterate, almost unconscious, beggars. Young or old, black or
white—for environment has given even those of Caucasian ancestry almost
the same habits and “ideals” as the negro—they are all gifted with the
extended palm. If they do not all beg individually, they do so
collectively, in a frank, shameless assertion that they cannot support
themselves. The Danes left a “rum fund” that is designed to aid all
those who “have seen better days,” and to judge by the applicants the
entire population ranks itself in that category. The native woman clerk
at the “West End” police station does not hesitate to give any one, even
the four-dollars-a-day sugar-porters on the wharves, a certificate that
he is unable to pay for medical attention, though the navy doctors’ fees
are nominal and, even when they are paid, go into the colonial treasury.
The admiral-governor gave a reception to the natives. Food was provided
for five hundred—and was carried off by the first hundred street women
and urchins who surged through the door. Next day a large crowd came to
demand their share, saying they had got nothing the day before. One of
the “labor leaders” told the negroes of St. Croix to hide their mahogany
bedsteads and phonographs and sleep on drygoods boxes while the
congressional committee was scheduled to visit the island. Of the entire
crowd appearing before that committee not one had the general good of
the islands on his lips, but all came with some petty personal complaint
or request.

In short our new wards want all they can get out of us. They want Uncle
Sam to provide them with schools, with sanitation, with irrigation, with
galvanized hillsides, with roads—even in St. Croix, which has better
highways than almost any State in the Union—with public markets, with
libraries, with means of public transportation, with anything else
which, in his unsophisticated generosity, he chooses to give, so long as
he does not require them to contribute their own means and labor to that
end. The colonial council of St. Croix “hopes means will be found to get
Congress to appropriate a half million a year, a sum far beyond our own
means, so that we can live up to the high ideals of our great American
nation.” It never seems to occur to them that the schools, libraries,
and streets in our cities are paid for by the inhabitants thereof; they
have the popular view of Uncle Sam as the world’s Santa Claus. Yet many
of the very members of that council have made fortunes in St. Croix and
probably could themselves pay a large part of the sum demanded without
any more difficulty than the average American finds in paying his taxes.
Naïve as they are, the Virgin Islanders can scarcely expect Americans to
adopt them and never let them work or want again, yet they talk as if
they had some such thought in mind. Or, as a congressman put it during a
public hearing, “I doubt whether the farmers of my State of Kansas will
be willing to get up at four all summer and pay money into the federal
treasury so that you can sleep until nine in the morning and stroll in
the park the rest of the day.”

There is no reason why the Virgin-Islanders should not be sufficiently
taxed to support their own schools and other requirements. Even if St.
Thomas is now largely barren, many of its shopkeepers are steadily
growing wealthy. The Danish planters of St. Croix send fortunes home to
Denmark every year; at the present price of sugar they alone should be
able easily to contribute a sum equal to that they are demanding from
Congress. Should not even dollar-a-day negroes pay something in taxes?
It might develop their civic spirit. The Virgin-Islanders need many
things, it is true; but there are millions living in, and paying taxes
to, the United States who have by no means what almost every
Virgin-Islander has, or could have for a little exertion. The future of
the islands depends largely on whether or not we succumb to our national
tendency to make our wards mendicants for life, or give them a start and
let them work their own way through the college of civilization.

Whenever I look back upon our new possessions I remember a significant
little episode that took place during our first day in St. Thomas. A
negro woman was sitting a short way up one of the great street stairways
that climb the hills of Charlotte Amalie. A descending friend paused to
ask her what was the matter, and she replied in that slow, whining
singsong peculiar to the community:

“Me knees jes wilfully refuse to carry me up dem steps.”

That is the trouble with most of the Virgin-Islanders. Their own knees
jes wilfully refuse to carry them up the stairway of civilization. They
will have to be lifted—or booted.



                        THE BRITISH WEST INDIES



                              CHAPTER XIV
                          THE CARIBBEE ISLANDS


Once he has reached our Virgin Islands, the traveler down the
stepping-stones of the West Indies has left his worst experiences behind
him. For while connections are rare and precarious between the large
islands of the north Caribbean, the tiny ones forming its eastern
boundary are favored with frequent and comfortable intercommunication.
Several steamship lines from the north make St. Thomas their first stop,
and pausing a day or two in every island of any importance beyond, give
the through traveler all the time he can spend to advantage in all but
three or four of the Lesser Antilles. In these he can drop off for a
more extended exploration and catch the next steamer a week or two
later.

A twelve-hour run from St. Croix, with a glimpse of the tiny Dutch
islands of Saba and St. Eustatius, peering above the sea like drowning
volcanoes, brought us to what the British so familiarly call St. Kitts.
Columbus named it St. Christopher, one legend having it that he
discovered it on his own patron saint’s day, another that he saw in its
form a resemblance to that worthy carrying in his arms the infant Jesus.
The resemblance is not apparent to the critical eye, but the admirals of
those days, you recall, were not compelled to take their grape-juice
unfermented. Besides, we must not be too hard upon the busy “old man” of
the caravel fleet. With a sailor thrusting his head into the cabin every
hour or so to say, “Another island, _vuestra merced_; what shall we call
it?” it was natural that the Genoese, having no modern novels at hand,
should curse his gout and hobble across to the saints’ calendar on the
opposite bulkhead.

St. Kitts has more nearly the form of a heaping plate of curry and
rice—curious this should not have occurred to the galley-fed
seaman—culminating in Mt. Misery, four thousand and some feet high, with
an eight hundred foot crater nicely proportioned to hold the curry and
still steaming with clouds of vapor that habitually conceal its summit.
From the shores to the steeper heights of the mountain the swiftly
sloping island is covered with sugar-cane; above that the woods are said
to be full of monkeys, descendants of the pets which British soldiers
brought with them when St. Kitts was a bone of contention between the
French and the English. With one slight exception, this and the
neighboring island of Nevis are the only West Indies inhabited by our
racial ancestors, which are so troublesome that their direct descendants
below have given up trying to plant their gardens more than half-way up
the mountains.

Though St. Kitts was the first island of the West Indies to be settled
by the English, antedating even ultra-British Barbados in that regard by
nearly two years, its capital bears the French name of Basse Terre. It
is an uninteresting town of some seven thousand inhabitants, scarcely
one in a hundred of whom boast of a family tree wholly free from African
graftings, and most of them living in unpainted, weather-blackened,
shingle cabins hidden away in the forests of cocoanut palms. Even the
larger houses in the center of town are chiefly built of clapboards or
shingles, painted only by the elements, and with narrow little eaves
that give them the air of wearing hats several sizes too small for them.
The sums that are uselessly squandered on window-glass would easily
suffice to give the entire town a sadly needed coating of paint, were it
not that all such improvements are taxed out of existence, as in most of
the British West Indies. The only pleasant spot in town is a kind of
Spanish plaza run wild, generously shaded with royal palms and spreading
tropical trees, beneath which the grass stands ankle-high and hens pilot
their broods about among the brown windrows of fallen leaves. Its
unshaven condition rather enhances a certain rustic beauty that is not
marred by an unexpectedly artistic old stone fountain in its center.
Beyond the last lopsided negro hovels Basse Terre is surrounded by
cane-fields, with Mt. Misery piled into the sky close behind them.

We had the misfortune to first land in British territory on a Sunday.
Basse Terre was as dead as if a general funeral were just over. It was
not simply that we bemoaned with the tourist-minded fellow-countrymen
from the steamer the fact that every “Liquor Store” was tight and
genuinely closed; the dreary lifelessness of the whole place got on our
nerves. The very trade wind seemed to refrain from any unnecessary
exertion; the citizens appeared to have given even their minds a holiday
and replied to the simplest questions with a vacant stare. It was a
“holy day” as truly as a French or Spanish Sunday is a “day of feast,”
or “festival.” I imagine heaven is much like an English community on a
Sunday—so piously dull that a new inmate would soon be on his knees
imploring the gatekeeper to let him go to the only other available
place.

At eleven o’clock four species of church service broke out, the
Anglican, Catholic, Moravian, and what a black policeman in a white
blouse and helmet and the deliberate airs of a London “bobby” referred
to in a Sunday whisper as the “Whistling.” We went. One was forced to,
in self-defense and for the utter absence of any other form of
amusement. Then we understood why the community could endure the
apparent lack of recreation and exercise of its deadly Sabbath. Negroes
striving to maintain the cold, calm, rather bored English manner from
opening hymn to benediction supplied the former, and the ups and downs
of the Anglican service furnished the latter.

We found St. Kitts more down-at-heel, more indolent, less self-relying
than even our Virgin Islands. The shingle shacks of Basse Terre were
more miserable than those of St. Thomas; the swarms of negroes loafing
under the palm trees about them were as ragged as they were lazy and
insolent. Conrad’s “Nigger of the Narcissus,” you may recall, came from
St. Kitts. His replica, except in the genuineness of his ailment, could
be seen in any patch of shade. A white stranger strolling through the
poorer section was the constant target of foul language and even more
loathsome annoyances from both sexes and all ages; in the center of town
his footsteps were constantly dogged by clamoring urchins who replied to
the slightest protest with streams of curses even in the presence of
white residents and the serenely unconscious negro policemen. The
inhabitants were incorrigible beggars, from street loafers to church
wardens; even the island postmaster begged, under the pretense of
selling a historical pamphlet; the country people left their “work” in
the fields to shout for alms from the passer-by.

A highway encircles the island, which is twenty-three miles long and
five wide. It flanks Brimstone Hill, sometimes called the “Gibraltar of
the West Indies” in memory of the part it played in the wars between the
French and English for the control of the Caribbean. Cane-fields spread
with monotonous sameness on either side of the moderately well-kept
roads, with here and there an old stone tower that was once a windmill
and what seems many chimneys to one who recalls how seldom two are seen
in the same horizon in Cuba. On the whole, the island is not to be
compared with St. Croix; despite its abundance of sugar it has a
poverty-stricken air, for St. Kitts seems to have lost its “pep,” if
ever it had any.

It took two days to unload our one-day’s cargo in the harbor of Basse
Terre. The local stevedores were on strike and their places had been
taken by less experienced men from the neighboring island of Nevis. This
had magnified the constant enmity between the St. Kittens—or whatever is
the proper term—and the inhabitants of “that other country,” as they
called it; but it was an enmity without violence, except of words,
torrents of words in what close observers assert are two distinct
dialects, though the islands are separated only by a narrow channel. The
strikers, to all appearances, felt they had won their chief aim by being
allowed to lie on their backs in the shade of the cocoanut palms.

The steamer’s loss was my gain, for the delay gave me time to visit the
island Columbus named “Nieve” from the snow-like clouds hovering about
it. Open sailing scows, perhaps three times the size of a lifeboat, were
constantly plying across the bay between the two capitals. The wind was
on the beam in both directions, and a dozen times I was convinced that
the waves that splashed continuously over the leeward gunwale of the
creaking old tub would fill her at the next squall sweeping through the
deep channel between the islands. But each time the simple son of Nevis
at the tiller met my questioning gaze with “Not blow too bad to-day,
boss,” now and then adding the reassuring information that several boats
were lost here every year. High on the windward gunwale the plunging of
the crude vessel was exhilarating in spite of the apparent danger, but
the negro women in their flashy dresses, tin bracelets, and much cheap
jewelry, who sprawled together in the bottom of the boat in supreme
indifference to the bilge-water and filth that sloshed back and forth
over them seemed to find nothing agreeable in the experience.

The craft half righted herself at length under the lee of the island,
heaped up into the clouds in similar but more abrupt and compact form
than St. Kitts. One scarcely needed to go ashore to see the place, so
nicely were its sights spread out on the steeply tilted landscape. Like
its neighbor it was but slightly wooded on its lower slopes, but made up
for this by the dense vegetation of its monkey-infested heights. One
made out a few groves of cocoanuts, patches of cotton, and green
stretches of sugar-cane, with here and there a windmill tower, one of
which still survived, its slowly turning arms giving a mild suggestion
of the Azores. Charlestown soon appeared out on the end of a low point,
a modest little town with a few red roofs peering through the cocoanut
trees. Gingertown, five miles in the interior, and the village of
Newcastle farther down the coast are the only other places of any size,
though the island is everywhere well populated. Time was when Nevis was
a famous watering place for Europe and America, with thermal baths and
medicinal waters, and an important capital named Jamestown, from which
all this region of the Caribbean was ruled. But the city was destroyed
one day by an earthquake and submerged beneath the sea, where some of
its coral-encrusted ruins can still be seen not far from the shore.
Natural causes led to the island’s gradual isolation, and to-day, though
its hot baths are exploited by an American owned hotel, it becomes
highly excited at the arrival of a stranger from the outside world.

Charlestown had little of the insolence of St. Kitts, though it was by
no means free from beggars. Its masses were more naïve in manner, even
more ragged of garb. Nine pence a day is the average adult male wage of
even those who succeed in finding work. _Obeah_, or African witchcraft,
seemed still to maintain a hold, for even the native bank clerk who
piloted me about town acknowledged a belief in certain forms of it. Two
or three blocks from the little triangular park that marks the center of
town are the ruins of a gray stone building in which Alexander Hamilton
is reputed to have been born. British visitors are more interested in
the house where Nelson lived and the little church in which he was
married to the widow Nisbet, two miles up the sloping hillside. Love for
England does not greatly flourish in Nevis, if one may take surface
indications as evidence.

“We are ruled over by an autocrat, a white Barbadian magistrate,”
complained an islander of the better class, while the group about him
nodded approval. “England takes everything from us and does nothing for
us. If it were not for the prohibition that would come with it, we would
be glad to see the island under American rule.”

                  *       *       *       *       *

A forty-mile run during the night brought us to Antigua. Steamers anchor
so far off shore that a government launch is required to do the work
performed in most of the Lesser Antilles by rowboats. For though there
is a splendid double harbor on the opposite side of the island, the
English cling to their invariable Caribbean rule of building the capital
and only city on the leeward shore. Two pretty headlands are passed on
the way in, the more prominent of them occupied by a leper asylum; both
are crowned by fortresses dating back to the days when England fought to
maintain her hold on the West Indies. From the bay St. John’s presents
an agreeable picture in the morning sunlight, an ancient two-towered
cathedral bulking above the greenery constituting the most conspicuous
landmark. It is much more of a town than Basse Terre, though with the
same wooden, shingled, often unpainted houses, and wide, unattractive,
right-angled streets. What energy it may once have had seems largely to
have departed, and for all its size it has the air of a half-forgotten
village. Its shops open at seven, close from nine to ten for breakfast,
and put up their shutters for the day at four. On closer inspection the
cathedral proves to be two churches, one of wood enclosed within another
of stone, as a protection against earthquakes. The negro women of the
market-place are given to the display of brilliant calicos, but the
population as a whole has little of the color,—except in complexion—the
dignity, and that suggestion of Gallic grace of the French islanders.

Antigua, thirteen by nine miles, is lower and less mountainous than St.
Kitts, being of limestone rather than volcanic formation, with less
luxuriant vegetation, having been almost wholly denuded of its forests.
In consequence, it suffers somewhat for lack of rainfall, though it is
almost everywhere cultivated, and offers many a pretty vista of rolling
landscape, usually with a patch of sea at the end of it. Sugar-cane is
by far its most important product, though corn-fields here and there
break the lighter green monotony, and limes and onions are piled high in
crates on St. John’s water-front. The island roads are tolerable.
Automobiles, mainly of the Ford variety, make it possible for the
traveler to see its “sights” in a few hours with less damage to the
exchequer than in many of the West Indies. Women in rather graceless
colored turbans are more numerous than men in the cane-fields, where
wages average 4½ pence per hundred holes of cane, whether for planting,
hoeing, or cutting, making the daily wage of the majority about fifteen
cents. What they do with all that money is a problem we found no time to
solve, though there were evidences that a fair proportion of it is
invested in native rum. Like all the world, Antigua has had her share of
labor troubles during the past few years. Two seasons ago much cane was
burned by the incensed workers, but the killing of several and the
wounding of some thirty more by government troops has settled the wage
problem on its old basis. Though many abandoned estates, with the
familiar square brick chimneys and armless windmill towers, dot the
landscape, two sugar factories to-day consume virtually all the cane.
They are rather old-fashioned institutions, with no such pretty,
well-planned _bateys_ and comfortable employee-houses as are to be found
in Cuba and Porto Rico. The hauling is chiefly done by tippy two-wheeled
carts, drawn by mules in tandem, occasionally by oxen, specially
designed, it would seem, to spill their loads each time an automobile
forces them to the edge of the road. Mangos and bamboo, in certain
sections clumps of cactus and patches of that troublesome thorny
vegetation which the Cubans call _aroma_, are the chief landscape
decorations, except on the tops of the scrub-fuzzy, rather than forested
hills. Shacks covered with shingles from mudsill to roof-tree,
interspersed with fewer thatched and once whitewashed huts, all of them
somewhat less miserable than those of St. Kitts, house the country
people in scattered formation or occasional clusters bearing such
misnomers as All Saints’ Village. Like most of the Lesser Antilles,
Antigua was once French, but it has retained less of the patois than the
other islands of similar history.

The goal of most mere visitors to Antigua is English Harbor on the
windward coast, two almost landlocked blue basins in which Nelson
refitted his fleet in preparation for the battle of Trafalgar. Here
stand several massive stone buildings, occupied now only by the negro
caretaker and his family. In the great stone barracks is a patch of wall
decorated by the none too artistic hand of the present King George, then
a sub-lieutenant in the British navy, wishing in vari-colored large
letters “A Merry Christmas 2 You All,” the space being reverently
covered now by a padlocked pair of shutters. More popular with the
romantic-minded is the immense anchor serving as gravestone of one,
Lieutenant Peterson. The lieutenant, runs the story, was the rival of
his commanding officer for the hand of the island belle. On the eve of a
naval ball he was ordered not to offer the young lady his escort. He
appeared with her at the height of the festivities, however, she having
declined in his favor the attentions of the commander, whereupon the
latter shot the lieutenant for disobeying orders and caused him to be
buried that same night in the barracks compound.

Patriotism for the empire to which they belong is not one of the chief
characteristics of the Antiguans. Indeed, there is “no love whatever”
for England, if we are to believe most of those with whom I talked on
the subject.

“There never was any, even in the old days,” asserted a man whose
parents emigrated from England half a century ago. “Before the war,” he
continued, “England would not buy her sugar in the West Indies because
she could get it cheaper from the beet-growers in Germany and Austria,
thanks to their government bounty. The sugar we sent to England often
lay on the wharves over there for months, until we had to send money to
pay wharfage and storage, and feed our sugar to the hogs here at home.
Once we enjoyed home rule; now our laws are made by the Secretary for
the West Indies in London, who thinks we wear breech-clouts and speak
some African dialect. They take everything from us in taxes and do
nothing for us in return. Our governor thinks his only duty is to hold
us down. He tries to be a little tin god, permits no one else to ride in
the public launch with him when he goes out to a ship, and all that sort
of thing. He came here two years ago from a similar position in one of
our African colonies, where he was accustomed to see everyone bring him
gifts and bow their heads in the sand whenever he passed. He got a
surprise when he landed here. Except for a few nigger policemen, no one
paid him any attention whatever, except that the drunken fellows shouted
after him in the streets and called him foul names. We had no
conscription here, yet we sent a large contingent. The well-to-do whites
paid their way home to enlist; the poor ones went over with the niggers
and were slowly picked out after they got over there. And England has
not done a thing for a man of them. The blacks are angry because they
got no promotion and all the dirtiest jobs. Mighty few of us would go
again to fight for the blooming Empire.”

Antigua is the capital of what the British call, for political purposes,
the Leeward Islands, comprising all their holdings between Santa Cruz
and Martinique. Geographically this is a misnomer, the real leeward
islands being the Greater Antilles, from Cuba to Porto Rico inclusive,
and all the Lesser Antilles the windward islands, as the Spaniards
recognized and still maintain. But the unnatural division serves the
purpose for which it was made. St. John’s is the seat of the governor
and the archbishop of all the group, with the principal prison and
asylum. Anguilla, far to the north, near the Dutch-French island of St.
Martin, is of coral formation, comparatively low and flat. The same may
be said of Barbuda, large as Antigua and reputed to have gone back to
nature under the improvident descendants of the slaves of the Codrington
family that long reigned supreme upon it. Montserrat, on the other hand,
is very mountainous, a flat-topped, pyramidal fragment of earth
thirty-five square miles in extent, its lower slopes planted with limes
and cacao, its upper reaches forest-clad. White ribbons of roads set
forth from Plymouth, the capital, in what looks like a determined effort
to scale the precipitous heights, but soon give up the attempt. The
population of the island is mainly negro-Irish, it having been settled
by emigrants from the “Old Sod,” so that to this day Irish names
predominate, freckled red-heads with African features are numerous, and
the inhabitants are noted throughout the West Indies for their brogue
and their gift of blarney.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Dominica, the southernmost and largest of the misnamed Leeward Islands,
is also entitled to several other superlatives. Most of the West Indies
boast themselves the “Queen of the Antilles,” but none with more justice
than this tiny Porto Rico isolated between the two principal islands of
“French America.” It is the highest of the Lesser Antilles, Mt.
Diablotin stretching 5314 feet into the tropical sky; the wettest, being
habitually surrounded by blue-black clouds that pour forth their deluges
by night or by day, in or out of season, even when all the sky about it
is translucent blue; and the world’s greatest enemy of the scurvy, for
it produces most of that fruit which has given the British sailor the
nickname of “limy.” Incidentally, it is the most difficult of the West
Indies in which to travel.

Roseau, the capital, sits right out on the Caribbean, the mountains
climbing directly, without an instant’s hesitation, into the sky behind
it. They are as sheer beneath water as above it and the steamer anchors
within an easy stone’s throw of the wharves. Boatmen in curious little
board canoes, showing their wooden ribs within and bearing such French
names as “Dieu Donne,” quickly surround the new arrival, some of them
bent on carrying her passengers ashore at a shilling a head, others to
dive for pennies thrown into this deepest-blue of seas, which is yet so
transparent that both coin and swimmer can be perfectly seen as far down
as lungs will carry them. Boats of the same quaint structure and only
slightly larger jockey for position along the ship’s side to receive the
cargo from her hatches. They are unreliable and poorly adapted for the
purpose, but their owners stick together in protecting their monopoly
and every modern lighter brought to Dominica has invariably been
scuttled within a week. Almost within the shadow of the steamer other
men are standing stiffly erect in the extreme stern of their fishing
canoes, steering them by almost imperceptible movements of their single
crude paddle, while their companions cast their nets or throw stones
within them to lure the fish to the surface. Immense hauls they make,
too, without going a hundred yards from the shore. How many fish there
must be in the sea when thousands of fishermen can ply their trade about
each of these West Indian stepping-stones the year round and come home
every day laden to the gunwales with their catches!

Roseau is scarcely more than a village. It is so small that all its
business is carried on within plain sight from the steamer’s deck,
though it strives to look very important with its few two-story stone
buildings, like a Briton in foreign parts aware that he must uphold the
national dignity unassisted. It is less given to wooden structures than
many of its rivals, and has a more aged, solid air, at least along the
water-front. An age-softened gray stone church that looks almost
Spanish, with an extraordinary width within, like a market-hall filled
with pews, and bilingual signs above the confessionals bearing the names
of French priests, seems conscious of its mastery over the few small
Protestant chapels. Higher still is one of the most magnificent little
botanical gardens in the world, with hundreds of tropical specimens
arranged with the unobtrusive orderliness of an English park.

I visited Dominica twice, and on the second occasion, having from early
morning until midnight, hired a horse to ride across the island. Roseau
Valley, a great sloping glen like a cleft in the mountains, climbs
swiftly upward to the clouds behind the town, a rock-boiling river,
surprisingly large for so small an island, pouring down it. At the
bridge across the stream on the edge of town is what claims to be the
greatest lime-juice factory on earth. I use both words with misgiving,
for it is no more a factory in our sense of the term than the white
lumps it ships away to a scurvy-dreading world are juice. Toward this a
constant stream of limes, which we would be more apt to call lemons, is
descending. Women and girls come trotting down out of the mountains with
bushel baskets of them, now and then sitting down on a boulder to rest
but never troubling to take the incredible load off their heads. Donkeys
with enormous straw saddle-bags heaped high with limes pick their way
more cautiously down the steep slope. Occasionally even a man deigns to
jog to town with a load of the fruit. They lie everywhere in great
yellow heaps under the low trees; they weigh down the usually
rain-dripping branches. Yet when they have been grown and picked and
carried all the way to town, they sell for a mere seven shillings a
barrel! Small wonder the human pack-horses and even the growers are more
extraordinarily ragged than any other West Indians outside of Haiti.

Cacao plants, too, are piled up the steeps on either side of the roaring
river, for Dominica has that constant humidity and more than frequent
rainfall they love so well. The unbroken density of the greenery is one,
perhaps the chief, charm of the valley, as of all the island. Nowhere in
all the climb does the eye make out the suggestion of a clearing. Where
man has not pitched his lime or cacao orchards, or planted his tiny
garden patch, nature forces the fertile black soil to produce to its
utmost capacity. It is an un-American density, as of an Oriental jungle,
all but completely concealing the miserable little huts tucked away in
it all over the lower hillsides; it makes up for the constant succession
of heavy showers that belie the sunny promises of the town and harbor
below. For the mountains of Dominica have an annual rainfall of three
hundred inches, twenty-five feet of water a year!

There are forty automobiles on the island of lemons, but they do not
venture far from home. The highway up the valley lasts a bare three
miles before it dwindles to a mountain trail that struggles constantly
upward, now steeply along the brink of the river far below, now in stony
zigzags that make no real progress, for all their pretense, except in
altitude. One has a curiously shut-in feeling, as if there were no
escape from the mighty ravine except by the narrow, slippery path
underfoot, which is, indeed, the case. Not even the jet black
inhabitants inured to mountain-climbing from birth, have attempted to
scale the heights by more direct paths than this zigzag trail up the
roof-steep bottom of the gorge. They speak among themselves a “creole”
as incomprehensible, even to one familiar with French, as that of Haiti,
though they babbled a bit of English that seemed to grow less fluent and
extensive with every mile away from the capital. There the white
stranger was subjected to an insolence and clamoring at his heels
inferior only in volume to that of St. Kitts; up here in the mountains
the passers-by yielded the trail and raised their ragged headgear with a
rustic politeness that would have been more charming had it not almost
invariably been followed by “A penny, please, sir” from both sexes and
all ages. For all their mountaineer diffidence, they are so given to
stealing one another’s crops that shops throughout the island are
“Licensed to Sell Protected Produce,” that the police may have a means
of detecting contraband. Perhaps they are scarcely to be blamed for
their light-fingered habits, with wages that rarely reach the lofty
height of a shilling a day.

The horse had leisurely English manners and the deliberate, loose-kneed
action of a St. Thomas waiter, so that we made far less progress than
his rangy form had promised. He showed, too, little of that endurance
and mountain wisdom for which the far smaller animals of tropical
America are noted. We reached the crest of the island at last, however,
and paused on the edge of a small fresh-water lake said to fill the
crater of an extinct volcano. Sedge-grass surrounded it and dense
vegetation framed it on every side, but there was nothing remarkable
about it, except, perhaps, to the Dominicans. But the wealth of flora
was well worth the excursion. Tree-ferns, ferns large and small, wild
bananas, lime-trees, clumps of bamboo, and a score of other plants and
trees which only a botanist with tropical experience could name,
completely concealed the earth, as the trunks of all the larger species
were hidden under climbing parasites with immense leaves, and even the
sheer banks were covered with densest vegetation.

A fog, white and luminous, yet impenetrable to the eye at more than
twenty yards, covered all the island top. I urged the animal down a far
steeper, more stony, trail than that we had climbed, cut deeper than a
horseman’s head into the red-black mountainside and pitching headlong
downward into the foggy void. A half hour of utter stillness, broken now
and then by the brief song of the solitaire and the constant stumbling
of the horse’s hoofs over the stones, brought us suddenly to the edge of
the cloud, with a magnificent view of the jagged northern coast edged by
the white breakers of the Atlantic. A few negroes again appeared,
climbing easily upward, carrying their shoes on their heads, an
excellent place to wear them at present prices. Now and then an aged,
carelessly constructed hut peered out from the teeming wilderness, but
the sense of the primeval, the uninhabited, the unknown to man, brooded
over all the scene despite these and the stony trail underfoot.

Halfway down I met two Carib Indians, easily distinguishable from the
bulk of the inhabitants by their features and color. They were short and
muscular, with more of the aggressive air of the Mexican highlander than
the slinking demeanor of the South American aborigines. They carried
their home-made baskets full of some native produce on their shoulders,
rather than on their heads, and apparently spoke but little English.
They came from the Carib reservation on the north coast, the only one
now left in all the West Indies over which, except for the four larger
islands, their man-eating ancestors ruled supreme until long after the
discovery. When at length, after long warfare, England entered into a
treaty with them, they were given two patches of territory for their
own. But the eruption of Soufrière in St. Vincent in 1902 destroyed the
colony on that island, and to-day the three hundred of Dominica are the
only ones left, and barely forty of these, it is said, are of pure
blood. They live at peace with their neighbors, make baskets, catch
fish, and are noted for their industry, as wild tribes go, in
agriculture.

More than halfway down to sea-level huts began to grow frequent again,
most of them completely covered with shingles and all of them devoid of
any but the scantiest home-made furniture. Ragged, useless-looking
inhabitants stood in the doorways staring at the extraordinary
apparition of a white man, many of them calling out in cheerful voices
for alms as I passed. Dominica is evidently an island without
timepieces; almost everyone I met wanted to know the hour, just why was
not apparent, since time seemed to have less than no value to them. My
watch having been stolen in Havana and I having declined to tempt West
Indians again by buying another, I could not satisfy their curiosity.
Besides, the Caribbean is no place in which to worry about time; the
fact that the sun rises and sets is all the division of eternity needed
in such an African Eden.

At Rosalie, an old-fashioned sugar-mill and a scattering of huts on the
north coast, I made a calculation. The sun was high overhead; it could
not be later than two; the map in my hand showed the distance around the
eastern end of the island to be less than twice that over the mountain;
a coast road would be comparatively level and much to be preferred to
another climb of 2500 feet on a jaded horse. Besides, I have a strong
antipathy to returning the same way I have come. I made a few inquiries.
The childlike inhabitants on this coast spoke almost no English and
nothing that could easily be recognized as French, but they seemed to
understand both tongues readily enough. I had only to ask if it were
about four hours ride to the capital to be assured that such was the
case. It was not until too late that I realized they were giving me the
answer they thought would please me best, like most uncivilized tribes,
with perfect indifference to the facts of the case. Any distance I chose
to assume in my question was invariably the exact distance; when I awoke
to my error and took to asking direct instead of leading questions, the
reply was invariably a soft “Yes, sir,” with an instant readiness to
change to “No, sir,” if anything in my manner suggested that I preferred
a negative answer. But by this time I was too far along the coast-road
to turn back.

I had only myself to blame for what soon promised to be a pretty
predicament. Certainly I had traveled enough in uncivilized countries to
know such people cannot be depended upon for even approximate accuracy
in matters of distance or time. I surely was mountain-experienced enough
to realize that an island as small and as lofty as Dominica could have
but little level land, even along the coast. As a matter of fact it had
virtually none at all. Never did the atrocious trail find a hundred
yards of flat going. One after another, in dogged, insistent,
disheartening succession, the great forest-clad buttresses of the island
plunged steeply down to the sea, forcing the stony path to claw its way
upward or make enormous detours around the intervening hollows, only to
pitch instantly down again from each hard-earned height into a mighty
ravine, beyond which another appalling mountain-wall blocked the horizon
immediately ahead. To make matters worse, the horse began to show all
too evident signs of giving out. In vain did I lash him with such
weapons as I could snatch from the jungle-wall alongside, not daring to
take time to dismount and seek a better cudgel. Steadily, inevitably,
his pace, none too good at the best, decreased. By what I took to be
four o’clock he could not be urged out of a slow walk, even on the rare
bits of level going; by five he was merely crawling, his knees visibly
trembling, coming every few yards to a complete halt from which he could
be driven only by all the punishment I could inflict upon him. His
condition was one to draw tears, but it was no time to be compassionate.
The steamer was sailing at midnight. It would be the last one in that
direction for two weeks. Rachel was waiting to join me on it at
Martinique and continue to Barbados. No one on board knew I had gone on
an excursion into the hills, nor even that I had left the steamer. My
possessions would be found scattered about my stateroom; by the time the
ship reached Martinique it would be assumed that I had fallen overboard
or suffered some equally pleasant fate. I had barely the equivalent of
five dollars on my person, not an extra pair of socks, not even a
toothbrush—and the Dominica cable was broken. Clearly it was no time to
spare the cudgel.

But it was of no use. Near sunset the horse took to stumbling to his
knees at every step. For long minutes he stood doggedly in his tracks,
trembling from head to foot. The sweat of fatigue, as well as heat, ran
in rivulets down his flanks. I tumbled off and tried to lead him. We
were climbing another of those incessant, interminable buttresses. With
all my strength I could only drag him a few creeping steps at a time.
After each short advance he sat down lifelessly on his haunches. If I
abandoned him in the trail there was no knowing whether the owners would
ever see him again; certainly they would not the saddle and bridle, and
the owners were a simple mulatto family of Roseau who could ill bear
such a loss. But I could scarcely risk further delay. The sun was
drowning in the Caribbean; the hazy form of Martinique thirty miles away
was still on my port bow, so to speak, showing that I had not yet turned
the point of the island, that I was not yet halfway to Roseau. It was
stupid of me not to have realized before that Dominica, for all its
scant 35,000 ignorant inhabitants, was almost as large as the French
island in the offing, and that to encircle one end of it was a stiff
all-day job.

[Illustration: Roseau, capital of beautiful Dominica]

[Illustration: A woman of Dominica bringing a load of limes down from
the mountain]

[Illustration: Kingstown, capital of St. Vincent]

[Illustration: Trafalgar Square, Bridgetown, Barbados, with its statue
of Nelson]

I was on the point of abandoning the animal when I caught sight of a man
climbing the trail far ahead of us, the first person I had seen in more
than an hour. I shouted, and for some time fancied he had dashed off
into the wilderness out of fear. Then a break in the vegetation showed
him again, and this time he halted. We reached him at last, a stodgy
negro youth in the remnants of hat, shirt, and trousers who stood at
attention, like a soldier, at the extreme edge of the trail, an
expression between fear and respectful attention on his stupid black
countenance.

“How far is it to Roseau?” I panted.

“Yes, sir,” he replied, seeming to poise himself for a dive into the
jungle void behind him.

“How many miles to Roseau?” I repeated, “five or ten or—”

“Yes, sir,” he reiterated, shifting his mammoth bare feet uneasily.

“I want to know the distance to the city,” I cried, unwisely raising my
voice in my haste and thereby all but causing him to bolt. “Can I make
it in six hours?”

“Yes, sir,” he answered, quickly. Then, evidently seeing that I was not
pleased with the answer, he added hastily, “N—No, sir.”

“_Est-ce qu’ on peut le faire en six heures?_” I hazarded, but he seemed
to understand French even less than English and stared at me mutely. The
brilliant idea of wasting no more time passed through the place my mind
should have been. I snatched out my note-book and pencil.

“What’s your name?” I asked. “Can you write?”

He could, to the extent of laboriously and all but illegibly penciling
his name, to which I added his address, a tiny hamlet up in the
mountains. I explained the situation to him briefly in words of one
syllable. He seemed to follow me. At least he answered “Yes, sir” at the
end of each sentence.

“You will take the horse to the police-station in Grand Bay,” I
specified, having gathered from my map and his monosyllables that this
was the next town. “I will tell the police there what to do with him,
and I will leave five shillings with them to give you if you bring
horse, saddle and bridle, and do not try to ride him on the way.”

“Yes sir,” he replied, taking the reins I held out to him, and I turned
and fled into the swiftly descending night.

I have climbed many mountains in my day, but none that were as wearying
as that endless succession of lofty ridges up the stony sides of which I
stumbled hour after hour in a darkness as black as the bottom of a well,
only to plunge instantly down again into another mighty, invisible
ravine. Several times I lost the trail; how I kept it at all is a
mystery. As I strained forward with every ounce of strength within me I
caught myself thanking fortune, or whoever has my particular case on his
books, that I had been a tramp all my days and had kept myself fit for
such an ordeal. Now and then I passed through a “town,” that is, what
voices told me was a scattered collection of huts hidden in the
vegetation and the night on either side of the trail, for a hundred
yards or two, along which a few ghostlike figures of negroes in white
garments dodged aside at sound of my shod footsteps, each time soon
giving way again to the deep stillness of an uninhabited wilderness,
broken only by the monotonous chorus of jungle insects. Which of these
places was Grand Bay I had no time to inquire, much less batter my head
against the native stupidity for sufficient time to find the
police-station and make known my case to slow-witted black officials. I
would think up some other way of meeting my obligations when I had
accomplished the more pressing mission on hand.

Once the trail came out on the very edge of the sea, crawling along
under the face of a sheer towering cliff, the spray dashing up to my
very feet; a dozen times it climbed what seemed almost perpendicularly
into the invisible, starless sky above for what appeared to my wasting
strength to be hours. I had eaten a hasty breakfast on board early that
morning. Four bananas was the sum total of food I had been able to get
along the way. My thighs trembled like the legs of a foundering horse;
more than once my wobbling knees seemed on the very point of giving way
beneath me. The rain had kindly held off all afternoon, an unusual boon
in Dominica, but the pace I was forced to set had so drenched me in
perspiration that it dripped in almost a stream from the end of my
leather belt.

Then all at once, at the top of an ascent I had told myself a score of
times I could never make, the lights of Roseau burst upon me, far below
yet seemingly no great distance away. There were a few lights in what
seemed to be the harbor, but not enough of them to be sure they were
those of a passenger-steamer. Yet hope suddenly stiffened my legs as
starch does a wilted collar. The town quickly disappeared again as I
plunged down a stony but wide highway that had suddenly grown up under
my feet. Several times I was convinced it led somewhere else than where
I hoped, so incredibly interminable was the descent to the town that had
seemed so near. Even when I caught sight of it again, where the road
grew suddenly level, it lay far down the coast, as far, it seemed, as it
had been from the top of the range. But the steamer was still there. I
broke into a feeble run, for it could not possibly have been much short
of midnight, but fell back into a walk when my legs had all but crumpled
under me. Never had a small town seemed so interminably long. Once I
passed a “nighthawk” and shouted a question at him over my shoulder.
“About twelve,” he replied, little suspecting the surge of despair his
words sent through me. As luck would have it, one boatman had remained
at the wharf in hope of a belated shilling. He got two. I had just begun
to wring the perspiration out of my coat into my cabin washstand when a
long blast of the siren and the chugging of the engines told me that we
had gotten under way.

Lest some ungentle reader carry away the impression that I had increased
the slight disrepute in which Americans are held in Dominica—for our
tourists land there frequently—may I add that I settled in full all my
obligations there through the purser of the steamer on its return
voyage? But to drop painful subjects and hark back to that other visit
to Dominica. Then we left at noon, and Roseau settled back into another
week’s sleep. There were several pretty villages tucked away in the
greenery along the shore, some of them with wide cobbled streets, though
hardly a yard of level ground, and each with a church just peering above
the fronds of the cocoanuts. A highway crawled as far as it was able
along the coast beside us, but soon gave it up where the steep hills,
looking like green plush, became precipitous mountains falling sheer
into the sea, yet with low forests clinging everywhere to the face of
them. Bit by bit the loveliest of the Caribbees, the most unbrokenly
mountainous of the West Indies, shrunk away behind us. Tiny fishing
boats with ludicrous little pocket-handkerchief sails ventured far out,
now standing forth against the horizon on the crest of a wave, now
completely lost from sight in a trough of the sea. But by this time
Martinique was looming large on the port bow, and we were straining our
eyes for the first glimpse of ruined St. Pierre.

                  *       *       *       *       *

St. Lucia, largest of the British Windward Islands and a bare
twenty-five miles south of Martinique, is the only one of the Lesser
Antilles where the steamer ties up at the wharf. Castries, the capital,
is situated on the edge of what was once a volcano crater, but presents
little else of interest to those who have seen its replica in several of
the other islands. Like all the group to which it belongs politically,
it was once French and still speaks a “creole” jargon in preference to
English. It, too, is mountainous, with a Soufrière that rises four
thousand feet into the sky, and despite its thirty-five by twelve miles
of extent, its population is as scanty and as unprogressive as that of
Dominica. The most striking of its sights are the two pitons at the
southern end of the island, cone-shaped peaks rising more than 2500 feet
sheer out of the sea, as if they were the surviving summits of a
Himalayan range that sank beneath the waves before the dawn of recorded
history.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The next of the stepping-stones is St. Vincent, for though Barbados, a
hundred miles due east of it, intervenes in the steamer’s itinerary, it
is neither geographically, geologically, nor politically a member of the
Windward group. St. Vincent was the last of the West Indies to come into
possession of the white man, for here the fierce Caribs offered their
last resistance and were conquered only by being literally driven into
the sea. It is ruggedly mountainous and unbrokenly green with rampant
vegetation, its jagged range cutting the sky-line like the teeth of a
gigantic saw. It, too, has its Soufrière, which erupted on the afternoon
before Pélée in Martinique, killing more than fifteen hundred and
devastating one end of the island. Rain falls easily on St. Vincent, and
even the capital is habitually humid and drenched with frequent showers.
This is named Kingstown, and lies scattered along the shore at the foot
of a wide valley sloping quickly upward to the jagged labyrinth of peaks
about which black clouds playfully chase one another the year round. It
is a gawky, ragged, rather insolent place of unenterprising negroes,
with a few scrawny leather-skinned poor whites scattered among them.
Some of these are of Portuguese origin, and there is a scattering of
East Indians. So colorless is the place, except in scenic beauty, that
the appearance of a woman of Martinique in full native regalia in its
streets resembles a loud noise in a deep silence. Even the sea comes in
with a slow, lazy _swo-ow_ among the weather-blackened fishing boats
that lie scattered along its beach. So quiet and peaceful is it
everywhere out of sound of the clamoring market-place that it would seem
an ideal spot in which to engage in intellectual labors, but there is no
evidence that St. Vincent has ever enriched the world’s art.

Roads climb away from the capital into the pretty, steep hills that
surround it, among which are tucked red-roofed estates and negro cabins.
The island looks more prosperous in the country than in the town. Its
cotton is said to be unsurpassed for the making of lace, and was selling
at the time of our visit, for $2 a pound. In addition, it produces
cottonseed oil, arrow-root, cacao, and, above all, nutmegs. The nutmeg
grows on a tree not unlike the plum in appearance—residents of Vermont
have no doubt seen it often—the fruit resembling a small apricot. Inside
this is a large nut prettily veined with the red mace that is another of
the island’s exports, and the nut being cracked discloses a kernel
which, dried and cured, is carried down from the hills in baskets on the
heads of negroes and shipped to the outside world as the nutmeg of
commerce. The natives, if the swarthy West Indians of to-day are
entitled to that term, make also pretty little covered baskets in all
sizes, which sell for far less after the steamer has blown her warning
whistle than when she has just arrived.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The eight-hour run from St. Vincent to Grenada, capital of the Windward
group, is close to the leeward of a scattered string of islands called
the Grenadines, some of them comparatively large, mountainous in their
small way, others mere jagged bits of rock strewn at random along the
edge of the Caribbean, all of them looking more or less dry and sterile.
Grenada is rugged and beautiful, though it does not rival Dominica in
either respect. It has variously been called the “Isle of Spices,” the
“Planter’s Paradise,” and the “Island of Nutmegs.” What claims to be the
largest nutmeg plantation on earth—the West Indians have something of
our own tendency for superlatives—lies among its labyrinth of hills; it
produces also cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cacao. Though it is
admittedly far more prosperous than St. Vincent, it shows few signs of
cultivation from the sea, for none of its principal products in their
growing state can be recognized from the forest and brush that cover
many an uncleared West Indian isle. The high prices paid for nutmegs
during the war, particularly by fruit preservers in the United States,
has brought fortunes to many of its planters, despite the fact that the
tree takes seven years to mature. Many of the negroes, too, own their
small estates and increase their incomes by making jelly from the nutmeg
fruit. Yet from the sea all this is hidden under a dense foliage that
completely covers the nowhere level island. Along the geometrical white
line of the beach are several villages; higher up are seen only
scattered huts and a few larger buildings, except where the two
considerable towns of Goyave and Victoria break the pretty green
monotony.

But if Grenada must yield the palm for beauty to some of its neighbors,
St. Georges, the capital, unquestionably presents the loveliest picture
from the sea of any port in the Lesser Antilles, if not of the West
Indies. Nestled among and piled up the green hills that terminate in a
jagged series of peaks above, its often three-story houses pitched in
stages one above the other, larger buildings crowning here and there a
loftier eminence, the whole delightfully irregular and individualistic,
it rouses even the jaded traveler to exclamations of pleasure. The
steamer chugs placidly by, as if it had suddenly decided not to call,
passes a massive old fortress, then suddenly swings inshore as though it
had forgotten its limitation and aspires to climb the mountain heights.
A narrow break in the rock wall opens before it, and it slides calmly
into a magnificent little blue harbor and drops anchor so close to the
shore that one can talk to the people on it in a conversational tone.
Why the vessel does not tie up to the wharf and have done with it is
difficult to understand, for the blue water seems fathoms deep up to the
very edge of the quay. Strictly speaking, it is not a wharf at all, but
one of the principal streets of the town, and passengers in their
staterooms have a sense of having moved into an apartment just across
the way from the negro families who lean out of their windows watching
with cheerful curiosity the activity on the decks below.

The sun was just setting in a cloudless sky when we landed in St.
Georges, yet we saw enough of it before darkness came to veil the now
all too familiar negro slovenliness, though it could not disguise the
concomitant odors. The same incessant cries for alms, the same
heel-treading throngs of guides marked our progress, until we had shaken
them off in a long tunnel through a mountain spur that connects the two
sections of the water-front. For despite its distant loveliness, the
town was overrun by the half-insolent, half-cringing black creatures who
so mar all the Caribbean wonderland, until one is ready to curse the men
of long ago who exterminated the aborigines and brought in their place
this lowest species of the human family. On shore St. Georges was
different only in its steep, cobbled streets and its rows of houses
piled sheer one above another. Every other shop announced itself a
“Dealer in Cacao and Nutmegs.” In the clamoring throngs of venders
squatted along the curb the only unfamiliar sight was the blue
“parrot-fish,” with so striking a resemblance to the talkative bird as
to be mistaken for it at first glance. But even here there were
evidences of Grenada’s greater prosperity. White men were a trifle more
numerous; numbers of private automobiles climbed away into the hills by
what at least began as excellent highways; a telephone line on which we
counted seventy-six wires disappeared into the interior over the first
crest behind the town. Then a full moon came up over the fuzzy hills,
lending a false beauty to many a commonplace old house-wall, restoring
the romance to the heaped-up town, and flooding the world with a silver
sheen long after we had steamed away in the direction of Trinidad.



                               CHAPTER XV
                            “LITTLE ENGLAND”


The “Ancient and Loyal Colony of Barbados” lies so far out to sea that
it requires a real ocean voyage to reach it. Low and uninteresting at
first glance, compared to many of the West Indies, it is by no means so
flat as most descriptions lead one to suppose. Seen from the sea it
stretches up to a fairly lofty central ridge that is regular from end to
end, except for being a trifle serrated or ragged in the center of the
island. Dutch looking windmills, the only survivors of the cane-crushers
that have fallen into disuse and left only the vine-grown ruins of their
stone towers in all the rest of the Lesser Antilles, are slowly turning
here and there on the even sky-line. Though the island is entirely of
coral and limestone formation, glaringly yellow-white under the blazing
sunshine at close range, there is a suggestion of England in the velvety
slopes of its varied-green fields as seen from far out in the bay. First
settled by the English in 1624, it boasts itself the oldest British
colony that has remained unceasingly loyal to the crown and accepts with
pride the pseudonym of “Little England.”

Barbados has come nearer than any other land to solving the vexing
“negro problem.” Cultivated in all its extent, with a population of
140,000 negroes and 20,000 whites on a little patch of earth twenty-one
miles long and fifteen wide, or 1200 human beings to the square mile,
without an acre of “bush” on which the liberated slaves could squat, the
struggle for existence is so intense that the black man displays here an
energy and initiative unusual to his race. The traveler hears rumours of
the Barbadian’s un-African activity long before he reaches the island;
he sees evidences of it before his ship comes to anchor in Carlisle Bay.
Not only is the harbor more active, more crowded with shipping than any
other in the Lesser Antilles, but it has every air of a place that is
“up on its toes.” All the languor, the don’t-care-whether-I-work-or-not
of nature’s favored spots are here replaced by a feverish anxiety to
please, an eager energy to snap up any job that promises to turn a
nimble shilling. Scores of rowboats surround the steamer in a clamoring
multitude, their occupants holding aloft boards on which are printed the
names of their craft—unromantic, unimaginative names compared to those
of the islands that were once or are still French, such as “Maggie,”
“Bridget,” “Lillie White,” “Daisy,” “Tiger.” In face of the fierce
competition the boatmen strive their utmost to win a promise from a
passenger leaning over the rail, to impress the name of their craft on
his memory so that he will call for it when he descends the gangway, to
win his good-will by flattery, by some crude witticism,—“Remember the
‘Maggie,’ mistress; Captain Snowball”; “The ‘Lillie White,’ my lady;
upholstered in and out!” “The ‘Daisy,’ my gentleman; rowboat
extraordinary to His Majesty!” Meanwhile the divers for pennies, a few
girls among them, are besieging the passengers from their curious little
flat-bottomed boats of double wedge shape to toss their odd coins into
the water and “see the human porpoises” display their prowess. Yet,
unlike the pandemonium in the other islands, there is no scramble of
venders and beggars up the gangway to the discomfiture of descending
passengers; no crowding of boatmen about it fighting with one another
for each possible fare, to the not infrequent disaster of the latter. A
bull-voiced negro police sergeant, in a uniform that suggests he has
been loaned from the cast of “Pinafore,” keeps perfect order from the
top of the gangway, permitting boats to draw near only when they are
called by name and ruling the clamoring situation with an iron hand. For
there is this difference between the harbor police of Barbados and those
of all the other ports, that they speak to be obeyed, permit no
argument, and if they are not respected, they are at least duly feared.

Bridgetown was static. The entire population was massed about the inner
harbor; beyond the bridge that gives the town its name stood an immense
new arch with the words “Welcome to Barbados” emblazoned upon it. We
thought it very kind of them to give us such unexpected attention, until
we discovered they were not waiting for us at all, but for one whom some
loyal but not too well schooled Barbadian had named in chalk on a nearby
wall the “Prints of Whales.” This was the first time in half a century,
it seems, that a member of the royal family to which the “ancient and
loyal” little colony has shown unbroken allegiance had come to visit it.
The black multitude was agog with poorly suppressed excitement; white
natives were squirming nervously; even the few Englishmen in the crowd
were so thawed by the “epoch-making event” that they actually spoke to
strangers. The harbor officer was so eager to lose none of it that he
let us pass without examination; an enterprising black youth won a
sixpence by finding us a place on a crowded barge a few yards from the
royal landing-stage. The tramways had been stopped; black troops lined
the vacant expanse of white main street that stretched away toward the
government house. Nelson’s one-armed statue in Trafalgar Square had been
given an oil bath; buildings were half hidden behind the fluttering
flags of all the Allies—the Stars and Stripes rarest among them. Even
nature had contributed to the occasion by sending an unexpected little
shower to lay the white limestone dust that habitually rouses the ire of
new arrivals. The island newspaper announced a special holiday in honor
of “the Prince, who will confer upon the loyal inhabitants of this
ancient colony the privilege of receiving a message from his august
father”; it still carried the advertisements of the closed shops,
imploring the citizens not only to buy flags and decorations but to “get
new clothes in honor of our royal visitor.”

He landed twenty minutes after us. A salvo of twenty-two guns from his
battleship in the bay sent as many gasps of excitement and delight
through the eager multitude. The subconscious thought came to us that it
might be better to pay outstanding war debts than to squander so much
powder and coal, but it ill behooves an American of these days to
criticize our neighbors for squandering public funds. Besides, it is no
easy matter to keep up this loyalty-to-the-king business nowadays,
though England, surely, need have no fear of changes. Then a white
launch dashed up the cheering inner harbor, a curiously boyish-faced
young man in a gleaming white helmet stepped briskly out on the
landing-stage into a group of black policemen in speckless girlish
sailor suits, who seemed to lack an ostrich feather on their round white
straw hats, the governor in full-dress uniform and the lord mayor in
purple and red robes bowed low over the hand that was proffered, and the
prince and his suite were whisked away.

Black as it was, we were struck by the orderliness of the throng—what a
pandemonium such an event would have caused in the temperamental French
islands!—and its politeness, compared to the other British West Indies.
But if the excitement was suppressed with British sternness, it was not
voiceless. The brief glimpse of the fêted youth had aroused a thousand
exclamations like that of the ragged old negro woman behind us, “Oh, my
God! Dat’s he himself! Oh Christ!” On the outskirts of the crowd another
who had been so far away as to have caught, at best, a glimpse of the
top of the royal helmet was still confiding to her surroundings, “My
Jesus, but him good lookin’!” An old negro in a battered derby through
which his whitening wool peered here and there elbowed his way through
the dispersing crowd mumbling to himself, “No use talkin’, it’s de
British flag _nowadays_!” Farther on a breathless market-woman was
asking with the anxious tone of a master of ceremonies who had missed
his train and feared the worst, “Has my gentleman landed yet?” But the
enthusiasm was not unanimous, for still another woman, who fell in with
us down the street, asserted, “Even if de prince landing, it all de same
for we workin’ people. De Prince Albert him landed fifty year ago, an’
de school-girls dat fall wid de grandstand still hobblin’ about on dey
broken legs.”

The prince spent a whole day in the ancient and loyal colony before
continuing his journey to Australia, most of it in the isolation of the
governor’s residence, but if he carried away an imperfect picture of
this isolated fragment of the empire, he could at least report to his
“august father” that it still retains its extraordinary loyalty to the
crown.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Bridgetown is very English, despite its complexion and dazzling
sunshine. Broken bottles embedded in the tops of plaster walls, which
everywhere shut in private property, shows that this, too, is an
overcrowded country where the few who have must take stern precautions
against the many who have not. The streets bear such ultra-English names
as “Cheapside,” “Philadelphia Lane,” “Literary Row,” “Lightfoot’s
Passage,” “Whitepark Road.” The very signboards carry the mind back to
England—“Grog Shop—The Rose of Devon,” “Coals for Sale,” “Try Ward’s
Influenza Rum—Best Tonic”; the tin placard of some “Assurance Company”
decorates every other façade. Even the little shingle shacks in the far
outskirts bear some unromantic name painted above their doors;
shopkeepers are as insistent in giving their full qualifications as the
clamoring boatmen in the bay. “O. B. Lawless—American Tailor—Late of
Panama” announces a tiny one-room hovel. There is a British orderliness
of public demeanor even among the naturally disorderly negroes; the
women have neither the color sense nor the dignified carriage of their
sisters of Martinique, rather the gracelessness of the English women of
the lower classes. Yet in one thing Barbados is not English. It is
hospitable, quite ready to enter into conversation even with strangers.

When it is not silent and deserted under the spell of a holiday or its
deadly Sabbath, Bridgetown pulsates with life. Its wharves are as busy
as all those of the rest of the Lesser Antilles put together, as busy as
our St. Thomas was before Barbados became the focal point of the eastern
Caribbean. Bales and bundles and barrels and boatloads of produce pour
into it as continuously as if every one of its 160,000 were wealthy
consumers of everything the world has to offer. Its own product is
constantly being trundled down to waiting lighters—great hogsheads of
sugar or molasses carried on specially designed iron frames on wheels,
each operated by three negroes who have not lost the amusing
childishness of their race for all their competition-bred industry, for
they invariably take turns in riding the contrivance back to the
warehouse, though the clinging to it must require far more physical
exertion than walking. Steamers, schooners, lighters, rowboats,
mule-trucks, auto-“lorries” are incessantly carrying the world’s goods
to and fro. Innumerable horse-carriages, scores of automobiles, ply for
hire. Excellent electric-lights banish the darkness from all but the
poorer class of houses. Yet despite the constant struggle for
livelihood,—or perhaps because of it,—Bridgetown has little of the
insolence of the other British West Indies. Applicants for odd jobs
swarm and beggars are plentiful, but the latter are unoffensive and the
former approach each possible client with a “Do you want me, my
gentleman?” so courteous that one feels inclined to think up some
imaginary errand on which to send them. They seem to recognize that
politeness is an important asset in their constant battle against
hunger, which gives them also a responsibility, a reliability in any
task assigned them, and a moderation in their demands that is attained
by few other West Indians.

Barbados has a tramway and a railroad, the only ones between Porto Rico
and Trinidad. True, they are modest little affairs, the tramcars being
drawn by mules. Yet the latter step along so lively, the employees and
most of the passengers are so courteous, and overcrowding is so sternly
forbidden that one comes to like them, especially those lines which
rumble along the edge of the sea in the never-failing breeze, above all
in the delightfully soft air of morning or evening. It would be
difficult in these modern days of indifferent labor to find more
courtesy, more earnest efficiency, and stricter living up to the rules
than among Bridgetown’s tram-drivers and conductors, yet their highest
wage is sixty-four cents a day. But for the war, the system would long
since have been electrified; the new rails have already arrived. There
is no real reason, except civic pride, however, that the mule-cars
should be abolished. They are more reliable than many an electric-line
in larger cities; they are a pleasant change to the speed-weary
traveler; and the perfection with which their extra mule is hitched on
at the bottom of the one hill in town and unhitched again at its summit
without the loss of a single trot is a never-ending source of amusement.

Sojourners in Barbados are certain to make the acquaintance of at least
the long tram-line to St. Lawrence. There are plenty of hotels in the
town proper, but they are habitually crowded with gentlemen of color.
White visitors dwell out Hastings way, some two miles from Trafalgar
Square. Unlike the French and Spanish towns of tropical America, the
downtown section of the Barbadian capital is almost wholly given over to
business—and negroes. The numerous white inhabitants and most of the
darker ones of any standing dwell in the outskirts. There one may find
parks shaded by mahogany and palm-trees, splendid avenues lined by one
or both of these species, comfortable residences ranging all the way
from tiny “villas” draped with an ivy-like vine or gorgeous masses of
the bougainvillea to luxurious estates in their own private parks. Even
the poorer classes in another stratum still farther from the center of
town dwell in neat little toy-houses of real comfort, compared with the
huts of the masses of Haiti or Porto Rico. For miles along the sea
beside this longest tram-line one passes a constant succession of
comfortable, light-colored houses with boxed verandas, wooden shutters
that raise from the bottom, and a sort of cap visor over the windows. In
many cases these boast tropically unnecessary panes of glass through
which one can make out of an evening interiors of perfect neatness,
homelike, well lighted, furnished and decorated in taste, with none of
the gaudy and crowded bric-a-brac to be seen behind Spanish _rejas_ in
the larger islands.

The night life of Bridgetown is worth a ride behind the now weary mules,
if only to see a negro urchin diligently striving to light a candle in a
tin box on the end of his soap-box cart, lest he be hauled up for
violation of the ordinance forbidding vehicles to circulate after dark
without lamps. Promptly at sunset the black policemen have changed their
white helmets and jackets for German looking caps and capes. On the way
downtown one passes half a dozen wide-open churches and chapels in which
black preachers are vociferously exhorting their nightly congregations
to “walk in de way of de Lard”; one is certain to rumble past the
shrieking hubbub of a Salvation Army meeting or two. There are crowds of
loafers on many a corner—jolly, inoffensive, black idlers with the
spirit of rollicking fun in their ebony faces, bursting into howls of
laughter at the slightest incident that seems comical to their primitive
minds. The filthy street-habits of the French and Spanish islands are
little in evidence, for the police of Barbados are as vigilant as they
are heavy-handed.

Downtown the activities of the day have departed. The larger stores have
closed at four, the small shops at sundown. Only a scattered score of
negro women squat in Trafalgar Square before their little trays of
peanuts, bananas, and home-made sweets, a wick torch burning on a corner
of them whether they are deposited on the ground or are seeking lack of
competition elsewhere on top of their owners’ heads. There is no theater
in Bridgetown; the cinema is as sad a parody on amusement as it is
everywhere, but the audience is worth seeing, once. The negroes sit in
the “pit,” the élite, chiefly yellow of tint, in a kind of church
gallery. Shouts, screams, roof-raising roars of primitive laughter,
deafening applause whenever the frock-coated villain is undone, mark the
unwinding of the film from beginning to end; it is a scene far different
from the comparative dignity of a black French audience. In the French
and Spanish West Indies the cinemas begin after nine and end around
midnight; in Barbados they start sharply at seven and terminate at ten
with a rush for the last mule-cars, with all but the swift out of luck,
and Bridgetown settles down to deathly Sunday stillness while the weary
mules are still crawling toward the end of their laborious day.

Or, if the visitor does not care to break up his evening by descending
into town, there are few more ideal spots in which to hear a band
concert than the little park known as Hastings Rocks, on the very edge
of the sea, especially under a full moon. I am an inveterate
concert-goer; one naturally becomes so in tropical America, where other
music is so rare, and I must confess a preference for the
Spanish-American type of concert over the Anglo-Saxon, for the gay
throngs of promenaders about the sometimes not too successful attempts
to render a classical program over the staid gatherings that listen
motionless to an uproar of “popular” music. But even this serves to
while away an evening and seldom fails to offer a touch of local color.
Thus in negro-teeming Barbados there is scarcely a suggestion of African
parentage to be seen at this stately entertainment on Hastings Rocks. It
is partly the sixpence admission that keeps the negroes outside, but not
entirely. Struck by the fact that there was only one mulatto boy and two
light-yellow girls, all very staid and quiet, on the seaside benches, I
sought information of the negro gatekeeper. Yes, indeed, he refused
admittance to most of those of his own color, and to some white people,
too.

“You see,” he explained, “it is like this. Perhaps last night you might
go with a girl downtown, and then you come here to-night with your wife;
and if that girl allowed to come in here she might want to get familiar
and gossip with you. Or she might giggle at you. We can’t have _that_,”
he added, in a tone that reminded one that the Briton, even when his
skin is black, is first cousin to Mrs. Grundy. The English sense of
dignified orderliness and the negro’s natural gaiety, his tendency to
“giggle” at inopportune moments, do not mix well, and the Hasting Rocks
concert is one of those places where African hilarity must be ruthlessly
suppressed.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Besides Bridgetown, with its 35,000 or more inhabitants, Barbados has a
number of what might best be called large collections of houses, such as
Speightstown, Holetown—popularly known as “the Hole”—and the like, but
its population, surpassed in density, if at all, only by China, a
density compared to which that of Porto Rico seems slight indeed, is
spread so evenly over all the island that it is hard to tell where a
town begins or ends. The island is one of the most remarkable instances
of coral formation. Comparatively flat, when likened to most of the West
Indies, it consists of a number of stages or platforms that have been
built one after the other as the island rose slowly and gradually from
the sea to a height, at one point, of nearly 1200 feet. When first
discovered it was surrounded by mangrove swamps and tangled, rotting
vegetation, but all this has since turned to solid ground. The coral of
which it is built contains some ninety per cent. of lime, so that almost
the whole island might be reduced to powder in a lime-kiln. The rest of
it consists of a species of sandstone known as “Scotland rock,” which
comes to the surface in the northwestern part of the island.

Thanks to its geological formation, the close network of roads which
reaches every corner of Barbados, as well as all its bare open spaces,
are glaringly white and hard on the eyes, especially, if one may judge
by the prevalence of glasses among them, those of the white and “high
yellow” inhabitants. Yet, for the same reason, it is perhaps the most
healthful of the West Indies. It has no swamps to breed malaria; the
trade winds from the open ocean sweep incessantly across it. Once it was
troubled with typhoid, but the establishment of a single unpolluted
water supply for the whole island has done away with this danger. There
is great equability of temperature day or night the year round. The wet
season, from June to October, is less so than in most tropical lands;
though visitors and European inhabitants complain of the midday heat,
except in December and January, it is always cool compared to midsummer
in the United States. Fresh, dry, and constantly laden with ocean ozone,
it is a climate that makes little demand upon the strength and vital
powers. All indications point to the fact, however, that it is no place
for white women as permanent residents, for virtually without exception
they grow scrawny, nervous, and weak-eyed, their pasty complexions
sprayed with freckles under their veils.

All roads lead to Bridgetown, but to follow them in the opposite
direction to any chosen point is not so simple a matter. Signboards are
almost unknown, no doubt being considered a superfluity in so small and
crowded a community. The country people, though willing enough, are
often too stupid to give intelligible directions, though they make up
for this by a persistency in showing one the way in person which no
amount of protest can overcome. Ask a question or give them any other
slightest excuse to do so, and they will cling to the white pedestrian’s
heels for miles in the hope of picking up a penny or a “bit,” always
taking their leave with, “I beg you for a cent, sir.” Indeed, that is
the constant refrain everywhere along the dazzling but excellent
highways. Women and men shout it from the doors of their little cabins;
children scamper after one, the black babies are egged on by their
elders as soon as they can toddle, each shrieking the invariable demand
in a tone of voice which suggests that refusal is impossible. They seem
to fancy that white strangers cross the island for no other purpose than
to distribute a cartload of English coppers along the way. Almost as
incessant are the demands upon the kodak-carrier to “Make me photo,
sir,” or, “Draw me portrait, master.”

[Illustration: The Prince of Wales lands in Barbados]

[Illustration: The principal street of Bridgetown, decorated in honor of
its royal visitor]

[Illustration: Barbadian porters loading hogsheads of sugar always take
turns riding back to the warehouse]

[Illustration: There is an Anglican Church of this style in each of the
eleven parishes of Barbados]

On week-days the highways of Barbados are as crowded as city streets.
Heavy draft horses and mules, auto-trucks large and small, are
constantly descending to Bridgetown with the cumbersome hogsheads of
sugar and molasses, or returning with supplies for the estates. There is
an endless procession of almost toy-like carts, each drawn by a single
small donkey, the two wheels habitually wobbly, the name, address, and
license number of the owner in crude letters on the front of the
diminutive box. The donkey is the invariable beast of burden of the
Barbadian of the masses. He carries to town the products of little
gardens; he brings the supplies of the innumerable small shops
throughout the island; the country youth takes his “girl” riding in his
donkey-cart; in later years the whole ebony family packs into it for a
jolt across the country. Unlike the rest of tropical America, Barbados
does not ride its donkeys or use them as pack-animals; nor, to all
appearances, are they abused. Centuries of British training seems to
have given the black islanders a compassion rare among their neighbors.
Horsemen and pack-mules are likewise unknown along the white highways;
oxen are rare; pedestrians are much less numerous than one would expect
in so populous a community, while bicycles are as widely in use as in
England.

There is a curiously English homelikeness about the landscape, which, if
it is seldom rugged, is by no means monotonous. Every acre of ground is
utilized; forbidding stone-and-mud walls topped by spikes or broken
glass line the roads for long distances; villages, or at least houses,
are so continuous that one is almost never out of human sight or sound.
Coral is so abundant and wood so expensive that immense limestone steps
often lead up to tiny wooden shacks, as out of proportion to their
foundations as statues to their pedestals. The majority of the rather
well-kept little negro cabins, however, are simply set up on small
blocks of coral at the four corners. More than one band of hilarious
sailors from visiting battleships have amused themselves by removing one
of these props and tumbling a Barbadian family out of their beds in the
small hours of the night.

Shopkeeping might almost be called the favorite sport of the “Badeyan”;
the lack of jobs enough to go round has led so many to adopt this means
of winning a possible livelihood that the island has been called
“Over-shopped Barbados.” Everywhere wayside shanties bear the familiar
black sign with white letters, varying only in name and number:
“Percival Brathwaite—Licensed Seller of Liquors—No. 765.” Inside,
perhaps behind a counter contrived from a single precious board, are a
few crude shelves stocked mainly with bottles of rum or with cheap “soft
drinks,” a few shillings’ worth of uninviting foodstuffs flanking them.
The Barbadians have long been known as the “Yankees of the West Indies.”
They are far more diligent merchants than most natives of tropical
America, so much so that neither the Chinese, Jews, Portuguese, nor
Syrians, so numerous in the other islands, can compete with them to
advantage. But their knowledge of book-keeping is scanty, and it is
often only the visible end of his light resources that convinces the
petty shopkeeper that he is losing, rather than gaining at the popular
pastime.

Every little way along the island roads other shanties bear the sign of
this or that “Friendly Society.” These are a species of local insurance
company or mutual benefit association. The negroes pay into them from
three pence to a shilling a week,—some of the poorer neighbors nothing
at all,—and receive in return sickness or accident benefits, or have
their funeral expenses paid in case of death. But they are typically
tropical or African in their indifference to a more distant to-morrow,
for at the end of each year the remaining funds are divided among those
members who have not drawn out more than they paid in, and with perhaps
as much as five dollars each in their pockets the society indulges in a
hilarious “blow-out.” Equally numerous are the signboards of “agents” of
the undertakers of Bridgetown. They do not believe in waiting for the
sickle of Father Time, those deathbed functionaries of the capital, but
drum up trade with Barbadian energy. The island’s newspaper habitually
carries their enticing pleas for clients:

“OUR DEAD MUST BE BURIED,” begins one of these appeals. “In the SAD HOUR
why trouble yourself over the Dead when you can see E. T. ARCHER
GITTENS, the up-to-date and experienced UNDERTAKER face to face? Look
for the Hearse with the GOLDEN ANGEL!” There follows a “poem” of
twenty-four verses setting forth the advantages of being buried by
Gittens and ending with the touching appeal:

                     Just take a ride to Tweedside Stable
                     And you’ll see that this is no Fable.
                     Phone 281 night or day
                     And you’ll hear what Gittens has to say.
                     He and his staff are always on hand
                     To accommodate any class of man.
       “All orders will be promptly executed at MODERATE PRICES.
                       A TRIAL WILL CONVINCE.”

No doubt it would.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The Barbados government railway—one could not call it a rail_road_ in so
English a community—is an amusing little thing twenty years old and some
two hours long, though that does not mean as much in miles as one might
expect. On week-days its passenger-train sometimes makes a one-way
journey, at a cost of four shillings and sixpence for first and two
shillings for second-class travelers, but on Sundays it indulges in the
whole round trip. From the station near the famous bridge from which the
capital takes its name, the little train tears away as if excited at its
own importance, through slightly rolling cane-fields, rocky white coral
gullies, past frequent Dutchy windmills flailing their shadows on the
ground. Vistas as broad as if it were crossing a continent instead of a
tiny parcel of land flung far out into the ocean, spread on either hand,
that to the right flat and almost desertlike in its aridity, the north
broken in rugged low ridges, with many scattered villages and gray heaps
of sugar-mills on their crests. The soil is so thin one marvels that it
will grow anything, yet every acre of it shows signs of constant
cultivation, the long expanses of cane broken here and there by small
patches of corn, cassava, yams, and the sweet potatoes on which the mass
of the population depends for nourishment. Every few minutes the train
halts at a station seething with cheerful black faces; everywhere it
crosses white coral roads, some of them cut deep down through the
limestone ridges. Trees are almost plentiful, but they all show evidence
of having been planted. The Spanish discoverers, it is said, gave the
island its present name because its forests were bearded (_barbudos_)
with what is known in our southern states as “Spanish moss,” but this,
like the original woods, has long since disappeared.

Sunday is as dead as it can only be in a British community. The cattle
and mules stand in the corrals eating dry cane-tops; the square brick
chimneys of the boiling-houses emit not a fleck of smoke. Only in rare
cases even are the windmills allowed to work, though for some reason
nature does not shut off the bracing trade-wind. This is so constant
that it forces all the branches of the trees to the southwest, until
even the royal palms seem to be wearing their hair on one side. Fields
brown with cut cane-tops contrast with the pale green of those still
unharvested; the general sun-flooded whiteness of the landscape is
painful to the eyes. Here and there is a patch of blackish soil, but it
has the vigorless air of having long been overworked, a looseness as of
volcanic lava.

In less than an hour the Atlantic spreads out on the horizon ahead.
Rusty limestone cliffs, a jagged coral coast against which the sea
dashes itself as if angry at the first resistance it encounters since
passing the Cape Verde Islands many hundred miles away, stretch out to
the north and south. We come out to the edge of it, fifty feet above,
then descend to a track so close to the surf that the right of way must
be braced up with old rails. It is a dreary, barren-dry, brown-yellow
coast, yet of a beauty all its own, with its chaotic jumble of huge
rocks among which hundreds of negroes are bathing stark naked and
spouting holes out of which the thundering surf dashes high into the
air. Farther north the landscape grows almost mountainous, but we have
already reached Bathsheba, where Sunday travelers habitually disembark,
leaving the train to crawl on alone to a few tiny oil-wells around the
next rugged promontory.

I climbed the sheer cliff a thousand feet high above Bathsheba, its face
covered with brown grasses, ferns, creeping plants, and the smaller
species of palm that cling to each projecting rock as if their available
nourishment were as scanty and precious as that of the teeming human
population. The view from the summit forever banishes the notion that
Barbados is flat. All “Scotland,” as the northern end of the island is
called, is laid out before you, broken and pitched and jumbled until it
resembles the Andes in miniature. White ribbons of roads and a network
of trails are carelessly strewn away across it, hundreds of huts are
scattered over its chaotic surface, and an immense building stands forth
on the summit of its highest hill. Jagged, gray-black sandstone boulders
of gigantic size contrast with the white limestone to give the tumbled
scene the aspect of having been left unfinished by the Builder of the
western hemisphere in his hurry to cross the Atlantic. Below, this scene
spreads away to infinity, its scalloped, foam-lashed shore clear-cut in
the dry, luminous atmosphere as far as the eye can see in either
direction. Behind, the picture is tamer, though by no means level.
Rolling cane-fields, with here and there a royal palm, numerous clusters
of huts, and the ubiquitous chimneys and windmills of sugar-factories
breaking the sky-line, stretch endlessly away to the yellow-brown
horizon.

I returned to Bridgetown on foot—he who still fancies the island is
level and tiny should walk across it on a blazing Sunday
afternoon—passing not more than a score of travelers on the way. Once I
paused to chat with a group of “poor whites,” as they call themselves,
or what their black neighbors refer to as “poor buckras” or “red legs.”
These reminders of our own “crackers” are numerous in Barbados,
especially in the “Scotland” district. They are descendants of the
convicts or prisoners taken in the civil wars of England during the
Commonwealth or the Duke of Monmouth’s rebellion. Chiefly Scotch and
Irish, some of them royalists of the nobility, they were sent to the
island by Cromwell between 1650 and 1660 and sold to the planters for
1500 pounds of sugar a head. It is doubtful whether any of them would be
worth that now. Branded and mutilated to prevent their escape, treated
more brutally than the blacks by whom they are held in contempt to this
day, they steadily declined in health and spirits until their present
descendants, with the exception of the few who rose to be planters, are
listless and poverty-stricken, degenerate victims of the hookworm and of
intermarriage. The original prisoners wore kilts; hence the tropical sun
soon won them the nickname of “red legs,” which has persisted to this
day, perhaps because their bare feet have still a distinctly ruddy
tinge. But their faces are corpse-like in color and their bodies thin
and anemic. Of the adults in this group, not one had more than a half
dozen crumbling fangs in the way of teeth.

Yet they seemed moderately well-informed and of far quicker intelligence
than the sturdier blacks who so despise them. Their air of honest
simplicity acquitted them of any suggestion of boasting when they
asserted that the “poor whites” never steal cane and other growing
crops, the theft of which by the negroes, despite heavy penalties, is
one of the curses of the island. The chief topic of conversation,
nevertheless, was that inevitable post-war one the world over, the high
cost of food. Coffee, their principal nourishment, they took nowadays
without sugar, and though it had sold at sixteen cents a pound when the
war ended, it was now forty. Rice, sweet potatoes, meal, even
breadfruit, “the staff of Barbados,” had trebled in price. Their
“spots,” as they call their gardens, were constantly being robbed by the
negroes. It was no use trying to keep a goat or a sheep; some black
thief was sure to carry it off.

I succeeded at length in bringing up the matter of education. They sent
their boys to the public schools, but it was not safe to send the girls.
There were elementary schools in every parish, where each pupil paid a
penny a week. The teachers were nearly all men and all were colored. In
the higher public schools, which an average tuition of $72 a year put
out of reach for most of them, the teachers were usually Englishmen; but
the color-line was drawn only in the private schools, of which there
were plenty for those who could afford them. While they talked I noted
that the enmity between the two races was camouflaged under an outward
friendliness; the greetings between the group of “red legs” and the
black passers-by had a heartiness of tone that might easily have
deceived an unenquiring observer.

One of the sights of Barbados is the large, old, gray stone Anglican
church in each of the eleven parishes. Their erection was decreed way
back in the days when the Earl of Carlisle, having a superior “pull”
with the King of England, ousted Sir William Courteen as founder of the
colony. They are as English in their sturdy bulkiness, with their heavy
crenelated stone towers and the replica of an English country churchyard
about each of them, despite the difficulty of digging graves in hard
limestone, as the English sparrows which flock about the neighboring
cane-fields. The Anglicans, having gotten in on the ground floor, have
almost a monopoly in the island, though other denominations have no
great difficulty in establishing their claims to endowments. The
Catholics, of whom there are barely a thousand, have only one small
church. Even the shouting sects seem to have less popularity among the
Barbadians than in most negro communities. Religion is reputed the true
bulwark of the social order in Barbados, but it is rather because the
long established churches serve to maintain the class distinctions on
which this is based than because they succeed in holding the negroes up
to any particularly high standard of morals. Mrs. Grundy is strongly
entrenched in all the British West Indies, but her influence is rather
superficial among the black masses, who have a considerable amount of
what other races call the “hypocrisy” of the Anglo-Saxon.

                  *       *       *       *       *

But Sunday is no time to see Barbados. I walked entirely across the
island without meeting one donkey-cart, so numerous on week-days. There
was scarcely a wheeled vehicle in all the long white vista of highways,
except a rare bicycle and the occasional automobile of a party of
American tourists. Pedestrians were as rare; the people were everywhere
shut in behind their tight-closed wooden shutters, a few of them singing
hymns, most of them sleeping in their air-tight cabins. The few I
roused, out of mere curiosity, treated the annoyance as something
bordering on the sacrilegious. Nowhere was there a group under the
trees; never a picnic party; not a sign of any one enjoying life.
Bridgetown itself, compared to the swarming uproar of the “prince’s
day,” was as a graveyard to carnival time.

With the dawn of Monday, however, the island awakens again to its
feverish activity, and one may easily catch an auto-truck across the
floor-flat, dusty plain stretching some five miles inland from the
capital and drop off on the breezy higher shelves of the island.
Something of interest is sure to turn up within the next mile or two.

The Barbadian, for instance, digs his wells not to get water, but to get
rid of it. They are to be found everywhere, often at the very edge of
the highway and always open and unprotected. They are big round holes
cut far down into the jagged coral rock, splendid places, it would seem,
into which to throw something or somebody for which one has no use. This
is exactly their purpose, for they are designed to carry off the floods
of the rainy season. Barbados has no rivers and no lakes, or rather,
these are all underground, some of them in immense caverns. In former
days the mass of the population depended for its water supply on
shallow, intermittent ponds, the better class on private arrangements.
Now two central pumping stations and more than a hundred miles of
underground pipe furnish the entire island with excellent, if lukewarm,
water from the unseen rivers. Instead of the roadside shrines of the
French islands, the limestone embankments of Barbadian highways have
faucets at frequent intervals. Water is free to those who fetch it from
these. The better class residents are everywhere supplied by private
pipes at a nominal sum per house. Business places pay thirty cents per
thousand gallons, which is considered so expensive that only one estate
on the island is irrigated though drought is frequently disastrous in
the west and south.

The stodgy windmills everywhere fanning the air are used exclusively for
the grinding of cane. It is a rare patch of landscape that does not show
at least half a dozen of these toiling away six days of the week. The
fact that they have survived in Barbados, of all the West Indies, may be
as much due to its unfailing trade wind as to the crowded conditions
which make the innovation of labor-saving devices so unpopular. Methods
long since abandoned elsewhere are still in vogue in Barbadian
sugar-mills. The cane is passed by hand between the iron rollers in the
stone windmill tower. The big hilltop yard about this is covered with
drying _bagasse_, or cane pulp, which is finally heaped up about the
boiling-house in which it serves as fuel. The juice runs in open troughs
from the windmill to this latter building, where it is strained and left
to settle until the scum rises to the surface. Then, this being skimmed
off, it is boiled in open copper kettles. A negro watches each of them,
dipping out the froth now and then with a huge soup-ladle and tossing
the boiling liquid into the air when it shows signs of burning. Toward
the end of the process the “sugar-master” is constantly trying the syrup
between a finger and thumb, in order to tell when the crystals are
forming and when to “strike” the contents of the kettle, which must be
done at the right moment if the sugar is to be worth shipping. From
beginning to end the work is done by hand, and a Barbadian sugar-mill
has little resemblance, except in its pungently sweet odor, to the
immense _centrals_ of Cuba.

In the early days the sugar-men had much trouble in transporting their
product because of the deep gullies and bad roads. Once upon a time
camels were used, but though they answered the purpose splendidly, being
very sure-footed and capable of carrying the price of a “red leg” each,
they died for lack of a proper diet. To this day Barbadian sugar or
molasses is shipped in the cumbersome 110–gallon hogsheads which were
adopted in the days of camels, though the hauling is now done on mule or
auto-trucks.

With an unlimited supply of cheap labor, it is natural that the
Barbadian planters should cling to the old processes. Indeed, the estate
owner who attempts to bring in new machinery is heartily criticized by
his competitors, while the establishment of new mills is out of the
question, there being already too many factories for the available
acreage. The sugar planters, nine out of ten of whom are as white as the
Anglo-Saxon can be after many generations of tropical residence, hold
all Barbados, leaving only the steeper hillsides and the less fertile
patches as “spots” on which the “red legs” and the negroes plant their
yams, arrow-root, sweet potatoes, and cassava. They live in luxurious
old manor houses, usually on high knolls overlooking their not
particularly broad acres, half-hidden in groves of mahogany-trees, which
are protected by law from destruction. With few exceptions they are the
descendants of English colonists, and still keep the British qualities
their ancestors brought with them, keep them so tenaciously that in some
ways they are more English than the modern Englishman himself. There are
suggestions that they are as short-sighted as most conservatives in
taking the last ounce of advantage of the crowded conditions to keep the
laboring masses at ludicrously low wages. Molasses, which the Barbadians
call “syrup,” has advanced from seven cents to a dollar a gallon in the
past few years, yet the planters are still paying about a shilling per
hundred “holes” of cane, making it impossible for the hardest workers to
earn more than “two and six” a day, though the prices, even of the
foodstuffs grown on the island, have nearly all trebled. The pessimists
foresee trouble and cite the continual presence of a battleship in
Barbadian waters as proof that even the government fears it. But though
they constitute only one eighth of the population and the percentage is
steadily decreasing, the whites have always ruled in Barbados. As early
as 1649 the slaves planned to kill them all off, and kept the secret of
the conspiracy so well that it would probably have succeeded but for a
servant who gave the planters warning on the eve of the attack. In 1816
there came another fierce negro rebellion, which was put down with an
iron hand. Since then the blacks have been given little real voice in
the government, despite their overwhelming majority, and the traveler of
to-day finds Barbados the one island of the British West Indies in which
the negroes are not beginning to “feel their oats.”

Some attribute the patent difference between the Barbadian and other
negroes of the western hemisphere to his origin in Sierra Leone, while
the rest came from the Kru or the Slave Coast, but there is little
historical evidence to support this contention. Still others credit his
superior energy and initiative to the absence of malaria in the island.
Most observers see in those qualities merely a proof that the negro
develops most nearly into a creditable member of society under physical
conditions which require him either to work or starve. Whoever is right,
the fact remains that Barbados is one of the few places where
emancipation was not disastrous, and that the Barbadians are probably,
on the whole, the most pleasant mannered people in the West Indies, if
not in the western hemisphere. Except for rare cases of rowdyism, they
are always courteous, yet without cringing. Even those in positions
bringing them into official contact with the public are, as is too often
the reverse in many another country, extremely obliging, cheerful, yet
never patronizing, rarely brusk, yet efficient and prompt, fairly true
to their promises, for a tropical country, and have little of that
aggressive insolence which is becoming so wide-spread among the negroes
in our own country and the other British West Indies. The crowded
condition of the country evidently makes the constant meeting of people
a reason to cut down friction to the minimum, while the necessity of
earning a livelihood where work is scarce leads them to be careful not
to antagonize any one.

That they are amusing goes without saying. The magnificent black “bobby”
in his white blouse and helmet, for instance, does not reply to your
query about the next tramway with, “Goin’ to Hastings? Better geta move
on then,” but with a mellifluous, “Ah, your destination is Hastings?
Then you will be obliged to proceed very rapidly; otherwise you are in
danger of being detained a half-hour until the next car departs.” Yet
they are not a people that grows upon one. As with all negroes, there is
a shallowness back of their politeness, a something which reminds you
every now and then that they have no history, no traditions, no ancient
culture—such as that which is apparent, for instance, in the most ragged
Hindu coolie—behind them.

Small as it is, there are many more points of interest in Barbados.
There is Speightstown, for example, where whaling is still sometimes
carried on; Holetown, with its monument to the first English colonists;
a marvelous view of all the ragged Atlantic coast from the parish
churchyard of St. John’s, in which lies buried a descendant of the Greek
emperors who was long its sexton; Mt. Hillaby, the highest point of the
island, from which one may look down upon all the chaotic jumble of
hills in St. Andrew’s Parish, better known as “Scotland,” or in the
south the broad, parched flatlands of Christ Church, the only one of the
eleven parishes not named for some saint of the Anglican calendar. Or
there is amusement, at least, among the huts tucked away into every
jagged coral ravine, in noting the curious subterfuges adopted to wrest
a livelihood from an overburdened and rather unwilling soil. Every acre
of the island being under cultivation, there is, of course, no hunting;
wild animals are unknown, except for a few monkeys in Turner’s Woods.
These are rarely seen, for so human have they become in their own
struggle for existence that they post a guard whenever they engage in
their forays and flee at his first intimation of danger. Negro boys earn
a penny or two a day for keeping the monkeys off the cane-fields. There
being no streams or lakes, the island has no disciples of Isaac Walton,
but the Barbadians are inveterate fishermen, for all that. Time was when
the little boats which are constantly pushing out to sea in water so
clear that one may see every crevice of the coral bottom sixty feet
below brought back more fish than the island could consume. Then one
might buy a hundred flying-fish for a penny; to-day these favorites of
the Barbadian table cost as high as two pence each, while the equally
familiar dolphins cost twice that a pound. “Sea eggs,” which are nothing
more or less than the sea-urchin of northern waters, are a standard dish
in this crowded community, for the same reason, perhaps, that the French
have discovered the edible qualities of snails.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Barbados is the only foreign land ever visited by the father of our
country. In the winter of 1751–52, nearly a quarter of a century before
the Revolution, Captain George Washington, then adjutant general of
Virginia at one hundred and fifty pounds a year, accompanied his brother
on a journey in quest of his health. Major Lawrence Washington of the
British army, owner of Mt. Vernon, fourteen years older than George, had
been suffering from consumption since he served in the expedition
against Cartagena in South America. They sailed direct to Barbados, then
a famous health resort, by schooner. The skipper must have been weak on
navigation, for, says George’s journal, “We were awakened one morning by
a cry of land, when by our reckonings there should have been none within
150 leagues of us. If we had been a bit to one side or the other we
would never have noticed the island and would have run on down to ——”,
the future father of our country does not seem to have a very clear idea
just where. In fact, schoolmarms who have been holding up the
hatchet-wielder as a model for their pupils—unless some millionaire
movie hero has taken his place in the hearts of our young countrymen
nowadays—will no doubt be horrified to learn that George was not only
weak in geography, but even in spelling. He frequently speaks of “fields
of cain,” for instance, and sometimes calls his distressing means of
conveyance a “scooner,” or a “chooner.” But let him speak for himself:

  Nov. 4, 1751—This morning received a card from Major Clark welcoming
  us to Barbados, with an invitation to breakfast and dine with him.
  We went—myself with some reluctance, as the small pox was in the
  family. Mrs. Clark was so much _indisposed_ [the italics are mine]
  by it that we had not the pleasure of her company. Spent next few
  days writ^g letters to be carried by the Chooner Fredericksburg to
  Virginia.

  Thursday 8th. Came Capt^n Crofton with his proposals which tho
  extravagantly dear my Brother was obliged to give. £15 pr Month is
  his charge exclusive of Liquors & washings which we find. In the
  evening we remov’d some of our things up and ourselves; it’s
  pleasantly situated pretty near the sea and ab^t a mile from the
  Town, the prospective agreable by Land and pleasant by Sea as we
  command the prospect of Carlyle Bay & all the shipping in such a
  manner that none can go in or out with out being open to our view.

The Washingtons evidently lived near the same spot now inhabited by
American tourists, any two of whom would be only too happy nowadays to
pay forty-three dollars a month for board and lodging, “Liquor” or no
liquor. Capt. Crofton, the rascally profiteer, must have made a small
fortune out of his “paying guests,” for they were always being invited
out to meals at the “Beefstake & Tripe Club” or elsewhere. Church
members, however, will be glad to see the next entry, despite of that
unhappy break about the “Liquor”:

  Sunday 11th. Dressed in order for Church but got to Town too Late.
  [What man ever kept his sense of time in the tropics?] Went to
  Evening Service.

  Thursday 15th. Was treated with a play ticket to see the Tragedy of
  George Barnwell acted. [George, you see, was no money-strewing
  tourist. But then, he was not an American in those days.]

  Saturday 17th. Was strongly attacked with the small Pox sent for Dr.
  Lanahan whose attendance was very constant till my recovery and
  going out which was not ’till thursday the 12th December.

  December 12th. Went to Town visited Maj. Clarke (who kindly visited
  me in my illness and contributed all he cou’d in send’g me the
  necessary’s required by ye disorder).

Kind of him, surely, after his other little contribution to “ye
disorder” in the shape of that first invitation. The only real result of
the Washingtons’ trip to Barbados was that our first President was
pockmarked for life, for Lawrence got no good out of the trip. George
went back to Virginia and Lawrence to Bermuda, where he grew steadily
worse, and finally went home to die at Mt. Vernon the following summer
bequeathing the estate to his younger brother.

Washington speaks constantly in his journal of the hospitality of
Barbados. That characteristic remains to this day, where it is carried
to an extreme unknown in England and rarely in the United States. Of all
the Lesser Antilles, one leaves Barbados, perhaps, with most regret.



                              CHAPTER XVI
                     TRINIDAD, THE LAND OF ASPHALT


AS his steamer drops anchor far out in the immense shallow of the Gulf
of Paria, the traveler cannot but realize that at last he has come to
the end of the West Indies and is encroaching upon the South American
continent. The “Trinity” of fuzzy hills, to-day called the “Three
Sisters,” for which Columbus named the island have quite another aspect
than the precipitous volcanic peaks of the Lesser Antilles. Plump,
placid, their vegetation tanned a light brown by the now truly tropical
sun, they have a strong family resemblance to the mountains of Venezuela
hazily looming into the sky back across the Bocas. Fog, unknown among
the stepping-stones to the north, hangs like wet wool over all the
lowlands, along the edge of the bay. The trade wind that has never
failed on the long journey south has given place to an enervating
breathlessness; by seven in the morning the sun is already cruelly
beating down; instead of the clear blue waters of the Caribbean, the
vast expanse of harbor has the drab, lifeless color of a faded brown
carpet. Sail-boats, their sails limply aslack as they await the signal
to come and carry off the steamer’s cargo, give the scene a
half-Oriental aspect that recalls the southern coast of China.

There is little, indeed, to excite the senses as the crowded launch
plows for half an hour toward the uninviting shore. Seen from the
harbor, Port of Spain, with its long straight line of wharves and
warehouses, looks dismal in the extreme, especially to those who have
left beautiful St. Georges of Grenada the evening before. Yet from the
moment of landing one has the feeling of having gotten somewhere at
last. The second in size and the most prosperous of the British West
Indies may be less beautiful than the scattered toy-lands bordering the
Caribbean, but a glance suffices to prove it far more progressive.
Deceived by its featureless appearance from the sea, the traveler is
little short of astounded to find Port of Spain an extensive city, the
first real city south of Porto Rico, with a beauty of its own
unsuggested from the harbor. Spread over an immense plain sloping ever
so slightly toward the sea, with wide, right-angled, perfect asphalt
streets, electric-cars as up-to-date as those of any American city
covering it in every direction, and having most of the conveniences of
modern times, it bears little resemblance to the backward, if more
picturesque, “capitals” of the string of tiny islands to the north. The
insignificant “Puerto de los Españoles,” which the English found here
when they captured the island a mere century and a quarter ago, was
burned to the ground in 1808; another conflagration swept it in 1895, so
that the city of to-day has a sprightly, new-built aspect, despite the
comparative flimsiness of its mainly wooden buildings. There are
numerous imposing structures of brick and stone, too, along its broad
streets, and many splendid residences in the suburbs stretching from the
bright and ample business section to the foot of the encircling hills.

Long before he reaches these, however, the visitor is sure to be struck
by the astonishing variety of types that make up the population. Unlike
that of the smaller islands, the development of Trinidad came mainly
after African slavery was beginning to be frowned upon, and though the
negro element of its population is large, the monotony of flat noses and
black skins is broken by an equal number of other racial
characteristics. Large numbers of Chinese workmen were imported in the
middle of the last century; Hindu coolies, indentured for five years,
were introduced in 1839, and though the Government of India has recently
forbidden this species of servitude, fully one third of the inhabitants
are East Indians or their more or less full-blooded descendants. Toward
the end of the eighteenth century large numbers of French refugees took
up their residence in Trinidad, and the island to-day has more
inhabitants of this race than any of the West Indies not under French
rule. Many of the plantation-owners are of this stock, improvident
fellows, if one may believe the rumors afloat, who mortgage their
estates when times are hard. Then, instead of paying their debts when
the price of sugar and cacao make them temporarily rich, they go to
Europe “on a tear.” Martinique and Guadeloupe have also sent their share
of laborers, and there are sections of Trinidad in which the negroes are
as apt to speak French as English. Portuguese, fleeing persecution in
Madeira, added to this heterogeneous throng, while Venezuelans are
constantly drifting across the Bocas to increase the helter-skelter of
races that makes up the island’s present population.

All this mixture may be seen in a single block of Port of Spain. Here
the stroller passes a wide-open, unfurnished room where turbanned Hindus
squat on their heels on the bare floor, some with long shovel-beards
through which they run their thin, oily fingers, some in the act of
getting their peculiar hair-cuts, nearly all of them smoking their
curious tree-shaped pipes, all of them chattering their dialects in the
rather effeminate voices of their race. On the sidewalk outside are
their women, in gold nose-rings varying in size from mere buttons to
hoops which flap against a cheek as they walk, silver bracelets from
wrists to elbows, anklets clinking above their bare feet, the lobes of
their ears loaded down with several chain-links, as well as earrings,
their bare upper arms protruding from the colorful cheap shrouds in
which they wrap themselves, a corner of it thrown over their bare heads.
There are wide diversities of type, even of this one race. Here a group
of Madrassis, several degrees blacker than the others, is stretched out
on another unswept floor, there a Bengalee squats in a doorway arranging
his straight black hair with a wooden comb. Mohammedans and Brahmins,
sworn enemies throughout the island as at home, pass each other without
a sign of recognition. Men of different castes mingle but slightly,
despite the broadening influence of foreign travel; they have one and
all lost caste by crossing the sea, but all in equal proportion, so that
their relative standing remains the same. The influence of their new
environment has affected them in varying degrees. Two men alike enough
in features to be brothers, the one in an elaborate turban, loose silky
blouse, and a flowing white mass of cloth hitched together between his
legs in lieu of trousers, the other in a khaki suit and a Wild West felt
hat, stand talking together in Hindustanee. Women in nose-rings,
bracelets, and massive silver necklaces weighing several pounds are
sometimes garbed in hat, shirt-waist, and skirt, sometimes even in low
shoes with silver anklets above them.

Next door to these groups, or alternating between them, is a family of
the same slovenly, thick-tongued, jolly negroes who overrun all the West
Indies. The difference in color between these and the Hindus, even the
swarthy Madrassis, is striking; the one is done in charcoal, the other
in oil colors. As great is the contrast between the coarse features of
the Africans and those of the East Indians, so finely modeled that they
might be taken for Caucasians, except for their mahogany complexions.
Even in manners the two races are widely separated. While the negro is
forward, fawningly aggressive, occasionally insolent, the Hindus have a
detached air which causes them never to intrude upon the passer-by, even
to the extent of a glance. They might be blind in so far as any evidence
of attention to the other races about them goes. Abutting the negro
residence is perhaps a two-story house with a long perpendicular
signboard in Chinese characters, a shop below, a residence above, with
many curious Celestial touches. Then comes a building placarded in
Spanish, “Venezuelans very welcome,” where not a word of English is
spoken by the whole swarming family. On down the street stretch all
manner of queer mixtures of customs, costumes, races, language, end
names. Sing How Can keeps a provision shop next to Diogenes Brathwaite’s
“Rum Parlor,” flanked on the other side by Rahman Singh, the barber, who
in his turn is shut in by the leather sandal factory of Pedro Vialva.
Women in the striking costume of the French islands stroll past with a
graceful, dignified carriage; a man in a red fez pauses to talk to a man
with a veritable cloth-shop wound about his head. Negro Beau Brummels
speaking a laboriously learned English with an amusing accent, stately
black policemen in spotless white jackets and helmets and those enormous
shoes, shining like the proverbial “nigger’s heel,” worn by all British
negroes in uniform, solemnly swinging their swagger-sticks with what
suggests the wisdom of the ages until a chance question discloses how
stupid they are under their impressive and patronizingly polite manner;
now and then a disgruntled Venezuelan general whom Castro or Gomez has
forced to seek an asylum under the Union Jack; a pair of sallow
shopkeepers sputtering their nasal Portuguese—all mingle together in the
passing throng. Then there are intermixtures of all these divergent
elements, mainly of the younger generation—a negro boy with almond eyes,
a youth who looks like a Hindu and a Chinaman, but is really neither, a
flock of children with unusually coarse East Indian features and woolly
hair playing about a one-room shop-residence the walls of which are
papered negro-fashion with clippings from illustrated newspapers;
farther on a Portuguese rum-seller with a mulatto baby on his knee; a
few types who look like conglomerations of all the other races, until
their family trees must sound like cocktail recipes. Both the Chinese
and the Hindu residents of Trinidad are thrifty; many of them are
well-to-do, for the former have indefatigable diligence in their favor,
and the latter, who neither gamble nor steal, have no very serious
faults, except the tendency to carve up their unfaithful wives. But
there are failures among both races, even in this virgin island.
Outcasts who were once Hindu or Chinese, sunk now to indescribable filth
and raggedness, slink about with an eye open for a stray crust or
cigarette butt. Under the _saman_ trees in Marine Square East Indian
derelicts dressed in nothing but a clout, a ragged jacket sometimes
dropped in a vermin-infested heap beside them, are sleeping soundly on
the stone pavement upon which white men, sipping their cocktails in the
Union Club, look down as placidly as if they were gazing out the windows
along Piccadilly.

[Illustration: The turn-out of most Barbadians]

[Illustration: A Barbadian windmill]

[Illustration: Two Hindus of Trinidad]

Modern street-cars carry this racial hash, or as much of it as can
afford to ride, about the well-paved city and its shady suburbs.
Single car-tickets cost six cents, but a strip of six may be had for a
shilling. So many citizens are unable to invest this latter sum all at
once, however, that numerous shopkeepers add to their profits by
selling the strip tickets at five cents each. Port of Spain has
perhaps the finest pair of lungs of any city of its size in the world.
Beyond the business section is an immense savanna, smooth as a
billiard-table—magnificent, indeed, it seems to the traveler who has
seen no really level open ground for weeks—called Queen’s Park. Here
graze large herds of cattle, half Oriental, too, like the people.
There is ample playground left, too, for all the city’s population. In
the afternoon, particularly of a Saturday, it presents a vast expanse
of pastimes seldom seen in the tropics. The warning cry of “Fore!”
frequently startles the mere stroller, only to have his changed course
bring him into a cluster of schoolboys shrilly cheering the prowess of
their respective teams. The game which outdoes all others in
popularity is that to the American incredibly stupid one of cricket,
which rages—or should one say languishes?—on every hand,
notwithstanding the fact that Trinidad is within ten degrees of the
equator. Nor is it monopolized by the better classes, for every group
of ragged urchins who can scrape together enough to get balls,
wickets, and that canoe-paddle the English call a “bat” takes turns in
loping back and forth across the grass, to what end the scorer knows.
If there is a color-line on the savanna, it is between the few pure
whites, many of them Englishmen who have “come out” within the present
century and brought all the unconscious snobbishness of their own
island with them, and the _olla podrida_ of all the other races. Among
the latter the lines are social, rather than racial, so that
Hindu-mulatto-Chinese youths, leaning on their canes, gaze with
scornful indifference upon other youths of similar labyrinthian
parentage whom chance has not raised to the dignity of annexing
collars to their shirts. But there is room enough for all on the
immense savanna.

Here and there it is dotted with huge, spreading trees, which grow more
thickly in the residential section surrounding it. The original
inhabitants called the island “Iëre,” or “Caïri,” meaning the “land of
humming-birds.” It is still that, but it is also the land of magnificent
trees and the land of asphalt. One may doubt whether any fragment of the
globe has so high a percentage of perfect streets and roads—no wonder,
surely, when it may have its asphalt in unlimited quantities for the
mere digging—and the giants of the forest which everywhere spread their
canopies give its rather placid landscape a beauty which makes up for
its lack of ruggedness. Behind Queen’s Park is a delightfully informal
botanical garden in the middle of which sits the massive stone residence
of the governor. Several times a week a band concert is given on his
front lawn, a formality bearing slight resemblance to the Sunday-night
gathering in a Spanish-American plaza. It takes place in the afternoon
and is attended only by the élite, though this does not by any means
confine it to Caucasian residents, for there are many others, at least
of the island-born Chinese and Hindus and their intermixtures, who count
themselves in this category, while negro and East Indian nursemaids are
constantly pursuing their overdressed charges across the noiseless
greensward. Any evidence of human interest is sternly suppressed in the
staid and orderly gathering. They sit like automatons on their scattered
chairs and benches, no one ever committing the faux pas of speaking
above a whisper. Woe betide the mere American who dares address himself
to a stranger, for British snobbery reaches its zenith in Trinidad, and
the open-handed hospitality of Barbados is painfully conspicuous by its
absence.

Trim lawns bordered with roses, hibiscus, poinsettia, variegated
crotons, and a host of other brilliant-foliaged plants surround the
homelike, though sometimes overdecorated, residences of the generously
shaded suburbs. Over the verandas hang mantles of pink coronella, violet
thumbergia, red bougainvillea, often interlacing, always a mass of
bloom, at least in this summer month of April. Maidenhair ferns line the
steps leading to the portico, rare orchids cling to the mammoth branches
of the spreading trees, the air is sweetly fragrant with the odors of
cape jasmine and the persistent patchouli. With sunset cigales,
tree-toads, and a host of tropical insects begin to chirrup their
nightly chorus—an improvement on the flocks of crowing roosters that
make the whole night hideous in the town itself, not only in Port of
Spain, but throughout the West Indies.

A magistrate’s court is an amusing scene in any of the Antilles; it is
doubly so in the racial whirlpool of Trinidad. An English “leftenant,”
assigned the task of prosecuting for the crown, but who never once
opened his mouth, was the only white man present on the morning I
visited this farcical melodrama. A mulatto magistrate whose offensive
pride of position stuck out on him like a sore thumb held the center of
the spotlight. Never did he let pass an opportunity to inflict the
crudest of witticisms, the most stupid of sarcasm on prisoners and
witnesses alike. In the language of English courts he was known as “Your
Worship,” a title by which even white men are frequently compelled to
address those of his class in the British West Indies, where the law
knows no color-line. A group of colored reporters sat below him in the
customary railed enclosure, jotting down his every burst of alleged wit
for the delectation of their next morning’s readers, who would be
regaled with such extraordinary moral truths as “His Worship told the
defendant that instead of living off his mother and sister he should go
and do some honest work to support them and himself,” or “His Worship
remarked that the witness seemed to be afflicted with a clogging of his
usually no doubt brilliant mental processes.” Beyond the rail was packed
the black audience that is never lacking at these popular entertainments
in the British West Indies.

The prisoners and the two pedestal-shod black policemen on either side
of them, stood stiffly at attention just outside the rail during all the
trial. Witnesses assumed a similar posture in a kind of pulpit, took the
oath by kissing a dirty dog-eared Bible—even though they were Hindus or
Chinese—and submitted themselves to “His Worship’s” caustic sarcasm. The
mere fact that the majority of them were patently and clumsily lying
from beginning to end of their testimony did not appear to arouse a
flicker of surprise in the minds of magistrate, the lawyers of like
color, or the open-mouthed audience. The testimony in each case was
laboriously written down in longhand by a dashingly attired mulatto
clerk, though evidently not word for word, for these fell too fast and
furiously to be caught in full. The accused was always given permission
to cross-examine the witnesses, with the result that a vociferous
quarrel frequently enlivened the proceedings. The majority of cases were
petty in the extreme, matters which in most countries would have been
settled out of court with a slap or a swift kick. But nothing so pleases
the British West Indian, at least of the masses, as a chance to appear
in the conspicuous rôle of plaintiff, or even as witness. One black
fellow had charged another with calling his wife a “cat.” “His Worship”
found the case a source of unlimited platitudes before he dismissed it
by adding five shillings to the crown’s resources. A fat negress accused
a long and scrawny one of offering to “box me face,” and as British West
Indian law takes account of threats, the lanky defendant was separated
from her week’s earnings, though she scored high with the audience by
proving that the accuser had also used threatening language, thereby
subjecting her to a similar financial disaster.

Corporal punishment is still in vogue in the British Antilles. Two negro
boys had been playing marbles, when one struck the other with a stick.
“His Worship” ordered the defendant to receive ten strokes with a
tamarind rod, to be administered by a member of the police force. The
order was immediately executed in a back room to which casual spectators
were not admitted. To judge from the shrieks that arose from it, the
punishment was genuine, but they were probably designed to reach the
magistrate’s ear, for when I put an inquiry to the big black chastiser
some time later, he replied with a grin, “Oh, not too hard; perhaps a
tingle or two at the end jes’ to make him remember.” Even adults are not
always spared bodily reminders. A vicious looking negro with a hint of
Chinese ancestry who was convicted for the fourth time of thieving was
sentenced to one year at hard labor and six lashes with the “cat.” But
as this punishment was inflicted at the general prison, there was no
means of learning how thoroughly the implement was wielded.

Though a Chinese and a Hindu interpreter were present, all the
witnesses, happening to be youthful and evidently born in the colony,
spoke perfect English—as it is spoken in Trinidad. It was somehow
incongruous to hear a Hindu woman in her silken shroud and a small
cartload of jewelry burst forth, as soon as she had kissed the unsavory
Bible with apparent fervor, in the negro-British dialect and contradict
the assertions of the accused with some such rejoinder as “Whatyer
tahlk, mahn, whatcher tahlk?” Those surprises are constantly being
sprung on the visitor to Trinidad, however, for notwithstanding the
composite of races and the fact that English was not introduced into the
island until 1815, it is decidedly the prevailing language. It is a
common experience to hear a group that is chattering in Hindustanee
suddenly change to British slang, or to turn and find that the
discussion of the latest cricket match in the broad-vowelled jargon of
the British West Indian negro is between a Chinese and a Hindu youth,
both dressed in the latest European fashion. Natives of the islands
assert that “the English of a typical Trinidadian is probably as
strongly in contrast to that of a typical Barbadian as the language of
any two parts of the British Empire.” But to the casual visitor they
sound much alike, and far removed from our own tongue. We might readily
understand the expression “I well glad de young mahn acquit,” but few of
us would recognize that “Don’t let he break me, sir,” means “Do not give
him a job after refusing it to me.” An incensed motorman cried out to a
Chinese-Hindu negro hackman who was impeding his progress, “Why y’u don’
go home wid dis cyart ef y’u can’ drive et?” to which came the placid
reply, “Why you vex, mahn? Every victoria follow he own wheels.” As in
the French islands, a banana is called a “fig” in Trinidad, while walls
are everywhere decorated with the warning “Stick no Bills.”

Speaking of bills of another sort, those of the smaller denominations
are badly needed in the British islands. With the exception of Jamaica,
they reckon their money in dollars and cents, but they are West Indian
dollars, worth four shillings and two pence each and following the
English pound in its rise or fall. Notes of five dollars are issued by
the Colonial Bank and the Royal Bank of Canada, but with the exception
of Trinidad and its dependency, Tobago, the government of which issues
one- and two-dollar bills, there is no local small change, and the
already overburdened visitor to these tropical climes must load himself
down with a double handful of English silver and mammoth coppers each
time he breaks a five-dollar bill. To add to his struggles with the
clumsy British monetary system, prices are given in cents, when there
are no cents. Small articles in the shops are tagged 24c, 48c, 72c, and
so on, never 25c, 50c, or 75c, which is easy enough, for those are the
local terms for one, two, or three shillings. But it is not so simple
for the heated and hurried stranger to calculate that the euphonism
“thirty-nine cents” means a shilling, a sixpence, a penny, and a
“ha’penny,” and to find the real significance of a demand for $5.35
requires either a pencil and paper or long practice in mental
arithmetic. Perhaps the least fatiguing method is to spread on the
counter the whole contents of one bulging pocket and trust to the
clerk’s honesty—except that he, too, even if he is trustworthy, is apt
to be weak in mental arithmetic. The fall in the value of the pound
sterling following the war forced the Trinidad government to enact a new
ordinance forbidding “the melting down of silver coins current in the
colony, the keeping possession of more silver than is needed for current
expenses, or the buying or offering to buy silver coins at more than
their face value.” The drop in exchange had given the metal more worth
than the coins themselves, and the Hindu custom of turning the family
wealth into bracelets and anklets for the women was threatening to make
small financial transactions impossible.

Marital felicity is by no means universal in Trinidad, if one may judge
from the columns of warnings to the public in its newspapers. In a
single issue may be found a score of insertions testifying to this
impression and to the mixture of races:

  The Public is hereby notified that I will not be responsible for any
  debt or debts contracted by my wife, Daisy Benjamin, she having left
  my house and protection.

                                               IZAKIAH BENJAMIN,
                                           Petit Valley, Diego Martin.

  The Public is hereby notified that I will not hold myself
  responsible for any debts contracted by my wife Eparaih, she being
  no longer under my protection and care.

                                                                His
                                                    RAMDOW X
                                                          Mark
                                                      Bejucal, Caroni.

  Witness to Mark: SANTIAGO WILSON.

  The Public is hereby notified that I will no longer be responsible
  for the debts of my wife, Yew Chin, she having left my house and
  protection without any just cause.

                                                   LEE WO SING,
                                               Rock River Road, Penal.

Occasionally the other side of the house is heard from:

  The Public are hereby warned that the undersigned will no