Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 46.djvu/90

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

or freight were to be raised, the bucket at the top of the cliff was filled with water from a tank, and the lighter load at the bottom was quickly drawn up. The speed was regulated by means of brakes applied to the pulleys.

The main cables were eight hundred feet long, and the load was raised to the height of five hundred and twenty-five feet above the beach. In places the wires ran at a height of sixty feet above the uneven surface of the gorge.

We were invited to get into the bucket which was at the foot. Captain H—— stood upon the edge, clinging to the trolley, and we rapidly glided up between the steep walls of the gorge, from whose rocky sides peered round cactus plants like heads of gnomes and several strange shrubs threw down aërial roots as though in a vain effort to reach the thin soil at the bottom. On gaining the landing at the top we were received by the workmen drawn up in two lines, bowing and murmuring, "Good ebenin, massa," past whom we were conducted up the slope a hundred yards to the superintendent's house. The dwelling and office were really two separate buildings joined together by a wide veranda between them and along their front. This arrangement made them seem like one house in a climate where doors and windows are unnecessary. The buildings had been brought there framed and ready for putting together, and were small cottages with two rooms and with roofs of corrugated iron. We were met at the house by Mrs. H—— and her young daughter Dorothea, who, with the captain, were the sole white inhabitants of the island. A small black boy called Chalmers showed us to our room, where we prepared for dinner. By this time the short twilight of the tropics had been succeeded by darkness, and when we returned to the dining room with its bright light we could hardly believe that we were upon an almost inaccessible rock in the Caribbean Sea.

The next morning, just before daybreak, while yet dark as night in the room, we were awakened by the cries of the sea birds, which made their homes by the hundreds in crevices and niches of the cliffs. Very soon a bell rang in front of the house to awaken the workmen in the huts below us. A tropical dawn is as abrupt as a tropical twilight, and by the time we were dressed and on the veranda the sun was coming up out of the sea and sending its beams in long lines of brightness over the waters.

The trade wind, with its steady, powerful breath, made the morning delightfully cool, and as we stood looking at the sea far below us, as smooth apparently as a lake, it was difficult to realize that it was the middle of summer in the tropics.

The workmen were now filing past the house on their way to the mine at the northern end of the island. The bookkeeper, an intelligent colored man, stood at the corner of the veranda and, as